I hadn’t unpacked from my trip over New Year’s at my parents when I already packed again last Friday. Given my travel-averse personality, you can tell there must have been some serious incentive waiting for me. And you’re right. The ‘incentives’ had big eyes, contagious giggles, a princess dress and endearing declarations of affection for me. I visited my niece, princess dress and declarations, and nephew, big eyes and giggles, and seven hours of travelling seldom felt so worth it for 23 hours together.
Yesterday marked a milestone for my niece and me because not only did we go on an adventure only we two for the first time, that adventure led us to her very first visit to the cinema. I love the movies and so I felt especially privileged to be the one to introduce her to motion pictures. Sometimes you’d think young children might not remember everything you do with them, but when we went to town, she told me again how she still thinks about “how when I visited you, we went to see the penguins and that was my favorite thing!”
Going to the cinema all the time myself, I would say I still appreciate the special atmosphere there, but it is nothing like seeing this environment through a child’s eyes for the first time. I explained how the ticket purchase works (“and here it says where we get to sit”), I helped select snacks (“let’s take the small bag of chips”) and I held her hand when walking in (“Helen, why is everything so dark in the cinema!”). I watched her as she sat on the edge of her seat with her mouth open in concentration during the film, and I explained to her the concept of the credits (“these are the names of the people who made the coffee for the actors”). The whole experience made such an impression that I climbed in rank so much, my niece asked me on the way back, “Can I sleep in your bed tonight? I really want to sleep in your bed tonight.”
Today, I became the godmother of the most endearing baby boy known in universe. You probably think I am biased but if you had the privilege (or maybe will have) to meet my new godson, you are very likely to agree. When he wakes up, he does not scream, but lies in bed calmly contemplating his baby existence and when you come to pick him up, he beams at you as if to say, „Life is so awesome!“ I love his attitude. And I am very honored to be his godmother, and his only godparent. (I better pull off a very good Christian godmother performance. Luckily, I have 15 years of experience to draw from with my wonderful goddaughter who, I believe, deems me to be an acceptable godparent, and also has agreed to me taking on another godchild.) I’m so excited to see what kind of person he will grow into and to follow his adventures.
One of my less developed skills is relaxing on vacation. Time off work I usually use to bustle around, meet friends and look at things. While that is very nice, too, I decided I needed to learn how to do less on vacation – so we went to Otterndorf. Otterndorf is a 7,000-inhabitant-village half an hour from the closest Autobahn exit. It is located next to places called Krempel (“Junk”) and Fickmühlen (“F…mills”) and its own name means “Village of the Otters”. And we had an otterly wonderful time there! Our hotel completely charmed me because it had such a consistent, sophisticated corporate design with a North Sea theme. I hardly wanted to leave the place because just being in its interiors was so lovely. We did leave though to go to the spa opposite the hotel (so many saunas!), and to the sea (being at the sea makes my heart sing), and to the picturesque little town with its half-timbered houses (a middle-aged man passed us in his car while we looked at the town hall and super randomly gave us a thumbs up).
I had taken 300 pages of unread magazines with me and did not read a single page. Instead, I devoted my time to doing North German things I love: eat Wedding Soup (I did not even realize that was North German until he said he never had it before), listen to Northern German Radio and greet people by saying “Moin”. I already long back.
…before they’re hatched. Don’t praise the day before the evening. Or don’t shout hej before you’ve passed the stream. Basically, my excitement of spring in this town was, well, premature. Since weeks we’ve had winter weather, it’s quite depressing. This week, in an act of rebellion, I put on my “Swedish Summer” Spotify list but the rain would not stop falling.
The worst thing is that the weather forecast shows no betterment and I have an event in a week that would be so much nicer if the sun would shine. This event series (four consecutive events because sleep is very overrated) is nevertheless already an unpredecented success with guest numbers soaring constantly. I actually had to start saying no to people. Last year, we were fighting for every attendee, and I want to believe that this year’s run on tickets has to do with the fact that the event is taking placed in what used to briefly be my home, Hamburg. A lot of guests also means a lot of work for me (plus several presentations I have to prepare) and curiously enough, the fuller my to do list, the better my work motivation. I must be high on adrenaline or something.
Easter also happened. I spent it in the South of Germany with my stepsisters and my adorable niece. She told me she was two years old and I was five. We spent a lot of time eating (fish on Good Friday as good Catholics do; and we ate ourselves through the entire Cannstadter Wasn fair in Stuttgart, Maultaschen are seriously delicious), attended a Easter night mass which was an amazing show (now my resolution for next year is to experience that in the Cologne Cathedral, probably the most Catholic place in Germany), and I met my friend Renate from primary school who updated me on all gossip (people have actually started to inter-marry among our class mates…)
The following weekend, wonderful Anna graced Düsseldorf with her presence. It’s impossible not to have a good time with Anna. As she is still doing her A-Levels, we spent some time practicing how to analyse poems, but we also tried my co-workers’ curling iron and went to Restaurant Schwan that Lil’ Pesto could not stop talking about. At that restaurant, they serve Schwanitzel (a pun on Schnitzel that amused us a little more than it should have) that could feed at least two grown-ups.
May is full of holidays. If there was a party campaigning to put one of those in September instead, I would consider voting for them. Actually, elections are coming up in my federal state and as this is the most populated German state, it’s kind of a big deal. Since I am only listening to North German radio, I am perfectly informed about the election in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and can barely name the candidates here. I tested switching to the local radio station but it sounded so wrong! I tried the political compass and it told me my views matched those of “The Purple Party – For spiritual politics” best. In an attempt to educate myself further I noticed a lot of weird parties are on the ballot in this state: “Departure C – Christian values in politics”, “Party for Health Research”, “Nicer Living” or the light green “V-Party³ for change, vegetarians and vegans”. You see, democracy is alive and well in North-Rhine Westphalia!
The many holidays in May and June also gave me an opportunity to go on a TantenTour, a trip visiting three of my four maternal aunts. One of them lives in the perfect country idyll, in fields of gold. My godchild and I had a good time enjoying the country life.
It’s absurd how time seems to fly. Didn’t I board a plane to the U.S. just a week ago? Didn’t Lil’ Pesto enter my office life yesterday? How can it be May already?! That also means my 30th birthday is drawing closer – yes, it’s still ten months but today I checked out another venue. It’s a former nunnery in my neigborhood. I know now that is is way too expensive for me but you never know when I need a location for a work event. I must admit though that is feels a bit funny to arrange events in a church. The entire place breathed nunnery still and I, who was educated at a nunnery for almost a decade, especially felt that it was a little wrong to roam the corridors. It’s all still there: the gate where a nun would sit, the stoups, the beautiful decorations on the floor.
Last but far from least, it’s Skam season again! On Sundays, I now consult with Lil’ Pesto’s girlfriend to know whether he has seen the most recent episode so that I don’t put any spoilers out there by accident. It’s the last season and the first that I follow in real-time, meaning I can enjoy the entire concept of them putting chat logs and instagram pictures on their website, making you guess what will happen in the next episode. Watch Skam. Nobody I told to do so has ever regretted it.
Citatsamling del 32
Helen, du har en sån röst, du skulle kunna vara rösten i tunnelbanan. För mig är du redan det.
Man vet aldrig när kärleken checkar in!
Jag klipper mina naglar ofta, jag tycker det är avslappnande. Men jag röker inte, tar inga droger, då får jag väl ha det som min grej, att klippa naglarna.
Hur mycket får du för det där Brötchen som du köpte åt mig? – Helen, de 15 cent kan jag faktiskt bjuda på. Det är du värd, älskling.
Jag vill till Vapiano och hon vill till det asiastiska stället. – Då blir det Clash of the Titans på lunchen!
Some say that the body changes every 7 years. If that’s true, my body has now, at change number five (I’m old?!), become a sissy that can totally not stand cold and is always tired. I seriously wonder how I survived all those harsh Swedish winters when here I feel close to death when it’s – 5 degrees Celsius. And yes, I wear gloves and hats and all that. I’m so cold I always wear my wool cardigan that used to be restricted to Polar Circle Trips mostly and I try to avoid being outside. Really, I don’t understand what’s happened to my inner heat. And I finally get why so many Swedes spend their entire January/February in Thailand.
Last weekend, at least I was warmed by the company of my little bonus sister who visited me to get some private history lessons for her A-Levels. First, I took her to the Nazi memorial museum in town . We spent the afternoon learning about what is was like to be young during the Nazi time. It was actually a rather good exhibit even though I am not too fond of occupying my brain with too much Hitler. But that was the motto for the weekend so once at home we continued for many more hours. Trying to be an innovative educator, I ran a search for all my remaining playmobil figures (or similar) to build up a scene explaning what happened during Appeasement politics.
I also got a new intern at work. Today, he got to take over the now so called praktikantkudde. It’s not an award if that’s what you thought, it’s literally the Intern Pillow. Because I am not quite the helicopter internship adviser, the interns have to take care of many things themselves, including accomodation. Apparently, pillows are often not part of the furnished rooms that are rented out in this city and the former intern had bought himself a great pillow that he then did not want to return to Sweden so I, often hosting guests, inherited it. When the current intern told me of the poor quality of the pillow he acquired, I brought the Intern Pillow to work and handed it over. Sleep is important after all!
It’s late and I should be in bed but it’s just too cozy keeping my parents company on the couch while they watch “Irene Huss”. These past days have been pretty much as mellandagarna, the days between Christmas and the New Year, should be: sleeping, eating, forgetting what day it is.
I finished my work week with a business trip to Hamburg for site visits. Even with its not so nice weather, Hamburg – of course – suceeded to charm me. The charm was intensified by the opportunity to eat dinner with my dear friend Frederieke who just moved there and because I had the chance to hang out with Ingrid. And because I got to go to the first Clas Ohlson store in Germany! People who know me know that I have a certain fondness for this Swedish hardware store. “I can’t find a (insert anything for the home) in town” – “Did you check with Clas Ohlson?” is a very common conversation I’ve had many times in Sweden. And now finally I’ll be able to have that short and helpful exchange even in Germany, at least in Hamburg. And believe it or not, Clas Ohlson Germany seems to be even better than in Sweden. (I did not think that was possible.) As I walked around there and marvelled at everything, I heard a German lady tell her company, “This is like Ikea, just without furniture!” But it’s more like Ikea without furniture and only useful things.
The train home at 8 pm on Dec 23 was virutally empty / checking out fancy ball rooms / Clas I love it Ohlson / Hamburg Dinnner
This year was a special Christmas because my stepsisters celebrated with us. That also meant we had the joy of having my n 2 year old niece with us, a child that is so charming it is really impossible not to love her. Not only is she smart and knows lots of words (and laughs when I don’t understand her pronounciation), she also has unconditional affection for the cat. She’d lie down next to him and tell him, “Don’t worry, I’ll stay with you, I’m your mommy”. I visited some friends and family during my stay here in the north and some nights, I tried to be home early so that I could enjoy the little one’s company. (For the record: The rest of my family is also very nice but it’s very hard to beat the youngest’s bewitching magnetism.) Unfortunately, she was sick during the first days and absolutely refused to sleep which gave me the splendid opportunity to get some more driving experience because once we put her in the car seat and drove around, she’d fall asleep within 4 minutes (I checked the time).
Hundchen-parade (I don’t know what’s his thing about the shower)
Christmas Evening / Mom and me (and Hundchen) watching Året med Kungafamiljen
Holiday time also meant attending our family gettogether. When my maternal aunts, uncles and cousins gather, we are 37 people. While my mom took on the responsibility for catering, I tried to get those 37 on a family photo and after quite some struggle, I suceeded. The day after that my bonus siblings, lots of friends and cousins and I went to try out Bubble Ball, also known as Bubble Bump Football. They had told me about it and I’d been all for it. Once we had booked and decided to go, I started to get second thoughts. Like, “eh, I didn’t bring any gym shoes” and “But if I fall, won’t it hurt on the body parts that are not in the bubble?” I decided not to chicken out though and tried what is being called the dernier cri in terms of sports. Now, four days later I can inform you that it is certainly worth trying but you barely see a thing through that bubble which makes it difficult to suceed in playing serious soccer and it really hurts when you fall (if you fall like an amateur, as I do), my legs do have some serious black and blue marks.
What do you mean, we look ridiculous?
Mamma är här! My mom is visiting this weekend and she’s practicing hard to brush up her Swedish, reading aloud from Drömhus och Trädgård, (voluntarily!) watching Julkalendern with me, pulling out Uttalsboken to improve her pronounciation and singing Nu tändas tusen juleljus without my assistance.
This must be the first time that my mother experiences Dizzel in non-rain – we actually have splendid sunshine, but oh so cold. After visiting a friend of hers today in the suburbs, we waited some 20 minutes for the train and felt like we were freezing to death. Luckily, I have very recently fulfilled one of my long held wishes – a Klippan blanket made of lamb wool. It’s so wonderful, you crawl up under it and have a hot cup of tea and no cold outside can harm you anymore.
Tomorrow I’m singing my first concert with my new choir at the church, an advent concert of course. It was rather difficult to acquire a simple black folder to my notes (obviously all should have the same color in the choir), but we suceeded at last.
At work I’ve been busier than expected, after the gala is before the next event and also the next issue of our magazine had to go into print. But amidst all the busyness I made time to decorate the office, too. I have a little (just a little) too much Christmas stuff for just my apartment but I just extended my decorational realm to my workplace. I think my co-workers don’t mind having a Christmas star in our window.
When I was little, my mom completed her degree dissertation and I vividly remember a party where friends asked her about it and she said something along the lines of, “Let me get my baby”, then fetching the book. A five-year-old desperate for a younger sibling, I felt kind of fooled.
This weekend, I got to meet my new baby cousin. He is adorable, has triangular toe nails and might just be the calmest baby ever. He didn’t cry at all even when we had to pull three tight pieces of baby garment over his head. “Are you going to have kids soon?” his older sister asked me. If I didn’t have the feeling of being fooled still in me, I might have said, “Oh, I already have one” – because the jubilee we’re currently preparing is kind of like my baby. A project very close to my heart. It is also like a baby in terms of being much more labor-intensive than originally imagined. Luckily, I have three motivated co-workers who willingly support me in all we have to do, be it taping table cloths to tables, using personal relations to ensnare the local media or handwriting dozens of placement cards. Plus the chairperson of the juniors who despite not being on site yet is a great partner in crime. Yesterday, I decided that she had to be the one getting the fresh rolls in the morning (because to keep costs low for the participants, we do almost everything ourselves).I emailed her, “I have just named you roll responsible, I hope you feel honored”. She replied, “That’s perfect, I’ve studied 20 credit points of ‘dough-based foods acquisition’ at university, so I feel I am up to the task”. It’s a pleasure working with qualified candidates!
As if there was not enough to think of with a list of very detailed and complicated logistics for this event, my Pax is moving in tomorrow. That was the date Ikea could offer and you don’t say no to Ikea. My friend Britta lent me her wardrobe for almost a year now and as she’s about to leave for Canada for a while, she didn’t need it back. The Pax barely fits into my bedroom but two wardrobes definitely can’t be in there – so I had to get one down to the basement. But I’m just a girl, how on earth was I supposed to manage that? I decided to give our online neighborhood community a shot and asked if someone could help me carrying down the wardrobe, carefully adding that I live on the ground floor. Would you believe it, within minutes a guy replied he could come by. A day later, the next one said he’d help. So tonight, two apparently praticed men came by and carried the wardrobe to the basement. I was amazed by their helpfulness and almost had to force them to accept some Merci-chocolate as a thanks. I guess you can say a lot about Dizzel but the Dizzel neighbors are good folks!
Del 7 i citat-samlingen
“Jag googlemapar mig själv ibland. Det hjälper mot hemlängtan”.
“Min hjärna har tysta timmen nu.” – “Min har roliga timmen!”
“Det är fan ett heltidsjobb att vara hipster! Det kostar jättemycket pengar”.
Kollegan fantiserar om att öppna en tysk bar i Sverige. “Och så ska jag köra heltyskt och bara ta kontanter!” – “Nej, då får du mafian efter dig snart!”
“Sätt mig på cc i mejlet.” – “CC är en klub i Båstad.”