From PA to NYC

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No, this is not New York City. This is South Philadelphia.

Greeting from Manhattan! I have arrived to the Big Apple and if Heathrow made me feel small, I am now tiny. Because Emily had to work and gets in late, I had had to master the first challenges alone: getting to the hotel (text to Emily: “Exactly how aggressively must one signal to the cab drivers?”), checkin (text to Emily: “They want to put 900 dollars on my card, I don’t even think that’s possible”) and finding a grocery store (text to Emily: “What do you mean, Trader Joe’s closes at 10, I thought stores in the US are open all the time!”)

I suceeded in all three endeavors and I tried very hard to look confident. After my wallet was stolen in Copenhagen, I am now paranoid that if I appear like a tourist, mean people will snatch my belongings. To blend in, I already jaywalked twice going to the store and back. By now I have really learned that Americans in that regard are a little like Italians: traffic lights and rules are recommendations, often you follow them, and many times you do not. It’s a free country. It’s the freeest country!

Pretending to be local worked so well for me in D.C. that already on my first day someone approached me asking if I work at the African American museum and on my birthday, three tourists asked me to take their photo in front of “the White House”. Unfortunately, they were standing in front of the building that houses the Department of Treasury and I could totally not bring myself to telling them that. Maybe they were testing me anyway, I mean the White House is WHITE. The Treasury is not white.

On my second day in Philadelphia, I went to the American Swedish Museum. I am immensly intruiged with migration (historical, not current) at least since I read Vilhelm Moberg’s “Emigrants” and so I absolutely wanted to learn more about the first Swedish settlers who came to the U.S. as early as 1638. The museum was not very, as Emily says, “transit accessible” which is why much of my time was spent waiting for the bus, riding the bus and walking from the bus stop. The American Swedish museum was, however, rather impressive for being dedicated to such a niche subject and even has special exhibitions, this time on Scandinavian spirits.

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In the “Skål” exhibition, they teach you how to properly clink glasses in Sweden. Trust me, it’s something you wanna know how to do.

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I enjoyed the Golden Map Room (click to enlarge the panorama). I first thought someone who had never been to Sweden painted it because Härnosand is next to Stockholm but understood later that its painted from the perspective of standing in the Baltic Sea.

I also learned that the Swedish who travelled to the New World on ships with funny names like “Katt”, cat, and brought many textibles with them, especially bed linens,  had very friendly relations with the Native Americans. They learned their language and assisted William Penn in land negotiations. The Swedish first arrived with Peter Minuit who was appointed to establish the Swedish colony. That man was actually from Wesel, a small town close to Düsseldorf. He is also the man who bought Manhattan from the Natives! I assume in the 1600s, he was Your Man in America.

After a good two hours my attention span was severly reduced because I was so hungry. As I didn’t know that the museum would be in the middle of nowhere, I had presumed to find a nice Pret a manger on the way for breakfast, but no. I ended up at a very American diner. At first I thought that’d be a great real American experience. When the food came, I realized it was not. Seriously, why does everything need to be drowned in cheese?

Starving German in Swedish American Museum / Death by cheese

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My last stop was the University of Pennsylvania, an ivy league school. I checked out their bookstore (great!) and realized the Danes and their spreading of hygge is getting out of control. They have clerarly copied this kind of fika nation branding from Sweden.

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Just outside the central station in Philly, there are swings!

 

Poor Helen!

The embassy called me the other day. “I just walked out of our press officer’s room and she said, ‘Poor Helen’ and I just had to agree, “Yes, poor Helen!”. What my dear cooperation partners at the embassy meant was not my lack of suffrage in the Swedish elections 2018 or the fact that one of my lamps in the kitchen does not work. They know it’s gala times and they know what that entails for the person managing the event.

It’s true – writing sweet emails to people that you are almost positive want to attend but miraculously failed to register, handling the not overly competent caterer, and juggling a participants list that keeps changing (“Can my co-worker come too? But I am not really sure she wants to come, actually”, “I never signed up”, “I just changed my mind”, , “Please state the title of the person I’m bringing as  ‘spouse'”, “I’ve become a vegetarian that only eats quail”) is stressful. But it’s also fun! The closer the day, the more adrenaline keeps my spirits up. I probably like my job most in this phase (even if I rant a little at my desk sometimes). So I don’t think I’m that pitiable even though I very much appreciate the omtanke from Berlin.

In my private life as an active citizen, I attended the city’s yearly participation forum  about the bike infrastructure. I had hoped to hear what’s going on and why literally every traffic light is set to give the cars a ‘green wave’ and make cyclists stop everytime. (I counted 17 lights on my 3 kilometres to work. Four were green. I stop every 230 meters!) I also wondered why the city doesn’t give the cars that constantly park on bike lanes tickets. Or why the existing bike lanes are are so  kaput. Well. At that event, they spent most time telling us how great it is that they know have a logo for all things that have to do with bike infrastruce and that they managed to paint two bike lanes (4,6 kilometers) in 16 months. When it came to other questions, I heard more than once that “That’s difficult because we can’t inconvienence the cars drivers”. Eh, okay, but if you want better conditions for the cyclists…well, nevermind. I got a free high-vis waist coat at least. It looks perfectly ridiculous but I kind of want to survive dark winter nights.

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Our assistant handwrites 158 placement cards. So beautiful!

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I went to pick up the award certifcates that we have framed at the local art gallery. They give you a very special looking bag to carry it home. People glance at you when you walk with it. My co-worker explained why, “In Düsseldorf, carrying a Conzen bag says ‘I am rich. I got art’.

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Fall is upon us with lots of rain but also some sunny, leavy parts.

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And occasionally dramatic skies.

Otherwise, Emily and I have booked our hotel in Manhattan this week which feels absolutely thrilling and also very grown up (I mean, a real hotel, in Manhattan!)  To get into the American mood, I will not sit down with a cup of tea and watch the latest Grey’s Anatomy episode. (Yes, I still watch that, after all this time.)

Del 20 (!) i citat-samlingen

Jag gillar inte äldre män… som har åsikter.

Hundertprotzentigen Alkohol kannst du gar nicht kaufen. – Doch, da musste ins Darknet!

Hon bor i Sandviken. Där får du ett hus för två miljoner och då är det ett hela jävla mansion.

Funkar det här som titel, Digitalisering, bankernas död eller finansfantasi? – Alltså varför låter det alltid så porrigt när du läser upp något?