Honkies in a tan and rainbow colored Stockholm

Trip Start Aug 02, 2011
Trip End Aug 22, 2011

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Flag of Sweden  , Stockholm,
Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm sporting a turquoise one-piece overall and a red Jofa helmet, my mom is wearing huge glasses with white rims ca 1985. The camera is shaking and one gets transported to something that resembles the quality of the early beginning of photography but in reality we are watching some old home made videos from the early 80's. I can't believe we are putting my poor boyfriend trough this. Skiing, horseback riding and an occasional mushroom picking-session. It's all documented. I guess this is what you do when you get back home. Nostalgia. Memories and utter embarrassment. Did I really wear gold sequence hot pants while doing my disco dance routine at the dance competition in Tibble Hallen? Please stop this torture.

We are staying in my childhood girls room at my mom's place, located at Djurgården just 10 min away from downtown Stockholm. Surrounded by old oak trees and just a stone throw away from Djurgårdskanalen, we are blessed with living in nature yet so close to the action.This house was built in 1827 and not an angle is straight. Apparently the average height back in those days was a bit shorter than today which results in Josh is hitting his head everywhere. Welcome to European city living. The houses and apartments are so much smaller measured by American standard, but the trade off is the countless green spaces that surrounds the city. You might be living a bit small, but there is so much open space to enjoy. When the sun comes out, the city comes alive. August, being the last month of summer, is the last opportunity to wear pastel and brightly colored clothing to match the Scandinavian tan. My friends looks at us with confused faces; -"you guys really live in California?", judging by our pale skin tones we might as well live on the North Pole in their eyes. Sunkissed hair and a deep tan is what will get them trough the long dark months approaching as fast as their color is fading.

We grab the family left-over bikes, you know the ones that nobody wants to use anymore but still rolls so why pass them on- kind of bikes. I've named mine the Red Danger and it lives up to it's name as it tends to change gear on me at any point of time. You just never know where it will take you next. Keeps you guessing. Josh looks great on the white 80's Crescent bike with a rusted saddle resulting in a bad posture and a high hitting-the-knee-on-the-handle-bars factor. But we are rolling and that's all that matters. We bike along Djurgårdskanalen and down Strandvägen, cutting trough Kungsträdgården and to Söder via Gamla Stan (Old Town). We ride from fika with friends to dinners with family to more fika breaks and lunches all over town. I love how Stockholm just took out one car lane to make room for another bike lane on every street in town. Bikes rule here just as they do in Copenhagen. Men in suits, women in dresses, fathers with children on the back and mothers with big shopping bags in their bike baskets. It's how we roll here :)

It is refreshing to see such openness and acceptance as Stockholm is hosting the annual Pride festival. Even the public buses proudly drive around with colorful rainbow flags, every restaurant, cab and cafe do the same. It is a very happy place. Literally. People line up to every outdoor serving restaurant as Swedes love to enjoy a meal or an after work beer, in the late summer sun rays. This will be practiced as late as September and maybe a few days into October. But then everyone will be provided with a thick blanket and the cold beer might be traded for a big cup of hot tea. The important thing is that you are seated outside. It is such a paradox from the  air-conditioned restaurants in many parts of the States where one must bring a sweater to beat the temperature difference from outside to inside. Here everyone throws longing looks at the lucky ones scoring a seat in the sun (without sunscreen or shade of course).

 I feel so out of style as we have a sip on our Mariestad beer, people watching. It is easy to see what is in fashion as EVERYONE wears the same clothes. Men in rolled up shorts a tight fitted striped t-shirt and no socks in their white shoes. Women sports high-wasted shorts and tank tops. The skinny belt is tied in a very special way. I believe Converse sells 90% of all their white shoes to this part of the world. It is kind of a part of the Swedish uniform. I am amazed and scared at the same time. But it is easy to get swept away in a shopping extravaganza here, as everywhere you look, you are bombarded with advertising and met by blank expressions from the mannequins in countless store fronts. You need this to fit in to society, you will be completed by buying this, you can buy happiness... But I take my out-of-style rear and walk on right by. Except for the fist day when we arrived sans luggage. Somehow in the one connection that we had, both my bags got lost (Josh got his) and I was left with an emergency kit from SAS including a toothbrush, deodorant and a white XL t-shirt. Then I actually did go shopping for everyone else's sake, as I had that 24-hour of traveling-look and smell. And it did make me feel better i must admit.

August means crayfish season in this part of the world and along with that the famous Kräftskiva. A party solely dedicated to the salty spider-like little creature and the snaps (shot). You wear a bib and a triangular shaped hat while singing snapsvisor or little songs before drinking the snaps. The crayfish gets accompanied by bread and strong cheese and if you are lucky, a Västerbotten pie. Another important detail is the round shaped moon-looking smiley face that decorates the room or outdoor venue where the party is held. Very small amounts of food and several shots of snaps usually ends up with a bit of a headache the next morning. To combat this problem the Swedes indulge in the so called Tunnbrödsrulle. Or as Josh would describe it; the Swedish answer to a burrito. Sausage, shrimp sallad (yeah really), lettuce and mashed potatoes are wrapped in a piece of flat bread and topped with your selection of relish, ketchup and mustard. The roasted onion is another favorite topping. What else can one ask for?

After a few weeks around family and friends it is time to head back to the States. There has been so many incredible memories, fun dinners, emotional reunions and lots of laughs. But also a time to learn about myself and where I come from. It can be quite intense to visit your family and your past. When I hear that my mom and step dad sees me more than my three sisters it makes me sad that they don't take advantage of the luxury of living in the same city. But then again, we all get busy, we all have our own lives. It is easy to slip into the teenage roll as soon as you are around your parents. I catch myself being short and having that tone with them several times. I struggle with the fact that I live so far away every day. Two of my sisters have children, my mom's health is not so good, my friends and I have so much to catch up on... I try to fit it all in when I come home once or twice a year. Other cultures looks at this way of living and think we are crazy leaving our families, living on our own. Putting our kids and elderly in daycare and nursing homes just because we are too busy working and living our own independent lives.

When I have lunch with my grandmother she shares a secret with me; she still has two cities in the world that she would love to see. Vienna, Austria and Verona in Italy. Being the vagabond that I am, I take this opportunity to tell her that I would love to take her there. That is my way to tell her that I love her. I know I'm not home that much, but I love to explore and visit new places. Why not together with my grandma? We toast to a trip next spring. And then I realize, it's not how much time you spend together, but the quality of the time. Instead of  feeling torn between the two continents, I feel lucky to be on my way home no matter which direction I fly over the Atlantic.

Thank you for your time,
Peace, Love and Kräftor


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