Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It's the Red, White and Blue One (With All the Stars and Stripes!)

I just couldn't resist this title, juxtaposed with last week's submission because my Red, White and Blue blood is running high right now after a simply perfect weekend in Boston celebrating Shannon (Rapo) Kelley and Mark Rapo's wedding. What does Boston have to do with Linköping? Well, nothing except for me, so that's good enough for a blog entry!

After throwing one memorable party related to my work here in Linköping, I was off to Boston via Stockholm, starting a long weekend that included a smooth flight to Boston, spending good time with family (Mom-Dianne and Brother-Todd, see pic) and friends from both high school and college as well as parents of friends and others from La Canada(California), though we were in Boston--the perfect place and time for a small reunion of people for me, almost 3 months into this European experience.

Some highlights were walking around historical Boston (Boston Common), exploring Harvard with Frisbee in hand, a long walk along the Charles River with a patient and persevering mother, great food and company at virtually every meal, the frequent visit to Starbucks (nope, I've found the one place in the world, Scandinavia, that has yet to succumb to Starbuck's worldwide domination attempt), the wedding celebration of the couple unlike I had ever seen before, drinks and dancing till dawn or close to it. So to all of you reading this who partook in these events, thanks for a great weekend and a refreshing and renewing time of being at home in the States. You are missed already. See you in December!

As for the flight back to Sweden, let's just not talk about it. Safe to say that leaving apartment keys in checked baggage is a terrible idea, one that makes a long night and day of travel longer and more expensive--just another story on this unexpected European adventure. I wish I could include more pics below, but there seems to be an invisible Blogger picture limit--if any of you know how to overcome this, please let me know. See you next week.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

It's the Blue and Yellow One

Another common question I received upon sharing with people that I was moving to Sweden was "Which of the flags with the crossed lines is Sweden's again?" Yes, all Scandinavian flags--Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland--have the same type of design, but different colors. This is an appropriate symbol of Scandinavian unity yet distinctiveness that I have observed since arriving in July (already over 2 1/2 months!).

One of the first things I noticed while in Stockholm is the fact that you can find the Swedish flag somewhere around you at virtually every public location. It is everywhere! In addition to public buildings, boats and various historical landmarks, etc., it's also found throughout commercial and private buildings, businesses, store fronts, corner markets, inside restaurants, in front of many homes and on balconies of apartments everywhere. Picture Memorial Day or July 4th in the States every day. I've even come across many homes that actually have a full-fledged flag pole in their front yard--not uncommon.

So what does this mean that the flag is everywhere? The obvious answer is that Swedes adore their country and this is accurate. Perhaps more than even other European countries, where nationalism has often been a positive and often a negative, it seems that Swedes carry a lot of national pride, but do so with a common sense and content spirit about their place in the world, hence the well-known neutrality in times of conflict and other political responses. Virtually all Swedes would tell you that they have something special going on way up here in the north and the omnipresent flag is the clearest representation of this.

And, while I miss the States at times, I would certainly have to agree that there is something special going on up here in Sweden. While my adjustment is still continuing and will for awhile, Sweden in general and Linköping in particular have treated me very well, even as my All-American qualities reveal themselves on a seemingly daily basis (perhaps a future blog?). Speaking of which, I'm off to Boston next weekend for a wedding, so my submission will be a special State-side version of Linköpinglivin' this time next week.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Swedes And Their Beloved Crayfish

Something I love about Sweden, from cultural reading and personal experience, is their extraordinary celebrations around holidays. Virtually every holiday is celebrated with a combination of family/friends, food, alcohol and Swedish traditional songs, sung by everyone around the table, including displaced Americans.

Swedish "Mid-Summer" (approx. June 23rd) is one of the most celebrated of holidays anywhere in the world. The National Holiday is June 7th and Christmas ("Gul"), from what I've heard, is most cherished-a time when Swedish traditions, wintertime comforts and family/friend gatherings are plentiful. One of the more unique Swedish celebrations happens in August, or in my case, during the first week of September.

Crayfish is found throughout Sweden in the many lakes, rivers and seas that surround the country. A crayfish run is a long-standing tradition, one which my company sponsored for all of the employees this past week. On a lake just outside of Linköping in Östergotland (this region of Sweden), I was elected to row the boat, some others placed the cages, then we waited. Of course, during the wait, we gathered around the firepit and dinner table, ate broiled crayfish, sang Swedish folk songs, shared an assortment of special beverages and generally enjoyed a very unique Tuesday evening toward the end of Sweden's summer.

When all was said and done, I had learned through experience a lot more about this new country I am temporarily calling home. My colleagues are a special group that can work and play together and except for a few of us, can also carry quite a tune.

And if you're curious about how many crayfish we caught, well....let's just say that they must've known there was an American trying to be Swedish on this night. See you next week.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


As Americans, we only have to speak one language. I'm not nearly as critical as some people are about this, because it's simply a result of not being geographically located or economically obligated to learn another language. Most of us speak a little Spanish, German or French--whatever we remember from high school. The rest of the developed world (generally 50 years old and younger) speaks at least two and sometimes three languages, almost always including English because somewhere along the line English became the dominant and default language for communication across the developed world.

I have total admiration for the way Swedes can go from Swedish to English and back to Swedish without a second thought. "Svenska till Engelska till Svenska igen." I would not be here if they were not able to do this. One of the first things people would ask me when hearing about this adventure was "Do you speak Swedish?" I would look at them and say, "Of course not. But fortunately they all speak near perfect English." From the university professor to the student to the barista or bartender, they can all communicate with me perfectly. While I'm sheepish about always making others speak English, I can at least start conversations in Swedish, then divulge that "Jag taller lite Svenska" (I speak a little Swedish), then they shift gears into English, usually without hesitation. They start learning it in 3rd grade! Very impressive.

I start my Swedish classes in mid-September. Two times a week for three hours at a time. Really, it's the least I can do....

Here's some more fun pictures, since language does not easily lend itself to quality supplemental photos (except for one, I guess). First: A quaint square in Gamla Stan, the old city of Stockholm. Second: The view from my temporary apartment in Linköping of the city. Nice, huh? See you next week!