On Traveling

Frequent flier, expert packer.  

Frequent flier, expert packer.  

Growing up my family traveled often. With relatives in nearly every corner of the United States, vacation meant Christmas in Boston or Easter in Florida, beach trips to Northern Michigan or visits to the Chicago suburbs. Travel was a means of being together - with our immediate family and with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Our crazy schedules of little league games and swim practices, business trips and PTA meetings were put on pause. For these trips, these moments, we occupied the same space. As the plane took off, we would clasp hands. A prayer for a safe flight, a moment to acknowledge how thankful we were. The plane would steady, reach cruising altitude and we would let go. We'd return to our books or puzzles, then later iPods and e-readers, but still we were together.


Now our reasons for travel aren't quite so simple. And we find ourselves across states, countries, even continents. Just this morning when I woke up in Sweden, my brother was in Mexico, my dad in New Zealand and my mom in the Netherlands en route to Tanzania.  Needless to say, it's harder to have that time together. It's nearly impossible to find ourselves in the same city, let alone on the same flight. And yet, I can always count on an email or a text: "Safe travels! Text when you land." It may not be a squeeze of a hand mid-take off, but it's something. A prayer for a safe flight, a moment to acknowledge how thankful we are. And that is everything.

The March List

Warmer (and longer!) days are in sight and March is the month to reclaim winter’s ravages. So hang up the scarves and dust off your sunnies because - dare I say it - Spring is almost here! Here's what I’m mad for this month!

March Mantra

March Mantra

1.  7- Day KonMari Inspired Challenge - Tackle spring cleaning in stages with this easy guide.  And if you're like me, you probably should add an extra day for cleaning out email inboxes and desktop space. 

2. Liljevalchs Spring Salon/ Vårsalongen - An annual juried exhibition of local artists put on by one of my favorite museums in Stockholm. This year’s exhibition is being show in Norrmalm through April 10th. 

3. James Bay at the Annex - This guy comes to Sweden; I proceed to cry happy tears. 

4. Nuxe Creme Fraîche de Beauté - The best moisturizing cream for those transitional months where skin can go nuts. Bonus - the smell will make you feel like a fine French woman qui promène par la Seine. Just make sure to add an SPF!

5. Lost in Translation - Fill the void left by the cancellation of Welcome to Sweden with this improv show highlighting the expat experience. 

The February List

Semlor at Güntherska Konditori - Supermysigt!

Semlor at Güntherska Konditori - Supermysigt!

Semlor - Today is Semla Day! Run - don’t walk - to your nearest Scandinavian bakery and try one of these Fat Tuesday buns. 



Modern Love, the Podcast - This New York Times/WBUR collab that will have you asking why no one thought of this sooner. You will cry. Maybe in public. Or not. But I did.



Halsey -  She’s everywhere these days, including in your city/state/country. Get tickets before…well, before you can’t.



Locobase Repair - Only the best thing for dry, winter skin. I use it on my hands and lips religiously. Aquaphor, you’ve been dethroned.



…and for when you want to say I love you with succulents. (Insert innuendo here.)

On Getting Lost

On the way to my Saturday morning yoga class a few weeks ago, the bus* came late, resulting in an awkward sprint-shuffle-mind-the-ice-mad-dash from the bus stop to the studio. When I arrived, the door was locked. The class had started a few minutes before and my limited knowledge of yoga etiquette prompted me to reconsider my original plan of forced entry. I turned around and retraced my steps to the stop, but I bitterly remembered the bus betrayal from earlier. I'll walk. I chose a playlist, popped in my earbuds and routed the way back to my apartment. It was chilly, yes, but not enough to enjoy a brisk walk and some Spotify jams. And then my phone’s screen turned black: the dreaded spinning wheel of death. 

The studio is only 3km from my new apartment, and yet I freaked. The cathedral is a pretty solid landmark, but it was blocked from view. Time for full-blown panic mode. Can I find my way home? Do I walk north? Or east? Where is east? Do I have a compass? My phone has a compass! The iPhone compass is a useless feature BECAUSE I NEED IT NOW. Can I make a needle compass? I should’ve paid attention in science. I think I have a needle at home. Should I call a cab? Hail a cab? 

I took a breath and assured myself I was not a total idiot. I could do this. I could Bear Grylls it.** I began to walk in what I hoped was the right direction. Left here, straight here, cross here. As I walked, I noticed. I saw a stunning, ivied school I had never seen before. I crossed a bridge I hadn’t known was there. I admired neighborhood graffiti and listened to the sounds of a city waking up.  And it was beautiful. A thin layer of snow covered the city and the weak winter sun peeked out from behind heavy clouds. 

And I eventually found my way. I found my neighborhood, then my street. And I found that getting lost wasn’t too bad after all.


*Does Punxsutawney Phil’s domain include Sweden? Because I need an early spring so I can bike again. 

**There was no drinking of bodily fluids in this adventure. Bear Grylls Lite.  

Note: This post has no pictures because my camera/compass/phone was dead, but you already knew that.


On (not) Learning Swedish

I shall call this one "Picture is Unrelated: Stockholm at Christmas."

I shall call this one "Picture is Unrelated: Stockholm at Christmas."

Last month Education First ranked Swedes at the top for English Proficiency and I can second that assessment. Perhaps it's because Swedish isn't too useful outside of Sweden or perhaps it's because Swedish and English share a Germanic root language. But if you ask them, Swedes will attribute their awesome English to television. English programming has subtitles rather than dubbing, so Swedes - especially the younger generations - have grown up hearing English on T.V. and in films. And it shows. Whether it's a wide, nuanced vocabulary or a native-like understanding of idioms and slang, I am continually impressed by the English I hear. Sometimes I'll even hear Swedes apologize for their "terrible" English which is a) so far from the truth and b) ridiculous. I'm the one in their country asking them to speaking my language. I'm the imposition here. But still, the apologies come.

I am fluent in Swedish pastries. 

I am fluent in Swedish pastries. 

All of this excellence has an interesting consequence: It's really hard to learn Swedish here. Sure, having lived in Sweden for the better part of a year means I can understand and read it alright.  But speaking? No chance. My patient friends have heard mostly "Hallå!" or "Jag förstår!" and still they tolerate me. #Thankful for them. I've tried Duolingo, but it lacks a speaking component for Swedish. I've added Rosetta Stone to my morning coffee ritual, but I'm not sold. I mean, there's only so many opportunities to slip "Varför luktar hunden illa?" or "Sköldpaddan är liten" into conversation.  ("Why does the dog smell bad?" and "The turtle is small" for those who are following.) And then there's SFI, Swedish for Immigrants. The government offers a language course for immigrant adults, but reviews from friends and colleagues have been largely critical.  SFI groups students by their education level rather than their experience with Swedish. So even though I have spent several months here, I could be placed with students who don't know the difference between "hej" and "hejdå". And often times, groups of varying levels all share the same teacher at the same time. It's tough enough to differentiate instruction for my fourth graders; I can't even imagine juggling masters level students in the same room as students who aren't literate in their native language. And the kicker? You need a personnummer to register for the course. Which I don't have. I guess it's pretty futile to complain about a service I can't use. So I'll keep muddling on with Rosetta Stone and hope for plenty of opportunities to talk about smelly dogs and small turtles.


More on my adventures learning Swedish later :)