We’ve just arrived home after 3 weeks vacation to a city that is mostly empty, as Swedes generally take the month of July off. I was wondering how many people were left in our apartment building yesterday and happened to get my questioned answered about 10pm last night when the city’s air raid sirens suddenly went off.
Stockholm has air raid/emergency sirens that are tested every 3 months at 3pm on a Monday. My 43-year old husband has NEVER heard the air raid sirens at any other time than that during his entire life and I would think most Stockholmers have not either.
So imagine how completely freaked out the entire city was last night when the air raid sirens started to sound around 10pm. Every person at home in our building and the one across from us immediately came out from their balconies to look at the sky. Then everyone started shouting to each other from balcony to balcony and across the courtyard “What’s happening?” “Do you know what it is?” “Are they saying anything on the news?” etc.
And during this time of possible obliteration, I had 2 thoughts:
- Why didn’t we come back home from our trip a day later?
- I think this is the first time I’ve heard neighbors speak to one another in this building. It’s kind of nice!
Apparently it was some sort of technical fault, so luckily we can all continue to enjoy the summer if we made it through the panic attacks last night.
On a side note, our kids who were reading in bed never asked about or mentioned the blaring air raid siren. Glad to know it’s not just parent voices that they are able to completely tune out.
December 13, St. Lucia day
Today begins early in the morning when it’s still dark. A girl dresses up as a dead Italian saint with fire on her head followed by “tärnor” (like Lucia maidens – no fire on head) and “stjärngossar (star boys who wear white pointy hats, I have no idea why) singing Christmas songs.
It’s a celebration of light in the darkness of winter. Young children wear electric candles on their head, but above age 12, they wear real candles. Yes, the wax drips down as the ceremony usually lasts 30 minutes to an hour. They have a light covering on their hair, but most Lucias have long hair and it still falls into the bottom parts.
The outfit Lucia wears is for an Italian saint who brought food in secret tunnels to persecuted Christians. She wore candles on her head to see in the tunnel. The red sash represents blood, as she was sentenced to death and they tried to stab her (apparently didn’t work). They also tried to set her on fire, which is why everyone carries candles (also didn’t work). These days the candles mostly represent the light she brings.
One of my sons had three Lucia performances over the weekend and has two more today. My husband had the job of being class parent for one of the concerts, which means he had to stand to the side during the performance with a bucket of water in case anyone caught fire.
So much more exciting than just being a chaperone at a school dance, I think.
This article was in The Local.
My question (besides why I never get to see these badgers and beavers that apparently walk all over town ) is, how did they know the cat was a hipster?
Does it have very long fur and not bathe? Does it wear a 1940s hat? Is it a vegan?
We seem to be having an early season for apples and other fruits here in the Stockholm area, and I’m lucky enough to live in a place that used to be a fruit orchard at some far point back in time. Or maybe it was a dump where lazy people threw out rotten apple cores and plum seeds. Whichever it is, it’s paying off now! Earlier this season the cherry trees were full of fruit, and now we’ve moved on to apples and plums. I’m also lucky to have young, eager climbers to get up and reach the good apples. The freezer is full of pies, breads and muffins.
And if I’m not in the mood to search around, people in my neighborhood who have an abundance of apples and plums from their trees often put out baskets for anyone to take extra. Just walking for ten minutes, I passed seven baskets of fruit (and came home with two bags full, while still leaving plenty for other people).
I was thinking how this wouldn’t work in the area of Texas where I grew up. People would probably just steal the basket.
However, people do have the neighborly, sharing spirit there, just in other ways. Instead of fruit, people put their old couches and televisions out on the curb. It’s understood that anything on the curb is free to take. Once or twice when one of my parents would put something like that out on our curb, I would hide near the window to see how long it would take until someone took it. I never had to wait more than five minutes.
Meanwhile in Sweden, I have this bike I bought for about five dollars that I hate and I can’t get anyone to steal it! There’s no lock on it and it’s out in front of the building. I know I need to take it to the dump, but that requires loading it into the car, which requires muscles and time. I have a limited amount of both.
Maybe if I put the bike in a giant basket and hang some apples from it, someone will get the idea. It’s worth a try.
This sign was just put up next to our building. Badgers! Yes! I’m keeping a lookout but I haven’t seen any yet. Thought I saw one from my balcony the other day but I didn’t have my glasses on and it turns out it was a small kid with an animal hat.
They keep claiming there are beavers all over too, but I haven’t seen those either. People get attacked by them apparently and I can’t even get a glimpse! Maybe I’ll have better luck with these badgers.
If they can invent shoes where you can pop out wheels to roller skate, why can’t they invent winter boots where you can pop out blades to ice skate? It would be so much more useful in my neighborhood.
I had a spectacular fall on the ice yesterday. I’m talking a full-out comedy banana peel-type fall landing horizontally on the ice. The only thing missing was the Benny Hill theme as background music.
It’s mid-January and so far the score is Winter – 2, Heather -0, unless a defeat against winter would be a day I haven’t had to go outside but worn pajamas all day indoors drinking hot chocolate. Then the score is Winter – 2, Heather – 1.
As my kids are going to school this morning, it is -18c here in Stockholm, Sweden. We haven’t seen temperatures this low for about 3 years when I was last convinced we lived on planet Hoth (I swear I saw a man riding a TaunTaun to work). The buses barely ran, there were subway problems and it was total chaos in the city. One would think places located in the Arctic Circle would be prepared for these things, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Stockholm.
For the past week, the evening dinner conversation has revolved around the question of why people would ever settle in Sweden in the first place. I can only think that they discovered the place during the summer and then it became dark and cold so fast that they all experienced mass hibernation and never left.
This leads me to my ongoing argument that people living in northern countries should all hibernate during January and February. We practically do anyway since the darkness makes us all so tired. Why not take it up a notch? Most of us would get the same amount done as we do when we are awake in the winter.
Sweden’s getting better with different types of restaurants and foods, but they still haven’t mastered the Sports Bar. We have a chain of Sports Bars in Stockholm with the usual unsatisfying high-priced food you would expect from a typical sports bar, but these places are only a third full of lonely people eating buffet pancakes and burgers while watching Florida golf with a foot of snow outside. (Hmm…. pancakes at a Sports Bar…. there’s one problem right there.)
But after spending my lunch in this Sports Bar yesterday, I’ve come to the conclusion that the main problem may be the music. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to drink my beer and watch the football game with Neil Diamond singing in the background. It just doesn’t seem to fit.
To make it worse, the follow-up to Neil was “Islands in the Stream,” that old early 80s hit by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. It’s hard to sail away with you Kenny when soccer goals are being scored on one screen and hoops are being dunked on another. If I were picking a soundtrack to a sports movie, it would not involve Dolly Parton (well, maybe “Jolene” for a boxing scene). If I were picking a theme song for a baseball player to walk out to, it wouldn’t be Neil Diamond’s “Song Song Blue.”
Let’s get rid of the pancakes and pump in some rockin’ music and see if that improves the situation. Otherwise, Swedish Sports Bars, you gotta know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run a pizza place instead.
I follow the Stockholm Police Twitter account on my feed to keep up with what’s happening. They’re very good at reporting what’s happening around town. Today a major street by our neighborhood had to be shut down temporarily because a moose wandered onto it. Being a Texan, even after 15 years in Sweden, it’s still exotic to have news stories about “moose on the loose!” So I clicked the star (or like) on that particular story.
But it felt weird to “like” something that was probably a huge problem for the police and a major traffic jam for afternoon drivers. Then I thought about the other stories the police post about people stealing or drunk drivers that they pull over. Am I supposed to click that I like those? What message does it send? That I’m happy they caught someone? Or “Woo-hoo! Stealing motorcycles!” I hope they would understand it’s the former, but I generally just don’t click anything so there won’t be a misunderstanding.
I couldn’t resist the moose though.
I work two
part-time extra time jobs here in Stockholm, so sometimes I check to see if there might be a third extra time job I might be able to do. Checking job ads here gets very distracting though. Let me give you today’s examples along with my comments:
German-speaking debt collection agent (“Geld! Schnell!” I think I can get this one)
Professional Dog Walker (Professional? )
Chinese nail therapist (1. Why Chinese? 2. Do I just help nails to deal with their social issues?)
Thai Massage (No thanks)
Team member for food truck “The Good Gringo” The Good Gringo is on a mission to share with you what a burrito should be.
( I fully support this mission)
I’m going to eat a hamburger today from a place called “The Burger Boat” even though it’s a barge. This bothers me. Burger Barge would have sounded just fine AND been accurate. I wouldn’t call a food truck a food CAR.
Sorry, I just need my restaurants to be correct. This is why I have trouble eating at Pizza HUT.
Answer: They go to Ikea of course!
(ok, not really a riddle… more of a question…. and pretty lame, I know.)
We made our bi-annual, required by Swedish law, trip to Ikea this past weekend on a rainy day. Of course, so did all other Stockholmers. I think we did well this time. With only 4 things on our list, we managed to escape the maze of stylish furniture and accessories with just 16 items. I think that’s a new record for us.
The rest of the afternoon was spent building furniture, of course. I tried to tell my son it was like building Legos, but he didn’t really fall for it. He did manage to hit a few nails and play with a box cutter in the toolbox while my back was turned before wandering to something way more interesting and computerized in his room, leaving me in a pile of screwdrivers and wooden pegs.
But everything has now been built and our apartment will have that lovely new furniture Ikea smell for a couple of days. I think it’s just a matter of time before someone bottles that smell. I’d buy it. I bought “new car smell,” so why not “new furniture smell.” I think I’m onto something here.
These are always my favorite stories around here. But I still have never seen a beaver! I’m always looking for them. Everyone says they’re around. I go to the nature reserve and look in the small lakes, I go to parts of the city near the water where they’ve been spotted. Still never seen one!
Anyway, here’s an attacking beaver story. My favorite part of this is the small caption under the picture that reads, “Not the beaver in question.”
I’m currently sitting at work in my winter coat. Normally I sit in the next room with a portable heater all alone. The other people who work here don’t want to sit there with me and call it the “sauna room” because of the heater.
I know many Swedes are descended from Vikings, but even Vikings wore fur and proper winter gear, plus appreciated a warm fire. Why am I the only one freezing all the time? It must be some sort of Swedish pride thing that they can’t admit they’re cold. Or is there still something I haven’t figured out after 14 years of living here. I’ve learned to by down-feather coats, have a hat that goes over my ears, wear wool socks…. things I never knew about in Texas.
But I still think they’re hiding things from me about how to stay warm. Maybe I earn a new badge when I’ve made 15 years here. Then I get a new secret, “we all coat ourselves in butter under our clothes” or something like that.