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Archive for December, 2007

12 full suitcases, piles of carry-on stuff, 4 kids. . . yeah, we got a LOT of looks in the airport. People kept counting my kids and then looking in dazed confusion at our enormous mountains (yes, mountains in plural) of suitcases, prompting me to explain apologetically, we’re moving back to the U.S. after five years living in Sweden.

Travelling by plane really has no dignity. One sits on a crowded airplane, surrounded my groups of strangers all trying to cope with the thousands of miles which fly by. One is subjected to mediocre food, cramped bathrooms, and overwhelmingly dry skin.

But it is a necessary evil. We arrived safely in the States. This morning, we drove to Wyoming. I was surprised by the strong nostalgic feelings I experienced while gazing at the miles and miles of snow covered hills and mountains. Wyoming is beautiful in an intense, lonely desolate way. I guess the country girl awoke because I didn’t feel so strange.

One thing that surprised me was how friendly Americans are. People were so kind and helpful to us, offering to lend a hand as we got off the planes. I marvelled at the amount of information strangers imparted to one another, sharing bits and pieces of lives. I guess we just like to talk and share ourselves. It was so refreshing.

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Things might be looking up

So, I’ve got a cold, urinary tract infection, and diarrhea AND still have an amazing amount of packing and cleaning to do. However, I am going to bed in a better mood because it looks like DH is going to get a job offer. I’m not going to do my contest yet because it isn’t 100 % sure, but I do feel a lot better. Looks like we may avoid working at McDonald’s after all!

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No news to report

I should be on blogging awol, but sometimes you desperately need a break from the mess of an unpacked house, dirty dishes begging to be washed, out of control hormones and a queasy stomach.

I hate packing.

No, we don’t have a job yet. And I’m stressed beyond belief. I hit a couple of lows yesterday. I wandered around in a funk the whole day, unable to focus and commit to any task. I took my son to his oboe lesson and said goodbye to his teacher, my dear friend. We walked to the bus after the lesson and I fought tears the whole way. When we got home, my husband came to greet me at the door with the baby and I lost it. I sobbed for 20 minutes straight about packing, not getting anything done, hormones, saying goodbye, being afraid of elementary school lockdowns in the U.S., feeling sick, leaving my bike at the school, etc.

I hate packing.

I never cry. This was extremely unusual. I hate crying because I get a terrible headache after and feel all dried out.

I hate packing.

I went to bed early and listened to the baby complain forever about going to bed. Finally, I got up with her and we sat on the couch watching a movie. She didn’t want to sleep or lie down with me. She wanted to watch Callou while I held her. Good times.

I hate packing.

This morning, I bought Coca Cola, my drink for keeping queasiness at bay and have attempted to get some work done.

I hate packing.

I’m so incoherent that I keep thinking that I am so amusing, only to realize that normal people don’t laugh at the things I’m laughing at. But that’s okay, I’ll keep drinking my coke, laughing at strange things and maybe I’ll survive the next few days.

Have I mentioned that I hate packing?

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Just tying up loose ends

We’re moving back to the U.S. in 10 days. This is the part where I need a smiley with popping eyes. We’ve been packing and cleaning for awhile now. I had hoped to write today with an update about our future destination, but we still don’t know. We’re waiting to hear about two different jobs. I’m not even going to talk about them right now as it just depresses me to get excited about a place and then have it fall through. So I am not getting excited until we have a job offer.  In any case, we’ll be enjoying Christmas this year with our families.

Check in this week because if we do get a job offer, I’ll sponser a contest where I send the lucky winner some Swedish/Danish chocolate.´(You have to guess which state we’ll move to.)

I won’t be posting to this blog for a month at least because we are giving our computer away on Monday, and I have to wipe the hard-drive. I won’t have access to a computer for awhile.

If you are new to my blog, may I suggest that you scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the Israel entries. There are several entries about our journey to Israel, the places we saw and our experiences. The first entry I wrote was entitled “A New Vocabulary”.

As things settle down I’ll try and post again. I imagine I’ll have lots of culture shock moments to share as we return to the U.S. after five years abroad.

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A day in my town

The early morning rush of getting four children dressed, winter clothes put on, backpacks ready, snacks prepared and out the door is always hectic. It is my turn to take my oldest two boys and two neighbor girls (plus the toddler in the stroller) to school. I spent this time “encouraging” the kids to walk faster so that we wouldn’t miss the bus. On the bus, we plainly stand out. First, we look strange with all the kids tagging along with me. I don’t even look like a daycare or teacher because three of the children look so obviously like me. The kids chatter away in English as strangers pretend like they’re not listening to the conversation. I never feel Swedish on these mornings. Everything is strange out our little group so I don’t even try to blend in. Occasionally, I call out to the kids reminding them to stay seated or to stop fighting, etc.

After I’ve delivered the kids to school, everything changes. I have a whole day to spend in town. As it is early, the only shops open are the cafes and bakeries. My pace slows and I begin to feel more Swedish as I push the stroller and admire the new Christmas decorations and wonder over the strange configuration of bright orange manequins grouped on a circular platform.

I stop at a newstand, browsing the magazines and newspapers. I’m too tired to read Swedish, so I opt for a British magazine. The clerk doesn’t even blink at my choice and we chat, in Swedish, as I pay for the magazine. My main destination is the best bakery in town. It’s cozy, with a large selection of breads, Swedish pastries and warm drinks. I see a sign advertising “lussekatter” for 9 Swedish crowns. (Sweden does not use the Euro currency.)  The smell of cinnamon, warm bread, and coffee fill my senses as I walk into the shop. Lussekatter and hot chocolate sound like a perfect relaxing “fika” for a cold morning. I find a table, give my daughter the warm saffron bun from which promptly picks off the raisins  and settles down for a nice snack. Paging through my magazine, warming my hands on the mug of chocolate and savoring the lussekatt, I feel so Swedish, it’s not even funny. I even speak Swedish to my daughter, not wanting to stick out or to warrant looks. For a moment, I am just another Swedish mother on “mammaledig” enjoying fika with my daughter  after dropping the other child off at dagis. I feel pleased that my accent is good enough that I don’t sound too much of a stranger.

After my lovely fika, I take the bus over to the International Preschool my youngest son attends. I conduct rehearsals for the piano and music recital on Tuesday. At the school, I feel comfortably part of the international community. Children from all nationalities work on learning English in a warm and safe environment. There is very much a sense of community as the families work together to make living abroad less frightening, overwhelming and complex.

In the afternoon, I take the bus again to pick up the oldest two boys from their international grade school. They are eating “mellis”–and afternoon snack with the other children staying in fritids–the after school care program. One of the teachers begs to let the boys stay and make lussekatter. Since this is their last time to make lussekatter in Sweden, I agree. The boys talk and laugh with their Swedish teachers as they participate in a very old Swedish tradition.

We then leave, walking on an old cobblestoned street to the bus. It’s four o’ clock and winter darkness has already descended, but the sparkling Christmas lights, entwined with evergreen greenery, make the town feel magical. The bus swings through the town and I see beautiful shop windows lit up with stars and candles and wonderful straw pigs. The main shopping street is busy, with people leisurely enjoying the evening magic of a Friday evening. In the main square, a large Christmas tree has been set up trimmed with lights. The lights sparkle on the temporary ice rink where children make lasting childhood Christmas memories.

I watch the scenes go by, feeling keenly a part of the action even though I sit on the bus. Tears well up as I realize that in fourteen days, I’ll leave it all behind for the brassy newness of America. A realisation hits me so hard that even though I really am a stranger here, this is my town. From the moment I stepped off the train platform, I have loved this place. It never stops charming me no matter how many times I wander the streets. Every corner reveals new delights and old favorites. This town beautifully displays all that is lovely and wonderful in Sweden: history and modernity, the importance of light in a northern country, clean streets, fresh Swedish faces, somber winter coats enlivened with beautiful scarves, and magic. And at times, I am a part of it. My  heart will always carry a bit of Sweden with me, leaving me changed forever.

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