Sunny days and nights

These past two weeks we have been able to see our city from a slightly different perspective; that of tourists. My partner’s parents have been visiting from Australia, and when we were able we took them for walks, visited sites or recommended places to visit. For the most part they seemed happy to wander around and explore themselves, and then on most evenings we’d go over to their apartment. Through some sort of incredible luck, their visit has coincided with over a week of sunny days, which ended the day they left. So we’d head over of an evening, and before long it would be 10pm and the sun would still be shining through the windows.

Out on the islands

Out on the islands

After a few days my partner’s sister and her boyfriend arrived, and we continued to show off our home city and share late dinners at the rented apartment. On one day we took a ferry to Brännö, one of the islands in the southern archipelago. Aside from some brief cloud cover it was clear and warm, roses were out along trellises and over fences and some grassy fields even had sheep and lambs wandering around in them. It was all extremely bucolic. We had lunch in the sun, under the supervision of the restaurant cat, and fika at a cafe hidden among the dockyards as we waited for the next ferry.

A ferry alternative

A ferry alternative

When we got back to town we spent some time on the balcony of the apartment, soaking in the evening sun and musing over summer, travel and luck. After we had all rested enough and some of us had got their nerves in order, we headed over to Liseberg.

It had been decided a few days previously that a few of us would attempt the Helix, a new ride that we had seen being constructed and whose passengers we regularly heard as they swooped and screamed around the tracks. Sadly it was temporarily closed when we got there so instead a brave few tried out Atmos-fear, the 116m free-fall tower that is the source of most of the screaming that you can hear from the park.

Atmosfear

Atmosfear

A couple of us decided to watch, and managed to see the others as they slowly ascended and then very quickly dropped back down. They seemed quite shaken afterwards, but were still game enough to try out Balder, the big wooden rollercoaster that I had tried last year. Remembering what it was like, I went and had a glass of wine with my partner’s mum and waited for the more adventurous people to join us.

They eventually did, looking a bit more exhilarated and still eager to try Helix, which had just started up again. As we sat and drank, the band stage was filling with dancers of all ages and styles, all of whom had definite moves. I don’t seem to notice notices for dancing classes any more than I saw in Australia, but judging by what I’ve seen at Liseberg, dancing does seem to be pretty popular here in Sweden. Perhaps it’s those long dark winter nights.

Finally the time had come. The now slightly reduced group went over to the line for the Helix, and those not taking part found a table at the Austrian themed restaurant to wait and eat. Soon they returned, and the food arrived, and in all the talk of the rides I felt very little regret at not going. Perhaps I’ll try in future, when the need to prove myself outweighs the memory of those vertiginous drops.

Liseberg in the evening

Liseberg in the evening

As darkness finally began to set in, the parents decided to call it a night, while the rest of us headed into town. We’d decided that we needed to show them the side of Göteborg where the locals spent their time and were soon in a noisy, crowded pub, chatting and trying not to listen to the loud Australian behind us, telling his new friends about goon-bags.

They have all since left for other travels, though we plan to meet them again in Oslo next week, possibly for the last time until we next visit Australia.

In other news, the first part of my Swedish course finished last week. The class, including many people I’ve studied with for 6 months, had a last fika with the teacher who has been with us from the start. The new classes next term will be with some of the same people, and a few new teachers, and the work will only continue to get harder. And then it too will end, and all sorts of other options will be available. Not too long now.

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Impending things

So changes are afoot in little old Göteborg. Or to be more precise, in the little part of old Göteborg that my partner and I inhabit. Sadly our lease for our current apartment is coming to an end soon, so we have been questing all over for a new place. The trip to Australia caused a bit of a delay (note to self and anyone reading this: never plan a trip overseas within 2 months of moving) and put and end to some offers that may have turned out well. In any case, last night we signed a contract for another apartment and in a month we’ll have removed the last traces of our stay from our current home.

The search for a home has coincided with another important event for me, which was also slightly embuggeranced by our recent holiday. Yesterday morning I completed the majority of the final Swedish test that will decide whether I can continue to SAS and if so which level. Once SAS is completed I will be qualified to study at a Swedish university and be at a level where I can more easily be found suitable for jobs here. So there’s a lot riding on it. I will have the final part this morning, and the results at the end of the week and then after the summer holidays hopefully I will start the next level. I’ve been stressing about it for a while, so it’ll be a relief to have it done, for better or worse.

A sunny perspective at 9.46PM

A sunny perspective at 9.46PM

Meanwhile my partner’s parents arrived from Australia on Friday and our spare time has been taken showing them around and helping them to settle in. Fortunately they are very low maintenance, and seem happy to wander around the city and explore, and they have somehow managed to snaffle the only 3 consecutively sunny days that I can remember in a while. It’ll be Midsummer on Friday, which I have repeatedly been assured is a guarantee of poor weather, so we’ll see how long the Swedish summer can hold out.

Glad sommar!

Glad sommar!

While they’ve been here I’ve quite enjoyed the role of tour guide, showing off the pleasant and interesting aspects of my home town, and enjoying their enjoyment. Thus far we have been on a brief walk around Liseberg, stuffed ourselves at our favourite restaurant and picnicked by a lake. There are many things that they have done that I will have to hear more about, but suffice it to say that they seem to be enjoying their visit and we’ll miss them once they continue on their trip.

Fun at Liseberg

Fun at Liseberg

In two weeks we’ll be joining them for part of the journey, when we all go to Norway to visit some fjords. I haven’t really done much research about the area we’ll be visiting, but I think no amount of imaginary grandeur will be able to match standing by a fjord. We shall see, and those reading this will see pictures.

For now the sun is out and plans are coming into place, and a final test is looming.

Omens and what next?

Yesterday I received an omen. It landed on my hand with a splat, as I sat plotting a story outside a cafe in Victoriapassagen. I’m assuming it was an omen, because otherwise a bird crapped on my hand for no reason and that’s nowhere near as interesting, though I’m not sure what it presaged. Hopefully that I was on the right track with my story.
Today I went to a cafe and didn’t get an omen from the sky as there was space inside this time. My hot lemon, ginger and honey drink, macaroon and delicious foccacia made up for the lack of signs though, as did progress with my story. It’s one that I’ve been working on for a few years now, and I’d left it on the back-burner when it got stuck about a year ago. Recently the characters and the heart of the story came back and are now creeping around my head, plotting and directing the action.

Writing assistance

Ominous bird doings aside, during the last week or so I have been mostly preoccupied with looking around and wondering what I’m doing and where I’m going. Reassessing my daily lists of Things To Do. Focussing not only what is most important, but what is actually doable. Having done this I feel as though I’m clearing the hurdle of the second stage of expathood. From my own experience and talking to other expats who’ve been here longer, the first two stages are as follows:
The first stage was the wide-eyed wow stage, when the world around me was new and everywhere I looked there was something intriguing to be investigated and most likely photographed. That still happens to me now, when I go for walks into town or cycle to a place I haven’t seen before, but my neck has been craning less and I sometimes have moments when I feel as though I’m touching the borders of being part of this place.
This second stage is when the momentum caught up with me and I had to pull myself in and really think about where I want to be and what I can do to get there. It came to a head last Friday, when all my get up and go, got up and went and I just felt tired.
What the next stage is I don’t know. With November just around the corner, all encroaching darkness and cold, I’m hoping the Swedish language classes will start soon, so I have something to throw myself into. Just in case, I bought two candles yesterday, to ward off the dreariness and provide literal and metaphorical warmth. Soon I will go in search of advent candle holders, to light up our kitchen window.

What all this writing and navel gazing means, oh readers, is that my adventures haven’t been of the adventurous kind lately. Possibly the most exciting events occurred over the weekend, starting with Kanelbullens Dag on Friday. This is a tradition in Sweden, in which it is the duty of all to eat huge, sugar coated cinnamon rolls, and who am I to deny the customs of my adopted country? They were delicious, and enjoyed in the company of other expats who then headed to a French restaurant/bar for less traditional alcoholic beverages, and discussions of B-grade shark-related films.

Kanebullen, mmmm

On Saturday we went to another of the free Foyer Concerts at the Opera House, the theme of which was Nordic cello. Again the music was beautiful, so much so that at times I risked sinking into a doze, warm and content as I was. More wanderings with expats ensued, and then other wanderings, and a visit to Universeum, the Göteborg version of Scitech, Aqua and the zoo all bundled in one place. It was great fun to stare at the exhibits, exploring the river systems of Sweden, admiring the feathery dinosaurs and stepping into the tropical rainforest section, which was a very tropical 28C. This last was my favourite, which made up half the building. Imagine a vertical cross section of a 6 storey building, and fill the left side with winding paths through recreated rainforests inhabited by birds, monkeys, lizards and piranhas. The piranhas were in tanks, fortunately. The toucans, with their giant beaks and amazingly colourful feathers and habit of staring right back at us were wonderful.

Curious toucan

Resists urge to make a two-can joke. Oops.

There was also a tiny black monkey who skittered around, jumping out from nowhere and disappearing as quickly.

Escaping monkey

The day ended with drinking a bottle of wine and watching the final episode of Vikings and then Gladiator. I had decided that my habit of sobbing messily at the end would be a thing of the past. Oh yes. Of course, by the time Russell Crowe was doing that odd turtle neck thing he does in the death scene, a little tear was dribbling down my cheek and my throat felt quite tight. Is it ‘a good man’ dying? Knowing the Empire was passing it’s prosperous period? That neck thing? I still don’t know, only that it gets me every damn time.
The next morning I showed some evidence of having drunk a fair amount of wine, and so took it easy till the afternoon, when I cycled to the nearby lake. It involved a bit more uphill than I’d planned, but it was more than worth it. Sitting on the grass watching as the sunlight crept over the trees along the banks of the lake and the little island, lighting up the still water and clearing skies brought more peace than I’ve felt in a while. If I concentrate I can feel it now, and picture the lake.
When my partner returned from his own, longer, cycling trip, we went for one last night at Liseberg. It was the last night until it opens for the Christmas season, and was free so we walked around and had dinner at the Austrian restaurant, then walked some more until the sky was lit up by fireworks.

Liseberg fireworks

It was a lovely ending to the weekend, and as we made out way through the crowds and past the beautifully lit tree near the main gate, I felt as though this week would be easier.

Tree like a galaxy, and a light post

In the short time since the weekend I’ve been concentrating on my writing and study, and creating a comfortable space for my partner and myself. There’s still a long way to go, and many more stages to be discovered and breached, but I know it’s possible and that I’m not alone on the road.

Rollercoasters and relaxation

Since the last update I have not left Göteborg. This may surprise those who have read my other posts, as it sometimes seems as though I am forever getting on and off planes or buses, but worry not, there will be travels and adventures in exciting lands in future. For the next few weeks (or the next 2 at least) we’re taking a break from the jetsetting and settling in a bit, and finding amusements closer to home.

Thursday was the first foray into the nearer sort of excursions, in which we went along to a comedy night advertised through an expat group I’d found. The first sign that it would be a great night was when a dapper looking fellow casually smoking a cigarette rolled past on a penny-farthing bicycle, on which was mounted a stereo blasting out electronica. Our joy at this absurdity was increased when he was soon followed down the street by a fleet of 10 or so people on segways. What could possibly top this? Well, a series of very funny comedians and a ‘mentalist’, plus very nice company. My partner also earned the nickname ‘The One’ and was briefly a mentalist’s assistant, while I sang a few bars of Happy Birthday while wishing I could sink into the floor. It was the only song I could think of at the time. Stage-fright keeps wit at bay it seems. The highlight for me was the first comedian, Kate Smurthwaite, who was not only funny, but a feminist atheist with a knowledge of history. Yay!
Unfortunately the walk home involved no penny-farthings or segways.

The One being magical

The next night we decided to explore Liseberg, which we see and hear everyday from our apartment. It was fantastic, with neat streets, uncluttered sideshows, gardens, good food and plenty of rides for any level of daring. My own level is more along the comfort with the minimum of up and down level, though my partner insisted that we try Balder, the large wooden rollercoaster that we can see from our balcony and that is the source of at least a third of the screaming we hear daily. I reluctantly agreed and so we lined up, my stomach churning all the while, then got on and set off, rolling along innocuously. Then… Screaming. Lots of screaming. We’ve got photographic testimony of my terror, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked like that before, and hopefully never will again. It was hilarious though, and no, I’m not going to post a copy, just use your imagination and times it by 100. This is a video if you’d like a taste.

Liseberg canal

At a more sedate pace we continued exploring and found a tiny shop that did old style photos in costume, which I couldn’t say no to. So after food we went in and now have a charming photo of a gent in a Union uniform and his lady, though with broader smiles than is usually seen in photos from the 1800s. As the evening progressed we also saw dancing, a ship, bridges, an Austrian band in lederhosen playing Disney’s ‘I wanna be like you’ and I very much wanted to visit again someday.

Dancing at Liseberg

On the next day the weekend started, and we celebrated by sleeping in for the first time in weeks. It was wonderful. We did manage to get out of the house on Saturday morning for a free concert at the Göteborg Opera Foyer, which we had been told about on Thursday night. As we got there slightly late (it had been a nice and scenic cycle though) we grabbed a drinks platform and settled in for some free music. The first half was a violinist and pianist playing themes from Schindler’s List. I was enraptured. I can still hear the final song, which I think is the signature theme. The second half was performed by a shy harpist and a horn player (hornist?), and was much more jolly. Then to finish off, the violinist, pianist and hornist did a toe-tapping Hebrew song, apparently spur of the moment, and yes my feet were tapping. What I think will stick in my memory was the expressiveness and skill of the violinist, Max Wulfsson, and the sweet sadness of the final Schindler’s List theme.

The rest of the weekend was spent with cooking, and being pleasantly housebound.
I did have one excursion of my own though which took an unexpected turn. When I was in Australia I’d been going to yoga classes, for fitness and meditation, and have been hoping to continue this in Sweden. Lo and behold there was a free class on sunday, so I set off with stretching and relaxing on my mind. Instead, I should have been preparing my chakras for some thorough scrubbing, because they were the only parts of me exercised. It seems that yoga has many meanings, and they include internal statements about mindlessness and inner purity while tying invisible knots over one’s head. Which is fine for some, but I’d rather stick to the stretchy kind. At least my chakras are clean.

Pancakey joy

In the month since I arrived in Sweden, other than travelling and a few daily routines, I feel as though I haven’t properly been working on the hobbies that I’d planned to get into once here. Mostly writing and violin, though at least this blog has helped keep the writing fingers going. So I decided on the weekend to throw off whatever else I’ve been occupying my days with and get into the creative stuff. It’s been productive so far, with the short story coming along nicely and some enjoyable fiddling through Dvorak on sunday. Today I am sick so being housebound I may as well get into something.

It’s a beautiful day outside, perhaps I’ll find a bench in the sun and write for a while.