A year/ett år

A year ago today I was somewhere over the earth on the last leg of the trip to my new home. Today I am firmly in Europe, sharing a suburban valley with a 700 year old church and forests that overflowed with berries not long ago. 2 years ago today I would have been pinching myself. I still find it odd that I ended up here, even after all the years of planning and hoping to live in Europe. A year ago I stepped out of the airport and breathed in fresh Swedish air for the first time, bags and partner beside me and a taxi-ride to a new home ahead. Tired and jet-lagged? Oh yes, but it’s also fair to say, pretty damn excited.

Reading my first blog entry from a week after we’d landed I can almost hear the shuffling as I tried to find my feet, drifting as I was between gazing at the new world around me and trying to find out where I fit in. At some point a routine set in and life returned to normal and the new city began to feel like home. I’m not sure when it started, but perhaps it was on our first return from an overseas trip, as I stared out the window at the swathes of green below us, and felt that we were going home.

A rainfall in the forest

A rainfall in the forest

Our new home wasn’t exactly as I had thought it would be either. I knew about the language barrier, colder weather, berries in summer and a fondness for interior design. I didn’t know about the increased personal space, widespread use of English or stylishness that made me feel like a bush-pig. I didn’t know about ‘En svensk tiger’, lagom or how much the entire country changes when summer arrives. Or that I would finally understand why summer is actually a good thing. No doubt in a year I’ll know even more, och jag hoppas att jag kommer att vara bara om att flytande i svensk. Kanske.

A Swedish-ish pie

A Swedish-ish pie

So what has happened in the past year?

We’ve flown to 3 different countries, caught buses and trains to 3 others and made many little journeys around Sweden.

We’ve punted down the Cam, stared up at the dome of the Hagia Sofia and sipped hot cocktails late at night in Copenhagen.

We’ve eaten strawberries by Nemi, stood on a 1700 year old top floor apartment and itched to run our hands along the bows of Viking ships.

We’ve walked on a frozen lake, ridden a steamship past an island called Boo and crowded into an Ice Age cave.

We celebrated the new year with city-wide fireworks and champagne, watched flights of black cockatoos and had dinner with family both here and in Australia.

We’ve experienced a full cycle of seasons, from late summer to early autumn, and I have both played in snow and basked in summer days that seemed as though they would never end.

Cycle of the seasons

Cycle of the seasons

I have learnt that when you leave your home country it doesn’t lie dormant while you’re off exploring the world. People move on as they should, their own stories continuing, and while you can put in a guest appearance once a year or so you gave up your starring role when you chose to leave.

Now I’m making guest appearances and perhaps starring roles in other stories, and meeting an amazing cast of people who not long ago I couldn’t have imagined. Before coming here I had hardly ever met anyone from Iran, Turkey, Syria, Bosnia, Serbia, Jordan, Bulgaria, Poland, Spain, Brazil, France, the Czech Republic, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Portugal, Ukraine, Greece or even (of all places) New Zealand, yet now I can count people from all of these countries as friends. Plus of course a few Swedes.

A rainbow in the valley

A rainbow in the valley

What will my story look like by this time next year? Who knows, but no doubt I will blog about it.

Advertisements

The wheel of the seasons

During the past 3 weeks I have been to more bbqs than I would usually go to in a year, and incidentally, have eaten more sausages than I would usually eat in 6 months. This grilling frenzy isn’t limited to our household either; it seems to have infected the whole of Göteborg.
And what is responsible for this strange happenstance? Spring.

One of many

One of many

The last two weekends have been clear and sunny, and every place where grass grows has been covered in Swedes, from parks, the sides of canals, gardens and conveniently placed deckchairs. Many people are chatting with friends, some eating, but for the most part people are just basking in the sun. Though I come from a place that is known for sunny weather, I have never really enjoyed it as much as I have these past few weeks. Now I can bask happily, making up for the months of cloud, rain and fog, and hope to gather in enough heat to last before the wheel turns to winter.

A scampering squirrel

A scampering squirrel

I have also been able to understand the meaning of the seasons since I have been here. In Australia we follow the European seasons; Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring. As my homeland lies in the southern hemisphere the seasons are precisely flipped, so that Summer is Winter, and Autumn is Spring, etc… This isn’t the only difference that I have found however. While the march of the seasons is recognisable, in Australia it isn’t anything like the changing seasons in Europe. Not only rain and encroaching chill in Autumn and snow in Winter, but Spring… Well, it’s as though an enormous bucket of colour was spilt over the country. Trees that only a month ago were bare and stragledy are now heavy with light green leaves, and flowers of all colours and sprouting between trees, in pots and all over whatever grassy area they can find.

An Easter daffodil

An Easter daffodil

First came the snow drops, tiny white bell-shaped flowers on the sides of footpaths and under trees. Next were stands of daffodils, then tulips popped up in gardens, mostly red and yellow. Most recent are the cherry trees and apple trees covered in masses of pink and white flowers, whose petals litter the city. I don’t know what will be next, but I’m looking forward to roses, especially in Trädgårdsföreningen.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

In addition to the opportunity for bbqs, the changing seasons also bring festive days. As with Jul, Easter is celebrated in Australia, but as with Jul I know understand Easter much better. When you’ve only experienced the slow cooling of Summer to Autumn, and the only rebirth around is the sudden rise in chocolate sales, I don’t think I ever truly understood Easter. Having lived through the end of Winter and watched green return I now know why there is a festival of rebirth at that time of year. I also better understand the excitement of the 1st of May. One festival that I hadn’t really been aware of was last Wednesday, the 30th of April; Valborg.

Kanelbullar in Haga

Kanelbullar in Haga

I had been confused about the name of the day and then continued to confuse Swedes by asking what it meant. Mostly I got blank faces, and someone realising that it was his fathers birthday and rushing off to call him, until someone brought out their smart phone. It would seem that it has something to do with Saint Valborg, and for some reason students wearing white hats. Valborg seemed to me a strange name, but what do I know about Scandinavian names. I’m still not convinced about Knut for example.
Then the bbq continued and I forgot about strange names, and missed the Chalmers University parade (featuring Putin, North Korea and Ryan Air – they are students after all) and the bonfires that were burning throughout the country.

The next morning I woke up and thought I’d do a bit of blogging, and looked up Valborg. Like every other northern-European festival it can be traced way back to pagan traditions. It used to be called Walpurgis (and probably still is in some places) and was a celebration of the change from Winter to Spring, as well as the time when the barrier between the world of the dead and the world of the living was at its weakest. It then transformed into a celebration of the saint (coincidentally with a similar name) and her power over witches and representatives of the old religions. Now only the bonfires, traditional songs and parades remain, a link that has been altered but not broken since before written memory.

Dusk in the forest

Dusk in the forest

Another wonderfully Swedish day was yesterday, the 1st of May. Not only was it the first day of Spring but it was the Swedish equivalent of Labour Day. All over the country crowds gathered in squares to protest. Protest against what, you ask? That seemed to depend which party you’re inclined towards. As I was at a bbq (of course) I didn’t see any of them but I did hear that the Social Democrats were supporting the change to a 6 hour work-day and the Feminist Initiative were protesting against racism. It also explained why our bbq spot was so very quiet – on such a fine day only traditional festivities could pull Swedes away from picnics and basking in the sun.

Picnic by a lake

Picnic by a lake

As I write, the sun is shining, the wind of blowing, and teenage girls are screaming on the ride at the recently re-opened Liseberg. Spring has arrived, and the country has come alive again.