Family, home and snow games

Every time we have guests coming to visit us from overseas, I have to quell the urge to turn into a cross between a tour guide and a real estate agent, showing of my home city like some newly renovated town house. This urge was even stronger when we recently entertained my mum, as part of her journey around Scandinavia. Due to, or maybe in spite of, my arm waving I’m fairly sure she accepts that while it isn’t Perth, it will do for now.

Unfortunately Göteborg wasn’t doing itself any favours when we first arrived, if you’re from Australia and are missing the sunlight. We arrived on the second day of a heavy fall of snow, and as we tumbled off the train the flakes were falling in thick, soft clumps, swirling around us and sticking to our beanies. As she grew up in this sort of weather, my mum seemed pretty delighted with it, the heavy suitcases notwithstanding, and once we were waiting for the last leg of our journey home she released possibly years of a repressed need to throw snowballs and make snowmen.
Our home sometimes seems to be in a different climate, so by the time we’d reached our neighbourhood, the snow was even thicker and in order to get our suitcases home we rotated clearing a trail and takingregular rests. We would see soon eough why the suitcases were so heavy.

The first of three snowmen

The first of three snowmen

Once we had settled a bit and warmed up, an activity of great importance was discussed, the very mention of which had made my mum nearly vibrate with enthusiasm. There was just enough sunlight to make it worthwhile, so without further ado we were back out the door, my mum and partner clad in waterproof gear and clutching skis. Even though she hadn’t skied for many years, my mum soon seemed to get the hang of it, though took the chance a few times to ‘sit down’ for a little while. And yes mum, it was more than 3 times. While they sped around and tumbled, I took photos and tried a bit of art, and then as the sun set we went back to the warm apartment.

Skiiers

Skiiers

It was then that the weight of the suitcases was explained, as bottle after bottle of wine was unloaded and finally a six-pack of Little Creatures beer, a special treat for my partner. Dinner was eaten, relaxing was done and then we all collapsed in our respective beds, quite exhausted.

Yet another snowman

Yet another snowman

By some coincidence, our visitor from Australia had arrived two days before Australia Day and had with her piles of flags, bunting, balloons and local food. As Australia Day was to fall on Monday, we had arranged to have a bbq at our place on the Sunday, inviting a few of our friends over to celebrate. And so around midday, as the decorations were being hung up and the food prepared, friends began to arrive and soon the bbq was lit out on the snow covered backyard.

A bit of decoration

A bit of decoration

While we waited and sipped our drinks, there were a few snowball fights, one angel and one very happy chap with his bbq. The food was tasty, there was music and my mum took pride of place at the table, talking about Australia, sustainability and Scandinavia. It was fun and relaxing, and even if the temperature never rose above 0 and there were no fireworks, it was just the sort of party that sums up how I see the Australian attitude to life.
Plus, there was vegemite, a coffee pavlova and Timtams.

Bbq in the snow

Bbq in the snow

For the second full day, I took my mum into town, trying to make the most of the cold, overcast and snowy weather. We went to Universeum first, wandered around the exhibits, through the rainforest, stared up at mammoths and shivered, and played with the interactive science exhibits. It was fun, a bit silly and interesting, and we capped it off with a snack which in my case turned out to be extremely hot mustard with a hint of hotdog.

Mammoths, not as cold as us

Mammoths, not as cold as us

Mouth still burning, we headed out into the weather to grab fika with a friend of mine at my favourite cafe. We of course ordered a semla to share, and enjoyed it with tea, coffee and chatting as our coats dried and the snow fell outside. Soon we were on our way again, through town to investigate Scandinavian homeware brands, and coo over Marimekko and Iittala. As night closed in we met my partner for dinner at our favourite burger restaurant, and toasted to a lovely stay in our home town.

On the third and final full day, I had to work in the afternoon so our guest entertained herself, visiting museums and art galleries, and being amazed at the variety and quality of art that this little town has. That night I was also asked to do a night class, so I got home late, but in time to eat the Thai meal that she had prepared. On the morning of the next day we parted at the train station, her to begin her journey to Stockholm and me to prepare for another class.
Through some sort of strange chance, myself, my mum and my partner would all be descending on Stockholm within the same two days but at different times. The same day my mum left my partner did as well, and so for the first time in over a week I had space and an apartment to myself. I blogged and worked for much of this night, keeping the loneliness and quiet away, and as the lesson on the next day was cancelled I had the following morning to pack and prepare to join them. Which was how I found myself on a train heading to Stockholm, preparing for new sights and familiar ones, friends I had not seen in a while and new people to meet. After four hours I would see it all, but until then I had a book to read and work to do, and so I sat back and waited.

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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.