Saturday, April 30, 2016

Scrambled Thoughts Special Edition - Sweden

1) Riding on an airplane with no children is considered a full vacation in my book.

Brian and I could watch movies and listen to podcasts and have entire conversations without interruptions. A favorite memory is sitting side by side, choosing a movie, then counting to three before we hit play on each of our monitors so we could watch it together.

2) Bikes and Trains might be my favorite forms of transportation.

Traveling up to Chris and Mary's house was charming and delightful.

Even if walking through a train station with a different language surrounding me made me feel small and rather uneducated. I don't really know how to navigate a train station in my own language, let alone in Swedish. But Brian was right by my side and used his Traveling Abroad Skills to navigate.

3) Buses, on the other hand, might be one of my least favorite forms of transportation.

Especially in another country. We mostly stayed with Chris and Mary in their home, but we ventured out a couple of times on our own to see some of the Swedish sites and we used the buses to get us around. Turns out we aren't very good at it.

We took the bus down to the cute little island of Marstrand - or, rather, we took the bus to the ferry that would take us to the island - and spent the day roaming around and exploring.

I wondered what it would be like to live on an island like that... no real shopping centers (I think there was a mini-mart of sorts) or hospitals.  Just homes and schools and an old fort that was closed when we got there, but looked like it might hold many interesting stories.

It was quiet and peaceful.

And full of little nooks and crannies to explore.

But when we were done with the island we somehow missed the bus back up to Gothenburg, and then we couldn't figure out where and when to catch the next bus, OR how to pay for the bus anyway. So we began to walk. One of us was getting rather hangry so we found a little food shop and went inside to eat. Solving problems on a full stomach is always more enjoyable.

Eventually we made it back.

The next time we went exploring in Gothenburg we had delightful time. We found chapels and museums.

Of course, they were mostly written in Swedish so we didn't understand all we were looking at, but perhaps that made it even more interesting. We stumbled upon a Viking museum that I found fascinating.

And we stopped in for some delicious chocolate dessert in a small basement-like restaurant that smelled old and full of history.

This time, on our way back, we again couldn't figure out how to pay for the bus. And then couldn't find the bus stop. After asking several people, we finally located it, but when we got there, there was a big sign written in Swedish that looked rather important. And informative. And pertinent. We stared at it for a while and then I decided that it was probably in our best interest to find out what the sign said, so I assumed the role of 'dumb American' and began asking passers-by if they spoke English which, of course, most everyone does. One couple stopped and when I asked them to tell us what the sign said, they informed us that this stop was closed.

Well then.

"Does it say anything else?" I asked. "Like, where we should go instead?"
"Oh, yes, yes, yes," they answered pointing across the street. We made it home and in one piece, but I was glad to not have to solve any more Swedish bus problems.

4) Everyday life in Sweden looks remarkably similar to every day life in America

As I said above, we spent most of our time hanging out with Mary in her home, watching her and helping her do the mom thing with four children. We watched a basketball practice for Samuel, we watched the girls perform their dance routine,

we jumped on the trampoline, and we played rock, paper, scissors (in Swedish, might I add), we lounged around on the couches,

we took Mia on walks to give Mary a break, and we went to IKEA because, well, we were in Sweden and it seemed rather appropriate.

6) And some things are very different.

Like, school, for example.  The first thing I noticed was that there was a place for all of the snow gear... snowpants, hats, gloves, heavy coats, etc... which certainly isn't unheard of in America, but it was new to me anyway. The second thing I noticed was that the teacher came out to shake our hands and introduced himself as Johnny. Just Johnny. Mary informed us that all of the teachers go by their first names, even to the kids. Culturally no one likes to appear better than anyone else, and using a title such as Mr. or Mrs. (even in a school setting) feels awkward. An interesting mentality, for sure, and one I'd like to study a bit... it has great implications to be sure, but could also get in the way with authority and respect, too. Interesting.

5) Wouldn't it be lovely if I could plan every day with chocolate? 

Sitting in a coffee shop with my varm chokolat next to my favorite man, setting our plan for the day.

6) When in Sweden, one must have Swedish meatballs for dinner

Don't you think?

7) Little Girls Turn Seven in Sweden, Too.

One of the biggest highlights of our trip was little Emmy's 7th birthday party. A handful of girls and one boy came bouncing in with presents and looking with excitement for "the Americans" that were going to be celebrating with them (that's us).  One boy with a round, angelic face and thick glasses had anticipated the language barrier and so had practiced his hand gestures and sign language with fervor. He was absolutely delightful to talk with. We went to an indoor water park, and then came back to the house to have taco salad, open presents, and sing to Emmy both in Swedish and English.  I could see that she was having a wonderful time. Especially after I caught on to the fact that she was embarrassed when I kept asking her to translate what her friends were saying to me. After that I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders any time one of them ran up to talk to me - which happened all night long. They just couldn't understand exactly why I couldn't understand them when they were speaking so clearly...

8) What do you do when you're awake at 3am?

Eat Ice cream of course.

9) This Train and I? We Get Each Other

I'd like to hang that sign in my house somewhere...

10) Every Time I Go To Sweden, I Will Hope to Get Stuck in Denmark

What a charming country!  At least, the extremely small sliver we saw for the couple of hours we were there on our layover.  When we learned that our connecting flight was delayed we wasted no time hopping on the train to tour as much of the city as we could.

We found a little lunch spot down in the basement of some building which was wonderful, but somehow Brian ordered a sandwich full of raw salmon. Translation problems? Or ignorance? Hard to say. He ate it like a champ as we walked through alleyways and wondered about all of the things that were around us.

Next we found an ice cream shop where the line passed right past the man making the fresh waffle cones.  So delicious!  Brian opened my coke for me by hitting it against a wall... turns out the glass breaks. Who would have known? It made the drinking of it a little trickier, but I managed.

We sat alongside a little river to eat our ice cream and talked about how we'd love to come back to Denmark someday to see more of it than what we could in one hour.

Next time we visit Sweden, maybe we'll see more sights and do the touristy thing a little bit better, but this vacation was wonderful.  I loved being with Mary and getting to spend time with her kids without my own demanding my attention. I felt like we got to know them much better than we had before.

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