One Year in Sweden!

I did it!  I made it!  Yes!  One year.  One year in Sweden.  One year permanently away from my country.  I want to thank my mom, my stylist, the creative director…

But wait.  This shouldn't be that big of a deal.  I mean; it is a milestone, but this is permanent.  I am an "Expat".  I will live here for the rest of my life.  Yikes.  That sentence was hard to type.  Full disclosure: I deleted it twice and considered putting a "(likely)" in there between will and live.  But the word "likely" only softens the blow.  The truth is, this is home.  We're fully settled in.  Home, car, dog and now baby.  The roots are in.  It's official.  The fat lady is " the club high singing off key 'And I wish I never met her'…"

I'm still wrapping my head around the permanence of our move here.  I think about Swedie when she made that trek across the pond to the US.  That was a big deal, but she never expected to be there for good.  Truthfully, I always knew in the back of my mind that we would be coming back.  It was just a matter of when.  But this FEELS permanent.  Don't get me wrong, I am not angry about my new home.  I actually love it here.  It's just the patriot in me that keeps me staring in that rear view mirror.  That's right, America is behind me.  Ouff!  Hard to type...  America is behind me as a home.  But it's still in me.  It always will be.  And that's what makes this journey so frickin' awesome!

Year One in Review

We got here in the "Spring" last year.  "Why the quotes?", you ask?  Because Spring is not supposed to look like this!…

"Spring 2013"
That hat logo is for the University of Miami.  I'm sure even
that hat was shocked at the "Spring" weather.

But this had to be a one-off.  A freak occurrence.  Mother nature just wanted to shock me into reality with freaky weather for my first year here.  I'll take that.  I understand.  But "Spring"2014 is here now.  Two weeks ago, it was beautiful.  The temperature even crept into the teens (50s/60s in Farenheit)!  This proved my theory right.  Sweden's weather wasn't going to be so bad.  But outside my window right now is this...

Outside right now! This is my life. 

But that didn't stop me last year and it won't this year either.  Thankfully I had a good friend when I got here.  He plugged me in to his circle of friends and soon after I was glad to say that I had a circle of friends.  My social life (apart from Swedie's) was taking shape.  I met my new friends frequently in the Spring for dinners, parties and whatnot.  This was shaping up pretty nicely.

My in-laws have always been a positive for me.  They always seemed happy and loving towards me and treat me like family.  It was no different when I got here.  I challenge anyone to find a better mother-in-law than I have.  Won't happen.  My bro-in-law was nice enough to let us live with him "as long as you guys need".  We hit the gym almost every day and played NBA Jam quite regularly.  Like every day.  Those were some good times.  

A lot of my initial shocks were in the grocery store.  I'm used to consistency.  When I see Tony the Tiger I don't expect the box to say "Frosties".  

I saw the smallest watermelon ever.  It was like it wasn't finished growing.  I wish I would have gotten a look at the price for it.  This little thing wouldn't sell in America.  I can't imagine whipping this out at a barbecue.  People would laugh at me.

There are more regulations on what you can put in food here (probably why they have longer life expectancy here and we have obesity in the US), so "Fruit Loops" looks like someone forgot to finish coloring.  I was used to sharp reds, greens and oranges.  Especially when the box was so vibrant.  I say this is false advertising.

Some stuff just looked plain boring.  Seriously.  How can anyone get excited from packaging like this?  I almost fell asleep in the cereal aisle!  The cereal must taste boring too, because the prospective eater added what looks like either raisins or rabbit poo and then drowned the cereal in milk.  Maybe I should contact the company to see if they need a new art director.  They could use it.  

So Spring consisted of me getting to know my new home, family and friends.  I obsessed over the differences here on almost a daily basis.  I was still adjusting to the obsession with lines, systems and bureaucracy here.  That was one small minus to all of the pluses.  I still had my positive American attitude throughout.  Then came Summer…

Oh. My. Goodness.  Summer 2013 may have been the best summer of my life.  It's feels wrong to say that, considering that I had 30 summers before this one and some of those with literally no responsibilities (in my youth) but it's true.  Nothing really stood out as an event or trip that made the summer.  But I must say the spirit of Sweden got to me.  I think the "miserable" (not to me) winters here make people want to get out and do things in the summer.  I'm from Miami and we're spoiled by the weather.  We can go out and do things all year.  Summer in Miami is about going from an air-conditioned building to an air-conditioned car that takes you to another air-conditioned building.  Maybe a handful of weekends, we would make a trip out to the beach (20 minutes away) and fight through tourists and parking lots and then get back to some air conditioning.  

But here they worship the sun.  I mean this.  I had to get used to the meaning of nice weather.  To me, nice weather is clear skies, 80+ºF (27ºC) and maybe a slight breeze.  The only qualifier for nice weather here is sunshine.  It can be cold as ever, but let the sun peek through the clouds and EVERYBODY is outside.  I couldn't believe it.  Sidewalks filled with women with baby strollers going for a walk in the snow on a terrible, sunny day.  It was insane to me.  This isn't child abuse?  Take that baby into some heat!  So when it warmed up around here, NOBODY stayed inside.  The streets are filled with people just living.  A friend of mine came to visit and it was easy to figure out something to do.  Just go outside!  That's where everybody is.  

I did something every single weekend last Summer.  We went to clubs, parties, concerts, outdoor markets, an amusement park, restaurants, you name it.  It was good to just do something.  Anything.  Occasionally, I would be reminded that I am not a sun worshipper.  My friends and I were at a park lounging in the grass.  It was a good vibe.  All was well.  Then suddenly everyone got up from our comfortable location and started relocating.  I went with the flow because… well, I didn't want to be just laying in the grass by myself like a loser.  The two leaders of the group were talking to each other as they walked in front.  I overheard their conversation.  These fools were trying to figure out a location for us to get more direct sunlight!  You mean to tell me that we got up…from perfectly comfortable positions… and started walking… just to find some sunlight?!  And still feels just as nice outside?  

      - Yup.

I guess.  Walking isn't so bad.  Because of the lifestyle here, I've been moving more.  Accidentally losing weight.  My body was ready for the summer.  I went to a bachelorette party that I almost drowned at (details in the entry:

 I went to an awesome outdoor wedding reception.  We had a great time.  Good food, friends and alcohol.  The recipe for a good time!  The Swedish Summer was quite kind to me.

 I had a Midsommar adventure as well.  A separate fun trip to the country house.  I swear, there was always something going on.  If this was Sweden, home is good!  We also found out that we were expecting last summer.  Life was going to change forever.  I began working in the summer.  Life was getting some structure.  Life here was getting better.  Bring on the Fall!!!

Autumn was not as fun as the summer, but it was still great.  I had another old friend come visit and I showed him a good time.  Barack Obama got word that I was here and he decided Sweden wasn't so bad.  So he came here to visit.  I'm not mad that he didn't hit me up while he was here.  I was busy anyway.  We moved into our very own apartment (lease lasts for lifetime!).  I found out the gender of my baby and I got to take advantage of some of the awesomeness that is 5 weeks of paid vacation that EVERYBODY gets here.  I can't stress that enough.  Understanding the difference between working to live (the Swedish way) and living to work (the American way) has been quite the eye-opener for me.  Autumn is when it really hit me that life is good.

I also got to go back to the States in the Fall.  Good food and good fun.  My family and friends are awesome.  It made me glad to be here so that I can take more time to go to the US than would be the case the other way around.  It also made me glad that my fat ass is here and there are fewer greasy temptations.

It didn't get too cold in the Fall either.  I was still able to go out and party without wearing a parka.  I had been warned by Swedie to get it all out of my system because once the baby gets here that shit is over.  My friends were quite helpful in that department.  The Fall was fun.  Some nights were kind of a blur which for a 30-something still means it was a blast.  I partied enough for me and Swedie.  And she wouldn't have it any other way.

Then the winter came.  I don't see what the big deal is.  I was here for the winter of '06/'07 and I survived.  Living in Alaska for three years may have prepared me for this.  The dreaded darkness as well.  But even there, in Alaska, fresh from Miami I was alright.  I guess weather just doesn't affect my spirit.  I'm always this happy American.  Winter was cold.  It was nasty at some times.  But it was nothing that got me down.  This new Swedish lifestyle of mine got me through it.  I still went out and met with friends as much as possible.  Naturally, not as much as in the summer.  But I still made it a point to go out and do something.  A true middle finger to mother nature as she flipped us the bird via slushy rain/snow mix.  The weather is also less annoying when you're taking public transportation.  Less road rage makes me a happier man.

One thing I learned here is that America is soft when it comes to winter weather.  This past winter (still going actually) has had it's dumps of snow on us, but there has never been mention of a freaking "Snow Day".  The city never shuts down.  It plods on (sometimes rather slowly) and everyone gets through their day.  It goes with what I consider the personality of Sweden.  Frown up and get through life.  In a line.  When it's your time.

I still find it interesting when on the weather portion of the news, there is so much emphasis on how much sun we will see on that day.  I don't remember hearing anything like it in the States.  I've seen the sun on weather calendars, but not like they talk about it here.  It's rather funny.

      - There is a chance that we will see the sun at 1pm.

So we've come full circle.  The "Spring" is back.  Life is still good.  Even a bit better than it was this time last year.  I predict this cycle will continue.  I have a son to share it with this time around.  Bring on the rest of the year(s).  I'm home.  And I love it.  Until next time...


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