Saturday, December 31, 2005

Angry, angry herring

Tonight I'm going to a dinner party with Dr. Style, who previously made an appearance during her help in the "swedification" process of our mutual friend Houston. It's a sort of buffet, with everyone bringing something to add to the menu. First she suggested I bring "fish paté." My immediate response to that was, "Sure, I have several cans of that at home already. Kitty eats it twice a day."

I should probably mention that I'm suspicious of anything that has to do with Swedes and the things they do to fish. (This is not just the Swedes; I'm not a big fan of Japanese sushi either, or the various meals the French prepare with samon fumé.) But the Swedes probably take the cake when it comes to gross fish dishes.

Take surströmming. Literally translated, that means "sour herring." What it is in reality is fermented herring. Or "sur" can also be translated as "angry." I kind of like the thought of an "angry herring." I'd be pissed off too if someone tried to ferment me.

Once upon a time, a Scandinavian Archimedes shouted "Eureka!" when he came up with the brilliant idea of taking a herring and burying it in the sand for several years, allowing it to sufficiently rot before digging it up again to eat it. Perhaps this made SOME sense in the days before modern conveniences like fridges and stoves, but how this became a national delicacy is beyond me.

Anyway, so I'm taking artichoke hearts and grapes instead of anything fishy. The real purpose of this rather pointless entry is to wish everyone a very happy New Year's!

And as we never tired of saying the day before everyone went on Christmas break in elementary school, I'll see you next year!

Friday, December 30, 2005

How's the weather?

I often hear the following question, "So...why do you like Sweden?"

To the guy who took a good 30 seconds to ponder whether I really meant it or not, all the while staring out the window watching oodles and oodles of snow pouring down, when I answered, "the weather," perhaps it really, really just wasn't meant to be.

I know that snow is supposed to make it seem lighter out, and if you're lucky, you can go out and make snow angels and build snowmen. But in the middle of a big city, snow is nothing but a great big pain in my ass. There are no lovely snow powdered fields here, there are just large grey puddles and very slippery sidewalks.

I curse thee, Ullr, thy viking god of snow.

Buckets and buckets of snow

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Nu ar det bestämt.

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Ullrick (eller vad än han kommer att kallas...jag tanker på de norska gudar...typ Odin eller Loki) kommer hem till mig om en vecka och även har nu en egen blogg, så får ni slippa läsa om mina kattfunderingar. Om Rockbjörnen får blogga, så kan Ullrick göra den också.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Jag lovar

Okej, jag lovar att inte bli en av de bloggare som bara skriver om sina katter. Men jag måste posta detta länk. Är han inte den sötaste som du har nånsin sett?? VAD GULLIGT!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Korv, korv, och julskinka

"Curiosa, vad gjörde du under julsemester?"

Vi åt korv, korv, och julskinka. Och mer korv. Femton olika sorter korv. Korv till frukost, korv till lunch, korv till middag. Och korv till efterrätt.

Wild Child's Pappa: "Men, vill ni inte ha mer korv?"

"Ja, tack."

Tio minuter sen: "Korv? Nån?"

"Ja, gärna."

Och tio minuter efteråt, "Vill nån ha grisfötter?"

Då förlorade jag min aptit. Helt och hållet.

My Achy Breaky Heart

Never in my wildest imagination had I ever thought that I would be line dancing while a Swede attempted to sing karaoke to Billy Ray Cyrus in a pub in Göteborg, Sweden. Although the guy singing it was certainly no Billy Ray. Rrrrrrrrrrrrrr. (And I mean that like a naughty kitty).

It was like 7th grade in the junior high cafeteria all over again, except with lots of drunk Swedes dressed in 80s outfits. Talk about teaching kids skills for life. What would the world come to without line dancing? I'm not really sure if I got it 100% correct, but then, who here would know the difference? I was probably the only one in the room who came from a place where that song was actually taken seriously at some point.

But don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart
I just don't think it'd understand
And if you tell my heart, my achy breaky heart
He might blow up and kill this man

Congratulations. If you can hum the melody to that chorus, you're probably from Idaho. If you can hum "Achy Breaky Heart" and Brooks and Dunn's "Boot Scootin' Boogie," you're probably from Montana.

Yeah, heel, toe, docie do
Come on baby, let’s go boot scootin’
Oh cadillac, blackjack, baby meet me out back
We’re gonna boogie
Oh, get down, turn around, go to town
Boot scootin’ boogie

I met up with Mamma Mu yesterday for a little night out on the town. We had a great time discussing the pros and cons of Swedish vs. British men, but I'm not sure we came to any firm conclusions, other than the fact that we're both amazed at the fellows who continue to try even when we answer them in monosyllables. And that the 70s-porn-star-wanna-be-look is NOT pretty, especially if that is the look you were TRYING for. Leave the low-riding tight jeans with the cicular impression of the snus can in your father's closet.


Monday, December 26, 2005

Gästinlägg: Wild Child tells tall tales

So, Kommisarie Curiosa asked me to honor her blog with one of my (many) juicy stories. I can only oblige by her wishes. Here's a story from when I was studying in California:

My first semester I took a class in psychology. I was surprised how many guys had signed up for the class, but it dawned on me later that they had only signed up "to meet chicks". The guys competed over sitting next to me in class and I have never had so many guys wanting to "study" with me after class. I was in a prolonged break-up faze with my fianceé at the time and for the first time in five years I was starting to notice other guys. One of my psych class-suitors was a portugese-mexican hunk by the name of Manuel. A tall, dark clueless GQ model-surfer hybrid. I was clearly very attracted to his physique and not his (non-existing) intellect. We met up the following weekend at a party. I had been really exited about it the whole week. We made out and he was a rare FANTASTIC kisser. Of course, he didn't want things to end there, but I wasn't ready to jump in the sack with someone new quite yet. The wounds from my breakup were still too fresh. Manuel and I went on a few dates, but nothing physical happened to my great disappointment. Maybe he was a bit freaked out that I was four years older than him? Over x-mas break he mysteriously vanished. He´d talked about transferring to San Diego where "the waves are better". I regretted not having sex with him, or at least making out with him again. I couldn't really get this surfer-hunk out of my head. Maybe because he was the first guy I´d kissed after a long and passionate realtionship. Two years later, I saw this hot hot man again -in a nightclub -and seconds later he disappeared in the crowd. It was enough to get my blood boiling and I wasn't going to miss out on this unexpected second chance....

To be continued....

Sunday, December 25, 2005

En sväng runt Göteborg II

Man kan säga att det finns många söta killar i denna stan. Meow.

En sväng runt Göteborg

This afternoon as we walked off some of the massive quantities of korv we have consumed the last three days, Wild Child described the city as "pink sky, blue trees" as the sun was just going down. Or, with all the lights on the trees, as Mamma Mu put it, Göteborg could very well be called "Götevegas." Or maybe "Las Borg."

Göteborg showed her best side today. It is the first time I have actually been out and about in this town without it raining cats and dogs. It was rosy cheek kind of weather, rather than a "I'm-soaking-wet-and-can-no-longer-feel-my-lower-extremities" kind of torrential downpour. I am still afflicted by that deep-down chilled-to-my-bones that is characteristic of the Scandinavian winter, but it's nothing that a little Glögg and a cuddle with Kitty won't fix.

Speaking of Kitty, I hadn't realized how attached I had gotten to her the last few weeks. After taking her dose of kitty valium (or rather, having kitty valium shoved down her throat by two blond women), she made the train trip to Göteborg with us. Wild Child's father was quite excited to see his "barnbarn," and she hasn't left his side since.

The thing about having a pet is that it is SOOOOOO nice to have someone waiting for you when you get home. And it gives you a reason to want to come home, even if it is just to open a can of tuna. It feels so good to be needed.

I just got my Christmas check from my grandparents, and I have to say that I am strongly considering getting a kitten to call my very own. I've grown up with cats. Right now Mom has four of them. It's only been since I went to college that I haven't had one.

But it is a committment and it isn't fair to the kitty (or me) if I get one and then decide to move back to the States. Although according to SAS's website, you can carry a cat as handbaggage as long as you have the necessary vaccinations.

I keep trying to talk myself out of this idea, but I know myself well enough that once an idea plants itself in my head, and starts to grow, it's going to take a lot more than mental weed killer to be rid of it. Looking at the website of the "Katthem" in Stockholm doesn't help either.

I can just hear all those little "mews" just calling my name.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Christmas Classic

'Twas the night before Christmas

By Clement C. Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas
when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse.

The Stockings were hung
By the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas
Soon would be there.

The children were nestled
All snug in their beds,
While visions of SugarPlums
Danced in their heads.

And Mamma in her kerchief,
And I in my cap,
Had just settled down
For a long winter's nap.

When out on the lawn
there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed
to see what was the matter.

Away to the window
I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shudders
and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast
of the new-fallen snow
Gave a luster of midday
to objects below.

When, what to my wondering
Eyes should appear,
But a minature sleigh,
and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver,
So lively and quick
I knew in a moment
It must be Saint Nick

More rapid than eagles
his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and Shouted,
and Called them by Name.

"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now, Dash away!
Dash away!
Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before
the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle,
Mount to the sky,

So up to the housetop
the courses they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys,
and Saint Nicholas, too.

And then in a twinkling,
I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing
Of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head,
And was turning around,
Down the chimney Saint Nicholas
Came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur,
From his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished
With ashes and soot.

A bundle of toys
he had flung on his back,
He looked like a peddler
just opening his pack.

His eyes how they twinkled!
His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses,
His nose like a cherry.

His droll little mouth
was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin
Was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe
He held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled
His head like a wreath.

He had a broad face
And a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed,
Like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump,
A right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him,
In spite of myself.

A wink of his eye
And a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know
I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word,
but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings,
Then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger
Aside of his nose,
And giving a nod,
Up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh,
To his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew
Like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim
As he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to All,
And to All a Good Night!"

Curiosa Önskar God Jul till Alla!

Oh shit, got to catch the train in two hours and here I am "blogging" when there are bags to pack and dishes to wash.

I awoke this morning at 7 am to the sound of keys in the door. Wild Child and Soccer Boy are back from Brazil. Soccer Boy went back to Gävle, but Wild Child and I spent the morning curled up in bed with Kitty, gossiping and catching up.

It seems I am at risk of dying from gluttony this weekend at her parent's house.

They are now engaged. Wild Child and Soccer Boy that is. Not her parents.

"Engaged in the Swedish sense of 'engaged' or in the American sense of 'engaged,' i.e. that means you are actually getting married?" I had to ask.

"Well, he asked me to become engaged to him, not to marry him," was her reply.

Of course. Silly me. There is CLEARLY a huge difference between asking someone to "become engaged" to you and "asking them to marry" you.

Isn't engagement per definition asking someone to marry you?

Maybe I'm just being semantical here.

Then I remembered a comment I had gotten on the survey "Swedish Mating and Dating Part I."

A Swedish woman explained:
"Jag är svensk, make australisk. Missade därför helt att hans engagement ring betyde att han faktiskt friade och att vi nu skulle gifta oss. Svensk som jag är trodde jag mer att visst skulle vi gifta oss nån gång, men inte förren efter 6-7 år av att ha bott ihop."

What's the point of engagement then? Unless it's just a ploy to get a big rock on your finger, which is fair enough.

Now I have to springa.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hur artar det sig mellan mig och Mr Tonto?

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI've had a request to give an update on the "situation" with Tonto. Unfortunately, there's not much to tell. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Tonto is somewhere on a beach in Acapulco right now. I shouldn’t admit that I’m jealous, but I am. We talked the other night, and he was going on and on about how warm it is there in Mexico, and I told him he better stop or he might regret it. When he comes back in January, it's going to be oh-so-much colder because he's gotten used to the warmer climate. And I'm not going to feel one bit sorry for him. And I'm still going to smile as he dances around trying to put on his long underwear. His costume would be complete, except he is missing his superhero cape.

It's a bit of a strange way to start off a relationship. An intense period of name-calling followed by a month long transatlantic separation with intermittent contact. However, I guess it would be more difficult had we spent an intense period of time together in real life to deal with aforementioned separation. As it is now, I think we are both just looking forward to getting to know each other "in real life" when we are both back in the same country. Unfortunately, until then, I'm going to be severely lacking in "blog fodder" and will have to continue picking on the unsuspecting Swedes in the meantime.

Here fishy, fishy

Image hosted by Photobucket.comJag snubblade precis över en gammal artikel i Aftonbladet om kvinnor som berättar allt om sitt kärleksliv i sina bloggar. Författaren påstår att "tidigare var den typiske bloggaren en man som skrev om politik eller något fritidsintresse, som fiske och veteranbilar. Nu dominerar kvinnorna fullständigt. Och kvinnor tänker på andra saker än politik och fiske." Fast jag känner till några kvinnliga bloggare som är intresserad av fiske. Silverfisken, det vill saga.

Ska också dela den här fishy story om en fisk som har två mun. Tack vare

Ett nytt år, ett nytt äventyr

Känns lite tomt i huvud just nu. Är helt ensam på jobbet. Då kan jag blogga i fred. Vet inte precis vad jag egentligen hålla på med just nu. Tänker lite på vad jag ska göra nästa år. Jag är faktiskt glad att 2005 är nästan slut. Det har ju inte varit ett helt smärtfritt år. Det har inneburit ganska mycket ofrivilliga självreflektioner. Det var inte nåt som jag ville göra utan att nåt som jag måste göra. För att överleva min vardag helt enkelt. Till slut känns det bra men det var ingen lätt uppgift. Missförstå mig inte. Det är inte som om jag inte har haft många positiva upplevelser under året (eller de senaste åren). Men det är kanske de obehagliga händelserna som har varit mest inflytelserika på mig.

För det första fick jag diagnosen depression sommaren 2004. Det orsakades huvudsakligen av saker som hade hänt föregående år under mina sista tider på universitetet i USA. Det hade ganska mycket med familjen och kärlek att göra. Saker som jag inte tog itu med när de skedde. Som vatten på en gås. Fast det var egentligen inte det.

Då började jag jobba ihjäl mig, på typiskt amerikanskt sätt. Verkligen tog jag mig vatten över huvudet med både heltid jobb och studier. Och det var inget ”lätt” jobb heller. Det var nödvändigt att bidra med ganska mycket av mig innerst själv. Jag jobbade mycket på egen hand och initiativ. För att börja med tyckte jag att det var helt underbart men småningom tappade jag passionen. Och då frågade jag, vart har JAG tagit vägen? Jag kände inte igen mig själv.

Det var helt enkelt dags att bara sluta med allt ett tag och hitta mig själv igen. Hitta mig själv i mig själv, dvs.

Då åkte jag hem till USA några månader och tillbringade mycket tid bara för att må bra igen. Försökte äta nyttigt och träna. Och prata mycket med mamma och familjen om känslor, kärlek, och skuld. Det var en ren nödvändighet.

Och sen kom jag tillbaka till Sverige. Det var bättre ett tag men gradvis kom spöke tillbaka. Det är ju inte alltid lätt att vara ensam i ett främmande land trots att man har nära vänner. Särskilt under den långa, mörka svenska vintern.

Ibland är det bara mamma som kan trösta.

Så kom julen och jag åkte hem. Igen. Det blev fyra månader denna gång. Jag sa upp min lägenhet innan jag åkte. Och tack och lov har jag ett jobb som jag kunde ”ta med” mig.

Jag kom tillbaka till Stockholm i mars och nu var den bra, eller åtminstone bättre. Det gick bättre på jobbet, fast jag hade fortfarande inte hittat passionen eller kreativheten. Saken med depressionen är att man kan ”fungera” även om man mår dåligt. Men det är inget som man kan bara ”komma över” på egen hand. Det är svårare med psykiska sjukdomar eftersom man kan verkar vara ”alright” till andra även om man själv inte mår bra. Det har ingenting med lättjan eller viljekraften att göra.

Till slut var det nästan ett år innan jag mådde ”bra” igen. Och då var det sommar och mina nära vänner skulle gifta sig. Så var det bröllop i Seattle och sen två veckor hemma hos familjen. Jag fyllde år och fick se många kompisar från universitet som jag inte hade träffats sen vi tog examen i 2002.

Och sen på väg till flygplatsen råkade jag ut för en bilolyckshändelse. Både bilar var krossad men den enda skada var min höger fot. Hälbenen fick bruten i fem bitar. Och två veckor sen opererades foten. Och jag var hemma hos mamma tre månader till.

Då var det tre månads återhämtning. Men vänta, historien blir bättre.

Då var det tre månads återhämtning OCH rättegången. (Det är ett kapitel för sig. En annan gång. Historiens moral? ALLTID köpa resförsäkring innan man åker till USA OCH teckna bilförsäkring när man hyr bil. MEN även om man köper alla försäkringar som är möjliga att teckna är det ingen säkerhet att man inte hamnar i rättssalen).

Jag avviker. Själva poängen med de här sorgliga historierna är att ibland måste man når botten innan man kan uppskatta det underbart liv man faktiskt har. Det är alldeles för lätt att glömma hur värdefullt livet verkligen är. Jag riskerar börja prata på klichéer nu. Men om det inte är helt apropå att använda klichéer vid årsskiftet, när är det?

Jag känner mig tursam. Och lycklig. Jag tror jag har också fått till och med en ny empati för mina medmedmänniskor.

Ett nytt år innebär ett helt nytt äventyr.

Det känns som om jag har hittat mig själv. Äntligen.


Om Linda Skugge kan göra det, så kan jag.

Vad ska jag skriva om? Ge mig en idé.


Curiosity killed the cat

Standing on someone's head and mewing repeatedly and very loudly might get you tuna at 5:44 am, but it's not going to make you any friends, no matter how cute and furry you think you are.

Stockholm Style Tips Part II

Image hosted by Photobucket.comblå Pumas = stil

blå Pumas + blå tröja + vitt mössa = smurf Image hosted by

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Å, Ä, Ö

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAs a native english speaker, Å. Ä, and Ö don't have much meaning for me, other than the fact that they are regular A and O's with funny dots over them. When necessasry, I pay attention to them, but most of the time, I just ignore them. It really doesn't make much difference to the word I hear/see in my head.

For example, today the bus crossed the street: "Båtmansvägen."

I read, "Batmansvägen," and couldn't help but look around for the Batmobile.

Subway Moments III

Jag är inte van vid att tjuvlyssna på samtal av folk som jag inte känner, men ibland är det svårt att låta den bli. Särskilt när det gäller tonåriga pojkar som prata höga och bullriga på t-banan. De diskuterade hur svårt det är med julshoppande.

"Men allt kostar pengar. Det är ju jobbigt."

Jag kan bara hålla med.

Well, then...

Although I've been entirely unproductive today (or about as productive as Kitty running around the living room three times), several things are "på gång." I finally received my antagningsbesked from the university registration system (my translation) and I have been accepted to "Kompletterande lärareutbilding" at Södertörn, Spanish at Stockholms Universitet, and Russian at Uppsala. Now I have to decide which courses to take. (I have to take something in order to keep my student status, which is the basis of my residence permit.) Practically, the teachers certification is the best choice, as I can always have it to fall back on, in lieu of any other employment. In terms of my own research, Russian is the best choice, but I'm not sure about the commute to Uppsala. And the Spanish, with my background in French, that course will be easier, plus it's in Stockholm, but I'm less interested in Spanish as a subject (although it's a funny coincidence that I applied for it even before I "met" Tonto...but I guess that doesn't matter so much anyway as his English is better than mine...)...Hmmmm, tough decisions...I guess I'm doing the Swedish student thing where you study when you don't have anything better to do, until you are so over-educated you are formally over-qualified for everything, although you have no real work experience to speak of...

I think I've found somebody to sublet my other room from Jan 1, and it was via the "friends of friends" method, which just proves that when it comes to getting anything done, it really is about who you know.

Kitty and I are going to Gothenburg on Friday to spend Christmas with Wild Child and her family. Although I'm tempted to say that Kitty ran away or was "cat napped" (by yours truly), I guess she'll be happy to be back with her real mother.

Now it's off to a lunch meeting...

I'll be back sooner or later...

Dear Readers,

I already wrote another version of this letter at the beginning of this blog, but due to some recent comments about "swedish-man-bashing" I felt prompted to post it again. I guess I should make it clear from the very beginning that these entries are more a reflection on the adventures of dating in general, rather than an attempt to bash Swedish guys, Swedish girls, or Swedish dating in general. The fact that said dating takes place in a foreign country makes it all that much better (and fun). You never know if weird behaviour on the part of your male companion is a result of the fact that 1) he comes from another culture; 2) he is a guy; 3) he is a human (i.e., personal idiosyncrasies). I think that in general most explanations can be found in #2 and #3. And I know for a fact that I have done and said some things that leave men wondering, "What the hell was that?"

Half of it is also making fun of myself in my own attempts to figure out "how to date in Sweden." I know that American dating practices, while perhaps a bit more straightforward (at least from my perspective), have also provided sufficient confusion for foreigners who have immigrated to our country. In addition, if you can't approach such experiences with a touch of humor, it's going to be a much more frustrating experience.

In sum, I'll leave this with three thoughts:
1) Men (Swedish or otherwise) will continue to baffle me, and trying to figure them out is half the fun. For now, I'll concentrate on trying to figure out just one, Tonto.
2) Dating in any country is a bizarre experience.
3) If I didn't love Sweden, Stockholm, and Swedes, I wouldn't have been living here for the last three years, and I wouldn't still be on the hunt for a Swede to call my very own have continued to write this tongue-in-cheek collection of my adventures of living in Sweden.


F. Curiosa

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Sock Gap Part II

Whereas Tonto seems to be quite attached to his socks, I have a hard time keeping track of mine. Even though I regularily add to my sock collection in lieu of doing laundry, they keep disappearing.

Although I'm not religious and definitely not superstitious, I must confess that I am a firm believer in sock elves. I am convinced that both my my old and my new apartment are infested by elves -- that like to steal, construct nests out of, and munch upon -- my socks. I don't have proof of this per se, but I cannot come up with any other reasonable explanation as to where the hell my socks keep going.

Inevietably, when I'm getting ready to run out the door, already late for some meeting or appointment, I cannot find a pair of socks that match. I can find one of the grey and red strippy socks, and one of the pink socks with white cats all over them that my mother sent me for Christmas last year, but it is nigh impossible to find two socks that go together.

So sometimes, I wear socks that don't match. Usually, I at least try to find two of remotely the same color, or at least two that do not clash, but sometimes it is difficult to maintain even an ounce of proper sock decorum.

But that's okay, because no one ever sees your socks, right?

Wrong, at least in Sweden.

I understand why one must take off one's shoes upon entering someone's home, in order to avoid spreading gravel, snow, and salt all over their lovely, and freshly polished wooden floors, but I find it a tad over-the-top when gyms, dentists, and doctor's offices request the same thing.

Yesterday, my physical therapist was witness to the pink polka dots on one foot and solid black on the other. Really, it was quite embarassing, despite the fact that she assured me, "Really, I'm not even looking at your socks. I'm concentrating on your knee. Really."

It's not that I'm color blind, I promise. I blame it on those damn sock elves.

A Cat's Life

Kitty has it pretty good. She spends the whole day laying in bed, cuddling up next to a warm body, rolling over on her back, paws sticking up into the air, her brilliant green eyes pleading, "Pet me! Pet me!" and her request being granted immediately. She gets up, runs to the kitchen, has a snack, jumps up on the counter and has a sip of water from the facet, then she runs around the living room three times, stopping to rest for a moment on the small rug under the table, deciding she is still hungry, running back to the kitchen for a few more tasty morsels, then running around the living room three more times, finally ending up back in bed with her paws up in the air and her tummy ready to be rubbed. Not so bad, after all.

Come to think of it, that sounds pretty much like my day with the exception of running around the living room and having my tummy rubbed.

Overheard at 7/11

"I don't want a beautiful girl. They only cause problems. If you have a beautiful girl, she is never yours."

Just think if these guys knew that there was someone sitting at the computer terminal behind them "blogging" them.

Seems the spambots are getting creative...

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Sent to my Curiosa mail. Still doesn't make me want to buy anything, but my fingers hesitated a few extra seconds before I hit the delete button.

Yes, svengelska is ju kul, yo

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Svengelska sells jeans.

Date a Democrat

Recently, Tonto and I were discussing our "lists," that is the list of qualities that you want in a potential mate. Beyond the basics, like "must have teeth" and "must bathe on a regular basis," I think we both want what most people want: things like intelligence, a sense of humor, integrity, and of course, an attractive physical appearance.

He did add this disclaimer, however:

"I don't think anything you could tell me about yourself would make me like you less, unless of course, you were a closet George W. Bush supporter."

Don't worry, Tonto.

And for those of you looking for a little Democrat (or at least liberal American) luuuuv in the good 'ol US of A, you might try this site, Act For Love.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Swedish Flag

It seems when stuck at home on one's mother's couch with a broken foot, the search for a creative outlet cannot be stifled, especially when one is longing for the blissful and fading days of the Swedish summer.

Kalle Önskar God Jul!

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My contribution to the communal Christmas tree in the entryway of our building. Thanks to Draksessan for the idea (and to Oscar for suggesting the mini version). I hope my neighbors have a good sense of humor.

Stockholm Style Tips

1) Fake fur, especially in the color purple, doesn't really do much for you, regardless of your gender.

2) Those camouflage army pants might be better left to G.I. Joe. And I really don't think they are intended to be worn with stiletto heels. (By the same token, I also don't think that army boots were made to be worn with mini skirts).

3) There are limits to the claim that "one-size-fits-all." Please don't make it your personal mission to prove such claims are a grevious case of false advertising.

4) There is, unfortunately, a reason that the Danes call mullets (hockeyfrilla) "svenskhår." This really should not be a source of national pride.

5) If one were to believe the fashion spectacles they witness on the streets of Stockholm, one would consider my hometown to be the avante garde of the mode world. The 80s are back in full swing, as much as I would like to reglegate them to the annals of my childhood. The difference between my hometown and Stockholm, however, is that the 80s have returned to Sweden, whereas back home, they never left.

Lost in Translation

"Tak" in Polish means "yes."

"Tack" in Swedish means both "please" and "thank you." (I mean that you say "tack" when you respond in the affirmative as well as in the negative, as in 'ja, tack' or 'nej, tack.')

Last summer, I spent a few weeks visiting a colleague who lives outside of Dębica, in the Carpathian mountains, an hour and a half by train from Krakow. Given both the low price and readily available supply of alcohol, my personal liquor consumption reached some sort of an all-time high.

Nonetheless, there was no way I was going to be outdrinking the Poles, and both my head and my liver were glad that I didn't even try. I learned that lesson after an ill-fated rendezvous with a bottle of Tequila in Mexico. In fact, I stopped drinking rather early in the evening, about the time that the walls began to spin, and my host appeared to have sprouted an extra head.

However, there seems to be an unwritten rule in Poland, that if a shot glass is empty, it must be filled up. And Swedish is my default foreign language, so if we're not speaking English, it is just as likely as not that Swedish (rather than a poor attempt at the local language) will automatically come out.

"Do you want something more to drink?" asked my host.

To which I replied, "Nej, tack."

I meant to say, "No, thank you," but he heard it as, "No, yes" and decided to fill up my shot glass, just to be on the safe side. After all, you don't want any thirsty (or sober) guests on your hands.

Needless to say, the memory of the rest of the evening is blurry at best.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Silent Nordic Type

Apparently, the further North in Sweden one goes, the quieter the inhabitants become. Urban legend holds that residents of Norrland can have an entire conversation consisting only of nodding and making a kind of sucking noise that sounds like a cross between a hiccup and a cat regurgitating a hairball. Sort of like the sound that Lady and the Tramp made when they were slurping up that single, long strand of spagetti.

My first year here, I became very good friends with a girl we'll call Pia. Pia looks about as Scandinavian as they come, with fine white blond hair and bright blue eyes, but much to the dismay of my male friends from North America, no artic fox fur bikini. Among my group of friends, who were for the most part international students on the Erasmus or other exchange programs, contact with a real Swede was some sort of a rarity. As Erasmus circles can be somewhat insular, "Swede spotting" became a kind of sport at at international parties (which occurred every Wednesday at Allhuset at the University and nearly every weekend at Lappis, the student residences nearest the university).

"You saw one? Where?"

"Damn, you just missed it!"

What a shock! To actually meet a Swede in Sweden? Never.

But Pia isn't actually Swedish. She's Finnish. And at least as far as cultural stereotypes go, it seems that compared to the Finns, residents of Norrland are actually quite gregarious.

But Pia is far from the epitome of the stony, silent Finn. Put nicely, she is quite bubbly. Put not so nicely, she never shuts up.

We were sitting in the computer lab at Stockholm University and Pia was chatting on and on about some such thing, and another American friend, Kevin, was sitting behind us. Suddenly, my phone beeped, and Kevin had sent me an sms that read "My god! What a talkative Swede! Where did you find her?"

I sent the simple reply, "Actually, in Finland."

"You're kidding, right? Even more surprising." came his answer.

So much for cultural stereotypes. For every rule, it seems there is an exception.

Those Poor Brave Viking Souls

One of the things that struck me most when I first moved to Sweden was how much Swedes live their lives according to the rhythm of the seasons. In the fall months, it's almost as if they live in denial that the long, dark winter is on the horizon. "No, November is not coming. Really, it's not." They try to squeeze every last ounce (or, in their case, gram) of sunlight and warmth out of the waning autumn days.

This is extended to the extensive use of outdoor terraces even through the beginning of October, long after the time when green things (and human toes and fingers, for that matter) should be taken indoors in order to avoid frostbite. The longevity of outdoor terraces can be extended a few different ways: heat lamps that radiate warmth (but that are really only warm if you are sitting directly under them), and perhaps more practically, a large supply of fleece blankets that customers can wrap up in as they cuddle up and drink their cafe lattes through shivering lips.

From June 1, 2005, a "rökförbud" (smoking prohibition) has been in place in all of Sweden's bars and restaurants. This worked quite well during the warm summer months, when all Swedes wanted to be outside anyway. However, the winter months pose a new challenge. If people want to smoke, they have to go outside, into the cold, to do it.

In previous years, the supply of fleece blankets are usually retired at the beginning of October for their long, winter hibernation on the shelves of the stock room, only to make their spring debut at the same time as the first rays of sunshine at the end of March. However, it seems that ingenious bar and club owners have discovered an entirely new use for these blankets.

Last night, while strolling along Götgatan in Södermalm, I noticed a group of smokers, decked out in party gear, huddled outside of the back entrance of a club, with hands shaking so badly that it was difficult for them to hold onto their cigarettes. Their only protection against the chilly Scandinavian winter was a thin, red fleece barrier and presumably, several "stor starks" to fortify themselves before they braved the cold for that oh-so-necessary nicotine fix.

Now, I know how cold it can be in Stockholm without the comfort of a down jacket, a wool scarf, a hat, leather gloves, and an extra sweater or two underneath. This leaves a bit of a conundrum for Friday and Saturday nights, as it is a general rule that when out, the fewer clothes you have on, the better (this especially applies to girls, I guess). A few years ago on a night out at Stureplan, Wild Child and I had the brilliant idea of saving 15 kronor by leaving our jackets in the coat check of one club while we ran across the street to another club.

Unfortunately, we encountered the most sadistic bouncer on the face of the earth, who kept us outside shivering, and turning blue, for a good quarter hour before he let us into the club. By that time, we no longer felt the cold, as we were both in a state of advanced hypothermia.

That money-saving measure was never to be repeated, and it was a good lesson that vanity should not always proceed practicality and comfort, because by the time we got inside, all we wanted to do was go home and curl up with the thermal water bottle, trying to thaw out our frozen limbs. It no longer mattered how "cute" we looked in our sequin tops. We ended up being two very cute, and cold, popsicles. So much for drunken and wild debauchery.

Anyway, I think that making the fleece blankets available year-round is actually a creative ploy of bar owners to prey on unsuspecting smokers. The fleece only provides a very thin shield against the cold, but just enough so that hypothermia and numbness don't set in. Therefore, smokers are still able to feel how very, very cold they really are.

And the only way to warm up? Buying more alcohol, of course.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

A cyber fairy tale

Once upon a time there was an American girl named Curiosa in Stockholm who wrote a blog entry about a vibrator called I Rub My Fishie. Then a boy called Tonto terrorized her blog and called her a bimbo.

And then they lived happily ever after.

I am just dreading having to answer the question, "So how did you two meet?"

The sock gap

When is the appropriate time to take off your socks during the process of getting hot and heavy?

Jeff, from the British sitcom Coupling, has a few words of wisdom:

"My advice is to get them off right after your shoes and before your trousers...that's the sock gap. Miss it and suddenly you're a naked man in socks. No self-respecting woman will let a naked man in socks do the squelchy with her."

I think Jeff is absolutely right.

The following dialogue may or may not have occurred in recent days:

"Why don't you take off your socks?"

"My feet get cold."

"But are you really thinking about your how cold your feet are while we, you know?"

"But are you really thinking about whether or not I'm wearing socks while we you know?"

"Fine, if you don't take off your socks, I'm not taking off my bra."

"I can live with that."

"Well, then, I'm not taking off my bra OR my underwear."

"That's like cutting off your nose to spite your face. It's not going to do either of us any good if you don't take off your underwear."

"Well...hrmpf. Fine."

"Ha ha, see, I won..."

"Do you really think this would be the best moment to start gloating?"

"No, maybe you're right."

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Law of Unintended Consequences

The Law of Unintended Consequences states that each cause has more than one effect. That means that all of the implications of human actions are definitely not planned, and are many times completely unexpected. So the things that we do (or write) can have other (and often surprising) results than we had originally anticipated.

This post has been written and rewritten several times already, in my head. I wasn't really sure exactly what I wanted to say or how I wanted to say it. This blog has taken a rather unexpected turn in the last few weeks. It is perhaps more correct to say that my life has taken a bit of a detour because of this blog.

A few weeks ago "Kommissarie Curiosa" was hijacked by a character named Fraytonto. We'll call him Tonto for short. You know, like the Lone Ranger's Indian sidekick. A little google research revealed that "Tonto" means "fool" in Spanish. Why the Lone Ranger's Native American associate had a Spanish name is another question.

Tonto lured me into a very lengthy debate in the middle of the night via a few not-so-nice comments questioning my intelligence and accusing me of being a "bimbo." Some of you regular readers might recall how miffed I was at such name-calling. I'm generally pretty laid back and it takes a lot to piss me off, but this tactic certainly succeeded. He baited me, and I bit. In fact, I think I'll re-post his first comment here, and let his words speak for themselves:

Couldn't pinpoint it but this is what's wrong with this bimbo blog. A trite, incredibly mundane though seemingly clever sex-in-the-city-wanna-be series of posts ... This just came to your town courtesy of (where else) the good old US of A. It is not enough to be disgraced by your inept leaders. You have to do it for yourself in this cutesy 'look at me I'm so clever I diss guys... TOOO COOOL cool for you' stint. God bless America.

Well, um, yes. A little bit below the belt, but an effective way to get my attention.

This sparring continued for a few days through comments in the blog. I must say that my moment of glory occurred at 2:49 am when I saw that he had returned once again to check the blog after he claimed he was going to go to bed. At 2:41 am I had written "I bet you just can't resist," and sure enough he popped up again at 02:49:25 and again at 02:49:35 on an ISP address registered in Lund. Gotcha, Tonto.

After a few days of this, we took it to MSN messenger. After about 24 hours of insulting each other, we finally started to "get real." Without hurling intellectual grenades back and forth at each other, or otherwise devising methods to mentally squash our worthy opponents.

I also had to break rule number one of anonymous blogging: anonymity. Turns out, that may not have been such a bad move. We seemed to have a lot in common, and both felt that it isn't often that you come across someone with whom you really "click."

But when it comes right down to it, what really matters is how you interact with another person in real life. In the name of spontaneity and romance, I hopped on a plane to Lund a week-and-a-half later, seriously questioning my sanity the whole way there. I had a back-up plan to stay with some of my ex-pat friends in Malmö should Tonto turn out to be four feet tall and smelly, but I felt that the whole situation was so unusual and strange that I had to take a chance.

Turns out, we actually kind of get along in real life, although the social democrat vs. libertarian discussion remains (and likely will remain that way) unresolved. It one of those things where you have to quite frankly "see what happens." ("It" in this case refers to the whole situation, not to political-ideological differences.)

So this means that my "under-the-covers investigation" has taken quite a dramatic turn. When I started this blog last month, it really was a way to blow off some steam about dating in a foreign country and it's associated frustrations. But in the course of sussing out the "strong, silent, Nordic type," I managed to find, quite unintentionally, a tall, dark, and definitely not silent Southern type.

By the way, the moral of this story is NOT that calling a girl a bimbo is a good way to pick her up. Under normal circumstances, it will just get you slapped. I guess it's actually that age-old adage: you'll find it when and where you least expect it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Lästips: Svenssonskolan

While leafing through a copy of Gringo Grande at my favorite coffee shop this afternoon, I came across an article, or rather a series of articles, that were very much in the spirit of "Kommissarie Curiosa." It addresses questions such as integration, cultural identity, and what it really means to be "Swedish." Gringo is a monthly insert in the morning paper, Metro, that attempts to add some diversity to the traditional Swedish media. This series, entitled "Svenssonskolan", that is, "Swedish School," written by Fia Lien, has several articles on what it takes to really be "Swedish." The entire series is witty and amusing to read, and it's even better that it's written by Swede. It's written in Swedish, but I've translated a few of my favorite quotes.

Lesson 2: The Swede and Nature
Tell a Swede that something is 'natural,' and you can get her to do just about anything...

While Bush and Kerry invoke God and morality and run around supermarkets kissing as many babies as they can, what do Swedish politicians do to win voters?

Plant trees.

Lesson 6: The 'People's Home' that disappeared
'The People's Home,' which during the 1930s until 1946 under the protective wings of Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson, was the beginning of the holiest of Swedish cows: welfare. In Sweden, even the most liberal of liberals cannot criticize welfare. Social benefits, the social safety net, and peace, financed by the highest tax burden in the world, was the ground upon which all of those red and white summer cottages are built...

Lesson 8: Everyone should think alike
There is a reason that politicians only socialize with each other. Regular people don't want to know what 'uncomfortable' opinions you have. Because if someone disagrees [god forbid], it might, you know, result in a discussion...

There are laws and rules for how you should behave in many different situations in Swedish society; where you should park, what color you can paint your house, where you can smoke, and at what times you can play loud music. All of this is so that people won't end up on a collision course with each other, and to keep the atmosphere calm and composed...

In order to avoid unwanted discussions, we have an unwritten rule: always let a public authority take over if there is any chance of trouble.

Subway moments

Someone commented the other day on my post about "brief moments" that a smile can make all the difference in the world.

The subway seems to be a place where such instants often occur, as it is a kind of crossroads for people from all walks of life. People go outside of their usual cirles, step off of their usual paths, and their lives intersect with others, even if it is just for the time it takes to go from Centralen to Hötorget.

Today a dark haired guy caught my eye and smiled to himself. At first I thought I had imagined it, but then he looked my way again, and tried to hide his smile by bringing his hand up to his mouth. I couldn't help but smile back. He flashed me a third and final grin as he exited the train.

How can something like that not make your day?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

How to find me

Someone found this blog by searching for "things you have always wondered."

That makes me smile.

Coincidence? I think not

Does anyone else think, given the high co-habitation-outside-of-marriage rates in Sweden, that it's an unlikely coincidence that "gift" is the Swedish word for both "poison" and "married"?

Reflektioner över svenska dagens ord

Image hosted by"Puss" på svenska betyder "kiss" på engelska. "Puss" på engelska betyder "kat" (eller kanske borde man också säga "mus") på svenska.

"Kiss" på svenska betyder "pee" på engelska.

See why I am easily confused?

I saw these toys Kiss och Bajs (Pee and Poo) in a store window in Söder this afternoon, and while I guess they would be a useful potty training instrument, they just don't seem to be the kind of stuffed toy you would want to cuddle up and snuggle with.

Or maybe that's just me?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fuck fuck fuck

I'm beginning to feel like the sad girl on the subway looked. I am holding back the tears, although I'm not sure if they are the result of worry, disappointment, or hurt. I keep checking my email to see if there is a message, although I don't really want to get one, because that will most likely mean it's not going to happen.

I'm being intentionally cryptic, but suffice it to say I've had plans for a couple of weeks that fell through last night. Stuff happens, it's disappointing, but no big deal.

So the "plans" were postponed until today. And then today...nothing. Not an sms, not a phone call, not an email, just the recording "Abonnemanget du söker kan inte nås för tillfälligt." The phone is either broken, turned off, or out of range. Something is either seriously wrong with transportation/communication, or the person in question is behaving in an uncharacteristic manner. There may very well be a logical explanation, but I'm not so sure I want to hear it anymore.

I waver between anger and anxiety.

This is frustrating because there is absolutely nothing I can do but wait.

I am suspending judgement until I get all the facts, but I refuse to put myself in this kind of situation, fraught with uncertainty, on a repeated basis. Not again.

Bah Humbug

Well, it seems some of my neighbors are attempting to create a kind of festive Christmas spirit among those of us who live in the building. Never mind that I've never actually met any of these people, there seems to be a kind of "Christmas ghost" at work in our humble abode. For instance, suddenly a Christmas tree, donning a few strands of Christmas lights, appeared inside the entrace to the front door, with the following message attached to a watering can:

"Ge mig vatten om jag är torstig. Hälsningar, Granen" ("Give me water if I am thirsty. Greetings, the Tree")

The next day, when I left in the morning, two small stuffed dogs were mysteriously sitting under the tree. When I came back, a julbock (Christmas goat made of straw) had joined the menagerie. Two small stars had also been carefully placed on the boughs of the trees.

It's very exciting, because every time I enter or exit the building, I have to check and see if there have been any additions to our communal Christmas tree. I'm wondering if it's time that I add a few candy canes to the branches of the thirsty tree.

Or maybe some tiny American flags. I'm sure that would go over well.


God damn, it's cold outside.

There are very few things which would prompt me to leave the warm and cosy confines of my new apartment at midnight. Apparently, Internet access and a recently discovered slice of Americana are two of them. Seven/Eleven is now the Swedish distributer of the one, the only -- Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream. Thank god for globalization.

My four-legged furry friend seems to be missing her mother tonight, as she keeps standing at the front door and mewing, despite my best attempts to cuddle her. We had a bit of a disagreement this evening as she decided to try and "help" me with some of the Christmas presents I'm hurriedly trying to finish up to post in time for the 25th. A box full of beads with a cat in the middle of does not exactly spell out either e-f-f-i-c-i-e-n-c-y or e-x-p-e-d-i-e-n-c-y. Actually, I think it spells out c-a-t-g-et-t-h-e-h-e-l-l-o-f-f-o-f-t-h-e-g-o-d-d-a-m-n-e-d-t-a-b-l-e!!!!!!

It struck me tonight that sometimes you don't realize how much you are looking forward to something until it doesn't work out exactly the way it was originally supposed to. Sigh.

It's so cold tonight I'm not looking forward to sleeping alone. A little body heat would be nice. I guess Kitty will have to do.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Brief moments

Once again, 7/11 is not the most inspiring environment in which to compose compelling blog entries, but I'll try my best. The counter next to the computer terminal is littered with two old, wet tea bags on one side, and a plastic coffee cup lid on the other. Remnants of human consumption.

I've spent the afternoon thinking about a girl I sat across from on the t-bana (subway) earlier today. She was loaded down with a heavy backpack and shopping bags, as if she was moving, and had a black lab on a leash. The pup was sleeping between her feet. She was staring out the window, and I could tell she was holding back tears. She was biting her lower lip, and her eyes were bloodshot and puffy. She just looked sad, on the verge of breaking down.

I wondered what was wrong, whether she was just having a bad day, or if she had lost a friend, or broken up with her boyfriend. She looked like she had just said goodbye to someone. I wanted to say something to her, because I've been there before, and I always have this strange feeling that I'm invisible, that I just want someone to notice that I'm upset, and tell me that it's going to be okay. But how do you break the silence with a stranger without intruding on their personal space? Maybe she wanted someone to notice, or maybe she just wanted to be alone with her thoughts.

In the end, the dog broke the ice. He stood up and I think he smelled Kitty, because my jacket suddenly became very interesting to his prodding snout. I got a wet nose, and he got an ear scratch, and the girl and I exchanged smiles. She said a few words in Swedish, but I think she was talking to the dog rather than to me. Then she got off at her stop.

It was the briefest of interactions, yet it's stayed with me all day. It's funny how a complete stranger can leave such an impression after just a few moments of sharing the same time and space.

When I got off of the subway, I started to head up the escalator and there was an elderly couple debating about the best way to ascend the stairs. I was carrying a latte in one hand, and the old lady, who was struggling with a walker, asked me, "Om jag hjälper dig, kan du hjälper mig?" ("If I help you, can you help me?") She took the latte out of my hand, and pushed the walker towards me. I carried it up the stairs, and at the top, she handed me back the latte. "Tack, vad snäll."

That reminded me of mormor.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Yes, I've been bad

But not bad in the way all of those of you with perverted minds are thinking. I've been really bad at updating this week. Since I don't have internet in the new apartment yet, I am currently at a computer terminal at the 7/11 around the corner from my new apartment. Sitting next to two guys surfing porn sites really doesn't give me much creative inspiration. Actually, you would think that would provide plenty of "blog fodder," but I'm not really in the mood to be sarcastic (for once). A good friend of mine from Austria is visiting for the weekend, and she has promised to be a "guest blogger" and present her views on dating in the U.S. as she spent a year there as an exchange student. Should be a nice point-counterpoint to my own perception of things here in Sweden. Are there any Swedes out there who want to take a crack at dating in the U.S.? (I guess the assumption would be that you have spent some time there, and are not just entirely pulling it out of your ass). Next week I'll also present the results of the "Swedish Mating and Dating Part I & II"survey, since there have been quite a few responses to both now. Alright allihop, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Guardian Angel X 2

Thank you, thank you, my guardian angel. (I suspect you will read this at some point or another). You really saved the day this time. More than you know.

Tonight is my first evening sleeping in the new apartment, and it came with two warnings. The first was a magnet on the fridge which informed me:
"Man måste kyssa en gräslig massa grodor för att hitta en prins."
(Translation: "You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince").

The second came in the form of a post-it note, from the Wild Child:
"I hand over my bachelorette pad to you, oh single sister. Enjoy/use with caution.
P.S. The bed frame easily doubles as a palace of pleasure."

God, sometimes I love my friends.

It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to

It's not easy being sexy and sassy all the time. In fact, at the moment, I feel rather slow and stupid. So welcome to the dark side. It's a very scary place indeed.

There's that stern voice in my head telling me, "Curiosa, you need to grow the fuck up. It's high time you took some responsibility for your own life." You know, the little angel on my shoulder. Unfortunately, it seems that these days, I've been listening to the its devilish counterpart a little bit too often. I keep telling myself, I'm not lazy, I'm trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Sort of like I also keep saying, I'm not messy, It's just an extension of my creativity. A fucking quarter-life crisis is what it's called.

If I had a magic latern, I would rub it and spend my first wish on becoming a bear so I could hibernate for the rest of the month. Although that would likely, in the long-run, compound my problems. Sticking one's head in the sand doesn't make problems go away, it just gives you a false sense of complacency. My new apartment, while fantastically located and reasonably priced, has resulted in double rent this month. I'm counting on finding some poor student lacking in accommedation to help pick up some of the financial slack come the 15th of the month, since I have to give two months notice before I am no longer legally responsible for this little shithole (it's not REALLY a shithole, it's just 16 sq m and badly in want of a thorough cleaning). So Mom (whom I love very, very much, and who DOESN'T, by the way, read this blog) had to wire me some emergency cash so I could pay rent to the Swedish-wild-child-party-girl-turned-kärleksinvandrare-till-Norrland who is on her way to Brazil for a few weeks of fun in the sun. (Did I mention I hate her right now? Ahhhh, the sweet, sweet feeling of jealousy...)

I wish someone would pay me to be a professional blogger. My current employment is over at the end of the year, and I have a job interview on Friday. If that doesn't work out, I may end up unemployed somewhere in the middle of the Continental United States within a few months, as I already owe my mother almost as much money as I do to Uncle Sam for four-years of student loans. Keep your fingers crossed, or "hold your thumbs," or whatever it is that you do in this country.

My only consolation is that the Swedish-wild-child-party-girl-turned-kärleksinvandrare-till-Norrland has elected me to be "katvakt," that is, cat sitter, during her stint in Brazil. So, Kitty and I can curl up on the couch and count coins together, stare at the wall, contemplate our navels, and if worse comes to worse, share that can of tuna.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

So, where are you from?

There is a phenomena that is peculiar to Americans, or at least to those who come from immigrant societies (here I'm thinking primarily of the Anglo-Saxon countries, as well as some parts of Latin America), to look backwards, to where we came from in order to try to discover part of who we are today. Call it "identity" if you will. For those of us whose ancestors number among the millions of Europeans who immigrated to the United States, we like to trace our roots across the pond. For my part, I can trace my heritage back to the English, Irish, Scottish, German, and Dutch. (Upon reflection, that's sort of a civil war, at least among the British isles, just waiting to happen). When I decided to spend a year in Holland as an exchange student, I actually thought I would come back having discovered some previously undiscovered Dutch part of myself, and instead, came to the startling revelation that I am, in fact, an American.

You will meet many from my country who proudly proclaim that they are "Italian Americans," "Greek Americans," "Lithuanian Americans," "Japanese Americans" etc. In our world view, "heritage/culture" and "nationality" are two entirely separate, although nonetheless, inter-related conceptions of self. If you are born on American soil, you are an American. That means you have an American passport (yes, yes, you can make the snide remark here that only about 10% of us actually have passports), but it doesn't necessarily imply a particular ethnicity. I have a friend whose background is quite illustrative of this situation. His parents met at a U.S. citizenship class, and he explains, "I'm half Persian, half Dutch, and all American!"

From the beginning, we have been a society made up of people from all over the world, a veritable "melting pot." (Please note, I am not making a statement on "equality" or even "integration" here; a look at our history, or current census information, shows that we haven't made more progress in these areas than any other countries). Over time, that has meant a blending of different ethnicities, races, and cultures. This is probably why the seperation of "identity" and "nationality" continues to persist. People assert their uniqueness, their culture, their heritage by tacking on an extra word to specify which kind of American they are. This is, of course, not always a case of self-identification but one of eternal imposition by outside groups such as policy-makers, and it has also resulted in the need to be very "PC" in the way one talks about this subject whilst in the U.S., lest one inadvertantly offend someone.

Countries such as those in Norden, which had populations that were largely homogenous until the middle of the 20th century, still don't, on a large scale, distinguish between "cultural identity" and "nationality." This debate is particularily prominent in some of the former Soviet countries such as the Baltic states, which had significant populations of "Russian speakers" that were imported to work in Soviet industries. Post-independence, this has meant that there are large minorities, some who have never lived anywhere else than within the territory of their adoptive homeland, who are not "Estonian" or "Latvian" but who do not feel "Russian" either.

I've seen confusion, bafflement, amusement, and even resentment among some of my European friends who encounter an American who announces, "Wow, you're Swedish, so am I!" This is particularily the case in certain regions of the U.S. that have large populations of people of Scandinavian descent. This includes Minnesota and much of the West Coast. For example, a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway in the middle of June reveals many small towns which are holding their own Midsommar festivities and Scandinavian flags line the edges of the local Main Street. It's also been used as a wonderful marketing tool to promote local tourism; take the California town of Solvang, a small replica of a Danish village, whose claim to fame is the fact that it is the "Danish Capital of America."In these small communities, you'll find many Americans who are (or think they are) more Swedish, Danish, or Norwegian than the Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians themselves.

This can be taken to very high levels of ridiculousness. I have a friend who strongly identifies with his Irish roots, even though he has never been to Ireland, doesn't drink Guiness, and doesn't have a shamrock tattooed on his ass (at least as far as I know). He nonetheless feels a very strong connection to this land of his ancestors. His strong cultural identification, combined with a significant arsenal of historical knowledge and a whole lot of "piss and vinegar," has led to the development of what I can only call "antipathy" to all things English. Due to historical events, such as the Battle of Boyne in 1690, he has vowed never to set foot on English soil. This has even gone so far as to request his mother to re-route him through Charles de Gaulle in Paris so he could avoid Heathrow while en route to Italy.

I know that Swedes will continue to find it strange when they meet an American who says, "Wow, you're Swedish, so am I!" But please bear with us. In some senses, we are culturally confused. Discovering where your ancestors came from is one way in which to begin sorting out the age-old question of "Who am I?"

In fact, look at it as a way to promote Swedish exports abroad. Because, this strong need to find a connection to where we come from, or rather, where our ancestors came from, also results in the importation of silly and disgusting customs such as the consumption of "lutfisk." If eating lutfisk makes you feel more Swedish, then I say "Go for it." But personally, I don't think that eating lutfisk says as much about cultural identity as it does about "mental imbalance" or just plain "bad taste."

Have you been naughty?

Image hosted by Photobucket.comConversations with my friend the Swedish-wild-child-party-girl-turned-kärleksinvandrare-till-Norrland are ALWAYS amusing, and occasionally hilarious.

Last night the topic of hand cuffs came up in our telephone conversation. Please don't ask me to explain why.

Curiosa: Have you ever used handcuffs? The idea is intriguing, but I'm trying to imagine how that would work in practice. It seems like it would be more for a laugh than anything else.

Wild Child: Well, I've never used handcuffs, but I have used rope.

Curiosa: How did that work out?

Wild Child: Well, he couldn't tie a proper knot, so it ended up being rather silly. I got away.

Curiosa: Isn't the idea really to get off, rather than get away?

Wild Child: Mmmm, yes, ideally. You know, if you really want to talk to someone about this, you should talk to Annika. She's got all kinds of toys.

Curiosa (thinking about Annika's straight-laced ex-boyfriend Will and giggling at the image): She tied up Will?

Wild Child: Well, come on. Will is NOT the kind of guy you tie up and spank.

Curiosa: Is the Norrlänning there right now?

Wild Child: No, he's in the other room. I think.

Curiosa: Have you tied him up?

Wild Child: No, not yet, but we're working on it.

Curiosa: I'm thinking about my blog. How would a Swedish guy react if I brought out the handcuffs? Would it scare the be-jesus out of him?

Wild Child: Nah, I think he'd be very, very happy.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Double standard

It's not fair. Oscar gets to post a chest shot AND refer to himself as "Pappa," and nobody says anything, but when I post a chest shot, I get called a bimbo. Maybe it's time I start calling myself "Mamma" and referring to myself in the third person.

Södermalm or bust!

Image hosted by Photobucket.comLove.

It's the kind of thing that make otherwise intelligent and rational people do crazy things. Like give up fabulous apartments in Södermalm to move to Gävle to be with soccer-player boyfriends.

I get the keys tonight.

The following dialogue ensued today on the telephone:

Swedish-wild-child-party-girl-turned-kärleksinvandrare-till-Norrland: Curiosa, you do realize that this makes it official? This means that I'm officially living in Norrland. I mean, I can't pretend that I have an apartment to go back to in Stockholm anymore.

Curiosa: I do realize that this means that I get your apartment. I think the more pertinent question here is, do YOU realize this means that you're officially living in Norrland? Like, as in Gävle, of all places?

The Stockholm housing market is a tricky, tricky thing. Most of the stories you've heard are true.

Once upon a time, during the wonderful years of Folkhemmet (literally translated, "the people's home"), during the Golden Era of the Swedish welfare state, the great architects of the Swedish Welfare Society decided to socialize the housing market. This meant that anyone, regardless of wealth or stature, could live in the center of the beautiful capital city. It also meant that you had to wait 20 years for your grandmother to die before you could move into her luxurious apartment at Östermalmstorg, or hope that your parents had enough foresight to sign you up in one of the communal housing queues when you were naught but a twinkle in their eyes.

While this is a great and equitable idea IN THEORY, it's an entirely different story IN PRACTICE. What it has resulted in, at least in major cities, namely Stockholm, is a thriving second-hand market where people who have a "hyresrätt" (right to rent) sublet their apartments to others who are willing to pay for location, location, location. It's frankly a good way to make buco bucks. It also means that the apartment can be yours until you die, and then it's usually possible your grandchildren can inherit the right to live there as well.

And once you get tired of moving every six months, you bite the bullet and drop a nice chunk of change on a "bostadsrätt," which is something like a condo. You don't actually own your apartment, but you own the right to live in a piece of a particular community's property. Or something like that.

Anyway, I'm no stranger to the Stockholm housing market. And to be perfectly honest, it's not entirely impossible to navigate, IF you're willing to pay and have more than a little creativity and perseverance. After all, I did manage to find a student room to sublet in Gamla Stan from the U.S. with nothing but a tip from a Swedish friend to check Dagens Nyheter "bostadannonser" and my handy-dandy Swedish dictionary. Not speaking a word of Swedish, I sat in the computer lab at my university in Seattle, looking up the words "gamla" and "stan" and then figuring that anything that involved an "Old Town" couldn't be that bad.

Six months later, I had to quickly move when the guy from whom I was subletting got kicked out for failing to fulfill the 10 point study credit minimum. Then I moved to Kungsholmen, to share an apartment with a girl in her late twenties. It was a strange set-up, as I was renting a room with "access to the bathroom and kitchen." She was very polite and cordial, but she maintained quite a distance. We called her the "Ice Princess." She was beautiful, and cold. I generally want to get to know the people that I'm living with, but hey, maybe I'm strange. I must say I was however shocked when one day I came home and my "landlady" was sitting in the living room in sweats rolled up over her knees, trying to wax her legs. It was the most "human" I had ever seen her.

Then a friend from the collective in Gamla Stan went to Japan for a year, so I moved back to the Old Town for the next year. Swedes would ask where I lived, I would reply, "Gamla Stan" to which they would respond, "Ja ha!" and under their breath you can almost hear them muttering "And who did YOU have to sleep with to get that deal?"

Then my friend came back, so I moved once again. But first, all of my stuff when into storage and I went home to the states for three months. Then, I found a slightly too expensive 45 square meter apartment in Skärmarbrink. That stint lasted four months until I decided I would rather eat and live somewhere more affordable than sit and starve in my over-priced apartment in the "near-suburbs". So I gave my month's notice and once again went home to the states for three months.

Then I came back to Stockholm with no place to live, and I survived in a bachelor pad in Flemingsberg for three weeks. Enough was enough. I decided to cash in on my three year wait in the SSSB (Stiftelsen Stockholms Studentbostäder) queue and got a first-hand contract for 16 sq meter student room. And now I'm the proud renter of a studio room with a "kitchenette," which consists of two burners and a mini-fridge. And now I have to move because I failed to complete 10 study points this semester.

So, now it's time to move for the sixth time in a little over three years. I just went out and fortified myself with two cafe lattes and came back armed with eight copies of Metro to wrap my dishes in and two rolls of duct tape. Now I get to creep up to storage and attempt to forage through my locker in order to find all of those boxes I saved from last time.

Until next time.

Headin' South

And now the conversation shall descend into a discussion of the Stockholm housing market. My favorite Swedish-wild-child-party-girl-turned-kärleksinvandrare-till-Norrland called me this morning and is on her way to town with her man and a Volvo in tow. So it's unexpectedly moving day! Anyway who has lived in Stockholm will tell you that if your friend with a car offers to help you move, you don't say no. So now it's time to stuff all of my dirty laundry into those lovely blue IKEA bags, throw it into the trunk of my friend's borrowed Volvo, and do some laundry in my NEW APARTMENT IN SÖDERMALM!

On another note, tomorrow I'm really heading south, as in Skåne, you know, for the whole extra 20 minutes of daylight that you guys get down there. I'm sure it will be a real "solsemester."

P.S. In an attempt to give my laptop a check-up, my new über-super-duper virus protection program identified 1034 "infected" files, and seems to have deleted some files that were necessary for the functioning of Gmail, Hotmail, Google, MSN messenger (which makes my love life rather difficult) among other things. Luckily, it didn't dare touch the blogs. That would have meant WAR! But if I'm slow on comments, or fail to reply to emails to, that's why.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Una cerveza, por favor

Image hosted by"En stor stark, tack."

Literally translated, that's "A big strong one, please." Beer, that is.

Just like I like my men.

Sex nights and sleep nights

A few nights ago, I had dinner tonight with my good friend and former colleague R, and we ran into one of his buddies from high school as we were walking out of the building. D was on his way to his girlfriend's house for dinner. He is a med student and is only one or two terms away from finishing-up before he begins his residency, so he is right in the middle of his hospital rotations, which means he keeps some pretty weird hours. R and I also can also be classified as "insomniacs," although not necessarily for as legitimate a reason as "medical school." R commented that it easier to go to bed when you have someone to go to bed with. I said that perhaps this was the case, unless both people were insomniacs. Then you just keep each other up. Then D made the point that if you have someone to go to bed with, you may be in bed, but are not necessarily sleeping. This is especially the case if you don't live together, and only see each other a few times a week. R then proposed that perhaps the solution to this was to schedule "sex nights" and "sleep nights." Then both of the guys got very quiet, and lamented upon the fact that lately, they have both experienced too many nights with neither sleep nor sex.

I must also add my reaction to this idea. I know how fond Swedes are of their calendars, and how evenings and weekends can be booked months ahead, but the first time that any potential boyfriend of mine attempts to actually pencil in a "sex night," I'm outta there. There is still something to be said for spontaneity.