The Long Silence

Blogging is a hobby that becomes an expectation.  I began this blog to help me cope with the adjustment to stay-at-home fatherhood as I relocated to Sweden with my family.  It was a way to connect to the greater world, to remain active while staying home.  From there, I developed a relationship with a few other bloggers, I would read their posts and they would read mine.  Connections were made, regardless of how fleeting.  Soon, I found myself looking at everything I did through a blogging lens where everything was treated as a blog post.  How could I share what M just did in a way that could really capture the humor of what he did?  More to the point, how can I tell a version of what he just did that would be funny to others?  As I don’t show pictures of my family where their faces can be seen, suddenly there was a prolification of photos in my iPhoto’s album with the back of my boys heads.  And over the first year I tried to capture all that I could and share it with you.  I worked hard to meet your, and my own, expectation that I would actually tell these stories.

Then, it stopped.  The connection ended and the attempt to cast everything in a humorous manner became a burden of time I could no longer afford.  For those of you that regularly visited this blog to read about these misadventures of parenting abroad I apologize.  But, life happened, which it tends to do to most of us.  I went through another transition, one from being a hemmapappa to being employed full-time in a new and challenging career field.  On top of the new job, I also enrolled into an on-line program to acquire a more complete education in this new field; and with all of that, and working to remain a caring father and a loving husband, I stopped updating this blog. 

The funny thing about stopping the blog is that I never stopped using my newly acquired blogging lens.  Every trip or experience I have had with my family, I have mentally examined how I could write that up for this blog.  The number of photos with just the back of M or K’s head has remained at the same level.  Even my wife has commented now and then that I should really write up a particular experience for this site.  So now, I have a huge backlog of experience to document for you…or perhaps just for me.  Cause it is hard to say how these virtual connections work and whose expectation I am meeting.  Is this a blog for a regular readership, just the occasional visitor, or just myself?  Who is my audience?  As I look back at my posts, I see that infused throughout these stories of parenting abroad is a focus on what to do when in Sweden, and more specifically Almhult.  That really limits my audience; but a few weeks ago, I received a notice from a reader who found this site and told me that they found it very useful for them as they were preparing to make the move to IKEA land.  And it is for those readers, who are looking for some help in adjusting to this part of our small world, especially with children, that I need to update this site with all of the funny little antics that this nomadic family has experienced over the past year.  So, with out committing to anything and setting up no expectations, I hope to return to this venue of story-telling and share more of what has happened to family nomadic over the past year.

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Some Prague Graffiti & Other Works of Art

At the end of October, my family spent four pretty awesome days in the medieval and romantic city of Prague in the Czech Republic.  I highly recommend a visit, and while it was a little tough with kids it was still well worth it.  Here I am only sharing some of the graffiti and other art we found (carrying on from what I shared from Barcelona, Spain). More about the trip to come…eventually.

Do not Smile or say ‘Hej’

 

One of the first impressions a stranger to Sweden might get is that the average Swede is very aloof and reserved.  This is often seen on the streets where nobody smiles at each other, makes eye contact, or in any way acknowledges the existence of the other…unless of course they are really good friends.  This is often perceived by outsiders to be rude.  (At least outsiders from the North American continent and other friendly places.)

 

Today, at precisely 6:13pm I realized why this is the norm of behavior in Sweden.  It actually has nothing to do with being rude, but instead it is a collective cultural norm to help everyone save face.  Essentially, this practice is a form of social evolution to allow individuals in this society to suffer less embarrassments and awkward moments.

 

Now, last year I did not realize this and I was quite frustrated with the “unfriendly” Swede and went out of my way to make eye contact, smile, and say ‘Hej’ to anyone I passed on the street.  This is a typical adjustment strategy I use when first moving to a new country.  And this strategy got me nowhere in Sweden…except for that one time when I basically pinned another hemmapoppa in the corner of the Systembolagat.  Anyways, last year I was new here, I did not know anybody and I thought this would be a good way to show I am friendly and approachable.  (Hint Hint Swedes…I am looking to make some friends.)

 

It was not until just today that I figured this all out.  Though I just had a conversation with some new colleagues who explained that they get quite confused and startled if anyone they don’t know says ‘Hej’ to them, I still didn’t get why they did not greet acknowledge others on the street, until this happened:

 

I was walking out of the Chinese restaurant, taking some yummy Asian noodles home for K (who insists that Asian egg noodles are the best possible food in Almhult), and was about to cross the street where I almost cut off a bicyclist.  We both stopped, made brief eye contact…as we were about to collide I think it was appropriate to have that sort of communication, but then it happened!  I think I knew that person…but I couldn’t quite be sure.  So I said nothing.  I ignored her, waited very tensely for the crossing light to turn green, and hoped that I really did not know the person and was being quite rude.  And that is when I realized why Swedes don’t make eye contact or greet people on the streets…you never quite know who you are talking to.

 

Remember, this is Sweden.  The sun has set at 3:30 and it has been dark for over two hours and it is only 6pm.  So it’s dark, not a big deal until you then realize it’s December in Sweden.  This woman had a big wool hat pulled down half over her face, a matching white fluffy wool scarf covering the other half of her face, so the only distinguishing feature visible to make a positive ID on this person were two blue eyes and blond hair down past the shoulders.  Hmmm…blond hair and blue eyes pretty much describes ¾ of the population here.

 

So here I am, having nearly knocked over this woman on her bicycle, at night, in the cold, impatiently waiting to cross the road hoping that I actually didn’t know this person cause I could not be certain of who she was to begin with, because I couldn’t see her bloody face through the wool and night sky!!  And I couldn’t rightly say ‘Hej’, cause if I really didn’t know her then I would be that rude foreigner going around saying Hej’ to everyone like we were best mates or something!!

 

Yes, I see it now; it is much safer to go about your business in town and not acknowledge anyone and if everyone rightly follows this practice, then no one ever will be considered rude…unless of course they decide to look at you, smile, and say ‘Hej.”

 

Vako: Another walk in Smalands

Leaving Burma for Sweden there was one main thing I was looking forward to…Fall.  Today was a day that made my soul sing. The colors are just past peak, but vibrant yellow and burnt orange colors surrounded my family and I as we continued our new tradition of finding a different nature reserve to hike in every Saturday morning.  Vako Myr is a 13km square protected bog/mire surrounded by pine and birch trees.  A vast fire tore through the bog in 1992, be the growth since then twisting up the scarred husks of burnt out trees was a great contrast to the other reserves we have visited.  Just outside of Almhult, Vako Myr is easy to get to and absolutely beautiful, especially on such a fall day as today.  The trail is relatively short, but the majority of it is two planks of wood set down to keep you from sinking into the mire.  The planks lead you to two islands, the first which was last inhabited in 1903 and the second which provides a striking panoramic view of the mire as it stretched into Skane.  For those that wonder why we decided to move to Almhult, Sweden…here are a few pics from today’s hike that sums up the reason pretty well:

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Family European Vacation Pt 2: Dinkelsbuhl and Environs

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This is the long awaited sequel to European Family Vacation Pt 1: Bavarian Alps.  We are out of the highlands and down in the lower Bavarian farm land.  Our center of operations was the delightfully medieval town of Dinkelsbuhl.  And … Continue reading

The “Good Father” Litmus Test

I am in Barcelona for a workshop, met up with other participants and are headed out on the town for some wonderful streetside dinner.  As the herd of foreigners slowly swarm down the streets, the conversation quickly turns to our children and loved ones (um…not that those are different) left behind.  During this exchange, three points highlighted if you were a good Father/Mother.

  1. Do you have pictures of your children on your person?
  2. Have you texted them or sent a message home to them already?
  3. Have you purchased a gift for them?

Well, I left my phone (with the photos of K&M) at home, no points there.  I had already emailed them, so I was not absolutely horrible; but, I have not purchased them a gift.  At this point, I was pretty low on the good father scale, but was able to salvage it by indicating that S had specifically requested that I not bring any gifts back, hence the loss of points on that question are voided.  I then countered that I have my computer in my room and can play a massive slideshow about my boys if they so wish.

In fact, I just might scroll through their photos now.  I miss you K & M!!  (S too.)