Travel Adventures

Liseberg Christmas

Last time I posted about Liseberg (the most awesome amusement park ever), it was to share the spectacular Halloween celebration that takes place throughout much of October. A couple of months has passed and things have changed drastically at this local, city owned amusement park. Liseberg has shed the horror visage and transformed into a winter wonderland, replete with lights, music, trees, and snowmen. It is the embodiment of the holiday season, in the middle of Göteborg.

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As my pregnancy nears completion, I’m working hard to stay active, no matter how much I would rather curl up in a ball of jersey cotton and nap. In addition to keeping moving, I also want to make as many memories as possible with my husband and son of this final season as a family of 3. Soon enough, we will have an extra member and new memories to make. To that end, this past weekend, after a good nap, we all bundled up and headed for the tram to Liseberg.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, one of the features that makes Liseberg stand out for me is the ease of arrival. Visiting this park doesn’t require a car or parking permit.  If you are in the city of Göteborg, you can access the park via many tram and bus lines. They are literally across the street from the park entrance. There is even a train that drops passengers off nearby.

When you add to that an extremely reasonable yearly entry pass, that costs 5% of the annual Disney California pass, that costs 5% of the annual Disney California pass and has no blackout dates; it is a place the entire family can enjoy year round. Most rides do require tickets, which is a change from many US amusement parks, but those are also reasonably priced. Parents with small children will appreciate that many rides are free for children under 110 cm in height and there are free shows and attractions taking place each day.

Now that I powered through the nitty gritty details, let’s talk about the magic of the season. Approaching Liseberg, my attention was initially caught by the beautiful trees and lights. As at Halloween, the exterior of the park was transformed to match the season. After a reasonable 5 minute wait in line (this is not always the case at busy times), we were all excited to see the holiday displays. Walking through the entry gates, a large tree decorated in brilliant lights captured everyone’s attention. Giant snowmen were scattered all along the path, waiting for their photo ops with grinning park goers. Children young and old posed excitedly with the life-sized decorations.

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Holiday music in both English and Svenska surrounded us thanks to speakers hidden throughout the park. At each turn there were “snow” flocked trees and bright lights. In addition to beautiful displays, we found one indoor Christmas market and two outdoor Christmas markets. Having been to many of these markets over the years, I thought I had seen all the types of gifts to be seen. I was wrong! Sweden definitely has it’s own traditions to enjoy.

There were medieval style gifts, gorgeous hand carved horses, jewelry, hand blown glass ornaments and more.

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Even the chocolate gifts were works of art.

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Glögg was available everywhere (spiced red wine) and for snacks you could grab a wide variety including läppkaka med smör (hot buttered flat bread with butter) and even läppkaka med ren (reindeer). I stuck with the butter, but the hubs said the reindeer was awesome. I did have a taste and it reminded me of venison, which I find quite nice.

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We didn’t stick to one area for long, but I couldn’t help but notice they were preparing for a complimentary Nutcracker on Ice show. Looking over the events calendar, they even have a medieval fun show to entertain guests. These are just some of the reasons why I love this park!

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Holiday events will take place through the 30th of December, after which the park will close for the season with the exception of paid events (concerts, plays, etc…).

Rather than wear your eyes out with my long winded descriptions of everything there is to see and do at Liseberg during the holiday season, I hope the pictures included in this blog will inspire you to visit.

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Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

Liseberg Halloween

After the morning I’ve had, I really need a pick me up. Many of you are probably feeling the same way right about now. In the absence of silly cat videos (though thankfully, someone did text me kitten pictures), I decided to write about our first Halloween in Sweden. Yes, Sweden—a gorgeous, snow-filled country populated with amazingly tall people and overflowing with delicious pastries. What Sweden does not have is a very clear understanding of Halloween. On Halloween night, we had no trick or treaters.   The next night we had two. On the 4th of November quite a few children were going around the neighbourhood in costume…intriguing. Despite this seeming confusion about when Halloween is celebrated, our city did have one really amazing Halloween celebration that lasted for two full weeks. That celebration took place at Liseberg; a grand amusement park located within the city of Göteborg that decks itself in full regalia for Halloween and Christmas. Today’s post will focus on Halloween.  Hopefully reading brings you to this fair city for a visit…or a relocation.

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Before I go into the details about Halloween, let me tell you a little bit about Liseberg. This park is actually owned by the city of Göteborg and has been operating since 1923! Perhaps because of it’s unique ownership, the park is not open year round and seems to be a bit less commercialized than other amusement parks. Open season lasts from April through October.  Limited hours are available in November and during the Christmas season, after which it closes again until April. Full details of open hours/days are available on the site I linked to this blog. Make sure to check before you book your tickets to visit 😉

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There are a numerous reasons why this is now my favorite amusement park ever. Keep in mind, I have been to three Disney parks, two Universal Studios, Enchanted Village, and Silverwood. While this does not make me an amusement park aficionado, it does mean I am not a complete newbie. Liseberg rises above all these parks for several reasons. The first is easy access. Liseberg is truly in the city. There are multiple tram and bus routes that stop directly outside the park. Anyone, local and tourist alike, can easily get to this park. Another awesome perk is that you are able to buy a yearly gate pass for about $30. Admittedly, it does not cover rides; but they have discount tickets for that and there is a lot to do without going on rides. There is a huge children’s play area as well as quite a few games you can play using coins when you get into the park. Those of you who will only be in town for a short time, don’t worry. They have single admission tickets that are even cheaper. As a plus for those of us with young (short) children, there is no entry fee for anyone under 110 cm and many rides are free for them as well. Oh, and those games I mentioned? Quite a few of them result in you bringing home 2kg of quality chocolate. Nothing wrong with that…

Upon approaching Liseberg at Halloween, you will immediately notice the giant Halloween display covering the front entrance. Huge replica jack o’lanterns and tree roots seem to swallow the walls. After buying your ticket, you will hear creepy music and see spookily lit waterfalls and scarecrows. These decorations are not for the faint of heart! Thankfully, it’s not all scary. There are also numerous displays of overflowing pumpkins, gourds, and other winter vegetables. Even the rides are lit up with mood enhancing lights. Halloween is truly alive at Liseberg.

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I recommend initially bringing young children during the daytime, because they do a very good job of setting the Halloween mood at night. Our first visit started during daylight hours and we were able to explain to our almost 4 year old that the displays were all plastic and the sounds were piped in over the speakers. This ensured that after night fell, he was confident and comfortable, even with the most realistic decorations. Thrill seekers will find terrifying haunted houses, but people who aren’t quite ready to risk a heart attack have plenty of options as well. Our little family stuck to the child friendly zones on both our visits. One highlight was an impromptu dance party started by a parade of people in costume that included a massive speaker blaring “In the Navy” and “Mambo #5”. It was HILARIOUS. Being an awesome Halloween crowd, adults were dancing along just as much as children.

Unsurprisingly, people who come earlier in the day will find extremely short lines that tend to swell after nightfall. Our first visit for Halloween started at 3pm. Entry took about one minute and the line for the big wheel was only 6 people long. Our second visit started after dark and it took us 10 minutes just to get into the park. We didn’t even attempt any rides that appealed to the masses. Thankfully, the child friendly rides didn’t have huge lines as night fell. I recommend arriving early and leaving after dark to get the full benefit of easy ride access and proper Halloween ambience.

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I know they aren’t silly cat videos, but I hope you enjoy the pictures from our visits. Hopefully they convey the full awesomeness that is Liseberg at Halloween. If you decide to visit or are relocating here, I hope you make the time to spend at least a day at this awesome local amusement park.

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

My First Swedish Fall

Fall has come to Sweden and following my last post, I thought some of you may want to know more about this country that provides free lunch to all school children…

I love fall.  Not for the pumpkin spice latte’s…I don’t drink coffee 😉

Fall is my favorite season because temperatures start to cool, but you still get to enjoy the beautiful sunny days. Cold, but sunny. There is also a certain stark beauty in trees that have shed their leaves. After months of green bounty, seeing them stripped to their base refreshes my senses.

Göteborg in the fall reminds me a lot of the Pacific Northwest (PNW), where I grew up. In the morning, it is crisp and cold. My breath billows out in front of me and I bundle up in a shirt, sweater, coat, and hat. By afternoon, the sun is high in the sky and a shirt and and coat suffice. It’s still crisp and cold, but not numbingly cold. Back home, there tends to be a bit more rain, a little less wind, and the temperatures aren’t quite as chilling this early in the season. Checking the 5 day forecast this week in Seattle, I saw lows in the 50’s (Fahrenheit) and highs in the 60’s. There were also several days with rain showers. Göteborg’s lows were in the mid 30’s with high’s in the mid 50’s.

Needless to say, morning and afternoon require different wardrobes. The sun rose high in the sky each day this week, fooling some new arrivals into thinking it was much warmer. My husband included…apparently he thought 30 degrees was good sandal weather. His frozen feet proved him wrong.

I’m not the only one who loves this weather. My little guy is also quite content. Usually he fights to not wear a jacket or sweater, but he is happily layering up and heading out each day. His time outside is a bit more comfortable without all the sweat. Clothing here for children is also a different from that of PNW children in October. Rather than a pair of pants, long sleeved shirt, and a warm jacket; he wears multiple layers. Generally, on top he wears a long sleeved shirt, fleece jacket, and warm puffy jacket. On bottom, he has on one layer of wool and one layer of cotton. He also has on wool socks. As the weather chills further, I will add a second layer of wool, and a fully insulated snowsuit. On the playground at his school, they ensure all the children are wearing rugged waterproof overalls to maximize heat retention. Remember, children in Sweden don’t just spend a half hour here and there outside. They spend at least half of the day outside during their younger years.

His only complaint is that he misses all the water features in Göteborg (splash pads and kiddie play features) that have been shut off. We had actually wondered about this, but now that the weather hits near freezing temperatures each night, it makes perfect sense.
Rather than splash about town, we are finding pine cones, crunching up brown leaves, and climbing trees. A pine cone collection is even amassing in the house, in preparation for an at home cinnamon pine cone project (like the ones you find Stateside in the grocery stores).

My goal is to recreate a few of the experiences I savor each year, here in Sweden. Hot apple cider is a must, as are pumpkin donuts and all things sweet potato. Since the customs here are not quite the same (Swedes love coffee and rather than donuts love cinnamon rolls), creativity is necessary.

Living in Göteborg in the fall is not quite the same as living in the PNW. Despite needing to improvise to enjoy longstanding traditions, I’m happy. Living in a society where having a healthy, happy family is the focus means this is one fall I will always remember.

Gothenburg, Sweden (by Petri Olderhvit) via 500px

Gothenburg, Sweden (by Petri Olderhvit)

Until next time…

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Parenting, Travel Adventures

Glorious Summer Break

The Hubby here, and I want to share my reflection of my first 3 week Swedish Summer Break.

When I started working in Sweden 6 months ago, I was warned by my new coworkers about the ritual that the whole country seems to enjoy: taking 3-4 weeks during Summer out of work.
As July approaches, the build up of excitement shows. Some might argue, around here, Summer break is a bigger deal than Christmas break.

All schools are closed.  All daycares are seemingly closed. Most people (except those in retail) take July off from work and flee the city.  Everyone working in Sweden is entitled to 25 days of paid vacation per year (that is 5 work weeks), so I can see why they make the most of it.  As a cherry on top, in Sweden, if you take vacation days, as part of collective bargaining, you might actually get paid a bit more than your regular salary.  They really want you to take those vacation days.

Taking long vacations from work is not something that we, as Americans, consider commonplace. So for this Summer break, I set two personal goals for myself: disconnect from work and bond with my son.

The first goal turned out to be surprisingly easy. I mean, it does make things a bit easier when most of the people in your office are also on vacation. Synchronised vacation has both pros and cons, but as far as helping me reach my personal goal: it’s a plus. I didn’t feel the urge to compulsively check my email on my phone like I always do when I was on vacation back in the States.

As for the other goal…

My relationship with my son has always been pretty good. But I always knew that I am no substitute for mommy – and there are areas where our son would not budge. Getting him to bed is one. He would get royally pissed off if mom is not in the room when he wakes up in the middle of the night, for instance. “I want mommy!” was a common plea.

One day I asked him:

“Do you love me?”
“Yes. But just a little bit”
“How about mommy?”
“A lot”

I don’t blame him. I was like that when I was his age, always looking for my mom. Not very many people know this, but one of the main reasons we left the States is because I worked too much – to the point of not spending enough time to bond with our newborn. Things were much better in England, but I feel that I hit a stride after moving to Gothenburg.
I’ve always been envious of all the dads out there on Facebook who manage to take a toddler for few nights on their own while the moms are having weekend trips. This was not my reality.

This summer, here are some of the awesome things the boy and I did together:

– Took a bus to Borås Zoo and Science Centre. The boy got some more dinosaur names to augment his dictionary, such as Apatosaurus
– Caught, hatched, and evolved lots and lots of Pokémon
– Slowly catching up with Pokémon Season One on YouTube (2 episodes per day only, I still remember the seizure concerns back in the days)
– Invented and acted out various made up Pokémon roles.
“Today I am Doggy, a high level Pokemon!” he yelled. “Hit Evolve button, Dad!” “How do you spell Evolve?” “E-V-O-L-V-E” I hit an imaginary button. Random dramatic noises. “I am Ultra! I have my Stomp and Stinky Balls! (don’t ask)”
– Recycled lots and lots of cans and bottles to save up for his coveted toy
– Using Pokémon Go evolution to teach him why saving up his hard earned money for a higher level, I mean, more expensive toy is better
– Took a speed boat to the Archipelago around Goteborg. “How fast?” “SO FAST!”
– Had him nap on me while we were on ferries and trams
– Saw him do his first forward roll, and the nine hundred rolls afterward (his patented Flip Fall, where he would pretend to fall then forward flip)
– Rode the back of a Triceratops
– Told him stories on trams. So many made up stories, involving our imaginary friends The Kraken, The Monster with One Thousand Eyes, Grabby the Toy Grabber, Terry the Pterodactyl, and hundreds more.
– Visited Copenhagen, took a nice tour boat ride on the canals
– Heard him say “Okay, here’s the game plan..”

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I feel that finally, I bonded with my son. Like really bonded. He’s actually looking for me, and letting Wifey focus on being healthy for <Number Two>.
I feel confident now laying down with him for naps and at night. Instead of yelling for mommy, he actually gives me a grin when he wakes up.

I am very much looking forward to another awesome Summer Break next year, where we will get to do a lot more of these awesome things together.

And so, the time for the Litmus test..
“Do you love me?”
He nodded.
“A lot?”
“Yes!”

 

 

“But I love mommy more, though”

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

Think Twice, Speak Once

Have you ever had one of those moments when you really, really want to say something to someone, but can’t because you are either stunned at their audacity or just too tired/sick/miserable to deal with them? I had one of those today.

While riding on an S-train in Copenhagen, Denmark (brilliant trains, large cars) with my toddler son, husband, and mother in a wheelchair, I was soundly told off. We ended up in the bicycle car to ensure space for the wheel chair. Unfortunately, the empty seats were at the opposite end of the car from the spot with space for the wheelchair. While my husband stayed next to mom and the chair, my toddler and I ended up a bit further down. Soon, a couple with bikes and a preteen child boarded. There were quite a few empty seats and bicycle slots on our end, so I didn’t think anything of it—until they made sure it was all I would think of for the rest of the day.

Those of you who read my last post know that I am suffering through a rough pregnancy. Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, I am finally able to get out and about again, hence the travel. That said, it’s not always fun. Today I was nauseous and bloated and sweating profusely. It was rough. Then, that delightful family boarded and the oh so helpful Danish woman felt the need to tell my nauseous self that my son and I were not welcome in that car because we didn’t have a bike (though she made this assumption based on the fact that I was speaking English with my son). Being pregnant and tired, I decided to just acquiesce because I didn’t feel like fighting. Being sick and miserable, I decided to be a bit passive aggressive. Instead of arguing with her, I hollered across the car to my husband “Hey, is it possible to push down that seat next to mom’s wheelchair? Apparently this car is only for people with bicycles.” That’s right. Hollered. The woman looked visibly embarrassed when she realized we were with a person in a wheelchair — as she should. Unfortunately for her, she did not look embarrassed for my ill self. After we were settled into a new seat with my son on my lap (no extra seats on this end) and he was giving me pretend presents, I asked him (loudly) whether he had any presents for the baby in mamas belly. At this point the woman’s face was no longer visible; she was hiding behind a partition. I could still see her husband’s face and when he heard the words “baby in mama’s belly” and realized his wife forced a pregnant woman with a toddler and a wheelchair bound passenger out of her seat, he cringed. Deservedly.

Is there a moral to this story or did I just need to vent? Probably the right answer is a little of both. Try your best to not make assumptions about people. As a family member of someone in a wheelchair, I had every right to sit in that seat. As a pregnant woman with a toddler, there was no reason for me to be told to move while on a moving tram. This family assumed I was using designated space without a right and that I was fully able-bodied. It’s an assumption many people make. My disabled grandmother always reminded me that not all disabilities are visible and we shouldn’t make judgements about peoples’ health. Her disability was hidden on her ankle, under a pair of pants. She was tall and strong, but walking more than 50 meters was excruciatingly painful. One would never know it by just looking.

If you ever find yourself tempted to correct a stranger in public, please keep in mind that it is impossible to know every circumstance taking place in the lives of others. Even if that person you see or talk to appears physically well, you just can’t know. Save yourself and the other person potential embarrassment and discomfort and think twice before speaking up.

Lastly, only jerks make people with children move seats when there are plenty of seats available. Don’t be a jerk.

Copenhagen Bike Train

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

The Human Family

Many ideas for blogs have been swimming in my head this past week, but none resonated enough for me to put fingers to keyboard. This morning that changed. In an effort to be more productive, I set off to the grocery store at 8am—thinking this would put me ahead for the day and I would be home with plenty of time to get my laundry switched over. Those of you who read this blog know the importance of laundry day. The weather was glorious — cool and damp following an overnight rain. Approaching the store, I finished up a Voxer message to a friend back home. I had no expectation of human companionship and was focused entirely on getting in and out of the store with no extra purchases (I tend to dawdle).

My plan changed almost immediately. After I grabbed the first item on my list (a carton of rice milk) from a shelf near the entry, a woman flagged me down from the bread aisle for assistance. Some of you may find this odd, but as a former courtesy clerk (aka: grocery bagger), it happens to me quite frequently. I just have one of those faces. As I approached, I explained “Jag pratar engelska. Jag pratar inte svenska.” In my broken svenska, that means, “I speak english, I do not speak svenska.” FYI, Google Translate tells me I should have said “Jag talar engelska , jag talar inte svenska”.  Despite this warning and her inability to speak English, she was not deterred. Using hand gestures, rudimentary svenska, and Google, I was able to piece together the fact that she needed to know the price of the bread she was holding. Thankfully, the tag had just been shoved off to the side a bit. I suspect she also forgot her reading glasses…

Next, she explained to me (once again, in our cobbled together communication) that she needed to know if the bread was halal. I’m not overly familiar with halal guidelines and just in case it involved more than pork, I double checked the internet. A quick review left me equally confused. After using my translation app to explain to her that there were no pork byproducts in the bread and also no halal labeling, I explained it was probably “bra” or good. She placed the bread in her basket and we both started to go our separate ways. Or so I thought…

Just when I was about to get goal oriented again, she grasped my sleeve and directed me to the dairy aisle. This too has happened to me before. I just go with it. She explained that she needed lactose free milk (laktosfri in svenska). Isn’t it amazing how much you can understand without speaking the same language? A few more words were exchanged, she expressed her thanks, and we parted. Little did she know, I too am thankful. Living in a foreign country can feel very isolating. The language barrier causes confusion and slows down relationships that might otherwise rapidly flourish. Having an early morning conversation of sorts with a friendly woman helped me feel more a part of the community. It reminded me that no matter how small the contribution, I could improve a stranger’s day. I recently explained to my son that strangers are just people we haven’t met yet and that most of them are good people. Today reaffirmed my commitment to that statement. This woman and I may never talk again. We speak different languages, have different religious beliefs, and have no way of purposely reconnecting. Nonetheless, she’s no longer a stranger. She’s now a reminder to me of the fact that we are all connected and in some ways, all family who need to look out for each other.

If you ever feel alone, isolated, or unable to connect, remember this story. Language and beliefs do not have to be a barrier.  Even strangers often care enough to help if we just give them a chance.

Until next time…

Image from diabeticlivingonline.com

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Travel Adventures

Signs of Spring

Just days after our cold spell, Göteborg decided to get warm again — 26 degrees Celsius in our house to be exact! If you, like me, need to look up the conversion for that, it is roughly 78 degrees Fahrenheit! Yikes! I am a heat wimp, so needless to say, I contacted our landlord right away. He is so awesome that within 2 days there was an air conditioner set up in our living room (which I am enjoying right this minute). Spring and sun mean flowers in Göteborg. This past week, at the request of a subscriber, I’ve been snapping as many photos of the beautiful blooms as I can to share with you.

Being a compact city, I wasn’t expecting the sheer amount of greenery that is prevalent in this city. Each neighborhood has flower displays and trees in bloom. The amusement park, Liseberg, has an amazing array as well (there will be a big post on Liseberg coming!). Daffodils and tulips are the most common, but pansies are occasionally represented. I’ve seen pansies as big as my palm!

Many are common, but some are exotic to my uneducated eyes. Here is one that my friend Travis over at GardenSphere, in Tacoma, WA tells me is a Crown Fritillaria. As an aside, he says they smell like marijuana ;). So that’s what I was smelling…

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An interesting tidbit I picked up at my son’s school this week is that they teach the children (his school, I don’t know about others), that it is best to let the flowers stay in the ground so they can continue to grow and live. This doesn’t mean they don’t sell cut flowers, they sell many, but it does mean the children do think twice before plucking blooms from the neighbors flower beds 😉

I will leave you with these pictures of the flowers around town and hope you enjoy your week!

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Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

May Day

Growing up, I did not pay attention to the meaning of May Day. Mainly, it was just my Grandma’s birthday. I knew flowers were involved and had heard about a May Pole (whatever that is…). Sadly, this trend continued my entire life. Part of this ignorance is my own fault and part is due to the fact that it never really interfered with my life. I’m sure there were events and parades and what have you, but I was completely oblivious to them.

This past weekend, May Day smacked me in the face.  After a long walk through Slottskogan in new shoes (a blog for another day), my feet ached.  I was desperate to hop on a tram, get home, and change shoes.  Altogether, I expected a walk of about one kilometer.  As we passed tram stop after tram stop that were closed to traffic, I realized  that wasn’t one bit realistic.  After about two kilometers, just ahead, we heard drumming.  Loud drumming!  Then shouts and chanting.  Finally, at Järntorget, we saw a huge crowd gathered.  Signs were waving about as drummers beat on drums and people shouted through a megaphone.  Oh no!  Was this another closed stop?  Thankfully, no.  It was open, but only one half was functioning.  As we passed through, I saw the signs and realized this was a May Day demonstration.  Suddenly, I found myself very curious about this day and the fervor of the people gathered.

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Thanks to the power of the internet, I now know at least a little more.  I found this site very useful.  Reading it reminded me of the information I learned in my AP Civics class about the abominable working conditions in the 19th century and also reminded me of the struggles our forefathers and mothers suffered to unionize.  I’ve always worked within the confines of a labor union.  I won’t say there aren’t arguments against them, but I truly believe that without them, we would rapidly degenerate into a society that once again treats people as disposable goods. Checks and balances are needed to ensure employers do not ignore the need for at least some balance in workers’ lives.  As the linked article states, “Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers’ lives for profit.”

I remember at my first job, in addition to the state labor laws that ensured 8 hours off between shifts and minors leaving work by 10pm, the Union bylaws ensured medical and dental insurance and protections for employees against unfair termination. The same was true in my former career, though because it was a federal position, the rules were even more strict.

Enough about me though, according to the article, the first May Day was celebrated on May 1, 1886 when more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs.  Did you read that correctly?  That’s right, just 120 years ago in the United States, May Day came into being.  This is our legacy. The United States declared independence on July 4, 1776.  There are houses in Sweden older than our country.  Yet somehow, even though we were a young country, we banded together to do something great.  Despite that, during my formative years, it really didn’t have much of an impact.  I found this article by Paul Hogarth, that supports my own recollection and helped me to accept that I wasn’t imagining it.  Mr. Hogarth explains:

“In 1894, after the Pullman Strike (which also happened in Chicago), President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day — the first Monday in September — a national holiday. Labor Day was chosen to intentionally co-opt May Day, because they feared commemorating the Haymarket Riot would build support for communism and other radical causes. In 1958 during the McCarthy Era, President Dwight Eisenhower took it even further by signing a law making May 1st Loyalty Day. And in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan enacted May 1st as “Law Day.””

Things may be different in the States than they were when I left just over two years ago.  I read today that there were riots and violence in many places on May Day, so it is being recognized to some extent.  However, that type of behavior is unacceptable to me.  Growing up, it would have made me scared of the day and discouraged me from participating.  The demonstration here in Göteborg that I witnessed was completely peaceful.  Children and adults of all ages, able bodied and disabled, all participated.  They had no reason to fear their fellow demonstrators.  

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It’s true, as a Socialist country, Swedish citizens feel strongly about equality and fairness for workers. They also wholeheartedly recognize this important day. Yes, the celebrations which preceded the modern day May Day did involve May Poles and flower garlands, but the spirit of that first workers’ rights demonstration is so much more impactful for modern citizens than a Pagan holiday (no offense friendly Pagan and Wiccan readers, I still love you).

Not all battles require a military and not all wars occur in distant lands.

Despite my sore and blistered feet that were too swollen to squeeze into my usual shoes the next day, I’m very thankful for that demonstration. It reminded me of the good that came from my country and the importance of never forgetting the lives sacrificed to ensure my freedom. Not all battles require a military and not all wars occur in distant lands. It is the responsibility of the people to ensure equitable treatment. Hopefully this blog will travel to some other soul who really didn’t understand the importance of May 1st. If that person takes the time to read the links and then looks deeper, that’s even better.

Thank you for reading. Don’t forget, fair treatment of workers is not just a Socialist concept. It’s a basic human right.

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Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

Spring has Sprung!  Or has it?

This blog was supposed to be full of beautiful pictures of spring in Göteborg and it is, but some of those pictures may surprise you. Spring in Sweden isn’t quite what everyone is expecting.

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Spring has always been my favorite season.  I love the rejuvenation that takes place after a winter of dormancy.  As a Pacific Northwest native and a recent resident of the United Kingdom, rain does not bother me (most of the time).  Watching great beads of water drip off leaves and knowing they are nourishing the earth and cleaning the air always makes me feel optimism for the future.  Moving to Sweden, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.  I was told that Göteborg was “quite raw” and to be prepared for a lot of rain.  Thus far, the city has not lived up to this reputation.  Instead, Spring has been filled with crisp and cold morning air, followed up by warm afternoons (as high as 55 degrees!).  Sometimes I even go out in long sleeved t-shirts, though the brisk wind often discourages that idea.  Above me, the sky has primarily been a gorgeous blue, with puffy white clouds.  This is not to say it doesn’t rain, it just seems to come and go in the night.  As I thought about it the other day, it reminded me of my time at Gonzaga.  Spokane in the spring is beautiful as is Göteborg.

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How about the scenery? That too is spectacular (aside from the slightly larger number of individuals enjoying bouts of public intoxication…). In the past two weeks, the ground has gone from barren to being littered with tulips and daffodils of all colors. They are everywhere! Even the cherry trees are blooming. As you might imagine, this warming trend had me planning to store away all of the winter clothes and begin the spring cleaning. Just as I started to mentally prepare, the hubs warned me to expect snow this weekend. Huh?? Snow? Why on earth would there be snow in spring? This isn’t Colorado! No, it’s Sweden. 😛

Surprisingly, today the weather forecast proved itself accurate.  Small balls of hail started mid afternoon while we were out, then quickly gave way to brilliant blue skies.  We were lured into complacency!  Around 5pm, we decided it was time to grab some groceries.  As we reached the store, the hail began.  By the time we left, there was a full blown hail storm outside! Great droves of hail pummeled us all the way home.  Shortly after closing the door, it was gone.  Poof… no more hail.

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This spring weather may not be for everyone, but for a person who hates sweating, I much prefer it to the 70 + degree weather back home in the Seattle area. Global warming is not my friend.

If you are moving to Göteborg, or planning to visit in the spring, make sure to pack for all possibilities.  Personally, I will be keeping out the winter gear for at least a little longer.

Until next time…

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Travel Adventures

It’s not all rosy…

I suspect sometimes this blog comes off as a bright and cheery optimists view of all things Sweden. While I am thrilled with many facets of our move, there are also stark realities that I find irritating, sad, and just plain frustrating. One of those realities has reared up and smacked me on the head not once, but twice in the past two months. Here it is, for your reading pleasure.

Most of my life I have worked and worked diligently. I began babysitting for neighbors in very short stints from elementary school (I can’t help it, I’m responsible). In high school, as soon as I was able, I began working at a grocery store, while also going to school and participating in community service. The same held true for college, though the jobs changed. After college, I immediately began temp jobs while attending interviews for permanent employment. Thankfully, one month after graduation, I began work with the Federal Government. While my job wasn’t always a cheerful one, it was meaningful. The relationships I built during those years keep me going even today. Leaving my career was something I embraced on principle, but mentally and emotionally it was HARD.

As a zealous advocate for improving credit, prior to becoming a stay at home mom, I did extensive research about credit and how it would be affected by this choice. Thankfully, I discovered that US laws had been changed to be more accommodating to stay at home spouses. In fact, at the time of my research, I read that the working spouse’s credit could be used by the stay at home spouse when applying for cars, credit cards, etc… Thank goodness! Knowing that my decision wouldn’t put me at a financial disadvantage (credit wise anyway) made me feel a lot better.

Fast forward 3 years. We’ve moved countries twice and I’ve continued to stay with our son. Childcare was exorbitant in England, and my past experience with the government made me more suited to working in London with a long commute than it did in our town in Surrey. My husband initially set up our utilities and such when I was busy with our son; which did cause me problems when I would call them to try to make changes, but I didn’t worry too much about it (perhaps I should have…).

Strike 1

Now let’s move to present day. This move, the only utility we need is internet; everything else is provided. The wonderful management in the apartment building we are currently at helped me contact the internet company and set everything up. Then, there was a hiccup. They sent not one, but two routers! Oh man… What to do? Well, the office called them for me and found out that they would not talk to me about this issue. Apparently they would only speak to my husband. Since I do not have a job, they only had his name on the account and wanted to speak to him directly. It took two months to get this resolved because while I have more free time to contact them, that’s not a choice. Apparently being married doesn’t equate to the right to request a label to return a router.

Strike 2

The second happened just recently. Upon receipt of our personal numbers, the hubs and I were super excited to establish a proper bank account. Our awesome relocation expert took us to the bank and got everything rolling. The banker then explained that we were eligible for credit cards. Wait, did I say “we”? That’s not what she said. She said my husband was eligible. We explained that we both need cards and she asked him if he was okay with me having a card. She looked perturbed. Not just the usual stoic Swede—perturbed. He was stunned. I was peeved (don’t worry, I held it in). After he explained that yes, of course he wanted that, she finally took action to submit the request. All night I alternated between angry and sad. Angry that the work I do is considered so unappreciated and sad that society sees my contribution as so insignificant.

Strike 3

That leads me to the latest incident. After two months of using top up codes from the local convenience stores to access cell phone service, I decided to commit to a monthly phone plan. I enlisted a Swedish friend who helped me pick a good provider and then called them to discuss. The young man helping me was wonderful. Unfortunately, and much to his embarrassment, my lack of a job makes me ineligible to establish my own cell service. Even though my husband and I have a joint bank account, I am still unable to establish my own service. Hubby can grant me access to a phone on his plan, but I will not have the ability to contact the company on my own. Once again, despite having more availability to arrange things, I will be prevented from taking action.

Many of you may not be able to relate to this story, but those of you who left employment for one reason or another will likely understand. Once upon a time, I based most of my self worth on my job performance. It took a long time for me to move past that and to see other ways in which I contribute to society. I’m still figuring out ways to do that and get paid. I feel that these roadblocks don’t fit with this society entrenched in the idea of equality and the inherent value of each and every person. It makes sense to me that a bank or any corporation would be leery of giving a credit card or monthly service to someone without access to money. It does not make sense to me that someone with access to funds and who is married to the person earning the funds is not eligible to open accounts as a primary (even with a co-signer) or make calls to handle things with customer service.

It is likely that a situation like mine was previously unheard of in Sweden. The benefits provided to working Swedes who have children ensure they can stay home at least a year to care for them while still receiving a paycheck. As a result, most Swedes would never come across this situation. Since we had our child in another country and I was not working here prior to his birth, I am not eligible for those benefits and I agree with that. I just wish there was a system in place whereby I could still build credit even without a job. If anyone out there knows if there is, let me know 😃

Not out of the game yet

My husband always tells me I’m a natural born tester. If something can go wrong with any program or product, it will become a problem for me. I guess this is just one of those situations. Hopefully as Sweden evolves to handle the influx of immigrants that recently arrived, solutions will be found. If not, I will have to accelerate those Svenska lessons to help find gainful employment, because having no credit on a long term basis is just not something my mama would accept 😉

Don’t worry Sweden, I still love you, now I just understand you a bit better. To all of you out there in the same boat, hang in there. This too shall pass.

Until next time…

 

Image from gobankingrates.com

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