Thursday, June 28, 2007

'No record of your reservation'

I had a little scare yesterday when I called Northwest Airlines to confirm that our names had been corrected. They said they have no record of our reservation.

My boyfriend Albie and I are flying to Sweden for one week in September. My former host father in New York was nice enough to find us great, cheap tickets through his American Express account with some frequent flyer miles added on. When I got the confirmation a month ago, however, I noticed that both our names were misspelled. My host father promised to take care of it.

"There are no remaining flights in this reservation," it said on the web site when I finally manged to log into our reservation.
"I'm sorry, that reservation has been cancelled," the nice lady on the phone explained.

"Oh crap! No Sweden for us!" I thought.

Well, after 45 minutes on the phone with American Express, it turned out that it was all their fault. When the names were being changed, they had to cancel one reservation and make an entirely new one. The new one was never made.

We're all set now, though. Sweden, here we come!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Getting away with a warning

On my way to IKEA on Saturday I was pulled over by a Connecticut State Police officer. I had just gotten off the highway and I could see the Swedish store about 50 feet further up the road.

The trooper claimed there was a sign at the stop light that said “No Turn on Red” (In America you can turn right when there is a red light after you stop, unless you’re in New York City or unless there is a sign directing you not to). The state must have just put the sign up, because it’s never been there before, and nobody I talked to afterward remembered seeing this alleged sign.

The police have pulled me over four times before in the nine years that I’ve been here. It always makes me panic inside, but so far, I’ve never gotten a ticket. I credit it to being blonde and being Swedish.

I was pulled over in Bronxville, N.Y., during my first few months in this country. I was driving my host father’s big white Chevy Suburban and I had just turned left before a red light (it was unclear whether that particular light was for my intersection or just the intersection a little further ahead). A group of us were heading to Yonkers to volunteer at a Thanksgiving dinner. I had lost the person I was supposed to follow – the woman with the directions – and also the person who was supposed to follow me.

As I struggled to pull out my Swedish driver’s license from my bag and find some type of registration papers, the Bronxville officer knocked on my window.

“I’m supposed to give you these,” he said and handed me a sheet of paper with scribbles on it.

“Huh?” I said.

“They’re directions. From Valerie,” he clarified. “She told me to look for your big white truck with Vermont license plates.”

“Oh,” I said. “I thought you pulled me over because I turned left when it was a red light.”

He said I kind of did, but it didn’t really matter. He then preceded to explain the directions, making sure I knew where to go. In the meantime, the person who was following me had time to catch up. She just didn’t expect me to be chatting with the police.

About a year later, I pulled up in front of my friend’s house in Scarsdale in my blue pick-up truck with Vermont plates and noticed a police car pulling up behind me. When I got out, he explained that my tax sticker on my license plate could not be seen and therefore he thought the plate was expired.

“We get a lot of people living here who use expired out-of-state plates and think they can get away with it,” he said.

I assured him that wasn’t me, and that I would take care of the problem immediately. Of course, I never did. A few years later, however, I had a new car and it didn’t matter anymore.

Going to school one day on the Sprain Brook Parkway I passed a New York state trooper with a radar gun while doing 70 miles per hour. I quickly slowed down, but he had already jumped in his car and was chasing after me.

“What is the speed limit and the only speed limit in New York state?” he asked brusquely.

“55?” I replied, hesitantly.

“And exactly how fast were you going, miss?”


“Ha! Try 71!”

I looked surprised. He glanced over to the passenger seat at my friend Almut from Germany who was visiting. I believe I said something about school, and I may have shown him my license. Then he gave me a warning, and let me drive off.

When I started working in Torrington, Conn., I was pulled over again. It was a bad day at work, I was already crying, and I was dying to get home and just get the hell out of there. I almost made it to the highway entrance when I saw the blinking lights in my mirror and had to pull over.

The Torrington officer was appalled at my driving. He had been following me almost since the newspaper office and said he’d had a hard time keeping up with me. I had no idea.

My Swedish and international licenses and Vermont registration confused him.

“I’m a student,” I said, because if you are a student you do not have to change your registration and plates to the state where you are living “temporarily.”

He asked me about school and then he realized that I was crying. His voice grew worried.

“What’s the matter?” he wanted to know.

“I had a really bad day at work,” I sniffled.

I told him about my “internship” at the newspaper (you can’t both be a student and a temporary H1-B worker when it comes to license plates). He asked me where I was going, then he was quiet for a few seconds.

“Well, take it easy now,” he finally said. “And slow down, ok?”

I promised and drove off.

So from these experiences I’ve learned some stuff that I applied to Saturday’s incident:

1) Have all your papers in order (insurance, registration, license, international license)
2) Wear your seat belt so they have no other reason to ticket you
3) Be polite, but only offer what is asked
4) Cry if you must

Do I need to add that there was no ticket on Saturday, just a warning? The Connecticut trooper ran my registration on his laptop and it came back clear. I told him the student story and that I am from Sweden. After that, I was free to go.

Midsummer at IKEA

The sun was blazing and the sky was clear as 15 Scandinavian singers gathered in the parking lot of IKEA in New Haven to spread some summer joy. A good 30 people in the audience gladly sang along to traditional Swedish songs like “Sköna maj” (Beautiful May) and “Hälsa dem därhemma” (Great My Dear Old Mother).

But it must have been a sight for the American onlookers (including some IKEA employees) when all those familiar with Swedish traditions eagerly got out of the lawn chairs to dance around a maypole. The pole was, of course, decorated with leaves and colorful flowers and stood about six feet tall.

Vivan Sundman, a Swede living in the Fairfield area, led the group on her accordion through “Vi äro musikanter” (We are Musicians) and the singers guided other participants through the gestures of playing the violin, the bass and the flute. To top it all off, Vivan played “Små grodorna,” a song about frogs that have no ears or tails.

I, of course, sang out loud and clear for this one, gesturing wildly with my hands by my ears (to show that frogs have no ears) and wiggling my hands over my butt behind my back (because frogs have no tails). All 50 people in a circle around the pole – the majority of them over 50 years old – gladly imitated me and jumped as I jumped while we were singing ‘kow-ack-ack-ack.’ That must have been some sight.

In Sweden, children are the ones dancing around the maypole. One chorus member from Karlstad, Sweden, had specifically said prior to the performance that he would participate in no such thing. But when the celebration started, he was jumping around with everyone else, a big grin on his face.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Singing at IKEA

My chorus, the Scandinavian Women's Chorus of Connecticut, and our guy friends in Apollo have been asked to sing at IKEA in New Haven on Saturday.

This is exciting for many reasons. First, I get to sing Swedish music for people who care about Swedish furniture and Swedish stuff. Second, I get to shop at IKEA when we are done. I really need to replenish my supply of Kalles Kaviar, Dajm and Ahlgren's Bilar.

The only problem... we have to meet at 10 a.m. for an 11 a.m. performance!!! Since I work nights, I am usually not awake before noon. But I guess I can make an exception for this very special occasion...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

'Just another year'

When I came to the United States, it was only supposed to be for a year.

It was August 1998, and I stepped off my KLM flight from Amsterdam and walked through two sliding doors into a disgustingly humid summer night at JFK airport. The hotel room I was sharing with three other au pairs-to-be had air conditioning, but neither of us knew how to turn it on.

I complained to my host father that night on the phone. I said “I don’t know if I can take this heat!” Laughing, he told me I wouldn’t have to worry about being hot in his home. I soon learned that he keeps the entire house at a comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit year round. “You’re gonna like it here,” he said.

It wasn’t long before he predicted I was here to stay. “I’ll make a bet with you,” he said, “that you’ll still be here in five years.”

“No way,” I told him. “This is only for a year. Then I’m going back to Sweden.”
He smiled, nodded, and said, “We’ll see.”

Around Christmastime, I was thinking that perhaps a year wasn’t sufficient for all I wanted to do. Being placed near New York, I hadn’t had a chance to see the West Coast yet. The Grand Canyon, of course, was a must, and I should really try to visit Texas, Florida and Alaska as well. Then again, there were enough things in New York City to keep me busy. I just couldn’t get enough of this fast-paced area that’s never asleep.

I approached my host father about this problem. He was ready with a solution. “You should go to school,” he said. “Take some college classes, and get a student visa to stay for another year.”

So, in the summer of 1999, I took two weeks off to go home to Sweden, get a new passport and get a new visa. My grandmother asked me why I was going away again, and I assured her, “It’s just one more year.” Then I was off again.

Community college was exciting. I took classes during the day and was home at 3 p.m. when Little Mike got out of school. We did our homework, played some Nintendo, had some dinner.

Of course, you don’t get a degree at a community college unless you go full-time for two years – 64 credits. Since the first year was so easy, I decided I should really just stay and get an associate’s degree. The visa was already approved for another year, so why not? It was just another year.

But living with a family that’s not your own, no matter how close you are, can get bothersome. I realized that to really be able to focus on school, I should move into my own place. I got some student loans from Sweden, and I found myself a roommate. And my third year was on its way.

Now, an associate’s degree doesn’t really count for much in Sweden. You need a bachelor’s degree, at least, for the school board to consider it. That takes two more years. Again, I had to make some decisions. I could go back to Sweden, or I could stay and finish my degree. I chose to stay.

Money was, of course, always the issue. With guidance from my host father, I sent out six college applications. All of them were accepted. Three schools offered me scholarships. Quinnipiac University offered me two scholarships, so it was obvious I was headed for Connecticut.

With student loans and the two scholarships, I was still about $5,000 short of a year’s tuition. I therefore decided to work in wealthy Greenwich for a summer with a nice family that had four children, a dog, a cat, a bird, fish and a lizard. In the fall, I went to Quinnipiac and my fourth year in this country was on its way.

It was pretty obvious that I should stay and finish my degree, so the fifth year there was never an option of going back. And once you have a degree, you are allowed work in the United States for one year to do what is called “Optical Practical Training.” At this point, in 2003, I had stopped saying “just another year.”

It’s now 2007, and I will reluctantly admit that my host father was right. Perhaps, after nine years, I can say that I am here to stay, after all. But it was never my intention. It was just what life had in store for me. Sometimes, I guess others can predict your future better than you can.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Winter in Southern Vermont

Another travel writing piece from 2002:

I had spent many winters in this little ski town in southern Vermont. So many, in fact, that it started to feel like a home to me. I knew the house at the end of High Hopes Road as well as I knew my own, and I knew my way around the woods surrounding the house; I had followed the little stream up to the tiny waterfall and back down again during falls, winters, summers and springs.

This time, however, I was here with a friend, a friend who wanted to see Vermont for what it really is. I was self appointed as her enthusiastic tour guide, and I swore I would give her an authentic experience.

West Dover, Vermont, is located about 40 minutes off of Exit 2 on I-91. Because of its convenient location, it has become a popular tourist town during all seasons, except for spring, maybe, when half of the roads are closed due to thawing of the frozen ground. During the summer, people from New York and Connecticut drive the three hours up here to play golf, to go fishing or to bike and hike the mountains.

During the fall, the same tourists come up here to stay at a Bed & Breakfast and enjoy the magnificent change of colors on the trees. There aren’t many things to do, but just driving around to take in all the beauty is enough for most people.

During the winter, West Dover is flourishing. With its five ski shops just in the center of town it serves the tourists with all the newest equipment necessary to hit the slopes. Mount Snow is located not even five minutes from the center of town, and while the price of a lift ticket is on the steep side, it is nothing compared to the tickets at classy Stratton Mountain, located only fifteen minutes away.

This time there was no snow on the ground, but since it was winter, my friend decided she should try skiing at Mount Snow. After spending three days relaxing at the house – eating, watching movies, and sleeping – we dragged ourselves out of the heavenly comfortable beds at 7:30 in the morning to go rent skis. We were the first to enter World Class Ski Shop that morning, and as I started filling out the release form for rentals, Mirek, the Czech store owner, came running into the store from his back office.

“It’s been a while since you were here,” he remarked. “We changed some things around.”
Being that I own my own equipment, as do most people who spend at least five weekends a year in Vermont, I had never actually rented skis for my own benefit. I had, however, brought Mirek many other customers, and I was well-known among the staff. Since it was a Wednesday at the end of the season, Mirek didn’t expect nor did he have many customers, so he gave us all his time and attention.

The first ski boot was tried on, and my friend started complaining. “It hurts. Is it supposed to feel like this? I think it is too small.” Mirek and I glanced at each other over the counter.
“Push your knee forward,” I instructed. “Are your toes hitting the front of the boot?” My friend said they weren’t, but that the boots hurt around her ankle.

Mirek looked at my friend with sympathy and asked if she had ever skied before. She told him the truth and he said, “I’ve got just what you need, then” and he picked up the shortest pair of skis I had ever seen given to an adult.
“These are shaped skis and they will help you turn,” he said.

Except for the fact that I had told her many times how easy it was to ski, my friend’s upcoming disappointment really wasn’t my fault. I walked over to the tiny ticket-window to purchase the lift tickets while my friend was stumbling along in her boots, and the equipment pointing in all sorts of directions. She started complaining that her feet hurt. I told her she would be fine.

We did a ten-minute lesson in how to put the skis on – toes first and then push the heel of the boot down. Take the skis off and try again. My friend was very nervous about the lift, but I tried to calm her down by saying that it was easy; she didn’t have to do anything except to sit down, and then stand up again.

When the lift chair finally approached us my friend fell, and the South African seasonal worker had to press the emergency stopper. Getting off the lift was easier, and then we started with the turning. Rather, I turned – my friend didn’t.

To me, the slope we were on seemed flat enough for a beginner – a beginner who had refused to sign up for ski-lessons. As I skied across the trail I instructed, “Put your weight on the left side of your skis and lean towards the mountain.”

I stopped and turned around. My friend was going straight down. “Turn, turn, turn!” I yelled, but it was too late. She was already sitting down, poles sticking out of the snow a little bit above her.

Lessons in snow plowing, getting up without going straight down, and bending your knees followed, and after an hour we were finally at the bottom of the bunny slope. “I’m not doing this anymore,” my friend said. “You go on without me.”

After returning my friend’s skis to a smirking Mirek at the ski-shop, my friend wanted to stop at a souvenir store she had seen on the way. I hesitated for a moment. That shop was no place for me. What if someone I knew saw me go in there? On the other hand, I thought, what is wrong with being a tourist every now and then? Plus, it was for my friend’s sake we were going into the store, not for me.

My friend looked around at all the moose shirts and Mount Snow hats, and I stayed uncomfortably in one corner of the store. “Look at this one!” she suddenly yelled to me from across the store. “Wouldn’t this be great for my mom? Come and look at it!”

Forty dollars later I managed to sneak out of the gift shop and crawl back into my car. What made it even worse was that I had Vermont plates on my car. Vermont cars do not park outside gift shops.

We drove past Barry’s house and continued down to the General Store, where I pulled up with my pick up truck in front of the sign saying “Parallel parkers will be shot.” “I’m just going in to get some milk and cheese,” I said. “Do you wanna come?”

I always had to get cheese when I went to the General Store. This store is the only place I know where they actually sell real Vermont cheddar cheese, not the kind you get at Stop and Shop. The cheese is displayed in the store on a big, round pillar, and Lissa cuts pieces out of it like you would cut a piece of cake.

As we are watching the cheese being cut, a man walks past us into the narrow isle of pasta. “That’s Dan Hescock,” I whisper. “He is the guy that always inspects my car.”

This car inspector is widely known, not only up here in Vermont. Hescock is the reason why my car is still out on the roads, even though I have no horn, no parking break and no back-up lights. Every year when I go to inspect my car, he says to me, “It looks like your back-up lights aren’t working,” and I give him a surprised look and say, “Oh, really?” Sometimes he asks if I want him to take a look at it, and sometimes he just says I should consider getting it fixed. I really should consider getting it fixed. On the other hand, I don’t even know if the car will last until next year’s inspection, so what’s the point?

The only reason the car was purchased in the first place, by the man who owns the house at the end of High Hopes Road, was to drive garbage to the dump. Oh, the Dump! I realize this is the only thing I have forgotten to show my friend.

The Dump, where everything is now sorted into household garbage on the left, colored glass and white glass a little further over, and metal, scraps and anything else you can’t dispose of on the right. The Dump is usually muddy, but the man who works there is nice. When I tell my friend about it she isn’t excited at all about going to see it.

“But the man who works there gives you lollipops when you drop off all your bottles and cans,” I say enthusiastically.

My friend just shakes her head at me. Maybe another time.

Visiting New York on a tight budget

This is actually a story I wrote for my travel writing class at Quinnipiac University a few years ago, but I think it works well here, too:

When I was in New York this weekend, I realized that no matter how much money I have with me, I always manage to spend it all. There’s no city that can make me go as crazy as New York can. I always need money for the train, some food, and then some shopping, those $5 coffees from Starbucks and then some more food… and it can go on like that until I am up to over $100 for a day.

Then I thought about all those other times when I have actually gone to Manhattan without bringing hardly any money, and I’ve had just as much fun. Without spending any money, you can still experience the fresh green, slightly wet grass in Central Park, the smell of fresh fish off the ship at the South Street Seaport or the sounds of angrily honking taxicabs trying to cross over Seventh Avenue at Times Square.

There are several ways you can go to New York on a tight budget. First of all, don’t waste $25 on taking the Metro North into the city from New Haven (or wherever you are coming from). Instead, if you have a car, drive down to the Bronx and take the subway to Manhattan for $1.50. Of course, you have to know your way around the Bronx a little, because you don’t want to park in the back streets of South Bronx and come back from a day in the city to find out your windows, your stereo, and your seats are gone. Nor would you want to come back from the city to find out that you have a $25 parking ticket because you parked on the wrong side of South Broadway.

The best places to park are right around subway 5 (green) or the 1 and 9 (red). You can get to number 5 by taking exit 7 off the Merritt Pkwy (of course it will change to Hutchinson River Pkwy as you enter Westchester County), and you can get to number 1 and 9 by taking the New York State Thruway 87 down to the 238 street exit.

If you are going to New York with a group of friends, it really isn’t a bad idea to drive in and just park at a municipal parking garage for the day. To park for a day is about $18 (including tax and tip), which I usually split with my friends, and I have personally never had any trouble driving in the city or gotten anything stolen from my car while parked.

If you do decide to take the subway into the city, and you plan to move around a lot between downtown, midtown and uptown, you should definitely consider getting a Funpass. Funpasses are $4 and you get unlimited rides on the subway until midnight. That way, if you get tired throughout the day from walking the miles-long avenues, you can still hop on the train even if all your money is gone.

Walking around the city taking photos is, of course, something that doesn’t have to cost you a cent, until you get home and want to develop your film. If you want to take good photos of the now chopped down city skyline seen from the south, you can take the Staten Island Ferry for free. It will give you an opportunity to get good photos of the city without the World Trade Center, both when you are sailing away and coming back. The trip takes about 20 minutes one way.

For a taste of the nature in the middle of the greatest city on earth, you can visit Central Park, also free. You can either step into the park and leave the city behind, or stay along the paved sides of it, like I did when I was trying to get a glimpse of Harrison Ford. Ford is supposedly renting an apartment at 101 Central Park West, really close to the Dakota Building outside of which John Lennon was shot. If you get tired from waiting, there are nice wooden benches along Central Park West, and also throughout the park. Be sure to bring some leftover bread, however, if you plan to sit down around the Baruch Chess and Checkers house since it is filled with hungry and overly friendly squirrels.

If you go to the city on a weekend, there are always fun things going on and fun people to talk to in Washington Square Park. You can take the 1 or 9 to Christopher Street or the green, yellow or gray line to Union Square. From here it’s also a close walk to Greenwich Village where you will find second hand CD’s, funky stores, and semi-cheap coffee houses.

If you walk around in Greenwich Village, you should definitely pass by Grove Street where the Friends building is located. It took me several years of walking up and down the street until I actually found the brown brick building. The trick is to walk onto Grove Street from Hudson street towards Seventh Avenue until you see the Friends building appear on your right. If you are a fan of this number one rated show on television, as I am, it is definitely worth the while looking for the famous façade.

Eating in the city can be quite expensive if you go to the wrong places. So, don’t. You don’t need to go to the Rainbow Room or even the Hard Rock Café to get a good meal. Those places are best seen from a distance, where the luxurious view of the city or the loud music won’t bother you or your wallet. I’ve actually had friends who found buffets in Chinatown and Greenwich Village for $1 per person. My best meal in the city, however, was a juicy gyro in soft pita bread with plenty of fresh salad for $3.50 at the deli on the corner of Third Avenue and 43rd street.

Personally, I value food above everything else, so I’d rather save my money and make sure I eat well instead of buying souvenirs or clothes. However, if food is not a priority, you can either bring a sandwich and some water in your backpack and have lunch on a park bench or in the grass in Central Park, or go to McDonald’s, which is only slightly more expensive in the city.

There are many events going on for free in the city, especially during the summer. Keep your eyes open and check in newspapers and magazines to be sure to spot some of them. Famous people appear randomly at bookstores and in music stores for promotional events and you might be able to catch a glimpse of them. I once saw Alice Cooper when he was in Coconuts on Sixth Avenue signing CD’s. One warm, sticky summer night in Central Park I also managed to catch a free play starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Natalie Portman, thanks to my dear friend who found a small ad in the newspaper. Of course, we had to stand in line outside the Delacorte Theater for two hours with our clothes sticking to our bodies because of the intense heat and wait for returned tickets, but we had more or less been guaranteed spots by the employees, so it was worth the wait.

Ground Zero is of course the newest tourist attraction that is so far free to visit. If you really want to stretch your legs, you can walk from Times Square all the way down on Broadway, a walk I accomplished in a little less than three hours. Otherwise, take the subway.

Last time I was down there, Ground Zero covered an area from Chambers Street in the north to Cedar Street in the south and from Trinity Place/Church Street in the east all the way to the Hudson River in the west, but I would imagine they’ve cleaned up some more of the ashes and rubble by now.

While you are downtown anyway, I recommend walking over to the East side of Manhattan to experience the South Street Seaport. As I was there on a Saturday with beautiful weather, I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of visitors and the smell of fish, but in general I believe it can be a really nice place to visit.

When the sun decides to come out, as it often does in the city, the Seaport is a nice place to just sit down and relax, look at people and pretend that you are sitting at a beach in Maine. Try to stay away from the actual shopping area on Pier 17 if you don’t want to spend money, but definitely look to the north for a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

As the sun sets, you should definitely make your way over to the Hudson River, and watch all the roller-bladers fly by in their helmets and kneepads. And before you head back to your car, just stop for a moment and think about the amount of money you spent. If you follow my advice, you can have a great day in New York City for less than $10.

All things Swedish

I always bump into Americans who want to know what it's like to be Swedish in a foreign country. Isn't the U.S. so different, with excitement and more freedom than anywhere else in the world? they ask.

My answer, usually, is "no."

We have McDonald's, Seinfeld, Friends and David Letterman in Sweden. There are Volvos, Saabs, H&M and IKEAs here. The United State is less different than one might think.

When I first came to this country nine years ago, I looked around critically, judging things. There are so many things we do better in Sweden, I thought. But despite the differences that stem from too many religious conservatives in power, it is easy to find a little bit of Sweden in the United States.

Not counting California and Minnesota, where there are more people claiming to be Swedes than in Sweden, there is plenty of Sweden here to make me feel at home.

The first college I went to - Westchester Community College - was located in a little town called Valhalla, N.Y. Now, those of you who know your Nordic mythology know that Valhalla is a place where slain vikings go to party. I was therefore not surprised to see the name of the school newspaper: The Viking News. It took a while before people realized the irony of it all when I became the editor, but it later became a great topic of conversation during job interviews.

One summer I walked into the giant bookseller Barnes & Noble to pick up a book or two. When I passed the rows of new books in paperback, Liza Marklund's "The Bomber" (Sprängaren) caught my eye. It had a hand-written label next to it, and I walked closer to the shelf to see what the note said. "Our staff strongly recommends this book." Since it is one of my favorites, I quickly grabbed it and decided it would make a great gift for someone.

A Thursday afternoon in 2003 I sat down on the couch to skim through the local newspaper and came across a brief that said "Swedish spring concert this Saturday." Not only were three Scandinavian choruses set to perform; the performance was in Hamden, where I was living at the time, less than five minutes from my apartment. Two days later I went to the concert and realized none of the singers knew Swedish. But I got to hear "Sköna maj" and "Studentsången."

After that, I signed up to join them for the next year. I have now been singing with the Scandinavian Women's Chorus of Connecticut for four years, and I am one of two people who speak Swedish.

A few years ago, IKEA opened a store in New Haven, about half an hour from where I live. I addition to furniture and accessories, all foreign IKEA stores have a Swedish food shop where you can buy Kalles Kaviar, Dajm and knäckebröd. Of course, you can buy Wasa knäckebröd and Ballerina cookies in the regular supermarket now. And what Swede could live without them?

Another famous thing here is Swedish Fish. It's made by Swedish candy company Malaco, I think, but in Sweden we actually have several different flavors and colors. Here, the fish is just red.

Often, you can hear Robyn, Ace of Base, ABBA or Roxette on the radio. Another hit, if you listen to the right station, is Björn Skifs' "Hooked on a Feeling." At some New York Yankee games, they play the country-Eurodance hit "Cotton-Eye Joe" by Rednex.

Sometimes the Swedish things are temporary, and sometimes they are here to stay. One this is for certain: It is nice to be a Swede in a country where Annika Sörenstam has made history. At one point, she was compared to Jackie Robinson.

If Annika can, I can. Or at least, I can try.

Friday, June 1, 2007


I came to the United States in August 1998 as an au pair. It was only meant to be for a year. Then I started going to college. When I graduated with an associate's degree from a community college, I decided I might as well go for a bachelor's degree. It was easy and fun.

Nine years later, I am still here - with a full-time job, an American boyfriend and a master's degree.

This will be my blog about all the strange things I've encountered over the years. It will be about living in a foreign country, learning a new language, and trying to start a new life. It will also be about what is left behind, and how to maintain a Swedish identity in a crazy new world.