Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'Welcome to America'

A few weeks after I received my greencard in the mail, I received “Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants.”

What they send you is actually just an abridged version in a 4-page flyer. To get the complete guide, you have to visit a government web site. I considered doing that, just to see what the Urdu or Tagalog versions look like, but I am a bit offended they do not offer a Swedish equivalent.

Reading the small flyer makes me wonder what kind of people the government really gives greencards to. There’s advice on “Getting Settled in the United States” like how to find a place to live, how to get a job, how to find an English class and how to prepare for emergencies.

Now, if you do not have a place to live, why – and more importantly, how? – could you apply for permanent residency status? That’s the most ludicrous one, to me.

The brochure also advises that “you should not move permanently to another country” (Well, duh!), that “each person has an important role to play in his or her local community” (say what?) and that if you do not have a computer at home, “you can use one at your local public library or at an ‘Internet Café’” (to print the entire guide).

Reading the “guide” makes me think they should have just given me a greencard when I set foot on American soil at John F. Kennedy Airport back in 1998. I had a job, a place to stay, and I knew how to call 911. I had access to a computer AND I knew where the library was. I also spoke English, which is more than you can say of most people who come here (and end up staying).

So, remind me, why does the U.S. government make things so difficult?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Shopping and coffee

I felt like a true American today, guiding a large, blue cart down the narrow isles at Walmart with a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in my hand. Like at least 100 other people, I was out at 11 a.m. to look for the best after-holiday sales.

Mostly, I was looking to stock up on wrapping paper, labels and ribbons for next Christmas, but I ended up with some good deals on small gift items as well.

The iced mocha latte I was holding was actually supposed to have been my Christmas morning wake-up drink.

I had finally convinced Albie to stop at Dunkin’ Donuts on our way to his parents’ house on Christmas Day. We pulled up the drive-through, and a chipper voice said, “Welcome to Dunkin’ Donuts, how may I help you?”

Albie placed my order since he was driving; there was complete silence. We wondered if maybe he had offended the attendant by starting out with “All I want is…” Usually, they come back and try to sell you something else.

A minute or so went by, then Albie finally said, “well, I’m gonna drive up now” into the microphone. Still nothing.

We drove up, and realized it was pitch black inside. Closed. Stupid automated voice machine! And not even a sign anywhere saying they were going to be closed. I thought it was only in Europe things shut down completely for Christmas.

McDonald’s was open on Christmas Eve here, when I stopped to get a McDouble and some fries on my way home from work. Even Albie found this weird, but I hadn’t had any lunch and I knew it was going to be hours before Christmas dinner was served, and McDonald’s was the only place open on my way home.

Now, I found out I cannot have my coffee when I want to! What is the world coming to? And don’t tell me I have to brew it myself in the morning – I will do no such thing. I want to pull up to a little window in my little car and pay someone to squirt the appropriate amount of whipped cream into a plastic cup and then sprinkle chocolate syrup on it – it is the only way I can start my day like a true American.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday party at work

(I made the table cloths, someone else brought in the cute decorations)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

December birthdays

Four of my friends also have birthdays in December. Usually, we do not have time do get together for everyone's birthday, so we try to do a group thing. This year, we tried planning individual parties, and, of course, mine got snowed out.

But on Friday night we all met up at East Side restaurant in New Britain, a German place more famous for its atmosphere than its food, to celebrate Justin's birthday.

The staff was all in Bavarian costumes, and as soon as someone at a table ordered a large jug of beer (one liter), the whole room would shout "ticki, tocki, ticki, tocki, hoy, hoy, hoy!"

The food was OK, but very expensive. And I made the mistake of ordering au gratin potatoes, when I should have just stuck with mashed. I am sure the wienerschnitzel would have been better than the pot roast I ordered as well. Oh well, at least chocolate ice cream was included in the price for dessert, and the beer was pretty darn good!

Getting in the Christmas mood

The December storm

We got some snow last night - first big storm of the season. It's great that we will finally have a white Christmas. And despite ruining a planned birthday party, it was nice of the storm to happen on a Saturday night into Sunday morning so the road crews will have time to clear the roads before I have to go back to work.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

When Swedes come to Middletown

Last week, the Pitea Chamber Choir from Sweden visited Middletown (where I work) to host a joint concert with the Wesleyan University chorus. The performance started with a traditional Lucia processional, and it brought tears to my eyes because it was so beautiful (and yes, it made me a little homesick).

The director of the Swedish chorus, Erik Westberg, has been teaching at Wesleyan University this semester as part of a grant and exchange program. This concert, and another one by just the Swedish chorus the following day, were the culmination of his time in the United States.

He stopped by my office a couple of weeks ago and we chatted about the differences between Americans and Swedes (Americans work harder and longer) and about what the appropriate answer is to "How are you doing?" in different situations (When a friend asks: "Good, how are you?"; When asked at a restaurant: "Fine thank you.")

Now, he gets to go back to Sweden to celebrate Christmas, while I am stuck here to celebrate it "the American way."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Another beautiful gift

A co-worker made this gorgeous quilt in green and purple for my birthday. Of course, as soon as I got home, the kitties played tunnels with it. When I tried to fold it up and tuck it away, they decided it was their new sleeping spot on the dining room table!

My bestest birthday present

My lovely husband and his mom got me this beautiful camera for my birthday - a Nikon D3000!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another wedding

Another one of my friends is getting married next year, and I am going to be in the wedding party. I haven't been in a wedding since 2007, when my best friend got married.

Being part of an American wedding can be both a hassle and a lot of fun. It's fun because you get to partake in all the intimate details and "behind the scenes stuff," but you also have to help with arrangements, planning and keeping the bride calm on her big day.

It can also be expensive. This time, I am getting off pretty easy. I think our bridesmaid's dresses came in around $150, and I don't have to stay overnight anywhere since the wedding is in Connecticut. With the hair and the nails and the shoes and the gifts, it will still add up.

I'm still really glad we did our wedding as simple as could be. Well, I guess it could have been even simpler, but I'm happy we only had 2o guests and that we were able to do it in Vermont. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. While others may forget details of their big day years later because they had so many details to remember, I will always remember us throwing m&ms at each other after dinner and eating cheese and crackers in the hot tub.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Twilight: New Moon

My husband took me to see "New Moon" for my birthday - after quite a bit of begging. He hated the first movie, "Twilight," and even I thought it was pretty corny and stupid.

But I still wanted to see the sequel. After all, this is the book where Jacob is featured prominently, and he is my favorite character. I wish there was a movie just about Jacob, but this is probably as close as we're gonna get. That is, of course, until they make the fourth movie. Then hopefully at least part of it will be about him.

The main reason I have a problem with the movies is that they are so geared toward 14-year-old girls. Ooooh, look! There's Edward running without his shirt on! And the "Bella, I won't ever hurt you, I won't ever leave you" and then the next minute you're gone. I guess if I had still been 14 I would have loved it - that's what life was like back then, right?

Thanks to a bigger budget for movie no. 2, "New Moon" actually does OK in terms of tying things together - there's depressing music, there's great cinematography - and yes, I even cried when Edward left. And compared to the first movie - but that's not saying much since it was absolute garbage - "New Moon" is 10 times better.

The best part? Edward isn't it in much.

Sometimes, I guess, it's better when the characters just stay in your head. At least then they look the way you want them to, and not like a pretty-boy "Harry Potter" actor who is now wearing too much makeup.

My birthday dinner

Yummy, yummy foods!

Hello Kitty!

A pretty cookie someone made for a party I recently went to.
(I just had to take a picture before I munched on that cute face!)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The 30th year of Viktoria

A year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post called The Years of Viktoria, where I named all my years from 1978 to 2008.

I'd like to add 2009 to that: The Year of Big Changes.

Not only did I get married this year, but I also had my stomach cut open and started a new job. I am not sure what next year will bring, but I think I read in a horoscope somewhere that it will be peacful and things will begin to settle down for me. At least that's what I'd like to believe.

I usually spend a lot of time on my birthday reflecting over years past and people I do not see anymore and why that is, but this year my birthday has been a pretty normal day. And it's been fun - and very relaxing. Of course, the two mimosas helped, as did the half-bottle of wine at Olive Garden.

Swedish buns at work

Kitties in the snow

As a birthday present to myself, I took the kitties out to play in the snow this morning. They are usually pretty good - they never go very far. Today, they tip-toed around in the snow, shaking their paws every three seconds. They sniffed it, they touched it, they walked backwards - but they didn't even consider coming back inside. I had to enlist my husband to help lure them back in. Now they yowl at the door, wanting to go back outside.