Deer at dusk

After 22 years of living in the suburbs, I was pretty darn convinced that I was a city girl for life. My parents’ new house, way out in rural Maryland, has at least opened me up to the beauty of living in the country. I think I’d still take the people-watching over the bird-watching, but I love turning the corner at the very end of the drive to their house and occasionally encountering the herd of deer that stand still and stare at us rather than run away. They’re not domesticated, but they’re not that scared of us anymore, giving me enough time to take a quick snapshot before they hear something undetectable by my ears and bolt away.

The Expat Blog Strikes Again… Interview on Sweden.se

And just when the Expat Blog at Sweden.se thought it was finally free of me… foiled again! 

 

 

I had the opportunity to talk a little about my experiences as a “re-pat” in the United States with Kristin Lund, who took over the reins of the Expat Blog this past fall. You can check it out below:

A Christmas Treat: Interview with “Repat” Kate

Topics covered include:

  • What surprised you most when you moved back?
  • What do you miss most about Sweden?
  • What do you do at the House of Sweden?
  • How often do you use your Swedish in DC?
  • What was it like trying to find work in the United States again?
  • and MORE (actually not that much more… that’s about it.)

Happy first Friday in 2013! Woot woot!

January 1, 2013

 

The last month or two have flown by, and as I ate breakfast with Simon yesterday morning, I felt almost panicked that 2013 was less than 24 hours away. Simon laughed at me, of course, and tried to convince me not to be so silly.

I don’t think that a year can get more jam-packed than the one that just concluded. (I’m probably tempting the fates by saying that, but oh well.) We moved four times in 2012, from our little nest in Kobjer to the rental in Nöbbelöv to Simon’s parents’ apartment in Klostergården for our last two weeks in Sweden. Then we took the leap across the pond, first to my parents on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and finally to D.C.

We packed and unpacked. Made new friends and said our goodbyes. Left our home in Sweden to be welcomed home again in the United States. Reconnected with long lost friends and places. Went from working full time to starting a company to taking our first big vacation of the last few years to trying to transition my company from its new home in DC.

As I look forward to 2013, it’s pretty unlikely that this period of major transitions will continue. Instead, the story of 2013 may just be the story of trying out new habits and patterns of life here in D.C. and gradually settling into those that suit us best.

What I’ve found over the past year is that moving entails more than just transferring your furniture from one place to another – it erases the momentum you’ve built up in your daily habits and presents you with a clean slate to reinvent the way you spend your hours, even if the move is within the same city. Where will we spend our free time? What routes will find ourselves walking and re-walking? What little niches will we carve for ourselves in this city?

Happy, happy, happy new year to you wherever you are and in whatever state of motion you find yourself. Much love from me in D.C. Bring it on, 2013!

DC Love

I was on my way home from a very lukewarm “hot yoga” when I spotted this car parked in a driveway on 13th St. Feeling the DC love.

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Julmarknad at the House of Sweden

I had my first day off from my weekend job at the House of Sweden, so of course Simon and I made the most of every minute of it… at the House of Sweden.

Thanks to the julmarknad (Christmas bazaar) being hosted in the normal exhibition space, I was off the hook for working, but let’s be serious. The Swede in my life could not resist the call of a whole day of Swedish-themed Christmas festivities (and neither could I, really).

I narrowly avoided impulse buying an entire range of small jultomtar to decorate our apartment.

Small booths lined the inside of the building, displacing the “Education and Innovation” exhibit on the ground floor and the tables and chairs from a conference room on the floor below. Giant tables laden with bread, pastries, herring, and cheese were lined up along the main hall leading into the Alfred Nobel Hall like a gauntlet in dieting hell, and photos from the “Image of Strindberg” exhibit glowered at families and couples digging into princesstårta (princess cake) and mackor (open-faced sandwiches).

This cake was such a big deal today.

I don’t know how long we intended to stay at the House of Sweden’s Christmas Bazaar, but we ended up being there all day long. The weather was balmy for the last day in November, and after the sugar rush from our princesstårta subsided, we sat outside on the steps with a Dixie cup of glögg each, basking in the sun and watching children roughhousing on the steps.

An assortment of Lucias singing (mostly) Swedish Christmas carols outside the House of Sweden.

At 5 pm, the sun was headed down behind the Rosslyn skyscrapers on the other side of the Potomac and it was finally starting to get chilly. Having just been herded out of the House of Sweden, the remaining visitors were waiting — not quietly — for something to happen. Then the Lucia girls came marching out in single file, singing the traditional entrance processional for Lucia Day.

They sang for about half an hour, mostly in Swedish but with a few English-language songs as well. At times it was hard to hear over the crying of exhausted children or the chatter of adults running into friends, and the star boys were noticeably absent. All the same, for a moment there, it felt like we were back in Sweden again.

Mo’bama, Mo’ Sass

This is just a public service update to everyone watching the infomercials the debates. I saw the dude on the right just a few days ago live, in person, no joke.

It all started with a trip to the White House gardens, where we were so close to the actual White House that the smell of Secret Service sweat permeated the air. (Or it was the presidential linden trees, no idea what those are supposed to smell like.)

Here are some facts we learned on our tour of the White House gardens:

1. The White House Grounds are the oldest continually maintained landscape in the United States.

2. The first resident of the White House was John Adams, and he lived there from 1800 to 1801, when he was voted out of office and replaced by Thomas Jefferson. He requested that a garden be planted on the grounds, and it was done!, but not before he left office.

3. Although located in the heart of the city, standing in the gardens one feels removed from the fast-paced life of the nation’s capital.

Facts, one and all.

The gardens are totally beautiful, and there were really nice posters of different presidents planting their trees. Did you know that (almost) every president (since 1870ish) plants a tree of his own? Unless he’s George H.W. Bush, in which case he plants three a year for the entire 14 years of his presidency. Seriously, if the White House-organized posters are to be believed, that man loved planting trees.

Here’s the thing about visiting a place that has become legendary through its treatment in popular culture and the distance you had to stand away from it to take the photo that proved you were a tourist in D.C. It’s not as big as you imagine. For example, I thought the Rose Garden would be like the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, complete with the Beast lurking in the shadows.  And it’s great… it’s just not as big as I thought it would be. No Belle, no Beast.

The vegetable garden was also smaller than expected but impressive. There were squash varieties I haven’t even seen as challenge ingredients on Food Network shows. That’s when you know it’s exotic.

Anyway, back to POTUS, who we saw, in the flesh, real-life, this is not a joke.

This is Simon, standing outside the Oval Office, convinced that he has caught a glimpse of Obama. I will admit, I thought he had to be mistaken. No way is Obama in there, says I, fool that I am.

Let us also take this moment to remember that Simon spotted Queen Silvia on the balcony of the Swedish Embassy, so… I should probably stop doubting him. He was so insistent, though, that I took a photo of the people inside the office.

And as you can see, there was a fairly distinctive ear silhouette. And then this happened…

And then this happened…

The crowd screamed as he walked by. SCREAMED. Just like you would imagine teenyboppers shrieking and losing it at a Beatles concert. We were all hovering, snapping photos, held in place by the imaginary barrier represented by the transition from walkway to lawn (and by the armed Secret Service agents lurking nearby).

So that was our encounter with my close friend and old buddy, good old POTUS Mo’bama.

The end. 

In one week, you can…

Things are happening and time is flying. Maybe I am being secretly filmed for a game show on how many things you can do in a week or how many states you can find yourself in within the space of a few days. The past four days especially have been insane. From our home base in Maryland, we have been to Columbus (OH), Philadelphia, and DC within the last four days.

In Columbus for Simon's first football game... with true fan apparel, thanks to my Dad, a loyal Buckeyes fan.

We had planned the trip to Columbus with my parents way earlier this summer, before we had even moved, to go see my grandma. Then she got the chance to move to a nursing home close to my parents in Maryland, so we decided to go to Columbus anyway, revisit my dad’s childhood haunts, and go to an OSU game — Simon’s first football game.

We arrived home around 11 pm Sunday night, and on Monday we were on our way to Philadelphia to celebrate my sister’s birthday with my parents, my grandmother, Simon and me in the car. I brought my computer and my notes to finish up a freelance project on the ride and sent it five minutes after we had parked in the Italian market district. Then it was off to Distrito for a ridiculously good birthday dinner for Emily. (Happy 23rd, Emily!!)

Emily blows out the churro. (A couple of margaritas and a tequila tasting, the photography was a little blurrier than usual.)

We arrived home around 11 again and went straight to bed, where I had a fitful night of not sleeping because I was too worried that we weren’t going to wake up to our alarm the next morning. Why do we do that? I’m not the only one who does that. It’s strange. When the alarm finally started playing the “magical wake up” song or whatever our ridiculous alarm ring tone is called, I did something I have never done at an unholy hour of the morning: I bounced out of bed, turned off the alarm, and said, “Thank God that’s over!” because I was so sick of quietly trying to go back to sleep. Yes, I am a strange gal.

Tuesday was moving day and from my bizarre morning proclamation onward we were packing, lifting, loading, driving, unloading, lifting, dragging, unpacking and finally unwinding after two couches, one bed, one bike, and a Uhaul full of boxes. And a fruitless cross-city rush to a seminar at the Swedish Embassy for me, which was totally victorious for about thirty seconds. Got to the Embassy with five minutes to spare, knocked on the door to be let in, was promptly informed by the security guard that there were only five minutes left in the lecture but I could go down if I wanted. A valiant attempt sabotaged by my own incompetence. Oh man.

Now we’re back in Maryland for two days, returning the Uhaul and my parents’ car before heading back on Friday (and paying a visit to Ikea). Nothing like some good Swedish interior decorating…

 

Last news for now — the English part of my company website has now launched. I’d love it if you took a look! Stay tuned for the Swedish version if you know any Swedes who might be in need of some Business English consulting/translation services. :)

 

Swedish in DC… and that one time the Queen saw my butt

So far, my DC life has been much more a Maryland and Sweden life. Even though we’re still living out at the Eastern Shore with my parents, we’ve been in DC every single week for the last month or so. Now we’re exactly one week away from moving in to our new apartment, and as sick as it sounds, I am really, really looking forward to being curled up in one unbroken ball of pain on our new sofa after having lifted several times my body weight up a million stairs.

And as for my Swedish life… I got the world’s best part-time job at the Swedish Embassy as a tour guide on the weekends. There are two exhibits: an interactive display on Education and Innovation and a photography exhibit on Images of Strindberg. It’s kind of amazing to me that all the hard work I put into learning Swedish and understanding Swedish culture is still paying dividends, and this time in the United States! I did my interview in Swedish, which was a first for me, and I’ve had a really fun time walking and taking with visitors.

My "first day of school" picture for starting work at the Swedish Embassy.

Here’s a great story i have so far from my first time at the Embassy since interviewing for my visa. I go in, have a pretty good interview except I was blushing terribly out of nervousness and panicking about my inability to stop blushing, and then I go outside to join Simon, who was waiting for me on a park bench.

At that point, I decided that I absolutely needed to take off my tights because it was a million degrees out. I do that with what I believe is minimal midday mooning and collect myself, turning to see Simon looking at the building.

Oh, there are people up there on the balcony! he said, pointing. Were any of them the ones interviewing you? 

Then, as I’m still trying to focus on the faces, he says, “Oh my God, it’s Silvia!” 

As in Queen Silvia, Queen of Sweden, who was in town for a charitable event and was probably the only one in any position to see my under-dressed butt as I took off my tights. She looked relatively unperturbed, though, so she must have missed it.

The early crowd assembling for a regatta outside the Embassy.

Both of my first days of work were totally beautiful, and on Sunday there was even a rowing regatta on the Potomac right outside the Embassy windows. The weather was perfect, and I got to take a lot of guests up to the rooftop deck to take in the view. Here are a few things I learned in my first days:

  • Running in heels to catch a bus on your way to work will render those formerly-comfortable shoes into instruments of torture.
  • Standing in heels for five hours kills your whole body, not just your feet.
  • If you are blonde and standing in the Swedish Embassy, people will assume that you are Swedish.

Some people have questions that are totally unrelated to the exhibits (read: taxes) so I really appreciate having the knowledge necessary to be able to respond to them in a thoughtful and comprehensive way. The Strindberg exhibit is more of a challenge for me, so I had to cram in a whole bunch of information in the two days leading up to my first tour. It reminded me of taking a foreign language class again… Now all I have to do is remember 7 of 10 irregular past tenses and I’m golden! Thankfully, there’s a sponsored lecture on him next Tuesday, so hopefully I’ll be able to shore up my knowledge pretty quickly.

Besides that, my business is still on and still trucking! After completing just four full months (including our trip to Italy and the transatlantic move), I’m in the black. SWEET! Hopefully the new website will be up soon because I think that will help me promote my services even more. It looks like a couple of new projects are in the works, and I have a freelance writing project keeping me more than busy until then.

All in all, life is treating is verrry well in Amurrica. We shall say what happens when we depart from our residence at the spa (aka my parents’ house) and enter into the real world… a world in which we pay for groceries and are actually responsible for cooking our own food. Let’s be serious: these past six weeks of total pampering have rendered me totally incapable of taking care of myself anymore. Catch you all on the flip side (I will be an unwashed miscreant).

Goodbye for now… | the Expat Blog

I just hit “Publish” on my last blog post at Sweden.se. It’s a very bittersweet moment — sad to be leaving behind an amazing period in my life, happy and excited about the adventures that lie ahead.

You can read the post by following the link: “Goodbye for now.”

If you’re coming here from the Expat Blog at Sweden.se, welcome to transatlantic sketches, my own personal “expat blog” that predates the one I had at the Swedish Institute. I’ve always used this space to write about my experiences as an expat — in Italy, in Austria, and in Sweden — and now I’m going to try to continue this blog on this side of the pond to write about my experiences in my home country, the United States.

If you’re curious about some of the stuff that didn’t make it onto the Expat Blog at Sweden.se, you might want to check out some of the following posts:

IS YOUR SNUGGIE SAFE? OnePiece: The Scandinavian challenger to the Snuggie

Mushrooms for Nybörjare: Part One, Le Chanterelle

Into the Woods in Vittskövle

Frank the Sheep Speaks Swedish

The only Swedish Hasbeens I want to be associated with will go on my feet.

Visiting the Fish Church (Feskekörka) in Gothenburg

Photo Essay: Out in Gothenburg’s Harbor

Ben Schott’s Pluviocabulary: A list of words for rain

ICA Maxi: The Walmart solution to all of your European problems

From Påssjuka to Paris… a week of swelling and love

DECEIT! DESPAIR! And other totally normal emotions to feel during a bachelorette party!

24 Hours in Paris, and the conclusion to the world’s most excellent bachelorette party

In the meantime, rest assured that I am being taken care of here in the United States. I’ve already contracted two fatal diseases, which is normal (see the From Påssjuka to Paris blog post if that comment is unclear to you), and my husband and I are staying at my parents’ house until we move in to our new apartment in Washington, D.C.

Thanks for joining me here!

It's just us and the crabs now!

 

Fall on the Eastern Shore

After about a week of seeing our friends in Sweden post very sad status updates about the weather, we felt like we should also give everyone a little taste of our weather woes.

Simon was pretty chilly when he got out of the pool. It was horrendous.

I am writing a guest blog for the the Swedish Institute! It's called The Expat Blog. Check it out for articles and updates on life as an expat in Sweden... one fika at a time.
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