Saturday, September 19, 2015

On the Second Day in Sweden: History in Gothenburg

After a very late start (because jet lag, and also finding out about my son's preschool teacher just before I was supposed to go to bed) we headed out to see the sites in Gothenburg.  Of course as soon as we got downtown on the tram I had to use the bathroom, but Clara knew of a nice one in a theater nearby and in the process... hello 400 year old original city walls!  These are underground here, but you can see some of them out in the open in other areas.

This is my cousin Clara, my lovely hostess for most of the week!  It was so fun to be with her because I felt like I got to really see Sweden and participate rather than just doing all the touristy things.

But of course some of the touristy things are quite interesting so we did those too. 

The government buildings and the original German Christian church, founded in 1623.  It was destroyed a couple of times, but what is seen now dates to 1783.

Not very big inside, but very simply beautiful.

There were candles you could light and so we each did, I in memory of Senor Martin.

Then we went next door to the City Museum where they had the history of Gothenburg and the area all the way back to the Vikings.

These swords were from somewhere around 700AD.

This is the remains of a Viking ship, discovered in the 1930's just upriver and most likely from the 900AD period. 

Much of the information in this museum, at least in the older history sections and the city sections, was also translated into English so my cousin didn't have to translate for me!

This is a depiction of Gothenburg when it was first founded.  The walls are those points sticking out into what was water.  The canals are still there and so is most of that moat area.  Now of course this area is only considered downtown and the city is quite a bit larger.  Clara lives off to the left and bottom.

After the museum we wandered through the back alleys on our way to a candy/souvenir shop.  It was pretty amazing to think that some of these buildings were close to 400 years old.

Lots of cobbled streets, courtyards, and rooflines that weren't quite straight.  I think this building with the green roof (copper and it takes at least 100 years to become that color) was perhaps an old guild meeting hall based on the signs.

When we finally got to the candy store I was kind of in awe.  There was another wall to the right of this photo, time and a half as long, as well as 3 or 4 large two sided stands in the middle.  Actually I think their taste in candy is quite different.  There was quite a bit of licorice and as much as I like licorice this stuff is NOT to my liking.  It's VERY salty.  Plus lots and lots of gummy/chewy candy and many with marshmallows in all shapes and flavors.  I tried a few of the chocolate covered ones, but mostly, I just like chocolate and there wasn't that much.

This was also the place to find all your cheap souvenir trinkets.  Surprisingly there weren't really any gift shops that I saw.  One "information center" that obviously did cater to tourists, but it essentially only had one small section of souvenirs, about the size of my kitchen and dining room.  The biggest "souvenir shop" was actually in the airport!

To end the day we went to the maritime museum where they had displays of the history of modern shipping and then a special exhibit about the Swedish American Line which ran from 1915 to 1975 and connected Swedish immigrants with their homeland.

The ship pictured above is actually a ferry that takes people (and cars) to Copenhagen or Kiel, Germany.  (And really I just took the picture because it has Curious George on the side and my kids would love it!)

And then we were bushed and went back to her apartment where she made some amazing salmon with lingonberries that I tried to recreate at home last night (yes, I brought home lingonberry jam!) and wasn't entirely successful.

The end of day 2!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Adventures in Sweden or Buying a New Car

I went to Sweden a couple weeks ago.  It was crazy.

See, about 10 months ago a third cousin looked me up on Facebook.  My Grandfather was born in Sweden in 1914 and then his family emigrated to the US when he was 2.  But his parents and grandparents had a million siblings and a lot of them stayed in Sweden and so I have a lot of relatives over there.

My mom visited when she was in college, but we've never been so it was super fun to chat with my cousin, Clara, who's about 9 years younger than me.  Kind of amazing considering how the generations had to line up to make that work.

Anyway, I never imagined in less than a year I'd have the chance to visit her!  Until my in-laws announced they were going to Sweden to buy a new Volvo.  (Apparently it's cheaper to buy a new one overseas, and they throw in the travel!)  When I heard they were going I said I was so jealous because of my family there and they so amazingly offered to let me come along!

So I left the troops at home with my mom and Brian and away we went to Sweden!

Can I say I've been to England now if it was only in the airport?  It was super gray and rainy.

Not much view of anything while flying, but finally 26 hours after I left home we arrived in Gothenburg!

Sweden, home of Volvo, there was even one in the arrivals hall.  And I was super surprised that we had passport control, but no customs.

We stayed in a fun hotel right downtown in Gothenburg, the Radisson Blu.

We had interior rooms and it was a very pretty atrium.  I've never stayed in a hotel like this before.

First day, picking up the car at the Volvo factory and taking a TOUR of the actual production factory.  Sadly we couldn't heard the tour guide over the noise of the factory, but it was really amazing to be inside and see the production line going.  There were something like 3,000 employees there and yet there were so many robots moving things around, putting them in place, and welding them.  I was definitely wishing we could take pictures, but that was expressly f√∂rbjuden.

After the tour, and lunch (Swedish meatballs with Lingonberry sauce of course!) papers for picking up their car. I think they brought me along as the official photographer.

They even get to keep their Swedish license plate!

The official new owners!

Getting all the details, this car has buttons and bells and whistles like you wouldn't believe.

And then we drove off in a foreign country where you can't read the signs...

To the Volvo museum where we could take pictures.

Lots of history and various models of old cars.  Almost all of them could still be driven today.

Except maybe this one!  An XC90 made entirely of Legos except for the undercarriage and wheels.  Something like 200,000 Legos.

Check out the details!

And then we found ourselves in a traffic jam (not that bad), but took the wrong route and went under downtown!  Good thing ipads have gps so we could get back to the hotel!

Then my cousin Clara came down to meet me and she and I rode the tram back to her apartment to start my family adventure!  More on that later!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

On Summer, Life and Death, and Change

Warning, this post may not be for everyone, but I need to write it down to process it.

Out of 82 nights of summer this year I think I slept in my own bed 34 nights.  And of those 34 I had my family home with me maybe 24 nights.  About half of that was planned, but the other half was not.  It's been a loooong summer.  What with the kitchen remodel taking way longer than anticipated (no, it's not quite done yet) and then previously planned vacations for 3 weeks away, plus one more last week that was just me, I am quite happy to be home again.  (which also explains the total lack of blogging here this summer, it's really complicated to edit photos and blog from a smartphone only!)

However, life does not look like what I anticipated it would this fall.  Last week I went to Sweden (yes, I'll post pictures soon) and less than 24 hours after I got there I learned that the beloved teacher of my son's preschool/kinder class had committed suicide.  I'm still processing that one with tears every day, but it was especially hard to be in a foreign country with a cousin I'd just met and 9 hours of time difference from my friends and family back here.

I read a book on the plane on my way over and the one thing I got out of it was that the actions of one person can have a ripple effect in various ways on all of those around you.  Ironic that I wrote that and posted it just before I got the news about my son's teacher.  Even we are feeling plenty of ripple effects.

We were not friends really outside of school, but I have never met a teacher that was more perfectly suited to his job.  The kids all adored him, he was calm and patient (and believe me, that can be the world's toughest job in a class full of 3, 4, and 5 year olds) and had a joy for learning and teaching that he instilled in every child there.  He was always sharing articles with the parents about education and philosophy and was more than happy to chat with any of us after school.

A few people I've talked to about this have been angry with him for his actions, but I just simply don't understand that.  His family, friends, and students have all been deeply hurt by this, yes, but knowing him I can't imagine that he did this without having been in so much pain he felt like he couldn't go on.  It doesn't make sense any other way to me.  Perhaps because I have at times wondered if people would notice if I was gone I can't be angry at him.  Our world is broken and life can be lonely even when you're surrounded by people.  Maybe the lesson here (as if we really need one, but something has to make sense) is that we need to be more, much more, intentional about telling people how much they mean to us.  Being grateful for someone AND reaching out to let them know.

Then yesterday at our first MOPS meeting all the various leaders were being introduced and my old mentor mom was talking about something and said and you know, change is inevitable.  And I thought, man, how true.  My life is changing and some of it changed quite rapidly this week.  Where I thought Brian would be dropping Noah off  at school now I have to take him to school every morning and pick him up at noon.  That changes the look of my days more than I ever imagined.  Plus, it means I have to be ready to leave the house with the girls ready as well a good hour earlier than I ever have.  Have I ever mentioned I'm a night owl?  This is going to be interesting.  So far this week it hasn't been so bad, but considering my body may not know what time zone I'm in right now it's okay.  However, my penchant is to stay up late after the kids are in bed and it's going to be hard to change that habit.

Finally, my doctor says the best way to fight crazy emotions and hormones is to start by eating right and exercising.  So now I guess I don't have an excuse of "I'm too tired" to exercise.  And just when I thought I'd be getting back into a routine where I could, now I'm leaving the house at 8am every day.

Change.  I'm not a fan, especially with no warning, but I don't think I have a choice this time around.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: First Days of School

Due to mom being out of the country, these are a bit late.

School actually started last Wednesday for this guy, third grade!  Hat tip to dad for taking the first day of school photos.

He says he's enjoying it so far!

Noah was also supposed to start school last week, but due to very tragic circumstances he actually didn't start until yesterday.

Yes, this is pretty much what life looks like around our house!

We had to find a new school for Noah on short notice (and from another country), but thankfully this one hadn't actually started so he was able to begin with all the other kids yesterday.

There are a couple kids there from his old school and it's a place he's familiar with.  He already told me he likes being there with some older kids too!

Officially a kindergartner and so excited for school!