Not too much to talk about today. Mostly worked on a presentation for work.
And Hilary and I got the internet working in the condo. You may recall that I am in Sweden. So, had an epic 3-hour troubleshooting session 3-way between Hilary acting as my eyes and fingers in St Paul, and Comcast whom I was doing tech support chatting with, and me brokering it all from Sweden. I’m guessing the Tech Support guy was in India. But, the Comcast guy stuck with it the whole time, as did Hilary. So, took a lot of grit all around, but there is working internet and wifi in the condo! Woohoo!
Also, people talk a lot about how bad Swedish beer is, but the craft brewing craze is finally hitting here, and this one is quite good!
Today is Easter Sunday, and there’s not much going on. I did find out about a thing that I thought was interesting – Easter Witches or påskkärringar. There’s a nice Radio Sweden bit on them here.
Around Easter, Good Friday and Easter Monday are both national holidays, so this is a 4 day weekend. Woohoo! Some colleagues noticed that I am flying solo in a hotel room, and decided to invite me over.
So, Friday, I had dinner with a lovely family that are from Britain, but have lived in Sweden since 1999. So, they speak English like Brits, but good Swedish. They have 3 kids around my kids ages, which is great. Had a great evening with them and even got a lift home. They live in Bjärred, so easy visiting distance. And their eldest kid attends Katedralskolan in Lund.
Then on Saturday, another colleague really got me for the whole day. They picked me up from the hotel, and took me to a nature refuge where we went for a really nice hike in some classic northern forests – Järavallen. After that, we went to their house in Ödåkra and had a lovely afternoon just hanging out and talking over fika, then dinner, then desert. I was very full when I went home!
I am starting to meet people, and even had a Swedish family invite me over for the day!
Today is the last day of work before the Easter holiday in Sweden. Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays. Banks are closed (but, heck, they are closed most of the time already), and most other businesses will be on holiday. One of the interesting things here. In the US, when there’s a national holiday, its basically for everybody except the working poor in retail or food service. In Sweden, national holidays are for everybody, and they just shut things down. Grocery stores might be open, but you better have your liquor stocked up because System Bolaget will be closed.
Speaking of System Bolaget, that is the alcohol monopoly in Sweden – you can only buy booze there (other than being served in a bar or restaurant). I finally got around to going to one (since they too have bankers hours). It was actually a decent store with a good selection and good prices. People complain about the lack of options, but it’s a hollow complaint because SB negotiates on behalf of 10 million Swedes and gets a pretty good deal, of which they keep no profit. So, the selection and cost of booze is quite good! As long as you can get there when it’s open!
Back to Easter. It’s called Påsk here (pronounced “posk”, and has an etymology with Passover), and people say Glad Påsk for Happy Easter. The funny thing is, Sweden has these holidays on religious holidays, but this is a totally secular country. I suppose it’s a reversal of the early Christians that co-opted the vernal equinox with Easter and the winter solstice with Christmas, and now Swedes are taking time off for Easter, but nobody goes to church for it.
I went into the office today, and they had an “Easter feast” in the cafeteria, So, I tried it out. My colleagues said that basically all Swedish feast meals are the same.
Basically, a lot of fish. 2 kinds of pickled herring. 2 kinds of smoked salmon. Chicken kebab (which might be the most legit thing on there). Potatoes. Meatballs with a beet-in-mayo dressing. There was Brie cheese, and some weak melon. The basic framework for every Swedish feast.
And finally, today was my cleaning day at the hotel and the staff left me a little Easter egg. It was really nice!
Wow. I’ve been here a month. It seems like it should feel like a long time, but it actually has zoomed by.
I got my actual Swedish ID card today, which is basically my ticket to social services across the EU. On the way home, I stopped by the bank and got set up for BankID, which is basically how you be human in Sweden. It’s really hard to do lots of things without that. But, got that all sorted today as well.
The other notable thing today is that there was a distinct whiff of manure all over Lund. I knew we are close to farmland, but, it turns out we are really close!
No fun pictures today. The inside of my hotel room hasn’t changed.
Wait. Really? 26 days? Wow. When you start actually working, and get pulled into work in a big way, and you realize that you just closed out week 3 on the job, time flies.
So, Lördag. You already saw the bit about the farmer’s flea market. On Friday, I went in to the office (which was empty, so good social distancing). I got a flat tire on my ride in. There is a stretch of dirt road between the train station and the office. I think I hit a big rock and got a snake bite puncture. Anyway. Limped the rest of the way into the office, and getting home that afternoon. So, today I thought I would fix the flat. So, after a coffee and some pastries, I found a lovely bike shop that happens to also be an official Brompton dealer. I chatted a while, and then went home with my patch kit. I had heard that the Brommy rear wheel was very tricky, so I thought I would just patch it with the tube pulled out of the tire. Pretty standard fare. Anyway, totally failed. Either the rubber cement didn’t vulcanize the tube/patch well, or persistent user error resulted in me using basically all the patches in the kit and still heading out to buy a new tube in disgust. Evidence of incompetence here, FFS:
I was so irritated at the tube (and me) that I decided to take the train to Helsingborg to check it out. I have some meetings at an Ikea office up there next week and figured I should find my way first. You can see where it is here (blue dot is me in Lund, obvi)
It’s about a 35 min train ride thru landscape that could be right out of southern Minnesota … Anyway, I walked around and found Helsingborg to be a delightful city. You can see in some of the pics the Öresund strait, with Denmark on the other side. Helsingor on the Danish side and Helsingborg on the Swedish side used to be one Danish city. Then the Swedes finally kicked the Danes out for good in the 1600s and took this little gem of a city with it’s super-useful place controlling access to the Baltic Sea.
We will be back here, even if only to eat at the many restaurants. Including this gem that looked closed for good. Speaking of racist business signs, I see a lot of them and might have to do a full post just on them!
Speaking of food, I stopped by the store on my way home and saw that this is how you buy mushrooms in Coop. 😳 Paging Kristina Howland!
And finally, after a week of sitting on my butt working, I got in a lot of steps …
I have noticed in my Saturday morning rambles that Mårtenstorget has a small combo farmers market and flea market on Saturday morning. Lots of white vans flanking a mix of food, stuffed toys, novelty hats, and used books. I wonder how old this market square tradition is?
And, I look at the pic, it IS a gloriously clear and nice day. I have to patch the tire on my bike, but after that I think I’m going to check out going up to Helsingborg as I will going to the office up there this week.
So, yeah, kind of gap there. Ended my second week of work with sharing my plan for next steps with the job. It is very weird to start a job in the midst of a global pandemic, and the remote-working-ness of everybody makes it hard to get traction fast. But, it’s worth noting that when I took my last role, all of my team was permanently remote from me, and more than half the leadership team I was part of. So, it seems crazy to my colleagues, and it seems kind of normal to me. Which really made me recalibrate what I accept as “normal”.
So, what has happened? I looked at both of the houses. One is a old red brick farmhouse that is made with stone foundation. Super quirky and interesting with a really nice garden and mature fruit trees. Decent main floor. Overall, kind of … well … old. Low ceilings in the basement. Small bathrooms, and only 3 bedrooms. So a little tight for guests. The other house is a modern townhouse that is bigger and way nicer. It’s a little further from school and town, and doesn’t have the garden, but it’s got 4 bedrooms, plus a nice finished basement. Oh, and a fully stocked wine cellar. Given the the owners are moving to France for a few years, I already made a pitch of “why would you move wine TO France?” 😉. So, it’s basically down to “nice house with room for guests” or “nice garden with a cozy house”.
But, we just closed on the condo in St Paul, and still own a house in St Paul. So, we own 2 places in the midst of a global plague and the real estate market is tanking. I don’t really want to be on the hook for 3 houses! So, we’re trying to figure out what to do. Even to the point of, should I try to get back to the US to work from there? These are difficult times to analyze the best course of action!
On a lighter note, I feel a little more settled in, as I have replaced the (quite tattered) Manila envelope that I had all my important papers in with a little document folder thing with stuff in actual categories. It’s a small thing, but it helps me feel a little more in control of something!
One more fun thing. There are animals here that I have read about, but not seen before. Lots of corvids – regular carrion crows, hooded crows, rooks, etc. Also, the doves/pigeons here are really fat. I can see why people eat squab here as these birds are a lot more plump than American pigeons. I also saw a hare near the office the other day. Holy mother of ears! That thing was as big as a fox or raccoon. The pic below does not do it justice.
So, yeah, I forgot to blog yesterday. The problem with remote working is that you work a lot more. Day 14, of course, means that I’ve been in country for 2 weeks. This is Day 7 of working, however. Tomorrow is payday. I get paid once a month, around the 25th, so that there’s time for the money to land before you pay all your monthly bills at the beginning of the next month. Actually, pretty smart. I have direct deposit all set up to my Swedish bank account, where I will be paid in Kronor, and taxed like a Swede (almost). Between my UT card and my personnummer, I’m a fully legit Schengen EU resident. Weird.
Anyway, I went and looked at a house today. Quite a nice place. A little far from town, and a little pricey, but oodles of room for guests. Very modern and a super-nice family that was renting it out. I will go look at the other one on Friday (I think). Hopefully can pick something soon.
Also, for the record, when there’s a package of cheese in Sweden that is labeled “Texmex” don’t believe it. Unless by “Texmex” you mean a mixture of Gouda, Jarlsberg, and other Nordic-y cheeses. Bless their hearts, they have no freakin’ clue.
After laundry I went for a walk. It’s clear and nice again. Kind of chilly, but a small trade-off for no rain. I snooped around the neighborhoods of houses that I’m interested in renting (house 1 and house 2). Pretty nice.
I also did some grocery shopping at a different store. I have been going to the Coop in Mårtenstorget but this time I tried the Hemköp (pronounced “hem-shurp”) on Södra Vägen. They both are smaller than a full-size American grocery store (a la Safeway, Cub, or Kroger), and more like the size of a Whole Foods or a Lunds, maybe a wee-bit smaller. Coop is more like a Whole Foods. A little higher-end and nicer interior. Hemköp is more like a Cub – a little more no-frills and industrial. Another difference is that the Coop has toilet paper, and Hemköp, well, here’s what that section looked like:
This is the first time I’d seen that here, although, I’ve been shopping at Coop.
Fun aside, the Swedish word köp (again, pronounced “shurp”) has a shared ancestor with the English word “shop”, but means to “purchase” as opposed to “browse”.