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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Boat Duties, Part II

The other "duty" we have at our marina is to participate in a work evening once each summer as well. The great thing about both the guard duty and the work evening are that by the members each taking a turn at these things, our marina fees are kept quite low. Plus, it's a great way to interact with Swedish society and engage the culture on a personal level.
Tonight we had our work duty. Fortunately it was a wonderful day so we arrived at the marina at 18.00 in shorts and T-shirts ready to report for duty. It's always nerve wracking because we still feel like foreign outsiders and we get nervous that we won't be able to understand what they are asking us to do or worse yet, they will give us a horrible, dirty, awful task. Upon arrival we met Hans, an older gentleman and his wife Agneta who have been members of the Lidingö Båtklubb for years and years. He is actually suffering from ALS so he doesn't have much physical ability but he is just about as sweet a person as I've ever met. Of course, he spoke only in Swedish to us and explained our first task for us. He said he had a job just for the two of us that was to basically fix a hose holder on one of the docks that had been removed in order to be repaired. Fortunately another person helped us locate the piece, the screws and the tools and we were off! It was an easy job that didn't take so very long. It became very clear to us that there wasn't much else for us to do. He kept us busy by asking us to check all of the docks to make sure that nothing was out of order. We tightened a few other things, picked up some trash and then I went into the kitchen to help fix the hot dogs and coffee that were to follow all of the hard labor! I had a chance to chat with this delightful couple and they were very gracious and kind. I learned that Hans goes to the boat club every morning at 10.00 to "fika" (have coffee) with the gubbar (old guys). The boat club provides him and his wife with a real sense of community which is lovely given that they are failing a bit in their older years.
After awhile, the other 5 guys who were present working came in and we shared some hot dogs and small talk! The whole evening was very easy and actually quite enjoyable. I really enjoyed speaking with Hans and Agneta, getting a bit of insight into their lives. They enjoyed finding out more about these Americans who are members of their boat club. It was a good chance for me to practice my Swedish and we felt good doing our civic duty to keep our boat club clean and shiny!
We have finished now with work and guard duties for the year! Hurray. Now we can enjoy the Swedish summer while others guard the marina and take care of the business around the grounds!
I love our boat club. It's a beautiful place and I feel lucky that we get to park our boat in this wonderful little corner of lovely Stockholm.

Boat Duties

Once a year we have to spend one full night at the marina "guarding" the boats and making sure there aren't any break-ins or suspicious activities. We try to get a night that is as close to the solstice as it is quite enjoyable to watch the summer sky as darkness really does not fall right now. This is how things looked when we arrived at 11.45 p.m.This year, 3 wonderful young people from church joined us, thinking that an outing such as this would be exciting! Here's the crew ready for action!We think that for them, any excuse to stay up all night was a good enough reason to join us on night duty! Little had changed in the night sky by 12.30.Tanner loves this night too. He gets to be off the leash all night and he runs in and out of the water, chasing all manner of water fowl, swimming, rolling in the grass, and running after other animals that might appear in the boat yard!
Doug and William tried to catch some fish. No luck but look at the reflection off the water! I take pictures and enjoy the view. With the extra company this year, we played a card game where the rules were a bit unclear to me until almost the end which explained why I was losing so badly!
Every so often you are supposed to make rounds around the marina. Usually you have to take photographs, but the camera was broken so every hour or so one or two of us walked the marina checking for the bad guys. What's so funny is that by 3.00 a.m. it's totally light outside so there's no real imminent threat!
It was a gorgeous night and the moon was shining brightly in the twilight sky.
At about 3.00 the horizon lightened considerably and by 3.30 it was all day light once again.Our harbor is situated in such a way that you can't see the sun break over the horizon. At one point, William climbed up on top of the mast holder and was taking a peak out over the landscape. I climbed up half way at about 4.30 and found a lovely view.Check out the mist on the water around 4.30 a.m.
This was the scene at 4.30. Day had fully broken and the morning was breathtaking. The sun was warm and the promise of a wonderful summer day awaited us.

Tanner still has plenty of life left in him even after only sleeping for about 30 minutes the entire night! The morning was so gorgeous that we decided to drive the kids home in our boat! At 6.15 a.m. we loaded up the boat and headed out. It was still and quiet and amazing.By the end of the morning, this is how we all felt!Our night watch had ended and we had enjoyed an early morning ride. The night has been amazingly beautiful and sharing it with the young people from our church who were incredibly helpful and enjoyable to be with. In Swedish, this guard night at the marina is called our Guard Duty. This is one duty that I definitely don't mind, although admittedly, it takes me awhile to recover from a night with little sleep. I guess it feels like jet lag, which is definitely something I'm used to but this time, the way in which I got the jet leg was much more fun than flying in a cramped airplane with bad air and food!Pulling back into the harbor at 10.00 ready for a day off and nap!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Celebrating the 4th of July on the 29th of June

The U.S. Embassy held their Independence Day celebration yesterday as the 4th of July is on a Sunday this year. It is always such an honor to be invited and this year was the best party ever! This was the first year that Ambassador Matthew Barzun has been in office and he outdid himself by offering a charming and lovely afternoon to his guests. He also gave a great speech, partly in Swedish (which was very impressive and well done) in which he said that while we celebrate our independence, we also lift up our dependence on others as a way to create the best way of life for all. He also said that from whom we are celebrating our independence and why are topics left for another day and that all parties are close friends and allies 234 years down the road! It was very nice. Ala Michelle Obama, he planted an herb garden in the backyard of the embassy, the fruit of which will be used in the new American style Diner he is creating in the embassy. I even got to plant a couple of the plants! Finally, we might have a chance for a wonderful burger here in town! He made a cute joke once again by asking the British Ambassador to plant the thyme, as a symbol that time heals all wounds! It was a nice touch.
Seeing the American flag brought in by the Marine Color guard and listening to the National Anthem being sung by the Los Angeles Children's Choir, who just happened to be in town for this celebration, was a taste of home that I appreciated. Tents were set up adorned in the colors of the flag and various sorts of hot dogs, Pringles potato chips, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, cup cakes and quesadillas were on offer! Gallo wine and Sam Adams beer completed the taste treats and the park-like atmosphere of the back side of the embassy grounds created the perfect setting for a 4th of July picnic.
I didn't realize you would be able to bring cameras in so I didn't bring mine. Sorry. It was a delightful afternoon. We enjoyed conversations with several diplomats, many members of our church community and other various people who we run into now and again at these celebrations.
It's fun to feel the sense of America once in awhile especially since Sunday will be just another summer day here in Sweden.
Thank you Ambassador Barzun and all the staff at the US Embassy for making this a memorable and beautiful celebration of our country's national Independence Day holiday!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Midsommar Afton in Stockholm

We deviated from our usual midsommarafton (midsummer eve) activities as we have close friends from the USA in town and thought we would all enjoy doing a "touristy" midsommar! We headed to Skansen along with the rest of Sweden! One of the great things about this midsommar is that it was actually sunny and warm all day! This totally deviates from tradition as every midsommar we can remember has been cold and rainy for at least a portion of the day! The bright Stockholm sunshine greeted us early in the morning, (like around 2.30 a.m.) and after enduring an extremely long entrance line, we were greeted by these beautiful Swedish flags blowing in the warm breeze with the bright blue sky glistening behind them.
The city sparkled in the background.
As we waited in line to buy our tickets, these adorable Swedish children sporting their lovely midsommar kransar (wreaths) caught our eyes.Once inside the park, we were greeted by a parade of folks dressed in all of the traditional costumes of Sweden. We made our way to the midsommar stång (midsummer pole) where hundreds of folks were taking part in the traditional singing and dancing of midsummer. Swedes love to sing about frogs and pigs and elephants as well as the laundry and playing the fiddle and the flute! It's all a bit nonsensical and quite a bit of fun! The rest of the day was spent wandering around the grounds, taking a peak at the napping brown bears, watching the otters swim in their pools and enjoying the various bits of Sweden that surrounded us. The grass-roofed buildings were a highlight as well as the lovely flower beds. In another part of the park, we stumbled upon another midsommar stång. This one was decorated with little people dolls dressed in typical Swedish costumes. By the days end we had had our fill of fun!
Doug and I are not fans of the typical midsommar meal which consists of various types of herring, cured salmon and dill boiled potatoes. So true to form, we fixed a taco dinner with homemade guacamole that all enjoyed immensely! I'm quite sure we were the only folks in all of Sweden who had Mexican food on midsommar!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Swedish Royal Wedding

Yesterday was a BIG day here in Stockholm!
Crown Princess Victoria married her former personal trainer Daniel Westling.
We were thrilled to be in the midst of it all cheering them on!
The flag says Say Yes!
Given the historical significance of such an event as well as the fact that I've never been anywhere near a royal wedding before combined with the fact that I've lived in Sweden for 12 years, I felt it important to figure out how to take part in this event. Fortunately for us, our friends, Sandra and Robert stumbled upon a great deal the night before the wedding.

Hurray for Sandra and Robert!
They scored tickets for a spot in one of the exhibit tents that were set up along the water front for all the pomp and circumstance that has been going on for weeks now. It was a terrace overlooking the water way where the newlywed couple would come by row boat at the end of their long cortege through town. This was our amazing view for the entire afternoon.Our tickets included one of the best vantage points, tables and chairs, plenty of space, heaters for when the evening chill came upon us, and food and drink. It was a major coup as we were able to truly enjoy the day in the comforts of a beautiful spot. The place had flat screen TV's set up all over the place so that we could also watch what was happening during the wedding and throughout town.
The wedding itself was beautiful and authentic. The clergy were looking grand in their vestments and the bride and the groom were sparkling, as brides and grooms do! When they each answered the Swedish equivalent of "I do" cheers and clapping erupted from the crowd! When sharing their vows, Daniel shed a tear, Victoria shed a tear, Queen Sylvia shed a tear...and OK, so did I! It was very cool to see that amidst all the huge ceremony of everything that was taking place, Daniel and Victoria were genuinely excited about being wed.
When the time finally came for the royal boat to arrive to our vantage point, the excitement in the air was electric. The jet flyover and the canons booming across the harbor created quite the celebratory environment. This boat, the Vasaorden was amazing. The rowing was in absolute precision and it was thrilling to see it come into view..Turned out we had a great perch and I'm pretty sure they both looked me right in the eye and waved! See them waving to us?!It was great being Swedish for a day and we were proud to wave our flags and cheer on the happy couple.We walked home after the events of the day in the midst of a beautiful summer June evening. This is the spot where they disembarked from the boat to greet the crowd and enter the palace for their grand reception.The guards were decked out in their finest and I loved the tassels that adorned their helmets for this special occasion.Here's the spot where Victoria and Daniel greeted the crowd before entering the palace.We shared the day with good friends who enjoyed celebrating with us. All of us were swept up into the joy of the day and we each made it memorable for all involved!The Royal Palace, bathed in the gorgeous long light of a June evening.
I am very happy that I got to be in this grand affair. It was a gorgeous day in Stockholm and I shall long treasure the memory of living here when Princess Victoria finally got her prince.I loved sharing this day with my prince to whom I am very happily married. It was a day to celebrate love and we did so in fine style.