Monday, 30 May 2011

Plan for Wind

It does not feel strange to be here. I was expecting to be filled with excitement and wonder, to run into Natalie's arms with the anticipation and eagerness experienced only by friends long sundered. I was expecting to feel more, perhaps, than I did. Of course we were happy to see each other, but the whole thing felt so ordinary, as if it was not unexpected at all. Of course I was in Edinburgh. Why shouldn't I be? Of course we should sit talking in her little room under the slanted ceiling. How perfectly natural for two friends to come together-- whatever the country or continent, however long the time between encounters--and talk about everything imaginable.

 When a guest, always come bearing gifts. In this case, a wax stick and metal seal for Natalie's future letter-writing endeavours. 

 Natalie has lined her ceiling with book covers.

On my first morning in Edinburgh, I tried on Natalie's red-and-white-polka-dot-peep-toe-shoes, still in my pyjamas.

We decided to make a day of it and take a trip to Glasgow. But before our outing Nat showed me her dress collection.

 Jam for the indecisive

Before we left on our proper day out, Natalie pinned her hair back. I did the same, but remembering yesterday's blustery weather, I doubted. "It's not going to stay put, is it?"
Natalie shook her head. "Plan for wind."

 On our way to the train station

 A spot of sunshine in the temperamental Scottish weather

 Hot chocolate

 "No whipped cream is an island entire of itself." - Natalie

 On our way to Primark, the place of bargain buys

 Natalie puffs proudly at her purchase.

Brooch for two pounds

 The sun setting over Edinburgh

 The view from my room

I have my own room. It is a wonderful thing. The former flatmate just left, and I was able to put all my things away into the now-empty drawers. It's small, but still I have my own desk, lamp, bed, bedside table, and chair. I even have my own rubbish bin! If one travels often, it is necessary to quickly establish a base of operations, a nest to which one can return to roost.

A new coat. A vase of flowers. We stopped at Tesco after our long day out to buy the flowers for sixty pence. The man behind the counter eyed our brown Primark bags. "Been to Glasgow, then, have you?"
Yes. Yes, we had.


Natalie Is Trying to Kill Me

I spent most of yesterday in perpetual motion.

Arrived in Edinburgh yesterday, after long flight and a rather ungraceful hike through the different terminals of Arlanda airport.
Flew in to Terminal 1 (did not know this); hurried over to Terminal 5, thinking "must fly from international wing"; nice lady behind information counters sends me back Terminal 2.
Stopped in Terminal 1. Mistook it for Terminal 2. Tried to check in at the Norwegian Air domestic flights kiosk.
Nice people behind the information desk sent me on my way towards the real Terminal 2, a good ten minute trek from current location.

Finally arrived in Edinburgh. Greeted by Natalie. Took a bus into city. We walk--luggage in hand--through cobble-stoned streets for ten minutes, to Francis's house. Dropped off things. Off to Tesco for groceries. Back home. Francis has promised to take us by car to Natalie's place. Piled everything into car. Car won't start. Car dead. Piled groceries into luggage. Carried the rest. Walked three blocks to Nat's flat. Climbed three flights of stairs. Collapsed.

"You know, Natalie, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were trying to kill me."

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Graduation Party

Today my family and friends celebrated my graduation. Before the party, we spent some time blowing up balloons, and Joel attempted to decorate the flat according to his (shall we say?) avant garde style.

Joel: (after putting up a balloon): Check it out.
He potters about again and tapes up another one across the doorframe.
Joel: Check it out!
Mom: (from the kitchen): You don't have to act like every balloon is a masterpiece.

Sofia has an irrational fear of balloons. I made her help me with them. She blew one balloon up to one quarter of its intended size and refused to put it anywhere. It was, by all accounts, the sad runt of the lot.

Our American style spread of finger sandwiches, vegetables and dip, Rice Krispie treats, chips, fruit salad, and chocolate chip cookies.

 Joel multitasks with a guitar and computer.

 After my graduation party, we celebrated Mother's Day at my uncle's house with steak, roast potatoes, and strawberry cake. We had dinner in the beautiful new extension to their house. At Christmas time, I had only seen it in a state of construction, but now it is a perfectly comfortable day room.

My grandmother received a hand lotion from Crabtree & Evelyn, two small wine bottles, a pedicure set, and a nose hair trimmer. She wanted to know if the trimmer would short circuit if the inside of your nose was wet. We assured her that would not happen. She tried the trimmer immediately, stating that she could "already breathe much better."

Friday, 27 May 2011

Graduation Gifts

 When I arrived home from the airport, gifts greeted me from the bedside table. My brother and his wife had bought me a Jesus icon and a porcelain biscuit stand from Ukraine (some assembly required).

And candy. We mustn't forget candy.

Things That Must Be Done

 Refilling the mint tin my friend gave me

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mother tells me that my graduation party will be "American themed," seeing as I finished my degree there. In anticipation of this, she bought chips and the ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies and rice krispie treats. Essentially American, no?

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups old-fashioned oats
12 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Beat together softened butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Beat in eggs until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the flour mixture and oats. Stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes 52 cookies.

 the Cookie Monster

The Very Long Day

I began the yesterday with a challenge issued to Natalie via email:
 I say we should have a competition today over who can be the most productive. I'm sure it will be you, since I only just got up, but let's have at it nonetheless.
My mom and I took the bus in to Umeå. 

 Public transportion rocks.

After we stepped off the bus, I first bought a bus card; then we proceeded to walk over to the phone shop Telia, where my mother talked to an employee about switching over a portable modem into my father's name. You see, there are certain issues with living abroad. When I returned to Sweden a few years ago, I had to once again register myself as a "resident of Sweden," which means I was eligible to sign contracts in my name. Last summer, when the rest of my family returned, they could in no way sign for anything--therefore, I now have five phone numbers, a wireless router, and a portable modem registered to my name.

 Mom needed to return a book at the library. She scanned the book here,

 and it was trundled off on a conveyor belt into the mysterious machinations of the library system.
 We walked through the park to get to Kafé Station, a charming little coffee house and restaurant.

 A selection of cakes and sandwiches

 Free water and saft, or fruit cordial

 Västerbottens paj: a pie made from an especially sharp cheese from Västerbotten.


 Free sides from the buffet table. Cold sliced melon and grated carrots.

Mom had coffee ("Finally," she says, "real coffee." In other words, Americans make terrible coffee.) I had tea that tasted like watered-down Strepsils. My mother insists that is not true. 

After this we went to the bank to iron out some financial transactions and to the jewelry store to exchange a gold necklace for two silver ones.

 Off to the shoemakers to get new heels for my black shoes.


We went to Kicks, a beauty supplies store. I was trying to find day and night creams for my face because the dry air is making me peel. As I am a decisive person, I had no problems entangling myself from the clutches of the system. But I can imagine that the endeavour is rather treacherous for the indecisive. The sheer size of the selection must be daunting--Youth Code, Tri-Moisturize, Revitalift, and what have you--and this was only the moderately priced section.

 Mom and I arrived home for a short respite and a second wind before we went grocery shopping at Maxi Stormarknad.

I was to pick up supplies for my graduation party this Saturday. I wanted to buy something from this section, but rather than risk my mother's reputation, I decided for something much more sedate: Swedish flags, bendy straws, and streamers. I still have not quite understood why we should give up those things that we enjoy(ed) simply because we are to the rest of the world "grown up." Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I've always thought adulthood to be the conscious decision to live for others, rather than yourself.

 Demonstration in the fruit aisle

 The Sardine Master's Sprat, smoked, in a fine rapeseed oil

 King Gustaf Kippers. I like the packaging.

The number one reason you should come to Sweden

 I made fudge cake and chocolate chip cookies.

Sister Sofia arrived at nine thirty from Norway. She rejoiced in our sleeping set-up, which is really just an imitation of the bedroom we had as kids when we lived in a two-bedroom HDB flat on Havelock Road in Singapore.

P.S. I won,
  the Challenge