Christmas Day, I caught a ride back to Stockholm with Lena and Lotta, caught a few hours of sleep, and then went to a dinner with friends. I was invited by fellow salsa dancer Evert, and the dinner was held at the home of another dancer, Robban.
I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of familiar faces there, including Helena, Jose, Leo, and my charming dance instructor Marina.
Here are the best 38 photos from the evening.
Yesterday afternoon I took the express bus from Stockholm to Norrköping. Lotta met me at the bus station, whence we drove to her parents’ home in Östra Husby, a small village twenty minutes East of the city. This morning the sun rose shortly after nine, and peeked through the clouds for a little while later in the morning. Before lunch, I helped Kurt move some furniture up into the attic for storage and went to the grocery store to pick up a few last-minute items.
Tonight we had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner of pickled herring, potatoes, ham, Brussels sprouts, peas, meatballs, and ‘princekorvar’, small hotdog-like sausages. For desert we had a delicious apple pie Lena made with apples from the trees in her garden. After dinner we retired to the living room to open presents (people exchange giftss on Christmas Eve in Sweden and most of the rest of Europe).
Here are a few photos from the weekend.
I'm coming down with a cold so I'm not feeling very well at the moment. I think the worst is past though, and I hope to be feeling better in the morning.
I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas!
Last night I went over to Maria & Johan’s place for a lovely Christmas dinner. I met Maria last year on the trip to Idre Fjäll. The dinner was delicious. I especially enjoyed Johan’s excellent homemade meatballs.
This afternoon, I’ll catch the bus down to Norrköping, where I’ll spend a couple of days with Lotta and her parents.
Last night was boulder open #60 at Karbin. I did the best I could, but it was certainly not my best performance to date. I completed 16 problems, a bit off my record of 26! Still, I had a good time and completed a few tricky problems. Here are a bunch of photos from the evening.
Last night I joined Stina and some of her friends to taste five or six different varieties of glögg. Stina’s friends were all new to me, except for Eleanor, whom I met briefly last year at Kittelfjäll at the same time that I met Stina.
Speaking that, Stina and I have booked a skiing trip up to Kittelfjäll over New Year’s week. I’m wondering whether this is a good time to buy a pair of skis. I really liked the Head Supershape Speed skis I rented in Åre last weekend, and have half a mind to buy a pair. But of course it’d be less expensive to get them at the end of the season, and even cheaper to get them when I visit the U.S. the next time.
The ride up to Kittelfjäll is on one of those sleeper busses, and one usually sleeps the whole way there and back. Unfortunately, Stina and bought the last two tickets, which means we got seats instead of beds. Oh well, I’ll bring my neck pillow and make the best of it. Let's just hope the bus stays on the road this time.
Yesterday afternoon I took a walk down to the water’s edge just after sunset. The horizon turned to a bright fiery orange, and I knelt down to capture the sky’s reflection in the ice.
The temperature has remained just below freezing for a few days, and it probably won’t be too long before it’s possible to skate on the lake.
Tuesday evening I went to Klättercentret for a bit of bouldering. It was the first time for me to see Matt & Lisa since returning to Sweden. Lisa and I an planning to thrown a combined party for our birthdays sometime soon. Our birthdays were in November, but the party probably won’t happen until mid-January at the earliest. Stay tuned.
The bouldering problems were a lot of fun. I conquered a few that I had tried last week but hadn’t managed to finish then. Pierre gave me some good tips on several tricky problems, and I think I’ll be able to complete a couple of them next time.
Miranda & Kalle were there. They’re up from Lund for the holidays. I gave Miranda the climbing gear I’d brought her from the U.S. and she seemed pleased. She said she plans to put it to good use when she goes climbing in Spain in a couple of weeks. I’m jealous!
Here are the nine photos I posted.
Miranda’s sister Josefin was there too, and she took lots of photos with her camera. She posted them to Facebook, if you want to see them.
Monday I joined Åsa for lunch. Åsa’s colleague Phil joined us. Åsa often works in the South part of the city, so it's not every day that we can meet for lunch. I had lamb curry from the Indian joint.
This past weekend, Åsa & Patric went skiing in Trysil, Norway. They had both great snow and bright sunshine! Lucky bastards!
The last day in Åre was fun, but I think we were all quite tired. It's a good thing we were there for only three days. If we’d been there longer than that, I don’t think we would have been able to maintain that pace of activity.
Early yesterday morning, we packed our bags and cleaned the apartment in time for it to be inspected at check-out time, 9.00. We then left our bags in Robban’s car and hit the slopes. After a quick lunch at Olympia Restaurant, everyone but me and Magnus piled in the car for the drive back to Stockholm. Magnus and I said our goodbyes and then returned to the mountain, where we skied another couple of hours. After a quick sauna and shower, I threw on a fresh change of clothes and went to catch the bus to the airport. Magnus’s train left about an hour later. The ride to the airport was about an hour long, and I slept the whole way. I also slept on the flight to Stockholm and the bus from Arlanda to the city. I guess I was tired!
I’ve posted about 70 photos from the weekend.
Tonight I met Emma in the old city to enjoy a bit of music and candlelight in the big church beside the square.
The music was quite good. I'm not such a big fan of Kraus, even though he may be buried on the shore of Brunsviken near my home. But the traditional Christmas and Lucia songs were delightful. I wish they'd try some more challenging choral works like in years past!
By coincidence, Emma saw a friend of hers there. He works as a physical education teacher at Adolf Fredirks school and was helping out with the production. He told us that the king and Kofi Annan had been at the earlier performance tonight. We were “mingling with the elite,” as PO put it.
Here are a few photos from Storkyrkan.
Thursday at midday I joined PO and Daniel for lunch at Kista Galleria. I had brought some goodies from the U.S. for the gentlemen, so that was the first order of business. We had Indian food, and by the time I finished my food I was stuffed. Because I'd had glögg and gingerbread cookies in the morning, the big lunch was a bit too much.
After lunch I went by the bank to take care of some problems with my credit card account. I recently opened a private account that earns 3.25% annually. When I opened this account, I moved most of the money from my old savings account to the new account. The bank told me they'd take care of setting up automatic payment of the credit card and loans so that these payments were made from the new account instead of the old one, but apparently they didn't do this. This oversight caused me a big headache when the payments were not paid. The bank has now fixed everything and waived the late fees that had been levied.
After more than two months of salsa-abstinence, I hit the dance floor at La Isla last night. Anna joined me, and we took the drop-in course together. It was a bit of a weird lesson: at once too easy and a bit awkward. The dance floor was too crowded too. Oh well—I guess it can't be a great lesson every time.
After the lesson I stayed and danced with a bunch of friends I hadn't seen since before my trip to Austin. Around ten o'clock, Anne Lene showed up and we danced a few dances too. Her friend Felix was there too, and I got some nice photos of the two of them dancing. Here are all 13 photos from the evening.
After two months away from Stockholm, I returned to my usual Tuesday night routine last night, climbing a few hours at Klättercentret. Last night, it was just bouldering. I had a good time and to my surprise did a couple of rather tricky (black-graded) problems. The skin on my hands is not as tough as it used to be though, and I cut up my right index finger a bit on one of the grips. Tougher skin takes time to build up. I'm sure in a month or so I'll have nice callouses again.
When I went upstairs, I ran into Emma and got a few nice photos of her trying a fun problem. I also met some friendly folks named Björn & Emma, whom I hadn't seen there before (Emma must be one of the most popular names for girls in Sweden). Later in the evening I saw Anna and Lotta there too.
Here are the best 24 photos from last night.
Sunday afternoon, I went downtown and joined Karin and some of her friends for an Advent fika at her place. We made candy and gingerbread cookies, and tried several types of glögg. And of course the place was illuminated by candlelight. It was a perfect way to start the winter holiday season. I posted 22 photos from the fika.
I picked up an Arc'teryx Theta AR jacket at REI on the way to the airport yesterday and I've already put it to good use. The weather is nasty here in Stockholm, with gray skies and cold drizzle dominating the forecast.
Despite the weather, it’s good to be home. Tonight is the night of the Nobel Prize ceremony at Stockholm City Hall, so that’s the topic on all the morning news programs. I’m looking forward to Lucia on Thursday. I plan to go to the concert at Storkyrkan in the old city. I’ve attended that concert several times, and it’s always a rewarding experience. Beautiful music and candlelight are excellent antidotes to the melancholy of a Stockholm winter.
Last night I joined Ethan and Dave for some bouldering at Austin Rock Gym. It was my first time to do any indoor climbing in the U.S. The bouldering problems here are graded according to the ”Hueco” grading system, developed here in Texas at the Hueco Tanks State Historic Site.
In this photo, Ethan does a hand-foot match on the way up from under the overhang. Last night was Dave’s first time climbing. He did alright considering that!
Prior to last night I hadn’t done any climbing in more than two months. My strength has deteriorated noticeably and the skin on my hands has lost some of its toughness. Even so, I was pleased with the climbing. I even did a couple of rather tricky problems. I have missed climbing! I'm looking forward to returning to my home turf and resuming my routine of climbing twice or three times per week.
I had lunch the other day with Ethan, Kelly, and a few other friends. Mike Kiser came, as did Dave Hill and a colleague of his named Brian. If you like fried catfish, it’s hard to find a place that makes it better than Catfish Parlor. I had the spicy fried catfish along with fried okra and yellow corn. As is my custom, I washed it all down with a frosty mug of root beer.
No, not my cat Sasha. Another one.
This Sasha is an old friend from my days at UT. We haven't really kept in touch, but a couple of week ago I managed to track her down. Monday night we met up at El Chile restaurant on Manor Road for a nice dinner. On Sasha’s advice I tried the spicy orange margarita. It's quite tasty. I also enjoyed the enchiladas with red mole sauce. It's fun to get reacquainted with old friends!
I've lived in Sweden for more than seven years but still haven't gone backpacking in the country’s expansive wilderness. That will change soon. On Saturday I got a new tent at REI — a “Mountain 25” tent from The North Face. My mom and dad offered to get the tent for me as an early Christmas present given that I won’t be in the U.S. for the holidays. I set up the tent in the meadow this morning. I think it’ll do just fine. With the rainfly, it’s a 4-season tent. That means I could even go camping in the snow if I were so inclined.
I’m going through all the old camping gear in the garage and trying to scavenge the usable equipment that's reasonably lightweight. Much of the stuff is too heavy for backpacking. When I went camping with the Boy Scouts as a youth, we went to most of our campsites by car, so weight wasn’t a big concern. I thought we had a couple of MSR stoves, but so far I haven’t had any luck in finding them. I also know I’ve got a 4-season sleeping bag hidden somewhere in storage. I’ll hunt for these items more later on in the week.
My plans to buy a car here have been put on hold for two reasons:
1. I don’t have a whole lot of cash at the moment; and
2. I don’t know how best to import a car from the U.S. to Sweden.
Solving problem 1 will just take time. I’m saving my money and trying not to buy things I don’t really need. Regarding the car, I probably should have used the loophole in the law that allows for the tax-free import of a car as an item of one’s personal belongings when one moves to Sweden. Unfortunately, I think it's probably too late for me to take advantage of this. I moved to Sweden in August of 2000.
It seems to be very expensive to import a car directly to Sweden from outside the E.U. The Swedish Custom Service has a web page indicating that one must pay 10% in customs fees on top of 25% in sales tax when importing a car to Sweden from any country outside the E.U. Importing a car from another E.U. country though is tax-free. So I'm thinking I could avoid Sweden’s high import duties and taxes by importing via a third E.U. member state. If anyone has ideas on this, please get in touch.
Saturday morning I’ll catch my flight to Newark and then continue on to Stockholm. I’m excited about returning home, but I’m also sad to leave my family. It has been a real treat to get to know my niece Evelyn a bit, and I regret that I won’t be here to see more of her first year of life.
Right now I’m taking a little lunch break from writing the redbook. I’m a bit behind on the writing, and will probably have to do at least some of the writing after I have returned to Sweden. The book is exciting to write though, an I’m learning a lot about the new version of TWS.
OK, time to grab a quick bite to eat and then get back to work!