Monthly Archives: August 2011

The art of queuing

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When I arrived here in Sweden, I was warned about a number of things. To be punctual, for example (which, for me, is a total nightmare). To take off my shoes whenever I was visiting someone at their home. To be “lagom”, i.e. not to try to be better than anybody else. Last February, The Local, a Swedish news site in English, published a list of 20 things any foreigner should know before moving to Sweden, and I found myself smiling and nodding over more than one thing.

There was one phenomenon, however, I hadn’t really experienced: the Swedish art of queuing.

I was told the Swedes are patient, and usually await their turn calmly, in a queue. To get on the bus, for example, they form a queue along the bus, waiting to get on. Anywhere else, however, there were only very little queues to be spotted. The reason is very simple: there are numbers everywhere.

You go to the bank? You take a number. You want to buy a train ticket? You take a number. You go to the butcher’s? You take a number. You call a help line? You get a number!

But last Saturday, I was finally able to witness the queuing in its glorious perfection.

Picknick tables on the street at Malmöfestivalen.

Currently, in Malmö, there is the Malmöfestivalen, a free open-air music festival. Apart from the big stages on almost every square, lining the streets are of course stalls with jewelry, clothes, and naturally – food. Now it happens, especially around dinner time, there’s a lot of people wanting to take something out at the same time. We have a similar (although obviously bigger and better) festival in my home town each summer, and it is always a challenge to get the attention of whoever is running the food stall and actually get your food.

Not in Sweden.

In Sweden, people queue.

There’s a gazillion people on the street, pushing to get through, but when it comes to getting the food, they all queue.

And they don’t just queue. Oh no. They queue parallel. Like such:

(Forgive my drawing skills – they have not yet reached the costume making-level…)

I tried to take a pretty picture of it, but it didn’t work out on camera at all, so you’ll have to do with the drawing. Believe me when I say it looked amazingly funny.

I later mentioned this to some Swedes at work, and they nodded seriously in response: “It is sometimes hard, though, when there are only 3 or 4 people, do you already start a queue, or not? And which direction? But there seems to be a common intelligence, and fortunately, it always works out.”

Most fortunately, indeed. Because what on earth would they do if no queue were formed, right?

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Let’s get packing!

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In a recent comment on one of Lin’s posts over at the Absence of Alternatives, I let out that I would probably never visit the States. I realize this might sound a bit rash for someone who hasn’t even turned 30 (please let me enjoy being able to say this for just one more year), and truth be told, if it hadn’t been for a since deceased bearded Saudi, I already would have. And it’s not like I don’t want to. For one thing, I dream of seeing every show on Broadway (and you may take this quite literally). My parents have spent their two most recent summer holidays traveling around Arizona/Nevada/Wyoming/Utah/… visiting National Parks and cities whose names I forgot but whose pictures filled me with longing and jealousy. Unfortunately (for myself), I am the lucky owner of a number of obsessionspassions, and one of those evolves around carbon footprinting.

Antelope Canyon, Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona, USA.

Antelope Canyon, AZ. They don't have this in Europe, that's for sure. (Image via Wikipedia)

I have always been very concerned with nature conservation and the like. I remember, even as a kid, telling my mother about recycling, and that she had to separate waste streams of plastic and metal. The poor woman was only barely able to explain to me that it didn’t make much sense to throw them away separately if they weren’t picked up separately (that has fortunately changed). Even to this day I get so obsessed about recycling that I throw my bottles and cans in the trash of the apartment block around the corner (usually under the cover of darkness) because it has separate containers for glass/plastic/metal/… and mine doesn’t. I’ve always used public transportation, and only got my driving license at 25, mostly because my parents kept insisting I get it. Needless to say, I never owned a car. I rarely drink anything but plain tap water, and I’ve been known to come close to dehydration when I forgot my water bottle out or pure stubbornness not to buy bottled water. I travel between Belgium and Sweden by a long, expensive train ride (17hrs, about €170) instead of a quick, cheap flight (6hrs, about €110). And so, I’m sure you understand, even with a GreenSeat certificate my conscience would never survive the torture of my feelings of guilt about throwing 2,46 tons of CO2 in the air. I have, however, found a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve an $800 7-day crossing with the Queen Mary 2

Although... this doesn't look that bad...

I’m just gonna travel through the States via the World Wide Web! Indeed: if an Idiot can cycle coast to coast and Thypolar can shop at WalMart in whichever state she chooses, I sure as hell can visit the States through the interwebz, right? For each state, I will give myself a week of traveling time, so that I would be able to do the whole trip in a year. I’ll research the top sights and must-have-done’s, trying to get a sniff of American history, and alternate with breathtaking hikes and cycling tours. I might even do some culture here and there (although the stars know I was never one for museums). I will then tell you all about what I’ve seen, done, and learned!
Because Lin instigated the idea, I will start my exploration in the state of Illinois and its largest city, Chicago – which, remarkably, is not the capital. I truly thought Springfield was a fictional village inhabited by yellow creatures, but that is obviously my mistake. See, I haven’t even started and I’ve learned something already! If you have any trips for state-seeing, please let me know, and if you’re residing in the US of A: see you soon!

Dress-up party, you say?

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I’ve discovered something about myself, lately. I love doing crafts. Or rather: I would love to love doing crafts.

Let me explain.

See, I have this tendency to get jealous of certain types of people. That type of people that gets up at 5 or 6 am to work out before work, for example. I would love to be one of those people. That would be so cool, to be able to say “Oh, yeah, got up at 5, did 40 laps in the swimming pool, still had some time before work so I went for a short jog. Like, only an hour or so.”

Alas, while I have been able to keep up a three-times-a-week running schedule for the past month or so (and am pretty proud of that monumental achievement), I am not a morning person, let alone a morning athlete.

Or religious people. I get jealous of religious people. You know, the zen type, that has this quiet conviction that they have found their own ‘right path’. The type that puts the whole “love thy neighbor” into practice in this sickeningly good kind of way that it makes you feel bad for even existing. It seems so easy, to just have this book full of rules and you follow it and then you’re happy.

Only, I’m a scientist. (yes, I feel religion and science are largely mutually exclusive. but let’s keep that discussion for another time.)

And then, there’s those crafty people. Whenever I see people doing crafts -and it could be anything really, from making their own Christmas cards to making their own clothes- I can’t help but stare. Because it looks so cool. It looks so cool to be able to do that, to take something and just… make it into something else.

No need to clarify: I suck at it. I mean – I got the techniques: I can sow, I can knit, I can follow complicated origami protocols all you want. But let’s be honest here, that’s not being crafty. That’s not what I’m jealous of. What makes me look at all those crafty projects with sad, longing eyes, is the creativity. They take a flower pot and some paint and they make the perfect addition for their garden. I can copy-paste the process, but I can assure you it won’t look as good in MY garden (although that might be related to the fact I don’t actually have a garden. this, however, is besides the point).

But now, I’ve found something. A crafty thing in which I actually manage to be creative.

Dress-up parties.

Dress-up parties?

Glad you ask!

It started last year with Halloween, when I and some friends went to a Halloween party. It was only the second time I actually celebrated Halloween and deciding on a costume was a downright nightmare, but I finally settled on Pippi Longstocking. For those who missed the post back then, this is how it looked like:


I later heard I won the prize for best costume, but unfortunately never got it since I left early due to public transport dependency… .

Then, for an I-cannot-for-the-life-of-me-remember-which reason, our dearest and nearest friend Kim decided to give a “Pink Party”. While most people went pink wigs, pink dresses, pink nails, and even pink eye lashes (which, especially on the guys, was particularly interesting to view), I thought of P!nk, the singer, and with a fine black marker scribbled fake tattoos all over my body. It looked more or less like such:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left the full costume (P!nk wears something vaguely similar in the Family Portrait video) spiced up with a boa, headband and sunglasses for my unforgettable karaoke rendition of Katy Perry‘s “I kissed a girl”, on the right the only picture I have of 2 of my ‘tattoos’, my pink polished fingernails, and the lipstick I won for “Most original interpretation of the theme”. ‘T is my first lipstick, ever, I might add, so it was a very good prize.

The Pink Party was such a success that it was followed last week by a “Disco is not dead” housecooling party (or whatever the antonym for housewarming party is). The idea started with a cut-off pair of jeans, got fueled by a Google Image search and finally fired by the trash talk between all attendees of the party about their planned costumes and acts. So after 10 hours of searching, measuring, and sewing (by hand! I have missed Ts sewing machine terribly…), I arrived 1,5 hours late to the party looking like this:

And although you can see the boys made for some stiff (and colorful) competition, I received another costume prize (a gold wig. first ever, too. how they knew this, I’ll never figure it out).

I really feel like I’m on a roll here, so obviously, you can all guess what is on my mind these days…

… and for that matter, what will I?