Mariette has been gone from Halmstad for nearly 35 years. Except for occasional visits and, over the past several summers, longer vacation stays, she has lived away from where she grew up and her family. Today, she returned home, husband in tow.
Here is her dad and the house she grew up in. The last photo is us with Dan’s mom the morning we left. 94 and still kicking.
Usually when we have come here it felt like a vacation. Today, it felt like there were things to get done. We went to the bank to open an account. Banks in Sweden charge you about $30 a year for online banking services and for a debit card. They also have this nifty little device that adds another layer of security. Every time you want to make a transaction you enter your pin number and then this little device spits out another much longer number that you have to enter to complete the security procedure. Only then are you allowed in. Each time you make a new transaction the device spits out a totally different number. It seems pretty unhackable. They don’t use checks in Sweden either. The monetary unit is the Kroner, or Crown. Last summer the exchange rate with the US dollar was nearly 8 kroner to the dollar. Today it is down to 6.5. Sweden’s economy is one of the strongest around. Years ago they voted (barely) not to join the Eurozone and the folks who voted NO are feeling pretty proud of themselves.
About a quarter mile from Mariette’s parents’ house is the local swim stadium. 50 meters long, 9 lanes, heated and salt water. They hold big swimming competitions here in the summer. Lots of people use the pool in summer because it is free. In the U.S. at a YMCA pool for instance, each lane is usually roped off and if you get more than two people to a lane it is chaos. Here, everybody swims in a counterclockwise direction and you can get 50 times the number of people using the pool than you can in with the two-to-a-lane-max method.
The biggest culture shock, though, are the strawberries being sold at the farmer’s market in the town central square. They are actually round and red and smaller than the genetically engineered white-topped monsters we get in the States. I realized that Big Food grows them huge and flat to they pack easier and take up more room in the pint basket. Larger berries means less handling to fill the basket. Cha-ching!
Tomorrow we report to the tax agency and enter The System.