Moving to Sweden is Moving

Just a quick note to let anyone following this blog that in a couple days the name of my blog will change from movingtosweden.org to movingtoswedendotorg.wordpress.com. I have been assured by the good folks at WordPress that I will still be able to post blog updates and people will still be able to follow our adventures or whatnot at that location. 

The fact is that during our first year here I did a new post about 2 days out of every 3 but in this second year I had already been there and done that, so I did new posts only about every 2 weeks, if that. 

Anyone interested will still be able to follow the blog by clicking the follow button, or maybe if you are following it will automatically transfer you to the newly named location movingtoswedendotorg.wordpress.com.

This change occurs just as there is going to be some interesting stuff happening here in Halmstad beginning tomorrow, 1 July. This whole next week is SM Vecka here, meaning Swedish Championship Week in a whole bunch of different sports and activities. The national championships from Badminton to Windsurfing and everything in between will be taking place throughout the week. I plan to catch as much as I can and hopefully will take some interesting photos worth posting. I mean, aren’t people interested in seeing who is crowned the Swedish tug of war champions? Or the roller derby champs? How about bocce ball? No, well then, how about frisbee? Model airplanes? Or real air acrobatics? 

Stay tuned.

 

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One Awfully Happy Nation

Today was the high point of the year in Sweden. Where we are we had 17 hours and 47 minutes of daylight today (to be balanced out with roughly 6 hours and 13 minutes in December), the longest day of the year and the celebration of Swedish Midsummer. If you want to see a people where misery, sorrow and evil take a holiday the place to be is a sunny Midsummer in Sweden. Last year on Midsummer is rained and the forecast today was for a torrential downpour starting at 2:00 p.m., just a half hour before the festivities were to begin. But as the morning wore on, it looked as though we were going to get a reprieve, so things were looking good.

To start with, we had a wonderful visit from a cousin of Mariette’s yesterday who stopped by on her way to be with her family. Helena is 8 months pregnant and we had a super time catching up since we last met, eating a tremendous smoked salmon dinner, looking at her wedding photos and just chilling. Naturally, like a dummy, I forgot to take some photos. Helena is the archetypal Swedish woman: beautiful, athletic, sweet, one helluva cook and adventurous. Just a few months ago, she spent a month building a house in Mexico to learn how to do it. Anyway, she is one of our absolute favorites and it was wonderful to see her again.

So, with the weather looking like it was going to hold, off we went to a nearby farm to celebrate Midsummer. I’ll let the photos do the rest.

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ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageIf you get the idea that it was a  happy, carefree afternoon, you are right. Similar celebrations were occurring in other parts of town, throughout the region and across the entire country. Midsummer, though it officially signals the beginning of summer in the U.S. is actually considered the middle of summer here, hence the name. Summer starts here on the first of May and after a long cold winter the weather has mostly been spectacular for the past 6 weeks.

We then went to Mariette’s parents’ place with a good friend. As I said at the top, all hell was supposed to break loose earlier in the afternoon but it must have been the collective will to have a sunny raising of the Midsummer pole and the rain  held off until around 5:00 and then it really came down.

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It really came down for about 10 minutes, but by 5:00 most people were probably home and dry, and enjoying one of the favorite Midsummer meals, a West Coast salad with tuna, shrimp, macaroni and eggs in a bed of lettuce. Really good. After a walk to give the dogs some air we had coffee and desert and then sat around shooting the breeze and looking at some old drawings of Mariette’s Dad’s.

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It would have been hard to script a better day than today. We’ll try again tomorrow. The weather forecast is sunny. People will be taking it easy after consuming the 300,000 liters of hard alcohol and 7 million beers that were sold leading up to today. In another week or so, many people will be taking their month of paid vacation and July should be a real good month here. To top everything off, Mariette got her vacation bonus today. She gets 32 paid vacation days each year, 22  of which are eaten up in July so she will get another full paycheck in July and then can take 10 more vacation days sometime later in the year.

Yeah, today was a good day to be in Sweden. I wish a lot of people could experience a Midsummer here. Sweden may have its problems but today was not one of them.

Finally, a few new paintings I have been working on:

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One Hella Happy Town

Friday was Graduation Day for students all across Sweden. So, people were already pumped. Graduation from gymnasiet (the rough equivalent to high school) is a huge deal here, much bigger than anything in the U.S. It starts a week or two earlier with the Swedish version of the Senior Prom, which I blogged about last year. I also blogged about this event, called “studenten” last year but it rained and even so it was a joyous affair. Friday, however, Halmstad made Disneyland look like North Korea by comparison. These folks were really flipped out. The previous day was Sweden’s national day, so everyone had the day off and could chill before studenten. The fact that the gorgeous weather continued (70 F. and sunny for most of the past month, unheard of according to one neighbor I asked) brought the happiness level up a notch.

The graduates have ceremonies at their schools and the family attends, and most make posters of the graduate showing baby pictures, a few examples of which are below. After the graduation ceremony, the kids pile into trucks or trailers pulled by tractors and roam through the streets in the center of town making as much noise as possible with whistles, horns, screams and shouts. They organize into vehicles by class or subject of study.

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Many of the kids are drinking and carrying on and blowing off steam after their final exams With the chaos that kids flipping out riding through town on truck beds and drinking creates requires a police presence and here it is:

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One cop on a Suzuki. To be fair, I did see one other motorcycle cop and one police car. No cops on the street directing traffic, no police barriers, no riot squads waiting for something to happen. 

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Translation: Thanks Wikipedia, coffee and alcohol. Without you we wouldn’t have done shit.

 

 

 

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In the but square in town, things were a little less raucous but just as happy.

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After an hour or so terrorizing the city streets, everybody unloads and makes  their way to a nearby park and the festivities continue.

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Family and friends hang trinkets or flowers around the graduates’ necks.

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There are no activities planned for the park. The graduates just hang around with their friends and family and the entire place is super happy. 

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After watching for awhile, I left to get a sandwich and then went to the Apple store to check out the new iPad. When I returned around 40 minutes later, the park was deserted and the party had moved somewhere else. All that remained was the flowers.

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That was okay because right across from the park is the gallery where I had my show  that closed last week. A new show opened on Friday and I went to the opening. This time it is ceramic sculptures not paintings but the humor was evident. The artist got a really nice big write up in the paper.

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Last month he snuck this sculpture on top of a tree stump in the park which created a stir and now the city is planning to buy it.

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He has done some humorously inspired works for the show which fits Peter Wahlbeck’s agenda for the art community here in Halmstad: inject some humor into the art scene here.

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Man, this was a happy day. Tons of stuff going on, fantastic weather and a resident of Halmstad could not ask for anything else. 

Cloud formations over Halmstad

Walking the dogs this morning I noticed some interesting “cloud” formations.

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There is no way these can be vapor trails because I see these often and they dissipate

within 2 or 3 minutes.  But these “clouds” tend to hang around and then spread out wide over an area.

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This next one is possibly the most interesting cloud I have ever seen in my life:

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Look at the angle on that thing. It looks like a knife edge.

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Hours later they were still hanging around. If these are vapor trails there must be absolutely zero wind at 30,000 feet today.

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Not sure what those puffy things are but I think that’s what used to be known as clouds. The other things I don’t think were seen before around 1997 or so. Not in all recorded history, even though jets had existed for 50 years before.

Maybe these chemtrails conspiracy nutjobs are onto something.

Wrapping Up In Style

Today was the last day of my exhibition at Peter Wahlbeck’s gallery here in town. Up until now I had sold one painting, which is not what I had hoped for but over the course the these past weeks I have met several other artists and gotten more knowledgeable about the art scene here. This afternoon when I came into the gallery Peter pointed out another red dot on the wall, another painting had been sold. And there is a good possibility that another one will be bought by the same person. Things were looking up already. Here is the red dot to prove it.

ImageAnd the full painting itself. This was probably my favorite of all the ones I did.

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A short time later a man came in and started looking around. We began talking and then he told me that he wanted to buy another painting, and he did! More good news.

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And the full painting:

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Here is the buyer with Peter in front of his purchase:

ImageAs we talked more about our lives, the man found out that I am a ghostwriter and later on he approached me about writing a story of his life, which seems to have been very interesting and so it looks like I will have another book to do soon, which is perfect timing since Mariette and I are doing the proofread of the last book I wrote and I would soon need more work. 

Opportunities seem to be coming my way. Our landlord approached me recently to do paintings for the showroom of his business, a granite company specializing in monuments for gravesites as well as granite counter tops. He has a nice big space that is just begging for some nice large abstract paintings to dress up its bare walls.

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To top it off, the weather has been, in the words of a neighbor, “This is why we live in Sweden.” The entire month of May nearly the whole country was sunny and warm with only occasional rain showers to keep things growing. In other words, it has been perfect here and June started off just as good. 

I have to say that connecting up with Pete Wahlbeck has been a good move on my part. Last week Peter did a City Walk around town where he takes a group around and talks about various points of interest and gets the crowd laughing while learning about Halmstad. 

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ImageAfter the walk he showed me an add that ran in one of the papers for the exhibition:

ImageThen we went over to the biggest dairy in the area where there was a kind of garden fair happening. It turns out that Peter is involved in a company that has a novel way of sinking fence posts without digging holes and pouring cement. Anyway, here are some shots of the fair. I should have taken more photos. Sorry.

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Here is  the old manor of the nobleman who owned the land around as far as one can see. Today it is a restaurant and administrative offices of the dairy, I think.

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And this is Swedish advertising for smoked wild boar meat.

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Overall, it has been a memorable month with a visit to the U.S., Prada’s stellar showing at her exhibition and a successful exhibition with 3 sales and two more likely to happen after the show closes, not to mention half a dozen new contacts in the art community of Halmstad. Oh, and perfect weather.

Damn, I like living here.