As I am now nearing my third year of residence in Sweden, new friends have asked me what it was I did for a living in my “old life”. This question always takes me a bit by surprise because I’m not sure which Old Life they refer to. The life which I lived in the US, or the one which I lived in a past life?
It does not escape me that Sweden is an old culture, so when someone asks me about a past life this might be a perfectly logical or even common question. This question is, however, one which I can not answer. Much easier is it for me to refer to my recent past and explain that I studied and loved art history and that I once made a living writing about such pleasures.
This need not be. The study of Scandinavia’s art and history, and also the study of ancient nordic runes, fairy tales, folk tales, and mythology is extremely rewarding and informs us in matters concerning a people, place, and time.Read More»
Home is where the heart is? “When I was back home …” Back home. “I need to go home for a visit.” These are terms which expats use all the time. Even while setting up a new home in a new country, we are strongly attached to the place of our origin.
“Where is your home?” he asks me with a look of such sadness it would break your heart. I know what he wants me to say.
Despite the amount of despair conversations such as these cause my fiancé, I just can’t – yet – seem to come to terms with exactly where my home is. Where is it that I feel most comfortable – and especially now that I’ve lived in Sweden for over two years – would my US home still feel like home? Am I a woman without a home? A woman with two homes?Read More»
When my parents were first starting out, they lived in a gas station in Colchester, Connecticut. Not realizing how ungodly unhealthy it might be to do so – this was back somewhere around 1950 or 1955 – my father fashioned a lovely little home for himself and my mom. This gas station sat alongside the property that was my grandparents farm and my father, a carpenter by trade, had gutted the building and reinvented it, complete with white picket fence and window boxes. They lived there for some years.
After awhile, it was decided that it was time to build a real house of their own. They purchased land in East Hampton, Connecticut. Every night after work, both of them would return to that little gas station, eat, get dressed, and make the twenty-five minute commute to the site of their future home.
It was a home built with love and most of the work was done by my dad and mom. It was and still is, I assume, a beautiful house. Set on seven acres of land, it was a sprawling brick ranch with two bathrooms, a full basement and attic, large living room with a stone fire place, a den, dining room, breezeway, two car garage. The interior and exterior details were second to none … well, you can imagine. “God is in the details,” my mother would tell me.Read More»
It feels very strange to be living in Sweden on the anniversary of September 11th. I feel like molecules are somehow missing from my body … like I’m not quite complete and it’s almost hard to breath.
If I were in the US today, especially in my home state of Connecticut, I would be surrounded by friends, family, and those who experienced the terrible events of 9/11 and the weeks afterward. There is comfort in being with those who know your grief. 9/11 was a terrible day but the days and weeks afterward were equally horrific and emotionally trying. If I were back in the US, I would be with people in the grocery store, on the street, huddled on a sidewalk cafe – all of us remembering where we were, who we lost, what we saw. We would all be recalling that beautiful blue sky day in September thirteen years ago.
Here in Sweden, I’m not quite sure how to process what I’m feeling. Somehow so removed from it all and yet somehow also so much closer and keenly aware. 9/11 was personal. I remember trips I took into the city soon afterward. Those huge buildings in a crumbled heap, still smouldering even after several months. Having been out on the streets of Manhattan, I would have to dig the dust of dead from my nostrils when I arrived back at my hotel or friend’s apartment. The stoney cement, that dust – nearly microscopic and still airborne – would gather in my pores and I would have to wash it from my face. I remember, as if it were yesterday, the millions of posters and the memorial walls, displaying photographs of those who were missing. Flowers, and candles, and flags and … so many photographs.
On that day, after the planes had struck the towers, I remember calling my best friend who lived on the Lower East Side. I had to repeatedly dial her cell phone number as telephone connections were either overburdened or failing. I was frantic. We finally were able to connected. I sat in Connecticut, she in Brooklyn at a friend’s apartment (Thank god!). Together we watched the second building fall. Her from her window. Me on the television. We cried. We were stunned silent. We watched New Yorkers, in terror and confusion, flee the streets.
I’ve had many of my new friends here in Sweden send me warm thoughts today. Lovely people, both Swedish and expats, reaching out to let me know they stand with me … they understand my heartbreak. To those of you … thank you so much. I’m very rarely homesick, but today my heart is in and with America.
I will never forget.
Writer/photographer Lisa Mikulski. Available for print or online publications and business in the Nordic region, Europe, and the U.S. Editorial, features, marketing copy, and public relations. Contact me here or at lisa @ 2sweden4love.com
On a particular day in June of 2014, I celebrated a two year anniversary. Two years of living in Sweden. It seems like forever and it seems like yesterday. It’s been a journey. Much of it extremely challenging. I’ve packed my bags many times. I’ve learned a great deal. I’ve adjusted and compromised. And I’ve stood firm.
There were days of sadness and loneliness to the point of where I thought my heart was breaking. There has also been surprise, contentment, confusion, anger, hope, and finally understanding and peace. A two year anniversary of life in a foreign country is a milestone deserving of reflection. So here we go …
I’m wondering if “two years” is a sort of ingratiation period. A magic leveling-off number, if you will. I think so because things seem much easier now and in speaking with other expats it seems this has been their experience as well.
I sit and write, I try recall a time over the last twenty four months when I have felt like my old self. I can’t recall … unless it’s been only most recently. Even so there have been changes. I am not the same person I was in the United States. I think I’d be safe in saying, it’s hard to feel the joyful and self confident emotions one had in their home country while trying so hard to adjust to a new one. Life in a foreign country alters you. No one ever tells you this because it’s assumed that moving to a new country is so very exciting and glamourous. Well, it is. But it’s a lot of hard work … sort of a deer-in-the-headlights type of mentality which an expat can experience almost on a daily basis.
I’m mostly over that now. Establishing yourself in a new country is a lot like peeling the layers of an onion. First you are enchanted by the newness of the place. Then you start to notice the smaller details. And then the differences. And then the integration. And then more learning about history, everyday life, and the people, places and philosophies which make a country full and rich. I feel myself settling in, recognizing the adjustments, the differences and similarities. I have begun to embrace many Swedish mores and integrate them into my own identity. I also realize the parts of my personality which I will not compromise, and the aspects of my culture and my own personal experiences which I wish to share with others.Read More»