Last weekend I finally got to meet one of my mom's friends who lives in Stockholm. She's been getting at us to keep in touch and I stupidly didn't see her while I lived in Uppsala, but she arranged to come and pick me up from Linköping last weekend since her daugther also lives here. I was nervous, like always, to meet new people, but her middle daughter and I talked the entire way to Stockholm non-stop mostly about biology since she is doing her master's in etology. Gunilla said at times it felt like having my mom in the car, and she teared up just hearing my voice. My mom lived with her and her family for a summer while she was in high school to learn some Swedish, and then Gunilla lived with my mom's family for a summer while she was an exchange student in the states in high school. Gunilla had so many stories my mom didn't remember, and my favorite were those about my grandpa who I never got to meet. She loved my grandparents, since they treated her like a daughter while she was living with them, and she thinks of my mom as a sister. It was so sweet to see her talk about my family from a perspective I would otherwise never get.
Her family is almost exactly the same as ours, as her kids, two older girls, and one younger boy are the same birth order and almost the same ages as the three of us. Even weirder, Gunilla is a lot like my mom, and her kids are all very similar to the three of us. For the first time felt like being at home here in Sweden because her family was such a reminder of mine. Her husband is even an old, funny, Swedish man like my dad! We got to their house late friday evening, but her husband had dinner ready on the table and it was so nice to share a family meal. It really felt like visiting home while I was at school, because her son and daughter were both home for the weekend. We had a delicious spaghetti dinner with a glass of red wine around a candle lit table. At times I had to pinch myself because I felt so much at home, it was like a dream. After dinner, we drank tea by the fire and continued our non-stop conversation late into the night. The next day, we lazily woke up and had homemade granola, lingon jam, and apple sauce with yoghurt, bread, cheese, and coffee. Typical Swedish, but also typical home minus the homemade apple sauce and lingon. We sat around the table for a while enjoying each other's company, and listening to Gunilla reminiscing and showing me almost unrecognizable pictures of my mom, uncle, and grandparents! After breakfast we went on a walk around their island (one of the thousands in the Stockholm archipelago) and took pictures by the lake. The sun was low and gold, and the fall colors glistened across the lake. It was brisk, but sunny, and 37 degree temperature meant we were bundled up in our mittens and hats. We had typical Swedish heart waffles with whipped cream, lingon, apple sauce, banana, and fresh blueberries for lunch. Then the kids went to her oldest daughter, Maria's apartment and we spent time with her, ordered pizzas for dinner, and Caroline and I took the train and bus back home where we had homemade blueberry pie and tea again around the candle lit table. Did I mention how much it felt like home? The next day we again had a lazy sunday morning breakfast exploding with conversation, memories, and showing pictures. After breakfast we ventured out to go to a castle for fika, but got lost, which was no problem for Caroline and I since we just kept chattering away hardly noticing that we were no where near the city and had been in the car for close to two hours. We finally found another place for lunch, a famous park where the princess now lives, Haga, and had warm goulasch to fill our cold stomachs. Caroline and I then took the bus home, and chattered away for the entirety of the bus ride....another two hours. There is no doubt that I will be going back soon, Gunilla even invited Emilie and I for Christmas! But I think we will come up to Stockholm and stay with her for a few days after Christmas and show Emilie the best of Stockholm!
Since I am such a shy person by nature, I was almost dizzy with anxiety about going to someone's house for a weekend without having ever met them before, but those feelings quickly dissolved after the first five minutes. I get scared about holding a conversation and what to do in those moments of downtime, but I'm starting to learn to open up a bit more, and become more used to meeting new people. It's still scary for me, and makes me incredibly nervous, but imagine if I had cancelled and stayed home, which is what I always feel like doing as it comes closer and closer to going beyond my comfort zone and forcing myself to talk and socialize with new people. It takes a lot of energy, being an introvert, but I have to keep reminding myself that it's only going to turn out better than I think, because without pushing myself, I'd be one lonely, isolated soul. I have lived through many experiences, especially in the past year, that unexpectedly forced me to do many things I didn't want to do and be out of my comfort zone in a place I didn't want to face with myself, but I know if I can live through those things, these small bouts of homesickness and nervousness of meeting new people and being in a new place are nothing compared to what I have already done, so why not go out and try something new?
Speaking of which, I'm going to visit Em and her au pair family in Germany for the famous Christmas market the second weekend of December. Oh Christmas is coming up, the most wonderful time of the year, and I'm looking forward to celebrating here in the same way we celebrate at home, except I'm hoping for my snow to complete my first white Christmas! I love being in Sweden for Christmas because for once, the way we celebrate isn't foreign, and we have all the ingredients and decorations here that we have to hunt for at home. There is Christmas, but let's not forget Lucia day which is celebrated everywhere here from the pre-schools, to the cathedrals. I'll hear the Lucia songs I grew up with and eat the saffron buns we always made at home. Lucia is especially Swedish. But first I can't possibly forget about Thanksgiving! I'm going back to Karlskrona to cook with my cousins and show them what a traditional, homemade, American Thanksgiving is like. No doubt I will be extra homesick that day, but at least I will be home with them. Thanksgiving is the hardest holiday to be away for since it isn't even celebrated in Sweden, and it's tied as my favorite holiday with Christmas. The weekend after Thanksgiving we are celebrating the first of advent in Göteborg again, then Germany with Em, Lucia weekend, Christmas weekend in Karlskrona, Stockholm right after, and Em and I will finish our Christmas vacation either in Prague visiting my dad's friend, or in Barcelona visiting one of my au pair friends who was sadly sent home by her host mother. The end of the year will be filled with excitement, travel, lots of good food, and cozy holiday evenings. I'm excited to see Em, it will be my first time seeing someone from home, and I think she is equally as excited. We've got big travel plans for next year also...Morocco? Italy? France? Portugal? Prague...again? Spain? The possibilities are endless, but Morocco is an almost definite yes.