Sunday, August 31, 2008

Börjamn

Hej Friends n’ Family!
Where do I even begin? It is early afternoon on Sunday, my 4th day here in Stockholm. I arrived late on Wednesday night, otherwise known as “mini-weekend” to some here, which means that while I navigated the subway (I shouldn’t really say that I navigated it, since my awesome flat mate, Heidi, guided me) at 10pm, there were crowds of people out and about, socializing and partying in, around, and on the tunnelbanan. There are so many wonderful things I have experienced here so far, from the crisp fall weather, to the sights and sounds, to the transit, to the aesthetics, to the sense of logic inherent throughout the city. My apartment is a dream! It’s a two-minute walk down the street to the subway station, which I will value even more when the winter comes (for now, I’m trying to walk outside as much as possible). It’s located on a really cute major street, perhaps the equivalent of Fillmore and Valencia mixed together, or something a bit busier and more bustling, called Götgatan (note: “gatan” means street, and in Swedish, many short words are strung together to make one really long-sounding word, so basically several streets, especially large ones, end in “gatan”), in the trendy cool bohemian-type neighborhood called Södermalm ( “söder” means south in Swedish, and “malm” is an old-fashioned word for place, so I live in the “south/ern place”, in relation to the “old” part of town, which means like original 1600/1700s Stockholm). The building is adorable and old, with funky cool details that are very Scandinavian to me, like wooden floors that are stacks of zigzags. Everything about it is charming, from the old-school elevator and wide staircases to the large heavy windows, to one of the keys to the front door of the apartment itself, which is a skeleton key. It’s a large living space, not just by “Stockholm standards”, but by Bay Area standards too. My room is definitely big enough to accommodate at least two more people comfortably…so come visit me already! You immediately get the sense that everything here is very well made, made to last, and made to be extremely functional, while being cute and stylish simultaneously. It feels like Swedish culture as expressed through everything material around you. The light-switches, for example, are largish squares, and are very easy and pleasant to turn on and off. They also blend into the walls much more gracefully than the type we are used to. The washing machines I’ve seen in the basement of my building are really big and work really well. The dryers are nothing like I’ve ever seen before. They look kind of like a cross between a metal clothes armoire and a film dryer. There are horizontal bars that swing out when you open the doors, which you hang your clothes over, swing it back into the cabinet, choose your settings (in Celsius, look out!) and then let ‘er go. Not only does this dry more efficiently since the clothes aren’t touching each other, but it also prevents most wrinkles. Lots of things here have made me go “duh!!” in the sense, as I mentioned before, that things are so logical and lovely to use. In the Tunnelbanan for example, there are many flights of stairs to get into the station. On the right-hand side, there are metal tracks going all the way down the stairs, with a small strip of stairs exposed in the middle. I was a bit perplexed when I saw them the first time, but then I saw them in use—a woman with a child in a stroller simply rolled the stroller wheels onto the tracks, popped a wheelie with the stroller, and walked down the stairs while rolling the stroller effortlessly down the metal railing-ramps. Genius!! Why do we not have these clever things?? There are, of course, elevators available to use, but this way is seamless and so much faster, and more importantly, integrated into the general public. I have seen this other places in Stockholm as well, and sometimes it looks like one railing is for one specific thing, such as a laundry cart etc, etc. Everyone uses public transit here, young and old, hipsters and nerds, every walk of life people. People take their dogs on the T, and many young children ride the T with their parents, which brings me something else I’ve noticed and delighted in: the young children here seem really engaged with the world around them. Their parents or caretakers are always talking to them and encouraging them to ask questions and experience life. The children all seem very happy, and it is just as common to see a dad joking and tickling and hugging and pushing his child around in a stroller as it is to see a mom doing that. Today I saw a grandma and her little grandson on the T, and they were talking up a storm. It makes me smile and feel good about life to see this, especially in sharp contrast to what you sometimes see on public transportation in the bay area, which is largely about telling your child to be quiet, or worse. However, Heidi and her friends have assured me that children throwing tantrums and being sternly told to be quiet and calm happens all the time. I guess I just haven’t seen it yet.
Ladies and Gents: if you like clothes like I like clothes, or if you like anything at all, I encourage you to save all your spending money for your inevitable trip here, if you can stand it. Pack a very small bag of stuff when you come, and then put that bag into a much bigger bag, because you’ll want to buy stuff here and drink and eat and party. There is crazy stuff here that you can’t find anywhere in the bay area.
And now for my school! Konstfack itself is amazingly huge and up-to-date. The facilities for each department are incredible. It’s ridiculous. There are so many machines and tools and stuff I’ve never seen before, so much room, such encouragement and luxury to create, create, create. I don’t get a studio to myself, but I do get a general workbench with storage, a jeweler’s bench with storage, a torch (metals geek moment: it’s a torch you supply the oxygen with by blowing, whoa! They have other torches, don’t worry, that’s not all there is) and a shared flex shaft. I’m officially starting to work there tomorrow, so I’ll keep you updated on that front. There is a full kitchen and hangout area for metals/ceramics/glass/textiles students. Each person has a nice-sized bin for food, and there are pots and pans and cutlery and dishes and mugs and glasses and two dishwashers and a stove and an oven and three refrigerators and storage…so basically there is a real culture of just cooking all the time, which for me is great. Also, people are always having “bars”, where you just set up and sell drinks to raise a little money and be social. I don’t think it’s officially legal, but people do it all the time, even on the streets. At this point, I need to get some batteries for my camera so I can stop trying to describe everything and start showing these little differences. Keep in touch! If you need my address or telephone number, just email me. Don’t worry, these postings won’t be so long in the future. Miss you all!
Kram och Puss (hug and kiss),
Beth

3 comments:

mark poulin said...

Nice post. Kram Och Puss right back at you.

nancy said...

Hej Beth!
So glad all is working out for you! And, I'm excited that you have connected with Stockholm as I did too. I love your description of the tvattstuga: yea, I was delighted and confused in the same way. Have you found the mangel yet??
Puss och kram,
Nancy

akriedt said...

Hey Beth,
I have been waiting for weeks to read your blogs, just fixed my computer this morning (it had a
virus)... catching up with all my internet buddies and family this well, I guess it's the afternoon now, I love my computer although I'm a bit of a nerd...
Anyways, loved your August blog, I am living vicariously through you in reading your entry. I've always heard good things about Sweden, have not only friends, but family who are from there...
Very happy for you, and can't wait to read on in your Sept. and Oct. entries!!