So maybe one post per season is a more realistic goal for this whole blogging thing. It’s gone from spring to summer, and from 2013 to 2014, since I last wrote. Interestingly, my comments on the conundrum of routines seemed to have had some effect, as this year I am trading in my safe kiwi lifestyle for a move to Taiwan, where I will spend two years learning a new language, a new culture and a new way of life. In two years, I’m sure that I will establish a new routine, particularly given the structure required for language learning, but here and now the fact of not knowing what that routine will look like is terrifying. What time will I wake up? Who will I meet for coffee? Where will my daily errands take me? How will I know that what I’m doing is the right thing?

The last question is an impossibility, I think. However, it is a reminder that while change is exciting, the lead up to change is interspersed with periods of panic. No one really knows if any particular decision at any particular time is the right one – it’s more a case of closing your eyes, jumping, and making sure you land somewhere (anywhere) solid. At the moment, I’m still climbing the ladder to the diving board, head-filled with possibilities of falling and breaking my neck, but once I jump I’m sure that all will be fine.

A new country and a new routine might mean a new blog. Perhaps even one with more “purpose” such as eating, drinking, shopping, running – all those commendable activities about which the internet provides an inferiority-complex-inducing library. While I have nothing but (slightly intimidated) respect for such things, there is also something quite fun about rambling into the void. On verra bien.

Before completely ditching the premise for this blog, however, a thought a bit more retrospective musing might be appropriate. And, for lack of anything more original, the “this time (last) year” format will have to suffice.

– This time last year I was finishing my summer holiday with my family: reading books and swimming in rivers in the evening with my sister, when the sun was less able to burn but before the mosquitoes were out in too much force. I was thinking about the end of university, the case I was working on over summer, international investment arbitration, the start of a new job and a potential “career”, re-establishing in the city I grew up in, possibilities. I was eating apricots and nectarines and sweetcorn and drinking Rosé (but not that much, still recovering from New Years’ celebrations in Paihia). I was smelling the burnt grass of Wairarapa summer and the decaying Christmas tree in our lounge.

– This time the year before that I was in France, having returned from Paris, where I had been for the New Year, to Lyon, to sit an intimidating exam and pack up life there before moving on to the next adventure. I was sad to leave but also excited, packing up my things into overpriced boxes addressed to a destination I didn’t even know how to pronounce. I was tired: of long train rides, nights studying, the daily struggle of not being able to express yourself in the same way as you do in your mother tongue. I was eating croissants and drinking 2 Euro wine like I thought they were going out of fashion. I was cold, but wary that where I was going would be even colder, and there wasn’t any room in my baggage for coats. I was wandering the streets, trying to soak them up for one last time but also distracted by the prospect of the next adventure. I had my eyes closed, and I was crouching for the jump.

– This time the year before that I was just back from Mexico, after a month of travel and discovery and a departure that was much more difficult than anticipated. I came back to New Zealand to a mixture of celebration and mourning, quite unexpectedly (although it shouldn’t have been). I was still tanned and free spirited from the Mexican sunshine, and although I hadn’t wanted to leave, I was pleased to be home. I was explaining my acquired vegetarianism, the relative price of Corona, and the delights of Spanish grammar. I was sad, but I was energised.

This year I am recently returned from a quintessential New Zealand summer holiday, and contemplative. I am wondering why I keep leaving, when things are so good. I am attempting to go back to work, but struggling with the flu. I am itchy, from sunburn acquired at northern beaches, which will soon start to peel. I am eating scorched almonds (that enduring Christmas present) and drinking tea with homegrown lemons. And I have just finished a book, “How it all Began”, by Penelope Fitzgerald, which finishes with some rather wise words:

“An ending is an artificial device; we like endings – they are satisfying, convenient – and a point has been made. But time does not end, and stories march in step with time…These stories do not end, but they spin away from one another, each on its own course”.

 

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September 1, 2013 · 10:15 am

Valborg Down Under

An eerie equinoxal shift from thinking about Swedish spring, not blogging, and finding myself, quite unexpectedly, at the beginning of New Zealand spring. Although I would hate to say something as cliché as “time flies”, I can’t help but grasp for markers of the last six months’ passing.

I’m still grasping. 

I have been a few places, seen a few special things, spent time with some great people, but all of this amongst a background of routine – a concept which I am drawn to and disgusted by at the same time. It was something I missed in traveling, in moving from place-to-place without having the time to grow roots and have a real relationship with the local barista. At the same time, it is something which I now feel a bit trapped by; limiting my spontaneity until after 6pm on weekdays and the occasional Sunday, where it manifests as a constant battle between exhaustion, boredom and  the “fear of missing out” on potential fun. Yet if routine is my jailor, I definitely have Stockholm syndrome. On a recent holiday to Samoa I came back relishing the regularity of my alarm clock, Tuesday meetings, and 10am coffees. Does this make me materialistic? Conventional? Dare I say it, conservative? Probably. And probably also the squeaky clean product of “young professional” marketing. University, high school and a plethora of TV shows have sold the working lifestyle to me so successfully that I feel a sense of achievement in the predictability of my week, complete with its “yo-pro” perks. 

Surely this is not how achievement should be marketed, nor success felt. But it is the first day of spring which, if in Sweden, would mean celebrating rather than pontificating. A much better idea. 

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An Unintentional Anniversary of Valborg

Over a year since Valborg, and an embarrassing six month blogging hiatus, but reading an inspiring blog post today made me resolve to do less thinking-about-writing and more writing-about-thinking. I suspect any readers have long since given up on the cause, so this feels like a dangerously like a diary entry to no-one (other than, of course, the fact that we all hope our diaries will be read and adored by someone at some stage). Valborg seems a bit irrelevant at this stage, to be honest. It was a great five day long party topped off with a “champagnegallop” where you buy cheap bottles of champagne and pour them all over your friends in a huge outdoor dance party. Quite ridiculous and quite fabulous, but also quite a long time ago. Other festivities included multiple boozy picnics, watching themed boats race down the river, and various parties both at the student nations and at flögsta, our rather filthy and party-laden but nevertheless wonderful student (read, dominated by international student) hostel. 

One of the exciting things that happened to me in the last few months was that I had the opportunity to return to Uppsala and Flögsta. The town, complete with a still-frozen river, was as charming as ever, and Flögsta was just as dirty. It has been a particularly long and cold winter (still below zero in late March), and this made me think just how necessary Valborg, a celebration which takes place on the last weekend of April and marking the definitive end of winter, really is. There is a very long period of coldness, darkness, trudging through dirty snow and slipping on well-hidden ice to endure. Five days of unashamed partying, picnicking, and “champagne showers” (and yes, LMFAO was played) seems like an appropriate reward.

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May 20, 2013 · 11:08 am

Ceasefire

So I’ll be blogging about Swedish Valborg soon, but currently have my hands full with several pressing essays and assignments. Rather than neglecting the blog for too long (the longer I leave it, the harder it is to get back into it), I thought I’d share this poem by Michael Longley, a current essay topic. Also, I really like it. It was written just before the 1994 IRA ceasefire in Northern Ireland and published in The Irish Times days after the agreement was reached.

Ceasefire

I
Put in mind of his own father and moved to tears
Achilles took him by the hand and pushed the old king
Gently away, but Priam curled up at his feet and
Wept with him until their sadness filled the buidling.

II
Taking Hector’s corpse into his own hands Achilles
Made sure it was washed and, for the old king’s sake,
Laid out in uniform, ready for Priam to carry
Wrapped like a present home to Troy at daybreak.

III
When they had eaten together, it pleased them both
To stare at each other’s beauty as lovers might,
Achilles built like a god, Priam good-looking still
And full of conversation, who earlier had sighed:

IV
‘I get down on my knees and do what must be done
And kiss Achilles’ hand, the killer of my son.’

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September 25, 2012 · 10:30 am

Spring festivities in Gamla Stan

Spring festivities in Gamla Stan

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September 18, 2012 · 9:43 pm

Stockholm in Winter

Stockholm in Winter

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September 18, 2012 · 9:41 pm