Sweden. Yes. You are the one I'm going to remember all my life.. even if I move away, even if I visit and stay in a thousand other countries all my life. Because you are special and very very close to my heart. Because you are the first place (rather literally) I have moved to after I was born in a lovely city in India. You are the one where I became the closest to the special man I have loved, my life partner and best friend.. even though I would have been close to him obviously, had we rather moved anywhere else as well.. but yes, for me, it was you. You are the one who welcomed my husband to your land about 4 years back, even though I had not known him then, but the fact that he spent about 2 years with you before he met me; obviously makes you all the more special for me... You are the one who I was introduced to about 2 years back (even though I never knew you existed on the globe of the earth; and I supposed it was rather Switzerland). You are the one who attracted me and made me want to come to you so fondly because my husband lived with you for a long time. You are the one where I started my new love life and married life with my life partner. You are the one who welcomed me with open arms, even though I have never been away from my home and parents; and never had I known how is it to be at an unreachable distance from home... You are the one I love, and that's why you are the one most special to me...
I landed on your grounds in the cold month of January, which is very often detested by the locals as well as all the people residing here. But well, not for me. It was a white-silvery land for me, completely covered with snow, and more, soft snow was falling over my head as I stepped out of the Stockholm-Arlanda airport. At 7 in the evening, it looked completely dark, with the snow reflecting back some of the light. Before I could look further, we were seated in a taxi which was racing towards our home. HOME, yes.. my new home, the place I would start my next life from now. Completely mixed feelings.. But my feelings were soon taken over by the white, silver roads, trees, buildings.. pretty much everything covered in beautiful snow. This was something I had never witnessed in my life. It was you who gave me the beautiful experience of living with the snow. It was the cold winter, snowy months with high winds that followed, which made you different from the place I came from. It was the short days, mostly without any sunshine, and long, dark nights which excited me as nothing else, which completely made me wonder about a lot of things. I tried to capture the snowy place and times in pictures, whatever little I could, because you can never capture everything you see, feel and experience in form of a picture... unforgettable nonetheless.. !!
Some months were definitely coldest I had ever experienced but I was delighted when springs greeted me with the cold gradually fading away and the cool breezes and the lovely fragrance of flowers was in the cool, fresh air. If that was not heavenly enough, summer kicked in rather quick and lo! it was a pure bliss and no less than an actual heavenly wonderland !! Beautiful flowers, cool winds, temperature soaring to a beautiful 20-25 degrees which was soothing than ever, picturesque scenes at even the shortest distance, the clearest of the blue skies and crystal clear sparkling water with the sun shining above; short clothes and sun-bathing was never as fun. This was what I had never seen, never experienced and totally unforgettable...
She turned to the sunlight, and shook her little head..
Whispered to her neighbour; winter is dead !!
I never think summer could get better than this... So green, so beautiful, so serene.. just like a new life being blown in everything; be it the nature or the people.. beautiful nature, happy people and kids everywhere.. I never imagined this place really has so many people living here, for they were rarely seen in the months of winters.. but summer, is pure bliss.. just heavenly !!
"And so with the sunshine and the great burst of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies; I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with summer."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Lazily sitting about in the sun, tanning myself but enjoying every little ray of sun while I could, sitting by the lake for a nice bird-watching, lying down on the fresh cut grass, breathing about the divine smell while the wind caressed my open hair, reading a book on the bench by the church overlooking a busy market, looking at the hustle-bustle of happy couples holding hands, older ones sipping their coffee or drinks on the outside open seating of the restaurants, little kids running around merrily, while even the little ones chuckled and laughed chirpily as their mothers carried them out for walks in prams. That's what summer was all about..so happy, so full of life..
When the summer started fading away slowly, I saw the rising of another beautiful season which I had never seen in real life, autumn.. Autumn was no less than another wonder to my eyes, as I had seen autumns only in the movies and I had always wanted to experience in real life.
Come little leaves, said the wind one day..Come to the meadows with me and play
Put on your dresses of red and gold;
for the summer is past and the days grow cold.... !!
I was engulfed and indulged in the breath-taking beauty and charms of the autumn season and tried to capture as many shades in my camera as I could. Even though it was cold, I spent time outside, taking long walks along the scenic views which were spread in all directions. I kicked the dried red and yellow leaves scattered on the ground all over on my way back home, sat under the trees on the leaves to read a book, with more leaves falling over my hair and adorning my book as the winds blew hard, spent time breathing the mixed scent of the wet and dry nature as the air moved through cool towards cold... Autumn was undoubtedly the best season I have ever lived on your land, as today I await the next autumn season while trying to completely breathe in the summer...
As the winds grew from cool to cold, and from cold to chilly, I felt the season closing in fast, the days started growing shorter and darker, and it started marking the arrival of the early winters: a season of chill, dark days, warm clothes and icy cold weather, yet again. From the onset of winters to the growing colder and colder as the days passed by swiftly, I realized it was the month of January again; a year since I had stepped foot on your lands, and wow, it was such an amazing and beautiful journey that I hardly noticed..
Other than all the beautiful seasons like never before experienced in life, it was a lot many things I fell in love with all along. The amazing public transport, the safety for all, specially women (so unlike India, where women are unsafe at any given place and time), the clean environment, the beautiful people (be it men, women, kids or elder ones) and beautifully dressed always an at any point of the day (yes really.. oops), equal parenting; meaning fathers can be seen pushing prams, and nice healthcare for all, specially kids and older people.
Along with falling in love, there had been a lot of things I learnt being in this land (some of them being the hard way too). I learnt that we MUST stand in queues for our turn at any place, be it a grocery store, waiting for the bus at the bus stop, at the local Apotek (medicine shop) or any government offices (Skattaverket, arbetsförmedlingen, migrationverket and the like) where we HAVE TO usually take a slip from a dispenser machine, with a number and we wait for our chance to be spoken to or attended to.. (really? I never did that before.. Yes, now I do it every time). Standing in queues is considered polite in Sweden and we dare not try and cross a queue, unless we want a look from all the people present that makes us want to disappear at that very moment. Queues. Always. That's how I increased my patience.
Swedish is very important for conversation (although it might not be useful in any other part of the world), but you MUST learn it if you are looking for any job in here, because every requirement that pops up asks for a fluent Swedish. Okay. I had my basic training of Swedish and can read, write and understand. Job? Haha.. No. I learnt that while in here, I must go shopping before 18.00 and the grocery stores close at about 20.00 on weekdays and 16.00 on weekends (okay, not all of them, but mostly: Coop and ICA till exemple).
I realized that recycling is an amazing way to help save environment, and that this place and its people believe in the same so much I have never seen. From having green, red and several other different bags for separating wastes from households, more than 99% of household waste is recycled in some way or the other. I learnt to separate newspapers, plastic, metal, glass, electric appliances, light bulbs and batteries, and of course food waste (in green bags). Wow. Apart from this, the knowledge that Sweden even imports tonnes of waste from other countries to recycle in one form or the other made me love and respect this place even more.. Even the grocery stores charge for each plastic bag to keep waste to minimum, and so we learn to recycle..
I came about knowing the meaning of fika, the traditional coffee with a sandwich over a conversation, which is the favourite of all of the Swedes; learning about important festivals in here such as Easter, where the places are decorated with colourful feathers, and to the onset of spring where beautiful flowers begin to bloom, the grand celebration of Christmas, the Swedish Midsommar, which is definitely an outdoor celebration, on June 20-21 to celebrate the longest day of the year, wherein people gather around a pole to dance, eat, drink and enjoy like there's no tomorrow, the Swedish National day, where the Swedish spirit can be seen everywhere, from kids waving little paper flags in their hands, happy, cheerful people to all the newspapers admiring their land, where usually the weather is beautiful as well.. Also some more celebrations for eating such as Fettisdagen, Våffeldagen, Cinnamon bun day.. Surely a happy and lovely spirit you possess dear Sweden..
Many other things learnt are punctuality for anywhere, because the bus and/or the train leaves on time, with me, or without me; the state-owned alcohol monopoly (systembolaget), the only place where I can buy drinks other than from bars of course; safe tap-water to drink, thinking twice before tossing out plastic bags (as I would be charged for a new one), month-long summer vacations, where a lot of businesses shut down (really?), shop before 6 P.M. and GET IN A LINE (the famous queue system)..
From developing myself to be a more patient and punctual person, respecting time like never before, learning to live and take care of everything by myself, becoming a responsible person, adding a new language (the basics of course) to my portfolio, using my time to learn to cook and master many new recipes I never had before, exploring the beautiful, beautiful nature and capturing moments in pictures, spending nearly a year and a half with you, I say I am in love with you.. with much to explore, much much to learn and so much more to see and love, I'm looking forward to take myself as a more beautiful person, inside and out, with you Sweden..
Pictures sources: Google (Other than pictures having my bookmark)