The Whole Picture is Nothing But a Compilation of Details.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"The Perfect Job"

Salem Career Center. 7:30 am.

Sitting in a hallway on a dingy oriental carpet with twenty or so other unemployed citizens aged 30-50, waiting for the Career Center/ unemployment office to open. One young fellow has clearly mistaken the waiting area for his own living room, yawning audibly, stretched out, his gut spilling onto the floor. The rest of us are on our smart phones; some friendly, soft spoken chatter bounce off the tall ceilings. Most of us have been here before.
Getting here at least one hour before they open at 8:30 am is standard practice and a necessity if you have trouble with your claim. Clients are seen on a first come, first serve walk-in basis and the demand is high for the one, sole staff member who handles claims. Sixty people are seen daily over four time slots: 8:30-10:00 am, 10:00-11:30 am, 1:00-2:30, and 2:30-4:00 pm. Calling the Department of Unemployment Assistance is an alternative, albeit very ineffective: Yesterday I spent 45 minutes listening to classical music before getting through to a representative. He couldn't help, but instead gave me a different number to call to speak with my claims adjuster. With high hopes for a breakthrough in my fight against red tape, I dialed the number. They picked up on the second ring: "Mass General Hospital, Dr. Cohen's Office". SIGH. No option other than to call the help line back: I was on hold for another 45 minutes before being told by a different representative that "the adjuster would call me within eight to ten weeks, that names and numbers of adjusters are never given out. Until then, your claim is on hold."

This translates to no unemployment assistance until then.

You think being unemployed is "the perfect job"? Think again...

Thank god for savings and summer jobs.

Eva Mossberg

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lost in My Native Country

On the road again. Going for a quick jaunt to see the family in Sweden. Yawn. But this time my wish for a travel buddy has come true... a friend from St. Tropez is meeting me there.

Deviating from my usual British Airways flight, surrounded by Krauts (friendly stab at the Germans, originally derogatory term coined during WWII), I embark on Lufthansa's flight 423 bound for Stockholm, via Frankfurt. Upholding their reputation for being punctual and exact, everything is just so. We even depart prior to our scheduled time since everyone's on board and "vee vant to arrive Frankfurt on time". Beverage and food services are delivered efficiently, including alcoholic beverages which were eradicated from airline services long ago to help combat falling revenues and higher fuel costs. As a traditionalist, I embrace the welcome return of what once was, even though I personally abstain from drinking alcohol on flights.

Frankfurt Airport welcomes me with the smell of freshly baked bread and coffee: Bread is baked on site and there are automatic free coffee dispensers abound satisfying your need for a latte, macchiato, or espresso  - just follow the trail of people carrying little red cups and you'll find one of the many stations. Don't bother looking for the decaf option. Europeans are purists.

Getting to and from Arlanda Airport couldn't be easier: comfortable bio fueled buses, equipped with safety belts which all passengers use, depart for the Stockholm city center every ten minutes. Tickets are sold at the visitor center inside the airport, online, in ticket machines outside and on board the bus. A one-way ticket costs me 99 SEK, approximately US $13.00, and I'm in the city 45 minutes later. Taxis cost between three and four times the amount, but should that be your preference, getting one won't be a problem. Taxis are licensed and accept credit cards. They will save you 15-20 minutes.

Guard at The Royal Castle 

Pike Heads. Fjaderholmarna.

 Ignoring jet lag "a condition that is characterized by various psychological and physiological effects (as fatigue and irritability), occurs following long flight through several time zones, and probably results from disruption of circadian rhythms in the human body" (  is not recommended, no matter how excited you might be. It will make you queasy, or worse, especially when coupled with jumping on a trampoline after dinner and drinks. (Hard to resist nieces and nephews.) Give your body a chance to adjust. 

Distances in Stockholm are deceptive. An avid runner, I set out to run the morning after arrival (again, reference above paragraph on jet lag) and cover the very outer limits of my childhood territory in thirty minutes. So I run another lap, dodging dainty deer munching tulips and hares with big floppy ears hopping down the middle of the road. Idyllic? Most certainly, yes.
Roof Top Tours

Riding the "tunnelbana" - the subway system is easy: all stations have maps, are well marked, and all subway lines are color coded and connect at T-centralen (there are one or two exceptions) and safe. I notice a mother leaving her Baby Bjorn stroller where it can easily be stolen, but the Swedish logic says "what would a drug addict take my stroller for?". And based on what I witnessed, they don't.

Roda Villan, Fjaderholmarna
Swedes speak English. Very well, and very happily as they are eager to practice their "internationalism" every chance they get, so even if you try to speak Swedish, or if they "somehow" detect that you are a foreigner before you open your mouth, they will be proactive and address you in English. Contrary to Paris, it is perfectly accepted to address someone in English; you don't even need to ask if they speak English. Because they do.

Water is everywhere.
My idea of exploring a new place is to first grab a coffee at a local cafe and see where the tourist are heading. I take note and go in the opposite direction... This is not what my friend had in mind: zig-zagging the city for three days, we visit the Royal Castle, several art galleries, Gamla Stan, Stureplan, Ostermalms Salu Hall, Photografiska Museet, SoFo, Globen, the Vasa Museum, Skansen, the Cherry Blossoms at Kungstradgarden, Djurgarden, and Fjaderholmarna. The must visit attractions are FjaderholmarnaSkansenDjurgarden, and the rooftop tour. Naturally, we also sample the local cuisine, an absolute must for any visit abroad, and in my opinion more important than any museum or statue. For me, the highlights are fresh, fried herring out of a food cart parked at Slussen, thin, Swedish pancakes with ice cream and chocolate sauce, a ham and cheese panini at Roda Villan Fjaderholmarna and not the least, the glass of wine enjoyed in the warm sun at Kajen, quay side on Strandvagen, overlooking the ferries and pleasure boats criss-cross the blue water.