Well, this is it kids, the last week of my stay in England. I am totally bummed out. I have been pounding the pavement for the last week and a half in search of a job that might pay me in cash (since I don't have a work visa), but alas, these are hard to come by in the days of recession and EU expansion, and I came up empty handed, so the logical thing to do is pack it all up again and head home. I wish I had the money to continue my education, and stay on here a bit longer, but unless I wanted to do something drastic (i.e. fake marriage, or fake national insurance number, even riskier), there is not much more I can do. I guess I am just a little scared about having to face real life again, find a job in a new career in such a hostile economic climate, and get back in the rat-race New York City frame of mind. Last week I sent a text message to my friend saying we should move to LA, half kidding, but actually half serious. Like I had said in the beginning of the summer, NYC to me is a real love/hate relationship, and next week will be my 10 year anniversary of moving to the city in the first place. Maybe it is time to move on.
Before I pack up everything here in London I did an obligatory weekend in Stockholm, where I got to visit my lovely Swedish friends and bask in the glory of the Swedish summer sun. It being late August there was not the near 24 hour light that there is around June, but it was still a beautiful time of year to visit. I came in on Thursday afternoon and met Sara, suitcase in hand, to hike down to the waterfront and take a swim. It was freezing. I went in for about 30 seconds and hopped out, while Sara was more brave and went in for several dips. Phil showed up and we drank Pimm's and lemonade (Phil's duty free gift from me) and some fruit.
Friday afternoon I met up with Emil for some brunch and then a walk up to Observatory park near Odenplan. We had not seen each other since San Francisco so it was nice to see each other on the other side of the world in a completely different context. We brainstormed Iphone applications and get-rich-quick schemes. Needless to say, we did not come up with any in the 2 hour period.
Later that evening I met up with Phil to attend the Grolsch block party, which is basically a few different businesses in the "Sofo" (south of Folkunsgatan) area of Stockholm which were giving away a few free beers. Free beer or booze of any kind is a very rare occurance in Sweden, and by law you have to be on the list because it is listed as a private event. As a result, any free beer that appears usually disappears immediately. Fortunately Phil was able to get me into the Beyond Retro party where I did a little drunk shopping (no purchasing) and attempted to watch the burlesque show but everyone in Sweden is too tall so I could not see anything.
Later that evening I went to go meet up with Sara for her boyfriend Igor's birthday party, which was at a restaurant called Allmanna Galleriet 925. It was a really cool place, hidden within an office building next to a porn shop (Sara had to come get me from the subway since I would never have found it on my own). We played Swedish round-table ping pong (weird tradition where you get three or more people playing ping pong and run around the table, hard to explain) and had a few more beers.
Saturday Phil and I had some Thai food and then went into town to go shopping. I was very good and only bought a couple of 150- K tops at the new Weekday shop. On the way home, we walked along the water at Hornstull and accidentally came upon a giant Swedish food festival called Smaklust. Every area of Sweden was represented and there were hundreds of vendors with their local specialities for sampling. I had just eaten the leftovers from my Thai lunch so was not hungry but got some ice cream and sampled about a dozen cheeses and different kinds of sausage. Phil had a Gotland lamb burger. We knew we would have to come back the next day with a proper appetite and bring friends.
We went to a Stockholm institution Saturday night, Debaser, one of the first places I'd ever been in Stockholm. In the summer they have a huge beer garden that stays open until around 3am, without any fear of being shut down for noise complaints because they are basically on a little island not near any businesses. There were rumors that Debaser was going to shut because the city was re-constructing the Slussen area but it seems red tape has stalled that process and Debaser continues to thrive. I made Sara and Phil balance drinks on their heads in tribute to my well-known party trick. They need some practice.
Sunday it was back to Smaklust where Phil, Emil, Sara and I came hungry and left satisfied. Emil and I sampled what was one of the more bizarre things I have ever eaten, it was a moose burger with lingonberry dressing, but this was not just your ordinary moose burger, it was in the shape of a moose with a moose shaped matching bun. The vendor apparently had a patent on this design and was very proud of his invention. He was also wearing a hat made out of Swedish flatbread.
Verdict: Moose are delicious. Phil had a reindeer wrap, and Sara had a Swedish traditional dish that translates to a "bodycake," which is basically a mashed potato ball stuffed with meat (pork in this case), boiled and then eaten with cream and lingonberry jam. Not especially healthy, but really, really tasty. I had all kinds of random animals today, I will not go into more detail so as not to offend my vegetarian friends.
And that was that... said goodbye to my Swedish friends and hoped to see them soon as I headed off back to London, carrying sausage, goats cheese, and carrot chutney with me (carrot chutney seized by airport security a few hours later sadly). The older we get, the less and less we see each other, it is a bit sad.
Sara said that to go to graduate school in Sweden is free and they admit foreign students. Maybe I will apply for next year.