Sunday, November 26, 2017

Love passes with love

It has been a while, hasn't it?

How we deal with disappointments is what decides the person we are. And I have had my fair share of disappointments.

In May 30th 2017, exactly a year after I left the dearest person to me at the time back in Finland, I decided to change my life forever. I stood in front of the mirror, took a hard, cold look at myself and decided that it was enough. I looked me in the eyes and said out loud:

"Take a good look at yourself. Today it is the last time that you see this person in front of you. Take a good look, because this person is going to disappear and from tomorrow you are going to build a better version of yourself, the best version of yourself".

And it began. I cut alcohol, sugary drinks, candy, pizza and every unhealthy lifestyle choice that I was used to overnight. I set it as a goal to speak fluent Swedish by the end of the year, get my six pack, make friends and find a job. A true american dream. I woke up in the morning with an old coat for a pillow and  the earth was last night's bed.

Per Angusta Ad Augusta

Something strange but also familiar happened over the first few months. I saw my body change and I was one more sadistically enjoying the pummeling of my face and body in the boxing class with the veterans. Carpe fucking diem. But above everything, I grew in confidence. I could see it in my posture, I had better grip over my mind and body and the nightmares about the girl with the yellow dress lessened instead of standing frozen in time and space.

My little baby project, the SIWI Sofa.
With confidence came friends and progression. I met two wonderful women, Lauma and Hayriye and more recently Lila and my Swedish improved exponentially. Down went the weight, and down went the burden on my shoulders. I received a call from the Swedish International Water Institute, where they wanted me of all people, to take charge and make an event that was launched for the first time ever a success. You bet I delivered. Here is a picture of my creation on the right.

Then my contract ended and I gave myself one month to find a job. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to and time and money were running out. And boy I delivered.

I finally got an interview with a big international company in Stockholm. I felt it was do or die. I walked in the office and I had a great interview in Swedish. The boss told me that he wanted me to meet the head of operations next week and so did we. The interview was in english and it was the best one I have ever given. The last time I felt such certainty was after a long exhausting exam to obtain the Certificate Proficiency in English 15 years ago. I knew I nailed it.

A week passes, walking under a bridge in Skanstull and I get the job. Boom, you are starting November 1.

My life changed overnight. No more worries about food, rent or survival. I shaved my head, changed my clothes, kept going to the gym 7 days a week. My friends call me boring, but I am in the best shape of my life. I started at 77 kilos and today I was 67,5. Now, I am not the guy to post half naked pictures like I am staring in Twilight but I am proud of myself.

Last week I was in Paris for training with work, in a seminar about safety and hazardous materials and chemicals. It was a long and exhausting but wonderful experience with a great bunch of people from Spain, Belgium, Germany and France.

The problem was...Paris. can you put it...Paris was like a rude beautiful woman. Lovely and mystical but when she opened her mouth you wondered in shock and awe. From the rats, to the ridiculous, expensive and terrible metro, to the smell of piss and dirty streets of a modern metropolis, to the terrible architecture in some points, to amazing breathtaking views in other places, it left me craving my home. A home that lies in Stockholm.

Eduardo was one of the guys from Spain. He was a tall super nice and funny guy that likes to run and works as a hydrogeologist. He often laughed at my jokes, especially when I squeezed that lemon accidentally in Paolo's eye. Paolo was Italian/Spanish, living and working in Madrid and having a second life with a Pirate metal band. Yarr. He seemed unable to control his laughter when I said the words "Crystal Meth" which was an incident in the Eiffel Tower. If you want to follow and support his band the link is here. Lovely. Jorn was the teacher and he is the most laid back, funny and great person I have met in such a position yet. He told us a lot of great stories and some of them involve him sleeping in the office and drinking something weird called dragonball.

Other than that...well life goes on and I am growing in confidence in my position every day that passes, both with the language and skills. I am planning a little escape in January to Iceland with a little aurora, to see a little aurora. Mystery is my middle name. Fais mois rever encore une fois.

This is the end. And a new beginning. Why you ask? Because one cycle just closed and a new chapter began. A nightingale sings his song of farewell, the winter is coming. Your heart turns to stone and you are longing for warmth. But then again, what is love without lust?

Goodnight Sweden.

PS. There are a couple of song references, can you find them?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Love begins at 50

Strange title, strange life, strange day. As always right?!

Love begins at 50 is an interesting lighthearted book about a man approaching his 50th birthday and rediscovering love. Strangely enough, the title has nothing to do with the book, but instead is about a person I met today in the dog park of all places. We had such unique and eye-opening discussion today that I fell compelled to write about it.

Let's take it from the beginning shall we?

Beautiful little Adam.
As I was approaching the vasaparken today and was ready to enter the dog yard I noticed three things immediately. Ragnhild and Tage were there and it was lovely to see them after such a long time again. The other two were a slim, beautiful figure and one of the most beautiful cocker spaniel dogs that I have seen in my life. Adam was an orange roan english cocker spaniel that was wiggling his tail in every opportunity, running and buzzing around endlessly, moving with a verve that very few dogs have. It reminded me of my own Flicka and her vibrant, strong personality.

The other person turned out to be Martha, a Swedish woman that had been living abroad for 20 years but moved back for the past 10.

Seeing that she had a cocker spaniel I decided to talk to her about it. We started with some small talk about how I ended up naming my dog Flicka. She is the first person that I have ever met that knows where it actually came from. A movie based on a book, called "My friend Flicka (Hans vän Flicka) about a mustang horse. For me that was a sign that there is something more to this person and I intend to find out.

The conversation was steered towards relationships in Sweden and eventually her own story after moving back as a mother of 3 children, the way she raised them, advice for my friends and me and how unusual and nonexistent Swedish dating is nowadays. Martha even told me that I look a bit older, which is ok by my book since I like older women than me. But what surprised me the most about it was her honesty and no fear in expressing her thoughts. A pretty ballsy move to pull in Sweden these days where everyone is afraid of being misinterpreted, be politically correct or just try to be polite. I like these kind of people.

Eventually I asked her how old is she herself. I said "You look 40, but based on the things you told me you must be older". She laughed and told me that I should not be asking a woman these kind of questions. And then she told me she is 51. I kid you not, I have not seen such an attractive woman at this kind of age, with 3 children. If she was single I would not hesitate to ask her out in a hearbeat. Bear that in mind, we have a 31 year old difference. I actually thought she was hot, but chose to tell her she looks beautiful instead. Classy, smart, well educated, intelligent and ballsy. How could I not converse with her? I liked to meet these kind of women, that can empower others, instigate change, stand up for what is right, have their voice heard and take shit from nobody. All that while being a good person and a mother with values. Now I can see how someone can fall in love with another older or younger person, based on intellectual attraction and not only just looks.

While our doggies were playing around we engaged in this discussion about moving or returning to a new country, how hard it was to make friends, rebuild your life, reinvent yourself and have fun in the process. She ended up telling me that most people here are sadly unsocial unless intoxicated and that Stockholm has the largest amount of single or divorced people in the world. How women sleep with a man, two men, ten men or whatever number, pick the one that satisfies them best sexually and then decide if that man is worth knowing for or has more qualities. I can understand that, sexual health and chemistry is important in a relationship. But we both agreed on the lack of emotion that exists in the Nordic countries. Martha went on an on and I kept looking into her large, glimmering, vivid blue eyes, almost forgetting to take a look at my own dogs. We have a Greek word that I would use to describe her. That word would be "Σαγηνευτική" that in direct translation can mean exciting, alluring, enticing or seductive.

She planted a seed in my brain about how I view the world and dating in Sweden and that I maybe need to reconsider things a bit and change perspective. Today I felt a bit wiser. Thank you beautiful Martha.

Goodnight Sweden

My own Flicka.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fool´s Bane

Who am I?

Let me answer this for you. I am the heartbeat of a true heart. Hearts like these are hard to find and even harder to understand.

A myriad of things have happened lately. It is so hard to feel home in this country and at the same time feel like a stranger. This cascade of feelings is making me confused, angry, tired, excited. All at the same time.

One of the few things keeping me sane is the friends I have made here. It took me 3 years to make those friends. Lauma and Hayriye, the first people that truly appreciated who I am and let me be myself, and loved me in the process for it. World Water Week 2017 (hint: #WWWeek) came and passed and together it brought a new whirlwind of emotions. I met Maaike, a dutch girl that enchanted me with her personality, whit and incredibly exotic beauty. I met Lila, an older version of me. Lastly, I met Arianna, one of the kindest and most fantastic, vibrant personalities that I have met in a long time.

I had a blast working at SIWI. I got a taste of how it is to work in a Swedish company. If you come from a country where the rythm of life moves so fast and is hectic like the traffic in India, you would be shocked by the differences.

I met a woman named Bim ("Hey mom, this is my girlfriend Bim", would not that sound ridiculous?). We had a moment and then she started the typical Swedish evasion maneuvers. Do you french-kiss your friends in the mouth Bim? Suck my beautiful, big penis and stay away from me.

Then I started talking to this girl last week. I have not met her yet but thinking about her makes my heart skip a beat and stand still in time and space. Katarina will probably never read this tiny spit of sand, this tiny paragraph that took me time, effort and courage to write. But that is ok. I do not know what will happen in the future but I hope I will get to meet her. When someone makes me feel special, they deserve my attention and effort.

In other news, I can speak Swedish like a badass. I got a few job interviews. I have lost 8 kg and I look hot again. I stopped drinking alcohol 4 months ago. I am in the best shape of my life. I wasted 2.5 hours watching Transformers 5. Silvia made me feel like shit again about our failed date. Mayweather dominated McGregor as expected. Greek economy is still shit.

To wrap this up, I am a Fool. But even I have my limits. A cornered fox is more dangerous than a jackal. Whoever wants to stay close to me, they will, and they will be greeted with love, understanding, laughter and never ending support. The rest, as we say in Greece, can take the poulo. I dare you to google it.

Goodnight Sweden.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Till I collapse

Making any sense with these posts is tough. To make any, I would have to go back a couple of years, when the pain started.

"It is ok she said, you have nothing to fear, I am here now", she said with her crisp sweet voice.

Life was getting better. I was sort of recovering and I had invited the girl with the yellow dress home to cook and sleep. She did not hesitate for a moment even at 10 pm in the cold. I was in the kitchen, without any lights on peeking outside the large window hoping to get a glimpse of her shadow.

I rushed out and the pale leftover light of the old lamppost was overshadowed by the dark sky. The sun had set in a beautiful autumn day. I could hear some children from the neighbor's house. I could smell freshly cut grass from the nearby park. I had a nice affordable house with a cozy room, heat and enough income to eat and survive. My university grades were great. I had found a girl that would love me until the end of the world and I was just beginning to realize it. I was almost living the Swedish dream of Hus, Volvo och Hund (House, volvo and dog).

But dreams have the nasty habit of going bad when you are not looking.

I woke up sweaty, reminiscent of those times and looked at the clock. I guess it was just a bad relapse of the past but little I knew that the emotion would creep in into my new work.

New work? Oh that's right. I am working for SIWI (Swedish International Water Institute) and it is awesome. Never again have I felt more respected, needed and welcomed in a workplace before. I just finished my first week and along with the beautiful Swedish summer it has been fantastic. Barring this little incident.

After waking up like this, I wore my good smile, left my worries at home, put my new lovely dress shirt on, fired up happy songs and took the metro to work. The day went by pretty nice, with loads of fika, smiles and food outside in a beautiful garden. Then as I finished work Pernilla, a really nice woman that works in the office started talking to me, trying to lure me to have some incredible cookies that smelled heavenly. I am on super healthy diet for the past 2 months so somehow I refused.

We started talking about life, work and she took me to one of those meeting rooms to discuss more privately. She mentioned my älskling, the girl in the yellow dress. She asked me if I lost her, if I missed her, if I love her, if we have stopped all contact.

In the blink of an eye, I broke down like I had been hit by Zeus' lightning. I asked her to change the subject as I burst in tears. In my 5th day at work. Sometimes you feel weak, you kneel and you question your ability, you want to give up. But somehow, miraculously, you find the strength to get up and fight. No matter how much you want to stay on the canvas, no matter how hard the hit was.

Tell me why we are so blind to see, that the only ones we hurt are you and me?

Well, I am an educated fool, with a goal on my mind and I will pursue that goal until I collapse.

Goodnight Sweden

PS. The Swedish summer and Stockholm are the most beautiful things I have experienced in my life. Live, love, hope fools.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Brightest day, blackest night

I always loved superhero quotes. They might sound cheesy, or expected or they might have been rehashed a thousand times. But some of them still resonate with me and give me hope, despair, or bring back memories. I am going to go watch Wonder Woman after all tomorrow and next month I will go see Spiderman: Homecoming.

Today I was coming back from boxing training in the Allstars training grounds where I have been training for the past 2 weeks non stop. I have not drunk Cola, beer or wine. I have removed godis (candy) from my life, as well as ice cream or fika (kanelbulle). I am eating lean meat, I drink milk and more bananas than ever before. I even started eating hardboiled eggs for the first time in my life. One might say I have become a boring person (Hint: not that I care).

Why do I feel the need to share this with whoever reads it? I don't. This is my sanctuary. This is my place of reflection. And I feel the need to write about it and express myself.

Because as I was riding the train home while listening to some tunes I had random flashbacks of January 11th. It was hard to think about that.

-I will always love you until the day I die. Goodbye my love, I told her while tears started flooding my eyes. It had to be done and my mind was lost in lethe as I was touching her right cheek just like you see in movies. With real emotion. It was then when I started feeling the first real crack in my heart again. It was breaking.

Just about to blow.
I went on the bus, number 14 towards my house while crying in public, trying to hide my face in shame from the rest of the passengers. My phone rang 10 minutes later. It was the girl in the yellow dress again.

-How are you? I cannot let you be alone today. Get your strength up and come stay with me tonight ok? I don't want you to be alone, she uttered. She tried so hard to let me in in her life and support me in my blackest night. Why could I not find the courage to break my shackles and overcome my fear?

That night shortly after I took two buses and traveled all over the city to be there and watch a movie with her and her roommate. We watched Skyfall. Could there be a more fitting movie for me? Showing my longest fall after my brightest days? Falling in the abyss knowing tomorrow is going to be bleak?

We held hands all the way through the movie and when there was a compassionate moment I could she her looking at me with her dark mellow eyes deep inside my soul, piercing through all my defenses. She was stroking my hand and I fell warmth. A warmth I have never felt again. Euphoria.

I spent the most beautiful week of my life there. Right before my heart was hit with a sledgehammer. My brightest day. My blackest night.

"In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern's light"

So that is how the whole superhero quote thing started today. I like how it has some positivity to it. Even in your blackest night, you just have to keep your faith up and keep going. And one day you shall return to your brightest days.

In brightest day, In blackest night.

Goodnight Sweden.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Heroes of our time

Where have you been?
Been searching all along
Came facing twilight on and on
Without a clue
Without a sign
Without grasping yet
The real question to be asked

Where have I been?

Where have I been really? We are on life's path trying to find our purpose and success and trying to find our other half. Can someone tell me what is temptation and what is love before I go crazy? I gave everything, or maybe nothing and now I am erasing the dreams day by day. Can you do something to make the pain go away?

I just want to loudly scream "I can't take it anymore, I can't figure it out". But then again maybe the answer lies within me instead. Yes, that's it. I am grateful that there are a couple of people that still love me for what I am. I used to shine with the brightest flame and frankly I am surprised that they still can see it through all the darkness and the mask. I wear a mask at all times, hiding both face and mind, afraid that if I take off the mask the darkness will be revealed. Or maybe not anymore? Is it time for my second phoenix rebirth?

Sebastian threw me a punch in the ring last Thursday that was so strong that it made me dizzy. He kept pummeling me in the body with multiple shots, just like how life has been hitting me since that dreaded moment I met the girl with the flower headband. But instead of throwing punches at me, she only tried to throw me love. And I failed miserably. And 2 years later I am still here writing about it.

As Sebastian was hitting me with everything he had my mind was wondering in time and space while the pain was almost giving me a headache. But I knew I had to pull through. I always did. I waited for him to punch me and leave himself open and then I crushed his jaw with my right fist. I let a shriek that echoed strong within the room as there was a clash of bone and sinew.

He kept going. My stomach was purple and I wanted to fall on my knees and say "Please, that's enough". But instead I looked for another opening while allowing myself to be punched. Right hook, dove under and hit him right in the ribs, then with a left hook in the face. I understood how strong us humans can be and how important 1 punch can be when compared to dozens. Maybe I am a sadist or a masochist and I enjoy the pain somehow. Maybe it is a matter of upbringing and past memories.

I took a look at the only 2 pictures I have from her and me and they show my nadir and zenith. I took a deep breath and started talking to her. In the picture.

"Hej...I....I did something good today. I saved some people in the metro. I wish you could have seen me. I thought you would have been proud of me. Maybe even yell at me for being heroic and that I should not do these things so I can come back home safe."

When people asked me what is my greatest fear, I always replied that it was heights, or the fear of edges. But she made me realize that my greatest fear is being part of a family again. But you can't be a hero if you only care about yourself.

Apart from all the terrible things that happened to me and all the terrible feelings that I made you go through, we kept coming back. The reason I left you is the same reason I kept coming back. The fear, the pain of losing someone you care so much about and when you try falsely to protect them with the only way I know...pushing them away.

Sometimes..sometimes losing people is a part of life...but...this doesn't mean you should stop letting them in...Some very wise people taught me that. My life's love that I cherished the most reminded me how it is to feel loved again and what true love feels like. She taught me that I, for all my faults, have something that is worth loving.

I pushed myself to get out of the house more recently and I had real help from someone over the past month that I am so grateful for that it is difficult to put into words. She stands just 1.52 cm over the ground but she stands tall like a mountain. She might not realize it but she is one of the most important people that I have met lately and one of the reasons I am putting some extra effort and to get out of my comfort zone. I would rather be surrounded by 1-2 people like her than a whole horde of people that don't really care about me and text me only when Facebook reminds them that it is my birthday. So thank you. I love you for what you are.

I'm a shapeshifter. What else could I be?

Goodnight Sweden

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Infiltrating the Swedish nightlife - How do they do it?

Last week I was supposed to go out on Saturday and meet up my friend Dimitris. Sadly, Saturday was the day of the Greek Football Cup Final versus AEK and PAOK. When you pit the fans of these two teams together that almost share the same banner but with a different color, it is like putting a group of hooligans against each other. Better say, you are.

Needless to say, everything went well as expected. A guy was knifed, people went in the hospital, police looked there waving and then the Final started. PAOK won 2-1 with a controversial decision, my friend was gutted and told me that he will stay home and grief instead of going out with me to grief with a pint or two.

So here I am, 21:00 o'clock pondering what should I do. I wear my nice black pants, shoes and shirt and I start making my way to Hornstull in my classic place - Hornhuset (pretty hilarious name to be honest). I decided to go out and write about the nightlife in Stockholm in a rather popular place where things happen all the time. The previous day was equally eventful as I saw 2 guys sniffing cocaine from their mobile phone right in the metro train at 7 pm. I am literally speechless. Good job Sweden!

I make it to the bar, say hi to the guard. He asks me if I am alone and I say yes and that I go there every week. He smiles, says "welcome sir", because apparently I am one and I get inside to be welcomed by 80's pop music.

I go to the top floor to observe, get a beer but there is nothing interesting going on at that point so I grab my coat and beer and go downstairs again. There is a girl sitting on a guy's lap next to some of their friends. She stands up, probably to go to the bathroom and the guy does whatever a guy would/should do in 2017 (hint, I am being sarcastic): slaps her ass so hard that I heard it from 3 meters away. She turns back, gives him a whydidyoudothatbutitsok look and goes on with her business while the guy revels in the spoils of victory like a baboon.

I manage to keep my composure and I move in to the tables where I can sit. There was a company of rather young Swedes with a lot of drunk girls and more joined them later. I had some space next to me and there was this blonde guy called Fabian who had no place to sit so I actually told him that there is space if he wants to. He asked me if I am alone and I said yes.

"That is very nice of you", he said to me. It felt nice to hear that.

Then two black guys that were wearing their hats sideways (because it is always gangsta) started praying on women around the tables and dancing terribly in some sort of liquid dancing robot. That led me to the thought that in Sweden everyone dances weirdly, or terribly, or whatever they want and they don't seem to care about it. Frankly, I can't do that, I feel like a fool and the fact that I rarely drink doesn't help either. But man those guys were just the tip of the iceberg. There were man-vultures all over the place, going like a machine-gun from woman to woman trying to score.

At one point I saw what I thought was a couple kissing really passionately and I became pretty happy because it looked so genuine. I ended up seeing the girl in tears leaving the metro 5 hours later.

I was alone so I had to pretend to play with my phone to not look like a creep too much. I ended up reading some amazing psychedelic posts on my Facebook news-feed and then to go have a second and last beer. I had to wait 33,6 hours in the queue because hot girls were a priority instead of a well dressed, polite and sober young man (I am still young at 28 right?).

Then Doctor Zhivago entered the fray when I started to feel way too hot in the bar. The zhivago reference is probably unknown to anyone outside Greece and we use it when someone wears a turtleneck sweater. I felt like a volcano ready to explode just by looking at him. It was like 30 degrees in there.

Then came the moment that I dread the most when I am out. I needed to pee. I take a deep breath and go in the toilets. Snus everywhere. Snus on the walls, snus on the ground, snus in the sink, snus in the toilet, snus in the snus. Next to me a guy is relieving himself with peacock sounds and another one is betting on Bet365. Which reminds me of another sad soul in the bar that was playing Candy Crush. For the love of baby Jesus i am not joking.

When I started to be a bit bored, Fabian came to the toilet and remembered me and he stood there and chatted with me a little. He was embarrassed that his female friends were so drunk that they were on the table dancing. It was interesting to hear that as most of the time, who cares?

Then the popcorn moment of the night happened when guys started punching each other and the guards reacted like the recovery of the Greek economy (hint, very slow). So I did what I had to do, went to a guard, told him punches in the bar, he looked very surprised and ran to calm the spirits. Laugh? Cry? Both? Hilarious nonetheless.

Just when I was about to leave I saw a guy drinking beer and between his legs he had a motorized unicycle. In the bar. I am speechless again.

Awkward to say the least. But at least they are on a unicycle, and you are not right??
Bar closed and I began to make my way home after I had some mandatory crappy food in McDonald's with random Greek guys I met in the tube. It was not a bad night and it is proof that you can have a good time even by yourself!

In the meantime, I will go back to my trance and try to figure what is wrong with this place. Or maybe it isn't. Maybe weird is the new black. Or maybe I am weird and it is normal. Or maybe I should just go sleep now. Too much Eurovision drinking yesterday.

Laters Sweden.