First, we met our relocation agent, Lena, at a temporary apartment in Gärdet. The three-and-half room flat had two baths and a view of the Swedish Pentagon. Lena had stocked the tiny refrigerator and pantry with a few essentials to get us through the weekend. The only things we recognized were milk, coffee and Barillo pasta. After carting seven suitcases to our apartment on an 'Hiss' built for two, we loaded the girls into our Volvo wagon (an airport rental) and headed to the house on Lidingö.
How Terry found this house, I will never know. We had only visited it twice in January while it was under construction. The house was still under construction on May 1. It now had interior walls, windows and finished floors (in most rooms). But electricty and water were weeks away. The owner was surprised to see us but gave us a quick tour. It would be another two to three weeks before we could move into the house. So it was back to Gärdet!
Our first week in Stockholm flew by. We went for long walks in the nearby parks, found the grocery store, bank, post office and applied for our Personal Identification Numbers. We even found a peditrician when Kiara developed a nasty cold and fever. Our favorite hang out become Tessin Park where there was an outdoor cafe, playground, fountain and thousands of Daffodils in bloom. Everything seemed to be in bloom when we arrived.
The second week was the toughest because I had to return to Cincinnati for training without Terry and now two sick babies. Somehow he managed to get by for an entire week without me. I couldn't have gone that long without help. Every time I called from Cincinnati, I could hear crying babies in the background. The rest of May and early June were punctuated with overnight business trips to Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. Terry estimated I was out of town three out of every five business days, and I was told the new job involved hardly any travel. I guess it is all relative. In Cincinnati, I could take an elevator or a 15-minute cab ride to meet with key colleagues. In Western Europe, my counterparts are sitting in other countries. Travel is part of the job. Thank goodness it slowed down. We plan to combine some family time with my next business trip (in October) to Belgium. Terry spent a lot of time in Belgium when he worked at P&G and wants to show me Brugge.
The biggest surprise since we arrived is how difficult the simplest of tasks can be when you do not speak the local language. Everyone speaks English but everything is written in Swedish. It took us only 24 hours to get a mobile phone but three weeks to figure out how to retrieve voice mail. Internet service at home was a five to six week wait due to the high demand for highspeed service.
The biggest disappointment has been child care. The American-run day care that we applied for did not accept our girls. The waiting list was long, and we were excluded because we lived outside of Stockholm. That left us with a 45-minute commute to an English-run day care or finding a local day care on Lidingö. These are state-run institutions. Everyone raves about them, but the whole system makes no sense. You apply, you wait and you are notified where you have been accepted. No chance to pre-screen or view the sites first. Instead of a structured day care facility, our girls have been assigned to a 'house mother.' We got the notification as the schools shut down for the summer holiday. Hopefully, we will have more options to explore before turning our daughters over to strangers.
The best thing so far has been moving into our new home in early June. We love hanging out on the rooftop terrace, watching hot air balloons take off and cruise ships head out to Finland. Lidingö is maze of walking and bike trails. We get plenty of exercise with the girls. Terry has dropped an entire size!
We have also been blessed by visits from family in July. Terry's brother and his family flew over on July 4. We had fun being tour guides. The girls loved playing with their cousins and were spoiled rotten by all of the attention they got. Terry's mother came next. This was her first trip to Europe and she is enjoying it! We explored the Royal Canal, took her to NK (up there with Harrods of London for fine shopping), and took our very first cruise. Yes, we went to Helsinki, Finland. The view of the archipelago as you leave Sweden was breathtaking. I have heard estimates of 14,000 - 40,000 islands and islets can be found in the archipelago. We didn't bother to count. We just basked in the golden sun and watched the sailboats float by.
We try to get as much sun as possible now that daylight is dwindling. When we arrived, the sun rose at 3 am and fell by midnight. Now it is only twilight at 4 am and dark by 10 pm. Our first Swedish summer is drawing to a close, and so must I. We'll do our best to make sure the next update is more timely.
We arrived in Stockholm on May 1 and were greeted with warm, bright sunshine. Despite the 14-hour flight from Cincinnati, we set out to explore our new home.