Advent Calendar 2017: A Sunday Adventure
Dec 17th – A Sunday Adventure
I set out today to do some Christmas shopping and go to a “Lessons and Carols” service at the Anglican Church in Stockholm. It was -4 degress Celsius today, so the ground was frozen hard. The snow and ice has melted away thankfully, so the sidewalks were clear. They have laid loads of very coarse gravel. They were at it at 6am this morning when the kids got us up, an enormous construction machine driving around our courtyard like a go-cart track. Amazing. As cold as it is, I really felt the gravel under my leather soles. It was a very distinct texture.
The air was cold, crisp, and fresh, and it was so nice to get out. We’ve been cooped up with chicken pox so haven't been out much. So far we’re managing but we haven’t taken the kids out in the cold. Cabin Fever! It’s amazing how walking on your own terms, when you’re used to dragging one kid and bribing another as she complains in her stroller, feels a bit like flying. It’s like when you are backpacking, your pack weighs 50lbs, you’ve been hiking all day, and then you get to take off your pack for a break or lunch or to check out a view. I felt so light and the possibilities felt endless. And the view was lovely.
I got on the T just as the sun was setting (about 2pm) and rode up to Sergels Torg, and walked up Drottninggatan with a few specific things to find. I was even brave and wore less-warm, fancier city shopping clothes to blend in better. My heavy purse I'm sure gave me away, though. I got halfway though the first store and I noticed my phone was totally dead. I plugged it into the battery pack I now carry for this purpose and NOTHING. Ugh. I was going to be out for another handful of hours and I didn’t want Cora to worry. The clerk at the store told me that the closest apple store was WAY far away in a suburb (really??!? Why is there no apple store in Central Stockholm?).
One thing we’ve noticed about Swedes (generalizing here) is that they aren’t too eager to help you problem solve. Happy to help, but you have to ask precisely the right question. I stumbled upon a phone service store, the equivalent of Verizon, and asked if they could help me with the phone. No, but maybe Gigamex could help. There’s one in the next Torg over. He pointed, gave limited directions. So I went in that direction, found no Gigamex but did find a bookstore and went in there for help.
Item number one to purchase – a map! It’s crazy how different a city feels when you don’t have a navigator. It wasn’t that long ago that I was navigating a wide swath of Bolivia with my trusty travel guide, a map, and maybe a flip phone from my host family because they were nervous about me being out on my own. There were some grand adventures and getting lost always teaches you a lot about a city, especially on foot.
I asked the info desk if instead of looking up a book they could help me find Gigamex. She was super helpful, but we discovered it was closed. I asked if she knew of a place I could go that had a computer I could use. We discussed the possibility of there being such a place in the T station, both knowing that there hasn’t been an “internet café” in existence for years. I checked anyway. Yeah, no. Just a Subway Sandwich shop. In the subway station. I just put those two together. (doh!)
I gave up on the phone and decided to find my way. I headed in the direction the clerk told me, but wasn’t super sure I knew which way to turn. So I stopped in a shop to double check the map directions. There was a woman looking super bored waiting with her baby for her husband so I asked if she could help me. I just needed to know if I should turn right or left at the next intersection but she walked me through the entire map all the way to the church where I was headed.
A ways into the directions, just after a left turn, I got the sneaking suspicion I’d made a wrong turn. Mind you it’s really cold, so instead of trying to orient the map, I flagged down two middle aged women walking and talking ahead of me. After being slightly confused as to why I was interrupting them, they helped me find my way. Why yes, I had taken a wrong turn, but it was easy to remedy. And again, they were startled by my interrupting but very happy to help. With phones you never have these brief encounters. You never talk to strangers because why would you need to? It's wonderful!
And then I just walked through town, admiring the fancy inner-Stockholm apartments, beautiful architecture, windows. I had had the foresight to wear an actual watch so I knew how long I had to get to the church. I was really nice to get away from the phone. I just wanted to make sure Cora wasn’t worried. As I walked down the street I found an electronics store that happened to be open. There was one store clerk in the Service department. There was no one waiting. Still, I had to take ticket. Then wait for a different service clerk to come as she couldn't help me. Eventually the woman who said she couldn’t help me, did. Fortunately for me because she got it to live again!! Hoooray! I let Cora know I was alive and kept walking according to my map.
All of this was in Swedish, btw! It’s getting better! Slowly…
I made it to the church 20 mins early and there was standing room only. Swedes only go to church at the holidays but WOW do they go to musical events at Christmas!! I think every concert I’ve seen advertised has been sold out for weeks. It’s crazy. And I think 1 in 10 is in a choir. There is a website called “find your choir”.com (but in Swedish). It’s a cultural thing. Maybe I’ll revive my St.John’s Singers days and find my choir. I do love to sing!
And so I went to sing! The service was perfect. The chapel is beautiful, stone and high wooden arches. Very Episcopalian, great carols. And all in English, which, when it comes to doing things for the sake of tradition and what you remember, is appreciated. It has occurred to me that if I don’t make sure they learn them, my kids won’t know all the Christmas Songs that I hold dear. They'll learn the Swedish ones, and that's great! But I don't want them to miss out on my favorites. No kids came with me tonight, but probably one day.
It was beautiful, and an older woman doing a reading brought tears to my eyes; it just felt at that moment that my (long-since-passed) paternal grandmother was there with me at that moment. I think she would have enjoyed the service and the chapel. There was something reminiscent of St. David’s in Austin there.
Since I’d been walking all afternoon and standing for the whole service I really appreciated that it was only an hour and 15 minutes. And walking back to the bus I really regretted not wearing my more comfortable and warmer shoes. Otherwise, it was a pretty fantastic day. The adventure continues! And now I have a map to live in my purse for the next time my phone dies! Cheers, y'all!