“Grattis prå din Federsetag!” Swedish Birthday!

During the trip I try to learn a bit of Swedish. I already know a few words, but am unable to understand it or have a conversation. I ask Fredrick how they say “Happy Birthday” in Swedish, so I can say it to Mary. She knows that I am Italian and she also speaks English, like most Swedes; to say it in English would be accepted, but I always like to use the language of the country I visit when I can. The people always find it nice that some “foreigner” is interested in their language!

We arrive at Mary’s place. With a beautiful smile I say: “Grattis pra din Federsetag!”—Best wishes for your Birthday!

Maria is thirty-six years old, the younger sister of Fredrick, but honestly he seems to be younger than she is. I’m given a tour of the house and when we come to the children’s room, it looks like an advertisement from IKEA: two girls of the same age as Mary are playing with ten children, all blond! Wooden toys everywhere, legos, and the room walls of natural unstained wood. While the girls play mothers with the children, their boyfriends are in the garden barbecuing, even if it’s raining. We leave the women to their education activity in the “IKEA room.”

The men outside are drenched, as much by their own sweat as by the rain. Meat, vegetables, and corn are being cooked. Leif, Mary’s fiancé, is more or less forty, tall with glasses; when he turns the meat on the barbecue, his glasses completely fog. The other man, Kay, is the same age as Leif, stocky and tanned. He’s a policeman. Better have him as a friend!

We go back in the house. One of Mary’s friends asks me if I speak Swedish: “Well, let’s see! I like trying to speak in Swedish? I learn from my mistakes!”

Once I worked as a receptionist in a hotel. A Brazilian family, speaking Portuguese, was staying at the hotel. They asked if I could speak Portuguese. I didn’t have time to say “Poquino.” They began to speak quickly in Portuguese. I discovered that the Portuguese of Portugal is completely different from that of Brazil. It’s like a person from Rome and one from Bari: totally different. I did not want to make a fool of myself and say that I did not understand what they were saying. I nodded, saying, “Ta bon” and smiled when they smiled. They might have said a joke. I seemed to be in a scene from the movie “Heartbreaker” where Sigourney Weaver, to get a millionnaire, pretends she knows Russian. The millionaire takes her to a Russian restaurant and the waiter, learning that she’s a fellow villager begins to talk to her in Russian. Not to let others know she doesn’t understands anything, she nods constantly,  saying: “… DA DA DA ..!” Small brackets!

This time I demonstrate honesty and admit that I know some words in Swedish, but that I can’t hold a conversation. So we talk in English.

The woman is blonde. I don’t remember her name but I do remember that she’s a biologist in Obbola, Fredrick and Mary’s hometown. They know each other since they were little.

The other woman holds one of her children in her arms; she asks me if I have friends who have children. The answer is that recently I became the “uncle” of a beautiful girl who is just over a month, Victoria. But certainly I have no friends with a nursery at home! The reason is that I’m 26 years old and many of my friends are the same age. She does not understand this, since she has many friends of that age who have children going to school. She says that she is thirty years old,  has two children and has had her first child when she was my age. I explain the standard of living in Italy. In Sweden it’s definitely easier to have children because the economic crisis is not so severe, because students find a job soon after ending University which gives them the stability to start a family. However, her response makes me think. “I’ll have to ask one of my friends to become pregnant! Finally comes the jelly!”

It is 16.30 and dinner is ready! It is a buffet dinner. I take a bit of everything: mixed grilled meats, roasted corn, and vegetables. I taste the different sauces, and the mix of butter, garlic and cheese which is typical of the Fredrick’s village. I also taste a cheese similar to smoked cheese; it is grilled in fact: the Halumi.

There’s a birthday cake for dessert. It is covered with meringue and has layers of strawberries and meringue… slurp! I take a cup of coffee. There’s still half of the cake left. Maria asks if I want another piece. Not to give sadden her… I AGREE! While I enjoy every single bite, I promise that tomorrow I will be watch my waist; but I always say that and start the diet for in the morning and then quit it at lunch.


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