January started off dead, with few things to do other than work, and few friends to see, as many were away on vacation. We stayed home this year, celebrating the holidays ourselves. I won't lie, this is not one of the highlights of expat life -- it's quite frustrating to have to choose between a nice, quiet Christmas at home or traveling thousands of miles to have the traditional Christmas with the full extended family. Both are nice, but the sting of missing the big family parties is made a lot worse by the day-after Facebook feed full of pictures of kids another year older, family traditions, and other things that are taken for granted by many.
I made a point to arrange gatherings with friends during this time, recognizing that I'd probably want to feel as with "family" as is possible around those days. We are surrounded by a small group of great friends here, and I'm exceptionally thankful for that. And over the last half year or so, I've found that I quite like hosting events, which is now possible given that we have a much bigger apartment with a nice, big dining room table. So during the holidays, we held a few really nice dinners. And then throughout January, the same.
After the holidays were over, things resumed at full speed. From the start, I knew January would be a crazy to just get through and get everything done, and I think I managed all right. It was one of those "When it rains, it pours" times. On days when I had a huge from-home workload, I also had agreed to dinner with friends. On days when I had extra late skating practice, I also had no choice but to be up and out early the next day. It was one thing after another, but really, I wouldn't have changed it. I had a lot of fun, met some new people, caught up with friends, traveled a bit, and learned a lot.
In the middle of the month, I went with our older team out to a competition in Gothenburg, just as I did last year. It was a blast, yet again, made especially fun because this particular competition is a large, international one with teams from countries all over the world, so I got a chance to cheer for Team USA in addition to our own and sit near Americans as we spent longggg days in the stands, which felt quite nostalgic. I didn't go all-out, but wasn't going to hide the team spirit either:
|(The back of my jacket has the name of our skating club in nice, huge letters, so I considered this fairly supporting both sides.)|
A funny moment from the competition: given that there were so many international teams around the rink, I thought, "This is great, I can speak English and no one will think I'm a lazy expat, just that I'm a visiting foreigner." And so, I walked up to the counter to order my lunch, only to find that the person taking my order didn't speak English (which is exceptionally rare in Sweden). It seems the universe really wants to force that one on me. At the least, I think the woman was surprised that the American trying to order in English was able to switch to Swedish. So, I'll take what I can get.
One thing that I particularly enjoyed about this weekend spent at the rink was that, after just about three years here now, being in a competition rink is becoming like it was in the US again. Walking around for a few minutes results in bumping into a handful of friends and/or hearing, "Hey Jamie!" from somewhere, which is something I missed without even realizing it.
As I always have, I took lots of videos at the competition, which are all online here, for those interested. My favorite programs were Skyliner's Junior Free and Nova's Junior Short. As I'll be coaching a team that competes next year, these videos and what we were able to see that weekend felt all the more important, as preparing a team for that level of competition within the next year feels quite daunting at times.
So January was a bit crazy, and February looks to be about the same. I have my normal schedule for the next 11 days, which I've attempted to keep free to too many extra activities, and then am off with Anita to Kiruna (and Lofoten and wherever else we drive) for 5 days. After that, I'm home for about a week and then off to Gothenburg again for a weekend skating competition.
In March, I have a weeklong trip to Boston, and then the week after, another weekend away at a skating competition, but this time in Copenhagen, and for ice dance, rather than synchro (which, though I have an undying love of synchro, I am exceptionally excited for).
So far, April holds a very fun five days in Budapest for the synchro world championships with some of my best friends from all over (USA, Estonia, and of course Sweden), and then a fun week after that with the American friend, who will be coming back to Stockholm with me. A few days after that, we have a synchro seminar, which, quite thankfully after all this craziness, will be here in Stockholm.
After unintentionally taking last year off from most travel, this year is so far shaping up to be the exact opposite, and though it's a bit of a balancing act at times, I'm loving it.