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US Visit Part 3: The Jersey leg

It was kinda sad bidding farewell to my family in Maryland.  It was good seeing family and some friends.  We'd have to catch the rest next time around.  We got the rental car and prepared to make that drive up.  Actually, Swedie was going to do the driving on this trip.  We had an agreement that since I drove up from GA, she would do the 3 hour drive to Jersey.  I set the satellite radio (Sweden needs this) to some stand-up comedy stations and we cranked the trip out.  Swedie is a good driver, so I was even able to sleep on the way up.

We were going to be staying with our good friends while we were in New Jersey.  They always look out for us and this was no different.  We had stayed with them before moving to Sweden, so in a sense this was kind of a homecoming.  It's good to go to a place where you are familiar with the shower.  That first shower somewhere can be a a nightmare.  Standing there naked and flinching with one eye closed; knowing that water will soon assault you. …

US Visit Part 2: Thanksgiving and Torture

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So the drive up to Maryland wasn't so bad.  The ceremony in Georgia was nice and we were all ready to gear up for Thanksgiving.  We put on some Pandora comedy and cruised while laughing.  We played a fun game where you name a food starting with letter... We made it all the way to the letter "F" before we decided to take a break.  Take a break really means never do that shit again.  Plus the game always turned into the sad and not-so-subtly competitive duel between my brother and me.  Both of us wanting to outwit each other and end up the victor.  Only to be named the smartest person in the car full of barely interested people.

We get to my sister's and woah is her belly big!  She looks like she is about to pop.  The baby is due in a couple of weeks and it's so beautiful and strange to see her like this.  My little sister with her first child.  I got to see what's coming our way pretty soon.  I am to expect my wife to waddle around like a penguin at that stag…

US Visit Part 1: Home Sweet Home

The time finally came.  My first trip back to the US since moving to Sweden.  We had grand plans of doing some shopping and seeing everybody and eating everything working out regularly and this and that... We stretched ourselves thin of course.  There just wasn't enough time.  We were going to do our best though. 
The flights weren't so bad.  Swedie handled it like a champ.  She was 6 months pregnant at the time of the trip.  It was actually good to have the layovers (Amsterdam and Atlanta) so she could move around a bit.  Atlanta was the first stop in the US so you have to deal with customs.  I swear the people in US Customs have the social skills of a rattlesnake.  There's the short angry fat lady that rolls her eyes after "helping" you to the next line.  Then the phone nazi.
- Sir!  You see the sign!  No cell phone or camera!  Put yo camera away!
Jeez.  Welcome to America!  Poor guy getting yelled at like that in front of everybody.  I made sure not to take my…

Getting Old: Standards Edition

One of the reasons moving here has been so easy is my in-laws.  I couldn't have gotten luckier in that respect.  The last time I was out here I got pretty close with everyone.  Of course there's Bro-in-law.  He looked out for us big time when we got back here.  We lived with him while we navigated the very reasonable and sensible housing situation in Stockholm.  I can't thank him enough for that.  The last time I was here, he turned 18.  I remember the birthday celebration.  I remember Swedie buying cigarettes/snus for him.  Now he's all grown up with his own place!  He's 24.  He's also my workout partner.  I remember when he didn't know a thing about lifting weights.  Little bro all grown up now.  I'm teaching him about American football.  He's taken me to a hockey game.  GO DJURGĂ…RDEN!!! It's been cool kicking it with him.  He drinks and has a good time, but he's more of the house party guy.   That's right up my alley.  I'm down to…

The Craziest Night of My Life

It's 2001 and 19 year old me is still adjusting to my first official military assignment.  Of course, as luck would have it, Miami-bred me was assigned to Alaska.  Thanks, Uncle Sam!  I was determined to make the best of it and that I did.  Some of my best friends now are from that time.  But I digress.  Fall was coming, it was getting colder, but parties were still happening and I wasn't trying to be holed up in my dorm room. I went to a party with an old work buddy of mine.  She and her husband were the only people I knew there, but I made the best of the situation.  I am a social butterfly after all.  After a while, my friend told me that she and her husband were leaving.  They had a baby at home with a babysitter and they were going to turn in.  She must have seen the disappointment on my face because she asked if I really wanted to stay.  I said I would and she said she'd see if some other guys that she knew would give me a ride home.  She introduced me to two young g…

Boy or Girl?

The day finally came that we had been waiting for.  We were scheduled to get an ultrasound and see if everything is going well with the baby growing in Swedie's belly.  I was so excited.  I was off of work and I'd be able to really enjoy this monumental moment.  So far we had been trying to avoid saying "it"  when referring to the baby.  After today, we would be able to say "he" or "she".  This was most exciting of it all.  Was I going to raise a boy or girl?  My little champ or princess?  Today we'd know.  This was a big deal.

Swedie and I haven't been in many arguments since being in Sweden.  I wondered why.  We still spend about the same amount of time together.  She and I both have the same habits that we always have.  Maybe we were just hitting that peaceful stride of understanding that marriages all must have.  Maybe we just take the time to enjoy each other's good and bad sides more.  Could this be?  Well I found out on the way…

LINES, LINES, LINES!!!

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I don't know what it is about this country, but boy do they love their lines here!  Just about anything you do here involves some sort of line.  It's borderline OCD if you ask me.  I don't know if it's American of me or not, but I like to kind of "go with the flow" sometimes.  Not here!  In Sweden it seems there is an obsession with order.  And that obsession has led to a country full of lines.

When Swedie first came to visit me in the States while we were in that "stare in each other's eyes and do everything holding hands" phase, we went on a movie date.  We got our tickets and some snacks that would clog our arteries and send us into a sugar-shock.  Nothing strange yet.  Then Swedie lovingly looked into my eyes and asked where we were going to sit.  What??? We weren't in the theater yet.  "Um... wherever we want to.  I guess we will try and sit in the middle of the theater." I was thoroughly confused.  Is this woman crazy?  Is s…

A Hard Time in Military Training

One of the things I've noticed about Sweden is the attention people pay to fashion.  It's pretty cool.  You rarely see Swedes in a "thrown-together" outfit.  Swedie's sister and cousin came to visit us in the States and they spent an hour putting makeup on and pretty outfits just to walk the dog around the neighborhood.  Now that I'm here I see that's not just a teenage phase.  The culture seems to be to genuinely care about the details of your outfit.  I can dig it.  I can be like that at times myself.  I've seen the business types with their tailored suits and bright patterned shirts.  The beard seems to be in right now (I'm even guilty of this one).  Fly socks, sneakers, skirts, dresses and suits.  I saw light scarfs in the summer and shiny nail polish and lipstick that work in perfectly with the rest of the ensemble.  People come to the gym with well-put-together workout clothes on.  Even the hipsters take their time to look more homeless than…

I'm About to be a FATHER!!!

Move over coolest person in the world.  In late February you will play second fiddle to the next generation Expat Jon.  Ouff!  There's a bad muthashutyomouth brewing in Swedie's stomach and I can't wait to unleash him/her on the world.  Being that we're now in the second trimester and I'm allowed to share with you, here's how the journey has gone so far:

Discovery
So I'm chilling at work and I get a phone call from Swedie.  I'm a little busy, but decide to take the call.

    What's up?
    Jon.  I've been feeling funny lately and my friend said to take a pregnancy test and I took it.  And, it says I'm pregnant.

Now, my reflex/instinct is to panic.  Go into defense mode and see exactly what this chick's motive is.  Ask is she sure.  Get a calendar...

Wait a minute.  This is your wife!  The two of you pillow-talk about growing your family together all the time before you fall asleep mid-conversation and she nudges you so you can sleep on y…

About strip clubs

One of the things that's considered pretty popular amongst men in America is strip clubs.  Going to a strip club is a pretty prominent thing in movies and TV when depicting the "average Joe" going out with his friends.  If someone tells you that they're going to a bachelor party, you assume there will either be a strip club or strippers involved.  That's not so much the case here in Sweden.  From what I hear, strip clubs do exist here.  But I have yet to see a strip club marquee or billboard or any other type of advertisement for one.  Sweden is known for having beautiful women, so one would assume that there would be an easily-located place where one could see said beautiful women either drop it like it is indeed hot or shake what her momma had given her. I have heard about the strip clubs here.  Legend has it that they are unreasonably expensive ($50+ cover charge, $100+ dances) and don't sell alcohol.  Those facts alone would keep me from patronizing such …

How I like my steak.

I was recently at a barbecue at my mother-in-law's place and we were enjoying some nice grilled steak strips.  I looked around and noticed that everyone was cutting their meat up into nice big chunks before taking bites of the juicy beef.  One "American thing" I've been focused on dropping is not using my knife when I eat.  That's why we have thumbs and bread.  Here, everyone uses their knife to push the food onto their fork (which they hold upside down).  I noticed that the last time I was here and I thought it was a neat way to eat.  It also looks less barbaric than meeting your fork with your thumb on the edge of the plate to push that last bit of gravy-soaked mashed potatoes on.  Then you have gravy on your thumb and you know that's not meant for your napkin.  You've gotta suck that gravy off that thumb!  When you're the only person at the table looking barbaric, you kind of learn to (read this part in a posh British accent) flip your fork upside …

Politically Correct Stockholm

Definition ofPOLITICALLY CORRECT

: conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated (also referred to as "PC")

One thing that I've noticed since becoming familiar with Swedish culture is they don't want any problems.  People are generally kind and go to great lengths to not offend.  You won't find many people saying offensive things in public.  If someone falls, no one laughs!  Except me, and then I'M the asshole.  Political Correctness is in full effect over here.

Once I was at a grill spot after a night out trying to get some fried food in me while I wait for the bus.  There was a drunk, English speaking guy trying to be loud and funny.  People were doing their Swedish thing (looking straight ahead and ignoring the world) until the guy started mocking the grill worker.  He was speaking with an exaggerated Indian accent and basically berating the worker.  The few…