Odd, there were no fireworks or American flags and "God Bless America" wasn't being played on every radio station.
Hmmm...it could possibly be because the Swedes could care less about my independence.
I am in Stockholm now and actually spent the 4th of July at--get this--a Beastie Boys concert. And a really great one at that! We were so close to the stage. But, seeing that they are all starting to turn grey made me feel a bit old. I'm mean, hell, we started listening to them when we were 15. It was hilarious to be at a concert where they knew every word to the songs, yet english is not their first language. So when they kept cheering for "Intergalactic" it sounded very Swedish.
But, that was just yesterday. I have not been very good at blogging lately...so I have much to catch up on.
After leaving Paolo in Rome I flew to London where I stayed for 5 days with a friend of mine from OU, Tom. He could not have been a better host. I had my own room, down comforter, fluffy pillows, a washer and dryer...it was heaven. It was also FREEZING. I was coming from Delhi and Rome, which were both insanely hot, so hitting London was a major shock. I had to shop (HAD to) because it was literally so cold that at night you could see your breath.
The city itself was amazing. Although, I arrived the day before the bomb scares took place. Actually, Tom and I were in the area where they found the bomb the night it was discovered. I had a sightseeing tour booked the next day--a bus tour and then a tour of the Tower of London (where the crown jewels are kept) and then a boat ride down the Thames. It was a total mess. Buses weren't running, parts of the city were shut down, subway stations were closed. But, the tour ended up still taking place, and although there were some minor inconveniences it was a really great way to see the city.
At night, Tom and I would usually go get something to eat and have a couple pints and hang out with a few of his friends. He is moving back to the states at the end of July so everyone wants to see him before he takes off. I also talked him into going to see the musical, Billy Elliot (I love the theater) and it was absolutely fantastic. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen--there are some of the most talented children imaginable in it. It is only playing in London (although, I'm guessing it will come to Broadway sometime in the near future) so if you are ever in London I would highly recommend it. My last day there, we walked all over the city. We went to Hyde Park, where they have this area called "Speakers Corner" where people go, stand on boxes, and discuss/preach about politics, religion, world events, global warming, the environment, etc. It was really interesting. It is actually where the phrase "get off your soapbox" comes from. Most of the topics were based on religion when we went--maybe because it was Sunday, or maybe because of the bomb threats. After that we went to Camden Road, which is a totally eclectic part of town. All kinds of gothic shops and different people. Certainly had a different feeling than South Kensington, where Tom lives (A super nice part of town). We went to Buckingham Palace (where of course my camera battery died right as I was getting read to take a picture of the guard with the big fuzzy hat), and then walked toward the Parliament and Big Ben.
I had imagined London having a big skyline like New York or Chicago, but it doesn't at all. Instead, like much of Europe it is such a mix of old and new. There are some of the most modern-looking buildings and next to them are churches and castles that are thousands of years old. I love that. It was strange to be in a country where English was the native language. I caught myself a few times talking really slow so the internet cafe lady, or a waiter could understand me. When I would finish they would look at me weird and say in perfect English "Ok, anything else?" and I'd feel like an idiot. But, it had been 2 months since I'd been in a country where English was the first language, so I guess it's kinda understandable.
I left London on July 2nd, the day the terrorists were apprehended. Security was pretty tight at the airport, as expected, but it really posed no problems in travel.
I brought the grossest weather to London, but apparently I left it there, because Stockholm has been absolutely perfect. Of all of the places I've been I think Stockholm is the most beautiful. And the people...wow. And I thought the Italians were gorgeous. I think the Swedes have them beat.
Stockholm is such a cool city because it is comprised 14 islands connected by bridges. So everywhere you turn there is water. And beautiful boats and buildings on or near it. I am staying with my friend, Micaela, who is Swedish, but has spent the last 10 years living in the US. She has recently moved back home, so she is kind of re-exploring the city herself, and she has been a great host. My first day here, I finally downloaded all of my pictures (I've posted some, but haven't written any captions or anything yet) worked on another exam, and tried to sleep. When Micaela got home from work we headed out to an outside eating area--they are all over the place, and my friend Khari came to meet us for dinner. I met Khari in Salt Lake City when he came to try out of the MLS team that Leslie was playing for. He stayed with us for a week, and we have remained friends ever since. He had a game on Tuesday, and he got Micaela, a friend of hers, and me free tickets--great seats. I was a little nervous about going to a soccer game, since I haven't seen one in the last 6 years that did not include my husband. But, it was surprisingly easy...the only tough part was when one of the guys scored a goal, and then kissed his wedding ring and pointed at his wife. Les used to do that, and when I saw him do that a small lump formed in my throat. Aside from that, the game was good. AIK, Khari's team, won 2-0. AIK is one of the most popular teams here in Sweden, and the fans were crazy! And it was a Tuesday! They were jumping and singing for the entire game. It was easy to see why soccer is so popular here. The energy is contagious.
One of the funniest things I've seen in Stockholm, is that at night it still gets pretty cold. But the Swedes LOVE to sit outside. So every restaurant or bar has blankets on all of the chairs so you can stay outside even when its freezing cause you can cover up with a big thick blanket that they provide you.
Today, I am dragging Khari on a boat trip. As much as he pretends he doesn't want to do this touristy stuff, I know he's secretly excited...
So, more from Stockholm before I head back to Italy to spend Paolo's 30th birthday with him. We talk every day, either online or on the phone. I think my parent's are thinking: uh-oh, Maggie's going to come home, say hello, grab her clothes and her cat, and head straight back to Europe. Who knows. A lot can happen in 2 months (as I've learned!). But, he is really a great guy, so we shall see. I looked back on my entries, and I had just written about how I was by myself, and there were no prospects, and I was cool with that...ha. That lasted all of 48 hours...
Happy 4th of July.