On life and death in Ukraine

Beyond outskirts of gray despair, clusters of identical domiciles and streets the frozen night seemed to have deterred of all life, Kiev slowly materialised in the distance as the taxi crossed over the Dnipro river, inertly floating like oil underneath. The burly cab driver smoked in the car and blasted the radio and drove like you drive when you know a place inside out, one hand on the wheel and the other attending his cigarette. Building by building, church by church, the frost-riddled city towered up outside. The humming of the engine became a slight vibrato as the car rolled over the cobblestones flooring the heart of the city. Feeling the car rattle so familiarly from driving through just about any European small town made Kiev a little bit smaller as well.

Shivers ran down my spine as we drove past Maidan, Kiev’s Independence square. I watched the documentary ”Winter on Fire” on Netflix recently, a 98 minute depiction of the Euromaidan demonstrations in 2013-2014, starting on the very same day, six years ago. A story of peaceful demonstrations turning into full-scale revolution, as the Ukrainian government tried to quash public protests. It took me longer than 98 minutes to watch it. It was one of those evocative documentaries where you have to press pause, sit in some form of thoughtful silence, inhale, exhale, and then continue to watch again. I looked out on the now bare square, echoing empty around the pedestal monument penetrating the night sky. This immense square, every inch filled. Filled throughout an entire winter. Filled with the kind of fateful civil courage someone from my background will never fully understand.

Later, I was at the hotelbar. The bar man held up an empty wineglass against the light and squinted with his eyes, so tiny they almost disappeared into his hard, meaty face. He twisted and studied it meticulously before continuing to wipe it with a linen napkin. Barely had I lifted my hand to wave of his professional attentiveness and to say “Don’t worry about it” when his gaze met mine and a tiny smile materialized at the corner of his mouth. He extended the glass to me by the stem and as if he could sense my restlessness, he said in a matter-of-factly broken English “We has to always make time to make the nice”. I nodded in recognition as I took the glass. It’s somehow always the little things that makes all the difference, we just tend not to notice them. Kiev would be a lot like this.

Gaps between the washed walls outside the window revealed a lilac sky as we rose early the following morning, heading towards the pinnacle of this trip; Chernobyl. A place which seems to be on everyone’s lips lately. I remember when I first learnt of the Chernobyl disaster. I was not old, perhaps 13 or 14, and I remember reading everything I could find about it. I found it so fascinating, so daunting, so unbelievable. Perhaps not so much the accident itself but more so the areas that the accident rendered uninhabitable. Villages and cities, turning into ghost towns more or less over night. It was such a strange feeling to be about to see it all with my own eyes. And perhaps an even stranger feeling when I later did.

The first checkpoint laid some 30 kilometers off the site of the accident. A humble shed of corrugated iron on the crisp countryside. We shuddered in the piercing cold, and the only ones not seemingly demoralised by the sinking quicksilver were the two Jehovas witnesses, task-focused and ready for new-recruits where they stood to the side, bundled up and armed with placards and brochures. After we’d shown our passports, we were allowed inside of the exclusion zone.

A single tiny road shot through the coniferous forest of pines, growing so tightly the outside whizzed by like walls of evergreen. At first, there was nothing but trees. Then came the first derelict houses, almost undetectable in between and behind dead shrubbery, on both sides of the road. First only a few, then a lot more. Tiny boxes in the same colors as the barren surroundings and barns with sunken roofs. People observed and silenced. Almost a reverent silence. But a silence that wasn’t reverent, was the silence outside.

We made stops in a few of the minor villages once home to a Soviet bourgeoisie, and had a walk around. Window frames echoed empty in many of the high-rises, overtaken by vegetation. Bushes growing out go cracks in walls, trees on rooftops. Inside, everything was stripper bare. Wires pulled out of floors, walls and ceilings for copper. Shards of glass shattered across every floor. The only tiny remnants of a previous life once happening here a few strips of tapestry, a single laced curtain. We put down our feet and minded our voice levels as if we had walked into a library. But there was no one to be quiet for.

In Pripyat the never inaugurated ferris wheel stood out against the sky like a steel skeleton, riddled with rust and moss. Pripyat was different to the tiny villages. Possibly because it was easier to picture life there. A Soviet pride erected in the middle of nowhere, sprawling with modernity and now nothing more than an urban graveyard. We walked along avenues encroached to tiny paths by vines, snaking up every tree and snarling up every wall. Stood on the edge of an olympic swimming pool long depleted of water, several tiles missing.

From the rooftop of one of the residential buildings, the containment of reactor 4 in the power plant stood out like a tiny chunk of metal in a vista of pine green. Later, up close, it was so gigantic it could fill a vision of sight. To be standing right in front of it, only separated by a chainlink fence, frlt bizarre. Perhaps because we didn’t really take it seriously. Perhaps, because we did. It’s hard to find words for it. I think the silence of the whole place consumed my words. The only sound coming from the yellow geiger meter going crazy as it came close to the ground, giving off a frantic beeping sound. I grew up in the forest, and I know the plentitude of forest sounds like sing-a-long songs. The creaking of barren branches, the rustle in fallen leaves, the cooing of wood pigeons. This quietude wasn’t the absence of noise, it was the absence of life. I shuddered, and I shudder thinking back of it. I didn’t hear a single bird chirp during the entire day, and that was perhaps the most visceral part of the entire experience.

Coming back to Kiev was like coming back to another world. Stopping for a short moment to feel rays of the morning sun warm our skin in the crisp air, and watch them carry on, glint of the gilded domes and be swallowed by the river, somehow made the whole excursion feel even more surreal. It was as if the simple pleasures and liveliness of the Ukrainian capital made the mere thought of a nearby place so devoid of it unthinkable. I don’t think the Kiev we had time to experience was anything similar to London or New York where you kind of just feel like it’s only you and the city. And perhaps that would deter some. For us I feel like it intrigued us to look a bit closer, and when we did we discovered a different city than the daunting, cold capital it might come off as at first glance.

I think of the gay club we tracked down to go dancing. A venue which from the outside looked nothing less than a place where mafia settlements would take place, being an unlit office building behind a dark parking lot. First we wondered if we had the right address, then we saw the little entrance sign saying that ladies had to pay double to get it.m. On the inside it was as filled with the same love and acceptance you’d expect in a similar place but in another, perhaps more accepting corner of the world, and that made it special, and important. You can be anywhere and literally just cross over a simple threshold and enter into a different world, and the reminder that love always finds a way had me feeling the sun on my face one more time.

It is almost always people that make the difference. Which is a shame for someone like me who’s normally prefer the whole me-and-the-city setup. But I would have to admit that I miss out sometimes. The people that crossed our paths here made me think of that. Probably because they had a sincere genuineness about them. In taxis, restaurants, bars, supermarkets. An attentiveness to eye contact, listening and above all, an eager to be of service. I believe this is precisely why Kiev had the air of being a lot smaller than it is. Because that kind of thoughtfulness is more rare in truly big cities, as if people’s attention is alway needed elsewhere.

Ukraine, I might have to come back for more.

Life changes in Phuket

The sun peered over the mountains as we descended through the clouds and Phuket unfolded below us, swathed in the last morning fog like a giant cobweb encasing the entire island. The serenity which has attracted people to come time and time again could be felt even before touchdown. And I reckon it’s often like that; when what strikes you the most at first glance is not what man put up, but what was already there, to begin with.

I got on a coughing motorbike and held a tight grip around the driver as we made our way through the traffic, and I began to reminisce. It’s the third time I’m here, and each time I’ve been has been important. Somehow life has often taken a swift turn afterward, and suddenly nothing has ended up being the same anymore. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence. But the first time I came here was almost ten years ago, and I was a teenager on my way to see a friend from school living in Phuket. I remember it as it was yesterday. I guess because the whole trip played such a big part in leading me towards where I am today. Therefore I remember, both the memorable and the much less memorable bits. I remember the hard jumpseat I sat on for 11 hours, which was my only option to get on the flight. I remember being too shy to ask for breakfast when the cabin crew forgot about me for the lasts service, where I sat tucked away behind a curtain in a freezing galley. But more than that I remember the approach into Bangkok, a million lights lit up like a dashboard in the night as we circled before landing. I had never seen such a vast city before, and I wasn’t really supposed to either at that time, but as my travel plans abruptly changed almost before the entry stamp had dried in my passport, I had to stay the night. All connecting flights were full, and if I wanted to get myself to Phuket, I wasn’t gonna be by air travel. I wasn’t even a cabin crew yet, nonetheless, I was tutored early on what it feels like to be completely screwed whilst on staff travel.

One night in Bangkok followed by one night on a ramshackle bus lacking both seatbelts and a muffler, all the way down to Phuket. I was awake all night, my eyes darting across the landscapes and silhouettes whizzing by outside in the muggy night. When we rolled into Phuket the morning had just begun to saturate the gaudy colors of the island, and even if I’d never been as far away from home, I didn’t feel like it. A feeling I’ve come to experience many times since, in many different places. And that feeling didn’t subside for the two weeks I stayed there. Not even when I was bumped off flights for another whole week whilst attempting to return back home, and really wanted to. I got almost another week in Bangkok, which was a lot less fun than it sounds, but it still mattered even if the details of the trip are unimportant. What is important is that when I came back, I came back another. Someone who’d faced the world outside and somehow landed back on his feet. Someone more confident, someone more of an accomplisher.

There are times when I can miss my younger, braver self who didn’t think as much as I do today. I suppose that’s very often what bravery is all about; not thinking and just doing. Then again, I like to think I make better decisions for myself today than I sometimes did back then. I’ve become a lot better at being present in moments that come to me. To listen more intently, to speak more selectively. To select more carefully, to let go more easily. People and things. I used to be completely different. An over-indulger, in every sense of its meaning. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why I oftentimes feel like all my strongest memories are from my adult years. I had such a rush growing up I so often neglected to pay attention to life as it happened. But better late than never, as we say.

I thought about this as I later sauntered between shelves crammed with tattered paperbacks in a tiny store for preloved books in Phuket town. Piles and stacks of books lined every aisle and filled every corner, and particles of dust stirred up as I moved around, transforming the air into a galaxy of its own. The idea that each book has already been picked up once by someone appeals to me. That every book in there has already given to someone at some point. Especially here. Phuket is one of those places on earth where people on the run end up. Either they’re running away from something, may it be from law enforcement or gloomy weather, or either they’re running towards something. Usually a better life, whatever that means for them. I spotted several books that have changed me, and I wondered if I’m also running if we all read the same books? I foubd one of my favorites tightly wedged on a dusty shelf – ”Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine”. I purchased it again and thought that’s the beauty with books, that it’s a gift whose value is so easy to share with others.

I got on another motorbike to go back. It’s peculiar how an island so vast can feel so small. The sidewalks teemed with people, and the sultry air felt manageable in the breeze from moving on a velocity. As the evening slowly made its entrance, bright neon signs lit up one by one, making a profit of vices people have come here to unleash. It’s never quiet in Phuket. It’s never too noisy. Phuket is more an environment than it is a place, a city or an island. And perhaps that’s what makes it so special.

Come night I ambled into my hotel room and picked up my phone, and found out that life had changed again, and all of a sudden it wasn’t just Saturday anymore. I spoke to a friend of mine earlier during the day. A trivial conversation about everything and nothing, about delicious meat-substitutions and business ideas. We decided to speak again soon. In the hours that had passed since we hung up, her mother had fallen severely ill and had been taken to the ICU. She has just texted me saying that she’s just commenced the 20 hours journey to go home. And she didn’t know if she’d make in time. So just like that, it wasn’t t just a Saturday anymore.

Suddenly, no sunrises, no missed connection flights, literary gems or anecdotes of pearls of wisdom meant a thing.

Suddenly, time stood still, just when time had never been more precious.

Suddenly, love was all that mattered.

Påminnelser om andra verkligheter

Påminnelser om andra verkligheter.

Det var mitt i natten och vi stod i avgångshallen på flygplatsen. I sista minuten hade vi hunnit boka en biljett åt henne. En enkelbiljett. Jag vill inte säga att hon behövde fly, fast det var ju det hon gjorde. När hon berättat för sin pojkvän att hon var gravid och inte ämnade behålla barnet, då hotade han med att gå till polisen. Och hade han hunnit, så hade han fått rätt. I det landet hade han varit den som fått rätt. Så utan val stod hon där, medfaret iklädd dem första kläderna hon hittat att kasta på sig. En av dem starkaste jag känner. Och jag minns hur bräcklig hon såg ut medan vi såg henne gå igenom säkerhetskontrollen. Förändrad på något sätt. Som att hennes verklighet blivit en annan. En verklighet hon väl bara fått en inblick i, men som är så många andras, utan möjlighet att komma iväg. Hon kom iväg. Till en plats där hon fick välja själv. Hon hade möjligheten, så den gången gick det bra. Eller bra kanske är ett konstigt ord. Hon undslapp, i bristen på egna rättigheter.

Vi var 17 år och jag väntade utanför tjejtoaletten när min vän kissade på en sticka. Efteråt satt vi på en förstutrapp och delade en cigarett under tystnad medan två streck uppenbarade sig på den lilla displayen. Avsaknaden av ord talade för sig själv medan röken långsamt singlade sig uppåt i den råa oktobermorgonen. Dagen efter följde jag med henne till Ungdomsmottagningen. Ett samtal i ett tryggt rum senare fick hon en tablett, och sen fick livet gå vidare. Under gymnasieåren kom det att ske ett par gånger, med ett par olika vänner. Jag var ofta den som följde med. Aldrig var det något särskilt, och idag ser jag tillbaka på det som något av det mest särskilda. Möjligheten. Enkelheten. Tryggheten. Det fria valet. En overklighet för så många, på så många platser.

En vän till mig växte upp med i Sydamerika, i en värld långt bortom föräldraledighet och månatliga barnbidrag, där verkligheten i sig ständigt var en kompromiss. När han var fem år gammal ringde hans dagmamma till hans mamma. Hon var bekymrad för honom, och hon tyckte att han uppvisade oroväckande tendenser eftersom han föredrog att umgås med flickorna istället för med pojkarna i klassen. Detta alarmerande beteende tyckte dagmammans att en psykolog skulle få utreda, för att se så det inte var något ”fel” på honom. För tänk om han var ”en sån”? Lyckligtvis tillhörde, och tillhör, hans mamma den proggresivs sorten, och hon konstaterade kort att så längde hennes son mådde bra var detta det dummaste hon hört, innan hon smällde på luren. Pappan däremot, han blev orolig. Det är ju ofta så i troende länder, att acceptansen för att vara annorlunda ofta är knapp. Så han tog med honom till den där psykologen, utan mammans vetskap. Men min vän minns inte så mycket ifrån mötet med psykologen. Annat än att han sattes att leka i ett rum med en hög med leksaker för tjejer och en hög med leksaker för killar, medan dem vuxna såg på. Han var för ung för att förstå, men ändå tillräckligt gammal för att inse att det låg i hans intresse att inte välja ifrån den rosa samlingen, så det gjorde han inte. Det var ett test. Ett test han kanske inte förstod, men fem år gammal hade han trots allt redan börjat ana att livet skulle bli enklare för honom om han istället för välja fritt, lärde sig att välja ”rätt”.

När jag var i samma ålder som han var då, då valsade jag in i min mammas garderob och tog på mig hennes klänningar och högklackade skor och dansade omkring. Säkert hade jag läppstift på också. När hon hittade mig skrattade hon och sade att jag var fin, och just precis så minns jag hur det var att växa upp för mig. Jag blev alltid mött i mitt sätt att vilka vara. Tillåten att prova, tillåten att välja. Uppmuntrad och upplyft, varenda gång. Så länge jag höll besticken i rätt hand var allt annat tillåtet. Ja min mamma är en fantastisk kvinna. Det vet alla som läser det här, som har träffat henne. Alltid före sin tid, alltid vidsynt, alltid inkluderande. Tyvärr, om man kan säga det, är hon ju bara min mamma. Men på sätt och vis lånas hon ju ut hela tiden. Hon behövs på så många platser, och för så många människor. Jag pratar ofta om henne, och människor blir glada och vill alltid höra mer. Hon är nog den bästa föräldern en ovanlig kille kunde få, och anledningen till att jag berättar om detta, är för att det så många gånger gått upp för mig hur många som inte hade en Tatta att växa upp med. Och vad det har kostat dem.

För inte alls länge sedan var jag i Singapore. Jag och en kollega till mig hamnade på en nattöppen marknad, och där mitt i pulsen, hukade över ett skrangligt plastbord med immiga ölflaskor, så berättade han om sitt liv. Vi hade ganska mycket gemensamt, vilket kanske var anledningen till att han öppnade upp sig. Hans bakgrund visade sig vara ifrån en annan värld. Uppvuxen i skarven till Europa i en djupt troende familj, hade han fått gå i en kristen skola. En dag när han var 13 år fick han i uppgift att hålla ett föredrag för klassen. Ämnet, det var att tala om homosexualitet, och hur det fördärvade samhället. Jag vet inte om det var en slump att just han blev tilldelad just det ämnet, jag kände ju inte honom då. Men han höll föredraget. Också väl för ung för se något fel i det hela. Men samtidigt tillräckligt gammal för att, som han sade, ”något skulle gå sönder i mig”. På något plan insåg han ju, att det här rörde honom själv. Han fortsatte med att berätta att han väldigt nyligen gått på maskerad. Han och hans kompisar hade klätt ut sig till hula-hula dansare med stråkjolar och kokosnötter och allt därtill. När bilder ifrån festen lades upp på sociala medier så skrev hans mamma och bad honom att ta ner bilderna, eller ta bort familjen ifrån Facebook. Hon tyckte att han skämde ut dem med sitt ”utsvävande liv”. Jag satt med en klump i halsen i den kvava nattluften när han berättat färdigt. Grubblandes över denna en annan verklighet. Det var som att det öronbedövande surrandet runt omkring oss tystnat, och så är det ofta. Jag skulle kunna vara självisk och säga att jag egentligen inte ville lyssna. För det hugger i hjärtat att återge den här berättelsen just nu. Jag minns hur han berättade den. Det var inte som att den låg bakom honom. Det var som att han hängde på kanten till att avgrundsdjupt hål, och liksom ifrågasatte varför han höll sig kvar. Kanske var det därför jag lyssnade. Och alltid lyssnar. För utan att lyssna till varandras historier, kommer vi inte att lära utav dem. Hur går det, om vi inte gör just det?

Ibland. Väldigt ofta, känner jag frustration över att jag inte gör mer för att Världen ska bli en finare plats. Jag är ju inte Greta. Eller Magda. Eller Stina. Det är väl i och för sig väldigt få utan oss som är det. Det gör ju ont att berätta. Även om det så gott som alltid är andras historier. Fast ändå så ont att jag ofta skjuter på det. Men någonstans är ju delandet av dem här berättelserna, dem här ganska vanliga och samtidigt så ovanliga berättelserna, ett uppöppnande. De utav oss som växte upp i det där landet i norr, utan att någonsin behöva reflektera över tillgängligheten till dagen-efter piller, eller kanske självklarheten i att leka med vilka leksaker man vill, eller få gå på en jävla maskerad utan att få sin trygghet ifrågasatt, vi måste tyvärr lyssna till dem som inte fick detta. Bli påminda av det särskilda i allt det vi aldrig behövt tycka var något särskilt. Och de som växte upp utan dessa självklarheter, måste få chansen att höra att dem existerar.

Vi mår alla bra av att bli påminda om att medmänsklighet existerar, oavsett om det bara är vanliga liv, mellan vanliga människor, i dem vardagligaste av liv. Trots allt är det ju dem som de flesta av oss lever.

Och kanske kan vi komma varandra lite närmare genom att berätta lite oftare om där kärleken finns, och framför allt, våga lyssna till dit den ännu inte hittat. För kanske kan världen förändras precis på det sättet. Genom att berätta. Och lyssna.

Jag vet att det har förändrat mig.

Tusen och ett land: Uganda.

Tusen och ett land: Uganda.

Det är världens mest mångfacetterade kontinent, men känslan som infinner sig under Afrikas himmel är lika unik oavsett var man tittar upp på den ifrån. I Algeriet, framför vågorna. Som slår in medan sådan kraft att stranden ändrar skepnad för varje gång havet stryker den. I Dakar, doftandes på ymnig Bougainvillea. Som klättrar längs med väggarna utmed dammfyllda gator, så skirt rosa att alla omgivande färger faller i blekhet. I Kapstaden, betraktandes molnridån. Som sköljer över Table Mountain som om den var på väg att sluka hela staden, innan den försvinner igen och allt börjar om. Eller här, i Uganda, där natten känns mer levande än dagen. Cikadorna spelandes så öronbedövande högt att det verkar som att luften vibrerar. Alltid så genomsyrat av liv. Afrika är speciellt på det sättet.
Motorvägen ifrån flygplatsen i Entebbe in till huvudstaden Kampala kan mäta sig med svenska mått. Jag blir överraskad och tänker att det känns i tiden med fungerande infrastruktur. Redan efter första avfarten har jag bytt åsikt. Säkerhetsbältet som satt obönhörligt fastkilat bakom sätet känns plötsligt som en mycket bra idé att försöka få loss. Vägarna är gropiga, och utmålade linjer i stort behov av att målas om. Skyltarna är få. Och precis som med tider och priser så är ju trafikregler någonting som det lämnas stort utrymme att förhandla kring i nästan hela Afrika.

Lyckligtvis behöver jag inte bemöta allt på egen hand, utan jag har haft turen att känna någon som känner någon som känner någon. Någon, är Farouk. En av mina närmsta vänners svågrar. Farouk hämtar mig tidigt, och vi beslutar oss för att åka motorcykel, eller Boda Boda som det kallas, in till Kampala i morgonrushen. Att åka ”motorcykeltaxi” i Uganda är lite speciellt. Mest för att det egentligen inte alls är någon officiell taxiverksamhet, utan rätt och slätt gemene man som erbjuder skjuts mot en nominell ersättning. En enkelt men väl fungerande system, med fokus på service snarare än säkerhet.

Att åka motorcykel är så frigörande. Kanske är det för att omgivningen kommer så nära. När vi korsar fram över röddammiga vägar går det att känna dofterna av allt som sker runt omkring. Röken ifrån eldarna vid vägkanten. Den nylagda asfalten. Fukten från dagen vaknar när daggen avdunstar. Men kanske mest påtagligt av allt blir det fenomen du bara ser i Afrika. Och det är det tillsynes helt planlösa lunket vid vägkanterna. Ja trottoarer är det ju oftast inte tal om, så i den nedtrampade vägrenen lunkar allt ifrån män i pressad kostym, till omfångsrika kvinnor i bjärta klänningar, och späda försäljerskor som med lätthet balanserar fruktfyllda baljor på huvudet. En helt otrolig kontrast.

Inne i Kampala byter vi till minibuss till Entebbe. Det är bullrigt och trångt och i trafiken råder djungels lag. Jag hänger halvt ur fönstret och ser bananträden och taken av rostig plåt som flankerar motorvägen. Entebbe är betydligt mer lågmält än huvudstaden. Förstahandsval för landets mer besuttna, och därav något mer upprustat. Läget precis intill Victoriasjön bidrar även till stadens vördnad. Jag har önskat natur, och Farouk tar mig till den Botaniska trädgården. Av erfarenhet föreställer jag mig en botanisk trädgård som en välskött lite stel inrättning med krattade gångar, små staket och rensade rabatter. Det var inte vad som mötte oss här. Det här var natur i dess rätta bemärkelse, utan mänskligt påtande. En vildvuxen skog mer än en ombonad trädgård, med träd försvinnande höga och buskage ogenomträngligt täta. Vi får en guide; Bright. Som namnet påskiner är Bright både tillmötesgående och skarp. Det första han berättar är att parken användes som inspelningsplats för scener till den allra första Tarzan-filmen på 1930-talet. Han föreslår att ifall jag vill svinga mig från ett träd till ett annat kan han få till lite coola bilder. Afrikansk sarkasm är något helt annat än västerländsk sarkasm, man vet liksom aldrig helt. Jag tittar på dem centimetertunna lianerna som hänger mellan träden och säger ”nä”.

Medan han vallfärdar oss genom parken docerar han ingående om varenda levande organism vi ser. Människor med expertis är ju alltid fantastiska. När någon har ett brinnande intresse för något är det inte svårt att dras med, om det så rör sig om Mingdynastin eller skalbaggar. Passion smittar. Bright berättar att det finns över 300 registrerade fågelarter i den 42 hektar stora parken. Och bara sekunderna efter att han sagt detta är jag en hårsmån ifrån att skrämma upp samtliga av dessa från sina gömslen när jag plötsligt känner något fuktigt och varmt stryka sig längs benet. Tro mig när jag säger att det är inte en upplevelse man vill ha när man befinner sig mitt i Afrika. Nu visade det sig visserligen bara vara en nyfiken hund, men under dem två sekunder det tog att upptäcka hann jag åldras ytterligare 26 år.

En Hamerkop landar framför oss på stigen. En liten stork som likt skator är ökänd för att vara kleptomaniskt lagd, och att dem flyger iväg med kläder ifrån människor som bara vill ta ett snabbt dopp i sjön är tydligen ingen ovanlig företeelse får vi höra. Vart vi än går pekar Bright ut nya arter långt inne i djupa snår eller högt upp i trädkronor. Jag förundras över hans förmåga att upptäcka på så långt avstånd och frågar hur han lyckas. Han säger, inte fördömande, ”In Africa, we live our lives outside. Everywhere else, you live your lives inside. You don’t learn to see from looking at a screen”. Det ligger något i det.

Vi åker tillbaka till huvudstaden. Inne i Kampala händer det så mycket att det är nästintill omöjligt att hänga med på vad som sker. En kakafoni av tutande bilar och ett virrvarr av både människor och motorburna fordon, påväg kors och tvärs så att dammet yr. Ett tillstånd jag vid första anblick upplever som ohämmat kaos. Jag blir tillrättavisad att inte vifta med värdesaker, och korsar mellan trafik och människor. Någonstans i allt så inser jag trots allt att det bara är för mig som detta är kaotiskt, och då ter sig allt lite annorlunda. För alla runt omkring mig är det här vardag, och plötsligt märker jag omgivningens oberördheten till tumultet. Det är ju faktiskt bara ett helt annat system. På gott och ont. Jag berättar för Farouk om platser jag blir påmind av. Farouk har aldrig lämnat Uganda, men han säger kort, ”Many countries not very different”. Jag intygar att han har rätt. Man behöver ju faktiskt inte se så värst mycket, för att förstå desto mer.

Vi avslutar på Nakasero marknaden. Ett myller av liv och kommers mellan rangliga bord, överbelamrade av frukt och grönt. En palett av färger. Och ingenting kostar någonting. En avokado så stor att jag knappt kan hålla den i en hand kostar fyra svenska kronor. Då har vi knappt prutat. Jag berättar att i Sverige har gemene man bara råd att äta avokadon veckan direkt efter löning, och då oftast inte större än ett äpple. Farouk tittar storögt och jag kan se att han undrar vad det egentligen är vi håller på med däruppe. Jag håller med om detta också.

Innan vi skiljs åt frågar Farouk varför jag inte tagit så mycket bilder. Jag förklarar hur jag föredrar att berätta i ord än i bilder, och säger med Brights visdomsord i åtanke ”If we need to enhance our ability to see things more clearly, I believe it’s better if people work with their imagination rather than with their eyes”.

Tack för kärleken Uganda.

Who cares about seeing new places?

Who cares about seeing new places?

I do, but honestly speaking, the biggest reward of traveling is not seeing new places. It’s actually the insight that seeing new places is oftentimes not a particularly enriching experience at all. It is indeed mesmerizing seeing the details of Taj Mahal through sunglasses fogged up by muggy air, or biking across the Golden Gate bridge in a briny headwind, burning your tongue on fiery stir fry in Bangkok or having a layer of skin scrubbed off in a hammam bath in Casablanca. Still, the true riches of traveling almost always comes from the people you cross path with whilst doing it. And as much sense as that makes, the twist is that you do need to see these postcard monuments with your own eyes in order to fully embrace that they’re not much more than just places, and places without someone to remember them by or with, don’t add much significant value per se. Because what changes us isn’t places; it’s people. That realization is the greatest privilege to obtain from being able to travel. Because only when you go to bed at night feeling the exact same as when you woke up in the morning despite having climbed the Great Wall of China that day, you fully understand that some ticks on the bucket list don’t really matter. And only when you find yourself in a bustling flea-market in Yerevan being pulled aside by a frail man with a long beard, who in very broken English says to you “Never forget to stop and just feel” you understand that perhaps it’s something completely different than passport stamps and Facebook check-ins that do matter.

The other day I had a meeting that mattered to me. An elderly lady came onboard. Sporting a cobalt blue jacket and bright red lips she was like taken from a time when you dressed up to fly. She was probably in the environs of 80 and a bit, so to claim she wasn’t marked by age would be to romanticize beyond necessity, yet she had skin like strawberries and cream and a young glistening gaze behind designer spectacles. She was a chic lady, and our connection was instant from the very first look. As we began talking she took a firm grip on my arm and caressed it throughout the conversation as if I was a precious item. She knew to hold on to good things when she saw them (as she later told me).

Throughout the long flight, we had time to converse further. She loved to tell, and I love to listen. Often neither time nor interest is enough to, but this day was an exception; both time and interest were plenty. She was a true storyteller, and her stories were of all kind. The ones that made you gasp for air and sent cold shivers down your spine. The ones that sank its claws in your heart, and the ones that made both your lips and eyes smile. She was aged, yet not old because her spirit was that of a young person. Yet each time we spoke, she held my arm in that same aforementioned firm grip. The way only old people do as if somehow trying to prevent things from eluding them.

Hampered by health her diet was restricted, so together we scrutinized the menu for permissible options from the various alternatives. Afterward, I scarfed them together and served them to her. Unseasoned rice and boiled vegetables are perhaps not amongst the most enticing of foods, but as she said, everything tastes good with Champagne. In fact, she had a glass of Champagne in her one free hand throughout all of our talks. She drank in swigs, and she referred to the noble drink as the potion of life repeatedly. I forgot to ask if that was the secret to her youthful appearance. But I bet.

Many of her stories served as painful reminders of how incredibly unfair life can be at times. Few people appreciate what they take for granted until they realize that they cannot anymore. As she said when I suggested for her to watch a movie, it’s important to acknowledge what we must enjoy now and what we can enjoy later. ”I much rather just stand here and look at you than at a screen”. I don’t blush often. But she made me blush.

Before landing, I went to say goodbye. She was seated in one part of the cabin and me in another, so we would not see each other for disembarkation. I brought her the cobalt blue jacket, redolent of Chanel nr 5, and she took another firm grip of my arm and said, not in these exact words yet they were the silver lining, ”anyone can pay for some to provide the service, but no one can pay for anyone to care.” This is true. And In 7 years, that might be the most important someone has ever said to me whilst on duty.

The moral of the story is that we never know who we’re going to meet, but chances are they might have something important to tell us if we just take a little time to listen.

So easy to forget, but so important to remember.

Stories you don’t want to hear

Stories you don’t want to hear.

A few weeks ago, a documentary of one of Sweden’s most cherished late singers, Josefin Nilsson, went viral back home. Since I watched it, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her. The internet connection was so poor as I streamed it the show buffered incessantly and the picture was blurred for almost the duration of it, yet for one hour I didn’t move a muscle, and I sat there with my gaze fixed to the screen. Listening to her life story being unfolded. A story about a woman with so much to give to the world, and a story about a man who took it all away from her. Who abused her so severely, she never fully recovered.

Josefin passed away in 2016, just shy of her 47th birthday.

As I sat there and the producer’s credits starting rolling down the screen, I felt a fire raging inside of me. Ignited by all the anger I had in my heart. The anger for all the people in this world who by their own petty limitations, their own ignorance and their own oblivion towards the people around them, have felt entitled to bereave another human being of as much as a fragment of their own self-worth. Because as much as that documentary revolved around Josefin, her artistry, her zest of life and how much she devoured it, as much it revolved around all the ones who’s ever been denied their inherent right to their own body. Whose narrative was chosen for them, not by them.

I came to think of something that happened to me in primary school when I was seven years old. An incident which doesn’t hurt anymore, but who scarred me. Scarred me invisibly, by opening up an abyss I sometimes still find myself falling through. It was a regular autumn’s day back in 1999. I was standing in the lunch canteen and had spotted the last vacant seat by a crowded table. As I sat down, the entire table simultaneously stood up and moved to an empty table nearby. They left me there by myself. And that shame. That humiliation. That social rejection is still a vivid memory, long after it stopped hurting.

I thought about a friend of mine. When she was about the same age as I was at that time, she routinely saw her school nurse. At one point, the nurse had blurted out, admonishingly, that she was ”a little chunky” for her age. Maybe this sounds harmless, but she only confided this to me quite recently, after yet another rant of me reminding her that she shouldn’t have to ”deserve” dessert, or ”be good” in order to ”feel” good about herself. But it’s not easy. It’s not easy to not try a new dress, and it certainly is not easy to undress in front of a new person, when she hears those words each time she has to look at her own body. It’s not easy because at a point in life when fitting in meant everything, she was told off for not doing so.

I thought about another acquaintance. I remember when she first told she’d been sexually abused as a child. The first time, she was six years old. The second time she was nine. The third time, she was 14. She told me that she doesn’t know how to think, or what to answer, each time someone asks her at what age she lost her virginity.

I thought about him. He, who was never allowed to be himself. He, who got thrown out on the street when he was 16 years old because he told his parents about this boyfriend. He, who still has to pretend, even though he’s past 30. He, who also finds the world to be quite tiring after having seen it, several times over, but who prefers to travel somewhere new rather than to go back home for leave, since the price of completely new experiences is less than that of old lies.

And I thought about her. She, who is just as reluctant to go back home as he is. Not because she is not allowed to be whoever she wants to be. Because in her parent’s house, there’s a black and white photo from her childhood, framed on the wall. A blurry old photo with frayed edges, of her, her mum, and a late male friend of the family. Had her mother known about the memories she relives each time she lays eyes on the photo, that cherished photo she often dusts off, she’d live a half-life thereafter, and she doesn’t think her mother is deserving of that. Because she wasn’t the grown-up who let her down, but that’s what she would have thought.

I cried as I wrote this down. Cried for to the powerlessness. For to the incapability. For to the injustice. For all the bad luck. And for all the luck. Because it’s nothing more than just luck. Luck that the shame I felt sitting abandoned by a dining table 20 years ago, was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Luck that I’ve never had to question my own right to my own body. Or my own thoughts, my own curiosities, my own wantings. Luck that I was given something as rare as unconditional love, from so many people. And the responsibility it calls for, from me, from everyone who was lucky, to make sure that’s the love who lives. The love that encourages. Includes. Protects.

There is injustice we are powerless to change. People in need we cannot help. Stories we don’t want to hear but have to listen to. People we want to cherish, but have to question for their actions, and experiences we wish we didn’t have but have to share to prevent them from repeating. At the end of the day, we’re all solely responsible for our own lives, and no one but ourselves can pick us up whenever we fall. But no one stands strong on their own.

What is the value of buying a new dress, to someone who resents her body in everything she wears? What is the value of saving your body for someone you love, to someone whose right to decide over her own body has been revoked so many times she’s lost count? What is the value of sharing a dinner with your family, in a room with a picture of a man who bereaved you of your childhood? We are not always able to save each one another from harm. But we are able to remind ourselves that we are fragile. And so are the people we love. Perhaps there are no moments in which we are more fragile, than in those where we thought we would never have to be.

I also believe it’s good to remind that when other’s confide, you do best to stay silent. But when others stay silent, you do best in not staying silent.

Sanningar Du inte vill höra

Sanningar Du inte vill höra.

Jag vill förvarna för att den här texten eventuellt kan röra upp känslor men jag hoppas att ni läser ändå.

Jag har inte kunnat sluta tänka på Josefin Nilsson sedan jag i söndagskväll satte mig ned, med dålig internetuppkoppling och brusig upplösning, och såg dokumentären om henne på Svtplay. Programmet buffrade från början till slut, men det var som att jag inte märkte av det alls, utan jag satt med blicken fäst på skärmen. Jag minns inte senast jag satt ned i en hel timme utan att känna att jag behövde vara någon annanstans.

Tårarna rann medan dem sista tonerna av ”Älska Mig” med Ainbusk Singers ebbade ut. Och jag kände hur jag liksom satt där och brann. Brann av ren djävla ilska över alla dem människor jag mött och inte mött, känner och inte känner, som genom sin egna otillräcklighet, sin egna gränslöshet, sin egna obetänksamhet, tagit sig friheten att beröva en annan människa så mycket som en liten del av deras egenvärde. Hur många de är och hur mycket de kommer undan med. Brann av påminnelsen att vi inte kommit längre. Brann av påminnelsen att kanske är vi trots det påväg någonstans. Alltför sakta. Alltför sent. Men påväg. Det kändes hoppfullt.

Jag tänkte att lika mycket som dokumentären handlade om Josefin; hennes livslust, hennes artisteri, hennes livsgärning, lika mycket handlade den för mig om varje människa som på något sätt berövats rätten till sin egen kropp. Sin egen bestämanderätt. Sitt eget liv. Som blivit fråntaget privilegiet att aldrig någonsin behöva ifrågasätta sin fullkomlighet.

Jag tänkte på en personlig händelse som inte gör ont längre, men som ändå lämnade ett själsligt ärr. Som öppnade upp en avgrund jag själv fortfarande faller genom ibland. Och det var en vanlig höstdag 1999 då jag var sju år gammal och satte mig ned på den enda lediga platsen vid ett bord i matsalen med min bricka, och samtliga runt borden reste sig unisont och flyttade sig till ett annat bord. Och jag satt ensam kvar. Med skammen. Skammen att inte ens vara tillräcklig för någon skulle vilja äta sin lunch bredvid mig. Det här var längesen. Men jag minns det som igår.

Jag tänkte på en av mina nära vänner. Hon som i samma ålder som jag var då, fick höra av skolsystern att hon visst var ”lite rund”. 20 år senare får jag fortfarande påminna henne när hon av vana säger ”den här veckan har jag varit duktig” eller ”igår syndade jag”. Hon som är så vacker, men som bara ser sig själv som ”lite rund” när hon tittar i spegeln.

Jag tänkte på en annan bekant. Hon som berättade för mig om när hon blev sexuellt utnyttjad. Den första gången var hon sex år gammal. Den andra gången var hon nio. Den tredje gången var hon 14. Hon sade att hon inte visste hur hon skulle räkna varje gång någon frågade när hon förlorade oskulden.

Jag tänkte på honom. Han som aldrig fick lov att vara den han var. Han som blev utslängd hemifrån när han var 16, för att han älskade en annan man. Han som fortfarande måste låtsas, trots att han idag är över 30. Han som också tycker att världen är rätt tröttsam efter att ha sett den ett par gången, men som hellre reser bort än hem på sina semestrar, för att nya intryck kostar ju mindre än gamla lögner.

Och jag tänkte på henne. Hon som också drar sig för att åka hem. Inte för att hon inte kan vara den hon är när hon är hemma. Utan för att det i hennes föräldrahem hänger ett svartvitt fotografi ifrån när hon var ett barn. Ett suddigt gammalt fotografi på henne, hennes mamma och en gammal manlig vän till familjen, som hjälpt till i vått och torrt. Men om hennes mamma visste vad hon tvingas återuppleva varje gång hon ser bilden, bilden som hon är så glad för, då hade hennes mamma levt ett halvt liv hädanefter, och det tycker hon inte att hon förtjänar. För det var inte hon som svek henne, men det hade hon tyckt.

Jag gråter när jag skriver det här. Jag gråter för otillräckligheten. För oförmögenheten. För orättvisan. För oturen. För turen. För det är ju bara tur. Turen över att skammen jag kände vid ett matsalsbord för 20 år sedan, var det värsta som hände mig. Turen att jag aldrig behövt ifrågasätta rätten till mig egen kropp. Till mina egna infall. Till mina egna rättigheter. Turen över att jag gavs något så sällsynt som villkorslös kärlek. Från så många håll. Och ansvaret det för med sig, för att just precis sådan kärlek skall leva vidare. Fortplanta sig. Skydda fler.

Det finns orättvisa vi inte kan förändra. Människor i nöd vi inte kan hjälpa. Historier vi inte vill höra men måste lyssna till. Människor vi vill tycka gott om men måste ställa till svars, och upplevelser vi önskar vi inte hade, men måste dela så att dem inte upprepas. Vid dagens slut är vi alla ensamt ansvariga för våra egna liv, och ingen annan än oss själva kan resa oss upp när vi fallit. Det betyder inte att ensam är stark.

Vad spelar en ny klänning för roll, om en ändå alltid känner sig ”lite rund”? Vad betyder det att ge sin kropp till någon en älskar, när en aldrig glömmer att ens kropp en gång betraktats som allmängods? Vilket värde har en familjemiddag tillsammans, i ett rum med en bild av en man som berövade en ens barndom? Vi kan inte alltid rädda varandra. Men vi gör gott i att påminna oss om att vi är ömtåliga. Det är dem vi bryr oss om också. Och är vi någonsin mer sårbara än i stunderna när vi tror att vi inte ska behöva vara det?

Så när någon berättar, tig. Och när andra tiger, håll inte käften.

It all began on a tiny Mediterranean island 12 years ago.

It all began on a tiny Mediterranean island 12 years ago.

It’s a strange feeling being back here. In Malta.

I was 14 years old when I came to this island the first time, under the pretense of studying English for three weeks. Today, I do consider myself somewhat proficient in English, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that not even a morsel of the grasp I today have of the language, I picked up during those three weeks. That journey was about something different, something a lot of important than linguistic advancement. I had never really been away from home for a long period before, yet I remember how unperturbed I still felt before setting off, and more importantly, how indifferent I felt the day I came back home. I suppose that already then, somewhere in the back of my mind, ”home” had started to become something relative. But something had clicked in me. I believe it had been important for me to see with my own two eyes that facing something unknown didn’t deter me, if anything, it felt like freedom. To date it still does.

12 years later I still believe that there’s a kind of freedom to be found in what we don’t know, but today it’s a bit more perplexing. Sometimes I’m told I’d do better for myself by thinking less. Asking less. And perhaps that’s true. Then again, questions as per se are harmless, it’s the answers that’s the tricky part. There’s a kind of freedom which rests upon the ignorance and arrogance of why we don’t always live in a wonderful world. And there’s also a kind of freedom to be found in realizing that switching on the light in a dark room only blinds you momentarily before you see things more clearly. Quite literally, darkness doesn’t exist but is merely the absence of light. And even if it doesn’t always seem like it, it’s nice to think that perhaps it’s just the same with people’s minds.

It’s taken me years to understand, devour and put value in the insight that the life-changing moments are almost always only the ones where we allow ourselves to be intimate, personal and most important of them all, brave, to ourselves and to the people around us. I have visited just shy of 80 countries in the world. That as per se doesn’t make me much richer than someone who’s only visited 10 unless we’re counting passport stamps that are. 

Nevertheless, it’s taken me to a point where I’m becoming convinced that my quality of life doesn’t enhance merely by attaching a new airport code tag to my suitcase. I’m less intrigued by places today than I was before. It doesn’t give me much more of a rush to pull the curtains to Times Square, than to the dusty construction site outside my bedroom. I saw 3 new cities in 3 new countries over the last 2 months. One so modern, it’s in the Asian vanguard of LGBTQ rights. One so western, yet so conservative I barely saw a non-caucasian person on the streets. One so plagued by inflation beer was cheaper than water. It enriched me to see, feel and discover all of this. 

But the only thing that I can recall that changed me lately, was a different story entirely. A few weeks ago I met an elderly lady on one of my flights. She told me she had a fear of flying, so I sat down with her and we began to talk. She hadn’t been on aircraft since long before the internet was invented she said, but now a relative had bought her a ticket and she’d ran out of excuses, to recite her words. As the aircraft commenced the takeoff roll we held each other’s hands, and as we lifted off the grounded and ascended through the cloud barrier she leaned over me and gazed out admiringly over the only space where the sun always shines. Her jaw dropped for a second and then she looked at me and said ”So what happens now?” and I said ”Now the world awaits.” and then we hugged. Long. It was a healthy reminder that perhaps we’re not in that much of a hurry to figure everything out just yet, and whenever we do, it’s more about whom we take the leap and share that moment with. And if I can have more experiences to become a better listener, a better orator, a more humble yet more confident person, more generous and less opportunistic, that’s more valuable than any stamp.

I had a discussion with a friend of mine recently. She told me how one of her friends had pointed out to her how lucky she was to have all of these worldly experiences. The shopping on Fifth Avenue, the wilderness in South Africa, the suspicious street food in Taipei, the gelato in Rome, the modernism of Japan, the humility of Bangladesh. All of it. Her friend was right. She is blessed. I am blessed. We are blessed. But, not because of any of the aforementioned, but because I believe it to be incredibly hard to understand just how little the big things are unless you’ve stood in front of them. And how big the little things are in comparison.

a trivial thought about the fear of a life where people come and go

a trivial thought about the fear of a life where people come and go.

To jaunt out into the world and leave your comfort zone is probably one of the most rewarding experiences you can ever give to yourself. Everyone who’s ever done it would tell you so. They would tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to that immense sensation of wanderlust and curiosity they all felt the day they set off. Because there isn’t. And they would tell you that the world is every bit as magical as you imagine it to be, and every bit as terrifying. And how there’s a dual harmony between the two that awakens an insatiable desire that can never die. An equal two-way desire of both the joy and the sadness found in this world. Because the joys are truly so many, but without the sadnesses as a constant reminder of how blessed we are, we often miss out on the opportunity to enjoy them while we can. Important.

But it comes with a price. Everything worth doing, having and experiencing often do, and far from it’s a monetary price. The thing is, in this unparalleled life constantly consisting of new acquaintances, unseen skylines, contradicting timezones, not yet savored cuisine and unexplored cultures, the person you spend the most time with is usually yourself. And that can either lift you up or completely break you down. And that is because most people are not entirely comfortable being by themselves. However, it’s the rare few who are brave enough to sit down with their loneliness, look it in the eyes, hold its hand, listen to what it has to say and allow for it stay whenever it comes to visit, that are the really fortunate ones in this world. Because they know that loneliness is not the time we spend in our own company. Far from.

People come and go into most people’s lives all the time, and that’s not a revelation of any kind. That’s just a fact. But what makes it unique for a traveler is that slowly, precariously and surely, you become so accustomed to this high flow of people that the old beaten process of getting to know someone, opening up bit by bit and taking time, is completely out the window. Because that’s just it, there is no time. And living a life where the one thing that unites most of us in it is that we’re trying to make the most of the time, we skip a few steps of the order in which things are normally done and instead go hardcore straight away. I can tell you, I’ve lost count on the occasions I’ve sat down next to someone I’ve met just moments earlier and opened up about something very personal to me, or the times when someone else has done this to me. Most of the time I don’t believe it’s about seeking for advice, it’s simply about ventilating. To prevent the things holding us down at the moment from nesting in our minds. I would describe myself as quite a private person normally, and that’s why I rely on the belief that we become adept at assessing quite quickly whom to trust, and whom not to. At the end of the day, we’re all strangers and know very little about one another. But I think it’s healthy. Not only to be reminded that all of us struggle sometimes, regardless of who we are. But, to trust.

It’s can be a privilege to be able to choose your alone time, just as it can be a torment to have it chosen for you. In this life, it’s chosen for you very often, and if you don’t know how to dispose of that time, it can be lethal. By now I don’t think there can be any more existential questions a person can ask themselves while taxiing around an airport, walking down new streets in new cities and starring into the hotel room ceilings on jet-lagged nights than I have already done. But the reward for asking questions is finding answers. And I feel like I do all the time. Asking questions is scary quite often since you don’t always obtain the answers you’re looking for. Even scarier if there’s no one by your side in those moments. That’s why I don’t believe this life would work unless you know that you have your safety net, a phone call or a flight away. And that’s enough. For me, right now and right here. More than enough.

People may come and go, but we’re still here. And somehow, we’re fine. Maybe not right away, or even every day, but we’re fine. It’s a nice thought to think that at the end of the day you don’t really need anyone. That the people in your life are there because you chose them, and because they chose you. But perhaps one day you won’t chose them, or they won’t choose you anymore. You will choose differently. Perhaps nothing except for right here and right now can be granted, and for exactly that reason it’s a good idea to stop for a moment and take a look around you. We don’t know what won’t be here tomorrow, regardless of what we know today, so to celebrate anything that makes life a little bit more colorful, is never a bad idea. Life will continue to take turns we didn’t see coming. Some things we can control, so let’s. Some things we can’t control, so let’s. It took me some time to embrace, but there’s a genuine power hidden to be found behind the things we are powerless of. Just precisely that simple, and just precisely that difficult.


A stranger in my own Capital

A stranger in my own capital

It always feels so ambiguous for me to go home. This wasn’t where I grew up, so to a certain extent even I find it exciting since it’s unknown for me too. I don’t know my way around here as I would. I don’t know where to cross over to make a short cut. I don’t know the hilly and narrow streets in Old town like my own back pocket. I don’t know where the best place to go for unnecessarily large and greasy pizza on a rainy day would be. I don’t know where the best coffee is, so I go to Espresso House, the Swedish Starbucks. And I bump into people constantly, because what I do when I walk is that I look up at all the new, foreign and unfamiliar instead of looking straight ahead. I walk at the pace of a stranger, because this isn’t my home, and I don’t know where to go. I need to think here.

But, these are the people I grew up with. They speak the language in which I was taught what is right and what is wrong, and what is important and what is not, and how to transfer every feeling I have about all of this from thoughts into words. This is the language in which I can discern dialects and appreciate them, pick up on irony and sarcasm, and on tenderness and earnestness like only a native speaker could ever do. This is where the codes I know applies. Where people hug and look each other in the eye while speaking. Where good service is characterized by humanity and presence rather than perfection and servility. Where people, at least rather than rarely, think twice.

When I was 14 years old I had an assignment on foreign affairs in school. I asked my teacher ”what do I need to do to obtain an A?”. She said, and I remember this entire conversation word by word to this very day. ”To obtain an E, all you need to do is to cover the facts. To obtain a C, you need to demonstrate that you can see the connections between certain events. And to obtain an A, you need to analyze.”. ”What does that mean?” I asked unknowingly. ”To analyze Adam, it means that you show that you possess the skill of seeing things from another perspective than your own”. ”That doesn’t sound too difficult” I replied. And she said ”In life, you’ll come to realize that a lot fewer people than you think, knows how to do this. To write down facts every ordinary person in the world can do, but to put your own point of view aside and to realize that the world sometimes is wider than how you see it, that’s extraordinary”.

I’ve repeated that conversation to myself many times since that day ten years ago. And for every time, it’s managed to make a little more sense, making me realize that perhaps it’s not the cities or countries that are fucked up, it’s the people in them.

Sweden isn’t a progressed a country as most people would give it credit for, but it’s not half bad. I didn’t need to move abroad or travel the world to see this, but I needed it understand that what we have, should be appreciated. It’s easy to think that small simple and extremely commonplace daily things like the relaxed tone in which sales assistant addresses you in or the private space given to you standing in line or on the subway by fellow people are universal things, but they’re not. And the only things that aggravate me to come here and surround myself by all of these cultural characteristics that actually do mean the world to me, is that most people don’t seem to understand the value of them. Would you cook and share a homemade meal for someone, who wouldn’t appreciate it more, than if the two of you went to Mc Donalds? Too few know that it’s the small things the greatest riches lay, and sadly that depletes the value of them.

The world is made difficult by simple people.