Working during the summer in Sweden (or the strange, workaholic foreigner)

I still can’t get used to the whole country basically shutting down for a month. I know that it’s basically impossible to get things done in July in Sweden, as everyone goes on vacation. When I worked in Canada, I had a relatively generous 3 weeks of vacation per year, which meant that I had to work close to 1.5 years without vacation in order to save up 4 weeks for a longer backpacking trip in South East Asia during the winter. I worked all summers, as a professional and a student.  

Now I get 5 weeks, though have already used up 2 weeks of it. I took 1 week off during Easter, and 1 week in June for sailing, will work all of July and take 2 weeks off in August to go to Canada. All of my coworkers either feel sorry for me, or think I’m strange. One asked, “When do you have summer vacation in Canada?” Uh, we don’t. It would be unthinkable for most companies to shut down for an entire month. Yet in Sweden it’s unthinkable that someone (me) is willing to work the entire month of July. 

I’m alone in the house this summer, as Per is away on a summer course in Taiwan. In a way, I’m a bit glad to be alone for a few weeks. I want to spend this month as a sabbatical, of sorts (as near as it can be, while still working 40 hours per week). I’ve started going to the gym again, after hurting my back, to try to rehabilitate myself with weight training, yoga, pilates, massages, physiotherapy. I got permission to set up a clay workshop at work, so I hope to do some form exercises from Rowena Reed’s Elements of Form on the weekends. One benefit of having little to no work to do this month (as clients are on vacation), is that I have a lot of hours to learn CAD modelling during the day. I’ve also been practicing my sketching in the evenings and weekends. 

It feels like there are endless ways that I would like to improve my skills as a designer (sketching, form, CAD, experimentation and exploration). Long lists of books I would like to read, both in English and Swedish. Endless amounts of work to do around the house and garden. My health has been put on the backburner for too long, and I also need to focus on treating my body better. I feel a bit dragged down by the routineness of everyday life, as though there aren’t enough hours in a day to accomplish everything I would like. The weeks and months are just flying by, without any way of stopping it. It just feels like something is missing for me, as though there’s something more I want, but I just don’t know what. 

I’m not satisfied with the level of my design skills at the moment. Of course I know I do fairly good work, and our clients and my workplace are extremely happy with my work. I know I’m my own worst critic… I just don’t want to become complacent, and I want to reach a level of greatness, or at least to make something real that is beautiful… I’ve been dreaming about doing some sort of intensive summer workshop, perhaps on my own, but preferably with like minded people. I just found out about this summer design workshop in a beautiful location in France http://www.boisbuchet.org/workshop-programs 

Perhaps next summer I will be able to join?? I also found some interesting summer design workshops in Sweden (found out about them though too late), and the ones that ran this summer weren’t as interesting, so I’ll have to keep my eye out for next summer. A crazy though ran through my head that I should organize my own workshop of exactly what it is that I would like to do… I’m just too scared that no one will want to sign up, and all the risks of trying to reach out and do something like that..I don’t have much of a network here in Linköping, and it feels a bit frustrating and isolating. 

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the most beautiful (& expensive) boots I’ve ever owned

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I’m a bit of a shoe snob – I have an expensive taste for quality, though I often want to wait to snag end of season deals. In Canada I’ve found that February has been a good month for picking up end of season deals. But in Sweden the selection tends to be very limited – there’s only a few shoe brands/chains, and they are rather overpriced. I can’t get over the shock of having to pay $70+ for a pair of made-in-China, pleather (or not fully leather) shoes. During the 2 years I’ve been in Sweden, I’ve bought one pair of pleather boots, and one not-fully-leather pair, and both have given me blisters. So then I decided – no more poor quality boots again!

Since I’m in Stockholm for the week, I planned to take advantage of the best shopping selection in Sweden (which isn’t that great, I’m afraid). When I saw them in the store, I loved how they looked. When I put them on, and I knew I had to buy them, if not in every colour… But even after 2 years here, I still have trouble converting currency in my head and pulled out my iphone calculator. 1800 SEK = ~$275! Yikes… too late, I fell in love with them and had to have them.