Sometimes everyone finds themselves in one of those surreal moments. Trying to figure out exactly what is going on. Trying to figure out if it is just something that is, in fact, lost in translation.
And so, I found myself having a beer after work with a buddy of mine. We had managed to put away one beer and were sitting around chatting about Sweden in general. The classic ex-pat conversation. What’s wrong with the country. What’s right. And why the hell we are there.
That’s when a voice came from off to the left. Are you English? My buddy is Australian. So no, not English. She threw herself into the conversation. The fact that she was Swedish made this really quite surprising. We continued on with our new found friend asking the standard questions. Where are you from? Do you like it? Why are you here? What do you do? She told us she was a social worker.
The basic interrogation of any foreigner living in Sweden really. We politely answered. At which point she asked us the same questions. Again. We politely answered. Again. At which point she asked us the same questions. Again. We politely answered. Again. I think you see where this is going.
Finally, we got out of this endless loop only to get stuck in another one. This time, she was telling us about herself. And her husband. He was English. And incredibly intelligent. Thirteen years of university. And her husband was English. And incredibly intelligent. Thirteen years of university. But he can’t learn Swedish. And did you know her husband was English? And was incredibly intelligent? And had 12 years of university (you’ll notice there was a slight hiccup in the loop, 13 to 12 years)? And can’t learn Swedish? Strangely enough, I did already know that. It’s almost like we had met before.
Finally, after we had gotten to know one and other, she introduced herself. And we introduced ourselves. Actually giving our actual names. Which was strange because at this point I was starting to concoct incredible tales to tell. Clearly she wouldn’t remember. I could live out my dream of being a world-class porcupine racer without her knowing the sad half-truth. That I only watch world-class porcupine racing.
Having established that we all had names, and quickly forgetting them, we were back to the liking Sweden loop. Followed by the introduction loop. Through it all, I was able to not make up any stories. Call it kindness. Or pity.
Having made it this far, my buddy and I were both casting sideways glances at each other trying to determine how in the hell we could get out of there without making the crazy lady sad. We are kind souls. That’s when she decided we needed another beer. Politely declined. Offered. Politely declined. Offered. Politely declined, and there was a beer in front of me. Fine.
Now that we had a new beer in front of us, we might as well start all over. So, where are you from? Why are you here? Do you work? What do you do? Do you like Sweden? What’s your name? Again. And again.
Then it just got kind of uncomfortable as the 40 year old woman (she told us she was 40 at least four times) began discussing how she was really struggling with being married at the moment. And how she would like to live in India. These two topics weren’t really all that connected aside from the fact that she decided to tell us.
Once again, because we are kind souls, we engaged the crazy lady. This, in and of itself, seems to be a bad idea. Do not engage crazy ladies. But we did. Where in India should a person travel? Her answer. “I don’t know. India will fucking blow your mind away.” In a span of max three minutes, that last sentence was uttered at least five times. India will fucking blow your mind away. So will crazy ladies.
Now it was really time to go. The second beer was disappearing, and dinner still needed to be eaten. Of course, our resident crazy lady decided that dinner may not be as important as the unmarked bottle of pills she pulled from her purse to swallow down with a swig of beer. I’m no doctor, but I feel fairly confident that most medicines should not be chased with beer.
We deftly maneuvered away out the door and walked the other way. Throwing furtive glances over our shoulder to make sure we wouldn’t be assaulted with the same questions over and over again.
That’s when it struck us. Clearly something was lost in translation. She wasn’t a social worker. She was under the supervision of a social worker. We hope.
Welcome to Sweden. And social work in Sweden.
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