Swede escape! Calista Swanson has begun her study abroad semester in Stockholm, Sweden, and she couldn’t be happier! There’s finally some distance between her and the constant piano-playing of her annoying sister Suzanne. Calista and Suzanne are twins, but the only thing they have in common is their birth date. Suzanne is a focused and gifted pianist, but a social dud. Calista isn’t at all focused, but she always has her friends, and a boyfriend, by her side. And that goes for her time in Sweden, as well. Jonas, who’d been an exchange student at her high school in Wisconsin, lives in Stockholm. He’s the main reason Calista is studying in Sweden, and she knows he’ll be in tow as she explores everything Sweden has to offer, from visiting Swedish castles to learning more about the Viking era, to sampling treats from a smörgåsbord, to strolling the cobblestone streets of Stockholm’s Gamla Stan. Calista loves Sweden from the moment she arrives, but . . . why hasn’t Jonas called?
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Eva Apelqvist grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. She came to the United States as an exchange student her senior year in high school, and met her future husband three days before going home to Sweden. Eva loves the English language and its many possibilities. She enjoys seeing new places, eating new things, trying new sports and meeting new people. She lives in northern Wisconsin with her husband, their two children, and their dog. This is her first novel.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Amazingly, Calista felt totally rested when she opened her eyes the following morning. Not being woken up by Suzanne’s before-school piano practice had already helped her state of mind. She shot out of bed and went downstairs to join Bengt and Britta for breakfast in the dining room.
“Are we going to that Skansen place today?” she asked as soon as she saw them. “And what exactly is it?” She unfolded the map of Stockholm that she had printed off the Internet before leaving home. “And where is it? Is it close to the castle? My mom said all the public museums in Sweden are free, so could we stop at the National Museum, too? Is it nearby? I read on the Internet that they have an exhibit about Astrid Lindgren, the woman who wrote Pippi Longstocking.”
When Calista stopped talking, she noticed that Bengt and Britta were smiling broadly. “Wow, you seem rested,” Bengt said.
“And ready to go,” Britta added. “We started eating because we figured you’d be sleeping in.”
“Yes,” Bengt said. “We can stop by both the National Museum and the Royal Palace. We’ll be driving right by them. And Skansen is an open-air museum with hundreds of traditional Swedish buildings, a zoo, and, in the summer, gardens. You have to see it.”
“Open air, as in outside,” Calista wondered aloud. “Isn’t it cold today?”
“It isn’t too bad. It is about minus five degrees Celsius,” Bengt said. “In Fahrenheit that’s . . . Britta, help out here, please.”
Britta’s face lit up. “Hm . . . twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit.”
Calista cheered. “You’re an amazingly fast thinker.”
“It’s just a matter of practice,” Britta said modestly.
Calista sat down. She felt ravenous. A cup of steaming tea was poured for her, and Bengt and Britta had made liverwurst sandwiches with sliced cucumbers.
“Help yourself,” Britta said.
Calista took a sip of the hot tea and bit into the sandwich. “Kan vi prata svenska idag?” she said. Can we speak Swedish today?
“Bra idé,” Britta said. Good idea.
While Britta finished reading the paper and Bengt took a shower, Calista went up to her room and logged on to the Internet to check her messages and send a note to Jonas letting him know she had arrived. She hadn’t gotten a message from him yet, but she was happy to see that Leah had e-mailed her.
Ämne: Waiting for mail
Time to write your friends, girl! That card we gave you was so you’d remember us. Do you have it on your desk? (Do you even have a desk? Maybe you live in an igloo. LOL)
Since you seem to have temporarily misplaced your memory card, here comes a reminder--Leah Winter, 16, from Moon Lake, Wisconsin, shockingly beautiful, stunningly intelligent, amazingly kind to orphans and the elderly, is one of your two best friends in the world, and is waiting for a sign of life from you!
I’ll let Sammie remind you of Sammie. I’m sure I wouldn’t do her justice. Btw, Sammie sends her love and says to tell you Jonas isn’t everything.
Anyway, are you speaking Swedish with your host family? What are they like? When do you start school?
Hope you’re having fun. Miss ya.
Calista sighed. What was that about? That was exactly the kind of comment she would have expected from Suzanne, not from her friends.
Calista hit the reply button.
Ämne: Waiting for mail
Miss you, too, though I’ve only been gone for one day! I DO remember you. Not to worry.
What’s up with Sammie telling me Jonas isn’t everything? I know Jonas isn’t everything. You guys don’t need to worry about it. Sammie just hasn’t forgiven Jonas for standing me up that one time. It wasn’t on purpose. He just forgot.
Bengt and Britta are nice. You’d like them. In a few minutes, they’re taking me to this open-air museum called Skansen. I haven’t been speaking much Swedish yet, but we’re starting today. Jonas is taking me out for New Year’s. I’ll try to speak only Swedish with him.
Lv and ksss,
PS Tell Sammie her comment about Jonas really annoyed me. Which reminds me--Sammie was the one who first introduced Jonas to me and said we’d make a great couple, even though I was going out with Jeff at the time. I only agreed to go on a date with Jonas because Sammie suggested it. And now she’s complaining. . . .
“Vill du åka nu?” Britta asked when Calista came downstairs.
“Hm,” Calista said, holding her index finger up. “Vänta.” Wait, wait, wait, she thought. She flipped through her dictionary. Do you want to go now? she translated. “Ja,” she said, grinning.
In the car on their way downtown, Bengt told Calista, in his funny Swedish-English mix, about everything they saw outside the window. He pointed out the enormous high-rises that housed Vattenfall, the state-owned energy company where Britta worked, the train following the side of the highway, and the bridge crossing Lake Mälaren, which brought them into the city of Stockholm.
Calista stared in awe. Mostly, she was impressed with how orderly and clean everything looked. There was no trash on the side of the road, and everything looked very organized. All the houses in each neighborhood were exactly the same size and were spaced evenly with the same size yards. And, as Bengt and Britta pointed out, row houses were the housing of choice.
Why had Calista thought Stockholm was a quaint little town? It was enormous, and just as metropolitan as Minneapolis and Milwaukee, with too much traffic and too many people.
When they reached the east side of the city, there were fewer buildings, though the ones that were there were enormous. On the north side, from where they came, Calista had noticed many public parks and open spaces, but out here trees grew everywhere, and open fields stretched as far as you could see.
“Ambassador’s homes,” Bengt said, nodding toward the mansion-sized houses on the side of the road. Then he burst out “Yes” so suddenly that Britta and Calista both jumped. “A parking spot. It’s hard to find parking here, and Skansen is just across the road,” he explained. He carefully parallel-parked the car.
The three of them got out and crossed the street, making their way to a ticket booth next to a spiky black iron fence.
Inside the fence, Calista found herself in a strange kind of park, mountainous and wild. Yet, even with the thin snow cover, she could tell it was landscaped with streams, rocks, and gardens.
The path they were following led to an odd-looking building. Inside, a steep escalator reached up for what seemed like miles, spanning the entire side of a mountain. The walls on the sides were covered with signs advertising an aquarium, a terrarium, and other Skansen attractions.
When they got off at the top of the escalator and walked outside, it felt like they had been transported back a hundred years in time. Along several walking paths were full-sized replicas of traditional nineteenth-century Swedish homes. The old-fashioned tiny red buildings had flat red tile or grass roofs. On one of the roofs Calista could see two tiny, sure-footed goats digging holes in the snow to get to the dead grass underneath.
Hand-lettered signs pointed the way to different animal exhibits—seals, moose, brown bear, lynx.
“Almost all of the animals here are native to Scandinavia,” Britta told her. “Let’s see some of them after we explore the cabins.”
“Oh, we can go inside of them?” Calista asked, excited. How come Jonas had never told her about Skansen? This was exactly the kind of Swedish culture and history that she had always asked him to tell her more about. It would have been a cool place to come with him.
The first building they entered was one of the larger cabins. A fire was roaring in an iron stove, and a man wearing an apron took something out of the fire with a pair of black tongs. The walls in the cabin were covered with heavy, ancient-looking iron tools. A group of tourists was standing behind a rope, watching.
The man took a lump of something blazing hot and put it at the end of a long, thin tube. He blew into the tube and, with a tool he held in his right hand, created a beautiful glass vase. Amazing. Calista had never seen a glassblower at work, but it wasn’t unlike what her parents and Suzanne did with clay. They could take an insignificant lump of gray mud and make something beautiful out of it.
Calista was so fascinated with the glassblower that it was hard for Britta and Bengt to get her to go to the next cabin.
“You’ll enjoy the next place, too,” Bengt promised.
The three of them visited an old-fashioned bakery, a candle maker, a man etching postage stamps, a spinner, a weaver, and a candy maker.
When they had seen a good number of the cabins, they went to look at some of the animals that were outdoors despite the cold: seals, penguins (so not native to Scandinavia, Calista thought), moose, and arctic foxes. Then Bengt and Britta took Calista for lunch at Solliden’s Restaurant, which had an incredible view over the waterfront of Stockholm.
“This is a cool place,” Calista said, taking a bite of her Janssons frestelse, a potato dish with anchovies and cream. “Thank you for bringing me here. No wait, I can say it in Swedish.” She flipped the pages in her dictionary. “Tack för att ni tog med mig hit.”
Bengt and Britta smiled at her. This would be a good time to tell them about Jonas, Calista thought, wondering why it was so hard.
“Um,” she began. Why did she feel so guilty? This was ridiculous. It’s not like she’d done anything wrong. “I have this boyfriend, Jonas,” she said. “He lives in Stockholm.”
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