Skärgård, skärgård! Skog! Nedsjunkande sol! Mörka jorden var grönrosa och lysande havet var blålila; så väckert är landet från luften! Det här är hur landet skulle se ut från en gåsrygg, tycker jag, leende. Vi närmar oss jorden och snart syns röda stugor igenom där nere i skogstäckta fjärran. Ja, det där var ju Sverige där nere, och den ser ut det samma som det har alltid gjört. Flygplanet lander om några minuter. Då får man andas.
Once the flight attendant begins to speak again in French, my half fantasy is shattered on the back of her throat. I turn off my ears because I can guess what she’s saying. Even if I fail to understand, my brain fills in the blanks in characteristic francoswenglish: Mina damer och herrar, ve are nu approaching votre finale destination, Stockholm, Sveeeden, i.e. Suede. If it would please you to return to your seats and fasten your säkerhetsbälten, tack, merci!
Arlanda surges up beneath the wheels of the plane. Going back to a place after so long, one cannot help but wonder if it will be the same. Raining in Malmö, crying in the Cophenhagen airport. Så mycket har ju ändrat sedan jag var här sist, så mycket har ju gått förbi! Has the place changed, really? A returning traveler wonders. Or has the place has changed simply because I have?
My friend meets me at the gate. Soon I’m enveloped in a massive hug, and all doubts melt away.
I can report, that at least to the first order: Sweden is the same. Of course it is really all more complicated, but rest assured: People still eat Keso and pancakes for dinner, train rullskidor and Nordic walking on forest roads, and hug each other upon greeting but yet refuse to speak to each other on public transportation. Everything is on the same shelf you would expect it to be on in the grocery store. It rains soft grey rain. And when it doesn’t rain, the northern sun is its innocent, watery self.
Just two days later, I left Sweden with a bag full of saltsill and ett hjärta fylld återigen med glädje. As plane took off, I watched the sun sink over the archipelago and looked for the islands I had been on; all of them looked the same from the air, dark and amorphous spots on the bluelilac beaming ocean.
But the thing most remarkable about all of this was that when I returned to Geneva (passed under the bizarre George Clooney espresso advertisement at the airport, walked by the window with the 30,000 CHF Omega watches, boarded the bus into town, hopped off at Cornanvin and walked the empty streets) it felt, strangely, unexpectedly, like home.
How lucky am I, to have so many homes?