The darkness this time of year is a little weird but tolerable. The picture above was at 2:30PM before the impending sunset. The sun was up from 8:45AM to 2:50PM. In contrast, Washington DC had sun from 7:25AM to 4:51PM. The noontime sun sits low on the horizon if it's not overcast and hidden. The weather makes a big difference so we feel like hibernating when it's overcast most of the time.
It's strange having our American holidays here. We've had Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving since we arrived. We got those days off and did our normal things like enjoying a big Thanksgiving meal while the Swedes were oblivious to our American holiday celebrations. It's also great getting the local holidays off because Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day are all Swedish holidays this week. Next week we get both New Year's Eve and Day off as holidays and the following week is Epiphany Day on Jan 6th. We also get MLK as the American holiday so this time of year is broken up with lots of holidays. I can definitely get used to this part of Foreign Service life. :-)
One thing we've learned at our first post is having Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) services is a wonderful lifeline for things we're accustomed to having around. Our bank transactions have turned into lots of Amazon and Wal-Mart orders. It's not just because it's so much cheaper than buying things locally, even though that's a major part of it here. It's because there's different basic things we're used to having as certain American brands like soap, deodorant, pet food, and various human food items not having good equivalents here. On the flip side, there's plenty of things we find here that we won't find elsewhere. I'll definitely miss things like kanelbullar and glögg when we move. Cinnamon rolls and hot mulled wine anywhere else will make me think of Sweden.
Having decent Internet is another thing we'll be looking for in my next assignment. Stockholm is spoiling us since we've easily had 2 or 3 streaming video sessions going along with a Skype or Google Voice call at the same time. I think our minimum standard to survive will be at least one good streaming video or video Skype session. There are many posts where that'll be a problem and I'm not sure how we'll adapt. We're just that spoiled. :-) We'd be forced to venture out more for entertainment and only have voice calls to the U.S.! How could we ever cope with such hardships? Weird, we didn't grow up with Internet access but we can't imagine life without it now.
Seriously though, we've ventured out around Stockholm and we've taken a few trips these past 6 months instead of just being entertained online. After all, that was the whole point of doing this kind of job. I can't imagine anyone joining the Foreign Service with the intention of staying in their homes and not seeing anything of the world. Sometimes we fall into the work/home grind and forget to enjoy more in life. This is a reminder for myself (when I look back on this) and everyone else reading this to continue doing this one thing we've been fortunate enough to do this year...