Saturday, September 17, 2011

So school started, AGAIN!

Considering the Deputy's life is filled with closing one book and opening another, why should this year be any different. School started a few weeks ago and, after ogling the beauties that grace my campus in their scandanavian grandeur, I love it. My professor is basically this juggernaut in Swedish arbitration and international arbitration as well. She is attracting some HUGE names to come give guest lectures that is unheard of.

Arbitration is an "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" type of industry. So if I am meandering through Zurich and you are teaching a PhD course in law, and we are friends, why not stop by for a little two hour gab session? That is what the lives of these diesels are like. It was awe-inspiring to have two of the biggest names in the field come into my class of 25 and stretch their synapses right in front of me. Not to mention, my class is comprised of 25 different countries from around the world. So taking comparative education to a whole new level, you talk about the odd witness examinations in Germany and then have my friend Gunnar tell you about his native legal regime first hand. It really puts this entire course into context.

The last lecturer, Johnny Veeder, ended the class by talking about the importance of arbitration. Granted he started his speech by saying that this was going to be severe propaganda, but color me group-think because I was sold. It all came in order to promote international trade, and talk to anyone in world who knows a thing or two about anything, and trading is what makes the world go round. It all started with bartering systems of the ancient tribes of the globe, and now there is just a suit on it. People need passion to become successful or else it isn't going to happen, to a degree for which I wish to strive. And for me, it comes with the fact that I need to do something that makes a difference. To be a part of a bigger machine that actually provides a fundamental screw to the overall production, that is what makes me life the comforter and run water on my face in the morning instead of moaning and hitting snooze 10 times.

I have met some great people in the class already. Some fast friends have formed and I am very excited to see it all evolve. Establishing these connections is crucial, since who knows who you are going to sit across from at the arbitration table. I love that I am making my world smaller, placing social nodes at different points of the globe in hopes that there will be some magnetic attraction, pulling to towards some center sphere from some centrical force of light and love.


Where is the CONTROVERSY!?

You know how the characters in Stepford Wives go loco when they realize that when everything is perfect, it sometimes sucks the big one? Well, that is kind of the situation in Sweden. Everything is so....right.

For example, to say hello to someone is "Hej" or "Hej, hey". And for those that do not speak this Scandanavian tongue and/or know how to pronounce a word that ends in a "j", you pronounce it as if you were saying "Hey!". Not that I am a cunning linguist or anything, but the US uses such salutations as a greeting between friends, often after a brief term of absence. It demonstrates longing, surprise and genuine glee. Well that is how everyone greets everyone here. Imagine walking around and the grumpy plumber walks up to the disgruntled motorcycle gang and they say, "HEY!". That would be weird right? You would say, "how are they such fast friends? and why are they saying something so un-masculine is hey?". It's like the joke we have,

"What does a gay horse eat?..

So that is just a teaser of what it is like. Everyone is equal here, egalitarianism is public frenemy #1. Cross the street only when it shows green, take a number at the electronics store so everyone is served in the exact order they came into the store, only buy alcohol at government regulated stores, only rent your apartment if you have authorization from the housing authority. These are the rules they live by. And sure, it is nice to walk around at 3a.m. with the only fear of crime is that someone might j-walk, but in the end the Deputy often finds his inner monologue screaming, WHERE IS THE CONTROVERSY!

Where is the black market? Where are the secret sales? Where's the cheap mexican taco stand that doesn't have a permit, ergo is CHEAP? Where are these things? Not here.

But oh the deputy may complain, but only for as long as it takes a beautiful Swede to pass him by. I'm talking beautiful, like models. Tall, blonde, in shape, tan (but like pale people that actually can tan, see it's perfect here). They are all fashionable and care about their appearance. You have to wear a blazer to go to the grocery store or else people are going to be wondering what welfare plan you are on. But in actuality they won't! I could walk past a Swede with a giant sex toy taped to my forehead screaming, "Macaroni and cheese ate my grandmother's pet eel!" and no one would even blink. It is because, along the same vein as this egalitarian mantra, nothing phases a Swede because they don't care. They don't care about differences because they don't care about differences. SO PERFECT! Ugh.

I feel like the Deputy needs to pollute some waters a la Reese Witherspoon in Pleasantville, turning the blonde masses into horrifically tainted zombies. Thoughts?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dystopia to Utopia

THE DEPUTY IS BACK! I had no idea that I would have the distinct pleasure to be able to blog again from a different country and with a different experience before me. I write you from my new, slightly quirky apartment in downtown Stockholm, specifically Soldermalm, after a plethora of problems and a slew of solutions.

I arrived in Arlanda airport early in the morning with the all-to-common realization of how ill-prepared I was to start this experience. Dragging 20 kilograms too much of luggage, an extra carry-on, without any clue, I pushed a cart outside of the airport to meet the cabs that would take me to a hotel. One bag short, because I guess Delta really wanted to try on all of my clothes for a couple of days until they relinquished my belongings, I made my way to the airport. I arrived at a hotel that was way too far outside of the city, not to mention the airport I landed in was way too far outside the city. Great start. Bagless and city-less, I checked in and got settled. I decided that the only way to get this out of my system was to be productive.

I got a phone, went to school, saw the grounds, met my professors and aids, registered and did a walking tour of Gamla Stan, the old city. I decided to wait to look for an apartment until the next day since I was exhausted and knew that I would not be able to perform an efficient search in such a state. That night I met a friend of a friend who lives in Stockholm and we went out for a welcome beverage. Fighting off sleep and stress of my homeless state, I called it a night early and tried to regroup for the oh-so-famous search the next day.

Tell someone in Stockholm that you are looking for an apartment and see what they say. They probably won't say anything, they'll just put on this face and smirk as if they are consoling you because you just soiled yourself in public on a date in the middle of rush hour. "Oh, it's okay, you will only be disgustingly dirty and embarrassed for a little while. Basically it is a city-wide epidemic. There is only so much housing available and the competition is tight. The search must consist of you sitting at your computer clicking refresh on 4 housing websites and a tab for google translate open so that you can jump at any opportunity. Then, on top of that, tell a Swede you are looking for an apartment with a Turk, because then the reaction will just be uproarious laughter.

The Swedes are nice, but just a LITTLE racist. A Russian girl in my program had trouble signing a lease because anybody that did allow her to see the apartment would say, "N0, I don't want someone who is going to be drinking a lot of vodka." So here I am, bags strewn across the floor, money fleeing from my pockets on a hotel and I have no end in sight. I am one bag down, outside of the city and having a wee-bit of a breakdown.

Days pass and I can't even go to lunch without feeling guilty that I am not glued to my computer screen, tormented by the refresh button and stupefied why it can't refresh itself and contact people itself and speak swedish itself and just call me when it's ready. NOT HAPPENING. So as I walked the 15 minutes to take a bus, to get to the subway, to take the subway a handful of stops to finally get off and INTO THE FREAKING CITY CENTER, I decided there needs to be a change.

I went to the gym, I booked another hotel, I took 89 deep breaths and forced some Miss Cleo positive thinking. Luckily it was also the weekend, so I took the Friday and Saturday nights out as "networking events", see if I can find an apartment in the club. You know, bump, grind, "Hey, have an open room", fist pump, twirl, "No anyone that does?, okay cool, have a good night". Seemed possible, right? Well it didn't really work, but I had a really fun time at least? Anyone? Cool. It was a good way to recharge my search. Okay, I need to stop rationalizing. Oh, but Saturday night after one night out, some Swedes said they wanted to show me Stockholm. I thought it was a bad translation, since I obviously had eyes and was currently residing in the aforementioned location. They took me in a cab around the city and up this hill. After crossing my legs to give them an outward manifestation that I was not going to be used a Swedish meatball, they took me through an alley to this park. The park led up this dark hill and BOOM! Skyline. Jawdropping, pantydropping, Skyline. The entire city at our fingertips and you just sat on a bench, on top of the world, absorbing the love. What a great stress reliever.

Luckily there was Sait, my friend of a friend. He was so supportive and understanding and invited me out to get me out of my bed and my head. We went to this bar that is a floating bar on the river outside of the city. It was the most picturesque spot. Imagine: couples, singles, friends and families all sitting on the restaurant/barge that was floating with amazing drinks and food and watching the sunset under the crisp air right outside the monumental City Hall building. But yet, I would look around and see that every other person sitting at the restaurant had a place to go home to after. They sat enjoying the weather and company without any preoccupation of a basic need of accommodations.

To bring the readers out of an ennui of my depressive beginnings in Stockholm, let's just skip to where I write you from. So one day, I literally opened the lid of computer and click the proverbial Refresh button. The first ad was a HUGE apartment in the best area of the city center and it was posted minutes before. I called Anna and told her who I was and that I could be there within the hour. I ran over to the apartment and walked in and it was heavenly. Not that African hodgepodge decor with enough plants to singlehandedly save the rainforest, but the space itself lent the most amazing opportunity for a successful year. I tried my best to lock down the apartment right then and there, but Anna wasn't budging. A short girl, elfish almost, with a jaded sense of consumerist society and an underlying need to hit bongos in a reserve in Namibia with chewing tobacco and Jamison.

I ended up having to stay with Sait for a couple of days, which the invitation in itself was an amazing gift during the process, when I got a call from Anna. She said that I had got the apartment!! She interviewed 10 people and I got it. And why did she choose me? Because it was down to me and a couple that would rent the entire apartment and her Mom, who is a MEDIUM, didn't trust the couple. That's right people. Miss Cleo liked Brian and that is how it all went down.

I write you from my living room, fighting off overgrown plants but listening to The Clash on a record player hooked up to surround sound in DOWNTOWN Stockholm. Deep breaths oh faithful readers, for the Deputy has set up shop and is sittin' pretty.