From the moment I got to Sweden, it was very obvious my time there was going to be an exercise in both self confidence and self control. The women are simply gorgeous. Tall. Blonde. Fit. And here's something new, they're nice! Sure, I can be a huge bitch, but when it will benefit me, I can turn on the charm like a champ; sometimes giving me the edge in a bar full of other attractive people who are generally assholes. But with the shockingly stunning women of Sweden also available in the "nice" model, I was just screwed.
Not that I rely exclusively on interaction with dudes to have a good time, but it definitely helps when you're traveling alone. And before you judge... Picture a group of your friends, guys and girls, some couples, some single people and a cute chick comes strolling up with a foreign accent a cool story. It doesn't work. I get frozen out every time. My only option for social interaction comes from approaching the male species. That's where the self control comes into play. Yes, I've dated a variety of men from different nationalities and ethnicities but it's no secret my "go to" type is light hair and light eyes. It's not that I'm not attracted to other types, I am, but if there was a line-up in front of me and I was choosing based on looks alone... It's a Paul Walker look alike every time. (May he rest in peace)
All of the above made Sweden especially challenging. Not only are the men just as beautiful as the women; they're ALL in excellent shape. I'm not talking thin, runner's bodies either. I mean ripped. The young ones look like they are on a protein bar break from their jobs standing shirtless in front of Abercrombie and Fitch and the older ones are fresh off the pages of GQ and Men's Health. Even foreigners living in Sweden have taken on the same appearance; somehow morphing into a super human army of effortlessly attractive Alexander Skarsgards. (Yes, he's from Sweden)
My saving grace came in the form of family. Staying with my grandmother's oldest friend and his wife kept me in check and at least slightly distracted from my high school level flirtation with the entire country. I was lucky enough to be in Sweden to celebrate his 90th birthday. The backstory of how a 90 year old Swedish man is part of my life and why my brother is named after him is pretty amazing, but just as complicated, so trying to explain to his family and friends who the hell I was and why I was even there was amusing to say the least. Now add the language barrier for good measure. Comical.
To sum it up: Jules was raised in Surinam, which is a Dutch Colony in South America. (weird, I know) But he ended up working in New York on the merchant ships during the war. That's where my grandmother was living with her three very young children and at the time, searching for my grandfather, who also worked on the ships and had a tendency to disappear for long periods of time. Usually without even leaving enough money for a loaf of bread, or milk. Even his ship mates were fed up with his behavior so they got together a group of guys to go look for him. Even though he wasn't part of the search party, Jules met my grandmother on the docks that day where she was looking for her vanishing husband and he didn't leave her side for years. But their relationship started on one of the worst days of my Grandmother's life. When she got home from the docks, her kids were gone. Her father didn't think she could raise them alone and handed them over to the state. My mom, aunt and uncle spent seven years in foster care before my Grandmother finally got them back.
Eventually Jules moved back to Europe, got married and had kids of his own, but never lost contact with my family. When my mother was around my age, before she was married or had kids, she visited Jules and his wife in Sweden. And now all these years later... I stayed in the same house, walked to the same bus stop and spent time with the man who was there for my grandmother when no one else was. The day she lost everything, she met the man who would help her get through it.
If there's one thing that stands out for me so far on this wonderful and wacky adventure, it's celebrating my Papa Jules and meeting his "other" family. Truly some of the most kind, generous and gracious hosts I've ever had the pleasure of spending time with. And in case you're wondering... Yes. They're also ridiculously good looking. Jerks.