Archives for category: office

Sooo, I have a big meeting with my department tomorrow. Really big. It’s somehow mid-November already, which means it’s all of a sudden, out of nowhere, time for the very official GROW recap — a chance for me to present (for four action-packed hours) all of the translations and projects I’ve worked on since August.

I’ve come to realize that all of my most successful and critically acclaimed blog posts are the ones that focus on either something stupid I said, something stupid I did, or something involving a funny elevator sign, so don’t worry — I won’t dwell on boring work things and this post will be really short. But I do want to point out that today I had a pre-meeting to discuss the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting. And if you thought that corporate America held the patent on scheduling meetings to recap a pre-meeting in preparation for the next week’s follow-up meeting to the usual weekly meeting in anticipation of a one-off meeting, you’re wrong. They’re into that sort of excess here, too.

But more importantly, this post is really about one thing: disbelief. After months of planning and daydreaming and cold-weather-shopping and strategic packing, is this whole thing really almost over?

Will you relax? The Helsinki ugly photo collage is coming soon. These kinds of intricate works of art don’t just appear from the ether. And for now, since I’m on my 1987 HP desktop personal computation device at the office, and this thing has never even heard of Adobe, I can’t do anything to speed along the Photoshop process. So I’ll tell you a story instead.

It was Friday, November 6, the eve of All Saints Day. Swedish children traditionally have this holiday off from school, but we, the Bonnier faithful, did not have the day off this year, and so there were kids hanging out and coloring in the office break room all day. Now, I’m officially on cappuccino detox this month, so I went to make my afternoon earl gray tea — a lousy taste substitute, but I find that these caffeine shakes are more manageable than the espresso-induced seizures have been. Entering the break room, I exchanged a quick “hej hej” with the little five year old sitting at the table. She looked at me shyly, and I was grateful, because you don’t have to attempt conversation with the quiet ones. But I must have really nailed the accent on my greeting, because this little lady suddenly launched into the longest story ever told, in Swedish. I looked around and, yep, I was the only person there, so she was definitely talking to me.

Tens of seconds went by — what felt like a solid minute of this Swedish story (long enough, in fact, for my tea to steep) and I didn’t want to interrupt her, but I had no idea what to retort. Normally I would just pick a word from her story and repeat it back as a question (vänner? eh?), which usually buys some time, but I truly didn’t catch a single familiar word in the whole diatribe. So when she finished, I just smiled and said in my cutest, sing-songy, kid-friendly voice, “oh sorry, I don’t speak Swedish!”

Blank stare. Crickets.

“Do you speak English?” I continued, remembering that they’re taught the language in school here. Smart little cookies! I’ll invite her to speak it with me, and that will work. We can get by with a quick broken-English interaction and then I can go. But, as it turns out, they do not know any English by the tender age of 5, and this poor kid thought I was insane. You know how when you hear a language you don’t speak, you can usually at least tell roughly which language you’re hearing? It’s familiar. You don’t have to speak German, but you can recognize the sounds because you’ve heard it before, right? Based on that assumption, I can safely say that this particular child had never heard the sweet twang of English in her entire life. She cocked her head to the side, staring with eyes and mouth wide open, and I truly might as well have been saying “blargitty blarg! bloopity? blip blop? blorp!”

ruh?

Even worse, I couldn’t make it right. All of the basic Swedish I’d practiced and stored in my brain for just such an interaction — ursäkta, jag pratar inte svenska — was just totally gone, and the kid and I both had to resort to five or six seconds of awkward charades instead. Later, I heard her telling her mom about the weird blarpity lady and I was ashamed. At least I think that’s what she was talking about, and I think that was her mom.

But never mind. I returned to my desk to find a mass email from one of my Swedish coworkers — a forward filled with funny signs in muddled Engrish (they have their own special brand of it here, too, called Swenglish). This really has nothing to do with the break room story, except that everyone shared a group chuckle about language barriers, and of course I ate it up. Because after my run-in Little Miss Judgypants, I felt entitled to a good old superior haha! at someone else’s expense. Take that, five year old! Now let’s all look at funny foreign signs and laugh at small children who don’t speak our language yet.

Central Station (farm4.static.flikr.com)

I gave in and bought a metro card yesterday. I was trying so hard to avoid doing this while I’m here, first of all because they are friggin’ expensive, and second, because it’s an obvious sign of weakness. The metro is for people who are lazy and uninspired, poor lost souls who prefer the convenience of cramming their bodies and belongings sardine-like into a tiny moving train six stories underground, rather than just putting one foot in front of the other and enjoying the fresh air and scenery on street level. The metro is for wusses.

But now I have joined their ranks, because folks, it is just too effing cold out there. I can’t do that walk anymore, especially now that the party is over and it rains every day. I did everything I could to prolong this moment…I tried walking varied routes to and from work to keep it fresh and fun; I made a game of finding delicious new cappuccino spots along the way; I even bought really adorable brand name, not-affordable rain boots so I could better play the part of the seasoned and fashionable Stockholmer who scoffs at the very sight of a metro station. But I’m weak.

I bring this up because I’m afraid there are implications. I have someone else’s butt now. I found it when I wasn’t even looking for a new one — just minding my own business, walking three or four miles a day on steep terrain — but it’s mine now, and I want to keep it. It is the behind of a spry little teenager who kicks and jumps just for fun. It’s unexpected and wonderful. And now it’s in jeopardy. How can I possibly hold on to the glory if I start taking the train to work? This is bad, guys. I might have to give up my sour cream and onion chips.

The “new” has settled into more of a livable routine now. All of the cute and seasonally inappropriate dresses I brought have been neatly tucked away in a closet I never use, and a rotation of jeans and warm sweaters have taken their place. Grocery shopping is down to a science (made easier by the recent grilled cheese infatuation), and my projects at the office are real and familiar work now – not busy work, as they are wont to be at the start of a new job.

This comfy routine has also given way to a few revelations:

1. Apparently I like sour cream and onion chips, because I’m averaging a bag a week. I’m pretty sure that the last time I actually purchased a bag of potato chips in Florida Life, I was a teenager, but here, they’re a part of my day and I rely on their crunchy goodness.

2. Away from my own furniture and my “stuff,” I’m not nearly the neat freak I usually am. The same girl who scoured the kitchen every single night at home has yet to think twice when the dishes pile up for three days here. I still clean my bathroom regularly, but I’ve not picked up the vacuum once yet. Its buttons are in Swedish, though I do realize that turning one on is pretty universal, so this is a weak excuse.

3. Even with only two channels and rarely anything interesting on TV, I still haven’t touched the two ab workout DVDs I packed with good intentions. Apparently, these are a last resort no matter where you live or how many times you’ve seen that same episode of How I Met Your Mother.

4. I drink way more cappuccino than is healthy or advisable for my size – even more than my previous twice-a-day Starbucks trips at home would imply – and I eat far fewer vegetable servings because they cost four times more here. No matter my relatively healthy lifestyle in Florida Life, it’s been surprisingly easy to return to a college diet when the price is right.

5. And it turns out I really don’t miss my closet full of clothes, or any of my belongings at all, but I do miss these guys. A lot.

I know, I know…two days ago I promised another installment of the ugly photo collage, and then I totally let you guys down by catching the death flu, staying home from work and filling my Friday with a marathon of Swedish Idol and the Simpsons, and now you’re mad. I know. I failed. But here’s a pretty picture of Prague for now, and you’ll get your collage in a minute.

First though, I wanted to write about my latest project. This one has nothing to do with foreign rights, or translating Swedish manuscripts, or really anything to do with Sweden at all. This project is the result of unexpected inspiration – the kind that sneaks up on you when you least expect it, while surfing the web, eating a free banana from the break room, minding your own business.

Yesterday, through a series of random clicks (and really, who knows how we find half the stuff we do online), I stumbled on a Facebook photo album of some of the cutest little puppies and kittens you’ve ever seen…

Wait, come back. Your eyes have glossed over and you stopped reading this because I said cute puppies and kittens – I get it. But let me just interject here that, despite that last sentence, this is not a sparkling rainbows and magical unicorn glitter post. It’s a little bit gritty, ok?

So, back to it. The album actually contained photos of 53 animals currently living in an animal control center in North Carolina, all of whom were scheduled to be put down today unless people came forward to adopt them. And yes, earlier I did say “puppies and kittens”…they were pretty much all little babies. This particular shelter is so overcrowded that it euthanizes every Friday, and this was the latest group of lives on the line – on a Thursday afternoon. Break my heart.

For the last seven weeks, a handful of volunteers has been putting together these albums in their spare time, all in an attempt to put real faces to the problem of overcrowded shelters like the one in North Carolina. And let me just say that OMG, it works. Who hasn’t heard the whole “spay and neuter! control the pet population! blah blah blah!” thing? – but seeing the real faces of the little ones who ultimately pay the price is an entirely different (bad pun) beast.

Now if you know me at all, then you already know of my proclivity to adopt animals without thinking twice. It’s why, even on a bit of a budget now, I have three kick-ass dogs and a wonderfully flamboyant cat, Sparklemonkey, and why at one point my old roommate and I (looking at you, Ashley) were fostering two ducks and 10 cats until we systematically badgered our friends and coworkers into adopting them. We also had a foster goat in middle school, but who doesn’t?

But despite what you’re thinking, I didn’t adopt another pet yesterday. This post is about inspiration, not madness. Instead, for the first time I actually recognized the ongoing problem…that this album of adorable little babies-in-need was from just ONE kill-shelter, in one county of one state, for that one week of the year. And so I asked myself: What can I, sitting thousands of miles away, actually do to help?

This is not a save-the-world blog, because the problem is way bigger than the slight efforts of a travel editor working abroad. But I realized that these volunteers were on to something: Posting real photos of the animals, with a real (and urgent) deadline, and sharing it worldwide via the powerful, free and potentially viral social media at everyone’s fingertips – well, you can see some pretty incredible results that way. But at the same time, these volunteers aren’t really social media mavens – just people with enormous hearts. And so, rather naturally, I found my place in the big picture, my small way of helping.

I contacted one of the volunteers and offered some ideas and suggestions – ways to enhance their social media pages, streamline their photo albums and improve their contact system – and now I’m already at work (and happy to be) on planning a new blog and some content for them. Adopting made a difference to my four pets at home, but I realized I could make a bigger impact just by doing what I do for a living, and offering my multi-media skills to something I believe in.

And btw, this story has a happy ending: All 53 little schmoopie woopies were pulled from the shelter this week, and they’re on their way to new homes and rescues as I write this. Score another one for social media!

(Send me a note if you’d like more info on this particular shelter or any of the rescues that help. And when I inevitably find myself with a dozen new foster pets and need to find them homes, dear coworkers and friends, just be warned.)

Well, my number was up this week. It was, unfortunately, my turn to grace the front of our company newsletter with a dorky photo and a GROW bio that – despite the fact that we get to write our own quotes – still always manages to embarrass while providing fodder to friends and coworkers for days. I knew this was coming, and I dreaded the moment ever since I saw my friend‘s goofy Estonia photo last month – but there was nothing that could be done. It was my time in history. And now I’ll be forever immortalized on the Internets for having uttered the sage words “It’s cold in September! In Florida, we’d still be going to the beach…”

Yep, true words of wisdom to share with my fellow employees, and the world. It’s why they pay me the big bucks, folks.

Blog, you are a bottomless pit. No matter how much I post, you always need more or you just end up looking sad and abandoned. It’s tedious.

Anyway, here’s the latest…the Frankfurt beast of a book fair is coming up next week, so work has reeeeally been a grind the last few days. I’ve been focusing on English translations for about two dozen different authors and manuscripts – which is a lot, just trust me – and in my spare time I’ve been piloxing and African dancing my little butt off in company gym class (side note: the classes are either getting way, way harder or I’ve been snacking on one too many Swedish pastries lately…side note to the side note: my group has an obscene amount of client meetings, always involving mountains of sugary baked goods, so a twice-daily drive-by of the conference room is usually part of my routine. I have no will power whatsoever around cookies and cinnamon rolls).

In related news, tonight I had a banana for dinner – a nasty little bruised and gooey one I lugged home from the company-sponsored fruit-in-the-break-room program. In other words, the only thing I could afford. If you know me at all, you know I would rather eat my own foot than go near a ripe banana – I only like the really tart green ones – but clearly this is a new era. A very cold, impoverished era in which I only consume found-food on the weekdays. TGIPayday tomorrow is all I have to say.

Annnnd, I think that’s it. I’ll end here and just add that it’s COLD. Very, very cold. And there’s really not a good picture to go with any of what I just wrote so I’ll just include a night shot of a fountain. Such a compelling blog post from start to finish.

One of my projects at work this week was creating English marketing materials for Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson. The BGA agents have a few major book fairs every fall – Gothenburg this weekend and Frankfurt, one of the world’s largest fairs, the week after – and since Nilsson’s books are some of the most recognized and influential in the agency’s catalogue, this was a big deal.

Now I know why: At 88 years old, Nilsson has pioneered some of the most incredible photographic techniques I’ve ever seen. In the early 1950s, Nilsson developed special medical instruments with macro- and wide-angle lenses and was able to capture the first look at human embryos; and in 1965 he published the first edition of his book, A Child is Born, a photoessay that documents human life from conception to birth. 1965, people! Will you look at these images?

The book is now in its fifth edition and it’s been published around the world. Not surprising that it’s popular. I only included a few of his photographs, but I definitely suggest checking out his full slideshow here. Especially all of you preggo friends of mine who occasionally read this blog – this is for you.

(Bizarre side note to mom: Does this guy look EXACTLY like grandpa or am I crazy?)

It’s a little weird to be posting the highly anticipated Stockholm: Week Three ugly photo collage recap tonight, because that means I’ve already entered Week Four of this whole adventure, and that’s impossible. I just got here. In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s been a mix-up with the dates, and I’d like to speak with someone in charge. I only came into this thing with 13 weeks to play with, and I’m supposed to believe I’ve already used a quarter of of it? No! I’m not fluent yet, I haven’t eaten nearly enough meatballs, and I still look the same (ok yes, a very small part of me thought I might look taller and little more European by this point, or at the very least have stopped dressing like an American college kid…UGG boots and faded jeans to the office today, Reagan? really?). I can’t go back yet.

Interestingly, though, my bank account makes a convincing argument that it’s time to go home. This is probably why they don’t let us stay longer…I’ve already been reduced to eating Swedish cup-o-noodles for lunch twice this week, because even that is like $27 a packet – and, this being a particularly desperate weekend between paychecks, if I want coffee tomorrow (and who are we kidding? yes, I’ll want coffee) I’m going to have to walk the 1.8 kilometers to the office cappuccino machine. On a Saturday. I dare you to think of something sadder you’ll be doing this weekend than that.

Now, without further ado…Stockholm: Week Three!

Sweden’s big election day came and went yesterday without much fanfare or fallout, at least for the non-voting American whose most pressing concern of the day was trying to track down the best gelato in Gamla Stan. Not so for the Swedes of the Bonnier office, though. I’ve seen some sad faces before — especially on Monday mornings — but wow, today was a real bummer. It turns out, elections are a giant horse kick to the head no matter where you live. Even if you win.

As in the states, the months leading up to the elections here are crammed with campaign speeches, sidewalk rallies and overly sentimental political ads — but since all of these things have been in Swedish, I haven’t been able to figure out which party is the most annoying here. What I do know is that both of the two primary parties (here, coalitions) failed to grab a majority of seats, and for the first time in the country’s history, a polarizing extremist party (a neo-nazi party known as the Sweden Democrats) was able to secure nearly 6 percent of the vote, giving them 20 seats and a way to flex their ideological muscles on future policy.

The current “center-right four-party coalition” (you thought our system was confusing?) did hang on to power with 49.3 percent — so close yet so far away! — but without an outright majority, they’re going to have a hell of a time trying to get anything done. And the “red-green three-party opposition coalition” (these are real names, I’m not even embellishing like I’m prone to do), who finished with 43.7 percent, are really in the dumps. Both of these long-named coalitions will now need to kowtow to the vilified Sweden Democrats to get anything done, but to really complicate things, both groups have sworn not to.

You glossed over this entire blog post didn’t you? Because it started with “politics” in the title and it had numbers and words like coalition and ideological in it. It’s ok, I don’t think I explained this very well anyway, and certainly you shouldn’t quote me on any of it because this is just a blog. I know you’re tempted…I know you can’t wait to call your mom and be like, “you will never believe what Reagan’s blog just told me” but don’t — read the actual story on CNN or something, since I assume those people have done more homework than having a chat with their melancholy Swedish coworkers over rostbiff och potatis in the cafeteria.

Tomorrow, to balance the scales of content, I will blog about something superfluous once again. That’s my promise to you.