Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Child delivery service for New York

I answered the phone as I exited the train at Newark airport station having a slight fear of what was hiding behind the six digit phone number. "Good evening, is this xxx?" I confirmed. "This is xxx with immigration services, are you expecting someone this evening?" I confirmed, providing him with Zoe's full name. Then I told him who she was traveling with. "Did you provide them with a notarized letter?". I confirmed explaining that I provided a letter stating that my friends were allowed to travel with Zoe. At this point I was running up the escalator heading for the air train that could take me to terminal B. The voice on the phone asked again. I realized my mistake. "I gave them a letter, but no, it was not notarized", I confessed. The officer explained to me that this letter was worth nothing and that I needed to have a notarized letter to confirm that they were allowed to travel with my daughter. My heart was now somewhere between my upper lungs and my throat and I was short of breath from running. "I'm right here in the airport to pick her up", I said. "Please, sir." As I entered the air train compartment he finally took to a nicer tone, telling me that next time I needed a notarized letter and I repeatedly apologized and said I would make sure of that. He hung up. I burst into tears and as the air train came to a stop in terminal B, I ran as fast as I could towards International Arrival. I saw them from afar, recognizing Zoe instantly. When she realized it was me she started running too and we met and hugged until Zoe said "Mommy you are squeezing me too tight", and I cried a bit more and she looked puzzled at me. "I was so scared they wouldn't let you in", I told her, but it seemed that she had never understod that part of the situation. She had happily explained exactly who she was traveling with, exactly who she was going to see and why she was traveling with them. And now she was just happy to be back with her mom. And so is her mom. Who will remember to get a notarized letter next time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Illegal alien

When I came to New York in January it was with the intention to stay for six months. At least officially. I quickly got offered to stay over the summer to continue my research and to work with the amazing PhD students and my fellow researchers here. Since I have no teaching in Stockholm over the summer, I happily agreed. We have planned this since March or April and I wrote the people in charge of my visa about a month and a half ago informing them that I needed it renewed, at least from July 1st to September 1st. They needed more paperwork, which we supplied them with a couple of weeks ago. Today I realized that I still haven't heard back and that my visa runs out in a week. I am really worried about it it because if it does run out it will have enormous consequences for me. I emailed the person in charge twice but haven't heard back. I'm on a J1 and when you have been on one, and it's done, you cannot get one again for another two years. Period. There is also a 2 year home requirement but that's a different rule and that can be bent if you have the right connections and paperwork. I could potentially go on another visa but there is none that would fit my situation since H1s are reserved for actual faculty (I'm a visiting professor) and is very expensive for universities. I would basically have no option to stay here. I'm freaking out a bit and pray to the administration gods that things will go through before next week. Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Midsummer rain

Zoe and me on the beach in
Denmark 3 years ago
I might not live in Stockholm any longer but my Facebook feed and friends are all cheering and being family like for the world-known Swedish Midsummer Celebration. Zoe is somewhere undisclosed on the countryside celebrating with her dad and the new girlfriend. What worse is, people think this is a Scandinavian tradition and greet me happy midsummer, when it is really only Swedish (okay, full disclosure, I have absolutely no idea how they celebrate it in Norway). In Denmark, on the other hand, we celebrate the actual longest day of the year (which is next Tuesday and is called "Sankt Hans Evening", not midsummer) by burning a witch, usually made of sticks and cloth, and sing a couple of old herritage songs around the bonfire on the beach. Because in Denmark there is always a beach nearby. I actually hate midsummer and try to avoid it. From my first summer in Sweden where, to foreigners, everything (and I mean e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g) is just closed for two days and then we go back to work, to my more settled times where I was simply just home alone because it is a family holiday and Swedes don't include anybody else but their family. Add to that a divorce and a fragmented family and this holiday is just one of those ugly portraits of what I don't have anymore. And even in New York, I'm reminded of it's existence.

Several studies have looked at how friends' and connections' positive social media posts will make people post positive posts as well, and potentially make them happy too. Fewer studies mention how positive social media makes people grumpy and jealous because they don't have what others seem to have in those posts. My feed was full of romantic couples and happy families the past few days and it finally got the better of me. I miss my family, I miss my extended family in Denmark. I just want to sit on that beach and watch that witch burn and look over the blue water and hug Zoe. Five more days. And no more Facebook for me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Yesterday I attended an outdoor event with a lot of important people talking (in an aim to stay semi-anonymous, I can't be more specific) and lots of press. It was amazing to see the New Yorkers being proud of being New Yorkers and I got chills of excitement when they said "In New York, the possibilities are endless". I was so proud to be living here and realize they were talking about people like me. I can do anything here. Zoe can do anything here. We are now New Yorkers.

Meanwhile I got terribly sunburnt because they had promised rain in the morning and I hadn't thought about the sun going through the clouds and been foreseeable enough to actually put on sunscreen. You would think, with my pale Scandinavian skin, I would have learned by now, but no. As I sat having lunch later on, I felt the burning start on my arms, the main part that had been exposed to the sun because I had taken off my cardigan. It ended up being so painful that I had to sit with frozen pea bags on my arms, shifting it from the right to the left every 10 minutes. Today I'm taking it easy, working from cafes, fully covered up.

But the sunburn brought one significant thing with it. As I cursed my stupidity I made a decision to not waste my precious time and feel sorry for myself. Instead I finally got started on my book, the academic book that I have had in my mind for six years or so, the one that I'll write and the one that will help me get my next job. It wasn't so hard. I realized that I know so much about this topic that I can just write like I write literature (yes, I wrote a novel, unpublished, but finished). When I get in to it, writing everyday, it will be done in a year. I can do this. Sunburnt or not. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

17 days and counting

The Empire State Building was blue and pink when I snapped a picture and texted it to Zoe, knowing she would wake up to it in a couple of hours. I hoped she would be happy to see it and not necessarily think too much about me not being there with her. She would go to her daycare and play with her friends, particularly her best friend with whom she talks with sounding like two teenagers according to her daycare teachers. They are very close and miss each other when one is not there but unfortunately Katie is due to start school after the summer, a school which Zoe cannot get in to. They will be divided no matter what. Perhaps they will be able to stay in touch, but they will be spread across the world soon enough, she is Irish, Zoe is Danish and they are not likely to live in the same country again.

I miss her terribly and count down the days until I get to see her, every morning. My friend and colleague is bring her over on June 25th and I'm going to the airport to pick them up. They have to fly via Copenhagen because that was the only way I could get a ticket on my miles for Zoe and I couldn't afford one on my own. I'm hoping they will pick up some chocolate and a danish magazine on the way. And I hope that Zoe will impress the stewardesses by speaking Danish to them and English back to her friend.

These two months have been long and strange and I have discovered new parts of my mental strength, trying to distract myself, ignore the toys in the corner and not think of Zoe too much. I'm still in disbelief that I let her go back for two months because it was inconceivable before it happened. I know Zoe is also getting hardened, when I talked to her Sunday, she was too distracted by a trampoline to come to the phone and when she did she was not sad as usual. I don't doubt that she misses me, but an everyday lull has probably taken over and (thank god) she is actually having a good time with her dad, all our friends, her friends and a semi-stable life in Stockholm. She also had a stable life here but one with fewer social activities and more mommy-daughter time.

When she comes back to New York she will go to three different summer camps, one for each week plus a week's staycation with me. I know she is excited and I will finally relax again. I'm going to hug her so tightly and not let go for 24 hours and even then, I'll only let her be away from me for a few hours at the time. 17 more days.