Every Sunday I take my kids and go out to explore what lies beneath my Stockholm. We sometimes go to the city. We start at the end of Drottninggatan where we childishly crawl through the pedestrian promenade and laugh as we read the quotes inscribed on the pavement by the famous Swedish writer August Strindberg. We sometimes get his black humour and sometimes we don't. “Let's go on!” we tell each other, leaving the unexplored matter for another day.
Along the promenade, as we browse through shops, cafés and kiosks, we end up in the Hötorget square. We buy a fruit basket and sit on the stairs of Konserthuset and observe how people trade collectibles at the weekly secondhand market. Our last purchase was a diary from the mid-1900s written by a woman. That was the best ten kronor I have ever spent.
We sometimes let ourselves wander at one of hundreds of natural reserves. One of the most frequent spots we always wish we end up in is Nyckelviken, Nacka. We walk through the thick forest and find our way to the banks of Östersjön as we stop and play a game of guess what the birds are telling us. There are many big rocks standing tall from the sea which offers us a perfect setting to just chill and watch the big ferries pass by. We always make sure that we shout a “hej hej” at the ferry passengers and wave at them. We shout so enthusiastically that almost always our high fives are answered with hand waving gestures of happiness.
We call it our Constitutional Sunday.
My wife and I moved to Sweden from Afghanistan in spring of 2004 with our daughter, then only three years old. Since then we have struggled to find our way around this country which differs in so many ways not describable in words from where we came from.
Suddenly our lives changed so drastically that sometimes absorbing the changes seemed too much. We had found a safe sanctuary far from the daily madness of the war which seemed as a never-ending nightmare back home.
Today the daughter we brought from Afghanistan at the age of three with almost zero possibility of having her own thoughts has grown to become a firebrand young feminist who says she comes from Järfälla and is not fearful of defending her constitutional rights.
Whenever she argues with me trying to get out of our weekly exploration expedition she says that the same constitution which gives me the right-to-roam laws of 'allemansrätten' that give me the right to go out and explore gives her the choice of saying “no, I don't want to be part of childishly screaming at the passengers of a party boat or laughing insanely at the silly inscriptions on the pavement”. It fills my heart with pride over my choice of moving to Sweden. I tell myself I still have two kids naïve enough to believe that my silliness is fun, until they grow to learn their constitutional rights.
As we celebrated June 6th, Sweden Day, this week, I was filled with a sense of pride and Swedishness. I call myself “A Swede by Choice”, but sometimes I fear losing what I have. Now that I have tasted the sweet taste of freedom I have become a greedy person and want to see my rights flourish even more.
A friend of mine in his 60s, whom I call “A Swede by Chance”, always adds to my fears when he claims that Sweden is on a self-destructive path. “It is not a Sweden I had foreseen,” he one time told me. He probably has lived through a time when Sweden was better than what I experience as citizenship deluxe.
He also complains about Sweden's dark days and cold weather, whereas I see it as the brightest and warmest landscape anywhere in the world. I can testify to this fact because I have travelled the world and have not yet discovered a place this warm and this bright.
I also see the challenges my adopted country is facing which sometimes makes me unwillingly see what my friend is seeing. However when I read excerpts from the diary I bought at the second-hand market I understand that this is not the first time Sweden has been presented with a challenge. I also see how Sweden has come out of every challenge victorious and better than before. This feeling gives me optimism for a better future.
May God bless Sweden and Swedes. All of them: by chance and by choice.
This is an opinion piece by Faisal Khan, an entrepreneur with a background in media. He moved to Sweden in 2004 and has lived here ever since. Follow him on Twitter.