Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Archive for February, 2010

Blatte goes Blatte: Penetrating Rinkeby

Friday, February 19th, 2010

I made it in and out alive tonight from one of Stockholm’s most notorious suburbs, Rinkeby. You might want to characterize it as Stockholm version of  “the projects” since the reputation it carries is of high crime, high unemployment, low income and a heck of a lot of dark-haired people.

I’m not sure if any of those characterizations are entirely untrue.  However, if I wanted to get contentious, and what the heck, why not, I would speculate that the crime rate isn’t really significantly higher than any other district of Stockholm and potentially lower for some types of crime than a number of Stockholm districts (car burglaries is pretty high in central Stockholm for instance.) And yet, even if they are all smack dab on the money, it’s not the combat zone Stockholmers of gentler ‘hoods would imagine it to be.

But different it certainly is. But I’d say it’s different in a wonderfully dynamic way. The place teams with life from its inhabitants. There are culturally-related events and activities, initiated by and serving the people who make up its colorful tapestry going on 7 days a week at all hours and spilling out of every conceivable public space that the people can occupy.

In fact, occasionally the do indeed occupy space. Just last November members of the Rinkeby community occupied an abandoned building which the city deemed too expensive to renovate and have slated for demolition (related article -sorry in Swedish only.) They were eventually were physically removed by the police. According to a friend of mine who lives in Rinkeby, the building was used not only for squatters and protesters, but for smaller cultural groups who can’t afford to rent community space to meet.

That’s what an immigrant-rich suburb community like Rinkeby seems to differ most from its sleepy native Swedish variety where activities are often organized on weekends or around sporting halls or in quiet basements that people drive to. People in Rinkeby are out later, their kids are up later and they’re more intent on interacting with their neighbors to play connect-four at 7.30pm at Folkets Hus (The people’s house) on a weekday.
Folkets Hus Rinkeby

It wasn’t the Milton Bradley games which brought me to Rinkeby after dinner on a Thursday (though I literally did pass a group of people playing it) but the samba group, Yakumbé, who practice Thursdays 7-9pm in the basement of the People’s House. They call it a workshop and invite anyone to stop in an pick up an instrument, menacingly toddling children included.  So we went; menacing children and all.

And not only did we return with our lives, but much enriched by the lively samba percussion. I was once again warmed to be in Rinkeby seeing all the people out and about even though it was cold, dark and late (well, by the clock of the average Swede.)  The place gets a bad rap for all the wrong reasons and so little credit for all the real realities.

If you haven’t ventured around Rinkeby you really ought to give it a try one time.  Go ahead. Live life a bit on the wild side.

Bring earplugs if you try out the samba workshop…was loud.

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Safety: overly conscious?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

No one is surprised to hear that safety is important to Swedes. After all, the first 3-point seat belt was first put into production for cars in the Volvo PV444 in 1959. But there are moments when I think that the devotion to safety extends beyond the fair margin to allow for Darwin Award nominees. (OK, no I don’t really go that far with the thought but I do consider it occasionally.)

There’s just too much dependence on helmets if you ask me (I know you’re not asking, it’s an expression). Let’s just take winter sports for kids.  There are different helmets for ice skating, skiing and sledding, though the unhip kid would have one for all three of those activities.  But don’t think for a minute any of those would pass for playing ice hockey. Oh no.

From an American liability perspective (we are rather sue-happy) I completely sympathize with the schools’ insisting that children wear helmets playing on ice and snow while in their care, but to see children sledding down a gently sloping hill with not a tree nor pole in sight wearing crash helmets does make me giggle. OK ok, better safe than sorry, but I do think there are moments when you can be a little risqué.

On a positive note, I’m rather glad that I’m surrounded by a devotion to safety. After living here I can’t imagine  riding in a car, whichever seat I end up in, without wearing my seat belt and our kids don’t pedal a step without their helmets.

And I always have my helmet on skydiving.

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