If you couldn’t already tell from the fact that I’m very white and very blond (hence the name mero güero), my ancestors came from the Nordic countries, primarily Sweden. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve made a sincere effort to learn more about my ancestors who took the long trip from Sweden and immigrated to the US.
My great, great grandfather, Lars Magnus Olson, was born in Arvika, Sweden and raised between Arvika and Kristiansia (Oslo), Norway after he and his siblings were orphaned at a young age. In Kristiansia, Lars met missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), converted to the Mormon faith, and left his homeland in search of a better life in Zion (Utah). I learned that in making the trek West after reaching the US, the train at the time only ran from the East as far as Laramie, WY. This meant that to reach Salt Lake City, he had to walk the remaining distance. Thanks to Google Maps, this is what that looks like.
|141 hours of walking, ugh!|
In addition to learning more about my ancestors, I’ve done a lot to learn about Swedish customs and traditions. December tends to really be the only time of the year when these traditions make an appearance. One of my favorite things about Christmas has come to be Glögg. If you have an IKEA nearby, go pick up a bottle (or six) next December; it’s delicious and even smells like Christmas! Unfortunately, I have yet to attend a St. Lucia Day celebration on December 13, but I’m very much looking forward to doing it this next year. And if I should be so lucky to have daughters in the future, it would make me a very proud papa indeed to see them participate in the ceremony.
|“Front and center, sweetheart, front and center!” — Exclaimed a proud mero güero papa|
About three or four years ago I learned that SVT in Sweden was looking for American descendants of Swedish immigrants to bring them back to Sweden to compete in a reality game show called Allt för Sverige. The grand prize: a chance to meet their living Swedish relatives in person! Seeing this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I promptly filled out and sent in an application. Unfortunately, I was informed by the casting director, Sofia Eng, that casting for season one had ended and there was uncertainty about whether there would be another season. Slightly dismayed, I kindly asked Sofia to let me know if there would be another opportunity and she promised to keep my application on file.
Several months later, I received a phone call from Sofia: the first season was an award-winning, wild success, they were gearing up for the next season, and Sofia wanted me to be a part of it! We had a long conversation and she was preparing to book me a flight to LA to meet her in person. At the time, however, el mero güerito was on his way and I would have had to miss his birth to be in Sweden for the show. Sofia and I exchanged many emails about our views on family and agreed that it wasn’t the best time for me to join the show.
One year later, I received an email from Sofia encouraging me to go to LA to be cast in season 3 of Allt för Sverige. Unfortunately, I knew that I would have to pass up season 3 too, as I would be in Ireland finishing up my masters program during the time of shooting. Sofia was disappointed, but encouraging and promised to follow up with me in the future.
So why do I bring all of this up? Sofia has emailed me once more encouraging me to apply to be on the show and I’m conflicted. This time around, I, personally, have no real scheduling conflicts. Depending on how I perform in the competition, I could potentially be in Sweden for a total of 45 days. I would likely have to leave my family behind in order to be in Sweden for the shoot, though that’s not entirely certain. I’d also have to take an unpaid leave-of-absence from work. That being said, I know that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really get to know more about where I came from and grow closer to the land, culture, language, and people that my ancestors called home. So what do I do?