"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all persons are created normal and equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and Fika."So even though I hosted a fika just a couple weeks ago, I thought I would do one again for the Fourth of July, in recognition of the fact that I have never in my life gone to work on this day of the year. But what's a typical American thing to have on the 4th that I can get here and that goes with fika? Ice cream was the best I could come up with. I didn't think it would work so well to bring ice cream on the bus, but graduate student Z. had volunteered to bike to the corner grocery and buy it for me during the day. She also picked up a box of blueberries (frozen—they're not in season yet of course) and I had brought in a half kilo of fresh strawberries to cut up and put over the ice cream. See the clever red-white-and-blue color scheme?
Before she left, I had carefully counted the number of people at morning fika; there were only about 12. It's July, and many people have gone on vacation already, some of whom I did not expect to see again for weeks or even until August. So we decided that 2 liters of ice cream was probably more than enough, but to be on the safe side we got 3. Here is the email I sent out to my department:
From: [me]So, with that email going out before noon, how many people do you think turned up for afternoon fika?
Date: July 4, 2008 11:17:00 AM GMT+02:00
Subject: MOLEVO: ice cream
Today is the 4th of July, American independence day. Therefore the theme for afternoon fika is red, white and blue, in the form of vanilla ice cream, strawberries, and blueberries. Hope to see you at 3pm!
Department of Molecular Evolution
018 471 6402
Thanks to [Z.], for doing the necessary legwork.
The answer is 28 people, including three who are officially on vacation, two more who are no longer technically affiliated with the department (but very welcome of course), a spouse or two, and a grand total of five children, ranging in age from about a week (postdoc V.P.'s latest addition to her family) to 8 years (grad student P.'s oldest of two boys).
As I have noted before, I have never seen a Swede turn down a sweet treat. Fortunately however they do tend to moderation in this regard, and there was even some ice cream left over. The berries however were completely cleaned out. My office mate S. came down a little late, and had to make do with the very last drippings from the berry bowls to achieve the requisite color scheme. (P. apologized quite unnecessarily for her boys, who didn't seem to understand that the berries were supposed to be ice cream toppings and not an end in themselves; I just laughed and said how cool I thought it was for two little boys to go for the berries more than ice cream. As a berry hound myself, I completely understand! Her youngest boy, N., is a real handful; at an age somewhere between 2 and 3, when he was introduced to me, he looked me in the eye, then calmly and deftly stole my building key right off my pocket. P. was as mortified as I've seen a parent get here... which is not all that much, really.)
It was really nice to have so many people turn out—I really wish I had taken my camera, because the little kids covered in berry juice were cute of course, and watching various parents taking turns chasing them down is always entertaining. Grad student B. asked (perhaps somewhat sarcastically) whether I wasn't supposed to blow something up today, and I said yes, absolutely, is there some gunpowder around here? Where can I get some? I think my eagerness took him aback somewhat. There was some discussion of whether we should sing something, but there was no way that I was going to sing the national anthem in front of all these musically talented people, and of course no one else knows the words, so I managed to dodge that bullet. I had a meeting with my advisor and work group at 4, so we all had to leave at that point, but S. and postdoc E. and his wife cleaned up for me, which was much appreciated.
B. had a point, of course—I terribly miss setting off and watching the pretty boomy things. But still, fika felt enough like a mini-Fourth of July picnic, and that together with tonight's dinner of potato salad and hamburgers, I feel as if I've honored Independence Day pretty well.