I then decided to travel to Sweden.
Was it because of the Abba? Because of Roxette? Because of the Ace of Base? Because of IKEA? No, I went to Malmö because I possibly needed a friendly remainder of how fortunate it is to have been an immigrant. So, Sweden here I come! Not by plane, not by boat. I jumped onto a jam-packed train in Copenhagen and made my way to my seat pushing through bicycles, roller blades, huge suitcases, cheese from IKEA, and many many people. Sitting beside me, there was Her – my first adventure: tall (obviously), blonde (obviously), hot as a Greek goddess (obviously), wearing a pair of trekking boots that looked so heavy that Hercules would have thought twice before lifting them (less obvious).
She looks at me, and asks two things: “Are you Swedish?” (are you kidding me?), and “Are you from Bosnia?” (are you bananas?). I start laughing and reply that, although a piece of my heart lays in Bosnia, I am neither of them. It looks for a moment like she is not listening to my words, and goes on stating: “Very well, so now be prepared”. I do not even have time to think what I should be ready for, that the train disappears underground to resurface onto one of the most hazardous architectural experiments I could witness up to now during my travels, i.e. the Øresund bridge which links Sweden and Denmark.
It is the longest steel jump of this kind in Europe. If you look down, and for a minute you try to forget about the rattling rails, it feels like you are flying over the water while two great cultures come closer, and touch each other. Like Erri de Luca:
I love bridges, above all those where no passports are requested and you can become a simple Human Being, flagless, without a capital city and without that mortar that religion is.
Malmö’s motto is “Mångfald, Möten, Möjligheter”, which means “Diversity, meeting, possibilities”. When you get off the train, you under stand straigh away that statistics are not always empty numbers. Here they mirror the real picture, as they say that 30% of Malmö’s inhabitants either were born somewhere else outside Sweden, or their parents hail from far away shores. Some come from Irak, some from my beloved Bosnia, some from Lebanon, some from Denmark, and Turkey.
My first night in Malmö ends at an Indian restaurant table where I come to meet my Second Adventure – Him, the Swedish guy, and Her the Finnish Lady. We do not bother about formal introductions, nor do we care about our jobs. The three of us share something a bit more unique: we have been immigrants. We lived other lives under different colours, we ate food whose perfume was so much different from the one our parents taught us. Him & Her spent nearly fifteen years in the Middle East, and I spent nearly 8 in my Hibernia. While we dip the naan into a lovely raita, it feels like we have known each other for years. We speak about the roads that we walked upon for years and have led us to get here to this Swedish square, and will lead us to lose each other again, now, soon. They speak about the Bedouins’ faces, and the screams of those little kids playing football in front of their door in Oman.
I tell them how simple it was to buy il latte and call it milk, and how immediate it is now to thank someone by saying tak. If one hand, meeting the other gives us the opportunity to be more spontaneous and lighter, on the other it provides us with a greater chance, which is the possibility to look into their eyes and find ourselves. At nighttime, we are all tired and want to go to bed; we drink a glass of water if we are thirsty; we cry when someone we loved dies. Statistics also inform me that there are some 170 ethnic groups living in Malmö.
All those flags are happy when they fall in love, and love to have fun at parties, they all wash their clothes, or pour themselves a cup of coffee or tea. We are all the same at the end of our day. Malmö reminded me of what it means to be an immigrant, a traveler, an “alien” as some ignorant governments would refer to me as, a public enemy in the eyes of those that do not understand what a chance bridges can be.
Malmö, with its incredible architecture, filled with dragoons, owls and monkeys, reminded me that sometimes we need to be grateful for the life we built for ourselves: mine has always been multiple, never one, never led by a unifying language, never guided by the same sky. My path so far has been beaconed by real or metaphorical exploration, on a plane, or in front of a bowl of bindi bhaji, on a Swedish square, half an hour away from Denmark, in a shaky Europe that, no matter what it took, has presented us with an infinite mental openness.