I went to Hamburg after I finished working at Lappis Restaurant in Stockholm. I stayed there for three months from October to the end of December. I was quite depressed by the winter weather there. It is very difficult to tell my friends what the Swedish winter is like if they haven't experienced living there in winter. It is uncomfortable, cold, lonely, dark and gray, gloomy and depressing. All those words are associated with the winter of the northern country. The days are short and getting shorter and shorter. It is light only a few hours a day. The daybreak is about 9 or 10 o'clock and the sun sets around 2. You are really lucky if you can see the sun shining in the sky. The skies are overcast every day, which makes you down. People can't afford to be cheerful, friendly and sociable. Even ice seems warmer than the feelings people get in winter. Sorry for those expressions. But this is what I tell people here about the winter back there.
At this time of the year, whenever I look back over the days I was in Stockholm, I always remember the Christmas I had there. It still lives vividly in my memory. I don't know how to put it. It was a cold, lonely but heartwarming Christmas. Still full of wonder. I understood how much Christmas means to Christian people and how much it changed the people.
As I mentioned that Stockholm winter was terrible and made you feel more dead than alive. So was the atmosphere of the kitchen in Lappis. The people I worked with there were all foreigners, poor foreigners. They left their home for some reason. I could see they were not happy in their homelands and now struggling to make a living.
It is hard to be a foreign labor in other countries. Living and working in foreign country and traveling to foreign places are two different things. If you travel to other countries for a short time, you may get a warm welcome. Most people you meet are nice and kind to you. But once you start living or working there, things are by no means easy. You don't get respected. You may feel a sense of outcast. The people in the kitchen were like that. They could never afford to be cheerful and friendly.
There were five people working on the night shift, including myself. One of the two cooks was a black American who was extremely quiet and rarely talked, except to ask me to bring dishes, to cut onions into slices. The other was Rubo, I still remember his name. He was middle aged, originated from Yugo-slavia taking his wife and a daughter. He was very temperamental. When he was in a good mood, he was humming and singing. But he took his spite out on us by shouting at us and throwing eggs at us when he was in a bad mood.
Then there was a young woman I didn't care for very much. She was from Romania. She came hard on us. She seems to look down on anyone who can not speak Swedish. As a cashier, being entitled to be in charge of the restaurant at night, she seemed to feel a need to act superior to others. So I kept her at a distance.
Of course we were not close. We just worked in the same place and bye-bye when the day's work was over. We never felt we were a team, never thought we would do one same thing together. We knew hardly anything about each other nor wanted we.
But a miracle occurred. On Christmas eve, we closed the restaurant rather early, about 10 o'clock. But strangely enough, no one left the work. I wondered why. As i was about to leave, I was stopped and told to stay by someone. I don't remember what went on. But when I realized, I found myself mingling among all the people, sitting around the corner of the kitchen and watching the people smiling warmly. That was the first time we had sat side by side, face to face. I even repeated after Dormitory, a Bulgarian man who said Christmas prayer. The air was filled with happiness, friendliness and made the place seem brighter and warmer.
We didn't have a Christmas dinner but Bulgarian nan's wife came over and joined us bringing some sweets. Everyone was smiling. Rubo's wife and kid joined, too. That was the first time I had seen them laugh together, even the young woman who was always sourpuss. I wondered what happened to us. The party was just like lonely people get together to celebrate Christmas. I guess they wanted to celebrate Christmas like everyone else. They needed someone to share the Christmas joy.
I still think it was a miracle that Christmas brought. It was the most impressive Christmas I have ever had in my life.
Then I quit there just before New Year's day and sailed from a port on the outskirts of Stockholm for Hamburg.
From Hiroshi Deguchi.
[Come to think of it, it was a blue, blue Christmas for Hiroshi then. But that little perk at the end, meeting as a group, with sweets as presents and nothing more, was a miracle! I can agree with that, considering... Andy.]
Images and article belong to Hiroshi Deguchi [copyrights reserved).
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This article isn't the first from Hiroshi. Read about his experience with Singapore pop and the Thunderbirds.