Fika (Swedish pronunciation: [²fiːka]) is a concept in Swedish culture with the basic meaning “to have coffee”, often accompanied with pastries, cookies or pie
One of my favourite things about staying at my aunt and uncles was that at 11am for coffee and cake. What a wonderful way to live. Their home was always the height of sophistication, I felt like the conversation was so cultured and the coffee and cake…well my aunt’s ability to cook up swedish delights in next to no time was amazing.
But mostly I loved it because everyone stopped and talked, about the news, about what we were thinking about or experiencing. I felt like my contribution was not only welcomed but expected and valued, as teenager and young adult it was so helpful.
In the last few weeks I have been thinking about applying for a few jobs within the development sector (FYI I am going to apply) and I would really value some Fika time to process thoughts. Fika that didn’t include my incredibly wonderful, but equally active 11 month old.
So without the cake or coffee, or my wonderful aunt and uncle by my side, but instead Faith asleep on the bed next to me (a ticking time bomb…) and Adam Buxton podcast playing in the background (its bloomin brilliant btw) I will try and chat about my current situation.
I have realised that I, and actually ‘we’ because I think part of the problem is shared with my husband, have grown apathetic and distant from caring about others. Well that is not exactly true, we care about those in our immediate vicinity-those we see in front of us, or are in constant contact. But when Mike and I first met, we both were very involved with international charities/social justice issues-probably annoyingly so. In fact definitely annoyingly so on my part, I lectured my family on FairTrade and spent a lot of time judging other people’s choices to buy cheap clothes, Coca Cola and Nestle.
But also there were some aspects of less annoying care…like we thought really hard about how we could still source ethical food and be hospitable on a budget. We wanted to be generous and lavish with things we thought helped others too.
But after a while standards slipped, during work my addiction to Diet Coke crept back in, and my desire to just have a new outfit meant that I started purchasing at shops I knew were not very ethical, and rather than try and find balance…I just avoided any social justice issues.
I avoided TV shows that made me feel guilty, and stopped going to events that would prick at my conscience. And then I had Faith, and still I avoided things…sometimes for the good of others…there was only so much wailing Mike could cope with whilst I watched Comic Relief 2 weeks after having her. So I stuck with shows that made me laugh and smile and not cry, and that was how I came to be watching and loving Love Island.
As I tried to process a bit those scary early moments she was born, there was one thing that really helped me. I had twinned my pregnancy with a girl in Malawi, I saw it online when I was 10 days overdue and thought why not. When the dust started to settle after our slightly overwhelming start, I received an email saying that the teenage girl I supported had just had a little girl too, and a healthcare nurse had gone to visit her, and was regularly checking in and both were doing fine.
I was so reassured by the simple fact, that this girl had not been left on her own. Just hearing that she was doing ok, reminded me of how supported I felt and that I was not on my own.
I have come to realise that for me, and maybe all of us, that facing injustice and standing with those who struggle doesn’t have to overwhelm you, it can affirm you, bring you life.
I think in my mind, I had stayed away from it all thinking I can’t cope with anyone else’s pain or grief, not thinking that maybe in joining together we could all be helped.
I am aware this sounds a bit selfish, that I am only willing to help others because it helps me..and maybe that is my starting point at times, but it isn’t my whole journey.
And actually maybe it addresses the power imbalance a bit…maybe for too often we think of any social justice about ‘us’ helping ‘them’…maybe it is more about everyone helping everyone??
So this is my Fika thoughts today…also I love Adam Buxton, he is a very funny man.