The Swedish ‘labolo’ trip

I have to say: it was bloody hilarious having mom and dad in Sweden to meet the in-laws.

Mom arrived totally prepared for the sub-ten degree weather in open-toed high-heels and a flimsy, summer blouse. And dad? Well, he put his foot in it from night one when he proudly announced that South Africa owned parts of IKEA. My in-laws nearly choked on their köttbulle and lingonberry sauce. Dad may well have suggested to the Voortrekkers that Swedes invented biltong.

Dad put his foot in it from night one when he announced that South Africa owned parts of IKEA

Night two was Arvid’s 30th: a full-on, sailor’s dress-up party. Already — I had been reminded by Arvid that older generation Swedes “don’t do dress-up parties” and now my poor folks were meeting the WHOLE family of uncomfortably, dressed-up Ljungbergs with dad wearing dreadlocks and mom in a Pirate hooker’s hat. I still have images of my pirate parents shaking hands with uncle Per in a fender-suit, while my Kiwi brother-in-law pranced about in his Mitch Buchannon Baywatch outfit and red rescue can. It was all very, very entertaining.

My two dads together: causing mischief and discussing 'labolo'
My two dads together: causing mischief and discussing ‘labolo’

And just to add to the chaos of the night, the Ljungberg family had been doing some behind-the-scenes guesswork that there might be a surprise Swedish-African wedding (or pregnancy) on the cards – why else would there be an unannounced arrival of these two, foreign Africans to a town of 1,100 people in Sweden?

And then, after a good schnapps or two, dad suddenly took to speaking Swedish (or a language in that vicinity). He began labelling it the “labolo trip” and taking every opportunity to explain to my Swedish-speaking in-laws what ‘labolo’ means back in deepest, darkest Africa, and that each head of cattle is worth seven-thousand Rand, and did you know our gardener, Leonard, got eight cattle for his daughter, Cinthia?

“We’ll give you ten elks and one reindeer for her. Finished and klaar.”

It was a matter of time before my festive father-in-law turned to my dad and said, “Look here Eelco. We’ll give you ten elks and one reindeer for her. Finished and klaar.”

By night four, we’d moved mom and dad into a rather cosy little guest house, with no hot water, no toilet paper and moose antlers hanging off the walls. Mom was already starting to complain that she hadn’t spent this much with dad since the day they married.

At this point, dad was taking full advantage of his first Eurotrip in over ten years by regularly disappearing on a bike with a bell and a basket; each time returning with boy-like excitement in his eyes:” I can’t believe how many wind turbines there are around here!” “I can’t believe it gets dark at 3pm!” “People don’t lock up their bikes at night!”

Dad hanging out in Sweden
Dad hanging out in a rather cosy little guesthouse in Sweden

“Really Binks,” came my mom’s voice of reason, “I knew from the day you were born that you were destined to do things differently.” Of course – before their only African child had met her Viking match – mom and dad had kept Scandinavia quite far away from their aging bucket-list and then schucks! There they were in the thick of the Skåne countryside, drinking grögg and eating caviar. One can understand the shock of it all.

By day six – the families were best of friends. My father-in-law took it upon himself to celebrate this fact with a trip to Falsterbo bird station. (Our friends back home will tell you how much dad loves birds and how much mom absolutely hates them). Mom – who had now ditched the open-toed high heels for her shocking-pink takkies and my dad-in-law’s luminous, foul weather gear – looked just the part for bird-watching in dull Sweden. We spotted the odd Robin and a brood of Swedish chickens. Great.

Mom in perfect bird-watching gear
Mom in perfect bird-watching gear

All-in-all a successful, fun and special trip, with special thanks to our Swedish family for their love and hospitality and a massive hug to my wonderful parents — The Twits — for braving Scandinavia and dressing like pirates.

Let’s do it all again in Africa!