After finishing three years of studying language and linguistics, followed by a labor-intensive summer of replacing tiles on rooftops, JOHANNA ELISABET ÅHLBERG began to dream of a new future working with electricity.
When she was younger, she fell in love with the band INXS after listening to one of her father’s old CDs. Now she religiously knows the band’s entire catalog and can’t pick a favorite. Here’s a quick few minutes with Johanna.
SO YOU WANT TO BE AN ELECTRICIAN?
TELL ME ABOUT THAT.
Well, when I was young, when we had physics class, we did some kind of experiment with light bulbs. And we would make them light up… shine. And then we had a lot of things that we had to experiment with so that we could do it (on our own). I thought that was really, really fun, but I didn’t think of it as something to work with.
But later on, I saw more and more people working with electricity and I thought maybe…
DO YOU WANT TO DO THE WIRES INSIDE PEOPLE’S HOUSES OR…
NOT CLIMBING UP ON POLES?
No, no, no. No way. I’m afraid of heights. So that’s maybe not a good idea. [laughter]
WHERE IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE EVER BEEN FROM HOME?
YEAH? I GUESS IT WAS BEFORE ALL THE EXCITEMENT THERE?
Yes, it was 2006, so… But it was really cool.
BUT IT SEEMS LIKE IT’S A DIFFERENT PLACE NOW.
Yeah. I was on an all-inclusive trip. So we were at a really nice hotel and it was like blue sky, blue ocean, white sands…
DID YOU GO SEE THE PYRAMIDS AND ALL THAT STUFF?
No, we were in Hurghada. It was several hours from Cairo, I think. But we did go on a boat trip and we snorkeled. That was really cool. First we did some snorkeling near the hotel and you could stand up in the water. So it was not that exciting… [laughter]
NOT SO DANGEROUS!
You did your ten lengths and the you’re… “Hmmm, what to do now?” [laughter] So then we went out to the real ocean and we could… It was like, “Be back in one hour.” Then we’d go to the next place and you could explore.
IS THE WATER VERY CLEAR?
It’s pure. It looks like drinking water, but it’s very salty. So it wasn’t that nice to get in your eyes when the cyclops mask pops off! [laughter]
HAVE YOU EVER BROKEN ANY BONES OR HAD AN X-RAY MADE?
Uh, no, I haven’t broken anything, but I did have an X-ray on my foot. Because my bone turned out too “whoop!” [making a scooping gesture]. It grew a little bit crazy. [laughter] So they did an X-ray and then an operation so they could cut off some of the bone.
HOW DID THAT FEEL? [laughs] OR WERE YOU ASLEEP?
Well, I couldn’t sleep the day before! [laughs] But it was a very small operation. I think 25 or 30 minutes. Something like that.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT SWEDISH NAME DAYS ARE? HOW DOES THAT WORK?
[laughs] I have no idea! [laughter] I guess it’s some kind of thing just to get an extra present. [laughter] That’s what my friends said when we were younger. Like, “My name is Linda, and it’s Linda’s Day today, so I’m getting a present!” [laughter]
SO YOU DON’T KNOW IF IT’S… I MEAN, I PRESUME IT’S SOME KIND OF OLD TRADITION.
Yeah, maybe. But they changed the names. Just because… now nobody is born with these names, so we’ll use these instead. So I have no idea what it is for! [laughter]
ARE YOU GOOD AT WALKING UP TO PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW AND ASKING THEM QUESTIONS?
Sometimes. I think I wouldn’t go up to somebody and say, ”My battery is out. Can I use your phone?” because some people think that it’s too private. But asking for the way to somewhere, that’s no problem. Better that, then to go around for four hours lost. [laughter]
SOMEBODY IN CHICAGO ASKED ME ONCE IF THEY COULD USE MY PHONE.
AND MY IPHONE IS LIKE MY FAVORITE THING IN THE WORLD… [laughter] I KNEW HE WAS IN SOME KIND OF TROUBLE AND NEEDED TO USE A PHONE, BUT I DIDN’T KNOW HIM, SO I WAS LIKE, ”OKAY, BUT I’LL HOLD IT WHILE YOU TALK.” [laughter]
Yeah, I would probably do that. [laughs]
I FELT WEIRD. I WANT TO TRUST PEOPLE BUT, I WAS JUST HOLDING IT UP TO HIS EAR AND…