Kalles, Kalled, Khaled Kaviar

(C wikipedia)

By: Khaled Alesmael
Nice to meet you Kalles!

I met Kalles inside the supermarket for the first time. It was, precisely, on the day before I applied for asylum at the migration office – June 2014 in Malmö.
Let me briefly tell you what happened on that day; “I am looking for cheese to buy for Sweden is well known for cheese. Kalles is a blue-eyed blond boy dressed in white. It starts with eye contact followed by a smile that shows his healthy white teeth. I greet him as it is cheese! But I am not sure!”.
A voice comes from behind: “It is not cheese!” points out Kalles: “This is typical Swedish food. You will never find it except on the food tables at the Swedes’”. That man can read my mind! He is a man in his thirties. He still looks like Kalles after twenty years from now. He grabs Kalles from the shelf and tosses it in his shopping basket. I feel sorry for Kalles; he still looks at me from the top of the basket and smile until the man goes behind the shelves. Kalles has just disappeared.
Poor Kalles! He wanted to talk to me and integrate, but the man took him away in no time. Anyways “Nice to meet you Kalles” I said to myself.
Kalles is everywhere!

During my first nine months in Småland; I met Kalles very often in the supermarkets, on the bus between Åseda and vaxjo, at the migration office and everywhere. He had never been on my food table or even talked though.

After I got my residence permit, I moved to Gothenburg in April 2015. As a journalist, I was looking for a bigger city to work and integrate. My first contact was with the freelance journalist’s office. I dropped my telephone in my coffee after he called me. What a coincidence?! his name was Kalle!! “Finally, I would get the opportunity to talk to Kalle and learn about him.”

The journalist Kalle was a kind and welcoming person, and he looked like Kalles in the forties. He invited me to have a fika with his colleagues at his office.
Eventually, we met. I introduced myself by my Arabic name Khaled. Immediately, we were engaged in a discussion about the pronunciation of the initial letters (K &H) and how it should sound.

In the end, they all thought that my name could be Kalle too. I smiled and turned sarcastic: “Oh! With my dark and thick beard?! How it could be?!”. Before I left the free-lance journalist’s office, Kalle invited me to give a lecture about The Syrian Journalism at the folkhuset in September 2015. By then, I had only three Swedish friends, and they liked to call me Kalle, and I enjoyed it.
Is My Name Kalles?!
In September 2015, I started working for SVT as a journalist. I was sure that I would start working in the most prestigious investigative programs in Sweden and the Nordic countries ” Am I lucky?!”.

On my first working day, I wear my favorite blue shirt and grey vest. I was excited to go to my first meeting. At the conference room, I closed my eyes and remembered the blue tube of Kalles to get inspired by him, then with my little Swedish I introduced myself: “Jag heter Kalled.” I wanted my name to sound very familiar. No more K+H crisis!

I was not sure whether I succeeded or anyone cared. Guess what happened?! The name Kalle was mentioned over and over and over during the meeting. Each time I heard the name Kalle I thought that they were calling me or talking to me. As my new job was a great incident for Uppdrag Granskning!!! Until I knew that they were talking about another Kalle. He was working for UG years ago, even before the war started in Syria.
Very Close to Kalles!
In March 2016, I did it. I was the cover boy of the well-known Swedish magazine JOURNALISTEN as a newcomer got a job for Uppdrag Granskning. During that month, I was in the main cultural news in Göteborg Posten with two big posters. I became famous.
All my friends felt proud of me. My success story went viral.
One March evening, I was sitting on my sofa. My mobile phone was on the table between chips bag and beer, and suddenly, a message lighted its screen. I grabbed it and opened the message. A photo of the blue tube Kalles popped up in my face. He was smiling at me showing his white teeth. I felt shocked! I have almost forgotten about Kalles. The photo took me back to my first day in Sweden.

The caption of the photo said: “One day you will be famous in Sweden like Kalles and they may write your name Kalled instead.”
Good to Eat You Kalles!

Kalles is something special in my life. It is the first face I saw in Sweden. So far, it has been three years for me in Sweden, but I have never had the chance to taste it. Such a shame!
Do you remember that man I met at the supermarket-who kidnapped Kalles- in Malmö? Was he right when he said to me that Kalles is only for Swedes?
I rushed into the supermarket, excited like an adventurer. I grabbed the red shopping basket and walked towards Kalles’ shelves. I smiled at it like how it always did, and carefully carried the blue tube and gently put it in the basket. Kalles is at my house, in my fridge, on my food table, in my mouth, in my stomach and finally in my blood. Have I become Swedes?

Khaled Alesmael

It’s translated and published in Swedish in Artikel 14 Sept 2017

Published by Khaled Alesmael

KHALED ALESMAEL is a multi-awarded journalist, author and sometimes filmmakers. He worked in Syria and the Middle-East for more than fifteen years, was the correspondent for Radio France International/ Arabic from Damascus and the media officer for the risk reduction project/ UNDP Damascus. In 2012, he escaped the war and continued his career in the media in Egypt and Turkey. He apply for asylum in Sweden in 2014 and he got it and became a Swedish citizen in 2018. His works have appeared in the prestigious investigative programs Investigative Mission/ SVT and Conflict Program/ Swedish Radio, and he has been writing for several newspapers and magazines like Ottar in Stockholm and Newstatesman magazine in London. He has also worked for the daily German newspaper taz.de as a visiting journalist through the International Journalist Program. He became a Swedish citizen in 2018, and he lives in London now. Selamlik is his debut novel; it came out in August 2018. It has got considerable attention in the Swedish media and positively reviewed: "Selamlik is a prospective classic, a low-key melancholy, and grand book." - Dagens Nyheter “He reminds me of Jean Genet, as brutal as helplessly romantic”. The legendary Swedish gay writer Jonas Gardell for Expressen. “A magnificent account of the Syrian disaster" Sydsvenskan. "Selamlik glances at gates to other worlds" JP. "Khaled Asmael's debut novel about a man's escape from the Damascus gay scene to a refugee center in Europe glides imperceptibly between fantasy, nightmare, and reality" Göteborg Posten.

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