I haven’t been so good at updating at all. I’ve been on vacation, and before that I had been excited about the possibility of getting a job. The job didn’t turn out, but the vacation was quite nice.
I find myself constantly thinking about what it is I want to do with my life in Sweden. The workplace here seems like an exclusive VIP club that I keep trying to break into. The rejection is disappointing, and I end up feeling as if I don’t belong here anyway.
The vacation, however, gave me lots of inspiration to just simply UTILIZE THE DAMN LANGUAGE ALREADY. It also gave me three weeks of speaking nothing but English. The people that work in Cambodia and Thailand understand that knowing English or another tourist language (Italian, German, Chinese, etc) brings them money and a satisfaction of working. It was inspiring to be amongst those who work so hard to learn languages.
So I am signed up to take an intensive Swedish course in the fall. If I pass the test on Monday. After the course I can take some sort of internship class/work thing that can place me in what I want to do. Or I can completely change my career path and education focus.
It’s so easy to get a negative attitude about everything here. It’s stacked against me for some reason. However, it is exciting too! I can do whatever it is that I want! Graphic design, website design, gym instructor, professional dog walker. Anything!
I know it isn’t what I was expecting in the beginning, but maybe it is better? The amount of freedom is amazing.
Well I haven’t updated in a long time, mostly because I have been so busy! I was studying like mad for my last Swedish for Immigrants test and then I had the craziest of crazy things happen to me where I got called into an interview that I wasn’t expecting at all! Then there was Easter, having people over for dinner, an art tour, dog-walking, a bit of proofreading work, and starting up my serious running training again.
Wow. It’s been a blur. And I am not complaining one bit.
So, the results of the SFI test were that I received a C on the test and a B in the class. This feels pretty good. I know that my weakest area is speaking and the test confirmed it. I had perfect in both reading portions, I missed a couple in hearing, and received a B and a C on the essays. The talking portion I received a C and a D. My personal speaking topic was HARD. “How can one create a good working environment?” I mean, isn’t that on the verge of being a philosophical question? I suppose that means one can speak a long time about it. Luckily for me, it was only 4 minutes, and the judges asked questions so it was more of a conversation.
Onwards and forwards with that!
As for the interview, it is for an architecture firm in Malmö that is interested in advancing their capabilities in green building. The interview was a good conversation and I am looking forward to our next meeting where we will discuss things a bit more. Even though the interview was in English I was pretty nervous before it. Both the interviewers were quite nice and I soon felt at ease. We’ll see what happens! If it doesn’t work out I am signed up to continue Swedish classes.
Easter! So it was Easter a couple weeks back, and wow have I never been more relaxed about a holiday before. We had friends over the evening before, and the plan was to just get up whenever we felt like it on Easter Sunday. As Swedes are predominantly a secular culture— meaning they view religion as superstition— there was no worrying about going to church, looking pretty, spending money on a new Easter dress, or any of that MESS that I usually associate Easter with. It was, instead, completely relaxed and happy. I baked cinnamon rolls and made fruit bowls for us. We took a extremely lazy two hour walk around the neighborhood and through the park, taking in the nature and the quaint architecture.
We did spend part of the Easter weekend with Mats family going on Konstrunden or an art/gallery roadtrip of sorts. This year they decided to do the trip in Northwest Skåne, rather than in Osterlen, which is where the watercolor artists we love so much live. However, we were still able to see an AMAZING British ex-pat watercolorist by the name of Elizabeth Tyler. Check out her work— simply amazing stuff!
In the meantime Mats and I have been planning the details of our vacation. We’ve been saving for this and we’re extremely excited about it. We’re going to Thailand, Singapore and Cambodia! We’re only staying in Singapore during two extremely long lay-overs from Thailand to Cambodia but it will be enough to go outside and take in the city! I must admit I am overwhelmed by the idea of this vacation, but its going to be an experience. I am most excited by the idea of Singapore and the blending of cultures there (and the food!!!!), followed closely by Cambodia’s history and beautiful temples. I am not so excited about the touristy crazy parts of Thailand, but I know it is definitely part of the experience. Plus the beaches are BEAUTIFUL. Ah, it’s going to be lovely. And crazy. And awesome.
More updates to come soon. As for now I feel I am just taking the time to do things I haven’t had time for— like run, and do art, and just relax. It feels pretty amazing I have to say. Gotta take it when you have it.
Varför säger man “puss och kram” och inte “kram och puss”? Därför att det finns en söt liten fras “Puss och kram, vi ses på stan!”
I’ve been thinking more and more about the idea of where my family is from and why they decided to immigrate. Today I have been totally absorbed in reading history about the places where I believe my great great grandparents are from.
I’ve always know that their background was Russian, given that my dad grew up celebrating Russian Orthodox holidays and his grandmother baked them Paska Bread on Easter. The other thing that I knew is that they were chased out of Russia due to religious beliefs and they settled somewhere in the mountains. I have always heard that they lived in Czechoslovakia, so in that case it means they were most likely in Slovakia. While i was reading I also found out that a number of religious groups moved from Russia to Romania as well, which also has a vast area of mountains.
So I have been reading about Russian, Slovakian, Romanian, and Czech history this morning. Depending on where they settled, it could have been for any number of reasons. They could have been members of a cult(!) that was severely looked down upon in Russia (the group that settled in Romania), or they could have been part of the old Religion that differed slightly from Orthodox in values.
What seems to make sense is that yes, they settled in Slovakia owing to a belief in the older religion. They then were scared by the build-up of revolutions in all of the countries surrounding Slovakia, and decided to move since war was imminent. This makes sense since my great grandfather was born in 1906 in New York state.
What I am wondering now is how they felt about being Russian. Were they proud of their old country, were they ashamed of it, were they disappointed in it? Did they speak English with the Slovaks? Did they adopt the local language? Was Russian close enough so they didn’t have to switch at all? What would they think about my emigration to Sweden— especially since Sweden has always been at odds against Russia. Would they think that it is just a continuation of the pattern that they started? Did the pattern start only with them? Have we always moved around to where the grass seems greener or safer?
I am beginning to wonder how knowing snippets of their stories have impacted my life. Great grandfather spoke Russian and English and his wife that he met and married in the US spoke English and Gaelic. Is this why I don’t mind learning Swedish? Is it programmed in my heritage that one must learn another language— especially of the person you settle down with? It seems so. And it is also practical as well.
Im going to start doing some more research to find out exactly why they moved from Russia and from whereabouts. In the meantime, I started thinking about my last name (which is British in origin). I’ve always heard that it means “Where the deer play”. Now this definitely could be true, but if one looks at it from a Swedish and Old Norse perspective, it means ‘Deer Village’. Which makes me laugh, but I still like it :)
It was my friend’s birthday and to celebrate she wanted to go to Ribersborg Kallbadhuset in Malmö. What is a kallbadhuset you ask? A kallbadhuset is a bathhouse (badhuset) where one dives into the open water. Kall in Swedish means….yes you guessed it!….cold! After that one can warm back up again in the sauna.
I had sort of an idea of what to expect. Every summer Mats, his cousin, (and sometimes P-dareet) and I jump into the COLDASS lake in Värmland called Fryken. It’s always a shock, but its a shock that one can handle. Could I deal with jumping into the freezing cold ocean….in WINTER?
Also its pretty typical that people are naked when they do this. Why? Well, Swedish bathing culture revolves around the shower and the sauna, both of which people are usually naked during. The bathhouse is divided into the womens’ side and the mens’ side just so people are naked around their own gender, and therefore feel more comfortable. I never went to a highschool or middle school where it was okay to be completely naked in front of other people, but in college I got used to the gym locker rooms where it was typical for people to strut around. From going to the gym several times here by myself and with friends in Sweden I have become more comfortable with sauna-ing naked (and sauna-ing naked with people I know!), but at times it does strike me as strange. I just view it as a way to get to know people better or to trust each other a little more.
So the way the kallbadhuset works is that you shower off and then go to the sauna to warm up. After about 10-20 minutes you start to sweat and feel really hot. It almost sounds inviting to go dip in that freezing cold water. I took a long time to work up my nerve. Finally I looked over at my friend and said that I was ready. We took our towels and went outside. The dock was cold under my feet. We decided to go into the enclosed pool first rather than the open water. What that means is that there is a dock that surrounds the water and breaks the waves. The water in the pool is still saltwater. We left our towels up on the wooden benches, and looked towards the two staircases that descended into the pool. I said, “Ok, I’m ready for this!” and on we went. As I got closer to the water, I started freaking out. “Oh my god, I’m really doing this!” My foot hit the water and I kept going. I kept going until half my torso was covered in the water then I said “Enough! I have to go back!”
My friend laughed at me and said that it was okay and that she was proud of me of going in— but next time I had to go up to my neck in the open water! She said if I could stand it to just sit there a minute on the bench and feel the sensations. It was completely unreal. It felt like I could feel just underneath my skin, as if I could feel that it was only a barrier for the first time. The cold air on one side, the blood churning around on the other. It’s true that I never felt more alive in my life.
We went in, showered off, and saunaed in order to warm back up. The feeling of utter peace washed over me. The view towards Malmö and the ocean beyond felt soothing, lulling, and the colors of the sun reflecting the seawater against the rocks somehow matched the feeling of being in the warm sauna.
We ended up repeating the process of bathing in the ocean, washing, and saunaing for two hours more. It was a beautiful day, one that I will never forget.
What a fun (and busy!) week its been! I’ve been picking up the pace of my Swedish studies, staying a bit after school every day, working out a bit more, going to (FREE!) classes at the gym, working on the AWC website, and generally just motivating myself not to sit on the couch so much :)
My two friends in SFI invited me to the language cafe at Lund University’s language school. I had been before, but the first time I just didn’t know so much Swedish. This time it was really cool for me to see my progress. Now, I know I can’t speak very, very well, but it was nice to see how much I have learned in the three months since October.
The language cafe takes place in a large room where there’s tea, coffee and cookies available. There are about eight different tables and there’s a different language being spoken at each one. I spent about 45 minutes at the Swedish table. We talked about where we are from, what we are doing in Lund, what we studied during history in school, and different things like that. We also asked a very international (her parents and grandparents are from all over the world!) Swedish girl what exactly was the difference between things in the language.
The people at the Swedish table this time were mostly Finnish! It was quite fun to hear their accent and how it relates to places and dialects in Sweden. I asked the girl I was speaking with if she didn’t mind speaking Finnish just so I could hear it. I haven’t heard it so much! It’s very exotic sounding— I have no idea how to describe it. I know English speakers tend to think the words look and sound Japanese, but that’s about all I can say. Finnish’s closest relative is Hungarian.
After awhile I got really tired and my Swedish just wasn’t working anymore, so I decided to “give back a little” and go to the English table to help with people’s English. There were quite a few students who spoke French as their first language so it was fun to speak with them, as well as the couple of native English speakers too. Sometimes it feels so good just to be yourself and say “shit” and “damn” as substitutes for “stuff” and “thing I don’t like so much”, respectively. Good thing the guy I was speaking with was Irish and did precisely the same thing.
Usually it is when I am trying too hard that I fall on my face when trying to be graceful.
There isn’t a way to remove it.
But I can learn from it.
Sorry my friend. I didn’t mean to hurt your pride or your feelings. I was trying to save them.
The past week and a half I have been really interested in soups. They are so easy to make, nutritious, warm to eat, and one can use whatever is in the cupboard for ingredients.
My favorite eccentric soup was one that I call “Kiwi Salsa”.
-1 shaved parsnip
-1 shaved carrot
-1 shaved potato
-Spicy Tomato salsa
-1 1/2 cups water
Bring to boil and let simmer for 25 minutes. Add sea salt and crunchy noodles on top if desired.
Something about the spice of the salsa + the kiwis lets me imagine I am in a warmer place :) A perfect way to stave off winter colds!
For me, my vintermörkret (winter darkness) horror story happened during the mellandagar (in between days of Christmas and New Year). Each year vintermörkret affects quite a few people. People may know of it as related to seasonal affective disorder, where the lack of daylight and the cold weather just sort of zap your personality.
I just wasn’t myself. Forget grumpy, I almost couldn’t get out of bed. I think the stress of school, organizing a party, stepping into a new position as a teaching assistant/organizer at SFI, having my first Christmas away from my family and in another language just totally got to me. Instead of feeling relaxed and happy, I kept thinking of all the things that weren’t familiar or right or comfortable. I have no idea if it was really the darkness and the cold, but I am sure that it added to it. It sucked. I thought all of Sweden was against me, urging me to pack it up and head on back to the USA.
Somehow a switch flipped in my head though. Through talking with Mats, my parents, and opening up a bit with my new friends here, and hearing from friends and family across the pond, I was able to see that I wasn’t alone, that it is completely normal to feel sad around the holidays if it is your first time away from home, that communication is the best tool we humans have in order to stave off all the darkness that comes. Vintermörkret, you are a part of life— not just a part of life in Sweden. It happens to all of us.
I’m happy to say that the switch has stayed in the on position for awhile now! Some things that I have noticed help me are:
1) making a to-do list every night before I go to sleep (this has simply done wonders for my stress level),
2) exercising every other day,
3) taking a moment each night to reflect upon happy things that have happened each day (no matter how small),
4) noticing when I truly want to try/do/say something and then doing it rather than remaining shy or quiet,
5) remembering to take it easy,
6) and most importantly not beating myself up for things.
I’ve also made a plan of action to make sure that I have little happy things to look forward to each week. One thing was fika with a friend, another is a meeting I have in Helsingborg, one more is that I am walking a super friendly dog this week, another was skyping with my dad for his birthday. Another thing is visualizing what I want the favorite memories of 2013 to be! Anything from eating more yogurt to passing that darn Swedish test, to perhaps having my family come visit this summer :)
I want to emphasize that I had a really good Christmas, and it was extremely homey feeling— it contained some of my most favorite memories with Mats’ family thus far. The mellandagar, however, were totally another story :-p
Me kissing julbocken (the Christmas goat) on Christmas morning!
Julbordet (the Christmas buffet!) Simply delicious and like Thanksgiving and Christmas slammed together into one meal. We had a fun trip up to where the mother of Mats’ stepfather used to work in northwest Skåne in order to sample this delicious feast.
Today I went to a meeting of the Sweden Green Building Council. At first I spoke only English, but then as I warmed up to people I tried both. First I would greet people in Swedish, chat a few minutes, and then I would ask to switch to English. The meeting itself was all in Swedish. I knew this going in, and thought, well, I’ll just go and hang out in the back and listen. It’ll be good practice.
Since there were only about 15 of us, there was no hanging out in the back. I had to introduce myself (på svenska), and explain my relationship to SGBC. It worked out, but I think that what I said was a little Swengelska. It’s ok, I got myself understood, and I was proud of myself of dealing with that small, surprising bit.
The most intimidating part is that the meeting took an extreme dive into Swedish culture. I had forgotten that Swedes love to discuss things. So, we were given a question and told to divide into groups to discuss and then we were to present to the group again. Oy.
So I went to my little group and talked a bit with a guy that studied at LTH with sustainable urban design. Pretty cool. I listened to the others talk for awhile. I sort of understood what was being said, but nothing like these others did. It’s so hard being the foreigner. I remember what it was like being on the other side. The foreigner would talk a little about something they knew about, but it was like, a bit off-topic and everyone would grow quiet and a little awkward silence would take over. Sigh.
Yep. That was me today.
Dude, it can be so hard. But I think it was good for me in the long run. It’s so good to try being it these difficult situations, to learn the Swedish words for things, and to try speaking Swedish with people even if it isn’t so good.
At the end of the meeting I asked one of the presenters for a copy of his presentation and told him I enjoyed it very much. He was a really good speaker, entertaining and lively. It’s funny how things like that can make it that much better— even if you can’t understand everything.
One day I’ll look back on this and be able to tell some people about it with a laugh in my voice. I almost already can, but it is still a bit fresh. Of course I would like to be better able to discuss things with others and to learn from them. It’ll get there— slowly but surely. :)
hållbar = sustainable
oppenhet = opennes
tillgånglighet = accessibility
kontinuitet = continuity
påverken = the impact (from)
boendegrupp = living group (such as DINKs, singles, etc)