Friday, December 23, 2011


As you all know, J and I have been in the States since the 11th. We've been so busy running around I honestly have not had time to post. Since I have a short window this morning I decided I'd quickly keep you all up to date on our happenings.

We arrived in Ohio on the 11th, no problems with the 3 flights it always takes between home #1 and home #2. I got some sort of stomach bug that I think I picked up in Canada because I was sick for the first day and a half but it was nothing a little Pepto Bismol couldn't fix. We set off right away towards shopping and meeting up with friends, family, etc. On Thursday evening we were able to go downtown to the Ohio Theatre to see The Nutcracker, a ballet to the tune of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. My grandma used to take my brother and I there just about every year when we were young. I wanted J to experience it. There were definitely changes to the ballet, like they do every year, but it was quite enjoyable.

This past Sunday we took a mini trip to Chicago and arrived back to Columbus then on Wednesday. I had to go to Chicago for a day for my interview in order to receive my residence permit for Sweden, but I didn't get to spend any actual time in the city. It was literally fly there, go to the interview downtown, and then take the L back to Midway and fly back to Columbus. This time, however, J and I stayed right downtown on Michigan Ave. at the Hard Rock Hotel. We had a splendid view.

We visited the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, the Skydeck at Willis (Sears) Tower, and the Hancock Center's Observatory (our favorite view of the city, although it's shorter than Willis Tower). We also just strolled along a lot of downtown and also attempted to shop, which proved to be a failure as there were crowds and the prices were absolutely outrageous ($170 for a pair of Levi jeans?? Please!)

J's feet - this is the Willis Tower Skydeck where they have glass boxes you can step out onto and look down about 1500ft to the ground!

This is the view of the city from the Hancock Center at night, too bad the glass reflected the lights from inside. Still a beautiful view, though.

Chicago decorates the streets wonderfully for the holidays!

Panorama from the Shedd Aquarium/Field Museum area of the city.

View of some buildings from our hotel window. I love the tall rounded one. Sadly I don't know the name of that building.

One thing I did think was cool was how all of the buildings had names. I'm not sure if that's how it is here in Columbus, but it was neat to see!

We've been back and shopping and meeting up with friends and family again. This trip, as expected, is flying by. Before we know it we'll be back and celebrating New Year's with friends in Sweden.

It's wonderful to be back with family and friends for this time of year. Happy Holidays to everyone!

Monday, December 5, 2011


The first snow of the year has come to Skövde! It's wonderful and enchanting! I was just outside on the balcony watching an old BMW run skidding and spinning (purposefully) on a quiet long, straight side street right outside our apartment.

How I'm going to miss our lovely views from this apartment. I really enjoyed the sunset view outside of our kitchen window earlier this afternoon.

But hooray for snow! It's so much more cheery and enchanting here with it. It also makes it feel so much more like December and Christmastime. I hope it's here to stay!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December already?

Is it really December already? Where did this year go?? I think the fact that tonight was the first time this fall/winter the roads actually iced over and were somewhat dangerous goes to show how I haven't really noticed how late into the year it is! Last year at this time we were buried in snow!

As it's getting late and J and I are extremely exhausted, this post won't be too long at all. I did indeed end up making another miniature version of Thanksgiving dinner for J and I last Sunday. It was tasty, and I made yet another pumpkin pie. This time it lasted all week between the two of us ;-)

What a weekend! Yesterday we didn't do too incredibly much. I went shopping with a friend from SFI and bought some new winter boots since my old ones from last year have actually been letting in rain water (oh Skopunkten, your shoes are cheap and comfortable but not the best quality!). In the evening J and I went to the same friend's house for some tacos/taco pie heaven, as well as to socialize with some more old SFI pals. We ended the night somewhat early, coming home at 10:30.

Why would we end a night with good friends at 10:30? Well, this morning we had to get up at 7:30 in order to get ready and drive to Gothenburg to meet up with a landlord and J's cousin to see J's cousin's apartment. He and his girlfriend are moving in together, and thus J's cousin's apartment is opening up at the end of February. It's definitely a downsize from our 3:a (2 bedroom), only a 2 rum o kök (or 1 bedroom apartment). Our apartment now is around 73 sq. meters, and this one in Gothenburg is 50 sq. meters. To make a long story short, we are moving to Gothenburg in the end of February! Hooray! It's so great to chance upon a first hand contract in Gothenburg. It's a very tough housing market there! On one hand I'm sad to be leaving my friends I have here in Skövde and the life I've been building. But on the other hand I'm excited for the opportunities in Gothenburg, not to mention the buzzing life of a city!

We came back into town by 2:30, and the day didn't stop there. We went shopping for some suitcases, a new printer, and then some dinner with J's parents. Then it was time to grocery shop as we were in desperate need of food for the week. We leave to Gothenburg again on Saturday, only to fly out from Landvetter very, very early Sunday morning to the US! I can't wait for this week to be over. It will be wonderful to be home again!

So I guess life is exciting and looking upward here in Sweden. I would love for some snow to be on the ground when J and I return from the US in a couple of weeks! =)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Many American holidays have almost no meaning to us Americans other than a free day from school and/or work. Thanksgiving, however, is not one of those holidays! Last year J and I celebrated Thanksgiving by means of me preparing the meal and then inviting two of our Swedish friends over to enjoy it with us, then out to a Soundtrack of Our Lives concert. Some of you who may have been following me since day one may remember a post about that.

This year I decided to up the number of partakers from 4 to 6! Big increase, I know. J and I decided it would be nice to be able to share Thanksgiving with his family this year instead of with friends (if we had chosen friends, then how many guests would we have had? The number could have easily gotten high, and that would be too stressful for me!). So this past Friday and Saturday were big cooking days for me. On Friday I came home from school and baked my first ever pumpkin pie (used my mom's recipe :-) ) and it turned out great! I made the crust from scratch and everything. (Sidenote: could not find a premade crust in ICA. Why do Swedes have premade and presliced cakes without icing, but not premade dessert pie crusts? The food selections here continue to baffle me). While that was in the oven I proceeded to concoct a loaf of zucchini bread, of course with walnuts in it. That turned out great as well! But I've had some practice there, I've made it before. Lastly, although a Christmas-time treat, by J's request I made some buckeyes. Last Christmas I had made some as well and they were a hit with his family, as they were again this time around.

Saturday was the big day. We decided to go out to J's parents' house in Tibro and cook the dinner there as J's sister, her husband, and two small girls were in town visiting. It's strange cooking in someone else's kitchen, but it's much more spacious than my kitchen (although mine isn't bad!) and so it was less hectic than I thought it'd be. The menu: Turkey, homemade stuffing (in and out of the turkey), mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green beans almondine, salad, cranberry sauce, turkey juice gravy, and zucchini bread. Of course as dessert were the pumpkin pie with whipped cream and a buckeye or two.

Here is the end result. Thanks to J's sister for the picture!

All were able to enjoy! I was glad to have pulled it off for the second year in a row. I've only ever cooked these two Thanksgiving dinners (last year and this time around) all by myself, so I'm rather proud of it. I'm contemplating cooking a mini version just for J and I this coming weekend since we didn't keep any of the leftovers, J's parents' were excited to gobble them all up. ;-) But I would like to be able to enjoy some more of those Thanksgiving dishes. I'll be sure to post again if I decide to do so.

By the time we got home Saturday night it was around 11pm. I had gotten up at 7:45 that morning to do some laundry to be able to have something nice to wear to the dinner. So I was rather exhausted by the time we got home. Yesterday, Sunday, was the best lazy Sunday ever. I really needed it after all the work put into Thanksgiving. J and I had a couch potato day watching several movies that were playing on TV and playing against each other with a version of Scrabble on our smart phones. The game is called Wordfeud for anyone interested!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One year

As of yesterday, I have resided in Sweden for one whole year. :-)

On one hand it feels almost as if I've lived my entire life here, now that I'm so much more comfortable living here than I was a year ago. I used to be afraid to even go to the store alone for fear that someone might talk to me and I wouldn't at all understand. But on the other hand, it feels as if I just arrived yesterday. This year has somehow flown by. It's not as if I was super busy for the first part of it. The first three months I was doing pretty much nothing, in fact, until SFI began. Yet here I am, one year later.

I wonder what I'll be reflecting on at this time next year?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkins and time changes

Today has been one of those twilight zone type days. Every time there is a clock change I feel like I've been through a time warp - it's almost like when I travel between the US and Sweden. That's definitely a time warp feeling. But the time change today has felt like there is something extra to it. I think it's because it has suddenly gotten so much darker in the afternoon. Instead of it being dark around 6 or 7, today it was clearly dark at 5pm. It's nearly November, and the time of the dreaded darkness is upon us.

To cheer up a bit about the darkness, yesterday I bought a pumpkin from the local ICA and today I decide to introduce J to pumpkin carving. It seems he'd never encountered it before, and he wasn't too interested in getting all pumpkin-y either. So he just watched while I happily did all the gutting and carving. Here are the results!

I rather like my pumpkin. I also roasted the seeds and ate them while we watched a movie together today. It's been a nice, relaxing Sunday. J and I were planning to go to his parents' house to change the tires on the car to snow tires, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to it. The time change has zapped us of energy, which ultimately makes no sense since we gained an hour.

I've decided to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for J's family a couple of weeks from now. It will actually take place the weekend before actual Thanksgiving, but that's when J's sister's family will be in town. We decided we wanted everyone possible in his family to be able to be there, so I shall be cooking on the 19th or 20th of November. It's exciting to be able to share some of my culture with the Swedes since so much of the time it is me who is the one drinking in their culture. I also felt as if, as an American, I didn't have much culture to share. To my surprise, I do. Just for example, today I felt I was sharing culture with J showing him how to carve a pumpkin and telling him why we do it. I asked him if he'd ever even carved a pumpkin before, and if I recall correctly he said (in reference to Swedes in general), "We just aren't pumpkin people." It also made me think of how Swedes know almost nothing of how to prepare/eat sweet potatoes either. It's enjoyable when I get to share a bit of my background and culture. Again, the excitement of preparing Thanksgiving for J's family. :)

One last thing, J and I will be returning home to the States for Christmas! I've realized it'll have been a year and half since my family and J were face to face, and obviously since he's been to the US. We'll be there for about 2.5 weeks, it'll be nice to be able to have Christmas again at home, as last year I spent it here in Sweden. I think it would be nice to be able to alternate where we spend Christmas every other year. I didn't think I'd be able to visit again so soon after my summer visit, I'm very happy about it. It's also less than 2 months away!

Speaking of being happy about things, I'm still ecstatic about finally having a Swedish driver's license, as well as the fact that it doubles as a Swedish I.D.! (I picked it up on Friday). I learn daily that it's the little things in life that matter. Living in another country, I believe, makes one appreciate things that they never even thought about in their homeland. I never thought about the fact that my driver's license was my easy I.D. in the U.S. I got my license at age 16 and that was that. Sure, I was excited at getting my license, but that excitement went away quickly. Maybe it was being the age of 16 that made me not appreciate it for all its worth. But oh how I appreciate my license here in Sweden.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I passed the körkort driving test! I have a piece of paper currently, but hopefully within a couple days (by Friday at the latest) I should have my real körkort in my hands! I'm so excited to finally have a legitimate Swedish I.D.(a year is a long time to live in a country without an I.D. card that anyone recognizes, so I've always had to bring my passport AND my Skatteverket paper stating my personnummer).


Saturday, October 22, 2011

What a productive week!

This week felt like the most grueling week I've had in a long time. I accomplished so much! On Monday I had Riskutbildning 2, or the halkkörning. It's where you have to go to this driving course with other driving students and see the different between breaking really hard on a dry stretch versus a wet stretch, and around a curve. At first it was actually somewhat terrifying, because you're sailing along at 85kph (about 52mph) and you know you're going to slam on your brakes as hard as you can to stop as quickly as possible at some point. It was even scarier going over the hill and down the slippery watery slope. At the end it started to get pretty fun, though. I even did a 360 (accidentally!) once.

I also happened to finally get my SFI betyg, or grade/statement saying I officially have completed SFI with the grade VG for the D course, which is the best you can get in SFI. I was quite pleased to finally have that taken care of, so I have now been able to turn in my application for the SFI bonus. For those of us who move to Sweden and begin SFI within 3 months of registering ourselves as a person with Skatteverket (The Tax Agency, they take care of what is Sweden's version of Social Security Numbers, personnummers), and then complete the course within a year of beginning it, we can apply for the SFI bonus. It's incentive to integrate immigrants by having us learn the language quickly so that we can interact with the natives. Depending on which of the 3 levels you finish determines what amount of money you apply for, 6,000kr, 8,000kr or 12,000kr. I finished the highest level, so I'm hoping to get my 12,000kr (approx. $1820) eventually! It would be rather nice.

But the week doesn't stop there! On Thursday I had my one and only driving lesson. What? Driving lesson and I've been driving since I was 16? I know, I know. But I wanted all the tips a driving instructor could give me to make sure I will pass the practical driving test I have on Monday. I've heard they can be rather strict, so I wanted to see if a driving instructor had any complaints with how I drive. The only thing she corrected me of was not to use neutral too often, they want to see drivers drive more eco-friendly, which means downshifting and using the engine brake as much as possible when appropriate. For example, if I drive up to a light or intersection I usually once I get slow enough just throw the car in neutral for a short bit, since it's a smoother ride. So I'll have to be pretty careful of that. She also went through some other things with me, it was pretty good overall. I also decided to do the entire lesson in Swedish so that if the person on Monday is hesitant to speak English (never know in this country), then I've had practice and should be okay taking it in Swedish.

Last, but certainly not least, I passed the driving theory test yesterday!! That was the part of the test I was super worried about not passing. I have been studying all week, several hours each night in order to be able to pass the theory. It's not at all like the test we had in Ohio. It was 70 questions (but only 65 counted) and many were quite tricky! The main thing is to just use your logic. You have to get at least 52/65 to pass and I got a 58. Woohoo! So now it's just one more test, practical driving, on Monday, and then I should have a legit Swedish ID! No more carrying around my passport and Skatteverket paper with my personnummer on it. It will be so nice, oh, and I'll be able to drive legally here come November. U.S. license are only good to drive on for 1 year after having moved here, so I'm cutting it really short since I registered here as of November 2, 2010.

When I begin a post I never think it will be very long and it ends up being a short story at the least. Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Busy weeks and more reflection on Swedishness

I apologize for the lack of posts lately. Again, I make the excuse of being a busy bee. Nothing of huge significance has occurred since my last post, so don't worry.

This past week was completely exhausting for me. On Thursday J got up really early to travel to Gothenburg with some coworkers to do some work at the company's office there (it's a nearly 2 hour drive from here in Skövde). J had to give a presentation (or something like it) to that office on Friday as well, so he decided instead of wasting nearly 4 hours in traveling time he would just book a hotel and stay over Thursday night in Gothenburg. First of all, I realized that this was the first night in Sweden that I had/would ever spend alone. I was rather intrigued by it and thought that I should react in a stronger way than I did, but I'm a big girl. And anyway, this Friday was J's birthday and we were having family over, so on Thursday I practically ran around like a chicken with my head cut off I was so busy with chores and things.

After school let out at 4pm or so on Thursday, I had a meeting scheduled with B, the Swedish woman I meet from time to time to have fika and some good ol' English conversation (I really do enjoy talking to her, she's eccentric for a Swede, which is actually a good thing! Very open to chatting, and rather interesting to learn about). So after that I got home around 5:15 or 5:30. I chatted with my mom for a good 45 minutes at least on Google's chat function, then slurped down some leftovers from a previous day in the week. After that I had to run to the store to grab a last couple of things I needed to make a cake for J's birthday. By the time I got home it was 7 or so. I wrestled with making homemade icing for the cake, and all in all the cake took about 1.5 hours to make. The following is a picture of the cake recipe I followed (my cake was decorated differently with white/dark chocolate leaves):

The middle layers were whipped cream and bananas, the top icing was dark chocolates melted with butter, sugar, and milk. My icing wasn't thickening for a long time, so I decided to try the handy trick of adding a tiny bit of powdered sugar. Tada! Fixed and beautiful. I don't know why I didn't think to take a picture of my very own cake. Alas, it'll have to wait until next time.

After I finished making my cake, J called around 9pm (right after I had begun to finally clean the apartment, right around 8:45). So we chatted for 15 minutes or so, and then it was a race to see how quickly I could clean what I wanted to clean. If we were going to have family over, the apartment was well overdue for a good cleaning! All in all, I finished at 11pm. By that time I was totally spent, and when I woke up on Friday it was as if I never took a break. But it was great to pick J up from the train station after school and bring him home to give him his birthday gift. I decided since I have broken several of his beer glasses over my time here, and others have as well, I'd replace the set with 6 beer glasses with his favorite beer etched on the glass, Carlsberg. He liked them very much and had no idea at all what his gift was at first. "Never underestimate the sneaky, sneaky," I said to him. Now who can name that movie? ;)

This weekend has been super lazy and very appreciated. Today I believe I will begin studying hardcore for the körkort (aka driver's license). Tomorrow I have Riskutbildning 2, or halkkörning, or for those of you who have no Swedish, it's basically driving around on a course while they make you go certain speeds on dry and then wet tracks to show you how cars become more dangerous when they're in bad weather.

They make you try and dodge obstacles, and make you go around bends fast and then have you slam on your brakes. I hear from everyone who's ever done it that it's a bunch of fun. Then on Thursday I have on driving lesson just to get a bunch of perks and tips on what the driving testers look for. On Friday I have the driving theory test, and the following Monday I have the practical driving test. Wish me luck that I pass them both, otherwise I'll be extremely grumpy and out of about 1500kronor! Getting a driving license in Sweden is definitely not cheap.

And now it's time for a bit of a rant. I've been driving for 8 years, I happen to drive pretty well I think. I've even been driving for just about a year now here in Sweden. Why? Because Sweden allows Americans to drive in Sweden on their American license for a year after they relocate here. THEN, one must do all the things that Swedish teens must do, or anyone who hasn't had a driver's license, in order to get a Swedish license. Apparently our American licenses aren't up to standard with the Swedish standards. Which, okay, it's easier to get a license in America, yes. And many Americans, I admit, are horrid drivers. BUT: do not allow me to drive for an entire year without having to get a Swedish license if in the end I have to do all the steps as if I was a teenager again and know nothing about driving. I understand since they have different rules here (ridiculously idiotic right of way rules if you ask me), but should I really have to do the whole shebang all over again? Especially after having driven here for a year already? Just absolutely silly, I say. So I'm going to try my hardest and best to pass both tests the first time (many do not, as Swedes are so extremely strict for the tests; for example, if I don't drive eco-friendly enough, I may end up failing the test although my driving was perfect). I really don't want to have to take the test a second time, or pay for the fees a second time. The theory test is only 220kr, which equals about $33. Not too bad. But the practical driving test, just to take it, costs 1100kr, which is about $167. Ouch.

So please wish me luck in my driving adventures this week! And Happy Fall everyone! Just a note of an interesting nature: yesterday J and I were out in the little mall downtown yesterday to pick up a couple of things when we walked by a new party store. I was so elated to see the entire place decorated with black, orange, green and purple Halloween balloons, as well as spider webs and skeletons. I had no idea Halloween had caught on here in Sweden enough for a store to decorate itself like that. But wait, there's more! We walked by the kids' toy store and the staff in there were dressed as a witch and a devil! And the store had plastic pumpkins and spider webs and the like, too. It was like a little taste of the US. You Americans who are reading, enjoy Halloween extra for me this year! I've really missed the fall traditions this year. I asked J if they had any apple orchards or pumpkin patches for people to go to around here, and he said "No?" in a confused manner. Maybe they have them in southern Sweden, but it's just not a tradition here to go to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch to drink apple cider, pick apples/pumpkins, and ride the hayride. Oh well, maybe next year.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The benefits of learning a Scandinavian language

The amazing thing I have discovered recently as a major benefit of having learned Swedish is that I can also understand Norwegian and Danish (at least in writing).

I could hardly believe Swedes at first when they told me they pretty much understand Norwegians since their languages are so similar. Few Swedes that I've met can understand spoken Danish (they joke about it sounding like they have oatmeal in their mouths), but they've claimed they can at least read it.

I've been on several Danish sites, and to my delight, have discovered that I can pretty much understand what they are saying. And just the other day, I decided to Youtube a Norwegian TV show just to see if I could understand it, and to my delight, I could (most of it, anyway!). I now understand the claims of Swedes mentioned above. Then it gets me thinking - if I can understand as much as I do, imagine just how much, for instance, my J understands. It's really a pretty cool phenomenon.

As a native English speaker, I've really never felt like I've "basically understood" any other language than my own. When learning Spanish and realizing that a lot of words are similar to English it was like a revelation. But I could never just read Spanish without having formally learned it in class and say "Oh, I understand!" the way I've been able to when coming in contact with Norwegian and Danish. It makes me feel pretty awesome to have gained a basic understanding of two other languages in the process of learning Swedish. 8)

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I'm quickly becoming used to being busy full days again. When I think about it, it's been nearly a year since I have been busy full days. I nearly forgot how much energy it takes to be able to either work or study all day long. Last week I was extremely tired by the end of the week (and the weekend was almost no rest, either). This week, while I am tired, I am feeling much better. Besides, being the dork that I am, I enjoy school and exercising my brain. It feels good to be challenged.

I mentioned above that the weekend was almost no rest, either. On Saturday J and I woke up at 8:30 (fairly early for us on a Saturday) and drove to Gothenburg to celebrate J's sisters' birthday at her family's apartment. First when we got into town we went straight to Nordstan to purchase a birthday gift for J's sister from The Body Shop (there is also a Swedish website but I figured since I write in English I'd list the US version). I always look forward to going to Nordstan, only to be disappointed when arriving. The frustration that comes with so many people shopping and seeming inept at how to move and interact with the public outweighs the chance of having some fun while shopping. It always ends up as J and I trying to get out ASAP. We then proceeded to J's sisters' apartment in Eriksberg and enjoyed a nice afternoon and evening there.

After a bit it became just J's sisters' family and J and I and it was fun. Their two little daughters are so delightful to be around. The main reason for titling my post "Improvements" is a reference to my improvement in Swedish. The younger daughter is just now old enough to begin understanding language and is able to respond through nods and shakes of her head. I decided to try out my Swedish on her and to my surprise and delight she understood me and would respond in kind. For example, I would ask, "Ska du komma hit?" (Shall you come here?) while holding out my hands, and she would nod and walk to me. We became great play pals. One funny thing to mention, for some reason J scared her almost the whole day. Never before had it happened, but if she looked at him, she would become frightened and begin to cry if no one consoled her very quickly. I found it rather humorous.

Sunday I had the grand idea to sit at home all day and do almost nothing, besides laundry, but alas we were invited to J's parents' house for Sunday lunch. It was really good food as always, and luckily we didn't stay too long because I had booked a time to do my laundry and I wasn't going to give that time up! So I felt like I always had something going on this past week, even over the weekend. I'm lucky I don't feel more tired. But as stated, I'm quickly becoming used to a busy life again.

Korta Vägen is beginning to feel better to me. In a nutshell, this week we were told which group we were in and the days or times we've been split into our groups have been great. They feel much more productive and more conducive to learning. Today just another student and I received extra material in the form of a book loaned from the teacher because she noticed that we were done much more quickly with various tasks than the rest of the class. I was pleased to see that she noticed us both individually and decided to challenge/help us to learn the language more at our own level and pace. As I've said previously, at first the program seemed too slow and simple for me. It's beginning to pick up and I am glad.

Tomorrow is thankfully Friday. Again we have another family engagement for someone else's birthday (J's family is rather large on his dad's side). I look forward to this endeavor, though. Apparently there will be an outdoor archery competition - I have no idea if I will even do well but I look forward to the event! Being outside right now is enjoyable (when it's not raining) because the air is becoming more and more crisp. Besides, we have to enjoy the outdoors while it's still relatively warm outside! Soon enough we'll be taking 10 minutes each day just to suit up and go outside. ;-)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Autumn and a New School Year

...sounds like I've traveled back in time to grade school!

You could say Riskutbildning 1 was a success. I got through it and understood most of it, although when I realized I was sitting in a room with about 11 other people, all of them Swedes, and most of them about 18 years of age, I started to get super nervous. What if the teacher decided to call on us randomly since she had us make name tags? Then what humiliation would I suffer because my Swedish was so clearly not authentic? It all turned out okay though, as our teacher posed questions to us then made us talk with our "neighbor." I happened to be sitting next to a really nice 18 year old girl from the next town over. I told her immediately I was from the U.S. and sorry if I sounded terribly! To my happiness she told me she understood me just fine. The hard thing throughout the day was that she spoke so quickly or would speak quietly that I couldn't catch some things she said. All said and done, I walked home last Wednesday extremely tired.

I began Korta Vägen this Monday. We have a whole week of introduction, basically, before they divide us into two smaller classes to put us with people who are more at our level. It's good to feel productive the whole day, but it's been a tiring week. Going to school (and not in your native tongue) from 9am to 4pm wears the brain out! I believe once the course gets going it will feel more useful than it is currently. There are several people in the group with little to no Swedish skills (which confuses me because the course supposedly requires at least SFI D to be completed to enter). So right now it feels a little bit like intro class to SFI, which for those of you who may not know how that is, it's very simple Swedish. I do suppose they need to get a feel for which class to place everyone in. Hopefully I'll be able to improve my Swedish even further and do well at whichever praktik (internship) I get and eventually be able to work alongside Swedes without a hiccup. After all, that's the entire goal of the program.

Just a side note, Bonde Söker Fru (Farmer Seeks Wife) had its season premier tonight and it's the first time I've ever actually watched it. I think it's such a cute show. Maybe it's how they go around to these different farmers' farms and you actually get to see how they live and that they're just normal every day Swedes. They seem to speak from the heart. I'll be interested to follow up on some episodes to see how things pan out.

The rain hasn't really let up much, and neither have the chilly temperatures. I suppose I'm slowly adjusting to the fact that it is indeed autumn time. Where did this year go? It's almost unbelievable I've been living here for 10 months already. Pretty soon I'll be saying a year!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Hooray for sunshine today! It's almost insane how much the weather affects my mood. Yesterday was terribly rainy and dreary and I just felt unhappy all day about it! I've come to the decision that I must have one of those sun lamps this winter. I think it'll definitely help with all the dark dreariness that is going to descend upon us.

I sit here pondering how the Riskutbildning 1 will go today. I understand Swedish pretty well, but today I will be interacting with absolute strangers! I'm used to either speaking with my teachers or people that I know. But when I think about it, I do interact with strangers here and there and I can understand their Swedish perfectly fine. It's only when someone speaks ridiculously fast, or with heavy amounts of dialect that I have no clue what they are saying. I hope the upcoming 3.5 hours of "driver's ed" will be quick and painless! I'll be sure to keep you posted on how events turn out.

Cheers to the last day of August. It most definitely feels as if autumn already has its chilly fingers latched onto the weather here. I'm pretty bummed about summer being over pretty much already. I need to embrace autumn! Maybe once tomorrow comes around and I realize it's September I'll be more okay with the chilly weather. At least I have my sunshine today!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Högskolan, Körkort & Stockholm

Things have been picking up these past couple of weeks. Last week I went to an all day meeting on Tuesday at Högskolan i Skövde here in town. In American English that would equate to Skövde College. There is a program there called Korta Vägen for immigrants who have had at least 3 years of higher education, aka university/college studies. It's basically to utilize this immigrant population and get them as capable and efficient in Swedish so they can go into the work force in their chosen fields. I'm still waiting on a letter this week from Arbetsförmedlingen saying that I've got a green light to go ahead and study in the program. They said that most people are allowed to do so. I would be so happy and excited to start a new school program other than SFI. I think Korta Vägen is a much better way to reach where I'm wanting to go here. Besides, I already plan to take the final D test for SFI on September 15th anyway, and hopefully I'll be able to get my SFI bonus. Would be nice to make some money and move on to a better course for my needs/goals!

Tomorrow I take the plunge into acquiring my Swedish driver's license (or körkort). J scheduled me to take Riskutbildning 1, the first part of a two part course. Whenever anyone sits for the theory and practical driving test in Sweden, both parts of Riskutbildning must have been taken/completed. Riskutbildning 1 is like a lecture or seminar for 3 hours where they inform you of the risks of driving while tired, taking drugs, drinking alcohol, etc. I have a large fear I'll flash back to 8 years ago, at exactly this time of year when I was in driver's education when I was almost 16. I really hope it doesn't feel like a waste of my time (although I'm almost positive that is exactly how I'll feel). I just find it silly that they allow Americans to drive for an entire year on their American license once they arrive in Sweden, but suddenly after a year *poof* your driving capabilities are apparently unacceptable and you must do the entire Swedish driver's license process. I understand learning certain things here, like the different right of way laws and most definitely the different signs, I just wish there was a more efficient way than completely redoing everything over again. Hopefully I'll only need to take a couple of actual driving lessons to get tips on what they look for during the actual practical driving test. I believe I'm going to buy the driving theory book in English just to brush up on everything. You may think I'm going a bit overboard, but many Swedes and most Americans seem to fail at least once when it comes to the practical driving test. Swedes are (by American standards) ridiculously strict when it comes to the theory and driving tests. People have failed in the past from "not driving ecologically enough."

Riskutbildning 2 is something we never did in driver's education - they take you out on a track that is purposefully slippery, filled with water, etc. The teacher makes you drive and forces you into slides and different things to make you aware of what poor driving conditions can cause your car to do, and they teach you how to handle them. I believe that part will be much more interesting and useful (maybe even fun) because we never did anything like that in the U.S. (although I've had enough of my fair share of scary driving incidents).

The weather has been chilly and mostly cloudy and rainy lately. I think that combined with the sun setting much earlier than before has caused a bit of a wave of sadness in me. August in Ohio is the hottest month of the year, and decidedly sunny from what I recall. This year in Sweden it's been around 15C on average (which is 59F) and very cloudy and rainy throughout most of August. It's also dark already around 8:30 or 9 at the latest if it's sunny, and it's just so noticeable after the sun setting at 11!

The other weekend we went to Stockholm and it was a bunch of fun, although far too short. We left early Saturday morning and came back Sunday afternoon. It's tiring when you decide to take the car all that way instead of the train. I drove all the way to Stockholm, and we had to make a detour in Jönköping since we were picking up a friend there on the way. So those were five hours of rainy and foggy driving, not to mention the last hurrah of driving within Stockholm itself. I understand everyone's complaint now about Stockholm drivers. The visit was more of a social visit than going there to see Stockholm, so I actually didn't snap any pictures. We pretty much visited our friends at their apartment in the Midsommarkransen/Hagersten area and then went and enjoyed a pub or two later in the evening. On Sunday we trekked down into Gamla Stan so I could purchase a couple of books at a bookstore there. We did have some delicious Indian food while in Gamla Stan, though. It was my first time ever having Indian food. I don't know if I could eat it often, but I really enjoyed it.

So that's basically what my goings and doings have consisted of lately! Nothing too exciting or special, but I felt I was beginning to slack again so I had to toss you some sort of bone to hopefully keep you interested. ;-)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Great Mushroom Hunt

This past Sunday I woke up to rainy dreariness. But for some reason an idea took hold of my thoughts and I couldn't shake it - I wanted to go mushroom picking! Right now it's the season to pick mushrooms, specifically kantareller. I knew J wouldn't be up for it, although I asked him anyway. He just doesn't revel in tramping around in the lovely Swedish woods searching for the elusive kantarell mushroom. So, I texted my good friend M and asked if she was up for it. I believe her response was something along "Hell yes I want to go!" So with that, within the next hour or two we were off, two Americans tramping through the Swedish forest searching continually for a certain kind of mushroom. We were rather proud of ourselves, as neither of us grew up being in the middle of nature very often. If I ever wanted to go into the woods, I had to find a metro park in Ohio!

If you clicked on my link up there, it doesn't look like a particularly tasty mushroom. Many might contend that any mushroom doesn't really look very appetizing. I am one of those who absolutely loves the delectable fungi. But why were we looking for these specific, deceivingly toxic looking mushrooms? Well for one, I think it's simply fun to look for something in the forest when they're supposed to be only wild grown. It felt like such triumph whenever we found some. These special mushrooms also happen to be quite expensive at the store, I think especially since they are only wild grown (or this is what I have heard, anyway). While at the store yesterday I decided to check and see the price of kantareller, and it was 249:- per kilo. If I equate that to American measurements, they are roughly $19 per pound. Talk about expensive mushrooms!

I ended up taking M's mushrooms too because she discovered a slug on one of her mushrooms and therefore felt she could never eat any of them. I guess she got pretty grossed out. I was a happy camper! I ended up making a mushroom soup out of them, they have so much flavor! It was quite tasty. (That's not actually a picture I took, but that's pretty much how my soup turned out/looked.)

We had so much fun in the rainy Swedish woods on Sunday, we are in fact returning to the woods tomorrow (a different wood this time) to take up the hunt again! I will probably end up with all the mushrooms again, but at least M enjoys the hunt just as much as I do!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A close to summer break

Today marks the last day that I have summer break. It's been a long one, I've technically been on break for nearly 2 months now. I flew to the States back on June 17th, which is when I mark that my summer began. Now it's August 7th, and tomorrow is the first day back at SFI. I think I am actually looking forward to going back and feeling like I'm doing something with my days. I just can't sit around without having a purpose!

The past two weeks J has been back at work and I've been filling my days with various odds and ends. The main thing I have been doing (like a good little Swedish student) is study every day. I've been moving through the first two chapters in my course D textbook, but also I've begun and completed the book I mentioned previously, Mio min Mio. I got really hooked there at the end of this past week! I really enjoyed the fact that I was reading a story (albeit not too difficult, but I learned many words!) in Swedish and understood it and could just cruise along. The other important fact: it kept me interested. I think this is a strategy I'll begin to use in the future. I'm sure we'll be seeing more simple Swedish books on our shelves in the future! It's a fantastic way to learn a language and get a feel for it.

This last Tuesday my friend M and I decided that it was just too beautiful outside for a co-study session, so we suited up and headed for the beach! Of course we visited two beaches here in town first, both of which were packed with people (especially noisy children) and decided we wanted something more peaceful. So we headed out to the shores of Vättern to a tiny little town by the name of Brevik. There's a secret little beach there that you have to walk through a long field and through a little bunch of trees to get to it. It's well worth it! There were people there, but not even close to the amount at the other two lakes. And there was sand to lay on (although not much at all). Vättern's water was so beautiful and clear. It is the deepest lake in Sweden, which probably lends itself to the clarity of the water. Although I didn't take any pictures that day, here is a shot of the beach we went to.

Today it's raining and completely cloudy. You know, that overbearing grayness. But today it seems to fit. And the rain is so peaceful. I believe I'm enjoying it. The temperature reminds me of autumn though, it being slightly chilly and rainy. It makes me somewhat dread winter, as I feel like I've just begun to even be able to enjoy summertime here. Alas, I live in the North now. I'm sure I'll enjoy it when it comes anyway. Last winter I was so enchanted with all the snow. Let's hope this time around I am just as enchanted.

In a couple of weeks I believe we'll be traveling to Stockholm to visit some friends who live there. I've been there once before, and we visited Gamla Stan, Vasa museum, and Skansen. The typical touristy place. Does anyone have any suggestions of other things that are "must sees" that I may not have come across yet? Or any good food/restaurant suggestions? Gotta take advantage of being in a city with a multitude of culinary delights! ;-)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer happenings

I apologize for being lazy lately. I suppose that's what easy going summertime does to you. When arriving back in Skövde in early/mid July showed me that almost no one was in town, it was a shock. Now that it is the first day of August, people are returning home from long vacations and it's another shock to see the streets filling up. Today I walked to meet J for lunch at a local Thai restaurant and was shocked at how many cars were on the road during the lunch rush hour.

This is my last week of summer break. School begins again next Monday (SFI, that is). My goal this week is to study as much as possible. Because I wasn't feeling the textbook so far today, instead I have chosen to delve into Mio, min Mio. J's sister's family gave it to me for a birthday present when I arrived back in Sweden. It's a book by the famous Astrid Lindgren, who many of you might know (without knowing). She wrote all of the Pippi Longstocking books. Her writing is similar to Roald Dahl's, I would say. It's great practice for the likes of me who is currently learning Swedish. It's not too simple, yet not too difficult. I've been looking up words all morning, yet I still get the flow of the storytelling and can enjoy it. Another good point about it is it's not a boring news article or some such. Stories are a great way to learn a language.

To catch you all up a bit, J had two weeks off from work. The first week we basically stuck around the area of Skaraborg (now morphed into the giant län of Västra Götaland, but Skaraborg is still used for this particular area). In my last entry I posted several shots from the lovely little Vättern-shore town of Karlsborg. The second week of J's vacation we decided to make a road trip down onto the continent to Hamburg, Germany. I hadn't seen any of the rest of Europe (I know, I know) and so we decided to make a short 3 day trip to Hamburg. Why Hamburg? Well Denmark is right next door to Sweden so it's much easier to make, say, a weekend trip down to Copenhagen or some such place there. But since J had some more time than a weekend off, I wanted to see more of Europe if possible, and we also needed it to be a shorter distance. The closest, biggest city in Germany to drive to? Hamburg! Here are just a few shots to give you an idea of the city in case some of you haven't been:

This is Öresundsbron, the bridge that connects Sweden and Denmark. It runs between Malmö and Köpenhamn (or Copenhagen). You can drive all the way to Germany by land, which is what we did, or you can take an option of several ferries instead of bridges.

This is one of the main squares, you could say, in Hamburg.

Although Hamburg is not a port city, it's situated right on the large river Elbe, right where two smaller rivers flow into it named Alster and Bille. It has many of these pretty canals running through the city.

One of the last rows of old houses still standing built pre World War II.

One of the many soaring churches gracing the city's skyline. This one, the church of Saint Nikolai (or Nicholas) is a monument left standing from the firebombs during WWII. It was quite eerie in that it was such a large, blackened, crumbling building amongst all the hubbub and newness of the rest of the city.

The town hall right in the middle of downtown. The architecture in this city just amazed me. Quite beautiful, with all the detail.

I enjoyed the vibe of Hamburg. Compared to the small town of 50,000 in which I currently reside, Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany. Overall it had a few million residents to boat about. I loved being elsewhere and experiencing a new culture. Germany reminded me much more of the U.S. than Sweden does. Although Sweden is quite influenced by U.S. culture and is a perfectly Western, modern society, Germany just seemed closer to the mark if I had to compare similarities with my home country. The Germans we encountered were outspoken and almost always the first to strike up a conversation with us. Everyone there seemed to smoke, or at least it is a very smoker friendly society (it reminded me of the States ca. 15 years ago). There also happened to be some litter on the ground and a few homeless people here and there. I'm not saying Germany is better than Sweden with all of these things, it just seemed much more like the country I hail from. And I just can't fail to mention the heavy food - meat and potatoes. Absolutely delicious meat and potatoes. It's a good thing we walked just about everywhere on that mini vacation, otherwise I probably would have noticeably gained some weight! All in all, it was great to finally delve into another part of Europe.

Needless to say, it felt wonderful coming home to Sweden. It truly does feel like home, now. Which is another plus of all my travels recently. Not only did I come back home to Sweden after our brief visit to Germany (and all through Denmark), but I reiterate my homecoming back in July from three weeks in the U.S. as well. Both times it felt good to come home to Sweden. Within the past month, I've traveled within 5 countries! As I lovingly make fun of my heritage: not bad for an American!

Alas, I should probably get back to my studying. Probably with the textbook this time. I thought I would come out of my silence and update you all a bit on happenings! Enjoy summer while it is here. It's noticeably dwindling here in Sweden. On a bright note: maybe we'll have a crayfish party sometime soon!

Friday, July 15, 2011


My last post, it was 34C and super humid. This post, it's 16C and the only humidity you can count are all the random showers here in Sweden. The air still doesn't feel sticky like in Ohio, though. Yes, I've returned to life in blue and yellow in Sweden. The coolness is almost a shock, although expected. To me it certainly doesn't feel like July. But at the same time it's refreshing.

J is on vacation this week and next, so we've been busy ever since my return on Sunday. On Monday we ventured to the closest IKEA in Jönköping and got a new computer chair for me (the second half of my birthday present, my first was a pretty bouquet of flowers he had picked out/had someone make at the flower store). We visited a couple of friends there as well. We've also been to a little lake town called Karlsborg over on Vättern. I wanted to see it since I'd heard it's such a pretty little lake town, let alone the big fästning (fort) there. Here are several shots I took:

These first two are of lake Vättern. Above on the right if you look you can see the fästning among the trees.

The beach along the camping site. Many children and families were playing in the water.

These last three are of the Göta Kanal. It's a canal that was built to go all the way from Gothenburg to the east coast, a bit south of Stockholm. It uses a bunch of rivers and lakes to get from coast to coast. Karlsborg happens to be a stop in the middle of it.

Sweden is beautiful in the summer. So much green and blue.

It's been nice to come back and not have to go straight back into the daily grind. It's been especially nice since J can take it easy, too. We've been staying up late and sleeping in the whole week. Next week we may head somewhere for a mini vacation, I'll have to keep you all posted. We haven't decided on anything as of yet, it's definitely a "sista minuten" (last minute) decision.

Ahh, Sweden. If there is one thing I should say, coming here did feel like coming home. I'm so glad it felt that way. For me the transition is always tough going between the U.S. and Sweden because to me it's switching between two lives. It always takes just a bit to get readjusted to the other. But I'm pleased that coming here didn't feel like leaving home to go somewhere else. Both places are home for me.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


It's been hot here in Ohio. Not only hot, but humid. And I have absolutely loved it. If it were this hot in Sweden I'm sure I would have been the biggest grouch ever. Why? Because most buildings over there don't have air conditioning, and A/C is crucial in this kind of weather. It's needed to get away from the heat, although you may enjoy it while outside. Sometimes the local news even warns weakened individuals to stay indoors for fear of heat stroke (those like small children and the elderly). It's been anywhere from 30 - 34C the past week or two (that's upper 80s to low 90s F). The summer heat reminds me of childhood and fishing, swimming, sunbathing, and bike riding. I've made sure to lay out several days while here so I look like I've actually been somewhere and not like a vampire anymore!

Needless to say, I'll miss the extreme heat and humidity. It just feels so good to me, I doubt Sweden has ever felt heat the way heat here is. When the wind blows, it's not cool and refreshing, it's just hot air moving around. Many people think it's miserable, but I love it all. I am looking forward to Sweden's cool, comfortable climate, though. It will feel like coming to a different home, and the weather there will remind me of different things. For now, though, I will bask in the extreme heat and humidity as much as possible.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


So it's July now and my time here in the States has moved along pretty quickly. The past three days were gloriously sunny and hot, hovering around 85 - 90 F (or 30 - 32C). Not to mention quite humid. I, therefore, took advantage of the heat and sun and laid out in my parents' pool each day for at least an hour. I must say my skin complexion looks much better now than the sickly white that it was before. I just love the hot summer weather. Alas, this morning it's thunderstorming and raining, so no sun for me today (which is probably good because I was beginning to get a minor sunburn).

This weekend is the most important weekend of the summer here in the U.S. It's 4th of July weekend! My city has the largest fireworks display in this region of the country. Last night I went to see them right downtown among the hundreds of thousands of people with my brother and my best friend here in Ohio. Our city calls it Red, White, & Boom. Last year at this time I was still living here and J had flown in to visit for several weeks in the summer on the day of Red, White, & Boom. I picked him up from the airport, we drove to my apartment, and walked downtown to watch the fireworks. Part of me can't believe it was a year ago that happened! In any case, last night was a lot of fun and I was happy to get to spend some time with my best friend, but even more so with my brother. I've been able to spend time with the friend a lot over my stay here, but I've barely been able to see my brother since he's been working so much.

Another part of the fireworks I reflected on was just how much the fireworks and this weekend means to the majority (or what seems like it) of people here in the States. Everyone comes together for our Independence Day and truly celebrates it. I was thinking back to just one month ago in Sweden and how the National Day there was barely celebrated at all. I saw some people with flags in their yards, maybe sitting out and cooking out. That was about the extent of their celebrations. I think our independence is still so recent and this country was founded upon a war of breaking free that it means that much more to people here. Looking around me last night during the National Anthem you could really tell everyone was coming together to celebrate the nation. I realized after living in Sweden and becoming a part of that culture, that the U.S. is unique in its way and I was glad to be able to genuinely take part in celebrating it last night. I just love how everyone does something to celebrate the 4th of July rather than just leaving it at having a day off work and maybe cooking out on someone's balcony.

This Monday is the actual 4th of July, and of course I'll be going over to my grandma's annual 4th of July get together (extended family included) where we all bring a dish of food and have a giant meal together. Then everyone just hangs around and catches up with what everyone else has been up to. I see these people only once a year, really, and if I had not managed to come home during the summer then I probably wouldn't have seen them at all this year.

Monday evening my best friend invited me to go with her and her mother in the evening to the local fireworks. The city of Columbus has a giant fireworks display, then all the suburbs and different areas of town have their own, smaller versions. They're always fun to go and watch, too. So this weekend will be filled with family, friends, fireworks, and food! No wonder so many people here love this weekend.

I haven't been up to much of anything else. Visiting with family and friends. Earlier this week I went to my other grandma's in Indiana to visit her for 2 days. It was good to see her. I've missed driving in the U.S., as much as I complained in my previous post. I miss the highways and higher speed limits, and the familiar roads where you can just zoom. Driving has always been my "happy place" as well. Whenever I'm behind the wheel with some good American radio on the speakers I am happy. So a good 2 1/2 hour drive there and another one back were great, especially in the beautiful weather we've had this past week.

A part of me has been missing Sweden, though. That bit grows more each day, but I also am trying to milk my time in the U.S. as much as possible. There are people here who matter a lot to me. I'll get to spend all the time I want with Sweden soon enough.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Well I've been home in the U.S. visiting for five days so far. It's a very unique experience being able to see the world I grew up in and knew for the first 23 years of my life with very familiar, and yet very new eyes. Part of me falls right back into going about my city just the way I always did, and another part of me looks at the place with brand new eyes.

For instance, all of the cars here seem huge to me now; not only huge, but excessively so. No wonder the U.S. alone uses up 25% of the world's oil. Isn't that a sad little piece of knowledge? Living in Sweden, I believe, has really turned me on to the green culture. Rather than driving my car to my friend's house who lives in the same neighborhood, I now ride a family bike. It just seems so wrong to me to look around and see the majority of vehicles being so wasteful, with people blatantly not caring about the planet. At this rate, we certainly will kill it and all its beauty.

Even though I know I have had a bone or two to pick with Swedish manners (or lack thereof in several cases), I am easily more irritated with Americans. At least more often. Or maybe I just focus on wherever I am at at any given time and it seems like the home I'm in is the more irritating one. To materialize these ramblings, here are a couple of mini-rants I have about Americans.

1. LEARN TO DRIVE. Today I was on the highway and I checked my rear view mirror and a woman in a van was perhaps only 15 feet (or approximately 4.5 meters) from my rear bumper. Had I put on my brakes for any reason she would have rear ended me. Not only was she that close to me, she stayed there for at least 10 minutes. Not 5 minutes later, a massive pickup truck cut me off while exiting the highway.

2. DON'T BE RIDICULOUS. While eating dinner with my mom this evening we had the local news on in the background. The news anchor moved on to a story of a woman (I believe in California) who was suing McDonald's because she didn't like/agree with how they were marketing their Happy Meals. Do you really have nothing better to do than sue a massive company because you don't like the way they are marketing one of their products?

I believe I have become used to the quiet, sensible way that Swedes tend to conduct themselves. At least that is mostly how I have come to experience Sweden. It's amazing to be able to look at the U.S. with new (dare I say foreign?) eyes. I am much more critical, and yet a part of me still loves the U.S. because I will always, at least partially, identify as American. It's just inside of me. Nevertheless, I fear I will never be able to hold back judgment on this country, however minute the critique. Nothing can improve if it is never critiqued.

Part of me already misses Sweden. Which I take as a good sign - it's become home for me. At first I struggled with having to choose a home, but now I've embraced that I can have two. No matter which country I'm in, a part of me will feel at home, and the other part will miss the other home. I've had to come to terms with this, especially because it was my choice to split myself, so to say, in the first place.

Be on the look out for more post to come! I'm sure I'll post some more before I fly back over the pond. Who knows, maybe I'll have some more rants, too. ;-)

PS - Happy Midsommar to all of you in Sweden! I'm truly sad to miss out on it, but I will have to just wait til next year.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Swedish Scaredy Cat

This past week there have been several thunderstorms, and I have to say, I have loved it! Finally Sweden got some "dangerous" weather. It's really pretty safe here, besides the boatloads of snow we got over the winter. Even the roads stay pretty safe because Swedes are masters of keeping the roads clear, unlike central Ohio. With the thunderstorms came humidity. At first I was excited because it was in the evening and the smell in the air even reminded me of home. Then the days followed and I became crabby - who dare make the air so wet that 22C feels terrible?! The whole business with your clothes sticking to you and whatnot. I've already become spoiled by the dry Swedish climate. It'll be interesting to see how I react to summer in Ohio when I step off the plane this coming Friday. It'll be probably around 30 - 35C and super, super humid! In any case I'm looking forward to visiting home for 3 weeks.

So last night J and I went out to dinner at a local pub with M and her Swede. It was nice, although I think it'll take me quite a while to get over just how expensive eating out is here in Sweden. Over seven months here and I still cringe when I look at the prices. Thankfully we don't eat out often at all, at least in any sit down place like last night where it's practically robbery for a burger and fries.

After we finished eating J was really tired (as always on a Friday night) so we said our goodbyes around 9pm or so. He wanted some of that tasty lösgodis I mentioned in a previous post, so we went to our favorite store for that since, after all, it was Friday night. I decided to pay for the candy and so when the girl (around my age, I'd say) at the cash register told me 82kr in Swedish, I obligingly gave her my 100kr bill. Now, whenever I interact with any Swedes in public I suppose you could say I flip my "Swedish switch" to "On" mode. For most public interactions with Swedes I can understand and respond in Swedish now. For some reason, this girl blurted something to me so fast and in my mind I tried to replay the sounds to understand exactly what it was she said or asked me, and before I knew it "I'm sorry?" popped out of my mouth while smiling, of course. Whenever I revert to English I always kind of smile because I feel somewhat guilty/embarrassed for having to use English! However, this girl was so surprised to suddenly be confronted with the need to use English, she blubbered something else unintelligible, got into her cash drawer, handed me my change with visibly shaking hands, and then said "Thank you!" really fast and threw the receipt away without asking me if I wanted it. J even stepped up to try and save it by saying something to the girl really fast in Swedish but she was so shocked/scared that she just gave me the change without responding to him.

I was astonished at how afraid she was to suddenly have to speak English. I'm glad I was able to keep my face composed! As soon as we were out of the store I said to J, "Did you see how scared she was??" because I thought maybe I was the only one to notice. But he completely agreed with me and could not believe at all how frightened she was by me and how her hands were actually shaking! We had a really, really good laugh in the car on the way home. For once I was the one who wasn't afraid of the Swedes (about language) - they were afraid of me! I almost felt guilty for scaring her so badly. J even said he didn't catch what she said to me in Swedish, so I felt better for not understanding her the first time she spoke. Usually I can catch simple things. Of course when she began fiddling with the change in the drawer I immediately figured out that she wanted just 2 more kronor so that she could give me an even 20 bill back, but by then she was chaotically counting out my 18kr.

It's quite interesting gauging how different Swedes will react to an American speaking English. At first I used to be so shy of speaking English in public, it made me feel guilty/embarrassed and of course it made me stand out! Which I really don't like. I'm completely over that fear now. And besides, like I said, I can usually get by in Swedish now. But it's always interesting to see the different reactions. Sometimes you can tell they get really excited to be able to show off their English skills to an American. There was a woman in one of the local post shops, it also happens to be a gift/decoration store, who overheard my friend M and I once talking about something and the woman jumped in on our conversation in English. Then there are times like yesterday where they are so shocked to be confronted by English that they become tongue tied and super shy!

If anything, J and I had a really good laugh.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer is here!

Things are moving along!

First of all it's June, officially a summer month here in Sweden! Hooray for summer!

I have passed course C in SFI with flying colors, yay! On to course D! I'm especially excited to have received new books/study material. Already they've appeared much more difficult so I'll be learning a lot again!

Other big news: I'm traveling home for 3 weeks!! I'll be gone mid-June to early July. So I may not have many (or any!) posts here within that time period as I will not be in Sweden and thus not be able to blog about Swedish life! But we shall see. One thing I am somewhat sad about is I'm going to miss my first opportunity for Swedish Midsommar. I guess no dancing around a giant pole and eating lots of herring for me. I could always belatedly eat herring, I suppose. However, I will get to celebrate the 4th of July and my birthday while at home! So I guess it's a trade off.

On yet another note, we have a 5 day weekend here in Sweden! I'm sure some people don't have the glorious 5 days and will actually have to work tomorrow. Today is a national holiday called Ascension Day, or Kristi himmelsfärds dag. Again, my suggestions for Google Chrome or Google Translate. Tomorrow is just a normal day, but the Swedes have dubbed it klämdag, or literally translated, squashed-in or clamped-in day. It makes sense if you think about it after you've had a bit of a chuckle. It's the day squashed in between the holiday and the weekend. Some will be required to work. But if you can, might as well take the day off!

Also this coming Monday is Sweden's National Day, basically their version of the 4th of July for Americans. I don't think they celebrate it nearly as robustly as we celebrate our 4th of July, but I'll be sure to report back later on that one. I say hooray for a 5 day weekend!

This past Monday J had a meeting in Göteborg in the morning, so I decided to tag along and plug along with my Swedish books while he was in his meeting. In the afternoon we spent some time in the city. The weather was beautiful and warm. Here are a couple of pictures to leave with you:

This is the ferry boat you take across the...harbor?, so that you can get to the other side and go downtown from the island we were on. They're basically like city buses but for water!

As we were walking to the ferry landing I noticed the big ship going by. I realized I've never seen a cruise ship up close. Many run out of Göteborg to go to Denmark or Norway or the such.

I liked the houses perched on the giant granite rock. These miniature mountains come out of the ground everywhere on the west coast.

The nice, brand new apartment complexes in the Sannegården area of the city.

There are many of these little canals in the city. Little tourist boats called Paddan go around and under all the really low bridges telling about the city. J and I may like to go on one sometime.

These last 3 pictures are of the Haga district. It's a fun old part of town where there are many shops and little cafes to sit out and enjoy the weather or have a nice fika.

Friday, May 27, 2011

SFI, Allsång and Eurovision

Hej allihopa! Idag har jag avslutat C-provet för SFI. Or, today I finished the test for Course C in SFI. Back in February I was placed in the C/D course of SFI, which was the highest level. I decided this month to take the big test for course C, and I finally finished it this morning. Last week, those of us taking the test this month, we took the computer portion of the test which consisted of listening/understanding and reading/understanding. Yesterday I completed the writing portion, and this morning I finished the speaking portion. It's such a big weight off my shoulders! Never has it taken me over a week to complete a test. Only in Sweden, as some of us would say.

I have a pretty good feeling that I did well on all of the test, if not perfectly. I already know I did quite well on the computer portion, the teachers have already let us all know about that. We'll see how quickly they give the results for the rest of the test! I can't wait to hear how I did. It would be so nice to move on to D and then finish SFI!

As for a belated mention of Eurovision, I rather liked partaking in the tradition. America has nothing like it, except for maybe American Idol. But that isn't the same, it's just within the country. I had such a feeling of unity while watching it because you know the entire continent with like 40 other countries are all watching and participating in the same thing you are. I have no idea why Azerbaijan won. I didn't think it was that special and actually preferred Ireland's fun little song. I'll definitely be tuning in next year!

Tonight J and I plan to go to a local bar/pub/club with my friend M and her sambo to participate in the first allsång of the year. You can open the link in Google Chrome and it'll translate to English for you English speakers, or just copy/paste it into Google Translate. Oh the wonders of Google.

In a nutshell, allsång is where a live band will sing songs that practically everyone already knows so that everyone can participate. They do this at this local bar apparently twice a month, or maybe even every Friday, during the summer months. In the paper last week they listed all the songs that they will be singing and I was pleasantly surprised with just how many English songs there are. I am also surprised that the general Swedish population knows the words to this song and this song from King Louie in the Jungle Book. I'm beginning to suspect a giant love the Swedes have for Disney! In any case I'm excited to go relax and have some fun singing with some friends at a bar! What a great Friday night event.

There is a massive Allsång that happens in Stockholm each year in Skansen. I think maybe I would like to go to that sometime, it would definitely be something to remember. Apparently they have it several times in the summer, too.

On another note, it seems I must make my comments about the weather in each post. So without further ado, I must say I wonder where all the warmth went here in Västra Götaland! It's been around 10C or so most of the day and then maybe it gets up to 15C. The wind has been absolutely awful and it's been constantly alternating between sunny and cloudy several times in a day. It's as if it tries to tease us. I will say it's rather strange to have the sun rising at 4:30 each morning and not setting until 10 at night. I like having all the sun, but sometimes I wake up at 5am from the sun and birds and it already looks like it does at 9am in Ohio. I won't complain, though, because soon enough fall and winter will be coming back. I can't believe it's almost June, and with that comes Midsommar! I'm sure I'll have my fill of herring and the like. I'll take any excuse to get together with friends!

Hope all is well with those of you outside of Sweden! Let's hope this Iceland volcano doesn't cause nearly as much disruption as the one last year did. And well wishes to those of you who may know anyone in the U.S. who has been affected by all those crazy storms and tornadoes. Until next time!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Swedish Sweet Tooth

I never used to be a huge fan of candy. Sure, when I was a kid we used to love any time we were allowed to pick out a candy bar at the checkout line. But in America you just kind of grow out of the candy phase. "Candy is for children." I never looked twice at the candy aisle in stores in the States.

Not so in Sweden.

I sit here writing this post eating a few pieces of candy from our lösgodis bag we happened to snag last night when we made a quick run to the store. Translated, it means loose candy. I remember getting a bag or two like this when I was way younger with my grandma, and I really do mean it when I say a time or two. I can't even count, having lived in Sweden for 6 months now, the number of times J and I have bought a bag of lösgodis. It's as if every store has its selection and you just go at it. Kids, adults, anybody. Swedes even designate Saturday, or lördag, as candy day. All children get to have candy one day a week, on Saturday.

On another note, the weather has been absolutely beautiful lately here in Västra Götaland, or more specifically (and a now extinct name) Skaraborg. For those of you who don't know, Sweden is divided up into 21 (I think?) "counties" or "landscapes". It's difficult to translate. Think of them kind of as states, those of you from the U.S. Anyway, there have been unending amounts of sunshine and temperatures have been in the low 20s C (aka low 70s F). After such a long, harsh, cooold winter, it feels glorious! And dare I even say it, hot. I'm almost having a hard time adjusting to not wearing a sweater or anything. It makes me feel almost naked. I'm not complaining!

J and I have taken to walking around town more frequently (partly due to his job having a "step competition", or they wear pedometers every day and whoever gets the most steps within 5 weeks gets bragging rights.) Here are some shots I've taken of the lovely town of Skövde:

The main church right next to the main town square downtown.

Right behind the church is a several hundred years old cemetery - there are about 15 quite old headstones that you can just walk up to.

This was the oldest headstone - placed there in 1662!

Pretty flowers and fountain in the park behind the church and graveyard.

The main square downtown.

One night last week we decided to skirt the giant Volvo plant area in town, it was creepy at this time in the evening! It was like being on Mars, it was so deserted everywhere.

This is a picture I took of our apartment building. The sky was so blue that day!

Beautiful springtime in the big park across the street. I love walking there.

It's been nice to be able to go outside and not have to put on five layers. It's nice to see everyone else out and about, too. The winter by no means kept people from going about life as usual. But suddenly now I see things like old people riding bikes to and from the store, or kids in the music high school sitting outside under trees and just playing music together like new-age hippies. Not to mention all the Swedish girls laying out in the park in a bikini sun-tanning. Swedes will take advantage of whatever nice weather they can get, because let's be honest, it won't get much warmer than it already is all summer. We'll probably be lucky if it hits 30C (or mid 80s F).

Nothing else is new in the world of blue and yellow. Good weather, still attending SFI, still working my part time job, still volunteering to help kids learn English, and still meeting an older Swedish woman once a week to help her with her English. Nothing too crazy. As the Swedes say, "Lagom är bäst!"