Thursday, February 24, 2011

Little bit of this, little bit of that

I mentioned several posts ago that I would be reading the Harry Potter series. To update all of you on that, I have just finished Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. On to the seventh and last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! Rarely are movies ever better than the books, and in this instance, that "truth" holds firmly. I always enjoyed the Harry Potter movies but only for entertainment's sake. The books actually pull you in, and the further you get, the more serious and less childish they become. I've enjoyed them!

Tonight we are going to our last hockey game. Well HV71 still has more hockey games, but we only bought tickets for four games this season, and this is our fourth! Let's hope we win! The last three games we've gone to we've always lost. I look forward to a night with "the guys." I've always gotten along well with guys in general, it's fun for me to be the only girl in a group of friends, sometimes.

I believe I mentioned an ice cream truck going by our apartment last week. Here is the only shot I managed to take before it drove away. Blurry, yet indisputable evidence!

I apologize for being so lacking on photos lately. Perhaps I'll bring along our camera tonight and document the hockey game! I just need to remember to take my camera along with me wherever I go.

Our little group in SFI has taken to doing lunches together on Tuesdays (since we have a full day of class on Tuesday). I'll try to remember this Tuesday to bring the camera for our weekly outing. First week we went to China Town, this week we went to Thai House...who knows, this upcoming Tuesday maybe we'll hit Oriental Palace! It looks like we have a theme going on here.

By the way, M the American and I have hit it off! We've spent a couple of afternoons after class doing errands together downtown. Yesterday I dropped her off after said errands at her apartment and I had only 15 minutes or so to kill before I needed to pick J up from work, so she invited me in. It's so nice to have another American here. I can't put into words why, but I'm sure you all can imagine. It's fun to go out and about together, especially, to see how others react. For example, we were in the store that has our local post office within it and I had asked M how she got her Swedish I.D. She told me all the hoops she had to jump through to get it, and the cashier chick actually was interested and asked us in English why M had to do what she did, etc. A Swede initiating a conversation with a stranger? That doesn't happen every day! We also stopped by H & M and the cashier there realized we were speaking English to each other and automatically switched to English when telling M how much she owed and whatnot. It's cool to see who is brave enough/eager to speak English with us, and who isn't at all. There are other times when J and I have been at the mall talking to a store clerk and they have absolutely shied away from English. An interesting experiment, to say the least. Luckily, my Swedish is rapidly improving (at least on the comprehension front) and so needing to interact in public with Swedes is far less horrifying as it was, say, when I first arrived here.

On another note, I participated at English House again this past Tuesday. I believe I mentioned it before, but I'll just give a quick recap. If you follow the link, you can read all about what the organization does. I basically contacted the program director, a Brit, and asked if I could help out in any way (and a paid position would have been better!). As things are, they couldn't hire anyone, but if I'd still like to help out as a classroom helper I was welcome to join in. So, every other Tuesday from 3:30 to 5 after school English House invites kids who want more practice with English to come into the Balthazar building (I believe you can see pictures on the website linked above). This past Tuesday we basically played a game (a lot like Deal or No Deal) the entire time and the kids loved it. I participated in the game, but the program leader likes to use me as a learning tool quite often. For example, he will say a Swedish word to me and ask if I know what it is. If I don't know what it is, he'll ask the kids not to translate the word directly, but to describe it to me in English and then I have to guess what the word is. Both sides benefit: I learn a new Swedish word, and the kids get practice at English. It's a lot of fun, really. I like to volunteer with this, and it's once every other week, so it's not time consuming whatsoever.

This Saturday the Dayton Flyers play the Xavier Musketeers. D-A-Y-T-O-N F-L-Y-E-R-S Dayton, Flyers, GO UD!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Busy bee!

Posting two days in a row? I think that's unheard of here on my little blog!

It seems like all of a sudden life has exploded here in the little town of Skövde for me! SFI now requires much more involvement, and I'm beginning to really love the little group we've formed in class. The five of us I mentioned in my previous post are so close knit, now! Just wanted to muse a bit more about that.

For the first time since October (when I was still in the U.S.), I met and spoke face to face with an American yesterday!! My new SFI class has an American!! She is only in class a couple days of the week because she has work to do. To keep her name short, I will refer to her as M. Not only did we chatter away in class yesterday when there was free time, but when we parted ways after class we both had errands to run. As it so happens about 10 minutes later as I was walking into the little mall in downtown Skövde, someone sharply said, "Jessica!" in the CORRECT pronunciation. I stopped dead in my tracks because 1) who in this town knows me? and 2) did I really just hear an American? Lo and behold, there was M again at the mall walking out of a store! She happened to be walking home after one more errand, and as I had a car at my disposal, I offered to take her home if we could run our errands together. Anyone who might have been listening in might have thought we were talking a million miles a minute! I can't explain simply just how nice it was to be in the presence of another American, talking about American things, and the funny things we've noticed about Swedes and Sweden in general. I'm really excited to have an American friend!! And what's more, she lives in my same neighborhood, literally a 3 min drive (or 15 min walk) down the street! =)

Today after class I went to the next town over, Tibro, to visit a Swedish friend of mine (I shall call him O). He recently bought an older Mercedes Benz van for super cheap as it has some significant body work that needs done and also had a few mechanical problems (that he's already fixed). I offered recently to help him out if he ever needed any, so he agreed to let me know whenever he would be taking a day off work so I could see if I'd like to come along and help! I used to help my dad with working on cars if we ever had anything go wrong with any of our cars, and I always really enjoyed it. Today, it's safe to say, was quite enjoyable! As I didn't bring any crappy clothes with me here to Sweden, he asked his mom if she could loan me some crappy work clothes, and she happened to have some that fit me pretty well. We went out to the garage and got to work! He's been doing some body work (removing rust) and I got to help out with this. He taught me how to use an angle grinder and he had a piece of metal trim he wanted some rust taken off of. I did all I could with this, and then after the fact he hooked up his air compressor to another hose into a sand bag; he sand blasted the bits that were more difficult to get to right off! I know I may be boring some of you, but for those of you even slightly interested, it was prett cool to see how some body work is done on cars. As I mentioned above, I've only really ever helped my dad with working on mechanical problems and fixing a car, not fixing up a car, ha ha.

Anyhoo, it was good to catch up with O, as I've known him just as long as I've known my J. Until today, I haven't been able to hang out with him one on one and spend some quality time together. I'm not one of those people who requires constant social integration (in fact I need my alone time, now and then), but it's wonderful to broaden my network of people. I'm enjoying getting to know people more and make more friends.

As the post title suggests, I'm a busy bee. Not only do I have more intense studying to do for Swedish now, but also my work will be picking up very quickly in the near future. I'm getting ready to post some job ads for my recruiting job, and with that I believe I'll need to start being the contact person that my boss has planned me to be all along. I've also got a quickly widening friend network, which means more socialization in the near future. To sum things up - I think I'm getting a normal (or as close as I can) life back! =)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Being a foreigner

Living life from a foreigner/immigrant's perspective is quite a special thing. Not ever did I expect to BE the foreigner.

Yesterday was the first day of our "real" SFI class. The first three weeks were just intro. Last week we took a test and were placed into different classes according to our skill/understanding. I, along with four other of my classmates, was placed into the highest/most advanced group. This class is quite different insofar as you basically teach yourself and go at your own pace. They gave us textbooks and work packets and said basically to work through it, and when we think we're ready, take a test, and then we move on to the next chapter. I like that I can go at my own pace now, instead of becoming bored at times in the intro course when the teacher must go slowly in order to make sure everyone could follow. That's another different thing, at least so far - the teacher yesterday didn't really teach, as we're teaching ourselves. We'll see if this becomes a trend or if she just wanted it to be more of a work day.

Back to my first two sentences of this post. For the first time, I went to lunch with several of my classmates. The five of us from the intro course that placed into the higher class decided during our one hour lunch break yesterday to go to China Town for a lunch buffet. I don't know why we waited several weeks to have lunch together, but no sense in speculating there. It was so enjoyable from my perspective because for once I was out with other foreigners/immigrants. Yes, it's fun to go out with J to a restaurant or even other Swedish friends of mine, but I still feel inside somewhere slightly like an outsider. The only reason I can come up for this is because where they interact with other Swedes working at the restaurant, I'm the one outsider who generally doesn't understand the interactions (although SFI is changing that, thankfully!). Yesterday, walking down the street being the loud foreigners, and then once inside the restaurant being the only louder group (and speaking English on top of that) was such a treat. Swedes are so reserved, I distinctly remember thinking how loud we sounded walking down the quiet streets on the way to and from lunch. It was just nice to be out with others who don't know much Swedish. Even though all of us are from different parts of the world, I didn't feel like an outsider. The commonality of being from elsewhere made it inclusive.

Another thing that I've pondered over is the fact that even though we are all from the different corners of the world (the five of us hail from the U.S., England, Singapore, Latvia, and Thailand), we understand each other and have a lot of fun just being people learning, or eating lunch, together. The fact that almost all of us have different mother tongues doesn't matter - it's so cool to see a language used as a common ground. Maybe I'm making such a big deal over nothing, or something that seems normal to a lot of people. Coming from the United States, however, it's definitely eye-opening and an experience I wish many more could have. The United States can be, and is, so isolated. Here in Europe everyone is close to everyone and they travel like there is no tomorrow. It's normal to come across foreigners and find the need to speak a foreign language to get your point across. In the States, it's learn English, or better luck next time.

Sometimes I miss being in the majority, like at home. But other times, I really enjoy the special point of view that being in the minority gives me. You see the whole world through a different light, and it really lets you see things that you would never think about or notice previously. Like I said, it's an experience that everyone should get.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Busy and longer days

Hej alihopa!

Jag är i min tredje vecka SFI!

I think that's correct, but my grammar could be off. For those of you who don't know Swedish, I attempted to say "Hi everyon! I am in my third week of SFI!" Class is going quite well. Today we had a "mini test" since the intro course is only three weeks. Once they review the test, then they place you in either SFI course A, B or C. A being lowest/easiest and C being the most difficult/advanced. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I'll be placed in C. The teacher I met with first, back in November, told me I would most likely end up in group C since I have so much education already. Also, so far Swedish has been coming relatively easily to me. So we shall see!

On another note, back in November/December the sun clearly started its descent around 2:30pm. Yesterday, I realized at 4pm that the sun was still up and shining! Although most definitely setting. But even closer to 5 there was still a tiny bit of light left in the sky. Maybe all of you in the States are thinking "Why is she so happy to have the sun setting at 5pm? That's so early." Well, come and live in a Nordic country for a while, and you'll see why! The changes are so drastic here, in Sweden. The summers don't get so hot and muggy like in Ohio, but it still gets relatively warm. Last summer it had been in the mid 80s Fahrenheit for a while here, and yet the winters are quite long and super cold and snowy. But I think the most noticeable thing for me is the sun. To have it completely dark around 3 or 3:30 in the midst of winter, and yet in the midst of summer it stays light until 11pm? It's a pretty neat thing. Yes, I am rambling about something that seems insignificant, but it has a huge impact on me, at least. I am rejoicing in the return of the sun!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of driving to the nearby town of Lidköping. I enjoy driving through the Swedish countryside. It really doesn't look all too different from the Ohio landscape, but still, you can tell you're somewhere else. There are so many trees, and I happen to find them enchanting, perhaps because nearly all of them are pine. We don't have hardly any pine in Ohio. Also, rather than having straight flat roads, Sweden likes to wind in and out of the woods, it's not nearly so boring to drive an hour here in mid-southern Sweden than an hour in most of Ohio. Southern Ohio is pretty, yes, with the hills and all. But that's just a small bit.

Anyway, it takes about 45 minutes or so to drive to Lidköping. I had a meeting with a coworker (yay employment) about my job. Things are moving! I am a busy bee. It's nice to feel, as I said to J yesterday, "like a person" again. I have a purpose. And truly I love learning again. Learning yet another language has made me realize that I missed learning Spanish, or maybe just learning a language in general. The time of day that I don't have class, I'm either working or cleaning around the apartment, or perhaps food shopping. Tomorrow I have booked laundry from 7am - noon! Yes, call me grandma if you wish. I'd rather get that chore done and out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of my free day! It'll be the first entirely free day I've had in weeks. Besides weekends of course.

Randomly, you might ask, "Why does she never mention being homesick?" Yes, I miss home in the States/Ohio. The people, the place I was raised, the American-ness and culture. But now, Sweden is becoming my home, too. I'm quickly creating ties and bonds here. At first it was simply being here because J is here. I had moved to J's home. However, interacting with the people, the place, and feeling a purpose and involvement in the happenings around me has really contributed to Sweden now being my home, too. I am happy. =)