Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter, fashion, and summer on its way

I'll start off with some pictures of the past week, before I forget. =)

Just two of my Easter decorations - I posted a pic in the previous post of the bushes in the big square downtown. These two pictures are my own renditions for a party J and I hosted this past Saturday.

We went into a nearby little wooded area to pick up some twigs for my decorations and I was just so enchanted by the grass being covered in these charming little white flowers.

Last week my friend M and I decided to get some fika at one of the cafes on the main town square, it was so lovely and warm out, I could almost get a tan!

More public Easter decorations.

I felt I had to post this shot just to show how many, if not most, people in Sweden appear to be straight out of some catalogue, like H&M or something.

Living here has made me so fashion conscious. I wear pretty much only skinny jeans now, and nearly cringe when I look at my American-made boot leg style jeans sitting in my closet. This is pretty much my signature look these days. Which is also many of the Swedes' signature look as well. Me being of European descent, I blend right in. Until I open my mouth, none of the Swedes would even know I wasn't one of them!

The weather has been lovely, to say the least. With some sadness I might even venture to say that it would actually do us some good to have some rain. It's been weeks since we had our last truly rainy day. I'm sure all the new leaves and green grass would love some rain. But for now, I'll take all the sunshine and warmth I can get. I still feel almost naked walking outside without a real jacket on. Earlier today J and I rode our bikes downtown and back. It was so nice, it reminded me of being a kid.

This past weekend was both fun and tiring. You would think a four day weekend would mean a lot of rest, but no, J and I just had to throw another party. We booked our apartment company's festlokal and had a barbecue/themed Easter party with some good friends. Needless to say it was a bunch of fun. The next day was spent recovering. And then Monday came along and we did a whole bunch of nothing. I suppose you could say we did get some rest, although the first half to 3/4 of the weekend felt busy and hectic. Planning parties and throwing them takes a lot of effort! Who knows, maybe we'll even get one together in a couple of months for midsommar. For those of you who don't know what it is, the Swedes celebrate midsommar, or the summer solstice by throwing large barbecues and just having parties, or so I hear. It's probably a lot like the 4th of July in the States, except without fireworks. But with giant poles that people dance around. To get back to our Easter weekend, it was good fun, but I'm glad to keep moving forward towards summer. It feels like winter just ended and yet summer is nearly here, the temperatures have been near 20C each day, and I've been told Swedish summer usually hovers around 25C. Spring and fall seem to get the shaft on length here.

J and I have been throwing around the idea of attending Peace & Love, basically a giant music festival that lasts for five days at the end of June/beginning of July. If you visit that link, you'll see they've got some pretty big names booked. It could be a lot of fun! Plus a couple of our friends who live in Stockholm are considering going as well. I'll let you all know if anything develops on that front.

Well I can't think of anything else truly exciting to entice you all with further. I think I've included enough Swedish culture tidbits to keep you satisfied for now. Hope your Easter weekends were relaxing and enjoyable! Here is a belated Glad Påsk! (or Happy Easter!)

Monday, April 18, 2011

The grass is turning green

And the trees are beginning to have buds! I know, I know, you guys might all be getting sick of my mention of spring in every post I do now. But spring is apparently a slow, slow process here in Sweden. Right now in Ohio I'm sure all the blossoms have bloomed on the trees and little leaves might even be all on them. Here, the grass is finally starting to not look utterly dead, and the trees have the tiniest of buds on them. It's exciting. Not to mention the weather being anywhere from 10 - 17C this past week or two. That's low 50s to low 60s Fahrenheit for you folks across the pond. Yesterday J and I walked downtown to have some ice cream because it was just such a nice day outside. I didn't even have to wear my jacket.

This past weekend my friend M and I went to an SFI classmate's home out in the middle of nowhere to ride horses and just hang around. It was great to be able to spend time with someone outside of class where you only get to see one side of them. She showed us the farm/whatever you would call it that she lives on. They have horses, alpacas, chickens, a rooster, and even some peacocks. Not to mention she showed us a pond with a boatload of frogs in it!

One of the frogs was jumping about in the dusty road, and my friend M decided to screech and shove me aside like she was saving me from a cobra. Then I saw this cute frog trying to hop out of the dust.

I mentioned J and I walking yesterday, and I saw such a pretty lonely daffodil. I tried to get a nice shot, but apparently phone cameras still aren't very up to snuff.

Not much else is new in the world of Sweden. Spring really is the biggest happening. All the bikes are coming out (although they never all went away, crazy Swedes ride their bikes in the dead of winter). When I look out at the playground from my kitchen window, there are almost always children playing in it. I never knew how many kids we had in the neighborhood until now.

This coming weekend is Easter weekend. The Swedes get "Long Friday" off and "Second Day Easter", aka Easter Monday. They actually have names from Wednesday through Monday.

- Dymmelonsdag is the first day, the Wednesday before Easter. Dymmel doesn't have a direct translation, but it comes from dymblar, which are wooden sticks that were placed in church bells on this day starting quite some time ago. They replaced the metal at this time to create a quiet, discreet sound rather than the normal loud clanging.
- Skärtorsdag is the second day, the Thursday before Easter. This is known by some as Maundy Thursday.
- Långfredag, which is translated to Long Friday, instead of Good Friday.
- Påskafton, the Saturday before Easter Sunday, which roughly translates to Easter Eve.
- Påskdagen, Easter Sunday. It translates to Easter Day.
- Annandagpåsk, or Second Day Easter.

Here is a picture of typical Easter celebrations. I took this shot in the big town square downtown.

Not only do they have these in public spaces, but live branches with synthetic feathers glued to them are for sale in all the flower stores, and even normal stores. While grocery shopping yesterday I noticed many on display and for sale. It's a very colorful and fun way to celebrate spring/Easter.

The Swedes apparently throw tons of parties or get togethers over Easter weekend. And why not? It's the first weekend of the year where the weather is bound to be pretty good, and it's a four day weekend. Who wouldn't want to throw a good barbecue with friends in the warming weather? J and I are tentatively planning to throw one of our own, and hopefully we can book the apartment company's festlokal. A festlokal is kind of like what in America we would call a clubhouse. The apartment complex has a big area you can book for an evening to throw a party of any sort. Ours isn't in our building, but it is somewhere nearby in the neighborhood. Swedes tend to use them a lot more than Americans, I think. I've never heard of anyone actually ever using the clubhouse of their apartment complex for a party. But maybe that's just me.

I should probably study and work more in my SFI textbooks. I want to start picking up my pace a little bit, and it simply requires discipline at home. In class we rarely get time anymore to just work through our books. On Friday we didn't even have real class and went to the local stadsteater (city theater) and saw a local high school's music production. I thought it was rather good/entertaining for high school kids. What got me thinking was how talented they all seemed to be. In my high school there could be people who were pretty terrible at some instruments or in choir, but this whole show (90 kids) was great, talent-wise. I think it's because here in Sweden you begin to specialize in high school. When you attend gymnasiet (high school) you choose a track to take. For instance, J took the track that dealt specifically with science and math because he wanted to go into engineering when university time came around. It's an interesting way to approach education. On one hand, I think it's great that you can begin to hone your skills so early. And yet the other part of me thinks "I still don't know what I want to do with my life, how is a teenager going to know?" But apparently the system works. To get back to my original thought, all the kids were probably so great because they go to a specific musikgymnasiet, so they all focus on singing, playing an instrument and the like.

This Friday is Långfredag, so no class there either! Two short weeks in a row. One could perhaps say I'm finally getting spring fever. I really hope there isn't a surprise dump of snow in our near future, as I've heard threatened from J. He's told me it can even snow in May. I've got my fingers crossed!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring is on its way!

It's been warmer here in Sweden for the past week or two. I think I've finally let myself hope and wish for spring to come. Some people were speaking about and wishing for spring back in February or March, and I just knew better than to think about that so early in the year. Even though this has been my first winter in Sweden, I made myself expect the worst!

This weekend we went to J's parents' house to dogsit on Saturday, and I noticed all these little snödroppar, or snowdrops, all over their backyard. J told me that in Sweden, those are known as the "first sign of spring." They were so charming. It reminded me of all the tulips and daffodils that have surely already sprouted in Ohio. Not only have the spring flowers come out of the ground, but the weather has been fairly nice for the past week or two; and if the forecast is correct, it will continue to be nice and warm. Nice and warm being 10C, or 50F, as the high temperature of the day. It's been raining on and off, but that's spring, you can't complain about that. We also switched from winter to summer tires yesterday! So I've mentioned not one, not two, but three signs of spring. =)

Swedish traditions to be mentioned since the last time I posted: Friday, March 25th was national waffle day here in Sweden. Everyone apparently makes these cute waffles, and they eat them in what I consider to be WAY better than the American way. They whip some heavy whipping cream and procure some raspberry jam/jelly/preserves and top the waffles with those, as you can see in the picture I've linked. They taste way, way better than syrup! No, I did not take part on national waffle day, however, yesterday J's grandmother invited us over for waffles. Maybe I got spoiled since it was grandmother cooking, and who has ever had a grandmother with bad cooking? Needless to say she is quite a sweet woman.

The other Swedish tradition I wished to mention is April Fool's Day! I was glad to hear they do the same thing on April 1st as in America. Except they don't say April Fool's, they say "april, april, din dumma sill!" Which roughly translates to "April, April, you stupid herring!" When put into English it sounds a bit harsh, but really it's just a silly saying to let someone know they've been duped. And yes, I meant to spell April in lower case letters when typing in Swedish - for some reason they don't feel that months or days of the week are true names that actually deserve capitalization. The Swedish media even took part in the joke-playing on Friday. I was tricked! I read this article on The Local, which is an online newspaper of Swedish news in English. I exclaimed to J all about it, and then later saw this article and realized I'd been fooled. Way to go, Swedish media!

I don't think there is really much else to say about my life here in Sweden. I continue going to SFI Tuesdays - Fridays. Our group of friends in that class have bonded even further, we even do stuff outside of class/school time, now! A couple of weeks ago one of our friends had us all over for fika, and we had some really good conversation going. It was quite enjoyable. I helped that same friend find a bakery just last week so that she could secretly order her Swedish boyfriend a birthday cake and surprise him on Sunday. I saw the pictures on facebook, it all turned out well! She ordered what here in Sweden is known as a princess cake. I've never had it myself, and that vile shade of green makes it look not so appetizing at first. Here is a recipe, and the main reason I link it is so you can actually know what is inside of it. Maybe I will attempt to create one at some point?

Well I think this will have to do for now. I need to get ready and go meet a friend for fika soon. Here is another cheer for having free Mondays!