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!