Published: October 10th 2008October 10th 2008
My good and patient Swedish teacher.
We've been here now for two full months,I'm having a hard time resolving within myself how those days can feel like forever and hardly at all, all at the same time. I want/need to stop counting the days until we go "home"- don't quote me on that - but I'm going to try.
Last week we had incredible weather, what we in Minnesota would call Indian Summer. In Sweden, it's referred to as "Brit Summer" (and I may have that wrong)...call it what you want, just give me more! As I look out the window, the trees are starting to turn. I LOVE Minnesota in the fall, hands down my favorite season...and I'm missing it. However, Sweden is doing it's best to make us feel at home. It's so beautiful to see the crimson leaves creeping up the rocks that are still covered with that bright, chartreuse green moss. That green is the color that I love so much in the Minnesota springtime.
I've had a few Swedish lessons with Gunnel. I have to admit that I'm a terrible student...I really always have been. I'm the one that listens closely in class, asks a lot of questions and then
Emma & Gunnel
waits until the hours before the next class to cram what we went over last week. When we talked about these lessons, I told Gunnel that I don't expect to speak Swedish, my goal is simply to be able to read a few basic things - like road signs - and to try to understand a little when others are speaking. I'm starting to identify some words and phrases, which makes me happy. What makes me even happier is spending an hour or two with Gunnel. I would pay her just to hang out with me. You can see the photos of her on this blog, but my descriptions will fall short. She's a classy & spunky lady and I feel a great deal of compassion and kindness from her. Anyone who starts each summer day with a swim in the sea with her 4 "bad lady" friends (in Swedish, bad is bath, which is what they refer to as a swim here) has my respect! Her presence in my Swedish life continues to be a blessing.
One beautiful evening last week, Gunnel walked us to the lille vik (little bay) by her home...her back yard looks out over
Gunnel's lille vik
Signe and Jorgen are always seeking treasures from the sea.
a series of tiny islands...an archipelago. Again, we walked through a tree lined "forest" to reach the bay. Signe desperately wanted to swim and couldn't be convinced that it was o.k. to hop in naked. Long gone are the days where she was our famous streaker, constantly running through the house nude, showing up at a formal cathedral wedding sans underpants. Nope, modesty has taken hold of her. She and Jorgen still waded into the chilly waters in their never ending quest for "creatures". There are lots of jelly fish right now, so they really need to watch where they are going.
I started this entry on October 1st and am now just getting back to it on the 10th...I think I was experiencing bloggers block - combined with PMS - not a good combination, I'm afraid. I feel like there's just so much to say and you're all too busy to read my daily life...ups and downs. I'm so torn as to how I feel some days. I want only to be joyful about this opportunity, it's truly a privilege to be here. To have this chance to see new places, experience a new culture and to share
Gunnel says the kids leap from this cliff into the sea. Emma can't wait to try!
this with our kids. I feel bad that I have to remind myself so often to "chin up". So, I'm human.
There are lots of great things...we've met some wonderful people. Before we left for Sweden, we had actually met Swedes who told us that the Swedish people are reserved, by nature. We were told not to expect people to be very welcoming. My personal experience is that the Swedish people are just as varied in style and personality as Americans. We have been so warmly welcomed by the people at church. I look forward to the friendly greetings and so appreciate the willingness of so many to go out of their comfort zones to speak English...a language they have learned, but which some rarely have the opportunity to use. I haven't met one person who speaks bad English. I was wrong that the Swedes are all the stereotypical, blond, beautiful people...there are plenty of beautiful people, but just like in America, the beauty defies stereotype...there are simply all kinds of people here.
That brings me to something I'm becoming really frustrated with. Emma has been the one to encounter the most anti-American sentiments. I believe that part
"Nordic stick walking" group from church.
of it is her age, there are bratty 13 year old kids everywhere and Sweden is no exception. Our first experience was the first week we arrived when the kids went to the bible camp...a young Iraqi boy ran up to Jeff, Emma and Signe sitting at a picnic table and said, "I'm from Iraq and we don't like your war." and then he ran away. It would have been nice to be able to tell him we don't particularly like this war either. Emma has had many comments thrown at her about how Americans don't take care of themselves and are all fat. Excuse me, son, how many Americans do you know? I suspect he's only ever met Emma, and she's hardly obese. Emma countered with the fact that you can fit 24 Swedens into the size of America...it's a big country with a lot of different people. He said, yeah, but Sweden's taller. Huh? O.k., so this week the same kid tells Emma that Americans don't take care of their teeth. Emma countered with, "that's not true". He replied, "just look at your teeth, they're all crooked and gross.". I offered to accompany Emma back to school so
This is my first go with the sticks!
I could kick a little Swedish butt...she begged me not to. At least her teeth can be fixed, I'm not so sure about his ignorance.
I have to take my name off of the "Mother of the Year" ballot...again. Em stopped by with some friends at break today to get some money for the market where she was going to get "N-gg-r balls". I stopped in my tracks...this is not a word that we use. I took a deep breath (this is in front of her friends) and asked, "what is that translation of that word?". Yep, it's a description of another race. I proceeded to lecture her that under no circumstance, in any country, for any translation is she allowed to use that word. I explained to her that it's a derogatory term used against an entire race of people. One of the other girls meekly said, "you could call them chocolate balls". Later, when she arrived home from school I asked her what her friends thought of my lecture, explaining that it was as much for them as for her (I know she knows better). She said that the girls all said it's a word that their
Our "new to us" Nissan Almera...considered a mid-sized car!
parents have used, it's just what they've always known and used. That makes me really sad...but I know it happens everywhere.
Enough of the negativity. Some fun before I sign off. See the photos of my first attempt at ståvgang? I really enjoyed my jaunt around the lake that reminded me of the Boundary Waters! Michaela walked me through using the sticks and I enjoyed the coffee break with Birgitta and the ladies. Shortly after we packed up our coffee and sandwiches, it started to pour. I was the only one lacking proper rain gear...my "Americaness" becoming obvious. I got drenched, but loved every minute of it.
On the subject of care packages from home...we've had several offers and SO appreciate everyone's kindness and generosity. We're doing well and finding some things here...we even had Pizza Hut pizza with some Americans last night! We should be acclimating, not replicating, right? Still, the peanut butter has been a treat and the chocolate chip cookies are something we just couldn't leave behind. We'll let you know if/when we're desperate for something from home.
Notice our little red car? Roj (pronounced Roy - it's on the license) is the newest addition to our family, but is really more like our "exchange car". We can't get too attached, he's just not coming home with us. Jeff went to fill him up before we left for Denmark...$100 to fill the tank! I'm glad that the price of gas in going down for all of you, I hear it's at or under $3 in some places...we're still sitting around $7/gallon. Ouch.
The last bit of excitement to share. Mary's coming to visit!!! Yes, I think that Tim must have gotten tired of her loneliness, just as Jeff has grown weary of mine...he surprised her by just booking the tickets (after he confirmed we would be home). Gutsy move, TK, I like it! We look forward to picking her up at the airport in Gothenburg on Thursday. Poor Jorgen fell two weeks ago and hit his front tooth...we noticed just 2 days ago that it was turning brown, and now it's starting to hurt. Good thing our dentist makes house calls...
A little "Hello and Lay Low" to Mom, Tuesday she upgraded her knee with a successful replacement. She may run the Stockholm Marathon with Krissy and Jeff after all!