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Published: September 15th 2013
Well, I think the weather may finally be turning! I woke up to the patter of rain that has come and gone throughout the day. The weather has been extraordinary since I arrived. I knew that I was being lured into a false sense of security! The beautiful weather has meant that I have been able to profit from plenty of time outside! I'm certainly not alone in wanting to soak up these warm(ish) days. Something foreign to me is the presence of blankets offered by restaurants and cafes. Draped over the backs of chairs are fleece blankets that customers wrap themselves in as the sun sets; this extends the time one can enjoy dining outside!
Beyond sitting outside to eat, I’ve taken in many more days at the beach. I now have a bike! That has opened up new options and places to explore. Yesterday, another teacher and I biked over to Sofiero Palace, the former royal summer residence. We wandered around the gardens and took in the beautiful views.
Another somewhat outdoor activity was a visit to the sauna. Though the weather has been sunny,
the water has become markedly colder since I arrived. The sauna is split into male and females since one partakes in the nude. This particular sauna is built out on sort of a pier so that there is a great view of the sound and neighboring Denmark. It appears that the routine is to sweat in the sauna until you cannot stand it any longer, walk down a ladder into the sea for a dip, and then either lie in the sun and then repeat, or return to the sauna immediately. Cycling through these for a few hours was a great way to pass a Sunday!
I'm nearing the end of the hoop jumping that comes with moving! It started with the visa, then the residence card adventure in a neighboring town, then registering at the tax office for a person number (like a social security number), then opening a bank account, registering with the local doctor, and now... a Swedish ID card! With any luck, the ID will be in my possession in a week. Life without that card is remarkably challenging! Of course, all of these steps are worth the experience
of being here, and have offered glimpses into Swedish culture. That said, I'm ready to not take a number in an office building for a good while!
The big change for me personally is that I am now living in a one bedroom apartment. When I accepted the job offer, I envisioned myself living alone and snuggling in, and now I get to do just that! I'm renting from a wonderful family who bought a home from the early 1900s and converted it into flats. The apartment even has a little balcony overlooking the quiet neighborhood and garden. The quiet is actually unbelievable. When I Skype with friends in Denver, I cannot help but note the sound of passing traffic or sirens wailing in the background. Having loved living in bigger cities, I surprised at how much I enjoy this smaller town and the quiet… I wonder if I’ll like it come the middle of February!
Before moving into my own place, I was able to celebrate my roommate's birthday! This was great fun because, of course, a birthday warrants a cake! Shopping for the ingredients
Morning coffee on the sound
The land across the water is Denmark
was incredible. I paced up and down the baking isle with my eyes darting between Google Translate and the labels on boxes. Eventually, I figured that I had enough ingredients to make a cake. Baking had its own challenges with conversions from tablespoons to milliliters and so on. It was well worth it as the birthday girl enjoyed the cake and it sparked many conversations with new colleagues at work.
A few weekends back, I was afforded the opportunity to visit a smaller town on the very southern-most tip of Sweden called Falsterboro, as family friends who live there invited me to visit for a night. We bought our warm-smoked salmon and delicious cooked shrimp at a shop in the harbor and then settled in for a lovely dinner complete with cultural insights and history lessons.
The next day, we biked around the town. Because the area is the last bit of land, all the birds from Scandinavia fly over as they migrate south. This means that the area was packed with birders. We even caught a brief lecture that was kindly given in English to
A few bikes in Copenhagen
One of the many "parking lots" by the train station
accommodate me! The little beach huts were charming, as were the pitched roofed houses. Between appreciating the sights and the local galleries and the insight into life in small-town Sweden, I would declare the visit a success!
Work is going well. I marvel that I am able to wear red to school (I used to not be allowed to due to gang activity). It just reminds me of this completely different place I am in than ever before. The students are wonderful and the resources to help the students are many- which is great considering it is a public school. The other staff has been so welcoming and inclusive!
Outings with colleagues have included meals in town, a dinner at a home 20 minutes into the countryside, and a picnic at Nimis. The last one was extremely unusual! In the 1980s, an artist built these incredible structures from driftwood and nails. There has been a good deal of back and forth on whether they were to be torn down or not as they are illegal and on a nature preserve. So far, they are still standing.
To get there, it is about a 30-minute hike through the woods, following yellow and blue Ns painted on trees, and down a steep hill. The structures were great fun to climb and the view and quiet for our picnic were excellent!
Beyond wearing red, I have to mention a big difference between this and my previous schools, which is lunch. I have the privilege of lunch duty, which my school refers to as pedagogical lunch, where I eat with the students twice a week. The lunches are a far cry from the pizza, nachos, and token apples that students ate at my schools in the States. There are at least 5 different vegetables including grated carrots, cabbage, corn and bean, cucumbers, and so on for each day accompanied by a meat option, a fish option, and a vegetarian option. There is no candy or dessert allowed in the school. The only drinks available are milk or water. What I really cannot get over, but have since adopted as a custom, is that after they have eaten their meal, they take a Wasa cracker and slather butter on it. At first, I thought
it was a sad excuse for dessert, but now I rather look forward to it!
I happened to spot that a Degas exhibit was on at a museum in Copenhagen. That was enough reason to hop on the train and spend the day skimming the surface of what Copenhagen has to offer! I thought that bikes were popular in Sweden, but Denmark puts it to shame! Even as the day alternated from sun to rain, the bikers just kept on. We made our way from the museum to the old harbor for a beer and people watching. The clothing and general look of people is noticeably different from Sweden, which is remarkable given we were only 45 minutes away by train. I look forward to going back soon to explore more.
Tomorrow I start Swedish classes. It will be very difficult to motivate to stick with learning the language for a few reasons. I have heard mediocre reviews of the classes. It will be challenging, too, because I work in English, the locals English is incredible, and I am thinking this is a short-term stay in
Sweden. But, we’ll see! I have read that the Swedes are very happy to speak English for a period of time, but then they really expect you to learn Swedish. I can of course appreciate this, and do I want to show respect for their culture by learning their language. I know that doing so would allow a more intimate view of their culture. So, we’ll see how class goes!
I think I’ll leave you with the analogy that a Swede made last night. She said that befriending a Swede is like hitting a ketchup bottle. You hit it many times and nothing happens, and then suddenly, a flood of ketchup comes forth.
Feeling grateful for this opportunity! Hoping this finds you all doing wonderfully!
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