Tag Archives: sweden

Too many ledes! Too many ledes!

When you lapse so much time, where do you start? I guess you take a deep breath and just rip off the Band-Aid (that’s a plaster, Brits and Swedes) — hairs and all.

So whhhheeeee here goes – I’m still gonna do this two country thing a wee bit longer. Why? Cause Karl got his visa! He’s all approved by the US of A’s citizenship and immigration services. After much contemplation and staring at forms, we were pretty sure I needed to be gainfully employed on American soil for his visa to be approved. So that’s partly why I came here now to job hunt and also because 10+ months is far too long to be away from people. Well hey! ho!, we were wrong! Good ole Communikonst was good enough for them. That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Given that being away from your other for a significant period of time is THE PITS, we’re not going to do that to ourselves for any longer than we must. So I’ll keep doing a back and forth dance that goes a little something like this — back to Sweden Dec. 27, back to Louisiana Feb. 14, back to Sweden again late March/early April and back to Louisiana May/June. Got that? Good. I do love me some dancin’. Continue reading

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December 19, 2013 · 4:38 pm

And the earth is full of earthquakes

Right now, Swedish popular culture is euphoric because Sweden won Eurovision – the awkward, politically-charged annual music Olympics – with Loreen and her song ‘Euphoria.’ If you’re not familiar with Eurovision, it’s probably because you’re American and we’re not invited. But more Americans are catching on. Click HERE for an excellent blog post about it that someone else wrote.

But that’s not the Swedish musical moment that’s been on my mind. A few weeks ago, Karl was playing a song on his guitar, singing along in Swedish and I thought ‘Hmm that sounds familiar’ as the lyrics fell from my mouth, line by line in English. and they came out of their houses. and they looked around. but they didn’t see no one. Continue reading

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In this golden light

On Wednesday, my nephew turns one. On Wednesday, I will not be there. The good fortune is he won’t remember. Still, I will.

But I need him (and you — and me I suppose), to know that I woke up on Saturday happier than I’ve felt in years. This is not to say I don’t have my happy days. I do. But this breed of happiness is the childhood kind of glee that you grow to recognize later in life. It’s waking up on a rainy, sunless, bitter, winter day warmed to the core, knowing that you are surrounded, embraced, enveloped by love.

Why?

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Oh say can you see (?)

In seventh grade, I got hit in the face with a softball. (Could’ve easily been eighth. Damn time flies.) Kerplunk. Smack on the bridge of the nose – blood, emergency room and all. This is the day my dad doesn’t like to remember. I’m not too fond of it, either.

In school I made excellent grades, sat toward the front of the classroom and got things done. I had my tricks. I had my ways. I was successful in not revealing the tiny fact that I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see the chalkboard for sure. In fact, I couldn’t really see past the desk in front of me. But man was I good at making it work. A middle school kid with braces doesn’t want glasses on top of that, am I right?

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In the loop

Though I am a frequenter of grocery stores, I am not a usual patron of a particular one that’s a bit out of the way and on the expensive side. Imagine my content to drop in one day and see a sign proudly proclaiming ‘Äntligen i sverige!’ (finally in Sweden!). What managed to make its way at last? Froot Loops, the beloved cavity-inducing, Toucan Sam-endorsed breakfast goodness. If I were a shrieker, I would’ve shrieked. But I’m not so I just bought some and biked on home. Thanks to mom and grandma, I’m a proud owner of four Kellogg’s plastic cereal bowls featuring the aforementioned Sam and his pals Tony the Tiger; Snap, Crackle & Pop; and Corny the Rooster. (If you don’t know what they endorse, I’m a little sad you didn’t grow up in a culture steeped in advertising to children with cartoon characters.)

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Cemented questions

Walking through town on my way to the library, familiarity strikes. Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhzzzzzzzzz! A discernible sound. A sound unlike no other. The pitchy whir of a remote-controlled car. Under whose behest? A grown up. His wife walked several paces ahead, pushing the baby, he lagged behind exercising control of his own. Pushing away adulthood? Preparing the car for the baby’s inheritance? There’s no reason to know really. But this is the kind of moment where I realize something I miss. Like a driveway. It hadn’t really occurred to me that children (and grown ups) across the globe would have to play with remote-controlled cars on the street. (Yes, this is obvious but not one of those things I’ve ever given much thought.) That’s always been what a driveway was good for.

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On elephants large and small

I don’t know if you’ve heard the imaginary news, but there’s an elephant in this tiny blog room. He’s got allergies. When he sneezes, he breaks things. (But he’ll buy them.) Perhaps you’ve felt him a time or two bumbling around the background. Despite his size, he’s actually quite small in comparison to other elephants. So, let’s talk to him and get him out the way.

Me: Hey, little elephant. What are you doing here? Have you heard a who?

Ele: Who dat! Who dis! I’m here so you’ll acknowledge you’re going to stay in Sweden after you finish your thesis. (Apparently this elephant can rhyme.)

Me: Well, shit. Here we go. You’re right. Even though this place can be depressingly cold and dark, I’ve found many rays of sunshine here. I suppose you could say one in particular is blinding, soul soothingly bright. So I’m going to stay here a bit longer than anticipated. I’m applying for a temporary residence permit (more on that in future blogment), looking for immigrant suitable jobs and trying this place on for size. Will I be here forever? I don’t know. Can’t say I picture it. Can’t say I picture living in Louisiana either. So who knows. I know this chapter isn’t finished being written. I know it hurts to silence other chapters I could be writing with you. But I hope you’ll sit right here with me for the rest of this ride. You’ve helped carry me this far and it’d mean a lot if you stayed with me.

The elephant’s shrinking, but he’s by no means gone. I tried to convey most of this in person to everyone at home, but I’m not sure how successful I was. So if you’ve got questions, you know where to ask. There’s more to explain, of course, and I’ll get to it all in time. Most importantly, I’m happy, healthy and somehow in harmony. I hope you are too.

Now on with the circus! (Or a recap of my visit home.)

I was home when the Saints won the Super Bowl. I was home when my best friend got bludgeoned by a life-size Native American wooden statue. I was home to be my sister’s first proper houseguest. I was home for my mom’s birthday. I was home to hear my best friend sing live and not through a computer. I was home to eat my dad’s homemade (RV-made?) bread. I was home to have all my families in one place. I was home to help make fish bikes. I was home to celebrate your anniversaries. I was home to wrestle with my 13-year-old puppy. I was home to make a pink king cake. I was home to watch you dance to Lady Gaga. I was home to be familiarized with the phrase “I be back. I be back.” I was home to eat broccoli and cheese soup from a breadbowl with my favorite advisor. I was home to play board games. I was home to drink in old stomping grounds with old friends. I was home to meet your new friends, loves and little ones. I was home to be employed by familiar faces in a new fancy office. I was home to help with creative endeavors. I was home to hear your voices, see your faces, laugh with you and feel your boundless warmth. (And now, admittedly, I’m crying just thinking about it.) I was home to be home as much as possible. I was home to show Karl what–more importantly who–home means. I think I succeeded in some ways. I guess. Don’t worry too much. I’ll be back around. I hope he’ll be back too.

Until then, you’re more than welcome to come visit me here. I’ve had my official first non-parental-affiliated visitor! (Not that I got anything against the parental unit.) Brandi, my 225/Business Report cohort made the icy trek across the Atlantic skies for roughly a week’s visit. I tore the soles off her shoes, essentially, squeezing in megatours of Copenhagen, Berlin, Lund and Malmo. Perhaps most amusing was our sad and wonderful trip to the Berlin Zoo. We’ve long been fans of Knut, the uberphotogenic baby polar bear. So we went on our own mini mecca to see him. He didn’t disappoint and neither did his other zoo inmates, especially the primates. There’s photo gallery action HERE. Brandi can vouch that I’ve got good people here too, can cook and carry your suitcase when the wheels snap like ankles (among other remarkable things). She would, however, recommend you come when it’s not quite so cold. I kept pointing out spring’s new bulbs, but I don’t think she believed me that it would get warm eventually.

In other news, I’m weighed down in thesis world at the moment. Got 10-pages due in a week (hence why I’m blogging now!). But I’m advancing quite well. I may even have myself a title. It goes a little something like this — The toaster has eyes: Anthropomorphism’s relation to psychology, design theory and phenomenology in the user’s experience of everyday, inanimate design objects. Basically I’m looking at design objects like this and this to see how they allow the user to be a designer and give objects faces and such when they weren’t there originally. Blah blah blah there’s all sorts of theory and stuff that gets mixed in. And 40-50 pages later it’ll all make sense. I promise. Basically I think I’m trying to explain in master’s level terms why The Brave Little Toaster has always been one of my freakin favorite movies. Why shouldn’t your toaster love you with adventurous devotion? Guess I better get back to it.

I leave you with two lines of wisdom I learned during my trip home:

‘Toy Story 2 was okay.’ –from a bathroom stall

‘I was hiding under your porch because I love you!’ –from Up

And one from me last week:

‘Do I need more monkeys?’

Click me and my awesome grocery store monkey for photos from home.

Monkey see, monkey do. Monkey click!

Monkey see, monkey do. Monkey click!

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The Lego, the witch and the barbecue

So, you want to know about Easter in Sweden? If the answer is no, perhaps you should check back next week when I delight you with a recap of my upcoming trip to Berlin. If the answer is yes, hurrah. You’re in luck.

For starters, Easter is Påsk, which in Swedish really means “six-day weekend.” The Thursday before Good Friday  people leave work somewhere around noon and typically don’t go back until Monday or Tuesday, mostly the latter. Stores close. People go home. Etc. This might be inconvenient to a 24/7/365 accustomed American. But shit ya’ll, the sun’s out in Sweden. Nobody cares about anything except that they can now bare their arms and quite possibly their legs. Much like Christmas, there are specific Påsk products like beer and meat. Swedes don’t dye Easter eggs. I raised a number of eyebrows, as did my fellow Americans, when we invited other Europeans to submerge hard-boiled eggs in questionable brightly colored liquid. I don’t think they trusted me when I told them they can still ingest the eggs. There are also zero Easter egg hunts. I was never good at these anyway. Margot (one of my sisters) will forever be the reigning champ. Instead, Swedish children are given one massive egg (typically paper-mache esque or plastic) filled with varieties of candied goodness. Giant wax-tasting chocolate bunnies and/or crucifixes? Not so much. Peeps? Certainly not. Meanwhile, my mom got her Peep-o-rama ode to chef extraordinaire Julia Child in The Advocate. She’s photo No. 5 of 27 to expedite your clicking.

Most importantly, Swedes have Påsk witches and Lego Jesus. I’m not certain there’s no Easter bunny, but there are witches! This is how the story goes, with apologies: Once upon a time during this particular time of year, witches rode off on their broomsticks to cavort with the devil at Blåkulla. Given this, on that special Thursday, kids dress like witches, grab a broom and ask for treats. It’s like witches-only Halloween in April. Perhaps there really will be a Christmas in July here too. I didn’t witness this act in progress, but no kid in their right mind would ask college students for candy, broom or no. Now: Lego Jesus! You’re thinking a towering, smiling, yellow-skinned Jesus with C-shaped hands and removable hair. You’re wrong, but still ready to be wowed. It’s a Jesus made of Legos (around 30,000 donated ones). The 5-foot, 8-inch Lego Jesus was unveiled at Önsta Gryta Church in Västerås, about 70 miles west of Stockholm. This fact very much excited my friend Henrik who is from this place. This fact very much disappointed me when I saw the photo and understood it was constructed of Legos and not an actual giant Lego person. But hey, stranger things have washed ashore. Twice, actually.

What did I do? I’ve been: Reading outdoors. Meeting ticks. Eating lots of (veggie) barbecues. Playing charades. Writing a children’s book. Applying for internships. Etc. Naturally, I’ve been documenting this with photos. Two of my professors have arranged a quick trip to Berlin this week, so next week I’ll overwhelm you with photos of Berlin. We’re going a whirlwind museum tour and all that touristy jazz with all the insight art/design professors can divulge. It’ll be enlightening at the least.

Click me and my Weeble Wobble Easter eggs for photos.

Click me and Easter egg eyes for photos.

Click me and Easter egg eyes for photos.

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The art of the matter

Should it need to be labeled, week 6 of 2009 (Swedes go by numbered weeks) is writ as one artsy week. I’ve joined Galleri Pictura, a student organization that operates a cozy gallery in Lund. They like to showcase young Swedish contemporary artists. As a member, you get the privilege of volunteering your time to (wo)man the gallery as often as you’re able/willing. I usually work for a few hours every Saturday, which could be a mistake on their part since it’s the busiest day and I speak the least Swedish. One grumpy gentleman last week, not only finished my sentence when I was attempting to apologize and explain that I don’t speak very much Swedish, he mocked me.

This gentleman would most likely scold Anna Odell, a 35-year-old student at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. She’s been a hot topic of debate as of late. As part of a yet-to-be-completed art project, she pretended she was going to jump off  a bridge and was taken by police to the psychiatric ward of a hospital. She lashed out during all this, was restrained, given drugs and kept overnight. She later revealed it was all an act and part of her art project. Dr. David Eberhard, who treated her, had this to say on the matter. “It’s just pathetic. Paint a picture instead,” he told Dagens Medicin. “But she’s welcome to come back so I can give her a shot of Haloperidol, and then we’ll see how much fun she has. That would make a great installation.” Would I scold her? I haven’t decided.

My class also went on another field trip (art field trips-5; zoo field trips-0) to the Malmö Opera. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of anything resembling a musical. As such, this was my first trip to the opera. Consider it irony-laden and all-too strange that my first opera attendance would be a performance of Dead Man Walking. Didn’t know the book-film was an opera? Me neither. That’s right. I watched Swedes belt out songs about being a death row inmate in Angola. Welcome home. The curtain adequately mirrored the woods of Louisiana, but that’s about as close to reality as the production came. You knew, really, that you weren’t in Kansas anymore when the opera opened with a nude couple running through the woods, making out in front of the headlights of their ’80s convertible. Enter rape and murder. Then came Sister Helen Prejean, singing and taking care of the black kids in the ghetto. Except Sweden is starved of black folks, and none of those children or any Angola inmates were black. But I suppose I am being overly critical. It is an impressive human feat to be able to sing that powerfully for such a sustained period of time. I get why people are enamored with opera. It’s just not for me.

What is for me is weirdos making music. That’s the easiest though least fair or kind way to put it. Friday night I went to Krets, a small gallery in Malmö run in part by one of my classmates, Anna. The evening consisted of an art project by Lucky Dragons, aka Luke Fischbeck. He’s a lanky, nerdy Los Angeles dude (a graduate of Harvard and Brown, no less) with a flair for tinkering and making people participate. I’d listened to some of his work and decided to give it go. All Anna told me was “he’s going to make you touch people.” He’s fashioned this box that’s almost like a musical hookah. The box has eight or so long tendrils covered in fabric. After handing them out to various participants in the crowd, he’d touch them. A squeeze of the hand. More touching. Each instance of contact made a different sound, with audience members touching randomly to weave a song. Weirdos making music.

Last but not least, the art of the pizza. Swedes, especially collegiate Swedes, love pizza. It’s serious business. When searching for a dorm room, each dorm’s Web site would tell you the proximity of amenities. Forget how close the dorm is to town or campus. What matters is the proximity of a pizzeria. There are TWO outside Vildanden, outside meaning I can walk to pizza in five minutes or less. One Swede, Hassan Saraoe of Kalmar, has perfected the art of pizza making. He just won the Swedish Pizza Contest (loot of about $1,250) with a pie topped with marinated ostrich filet, mango, chili and coriander. Weirdos making pizza.

Enjoy the photo gallery of randomness (including semla, the Swedish version of king cake) while you count down the days until I’m back on sun-drenched, Southern soil. My game plan includes being in BR the 14-21 and Nola thereafter until the 1st. Hit me up e-mail style and we’ll fill in the details. Apologies in advance, loyal readers, for the upcoming hiatus.

Click me and the book that’s currently causing me all sorts of problems for phooootos.

Click me and the painful, powerful read for photos.

Click me and the painful, powerful read for photos.

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Use it or lose it

With the exception of cartwheels, I am nearly 100% dependent on the right side of my body. Writing, throwing, kicking, it’s all at the behest of my rightness. In high school soccer, I refused to kick with my left foot. I’d wriggle my body and contort however necessary in order to kick with my right. The left was an unruly child, an untrustworthy fortune teller. There was no need to mess with it. One coach, flaunting his obvious religiousness and presumed whistle-toting correctness, informed me that God gave me two left feet to kick with. I believe in the two feet bit, but don’t think ambidextrous soccer ball kicking ability was really in the grand plan, at least at first.

The basest, easiest thing to do with these two feet is to walk. So walk I do. I have the extra time on my hands. I have well-designed footpaths and sidewalks thanks to the ever-prepared Swedish way of life. I have two eyes that crave details they can’t catch when flying by on bus or bike.

So when I’m ahead on my course reading and I’ve a free Sunday with low chance of precipitation, bring on the bunions. If you’ve been following, you remember I’ve (with Lucy, the partner in non criminal crimes) already cycled to and fro Malmö. Well, how’s about a more than 25 mile round-trip walkabout? Sounds grand. That’s the photo album you’re getting free of charge with this blog installment. To put this into perspective, that’s like walking back and forth between the center of Baton Rouge to Denham Springs. (For the Michiganers, let’s say a one-way walk from Novi to Ann Arbor.)

In other news, I have a test/interview of some sort as a placement indicator for my next round of Swedish courses. If this goes well, I may also take Spanish lessons next year, free of charge from the good ole Swedes.

And (Shock! Horror! Keep  your McMuffin down!) I’ve joined a gym called Friskis & Svettis, which I prefer to call Fatties & Sweaties. Two girls on my corridor also joined, so we’ve been having fun looking ridiculous in aerobics classes. I manage to follow along OK with my rudimentary Swedish and my lack of shame. They certifiably have the strangest playlists on the planet. They’ll go from Abba’s “Dancing Queen” (I almost had to excuse myself in a giggle explosion) to Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia.” Sometimes they throw in Alison Krauss for good measure. It’s like they’re taking the smorgas philosphy into the audio realm, piling up their musical sandwich with whatever leftover tunes they can find. Egg salad, raspberry spread and goat cheese? Sure. Sounds delicious.

Anyway, on with the slideshow. I’ve also updated the I can’t read page with some more or less funny additions. Until next time, enjoy the remainder of January 2009. Click me and the thumbless penguins for photos.

Where are the thumbs?!! Click for photos.

Where are the thumbs?!! Click for photos.

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