Monthly Archives: September 2013
The Frost Giants came last night. The only thing I knew about Frostjättarna (Frost Giants) before today was the world envisioned in Marvel comics and the movie Thor. When I woke up today Vanim told me that the Frost Giants had come to visit last night. In America we would say that Jack Frost has come to visit. So today I decided to so some research about Frostjärttarna and the Nordic Mythology.
Ymir is the first giant created from the union of fire and ice. From Ymir’s armpits were born a son and a daughter and from Ymir’s feet were born a six headed monster. It is from these giants that the Frostjärttarna descend from. Ymir was later killed by Odin. Odin then used the body of Ymir to create the earth.
Jack Frost is very much a newer tradition than the Frostjärttarna. Jack Frost seems to me to be very much part of the United States evolving mythic culture with possible roots in Russia’s father frost or possible in the Norse mythology itself. Though Jack Frost is often seen as an elf which is quite distinct from giants also sometimes called trolls.
Vanim’s comment this morning in and of itself is not a big deal. It is just an expression conveying the idea that it got really cold last night. In the United States we do something similar by referring to Jack Frost. Though that little interaction brought to my attention that I am now living in a culture with a different mythology. When I refer to mythology I am coming from the view that mythology is the stories that a culture tells to express its values and morality. I see the cultural mythologies as sign post to help uncover the unspoken assumptions that make up the construction of a particular culture.
The culture mythology in America would also include the stories of our founding fathers along with Santa Clause. How we tell them and the specific stories we choose to repeat say much about how and what we value in our democratic republic. Sweden has its own sets of mythology. This includes the Norse mythology along with its more current mythology connected with its socialist leaning democracy. Knowing the Sweden’s mythologies helps me to better understand my new adopted Swedish culture.
Yesterday was my first day at SFI (Swedish For Immigrants). I did not start out on the right foot and showed up late. I showed up at the time I thought I was suppose to be there but I had the wrong time and was thirty minutes late. As I mentioned in my post from yesterday it is considered very rude to show up late. I did apologize to the teachers. I was told that on the first day they expect people to show up late but not to be late again.
The people in the class are from a rather diverse area of the world. There was a person from Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Romania, Columbia, Sudan, and Kenya to name just a few. There was five people from Syria. Right now Sweden automatically grants asylum to anyone applying from Syria. This is one example of how world events can trickle down to a local level. I am excited to be interacting with such a diverse group of people.
The whole class was taught in Swedish. It was interesting to have the teachers explain words and concepts by speaking, using gestures and pictures. In the Spanish classes that I have taken there was always some instruction in English. They would have to rely upon Swedish since we all came from different parts of the world. If someone was unable to comprehend they would pull out a dictionary in their language to look up the swedish word. The basic concept of leaning in SFI is based upon reading, writing, and talking (läser, skriver, och pratar).
We were given worksheets with basic questions in Swedish with a picture next to the question and an answer where we had to fill in the blank. The first question was: Vad heter du? (What is your name?). Jag heter __________. (I am ______.) There was a series of questions that we worked through.
The second question was Varifrån kommer du? (Where are you from?) My response was Jag kommer från America. (I am from American.) Läraren (the teacher) did not like that answer. She told me to correct it to U.S.A. I then vaguely remembered from somewhere in the past I had read that people from other countries do not necessarily appreciate that response since there are two American continents and numerous countries in the Americas. I realize that Americans can tend to be wold-centric, we see the world revolving around us. I am now living in a outside of America where they do not see America as the center of the world. That small interaction with läraren (the teacher) was just a small reminder.
This first week in class is for kartläggning which I believe literally translates as mapping. It is an assessment to determine what class we are to be put into. The determination is based upon our ability to write the latin alphabet and how well we are able to learn and study and other things I am not aware of. In three weeks I will start a conversational Swedish class at a different place in the afternoon to supplement my learning at SFI. Fluency in Swedish here I come.
Yesterday was Vanim’s birthday party. It was a very traditional Swedish birthday party. The party started at 5:00 p.m. so all the guest arrived by 5. In Sweden being on time is important. It is considered rude to show up late. I have been living in a culture, at least in Utah, where people are often late. It is not uncommon when having a party to have the majority of the guest show up an hour or later after the party starts. Since moving to Sweden I better understand why Vanim is so insistent about arrive on time.
The presents are open as the guest arrive. It is done in a manner that I would describe as rather humble in comparison to what I am accustom to. Neither the giver nor the receiver make a big deal about the gift. The exchange of words would be equivalent to thank you from the receiver of the gift and it is not a big deal from the giver of the gift. To me this fits very well into the Swedish character not to make a big deal over thing or to be better than others.
Dinner was served shortly after all the guests arrived. For dinner we had köttfärsrulle and salad. köttfärsrulle is basically seasoned hamburger rolled up in a basic pancake made of eggs, butter, milk and a few other ingredients. If you click on the link it will take you to one of many recipes. It is in Swedish but with the help of Google Translate you should be able to make sense of it. It was a delicious meal made by Mona, Vanim’s mother. My Swedish is improving but not enough to understand a recipe yet.
The first birthday party I went to smörgåstårta or sandwich cake was served for dinner. The Huffington Post had this to say about Swedish sandwich cake: “At first, a sandwich cake looks like a regular cake, but after closer inspection you realixe that it’s not garnished with frosting, but smoked salmon, shrimp and crudite. Reading through a recipe reveals that the frosting is not buttercream, but a mixture of creamsheese, mayonnaise and sour cream.” The article also has picture of different sandwich cakes.
After dinner it is followed by cake and coffee. The Swedes love their coffee. I can not emphasize that enough, THEY LOVE THEIR COFFEE! Vanim made a basic three layer gluten free cake he dyed black with a pink cream cheese berry frosting. I stayed out of the kitchen when he made the cake since I tend to be a bossy back seat cook. He did a great job without me.
A birthday party is just a birthday party, celebrating someones life. There was not major difference between an American birthday parties that I am familiar with and a Swedish birthday parties of which I have only been to three. The small differences though show the variances in the Swedish culture and the American culture. As I better understand the Swedish culture it makes it easier for me to not make social mistakes by accident.
Happy Birthday Vanim!!!!!!!!!
The second world happiness report
from the United Nations General Assembly was recently released. The first report was released last year. This year Sweden ranked number five overall in happiness. From the introduction to this years report,”The word ‘happiness’ is not used lightly. Happiness is an aspiration of every human being, and can also be a measure of social progress. America’s founding fathers declared the inalienable right to pursue happiness. Yet are Americans, or citizens of other countries, happy? If they are not, what if anything can be done about it?” The report looked at happiness as both an emotion (how do you feel) and as an evaluation (are you happy with your life). I think that these two reports from the United Nations show a movement away from Gross National Product as the only measure of human satisfaction.
In chapter four of the report the effects of subjective well-being were looked at in greater detail. “In doing so, we complement the evidence on the determinants of well-being by showing that human well-being also affects outcomes of interest such as health, income, and social behavior. Generally, we observe a dynamic relationship between happiness and other important aspects of our lives, with influence running in both directions.” A growing body of research suggests that happiness has direct tangible benefits to society at large. Happy people in general are healthier, live longer, make more money, have better social cohesion, and the list continues.
Chapter five explores this idea of “What makes people happy? Economists typically claim that the answer is higher income and consumption. Sociologists emphasize the quality of social support such as one’s network of family and friends (“social capital”). Psychologists stress the importance of personality, mental health, and an individual’s state of mind (e.g. “positive psychology” or “mindfulness”). Many moral philosophers and religious leaders have suggested that virtue is the key to happiness, an approach sometimes called virtue ethics. Of these factors, it is the ethical dimension that is most often overlooked in current discussions of well-being, and one that I explore in this highly speculative essay”.
In the chapter five essay the author brings up the point that we are often told by our governments that more economic growth will bring greater happiness and contrasts that to older philosophers who said that living a good life brought happiness. Different moral philosophies are presented and then the author suggests four moral principles that he recommends as part of global economic ethics. They are 1) non-violence and respect for life, 2) Justice and Solidarity, 3)Honesty and tolerance 4) Mutual esteem and partnership.
Reports like this I believe are timely and important as the world recovered from the great crash of 2008 where the economic pursuit of happiness may have gone to far at the expense of social, physiological and ethical pursuits of happiness. Last year I just read about the report in the news papers with no thought to what it meant in practical terms. This year I decided to actually read the report to see what it really means to be ranked 5th for Sweden or ranked 17th for the United States. A ranking is only good as a point of comparison and a starting place to make improvements. If the happiness report becomes a “we are better than you” measure than it looses it meaning. There are a lot of usefulness and thought provoking ideas in the report for ways to move forward to a more happy society. I found it worth my time to take a look at it.
When the mail arrived on Monday the long awaited letter finally showed up. My start date for the Swedish For Immigrants class is Monday, 23 September. I turned my application in on 29 July and my letter arrived 9 September. In my experience so far a lot of official government processes require you to fill out paperwork and then wait for a paper response delivered by mail. This is just pure speculation on my part but if you require all government responses to be set through the mail it insures that the post office has a continual source of revenue. The Swedish post office is a jointly owned company between the Swedish and the Danish government called PostNord. Sweden owns sixty percent while Denmark owned forty percent. Both governments have an equal vote in the running of the company.
I look forward to being in a class setting and learning Swedish with other people. (I originally published this post 9 September and lost it the next day. I rewrote it today.)
Sunday was the elections for the local parish council, diocese council and general synod council that direct the affairs of the Swedish church. From the Swedish Church web site “Each of the thirteen dioceses are led by a bishop closely working together with a democratically elected diocesan board. The Archbishop of Uppsala represents the Church of Sweden on a national an international level for the Bishops’ meeting.” According to an article on The Local (Swedish news in English) three of the political parties participated in the elections. In order to vote in the elections you need to be a member of the Church of Sweden, be at least 16 and living in Sweden.
Today was the 21st annual harvest festival and craft fair in the village of Vanga at the bottom of the ski slope. Yes, you read that right a ski slope. Now this would not even compare to a ski slope in Utah, I would call it more of a ski hill. The Swedes love their marknader (markets) and this is no exception. A large grassy area is turned into a market and a field of harvested grain is turned into a parking lot.
Now in my opinion that best part of this market was the äpplelkaka (apple cake) made by Mona from apples purchased at the harvest festival. It was a heavenly treat that smaka god (tasted good). I have been working on my conversational Swedish but that is another post.
If you want to see a Swede in their native environment than it is a requirement to go to a marknad (market) or a loppmarknad (flee market).
Once you get past the language differences going shopping at a grocery store in Sweden is not too different then ones in America though there are some differences. This is not a comprehensive list of all the differences but it is some of the ones that stick out to me.
The price listed is the price you pay. There is a tax that is paid but that is part of the price listed. The tax is called moms which is an abbreviation for Mervärdesskatt which stands for value added tax. In Swedish they have lots of words that in English become more than one word. In this case that literal translation is more value tax. The current mervärdesskatt in Sweden is 25 percent. When you look at the prices in the picture on the left you need to take into account that $1 U.S. dollar is worth about 6.5kr (Swedish Kronas). Also the vegetables are normally sold by the kilogram with is equal to about 2.2 pounds. So the tomatoes (tomat) in the bottom right corner of the picture that are selling for 49,90 a kilogram would be cost about $3.45 a pound (that is assuming I did my math correctly)
There are two different methods for self check out. The first one is similar to American stores where you scan your items at the register. The other way is to pick up a scanner at the front of the store. You can see what a typical scanner looks like in the picture on the left. In order to have the hand held self scanner you have to have a store card. You have to have the store card in order to get the savings I believe which is like grocery stores in the U.S. as well. There is a bank of scanners at the front of the store. You run your card through the reader and one of the scanners lights up. As you buy something you scan it. You can see exactly you have spend as it keeps a running total at the bottom of the screen.
If you buy fruit or vegetables that are sold by the kilogram then you just bring it over to the scales, select the correct item and it prints up a bar code sticker with the price that you can scann
Eggs are not sold from a refrigerator but just places on a shelf.
In American a lot of items are packages in cans but here in Sweden a lot of items are packaged in wax lines boxes. The pictures on either side are packages of “canned” tomatoes. These boxes then are recycled which is a completely different post coming in the near future.
Swedes love their caviar. It comes it metal tubes. When it is squeezed out it is like a paste. To date I have tried the plain caviar and the caviar with egg and cheese. It is a distinct flavor and you just have to try it. I happen to like it. I like it on a piece of buttered bread and a slice of cheese.
It is fun to see the differences.
Today I bicycled out to the railroad museum is located at the old Kristainstad’s southern train station. The picture below is a sign for the old southern train station. To the right of the sign is a small yellow wooden building which was the original train station. Its purpose was as a rail yard and not as a passenger station as far as I can tell. At the end of the train yard is a large building with houses the museum. All the information signs were in Swedish and since I was alone I did not understand most of them but it was still enjoyable to see the old trains.
This is a turntable I believe. It was used to turn the trains around. There use to be one in Idaho Falls and I wanted to see it so my father took me to the railroad yard. It has been removed not long before he took me to see it. I was really sad about that it was gone. I believe I was 8. It was the year I received a model train set for Christmas. It was one of the happy memories I have as a child because I was able to spend time with my father.
I have never seen anything like this before, a passenger cart powered by bike. It would be fun to try it out but I would hate for that to me my job to bike people around on the train tracks.
They had a fun model train set that you could start and the trains would all start running. It was fun to just watch the trains move around.