Monthly Archives: March 2014

Learning Swedish – My Brain Boot-Camp

by Keith Turner on March 17, 2014

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cat reading a bookI have moments of complete irrationality when it comes to learning Swedish. It sweeps over me like a tsunami and I feel like I am loosing my mind, that is assuming it has not all ready happened. It really is baffling to me at least during those irrational moments. It becomes almost impossible to explain. I have tried to label it but any attempts have only resulted in failure.

At these moments I find myself loathing Swedish. Yes loathing. It is a strong word. It comes in waves. Sometimes it might last for a few minutes, maybe a day, and it has even lasted longer than two weeks. During these periods, especially the longer ones, I start to feel the very essence of insanity. You might just see a simple frown on my face, but my world is shaking and I am screaming with fear and anger.

New Swedish words find their way into my mind all the time. Often I find ways to understand them usually in the context of English. But, that does not always work. Knowing what a word means does not guarantee I am using it correctly. Words are containers for emotions. Sometimes Swedish words contain emotions that I have no context to understand. And then it happens without warning a world will push into my brain and I will fall into that now familiar landscape of insanity.

Once I fall  into  that place of insanity Swedish starts to become rhythmic gibberish to me again. My struggle to understand intensifies and takes more concentration. My brain starts to resist Swedish, grasping towards English. In these moments of torrential torment I find I have to work even harder at learning Swedish. I feel like banging my head on a brick wall might be more productive.

And then something happens. It is as if the Sun just broke through clouds after a torrential hurricane. The rhythmic gibberish disappears. Swedish returns and begins to make even more sense than it did before. The loathing is replaced by a deep love for the Swedish language.

I do not understand those moments of insanity. I also often find the moments of sanity just as baffling. I really have no comprehension of what is going on in my brain. I do know that I am learning Swedish so something must be happening. If there was a boot-camp for brains this would be it. So here I am pressing forward progressing towards Swedish fluency.

Tvättstuga – The Swedish version of a laundryroom

by Keith Turner on March 10, 2014

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Tvättstuga is basically a laundry room with a Swedish twist.Usually every apartment complex will have a room or two located in one of the buildings. They have two main differences from a typical laundry room in the United States.  You schedule a time to use the tvättstuga and during that time period you are the only one with access. There is no upfront costs to operate the washer or the dryer eliminating the need to obtain large amount of coins. The tvättstuga is either part of your rent or part of the fees paid to  a home owners association for condo maintenance.

Next to the tvättstuga is a scheduling board. There are set times for each day of the month. Each apartment has a special lock that they can then attach to the board in an open slot. It is then locked and your time is secured. No one can move your time slot without your key. While using the tvättstuga this special lock goes over the door lock preventing anyone else from ending the room during your time slot.  Having the laundry room to yourself for a set period of time is perhaps one of my favorite things about the tvättstuga. Some tvättstugas now have more modern ways of scheduling using computers and key cards.

The complex I live in has three tvättstugas, two for regular laundry and one for big items like rugs or heavy blankets. The two regular tvättsugas each have two washers, one dryer, one drying cabinet, one flatwork finisher, one water extractor, two large sings, one table for folding, an iron and ironing board, two carts to move laundry around, and a contraption to assist in folding large items like sheets or blankets. This laundry room is better equipped than any laundry room or coin-op laundry I have seen in the U.S. unless you are Martha Stewart.

Before moving to Sweden I had never seen a drying cabinet or a flatwork finisher. A flatwork finisher is perfect for helping you fold sheets flat with perfect creases. I have only used it once and that was just to test it out. I have convinced Vanim that there exist a need to fold clean laundry. He  most likely has agreed just to keep me from complaining. If I were to start wanting to use the flatwork finisher all the time he might just decide to abandon our laundry activity all together and leaving it just to me. I still prefer laundry being an activity we both participate in.

I have found that using the drying cabinet for heavy items like jeans and sweaters works really well. It also works for drying large blankets. The cabinet has a blower that circulates warm air in the cabinet. I have found that the clothes in the drying cabinet will dry almost as fast as in the dryer.

The Tvättstuga started appearing in Swedish apartment buildings after 1955. The most common conflict a Swed might get in with his neighbor is over issues concerning the tvättstuga. To learn a little more you can watch the video below. It comes from a popular Swedish television show where a group of American Swedes are chosen to come to Sweden and learn about Sweden in a competition. It will start at 13:04 and and the information will end at about 14:14  but feel fee to watch the whole show. Below the video there are pictures of one of the laundry rooms here.

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Melodifestivalen – Swedish culture at its best

by Keith Turner on March 8, 2014

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Melodifestivalen is an integral part of Swedish culture.  The winner represents Sweden at the Eurovision song contest. Songs are submitted to SVT (Sverige Television AB) which is  the Swedish national public television broadcaster similar to United States PBS. There is then a process to narrow the songs down to thirty two. Those thirty two songs were then preformed during a period of four semi-finals. Eight songs were preformed at each semi-final. For each semi-final the winner was chosen by votes cast via cell phone SMS and phone calls.  The first and second place song automatically went to the finals. The third and fourth place songs were sent to the second chance round. The two top songs at the second chance round were then sent to the finals.

Ten songs were preformed for the finals. There was a two point process to choose the winner. The first group of points were awarded by eleven international juries. These juries were made up of people in the music industry. Each countries jury cast votes and points were given as follows: 7th place, 1 point; 6th place, 2 points; 5th place, 4 points; 4th place, 6 points; 3rd place, 8 points; 2nd place 10 points; 1st place 12 points. This year the juries came from Italy, Germany, Israel, France, Netherlands, Malta, Russia, Great Britain, Estonia, Spain and Denmark. The second group of points were awarded by viewers votes via SMS and phone calls. The SMS and phone call votes were tallied and awarded according to the percentage of votes.

So if I lost you with the boring details of how the winner is now picked perhaps now I can regain your attention again. In 1974 the wining song of Melodifestivalen went on to win Eurovision. Later that year the song was released as a single in the U.S. and quickly climbed the charts to number six.  That song was “Waterloo” preformed by non other than ABBA.

This years winner was Sanna Nielsen singing “Undo”.