Friday, May 11, 2007

Springtime in Stockholm

An update:

Good news: my Swedish is good for reading novels, and I use it in everyday life without causing people to instantly begin speaking English with me in a chivalrous attempt to salvage what's left of my dignity.

Bad news: I haven't been able to find a steady job in Stockholm, and it's getting to the point where I'm somewhat burnt out. But: onward and upward -- let us not tarry over depressing details.

I am thinking of making my next entry about the incredibly dashing style of dress of Stockholm's octogenarians. These octogenarians are the best dressed I've ever seen, with the notable exception of my dear grandfather Theodore Alphonse, who wins the prize.

I will hopefully have my camera up and running, and then it will be an illustrated commentary on the dashing Swedish over-eighty crowd.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I'm back in Boston for Christmas, and I got a small digital camera, which will, I think, revolutionize the blog. Here are some pictures from Christmas morning.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I passed the test!

Indeed, I don't know exactly how, but somehow I passed the test. Yesterday I missed school, and today we were on a field trip to the museum of the city of Stockholm, and so I don't know the details of yet and I haven't seen my corrected test. But one of my teachers came up to me and said the test was very good, that I passed with flying colors, apparently, so clearly I shouldn't have gotten so nervous. But it's impossible to know in advance how strict they're going to be!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Moving to a New Place

So I don't think I ever mentioned this in the blog, but our sublet ended early -- about a month ago our landlords, who had gone on an extended vacation to Spain with their two babies, decided they wanted to be home for Christmas after all. This was all perfectly above board. From the beginning they had reserved the right to end the contract early, to give themselves more flexibility. This past month THS and I have gone crazy trying to find an apartment in Stockholm but to no avail. Every ad we could find, we would e-mail or call, only to get no response or an answering machine followed by no response. We couldn't figure out what was wrong in our self-presentation. Given that each one of these ads will get over one hundred replies, we may not have been doing anything wrong, actually. It might have just been that by chance no one ever picked us out. After a while, however, we began to have a suspicion: people were offering MORE money in their responses to the ads -- bribing people to take them. So last week we started offering a little more rent than what was officially desired. Still no response. We resigned ourselves to having to stay with friends for a few days before we went home for the holidays and then continue the search in January.

And then, at the last minute, someone called us back! It's a little apartment up on the East Island, one room and an eat-in kitchen. It's not a stylish neighborhood like the one we live in now, and there's no broadband connection, but there's a balcony and windows that have a view of the water with the cruise ships coming in. And that is some consolation, I would say.

It has been harrowing. Consider: we have to move out of our place where we live now on Saturday, and we wrangled and wrangled and now we can move in there on: SATURDAY! So it just happened to work out in the end. Everything came through in the knick of time.

Oh, and the best thing is that we can stay in this place through the end of July!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pure Pain

Now I'm not complaining, and I don't want you to get the wrong idea. But for a moment, let's just be entirely frank and admit the obvious: trying to fit in at a party in a foreign country where you don't know the language is PURE PAIN.

Imagine this: you are going to a dinner party among your friends and acquaintances. You are happy to have a chance to get out and see your friends, meet people. However, you are forced to wear a skin-tight electric purple lamé bodysuit that shows EVERYTHING (This goes for you too, guys. Purple lamé). For good measure, let's say it also has a weird flap in the back that keeps falling down exposing your butt. Something like that. Now imagine that you can't make a big deal of it. You can't talk all night about how you were forced to wear a purple lamé bodysuit with a weird flap in the back that sometimes shows your butt. Instead, you just have to act like it's the most natural thing in the world, and make small talk all night, and try not to notice that people are looking at you funny and inching away from you. And for politeness sake, you have to stay for at least a few hours.

That's what I would say is the equivalent of trying to hang out at a party with the linguistic skills of a two-year-old.

As you may have guessed, I was at a very nice party last night, one of those dinner parties where there are about fifteen people. It was at my friend Sara's; she and her boyfriend have a lovely apartment, decorated in the retro style that you see often in Stockholm, that take this look all the way:

That sort of thing.
I speak Swedish well enough at this point to just do it, just not disrupt everyone else's ease and good feeling by forcing them to switch over into English. But I'm telling you: it's pure pain. I'm committed to it, because I know it's the only thing that will make me get better, but honestly, I hate it!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Time in Stockholm

THS and I went up to our spot high above the city today (already described in the post entitled A Little Trip to Europe). Here's a picture that THS took.

So Sweden is big on advent. I've never been so conscious of advent in all my life. Gosh, before I came to Sweden, I had almost forgotten what the word meant! But the thing about advent as the Swedes play it, see, is that it's addictive. Every day is a new surprise. You all are already aware of the advent internet Christmas song calendar I posted below. So I'm addicted to that. Every day I listen to the new song at midnight. And then, more importantly, there's the national obsession, the Swedish advent Christmas television show -- fun for the whole family. Every year Sweden's most famous actors and playwrights and celebrated directors and production designers etc. all get together and create a Christmas advent special. Every day everyone gets up early and watches it. This year it's about two child detectives who live in a strangely gothic industrial city reminiscent of the version of New York presented in Les Triplettes de Belleville. You can take a peak if you like, although WARNING, THE LANGUAGE OF COMMUNICATION IN THIS FILM IS "SWEDISH":

  • Lassemaja's Detective Agency with Realplayer

  • Lassemaja's Detective Agency with Windows Media Player

  • Swedes really go all out at Christmas time in other ways too. Everyone has these beautiful stars in their windows, and THS made sure that we had one too.

    And then there's the food. Ooh la la.

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    I know you may think this has nothing to do with Sweden but...

    I got a new winter coat!

    Here's me in the supermarket, wearing the new coat, shortly after the purchase:

    The photo is courtesy of THS's cellphone -- so sort of fuzzy, but I think you get the idea. It's a Swedish-made coat that has padding inside it, so it's very warm.

    In other news, I had the oral portion of my Swedish exam today.

    There was a five minute-long text that was played aloud for us once, and then we, in our group of five, had to explain to the teacher what the narrative had been about.

    My personal low point: when the teacher asked us in what era the story most probably took place, I said "some time previous Russian Revolution." What I was trying to say was "it must have been some time _before_ the Russian Revolution", but I mixed up the word for 'before' with the word for 'previous' AND forgot to say 'the', which in Swedish is added to the end of the word, as some of you may know, so it's easy to forget.

    My personal high point: when, even though no such information was solicited from us, I stated that the author of the text _must_ have been Chekhov, because of the distinctively Chekhovian style. I was correct. So at least they know I understand, even if I sound like an idiot.

    Tomorrow is the portion of the test where we have to write a long essay, and we have to display strong grammar skills. This is the part where I could really choke. I'll let you know how it goes.