I can’t believe how fast time is flying by! I’ve been asked a few times what I do all day, and I’m a bit embarrassed to say how little I do in a day. A typical day for me includes doing a bit of reading on the internet, reading part of a book, studying Swedish, going for an hour walk or jog outside, tidying up around the house, and prepping something for dinner for when Per arrives home from school. Occasionally I walk to the grocery store, or to the bus stop to get into town. The grocery store and bus stop are half an hour’s walk away – though now I have a secondhand bike which makes the journey much quicker. A few times a week we jog to the gym and do some weight training, though not as often we would like, judging by how tight my jeans are after this past weekend, which I’ll get to in a minute.
The looooong walk from the grocery store
Weekends spent with Per are a lot more exciting! One weekend we went to Per’s workplace’s fancy annual autumn formal ball! Just when we were about to start eating dinner, Per looked over at me in shock and whispered, “you’re not going to eat with the fork in your right hand?!” I didn’t stop to realize that Americans and Europeans have a different way of eating! Europeans keep the knife in the right hand and eat from the fork using their left hand at all times whereas Americans put the knife down after each cut, and then switch the fork to the right hand to take a bite. I never had to focus so hard on remembering not to switch hands. Usually I take ages to eat, but struggling to eat with the fork in the left hand, it took me even longer.
This past weekend I met Per’s parents, who live in Glasriket, or the Kingdom of Glass (in a village near Kosta which shall remain unnamed here), and got to see where Per grew up. I shouldn’t have been as nervous (and consequently shy) as I was, as I could agree with Per that, according to him, they are the best parents in the world. Our Friday night arrival dinner was an infamous northern Sweden specialty – fermented herring! The can, if left unopened for a year, starts to bulge at the seams, but apparently is still safe to eat (and thought by northerners to have even better taste). Per’s dad had to go outside to open it, because the smell is, hmm, “memorable”? I didn’t think it was as bad as Per did, though I do prefer the pickled herring over the fermented herring.
Infamous smell and taste of Northern Sweden!
On Saturday morning we went mushroom picking in the forest. Yes, me, city girl, picking mushrooms – I couldn’t have imagined that in my wildest dreams either.
The forest near Per’s parents’ house… The mounds of mossy ground were soft and bouncy – very cool to walk on, almost like mini-trampolines.
Then Per’s mom took us to Kosta to visit a glassworks shop, where I got to try glassblowing. I was surprised that the general public was allowed into the glassworks area, between the hot glass furnace and the glassforming area. In North America, people would be itching to sue – because apparently we’re somehow more accident prone… Or perhaps we don’t have as much of a sense of personal responsibility? I wonder.
Getting to try out glassblowing!
Shaping the glass with wet newspaper
Adding molten glass design to the glass base
The finished product
The glasswork factory was followed by browsing the expensive glass exhibits and shop, as well as nearby little artisan shops (selling things like smoked salmon, wild game, homemade candy and marzipan), and outlet shopping centre. At this time of year, it was mainly Swedish tourists, which made it feel more local.
The start of Christmas season in Kosta
The timing of our visit to Kosta couldn’t be better, as Per’s parents took us out for “hyttsill” in the evening; that weekend was the start of the Christmas menu, so I got to try loads of delicious Swedish foods. Vagrants used to make hyttstill – salted herring, which was wrapped in wet newspaper and cooked in the hot furnaces of the glassworks factory.
Hyttsill night! Cold course includes various types of herring, ham, beet salad, etc. Yummy!
Hot course with Swedish meatballs, pork/potato dumpling, scalloped potato made with salted herring, sausages.
On Sunday I got to meet his brothers (and their partners) as they came over for Father’s Day in Sweden. I was quite impressed by how much thought Per’s mom put into all the little touches during lunch – like the decorations, and the marzipan purchased in Kosta that accompanied the post meal coffee – not to mention one of the tastiest prepared turkeys I’ve had! I asked Per during the car ride home, “didn’t you think it was really good, the turkey??” “Hmm… normal (for him)… Maybe I’m just spoiled by how good my mom cooks.” Pfft! I think so! It’s almost a bit foreign to me, to be invited to a homecooked meal that tastes better than eating out at a restaurant – maybe I’m deprived. I like the idea of entertaining at home more and more. I just need to become a better cook . And not just me – would be nice if I was invited to a fantastic homecooked meal by my own friends (hint, hint!). When I lived alone, I’ve often thought it would be nice to do a reciprocal weekly dinner with a friend, as eating alone can be quite boring.
What I can’t figure out is how and why most things – especially food – is so much cheaper in Canada than in Europe. I do make a very good income – perhaps more than I deserve to be paid? (I just hope my bosses/the economy doesn’t figure it out for a little while longer!) I’ve realized that despite having more disposable income than most of the world, somehow I’ve never seen it that way? It must be that I don’t always spend my money wisely, even though I see myself as being cheap. Tying into recent blog entries by my friend Dewey, I definitely spend way too much money going out to eat. I hardly spend my money as foolishly as I’ve seen others do, but is that really saying much, seeing the current state of the American economy? It took me needing to travel around the globe to realize a lot of things. I recall seeing a photo exhibition in Thailand or Malaysia with Per about the effects of global warming. And I never knew until then that cows were a major source of methane pollution. I wonder why, coming from Alberta, the land of oil and cattle, that it’s not common knowledge! At least I don’t think it’s common knowledge, to my knowledge… Does censorship and the impact it might have on our economy have anything to do with it? Hmm, again I wonder.
Having had lots of time to reflect on my travels to date during my long walks in the countryside… A few months ago I had had a conversation with Mikey about how, when I’m in the situation, I see it as normal, and it’s not until I return home (or stop moving?) that I realize how amazing it was, or what it meant. Like being in the Burmese refugee camp in Bangladesh – I didn’t feel it was that appalling until I had time to process and reflect upon it. Or when I had asked Mikey, didn’t he think it was an amazing experience, getting to lead small groups of backpackers on tours around China for two whole years? He got to see and experience things that most people in the world don’t get to see! He said similarly, that when he was in the situation, he thought it was rather “normal”, and it’s not until later that you realize how amazing it was. Yes, so getting back to my original point… I think people are rather adaptable and resilient. We’re able to adapt to any situation they’re in, we have the tools and resources to survive and persevere. That’s not an issue. What we/I need to do is to stop and think consciously about what kind of life do we/I want, what impact do I have as a person on others and the environment around us – personal responsibility. It’s far too easy to subscribe to the “norm” or the average of everyone around you/me. It may be a good thing that people are adaptable, but the downside is adapting the norms of everyone around you without questioning it. Ironically, I feel that having always been an excellent student, I knew how to reititerate and regurgitate what teachers wanted me to, but that I haven’t learned to think as critically as I should. I would say I’m not alone in North America, but instead of criticizing others around me, I am trying to take a hard look at myself first and not “cast the first stone”… I want to add also, since it might be hard to tell from my posts (or lack of thereof) that I am very happy with Per 🙂 He is a good person (extreme understatement here!!) – one of the very few I would say I’ve met in my life – and I think he pushes me to become a better person also 🙂
So far I’ve enjoyed not “needing” to be somewhere else and enjoying the quiet country moments for what they are, though now I need to plan some sightseeing before the rest of my time in Sweden passes me by! I wanted to integrate better into life here, though not being able to work, and not being fluent in Swedish is a little limiting. The comprehensive Swedish language courses were completely booked however 😦 Eventually I’ll get there. Ideally, I wanted to get involved in an activity or club that meets regularly so I could meet more people. There are a few things I’ll be checking out during the weeknights, so I’ll see how that goes! This journal entry has become a novel, as I’ve been nervously glancing outside the window every now and then at the strong wind blowing through the trees… Apparently I also don’t know how to dress for cold weather – I blame it on being a city slicker – because on the last few jogs I’ve taken, I keep wearing too many pieces of clothing, and once the sweat starts, I need to open my windproof jacket and invite danger in. I’m just not used to actually doing activity while outside, versus not needing to know the exact temperature and jumping into my climate controlled car. Wish me luck while I take the bike out against the wind into town tonight! With the limited visibility of my headtorch no less.