rush update, sorry!

So this is going to be a really rushed update, I have been really busy (and completely unmotivated on the side) but I am seized suddenly with the desire to update the blog… I don’t really want to think about how long it has been.

I think the last thing I talked about was Oslo, which was nice, despite the few setbacks.

Then the semester swept over, and I went off to winter break. First my sister visited, which was really a godsend and I am so grateful she could come. Whatever they say about the winter in Scandinavia, take it or leave it, but come December, it sucks. It really does. Especially when you are an exchange student, foreign student, expat, can’t go home, have nowhere to go, it really, really sucks. My heart goes out to everyone.

Basically, I was having terrible insomnia (which has since gotten much better, praise the lord), so basically, if you miss your window of sunlight, you start to live in the eternal abyss of darkness, silence, and just a dragging sensation towards your bed and away from the world. It can be cozy, or it can be miserable, depending on the cards in your hand.

But lucky for me my sister came, which was exhausting and great fun. My father bought her tickets, and booked them the day of my last exam, and she left the day before my Lappland trip. So it was a bit wild, and she got off on the wrong town before she got here, was hours late, etc. etc.

That day  I ended up rushing a translation assignment, and it came out so terrible, I just cringe thinking about it. Lesson learned, don’t procrastinate. Do I still procrastinate, yes. (I have a test tomorrow, which I just started studying for today. More later.)

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Not your good olde friendly, grease drenched, nightmare inducing, american pizza hut.
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My sister adapting to the Scandinavian winter

So then there were tears and such and my sister left, and I was off to Lappland. It was a magical adventure, and I enjoyed myself so much. Granted, I was freezing my ass off the entire time, except indoors, naturally, and most of the group activities were extremely awkward, stressful, and exhausting. Lucky for me, I could spend most of my time alone, reading, staving off the semester, and enjoying the winter wonderland of the Arctic circle. We went to Kiruna, Jukkasjärvi, Abisko, Narvik, and had a short stop in Rensjö. And I only threw up once, which was a nice accomplishment.

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Dreams do come true my friend.
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Me, and it was really fucking cold. I went Geocaching (or something) with someone in Abisko. The white stuff on my scarf was my breath freezing onto it.
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Somewhere on the way to Narvik.

So Lappland was wonderful, and fucking cold during New Years. Then it was back to the races. And for the new semester, I had a number of issues.

Firstly, the Swedish grading system is so unlike the American. But let me preface this entire section with: my experience only, this does not make anything true or factual. It is very easy (more or less, depending on your courses) to make A’s and B’s. Those are good and ideal. Getting a C is pretty bad or pretty ok, depending on your background (e.g. a STEM or grad student might beg to differ), and a D is not so good, at all. I have pretty much gotten C’s in my classes here, where I get assignments back or feedback from my teachers, “You’re doing fine”, “Great work”, “Excellent points here”. I was really frustrated at first, mostly with myself. Growing up in a system where being standard is the equivalent of failure, this is a huge shock. To an extent, yes, Swedish society puts a very high value on equality. You don’t hear people saying “Awesome”, “Fantastic”, “Great”, when you ask them how they are doing. It’s something deep in the society, and more likely than not, reflects in the grading system. If you are going to get a perfect score, you are not going to be putting the same work that you did in American schools. And sometimes, it’s not your work that determines it. This a system where it is normal, and not at all a bad thing, to fail a final exam. Because you can take the exam over, and over, and over again. The good thing about this system is I feel like I am learning more by staying focused on the material, rather than getting the highest score possible. Because I know I am not going to get an awesome score, that’s not really what it’s about. But then these things transfer over to my american grades, and I have all of these horrible scores, which doesn’t do too much good for the GPA. I suppose I made a few sacrifices to get pretty good at Swedish, but it still kind of sucks.

But anyway, the other nice thing about this system, is there is virtually no competition between peers (at least in my experience). This is a society based on equality. No one is better than the other. You aren’t allowed to think that. Sure, it inhibits ambition, but what is the American ambition really based upon? I know it isn’t entirely based upon stepping on others to get to higher places, but I always grew up with my mother’s voice in my ear “You are so much better than X”, “You are so much better than the other Xs”, “She’s not as good as you are at X”. We are bred for competition, and that is not what studying should be about. It should be about teamwork, sharing knowledge, helping each other, understanding differences, working towards a common goal.

So this ties into me failing an exam, and I asked my teacher what I did wrong, and she said that there weren’t a lot of big mistakes. If there weren’t a lot of big mistakes, how did I fail the entire final exam jesus christ? I did pass it again, thank god, but how did I fail in the first place, if it wasn’t really that bad?

And that set the tone for the semester, and more grades have come in, and I have been getting used to seeing them so low. Is it just me? Is it the classes? Is it the system? Is it the cultures? I don’t know.

I do admit, this whole experience, as wonderful as it has been, has been extremely difficult. I would be lying if I said I was happy all the time. I would be lying if I have had days where I am filled with guilt, yet have no energy to do anything. It isn’t the place that is the problem. I am happy all the time that I am here. What I am not happy about is losing my motivation to do tasks, losing my sense of self-worth that has been based on the great olde ideas of hard-work, all the time, everyday, till you die, sell your soul, to the job, and being better than everyone else, and doing better than everyone else. I don’t like to remember that I have lost all of my American friends, that they have found me being gone so long has somehow made me irrelevant to their lives, and I don’t like the thought of having to start all over again when I get back. And then start all over again when I leave again. As much as I enjoy being around the people I have become friends with here, it gets hard. There is this very open sort of socialization style in the US, where people you barely know will tell you about their lives and their feelings, and generally, it is accepted for you to talk about your own experiences. But everything has been turned around, and I have to be really careful not to overshare or else everyone gets pretty uncomfortable. But honestly, the people I have met are so authentic and kind, this is just a small bump in the road. I have gotten much better. And I like how I don’t hear “Let’s have lunch sometime” anymore.

But in general, I could never think of regretting my experience here, and have learned so much about the world and myself. I still have time left, so let’s not go there.

Anyway, we passed my birthday, where I bought myself Den poetiska Eddan translated by Lars Lönnroth (2016), which my friend proceeded to call “The most [me] gift ever”. My friends gave me Medieval Scandinavia by Peter and Birgit Sawyer because they thought I would like a textbook kind of book, and there is bound to be something about witches in there. I also got Sandmannen by T.A. Hoffman.

My birthday was quite wonderful, and I am very grateful for the people that came. Although I was hardly able to endure class the next day. It was worth it.

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I went to Djurgården at some point and liked this gate.

 

So I am trying to organize myself, pull myself out of this rut, and study for my exam tomorrow. Wish me luck. I think I only have three classes this semester, which is nice, I can finally not stress myself out about not doing my work.

More posts eventually, goodbye for now.

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First, Ikea.

More and more happenings.

The semester is setting fast into a flurry, which has set trouble with sleep at an all time high. I was incredibly tired today, and ready to give up. But as energy reaches its lowest reserves, these reserves seem to be heavily tainted with lack of judgement, apathy, irritability, etc.

So today, after my class that ended at 16.00, I decided these sleeping troubles could be improved with the fluffiest mattress topper of all mattress toppers. Well, I really decided this during class, and spent most of the two hours ebbing in and out of focus, thinking about where the nearest place to buy a mattress topper was, and how I could get there.

As of today, I have never taken the city bus before, for various reasons, mostly because I would have to pay with my card on the bus, and I hate things going wrong. I was convinced something would go wrong and I would be sent off the bus because I couldn’t pay.

Being the spontaneous and adventurous spirit I am, on this dark November evening, I decided to make my first trip to Ikea. I haven’t really had much of a need to go there, and I prefer to avoid consumer death-traps. Ikea is perhaps one of the most successful and carefully engineering consumer death-trap I know of.

So I wait for the bus, get on the bus, and pull out my card, to pay like the good citizen I am. The driver waves me back, sit, sit. Confused, I sit in the first seat. He starts driving, and explains, the machine is not working. But how will I pay? He waves a hand dissmissively.

Though I was more or less permitted a free ride because of a disfunctional card machine, I was still nervous. I didn’t know if somehow there would be surprise ticket checks, etc. I prepared my explanation, complete with tears and pleas and explanations that I am just a foreigner and confused about this complicated transportation system.

Then the bus driver changed, surging my fears of fines and reprimands in full force. On top of that, the usual travel nausea I have been endowed with, which has not abated from childhood, but only grown worse, decided to match the pace with my anxiety. It was not a short bus ride.

I got to my stop, and, as these things like to strike a person, I thought, what if he asks for my ticket when I leave? What then moron?

No. It was fine. Everything was fine. I didn’t even vomit. My first bus ride was free, and then there was Ikea.

It didn’t start looming until about ten minutes into my walk, cars blazed past. I felt odd walking through this center of furniture and hardware stores, with my backpack and overly heavy coat. I have nothing in between.

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I like Sweden and all, but there are so many escalators. I am honestly afraid of them, and every time I step on one, it looks like I have never seen one before. Moving stairs, what could go wrong?

 

I did get my matress topper, and I did have to navigate the winding, swollen labyrinth that is Ikea. I don’t really want to go again, being a little international student. I can’t or don’t really need to keep anything I get there, and I was so delerious and exhausted, it was like going to a rave, at a musuem, with an impromtu opera. Look at the prices of the covers, I had to call my dad to ask what people usually pay for these things. I honestly have lost my sense of what is expensive anymore, especially when you are paying and thinking in two different currencies.

The way back was not as bad. This time, I think the machine was working, or not, I didn’t really know what was going on. I didn’t pay for that fare either, but I had to get off early because I was getting too sick. I then had to carry the mattress topper down a thirty minute walk back to my apartment. Then it turns out it takes 72 hours for the thing to fluff itself.

But that is not so bad. I have now been to Ikea, ridden the bus, and have a softer bed.