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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Life is bigger, than three sandwiches.

I went to Oslo last weekend.

It was my second solo trip, and this time I have travel medicine to take. On the way there it made me frightfully tired, and I would fall asleep, then wake up terrified and panting. But no vomitting, so that was nice.

It was cold and rainy, which actually I prefer. So that part was nice. It was not a long trip, so I tried to make the best of it, and the weather.

On the first day, I decided to take a long walk. I left in the morning, only eating a piece of bread with nutella, and half a banana. I first tried finding a pot so I could boil water, as most of the food I brought required such, and I had no cash for the deposit on the cooking supplies at the hostel. I found something suitable, for around 23 US dollars, and soon after, I gave up.

Oslo was very posh. At least in the center.

So, not wanting to take the bus or a taxi, I decided I would walk to the viking ship museum. This was only an hour and a half walk, according to google maps. Though, I am good at making things much longer. It was cold, raining for at least half the way, but it was fine. I quite liked it. For perhaps the first two hours.

I began at the harbor, because I like the sea at a city. They all have their distinct peace, their distinct stillness. They have their respective, languid mysteries, drifting beneath the surface. Sometimes you can smell salt, sometimes you can feel the chill breezes biting. Oslo’s waters were foggy. They were moody and mysterious, and seemed to echo something held long ago, just across from these countless fingers of glass and steel. My favorite part about being by any ocean though, is the smell of salt. I did not smell any salt that day.

I walked for a very, very long time. There were many points where I was lost, only aiming for a general direction. I was ready to give up. Though I was warm beneath my coat, the chill was getting to me. It set in my face, and I brought no gloves. No hat. I wandered and wandered, crossed through quiet neighborhoods and parks, over a highway. I walked through Tjuvholmen, which put me in a big circle, but I eventually found my way.

I passed through a marina, ready to give up, and managed to snag some wifi. I don’t know how. I realized I was much closer to the Museum than I thought, though it was still a long ways. I kept going. I went through a natural area, past pretty houses with green grass. And then I was finally fucking there.

When I got there, I was famished. It was nearly 14.00, and I last ate that pitiful meal around 09.00. Without thinking, cold and exhausted, I ordered a sandwich. I though I would order in Swedish, because why not, though I couldn’t quite understand what she said. First I had to tell her I wanted a different sandwich, and finally, I paid. It was incredibly expensive, but I thought, it is Oslo, a musuem cafe, oh well. I am hungry.

She takes out the sandwich, and puts it on a plate. Then there are three. I pay, and then look at the sandwiches. These, here, um, are these mine?

Yes, yes, you ordered three sandwiches.

Oh my. Well, I don’t know how, but something went very wrong, somewhere down the line. I apologized, she was nice, and gave me my money back. In cash. What could I do? Now I had 150 Norwegian kronor to spend before I left the next afternoon. Oh well. I brought food with me, and probably wouldn’t buy anything. Oh well.

I sat down, with my one sandwich, and one waterbottle, which did little to stave off the deepening dehydration. I already had a headache, but no time. It was time to eat.

I hadn’t really thought before I ordered, but the sandwich had a huge chunk of salmon, and an egg salad. I haven’t eaten meat in maybe, two months, and even then, it was very little. But all the same, I ate my one sandwich, and brooded in my, yet another, failure in the language I have worked so hard to learn and speak. But, maybe it was the four hour promenad, and the huge scope that one foot in front of the other can carry a single person across. Maybe it was the moody day that so suits me, maybe it was the overpriced sandwich talking. But I decided.

The world is bigger than three sandwiches.

This doesn’t entirely make a lot of sense, but it did in my dehydrated, famished, over walked mind. But accidentally ordering three sandwiches, is not a big deal. Learning a language is hard, and it is so much bigger than three sandwiches. A person is bigger than three sandwiches. Three sandwiches, is nothing. I am having trouble explaining this. But it had been reassuring. Saying something wrong, messing up in a language you are trying to learn, it’s ok. Sometimes we order three sandwiches, but they are just sandwiches, and you don’t need to beat yourself up about it. The world, you, ambitions, dreams, the mind, are all much bigger than three sandwiches.

So I finished eating my one sandwich, and realized I did not have much time left for the Folk Museum, and I was most definitely going to the Viking ship museum, because I had walked too fucking far that day not to go. Fuck it.

So I did my ‘museum power walk’. I first went to the open air museum, freshly refuelled, running through the exhibits. Hasty photos, but all was remarkable. The museum was practially empty, probably because most of it was closed, but it was gloomy and quiet and beautiful. There was this suspension, dripping from the grass roofs, hiding in the dark sleepiness that soaked in the logs. Shadows waited in the empty farmhouses, and outside rain would drip in an ancient rythm, of forests and a lives lived long ago. Yes, it was quite magical, this eerie emptiness.

I went very quickly through the indoor exhibit, strange dark mazes of lights and glass and mirrors, with some knick knacks here and there. I lost my sense of depth perception, and accidentally walked right in front of where a lady was looking, and then had to cirle back past them. Three sandwiches, more or less.

With that museum checked off the list, I went to the viking ship museum, which I nearly thought was closed. No, just renovations, free admission. Can’t spend my cash.

It was fantastic. Though my headache was getting worse, I still tried to look at everything. It wasn’t hard, the place isn’t very big. I have always loved viking ships. I don’t know. As a kid I went to this viking disney exhibit, and was convinced it was real, and there were still vikings rowing around in their wooden dragon boats.

And there I was, in the prescence of these massive creatures, that were replicas, of something that swam through those icy, salty seas. I was there, I was not, and it was wonderful. I bought two post cards.

Then I was certain to take the bus home. I was not walking the way back in the rapidly approaching dark, or light even. I would take the bus, and that was it. It turns out, you can only pay in cash on the bus. 50 fucking kronor. Three sandwiches, and it wasn’t so bad after all.

I made it home, and was ready to eat. I ate ramen, and probably four digestives with nutella. My head was pounding, and I was getting nauseous. I tossed and turned, and the lights stayed on. And then it was time, because I am not allowed on a trip without vomitting. The salmon, the nutella, the digestives. I can’t even look at them, think about them, without my stomach lurching. The bathroom was in the room, quiet, so I ran the sink while I wretched, so no one had to listen. If anyone heard, the said nothing. I slept fitfully that night, but woke up with no headache.

I spent the rest of my trip looking at a church, and reading in a cafe. Then I rushed off to my train, mostly because I had to pee, and didn’t remember to take my travel medicine before I was actually on the train. The way back was spent sleeping, less fitfully at least this time, and battling with myself not to vomit. I only had to go to the bathroom once, and only wretched. Then I was off to sleep in a lurching panic. It was a modest success.

Then on my last train back, for some reason my ticket was for not the next train, but the train after, so I waited an hour at the station. It was not so bad. I ate dinner, my traditional MAX after a long journey. Then it was over, I was home again, and now for damage control, reality, and beautiful insomnia.

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The last tea: they served it in a bowl for some reason, which to my dismay, made it very difficult to take sips without pausing my reading.
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I thought this was cute. My feeble opinion entirely, in Swedish my first thought is to say, Jag hoppas inte din mor följer… But in English we would negate follow instead of hope, I hope your mom doesn’t follow… Either way, we get the point, and something interesting to think about.
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A sturdy practical ship, fit for the high seas. Yes gaga.
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The beginnings of a great journey, three sandwiches, and later, vomit.
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NO ONE KNOWS what the RATTLERS were FOR
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New friends.
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The pretty pretty USELESS ship
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same.
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I feel like the storehouse could walk on legs.
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And this was Oslo.

 

Also, here are some pictures of snow, no in Oslo. There was snow for some days, and every time I looked out the window, I would be surprised. Why is it so white, jesus.

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There is a very special part of a winter day, this little space of twilight, the peace just before the night. It is my favorite. It is not blue, almost, not quite.
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And all the trees are now naked, bracing, but somehow less naked than we.
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All nice, and cold, and nice.

 

More stories to come? Maybe. Money is a shy creature, but I still have places left to go.

updates

Nothing terrible exciting.

A week or so ago, one of my corridor mates woke me up in the middle of the night. On a Wednesday night. He was laughing and banging on something in the kitchen. I didn’t sleep again until the sun was up.

It turns out, in his drunk stupor, he brought home a cash register? Still, it sits on the kitchen table, complete with a little note reminding the user when the Selma Lägerlöf is no longer accepted. (I am lucky enough to still have one. Worthless, it is now a bookmark).

There is also a CD rack taller than I am, standing menacingly in the kitchen. I believe these items have now taken up a permanent residence in our humble corridor.

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Being someone not from a place that has actual seasons, these changes absolutely amaze me. There are color on the trees? There are so many leaves on the ground– and no one does anything? It is a consistent temperature? This exists?

Yes. It was orange, but now the orange is drained of its brilliance, and the outside world is a gloomy soup of the dead and asleep. The colors that were only a few weeks ago rich and fat and ochre are now bleached into piles of sketelons, or rotting in ponds that dot the streets. There are some trees with no leaves left. They are solemn, but ready. There is a perpetual drizzle and a sleepy cloud cover, the days are an eternal evening. The nights are something silent, a stretching sedative that holds its breath until the gloom pales.

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I went to a museum the other day, which was nice. They have a pretty strong museum culture here, and it’s a really popular place to take kids. I really like that, because where I’m from its hellishly far and hellishly expensive. I think it really does a lot for a kid to have the opportunity to see wildly new things in something as fantastical as a museum. There really is nothing like it.

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P.S. I read American Gods by Neil Gaiman last week, and I think everyone should read it because it was really great. And I was really proud of myself because I recognized like 3 of the Icelandic words in it. (Prounouns lmao, one would hope I knew at least a few of them by now).

I am better a recognizing the case of a word, but conjugating it myself and then spelling it right, is not fucking working. I don’t know, my test is in less than a week, but they have this amazing thing here, where if you fail, you can try again. Back where I’m from nobody fails, so it’s nice to know there are other humans out there.

(Also I read Coraline, also Neil Gaiman, and it was really great also. I think it has to be one of my favorites books now , so I decree everyone reads that one too.)

I make up these absolute nonsense songs to try and remember the different endings for things. They help a lot, and are quite comical. Given that I don’t have to worry about anything outside of the most common classes, nothing is irregular, I know the gender and case of everything, and hopefully it’s not feminine because the vowel changes always fuck me up (you think it’s i and then it’s u and you realize this would be easier if you just knew it all to begin with). Yes, flawless.

The bad part is that I made a song about the definite stems of nouns, but don’t have anything for indefinite. I usually just bank on something like ‘well yeah, neuter definite is usually the same for accusative and nominative, so indefinite is probably the same too’. Which isn’t always a big problem. But then I still manage to fuck everything up for every goddamn question. That’s usually when I throw the pen down and try to cry.

I used to have this horrible drive to study every and all of the hardest languages out there. But I think I’m done. This is enough. It will be a while before I head out on a new quest. I will stick around here and continue crying thanks, I am pretty content with this suffering.

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A cluster of mushrooms at the foot of a grave.
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An entire bottle of Absolut on the train.

It’s october, the leaves are orange.

Jag har aldrig sett fyra säsonger. Vår, Sommar, Höst, Vinter. Det finns en riktig höst i Sverige. Död orange, död luft, döda solen. Vinden susar men är dämpad av vinterns lilla barn. Halsduk och mössa går på guldfärgning gräset. Nu är det kallt. Jag glömmer alltid att det är kallt ute. Det ska bli kallare. Hur? Det vet jag inte.

Jag pratade med min styvmor igår. Ingenting spännande har hänt, tack gud. Jag berättade henne hur jag har tappat kontroll av mitt rum och skrivbord. Papper bor överallt. Tallrikar, glas och pennor. Hon sade, Om man inte kan organisera de små saker, kan man inte organisera de stora.

Idag var det dags att göra lite ordning på mitt rum. Idag läste jag min korridors meddelande grupp. Har någon tagit mitt kort av misstag? Jag kan inte hitta den. Det var inte jag. Ha, ha, ha.

Men gömmande under papper och böcker, var ett kort. Hur i helvete finns det två? … Satan.

Jag tror att den mest pinsamt är att jag aldrig lämna mitt rum, så jag vet sällan var min kort är, bryr inte mig om det heller.

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yes, this is what it looks like up here.
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lines of birch trees are really gates to the farie realm.