Friday The 13th In Sweden

It has been a (wonderfully) mad few weeks! I’ve started writing for the brilliant website BabyGaga , have been leaving the house at the crack of dawn for SFI five days a week and I’ve taken up cross stitch. (Addicted and can’t stop. Send help. Not really. I love it.)

My Friday the 13th started off particularly unlucky. I’m especially superstitious…most of us English are, so I didn’t expect much else. I don’t think the Swedes take today particularly seriously though. They’re far too progressive and level headed. In England we still have something a bit Middle Ages with our thinking.

I managed to get about an hours sleep last night because one of the cats is in heat, and the other one has sickness and diarrhea. Then my rucksack opened itself up on my way to school and I nearly lost everything to the slush. I also ended up being fifteen minutes late to class, then did spectacularly bad with my work, ballsing up things which I knew, and repeatedly asking my lovely and especially patient teacher questions in English instead of in Swedish…like I’m supposed to do.

However! Today did have its positives. Here they are.

During my SFI class I learned the word ‘skrock’ which means ‘superstition’ in Swedish.Immediately I thought to myself ‘cross stitching that when I get home!’ Learning this new word improved my mood ten fold, and I found myself scouring the English/Swedish Ordbook during the break for other weird words that I could stitch.

When I got home I sat down and did my cross stitch. I should have been working solidly on articles due in this weekend, but I needed some me time after the monumental stress of the morning. So I spent an hour or so crafting and then, very gently, getting the sleeping cat’s tail to lay artfully across my finished piece. Instagram demands this artiness. She wasn’t particularly happy about this however, even in her sleep.

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I added an Algiz rune to my cross stitch, which, when inverted means ‘hidden danger, taboo, warning…’ Quite suitable I think for today. Friday the 13th also held significance for the vikings. 12 gods were feasting in Valhalla when in walked a 13th, uninvited guest…the mischievous Loki who arranged for Hodor to kill Balder the Beautiful with a mistletoe tipped arrow.

This evening I heard a bird calling from the forest. No idea what I was hearing (okay, my first thought was EAGLE! Which was silly. I’ve seen National Geographic. I know an eagle doesn’t sound like that.) I hurled the door open and recorded the sound with my phone and promptly uploaded it onto Facebook and Instagram.

Coming from the forest…does anyone know what sort of bird this is?

A post shared by Katie Metcalfe (@katiemariemetcalfe) on

Within about five minutes, the web and its people had gifted me with an answer…what I was hearing was a tawny owl (even better than an eagle!), specifically a territorial female owl. Apparently they get like that in winter. It is the males which make the ho-hoo calls and the females make the ke-wick noises I was hearing. I’m thanking the universe for letting me off ‘lightly’ this Friday 13th and for giving me some light relief at the end of bloody long day.

 

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The Best From 2016

Hej hej! I hope you all had a magical Jul and New Year and that 2017 is being kind to you.

I’m so relieved to be waking up in a fresh New Year, and am using every second to live as fully and as happily as I can.

This year I will be getting to know Sweden on a much deeper level…but more about this in one of my next posts!

For now I want to share my favourite posts from 2016! I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed living them.

My Initiation Into The Swedish Tradition Of Semlor

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I Could Smell Spring

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My Week In Photographs

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Photographing My Viking

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An Interview With Bronte Aurell Of Scandinavian Kitchen

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To My Dear Swede

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Roadtrip To Hagfors In Värmland

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Sebastian’s Family Home In Hagfors

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Rimfrost Live In Trollhättan

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Rimfrost Live In Göteborg

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Fishing In Värmland

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Thrift Haul

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My First Swedish Midsummer

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ATrip Out To Borås Djurpark

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Meeting My Friend After Six Years

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Turning 30 In Sweden

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Re-Shaping Fika : Mandelkubb & The Skogstroll

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Re-shaping Fika : My Man Made Blåbärspaj

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Bride Of The Birds

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I Couldn’t Stay Out Of The Forest

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Jul I Sverige : Making Orange Clove Pomanders

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Our Holiday In The Motherland : Climbing Roseberry Topping

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On The Shortest Day

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My First Jul In Sweden

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Jag Förstår/Jag Förstår Inte : My First Day Of Swedish For Immigrants (SFI)

Honestly, I didn’t think today would ever come. It was only last night, when it dawned on me that I would be rising before the birds, that I started to visualize myself behind a desk, pen poised over immaculate notepaper, ready to begin proper with a beautiful language that I’ve been listening to (and silently mouthing) for ten months.

In Sweden school starts early. I needed to be there at 8am which, looking back now was a good thing. It didn’t leave me time to get eaten up by nerves. When I entered the classroom, the smile and ‘välkommen’ from my teacher (Martha) were so full of warmth that my psyche felt cushioned. Surety blossomed from my heart up. I thought to myself ‘this is where I should be, I don’t need to run, I don’t need to be scared.’

I’ve always loved languages, but mastering them hasn’t come easy. Well, it hasn’t come at all. It’s something of an embarrassment to have reached thirty years of age and to only be able to speak my mother tongue.

To begin, Martha asked us, one by one, to introduce ourselves. I was in awe of the fluidity of the Swedish that poured from my classmates. The majority of them were from Syria, but you wouldn’t think it to listen to them speak. Their Swedish accents were practically flawless.

Martha – whose parents came to Sweden from Hungary – rarely broke away from Swedish to speak English, and when she did, it was to only say a few words. It felt so refreshing to hear her speak because she spoke slowly, enabling me time to digest one word before moving onto the next. I found I could understand so much more than I’d previously thought. I’m used to Swedish being spoken at one hundred miles an hour.

We spent some time learning which other languages were spoken by the class, and my jaw progressively dropped lower and lower as the list on the whiteboard grew. I was surrounded by people who could speak Armeniska, Kuriska, Arabiska, Ryska, Grekiska, Portugiskia, Kinesiska…I didn’t get a chance to write them all down. And we were hardly twenty in the group.

Today was about setting the foundations for the rest of the course, and I was relived for the calm ‘easing in.’ Though I did I find myself greatly encouraged by the fizzling enthusiasm of my classmates, and humbled by how they approached me with kind smiles and warm, firm handshakes.

I stopped being able to envisage myself speaking a foreign language a few years ago. I just sort of lost hope that I’d ever master another tongue and haven’t really dwelled on the thought because, as I mentioned, I never thought the day would arrive when I’d actually embark on the SFI course. But today, as I cycled away from my first lesson, I thought to myself ‘actually Katie, you might just be able to do this.’

Where Is November Going So Fast?

I’m sat here at the kitchen table with the rain cracking against the windows like stones. This time last week we had snow. I miss it. I miss it terribly. I don’t know what November is doing, or where it is going so fast. When I look outside it’s difficult to see where the tree tops end and the sky begins. I love this early darkness, it makes up for today’s lack of snow. A little bit at least. Out of the corner of my eye I can see the books I collected from the library today stacked on the floor on the hall – novels, collections of short stories, photography manuals, a memoir in the shape of a comic, an account of a failed polar exploration. I was so hungry at the library. I couldn’t leave a book behind.

I’ve just eaten two pepparkakor, one in the shape of a fir tree, the other in the shape of a heart. I didn’t look into the tub when I fished them out. Pepparkakor are the taste of winter, they’ve always been the taste of winter. I’ve finished my fifth cup of tea and am craving another one. I need it hot, strong, sweet. The past week and a bit has forced us to endure challenges which have gathered up and used my strength, Sebastian’s strength, Little Tyra’s strength. But we’ve also experienced some wonderful changes. The other day we welcomed Wolfbane and Boney – two feline ladies in their prime – into our home. I’ve lived around animals my whole life, but have always, unfairly I suppose, favoured dogs over cats. I never expected that this winter I would bond with two beautiful felines, but it’s happened. Wolfbane, the older of the two  comes and sits on the table where I work, and I run my fingers through her fur and nudge her head with my own. Often she’ll settle herself down and fall asleep, softening my heart. Nearly every night since she arrived here Boney has been bedding down with me, purring loud en0ugh to wake the dead.

Talking of sleep. I’m wondering now what time I ought to go to bed. I’m not used to wondering that anymore. I’m not used to needing to be somewhere. Early tomorrow morning I’m starting the Swedish For Immigrants course or SFI. I’m nervous. On Tuesday I’ll meet with the Dr who put me back on my medication in September. We’ll discuss increasing the dosage. I’m hoping for an increase. I’m my best self on a higher dosage. Then, on Wednesday Sebastian and I will travel across the North Sea, and he’ll meet my family for the very first time. I haven’t seen them since March and am yearning for their affection, for their closeness, for their laughter in my ears. Not long to wait now.

On a different note, I established a website for my photography. Sweden has been so influential in my development as a photographer and much of what you will find at the website has been featured here. Heck, look at that. I called myself a photographer! I’m slowly getting used to having the words ‘I am a photographer’ in my mouth.

 

The Delicious Gifts From Our Pumpkin

We finally got around to carving our pumpkin yesterday, but it’s okay! Halloween in Sweden is a little different. We celebrate until the 6th of November, the day on which Alla Helgans Dag (All Saint’s Day) falls. It’s on this date – also the first day of winter  – that families go to the cemeteries to visit the graves of their deceased. Pass a cemetery in Sweden on Alla Helgans Dag, and you will see it flooded with candlelight.

So, our pumpkin will stay alight until tomorrow. Though knowing us, it’ll be a bit longer. Halloween is the most special celebration of the year in this household, and we hold onto the Halloweeney feeling for as long as possible…even though the snow is quietly blanketing the ground outside.

Once Sebastian had cut a lid out of the pumpkin, I set to work on taking out the seeds, then on removing the seeds from the stringy guts, which took the best part of two hours. All the while I was picking away the pulp, I was thinking to myself ‘hell, I need to thank my mother a thousand times or more for all the hours she spent preparing seeds to roast for my siblings and I when we were growing up.’

Once they were clean, I preheated the oven to 180C and covered the seeds in a few glugs of olive oil and a handful of salt and black pepper. They went into the oven for about twenty minutes until golden and crunchy. This kind of hands on work with foodstuffs, where you really have to be into what you’re doing can make the difference between an average day and an accomplished day, and I felt greatly accomplished as I nibbled on some pumpkin seeds, and breathed in the heady, sweet scent coming from the slowly warming Jack-O’-Lantern.

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Re-shaping Fika : Leftovers & Poetry

There was one slice left over from the other day’s blåbärspaj, so after a bike ride out in the cold (the northern wind is really picking up now), I was only too happy to clear the dish. Gently warmed with some vaniljsås, it tasted just as rich, just as sweet, just as divine as the day Sebastian prepared it.

I’ve been trying to spend a bit less time online and more time with my books of late, so instead of scrolling through my Facebook timeline for the umpteenth time, I took my always-to-hand copy of Earth Shattering : Eco Poetry (Bloodaxe) and leafed through until I found some poems celebrating autumn. The heating has recently been put back on in the apartment block, after a long break for the summer, so my Fika today was especially cozy.

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Learning Swedish : Little Tyra, The Gruffalo & Duolingo

Little Tyra has recently become infatuated with The Gruffalo (or Gruffalon) and the other night she wanted me to read it to her. But I couldn’t. Sebastian helped me to read the first few lines but I felt ashamed, sad and frustrated that I wasn’t able to relax, read in fluent Swedish and let Tyra wander in the world of the Gruffalo with my help.

But this experience was the push I needed to really kick start my language learning. It has been so easy to just talk English with Sebastian, that I haven’t remained disciplined. Every now and then I’ll learn a new word, and I’ll always try and repeat the words that I’ve learned when I’m with Tyra, but I need to be doing more. Much more.

It’s hard learning a new language, and even if you are eager to learn it and love everything about the language itself, it can be a daunting task to sit down and teach yourself, or even let your loved one teach you. I think one of the problems that I’ve had is knowing which method is best…which way of learning Swedish is really the most effective.

Eventually, I decided that it would be a good idea to put a call out on Facebook, asking for advice on learning a new language. Several of my friends recommended that I try Duolingo, a 100% free language learning app that has over 120 million registered users over the world.

Duolingo takes a bit of getting used to, and there’s unnecessary ‘accessories’ on the site i.e. lingots which are Duolingos virtual currency, but overall I’m really enjoying the lessons and feel upbeat when I leave the site after completing my tasks.

Duoligno is a great resource right now, but I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to being a ‘real’ student of the Swedish language when I start the Swedish For Immigrants course, and how much I’m looking forward to having a teacher on my case, giving me instructions and guidance and, most importantly, encouraging discipline.

June Was An Invigorating & Inspiring Month

July 1st already? It seems only hours ago that I was telling you about the month of May.

June was a month where I let loose and had fun. Lots and lots of fun. My relationship with Tyra continued to develop  and grow stronger by the day, which made my heart sour to entirely new heights.

I re-connected with people close to me, and learned, on a deeper level, how my man works. My fear of colour was challenged when I found some clothes that I loved that didn’t happen to be black, and I was also introduced to the beautiful celebration of Midsummer, which was the crowning glory of the past 30 days. Thank you June, you were wonderful.

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I managed to uncover some great thrift finds,  and I introduced some colour into my wardrobe.

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We took a day trip out to Borås Zoo

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…and I ate my first Svenska jordubbar

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had a wonderful reunion with a good friend

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…and developed a taste for blåbärssoppa.

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I became obsessed with Wasa Kanel.

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I started writing for budget Swedish travel site Routes North. (My first article for them was about the Swedish artist John Bauer.)

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My relationship with Little Tyra continued to progress…

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I celebrated five months with Sebastian!

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I took part in my very first Swedish Midsummer

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…and treated myself to a haircut to round off the month.

Life With Little Tyra

I can still remember when Sebastian and I first started talking on Facebook many months ago, when he told me of his little 2 1/2 year old girl Tyra, and how she was the light of his life. I can still remember how my heart warmed when he told me this and how glad it made me feel.

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Many people quietly freak out when their potential love interest reveals that there is a child involved, but me…no. It made me smile and want to get closer.

When I first met Tyra, she was shy, quiet and sometimes sad. But it was to be expected. She was still a baby and I was something so very unfamiliar. Not only was I an unfamiliar presence, but I also talked in a different language, one she didn’t understand.

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She would cry when I would sit next to Sebastian on the sofa, cry when I would hold his hand, cry when  we spoke too much in English. I felt so guilty when I would see her little bottom lip tremble, and cursed myself for not being able to comfort her in her native tongue.

Sebastian and I knew that getting used to this new presence would take time, and we adapted our behaviour around Tyra to make it easier for her. For example, I would sit on the armchair and Sebastian and Tyra would sit on the sofa when we could eat or watch TV. Sebastian and I would keep our close contact brief when she was around, giving a quick hug or a kiss when we were in a different room or she was preoccupied with a toy or a book. I would also sometimes even sit in another room so that Tyra could have her alone time with her father.

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Adapting to the new situation took some time, but slowly, very slowly Tyra started to warm to me. She would invite me to sit on the couch or ask me to play hide and seek. I started to use the few Swedish words I knew with her –tack så mycket,  varsågod, vill du har glass? var är pappa?  – and gradually my confidence grew too.

About two months ago, Tyra started to ask me to feed her. She would let me pick up up and dance around the living room with me in her arms. She would take my things – lip balm, mobile phone, hair clips – and pass them to me with a smile from ear to ear.

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I find myself become all the more attached to Tyra with every day that passes. I want her safe, happy and content always. When I can say something in Swedish to her, I feel our bond growing ever stronger and it’s the greatest feeling. When I first moved to Sweden, there were a lot of tears. Nowadays, there’s a lot of smiling and rarely wet eyes.

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The other day, Tyra and I rode a fairground ride together. We sat next to each other and ate ice creams. On the same day we hid under the bed covers and waited for pappa trollet (Sebastian) to come and find us.  I feel grateful and honoured that Tyra has accepted me, and I’m so excited about what the new years will bring.

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