Saturday, 20 October 2012

Candy Canes and Silver Lanes Aglow

In a surprising turn of events, it has taken a visitor from home to make me homesick for the first time.  As I type, Beth is snoring away on my sofa, having been up since 3am, and I seem to be sitting here mourning Britain slightly.  We've had a rather festive day, which began with a very long and cosy lunch in Haga.  The weather here is pretty dreary today, not cold just very damp and grey and miserable, so we sheltered for as long as possible in La Petit Cafe.  I seem to mention a lunch in Haga in every single post (a creature of habit if you ever met one) but I strayed away from my two usual cafes to investigate this one after hearing good reviews.  It was possibly the twee-est place I've ever been, all white wash furniture and floral decor and heart shape everything, but it was wonderful all the same, and we fully appreciated our enormous paninis and steamy mugs of latte.

Eventually, we dragged ourselves from La Petit and explored Haga a little, during which I officially began the festive season - given that it is nearing the end of October already, this is rather a delayed beginning to celebrations for me -when I bought Georgia the most exciting Christmas card I've ever seen.  The festivities continued in Ikea where we discovered the newly installed Christmas displays.  Oh my Lord.  Here I discovered the most hilarious range of festive items I have ever seen.  Unfortunately, I can not elaborate on this much as part of the range is a key component of my Dad's Christmas present, but just know that it is both very politically incorrect and very, very funny.  I'm looking at my purchase and crying laughing even now.

I think that it is pe
rhaps the festive feel to the day so far that has made me homesick. As anybody knows, I really love Christmas, and I guess it just reminded me of home, as does Beth of course.  However, I shouldn't be too sad as a few days ago I booked a very impromptu trip back to England next Tuesday.  I woke up in the middle of the night and it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn't going to be able to get involved in any of Jordyn's 21st celebrations which just seemed wrong somehow, and the next thing I knew flights had been booked and trains investigated.  I am also incorporating a trip to Plymouth to kill some time between cheap flights, which I am oddly looking quite forward to, given that I don't usually have a good word to say about the place.

In other, more Swedish, news, I passed my Swedish exam!  I am not sure how exactly this was managed; I can only assume that the marking was very lax.  It is good news all the same though, but unfortunately my A1 Swedish class now clashes with one of my regular classes which is something I need to negotiate (/should have already sorted...oops).  I also turned in my first piece of coursework and I didn't even have to stay up all night, which is a revelation in itself.  I fully appreciated the fact that hand in happens via email here too, cutting out the hideous scramble to the Arts office at one minute before deadline, having not showered and usually still sporting pyjamas in some form.

We also broke tradition last Friday night and went on a night out that didn't involve Sticky Fingers, which is shocking I know.  We tried to go to a few places, encountering cobbles and enormous police horses on the way, but came across obstacles in the form of the downright ludicrous Swedish club entry policies.  Pre-night out, we had researched age guides and one club stated 23 but said that girls with "big tits, mouse-short skirts and high heels" would get in younger, on their official website.  Yes, that's right, this was official advice (their words, not mine).  Baffling, completely baffling.  Alas, I threw away all my slut clothes in 2010 and ended up looking more like somebody's mum trying to be sexy.  My 17 year old self would have been ashamed.  We did eventually manage to get through the doors of Parken though and I had quite a good night, despite spending half of it outraged about the price of drinks (60SEK for less than a pint of dishwater flavour beer?  No, just no.) and the other half berating the DJ's choice of music.

This week has been quiet, as usual.  It's such a contrast to home, where days of lounging and nights of drinking roll into one another, leaving me regularly confused as to whereabouts in the week I actually am.  Here, there is a much more distinct sense of weekdays and weekends, the former seeming to involve early mornings and early nights as standard, with a heavy dose of reading and general domesticated activities.  Perhaps this seems like a duller way of passing time but I actually quite enjoy it because it makes the weekends something markedly differentrather just another forty eight hours of sameness.  I like the fact that I look forward to a Saturday morning lie in nowadays, and that I spend all week being excited about dressing up and going out, whereas in Plymouth nights out almost become a chore.  It's certainly different, but by no means a bad different.  

This evening, we seem to have set up a scene straight out of a rom com - I'm cooking and there's wine and at least twenty candles have been lit - so I should stop tapping away and attend to my date (correction: cousin).  Tomorrow, we plan to do some general exploring, including a visit to Rohsska, the design and textile museum, and dinner somewhere exciting, so the next time I get around to boring you all with a post, you'll hear about those I'm sure.  

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Jag Heter Elise Och Jag Tycker Om Göteborg

I have big news today, BIG news: it is not raining.  Yes, you heard right.  After weeks and weeks of endless downpours and thunderstorms, the whole weekend and the past couple of days have been mostly rain free, give or take a few showers.  I never thought there would be a day when I got this excited about any weather conditions but good Lord I am.  In all honesty, I think most of my excitement has come from being able to wear what I want without lugging a raincoat and practical boots around.  Naturally, this led a slightly pretentious  weekend of blazers and floppy hats.  It was wonderful.

In fact, I had a wonderful weekend in general.  On Friday, the first 'invasion of the Scots' took place (although on a very minor scale compared to what I hear is occurring in two weekends) as Nikki came to visit, who studies Law with Suzanne, Rebecca and Kenneth in Dundee.  We had a dinner party on Friday night and despite Suzanne and Rebecca being convinced that they were going to poison us all, we all survived with the only ailment being how ridiculously full we were after an enormous amount of pasta, cottage pie and salad.  By the end of the evening, we were all a little drunk - a condition that we have now started referring to as being "trammed" - and seemed to think it was a good idea to cartwheel around the stair wells.  In retrospect, it was a decidedly bad idea: I was wearing a skirt.  I guess dignity is overrated anyway.

On Saturday, I turned down a lunch and shopping trip as I was lying to myself that I would study for the Swedish exam.  Unsurprisingly, I did absolutely nothing of the sort and ended up venturing out and spending far too long in Ahlens City buying lipstick instead.  Some things never change.  I hadn't properly explored Ahlens City before then but I was pleasantly surprised.  It's just a department store really but there's something so calming about the atmosphere in there.  Floating around drawing stripes of lipstick in every imaginable colour onto my hand was a much more enjoyable experience than the usual Saturday afternoon spent playing sardines in Boots.  My bank balance would probably disagree, however.  

The second Druty meeting also took place late on Saturday afternoon, however I had to miss it in order to be ready on time for - yep, you guessed it - a night out at Sticky Fingers.  We rushed to Birger Jarl almost an hour late (I hate bad time keeping) to find a spread of food for us - pizza, bread, salads, potatoes - and we all dived in and washed it down with perhaps a little too much alcohol.  I was in my element as Kristen had been absolutely amazing and brought me back some normal priced gin from Germany and I finally got to have a gin and tonic (and yes, by "a" I do actually mean plural).  I can't explain how happy I was not to be drinking wine for the first time in six weeks.  As usual the night was good fun, mostly featuring tequila, Lederhosen and bounding around the dance floor in six inch heels.  We all seemed to leave quite early though and perhaps the most entertaining part of the evening was an impromptu Dutch lesson in McDonald's of which there are far too many videos.  Once again, my natural aptitude for languages did not shine through.

Sunday was, quite frankly, a beautiful day.  I awoke at 8am for some reason and spent the first few hours of the day nervously awaiting news that friends in Plymouth had managed to secure Glastonbury tickets for us.  They did - hallelujah!  I was very excitable after this and joined the Scots for lunch in Haga.  We went to my favourite place, En Deli Haga, and whilst it was delicious as ever, I think I may have been slightly ambitious with the amount of food I ordered post-night out.  We then meandered around, attempted to go to some vintage shops but found them to be all closed, looked around a fancy dress shop and Topshop and eventually went home, suffering slightly from our overly energetic hangovers.  Again, I had every intention to study for my Swedish exam but actually crawled into bed, ate ice cream and watched Gallery Girls.  That's what Sundays are made for though, right?

This left Monday, the day of the exam, to learn a whole course of Swedish.  Of course, I was fully motivated and definitely didn't lounge around all morning finishing my ice cream, internet shopping and catching up on TV... oh no, of course not.  I did eventually start studying around lunch time and, if I say so myself, I think I learnt quite an impressive amount of Swedish in such a small time frame.  By five pm I could write a page and a half about myself, my friends and my family, however some of it was fairly fictional; my friends were all in hotch potch, mostly lesbian, couples who all ate breakfast together at seven am each day, my brother and sister's favourite activities were to study and listen to the radio on a Saturday - what an exciting pair - and the rest of my family didn't really exist, except to participate in many activities in a forest.  Oh, the joys of a limited vocabulary.  I overlooked the parts of the course about Swedish geography and the royal family though, thinking that these had simply been included as linguistic examples.  How wrong I was.  Half of the test were questions about these facts, which I couldn't answer in English let alone Swedish.  I did write a lovely little story about a chap named John and his Saturday nights in Sticky Fingers followed by breakfasts with many friends though so hopefully that will redeem me.  It will be very embarrassing indeed if I have to tell you next week about the time I failed the easiest test in the world.

I have my first piece of actual coursework due in on Friday which has coincided nicely with me not having any classes  this week.  In a strange turn of events, I woke up this morning feeling slightly panicked that I haven't started the essay yet, when usually I wouldn't start until 11pm the night before, and this one is half the length that I'm used to.  I'm choosing to embrace this panic though and use it to start planning the essay now and maybe, just maybe, it can be my first ever piece of university coursework that doesn't involve an all nighter to complete.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Gothenburg, The City of Perpetual Precipitation and a Hundred Languages

It is a dreary Wednesday afternoon in Gothenburg.  As ever, it is raining.  I honestly do not remember the last time that a day was completely free of rain.  At the very least there has been a daily shower for at least the past three weeks, I would say, perhaps longer.  Today, however, it is not merely showering and for the second time this week a violent burst of thunder has made my window panes shudder.  I was about to venture to the supermarket when the heavens opened but the thought of donning my rain coat again is less than appealing – it even came on a night out last Saturday, a new low? – so here I am.

I’ve perhaps neglected this blog slightly lately, due to having been concentrating on other things.  One of these is a project that has come about after a slight ‘what am I going to do with my life?’ crisis which I may share in due course.  However, I must admit that mostly I have been working my way through a frankly quite impressive amount of episodes of Sex and the City.  Sigh.  I have not been completely idle though; since I last wrote I attended the first meeting of Druty and a dinner party, finally started running again and dabbled with veganism.  Oh, and I spent another Saturday at Sticky Fingers – didn’t I say it would become a habit?

Firstly, perhaps, I shall explain what Druty means.  It is, or so I am told, a Polish term which translates as knitting needles, which may give you an indication of what the group involves.  It is a Swedish handicrafts group, involving mostly knitting and crocheting, but can really included any textile based craft I assume.  When joining this group, I did wonder if my old lady tendencies were perhaps getting a little out of hand, and if I should maybe say farewell to the inner seventy year old once and for all.  However, after a delightful Saturday morning exploring flea markets around Redbergsplatsen, having a very cheap but lovely fika and discovering a box of ‘gratis böcker’ (i.e. free books, which are, as anybody will tell you, my absolute favourite thing, even if they are in Swedish) with five other students, I admit that my concerns were unfounded.

A highlight of the morning, although perhaps less so for myself than for my Grandma, was when a lady on the craft stall in one flea market produced a lace pillow (to clarify, I am referring to the pillow on which lace is made, rather than one crafted from lace) on which she was in the process of creating a piece of traditional Swedish lace.  Before I came to Sweden, my Grandma got rather excited about Swedish lace, producing all sorts of books and patterns for us to pore over.  In a typically grandmotherly fashion, I showed interest in one head dress and she has already begun its creation to be worn at my wedding, apparently.  I couldn’t quite bring myself to fill her in on my current very firm singledom as she seems to believe this wedding might be occurring in the near future, but it was a lovely thought nonetheless and I know how thrilled she would have been about the encounter.  It’s slightly disappointing, however, that the owner of the lace pillow didn’t speak a word of English and vice versa.  Hopefully that will be changing quite soon though as I have my first Swedish exam on Monday and all I know so far is my name, princess and king – useful components of any conversation!  At one of the flea markets we visited I purchased a Famous Five book which I hope to be able to read before I leave here, and hopefully to return to its origins to continue the lace conversation as well.  Fingers crossed.

As I mentioned, I have also started running again and been trying out a (mostly) vegan diet.  These decisions mostly came from me deciding once and for all to stop being such a big chub after looking at some old pictures of myself, good lord.  Despite many people’s assumptions, I have found veganism alarmingly easy to adapt to and am actually cooking nicer, not to mention healthier, food than I have ever before.  Also, in search of vegan food in Haga on my Thursday lecture-gap-cum-lunch-break, I discovered my favourite eatery in the city so far.  This wonderful venue goes by the name of ‘En Deli Haga’ and, as it says on the tin really, is a vegan deli.  You can choose from a selection of items on a cold buffet, such as houmous, stuffed vine leaves and spicy lentil falafels alongside various salads, which are then either put into a delicious wrap or served on a mixed plate.  There is also the option of soup, with unlimited amounts of delicious bread and oil/vinegar dips, and I spied some baklava for desert but I was simply too full to even contemplate it.  It was truly delicious though, exactly my cup of tea, and I will be taking all future visitors there, including the carnivorous ones.

I must point out that the veganism is a purely health motivated choice, rather than being anything to do with animal welfare (don’t worry, the Chickens in Need days are not making a comeback), and I therefore haven’t felt too guilty on occasions when I have strayed.  This has only happened twice (or three times if you include the drunk McDonald’s on Saturday but we aren’t), today taking advantage of my Dagens lunch voucher from ABF Vux and last Tuesday at a dinner party.  The dinner party took place at Birger Jarl, another set of student housing across the city, and coincided with our month anniversary in Gothenburg.  There were around twenty students of various nationalities and we all took a different dish to share.  The name cards had been distributed randomly around the table to give everybody chance to mingle with new people.  It was a great idea and I had a lot of fun, not to mention some delicious food, however once again the language barrier proved to be quite an obstacle and by the end of the evening it seemed that everybody had drifted back to fellow speakers of their mother tongue.

I really do feel that it is about time that I got to grips with at least one other language as I’m quite ashamed of how ignorant and just plain lazy native English speakers are.  As a literature student, it perhaps goes without saying that I really do love the English language and all that it has created and accomplished, but I don’t really feel that that is a valid excuse to simply ignore the importance of every other language.  In day to day interactions with other Erasmus students and whilst volunteering at ABF Vux language school, I hear so many other languages that it would be quite possible to just close your ears to if you desired.  Yet, every now and again, when straying from the well-trodden, tourist-friendly paths of Gothenburg's main streets, you find somebody who doesn't speak English and realise that you can't properly understand a society if you are still hearing about it through your native ears and describing it in your native tongue.   With that in mind, I bid you farewell now with the intention of learning some Swedish.  Did I mention that I have an exam on Monday?  Oh… yeah.

(It's still raining, by the way.)