Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Stuff I have confiscated

 Countless cellphones, of course, but they do not really count (pun intended). And then: a student was drawing illuminati stuff in my class when I passed by. I do appreciate the effort.
Not really confiscated. This student named the handed in homework "witch crafts!", much to my joy.
Everybody loved this tiny little thing from the Japanese movie "My neighbour Totoro". It buzzez when one pulls out the string and make students forget to focus on French in class right away. Very dangerous.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

My colleague's blood.

From 18 and onwards -A. is about 32 by now - his weight has been exactly the same: 67 kg, no matter what. His metabolism is supposedly great, but no change in weight also means that he forgets to eat without feeling hunger and that he does not have incitaments to eat healthy. He also builds muscles VERY easily.

So for six months, he felt a headache at the back of his skull. A. decided to go see a doctor, who took a blood sample. The lab called back quickly: the blood is so thick that we can not make any tests. The guy had forgotten to drink properly for half a year! His blood was almost...dry.

Please eat and drink healthy, eveyone. Find ways to remember this.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

No image - but imagine yourselves

In town. Today. Batman! Yes, with a cape and that special head garment with ears. In a shopping center, moving forward in a casually decisive way.

In town. Today. An entire family with parrots on their shoulders! First, a man with a red parrot on the right shoulder and a green on the left. Then, his female companion with one green parrot (only one) on left shoulder and what seemed to be their son - also with a parrot. Spotted on the subway.

Friday, 25 September 2015

New books. (Warning to sensitive readers regarding third book)

I love Hilary Mantel as a child: so early an adult in her own way. Else: great language. Worth rereading. Drugs, school and family life in focus. The drugs were the result of maltreatment, though. In the70's, only doctors could say what the side effects were (unless you read about it in a book, which Mantel eventually did and a doctor mistook her for a doctor...). It is only now that medications come with rigorous labels. Giving up the Ghost: A Memoir is the original title.
When visiting Sweden some time ago, Kim Thúy said in an interview that a friend of hers had read this book (which originally is in French) and had the impression of having done so in Vietnamese. The words were put in such arrangement that made the Vietnamese soul and language visible. I can unfortunately not comment on that reference, even though almost every page in this book carries a new Vietnamese word that has the main "role" in each semi-chapter - with translation - but nevertheless praise this oeuvre. It is like powerful poetry, but light as the feather-like snowflakes on the cover. Man has a precursor: Ru, which I would like to read very soon.
War's Unwomanly Face, or "У войны не женское лицо", consists of assemblied stories about how women participated in the Second World War. It took Svetlana Aleksievich years and years to visit and talk to about 200 women, and the publishing houses wanted in their censoring her to say how great the war was, as the result was Victory. "After this book", they said, "nobody will want to fight anymore." But it is not about medals and numbers - each story is another horror mirror that shows how terrible any war is! Women drowned their newborns to not draw the attention of the German's to the squad. Nurses stripped bare to compress wounds of injured soldiers when they had no equipment left and had to bite off veins and arms when there was no knife to amputate with. A doctor had worked for 72 hours straight and dropped into such a deep sleep that he was unwakable when he was needed to (maybe) save (another) soldier's life. He did not even wake up when they shot a gun next to his ear. SO MUCH DEATH. And so many brave young girls that quit school to shoot and fight and were very competent but frowned at - just because they were girls. Many told them that nobody would marry them if they went (!) and many feared that their faces would get damaged (as this would mean at this time that nobody would lok at them after war was over). After the war was over, teams spent another six years of unmining waters and fields and people who had seen countries outside of USSR were sent to prison to not be able to tell in how much better shape roads and infrastucture is in Germany.

There also was so much love and understanding - kissing the soil of a loving person's tomb is just not enough words to explain it. Women that wrote letters to Aleksievich said "...now I have to stop... I can not see what I am writing beacuse of my tears..." "thank you for making me remembering my youth again..."


Setting: I am reading this book on the train. Next to me and across are three English-speaking friends, aged ~60, which I see for the first time in my life. Doors are closing, when a young man manages to slide in last second and comes to stand next to us.
Man, ~25 (addressing Man 1, ~60): "It is like in Mission Impossible! I have come to exchange information with you in Russian." (Big smile.)
Man, ~60: "You got the wrong wagon. It is the next one."
Me: "I am actually the one speaking Russian." (I hold up the book.)
Man, ~60: "Is that in Russian? Are you studying Russian?"
Me: "No. I am Russian by origin. This is a book by Ukranian Svetlana Aleksievitch. She interviews people to find out what the world war really was like. It is not about how many weapons were produced, or dry numbers, but what actually happened." (Touching as hell.)
Man, ~60: "Which war?"
Me: "The second."
Man, ~60: "How many were killed?"
Me: "20 millions."
Woman, ~60: "I thought it was 10."
Man, ~60: "In the sixities, when your parents barely were born, one could order 100 grams of vodka, or 200 grams of Vodka. This was at the Metropolitan."
Me: "How strange that they said 'grams' and not 'milliliters'!"
Man, ~60: "But that is how they did it."
Me: "Did you know that 'water' in Russian is 'voda'?"
Man 2, ~60: "That is an expensive mistake to make."
Woman, ~60: "Where did you learn your English?" (Turns out she is British.)

Conclusion: read Russian books, everyone.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Museum Mission: Penningby slott

Meet the sixth generation of castle owners in front of the original entrance of the Penningby castle! Measured not in size but in years. 
The family takes turns guiding during a few days in the summer. Castle has no electricity but contains a fresh water well which was forgotten of and covered with a wooden floor, so when one of the hodges fell through some boards that had rotten, another hodge came running screaming "the hodge is drowning indoors!" (drängen drunknar i fäbon). 
This is also the place where one finds one of the first tile stoves in Sweden and the walls are really thick (it never gets warmer than "chilly" even during the hottest summer months).
It is not super easy to get to Penningby from Stockholm and back without a car, unless you do not mind transfers and waiting, and it is only open for a short time during summer - but I of course claim it is worth a visit.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015


The other day it was raining and when I looked out the window, I gasped: the bow really streched from horizon to horizon. One of my first reactions, of course, was to try capturing it. Note the double rainbow on the image above!
0% Photoshop, all natural beauty.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Hipster bag

This bag is: awesome.

I bought it from an art student, who had made the effort to make the same design on both sides. Her name is Sofia Jonsson Röök. I think she was selling if for 200 SEK; I came at the end of the day at the art market and asked if she would be well off with 75% discount. 
Answer: yes.

Dancing with an astronaut.

I actually have met this guy in real life. Well, if it counts that I went to a seminar where he was the main speaker and I convinced two friends to ask him my questions - I had many, they had none and we only got one question each.There are many austronauts in the world actually, and two (or even three?) of them are coming to my school this week! 

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Outbox vs. Inbox

I have a brilliant idea: using postcards instead of letter-paper. (I even plan to glue the postcards together to make them look like an accordion of stories.) The flowers below are intended to be sent one by one in an envelope each, but I always have too much to say to fit it on so little space, so I always end up having too many envelopes. Anyway: the swan is a favourite. The flower set comes from a giant box with 80 cards in total.

This I got from Misa when she was in Paris. It is a complicated city, hard to take in the first time and get to used to, I totally agree.

To me from the vice headmaster at one of the schools where I teach French.
Hello from Philadelphia with New Yorkish flashbacks.
And a detailed message from Copenhagen!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Wave ahoy

Look at these ancient shoelaces! Did you know that rowing is really good for your posture? And that it is all about legwork? And according to the rowing machine, where I wasted my energy due to lack of technique, I can row 825 meters in 2 minutes 25 seconds.
There was surprisingly many snacks - mud cake, chips, cream and coconut balls... I invented the sausage alternative while waiting for my turn to practice - which took like two hours, as different university teams had to compete first.
And it was fun! The person in the front of the boat (Carol, who took this picture), is called cox and steers the direction. The two people in the front and the two people at the back have also special names, but I was too busy not sinking to remember. Next time!

Not to forget: the winners.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Jana, 11 years old, on love:

I found an old poem it took me a few minutes to compose at a young age:

I vårens skymning
du underbar är,
min tanke blir grumlig
av att se dig så där.
- Minns du när solen dalade i fjärran?
vill jag dig säga,
eller något vackert likaså.
Men inget ljud kommer över mina läppar,
jag är förtrollad av dig.

And my teacher's comment: "En underbart fin dikt! Helt suverän!" dated 01-04-01. (Meaning: "a wondeful poem! Just marvelous!") (And on the back of it: "may be read out loud in class anomyously." Great, I will just publish it on a world wide web forum a decade+ later.) (And note how wonderful handwriting I had! Nobody gets to experience that anymore.)

Let's translate that into Russian using Google Translate. I speak this language and can tell you that it was quite perfect, actually. Except I did not write it to a man or a woman but made it impersonal, which is impossible with Russian grammar. And except like five other things. But apart from that!

В весеннем сумраке
Вы замечательный,
Мой разум мутнеет
видеть Вас подобное.
Вы помните, когда солнце зашло на расстоянии?
Я хочу, чтобы вы сказать,
или что-то красивое, а также.
Но звук не приходит через мои губы,
Я очарован вами.

In French, then (still using the services of Google):

Dans le crépuscule de printemps
Vous êtes merveilleux,
Mon esprit se trouble
de vous voir comme ça.
Vous souvenez-vous quand le soleil a coulé dans la distance?
Je veux que vous dites,
ou quelque chose de beau ainsi.
Mais aucun son ne sort sur mes lèvres,
Je enchanté par vous.

It still turns out ok! "I am enchanted by you" is missing a verb, for example, but is that really important after all? It is CLEAR somebody is ENCHANTED.
And not the least: English. Even more correct, but my sun was not sinking, it was rather delapsing.

In the spring twilight
You are wonderful,
My mind becomes cloudy
to see you like that.
Do you remember when the sun sank in the distance?
I want you to say,
or something beautiful as well.
But no sound comes across my lips,
I'm enchanted by you.

Hardest part to translate in all languages turns out to be "I wanted to tell you"/"Me wanting to tell you". Interesting!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Great List of (non-)Cocktails.

I keep finding the most fantastic things now when I am moving. On Saturday, an unopened postcard from January (more about that later) and now a list Mathieu wrote last spring when he was visiting me in Stockholm. The list is actually called "the other great list" (the first great list has pinches of alcohol stuffed in) and is marvelous.

- A Virgin Cuba Libre, please! (= coca cola)
- I am really craving for a Virgin Bloody Mary (= tomato juice)
- Can I have a Virgin whiskey on the rocks, please? (= ice)
- Virgin Screwdrive is nice for breakfast (= orange juice)
- and the best of them all: Virgin pastis (= water)

Goot to know next time you want to be cool and order something complex! (Well, it is complex enough when I say "alcohol free" at the counter and the major part of the staff is confused for several seconds before I am suggested the fantasy-free coca cola or orange juice.)

Monday, 7 September 2015

In detail. (Photos by David Härenstam)

I like to see closeups of fashion details - it makes the understanding for an item more approachable (compared to that all-together look from distance one often sees in magazines). I am happy the earrings match my eyecolour to some extent. The sandals are kind of feast exclusive. I wore them for a wedding last year and at the school's ending this summer. Not the least, the bow shoes have a high heel and still remain comfortable.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Now more than ever.

1. Now is the perfect time to donate money to The Red cross, UNHCR and other organisations that you know are established and at the borders to help. Why perfect? Because it is strongly needed and canalised pretty straight; little corruption should be involved and so many people are already helping that we become even more strong and helpful together for a straightforward cause. There is also a demonstration today in Stockholm on this topic: we care for all these people. And we want the war in Syria to end.

2. Note that the Swedish nationalist party, Sverigedemokraterna, has a polemic way of showing its non-understanding for the refugee situation. Look at the politician's tweet accounts and remember next time it is time to vote: they can not handle human crises and lack empathy when calling TV-reports on the effects of war "cry stories".  Foreign politics and handling any program that helps immigrants should be out of these politicians' reach.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Post-cards as in post-modernism

Once upon a time there was an artist who asked her friends for Christmas cards their no longer needed. As an art project, she made new shapes of them.

That is one way of re-using postcards.

The other is, if you happen to love postcards like me and Silvia, is to experience someone sending postcards you know of again. This is more or less what exactly happened:

Silvia: Ian, send me a postcard!
Ian: I can send you the empty cards at home I will never use and re-post the postcard Jana sent me!
[I might have sent a postcard with a not so uplifting Polish alcohol reference once. Ian is split between being offended and pleased and takes the opportunity to remind me.]
Me (with a happy voice): Ian, it made me think of you!
[It did. And it actually was a kind precaution.]

(The postcard above was sent to Misa. It made me think of her.)

Thursday, 3 September 2015

OpenArt in Örebro (weekend adventures)

You too still have the chance to stand inside popcorn in Örebro! The outdoor exhibition goes on till September 6th.
I called up the tourist bureau and asked how long time it could take to see the ~90 installations. Two hours, was the answer, if I walked slowly. Me and Anne did walk slowly and even had the time for a slow lunch, a slow bakery visit and some shopping. 
On the OpenArt webpage, it says: "Good art can inspire, delight, provoke, revolt or startle." I would call this year's setup for an enjoyable stroll, not much more than that - but then I really had high hopes based on my Wanås experience. I tell everybody to go to Wanås if they can.
If one scan's the QR-code on the side, one can look inside this floating green house.
Some art pieces harder to interpret than other.
Some streched over entire streets.
This was a cute favourite.
And these.
Estimating from the inscriptions ("Me was here 2013"), this is one of the older installations.
But this was probably the best. The town hall as if covered with spider web,
but actually tights.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


I have not told you about Sveaborg yet! It is a bunch of islands (four) interconnected with bridges with forts, several museums, a church and cozy cafés where Helsinkinians like to go to hang out. 15 minutes by boat from Helsinki and you are there!
Cute birds, like in a cartoon movie.

Here, to the left, there was an abandoned tunnel entrance of some sort, filled with water. Ilo and I jumped on the stones as gazelles and went all the way in (and tourists took pictures of us). 
Watch out for the not dog but the spider!
On a more serious note: Sveaborg was founded in 1748, when Finland was still part of Sweden. About 800 people live here permanently. In 1991, it was registered on UNESCOs list of world heritage as an object that should be preserved for coming generations as an example of military architecture in Europe.

And it is a nice place to go to, really.