Swedish For Immigrants – Week 10

My Life – and welcome to it.


Monday: Phase two Swedish classes have begun. Wife had to have the car today. I took the bus. Should have been easy. Bus stop is in walking distance, and I’ve rode the bus to school before. Surprise. The bus stop shelter’s gone. There’s nothing left, no signs. The city has been messing with the streets, last chance before the snow falls I suppose. Had no idea if the bus still stopped in the same place, so started walking north to where I thought there was bus stop shelter. Half way there I saw the bus, now coming toward me – right on time. I started waving franticly, and by some minor miracle it stopped. The doors hissed open for me. Benefit of looking old? It’s just a fifteen minute ride to school.

There are ten other students in my ‘Slow’ class. All of them seem to be learning faster than myself. Most of them still fresh off the boat. Perhaps an advantage of youth, their memories not full yet. We started today’s class by telling our names, then each student repeated the names of the others aloud. I can remember a new name for about ten seconds, on a good day. I tend to berate myself for getting old age short-term memory problems, but in truth it was the same for me when I was twenty. Others in class seem to have no problem with it: Fahan, Nader, Nimca, Nura, Amina, Anab, Sanaa, Yusrqa, Sajidah, Abdullahi. Maybe they already knew each other – probably some did. At least I know my limitations and had written the names down as we introduced ourselves.


Tuesday: was easy, sort of. Practicing the alphabet – alfabetet. At last something I am vaguely familiar with, except a lot of the letters sound different, and ‘W’ is missing, they use ‘V’s instead. Ӧ and Ӓ are still a problem, seem to sound about the same. I have three teachers now, each one refusing to speak English. “We don’t speak Arabic, and we don’t speak English,” one of them told me. It’s for damn sure none of them speak Arabic, but seems like they could give me a boost with a couple English words now and then. I’m sure their way of teaching makes sense in the long run. I’m a round peg trying to fit a square hole. The new classes are being taught in three different classrooms, one for writing, one for listening, and one for conversation. So many words . . . so little time. Test coming Friday.


Friday: Bombed out on Swedish language test this morning. No surprise. As usual I had, at best, an 85% understanding of what the test would be about, 15% was a surprise. The Ӓs & Ӧs remained beyond my grasp. After ninety minutes listing to them pronounced on a computer program I still can’t seem to hear the subtle difference. Test teachers read the Swedish alphabet aloud. We were to write them down. I probably got 60% of the more familiar characters right, but was surprised by a page of diphthong-ish sounds, pö, py, sy, etc. They’d been sounded out and practiced in class for ten or fifteen minutes earlier in the week. I hadn’t paid that much attention after, so much else I’m struggling with.
It feels bad to fail these tests, and I feel bad about feeling bad, which doesn’t help. This was a big test, in a room I’d never been inside before, a modest auditorium decorated with photos and memorabilia of a famous opera singer, Jussi Björlilng, born in this small town.

There were better than a hundred of us seated for the test, from Africa and Syria, and Vietnam . . . just one American, yours truly. I think most who took this test will pass. Some will excel. Somali women in my class seem to speak Swedish pretty well, and have discussions with the teachers. Why are they here? To learn writing skills, I suppose. The Alphabet must be a quantum leap away from what they have grown up with.
Why am I here?


We had a half hour break time between two test sessions. Students gathered in small groups at tables and couches in a lounge area that has microwaves, and candy and coffee machines. There are Somali groups, and Syrian groups. Vietnamese have occupied a couch. I’m envious of students hanging with their homeys. I feel so damn out of it sometimes–the only American within a quarter mile.

I’ve been missing America, the things I knew, familiarity of places and ways, a cognitive map constructed over years. Feel like a blind man in a labyrinth. America, that land of affluence and things obtainable, now less than years before, I guess, but still a damn good place to live, perhaps the best. A house of cards that defies gravity, survives financial earthquakes. Working class lose jobs and homes as money changes hands. Life tangos on, dance of diversions, ISIS, and Ebola . . . wars, assassinations and beheadings. Life on earth.

They think there’s been a Russian submarine submerged somewhere in Swedish waters. Navy searched for it this last week, and planned to force it to the surface, but they’ve given up now. “Russian underwater operation . . . plausible,” they say. I love one of the ships they have been looking for it with – HMS Visby, weird design. A stealth ship.

HMS Visby

It was not the first time this has happened. It’s a game that Russia plays. I have observed a sense of vague uneasiness, a Swedish gestalt of things and thought quite new to me.
There’s nothing like it in the States. No worries Canada might jump us, or the Mexicans attack. But here, potential enemy is right next door, a big one who is still pissed off about wars fought a couple hundred years ago. There’s talk of Sweden beefing up its military, but it’s complicated. Russia supplies fuel to warm the Swedish winters . . . gasoline for cars.


Nothing is simple anymore, perhaps it never was. We didn’t know so much knew before these days of television, internet, and cell phones. Not sure what we really know today . . . what we are told–as always. Thoughts is passing as I waited in the lounge for session two.
“Sit here.” I’m taken by surprise. A young Somali girl has invites me to a place beside her on a hallway couch. We make awkward small talk. All my classmates are polite and friendly. Some of the Somali women have been looking after me.
“Time to go class.” They pull me from a book I’ve lost myself in, pointing to the proper room. We change classrooms every hour to be with different teachers. They are worried the ‘old man’ might lose his way. I’m happy for their help. Another benefit of age? I am by far the oldest person here. I’ve met one student in his forties, most are still in their late twenties, and I’ve learned my teacher’s father is years younger than myself.
What am I doing here?

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October Curiosity

Bucks Pump

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Amber’s Swedish History – Chapter 10

Amber History 10

Erik Gets Married

Erik had ambitious marriage plans. He sent his ministers to proposition every single queen and princess they could find. Both Queen Elizabeth, and Mary Stuart (Scotland) turned him down. He fooled around with mistresses while waiting for a wife, and fathered several kids. One of the peasants who took care of them was red-haired Karin Månsdotter. She also gave birth to one of his children, Gustav, when she was sixteen.

Erik became more and more paranoid. He thought some of the nobles were plotting against him and had them thrown into prison. Four of them were murdered there. Then Erik disappeared. They found him wondering the hills with some serious mental problems. Karin Månsdotter was the only person able to calm him down. She finally got him calm enough to marry her in the cathedral at Stockholm in 1568. It was a good career move for Karen. She was now eighteen, and queen of Sweden.

Erik’s family and high nobility did not accept the marriage. This turned into a revolt led by two of his brothers. (Paranoia is often a heightened state of awareness.) They surrounded the castle in Stockholm and Erik’s supporters decided it would be better to support someone else. Erik was force to hand over Jöran Persson (Erik’s Evil Genius – Chapter 9). The rebels had a good time torturing him, then chopped his head off. Jöran had it coming, then they killed his witchy mother for good measure. Erik was deposed and spent the rest of his life imprisoned in both Sweden and Finland.

Karen almost went to prison, but the new King, Johan III gave her a nice estate in Finland. Erik was poisoned while in prison almost ten years later, and son Gustav died outside of Moscow.

Johan IIIJohan III

The fancy hat he’s wearing means he was a college grad, and had a doctoral degree. People still get doctoral degrees, but the hats have gone out of style. Johan was fairly weird. He kept a silver hammer hanging from his belt and threw it at anyone who came with bad news. Sometimes he hammered on the table with it. He was smart, but impractical and clueless about money.

Johan III CopperCopper Coin From Johan’s Reign

Johan liked to build things. He assembled master architects and artisans and involved himself as much as he could in their work. They built castles in Stockholm, Kalmar, and Uppsala, and built churches everywhere. His wife, who was eleven years his senior, died when she was forty-six. He then married a sixteen-year-old, Gunilla Bielke.

Gunilla BielkeGunilla Bielke.

Gunilla talked him into becoming a Protestant, and he made many new rules about religious services. Clergymen were forced to iron their shirts, and stop wearing boots and spurs to church. They were no longer allowed to throw their caps and mittens on the altar.
Johan built many monuments as well, and royal graves. He never worried about cost. The economy suffered. Inflation got as high as 100%, but nobody mentioned this problem to the Johan. They were probably worried about the hammer. He built more than any other king of Sweden.

When the Polish throne became vacant in 1587 Johan put forth his son, a crown prince named Sigismund, as a candidate. He was crowned in Cracow. Poles remember him as being stubborn, sluggish, and silent. Johan died in 1592, and Sigismund became King of Sweden.

King SigismundSig Coin

Sigismund Coin

Next Week – Sigismund and Civil War

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San Francisco Sixties Poster – 10


SF Poster 1968 A

SF Poster 10 B007


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Poem by Joseph Mills – From: The Miraculous Turning – Press 54 – 2014

Posted by The Writer’s Almanac this morning.

First Skating Party
by Joseph Mills

Dozens of kids circle
the worn wooden floor
on old rental skates,
and none of them wear
helmets or pads,
so when they collide
or fall or stop themselves
by the simple technique
of steering straight
into the cinder-block barrier,
you can feel the pain
of the parents
who watch from booths
by the concession stand;
they know their children
have bones of balsa
and skin that tears
as easily as a napkin,
but they can do nothing
except yell, Be Careful!
and make hand gestures
to slow down
—Slow Down!—
as the ones they love
strobe past them
faster and faster
just beyond their reach.

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Swedish For Immigrants – Week 9

Musings on a day off.

I did my language school interview today and have officially been assigned to the lowest level B class which is listed as, B-. I assume there is also a B, and a B+ class. The B+ class must be for students far ahead of me. Three teachers will be co-teaching classes. They will rotate and have specialties. One does reading, one does writing, and one does talking. I think the ‘talking’ teacher is the one who taught our class once before – the one who refuses to speak any English. It will be like learning German from an SS officer. But not a bad thing. Buddhist monks have written about choosing a master, someone who would pretty much take over their lives, in order to get them on their way to enlightenment. It’s like a marriage without the option of divorce. Some monks don’t choose the teacher they like best, one that they get along with. They chose the opposite, I guess thinking, “This bastard will make me learn.” I think there is some truth in that – the teacher without mercy.

Today was interesting. I drove to school some forty minutes early, for this morning’s interview, thinking I would hang out on the hallway couch and read while waiting. Teacher was in the hallway looking slightly pissed when I arrived, and looking for a student whose appointment time it was, the time slot before mine. Some students haven’t gotten used to the idea of being on time. Time hasn’t been all that important where they are coming from. Because they had more of it there. Perhaps more than they will ever have again as they become accustomed to ‘the good life’ and begin consuming, TVs, P/Cs, cell phones, houses, condos, furniture and cars . . . stuff. This 24-7 world, where it seems there is never enough time. I thought I would have so much time when I retired. Seems like I have less. Some of you will be familiar with that observation. Days fly away like crows at night.
Teacher asked if I would mind taking my interview early. I said, sure. We went into the classroom and took chairs at her desk. As usual I understood about 20% of what she was saying, but I was familiar with the subject. I was shown my test scores, average: 60%. Exactly what my own estimation has been.


She was enthusiastic, happy about my progress, asked what class division I thought I should be in, which of the three Bs. “Low, low, bottom!” I leaned of the chair and reached down to the floor. She got the picture, easily agreed, but in a complimentary way. She drew a graph of my scores, a line going up at a thirty degree angle. Easy to make progress when you start at zero. I am still so far away from understanding. I watch Swedish TV shows and news. Understand a word or two, like him and her, conjunctions, good and bad, the most common cuss words, and anatomy and clothing . . . Death is, Dod. I love it. Death is easy –  life is hard.

This missing student arrives fifteen minutes late. Teacher is up out of her chair – pissed off again. She tears loose a paper that has been tapped to the wall with the individual student’s times to appear for their interviews, a list in 36 point bold. She remanded us to look at it every day last week, and asked everyone if they understood. We all said, Ja. She opens the classroom door and lets go on this guy, who is also her best Student, who always has near perfect scores. Always the best in class. She whales into him in Swedish which, of course, I cannot understand. But he does. He will wait and take his interview when I leave.
Teacher comes back and removes a form from her basket, lays it on the desk. It’s her analysis of me, in Swedish. Once again I am clueless, but I get the drift. The one important thing is that I get into a SLOW class. B- will be fine with me. That’s about what I got out of college with. Looks like a done deal.

She walks me to the door when we’re finished, attempting to make small talk. Something about the next classes being mostly immigrants from Syria. That figures. I was watching TV news about Syria last week. Something like 100,000 we’re running from ISIS, fleeing the country, in an attempt to stay alive. Now Turkey has stopped letting them in. Guess they will all want to come here. I would if I were them, best deal available. Sweden or U.S. America first choice, of course, but Sweden is nice, good benefits and closer, and easier. The Somalis think I’m nuts for leaving the States; sometimes I agree with them.


I thought Swedish for Immigrants – Week 8, was going to be the last of these posts, but maybe not. They have become a sort of diary, or notes to something I might use later, or not.



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Fabulous Fighting Fish Fotos

These incredible photographs and more of same were taken by Visarute Angkatavish.

Fight Fish 1

Fight Fish 2

Fighting Fish 3

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