Amber’s Cat Show Comments

Amber Cat ShowAmber’s Cat Show Comments

I swore I’d never to another cat show. I really don’t approve of that sort of exploitation, but it was a slow day, Bucks was sleeping, as usual, and there was nothing better to do. Some of the contestants looked over fed if you ask me.

Cat Show 1

Cat Show - 2Look at him. He’s bigger than Brazil!

Cat Show - 9I had a talk with this one. Her name’s Lulu. She was kind of cute, just a kid really. “I flew in from Germany,” she told me. “Threw up on the plane. It was an awful trip. Show business isn’t easy, but I am well taken care of. I get bratwurst for breakfast and spend afternoons by the pool listening to Beethoven . . . mostly sonatas and string quartets.”

Cat Show - 10This is Lulu’s mom ― the cat I mean. Her name is Francis. Don’t know what her servant’s name is.

Cat Show - 3
Here’s one of the winners. Go figure. He looks weird if you ask me. I tried to get an interview, but he was very stuck up. Wanted three sardines just for talking to me, and started running on about photo rights. I told him, forget about it. A lot of these show cats have overgrown egos.

Cat Show - 6
Molle also had a high opinion of herself, and wouldn’t talk to me.

Cat Show - 4
This is one of the happy humans tripping out after a big win.

Cat Show -7
Some of the humans were fun to look at.

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Swedish For Immigrants – Week 7 Part 3

Wednesday: Still able to remove the key, but live in fear the lockup will happen again. Headache is gone. Still have some trouble breathing. We’re doing verbs in Swedish class. They bounce around my brain like bats in an echo chamber, but I’m happy to be done with the oldest, youngest thing. I feel like a minority. I am one―the only American on campus far as I know, amidst 3,000 students more or less. Outside of class, on breaks, the other students gather, speaking Arabic, I think, or other tongues beyond my kin. I should attempt to instigate communication in Swedish.

“You always reading,” one guy says in English. This is true. I always have a book, and am still reading, Angle of Repose. One of those long books you wish were longer. I don’t read it at home, an attempt not to devour it in just a few days. On class breaks I make a dash for a couch seat in the hall. All classes break at the same time so it’s kind of like musical chairs. If I’m ever rid of this cold I vow to start speaking Swedish at some of my classmates. I suspect we are all a bit reluctant to make the attempt. What can we say? How are you? What time is it? Are you married? Where do you live? Not easy to make an interesting conversation.

This morning I attempted to make one of my ‘in-class’ answers more interesting. When asked what I was going to do on the weekend, I responded (in Swedish), “I am going to Russia.” Easy to remember, Russia―sounds like, ‘Rice land’.
Teacher was taken aback for a moment, then asked, “How long will you be there?”
“Three years,” I told her. Class was staring at me . . . disbelief apparent. “I am lying,” I confessed.
“Oh.” She smiles. Class laughs. Ha ha. If asked again I’ll say I’m going to the moon.

*           *          *

We’re given a preview copy of the next test today ―a dictation. Teacher will read the text in Swedish. We will attempt to write her words in Swedish. The dialog has contributed to my new plan. Part of it translated, below.

Isa lar sig svenska
(Isa is learning herself Swedish)

“Isa comes from Burundi in Africa. She did not go to school in her home land. Now Isa goes to school. She is learning Swedish. She began class A last year. Now she goes to class B. Rita is her teacher. There are 17 students in Isa’s class. They come from different countries and they speak different languages. However there are some coming from the same country. They speak the same languages. They often forget to speak Swedish. Then Isa becomes angry. She does not understand their language. She wants to speak Swedish.”
Lots more to this one, which means lots of homework, and I’m feeling lousy. Headaches have come back.
Thursday: Wife cannot remove the key from car. Aha! It wasn’t me. I knew it . . . sort of. We call a tow truck. Driver comes, decides to take a look before he hauls it off and pulls the key out easily. “This happens sometimes,” he says. Wife drives car to Volvo place and leaves it. They will look at it tomorrow.
Friday: Son-in-law drives me to school. I take the dictation test, then bus back home. Volvo calls to tell us we need a new ignition switch, and there’s a wire that needs replacing. $1,700 and some change. Thank God this week is finally over!

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Swedish For Immigrants – Week 7 Part 2

Tuesday: I’m able to get the key out of the car with a combination of jiggle, lift, and twist, but something’s wrong. I’ve had this car four years and never had a problem. Cold has gotten worse. I did not think it possible. We’re having a Swedish test in class this morning. A total wipe out as I struggle on, head pounding, and nose dripping like a faucet. I’m not sneezing or coughing, but my memory has disappeared like a snake in the jungle. I notice one student has answers written on her hand. Another is looking up words on a cell phone hidden on his lap. No wonder I’m so low in test score standings . . . these damn cell phones. Why do they cheat? There are no grades. Maybe just fear, embarrassment? I’m hip to that. The Swedish words I know the best are, ‘Jag vet inte’― ‘I don’t know’. Seems like I use that half a dozen times in every class. We have a substitute teacher today. She refuses to speak any English. This is SFI philosophy, and probably makes sense, assuming students have gone though the preliminary Swedish class, (Class A) but three of us have not.

After the test we’re asked to say what part of this small town (55,000) we live in. One of the students answers, “Little Mogadishu.” Interesting. There will be tide pools of immigrants wanting to be near each other. To create community and cultural bonds. If there were an American pool here I would most certainly jump into it. I remember an Italian community in my home town, Illinois . . . the early fifties. It evaporated over time, gone by the nineties. I was much easier for the Italians to assimilate into their host culture. Most were Catholics, all were Europeans, their ethnicity not all that different from the rest of us, we just arrived earlier.

Some Swedes feel the new immigrants will never assimilate, due to the vastness of cultural differences and religions. Most likely there’s a grain of truth in this. These things stay with us, even uninvited. I’m recalling words from Wallace Stegner’s, Angle of Repose.

“I am much of what my parents and especially my grandparents were –inherited stature, coloring, brains and bones, plus transmitted prejudices, culture, scruples, likings, moralities and moral errors that I defend as if they were personal and not familial.”

Some Swedes worry for the future. This is not a racist thing, it’s about numbers – 55,000 here now, 2,000 + arriving every month. Sweden’s total population is nine million. It’s a subject not spoken of, for fear of being labeled racist. No one wishes to be labeled that, but here it’s like the kiss of death. People think they might their lose jobs, become pariahs . . . worse. It’s Sweden’s elephant in the room . . . never publicly discussed. This last election bumped the Swedish Democrat party’s votes up to 18% here in Borlänge . . . higher than it’s ever been before. They were a minority party until this year. Now they are the third largest and often spoken of as racist. I have no idea if that’s true or not. I suspect some of it might be shots fired by the other parties, but have no idea if  dirty tricks are used here as they are in the States. I know nothing of Swedish politics other than the party names, and the king’s name.

Speaking of names, and politics.

I’m sure you all know Edward Snowden was awarded the alternative Nobel Prize, a Swedish Human Rights award. This annual award has been front page news since 1995 in Sweden, but it’s been stifled this year. Sweden’s Foreign Ministry, withdrew the prize jury’s permission to use its media room for the announcement . . . out of respect for the United States I suppose – Sweden’s big brother. They are very pro America in Sweden.
I suspect the ministry’s withdrawing of permission gave this event more press that it would ever have gained on its own. I’d never heard of it before. Have you?

We live in interesting times.

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Swedish For Immigrants – Week 7 – Part 1

Swedish For Immigrants ―Week 7

Monday: Started with a massive Swedish cold and headache, tired from lack of sleep because of coughing half the night. But I’m determined not to miss a Swedish language session. I might not be learning much, but never miss a class, and always there at least five minutes early. What was it Woody Allen said, “90% of success is just showing up.”

I’m out the door by 7:30, time enough to make the fifteen minute drive to school. I pull into the parking lot ten minutes early, kill the engine, then can’t get the key out of the ignition. This is impossible. I pull and push and twist and curse, but nothing works. I have, of course, forgotten to bring my cell phone. I consider leaving the key in the car. I could throw my coat over the steering wheel so passersby would not notice, but that would mean leaving the doors unlocked. Leaving the key in the ignition might also keep part of the Volvo’s electronic brain working which might, in the four hours of class time, run down the battery. When the battery dies the car goes brain dead and forgets things, codes that have to be put in when it comes back to life. I gave it up and drive back home.

I explain the problem to my somewhat surprised wife who decides to see for herself. She removes the key easily, no problem as I watch. Amazing.
“Great,” I tell her. There’s no time to think about what’s happened. I jump back into the driver’s seat and wave goodbye. I haven’t missed all that much class time, but once on my way again I start to think, and worry. What if . . . ? After driving a few blocks I pull the car off road and kill the engine to see if I can remove the key. All the tricks that failed to remove it the first time fail me again. I can’t believe this as I start the engine, turn the car around and drive back home . . . again.

My wife seems less surprised to see me this time. “What?” she asks.
“I cannot get the fucking key out!”
“Let me try again,” she says. Once more the key slides smoothly out into her hand. This is insane! Or maybe I am . . . frustrated, pissed off. “I’ll drive you,” she suggests, “come back and pick you up at twelve.”
“Okay.” What can I say? We ride in silence as I ponder whether or not I am losing my mind . . . first stages of dementia?

I make it to class an hour late, not bad considering. But I feel guilty, and embarrassed. Teacher frequently mentions the importance of being on time, a new concept for some of my classmates. “Min bil är dod,” I tell her. (My car is dead.) It’s the best I could do. I want to add, “I may be next,” don’t know the words. She seems okay with my excuse. Head aching, tired and stressed I slide into my seat . . . three hours to go.

This class makes me feel younger sometimes, simply by being part of this youthful group. Turns out most are not as young as I thought. New words for the day are, oldest (åldst), older (äldre), and youngest, (yngst) plus other age words. I try to focus as teacher asks students how old they are. They respond without reservation, even the girls which is a pleasant surprise. I’ll be glad when I’m eighty. Only Swedes and people suffering from emphysema can pronounce the Swedish seven properly– sju. The six is easy – sex. I’m sjuttiosex.


She writes my number on the whiteboard and when finished with statistics asks, in Swedish, “Who is youngest? Who is oldest? Oldest is no problem. I am forty years beyond the yngst. There is laughter. Some guy makes a humorous comment about my age in Swedish. Teacher tells him it is impolite to say that. I have no idea what his remark was, and don’t ask, smile instead. The moment makes me feel uneasy. How do I seem to my classmates? That crazy guy who came here from America. Why? They must ask themselves. Sweet bird of youth has taken flight. I’m feeling older. Head is throbbing. One more hour to go.

End of Part 1 – More Follows

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Contemplations – 3 Coming of Age


Divisive Devices

Thinking about devices today, the annoyance of not knowing simple things that have become not simple . . . over time. A getting-older thing. I’ve witnessed incredible changes. Those first TVs, with rabbit ears . . . four channels – black and white. A simple device, without an instruction book, no learning period required. I refused to get a remote for a long time, thinking them a needless accessory. I finally bought one in the late seventies, and soon found myself with two remotes. Now I have three, and god help us if I accidently push the wrong button. We have a smart TV that can do Internet, Facebook, Skype, all kinds of amazing things . . . if you know how to work it. I don’t dare to try. Things can go wrong, and then you have to call in a teenager to get you out of whatever you’ve gotten into, or attempted.

The young have grown up with this stuff. They all have cell phones and stay on them, texting away, talking, scanning photos . . . looking stuff up. They are totally familiar with these things, their expertise absorbed from technological osmosis. I also resisted cell phones for a long time, but got one last December. Since then I’ve made or received maybe a dozen calls, eleven of which were tests to see if the phone was working. One was a call made to my wife, asking her to pick up something while she was at the grocery store.
I’m in a Swedish language class that takes me away from home from eight to twelve every day. Sometimes I have the car, so it made sense to charge up the phone and take it with me. Battery had probably been dead for a month or more. There is no reason for anyone I know to call me. Wife makes phone calls, in Swedish . . . every day stuff. My friends get in touch by e-mail, sometimes Skype. I never get calls.
Tonight the phone rang.

We were watching a movie, and I heard this ring. Wife’s phone plays songs instead of ringing, mine just rings. I finally decided it must be my phone, which was in the kitchen. I got up to answer. Line went dead as soon as I picked it up.
“Can you see who this was?” I passed the phone to my wife. “I can’t imagine anyone who’d be calling me.”

She swirls around the display window with her index finger, comes up with the number of whoever called, pushes a button, and passes it back.
I hold it to my ear. “Hello?” It sounds like someone dropped the phone, and is scrambling around with it on the floor – funny noises, clonks and bonks as I keep waiting for a voice, someone to answer. “Hello?” Nothing, just more funny noises, not the clattering kind, now more human noises, grunts and groans. Someone in pain? Was someone being murdered? Tortured? Still no words. The hell with it. I try hang up, but can’t remember how. Pushing the red button does not seem to work.
“How do you turn the damn thing off?” I pass the phone back to the wife.
“Who was it from?” She puts it to her ear and listens. “It’s a sex line,” she says immediately. Women know these things. She turns off the phone, too late I guess. We’ve been scammed, the perfect scam. It’s me that made the call and was connected for maybe a minute and a half while I wondered who or what it was. Some kind of a joke? Somebody getting murdered? A call for help?
Now we await a huge phone bill for my minute and a half spent with a porn phone line in Bucharest, or wherever. Cell phones . . . I want to be left alone.


*               *               *

Getting old is like standing in a long, slow line. You wake up out of the shuffle and torpor    only at those moments when the line moves you one step closer to the window.
Wallace Stegner

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Swedish For Immigrants – Week 6

Swedish For Immigrants – Week 6

SFI X2Still plodding along, but enjoying these classes. They were frustrating at first. They still are, but I find myself looking forward to the four hour sessions. Had two tests this last week, one pretty good score, and one not so good. The teacher seems pleased, keeps telling me I’m making good progress. Wrote, ‘Bra!’ (good) on the test shown in photo above – 12 out of 20. 60% seems less than praiseworthy. Easy to make progress when you start at zero.
I can now understand intermittent words I read, or see in subtitles on TV. I can tell when people are talking about a car, or a wedding, numbers, money, time and years . . . the days and months. This last week we’ve been into verbs which have remained beyond my comprehension. They change like chameleons with shifts in tense. I have enough trouble spelling in English, without those damn accented characters. Ӓs and Ӧs sound about the same to me. I’ve heard them a million times and still can’t tell/remember the difference. I can understand, Å, an ‘a’ with a circle on top that sounds like any self respecting ‘o’ or ‘oh’ in English, except it’s disguised as an ‘a’. I can’t remember what Swedish ‘o’s sound like – ‘eww’ . . . or something like that.
It’s hard to hang out with the mid east students. They gather in small groups, smoking cigarettes and enjoying conversation in their homeland’s languages. There is also a 40 year age gap, more than enough to create social distance, and their English is very difficult to understand. One of the girls from Africa speaks pretty good. I’ve had some simple conversations with her on our study breaks.
She showed me photos of her two kids, on her cell phone. Oldest child, a girl, is now somewhere Italy. I’ve no idea how that happened . . . her  son is still in Africa.


“You look so young,” I tell her. Almost everyone looks young at my age!
“In my tribe, we marry young – “Fifteen. These guys in class, come from Somalia, and from Syria, get money. But not me,” she says.
“I thought you all got money for attending class,” I tell her.
“Only refuges, from countries, where is war. I come because I want to, so do not get money.”
“Same with me,” I tell her, but we come from very different worlds.

Last week most of the guys went to some kind of pre-employment session given by a local industry, something about CNCs, a highly accurate, computerized, milling machine that makes parts.
“I want to finish with this class before take job,” she tells me. “Too many student, they take job first chance they get, then stuck in low pay job because they cannot speak good Swedish. I’m must make good money to bring son and daughter here.”
I try to guess her age, mid twenties, maybe less, not more. How has she managed all of this?

Next week – Swedish Politics – Election Results.

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Swedish For Immigrants – Week 5 – Part one.

Study 1 photo AThis Swedish language class is intense. Most of the Somalis seem to speak passable Swedish and the teacher lectures in Swedish. I understand about 60% of what is going on. Sometimes I ask teacher to explain in English – Engelska. I could be making that request every ten minutes. I bombed the last test, scored second lowest in my class. Teacher writes test score statistics on the white-board – no names, just the scores. Part of my problem was not understanding what she’d said the test was going to be about. I spent hours at home memorizing the wrong stuff. Wife says, “Well, it wasn’t wasted time. You’ve learned something.” She is an optimist. I am a realist, at best.

One of my classmates is from Syria, and smart. A tough, nice looking gal in her early twenties . . . been around, and friendly, helpful, very nice. She also speaks some English –  native tongue is Arabic, I think. Another student, from somewhere in Africa, speaks English, and another English speaker is from Vietnam. She’s quiet, almost never asks a question. African’s about the same, and so am I. The Syrian is not afraid to interrupt the lesson.

“Can you say that in English?” she asks. God bless her.

There was another test, week before last. I scored low on that one too, but not embarrassingly so. I have forgotten how to study . . . homework. Need to put in still more time at home. This after four straight hours of Swedish every day. I’m wondering if many of my fellow students ever had good study habits . . . certainly not Swedish books and papers. How much time they have to study? One’s a mother with a young child. Several of the men have children, more than one. They have a serious need to learn Swedish . . . to find jobs. The Swedes do not speak Arabic, but most speak English. English spoken by the other “English speaking” students in my class is difficult for me to understand. Sometimes we simply give up conversations we’ve begun. There’s not a lot of small talk.

One might describe the style of teaching in this language class as, ‘total immersion’. I doubt it was planned this way. Most of the others have been through a beginning Swedish class, and are ready to move on. It’s hard for me to catch up, or even keep up. This class has devoured my life. It has totally changed my life. I was retired! I love the late night’s quiet hours, and normally I stay up ‘til two or three a.m. Good time to write, or read in peace, or simply watch TV. The best shows always seem to come on late at night. I like to get up around ten . . . take a nap around three in the afternoon.

Now I am up at seven and in school at eight, back home a little after twelve, and studying the lessons. I enjoy my time in class. The hours pass quickly. Classmates are friendly, and interesting . . . helpful. I wish it was easier for us to talk, perhaps someday in Swedish. They are sure to have some interesting stories.

Continued . . .

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