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.”