So today, we have a huge milestone. I am halfway through my time here! 49 days down, 49 to go. I can’t believe it, and as of right now, I wish I wasn’t going back to the States so soon. I had the funniest feeling when I was coming back from Copenhagen — like I was going home. I feel less restless and more like I belong here now and — needless to say — I’m thrilled about it. I think it might have to do with 3 specific things.
- I have a bike now. This makes getting anywhere SO. MUCH. EASIER. Had I known the difference having a bike would make in my overall happiness here, I wouldn’t have waited so long to get one!
- I have a regular school routine now. I kind of had one before, but we were only at Tornhagsskolan 3 days a week for 2 classes a day. And it was always just a little weird because we were team teaching. I enjoyed teaching with Jaclyn, but it’s even harder to feel like you’re in your own classroom when you are learning to teach with another teacher. Now I’m at Ljungstedtska (yoong-stets-kah), teaching 5 classes full-time. I LOVE it.
- I know my way around. I wouldn’t be able to give anyone directions using street names, but I have (mostly) learned my way through and around the city, and I definitely know my way around Ryd.
We have also been welcomed by those with whom we aren’t working. For instance, Ida’s parents invited Jaclyn and me to dinner at their home in Kimstad. (Heem-stah — the “K” in Kimstad is pronounced like a Hebrew “Ch”. Like at the beginning of “Chanukah.”) The dinner was delicious and Ida’s family was absolutely delightful. Between dinner (chicken and hassle-back potatoes) and dessert (berry cobbler), Ida’s mom and sister (Louisa) took us to the Kimstad castle and walked with us around the grounds. When students from Kimstadskolan graduate from secondary school, they march around and through the grounds here. We walked the path of the graduates. It was such a beautiful day and the sun was beginning to set when we got back to Ida’s house.
Me, Ida and Jaclyn on the castle grounds
I thought it might be fun to test the thickness of this ice. Louisa did NOT agree.
Sunset over Ida’s backyard
Along with the invitation extended by Ida’s family, we have also been invited to coffee or tea at our Linköping coordinator’s home near Ryd. When I was staying with Mette in Copenhagen, she talked about how grateful she was for her daughter’s homestay family in Louisville when she studied there — I can tell my parents and anyone else who was worried that yes, we are being very well taken care of here.
Also, people are visiting me! My friend Jill (we met first year at OU, and she transferred to OSU) is flying in on Tuesday the 13th and staying through her Spring break! I have some big plans for us, including but not limited to going back to Vadstena (I’ll check out your lace, Aunt Kim) and going to Norrköping with Ida and Jaclyn. She’s also going to come to Ljungstedtska with me! She’s studying to be a teacher so she’s pretty interested to see what’s up over here.
Next week will be a big week for visitors at Ljungstedtska — the Associate Dean of International Engagement and the Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Parker Fawson, is coming to observe me teach. I’ll be teaching my English A class The Outsiders when he comes. I’m a little nervous but I know that he isn’t expecting me to have the expertise of a seasoned teacher. All I can do is my best and hope that he sees the effort I’m putting into my classes. The only problem with him coming to see this class is that they are my least talkative class. They are terrified to speak in front of me because they think I’m expecting their English to be perfect. I’ve structured the class so there will be a short lecture at the beginning, and then some work in pairs before we come back as a whole class. This way, they’ll get to kind of rehearse what they want to say with a peer before they say it in front of the whole class. Cross your fingers for me on Monday! Or, as the Swedes say, “Hold your thumbs!”
Now to make an abrupt transition: one of the most common questions I’ve gotten from anyone here (students, parents, teachers, friends) is “Are all Americans really that fat?” And inevitably, people cite the show the Biggest Loser as the source of their curiosity. Apparently, along with all of the neat things the US exports, we also export this show. Don’t get me wrong, I kind of love it in a can’t-look-away way but I really wish that show wasn’t so popular here! If a student asks I usually respond with something like, “Are all Swedes blonde-haired and blue-eyed?” If someone further from my own age asks, I generally say “No, it’s a small subset of the population and it’s just as sensational to watch for most Americans as it is for them to watch.” I think it’s fair to say that this is my least favorite question to get.
Another popular question I get is “What does Sweden have that you wish the US had?” and after buying my bike, I finally have an answer: I wish the US was more bike-friendly. I really, really do. I LOVE riding my bike to and from school every day and knowing it’s safe. Here’s my route straight through the city from Ryd. Those grey circles with numbers in them are mile markers. It’d be a long haul if I was hoofin’ it to and from school.
I kind of feel like it’s a little ridiculous that I live three miles from campus at UK and I can’t get there unless I drive or take a bus. It wouldn’t take as long on a bike! Now that I’m biking so much (~70 minutes / day), I’m becoming addicted. It’s exhausting and yesterday I felt like I might not be able to make it home, but I always feel so good when I’m done that the whole ride is worth it.
That’s how I feel about running too. I’m training for a marathon right now and the long runs take so. long. that I usually feel like quitting about 90 minutes in. Marathon training has actually gotten a little disrupted lately. First, the weather was bad overnight and the trails were covered in a sheet of ice for 2 or 3 days. I tried to run on them but had to go so slowly and slipped so often that I called it quits about 4 miles in. Then, I went to Copenhagen and didn’t run while I was there. Immediately after I got back from Copenhagen I started at Ljungstedtska and for a few days I thought I could run when I got back from school but quickly learned that that was not going to work out. Now, finally, I’ve worked it out so that I can get my runs in when I need them and I’m going to Rome this weekend! I had to restructure this week’s runs. The good news is that the training website I follow says that sticking exactly to the routine isn’t necessary; if I have to miss a few runs it’s fine but I shouldn’t miss any of the long runs. My long run last weekend was 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) and I ran it in 2 hours, 10 minutes. This is awesome for 2 reasons. First, because I haven’t run that much since the half marathon last April, and second because my pace was less than 10.30 / mile which gives me about a 20 minute lead on my half marathon time. Yay!
So things are going well right now! Bonus: ROME this weekend!