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Små Små Steg 3 May 2010

Filed under: Us — thenonakas @ 6:12 PM
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…which means “Small, small steps” and is the name of a song which has been stuck in my head for about a week now. It is not a new song in Sweden, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was new to me as I continually (and haphazardly) look for new windows into Swedish. This song is from an artist called Mitt Piano (My Piano), which consists of the Swedish journalist Alexandra Ramnewall. This song came out a couple of years ago as a single but her first full album was just released last month, including this song. Here is the song and my (quite liberal) translation:

Små Små Steg Small, small steps
Stanna kvar
Snälla sov över här
Jag är din nu
Jag öppnar mig
Du får ta del av min förvirrade världNitton dar
Vi har väl känt varandra tillräckligt länge nu
Jag öppnar dörren
Snälla stanna här tills det blir ljust

Det var när du sa:
Du tar ju bara små små steg
Det händer ingenting, det där
Du måste våga chansa mer
Våga se vart det bär

Ner för gatorna
Över parkeringen
Håll ihop mig
Vi delar en taxi
Tio minuter, jag är din i kväll

Följ med mig hem
Om du är osäker, så var osäker med mig
Bortglömda känslor, raderade tankar
Nu minns jag igen

Det var när du sa:
Du tar ju bara små små steg
Det händer ingenting, det där
Du måste våga chansa mer
Våga se vart det bär

Please don’t go
Just stay the night
I am yours now
I open up myself
And you can be part of my confusing worldNineteen days
And we have known each other long enough now
I open up the door
So, please, stay till it becomes light

That was when you said:
You only take small, small steps
Nothing ever happens that way
You have to risk taking more chances
Risk seeing what they might bring

Down onto the streets
Over the parking lot
Stay with me
We split a taxi
Ten minutes and I am yours for the night

Come home with me
If you are uncertain, then be uncertain with me
Forgotten feelings, long-lost thoughts
Now I remember them again

That was when you said:
You only take small, small steps
Nothing ever happens that way
You have to risk taking more chances
Risk seeing what they might bring

Of course, this song’s lyrics suggest that small, small steps are a bad thing but I’m actually feeling more positive about small, small steps. We keep creeping forward, slowly but inexorably. Of course there are times in life when everything changes in one fell swoop, but in general I’ve taken to thinking about like a dieting: you know how most health professionals will advise against sudden, extreme diets? Sure, you may loose a bunch of weight in the short term but you almost always gain it back and more. Instead they will recommend slow, steady changes to your lifestyle, which are maintainable. I think that advice works well for most things in life–or at least in my life.

And, no, this doesn’t have to do with anything in particular. I just feel pleased that we are taking small steps forward. Yuki is off in Öland for the next couple of months to do his research and I am here in Uppsala on my own until I decide to ditch and visit my family in the States. I still haven’t decided dates (it isn’t helped by the fact that we decided to turn our balcony into a jungle this year and I’m afraid all of our precious veggies will die if I leave them for several weeks at high summer) but mostly I am enjoying my lazy summer life. Sure, it’s only 15 degrees outside but I spend my days translating, playing piano, exercising (not enough of that) and procrastinating (too much of that). My diet is becoming more and more raw–not out of any particular motivation but just because I’m too lazy to cook for myself on sunny days like this. Forget standing in front of a hot stove for ages; I’d much rather throw some fruits and veggies in a blender and sip down a smoothie while enjoying the blue sky after the long, long winter. Hopefully it will warm up enough soon to start putting the plants outside, then I will put up some pictures of our little green balcony…


I’m pretty sure spring must be under here somewhere… 18 March 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — thenonakas @ 1:06 AM
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In other countries, spring gently spreads over the land. It whispers along the first puffs of the warm westerlies, it unfurls with each yellow-green leave and it spreads, immaterial as the gentle sunlight, from every new bud that opens.

Not in Sweden.

No, here we dig spring out of the snow and ice with a vengeance. For the past week or two, it has been almost consistently over zero degrees during the day and so spring has arrived. Not that you would necessarily know it: there are still four to five centimetres of ice on most of the pavements and up to a meter of snow clinging dirtily to the sides of roads. But we’re gonna find spring, all right. Just watch us.

Today I saw at least three different crews tossing the snow off of building tops (‘Watch out below!’) and every day I am greeting by the familiar screeching of a dutiful worker hacking away at the ice on the pavements. You think we’ll just wait for nature’s to run its course? We’ve been under snow for four months: Uppsala is officially done with nature.

Vernal tinglings aside, life is puttering along at a nice pace. Work has been quite good and writing is fun as well. Green smoothies are my new crack. (Though slightly undermined by the three boxes of girl scout cookies sent to me by my mum. Tried to explain the absolute FTWness of girl scout to Yuki but he never gets American culture. Le sigh.)

Yuki has finished what should be his last class; all dissertation work from here on out. I’ll be headed to Japan next week to tie up some lose ends–and buy as much food and goodies as I can fit back on a plane–and 2010 continues to be shaping up pretty well. We’re even hoping we might go to the Continent next month as I prefer that Yuki should have at least visited a country before up and moving us there. I wish he would actually learn about the local culture, customs and language, but alas, that seems to be too much to ask. So we’re hoping to at least do a one week fly-by of his top PhD hopes (Germany, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland) but we’ll see if it pans out last minute or not.

Okara and wholewheat semlor with soy whipping cream. Yes, they rocked.

Tried making spring-y wagashi (Japanese sweets). They don’t look so great, but tasted fine going down.

Also made kurimanju (chestnut, um, dumplings?) but we ate them all before I took any photos. And I’ve been making dozens of mochi cream (daifuku or mochi filled with flavored an and whipped cream. Current favs: black sesame, afternoon tea and coffee.)

Oh, and little emperor and empress sweets for girl’s day. Again, they lack in looks but–well, you know.


Hem igen 1 February 2010

Filed under: Jill — thenonakas @ 6:51 AM
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It has already been one month since New Years and it is hard to believe that 2010 is already 1/12th of the way over. (more…)


Here we go~ 15 December 2009

Filed under: Jill — thenonakas @ 12:51 AM
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Been a busy month or two but here’s what photographic evidence exists…

Early snow but it’s been warm since then. It snows fairly often but never enough to stick.

We threw together a last minute Thanksgiving in three hours! Only two Americans but we all got stuffed in the traditional style!

Made more tofu. Mwahaha. May be getting a soy milk machine to make it even easier.


Mistletoe for sale at the Julmarknad (Christmas market)

Hi Yuki!

The Fyris river which candles and all.

Decorations in the central square, Stora Torget

Lots of cold misty nights. Though, actually, that’s at 2 pm–so not night after all.

Yuki took a picture of our thermometer–I told him to just wait and see; it’ll surely get lower yet.

My SFI class went on a field trip to Stockholm! Hej!

We acted like tourists a bit. Isn’t he just adorable?

Toured Riksdagshuset and watched the parliament (hardly anyone even there…)

Did a bit of Christmas shopping!

More decorations and more Julmarknad: this time in Stockholm.

Ljusstake everywhere! We have ours up in our window at home, of course, but there was even one on here on the bus we took from Stockholm!

And of course we just passed Lucia!  Listen to some Lucia songs here!

Things have been going pretty well! I’ve been picking up some interesting translation jobs and enjoying my writing as well. SFI continues to chug forward; I still only understand 50-60% of what the teacher says but I’m moving on to the next level anyway it seems. I passed the national exam, so from January I’ll be in the D-class. We are headed to Seattle in two days and looking forward to visiting the States, buying up a whole suitcase of supplies at Uwajimaya’s, and getting to take it easy for at least a bit! Hopefully by the time we get back, Yuki will have decided on his dissertation topic, I will be all ready for the D course at SFI, and we will have a suitcase full of Japanese goodies to keep up going for a while!


A lapp in the face 7 November 2009

Filed under: Jill — thenonakas @ 8:46 PM
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Life continues in Sweden. I am doing by best to  catch up in Swedish class, since my group is set to take the C level exam at the end of this month, and I have been watching  the news and reading articles as much as I can stomach. Which is how I came upon the happy news that the Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum) in Stockholm is doing an exhibition on laundry rooms. This might not sound like the thrill of a lifetime, but it is pretty damned amusing because Swedes Take Laundry Seriously. If you live in any sort of shared building, as 42% percent of the country does, then you know the joys of the tvättstuga. This shared washing room must be booked in advance and any violation of the tvättstuga rules will land you in hot water with your neighbors. Forgot your laundry in the machine? Went over your time by twenty minutes? Left lint on the floor? Well, you might just be the lucky recepient of a lapp, a scrap of paper with an angry note left on it. They are showing a collection of them at the museum and since I won’t likely be making the trip down to Stockholm any time soon, I satisfied myself with a quick google image search. Here are a couple of examples with my bad translations (could be wrong — I’ve only been studying for three weeks, after all).

lapp480_11726cYou who took my washing time, move out!


If Britta P. reads the rules maybe she can learn to book one slot at a time!

arg_lapp_tvattstugaWhy are you doing your washing at my time, 1700  on June 22?

Can you not read? Remove your laundry by 1745

3Note! The clothes on the floor are not mine. My clothes are only those in the drying closet. Because you had not come by 1500, I started the machine to dry my clothes and dried my  clothes until 1600. Then I left the door unlocked. Next time grow some balls and open the door. I would like to talk to you about what is going on.

6167Bloody steal my time, will you! There was one time booked all day (MINE!) and still you have to take it?

Because I had to stop and empty your machines I will take an extra 30 minutes in the drying closet and the drying machine.

Haha, angry Swedes. So far we haven’t received any angry notes in our building, thank goodness. We’ve been doing our best to follow the rules. Otherwise, life continues. It’s been snowing a lot more again–but it never sticks. Been pursuing job opportunities and watching others slip away. I’ve avoided mentioning it but I got the opportunity to do a translation trial for a company that I’ve dreamed of working for since I was in high school. I did not ace it. I did not even squeak by. No, I bunged it up well and good. I moped around for a few days and finally let myself just cry about it, and since then I’ve been slowly getting over it. Perhaps I can try again in a year or two, when the horrible details of my oh-so-less-than-stellar translation may have faded from their memories.

I never want to admit how much something means to me because that just opens the door to pain and loss and ridicule, but every now and then, I have to swallow my pride and admit that I really do care about something. I really wanted that job. It was one of the few dreams that I have had in my life. I’m not the sort of person who has always had some dream, like “I want to be a doctor” or “I want to fight for justice” or whatever. Sure, when I was a little kid, I wanted to be veterinarian (I’d read every James Herriot book by the time I was ten) but then developing allergies to cats, dogs, horses, and birds and five years of unsuccessful allergy shots put a stop to that. Then when I was a student, I thought I wanted to work in publishing. I really would have liked to design book covers because–say what you will–people do judge a book by its cover. It would have combined my love of reading, books, art, and design. But I never trusted that I could be successful in art and I figured I would have to give up on my dream of working in publishing because I was never going to live in New York or even London. Now the only two dreams that I still have are to write my own books and to translate the stories that I love, and I have always kept these two dreams clutched secretively to my breast, never talking about them to anyone. But I do hope that I’ll be able to accomplish even one of them someday and so it is time that I start openly pursuing them if I want to give them my all.

My best friend just had her first child. Yes, she has simply done something that most humans in history have, but at the same time she has created something that no one else ever could have. I just have to keep reminding myself that losing one dream is not the end of everything. Some things are still just beginning.


Stockholm! 1 November 2009

Filed under: Jill — thenonakas @ 10:06 PM
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We had Friday off as it was the Autumnal holiday for students and so manage to actually go down to Stockholm and walk around a bit before our quarterly Japanese food dash. In addition to visiting three different Japanese stores around the town (all tiny and mostly have the same things) and running into Yuki’s Japanese mates in the process (it’s a small town), we wandered around town and through Gamla Stan. It was cold but the sky was ridiculously blue as it can only be on a freezing day and it was lovely to just be free for day. Then Saturday was back to teaching for me and today I am catching up on the four chapters of SFI that I missed by joining the class midway. Just found out that my teacher expects me to take the national exam at the end of November along with the rest of the class. So I have one month to learn what they will have learned in six months. I may not be passing it. But if not, it’s not the end of the world — will just get sorted into another ongoing class and have to meet people again. I hope that I might pass, though, because even though it would mean that I’ll continue to be tremendously behind everyone else in the next level as well, I think that the class I am in now is very good. The students are motivated and nice and everyone seems quite eager to do their best. After the stories I’ve heard about some of the other classes, I definitely want to stay in such a group. Anyway, pictures!

20091031 UppsalastationUppsala Station (from the one side that it actually looks like a station. On the other side, it’s hardly more than a shed.)

20091031 Washington?Sweden (or at least around me) looks so much like Washington that I seriously have difficulty thinking that it is a different country.

20091031 trainsExcept that they have nice and relatively modern trains that don’t even smell of urine. (We were very tickled by this little private room in the middle of the carriage. Wouldn’t that just be lovely to share with a group of friends or family on a nice train journey?)

20091031 stockholmHere is Stockholm (in stone). We spent most of the day on the middle island of Gamla Stan, as well as hiking up a bit through the southern part of the city, Sodermalm, and going back up in the northernly Norrmalm, to visit our Japanese grocers.

20091031 Yuki at StadshusetYuki blocking the door at the Stadshuset or City Hall.

20091031  see the sea!Look at the sea!

20091031 the sky!Look at that SKY. No photoshopping: the trees were really that gold and the sky was really that blue.

20091031 sketch?There were lovely little details all over, but I’ll have to settle for just a few in this post.

20091031 What a locationStockholm is of course built on a series of islands, big and small. How about this one? One tiny island with a single building on it. It is an international agency for promoting democracy and it seems inappropriately amusing to me that democracy is so marooned all alone out in the middle of the sea.

20091031 Gamla StanYuki exclaimed, “Take a picture! It looks so… European!”

20091031 kungliga?The royal castle — from the outside, of course. We did pay to go in anywhere, but we enjoyed just walking around and looking at all the different architecture.

20091031 guards! guards!At least their guards don’t have to wear anything half so silly as those in England.

20091031 toalettenMy, what’s this lovely little receptacle on the road? Why, a public toilet, of course! But you don’t have to pay for this one, unlike most toilets in Sweden, so guess who was inside it while I was taking pictures from the outside? I bet you guessed correctly.

20091031 recreationAnd there is the fellow himself, recreating a shot from when he first came to Stockholm ten years ago.

20091031 711We searched for a place to eat and instead found a 7-11 on these ancient streets.

20091031 lunch at Sally'sEventually found a great lunch deal at Sallys in Gamla Stan. Less then 100 kronor for each of our meals! Gotta love lunch.

20091031 kottbullar!I was very happy to get a lovely modern interpretation of a very typisk svensk (typical swedish) meal: meatball, potatoes and lingonberries!

20091031 Tullys!And just days after hearing that Starbucks will be opening its first Swedish store in Arlanda International Airport, I discover that there is already Tully’s in Stockholm! Sheesh, what was the big deal, then?

20091031 sunsetAnd four approached, the sun started going down, and we hiked back across the islands to get our Japanese food!

20091031 bathroomWith a brief stop at the station. What’s this? Some sort of concession stand? Buying tickets for something? Well, yes, for the toilet. Generally all public toilets in Sweden will put you back at least a buck or two. Better hope you have cash or that you have a huge bladder.

20091031 helpBut don’t worry–help is on the way.


Pratar du amerikanska? 21 October 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — thenonakas @ 6:42 AM
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I’ve been waiting to show off my pocket Svenska-Amerikanska ordbok. Yes, of course there was a wide selection of Svenska-Engelska (Swedish-English) dictionaries at the bookstore. I could have chosen from any of one them. And I would have done, if I hadn’t stumbled across this little gem as I glanced down the shelf, looking mostly at price tags: my Svenska-Amerikanska (Swedish-American) dictionary.

How could I not buy it? How could I miss the chance to justify two hundred and forty years of bitter British bitching about the atrocity that is the American dialect of English? You were right, guys: whatever that garbled mess is that we speak, apparently it is not English. At least not according to the Swedes.

Oh yes, the point of this post: I have at last joined SFI! Svenska för invandrare, or Swedish for immigrants to you, is the free course of Swedish lessons offered by our beloved Socialist government (watch out, Republicans! they have nationalized healthcare and they are looking at you) and for the simple but misleading fact that I can read and write much more Swedish than I can speak or understand, I was placed midway through the course. Luckily I’m just the sort of sadistic type to like the immersion approach, so I’ll be sticking with it. But it may be worth mentioning that  today in class I was feeling pretty damned good if I could follow even half of what the teacher was saying. Whenever I happened to understand something, I nodded so enthusiastically that I’ve probably given the poor teacher the false impression that I’m mycket bra at Swedish and totally “got” what she was saying. At any rate, I met a lovely fellow from Uganda, his cheeky friend from the UAE and enjoyed the first three straight hours of Swedish in my life.

They did warn me that the regular teacher comes back tomorrow and she is not half as gentle. But still…! Ah, this is what I’ve always loved. Every minute of learning a new language you feel limited and stupid and frustrated with your own inability to communicate even the simplest of ideas–but every day is full of tangible, immediate accomplishments. I learned the word mes, slang for ‘wuss’ today. (Though it just took me four attempts to spell ‘wuss’ in English.) I learned to say ‘uncertain’ and ‘dishonest’ and ‘polite.’ I can see myself growing and changing every day that I struggle. For how many arenas in life can you say the same? If only someone would just pay me to learn languages. I mean, let’s be honest, that’s basically why I love being a translator, isn’t it?

But now, since I just utterly blanked on how to write the word  ‘wuss,’ I suppose it’s time to keep up on my English and Japanese, since my main chance at livelihood depends on that language pair far more than Swedish at the moment.

But a new language is always so tempting…