December in Sweden

Hello, it’s December. In fact it’s the 17th, and here in Stockholm the day became shortest on Dec 13, and continues to be about 4 or 5 hours of sunlight until the solstice, then it starts to increase again. On the 13th, they celebrate Lucia, which is (as usual) a Christian saint name placed on a millennia old ritual. In this case it’s a bit odd, as the ritual is obvious: they have a girl wearing lighted candles on her head and then a bunch of handmaidens in white who sing and a bunch of “star boys” behind them who wear pointy hats and sing. So, it’s a basic solstice return of the light thing. Lucia, which of course comes from the word Lux, or light, though, happens to also be a 3rd century Christian martyr who gouged out her eyes for some reason involving marrying a heather, though there are differing stories. Anyway, they say that’s the reason for the red ribbons on the white outfits, though I’m betting it used to be sacrificial before Christian saints were around. Plus this was somehow intermingled with an old Norse thing where on this night you’d eat the magic solstice pig and toss the bones below the table, and then in the morning, voila, new live pig was there!

We went to the Saint Jakob’s Church to hear the Kungsholmens musikgymnasiums kammarkör, the high school that Sanna went to and choir she sang in. Super amazing vocalists, especially for 17 year olds. Plus choral music in a church, it’s always good, those consonances just sound incredible.

Sankt Jakobs Kyrkan

Sankt Jakobs Kyrkan


It’s the month of holidays. Also the month of being sick. Marlowe actually started dagis, the daycare/preschool for super-little kids, but lasted two days before she had, and then we all had, the Winter Vomiting Disease. Apparently very virulent this year, the entire preschool shut down. We were all sick for days. Yuck. Apparently it happens every winter, some horrible norovirus that likes the cold and dry. Then we caught a regular snuffly cold. And had many days of snow.

Snow. Yes, Snow.

Snow. Yes, Snow.

We actually had Thanksgiving on Dec 1st, we couldn’t do it on the real date due to the friends we invited not being able to make it except on a weekend. And we intended to celebrate the house short sale going through.. which supposedly happened the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but then the following Monday, the Bank of America sent the wire transfer back claiming something was wrong. So more days of back and forth until the manager above the manager said that there was in fact nothing wrong and they took the money back. So the house supposedly closed escrow on Nov 29th. I have yet to see that $216k debt out of the BoA account, they kindly ask me to “allow” 90 days….? Why should I fucking allow them anything? Do I even have a choice?

Anwyay, we had Thanksgiving, brined a turkey and ate it. Nice. Drank some bottles of Gundlach Bunschu wine we got in Sonoma a year and a half ago, really great.

Now I’m in the final week of school at SFI, and this is the busiest week, of course. For one thing, we had tests last week to find out if we’re ready to take the national test to finish the D level of class. Some people in my class actually took the national test to finish, mostly because they’re sick of it. I was made secretary of the Student Council, sort of against my wishes, and it’s been pretty annoying. We had the meeting with the representatives from all classes, and everybody yells about how everyone else leaves their dishes in the sinks or leaves the bathrooms a mess, how the school needs books and reliable substitute teachers. Well, ok, I don’t know how much the student council can do about this. My takeaway from this? Students are angry and dirty.

Walking to school, ~7:45 am

Walking to school, ~7:45 am

We have a school party this Wednesday, I’m of course in charge of entertainment. This means putting together the schedule of events at the place, organizing who does what when. Trying to get people to sing or dance is a little tough here, though. This school for Swedish language for immigrants is, needless to say, filled with people from all parts of the world, and we’re all trying to communicate in a foreign language. I’ll play a couple songs. My first gig here in Sweden! I’m also gonna accompany a Moroccan girl who is going to sing some Fairuz songs, which are excellent, in fact, she has an excellent voice and can really do it. I don’t know the songs very well, though. There are a few more folks, a couple of Peruvian guys who will play cajon and guitar, some dancers. Many people bringing food from their homeland. This is all happening at a Syrian community hall nearby the school. I expect a clusterfuck.

This school experience has been extremely enlightening, in many ways. For one, I realize yet again how lucky I am for so many things, not the least of which is that I am not a refugee from a war torn country in the middle east or Africa, but additionally that I did learn English as a first language, and am literate, which helps me in two ways: one of course is that I can read the alphabet used here, and I don’t need to start at nothing to learn to read, and two is that for the most part, Swedish is very similar to English. Not entirely, though, and preposition use will always mark me as a foreigner. There are many things that are simply backwards from English.

And I have a slightly different take on speaking one’s native language in a new place versus learning to speak the language of the country. I know that Swedes pretty much all speak English, but I would never expect them to. I would feel crass to never try to learn Swedish, as hard as it is at my (advanced) age to learn a new language, and I feel that to interact in society wherever you live, you must at least try to speak the local language. That said, I’m not into the “it’s America, speak English” conservatives, though I get the point. It’s true that if English is the chosen language for official business in America, people should be able to speak it, no? Else, you divide the business areas?

This occurred to me while talking with a couple people in class, one from Spain and one from Cuba, both of whom obviously spoke Spanish. I told them that in California, over half of the people spoke Spanish. After this conversation, i realized that I had given them the impression that one could simply speak either English or Spanish anywhere in California and get by, but of course it’s really not that way, as the Spanish speaking people are only operating in a public business sense in specific areas, and English is considered primary, so the Spanish speakers operating only in Spanish are sort of an under class. So they could go to California and get by entirely in Spanish, but it would be a specific level of society that they would be operating in. Weird. When we lived in California, I actually didn’t think about it that much, the difference in areas, just that in some areas people speak Spanish or Vietnamese, but usually you could communicate anyway, or in our case, our neighbors spoke various languages, and that was that. But, yeah, if you went downtown for a cup of coffee, you speak English.

I guess it’s the same here, in some neighborhoods people get bunched together into ethnic ghettos of sorts. They’re not too big, though there are some areas like in South Stockholm where the language of Swedish is developing in weird ways by immigrant culture. In our area, we know several people who come from other countries, but we all try to speak Swedish. I would rather do so, even if people peg me for a foreigner.

Another thing that sort of shocked me, as an American, was that I read an article about how some right wing section of the government wanted to make it illegal for politicians to have dual-citizenship. This shocked me because I am so used to this being the norm that I had never actually considered that a politician could have citizenship in another country besides where they are a politician! I am seriously brainwashed here, I still think that if a person had dual citizenship, how could they be a reliable politician? Wow. Still wrapping my head around my own thoughts about this.

The extreme right here, of course, are also racists. There was a recent scandal where somebody exposed a phone-film of actual right wing politicians saying racist crap to a guy at a bar, and outside, and then threatening to beat him up and shit. Total amateur hour stuff. But these guys were actually in parliament! And what’s the reaction? Two things, one is that some people suspect that the party itself released the film in order to clean house and start over again, as they were suffering, and two is that they actually experienced a surge of support (like from 7% to 8% or slightly less.) But either way, it’s pretty scary, especially when all of the Swedish stars in soccer or music or art or whatever is appreciated by the society as a whole are ALL immigrant family offspring, and they’re all not white. So ha! Get over it, dudes.

So anyway, tomorrow I start setting up for this school party thing, it happens on Wednesday. But tonight I have a rehearsal with a band, the Plastic Pals, who have a record coming out soon produced by Chris Cacavas, garage rock sort of stuff, but I’m gonna sit in with them at Pet Sounds Bar on Thursday evening. Pet Sounds is actually a record store, they have a little performance space. So maybe that is my first real gig in Sweden.

Then what? Christmas. Then I get on a plane on the morning of the 26th, off to San Diego for Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker at the Belly Up. The San Francisco at the Independent, then Petaluma at the Mystic Theatre on the 29th, back to SFO on the 30th and back here in time to celebrate New Year’s. Wheee!

Making Pepparkakor

Making Pepparkakor

musician. real person. that's my real name, go ahead, look me up.

Posted in Music, Sweden

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