Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sprinkled throughout are some bonus photographs or our apartment buiding (with the tall spire -- Cathy's art nook is the window you can see on the second floor), the herring aisle at the supermarket, and farmers selling their organic produce at the weekend market.

Cathy and David headed off to meet each other at Gerdahallen, Lund University's student/faculty/staff gym. As David was making his way towards the lobby, he was accosted by a student speaking Swedish. The student quickly realized David spoke no Swedish and explained in English that he and his group were new students who were on a kind of scavenger hunt, and one thing they needed was a picture of a "great beard." So they posed David in front of a fountain (shockingly, based on a statue of a nude woman), while several of them put their arms up to make a kind of tunnel. This picture met three of their scavenger requirements, and they went off happily (while instructing David not to let the next group take his picture!). Alas, they never sent the picture as they had promised, so you'll just have to use your imagination. Apparently there is a long tradition of having new students at Lund University do various pranks. There are a number of large tanks outside some of the engineering buildings, each of which is painted like a different kind of beer can; this was apparently one of the pranks awhile ago. We've seen a number of students walk by in drag or wearing Viking clothing., and we've heard lots of chanting and some fireworks as well. No rolly-chair races so far, though.

Cathy and David took a look at th
e classes offered at the gym. There are the usual weight-lifting, aerobics, stepping and spinning (indoor biking). And then there are a large assortment of various levels of "Swedish gympa." Cathy took a gympa class to see what it was like – a bit of running and jumping to get the heartbeat going, some resistance training with bendable bars, some yoga stretches, and a relaxation. There is gympa for fit 20-somethings, and gympa for people over 55, even gympa for families and babies. Cathy also tried a "Power Yoga"class. In the class she took, about 60 people worked on mats in an air-conditioned gym lit only with candles. The teacher was hooked up to a wireless microphone and breathlessly announced each yoga pose, and then, in a sultry voice said, "Bra (good)," after each pose was finished. We'll enjoy keeping in shape in Sweden.

It has been raining a lot in Lund. We are talking big thunderstorms with very heavy rain here. We knew we were getting quite soggy but our friends Boris and Görel told us how soggy – they had had to release water from their backyard swimming pool because it had rained about seven inches in seven days. Boris and rel also have another unique feature in their house (in addition to the swimming pool and sauna, which we haven't seen yet). They have, or will soon have, a house heated by geothermal energy. This is a fairly common energy source in private houses in Lund. It turns out that during the winter, the groundwater under Lund is warmer than the surface temperature so surface water is piped down to the groundwater, heat is exchanged and energy is transformed through a heat pump that will soon be installed in Boris and rel 's basement. Boris and rel had a pipe drilled in their front yard last spring to reach this slightly warmer groundwater. It astonished us that the pipe was 201 meters long. Recently, the city of Lund tried to reach an even warmer groundwater source that the city thought might help provide energy for the entire region and ended up drilling down into the earth for 3700 meters before giving up on the project.

There is a Swedish election coming up in mid-September at both the local and national level. We haven't seen a lot of signs or advertising in the paper – or political junk mail, at least as far as we can tell. However, the Lund town squares really are being used like town squares and electioneering by candidates speaking in front of little kiosks is a common sight. Today Cathy noticed that people who stopped to talk to candidates at the Liberal Party booth were given a mylar balloon, the Social Democrats will give you a whistle, the Greens will give you a red rose, and communists appeared to be asking for donations. We also saw the communists out recruiting in Göteborg when we took a brief vacation there.

Akiva and David headed off in the middle of August to Malmö for a baseball practice with the “Baseball by the Bridge” group. 15 minutes by train and another 15 by bus put them at a huge complex of sports fields, including (we think) baseball, soccer, American football, Australian Rules rugby, and more. We had some extra time since we weren’t sure where we were going, so we looked for a snack. Just down the street was a golf complex – golf, a driving range, miniature golf, a café and clubhouse, etc. That fortified us for practice. There were 7-8 kids at the practice, most (but not all) of them either from the U.S. or with an American parent. The coach, Charlie, is a writer from New Hampshire who has been in Sweden for many years. Practice was very go
od and well organized; they were preparing for a baseball jamboree a few weeks later. Given the distance, Akiva decided not to continue practicing with them, shifting his focus to fotboll.

Akiva registered at the Lunds Bollklubb – LBK – in the "kids born in 1997" group, and he started soccer or fotboll practice the following Monday. We biked to the field (a wonderful achievement for Akiva, who has learned how to bike from getting his balance to good control in city traffic in less than two weeks). There were nearly 20 kids, all boys (although three of them had long hair, like Akiva, and we wondered at first if they were girls). Akiva did drills and scrimmages with the others for the full 90 minutes. The kids spoke little English (although most have taken a year of it at school), but the coach and the assistants were fluent. Once Akiva has a few weeks of school and goes to more practices, he'll likely be chattering away. His first game was supposed to be this past weekend, but it was cancelled because the field (in Hjärup, several kilometers away from Lund) was unplayable due to a flood.

The kids started school today. We biked with Akiva to his school, the Bilingual Montessori School of Lund. There was, as is often the case at the beginning of a school year, both excitement and confusion. Akiva is in the 2nd-3rd grade class. It's largely a shoes-off school (as are homes in Sweden), but this rule was quite relaxed on the first day. In any case, parents and kids were all herded out to the playground, where the headmistress greeted everybody and introduced the staff, all in Swedish. So, English is the second language, right? Well, no. As Dave Barry used to say, we're not making this up: the school is "bilingual" in Swedish, English and French. Parents and kids were then herded to the classrooms, where the teachers laid out the structure, some rules, did some more introductions, took attendance, etc. – this was done in Swedish and almost all was translated into English. Then off to the playground for something to eat and drink, with the kids hitting the jungle gym, the sandbox, the mini-soccer field, the basketball court, and so forth. Akiva is enrolled in "fritid", which is the after-school program that is universal in Swedish schools. After school he spent two hours with his Japanese tutor, Ayumi-san, who is making sure that Akiva doesn't mix up his Japanese with his English, Swedish and French. Just wait until he starts Hebrew in preparation for his bar mitzvah.

Emma had a great start to school. She's got about 30 kids in her class in the first year of the English-based pre-IB (International Bacculareate) class at Katedralskolan. She is the youngest in the class – some of the kids are 17, and most are 15-16-years old. Almost all of the kids in her class are Swedish (except one American who has lived in Sweden for many years), but all have passed an English competency test so that they can take it pre-IB classes. We are a little concerned about how much English the kids know, however. On the first day of school, Emma and a new friend asked a few of their classmates if they were registered for Italian class. It must have been Emma's accent, but all of the kids they asked about the Italian class looked at their watches and told them what time it was. Emma will take Swedish classes and also is taking the Italian class – taught in Swedish. But she is not sure what time the class is.

Sending a letter or a postcard from Sweden to the U.S. costs 10 kroner (about $1.40). But don't move to Denmark in the hope that we'll send you more postal mail – it costs the same to send mail to Denmark as it does to send mail to America! So keep posted here and we will tell you all we would have written in that 10 kroner letter.

Take a peek at the following, which we found on the net, describing how you know
you've been in Sweden too long. If you don't find them entertaining, you haven't lived in Sweden! Can you imagine someone winning the Nobel Prize but declining to go the ceremony because it's during the time they scheduled to do laundry?

2 Comments:

At Tue Aug 29, 08:33:00 PM GMT+2, Anonymous Rose C-F said...

Lucky Akiva, becoming quadrilingual! And lucky Emma, becoming trilingual!

 
At Sun Sep 03, 06:50:00 AM GMT+2, Blogger betsyl said...

hi-- debbie pointed me in this direction, and i just wanted to say that as a minnesotan, the "you know you've been in sweden too long" list is alternately making me roar with laughter (#229, for example!) and be completely confused. also, the herring aisle picture is a good one. there's a particular scandinavian grocery store in minneapolis that has quite nearly that herring aisle, but in the regular stores, there are just a few kinds.

 

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