How Aslan led to Sweden – a personal story of a Swedish odysse

A long-time friend of mine recently wrote a post on Facebook, instigated by the recent school shooting in her home country, USA. In her post, she writes her personal story about her 30 year experience of living in Sweden. With her permission, I am publishing it here. Please read it, I think it sums up the way a lot of people who move to Sweden feel. Here it is:

‘For anyone who might be interested, I would like to share a milestone in my life.

30 years ago this week, I took the adventure that Aslan gave me. (If you’ve read ‘The Narnia Chronicles’, you understand that reference.) I packed up my clothes and few belongings, waved a tearful goodbye to my parents at Dulles International Airport in Washington and moved to Sweden. I knew that the love of my life lived there, and that was most important, but I didn’t know much else. I had NO IDEA how the trajectory of my life would change.

Among the things I have experienced in Sweden are the following:

* An AMAZING Swedish family which took me in, accepted me with all of my weird American quirks and loved/loves me like my own family. They ARE my own family now. Along the way, my Mother-in-law and older sister-in-law were instrumental in helping me learn Swedish. Their patience was infinite. My younger sister-in-law, Marina, has become one of my closest friends, but, she talked so fast, I couldn’t understand a word she said. Sometimes, I still don’t. 😂❤️

* A society, while not being perfect, holds 2 particular values to be self-evident:

1. We have a responsibility to those who are less fortunate and that responsibility should be incorporated into government policy.

2. Women and men are equal.

* A year of paid maternity leave with each child.

* Unparalleled care through 5! major surgeries, NONE of which I had to pay for.

* A school system which treats me like a professional and gives me a great deal of freedom as to what and how I teach my students in order to reach curriculum goals.

* AMAZING colleagues from a plethora of nations, cultures and languages who are passionate about our students and who are a daily reminder to me of the common humanity of every person on the planet.

* I NEVER have to worry about a gunman in my school. 😔

Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” So far, I’ve gotten a box of ALL of my favorite kinds. Who knew on that cold Sunday in February of 1988 when my parents hugged me goodbye.

Thanks for reading’. ❤️

It’s Fatty Tuesday – Swedish style!

Today it’s ‘Fat Tuesday’ in Sweden, known as Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras around the world. While in the UK we eat pancakes and in Latin America they scoff down fried bread, Swedes celebrate by eating the traditional cream Lent bun – the ‘semla’. I’m also clearly going to indulge. In fact, my mouth is watering just writing this blog.

The semla is a creamy bun filled with delicious almond paste. They were eaten traditionally in Sweden to commemorate the start of Lent and the great Fast. In the south of Sweden, they still refer to them as ‘fastlagsbullar’ – Shrovetide buns. Nowadays however, semlas are usually sold anytime between Christmas and Easter.

I just love them. I could eat a barrel load. But I’d end up looking like a barrel if I did. I love the taste of them, and the feeling of luxurious indulgence. I also love the knowledge that as you take a bite into a creamy semla, you are biting into over 500 years’ history of Scandinavian baking.

The word ‘semla’ comes from the Latin ‘simila’ which means fine flour and originally referred just to the bun without any filling. As long ago as the 1500’s, bakers started to hollow out the middle of the bun and fill it with cream and butter. As ingredients became more available, bakers started adding almond and cardemon and the type of semla that we know today developed towards the end of the 1800’s. After rationing of sugar and dairy products ceased at the end of WW2, the semla took off and became very popular.

Nowadays the semla trend has reached new heights. Every year bakers around the country try to launch new types of semla, with their own spin on it -for example, the semla wrap, the semla burger, the semla layer cake, the semla cocktail, the chocolate semla, the vanilla semla, the lactose-free, gluten-free vegan semla.

All delicious I’m sure, but I’m a traditionalist in this matter. Give me a round fluffy cardemon-scented wheat bun brimming over with whipped cream and almond paste.

And give it to me NOOOOWWW!!!

Swedish words for poo


In a restaurant in Stockholm last night, I happened to use the word ‘klutt’ to describe a small dollop of food. My dinner companions did a double take and asked me to repeat what I said. ‘En klutt’ I said. They looked at each other and burst into laughter. You see, a ‘klutt’ does describe a small dollop. But not food. It’s a small dollop of poo. Sometimes, speaking a foreign language just ends up going so wrong!
This led to a conversation on the different Swedish words for poo. I made a mental note of them, so I could share them with you. I also googled some other words. Here they are. Enjoy!

  • Bajs – poo
  • Bajskorv – poo sausage (a turd)
  • Klutt – a small dollop of poo
  • Skit – shit
  • Blaffa – a huge mound of poo
  • Lort – piece of poo, sometimes dried out
  • Avföring – defecation
  • Exkrement – excrement
  • Mocka – big pile of poo, often from cattle
  • Rövgröt – poo with the consistency of porridge
  • Lös avföring – diarrhea
  • Racerbajs – diarrhea that requires running to the toilet
  • Sprutlack – explosive poo that covers a large surface

Any other words I’m missing that just have to be on this list?

The worst day in Sweden

Tomorrow, the 24th January, could arguably be the worst day of the year in Sweden. Dark, miserable, cold and poor.

The month of January is notoriously an impoverished month, following the financial excesses of December. Many people struggle through January with their evenings in front of the telly, their long walks at the weekends and their packed lunches at the office. And as the 24th arrives, this deprivation reaches its pinnacle.

You see, most Swedes are paid on the 25th of the month. New, fresh crowns rattle into bank accounts up and down the country. Pubs and restaurants fill up and Ikea is like rush hour in Piccadilly Circus as the consumerism treadmill grinds into action.

But not tomorrow. Tomorrow, the 24th January, sucks. And as we put our leftovers into the fridge to be eaten for lunch, we can be happy that this misery is soon over. On Thursday, we can drink a latte, buy an expensive lunchtime sour dough toast, and knock back a few gin and tonics after work. And maybe, just maybe, be a little less provoked by the sunny holiday pictures on social media.

So hold on, there is light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

New Swedish words

Every year, the Swedish Language Institute announces which new words have made it into the Swedish dictionary.

Some of the words are totally new, some have been given a new meaning but all reflect the cultural and political influences of the year.

Here are 10 of the new words from 2017:

1) ‘alternativa fakta‘ – alternative facts. Coined by Trump minion Kellyanne Conway

2) ‘dabba‘ – to dab, a type of dance move

3) ‘döstäda‘ – to death clean. To clean out one’s possessions before death so that surviving family members don’t have to

4) ‘fejkade nyheter’ – fake news

5) ‘knäprotest‘ – to kneel in protest

6) #metoo

7) ‘plogga‘ – to jog and pick up rubbish at the same time

8) ‘serieotrohet‘ – series cheating – to watch an episode of a series without your partner (when you are supposed to be watching it together)

9) ‘skogsbad‘ – a form of therapy where one emerses oneself in the forest to reduce stress. Called ‘shinrin-yoku’ in Japanese.

10) ‘veganisera‘ – to make a vegan version of food that normally contains animal products.

To see the whole list, go to http://www.sprakochfolkminnen.se

A literal Swedish Christmas

Swedish is often a very literal language. Yesterday, the 26th December, is a good example of that.

In the UK, the 26th December is known as ‘Boxing Day’. In many countries it’s St Stephen’s day – in Finland, it’s ‘Stefani Day’. In Ireland it’s ‘Wren’s Day’. In South Africa, it’s the ‘Day of Goodwill’.

And in Sweden? Well, here comes the literalness.

It’s called ‘Second Christmas Day’.

Swedish Music Aid

Children are not for sale!

Did you know that every minute, 4 children are sold into the sex industry around the world? An estimated 2,000,000 children are victims of sex trade and many more in human trafficking. These figures are hard to grasp, and even harder to process. Sexual trading of children can involve local boys who are abused by tourists, impoverished girls who are sold as sex slaves to rich families, or children who are ordered like fast food on the internet. The actions of the perpetrators are ruthless and the list of assaults is endless.

But we can do something about it.

‘Children are not for sale’ is the theme of this year’s charitable Music Aid (Musikhjälpen) project in Sweden. For the tenth year in a row, three radio hosts are locked into a glass cube for 6 days on a square in a town somewhere in Sweden. This year the event takes places in the northern city of Umeå, and the hosts broadcast music and tv non-stop day and night to gather donations for their good cause. To raise money one can, amongst other things, request a song, carry out a fund-raising action and bid in the various auctions that take place. This is Swedish solidarity at its very best.

Today, 17 Dec, is their final day of incarceration – the hosts are let out of their glass cube this evening and the total amount that has been raised will be announced. The millions of crowns that they gather will be spent on prevention of the child sex trade, protection of at-risk children and rehabilitation of children who have been victims.

It is still not too late for you to make a donation. Download the Musikhjälpen app (mh2017) and make a contribution! You can also go to http://www.musikhjalpen.se or find the same on Facebook. Every donation counts!

Your contribution can save a child from a terrible, terrible fate.

Please donate! Please share this blog with your friends and encourage them to do the same.