Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oh say can you see...

I am off to the land of the brave and the home of the free for a few days and will try to experience some American "culture" and Starbucks coffee. Meanwhile Carina will experience more Swedish culture with the Julmarknad (christmas market with fireworks), Julmust (Swedish Christmas cola), Glög (sweet warm wine with spices), pepparkakor (traditional Christmas gingerbread), the first Advent Sunday, the official start of Christmas decorating and probably the first major snowfall in Uppsala this season. However, I will try to blend into capitalistic America by spending a lot of money on various items and gifts that is cheap by Swedish standards.

Our next post will therefore deal with American vs. Swedish culture... For now we leave you with a link to a YouTube video that deals with their language differences (Warning: Swedish people are very comfortable with swearwords that might offend some South Africans):


Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Unappreciated Glove (a South African Perspective)

The last week was very exciting as for the first time the snow formed a thin layer on the ground. It started snowing at around 22:00 and we went out to investigate and take some pictures.

The temperature stayed around 0°C the whole of the next day which meant that the snow did not melt. These pictures were taken at sunset the following day (around 15:30):

Unfortunately the temperatures are rising (all the snow melted) and next week will be "hot" (6°C maximum). It is strange to think of 6°C as warm, considering in South Africa most people take out their warmest clothes when the temperature drops below 15°C. This bring us to the point of appropriate clothing. We discovered that the numerous additional items of clothing (that take up to 10 minutes to apply) actually makes a big difference keeping you comfortable outside. This fact is well known by the Swedes who told us on arrival:

"Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder"
(there is no bad weather, only bad clothing)

In South Africa, scarves, gloves and woolen hats are mainly worn as fashion accessories. Alternatively South African children sometimes wear some of these items for up to 15 minutes each day during the first period of school for one week every second winter. A French colleague however suggested that Swedish children are born with gloves. We saw them performing task requiring extreme dexterity, such as texting on their mobile phones without ever removing their gloves. It is thus mysterious that every now and again you come across a forlorn glove laying in the street. Could it be that as the grow they "shed" their gloves...

Our perspective on gloves and other accessories have therefore changed dramatically. We now appreciate the value of these items, including gloves although we still struggle to perform menial tasks such as operating a zipper...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Second Month and the Coming Winter.

After two months in Sweden the long autumn is slowly turning into winter. This means that the days get quite a lot shorter and last weekend we switched to winter time, which is also the "normal" time although for fewer months (in effect we are now GMT +1).

Currently it is not too cold and we had no snow since the short cold spell at the start of the month (usually the first snow comes later). The average temperature is 5°C and unlike in South Africa the night and day temperatures does not vary that much. However, we rarely see the sun anymore...
Although the official sunrise and sunset is 7:11 am and 3:53 pm at the moment, the constant clouds and occasional mist lets little light through. This reminds me of a few lines from an excellent movie "Eric the Viking" (1989):

FREYA  Have you ever seen the sun, Erik? 
ERIK The sun is up beyond the clouds
- where it always is.

FREYA But have you ever seen it? Think back...

ERIK Of course not... but... when I was a child....
I remember a
it was as if the whole sky was blue...

FREYA The sky WAS blue, Erik... once.

Do not despair however as the autumn colors are really beautiful. Following is a few pictures taken in the surrounding areas and on the way to work.

When walking outside it is noticeable that there are much fewer people about (except foreigners, children and people walking their dogs). We suspect that there are a lot of indoor activities going on and have joined by enjoying the cozy warmth of our home with a lot of strong coffee while watching movies. As mentioned, children here are unaffected by snow, rain or ice and came out to "trick or treat" on Halloween (in the black of night, i.e. about 5 pm). We were prepared and here are a few pictures.

We are enjoing the different seasons and are eagerly awaiting more snow that has been foretasted for the coming week.