Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Week28: It's Me or the Cats!

”I’ll be surprised if you make it to 30 weeks. Do you realise how tough it is?” That’s what a friend said when I told him about Swenglish. I've had a couple of moments (like week8 when I was sick and staying in a caravan) when I've thought ”I’ll never make it to the end”, but I've never been as worried as I am now.

With only two and a half weeks to go things are starting to go a bit wrong. Last week’s host cancelled with a day’s notice because her child was sick and I had to call a person on the waiting list who luckily said yes to hosting me. This week I've had a cat problem.

My host lives in a one bedroom flat with three cats. I’m aware that I’m a bit allergic, but thought I’d give it a try. I lasted two days. Then I got fed up with not being able to breathe properly because of my asthma, so we had two options: moving me or moving  the cats. As you might know, dogs have masters and cats have staff. And it would have been a matter of removing all the hair as well, so it was easier to move me.

Now I’m back with last week’s host who was kind enough to let me crash at his place, even though he’s annoyed with me for leaving sock fluff everywhere and splashing water all over the bathroom. To his relief I’ll still follow the cat mummy around in the daytime as I've promised to help her organise a birthday party. Her 40th. (I doubt I’ll have to make cucumber sandwiches as was the case for the birthdays during week5.)

God knows what I’m doing in 10 years time ... all I can concentrate on is completing Swenglish. Let’s hope I last another 2 weeks! I just got a text from host number 29: ”Eat garlic so you don’t get sick for our mad week! :D”. Who said Swedes were boring?

PS. I really love cats, it's so unfair that they make me sneeze and itch and of course I can't help cuddling them even though I shouldn 't ...

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Week27: Leading English Park & Winning Bandy Team

I had no idea that one of the most English parks in the world is situated in Sweden. I’m back in Stockholm and my host recommended that I walk through Haga Park near his work place. On an information board it said ”one of the world’s leading English parks”. Apparently an English style park consists of view points, lawns, bushes, trees and winding paths. How original. I must admit I didn't see all of the park, but I came across a ”Turkish Pavilion” – which reminded me a bit of the the Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

Last week I tried my luck on the ice, this week I ended up by the side as a spectator, drinking beer. Bandy is a winter sport similar to ice-hockey, but instead of using a flat black puck, the game is played with an orange ball, a bit smaller than a tennis ball. The playing area is bigger than in an ice-hockey and usually the game is held outdoors. 

My host is a fan of the south Stockholm team Hammarby and they won the game against GAIS from Gothenburg with 8-1. Even though I think it’s quite an artful sport to watch, I lost interested after 4-1, feeling sorry for the losing team. I also felt a bit restless because I wanted to be on the ice myself, I quite liked bandy when I was little, as my hometown Nässjö is a ”bandy town”.

After doing so much sport last week I kind of got addicted to the endorphin kick. I’m not interested in competing or running faster or longer, but every time I've stayed with people who exercise a lot I've felt very happy and energetic, and I hope I can keep up with it after Swenglish is completed. One person I stayed with even used the gym as a substitute for anti-depressants. Normally my host goes running three times a week, but he’s having a period of rest at the moment, so I’m climbing on the walls! (Not literally this time ...)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Week26: Lou on Ice

It wasn't my first time on skates, but it was the first time I did ice-skating properly, i.e. trying out jumps and gliding with my leg in the air. My host this week is a professional ice-skater and I joined the class she is teaching.

I'm proud to say that I only fell over once. However another lady in the group was proud that she had fallen twice: before she had been afraid of falling, and to learn you have to be willing to take risks and be prepared to fall, so perhaps I’ll fall over more next time ... If there’s a next time! I think I prefer ice-hockey, because at least then you’re allowed to wear proper equipment like elbow- and and knee pads.

I’m staying on the West Coast of Sweden in Halmstad which is a summer city, but no matter where you are in Sweden there’s always an ice-rink where people do sports like ice-hockey, bandy or ice-skating. Before we went on the ice we had been running on the beach – including some cross fit exercises – so my legs were already a bit sore. And on Friday night I've been promised zumba dancing. This is the most sporty week since Swenglish Week 11 when I stayed with a girl who took me running and climbing. But she also took me to the pub after we’d been exercising. Here I get protein shakes and vitamin smoothies! The Swedes win when it comes to being healthy ...

Anyway, I’m very grateful that I got to try ice-skating. Through Swenglish I've realised that I feel the most alive when I try something new and challenge myself - no matter how scary it is. 

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Week25: A Vegetarian's Nightmare

I had feared this week for ages. As a part of Swenglish I shadow my hosts at their workplace when possible. My childhood friend and current host spends her days cutting up pigs and making mince out of cows. Luckily I just had to observe rather than take part, but that was sickening enough.

In Sweden there are hardly any proper butcher’s shops left. The closest you get to a butchers’ is the ”fresh” meat area of a supermarket, but even so that kind of business is dying down in favour of pre-packed meat.

The small supermarket where my friend works is situated in a village near my hometown where the local dialect is very strong. I found it amusing to listen to the customers who sounded very rude, even if they didn't mean to. There aren't any pleases and not too many thank yous in Sweden.

At the end of the day I helped with the washing up, rinsing off corpse parts from the trays and pouring bloody water down the sink. And I was close to puking when I was shown the ox tongue. My friend thought I would get used to it, but I declined her offer to spend another day at her workplace ... To me, eating pigs and cows and sheep is the same as eating cats and dogs and other pets, so that's why I find it so hard to handle meat.

I’m pretty convinced I’ll remain a vegetarian for the rest of my life. It’s better for the animals, the environment and the health. Even though it was a small supermarket, I was happy to find a few vegetarian and vegan products like oat ice-cream and soya sausages. In general I think there are more and better veggie options in English shops, and the labeling in Britain is great: you don’t have to read the ingredients, just look for the wording ”suitable for vegetarians” which doesn't exist in Sweden.