Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A day in the life: Tobo edition

06:30. Alarm. Last week I was waking up before the alarm. This week, not so much… o'well.

07:10. Coffee needs to either be made or in preparation. Today Greg actually was awake at this time too because he had an early class to teach. Even though he is not a morning person, it is still good to have a bit of extra time where we are both home and both awake.

07:40. Leave home. Get on bicycle. Cycle to the train station. You know in Super Mario Kart where you could race against the ghost of your own driving from the previous game? Sometimes I wish I had that so I could compare my pace from one day to the next. Some days I feel strong and feel like I am riding fast. Some days I feel like all the wind is against me, and there are all the cars in the way never leaving a gap big enough for me to cross at that one intersection. But then I get to the train station, and I seem to end up arriving within the same couple minutes every day.

08:00. Arrive at train station. Search for bicycle parking. I have an ideal row where I would park. It is primarily the ideal so that I can actually find my bike again in the evening when I return to town. After my first day of class I got back to Uppsala and spent a solid five minutes wandering through the bikes looking for my Elegance 3, so now I try really hard to make a strong mental note of where I park every day.

This photo is over two years old, but that is me on my bike and I don't think things have changed much.

08:09. Train departs. I usually spend my time on the train reading, taking notes, or talking with others from the school who might happen to be commuting on the same train as me. This morning I read six (!) pages from a book I am reading that is written in easy Swedish.

08:38. Arrive in Tobo. From here I take my second bike (owning two bicycles is a sure sign of riches, let me tell you) to the institute. This is just a quick seven-ish minutes, including unlocking and re-locking time.

09:00. Class starts! We have two teachers, but usually only one of them is leading the course each day, and they alternate days according to a schedule. Today was an unusual day though, because we had both teachers, and also a guest who was a former student of the class who came to observe and will be teaching us tomorrow. When I moved to Sweden two years ago and took a beginners' course in Swedish folk dance, he was one of my teachers. Today I told him that it will be good to have a lesson with him where I actually understand some of what he is saying. Such a novelty!

Today we did a lot of observing of our two teachers dancing together, and taking note of different things and discussing those things. Then two pairs worked together, with one pair dancing behind the teachers and trying to mimic them exactly, and the other pair observing and giving feedback about what looked the same and what maybe didn't, or how to try to make it look the same. All in all this amounted to more sitting than a typical day, but it was a really interesting way to explore some details in the dance.

10:40. Fika! Stina baked chocolate cake!

11:00. Back to dancing/observing/discussing.

12:25. We were having some good discussions and no one realized that lunch had started ten minutes prior. We kind of have these ridiculously good meals every day, but I don't want to talk it up too much or Greg will be jealous of how good I'm actually eating every day. Today we had salad, coleslaw, and bowtie pasta with sauce.

13:10. Back to dancing/observing/discussing.

15:00. Fika! Still some cake left. Plus we've had baby oranges lately, but combining them with coffee is a little unfortunate.

15:20. Back to dancing/observing/discussing.

16:15. Class ends. I stay and dance for a little bit more. I really really like dancing after class, but so far only a couple of my classmates are enthusiastic about more dancing after a day full of dancing.

16:30. Wash my hands. Change back into civilian clothes. Take bicycle to train.

16:49. Take the train back to Uppsala. There seemed to be some issues with the trains today, so ours was on the opposite track from normal, and the northbound train was super delayed, but luckily no delay in my train:) I spend the train ride home taking notes from the day. Actually I wasn't even able to finish taking my notes, so I'll have to continue that on my train tomorrow morning.

17:25. This train always seems to get in a bit late. Depart train. Locate bicycle. Ride home. (bicycling during commuting times is madness)

17:50. Get home. Start laundry. Make a list of four items to get from the grocery store. Check email, realise that Greg is probably going to be home any minute. Greg arrives. We go to the store and buy eleven items. (Our little shop next door has had kale for the past few days! I couldn't be more excited, so we express our gratitude by buying large quantities! Which only explains one of the seven additional items, but I'm done blogging about the details of my grocery shopping for today.)

18:15. Return home. Wash dishes. Make dinner. [Have dinner made for me.] Eat dinner while watching youtube videos of Dancing with the Stars clips.

And so here is a thing that is not at all related to my day-in-the-life. Why the heck do they keep making the stars on Dancing with the Stars dance a waltz to music that is in beats of 4 and not 3?!?!? This makes me so super incredibly angry. I just cannot even! Don't try to claim that you are teaching these people about dancing. Music & dance. Dance & music. If you want the two to go together, there needs to be a connection between the two. Dancing a dance that is designed in beats of 3 to music in beats of 4 makes ZERO sense. Rant Rant Rant. You are doing a BAD job of teaching non-dancers about dance, DWTS!

Anyhow. The rest of my evening has been fairly uneventful, mostly revolving around laundry. And DWTS anger, apparently. And blogging this super narrative! My favorite part is that I included just one photo that was taken over two years ago. Better luck next time. Thanks for reading along!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How my folk dance life looks

Lately I can't even grasp (or put words to) how good my everyday life is. All of it is just so so good. Even on the days when I am frustrated because I can't understand how I'm doing some step incorrectly. Or even when I understand it is incorrect, but can't figure out how to fix it. Or when I can't sleep because my mind won't let go of wrapping itself around a dance.

Even the negatives start to sound like positives.

I can't imagine many other things that could be as beautiful. To me, this is complete luxury.


A foggy morning at the train station in Tobo. Have I mentioned my school is in a very small town?




My favorite is the two matching dance legs in the foreground.


Not Swedish, but still lovely to watch.


That's more like it(:


And a parting shot of the Tobo train station by night.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hooray for the fortuitous things in life

I am a commuter now, and I feel pretty proud of myself for that. My commute originally consisted of a twenty minute bike ride, a half hour train ride, and then a fifteen minute walk. Inverse and repeat to return home. With planning to arrive early enough to not miss my train (has happened once already…) this ends up being about an hour and a quarter each way. All in all I really enjoy the time, but I was thinking that it might be even more enjoyable to turn that fifteen minute walk into a six minute bike ride. I had been thinking about starting to search for a used bike that I'd be able to keep on the other end.

Two bikes in Sweden. I am just really living large!

I wasn't looking forward to starting the search process, so I was dragging my feet a bit. Used bikes can sometimes be stolen bikes, and I wasn't sure how I was going to go about that process. And then I went to the astronomers' pub night, and I met a guy who lives in the city where my school is. We chatted a bit about the long, straight, flat walking path (used to be a railway) between the train station and town. I mentioned that I was thinking of buying a second bike to keep there. He mentioned that he had a bike there that he shouldn't be riding because it is too small for him and gives him pain in his knees. Four days later I bought his bike from him(:

And in case you were wondering, I did check to make sure the bike was a nice color (silverish-blue) and more importantly, well-named (Bellevue by Logan), before buying it.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On my new endeavor

Soon I will be taking up my new post as a full-time student in a Swedish folk dance course. I guess I don't have too much more to say on the topic, actually.

I am really super excited.

The culture of the folky world is sort of the opposite of the culture of the academic world. This was an important change I wanted to make for myself, and I seem to have done so to the extreme.

There are many things I'm looking forward to, and also a few things I am nervous about. I hope I can keep it a place where I commit to speaking mostly in Swedish and seldom in English. I haven't had many opportunities to make first-impressions while only speaking Swedish, and I'm curious how I will come across. Mostly I don't want people to think that my bad Swedish skills mean I am unintelligent.

To be honest I hope the course improves both my dance skills and my language skills. I am interested to see which has greater improvement after the year is over.

So that is the new endeavor. I was a physics post-doctoral researcher, and now I'm becoming a Swedish folk dance student. Ta Da.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

On leaving the field

I am technically no longer a part of the academic system of scientific research.

It is often the case that if you are in the academic system, there is an expectation that you will stay put. Talking about leaving is reserved for quiet conversations among friends. The expectation comes in both the form of 'what you ought to do' and 'what people assume you will do as it is most likely.'

It is hard to break the expectation - to tell people you aren't going to do what they think you ought to, or that you aren't taking the path they suspect you will take. Probably most people can hear that I have chosen to leave the system and just say 'okay.'

But to me, it feels like I will get much stronger reactions.

And it is sort of the case that I am getting much stronger reactions, and these few are the ones that stick with me.

In the extreme case, it feels like I am letting people down and that I am disrespecting those who I worked immediately under. It is hard when you have a lot of respect for those people, and yet, making a choice about your own personal life can reflect just the opposite of that. In the not-so-extreme case, you know that people will judge you. You will now always be talked about simultaneously with "that guy who decided to pursue a career in photography after getting a PhD in physics … why even bother getting the PhD??" (not a hypothetical quotation, sadly)

I still like science. I still think my area of research is incredibly fascinating. I just have more compelling reasons for knowing that a career in the academic world is not for me.

And so I am leaving.

I don't feel like a failure and I don't feel like I am making a bad decision, and I'm trying my best not to absorb those feelings from people who think I should feel that way. It is an emotional and strange time, but I certainly don't feel sorry for myself and I hope no one else will either(:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Photos Lately

1. Remember that time I got excited about the pink beer we made? Well the pink beer will remain a dream, because this is what became of it.



Maybe the photos are self explanatory, but I'll write some words to go along with them. Maybe writing words can be part of my grieving process.

The pink beer was over-carbonated. We've never had a batch of beer over-carbonate, so this was a new experience for us. Normally when home brewers face this problem it means exploding bottles---glass and beer and danger everywhere. I guess we were lucky though? I managed to not put at least one cap on properly, so one evening we just heard it start to make a fizzing sound. Greg sprang into action, knowing the cap had to come off to avoid the risk of an exploding bottle. If I was as quick on my feet as he was, I would have made him wear the safety glasses. The first bottle got its cap removed indoors, and as you can see from the above photo, this resulted in pink beer dripping down our wall. The rest of the bottles were opened outdoors, using the open-inside-a-plastic-bag technique we learned from our experience eating surströmming.

2. Our garden is not a complete waste!


We got these three carrots recently. I was really excited to grow these because of their unique radish-like shape. They may be small, and not very substantial when split between two people, but we were really happy considering the last time we tried to grow carrots they got eaten/trampled by a cow (I have never owned a cow).

3. We took a long-ish bike ride to explore a new section of town.



4. I made some really delicious pizza.



I used this recipe and this recipe, both of which I'd recommend.

5. Right now there are blue skies, but about an hour ago there was a total downpour, resulting in all sorts of rainbow delight.




Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Two tales

Here are two tales about what it can be like in Swedish class.


On a given day, a lot of time is spent working on pronunciation of two specific letters. This is a thing that is done every Tuesday. We are working our way through the alphabet, slowly but surely. Today was a day for R and P. P and R, maybe I should say. There is a Q in the swedish alphabet, but it is rarely used.

The teacher mentions that there are some words that have a P or an R next to another consonant, and in those examples the P or the R can be silent. Actually the example she used was the word psalm, which is identical in spelling and meaning to the english word psalm, so that is convenient.

Then a student asks about another combination of two letters in a specific word where one of the letters is silent. The teacher explains that yes, there are a lot of cases where this is true. She writes a few more examples of various letter combos on the board, along with specific words where this is the case. She talks about it for several minutes. And then she says, "We can talk more about this tomorrow, since our main objective right now is pronunciation with P and R." Except she says it in Swedish. And I have a pretty good idea that the student could understand her, but either chose to not listen or just push her own objective, because she pressed on, repeating her initial question word-for-word, as if no answer had already been given.


Many times the teacher says something, only to have a student completely not understand and do just the opposite. It makes me laugh a lot, and I like laughing so it suits me just fine. An example is when we were gathering around a table to discuss a topic. The teacher said, "Oh we are not too many people, so we can fit around one table if we just bring over a couple more chairs." And two students looked at her, looked away, and then moved two chairs out of the way so that they could pull a second table over. The teacher just shrugged and said, "or not," which I guess makes sense, because what else is there left to do?