Five hundred and twentythird Asic – The Grapes of Wrath- A Sort of Book Review

What Makes a Good Book Good Enough?

That is one of the things that keeps me busy when I start reading any book whatsoever… Like many other students I was forced to read ”Of Mice and Men” in school as a teenager, and I guess my teacher picked the novel for a few different reasons, among one was the endurable length… I was however thrilled by the way Steinbeck built up his characters and how the story developed.  From a few hints on how George and Lennie had to move on again, after something terrible had happened, I realized I was already thinking; What had happened? As a young reader of a classic novel I was thrilled enough to keep reading until the very last page… I also read ”The Pearl” with great interest and without any effort, but for a novel like ”The Grapes of Wrath” it takes 455 pages before you know the end of the story. As a young reader, I did not meet that challenge, but a summer a couple of years ago, during a vaction in California, ”The Grapes of Wrath” was my perfect companion. I drove past the road sign with ”Salinas” and I went to Monterey and the Monterey Bay Aquarium where a section in the Museum describes John Steinbeck’s writing and I was happy to know that in my car, the book was waiting for me to turn the next page and the next…

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John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in 1962,

”for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception”

 Although ”The Grapes of Wrath” was written in 1938 and first published in 1939, the content is extremely important also in 2018. Migrants today, face the same kind of ignorance and racism as the Okies (people from Oklahoma, moving to California) in Steinbeck’s novel. Migrants both now and then, left for the thought of a better future, filled with hope, but also fear. Their plans and hopes are not always fulfilled…

Describing the process of change in a person’s life, like Steinbeck does in ”The Grapes of Wrath”, is a delicate matter between being true or being pathetic. Neither can you exaggerate too much nor be too shallow.

The novel very closely describes the extremely poor conditions for migrant workers in California in the thirties. Racism, cruelty and violence together with greed seems to be the rule and being from Oklahoma, means being an Okie, which is a stigmatised group at the time. No matter how hard they work, they seem to face very little understanding and empathy from the Californians. The Okies move from one workplace to the other and get less paid for each time they move, so it seems.

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Throughout the novel, Steinbeck give descriptions of the surrounding landscape and certain topics of interest. One of the chapters is like a dialogue between a car salesman and an Okie buyer and written with humor, although the underlying message is that many poor Okies were fooled by the car dealers, selling off good cattle or mules in trade for a jalopy. Another such chapter is a very nice description of a few instruments, the harmonica, the guitar and the fiddle and how they blend in together for the coming dance evening, when a certain piece of music is played. That is also where ”Swedes up in Dakota” (p 342) are mentioned, which is fun to read for me as Swedish.

But apart from these humorous chapters, there are also some very critical topics, as when Steinbeck describes how land owners had too much fruit and too much potatoes, too many pigs and instead of giving the food to the extremely poor workers, they poisoned the potatoes, drowned the pigs and drenched the fruit in kerosene, only for the pleasure of not giving it to the starving workers. That is when ”The Grapes of Wrath”(p 349) is uttered…

A good book is a book you never forget…

That is what ”The Grapes of Wrath” was to me…

 

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Annonser

Femhundratjugoandra åseriet- Den svenska skogen och dess dragningskraft för själen

lingonrisA close encounter with a pine treetallskog vid Malingarna_1Tallskogen och jag har för länge sedan hittat varandra. Jag tror att jag alltid har trivts i den öppna skogen där man har möjlighet att se väldigt långt under trädkronorna. Dessutom är det ju fullt möjligt att ta sig fram smidigt och lätt, i jämförelse med de skogar där undervegetationen fullständigt tar över och man får slå sig fram genom sly och buskage. Så här års är det blåbär och lingon som samsas med kråkbär odon och mjölon. Jag hittade en tallstam att luta huvudet mot en stund. Den var solvarm och slät och i bakgrunden hördes vågskvalp. Nära stranden där jag var, fanns inte enbart de väldigt höga tallarna, utan även deras yngre släktingar… Här fanns plats för både tallfjortisar och tallungar…

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När jag var liten läste jag Elsa Beskows böcker och varje gång jag nästan pulsar i blåbärsris den här tiden på året, tänker jag på hur Putte kämpade i blåbärsskogen…

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sjö vid Malingarnasjö vid Malingarna

I tallskogens närhet finns sjöar med rent och klart vatten. På ytan skymtar en och annan vit näckros och på avstånd hör jag storlomen. Det är helt klart tallskogen som ger mig mest energi, men den dunkla mystiken som präglar en vanlig granskog är också tilldragande!

A pointing finger in the forest När jag kommit ut ur tallskogen hittade jag en ensam gran som uppfordrande pekade mot en granskog en bit bort. Jag bestämde mig för att göra granen till viljes… och sökte mig in bland de mjuka mossiga tuvorna där stenar och stubbar sedan länge gömts undan. I vilken granskog som helst tänker jag kanske inte på John Bauer, men i den här typen av orörd urskog, så är det svårt att låta bli… Det är en riktig trollskog! Så känns det! Vid något tillfälle under min promenad vänder jag blicken uppåt och ser torra grenar på en grupp med granar. Jag drar mig till minnes att granar ibland växer i grupp, som syskon… Det såg jag också vid besöket i den Nordamerikanska skogen Muir Woods sommaren 2016.

Ändå kan jag inte låta bli att tänka på att den här skogens grenverk måste te sig skrämmande mot en månbelyst kvällshimmel… Förr i världen när man trodde på skrömt och trodde sig veta att skogsrået och trollen bodde i skogen, ville man kanske inte heller gå här på kvällstid? Bakom stenarna lurar varg och lo i den vidsträckta skogen långt bort från människors hus. Det är fint att det är dag, tänker jag… Då slipper jag undra om jag är själv här eller inte…

Alla vassa konturer och hårda ytor är försvunna under ett grönt och mjukt lager. Här och där trotsar några stjälkar harsyra eller en liten svamp den dominerande mossmattan… Där granar av ålder släppt sina barr eller ståtar med torra grenverk av okänt skäl, kämpar myror för att utöka sina domäner…

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För egen del stannar jag till och lyssnar…

Skogens omisskännliga sus dominerar i den skenbara tystnaden.

Jag gläds åt att vara så långt ifrån allmän väg att inga bilar kan höras.

Detta är en lisa för själen! 

 

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Five hundred and seventeenth asic- Four years…

Time is in many ways a very interesting phenomenon. No matter how hard we try to define it, we find ourselves lost in the relativity of time. What one person finds boring and time consuming may be interesting to someone else to the point where she loses the sense of time.

I started this blog four years ago. I started it because Sweden had a major election for the Parliament in 2014 and I thought it would be a great idea if I shared a few thoughts on teaching for the upcoming election. From my point of view, many journalists lacked the inside perspective from teaching and my contribution would thus be important.

An interesting and intriguing hobby started off… And not only did I write about teaching, but also various other topics.

Now, four years later, round 54,000 people have read my posts. I was more energetic in my writing in the beginning, but this year, 2018, we have another general election, so who knows? I may start writing more eagerly again… 😉

Fivehundred and sixteenth Asic- The Need for The Good Example in Times of Trouble

Migration is not a new phenomenon. People migrated thousands of years ago both abroad and within national borders. Despite the many negatively written articles lately, there are good examples that need to be acknowledged!

I once read in SvD (Svenska Dagbladet) about a small community in the middle of Sweden, where the new migrants were as many as the original inhabitants, but the people in Åre manned up and contributed volunteerly for the group of immigrants. Åre is very far away from the bigger cities. In a small community like Åre, connections between representatives of different authorities may be closer and I guess people in a small village also know each other quite well. When a busload of immigrants arrive, it may cause somewhat chaos for a short while, but true friendship in the local community is crucial. According to the article, people all contributed in their own different fields of society to help the immigrants as smoothly as possible. Today, not even two years later, the Åre society is profoundly changed in many positive ways.

I think, on a national level, when Sweden welcomed many of the refugees who had fled thru Europe in the fall of 2015, that was the only decent thing to do under those extreme circumstances. In my profession I meet many of them now, two years later and guess what? Many of the refugees who have been here less than three years, in fact cope quite well in their new lives in the wintery and snowy northern country of Sweden. My teaching subject is Swedish as a Foreign Language and I meet my students after they have passed the compulsory level and head on to higher levels of Swedish.

I cannot stress enough how rewarding it is to teach adult immigrants and share their stories about life. They learn Swedish, search for jobs and they dream of a home of their own and later a reunion with their family. Thoughts of the past, traumatic memories and losses may slow down the pace in which they learn to cope in their new environment, but despite very emotional events prior to their current situation, most of them are working hard to achieve their goals. In the long run, I think we all try to make the best of every situation despite hardships and trouble we pass along the way, at least that is what my students prove to me over and over again, every day in school.

Fivehundred and fourteenth åsic- The missing cars at IKEA in Philly

I noticed in almost every contact with my new American friends that their only connection to Sweden was that they liked the type of candy Americans call ”Swedish fish”. My first encounter with the so called ”Swedish fish” was about ten years ago when I bought some at Shoprite in the USA. When I now again got a lot of questions about ”Swedish fish” I was more and more curious about the fact that we really don’t see them much in Sweden. We rather eat a lot of other candy, for instance ”Ahlgrens bilar”, but many of us would probably spend time picking our true favorite candy at a store where we find ”pick and mix”. The answer to why there are very few ”Swedish fish” in Sweden, is to be found in the link below. Obviously this type of candy was created for the American continent and not for Sweden.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_Fish

If I would like to by my favourite Swedish candy, Ahlgrens bilar, where would I go? To IKEA, of course… So I did… But obviously they sell large quantities of ”Swedish fish” and the SWEDISH candy ”Ahlgrens bilar” were nowhere to be found in the store. Peculiar, since the candy cars are VERY popular in Sweden and would be, too, in America, if only the Americans had a chance to find them…

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Let’s hope @IKEA starts selling @Ahlgrens bilar at the Philly IKEA from now on! I am sure that 400 kids from a school in NJ will be very happy to buy them! I would too, when I return one day!

 

 

 

Five hundredth åsic- To choose or not to choose is the question, #Femhundrade åseriet

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When I was in NJ a couple of years ago I noticed that I am not very good at choosing and find myself ambivalent and indecisive, If there are a lot of options. At least when it comes to choosing food from a menu… 😀

I wonder if I possibly have inherited this from my daughter? We are just the same when we are in a situation of choice. If we get stuck, we do however have different solutions to our problem. My daughter would most likely go for a choice similar to some of her friends, and thus avoid the risk of feeling her own choice was in any way bad. I, myself, on the other hand, sometimes want to follow the stream, not be the one to be a nuisance to others. SO although we both may do as others do, we seem to do so for completely different reasons. We also both tend to pick ”both” when it may be difficult to pick ”either…or”…

One of my friends have decided for herself to give herself a kind of punishment if she cannot make a decision when she is picking something for her (fika)coffee. If she cannot make up her mind about what nice pastry to choose, she simply says: ”En kanelbulle, tack!” (A cinnamon bun, please!). I remember many different situations when this friend and I have lined up to buy a cup of coffee and she and I both try hard to make a decision, but when it’s our turn at the check-out, we realize that it’s impossible… Luckily a cinnamon bun is a great treat along with a cup of coffee!

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But…what if my reluctance to make a choice is the very reason why I find it so difficult to be decisive in my classroom, too? The Swedish School System allows a lot of democratic processes for students to be involved in. We are supposed to engage our students in decision-making and students have a right to make an impact and be active in evaluating their school situation from many different perspectives. I don’t mind that situation at all… In fact I enjoy being interactive with my students in order to develop the learning process from year to year. Having said that, I also notice that Swedish students tend to be used to this collaboration with their teachers and they are also interested in sharing their opinion, suggest possible improvements to instruction or lessons, but my current students from different parts of the world seem more or less new to the idea of sharing their ideas and views.

I remember a lesson I had planned for a group of SVA3, where the students were all supposed to act and also to reveal a certain personality in a dialogue with friends. I had hoped for the group to pick a card with a personality and then ”go for it”, but obviously they were all worried about the situation and thought it was a better idea if I handed out the cards and thus made the choice more of a ”random” situation. After the activity I asked the students why they didn’t want to take part in the process of choice and they all said that they thought it was scary and unusual to decide for themselves in a school situation. It didn’t matter that they were all adults. They were all facing their old school situations where teachers make decisions and students do as they are told.

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Is there a difference between situations where one wants to choose or not? I don’t know if that would be universal, but I think from my point of view that when the decision is important to me FOR REAL, then I don’t give away my chance to choose voluntarily, but if there is no real and deep meaning to me personally, then I don’t mind letting someone else pick a choice of their taste. That is also why I completely trusted my friends when we decided what food to buy when I was in the US a couple of years ago. I trusted their taste and I didn’t want to be a pain…so instead of making a decision they wouldn’t appreciate, I’d rather let them choose. I guess we are all different. I notice that I am a person with a ”decision disorder” 😀

So… To choose or not to choose, will also in the future be the most important question, in every situation there is.

This is my 500th blogpost! Thanks for reading! ❤

 

Four hundred and ninetyeighth Asic- Sunshine in November Makes Me Jump!

November has been going on for weeks, almost YEARS now… or at least ten days…but today it happened and I noticed! The sun managed its way through to us! I could almost pretend that it wasn’t November…! What a joyful moment! I’m happy! I think sunshine is nice whenever… but in November it’s like an award of some sort! I wake up when it’s dark, go to work when it’s dark…spend my day indoors and when it’s about time to leave for home again, it’s dark…! I know this is not the case all over the globe in November… 🙂 But here in Sweden where I live…!

I remember another year when the sun came out in November. I was not in my classroom, although none of my students would have frowned for a sunshine jump, but in the staff room. My reward  for my ”sunshine jump” was a lovely laughter from the two of my teaching friends who were in the staff room at the time. They were happy, too! We had all forgotten what the sun looked like and were SO happy for the unexpectedly bright sunshine for being this time of the year. I often notice in my classroom, with students from all over the world, that November is a challenge, especially to those who are used to bright sunshine all year through. I try to remind them of the importance of a walk or at least some well spent time outdoors, to get some daylight. I also tell them they may need Vitamin D…

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It is however not just sunshine that makes ME happy. I also look at the stars in the sky for relaxing purposes and this time of the year I search the sky for Orion and think of a friend I know who will search the sky for Orion, too. Sharing a quiet moment wide apart is a way of connecting despite long distance.

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