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 fifth åsic- Saint Lucia brings the Light in the Dark!

Lucia-13.12.06.jpg (874×691)

Saint Lucia or Saint Lucy of Syracuse, from round 300 AC, is today’s protagonist in many different settings… The legend says that Saint Lucia was born in Italy in Syracuse. She was of noble family, but since her father had died Saint Lucia and her mother didn’t have any other solution to support themselves but for the young Lucia to marry a rich man. Lucia, however, had already dedicated her heart to God and did everything in her power to prevent a marriage. According to the legend, Lucia’s eyes were very beautiful. She even tore her eyes out and gave them to one of the men who came to propose, because she wanted to discourage the man. When Lucia was buried her eyes had been restored through miracle and that was also why she was honored as a Saint during the Middle Ages (1).

Why would a country like Sweden celebrate a saint from Italy, you may think? In the winter Sweden and the other Nordic countries long for the summer not only because of the cold and snowy winter, but also because of the darkness. Saint Lucia is celebrated every year the 13th of December and in Sweden the tradition is still very important for Christmas celebration. Many of the traditional songs are sung not only the 13th, but also during Christmas.

Lucia processions are organized all over Sweden and throughout all different sectors in the society. Kids celebrate in pre-schools or schools and adults celebrate if they are choir members for instance. Many towns or cities i Sweden have their own Lucia processions and on TV they show the official Lucia show of the year.

As a young girl I was in my first Lucia procession when I was a few years old. As a teenager I started to sing in a girls choir called Bjursåsflickorna. We gave many Lucia concerts every year. One of the years we were asked to perform at a dinner in the Royal Castle in Stockholm. It was very exciting and a memorable moment. Princess Madeleine who is now a Mom herself, was climbing on the chairs and crawling under the table and was quite an active little girl at the time. The very same choir also performed a traditional Lucia concert at Lugnet’s sports stadium in April… We were pretending it was winter, because of some honorable guests from the International Olympic Comittée. One of them was the chairman at that time, Juan Antonio Samaranch. The idea was for us to sing to bring the Olympic Winter Games to Falun… Obviously that was a  mission impossible. Falun lost.

Singing for Lucia in strange places seemed to be one of the habits of this choir. I remember we even sang in the Falu Copper Mine, in almost complete darkness and with the damp vitriolic scent in our noses, helmets on our heads and just a candle to light our way down there. Very exciting and completely unique at that time. I know that later on, many other choirs have sung in the copper mine, too. Nowadays I come across Lucia processions ”by accident”, like for instance today when I visited the shopping mall Kupolen in Borlänge, or when students at school perform. I have also accompanied my own children on different occasions, but for myself, I would say my celebration of the Saint Lucia is found in memory lane…

Before I let you go, let’s just glance at a picture of a typical saffron bun, called ”lussekatt” in Swedish.

#lussekatter, #asaole

But hey… Why invent the wheel??? Please check this link from youtube in order to finally understand this topic!

Four Hundred and Eighty-Third Asic- 9/11 in Retrospective

Sixteen years ago I was on maternity leave with my youngest daughter. I spent my days breastfeeding… at least so it seems in a retrospective. My daughter was the kind of baby that you cannot really feed enough, so I found myself watching all the available soap operas… There was however one afternoon (…but it was MORNING in the USA…) that was not at all like the rest. In Sweden where I live, like in most other countries, we have the tradition of ”breaking news” if something extraordinary happens. I remember the 9th of September 2001 exactly like that. I was actually watching an extra news alert with the footage of the first Tower of WTC burning when there, right then, the second tower was hit. The Swedish News reporter commented this and I remember I felt strangely aware of that particular moment, as a ”NOW” to remember forever… A truly moment of MINDFULNESS.

My first reaction after a short while, was to write to my friend in NJ. At the time he worked as a teacher in a school south of Philly. I wrote ”Are you safe?” and he pretty much replied ”Yes. Why do you ask?” and as I remember it, he and the rest of the staff in that school did NOT know from the start what had happened in NYC, but I did, 8000 km away… That was the start of a surreal experience of watching a part of our history from my livingroom. In fact, it all happened then and there in front of me and it was horrific. I remember thinking of the future then and now I think of all the things that have happened AFTER that date. There are wars and conflicts all over the globe. Terror and meaningless violence has become a part of our time, no matter what we think. It makes me sad that so many people worldwide suffer from conflicts or become the victims of terror acts.  I think the only way to change is within ourselves. Worldwide peace may not come during my lifetime, but I hope for a more generous era soon to come. It is about time we give peace a chance.

#Himmel, #asaole



Four Hundred and Eightieth 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 last summer, 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…


John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in 1962,

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

To me as a Swedish reader, both when I was young and now, I  must say Steinbeck really made a difference. I can see his deep engagement concerning important issues in society and although ”The Grapes of Wrath” was written in 1938 and first published in 1939, the content is extremely important also in 2016. In Europe where I live, migration is an every day topic, since many thousands of people are on the move between different countries. Some end up in camps or in asylum seeking procedures where bureaucratic systems cannot handle the massiv number of applications quick enough. 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 may be delayed or sometimes changed, and for a few the plans and hopes may never be fulfilled, due to accidents or other problems along the way.

Describing the process of change in a person’s life, like Steinbeck does in ”The Grapes of Wrath”, is a delicate matter, since it is walking on a thin line between being true or being pathetic. Neither can you exaggerate too much nor be too shallow. When the story begins we meet the American state Oklahoma when the weather conditions have been very poor for a long time. Draught and winds have left the land destroyed and every corn field has a layer of dust that makes the corn worthless. The protagonist Tom Joad, is an ex-convict from Mac Alester, where he sat four years for homicide. Now he is out on parole. Tom Joad comes back home in company with an old friend of the family, Jim Casy. In order to find job and better opportunities the Joads decide to leave Oklahoma for California. During the long trip from Sallisaw, Oklahoma to California both Grandpa and Grandma die. Tom’s brother Noah, and his sister’s boyfriend Connie leave the family for different reasons, but the rest of the family stick together. Ma and Pa, Tom and his brother Al, their sister Rosasharn who is pregnant and the younger children Ruthie and Windfield all come to California after a very tough trip through several states, over mountains and finally through the desert.

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 Joads and the other Okies move from one workplace to the other and get less paid for each time they move, so it seems. For several reasons Tom gets in trouble again.


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…

For a period of time, the Joads live in the Weedpatch camp, which is a state camp. For the first time in their lives, Ruthie and Windfield see toilets. The workers are all involved in taking care of the camp together, making sure it is kept clean. Here the Joads meet other people they can trust and make friends with and for a moment the reader is fooled to think this book has a happy ending…

I highly recommend ”The Grapes of Wrath” if you would like to get a glimpse of migrant life from the inside. The novel reveal several complex issues and through the Joads and their discussions throughout the novel, you and I get a chance to consider those issues, too. With the coming election in the USA last year when I was there, the voters could decide whether there would be harder times or not for migrant workers from abroad, picking fruit and cotton in California for the benefit of American producers. Some of the migrants came there just like the Joads, with the hope of a better future. Some of the current Californians are likely to be decendants from Okies who came in the thirties.

Let us read books like ”The Grapes of Wrath” and never forget what made us the ones we are today.


Fyrahundrasjuttionde åseriet- Funderingar på nationaldagen

Det fanns en reklamsnutt för ICA i TV just på nationaldagen för något år sedan, som fångade mitt intresse. Det var ett norskt par som diskuterade vilken dag det var svenskarna skulle fira just den dagen… Till slut enades paret om att det inte kunde vara något extra med den där dagen, eftersom ingen i ICA-affären verkade det minsta inställda på firande.

Men varför firar vi då?

Nationaldagen har ofta sammanfallit med skolavslutningen och då har jag varit i tjänst som klassföreståndare med elever som snart ska få sommarlov. Den svenska nationalsången har jag hört många varv detta datum och vackrast har den varit då den framförts på trumpet vid flaggan på Stallbackens skola där jag jobbade för ett antal år sedan. På senare år har jag upplevt att även om jag anser att vi har en nationalsång som kan få mig att bli tårögd av både högtidlighet och rörelse, så kan det säkert finnas andra musikstycken som bättre beskriver det jag vill att landet Sverige ska stå för. Det är inte det storvulna skrytet över fornstora dagar som känns viktigast. En nationalsång borde uppmuntra gemenskap och vikänsla och självklart inkludera alla som ställer sig bakom det som är vårt samhälles grundvalar. Den svenska konstitutionen med de många friheter vi har, är vad jag vill värna. Följ länken om du är osäker på vad som gäller!

Sveriges demokratiska system och våra grundlagar

Vi borde alla bidra till en ökad gemenskap mellan alla de olika grupper som tillsammans utgör landet Sveriges befolkning idag 2017, det som NU är VI. Komikern Soran Ismail, som många gånger fått utstå spott och spe med anledning av sin kurdiska bakgrund blev vid ett tillfälle intervjuad i SVT1 av Micke Lejnegaard om svenskhet  ”Vad är du i första hand, Soran? Är du kurd eller svensk?” frågade Lejnegaard. Soran undrade varför han måste välja det ena eller det andra. ”Jag är svensk, för det står det i mitt pass. Det är min nationalitet. Men jag är etnisk kurd, om det nu skulle spela någon roll för någon annan än mig själv på det privata planet”, menade Soran.

Jag är stolt över att jag är svensk och jag unnar alla andra som känner sig svenska att få känna samma stolthet. Att inkludera alla är viktigt för att bygga en inre styrka i samhället. När man är delaktig uppstår dessutom en ökad känsla av meningsfullhet och intresse för att bidra med goda idéer. När svenskarna utvandrade till Amerika för drygt hundra år sedan, så tog det väldigt lång tid för dem att känna sig som amerikaner, sägs det. Kan vi dra lärdom av det? Kan vi vara bättre på att inkludera dem som kommer till vårt land? Kan vi se mångfaldens möjligheter? Om vi kan det, så är den svenska nationaldagen ett fint tillfälle att manifestera en mer välkomnande inställning.

Flera av mina vänner som kommit hit till oss från andra länder, skriver inlägg på facebook med rubriken ”Grattis Sverige!” en dag som denna. Inte en enda av de personer jag känner som är födda här, har kommit på idén att gratulera landet Sverige. Varför inte? Vad gör man på nationaldagen? Vad ska man ha dagen till? Nu är den dessutom en röd dag i almanackan!

Det finns så många saker man kan göra på en ledig dag! Många ska säkert inte alls ”fira” dagen. Den passerar bara som en dag i mängden… Andra har fått en ledig dag från jobbet och passar på att rensa ogräs eller måla om uthuset eller kanske plantera nya blommor i balkonglådan. Men vissa deltar också i någon gemensam aktivitet, där syftet är just att försöka stärka traditionerna kring nationaldagen. Just i år ska jag faktiskt både baka kakor inför min dotters student OCH ta del av det nationaldagsfirande som min lilla kommun erbjuder, mest för ATT.

Vi ska vara glada över att vi utan problem kan rensa ogräs eller måla båten på vår nationaldag om det är det vi vill. Om vi hade bott i en diktatur hade vi tvingats ut för att göra något som regimen hade bestämt, paradera framför vår diktator kanske? När vi klagar över dem som ”inte firar” ska vi minnas att vi har möjlighet att välja och att det valet i sig är värt att värna! Nu har jag dessutom utnyttjat flera av mina grundlagsskyddade friheter… åsiktsfriheten och tryckfriheten till exempel! 🙂

Grattis Sverige! ❤

Fyrahundrafemtioförsta åseriet- #Earth hour 2017

I ett antal år har jag släckt i huset och tänt stearinljus och lyktor för att delta i den världsomspännande Earth Hour. Så också detta år. I år tänker jag läsa medan den där tysta och avelektrifierade timmen pågår. Om jag nu skulle tycka att det är svårt att läsa i skumrasket från stearinljuset, så kan jag ju alltid tänka på dem som för längesedan var tvungna att avstå från att läsa för att de inte hade någon ljuskälla när mörkret inträtt eller kanske de som inte fick läsa, för att man skulle spara på den talgdank man hade… Jag känner mig lyckligt lottad som i vanliga fall kan läsa när andan faller på…

Hur tillbringar du din timme?

Four hundred and fiftieth asic- #Earth hour 2017

There are moments when I just join in without second thoughts! This is such a moment. In about fifty minutes Earth Hour 2017 will start here in Sweden where I live. Every year I try to put out candles and lanterns in my windows this evening and thinking I am part of a movement worldwide. I also try to find things to do during Earth Hour, that is connected to the world… This year I have chosen to read in the light of a candle, but not just ”any book”… I expect to find wise words from very different perspectives when reading this book:

How will you celebrate this hour of ours?