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

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.

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 ninetysixth åsic- ”HALF & HALF” or Completely Wrong!

I don’t drink regular milk since I have a lactose intolerance. For my visit here in the US I had to make sure there would be something to replace my usual products with and today it was time to fill the fridge again. After we got back home I wanted to comment on ”milk” in general and since ”my” family here drink something that they call ”HALF&HALF” (a mixture of milk and cream as I understand it). I wanted to know what that was. So I asked…and they both laughed. I didn’t quite get what’s wrong, but I found out soon enough. They repeated what I said and I still couldn’t get it. I said it again, ”HALF&HALF”. Then they said: ”We don’t say that!” I couldn’t understand, because on the box it clearly says ”HALF&HALF” and that was what I said, over and over again. Finally I ASKED them what THEY said then… They said, too: ”HALF&HALF”, but their sound of the ”A” was as far from mine as the distance from here to Buckingham Palace! We all laughed and made fun of the different pronunciations and what would happen if you loudly would shout out in the store HERE, but with my pronunciation: ”Dear, please go and get some ”HALF&HALF”!!

My reflection is that if my friends hadn’t pointed out that we in fact used different pronunciations for the expression, I wouldn’t have noticed. I know that may seem weird to some of you, but different accents don’t ”bother” me anymore and I know my own accent is a strange mixture of different accents. A few people in school last week suggested I’ve got an Irish accent, which I enjoyed, since I have never been there… 😀

Four hundred and ninetyfifth åsic- Fika as an ice-breaker is never wrong!

There are many times I have marvelled over the word fika and how it doesn’t seem to have any translation in many other languages. Today was another of those times! 

This morning at the ”Sweden Day” at the school I visit I shared the concept of FIKA and explained what it is to the members of the staff. I was surprised that so many seemed to like the idea of FIKA and that made me think of a completely different situation some years ago. I talked to an American woman, who was married to a Swedish man.

This woman had learned by being in Sweden what fika was, and her idea of it was pretty much like the one I wrote on the whiteboard today (which I share above). As we talked we realized that the two of us had talked to Americans about the concept of fika, but in different parts of the country. I have only met people on the East Coast and she had just talked to people in California about it. Both her friends and mine had to some extent started to USE the word fika in the American English. What I now hope for, is for both the actual WORD and also the CONCEPT to spread across the continent. That would be amazing!

One of the teachers who had fika with me this morning, came back to the classroom after a while and asked me how to use the word in a sentence if he wanted to invite someone for a fika. So now, let’s spread it! There are different ways to invite, depending of the situation, but in English you can say like this if you like:

  • Do you want some fika?
  • How about some fika?
  • Are you up to some fika?

Fika can mean just a cup of coffee or tea, or it can mean coffee+ a sandwich, or it can mean coffee+a bun, or it can mean, coffee+ bun+ cake+cookies+ tårta, which is a Swedish kind of cake with no frosting/icing, but more likely whipped cream. The funny part is that fika also can mean ALL of the mentioned categories… There are really SO many different connections to the word in Swedish that it is very difficult to explain. Instead it is necessary to see the phenomenon as something ELSE, but ”having coffee”. It is a chance to SHARE with friends. What do we share then? It is not just the COFFEE, but thoughts, ideas, gossip, memories, jokes… Having a fika with someone is paying attention to that person, having a good time together with someone for a while. That is why I want the word to spread… So please, help me ”spread the word”… 😀

TILL MINA ELEVER är här en liten ”språkruta”:

Ska vi ta en fika? Hänger du med och fikar? Kom så fikar vi! Nu skulle det sitta fint med en fika! En slät kopp (= kaffe utan något fikabröd till) fika räcker! Vi ses på fiket! Vi hinner kanske med en språngfika om vi skyndar oss? Jag har fikarast mellan nio och tio varje morgon. Men jag brukar kvällsfika vid TV:n också. Stina kör långtradare och hinner inte med så långa raster, men ibland stannar hon på ett långtradarfik. 

 

Four hundred and ninety fourth åsic- The Yellow Wall and The Blue Wallpaper

I used to teach in another classroom a couple of years ago. When I started off teaching there, I had an opportunity to decide for myself what the classroom would look like. I think that is one of the reasons that I liked it there. When moving out , I removed all the details because I wanted to give the new teachers the same opportunity to do whatever they wanted to make the classroom feel like ”theirs”.

This is something I wrote when I was still teaching in my old room: 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper is an American short story read  by many, but how many of the readers have spent a fortnight of pure creative language learning in a yellow classroom ? The teacher had painted her classroom herself and turned the dark dull room in the basement into a positive oasis for learning. All walls were painted in a bright yellow colour. Her combination of gifts from previous students, her own creations or things she had got here and there, together with wisdom on little plaques or instruction posters with different themes like weekdays, phrases or words for certain occasions, gave the impression of a nice and welcoming place where the soul of learning was more important than anything else. Soul in English almost sounds like sun in Swedish, sol.

My classroom is not painted by me and it is not yellow either, but I have hanged The Blue Wallpaper myself and I have added a lot of blue accents, such as glass, fabric or decorations. Blue is my fave color and it also lead my thoughts to water or to a realxing feeling that makes me calm. In one of the corners of my room I have a waterdoor… In another corner are verbs connected to language use. The many hearts on the window to our pentry is decorated with thoughs or words on the theme LOVE. I think my students are important in many ways. I also find their background, culture and languages important. I think it is necessary for a classroom where languages are taught, that you actually can see that we speak different languages. All those languages are important. Knowing several languages is a true wisdom!

BLÅTT och GULT

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The teacher I visited in NJ, USA was teaching about weather expressions in Spanish when I was there and both the students and herself were happy… and yellow is the happy color that perfectly suits a classroom for Spanish lessons. A saying by an ”unknown” author that suits the yellow classroom very well:

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow

Four hundred and ninety third åsic- Uppe med tuppen!- Being an early bird!

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I have noticed that one good thing with travelling across time zones is that there is a good chance to change bad habits! 😀

I agree completely with the Swedish saying ”Morgonstund har guld i mund”

Generally I do get up in the morning and start my day, but I’m not really awake…Here, six hours after my regular time zone, I have decided to get up whenever I feel alert, although it’s not ”six o’clock” as usual… Today the hour I woke up was 5.30 and I didn’t mind!

 

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Yesterday night when I accidently woke up in the middle of the night, I got a snapchat from one of my daughters. I replied…although I was tired, saying ”it’s in the middle of the night!” HER snapchat was a very alert and neat pic of herself and her friend singing and playing the guitar at school and I thought: ”Oh, NO! Not NOW! I’m TIRED!” …but it also made me aware of the wonder of TIME.

I’d say TIME is a phenomenon human beings invented. My host HERE would say ”We (the AMERICANS) invented time!” … And honestly, since time flies, I don’t have time to do my homework and find out for real who ”invented” what we all refer to as time.

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I do however enjoy the many aspects of time that make a life worth living. What if we never had any sunsets? What if you couldn’t wake up an early morning in late May in Sweden and have a cup of coffee outdoors while letting the sun warm your face. What if you couldn’t catch a flight to the USA and try to leave the sunrise behind you? There is however one thing I don’t appreciate about the way WE adjust to time. I understand why we all need to do the daylights saving change of time but having said that, I must admit I’m probably the most tired person on earth when we change all our clocks in the spring. I am probably also the luckiest person next weekend when I get my reward for struggling every morning for several months. Kronblom might be TOO lazy, but he is for sure the character I think of, connected to the words ”lazy” or ”relax”.

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Here, during my visit in NJ, I have noticed that I do have a serious chance to give myself the treat of feeling alert at five in the morning! That’s amazing and I love the calm and relaxed morning I get in return for getting up early.

The lunch break in Sweden is up, but here we haven’t yet started our day. When I get back from school this evening, my Swedish friends will be on their way to bed… I can now see why there is a slight problem finding decent hours to chat online with a person from another part of the world. Being here is being ”right in the middle of things” when it’s a decent hour on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean… I’d better keep that in mind when I get back home to Sweden again! It has been said many times in Latin, not quite as many in Swedish, but it is an important thing to remember:

Fånga dagen!