Monthly Archives: September 2010

Those Dancing Days

Today I discovered that this song I’ve been listening to for more than a month and that I really like is by a Swedish band! I have this playlist of songs that I downloaded kind of randomly a while ago, and I was looking up some of the bands when I found out that the band Those Dancing Days comes from a suburb of Stockholm called Nacka. I’ve even been there before! A friend of mine and I went there to visit her mom when I was in Stockholm for the first time a whole two years ago. So funny!

Those Dancing Days is a five-woman band, and they all met and start playing together when they were in school. I haven’t found that much other information about them, but you can listen to and see the music video for their song “Home Sweet Home” below. The song that was on my playlist was “Hitten,” and it’s really good, but there wasn’t an official music video online that I could find.

 

Cute, right?

And as an update to the fitness challenge… it’s day three of exercise madness, and I feel both energized and totally dead. I’m sore! But I do feel pumped up and ready to go. I love these classes that I’m going to—the gym I joined has all these yoga and pilates options, and they are just hard enough to be challenging but not discouraging. My body’s a little in shock, though. It hasn’t figured out why it’s being forced into activity so suddenly, and now I feel like I’m hungry around the clock. Woohoo! More cake for moi!

If you like this post, you might like…

First Aid Kit: Swedish Pop Folk Band

HOME!

OH MY LADY GAGA!

Internets Hodgepodge: Language-learning and bike riding

 

A New Challenge/Project

The whole “living abroad” thing is not always easy. There are ups and downs—feeling like you hate the place you’ve moved to, feeling like you’ll never fit in, feeling like everything is so different, incomprehensible, and difficult. You question your reasons for moving abroad, you get misty talking on the phone with your mom, you start to weigh the pros and cons of giving up on whatever you’re doing and just going back home where you understand who you are and how to do your daily life. I felt a lot of that when I first moved to Vienna in January, and at first I really searched for ways to make myself like living there. It seems kind of crazy now, of course, since I ended up loving living there and cried as I finally drove out of the city with my boyfriend to head north in July.

One thing that really got me through that period of feeling kind of lost, though, was creating different projects—different challenges—to tackle and conquer every month. I’m sure there are some psychological reasons why this is a great coping method, but I just came up with this routine of a monthly challenge because I had something concrete to look forward to accomplishing. During my six months in Vienna, I planted an indoor herb garden from seed, I learned how to bake bread, I learned how to speak (some) German, and I started blogging… for real. Then there were smaller projects, like baking a different kind of bread, learning how to poach an egg, going on adventures, and so on. These challenges I set for myself help filled the gap between working hours when I was in a new city with only one friend at first and trying to figure out what to do and how.

Fortunately, I’m not facing as many of the social and cultural challenges that I did in Vienna. The biggest difference is that I can go out and make friends with people without having to know Swedish. It’s incredible, actually; Swedish people my age really speak and understand English at an incredibly high level. Slang, shortenings (whaddaya mean?), technical jargon, whatever. Having a Swedish boyfriend to act as a personal cultural liaison and interpreter helps, too. The challenges I’m facing here are actually kind of similar to what I might be experiencing in the United States, although to a different degree—where do I look for a job, where do I find it, what should my resume look like, etc. Of course, not speaking Swedish and not having a Swedish education makes things a little more difficult, but I don’t think it’s unsurmountable. Enter a new challenge.

Nomad Couch’s 12 Week Fitness Challenge

I love Nomad Couch because it represents my dream life: having a location-independent business so I could roam the world at will and also have ongoing employment. It would be great to be the master of my own time, living primarily in one place with the freedom to take extended trips (not vacations) to wherever I want to go. So I’ve spent a lot of time reading articles on Nomad Couch and also emailing with Juha Liikala, the man behind the website, about my blog. He’s already been unbelievably helpful and patient (I am not exactly “good” at this “internet stuff”).

Anyway, the point is that Nomad Couch/Juha is doing something kind of unusual but pretty cool, which is starting a 12 Week Fitness Challenge. The idea is that any business or any blog needs the kind of mindset and attitude towards this work that maintaining a real exercise program needs: long term commitment to doing something pretty much every day. I am a sucker for group challenges, but I hate to exercise. I hate to exercise, but I would like to be healthy. I would like to be a good blogger and break on through to super-awesomeness, but I hate to exercise. Do you see how this works? Lots of reasons to do the fitness challenge on one side, “I hate to exercise” on the other side.

I’m going to do it.

OMG 12 WEEKS IS A REALLY LONG TIME.

I’m going to do it.

*Brain explodes.*

Anyway, I really am going to do it, and I was kind of feeling like well, I can quit if it’s too hard, but then Simon told me that if I was going to do it, my only choices were 100% or nothing, because only “kind of” doing a 12 week challenge like this is really lame. And I kind of agree, and I kind of disagree, but I definitely hate people thinking I’m lame. Maybe even more than I hate exercising.

Juha is doing this whole fitness program (I suspect him of being far more fit than I am), but I’m going to modify it a little. His fitness program is based a lot on weight lifting, and I’m looking for more all-around health. So I’m going to try to do cardio six days a week, plus some weight training, plus classes at the gym. That should do it. I mean, I’m starting from absolutely zero exercise, so really… that should do it. And hopefully this challenge will be good for me in ways that go beyond the physical training… having a schedule, building healthy habits, having higher energy, maybe even learning to like exercise. (We’ll see about that last part.) Bottom line, I don’t have a job, and if I can’t get up the motivation to start now, then when am I ever? That kind of question really does make me feel lame.

So I biked to the gym yesterday and did a Pilates class. Today, I’m going to do it again. Madness.

A Weekend of PROJECTS

Between Friday and today, Monday, a lot of stuff got done. I am actually really impressed with myself, because a typical day in the life of this particular expat may or may not include sloth-like behavior punctuated by a frantic rush to get showered, dressed, and presentable once I realize my boyfriend is on his way home from class. I mean, one must maintain at least a veneer of respectability, if not the respectability itself. Am I right?

Anyway, this weekend was a shining exception to the aforementioned slothery, and I am extremely proud.

Dare to Dream Macarons

On Saturday, my weekend of joyous productivity started off right when Anna called me and asked me if I wanted to help her make macarons. DO I EVER. (Note to future and possible friends: the answer to this question is always, unfailingly yes.) She had already made a batch on Friday, so I even got to taste the final product before even lifting a finger. How’s that for motivation? My god, these things were delicious.

Hello, beautiful.

Anna actually made the macarons you see above. I helped her with a lemon and lime batch that we dyed yellow and green. Let me tell you, Anna is an extreme baker, and I am learning so much from her. She even ground her own almond flour. That is extreme. EXTREME BAKING. No joke. My friend Elaine and I spent the entire spring sending each other pictures of macarons from Tastespotting. We worked together and sat basically at the same desk, so whenever either of us sent or received a little glimpse of macaron porn, we would meet eyes, drool, and sigh in unison. We were convinced, however, that actually making macarons required years of advanced study at a culinary institute or a baking fairy godmother or something like that. NOT SO. Dare to dream, world.

They tasted as good as they look.

Art! Culture! Wine! Gallery Night in Malmö

Malmö is this big famous city that I live only ten minutes away from, and yet I have never gone out at night there. UNTIL LAST SATURDAY NIGHT. It is the third largest city in Sweden (behind Gothenberg and Stockholm) and from what I can understand, it’s sort of positioning itself/is being positioned as this post-industrial melting pot for technology interests, entrepreneurs, and immigrants. There are a lot of expats, a lot of immigrants, a lot of international business people, etc. More than that, I couldn’t really say, because I hardly ever hang out there. One thing I do find funny, though, is that it really has this “big city, ooh, dangerous” reputation, and yet at just under 300,000 inhabitants, it is slightly smaller than Cincinnati, Toledo, and Pittsburgh, and about the size of Riverside, CA and Lexington, KY. These are not places that are particularly impressive to me in terms of size, but hey. There are just slightly more inhabitants in all of Sweden than there are in New York City’s five boroughs, a statistic I have checked thoroughly on Wikipedia, which claims to cite US Census reports and other sources of reputable data.

Even though Malmö is really only 15 minutes away by train, I haven’t been there that often and definitely not out to party or anything. That’s been changing in the last couple of months, though, because I’ve made some friends there and I can explore the city with them. This Saturday was a gallery night in Malmö, and so a bunch of us went gallery-hopping to check out the art (and hunt down the free wine). We went to some areas of Malmö that I had never seen before, and it was really cool to see another side of the city by night. I had no idea how many cool galleries and bars there are, spread throughout the city, and I am excited to go back again soon and see more.

Baby! You Made Light! Installing The Light Fixture

Probably no one cares about this except me, but we finally installed the *&^%&^* light fixture that we bought a million years ago from Ikea and has since been floating around the apartment, collecting dust. And it’s BEAUTIFUL!

Awwwww. Look at how nice that is. Our kitchen is pretty! And on the table you can see some of my other projects, which I will go through with increased brevity, since it’s almost midnight and I want to go to bed.

Healthy Fall Treats! Apple Chips

I’ve always wanted to make apple chips, and I finally did. All you’re supposed to do is slice tart apples into thin slices, toss in cinnamon and sugar, and cook at a low heat for a very long time. I’ve seen this recipe maybe a hundred times in different magazines and cookbooks and never really got up the energy to put it together. For my money, it was a hell of a lot of slicing for a snack that disappeared in a startlingly short time. It would be one thing if it were a pie. Next time, I’ll make a pie.

Or else I’ll just eat them raw. There’s something unexplainable about apples, sugar, and cinnamon. It’s delicious. The really exciting thing is that I picked these apples FROM A TREE, BY MYSELF, TAKING ADVANTAGE of the Swede’s beloved ALLEMANSRÄTTEN. (God bless Wikipedia. They translate “allemansrätten” into “freedom to roam.” It’s the wild west out here.) On Thursday afternoon, I biked all the way from Lund to Lomma, a beach town. Although it might look like a fairly manageable distance on a map, to me the distance felt approximately equivalent to biking from Lund to San Francisco, traveling through Asia and over water by means of an ancient frozen land bridge through Alaska and then just south a little ways to San Francisco. The only thing that saved me was running into this patch of wild apples, which were unripe and sour as all get out but totally edible nonetheless. I filled my bike basket to the brim and took them home with me.

Health! Almond Butter

OH MAH GAWD AH MADE MY MAH OWN ALMOND BUTTER. It was a time-consuming but easy process which took place concurrent with the preparation of the apple chips. (I swear I’m not some sort of crazy farm lady sitting all alone surrounded by fruit- and nut-bearing trees, singing to the birds and cooking vast amounts of ridiculous food. I swear.) I bought a big bag of almonds for cheap in a little grocery store on Möllanstorget. Then I blanched them, shelled them, roasted them (for forever), and ground them into butter. I am ridiculously proud. I even got the cute little dip at the top, just like the tubs of JIF peanut butter.

TUNE IN TOMORROW

I did even more stuff. Seriously. I’ll write more tomorrow. I’m doing something out of character, and my legs are sore. Put two and two together, and you’ve got… ?


Don’t Eat This Mushroom, and… Top Travel-Related Blog in Sweden!!

Part One: Don’t Eat This Mushroom

Röd Flugsvamp by Stefan Jansson at tungelstadailyphoto.blogspot.com

This mushroom will KILL YOU DEAD. Do not eat! In Swedish, it’s called a flugsvamp. In English, it is a “fly agaric,” a name that comes from an old tradition of sprinkling little bits into milk to attract and then poison flies. It’s much more commonly known as a toadstool. Mario Bros. ate this thing!! The white version is called a “death cap.” Eeeeee!

To be completely honest, it might not kill you, but it’s definitely a possibility if you eat a mature one.  A man in Sweden died pretty recently from eating the white version. Toadstools are also hallucinogenic, but it seems to me from my thorough research on Wikipedia that the only cultures that used it for hallucinogenic or shamanic purposes were Lithuanians, Siberians, and the Sami people. Also, it might be the soma referred to in the Rig Veda, but academics remain split. Also according to Wikipedia.

Part Two: Top Travel-Related Blog in Sweden!

WOOHOO! Transatlantic Sketches has been chosen as a TOP TEN Travel-Related Blog in Sweden! I got this awesome email yesterday from GO! Overseas, a website with a ton of resources for people who want to teach, study, or volunteer abroad telling me that I had been chosen. I was very, very excited. You can find the Sweden page here, or you can check out their list below. I’ve started looking through them, and there’s a lot of interesting outsider perspectives on Sweden.

GO! Overseas Top Blogs in Sweden

1. A Fig in Sweden

2. Much is Said in Jest

3. Lapland Adventures

4. Now Boarding…

5. Dispatches From Daddyland **I am especially enjoying this blog’s writing style and the kinds of topics covered.

6. Lost in Stockholm

7. Urban Pilgrim

8. Transatlantic Sketches

9. A Swedish American in Swedish America

10. Home Away From Home

As I continue to wrestle with blog mechanics and the technical parts of moving my blog from Blogger to WordPress (read more about my struggles with the WORM), I am really encouraged by this kind of thing. So hurrah!!

Mushrooms for Nybörjare: Part One, Le Chanterelle

First, a word about “nybörjare.” Literally translated, it means “new beginner,” although the online dictionary I use softens it to “beginner” or “novice.” One thing I like about this word understood literally is that it really goes the distance to rub your inexperience in your face. You’re not just a beginner. You’re a NEW beginner. Take THAT!

Now onto the mushrooms.

The colours which fungi exhibit include almost every hue from white to black. We have the brilliant red of the Peziza cups; the orange-scarlet of the Amanita muscarius, with its cap gaily speckled with white; the crimson of the Russula emetica; the rich yellow of the Cantharellus cibarius; the blue of the bruised Boletus luridus; the amethyst of the Agaricus laccatus; and the dark green of the bruised Lactarius deliciosus, with every possible shade to the deepest jet.

- “The Value of Attractive Characters to Fungi,” Charles R. Straton, 6 Nov.1890

As you can see, people can get kind of worked up about their mushrooms. And even though the venerable Charles R. Straton wrote those glowing lines in 1890, mushroom fever is alive and well. Seriously.

The Swedes are serious about their mushrooms

There are a few things that I’ve learned about mushroom picking traditions in Sweden since last weekend, and the main conclusion that I’ve come to is that Swedish people are waaaaay more in touch with their hunter-gatherer selves than Americans are. I mean, a bunch of Swedes took me into the woods and taught me how to FORAGE in the woods for EDIBLE FUNGI. Who does that??

Real Live Swedes with Real Live Mushrooms!!

I’m happy to admit my nybörjare status when it comes to picking mushrooms and leave the big decisions to the experts. (Ätlig eller oätlig? Edible or non-edible? Please God, just let me live!) Thankfully, Anna, the unofficial leader of our mushroom expeditions, gave me a few guidelines. ONE, only look for Chanterelles (Kantereller), and TWO, bring all picked mushrooms to Anna.  It was a good system. No one died.

Swedish people and their mushrooms

Here are a few things that seem to be true, although admittedly I am not an expert in Swedish culture. I’m in the Skåne, the southernmost state in Sweden, and the mushrooms are different here than they are in the North. (No comment on the people.)

  1. Swedish families that are into mushroom picking have their own special spots that they return to year after year to find their favorite mushrooms. These spots are secret. They would tell you where they are, but then they’d have to kill you, and Swedish people seem pretty averse to violence even though the threat o jail time seems fairly minimal in comparison to that of the United States.
  2. People are loyal to the kind of mushrooms they were raised to appreciate. In our case, there was definitely an overwhelming preference for Chanterelles. However, I have heard stories of families who actually go out in the woods and pick poisonous mushrooms to eat. Then they go through this laborious process of boiling them, throwing out the water, boiling them, throwing out the water, etc. etc. etc. until they’re not really toxic anymore. Then they take the fruit of their labors and turn it into soup. Chanterelles are our thing, poison is their thing; that’s how it works.
  3. Everyone can go mushroom picking anywhere, anytime, thanks to the Swedish tradition of allemansrätten, or “the right to public access.” This is a big deal in Sweden, and Swedish people really like to talk about it. As Sweden.se explains, “ The Right of Public Access allows the public to roam the woods as long as it is done without disturbing or destroying.” They quote Mathias Dahlgren, a Swedish chef specializing in local and seasonal ingredients as saying, “The Right of Public Access is something unique to Sweden. There’s an enormous amount of resources in the Swedish forests, and it’s all free — everything from mushrooms to berries.”

Blueberries and chanterelle mushrooms straight from the Swedish forests. Mine, all mine.

Chanterelle, Chanterelle, where fort art thou Chanterelle?

Individual preferences aside, Chanterelles seem to be pretty well-accepted as cream of the mushroom crop, and if you have been in Sweden for any amount of time, you will probably find a favorite mode of preparation, AMONG WHICH MAY BE…

  • Sautéed Chanterelles in butter, eaten on toasted bread, buttered;
  • Sautéed Chanterelles in butter, then cooked in cream, then served as a sauce or as an accompaniment to beef or pork, probably with one or more root vegetables on the side; or
  • Sautéed Chanterelles in bacon fat with bacon, then cooked in cream and served over pasta or hot buns.

I’m sure there’s a reason why the Swedes are all so skinny, but the dishes featuring Chanterelles are definitely not it.

Chanterelle infatuation is a global phenomenon, and the more I read about them, the more dizzying I found the descriptions about them. For example, Louise Freedman of the Mycological Society of San Francisco writes, “Chanterelles seem to be worth their weight in gold. They are golden looking, golden tasting, and golden priced,” with “a magical appeal for most culinary experts in Europe, United States, and Asia.” Allison Werner, journalist and blogger, writes, “Chanterelle mushrooms, those yellow, gorgeous and tasty fungi, are one of the free spirits of the mushroom world.”

Even more exciting are the accounts you’ll find in scientific magazines, which accuse these “free spirits” of “vegetal vampirism.”  No joke. I don’t really understand what vegetal vampirism is or how the delicious chanterelle might be guilty of such a terrible yet undeniably catchy-sounding crime, but I am not making this up. In an article titled “Vegetal vampires stalk South America,” Henry Gee cites “ectomycorrhizae, the small group of fungi that produce DISTINCTIVE FRUITING BODIES including truffles and CHANTERELLES,” as a well-known group of VEGETAL VAMPIRES.  Say whaaaa??!??

Could it be true? Is this mushroom a vampire?? SAY IT ISN'T SO!!!

My world has been rocked. Rocked by the mushroom.


Into the Woods in Vittskövle

Vittskövle: VEET-hwuh-vluh (I think.)

Into the Woods in Vittskövle, Sweden

My boyfriend’s dad’s family has a cottage in the countryside in a tiny little village called Vittskövle, which is mostly famous for its castle, which is, as Wikipedia says, “one of the best preserved Renaissance castles in the Nordic countries.” It is also one of the largest castles in Skåne (Sweden’s southernmost state and my current home).  The castle is really, really beautiful, and—unbelievably enough—still a private residence. The Stjernswärds live there. As you can see below, there’s a moat and everything.

Posing in front of Vittskövle Castle last summer (June 2009).

Can you believe a family lives here? Incredible. Our destination was just around the corner from the castle and slightly simpler, although doubtless no less comfortable.

Into the Woods

A very happy Castor in the woods.

One thing about Swedes—they take their “outdoors time” seriously. This includes annual trips into the woods every fall to pick mushrooms and forage for berries. And then they eat what they find. I found this a little hard to believe at first… berries, ok. But mushrooms? I’m pretty sure I was raised not to put anything looking even vaguely like a mushroom into my mouth unless I bought it from a grocery store, wrapped up in a styrofoam box and plastic. Not so, here.

Fortunately, there were a few guidelines that make it possible for even for a “nybörjare” like me to go mushroom picking without condemning oneself to a slow, painful death by poisonous mushroom. The easiest thing is to go only for the Chanterelle mushrooms (or Kantarell in Swedish) because there aren’t any other mushrooms that look like it that are poisonous. There are fake Chanterelles, but if you can see the difference between the two, then you should be all set. For other mushrooms, you should use a reference book to make sure what you’re eating is actually edible (or ätlig… I learned a lot of new vocabulary this weekend).

We were lucky to have a quasi-expert with us in Anna, who has been picking mushrooms with her family since, well, forever. Simon and Nils were also definitely experienced mushroom pickers, and then there was me…  wandering around the forest being just about as useful as the dog.

We spent the weekend in Vittskövle, and a lot of that time was devoted to hunting down Chantarelles in hopes of eating them for dinner. In typical fashion, however, we didn’t find much when we were looking, but Anna and Nils stumbled upon good-sized patches both Saturday and Sunday morning while they were walking Castor. On Friday night, we just had a small appetizer of Chantarelle and “Bronssop” mushrooms sauteed on toast. On Saturday night, though, we had a feast.

Chantarelle mushrooms + butter + cream + meat + potatoes = Sweden’s answer to turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy.

This dinner was ridic. End of story. Anna was in charge and she watched over the various pots and pans while I helped and the guys chopped wood outside.

Dinner before it became dinner

I wish I had photos of the finished product, but I don’t, so all I can say is that this dinner was warm and filling and rich and made you feel like fall is the best season of all and that simplicity and real, fresh ingredients are the best things on earth.

Here’s how Anna did it.

To prepare the mushrooms: Clean the mushrooms by dusting away the dirt with a small brush. Do not soak or rinse in water. Chop the mushrooms into small but not tiny pieces. Sauté in lots of butter in a frying pan. Reserving the butter in the frying pan, remove mushrooms and put into a medium saucepan. Add cream. Cook.

To prepare the meat: We used pork loin, but  I think you could use either pork or beef and any cut of either (although it was nice to have a substantial piece of meat on the plate with mushrooms and potatoes). Season with salt and pepper, cook in the pan that the mushrooms were cooked in.

To prepare the potatoes: Peel and slice potatoes into desired shape (slices or wedges). Season with salt and pepper, toss with olive oil, spread out over a large baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and slightly crispy. You can add onion and/or extra spices if you want.

Like I said… sometimes simplicity and real, fresh ingredients are the best.

Our romantic country dinner table... candles and wildflowers, ja tack!

The rest of the weekend

The rest of the weekend was spent in ridiculous relaxation. In between taking long walks in the woods and eating delicious dinners, we hung out, listened to music, napped, practiced speaking Swedish (me), made friends with forest animals, chopped wood, made late night visits to the local church graveyard for water (the water wouldn’t turn on in the cottage, so that made things a little interesting), and so on. It was amazing.

Annas lilla groda

Technical updates from the front line

I, the technologically unsavvy, decided to do something requiring at least a minimum of computer know-how: to transfer my beloved blog from Blogspot to Bluehost.

I HAVE BEEN TORMENTED AND TORTURED THROUGHOUT THIS PROCESS. For hours, Transatlantic Sketches has been hovering in limbo like some poor forgotten soul, not quite damned, yet not quite ready for the sweet taste of heaven’s heavenly redemption. THE PAIN! THE AGONY! (Let me take this moment to remind you that I am neither a mother, nor a pet-owner, nor a successful gardener… nor am I really even employed.) THIS IS ALL I HAVE.

Whew. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

So anyway, cut me some slack on the absolute lack of design and OMG WHERE THE HELL ARE MY IMAGES??? This is NOT “just another WordPress site,” you snarky coder, you.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

xoxo

- kate

————————————————————————————–

UPDATE


Picture via Dark Roasted Blend blog

In conclusion, I feel a little like the poor sailors you see above. You know–It was all smooth sailing until a gigantic sea worm came writhing angrily up from the depths and surfaced a mere arm’s length from our boat.

Technology is the worm. KILL THE WORM!

Happy Chlamydia Monday!

No, but really. Welcome to Sweden. Today is National Chlamydia Awareness Day, or Klamydiamåndagen. Testing is free, and there’s a whole website with information, testing locations, and a series of quasi-informational cartoons. I am including a few examples below.

Ok, I guess by “a few examples,” I meant five. All the cartoons have the same message: “Did you forget the condom last summer? Don’t miss Chlamydia Monday on the 13th of September!” You can find more videos on the Chlamydia Monday homepage if you’re interested… it was difficult to choose my favorites. It’s hard to believe a governmental office signed off on these cartoons, but the Smittskyddsinstitutet (or the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control) did–they’re responsible for the whole campaign.

As a public health initiative, I’m really impressed. I first noticed the campaign because I saw an advertisement with the cartoon animals from above doing the hippity dippity, but as the Local (an English language newspaper in Sweden) reports, “Chlamydia Monday is a coordinated effort across the country. The initiative has been taken by [the Smittskyddsinstitutet] which on July 1st 2010 assumed responsibility for working to combat HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.” I can’t imagine the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US rolling out such a raunchy campaign, let alone casually referring to summertime flirtations that might result in unprotected sex, which the Chlamydia Monday website does. *sigh* Oh, we sex-phobic Americans.

Funny name aside, the Swedish health authorities are not joking around with Chlamydia Monday. They’re for real.  There are a lot of academic journal articles out there on the cost-effectiveness and efficacy of the campaign, which has been going on for several years now. I especially love this quotation from an official publication, “‘Chlamydia Monday’ in Sweden,” by Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control:

During summer time people in general have more opportunities of finding a new sex partner, which increases the risk of getting infected with and spreading chlamydia. Consequently, the number of chlamydia cases reported in Sweden is higher in September and October compared to other months.

Oh yeaaaaah. Swedish public health, telling it like it is. (And further confirming my suspicions that the only thing that happens in Sweden during the winter is extreme hibernation.)

On the Chlamydia Monday homepage, you can also sign up for email or text message reminders to get tested. Chlamydia Monday has an extremely cutesy design, but it also has a full page with information about chlamydia as well as a drop down menu with testing locations in each state. The website informs its readers that chlamydia doesn’t always show symptoms, and therefore it’s extremely important to get tested any time you have sex without a condom. It says that the test is easy and free, and that untreated chlamydia can eventually lead to serious conditions in men and women. Basically, the whole thing is informative, unintimidating, casual, and–thanks to the cartoons–kind of funny. No shaming, just clear and simple strategies for solving a common problem. (It’s the most commonly contracted STD in the US, and 4 people are infected every hour in Sweden. So yeah, it’s common.)

So how impressed are you? And do you think this kind of campaign is possible in the US?

Big weekend!

It’s going to be a big weekend… Anna and Nils’ wedding is finally here!

Here are some photos from a walk I took. Sweden is beautiful.


expat doldrums

I’m hitting a little bit of a rut.

It’s hard to stay motivated when you don’t have anything you need to do.

It’s hard to motivate yourself to study a foreign language without a class, without structure, without homework, deadlines, and classmates.

It’s hard to reach out and meet people without class, without a job, without something tying you to a group of people.

Life is definitely not bad here, but when you move somewhere new–foreign country or no–it can be hard to feel tied to the place without the normal structures people build up around them to govern their days. Work hours. Socializing with friends hours. Commuting. Hobbies. Without all that framework in your days, what would you do?

Imagine you had your elementary school summer vacation again: the long, seemingly endless span of time between the school year ending and the school year beginning. What would you do in week three? What would you do in week four? How about week nine?

I’ve never been a very good self-directed learner. I work a lot better when offered a wide variety of carrots, sticks, and competition. Anyway, I’m in a rut, and I’m working on climbing back out. The wine is helping.