Monday, May 31, 2010

You know you’re living in the Swedish countryside when…

You know you’re living in the Swedish countryside when…

…three moose take up residence in your backyard. Three moose moved into the woods behind our backyard . They’ve moved on now, but for a few days they would come out several times a day into our backyard to munch on the grass and small trees. Having just moved here, I can only assume that this is normal and that all Swedish families have pet moose.

Our moose are named Maja, Kalle, and Pontus. Maja is the mother, and Kalle and Pontus are yearlings (moose that were born last year). Apparently Maja didn’t have any more moose babies this year, so Kalle and Pontus are still hanging around.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Small town living

When we moved here, we not only moved from one country to another, but also from a city (Washington, DC) to a small village. Eventually we’ll probably end up moving to a slightly larger town in Sweden, but for now we’re enjoying the peace and quiet out here in the countryside. Hopefully when we move we’ll still be able to make frequent trips up here.

On my way "downtown".

We jokingly call the nearby town of Furudal “the city” or “downtown”. There’s a small restaurant, a café/bakery/pub, a gas station and grocery store, and a small convenience store. Everybody knows everybody in a town this size, so you’re almost guaranteed to find somebody you know at the café.

Downtown in the big city.

“Downtown” Furudal sits right on a little bridge between two lakes. The lakes are clean, clear, cold, and calm. When the sky is blue, the lake reflects the sky like a mirror. It’s a nice change from urban rivers where you feel like you might get hepatitis if you fall in.

Big, clean, clear (and cold) lake.

The village is surrounded by logging roads and trails that wind through the forest. North of the village the public road ends, and there’s literally nothing but logging roads. Next to town is a series of tracks through the woods for skiing in the winter and walking or running in the summer. There’s a long hiking trail that passes near the village called Siljansleden (Siljan is the biggest lake in the area and “leden” means “the trail”), along with some smaller trails. A friend from town and I have started running regularly on the trails in the area, along with his dog Spikey.

One of my running partners.

It's really nice to get away from the city for a while. It's a lot easier to put things in perspective when you're out in nature on a daily basis and away from the stress of a city where everybody is trying to seem important. I think living out here for a bit is just what I needed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We have officially "wandered in".

Yesterday was a big milestone: we went to the Skatteverket (Swedish tax authority) to officially immigrate (invandra) to Sweden. Based on dealing with certain government organizations back home you might expect this to be painful process. It wasn't.

The local Skatteverket office for us is in Mora. Mora is a cute town that is probably most famous as the setting for the Vasaloppet, an epic ski race commemorating the trek of King Gustav Wasa in 1520. He stopped in Mora to try to convince the people that they should king him and declare independence from tyranical Danish rule. The people of Mora initially turned him down, so Wasa had to take off again to stay ahead of the pursuing Danes. Then the people of Mora changed their minds, chased after Wasa on skis, and made him King, thus declaring an independent Sweden and creating a really cool backstory for a ski race at the same time.

But I digress. We drove to Mora, took care of some shopping, and quickly found free parking near downtown right next to the lake. We walked to the cute little city center, ate some pizza, and continued down the pedestrian street to the Skatteverket, which was in the bottom floor of a small building. The office was clean and spare, decorated in a typical Scandanavian fashion. A girl greeted us from behind an uncluttered, ergonomic desktop in a modern-looking, Swedish -designed chair, and told us not to bother taking a number since there was no line. When AS said that we were there because we were moving to Sweden, she said, "Oh, how exciting!"

We filled out a couple of simple forms with basic information, she made copies of our passports (AS's Swedish passport and my American one with a Swedish permanent residence permit) and entered our information into the computer. When we weren't sure how to fill out the form, she helped. She also explained to us how to sign up of for the state health insurance after I receive my person number, and printed out the necessary forms for us. We were done in a few minutes.

That was easy! We celebrated by fika, roughly translated as "having a coffee break". We now officially live in Sweden.
PS: Our internet connection is being slow, thus the small picture. We have more photos to upload when we get a better connection.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Talar du engelska? (Do you speak English?)

Asking people in Sweden if they speak English is almost a formality. Almost everyone will say something modest (a very Swedish trait), like, "Oh, my English isn't that good!" Then they'll begin speaking to you in almost flawless English.

Inspite of this, I'd really like to be speaking Swedish as soon as possible. My goal is to be functional in Swedish by the sometime in the fall. By "functional", I mean being able to maintain my end of a conversation, or being able to pick up a newspaper and read it without problems. I'm not starting from scratch; I've heard a lot of Swedish spoken over the past dozen years, and I've even taken a couple classes. Still, it will be a bit of a challenge, which is part of what makes it exciting to me.

I have a few things working in my favor, the most obvious being the fact that I'm living in Sweden with Swedish people. To take advantage of this, we're instituting "Swedish only" time from breakfast through dinner. During this time I'll attempt to minimize my exposure to English (including blogging) and try to force myself to not just listen but also speak as much as possible. That's the really hard part. I'll let you all know how this goes...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Our Swedish experiment has begun!

My wife AS and I have been talking about moving to Sweden for a while. She was born here (in Sweden), and I've been here to visit 8 or 9 times over the past dozen years since we started dating. Moving to Sweden always seemed like something nice that we might do in the future; I would learn the Swedish language and culture first hand, and she would get to experience living in her homeland as an adult. We would say, "Maybe in a couple years we'll move to Sweden. Wouldn't that be exciting?" But we had school, and new jobs, so it could wait until later.

View from the deck of "the summer house" in Dalarna,with the barn, root cellar, a shed, and the lake in the background (obscured by fog).

Then we realized that those "couple years" had already gone by. AS had finished her masters degree, I had already been at my job for 3 years, and the clock was still ticking. We were getting more and more settled into life in the Washington, DC area and it wouldn't get any easier to leave. Besides, someday we're hoping to have little Swedelings running around the house, and it wouldn't get any easier to move after that. (And besides, wouldn't it be nice for those hypothetical little Swedelings to also have their choice of countries to live in someday?)

The kicker was when we visited SwedeLife and family. They had followed their instincts and moved to Sweden about a year prior. Her husband (my brother-in-law) was originally from Sweden, but she was a home-grown American like myself. We had such a good time visiting them (and my sister-in-law's family down the street!), and we could see how well they had settled in life in Sweden. There was just no question that they had made the right move.

As AS and I were getting ready to head back to the States after that trip, we said to each other, "Do we have to go home?" The answer, of course, was yes, but that was the turning point we started planning to actually make the move ourselves.

Here we are a few months later! I'm at "the summer house" in Dalarna, and AS arrives in a few days. It feels good to be here; the air is fresh, the lake is beautiful, and spring is just starting to arrive. Our Swedish Experiment has begun!

PS: I had to come up with some kind of pun or joke for the name of the blog. It's not as good as the "Swede Life" (and a lot nerdier) but its kind of funny to me.

PPS: I'll pretty up the site and put up photos and stuff later.