Two Days in Gothenburg, Sweden: Day Two

Things I did in Gothenburg, Sweden, day two:

  • Ate my free breakfast at Hotel Royal (best spread I’ve ever seen at a hotel free breakfast)
  • Walked to the Opera House to make sure I knew how to get there
  • Stopped at Cafe Husaran for one of their famous giant cinnamon rolls
  • Visited the Gothenburg Museum of Art
  • Ate lunch at Feskekorka (literally, the “fish church”)
  • Visited Nordstan Mall
  • Had a bowl of tomato soup at a cafe a block away from my hotel
  • Saw Jose Gonzalez in concert! (My reason for the whole trip!)

(Keep reading for some tips and observations about Gothenburg, Sweden.)

sunrise in gothenburg sweden
Sunrise, Gothenburg, Sweden
The North Sea
Kattegatt
bikes in sweden
So many bikes in Gothenburg, Sweden!
broken lion dog
Aww … what happened here?
Cafe Husaran Goteborg Sweden
Inside Cafe Husaran, where I ate a giant cinnamon roll
stripper pole art sweden
Gothenburg Museum of Art
Edvard Munch Vampyre
Edvard Munch Vampyre
Patrik Adiene Altarpiece
Patrik Adiene Altarpiece
art sweden
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Olof Sager-Nelson Nocturne
Olof Sager-Nelson Nocturne … or as I call it, “Mew Mew Kitty”
feskekorka sweden goteborg
Inside Feskekorka fish market … it is actually pretty small
feskekorka gothenburg sweden
Mmm, fish
gothenburg sweden 4
Ship in Gothenburg, Sweden, across from the Opera House
IMG_7350
Gothenburg Opera House … about to see Jose Gonzalez perform for the first time!
Jose Gonzalez performing in Gothenburg Sweden with String theory 2
Third row from the stage … Jose Gonzalez!
Jose Gonzalez performing in Gothenburg Sweden with String theory 1
Jose Gonzalez performing with String Theory

I first started listening to Jose Gonzalez’s music a few years ago. Bored with all my music, I asked my work husband, Paul, who I should be listening to and he said, “Jose Gonzalez.” I’ve been a fan ever since. His music has come to mean so much to me.

Being able to see an artist I admire perform live is something I appreciate. You can’t watch your favorite writers write, and unless your favorite actor happens to be in a play, you can’t watch them perform live, either. Music is amazing because you can actually watch an artist at work.

Also, Jose Gonzalez sings in English, so I was curious to see if he would address the audience in English or in Swedish. (Answer: in Swedish)

Tips and Observations about Gothenburg, Sweden, Day Two:

  • Hotel Royal provided the best free breakfast I’ve ever had at a hotel. I ate: homemade bread with nuts and berries, a piece of herring, two pieces of salmon with dill sauce, and yogurt topped with walnuts, cranberries, and seeds. Yum!
  • There is tons of public transportation available in Gothenburg. The city is also very bike friendly. There are bike lanes and public transit tracks everywhere. I was afraid to wear headphones while I was walking because I had a real fear of getting run over.
  • This is the first vacation I have ever taken alone. I wasn’t sure how I would like it. I felt lonely at times, but there are bonuses to traveling alone, too. I was able to do whatever I wanted, and change plans on a whim.
  • But … I forgot to take any pictures of myself in Sweden! In my only selfie, my face is blocked by a giant cinnamon roll (which you can see on my Instagram feed).
  • I didn’t know Sweden is famous for giant cinnamon rolls until I started planning this trip. The woman at Cafe Husaran suggested a quarter-size portion, but I declined. (Lady, don’t you know I need to Instagram this?)
  • Admission to the Gothenburg Museum of Art was only 400 Kronor (4 Euro). Once again, I appreciate Europe’s commitment to making art accessible to the general public. (In contrast, general admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is $25.)
  • I wanted oysters for lunch at Feskekorka, but they were too expensive. I settled on a much more reasonably-priced lunch of cold salmon + pasta salad + can of sparkling water, for the equivalent of 10 Euro.
  • Another sweeping generalization of Swedish people: They are really tall. I’m 5’9″ and am usually taller than most women. Not so in Sweden … I’d say I was on the shorter side of average there. I was so excited to be in the third row of the Jose Gonzalez concert, but then a monstrously tall woman sat in front of me. :-/ I let it irritate me more than I probably should have …
  • I am glad I brought my heaviest coat for the trip. The first day was mild, beautiful autumn weather. But, the second day was blustery cold and drizzling at times.
  • I don’t know if Nordstan Mall is always busy, but when I went on Friday afternoon, it was jam-packed, wall-to-wall people. I only stayed for half an hour and then I just couldn’t even.
  • While “hey” is a greeting English speakers use, it is pretty informal. “Hej” in Sweden seems to be used in more formal situations. It startled me every time someone greeted me with “hej” or “hej hej.” I would respond with hello, which was also my way of warning everyone: I AM AN ENGLISH SPEAKER. I AM ABOUT TO HIT YOU WITH SOME ENGLISH. I’ve commented on this before … it is amazing how many people in Europe speak English. Every person with whom I interacted in Sweden spoke English well.
  • I think I hit most of the major tourist attractions in Gothenburg in just two days. If I’d had more time, maybe I would have liked to take a boat trip out to sea. But I really do think two days was enough time there.

A Boring Adventure

I once heard Peace Corps described as “a boring adventure.” I can’t think of a more apt description. That’s exactly what it’s like.

When I was preparing to leave for the Peace Corps, I was thinking of how many tedious things have to happen before embarking on any adventure. If you’re an adult ensconced in a real, adult life, there is a lot that must be undone if you choose to leave that life.

I had to quit my twos jobs, pack and move my belongings, cancel my utilities, find someone to adopt my chinchillas, and move my cat into my parents’ house.

And there was the paperwork. So much paperwork. Medical and legal clearance and a slew of other stuff to prepare and track and submit.

Now that I am serving in the Peace Corps, I have to submit a quarterly report about my activities. It’s not like Peace Corps turned us loose in Kosovo and said: “Have fun in Kosovo! See you in two years!”

I have no idea what happens to this report once staff reads it … I don’t know if it gets filed away somewhere in D.C. I’ve had to submit so much paperwork at this point (like all of my medical records) that it is a little scary.

[When my group first arrived in Kosovo, we were given (surprise!) more paperwork to complete. One form was about our recent medical history. They actually asked the question, “How many sexual partners have you had in the last year?” I was temped to be a jerk and write, “SIX HUNDRED.” (Who in their right mind would answer that question?) But then I realized I probably didn’t want the U.S. government to be in possession of a document that says I slept with six hundred people in a year. (Not true, btw.) Instead I wrote, “Declined to answer.”]

So, yeah, the government has all kinds of info on me. And I don’t know who has access to it or what happens to it. This is all a very long-winded way of saying that I’ve decided to share some of my answers from my recent report on this blog. Because … it’s my report, and why not?

Below is a slightly edited version. As I’ve said, I try to be respectful of others’ privacy, so I have removed some of what I wrote about my home life and school.

How could cross-cultural and language training be improved to support effective cultural integration?

I do not think training needs to be improved. My issues with cultural integration center around being a woman in a small village, and having limited opportunities to interact with local people. Spending time in the few cafes in my village is not an option, since it is not culturally appropriate for women to visit cafes alone. I sometimes shop at the small market or the bakery, and interact with local people working there. However, my interactions there are limited as well: “Miredita.” “Sa kushton?” etc. Therefore, most of my interactions take place in my host family or at my school.

What challenges have you faced in your project or other areas of your Peace Corps experience?

Living with a host family has by far been the most challenging part of my service. I feel as though I walked into a situation where expectations of who I was and what our relationship would be were already set. I continually have to set boundaries with my host mother, who very much expected us to have a mother-daughter relationship. She was not prepared to live with an independent, now- 36-year-old American woman.

What lessons have you learned about yourself, your community, or your project?

I have learned that, “Wherever you go, there you are.” My living circumstances have changed, and yet I am still the same person I have always been, with the same interests and habits I had in the United States. Living in Kosovo has prompted me to consider my own unique skills and gifts, and think of how best to use them in this context. I am never going to be the Most Outgoing Volunteer, or the Best at Language. And yet, that does not mean I cannot use what I have to be of use to my community. I am good at listening, I am good at observing the needs of my students, and I am creative, just to give a few examples. I bring all of these skills with me when I enter my classroom.

Finish this sentence: One thing I wish Americans knew about my country of service is …

that appearances can be deceiving. Despite the fact that Pristina, for example, appears very modern and “Western” in many ways, life there is very different from life in a small village. Poverty rates are high where I live, and education and health care systems are poor.

How successful has your integration with your host family been?

I am unsure how to answer this question, to be honest. I would say I have a good relationship with my host family, in that we generally get along. I eat all of my meals with them, and will sometimes go with them to visit neighbors or other relatives. I am included in family events, like engagement parties, etc. However, as I mentioned previously, my relationship with my host mother is my biggest source of stress.

My relationships with my host father and host brother are much more easy going. Both of them are quiet people, as am I, and so we don’t actually spend a lot of time talking with one another. Meals are very quiet in my household. I also try to give my host father and brother a good deal of space. My host father is not old enough to be my real father (he is 51; I am 36), and I am aware of how inappropriate it would look if he and I were close. I feel the same way about my host brother (age 21). I want to state that I feel safe in my house. My decision to give the men in my household a wide berth has more to do with awareness of perception and cultural expectations than anything else.

What opportunities have you had to build relationships outside of your host family?

Regarding my actual community of [redacted], I have had very little opportunity to interact with locals. My village is small, and again, the culture dictates that I spend my non-working time at home. I have more professional contacts in the larger, nearby village of [redacted], thanks to my site mate and her counterpart. I have also met a good number of professional contacts who live in Pristina.

***

So, there you have it — an honest look at my life in Kosovo so far.

Learn How to Play Te Rrethi, a Card Game

Do you like to play cards? Would you like to learn a card game from another country, so that you can impress your friends and family at your next barbecue, party, or picnic? Read on, because I will give you step-by-step instructions (with pictures) for how to play Te Rrethi (meaning, “to the circle”), a popular card game in Kosovo.

Te Rrethi Card Game 6

Number of Players: Two to as many as you like. You can add additional decks if you have a large group. (Note: This demonstration uses three players.)

Objective: To be the first player with no cards.

Important Thing to Note: Cards are played “up,” or in ascending order, starting with the Ace and then building 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, and then starting over again with an Ace.

Another Important Thing to Note: Cards are played first in the center of the circle, and then on the other players’ stacks.

Rule: If a player makes a mistake, all of the other players must give him or her a card from the bottom of their own stacks.

  1. First, take a deck of cards and remove the Jokers. Next, shuffle the deck and lay the cards face-down, in a circle.
    Te Rrethi Card Game 1.JPG
  2. Go around the table. Each player draws a card from anywhere in the circle, and lays in face-up in front of himself or herself. Keep going around the table until someone draws an Ace.Te Rrethi Card Game 2
  3. The person who draws the Ace lays it in the center of the circle.
    Te Rrethi Card Game 3
  4. The person who lays down the Ace gets to play again. He or she can either play the top card from the face-up stack in front of them, or draw from the circle of cards at random.
  5. The player will either first play off the Ace in the center of the card, or will add to another players stack, or will have to discard into their own stack. (Example: I lay down an Ace in the center of the circle, and then draw a 2. I will play the two in the center. Then I draw again. Or, I lay down an Ace in the center of the circle, and then draw a 5. I see that a fellow player has a 4 face-up on their stack. I will lay my card on top of their card, adding to their pile. [Remember, the object of the game is to get rid of all your cards.] Then, I draw again. Or, I lay down an Ace in the center of the circle, and then draw a 10. I don’t see anywhere to lay the 10 [none of my fellow players have a 9], so I must discard the 10 face-up on my own stack. My turn is over.)
    Te Rrethi Card Game 4
    Remember, always play on the center FIRST, if you have the appropriate card.

    Te Rrethi Card Game 5
    If you DON’T have a card to play in the center of the circle, you will THEN look to see if you can discard your card on another player’s stack.
  6. The next player goes.
  7. When all of the cards from the circle have been picked up by the players, the game still continues. Each player will flip over the stack in front of them (so that the cards are now face-down) and will pull a card from the bottom of the stack to continue playing. (Keep repeating this step as long as you have cards. Once you have played them all, flip your stack over [face down] and again, play the first card from the bottom of the stack.) You will continue to place cards on the center stack (which was the middle of the now-nonexistent circle) first, the other players second, and your own stack last.
    Te Rrethi Card Game 7
    .

    Te Rrethi Card Game 8

    Te Rrethi Card Game 10

  8. Continue until one player has no more cards in his or her stack. This player is the winner!
    Te Rrethi Card Game 9
    No cards in front of me … I win!

    (Note: I first played this game with my counterpart months ago, but I couldn’t remember all the rules. Special thanks to my site mate and her co-worker for agreeing to play with me and allowing me to take photos.)

Traditional Clothing and Handmade Rugs

I was in Pristina over the weekend and had a chance to wander through this street fair. I previously posted about the Pristina Bazaar, which is like an expanded farmer’s market. In comparison, clothing and rugs were sold at this fair.

Pristina fair 2
OSCE Trade Fair
Pristina fair
Pristina fair
Albanian rugs
Handmade rugs
buy Albanian clothing
Traditional Kosovar clothing
Traditional Albanian dress
Traditional clothing, Kosovo
Kosovo Albanian childrens clothing
Children’s traditional clothing, Kosovo
handmade goods kosovo
Handmade goods

I LOVED this handmade, wool rug. It was 120 Euro, which I think is very reasonable. While I have bought or been given a few little trinkets I’ll keep to remember my time in Kosovo, I’d really like a larger conversation piece for my home someday. (A “pièce de résistance,” as the French would say.)

Albanian handmade wool rug
GORGEOUS!

“Oh,” I’ll tell visitors to my home, with my eyes getting misty, “I bought that in Kosovo when I was serving in the Peace Corps.”

I think I could bring a rolled-up rug with me on an airplane. The problem is, I’ll already have about 100 lbs. of luggage to wrangle when I leave Kosovo.

I walked by the tent several times to gaze longingly at *my* rug … 🙂

A day later, I saw the following music video on tv. I thought it was cool because the singers and dancers are wearing traditional clothing. The video is an interesting blend of old and new (and appears to have been filmed somewhere in the Balkans).

I didn’t know the name of the video (it’s Hatixhe, a woman’s name) so I texted my teaching counterpart for help in finding it online. She’s really good at that. I’ll be like, “What’s the video with blahty-blah?” and she’ll know exactly what I am talking about.

If you’d like to see some other music videos, here are links to other posts I’ve written:

Kosovar Superstitions

When I visited the village of Gračanica this spring, my friend provided me with two tourists guides put out by the municipality. These glossy booklets are filled with all kinds of interesting information — history, notes on culture and religion, recipes, etc. They are accompanied by color photos, too.

Gracanice Kosovo tourism boolkets

I pulled the following list of superstitions from one of these booklets. This list is slightly abridged; I included my “favorite” superstitions, or the ones I found most interesting.

  • When the left palm itches, you’ll receive money. If the right palm itches, you’ll spend money. (Don’t we have some version of this in the U.S.?)
  • If a rabbit crosses a road to a traveler, it means an accident will happen. (Sounds like the old “black cat crossing your path” superstition. I hate that superstition. I love black cats.)
  • On Sundays and Wednesdays, you shouldn’t cut your nails. It brings trouble. (Duly noted.)
  • When a cat warms its back near the fire, winter will be cold. (This one just seems like common sense to me. “Oh, kitty is cold? I bet that means winter will be cold!” [Also, when is winter ever not cold, at least comparatively?])
  • When a rooster crows on the sunrise, weather will be bad. (If this were true, the weather would be bad every day in Kosovo … at least according to my host family’s rooster.)
  • When a donkey rolls in mud, it will rain. (If there’s mud, doesn’t that mean it already rained?)
  • If you drop a bite while bringing it to your mouth, that means the devil took it. (Yikes.)
  • You shouldn’t hold a child by the neck, because it will not grow. (You shouldn’t hold a child by the neck because it’s a mean thing to do.)
  • You shouldn’t burn a broom; you’ll get a toothache. (Why would I want to burn my broom?)
  • You shouldn’t jump over a coffin, because the dead will rise. (I can’t help but wonder if “coffin jumping” was ever a real problem … )

A Quick and Belated Post About Easter

I’ve mentioned before that I live in a minority, Catholic community in Kosovo (the majority of Kosovars are Muslim). I was interested to learn two things regarding Easter in Kosovo:

  1. They dye eggs here. (I was gifted pretty eggs by students and teachers alike.)
  2. They do not have the Easter Bunny. Most of my students had never heard of him (her?). When they asked me if he is real, I said he is as real as Santa Claus. 🙂

Processed with MOLDIV

Another fun fact: Dyed eggs may or may not be hard boiled. I found this out the hard way as I was hiding eggs for my 3rd graders. I dropped one and it splattered on the floor. Oops.