After my burst of homesickness on Thursday/Friday, Sunday night was just what the doctor ordered. I remembered towards the end of the week that the nice Irish guy I met at the SFI office had warned sometimes it can be months before they place you in a class, so I got impatient and started googling other ways to start learning Swedish in the meantime.
I found a few useful blogs, and suggested books, but them came across a language exchange group which sounded awesome. The idea is that people who are learning Swedish can come along and practice with other people learning under the guidance of a Swedish volunteer, and there are other events where we can help others with our native languages – hence “exchange”. I can’t imagine many people need help with English, but I liked the idea of the event so signed up, hoping that I could do my part of the exchange in some other way!
Yesterday’s event turned out to be held at the park where the kayak rental place I work at is, so I even managed to find it without too much trouble. It was fantastic! Even though it’s been suggested to me (by lovely commenters!) that I seek out the international community here in Stockholm, I’ve had this weird stubborn notion that I need to persevere with Swedes if I am going to settle here. That if I found American friends it would be cheating somehow. But screw that, a girl needs some girlfriends! 😉
The Swedish conversation part, I pretty much sucked at, though we knew that already. I managed to say ‘Hej, jag heter Regan, jag kommer från USA” after rehearsing it with the Viking all morning on Sunday, but that was about it. Everybody was so nice – only a couple were quite as beginner as me, most of them could manage a bit more basic conversation, but I was surprised to find that when I heard simple Swedish spoken slowly I could follow more of the conversation than I expected. So I ended up feeling better than I thought about my potential to at least getting by in Swedish.
The really great part though, was afterwards. I think it was supposed to officially last around two hours, so after a while the Swedish volunteers started to pack up, and the conversation drifted back to English. There were so many awesome, interesting people: a couple of love refugees like me, quite a few who are doing PHDs at Stockholm’s universities but really weren’t intimidating or difficult to talk to, and some that I didn’t catch what brought them to Stockholm, but hopefully will in the future. The majority were European though they could all speak English as well as Swedes do, there was one English girl and a Canadian guy – no other Americans that I spoke to, so I guess I technically didn’t cheat after all!
Even though I’ve been spilling my guts out about it anonymously here, I found I didn’t want to start talking too much about THM and the ups and downs with the Viking, though I was intrigued and a little bit relieved when the English girl announced to everyone that her boyfriend’s friends were “wankers” and “an uphill battle.”
She was one of those super confident cheery, ‘can do’ kind of people (I kept thinking of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music…. I could imagine her singing “I have confidence in confidence alone…” if Swedes rolled their eyes or exchanged looks around her), and she turned it all into a funny story, saying “bless them, they do frighten easily”. I started re-thinking my experiences with THM – even ABBA Girl, maybe – and wondering if it really is just normal and I’ve been making a giant mountain out of a molehill!