Monday, 31 December 2012

Short update

So I arrived here on the evening of the 27th. Toni bought a new kitchen table with chairs on my last visit and he wanted to repaint it before New Years. So while he and a friend worked on sanding the table and the chairs and then later Toni painting the chairs, I spent the time playing Skyrim on his computer :) I'm hooked again xD

On the 30th I helped Toni paint the table - twice. And today I've helped him move the table back into the kitchen (applied physics) and I cooked our meal while he cleaned the place. We're hosting the New Years party tonight :)


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas has come and gone

Got home yesterday from having spent Christmas with my parents and sister. I arrived there in the evening of the 22nd (just in time for dinner). Then we had our perfectly traditional Christmas, the way we do it exactly every year.

December 23rd: Dress the Christmas Tree while listening to Christmas songs, unpacking the majority of the Christmas ornaments and put them all over the house. The day ends with a Christmas dinner and then hot wine (glögg) in front of the TV.

December 24th: This is Christmas :) Waking up my sister and I look at what we got in our stockings. Nowadays it's usually just sweets :P I actually asked my sister if we should retire our stockings this year, but she said no :P Then we go and listen to my sister and some of the people from the orchestra play Christmas songs outside the town hall.

When we get back home we all get ready. Mum and Dad start working on some parts of the dinner and my sister and I usually peel almonds and set up the hot wine in the living room. The grandparents arrive around 2.30pm and we put all the presents under the tree. 3pm most of Sweden is seated in front of their TVs to watch Donald Duck :P I'm not kidding. Then there's dinner. We usually switch to the Danish channel to watch their version of Donald Duck (some parts are different) while Mum and Dad prepare the food. Then there's the appetizer: small platter of a little bit of everything from the traditional Christmas dinner. The main course is the horror of each year: stockfish (lutfisk). Absolutely horrifying to me, but everyone else likes it. Then there's the traditional porridge (rice pudding) after that. We all move from the dining table to the sofa after helping to clean up. My sister and I start putting out the Christmas sweets on the dining table while the adults talk. Around 7.30pm my sister goes upstairs to put on the Santa costume and when she comes back downstairs she starts handing out the presents from under the tree. When all gifts are handed out (even one or two for the dog) we all start unwrapping (my favourite part). My favourite gifts this year was my all-new TV and router for wireless internet :) After all the unwrapping is done, we put away the presents in bags so that they can easily bring them home, and then we throw out all the wrapping paper. Then there's sweets and talking until the grandparents decide it's time to go home.

December 25th-26th: Our own Christmas traditions continue on to Christmas Day and Boxing Day with the whole family sitting around the dining table in the living room playing board games all day long while eating Christmas sweets. The games we play each year are Mah Jong, Ticket to Ride and Svea Rike :) I never win at any board games ever, but it's fun anyway.

So that's my traditional Christmas :) Today I'm taking the train north to see Toni and spend New Years with him. Blogging may be scarce then ;)

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas

In Sweden we celebrate it on December 24th :) Some Christmas-y songs and videos:

Morning Musume singing the classical Japanese version/translation of White Christmas

Classical American 60's pop songs covered by Morning Musume, in acceptable English. Skip to about 2:00 if you don't want to see the show presenting the performance.

Classical Japanese version/translation of Silent Night

Saturday, 22 December 2012

I've been around...

Recently I've come to realise that I have travelled quite a bit in my life :P Pretty much every year since 1996.

1996, 1997, 1998: Tenerife. Three years in a row at the same hotel every time. I don't remember which one, but one of the times we celebrated my birthday there. I think it was my 7th, but I'm not sure. Anyway we went out for dinner as per usual and in the evening we went by horse carriage around the town. And I also got a hand painted spray coloured painting from a street salesman. I had it in my room for years (until I moved I think), but it got faded by the sun :( One year we also went up to the volcano, Teide, and brought home some lava rocks. I don't think I have them anymore, but those rocks are cool - they float on water :)

1999: Lanzarote. Next Canary Island. I don't have any specific memories from this one. I think it's the trip where the whole family got sick :P

2000: Fuerteventura. Third Canary Island. Think this is the one we rented a car and then got lost in the country side xD We went to a Bird Park here :)

2001: Lalandia, Denmark. Although I live close to Denmark this is quite far away :P Water adventure land, along with a play land for kids.

2002: Gran Canaria. Fourth Canary Island. This is the one with over 200 steps between the hotel and the beach. The one with pepper trees everywhere and a fallen lampshade from a street light looks like a dinosaur  egg (or I had just watched too much Jurassic Park). Here we went on a glass bottom boat and watched dolphins :) Dad also wanted to go shark fishing, but Mum said no.

2003: Lalandia, Denmark. Back again. The water land was still awesome, but I had grown too old for the play land :(

2004: Iceland. Geysirs, volcanos, hot springs, waterfalls and circle-shaped churches. And horseback riding on Icelandic horses. Iceland has been one of my favourite vacations and I really want to go back there sometime. One of the weirdest photos from the trip is my little sister in a big winter coat standing next to a banana plant. Iceland was/is self-supporting on pretty much everything thanks to their geothermic energy :)

2005: Berlin. Confirmation course trip. I didn't much enjoy Berlin, but maybe I wasn't there long enough. The trip to Sachsenhausen was cool though and left a deep impression.

2005: Amsterdam. I remember it was crazy trying to find your way in Amsterdam since everything is named after the damned canals xD Canal name + central/south/north/east/west = hard time. I loved the Anne Frank museum.

2005: London/Torquay/Exeter. My first trip alone and also my first language course. 14 years old and thought I knew English. I figured out pretty soon that I didn't :P But it was my first time in London (London Eye!) and I loved the bus trips we took through the Devon countryside. It felt so incredibly Celtic :3 The three weeks I spent in England were some of my most memorable weeks abroad.

2006: Tenerife. We took a trip back to Tenerife. Mostly, I think, because my little sister (born '94) didn't remember much of the place and we always talked about how fun it was. For the sake of it we stayed at the same old hotel. Went to a Butterfly house/Bird house and were generally nostalgic. The street salesman with the spray coloured paintings were still there :) One thing different was that we spent more time at the beach than at the pool this time. Probably cause it was easier for Mum and Dad to keep us in sight at the pool when we were little.

2007: Nice/Cannes. First trip to France with Mum and sister. We went to a Sea park and saw a performance by killer whales and dolphins. Favourite animals :3 Also remembered a waitress being impressed with me cause I ordered our food in French :P

2007: Alicante. First trip to Spain with my family. My dad has business contacts down there and combined a business trip with a family trip. Alicante is quite small, but it was a pleasant trip.

2008: Paris/Nantes. School exchange program trip to France. Bus down. Stayed in Paris for three days and did everything that you're supposed to do in Paris: Le Louvre, Sacre Coeur, Hotel de Ville... Then we went to Nantes and stayed with our respective student's family. The students were younger than us, which was noticeable... On our way back home we stopped in Paris for half a day and went up the Eiffel Tower. This is also my first trip with my digital camera :P

2008: Stockholm. My sister had never been to Stockholm so she pestered us about going there for summer vacation. Which we did. And we did everything: Old Town, Royal Museum, Gröna Lund, Skansen, archipelago tour, Globen, the guard shift at the Royal Palace...

2008: Edinburgh/Inverness/Drumnadrochit. Our three weeks long project work trip went to Edinburgh, along with a sidetrip to Inverness and Drumnadrochit because our project work was about Nessie. The Loch Ness museum in Drumnadrochit was boring, but despite the distinct smell of countryside I liked the Scottish countryside. And Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities of all time. Dying to go back there.

2010: Tokyo/Kyoto/Seoul. Best trip of my life. Dying to go back there. I loved everything about Tokyo (no shit!), the geisha show in Kyoto was very special to me and I loved the aquarium and the mountain in Seoul :3

2011: London. Went back to London and did everything properly. Westminster Abbey, the Dungeons, the Aquarium, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower of London... I like London a lot, but I've been in better cities.

Can't really remember if the earlier years are correct. But I think it's something along those lines... Then there are also some small trips that we've made that I don't really know when we made them... Like the roadtrip to the north. First time using a kick-sled and drinking milk fresh from the cow (disgusting btw). On the way up we stopped at the candy cane factory (Gränna) and got to taste all the different stages of candy canes. Or the trip to a drive through zoo in Denmark, which was really cool. Tigers up close and feeding giraffes (they have blue tongues) :3 But hmm... I guess I've been around quite a bit?

Oh and then there's the trip to Disney World in Orlando, FL that my parents made together with Dad's best friend's family in 1991. Of course I don't remember anything. It was my first birthday on the flight home. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas baking!

So this weekend I went to my parents' place to do some Christmas baking. It's a tradition of ours and I wouldn't miss it. Singing along to various Christmas songs while making gingerbread and almond cakes :) They had made saffron buns earlier since they wanted those for Lucia, and that was alright. And since they apparantly had to throw out most of the rosettes (struvor) from last year, mum didn't want us to do those this year. So in the end what we did were gingerbread, almond cakes, klenor, Christmas sweets and toffees. I described the procedures last year here and here. Along with a video from last year of the dog eating her beloved gingerbread dough I'll add a bunch of pictures with captions from this year's baking.
Gingerbread in the making
Almond cakes in the making
Doggie playing
Me and my sister making Christmas sweets
Christmas sweets
Christmas sweets
Christmas sweets
Prepared for toffee
Mum making toffee
Enjoying the spoils

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Why I ♥ ...

As I knew I would I grew tired of the series xD I only had four topics left and I have no inspiration for any of them. Those subjects were culture, food, infrastructure and martial arts. But the only one I still feel like blogging about is Japanese food. Mostly cause I love the Japanese cuisine. Everything from nattou to okonomiyaki and ramen.

But except for it being almost impossible to gain weight while staying in Japan. I love that food is such a big deal in Japan. It's not shameful to eat between the meals (like the weekly magazines make it out here) and the idols are often asked what their favourite meal is, what they like to cook and what they usually eat for breakfast. Idols who eat a lot and love food are considered cute. Heck, idols even do songs about food. Like this one when Morning Musume was asked to do a commercial single for a sushi chain:

But this song mentions food, as do this one, and this one, and they're obviously supposed to be eating in one part of this video: 

But I love the Japanese cuisine and I love the Japanese attitude towards food. 

This will be my last "Why I ♥ ..." post since I just don't feel like doing it anymore.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Why I ♥ the Japanese language

The Japanese has an amazing middleground of difficulty that I haven't found in any other language I've been studying.

They have the amazingly beautiful Chinese characters that originally made me want to study Chinese at a young age (before I discovered manga). But the present Chinese characters are simplified (uglified) and they don't look as beautiful anymore. Simply: Japanese kanji = traditional hanzi. But Japanese also contains a 48 character syllabic alphabet. Hiragana is used for conjugations of adjectives and verbs (okurigana) as well as particles. They can also be used alongside kanji (furigana) as a means to tell readers how that kanji is read, which simplifies reading enormously. Then there's also katakana. Katakana is also a 48 character syllabic alphabet, but only used for foreign words, items and names. Sometimes, in magazines, they are used on national words too for extra impact. Katakana makes it easy to see when a word is borrowed from a different language and it's also a means for foreigners to write their names in a manner easily understood by the Japanese. Seems confusing with three ways of writing? This is how it works:
Sentence is "Watashi no namae wa Elin desu." 
Meaning "My name is Elin."
I think the way of the written language is beautiful. The Japanese are taught about 2000 kanji in school and that's basically all you need. I think that's a third of what a Chinese person would need. Japanese is beautiful and as soon as you get the hang of it, it's kind of easy.

The grammar is heaven. There are some things that can be difficult at first, because that kind of expression doesn't exist in your mothertongue or in English, but it falls into place pretty quickly. Something that I love is that Japanese only holds two irregular verbs. Suru (to do) and kuru (to come). Only two irregulars are heavenly. Compare with French that has more than 100 irregular verbs and you'll understand my joy. Above all the grammar is largely regular. There aren't many cases when you bang the grammar book against your head trying to ram it in there cause that way it might somehow get stuck *flashback to French studies*. In most cases it's just a simple : "Oh, I see, so that's how it works."

Even the pronounciation is easy. It doesn't have different tones like Chinese. Japanese is largely a flat language with hardly any intonations at all. There are no difficult sounds. The only sound I've had problem with is the 'z'-sounds, mostly because we don't have sonant z's in Swedish. But I think I've finally gotten the hang of it! :D Heck, most European languages have more difficult pronounciations than Japanese! I know that French still screws me over sometimes and I can't really make a good Spanish r-sound.

But overall I love the Japanese language because it comes almost naturally to me. To me it feels as natural to react in Japanese as to react in Swedish or English.

I think that Japanese is largely misunderstood in Europe. People seem to think that Japanese and Chinese are the same (that would be like comparing English to Russian, they're that far off). I'm not sure if people who are not familiar with either of the languages will be able to hear the difference, but in this video they sing in both Japanese and Chinese. Mostly Japanese, but a bit over halfway through the video the choir stops singing and only two girls sing - they sing in Chinese (it's also possible to look at the subs and realise that the alphabetisation of the two languages is different):
Song is large choir, singing calmly with accompanying piano. 
Not your typical Japanese cutesy hyper song.
Is watchable for anybody.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Why I ♥ purikura and karaoke

I make a combined post for these because like manga/anime/dorama they are internationally known phenomena. Before I went to Tokyo I had never done purikura and never been to real karaoke. But before I left Tokyo I came to love both of them. I don't remember what I did first - purikura or karaoke, but I'll write about purikura first since it comes firts in the headline :P

Purikura is Japanese for print club. Basically they are fancy photo booths. You go inside and then you choose from several backgrounds on a screen inside the booth. The booths differ in sizes, but usually you have quite a lot of room if you're 2-3 people. But it's kind of crowded if you're 5-6 people. Anyway, you choose your background and then you pose at the camera. After you've taken all your pictures you go out of the booth to a smaller booth on the side. There your pictures will appear on a screen and let you design them, with glittery items, texts and funny images. When you're done the pictures will be printed as small stickers and you can also have them sent as images to your mobile phone :) The photo-stickers are also collectables to be collected in a purikura album. I like it cause it's so cute and the stickers are like accessories :) It's also a fun thing to do with your friends to commemorate or just cause you're out in town. These are the ones I have on my computer, but I have several more in my purikura album:

Then there's karaoke. I don't sing very well, but nobody cares in a karaoke booth. A karaoke booth is a room you sit in. Depending on the size of your group (we were usually about 5 people) the room conatins a sofa along the walls and a table in the middle. You pay by the hour. One hour seems a lot but it goes by so very fast if you're many. If you have foreigners they usually give you a book with international and foreign songs too along with the little device that contains the Japanese songs and the mics. Inside the rooms there's a TV and the devices with the Japanese songs control what song shows up on the screen. You choose and then send the song to the TV :P There are usually menus on the table in the room too and after a short while a person comes along to take your order for drinks and/or snacks. It's a lot of fun to take an hour of your day doing this. You can be so very silly and sing off-key how much you want. Once we decided to sing an English song the way the Japanese subtitles indicated. That was hilarious! "Aru-raito!" And a sing-along to some Backstreet Boys song is always appreciated! :D