Category Archives: Sweden

Born into it

Temperature is so low I lose the sensitivity of my fingers (without gloves) within minutes. The blanket of snow still greets me god morgon whenever I stepped out of the hostel. The shudder always comes next when I breathe in the chill of the air.

Few Swedish students will be heading towards the tropical island for their research project next semester. Other than the culture shock they will experience, I think they will find the weather shock more unbearable. It goes the same for me too, but I would rather the heat waves embracing me when I go home than the icy air sucking the life out of me everytime the door opens.

A multi-racial community is where I grew up in. Seeing different skin colors is a norm for people living in the place where I come from, in addition to the many attempts the government tries to normalize the mix, I don’t usually see race as an identity of a person. To my fullest knowledge, we respect each other’s cultures and festivities, we acknowledge the presence of differences between how these people of different colors behave and accept them. An occasional thorn may appear from the surface of what seem like the peacefulness between races, but it never grows into the malicious and indiscriminate assaults between the people.

I don’t usually identify myself with being a Chinese, but I can’t help with the fact that I celebrate attend Chinese festivities, tie myself with the traditional cultures that advocate down-to-the-earth attitude, and eat Chinese food (no, not Chinese noodles). Seldom have I thought that my Chinese heritage defines who I am, until I met a lot more people from other races, and mostly, other nationalities.

So one of my Swedish friends, who’s going over to my homeland for his research project, was caught in a shock when asked about the ethnicity group he belongs to, on top of his nationality. Here’s the question (which is specific only to my country, not sure about the rest), if we are just looking at the capability and educational qualification of an applicant, why bother about names and ethnicity? Interestingly, I was asked where/who do I identify myself with, my country or my race? While I couldn’t really find an answer to that, I realized that I don’t feel belonged to any group that people categorize themselves into. Not that I want or don’t want to be a Chinese, I’m genetically and culturally born to be a Chinese.

Race is always a sensitive topic, because people choose to distinguish and protect themselves, to keep on to a culture that was passed on to them. While nothing’s wrong with embracing your own culture, it’s only wrong when you prevent others from embracing their own cultures.

So let me end with a quote from Confucius – “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

己所不欲,勿施於人

– 孔子

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While it lastsOne can never get enough of the pure whiteness.

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Filed under Culture, Sweden, The writer

Anti-socal, really?

Pardon me but it’s hard to write if I don’t know what to write about. And then, I stumbled upon Julian Tan’s article on Asian students’ reluctance to mix around with local (when overseas) and other international students while they are overseas.

Admittedly, I’m guilty of not mixing around with other students and tend to hang around friends of my own country. Let me just summarize the points he made for people like me, who are not sufficiently sociable:

1. Differences in social behaviors and sharing of jokes (not much on food, I’m quite resilient in this aspect) that contribute to the so-called culture shock experienced when you’re suddenly dropped into a foreign land.

Drinking has never been my forte, neither does dancing to rock/rap music appeal to me. I find it particularly tough to catch up on the Western counterparts’ conversations as they are really good story-teller, while my mind just draws blank whenever I try to recall details of an event. Certain jokes are hard to catch in the absence of context, which essentially boils down to the fact that I don’t live in your country. Once, I was with an Australian, an American and a New Zealander (also known as Kiwi – Wikipedia) over dinner. They shared their stories on housing because they moved away from their parents, on drinking in bars and on searching for employment overseas. Of all, I couldn’t contribute any because of my lack of exposure, because of how I was brought up. And to be frank, I still feel kind of weird whenever I answer the “How are you?” and “How’s your weekends?” questions.

2. English isn’t the first language. And it is difficult to break two barriers at the same time just to chat, the language and the clique.

While I have no issue with English conversation, quite the opposite happened. Swedish is my classmates’ first language, and naturally, they feel more comfortable conversing in their first language among themselves. It poses a barrier in wanting to chip into the conversation. It doesn’t help when they’re already a clique since they have been classmates for more than two years. So, it’s not just a language barrier that I have to break, but also a social barrier. On the other hand, among other international students, a mixture of accents which I’m not used to make things slightly complicated. Apparently, my own accent isn’t helping either. So at the start, we just brushed each other off with polite smiles and nods, silently acknowledging the miscommunication.

Blending in is never easy. It takes not just effort, but extra effort to interact with the locals, and with people who were brought up in a different environment than you are. Understanding a new culture or language isn’t an overnight event, neither should I categorize all the diverse cultures into a generalized “Western world”. But I do have to admit alcohol knows no boundary. It’s like music, money and food – everybody has a common understanding of them.

Yup, maybe I should try to be less “anti-social” and join the upcoming corridor party. Who knows, maybe I’ll love the combination of alcohol and loud music.

Since I’m on Julian’s article, also check another of his articles out.

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This isn’t really an iconic place in Copenhagen. I just found this row of buildings while I was strolling along the river (in the biting cold).

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Filed under Culture, Europe, Sweden, The writer

Into cooking

After many attempts at various recipes, I shall talk about this: Carbonara.

Okay, it doesn’t look particularly appealing on this photo.

Anyway, credits go to recipe one and recipe two. After salivating over the two videos, I decided to combine (too ambitious) the two methods of cooking Carbonara, and with much effort, I could probably manage only 50% of what’s going on in the video. Well, learn from the mistakes and lick the wounds. Tomorrow’s dinner will be better than today’s.

Anyway, mistakes made are as followed:

1. Forgot to keep the pasta water, resulted in dry and sticky pasta.

2. Bacon wasn’t crispy enough.

3. Too bloated from the ridiculous amount of Tagliatelle (the pasta shown in the picture) cooked.

4. Forgot the salt, thinking the bacon was salty enough.

Other than these, everything else went well. And probably work on my presentation skills next time. Hah! While everyone’s moving across borders, I’m kind of addicted to the kitchen. Anyway, the flight tickets are so expensive!

Edited.

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Filed under Food, Sweden, The writer

The first encounter with a patient

It’s amazing how C’s words carried a tinge of positivity when he introduced K to the class. It was my first encounter with a patient cured of cancer. Personally, I have only known one other person who had an encounter with cancer. She shared her experiences on coping with the lymphoma, walking to the hospital from home though she could have fainted because of her low blood count, shelving her travel plans away because of the diagnosis.

The session went on under 50 other keen eyes, listening attentively to her recollections while C kept the mood light and made occasional humorous comments. Probably because deep inside, we know that the diagnosis often signifies that the life is close to an end. While some treatments are meant to extend the lifespan of the patients, other treatments are curative. But we all know cancer remission is like a weed, refusing to steer clear of the field, hiding and haunting deep inside. Or probably it’s just me. We weren’t allowed to ask question on the prognosis, on the other hand, others asked about the changes in lifestyle and counseling. It was great to hear that she could lean on her family in critical times like this, receiving love and support from family members must have aid a lot in overcoming the side effects of the treatments.

Sensitive topics like death are often overlooked by people. People choose not to discuss about it because of fear and judgement. In the face of death, would you choose to do the activities you love, disregarding the people around you? Because death is such powerful excuse nobody talks about it though it’s running through everyone’s minds. And what I learned from watching American dramas, death is the end for that person, nothing else comes after that. Pain is only felt by the rest still breathing, enduring the emotions and feelings of missing someone.

The class ended off with a birthday song (in Swedish) for one of the students (while the exchange students stood blankly and clapped along the rhythm.) and C’s personal lesson:

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Skogskyrkogården is a beautiful cemetery in Stockholm, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The serenity and cool air are a fantastic getaway from a busy schedule, and also watching people stroll along in the paths in the woods. The tombstones are decorated with flowers and ornaments (mini-lampposts), which are quite cool. Truly celebrating life, embracing death. I’ll probably talk a walk back when winter comes.

You know you need to take more photos when you’re focusing on the wrong point. ):

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Filed under Education, House M.D., Sweden

Climbing up the escalator

It is one of the longest escalator I’ve been on, right outside my hostel at Västra skogen, Stockholm. (I pant if I were to climb up all the way, while the escalator is moving)

The journey takes 1.5 minutes if you were to just stand on the platform. That would be 3 minutes for a two way journey, if you take it down when you’re going out and up when you’re coming back.

Doing some simple math, you spend 15 minutes on the escalator every week if you travel via the metro every weekday. That would be an hour spent on the escalator every month, 12 hours (half a day) in a year.

Well, if you think this is long, there’s another one in Maryland, USA, that beats this flat-down, by a minute more.

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Raise your hand

Culture explains the social phenomena and human behavior in a local setting, disregarding the effect of genetics that shape the person to who he is. The debate over nature or nurture that realizes the inherent potential and characteristic of an individual has no end to it, as experimental settings and controlling of variables are not possible. Neither could we wind the clock back to reset everything.

I guess back home, I was not accustomed to speaking up in classrooms or lecture halls. Not because teachers don’t encourage questioning during lecture, but more because the environment discourages it. Because no one else is doing it. Conforming is one pressure that alters a person’s behavior under a certain situation. The absence of societal pressure (not possible though) would allow the person’s inherent characteristics to surface, while the presence of such pressure suppresses them.

To understand a new culture is to read from texts and papers. To fully appreciate a new culture is to indulge in it. To walk the journey in their shoes and to see the world through their lens. Culture is not passed down genetically, but through learned behaviors. Monkey sees, monkey does, monkey learns. Thus to learn the culture, we have to do what the local people do after seeing it for the first time.

And so, I may have raised my hand for the first time in the lecture hall.

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Shall make an attempt to upload a photo with every post. Can’t seem to scale down the photo without losing the pixel information. Uploading the original picture takes up some space though. Oh well.

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Filed under Education, Europe, Sweden, Travel