I’m Just Following Everyone Else

Before moving to America, Good Man had only traveled abroad twice. Both times he went to Japan. Once to take his TOEFL and the other time just to visit.

So he’s kind of making me a little crazy on this trip.

“Where are we going?”

“I showed you the map in the restaurant,” I say. “We’re going up this street until Strandsgatan or something like that and turning right.”

“Oh, OK,” he says, “it is my job to doubt.”


“Are we supposed to get off now?”

“No, look across at that island. That has a big sign for Gr?na Lunds, and that’s on the island we’re going to. Plus, it said we were going there via Skeppsholmen. This is the via point.”

Good Man shakes his head, “How do you know all this?”

He makes fun of me for researching things before I go, but I know this because I look it up before I go!


We are waiting to catch a long-distance bus. The bus looks full. The luggage area is mostly full. A blonde woman comes out of the bus, holds up three fingers and says something like “tree.” Another customer behind us is hanging near the wall, looking unconcerned. I put these clues together and figure that the bus must be full. The three people in front of us board, and the woman starts speaking Swedish. I tell her I don’t speak Swedish and she says, “Another bus is coming.”


“What’s going on?” Good Man asks.

“Another bus is coming.”


“That one is full, honey.”

“But it will go to Gotland place?”

At this point I just stare at him because yesterday afternoon when we bought the tickets the man said, “Don’t worry if the bus is full, we will always get another one.” I smile and nod, “Yes.”


We get to the ferry terminal and Good Man asks why I’m throwing my luggage on a cart. “Because this sign says to put your luggage here. We’ll pick it up on the other side.”

“How do you know that?”

There’s no polite way to say “I followed the signs” so instead I say “I am very clever.” The truth is, Good Man thinks I worry too much, but I had already researched that we were allowed one carry on and multiple pieces of checked luggage on the ferry. So I knew to look for a luggage place.


We arrive in Gotland and there are no street signs, though we have a map. I turn the map upside down to read it correctly and decide we should probably go to the left. Most people are walking to the left and there’s a blue sign with an I in an circle, so information must be to the left and that’s marked on my map.

“But how do you know we are going the right way?”

“Because everyone else is going this way, there’s an information place over there, and we can ask them where we are exactly. Plus, that way is mostly roads and this looks like a city.”


I’m not actually complaining about Good Man. But coming with him to Sweden, seven and a half years after Sweden was my first international/solo trip, is strange for me. I could have done so much more the first time if I hadn’t’ve been nervous and afraid back then.

I remember wandering back and forth in front of Centralterminalen looking for Vasagatan (I think) and not being able to find it. Because it was under me. I had to go down steps. I tried asking one or two passersby and got no help. Eventually I found it. This time I argued with Good Man saying, “Believe me, I remember this!” but if we couldn’t’ve found it, I would’ve gone back inside the station and asked for help.

(Of course, I asked someone how to dial a phone number and he thought I was calling Sweden from outside of Stockholm and gave me the totally wrong instructions. I tried several times and gave up. Then I checked in a book and found out what to do.)

Once in Costa Rica I took a bus to a small town (Ciudad Quesada/San Carlos). I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to get off and when the majority of the people got off the driver looked at me and asked if I was getting off. I was terrified and said no. We continued to the bus station, 2 km from the city center…which is where everyone else had gotten off. I found my way to the city, no thanks to friendly Costa Ricans trying their hardest and guessing at which way I was supposed to go (which my guidebook warned me would happen). When I finally got to the city square, I spent way too long trying to find my hostel. I finally asked some policemen for help and they happily point to a spot 50 yards away. From that I learned that if nearly everyone is getting off at one stop, that’s very probably where you’re supposed to get off, too.

And thinking of my travels—which have been few and far between compared to many people, I know—I’ve learned that
a) a smile and “sorry, I don’t speak…” will get you a lot
b) when people speak English fluently (like most Swedes do), they like to show it off and don’t mind if you ask questions—especially when they’re getting paid for it

b1) even if they don’t speak fluently, as long as they speak more than anyone else around them, they’ll find a way to help you
c) if you get lost you’ll eventually get found again
d) streets that would look scary at home are safe in other places
e) when all else fails, follow everyone else and look for the signs

Good Man, I’m just following everyone else.

Sneak Peek and The Hat

These are really poor-quality images because I’m shooting RAW and JPG Basic on my camera. Expect a RAW photo album when we get back.

Quiz I: Where Was This Taken in Stockholm?

Quiz II: Where Was This Taken in Stockholm?

This Stupid Hat

I have a dozen hats at home. I should have brought one but didn’t. Today it was very cold and windy and Good Man needed gloves (even though he wouldn’t admit it) so we stopped in a shop. Good Man saw this hat and wanted me to buy it. I think the braid looks silly. If they were black, they’d be OK. Heck, maybe even Pippi-Longstocking-Orange. But this one makes me look like I wish I had white-blonde Swedish hair. (Looking at it again, the strands are darker than they seemed, but still.)

However, Good Man really thought the hat looked cute and I didn’t feel that strongly about it, so I bought it.

As we were walking around he said, “Wow, everyone really is staring at you.”

I steered us to the closest store. “That’s it, I’m buying a different hat. I hate this hat. Time for a new hat.”

Good Man pouted with a sly look on his face. “But I will love you less if you wear a different hat.”

“I hate this hat! Everyone is staring at me!” I hissed in Korean. (Or something like that. Who knows? It was in Korean.)

He shook his head, “No, no, I promise, I was only kidding because you think everyone is staring. Nobody cares. I promise.”

I glared at him and pointed to a viking helment with horns and bright yellow braids. “I am going to buy that and make you wear that,” I threatened.

He tugged one of the braids. “You look really cute. I promise.”

The hat’s grown on me. A bit.


William and I have agreed to berate each other if we don’t post something about our Korean studies at least once a week. Well, William, yesterday Sister and I chatted online for about 15 minutes and I had to type in Korean. And my keyboard doesn’t have Hangul on it. And I did it! Keep up that typing practice. *^^*


Today’s Plan:
Nordiska Museet
Tekniska Museet

Today’s Reality:
Vasamuseet (95 SEK)
Nordiska Museet (70 SEK)
Tekniska Museet (70 SEK)
Kaknästornet (35 SEK)

We have 72-hour Stockholm Cards, which were 595 SEK each. We used 270 worth today plus who knows how much on the bus and subway. I am frugal, so of course I’m going to squeeze value out of these things.

Tomorrow’s Plan:
Katarina Hissen
K.A. Almgrens Sidenväveri
Stockholms Stadmuseet
Kungliga Slottet (which includes a ton of sites—Skattkammaren, Museum Tre Kronor…)

Why Shouldn’t She? And Fairy Godmother

I had conferences with all of my students’ parents yesterday and today. Yesterday was especially rough since I had to be at school at 7:00 (which is usually when I wake up) and didn’t leave until 6. I had 12 conferences, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but I couldn’t get anything done during the day because the time between the conferences was so short and choppy. Today I had a normal length day with six conferences. Only one parent didn’t show, and she called and we did a phone conference. Excellent.

I make my students sit in on their conferences. Only two (and the phone kid) couldn’t. The students looked terrified. But they know what their grades are. And the know how they behave. What am I going to say about them that they can’t hear?

I used to dread student conferences. I’d hem and haw explaining grades. I didn’t have evidence in front of me to back up my grades. I didn’t know how to talk about behavior.

It’s easier now. In part because our parents tend to accept whatever we say, but also because I now have a system for keeping all tests and important documents. I can flip open a folder and point. “This is how they’ve done.” I stay on top of grading so my gradebook is never more than two assignments out of date. And I am confident in saying, “Even though your child earned mostly 90%s on their tests, their tested reading level is not up to grade standards. I don’t feel comfortable giving a student an A when they are reading one full grade below their level. I think it sets up a false sense of security.” And the parents don’t argue.

I also admit my own weaknesses, which seems to prevent parent anger. Several times I said, “I have not challenged your child enough this quarter. Here are my plans for next quarter… So expect more homework at a higher level, expect more struggling at home.” And then I’d look at the student and say, “You are a strong student. And this entire year has been easy for you. Some kids—maybe not you, but some kids—think being smart makes everything easy, but that’s not what being smart means. This next quarter is going to be harder for you, and that’s good. Because when it’s hard enough that you work to get to the end, that’s when you know you’re learning.” Every kid I said that to has bought into it, so I must be doing something right.

I mentioned to several parents that I was trying to differentiate instruction at a higher level so their student would be better prepared for middle school. I was thanked profusely because, unfortunately, most teachers don’t do that at our school. I was also thanked for pushing students and for holding them to high standards. That felt good on a day when another teacher pushed back and said no way, students couldn’t be expected to write one 12-15 sentence composition a week.

More than one parent also seemed surprised that I spent so little time on behavior. One student’s mother said, “I have never heard a teacher say so many good things about my daughter.” I was surprised. Her daughter is a solid student. Not straight As by any means, but she earns her Bs and Cs. She’s a little chatty but manageable. She sometimes gets an attitude… she’s 12. She’s supposed to be getting to that attitude-age. Glare back at her and she gets over it. What’s there to complain about?

My absolute worst student, the one who curses at other teachers (never me) and is just wild? I spent about 15% of the conference talking about his behavior and the other 85% was about his academics. I figured, well, he behaves for me. And when he doesn’t behave for the other teachers, she usually hears about it. She’s been hearing about it for six years. And she’s tried. And she obviously can’t control him. So what is more bitching really going to solve? So instead I told her about how much improvement he made in reading, and how well he was doing in social studies and math. And when we were done she and her son were beaming. “Wow,” she said, “I am surprised. In a really good way.” Why shouldn’t she know that her son is working hard and that he’s a wonderful (appropriate) actor?

What was interesting was to see how my students behaved with their parents. Sometimes they were just like they were in class. Other times they were complete opposites.

We are going to Stockholm tomorrow.

My co-worker found out we needed pack towels for our trip and loaned us her family’s camp towels. “Amanda, I had to buy these for the Boy Scouts’ camping trip at $35 each. Please use them.”

I came home last night to see a sign on the door of our building. On the 14th they’ll be repainting the parking lot for half the units. On the 15th, they’ll do the other half. This means that no matter where I park, if I leave my car here, it’s going to be towed somewhere else on the lot at least once.

So I asked my coworker if I could park at her house for ten days. Not only can I do that, but she’s also taking us to the airport.

She’s like our fairy godmother!

7시11분, 한국말해…

I belong to Lang-8. This morning one of my “friends” posted an entry. She’s Korean and her post was full of “foreigner friend” this and that.

I corrected a few sentences and added this.

“Foreign friends” is not wrong in English, but it sounds very strange to many English-speakers. In fact, in Korea, many ex-pats HATE being called “foreigners” all the time. It sounds rude in English (at least in America). It would be more natural to not say it.

Also, I know that to Koreans anyone who isn’t Korean is a foreigner (외국인). But if you ever travel to another country and call everyone else a foreigner, it will seem like you don’t know what “foreigner” means!

(I’m sorry, it’s early and my Korean is bad.)

영어로 “foreign friends” 괜찮아요. 하지만 한국에서 외국인 “외국인” 던어 많이 싫어해요. 버릇없은 것같아요. (무례한것같아요?) 잘 영어말 하면, “foreigner” 못 쓴것 같아요.

한국어로 다른 나라 사람 “외국인”이에요. 하지만 학국 사람들이 외국에 여행하면, 때때로 “외국인” 말해요. 이상한것같아요! “Foreigner”과 “외국인” 조금 비슷비슷해지만 달라요.

미안합니다. 7시11분 그리고 저는 피곤하니까 살명 잘 못 해요!

Tonight I asked Good Man to look at what I wrote and to translate it so I could re-post it. I knew that I had simplified what I wanted to say.

He read it and said, “I understand the Korean. It’s the English that is confusing to me. What is wrong with me?”

It didn’t matter in the end, because my friend wrote back that she understood what I meant and she wouldn’t use the word in English.

Rock it, Amanda. Get on with your Korean side at 7:11!

Speaking of Korean, I just found some old, old recordings on my iPod of doing language exchanges with YJ in Korea. One was from March 2007 and I was reading the story “The Red Fan and Blue Fan.”

I listened to myself. “‘열신히 공부했습니다…'”

I talked over the recording. “열히 공부했습니다, 열히.”

“Wow!” Good Man said, “It’s like Future Amanda is correcting Past Amanda!”

Meanwhile, Past Amanda was repeating that sentence three times trying to get it right, whereas Future Amanda recognizes that stupid sentence on the spot.

Well. Damn. Present Amanda needs to tape herself reading Korean if only to prove to Future Amanda that Past Amanda (will have) improved.

Different Kind of Similar

AC/DC, doing a math problem: I know how to solve this. But I’m going to solve it the right way. You know, like a real man does.

“Is my car making that knocking sound?” I asked Good Man. Several months ago my car was making a knocking sound. Something was missing and had to be replaced. It’s been making a much quieter creaking sound very recently.

“Different kind of similar.”

“‘Different, kind of similar?’ Or ‘different kind of, similar?'” I teased.

“No, dash dash dash.”

“Different—kind of similar?”

“No!” Good Man cried, “Different-kind-of-similar. A compound!”

A Compliment (and an Insult) and an Ajumma

After my surprise birthday party, I did a lesson on longitude and latitude. One of the problems was to find a location and name the state it was in. Dead Meat was the only student who knew the state was Colorado. He threw his arms up into the air and yelled, “Yes!”

I drew a cartoon of Dead Meat wearing a crown on my Smart Board. The students were intrigued. I wrote “[Dead Meat] wears the smarty pants crown.”

“Wow,” Subatomic said, “it’s like a compliment and an insult all together!”

My students are funny.


The only way I’m really going to get some Korean learning done is to actually made Good Man speak Korean at home.

I am an ajumma.

I can strong-arm him into this.

Or whine my way into it, in that annoying way that Korean women whine. Good Man told me he hated that whine, but whenever I do it he says, “너무 귀여워!” That’s very cute!

After all, I know taekwondo!

Speaking of Korean, 화 as a root means both angry () and peace/harmony (和).

There’s some sort of metaphor here about being a 화/火/和 strong-arming, whining ajumma. But it’s late and I can’t quite sort it out…

Sunday Walk and Photos

Good Man and I went for a nice walk today. It was refreshing and very necessary. I slept half the weekend away, trying to stave off illness.

Good Man




Brown and…