Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Shabbier Chic

Vintage is trendy among interior designers, perhaps started by ecological concern and a disgust over materialism. Things are supposed to be a little shabby chic these days, but the silliest notion I have seen so far is when people attempt to make their new things look old by sanding them down or trying a variety of distressing techniques. I say save yourself the trouble and buy second hand. Mother has accused me of adhering to the idea of 'shabbier chic,' as I have methodically destroyed bits of her home during my stay here. So far I have managed to leave the hot iron on the ironing board and then drop it on the carpet, spill red candle wax on the table, pull off the wallpaper above the door, and put a hot pot on the kitchen table, leaving a perfectly round crinkle in the yellow paint.

If nothing else, I make an impression.

The Call

Have you roused any rabbles today?
made any merries? larked any skies
or swashed any buckles? Come now,
firebrand, and burn! and let us together

light the earth.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Another Bit

Here is another excerpt from my story:

Edmund walked out of the grand room, down the steps to the entrance hall, which was as empty as the rest of the house, and stopped on the round blue carpet. He had looked through enough magazines to have more than a passing acquaintance with the modern day décor of the well-to-do. Great sashes were always in season, it seemed, combined with moldings of fruits and flowers and birds, copiously detailed, large sweeping chandeliers, thick carpets intricately woven into red and green and gold landscapes of pastoral themes, purple curtains with bells and tassles and buttons, tall paper screens with mythical beasts lolling on tufted hillsides, bejeweled family crests in every room, impressively scaled pictures of ancestors on horseback mounted on each wall, enshrined in gold frames for guests to admire. He had once visited the Gala manor in Rotunda with his mother, and even that had been detailed and decorated ad infinitum.
But Mr. Edward’s house was spared of such features, and Edmund was surprised he felt disappointed. The walls were very tall, either white-washed stone or covered in pale gold wallpaper, richly-textured, with plainly vaulted high ceilings. The furniture was spotless, dusted just that morning, and oddly scaled, much larger and taller than necessary, with the backs of chairs rising high and severe. The glass windows reached almost to the ceiling, constructed of many sheets of glass locked in an intricate, geometrical pattern of squares and triangles. The windows were open to the hot morning air—he heard seagulls crying—and a breeze stirred the white curtains and exotic plants on the windowsill. The room was octagonal, and he suspected the rest of the house was also designed in much the same way.
He moved to the window and touched the plants, feeling the cool soil between his fingers. He had never seen such plants. They had long, fibrous roots that budded and flowered, thick green stalks that split and narrowed into heavy pink and white and yellow flowers. Other plants had been tended and cut, vines lifted onto thin cane frames to encourage growth. A tiny plum tree, potted, trimmed and carefully cultivated, was almost obscured under its masses of fruits. Edmund leaned on the wide windowsill and pinched one of its plums, surprised to find it ripe and warm from the sun.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A Day of Song

 Indulging in a bit of trainspotting before the real work begins.

 On the streets of Vännäs

 Ida, thinking

Ida, looking

Smell of Possibility

Writing this book has given me a truly unique experience. To plan my own time, to master my whims and write and write and write and near the end. All the pieces are coming together, which makes me pursue the finish so much more fervently. I met Maria at the university today to study and talk about the tensions of faith and the practice of it, social issues, and blogging. I struggle to find the words to describe my present situation; I do not know where I will be in a year, and that should be the cause of some concern, but I am not afraid. I am at peace with the future.

Sanna, in the library, with a bun

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Fat Tuesday! The last day to fatten up before the fast. In Sweden we eat semlor--bun filled with whipped cream and almond icing and dusted in confectioner's sugar. Sister Sofia, in a conversation, told me she would not be fattening up any time soon, due to her active neglect of cooking. "Today," she informed me, "I have eaten four pieces of toast and a potato."

Tea Box

I have been trying to convince Ida to get a cat, so that I may come over and play with it. She has remained resistent to the idea, but I think she's weakening. She gave me a tea box! With cats! And told me this should hold me over for a while. Isn't it the finest tea box you have ever seen?

Monday, 20 February 2012

I Call It 'Imagination'

This past week has been an absolute hodge-podge of things to attend to and I have been playing substitute teacher and taking my cousin to the movies and listening to Clara give a presentation on blogging and digital entrepreneurship at Nolia, to mention only a few things. I have, therefore, been admittedly very lazy in writing anything at all, but I will improve.

I look forward to so much. The days are only getting brighter, literally, as every day another minute of daylight is added to the hours. The sun is out, new snow has fallen (much to the chagrin of my parents), and I have finished The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. I am almost done with my second draft, I will be attending a worship conference on Friday, and my nine-year-old friends Isabel and Erika recommended I watch A Gurl's Wurld, an Australian children's television series about three girls--an Australian, a Singaporean, and a German--who become friends while studying in Singapore and are soon tragically sundered by geography upon returning to their homeland; but they wake to find their mobile phones and computer work as teleporters! What's not to love?

P.S. When a nine-year-old recommends something, you'd do well to listen.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Aye, aye

Alicia sent me this, saying it reminded her of me. I am glad that in someone's mind I am a peg-legged pirate parrot who smokes a pipe.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Unsigned Gift Conundrum

My friend Natalie writes today's post. I had forgotten about All Hearts' Day (as we say here in Sweden) altogether until I suddenly had a box of heart-shaped chocolates in my hand and mother beaming at me from across the kitchen table. So instead, to rally the cause, I provide you with the musings of one of my oldest, dearest, and wisest friends.

Natalie's batch of Valentines's

I suppose it began a few years ago when I was in the States, and dear Francis was in bonny Scotland. We weren't actually dating, but he was going to come and visit me in a month or two, and man, did I have a crush. Valentine's Day rolls around, and I think, what can I do that's not soppy, but may convey a slight bit of affection? So I roll out the water colors and paint an anatomically correct heart and in the ventricles I write in Latin, "love conquers all," hoping that's discreet and spiritual.

Well, I forgot to sign it, so a few weeks later, Fran asks in his way, "Uhh, so, did you send me a Valentine?" OF COURSE I SENT YOU A FLIPPING VALENTINE. WHO ELSE WOULD SEND YOU A VALENTINE IN LATIN?!? Did he translate it? Negative. Drat! Foiled by my own intelligence.

Well, a few weeks ago Fran and I had a bet, and I lost, and the result was that the loser had to send the winner a package. So I drew a cartoon, and along with a pamphlet, 'The Radio Talks of C.S. Lewis," gently slipped it through the box. The next day Fran texts me and says, "I got the best package from my cousin. And man have they learned to draw since last time." At this point I am banging my head on my desk in frustration, incurring bruises the size of watermelons.

So this began a little package war, where we each sent each other (inexpensive) surprise packages in the mail. So far, I have received Pulp Fiction, which was ACE. My turn rolled around again, and in a way that I thought was a hilarious and obvious joke, I sent him a calendar with flowers on it, directly misleading with the return label of his grandmama. There was no postage; it couldn't have fit through the mail slot; I even wrote his gran's address incorrectly.

The next day I stroll into his kitchen to see the calendar hanging proudly on the wall, and nonchalantly I ask where it was from. The response, I should have seen coming from a mile off: "Oh yeah! Gan Gan sent it to me! A little odd, but nice all the same." It's only at this point that I become slightly aware of the twisted sense of humor I possess and that perhaps I should stop torturing innocent persons.

So Valentines Day 2012 rolls around, and what do I do? I write him the same Valentine in Latin I did so long ago, and sign it: To Fran, From Nat. Fran opened it and smiled: "Love conquers all, right?" Who can resist that smile? IT IS ADORABLE. And do you know what else I'm thinking? LOVE DOES CONQUER ALL!!! And not in the mushy, aww-sweety-you're-wonderful way, but in the ever universal, platonic, love-conquers-every-miserable-thing-and-infuses-this-life-with-something-divine-and-that's-the-only-reason-I'm-alive-and-sending-you-Valentines-in-stinking-Latin way. OMNIA VINCIT AMOR. You better believe it does, buddy!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

It Is Well with My Soul

Ah, Sunday mornings. I wake to sun glittering along snowdrifts and slanting through windows. I spent the first part of the day buried in bed, typing out worship lyrics for kids' songs at mother's behest, before I rose and ate breakfast and put my hair up in a bun before church. I looked positively Victorian, which my mother protested, saying it was "youth Sunday" and that I really should look more "youthful." But I like my hair and I like my high-waisted skirt and polkadot blouse and white sailor collar. Ida came over half an hour before we were to leave, and I showed her the proper way to eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

"Really?" she said. "Peanut butter and jam together?"
"Really," I said. "One of the best things to come out of America."

Church was wonderful. I was up to my elbows in cables and sound equipment, trying to stretch my meagre supplies to catch the sound of an electric keyboard, four singers, two acoustic and one electric guitar. Worship went off very well, and Mike had an excellent sermon prepared, and Jakob mustered the strength through his fever to man the projector, and Masika sang a solo, all by her fourteen-year-old self. Impressive, no? I am proud of the work of our hands. And I am looking forward to many more such Sundays.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Sure. Why not?

I shook her hand politely and looked around the kitchen, eyes running over all the equipment. Eva smiled reassuringly. "Is this your first time in the kitchen?"


"All righty. Firstly, you have to wear the apron--kitchen rules, you know--and we're all having lunch in there--"

There was no need to remind me of my empty stomach.

"--and we'll be bringing the carts into the kitchen in ten minutes or so, after which you'll have to unload them--mind you keep track of which dishes belong on which cart because some are for the upstairs--and put them in the industrial dishwasher. See here? Just press this button to the side, and the washer will start. These metal pans on the work space will have to be emptied and placed into plastic bags--they're in the side cupboard--and you'll have to write the date on the bags before you put them in the freezer. With that marker over there, see? Right next to the box of plastic gloves, which you can use. After you've finished clearing the three carts, it'll be snack time. There are sixteen children upstairs and sixteen downstairs, at three tables, meaning you'll have to make three sets of snacks. Put three cartons of kefir, muesli, milk, water, jam, butter, and plates of cheese and salami on each cart. Oh, and this chart over here tells you what kids are lactose intolerant, so they'll need the lactose free milk and butter as well on each cart. And Marcus is on a special diet so he will need the wheat milk and an extra slice of cheese on his sandwich. Scoop the butter into six small serving bowls and the jam into plastic containers. They must have lids. It's a rule. And you need to cover the butter bowls in plastic wrap. Did I mention that the muesli is in the cupboard? Well, it is. The white plastic containers with green lids. When you're done with the carts, you'll need to bring out the one and put it in the elevator for us to bring up. We will eat at quarter to two, and we'll bring the carts back, but before we do you'll have to run through the building and empty the trash cans. I'll give you the key later and you can go out to the storage unit and get a sled and put the garbage bags on it and pull it to the trash room (the code is 0223).You need to walk down the road and turn left at the red building. The carts'll come back--you'll have to unload them and clear off the dishes again. After you're done for the day, pull out the rubber stop in the washing machine and drain the machine--press this button here--and once it's drained of water, you'll have to unscrew the rotator blade, take out the meshing and rubber stop rest and wash them. But remember to use the green brush when you do--you can't use the blue brush by the sink--because the bacteria is different and we don't want to mix them up. Think you can do that?"


Monday, 6 February 2012

Ang Moh Extraordinaire

Tyler Creasman is an American boy who, like me, has lived most of his life in Singapore, but unlike me, has picked up Singlish (Singaporean English) to a greater extent and speaks it with such fluency that he has gained the (well-deserved) attention of local media. Language and language acquisition has always been fascinating to me, and as both Swedish and English are failing me at moment, I decided upon this interview with my former school mate to fondly remember the fact that others still do possess the ability to speak and make themselves understood, whatever the circumstance. 

You've become something of a local celebrity. Where have you been featured and how did this happen?
Tyler and Ian Wright in Chinatown

Well... I guess it all goes back to a little skit I did at a school event in 7th grade where I showed off my local flair to my other international friends. Somebody filmed it and my mom put it up online. It became popular and somebody shared it with Mr. Brown, a local podcaster (who I was imitating in the skit as Sgt ‘Light Brown’), and he featured me on his show. A couple years later somebody dug it up again, and I was invited to the Shan and Rozz Show. That went off. Before I knew it I was getting asked to do other stuff. A local comedy club had me on for a couple of sets. One of the coolest things was when I got a call from a Discovery Travel channel agent, and got to meet Ian Wright from Globetrekkers when he was in town.

And where did you acquire your Singlish speaking abilities?

After six years of local school, it’s a miracle I can still speak American English. Honestly, if you immerse yourself in something for so long, it’ll rub off on you. I didn’t even realize it, but my parents said when I was in grade school I would switch accents talking to them or talking to my local friends. 

I hear that 11% of the readers of Stomp! were "Enraged" by your Singlish abilities. What do you have to say to that?

Haters gonna hate. People get angry on the internet; there are some ‘enraged’ comments on the videos too. In general Singaporeans think it’s pretty shiok though, so the 11% doesn’t really bother me. 
Tyler featured in the New Paper
It seems to be a touchy subject. Why do you think some people are upset by you learning the creole of Singapore?

I don’t think most critics realize how long I’ve actually been in Singapore. If some foreigner came into my country, had a knack for accents, and imitated me, I might be mad too. But I’ve spent the majority of my life on the island (in local neighborhoods and mostly local schools), so I think that gives me just as much credibility as the next Singaporean. 

When walking around Singapore, has anyone ever pointed you out as "Hey look! It's the ang moh who speaks Singlish?"

Hah! Nope. It has happened in private a few times, when I’ve been introduced to people and they say, “I feel like I know you from somewhere.” My personal favorite was when people asked my mom if she had seen the videos about the white kid who spoke Singlish. 

If you were ever asked by…oh, let's say, Mediacorp, would you consider taking up a role in a local sitcom and achieving stardom equal to that of Gurmit Singh?

Well, I wouldn’t ever hope to be as big an icon as the great Phua Chu Kang. But yeah, that’d be a blast to be on TV for Singlish or Mandarin. In 2010 I was offered a role on the Hossan Leong show actually. It would’ve paid pretty well for doing a five minute section in the Esplanade. However, it was during my senior football season and clashed with game times, so I had to turn it down. Other side story, my parents were extras in the local movie “I Do I Do”, so I met Jack Neo on the set. Didn’t get a business card though...

What do you think you'll be doing in the future?

Working for Mediacorp, obviously... Hah! I'm busy with getting through college right now, then we'll see. 

Any advice to future Singlish speakers? Or to ang mohs recently arrived on Singapore soil?

Learn some Chinese and Malay, eat the weirder local dishes to say you tried them (everyone has to do durian at least once).  Get out there and explore the island; immerse yourself in the culture and be Singaporean, not just an Ang Moh. Who knows, it may give you a weird ability that can land you an interview on a blog someday.

There you have it, folks. A jaunty look at a soon-to-be well-known and well-loved Singaporean actor. You can watch more of his Indy-esque explorations into the cultural gaps between language and local colour here.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Physician, heal thyself

My fever has broken! After moping around the house for six days and half-heartedly poking at my book, I am finally, ferally, fiscally, fabulously fever free. The fever preferred to hover right above the norm, and I was left feeling not-quite-right, but with little excuse to truly avoid work. What cured my ailing form, you ask? Cousins! My uncle stopped by with my three cousins--Inga-Linn, William, and Amelia--and we had tacos and played board games and watched Taken. And I really cannot think of a better way to spend the evening.

All True, Except for Coffee

 "My taste runs to hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typefaces, etymologies, the taste of coffee, and the prose of Robert Louis Stevenson..."

- Jorge Luis Borges, Borges and I

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

La Vie

I've liked Super Junior since before I left Singapore, which would mean I've liked them since 2007. The bad part about living up in the frozen north of Sweden is that it is (surprisingly) very far from Asia and my island home. I have no fellow Asian to profess my love of Rain to or ask to borrow their Jay Chou cd or commiserate over the lack of imperial costume dramas. (Oh, Young Warriors, you will always be in my heart. Especially you, Seventh Son.) That's why I am grateful for youtube where I can watch kevjumba and nigahiga and happyslip and episodes of Phua Chu Kang and feel not quite so bad about being far away from all things really familiar.

There is always the possibility that I get stuck in the "white guy speaks fluent cantonese" section of youtube and start into fits of jealousy over my own linguistic incompetence, wishing I too could speak with a local's flair. Did you know that I grew up thinking I had an American accent? Before you pffft away, do realize that every Asian who met me assumed that my accent, acquired from American and Canadian teachers and classmates, was as American--as red, white, and blue--as it could be. I shake my head foolishly now at my naivety. Little did I know. Stepping off the plane and onto the soil of the land of the free and the home of the brave, I was quickly put right by the curious Yanks. "Where are you from? You've got an accent."

Ah, c'est la guerre. What can you do? I shrug my shoulders in French and smile wryly. Forever the foreigner in America, forever the American everywhere else.