About some books – 2015’s readings

I do not like to make lists of books, maybe it is because I sometimes do not succeed in reading many books every year, or just because I think that every book has its way of being…that is what actually I do, I do not make list to say which one is the best. Therefore, I will try to give you a short summary of the books I read during this year, and at the same time I will try to express the feelings and the meanings each of them has given to me during this year.

I will start con “La Bestia” (“The Beast, by Óscar Martínez). A famous Italian journalist and writer recommended it for some months ago. This writer, Roberto Saviano, inquires on mafia events in Italy and in different parts of the world (even though Italy could count for twenty countries regarding this). I started to read the book in May, and for some reasons I did not finish it. I had the final exam at my upper secondary school, then I visited my host family in Sweden in July, and while there I got accepted at Karlstad university, where I came back after some week in Italy, the 21st of August. During my first semester in Karlstad I met many many many exchange students, including one from Mexico. I remembered about the places in the plot of the book “The Beast” and talked about them, exchanging comments between “mafia’s” witnesses (Compared to a Mexican I do not have experience at all about mafia!). Differently from Italy, when immigration, drugs and mafia mix together, the setting does not stay “low” but start to become the same where “civil” and daily life happens, not to tell about the unfair difference between Mexico and U.S.A.. Look at this image to see the border between the two countries. The wall you see in the Mexican side on the left was built in 2006, not to let immigrants from Central America go through U.S.A.. This is just an insight of what the book tells about, and I really recommend it to you. By the way, when I came back to Italy to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with my family, I was really curious to finish this book…I did it with a completely new and at the same time strange and sad feeling.

The first book I completely read in English for the first time, was The White Lioness, by Henning Mankell. He was a Swedish thriller writer who sadly passed away this year…I love his books for they give an incredible insight of what Swedish society is, and always has been. Most of his stories are set in Southern Sweden, in the region of Skåne. Close to Denmark, this region is often influenced by the big flew of immigrants who enter, without any checks until this December, into Sweden. Skåne is a region with a big business of drugs, and the situation is far from being “easy”. His stories exaggerate this situation creating breathtaking pages with many murders. I feel it every year closer since I learn to know about the Swedish culture more every year.

Egenmäktigt förfarande: En roman om kärlek (Unauthorised procedure: A novel about love) was the first book I read in Swedish since I learnt this language. I actually did not get every word I read, but the general meaning and many sentences I could understand. I will take some weeks before reading another one in Swedish, but at least the first, and always most difficult step of reading in another language than yours, has been done.

Noa Noa by the painter Paul Gauguin was a collection of letters and travel book pages written during his journey in Polinesia. Maybe was for the cover or the slightly opaque color of the pages, or probably for I was reading it to write a final essay to be presented orally at the final exam of my last year of school, but the book gave me the chance to totally get into the surroundings Paul Gauguin had been experiencing, feeling the feelings he was living. For great travelers/dreamers/globetrotter/writers/readers I really recommend to read this book!

Another book, again in Italian, was Vai e Vivrai (Live and Become) by Radu Mihaileanu and Alain Dugrand, which I also read for the final essay at school, which has the title of “Il Viaggio” (The journey). Telling about immigration, racism, love and persecution, the book relates to the historical moment of the Operation Moses in 1984, which was organized by U.S.A in order to migrate a group of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, moving them through Sudan. In one of the refugee camps, the mother of a Christian Ethiopian let the son travel to Israel with a Jew mother hoping for a better life for him. The whole story develops fast and is very interesting because it really gives a basically explanation of what happened during this year, which I totally ignored! One of the meanings of the book is that of the racial distinction between white and black Jews.

Sulla Traccia di Nives by Erri De Luca is about a climber who practice her sport/life choice together with his husband since many years. The climber is interviewed by the author, which is on his side a very talented climber and sportive person. Nives Meroi is one of the few women on Earth to have climbed seven one fourteen peaks over 8000 ms, and this book is very special!

Ok, I probably did not read that many books in 2015, I will do my best next year! What I already have in my bucket list is “The Brothers Ashkenazi” by Israel Joshua Singer, a novel settled in the end of 1800s to present the reality of Polish Jews during a hundred year before the Olochaust. While this one is in Italian and I will probably leave it in Italy if I do not finish it before getting back to Karlstad (I never succeed in reading in Italian when abroad!), “About a boy” is the first English book I will read in 2016. I got it free from an exchange student leaving from Karlstad after the first semester. It is a little funny how so many exchange students/free-mover/erasmus have full luggages at the end of their period abroad and need to lighten them!

By the way, even though I just read six books in total in 2015, there are many books of which I miss to read just a few books…which are:

Le vie dei Canti by Bruce Chatwin (The Songlines) which I also read in Italian, is about an Australian old myth which says that for aborigines the Earth was created thanks to the existence of natural elements and figures which embodied Gods, and walked and sang throughout all the lands. Nowadays, only the aborigines closest to Australia have the ability to hear the songs which still are played, and orientate through the lands. Bruce Chatwin experienced the “walkabout” in this wonderful land of Australia, meeting aborigines and old people during his travel. Still need to read the very last pages of this book, I will do it, or probably not, but I still really recommend to read it, as well as I recommend to see the film “Australia”, “Into the Wild”, “The Way” and “Tracks”.

The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World. I received this book from a exchange student in Karlstad, which on his side borrowed it from a friend. So, some months have gone and I still have to give it back, even though I did not read a big part of it. Generally, the book gives some pillars for why introverts should not think they are worse than extroverts, tells the differences between introverts and shy people and other interesting things. I do not know for which reason I did not finish it, or maybe it was to scientific sometimes, but otherwise I would recommend it.

So, this was my list of books I read in 2015, I really hope I will do better next year, especially regarding books in another language than Italian.

I will not list any resolution on this blog, I prefer to keep them personal, and instead I will write about the activities I will do during the next semester at Karlstad university. Firstly, I will try to find a job/jobs. The Swedish university system give students the possibility to organize their weeks both with study, work and pleasure, and I try to get the best of it. Moreover, days are getting longer since the 21 (Hip hip hurrà!) and doing more activities in a day will be easier and less tougher both for mind and body. Secondly, I have a take home exam of a week as soon as I will leave from Rome, then an oral presentation to finish the course of English for International Students, as well as an academic essay to hand in a week after. Thirdly, I will be host for the international students coming to the university in the middle of January. Fourthly, I will help to organize the woman concert our choir will held in May, being in the “producer group”. Finally, but actually one of the most satisfying things, I will continue to work in the student pub in Karlstad, getting very little money but much training and language exercise.

I keep resolutions for me, I hope you will try to fulfill yours as best as you can, not just showing them to the people, but try to believe that you can make it. And in bad moments, think about you reaching this day, you will probably realize that you are not that bad as you probably think!

I wish a very very happy New Year’s Eve, and I will see you next year!


What was it you say about Sweds? Cold people?

Yesterday afternoon I had the most touching moment of all the period I experienced in Sweden. During the day we sang in the library of the university in order to get money for the “Musikhjälpen 2015” that this year have the slogan “Nobody is supposed to emigrate because of climate change”. It was very cosy and relaxing to sing for students “trying” to study in the library.

Then I got to lesson and the others went to the city hall to sing for refugees (I would have really liked to do it as well, but I needed to be present at lesson!). But I went to sing Luciatåg at the retirement home in Kronoparken near university. It was my last Lucia celebration with the Söt Likör and then we got a little fika of course!

Then we moved to university where we had our last meeting with the choir, having fika, singing some song and doing a group quiz about musical things. The touching moment came when a girl of our voice (I am in the A1, the next lowest voice) shared with everyone that she would leave the choir after some years of partecipation. You know those persons who inevitably end up helping and welcoming you without you doing anything for that to happen? I really feel more closeness to those people when I am abroad ‘cause they are the same people who understand when you do not understand something in Swedish, without either saying anything or asking, they just see you and understand you by once! So this voicemate was very important for me, and while she was listening to us singing the song she wished us to sing and she started to get moved, I inevitably did the same. It was a very sad but at the same time very very important moment for me! after the song we all went to hug her and it was a moment full of feeling and warmness really!

A German boy and a German girl (she is one of my friends) will also leave before Christmas and they also said some words to thank you the choir and wished a song…the three songs were actually these ones, if you are curious to listen to them 🙂 This, this and this 😀

You want to know my favourite song ever sang in the unviersity choir? It is this one 🙂 Well, I get moved nearly every time I sing it in the choir!

Other touching songs we sang in this period were this one and this ^^

Well, I really could experience at 360° how Sweds are not at all cold, but it just needs more time to get to know them, they are just wonderfully simple and warmly warm.

Since I am an international student I had the chance to subscribe for a Swedish contact family, and I really did not feel to have big chances because I already speak Swedish and know the city, but I actually got an email some hours ago by my future contact family! It is a man and his wife who lived in Trento (Italy) for a year, and moved back to Karlstad for a week ago. I got invited to a Swedish Christmas aperitive tomorrow night, and I hope to make it work because the last days (omg tomorrow it is already wednesday!) are very fulled up with things to do (and saying goodbye to international students is one of them!).

I am pretty excited to enjoy the pretty unusual 15-6° in Rome since Saturday, but I am really messed up right know (the 12 pages to write for Globalization and Culture were moved to next Monday, but still I would like to be done with it before Friday!), and two days more here in Karlstad would not be that bad actually!

I will see you soon, probably once in Rome

Stay tuned 😀

Of goodbyes, Lucia celebrations and Swedish compliments

I was looking forward to go back and stay over during Christmas…then people started to leave Karlstad after their exchange programs, everyday I sent to and received messages from students to meet one last time before them “leaving soon”, then Lucia celebrations took me much time in the last week and I did not have time to say goodbye, and then a new course started, hundreds pages to read and write…and next Tuesday is the last “party”…I will probably leave it much earlier than I use to, goodbyes are so bad. Especially when you are pretty sure you will not see some people more, or maybe you will have to wait many years before having the chance to.

I am in a bad mood…yesterday though, I had the staff party at the student pub…pizza and a little “julbord” was managed by some students and we really had fun. They left in the morning but I got home at 2.00 ‘cause I really needed to sleep. The cold has arrived and last night on the bike I faced the “nice” -6° and the iced ground…pain near you heart, almost crying eyes, your scarf getting wet and frozen in some minutes…

I am messing up. A lot of things to do before I go back to Italy for the Christmas break. Last Monday I started a new course called Globalization and Culture which is a very short, fast and deep one.

I should actually shut up and cheer, next semester is going to be very exciting and full of things to do (I will tell you about it in some post), but people are more important than yourself, especially when they start to be part of your weeks giving you advices and staying at your side in the toughest moments. The more I stay abroad the tougher it gets when it comes to say goodbye, even though it sounds as it should be the other way. I get deeply used to stay abroad, make it by “my own” but I also learn to build relationship with other, especially foreigners, and this sometimes can make you very sad.

Many students who are leaving are selling or giving away things they do not have place for in the luggage, or that hey just would not need once back in their countries…so I got for free a book in English called “About a boy”…I guess it will be the first book of the year 2016…

I guess it is of common knowledge that Swedish people cannot “flirt”, or at least, said by an Italian, they cannot “court”…I am not talking bad about them, because it is just not in their culture, but sometimes it is just funny. So, two days ago at Bunkern I was talking about this with a Swedish and an Australian friend and the Swedish friend had the wonderful idea to joke about it, trying to “court me the Italian way”…the result was very very funny! One of the things he did was to touch my shoulders, while another one was to tell me few compliments (which is really not that common in Sweden, or at least for what I experienced in fourteen months). And a real Swedish compliment I got was “oh my God you are so funny, you produce so much noise from your mouth for so few things you have to say!!!”.

On Friday I had a very nice and rewarding day. I woke up at 4.00 a.m. because at 6.00 a.m. I had to stay in the Aula Magna at university to gather with the choir before the Lucia celebration at 7,30 a.m.. It was the first time in my life I got up so early, and having lesson after the concert did not help. I got home after class and then got to downtown…because we where going to have a Lucia celebration and a few “Christmas songs” in the Domkyrka… I just found this article telling about us singing in the church, and I am also in the picture, I am so happy for that ^^ Take a look if you want! And here is a video of us singing at Karlstad university on Friday morning 🙂

The Lucia parade (Luciatåg) is a very Swedish traditional event…Saint Lucia originally comes from Italy but it is very Swedish how all the entire thing is represented. The songs are learned in Sweden since kindergarten and tell about this woman dressed in white, with candles on her head, bringing light in the dark and cold days of December. In fact, the 13th December was considered, before the Gregorian calendar was introduced, to be the shortest day of the year (while today it is the 21st). Want to know something more about this very Swedish tradition? Take a look to this interesting and funny video! Are you out for the very origin of Saint Lucy? Then go here instead 😀

By the way, today my host family had lunch/dinner/food at 15,30 with me. We had a great time and now I am writing this post…later on I will watch a movie. I am not ready to start to write all the pages I have due Wednesday, but I will start tomorrow, now I have to relax psychologically!

This morning I was “googling” around, and I found out about the “Vätternrundan”. It is about cycling around the lake Vättern (the second largest in Sweden after Vänern). You can start from the late afternoon of a friday in June, until the morning of the day after…and you are supposed to finish before midnight of that day, or is Saturday…it is 300 km total and the price to partecipate is 1500kr. It is a lot of money, but you get food and a big organization is made around it, 20.000 persons use to take part to it. So, I am kind of cheering myself up thinking about the training I will start once back in Karlstad after the Christmas break. I should aim for an average of 30 kms at the start, mixing pace and duration, studying my diet, and so on, I really look forward to it! And also even though it is going to be pretty cold from January to March (the air cooled down by once since the middle of this week) days will get longer starting from the 21st December, so that I will have always a longer time during the day to manage both studying, training, relaxing, being host and so on…

Now I have to go…cosy night with a film and tomorrow I start a tough fourdaysstudymarathon before landing in Rome 😀