Week 2: taking control over sadness

Now I am counting weeks! This is probably a sign that I have been in Sweden for too long.  This week is the week 11 in a Swedish calendar but in my own, it is only the week 2.  After exhausting myself, dealing with sadness and loneliness, and shedding lots of tears during the week 1,  I think I am finally myself again.  And after debating what I am going to do here all by myself, having a Friday night and a whole weekend ahead of me with no plans, two people steered me the right way: “write thesis”.  At first I was mad as if I didn’t know why I am here for in the first place but then a day later I realised that they were right.  I am not here to go out, have a good time and enjoy Stockholm.  I am taking my vacation days, which I could have used for some nice beach in Thailand, to finish my degree. So I should be writing the thesis and nothing else.

It also made me realise that two months is actually a very short period of time to finish our ambitious case study that we intended to do, rather than a very long time away from home. Yes, it is a long time if I am doing nothing and have lots of time on my hands, but not if every day and every hour count!   Thus, the early Monday I went for a library tour and learned everything about databases, e-journals and all the resources that my university offers.  I had no idea how extensive the resources were and now I wish I did it much earlier.  I think I skipped the first class 2,5 years ago thinking that it was silly to take a library tour.  What a naive fresh graduate student!

So as soon as I got home, I booked a number of books from the university library and even one from another city for a “library loan”. I had no idea that it was possible to order any book from any library within the Nordics and even abroad for a small fee, and my university library would take care of receiving it in a few days and passing it to me.  Also, the tips that the librarian showed me were extremely useful in retrieving articles quicker and finding more academic papers.   Following the advice from the thesis coordinator, I started taking notes and summarize everything I am reading. It might be slow and slightly boring but it helps me greatly when I need a quick look at the point that a particular academic article or a book was making. I didn’t finish summarizing the books but I am finding so much interesting material in learning the theory.

During the breaks I cooked.  I forgot how much fun it is to experiment with food and to actually cook.  In the last months, my husband was doing all the cooking because I have been so busy with work and studying at the same time. And when I finally cooked, I didn’t want to experiment in case I completely ruin it, so I did my usual best dishes. But now, it is just me and if the food tastes terribly I do not mind eating it anyway.  After all I am a student so I will eat anything and will throw away nothing!  But at the same time the old habit kicks in and draws me back to the isles of organic and nutritious foods.  No more candy in order to get energy and stay up late at night studying.  Fruit has natural sugar and it gives the same energy levels without any crashing afterwards.  I also cannot stop my curiosity and experiment and try something that I haven’t done myself.  For the first time ever I bought a fresh basil plant and made some mozarella and tomatoes with the virgin olive oil.  Sweden is also a place where someone introduced me to halloumi cheese and I really liked it since, now you can also find it my fridge.  I cannot wait for the next dish to cook it! But the happiest moment was exploring the Asian store next to the Hötorget metro stop.  Some women love shopping shoes and dresses but I love shopping for Asian food.

The suspicion is that I might have been Asian in my past life because the Asian goodies bring me the biggest smile.  And that comes from a girl who has never been to Asia… so go figure. The nice thing is that I can practice my broken Swedish to an Asian Swedish owner of the shop.  Somehow Swedes with other ethnicities or immigrants intimidate me less or they are just more  courtagious and actually slow down when speaking Swedish.  The other best thing about Asian stores is that every time I am recommended to add something else, something that goes well with a dish that I haven’t tried before and often without having me to ask. This time the smily guy pointed at citrongräs (lemon grass).  There was some other grass as well but I didn’t get the name and he asked me to choose.  Strangely or maybe not so strangely, I knew the name and the smell was highly familiar as well (besides it all being citrusy) but I could not recall it.  I do not remember ever seeing the plant but perhaps I tried lemon grass ice cream in that weird but yummy organic ice cream place I frequently visited with my friends when I lived in San Francisco, or obviously a popular dish as lemon grass chicken?  Despite that, I eagerly grabbed it and added it to my cart but since it did not look much of the plant, I tried to clarify and showed the hand motion of chopping. But his following words surprised me: “äta inte” (Do not eat).  “Inte?” (No?) He shook his head and followed with more hand motions indicating fragrance or at least that’s what I thought.  Ok, I agreed.  I can always google it at home.

That is how for the first time I cooked with lemon grass and even though I am not sure if I could really taste much of the difference in my Thai red curry, it was one of the best curries I made in a long time.  The coconut milk was 100% pure from Thailand which was recommended by the store guy, and I also added some fresh chilies, eggplant, my favourite vegetable of all times, and fresh Thai basil.  In addition to the first timers, I forgot to mention that I made my first couscous a few days prior. It didn’t taste as I hoped but I am a firm believer that it all comes with practice!

These are the reasons why I would have the hardest time of moving back home.  And when I say home, I mean Home.  My home home country where I was born and raised but have not lived in the last 12 years and counting. Where would I get my mozarella, halloumi, thai basil, lemon grass, real coconut milk and many more?  In countries where these items are not popularly consumed or if they are re-produced regionally, the quality of products suffer and it is not even close. The freshness of vegetables are highly questionable, the coconut does not taste as creamy and when being cooked often breaks down in pieces.  Even here, if I buy coconut milk from a regular store, forgive me for my French but it tastes like crap. I need my little Asian store with all the goodies, I need to be able to stop for lunch for a great sushi or Indian place once in a week, I need my Lebanese food and so many others.  In small countries where different cuisines only becoming popular recently or where are no populations of these ethnicities, the food will never taste as good or even close. You might think that you are eating an Asian meal, but let me make you curry with fresh produce, because if you remove all the sauces that they put on those so-called Asian dishes to make it taste as Asian, you would realise that you were eating paper.  Oh darn, in that case I would have to bring my own ingredients in order to cook for you.  Maybe I should. This actually sounds like a good idea and if I am able to take it on the plane, I will because last time I made a spicy curry to my parents when they were visiting, my dad actually quite enjoyed it. I knew I inherited my adventurous side from someone!

Ok I am off to get some milk for the coffee and back to the books! I will keep you posted.