Saturday, August 27, 2016

100 Days of Duolingo

Spain’s Coat of Arms
Motto: "
Plus Ultra" (Latin)
"Further Beyond"

This week I celebrated my 100 Days of Spanish anniversary. Can you call it an anniversary when it’s less than a year? Anyway: 100+2 days have passed since I started learning Spanish, using the Duolingo app recommended by another blogger (Janet). My last report here on my blog was after 40 Days, when I had made my way through all the basic Spanish lessons in the phone app. Since then I have kept on doing daily “strengthening skills” exercises though, and on my 100th day was also rewarded with a timely upgrade to the neat figure of 40% fluency (and level 16).

Besides repetitions of Duolingo I have also continued with the fantasy book I found for free in both Spanish and English on Kindle (El Despertar de los Dragones / Rise of the Dragons by Morgan Rice, also mentioned in the 40 Days post). I’m still reading each chapter in Spanish first, and then again in English to check my understanding. I’ve not been reading that book every day, as it still requires some serious concentration… But I’ve got as far as into chapter 9 (nearly 40% of the book), and I’m still set on finishing it (without cheating and skipping ahead in English). Being a YA fantasy novel in a medieval sort of setting, I think it’s rather a good book for the kind of basic vocabulary I’ve picked up (+ I have added a Spanish-English dictionary to the Kindle, and just have to put my finger on a word to look it up).

I have also worked my way through the French Duolingo exercises. Basically repetition for me, but over 40 years have passed since I learned French in school, and I’ve never used it much since. I found some lessons easy, others trickier. My passive understanding not too bad, but active use a different matter… 
(Duolingo now rates me as 38% fluent at level 12.)

I also tried a little Welsh, and a little Turkish. But both these languages are new to me  and very different, both  from other languages I know and from each other. After having tested daily lessons in both simultaneously for a while (just curious about my own brain’s capacity of coping with it!)… I think I have come to the conclusion to drop Welsh for now, but continue with Turkish. A Swedish Television channel just started running a Turkish drama series of 100 episodes… I watched the first five half-hour episodes this week (with Swedish subtexts) and noted that I did recognize a few phrases or words from Duolingo – just very simple things like “yes” and “thank you”, but still. Might be interesting to see what happens if I give that 100 days as well!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Reflections in Pink

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2016-07-20 flamingoes

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Flamingoes at the zoo. The kind we have at our zoo here in Borås is the African Greater Flamingo, Phoenicopterus roseus. From the zoo’s website I learn that flamingoes get rather old compared to most birds – while in the wild it is common for them to live at least 30 years, in a zoo they can live to be 80. The oldest one at our zoo is over 40 years old. The grey one I understand to be a young one, though - not yet having attained the pink colour.

Weekend Reflections 

Pink Saturday

Friday, August 19, 2016

Skywatch Friday – Lookout

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On our way back to town after our day out in the countryside the other week (visiting an old mill and a wood sculpture museum), we also made a short detour to a lookout spot high up on the hills west/north-west of Borås, from where you get quite a good view over the city. Unfortunately it suddenly started raining just after we got there; but at least I managed to snatch these two views before we had to leave (rather in a hurry!).

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It’s not all easy to find one’s bearings straight away, looking out over the whole city from an unfamiliar perspective; but the new ‘skyscraper’ built a couple of years ago does stand out as a landmark (so far the tallest building in town, even if competition is being planned). I see the top of that tower from where I live as well – which is somewhere to the right of this photo, out of view!

Sharing with Skywatch Friday

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Old, New and In Between

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Flower-covered railing on one of the bridges in central Borås.
The figure in the foreground is not a sculpture, but one of several similar new concrete barriers around town meant to prevent car traffic in pedestrian places. These are roughly cast in the shape of a classic symbol of our town – the peddler. (Borås was founded as a market place back in the 1600’s, and still an important city of commerce.)

There is also an older, proper sculpture of a peddler in one of the main shopping streets:

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This statue was made by Arvid Knöppel (1892-1970, best known as one of Sweden’s great animal portrayers); but it has been included in this year’s sculpture biennale brochure together with a few other “oldies”.

“Arvid Knöppel’s Knallen (The Peddler) is a monument and tribute to the little man. For 400 years, peddlers wandered around Sweden selling crafts, textiles, woodwork and metalwork.”

Linking to Good Fences

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Uno’s Wooden Animals

After our lunch at the Old Mill last Sunday, we also went to visit another very special museum (Unos Djur / Uno’s Animals) out in the countryside (village called Bredared); showing the works of a local wood carving artist, Uno Axelsson (1922-2002).

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On the TV screen, they show a documentary where the (very humble) artist himself talks about his work.

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Uno was a farmer and did not take up wood carving as a hobby until he was in his 50’s; but after having retired from farming, he continued to make more and more advanced sculptures. From 1975 until 2002 when he passed away, he created approximately 250 sculptures. He never sold any of his works. Some were given as presents to family and friends, but the rest he collected in the barn at his farm. Rumor spread, and people found their way there to look and admire.

After his death, his works were all donated to the local history society. They arranged a permanent museum in a separate building near the old village hall, where these fantastic animal sculptures are now being shown. In the humble spirit of the creator, they are still keeping things simple. The place is only kept open to the public a couple of days a week in the summer season, and the rest of the time they only take group bookings.

My brother and I visited the place once before, back in 2010. Our aunt and uncle had never been to see it, though; and we were of course happy to revisit the place with them. (Lucky for us, Sunday is one of the days they’re open!)

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When Uno first started doing his artistic woodwork, it was primarily bowls, following the natural shape of odd-looking pieces of wood; then he began to carve animal heads on the edges of bowls; and from there went on to do bigger sculptures.

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(This snail is HUGE – compare the 3rd photo from the top.)

Uno’s art was often made from nodules obstinately growing against the grain. Large knots and gnarly trunks are typical pieces that inspired his fantasy. Most of his sculptures were made out of one single piece of wood.

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Except for the horns, the cow (more or less natural size), was carved out of one huge piece of oak – which is a very heavy kind of wood. After he had finished the shape of it, he hollowed out the inside to make the sculpture somewhat lighter.

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This sow with piglets is natural size too.

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The eyes on the sculptures are not glass but were painted with water colours and lacquered to be made shiny and life-like.

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▲The entrance to the village hall,
and a small outbuilding nearby.▼

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And an old cart filled with flowers to welcome visitors.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Old Mill – Vänga Kvarn

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The place where my brother and I had arranged to meet with our aunt and uncle last Sunday was an old countryside mill (at a village called Vänga). It has been preserved partly as a museum, and partly as a café – very popular in the summer. (They’re open six days a week in the tourist season, and weekends in autumn and spring.) They also have a little shop where they still sell locally produced flour (and a few other things).

I have blogged about the place before at least once, a few years ago. (We were in better luck with the weather this time!)
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The wooden sign says Welcome.

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We had lunch indoors up in the loft this time.
(Photo deliberately blurred, using a focus zoom filter in Picasa.)

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And then we went for a little stroll outdoors around the premises.

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The store has an old-fashioned interior too, of course.

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Sweet temptations on display outside.
(No, I did not buy any!)

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“We sell kerosene.” (Hm. Once upon a time, maybe…)

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(Trolls like this place too.)

. . .

I’ll be linking to:
Through My Lens
Ruby Tuesday Too
Our World Tuesday 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Revisiting Familiar Grounds

Last Sunday, while my brother was visiting, we had made an appointment to meet our aunt and uncle for lunch at a place about half an hour’s drive from town. We took a bit of extra time getting there, though, as we wanted to make a couple of short stops in the neighbourhood of where our parents used to live.

First we went down to the beach by the lake close to our former house. It was a very windy day with risk of rain, so the beach lay all empty when we arrived.

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(Photo edited as painting in Paint Shop)

We also had a look at our old house (sold two years ago). In the past we would have had to cross the railway and walk up close to the property and peek through a high hedge to see more than a glimpse of the roof… Now the house can be seen from a distance because trees and hedges have been cut down, opening up the views. The house itself still looks much the same - except that we have never really been able to see it from afar like that before. So familiar and strange at the same time! I’m glad the trees and hedges did not have to be taken down while our parents still lived there (the secluded garden was one of the things they loved about the place). But for the new owners and for the future, probably the right thing do – starting afresh, creating the garden they want. And none of our business any more, anyway!

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We also stopped at the village church and made a tour around the churchyard to check on the family graves.

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New cross added to one of the old graves – in memory of my dad’s cousin, whose funeral I attended earlier this year.

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Memorial chapel.

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Peaceful countryside surroundings.

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