I have a dream…
said once a well known
in his speech
I also have a dream…
of contributing to
the world I want to live in
I mourn over broken relationships
over trust lost to distrust, to despair
and over love turned into hatred
Someone has said
that hatred is only
love that has gone astray 
And I so much want
to tie together
what is broken to a whole
I would like to be part of
When trust is restored
and reconciliation can take place
The road there
just seem to me
so tremblingly frail
If I dare to walk
it will be in the awareness of
that I need not be
the solution itself
only a part
of a bigger picture
Like the piece in a puzzle
seemingly difficult to place
Which would still be missed in the whole
And I am not alone
We are many who share a dream
of a better world
During seven months, I have attended a course in mediating in conflicts based on Nonviolent Communication. The mediation programme, organized by Friare Liv (http://www.friareliv.se/en/) has been held four times with three days in a row. In addition to that we have all practiced in two small groups, one that has met at six occasions and another that have practiced every two week in a telephone conference.
On Saturday, May 20, 2017, the morning of the last course day, I read this poem and played the song Si by the French artist ZAZ. It was this very song and the experiences from the mediation programme that inspired me to write the poem.
-How much will I be able to speak if I do the whole Duolingo course in German?
My previous knowledge from the evening course in German 1983-84 was since long forgotten and when using a Univerb CD and book course in 2015, I mostly listened and seldom opened the book.
Before going to Germany on May 3, 2017, I actually did all the exercises and reached a level of 35% fluency according to the Duolingo application.
The greatest advantage with Duolingo is, in my point of view, to get a sense of the order of words in a sentence. The vocabulary increases of course too. I wasn’t however that accustomed in creating my own phrases and started to do it on my own out of situations in my daily life before the trip. Duolingo is for me a bit like listening to music and singing along, knowing all of the text by heart. Ask me to sing the same song without the help of hearing it simultaneously and I will know perhaps about half of the text by heart.
Looking back now at my seven days in Berlin, I did feel more at ease speaking. It still happened that I needed to change to English, however less often than in my week there in 2015.
Writing produces an imprint in the brain and as I often wrote the same faulty sentence AGAIN (how irritating!) I started to sometimes copy the correct answer from up in the top of the window by writing it accordingly. Thus my 35% of fluency needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
Using Duolingo this time intensively for a month I was very content with the practicality of the application. It is easy to use and as the exercises only takes about 5-10 minutes, it is easy to keep up the continuity of training.
Yet, there are things I would like to find and this is therefore my wish lists for future updates:
Technical related wish list:
Ability to see the amount of exercises I’ve made in a day. No matter how many exercises done, the application only shows “Practice complete +10XP”.
Ability to save phrases in order to create my very personal phrase book.
A possibility to choose the amount of repetitions that shows for each day. Getting 25 new every day was stressful. Perhaps though, this might be due to the amount of exercises I had done the previous day?
When having finished a repetition, it sometimes takes a about 10 seconds before the color change to orange and the text “No more week words/Strength full” shows. This could perhaps be my phone being slow.
Language related wish list
A module with pure grammar information in order to get the bigger picture of a language once in a while. I especially missed that in the beginning.
A part of this grammar module would be a table with the auxiliary verbs, to be, to have etc
Orderly exercises corresponding to this grammar module. With this I mean sentences being in the order of I, You, He/She/It, We, you, They. As this suggestion might be what many like least with language learning (plodding through, just like in school) it could be a bonus skill for nerds who want to dive deeper, just like the exercises “flirting” and “idioms”.
When studying French, a decade ago, there was a vocabulary test, Maximots, built by a professor at Stockholm University on the 1600+ most used words. I’d be delighted to find a similar option also in Duolingo.
I have often had a good laughter by some of the sentences, especially in the Danish course. Some of my favorites are: The squirrel is our captain, the ants import rye bread, I am the queen of France, and Why does the bear conduct the orchestra? In the same time, I really don’t know when I would use them. And, Good Heavens, what would an answer be if I did?
New languages wish list
Some years ago, I fell in love with the Breton language and in 2014, I went on a five days’ language course in Brittany.
According to UNESCO, the Breton is a severely endangered language with an estimate of only 250 000 speakers
The Duolingo newsletter of May 18, 2017 tells a hopeful story of another endangered Celtic language, the Irish. With only 44000 speakers it is classed by UNESCO as “Definitely endangered” and now “3 million people are learning Irish with Duolingo” 
What an advantage! Except for the opportunity in learning new languages, the Duolingo application is also contributing to save endangered languages. How many more can be saved? What about being able to learn as well e.g. Sami languages and Occitan?
My first wish is to soon find Breton as one of your courses. With the facility of the Duolingo application more people would have the possibility to learn Breton, thus helping also this language to stay alive.
It seemed like an ordinary day. Until a stolen truck came rushing straight into the crowd of people.How to comprehend what precede when a human being choose to kill?What if we could all be close long before, to be a friend to each and one of them who need support. What if we then could prevent such a sadly choice that was made today..
Face to face with a person in need, I often tend to immediately react to that need. This reactivity of mine has also been pointed out to me a few times “That someone needs your help does not necessarily mean you need to do it right away” and “Hey, just because I mentioned what needs to be done, it is not necessarily YOU who need to do it. I am also here, you know…”
What is this urgent need in me to FIX, to SOLVE?
A friend of mine called it “Identification”, identifying with the other and thinking it is my responsibility to solve the other person’s dilemma. I have started to think of it as codependency.
A while ago, I attended a conference about empathy. The speaker indicated how fixing or solving is to protect the other person from his/her own development also quoting a saying: “No true transformation without suffering”. In a way, fixing the situation for the other or telling him/her what to do is, if we bring matters to a head, to try to steal away the self-power and initiative from the other. We all have our very personal way to walk. To put one self in the shoes of the other is NOT to be understood literally, it is only meant as a way for our imagination, helping us having an empathic understanding of the other person’s situation.
So what is empathy? Well, I know what it is not: When identifying, I lose the border between myself and the other. My lack of integrity makes me vulnerable and leads me down into the other person’s pain. I start to feel the same feeling.
In a booklet, Getting past the pain between us, Marshall Rosenberg compares empathy to surfing as it is a question of following the other person’s energy, like if the state of mind of the person being listened to, is a wave to surf on.
If I take this picture of empathy being like surfing a bit further on, surfing is about following the wave ON the board, not diving into the water. The surfing board can thus be a picture for my integrity, keeping myself intact instead of diving into identifying.
One thing Marshall Rosenberg says, that I find very challenging, is that empathy requires “learning how to enjoy another person’s pain”.
Well, maybe it is the fact of us not identifying and taking the responsibility for the other person’s case, the fact of instead just BEING THERE for the other, to know that I can be a space for the other to rest in for a while, a support, like a mirror of warm attention to the other person to look in where he or she can find clarity by being heard and rephrased in order to find his/her own solutions.
Rephrasing is something that has not come natural for me until now. As I am discovering it, using it more and more, I begin to believe that it helps me to “stay on the surfboard”, i.e. helping me staying intact by reflecting back instead of identifying.
One of the most challenging things for me to hear is when someone expresses a feeling of hopelessness and I’m not sure of having ever had the strength to rephrase back this feeling. To put these very words into my own mouth has seemed to me like I would surrender to the feeling of hopelessness. Yet, surrender is exactly what I have been doing when my conditioned reflex has made me try to solve the situation for the other. Identifying and taking responsibility in codependency is an obvious way to drown myself in the other persons feeling.
Is this maybe my turning point?
What if reflecting back the other persons feeling with my own words is not only helping him or her to see in the mirror of warm attention but also the way for me to abandon codependency. And a way to start living empathy.
 Rosenberg, 2005, Getting past the pain between us, p 8
He sits outside the store where I buy my groceries.
– Hey hey, he says. How are you?
Meeting him awakes a lot of different feelings within me. First, I feel sad and discouraged about the fact that a fellow being has to sit outside, day after day, in the cold to beg for money in order to provide for himself and his family. Then comes the feeling of guilt because I have everything I need while he is sitting there… Together with the feeling of guilt, there is an awakening frustration, making me uncomfortable when encountering this man. I have a need for freedom of choice and leaving a coin in his cup is not the way I wish to contribute.
Instead, I have sometimes bought him a grilled chicken in the store or paid for a kebab and a Coca cola in the pizzeria while changing a few words with him. Maybe that is why matters are brought to a head. One thing is to buy a sandwich and a cup of tea to one of the beggars in the city that I will probably not see again. It is completely different to start buying food to the same person.
Meaningfulness is important to me as well as contributing to a better world. I do ask myself however, how meaningful my gift to the beggar really is as it is not based on a relation of reciprocity and equal conditions. The fact that I give from my abundance the times I choose to do so creates a relation based on my advantageous position and him being at a disadvantage. Besides, I see my gift as a drop in the ocean. How much would he need to change the situation for himself and his family? And there are so many more in the same state as this man sitting by the store. How can I help so that what I do actually do help?
This February (2016), the final report, Framtid sökes (Wanted: a future), was presented by the national coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens. This report has given me a lot of clarity and hope. The remit of the national coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens has among other been to “support work being conducted by government agencies, municipalities, county councils and organizations that come into contact with vulnerable EEA citizens staying temporarily in Sweden, i.e. no longer than 3 months, and who do not have the right of residence.” 
In the English summary of the report one may read that ”Giving money to a person who begs is likely to cement the role of the beggar and not lead to any long-term change for the group. Children’s education is likely to suffer and the role of the beggar is likely to be passed down to the next generation.” 
The report encourages instead Swedes to support the several Swedish NGO’s that are active in the beggars’ home countries, Romania and Bulgaria. The strategic and methodical work of these organisations does lead to improvements of peoples’ living conditions. Organisations mentioned in the report, having increased their support during the last year are: The Red Cross, Heart to Heart, Star of Hope, Läkarmissionen, ERIKS Development Partner and SOS Barnbyar.
The organisation Heart to Heart has a development project aimed to help 4000 peasants out of poverty. The project includes, among others, education, health care, and courses for creating your own business. Together with a local foundation, Heart to Heart has started a social company where 25 people are working, manufacturing traditional baskets. Paying tax on their salary, the employees are now as well included in the country’s system of social insurance. Heart to Heart has also supported a commune’s peasants to start an association in which they cooperate about e.g. purchases. Thanks to the positive development in this commune, many migrants are now returning home. Here you may find more information about the project: http://english.hearttoheart.se/the-team-roma-project-2/
What I want to do now:
Since the late 80’s, I support the international work of Church of Sweden. After reflecting on how I can contribute to a better situation for the vulnerable EU citizens that come here, I have contacted the administrative centre at the church and asked for my monthly contribution to go to project P220 in Romania. This is also a project including education for children and young people as well as employments for adults.
Last summer I created a photography portfolio. Having no business of my own, I have decided that payments for prospective sales of my photos should go to some of the organisations with which I sympathize. My idea is also that, if the buyer agrees on it, a note will be added on a photo blog about what picture has been sold, to whom, for how much and which one of the organisations that will benefit from the sale. The portfolio is here: http://www.karin-blomqvist.fotosidan.se/index.htm
– You said that you had understood but you never told us WHAT you had understood!
Saying this, Corine, one of the friends I consider being among the closest to me, gave me a real Aha-moment this last summer.
I felt both exhilarated and abashed. Since a few years already, I had kept talking about how much I appreciate the question which I’ve learned through NVC: “Could you tell me what you heard me say?” And here I was, not having realized myself, the importance of rephrasing what I had heard the other persons expressing.
We had been playing Boule with her oldest daughter’s grandparents and Corine had seen and heard my frustration about the frequent instructions on how to throw the ball. I HAD understood! And to my very best ability, I had as well been trying to throw the ball according to the instructions. The annoying result of my efforts was however that the ball kept slipping out of my hand just about a second before the planned launch.
That day, on the lane of Boule, I chose, just like many previous occasions, to react on what I heard by defending and explaining myself:
– Yes, I have understood but am just trying to find my way of how to throw the ball… Maybe it is my muscles being too week to keep the ball… And because… (etc)
The choice of rephrasing what I had heard them say might have sounded like this:
– Do you mean it is when holding the hand in this very angle and my arm stretched here at the length of the shoulder that it would be the best moment to throw the ball?
Besides expressing what I had understood from the three others, it is also possible that my rephrasing would have helped me incorporate my new knowhow in Boule.
– I understand exactly how you feel!
This is something I have said and heard others say too, sometimes followed by a story of one’s own life, in the purpose to help, to give something to the other person that could help in their situation.
What happens when I tell about a similar situation from my own life is that the focus moves from the other to me and most probably, he or she, will not find any guidance in my story. When happening to me, I have by turns felt frustrated, sad and lonely.
What has really helped me is to be heard. While expressing what concerns me, I more easily find my own solutions. To experience another person’s full attention and to hear my story being described by his/her words helps me to see from a different view and to experience participation. To be heard also helps me to feel less alone even though I am the owner of the problem.
I am now trying to learn to rephrase what I hear the other person say instead of suggesting my own solutions. If I want to get more help from the communication process of NVC, I also ask for the other person’s feelings, needs and requests in the specific situation he or her is experiencing.
Most of all, I am trying to really be there, fully present with the person expressing him – or herself.
Adventure could start! A French friend and I decided in May to do an Interrail trip with her two daughters to Bulgaria and the Black sea coast. On our way there, we planned to stop by in Vienna, Salzburg and maybe Croatia or Slovakia.
In course of time we discovered however that our trip risked being both more expensive and more laborious than we had dared to imagine. We chose between the 10 days within 22 days pass for 374 € per adult and the 22 days continuous pass for 484 € per adult. In addition to that, one needs to pay 50% of regular price of a ticket to and from the border of the own country, just like it has always been.
Judging from the information at www.interrail.eu we had started to plan our trip a bit too late as only a certain amount of interrailers are accepted on some of the trains in France and that reservation fees therefore needs to be payed as far in advance as possible.
Region trains are a cheaper alternative as reservations aren’t needed and this was an option I explored with as much joy as frustration. On the one hand, it could be nice to stay overnight in a small town I never had considered visiting or even heard about. On the other hand I felt worried that we would spend most of our vacation in the trains rather than on the different destinations. There were times I had the feeling of planning an escape out of an occupied France and that all what mattered was to reach the border as soon as possible…
Maybe it was when starting looking for the trains to Paris that I realized that the railway, nowadays exposed to competition and deregulations, would offer a very different situation of travelling from what the Government-owned railway did that 1982 brought me on my first trip to France and some years later on a few Interrail trips in the 80’s and 90’s. At this time the route Stockholm – Paris took about 25 hours with one change in Copenhagen.
2015, a railway trip from Stockholm to Paris offers two alternatives:
With reservation fees for about 45 €, the trip takes 21, 5 to 25 hours with 3-6 changes.
To travel with a train where no reservation fee is needed takes 29 to 42 hours with 7-14 changes of trains.
The doubts of our vacation adventure increased by the hours spent on the internet looking for information and in my growing frustration of how much the circumstances had changed for an Interrail trip since the 90’s, I borrowed a book called The Great Train Robbery by Swedish free-lance journalist Mikael Nyberg. The book is not translated to English but there is a short summary on the authors web page: http://mikaelnyberg.nu/english/
The Great Train Robbery is a book telling the story of how the railway, exposed to competition and deregulations, suffers from neglected maintenance as the different companies compete in offering the cheapest bid in the pursuit of new or prolonged contracts. One of the last chapters, The land of the pawned welfare, describes how the economy In Sweden is divided into two parts: A minority of the population can get big bank loans to provide capital for investments such as real estate and shares meanwhile the majority of the population are the ones to take responsibilities for the finances of the State as increase of wages and expenses of the public sector have been held down.
The arguments for deregulations and exposing to competition use to be that it improves service and quality to a lower price for customers as companies competes. When the Swedish television now in August has reported about the risk for trains to derail due to rotten sleepers and rails cracked on the length , I have great difficulties to see those promised improvements. Instead, it is like reading a sequel to The Great Train Robbery. While planning the Interrail trip that didn’t come off, I believe having seen the result of exposure to competition and deregulations also for the European railways, among other things in the expensive reservation fees.
One of the reasons the Interrail trip did not come off was the fact that a missed connection due to train delays means buying another reservation. Having to buy new reservations for the four of us for about 160 € for a part of the trip was not at all attracting. Doubting how the text on the website was to be interpreted, I sent the question to the intterrail.eu support that confirmed: ”If you miss a train for which you paid a reservation fee because of a delay, unfortunately, you would need to buy a new reservation for a later train. Normally reservations are non-refundable and non-changeable”. If a train in the 80’s or 90’s were so much delayed that a following connection was missed, it used to be possible to get on the following train once you had an already paid reservation even though it maybe meant having to stand on your own two feet for the rest of the trip. It was also possible to drop by the closest railway station to change a ticket for another day if your plans had changed.
It is however possible to apply for compensations to the Eurrail Group IF one has got into at least 3 delays on 60 minutes each, that the value per day of the Interrail card is at least 32,5 €, that at least 3 of the delays have occurred within EU countries and that at not more than 6 months has passed since the card expired. If those requirements are not met, one is asked not to send in the application for compensation .
Something else that can be costly for an interrailer is to mistakenly enter a wrong date in the travel report. On a pass with limited travel dates, a whole day will be lost as one has to enter the correct date in the field for the next travel day. To change a date will be viewed as an attempt at fraud and one might end up having to pay both for a fine and a regular ticket .
In the 80’s and 90’s I stack my Interrail passes on to my photo albums. The dates, departures and destinations are all in the table of my travel report and in the very right column is the ticket collectors date stamp, confirming each of my travel dates, which I believe, could avoid the risk that someone would use a very same travel date twice.
Maybe we just worried without cause about possible difficulties on the Interrail trip that didn’t come off. The concern of imaginable Interrail hardships cannot nevertheless be measured with how I feel after having read The Great Train Robbery. If I remember correctly, it has been said that we all need to contribute in practicing economy to afford the continuous welfare of our country. Is it however the case that our common savings rather is providing capital for speculations on the real estate and share markets while our welfare is being sold out?
It is 1989 and ten past eight, one of many mornings. When I leave the sweat shop at Skanstull in Stockholm, there is slightly more than 200 grams of mixed sweets hidden in my backpack. That doesn’t stop me from letting my hand now and then find its way down in the backpack to pick up a marshmallow, even before entering the bus to work.
Sometimes I put in my mouth the piece that first touches my hand. Other times I systematically finish one sort at a time. In the beginning of the bag of sweets I experience feelings of exhilaration, freedom and pleasure. With the last pieces come instead the nausea, self-contempt and the sad feeling of emptiness and loneliness. I do choose to be alone with my eating and that is why, for instance, it is important to throw away the empty bag of sweets, by latest in the litterbin in the bus, before walking home.
At this time, I eat because it hurts to live and I therefore bury my feelings with sweets, cookies, ice-cream and pastry.
With the ”help” of sugar, I escape to the taste experience in my mouth and the brief kick of increased blood sugar level. Thus I close the door to myself, to my dreams and hopes, to what is authentic within me. And as long as I numb my soul and avoid listen to the inner me, I remain incapable of fulfilling what I, in my heart of hearts, am longing to do.
What I would have needed those mornings and many other days was to be heard, to tell someone else, or myself, of the hurt. It helps me to freedom and serenity when I experience trust, acceptance and respect in a talk, to be able to be who I really am in that very moment with the person listening. To hear myself put in words what is inside of me makes me well-defined to myself and it also helps me to find my own way and have the courage to follow it. That is to me, among others, what empathy is about.
Empathy, I have thought for some time now, is something in short supply today. Instead, we have learned to come up with ideas of how the other person could change his or her situation. I have done it myself and still do it sometimes. My goal however has become to try to listen so the other person can hear himself or herself finding their own solutions.
By learning Nonviolent Communication, I have become more sensitive to my feelings instead of trying to numb them and that is what most of all has helped me to treat my craving for sugar. The feelings are like an instrument that I can listen to as they point out to my needs. If I need consolation, it will not come through 200 grams of sweets. Maybe I need to call a friend or sit down to write and to put in words what I feel and need. One of the strategies that I have started to use to care for myself in the last few years is to buy me a bouquet of flowers.
Something I also missed during those years was my own confidence in that my body actually tells me when I need nourishing and when it is, or begins to be, satisfied. A book I wish would have existed already in 1989 is Needbased Eating by Liv Larsson. One of the three practical tools, a hunger- and Satiation scale, has in later years helped me to increased consciousness about my body announcing to me when it is time to eat or when it is satisfied.
Thus, I nowadays ask myself if it is my body or my soul that needs nourishing and then I give to myself what I need.
At my entrance door, I have attached the following quotation by Terence Trent d’Arby:
And the first step is to start appreciating life. Fantastic things happens to people that appreciate life
The more I appreciate all the occurrences that previously could pass me by unnoticed, the more reasons I find to appreciate life and these are moments that fills me with gratitude.
Does the quotation also want to say that the very fact of appreciating life; in itself could generate even more fantastic things to appreciate? Imagine if appreciation of life and the gratitude at that can propagate and contribute to making this world a better place. That, in my point of view, would really be a fantastic consequence!
Here are some of the experiences I enjoy that fill me with gratitude to life:
The play of light of the evening sun among the leaves of trees
The warm tune of the Black bird in the evening
A piece of good dark chocolate and a well brewed cappuccino
Seeing the light of dusk reflected in my white bedroom door before sleeping
Looking at the vertiginous flight of the common swifts outside my window
Smiles of warmth
The singing of winds
The salty smell of see.
Warm sand as well as refreshing water surrounding my feet a sunny summer day while listening to the rippling of waves.