Lessons from the real world

So, sadly again there has been a delay with posts, and I feel that I ought to say that this post will not include travel stories, musings about Swedish culture or the life of an expat. It is instead something of an announcement relating to my life outside of blogging and musing, the stuff that provides the spare change to enjoy this cup of tea steaming away next to my tablet, and incidentally, the tablet itself.

I have my own small business! And … a website!
*cue the standing ovation*

So considering I finally feel as though I’m getting somewhere, I thought it might be a good time to share some of my dicsoveries, in the hopes that someone out there might find it useful. So without further ado,

How to set up your own business

If you are providing a service to at least one person on an on-going basis, you want to continue to do that and perhaps find more people, you have a small business. Even if you don’t call it that or haven’t ventured into the forests of tax related paperwork.

Without knowing it, I’d been running my own small business for months before I realised what it was. What this meant was that by the time I started thinking about business plans and goals, I more or less knew what I wanted to do, because I’d already started my journey. This would not be so easy for someone starting from scratch.

So now that I knew that I had a small business, what was the next step? According to reliable friends, I needed a business plan, and armed with a pad and pencils I soon had the skeleton of one formed before me. I made a list of the steps I would need to take to turn the plan into a functioning reality, including facing up to the unwelcome prospect of paperwork.

Sweden is well known, at least by people who live here, as a nation that has embraced the idea of bureaucracy, like the most pedantic lion tamer who will never run out of hoops for their lions to jump through. My first step came almost by accident, when a potential customer asked if I was registered for tax purposes. Of course, I said, filling out the paperwork. Then I had to set up a business account at the bank, which needed the details for the tax registration, which was soon sorted out. So, F-skatt and bankgiro done. I managed with these for a few months, toying with the idea of going further. I seemed to be bringing in more and more work, through adds on job sites and word of mouth, but was this sustainable? So I got creative.

Out came the pen and paper, and after a few days logos appeared, and multiplied. I winnowed through them, relying on advice and objective opinion, until I reached the last handful, and from these I made my own choice without outside help.
Along with a logo I decided I needed a website which took faaaaar more time planning than actually making. What did I want to stay? How did I want it to look? Which of the thousands of wordpress themes should I use? Should I use that moving across the screen picture thing? (I didn’t) Again with the help of a friend, I got server space and a platform to easily launch into the websire creation. Et voila, I had a website. Which I adore as it’s new and I made it.

So now? Now I continue, building and working and learning. You never stop learning, even when the website’s done and you feel as though you can sit back and wait for the tidal wave of clients to come pouring in. And this is what I have learnt so far:

Ask for help. There will be people you know who know things you don’t, and for the price of company an fika will help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, even if it’s something you feel that you should know.

Make up your own mind. You may have an idea that you like, and after some beta-testing you’ve got positive and negatives comments. In the end you need to follow what you think, because in the end the product is yours and whether it succeeds or fails rests on you alone.

Do the paperwork. It may take half a day and what feels like your will to live, but you’ve got to get it done, so you might as well get it done now.

So, from the little table in the corner of the café, I hope all of you out there are enjoying your little part of the world and whoever of you is thinking of embarking on something new, go for it and good luck! And to all those who helped me get to where I am, in particular my bsuiness plan advising, server providing, super reliable friend – thanks again and again and again!

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Teaching and learning

As mentioned now and then, when not learning Swedish I have been teaching English since I moved to Sweden. It has mostly been relief teaching at adult schools, emergency or pre-planned lessons, with material I bring or part of a syllabus. It always varies, so I can never claim to be bored. Almost without fail my students, which is how I feel about them from the moment I enter the classroom, have been curious, focused and full of questions. The nightmare of bored teenagers and inertia hasn’t happened (I almost typed yet, but I don’t want to tempt fate).
You stay a step ahead, have a plan, prepare to drop the plan if needed, think about what they need, treat them as people and above all, listen.
There are few people in this world who won’t tell you want they want if you ask them sincerely.

It has been a process of learning for me as well, honing multitasking, patience and not being afraid of watching eyes. And throughout it all still being myself.

Recently I have been given, or rather loaned, my own class until the end of semester. Or as Swedes would say, until the start of semester. Yes, confusing, I know.
I reacted to the news with excitement and soon began to plan all of the cool things I could teach them about, all the stories and songs I could bring and share with them. Neil Gaiman, Suzanne Vega, Terry Pratchett, fairy tales, myths and legends, so many things! So many options! The real question should have been, of course, what do they need to learn and how can I help them to find it.

Writing exercise

Writing exercise

Discipline is required, especially when it comes to stories that you hold dear and would happily shove in the face of strangers on the street if you thought you could get away with it.
That said, I have included a few tasty morsels that I think the students will find interesting, and about which I can wax lyrical. The Queen and the Soldier has been done, with many insightful comments from the students, including aspects I’d never considered.
I’ve also found that learning another language has helped enormously in teaching my own, as I can see why people can make certain mistakes and for the first time get my head around the feeling of absorbing a language other than your own. It’s hard, and I am ever so glad that the two languages concerned have the same origin.

Books

Books

So how do you teach? My mother would say that you should facilitate learning, which brings to my mind images of people as conduits, funneling knowledge out of their chests into the minds of others, holding knowledge within their reach if students want to take it. Then there’s the old method from Dickensian dramas, the repetition of information, provided on blackboards for absorption or a background to whatever the student is thinking about.
There are many others, of course, as I have been finding my own way, a way that is being more settled as time goes on.

There will be another class this week, and such is the nature of the job that there may be more. I seem to have almost fallen into teaching, and I finally feel as though I’m managing to tread water and perhaps even swim.

When in Sweden…

Last weekend I tried skiing for the first time, however unless there is an event for slowly sliding backwards down a snowy slope while saying ‘Oh dear’, I fear I won’t be participating in the winter Olympics this year.

I’ve long entertained romantic images of myself gliding easy across snowdrifts, looking around at trees and stunning vistas and have been looking forward to trying it out while we’re here in Scandinavia. My partner was even more enthused, having been snowboarding before and eager to try again, so when he found a ski park not far from Göteborg, the plan was set.
We headed off with two friends, bright and early, though were discouraged by the recent rain and the iciness of the snow that remained. On our arrival we found that the snow had been iced over and was very slippery, and as we waited for the park to open we weighed our options. There were no lessons available and these weren’t the ideal conditions, but nothing it seemed could prevent my partner from unleashing himself upon the slopes. His first attempt on the little slope was, well, his first attempt, but eventually he set off up the bigger slopes and was soon gliding happily down, hardly ever on his back.

Ready to hit the slopes

Ready to hit the slopes

Meanwhile I decided to have a go and got myself decked out skiing gear and had my first try and skiing. Not quite graceful gliding, but after much concentration and effort I did manage to move forward. One of the friends who had come with us joined me and we set to, slowly climbing the little slope and then trying to work out how to stop or turn as we sped down again. By observing others (mostly around the age of 5 in our area) I worked out the basics, but each attempt at stopping or slowing down resulting in shooting off to the left. An attempt from the pinnacle of the little slope resulted in sliding into a pole and gradually making my way down while trying not to go tearing off into the lifts.
At the end of the day, though, much progress had been made from knowing nothing, though a descent from the taller slope was still out of the question. Next time I would like to try cross-country skiing, which I imagine would involve fewer slopes. Also lessons.

Study can be fun

Study can be fun

Other than adventures in the snow, this last week has been primarily focussed on preparing for a Swedish test on Wednesday, and another next Wednesday. This week’s was in preparation for the other which is much more important, and to show us and the teacher what we need to be focussing on. For me it was mostly writing. It seems sort of odd to me now as I happily type away that stringing words together is such a struggle, but someone the rules don’t seem to penetrate. What I need to do, I think, is divorce the forming sentences from all English grammar and think only in term of Swedish.
Subjekt – Verb – Objekt.
Q-ord – Verb – Subject – V2 – Objekt.
Adverbial – Verb – Subjekt – V2 – Objekt.
Infinitiv efter hjalpverb.
Still they are rules, floating above the forming ideas, not implanted yet. More practice is needed. Perhaps I should write an update in svenska någon tid? För en publik av en.

Getting there!

Getting there!

On the subject of writing I have also managed recently to finish a short story, the first one I’ve finished in over a year. Yay! It is currently being read out at the finest writing centre in the world (who me, biased?) by an obliging friend and getting good reviews and critiques. Which makes the distance between Göteborg and Greenmount Hill seem not so vast.