Tuesday, July 17, 2007

tango marathon at Lomma

On Friday early evening I met up with some of the tango gang to head down to Lomma for the "Tango Marathon." It wasn't one of the "dance until you drop ones" and nor was it "the music never stops." It was a lot of dancing in the evenings (10pm until 4am) and workshops during the day. It was near the beach (about 20 minutes walking) so on Saturday afternoon we went there, and danced some on the deck of some beach bar.

Ahh, the scene of the crime. Zoom out a bit and follow Habovägen south west. Actually, zoom out enough so you can also see the small boat harbor and the channel. Going a bit up the coast you'll see "Campingvägen" ("The Camping Road"). The beach bar was at the southwest corner of that rectangle.

It was cheap. SEK 500 (about $80) for food, a place to sleep, and the milongas. A bit more for the workshops. Why was it cheap? Because we also prepared the meals (I was Saturday morning breakfast crew) and "place to sleep" meant "the floor". Though those with a tent could pitch one, and some slept in their cars or got a place nearby. And those from Lund (nearby) slept at home.

I was still rather tired and travel-logged from coming back from Lithuania so I went to bed early on Saturday night, at about 2am. As the dance floor wasn't due to be converted into the sleeping floor for another couple of hours, the question was "where do I sleep?" Mind you, I also needed to be up at 9am to help with breakfast.

The answer? The sauna in the men's changing room. It was a great place to sleep. (It was off.) With the door closed it was quiet and dark. The bench was a bit hard, but the floor would have been as well, and colder. A couple of people checked out the sauna while I was sleeping, looking I assume for a place to sleep. There was room for another on the other bench, but I woke up alone. Spent the 2nd night there was well, though this time with two others.

One was a Finn. He's the one who earlier Saturday night asked if it was okay to use the sauna, and did. I and another joined him. I've been surprised at the Swedes. Very few of the apartments I've looked at have a sauna. The couple I've seen have had it as part of the housing association's common property, and not a personal sauna. I know parts of the northern midwest (US) have small saunas, for 1 or 2, and thought that Sweden would be the same. But no.

Too bad, so sad. I like saunas.

The dancing got me thinking existential questions. (It's a weak word play on Swedish, where you don't say "There is a house in New Orleans", instead saying "It exists a house in New Orleans"). If I took lessons I would become a better tango dancer faster than I would doing it on my own. But does there exist a tango teacher in Gbg that I want to learn from? And what's the reason for wanting to get better? It's in part because there were some really good dancers at the marathon, and I felt out of place. But suppose I were to work hard at it, take lessons, attend workshops .. to what end? Or should I do other dances instead? Hmmm....

Johanna called me a galning after we danced Saturday night, and a Swiss woman also said I was a crazy guy. Both in a good way. The Swiss woman was crazier than me. I'm energetic in tango, and like the expressive interpretation that can happen. It's more of a tango nuevo thing. Is there a nuevo teacher around here? Not that I know of.

It was pretty hard for me the first 24 hours or so. There were a lot of new people, and directly after a conference. Conferences tend to burn me out socially, meeting new people and being outgoing can take a toll. What makes it harder too is forcing myself to do it all in Swedish. Though there were Danes there too (and Swedes from Skåne, who have their own accent). I know that doing so is overall a good thing for my Swedish learning, but it can make me feel so dumb. *sigh*

what I've been doing, including ID

I've been traveling a lot this last month or so. I was in the UK for the chemoinformatics conference in Sheffield and in Lithuania for the EuroPython conference in Vilnius. And after the Sheffield conference I did some followup work, which I just finished today. They required a lot of preparation, which made it harder to keep up with this blog.

I think there's only so much writing I can do in a day, and those other things took up any slack.

I still don't have a place of my own to live. I'm staying at Debora's apartment on Kungsladugården. She went home to Argentina for a while and then to France. She comes back this Saturday, so I'll be cleaning up and moving back to the House of a Thousand Wows.

I've started looking again. As lac pointed out, looking for an apartment is a part-time job, and I just didn't have the time for it. I've also got to talk with the bank again. Previously they said my folkbokföring wasn't finished yet, and once that was done the woman I was talking with would need to talk with the higher ups because, well, I'm an unusual case. After all, I'm not employed by any Swedish company and have no credit history here in Sweden.

Two Fridays ago I took care of the last bits needed to get a Swedish ID card. It's a bit tricky because there's no way for me to get one from the government. They changed the laws at the beginning of the year, and to get one now requires I come with a Swedish relative or spouse. As my nearest Swedish relatives derive from about 4 generations back, well, that's rather hard. But it is possible to get a card from the bank, and I chose my bank in part because they said I could get one from them.

I took all the paperwork in, my passport, the photo for the ID, and Jacob (they still needed a Swede to vouch for who I am). I had everything but one, a "personbevis". That's proof that I've been registered to live in Sweden and have a personnummer. One dictionary translates it as "birth certificate" but that's not quite right. So I went to the tax office and asked for a personbevis, then back to the bank. Oops! Turned out I asked for the wrong personbevis. There's apparently many sorts, and the one I asked for was "bank owner" when I should have asked for "identification."

Getting the personbevis was simple. "I would like a personbevis." "Why?" "" "Here you go." "Thanks." The boring part was getting from the bank to the tax office and back. So I went back to the tax office and told the woman I asked for the wrong personbevis. So she printed out several different ones for me, just in case the bank wanted a few others. Very nice of her!

It's being processed and I should get it in a few more weeks.

Salsa in London

I went to the Sheffield Chemoinformatics conference a few weeks ago in, umm, Sheffield. I left Sweden a few days earlier to visit dance friends of mine in Oxford. On Friday we went to London for salsa dancing, and on Saturday we stayed in Oxford for tango.

Salsa in England has been a bit strange for me. I say "England" because I went salsa dancing once in Scotland and that was normal, so it's not a UK thing. When I've danced with English women I've often felt like something isn't quite there in the connection. It was about 1.5 years ago when I first danced salsa in the UK, both in London ("SOS" = "Salsa On Sunday") and in Cambridge. I couldn't figure out what it was; a timing thing? Cuban vs. L.A. style? Craig (UK Craig, who reintroduced me to salsa years ago) was there too and pointed out that I look at my partner, and English women don't like that.

I've born that in mind, and indeed it seems that my favorite dances in England were with non-English woman. The two I liked best at SOS were with a Swiss woman and with an American.

This time it was salsa at the Ealing town hall (organized by Mambo City). Good venue, with high, high ceilings so it didn't get hot quickly. They also had powerful blowers set up around the floor to get some breeze going. There were, what, 150-200 people there, almost all L.A. style/on-1, which is the style I dance. At SOS I noticed that there was a gradation, with the better dancers near the stage. Here, not so much. Just a lot of good dancers.

I jokingly say that I have an accent when I dance. It's not a joke though - people learn moves and styles based in part on teachers and the local dance community. People coming to Santa Fe could tell that several of the leads had the same dance background. I say it's "Santa Fe style salsa". Not as showy as the LA style they do in Gothenburg, and smooth. Thank you Santiago!

And just like talking to someone with a different accent, dancing with someone used to another style can cause some oopsies. Which happend, of course. Not quite as bad as "what do you mean 'you'll knock me up in the morning'?".

Of the people I danced with, the two I had the most fun with were .. with non-English women. One was a native Spanish speaker. Technically not as good as some of the others (it was a good crowd), but she had fun with the dance, which more than made up for it. The other, which was the last, was with an Australian woman. Also fun, with smiles and expressiveness.

Compare with an English woman I danced with (I assume based on accent) who just kinda looked another direction when we danced, and didn't crack a smile. Strange those English women.

Another cultural observation: in most places I've been it's okay to ask for another dance. That is, with salsa the custom is 1 dance, plus one more if either side wants to continue. Depending on the place, that can continue for a few more dances. At Ealing it was always one dance and only one dance.