Our Life in Sweden

Jonathan & Sofia Morgan

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Month: September 2015

Links: The Refugee Crisis

We thought we’d follow up on our last post on the refugee crisis and what we can do about it by highlighting some thought provoking articles and projects…

  • First off, this excellent video giving an overview of the crisis:
  • We Should All Be Competing To Take In Refugees, by Daniel Altman. We don’t think the hospitality we offer refugees should be conditional on it making good business sense, but since there’s been a lot of negativity in the media about refugees causing economic strain, we thought we’d share this. It talks about the economic benefit of welcoming refugees.
  • Queen Rania Calls For Unity On Refugees. A great interview with Jordan’s Queen about the reasons we can’t expect Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to be the only ones caring for refugees.
  • The True Samaritans, by Steffen Huck. Another post about the hospitality that Jordan is offering to refugees right now, despite being in the midst of a water crisis.
  • The Icelandic government initially offered to house 50 refugees. Thankfully their population responded by offering space in 11,000 of their homes. Read about it here.
  • Hans Rosling is a very entertaining Swedish statistician who is trying to get the world, and the media in particular, to take statistics seriously. Here’s his short video about the distribution of Syrian refugees:
    If you like this, you should check out his TED Talk: How Not To Be Ignorant About The World
  • Speer’s daughter and the Syrian refugees, by Abby d’Arcy. The story of one lady, the daughter of Hitler’s architect, who has taken two refugees into her home. She talks about what a joy it is to have them stay with her.
  • Germany’s Refugees Welcome has been dubbed “Airbnb for Refugees”. People can offer a room in their house or apartment to a refugee, and the project will assist them with finding funding towards their rent. The concept is spreading to other countries in Europe too!

Do you have links you think we should know about? Add a comment below!

What is Eid Al-Adha?

Today Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid Al-Adha. The festival centres around the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son. 

In the story, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience, to show that he is truly submitted to God. Abraham begins preparing the sacrifice, but just before he goes ahead with it, God stops him. Instead of sacrificing his son, God provides a lamb for him to sacrifice. 

Early in the morning on the first day of Eid Al-Adha, after prayers, families sacrifice a sheep to God. One third of the meat is given to family members, one third to the poor, and one third to the person doing the slaughtering. For the rest of the day, and the next three days, people visit family members and friends. 

Tonight we have the privilege of celebrating with some friends who have invited us over for Syrian food.

To all our Muslim friends, Happy Eid!

كل عام وانتم بئلف خير

The Day We Woke Up

Yesterday Europe woke up to the reality of what’s happening in our waters.

The sight of a little boy washed up on Turkish shores, captured our attention in a way that a million high detail articles never could.

It was a moment even the most right wing newspapers sobered up from their racist stupors and saw the international refugee crisis for what it is.

People.

It’s little boys and little girls and mums and dads, grannies and grandpas, forced to leave homes and jobs and schools and friends and the entire sense of security they’ve always known.

And they don’t know what’s ahead of them.

Someone offers them the opportunity to leave the dusty refugee camps, to take their kids somewhere that has decent schools and job prospects, and they take it.

“It has to be better than this,” they think.


The Syrian refugee families we know all have friends or family members who are considering this perilous journey.

We tell them about the news articles, the risks, the many people who drown and never make it.

They say, “we know it’s dangerous, but what other option do they have?”

How do you answer that question?

After a while the idea of getting in a boat that stands some chance of getting to somewhere that just might be better than here starts to sound good.

“Sweden is beautiful. I’ve heard it’s the most beautiful place in the world. Almost as nice as Syria used to be.” 

“I hear the people are so friendly in Britain. I have an uncle there.” 

“I want Ahmed to be able to go to a good school, and to have a future.”

The mythology around the countries in Europe builds. People without hope look for every shred that they can find. For many, Europe or America, Canada or Australia seem like the closest chance.

For many, right now, these countries really are the closest chance at a future that’s safe and far away from their crumbling homes.


Our governments and NGOs can’t manage this immense task by themselves. They need us as ordinary citizens to get involved.

So, What can I do today?

We thought we would compile a list of ways that we can take action. It’s not exhaustive, but it should get you started…

World Wide

Anyone can make a donation to the UNHCR, or smaller organisations like Hope & Trust, who work with assisting refugees in the resettlement process.

At the moment the UNHCR budget is running so low that many of the refugee families we’ve met outside of the camps have had their food budgets cut.

For those of us who pray, the 24-7 Prayer network have organised a week of prayer. You can sign up for a 1 hour time slot on their website.

In the UK

Before today’s good news that Britain will be receiving ‘thousands’ more refugees, we were going to ask you to sign a petition. Instead we’ll look at some more practical ways that you can be involved with these amazing people.

Get in touch with UK based organisations like Bridges for Communities, who work at building understanding between people of different cultures.

Check out this extensive set of links on the Independent Online.

IN SWEDEN

This list gives some good suggestions of  NGOs that help refugees and have a connection to Sweden.

Among them are Medicines Sans Frontiers who do sea rescue missions, as well as working in the ports, where the refugees arrive first. you can donate here.


Please feel free to contact us if you want to discuss this more.

7 Ways Learning a Language is Like Parenting a Newborn

If you’ve ever spent time in the Middle East as a married person without kids, you’ll be very familiar with being asked “why don’t you have children?” by even the most recent of acquaintances.

After explaining that where we come from it’s common to wait before starting a family, I’ve started to tell people, “for now, Arabic is my baby”.

Here are a few ways that learning Arabic is like having a newborn:

1. You constantly wonder if yours is growing at the same speed as everyone else’s

“He’s a little behind. But the doctor thinks he’ll catch up.”

“She’s already walking, way ahead of schedule.” 

“Theirs is already speaking long sentences. At just 20 months!” 

Sound familiar? New parents are given continuous opportunities to begin comparing their babies with other people’s. It’s encouraged by the charts that are used in hospitals, by well meaning friends and family members, and by other people with babies.

It can be similar with language learning.  How am I doing compared with my classmates? Why does my spouse seem so fluent?

All kids develop at their own pace, and so do language skills!

2. You speak in sentences that others don’t understand

We’re all used to parents speaking to their babies in baby talk. They make sounds that are a bit like their mother tongue, but don’t mean anything.

At the beginning of learning a language, while you’re adjusting to all the new sounds you’re expected to make, you become acutely aware that you sound nothing like a native speaker.

3. You’re tired all the time

man sleeping Image credit: reynermedia

You look at your friends who aren’t learning language and wonder “where do they get all their energy from?” You reminisce about times when you had the energy to talk until the wee hours, while slipping off to bed at 9:30pm.

Of course (before the “at-least-you-get-to-lie-in-at-weekends” hatemail arrives) it doesn’t compare with the unrelenting early wake up calls that those of you with kids experience.

4. People often look in your direction with bemused expressions on their faces

For new parents the bemused expressions are usually focussed at your kids and something they’ve just done. Language learners get used to people laughing at them directly.

As native English speakers who are used to hearing foreign tongues speaking our first language, it’s difficult for us to appreciate quite how intriguing it is to have someone from another country learn our language.

5. You get to watch something grow in small ways each day

This is one of the most satisfying parts of language learning and (I imagine) parenting. It’s a big deal for new parents when they notice small signs of development, and with newborns these changes seem to happen every day.

If we language learners pay close enough attention, we can recognise and celebrate small changes – a conjugation that didn’t take up all our brain’s capacity, pronouncing a word a like a local.

Celebrating the little steps gives us strength to keep going.

6. You miss your baby when you’re away from her

A classic story for new parents is when they go away on their own for the first time without their baby. Instead of lapping up all the much needed space, they spend the whole time wondering how their little one is doing!

As Arabic learners, when we leave somewhere that Arabic is the main language, we find that we really miss hearing our new language. We long to get back and keep growing.

7. You can’t stop talking about it (especially to other ‘parents’)

Just like parenting a newborn, language learning is so engrossing that it’s often all you end up talking about with anyone who’ll listen! Find someone else who’s learning a language? Even better! You end up discussing methods, strategies, flash cards.

And just as with parenting, there are different approaches and schools of thought. It’s not uncommon to find people who are so dedicated to their way of learning that they defend it energetically when asked about it.

That’s my list. Can you think of any other ways that learning a language is like parenting a newborn?

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