Quick Update


I am finally back from Sweden and back to the Blogosphere (at least for now) after 10 wonderful days with our students who were extremely well-behaved. They were polite, punctual, interested, appreciative and curious. What more could we dream of?

They also took the time to express their gratefulness: some of them thanked us profusely before leaving the coach and one sent me an email via Facebook.

Our colleagues in Sweden were extremely helpful and welcoming. In fact they were both new to the exchange as one former colleague is now retired and the other one no longer wished to take part because of the work involved. Obviously there was apprehension on both sides as a minimum of common understanding and goals is necessary for such an exchange to go smoothly but it worked out really well.

One teacher is a woman from Argentina whose family comes from Spain and Italy who is married to another Argentinian of both French and German descent. She teaches both French and Spanish when she is not raising her five children. We were welcomed to their homes on a couple of occasions and were most happy to share their daughter’s cakes after a cold and wet outing at the weekend.

The other teacher is a divorced mother of two who teaches French, Swedish and Swedish for foreigners. She enjoys reading and going to the movie, which means she and I had long conversations on favorite books and films, as well as school politics, teaching and religion.

Both women are very different but complementary and we shared lovely moments with them with or without the students.

It is now time to catch up with work and High Holiday preparations. I still have not decided whether I want to bake a honey or an apple cake but salmon will definitely be on the menu.

Shabbat Shalom!

The Mysteries of Teenagehood



A couple of years ago when my students created a Facebook profile, they usually did not bother about privacy and it was usually possible to see their photos and read or write on their walls.

Fast forward two years and numerous articles about the dangers of revealing too much about oneself, their FB accounts have become as tight as the CIA data. Until something a little unusual comes up.

Last night I created a FB profile for the language exchange we have with a high school in Sweden and invited them to join. Since I had noticed that communication via email was difficult with our students I created this persona to share thrilling announcements about payment deadlines, health cards, meetings, … I wrote them an email to let them know about this FB profile, stressing that if they did not want to share their data with Echange Franco-suédois they would need to alter their privacy settings.

Within 20 hours 17 students out 25 have asked to be Echange Franco-suédois‘s friend and it seems none of them have changed their settings thus allowing me and my two colleagues to share the exciting news they or they friends post on FB. Go figure.

Raoul Wallenbergs Torg




Being in Stockholm I wished to take some photos of the Raoul Wallenberg Square as well as the Wallenberg monument. I also photographed the memorial that was added a few years ago, even if it is controversial as some people find its lying stuatues meaningless.

The monument is a stone globe on the ground, with the same sentence in numerous languages. The memorial, a sculpture group consisting of twelve low black figures, by the Danish artist Kirsten Ortwed, was inaugurated in 2001.

Here are a few lines about Raoul Wallenberg found on Wikipedia:

Raoul Gustav Wallenberg (August 4, 1912 – July 16, 1947?) was a Swedish diplomat. In the later stages of World War II, he worked at great personal risk to save thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust. He was later arrested by the Soviets who suspected him of being an American spy; the circumstances of his death while in their custody are still a matter of controversy.

Wallenberg was assigned as first secretary to the Swedish legation in Budapest, Hungary, on July 9, 1944. Working with Per Anger (1914-2002), he used his diplomatic status to save many Hungarian Jews by issuing them Swedish “protective passports” (German: Schutz-Pass), which identified the bearers as Swedish subjects awaiting repatriation. Although not legally valid, these documents looked official and were generally accepted by German and Hungarian authorities, who sometimes were also bribed. Wallenberg also rented houses for Jewish refugees with embassy funds and put up signs such as “The Swedish Library” and “The Swedish Research Institute” on their doors. He also housed refugees in the Swedish legation in Budapest. Wallenberg negotiated with Nazi officials Adolf Eichmann; and General Gerhard Schmidthuber, the commander of the German Army in Hungary, and convinced them to cancel deportations to German concentration camps. He had his fascist ally, Pál Szalay, deliver a note in which Wallenberg threatened to have them prosecuted for war crimes. This was just two days before the Russians arrived. Yad Vashem credits him with saving the lives of “tens of thousands” of Hungarian Jews.

Getting Ready To Leave


We are about to leave Sweden after a day in Stockholm tomorrow. The students seem very happy with the exchange, which is very rewarding for their teachers. One girl went as far as saying that this was the best exchange she had been on (she said it was her sixth!).

Two out of the three collegues who take part in the exchange on this side have been to Israel. One English colleague my age even met his Swedish wife in a kibbutz near Eilat – where they were both working – 25 years ago.

While here I ate a lovely feta cheese and dill pie and will try to post the recipe next week; hopefully with a photo if I make it for us too.

When we get back Rosh Hashanah will only be hours away so I will need to be extremely organized. Some stuff (challot for instance) are already in the freezer ready to be defrosted. I have scheduled a dish of salmon, orange and honey as well as chicken. I hope to be able to make a cake.

Sweden – Day 2


Swedish students are more autonomous than French students. My colleagues and I are not sure why but it is a fact. As a result we were student-free today as they were being taken care of by their Swedish counterparts who guided them through the town in the morning and took them to activities for the Swedish freshmen in the afternoon.

I went to two lessons with my Swedsih colleague this morning and marveled at the way her students speak English. They are more confident than most French pupils, speak freely in English when asked to work in pairs and are also much more fluent than the teenagers who are currently part of the exchange – although the latter are quit emotivated by languages.

In the afternoon we visited an exibition by the American artist Jim Dine whose nine-meter statue of Pinocchio stands in the middle of Borås, the city where we have the exchange. The exhibition was about Jim Dine’s obsession with the Italian puppet and featured the numerous statues he has made.

We’re There


After a smooth plane journey and three hours on t he coach, we arrived in Sweden last night and delivered our students to their host families.

This morning they followed their penfriends while we, teachers, attended a PE lesson (see photo above) where the students learned about heart beats and pulses before a short orienteering race in town.

After a vegetarian lunch at the school cafeteria, we attended a French lesson and two English ones. We then drove to a former spinning mill which has been turned into a museum. At the end of the afternoon, the students played games to get to know each other.

I am feeling rather tired after the stress of yesterday and this busy day. However I am also relieved to see that the kids seem to have settled in quite nicely. More to come later.

Fourth of the Fourth – Swedish Exchange


Leora tagged me for a photo challenge whose rules are as follows:
1. Open the fourth file where you store your photos.
2. Pick the 4th photo.
3 . Explain the photo.
4. Pass challenge onto 4 other bloggers.

The photo above was taken during a day trip in Sweden four years ago. I seem to remember that I took it as we stopped for a packed lunch on the way to an old fortress. It features the ruins of a Medieval abbey – sorry I can’t remember any other details. I do remember however that I liked the arches and the emptiness around them.

It is in fact a great opportunity for me to announce that we’ll be leaving again for Sweden tomorrow morning and will come back just in time for Rosh Hashanah. I have scheduled a few posts during my absence and will try and post while I am away. My colleague has an Internet connection but only via a cord so I am not sure whether I’ll be able to post as regularly as I wish.

I now tag Jewwishes, Rachel, Batya and Your EG Tour Guide.



Before you get me wrong, I have not become a shadchan overnight. The matchmaking I am referring to is the art of associating French and Swedish students for our exchange.

We have had an exchange with a Swedish high school for over ten years now and it usually works fine. I tend to think that pairing the students wisely is a major key to a successful exchange but this is not an easy task.

Last week I received the last Swedish files sent by our collegues in Boras and started matching the students according to the criteria I have set up with years.

Same sort of backgrounds. I reckon a ten day-trip is not the perfect time for teenagers to discover completely different lifestyles. The kids are apprehensive enough: they are going to a country they don’t know and will have to speak a foreign language; this in itself is stressful enough.

Similar tastes. When the students fill in the forms we give them, they are requested to write about their extra-curricular activities and I try to find at least one common hobby. There again I hope that a football player or a pianist will relax more easily if they attend a match or a concert during the exchange, or even just a training session. It is something they can relate to and they will find it interesting to share and compare.

Same size families. This is more difficult and does not always work but I gather that an only child may find it more difficult to adapt in a large household where he/she will not get the attention they are used to. I have found that only children tend to get homesick more than other kids.

Juggling with imperatives. Sometimes the obvious matching is impossible because one student is allergic to cats while the seemingly perfect counterpart has two cats. There are also the vegetarians, the parents who insist their child be in a smoke-free environment and this year the daughter of Jehovah Witnesses.

Flair, unless you prefer to call it luck. The less rational criterion I admit but a necessary ingredient.

Feel free to comment, add your own criteria or criticize. It is always interesting to get different perspectives.