Never did I imagine that I’d be so busy on my sabbatical. I only find time to write this since it is Spring Break for my kids and so we’re backpacking Europe via overnight train, making a triangle from Southern Sweden/Copenhagen to Amsterdam to Prague and back. (Though we only made the train in time because our daughter’s principal drove us to pick up our older daughter from a field trip we didn’t know she had and then to the train station.) I hope it turns out to be a good train trip, and I’m especially excited about going to the Czech Republic and Eastern Europe for the first time.

Why have I been so busy? Well, I’ve started to learn Swedish through municipally run free courses for non-native speakers, and my morning class contains people from all over the world with different levels of education. In addition to Swedish, I’m re-learning Chinese as well with two native Chinese speakers in the class. But my Spanish skills have really come back since one of my fellow students only speaks Spanish, so anything she doesn’t understand in Swedish of English, I have to translate for her. If anything, I wish I had the time to really become fluent in the three non-native languages in which I dabble—Chinese, Spanish and Swedish. My class is a fascinating mix of people, who are all kind and friendly. Though many have significant amounts of education, I am clearly (and unfairly) in a better position since I have a job, I (unlike them) can return to the U.S. anytime, my American degree holds more clout, and I am assumed to be more competent due to my whiteness and English-speaking skills. Yet, it’s comforting to know that only after three days, folks from the U.S., England, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Russia, and China can all get along though well. Though, in all honestly, it’s hard and saddening to meet people who had to leave their war torn homes as a result of American military action. And, after now living in China and Sweden, its remarkable how my worldview has changed over the past three years.

More about why I’m so busy…I’ve been finishing up my second book (about food policy and the environment) and starting my third (about the future of environmentalism in a globalized world), working on two China articles and developing my Sweden academic ties, including doing two comparative environmental law projects with Swedish academics. The last item is especially easy to do, since I love trains and unlike the U.S., here it’s just so easy to hope on the train and go see a colleague 2-3 hours away. There’s a real interest in Sweden in building institutional relationships and doing comparative
environmental law work between the EU, the U.S. and China. Thus, I’m building very going relationships with Uppsala University, Linnaeus University, Kristianstad University, and a few others.

Finally, my new electric guitar begs to be played more often, and my partner and I had our first date since mid-December (the movie “Hunger Games” was better than expected, and, in what we’ve come to expect in Sweden, dinner was overpriced and too salty but the wine, bread and butter were excellent).