So I'm 18 now. I'm sorta underwhelmed by the amount that has changed. I've mentioned that to a few people, including friends, classmates, and my host family, and they've all said, roughly, "Oh yeah, I bet in America it's not as big of a deal." They proceed to list all the exciting things one can do at 18 in Sweden - buy alcohol in bars, get a driver's license, buy tobacco products, get piercings and tattoos, vote, etc. They tell me, "you probably weren't expecting all this when you turned 18, but now the world is your oyster!"
Frankly, the reason I don't feel like much has changed is because I don't want to do any of those things. Or, at least, some of them I don't want to do and others I still can't. Exchange students with AFS can't drive or get piercings or tattoos, I'm not a voting resident of Sweden, tobacco is nasty, and nothing else is really tickling my fancy.
I've had this recurring experience of being out in the city with friends, and we're at a restaurant for dinner, and I think, "Wait, I'm 18 now. I could order a beer or a glass of wine or a cocktail." And then I look over the menu for a minute, and I realize, "Oh, right, I don't want any of those things."
I haven't been drinking, but I have been drinking a lot of coffee. My host family's only method of brewing coffee is a French press (there's a drip coffee machine in the basement, but it kinda looks like it doesn't work), and when I first arrived, I was not a fan of that. Time has gone on, though, and I'm settling in with the culture, and I'm growing to like French press. I still miss my espresso machine from home, but I'm at a point where I like the French press enough to actively choose to brew up a cup for myself instead of drinking tea or sparkling water.
Among my many fine birthday gifts were two coffee mugs, and as I write this I am drinking a nice black French press out of one of them, a simple white mug with a black handle and a picture of an elk (or similar noble antlered animal) on one side. The other, which is in the dishwasher right now, is a significantly louder blue-and-green affair patterned with some jungle scenery, plus two tigers equidistant from the handle and with two weird birds also hanging out. That one glitters a bit, and it's also a funny shaped, with a very wide lip around an otherwise pretty normal sized mug.
While I'm talking about things I got for my birthday, I'd like to thank my parents for the fancy Timbuk2 messenger bag they got me, as well as for the package of 24 life-sized rubber cockroaches. Now that I have those things, I'm not sure how I managed to get by without them.
In programming news, I've put a lot of work in the past week or so into my Emacs configuration. Anyone interested in that, you can find it on Github.
Perhaps the most exciting, and certainly the most difficult, thing I've done recently is writing the speech that I will be giving to my Swedish Language Arts class on Thursday 7 Dec. I pounded out the first draft last night, and I've been doing little revisions today, and I plan on keeping that going and on practicing my delivery in the week before I present.
I think this may be the first time I have ever done a piece of homework like this so far in advance, and I have to say it feels really good. I have always been very much a "do it last minute" kind of guy, and if I'm honest I've never had any reason not to be, but writing this speech was really hard. It's not particularly long (it only meets the 5 minute minimum because I am quite slow at speaking Swedish), but I feel like the content is a lot better than I was expecting. I'll keep you all updated on how it turns out. I'd describe my current feeling as "cautiously optimistic".