5. Two months in Sweden (English translation)
I’m really starting to get into a normal routine and most of the things here feel very normal. I feel completely at ease in school, I feel at home in my host family and I really like the sports here. My Swedish is getting better and better, in a normal conversation I understand almost everything, but I still think it’s hard to start to speak Swedish. I try to speak as much Swedish as possible with my host brother Hannes, he doesn’t speak that much English as I speak Swedish, and it’s actually going really well, I don’t have to look up any words on google translate and he understands perfectly what I mean. I am so used to talking in English now and it’s so easy for everybody to speak English to me that I almost feel uncomfortable to speak Swedish. In the beginning I tried to speak as much Swedish as possible, but after about one week I completely stopped talking Swedish. If I could re-do one thing from the past months I wouldn’t have stopped talking that small amount of Swedish I already knew, because now I only talk Swedish when I really have to. But when I speak Swedish I only get positive reactions, a few classmates didn’t even realise it was me who said a few sentences in Swedish during a repetition for a musical, so apparently they couldn’t really hear an accent on me. Sometimes I can hear when people have an accent or I discover linguistic errors in people’s Swedish.
Three weeks ago we got the cast list for the musical. I got a few smaller roles: I play the mother of the protagonist, I am one of the waitresses and I am one of the dancers of a night club. I get to sing a few solo’s for my role as the mother and the waitress, so I am really excited for that, for these roles I also get to talk a little bit of Swedish. I didn’t expect to get one of the big roles, because the “normal students” will be graded on their performance in the musical and it wouldn’t be fair if I took one of the big parts. The teachers were afraid that I would be disappointed with this outcome, but actually it’s great; I got some lines, I got a few solo’s and I get to dance, that’s all I need! I really like my private singing lessons, because my teacher is learning me how to sing more mature for my role of the mother and how to sing a bit more immature as the waitress. I am also learning how to sing high notes and how to use my voice in an even better way.
I got a late birthday present from a few friends from my class. It’s a silver Norrbottensring, a typical ring for this area. I asked for something typically Swedish and that’s what I got! Thanks Agnes, Liv, Gloria, Samuel and Sanna.
During one of the weekends I visited Veera, the exchange student from Finland. She lives about half an hour away from me at Kaisa and Karl-Erik. They have been taking in exchange students for years, I believe this is their 19th year. They live in a really small village, I am not even sure if I can call it a village. They live along a big road and their only real neighbours are Kaisa and Karl-Eriks son and daughter with her kids. Their house and location is what I imagined the house of my host family to look like; remote, a big property with a lot of small extra buildings and a lot of berries, flowers and vegetables. Veera and I have, after a long search for a good recipe with nice flavours, baked delicious chocolate and raspberry flavoured cupcakes. Because we took care of the fika with the cupcakes, we didn’t have to help to prepare the garden for the winter. We took a nice walk and took some pictures at the lake, the colors of the trees were beautiful! In the evening we ate tacos and we talked for a while about what our life as exchange students is like and we talked about our coming trip with YFU to Stockholm. It can be so quiet and calm at Veera’s house, that’s really different than at my home, because there is always a little brother watching videos on YouTube or playing video games on their Playstation/Xbox (I don’t really know what they use) or there is a mother saying that I need to hang up the laundry or there is a father cooking using a loud extractor hood.
We finished the orientering season with the club championships. There were three different courses and I had the intermediate one. I didn’t think it was easy, because in the beginning there was a steep hill and I was out of breath immediately. I also sort of got lost, or at least I wasn’t on the place where I was supposed to be. It took me a few minutes to figure out what went wrong and where exactly I was then. Rein and Therese were really proud of me that I could figure out where I was all on my own and that I continued. I wasn’t really content with how the competition went, but when I heard that Therese en Rein were proud of me I felt a lot better about it.
The past few weeks I’ve visited multiple universities and folkhögskolor with school. First we visited the university for music in Piteå. This open house was a bit chaotic, because we could visit multiple workshops/presentations at the same time and we had to figure out ourselves were we were supposed to be in the building. The building didn’t look like a Dutch university at all, to me it looked more like an office on the inside. That same day we visited a folkhögskola called Framnäs. A folkhögskola is a school where you can go to after gymnasiet and before university, it takes one or two years. On Framnäs you can also choose programs with music and theater. The open house at this school was way more organised and the building looked more like a school to me. I really liked that school and it was really beautifully furnished. If I lived here permanently I would definitely think about going to that school after gymnasiet. We also visited the technical university of Luleå and it was really different than what I expected it to be. At this university you can not only study subjects that have to do with natural sciences but also subjects that have to do with humanities. This open house was a bit chaotic as well and I didn’t really get a good impression of this university.
I’ve been more outside quite a lot the past few weeks. I took a walk or a ride on my bike through the village or the forest a few times and took a lot of beautiful picture of the wonderful trees with yellow and red leaves. Most of the time it’s around 0°C now and the trees start to fall out. There is even some snow in the morning or evening sometimes and that’s why it feels like it’s almost Christmas to me, but it’s only October…. One Saturday afternoon we climbed a hill and had lunch, with sausages we grilled over a campfire, at a beautiful place with a beautiful view over a lake. But before that we went to the ‘godis arena’ (literally: candy arena) to buy candy, they only sell candy here, the Swedes really love candy!
Last week on Wednesday I went to the cinema to see ‘The Joker’, it was a really good movie! After that I stayed over at Liv’s apartment in Boden, in The Netherlands I would never go to the cinema on a weekday and have a sleepover after that, I had way too much homework for that. But my host parents think it’s good to do things with my friends that have nothing to do with school, going to the cinema and having a sleepover are such things.
Last Friday I went to Haparanda with Rein to slaughter four sheep at the farm of an old colleague of Rein. The people we went to live in a small village near Haparanda and have a small eco-farm where they have some cattle every year and slaughter it before winter comes, they also have a few rabbits. I actually had to go to school this day, but my teachers understood that this was a special occasion and that I probably never will get the chance again to do this, especially not in The Netherlands. I think I’ve learned more on this day than I would have learned in school. On our way to Haparanda we came across a seal hunter, he shot/caught (I don’t know how you hunt on seals) two seals, Rein said that I will probably never see this again in my life and that this will probably the only time that I get to pet a seal. Haparanda is near Finland, so at the end of the day Rein and I went to Finland. This is what I’ve learned about Finland: it’s always dark and cold when I am there and they speak a weird language, even weirder than Dutch… ;P
WARNING: Now I am going to tell about slaughtering the sheep, so if you don’t want to read this please skip this paragraph. The weirdest thing about the whole process is that at first you see the sheep alive and well and after a few hours they are all dead and they hang without their skin and without their head in the barn. After we slaughtered the first sheep you could see that the other sheep were really afraid. According to the Swedish law you have to kill the sheep by shooting a bullet in it’s head, the animal is dead immediately. After this you cut the throat so almost all of the blood leaves the body, this will take about two minutes and the animal will convulse and make some weird sounds. I thought it was really weird to see the animal move for such a long time, you start to think that it’s not dead and that it’s in pain, but that’s not the case. After this you cut open the chest and the abdomen, you need to do this really carefully to not cut open the organs, if you cut open the organs you can damage the meat. If the abdomen is completely cut open, you hang the animal upside down so all the organs fall out really easily. The organs you normally save to eat are the heart, the liver, the kidneys and sometimes the lungs and one of the stomachs (a sheep has three stomachs). I thought it was quite fascinating to see that the intestines were still moving, this was caused by gas that’s formed during digestion, this also gives the effect that the animal is not dead, but it has been dead for about half an hour by then. When all the organs are removed the skin is removed, this will be sold and it can make the same amount of money as the meat. The skin of a black sheep can even make more money than it’s meat, because a black skin is very rare and a black sheep gives less meat than a white sheep. Slaughtering one sheep takes about 45 minutes. I expected that I could not stand the amounts of blood or killing the animal itself, but this wasn’t really the case. A sheep maybe has one to two liters of blood and the killing itself doesn’t even take a second.
On Saturday we had the PAO (post arrival orientation) from YFU, so Veera, Daniela, me and our parents got together with a few volunteers from YFU. We talked about our first months here in Sweden, how it’s going with the language and making friends, how we feel in our host families, how things are going at school, how much contact we have at home, how it’s going with our goals for this year, etc. I thought it was really fun to see Daniela again after two months, Veera I’ve seen a few times at school or at her or my place. The PAO took place in a really nice studio of a friend of Kaisa, she makes really beautiful things and sells them as well. When I got in I got inspired immediately to make something myself when I got home. With Christmas I want to buy some decorations here, because I think it’s so cute.
I have finally seen a moose here, it was far away in a field and I could see it for maybe three seconds from the car, but I’ve seen one now!
Lots of love,