In that case, I suppose I have a lot to catch up on! I suppose I’ll go in chronological order…so
In the beginning of November, I went to Stockholm with Ann to see the Aqua Rapid Diving competition. Divers from various different countries came and competed. It was a very exciting and fun filled weekend!
Two weeks later, I went to Stockholm again, but this time it was with Rotary. It was a weekend in Stockholm where all the exchange students were invited. In total, about 60 were there. I am the only Rotary student in my town, so this was the first time I had seen all of them since language camp back in August, so that was quite exciting. (Minus a few that I saw in October at our district conference)
Jul och Nyår:
I had a wonderful, but very busy Christmas and New Year's here in Sweden. I personally don't think Christmas in Sweden is too different from that in the US. The main difference was that we celebrated on Christmas Eve, not Christmas. Since I lived with a six year old sister who still believes in Santa, I also learned that Santa doesn't just come in the middle of the night and leave presents under the tree, he actually comes during the day and delivers them himself...so I got to meet the Swedish Santa Clause too! Not much different I must say.
It is also tradition to see Donald Duck at three o'clock on Christmas Eve, and everyone in Sweden sees it every year, even though it is the exact same episode every year.
New Year’s is celebrated very similar in the US versus in Sweden. The only difference was that fireworks are everywhere. It’s not just the local town that decided to blow off fireworks, it is literally everyone. It was very easy to tell when midnight hit because the sky just lit up with fireworks. There were also quite a few people that sent up Asian lanterns as well, so that was very pretty.
It snowed after New Year's so I got to make my very first snölykta (snow lantern)!
Of course I also made a snögubbe :)
Jag har flyttat…igen! (I have moved…again!)
In the beginning of January (the 6th to be precise) I switched families again! Yes, that means that I have now moved to my third family! My new family consists of my host mom Lena, who works in the Örebro hospital as a nurse, my host dad, Clas, who works in Karlstad, and my youngest host brother Carl who is in the same school class as me. Carl is the only child that lives at home now, but I also have another host brother named Oskar who lives in an apartment on the other side of town with his girlfriend. I also have a new host sister, named Emma, who lives in Holland with her boyfriend (who is Ola Toivonen! He is a professional soccer player who currently plays for a team in Holland, but he comes back to Sweden to play for Sweden’s national soccer team when they have matches.)
This is my new house.
My new family is very active, so that is very nice for me! Over the time I have lived here, we have ice skated and cross country skied many kilometers. I have definitely cross country skied a lot this year! Even though we don’t have enough snow in town to ski here, we have still managed to find a place where we can go skiing at. So far this year, I have only been skiing seven times. In total, I have skied 95 km. The shortest I have skied in one day was 10 km, and the longest was 25 km. For me, this is quite good training because I will be skiing the Stafett Vasaloppet on March 2nd this year! (Which is already next week now!!) The Stafettvasan is the same distance as the real Vasaloppet (90 km) but instead it is divided into a relay so that 5 people will be skiing it together as a team. The first person in our relay is Sten (my host mom’s brother) who will ski 24 km. The second person is my host mom’s brother’s wife, Monica, who will also ski 24 km. The third person is Oskar, my host brother, and he will ski 9 km (yet it is said to be the shortest but hardest).The fourth is Lena (my host mom) who will ski 14 km. This means that the last person is myself! That means that I get to ski 19 km, but most excitingly, that means that I get to ski into the town of Mora and into the Mål (finish area). The last 2 km are skied directly into downtown Mora, where they bring in snow so that it literally goes through their downtown area. This should be very exciting and also make my last 2 km seem very easy because I hear that a lot of people line the streets to cheer everyone in!
On Thursday, the 26th of January I had my Rotary presentation! I had the entire presentation in Swedish and I think it went really well! Apparently I am the first exchange student that the club has had who has done their presentation in Swedish! Anyways, we always eat lunch before our presenter speaks, so like any other day, I thought our lunch looked quite delicious. It was very tasty, but just not exactly what I expected. I personally thought that I had eaten thinly sliced (and delicious) ham. It wasn’t until after I had just finished eating, that my first host mom Lena (who was sitting next to me) asked me if I knew what I had just eaten. Casually, I replied that it was ham. Well, apparently it wasn’t. Apparently I had really just eaten pig tongue! I am not even kidding. I had eaten pig tongue! Surprisingly, it was still very good, and I think I would eat it again if given the option! After my meal of pig tongue, I had my presentation and it went really well!
My past few weeks have been filled with trips to Sälen! Sälen is a quite large ski resort that lies about three hours northwest of where I live. It is very close to the Norwegian border, and extremely beautiful! They have many different regions where you can go downhill skiing, and many kilometers of beautifully groomed cross country ski trails!
My first trip was from Thursday evening (the 2nd of February) to Sunday the 5th, and I went with Alf and Margaretha Rosberg. Alf is my Rotary club’s current president. They have a winter cabin very close to all the ski slopes and cross country ski trails, so that was really nice. We were lucky that there was no wind and that it was quite sunny because it was quite cold! (Between -15 and -25 degrees Celsius the entire time, and it was even -28 on Saturday morning). Despite the chilly weather, we went both downhill and cross country skiing on Friday, then on Saturday (the really cold day) we just went downhill skiing. On Sunday morning, we went cross country skiing. Overall, it was a fantastic trip and I had a wonderful time!
The following Wednesday (the 8th) I was there again but this time it was with school! It was frilufts dagen (aka “fresh air day”) so that meant that nobody at our school had class, but everyone had to choose some type of sporting activity that they wanted to do. We could choose from things like spinning, zumba, swimming, skiing, tennis, and many others. I chose to go skiing, because, frankly, I thought it sounded like the most fun! We left school at 6 AM and didn’t return again until about 8:30 PM. We definitely had a fun filled day skiing! Even the long bus ride was very entertaining.
The following weekend on Saturday and Sunday (the 11th and 12th) I went to Sälen again, but this time I went with my family. My older host brother who doesn’t live at home came with us as well. My host mom, Lena, has a brother who lives in Sälen, so we stayed with them on Saturday night. When we were there, we only went cross country skiing because we had to train for our Vasaloppet race. On Saturday, we skied about 25 km throughout the day! We skied 10 km first, then ate lunch and then skied another 15 km! The following day, we only skied about 14 km. After skiing, we began our drive back home. On the way we did stop to eat carrot soup that we brought with us.
Every Monday I have begun taking an art class at the local Culture School. Right now, I am painting a picture of a winter sunset with someone biking along a path that goes by the lake. I thought this was a good idea because in Sweden, we literally bike everywhere no matter what time of year it is!
Every Tuesday I continue to play tennis. I am still having a wonderful time playing tennis every week!
Every Wednesday evening I have been coaching diving to kids! Mt old host dad was on the board of directors for the local diving club, so I went with to one of the meetings, and Ulrika Knape-Lindberg was there. (She actually won gold in the 1972 Olympics in Munich. She also coaches her daughter Anna Lindberg who will be competing in the London Olympic this year!) Anyways, she asked me if I could help out with their new beginners group. This means that every Wednesday between 6 and 7 I help coach a group of about 30 kids between the ages of 7 and 12 to dive. It is actually quite exciting. After a few weeks, I have finally gotten the hang of everything and I feel like I actually know what I’m doing now. The first week was definitely an adventure because I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, and I didn’t even know how to say the word “dive” in Swedish and Ulrika just said to me, here is your group of kids, and that the far diving board was mine for the hour! Now, things are going much better and I am having a wonderful time. I even had two of the parents come up to me a few weeks ago and thank me for what I have done. They also told me they thought I was very good with the kids and that they were having a great time and really enjoyed diving! Don’t worry, I now know how to say dive (among other things) in Swedish, dyka :)
There was even an article in the local newspaper about the new diving group!
I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but while we were watching a movie in Spanish class right before winter break, the teacher put on Swedish subtitles, and throughout the entire movie, I just read the subtitles. Looks like I'm forgetting my Spanish, but my Swedish couldn't be better!
My Swedish has become quite good now and I rarely find myself wondering what a word means. My Swedish grammar has also greatly improved. In the beginning, I found it extremely easy to listen and talk Swedish, but I had quite a difficult time writing it because I had no idea how to spell. For example, if I were to spell the word ‘feel’ in Swedish, it is spelled känner, but pronounced ‘sh-enner’. Recently, in my Swedish class at school, we received an assignment where we had to read a few articles, and then write a paper about the subject of our articles we chose to use. I did the entire assignment in the allotted class time, and I was quite shocked when I finished writing my paper, and looked down at the computer and saw that I wrote a 690 word paper in complete Swedish with minimal translation. I only looked up a handful of words because I was unsure of how to spell them!
I have even begun reading the first book in the Stieg Larsson series, Män som Hatar Kvinnor (known in English as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The series is written by a Swedish author, so I thought it would be interesting to read the non-translated version of the series. I also received the first two books of the series from my first host family as a Christmas gift, so that was great!
Now, this week I actually don’t have any school because it is “sport break!”
Anyway, I am having a wonderful time here in Sweden and I am savoring every single moment I have here!