The Three C’s Weekend

Hejsan! The weekend of March 31- April 2 was full of activities that I haven’t done before while in Sweden. I found that these can all be categorized into what I will now refer to as the three Cs. These are cultural, crafty, and colorful. On Friday, Hemgården hosted a small concert where a ‘regular’ at Hemgården, Gusstav, and his brother visiting from Mexico performed. It was really lovely to listen to them sing in both english and spanish, and you could tell how much they had performed and worked together on music while growing up. A lot of people I knew went to the concert, so it was lovely to catch up with some of the people I haven’t seen in a few months over tea and snacks afterwards. Getting to experience yet another wonderful event hosted by Hemgården reminded me how nice the international scene is here in Lund. There are so many outlets where multiple cultures and passions can be expressed. I am endlessly amazed by the concept of Hemgården and am really hoping that I can find some sort of community or art center back in Denver that hosts similar activities. This was the cultural C of the weekend, with my Saturday morning bringing out the crafty C.

One aspect of home that I have really missed a lot since coming to Sweden (and going to college in general) is how much less time I find to partake in crafting. Back home, my mom and I would find lots of random crafts to attempt, which then become some of my favorite hobbies and memories. One such activity is pottery. Whether it is throwing clay on a wheel and seeing what I can form or painting pre-made pieces, there is something about this process that I adore. Pottery has actually played a recurring role in my life, as I participated in a pottery course put on by my local Art Center as a child and made pottery with both of my host families in Japan. The pieces of pottery I made back in Japan are some of my favorite souvenirs from my time, as they remind me of really fun memories with my host siblings and are useful items. Because of my love of pottery, it comes as no surprise that as soon as my friend Komachi asked if I wanted to attend paint-your-own pottery at a studio in Lund, I said absolutely. So Saturday morning, we met up and enjoyed lovely painting! Komachi chose a mug, and I chose a little jar that I am hoping to use to hold loose leaf tea. We both went with a fun mountain design for the outside of our mugs. I chose purple because it reminds me of the mountain landscape back home while Komachi did shades of pink and purple. The pottery studio had a lot of different tools to use for painting, so we also tried a fun method of mixing paint with water and a drop of dish soap and blowing bubbles in the inside. I didn’t use enough the first time, so I redid mine in a light blue color. Komachi’s turned out perfectly the first time. We just picked up the finished pieces this week and they look awesome! I am so glad that I have this fun new addition to add to my international pottery collection. 

After pottery, I met up with my friend Sebastian for my final C, colorful (though it was also cultural). We changed into some old white clothes and pants that I didn’t mind ruining before we went to one of highest hills in Lund to celebrate Holi. One of Sebastian’s corridor mates is from India, so he had invited us to join for this fun celebration. While it was a bit windy and chilly, we had a blast drinking rose milk, dancing, and wishing people a ‘happy Holi” (made complete by spreading some colorful chalk on each other’s hair and faces). It was a very neat and colorful experience that I was really glad to partake in. One of the weirdest “small world” moments happened when I met a random guy from Japan who had spent a summer home staying in Wyoming during high school. He was actually one of the Japanese students from Labo, the group that partnered with 4-H, for my Japan exchange! It was really neat to get to meet someone from the other side of the exchange, and very wild that we met at an Indian celebration during our respective study abroad’s in Sweden. Holi was quite festive, but I had to spend a long time washing color out of my hair and ears. The old white shirts were nicely dyed purple in the wash though! On Sunday, I also waited in a queue for 4 hours to get tickets for a Valborg at one of the nations only for them to run out of tickets. It was similar to the hockey ticket campout that happens at DU every fall, but the goal was to get tickets to a giant party. There were people in line who had been there for 18 hours and didn’t get a ticket, so I wasn’t too bummed about my situation. I guess it goes to show how much the Swedes like the concept of queuing.

Overall, this weekend was filled with a lot of really sweet experiences that I am able to partake in due to living in Lund. While none of the highlights were particularly Swedish or famous, it was one of the perfect study abroad weekends where I can appreciate the life I have formed in a very international location. I definitely found one of the best places to go abroad in terms of the people and opportunities (though I imagine I could get similar in a lot of places). 


Swedish Ball

Hejhej! I attended one of the most Swedish university social activities that I know of– a ball. This was a very random experience with a lot of unexpected events and traditions, but I loved it. The ball I attended was hosted by my nation (large co-ed social club), Sydksånska, and was called Knävlingagille. Balls are a great way to meet new people, but it is also nice to go with a friend or two so that you have someone to talk to if your other neighbors aren’t social. Because of this, I had invited Komachi to come join me, which was really amazing. Komachi and I met at the Copenhagen Octoberfest in September, and have been close friends ever since. One of the best things about our friendship is that we will agree to attend pretty random events with one another, such as this ball.

Anyway, the Swedish concept of a ball is basically like the US’s concept of prom (or maybe a ball in the US, I haven’t attended one there) but with alcohol and some pretty random Swedish traditions. All of the women are expected to wear long ballgowns and the men wear tuxes. A couple hundred students all congregate in the AF Borgen building (one of the original LU buildings) around 5pm, where they all enter the large hall and find their assigned seats. Komachi and I were placed at one of the tables furthest from the podium, which I assumed was the international table based on the amount of other international students with us. I was seated next to a nice Swedish student studying political science, and a couple of seats down from me were some other international friends I’d made before. The ball was set up with the same general seating and table setting as a traditional sittning (I attended one in the fall), but there was a podium set up for speeches to be given during the ball. The actual ball started with a large screen coming down over the stage that was on the left side of the room and a short homemade 15 minute video being played. This video began with the Star Wars intro, then gave all of the main characters funny Star Wars-esque names. I feel as though the video would’ve made more sense to me if I spoke Swedish, but there were some context clues for me to get the general idea. All of the characters in the video were the executive board members of SSK that year, with the Qurator (the leader of the nation) as the central character. Despite having a Star Wars theme, the plot of the short movie they made was about a goose dying and them attempting to save it. They went to Copenhagen (I assume the dark side) to try to find someone to help. Near the end, it was apparent that the goose was a goner but the executive board members had to lead the ball so they got ready for the ball while they were sad. As they were walking up the stairs of the AF building (to the ball), they got a call that the goose was saved! Once happy again, the video ended and they all walked in to the hall to begin the ball. The video was really weird, but it was done nicely as a start to the ball. The next 5 hours were filled with lots of speeches being conducted by the executive board members as well as guests of the nations. I was very confused about what was happening, which, admittedly, may have been due to my lack of Swedish. Sometimes I bothered the Swede next to me for the general overview, but I found it more amusing to come up with my own impression of the speech based on the limited Swedish vocabulary I picked up. I would whisper my outlandish version to Komachi when we were supposed to be sitting attentively, which led to both of giggling a bit too much. Thankfully, we never got in trouble for being too loud or distracting. 

At the ends of each table, there were marshals from the nation wearing the traditional graduation cap and sash whose entire job was to make sure that nothing got out of hand. In theory, this role makes a lot of sense. Students drinking and getting antsy during speeches sounds like a fast track for lots of noise and disruptions. However, our marshal was very uptight, and kept getting mad at us whenever our table made any noise or copied other tables. The table in front of us was much rowdier, and yet we got shushed substantially more. To be fair, one girl at our table brought bubbles that she kept blowing, so I suppose it was valid that she got in trouble. On the other hand, we were the table furthest from the podium and were the international table, so almost none of us knew what was happening during the speeches. Because of this, I think some distractions should’ve been okay. On top of the speeches, we had little songbooks we were provided and people would go up and lead us through songs. Almost all of the songs were about drinking, and finished with a loud “skål” around the tables and either a shot of schnapps or sip of our drinks. As I am sure you can already tell, there was a lot of drinking involved with this entire tradition.

One aspect of the ball that I found very strange was the fact that there were designated ‘pauses’ within the schedule for everyone to use the restroom and stretch their legs. While this is nice and makes sense, the weird aspect is the fact that we were not allowed to leave the hall except during these pauses. The marshals would stand by the doors and not let anyone out. Maybe I am too American, but this felt a bit controlling, especially for an event where people were heavily drinking. Right before one of the pauses, there was a part of the schedule called “Sydskånska Nation husband”. Even though the rest of the schedule was in Swedish, my brain read this as English. Some old man gave a speech, so I assumed that he was our nation’s ‘husband’. I thought it was kind of a cool concept, similar to sorority ‘house moms’ in the US. It turns out that the term ‘husband’ is not the same between Swedish and English. After the old man’s speech, a group of five students got on the stage with various instruments and microphones and proceeded to play pop music, including Lizzo and Abba. ‘Husband’ in Swedish actually translates to house band. I think it’s even cooler that the nation has a house band, but the lack of marital status of the nation was a bit of a let down. The house band was super fun, as everyone stood up on their chairs and spun their napkins over their head while dancing to the music (I realize as I write this now that this was potentially dangerous). After the house band, random Swedish songs everyone sang along to, speeches from middle aged people that included taking shots, and short Star Wars video with a near-dead goose, I thought I couldn’t be surprised by the ball anymore. It had reached the point where I was drunk enough and really random things had happened enough that it was starting to feel a bit like a fever dream. 

Thus, when a marching band marched in playing pop music (complete with dance groups wearing cheerleader skirts) during desert, I wasn’t even thrown off. Of course the ball included a marching band and prepared dance numbers by the cheerleaders because why not? There was nothing stopping them from the very random traditions and music, so they included it. The ball was wild and had so many aspects that I was not expecting, but I loved it. The energy of the room was so fun, and you could tell that everyone (except the marshals) was having a great time celebrating. After desert, they served everyone coffee before we attended the Sexa (the dancing afterwards). A lot of people left before the Sexa started, but Komachi and I stayed to dance, and met a couple of other girls. Both Komachi and I had a wonderful experience with the ball and I am glad that I got to share yet another spectacular moment with her. The ball reminded me that it’s fun to get dressed up and celebrate, especially in the grey winter months. I was even able to appreciate the unique obsession with music that the Swedes have.