Saturday, June 23, 2007


The skies in Sweden have just been itching to rain. Magnus and I watched the clouds very closely on Thursday and we were waiting for the rain to begin falling any minute. Well, the weather held out – until Midsummer, of course. Apparently, Swedish midsummers are often blemished by the rain, but it did not stop us from celebrating!

We celebrated with friends of Lina and Magnus, outside of Gothenburg at a house on Aspen Lake. The morning of the celebrations, I was attacked by jet lag once again: I woke up at 4:30AM and could not fall back asleep. It’s exhausting enough to function with only four hours of sleep, but doing it in a foreign country where you cannot understand anyone or anything is even more difficult.

Lunch was my first taste of PICKLED HERRING. I honestly did not know what to expect, but I am proud to say that I tried three kinds of pickled herring. The first one was your standard pickled herring: bitter, cold, and squishy. You spear the fish and a piece of potato, dip it in sour cream, sprinkle it with chives, and stick it in your mouth. It’s like I said: cold, squishy, and pickled, and that about sums it up. I also tried another type – sweeter, and pickled with onions – which was somewhat similar, as well as herring in a crayfish marinade, which was a lot smoother, softer, and creamier going down. It was not bad, just not my thing.

After lunch, we (eight adults and seven little kiddos) trundled 20 minutes down the road, in the rain, to the community midsummer celebration. A beautiful giant maypole stood in the middle of a grassy clearing and many other families stood around in raincoats, armed with umbrellas.

The rain wasn’t too bad, and as soon as the music started Lina, Maja, and I danced around the maypole to music, singing songs in Swedish about dancing like frogs and pigs, ladies going to town, and crazy old drivers. I think there is a reason that people drink schnapps at lunch.

By the end, it was truly pouring. Many of the Swedes – the smart, weather conscious people that they are – were clothed in rain pants, raincoats, and Gortex. I was in my sneakers and jeans, which steadily became wetter and muddier. Everyone got very wet. When we returned, everyone remarked that it was probably the rainiest midsummer they had ever spent outdoors. Lucky me! Instead of picnicking at the maypole, we enjoyed fresh strawberries and whipped cream back in the warm and dry shelter of the host’s house.

By this point, the lack of sleep was catching up to me and I was not feeling good: I felt stupid because I didn’t know any Swedish. I felt like I was exuding awkwardness. There was no one my age at the party (everyone was either over 35 or under 6 years of age). I was feeling so tired and so overwhelmed! Lina keenly noticed that I looked dead on my feet and I was SO grateful when she suggested that I take a nap. I went downstairs and took some time out to rest. It was a hard moment -- and I've realized that living abroad is already proving to be a huge challenge. I miss home and my family and friends a lot…

ANYWAY, I felt much better after a few hours of rest. Our hosts were great and prepared generous servings of ribs, potatoes, corn, relishes, compotes, and wine for dinner. The midsummer celebration centers around spending time with family and friends, singing, dancing, drinking, and eating – and doing a lot of it!

Last night I had my first interrupted night of rest! 8 blissful hours! I’m starting to overcome the jetlag. I am also ready to venture down to Lund and get started learning Swedish. It is incredibly frustrating not to be able to speak Swedish, even to 3-year-old Adam!!

Thanks to Magnus for the midsummer pictures.
Hej då!


Loring said...

Sounds great! Good for you for embracing all the new experiences ... obviously some are better than others! I had strawberries in Sweden too. As I recall, the locals saw them as a real treat! :-) Glad to hear your stories and wish you the best in learning the new language.

Betsy said...

It may take you a little time but you'll get into the "swing of things" before you know it. Who knows? You may even become a fan of pickled herring! Well, maybe not, but it could happen!

Shoshana said...

Hah! Betsy wrote "swing of things" but I read "swede of things." Which I think you should start saying.

Alaina said...

Wow Linnea! I'm sort of jealous of you and your adventure! Congratulations on trying the pickled herring; I'm not sure I'd be that brave.

Betsy said...

Shoshana, I like your style! The "swede of things"! By the way, I'm Linnea's aunt, her mother's sister. And you are?