Friday, December 14, 2007

Last two weeks in Lund, Pt. 1

It was a busy time! Here's the re-cap.

December 3rd: Today we said “Tack” to our Swedish teacher, Annika, and thanked her for being such a wonderful friend and instructor to the die-hard intermediate Swedish learners (only 7 of us left by the end of December!). We gave her a group photo and brought a treat from Mormor's bakery.

Then I decked the halls the traditional Swedish (and American) way, with an amaryllis and a wreath from the local grocery store:

December 5th: I captured a picture of what southern Sweden would look like if I were to stay for the next four months: foggy and gray.

December 6th-11th: Exams. I was holed up in my room for quite a while. I wrote a 30-page paper (on religion in U.S. public schools) over three frantic days and turned in a take home exam comparing Swedish and Canadian social systems. (I did well in both, but wouldn’t receive my final grades, converted from the Swedish system to the UC system, until March.) You can look at one of my final table of contents for one of my papers on the right. No fair critiquing now -- I got an A.

December 12th: I hosted a taco night for my korridor as a farewell gesture. Not my best cooked meal ever, but they seemed to enjoy it and I got a group picture with most of my Swedish familj.

December 13th: St. Lucia Day and exam day.

I woke up early to join two of my other korridor mates, LH and Lovisa, in watching the nationally televised St. Lucia procession. It's a beautiful tradition. In towns and cities across Sweden, a sort-of-pageant is held and a young woman (between 15-23ish) is elected to be the St. Lucia. The others serve as her “handmaidens” and accompany her in singing and processing.

Sweden’s winters are so long and dark that it's no surprise that most of their holidays revolve around the wonder of the light amidst the dark, the warm moments during the cold winter. Traditionally St. Lucia was celebrated on the darkest day of the year. The Lucia group sings a beautiful song (you can hear it in the video from my Lucia day blog post) and the lyrics translate to this:

The night treads heavily
around yards and dwellings
In places unreached by sun,
the shadows brood
Into our dark house she comes,
bearing lighted candles,
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

Swedes also replicate the tradition at home, and the eldest daughter is often Lucia. (When I was younger, we did celebrated with my godmother's family here in the states.) She comes to greet her family in morning, wearing a long white gown, with St. Lucia rolls (lussekatter) on a tray and a crown of candles on her head. You can read more about the holiday here.

At 8am, I arrived at Lund University’s Centrum för teologi och religionsvetenskap (Center for Theology and Religious Studies) for my final Religion, Violence, and Politics class, which involved a public critique of our term papers. Our professor was late, and we heard people down the hall. Eva and I, wondering if we’d gone to the wrong classroom, wandered towards the voices and poked our heads into a room. There was assembled the entire Lund University Religion department staff, rehearsing their Santa Lucia procession and songs, to be performed in the religion library that morning. When our professor arrived, we begged him to let us (mostly foreigners, who had never been in Sweden for Lucia) go downstairs and watch. We did, and that was the second Lucia I saw that day.

For the exam, my class of ten students sat around a table and our peers (all of whom had read each others papers) would offer suggestions and critiques of our papers. At thrity-pages a pop, this was no small feat for anyone, yet this is standard in Swedish universities. As 90 percent of my grade was based on this paper, I was a little freaked out, but it went smoothly (and I got top marks).

Later that day, I met up with Cheryl, Eva, and Kalela to go to the Allhelgonakyrkan (All Saints Church) to see Lund’s newly elected Lucia process down the church aisle. There was already a crowd gathered outside the church waiting for the doors to open, and when they did we rushed inside to grab a good seat in the pews. We sang Christmas songs in Swedish and watched a children’s choir perform, and then they dimmed all the lights in the sanctuary so only the candles lit the room. St. Lucia and her handmaidens entered the room, glided slowly down the aisle, singing a cappella. It was breathtaking. That was the third Lucia I saw. Quite a day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Happy St. Lucia Day!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Kulturens Julstök

Tonight was the Julstök at Lund’s culture and history museum, the Kulturen. It seemed like the whole city showed up to wander through the open-air part of the museum, where historical Swedish buildings create a cozy little village.

The entrance was a bargain – only 20 kronor for students (3 dollars) – and we got a glimpse at some authentic (and local) Swedish Christmas traditions, which is probably why both our Swedish professor and our UC advisor urged us to check it out.

I drank some delicious glögg, listened to the Östgöta Nation choir sing carols, watched Swedes pig out on hot dogs, including the local skånsk knake sausage, and ooh-ed and aah-ed for some talented performers including some jugglers who tossed flaming torches back and forth.

The museum was all lit up, and with darkness falling well before 4PM, it was a really wonderful holiday atmosphere. I thought the highlight of the night was buying a pig-shaped pepparkakor cookie which was then personalized with MY name.

My mom’s favorite stop would have been the herring buffet. You could try all kinds of pickled herring or “sill” for only 20 kronor. I headed for the lussekatter (saffron lucia buns) instead.

With only two weeks left it’s going to be hard to find the right balance between enjoying the little time I have left in Sweden and getting all of my school work done. Speaking of which, I have a paper to write!

Have a great week,