Tulaasi, outbound to Sweden

Consistency is something I struggle with more than I am willing to admit, so for those few of you out there that are actually interested in my journals, I apologize for this one being far overdue. It has been over three months here in Sweden. The colors of the leaves changed almost as quickly as I feel the time has gone by so far. But now the trees are bare and a looming gray haze sums up the majority of the exponentially decreasing time in the day.

There is a field of ridiculously tall sunflowers outside of the school I go to, and just a few weeks ago they were still in bloom- but now they are tired and wilted as though to match the weather. This three month mark is supposed to evoke the deepest homesickness while on exchange, but I feel like I already went through the worst of it about a month ago. I was having some pretty serious sister/mama withdrawals and it got to the point where my immune system was affected and I was sick for a while. Although I don’t anticipate it getting any harder than it already has been, there’s something strange about being on exchange that seems to magnify each emotion to its full potential. The lows are much lower, and the highs are even higher, so it really does make sense now that this will be the worst and best year of my life.

Looking back, these past weeks and months have been pretty eventful. I went on a canoeing trip with other exchange students down the Rönne Å where we slept in military tents. And then went canoeing again two days later with some of the IB (international baccalaureate) students. My arms were boiled noodles at that point, but I still had a great time. I went to Halmstad to attend the District Conference, and of course, I was spoiled rotten. I’m pretty sure we had fika every hour, and some wonderful Rotarians gave us exchange students canvases and paint instead of making us sit through the lectures (which I’m sure would have been interesting if I could understand the language). We also attended the fanciest dinner I could have ever imagined, where I was served a different kind of wine with each course, and there was a magician casually walking around as entertainment.

I went to Anderstorp to attend a crayfish party, and met probably around fifty more exchange students here in Sweden. Crayfish parties are a tradition here where everyone puts on pointy hats, drinks schnapps, sings the classic song, and of course eats crayfish.

I went to Karlskrona, Helsinborg, and Lund to visit other exchange students, where we explored the network of winding cobblestone roads that make up every city here.

I’ve visited my closest friend that I have made while on exchange several times in Ronneby. Her name is Calla and she’s from Wisconsin. I’m so glad I have been able to get to know her- she reminds me a lot of my sisters and home. We have had a lot of forest excursions and moderately successful cooking experiments, but the coolest thing we did was turn her attic into a coincidentally Alice-in-Wonderland-themed fort. She basically lives in a mansion, and naturally, it is filled with beautiful antique furniture and vintage robes, and other miscellaneous items (like a super old papier mâché seal that now looks like a burn victim) that turned into the perfect combination for our fairy tale hangout spot. I totally feel like I’m back in my childhood when we’re together, and I am definitely embracing my inner kid.

Daily life has become more normal and a routine has settled in. It is pretty hard to not have a job, or something I can consistently do for a large chunk of my time outside of school, so I have been trying out a lot of new things. I have found is that I really enjoy doing things that I am really horrible at next to people who could be professional. It sounds strange, but it makes me appreciate all the hard work and dedication they have put in to getting that good at what they are doing, and I also really enjoy watching the learning curve in myself.

I go to a yoga class and gym class, both once a week. I go out for a run almost daily, and try to take a new path each time. I also tried acroyoga, which I was so bad at but it was so fun, and I wish I had the money to invest more of my time there. Before this year, I never really enjoyed cooking, but I think that this is the most significant change in me I have observed. Food is such a multifaceted area of knowledge so I know there will always be something new for me to learn- and I think that’s what intrigues me most.

In the first almost two months that I was here, a lot of my time was spent drawing, which is something that I had anticipated would happen before coming. Drawing for me has always been something I can turn to when I want to express myself in ways that words can’t, but recently I have found a sense of selfishness and indulgence when I spend hours on end with paper and my pens. It’s hard to express in my own words, so I’ll steal some from Harper Lee to suffice: “People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

School hasn’t gotten much easier for me, and the only subject I have even the slightest grasp on is biology (but I think that’s because I had three years of it before I came here). My Swedish has improved ever so slightly, and my confidence in being able to pronounce the words is virtually nonexistent, so I almost always revert to English. I really need to stop doing that. I joined a Swedish for beginner’s course a few weeks ago because I am getting pretty frustrated with how difficult it is to learn the language. I don’t know exactly what makes Swedish so difficult, but I’ve heard that it is statistically one of the hardest to learn. So I’m giving myself some credit for being able to understand a lot more than I was able to when I first got here.

Last night I came to the realization that confusion is now default for me. In any given situation, I do not expect that I will understand what people are talking about or doing, and ordering from a menu almost always turns into a surprise of some sort. This is going to sound strange, but I actually really enjoy having a large portion of my surroundings being something that I don’t understand. Being in a constant state of aloofness to my surroundings is my new twisted sense of comfort. I think this is my distorted way of saying that the Swedish culture is becoming less and less foreign to me. Either that or I am numb to it.

The days crawl by slowly, but the weeks go quickly and the months have flown by. Time is funny that way, and before I know it, this year will be over. I have never been good at goodbyes or endings, so until next time…
Har en bra dag!

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