We started out the day with a little breakfast—I had müsli (granola with raisins) and yogurt, a new concoction of mine that I am certainly taking back to the States. Yogurt, along with many other products here in Sweden, comes in a cardboard carton rather than a plastic container. The largest quantity of milk to be purchased is in a liter carton, much to the dismay of our American friends that are used to the gallon jugs. I guess Swedes enjoy going to the grocery store every few days just to purchase milk. Everything in Sweden is smaller—from coffee cups, to washing machines, to bathrooms, (or as the Swedes call them, water closets). This takes a little getting used to, but it certainly makes sense in the “green” society of Sweden that we are now a part of.
Our first lecture of the day was on Laponia, which is the protected area in northern Sweden that the indigenous Sami control. This is the world’s largest unmodified natural territory still cultured by the native people of the area. Åsa Nordin Jonsson, who is the head of this department, spoke about her position as a sort of mediator between the Sami people and the Swedish government. Receiving funding from the government, this area is important for the Sami reindeer herders, who very much need a natural environment for their livelihood to thrive. Jonsson’s job is to listen to the concerns of the Sami people and bring those issues to a board in order to reach a unanimous agreement; only when a solution is agreed on by everyone, can it be put into action—a very Sami way of thinking.
Lunch, which we have every day in the Sami Education Centre cafeteria, consisted of some interesting cuisine—blood pudding. Many of us did not know what it was; I thought that it was eggplant, but with bacon sauce on it, I ate it without complaint. Consisting of blood and flour, it was an excellent source of protein! Some of us in the group chose to withhold what the cakes actually were until everyone had finished eating. That was probably a good choice for those of us that had rather delicate stomachs. Gotta love that Scandinavian cuisine!
Our second lecture was directly from the Sami Food Ambassador herself. Yes, that is a thing. Reaching about five feet tall, Greta Huuva was the most adorable Sami grandmother I’ve come across so far. Her presentation mostly consisted of roots, berries, and other things found directly in nature that center around the eight seasons that the Sami observe. These seasons of course revolve around the most important thing in the Sami culture—reindeer. The Angelica root is especially important as well because it has a wide range of uses from upset stomach, arthritis, and a general painkiller, much like aspirin. Greta also showed pictures of her grandchildren helping her gather herbs up in the mountains during the summer, emphasizing the importance of family, as well as passing information on to future generations. Because the Sami community is often under threat in favor of Swedish culture, this is vital to keep the culture in existence for years to come. There is even a Swedish word for this—kunskapsöverföring, which means to keep traditions and cultures alive and thriving.
After class every day, we usually have some free time, so Kallie, Erik and I went into town to find the local thrift store. When we arrived, at around 15.00 (in almost complete darkness, I might add) the hours were posted and it was open from 17.00-19.00. This was quite unusual for any kind of store, but especially for Sweden, when most things close by around 5 or 6 pm due to the darkness. This store was also only open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, for two or three hours at a time. “How does such an establishment keep its doors open with such a bizarre schedule?” we asked ourselves. That mystery is still to be solved.
Dinner in the dorm kitchen is always an interesting experience, due to the size of the kitchen and the sheer number of people all trying to cook at the same time. Tonight was no different, and there were a total of SIX people, all making pasta at the same time, each with different pots on the stove. I guess it never occurred to us to try and consolidate and make one pot of noodles for everyone. Since the hefty majority of us are novice cooks, there is still a lot to learn. I’m sure some of us will get the hang of this cooking thing soon.
In order to do laundry here, there is a sign-up sheet, with designated two-hour blocks. The laundry room is supposedly haunted, due to the fact that the school is built on a burial ground. Kallie and I did our laundry together, and when we got down to the creepy basement, someone else was doing laundry in front of us. When their clothes were done, and we tried to open the door of the miniature washing machine, it was locked. Since all the buttons were in Swedish, we tried at random to press them to see if anything would happen, but we guessed wrong because the machine started again. Apparently it is too difficult for two American college students to figure out how to use something as simple as a washing machine. We tried to stop the machine, but the only way we could do that was to shut it off. When we shut it off, we couldn’t unlock the door. After over five minutes of this ridiculousness, we decided to bring in some backup. Chelsea came to our rescue and simply pushed the unlock button for several seconds, and voila! the door sprang free. Feeling slightly embarrassed, Kallie and I thanked Chelsea and continued our quest to have clean clothes. Next was the drying process. Instead of a regular dryer, there was a mechanical drying rack of sorts (see picture). Both of us were dumbfounded as to how this “space machine” dried our clothes, but as long as our clothes came out unscathed and dehydrated, we didn’t question it. An hour later our faith prevailed and we were able to bring our (mostly) dry clothes back up to our rooms and fold them safely into our suitcases. And thus concludes our first, for the most part successful, laundry adventure.
Swedish drying rack