Well done, and we’re not even close to done. Posted on March 2nd, 2015 by

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’ve been following the Semester in Sweden and you know where we are going and what we are doing, so I’m going to take my turn to tell you some of what I, at least, am feeling.  First, a little bit about who we are.  Jeff teaches Chemistry and Environmental Studies and I work at Swanson Tennis Center and Swedish Kontur.  We have a daughter, Emma,  a sophomore in college back home, Signe, who is nearly 16, and Jorgen, who is 11 are with us on this trip.  We have two lovable boxers, Connie and Finn.  Our family lived just outside of Gothenburg, Sweden for a year in 2008-2009, while Jeff did research during his sabbatical.  We have a deep affection for this country and the true friends that we made here.  Neither Jeff nor I grew up traveling far from our small towns, but after years of uprooting ourselves for school and work (7 times in Emma’s first 7 years), it seems we’re always looking towards the horizon, while appreciating our Midwestern home.

Jeff and I enjoying nightlife in Jokkmokk, a walk around the lake.

Jeff and I enjoying nightlife in Jokkmokk, a walk around the lake.

Let me start with home.  I miss it.   While it’s great to be  settled for awhile in one place, Mora, it also gives us a little more time to be still and think.  This is not the norm for busy Gusties and their teachers, who like to go, do and be highly involved.  Our family enjoys being included in Friday Family Dinner, it was the students who dubbed it “family dinner”, and I love that.  This is a family heavy on women, with a few good men.  It’s a nice mix.  In the course of dinner conversation, the topic of homesickness came up.  The students have been living away from home for at least a couple of years now, so I know you’re used to only seeing them occasionally, it’s the same for us with our Emma.  Facetime is great, but this is the longest I’ve gone without touching her.  I want to wrap my arms around her, squeeze her close and smell her hair.  I do.  I also miss our goofy dogs who brighten our days with wiggles (it’s a boxer thing) and drool and are a comic duo intent on making us laugh at least once a day.   I miss the comfort and convenience of my home, my bath, my slippers left behind for lack of space in the dreaded 50 pounds limit on luggage.  I’m not used to dorm life and sharing bathrooms and kitchens with lots of people.  This takes some adjusting, at my age.  I really miss my co-workers and friends, laughing about the daily quirks in our mundane lives.

The skies have turned grey here in Mora, a damp cold has settled in.  The Vasaloppet has taken over “our” school. We can’t play ping pong, hoops, indoor rugby, or work out because mattresses are covering the gym floor.  Our daily fika is disrupted.  School is definitely in session, with the students attending politics for 3 hours a day this week, and Swedish language in the afternoon.  The learning is still largely experiential, but it feels more like work.  In these days, however, there is so much fun and energy to be found.  Yesterday, a few of us ventured out to church in the morning, only to find that all church services are off during both Sundays of Vasaloppet.  We walked around the beautifully aged, warm, incense scented space, took a few pictures and decided to check out the race.  Our timing was such that we saw a first place finisher cross the line, which was pretty exciting.  We then checked out the “expo” a bit, dreamed over some nice new cars, got hugs from costumed bears, scored some free milk from the Arla cart, and stumbled upon a tiny old wood building in which they were selling waffles and coffee for 50 SEK (about $6).  We ordered our waffles from a soft spoken, old time costumed woman and tucked ourselves in to the corner of a community table with warm coffee and tea.  The snow was falling outside, we were surrounded by beautiful conversation we couldn’t understand and our waffles were delicious.  As we left the building, I looked at the students and, only half joking, said, “amen”.  Church of a different sort, finding the spiritual in something unexpected.

The group seeking treasures on our first geology field trip.  Photo courtesy of Becca Awe.

The group seeking treasures on our first geology field trip. Photo courtesy of Becca Awe.

Like anywhere, we have highs and lows, so let me finish with the remarkable.  This hodgepodge “family” of temporary Swedes.  Your children, grandchildren, students, co-workers and friends are a phenomenal group of Gusties.  While traveling in a pack (and that is a sight to see), the individuality is clear.  Everyone has something important to contribute, I could list each of their names and tell you something specific that I admire about them.  The very best thing is that they are up for every. Single. Thing.  They are game.  If they are grumbling about something on the schedule, they are grumbling in a whisper that my bat mother ears can’t hear.  I have seen them roasting korv in a frigid picnic setting, hiking to a frozen river in pursuit of breathtaking northern lights, tasting local delicacies (however, surstromming defies all common sense), playing king/queen of the mountain, staging snowball attacks, finding fossils in the snow covered cliffs, sitting front row at a heavy metal concert (earplugs in!), seeking connections with the locals, skating on the lake, playing rugby in the snow, baking pies and stirring pots, doing dishes, studying, watching movies with our kids and just simply looking out for each other.  Oh, and studying, they are doing that, too.  They have written thank you notes without any prompting and have not been even a minute late for any departure, not even once.  These kids are good kids, and we are honored to be part of their great adventure.

American Winter Rugby Team – photo courtesy of Alexa Giebink

American Comfort Foods Cooking Class

American Comfort Foods Cooking Class

We have seen so much already, we have so very much more to see and experience – the cities, the country, the island await the invasion of this group of modern day explorers.  I said to one of the students a couple days ago, wouldn’t it be sort of sad if we didn’t miss home?  It will all be there when we return with new memories waiting to be shared with those we miss in this moment.  We will find a spot on a special shelf to tuck our colorful dala horses, we’ll fold our lovely wool sweaters, place them on the shelf and think about Paradise Jokkmokk.  Maybe we’ll go for a run in our Vasaloppet or Pistolklubb t-shirt and think about the yummy semla we fika’d on in that place.  However, Sweden promises so much more, and we have more to share with Sweden.  So maybe we muddle through this next week with grey skies,  it’s invasion of skiers and disruption of our regular meal schedule, so grateful for the hospitality of the really good and kind people at Mora Folkhogskolan.  Then we will pack our bags (perhaps a little heavier than when we arrived), grab our train tickets and reclaim our adventure.


This looks like an ad for an adventure magazine!

This looks like an ad for an adventure magazine!



  1. Jan Jeremiason says:

    Ah, Maria, you write so well, your journalism major skills so apparent! You and Jeff are a great combo in that your children are a blend of each of your talents! Traveling from home is a great teacher, both in appreciation of new places/cultures, but also a heightened awareness of the special aspects of the home you have left. What an adventure you all are sharing! Thanks!

  2. Krister says:

    The weather will be better!

  3. Margaret Sorensen says:

    So wonderful to hear from one of our students’ leaders. Although it made me miss my daughter a little more, I am happy that she is one of this group of students. There is no doubt that when they all return, they will be much wiser, more accepting of other cultures, and more confident in their own lives. Thank you for filling us in from an adult perspective. I wish you all well as spring break approaches.

  4. chris patnoe says:

    Thank you so very much. What you wrote was beautiful and made me think even more that you are a MOM and with that it made me smile huge and tear a little. This is a great group of kids, thank you for enjoying them as much as I’m sure we do wen we have them.