It was rather odd to be in a place with yet another language to try to manage. It seems that everywhere I go I have to figure out how to maneuver with different languages and ways of doing things. In the airport I suddenly realized that saying "prosim" would no longer serve as "Please, excuse me, thank you, etc." Instead it would only draw me confused stares. But I have no learned a new way to say "goodbye." In Swedish they say "hej do." Or something to that effect. I like trying to say goodbye different ways all the time. Anyhow, this has not so much to do with my trip, so I'll move on.
Christmas Eve morning we hung out at Malin's mom's house for a while, before heading up to her Dad's place, even farther north. I was introduced to the Christmas Eve tradition of watching Donald Duck at 3 in the afternoon. It seems to be the thing to do on Christmas Eve afternoon. They show a bunch of clips from different Disney movies and several short Donald Christmas clips. For a while during this Christmas frippery, I got to hold a 5 day old baby named Siri. She is Malin's cousin, and her mom, Greta, was an overseas volunteer at Mother's Choice my first summer in '99. It was nice to see Greta again, as well as meeting her three adorable children: Elis, Sixten, and Siri. It was also pretty much amazing to hold a small baby again. It has been soooo long!
At about 4 we had our Christmas dinner. Here I sampled a number of Swedish delicacies. On my plate you will see clockwise, green salad, raw salmon, a potato, Mimosa salad, moose meatballs, sausage, ribs, ham, and a prune. Malin made sure I also tried some fish casserole, another variety of raw fish, and some sort of meatloaf.
Sadly I didn't get a picture of our dessert. It was another kind of rice dessert, with bits of almonds in it. In each batch they also add one whole almond. The person who finds the whole almond is supposed to be married with in the year. What do you know, Malin made sure that the whole almond ended up on my plate. Funny how that happened :)
Next we moved to the living room for present time. I was overly blessed by all the gifts I received from Malin and her family. Her grandma even knitted mittens for me! Since both my grandmothers were Swedish, it felt really special to have mittens knitted by a Swedish grandmother. Of course, her Grandma is the same age as my Dad, but what does that matter? It was a really nice Christmas.
Malin was determined that I would experience all that Northern Sweden had to offer. First I had to experience the early morning Christmas service. The service started at 6 AM, but we had to be there by 5:15 to get good seats. Consequently we headed out to Kalix around 5AM. The church, which Malin pointed out was built before Columbus sailed to America, was a bit hard to keep my eyes open through, but we especially enjoyed the singing. After the service we came back to the house, ate a small meal and then went back to sleep! Later on Christmas day we went for an adventure on "kicks."
We went out with her Dad to a little cottage in the woods where we had "fika." Malin informed me that "fika" is the first word and tradition most exchange students learn when they come to Sweden. We would probably call it a coffee break, but it is very important to them. So in the cottage we sat down and had some of this absolutely AMAZING bread that her Dad made. Then we wandered around with the guy who owned the cottage and checked out all the work the busy little beavers have been doing in the neighborhood. In one place they had caused the water to rise so much that it had flooded a huge patch of ground, killing all the vegetation and creating a horrifying stench!
In the evening it was time to go to a party. After a brief phone call from home where I got to talk to my parents and David and Ryder, we headed out for a night on the town. Every year most young people come back to the villages they grew up in, and this is their chance to hang out. It was nice to get to dress up and meet some of Malin's friends.
And that's about it for now. More to come...