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Published: August 18th 2013
As I stifled a giggle as I bounced around the room in a Swedish aerobics class, I realized it was time to share with you about this adventure so far!
The speedy version of the backstory is that 8 weeks ago I received an offer to teach at the International School of Helsingborg in Sweden! Naturally, I jumped at the chance. After some visa and passport scares and an extraordinary sendoff from family and friends, I arrived on the 1st
All through the quick hour-long train ride from Copenhagen, I was anxious to see the town that I was going to be calling home! As though the enormous suitcases I dragged behind me on the cobbled streets weren’t enough of an indication of my foreign status, I could not help but whip my head around from site to site. The town is right on the water and huge ferryboats are continually crossing the sound, taking passengers to and from Denmark. The brick buildings and small roads with cozy town squares greeted me and gave me a positive first impression of my new home base.
After dropping my bags, I took advantage of the late setting sun and walked to the waterfront. Denmark is clearly visible- complete with the castle upon which Shakespeare’s Hamlet is based. The waters of the sound are calm and swimmers were out enjoying a sunset dip. Though I struggled to wrap my head around the idea of swimming in the waters way up north by Sweden, I could not help but wish to wake up to a sunny day to give it a try.
The hotel breakfast served as my introduction to Swedish cuisine. Meats, fish, cheeses, yogurts, breads, breads, and more breads, along with eggs and the like lined the room. I could not really tell yet what is considered typical breakfast here since people tucked into every option. In my time zone fog, I was just delighted that the coffee was up to standard!
After a few days of setting in, complete with fish stews and steamed mussels, I took the ferry over to Denmark to visit the Louisiana Museum. What an experience! The setting is extraordinary as
the grounds are extensive and overlooking the sound. Walking around taking in the sculptures and exhibits, this current one on Yoko Ono, was only made more impressive by the natural beauty of the place. Living by the water is going to be a treat for this formerly land-locked girl!
Though there was a great temptation to hop over to some other city or sight that is now suddenly within range in my days before work, I resisted and decided to take the opportunity to explore Helsingborg. This meant afternoons on the beach, shrimp sandwiches, strong coffees, walks around the town, and a visit to the art museum. It has been a long time since I have lived in such a small town, and I find it remarkable how approachable it is! People are biking and walking at a rather slow pace, taking their daily coffee and cake breaks seriously, and soaking up the sun like they may not see it again! Perhaps I should take that as a sign of the winter ahead!
Another teacher who is new to the school had a two-bedroom apartment, and
she graciously offered for me to move in! So, now I am living in Sweden with a British roommate. My accent and word choices are already starting to show the effects of this new arrangement! We are a five minute walk from work and a slow ten minute walk from the center of town. I’m feeling very grateful to have fallen in to this situation as finding housing here is extremely difficult.
A quick jaunt over to Malmö, the third largest town in Sweden, allowed us to partake in their city’s festival. On Friday night, others informed me of the glory that is Eurovision- an annual singing contest among European countries. Well, it turned out that the Swedish and Danish winners of the last two years were performing at this festival! So, I was exposed to Euro pop music. We wandered the city taking in the stalls filling up squares and parks. I look forward to returning to Malmö, as the brick buildings, small shops, and café-lined squares need more exploring!
Work has begun, and so far it is great. The International Baccalaureate program is certainly
Museum and Sound
Note the swimmers in the upper right corner
daunting to wrap my head around, but the more I learn about it, the more I like it! My co-workers are from around the world. Many Swedes, many people married to Swedes, and a random group of, now, 4 teachers form Colorado! The staff room buzzes with English spoken in various accents- a fun change to experience. The students arrive tomorrow, and I for one couldn’t be more excited about it!
Due to my work being in English and with teachers from outside of Sweden, it will take a lot of work to find ways to access Swedish culture. As the job settles down, I will see if taking Swedish language classes is an option. A Swedish teacher invited me to attend an aerobics class that she leads, and I was foolishly surprised when I attended it that it was in Swedish!
Hopefully over time I will make Swedish friends and have cultural insights to share! I have noted a few differences so far just from making my way about over these last three weeks. Here, taking a number is standard procedure. Be it when you
want to buy a bus ticket, are registering for a person number, or anything else, you take a number and wait your turn. It keeps offices very orderly and calm, unlike some memorable times in Paris involving small elderly French women and elbows!
One adjustment at work is that the Swedes refer to the week number. So, we are now in week 33 and our vacation will be in week 44 and we’ll have parent night in week 43, and so on. It is hard to wrap my brain around; particularly where I think in terms of academic years. I’ll need to pick up a Swedish calendar to guide me through this!
I think the logic for the next distinction will become clearer as the weather becomes more inclement, but the use of indoor and outdoor shoes is common. Students are expected to bring indoor shoes to school and change into them. I am told this even extends to going to dinner parties at other people’s homes. This makes great sense, but it caught my eye as I passed a gym as people were switching from
one pair of shoes to another in the entryway.
I am feeling grateful for this opportunity and hopeful about all the learning that will happen in school and beyond in the year to come.
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