St. Dominic Highschool students off to Sweden!
Day 1+2+3 by Charlotte Iltes (IB1)
Day 4+5 by Iris Hakkens (Form-5)
Day 1 (Saturday March 22nd)
After numerous flights and a long day of traveling, our Comenius group was greeted by degrees below zero as we got out of the plane in Skelleftea. Although some of the snow had melted, there was enough for us to see around the airport area as many of us had never seen snow before. I met my family right away, my host was very warm and welcoming and so was her family. On the car ride home which was about 45 mins long I could not believe the scenery. It was everything I expected and more, all the snow was white and there were endless trees of the same type. On our way home my host family was nice enough to bring me to a view point where I could see the city of Skellefta, it was gorgeous. Their house is also very nice and cozy, my host is letting me sleep in her room for the week. I am very excited for this week to begin and to meet the rest of the Comenius students. We met the Italians on our last flight to Skellefta and they seemed cool too! Since tomorrow is a free day all of us are going to see a hockey game, which I was told is a huge deal here. My host mom also said that we would go ice fishing during the day and hopefully have fish for dinner that evening. Coming here was most definitely a culture shock and the program hasn’t even begun yet!
Day 2 (Sunday March 23rd)
Today was a free day for us to spend time with our families, I was expecting a relaxed day but my family had a lot planned for us. We got up at 8:30am and immediately got dressed in heavy winter gear they had. We headed to a local area where families go to fish on a frozen lake. There was a cabin .......
...... where the owner would weigh the fish and give people fishing rods, bate, etc. We fished out of different holes made by the owner and had to try several of them before we caught any. My host dad was the first to catch one and that started the streak. My host’s older sister then caught one of the biggest fish, everyone was shocked. Then it was my turn and most of the people there were rooting for me and giving me directions. Before I knew it, my host dad was screaming “Now, now!” and I pulled one up. We then weighed the fish and paid.
After this we went to my host family’s garage in the woods which was close to their house, this is where they keep their snowmobile. We then made a bonfire out of fire wood, drank hot chocolate and ate Swedish sausage and cinnamon rolls! This was amazing. Then I got to take a ride on the snow mobile on a path through the trees, the scene was breath taking.
Later we got home and the fish was prepared right away. Then we sat together and ate, the meal was amazing. We quickly went to a hockey game next, in order to get seats on time we had to rush. Here we met up with most of the Comenius group as this was a huge hockey game of different regions in Sweden and would determine if Skelleftea would go on to the semi-finals in the competition.
I could not believe the magnitude of the game, the unity amongst the fans and the amount of people that came to support. The entire production was incredible to me; I had no idea that so much effort was put into a sport like this. It was something I had never experienced before on such a large scale. The area were we sat was where the people would stand while the game went on and sit every time they took a break in the game. It was also the section where the fan club sat and they were chanting for the entire match. There were two men at the front of the crowd directing and leading the chants and there was also multiple people waving flags and wearing the team’s colors/clothing. I was amazed at how the people knew exactly what to sing, at the way they were so unified and at how they would not stop until the absolute end of the game. I even found myself singing, dancing and chanting along with them. Apart from the pushy people at the game, this was an amazing experience and the ending to a day of many “firsts” for me.
Day 3 (Monday March 24th)
Today we woke up at around 7:15am to go to school which starts at 8:40am. We left the house at about 8:20 with time to spare because Therese lives only minutes away from the school. The day started out beautiful, the sun was shining and it wasn’t that cold but later it rained a bit. We all met in the assembly hall, and were greeted by the principal and others. We then took a tour of the school. Compared to our school, it is a very much more laid back environment. The kids don’t wear uniform, walk around in socks and there are couches all around. In the break kids are able to play video games, card games, and even play wii together. I was impressed by their art and cooking rooms, which seemed very elaborate and interesting. My overall view of the school was that it was extremely cozy and it had an ‘’at home” type of setting. I think this can be a good and bad thing as students may feel more comfortable and work better but some can feel too comfortable and become lazy. It looks like the teachers and students have very personal relationships as they call each other by their first names and are very casual with one another.
Our activity for today was to work in groups containing students from different countries. In these groups we would discuss and plan what we would act out for each story. I was put in the Swedish story’s group. We will be performing on Friday and will work more on this during the rest of the week. Today I got a chance to get more familiar with the other students and meet more of them.
After school Therese and I went to her mom’s job which is also close to school and home. She does the pay roll and other financial tasks for a company which makes kitchen vents. I got to see their show room and there manufacturing area. This was very interesting as I had known that Sweden is popular for their industrial and architectural work, which I got to see up close.
Later we walked home and had dinner; they eat very early dinners at around 4:30 pm and a sandwich later on at night. I love the food here, that part isn’t so strange for me because of my mom’s European background. After this we went for a drive to see if we could spot some reindeer. At this point I was exhausted because of the jet lag so I took a nap in the car. When I awoke we were by a friend’s house where she feeds wild reindeers. Unfortunately, she was not home and we didn’t have food so we didn’t get to see them up close. Nevertheless, the forest area was beautiful.
Day 4 (Tuesday March 25th)
Today started with more than an hour long bus drive with lots of loud singing from the Italian students. I wouldn’t say it was a bad thing, just not a very good thing. When I finally said ‘wow, this is a long bus drive!’ we pulled up to the exhibition. We went in to the cozy wooden building and were greeted by a very ‘passionate’ hunter. He told us stories about his encounters with some of the live animals, and then with the ones he stuffed. The exhibition was on the large side, with over 600 animals. After that, we went outside to try making some snow balls and rolling down snow hills. By time we came inside, the food was just about ready. To my surprise, the reindeer and moose meat were really good! We ate that along with some potatoes, onions, fresh bread, and a cherry sauce that the gentleman had made using 16 types of cherries and species. Soon after the food, we geared up and went down the path to try some winter sports. I only hit one tree on the snow mobile that went in the opposite direction, which was quite an accomplishment, according to me. We also went up the slope with some hard plastic sleighs, and screamed on our way down. I still can’t decide what was more fun, walking up singing ‘Grip, don’t slip!’ or the actual sleighing. Perhaps it was the ride on the four-wheeler (or just the fact that Charlotte couldn’t stop drifting on the four wheeler right in front of us!). After the eternal bus drive back, I met up with Wilma, my host, and got some souvenir shopping done. We ate something, and we ended up sharing pictures from our countries. I let them see pictures of my family, home and of the island, and I mostly saw pictures of hockey. Before I went to bed, the family surprised me with a few gifts! I got a Skellefteä hat and shirt, a stuffed hockey mascot, some Swedish candy and a moose purse.
Day 5 (Wednesday March 26th)
Today I realized that I’m actually getting used to the cold, besides the fact that my lips have cracked and sting all the time. I was actually kind of nervous to go to the school today, since we had to give presentations to some of the students. It turned out okay, and I realized the other students had it worse off, because English was not their first language. The group work with the play also went good, and I think we’ll do just fine on Friday. We had some younger students come in as extras, and they can really act. Before I knew it, lunch was over and we were on another bus. We went to a place called ‘Boda Borg’ where they have different rooms set up with quests and games that you have to complete. For instance, in one room we had to work as a team and press the buttons that lit up all around the room. Another task was to get to another room without touching the floor, meaning that we had to climb on ledges and hold on to the rock wall. It was quite an adventure, and we ended up in fourth place out of twelve. After Boda Borg we went back to Byske, the area where the school is, and got some pizza. My host and I met up with some other Swedish students and their Italian hosts. After that we went back to school and played some cards games until it was time to go ice bathing. When I saw the swimming instructor break the ice that had formed on the surface of the pool, I started to doubt whether or not it was a good idea. There was literally a small mountain of snow on the part of the pool that he didn’t clear. I figured it was a once in a life time opportunity, so I decided to give it a shot. My doubts intensified when I walked out into the cold with only socks and a sweat suit. I probably only stayed in the water for like ten seconds, but I think that’s pretty good considering the water was 0.2 degrees! I ran inside, took of the cold clothes and sat in the sauna for at least the next half an hour. It was the first time for my host as well, so the excitement took a while to die. We finally got dressed and went home. They hooked up the camera to the television so that they could show me the film they had taken of me. By that time, I was dead tired and dreaded the fact that I still had to write this reflection. Oh well, now it’s done, so off to bed!