Sunday, October 24, 2010

District Conference

Hello everyone! Once again i appologize for the infrequency of my blog updates, but sometimes i forget that i have a blog that needs to be updated. so sorry for that. Well in a couple of days i will have been here in Sweden for three months. It seems like i have been here for a long time in that i have learned and expirienced so much already, yet at the same time, it feels like the time is going by very quickly. So although its great that i have learned a lot, i have realized that my time here is shrinking and that i really need to enjoy it as much as i can.
Well, so far Sweden is still going great! I have been keeping busy pretty much everyday with my friends, school, families, and activities such as guitar and choir. The unfortunate thing is the weather here is only getting colder. Temperatures have frequently gotten to freezing or below, and a couple days ago, we actually had some snow. Now, the snow may sound like a bad thing, but it is a blessing compared to the freezing cold rain that frequently occurs with gusting winds. Even with layers of clothing and a jacket, i am still freezing when i bike to school in the morning. But besides the freezing weather and the occasional cold, things are still going fairly well. I can kind of tell that i am starting to miss home more and more, but so far it isnt beyond what i was expecting.
Although nothing very monumental has occured recently, a while back, the other exchange students in my district and i went to the Rotary district conference in the city of Varberg, which was quite fun. The conference was on a saturday, and was for all of the Rotary clubs in our district, and it involved a series of presentations for all of the Rotarians, one of which was our exchange student presentation. Then saturday night, there was a fancy dinner with all of the rotarians that attended the conference. So, the 22 of us exchange students got together early wednesday morning and took a 50 minute train ride south down the western coast to Varberg. While in Varberg, we stayed on the grounds of an old castle fortress. The building that we stayed in used to be the jail, so each student had their own cell with a small bed, desk, and lamp. The building was modeled after an american jail in that there were two open floors with the rooms situated around outside of the big open room in the middle where our table was. After getting settled, we had the rest of wednesday to plan out our presentation, which was the only reason we were at the conference. So we took about an hour to get a loose plan put together, and then spent the rest of the time exploring the castle and the town of Varberg. The next day (thursday), once again, our only task was to work on our 20-30 minute presentation, and we would be going to a local art school to get some help from one of the teachers there. So after some breakfast and some frisbee, we headed off to the school. We were there for about an hour or so rehearsing a dance to "Mamma Mia" and singing the Swedish national anthem. In the end, we only used the Swedish national anthem in our presentation, so it was a lot of time just to use that one thing. Then that night we went out for dinner, and stayed up to about 1 or so talking. The next day, we were once again supposed to rehearse our presentation, which only took about an hour or so, and then we had the rest of the day to ourselves yet again. That evening we went bowling with a couple of the former exchange students in the Varberg area, and then went back to one of their houses for a little party. We listened to some music, played some games, ate some ice cream, all in all a fun night. The next day was the day of the conference. We woke up, ate breakfast, and then headed off to the conference. Once their we watched a short presentation (i forgot what it was about, probably because it was all in swedish), and then went to rehearse our final presentation. After a very nice lunch, we had our performance. It consisted of introducing ourselves and where we came from, all of us singing the swedish national anthem (which is a very beautiful song), and some individual singing, piano, and karate performances which were all really well done. Then we went back to our cells, and got ready for the fancy dinner. Once their we sat at our own table, had some really tasty food, talked a lot, and eventually did a little swing dancing which was fun. So after a really fun night there, we went back to the jail and ended staying up and talking until 3 or so in the morning. The next day, we packed up and headed home at about 11 via the train. In the end, we really didnt have to be there for four whole days in order to practice a 20-30 minute presentation, but i am glad that we did because it was a lot of fun just to hang out and be with all of the exchange students again.
Well i am off to bed, but hopefully, i will be wise enough to update this again soon. As far as upcoming plans go, the biggest is that i will be going to Copenhagen with my host mom and her coworker on Nov 4 and 5 which will be great! Until then, i hope everyone is doing well and i hope to blog again soon! See ya!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Swedish Politics and Adventures

So far so good! My exchange thus far has been quite successful and fun. I have been in good health and i have been keeping busy, which is nice. The only somewhat bad thing is that it has started to get cold here. The morning frost has already started and my walk to school is quite chilly, and the worst is yet to come (although this has not stopped me from swimming a couple of times this past week). So yes, besides being a little chilly, everything is great, and the cold isnt even that bad. One big thing that has happened recently in Sweden was the election, which is quite different from the election experience in the states. So, i will try to explain Swedish politics as best as i can, although it probably wont be one hundred percent correct.
Firstly, the structure of the Swedish government is different then the US govt. Firstly, they have a King, but, from what was explained to me, the king has little to no power over politics. Apparently he is just in his position for show and diplomatic reasons. However, apparently an old Swedish law states that king is allowed to break any law without getting into legal trouble, but he would most likely be removed from his position by the Riksdag. The Riksdag is the national governing body, which is comprised of a bunch of politicians who make the decisions on the national level, kind of like Congress. So, every four years, there is a national election for both the Riksdag, and local government. In Sweden there are seven major parties divided into two different sides, Alliansen (the center-right parties) which is comprised of the Moderaterna (the most popular party in the Alliansen), Folkpartiet, Centerpartiet, and the Kritdemocraterna, and the Rodgron which is composed of the Socialdemokraterna (the most popular party in the Rodgron), Miljopartiet (the green party), and the Vansterpartiet. There is also another party called the Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish Democrats) which is a party that goes back to the Nazis, and their main platform is that they want to kick all foreigners out of Sweden. Not good. For the election, people vote on both Riksdag and local government positions. The number of seats that a certain party gets in Riksdag is based on the percent of the total vote that the particular party gets, and obviously the side with the majority of seats will have an easier job passing their laws and such. For this election, the Alliansen parties won the majority, with the Moderaterna getting the majority of their votes. The leader of the Moderaterna party was then given the position of Prime Minister (or Statsminister as they say). One odd, and sort of troubling thing was that the Sverigedemokraterna (the one decended from the Nazis), won enough votes to earn some seats in Riksdag, which isnt too good for foreigners. Aside from the process of elections and government, the attitude of Swedes on politics seems to be different from in the US. The one major difference is that it seems that the majority of people care about politics and pay attention to it. For example, when people were handing out political pamphlets, the majority of people passing by actually took one and began to read it. From what i have seen in the US, most people just walk by those pamphlets without caring. Also, the youth here care about politics. For class one day we went to go visit all of these stands that the different parties had set up, and talk to the people there. I was surprised to see a majority of the kids asking questions and listening to what the politicians had to say, and also taking the time to think about who they were going to vote for. In the end, Swedish Politics were very interesting, and i enjoyed it quite a bit.
Ok, now for two quick stories...
One. I went to a hockey game about a week ago in Goteborg with another family that i was staying with for a weekend (they were great. they had two small kids that only spoke swedish, so we had fun trying to communicate while playing legos. It was great!). The game was in a big indoor stadium and the place was fairly packed. We had seats close to the ice which was very fun. The fans were very into the game, and each team had a section of extreme fans who had drums and were chanting pretty much the whole game. Our teams fans had a huge team flag that the pulled down over a section of seats about 20 long and 15 wide whever they scored. Our team was the Frolunda Indians, who were trying to copy the NHL with an American team name. In Swedish hockey, the rink is a little larger than in the NHL, and also, they are not allowed to fight, although it still happened sometimes. In the end, Frolunda won the game in an intense shoot-out that lasted a long time. It was a very fun expirience and i hope i get to go again.
Story number two. This weekend i went on an overnight camping trip with the scout troup of another exchange students host dad. John (the other exchange student) and i met his dad and the scouts at the campground saturday afternoon. The place where we stayed was wooded with a lake right nearby. There were three small wooden shelter things for us to stay in. They were about one foot off the ground, and were about two feet tall and 10 feet wide and 7 long with three walls, a floor, and a roof. So the 12 or so boys and girls who were around thirteenish i would guess stayed in two of the windshelters, and then John and i along with Johns dad, and then three counselors who were a couple years older then us, stayed in the third. The rest of Saturday we made an american football out of a plastic bag and leaves and tried to play some football for a bit. Then we played on this zipline that went through the woods which was great. After some running around we had some dinner of macaroni with meatballs, with some chocolate pudding for desert. Then when the night came we built some fires, and then John and I went for a swim in the lake which was FREEZING, while the counselors and the kids laughed from on shore. Then we warmed up and the kids went to their shelters. Then for about the next hour or so, John and I crept around the woods and scared the kids, which they thought was hilarious. Then at about 10:30 we went to bed. It was very cold during the night and despite having several layers on, it was tough to sleep without waking up from the cold. The next morning we had some oatmeal and sandwhiches for breakfast, and then headed back home. All in all, it was a very fun camping trip with the scouts, and hopefully we will get to do it again.