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Gasques: food, drink, tradition, and more drink 2006 September 29

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Food & Drink, Helpful Hints, Language, Social Life.

I’ve attended two gasques thus far during my stay at Uppsala, and they are one of the most entertaining and unique aspects of studying in Sweden. I’ve been looking for ways to describe gasques in a historical sense, but I really haven’t found much. What I can tell you, though, is that they are traditional three-course dinners here in Uppsala, and they’re a ton of fun. And lots of drinking!

lots of booze, baby my goofy friend Mathias and me
Left: Crazy amounts of alcohol + some absorption (good food!); Right: what crazy amounts of alcohol can do to you! (just kidding! That’s Mathias and me)

My first experience at a gasque was the Reccegask, a gasque mostly intended for the newcomers to a nation. The attendees gather in front of the main university building behind their nations’ flags, and parade into the beautiful hall for a number of musical performances and inspiring/funny/mildly interesting speeches given by a variety of important people in the nation and university communities. I rather enjoyed all performances, especially the great music (some swing and jazz!) and the funny speeches (although in Swedish, I fortunately understood virtually everything).

We then headed back to our respective nations. There was a small amount of time for mingling and drinking champagne before we entered the dining hall. Seats were assigned, which in my opinion makes it more fun; you meet new people and your table mate is a surprise.



What I miss (part one) 2006 September 26

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Food & Drink, Home vs. Sweden, I miss..., Miscellaneous.

Although I’m having a blast here and it’s a great time, I’d thought I’d write about a few things I miss quite a bit:

  • Peanut butter. Sure, you can find it here in Sweden, but it’s kind of expensive for the rate at which I’d be using it. My mum says she’ll ship some to me.
  • The mountains. Even the hills here are sorta weak. Though, I have to admit, there are some advantages to being at this lower altitude!
  • Good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. I mean real rock ‘n’ roll. There’s really no such thing here. There are some great musicians, yeah, but it seems like there is no familiarity with “anything with a guitar.” Bergin and I were talking to a French student about music and he didn’t seem to get the fine lines between rock, folk, bluegrass, country, etc., and it’s pretty much because you can’t find too much of it on this particular side of the pond. It’s like it gets lost once it hits the UK. Of course the bigger acts are known here but it’s not necessarily the bigger acts who have the best rock. Anyways, there’s a good amount of hip hop and house at the clubs, plus some of the good 80’s stuff and decent pop, but it seems it’s either that side of the spectrum or really angsty metal music.
  • Baseball and American football. Practically nobody around here would know what the heck I was talking about if I talked about blocked punt returns, infield singles, the seventh-inning stretch or rushing yards.
  • Driving. It’s not so much being able to get somewhere by car, it’s driving itself. I’ve always loved driving and I am a pretty good driver at that. I think I would love highway driving here.


Working at Värmlands 2006 September 25

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Social Life.

On Friday I worked at my student nation, Värmlands nation. Fridays are Klubb 054, the one night a week we open up the dance floors and bars and turn the place into a big bumpin’ club. Work at the student nations is more about fun than it is about pay. Although I didn’t receive that much money for the time I worked that night, I got much more of an experience than I ever expected.

I arrived around 4:00pm to help set up for the night. The girl who runs the wardrobe (coat check) situation wasn’t there yet, but one of the kitchen managers (köksvärd) was there, Elsa. So I helped her cover the tables for dinner and get the placesettings ready. She conversed a lot with me in Swedish, which is a really good thing, because that sort of thing gives me more vocabulary for ordinary things that I might not have known before. I also met two other exchange students while helping set up, both from Italy.

When we all sat down to eat before the night got started, I met the two guys I’d be working with in wardrobe, Asif and Mobi. They’re from Pakistan and have been in Sweden for a year. They had worked wardrobe before, so they showed me the ropes, or at least the ropes they’d been taught before. I later found that there are many ways to operate wardrobe, and it’s a lot more entertaining yet complicated than it seems.


Swedes elect new ruling party 2006 September 19

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Home vs. Sweden, Politics, Swedish News.

After being bombarded with election information since the second I stepped off the plane, I’ve witnessed a Swedish election firsthand and managed to learn quite a lot about the political system here. The election was held Sunday and the “Alliance” challengers have narrowly won the vote of the Swedish people in a race that has ended the 12-year reign of the Social Democratic Party.

As a non-Swede, it’s not that passionate of an issue to me, to be completely honest. On the contrary, it was almost much more interesting than it was frustrating to watch a national election; I’m used to wringing my hands at the American election results and either being incredibly disappointed or completely joyous. Due to my status as a non-citizen, it seemed to me that I spent a lot more time listening to the candidates’ views and analyzing how those views were constructed, instead of rooting for my side.

Since I’m taking a Swedish politics course right now, we’ve been discussing the parties and how elections are conducted. It was certainly a great time to take the course. Our professor, an instructor that was stepping in for the person originally intended to teach the course, was actually on the local ballot for the Moderate Party (Moderata Samlingspartiet, or Moderaterna). The Moderates were the leaders of the “Alliance” that defeated the Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterna) and are considered a right-leaning/conservative party. Of course, this definition is all relative, but newspapers were declaring Sweden to now be “blue” (the color that represents the conservatives, contrary to the United States color associations).


Flogstaskriket 2006 September 11

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Corridor Living, Miscellaneous.

Every night, at 10:00 pm, there are screams.

And more screams. And more screams. It goes on for about five or ten minutes, and if you didn’t already know what was going on, it can be really, really confusing.

It’s the Flogstaskrik, or the Flogsta scream. It happens every night around 10:00 pm, and it starts with a few howls from a group of people who were likely watching the clock and eagerly anticipating the chance to scream their lungs out at nothing in particular. Then another building will answer, probably a group of people who were waiting for that initial scream. Before you know it, there are screams from every building, and in some places, the noise is nearly deafening.

Flogsta is a student housing center, so it’s not much of a bother to students. How others on neighboring streets feel, I don’t know, but I have heard that a few there, too, take part in the Flogsta scream.

Nobody knows for sure when it actually started, but there are a few good guesses:

  • Students in the 1970s were so frustrated with exams that they started screaming out the windows during exam weeks to get rid of their frustrations.
  • A few students in one of their courses read that there was a misunderstanding as to how prayers were offered when Uppsala was Christianized in the 12th century. So they decided to imitate this in Flogsta.
  • Others have said that this started when a student committed suicide by jumping off of one of the roofs in the 80s. So now people scream about it. (We’re not sure if someone was just being morbid in spreading around this one.)

So I have included for you all a sampling of the Flogsta scream:

Life at the Student Nations 2006 September 11

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Helpful Hints, Social Life.

At Uppsala Universitet, every student must join a student nation. The student nations are named after regions of Sweden, and Swedish students usually join the one that represents their background. However, for international students, we choose based on a whole other set of reasons!

Nations are basically places where students can congregate for activities and such. They were once looked down upon as promoting the more mischevious Those activities nowadays mostly consist of drinking, clubbing, and fika (conversation over a cup of coffee and a treat or two). There are also all kinds of clubs, choirs, and sports organizations at the nations. We spend anywhere from two to four nights at the nations, dancing sometimes but usually just socializing. I think that’s just because we’re international students and can get away with going out every other night.

clubbin at Snerikes oooh party at Värmlands
Left: (L-R) Ashley, Kerstin, Julia and Timo; Right: Uh, is that me? Um, not sure…

After some deliberation, I chose Värmlands nation. It was either that or Snerikes (Södermanlands-Nerikes), but since so many other exchange students I knew were joining Snerikes, I chose Värmlands. But as a member of a nation, you can go to any other nation’s activities, too.

One of the most fun parts of nation life is the gasques. A gasque (gask) is a formal dinner filled with three courses, plenty of drinking (snaps/schnapps, beer, wine), and lots of singing! I recently attended a run-through of what a gasque is like. We learned plenty of drinking songs, how to toast properly, and what the setup of your table looks like. It was a lot to remember, but as we were told by the organizers of the meeting, you might be too drunk by the end of the dinner to really know what you’re supposed to be doing. Nobody has any problem with that, anyways.

I’m attending my first gasque hopefully this weekend, if there are still spots available at the Reccegask at my nation. If not, I already have reservations to attend the International Gasque at Stockholms nation.

Who goes to Sweden and doesn’t stop at IKEA? 2006 September 3

Posted by @jennyjenjen in Corridor Living, Food & Drink, Helpful Hints, Travel.

There is no such thing as a complete trip to Sweden without a visit to IKEA. No. Such. Thing.

IKEA, for those of you who aren’t terribly familiar with it, is a Swedish home furnishing retailer that specializes in cheap – yet functional – furniture. It was founded by Ingvar Kamprad, and the name IKEA stands for Invgar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd (you can read more at Wikipedia). There are all sorts of ideas behind it, going as deep as the foundations of modern Swedish society to as light as making a stylish life affordable. We were mostly just there for a little style and some meatballs!

After quite a bit of pondering about when we should go to IKEA, we finally picked a day and set off. I went with Christian, Kerstin, Timo and Katharina, all German students. We knew it was going to be a very fun trip.

Ingången (the entrance) to IKEA

IKEA in Uppsala is located in Boländerna, which is a two-bus journey (one has to switch buses in town to get there when coming from Flogsta), so I would highly recommend visiting by car as opposed to taking the bus. We commissioned Christian for the driving task, since none of us have cars ourselves. We figured it would be less of a hassle, anyways, having to carry things back. Christian thankfully obliged.

I had my eyes on a few specific things when I got to IKEA, but there was one thing I couldn’t resist checking out first: kitchens!

IKEA kitchen another IKEA kitchen
I can’t quite express in words to you how much I love kitchens.