Ever since I was a little kid, back in my days in the military school (yes, believe it), I explored the wonders of learning, understanding and communicating in a different language. Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Ace of Base, among others, developed an incredible world in my ears. Friends eventually joined. I remember my mom being gladly surprised on the fact that I learnt (and perfectly sang, obviously) one of the hardest parts of Always Be My Baby. I was barely able to understand around 40% of it. Ok, maybe 35… 30% of the songs, but still read the lyrics using a small dictionary while decoding the pronunciation of each weird word. No wonder how my fascination burst when I was finally able to gossip and talk for hours with friends who had lived abroad, who described how different other lands were, far from my warm home.
Then I made a promise to myself: to explore the world. Yep. Cheesy, right? Everybody loves travelling, blah blah blah. Well, fuck you! It was a huge deal for me. A tiny light of hope shined shyly when my dad travelled to the US for a couple of years, but things didn’t work out… Having my photo on some colored sticker in a little notebook that everyone called “pasaporte” turned to be useless, as I couldn’t visit one of the lands most of my friends used to talked about at school.
I got over it. Kinda. I moved in to a big city and started college. Met very skilled people and kept on improving myself. But wanna know a fun thing? There were moments in my life in which I believed, actually believed that being bilingual was not an advantage. You know, when you see wealthy mediocre classmates spend money in language courses abroad and come back with zero improvement, you question your existence. Why can’t I have that? Some people just get it too easy. Why, damn it! Where was my chance? WHERE WAS IT!
Well, I can barely remember those days, as I’ve been living in Sweden for more than two months now!!! I waited so much, I got pimples for anxiety, I gained weight, I partied so hard… and here I am. How have these two months been, you wonder? Well, I built this tiny list to include facts, milestones and some lessons learned in this life-changing journey. I threw some shade, but no hate intended:
- I live in an amazing studio flat. I feel so fancy. Although I have been visited by a Jehova’s witness (don’t ask). Additionally, I’ve been improving my cooking skills. Thanks, Tasty, for existing.
- I live far from my faculty building. Far. Like seriously, very much. It sucks… It’s like… 10 min bike. BOOM! In your face, Bogota!
- Some buses have WiFi – in case you’re interested.
- Everybody speaks English. Everyone. I keep asking myself what’s the point of keeping a language in which the “Y” is unpronounceable (already in Swedish classes, which I dropped eventually).
- Parties suck. You know how in Colombia we say like “el ambiente lo hace uno”. No. It doesn’t work here. Europeans (not only Swedes) are decades ahead of us in development, but decades behind in music: why the fuck are you still listening to La Camisa Negra? Every. Single. Party.
- Oh, the darkness. Good news is, here in the South is not that bad. But it still sucks that the sun comes up at almost 8am and goes at 5:45pm.
- OMG, LIGHTING. Sweden is a safe country, but they really need to invest in public lighting. I might lose an eye walking home.
- As useful as they are, I hate earthworms. Hate them. And.. they’re everywhere and specially when it rains. It rains in Lund almost everyday. Fuck me.
- I still don’t know how to buy winter clothes. I said it.
- Oh, Swedes plan everything. I need to schedule my laundry at least one week before or I’m screwed. You need to sign up for everything, even if it’s a street party. Thankfully, no more “please bring a photocopy of your cedula ampliada al 150%”.
- Need to pee? Get in line. Need to get in an event? There’s a queue. Swedes love queues.
- These people really recycle everything. I have a bag to keep colored paper, one for plastic, one for food waste, and so on. Eight in total, thank you.
- I have met the following quantity of Swedish guys… Get ready… 1! Lund is way too international. Yay… and boo.
- Academic quarter: it turns out that you have a 15 min period to get to class. If the class it as 3:00, it officially starts at 3:15. It’s the rule. I imagined Tyra Banks saying: “Congratulations, Sweden, you’re one step closer towards becoming… Colombia”. Just for academic matters, though. Your friends will be pissed if you’re late. Unless they’re from the US. Just saying.
- Coffee is expensive. What? EVERYTHING is expensive. If you think your Colfuturo’s budget is enough, well guess what? IT’S NOT. Welcome to Scandinavia, bastard!
- NO KFC IN LUND. No further comments.
- Nations. Sort of sororities, but for everyone. Most parties happen there. You must join one to get free access to their events. I think so…
- Want some wine bottle? Go to the grocery store and buy it. WRONG. If you want to get drunk, you need to go the Systembolaget, a state-administered store in which you can buy liquor with 3,5% alcohol or more. It opens at 10am and closes at 7pm. Told you. Plan!
- As beautiful as Swedish kronor bills and coins may be, they are becoming the ultimate cashless society. Pretty cool, considering student budgets. Feel my sarcasm?
- Inclusive and tabooless society. I was at the gym once (literally just once) and guys shower naked right in front of me. No shame, no weird looks. And most bathrooms are for both men and women. They’re amazingly clean!
I could certainly go on and on, but I’m going to stop now. I need to stop to process this, to realize this is exactly what I was planning to find when I left home, sweet home, two months ago. It is weird, though. It feels so natural, like I’ve been here forever even though all I can say is tack and hej! It must be the cultural ‘honeymoon phase’… Hope it lasts.
Finally, all of this makes me think: why was I so worried, so desperate to live this moment? I wanted to live this experience, but tiempo al tiempo. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Maybe this is where I have to be right now. All I know is that my days trying to understand the lyrics of Beautiful Life, staying at home writing essays instead of partying… they fucking paid off. I worked my ass off, met some cool people, lived and just in a blink, it happened. Two months already and counting.