How Aslan led to Sweden – a personal story of a Swedish odysse

A long-time friend of mine recently wrote a post on Facebook, instigated by the recent school shooting in her home country, USA. In her post, she writes her personal story about her 30 year experience of living in Sweden. With her permission, I am publishing it here. Please read it, I think it sums up the way a lot of people who move to Sweden feel. Here it is:

‘For anyone who might be interested, I would like to share a milestone in my life.

30 years ago this week, I took the adventure that Aslan gave me. (If you’ve read ‘The Narnia Chronicles’, you understand that reference.) I packed up my clothes and few belongings, waved a tearful goodbye to my parents at Dulles International Airport in Washington and moved to Sweden. I knew that the love of my life lived there, and that was most important, but I didn’t know much else. I had NO IDEA how the trajectory of my life would change.

Among the things I have experienced in Sweden are the following:

* An AMAZING Swedish family which took me in, accepted me with all of my weird American quirks and loved/loves me like my own family. They ARE my own family now. Along the way, my Mother-in-law and older sister-in-law were instrumental in helping me learn Swedish. Their patience was infinite. My younger sister-in-law, Marina, has become one of my closest friends, but, she talked so fast, I couldn’t understand a word she said. Sometimes, I still don’t. šŸ˜‚ā¤ļø

* A society, while not being perfect, holds 2 particular values to be self-evident:

1. We have a responsibility to those who are less fortunate and that responsibility should be incorporated into government policy.

2. Women and men are equal.

* A year of paid maternity leave with each child.

* Unparalleled care through 5! major surgeries, NONE of which I had to pay for.

* A school system which treats me like a professional and gives me a great deal of freedom as to what and how I teach my students in order to reach curriculum goals.

* AMAZING colleagues from a plethora of nations, cultures and languages who are passionate about our students and who are a daily reminder to me of the common humanity of every person on the planet.

* I NEVER have to worry about a gunman in my school. šŸ˜”

Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” So far, I’ve gotten a box of ALL of my favorite kinds. Who knew on that cold Sunday in February of 1988 when my parents hugged me goodbye.

Thanks for reading’. ā¤ļø

Itā€™s Fatty Tuesday – Swedish style!

Today it’s ‘Fat Tuesday’ in Sweden, known as Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras around the world. While in the UK we eat pancakes and in Latin America they scoff down fried bread, Swedes celebrate by eating the traditional cream Lent bun – the ‘semla’. I’m also clearly going to indulge. In fact, my mouth is watering just writing this blog.

The semla is a creamy bun filled with delicious almond paste. They were eaten traditionally in Sweden to commemorate the start of Lent and the great Fast. In the south of Sweden, they still refer to them as ‘fastlagsbullar’ – Shrovetide buns. Nowadays however, semlas are usually sold anytime between Christmas and Easter.

I just love them. I could eat a barrel load. But I’d end up looking like a barrel if I did. I love the taste of them, and the feeling of luxurious indulgence. I also love the knowledge that as you take a bite into a creamy semla, you are biting into over 500 years’ history of Scandinavian baking.

The word ‘semla’ comes from the Latin ‘simila’ which means fine flour and originally referred just to the bun without any filling. As long ago as the 1500’s, bakers started to hollow out the middle of the bun and fill it with cream and butter. As ingredients became more available, bakers started adding almond and cardemon and the type of semla that we know today developed towards the end of the 1800’s. After rationing of sugar and dairy products ceased at the end of WW2, the semla took off and became very popular.

Nowadays the semla trend has reached new heights. Every year bakers around the country try to launch new types of semla, with their own spin on it -for example, the semla wrap, the semla burger, the semla layer cake, the semla cocktail, the chocolate semla, the vanilla semla, the lactose-free, gluten-free vegan semla.

All delicious I’m sure, but I’m a traditionalist in this matter. Give me a round fluffy cardemon-scented wheat bun brimming over with whipped cream and almond paste.

And give it to me NOOOOWWW!!!

5000 years of Sweden’s first people

sapmi-flagsapmi

Did you know that Sweden has an indigenous people? I know, isn’t that cool?!

Just like Australia has the Aborigine and China has the Pamiri – Sweden has the Sami. For about 5000 years, the Sami people have lived way up in the arctic north of Sweden in theĀ homeland they callĀ ‘Sapmi’. Today Sapmi actually covers not only Sweden, but also Norway, Finland and Russia. Historically, the Sami wereĀ referred to as Lapps, but today this is deemed a derogatory term.

Today,Ā February 6th,Ā is the National Day of the Sami. Today,Ā the Sami flag should be flown and the Sami national anthemĀ is sung in the local Sami language.Ā Ā The first time this day was celebrated was in 1993 in Jokkmokk, Sweden.

The Sami are the only indigenous people in Scandinavia that are recognised and protected by international convention. The United Nations estimates that there are over 370 million indigenous people living in over 70 countries worldwide. This is roughly 6% of the global population.

Today, around 10% of the Sami population of approximately 70,000 work within the traditional work of reindeer herding. Most of the rest of theĀ indigenous Sami population is urbanised. Like many indigenous people around the world, the Sami have also been treated very badly by the colonising inhabitants of their country. Scandinavia has a legacy of law and assimilation that denied Sami their rights, and an state-sanctioned history of the removal of generations of children for placement in boarding schools and missions.Ā A recent film called ‘Sameblod’ depicted this shameful era of Swedish history.

It took until 1989 forĀ Sweden to recognise the ‘Sami nation’. Sami pupils are entitled to be taught in their native language, although a loophole enables this right to be sometimes bypassed. In 1998, Sweden apologized for their wrongs against the Sami. To make up for past suppression, the authorities of Norway, Sweden and Finland now make an effort to build up Sami cultural institutions and promote Sami culture and language.

However, it is far from rosy in the arctic north. Conflict over land rights, herding rights, exploitation rights are still raging on across Sapmi. Today, the Sami are experiencing cultural and environmental threats, including unwelcome oil exploration, mining, dam building, climate change, military bombing ranges, and exploitative tourism.

Apart from through activism, it is in the Sami parliaments that the main conflicts are debated.Ā  There are three, unconnected Sami parliaments spanning the region – Sweden founded in 1993, Finland in 1973 and Norway in 1989. Russia has not recognized the Sami as a minority and, therefore there is no official Sami parliament (an unrecognised one exists). These democratic parliaments stand up for Sami heritageĀ but have very weak political influence.

Like many nations around the world, Sweden and their neighbours have to balance the ghostĀ of a shameful past with the conflicts of the present and the hopeĀ of the future. Without doubt, discrimination against the Sami people still exists.

This is why today,Ā February 6th, is so important as a day of celebration and recognition but also as a day of atonement.

Ā