At the end of October, my cousin who is teaching English in Russia came to visit me for a week. We decided to attend a traditional Swedish gasque, or dinner party. Halloween isn't too widely celebrated in Uppsala, but that was the theme for this particular event. Since costumes were so expensive, we just showed up wearing black dresses and cat ears, which was still entirely acceptable. The dinner cost 250SEK including drinks, which adds up to around $37. The gasque itself was...interesting. It lasted from 5:30 to 10:00. Pre-dinner drinks took an hour, and then we had the appetizer (pumpkin bacon soup). Afterward followed a long wait full of chatting, singing songs in Swedish, toasting (in Swedish), and general announcements (also in Swedish). We got a beer, a glass of red wine, and a shot of schnapps to go with the meal. I think we got the main course around 7 or 8, which was mashed potatoes and some fatty pork with herbs dish. Cue more waiting, lots of drinking, and dessert around 9 of pinkish red velvet cake. We were finally dismissed some time after 10 so that they could set up the room for the after party (which cost $10 to attend). It was a very unique experience to have, and I'm glad we went, but that was the first and only gasque I plan on ever attending.
The following morning, I went with my viticulture class to Blaxta Vineyard, a 2.5 hour drive south from Uppsala. We stopped for lunch in a manor donated to the school and I tried goulash for the first time. It was great! The vineyard itself was interesting. They ferment and bottle everything on site and seem to specialize in ice wine, which is a delicious sweet wine made from frozen grapes. It's also incredibly expensive. We got to try some from 2007 for free, along with a tasty pear dessert. It was overall a pretty good day.
While my cousin was here, we visited some museums in Uppsala, including the cathedral museum and the Gusavinium. We also went to a theme park in Stockholm called "Skansen" which had a zoo portion with indigenous animals from Sweden. About a 15 minute walk from my place, we found a cafe selling American snack foods called "Hugo's Cafe." Apparently the owner was from New York! A few weeks later, I decided to have a goodbye fika at the same cafe the day before I left. It was nice seeing friends for the last time and the cafe owner was very gracious about me showing up with a group unexpectedly. He even brought us a small plate of chocolate for free!
Packing for the trip home was pretty stressful. I didn't realize how much stuff I'd accumulated over the past 3 months and ended up throwing out anything I couldn't pack or give away. Even having bought an extra suitcase, everything was packed to maximum capacity since my space bags had somehow gotten holes in them. Thankfully, my Swedish buddy volunteered to drive me and my luggage back to the train station.
The airport was pleasantly uncrowded and security checks went quickly. On the plane, the seat next to me was empty, so while the flight home was still long and boring, it was pretty comfortable. Having left Sweden at 10:20 and arriving at Chicago at 12:30 eight hours later, I was fairly disoriented the rest of that very long day.
It took a few days to get used to seeing everything in English and being able to understand everyone around me(especially kids). That was pretty much the extent of my "reverse culture shock." I've been home for nearly 4 weeks now. There are some things I miss, like my friends in Uppsala, sweet chili chips, and living close to IKEA, but for the most part I'm glad to be back home now!