Thanksgiving in Sweden

Thanksgiving was about one week ago, and what a celebration we had! Sure, we all missed our families, the homesickness definitely amps up around the holidays, but there is something special about sharing Thanksgiving traditions with new friends. Not only did we get to share our family traditions with each other, but we got to share them with a few people who had never celebrated Thanksgiving before.

When the day rolled around, we were down one American from our crew but up by two new Americans. Mark was in London visiting his sister, and had his own Thanksgiving adventure. The rest of us were joined by Ryan’s girlfriend, Kristin, and also Nancy Tuchman, the Director of our Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola. The six of us Americans got to prepare dinner to share with our German and Swedish friends Philip, the Director of the Newman Institute, Ruth, and Malin. Having Nancy and Kristin around was a blast. Kristin lead the charge on the turkey, and Nancy was there to make sure we didn’t screw anything up too badly, since for all of us besides her it was our first Thanksgiving we had ever really prepared.

The day started with one of Olivia’s traditions: a Thanksgiving morning run. We ran not too far down the forest road behind Länna, and then headed home to start all the preparations. Since Thanksgiving is not a celebration in Sweden, we had had some trouble finding a few key ingredients, and were forced to make everything from scratch, which was actually quite fun. Turns out stuffing is actually really easy, even if you have to make your own bread cubes! We had the usual Thanksgiving turkey scramble to get it in the oven on time, but it turned out to be a beautiful and well-cooked bird. Our table kept becoming more stunning as we brought out dish after dish, and by the time we sat down to eat, it was a beautiful and colorful table. The food was fantastic and we all ate way too much. We assured our non-American friends that, yes, your stomach is supposed to feel like it is going to explode. Of course we also had to have dessert, and we didn’t disappoint on a wide selection. We had pumpkin pie, pecan pie, chocolate mousse, and ice cream with a traditional Swedish berry sauce. They were all fantastic, even if the pecan pie was a bit tricky to get out of the pan!

All in all, it was a great day. There were lots of laughs and stories around the table, and even though we celebrated in a farm house in Sweden with friends instead of family, it felt just like home!

Conner Keeffe
Student/Program Assistant
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Bushcraft School

October has been a busy month for this crew of Americans. After amazing visits from our parents, Olivia and I had a lot of catching up to do. Everyone was kept busy as well with lessons and study visits, plus we did some celebrating too. Kelsey and I both have October birthdays, so we decided to throw goofy dress up party at Länna the weekend between our birthdays. We had study visits in Uppsala as well as Stockholm, which were so informational and helpful. We visited Uppsala water treatment, recycling, biofuel, and incineration plants, and in Stockholm we had a visit from the former chief negotiator for the Swedish Ministry of the Environment. There was also a fair amount of stress as the Logic & Argument class wound to a close, and studying consumed Kelsey, Mark, and Olivia’s free time. After the exam we went on another cruise, this time to Latvia, and experienced the perfect fall day there, while Mark enjoyed a visit from his sister. Our return to Sweden meant the arrival of three Xavier University representatives, who we entertained at Länna for dinner, and also gave a stellar presentation to. Finally, we spent Halloween in a cabin in the woods, but it was more fun than spooky.

Bushcraft school was a fun opportunity for me to share some of my wilderness skills, but mostly a really awesome chance to see Marieudd. Located on Lake Mälaren, which is a huge lake that used to be connected to the Baltic Sea through Stockholm, Marieudd is a beautiful house that the Newman Institute has the privilege to use. The house over looks the lake and is surrounded by beautiful forest (of course).

Upon arrival we devoured lunch in the upstairs kitchen, real cutlery and all. Our view was stunning and quickly lured us outside. We all bundled up, and headed into the forest to learn a bit about hypothermia. This time of year, hypothermia is a real risk for campers who are ill prepared for cold nights. After discussing prevention, symptoms, and treatment, we built a “hypowrap” with Mark in the middle. Essentially a big blanket burrito with a person on the inside. Next, we practiced some knots that are essential for any wilderness traveler. We’ll see if anyone remembers any of them…

After warming up inside, we headed back outside and discussed the best fire building techniques. I gave some pro-tips, and we got a nice fire going. By that point it was 4:00 and nearly dark, so we sat around the fire, watched the pink sky, and tried to explain to Ruth and Piotr what cotton candy is. We discussed what sounds animals make in different languages over s’mores and stockbrot (bread you roast on a stick over the fire). We let our fire die and headed inside to make dinner. But first, Olivia and I pulled out the Halloween decorations our aunts had sent both of us, and made our kitchen quite festive. Ruth and Mark spearheaded the effort to make lovely squash soup while some of us did dishes and Olivia carved our pumpkin, Newman. After dinner we played at least three hours of cards, and finally went to bed.

The next day Mark and Ryan got up obscenely early and went to watch for moose while the rest of us slept cozy in our beds. Unfortunately there were no moose sightings, but the morning is still a stunning time to be out in the forest. After breakfast and some poker using leftover plums, we went for a walk and played one of my favorite forest games. It is basically a way cooler Hide and Seek that only really works outside. Finally it was time to head out. On our way home we stopped at Drottingsholm Castle, which is where the Royal Family lives. We walked in their beautiful garden, and a few in our party were inspired by some three year olds to roll down a long hill. We found a VERY cool duck and stared at it for a long time, then hit the road to get back to Uppsala by dark.

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Conner Keeffe
Student/Program Assistant
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