Two weeks ago I was getting excited for all of this to begin. I had already pictured in my mind what it was going to be like. The people I would be working with, the facilities, and the life that I was about to begin. Now two weeks in, the surprise is over and the reality is beginning to become clear.
The first thing to overcome being in a foreign country is the food situation. Going hungry when I first get to a place is normal, and my arrival in Lund was no different. I am always hesitant to use the fast food option and would rather put myself into a “hunter & gather” mode. I keep a brick of cheese handy, dried meat and a bag of nuts. So I guess I am not starving, rather I am eating quite well, but getting an actual meal of quality and substance takes a few days. Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy this aspect of my trips. Easy way outs are everywhere of course, but the adventure of traveling is becoming far less these days so I tell myself that I can manage until good food comes my way.
The good thing about Sweden is the access to good fresh food. Maybe it’s the Viking roots, but in the centre of the town, in the main square the most prominent building is the old butcher building. Of course its still in use, and of course it is still busy. Perhaps it’s the fact that I miss my butcher in Vancouver, but I really wish that this butcher market was closer to my home. I have been buying my kött (meat) at the market nearest my place. So far I have been eating a lot of pork. It is really good here.
I have been feeling pretty lucky lately. The design centre at the Faculty of Engineering is by far the best place on campus. I should not be surprised as this is where the school of Architecture is located as well as the industrial design centre. If these places are not nice, then the calling card of the school is not working to its full potential. Most Europeans are pretty ok with working in the buildings of a 400 year old university, and maybe I am just used to North America, but I much prefer working in a modern building full of daylight.
So back to the people that are lucky enough to get to work with me. There is a certain amount of familial relationshps going on here. I have already picked it up with the Swedish people, but I am also noticing it with the foreign students as well. Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles for me so far is the amount of women I work with. There are some days where I am not sure I even interact with one man. I am not sure how I feel about this so far, as I notice that women are much quicker to form clicques and much more likely to band together (and also much quicker to fall out with eachother). This is the way it is in Sweden, and I understand that is has been this way for a long time. It is not that I find the Swedes to be closed, in fact I have a good laugh at the way they are perfectly fine in challenging eachother in debate. These debates seem to be an important part of learning here, and the few times I have found myself involved in them it progresses until there is a silence. Then they laugh, and move on with no further discussion of the subject. Egos seem to be well kept in check here.
So what does this mean for me? Nothing really, as I seem to do fine on my own and actually prefer it in most cases rather then try to make decisions in a diplomatic manner. If I want to do something, I would rather just do it instead of trying to convince others of joining me. I like to move when it works, and if I am going in the same direction as someone else then I am more than happy to join forces. I just would rather avoid the drama of spending time to convince someone else to come with me, because when I really think about it, most time I would rather them not anyways.