You might be asking yourself, what the HELL is a “Bildstensvågen” ?! How do you even handle that diacritic? Google this word, and nothing comes up. Tell a taxi driver to bring you there, and it doesn’t appear on the GPS. Is it real? Is this part of Norse myth? Luckily, I’m here to elaborate. Let’s begin by phonetically transcribing this word to the best of my nasal, unrounded vowel-producing, New Yorker ability -> /bɪjld.stɪn.’svoːg.ən/. I think. Don’t hold me accountable for this hot mess. The region in which we live is called Gunnesbo. We’ve allowed the Swedish phonology to defeat us, relentlessly announcing that we dwell “in Guns, bro.” 

Flashback to about five months ago, when all 18 new CSD students were accepted into the study abroad program. We graciously threw a $500 deposit at the Global Office, and began our incessant probing of the minds of last year’s Swedish Explorers. They informed us that their dormitory situation was sheer perfection – all together, half-hour walk from campus, next to a grocery store, and christened “Klostergårten.” 

Well. Fast-forward to the day when the 18 pre-Swedes received our housing notifications. Split down the center, we were! In opposite parts of town, we were! 9 of us here, 9 of us there… with the “there” being Klostergårten itself. So where is here? Somewhere deep within this spiral puzzle.

Four of us trekked through the pale dusk light that first evening (because Sweden has approx 5 hours of night during this time of year). With all of our belongings, we treaded through this mysterious forest, speckled with cyclists and flat houses. Was this urban or was this rural? It was impossible to tell. Have wee been schlepping for an eon? I frantically wondered. The professors probably sent out a search party!

As darkness began to unfold at the edge of the sky, we arrived at this garishly orange, blue, and white painted condo-looking complex, which some German students later explained was more commonly referred to as “The Ghetto.” I knew I’d never escape Pre-K facility façades after attending that rainbow-paneled high school in the Lehman College parking lot. Whereas HSAS had one hallway, this apartment complex had two stories, numbered with letters. We skipped happily towards our designated apartments, climactic moment building. Two climbed the steps, one turned the corner, and I ran straight for it. I dropped my suitcase handle with enthusiasm and swiped my key against the doorknob. Nothing happened. “I can’t open it,” “WTF?”, “Is it broken?” Confusion broke out amongst the Four.

Ten minutes later, the key situation was resolved, and we all found ourselves in cozy little apartments, complete with dishes and pans and pots and A WASHER/DRYER! Each apartment had two locked bedrooms, in case you like to sleep in a vault. My bedroom looks out upon a beautiful green field speckled with little red and purple flowers! Upon our beds were Ikea favorites: bedbug-centric bedding and a soft pillow. I had no idea how to use a duvet, and ended up using it as a sheet. 

On the first day, I noticed a rather peculiar, rotten, peanut-buttery stink under the sink. Garbage only exacerbates this odor, and the opening of any cabinet promotes the wafting of Stench. We can’t find the source, and it seems that every room has some malodorous misfortune in the kitchen.  Our fridge rumbles and squeaks throughout the day and night, btu we were lucky that ours was already plugged in cold upon arrival. The concept of the shower is pretty neat — a stand-up in the back of the bathroom, with a curtain pulled squarely around the drain. However, taking a bath on the floor of your restroom is like fighting your way through the wet and wild Amazon. The floor-flood never evaporates; it sits like a still pool of water against the wall. The bathroom floor is kind of crooked, so I can’t rest my stuff on the sink as I draw on warpaint or adjust my hair. Is this the Swedish life? Or is this the college life?

And finally, because finals ended as soon as we arrived and Lund Uni is officially out of session, there are NO STUDENTS. THE TOWN IS DEAD. The other students in the complex have evacuated and donated their hot cocoa powder and coffee pots to us. It’s not easy being green and American.

The thing with Bildstensvågen is… it is more of CARAJO LAND than it is THE GHETTO. It takes 5 years to get to class by bus. The 40-minute walk to school is twisty and windy, and I would NEVERRRR do it in the dark (so, it’s a good thing there’s basically no night here). Our Klostergårten counterparts are far away. The nearest mall is a schlep and a half, and you have to bring your own bags in which to place your purchases. The grocery store is called City Gross. CITY. GROSS. Becky pointed out that we’ve been so stressed and angry about shopping that no one has spent the time making fun of the NAME of this supermarket chain. It’s affordable and mind-boggling. The grocery incident(s) is(are) a whole different blog post, by the way.

Bildstensvågen has presented many a struggle, and a plethora of confusions. But from chaos comes family, I’ve learned. We’ve all grown close; we know who’s more likely to cook dinner for four and who’s most likely to wake up at 6am for a run. It’s great to be in a group of equally neurotic perfectionists who all want things to run smoothly and effectively. We all stick up for one another, we wait for each other, we defend everyone. 

I would never tell you to come move into the Ghetto. But I WOULD tell you that you should want to be friends with us 🙂


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