An African Student in Sweden
Have you even been to a totally different place - where everything was completely different from anything youve known? I had no experience with airplanes, cold winters, snow, and the first running tubes. I was exhilarated to get there and see it all for myself.
Used to the otherwise hot temperatures between 30 to 50 degrees C in my little town in Uganda, I was suddenly hit by this new weather - winter with rain that is frozen and piles up instead of running through the land in streams and making small puddles, as I was used to. And the temperatures were as cold as 17 below zero degrees C, as cold as the last few miles to heaven.
The incredible cold almost forced me to fly back home. But when my skin cracked and I bled in the terrible cold air, it was enough to make me understand the nature of the cold.
Back at home, I knew the zebra crossing points, named after the beautiful striped colours of the Zebra animal, but not traffic lights. It was all amazing. I was so used to our roads, and in Sweden I was trying to cross the road, looking to my right for vehicles, only to be almost hit by a vehicle coming from the left!
The pedestrians take their time. They cross so leisurely, as the poor drivers wait for them to reach the other side. At home, that would never happen. If you didnt cross quickly enough the driver will "beep or brush you up" with the driving mirrors, just to make sure you go home with a lesson to fear crossing at your own pace.
People and Language
When I went to the Swedish Embassy in Kampala and heard one fellow who I had queued up with for a visa, I thought to myself, how I would ask for even just water if I got thirsty in that country. I was going to a new place with a different language, and I thought I should start practicing Svenska right away.
But to my surprise, most of these people speak very good English. I think an Italian would strongly believe they did it even better than the English themselves! I wondered how and why, but Im certain they get their share of learning through the televisions programs. Most stations have movies and soap operas in English and have a text translation. Anyway, I dont think I still understand this, how the people have learned English so well. But even if you are a "doubting Thomas" as the Biblical Thomas was, and as I was, its easier to forget it and just feel at home.
Stockholm, I was told, was built on Islands. Islands???? I did not see any lake, ocean or anything other than snow fields. This snow skiing thing made it worse for me because I could not believe for a minute that where these brave, life-risking guys were actually playing was a "dead" sea.
Before summer, I was seeing barren hills and naked trees, the lawns covered by snow and the whole place looking like a deserted grave yard. The forests had no singing birds - I guess they all flew to safety in exile, probably in Africa. I did see rabbits, and wondered how they stood the coldness. I suppose they were not able to hop the long way to exile too.
Bars and Clubs
Unfortunately, I didnt have the chance to go to many clubs or bars, simply because I couldnt take the cold. It was so very freezing that I just didnt feel it was worth it. Twice I did try, but it was a nightmare. Just as I was starting to enjoy myself, the place closed, much earlier than I expected. In Kampala, you leave a bar in your own time.
In addition, I was subjected to beer with a 2.5% alcohol percent, very low for a guy used to at least 5%, if not higher, as is often the case.
I felt rather cheated by the laws here, and they seemed too unfair. I quickly lost interest in the bars, and decided to retreat to the comfort of my room after classes and take walks on the weekends.
Yes, I did find one very cute blonde lady here, and she made my life there much easier. She was a great lady.
And then, far too soon, I was back home, in the jungles of Africa, but thats for the next story!