Life is all about going out from your comfort zone. It’s all about going to places that you’ve never been before…meeting people from different races… discovering and trying something new and exploring the unfamiliar things that a certain place has to offer. As a traveller, you’ll always have that urge to feel excited about going to that place you’ve never been before.
The moment I stepped foot on the ground of Arlanda Stockholm International Airport, I breathed out of relief for arriving safe and sound with my companions and it is all thru our Lord’s guidance who was with us throughout our travel. I felt this kind of mixed emotions- excitement, nervousness and separation anxiety from my family and friends back home. However, I remained calm and positive in order to cheer up myself from the feeling I felt because I know that God is with me in this journey.
It was an almost 20hour trip from the Philippines to Sweden, and that’s definitely a tiresome long trip for us. The cold weather welcomed us in Sweden and it’s quiet amazing to finally meet the snow for the first time in my entire life. This is for sure one of the reasons why I felt the excitement for this trip. What an extraordinary feeling I had indeed to experience the winter in Sweden and do a lot of exciting activities from it, because in our country, we never have a snow or winter season.
Philippines, Costa Rica, South Africa, Brazil, Tanzania and Sweden are the countries who were parts of this Young in the Worldwide Church (Youth Exchange Program) of the Church of Sweden. We gathered altogether at Sigtuna Fölkhogskola and stayed there for 5 days. The first night of our stay was all about knowing each other and we started immediately regardless of how exhausted we were from the long trip. Jetlag, excitement and nervousness was all I felt at that moment because I can’t tell yet if I can easily get along with them or can easily communicate with them since we all came from different races in the different parts of the world. Imagine that, we came all from the different parts of the world. Furthermore, it’s quiet challenging for me to deal with it because it’ll be a great opportunity for me to learn and explore the language and culture that they have and of course for me to share as well the language and culture that I brought with me by heart.
I checked my watch in my wrist and saw the time in Philippine time. I sighed and realized that I’m at the other part of the world away from home! It’s really hard to adjust for the very first time. I’ve been to another country but this is the longest and farthest trip I’ve ever travelled. The time and food are the major things that are really hard to get through with. The first time we had dinner at Sigtuna Fölkhogskola was quiet strange for me and still hard to take with. As time passed by, my taste bud and stomach are slowly adjusting to get use of the food here in Sweden. I always make sure that every single meal that I have will be satisfying in my stomach. Furthermore, there is this one culture of Sweden that I have learned on the very first day of our stay in Sigtuna and this is favorite thing of all time, they call it ”fika”. It’s where everyone gathered together and have coffee or tea and a bread. This made everyone of us really excited about too.
The activities in our schedule are all interesting and all these activities were done well. I enjoyed and really had fun participating in the activities that we had in our 5-days of stay in Sigtuna. I have gained a lot about Sweden as a society and a church, as well as their culture and language. It’s really a great feeling to get to know a country where you’ve never been before. You will get curious about something that is around you and feel amazed about those beautiful things around you. Aside from those activities, I gained friendship to my fellow participants from the other countries. It’s amazing how we bond and get along together despite our differences. But that doesn’t make everyone of us not to build friendship and of course, memories to treasure. It’s always the similarities that we have that make everyone of us unite in one way or another. And that’s what we have built during our stay in Sigtuna.
My favorite part of our 5-day activity in Sigtuna is when we had our visit in Uppsala. We visited the office for the Youth of the Church of Sweden, the main office of Church of Sweden wherein we met all the staffs in the International Department and of course, the Cathedral of Uppsala where the seat of the Archbishop is located, but unfortunately we haven’t got the chance to meet her. We had our tour in the cathedral and it was a very huge cathedral with an amazing structure and a lot of chapels inside it. My favorite encounter of our pilgrimage tour in the cathedral was when I first noticed the statue of Mary while we were having a tour in the chapel close to the statue. I was looking at it with a very curious feeling and in my mind I asked, ”why isn’t she moving? Is she taking a photo that’s why she’s posing like that?” Then I can’t keep asking myself why so I asked Ellen (one of the coordinators) why she’s not moving or something and she said to me surprisingly that it was a statue. I exclaimed,
”seriously? She looks so real!” And I just figured it out that it was really a statue and I was amazed by the one who made it because she really looks like a real human being. But, I never got the chance to stare at her so close because I got scared and I wouldn’t know if she’ll gonna move for out of the blue (Ha-Ha!). This was a great experience though! We got to spare some time in the downtown of Uppsala and there are a lot of shopping stores and cafés around it. It was really a fun time taking some shots of photos in every corner. After strolling around, we went to a restaurant where the bowling area is located. It was definitely my first time to play bowling and I didn’t have any idea how to hit all the bowling pins using the heavy bowling bowl. However, I got to play along well with my team mates. I got to hit well the bowling pins and got a good score also. It was a fun game so far because herein, we built teamwork together. We didn’t mind the scores that we had as long as we were helping and supporting each other. And that’s truly a great factor to build camaraderie with people whom you still have known for a short period of time. After all the tiresome game, we had a good dinner in O’rleay’s restaurant and the food and service were indeed satisfying, so far!
The separation anxiety with the participants is about to start! At the last day of gathering in Sigtuna Fölkhogskola, we met our supervisors for the first time. Before meeting them, we had our sharing with the participants and watched our photos in the previous activities that we had. I felt sadness, nervousness and excitement. Sad by all means that I will surely miss the group that became my first family in Sweden even for just a short period of time, however, we will meet again in the mid-evaluation, so it’s still a relief. Nervousness and excitement because I never had any idea of who will be my supervisor and foster family. But despite all of those, I felt excited for what the congregation has to offer. I felt confidently positive that this will be a very exciting experience to live with in a place that is not familiar for me and to live with a family that I never knew before. I know that as my journey here in Sweden begins, the Almighty God will always give me the strength, wisdom and guidance to learn, discover, explore and experience new things during my stay here in Sweden.
Let the adventure, begin!