Jie-jie’s skolavslutning was this morning. For the last few weeks we have been receiving increasingly detailed notes about the end-of-the-year festivities. The most recent one arrived last week. I didn’t bother typing the announcement into google translate because it seemed to mostly be repeating things I had already translated and I could read almost all of it. Here is what I thought it said with words that I guessed in italics:
Welcome to the last day of school assembly in Ulriksberg Church on the 15th of June. We will meet outside the classroom at 7:50. We will walk as a group to the church. After the program in the church we will meet and fika together in the schoolyard. Our class will meet next to the grill. Bring along some fika sausages!
A couple of days ago I ran over this understanding with Jie-jie. She concurred. Explained that her class would be singing and further noted that the school would provide buns and ketchup for the sausages. We had also gathered from our observation of various graduation festivities around town that we should dress nicely for the event.
On the way home from work yesterday I stopped for some soy hot dogs. Last night we helped each other to pick out our outfits. Of her own volition Jie-jie wrote a nice note (in Swedish) for her teacher, made her a bracelet and made a gift of a red pencil that the teacher could use to correct student’s work. As we wondered about what a skolavslutning is like, I prepared Jie-jie for the fact that when you come to a new culture and are experiencing things for the first time, you often are not sure what to do and, thus, we would probably make some mistakes. I told her that we should just be patient, flexible and forgiving and we would probably have a great time.
We got out the door without any trouble or drama this morning and headed straight to school. More and more kids began to gather. We were dressed appropriately. There were a few folks in casual attire but they were certainly the exception. One thing I noticed, however, was that there weren’t too many parents sticking around. They would drop of the kids and vanish. Were most parents just heading to work like usual? Then Jie-jie put it together and said that the parents were going to the church to get seats. Mei-mei and I went straightaway but were already too late for anything but the way, way back. Eventually the students entered together and sat in the front, facing the stage.
The program consisted of a shared hymn-like song about summer, a short message from the principal, the presentation of a gift to the principal on behalf of the parents, and each class singing a song about summer or summer break. In conclusion everyone sang another hymn-like song about giving thanks for the earth and the warmth of the sun.
As everyone filed out I collected Mei-mei and our things. I noticed that many other parents were carrying picnic baskets and blankets to spread on the grass. I thought that we would be fine without a blanket because we coule be sitting on the logs around the fire/grill area. I began to wish that I had brought a bit more food than a box of frozen tofu hot dogs.
When we arrived at the school ground, folks began setting up their picnics. Some were small – juice boxed and a box of cookies. Others were quite elaborate with multiple hot and cold beverages in thermoses and multiple containers containing sweet and savory items. I looked suspiciously at the grills. They were not lit, there were no grilling materials present. The buns Jie-jie claimed would be provided were nowhere to be found. Clearly, no grilling was going to be done. I realized that all along I had thought it odd that we would be grilling sausages at 9 in the morning. It was clearly an immigrant moment.
I quickly located the only parents I know and asked if the kids could stay with them while I ran home. Fortunately we live within shouting distance of the school. At home I pulled out a brightly colored reusable shopping bag and our junkiest blanket. I quickly sliced up some pears and watermelon and threw it in tupperware. I filled a thermos with water. I took brightly colored plastic cups and plates and some festive paper napkins. I collected the vasa crackers, caviar in a tube and margarine tub. At the last minute I grabbed 3 pieces of wrapped hard candy as a peace offering for the kids and in hopes that it would make the rest of the very ordinary food feel a bit special. Then I ran back to the schoolyard.
Mei-mei and Jie-jie were so excited to spread out the blanket and unload the food. They sat happily eating their snack for a bit and then ran off the play. Disaster averted.
But there was still the issue of the fika sausages. As I packed up the picnic I surreptitiously moved the thawing box from Jie-jie’s backpack to the picnic bag. I decided to see if I could find out where I went wrong.
“What is fikakor(-)?” I asked Paulina’s mother. I intentionally dropped the end of the word that I had taken as sausage.
“It means fika and then korg is a basket. You use it to carry the food when you eat outside.”
“Oh! Korg and not korv!” I replied, feeling the heat of my blushing cheeks.
She laughed, “Korv is sausage!”
Of course it is, but when I read the announcement from the school, I read it as fikakorv instead of fikakorg! Soy hotdogs for lunch, anyone?