In Uppsala, a ball (otherwise known as a ‘Gasque’) is a tradition in each university nation. In addition to this, they also have seasonal balls (which are little bit posher) where women wear floor length gowns and men wear bow ties and tail coat jackets. Dinner is usually served in 3 courses with lots and lots of drinking in between. I had been to an ‘International Gasque’ when I arrived, but of course, we were newbies and didn’t know any of the songs. To attend an autumn ball where 95% of the choir were swedes was quite an experience. Many members of the choir have been there for a long time, so they’re more than familiar with the numerous drinking songs.
Little did I know that I wouldn’t be able to take my song book in to the main hall with me so I had to sing a song in Swedish, which I didn’t know , to a room full of Swedes, who clearly spoke perfect Swedish. I just had to glance at my friend Marleen, to know exactly what she was thinking, but she knew more words than me since I’d missed rehearsals due to my little trip home the previous week. During the performance there was no fooling anyone because my mouth would be open when the choirs was closed and vice versa plus I made up random words such as ‘qverty blarmy laaa shala moo’ or something along the lines of that. I was trying my best not to offend with an unintentional impression of the Swedish chef but it was very hard avoid so I avoided eye contact with any audience members. If I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. I just thought to myself, ‘should have stayed in bed you idiot’, but as the night went on, it was actually very fun and I’m now more determined to practice!
Karen + Marleen
Then there was the extensive variety of drinks associated with each course and song. We began with champagne then beer, wine and then many, many snaps (aquavit and something else I drank down anyway). Every now and again, the choir leader would tap his little glass and everyone would burst out into song like we were in some sort of musical and then we would raise our shot glasses, turn to the right, left, front then drink. I didn’t realise that you only ‘sipped’ your drink, and I tried to do it down in one as I’m so used to. So unfortunately, I had to have another one.
Marleen and me at the ball
Tables are all set for the choir members
After my headache the morning after, my Scottish friend Claire was making a haggis for us all since a couple of people had never had it before. Haggis is basically a Scottish dish usually made from diced sheep liver, lungs, heart and onions etc. It’s then encased into a sheep’s stomach, boiled and usually served up with ‘neeps and tatties’ which is mashed swede (the vegetable not the people!) and potato. So there we were, a Scot, an Italian, a German and me (and Tipsy the dog of course) enjoying a lovely meal made by Claire and Davide (I peeled a parsnip!), kladdkaka (Swedish chocolate cake) hand-made by Laura and lots of lovely Italian wine shipped over by Davide’s parents. That’s the great thing about studying abroad, not only do you meet people from all over the world, but you get to try the variety of food too.
Kladdkaka, Haggis (it tastes better than it looks!) and tiny Tipsy fast asleep