Sunday, May 3, 2009


It really is hard to try to describe Valborg with words. Even my pictures don't really do it justice. As I like to say when my telling of a joke turns sour: "You had to be there." Nevertheless, I'm going to attempt to describe the wildest party I've ever been to.

The Swedes like to slap a 'K' in front of something and have it mean 'night before.' Accordingly, they call April 29 of every year Kvalborg. The day started innocently enough for me. For the first time since I've been in Sweden, I had two classes on one day. My first class ended at about 1:45, and as I had previously decided I didn't want to keep this mop anymore, I got my first haircut since leaving LA. The lady screwed up big time, so I did some editing with scissors when I got home after my second class. And by screwed up big time, I mean she tried to give me a typical Swedish haircut, but since I am not Swedish, nor can I pull of the Swedish look, it was bad. And it cost 200 kronor, or about $25.

I showered and donned my Arsenal jersey to head to Värmlands nation to watch the match. I was the only Arsenal fan, and as a result of their shocking performance, I received much ridicule. After drowning my sorrows – maybe this isn't adequate because the Man Utd fans drank as much as me – in Åbro and Tuborg cerveza, we searched for a club to celebrate Kvalborg at.

People had been lining up outside some of the nations at 1:00 that afternoon, so we didn't fancy our chances. But after running into a drunk friend wandering around the streets, we were finally able to gain entry into V-Dala nation. It was about 11:30. Given the early festivites of the next day, most Swedes had smartly retired for the evening, but being American, I had to prove my manliness to myself and stay out as late as possible.

At this point, I realized that wearing an Arsenal jersey in a club is a perfect dude magnet. No less than four dudes came up to me within the course of the evening to talk to me about Arsenal. My gay friend looked on jealously. But I digress.

The four, five, or six of us who were there (don't recall exactly) shared rounds, then at quarter to 3, decided we wanted MAX, the Swedish version of McDonald's. A ladyfriend was able to coax the bouncer to let us in for a burger and at 4:00, I passed out in bed.

I awoke at 7:30 am to phone calls asking where I was. Apparently, we were supposed to meet at 7:00 to watch the boat race on the river that started at 10:00. I reluctantly clawed myself out of bed, made some sandwiches for what guaranteed to be a long day, and had a cup of tea to wake up. I got down to the river by 8:30, accompanied by three turkey/salami sandwiches, two bottles of chardonnay (fake champagne), one bottle of champagne, four cans of beer, and some water. Still intoxicated from the previous evening, I narrowly avoided a hangover and was able to begin drinking straightaway. By the beginning of the boat race, I had ripped through one bottle of chardonnay and was beginning to drink the champagne.

The boat race is a recent Uppsala tradition. Students spend the few days before building boats out of mostly styrofoam, four or five to a vessel. On Valborg, the boats begin a procession down the river at 10:00, watched by many onlookers, and attempt to navigate the series of rapids on the river. Of course, everyone only cheered if one capsized, rather than if a boat proved its structural integrity. There were about 60 boats in all.

The day begins to blur at about this point. We headed to the Ekonomikum park to hang out with a few thousand Swedes, exchange students, old people, kids looking to score some beer, and just as many hot dog stands. There was a band playing and everything was merry. We stayed there a few hours, then headed to a Champagnegalopp at one of the nations. Unfortunately, I have little memory of this, and I don't think many others do either, but it basically consists of people spraying each other with champagne.

After the Champagnegalopps, everyone heads back home to pass out for a few hours or to have a barbecue if still alive. We headed to Flogsta, the largest student residence, for a barbecue on the roof of a building. As the sun went down and it got colder, we headed into the common room of someone's apartment with the intention of prepartying for the clubs that night. Unfortunately, as too often happens, the preparty ended up being the party, and no one could muster the balance, strength, or initiative (apart from manly me, of course) to go out. I was disappointed at the weakness of my friends, but the club lines were too long anyway. I had also had a great deal of fun for that 36 hours.

Shockingly, I did not have a hangover on May 1, nor have I gotten sick.

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