Musings on a first Valborg
(Thoughts and impressions of an international student living through his first Sista April)
by Obinna Onuoha
I woke up at 9am and after my prayers, I realized it’s Valborg Day. Yes sir, it’s the day everyone’s been waiting for! The build up to this day has been charged with so much talk and activity, most especially among students in Lund. So I decided my first port of call would be a place that would give me a sneak preview of what to expect today – Facebook. And I must say I was not disappointed. A male friend of mine wrote: ‘Woke up at 8.00 to drink! Hello Valborg.’ The drink: ‘popped a cider.’ Another status from a female friend ran, ‘Morning shot at 8. Don’t be late.’ The excitement was just getting started.
However, there were a lot of mixed feelings about this day, from anticipation to feelings of apathy or being terrified. Laughing out loud, terrified?! Well, there was only one way I would know the general attitude towards Valborg – I had to go there myself. The venue: Stadsparken in Lund. I live in Malmö so I got on the 171 at Södervärn. This was going to be my first experience of the event.
In the bus, I saw Swedes who were chatting away happily with their drinks in bags. I got off at Jupitergatan with a lot of the Swedes, and then I made my move. I asked a guy and girl, names Björn and Miriam respectively (both Swedish), the way to Stadsparken, and they told me they were headed there. Great, my unofficial chaperones! As we walked, we also talked about the event and what I was expected to see. Miriam told me that Valborg was celebrated in all of Sweden but was particularly enjoyed in the cities of Lund and Uppsala since they had the biggest student populations. She attended the event last year for the first time and also said that she had friends from Denmark who were coming in today as well. Björn too mentioned that last year’s event occurred on a rainy day. But from the look of the weather, it was a clear and sunny day; a beautiful day indeed this was shaping up to being.
Suddenly, we could hear music from the distance. It was about a quarter to 1pm and we were there – Stadsparken in all its excitement. My guides then took me in to feel the action. It was wonderful. People, students, everyone were all over the place. They were dressed up in all sorts of gear; from casual looks to costumes. Of course, there was the ever-teeming sea of scantily-clad Swedish beauties. The eye-candy wasn’t about to end anytime soon. The Radio AF was on ground dishing out fave jams to the jubilation of the crowd. People were just having a good time, often congregating in colonies of barbeques, sun-bathers, canopies and dancers. I was fortunate to see a friend in the huge throng. Imagine the odds. He was ready with his camera taking pictures. Students gayly drank and smoked their cigarettes. I could even see a portable generator running in the distance; possibly powering a group’s Wi-Fi system. There were also the guys in yellow vests who walked around to pick up the beer cans. It was at this point I realized I had just lost my guides. Oh well, at least they got me here.
Then just in the distance, I could see an amusement park. As I watched the joy and fun going around, I realized that the kids and parents too were not left out in the Valborg fiesta. Members of families came out in numbers to have a good time, including those with disabilities. I watched as a mum carry her son (who was on a wheel-chair) into a bumper car for a ride. It was truly touching to see that. There were smiles and joyful screams. This was it, I told myself. I had to join in the excitement of course: rode the bumper car and climbed on the ‘Bengts’. It was exhilarating. It was actually my first time in a bumper car too.
The day wasn’t ending anytime soon as I knew celebrations would carry on well into the evenings with bonfires and all. Sadly, I had to leave. As I walked out of Stadparken, I could also see a policeman standing beside his van. Hmmm, you never know what could go wrong when there’s a lot of alcohol in the air. Just before leaving though, I was handed a paper bag by a guy with some magazines in it. Lucky me, something to use and improve my Swedish. It was almost 4pm. As I walked towards Centralen to take the trains, I couldn’t help but think about the event. From what I saw, Valborg wasn’t just about drinking, which I got the impression was what it was all about. Ok granted, maybe drinking is a major aspect. But I could see that the underlying theme was about students, families and everyone just coming together to have a really good time; to enjoy the beautiful weather, which you don’t very often have in Sweden; meet new people, however briefly like in my case; make new friends; take some time off studies and work; and just let loose, as Ludacris would say.
It was indeed an exciting day, and the fun was just getting started…