Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Part 1 of The Swede and The Nutritionist:

In preparation for my Challenge Series: Adventures in America, I've convinced The Swede, my Dad, to share the story of how he and my Mom, The Nutritionist, met, fell in love, moved to Sweden, then in the middle of our childhood, moved to America. It's great to have you here Dad. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with all of us.

by Leif Bilen

“Do you have indoor plumbing in Sweden?” “What sort of clothes do you wear over there?” “Are there many polar bears where you live?” Those were some of the questions I got from my fellow students at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, as they tried to get to know their new exchange student.

This was during Eisenhower’s second term about half a year before the Soviets launched the first Sputnik. The internet and social media had not yet transformed communications to give us a better awareness of what goes on in other countries around the world. I probably had similar illusions about this country.

I had read The Last of the Mohicans, and I had tasted that curious soft drink called Coca Cola. Then in school I learned a bit more about the Big Country in the West and the more I learned the more interested I became.

When the opportunity for a year’s scholarship to an American high school presented itself, there was hardly any hesitation. I applied, and after a few months a letter advised me I was one of the fortunate ones. I was told I would be going to Silver Spring, Maryland. “Man, this is going to be great. How can I be blessed?”

I soon found out that my family had four children and a maid living with them. The father in the family was an eye doctor. “How am I going to fit in over there?” I was an only child and my dad was a cop, who had to do a lot of moonlighting to make ends meet.

Later, I learned that this was a back-up plan, because the first host, a pastor’s family in the same town had backed out at the last minute. Now, I realize how different my life would have been, if this change had not taken place.

I was both excited and nervous when I prepared to leave my familiar surroundings. As I started to receive letters from members of my new family, I began to calm down. They seemed so nice and genuine. I would be hanging out with a “brother” my age and his letters were very reassuring.

One letter from his 15 year old little sister, Bonnie, puzzled me though. She told me it would be nice, if I could bring along some Swedish dishes. I didn’t quite panic, but I started to wonder. “How are they going to fit in my suitcase? What if they break in transit?” After consulting a dictionary or two, I eventually figured out that she was talking about Swedish recipes, and had I known then what I know today, I would have made sure they didn’t lack nutrition. 


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina, the Viking chick, and her Dad, The Swede ... is that how it started - it must have been an amazing opportunity.

Looking forward to your arrival in the States - there must have been so many differences between the country .. let alone the foods ...

I love learning about these sorts of aspects ... cheers to you and your beloved daughter .. Hilary

Brian Miller said...

ha. cool bit of a story there...and how interesting as well to ask you dad to tell the story...i used to live not far from silver spring...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good thing she didn't want him to bring the Swedish dished prepared and everything! That really would've been messy in the suitcase.

JoJo said...

That's sooooo cool that you were an exchange student! I wanted to both be one and host one but my parents said absolutely not. :(

M. J. Joachim said...

Looking forward to reading part two - it's fun learning more about you through a bit of family history, Tina:)

Silvia Villalobos said...

Very interesting. One of the questions I got asked when I moved to the US from Romania (aside from the always-present "where is Romania")was: "do they have cars over there?"

Jo said...

A year - wonderful, I did an exchange for a month for each of us. Did you have any English when you arrived?


P V Ariel said...

Hi Tina, Thanks a lot for sharing this link of your wonderful Dad. Yet to read the other parts.

Great story.
Keep inform