Saturday, 12 April 2008

Exam week in the renewed winter

The past week was an exam week for me - hence I didn't write on my blog. The Friday before the exam, a visit to the Kirunavaara mine by LKAB had been organised for us. A really interesting visit. The bus left around 10:00 in the morning from Kulturens hus. A couple of students thought the bus would leave from the bus station. I receive a phonecall from one of them, and via the bus driver tell them to cross the street and stand at the busstop in front of the city hall. They do and a minute later the last five or so students join the bus, and we are as complete as we will be - some 25 students.

The bus passes by some security checks and the road goes into a hole in the mountain. Not too different from when one enters a tunnel, except that there is not really an other side (except for an emergency exit) and the road goes down, down, down. For the first kilometer or so, the tunnel is lighted, but after that, it isn't. A few times there is opposing traffic. At each curve - there are many - the bus blinks with the big lights. I lose track of how long we have driven down. 5 minutes? 10 minutes? but at some point there are lights at the end. It's a junction, and there is
some other traffic. The bus turns left, but takes the curve too broadly and doesn't make it, so it needs to go back. The truck from the left and the opposing will need to wait. After the bus has gone back up the steep slope - we are told it is some 10% - the other traffic passes and we go left, slightly up, and within a minute we have reached the tourist hall. We are 540 meter below the datum, which is 400 meter below the entrance, or some 140 meter above sea level. And the road goes another kilometer down.

After putting on helmets we are shown around, told interesting stuff, and then brought to a cinema where we are shown a video on LKAB. Starting with some shots of Kiruna, then the history of the place. The uneasy relation to the Sami. The railway, built first by the British and then by the Swedish after the British gave up. The war. The strike. After that we are led back to the hall and explained how the mining actually works. All very interesting. I have many questions and all are answered.

After the visit to the mine it is back to studying: finishing the SPENVIS report, learning for the Spacecraft Environment Interaction exam (okay), learning for the Electronics in Space exam (horrible). Indeed the Spacecraft Environment Interaction exam on Monday was okay, and the Electrincs in Space exam on Wednesday was horrible; I'll need to redo that one.

On Tuesday I had a chat with the Swedish teacher at Folkh√∂gskolan about Swedish class. I am given a schedule and a book - P√• G - to borrow, and I can just come whenever I like. So after my exam I went there on Thursday morning (-17°C) and on Friday morning (-20°). The other students are all women, a migrant from Russia, a refugee from Africa, a number of women from the Phillipines who married Swedish men. On Thursday we are only 7 or so, on Friday only 3. Quite a small group.

And the winter came back, after last weeks two days of thaw. The sunsets are beautiful. In three days there will still be nautical twilight at midnight. In three weeks there will be civil twilight at midnight, so it won't get dark at all. The ESRANGE training week is coming soon. The next term with two courses is starting on Monday. And spring is coming soon. It will be wonderful.


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