Thursday, June 2, 2011

Back in the USA

I have been back in the US for a few weeks now. It's actually been almost 3 weeks and things feel pretty normal. I had a week of jet lag. I woke up at 6 am everyday. That wasn't too fun. Now, I can sleep through the night just fine! Jet lag is kind of ridiculous but i'm just glad we can all get over it! 

My first day back in the US was really interesting. I kept expecting people to speak Swedish to me and I kept wanting to reply in Swedish. It surprised me when they didn't. I even said "tack" (thank you) to one person in the line through customs. I don't think she really knew what I said which was good! I'm over it now, but I tend to speak Swedish when I miss being in Sweden. It brings a smile to my face when I do it! So, if you are around me and I say "nej" or "tack" or "ja" a lot, you'll know why! Just bear with me! 

I was so excited about being home the first week. I ate some real Mexican food, caught up with friends and family, attended some weddings, and moved back to my apartment. The second week was a bit tougher. I missed Sweden. I knew it was super nice weather over there and just wanted to soak up the sun! I also really missed public transportation ironically enough. I missed walking everywhere and then getting on a bus or the tunnelbana. It was so nice in Stockholm. Here in Peoria, I have to drive everywhere. The buses are kind of shady and it's so hard to get places any other way besides driving! Oh well, I've got a bike now and I know I can walk to campus at least. For now, I'll just live with that and the knowledge that I will be returning to Stockholm and the great public transport sometime soon! 

Last week, I got to see my friend Marie from Sweden in Chicago. It was so surreal to see her in someplace other than Sweden but it was so great. It was nice to talk to her and know she knew what that experience was like for me. It is just so comforting to know that she lives so close and we can reminisce about Sweden together! 

Now, I'm going to enjoy my summer here in Peoria by doing research, biking, hiking, hanging out with my roomies and my sister, and reading books! It should be pretty great. Thank you all so much for reading my blog while I was in Sweden and sharing in this experience with me. I appreciate it greatly. If you ever want to talk to me about Sweden just remember that I appreciate specific questions like "What was your favorite food there?" or "What were your classes like?" and not "How was Sweden?" I might give some Swedish chocolate to the person with the most creative question! I love answering questions so ask away! :) 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Study for finals? No! I've got things to do and people to see!

Well, after a chilly start to the month of May, spring is finally here (to stay we think) in Stockholm! We had snow (yes snow) on May 3rd when we all woke up. This was shortly after that big spring celebration I told you all about! The next day I wore wool socks. Yep. That's Sweden for you! One of my teachers said it snowed on May 25th, her wedding day. That's a bummer! 

This dreary weather is in stark contrast to today where it was definitely in the 70s. Maybe even close to 80! I was wearing capris and a t-shirt with no problem at all! :) I have been doing plenty of outdoor activities regardless of the weather though! There is just so much to do and so little time to do it. You know, I only have 4 days left...well 3 really since it's almost the 11th here! Wow! time just flew by. 

Here's a quick picture summary of the things I've done since spring started. 

Went on the Millennium Trilogy Tour. This is the famous novel series by Steig Larson. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the most famous for those of you who don't know. I bought the pamphlet from the city museum and went out with a friend to see the sights from the book. It was so great! The best part was getting a cappuccino from the coffee bar where Mikel Blomkvist (the main character) goes all the time! 

Learned how to make kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon buns) so I can make them all for you when I see you! These delicious pastries are a Swedish staple for fika (coffee break) and have become a favorite of mine!
"Pour some sugar on meeee..." Laila and I put the egg and sugar on the buns! 
I had sushi (again) with Emelie and Kevin. It was Emelie's first time having sushi and she liked it! I played soccer with friends from the Swedish Program and then went to a birthday party for Marie and met some of her host brother's Swedish friends. We also made some delicious paella! I played ultimate frisbee with friends from church in the park where the crown princess lives. Sadly, she didn't join us! I also saw an awesome band called Miami Horror at a club called The Strand with Anita for our last Saturday night in Stockholm. 
Miami Horror @ The Strand
On Mother's Day, Emelie and I went to Gröna Lund which is Stockholm's amusement park located right on the water. It was such a nice day and the rides were super great too! I am not a rollercoaster extremist but I guess I do like some of them. I went on 3 coasters and was reminded of times at Disney World when I went on those rides. Those are the kind of rides that scare you just enough to make it fun...not pee your pants! Emelie and I had a great time and enjoyed the weather and the rides (as well as each other's company!) 
Emelie and I having some fun in the sun! 

The park from the ferry. We did not go on that tall white thing but we did the coasters you can see except for the wood one right in front. 
Mother's day was also my last sunday at Stockholm Life Church. I couldn't be more thankful to have gone to such a great church. I have learned so much about God and how he touches lives all over the world. It's pretty cool to know I have a church I can call home in Stockholm! 
Phil and Katja Zarns: Pastors at Stockholm Life. Crazy people after God's own heart! :) They also might kill me for having this picture on my blog! haha...
After spending some time working on my Gender in Swedish Society final paper and watching a very scary episode of Dr. Who in the dark, I went to Skansen open air museum to learn about farms, buildings, and animals native to Sweden. They had bears; they had chickens; they had Sami farms like in Lappland; they even had glassblowing. It was a happening place and was so nice to see! I felt like I really got a sense of what different parts of Sweden are like. 
Farm house from the south of Sweden. The ceiling was super short. Even I almost had to duck. It's because they didn't have much timber and were saving it. Those smart Swedes!

Swedish Bears! 
Emelie and I hosted a One Tree Hill Party with Marie and Anita just to hang out and watch some drama TV! It was fun. We ordered pizza from the pizza place nearby and had some delicious Swedish godis (candy) while watching some episodes! 
Emelie, Marie, and Anita in front of the pizza place! Yum! 
Last but not least, today I got to be a kid and go to the Tom Tits Experiment which is a science museum for kids in Sodertalje (about 1 hour 20 min on the train from where I live). It was so fun. My favorite things were the water experiments. Just playing with the water in the sun made me ready for summer! There were so many cool things I couldn't begin to describe them to you! I really enjoyed myself. 
I had to trace the star with a pencil while looking in a mirror. I didn't do so well...

Enjoying the park at the museum! 
I ended my day talking to Emelie. I can't believe I leave here so soon. It kind of feels like I just got here or like this whole thing was some kind of dream. I'm not quite's such a strange feeling! I should probably go to bed though. I have a final to take tomorrow. Don't worry! I did spend some time studying for it! :) 

Thanks for reading! I'll post once more before I leave, so keep your eyes peeled for that! 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Valborg - celebrating spring with the Swedes!

Yesterday was a big day in Stockholm and all of Sweden. We all celebrated the coming of spring and the end of winter with the Valborg festival. Swedes get together, listen to music, sing songs, eat candy, and light huge bonfires to "burn away winter" so that spring can come in it's fullest. It's always celebrated on April 30th and May 1st is a national holiday. If you want to know how they celebrate this holiday in other European countries or more about how they do it in Sweden go here

The biggest party is in Uppsala (just north of Stockholm) where students go and drink a lot but still have a fun time. I didn't go to Uppsala because I had a sushi making party and then celebrated in Stockholm instead. It was still tons of fun. The Valborg celebrations were all over town but I went to Vasaparken and listened to the music from Philadelphia church (which is a Swedish church like the one I go to) before watching them light the bonfire. After the bonfire was lit, they had more music by a rock band from the church. They played funk songs all about love. It was AWESOME! I posted a video below so you could see the awesomeness! The only thing that was sad about the day was that it was cold! It's been so unseasonably warm that we all expected it to be 15C but it was only 10C and cloudy to bring in spring. I think that is normal Swedish weather though! I got to spend time with friends so that was still loads of fun. 

The sushi we made! It took me 3 tries before I had a nice looking roll! :) It was tasty regardless.  I think I may have eaten the equivalent of 2 whole rolls. I just couldn't stop eating! 

Valborg at Vasaparken. Lots of people and lots of candy!

My friends (Sanna, Laila, and Christina) and I celebrating! See the bonfire in the back? 

THE BONFIRE! It was so warm. 

After the celebrations were over, we went to Hard Rock Cafe Stockholm and ate nachos while warming up and watching hockey (Sweden vs Norway.....Sweden lost...bummer). It was a great end to our spring celebrations there nevertheless! Plus, I got my t-shirt!! :) 

Nachos. These made me miss good ol' fashioned cheddar cheese. I am def looking forward to that in a few weeks!
I really enjoy that Sweden celebrates things like the coming of spring. It's nice to have bonfires all around town! There really are bonfires all around town and Sweden which I think is a neat way to bring everyone together. That's what celebrations are for right? 

Speaking of celebrations....I did watch the royal wedding live on TV and it was delightful! Kate's dress was beautiful too. I can't believe that half of the world watched that wedding. Pretty cool to be a part of something like that. Oh, and the Swedish crown princess was in attendance at the wedding! Pretty neat! 

Alright, that's all for now. I have a delicious dinner of salmon waiting for me and a book to keep me busy all night! 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A whirlwind Scandinavian adventure

I have been crazy busy since my last update. I went to Gotland, spent a few days in Stockholm, spent a week with my mom and became tour guide to show her around Stockholm before heading off to Copenhagen and then Gothenburg! It has been a whirlwind adventure and now I only have a few weeks left in Stockholm! I suggest you find a comfy spot, grab your favorite drink, and enjoy this nice long blog about what I have been up to!

Gotland was delightful! It was full of world heritage sites from the Vikings time. Visby, the capitol of Gotland, was home to countless (well about 16) different churches from different countries. We got to get a glimpse of the different churches from the ruins that still stand today. We even went to the top of one church and had a great view of the city! We also saw the Gotland museum where there was a nice collection of Viking silver! In fact, the largest collection of Viking age silver was found in northern Gotland and part of it was at this museum. Later on our trip, we went to a Viking village and learned the tools of the trade. We learned to make yarn, throw axes, and eat with our hands. Oh, and we learned that Vikings traded and did not pillage!
Gotland houses! So awesome!! 

Viking Silver. It is pretty nice stuff. 

Ruins get a thumbs up from me!

Marie (left), Anita (right) and me on the top of the church with the view of Visby. yes, it was raining and windy but still pretty awesome! 

Sea Stacks. this one is a big one with a history dealing with royalty I believe. I can't remember the story now though...

Me and the Baltic Sea

The most beautiful church in Gotland

To be a viking, one must make their own yarn. I have a lot of respect for my knit sweaters now! 

We also spent some time taking a tour of northern Gotland. The weather was perfect for this! We saw more churches and these cool natural phenomenon called sea stacks which are strange shaped limestone rocks. They were pretty magnificent against the blue skies and the Baltic Sea! Our tour guide for the weekend told a lot of random stories. Most of which made no sense but instead provided for some laughs. He talked about the Estonians and how there are ghosts on the island too. Really, that’s about all I remember. I think most of what we learned from the tour guide was that Gotland might very well be a haunted island!

Northern Gotland from the bus
Once I got back, I had a few days to prepare for the arrival of none other than my mom!!! I cleaned the house, made dinner a couple times (American pancakes and bacon), and finalized our itinerary! It was a busy 4 days and I was so excited to see my mom. She arrived early on Friday morning and after a breakfast of eggs and toast, we toured the town! We went on our first (of many) boat tours and saw the greener side of Stockholm. The tour was around the Djurgården canal which is around one of the biggest islands in Stockholm. It just to the east of the city and used to be the royal hunting grounds. It is a great place to walk and now has a museum and a park that is quickly filling up with people when the sun is shining! After a yummy lunch in the old town, we got a tour of the city hall where they have the Nobel Prize banquet every year. It was actually a pretty small room for the size of the banquet. Each person (unless you are a really important person like the royal family) gets 60 cm of space to eat. That’s not a lot of elbow room!
Where Stockholm city hall meetings happen. Each person has assigned seating based on political party.

The Golden room. It's all mosaics and was done in less than a year by multiple people of course but not without a few mistakes!

The weird lady in the Golden room. She symbolizes Sweden...odd! 

The blue hall where the Nobel banquet is held. Yea, it's as small as you think it is! However, those stairs are really easy to walk! 

Nobel Prize banquet settings

The weather was beautiful so we walked across town and saw all the Swedes soaking up the sun to the Vasa Museum and mom got to see the boat for herself and not just in pictures on my blog! It was cool even though we only had a short amount of time. After that, we met up with a friend of mine and her mom for dinner at Bakfickan for some authentic Swedish food. It was so delicious but our mom’s were exhausted so it was time for bed. Mom got to meet my host family before going to bed which was nice!
My jet-lagged mom and her delicious, authentic Swedish meatballs!

The next day in Stockholm was spent with my host family. We went to Drottningholm Palace where the royal family lives and ate our lunch outside before going to the University. We tried to go to the Kaknäs Tower to get a view of the city but someone was having a private party or something. Lame! We ended the night with Swedish meatballs made by Annica to make up for it! Yum! Mom really enjoyed spending time with my family and I’m glad she got to meet them!
Mom, me, Emelie, and Annica at Drottningholm Palace

Our next adventure was another Scandinavian country: Denmark. We flew in and were picked up by Mary’s host family from a couple years ago. I was so excited to meet Vibeke and Marianne since I had heard so much about them from Mary! They were excellent! They showed us all the Danish foods and told us what sights would be good to see. It was really nice. I had some pickled herring, horseradish and beef, and shrimp all with the Danish brown bread. Yum! Of course, I ate some fish and had a sampling of delicious beers and wine in the Danish style. Vibeke even had me try snaps which is a 45% alcohol “shot” that people have with a long lunch. I only had a sip but that was enough for me! Only the tough people will drink it all at once and obviously that wasn’t me. That’s ok by me!
Me and Marianne in front of their house

Best Danish snack? A hot dog with ketchup, mustard, onions, fried onions and pickles! yum!
Us and Vibeke at Tivoli Gardens! 

me and of the 5 kitties (sorry it's blurry but i wanted you to see the kitties!)

We did our boat tour of Copenhagen after our first Danish lunch which was nice. The sun was behind some clouds so it was kind of chilly but we still learned a lot about Copenhagen. There are new buildings like the Opera house built in 2008 and older buildings like the largest dome in Scandinavia all in the same town. It was pretty weird to see them all next to each other. Of course, we got to see the Little Mermaid statue that Copenhagen is famous for. She was pretty small but still nice. We found out that she has been decapitated 3 times! I don’t know who thinks that’s a good idea. Now, she has concrete in her neck to prevent that from happening again. A funny thing happened while we were there. We were watching the other tourists take pictures with the statue and one guy (probably my age) was taking a picture of himself with the statue. He snapped the photo, turned the camera around and then made this whole body motion of disappointment. It’s hard from me to describe but he rolled his eyes and his whole body at the same time. Both mom and I saw this and lost it! Even the guy sitting at the next bench saw it and that made us laugh even more!

Mom and the little mermaid
Other tourist sites we saw that were great were the Round Tower and Rosenborg Castle where the crown jewels are kept. They were pretty impressive! I really enjoyed Copenhagen to see what another Scandinavian country (well city really) was like. In case you are wondering, Danish is quite close to Swedish on paper but it sounds totally different!
The Rosenborg Castle! 

Our next adventure was a train ride across the Øresund bridge (the longest one in Europe) to Malmö and then up the western coast of Sweden to Göteborg (Gothenburg). It was a nice train ride and the scenery was beautiful. Sweden really reminds me of Glacier National Park sometimes! J Upon our arrival in Gothenburg, we discovered that our hotel room did in fact have a view of the harbor and had about 12 windows to view it since it was a suite complete with a kitchen in the closet! We were surprised to say the least. It was really nice to come back to at the end of our 2 days there. We took another boat ride (had to keep it up) which was really nice. We made it under the cheese slicer and the hairdresser (2 really low bridges on the canal) without any problems. We at the biggest kanelbulle ever which literally was the size of the plate and walked up to the fortress look out to get a sweet view of the town. We went to a kid’s science museum where I couldn’t figure out a wooden puzzle thing and we sweated in the rainforest. We even took a trip to the archipelago which was a nice place to picnic even though it was a bit cloudy! We also went to the city museum where they had the oldest Viking ship ever! There were just parts of it but it was way cool. Overall, Gothenburg was like Stockholm but had a lot more space and felt like a small town even though it’s the 2nd largest in Sweden I believe.
On the train on the bridge back to Sweden! 
Our view of the Gothenburg harbor at night from our room! 

The archipelago! 

Gardens of all kinds including roses and even tropical plants! 

We took a million pictures of the flowers! haha!

The old viking ship at the city museum. It was still cool even though it was in pieces. 

Look mom, I'm an astronaut! (at the science museum)

The kanelbulle as big as the plate. We demolished it at the expense of our dinner! :) 

Oh, now I'm the queen of Sweden! This was on our climb up to the top of the fortress. 

Me and my mom in our hotel room! :) We enjoyed our time together. 

We took a train back to Stockholm and got to see a lot of the big lakes in the middle of Sweden. They are huge and beautiful. Upon our return, I took mom to Slussen to get a nice view of Stockholm from the south and to see the feat of road engineering which is able to easily direct traffic from 6 different directions. Pretty cool! Oh, of course we made tacos for dinner since it was Friday and Swedes love their taco Friday! Sending mom off was sad but I’m so glad she was able to come and I was able to share this experience with someone else from home! I wish you all could be here to experience this with me but you can’t so I hope this blog helps you know what I’m up to.

After dropping mom off, I had a few days left of my break. Good thing the weather knew it was break because it was sunny and warm for those 3 days. I went to Ytterby which is the place where 4 elements were discovered in a mine. Ytterby is 1 hour from where I live by bus and is an island in the archipelago. It was really nice and I felt pretty cool having been to a place where a lot of elements exist. I had a picnic lunch there and then went to Vaxholm, another island in the archipelago, and ate ice cream and sat on the dock with the other tourists. I then sat in the park and read my book. That is pretty much what I did for the next 2 days as well. I went for walks and picnic lunched and then sat and read my book under the blossoming Japanese Cherry Trees. I don’t think life could get much better than that!
I stood by the official sign commemorating the discovery of the 4 elements: Ytterbium, Yttrium, Terbium, and Erbium. Of course, I had to climb up a cliff about 100 m to get to it! I survived! 

Quartz from the mine

The Vaxholm Fortress which defended Stockholm. 
Danielle (a friend from church) and I enjoyed ice cream in the sun with the blossoming trees! 

Now I have just over 2 weeks left and I am going to soak it all up. I’m excited to see everyone at home but I will miss the everyday life I have here in Stockholm and spending time with my host family. Well, now I need to go to bed but I’ll report back soon what I am doing for these last couple weeks!

Thanks for reading!
Hej då!