Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maryland is NOT the South

Hej hej! 

Since my last blog post, I have not gone on any extravagant trips or had any very Swedish experiences, to be honest, I've been a bit bored and very lazy.  Now, I know, I have no room to complain, at all.  After all, I'm in another country, studying abroad, soaking in everything this new culture has to offer...everything is new to me here....or at least it was.  Now, after almost two months, life in Jönköping (or more accurately, Tenhult) has become very routine. I think that is often the case when you live somewhere for a period of time, you just begin to settle into regular life and adapt to how things are in this new place.  Sure, I still have those moments when I think, WOW, I'm living in another cool is this! But, more often than not, living here has started to exude a very normal, everyday quality to it.  I guess that means I've settled in nicely :)

Normally, my weekdays consist of grabbing the bus to school, teaching a few lessons, lesson planning, sending things back to my PSU supervisor, jumping on the 30 (or 130, or 119) bus back to Tenhult, cooking dinner, getting things sorted out for the next school day or the next trip we're planning, hanging in the kitchen (that's where everybody sort of congregates in the's the same everywhere, people always gather where the food is!), checking things online (when the internet is working), and heading to bed. Repeat. However, this week, I switched classes at the school I am teaching in.  I'm sort of starting from the beginning again, with new students (more Swedish names to learn, ah!)...because of that, I haven't had to plan any lessons, I have mostly been introducing myself to the students and meeting with them.  This happened to coincide with the week that everybody in my house had exams.  So, while everybody was hunkering down to study, I finally had some free time! [Bad timing].  There are only so many places to explore around Jönköping and short version of the story: I've been a bit bored these past few days and itching to get out of this house.  Hopefully this coming week things will pick up a bit! That's enough complaining for me, onto the next topic..... 

So if you had talked to me at the very beginning of my study abroad experience about where I was living, you would know that I was not a happy lady.  I complained about how far outside of town I was, that I hadn't really gotten to know any of the people that I was living with, that the bus/train schedules were too sporadic, that there was nothing to do in Tenhult (it's a bit of a blink and you miss it kind of place), etc. etc. etc.  Now, a few of those things haven't changed.  Almost two months later, there is still pretty much nothing to do in Tenhult, it's still the same 14km outside of Jönköping that it was then, and it still takes about 15 minutes on the train and a half hour on the bus to get to the city center.  And, as I'm sure I've not so subtly hinted at, the internet here is kind of a bust too.  But, I think my placement here was actually a blessing in disguise.  I'm still not a fan of the location or the lack of internet, but it's really the people here that have made the difference.  It took me a little while to get to know everybody, but now that I have, there's no way I'd trade 'em :)  

There is around 22 of us that live in the house.  There is a boys floor and a girls floor (with a bathroom on each floor), we all share a kitchen, laundry room, and common room.  A lot of people in the house of their own rooms, while a few of us share rooms.  Each room came equipped with IKEA furniture (of course) and a sink.  We have quite an eclectic group living in the house, but everybody gets along, for the most part.  Sure, there is the usual annoyance about who left the dirty dishes in the sink or who didn't take out the trash, but that's no different from apartment life back in State College :) A majority of the people living in the house are from Europe, with a few from Asia.  I think the biggest "populations" represented in the house are the Lithuanians (5 of them) and the Germans (4 of them). I am the only person in the house from the Americas--North or South-- (though there is a student here who is from Thailand, but he goes to school at Utah State...he and I get to talk football and other things America, which is nice sometimes)  And, I believe I'm the only one who speaks English as a first language. Everyday, I am impressed by how well my housemates speak English.  I could only hope to learn a second language so well!  

We also have a bit of an age range here in Tenhult.  My youngest housemate (the only one younger than me, I believe) just turned 20, while the oldest housemate is actually 37 (I just found this out yesterday, I had no idea!...I do wonder a bit now what she's doing here...but, to each her own :) A majority though, are under 25 years old.  Most, but not all, are working on their master's.  As I'm writing this, I feel as if I am giving you all a statistics run down or a house profile, but I figured that's the only way to give you some insight into my living situation :)   

Since there is nothing to do here in Tenhult, we spend a lot of time just sitting around talking, watching tv or movies, and eating.  I swear, everybody here is a fabulous cook or at least it seems that way.  Everybody is always making such extravagant meals, I can't keep up.  They often tease me about my "American" ways of eating microwaved meals and pre-packaged food (don't worry mom, I do cook "real food" too)...some even take pity on my apparent lack of cooking skills and give me some of their food!  I let them continue to assume this, of course, because I get to taste all kinds of delicious food without having to cook it myself :) 

As the only American in the house, I get teased quite a good-natured way, but my housemates keep it comin' nonetheless.  Everything from the food Americans eat, the way I talk, politics, wars, TV name it, they're making fun of me for it.  If I do something remotely "American" they call me out on it.  It's sort of a running joke (at my expense, of course), but that's okay :)  If there is one thing I've always been able to do, it's taking a joke and dishing it back out! Ya just have to roll with it! One particular "argument" I have with a few of my housemates is what constitutes "southern" in America...I try to explain that everything south of the mason-dixon line does not mean we are wearing cowboy hats, have a thick southern draw, and drive pick up trucks aka MARYLAND IS NOT THE SOUTH.  

I will cut my rambling off here...moral of the story..I like my housemates and Tenhult isn't so bad after all.  I miss my roomies back home in State College, but I guess these guys will do for now :) 

Some of my housemates...
minus the guy in the bottom left...don't know where he came from. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stockholm: Apparently it's the "Capital of Scandinavia"

Stockholm: Apparently it's known as the "Capital of Scandinavia"...try telling that to Oslo, Copenhagen, and Helsinki.  Here are some pictures from this glorious city...
Military parade 

Imitating the 1-2-3 turn picture takers near us.  Obviously the results were great. 

View of Stockholm from the water. 

Vasa Ship! 


Lovely view of Parliament (I think) 

Famous square where epic bloodly battle took place. 

Above the city! 

Looking down from the royal palace 

French hot dog. 

A close second!

Hej everybody! 

I finally have the opportunity to catch up on a little blogging! Today my school, Erik Dahlbergsgymnasiet, has a professional day aka a teacher meeting day.  Now, normally, if I was back in the states as a student teacher, I would have to attend this tedious day of meetings.  However, all the meetings at ED will be taking place in Swedish.  So, obviously, this would be quite the boring day for me to attend.  This is the one perk I have found, thus far, of not speaking the native language :) Instead, I get to catch up on a few things online, do some laundry, and maybe even do some shopping...something I have yet to do in Sweden, outside of the necessary grocery store trips.  I'm thinking as the weather starts to get a bit chilly, it would be nice to have a sweater or two to bundle up in! 

But first, to catch you up on my Stockholm adventures.  Everybody here raved about the city of Stockholm, and for good reason!  It really was a beautiful city and except for the cobblestone streets that wreaked havoc on the soles of my shoes, it was also a very walkable place.  Now, I have to say, Oslo still comes in first on my list of Scandinavian cities to see, but Stockholm pleaded her case as a close second! I think if the weather had been as beautiful as it was in Oslo, it would've been quite the competition.  Nonetheless, I had a wonderful time.  I was really impressed by the beauty of the buildings and Stockholm's wonderful location along the water.  Not to mention, the hotel we stayed in had the perfect location and the room was both modern and spacious.  

I spent most of Friday afternoon and evening on the bus.  Normally, the bus trip from Jönköping to Stockholm is around 3 1/2 hours...that's how long it took on the way back.  However, I must have taken the anti-express route on the way there.  We stopped somewhere close to ten times between Jönköping and the capital city.  And, after the second stop I had somebody sitting next to me snoozing away, using her elbows to take up entirely too much room, and there was no way for me to get out.  I was stuck.  But, that's okay.  Once I arrived, I made my way to the hotel that Mary-Katherine, Joe, and I were staying at.  It wasn't too far from the central station, so I was able to relax a bit when I arrived.  Once Joe and MK made their way from the bus station, we tried to figure out what to do for the evening.  Even though it was the capital, there still weren't a lot of things open for dinner at that hour (a little after 10:00).  At the recommendation of the concierge, we ended up at this little Swedish restaurant near the Opera house.  It was the perfect location.  It had a very genuine atmosphere and it felt like the typical Swedish locale.  As we were eating, we kept seeing people disappear into this basement area that had some bumping music.  Now, we just thought that maybe there was a little club underneath the restaurant, nothing special...boy were we wrong.  After dinner, we headed down to check it out.  As it turns out, this was a very well-known night club--Cafe Opera.  We were completely unaware and ended up accidentally sneaking into this posh place!  Only when we left (through ropes and bouncers) did we figure out its popularity :) 

Onto Saturday... after we headed out from the hotel, we decided to check out the military parade/changing of the guard that occurs everyday.  It is quite the touristy "must see".  So, with the other hundreds of tourists, we followed this military parade (people marching, band playing) all the way to the royal palace where even more tourists awaited the changing of the guard.  I must say, as touristy as it was, it was very cool and definitely worth it! Hey, I am a tourist after all, right?! After that, we searched for this famous square in Stockholm's Old Town where a vicious battle had taken place hundreds of years earlier.  Though, it turns out, the concierge led us astray, and directed us to the completely wrong square.  We only discovered that after we found the correct square the following morning...oh boy!..she was a trainee, but still! The other main event of the day was touring the Vasa Ship Museum.  This is probably one of Stockholm's most famous attractions and they are very proud of it.  This is ironic because the very reason why this ship has its own museum is quite the disaster.  The Vasa ship set sail in the early 1600's on its maiden voyage.  It was quite the ship at the time and was painted in all sorts of vibrant colors.  Turns out, the weighting was all off, and it sunk before even leaving Stockholm's harbor.   Hundreds of years later, in the 1960's, the ships was excavated, restored, and this giant museum was built around it.  Props to the Swedes for making so much krona off of such a disaster! 

That evening, we spent some time walking around town and picking up a few of the perks the street vendors had to offer.  Most notably, we loved the french hot dog.  I don't know why this concept is not popular in America.  It is so practical.  I will not even attempt to describe it, because I will not do it justice.  It basically avoids the mess of a hot dog and bun...I will see if I can find a picture. Quite awesome.  We headed back to our hotel to relax for a bit before heading out into town again. For Saturday night, we did the ultimate Scandinavian (or big city) experience...we went to Stockholm's ICE BAR!!!! Stating the is a bar completely made of ice.  The bar, the walls, the tables, the chairs, the glasses...everything is ice.  Naturally, you get to wear these awesome capes (coats) and gloves while you're enjoying their tasty drinks.  It was totally worth it.  Though, I have to say, it got a bit cold after the allotted 45 minutes you get to stay in there.  I was fine with leaving once the time was up! 

The next day, we did some more touring around Old Town and picking up views from above the city on a lovely bridge above town.  We also toured the Nobel Prize Museum (I have now seen both Stockholm's and Oslo's) and Stockholm's City Museum (because it was free)!  Unfortunately, Joe and MK had to catch their bus to the airport around 3 o'clock, so our weekend together had to end :/ But, after they headed out, I became the ultimate tourist and finally bought some tacky Swedish souvenirs!  I figured, I've been here almost 2 months now, it's about time I got my tourist self on and bought some cheap memories :) So, I spent my remaining two hours walking in and out of tacky tourist shops.  I bought myself a bright blue and yellow Sweden t-shirt, a Sweden shot glass, and some postcards to send home!  In addition, I purchased a few awesome gifts for people back home...though I cannot spill the gift details here!

All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I was sad to leave MK and Joe and head back to Jönköping.  I would've been happy with another day or two to hang out and explore the city with them :) But, regardless, it was really great to see both of them and explore Stockholm with some family! We had such a nice time!  It was just so funny to me--seeing them in Stockholm of all places!  Such a random place to meet, you would think! 

So, I don't believe I am headed on any weekend trips for a while now.  My next big adventure is a trip to London, Ireland, and the Netherlands over my fall break (first week in November).  We are in the midst of planning/booking now...the prep part is no fun, but I'm sure the trip will be.  Hopefully in the next few days, I can update you all on my school situation/more details on my life here.  It's not always glamourous and traveling, trust me, I do have lots of work to do in between :) 

Love to all,

Pictures to come if Tenhult's internet holds up.... 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Beauty of Oslo

Where to begin...a few pictures from my wonderful Oslo trip. Enjoy! 
Looking down from the royal palace...view of the city!  
Lovely harbor! 

Sunset from the castle :) 

Opera House in the morning

Picture at Norwegian Parliament.
This is what the Parliament stands in front of when the press takes pictures 

Viking Ship Museum 

Sunset from the island where we had dinner 

Me, Tine, Anders, Sebastian after dinner
(I think Anders has his eyes closed...) 


Awesome sculpture at sculpture park! 


Goodbye Oslo! [Outside the bus/train station]
It was quite a difficult decision to pick which of the four or five hundred pictures I wanted to post.  This was just a very small sampling! 


Monday, October 3, 2011

Simply the best!

Hej all! 

As promised, I plan to gush and gush and gush and gush about my love of the city of Oslo :) I only spent 2 1/2 days there, but that was enough to cement the place in my heart forever.  I figured it was only fair to express my excitement about this great Norwegian city before I hit up it's Swedish counterpart (Stockholm) this weekend.  When I told all the Swedish people I know (my mentor teachers, contact family, students, etc.) how obsessed I was with Oslo, they all said I have to reserve judgement on favorites until after I visit Stockholm.  I look forward to seeing what the Swedish capital has to offer; but I have to say, it has some stiff competition in Oslo!  But, one thing that may push Stockholm a little ahead in the rankings is who I get to see cousins Mary-Katherine and Joe :) They will be meeting me in the lovely city and we will be spending the weekend sightseeing in Stockholm.  Not that I don't love all the people I've met here, but it will be nice to see some familiar faces (aka people I have known longer than 6 weeks).  Needless to say, I'm VERY excited! 

Alright, back to the important stuff...OSLO <3 Now you may be wondering, what made this city so great? I would answer...what didn't? Sure, I may have been swayed by the perfect weather, the breathtaking sunsets, the lovely flowers everywhere, the picturesque harbor, the great public transportation, or the meeting of old friends...but that wasn't all; there was just something about Oslo that I was drawn to.  I know that it is weird to say that about a random city that I spent less than 72 hours in, but there was just something compelling about it.  [I told that to Tine (an old friend of my mom's), who I met up with while in Oslo, and she said to come back in a few months when the darkness and cold kick in...I may feel differently]! 

So, when we [we= myself, travel buddy- Gary, and housemate, Swaroop] arrived in the wonderful city, we spent the first few hours just walking around, taking in the streets, the people, the views.  Our hostel was a good bit away from the bus station, so we did A LOT of walking.  Luckily, there was a lot to see on our way.  We saw the outside of the Norwegian Parliament, took a picture with the guards at the Royal Palace , and walked through some beautiful gardens before finally making the trek down Embassy Row towards our hostel.  After thankfully dropping off our backpacks, we headed back into town.  I had spoke to Tine (who lives in Oslo) before we arrived, and as an Oslo resident, she had some great suggestions for what we should do each day.  So, at her advice we headed to a place known as Aker Brygge and its surrounding areas.  Tine described it as a place similar to Baltimore's Inner Harbor.  She was exactly right!  Except, this place smelled a little better and had an old castle on the edge of it.  We decided to make our way up to the hill where the castle sat, overlooking the harbor--what a wonderful spot!   I could watch the sunset over the water and the city center of Oslo.  It was breathtaking.  And, if you know me, you know that I have an extreme soft spot for sunsets.  It was my paradise!  So naturally, I took entirely too many pictures (I don't regret a single one of them though)!  Afterwards, we treated ourselves to a nice dinner.  And I really mean treated!  Oslo is amazing in every sense of the word, except in the money sense.  When I heard it was one of the most expensive cities in the world, boy, it wasn't a joke! Thank goodness the dinner was delicious, or else I would've been quite upset.  Needless to say, we chose McDonald's for lunch the following day to make up for the price of dinner! After dinner, we headed to the Opera House.  It was right on the water and all lit up!  It is very new (built in the last few years) and you can actually walk all around on the roof of the building.  It was a very cool, liberating feeling.  

For sake of space, I will skip through to the next day.  All Friday night involved was one very expensive drink 78NOK (~$15 USD) at Paddy's Irish Pub (nod to Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and another long walk home.  But, boy did we have big plans for Saturday!  We were scheduled for a tour of Parliament at 10am, but took a quick trip back to the Opera House beforehand to check it out in the light (just as awesome)! We took a guided tour of the Norwegian Parliament (learned a good bit, always nice!) before heading to say hello to Barack, Al, and Nelson at the Nobel Peace Prize Museum.  They had some very modern displays and some interactive elements.  You could actually leave a posted note on a display wishing luck to a refugee hoping to get papers into Sweden.  It was quite interesting! 

Again, at the suggestion of Tine, we headed to what is known as Museum Island.  It is a short ferry ride from Aker Brygge over to another portion of the capital city that boasts some really great museums and some beautiful houses.  We spent the afternoon exploring a Viking Ship museum, a Norwegian Holocaust memorial museum, and a maritime ship museum before heading back to the city center to meet Tine and her family for dinner!  SIDE NOTE: For those of you who have no idea who I am talking about when I refer to Tine, I will try to explain (though I may get the story a bit wrong?).  Tine's family moved to my mom's neighborhood from Norway when she was in high school (I think) and she spent a few years in the US before heading back to Norway.  Some of her family still lives in the US and some still lives in Norway.  Luckily, we keep in touch with parts of her family!  So, when I found out I had the opportunity to go to Oslo, I figured it would be nice to have some inside information.  Through my mom, and Tine's sister, Ingrid, I figured out how to get in touch with her, and she was happy to offer some ideas for sightseeing and we even decided to meet up!  Granted I hadn't seen her in maybe 8 years? So we were both curious as to how we would find each other :) 

We met up with Tine, her son, Anders, and his friend, Sebastian, and headed to dinner at a waterside restaurant on a cute little island.  Again, there were lovely sunsets and great company :) Even though I had only met Tine once or twice, it felt so comfortable to be hanging out with her!  Her and I got the chance to catch up on family stuff, too.  We really had a great time with her, Anders, and Sebastian.  I was very glad I got to see them.  They were so talkative and loved answering our questions about Scandinavia and Oslo.  Even if we did all order giant American-like burgers, it felt like the perfect Norwegian dinner :) 

Onto a quick Sunday recap: in the morning, we got up early, checked out of our hostel and headed to Vigeland Park.  To put it simply, the park is filled with open spaces, waking paths, beautiful flowers, and  LOTS of naked statues.  Some were beautiful, some were humorous, but nonetheless, the park was buzzing with activity on the Sunday morning.  Lots of joggers, walkers, tourists, groups just moving through it.  It was a great day to be outside! We spent the morning taking lots of fun pictures (and lots of flower pictures, for me) before heading off to see the paintings at the Munch museum across town.  Now apparently, not too long ago, the famous painting by Munch--The Scream--was stolen from the museum.  But, this was not a high-tech, fancy operation.  Oh no.  According to Anders, the people who stole it quite literally lifted it off the wall and walked on out.  Obviously, the painting has been recovered and the security has been beefed up substantially since then! 

We wrapped up our Oslo trip with some kebabs and a curbside view of the Oslo Marathon which was being run that morning.  Maybe next time I return to Oslo (in the distant future), I will run the Oslo Marathon.  I can't think of a better place to check that off my bucket list than this wonderful city that was so good to me :) Again I emphasize though...DISTANT FUTURE!  

Hope you can gather by my constant use of emphatic adjectives that I truly did love the city of Oslo!  Forget the I <3 NYC t-shirts, I'm making an I <3 OSLO one :) Can't wait to see what they city of Stockholm has to offer! I'm ready to check the next Scandinavian capital off my list.  Off to review my lessons for's my first supervisor evaluation, ah! I'll post pictures in the following post! I took nearly 500 (?), so it may take a bit of time to choose....

Love to all back home <3 Happy fall!