Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's dark!

Hej hej! 

Sorry for my lack of blog activity in the month of November...I started out so strong on the blog front, I knew it was impossible to maintain! More often than not, I will start a blog post and not have the time to finish it or I will completely lose my train of thought for the post.  Believe it or not, I have written paragraphs and then deleted them all because they just didn't quite express my thoughts in the way I wanted to or something was off about them.  This blog writing deal is an art form I think, one I am far from mastering! 

Anyway, as many of you probably are aware, I am in the midst of my very last week in Sweden.  I am currently rounding out my last Tuesday in Sweden for the foreseeable future.  This thought thoroughly depresses me.  The idea of leaving is one that I have been in denial about for some time now.  I think the realization that I would eventually leave Tenhult and Sweden really began to dawn on me about the time I returned from my European adventures.  It's not that I don't want to return home--trust me, I'm very excited for the holiday season and to see everybody! I think it is more the fear that I will never return here and the question of when I will see all the lovely people I've met here again.  Leaving study abroad seems like it has such a finality to it.  I have to say, I'm already itching to get back to Europe, and I haven't even left yet.  I've caught the travel bug, big time! Unfortunately, on a student budget and a future teacher's salary, the travel bug may have to wait a bit :) Maybe I can convince all the people I've met in Sweden to make the trip over to the US instead?!!! We'll see... 

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that I do some teaching while I'm here too? I know a majority of my blogs are focused on traveling, people I've met, and Swedish life...however, the real reason I am here (I guess) is for the student teaching abroad experience.  Sometimes in all the hustle and bustle, I forget that I am still a student and have to return to normal classes next semester... YIKES! The semester of student teaching is so very different from all the semesters spent stuck in classes; I think I will have quite the difficult time adjusting back to reality.  I will have to readjust to a life of reading, studying, paper writing, and the likes instead of lesson planning, preparing, and fika with my mentor teachers.  It will be quite the reality check! I have been lucky to have a great, albeit VERY different, student teaching experience.  Swedish schools are quite different from American schools (much more informal + very different structure); but, I think this will be beneficial in the long run--it gives me a very different perspective of the education world.  

So, in honor of my impending departure from this lovely Scandinavian country, I will finish with a list of the good and the bad of Sweden...just as things pop into my head... 
1. The winter season has brought some truly gorgeous sunsets (everybody knows how much I love those)...however, the fact that they are occurring by 3:45 now is a definite downside. 
2. Sweden has some delicious treats...Swedish cinnamon buns, french hot dogs, tasty coffee, swedish meatballs, polkagris (peppermint sticks), kebabs, etc. etc. etc....HOWEVER, they do have their downfalls: for example, blodpudding (EW don't ask), lack of JIF peanut butter and chocolate chips, absence of kraft mac n' cheese, and the enormous calories that numerous fikas a day provide.
3. I will not miss System Bologat (aka the state run alcohol store and only place to by alcohol in Sweden) or the expensive price of alcohol in Sweden.  Actually, I will not miss the expensive prices of anything in Sweden.  
4. I will miss Erik Dahlbergsgymnasiet (my school), my mentor teachers, and many of the students I have had the pleasure of meeting.  However, I will not miss endless lesson planning (I know, this is my possible future) and sending alllllll my lessons back to Penn State.  On that note, I will not miss Jönköping University at all.  They were just short of incompetent in helping with my various housing problems, ID problems, and international student status.  Though I have nothing but good things to say about much of Jönköping, ED, and the people I have met here, the university itself gets a big F in my book.   
5. I'm excited to return home where everybody speaks English...eavesdropping on people's conversations will be so much easier again ;)  [Even though just about everybody here speaks English to me anyway...] 

I'm sure as I begin to pack up and say my goodbyes, more and more things will pop into my mind that I will miss terribly when I return home to the US.  Nevertheless, I know there are many fun things that await me at home as well.... I'm most excited to see all my family and friends and celebrate the holidays back in the US!  After all, I'm not sure how well a Swedish Thanksgiving would go.... hope everybody enjoys the Thanksgiving holiday...there is no pumpkin pie to be found here, unfortunately :/ And I'm thinking the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade might not be on Swedish television...just a hunch. 

On another note, my beautiful mother and big brother will be here in Sweden in less than 24 hours---this is definitely cause for excitement... though Jönköping is not the most exciting of places, hopefully the fact that I am here will add to the thrill!! 

Square at sunset (c. 3:45?)

Obviously the sunset was directed at me :) 'A' 

Morning sun in Tenhult...on the way to school :) 

Lovely view from my office window at ED (again at about 4:15...only downside) 

Love and happy turkey day to everybody back home, 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pots of gold, leprechauns, and a bit of Irish whiskey!

Hej hej, 

I am finally back in Tenhult after some travel complications yesterday.  I have to say, it's good to be back :) It's always nice to travel, but it's also nice to return to (temporary) home base, as well.  After a week of living out of a tiny duffel bag (yes, I packed VERY efficiently), it's nice to be able to do laundry and spread out my stuff.  Those of you that know my packing skills (or lack thereof) should be particularly impressed about my ability to fit 8 days worth of clothes etc. into one little bag.  Normally, I could fill this bag for one weekend.  Obviously, my European travel is teaching me a bit about efficiency...I packed only what I needed and nothing more...I used everything perfectly.  It was a good feeling.  Though, I have to say, after the downpour we encountered in Cork, Ireland, it would have been nice to have another dry pair of shoes.  But, hey, that's part of traveling :) 

So, aside from the trouble we encountered en route from Amsterdam to Copenhagen to Jönköping on our final day of travel, the trip went pretty flawlessly.  Serves us right for booking through a cheap Swedish airline website.  We know better for next time.  The whole time we were just waiting for something to go wrong...up til then, we had made every flight, hostel check-in time, train, show time, etc.  It was too good to be true.  Guess returning to Tenhult at 2:30am was payback for the good fortune of the rest of the trip :) 

Last I blogged, I was en route from Dublin to Cork.  I shall try and pick up the trip from there.  I have to say, Ireland was most definitely my favorite stop! Sure, London and Amsterdam were nice, but there was something so very charming about Ireland.  I think it was nice to have a place that was a little more subdued after the hustle and bustle of the lovely (but quite busy and touristy) London.  We arrived in Cork to quite the rainstorm.  Our hostel was quaint, but very homey.  Despite the rain, I liked the style of Cork.  I think with more time, it would have been a nice place to hang out and explore.  However, being the ambitious tourists that we were, we had places to see! So we explored around town a bit on Wednesday night and even met an Australia girl (Sally) at our hostel who came out to the pubs with us, but the main event was Thursday and the Blarney Castle (and of course with it, the Blarney Stone)!! I was so very excited.  As many of you know, I had been to Ireland and Blarney back in 1999 and was glad to have the opportunity to return! Hey, it can't hurt to kiss the Blarney stone twice, right?! We lucked out and had a BEAUTIFUL morning to explore the grounds around the Blarney castle and climb up to the Blarney stone.  That's not always something you get to say when in Ireland...however, the rain wasn't far away and hit us on our hike towards the lake on the Blarney grounds.  So, we got soaked anyway :) 

Despite our enjoyment of Cork, we were headed back to Dublin that afternoon.  If I remember correctly from my 8 year old self, we didn't do much exploring of Dublin on our previous trip, so I was aiming to change that! After exploring a bit of the Temple Bar district on Thursday night (where our hostel was), we mainly focused on Friday...our one full day in Dublin! Friday we had quite the variety in our day.  We started off the day checking out Dublin's lovely cathedrals---the two most well-known ones (I think) are St. Patrick's and Christ Church Cathedral.  They were both absolutely lovely! I'm always a big fan of the European cathedrals and think they are so very elegant!  Not sure whether or not Gary felt the same, but he was a trooper and came along.  

Now, after the cathedrals, our day took a whole new direction...and that direction was towards the Guinness Factory and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.  I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.  Sure, the drinks at each may have had a little bit of something to do with it, but there were also some cool parts to the factories! For instance, the Guinness Factory was about 7 stories tall and in the shape of a giant bottle of Guinness.  On the top floor there was a 360 degree sky view of Dublin.  It was great! And, we even got to play bartender!  We learned how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness (I have the certificate to prove it)!  To continue on our alcohol tour of Dublin, we headed to the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.  The tour was very interesting.  You learn how and why different whiskey has different tastes.  However, the best part was being picked to be an official whiskey taste tester (yes, I got another certificate).  The tour guides pick about 5 people from a group of 30 or so and allows them to taste test three different kinds of whiskey--1. Jameson Irish Whiskey 2. American Jack Daniels 3. Scotch (ehh).  At the end, she asks you what your favorite is...being at the Jameson factory and an official taste tester, you of course have to go with the Jameson :)

Considering how little I slept last night (3 hours, ahhh) and the fact that it is around 11:30 pm over here, I believe I will have to save my brief description of Amsterdam for the next blog post.  I will leave you with this idea...THERE ARE BICYCLES EVERYWHERE THERE!  That part was awesome :) By the way, YAY RAVENS!!!! My football teams are doing pretty well this year without my in country support, maybe I'm bad luck? (knock on wood, of course).  

Love from chilly Sweden,
Looking out from Blarney Castle

The old man helping out at the Blarney Stone was joking about Gary missing the picture
and offered to pose with me instead of me with the stone :) 

Christ Church Cathedral 

St. Patrick's Cathedral 

My own-poured Guinness :) See the Swedish cheers behind me...Skal! 

View of Dublin :) 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Top o' the morning to you back home! [Though I have to say here in Ireland, it looks more like late evening, even though I think it's only like 2 o'clock]. 

I am currently en route from Dublin to Cork, riding through the Irish countryside on the train.  I apologize for my lack of blogging in the past few weeks.  Though, to be honest, the reason was that not too terribly much was happening in my life.  Nothing really blog-worthy, per se.  Everyday I come to the realization that I will be gone from Sweden in just a few short weeks.  Everyday I try to push this out of my mind.  It's not that I don't want to come home and see everybody's smiling faces (trust me, I do~ of course I miss you all back at home!)  It's just that, I'm not quite ready to leave Jönköping (or more accurately Tenhult) either.  It will be such a change.  Enough about that happy/sad subject. 

I will update you all--but mainly on the past few days!  I'll begin with our Tenhult Halloween celebration :) We had a Halloween party at the Tenhult residence this past Friday night!  Now, with limited resources (Halloween isn't quite as big in Sweden, AT ALL), we all had to get a little creative with our costumes.  I have to say, most people did better than I did...we had a dark angel, a few zombies, a vampire, a ghostbuster, the grim reaper, rosie the riveter (yes, there was another American there), a few nurses, a dark angel, etc. etc. etc. I was an 80's girl.  Not my best Halloween work, but I did what I could.  It was a lot of fun and nice to have something to do in Tenhult for a change :) 

My favorite picture of the night...with my housemate (ghostbusters!)

The day after the Halloween party, Gary and I were headed out for our European adventure--PART I.  PART II will occur after our Sweden experience is over (so, we shall commence part II traveling at the start of December).  On the itinerary: London, Cork, Dublin, Amsterdam.  Thus far, we've done London (in a big way), and as I mentioned earlier, we are en route to Cork for a day or so and then back to Dublin for a day or two, then Amsterdam for the final leg of the trip.  We are becoming pro travelers.  We mastered the London underground, haven't missed any of our flights, or our trains....YET....obviously, there is still plenty of time for that.  This is the first trip I've every really planned by myself (well not totally by myself, but without the help of the family--or let's be honest, without Sam or my dad's planning...I never plan the trips :)

So, LONDON.  A few things I learned about London:
1. MIND THE GAP (It was my favorite saying in London when I was 8, it still is 13 years later...never gets old.  And yes, the 21 year old me made up for the regret of the 8 year old me at not buying this---a MIND THE GAP T-SHIRT...SUCCESS!)
2. There are a lot of stairs in London and a lot of underground mazes (for the tube).  Nevertheless, it is surprisingly easy to find your way through them.
3. London has some great plays (we saw a show each night)...while in London, we saw Stomp, something called 39 steps, and We Will Rock You (musical by Queen).  Stomp and We Will Rock You were especially exceptional, in my opinion.  I still have Queen stuck in my head from the play last night!
4. I spent WAY too much money.  In my mind, when I see the pound sign and the price, I think dollars...even though I am fully aware this is not the case = too much money spent in London (hopefully Ireland and the Netherlands will be kinder to me). 
5. Hamley's Toy Store is paradise. Even the 21 year old me could spend hours there (we gave it about 45 minutes). 
6. As touristy as it sounds, I think we did a good job of seeing a majority of London's tourist attractions in the 3 days we were there.  Though we didn't necessarily go in them all, we at least went to every location.  Ready for the list?  Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, National Gallery, British Museum, Chinatown, Leicester Square, Southwark Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Tower of London, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, the London Eye, Shakespeare's Globe, the Tate Modern, Diana's Memorial Fountain, Tower bridge, London Bridge, Millenium Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, Occupy London...and that's just off the top of my head.
6.5. Watching Parliament in action is surprisingly entertaining! We even went back a second time!
7. Yes, I had fish and chips.  Yes, it was delicious.
8. We spent most of our days out from 8:30 in the morning til like 11:00 at night. Long days. Very full. 

More details to come later. That was just the brief jist of our trip. Basic idea--we did most of London and walked ALLLLLL over the city. It was great, but exhausting.  We are hoping for a bit of a more relaxing time in Ireland...I guess though, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.  After all, as mentioned, we've planned our own trip :)  Well, my computer is dying..hope this gives you a brief idea of my week-long holiday...more blogging to come! Love you all! Sending you some Irish love and luck :)

[Sorry all, the rest of the pictures wouldn't load...next time! Bye from rainy (surprise, surprise) Ireland.]