Tuesday, June 9, 2015

2015 in pictures

My year has been, largely, out of Sweden.

I've traveled the Caribbean with my family:

Collected data for a study in Ecuador:

Rented a house on the Ecuadorean coast, worked on my thesis and had lots of fabulous visitors:


Spent Easter in MN with family, friends and new life:

Met a good friend and her brother in Prague:

And eventually, made it back to this simple, great and familiar place I've called home off and on for 2 years:

It's been a great year. I'm so thankful for all the opportunities I have had. The freedom that comes with being a student is coming to an end. I'm not sure what is next, but I will try to continue to live each day fully and take advantage of every opportunity to see the world, develop friendships and see beauty in the little moments.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Why living in Sweden will ruin you for life


Buzzfeed has been known to make stupid lists and true to form the one above may also be grasping at straws sometimes. But for someone who has a connection to Sweden it's still fun to read. It superficially lists some valid reasons, however, for me, it's the relationships that I've made here that "ruin" me. They make it impossibly hard to pack and move, even if it's just for a few short months away. This weekend my friends threw me a see-you-later party. Going into it I was very anxious and sad because it felt so final. But it was actually really nice. We had a murder mystery complete with a tape outlined dead body in the bathroom. My friends went to great lengths to make it a near perfect evening. And it was. I felt so loved.

Yesterday was my cohorts last full class together. We've taken several classes together throughout this program but yesterday's was the last time we will all be together. Some people will continue taking elective courses, some will take a leave of absence to work, have babies, or just take a break. And some of us will go do research and write our thesis'. At the end, I may have said goodbye forever to some people. How do you process that? There were so many emotions.

Now, with my remaining days in Sweden I am saying my see-you-later's, talking long walks with friends soaking up the Christmas charm, packing, cleaning and trying to figure out how to process this experience and all the people who have made it what its been. They've ruined me. They have challenged my thoughts and beliefs, taught me about the effects of corruption on health in their countries, shared their struggles, introduced me to their families, empathized with the culture shock but most of all, they've loved me and made me richer.

Living in Sweden has ruined me. But ruined in a good way.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

These dark dark days

And, just like that, the dark dark days are here. It doesn't get "light" until 8 in the morning and it's completely dark again by 4 pm (at the latest). But even more than that, the sun has left us. We've only had mere hours (4-5) of sun this whole month! They are predicting this November to be the darkest November on record (Darkest November). At the height of the day there still isn't enough light outside to light a room so the inside lights remain on all day. Everyone is donning their reflector vests again and bike lights are perpetually turned on.

So, what do we do with all these gray short days? We take advantage of every opportunity to push ourselves to go out and interact with others. This week is an anti-racism film festival and has free showings all around the city. I went to "Days of Hope" made by a Danish film maker early this week. It's about different Africans who come/want to come to Europe. There are a few scenes in Copenhagen and Malmö which is nice to see places you know. From the title, you'd think the film had happy elements but let me tell you, I left feeling very hopeless. I realize immigration/emigration is complex but what about the simple humanity of it all?

You'd think I'd learn after the first film that the anti-racism film festival shows terribly sad movies to raise awareness and create understandings, not to make people feel good. But, I didn't catch on too deeply and went to another showing. This film was fictional but based on true events in Hungry with a Roma family. Again, I left feeling very depressed and that there may not be any hope for us.

I wonder if I would feel so down after watching these movies if they were played on summer solstice. I think the organizers should have considered the time of year a little more. It's a fine balance of exposing ourselves and learning, and protecting our tender hearts and minds when the weather adds to our potential demise of spirit.

It's been interesting to talk through the movies and see the different responses my friends and I have had. I so easily fall into this, "white guilt," and then feel a responsibility to be the one to fight and change it all while my friends comment that the State should step in more and another friend thinks more focused NGO's should be established. Our choice of words show such a stark difference in our personal understandings. One of the things I love about Northern Europe is its belief in doing things for the collective good. But I also see the limitation when you don't see the personal need to be the one person to step out and make a difference. I think it must be so much easier to get out of bed everyday if you think of yourself as part of a collective, or that it's someone else's job.

While the days are short and dark and my social calendar has been filled with heart wrenching portrayals of reality, I still look at the candles flickering in windows, Christmas lights hanging across the city streets and lit stars shining bright to believe in my own fight for humanity. And I am thankful for my friends who see the world differently than I do and who make me pause and try to understand their way of fighting too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The psychologic effects

Yesterday, when browsing the news I saw headlines for snow storms across the Midwest. I facetimed my family and was taken to the windows where I was shown the swirling snow as it blazed in every direction.  I could feel the chill creep into my bones through our technology. So, this morning when I awoke and saw it was 42 degrees out, I panicked. Winter must have come here too! Never mind it was going to be 55 in an hour. As I got ready to go out for the day I pulled my thick Swedish winter coat from the back of my closet to wear for the first time this season. I wore wool mittens, a hat and boots. And by the time I got to my destination I thought I was going to pass out from being overheated. It's amazing the tricks your fears can play on you. When I biked home, I just strapped my coat to my bike and was much more comfortable simply wearing my sweater.

It's not winter here! The leaves are still changing. We just officially entered fall according to Swedish definition. You must have 5 consecutive days below 10C (50F) to be in fall. The newspaper printed yesterday that we've entered fall. This year was unseasonably warm with 201-days-of-summer! I've been spoiled, I know. And I know I said I was about ready for it to be colder. But I might have lied. Not intentionally. It really wasn't until I saw the snow those many miles away through my computer that I realized how much I really don't want to be in winter yet.

I went to the symphony tonight. Last year I received a, "Welcome to Malmö," packet with coupons ranging from concert tickets to swim lessons to a free tote bag from the library. I have slowly been using them and just recently realized they will expire at the end of December and I only have a few short weeks to take advantage of the treasures they provide to Malmö.  I took my friend (because it was a 2 for 1 coupon) and we were the youngest attendees by about 40 years. The music was beautiful with special pieces featuring the oboe and then the clarinet. I've never been a big clarinet fan but this feature was powerful. It all was such a meditative retreat. I forgot all my worries: the weather, figuring out my thesis, packing in a few weeks... I just surrounded myself with the beautiful music and practiced, "be here now."

As I continue using my coupons this fall I am reminded to be thankful for these "warm," colorful remaining days and when I do eventually face winter, it will be with many good memories from this fall to keep me warm. But let's worry about that another day.

Until then, I will keep that big warm Swedish coat in the back of my closet.