Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Andersen's come for a visit

When I decided to move to Sweden I had many friends promise to come for a visit. It's always nice when they follow through with these promises. This week, one of my best childhood (and subsequent adulthood) friends and her dear husband came to visit me. I am thrilled to show them my life and enjoy long chats over fika. The weather has been absolutely perfect.

First fika in Sweden
 I took them to the south of Sweden and we hung out at the beach. It was a hot and sunny day so perfect for wandering, relaxing and exploring along the water.

Cute Swedish summer cottages along the water

Bart took selfies with my phone

They have a touch of jet lag
One of my favorite things about spring/summer is how everyone has gravitated to the parks once again. Most evenings you will find my friends and I having our dinner in the park. So of course I took Ash and Bart to the park for dinner. Bart commented that it reminded him of my lifestyle in San Francisco. Yes, I guess I gravitate to park culture.

I borrowed bikes from friends for Bart and Ash to use and I took them on a nice bike tour through Malmö. No tour of Malmö wouldn't be complete without time spent on the water watching the sun set. Bart cannot believe how late it sets (and rises). Sun rise is at 4:45 these days with the sun setting at 9:30 but the light lasting more than an hour longer.

I'm having a great time with these dear friends. If only they didn't live so far away. We have a few more days together and I am going to soak them up as much as possible.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Ingrid Betancourt
(This picture was taken at 9 pm, notice the light streaming in?)
One of my favorite things about being in college was the access to thoughtful thinkers, powerful decision influencers and all over famous people (for good or bad). I loved attending public lectures or events sponsored by the college. Now, I find myself in Sweden back in school and trying to attend the  organized lectures when I can. Last week I heard the Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus speak on social innovation. Last night I heard Ingrid Betancourt share a bit of her story and talk about the future of Columbia and Latin American politics. I feel so lucky to hear these people speak and have the opportunity to learn from them.  I strive to be a life-long learner and while I am a student and have the opportunities to attend functions with interesting people I am doing my best to take advantage of them.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The 17th of May

The 17th of May is Norway's National Day. This is the day they celebrate forming a constitution. This year, marked 200 years so it was a big deal for the Norwegians. I have a dear friend from Norway who invited me to celebrate with her. I really had no idea what to expect.

We went to Lund where a gathering of Norwegians was taking place. My friend promised me a parade and some Norwegian food. So we got up early, took the train and followed the people clad in Bunad (traditional Norwegian dress). I began to feel out of place at this point but after receiving a homemade Norwegian flag I thought I could fake my way, after all several generations back I have family who came from Norway.

As we stood around with the people dressed in their Bunad holding flags, I asked what was next. This is when I found out I would be marching in the parade! It was not exactly the kind of parade I was expecting. In this parade, all the Norwegians (and their sympathizers) walked together through town lead my a band. We sang Norwegian songs, waved our flags and cried out, "hurrah!"

We marched in the parade through town and to a park where the Norwegian flag was hoisted and the National Anthem sung.

Then we were all invited to a nearby school for hotdogs wrapped in lompe (similar to lefse), solo (a Norwegian orange soda), rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge is the literal translation) and of course, coffee and cake. I was a bit skeptical of the sour cream porridge but it turns out I really like it! It tastes like liquid pancakes.

My friend then hosted a picnic in the park back in Malmö where several friends came and we grilled, laid in the sun, played kubb, learned some Norwegian history and had fun together. Personally, it was the best Norwegian National Day I have ever celebrated (it also may have been the only Norwegian National Day I have celebrated).

I also learned how to play kubb, a traditional Swedish lawn game that many claim to date back to the Vikings. It was like a cross between bowling and horseshoes. There were wooden blocks propped on the ground and you had a long wooden dowel you threw through the air trying to knock down the wooden blocks across the way. You wanted to knock down all the blocks across from you before the other team knocked yours down. It seems simple, and it is, but it also takes more time and effort than you may expect.

Again, it was a terrific Norwegian National Day for me. The best yet! I continue to love the traditions and cultures I learn about and the incredible friendships I am building.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I took a Sunday drive with some friends this past Sunday. We went on a tour of Skåne which is the county I live in. The rapeseed (canola) fields are all abloom bringing brilliant yellow to the country side. This, matched with the blue skies, makes me understand the Swedish flag.

Can't you just see it!
As much as I want to be a tree hugger and advocate for bike use only, it was nice to be in a car just driving around seeing the sites.

Lots of farming, open fields and forest
Beautiful beaches along the south shore
We went to the oldest castle in Scandinavia. It is made entirely of stone and I imagine must be very cold all year round. People would live in small houses near the castle and only use it for events and if they thought there was going to be an invasion or peasant revolt. It was built when this part of Sweden still belonged to Denmark.
The oldest fortified stone castle/fortress in Scandinavia with rapeseed fields in the distance

It was build by the same builder who built the Lund Cathedral
We also headed down near Ystad to see the Swedish Stonehenge. There are many stories of what it could be: an astronomical calendar, a cemetery or a Viking monument. The stones are arranged in the shape of a ship which is common for Viking landmarks. They also discovered skeletons near this area several years back. So, I think it is a Viking cemetery. 

Near Ale's Stones is a little bay that was full of surfers. It was a windy, slightly rainy and chilly day but with the surfers and all the cute little shops along the boardwalk I was tempted to eat some ice-cream and soak up beach culture. But it was too cold for me. Next time.

Surfers! I almost felt like I was back in California...almost
Finally on our Skåne tour, we went to the Southernmost tip of Sweden. At this point the sun was out in full but the wind still held a snap to it. I loved this part of Sweden for it's beaches, crashing Baltic Sea waves, seagulls and quaintness of its buildings.
The Southernmost point in Sweden
Södrast = Southernmost
Sometimes it's just nice to get out of the "city" and see some countryside. Skåne did not disappoint and I am looking forward to my next explorative trip around these parts someday.

Monday, May 12, 2014


Saturday night was the finals for Eurovision, a song competition where each European country sends a representative to compete. Since a Dane won last year, the competition was hosted in Copenhagen this year. I had never heard of Eurovision before moving here and since living in Europe have heard mixed things about Eurovision. It seems evenly split with people thinking it is the greatest and coolest competition to those who think it is the greatest embarrassment of Europe. ABBA got their big break from being on Eurovision back in the 70's and all Europeans know of it so since it was being hosted a few minutes away, I knew I needed to take advantage and see Eurovision for myself. Copenhagen was showing Eurovision in a square on a giant screen and some friends and I were planning on watching it in that crowd however, with last minute changes, we ended up watching it at my place in our pajamas.

Not impressed with Iceland
What was started as a way to bridge tension and unite Europe after WWII has become, or maybe always was, a highly political competition. You can't vote for your own country, you can only vote for other countries. This lends to countries usually voting for their neighbors or allies. Russia was booed by the crowd and received votes from Belarus and Ukraine, shocker I know, while Denmark gave the most points to Sweden. 

I voted! My tastes/votes were almost the same as the UK votes. I'm not surprised.
The songs are hokey and most are songs I'd never like to hear again. It was fun to watch with friends but I got disillusioned during the voting results as I saw how truly political it is when countries got votes simply because of who they were and not for what they put forward.

But, the top contenders were probably some of the best. Sweden came in third followed by the Netherlands in second. And the winner went to the Bearded Lady of Austria. I voted for the Netherlands, Malta and Austria. I was happy Austria won, much more for the courage it takes for a drag queen to perform at such a huge level than for the actual song/performance.

And so ends my Eurovision experience. I don't think it's a date I need to save on my calendar for next year. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Last Day

Today was my official last day of my first year of graduate school in Sweden. I took my last exam and the second I turned it in a giant weight was lifted. I feel so free! I will still be taking more classes in the coming weeks/months but they are elective and specialized classes. The classes with my whole cohort are now over which also brings a touch of nostalgia, sadness and panic. I'm half way done with my program and it seems too fast!

I had to say some goodbyes today which are always hard for me. One of my classmates came to the exam with her suitcase and left for Tanzania after it was over, another is off for Estonia tomorrow morning and another leaves for Kuwait on Thursday. People are going and doing really interesting internships over the next several months and I'm excited to hear everyone's stories in the fall. But it's still hard to stay goodbye for now.

It's nice that not everyone is leaving at once. I'm taking another course starting next week and a few of my friends will also be there. In the mean time I will enjoy a few days break. I need to go get fingerprinted for a new visa, do a deep clean of my apartment, start thinking of how I'm going to pack for my own leaving and get some quality fika times in with friends before we all scatter.

On a separate note, one of the things I love about being in an international program is the opportunity to learn about different cultures and traditions. While I would say Cinco de Mayo is a loose holiday in the States I decided to claim it so I could eat some Mexican food. I had two friends over and made delicious carnitas (thanks Mom for the sauce!), guacamole and fried tortillas. And I made up a story of how the US partakes in Cinco de Mayo because we felt a kinship to Mexico when Puebla went against the odds and beat the French back in the 1860's and how we all believe is fighting for our rights and democracy. It was a moving portrayal of the connection of the US and Mexico. My audience was inspired. Good thing there are no Mexicans around to refute me.