en motvillig farväl till min älskade Sverige

Monday: 

We got back from the cruise at about 11:45 on Monday morning and headed straight back to Uppsala and to class.  It was pretty rough to go from a poor nights sleep on the boat to Swedish class, lunch (with lots of coffee to keep us awake!!), afternoon grammar class, and then take the three kilometer walk home to our flats, but we all survived :)  I went right home after class and took a loooong nap, did some homework, and then went straight to bed!

Here’s Austen with his fika at lunch!

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Tuesday:

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what we did on Tuesday.  Not a clue.

Wednesday:

Wednesday was a very, very exciting day!  We had our final exam for the B1 Swedish course which took until 10:30, and then did a lesson on Swedish politics and the royal family.  I personally think that our dear King Carl Gustaf looks just like a turtle (please don’t kill me, Swedish government!), so I refer to him as  Sköldpadda Kungen (or the turtle king, for short :) ).  As an exercise, we were divided up in to groups to make a new political party and create a platform to convince the Swedish people (and our classmates) to vote for us.  We chose to make a Fikapartiet with the idea that everyone should have free fika every day, and that the Turtle King would pay for it himself ;)

After class I had made an appointment to finally get the tattoo I’ve been wanting for a while.  I’d changed my mind regarding where I wanted the tattoo about a million times, but decided to get the Swedish letters: å ä ö on my lower ankle.

I went with Austen and our friend Lyle who has a huge tattoo on his forearm. I think Lyle managed to take a picture of me when I was getting tattooed, but I don’t know if I want to see it ;)  The whole process took around 45 minutes, but the actual tattooing part was only about 10 minutes.  I was freaking out a little before she started, but in the end it really didn’t hurt too much at all.  The best way I can describe the pain is that it hurt as much as someone scratching you with a mechanical pencil.  Not bad!  Here’s the finished beauty:

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I think I got super, super lucky with this whole experience because the tattooing wasn’t too painful, I was able to walk with no problems right afterwards, and its been healing like a dream.  No pain, no itching, no scabbing!  But don’t worry.. this is my first and only tattoo… it’s not a “gateway” tattoo ;)

Austen, David and I went out to V-Dala and Uplands for drinks for our last real night in Uppsala.  It was a beautiful night to be out on the balcony and in the garden while the sun went down.  Holly joined us a little later ;) David bought be a farewell drink and I couldn’t decide what I wanted, so he surprised me with a really delicious vanilla vodka drink with lime syrup and sprite!

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Thursday:

Thursday was our last day of classes and I was feeling a little emotional about it.  I loved our morning class with Jenny and really didn’t want to leave Sweden in general, let alone stop learning Swedish for nearly 7 hours a day.  Everyone brought something to share for a big fika in the morning and we played Alias (sort of like Swedish charades but only using words) and then “David’s Game”- another word game we’d played in our A2+ class. It was a wonderful way to finish the three week course :)

At 12:00 we were called in to Drakensalen for the certificate presentations where all the graduating students were given a paper certifying their level of Swedish.  Looks pretty cool!

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Liana, David, Austen and I saved our last lunch ticket for Hamnpaviljonen, our favorite place, and sat by the water and watched the boats during lunch. A bittersweet goodbye– there’s nowhere more beautiful to enjoy a meal in Uppsala!

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After class we all went home to shower and change for the farewell dinner at Norrlands Nation that evening.  The theme was 70-talet (70’s) or a famous Swedish celebrity from the 1970s.  I dressed “lightly” in 70’s attire, but some people came as members of ABBA, Björn Borg, Pippi Långstrump, and the King and Queen of Sweden.  The outfits were amazing!

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I got some of my tallest friends together for a picture with me in our 70’s attire.  David, Tim, and Austen are all at least 6 feet tall, so this photo made me look even shorter!  Haha :)

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We had a very traditionally Nordic meal of reindeer, älg, potatoes, summer salad, and a pannacotta at the end.  Of course the meal was full of beer, cider, wine, snaps, and digestifs.  We were quite full! ;)

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There were many performances, songs, speeches, and entertainment throughout the dinner.  We had a little break after dinner before dancing, so I got some pictures with my teachers from the 6 weeks.  I am so, so, incredibly thankful that I was a student in each of these teachers’ classes– they were amazing and are all truly wonderful people that I hope to keep in touch with as I begin my journey to move to Sweden! :)

Here are Jenny and David, my morning class teachers for A2+ and B1:

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And here are Camilla and Emma- my afternoon teachers for grammar and conversation.. getting very in to the theme! :)

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We danced and danced to lots of 70’s music late in to the night.  When it was time to go home, we all said some quite tearful goodbyes and reluctantly went back to our flats.  I have made some incredible friends on this trip and didn’t want my summer with them to end!  Hopefully I can come back next year to do it all over again :)

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Friday:

Friday was move-out day.  I furiously cleaned my flat and packed all my bags by 11:15 when someone from UISS came to check me out and give me back my 1000 SEK deposit.  Austen and I took a cab from the flats to my hotel right next to the train station (because there was NO WAY we were going to drag incredibly heavy luggage 3km through the streets of Uppsala!) and he went to his hostel to check in.  We met David, Liana, and Hannah for a Chinese food lunch and a little shopping, then David and I went off home and the others went in to Stockholm for the day.

I walked back to my hotel to repack everything and watch some Swedish TV for a relaxing afternoon.  David came over for dinner around 20:00 and we met Austen for one last chat outside in the beautiful moonlight just before midnight.  I hugged the crap out of those two boys, said goodbye, and went upstairs to get a few hours sleep before my 6:00 train in the morning to the airport.

Hej då, Sverige!  I’ll be back so soon :)

Viikonloppuna Helsingissä: en helg i helsingfors!

Thursday:

We had a half-day of classes on Thursday and all met after lunch to hop on a bus to get to the Viking harbor in southern Stockholm.  We all had to bring our luggage to school in the morning (walking it all the way from our Studentvägen flats about 30 minutes walking) so we were all ready to go at 1:45.

We boarded at 3:00 and all got our tickets and room assignments.  I was in a cabin with three other girls for the cruise ride and a hotel with two others for the nights in Helsinki.  They were not my “ideal” people to be put with, but we weren’t allowed to choose our roommates so I kind of got stuck.  Our cabin was on the 2nd floor, in the absolute BELLY of the ship, underneath the car deck. We didn’t have a window, but instead had this painting of a sea-view at sunset, so it was sunset all the time ;)

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Austen was incredibly lucky and managed to get a hotel room on the 6th floor so I used it as a central location to keep my backpack and things I’d need between when the ship left Stockholm at 16:30 and when I went to bed.  We went up top on the deck to take some pictures as the ship was leaving Stockholm and it was a spectacular first few hours!

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There was a huge dinner buffet on the boat so we all met at 19:30 to find our seats.  Nelleke (the program director) was very adamant about us trying the traditional Swedish smorgasbord in the correct way, so we started with cold meats and fish, then the warm dishes, then dessert.  There was unlimited wine and beer but I was feeling a little seasick so I stuck with water and ginger ale.  The food wasn’t anything special, but there were lots of options!  Dessert was very yummy :)  Fresh strawberries, cream, macaroons, and some chocolate mousse puffs.

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After dinner, Austen and I went to the Jägermeister bar on the ship and they were doing karaoke from 21:00 to 22:30.  We stayed the entire time and had so much fun listening to the (mostly horrible) singers.  Some people from UISS came and sang, like a few of our musical teachers, but it was largely old Finnish men and women singing really… different… classic Finnish songs.  We tried to sing along and failed miserably :P

The boat was scheduled to stop in Åland, a Finnish island filled with almost exclusively Swedes and Swedish speakers, on the way to Helsinki.  Austen and I were watching a live band and dancers on the dance floor when we noticed the ship docking, so we ran outside in the rain to take some pictures.  We weren’t allowed off the boat (BOO!) and it was pitch-black outside, but it was cool to see!

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We went back to watch the people on the dance floor again, which turned out to be super fun.  The band was really good and the dance floor started to get PACKED, so we had a great time watching all the men try and hit on the Finnish women and on some of our UISS friends.  We felt like we were watching an episode of a bad reality TV show ;)

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Friday:

We went to bed at around 12 and woke up for a big breakfast at 9:00 Finnish time.  The ship docked in Helsinki at 10:10 and we took a super short walk to the hotel (like 200 meters) to put our bags in the bag-room (since we couldn’t check in quite yet), and waited in the lobby for Sara to arrive.  Sara was a student in the first three week session of UISS and lives right outside Helsinki, so she agreed to be our tour guide for the weekend :)

Our first stop was the beautiful market right on the harbor.  There were tons of stalls with all sorts of handmade arts and crafts, grilled foods, and mountains of fruits and vegetables!

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After sampling a few things, we walked over to the beautiful orthodox church just off the water.  There was a marching band and a drum line playing in the square so we sat down to watch a little of the performance!

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Sara, Austen, Rebecca, Marie-Luise and I were all getting pretty hungry so we went in search of a place to have lunch.  Sara suggested a good but little-known Chinese restaurant, so we walked all around downtown Helsinki taking in the sights on the way.  Alexandersgatan is the main shopping street but there were a few cool inside/outside shopping areas that were kind of hidden off the main street (like this one:)

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We passed the train station, went through the underground train station lines, located the Alko (which is the Finnish version of System Bolaget) and finally found the restaurant.  The food was delicious!

We decided to head to the Suomenlinna fort on one of the islands in Helsinki to look around and take pictures after lunch.  On the way to the harbor we heard a concert going on in a park and stopped to see 15 or 20 military men who had just come back from doing their service and who decided to perform in the middle of Helsinki.  They were doing Gangnam Style when we went by and they were charming (and attractive!!!):

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We caught the ferry to the fort and it started raining a little bit so Sara, Rebecca and I all put our hoods (and scarves) up around or heads.  Our trusty photographer, Austen, took a picture of me being “babushka”:

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We walked around the whole island and found some creepy old pieces of the fort that used to be dungeons or prison cells.  It was actually pitch black when we went exploring, so naturally Austen made scary noises and was threatening to hide behind things and jump out at us :P  We got some cool pictures inside instead :)

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The top of the fort offered stunning views of Helsinki in the distance and the weather had cleared up nicely for us to take jumping pictures overlooking the Baltic Sea.  Here are some of my favorites!

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We went back to the hotel to take a little rest and then met up around 20:00 to get some dinner and go check out the Tall Ships Festival in the Helsinki harbor.  Tons of ships from all over the world had sailed in, covered in flags, and ready to race the next day.  We were lucky enough to see all of them docked and walked around to take pictures!

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We were all exhausted by the time we got home, so it was off to bed around 12:00!

Saturday:

Sara stayed over with me in my hotel room so we got up around 8:30, showered, and went down to eat my very favorite Scandinavian breakfast in the hotel.  We’d planned on going to the zoo on another island in Helsinki and I was SO EXCITED (because I love zoos more than a lot of things) and caught the ferry around 11.

When we got to the island, we went straight to the big cat area and saw tigers, lions, snow leopards, and all sorts of Nordic cats.  They were so cool!

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Korkeasaari, the Helsinki zoo, is one of the largest Nordic zoos in the world, so we also got to see reindeer, moose, wolverines, wisents, bears, and all sorts of other animals.  The monkey house was particularly funny because there was one little monkey who came right up to the glass and watched the humans as much as we were watching him!

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We were starving on the way back from the zoo so we went straight to one of Sara’s favorite restaurants for lunch: Vapiano.  Its a pasta place where they cook right in front of you and you get to choose the shape of pasta plus all the toppings.  It was delicioussssss!  Mine was penne with a white wine and garlic sauce, cherry tomatoes, pancetta, and sage:

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We were pretty exhausted after the zoo and lunch and walking around everywhere, so we went back to the hotel for a siesta before going out to have drinks in the evening.  When everyone was rested, we walked to downtown Helsinki in search of a particular bar, but found out that it had a 24+ age limit.  We only discovered this AFTER I was let in to the bar, however… which means the bouncer must have liked me ;) (hair flip).

We settled on a cute bar around the corner called Hemingways and Sara and I had a blueberry spritzer drink that was super sweet and super delicious.  Austen had a very expensive .5L Karhu beer because it was made in Finland, and we decided to take the glasses.  Note: I have never done that before nor will I probably ever do it again, but now I have a really cool Finnish glass!

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We had a really fun night out in Finland and even went for McDonalds afterwards (where we paid like $8 USD for a stinkin’ sandwich by itself!).  The city was so beautiful at night:

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Sunday:

Our last morning in Helsinki was spent walking around and shopping a little, but mostly writing our final paper and presentation for class.  We had pretty spotty internet the whole trip but found that it was the strongest in the lobby of the hotel.  So, Austen, Rebecca and I packed, checked out of our rooms, and stationed ourselves in chairs to write.

At 16:30 we said a tearful goodbye to our amazing tour guide (and friend, of course :) ) Sara, and boarded the ship to head back to Stockholm.  We had a stunning view of Helsinki from the top of the ship on the way out:

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Austen and I had learned from the last trip that karaoke was the most entertaining activity on the ship, so we went super early to the bar and found great spots.  It ended up being a spectacular karaoke session filled with either friends from UISS singing Livin’ on a Prayer, Brandy, or Josh Groban, mixed in with a ton of old Finnish men and women singing more traditional Finnish songs (which we sang along loudly to!)

The waters were much rougher this trip so I was feeling a bit seasick when I went to the 2nd floor to go to bed.  I noticed right when I walked in to my cabin that it was flooding (and immediately panicked because I thought we were sinking) so I sprinted up 8 flights of stairs to the information desk to let them know.  After someone came down to unsuccessfully fix the problem, they gave us the only free room left on the boat which was on the 5th floor and HAD A WINDOW! We woke up the next morning to beautiful sunshine and views of Stockholm’s archipelago :)

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After one final jumping picture on the top deck with Rebecca, we disembarked and were finally back in beautiful Sweden once again.  It was a spectacular trip and I’m glad I checked another Nordic country off my list!  Only one more to go :)

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Stockholm, Uppsala, och Örebro: en fantastisk helg av resor!

Friday:

Friday was our day-trip to Stockholm.  On the agenda was a morning at Millesgården, afternoon at the Stadshuset downtown, and free time in the city.  The pubrunda on Thursday night had hit some people pretty hard, so we went with a handful less people this time than the last day-trip :P

It only takes about 45 minutes to drive in to Stockholm so we arrived at Millesgården around 10:30.  Millesgården is the former residence and gardens of a very famous Swedish sculptor named Carl Milles.  The grounds overlook one of the harbors in Stockholm, and it was a beautiful day, so it made for some nice pictures :)  I opted to take the Swedish tour this time because the guide looked fun and peppy– but it turned out to be kind of a mistake.  I will be the first to admit that I’m not super interested in art, but for some reason I just really wasn’t captivated by what the guide was saying, and we had a few annoying people on the tour who kept getting in everyone’s way while taking pictures with their iPads. But, the house was pretty and the sculptures were nice overall!

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My favorite part of the visit was definitely the view.  I took some great panoramas from the top of the gardens!

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And I spent the day with some of my favorite (super tall!) people :)

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After a lunch at the gardens, we got back on the bus and went in to town to the Kungsholmen island.  We arrived at the Stadshuset (City Hall) for a guided tour.  After the strange tour in the morning I decided to take this tour in English– and I’m so glad I did!  Our guide was adorable and told us tons of cool stories about the building.  They use the great hall to host the Nobel Peace Prize banquet annually and it houses the offices of many important politicians in the Stockholm Municipality.

The main staircase in the great hall was designed by the architect to be “comfortable” for all the ladies in long dresses who would be attending the Nobel banquet each year.  He actually built fullscale models of each staircase and had his (patient) wife walk up and down each one in long evening gowns and high heels, and let her choose the one that was the most comfortable :) Now THAT’S a gentleman ;)

Some of the architecture and painting inside the Stadshuset was absolutely beautiful– and each feature had a story.  The ceiling in the council chamber looked like the inside of an old viking longboat and was painted to look like a set of windows.  This was done to symbolize the openness of the council and anything discussed or decisions made in this room were said to be free to fly out of the ceiling and be heard by the people– nothing was to be secret.  What a cool idea!

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And check out the view of Stockholm’s waterfront from the windows!

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But the most impressive room was The Golden Room with very… interesting… things on the walls, but absolutely covered in gold leaf.  It took the architect quite a few years to complete this project!  There is apparently a lot of conversation about weather “Mother Sweden”, on the far wall, is supposed to look like Medusa or not ;)

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After the tour we had several hours free to walk around in Stockholm. David and passed through Gamla Stan on our way to another island in Stockholm and I got a shot of one of the amazing alleyways:

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We’ve both been to that part of Stockholm a bunch of times now so we weren’t too interested in doing the touristy things in Gamla Stan. Instead, David and I went to Södermalm and walked around the shops in the “trendy” part of Stockholm.  I was determined to find a piece of prinsesstårta but we literally couldn’t find a single konditori ANYWHERE.  What?!  I know!!  We ended up stopping for fika in a little café and I got a piece of chocolate cheesecake tar and a cup of coffee with cardamom instead.  Mmmm!

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We headed home to Uppsala around 19:00 and the bus ride was quiet as we all dozed off after a long day in the sun.  Definitely another beautiful day in Sweden :)

Saturday:

David and I had planned a big trip to IKEA Saturday morning!  I woke up nice and pigg (energetic), totally excited for my first Swedish IKEA experience. We took the bus from Uppsala C and hopped off at the beautiful store a short 9 minutes later.  Of course I had to commemorate the experience with a jumping picture :)  This one is a little more “Where’s Waldo”… can you find me?

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David wanted to get some breakfast while we were there, so I got a cup of coffee while he ate.  The Saturday breakfast was incredibly impressive!  It looked totally homemade and had every kind of traditional Swedish food you could possibly think of.  Look how beautiful it is!

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After breakfast, we started the hunt for apartment furniture.  Since David is here for the 9 weeks of our Swedish program and then staying to do his Master’s at Uppsala University, he had a long list of furniture that he needed for his new apartment.  Bed, desk, chair, mattress, etc.  We had quite a mission!

I drooled all the way through the store, fantasizing my dream Swedish kitchen and nearly refusing to leave the little sample staged apartments that were PERFECT. But, I controlled myself and didn’t buy anything but a small backpack to use as an extra piece of luggage to take all of my Swedish purchases home from my trip :)

We went down to the warehouse and picked up all the pieces for David’s furniture to drop them off at the delivery counter.  It took lots of strength and two trolleys full… but we did it!

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We’d planned on going to the little hidden river after IKEA because it was so incredibly hot outside on Saturday, but people had made other plans so we decided to reschedule.  I caught up on some cleaning, reading, and homework Saturday night in anticipation of my trip to Örebro the next morning!

Sunday:

I woke up pretty early to catch the bus to Enköping and train to Örebro on Sunday morning to visit a friend of mine who lives in Örebro, about two hours west of Uppsala. I was so excited to visit and had a super easy trip.  My train got in at 11:15 and Maria was there to meet me at the station.  I hurried to get my return trip ticket from the ticket office (since my chip card doesn’t like the automatic machines :( ) and once that was settled, we set off to explore the little town!

Örebro is a super old city from the 1300s but its beautiful and charming!  There’s a great big castle in the middle that had a cool “Open Art” exhibit going on so we walked around and checked out some of the works on display.  Even though it was kind of overcast, the castle still looked beautiful next to the river!

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We met Maria’s boyfriend, Jim, in the middle of town to go to a cool spot for lunch.  Jim’s friend Mattias, who has been living in L.A. for a few years now, was back in town for the summer and joined us for lunch as well.  It was great company!

Mattias picked us up and we drove out to a restaurant called Naturens Hus on a nature reserve right on Lake Hjälmaren and had a lovely lunch by the water.  We walked around the lake on some of the trails afterwards and chatted about all sorts of things, from horrible roommates to how to move to Sweden permanently. :)  Check out this beautiful trail overlooking the marsh and the lake:

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After lunch, we headed back to Maria and Jim’s flat for a fika.  We’d stopped at a grocery on the way home to get some mazariner (little sweet almond and apricot cakes), dammsugare (“vacuum cleaners”, or a brown and green chocolate cake), and kaffe, and I picked up some Swedish strawberries as well.  It was the perfect pick-me-up… a little sugar and a little caffeine :)

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Maria and I decided to take a walk after fika and we must have gone several miles overall!  It ended up being a beautiful day, so we walked all the way to Örebro University and found some fresh raspberries growing in some bushes along the way.  Mmmm– reminds me of summers in Chicago when I was little!

Maria has studied in the DC area and loves the Unites States, and I love Sweden, so while we walked, we laughed and chatted about the idea of just swapping passports with each other and trading lives :) Maybe someday we can!

We headed back home and had a (delicious!) light dinner of tortellini with fresh vegetables as a cold summer salad before I had to head back to the train.  Jim and Maria walked be back to the station and we said goodbye, and I was off again back to Uppsala.  It was a whirlwind of a day, but was SO good to see Maria and she was the perfect hostess :)  I wholeheartedly recommend taking a trip out to Örebro and I can’t wait to visit again on my next trip to Sweden!

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Stay tuned for my next blog post all about my cruise and adventures in Helsinki, Finland when I get back on Monday!

en viking plats, en liten calicokattunge, och en annan underbar pubrunda!

Saturday:

I got to catch up on some sleep Saturday morning and I ended up waking up around 10:00.  I took my time getting up, had a little breakfast, took a shower, and got ready for the day.  James and I wanted to go find a little café in town and spend the day reading and relaxing, so we planned to meet up at lunch time.

Both of us had a TON of metal cans and plastic bottles we’d saved in shopping bags for recycling, so we decided to check another thing off of my bucket list and turn the cans in for “pant” at the ICA by Studentvägen.  “Pant” is the term for the money you get back when you recycle cans and bottles– usually each one earns you 1 krona, or about $0.17.  When you’re in town and want to recycle a bottle, there are these convenient bottle slots on the side of most trash cans where you can place your bottle.  This way, the less fortunate around Uppsala can come collect the cans for themselves and get some pant back at the grocery.

We found the recycling at the ICA and had great fun feeding the cans in and watching our tally go up!

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For some reason some of our cans were rejected, but we ended up with 19 SEK in savings!  That went towards a banana for each of us for later on.  (Bananas are freaking expensive here!!)

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Even though it seems like a pretty mundane and boring thing to do, we had lots of fun and were glad to have experienced another very Swedish activity ourselves :)

Next stop was Ofvandahls Hovkonditori, a little café by some of our favorite Nations in Uppsala.  It was cozy and looked very much like an old academic library with velvet chairs and antique furniture.  We each got a sandwich and James got tea while I had a cup of coffee.  We spent a nice long lunch there, reading and blogging and chatting about how gorgeous Swedes are ;)  Check out my sandwich: brie and salami on lingonberry bread!

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After the café we headed in to the central parts of town and popped in to a bunch of bookstores, both remarking how we really didn’t have a single free spot in our luggage for more books, but we couldn’t resist.  We also went in to a movie store that had a bin of Swedish movies for 10 SEK a piece so we bought a couple of children’s movies to watch and continue to practice our Swedish.

We parted ways back at Studentvägen to chill and take a little siesta in the afternoon.  James came over to my flat later on and we watched my FAVORITE Swedish movie, Hundtricket, over dinner.  (Yes, it has Alexander Skarsgård in it.  Yes, we are engaged to be married.  Yes, you can be jealous that I will soon be Mrs. Skarsgård. ;) )  We had a lovely time celebrating James’ last night in Uppsala!

Sunday:

James and I had quite an adventure getting him to the Uppsala C train station with all of his bags to catch the train to Arlanda Airport, but I said a very reluctant good-bye to my lovely friend around 13:30.

Austen and I had planned on taking a trip out to Gamla Uppsala in the afternoon so he met me at Uppsala C just after James’ train had left.  We caught a bus about 6km north to the old area of Uppsala to check out the viking burial sites and open-air museum.  These hills are ancient tombs dating back to thousands of years ago!

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So, naturally, I had to take a few jumping pictures ;)

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We walked around and found the Gamla Uppsala kyrka (church) which had graves from the 1700s and before.  It also had pieces of runestones that have survived after all these years:

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We wandered around for a while longer looking for the open air museum.  We had a small map of the area and turned right down a small road that looked like it led to some buildings.  The more we walked, the more skeptical we became that we were going in the right direction… a good deal of people were parking in this big area and were all wearing bathing suits.  Turns out we had turned too soon and instead of continuing to the viking areas, we stumbled upon an amazing “swimming hole” that seemed to be quite popular with the locals but well hidden from those who don’t already know where it is.  No tourists here!  We were so pleasantly surprised by the lake that we found a spot in the shade and spend a good 45 minutes people-watching and enjoying the beautiful day!

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We made a plan to come back with our bathing suits, more friends, and a picnic sometime in the next week… so stay tuned for pictures :)

Monday:

Monday was the start of the next three-week course session.  We got about 80 new students and lost 30 from our first three weeks, bringing our total number to 110.  I moved up to the B1 level of Swedish but had to take another written and oral exam to find out which B1 class I fell in to.  Luckily our class from A2B stayed together and only got a few new classmates.  Our teacher this time is Jenny and she is AMAZING.  Sweet, fun, hilarious, and super knowledgeable. :)

I chose the Conversation and Grammar course as my afternoon class for these last three weeks because I wanted to force myself to talk and practice as much as I can while I’m still here. We have conversation on Monday and Wednesday and grammar Tuesday/Thursday.  Both teachers are awesome!  I feel so lucky to have had such wonderful profs the whole time here!

Monday after class we decided to throw another grillfest outside my building and invite any of the new students who wanted to come and meet us.  Austen and I grilled lamb kebab and bell peppers, some of the boys grilled sausages, and there were even some vegetarian halloumi kebabs going on too.  Not very many of the new people came, but lots of the wonderful existing students (like me!) came out and we had a fantastic evening playing kubb, chatting, and eating.  Here’s my dinner:

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The BEST surprise of the evening was a little precious kitty kat who came over to the grillfest and wanted to play.  He was a sweet calico and seemed very hungry, so I gave him some of my roasted peppers and a little bit of chicken.  I was very popular to him after that :)  He stayed around and played with me for a while and I decided that I would adopt him and name him my (second) favorite Swedish word: Snabel.  Snabel is the word for an elephant’s trunk in Swedish, and it seemed to fit my little cat perfectly!  Isn’t he cute?

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I was very, very excited to pet him :)

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And, just like all cats everywhere in the entire world, Snabel couldn’t resist sitting in my Kubb box…

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Tuesday:

Tuesday was a regular day of class, but Tuesday night was the social evening where we could meet and hang out with the new students.  It was one of my favorite nights of the entire trip when we went all around Uppsala on a scavenger hunt and then ended up in the park to play Kubb, so I was very excited about this social evening too.  Unfortunately, only four or five of the new people showed up.  But, we had an even harder scavenger hunt (with pictures this time and a really hard and abstract map!) and got to play kubb again :)

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Wednesday was completely and totally uneventful, so I will skip it :)

Thursday:

Thursday night was another PUBRUNDA!  We started off at V-Dala Nation and a group of us got there early to have dinner before the masses from UISS arrived.  We stayed from 19:30 to 21:00 and then went to Varmlands Nation which was unfortunately closed so we skipped it and headed straight to GH (my favorite) nation.  We had a good two hours there, enjoying the garden and patio area with friends and sipping on a Briska cider.

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After GH was VG Nation on the Fyris River that runs through the middle of Uppsala.  Its has a beautiful outdoor area with lights and picnic tables and everyone mingled and chatted for a while.  I met one of the B1+ teachers, Henrik, who is actually finishing law school this January and will be an immigration lawyer.  I mentioned that its hard to find a way to stay in Sweden if you’re an American because of the visa restrictions and living permits, and he told me about this great work-around that would potentially enable me to move to Sweden for good!  That was the best news of the night ;)

After VG we went to Snerikes which is “the Nation” to be at on Tuesday and Friday nights because it turns in to a raging dance club.  I am not a huge fan of such things, so I was hoping that it would be a little calmer on a Thursday.  Turns out that all 50 or 60 of us from UISS can get out own party started pretty quickly, so there was a lot of dancing and singing to old Celine Dion songs that the bartender kept putting on :P  Uplands Nation was after Snerikes, but it was 01:30 and I was super tired so I headed home with some others who also lived on Studentvägen.  We had to be up early in the morning for the bus to Stockholm for our day-trip, so I was home and sound asleep by 02:30 :)

I have a busy weekend ahead of me, so watch for the next post about my day in Stockholm and trip to Örebro!

examen, lite fika och en minnesvärd avskedsmiddag

Monday:

Monday was a very calm day of class in the morning.  We were getting ready for our three week exams on Wednesday, so my prof was trying to squeeze in the last bit of grammar we needed before the test.  Our afternoon class on the Swedish welfare system had a visit to Fålhagens Vårdcentral, a health care center in Uppsala.  We sat out in the children’s waiting room until the nurses were available to speak with us, so Austen found a tiny child’s chair to sit on.  He’s 6’3″, so the chair was just his size ;)

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We got a small lecture on the health and hospital system in Sweden and I was very impressed with the coverage that the average citizen gets through the welfare state!  Almost everything is taken care of– except dental care.  But with a system like that, I’d be more than happy to only have to pay for one service!

Tuesday:

Tuesday was review day in the morning class and a trip to Länsstyrelsen in the afternoon.  Initially I was a little worried that a lecture at the County Administrative Board (the Governor’s office) would be a little dry, but it ended up being one of the most interesting visits we’ve been on!  The representative who spoke to us provided fika and sat us down in a hige conference room.  He went through a short powerpoint presentation and then pretty much opened up the floor to questions– ANY questions.  He is a civil servant and really should not have been so free with his opinions, but we had a rousing discussion over almost every Swedish stereotype, the chances of the Swedish Democrat party (neo-nazi, really) getting in to parliament this next election, got a short history of religion in Sweden, talked about sex and nudity, and even about television.  We were there for nearly two and a half hours and I wasn’t bored for a single minute– he was hilarious and incredibly informed on every part of Swedish history and culture.  I learned a TON and have some pretty funny stories to tell now :)

James and I went back to GH for dinner that night and I tried one of their burgers.  It was actually made of chorizo sausage and was really good!  I got the “Grekisk” burger with feta and tzatziki sauce and it came with frites and coleslaw. James tried the vegetarisk sommarpaj (pretty much a vegetarian quiche) and got some strawberry and basil sorbet for dessert.  Mmmm!

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I’d brought my grammar books and study materials to study for Wednesday’s exam and enjoyed sitting outside in the beautiful weather for a few hours.  I headed home around 10 and got a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday:

EXAM DAY!

We had 90 minutes to complete a grammar exam and write a page of text.  The test was tricky, but not too bad.  We had a fika break at 10 after we handed in our exams, and David (our prof) had hinted that we would do something fun for the time remaining afterwards.

After fika, David explained that we were going to go do some “field work” and interview “real Swedes” around Uppsala. I was SO EXCITED- but it seemed that I was the only one out of our class of eight that was :P  We were put in to groups of two or three and got to pick an interview topic. My group chose Swedish food as our theme, and we wrote four questions to ask people on the street.  David wrote some polite introduction questions on the board and we took our notebooks and headed outside.

It was pretty intimidating, mostly because no one else in my group even wanted to attempt to talk to the Swedish people, but I politely said “ursäkta” and explained that we were students from a language school and wanted to ask a few questions that would only take two minutes of their time.  It seems that “two” minutes was too many… we didn’t get anyone to stop and answer until I said that it would really only take a second :P  David was following us around and listening to us ask our questions.  He seemed to hover around us for a while!

We asked what their favorite Swedish food was, what they ate for midsommarmiddag, what their favorite restaurant in Uppsala was, and what they thought of surströmming.  The answers were great!  There was a consensus that surströmming was awful, but one young and posh Swede was nice enough to just call it “special” :)

I stopped to ask our questions to a nice man who was selling cotton candy on the street.  David happened to be standing next to us at the time and the cotton candy man answered our questions and then handed him a fresh cotton candy!  David politely refused and explained that he was just our teacher and wasn’t buying anything, but the man insisted that it was his treat!  Here is David posing for me with his prize:

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David announced that our last class, Thursday, would be a big fika day and we would give our final presentations.  Everyone was to bring something to share and he would provide the drinks.  I chose to bring fruit, so I stopped by the jordgubbar stand on the way home to get some beautiful Swedish strawberries.  They smelled SO DELICIOUS and were as sweet as candy.  I think I ate half of the carton on the way home!

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That evening I decided that we should make a card thanking David for a great three weeks in A2+, but unfortunately I didn’t have any sort of paper or supplies to craft anything.  I looked frantically around my room and finally found a red folder I had gotten from one of the afternoon trips to Arbetsförmedlingen (the unemployment office) and cannibalized it to get some colored cardstock.  I found a booklet inside with some blank green paper on the back and cut around the printed words to make letters for the card.  It was a little bit of a crazy process, but I made him this!  Here’s the front:

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David says that the word “hejsan” for “hello” is weird and outdated, and tried to convince us that we shouldn’t say it because no one does.  However, we have heard it a million times since he’s said it and its become a little bit of a joke in our class.  So, I thought it would be appropriate to write it in great big letters on his card :)

Thursday:

Our last class was lovely!  We had a fika, I gave a presentation in Swedish on my favorite Swedish traditions (fika, snapsvisor, and lagom) and we got to be a little more relaxed and chat with each other and with David.  He put on some of his favorite Swedish music while we enjoyed the spread:

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We went straight home after class to get ready for the Farewell Dinner at 18:30 that evening.  It was 1960’s themed since the UISS program was started in 1963 and this year is the 50th anniversary! I showered and did my hair in a 60’s housewife way, put on some huge blue earrings, and headed to GH Nation for the dinner.

It was held in a beautiful banquet room painted in the nation’s colors and there were long elegant tables everywhere.  We all bought snaps tickets, snagged a glass of champagne that we had to finish before we sat down, and found our seats.

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James and I were feeling very sixties :)

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We sang a million snapsvisor and had cider, beer, aquavit, red and white wine, and digestives.  There were delicious appetizers of ostpaj, salmon rolls, and shrimp salad on rye toast.  YUM.

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Dinner was potato and apple salad, potatis gratäng, roasted chicken, smoked salmon, and a summer salad!

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There were many performances, songs, improve routines, and speeches throughout the night.  Our table even started a rousing rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody that caught on across the entire room :)  We ate dessert and sang some more, and then went downstairs while the nation staff turned our banquet room in to a dance floor!  Before we left, I took all of our snaps glasses and made a great big tower ;)

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While we waited outside, our prof David came up to chat with us.  He was speaking only in English to us and wanted to practice some of the “cool kid language”.  He then started throwing gangster hand signs to show how “down with the cool kids” he really was.  I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed quite as hard as I did that night…

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We went upstairs to dance to old 60s songs and had a great time in the disco lights.  David even came up to dance a little robot later on in the evening :P  It was tough to say goodbye to our three-week friends, but I know I’ll remember that night for a long, long time!

Friday:

We got up on Friday morning to take Sara to the train station for her flight.  We stopped at “Taco Heaven”, as she calls it, for a light lunch.  After lunch, we went to a konditori and I finally got a prinsesstårta!!  It wasn’t nearly as good as the one I made, but it sure was pretty!

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We came across a random Obama cardboard mask on the street and Liana decided to put it on.  It suited her well I think!

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We decided to put the mask in Sara’s backpack so she would have a friend to travel with.  We got this picture in a facebook message a few hours later from the airport:

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James and I went back to my apartment to watch some episodes of We Can Be Heroes and made a delicious dinner.  We even whipped up some Swedish pannkakor for dessert filled with nutella and hallonsylt!  Another thing to check off of my bucket list :)

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So, three weeks down and only three to go!  Anyone want to sponsor me to stay here forever? :)

tåg och “flygplan”: en dagstur till Stockholm

Saturday:

After our marathon of a day traveling to Dalarna, we decided to have a calm Saturday. I woke up around 10 and blogged, as promised, until about 14:00 when James and I decided to go to another movie in town. “Dumma Mej 2” (Despicable Me 2) was showing at 16:00 so we met at the theatre and chose seats in the back. The theatre was FILLED with little adorable Swedish kids who were so excited to see those little yellow minions. I loved watching them dance and sing through the whole film :)

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This movie was so much easier for me to understand than Röjar Ralf. Dumma Mej 2 was completely in Swedish without any subtitles, just like the last one, but I understood all the jokes and followed the dialogue with very few exceptions. It was an excellent afternoon and a great use of 100 kronor (15 bucks!!)

The movie let out at about 18:00 and since it was Saturday, we couldn’t resist taking part in a very Swedish tradition: “Lördags Godis”. It is very popular to go out and buy candy on Saturdays in one of the amazing loose candy shops. James and I each tried some new kinds of candy and saved them for after dinner.

We both loved our pubrunda around the student nations, so we decided to go back to GH for dinner. The Nations in Uppsala, student clubs that run pubs and restaurants as well as providing housing and resources for its members, can serve food tax-free, so they have great meal prices for students. I ordered a pear Briska (a slightly inferior version of Somersby) and we both ordered the tabbouleh salad with grilled halloumi for dinner. I had heard great things about the burgers, steaks, and fish, but as soon as I spotted the word “halloumi”, I was sold!

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It was absolutely delicious. This tabbouleh was mostly faro grain mixed with fresh parsley, red onion, cucumber, tomato, and a little vinaigrette. The halloumi was grilled just enough to be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It is one of the best things I’ve had on my entire trip! James ordered dessert afterwards and had a ginger flan with a berry compote on the side.

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Neither of us had ever heard of the particular berry but I tried it and it was awful. I think the berry itself might have been nice, but the compote looked and smelled like salsa and beans (ICK). All in all, the whole meal set me back just 100 SEK which is an incredible deal for alcohol and dinner!

Sunday:

Some friends and I got up early on Sunday morning to catch a train in to Stockholm for the day. After a little train trouble, we arrived to this awesome Flugtag competition down in the middle of Stockholm on the water. Flugtag is an event sponsored by Red Bull and is held in different cities across the world every year. Teams can enter the competition and they have to construct a “plane” that will be launched off a ramp and in to the water about 30 meters below. The object is to make a plane (no more than 10m wingspan) that has the longest hang time in the air before it hits the water. Each plane must be manned by a person.

Here are the “planes” lining up and the first one up on the platform:

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Teams have 30 seconds to put on a show for the audience and the judges in addition to just launching their plane. Half the competition is about the entertainment by the teams– so they really went all out! There were about 25 planes competing and each one had a different theme. Some of my favorites were a Christmas theme with the plane looking like a gingerbread house and the teammates were dressed in reindeer costumes and the “pilot” was Santa Claus. Here’s the official video from the Flugtag website of the “Gingerbread Express”! I also took a video of the Magikarp pokemon themed “plane” and you can watch it here.

There were thousands and thousands of people there to watch and it was great fun to see the teams make fools of themselves on the platform. There were a few breaks in the competition and we got to see parachuters dive out of helicopters and land in the water, and these incredible athletes on JetBoards! The JetBoarders shot an enormous amount of water out of their shoes and hovered over the water like they had rocket boots on.  It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!  Here’s the video!  And here’s a close up of the JetBoarders:

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After we’d seen most of the planes have their turn, a few of us left central Stockholm and walked to Södermalm to have some lunch.  David wanted to go to a café on Södermalm called Mellqvist Kaffebar where Stieg Larsson apparently wrote The Millennium Series (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.)  It was a cute little place a little out of the way and I had a delicious hot chocolate along with a pressed sandwich.

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We ate and went back to Gamla Stan to do a little shopping in some second-hand stores and stopped in a few touristy shops to find a postcard of the Royal Family for my desk at work.  I love King Carl even though he looks like a turtle ;)

After shopping, James wanted to stop by his favorite café called Choklad Koppen in the middle of Gamla Stan and we shared an incredible bowl of hot chocolate.  It was a beautiful place to sit and relax while musicians played and children ran around the square!

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IMG_0921We headed back to the Stockholm C station but passed right by my favorite spot by the water on the way.  I took a picture there the first time I was ever in Sweden and I had to get another one on this trip!

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A very sweet Swedish gentleman offered to take a group picture of us.  The gang’s all here!

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I had such a great time with everyone, exploring the city and relaxing in Stockholm.  It was truly a wonderful weekend!