Thursday, January 15, 2015

A long hiatus

I hope you find that what I will link we be an enjoyable read.  I stumbled across it earlier today and this other blogger's post resonated so much with me that I felt I had to share it on my very own blog.  If you're truly interested in what it's like to live abroad - this is it.

17 Things that Change Forever When You Live Abroad

I find that all of them apply, but especially numbers 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 14 really hit home with me.  I would say most definitely that those capture parts of my experience living abroad in Sweden.  I've now lived here for 4 years and just over 2 months. Even thinking back to the beginning of my time here is beginning to feel like "a long time ago".

What happened since last April?  Recap.  I had one month of vacation in June, most of which I spent on a family vacation in Greece with my in-laws and the last 2 weeks at home in Ohio.  I came back to Sweden and worked for 1.5 months before beginning my studies at Handelshögskolan (The School of Business) at Göteborgs Universitet (University of Gothenburg, or Gothenburg University, I'm not sure how they translate it).  I'm studying Samhällsvetenskapligt Miljövetarprogram, aka Environmental Science with a focus in societal science.  Studying in Swedish is not nearly as intimidating or scary as I thought it might be (mainly because I thought writing papers would be super difficult, but I find that is not the case, happily).  Next week begins the second semester of the year.

Over Christmas break J and I decided to completely skip Christmas this year and take a week long sun vacation on Gran Canaria (the Canary Islands off the coast of western Africa).  It was much needed.  I find each winter gets more and more, yes I dare say it, depressing.  I have a self-diagnosed case of seasonal depression.  Somewhere in between late October and early November, the clouds roll in.  Not just individual clouds, but an entire blanket of clouds.  It's one giant gray mass that covers the sky 90% of the time in winter, I'd be willing to bet.  Apparently this year was even more extreme, as Gothenburg's amount of sunny hours during the month of November amounted to something like 20 hours.  According to a quick Google search, the average amount of sunny hours in November for Gothenburg should be 58.  Some people may think it's not such a big deal, but I find that my brain is especially dependent upon the sun!  J seems not to be affected, but maybe that's because he was raised in Sweden.  I look very much forward to springtime and the days getting longer and longer.  Currently it's light for about 6-7 hours a day, and as you can guess, it's usually a constant, dim grey light.  So, as stated, running away to the sun over Christmas was much needed indeed!

And that about sums it up as quickly as I could manage.  Had a wonderful summer, school started and I've met a lot of new people and have needed to adjust to becoming a student again (I admit I miss working and having a set routine and making $$$).  Christmas came and went in a blink, and here we are in cold, grey, wet snow/raining January.  Hope this post finds you well!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Working towards summer

Spring has come to Sweden in full blast!  I read in the newspaper the other day that this weekend in Gothenburg, it has actually, officially become summer due to the median temperatures in the area averaging at 10C for a specific number of days (10 days, I think?).  I suppose the mild winter and early spring (which came in late February) has caused an early summer =)  You notice that everyone is enjoying the lovely temperatures and sunny skies.  The grills have come forward, it is Sweden after all.  All the flowers are in bloom as are all of the trees.  Sadly, for allergy sufferers like my J, the pollen from everything has them sneezing, coughing, sniffling and just plain tired.  Luckily for myself, I've been spared of all of that as I have yet to come across something in this life that I am allergic to.

Life has been trucking along as usual.  Work, work.  My official vacation this summer will be (according to the Swedish way of operating) weeks 24, 25, 26 and 27.  In "American speak" my first week off is the week of Monday, June 9th and then I go back to work on (my birthday, sniffle) Monday, July 7th.  That's 4 whole weeks of paid vacation! Woohoo!  I'm very much looking forward to my vacation as it will be lovely to get away from all of the hard work, but mainly because I will be travelling so much!  From June 10-17 I will be in Samos, Greece with J's family, celebrating his dad's 60th birthday.  It'll be great getting to a beach and catching the rays and just being able to relax.  Then it's home to Sweden for a couple of days, and on June 20th it's off to visit the U.S. of A.!  I'll be home for roughly two weeks.  I'm extremely looking forward to going home as the last time I visited was for 2 weeks in March 2013.  It's been well over a year since I've seen my friends and family from home! (Besides my brother, of course).  I figured it was now or never since I hope to begin university studies (yet again) this fall - more on that in just a bit.  I will be travelling by myself this summer as we couldn't afford for both J and I to visit, but that's okay!  I'm paying for this trip out of my own pocket, so our vacation savings won't be touched.  Our big hope is to be able to visit home again this Christmas!  I haven't been home for Christmas since 2011, so I am really hoping that that plan will work out.

So, university studies!  Roughly translated I want to study Environmental Science with a focus in social sciences (I've already applied to get into the program, I'll find out sometime in early July if I've been accepted).  The program is 3 years long and results in a bachelor's degree.  But wait, don't you already have a bachelor's degree?  Why yes, yes I do, in Philosophy with minors in Sociology and English from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio.  Sadly, though, I'm not really using that degree to obtain any sort of career-like path, so I've decided to somewhat start over.  Luckily, university in Sweden is free (at least tuition is) since all universities are state run and funded by tax money.  You can even apply for student aid money, some of which is simply a grant which doesn't need to be paid back, and the rest of which count as student loans that you do need to pay back.  The good thing about the student loans here are that they don't have ridiculous interest rates like student loans in the U.S.  J pays off his student loans each month, and they cost only about $100 a month, which is a completely reasonable sum to pay monthly.  We've worked very hard over the past year to pay off most of my student loans in the U.S. from my Philosophy degree, and we've shrunk my debt down to 1 remaining loan from 3.  Everything seems much better now, as I don't need to siphon off my salary here nearly as much to send over to the U.S. in order to pay off those loans.  In any case, I am super excited to start studying again and begin working towards a career.  Yes, as the program is a bachelor's degree program, it will be taught in Swedish.  I am very confident in my abilities now, though, so I believe I will do just fine.  I'm a teeny bit nervous about paper writing, as it will be quite proper writing in contrast to the every day speak that I'm used to, but I think I'm up to the challenge.  I have almost no doubts about getting in, as my "merit value" (based on your high school grades plus you get extra points if you've taken certain classes, e.g. foreign languages) is 22.42 out of a max of 22.50.  I'm just looking forward to my summer vacation, putting in a month and a half or so of work, and then beginning my new path!

Here's a shot of an item I found in the store the other day.  I still get a kick out of finding items with the title "American" slapped on them just to make it seem more exotic, as if cola is a strictly American item anymore =)

Saturday, March 1, 2014


So I've been hibernating, regarding the blog, all throughout winter.  I just have not had any motivation whatsoever to write anything on here!  Luckily, the winter has been surprisingly mild.  We have had very little snow.  We've also had very little freezing temperatures.  My home state of Ohio cannot say the same!  It seems we switched winters, this year.  Even though it's been mild, it still gets depressing having only a few hours of daylight each day, and that daylight only consisting of a constant greyness with no hope of seeing the sun any time soon.  Luckily for me, as I was watching the news last week, the weather man said that it's now officially spring in the southern half of the country!  Yay!  They determine seasons here based on temperature averages, and not based on dates the way we do in the US, following the equinoxes.

So last time I posted we had just ended the summer, and I was settling down into a heavy fall and winter workload.  That's a quick sum up of what I've been up to!  Fall came, with lots of working and mail-slinging, as did the winter time.  I will say I caught quite an evil cold in the beginning of January which knocked me out of working for a week.  I rarely get colds where I actually need to be home, but something was going around the entire country because I knew several people with the same symptoms.

I do, however, have several highlights to mention regarding my hibernation.  First of all, I am now a Swedish citizen!  In the beginning of November I had officially been living here in Sweden for 3 years, and so was eligible to apply for citizenship.  Moving here on a "sambo visa" (aka relationship visa) makes it easier to become a citizen, you only need to wait three years.  If you come on another sort of visa, work or student related, you need to have been living here for at least 5 years, if I recall correctly.  Anyhow, I forked out the 1500 Swedish crowns for the fee to apply, and settled in to wait the 10 months that the website said it would take for them to process the application.  Surprise!!  One week later I received a document in the mail stating my citizenship was granted!  Woohoo!  A few weeks later I took my butt downtown (during my super evil cold of death) and applied for a Swedish passport.  I received the passport 3 work days later, that easy!  I am now a dual citizen of the USA and Sweden, with passports from both countries.  Not bad, eh?

Another super highlight of my winter - my brother came to visit for two weeks in January!  I took a week off of work so that we could do some fun stuff together.  I showed him Gothenburg, of course, and we also took a train ride to Stockholm (my mom loved Stockholm so much when she visited, I figured it would be mean not to take brother there when he'd made it all this way).  The sad part was that I was still recovering from the evil cold of death, so I don't think I was as fun as I could have been.  It's just hard to trek around a cold, windy city like Stockholm (at least this time of year), when you're coughing up your lungs as well as blowing your nose every other minute.  I really do think he enjoyed himself, though, as I did!  It was just great having another family member able to come visit and see my life here in Sweden.  I have, after all, been living here for about 3.5 years now.  It was about time.

Today I've got to clean and get the apartment ready for a little get together (pre-party, you could say) that I'm having before heading out to my new favorite thing to do on the first Saturday of every month.  On these Saturdays I like to go out with my girlfriends from work to a place called Röda Sten (the Red Stone) which by daytime is actually an art gallery.  They open up their small restaurant area, though, on these Saturday nights as a club for a dubstep artist group called Dubstep Bastards.  If you have no idea what dubstep is for music, here is a link to Wikipedia for a quick explanation.  Back in August I happened to be going out with said girlfriends, and we ended up at Röda Sten.  It was love at first sight (or experience?).  Dubstep, I think, can only truly be appreciated if you experience it live.  We haven't been since November, so I'm really hoping the Bastards bring in some really good artists tonight (they always invite guest artists in).  Here's a video of one of my favorite artists / songs:

You've gotta stick with the song, it always takes a little time for it to get going.  I won't be surprised if you don't like it.  As I said, you've almost got to experience it live to really enjoy.  Or at least just have really loud speakers, with a lot of strong bass.  If your speakers are fritzy, you just won't get the point or experience.  There are so many different kinds of dubstep, too.  I've really enjoyed the reggae kind of dubstep, some people like the video game kind.  It's up to you!  If you do some searching, I'm sure you'll find out what I mean.  If you already are familiar with the genre, good for you!  It seems like it's really catching on in the US, as when we were watching Breaking Bad while my brother was here, he was like "Oh yeah, that Bonfire song is super huge and popular now in the US!"  The most well known US dubstep artist is Skrillex.

Okay, I'll stop going on and on about dubstep now.  Time to get cleaning!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

100 posts

Nearly three years later and reaching my 100th post.  Yes, it took quite some time to reach 100 posts, but I've finally done it!

Summer came, and went, as it usually does here in the North.  But what a lovely summer it was!  As some say, the third time is the charm.  This was my third summer here in Sweden, and finally we had what was the closest to a real summer here in Sweden.  It got warm, and stayed warm! And sunny! There was hardly any rain!  Which we are now paying for in the fall season.  It's been getting noticeably darker and cloudier these past few weeks.  I'm saddened by summer leaving.  I think a large part causing that sadness is that, here in Sweden, there isn't nearly as much to look forward to in autumn.  Almost nothing, really.  In the States we have Saturday college football (or NFL if you prefer that league..on what, Sunday nights? Monday nights? Apologies, I don't follow NFL).  You also have Halloween to look forward to, and not long after that is Thanksgiving!  If you have the same traditions as my family, you even have a trip to the apple orchard and the pumpkin patch to look forward to - hot cider drinking and all.  But here in Sweden there is nothing to curb the angst that darkening days and falling temperatures call forth.  You know that winter is coming and that it will consume the next 5 months or so.  That's nearly half of the year!  To combat this, I hold steadily to the tradition of cooking Thanksgiving dinner each year.  The past two years I cooked for J's family in Tibro.  This year we'll be holding a get-together with some dear friends here in our new apartment in Gothenburg, killing two birds with one stone in having them to see our new (owned!) apartment and celebrating Thanksgiving.

I pretty much breezed over the entire summer there in just a couple of sentences.  Where did we leave off? Oh yes, Midsummer.  Well we then moved on into July and made a trip to Norway which was enjoyable.  It's always great getting out of the country - I love to travel.  We basically did a reprise of last year - grilling out, playing games, fishing and of course socializing (the weather this year was just as sunny and beautiful as last).  What's exciting is that our Norwegian friends will be visiting us in November for Thanksgiving! How great to be able to see them not only once this year but twice. =)

Eventually in August we had two weeks of vacation and spent the first weekend of it in Tibro, the rest of the first week here at home in Gothenburg and then the second week we went to Cyprus!  It was so lovely to get out of the country again and into some real heat!  It was so hot.  And by hot, I mean it was 38-40C (100-105F) every single day.  I'll admit it, it was almost too hot.  I only say that because you could hardly be bothered to do anything during the day. We stayed in a wonderful, luxurious adult hotel (age limit 16+) that did not sit right on the beach, thus resulting in J and I only visiting the beach twice during our stay.  We opted most often to laze beside the lovely, serene pool on some sun chairs (and J always under an umbrella - he's like a vampire when it comes to the sun).  This also happened to be our very belated honeymoon trip, hence the luxurious adult hotel. I will add, though, that we did go on a boat excursion one day!  We were able to see basically the entire southeastern coast of Cyprus by boat.   The water in the Mediterranean is beautiful, however, I would still argue that the Caribbean has it beat hands down.  This from my little experience of seeing Cyprus to compare it with the Riviera Maya in Mexico.  On the boat excursion we even went swimming twice, one of the time snorkeling.  Here are just a few shots from the boat adventure.

Since coming back I resumed working as a mail carrier, and not much has happened since.  Life goes on in our little corner of the world.  I'll allow this to serve as a catch up on what our lives have been up to and try to start posting more often as done in the past.  I (still) have all sorts of thoughts about living abroad that I surely should be able to write on here so as to paint a more colorful version of life here.  Until next time...adjö!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer is off to a start

Yes I'm still alive and kicking.  I think I've come to terms with the fact that writing here on my blog just won't happen as often as it once used to.  Life has a sense of normalcy about it now that I've been living in the country for nearly 2 years and 8 months.  It's difficult finding new and interesting topics to speak about.  Some of you may have noticed that I use the blog more as an update for those across the pond who may still wonder about what I'm up to over here. =)

Swedish Midsommar just passed this weekend.  J and I spent it in Stockholm, as mentioned previously.  We picked up our good friend O on the drive there, and thankfully we got to take the faster highways back to Gbg since O took the train home a day earlier than we wanted to come home (he came back on Saturday, we left Sunday morning).  It was a bunch of fun!  I always love getting out of town and getting out of the normal routine of things.  We have a few friends who live in the country's capitol, so we decided to spend Midsommar with them, celebrating in some of the traditional ways.  We devoured a lunch of pickled herring that came in jars resembling these, along with boiled new potatoes and sour cream and chives along with onions if you desired.  During this lunch you also tend to drink snaps, which is called nubbe, tastes pretty awful in my opinion and comes in a variety of flavors.  Later in the evening we grilled some meat and ate a big, fresh salad with it and finished off with rhubarb pie and vanilla cream for dessert.  Yum!  We did not, however, go find a maypole and dance around it on Midsummer Day.  Instead, we decided to enjoy beautiful downtown Stockholm and ate lunch in Gamla Stan.  We finished off Saturday evening by playing a board game called Settlers of Catan (first time for me, I'd heard a lot about it, and it ended up being quite fun!), and devouring fresh Swedish strawberries with cream and sugar! Mmm!  Here's a single shot I took while walking over the water on our trek from Gamla Stan to Kungsholmen.

Even on a cloudy day I find Stockholm pleasing to the eye.  The buildings and all the water are just beautiful.

Thus has summer truly begun!  Midsommar was the first major event I was looking forward to and it felt so nice to get out of the daily grind here in Gothenburg and see some friendly faces we hadn't seen in quite some time.  It felt like a mini vacation and that it was much needed!  Luckily, in a little less than two weeks we're headed to Norway so I have another big event to look forward to this week and next!  I suppose I feel like I need these things to keep me going through the summer as so many are now on vacation and it feels a bit "bleh" to be working all through the summer until mid-August, and then "only" getting two weeks where many take four, five or even six at a time.  At least at work it should be pretty easy going now that so many are on vacation - not so much mail to be delivered!

That's just a quick update to keep you all in the loop!  This weekend nothing is on our plate (thankfully, we've had nonstop busy weekends for many weeks in a row now).  I plan to finally start clearing out what we don't need to bring with us for when we move in one month's time!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Summer already?

Spring did spring.  All week it's been above 10C (above 50F) and it's felt wonderful!  I actually read in Metro, the free newspaper, that yesterday was possibly the official start of summer here in Sweden!  If I recall correctly, the Swedish meteorologists consider it to be summer when the national average temperature is above 10C for five days in a row.  Yesterday, supposedly, was supposed to be the fifth day.  The only downside this week was that yesterday, here in lovely Gothenburg, it decided to pour buckets of rain all day, and that was not fun to deliver mail in.  I wear my rain jacket when going to and from the area that I deliver mail to that day if it's raining, but otherwise I take it off while I'm running in and out of stairwells.  It just gets too hot and cumbersome!  A nice construction man offered me his rain jacket when he saw me absolutely soaked yesterday, and I explained that I had a rain jacket and that it just gets too heavy.  He responded with, "Yeah, it gets kinda gross!"  It made my day that he had thought to offer me his jacket!  I thanked him several times, all of this occurring in Swedish, of course.

Today is a "red day" which is what Swedes refer to as holidays.  It is Kristi Himmelfärdsdag, which can be translated directly to something like Christ Heaven Journey day.  No one really knows (at least when I ask) anymore what the day is about, but they have it as a holiday each year and no one works.  It's clearly a remnant of a Christian holiday, and my best guess would be that is has something to do with the passage of time past Easter, in regards to Christ's return to heaven.  In any case, as today is Thursday, most people will just take tomorrow as a day off from work and make it a nice long 5 day weekend.  Not J and I.  Tomorrow we'll be back at the grind.  It's only one day, though, so think of it as we can two Fridays this week!

News!  J and I bought an apartment!  We'd been talking about it for quite some time, and thinking seriously about it since autumn.  We'd just decided that we're paying the same amount of money to rent this little 1 bedroom apartment that we could instead be paying on apartment that is much larger which we can own.  Of course we'll be downgrading in regards to location, in my opinion, but the area really isn't bad.  We'll be removing ourselves from Strömmensberg/Munkebäck here in Gbg and settling over on Hisingen in Backa.  It will be nice this time around not moving to an entirely new city that is a couple of hours away.  We can take our time and move at a more leisurely pace rather than all at once.  Our new place is a 2 bedroom apartment with a balcony (yay!) and has a lot more space.  Currently we have only 50kvm (roughly 540 sq. ft.).  The place we'll be owning has about 82kvm (roughly 880 sq. ft.).  So we hope to move in by the end of July, and if not, it'll have to be sometime in August.

This summer is shaping up to be quite exciting!  Although I'll be working for all of it except 2 weeks (whereas many Swedes get a good 4 - 6 week chunk off), there are a ton of activities on our plate.  For Midsommar in June we're planning to go to Stockholm and visit some friends.  Then in early July we've been invited to go back to Norway (I wrote about our trip last year in this post).  It was such a blast I most certainly want to go back again this year!  Then, obviously, as I've just informed you, we will be moving in between the Norway trip and our honeymoon to Cyprus.  Now that I type it all out, it's occurring to me that the summer is shaping up to be expensive, as well.  Such is life if you want to enjoy it!  Luckily I'm working all summer, so that will help in the expenses.

Last week, Wednesday was also a red day.  Tuesday was Valborgmässoafton, which occurs each year on April 30th (I mentioned it last year in this post).  This year was the first year that we finally went and saw what it was all about!  Well I'm sure J had been to Valborg events before, but I hadn't (and this was my third year being here to be able to go see the bonfires).  There were several locations offering giant bonfires and fun stuff like hot dogs and hamburgers with live music here in Gothenburg.  Some places were more kid friendly offering face painting and jumpy blow up castles, but we decided to go to the location closest to where we live.  We went down to Härlanda Tjärn where there was a big bonfire with live music (the band was good and fun to listen to!).  Plus they were selling grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, but J and I had already eaten dinner, so we passed.  Without further ado, here are some shots that I snapped!

There were a lot of people!  They were always coming and going, too.  I had to capture the pretty little lake, too, as it was so serene.  That's the same lake that I mentioned in this post last year where we went swimming.  I think we'll have to wait a few more months for the water to warm up enough to swim in again ;-)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring is ever so slowly springing

Spring is coming quite slowly to Sweden this year.  It's already April 14th and yet we've only had a couple of days reaching up towards 8 or 9C (upper 40s F).  We have had plenty of sun lately, though, for which I have been very thankful.  At night, though, the temperatures keep dropping back down below freezing.  Just on Friday it was actually sleeting during my bike ride to work.  It wasn't pleasant, as sleet in the face on a bike going downhill is rather painful!  It had snowed over night, as well.  Luckily, it rained throughout the day and melted the little bit of snow that had accumulated.  I suppose with all this chatter about the current weather what I'm really trying to say is that I'm ready for spring!  It's mid-April already, let's go Sweden, get with it!

In any case, I took a couple of shots yesterday when I first saw these lovely little snödroppar (snow drops) in our back yard.  They are usually taken as the first sign of spring, as they are the first flowers that usually pop up out of the spring snows, hence the name.

I was so excited to see them I whipped out my phone and ran over to crouch and snap these shots.  J simply continued to enter into our building without waiting upon me.  Alas, he's not so delighted with nature and signs of different seasons as I am.

Speaking of J, this past week he officially accepted a new job!  He will be working at Göteborgs Universitet (Gothenburg University) in their library as a production engineer.  Engineer, library?  I know it sounds odd, but they need help converting their entire library into a digital one.  We're so excited!  I think the job fits his profile quite well and that he'll be quite happy in his new roll.

In other good news, we also finally booked our honeymoon trip this past week!  I know, I know, we got married last September, how have we not even planned or taken a honeymoon 'til now?  I guess it just hasn't been very possible, we've been busy bees working.  We did at least go on a short Pisa, Italy weekend trip back in October.  This time, though, we'll be spending a lovely week in Cyprus in mid-August.  This is the first time I've ever booked a "fancy" hotel and I am super excited!  It's also an adult hotel, that is, the age limit is at 16 years of age.  No one younger is allowed on the premises.  I wanted this kind of peaceful and relaxing environment for our honeymoon.  I am usually the advocate of saving a buck and going with more budget options and not minding children running around, but this is our honeymoon after all!  I figure for once in our life we could indulge a bit. I've always wanted to go to the Mediterranean, as well, so to put it simply, I'm excited and very much looking forward to August.