Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wrap Up

Dear, dear, dear, dear friends. I'm writing to you about 2 months after my last post. Unfortunately, I have procrastinated too much to write a thorough write up of "differences between US and Sweden" or something of the like.

2 months later, I definitely miss Sweden. Some things I miss:
a)Living alone. I can strive or stoop to whatever level of cleanliness I desire, and I listen to no one but myself. It was definitely more lonely but a great experience.
b)Hearing Swedish. I really miss that goofy, rhythmic, incomprehensible language.
c)My Swedish and other friends. This is obviously a given.
f)Riding a bike everywhere. I always thought it was a pain to ride my bike in Uppsala, but in retrospect, it was much easier than driving. Riding in Boston would be treacherous though.

Of course, there are many things I miss, but I could go on forever. One thing that now stands out in my mind about Sweden, however, is that its residents are more independent than Americans, yet more considerate.

As for changes in myself, I think I've become more independent. Living abroad by myself forced me to take control of my situation, and I don't think I rely on others as much anymore. I'm also more conscious of hearing the Swedish language and noticing items of Swedish origin, such as Swedish tennis players. Any time I spot a -sson, I get excited. Soderling counts too I guess.

Anyway, I'll wrap this up. I hope everyone has enjoyed my blog.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Interest Lost

I'm curious to know whether anyone reads this blog and is bitterly disappointed that there have been no posts recently. Alright, who am I kidding? This is a journal, a trip diary.

I know I've still been super lazy and haven't done the Sweden wrap-up yet. I'll get to it eventually, though its potential is certainly going down by the day. The longer since I've been in Sweden, the more I get used to home and forget that way of life.

In any case, I hope all is well.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Word or Two about Television

I know I still need to do my "Wrap-Up" entry, telling you about all the wonderful changes I notice in myself and how America differs from Sweden, but since that requires thought and effort, that will come after I am done with my final paper.

Ranting does NOT require effort.

Being the football/soccer fanatic that I am, I listen to BBC phone-in podcasts about the game. One host, called Danny Baker, had an idea that there were too many teams in the world and decided to create a Totalitatian League. Fans then called in and made cases as to why their team should be only one of twenty left in the world. Of course, this is a hypothetical.

Here is another hypothetical: Totalitarian Television. If I were a politician, I would get called a fascist or communist, but since I am one insignificant person of nearly 7 billion, I don't care.

In the current space of time, there are countless television channels. There is a channel for nearly every interest, its cousin broadcast channel in HD, and then channels about things absolutely no one, save for maybe its owner, is interested in. Topics that used to receive their own show now receive their own channel.

While I'm not calling for a revert back to the six channel system of the recent past, I do think it would do humanity (or anyone who has cable or satellite) to slim down the channel pickings to twenty. Fatasses everywhere would be forced to pull themselves off their sunken-cushion couches if their favorite channel, Midgets Running in Circles HD, suddenly only had sixty minutes of airtime. Then it could be broadcast when it should be broadcast (besides never), at 3 am when said fatasses couldn't be outside playing ball or stoners get too high to repack their bongs.

Okay, but seriously, kids wouldn't be as fat.

And hey, now I can tie this into Sweden. Swedish basic cable only had ten channels (imagine that!). And I do recall an older Swede telling me he was rushing home with his little boy so they could catch cartoon hour. HOUR. Maybe that's why there aren't any fat people in Sweden. Timmy, or let's call him Anders, watches cartoons for an hour then goes out and chases butterflies for a couple hours.

I'm not going to give you the twenty channels that would remain a) because i am too lazy, and b) because it would be incredibly biased (ArsenalTV WOULD be among them). But you can use them as a conversation piece at your next social gathering, or try to forget you ever read this nonsense.

And as for the answer to your question of "Will this blog continue after he finishes writing about Sweden?" Absolutely not.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Quick Rant at Nike

So about a year ago, I bought some awesome new Nike socks. They're black and go up past my ankles, and they're really comfortable.

So of course, in choosing to buy socks about six months ago, I elected to stick with the Nike black half-rise socks. Little did I know that these six new pairs of socks would cause me constant consternation (how's that for verbosity?) for the entirety of my time in Sweden.

You see, these socks feature a prominent L or R, telling me which foot to put them on. Being far from Obsessive Compulsive but caring a bit about order, it is just one more thing to bring the temperature of my blood closer to the boil. And for those of you that know me, you'll know that my blood already teeters dangerously on the brink.

Why do the clowns at Nike's design department need to do this? Both socks are the same, but for that godforsaken 1/26 of our alphabet. So when I inevitably put my right foot into the left sock, I have that split second of horror. Or, when I'm folding my laundry, I have to care not to match up two left socks even though it doesn't matter. It matters subconsciously, which I can tell you, irks me even more.

Of course, you're thinking, "Does this blowhard really need to rant about socks?" The answer is yes.

Two days until I reenter the realm of smog, earthquakes, and fires. Oh yeah, and apparently I have to worry about lightning too now.

Good day.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Not Long Left

What's happenin' guys? The goodbyes are beginning here in Uppsala, making the shoddy weather somewhat poetic perhaps.

In a way, my trip has come full circle. In the first week, I was freaking out because I didn't know what I had gotten myself into. Now, in my last week, that fact seems ridiculous, and I am now freaking out because I am concerned that I didn't do everything I could have here.

Of course, I have loads of things to look forward to at home and loads of things not to look forward to here in the final few days. I have to sell my bike, clean up my flat, pack, say goodbye to people, who, in all honesty, I'll probably never see again, and the general stress of traveling. The latter, of course, involves making sure my bags don't weigh too much, making sure I leave room in the carry-ons for my last legal liquor purchases for six months at the duty free, deciding whether to try to smuggle in Cubans, and taking care to hold on to my passport and boarding pass.

I'm to the point where I've essentially planned out my last week. I've determined that most of my time will be spent reading in preparation for the monster paper I still have to write. Other than that, end-of-semester parties, one more football/soccer match, and the general horror of the aforementioned chores.

I'll be sad to leave this place. But to be truthful with you, this has seemed like one giant vacation. As much as I hate to say it, it's time to get back to real life.

And since this seems like a depressing entry, I'll leave you with this hilarious video.

Song: "Optimistic" – Radiohead

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sverige och Tyskland

I apologize for making you wait almost two weeks to read the latest entry of this fair blog. I've been up to quite a bit recently, but I'm feeling lazy so this shouldn't be too long. The title of this entry is in Swedish and in English means "Sweden and Germany."

A bit of business first: Apparently, my blog has been nominated for some best exchange student blog competition. It's good to know someone actually reads this. Anyway, if you feel compelled, you can vote for my blog here. It's towards the bottom of the list, and for a reminder, it's called Utbytesstudent i Sverige. Below is a sweet button in case you missed the first link.

I'll now step away from the self-promotion and dip back into blogging.

I've been doing a lot of studying in the past couple of weeks. I had a final presentation for one class and a two-part final exam for Swedish class. It's amazing that I still can't speak any Swedish or understand much, but I can still pass the exam. Luckily it's pass/fail so I'll never know how badly I really did. I have one more class going on right now – Legacies of the Holocaust in the Development of the E.U. – which consists of a 15-25 page paper actually due after I get back to the States.

I've also begun playing soccer/football with a 7th Division Swedish club team, Torpedo Kamrat BK. If I'm not mistaken, I'm the first foreign player to play for them. They now also own my registration, so should Arséne Wenger come sniffing 'round my doorstep, he'll have to pay big money to Torpedo Kamrat. Which isn't to say I would necessarily leave....

I've played in one match so far, a draw against promotion favorites IFK Uppsala, though admittedly, it was their youth team. It was their first dropped points of the young season. Tomorrow is match number two. Since today is a link-happy post, you can view Torpedo's website here. It is all in Swedish, though.

Meine parents paid a visit to me in Sweden the past week. We spent one day exploring Uppsala, about all the time one needs to tour Uppsala. I love the town, but it will never top a list of possible tourist destinations. We then took the train down to Stockholm, where we spent a couple days. It was the first time I really got to explore Stockholm, and it is a terrific city. I would highly recommend you visit Stockholm, though of course, in the late Spring or Summer, when it is actually light outside. The highlight was probably the combination boat/bus tour around the city or the Vasa Ship museum. For those of you who know nothing about the Swedish capital, it consists of many different islands connected by a series of bridges and canals and is right at the junction of the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren, the third biggest lake in a country that has over 97,000 lakes. That's right, 97,000. The Vasa Ship was a 17th Century warship that sank only 2 km into its maiden voyage but was recovered in the 1960's.

My parents and I then travelled to Berlin. Being the age that I am, I am predisposed to talk about German beer. Seeing as how this is a family blog, I will not say that the beer was orgasmic (ha ha). But the beer I had in Berlin was pretty damn good. Unfortunately, I didn't have sauerkraut on this trip, but I ate plenty of wurst.

Adjacent to the Topography of Terror museum describing the horrors of Nazism is a segment of the Berlin Wall that is still standing. Everyone's heard a lot about the Wall, but to actually be in the city divided by it was a little eerie. I never ventured too far into east Berlin, so I didn't really experience the contrasting Western versus Eastern architecture, but the varying building styles in the West were cool enough alone. The really old buildings that survived the epic bombing and battle during the Second World War stood right next to modern buildings in random order.

Forgive me for thinking that we were in the middle of the apocalypse, but there were some bizarre weather patterns occurring in Berlin. We set out on our tourist duties one morning with the sun shining and few clouds in the sky, only to be halted inside a train station within two hours due to a torrential downpour. A couple hours later, it was sunny again. The next day, we were walking towards another train station when out of the blue a couple minutes of hurricane force winds struck. Had there been rain and palm trees about, I would have thought we were in the middle of Andrew in Miami. It was hard to walk. But again, within two minutes, there was no more wind.

It was nice to spend some time with my parents in Europe. Talking history with my dad was great and, I can't believe I'm saying this, but shopping with my mom at the KaDeWe department store in Berlin was also great. KaDeWe, or Kaufhaus des Westens, is very similar to Harrod's in London, though less excessive. That is to say, it has gourmet food, cigars, liquors, clothes, and other accessories, but it doesn't sell dune buggies or £25,000 foosball tables and doesn't take up three city blocks, just one.

The sad part of the study abroad experience is about to set in, with friends beginning to depart Uppsala and my eventual departure. But, of course, I still have two and a half weeks left here, and I intend to make the most of that time.

Like I told my parents, if I learned Swedish, I would definitely live in Uppsala or some other city in Sweden.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Baltic Queen

I'll decipher the lack of my friend's blog updates to mean that I am the nerdiest of all of my friends. But I'm just doing my Study Abroad duty and telling everyone what's going on over here, while getting in a word about Arsenal along the way.

Before I begin to blabber about my last week, I just want to, with every effort to avoid being insincere or cliché, to express my sympathies for Mark Herzlich of the BC football team, who has just been diagnosed with cancer. It is always sad to see someone my age being diagnosed with the awful affliction, but the fact that he is a world-class athlete and a probable Top-10 NFL draft pick in 2010 is all the more disconcerting. Incredibly, he still manages to sound like the smart and strong fellow he is in this interview with ESPN.

As I mentioned in the last blog, that you probably didn't read, I spent the first half of this past week venturing to Estonia, a former member of the Soviet Union. I'd have to say, though, that only about 50% of the trip was about exploring Tallinn, its capital. The other half was about the cruise to and from the city. Many Swedes, mostly in their early-50's and older, take the journey to Tallinn or Riga, in Latvia, to get cheap alcohol. As I've mentioned before, Sweden's state-owned liquor store, Systembolaget, is not very cheap.

This particular cruise was meant for students in Sweden, and accordingly, the moment The Baltic Queen began to move away from Stockholm at around 6:00pm, the line (queue) outside of its Duty Free store exploded. To everyone's chagrin, the liquor section had been closed for the day due to some Finnish students that had become too racuous on the previous journey. Nevertheless, beer was made available, so I picked up a 24-pack of Norrlands Guld beer for the journey.

There were multiple clubs on board the boat, in addition to a cigar lounge, several shops, a handful of restaurants and gambling tables. Our two-person cabin was outfitted with a shower, toilet, closet, and a flat-screen television. The journey took us first to Mariehamn on the island of Åland, a property of Finland, at which we arrived at around 4:30am, just as the multitudes were beginning to pass out.

The passengers, nursing their collective hangover, arrived in Tallinn at 10am. My fellow travelers, a Frenchman and a Masshole (resident of Massachusetts), and I threw on some deodorant and dragged ourselves ashore. Adding further credence to the theory that people are sheep, we blindly followed some people off the boat, eventually stumbling upon the Old Town district.

This district had everything we needed to see in Tallinn, from several churches, including a Russian Orthodox cathedral, the parliament building and eclectic collections of residential buildings, to the many guildhouses and, eventually, the old KGB headquarters. The KGB building was one of the eeriest places I've ever come into proximity with, up there with Dachau concentration camp outside of Munich. The building is closed down and there are no markings on it apart from a small plaque commemorating the untold amount of suffering that occurred there. The windows were boarded up from the inside, adding to the mystery and even dread of what transpired inside.

I really enjoyed the five or six hours I spent wandering throughout the city. It was a remarkable fusion of old French, German, Swedish, Finnish, and Soviet culture, food, and architecture. I especially enjoyed purchasing some coinage from the old USSR, boasting Lenin's picture. I don't even care if it was a scam.

We were exhausted from the previous night and the day's exploration, so we retired to the cabin back onboard for some rest. Upon awakening, we returned to the Duty Free, liquor shop open this time, to purchase some much needed provisions for the rest of our time in Sweden. I opted for Kahlúa and generic Russian vodka, key ingredients for my new favorite drink, the White Russian. In addition, we purchased some French red wine, which according to our French friend, was high class. I should mention that we did not pay much for it and also, that I purchased three bags of beef jerkey for dinner, undoubtedly diminishing any classiness I could have achieved from the wine.

After a repeat of the previous evening, we arrived in Stockholm again at 10am, making it back to Uppsala by noon. The rest of the week has been spent on schoolwork, which is beginning to pile up, and playing soccer, in attempt to diminish the fat, which is also beginning to pile up. Kidding.

It is about twenty to 9pm as I'm finishing this up, and it's still light enough for a person with poor-vision to play sports. I only have twenty-three days left on this fair continent, a few which will be spent in Berlin.

One final thought which contains a play on words that will make any reader question my social aptitude: once I get home, should I turn this into a Study A Broad blog?