Saturday, February 28, 2009

One Reason Why I Love Sweden

Yesterday evening was another gasque, this time just for International Students. It was a blast, fueled by alcohol and karaoke. Yes, I did karaoke.

Anyway, I'm not really in a writing mood this morning, but I've decided to [try to] keep you, my loyal readers (all two and a half of you, the half being those who read with less frequency, or at times, a midget) happy. Of course, I also assume that you are happy to begin with and are not just reading this out of pity. But I digress. Given the lack of Swedish-speakers at last night's gasque, the International Committee wrote some special songs in English to the tune of the normal Swedish songs. These are some of the songs we sang at the formal dinner, transcripted directly from the program guide for the evening. I love Sweden.

My Liver
When I was young
in the school canteen
they served me liver
and something green
Let's have revenge
for that liver smell
let's put our own
through a liver hell

Do-Re-Mi-Beer (to the tune of Do-Re-Mi)
DOUGH... the stuff that buys me beer
RAY... the guy that sells me beer
ME... the guy who drinks the beer
FAR... the distance to my beer
SO... I think I'll have a beer
LA... la la la la la beer
TEA... no thanks, I'm drinking beer
...That will bring us back to (look in empty glass)

If the ocean was whiskey
and I was a duck
I would start from the bottom
and drink my way up
But the ocean ain't whiskey
and I'm not a duck
so I take you to my place
and give you a fuck

If the river was brandy
and I was a horse
I would start from the ocean
and drink to the source
But the ocean ain't brandy
and I'm not a horse
so I take you to my place
and take you by force

A Jedi Night (to the tune of Obla-di Obla-da)
Tell me Master Yoda what is wrong with me
Feels like I've been stepped on by a horse.
Could it be that I have drunk a galaxy
and underestimate the dark side of the Force.

Obi-Wan, Obi two, Obi three
hit me with your laser drink.
Obi-Wan, Obi two, come and save me!
Down under the bar I sink.

Waking up next morning was a big ordeal,
thought I had a Leia in my bed,
but you can imagine, Master, how I feel
when I see Jabba lying there with me instead.

Obi-Wan, Obi two, Obi three
warp me to another place.
Obi-Wan, Obi two, come and save me!
Throwing up in hyperspace.

Calm down now, young Skywalker
you will be fine,
R2D2 would have laughed at this.
Help me drink this bottle of Han Solo's wine
and I will tell you who your mother really is.

Obi-Wan, Obi two, Obi three
drink and you will fly alright.
Obi-Wan, Obi two, come and save me!
Man, I had a Jedi night!

One final thing to say: I mentioned what was affectionately called "paint" in one of the last entries. I had something, a Swedish traditional drink snaps, that was far worse. I still taste it this morning.

Monday, February 23, 2009

In the Arctic

I took my first real trip (i.e. not to nearby Stockholm) of my time in Sweden. After slaving all night through a paper, I walked to Uppsala Centralstation for a ride to Stockholm-Arlanda Airport. There we embarked on a plane to Kiruna, in northern Sweden, which, according to Wikipedia, is in the Arctic Circle.

The flight lasted for one hour and thirty minutes. The descent was a bit nerve-racking to be honest, as heavy winds tossed the plane quite a bit and called for some rapid adjustments from the pilot. After landing on the runway, the plane pulled off to the side where we disembarked via stairs, immediately hit by a wall of cold air. According to the locals, this was a warm day, though my skin told my brain otherwise. I believe it was about -17˚C, or about 1˚F. Apparently, the day before it had been -33˚C, or -27˚F. Needless to say, we were all really disappointed about missing those temperatures, which, even Satan would agree, would have frozen over hell.

In any case, the lodging company picked us up at Kiruna Airport and whisked us away to the local ICA supermarket and, of course, the System Bolaget (the state-run liquor store). The driver/coordinator then drove us to our cabin, which I must say, was very nice. She warned us, though, that there was a limited supply of warm water, which, judging by the end of the trip, we took to mean we shouldn't take showers.

I bundled up in two pairs of socks, my winter coat, two pairs of gloves, and my hat, and walked to the nearby frozen lake. As I started to snap pictures, I suddenly had the urge to throw myself into a fire, but I took a more mediated course of action and simply walked back inside. Damn, it was cold. I'm from Los Angeles, for God's sake.

We had planned to take a dogsledding tour the evening of our arrival, but we were phoned and told that the previous evening, some of the dog teams had run off after some reindeer and were unavailable to run us on our tour. Skål (pronounced skole), we said, and consigned our evening to utilizing our System Bolaget booty. I should add, that after much anticipation, we finally caught a glimpse of the Northern Lights, a green streak in the sky. It wasn't as luminous as we had all hoped, but it was still an awesome sight.

We awoke, most of us in a ethanol-induced haze, and readied for the long day ahead. At 9:00, a guide picked us up in a van and took us to Camp Alta, the headquarters of the lodging company which rented us our cabin. They gave us full warm and waterproof jumpsuits, scarves, helmets, goggles, and boots, and walked us to snowmobiles. I had driven a snowmobile before, but for the others, it must have been slightly disconcerting when the guide instructed them solely by pointing at three locations on the snowmobile and saying "brakes, gas, stop." Two to a pod, we sped off towards the Ice Hotel. I must say, driving a snowmobile is an absolute blast.

After about an hour drive, we came to the world-famous (or maybe not) Ice Hotel. It is a hotel constructed, with the exception of doors and bedding, completely out of ice. Each room was designed by different artists, and after paying a fee of 175 SEK, we saw all of their work. Some of the designs were incredible, and hopefully, I'll be able to throw some pictures of them on here. Unfortunately, the Kiruna Absolut Icebar did not open until it was time for us to leave, but it definitely helped avoid some nasty snowmobile accidents.

As my snowmobile partner was scared to drive for one reason or another, I was one of the only in our group that was fortunate enough to be able to drive both legs of the journey. Thanks for that. We returned to Camp Alta after a short delay caused by, what we think, someone falling off a snowmobile. There, the guides prepared a wonderful, wonderful lunch of shredded reindeer meat and potatoes. If not for the meal being outside in the snowing, freezing, windy weather, it would have been an incredible hour. The smoke from the cooking fire kept blowing in my eyes as well. I can't complain though – the meal and subsequent coffee were excellent.

The guide drove us back to the cabin for some napping and warming time. At 17:30, another guide picked us up for our dogsled tour. Again, we were supplied with warm clothes, and four to a sled, we mushed off. The guide offered us some interesting insight into the life of the Kiruna people. He – probably his mid twenties – informed us that most of his friends moved off to the big cities in Sweden as soon as they graduated from high school, and that, despite this, he has chosen to stay in Kiruna because of his love for nature. He also mentioned that it was an unusually warm night, adding that he only had dressed in one layer.

We stopped at a warming hut after a couple miles and were fed coffee and pastries, then returned back to the camp. The guide drove us back to our cabin, and we spent the remainder of the evening consuming the remainder of our System Bolaget treasures and trampolining.

After an unfortunately lazy Sunday – I drank coffee, tea, coffee, took pictures, got in a snow wrestling match, drank coffee, then packed – which could have been utilized ice fishing or bathing in the sauna, we departed for the airport. I ate a reindeer sandwich, then hopped on the plane back to Stockholm. All in all, it was a very fun trip. I'm looking forward to my next trip, to visit Matt Reardon and friends in Copenhagen.

Shocking, it is cloudy again this morning in Uppsala.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Destruction and Subsequent Recovery of Dignity

I promised some of you I would post the story of what transpired Friday evening, the night of 13 February (Blimey! How appropriate it was a Friday the 13th!). But for fear of future background checks and possibly younger children, for whom I am supposed to be setting an example, reading this entry, I'll condense the events of the evening into two piece of advice. 1) Never drink anything described by friends as "paint." 2) Never get cocky about riding a bike. In any case, some scratches and a lost phone resulted. I'll leave it at that to spare myself any further loss of class.

Now to, as I quite appropriately described, the "subsequent recovery of dignity." It was nice to have Matt Reardon and his friends visiting from Copenhagen Business School, and although certain circumstances from the previous night – possibly having something to do with the above – precluded quality hanging out time on Friday, we did walk around Uppsala for awhile on Saturday morning. We witnessed some snowboarding on the hill below the Uppsala castle (along with collecting some free hotdogs, Red Bull, and Jägermeister apparel).

Then it was time for the highlight of my studying abroad. The Reccegasque, or reception dinner, for all new members of the nations. The new members first met at their respective nations dressed in their formal attire (I wore a charcoal suit with a blue tie) for a walk behind the nations's flags to the main university building. The assembly there was less-than-enthralling as it was conducted entirely in Swedish (with the exception of a performance by a big band of a silly song whose title and theme I can't currently recall). We members of Värmlands nation then walked back to the nation itself, where we (I'd say about 70 of us) hung our coats and went into the upstairs lobby for champagne. At 18:00 (6:00p, American style), we proceeded into the dining room.

We were seated randomly in an arrangement of alternating genders (i.e. m-f-m-f), with I being the exception to that rule, being surrounded by ladies. Gasque code requires each male to pay the most attention to the female at his right and each female to obviously spend most time with the male at her left. After the Inspector of the nation (think faculty advisor, except inspector is a full time job) was seated, the new members followed suit.

From there, we indulged in a three course meal (cheesecake and caviar followed by broiled reindeer and scalloped potatoes and ending in a dessert of white chocolate mousse and raspberry "something-or-other"), sipped on snaps (yes, spelled correctly – a traditional Swedish liquor), red wine, beer, and Bailey's, sang drinking songs in Swedish (again, one was in English), and enjoyed speeches by the natio
n's curators (administrators) and Inspector and performances by the various Värmlands nation ensembles. Most notably were a very funny performance by sketch comedy group Spex and an unbelievably outstanding performance by the nation's choir. The latter received a standing ovation.

Swedish (Svenska) is a very difficult language to speak, but singing in Swedish is far more difficult. Nevertheless, as the alcohol flowed, the English-speakers in the room were more willing to attempt to follow along. The only song sang more than once was a thank you song to all performers, who in turn had their own part to play in this song.

After meeting new people and thoroughly enjoying their company, as well as the new found traditions and belonging – approximately 23:00 – we left for the after party at Smålands nation. This, in my opinion, left something to be desired, but I personally had already had an immense amount of enjoyment from the evening.

Today, I booked trips to Oslo and London. I'm very much looking forward to the travels I have planned. This weekend, some of my new friends and I head to Kiruna in northern Sweden. Hopefully, we will see the Northern Lights, but if nothing else, we'll experience a new part of the country we are studying in, a definite must in my opinion.

And Boston College again shocked the world (or the small fraction of it that care) by beating #5 Duke in yesterday's men's basketball game at Conte Forum. I was following along on ESPN Gamecast, but when it was a one-point game with 2+ minutes left, I'll admit I couldn't watch. Though, minutes later I refreshed the page and we had won by 6! BC will hopefully make the tournament after a year's absence! Well done, boys.

And Arsenal. I must just say, it was an absolute delight to see Eduardo playing again. He decided to upstage his own return, though, by scoring twice. What a class act. Arsenal walked all over Cardiff, 4-0. It could have been much worse had van Persie and Bendtner converted easy chances, Cardiff goalkeeper Heaton not been playing out of his head.

Song: "Cherub Rock" – Smashing Pumpkins

Thursday, February 12, 2009


First, I'd just like to clear the air on a nasty rumor about me that has been circulating. Yes, I DO trim my eyebrows. Otherwise, I'd look like this. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration.

Okay, now on to the topic. Every Swedish male wears sweaters. Every Swedish male wears sweaters. Brian does not wear sweaters.

Now, anyone that knows me could tell you that I care little about my style. Usual attire for me consists of a t-shirt or Arsenal kit and jeans with sneakers. This fashion (or lack thereof), maybe mainstream in America, makes me stick out like a Hasidic Jew when I'm walking around in Sweden. Okay, another exaggeration.

I am not usually one to pay attention to this, but it's quite obvious that the Swedes are well-dressed. Most Swedes of my age wear nice shoes, tighter jeans than I am used to, and a sweater over a button-down.

I received a package from home today with all sorts of goodies that I haven't been able to find here in Uppsala. Mum was nice enough to send me some Nyquil, dried berries and mixed nuts from Trader Joe's, some vitamins, Emergen-C, and most importantly, my DVDs for all the down time I have here.

I once again cooked a chicken dish tonight – Chicken à la Brian®, as I think it's called. I marinated the chicken in garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika for the vast majority of the day and sautéed it along with mushrooms, broccoli, and tomatoes. I ate all of this with some pasta (with olive oil and butter) for my dinner. I topped it all off with a glass of yellowtail® red wine. I'm not going to lie, I felt quite sophisticated. I took a picture to commemorate the occasion, but it will not be included here (due to an extreme, but hopefully temporary, case of laziness).

I found a great website to watch football online, but due to copyright restrictions (actually, I just don't want anyone to clog the bandwith), I cannot share it here. In any case, I watched Argentina (mainly just Lionel Messi) put on a clinic – which finished 2-0 – for the French national team at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille. Then I watched as curiously only David Beckham and Shaun Wright-Phillips felt up to taking on Spain (the two managed to keep the score to 2-0 also). I suspect the other members of the England team (maybe even Capello) enjoyed the Sevilla nightlife a bit too much last night. But Xavi is the best footballer in the world right now.

I'd like to stay up to watch the ever-entertaining United States v. Mexico World Cup Qualifying match, but it begins at 4:00. I have an appointment to wash my clothes tomorrow at 13:00, and given the size of the laundry monster inhabiting the Southwest corner of my room at the moment, I cannot miss it.

Song: "Twenty-Five Miles" – Edwin Starr

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


After several days of disconnect – not having internet, that is – and even more days of wrongdoings and debauchery, I'm writing once again.

The days are really starting to fly by here. They are really, sort of, blending all together. Each day has been pretty much the same: start off with a b
owl of Frosties; kill time on the internet for a few hours; maybe run and errand or two; and after dinner, head to the pubs. Then, obviously, there must be the recovery days, of which today happened to be one. The body was punishing me, harshly, if you ask me, for what I did to it yesterday evening.

Since I've mentioned this drinking activity in some previous entries, I guess I should humor you with a story. Maybe two.

Story One

Wednesday, we (a gaggle of Australians, an Austrian, a German, several Americans, and a French) made a trip to Stockholm to celebrate one of the Aussies' birthday. After walking around the Kulturhuset – the name "culture house" makes it sound a lot more interesting than it actually was, although I did play chess on a giant chessboard – we visited a café for dinner, a chicken caesar salad since you asked. We then headed to the Absolut Ice Bar, appropriate because of Absolut vodka's Swedish origin. For those who
are underinformed, the Ice Bar is made entirely of ice. The glasses are molded from ice, the furniture is made from ice, and the bar is a block of ice.

After a celebratory drink at the Ice Bar, we ventured to a pub which was advertising cheap beer, and proceeded to spend two or three hours and too much money there. We caught the last train home to Uppsala at 23:09, and since it was still early in the evening, some of us headed to Västmanlands-Dala (V-Dala for short) nation
to finish the evening. One beer and a Jack Daniels shot later, we parted and managed to stumble to our respective lodgings.
Estimated Hangover Time: three hours

Story Two
Yesterday evening, for yet another birthday, we had an American drinking games night. Of course, this included the mandatory Beer Pong (Beirut, for those people that care), Kings Cup, Flip Cup, and, a new game for me, Roxanne. R
oxanne is an absolutely dreadful game. Those present grab two beers, split into two teams, and wait for "Roxanne" by the Police to begin. One team drinks whenever Sting sings "Roxanne" and the other whenever he belts out "red light." Truly awful.

So after several hours of playing each of the games – and dominating at Beer Pong, I should add – I once again managed to stumble home.

Estimated Hangover Time: eight hours

Obviously, the drinking stories provide for some self-deprecation and hilarity, but life is not about the drink. I've taken a liking to cooking chicken [pictured below] for dinner. I've also recently been riding my bicycle around the city with a huge smile on my face, thinking, "I'm in Sweden!" followed in close succession by "I sure look like a giddy
fool right now."

Basic Swedish class starts on Thursday, which I'm very much looking forward to. I really want to learn the language, both because it would be a shame not to and because I want to know when the Swedes are talking about me.

Don't even get me started on Arsenal or Eboue.

Song: "Starlight" – Muse

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Treatise on the Stupidity of Laundry

Normally, the number of driers in a laundry room is equivalent to the number of washing machines. That way, one may transfer N washing machine loads to N driers. It may summarized by the equation N(washers) - N(driers) = E[effiency], where if E >= 1, the universe explodes.

For whatever reason, the washroom at Eklundshofsvägen 4B has four washing machines and two driers. That leads to an efficiency of 2, which in the self-contained laundry room, only resulted in the explosion of Brian.

Overreaction, you ask? Yes, of course, as usual. Obviously, I can just let one load sit in the washer while I wait for the other to dry. Actually, no, I can't here, in Eklundshofsvägen 4B, because residents here must sign up for time slots of three hours. If we come back at 3:01, the key card will not let us in. Therefore, I had to force all of my clothes into one drier, resulting in a drying time of just over two and half hours and more wrinkles than a retirement home. And, of course, the provided Iron did not work.

Now that I've got that rant out of the way, I can tell you what things I've been doing here that actually make me happy. I've been going out to pubs or clubs most nights here. Friday, my nation, Värmlands, hosted International Students for a Greek-inspired buffet dinner that was delicious. Afterwards, it was Klubb 054 in Värmlands for drinks and dancing. Saturday, I went to Kalmar nation for their club night, which feat
ured such songs as "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Last night, Monday, I played football (soccer) in a gym with a bunch of fellow Värmlands members – a very good time – and of course, headed to a pub for some pints afterwards. Tonight, I believe, will be movie night.

I've also headed to some museums in the area: the Museum Gustavianum, which had an interesting ancient Egyptian exhibit; and the Upplandsmuseet, which gave the history of Upplands, the province in which Uppsala is situated. Tomorrow, I'll be heading back to Stockholm for a friend's birthday, but I'll go early in the day to explore the city some more.

Onto Arsenal – what is the deal with this Arshavin transfer? It seems like both Arsenal and Zenit St. Petersburg are being little children. Hopefully, the Premier League will sanction the transfer, as I'm sick of all these zero or one goal performances. What happened to the old days, Arséne?

Song: "God's Dice" – Pearl Jam