Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Week in Sweden

Well, actually, it's more like 5 months in Sweden. But this is one of the first weeks in a long time that I have remained entirely in Sweden and not ventured to some other mythical European capital. And with the exception of Kiruna in Northern Sweden (which is the capital of the Lappland province), all of my travel destinations have been capitals of their respective nations. But I digress.

I changed the look of the blog a little bit. I decided while narcissistically reading my blog that it is hard to read white text over black background. Hopefully, the new colors make it easier for me (and you) to read. I also changed the title because my previous title "What is a Blog?" is now irrelevant. Of course I know what a blog is. The new title "Utbytesstudent i Sverige" (Exchange Student in Sweden) is more pertinent and also flaunts my immense knowledge (maybe 30 words) of Swedish (see below).

This week I have been to two Swedish football (soccer, for my American readers – whoops, that's everyone I think) matches. The first was on Monday in Stockholm, a derby match (both teams from the same city) between Hammarby IF and Djugårdens IF. The atmosphere at the match was incredible, with both sets of supporters on their feet the entire match, singing and lighting off flares like there would be no Tuesday. It was a sloppy but entertaining match, and BC Alum Charlie Davies scored the second of Hammarby's goals in their 3-1 victory. I must add that the 3.5% beer we had at the match was comparable to Bud Light, but smelled slightly more like it had been scooped from a urinal.

The second match was in Uppsala yesterday evening and was contested by IK Sirius, the local team, and Jönköpings (pronounced Yenshehpings) Södra IF. Though Sirius dominated the run of play, Jönköpings had the better of the chances. Neither side could capitalize, and the match ended in a 0-0 draw, lulling me to sleep and, thus, scuppering plans to head to a pub afterwards.

But enough sports commentary. The rest of my week has been filled by class. I started the M.A. level class – titled "Legacy of the Holocaust in the Development of the European Union," a right mouthful – on Monday and was not surprised to see I was the only B.A. student in the class, as well as most likely the only person my side of 25. I was also not surprised to learn that I will soon be writing a 15-25 page paper. I'm sort of taking this as a challenge, though, and I've already begun endeavors to finish two 15-kilo-weighing books, totalling a measly 1,217 pages between them. Whether the motivation will last remains to be seen.

I should add that the weather in Sweden is improving by the hour. The forecast for the foreseeable future is for sunny and right around 20˚C, 68˚F for you English unit snobs. It also begins to get light out at 4 am and only gets dark at around 9 pm, a vast contrast from 10 am and 3 pm, respectively, when I first arrived. Consequently, public morale in Uppsala has increased significantly and restaurants have increased their capacities tenfold by putting tables and chairs outside.

Now for your inaugural Swedish lesson. The main reason I'm giving you a Swedish lesson is because I have only just learned enough Swedish words to sound like I know any Swedish, and I feel the need to show off that I know Swedish. But, hey, at least I'm honest about my motives.

Hej (pronounced hay) = hello
Hejdå (pronounced haydoe) = goodbye
Tack (pronounced tock) = thank you
Kyckling (pronounced shykling) = chicken
Göteborg (pronounced Yotebory) = Gothenberg
Malmö (pronounced Malmeh) = Malmo
(pronounced, well, who am I kidding) = Stockholm

Hope you've enjoyed this installment. Hopefully by the time of my next blog entry, I'll have learned some more words.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Up the Arse

For some reason, the last few days all I've wanted to do was sleep. I didn't end up going out this weekend, partly to save money and partly to sleep as much as I could. The only real thing of note I have done this weekend, though it just really angered me, was watch the FA Cup Semifinal between Chelski and Arsenal.

I start a new class tomorrow, a graduate level class about the Holocaust, so now that I am not going to be away as much, I'll have something to take up my time. After class, I'll be heading to Stockholm to watch a Swedish Allsvenskan football match between Hammarby and Djurgårdens, a Stockholm derby match. BC Alum Charlie Davies will be playing for Hammarby. Other than that, this week will be pretty boring for me, I fear.

Boredom Equation
Hours of class x Level of classes – Little Money available = Zero fun

Now if you don't like Arsenal, stop reading.

I have now had time to cool down a bit after watching bits and pieces (bad stream) of that abject performance. Having read Arséne Wenger's comments, though, my blood now boils again.
"Alex Song has played many games, and I believe when you do that you need rest." – Arséne on why he rested the in-form Alexandre Song
Okay, its understandable that players need rest, but why on earth give it to them in the FA Cup Semifinal, the trophy Arsenal can most realistically win? And where the hell was Arshavin? Someone on the BBC commented that Hiddink, being Russia's coach, new how to stop the little man and that was possibly why he did not start. That is ridiculous. You start your best player even if there is a possibility he won't do much.

Diaby? Just back from injury and terrible. Denílson? Out of his element in a midfield with Ballack, Lampard, and Essien. Frustration boiled over at the referee. Fàbregas? Couldn't find his feet. Adebayor? Looked like he didn't give a toss. van Persie? Worked hard until he got injured, as usual.

So why leave all of these players in until the 76th minute? That's not enough time for Arshavin to make an impact. Adebayor out at 82? He should have been given ten minutes to up his work rate in the Second Half and then been sent down the tunnel. He didn't care. Denílson out at 86? That doesn't give Nasri time to do anything! Plus, why Denílson and not the much worse Diaby?

Arséne just needs to admit he got this one wrong. Chances of winning the FA Cup, prior to yesterday? Good. One match against Chelski and one against Man Utd. Winnable. Chances of winning the Champions League? Slim. Two matches against Man Utd an one against Chelski or Barça. Not very winnable, especially now without any confidence.

That's the worst part about this match. All confidence gained from the past couple weeks will be gone. Fabianski is going to be timid on Tuesday. Silvestre will probably not have recovered from getting beat like a drum.

Point is, once again, that Arséne got this wrong. He started with the wrong lineup and was too slow to change it. Guus Hiddink? Saw Arsenal were getting too much space in the midfield and made an adjustment in the 20th minute.

Now the meaningless game against Liverpool. Rumor has it Milan are willing to trade to get Adebayor. Let's take Flamini back.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another Boring Trip Story: Vienna

Hello, everybody. I hope everything is going well.

I can't believe I have less than two months left here. Time has more or less flown by. I'm going to spend the next few weeks in Sweden – that's right, no travelling, other than to Stockholm – so hopefully I settle a little bit and really get the most out of this beautiful, charming country. And it's light out!

To be honest, I'm beginning to get a little weary of the study abroad experience. It's really sort of exhausting.

Now to Vienna. As we first descended into the Schwechat Airport, I noticed through a grimy haze that Austria is very, very green. Contradictory? Well, I'm not talking about the current definition of green which would mean that Vienna doesn't drive cars, they recycle, and they let everyone else know that they are saving the earth. I think we should all do the same, but that's beside the point. There are a lot of trees, grass, and shrubbery in Vienna.

I later found out where the haze comes from. Everyone (okay, I was informed about 40-50%) smokes cigarettes. The first night we went out to dinner. Everyone was smoking. The second and third nights, we went out to bars and clubs and came home wreaking of cigarettes. I should add that I did not smoke. Nevertheless, the two pairs of jeans I took both smell like a tobacco store caught fire in each pant leg. Yeah, okay, I was shooting for the stars with that one.

Other than widespread lung cancer and emphysema issues, Vienna is a very nice city. The buildings especially are probably the nicest I've had to look at since I left Paris in 2006. Sadly, I didn't do the whole museum thing, but we did go to what I believe was formerly a summer home for Austrian kings. It was apparent in visiting this site that the king who built it liked himself a whole lot. After ascending a large hill, we were afforded a wonderful view of the entire city.

That was the only real "touristy" thing of note that I did in Vienna. The rest of the time was spent reacquainting myself with the marvel that is FIFA 2009, which one of my host's friends had brought, and experiencing the nightlife of Vienna. I went to a Biergarten, at which I polished off a liter and a half of beer, went to a few bars, and a few clubs. The penultimate night, Saturday, I spent getting hit on by Austrian cougars (women over 30) and Swedish cougars that we happen to meet while wine tasting. The Austrian that fancied me in particular could not speak English, so we used her friend as a translator. It was a good time, and we stayed out until 6 am.

All in all, it was a good trip. As I mentioned, I'll be in Sweden the next few weeks, saving precious money and hopefully learning a bit more Swedish. Heydå.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Another Boring Trip Story: London


Though I may call this a boring trip story, this excursion was in no way, shape, or form boring for me. It began innocently enough with the usual trip to Uppsala Centralstation – it's become customary for me to take a bus to the station, but walk back on my return leg – the 260 SEK round-trip ticket to Stockholm-Arlanda airport, printing out my boarding pass at the airport, scurrying through security, and waiting impatiently at the gate to get it all on with. Though, this time, I had to, somewhat oddly, get my passport stamped before heading to my gate.

The Boeing-767 I flew to London on was the nicest plane I've been on. The British Airways vessel made me feel as though I was in business class, when in reality, I was smack in the middle of coach. I must admit, though, that in spite of the free beverage and Daily Mail newspaper, the complimentary Chicken, Cheddar, and Mustard Chutney sandwich left something to be desired.

We landed right on time, and after waiting in the kilometer-long customs line, I made my way to the Heathrow tube station. It was around 9 pm when I sat down for the 50-minute long tube journey on the Piccadilly Line. Strangely, as soon as I felt I had escaped from the old "hearing nothing but Swedish in public places" dilemma, a foursome of juvenile Swedish girls began gawking away.

Dear friend Daniel met me at the Gloucester Road tube station, and after a stop at the all-important liquor store, we trudged to his dorm. We nursed some Scotch, guzzled some beers, and left for a four story bar. With its live music and bustling energy, this Irish bar made for a good time. After a few hours, we hailed a cab, along with the friends we had joined there, and headed back to the dorm.

I should add here, that although I'm not going to disclose why, I ended up sleeping in three different places in the three nights I spent there. I'll leave you with the fact that I had no choice.

Anyway, on we go. We awoke rather early, maybe 9 or 10ish, and stepped on the Piccadilly Line once again, again heading Eastward, but this time towards a certain Arsenal stop. Anyone who has spoken to me for more than 10 minutes probably knows that its hard to stop me babbling about my beloved Gunners. Being in London, and Arsenal happening to have a match in North London, I figured I'd drag Dan along to see if we could conjure up some tickets.

We got off at the Arsenal and walked excitedly up the tunnel. A good friend back at BC had given me some tips on how to find spares, so we tried all of those. After lacking success, we asked around for spares, and oddly – I don't know how anyone could think of this – were directed to the Emirates Stadium box office. Apparently, they were selling Will Call tickets people had failed to retrieve on time.

We got in line, but, to our amazed chagrin, the folks in front of us snagged the final tickets. Discouraged, we walked back the way we had come, hoping something would fall into our laps. It then did. A somewhat mysterious, but business-like, fellow approached us, probably seeing the Arsenal crests in my eyes and disappointment on my face, and offered us tickets. £125 each, he said. Done, I said. After following him into a sidestreet, he pulled the folded tickets from his shoes, and the transaction was completed.

I then began to think it was too good to be true, and started to worry whether they were authentic tickets or not, especially because they lacked any barcode. At this point, I was shaking in anticipation for the moment when I would finally step gloriously through the turnstiles. I couldn't even put down my share of a four-pack Dan and I purchased.

We walked up the steps that lead to the Emirates itself, my knees wobbling profusely. Our intent was to attempt to enter long before the match started, so if we had been shammed, there would be some hope of beating the shite out of the crooked vendor. No problem. We got in.

We walked through the tunnel, and the beautiful, sun-brightened grass came into view. We examined the row number on our tickets, then those on the side of each seats. To our amazement, we kept walking towards the pitch. Finally, we stopped 11 rows from the lot of orange-clad ushers. I was sat directly on line with the middle of the goal. I almost cried.

The rest is irrelevant, other than that I had a goofy smile on my face the entire match, which Dan can verify, and the drunk Englishman spouting his mouth the entire match. Admitedly, I quite enjoyed the "ABC, 123, City girls have got VD" cheer he employed, but the rest was, to borrow an English expression, rubbish.

The match itself was wonderful. Arsenal never looked second-best, and thoroughly dismantled the shambolic Manchester City XI. Robinho was awful, and it was great to jeer him in person.

Anyway, I'm going to stop gaga-ing about the Arsenal, as I'm quickly running out of blogging steam but still want to talk about the rest of my trip.

After the match, we headed back to Kensington for a much needed nap. We then met some of Dan's friends for a pre-party drink, then headed to what some may describe as a rave. Ecstasy was present, and the environment at the place, called The Ministry of Sound, put me into a trance-like state. I should add that I did not, in fact, take ecstasy.

We headed home after nearly inciting a brawl, and after walking around Kensington a bit and seeing the exterior of the Royal Albert Hall, I fell asleep.

The next day, in order, consisted of tossing a football in Hyde Park, eating fish and chips, going to Harrods (which includes perusing their vast liquor and cigar collections and eating Krispy Kreme donuts), going to a pub, smoking some Cubans while sipping on Scotch, then going to bed.

The next morning, Dan and I parted ways, as he had class to attend, and I explored Trafalgar Square before returning to where I now sit, in Uppsala.

I leave for Vienna tomorrow, so expect Another Boring Trip Story in the middle of next week. Meanwhile, I'm going to work on getting some pictures available to you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

BC = Bullsh*t College

The pick times have been postponed for a day. Gotta love ResLife. I'm heading to London tomorrow.


Well in case you'd like to know how I spent my day, it pretty much went something like this:

1. Cultivate dislike for Boston College
2. Develop dislike for Boston College into hatred for Boston College
3. Cultivate already intense hatred for Boston College Office of Residential Life

Let me explain.

At approximately 14:45 GMT+1, I sat down at my computer in order to register for Fall 2009 classes. I'd already had a difficult time retrieving my registration code from the BC bureaucracy, but my adviser sent it to me Monday evening. I typed the four-digit password into the registration system, and VOILA! it didn't work. So I whipped off two e-mails quickly to my adviser and the history department secretary pleading for my key. After already bursting several blood vessels in my head and neck, I finally received a corrected password from Student Services and was able to register. Only then did I find out that one of my courses had changed times. This didn't interfere with other courses but will interfere with my sleep schedule next semester.

Then began the already infamous (in BC circles) debacle – I wish a stronger word was in my grasp – with ResLife. The plan was for one person to register our two six-person groups. At first, we couldn't register two of the twelve because of niggly ResLife requirements (a simple "checked box" on the housing application). I quickly rang the two via Skype in order to take care of the matter.

The group registration was supposed to end at 1pm EST, but certain technical difficulties with the system precluded this promise. I should add that this is the first year the housing process has been completely digital, so my class are the guinea pigs. And clearly, ResLife don't have their *CENSORED* together. It wasn't until 2pm that the registration closed, and not until 5pm that we received our lottery picks.

Therefore, I wasted a grand total of four hours waiting for news from ResLife. Given my experience with this utterly useless organization, I am none too pleased with them.

Let's examine the people who work for ResLife, shall we? At the very bottom are the Resident Assistants, or RAs. I have absolutely no problem with these people. They receive free housing from the university in exchange for playing bad guy, which excusing some RAs being stricter than others. Next are the Resident Directors, or RDs, of which there is one in each building. From my experience with RDs, BC has taken the most needlessly strict, power-tripping RAs and promoted them. Most of these people are over the age of 25 and should not be spending their lives busting college kids for what college kids are supposed to be doing: drinking (besides studying).

I must digress for a moment to inform the reader that, as this esteemed author is writing this blog, he has received another e-mail from ResLife informing him that pick times have been delayed by another hour.

Now where was I. After the RDs, we move up into the ResLife higher staff. Dealing with these people for numerous college-related offenses (i.e. hosting a party in my suite or GOD FORBID, deploying a fire extinguisher), I have learned that these people are illogical morons. In several meetings with them, we have easily found flaws in their cases against me and my roommates. I have a feeling that their limited life potential has inspired them to use solely their passions in enforcing the already unjust ResLife codes. In Laymen's terms, these people didn't have fun in college and don't want you to either.

I should add, somewhat diminishing my own passion in this blog, that there are always exceptions to these laws of the universe. For every idiot, there are two people trailing in his wake trying to fix the mess. Unfortunately for the latter two, the idiot is the one who receives the most attention and spoils their own reputations.