Friday, June 29, 2007

Excursion #1: The Zoo!

But first, here’s a quiz for you:
What time was the picture below taken?

a) 7PM
b) 9PM
c) 11PM

Yes, that would be: 11 PM!! Even here in southern Sweden, we are VERY far north.

Today our Swedish language program (the Folk Universitetet of Lund, kind of like UC Extension) took us to the zoo!

It’s called Skånes Djurpark and is full of animals native to Sweden. It was, hands down, the most beautiful zoo I have ever seen – no hulking concrete structures or anything like that, but lots of beautiful fenced enclosures with some awesome animals. We also lucked out with the weather. It was a beautiful day!

Right before we explored the animal park, we went to see some replicas of some Stone Age villages and buildings, located right next to the Djurpark.

Here is our group, checking out a hunter-gatherer hut.

This picture is from inside a larger house, a replica of where Swedish farmers in the late stone age would have lived.

Some of my new friends in the program, who also go to UC campuses: Eva (from UCD), Karen (from UCLA), me, and Melissa (from UCI).

Walking down a hill towards the farmhouse.

Group picture! The group includes about 30 UC students as well as various other people from around the world who have chosen the Lund Folk Universitetet to learn Swedish (I'm on the left edge.)

Now on to the zoo! A bunch of animals, including one of the many species of birds they had in the park, an ox, a lake in the middle of the park, a lynx mama and cub, little wild piglets (napping in their trough?), a moose, and deer. Not pictured: the bears, wolves, and reindeer!

I’m leaving in a few hours for the weekend and will report more on Monday!
Til then, hej då!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sweden to phase out Å, Ä and Ö
Published: 1st April 2007 00:12 CET

A parliamentary working group has proposed scrapping Sweden's 'complex letters' Å, Ä and Ö, citing globalization and technological competitiveness as the main factors.

The Swedish government will now launch an inquiry into the matter, with a full recommendation anticipated in the autumn.

"Language is constantly changing and we must be prepared to meet the linguistic challenges of the modern world," said the Centre Party's Åsa Bäckström, who chaired the working group.

"Communication barriers are a hindrance to competitiveness, so we should do whatever we can - within reason - to eliminate them," said Bäckström in a press statement.

The change will not be addressed by legislation, but the government is expected to attempt to phase out the use of the three letters over a period of five years with a series of economic incentives.

These will target the technology, media and publishing industries with reduced VAT for computer hardware and software, newspapers and books which stop using Å, Ä and Ö.

Instead, advised the working group, Å should be replaced by AA, Ä by AE and Ö by OE. Many international media already use these letter combinations when reporting on Swedish affairs, Bäckström pointed out.

The plan is supported by the Swedish Association of Technology Employers.

"When you look at the cost to Sweden of keeping these letters, you can see the benefit of scrapping them," said the association's chairman, Torbjörn Nilsson.

"To a large extent this process has already begun for individuals or companies that use the internet in their communication. Email addresses and web site addresses simply ignore these letters - and people simply just that."

However, the move has not been welcomed by all. The Swedish Institute for Language and Learning in Ystad noted that other countries seem to be more inclined to stand up for their cultural and linguistic heritage.

"What we see in Germany and France, for example, is the complete opposite of this. Like them, we should be guarding our language, not giving it up," said press officer Göran Åklund.

Båstad council was also quick to reject the move.

"We already have enough trouble with English-speakers who think the name of our town is amusing. If the Å becomes a regular A it will just make things worse," said Social Democrat councillor Pär Öberg.

"We might as well go the whole hog and include an R."

The Local ( 656 6518)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My first week.

Hej! I’m back! The internet in my dorm room does not work, which is why the blogging suddenly came to a halt! (I’m paying for a $3/day for a WiFi service right now.)

I’ve now been here for exactly one week. (One week? It feels like a MONTH.) I have endured a thousand different moments since I arrived – many of them full of elation, excitement and adventure, but also beset with frustration, shyness, and loneliness. I thought suffering through the jet lag was painful, but it was when I arrived in Lund that the truly upsetting experiences began; I have never felt more stranded and alone.

The train ride from Göteborg (Gothenburg) to Lund was a piece of cake, as was the taxi ride to my dorm. But that’s when the trouble started.

First, I had to carry my 50 pound duffel bag three flights up a spiral staircase. Then I paid over $30 in taxi fare to get to the local mall half an hour before it closed to ensure that I had sheets, a pillow, toilet paper, and towels for my room. Then I found out my internet connection did not work. Then my cell phone stopped working, and my connection to the world was severed for a terrifying four hours, and by the evening I realized I had gone for 10 hours without eating anything (couldn’t find any food to buy!). On top of that, just the fact that there were so many new and different things was overwhelming! Really tough.

Honestly, it is probably good that I have been internet deprived since Sunday. It has allowed me to digest all of the things that have happened so far. Things have improved considerably since my arrival on Sunday and I am feeling pretty optimistic about my six month stay here. Here are a few “snapshots” of what I’ve been doing so far:

Learning Swedish
I just finished my third day of Swedish lessons! While I can still hardly understand what my teacher is saying, I have already learned lots of vocabulary. I can count (ett, två, tre…), say the days of the week (måndag, tisdag, onsdag…), months of the year (januari, februari, mars), recite the alphabet, and so on. I can introduce myself, name different modes of transportation, and today we started conjugating verbs into five different tenses!! All this in THREE days! I think I covered most of those items in ONE YEAR of middle school Spanish.

…is a challenge in a different language and currency. This goes for food (ten different kinds of milk) and clothes (sizing and figuring out what is cool). Today I found “Tiger,” the Swedish equivalent of the Dollar Tree – it’s amazing. CDs, housewares, books, toiletries, clothes, baskets, office supplies and more for 10 kronor each! ($1.50). I wish that I had found it days ago! And the currency, of course: 7 kronor to the dollar. Try coverting that in your head! (I’m actually getting very good at it.)

I had to throw in a couple of pictures of the amazing dryers they have here. They are, essentially, closets/giant blow dryers. You hang your clothes on the bars, close the doors, and presto -- in an hour they're dry.

There is also an immensely complicated laundry booking system involving electronic key chain tags, where you reserve a time using a digitized Swedish-language menu and then you must “activate” the laundry machines before you can access the laundry room… a long story short: I now have clean clothes. Hooray!

A gorgeous city! Lund is home to over 100,000 people. Lund University is the largest university in Scandinavia and has over 40,000 students (about 10,000 bigger than UC Davis). The weirdest part of Lund is that, unlike the UC campuses, the university’s buildings are spread out through the city rather than being contained in one specific area. The city was founded in the year 990 (!) and the University has been around since 1668, so given the city’s loooooong history, I guess that’s just how things ended up.

More later… on the bus system (it rocks), my peers (lots of UC students), and a Swedish “family” reunion!

I’ll leave you with some pictures.

On Tuesday, we took a tour of the Lundgården, an area in the middle of Lund with gorgeous gardens, a giant cathedral (domkyrkan) that was built 1,000 years ago, and several university buildings. (Click the pictures to enlarge!)

Clockwise from upper left: Our very entertaining tour guide, Lars, telling us all about Lund's history; a traffic sign; a mini maypole in the window of a small museum/store; a poster -- sorry for the profanity -- reading "Femton Fuckin' Hundra." We all got excited because we just learned to count (the first word is fifteen, and the last is hundred).

Clockwise from upper left: The domkyrka from the outside; the crypts in the basement -- lots of dead bishops; a candlestick inside the sanctuary; our tour guide Lars.

Lastly, below, is the Universitetshuset, where Lund University's chancellor lives. Nice digs, huh?

P.S. I now have a Swedish mailing address! (and I love getting mail!) Contact me or my mom and we will email it to you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No internet!

I'm currently without internet service in my dorm. Lame!

I will post a new blog as soon as I have a reliable connection again! (Hopefully that will be SOON.)

More soon, I promise!

Saturday, June 23, 2007


The skies in Sweden have just been itching to rain. Magnus and I watched the clouds very closely on Thursday and we were waiting for the rain to begin falling any minute. Well, the weather held out – until Midsummer, of course. Apparently, Swedish midsummers are often blemished by the rain, but it did not stop us from celebrating!

We celebrated with friends of Lina and Magnus, outside of Gothenburg at a house on Aspen Lake. The morning of the celebrations, I was attacked by jet lag once again: I woke up at 4:30AM and could not fall back asleep. It’s exhausting enough to function with only four hours of sleep, but doing it in a foreign country where you cannot understand anyone or anything is even more difficult.

Lunch was my first taste of PICKLED HERRING. I honestly did not know what to expect, but I am proud to say that I tried three kinds of pickled herring. The first one was your standard pickled herring: bitter, cold, and squishy. You spear the fish and a piece of potato, dip it in sour cream, sprinkle it with chives, and stick it in your mouth. It’s like I said: cold, squishy, and pickled, and that about sums it up. I also tried another type – sweeter, and pickled with onions – which was somewhat similar, as well as herring in a crayfish marinade, which was a lot smoother, softer, and creamier going down. It was not bad, just not my thing.

After lunch, we (eight adults and seven little kiddos) trundled 20 minutes down the road, in the rain, to the community midsummer celebration. A beautiful giant maypole stood in the middle of a grassy clearing and many other families stood around in raincoats, armed with umbrellas.

The rain wasn’t too bad, and as soon as the music started Lina, Maja, and I danced around the maypole to music, singing songs in Swedish about dancing like frogs and pigs, ladies going to town, and crazy old drivers. I think there is a reason that people drink schnapps at lunch.

By the end, it was truly pouring. Many of the Swedes – the smart, weather conscious people that they are – were clothed in rain pants, raincoats, and Gortex. I was in my sneakers and jeans, which steadily became wetter and muddier. Everyone got very wet. When we returned, everyone remarked that it was probably the rainiest midsummer they had ever spent outdoors. Lucky me! Instead of picnicking at the maypole, we enjoyed fresh strawberries and whipped cream back in the warm and dry shelter of the host’s house.

By this point, the lack of sleep was catching up to me and I was not feeling good: I felt stupid because I didn’t know any Swedish. I felt like I was exuding awkwardness. There was no one my age at the party (everyone was either over 35 or under 6 years of age). I was feeling so tired and so overwhelmed! Lina keenly noticed that I looked dead on my feet and I was SO grateful when she suggested that I take a nap. I went downstairs and took some time out to rest. It was a hard moment -- and I've realized that living abroad is already proving to be a huge challenge. I miss home and my family and friends a lot…

ANYWAY, I felt much better after a few hours of rest. Our hosts were great and prepared generous servings of ribs, potatoes, corn, relishes, compotes, and wine for dinner. The midsummer celebration centers around spending time with family and friends, singing, dancing, drinking, and eating – and doing a lot of it!

Last night I had my first interrupted night of rest! 8 blissful hours! I’m starting to overcome the jetlag. I am also ready to venture down to Lund and get started learning Swedish. It is incredibly frustrating not to be able to speak Swedish, even to 3-year-old Adam!!

Thanks to Magnus for the midsummer pictures.
Hej då!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blogging while still jet lagged is hard work…

…but here is another day in Sweden.

My plan was to get up at 8AM or so to go with Magnus to their kids’ daycare. I did wake up, but my head was swimming with fatigue, so I fell back asleep for another SIX hours. I was stunned to awake at 1:30PM.

Magnus was kind enough to drive me into downtown Gothenburg, and while he was in a meeting, I wandered through the city’s Kungsgatan shopping district.

Thoughts for the day:

1. Swedes speak English, but Sweden is not an English-speaking country. At all. I can’t wait to begin learning the language. Everyone can understand me when I speak English, but I can’t understand Swedish at all. Lina and Magnus’s little son, Adam, loves asking me questions (who painted your toes? When are you coming back?) but I can’t understand unless someone translates. A bookstore called “Akademibokhandlen” is straight forward enough, but who would have known that a cucumber is called a “gurka?”

2. Swedes are very fashionable. (See Mom? I told you so.)

3. Flip-flops are not fashionable. (Woe is me!!) Flats and trainers are. Magnus informs me that flip-flops are common in Sweden, but I guess it was not the right weather or location to be the dominant shoe of choice.

4. H&M is not terribly fashionable in this part of the world. I think it’s the equivalent to “Old Navy” or something similar. Magnus says it’s on the “cheap” side of things. I tell him it’s all the rage in America. I remember H&M being an extremely coveted brand in high school, especially before they opened stores in the U.S., and before its introduction on the west coast as well. Here in Sweden it’s just ho-hum. Probably because H&M is one of many fashion stores for young people (see pictures).

That said, I saw five H&M stores within eight blocks of each other, along with six McDonald’s, a chain which seems to be more popular than H&M, especially among young people.

5. Unlike spring in California, a 75+ degree day is no excuse to bring out your cutest skirt (and flip flops). It was a warm, muggy day, and most people walking around still had long sleeves or jackets on.

6. I packed way too many clothes. Why didn’t I listen to my mom?? There are a billion places to shop, and my clothes are all very “California.” Before I left, someone at church told me, “Why pack? Just buy everything there!!” I like that idea. Mom – can I somehow send home my 44-lb. bag for a redo?

After exploring for a bit and after dinner, Magnus and I headed to the grocery store. We drove through Gothenburg, which is a beautiful city, and Magnus pointed out lots of neat places, including a big pharmaceutical company (one of the big industries in Sweden), a theme park, and the fishing docks.

The day before Midsummer’s Eve is a big food shopping day. It’s kind of like rushing out to the store on the day before Thanksgiving to buy a can of cranberry sauce. We went to the larger ICA store, which is the size of a small K-Mart and wasn’t quite as busy, to get some food.

ICA has a BRILLIANT system for shopping. With an ICA card, you can self-scan and bag your groceries as you shop. After swiping your ICA card, you are automatically issued a scanner (see picture of Magnus), which you use to scan each product as you put it into your cart. It also automatically subtotals your groceries as you go. You also weigh all of your produce on scales and print out price tags to stick on your food and scan as well. When you’re done, you head up to the counter, hand the clerk your scanner, pay, and you’re on your way.

They also have wheels attached to their small grocery baskets, which I found amusing (and dually brilliant). Here I am pulling the basket on wheels:

Tomorrow are the big Midsummer celebrations (get the lowdown here). After shopping we picked up FIVE (!) kinds of pickled herring from Magnus’s friend who sells fish. I will give you the reviews tomorrow. ;-)

Glad Midsommar!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The transatlantic slog is never much fun.

I left my house in Berkeley at 4AM on Tuesday. It took three planes and over 24 hours of traveling to end up where I am now:
Fiskebäck (Gothenburg), Sweden.

The second leg of my trip (New Jersey to Stockholm) involved a lovely one and half hour interlude on the tarmac, first while we waited for the crew to re-secure the airplane’s cargo door (it was ajar… very confidence inspiring), and then to wait alongside other Continental flights (click on photos to enlarge) for other planes to land, thanks to the thunderstorms holding up the air traffic flying into NJ.

It’s nice to finally sit down in a chair that isn’t 30,000 feet above the ground nor sandwiched in between a plastic wall, a seatback, and other people’s knees. Though the midnight sun was beautiful. As we flew north it never got completely dark.

I’m staying with Swedish friends for several days – and my very gracious hosts, Lina and Magnus, are bringing me along to Midsummer celebrations on Friday.

Rumor has it that there will be SIX different kinds of pickled herring to sample on Friday (I promise to try at least one) along with lots of other Swedish food. Apparently, Midsummer is as big in Sweden as Thanksgiving is in America – lots of food, family, partying. Can’t wait.

On Sunday, I head to Lund by train for check-in and orientation for my program.

**three hours later**

I literally almost fell asleep onto my keyboard while writing this, but I somehow managed to move my laptop to the table before I crashed on the couch. I’ve been fighting the jet lag as hard as I can but I could not keep my eyes open. The nine hour time difference is brutal!

So you know: even at 9PM the sun is still way up there in the sky. By 11PM it will still only look like it's dusk.

Well, everything has gone well so far, but I can tell this is going to be an enormous adjustment. More later!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Six and half hours til my plane leaves
and I'm still using my laptop...

Just a few quick snapshots of my last day in America:

Bear reading my new webcam instructions and munching on my plane food: HobNobs cookies.

Max eating my HobNobs.

Last ride in sunny California!!
(Note my good ol' bike, Felty, recently built up and ready to fly to Lund! I'm leaving my newer bike behind for safe keeping...)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Countin' down...

Ten days til I leave and I can't stop thinking (worrying?) about it. I get that nervous-excited-adrenaline-pumped feeling every time it crosses my mind.

Plus, with school almost over, everybody is asking what I'll be up to this summer.

Um, living abroad?
Learning a new language?
Learning a new culture?
Gaining a new perspective?
Riding over cobblestones?
Celebrating midsummer?
Eating pickled herring?
Visiting Malmö? Stockholm? Mölle? Helsingborg? Skåne?


Just gotta pack first!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Racing in Lund!

Thanks to my mom's Swedish-Google skills, I found some great info on the local bike club, CK Lunedi, in Lund! They race, they train, they ride -- I am so stoked. It's the DBC of Sweden! (Actually, not quite, as there are only 100 members, but still...)

Link to CK Lunedi here.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pre-Trip Syndrome

Let's begin freaking out, shall we?

In the next 18 days, I need to:

  • Write two 15-page research papers (one on rural development, the other on spacial-economic development).
  • Write two 10-page papers (one on health sociology, the other on urban and regional planning).
  • Take three final exams.
  • Pack up my entire room and move my stuff back to Berkeley.
  • Decide which stuff I will need in Sweden for six months and cram it all into two smallish bags.
  • Figure out how I am going to get my financial aid/loan money while I'm abroad.
  • Get a new ATM card.
  • Figure out my new international cell phone.
  • Haircut. I need a haircut.
Then there's the stuff I don't have to do, but in my pre-trip panic (in which I realize there is a minuscule, foreboding possibility that I might never return) feel that I must do anyway. This list includes:
  • Return that shirt to Shoshi that I've been hoarding in my closet though haven't really worn, but she's in Australia so CRAP, how on earth should I get it to her?
  • Clean my room. Not pack, just CLEAN. And the bathroom and the kitchen, too! Don't the batteries in the smoke detector need to be replaced? And the stairs really need a good vacuum, too.
  • Are all my tour guiding pay stubs in one place? Did I get my tax return yet? Where did it go? My bank charged me another one of those silly one dollar fees, I should really call them about that.
  • Write an email to that person who I've been meaning to email about meeting up for lunch, because I haven't seen them in FOREVER.
  • Buy new dish towels.
  • Sell some of my books online.

And the list continues to grow...

Sure, I could do this all when I return. IF I return.

Darn PTS. It's going to be a crazy 18 days...