Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stockholm igen

These past few weeks have brought both a bit more busyness and a few changes. My class time last week was about 6 hours a day for toxicology and 2 hours two days a week for Swedish, so I've been keeping myself busy. Here's an overview of my recent adventures:
Last weekend, my CIEE program took all 8 of us to Stockholm for an archipelago tour paying for our train tickets roundtrip, our boat tickets, and our lunch. It's not often that one can say they only spent 7 dollars for a day in Stockholm, but I did just that! We left in the morning and it was a bit chilly and overcast when we left Uppsala, but the train ride was a lovely time to chat with Avery and Amy (our assistant program coordinator, getting her Master's at Uppsala). Upon arriving in Stockholm, autumn tried to be on its best behaviour. We had about an hour or so to spare before our train left, so we grabbed a most delicious cup of coffee (Arvid Norquist.....for you Swedes) and enjoyed the narrow cobblestoned streets screaming with color. The colors of the buildings make even the greyest days seem a little bit brighter. The coffee was perhaps my best cup in Sweden thus far and the cafe was even better. The aroma of fresh coffee and bullar was overwhelming right as you passed through the doorway. It was like a warm bakery hug that makes you want to stay there all day to be cradled in its arms. And oh the pies...they looked delicious, hallon, blåbär (my favorite) och äpple, freshly morning made and just waiting to fill your mouth with their warm, explosive flavor. I restrained myself and just stuck to the coffee (keeping costs down). However, I didn't have much time to enjoy my coffee because we quickly realized it was later than we thought and we had to make it back around the harbor before our boat left. Coffee was gulped down and speed walking turned into running to make it just in time before the boat pulled out of the dock. This left us in a small predicament....no more seats. It had just started to drizzle outside, and the wind was picking up as we headed out on the water, so standing outside was both undesirable , and unphotogenic. We sat inside for a bit while the rain passed, and headed for the stern and enjoyed crisp autumn breezes as we snaked between island after island. The air was just chilly enough to make your nose cold and runny and your cheeks a tad bit rosy, the leaves were beginning to turn, and scarves fluttered in the wind while coats kept us warm. The houses out on the islands were again, so swedish and so gorgeous, Avery and I found our future homes :) After our boat tour, we were given open-ended train tickets to go back to Uppsala, so Avery and I decided to head back to Gamla stad to stroll through the shops with the intention of ending our day with none other than a scoop of ice cream! Here are some photo re-caps.

Em-J, saw this and thought of you :)

part of my groupie

screaming with color, right?

Here's that cafe!

Oh did the clouds put on a good show!

Can I live here?? (It's yellow in real life which makes it 10x better)

Island after island....

Amy snaps a foto of the group!

Our boat

I love these fotos!

Haha! :)

4 out of the 7 girls in our group of 8. Remy, Kelsey, and Avery

Stockholm delivered

We walked down the street and found this lovely tune....it was enchanting as it echoed through the street and passerby's leisurely walked or pedaled by

Let your mouth water because it was even BETTER in real life! The entire store was chocolate treats as beautiful and yummy as these (yes, this is where I spent my 7 dollars for the day). Oh, and the aroma was even better, so deceiving, yet so alluring, you can't walk by without stopping, it pulls you right in and there is nothing you can do to fight it.

Have you read "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" There is Aftonbladet and Dagens Nyheter! I was standing from the island on which Mikael Bloomquist and Lisbeth Salander live.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And the wind blows...

The weather has been up and down lately. But we have settled into this routine that is less summer and more fall. In the three weeks that I have been here, summer has quickly dwindled and fall has encroached on its place. The days are getting darker earlier (around 7:30 as opposed to about 8:45 or 9), the clouds seem to be settling in to their permanent positions, and oh, the wind blows. It blows and it howls. It's very fall-like. It's brisk and chilly, the leaves shimmer and the air cuts at your face. Today is a perfect autumn day, and the first time I really realized the bliss of summer is long gone. Summer left quietly, leaving it's footsteps for fall to come and fill in from behind. The days are colder and it rains more frequently. Swedish weather is more indecisive than Oregon's weather, yes, that's right, I know it's hard to believe. I woke up the other morning to a slightly overcast sky which quickly turned into a stormy downpour 2 minutes before I hopped on my bike to ride to class. I ride my bike everyday rain or shine. Although, I did just recently read about the the physics/mathematics behind the reasoning for getting so much more wet when riding a bike or running vs. walking. The verdict: walking keeps you much drier. We already know this from daily observation, but the it was quite fascinating to read the reasoning behind it, and put that thought to rest. I found myself thinking about it as I rode in the the morning, or before I went to bed. Anyhow, today was particularly autumn-y and I decided today was my first real day of fall since I got to Sweden. It has been autumn weather for some time now, on account of the significantly higher number of rainy days to sunny days, and the drop in temperature. One thing is for sure....I can't wait to FINALLY get my bag with fall/winter goodies. (Oh, that's been a riot....getting my bag which has been here for a week already. I think I should finally have it in my hot little hands tomorrow, fingers crossed)
Today I noticed a lot more fall foliage, and I am hoping to see much more in the coming weeks. The weather today is slightly overcast with the sun peaking in ever so often, the wind blows and you can hear the leaves dancing. This is why I decided today was my first day of fall, despite what the equinox tells us. After lab this morning, I decided to carpe diem and read in the botanical gardens across the street from the EBC (Evolutionary Biology Center), as we call it. Rather, the bio area. I packed a sandwich, apple (of which I picked myself, another sign of autumn in Sweden), and a cookie. I found a bench next to the pond where I enjoyed my lunch and some reading time. On my bike ride home, I saw children playing outside all suited up in their new season's clothes and at one particular playground when the sun was shining, I peered in to see a bunch of little glowing heads. All I could do was smile. Just past this playground, I had to slow down my bike on the trail for children crossing, There was a teacher in the front holding a rope that all the children behind had their grip on, they were all suited up in their identical rain suits which look like construction suits complete with reflectors. They looked like little ducklings following their mamma. I think they were about 3 or so, and by the looks of it, they were also headed to the playground. Needless to say, my bike ride home was entertaining and very enjoyable.
Today I am taking the liberty to rest and relax a bit as my week goes on with 4 lab days in a row, today was a short day sandwiched between two very long, very exhausting days in the lab. I haven't ever spent this much time in the lab as we only have 3 hour labs at Willamette for every one class. Sometimes labs can take longer, but usually we are all too busy to spend any more time than required in the lab. Here, it's different, We haven't had lecture since Monday and the rest of the week is primarily lab time. I need to rest to try to get over this mucinex monster that has taken over my body. My nose is stuffy and runny and my cough persists. So, Avery and I are going to enjoy fika and possibly an afternoon in town. We'll see where the wind blows us! ;)

Here are some things I have learned so far in Sweden:

1) ICA supermarket does not and will not accept international packages
2) It is very difficult to do what would be considered very mundane errands in the states....namely, pick up packages! Also, go to the doctor, go to the phone store, have a phone for that matter (you don't have a plan here through verizon for example, you just get a SIM card and fill your phone with minutes, but the DO have plans.....kinda, each plan has different rates and oh it's a joy when you finally figure out that some rates are skyrocketed with one plan vs. another.)
3) Sweden really likes the number system, you've got to take a number for EVERYTHING, I guess it's somewhat efficient, but it also seems like a sad waste of paper. I guess they do have about 300,000 trees per person (this is an actual statistic)

Sorry folks, no pictures today. Weather hasn't been conducive to picture taking. Hopefully soon I can snag a picture of my sweet bike! Happy fall!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What goes up must always come down.....

Another week in Uppsala has brought its fair share of new experiences abroad for me. The week started off on a very high note when I FINALLY got a bike! It's pretty nice I would say, and I got it for a great price! Bikes are in high demand here in Uppsala, so you've got to scoop up a good deal if you see one. It is so much easier to get around town and get to class without relying on the bus and my commute to the city center has been cut from 40 minutes, to just 8 minutes. I am excited to explore the city by bike!
Tuesday morning I woke up early in time to make my 8am lab. Something felt a little off, but it wasn't enough to keep me from going to class, so we rode our bikes and started lab work. Over the course of the 4 hours lab lasted, my ill feeling went from mild to unbearable as I was almost in tears by the time I left. I could feel my pulse in my temples, my neck hurt, my back ached, and I felt flush. I couldn't concentrate on the lab procedure and once I finally made it back to my room, I remembered a thermometer I had in one of my coat pockets from the last time I was sick at the end of spring semester and took my temperature. The thermometer read 100 degrees and I instantly got into bed. Thankfully, Avery brought me some soup and bread and another friend brought some tea and crackers. I stayed in bed all day, despite the beautiful warmth and sunshine present outside. I got up just to use the restroom and heat up my soup again for some dinner.
The next day, I luckily didn't have any class, I took it easy and Avery and I met Amy, one of our program coordinators for organic soup lunch at our nation. I was feeling much better (no fever) and just had a little tinge of a sore throat. I thought for sure it was just a quick flu and I would be good for the rest of the week. After a long lunch full of yummy food and good conversation, Avery and I went to the grocery store and headed home to make some dinner before our first Swedish class. Thursday we enjoyed Sweden's favorite lunch on a Thursday, pea soup and pancakes. We are hoping to partake in this tradition often! The pea soup was yummy, but the pancakes weren't as good as my Mom's :)  That morning however, it decided to start raining 2 minutes before I was ready to hop on my bike and head to class. I debated taking the bus, as the rain was coming down pretty hard, but in the end, we decided against it and attempted to cycle. I am now going to invest in a big, yellow rainsuit. On our 6 minute ride to class, we got entirely soaked. My jacket soaked through and my shirt underneath was wet, my pants were so wet that the water was running down my legs, and my boots got soaked through. After class, the first thing I did was hop into a warm shower to cure my chills. On Friday, I didn't have class until the afternoon, so I was hoping to get some work done in the morning and soak up the sun that was out. (every sunny moment these days has to be taken advantage of before the rains move in permanently) However, upon waking up, my symptoms of sickness took another turn for the worst as my throat was so sore I could hardly swallow. After taking a look at it with my trusty headlamp and seeing what looked like strep, I quickly headed to the doctor. Luckily, after my throat swab results came back, I found out it wasn't strep and the nurse told me it was then a viral tonsillitis and there was nothing more she could do. Now I am letting the virus take its course and using good old remedies like drinking lots of tea with lots of honey and lemon and eating a lot of garlic to hopefully ward off my sickness. I don't know how much they are working, but it's the thought that counts. Currently, I am left with symptoms of a cold, I've got a cough, a stuffy nose, and a slightly sore throat. Hopefully this week my sickness will clear up admist the rain in our forecast.
Yesterday was a great day as I was able to go on a tour of Uppland, the province here in Uppsala. I got to go the one and only Carl Linnaeus' HOUSE! Oh, it was amazing. The desk where he wrote his books, the cabinet where he developed his classification system, AND I got to see a plant he actually planted himself. No kidding, they took DNA samples of specimens in his herbarium and compared them to specimens still in the garden and found a couple of exact matches. Now, I know this isn't cool to all of you non-botany geeks, but bear with me. This is like the closest to Carl Linnaeus I will ever be. It was a dream come true, really. I soaked up every minute of it and more. The day was beautifully sunny with the most wonderful clouds, white and puffy (perfect for cloud watching) and the countryside was absolutely beautiful. There was forest, farmland, and open fields. It looked and felt like we were in a story book. Oh, it was just gorgeous. A moving postacard, really. There was only one problem, when we got out of the bus at Linnaeus' cottage, I take out my camera (obviously) to snap a photo of my first view, and I come to find the battery is entirely dead and I did not have my spare. Thankfully, Avery let me use her camera from time to time! After Linnaeus' house (where I could have easily spent all day), we drove to a castle right on Lake Mälaren where we got a personal guided tour for our group and had lunch (who doesn't enjoy having lunch at a castle??). It was beautiful and we even got to snag a couple of apples from the orchard on our way out! Lastly, we made our way back through storybook land to Sigtuna, Sweden's oldest city. Like I said, storybook land. There was a race just finishing through the town's main street that looked like loads of fun. Since we got there at the end though, we were able to walk through the main street and check out the shops after all. I got some wonderfully delicious tea for really cheap and Avery and I broke away from the formal tour and strolled around town on our own. We browsed through the shops, walked down small streets where flowers were blooming in front yards, and apples were left in a basket for welcomed guests. Our stoll took us down by the water where we sat and enjoyed deeeeeeeelicous ice cream. I know, I had delicious ice cream last weekend, too, what can I say? Sweden has got some amazing ice cream flavors. This time, I enjoyed my good ol' favorite pear :) Here are some pictures of Saturday's tour (photo credits mostly to Avery) and some of my first week in Uppsala for you to enjoy! (including pictures from Linnaeus' botanical gardens where university students get in for FREE!! does it get any better?!)

Front view of Linnaeus' garden

Linnaeus' summer house :)

Linnaeus' moss garden


Beautiful day

Here is the actual plant Linnaeus planted himself

Potentilla rupestris

Lovely clouds

Living roof

Lake Mälaren and the old harbor

YUMMY Swedish desserts!

We got apple cake (mine also had vanilla sauce, YUM)

And some of the best lax I've ever had

Avery and I in front of the lake

Mums, you would LOVE this shop!

I love all the ceramics!


Avery's camera can do this really cool panorama shot

YUMMY päron glass

We enjoyed our ice cream to this view

My favorite cafe has this in their window dislplay :) 
Only open till my birthday

Here's what I painted last semester

The garden is arranged by family and flowering time

Pollinators in action

The "autumn" garden

Fritillary is Uppland's flower!

Here it is, the Linnea flower itself :)

Family: Linnaeaceae :)

Genetic evidence that it is its own family :)

So Swedish

This design is so cool!

Fyris river

Amy and Avery walking to Håga

My nation! Västgöta

Organic soup lunch: Gazpacho

Uppsala cathedral 
Main University building

 With that, I leave you stuffy nosed but ready to enjoy yet another week in Uppsala. Let us not forget the many who lost their lives on this day 10 years ago.