Thursday, June 2, 2011

T to the A to the S-T-E-Y GIRL YOU TASTEY

Instead of giving each edible/potable good that I so desire and crave its own individual post, I'm going to combine them all into one photo dedication:


Nom. Nom. Nom.

Feeling Hot Hot Hot

Mac Dashboard Countdown App Whatever tells me that I will be landing in Richmond International Airport in 5 days, 17 hours, and some number of minutes and seconds, which I'm not going to bother writing out, since I'll be stuck in an endless loop of trying to keep up with the time. Futile! Anyhoo, I'm growing more excited by the day about coming back, and I thought I'd share with you the things I'm most stoked to return to to which I'm most stoked to return blah blah grammar. I'm tempted to call it a series, but let's be honest, I'll probably only do like, two posts.



This is the first thing I've ever put in a different color on this blog. That is how strongly I feel about returning to the Mid-Atlantic summer. I want to sit in a bathing suit in the baking sun and hold a cold can of Diet Coke to my neck as I watch my sunburn develop. I want to sweat again. I want to feel alive!

An Open Letter

Dear Gothenburg,

It's June. Please adjust your weather accordingly. I should not still be wearing tights under my skirt, ankle boots, and a (fake) leather jacket.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hej Då, Sverige: Pt. 6

What's better than a list? A list in a list!

Hej Då, Sverige: Pt. 6: Gothenburg's Public Transportation System, Västtrafik

10 Reasons I'm Obsessed With Västtrafik

10. Cutest trams (oh, sorry, sparvagn) ever. Seriously, they look like they're straight from a Playmobil catalog.

9. Except for the tram I take into the city center. It's so mad!

8. Fittingly, I once saw someone get stabbed on the Angered tram. Couldn't decide if I was more frightened by the incident or amused by the wordplay. Also, I'm not sure how this ended up on a list of reasons that I love Västtrafik. Always exciting? Never a dull moment?

7. They run above ground, so you can see them coming and sprint the last 200 yards if need be. No more running down a broken escalator (WMATA...) at the last minute. No more Schrodinger's Metro.

6. ALWAYS. ON. TIME. Seriously, it took me a solid month to not leave 10-15 minutes earlier for things just in case the tram was late. DC Metro has given me a complex. But seriously, people start grumbling if the tram is even a minute late. The other day our bus came 30 seconds early, I kid you not, and Dusjan was like "See? They're never on time!" Swedes would die in DC. They'd see the infinitely blinking footlights and the looming ARR sign and keel over from a heart attack induced by lack of structure and punctuality. Even better, Västtrafik's website has a great route planner that is astoundingly accurate, allowing me to leave my apartment three minutes before I need to catch the tram. Glorious.

5. Did I mention they still run on time in the snow?

4. The honor system of payment. You can buy a tram/bus pass at any convenience store around the city- one day, three days, one month, or three months- but it's not necessary to touch your pass to the card reader each time you get on, since you have unlimited fare. Every once in a while the controllers come around in their massive ski pants and boots (seriously, they look like they just got back from a trip to Lapland) to check passes; the fine is around $200, which is more than a three month pass, so it's definitely worth it to not try to beat the system. Plus, the looks of disgust and silent public shaming you'll receive from the oh-so-honest Swedes is punishment enough. What this means, though, is that if you realize that you don't have your pass or you dropped it somewhere or whatever, you don't have to worry about getting stuck at an exit turnstile and having to deal to angry public transportation workers. And, since you have unlimited rides on your card, you never have to beg fellow tram-takers for spare change for your exit fare. It's a very people-friendly system.

3. The tram passes don't magically deactivate when you put them next to your phone. WHAT IS THIS MODERN TECHNOLOGY???? This list is quickly becoming a rundown of the Top 10 Reasons I Hate WMATA as much as it is Top 10 Reasons I Love Västtrafik.

2. Amazingly well-designed route layout:

Gothenburg is a city of 500,000 people, yet it has 12 tram lines, and about a gazillion more bus routes. At least 4-6 trams and busses run along the same route in the city center, which means that to get from point A to point B, you never have to wait long, and aren't stuck transferring 5489675467 times just to move eight blocks east or west, thanks, New York. Also, you're never more than a five minute walk from a tram stop, so you're never stranded in the city and/or snow.

1. Primo people-watching spots. Best time and place? The 9 on a Friday or Saturday night. Nästa: Vomitstorget.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hej Då, Sverige: Pt. 5

I didn't get a chance to post yesterday (sorry!), so today's entry will be dedicated to the reason for my absence. It is also dedicated to all those who have ever found themselves without a wine opener and have been so desperate as to try, in vain, to hit the bottle against a shoe, use a key as a wine opener, or jimmy rig a drip spout with only a pen, bobby pin, and sheer determination . You are not forgotten, fallen soldiers.

Hej Då, Sverige, Pt. 5: Screw Top Wine Bottles

There are no words. One of the greatest inventions of our time, right behind birth control, automatic ice makers, and texting. David Bowie may not have believed in modern love but, oh baby, do I ever.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hej Då, Sverige: Pt. 4

I have, on average, about one optional lecture per week here at University of Gothenburg, with a four-page "final essay" at the end of each month. All of this free time has given me the opportunity to explore all of the cultural gems that Gothenburg has to offer, including watching the entire series of Sex and the City. After watching the show, I found that I could really relate to the characters. HAHAH sike. I just have no point of reference for many of the plot lines. Yeah, I really hate being a single woman in my 30s when all of the people around me are getting married. Wow, sorry about your divorce. I can't believe I have to go to yet another baby shower! Who will watch my kid while I work my 60 hour/week job as a partner at my law firm??? Why do men always want the hot young twenty-somethings??????? I actually let out a bratty, self-assuming little chortle while watching "Valley of the 20-Somethings," which I'm pretty sure guarantees my karmic fate as a 60-year-old cat lady bachelorette. Agism is a bitch. Anyways! There was one little vignette that did hit pretty close to home, and served as the inspiration for today's post:

Hej Då, Sverige, Pt 4: Secret Single Behaviors

In "The Good Fight," Aiden asks Carrie to move in with him (Ok, can we have another aside here? WHAT was Carrie thinking? How stupid do you have to be to leave a guy who makes furniture for you, has a dog named Pete, takes you on weekend getaways to the countryside where he wears a lot of flannel and looks damn good in it, and is an all-around nice person who treats you well and calls when he says he will? GOD, CARRIE, WHY ARE YOU THE WAY YOU ARE?), which prompted the mandatory cafe recap conversation amongst friends about Secret Single Behaviors, the things you only feel comfortable doing when you are completely in your own space. Continuing to be the Everyman (er, Everywoman), Carrie claims that she likes to stand in the kitchen at night and have a snack of jam and crackers. How is this at all secretive? Unless you are eating said crackers in a skyscraper of a stack and crumbs are being jam-glued all over your face and everything you touch after that is left with little residual sticky jam fingerprints like you're some sort of toddler, that so does not qualify as an SSB, sorry.

I've had my own place here in Gothenburg, which has been very nice, and a definite change of pace from being in a space where someone's walking into your room in the nude to ask you which tights she should wear today, someone's sobbing, someone's eating your Raisin Bran and talking to his girlfriend on the phone, someone thinks she's pregnant, and someone's running around yelling BLACK OUT OR GET OUT, and, oh yeah, someone vomited on your floor last night. I don't even know. Going from living with three (well, really, seven) girls to living alone was a difficult shift, and going from living alone to living with five guys this summer may be even harder. These are the Secret Single Behaviors to which I must bid adieu:
  • Let's get the obvious over with: walking around in little to no clothing. No more morning coffee in my underwear. 
  • In the same vein, wearing bizarro clothing combinations. Some days I just want to wear pink striped pajama shorts, a Star Wars t-shirt, a red hoodie, a floral headscarf, and rainbow striped socks. It's comfortable and I'm feeling it.
  • Wearing my retainer. There is nothing less sexy than orthodontia.
  • Doing my hair. Walking out of the bathroom. Deciding I need to redo my hair. Staring at my hair for ten minutes. Making model faces in the bathroom mirror in an attempt to find inspiration for my hair. Deciding that I need more eyeliner, too. Applying eyeliner and then realizing that I look like a hooker. Washing off eye makeup. Still not knowing what to do with hair. Yelling at my hair and face for not cooperating. Giving up and sitting somewhere until I feel good enough to try again with my hair and makeup. Repeat. Biting off the head of anyone who says "it looks good enough."
  • Trying on an outfit and then spending 20 minutes deciding whether or not it makes me look fat. Thinking that it kind of does, and then taking off said outfit to see if I still look fat without the offending garment. Much like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book, deciding that either a) I look hot or b) my hips are big enough to show up on a Japanese whaling ship's radar. Spending the next 10 minutes or so poking and pinching and sucking in. Experimenting with how far down I can bend my neck before I get a double chin. Biting the inside of my cheeks to see what I'd look like as an Olsen Twin. Getting to know my mirror very well.
  • Liz Lemon does the degrading self-talk better than I could ever describe. 10 second mark:
  • Listening to Ke$ha.
  • Dancing around my apartment and pretending I'm Ke$ha. Don't act like you don't do the same.
  • Overshooting my pasta portions but probably eating it all anyways.
  • Eating said pasta and then halfway through deciding that it needs way more cheese. And basil. Oooo, olives would be nice, too.
  • Not looking cute while eating said pasta. Spaghetti's so unruly.
  • Watching the mindless television. Guiltiest pleasure? Hannah Montana.
  • Sleeping with little dots of toothpaste on my face in an effort to ward off impending blemishes. I look like I have albino chicken pox.
  • Coffee and frozen berries at 1 AM? DON'T MIND IF I DO.
  • No, but seriously, I've grown a deep aversion for pants here. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hej Då, Sverige: Pt. 3

Hej Då, Sverige, Pt. 3: Fika

Fika is something that I've wanted to blog about for quite some time now, but it's such an integral part of life here that it always felt silly to reiterate it here. It's something that can only be described as quintessentially Swedish. It is a tradition that I'm positive will be part of my stock answer when I return home and people ask me how my trip was:

"It was great! Really cold and dark, but you know, still good. Had a lotttt of fika. Oh, what's fika? LET ME TELL YOU."

Conversation starters are swell. But seriously, let me tell you indeed!

Fika is the Swedish custom of having an afternoon coffee and pastry with friends, coworkers, family, etc. Yes, people drink coffee everywhere, but nowhere is this tradition more institutionalized than Sweden. It is so deeply ingrained in Swedish culture that work contracts often include fika breaks. Your boss will actually shoo you out of your cubicle if you haven't taken your afternoon fika. Between 1-4 PM, the myriad cafes in Gothenburg (seriously, you could probably go to a different cafe every day for a year and still not have hit them all) are bustling with fika-ers, all taking a breather from the day with caffeine and a sweet.

While it's a little disconcerting that Swedes are always in cafes and never, like, at work (seriously, do these people ever work? More on that later. Maybe.), I absolutely adore fika. I find it to be a great representation of life in Gothenburg: slow, friendly, and sometimes painfully cozy. For me, the best part about fika is the fact that it has its own verb in Swedish. I fika, you fika, he/she/it fikas, etc. I also love that it's so quotidian. Enjoying a hot cup of joe and a kanelbulle with a friend is no longer the exception, but the norm. You can see this way of thinking reflected in the cafes in Sweden. Almost no one ever gets their coffee to-go (or, as they'd call it here, "take away"), and it's assumed that you will be enjoying your beverage and snack in an oversized chair for at least an hour or so. Don't mind if I do. As a former barista, it's interesting to see the difference in coffee cultures. There's no rush here, no crowds, no lines out the door, no collective sense of impatience. Just very happy Swedes, and one very happy American.

When the money started running out and the temperature started dropping, we started having DIY fika. I'd brew a monster pot of coffee, everyone would bring little cakes and cookies, and we'd sit in my room for hours, watching the snow fall in November December January February March April I'm not making this up May and shoot the shit for and hour or two or four. Fika is a way of pressing the reset button for the day. While AU life is obviously a bit more hectic, I would love to start fika-ing back at home. Don't be surprised if you start getting "Fika?" texts. Since SIS kids start growling at you if you sit on the couch at the Dav for more than 10 minutes at a time (cool your jets and read your Foreign Affairs elsewhere, I was here first), maybe I'll start a little fika place of my own. First things on the business to-do list: steal a few of those rollie armchairs from the first floor of the library, find someone who knows how to use Photoshop to create an image of Pikachu holding a cup of coffee for when I inevitably name the place Fika-Chu, import some lingonberry syrup to make lingonberry chai lattes. Any investors?

How did people live meaningful lives before the internet? I mean, could you imagine being like "I wonder what a yellow, rat-inspired Pokemon holding a cup of coffee would look like?" and not being able to just Google Image search "pikachu coffee" and have these results pop up? Think of all the things you'd miss out on in life. It depresses me just thinking about it.