Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Motion to Set the Agenda

I finally finished my AU Abroad application, including the "Study Abroad Goals and Expectations" section, which asks you to list 3-5 goals you'd like to accomplish while abroad. I tend to not take anything AU Abroad does seriously, considering the opening banner on their website says "It's not just about the sites; it's also about the insights," and they make you sign a form saying you won't miss class because of hangovers or "self-inflicted conditions," which I think applies more to the suckers enrolled in AU programs, but still, it's silly. They're silly. I'm silly, too, though, and so are these goals. Hold me to them:
While studying abroad at the University of Gothenburg, I would like to:
1. learn enough Swedish to be conversationally fluent,
2. take advantage of the public land access laws and do some cold weather camping,
3. see the northern lights,
4. learn how to make Swedish meatballs, and
5. visit at least three other countries [editor's note: I'd rather be in a monogamous relationship with Sweden than have one-night stands with continental Europe, you know? Also, I know that Sweden is technically part of continental Europe, but only if you drive into the Arctic Circle (Gothenburg is on the southwestern coast, by the way) and make a giant U-turn into Finland and past the former Soviet Union. Getting from Sweden to anywhere is like following your favorite band on their cross-country tour, if your favorite band is called Warsaw Pact Countries and you live in the country of An Entire Fucking Continent], and become fairly competent at using European transportation.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Greetings from Richmond! I'm home for the rest of the summer, so posts are going to be few and far between, since I am no longer traveling, but rather doing yoga, laying out at the pool, playing Mario Golf and Scrabble, and drinking Arnold Palmers, pretty much exclusively. In case you were wondering, this is where the blogging/caving/MAGIC happens:

believe it or not, it's pretty much always this neat, which is astonishing, considering my dorm looked like it was the weekend all week/semester/year long

and these are the crazy kids I live with:

SHaack, Little CHaack, Big CHaack, THaack

Snoopy, AKA Snoo, Snooey, Snoo Boo, Boo Boo, Puppy Face, etc.

I'll try to capture more of the suburban magic throughout the next month, but until then, here's a fun fact about my neighborhood, Woodlake: If you want to paint your house, or in any way change its exterior, you must first gain approval from the Woodlake Community Association's Architectural Review Board by submitting an application that is in accordance with the 54-page document highlighting design philosophy, regulations, and guidelines. Of course I didn't read the entire thing, but the general idea is that your house cannot be a radically different color, like magenta or screamin' green or something that only Crayola can make, but it also cannot be in the same color family as your neighbor's, as to create the illusion of individual thought. Tricky, right? Also, everyone must have the same mailbox. It was a big to-do a few years ago when the WCA decided that brown mailboxes were out and black mailboxes were in, so everyone had to change and order the mailbox from the same vendor, because god forbid your black mailbox have slightly different measurements or angles or letter-receiving abilities or whatever.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cutting Room Floor

I totally forgot to mention that this summer I did yoga in Bryant Park,

yoga in the city: not very relaxing

watched fireworks from a rooftop party overlooking the Hudson on the Fourth of July,

by day

by night

"sarahs do it better." -sarah entwistle, woman of great wisdom and floppy hats

went to City Island in the Bronx,

and couldn't use my sidewalk, because apparently that's where people keep their recycling in Brooklyn.

Unfortunately, I'm not Moses, so would you mind, like, moving that?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake

Caitlin, Jackie, and Marie all happened to be in New York on Saturday, so we hit the town and brought a little of the Dirty R to the big city. We strolled through a glorious 20-block street fair on the Upper East Side, where I almost purchased an owl-shaped clock necklace before I remembered Tracy Morgan's words of wisdom:

An Owl Without A Graduation Cap is Heartbreaking sound bite

The voice of a generation. After hanging out in Bryant Park for a little, we grabbed some lunch and brainstormed ways we could keep cool, the best and most obvious choice being an ice bar. Duh. The only one we could find in the city, though, was Mehanata, a Bulgarian Ice Bar that, upon entering the premises, made you take six shots in two minutes while wearing a Russian military uniform. Among the FAQS: "'Do I get a chaser?' 'No.' 'What happens if I get sick?' 'Don't.'" You also were not allowed to take pictures. I couldn't make this up if I tried. We decided against giving Mehanta a visit; instead we had a great night in the Village involving fake identities (not fake IDs, but actual fake identities for when guys tried to talk to us. "Hi, Jane Richardson, nice to meet you."), real talk, and getting chased out of bars.

I also accomplished my Mad Men fantasy of drinking a Manhattan in Manhattan, Don Draper style. Marie and I are throwing a Mad Men premiere shindig, which we've pretty much accepted will only be attended by us, but we're dressing up and making 60s-inspired hors d'ouevres so it's going to be a blast. Almost as good as the time we watched Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and made Strawberry Fields brownies. Almost.

It's also worth a mention that we had dessert before our Greenwich Street adventre at Crumbs Bake Shop (this was a girls' night out, after all), which has quickly cemented its place as one of my favorite eateries in New York. Their cupcakes are spectacular, not to mention almost inedibly large, "almost" being the key word here. I had already been to the Greenwich Village location, sampling a very delicious vanilla coconut cupcake (vanilla cake with vanilla frosting and coconut shredded on top); the Upper East Side location was equally tasty. I decided to go all out with the cookie dough cupcake (vanilla cake, chocolate buttercream filling, and vanilla buttercream frosting with cookie pieces mixed in), which was equally delightful. Usually I'm not a huge chocolate fan, but this cupcake made a solid case for the cocoa bean.

nom nom nom

If you couldn't tell, I'm really hungry right now, because a) there is no food in the apartment since I'm leaving in four days, so why would I buy groceries, and b) I'm detoxing from this weekend. So much cupcake. So much Delirium Tremens. Must. Eat. Spinach.

You Say Goodbye & I Say Hello

I received many great things at work today. Global department hooked me up with some awesome new intern swag:

It's a knitted glove keychain and bookmark made by Girl Guides (Girl Scouts are the American organization; Girl Guides are international branch, founded in the UK, although we are all under the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouting, W.A.G.G.G.S) in Lima, Peru. The bookmark reads, in Spanish, "A Guide protects animals." You tell it, sister. You can also see the previously mentioned Girl Scout keychain flashlight. Such great swag. I'm starting to accumulate quite a collection of Central/South American goods for never having been there and only being able to say "Hi, I'm from the United States, taco" in Spanish: the keychain, the bookmark, my silly vest, and the alpaca backpack, the Pulsera. It's getting a little ridiculous.

I also received the valuable lesson that when the vice president of your department says "jump," you say "how high?" The 2nd annual (er, monthly) M+V potluck at Bryant Park that I had planned had been on the calendar for at least a month, when it was suddenly axed today by the head honcho of our floor. Sure, we're going to get ice cream instead, a solid consolation prize, but it was a little disappointing to have yet another project kicked to the curb after the expedient dismantling and rearrangement of GSFG, the very assignment which I was brought on to complete and assist with its national rollout. Ironically, more people responded to the potluck than the ice cream outing, but what can you do? It's a hard knock life for an intern.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Stuff We All Get

This time next week I'll be prepping to leave the Big Apple for good; as great as it's been to live in and explore and experience the city, which could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I'm very much ready to go home to Richmond. It'll be great to not have to do my laundry in the bathtub or make a meal out of dry Frosted Mini Wheats and a beer that someone left in my refrigerator. Interning with GSUSA has by far been the best part of the summer, and it's super nerdy, but I looked forward to going to work every morning, and really enjoyed being at the office. Slowly but surely I'm turning into a "career woman," whatever that means. It's sort of a shame that the workload got heavy/fun/exciting right when I have to depart, but what can you do? Anyways, over the past nine weeks I've accumulated some great swag:

- Shrink Your Carbon Footprint! miniature wall calendar with eco-friendly tips
- EPA mad libs
- two lip glosses and a lipstick (in super chic colors, might I add) from this service in education blah blah conference I attended on behalf of Jodi
- football-shaped stress ball from same conference
- super cute pink polka-dotted tote bag
- GS cookie pencil
- GS Ccokie pen
- GS badge about saving the world or making a difference or something. Can't recall.
- two pins about service and leadership
- a pedometer and a hand-cranked flashlight, both of which I gave to Jodi because her toddler will probably get more enjoyment out of it than I will
- GS keychain flashlight (awesome!!!!!)
- Post-It Notes with the spectacular new GS branding, which I am obsessed with and have loved using on all documents, presentations, etc. So sharp looking!

And, to save the best for last:

My very own box of GS cookies! One of my favorite kinds, as well (there are two separate bakers/vendors, and the East Coast vendors call these cookies "All Abouts," which have GS values on them instead "thank you" in various languages). People kept asking me if I would get free cookies as a GS intern, or if I'd be designing/marketing/selling the cookies as part of my job, at which point I'd get huffy and point out that GIRL SCOUTS IS NOT JUST ABOUT COOKIES. WE ARE MORE THAN CUTE GIRLS IN SASHES PEDDLING BAKED GOODS. WE ARE STRONG WOMEN. Turns out strong women lurve GS cookies though, because it wasn't too long that these were on my desk before people started popping into my cubicle and demanding to know where I got them. Apparently there's a room at GSUSA HQ that contains all the cookies sent for quality control, and it's "kept under lock and key, more guarded than any of the technology here," and "no one knows where it is" because it's the "best kept secret in the building." I just kind of stared wide-eyed at my coworker, nibbling on a Thanks-A-Lot and clutching to the box for dear life. I'm just trying to get to Mordor, Gollum Scouts. The experience left me with this song squarely lodged in my head, and I found myself humming (okay, JAMMING to) it every time I sampled the forbidden fruit...cookie:

Looking for my goodies? Keep on looking, 'cause they stay in the jar. Box.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Want To Go To There

I've been trying to immerse myself in as many Swedish things as possible this summer in preparation for my trip abroad. Efforts to learn the native tongue have actually been coming along much more swimmingly than previously reported, thanks to this gem of a book:

Will I know how to buy a train ticket or ask what time it is? No. Will I know where to place an adverbial and where to rest my tongue in order to pronounce a fricative consonant? Yes. I also attempted the method used for my French AP tests, which was to watch a bunch of movies in French and listen to CDs in French over and over in my sleep in hopes of magically absorbing knowledge of the language, but those efforts have been more futile, especially because every Swedish film I've watched has been awful. Acquired taste, I suppose.

Being in New York City this summer, though, has given me the chance to experience a good deal of Swedish culture before even leaving the States. A few weeks ago I headed down to Battery Park for the Swedish Midsummer Festival, a celebration of the summer solstice that involves maypoles, dancing, and floral head wreaths. Unfortunately, I forgot to put the batteries back in the camera that day, so phone pictures had to suffice:

Affirming all stereotypes, everyone there was very blonde, very cherubic-looking, and very approachable in their demeanor. A veritably pleasant group of Scandinavians. I've been making lots of blanket statements about Swedes, albeit very flattering ones, and I hoped that an exploration of cultural events and a trip to the United Nations to peruse the Swedish trinkets section would reveal some national attributes other than Arctic fauna, traditional sweaters and costumes, and overall cuteness. Would Sweden prove me wrong? Would my deeply-held convictions be shattered?

No, not at all. This country is SO SCHMADORABLE.

THaack was in town today for a business meeting, which advantageously coincided with Restaurant Week. Good timing, right? We decided to check out Smorgas Chef, a Scandinavian restaurant located in the Scandinavia House on Park Avenue, and it did not disappoint. THaack spent the first 23 years of his life in rural Minnesota (he said he felt like he was home what with so many "old Norwegians" at the restaurant), where you can't spit and not hit a Scandinavian, and so he was particularly impressed with the cuisine:

Despite THaack's familiarity with lingonberries and lefse and lutefisk as the grandson of a Norwegian, Lutheran pastor, he had never passed on these culinary gems; I had never before experienced Scandinavian, let alone Swedish, cuisine. Fortunately, Smorgas Chef did not disappoint. The vegetarian Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes, kasha, lingonberry sauce, and mushroom gravy were delectable, albeit a bit hearty for the Mid-Atlantic summer, but it received, emphatically, the SHaack Seal of Approval:

Also notable: homemade lingonberry soda (to my right, your left, that's not a Bloody Mary because ew, I wasn't looking to vomit, thanks) with crushed lingonberries at the bottom, pine nut salad, and pear almond tosca. I can definitely see myself eating this for the next ten months. As previously mentioned, four courses of heavy Scandinavian starches and sauces were a lot for the current season and city, but I picked up a free visitors' guide on the way out (featuring Crown Princess Victoria's royal wedding that took place last month, awwwwwww, monarchies are so cute, I can't wait to visit the royal, glorious landmarks), and read that the average January temperature is 29 degrees Fahrenheit, with the sun rising at 8:47 AM and setting at 2:55 PM. Bring on the meatballs and mashed potatoes and so much coffee, please.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Standing At A Swedish Festival

This show will make for a great addition to my ever-growing collection of of Montreal ticket stubs (previously: Baltimore, New York City, Washington, DC).

Also, I officially leave for Sweden in six weeks and two days, and all I can say is "Hello, I don't speak much Swedish, but I would like some coffee. Thank you." I'm starting to get a little nervous, to be honest.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I'm Going To Have To Rule That As Dilatory

Tuesday was Staff Appreciation Day at GSUSA, which they celebrated by making us go to an all-staff meeting to celebrate employees who had been with the organization for five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and even 35 years (could you imagine? you've been working at one place for almost twice as long as I've been alive), and then turning us loose by 10:50 AM. It was really great to have the day off, but I don't go to work until 10 AM, so GSUSA showered me with appreciation by making me wake up at 7:30 to sit next to someone who interpreted the event as "Take Your Daughter To Work Day," dodging the limbs and wayward orange juice of a very restless six-year-old. If I wanted to see children at work, I would've interned at a daycare, thanks.

Instead of F-training it back home for an extended nap/extension of sleep, I decided to instead take the opportunity to take a stroll to the United Nations building, a place I've always wanted to visit ever since I got involved in Model UN. I no longer do MUN anymore and tend to treat the UN not unlike my parents treated me every time I got a harebrained, wildly grandiose yet totally impractical idea as a kid (or now), with a lot of love and admiration and respect while at the same time maintaing a condescending, dismissive sort of head-patting ("That sounds great, honey, but I do you really think Iran is going to halt its nuclear program just because you and 2/3 of your committee 'suggested' it? Why don't you run along and see if France is home? You two can take a bike ride to the pool. It's a gorgeous day outside."), but it's still an important institution, and one that I would be upset with myself if I didn't see it this summer.

The building is, understandably, extremely limited in its accessibility unless you're a delegate or head of state or with a tour group. I fit none of those categories (I had spent the morning trying to avoid a wayward Crackberry-to-face at the hands of a restless first grader and I was not about to spend an hour with multiple children), and could venture only so far. The current exhibitions featured climate change, indigenous issues, and disaster relief, particularly after the earthquake in Haiti. Unfortunately I was too shy to ask someone to take a picture of me in front Ban Ki-moon's portrait with a silly grin and two thumbs way, way up, so these will have to suffice:

Fun fact: the UN Building, like the Parthenon and the Pyramids at Gaza, utilizes the Golden Ratio; the considered the most aesthetically pleasing based on mathematic principles, the ratio of the width of the building to the height of ten stories of the building is approximately 1.618, which is the limit that the ratio of subsequent Fibonacci Numbers reaches (or doesn't I guess, whatever, I am now officially talking about subjects which I am not qualified to discuss in length. Hell, I failed my trigonometry final junior year. FAILED. F. LESS THAN 63%. WITH PARTIAL CREDIT. This is not an exaggeration.)

What made this...museum? collection of exhibits? displays of international affairs paraphernalia? great was that it required a lot of reading; you had to read every plaque and sign in order to really grasp the significance of the piece. For example, dove mosaic:

Cliched symbol of peace, or cliched symbol of peace given as a gift to the United Nations by His Holiness Pope John Paul II?

Fun, multicolored, painted turtle...

Or fun, multicolored, painted turtle of Native America origin used as a therapy practice for troubled or depressed teenagers at an adolescent treatment center in Pennsylvania?

Random copper bust...

Or random copper bust of heroic United Nations Mediator on Palestine from SWEDEN?

Anyways, after a cursory sweep through the visitors' area, I walked back to Midtown, stopped in the New York Public Library at Bryant Park for a hot minute, go overwhelmed, and headed back home for that nap. It took me 20 years, but I finally realize that naps are our friends, and they only want the very best for us.

Some more assorted pictures:

The United Nations has such a great aesthetic. Usually I don't like blue, but they pull it off so well. Really brings out their eyes. Also, I like Sec Gen Boutros Boutros-Ghali's glasses.

An activity book for children featuring a not-so-environmentally-friendly generic father figure. The UN bookstore may have been the best part of the entire visit. So many collections of treaties! So many chotchskies!