Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stockholm Syndrome

If there is a god, he/she/it/whatever will rid me of this cold by the time I touch down in Amsterdam today. Stockholm was great, albeit it quite chilly, and I can't wait to tell you guys all about the Royal Guards and whatnot (hint: CUTIES), but for now I need to drink (more) tea and finish the last of the packing. To the Netherlands!

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Are There Like, Thanksgiving Songs?"

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving, everyone! Even though it's usually just a casual affair with THaack and the CHaacks (great band name, or awesome band name?), Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart, right next to April Fool's Day and Halloween (beginning to think that my holiday priorities are a bit...skewed, but whatever, sorry I'm not sorry); it's a day that was set aside for the sole purpose of getting a day off school/work, eating delicious food, and spending time with people you love. Could there be anything better? I normally don't get homesick, but I knew that the holidays would be difficult, and that the reality of being away from friends and family until June would hit particularly hard around Thanksgiving. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and have a Thanksgiving dinner here in Gothenburg.

Prepping for Thanksgiving in Europe was definitely bizarre. I woke up early to go to the grocery store, and I mean, I KNEW that no one here even knows what Thanksgiving is, but I was still bracing myself for the stores to be packed and all the food to be completely picked through. They weren't, and it wasn't, to my pleasant surprise, although there were so many old Swedes kind of shuffling around and blocking the aisles; AU Abroad Insight: the elderly are a nuisance no matter what their nationality. I also had a major DUH moment when I asked someone (in Swedish, no big deal) where the majsirap was, and received a blank stare and confused shrugs. It took me another twenty minutes of wandering around aisles until I realized that Sweden doesn't have corn syrup because they don't have corn subsidies. Total burden. I made it out after about an hour relatively unscarred, and ready to make some Thanksgiving magic happen.

After a quick break for OUTDOOR ICE SKATING (post to come once I acquire Joy's pictures), I put on my heels and apron and got down to business. I started at 4:30, and while I was only making pecan pie, stuffing, glazed carrots, and vegetarian gravy, the cooking process still took a solid three hours. Mom, I have a newfound appreciation for your Thanksgiving Day efforts. Anyways, it was worth the wait, because the dinner turned out, kind of to my surprise, beautifully. Everyone brought typical Thanksgiving dishes as well, so we had a veritable spread of stuffing, mashed potatoes, the BEST cranberries I've ever had, roasted vegetables, vegetarian gravy, pecan pie, and apple pie. It was quite the feast:
the gang, minus katrijn and ellen
oh yeah, that's six loaves of gluten-free bread right there. your eyes don't deceive you
It was really great and heartwarming that my friends got so into it. It's not their holiday, but they still all made food, dressed up, and genuinely wanted to follow all the traditions. A bunch of the girls even made me a card, which was super sweet:

except, you know, the other way around
This actually may have been the best Thanksgiving ever? I mean, no one responded to my Thanksgiving Day cheer with YEAH, HAPPY NATIVE AMERICAN SLAUGHTER DAY, there was wine, and no relatives were around to comment on my weight and ask me what I'm doing after graduation IN TWO YEARS*. I did, of course, miss my family dearly, but we got to have a little Skype date while eating dinner, and everyone in Sweden decided that the Haacks all sound "so American." Thank you?

*Actually, my pecan pie turned out so well (beginner's luck? what's that?) that I'm considering just dropping out of school and pursuing a career in Southern housewifery

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Plea

Dear readers,

On June 8th, I will be returning home to an adorable beagle, the legal ability to go to bars, and full access to Chipotle and hummus. Absent from that list, most unfortunately, is Four Loko, which I have never experienced in all its supposed glory of alcohol, caffeine, guarana, and taurine. If any of you would be so kind as to save me a few cans before they are pulled from the shelves, I would be forever indebted to you. Your support of my acquisition of soon-to-be illegal beverages means so much to me.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fall 2010

Today marks exactly one more month in Gothenburg before winter break begins, and then another month exactly until I'm back in Sweden, and I realize how much of an attachment I've grown to this city and the people I've met here. When I got here, I knew I would make friends, but I also knew that they would leave and I would leave and, well, studying abroad is a pretty temporary situation. When I booked my travel tickets this morning, though, and thought about not seeing some of these people for the rest of my life after this month, I'm not going to lie, I teared up a little. I made a conscious decision for the next 30 days to see as many people as possible, to talk to friends I met in September and haven't seen in quite a bit, to spend every possible minute in the company of someone else, and to do all the things we said we'd do.

Jessica is one of those people that I met the first day, and then almost never saw again. Since we're both from the States, we both avoided hanging out with the other one to eschew association of "The Americans" or "those American girls," and plus, we didn't want to hang out with what we already know from home. We figured out last week that this was silly, since every nationality has their own little clique here, and if we get along, why shouldn't we be able to grab drinks?

Upon Jessica's suggestion, we went to Ölhallen 7:an, the oldest bar and last remaining beer hall in Gothenburg. Established before today's bar and pub regulations, it serves neither cider, wine, nor food, just beer. Ölhallen was exactly what I've been looking for in Gothenburg: a warm, small, comfortable local bar that's quiet enough to grab a beer with someone and have a good chat on a weekday night. The bartender was super friendly, and let us sample the beers before we finally settled on Leffes. We're looking forward to going back, since the atmosphere was so great and the regulars there were so inviting. At closing time, they all bought us drinks and let us stay late, chatting with us like we were some old Swedish friends that had walked in. This was also the first time that a stranger has bought a drink for me, because usually I give off DO NOT APPROACH ME, I CAN BUY MY OWN DRINK, NOT INTERESTED, THANKS vibes, but you know what? Getting purchased drinks is awesome. I'm never going back. It sets back feminism like, at least a couple of decades, but free beer is undeniably great.

But yeah, back to making the most of things. Items on the docket for the next month:

Ping Pong Mondays at the bar
Dying my hair
Iron Chef Gothenburg with Joy (this week is fried rice, next week is pie)
Quiz Night
Hitting a new club on Wednesday
Thanksgiving Dinner
Return to Ölhallen
Stads Museum

Thrift Store Finds, Pt. 2

Gothenburg is home to a veritable cornucopia of thrift stores and flea markets, most of which are only open on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Weekend mornings are tough, and so far no one has been able to drag themselves out of bed and make coffee at a reasonable hour and make it all the way to western Gothenburg on time. This past Saturday, however, Joy, Natsuko, and I made a vow to get some good sleep and catch the 11:02 tram. Miraculously,  we all made it, and the flea market was definitely worth the 9:30 AM wake up. Housed in some vibrantly painted warehouse, the market was such a collection of random booth and tables with people selling whatever random goods they could gather. There was a lot of commotion, a lot of old people, and a lot of thick, thick Swedish accents. I managed to ask one of the women running a booth how much an item costed, and while she understood me perfectly, I ended up giving her the wrong amount of kronor, and then had to admit that my Swedish was extremely limited. She understood.

Next, we headed from Jarntorget to Brunnsgatan to hit up another thrift store. Some second hand shops in Gothenburg are really just ridiculously expensive boutiques in disguise, but this is the closest to a Goodwill or Salvation Army that I've seen here thus far. There was a ridiculous amount of stuff, and while we only got to stay for about a half an hour before the store closed (the shop owner told us in Swedish it was going to close soon, but of course we had no idea what he was saying, so we just smiled and walked away, which caused much misunderstanding and Swedish passive-aggression of staring us down until we got the message), but we're already planning our next trip back.

I came away with some extremely heady finds: ice skates (Joy and I freaked out about being able to go ice skating whenever the urge strikes for like, a solid two hours), Swedish magnetic poetry (so much procrastination potential), a super cute headband, and some gifts for people that I cannot yet reveal. Total cost? 75 kronor. Awesome.

Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

just happy to be able to put together words

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Smarty Pants

The good news: it snowed today!

The bad news: I didn't bring any snow-suitable shoes to Gothenburg, because packing is hard.

The subsequent good news: Time to go boot-shopping tomorrow! I also need to get a jump start on my Global Studies paper due on Monday; I have approximately zero work here in Sweden, so when I do actually have something academic to do, I get really excited about. This is a 5-page nonsense essay on globalization and standardization and acceleration of expectations blah blah international relations, but still, it's something. I'm actually really enjoying school now that Environmental Economics has ended. Waking up at 7:30 was rough (hard knock life), and the myriad of graphs and lines and curves and economics whatever didn't help. Global Studies doesn't start until 1 PM, isn't on a Friday, and is an Erasmus class, so about 10 of my close friends are in it. Swedish is also getting better as well. Sure, I still get all Bambied out whenever the professor asks me a question or even makes eye contact with me, but I did ace my first quiz, which means that if someone were to talk to me in Swedish about the weather, our backgrounds, and other various small talk, and then either repeated themselves multiple times or wrote it down for me, I'd be able to understand and correctly respond 91% of the time. Progress!


November 27-29: Stockholm

So excited to see Drottningholms slott and the rest of the royal grounds, even if King Carl XVI has allegedly had massive orgies in celebration of successful elk hunts and Mafia-run sex parties. I feel like that just comes with the territory of being both a king and King.

November 30-December 6: Amsterdam

Speaking of kings, Amsterdam itself might be great, but the main attractions here are Claire and Thomas. Shenanigans will prevail.

January 6-11: Barcelona

Average temperature in January: 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This is an exponentially better choice than Norway, the original destination.

Christmas and New Year's in Gothenburg

I'm also hoping to fit in a quick trip to Berlin and Wittenberg in December for a bit of a religious pilgrimage. Luther and I go way back. I played him in our church's rendition of the history of the Reformation (still waiting for my Oscar, that "so help me God" speech was powerful stuff, especially when paired with the imitation bowl cut), and when our confirmation class went to see LUTHER: THE MOVIE (okay, it's just called Luther but it's way more effective in all caps and with a colon), Colin Keyser dumped an entire jumbo tub of popcorn on my head. 14-year-old boys are AWESOME.

Looking good, you portly iconoclast, you.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Trick eller Treat

Fact: Europeans are great at beer pong.

The thought of not celebrating Halloween made me tear up a little, so I took matters into my own hands and threw an apartment party! After watching a Parks and Recreation episode where Ann throws a Halloween party and it's super lame and she spends the night looking super sad and disappointed dressed up as Raggedy Ann (oh my god i JUST got that), which only made things sadder, because sad dolls are depressing, I was a little nervous that no one was going to show up or enjoy themselves, but it was a major success. Lots of people came, no one threw up on anything, and the most burdensome thing that happened was Thomas' screwdriver got knocked over.

I was also worried that no one would like beer pong, but it was a major hit. The best part about it was that most people had never played before, so they had no sense of rules, expectations, etc. Not to be super obnoxious, but they opened up an entirely new paradigm for partying. Thomas and I squared off against Tara and Katrijn first, who both had some fantastic outfits (Queen of Hearts and slutty pumpkin, respectively):

First, please note that the Belgians are playing beer pong with Stella and Leffe. LEFFE. These kids mean business. Secondly, with no prior experience, they started throwing the ball underhand, not overhand. And guess what? They ran the table. It's a brilliant technique. I explained that while it's not illegal to throw underhand, in the States you'd be mocked so vehemently that you might as well quit. This was Sweden, however, and new AU abroad insights must be forged.

I was also impressed with how civil the games were (minus Dusjan using one of his turns to throw the ping pong ball at Katrijn's face). No one even had to use the sign-up sheet. When the game was over, people would casually and cooly decide who would play next. No name-scratching of belly-aching, "IS IT MY TURN YET? WHY IS IT TAKING SO LOOOOONG?" It was for sure to refreshing to see people not take drinking games seriously. Or greet jello shots with hesitancy and skepticism. Want to see something funny? Offer a French person a jello shot. Maxime, Pauline, and Clara's expressions of disgust were priceless. Despite extreme wariness, they disappeared in a matter of minutes. Europeans. Acting like they don't like semi-solids.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Streets of Sweden

First final exam: completed! It went pretty smoothly. As predicted, I struggled through the graphs, but I'm hoping that my in-depth analysis of Kuznet's Curve, which has been covered in every single environmental studies course I'm taking thus far, made up for my haphazard scribbling of "total revenue curves" and "fishing effort" and "marginal costs." Absolute gibberish.

Anyways, a few weeks ago, the State Department issued a notice to Americans in Europe about an elevated security threat, and advised that we "stay aware of their surroundings and remain cognizant of any possible risks." I laughed and shook it off because Scandinavia is probably the most benign place on Earth. Or at least I thought.

On Saturday, Gothenburg police worked to uncover and investigate to bomb threat to the Nordstan area in central Gothenburg, right next to city hall and the main tram hub. The threat was confirmed by Säpo, the country's security service, but the threat level remains "elevated." Although it's a three hour drive south of Gburg, the city Malmö is currently seeking the man responsible for a series of 20 shootings that target immigrants. Also, although it has nothing to do with national security or race relations or whatever and everything to do with people being wasted, someone was stabbed in our tram car last week.

Thomas, Katrijn, and I were taking the tram through the center of tram to the bars last Saturday night, and we noticed a few wasted dudes fighting and pushing and whatever. At first it was mildly entertaining, but the confrontation between the men quickly escalated. Dude In Red Jacket (DIRJ) was being shoved against the side of the tram, and he was so drunk that he was barely responding. All of a sudden, runs (stumbles) to the back of our tram car, where he's followed by one of the others. We turn around to see that DIRJ is WIELDING A KNIFE. Never have I ever thought so strongly that it was time to dip from a situation. I was too focused on getting the hell out of that tram, as DIRJ was an easy 6-10 feet from us and obviously on a cocktail of substances, so I didn't get a chance to look at the ground, but Katrijn and Thomas report that someone was lying on the ground, and there was blood everywhere. Awesome. Apparently the men who were stabbed were rushed to the hospital in critical condition, and the DIRJ was charged with attempted murder. Dear god, two years on DC and New York public transportation, and the most violence I've experienced is a WMATA worker bitching at me for not having exit fare. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Be Back Soon

Visitors! Exams! Stabbings! Parties! I've been, and continue to be, a busy bee these past couple of weeks, but I promise I'll have lots to talk about soon. But for now, studying. Contingent valuation: least interesting topic ever?