Hello there!

Why yes, I am currently sitting at my computer wearing all of the clothing I brought with me, jealously imagining the warm weather you have been experiencing in Wisconsin lately. After about a week of slightly warm weather of only -4 degrees C (Mother Nature successfully lulling me into a false sense of security) the weather dramatically dropped and consistently hovered around -20 degrees. Despite being so cold that your breath freezes to your hair turning it white, I have been surviving mostly due to copious amounts of tea, a pair of long johns, scarves and smart wool socks (regular socks are now ruined for me). Needless to say, you know you are in Northern Sweden when you go outside in -14 degree weather and it feels like spring.

How I spend most evenings in my slightly freezing bedroom.

Two weekends ago, a group of international students took a bus up to the Sami Market at Jokkmokk about 5 hours away. The bus ride was quite brutal, forcing me to wake up at 3am. Not a pretty sight. After some terrible sleep and a not so terrible trivia game, we finally stopped to stretch our legs once we passed the Arctic Circle.  Honestly there wasn’t much to see except a couple of signs in various languages about the Arctic Circle, but at least I got a thoroughly impressive picture!

You’re insanely jealous, I know.

After finally piling back into the bus, within 20 minutes we were in Jokkmokk and eating breakfast. The rest of the day was pretty much ours to wander around and explore. It wasn’t too different than what you would expect of any open market. Some stalls were selling reindeer meat and furs.

I don’t know about you, but I am incredibly jealous of the fur hats.

Others were selling traditional Sami knives and goods.

Others yet were selling Iron Maiden t-shirts and country cds. Quite the sight to be seen I tell you!

In spite of the bitter cold, it was really interesting to get to experience some of the culture of the Sami people.

Right before a performance of traditional ‘joiking’
Reindeer parade through the marketplace.

Since I last wrote, I have been fortunate enough to get to experience more of the student culture around campus. Initially, I was incredibly skeptical about how I would fare in European clubs after my first excursion with the Buddy Group. As my parents can attest to as explained in a very carefully worded email, I did not quite enjoy the club as much as anticipated (I ended up leaving early and getting a very expensive, tiny cheeseburger…Don’t judge me). Still, I persevered and went again to a club with the Buddy Group and was pleasantly surprised how much fun I had.

I still feel clubs will be a rarity however as my ears continued to ring for two days and I don’t know how often I can take that kind of abuse…I’m a wimp. I admit it.

The students here often pre-party before going to the clubs in order to save money which leads to corridor parties. They often start out with small intentions but quickly turn into a horde of people talking, moving, and often times pushing in a tiny hallway in the dorms. Really fun, but not for the weak-hearted or claustrophobic.

The typical weekend often ends on Sunday with fika and perhaps a visit to the gym to burn off whatever delicious treat you just consumed. One thing that is absolutely amazing about Umeå is the gym. If you like working out, IKSU is the place for you. Imagine if two of the best gyms got together. IKSU would be their glorious and better-than-ever love child (clearly I am indulging in some slight hyperbole). But seriously, it is massive and quite nice.

I couldn’t get the whole thing in the picture. But if you look carefully, you can see two tiny people in front of the building.

Mind you, paying for the membership was painful, but well worth it. I have yet to really explore it (I’m slightly afraid of getting lost) but I’m told they have two indoor beach volleyball courts among other things. How awesome is that?

Since I can’t think of anything else to talk about, here are some more tidbits I’ve noticed since being in the lovely Sweden:

1) The candy is dangerously delicious. Seriously. I’ve had to stop buying any since it lasts about a day, yet it continues to taunt me in it’s deliciousness. Not just one kind either, IT’S ALL ADDICTING! The gummis, the chocolates…everything.

Main motivation for IKSU membership. This wall of candy has been present in every grocery store I’ve been to so far.

2) Despite being ridiculously cold, I’ve never slipped in the snow. Instead of trying to melt or remove the snow, they simply pack it down. Surprisingly effective. It is only dangerous once the temperature gets about -4 degrees and everything starts melting and turning to ice.

3) Pet peeves follow you where ever you travel. I’m talking to you, sweaty man who doesn’t wipe of the exercise machine after using it…

4) The bus is most crowded on a Saturday afternoon around 2pm, right before the government run liquor store closes.

5) International dinners are the most delicious invention ever. Except maybe hummus, but then again I have an irrational love for mashed chickpeas which cannot be satiated by Swedish hummus.

6) Laundry is extremely efficient. No irritating waiting around for the forgetful person in your building to take their clothes out. It is completely free, but you must book the time slot about a day in advance.  The driers are also strange looking. It is a giant cabinet with metal rods. I’ll have to snap a picture next time I venture into the creepy basement.

7) I am convinced my corridor mates do not eat anything other than bizzare looking jars of fish product and ketchup.

I’ll give you three guesses as to which two shelves are mine.

8) Peanut Butter and cheese from Wisconsin make the best Valentines. Thanks family!!!

Well that is all I can think of for now. I’m starting to feel the travel itch though, so hopefully sometime soon I can post pictures that aren’t snow covered trees resembling something from the Chronicles of Narnia.

I think I see Aslan!

Bye for now!