Update from Beth (Sweden)

Hi there.

I have been terribly neglectful in regards to my blog as of late. I sincerely apologize. I have been kept busy what with trips to Stockholm and the Czech Republic as well as school. No excuse I know, but truthfully, life got away from me and I completely slacked about keeping everyone updated at home.  In all likelihood, this will be one of my last blog posts as I will be leaving Sweden in a week to go home and begin my summer nanny job!  SOOO….to make up for being a slacker, this post may be a bit of a novel so bear with me.

Since I last wrote a ton has happened. Most prominent was my trip to the Czech Republic with my parents. It was great. I left around the 8th and returned to Umeå on the 16th in order to take an exam. Meeting up with my parents and Marianna, our foreign exchange student, the first evening we simply focused on finding our hotel. The next day, Marianna’s family travelled to Prague to visit and we spent the day walking around the Old Town Square and other sites such as the castle. It was very bizarre walking around Prague as I kept recognizing streets from when I visited for two days in 2007. Literally kept having moments where I pointed out the ATM where I thought I lost my credit card last time. Clearly I remember the important moments!

…such as the famous Astronomical Clock

The next day Jana, our other foreign exchange student, met us at the train station in Prague to travel to her home town right on the Austrian border, České Velenice. Staying there for a few days, we took a couple of day trips, visiting Český Krumlov, going for a bike ride, and taking the train to Vienna. Overall, really great to finally see Marianna and Jana, meet their families, and of course to spend a week with my own parents!

Austria, literally a 10 minute walk from Jana’s house.
Bike ride and scenery looking suspiciously like Wisconsin.
Man-made waterfall in a Czech park, no big deal
Český Krumlov
Sheer joy in a moment of sunlight.
Day trip to Vienna

The most interesting thing I noticed from the trip was how comfortable I’ve gotten over the past months in Sweden. Going to another country where I don’t speak the language whatsoever was vastly stressful, my anxiety reaching a peak upon boarding the train to Prague alone on my way home. Simply reading signs was impossible, let alone trying to pronounce anything. It surprised me the amount of relief I felt upon arriving back to the Arlanda airport.

Since returning from my trip, I have simply been passing the time in class and, for a time, soaking up the precious sun. Something I find vastly amusing is the sheer amount of people simply sitting around outside downtown Umeå. Even more hilarious is the amount of people sitting in the sun eating ice cream, which wouldn’t be that great of a sight if it weren’t for the chilling wind and 60 degree weather. Don’t get me wrong, the slight increase of temperature is greatly welcome, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s warm enough to break out the ice cream cones.

While the past month has gone by extremely quickly with such exciting events as seeing my family and my 21st birthday, I find myself hoping that time will slow over the next weeks. I am getting increasingly excited to go home, to visit everyone I’ve missed, and to enjoy summer yet I am simultaneously starting to miss Sweden. Right now I’m coping by refusing to believe that in little over a week I will be back in the States. I cannot believe how quickly my time here has passed and already getting nostalgic about my term here.

Last week I travelled to Stockholm with a friend as I figured there was no possible way I was going to have studied abroad in Sweden for 5 months and only see the airport in Stockholm. So we booked our flights (only 50 minutes long) and the hostel (City Backpackers, if ever you get to Stockholm, this hostel was amazing!) and we were on our way. In total we spent three full days there, unfortunately in mostly bad weather. However, despite the slightly dreary weather, the first day we walked around Gamla Stan (Old Town), visited the palace, and shopped for obnoxious souvenirs.

Changing of the guard outside of the palace
Riksdag, the Swedish Parliament building

The next day we wandered around various parts of town, sitting in parks for a while and pretty much exploring Stockholm. That evening we went to the Ice Bar in the Hotel near our hostel. Somewhat expensive, but still fun and extremely cold. We were determined to stay in the bar the entire time slot which we paid for, however we gave up with about 5 minutes left as I could no longer feel my feet. The one free drink with our entry was delicious though!

Plus I couldn’t resist the ridiculous Ice Bar poncho/cape they give you to wear

The third and final day we finally saw some sunny weather, so we decided to rent some bicycles from the hostel and ride over to Skansen, an open air museum. This place was HUGE! We were there for about a hour and a half and did not even make it through half of it. It was extremely interesting and definitely a good place for a school trip, as we were bombarded by tiny Swedish children in neon colored vests (I would have taken a photo except I would have felt extremely shady). Skansen had different areas with houses from the 18th century with workers dressed in traditional garb, a model Sami village, and tons of animals included elk!

Mama Elk with her babies

After taking the bikes back, I went to the Vasa Museum, which essentially was a huge boat. The Vasa sank in Stockholm harbor on its maiden voyage in 1628. The museum itself was pretty interesting, having exhibits on how they recovered the ship, life at the time, etc. However, my favorite part due to the fact that I am also an anthropology nerd, was the skeletal remains found in the ship and the facial reconstructions. Soooo neat! Also, the ship is absolutely amazing. I knew going into the museum that it was going to be a huge ship, but seeing it in person was something different. Definitely something I would say you have to see upon going to Stockholm!

Since Stockholm, I haven’t really been doing much other than attempting to come to terms with the fact that I will be leaving in less than 10 days and trying to finish my final papers. Something exciting last week though was the World Championship of Brännboll happening in Umeå. Put on by IKSU, students form teams and play this, in my opinion, slightly ridiculous Swedish game somewhat like baseball. Essentially, it is an excuse for students to dress in ridiculous costumes, drink, and mess around. However, there are a few teams who took the competition seriously as there was a 2000 SEK reward for winning the tournament. My team didn’t take it that seriously, which seemed to be a good thing as rather than focusing on crushing the opposing team I was attempting to keep my core body temperature from dropping as we were playing in 11 degree raining weather. Still fun, but that was the first time I have literally turned blue. I would try to explain the game, but to be honest; I still haven’t quite learned all of the rules. Essentially, you hit the ball and run around the bases, but the difference from baseball is that you never actually get out. Even if you miss the ball, which you throw yourself, you always get to first base. Extremely Swedish if you ask me. It was well worth the freezing temperatures to see the turnout and the costumes!

Unfortunately, I have no pictures from the tournament as I forgot my camera but I think that brings an end to my novel. I really should go back to writing papers rather than procrastinate by attempting to come up with witty captions for my pictures. I will however write another entry soon after arriving home to sum up the final days of my 5-month adventure in Sweden.

Wish me luck and see y’all stateside in 10 days!!!