Posts Tagged ‘Lund’


June 8, 2010

Spyken, a local high school (called gymnasiet) had its graduation today. But Swedish high school graduation is nothing like American High school gradation. Apparently, when you graduate from high school in Sweden, not only do you get a white captian-esque hat (called a studentmössa) to sport, but you get to run around your town of residence for the rest of the day blowing whistles and airhorns. After that, you get to take several laps around town while dancing to loud music, hoisting homemade congratulatory signs, and drinking champange, all from the open-air bed of a semi-truck, as the citizens of the town smile and wave and even sometimes high-five you as you pass by. It’s like a parade with the theme of “hormones and joy.” It’s fantastic and hilarious and fantastically hilarious. And oh so Swedish.

I had been seeing the trucks all day, and had waved at and high-fived my fair share of giddy students. But the best moment came as our pack of cyclists rode out of town this afternoon. We passed one of the several of the teenager-filled trucks, and a girl in the back of it, amongst the revelers, popped a fresh bottle of bubbly and sprayed it out over us as we rolled by.

And in that moment, I realized that being sprayed with champange by a possibly inebriated 18-year old Swede from the bed of a Scania semi-truck is probably the closest I’d ever get to that victory-lap-tour-de-france-sprayed-by-French-alcohol-while-riding feeling.

God. What a feeling.

med SunTrip varje dag!

May 30, 2010

Five different countries. Forty people. Two choirs. One Bus. It was epic.

Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, and Ireland. All in one day. All within a 20 km radius of Lund. How is that possible, you may ask? Well, my friends, in Skåne, anything is possible. Believe it.

Gudruns Kören (my choir) and Torne Kören (our sister choir) had some money to blow. So, naturally, we took rented a charter bus and drove around for an afternoon. Naturally.

The theme of the day was Sällskapsresan, which is a Swedish comedy film series about Swedish tourists on organized vacations with a hokey company called “SunTrip”. According to the English Wikipedia, Sällskapsresan “has reached cult status in Sweden, and a vaste number of the swedish people have seen it, and many of the lines in the movie is known and used daily by many swedes.” Maybe it’s a bit like “The Big Lebowski” or “Top Gun” or “Napoleon Dynamite.” We non-Swedes got to watch the first film at a choir-organized screening. Basically the running joke of it is that no matter how much the the dorky Swedish vacationers want to escape Sweden for a while, they will never stop being Swedes. Take for example the traveler who brings his roller-blade skis to the Canary Islands, or the fact that the hotel they stay at is called “Nuevo Estocolomo” (New Stockholm). Fortunately enough for the tourists Nuevo Esctolomo serves Swedish coffee.

Even more fortunate was that  this weekend was the weekend that my friend Isabella (who is studying in Berlin at the moment) decided to visit Sweden. She pretty much stepped off the train and into the bizarre word of Swedish student amusement and comedy films. The poor lass.

The first stop was on our own personal SunTrip was Lübeck, Germany. Which of course, wasn’t really Lübeck, Germany but rather Jarikborg, Sweden. Jarikborg is a ‘visionary’ housing community built in the middle of agricultural land in southern Sweden. The idea of Jarikborg is to build a safe, sustainable, aesthetically pleasing urban community. The city is built with the Hanseatic (Hansa) cities of Northern Germany in mind, and the architecture is unlike most Scandinavian traditional or modern buildings. Walking through Jarikborg is an awful lot like walking through a full-size doll house city, if that makes any sense whatsoever. And, as if Jarikborg wasn’t bizarre enough on it’s own, in the town square we happened upon a bunny rabbit jumping contest which involved small children walking bunnies on leashes. I kid you not. I told you anything is possible in Skåne…

Because it would just be unnatural not to add to the strangeness of Jarikborg, our choir decided to assemble for a spontaneous performance in the town square. We sang a beautiful traditional Swedish pslam called “Sommarpslam” or sometimes “En Vänlig Grönskas.” We must of been quite pleasant, because a woman offered to pay us if we continued to sing. Sadly, we couldn’t take her up on the offer, the bus, and our next destination, was waiting. SunTrip has to stay on schedule, you know.

Next up was Paris, France. Which of course, wasn’t really Paris, France, but rather Malmö, Sweden. The Paris of Skåne, perhaps? Turning Torso (the only skyscraper in Malmö) makes a rather good substitute for the Eiffel Tour, and we celebrated our arrival in Paris with brie, bageuttes, and some vin. We performed again, this time singing “Näckens Polska” – a traditional Gotland folk song about a water spirit who is tempted by the sea god’s daughter. The melody of this song is somewhat haunting, and it seemed even more so as we performed it in the harbor air on the shore of östersjön.

Next up on our Euro SunTrip: Spain. That’s right, La Costa del Sol. And the sun was even shining so much that I almost forgot we where really in Lomma, Sweden! However the water was still cold, which served as somewhat of a bittersweet reminder. “Det var precis som medelhavet, fast kallare!” *

Last but most certainly not least, we traveled to the green hills of Limerick Ireland.Which of course, was actually a grassy, hilly area just north of Lund. We enjoyed a picturesque hilltop fika (means coffee and cookie snack), raced through dandelion fields, and took silly pictures.

We made it back to Lund, and assemble in Kalmars Nation for a sittning, which is a Swedish student tradition that involves sitting down at long tables and enjoying a three-course meal together, all the while singing and toasting and entertaining each other. By the end of the night the effects of jetlag (after all we had traveled all around Europe in one day) had begun to take their toll and home seemed like a good choice. What a day.

Let’s just say that the 50 kr (about $6.25) bus ride was about the cheapest full-Euro trip I could have paid for. Who needs Paris when you’ve got Gudruns kören?!?!

More posting on Isabella’s Sweden visit to come later. Heads up!


* O my goodness, now I am referencing Swedish pop culture. If you guess this one, I will be extremely impressed. Even if you are Swedish. Except if you are Lena. Because I think she’d know it…

I take that back.

March 29, 2010

You know you’re in for quite the ride when you’re wearing less warmth-retaining clothing than twenty Swedish men on bicycles. Add to that the fact that it’s raining with a force that would inspire the utterly descriptive term “Storm of the Century” from naïve lips of many a humble Southern Californian, and you know you’re in for an adventure.

Such is how I found myself Saturday morning, meeting for my first ride with CK Lunedi in the could-have-been -anywhere gray morning darkness of an industrial park in southern Sweden. Just what I wanted from my Saturday morning: freezing my you-know-what off in TetraPak’s back yard with a bunch of old dudes, dying internally from the special brand of silent awkwardness that I’m positive is Sweden’s most widespread national disaster.

The ride leader explains the hand signs, the rules of the road, a little bit about the route, and a bit about how CK Lunedi teaches the rotating pace-line. I am impressed at my ability to understand everything he says, but very disappointed in what seems like a very stupid way of pace-lining. The line on the left speeds up until the first rider in  is able to pull in front of the right hand line and take the wind? Seems a whole lot less efficient then just having the person in front of the right line drop off to the left–but I’m not about to argue.

So we roll out. And it’s fine for a while. Skåne is sort of like Davis in terms of terrain, and it is sort of a miracle for someone who is used to Berkeley to be able to be able to stay in the big ring for an entire ride.

About ten minutes in, it’s not fine anymore. An old Swedish dude rides up next to me first of all says that usually there are women along too (I sort of don’t believe him) and secondly that aren’t my handlebars crooked? I look down.

“Jaaa. (Major shame. Why does this always happen to me? At least my seat didn’t snap off) Det är det. Det kan jag fixar när stannar vi i Dalby (we’re stopping in Dalby, right…hehe?).

I’m too busy blinking the mud out of my eyes to really look at the fields around me, but somehow I manage to keep them open enough to catch a glimpse of a snow-filled ditch on the side of the road. Another Swedish dude rides up next to me and asks me if I’m cold. No way, I answer, trying to sound more badass than I actually am (this could in fact be the story of my entire life). I can’t help but think there’s a whole team of cyclists at home who want to kill me for my mind-numbingly stupid decision to not wear my full-fingered gloves, even though I now actually have them.

About halfway through the ride, I find myself in a group that is starting to get dropped. So we decide to take it calm and ride two groups. This helps a little bit with my misery. The ride leader tells me to just yell if I get dropped. OK. About 10 minutes later I find myself falling off the back….”JAG TAPPASSSSS!!” I’M DROPPINGGGGG! They slow, the ride leader rides in of me…”hålla på min rulle” Hold on to my wheel. God, how many times have I heard that one.

At last we’re in an area I recognize. Good thing we’re almost back to the industrial park. Another Swede rides up next to me and says something about how my fingers are going to fall off. I have no words to answer him and only say nej in a very raspy, short of breath voice.

When I finally make it home, I have no feeling in my feet or hands. Somehow I make it upstairs with my bike and almost immediately jump into what would become a very unsustainable shower.

LESSONS LEARNED: Sweden is still freaking cold. Don’t be an idiot. Boys ride bikes fast. Check your handle bars.

You think that would be obvious, right? Apparently not.

Also,  for a victory on the language side, I am not sure that any of them actually found out that I’m not Swedish. Although the AIDS Lifecycle Kneewarmers may have given it away….


March 26, 2010

Now, this is what Euro really means. Also, I rode on dirt to get up there. Heck. Yes.


March 26, 2010

Never did I think that Spring could come so suddenly. Spring in California is a continuation, a rainy transition from mostly light to always light, from beautiful but occasionally disagreeable days to beautiful and always beautiful days. Spring goes unnoticed, shuffled off as an awkward middle child, just another season in the perpetual cycle of sunny days.

Here, it as if as soon as the calender changed to March 20, the weather changed it’s mind. The sky today is even bluer I think, after months of cloud cover.  I had forgotten what it was like to wake up with the sun already fully shining or to watch light slowly fade into darkness at the end of the day. In winter, black fades to grey, and at “sunset,” grey fades to black. At the late hour of 6 PM, I can now watch the color of the sky fade from deep orange to dark, clear blue. Spring..våren…det är vår i luften! And just a month ago one could ride cross country skis in the city park. Smiling people are beginning to appear on every park bench, and big jackets are slowly but surely starting to go out of style. I suppose this unexpected, immediate change is the reason the is called “spring.” I never really understood that until today.

I wanted to be the first one in Lund to go running in only shorts. Unfortunately an old man with a handlebar mustache beat me to it.


But, the countdown has begun. In t-minus (does anyone know what that actually means?) 22 hours I will be on my first bike ride. CK Lundei, the local cycling club has the first introduktionsrundan ( intro-go-round) ride tomorrow. I just pumped up my tires. Dug out my shoes. Haven’t decided on the wardrobe yet (armwarmers? legwarmers? jacket?). This is a very important decision depending on the weather. Let’s just say I’ve ridden on much colder days than this in Berkeley- I’m thinking of testing out my thickened blood and ditching the armwarmers. But then again I remember my little trip down Redwood without gloves that one October morning and think…maybe I shouldn’t be so bold!


Added 20 minutes later: Nevermind! no way I can wait 22 hours. I am going now. No question about it. Screw the armwarmers. I’m riding my bike in Sweden today. Like now. YEA!!!!

Notes on 1.5-lingualisim, and Dramas

March 18, 2010

I am living in a grey area. Don’t worry, it’s not a moral one. At least not at the moment anyway. It’s the grey area where other people don’t know how much you understand them. When they think you don’t understand them but you do, things can get awkward fast. When they think you understand them but you don’t, you just try to keep ’em believing without looking like a fool.

I am in this weird place in my level of understanding where when people talk to me, I understand what they are saying, but I don’t remember the specific words they used. It used to be in my head så här: Noise–>Swedish–>English–>Meaning. Now it seems to be something more along the lines of Noise–>Meaning. Don’t get me wrong, understanding is nothing short of a rapturous feeling. But for some reason I am still left unfortunately helpless when it comes to speaking, as usually omvänd procesen funke inte…the reverse process doesn’t work (see!). Meaning–>Noise, ok, I can do that. But it’s the Noise–>Language step that’s tripping me up, even in English sometimes (gasp!). Lectures in Swedish don’t really scare me as much as they used too, but discussion section, hoo boy. Yea you heard me, discussions på svenska. I’ve started in on Johanna’s class, sustainable development in Perspectives, and yes, that is a whole ‘nother post, so I’ll leave it at that for the time being.

The Spex has been keeping me busy, as it is now performance week, and I have been spending every night in sköna AF Borgen (vårat gamla hem!) running the light board (hence the lag of blog posts). The Spex has also been an absolutely amazing, fun, and trying experience. It is strange for me to accept the fact that there are people I know who I have never, never, spoken English with, and who have become my friends and my co-workers throughout this entire fantastically nonsensical experience. I plan to write all about the Spex in detail after this whole thing is over, but for the time being (just to put at ease my adoring public, namely my former roommate-you know who you are- who checks my blog officially more than my own mother) I present you with short dramatizations on my 1.5-lingualism and the life of a Spexare (spex-er).

1AM, after 20 hours of working on the Spex during helvetesöndag (the sunday from hell, were we work all day), I stand drinking tea and coffee with a fellow techie.

Fellow techie: (something in Swedish)

Me: (something in Swedish)

F.T.: (something in really fast, really sloppy, tired-person Swedish)

Me: mmmm…mmmm…jaaaaaaaa (I didn’t quite understand you but I’m too tired ask you to repeat yourself)

F.T.: smiles and nods (I realize you didn’t understand me right there, but I’m too tired to repeat myself)

Me: (Good, then we are in agreement. Let’s drink more tea.)

Before the First performace:

Fellow Techie 2: Är du laddad?!? (Are you charged up)

Me: (I know what he means, but I can think only of electrons, unfortuntely) JAAAAAAAA!

—High five!—-

12 Midnight, at Spex dinner, after the premiere (yay!)

Spexare1: Hola! (in the casual way that people often greet each other in another language for fun)

Spexare2: Hola!

Me: (Oh my, spanish, heck yes! Now, I’ll show ’em who’s the bilingual, internationally-savvy one!) Hola! Hablan uds. espanol? Podemos halbar espanol…under hela sittningen! Es más lättare för mig att halbar espanol que Svenska! Es un språk tan bonito!

Spx1 &Spx2: ??????? (clearly, they don’t speak Spanish…)

Spx2: Var kommer du från, nånstans? (where are you from?)

Me: Aaaa. Californien. California, en los EEUU. Dónde många manniskor prata spanska!

Spx1: (in english, very slowly) WHICH LANGUAGE DO YOU WANT US TO SPEAK WITH YOU ?

Me: hehe…svenska…eller spanska si quisieras, gracias! eller, tack, menar jag……Just not English….Dang.

–We took the rest of the night in Swedish–


misadventures, as usual

March 11, 2010

Here’s a brilliant idea:

Have a username for an account that you sometimes use as a password for another account. Have that same word as your email password (only just recently changed from the default password…) Then, get invited to a new communication tool that google is developing, and have google create your account automatically…making that same word your new username…while it is already the password to that same account. Realize this horrific coincidence at 11 pm at night, frantically change your password on your account and then go to sleep. Wake up the next morning to realize that you have completely forgotten what you changed your password to. Fortunately, you also forgot to turn off your computer, so you are already logged into your email—but only now, you can neither turn off your computer or close down your browser without being logged out. After trying all possible combinations of the usual meaningless words and numbers, become very disappointed in yourself and post on a public blog: “God, I am an idiot.”

Here’s an even better idea:

Sign up for a Chemistry class in Swedish. Spend nine hours a day in Kemicentrum for the first quarter of your time in Sweden. Waste no time in complaining loudly about it to friends and family. Learn the most important of Swedish phrases: “Hur kan man räkna ut…” (how can I calculate) “Jag fick fel svar!” (I got the wrong answer!) and “En gång till…” (One more time). Pass the test, but fear the wrath of the curve-less grading system*. Go in for an awkward meeting with the UC coordinator, expressive of your fears. Learn that your fears are irrational because your grade is adjusted to the UC scale, which means you got a B+ in Swedish Chemistry. Leave feeling very happy, and only slightly stupid that you didn’t get an A.

or try this one:

It’s at last a beautiful day, and your legs are itching for a bike ride. Make the good decision to ride your crappy commuter bike to the small town of Dalby, because there’s still ice on the road. Have a wonderful, but very cold 20 kilometer bike ride. In Dalby, search in vain for the lake you heard of. Be forced to carry your heavy bike over snowbanks, through someone’s potato fields, and past a whole gang of barking dogs. Be uncannily reminded of Idaho. End up on the back side of a quarry behind locked gates (?) carry your bike around the gates, and start back on the road. Stop for a while to sit on a bench near söderskog and eat just enough cookies to cancel out any semblance of real exercise. Go home and somewhat pathetically look at pictures of Grizzly peak on Google Earth.

Or an even, even better idea:

Stay up past midnight, not refreshing your memory on QM, no, but rather sewing a sweater that is slit down the back so it can be ripped off during one of the scenes in a over-the-top student student comedy show. Wake up the next morning with a headache, a sore throat, and no will do go outside in the weather that has unexpectedly decided to drop past freezing again.

But wait, here’s the best one yet:

Get over-confident about your ability in Swedish and sign up for a course that has the goal of finding a road map for  sustainable development of nanotechnology because your friend has been working on creating it for the past year and it looks like one of the coolest courses you’ll ever have the opportunity to take. Soon afterward, realize that not only do you know next to nothing about nanotechnology, but you still can’t really speak Swedish, no matter how much you can talk about the weather, your hobbies, or electrochemical reactions. Waste time you could be spending on improving your vocabulary by posting on a public blog: “Oh my God. What have I gotten myself into this time?”


*Swedish test taking is actually quite nice. I’ll have to post on that someday.


March 2, 2010

Today, I went running. Yes, you heard me. Running. Outside. Like out of doors. Like not in the gym. Yeah.

I am coming off a period of final exams, illness, and being in Berlin. And also a short period when a precariously ice-skating around the city park while listening to the Lord of the Rings sound track as old ladies and toddlers frolicked around me counted as a day’s exercise. No longer! I’ve been spinning and yoga-ing a lot since I’ve been home.

Leaving Berlin, I was excited to get back to Sweden, where the snow was still snow rather than disgusting slush. Where winter was still white and the stinking remains of New Years festivities weren’t materializing on every street corner as the ice melted. When I stepped of the Train in Lund, I noticed something peculiar: it was raining. För fan! Damn! There’s the end of my ice-skating dreams. Now I’ll never make the Olympics.

I forgot that my part of Sweden is, after all, Skåne. And Skåne is, after all, wet. But rain also means that the snow is slowly but surely disappearing. Some days it still snows, as if the weather can’t make up it’s mind. And then the next day it rains. And then the next day it’s beautiful, and the sun shines.

Today, we here in Skåne reached a temperature high of a boiling 3 degrees. I had to take advantage, and so I ran. I ran for a long, long time (for me)…almost 2 hours. I ran to the outskirts of town and marveled at the low-laying, patchwork of agricultural land that is Southern Sweden opened up before me. I was serenaded by cooing doves. I even saw some grass. That’s right, grass. And it was green. Fancy that!

I can sense that the day is coming when the sweet blue Specialized Allez (in layman’s terms: my bike) sitting next to me collecting dust will get to come out and see what Sweden looks like. I know for sure that day will come when I stop seeing the hard-core old man who wears bib-shorts to spinning class at the gym. He looks like he knows what he’s doing, and when he’s out and riding in the real world, then I’ll know it’s time. Hopefully that time is soon.

Våren kommer snart! Spring is on the way!

Berlin Bound

February 18, 2010

So yes, I’ve been absent from the blog the last couple of days. Sorry Monica, Sabrina, and my mom. I had my first tenta (exam) today- the Chemistry final. I have been busy with plugga (studying) all this week. But o, do I have things to tell you.

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait. Because….

I am going to Berlin in a couple of hours (!)

I’ll update you from there. I am so looking forward to sitting down with a cup of PG tips (I bet Bella has some!) and and typing away, so hold your horses.

Vi ses snart! See you soon

Spinning and Semlor

January 25, 2010

God, I wish this was my bike.

Yesterday, I realized I had been two weeks off the bike. Riding the crapcycle (doesn’t shift, makes scary noises, that cable that was wrapped around the pedal finally tore off) up to Kemicentrum every morning simply doesn’t count. Jogging outside is nice, but if you go too fast your face freezes off. After enduring two weeks of cycle-less desperation, I finally doled out the $72 dollars for a semester gym pass, and attended my first spinning class in Sweden. Little did I know it would be the best spinning class of my life.

I handed in my spinning ticket to the instructor a, middle aged man named Arne, and walked into an airy, open room with likely about 100 swedes on stationary bikes. So, so unlike the terribly small dungeon/raquetball court that is used for spinning in Berkeley! Even before I got on the bike, I was smiling. Can you imagine enormity of my excitement and amusement when the first song the instructor played was “Mamma Mia”? So, so much more enjoyable than having Britney Spears’ “Womanizer” and the likes blasted in your face for 45 minutes. Can you imagine how hard I started pedaling when Queen’s “Don’t stop me now” came on? And, can you imagine how good it felt to have 60 minutes of intensive exercise after almost two weeks of a semi-sedentary lifestyle? I’ll give you a hint: it felt good. Really, really good.

The rest of the day made it even better. Johanna and I visited Lena- a really cool girl from Uppsala who studies Human Ecology- in order to bake Semlor, the delicious marizpan and creme-filled buns eaten in Sweden before Lent. Lena lives in an all -female building, a place that reminded me a lot of my beloved Sherman Hall. Movie and theater posters adorned the walls, along with some cutout pictures from Pride and Prejudice, Twilight, and other girly things. I’m not usually one to out and call myself I girly-girl (I mean come on, I study physics, ride bikes, and worked as a maintenance manager), but living with all boys these last two weeks (a whole ‘nother post to look out for) has made me realized how much I truly valued the strong female community that I was immersed in at Sherman Hall. Being at Lena’s for even a couple of hours made me feel  so much  at home here.  Maybe it was the baking. Ah, yes…the baking:

Good lord, these are delicious. Maria from Malmö joined our baking party, and a couple of other ladies dropped in from time to time to enjoy a semla. I think we each ate two of them. There was a lot of good Swedish conversation, a dice game called dados, and a bit of svengelska/swenglish (the swedish version of spanglish). After semlor we watched a Swedish historical comedy about Gustav Vasa…the king who kicked out Christian the Terrible (sorry I’m in Sweden now, he is no longer Christian the Great, as he is called in Denmark.) The point of the series, called “Nisse Huld,” is to show an alternate, comedic interpretation of historical events. For example: Apparently, according to the film, the original Vasaloppet was done in the summer time. Who knew? Of course, it’s a bit harder to ski when there is no snow.

En trevlig helg- a wonderful weekend- to be sure. But it’s back to KEMI now-which is mentally trying in many ways, but still, less frustrating than Quantum. So far. There’s nothing like struggling with the language to make you pay full, direct, unwavering attention to a two-hour lecture at 8 in the morning. I’ll update you on that as soon as I master molekylar växelverkan.

Oh, and I promise I will try to be a regular Julia Childs and translate the Semlor recipe into English for those of you who would like to try it at home.