26 July 2005

Stockholm again - be home soon

I am so sick of the clothes in my suitcase! While I have had a great trip, I think I am ready to come home. After over a week of staying with relatives throughout Sweden upon returning from Estonia, we are now back in Stockholm. Having done a large portion of the Stockholm sight-seeing the first time we were in this town at the beginning of the trip, our return to the city has been more relaxed--lunching with family-friends, visiting castles and the crowned jewels, shopping! We even peaked in on a bar made completely out of ice (you would love it, Kim). Strangely enough, my social skills have been a disappointment to my mom on this trip. I still feel like I am recovering from grad school. This combines with constantly trying to understand the Swedish being spoken around or to me. It is a lot to take in. By the end of the day when my mom wants to have a drink at a bar, I am ready for bed. I am pretty sure this is not supposed to be the order of things, but then again, before this trip my mom had never woken me up in the middle of the night because a noise scared her either.

Tomorrow is my last day in Stockholm. I love this town, and am actually already planning a return to Sweden next summer (and Finland - for reasons tba when I finally type my entry from estonia). If one thing is certain it is that I feel more ready to leave academia forever. It is hard to imagine my life without a phd, but the prestige is not worth the sacrifice. My interests are too broad to be forced to specialize. Traveling has reinforced that for me. I want to continue learning swedish and have developed a large interest in the soviet occcupation of the baltic states during my travels. Studying US history would not allow these tangential interests. Plus, thanks to Nicki and Mindy, I have finally started enjoying novels again (and have actually read a lot on this trip because I was craving English). I look forward to seeing everyone soon. Thanks for reading!

Coffee - you thought I was an addict, but it's a cultural thing

Since we started staying with family, the time we spend walking around has dropped off and the time we spend eating and drinking coffee has increased exponentially. Yesterday (now, that I am typing this finally, actually over a week ago) we have coffee with goodies four times!!! Once when we said goodbye to Birgitta and Britt, once after lunch with Arne's family, once after berry picking and swimming, and once at their son Henric's house after dinner. Today (a week ago) we have already had coffee three times. With breakfast, at Gunilla's house and by the lake before we caught the train to Goteborg. I am not one to complain about coffee, but this Swedish tradition of drinking coffee and eating pastries and cookies when you meet with friends gets a little out of control when ALL YOU DO is meet with friends!

Family in Sweden - written 20 July

Thanks to my "site manager" Nicki, my blog is up and running again. After typing two entries from Parnu in Estonia on a computer that was only functioning in Japanese, I pressed "delete this blog" instead of "re-publish this blog." I supressed tears and frantically emailed internet-savy Nicki for help. Since "deleting" my blog, I have not written much. While I have a long entry to type out about my adventure to Ikla to find my grandfather's old home, that will probably have to wait until I return. Staying with family in Sweden this past week has lessened my access to the internet as they have activities planned for us every second.

I am writing from the train going from Toreboda, a small town on the Gota Canal, to Goteborg (or Gothenburg in English). We spent three days in Askersund, the town of 5,000 where I spent childhood summers. It was as cute as I remembered it from my last visit at age 12. My two great uncles (brothers to "mormor") are no longer alive, but one uncle's wife, Birgitta (who visited us in California this past sept.) showed us a wonderful time. We continued to eat massive ammounts of food: fil-milk (processed sour milk, think thinner Nancy's plain yogurt!), musli, bread and cheese. I am starting to remember why I returned from Sweden as a 7 year-old with high cholesteral. Both Birgitta and her friend Britt (who also visited us in Cali) have been so kind to us, and even made vegetarian options for me at mid-afternoon dinners when everyone else is eating fish and elk meat! Glad to be a vegetarian.

In Askersund we visited Hembysgarden, a park where the locals have restored old-18th century homes (these are all over Sweden). Birgitta, my great-uncle Hugo, and great-grand parents Tobias and Agnes, have played large roles in the sucess of this park, so it was interesting to see again. The next day we traveled to Britt's home in Tiveden Forest. Tived is where the trolls live in Swedish folklore (didn't see any unfortunately). Back in Askersund I visited some of my favorite shops from my childhood, a woodworking store and Lek & Bo, the store where I purchased a large portion of my Lego collection!

We said good-bye to Birgitta and Britt after three days which was very hard.- Britt drove us to Halna where I then have had a whirlwind experience meeting relatives that my mom met five years ago. We stayed with Arne (mormor's second cousin) and his wife Iavor. Throughout the next two days we met all three of their children, visited their homes and were even introduces to their "barnbarn" (grandchildren), my fifth cousins!!

It was cloudy and probably only about 65 degrees outside but Arne and Iavor told me I was not a real Swede unless I went swimming in the lake behind their house. So I showed them! I jumped off their pier and proceeded to swim about twenty minutes. After exiting the water I quickly got a back headache and had a nap - so I guess my "real Swede" status is still open for discussion.

14 July 2005

The Tallinn Taxi

Miraculously we survived the ferry. I acclimated to the concept of the ferry, but never to the constant motion. I cannot say the same for mymom, but we arrived in Tallinn just the same. We arrived by taxi at the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in (my mom's travel agent booked a five star hotel - I think they perceive post-communist Europe as a gang-ridden war zone).

Rick Steves (travel guide book) informed my mother that taxis in Estonia overcharge, sometimes up to 35 kroner (oooh, a whole extra two dollars!) so shedecided to share the details of her father's journey from Estonia in hopes of coaxing him into charging her the non-tourist price. By the end of the ride she was finally convinced he was an honest man and felt he deserved a tip. After pulling out a five to offer him his tip, she sensed she had made a faux-pas and in front of the hotel, declared to all with her hands above her head, "I don't know the value of this money!" In a less flustered tone she added, "...but I am sure I will learn." Some good that will do the taxi driver who she tipped 40 cents!

In the future I promise to make an effort to equally cover my own blunders, so as to convince my mom this blog doesn├Ąt exist solely at her expense. I have so much more written, but no more time to copy it onto computer.

The Ferry of Doom - written 11 July

When I was busy studying for my master's exam, my mom was hard at work planning our trip to Scandinavia. My reward for finishing the program. Only when we stepped aboard the plane diid I learn many of the details regarding our itinerary. Earlier in the year I had suggested we "drop by" Estonia, where my grandfather grew up. He fled by fishing boat to Stockholm to escape Stalin in the early 1940s.

I am deathly afraid of flying, and as my mom shared our itinerary with me, she relayed how she infact identified with me - she was scared of our ferry ride to Estonia. Well that was new - a whole new fear I had never considered.

As our trip to Estonia grew closer these past few days, the impending ferry ride drew nearer. Mom told me that she tried to book "the Victoria," the new luxorious liner stocked with amenities - but it was full. Instead of four star hotel quality accomodations, we would be aboard the cheaper ship. I have bow learned that this ship transports Swedes to Estonia, often so they can stock up and smuggle back cheaper cigarettes and booze, free from the high taxes of the Swedish government.

When I stepped onboard the Regina Baltica, I was immediately tole my room was in the belly of the ship and two forward men in the elevator beconed me in. Using my slow mom (awkwardly pulling her would-be backpack) as my way out,I averted their advances. Unfortunately, this moment gave way to my increased paranoia at being confined to a ship with 1500 people seeking cheap booze.

The room isthe size of a large walk+in closet and includes a mini-toilet/shower combo, an interesting contraption I am not sure I am comfortable with yet. There ar eno windows and I feel like my world is very small. My mom immediately asks the woman outside where "we" can have a safety orientation. My new fears are momentarily overshadowed by embarassment. She likes to use the pronoun "we." I would prefer she use "I." I do not want an orientation - I want to sulk in my bunk and live off protein bars - who needs dinner anyways.

After discovering there was an hour time different in the timezones of Sweden and Estonia, there was a brief "freak-out" where we thought our ship left in 15 minutes rather than an hour and fifteen minutes, but alas we were right all along. Of course we were VERY prepared and VERY early, as is every activity with my mom. I may come back to Berkeley programmed to be ontime!

She finally coaxed me out of the room - and I actually readily agreed because I needed to see a window. After a quick "tour" of the four levels of stairs to the emergency exit I am writing this fromm the bar where my mom is drinking a mohito. We are on our adventure to Estonia. We hear it is beautiful (and cheap). However, we also know we may come only to find out why my grandfather left and never returned. Here's to our journey across the Baltic (quite luxorious compared to the fishing boat my grandfather crossed in). If this gets posted, I arrived safely in the capital city, Tallinn and am happily recuperating from my sea faring journey in my five star Radisson.

10 July 2005

Future entry topics

Not much time for an entry today, but I thought I would publish a brief list of forthcoming entry topics regarding my trip to Sweden.

1. The many intovert of Sweden - a superficial cultural observation
2. Two-ply toilet paper and toilet seat covers - under appreciated Californian customs
3. The sun - no longer a good alarm clock. Sets at 10pm, rises at 3:30!
4. Buffets - my own personal hell.

09 July 2005

Hej fran Sverige

Hej fran Sverige! I have been in Stockholm now for a little over two days and am enjoying this beautiful city and the relaxed pace of my trip. My mother and I are approaching this excursion more as an experience than a tour of the sites. Thank goodness, for I think I am still recovering from graduate school. After sleeping seven hours on the plane, we arrived in Sweden at 9pm and I slept another full night of sleep. We have woken early both days to large Swedish breakfasts. At breakfast I make meager attempts to read Dagens Nyheter, the newspaper, and drink obsceneamountss of coffee. While meat is a large part of many meals, the Swedish breakfast caters to my taste and thus I partake of it in massive quantities. Sour milk reminiscent of Nancy's plain yogurt and musli, as well as rose hip soup andSwedishh pancakes are in unlimited supply..Heaven! As for lunches and dinners, that is a different story...and I usually eat salad, although tonight I surprisingly found a tofu dish. As for our non-food adventures, we are having a lot of fun exploring, getting lost and arriving too late for the attractions we hoped to see. Yesterday we happened accidentally upon the Changing of the Guard at the palace, and while interesting, was a little too touristy for my taste. Most importantly, through all our misadventures, I am hearing a lot ofSwedishh and feel good about my prospects for learning the language.

02 July 2005

First Entry

Studying for my masters culminating exam in US history, I often procrastinated within the blogosphere, reading everyone from Jonathan Michael Marshall (talkingpointsmemo.com) to Swarthmore history prof, Timothy Burke (http://weblogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/) and my daily favorite, gawker.com. Now that I am done studying, my blog reading habit has yet to desist. Finally convinced to give blogging a try, this blog begins as I look toward my idols with great reverence and humbly begin my own ego-driven journal that hopefully at least my friends will find interesting. Can't make any promises though.

Overtime, I hope this blog will address more important social and cultural issues, basically a practice space for writing future op-ed columns and such. However, that is the final ideal state of its evolution. In the meantime, realistically this blog will be a posting of my daily readings, commentary on other people's more insightful blog postings and columns. And maybe even some non-fiction book reviews!! You are as excited as me, aren't you? I also look forward to hearing from my readers (aka friends) in the comments section of this blog - because you all will be fully compelled to respond, I know it!

Wednesday I leave for Sweden where I will be for the next three weeks, immersed in the language - struggling to express myself in a foreign language. Until I learn some more adjectives, everything is going to be "bra" (good) or "dalig" (bad). While I am in Sweden, this blog will be more of a travel journal with the occasional historical cultural insight. More likely, it will chronicle my attempts to track down the Swedish prince or Joachim Johansson, a pro-tennis player. You will have to gauge on your own, my level of sarcasm in that last statement.