Saturday, January 17, 2009

oh my... soooo much!

Hej hej!
First off, let me tell you about dental tape. So, I like to take care of my teeth- this ranges from wearing my retainers to flossing my teeth on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my floss, so today I had a chance to purchase some while at a pharmacy (if you want to by any painkillers, including aspirin, you have to go to the pharmacy, these meds will not be found at a 7-11). I was wondering why the floss was so expensive, but when I came home I realized that what I have can be described as dental tape. Seriously, this stuff is like a chord, I could hold stuff together with it. I mean, who needs two inches of chord to get the stuff out from between their teeth?! Anyway, it ended up being one of the best tooth flossing experiences ever- if you want to know that you for sure don’t have anything between your teeth, it’s the way to go.

So now a better description of life in the land of Ikea, Volvo, H&M, and Absolut (yes, that’s a government owned Swedish brand). Thursday and Friday are so intertwined in my mind that I kept referring to Thursday as “this morning” all day Friday. Thursday morning I left from SPSA with the rest of the Wesley folk. Moving from one subway to another with help from lots of strangers, I finally made it to JFK airport. Sadly, Swiss Airlines didn’t open their stands until 2:30, so after 2.5 hours of traveling, I had to wait 2 hours. The time passed rather quickly, but I was super glad to get lunch and go through security, etc. My first flight was not ideal. I was impressed by the big seats on the airbus, but my heart sank a bit when I realized that I was sitting in the last row. This meant that I couldn’t use my overhead compartments because they were full of blankets and other things that take up room. Also, I was sitting next to smelly Raoul, who I mentioned in an earlier post. The flight attendant wasn’t very pleasant when I asked for help with storing my carry-on luggage. Also, the seat in front of me (for who knows what reason) had a block of metal under it- so there was no place to put my backpack. Regardless, I was determined to make the best of the trip. After I had been served a vegetable pasta thing for dinner because they ran out of chicken by the time they got to the back row, I tried to sleep. I was successful for about an hour. Then I woke up to my neighbor holding my knee. This continued on for a few more hours, until the flight attendants got really loud and started arguing with each other right behind me. At this point I gave up on sleep and played tetris on the monitor in front of me.
Once I got off the plane and away from Raoul who had given me his phone number before trying to help me carry my luggage (backpack and a less than 20 lb rolling duffle) I sat down. I was just going to rest my eyes for a second, but the next thing I knew, it was an hour later and I had less than an hour before my flight left. So I went through security once more and grabbed a snack. I went into the duty free store to spritz a little perfume on my arm so it would stop stinking like Raoul. I ended up buying something and telling the clerk about my flying experience and that it was my birthday. He gave me a large Toblerone chocolate for free, which was great. I got on the plane and had a window seat. The girl next to me sat down and we said “hi” but nothing more. Upon hearing the announcement that they had to hold the plane in order to check some suspicious luggage, I fell asleep. I woke up shortly to hear something in French about Berlin and then fell asleep again. Best 2.5+ hour nap ever. As we were descending, I read an article about Amish people and their Swiss origins. My neighbor and I talked some, since she was returning to Copenhagen from having studied in Richmond, VA this previous semester.

In the Copenhagen airport, I had to wait for ages for one of my bags. The large bag showed up minutes after they had stopped displaying my flight on the baggage return, along with a few other peoples’ bags. While waiting, I had time to call my parents and Lena. Lena met me at the airport and we took the train to Malmo. My bags were so jacked up by the time we got there that people walking by kept saying stuff to us about them, only they all spoke in Swedish, so we had no clue what they were talking about, except that it had to do with the bags. I finally got checked in and Lena and I stood around for a while until they had a van full of people. We were dropped off at my apartment and had some time to unpack what we would need for the night. We decided to go out early to get something to eat before going on the pub crawl at Golden with the other exchange students. However, we ran into the van driver who dropped us off at the square where Golden (crap for everything, but cheap drinks) is located. Lena and I went “grocery shopping” and got the essentials: toilet paper, juice, muffins for breakfast, and hand soap. Then we went to Golden early to eat dinner before everyone else showed up. The service was terrible- we walked in and didn’t know whether to seat ourselves or wait to be seated, so we asked someone who was working there the guy looked at us like we were aliens or something. So we sat ourselves and, after a few minutes, I asked for menus. We looked at the menus for a while, until Lena went up to order, since no one was taking our orders. I called Minus after we ate and he agreed to pick us up at 9. Around 8:30 we began to wonder where everyone was – the place was basically empty. About 8:45, the exchange students came pouring in. I had enough time to say hi to Shatarra (other UNC girl) and a few other people before Minus was there. Lena and I went with him to hang out at Ellen’s (I think) flat. It was fun getting to see him again, but we were so tired when 10:30 rolled around we decided to go home. That was an adventure- we saw a lot of stuff that we’ll never forget and hit up every fast food restaurant in search of a milkshake.

Since we stayed out rather late and had already been tired, we slept in until 11. We were supposed to go on a city safari (walking tour) at 1, but the bus was slow, so Lena and I, along with Shatarra, Marine (from France), and Jose (from Mexico), didn’t make it on time. Instead, we made up our own tour and that was fine. Lena treated me to a birthday lunch, since we hadn’t done dinner like we had planned the night before. Afterwards we went back to my place and took at 30 minute nap that turned into a two hour nap. Since we had slept until 7ish and it was a Saturday, the market was closed, so we went to Burger King (not our #1 choice).

Let me tell you about BK… People in Sweden speak English very well, in general. They also have told us that they enjoy the chance to speak English with native speakers (that would be me). The people at Burger King don’t seem to have the same mindset. Also, Lena said that in Europe people don’t typically customize their orders at fast food restaurants, so that can be confusing for some people. I had acquired a few coupon books from people in the streets earlier in the day (which is why we chose Burger King) and the girl behind the counter explained to me what the coupons were offering. Lena and I decided to go with the “free child’s meal with purchase of a whopper meal” coupon, so I returned to the counter, to be greeted by a guy. Although he seemed to have a working knowledge of English, we obviously had a miscommunication. I asked for a whopper meal with only lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. When I got my Whopper (my first Whopper ever, mind you) it had everything except tomatoes. Epic fail. After scraping EVERYTHING off my Whopper, I ate it plain. They didn’t have milkshakes, so we purchased BKsomething (can’t remember the name) which is just ice cream with stuff (cookies!) in it. The guy also gave Lena barbeque sauce instead of dressing for her salad. That was interesting.

After dinner we chatted and fell asleep. The next morning I cleaned, Lena packed, and we went to Copenhagen airport. She checked in early and got the guy at the business class counter to take her bags. Once on the train, the lady who was checking tickets spoke to everyone in English until she got to Lena, after which Lena said, “I was the only person she addressed in Swedish!” They assume because of her blond hair that she is one of their own, I guess. We spent the day in Copenhagen- it was so nice. It got windy, but the sun was out for the first time! We ended up walking pretty far and I tried again to get a milkshake from a Burger King, but they didn’t have them. Copenhagen is absolutely gorgeous! Malmo is quaint and pleasant and there were a lot of people on the streets on Saturday, and Copenhagen was just grand in comparison. We were there on a Sunday morning, when all the shops were closed (at least it seemed that way), and the streets were still packed. There are a lot of statues there and Lena enjoyed getting her picture with them. Once, she walked across some frozen water and while she was walking back and I was freaking out because some kid had cracked the ice, an old lady with a thick English (British) accent scolded me about the ice and how it was dangerous because it had been thoring (thawing) for several days. She kept telling me not to walk on the ice because I could fall in and get hurt. Since she wouldn’t shut up, I eventually looked at her and said “That’s why I’m not walking on the ice” and walked away.

Lena and I got on the wrong train because we followed the directions of the ticket seller. After a few stops we were informed by the guy who checks tickets that we were on the wrong one. So we got off at the next stop, bought some Coca-Cola and went back to the Copenhagen airport. Lena went to wait for her plane and I bought a double chocolate muffin from Starbucks. I had a chance to get online and upload my photos (check them out on facebook). I was greeted by 99 notifications (mostly birthday wishes), but a few pictures from NYC. Sadly, I think I offended this couple that was sitting near me because the lady was crying (sobbing, actually) and I had headphones in and kept giggling at pictures, but they thought I was laughing at them. Other funny things happened, but I was tired and cold.

When I got back to Malmo (love that city) I stopped by Shatarra’s room to arrange what time we should leave for our orientation the next morning. She was doing her hair, but came by my room later and we talked for a long time just about everything.
In the morning we ended up running late, but weren’t the last ones to get to the orientation. We listened to logistical stuff for a while and introduced ourselves. A lot of people from Australia! (Britney- as I mentioned on facebook, there are a few people from Seville. More about them later.) We had a dairy product tasting, but I only liked the stuff that we have in America. I did manage to get a pack of flat bread. (If it’s free, I’ll take two- family motto.) The bread is good, kind of sweet, so I bought some Philadelphia cream cheese (yes, I did that) and have been eating cream cheese sandwiches. I was wondering where the garbage was, so I asked a lady (from Scotland, but has been a Swedish citizen for years) who was coordinating the event and she had a very good time with that.
Apparently, I needed to ask where the rubbish bin was, but I didn’t think about that beforehand. I am trying to keep things like this in mind now. After lunch we had our introduction to Skanska (Swedish language). Once that was over, Shatarra and I went to the computer lab on the 4th floor and checked our emails/facebook. The computers are ridiculously slow- think dial-up slow.

We tried walking back, but it got really windy and freezing, so we got on the bus. I stopped by the store to pick up an outlet adapter, floss, etc. While purchasing the floss, the clerk only spoke to me in Swedish- usually they switch to English as soon as I open my mouth, but I even ended the conversation with “tack” which means “thank you”. We went to BK and used another coupon. I expected the language barrier, so my experience was better. And I got my milkshake.

After we returned from BK, I sat in my room and wrote what this post says until this point. Since I don’t have internet still, I am saving this on Microsoft Word and will post it whenever you see it. I didn’t really have much else to do, since I really need to do laundry and the laundry room down the hall is booked until Wednesday at 9 pm (which is when I have reserved it). After I was done writing, I hand-washed a shirt I wanted to wear and a few essentials, to get me through the next few days.

In the morning, I woke up bright and early- well, not bright (as the sun starts to rise around 8 am) but still early, and got ready. By 8 am I was on my way to the bus stop and at 9 am I arrived at my class- perfect timing. The students that I had been catching the bus with weren’t planning on leaving until 8:30, so I called them and let them know I was going ahead by myself. They ended up not getting to class until 9:40. Let me pause to mention the traffic situation here in Malmo…
First and foremost, the buses do not have a schedule. At some stops they tell you how many minutes until the bus is there, and it’s usually pretty accurate. However, at the stop by my flat, there is no screen to help you predict when a bus will come. We asked a Swede about it and they said that the bus we were waiting for usually comes about once every 10 minutes. So after you wait 10 minutes, you wait on the bus even longer, because the fare varies and everyone has to pay at every stop. On average, I figure it’s about $2 to ride the bus, unless you get on with friends and get the “duo/family” discount. This is what I have been doing. It ends up being 32 kr for the group, I think. This saves me 4 to 9 kr, depending on where I’m going. The traffic in general here is interesting for me. If you are interesting in making a left-hand turn, you just pull as far into the oncoming traffic’s lane as you dare (this is a lot, when you’re a bus) and then go for it as soon as you have a chance. Turn-signals/blinkers seem optional, but the bus drivers seem to use them more frequently. There is a speed limit, but sport cars (as I’m sure they do everywhere) like to ignore this. Having said all this, the drivers are really great about pedestrians and cyclists. There are people walking and biking everywhere. These are such popular forms of transportation (due to their convenience and price, I’m sure) that there are walk/ride paths everywhere. If they’re not entirely separate paths, they are right next to the road. The paved half of the trail is for bikers and the brick or cobblestone part is for pedestrians.

Back to my (never ending?) story… I thought I was lost, but then I saw some people who I recognized as exchange students and hopped on the elevator with them. With a few difficulties, we figured out that I was in the same group as Cristina from Seville. We sat together in class and waited for it to start. Fabio from Italy (he describes his name as “like the really big guy with long hair”) sat with us. People trickled in throughout the first half hour. In my class, we have people from the USA (me), Spain (Cristina), Italy (Fabio), Australia (Bertie, Lynne, John, Laura, and Bethany), Poland (Dominika and Natalia), Mexico (Jose), Canada (Gordon), Portugal (Catarina), Tanzania (Dunford) and China (Eunice and Sharon). I think there might be one or two more that I’m missing, but today was a very long day. Svenska is not an easy language and some of the students struggle with making the eu sound for “du” and we have to remember rules like half the time k will sound like c from cat and the other half it will sound like sh and RS also makes a sh noise. We have homework to learn how to spell our names and memorize the alphabet and numbers. Koh- rolled r- eeu- ess- tee- ah, is the closest phonetic spelling I can figure for my name. Side note: I saw something called Frysta today, which cracked me up, until I realized it was something to do with seafood- must look into that.

The classes are pretty cool, as we have a break every hour for 15 minutes. In the US, we would be expected to attend the 3 hour class and would maybe get a break for a few minutes if the professor was bored or had drank too much coffee that morning. Everyone takes advantage of the breaks by mingla (mingling) and I met some more students this way. At lunch, Cristina and the other girl from Seville adopted me and I ate lunch with students from Spain, Chile, and South Africa. When we had our “computer information sessions” we all got on facebook and started adding each other. A guy sitting a few seats down from me (Antii from Finland) turned out to be my next-door neighbor. Then we listened to people tell us about how to use the university’s four libraries. Very similar system to UNC’s and I understand English well, so I didn’t have to pay attention hard, like my friends. By the time we were meeting our professors in the School of Teacher Education (I’m taking one of my two classes there), the Spanish girls were mentally exhausted. We left there and hung out at the 7-Eleven with Fabio, since we had received coupons earlier for a got cinnamon roll and latte or cappuccino for only 10 kr.

We took the bus back and stopped by Mobilia, where I picked up my cream cheese. After which I fell asleep for a few hours, only to wake up to more hand washing to do. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, because we are learning more Swedish, I have people to catch the bus with who really won’t be late, and I’ve made several new friends. There’s one guy who thinks it’s pretty baller (my words, not his) that I’m American, since he likes the accent. Because of this I can tell we’re going to be good friends, haha. There is another guy who is trying to share customs with me after I told him that we don’t kiss cheeks in the US when saying goodbye. My girls from Seville have agreed that they will help me with my Spanish if I help them with their English (mostly by speaking slowly). They also like to get me to talk with bus drivers and other people when they are too tired to be 100% accurate with their English.

I won some game in my Swedish class Wednesday morning (insert abrasively ethnocentric comment here), but it kind of wasn’t fair since I had played it in Chinese class already (which was much more difficult). The runner-up (Gordon from Canada) had also played it before, I think. I am enjoying the pace that the Swedish class is going, since the teacher has to repeat some things and speak slowly for everyone to understand her. However, I was looking forward to talking with some of the Australian girls today, since they talk ridiculously fast and have the typical Aussie accents. That’s when I encountered an epic ‘that’s what she said’ fail… as in one of the girls said, “Oh! That IS hard!” so naturally I said “that’s what she said” and got nothing. She looked at me and was all “What?” and I asked her if she had ever heard of that phrase and I think what followed was a very confusing conversation about how she had heard the expression, but wasn’t sure it was applicable. I think she was also placing the emphasis on “what” which is never acceptable. Now I have one more thing to miss, and I’m worried that my brain will either become overloaded with hypothetical twss moments or that I’ll forget how to do it (twss!).

Thursday was an “easy” day. That is, our only obligation was to go to our Swedish lectures. In the morning, I walked to class, just to see how long it would take. The walk ended up being about 40 minutes long, at a brisk pace. Naturally, I live in the student accommodations furthest from the university. After class was over, I ate pasta with Louise (Australia) and Marine; Sharon (China) sat with us as she waited for Grimus Magnusson (an International Office coordinator) to finish his lunch so she could change her schedule. I’m pretty sure Louise has ADHD, although according to her she’s just crazy. The pasta we ate was really cheap – about three American dollars, including a nicely sized roll. After we were done eating, Shartarra joined us and Marine and I waited for her to use the computer by looking at my NYC pictures. Marine particularly enjoyed the stunna shade photos of everyone. We decided to walk home, as it was a particularly nice day (meaning, you could actually see the sun for a moment) and that only took forever! I didn’t mind that it took forever, but we seriously stopped in so many stores, just to look around. I was tired and when I got back to my room, I fell asleep for an hour or so. Then I woke up and ate a sandwich for dinner with my “American butter bread” (it’s wonderful- when you open the package, it smells like buttered toast) and hung out in the room. Nereva (girl from Seville) stopped by my room to tell me that they weren’t going to the pub, like they had planned, but were having some people over to their room. So after I called my dad, I went up to the room and the girls from Spain and boys from Mexico were there. They were playing a Mexican card game and listening to music. After a few rounds, I thought that I had it figured out, so I played some. And then I taught them Go Fish, which they thoroughly enjoyed. Then, the most challenging, the girls from Spain wanted to teach us a Spanish card game, but they don’t speak English very well. Basically, they explained in Spanish what to do and I understood about 40-50% of what they were saying, so I sat out a round and watched. After Jose left, there were four of us, so I joined in and won a few hands. That was fun, but we ended up staying up really late and I was super tired when I woke up at 7 the next morning.

Friday we had Swedish class and then ate lunch in the “big” (nothing compared to Lenoir or Ram’s Head, not even as big as my high school cafeteria) dining hall in Orkanen (the School of Teacher Education). Then we attended a very informative and funny lecture given by a Swedish police officer, Micke Johansson, about what is legal and what is illegal. Two things that didn’t make sense to my American mind were: you can be drunk in public, even riding your bike around, and at most you might be allowed to sober up at the police station, but no charges or fine or punishment of any kind, and that you can camp on private property for one night. I already knew about both of these things, but to hear them said allowed, I guess, made them real. Apparently, camping on private property is no big deal to most of the exchange students who went to the lecture. They were all happy that, in the spring, they can camp in the pretty woods that they saw. I wasn’t feeling so hot after we left the lectures (there were a few more on our resources for illness or career guidance that kind of bored me afterwards), so I went back to my room (after going to the package delivery place in the mall next to my building to get a package that had been delivered for Marine- they don’t have post offices, so when a package comes you have to go to a store and they’ll give it to you) and fell asleep. I had been thinking about attending a party in University Island (student housing next to campus), but by the time I was back in my room, that was the last thing I wanted to do. I slept for about 3 hours and then tried to eat (I’ll not go into much detail here) and my dad called, but I had a splitting headache and the phone made it worse, so I felt bad about it, but I had to end the phone call kind of soon. Then I slept for 10.5 hours until this morning, when I woke up and felt somewhat better. I not only missed out on the party at “Uni I” (as I’ve heard some of the Australian girls calling it), but also on quesadilla night in Shatarra’s room. The rest, however, was worth it.

Marine stopped by my room and asked if I wanted to catch the bus with her and the guys and girl from Mexico, which I did. So the five of us caught the bus and met the other exchange students outside of Orkanen. We took busses to Lund (a nearby city, which is known only for its university, which was my second pick to Malmo) and visited a house museum there. There were really old houses/cottages from the 16th c. and earlier. We toured them and it was FREEZING! -1 degree c. It was really windy and the tour was either outside or in the houses that were not heated. After that, we split up into smaller groups and wandered the city until 4. I, of course, was genius enough to go with a group that consisted of five Spanish speakers, one Italian, and a girl from Portugal. Soooo, the group could all understand each other, for the most part, when they spoke their own languages. My comprehension must be getting better, because I didn’t have too difficult of a time trying to understand what we were all talking about. We went to Subway. That was an interesting experience. I, being an American and having frequented many a Subway, knew what to do, but no one else had been. Some people tried to cut in line or order at the wrong end and EVERYONE ordered what they wanted on their sandwiches after they had been asked what type of bread they would like. This was my first time getting turkey at a Subway, since I am now determined not to eat ham, and it was a pleasant experience. I also enjoyed getting 10 kr off my meal price, since I was obviously a student. I think all the people in our group were satisfied with their food, after all the work they had to do to get it. When we were walking around the town, a few people took the opportunity to work on their English by talking with me. They’ve told me to correct them (as my family knows, I am really enjoying that) when they say the wrong word, or if there is a better way to say something (for example, Fabio said “You are having many pictures” and I let him know that it was “taking” not “having” and he actually appreciated that, and used “taking” many more times). They also asked me a lot about America. I’m beginning to appreciate just how large our country is, because describing what it’s like is so difficult. I basically have to preface my statements with, “Well, it’s different everywhere, but where I live…” We also talked a lot about sports, since some of the guys had purchased a soccer ball earlier and were going to play “football” later. They were particularly interested in American football and why we didn’t care if we didn’t play against other countries. Before we got on the bus to go home, Sebastian (can’t remember where he’s from at the moment) and Nereva were asking me how to say “how do you do?” but with slang, so “what’s up?” When I got on the bus, I sat next to Laurens (not sure of the spelling, but he’s from S. Africa) to find out if he had purchased the alcohol that he was intent on buying when we ran into him earlier in the day. He hadn’t, but we had a very interesting conversation after that, all the way back to the lovely town of Malmo, where it was a little less cold. Tonight there’s a big shindig at Ronnen, another student accommodation, not so far from campus, that basically everyone is going to. Marine and I are meeting the Mexicans and Spanish girls at 10:30 to go over there. I dislike how late they like to party, but I’m not too concerned about it, as I had plenty of sleep yesterday and have no obligations (except finishing my Swedish homework) tomorrow.

I’m so sorry that this entry has been ridiculously long, but you must understand- this is an account of 8+ days, I don’t have anything else to entertain me, and I’m trying to capture as best I can the wonder that I have been experiencing. In summary, I am having the time of my life and the only real downfall is that all of you aren’t here to experience it with me! I am missing my friends at home a lot and that’s probably why I wrote such a detailed description- I want you all to share in my excitement and experience!!

Oh, and if anyone knows anyone who is selling a bike for a small amount of money in Malmo, let me know! Tack tack!

No comments: