Friday, June 12, 2009

the return

I really enjoyed my last few days in Sweden. Emma and Dave were such gracious hosts and I am so thankful for having had a place to stay.

Yesterday (wow, I can't believe it was only yesterday) I woke up at 6 am (midnight EST) and finished getting ready for my departure. I was so convinced that my bags were both overweight - that was stressful.

Louise and I took the bus (and all my luggage) to central station and caught a train to the airport in Copenhagen. It turned out that my bags were only 17 and 23 kilos. What a huge relief!!!

They didn't weigh my carry on and I made it through security with a bag much heavier than should ever be allowed.

I only had to wait about an hour before my plane began boarding. Or maybe it was more time, but by then it felt like no time at all.

The flight home was loooong (naturally). It was over 8 hours and I can only sit still for a while. One great thing was that my traveling buddy (as I like to call the person sitting next to me) left her seat for a row that was open and so I had a ghetto upgrade - 2 seats to myself! In economy this is not actually a lot of space, but I'm short and used that to my advantage by laying on my side and catching about an hour of sleep.
The food was surprisingly good and distinctively Scandinavian. From the yogurt selection to the cheese and bread combo to the meatballs and potatoes, it was just what I wanted.
In short, flying Scandinavian Airlines was not an unpleasant experience.

I had a 2 hour layover in Washington, D.C. but I spent half of that in the seemingly never ending line for customs. The very nice (and cute) guy was super friendly and I actually enjoyed going through customs for once. It also helped that my former traveling buddy was in line with me and she's from near where I was born and we had a lot to talk about.

Then I called and texted some people upon arriving in the States. That was great... I got a few "Hello...?" answers, as if they weren't really sure I was calling and one loud scream from Katie.

My United Airlines (Star Alliance with Scandinavian Air) flight was shorter than expected and my traveling buddy was Carol, who has a daughter who went to my school and another who is at App (where my sister is going). She was friendly and we had fun waiting for luggage together. Especially when I saw the man with unfortunate facial hair (Hitler 'stache).

My mom was a little late meeting me, because my flight got in a bit early, but we still had to wait for luggage, so that was fine. A bit of a fiasco getting it to the car, but we did it.

I had pot roast for dinner, a meal which I asked if we could have. I also had it for lunch again today. So good.

Then I went to Sunni Sky's with Jordan and Meg, since yesterday was Meg's birthday!!!!
We ran into some guys from high school and then ate our ice cream at the usual spot and went to Raleigh for Krispy Kreme.

That was great fun, but by the time I got home and got ready for bed, I'd been awake for more then 24 hours.

This morning I awoke at 6 something, fully refreshed, but went back to sleep until my deadly loud wind-up clock alarm went off shortly after 8. Then I mozied around the house until 10, when I went to the chiropractor's office. Yay for holistic healing and spine realignment.

When I got home, I reheated the roast for Kayla and myself and we watched The Cosby Show together. I had some time to play guitar, too, which was a breath of fresh air. Just as she was about to set off for Borders for an afternoon of reading new books without paying for them and I was going to lay out on the porch, our mom came home and we had a long discussion about chores.

After the discussion, I caught some rays by mowing the lawn at an alarmingly fast pace. Apparently I'm much stronger or something than the last time I tried to do that.
My shoulders are brown and I didn't get weird sock tan lines. Win.

I cooled off by sitting on the marble hearth (a trick I picked up from our dog) and watched a few youtube clips. Then I showered and I'm waiting for my mom to wake up from her cat nap so we can have some sipping chocolate, like she wanted to do.

That's pretty much the jist of my last two days.
Now a few more things.

tomorrow should be great. Katie made an event on facebook for people to meet up at Smithfield's for lunch tomorrow. Even if only a handful of people come, I'm so excited to see them all. After that I have my sister's baccalaureate and then I guess we'll all spend some time together as a family for the first time since January 1st (my dad flies in tonight, after the game).

the game is tonight. If you don't know which game I'm talking about, then I feel sad for you. It's the final Stanley Cup game and my favorite team (the Penguis -- sorry Hurricane fans) is playing. Can't wait for that. GO PENS!

How to Beat Jet Lag, by Krysta Gahagen.
First, get extra sleep prior to your journey. It's important that you don't already feel tired before you've even thought about changing time zones.
Second, drink killer amounts of water on the plane. Keep hydrated! This also keeps you going to the bathroom, which means you're getting up and walking, and that always makes for a better flight.
Third, stay awake by any means necessary. For me, this was eating coffee ice cream at 10 pm and hanging out with some crazy girls. I guess it probably helps to sleep on the plane, so you are making a deposit into your sleep bank, but I didn't need that.
Fourth, plan something relatively early (if you're going from east to west) on your first day home. That way, when you wake up early you have an excuse and don't feel disoriented. Having said that, don't allow yourself to wake up when your body says it's time. Go back to sleep for a few hours until you should be waking up in your new location.

These guidelines probably won't work for anyone else, but I'm writing them down for posterity's sake (and in case I travel like this again).
Can you believe it? I had more jet lag going from Raleigh to Seattle than from Sweden to the east coast. In any case, I'm super stoked that I'm adjusting so well to sleeping (even if I'm having a harder time adjusting to living with my family again).

That's all for now. Time for sipping chocolate and ukulele solos.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

only 58 hours left

I have 47 hours left in Scandinavia. That's officially less than two days.

This morning I went through my bags and relieved them of even more items again.
At this point in time I'm trying to find ways to lighten my bags, so my planned travel outfit is:
Jeans, cami, button down, vest, scarf, heaviest winter coat, rain boots, and anything else that I can attach to my personage.
I love the fact that I'll arrive in Raleigh in rainboots and a heavy winter coat.

I have to keep my carry on to under 8 kg. So, that means that I'll have a bit of space in there and once that mess is weighed and I'm through security, off goes the winter coat and in go the rain boots.
I hope.

I'm wondering if I'll sleep on the plane. I would like to, just so I wouldn't have so much jetlag, but I've been resting at Emma and Dave's house (where I'm staying) so much that I think I might not be able to.

Had another dream last night. This one was much more disappointing.
In my dream, I arrived at the airport and was so excited to see my mom, but she kind of just helped with the bags and we didn't speak on the ride home and then when we got home Simon was excited to see me for about 20 seconds until he realized I didn't have food for him and then he ignored me and I had to ask my mom about dinner and she pulled some hamburgers from the fridge and said "Here. Here are the hamburgers you wanted." then my mom (who was wearing a monk robe) took my guitar (it was missing a few strings and looked pretty beat up) and handed it to my sister and told her that she was late for her lessons and Kayla took the guitar and left and I was so furious that my beautiful guitar was so messed up that I walked away and kept walking until I was in England, in a deserted parking lot at a fairgrounds and it was raining and nighttime and a Royal Guard gave me directions but then a gang of kids came up on me and were going to attack but then I woke up.

I'm glad that's not the reality I'm expecting, haha.

Off to work on my secret project now...


Monday, June 8, 2009

t minus 77 hours

I had another dream about driving my car last night.

Wonder what that means.

(It keeps happening.)


slut means end (in swedish)

It's true.

I can't believe how little time I have left here, all that I've seen in the last week, and that I'll be sitting on the couch in the living room at home this time next week.

Let's start where I left off...

I was going to go swimming with Marsha and Suvi in the harbor. Well, Marsha ended up staying in Copenhagen overnight and the weather wasn't quite nice enough to go swimming, so we postponed and now Suvi is gone. Without swimming. It's a shame.

Friday night I went to University Island and we played circle of death for a while and then went out to a club. It was the first time I've heard hip hop in a club in half a year. So refreshing, although we ended up on the electro dance floor, since apparently it's impossible to dance to hip hop.
I stumbled home some time before 4 and had a nice rest. When I awoke, however, I was horribly ill (not a result of drinking... well, I'm sure it didn't help, but this was an actual sickness). It took me all afternoon to pack my bag for the Poland trip and I couldn't stomach anything. I decided to face the problem head first and met Marsha at Burger King. There I could have food of substance (I had only bread product in my room) and Sprite, which is good for illness. Whilst waiting for Marsha I had a chance to leave a voicemail with a friend at home and call my mom. While we were talking, I ran out of minutes and we went to catch the bus. Too late. The online schedule was only for the week days and we were traveling on a Saturday.
I can't express my aggravation with certain forms of transportation and my inability to work with them enough. We ended up taking a taxi to the airport which was twice as much as I had planned on spending. In the end, we made it to the airport with plenty of time and had an awful flight (which lasted a bit over an hour). The flight itself wasn't so bad, Marsha and I each had the emergency exit row to ourselves because we spoke English and they wanted an English speaker there. However, there was a crying, no - not crying - WAILING toddler on the plane. From the time we sat down until the time we exited the plane, that kid would not stop screaming. Seriously, she should consider being an opera singer with those lungs.
We landed safely, everyone clapped, and the next thing we knew, we were on a bus that was careening along the roads.

So far the scariest drivers I've encountered are the Poles. I don't think it's them, persay, more of their traffic laws. The things that they can do on the roads a) scared me, b) would be super illegal in the States, and c) made me soooooo car sick. I spent 90% of the time on the road wishing for fresh air, to stop moving, and maybe just to never see a road again. My motion sickness has progressively gotten worse - I can't even do porch swings for more than 5 minutes without feeling queasy and there I was, on a bus that seemed like it was about to roll over upon every turn.

We ended up in Krakow (having landed in Katowice) at the central bus station, but there were no buses or taxis. Deciding to find a place to seek shelter from the rain and figure out our next plan of action, Marsha and I came across Golden Hostel. The receptionist was great and so very helpful, from calling a cab for us to giving us hints on how best to go about our sight seeing, even though we weren't staying in his hostel.

The cab got us to the Dizzy Daisy Downtown Hostel (ridiculous names, I know) and we went straight to sleep. By 10 in the morning, we were showered and ready to go exploring. Louise wasn't set to arrive until after midnight, so we had the day to chill around town. It was kind of rainy (you'll see that rain follows me on my travels), but not unpleasant. Marsha got an awful caricature done of her and we went to the castle. The clouds went away and I took a few pictures of our surroundings. We discovered that for 1.30 or 1.50 PLZ (which is less than 50 cents) we could buy bread from street vendors and the cheese bread was the best. After walking around we went back to the hostel to rest a bit more from our adventurous night. I was feeling 80% better by that time, which was great.

We ate dinner at a disappointing so-called Mexican restaurant and then back to the hostel for movie night. Only, they weren't having movie night (it is supposed to be every Sunday at 8 in the common room, but it was already 9 and they were watching soccer). So, we picked out a movie and watched it. After that was over, I stayed up waiting for Louise, so I could tell her our plan for the next morning (which was starting early).

After going to bed around 3, I woke up at 6 and started getting ready for the day. Louise had arrived around 2 and then some guys were (apparently) having snore wars that night. It was like having 3 of my grandpa in one room. So loud!

By 8:30 we were on our bus to Auschwitz. We watched a movie on the way there that showed actual footage from the liberation of the camp by the Soviets and I regretted not having any motion sickness medicine.

I don't really want to talk about Auschwitz here. I can say that it was a very sobering experience and that it was highly informational, but the rest I have to say in person. If you ever get a chance to visit a concentration camp, please go. If you want to talk with me about it, we can grab coffee sometime.

After we left Auschwitz, I went to the hostel to get more batteries for my camera, Marsha got coffee, and Louise purchased a memory card for her camera. We met up again for lunch and before we knew it, we were on a bus for the salt mines.

What did I expect from the salt mines? No idea...
It was good. We met Colin from Canada and Masha from New York.
Imagine the mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings (even better if you've read The Hobbit). That's what the salt mines most reminded me of. I ate a little salt off the wall and enjoyed (in part) the dry humor of Sebastian, our tour guide. Again, I can't describe what it was like to be so many meters underground where people had, for centuries, chipped away at a resource that was (at times) more precious than jewels.

We enjoyed our new friends and had dinner with them in Old Town. Then Louise went back to the hostel to rest and Marsha and I went with Colin and Masha to Colin's hostel (The Good Bye Lenin), where his roommate, Liam, joined us. We went out for drinks (Marsha and I stuck to water, because we were so tired) and then returned home.

Having planned on meeting our new friends, we wandered around the city, after we checked out of our hostel in the morning. However, we had no way of contacting them, so we just perused the place. Then, as Louise was checking her phone and saying that they hadn't called, our friends walked up to us.

They took lunch while we toured the inside of St. Mary's (I believe that's the name). Then we joined them and all of us, with the exception of Marsha on account of her asthma, climbed the highest tower of the church. What typically would have been a bell tower was actually a trumpeting tower, so there were no loud noises while we were up there. About half way up, a sparrow attacked Liam and Masha, which was hilarious. The view from the top was astounding.

After that we toured the city with a guidebook Colin had. However, our adventures were cut short by an expected train.

We hurried back to the hostel and gathered our belongings and took off to the train station. Long story short, we caught the correct train but missed our stop because the platforms did not have informative signs. This caused us to miss our flight check-in by 5 minutes. Needless to say, we were not pleased. Our options were waiting 2 days and catching the next flight back to Malmö from Katowice or traveling to Warsaw and catching the 2 PM flight the next day. We opted for the latter and booked seats on a train that traveled at 1 in the morning. That way, we didn't have to have a place to stay for the night. By 5 AM, we were in Warsaw.
This is how things went in Warsaw:
-train arrives
-figure out which bus to take to the airport
-admire the architecture (without actually taking pictures)
-catch a bus to the airport
-sleep all day at the airport on metal benches

I'm sure my parents are proud, haha. Louise and I had a breakfast there that was quite nice and reasonably priced and I finished reading my favorite book again (thanks Katie for sending me that!), but it was a rather uneventful day. We knew Colin and Liam were in Warsaw, but we were too exhausted from our debacle of the previous night. So, sadly, we did not meet up with them.

I got back to my room in Malmö later, took dinner, and started packing for Gotland and my return home. Again, I didn't accomplish much for want of sleep.

At 5:45 the next morning, we were off. Louise and I had an amazing trip to Gotland and my only regret was how little time we had there. I did take advantage of the hours of transportation and managed to sleep some. The roads in Sweden are much more favorable to my stomach and even on the ferry, I managed to keep ill feelings at bay.

Even though it was raining the entire time we were there, I have fallen in love with Gotland and Visby. The nature is so beautiful, the people are kind, and the ruins of old architecture is enchanting. We took pictures and had fika. It was great. That was the first relaxing vacation. We weren't too worried about the time and had an entire dormitory building to ourselves (if you don't count the cat).

There was a whiteboard at the hostel and we played hangman. We found cards and played Uno. I found a soccer team and watched them practice for a while. Very simple times.

The only problem we had was (again) with transportation as we were trying to get home. The taxi company claims that a cab was sent for us at the appointed time, but we never saw it. However, we fared better than before and made it to our ferry just on time, after Louise and I took turns dealing with the man on the phone and our then-current driver. The driver was great, managed to get us there just in time and gave us a huge discount.
I slept like a baby on the ferry and most of the way home via bus. We had two hours between our ferry ride and our first bus, so we ate sandwiches and played cards in the park. I managed to get just a touch of sun on my shoulders.

We arrived back last night and I had my room inspection this morning. I explained to the land lady that I needed lodging for one more night and she allowed me to stay, which was awesome. My bags are "packed" but I have more things to put in them. I slept all afternoon and then had dinner with Louise and Ezgi in Rönnen. Then I fetched Louise's bike from University Island, where I last parked it and now we arrive at the present, where I'm sitting on the floor, eating some candy (to lighten my load, of course) and looking listlessly at my luggage situation.

I'm not sure if I'll have internet again over the next few days. I'm staying with friends of Louise for three nights and then I'll be back in my own little IKEA bed at home.

I really am going to miss this place.