Friday, January 13, 2006

Au revoir!

Hello all! Ok, yes, I have been the BIGGEST slacker with this blog, and I am sorry. Paris and Spain were fantastic adventures, and I wish I could post pictures of them but unfortunately is being a dork and won't let me upload.

First, Paris. My family and I celebrated Christmas with grand-cremes (yummy espresso drinks that everyone except Em liked), crepes with nutella and bananas, and lots of culture. We went to the Louvre, Saint-Chappel, Musee d'Orsay, etc etc. It was just fantastic, plus, all of those years of french actually paid off when I was able to say "je voudrais un grand creme avec le petit dejuner, s'il vous plait." I've been around a lot of french, german, swedish, spanish and portuguese lately, and I have so that french is the sexiest language.

I really think that the best part of the whole trip to Paris was just being with family again. I felt whole and I didn't need to explain anything about myself because they knew about me already. I love it. It also made me begin to acknowledge that I'm going home soon, where everyone knows me (well, not everyone, but you know what I mean).

Then Em and I left for Barcelona, where we had a whirlwind tour of the city for 1 1/2 days before we left to go skiing in the Pyrenes for two days (I'll elaborate on this in just a sec) and then back to the suburb of Terrassa to spend New Years and the next few days before we left. It was insane! First of all, I really liked Barcelona, it was very lively and there were lots of cool alleys and side streets that made the city feel like a maze. We went to Gaudi's church and park, I forget their spanish or catalan names, but they were just beautiful. And weird. But definitely beautiful.

Skiing was an adventure, considering I had only been downhill skiing once in 7th grade and it was in Wisconsin. The Pyrenes were sooo beautiful until I tried to ski down a red trail, and then they turned into somewhat of a nightmare. Luckily, Em was in the same boat, so when we accidently came across a black double diamond, we decided it would be better to hike down the side of it. The next day we went strictly on green and blue routes, which were much better and not scary at all.

New Years was awesome, we stuffed grapes into our mouths with each stroke of midnight, and then drank champagne and went to a disco until 7am. It was a blast! The next few days we walked around Terrassa and ate a lot of David's mom's cooking.

I've been back in Vaxjo for a week or two, but during those week I've been busy working on papers, reading, packing, moving (i'm living in 2 rooms right now), and going to class. Oh yeah, and saying goodbye, which SUCKS. Yesterday Ines and Marjon left, and so now it's just Anett and myself left. I leave on Sunday morning EARLY, so I have a day left. I'm planning on walking around all of tomorrow and taking pictures and drinking coffee at my favorite places again and feeling melancholy. It's hard saying goodbye, especially to people who have become your home for the past five months or so. But I'm looking forward to seeing everyone back in Madison, Eau Claire, and the Twin Cities again. Plus, I've been getting more and more excited to get back to the culture of Napoleon Dynamite, big pancake, Fahrenheit, football, american chinese food, brats, and Hardtimes.

I probably won't be writing again before I leave, but I'll be starting another blog soon (as I won't have a life in Sweden anymore) and I'll post the address when I do.

Take care everyone.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bon Voyage! (and some more pics)

the Saint Lucia service
Outside the church after Saint Lucia. Anett, Mitzi (Magda's bf), Magda, Emilia, Martina, me and Marjon.
Em looking a bit like a pilot.

Hello all! Well, this will be my last entry for a while--Emily and I are ready and (almost) packed for various travels around Europe. Tomorrow we leave for Paris, where we are meeting our lovely parents for Christmas. It's been four months since we've seen them, so it'll be great! Plus, what a fantastic opportunity to see Paris--with your family! Then Em and I head to Barcelona for New Years and to hang with David. He's been promising us his mother's paella for quite some time, and we are excited to see all the things we've heard so much about.

I hope all of you have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Take care.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Nick departs/Emily arrives!

Emily and moi at the Christmas dinner!
Nicholas and me with a LOT of christmas lights and ice skaters behind us.

Yes yes, all good things do come to an end, but then other good things get to happen! Nick and I left for Copenhagen last Thursday and hung out there for a long weekend until he left on Sunday. It was a good time, everything is now in full Christmas attire, and we got to see a lot of Copenhagen which I had never seen before, like the Rosenburg palace and the Holmen area. Christiana had a christmas market, which was pretty disappointing since it wasn't original or even slightly hippie-ish. But Nyhaven was awesome again, and we went to the university area and hung out in several bookstores. Pretty darn cool. Though we tried really hard not to let it be, the weekend was definitely tainted by the idea of us saying goodbye at the airport on Sunday, and of course that moment came and went. It was really hard saying good-bye, especially since we had spent such quality time together.

But then, the next day, Emily arrived! It has been really relaxing, we do a lot of eating (she brought me a huge jar of Nutella) and talking and walking around and watching TV shows (apparently the TV in Italy was all in italian, and so Em is getting her fill of english programs. That, and there was a Sex in the City marathon last night which everyone in the corridor was watching). Also, we have had a Christmas dinner complete with the revealing of our secret santas! Anett was my secret santa, and she gave me a ton of pictures of me/her/everyone from this semester in a great photo album thingy. So much fun. We ate a lot of meat that night, from meatballs, to fish (sardines dad!), to ham. We had a lot of bread and rice pudding also, which meant that we were VERY full at the end. Oh, and Em had her first Glogg, I'm so proud of her.

Emily keeps exclaiming about how weird it is that we only see the sun from about 9 or 10am until 3pm. So we've been lighting candles, and enjoying Saint Lucia! This very swedish holiday was on Tuesday night, we all went to the Vaxjo cathedral to enjoy the beautiful service celebrating light. High schoolers from the local school came and sang. The women dressed in white gowns with sparkly ribbons in their hair, and the men also wore white gowns and large cone-shaped hats with stars on them. A bit bizarre seeing their outfits, but then there was Saint Lucia--she wore a white gown and a wreath with candles on her head. Emily and I were both talking later about Kristen from American Girls dolls and how we remember her Christmas book explaining this tradition. Pretty crazy how things like that stick with you...

Emily and I are now in the middle of making overnight buns, and tonight will be the last Pudas of the semester, so we're getting ready for that. Strange how everything is beginning to wrap up. I had to say goodbye to a friend the other night, and it's just surreal thinking that I may never see these people again. But luckily I have another month of being in Europe.

Alrighty, we're off! Take care everyone.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

We made thanksgiving dinner for 17 people.

Yep. We did. Well, really, it was a collective effort, as everyone in the corridor helped with chopping, mixing, watching things in the oven, etc. But yeah, it was really exciting! And, I couldn't believe it, but it went really well! The two turkeys were done an hour before we ate, so they could solidify and could be carved. The meat was really done and juicy, and I even had enough time to take a shower before dinner. It was especially fun doing this and going through it all with Nick.

The menu--in the morning, we baked cinnamon rolls for everyone (overnight buns which are part of my family's tradition) and baked more rolls. For dinner we had 2 turkeys, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, chopped veggies and olives, corn, green beans, and rolls. Then, after everyone was stuffed and had finished all the food (good thing there were two turkeys!), we had pumpkin and apple pie with whipped cream and coffee for dessert. No leftovers, but I think that's ok considering my space in the fridge is not too big. We got good reviews, and lots of people offered to do the dishes, which was really nice. Above are pictures of Nick, Rudi and Mirja with all the thanksgiving fixings at the supermarket, and the other is of several peeps enjoying the food.

These past weeks have been fantastic. We have walked all over Vaxjo, went to the University, hung out at cafes, talked to people...Nick and I were able to go to Gothenberg on Monday to see the sights and everything. Both of us are addicted to each other's Rough Guide books (he has China and Copenhagen, and I have Sweden), and so it makes for a great time travelling. Tomorrow we go to Copenhagen for a few days before Nick heads back to China on Sunday. Copenhagen will be fantastic, we both are looking forward to it. Many more photos and stories to come!

Nick and myself under the Vaxjo Christmas tree downtown
Family portrait! (Nick should be in this, but he was taking the picture)
Kasia serving glogg
Our BEAUTIFUL christmas tree!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Copenhagen at Christmas time truly has to be one of the most magical experiences I have ever had. And to have it with Nick...well, I was (and am) one happy Hannah.

I arrived at the airport in plenty of time on Saturday night, because I didn't want to miss Nick in the veeeery off-chance he would come in a few hours early...instead, there was trouble in Paris and his connecting plane almost didn't make it! I was freaking out, as you could imagine, especially when the lady at the info desk told me that he might not be there until the following day. Finally, at around 11pm his plane took off, and two hours or so later he came through the gates. I can't even begin to describe how I felt when we saw each other, it was a great moment. And he grew a bit of a beard! haha, we think he looks a bit Amish, but it's keeping him warm!

Sunday was the first day of Advent, and all the shops and markets were open so we were able to take part in the celebrations going on. There was a Christmas market in Nyhaven with free large beer samples--to quote Nick, "This is heaven". All the danish breweries were sporting their juleoles (christmas beers) which are either pretty sweet and light or else really dark and hearty. All of a sudden, Santa Clause walked by us, and we followed him to where he was picking up all the kids along the main street to take them to where he would light the city christmas tree. We followed him there, drank some glogg, and watched as more and more little kids and their parents showed up to look for santa. A band was playing Christmas songs, and Santa went around the crowd and welcomed every kid there with candy and a pat on the head. Finally, he climbed a massive ladder and lit the tree.

After a few cafe-stops, we headed back to Vaxjo. I am very relieved that Nick is here and Emily will comes in just a few weeks, both of them will help make Sweden a reality for me when I get back to the US. I've been worried lately that I would wake up in the US and try to tell a story about Sweden and no one would be able to relate or understand who/what I was talking about. I have a feeling that will happen no matter what, but still.

Ok, it's been a day full of walking all over Vaxjo (Nick was able to find shoes and shirts, everything in China was too small for him) and I'm tired. I'll post more later! Happy Advent!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope that you all had a fantastic dinner with friends and/or family. I celebrated in my own little way, as you can see above (along with a phone call to my parents...mwah! a little homesick after that). When my neighbors looked at this sign I posted in our living room, they asked if the colored hand was a symbol of Thanksgiving. haha, yeah, I know that I'm not an artiste, but still! I told them that it was what kids drew to make a turkey. I also had to explain what Thanksgiving was, and how it compared celebration-wise to Christmas.

It's snowing here, and I haven't seen the sun for about a week now. But it's okay, you just have to find the sun in other things--a cup of tea, the Christmas decorations in every window, and (for me) the heartwarming fact that Nick is coming today! I'm meeting him in Copenhagen tonight, where we're enjoying Christmas markets and maybe a concert before coming back to Vaxjo tomorrow to decorate the tree (which people are getting tonight...I think "borrowing from the woods" was the term they used...). I can't wait to get Nick's perspective on things here, and just to see him again! It's been three months--an entire season without him in the same timezone. Thank goodness for Skype and email.

Hope you're enjoying the post-Thanksgiving buying frenzy! I'm off to catch my train, take care everyone.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Christmas time is HERE!

While I'm still planning on eating a (somewhat modified version of) Thanksgiving dinner, it means that right now it's Christmas! Vaxjo municipality just put all the Christmas lights up in the centrum, and I even saw carol-singers the other day. Because of this I feel very justified in playing Christmas music which my beautiful sister burned on a CD for me. Yay Rat Pack, Diana Krall and Amy Grant! Of course I'm expanding my christmas music tastes too, and I'm being introduced to my favorite songs in different languages! Oooh, Christmas and the feelings surrounding it are truly international. Apparently, so are the knick-knacks.

Apparently 9 months and many years ago a lot of parents got busy, because I swear everyone's birthdays were this weekend! On Friday night Augustine (Mexico) had his party downstairs, which rocked because that meant that Magda, Anett and myself could dress up in our skirts and not get cold! I bought a skirt the week before I went to Italy with the intention of wearing it everyday in Florence (haha, riiiiight), and it's really cute and goes with everything I have. So I'm buying tights so that I can actually wear it--sorry, no pictures of it yet, you'll just have to hold on. Anyways, Augustine's party was a hit! Everyone from Seminarievagen was there, and we sang for him (that's what the picture is from) and ate and drank and danced and generally had a fantastic time. Our floor gave him some beer, a card and a cupcake with candles in it, all of which he enjoyed immensely.

Then, this Saturday, Kasia had her birthday! She's my across-the-hall neighbor, so we had a huge party in our corridor. A lot of her friends came from out of town and partied very very hard. The results were a broken table and several things stolen from the fridges (including expensive alcohol). Not cool. It was fun making her present though, the entire corridor got together and made a massive Christmas calendar with presents for her to open each day of December. It was kind of funny, because she was opening all the presents from everyone else and with ours she has to wait! It makes it that much more special I guess. :)

Other than that, I have been treasuring my Vaxjo life and friends a lot. I have so many things to do here, yet at the same time I wouldn't trade anything for a ficka with friends. I'm also really excited for Nick to meet everyone and see my life here--he's coming on Saturday! More details about that later, as for now it's late and I need to go to bed. Peace.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Em, David and myself at Boboli Gardens (Florence in the background)

View of the Ponte Vecchio at sunset
Em and I in front of the Duomo (yes, I AM wearing flipflops!)

My friend David and I took a little trip to Italy this past week to visit Emily (my sister)! Em is staying in Florence for a semester, and is living with 6 other American girls. It was very strange to suddenly be back in semi-American culture again--speaking in english very fast, American pop culture and mentality, etc. I didn't get this much from Em, but definitely from her roomies. Being with Emily was fantastic, she is so intelligent and was able to explain the history and such of every landmark in Florence.

Florence is beautiful. I don't really know what else to say on that note, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed with what I was seeing. The first night we were there, we all watched Room with a View (which, in case you haven't seen it, is about a woman who is transformed by Florence), and then over the next days saw EVERY piece of art in the movie. Emily and I have been watching this movie since we were about 7 years old, so to then actually see these places was unbelievable. That, and we (or at least I) kept calling the Arno River the "Ah-rno" with British accents. Fun!

We saw the Uffizi museum, and I definitely think I could have spent days in there. It's not overly massive or anything, but each piece of art builds on the previous one. The galleries are set up by time period and also theme. There were a few rooms completely full of paintings honoring Mary (mother) and Jesus, but as we moved through, more and more were of other things. Also, I got to see Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Spring, both of which were just fantastic.

We got tons of exercise, I don't even know how many hours we walked each day. We went to the Boboli gardens and explored all the areas inside it. Also, we went to Fiezole, which is a town up in the Chiante hills outside Florence. It was beautiful, and we hiked around a bit enjoying the great weather and air. I had to laugh though--I really thought that scenes from Tuscany in movies (you know, a vineyard for each house and houses with open windows and tall thin trees) was just Hollywood trying to make Italy into scomething it wasn't. Well, all those houses and vineyards and trees and such actually exist! Go figure.

Ok, favorite topic--food! Every meal we ate was great. We went out and got authentic pizza (I tried the eggplant pizza Em has been raving about, and I'm impressed!). We also ate gellato, and I was more impressed with the strength of the flavors than anything else. I had some lemon gellato that was really tart and refreshing, and some chocolate which you got full of with one bite. We had cannolis, and I had some tiramisu! and of course lots of pasta. David didn't really like the al dente version of pasta, so he kept ordering the meat on the menus (which Em and I then got to taste!). Em made us a great italian pasta dish the first night in Florence, and I realized that my sister can cook. I loved the pastas at the restaurants, but I didn't think it was anything really spectacular. The wine was incredible though. First of all, it was cheap, especially compared to Sweden. But also, it tasted amazing. And the espresso...ahhh, fantastic, and only 80 eurocents!

It was really interesting getting both Em and David's thoughts on life. David is from Barcelona, and our worldviews are pretty different. His english is getting really good (when he first arrived in Sweden he could say "Hello, my name is David" and that's about it), so it's fun to chat about different topics. Also, Em and I have different opinions on things (obviously), so all together it made for lively discussion.

So now I'm back here in Sweden, and it snowed today--yay for getting some homework done and doing laundry. Take care all!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Apparently Halloween is an American phenomenon. No one really celebrates Halloween here, beyond the decorations and parties. There is no Halloween candy (which means no discounted candy on November 1st). There's no trick-or-treating. No jack-o-lanterns. And when I tell people about what happens in Madison each year, their eyes get really wide. So some Americans in Seminarievagen decided to throw a Halloween party, and everyone in the area came and dressed up. I was a superhero, as it was one of the easiest and cheapest costumes I could think of, and despite what the Incredibles taught us, having a cape is pretty darn cool.

Since there's no wait-until-Thanksgiving-has-passed period here, Christmas has arrived. There are Christmas markets in various towns all over Scandinavia. Also, there's no light. I know I've mentioned this one before, but just a refresher--it's dark here. So yay Christmas and christmas lights!