Monday, May 27, 2013

Good times in the neighborhood

Hello friends and family. Another week has passed by over here and I still can't believe how fast things are going. In two weeks I will have been here for two months. Sounds crazy writing it and even crazier believing it. It makes me realize more and more just how much I need to appreciate this experience and get as much out of it as I can because it will be over before I will have even realized it.

One thing has gone on this past week: fika- outside of soccer, of course. There is a cute little cafe in the middle of Tierp that Carrie and I have been visiting on a daily basis. I was trying to cut back on how much sweets I had been eating because I did not inherit a flawless skin gene and mine hates me right now, but it was Carrie's first two weeks here and getting fika everyday because we can was just too hard to turn down. Sounds bratty, but fika really is a big part of this culture, so I'm reassuring myself that it's fine to be partaking in it as much as the typical Swede. Also, there is just something cute and European about going to sit at a little cafe, with a coffee, a sweet treat and a good book/journal. I think that is one of the things I will miss most when my time here is over. I don't think I want to make that a habit back home because I will no longer be walking and riding my bike for transportation anymore and I really think that's why most Europeans aren't fat. Biking and walking make such a difference. When I visited Stockholm, my friend Anna has a step counter on her phone and she told me we walked 10,00 steps that day. And we were only there for a half a day. Imagine doing that everyday!

The cafe we've been frequenting is called Konditori Royal and they  have some of the best creations of bakery items I've ever tasted. A few of their treats are there on a daily basis, like the princesstarta cake, the napolean cake (cake, whipped filling, and raspberry icing), and their different flavors of snurra (translates to spin), which is similar to a cinnamon bun. Hard to explain that one. But they also have new treats in there everyday, which is good because we get to try all different types of Swedish customs.

We discovered a few more bike trails around Tierp. There are so many here, it's awesome. They are good workouts because a lot of them have good size hills throughout them. It's so peaceful out in the woods here. Kind of eery, actually. I enjoy a good bike ride with beautiful views and it's nice that I'm also getting a good workout in.

Saturday was game day. We played a team named Vasalunds IF. Apparently they are one of the worst teams in the league, but we still went out with the mindset that they were a good team. We ended up beating them 7-0. It's hard beating teams that bad. Kinda wish there was a mercy rule sometimes. I had a hat trick. I don't even remember the last time that happened. Maybe club or high school soccer. Despite that, it was not one of my better games. I'm my toughest critic and scoring 3 goals and saying you played bad sounds weird but I know the way I can play and I didn't accomplish that on Saturday. I recently saw a cool quote from a national team member, who also happens to currently play in Sweden, Christen Press, who said, "one thing I love about sports: every game day you are reborn". Couldn't be more true. Definitely going to hang on to that one for the rest of my soccer playing days.

After the game on Saturday we went to our friend Frida's house for a smorgasbord and party type of thing. Frida is on the team, so everyone on the team was invited. She had so many different foods prepared for us, which is what a smorgasbord is, and a few different types of drinks that I had never tried. So nice of her to do that. They also introduced us to the Swedish game kubbe (cube), which is what you do on a nice day here in Sweden. You break into 2 teams and set up 5 blocks on both sides-about 10ft away from each other, with the blocks about a foot apart from each other, and a king block in the middle. Each team tries to knock over all the blocks (by throwing blocks at them) before the other team and who ever does it first then has to knock over the king block to officially win. When you are trying to knock over the king block, you have to throw the block with your head between your legs facing the opposite way. It was a fun game to learn, I enjoyed it! We went out to a club in Gavle after that. It was so fun! The dj played all electronic dance music. I was so excited to finally get to experience the nightlife over here! Loved it and love getting to experience all of this.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Growing in the experience

First of all, I had to get a new blog website because word press decided to not function the right way all of a sudden. Quite strange. Not really sure how I feel about this one yet, but we shall see if it does the job.

Anyways, things are still going well for me over here and I become more and more thankful for this opportunity everyday. The more I get to experience, the more it makes me realize how truly incredible this opportunity really is. With that, I am also becoming more aware of how much this opportunity is going to help me grow not only as a player but also as a person, and for that, I am forever thankful. Having come over here not knowing a soul and having to get comfortable in a situation like that, I think will be my biggest benefit towards my growth as a person.

If I learned one thing from my parents while I was growing up, it has been to learn and grow as much as you can from all the different experiences life brings your way. And what a valuable lesson that is for them to teach their children- to not take the experiences in your life for granted and to learn and grow from them in anyway you can, whether they were good or bad. It's easy, at least for me, to let yourself take advantage of good experiences and not realize their worth until after the fact and even easier to let yourself overlook that there is something to learn from the bad experiences. It's fairly easy to bash a negative situation and not realize that there may actually be some good to take away from it. Who doesn't want to write off a terrible experience and push it to the back of your head for as long as possible? I am forever indebted to my parents for opening my eyes to these concepts while I was growing up, whether I acted on them then or not. (I will be the first to say, I did not). It took me all 23 years to really grasp what they were teaching me.

I was in a situation last summer where things weren't going anywhere near the way I would have liked and looking back now, it was one of the biggest learning experiences I've had to date. Just because things weren't smooth sailing didn't mean I should have looked at it, overall, as a negative experience. Despite making new friends, I never realized there was anything else to take away from it. I have grown so much from then and I never thought I would be sitting here saying that that situation played such a key role in preparing me for my current situation. I now feel like I can appreciate this opportunity for all it's worth, and the list of what I will take away from this is endless.

On the other end of the spectrum, this experience is definitely testing me in ways I knew it would before I got here. If you asked me a year ago if I thought I'd be able to partake in such an adventure as this one, I would have said absolutely not. I am reserved, shy and comfortable in familiar situations, so this has been a huge step outside my comfort zone. However, you are always stronger than you think. As I said before, this is hands down one of the best experiences I will probably have in my entire life and I try hard in not allowing myself to forget that. But I am human and I do have days where I question whether I can really stick it out for 6 full months. I think those thoughts mostly creep in because I have so much free time on my hands, but they are rare and I'm thankful for that. My parents just so happen to be visiting right at the halfway point of my journey over here (last few days of June and the first week of July) and that couldn't have been timed more perfectly if we tried. It will be so refreshing to see some familiar faces and having those familiar faces be my parents makes it that much better. I already know they will come over here and remind me of how awesome this experience is and keep me thinking positively- just what I will need at the halfway point.

On another, less deep note, Carson and I went with Anna and her boyfriend's house after practice Monday night to have a picnic on the coast and watch the sun go down! Her boyfriend made us a salad and brought some beers and sodas, it was such a relaxing night. So thankful for Anna and how friendly she is and willing to help complete strangers, says so much about who she is as a person. Anyway, she lives about 25 minutes northeast of Tierp and another 5 minutes from the coast. The sunset was amazing; I love a good sunset/sunrise. The coolest thing about the Baltic Sea is that there are no sharks, eels, barracudas or anything remotely dangerous swimming in it! I can't wait till it's warm enough to swim in and not have to worry about anything swimming by to take me as their meal. Huge for the girl coming from the most popular shark attack place in the US! The sea was so calm too, I noticed. So peaceful. Loved getting that experience.

Tuesday night was our first game for the Svenska (Swedish) Cup. I only heard we had a game on Tuesday when we were coming home from our game last Sunday. Even now, I'm not entirely sure what the significance of the Swedish Cup is, really. All I've really gathered is that you keep advancing if you keep winning, per usual. You play teams from all different divisions in Sweden and eventually it will come down to a championship game, which is in a year. Tierp hasn't qualified to play in the cup for a few years, so they are obviously looking to change that this year. It's a one and done type of situation, so hopefully we can keep advancing and they end up going far this year. Anyway, the team we played was Avesta AIK. We traveled to Avesta, which is about an hour and half north of Sweden. We ended up beating them 7-0. I felt kinda bad. It's always tough to lose that badly. Now, we are just waiting to hear who we play next and when.

Thursday, Tierp had a little farmers market going on! There were unlimited amounts of candy, chocolates, jams, honey, breads, clothes, jewelry and purses. Everything you can think of, someone was sellling it. And for so cheap! I bought a pair of earrings for 10 crowns ($1.50)- can't beat that! I love little markets like that so I was in heaven. It was fun to just stroll around and learn about all the different types of traditional Swedish customs and foods. I loveee their jam selection. They have so many more choices than we do in the US- blueberry, lignonberry, mixedberry, raspberry, and so on. Some we have, but for the most part, there are more choices here. Except grape. Which is funny, since that is one of the main choices back home. It was a perfect day for a market- so sunny, not too hot and a light breeze. Most of the stands had samples available for whatever they were selling, so I was able to taste all the different kinds of jams, honey, candies, chocolates, and breads. Heaven. It was a nice day and I enjoyed getting to learn a little bit more about Swedish culture.

I also learned about a typical Swedish meal, made famous by a King who lived in a castle 2 minutes from Tierp. He loved eating pancakes and pea soup- sounds odd, but it's delicious. Unfortuantely for him, his soup was poisoned with arsenic and he died as a result, but went down making the combo a traditional meal in Sweden. Apparently the pea soup is quite dangerous: you cannot save it for later in the day and reheat it or it will kill you. It happened at a retirement home a few years ago. The peas aren't the typical green pea you are imagining and I'm not sure what kind they even are. I assumed this is what the soup would be based off, but it was more of a lentil type of soup, which I was happy about. I love lentil soup and I knew I wouldn't have enjoyed a green pea based soup (but I was still willing to give it a shot- no one likes a picky eater).

Saturday, we had our regular season game against Krosnas IF. We were on the road again for this game and it was another 2 hour trip. I should mention that we travel the same day as the games. Prior to knowing that this is what we have to do, I would have thought I couldn't get off a bus and go play a game, especially when it's a 6 hour journey. Even 2 hours doesn't sound appealing. But I've actually had no problems with it. We beat the team 3-0 and we are now tied for 2nd in the league!

This has turned into quite the extensive post, but sometimes once I get going, I can't stop. I think some of what I wrote was sitting heavy on me and I needed to get it out. In some ways writing this blog is soothing for me, which I learned prior to coming here. I read on a study abroad blog that journaling and blogging are really beneficial in helping to adjust to new cultures and coping with being so far from home- I do both and I definitely agree.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Family Size

Funny story. I posted my last blog in the morning on Monday, talking about how we hadn’t fully been able to move into the new apartment yet because the Internet wast properly set up. We were told it would take 1-3 days, starting on Monday. After practice we came back to the new apartment to eat and shower to then head over to the first apartment and low and behold… The Internet was working! Now I can officially say we are completely moved in and everything is going great.

Let me just get right to the part about the meaning behind the title of this post. I’ve lived in Canada for a short time and now also Sweden and it has brought to my attention how us good eating (fortunate is the best word) Americans love to have everything available in a family size portion. Whether it be milk, chips, cereal, meat, bread, or even veggies, our portion sizes almost double that of other countries. I’m not trying to knock any other country and their (smart) choice of having smaller portion sizes, more of saying its been hard to get used to. However, I would like to say how good of a thing this is and how I think the US should rethink how much food they make available to its citizens! There is a reason why there is such a high obesity rate there. A lot of America’s problem too is that unless you live in a small town with a short commute, you don’t really have the option to ride your bike or walk everywhere like just about everyone over here seems to do. The negative side to having smaller portion sizes when buying things is they run out quicker and it seems like you spend quite a bit every week on the same things, coupled with it already being more expensive over here. That’s where the US is ahead of the game. Hmmm. Makes ya think.

Friday, Carson and I went on a bike ride to explore Tierp and get a little exercise in on our day off before the game. It ended up being so fun! We found a horse farm and saw a few pretty horses. Loved it. There was a rocky path big enough for bikes and 4 wheelers (saw one) behind the farm, so we decided to see where it went. It ended up being a really nice trail for a bike ride and a really good work out. It was hilly and windy, more of a workout than we were expecting. We came across a sign that had a head sitting in a body of water and decided to follow it, not having a clue of how far it was, where it was, or what the sign really even meant. All of this took place on a path in the woods that was of course foreign to us, so it was kind of eery. It ended up leading to what I would call a quarry but I have no idea what it’s called here. There were rocks to jump off and a staircase that led up from the water, so it looked like that’s what it’s purpose was. Soo excited for that when it gets warm! We thought it was located kinda far away from Tierp itself because we rode through the woods and fields to find it…Turns out its an actual place to go and its about a minute down the road from our home field haha. Good to know, though. On our way back, we saw a few people running and walking the path, so it wasn’t as exclusive as we thought it was, which was relieving to know in case we got lost haha.
Saturday we traveled to play Roslagsbro IF in Roslagsbro, which was about an hour and a half away by bus. No idea of the direction. I love getting to see Sweden when we take these bus trips. It’s so beautiful here; winter, spring or summer, doesn’t matter. I noticed that a lot of the homes here have made parts of their yards into soccer fields. Some big, some small. It’s awesome. Blahhhh, it feels very weird for me to write something about myself, but seeing that soccer is the main reason I am here, I suppose I should include these things in here. We beat the team 5-2, 2 of the goals being mine. I also got an assist. It was a rebound type of game.. They scored, we scored, they scored, etc. Not our best game, but a win is a win. They had a crazy Russian on their team and she literally went after a girl on my team. Took her out twice from behind. So dirty. Hate that nonsense.

Fun fact: bunnies are the size of small dogs over here. Not like Yorkie small, like 6 month old lab puppy small. Aka massive for a bunny. Carson said she saw one crossing the road at our game yesterday.. Can’t wait to see one of those bad boys. We really haven’t seen much wild life out here. Like at all. I pictured bears, moose, reindeers, and all that to be roaming around, but Tierp has slim to none.

After the game our friend Anna, who is on the team, asked us if we wanted to go with her and her boyfriend to Gävle for an old American car show. Normally, that’s not my scene at all. I couldn’t tell you a thing about cars but since I’m in Sweden I felt I should go to get all the experiences possible! And it was all about old American cars, so getting a little bit of home was definitely nice. Before we went, all we knew was that you “drive there, have some drinks and hang out with friends”. After going, I have a better understanding. So basically, if you have an old American car, you drive through downtown Gävle and show it off to the people on the streets who are partying and watching. A lot of people were there to show off their old cars. Everyone is dressed up in leather and crazy 50s hair. There is even old American music playing. Older cars are crazy roomy and a lot of people can fit inside them, so most of the cars were packed with people having a good time. Inside the cars, you can slyly get away with drinking (not the driver, mom and dad). It ended up being really fun! Saw a lot of old cars that I know my father and brothers would have enjoyed seeing as well. Anna and her boyfriend took us to the Max, which is Sweden’s version of McDonald’s but its 10x better! The burgers are hugeeee and come with a really good dressing called Rhode Island. Not sure if thats sold in the US and I can’t think of what to compare it to, but I liked it. We ended up stopping there twice.. Had to get a late night milkshake and “strips” (fries) to go. Regretted that in the morning but I’m only in Sweden once right?
My parents shipped me a care package this week. It was like Christmas! Now I have little pieces of home. And hazelnut and blonde Starbucks coffee. Happy camper (although I do like the coffee over here, those are just my faves).

Oh and happy momma’s day to all the lovely momma’s out there and to my own, love youuu!

Almost Settled In

Saturday morning we were finally able to move into our new apartment!! It has 2 bedrooms, 1 and a half bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. There’s also a washer and dryer. It’s fully furnished and definitely a nice little place to call “home” for 5 more months. It’s about a 2 minute walk from the field we currently practice and play games on and a 5 minute walk from our home field. Can’t beat that. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to stay there yet because the Internet isn’t set up properly, so we’ve been going back and forth between the 2 apartments for the last few days. But unpacking was definitely the best part of it all!
Some more exciting news! My parents and I have officially planned a trip to Ireland for 4 days, on my 2 week break in July!! Can’t even explain my excitement. We are staying in Dublin, in an area called Temple Bar, where all the pubs and such are located. Cannot wait to visit our heritage country, just wish the brothers could join!

Saturday we played a team called IK Huge. Beyond suiting name. Everyone told us how aggressive of a team they were… I think there were 4 or 5 yellow cards. For some odd reason the ref was card happy on the things that needed to just be warnings. He missed a lot of the major tackles that should have been yellow and red cards. It was just the little things that they were in to, like being knocked down after you pass a ball or run by someone or you could just be standing there and they would intentionally run into you. Unnecessary things. That was pretty much the only tactic they had. We ran at them over and over and over again and they never changed their system. They just took it, which helped us win 4-0 pretty easily. I thought it was the best the team ever connected. Everything just clicked for us. Always a good feeling.

Sunday, Carson and I went to Gävle- another pretty Swedish town. It’s a 30 minute train ride north of Tierp. We wanted to go to a bigger city so we could eat at a Mexican restaurant and celebrate cinco de drinko. Because obviously we are like any American- we love any reason to celebrate with drinking and eating. It took us over an hour to get a Swede to tell us where a Mexican restaurant was located. I don’t think many of them had any idea what we were asking them. We looked at all the shopping options while trying to find a restaurant, so it worked out. Gävle also has good shopping. Lunch was an adventure in itself. The owners of the “texican” restaurant didn’t speak any English, so trying to figure out what to order was just comical. Eventually, one of the owners asked a girl who knew English who was eating with her family next to us to translate for him. Thank god for her. It was a good lunch. They had a buffet type of thing going on- Mexican food and a buffet.. yes please. After lunch we walked around the city, not really knowing what we were doing or what to look for, but it’s a pretty city so it didn’t really bother us. We stumbled across Gevalia’s coffee headquarters, which was pretty cool. They do tours and all that but since it was Sunday it was closed. The craziest thing about Gävle is when you walk towards the west side of the city, you can actually feel the temperature drop like 10° because you’re getting closer to the Baltic Sea. We were walking and literally just hit a wall of cold. It was the strangest thing. But also really cool.

Traveling by trains to all these different places lets you see all the different types of houses and buildings located in the towns along the way. The architecture here is beautiful. Can’t get enough of it. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the colors of many of the houses and buildings. It’s this dehydrated pee type of color. Sounds odd but its pretty in its own way. There’s also a lot of deep red houses.

Next time I write, we will officially be all moved in! Can’t waittt


Tuesday we were able to go visit Stockholm because we got the day off of practice for a swedish holiday called Walpurgis night.

From what people told me, it’s basically an all day drinking type of deal put on by the students at the university in Uppsala. Sounded right up my alley. The students build their own boats and float them down the river in the middle of town and everyone is out drinking and celebrating at the bars there. They all wear sailor hats and have a good time. We planned on going with a friend from the team, but she heard it was going to rain there all day, so we changed plans and went to Stockholm instead. Normally I’d be sad to miss out on an occasion like that, but I fell in love with Stockholm right off the bat, so that made up for it!

By train, it takes about an hour and a half to get down to Stockholm, with one train change in Uppsala. Not bad at all. It’s so helpful having swedish friends come with us when we travel so they can fill us in on all the ins and outs.. And not get us lost. We left Tierp at 9:15am and headed down to Uppsala to catch the connecting train. We were literally walking up as it was pulling away! But the next one came 30 minutes later, so it wasn’t a big deal. We walked around Uppsala and looked at some of their shopping. They have some good stores that I will definitely be back to during my time here. We also found a really good Mexican restaurant to celebrate cinco de drinko on Sunday. Can’t believe it’s on Sunday. And that I’m not home with my friends for this lovely holiday. But excited to celebrate it in another country.

We made it to Stockholm at around 11:15 am and met up with a fellow American who I met after my first game here. She played on the team we were playing against and I asked her if she was American after the game and long story short, turns out she coaches in Stockholm some days and offered to show us around whenever we visit there. So nice of her.
Stockholm is gorgeous! It has something like 14 different islands, so there are a lot of pretty views and definitely so much to do and see.

We barely got a taste of everything there is to do there! Just what we saw the first day was awesome. After the long train ride we had to use the bathroom, which costs 10 kronor (still find this odd) and this experience was an interesting one. Both men and women use the same bathroom. Haven’t come across that before, so it was funny to see.

After we met up with Jackie, we all decided the first thing we wanted to see was the massive castle. Just walking to the castle was beautiful. All the streets and alleyways were exactly like I pictured them. So cute and European looking. Couldn’t get enough of them. Probly stopped every 5ft to take a picture.

We just so happened to be in the city the day of the Kings birthday! He was outside of the castle and a lot of people were gathered outside singing him happy birthday and cheering for him. Definitely cool to stumble upon that. His family’s castle is massive. So beautiful and just huge! There has to be like 200 rooms in there. And funny fact, his son and his fiancé and their daughter don’t even live there. They have their own castle. Living the dream. His son happens to be very good looking, by the way. So is his daughters fiancé.

After that we walked around some more and took more pictures, walked in some shops, did a little souvenir shopping and then decided where to eat lunch. We left that up to Jackie to tell us what was good. She recommended either a good Italian or Thai place and we decided on the Italian. Soo good. We all got huge pizzas for ourselves. It was thin crust pizza, so easier to eat by yourself, thankfully. I got a pizza called calzone- ham and spicy pepperoni.. hit the spot. Pizza is always good. So excited also because there are a ton of sushi places there! Not having it for 3 weeks is taking its toll on me haha.

Then Jackie recommended we go try the best ice cream in Stockholm. Wasn’t positive I could get anymore in after all that pizza, but of course I made room. The ice cream was amazing. So rich and so good. That place also made their own cones and if you go at the right time, you get to watch them do it. It’s a small little shop and during the summer, it’s completely packed full.
After that we walked around more towards the water.. Unbelievable! There are buildings and houses right along the shore, it was so pretty. So glad to do all of that walking after we ate pizza and ice cream. Such a fat, American meal haha. Then Jackie took us towards all the shopping places. Their malls are a bit different from ours. We window shopped at all the designer places.. Crazy expensive stuff there. The more affordable (but still pricey bc of being in Europe) was next. Stockholm has amazing shopping!! Top Shop, Urban Outfitters, American Apparrell, Adidas to name a few.. Heaven. Along with a lot of Swedish stores that had really cute stuff as well. Didn’t have access to my Paypal card while I was there because it wasn’t properly set up yet, so I had to resist all urges to buy everything and spend all my money. Probly a good thing I couldn’t use my card. Seriously can’t wait to go back.
It ended up being a full day there and Anna, Carson and I started the trek home around 4:45 and got home at 6:15 ish. Long day and lots of walking. Definitely wears on you after a while. On the train home, people were still celebrating for the party in Uppsala. They were playing music and drinking and having a good time.

By the time we got home, I was exhausted and pretty much made dinner, showered and got in bed. It was a really good day and I’m so excited to go back and explore more. Especially during the summer, soo much goes on then. And it will be hotter by then!
We heard last night that we get to move into our apartment either Friday or Saturday!!! Good way to end a great day.

Circuses & Soccer

The last week or so has been a good one, no complaints, but also not much excitement to post about, unfortunately. I’m beginning to think this may be just a once a week catch up type of blog, with a few exceptions here and there. I’ll try to keep it entertaining!

As far as practice goes, they were fine this past week. We practiced Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and got Wednesday, Friday and Saturday off. Lighter than usual practice, but still got some playing in.

On Saturday Carson and I went to a circus that we heard about last weekend. We were excited because both of us had the thought in our head that it was going to be the type of circus like in the movie Water for Elephants. We were under the impression that circuses were a big production in Europe. And there were signs up all over town, so we were looking forward for something to do in Tierp! Once we got there we realized it was a small circus production but didn’t mind because we still wanted to check it out and get the experiences of doing these things in while we are over here. We also didn’t realize that we weren’t going to understand a word of what was being said because it was all in Swedish! That didn’t make much of a difference though because obviously circuses are more of a show than a talking type of deal. There were 4 or 5 people who did all the different acts, while an older man was the one running it. Carson and I were most definitely the oldest people there, aside from all the parents who brought their children. I think it was a circus for younger children. Or just a really small production. Either way, it was an experience and I’m glad we ended up going. They had some balancing acts, an act with miniature horses, a fire breathing and eating act (which was really cool) and all the involve the audience and embarrass them type of acts, which everyone loved. The people doing the acts couldn’t have been older than 30, which I thought was pretty crazy. Can’t imagine traveling for a circus throughout your younger years. One of the clowns was, at most, 12! It was free and something do to on a Saturday afternoon and I’m glad we got to see what it was like.

Sunday was our second game of the season. We played Ostersunds DFF, which is a team from Ostersund, Sweden, 6 hours northwest of Tierp. I was nervous that it was still going to be freezing up there, but the weather was actually like it is here. Side note, I’ve never seen the weather change its mind as quickly as it does over here. It can be absolutely beautiful out one minute and the next, clouds roll in and it gets cold again. Crazy. That’s what happened right before the game. This team was supposed to be the best in the league, but I thought we were pretty evenely matched, honestly. We ended up losing 3-0, but the score didn’t reflect at all how we played.. for the most part. We dominated them the first half. They had one chance the whole half and happened to finish it. We easily could have had 3 goals the first half, but it didn’t go our way. The second half was a lot slower on our part and we didn’t play anywhere near the way we did in the first half. Didn’t help either that the ref and his side line refs were as dumb and unfair as they come. Sounds like a cop out, but it really does make a difference sometimes when refs are completely one sided. We got a pk opportunity late in the second half(shocking) but unfortunately didn’t make it. Aside from a few things we did wrong and the refs letting a totally offside goal count, we were pretty evenely matched and should have beat them. That’s just the game of soccer for you though.

The game was at 2pm on Sunday and we woke up at 4:30am to leave at 5am and drive there the same day. Never done that before. The day started at 4:30 and ended at 11:30 at night. Defnitely one of the longest days of my life haha. Props to the people of the world who start their day early and end it late. Takes a lot out of you. I couldn’t sleep on the bus, because as I said earlier, the sun starts to rise at 4 something in the morning here, so it was totally light out the whole way there. And sleeping on charter busses isn’t easy. We came home to find out that there had been a shooting at our home field. Police still had their crime scene tape up and were patrolling it when we got back at 9:45. Pretty scary. The person who was shot is in critical condition, which is always sad to hear.
The ride to Ostersund was beautiful. All of the lakes up there are still frozen, so it was really pretty to see that. There were houses all along the shoreline and it was very picture-esq. I can only imagine how pretty it looks when everything is in bloom and the sun is out. The stadium we played at was awesome. It was huge and over looked a lake. It even had some box seating. I think they have a good boys team, which explains why it was so big. Definitely fun to play in stadiums like that. Can only imagine playing in it when it’s packed full and under the lights. Must be awesome.

Already since I’ve been here, the days have gotten longer. The sun finally sets around 9pm and starts its rise in the 4am hours. I know there are soon going to be days with only a few hours of darkness. So crazy. We also heard that sometimes you can see the northern lights from here! We missed the season by 2 weeks, but that was cool to hear.

Sadly, we still haven’t moved into our new apartment, but holding out hope that it happens this week! I can’t believe tomorrow is going to be 3 weeks since I left home and next week will be a month! I knew it was going to go fast once I got into a routine and used to life over here. Thankful that things started right away for me, because had they not, it might not have been as easy to get used to being so far from home.

First game of the season & some

Sunday was the start of my European season. So exciting, never thought I would get such an opportunity. Finallyyy the sun was out all day and it was a perfect day to play the beautiful game! In the 50s, not too hot, not too cold, and a slight breeze. Doesn’t get much better, honestly. We won the game 3-2. We scored 3 goals pretty quickly, within the first 20-25 minutes and held them at 3-0 for the first half. They came out with a ton of energy in the second half and scored off a good play. They scored again more towards the end of the second half, so the last part of the game was nerve racking but we ended up holding out and winning the game. Definitely nice to start the season off with a win. Our next game is this Sunday, 6 hours north. Hopefully it’s not another blizzard experience! Can’t handle that bitter cold. And, for the first time in almost 3 months, my hamstrings are feeling good. Knock on wood.

I really wonder how many days out of the year it rains or snows here. Seems like sunshine is a rare thing. It will finally be a beautiful day (which is still in the 50s and chilly- but nice for here!) and the next day is the total opposite, cold and rainy or cold and grey. Lots of grey days already. I hear everything is beautiful here once it all has bloomed, though! And no Florida humidity. Can’t say I miss that :) The wind here is seriously wild! It’s like hurricane winds.. With no hurricanes. Definitely interesting trying to practice when the wind has a mind of its own. Makes things difficult sometimes. On a positive note, it’s perfect weather for laying on the couch and watching movies and tv all day tehe.. Which we have a lot of time to do. Netflix works here as well. Huge plus.
We still haven’t moved into our apartment yet. Hoping that happens soon, hate to complain at all when I’m so fortunate to be on such an awesome adventure, it’s just hard living out of suitcases with so much stuff for going on 2 weeks.

Another interesting thing about cute little Tierp is there is no actual post office here. I believe you do it all through the grocery store, but not entirely sure. And not sure how much it costs. 1 stamp costs 6 kronor (1 dollar).

Sadly, I haven’t picked up much of the language yet. It’s still early, so hopefully by the end I can string together some sentences. So far I’ve learned thank you, good bye and good. Pretty basic. Swedish is really hard, nothing sounds like English haha.

Before I came here, I broke out of my habit of not trying new foods and am so thankful I did! It would be so hard to eat anything here had I not tried new things because obviously everything is different! And so good. I’ve even gotten into eating fish regularly, which is huge for me!
It’s only been 2 weeks and I’m so glad I was given this opportunity. Definitely a life changing experience

Picking up on the Culture

I like learning about other cultures and I like to write, so get ready for some readinggg. It’s been pretty easy to pick up on all the differences here because… I’m in a different country. It’s been fun learning their lifestyle and parts of their culture.

The first thing I learned is how important it is to know to take your shoes off at the front door/entrance of certain places you visit. All swedes take their shoes off at the front door of their own homes and other peoples homes. Two places besides homes I’ve visited have also required you to take your shoes off at the front entrance. The gym we go to is extremely strict about this. You have to walk/drive there in one pair of shoes and bring along a different pair to change into once you get inside. It’s definitely something I have to get used to, because I definitely trump all over my parents or my own apartment while wearing shoes. The other place was the physical therapy building I visited to get treatment for my hamstring. Had to take my shoes off at the front there too. It’s only certain places, you obviously wouldn’t take your shoes off at a restaurant or place of work to kick back and relax while doing your thing.

The second day I got here I went to lunch with my roommate and manager. We were eating our food and my body was still thrown off from traveling over here that I wasn’t hungry enough to finish the whole meal. I got really nervous that I had to and tried to muscle it down but it just wasn’t happening. So I asked the manager if it was considered rude to them if we didn’t finish everything on our plates. He said it was. Started eating again and he told me he was kidding, it’s not considered rude. Funny. But good to know, don’t want to offend any one.

I don’t really understand how Europeans aren’t as fat as Americans because literally every corner, even the smallest of towns, has a bakery of some nature located on it… for random trips to get some coffee and a lovely calorie loaded treat of your choice. This girl can’t turn that down, no matter how much kronor I’m dishing out for it. Also, after practices on some days the team is given some type of bread, meat and butter to have as a snack. I guess most of the team eats before practice (so like 430-5pm) and then eats that afterwards. Carson and I don’t eat before practice so thankfully it’s not considered rude to turn down food or else I’d be coming home weighing twice what I do now.. ah.
Coffee is hugeeee over here. It’s pretty popular in America too to be walking around with and instragraming pics of your Starbucks coffee (guilty) but I think they have us beat with this one. You pretty much have coffee with every meal, even at dinner time. They even get breaks in their day to have coffee.. like hour long breaks haha. There’s places for coffee everywhere. I remember the first night I got here my manager asked if I wanted coffee at like 730 at night.. but sleep was more important. Not sure how they do that. It’s really hard to know what flavor it says on the packages because as far as I can get out of the people at the grocery store when I go to buy it, it goes by what type of coffee maker you have. I guess they pretty much stick to medium and dark roasts. And sadly they don’t have hazelnut coffee :(

Carson and I noticed recently on the women here that some of them have a gold piece of tooth jewelry in whatever shape they chose (heart, star, etc). I wanna say I’ve seen that one someone else, but I can’t remember where. Don’t think it was in the US. I thought it was some type of odd cavity so we looked it up and sure enough it’s tooth jewelry. Wonder if that will make it to the states.
Potatoes are extremely popular here as well. Every meal is served with some type of potatoe cooked a different way. Can’t hate on that because I love potatoes. Interestingly though, haven’t run into many french fries. Definitely not a bad thing.

Washing clothes has been interesting as well. Not a clue what the machines say, I just go by the time and hope that it’s right. They have settings for baby clothes which I thought was interesting. Don’t think I’ve seen that in the US…

Random tid bits

Just wanted to write one more for a little bit because I pretty much created the blog on a whim and wrote it all in one night.

So, the soccer part. The main reason I’m here. I’m very thankful I still have the opportunity to do what I still love everyday. Part of me thought before I came that I was just coming because I wanted to travel. I do want to travel but I also have realized how much I still love playing soccer everyday after doing it almost everyday again for a week. Traveling is a huge plus and I’m thankful I get to but also thankful for the playing everyday again part too. Practices have been getting better and us Americans are getting more used to their style of play, which is mostly the same as ours, aside from a few things. Learning experience, which is what I also wanted. To grow in my game and at the European level.

Another tid bit I missed is that I’m 6 hours ahead of everyone back home. It hasn’t been as hard as I thought but its still weird that I’m living my day while they are sleeping and vice versa. Thank god for technology haha. I’d be lost without it.

My hamstrings hate me here. The weather won’t let them loosen up because its still really cold. Never had to layer so much to exercise. I literally can’t go to prac without my gloves (learned that the hard way). But I started meeting with a physical therapist yesterday. Started out with a massage and he said the strains are so deep that they can’t be properly worked out with just hands. So this morning I had 4,000 volts of electro shock waves pushed extremely painfully into my hamstring. Just the right side for now. It’s supposed to get worse before it gets better so we shall see.

Last thing is the weather. It’s still soo cold here and grey almost everyday. My smart parents were right about layering. That really helps and I have to force myself to remember that. Double everything is basically the way to go.

Uppsala, Sweden 4/17

Living in a tiny town has its advantages, everyone is really nice and everything is within walking distance-no lie, but also has its disadvantages. We practice Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri, and all at 530 or 630pm. So before that, we have all day to do what we want, which is pretty much go to the gym and eat at the restaurant we get meals at. The girls on the team are either in school, at work, or don’t live in Tierp, so Carson and I are pretty much on our own. Which is fine.

Soo since we don’t have practice on wednesday, we decided to visit another (bigger) town via the train. First of all, just want to say that this train goes 200mph. Seems a lot faster when I watch it go by when I’m not on it. Thought that was crazy. Anyways, the town we visited is called Uppsala and it’s 30 mins south of Tierp, towards Stockholm. We got our train pass from the manager who helped us with it and were on our way after working out in the morning. We researched and asked people what to do in Uppsala so we had ideas of what we wanted to see and eat, since we are foreigners doing this alone.

The first thing we saw was the Cathedral, which just so happens to be the oldest church in all of Scandinavia.Built in the 13th century! It’s massive. 389ft tall and so beautiful. The details inside that church I can’t even explain, but I’ll try. Everything was marble or some shade of gold. The stained glass windows were like 100 ft tall and so pretty. There were so many rows leading up to where the preacher (idk the correct person to say here because I am a slacker on going to church) speaks and behind the preacher was of course a huge stained glass window and a large cross that was equally as beautiful. There were a lot of dead important people buried in that church, but I don’t know who because I obviously don’t speak Swedish. But the tombs were hugeee and had all these decorations. There were also tombs in the ground which you could, at one point, open with large circular pull type things. I def tried pulling them open and tripped over a few. I shall add pics once I figure that out. I lit candles for 2 close people in my life who have passed away.

The second place we went was the museum of the city. You pay like 40 kronor for a tour but we didn’t end up doing that because of time and decided to do that on another trip there.
After that we went to the Carolina Rediviva. Its the oldest and largest university library in the country. Its really big too. Built in the 1800s I believe. The cool thing about that is apparently it has like 5 million books in it (swedish museum lady told us that) and also has a silver bible. Thats a 4th century bible translated from greek to gothic about the 4 gospels i think. Crazy old. There were other reallyyy old books and writings by famous swedes on display too. Weren’t supposed to take pics but didn’t notice that sign until I was leaving the area. Teheee.

The next huge thing we saw was the Uppsala castle (slott). First of all, let me just get it out there that this castle is pink. So intimidating, I know. Don’t mean to hate on it but it was funny. Also, it doesn’t look like the typical castle you have in your mind. It was closed for tours but we were still able to walk around the outside. It had an area where you could tell it was def from the way back days and we wanted to explore that but you couldn’t. It was like partly underground and so cool looking, I think like tunnels and such. Sucks we couldn’t go down there, but it was kinda creepy too.
After all that we had lunch at this terrace place. I got a veggie burger ( I know, huge step for me) and baked tortilla chips with guac. It was awesomeeee. And some coffee to warm me up. We thought the menu said everything was priced from 11-17 kronor but learned at the end that that wasn’t the case. I paid 188 kronor for that burger. Sounds like soooo much! Throws me off the money differences here. I feel like I’m spending all my money in one sitting. 188 kronor amounts to around $29 US dollars, so it was a pretty pricey meal. Didn’t realize.

After that we walked around the city for a little, taking pics of the river in the middle of the city that has buildings/apartments on either side. Loved that part. Thennn, we had to find Swedish chocolate while we were in a bigger city than Tierp. Sadly, well not really sad, but the shop we found didn’t have swedish chocolate. It was from Italy, Belgium and Germany- not a complaint about it. 6 pieces of amazing chocolate cost me 66 kronor- gunna have to get used to everything sounding so expensive and things actually being more expensive than I’m used to and live it up while I’m here. We already ate all that chocholate. Lasted us about an hour after we got home. But anyways, we managed to catch the train home like 2 minutes before it left and it was packed because we left the city at 445 pm. Got home and went straight to the couch for the rest of the night. It was a fun day and really good (no offense Tierp) to get out of the small town. DIdn’t realize how much walking tires you out and works out your booty meat.

Fun little fact: Uppsala, and I’m sure a lot of European cities, don’t have public bathrooms. It cost 5 kronor to go to the bathroom in Uppsala and just my luck, the bathroom I walked up to had 10kronor in the change part just sitting there, so I got to go for free my first time!
I think everyone in Sweden has a bike. Every where you look there is a bike. I love bike riding so thats fine with me! I think we are getting some while we live here, which is cool.
Another fun thing we learned today: you can buy the right converters to charge your stuff but that doesn’t mean your appliances match their voltage or whatever. Turned on my blow dryer and it was awesome at first, most of my hair was dry in about a minute, then I realized it looked like it was about to catch on fire on the inside, so had to turn that off asappp. My straightener works fine though thankfully.

Giving into the blog thing

I’m giving in to doing a blog. Mainly because I’m here for so long and I have kind of a lot of free time on my hands. I’ve been here a week so far and already it seems like I’ve been here a month. I’ll catch you up on everything that has happened in the short time I’ve been here. Not too much, to be honest.

So I left the good ole US of A Tuesday, April 9 at 730 in the pm. Flew from Orlando to ATL, ATL to Amsterdamn (8 and a half hours), and finally Amsterdam to Stockholm, where my team manager and his 2 daughters picked me up to drive me to Tierp, about an hour away. His 2 daughters are on the team and all of them are very nice and really accomodating. I couldn’t get internet in the Stockholm airport so I was pretty much just standing there like a lost little puppy and thankfully they found me and all gave me hugs. Nice little welcome after crossing the large pond and not sleeping but mmmm maybe 2 hours. The flight from ATL to Amsterdam was… terrible isn’t the right word because the inflight movies were on point, but I’ll go with not comfortable. I slept maybe 15 minutues (felt like 5) and watched silver linings playbook and frankenweeney the rest of the time. Both were so gooddd. I didn’t think about the long flight and scoring the window seat as being a bad thing. Well sorta bad. It’s just awk when you have to go to the bathroom and you have to wake up your neighbor. Hard for non social people like myself. I asked her once and the other times she would get up so I just went when she did. The flight from Amsterdam (and yes it was a hUGE tease only being there an hour) to Stockolm was about 2 hours and I slept almost that whole flight, after not sleeping at all that night. Worst neck cramp of my life when I woke up, but whatev, sleep is sleep. I needed it bad because, if you know me well, you know paying attention isn’t my strong suit, so my body was exhausted after having to run around foreign airports and customs to find my right gate.

Once I got to Tierp, my manager and his daughters took me to and helped me get set up in my temporary apartment. The apartment I’m living in the rest of the time was being used by American volleyball players (nice) and then being cleaned out so me and my new roommate could move in (which we havent yet, supposed to this weekend!) Pretty much set my 70lb and 50lb bags down, had an emotional breakdown (felt fine after I got it out), turned on the tv and fell asleep at 8pm. Woke up at all random hours of the night and then slept till 1pm the next day (missed lunch with my manager) and 1pm hasn’t happened for me since I was like uhhh 12. We are living out of suitcases now which sucks, but glad they have been so accomodating for us with the apartment we are in right now.
Thursday was my first practice with the team and of course I was beyond nervous. It was just a light practice thankfully- my legs were donezo, I felt like I hadn’t exercised in years. Got over my nerves and through that and had all of friday off because they get the day off before a game here. Thursday was also the day my roommate and other American got here. So nice having another English speaking person here with you, even though mostly all Swedes speak English (but hate it because they think they are bad..but aren’t). It’s funny because my coach is so nervous to speak English with us because he thinks he’s really bad at it. He says he understands it but just can’t speak it well (true in his case). BUt realistically, they speak to us and we can get the gist of what they’re saying and figure it out. We have 2 girls on the team who are the main translators and they do fine with it. Have to help them with words here and there but it’s fine.

Friday Carson and I did not a damn thing. Jet lag is real. It was nice to have that day and have the coach be understanding to how tired we were. We realized that the building we live in right now has hot water for our shower for a total of no joke 5 mins. It’s been interesting with that situation. I usually go upstairs to a girl on the team and shower in hers (soo thankful for that option) Let me tell you how terrible it is showering in the cold when it’s cold outside… actually you can just figure that out yourself. Miserable, especially after practicing in the cold.

Saturday we had a practice scrimmage. I would say sometimesss I tend to exaggerate, but not in this case. It was bone chillingly cold and SNOWING. Maybe slush is a better word. The field was one giant slush puddle. They literally had to get it off with a tractor type thing that is similar to how hockey does it. And that didn’t even work. It was hard to pass a ball and even harder to figure things out when we had never played together before. We did fine for the most part despite all of that, but the 2nd part of the 2nd half we got scored on twice and ended up losing 3-1. It was just miserable and I don’t really ever want to think about how cold it was again. Diva status.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we just got used to things and were trying to figure out Swedish life while going to soccer practice at night (on Mon and Tues) That leads me to today, Wednesday, which was an exciting day for us, so I’ll just start a new blog for it