Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Drag racing, parents coming, Midsommar and more

I haven't talked much about the crazy-long sun schedule over here in this part of the world (thanks Jennie!) so I'll give you a little taste of what it's been like living with days that have almost 20 hours (give or take) of sunlight. Right now, the sun is setting somewhere between 11:30- 11:45 pm and rising in the 3 am hours. It's definitely been my biggest adjustment. It never quite feels like bedtime at night and when you wake up to go to the bathroom during the "night", the sun is usually already on its way up. Throws you off completely. The blind and curtain situation in Sweden has also been an adjustment- mainly for the fact that they either don't have blinds or just have sheer curtains hanging from the windows. Not enough coverage, in my opinion, for days with seemingly endless sunlight. My window is currently covered with 2 sheets and a blanket, one because the boys who lived here before us probably broke the only coverage the window had and two, because the sheer curtains just weren't cutting it for the no blinds situation. I'm waiting for the curtain rod to give way during the night at some point.

11:30 pm

Saturday, a few teammates and myself had to work at the drag racing arena located here in Tierp. It's probably the nicest thing in Tierp. It has stadium seating, a portion that is going to be turned into a hotel at some point, and a place for the local catering company to set up and serve people food. It was an interesting experience to say the least. Since the roomie and I clearly don't speak Swedish, we were assigned to keep the tables clean, aka pick up trash and beer bottles, while the other girls sold ice cream, cinnamon buns, coke and popcorn. I'll just say it was 5 hours of non stop moving while also being hit on by drunk, but usually nice, Swedes. The arena was hosting a large event for drag racing this past weekend. Quite a few other countries had their racing teams here for the competition. I don't have an interest in any type of racing but it was an experience nonetheless and interesting to see how it works over here in Sweden. The crowd looked exactly like the type of crowd that would be at a NASCAR event back home. I think it's the NASCAR of Europe. Forgot my phone, so no pictures to show unfortunately.

Another game down in the books. We played against Gavle on Sunday, who is a team only 30 minutes away from Tierp. Some of the girls on the team live there but play for Tierp. Overall, it wasn't that great of a game, but we did finish really well and ended up beating them 6-0. Another team who were frustrated by the score and started playing dirty towards the end. Really not a fan of that. Good to get another 3 points and a high scoring game, though. We only have 4 more games until our 2 week break starting July 1. Our last 2 games are our most important because if we win them both, we will be first in the league. We play the current top team in the league (we are second) for our last 2 games, once at home and once at their home. I think it will be a good match up. Better teams make you play better, on most occasions.

I was talking to my parents the other day about how I am so happy/thankful to be here but that there are just certain things from the US that I really miss. Example number one: the food. Being in such a small town hinders the choices I have for things similar to those in the US, but even having more options in the bigger cities, I still really miss my favorite places to eat. I would say I ate sushi and Mexican food a few times out of the week. Every week. They do have sushi and Mexican food here, but it's just not the same. I will have to try them in other countries to see if they taste as good as they do back home. I also really miss Burrito Brothers, Chipotle, Yamato's and any bbq restaurant. Clearly I'm a typical American eater. The bakery and candy selection over here comes pretty close to making up for not having all my favorite American meals though! I miss my family and friends of course and my sweet doggie. I'm blessed to have such good people in my life.

It's really crazy to me that in 2 weeks I will have been here for 3 months- the half way point! It's like college: doesn't seem fast at the time but it's flying by. It'll be over before I know it, which is even harder to believe. I still have a hard time believing I'm here, living in Sweden, doing what I love on a daily basis. I guess I just never pictured this actually happening. I'm enjoying all the new experiences and doing my best to make the most out my time here. Hasn't been hard to do so far. Sweet little Donnie d and Lisa will be arriving in Sweden in just 6 days. I'm so excited for them to get here and just a week after they do, we're going to Ireland. Good times ahead :)

This weekend is a national holiday here in Sweden, called Midsummer's (Midsommar) Day. It's a huge deal, as big a deal as fourth of July is to us Americans. It's celebrated the Friday after the summer solstice. It's a big enough deal that we have no games scheduled this weekend. It's pretty much a day of partying, drinking and of course, the word invented here in Sweden, smorgasbord- buffet meals of salads, meats, cheese, chips, and any other hors d'oeuvre type of meal you can think of. It sounds like a great time and I'm really excited to experience such a celebrated day while being in another country. Getting to experience these types of situations is one of the main reason I want to travel. It's so fun to see how other countries celebrate traditions they cherish so much while also getting more of an appreciation for your own traditions and celebrations back home. Best of both worlds.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dream Life

It would almost be rude if I didn't start this blog off by talking about how I met Pia Sundhage yesterday when I was in Stockholm watching a professional team called Tyreso play!! I still can't believe it. It was so casual... she was literally just walking with a media person and we went right up to her to introduce ourselves. She was really friendly and didn't seem bothered at all by the many fans who kept walking up to her to have their pictures taken. Strangely, no one was around her when we went to introduce ourselves, so we actually got to have a 5 minute conversation. Surreal. She was there for a press conference to talk about the Euro Cup, which is taking place in Sweden next month.

We were able to go to the game because my friend Jackie got Carrie and I and another of her friends free tickets to the game because she works for Tyreso's club. It was awesome to get to watch such a high level of women's soccer. Marta just so happens to play for that team and I can't even describe how cool it was to watch her play in person. She's highly regarded here... her own cheering section and all. I got a feeling that section was her family, but I'm not positive. They were beating drums and singing songs in Spanish for her all game long. Christen Press also plays for Tyreso. She's an American and plays on the National team. Watched her score 3 sick goals. They also have a girl named Veronica Boquete on the team, who is from Spain. She is unreal. Raw talent for sure. She is so crafty and light on her feet. Not sure I've ever watched a person play soccer and make it look that easy. She seemed so humble too. She created a lot of their chances and didn't seem bothered that she didn't get a goal herself. I'm terrible when it comes to watching soccer and following players, but I definitely would like to watch her play more and see more of her career. The team was talented as a whole and with those three, it was just amazing to watch.

I had my first experience on a subway in Stockholm on Sunday! I didn't even realize I'd never been on a subway until I was riding one. I guess subways are known for being gross, at least in the US, and the one in Sweden was no different. Made me appreciate the train systems even more. Prior to coming to Sweden, I couldn't tell you a thing about trains or the subway systems. The train has been pretty straight forward (with the help of a Swedish friend) but the subway was a different story. It was really confusing because there were two different subways and they were different colors than each other, obviously taking you different places. We got on the wrong subway and rode in the opposite direction of where we needed to go, so eventually we just asked random strangers to help some sisters out. All of that aside, we made it to our destination. Safe to say, I hope I don't live in a city where I have to commute via subway to work! Side note: I swear the subway was like 500ft below ground. It seriously looked and felt like a cave. Rather creepy.

Saturday's game was a good one. We beat Taby FK 2-1, a team that Tierp lost to twice last year. Hands down the most physical team we've played all season. But also one of the better teams as well. We scored on them early and they later tied it up after they got a pk. Second half we continued playing well and got another goal on them and held the lead for the rest of the game. It was nice to see the team and coaches happy to have beaten them.

Things at the restaurant are going well still. It's a huge learning experience for me. I tend to stay away from the kitchen. My brain just doesn't think clearly in there for some reason. I am the girl who messes up rice krispie treats and grilled cheese. Don't ask how. I think I've peeled maybe one potato in my day and I've definitely never cut any vegetables... doing both now. Whether I learn anything or not, I'm glad to be getting the experience. Since we work Monday and Tuesday and get Wednesday's off of soccer, it helps the week go by quicker. Not as many days with unlimited free time. I'm enjoying it- never thought I'd say that.

Slowly figuring out how to add pictures to the blog and hoping I can get better at it. I'm sure it's rather boring just reading words with no pictures to give you a real idea of what I'm rambling on about!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Graduations and Celebrations

It's graduation time over here in Sweden and I thought it would be interesting to write a little about the differences of a Swedish graduation compared to an American one. While ours back home are a big deal, Sweden definitely knows how to throw a good graduation party for its graduates. I have gotten to see some of the celebrations that take place while I was in Stockholm this past Friday and I must admit, I was really impressed. First of all, these are graduations for the equivalence of our high school students, so the fact that they celebrate them the way they do is awesome. The family and friends wait outside of the high school, or what Swedes call Gynasium, and the graduates literally come running outside and start screaming and shouting and all that fun stuff while the crowd of people there for them cheer wildly as well. It's pretty fun to watch, actually. After that celebration, the graduates load busses with their friends and celebrate any teenager knows how. These busses, I must add, have no roofs, so it's a pretty nice little celebration set up. The coolest part about their graduation is the hats they wear. They are sailor hats... huge step up from the disgustingly ugly hats we are forced to wear over in the US! (can't stand those things). It's been fun getting to see their traditions first hand. I enjoy getting to see different cultures and how they are all so varied.

I would just like to let it be known that spiders in Sweden are huge. Well, the ones I saw. And I am not okay with this. One just casually crawled by my foot as if it owned the place the other day while I was in the bathroom (comical looking back) and another was scurrying far too close to my bed a few days before that. I don't think I've had a restful nights sleep since the bathroom incident. Can't handle spiders of any size, but especially not when they are big and confident, and when they make me a prisoner in my own home! Really don't see their point on this planet, actually.

Friday, Carrie, Anna and I went to Stockholm on our day off. It was Carrie's first time and I was so excited to go back. We met up with a fellow American who is also playing in Sweden and a few of her friends. Funny how it worked out- Anna and one of Jackie's friends were the only Swedes with us, the rest of us were American. I think there was five Americans and two Swedes. I don't think I will ever get tired of visiting Stockholm. It is so beautiful and exactly what I picture when I think of European countries: narrow alleyways of old, colorful buildings with cafe's placed on every corner and cobblestone streets. There is just something so quaint about it. Probably the fact that it's such an ideal dream life: beautiful city, walking the cobblestone streets daily, while sipping your coffee of  choice from a favorite local cafe. Or maybe that's just my own perfect picture. I think I could only live the big city life for a little while though, because I've grown up with a backyard and in a quiet area. City life might be a bit too loud for me. We each bought a new dress and shirt and I'm excited to own my first article of Swedish clothing. Feeling all cultured and whatnot. We ended up staying there for most of the day, didn't get home until almost 8, after starting the journey there at 9. Anna's step counter said we walked something crazy like 10,000 steps. You definitely feel all those steps once you get home.

Saturday was game day as usual. Another 6 hour journey North at 6:45 in the morning. This is going to sound terrible, but since our cell phones only work when we have wifi, we can't use them on these long journeys. I am far too dependent on that thing and it gets a little boring at times when I can't use it for basically a full day. I bring a book but sometimes its nice just to be in contact with the world. Krokom is about 25 minutes farther north than Ostersund, the other town we played in that was 6 hours away. It is so beatiful up there. Lakes and mountains are just about everywhere you look. The first half was an absolute disaster. We didn't really do much and couldn't seem to get a rhythm going for more than a few passes at a time. We were down 2-1 at half. The second half we seemed like a new team. We played some pretty soccer and ended up beating them 4-2. Love when soccer is pretty. Shows just how beautiful the game really is. Their teams was really aggressive, especially when we started to win. They had an American player as well and she was so mad they were losing. She elbowed Anna in the throat and got a red card for it! Crazy lady. They were a good team though, for the most part. They strung passes together pretty well.

The u20 US national team happened to be playing a game against Sweden in Gavle on Sunday. Carrie, Frida, Mickan and me went up there to watch it. It was definitely nice to have a little taste of home all the way over here in Sweden. The US ended up winning 1-0, but Sweden definitely should have won that game. They created a lot more chances than we did and were just unlucky with their finishing. One of the US girls is a player for PSG's club (David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's club). She's only 19 years old..making 6 figs, or so I heard. And living in Paris. Tough life.

A few days a week Carrie and I are going to help out in the kitchen and catering company for a local restaurant here in town. We asked to help to have something to do a few days out of the week but also to meet new people and get more time in for learning the language. Everyone is so nice- and it doens't seem like it's a forced thing. People are just genuinely kind here and don't hesitate to show it. Big positive for living in such a small town. They are really patient with our slow learning of their language and seem to enjoy that we are actually trying. I heard when you visit other countries it is respectful to first try speaking their language to them and they will then be more willing to speak English with you. The restaurant thing has been a fun thing to do. It's not a huge restaurant so its not an intimidating or stressful environment, which makes going there fun. The staff is awesome. Some of the nicest people I've met. We worked a catering event for the high school graduation on Monday. Catering is hard work, but I enjoy it. I like getting to go to all different types of events and such. And it's a pretty good work out, lifting and carrying plates, trays, etc for a few hours a day.

Carrie and I decided to give up all sweets for 25 days... aka until my parents get here. Not going to lie, it's been really difficult. I let it become a really bad habit of eating some type of cookie or bakery item on a daily basis and now having absolutely nothing... sucks. Its only been 4 days but I think I'll manage. I'm hoping my body feels cleansed afterwards, which will make it worth it. Time shall tell.

I've noticed recently that I am forgetting some basic English words when I am talking to other people. I think it's because I'm actually living in a different culture and not just learning it at school, so it's sinking in a bit better (kinda). My brain is getting confused. It's kinda funny.