Thanks for reading

I made it home exactly on time on Monday with all of my bags in tow, which pretty much never happens! Jet lag has gotten to me the last two days where I’ve been waking up at 3:30am and 5am respectively…hopefully it will continue improving. Anyway, just wanted to write a quick post to say thanks for reading about my adventures this semester! Since August there have been 162 separate readers and nearly a thousand page views. I enjoyed writing about what I did – it helped me to remember things I otherwise would have forgotten. Though I now know how much work it is to put these together too, so I can’t knock anyone for not blogging very often anymore!

If by chance you’re seeing this for the first time, feel free to scroll back to the start and read my earlier posts. Here was the first one. You can find the next one in sequence from a link in the bottom right.

God Jul!

Hejdå, Sverige! (Bye, Sweden!)

Sweden just wouldn’t let me leave without a little more rain and clouds, but I’ve made it to the airport in Copenhagen and gotten through security! Now to sit and keep myself entertained for the next ~14 hours…

The train was packed with people and their luggage; I guess it’s quite a busy travel season. After figuring out how to check an extra bag (for $105!!) I headed for security. The guy in front of me in line went to Sewanee and had been at the Copenhagen Business School for four months. (People watching is the best thing to do at an airport!) He was pretty frazzled getting all his stuff together so I like to think I was comparatively cool as a cucumber. I found a good spot to sit and wait for my flight which leaves in about an hour and a half. I’m writing this on an iPad so I’ll end it here!

I mentioned it before but if you’d like to track my flight, Google SK925.

God Jul!

Nearly time to head home!

I finished my last in person exam/class thing today! I realized it was the only written test I took all semester which is a bit unusual. Unfortunately the semesters here don’t officially end until like January 19th, so I’ll still have a bit of work to do after I get home. But anyway, now I can focus on just how I’m going to fit all my things back into two suitcases and getting to the airport on time on Monday.

This past Monday I gave another riveting presentation in my Africa class, but this time it was on a topic that I found somewhat interesting: recent economic developments in Sub-Saharan Africa. It was interesting mainly due to the fact that the recent past is the only time period for which we have somewhat reasonable data. Everything we did before seemed like it was all made up, which it probably was. That class has definitely been a learning experience as it’s something completely opposite from what I’m used to, so I’m glad I made it through. All I have left is to write a paper when I get home.

I’ve tried playing piano twice in the last week and it went well both times! It was really quite scary to not know how my hand would be after I lost the battle with a glass but it is almost fully healed without much complication at all so I think I was very lucky. On Tuesday I turned in the keys to where I’ve been practicing all semester. It was a really great arrangement and I probably would have gone crazy if I hadn’t had something like it!

Tomorrow I’ll be trying another Swedish julbord (Christmas dinner) but this time a little fancier than the IKEA version! It’s at the Grand Hotel which is a pretty nice hotel in town here. On Saturday night, there is a free concert of Handel’s Messiah in the Cathedral! If my Swedish is correct I don’t think they’re doing the entire thing which is fine by me…it should be pretty cool to hear it in that space though. Then on Sunday, another free concert this time of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (hopefully a cut version too). All a good way to finish off my last few days here in Sweden!

And on Monday – the big jet back across the pond! If you want to track my flight, look here.

Norway Part 2: (A train to) Bergen

(Hey, where is part one?! Right here.)

On Saturday morning well before sunrise (which happens after 9am, just so you know) I headed to the central station to catch the 8:05am train to Bergen. Bergen is the second most populous city in Norway and is located on the west coast. The train ride goes through the mountains, reaching over 1200m above sea level before returning down to the coast, and the journey takes just under seven hours. Unfortunately for me, the first three or so hours I was stuck in one of those four seat groups with three other people who decided 9am on a Saturday morning was a good time to start drinking? They wanted me to move so their friend could sit in my seat but I would have had to sit backwards so I said no… Anyway, after they left, I was only left with a nice old American couple near me and and the other three seats to myself. I’ve never seen so much snow as I did on this trip! Here’s some pictures:

If you like remote living, consider Norway.
One of our last stops before descending out of the mountains.

It was a little bit worrying at times to be in extremely remote and cold areas all by ourselves…if the train decided to break down we’d really be in a pickle. It wasn’t even that warm on the train to begin with – I put my scarf on to keep warm! Anyway, we descended quickly to a warmer altitude:

We left Oslo about ten minutes late but arrived in Bergen early which was nice! It was a short walk to my hotel but up a giant hill…kind of reminded me of San Francisco. It doesn’t look very steep in the picture but it was! The hill opposite from where I was has a funicular railway up to the top which is one of the most popular attractions in Bergen.

After I got to my hotel, the rain started. Unfortunately it didn’t really let up until I was leaving the next day. But alas I was there and I was determined to at least do some things! I decided to go to the Edvard Grieg Museum the next morning. This involved taking the light rail about 20 minutes south of Bergen and then walking about a half hour in the rain – but I did it with minimal complaining!

Follow the signs to Troldhaugen
The house!
Grieg’s 1892 Steinway

It was pretty quiet on a Sunday morning so I got to walk all around nearly by myself. Grieg had a hut down by the water where he could get some quiet to compose, literally called the Komponisthytten.

I made it back to Bergen and being thoroughly damp I decided to call it a day. I’d like to go back in the summer so I could see more but I did enjoy what I got to see! And, to top off the trip I flew back to Copenhagen on a relatively new plane with a new interior inspired by the 787 which they build in Charleston. I may have been the only person on the plane who noticed?

Back in Sweden, my hand continues to heal well! I won’t post a picture because I know medical stuff creeps some people out (myself included). I hope it will be mostly healed by the time I come home, which is in less than two weeks now!

Norway Part 1: Oslo

(Wait, I want part two! Here you go.)

Continuing the trend of weekend trips, this past weekend I visited Sweden’s neighbor, Norway. I went for a little longer than last weekend and was able to leave for Oslo on Thursday morning and return to Lund on Sunday. I originally considered taking the train to Gothenburg, spending a night, then continuing to Oslo for two nights. After some more research I found that the Oslo to Bergen railway is actually regarded by many as one of the most scenic railways in the world so I decided to switch it up a bit and fly to Oslo, spend two nights, take the train to Bergen, spend one night, and fly back to Copenhagen! It actually worked out really well and I’m glad I did it that way.

So, I arrived to Oslo on Thursday morning, and this was the first thing I saw after we landed:

Hello to you too, Norway… It was actually quite an interesting descent: we came through the clouds and probably within a few hundred feet of altitude we were on the ground. Not one for those who hate flying. Anyway, the snow seemed to be on the ground only outside of central Oslo so I was safe without my more hefty boots! I took the high speed train to the central station and went to drop off my bags at my hotel. I was very near to a main shopping street that was all decked out for Christmas!

After having the most expensive fast food lunch of my life, I walked further down through some Christmas markets (where some presents may or may not have been bought) and towards the Royal Palace. The Christmas markets were on the left side of the street and you can just make out the palace way down at the end!

And here’s a picture closer to the palace. It got snowy/icy as you walked up the hill but luckily I didn’t fall down and look ridiculous in the process.

After walking around the palace for a bit and realizing my toes were kind of numb, I decided to head to a museum. I went to the Museum of Cultural History which seemed like a good starting place, but I actually didn’t enjoy it that much. It was entirely empty, I didn’t see more than 10 other visitors while I was there. The one thing I did like was an exhibit on the operation to smuggle the Norwegian gold reserves out of the country when the Nazis began to occupy the country. 50 tons of gold was smuggled out of Oslo, north to Tromsø, then eventually by ship to London before ending up in the US. After the museum I was pretty tired from getting up early and traveling so I headed back to my hotel.

On a snowy Friday morning, I decided to go to the National Gallery. I usually don’t enjoy art museums that much but for some reason I really enjoyed this one! There was an exhibit on nature scenes painted by Norwegians like Johan Christian Dahl, all of which I really liked. This museum is also one of the only places you can see The Scream by Edvard Munch, which I of course had to find:

The painting was actually stolen from the National Gallery in February 1994 but was luckily found unharmed just a few months later. One of the four versions sold in May 2012 for $119,622,200, making it the second highest price paid for a painting at auction. After the National Gallery I walked back across town to tour the opera house, home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. The building was completed in 2007 and designed by the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, who also designed Hunt Library on N.C. State’s campus!

I went on a guided tour of the building which was really interesting, but I couldn’t take pictures of most things. Here’s a picture from the lobby instead:

One of the coolest parts of the building in my opinion is that you can walk on the roof! Even though it was a tad icy I decided I had to do it anyway. Luckily they had handrails just in case…


After warming up a bit at the hotel I headed to Oslo Cathedral for a mass and music service. You know when you have to sing a song but you don’t know it so you have to kind of listen and make it up at the same time? I did that but while also singing in Norwegian, so that was interesting. The service was interspersed with music for violin, cello, and basso continuo by Georg Philipp Telemann (which was what I really came for) and after the service they did one piece with alto voice too. The part was sung by a man which was unexpected but he had an excellent voice! As I was leaving the cathedral I heard a couple talking to one of the workers saying they were from Washington DC – small world!

You’ve made it this far! Continue with part two.

“Ich bin ein Berliner”

This past weekend I visited Berlin! I was there from early on Friday through late on Sunday. You’d be surprised to hear that it was actually a lot colder down south in Berlin than it is in Sweden. Brrrrrrrr! Here’s what I was up to:

The weekend started with a 4AM alarm and catching the 5AM train over to the Copenhagen Airport. I arrived with plenty of time, but had quite a brain fart while going through security, having the wrong size bag for my liquids, not taking out my laptop or iPad, having water in my water bottle, and a hand sanitizer bottle in some random pocket in my backpack. Stupid American! The flight was pretty uneventful and we arrived on time! I decided to take a cab into town as I didn’t really want to figure out the public transport system right then. I had no Euros with me (as Sweden is not in the eurozone…) so I expected to pay with my credit card as the window of the cab said I could. The driver of course spoke no English and denied my credit card, so she instead took me to an ATM where I had to get cash. Annoying, but whatever!

After dropping off a bag at my hotel I headed out to start sightseeing! My brother suggested I go to Alexanderplatz, so that’s what I did first. I don’t know why he suggested it because it is basically a train station? There were some Christmas markets too but not much else…so don’t take travel recommendations from my brother. After that I walked by a church (St. Mary’s Church) and went in to look around. There was a sign that said something about organs and 1:30pm on Fridays, which I assumed would be a concert, so I planned to come back later and find out!

Oh, this thing was near Alexanderplatz.

I then went to the DDR Museum (no, not Dance Dance Revolution). It was really interesting and interactive which was nice. It made me realize how little I know about German/European 20th century history so it was a good starting place. After some lunch I went to Berlin Cathedral:

It was €4 to get in, which I thought was a bit steep if all you got was to sit and look. But it was actually quite extensive with several floors of museum-like exhibitions and even the chance to climb up the dome (to just below the green part) and walk all the way around outside. It was actually perfect timing too as the 12 o’clock service was ending so I got to hear The Lord’s Prayer in German and some organ music too before climbing to the dome. Here’s one panorama I took:

After the Cathedral, I walked back to the previous church for the organ “recital”. It actually turned out to be the organist taking a small group up to the organ and going into detail about all the inner workings and playing several examples for us. It was much better than any old recital! Luckily she spoke excellent English so I had no trouble understanding. The original organ was built in 1722 and reconstructed in 2002, here’s a picture:

After that, I was pretty frozen and tired (a 4AM start really wears you down!) so I headed back to my hotel. Luckily the restaurant downstairs had schnitzel so I didn’t have to go far for German food!

I spent most of the next morning on Museum Island, seeing the Pergamon Museum and the Neues Museum. The Pergamon Museum was listed on TripAdvisor as being one of the top things to see in Berlin, but it turned out that most of it was being renovated so there wasn’t too much to see. I did find one interesting thing in the Neues Museum though, from a display case about the Vikings:

Hey, I know that place!

From my googling, it seems that Torna härad was a region in Skåne, the county that Lund is in. Guess I was lucky to find that in a giant museum! After I officially had a case of museum back, I left museum island and headed in the direction of the Brandenburg Gate. I stopped off at Tränenpalast to see the free exhibit. It was actually pretty extensive and similar to the DDR museum, and it was in the same actual building. After I had warmed up a bit in the building I headed back out to walk towards the Brandenburg Gate again. I actually made it, too! (For some reason I decided I really like panoramas this weekend.)

I then walked over to see the Reichstag and Bundestag before jumping into the subway station to keep from freezing.

(Now is a good time to listen to Germany’s excellent national anthem)

The Berlin public transport system is a bit confusing to a newcomer, so it only took me backtracking once and changing trains twice to make it back to my hotel. After a quick dinner (of Vietnamese Bánh Mì) it was time to head to the Berlin Philharmonic! For some reason I selfishly thought that the pre-concert talk would be in English, so I showed up in time for that. As I sat down it finally dawned on me, and I really had no idea what the guy at the podium was talking about. Anyway. The concert featured Martha Argerich (one of the finest living pianists) who I have wanted to see for quite some time as well as Riccardo Chailly conducting. Martha Argerich is 73 years old and could stop touring soon so I figured I should take advantage of it! It turns out I enjoyed the first piece they played the most. Here’s yet another panorama (I have a problem) of my view:

I swear more people showed up!

Sunday was unfortunately mostly filled with doing some work for my class the next day. It’s my Africa class with like five people so I couldn’t really show up without doing some work (though I usually continue to be clueless even after reading). BUT! I did get to have coffee and catch up with my friend Hannah (woo, shoutout) who is doing her exchange in Berlin! Later I did figure out the bus back to the airport and managed to make it back home even having to run through the streets of Lund with a backpack (nobody looks cool doing that) and handbag to catch the last bus to my corridor. The excitement never ends!

In other news, I got my stitches out today! The hand is healing nicely. Off to Norway on Thursday.

A bad case of the Mondays

Fair Warning: This post will mostly deal with medical topics, so if you don’t like that, maybe skip this post! Also, I’m fine. Read on if you want details.

Monday started out not so great – walking 30 minutes to class in the pouring rain, giving a presentation on a topic I don’t really care about, etc. BUT! The sun came out after my last class and I got to walk home watching the sun set. Here’s a picture:

Then, it took a turn for the worse again. About 5pm I was washing dishes and broke a glass (why am I incapable of doing dishes safely?), leaving about an inch long cut in my left palm near my thumb. I’ll spare some of the details, but luckily my roommate who is a nursing student was there and helped me stop bleeding. She looked at it and thought it needed stitches, so we wrapped it up and went to the clinic at the hospital. After a nurse cleaned it out, she agreed that I needed stitches and would need to see a doctor. Being a foreigner in Sweden, I had to pay for it first! The doctor gave me three stitches, and it’s not an experience I would recommend to anyone…

Anyway, I left the clinic and hopped back on the bus to go home. Things were fine for about three hours or so until I somehow aggravated the wound (and we think a small artery) and caused quite a lot of high pressure bleeding under the skin. After making a mess of my bathroom, my roommate helped me to calm down and we eventually decided to call an ambulance. The paramedics agreed that I needed to go to the ER so they wrapped it up tightly and off we went. After arriving at the ER, I waited for about 50 minutes before seeing a doctor and nurse. I was really worried they’d have to reopen the wound and redo the stitches, but it didn’t come to that. The doctor simply pressed on the pocket of blood under the skin to release it through the wound, then rewrapped it with a pressure bandage. I waited for another hour and then the nurse rewrapped it and told me I could go home. As she realized I have no idea what I was doing, she helped me call a taxi so I could actually get home!

So that was my Monday, and early hours of Tuesday. Since then, it’s been nearly painless and I’ve been trying to only use my right hand as much as possible. Do you know how hard it is to open a banana or a bag of chips with one hand? I just changed the bandage for the first time with the help of my previously mentioned and extremely helpful roommate and it feels relatively good so I should be able to get the stitches out next week.

While in the ER, also notice the smallest water cup in the world.

Berlin this weekend I hope? I think I should be able to manage. Even if I just go for the Philharmonic.

I’ll try to keep myself together for the few more weeks I’m here (about 3.5 to go)!


O Sun, Where Art Thou?

I saw this article earlier this week on Facebook. I’ll save you reading the entire thing with this summarization: most of Sweden has been completely overcast for the entire month of November. Lund is no exception, though I did see a bit of bright light through the clouds yesterday for a few minutes! But it quickly went away. Anyway, I’ll continue taking my vitamin D as it seems I won’t be getting enough sun exposure for the rest of my time here…which is just one more month from today!

This week I completed my first programming project for a computer science course that I’m taking. It’s actually pretty cool – it’s meant to emulate ELIZA which was one of the first stabs at “artificial intelligence”. Basically, you talk to Eliza (who is supposed to be a psychotherapist of sorts) and she’ll ask you questions and make you think you’re talking to a real person. So if you tell Eliza, “I need pizza!”, she will say something like, “Would it really help you to get pizza?”. It works for a while until you realize her responses are pretty mechanical. The next project has to do with music, so I thought it would be a breeze, but my partner and I didn’t make much progress at all after spending a few hours on it yesterday. Oh well.

For my African economics class (it’s almost over, it’s almost over, it’s almost over…), I’m currently preparing a presentation about “African agency in the early colonialism period (1890-1930)”. Riveting stuff, right? It’s actually pretty interesting, but the class is based all on discussions and I’m one of those people (as you may know) who will not say anything unless I really have something to contribute. That means I feel like I’m not contributing enough but the professor hasn’t said anything to me yet so I suppose whatever I’m doing is enough. My presentation is on Monday.

Next weekend I head to Berlin! It turns out I could have gone on Thursday as opposed to too early on Friday, but I couldn’t have known that when I planned it. I’m looking forward to going, but not really looking forward to catching the 5:17am train out of Lund.

This morning I walked past a store that was advertising Thanksgiving turkeys! Here’s a picture:

Basically says get your fresh turkey here, 99kr per kilogram

That equates to like $6 per pound, which I’m going to assume is a lot for a turkey? The coffee shop I’m in now is also playing Christmas music, so that’s making it quite hard to work on a presentation about Africa (and since I’m writing this, it’s not going well).

Random, but I finally listened to the Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn this week. Carve out 17 minutes and give it a listen! There’s also an orchestral version if that floats your boat.

Start of November

Been a while since my last post! Hard to believe it’s already nine days into November. The past week and a half or so has been mostly getting settled into my new classes and their new locations. I started my Functional Programming class on Monday, the 3rd, and it certainly felt like computer science classes at home – about 75 people and hardly a female in sight. (NPR recently did an interesting story on that!) I think it will be a good class. It’s on a topic that’s pretty different from what I’ve done before so if nothing else I’ll broaden my horizons a bit and get to add something new to the ‘ole resume.

Tuesday brought the more stressful and unusual class… Economic History: Growth, Stagnation, and Inequality in Africa. The professor said ten people were signed up, but six showed up for class. I think that will be the smallest college course I’ve ever taken! And it just has to be all seminars and presentations on a topic I know very little about. Swell. It’s only ~six more weeks, so I think can trudge through it and make it sound like I know what I’m talking about. We had another class scheduled for Friday, but after I arrived in the building someone came to put a note on the door saying it was cancelled. Gives me a little more time to prepare I guess?

Main University Building on a sunny Friday!

I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship from the College of Engineering just before coming to Sweden and on Thursday night there was a dinner with the donor in Raleigh. As I couldn’t attend in person we tried to plan a Skype call in to at least say hello…unfortunately, it ended up being after midnight before they called and I had called it a night just a few minutes before they did! Not so much of a night owl here. If I had known my class was cancelled the next morning perhaps I would have stayed up!

Yesterday while washing my dishes I had a bit of a scare when I dropped a plate into one of the two sinks causing it to break in half (quite evenly, too) and cut three fingers on my left hand. I don’t think I’d ever broken a plate before and definitely not like that, so I know to be more careful now. Can’t play piano as well without all my fingers intact! After that harrowing injury, I went to a concert in that building pictured above of what I believe was the University orchestra playing Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto and Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6. For only 50SEK (~$7), it was a pretty great performance! I had a good seat too.

In other news, I got my iPhone 5 battery replaced for free last Sunday which has taken a lot of stress off my mind! My phone would jump around from 50% to 1% and I just never knew when it was going to call it quits. Luckily Apple is replacing some of them for free, and mine qualified. The Apple Store nearest to me is in Malmö in one of the largest malls in Scandinavia! It has a rooftop garden which I’m sure would be really nice on a clear day! I was there at night so it was just dark and windy – very Swedish.

Only a few more weeks of normal school days until my two weekends in a row of trips. “Thanksgiving” weekend to Berlin and the next weekend to Norway!

Ha en bra vecka! (Have a good week!)

Over halfway done, more class, and winning a lottery?

It’s a bit hard to believe that I’m over halfway done with my time here in Sweden! I’m sure the remaining few weeks will go by very quickly.

In the last week I’ve been busy finishing up most of my second class (Education, Culture, and Lifestyle in Sweden) which officially ends on the 31st (spooooooky!). The main (and pretty much only) project for this class involved a group project. My group of six people had two from the United States and one each from Finland, France, Singapore, and Spain. We had several group discussions about the content of the class which I really enjoyed. I definitely don’t regularly get the opportunity to speak directly with people from all over the world while back at home. The project involved each of us finding a Swedish person to interview about their lifelong education and learning experience, then coming together to find commonalities among the interviews and producing a paper and presentation on our findings. I interviewed one of my roommates last Tuesday and we all came together on Wednesday to start looking for themes among the different interviews. It was helpful that we had a good mix of ages (as young as 18 to over 70) to see differences across time. We wrapped up the paper on Friday and we present on it for a few minutes to the class on this Friday. Then next week my final two classes begin! Those are a computer science class (finally) and a class called “Economic History: Growth, Stagnation, and Inequality in Africa”. Yeah as you may guess I didn’t pick that subject, I was just put into the class by my advisor.

Also last week I planned a trip to Norway for early December! I’m going to Oslo for two nights, then taking the really scenic seven hour train ride to Bergen, spending one night, then coming back to Lund. I decided to fly from Copenhagen which is pretty weird when you think about it: taking the train over a bridge to another country to fly to yet another country. Anyway, should be fun as long as I don’t freeze solid!

I pass this nearly every day on my bike, finally stopped to take a picture!
This is where I’ve had all my classes so far. Swedes sure seem to be into their ivy.

This morning I received an email from the International Desk, which is the office that handles all international students here at the university, saying I had won the lottery for taking a survey about the arrival procedures from August! I almost forgot I even took the survey, but the prize is 500SEK (~$70) of credit at the Lund University shop which I had been planning to visit so I’m glad I didn’t already spend money there.

Also, the time changed this weekend so the sun now goes down before 5pm…this will take some getting used to. I seem to look up and feel like it’s bed time but it’s only like 8pm.