Enjoy Not Knowing

Just another American living in Sweden


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book of august: middlesex

Don’t think I’m ahead of schedule here, this is actually my book of August from a while ago…So I’m little behind schedule, but here it is:

Middlesex

When I say a little behind schedule, apparently I mean three years behind schedule. *geeze* I am apparently a horrible friend. Okay, horrible might be a strong word, but I’ve definitely been slacking on my friend duties. My bad.

Let me explain. My friend Elizabeth and I (name obviously changed to protect identity) decided to do a book club. This book club consisted solely of the two of us. Meaning that we would both read the same book in a months time, and discuss it over Skype.

I did not read the book in a months time. Nor did we ever Skype about it. I mean I did finish the book just now, so we could theoretically Skype about it now…but I didn’t even tell Elizabeth that I’ve finished the book. This will be the first she is hearing of it. Alright I’ll say it. Horrible friend = me.

Let’s disregard that though and focus on the book. I don’t like to dwell.

Middlesex was on Oprah’s book list. Or recommendation list. Or some kind of list written by Oprah, you know the one:

Anyway, I think that is why Elizabeth suggested we read the book. Oprah knows her shit.

To be honest though, the book wasn’t exactly up my ally. Though you may have guessed that since it took me THREE YEARS to complete. I mean it’s not like I’ve been actively reading it for that long, there have been breaks….okay, nevermind.

It did get really good for the final third of the book. But it is really important you read the first two-thirds in order to understand the end…well the moral is, it may be a great book for you, but for me it was an exercise in discipline and determination to be a good friend.

I hope this makes up for it! … ?

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book of january: the opposite of loneliness

I remember going to see Marina in a play. My cousin had invited me along, and when we drove up to the blue paneled colonial that housed the theatre I didn’t know what to expect. We were in grade school, and my only previous conception of children in plays was the school produced fifth grade play.  Though I myself did not categorize myself as a child at the time.

It was dark when we arrived, after what seemed like an eternal car ride. The sort of car ride that once illuminated by adulthood is one that could not have taken more than five minutes to span the distance from my cousin’s house to the theatre, door to door. It must have been my anticipation pulling on time, extending it.

At the time I only knew Marina through my cousin, but seeing her on stage I was both awe-struck and inspired. Much the way I am now, after reading her book. My child self went home after seeing Marina completely determined to participate in a play and simultaneously terrified at the prospect. That is how I would describe my experience reading Marina’s book. Inspiring and terrifying.

The Opposite of Loneliness

In my own mind I fancy myself a writer of sorts. I would love to write a book, but put no actual practice to these thoughts. Marina’s book inspires me to write, to put finger to key and create. Though this thought is also terrifying: it is a daunting task. Many of the similarities between Marina and me are also unnerving. The ending of her really hit home for me. Not to give anything away, but I was shocked by the similarities between Marina and me. We are, and though I wouldn’t use the word terrified, I would use the word concerned, about the future of the human race and what that means. While she focuses on the permanence of the written work I focus on the permanence of genetics, and that is where we differ.

With further thought, I realize it may not be surprising that we share much in common. I’m beginning to realize that growing up in the same home town does expose one to many of the same things. Her life is not so unlike my own. I applaud Marina’s work, and the work of her  parents getting her book out into the world.

If you haven’t already read this book, do so.

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memory lane: welcome to spain dracula!

Spain part 3 of 3. The final installment. Join me today along memory lane back to my 25 before 25 list. Number 16: visit a friend at their new residence.

“Welcome to Spain Dracula!” Katie shouted to me across the bus station.

Not really. But maybe she should have.

Since we don’t live in a fake Tina Fey improv session, when I arrived in Don Benito Katie walked across the train station and introduced herself to María-José. As you remember, my new friend.

Spain pt. 3.1

After saying farewell to María-José, Katie and I made out way to Katie’s place of residence for the past year. The difference between Madrid and Don Benito was striking. Just taking the short stroll through the city center to Katie’s apartment made that clear. Don Benito is a charming little city, where Katie was working for the year as an English teacher. Her time in Spain was coming to a close, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to travel Spain with a new native. (You become a native in a year….right?)

Spain pt. 3.2

Katie’s front door

The view from the balcony

The view from the balcony

After getting to Katie’s apartment (and checking off number 16 on my list), I dropped off my bags and we went back into town to drink tinto with Katie’s friends. The next day we were heading down to Sevilla so it wasn’t a late night, but it was great to meet the people Katie had spent the past year with.

Yummmm....tinto

Yummmm….tinto

Little did she know, a sun burn was on its way

Little did she know, a sun burn was on its way

Sevilla was hot. This was May, and I had just recovered from a Swedish winter, so believe me when I say, Sevilla was hot! We meandered through the city taking in the sights. Ate often at this little chain restaurant they have in Spain, 100 cervezas, where you buy tiny little sandwiches and get a pint of beer at ridiculously low prices. We drank more beer on the beach, and I managed to get ridiculously sun burnt (as I failed to heed the advice from María-José who warned me of this on our ride). Over all it was an awesome time.

Spain pt. 3.6

Spain pt. 3.7

In the evenings we ate dinner in charming little spanish squares. Where the tall buildings surround us on all four sides, yet the squares are still big enough to harbor small trees. Small children run through, laughing loudly, aided with extra energy at the late hour because of their timely siesta earlier that day.

It was in one of these squares that Katie and I had one of our conversations that I will never forget. There was the sound of a guitar trickling out a nearby open window, and Katie asked me how I knew Evelina was the one. I grinned, sipping my Spanish red wine in the moonlight and explained: It’s like I’ve found this person. I am hers, and she is mine. And everything else in the world, all the noise, it will settle down. It will resolve. there’s no need to think or worry about that. Because, forever, there will be us.

I had never before put my love to words for another before, and that evening is a moment I will always remember. For this I will always love best friends, and Spain, and red wine, and moonlight.

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one year, three months

A little over a year ago I married the best person I know.

Today we have been together for seven years.

I also promised my loved ones who weren’t able to celebrate with us that I’d post pictures. Though a full online album has yet to be created, here are at least a few more snapshots from the day.

“It only took a moment to decide to love you, wildly with my whole heart & the thing that amazes me again & again is that it really is as simple as that….”

wedding pic 1

wedding pic 2

wedding pic 3

wedding pic 4

wedding pic 5

So happy to have called you mine for the past seven years.

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book of april: mwf seeking bff

I was recommended this book by a dear friend a while back, and I’ve just gotten around to reading it.

MWF seeking BFF

For now you’ll have to settle with a short & sweet post. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to you, dear reader, as well.

More to come soon.

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sixteen. visit a friend at their new residence

Another completed goal! I bet you all thought I was a super slacker after reading about three incomplete goals in a row. But never fear! I’m here today to tell you about a completed goal.

The summer of  2012 was a big summer for travel for me. That July I made a trip down to D.C. to visit my oldest friend, Elizabeth. (Again, oldest as in we’ve known each other since the diaper years, read: best friend, not my oldest living friend.) D.C. is great, and I recommend it to all. Especially those of American decent, ours is such a historical capital and with all the fun touristy things it’s really worth a trip.

Me sandwich

See what fun there is to be had! (Side bar: ridiculous sun burn not required.)

 

I even have some exciting news. I visited another friend at her new residence. Her gender is all the hint you’ll be getting for now, though. As, this is a story for a future date. Exciting, I know.

Stay tuned.

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the sweatiest bus trip of my life

Spain part 2 of 3
(part 1 found here)

While in Spain I experienced the sweatiest bus trip of my life.

I’m almost hoping that when you picture a sweaty bus trip you picture an old, half run down, bus with all the windows down and its occupants just sweltering. Fanning themselves with exhausted arms in a half stupor from the heat. Admittedly, it is warm in Spain. However, what I hope you’re imagining is no where close to what my reality was.

They have very effective air conditioning systems in their busses in Spain. On my bus trip the temperature was actually verging on chilly in there. I became extremely sweaty on this bus trip for none of the reasons you’d expect.

The trip by bus from Madrid to Don Benito takes four hours. By law bus drivers in Spain must take a break after two hours of driving. That means half way between the two cities we stopped at a rest stop. Up until that point my bus trip was very low-key. The woman to my left spent the time sleeping, and I spent the time taking wonderful scenic pictures of the Spanish countryside while listening to tunes on my iPhone.

See how wonderful!

Spanish Landscape

Take a good look at these pictures. Doesn’t it look, just a little bit, like we were driving in circles? In retrospect I seriously wonder if we did that a little bit. Probably not. Who knows. Anyway…

Moving on!

At the half way mark everyone got off the bus, as required, and the bus driver locked the bus. We all hung around a rest stop, some people buying snacks, most everyone using the facilities. Had I known what I was about to embark on during the second half of my journey I would not have nonchalantly basked in the Spanish sun. I would have been studying. Studying the Spanish language.

Little did I know my travel companion in the seat next to me was quite the chatter. I did not know this, because, as mentioned, she slept for the first two hours. For the second two hours it was time to chat. Can you guess where this is going?

If I thought that I got nervous while speaking Swedish to Swedes it was nothing compared to how nervous I became while trying to differentiate in my brain between Spanish and Swedish. In general English isn’t very widely spoken in Spain, so if you think a broken blend of Spanish, Swedish and English is at all understandable to anybody, you would be wrong. (This is not only applicable in Spain, but rather exactly everywhere on Earth.)

Despite our hindrances, that is to say, despite my hindrances, and sweatiness, I ended up having a lovely conversation with María-José. She explained about the different areas of Spain. Where she had travelled and lived. The stark differences between the Spanish countryside and Madrid (which I had actually picked up on – believe it or not). Told me about how her daughter had travelled to the US and was now working there. My big input in the conversation was commenting on horses. I’m sure she was simply blown away by my intellectual contribution. I did successfully explain that I was from the US, now lived in Sweden, and was visiting a friend who lived in Don Benito. (She was wondering why on earth I would travel to Don Benito.)

Map of Spain

A clear written explination of our discussion on Spain

I don’t think my sweatiness bothered her. I say that because once we arrived in Don Benito she stuck around with me until Katie arrived at the bus station. Safely leaving me off with someone who knew the area. María-José, thank you, I will always remember our bus trip together.

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gotland: a how to

Remember that list I have? Of things to do in Sweden? (It’s up there on the menu at the top.) Well, guess what? I’m here today to give you a guide on how to do Gotland.

First, the background info. Gotland is the largest island in the Baltic Sea. (Wiki fact, no idea if that’s true.) What I do know is true is that Gotland is an island off the East coast of Sweden:

Gotland

Map of Sweden found here. Edited by yours truly. Yes, that is a ram.

Gotland is indicated on the map above. I have chosen a field of azure with a ram holding a cross staff to mark Gotland, because that is the Gotlandic coat of arms. Fancy, I know. Yes, that white there in the middle is a ram. The flag is actually flying all over Gotland. So it’s totally legit.

Evelina and I traveled to Gotland to visit our dear friend Johanna this summer. Now I’m here to explain to you how to do Gotland the right way.

Step 1: Take a train and or bus, and or combination of the two to Nynäshamn. (Taxi is acceptable, if that’s your thing.) The ferry to Gotland leaves from Nynäshamn rather often in the summer months, so choose a ferry time that fits nicely with your schedule and budget. (Hint: cheap ferry tickets are at inconvenient times.)

Nynäshamn

(Pre Step 1: Be in Sweden. Europe is acceptable.)

Step 2: Enjoy a relaxing ferry ride. It takes about 3 hours, so bring activities. They have wi-fi that you can purchase, but it’s no good for playing games or streaming videos – I asked.

Gotland Båten

Step 3: Upon arrival, take the chance to explore Visby. The biggest city on Gotland. The entire city is enclosed by an ancient wall, which gives the place a very historical feel. Definitely check out the wicked cool pirate ship docked there. (Not a guaranteed landmark, as this particular pirate ship still savages the high seas.) Luckily the Medieval market will be in town, so enjoy people watching and having a good laugh at a guy accidentally whipping himself in the back with his newly purchased whip. (Not guaranteed to be in town.) After an afternoon of exploring celebrate with some ice cream, or glass as the Swedes say, at one of Visby’s biggest ice cream parlours.

Visby 1

Step 4: Drive with your friends to wherever you will be staying. I highly recommend staying in the side house of someone who resides on Gotland. Extra points if they have a beautiful garden, horse, and lovely patio for outdoor meals.

Humble abode

Step 5: After a good night’s sleep, wake up refreshed and ready to explore the island. A hearty Swedish breakfast is recommended before adventuring.

Breakfast

Step 6: The adventure should consist of the following things: driving along the Stone Coast, stopping by the Blue Lagoon and hopping in the water. Lunch is to be eaten at Lergrav. The scenery is to die for and the food is even better. The smoked salmon and smoked shrimp you will eat there will be better than any you’ve had before. Take this opportunity to climb up the rocky hillside across from the restaurant, and pose for pictures in the famous rock formations there. Continue the car trip to Furillen, a hotel by an old factory. The entire concept of the hotel is unique, so it is certainly acceptable to pose for more pictures. On the way home be sure to stop at Rute Bakery, the bread you buy there will be top-notch.

Adventures Day 1

Step 7: Join your friend’s family for a crayfish party, which is a yearly tradition in Sweden. Before dinner a game of brännboll is in order. A Swedish “sport” that is similar to baseball, only there are four bases, the bat is tiny, and you get to pitch to yourself. After lots of good fun it will be time to eat! During the month of August Swedes across the land get together, enjoy some crayfish, alcohol, singing, and general merriment. This is not an experience to be passed up.
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Crayfish & Brännboll
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Step 8: Upon your return home be sure to rest up for another adventure filled day to follow!
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Step 9: Start the day with a visit to the sheep! There are more sheep on Gotland than people, so this shouldn’t be overly difficult. It helps if the people you’re staying with have a few of their own.
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Sheep!
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Step 10: Later, a visit to Lummelunda Grotto is in store. Before venturing into the Grotto take a peek at the mill on site, worth the small entry price. After a very educational video about the origin of the grotto, and how it was discovered. As well as some facts about caves, stalactites and stalagmites (and why you shouldn’t break them – hint it takes an eternity for them to be created). You’ll then continue on a tour of the Lummelunda Grotto. Listen up, the tour guide has some interesting things to say!
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Lummelunda Grotto
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Step 11: Stop by the metal shop and buy an authentic Gotland ring. The story behind the ring is fascinating, and the ring is beautiful. Ask the man who sells you the ring to tell you all about it. Directly following the ring purchase it is time for lunch.
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Gotland Ring
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Step 12: Drive to Krysmynta Garden, where you will be seated by a beautiful glass wall and therefore able to enjoy the beautiful scenery, and lightning, as a storm will roll in just around lunch. The caesar salad comes highly recommended, so eat that.
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Krysmynta Garden
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Step 13: Continue on the road to the Roma Cloister Ruins. This is another great place for a photo-op, so get your model on. There are also a few little shops to explore, including a glass blowing shop and a Swedish clothing store. Of course there is also fika to be had, so hunker down over a plate of saffranspankaka, a Gotland classic.
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Rome Cloister Ruins
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Step 14: Return to your abode and enjoy a lovely dinner on the patio, with excellent wine and the aforementioned bread. The wine is highly recommended.
Step 15: After dinner a road trip into the woods is a good idea! Drive to Gyle where you can see a stone wall which has been built up over time. The story goes that a terminally ill woman would walk along that beach every night, and as she walked she would choose one stone and place it aside, slowly building up a wall. After she passed the people who visit the wall set one stone up, continuing on her tradition.
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Stones
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Step 16: On your final day rise early in order to drive back into Visby. This way you’ll have plenty of time for touristy shopping as you walk through the best-preserved Medieval city in all of Scandinavia.
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Visby 2
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Step 17: Say your farewells as it is time again to board the ferry back to mainland Sweden. Pass the time on the boat by reminiscing on all the fun that was had in the past days.
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It really is that simple! By following these 17 steps you too will be able to experience all the wonders Gotland has to offer. ❤

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our nation’s capital

Number 16 on my 25 before 25 list has been completed! It has actually technically been completed since the summer of 2012. I’m only now deciding to let you in on the secret.

As previously mentioned, in the summer of 2012 I was living the good-life. The lots-of-vacation-time-in-Sweden-good-life. During this vacation I made a stop down in D.C. to visit my oldest friend, Elizabeth.

Side bar: she’s my oldest friend as in we’ve been friends since we were in diapers, and therefore has been my friend for a long, long time. She is not my oldest as in my friend that has lived the longest of all my friends. Just to be clear.

I had never before visited our Nation’s Capital. (Our D.C. trip in 8th grade was replaced by a Duxbury trip. It was deemed unsafe, by those chosen to deem, to travel to our Nation’s Capital at the time the trip was supposed to commence. May I take this opportunity to say that Duxbury does not compare to Washington D.C. – no offence meant towards Duxbury.) I was thrilled to be in D.C. finally, and even more thrilled to see Elizabeth and the apartment in which she was then residing.

front door

We got some quality bffl time in. bffl activities

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I even got to see Marley while I was down in D.C. Huge plus!

Me sandwich

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And while Elizabeth got some work done I did super touristy things. And took a lot of selfies.

selfie city

An all-around excellent trip. I hope to be able to swing by again soon. Elizabeth, consider this your warning that I may show up on your doorstep unannounced.

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