Enjoy Not Knowing

Just another American living in Sweden


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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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sun party

I had planned a sun party. It was going to be March 19th, and it was going to be beautiful. We were to celebrate the return of the sun. Or that day where Sweden gets more sun than my hometown of Boston. Not to brag or anything, but I was totally trying to brag.

You see, last winter I was missing the sun. It was very grey and gloomy for a long time. We didn’t get much snow up here in The Great White North. This past winter it was just The North. Nothing white around here, as you can see from the pictures from January.

gloom

gloom

Then March rolled around. And you know what?! It wasn’t sunny!! I was very angry with the Sun Gods. This is why they got no celebration. At least not until Midsummer rolled around. You just can’t help celebrating the light on the longest day of the year. I’m working on my forgiveness, and the Sun Gods are working on making it up to me. It has now been sunny and 30 degrees for days. I’m almost pleased.

photo (10)

Just waiting until about September to start singing my praises. Can’t get too ahead of one’s self.

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eight. go to greece

I had a master evil plan. It was glorious. It involved my escape, with Evelina of course, to the warm, sandy beaches of Greece. In my fantastical plan I would spend my 25th birthday sipping adult beverages in the sunshine.

Greece sandy beaches

picture found here

Sadly, this will not be the reality. I still have good chances of sipping adult beverages in the sunshine, however I will not be in Greece. My dream vacation is still only a dream. Turns out my fantasies have deeper pockets than I do. Greece will have to wait. I hope it isn’t going anywhere.

The resolve has not lessened.

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twenty one. get wicked cool sunglasses

This was a fun one. Of course I think all the things on the list are fun, but this one was especially fun. I mean who doesn’t like sunglasses? Sunglasses symbolize summer. Sunshine. Outdoors. All the wonderful things about the lightest half of the year. Which is especially appreciated here in Sweden. Summer sunshine is longed for through out the long, cold, dark winters. And it’s finally here!

sunny sun glasses

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So I’ll put on my new, wicked cool sunglasses, and get outside!

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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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my “new” job

I have officially worked at my place of employment for over a year. A while ago, I told you I had gotten a new job, and had you guess about what it could be.

Here’s the big reveal: I’m a pre-school teacher.

The anticipation must have been eating away at you. After having worked at my new job for a little over a year and a half I have realized a few things.

  1. Small children are both wonderful and terrible. (Lucky for us, usually the former.)
  2. Working with children may be the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
  3. Sweden rocks

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Let me explain this last point. First by taking you back to the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start. The beginning of this story starts in July of 2012. I had worked my final weeks at REC, you all remember good ‘ol REC, and the many shenanigans I got in to there. Well I had nostalgically worked my final weeks there (something about knowing you’re leaving to never return makes everything a little nostalgic – and funny – oh how we laughed!) and had moved up north. Not too far mind you, I do have some sense left in me. As mentioned, it was July of 2013, a beautiful Swedish summer, and I was getting paid to do absolutely nothing. (Reason 1 why Sweden rocks.) I had amassed enough vacation days while working at REC to pay for my entire summer vacation. I had 5 weeks off in a row, and my bank account did not suffer for it. I even went on an actual vacation to scare the socks off my Mom for her birthday.

This, people, is why Sweden rocks. 5 weeks of paid vacation!? I can’t even believe it’s true, and I’ve lived it. Another great thing about where I work is it is relatively easy to get time off. When Tyler graduated high school, and friends get married, it’s just a matter of giving them fair warning in advance that one would like to galavant across the ocean, and it’s done. I am exasperately grateful for this.

5 weeks, people

This is what 5 weeks looks like on a calendar. I felt this was necessary.

Reminiscing on that great summer of love does make me a little sad though. It is highly unlikely I will again take 5 weeks in a row of vacation. 5 weeks is a long time, a person can get a lot of relaxing done in that time. I’m gonna miss that.

Now you know that I like travelling across the Atlantic when I get vacation time. What about you, what do you like to do when you take time off? signature


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graduating: here and there

My brother graduated high school this June. My youngest brother. Not to make this about me, but holy crap, I am SO OLD!!! I can’t even handle it.

Moving on.

It was a festive event with lots of festivities. And balloons. I don’t recall having so many balloons at my high school graduation. In fact I remember very little about the actual day of my high school graduation……I wonder why. BUT! That is neither here nor there, like I said, this isn’t about me.

Tyler graduated the 9th of June, and I was so lucky to have been able to be there.

The weekend was full of celebratory dinners, grilling, and present opening.

Tyler's graduation 1

And of course the big event.

the event

As it happened Tyler’s graduation weekend was the same exact weekend as high school graduation in the city I live in in Sweden. The way the Swedes choose to celebrate graduation differs from the usual traditions in the US.

First on graduation day you have a champagne breakfast with your entire class, and teachers. (The big difference here from the US is the presence of champagne, as 18 is the drinking age in Sweden, and also the age of high school graduation.) After breakfast there’s some sort of assembly of the entire class. Then the class as a whole exits their school building, to the welcoming croud of their closest friends and family. The immediate family of the graduate makes a sign, usually with an embarassing childhood photo of the graduate printed as large as possible on the sign.

I clearly took this opportunity to make one for Tyler.

photo 5

As you can see in the picture of Tyler, another aspect of the sign tradition is that family and friends present the graduate with toys and commemorative items. These toys (and an occational bottle of champagne) are mounted on string, and hung around the graduate’s neck. To top off the look the Swedes always wear their graduation caps, which look like white sailor hats. So many Swedish high school graduates have a picture that look a lot like this:

photo 1 (4)

picture found here

The graduates then join the members of their class in a large truck and/or on the flatbed behind a tractor and/or some other sort of large vehicle. I should first explain that each graduating class is divided into many groups, and it is in these groups that you take all of your high school classes. So, it’s not like 300 people were piled onto a truck. It’s usually around 30. Much safer. Although they do get booze…less safe…

Loud music is usually played out of every vehicle. The graduates are also usually armed with some sort of horn/noise maker. Plus they can always yell. They essentially have a party on a tractor’s flatbed. Which they have decorated before hand in preparation. These many decked out vehicles then form a sort of parade through the city. It looks a lot like this:

graduation parade

pictures found here and here respectively

I hope Tyler enjoyed his small part of Swedish graduation as much as he enjoyed the rest of it.

Congrats again!

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liseberg

I don’t know if you heard. But there was a woman who fell out of the tallest wood-steel roller coaster, at six flags Texas.

Last year I feel like there was also an incident where someone fell out of a roller coaster. Maybe it was the year before that.

This is clearly terrible news. But, aside from freaking me out a bit at the time, it hasn’t really affected me in the long run.

Yes, this means I’ve been to amusement parks the past few summers in a row. I’m not sure what that says about my intelligence. But, I’ve always gone before these accidents have happened…and not to the same exact park. Helps?

Liseberg day

Anyway, two summers ago I made my first ever trip to Liseberg in Gothenburg (Göteborg for all you Scandinavians out there). Evelina got train tickets and tickets to the park for me for my birthday. I was thrilled. Because a) I love amusement parks and b) they had just opened the highest free fall roller coaster in Europe. It’s name is AtmosFear (the cunningness of which is reason in and of itself to ride the ride – if you ask me). It’s 146 meters above sea level, and drops you at 110 km/h. Yeah I had no idea what that meant either. That’s 482 feet above sea level, or about 2/3rds of the way around 1 lap on your average track. At 87 miles/hr, or fast enough to get you a killer of a speeding ticket on a state highway. Not bad I say, not bad.

AtmosFear

Gothenburg is a beautiful city, and catching the view of it from the top of AtmosFear is certainly worth it. Unless you’re terrified of heights. This may not need to be said, but: don’t ride the ride if heights terrify you.

But summer fun isn’t the only thing that Liseberg has to offer.

photo 3 (1)

During the winter months Liseberg becomes a spectacular winter wonderland. No, the rides are not operational, something about whipping around at 100km/h when it’s -10 degrees Celsius just doesn’t add up. What they do have to offer is a Julmarknad, or Christmas market. They also have a charming Christmas atmosphere to offer. And really that’s the best part. No, I’m not being extremely sarcastic, so don’t read it like that. What’s even better than the best part is going there with great company. (Still serious.)

Julmarknad

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that time we went to mexico

For once I’m actually prompt about writing about my activities. Yes, this is prompt in comparison to my usual style. (Don’t worry, all the other stuff I have done will make an appearance here soon.) But let’s focus on Mexico. Let’s focus on Mexico, because now I’m in Sweden, and while we were gone Sweden got cold. Cold and dark.

That’s neither here nor there, because as mentioned I was in Mexico last month. Evelina and I travelled there to celebrate our friends’ wedding. The details of their beautiful wedding will come in a future post, because now I want to tell you about the adventures!

Evelina and I spent 6 days in Mexico. Six sunny, warm days in Mexico.

On Monday we arrived after a relatively successful flight down from Boston via JFK. The first thing we did was receive more information in an hour than anyone can possibly remember when it comes in that quantity. The second thing we did (After gallivanting around our room and taking ridiculous pictures. No those pictures will not appear here.) was go down to the beach. Of course we jumped in the water, all be it quickly. It really sunk in that we were on vacation, being able to walk from our room down to the beach in a matter of minutes and enjoy the Caribbean view. That evening we ate with our friends, and new acquaintances, who would be attending the wedding. After which we returned to the hotel room and enjoyed the amenities there. We were sure to get to bed early because we had two days coming up full of adventure.

Mexican mornings

#nofilter check out that sunrise!

We woke up early Tuesday for room service and a great view of the sunrise from our balcony. We had a big day ahead of us, so we had to fuel up. Tuesday we had planned to join a day trip to Chichen Itza and Wednesday we had planned to go snorkelling. Clearly we had big plans. And let me tell you, it was worth it. The adventure out to Chitchen Itza was both highly informational and fun. Even though it was entirely possible that our guide was making things up as he went, about 80% of it I remembered from 5th grade when we learned about the ancient Mayans, Incas and Aztecs.

Mexican adventures 1

The trip out to Chitchen Itza was an entire day trip, with a side stop at a grotto. We got to go swimming in an ancient hole in the ground. It was only recommended that you stay in the water for 30 minutes. Because of the bacteria. Maybe it shouldn’t be recommended at all that one swim in it. Of course I jumped in. It was worth it. At the grotto there was also a tequila factory, where we got to learn, in very fast, broken English, how tequila was made. Then we got to taste test it. Peanut butter was the best. I tell no lie. In retrospect, maybe you’re supposed to taste the tequila and then go swimming. A little tequila goes a long way, and by the time you’ve tasted all 9 flavors a little bacteria doesn’t scare you!!

Mexican adventures 2

Snorkeling was a real blast. I highly recommend it. Who knew that off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula lies the worlds second largest reef? Bobbing up and down in the ocean waves, catching a glimpse of some tropical fish, trying not to get roasted by the sun, and sipping beer on a boat was a top-notch way to spend the day. My favorite moment included our guide showing us a barracuda. Promptly followed by the bride to be swim-chasing it through the ocean, as the guide frantically points to the fish, to his mouth, and makes a biting motion with his hands. Yes, barracuda bite. No, you should not chase them.

Mexican adventures 3

Thursday was wedding day, and what better way to start the day than with some early morning Pilates on the beach. Or at least it would have been a great way to start the day if our instructor wasn’t ab crazy. That man had us do more ab work in an hour than I’ve done in my entire life combined. After that exhausting workout we had earned some pool time. (Plus our glistening abs looked great in the sun.) The wedding that evening was ridiculously beautiful. But as I said, more on that later.

bridal bouquet

Our first day of full relaxation was on Friday. So we spent it by the pool and on the beach.

beach finds

beach finds

Don’t worry relaxing for us includes an intense made up game, where the rules essentially were that you get points by knocking over cups with various amounts of pool water in them with a rubbery ball that is bounced across the water in the pool. Relaxing also includes an hour of volleyball, so don’t worry, we didn’t go overboard.

pool games

Saturday was travel day, but we luckily had a good chunk of sun time before we had to pack up and say our goodbyes. We met a group of great people, as well as got to spend about a week with great friends. What could be better? Mexico had a ton to offer. It was a fabulous, sunny, adventure-full week.

beach view

beach view

I suppose one might say that it was actually refreshing to return home from Mexico to the crisp, cold, rainy fall weather. One might say that. I would not.

Take me back to Mexico.

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5 years

I was once asked, while sipping wine in the warm Spanish evening, how I knew I had found the one.

A smile made its way across my face, as I replied:

It’s like I’ve found this person. I am hers, and she I 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.

there will be us

Looking back on that night, first, I think that was a damn good answer. Second, I think what I have found is peace. In this person I have now been with for five years. I have found my peace, my missing piece. Happy fifth anniversary dear.

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