Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece
There's nothing like living overseas and getting to spend Spring Break in another country.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sweden is not Ireland - there are snakes here...

So today Darren and I biked to Sunnersta a little town about 4 miles south of Uppsala to go kayaking on the Fyris√•n  (river). It was a beautiful day - sunny and unusually warm (almost 80 degrees F). I love being on the water. And I not much unsettles me. I like mice, spiders and bugs but snakes, I don't deal with so well unless I have a garden hoe in hand and can chop it up. As we were paddling up the river towards Uppsala, I see this little thing moving across the water to intercept us. When I point it out to Darren, he says it's a snake. I think he's joking but then as we pass by, there he is. A tiny, skinny snake slithering through the cold water. We saw a second guy on the trail back to Uppsala. I didn't notice him until I saw the woman biking towards us pick her feet up off her bike pedals. I have spent three summers in Sweden and never seen a snake before here. I had allowed myself to believe that Sweden must be like Ireland where St. Patrick supposedly drove all the snakes out. I am sad to find out I'm wrong but now I'll be watching where I step.

Friday, May 9, 2008

911 works in Sweden - kind of

So, we have a Vonage Voice-over Internet Service Provider phone. That means here in Sweden, we have an American phone number based in North Carolina that connects to our internet modem and allows us for a monthly fee to call the US and people from the US to call us for free. It's great - love modern technology! My roommate Anna was trying to call her friend in the Raleigh, NC, area tonight and that area code is 919. She accidentally dialed 9119 and the rest of the number. When she realized it was wrong she hung up not realizing that it called Catawaba County North Carolina Emergency Service. So, of course, they called us back to make sure we were ok. I wish I could have heard the guy with the classic middle of North Carolina accent responding to Anna explaining that we were ok and in Sweden since the number did not indicate where we were located like normal home phone numbers do. He seemed confused from listening to her explain how the Vonage phone works and then he wanted to take our information to help 911 figure out what to do with these type of calls. The problem with Vonage phones is that you can take the thing anywhere that has broadband internet access and plug it in. So I could take our phone back to Tennessee and it would work fine but if you call 911 on it they can't trace it. We thought it would be super impressive if the Swedish emergency services showed up from us accidentally calling 911 in the US! Here the emergency number is 112. Little kids learn it by pointing at their mouth (1), their nose (1) and then their eyes (2). Cute! Too bad 911 is more complicated for kids. :) I'm hoping that we don't have to use it. We've been lucky in the emergency area. Mine and Anna's trek to the hospital via taxi in December for her dislocated shoulder is quite enough for us.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Yesterday was Valborg. It's the last day of April so it's a celebration that spring is definitely here. It's called Valborg because each day of the year in Sweden has traditional people's names that get celebrated (like October 6th is Jenny's name day) so April 30th is Valborg's name day. Here's a link to a site with the Swedish Name Day Calendar. Anyway, it's pretty much a big drinking day. Everyone starts off with a champagne breakfast. We packed our little breakfast of boiled eggs, bagels, cream cheese strawberries, grapes and champagne and headed to the river where there would be a parade of homemade Styrofoam floats that have to survive the trip over the dam/spillway. People packed both sides of the river to watch people fall off and their floats break into pieces. It was pretty hilarious to watch. Each float represents their sponsor in some way. I think my favorites were the hotdog (it reminded me of the Oscar Meyer mobile) and this one that was a cow lying on its back with its feet up in the air and the 4 people on the float were dressed in hot pink to represent the utters! (Check out the video links in my first blog to see the floats/boats.)

Then we walked to the Ekonomikum which is the Economics building of the university. We found a picnic spot for lunch on the outer edge of the park that surrounds the building. The place was totally packed with people, kind of like tailgating but more subdue. Even drunk Swedes are not terribly loud and obnoxious like Americans can be. It's amazing and sad to see so many young people doing crazy stuff because of alcohol. A lot of my Swedish friends said their top priority for the day was to get drunk and stay drunk. And at the park they were handing out trash bags hoping everyone would help keep the park clean (didn't happen) and condoms because there's some kind of STD running rampant in Uppsala.

After the park we, we went to Carolina Rediviva, the main campus library that looks down one of the main streets that runs down the hill to the river. The mayor of Uppsala gives a little speech to welcome spring and then everyone in the crowd wears their high school graduation hat (which looks like a sailor hat) and waves it in the air. There were a lot of people there young and old. Some of the older peoples' hats were even yellowed with age but they still participate. The young people head off to the nations on campus (like our fraternities and sororities) where they have champagnegloppa which is basically a big water fight but with champagne. It's totally crazy and it's even stranger to me to see all of the older people watching from the outside and seeming to think it's totally ok for students to be this drunk and doing these things.

After all that, my roommate Anna and I needed to go home and get away from all that. I got to talk to my sister on Skype and use Anna's webcam so it was the first time I've seen my sister outside of photos since July! It was so fun! Now that she has a webcam I'll get to see my parents, too, when they go to visit her.

The rest of the evening was more calm. We hung out with some of our friends from church and had a cookout and played the Swedish yard game kubb. It was a nice relaxing time. Then we biked out to Gamla (Old) Uppsala where the Viking burial mounds are to go to the big bonfire. I am pretty sure it's the biggest bonfire I've ever been to. We approached from this trail over some of the smaller hills and from above it looked like we were looking down on some kind of pagan ritual with all the people crowded around below. And that is what used to take place in that area back in Sweden's history. Very odd. It was sprinkling rain, too, which added to the effect. Apparently it's tradition for each community to have their own bonfire and people come and sing. Uppsala is the only place in Sweden where Valborg is an all day affair. Most of places in Sweden just celebrate with the bonfire that night and maybe a little cookout with friends. But in Uppsala, it's drinking party. We missed out on the major parties on campus last night where the drinking continued. And it's probably still going on this morning. I actually hear some bottle rockets going off as I write this and we don't even live in the center of town where all the action is.