27 September, 2010

Figuring out the future so soon?

Stu & I moved to Sweden to be full-time grad students about 14 months ago now. We came from the US with shiny student visas (and in my case, a spouse visa since I hadn't heard about school yet.) We knew even though our programs were two years long, Migrationsverket (the immigration board) would want to check up on us after a year to make sure we were passing and still had some money to live off. Since his visa was set to expire September 1, Stu recently sent his renewal forms in for what I think of as "Stockholm, Year II." He just got his approval today, meaning he can head to Migrationsverket office for a new picture in his passport, and should have no problems traveling to London when we take my dad there next week.

But we were surprised when reading the forms...apparently, they only approved Stu to stay in Sweden until June 2011. We had been going on the assumption that we would have a full two years here, and though we would graduate in June, we would have the summer to finalize plans our next phase, post-grad school. We even signed our lease at our apartment to end on August 31, 2011.

That may not seem like a huge time difference, but we have no idea where we will be heading as of June 2011! The timeline in my mind was to start looking at the job market next May or so, and we would both basically apply for anything and everything that we saw in Stockholm, several large UK cities, and the major cities in the US. In an ideal world, we would get the summer to travel again, knowing exactly what city we would live in by July and then could leisurely move to new digs (whether in Stockholm or abroad) in August, starting fantastic and well-paying jobs in September. But the economy hasn't exactly bounced back as high as one would have hoped, so I know the job hunt could be challenging.

In fact, though, we hope to get jobs here in Stockholm, to take advantage of the connections and networking our education has fostered, to enjoy living in this country while making a decent living wage, maybe take advantage of some of the amazing parental benefits while we were at it, and pay back into the tax system that has so generously supported us for what will be 22 months.

But leaving Sweden in June is too soon! We have to give our landlady 3 months notice that we will be leaving (so that's the beginning of April.)  I foresee April being the *busiest* 30-day stretch for us school-wise in nearly 2 years, without even thinking about applying to jobs, applying for new visas, moving across more large bodies of water, etc.

I think it's worth noting how dysfunctional we find aspects of the Swedish education system when it comes to educating foreigners. Sweden has always (and will continue until next year) made education free to everyone, whatever nationality. One would think that if the government is investing millions into human capital every year, they would want to make it as easy as possible to reap the benefits of their investments! To educate someone from outside the EU, bestowing masters or even PhD degrees, and then giving them NO time to find suitable work in this country before they are legally required to leave just doesn't make sense. One of the reasons given that the country elected to institute tuition starting next year is because "people come for the free education and then leave." But in reality, the government gives them no choice.

It's going to be winter here sooner than I'd like to admit, so maybe if I were writing this blog post 2 months from now, the tone would be different. As in "get me the hell out of here!" Working in San Diego *would* be pretty great, come to think of it. But the point is that it is too soon to think about it!  Ugg, how frustrating.

25 September, 2010

Utterly random pictures

It's been so nice and fall-y here, I thought I'd go out and take pictures this weekend. But by the time we got out of the house today, the clouds had overtaken the sun and didn't leave me many awesome fall photo ops. But I did take a few random ones:
A picture of Stu, yes. But mostly I wanted to capture this woman's shoes! Can you imagine riding a bicycle in those things? And she followed us into the art exhibition we were at, so I got the opportunity to see her attempt to move around in them for a while. She wasn't so successful.

Cane parking. Or did someone experience a miracle at Berzelius Park?
I want this in my living room.
I also took a picture of what seemed to be a Blues Brothers convention in Gamla Stan, but none of the sunglassed-black-suited guys were looking the right way at the right time. So you just have to imagine it. Hopefully tomorrow will allow for better picture-taking.

20 September, 2010


Finally, only having lived in Stockholm for a YEAR, we had a tunnbrödsrulle. The equivalent of Jumbo Slice in Adams Morgan, ifyouknowwhatImean.  I was too scared to order my own hot-dog-mashed-potatoes-cole-slaw-shrimp-salad wrap, so this came with 2 very tiny forks. 

Yon made us do it. And at the same place Anthony Bourdain goes to in No Reservations, too!

19 September, 2010

Election day

It is a big day in Sweden. It's been a gray Sunday morning, but getting sunnier (it's also almost noon, so I should probably get dressed, too. Sort-of-sunny days are getting fewer and shorter.) I kind of want to get out and see where Swedes vote. And what's happening at all of those cute little stugas all over the city? Yes, they vote on Sundays. No religious observations getting in the way there ;)

When Sweden made third on the list of "Best Countries" in Newsweek a few months ago, the break-down analysis by the weekly said Sweden had the best political environment, namely, transparency and low corruption among government officials and political parties, and an open environment with strongly defended freedoms of speech and religion. And, of course, warless for over 200 years.

I admit to not following Swedish politics in detail. The U.S. political system has its faults, but at least there are only 2 major players to pay attention to. How does one even keep 8+ parties straight?!? The differences between some of them must be miniscule. But I digress. The Social Democrats (the "center-left" party responsible for the extensive Swedish welfare system) have held majority in parliament basically since the 1920s, and this year, they are a little worried that for the first time in more than 80 years, they'll lose that sway.  Center-right-leaning parties which have formed alliances are gaining ground, but most disturbingly, the Sweden Democrats, a super-far-right group billed as racist and xenophobic is poised to take a few seats, as well. The xenophobia comes from their anti-immigration platform, despite the statistic that 14% of the 9.4 million population in this country is immigrants (that number includes Stu & me, right? Not that we can legally vote yet.)  Some of the big-ticket issues include taxes, welfare benefits, the economy, jobs, immigration. You know, the usual, no matter what country you are in. I took some of these facts from a recent article from The Economist.

The småpratar I have overheard at fika at Moderna Museet makes it sound like a lot of people don't love the current government players (like Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, of the New Moderates party.) I'd like to see the Social Democrats keep it together as majority, and though I don't know much about her, I'd like to see Mona Sahlin as the country's first female PM. I also voted for Hilary Clinton in the primaries in 2008. To clarify, though, I would never, ever give votes to someone like Sarah Palin or Christine O'Donnell just because they are women. I want to see what *smart* women can do with more political clout.

So I guess we'll find out this week what the next four years will look like in Sweden.

16 September, 2010

He is so good

This one deserved its own post (as positive reinforcement.)  I called up Stu yesterday while at work and told him I wanted meat for dinner. Nothing specific, it just had to be red meat of some sort. I must need iron or something. I really wasn't expecting much, maybe frozen Swedish meatballs or the offer of taking me out to McDonalds for a "burger."
But he made a pot roast! And a GOOD one! All by himself (with a little guidance from a recipe and some wisdom from his mama.)

I just had to share that. I like it when he makes me dinner.

Peanut butter

There are a ton of things we miss from the US. Mostly food and people. You can get American stuff here, but it's often overpriced. I've seen oreos and Dr. Pepper, both which shocked me with how much they were charging. But the case is a little different with peanut butter here. You can get it. It's just not the same. It tastes wrong or is a strange consistency. And our friends in the US who have come to visit (or sent us care packages) have been awesomely supplying us with a steady stream of good ol' American brand peanut butter. 

And now, surprisingly, I think we're good.

We were brought two new giant containers of chunky peanut butter last week, so when I took stock by pulling out what I was hiding from myself at the back of the cabinet, I realized we had two other large unopened jars. So we have four giant jars of peanut butter...I know its a bit premature, but I think we have enough peanut butter to survive the next year. 

Surprisingly, everyone brings JIF. No other brands.
To be honest, I think it's the desk job saying I don't need any more peanut butter. Only 3 weeks into being office-bound for not even 30 hours a week and my clothes are already feeling a little tighter. Or maybe it's winter insulation, a little early? It does get cold in Stockholm! Either way, as of today, I've decided A) less peanut butter and godis and B) I must walk as often as possible to Moderna this fall. The latter is just under 30 minutes, and I get free entertainment, like the live opera wafting through Kungsträdgården this afternoon. The former might be more difficult..."less" godis will be tough to measure, and really, really, really hard to stick to. 

13 September, 2010

Mondays will be rough

First Swedish class of the semester tonight, from 6-9pm. I worked at Moderna from 9-12, then went to my philosophy class from 1-4. And then had Swedish until 9pm. It was a long day. Mondays suck anyway, but they are going to be bad here on out.

I think Sweden has a Mondays-suck attitude, as well, based on the decision to "celebrate" Chlamydia Monday. It's already the worst day of the week, so getting tested for an STD and possibly finding out you have one can't make it that much worse, right? At least you aren't ruining a perfectly good other weekday with that kind of news.

And I guess it is a problem here. According to the ever-so-scholarly article in The Local, four people contract chlamydia PER HOUR in this country. I'm shocked at that number (condoms, people!) but feel like maybe I should take that "fact" with a grain of salt....after all, the related articles linked through this page include: Swedish officers fined for flying painted penis and Swedish snails hide sex to avoid horny males.

On that note, I've been waiting this entire long day, desperately hoping no one would spoil it on Facebook, to watch the True Blood finale. Oooh, I hope Erik isn't really toast...he's my favorite. And not just because he speaks Swedish on the show (I know that's what you were thinking.)

12 September, 2010


We bought this little guy today. What do I do with it, besides enjoy it for its "fallness." Anybody ever made a pumpkin pie the old fashioned way (you know, without canned Libby's)? Is this the pumpkin to try it for the first time?

11 September, 2010

Blogging on the sly

We've had our friend Yon visiting, so I haven't been able to do a proper blog post (can't be an absentee host!) but he and Stu just popped out for something, so I'm making stir-fry and attempting a quick one.

I think it'll be more like this for at least the next several weeks. Life in Stockholm is busy for us this fall! With working at Moderna next-to-full-time, I barely have enough time to read the articles for class each week (a piece by Derrida and Nelson Goodman for Monday, which I have not yet read...and I have to *present* the Goodman to the class!!) Much less the time to write the texts for money, much less write emails to people, much much less blog. And god knows Stu won't blog. At least about anything coherent ;)

But we're getting out of Stockholm a bit. We've made travel plans to spend a long weekend in London when my dad comes to visit us at the beginning of October. I am quite excited to see London in fall, since I have only been there in January when it was cooooold. And I am excited about my dad's visit...more than two weeks in Europe! We are visiting friends in Belgium over Halloween (and renting our apartment out via airbnb for the first time...don't know if anyone has ever used it, but we get SO many requests to rent our place through it!) Not much else planned, except for our THREE WHOLE WEEKS in Egypt in over Xmas and New Years. We are escaping the dark of Stockholm for sand, pyramids and pigeons (if you believe what "No Reservations" says about what Egyptians eat.)

Speaking of, the rice is beginning to burn and Stu & Yon just got back. Gotta break...more later (if I can get a sec!)

05 September, 2010


I started interning at Moderna Museet on Monday. Whew, let me tell you...working 9-5 is exhausting. And I only did it four days last week! I'm a spoiled student, I know.

Moderna is on the little island of Skeppsholmen, so I take a 10 minute bus ride from my apartment down to Kungsträdgården, then have a 10 minute walk over the water and around the island to the administrative office behind the museum. Not a bad commute:

I have a huge cubicle (woohoo?) with a water view. I work with nice, competent people in the registrar's office, who are civilized enough to have a mandatory coffee break at 9:30 every morning. In fact, the whole museum together has 9:30 fika every morning. 

They put me right to work helping register the big exhibition that opens in October, Modernautställningen
And in doing this, I caught a few mistakes (I am surprisingly good at pointing out other people's mistakes. Of course I can't point out my own, because I don't make any. Poor Stu.) But because of it, one of the curators thought I'd be good to recruit to help edit and do some research for an upcoming exhibition catalog. It's kinda nice to be needed...I just wish they'd pay me for it!

It is already abundantly apparent that I need to learn more Swedish to take full advantage of working there. And of course, what follows: I need to get fluent to get a job! 
Thankfully I start a new svenska class next Monday night.

01 September, 2010


Our apartment is a pig sty. Seriously, it took all my energy to unload the dishwasher when I got home today...so much energy that there was none left over to put the tottering stack of dirty dishes in the sink *into* the empty machine. So they'll sit there a little longer.

I guess summer vacation is over! I started my fall internship Monday morning (nope, haven't unpacked from Paris yet. Haven't even moved the suitcase out of the middle of the living room.) I have my first class of the fall semester on Friday. Last week, Stu had crazy orientation events and started his classes Monday as well, and is putting the finishing touches on a consulting project that he has worked on since the spring, that he will present at the company's annual board meeting next week in Växjö (he gets to travel to the most exotic, unpronounceable places.)

I'd like to do a blog post on what I did on my summer vacation. I'd like to do a blog post on this Moderna Museet internship. I'd like to bitch about school a little (or a lot) on the blog. I'd like to fill you in on our plans for the next few months. I'd like to do some research and post on the highly anticipated upcoming national elections in Sweden (in a few weeks, the government could change directions drastically.)

But all I could manage was a lot of words basically amounting to: we're busy and we're dirty.