Saturday, April 8, 2017

Stockholm Attack: Where I was and Such

I wasn't planning on jumping forward on my blogs, but I believe the circumstances of today constitutes an emergency blog. Okay for those of you who live under a rock, or don't pay attention to the news there was an attack in Stockholm today. I will be using the information I have on hand right now, so if something changes don't tell me I have something wrong in this post it's just more information came out. Now that I have this disclaimer out of the way I will get into the story.

Today is Friday the 7 of April, I got up probably around 7 or 8 this morning. Once I was got up, I did my normal morning routine and such. I wasn't going to school today because I was going to my Rotary meeting in Täby (which is around 1 hour and a half away to two hours away depending on traffic and such). The Rotary meeting in Täby went well as always. I actually nearly spoke all Swedish to the Rotarians and gave a speech in Swedish in front of the club, and they understood everything I said. This obviously made me really happy, and I was in a good mood. After, the meeting I was supposed to meet up with some Swedish friends and an exchange from Germany in Täby Centrum. However, my Swedish friends ended up not being able to meet up, so I only got to see my German friend. After talking with her for a bit we said our goodbyes, and she went to her class, and I went to buy a new electric razor because mine had broke recently. (This important for later in the story).

After all of this, I got on the Roslagsbana to head back into Stockholm center so I could go back home. When I was getting ready to get off the Rogslagbana, I got a message on the Sweden RYE group chat asking if everyone was okay in Stockholm. At the time I was really confused so I asked what they were talking about and they said not even 10 minutes ago there was a Nice style attack on a street in Stockholm that I have been on a million times. This is when I and many other went full panic mode and started texting and calling all exchange students in Stockholm to see where everyone was and if they were okay. Despite this, I was planning on going on my way back home, through town because that's the only way, until I walked into the subway station and got on the subway only for them to announce, "All subway traffic is being stopped, and all stations need to be evacuated imminently." They did this for three reasons I believe (my person opinions and ideas).

  1. There were reports of supposed shootings at subway stations coming in at the time (these shootings are unconfirmed at this time because many news sights have conflicting reports on them still)
  2. They maybe didn't want people on public transport in case it wasn't a lone wolf attack. 
  3. They hadn't found, or even ID'd the attacker and didn't want him to get far, so in order to achieve this, they would halt the transports. (the only effective way to get around)

My first thought was shit where am I going to go now because I don't want to be outside right now. I eventually decided to go back the way I came and find somewhere to stay in Täby or close by. The problem was my calling was now not working on my phone, so I couldn't call ahead and find somewhere to stay (was probably because so many people were calling it overloaded the towers). As I'm heading back, I'm messaging people to say I'm alright and checking on others to make sure they are alright. Eventually, all the students in Stockholm were accounted for. I also should add that this is one of the few times I have seen Swedish strangers in public show emotion because they are normally very reserved. When you looked around, you didn't see a single face that wasn't scared, angry, sad, worried, or suspicious.

I eventually found somewhere I could stay, Viggbyholm with my Rotary counselor and his wife. We sat by the T.V. and watched as the news rolled in and this was when I started to get a lot of the facts. A man had stolen a beer delivery truck and drove it through one of the busiest streets for foot traffic in Stockholm. To explain, on a normal Friday this street is a shoulder to shoulder walking area. On top of this, this Friday was before a holiday break as people are getting off of work, so I imagine it was even busier. After running many people over he crashed the truck into a store and the truck caught fire. The police were quick to respond to such a threat and the special S.W.A.T. like police units were also called in to assist in the hunt for the attacker. (I guess I should add here, this is the first time I have ever seen Swedish police with guns let alone riffles.) Anyone who looked suspicious was handcuffed and sent to be questioned. They also expanded the no subway order to no public transport in the middle of the city or even normal trains at the central station. For a couple hours no new information came so the news did what it does best repeating the same information. To pass the time we had coffee, snacks, and I beat the snot out of my counselor at chess.

While we did that I couldn't help but think what if I hadn't done some of those things earlier that delayed me on my way home. I was probably around 10 minutes or less from where this happened when it did.  I could have been there when this happened stuck in the middle of all the commotion, or even have been on that street if I had decided to buy my new razor there instead. Luckily I had made those decisions however and was safe and sound.

Around 5:30 I believe there was a press conference. This was when I had a big realization of how strange this was for Sweden because the conference by American Standards was very unprofessional and unorganized because they never have to do this. Unlike us in the States where these sort conferences happen often. Finally, they were able to get their equipment working and photos were presented of a suspect the police were looking for. I also noted how the political parties and prominent member of society were not quick to jump to conclusions on who might have orchestrated the attacks. This is sadly a stark contrast to the U.S. where many people would be quick to just to conclusions. Another thing also bugged me about the conference, because it didn't make sense to me, they had stated they had intelligence that an attack would happen or be attempted. For me, this doesn't make sense because how could this attack be premeditated if he stole the truck? How would he know it would be there today, at this time, and be available to be stolen?

To continue with my night, the public transport was still shut down at around dinner time so it was decided I would have dinner with my counselor and his wife. We decided to order some pizza and they told us it would be around 15 minutes. When we got there it was swamped with people and they told us it would be another 10 minutes until ours were done (seemed everyone had the same idea as us). While we waited it was kind of really beautiful because strangers were talking to each other (this never happens in Sweden) and asking how the other person was doing and were also trying to make each other smile. We eventually got our pizzas and headed home. We had a nice dinner and when the subways were opened back up I got a ride to the subway. When I got to my station I waited for my host mom to pick my host brother and I up. (He had been stuck in town because he works in the center.)

While I waited, I started to think about small details and then I realized something. People weren't discriminating or scared of people who were different from them. Everyone was colorblind so to say and saw everyone as what they were, other people, scared,  just like them. And I think that is really beautiful, that something as horrible as this couldn't divide this city.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Isaberg Ski Trip (Feb. 3-5)

Isaberg is a small skiing area in the south of Sweden near Anderstorp (where we had the crayfish party). The event was organized/ coordinated, also by the same woman, Kicki Falk. Everyone was extremely excited to come to the event not only for the skiing, but also because we love going to see Kicki and her family. This is because they always treat us so well and are very fun. Enough with the intro and into the story.

On Friday morning I was packed and ready to go. I would be taking Swedbus from Stockholm to Jönköping. I had to take two bags because I was bringing my own skis and boots, so I required more luggage. Luckily for me, my host parents also had to go to town, so I didn't have to take public transport with my bags to T-Centralen. I was the first to arrive out of the group (Alicia, Amy, Jade, and me), so while I waited, I was able to get my school-issued camera out and snap some pics. 
It, however, didn't take long for the others arrived. This was good because it gave us time to run through the itinerary for the day and such. The plan consisted of this.

  1. Go from Stockholm to Jönköping.
  2. Once there meet up with the others going via Jönköping.
  3. We then all take a bus together from Jönnköping to another stop near Anderstorp.
  4. Then switch buses at that stop to another bus that we would be one for around 10 minutes. 

Once in Anderstorp we walked to the house (because we knew where it was this time) unloaded our bags in the house we were sleeping in and started with all the greeting of new friends and old ones. This was all abandoned, however, after the first person yelled pizzas here. (It was then every man, woman, and child for himself then). After everyone had had their fill on pizza, we all retreated back to the house where we waited for the late arrivals to arrive. As the night drug on the others seemed to have no plans of stopping, but a group of us (including me) decided it wasn't a good idea to party all night before a day full of skiing. This started a search to find a quiet place that we could all sleep at. We eventually found one and fell sound asleep until breakfast in the morning.

In the morning we had some typical Swedish breakfast (bread, cheese, butter, etc.) We then dressed and were bused by car to Isaberg. One we were there the first thought that crossed our mind was (pardon my French) "Oh shit is that trip travel group buses." It was there was around 3-5 travel group buses which meant a couple of things. First, all the people who didn't have skis (luckily not me) had to wait over two hours to get a rental plus another half hour for a ski pass. This wouldn't have been a problem for me until I realized that all my friends didn't have skis or I couldn't find them. Eventually, though I found Laura and Sara and was ready to hit the slopes until they told me they couldn't remember how to ski. That was okay with me, though, so I went and chilled for a little while. Then Mariana (from Brazil) showed up, and it was an adventure trying to get her down to even the lift. Eventually, we got her past her nerves, and she was doing really well for a beginner. All of us were really impressed, but you could see the steam coming out of her ears every time she would fall or run into us. Around lunch time her feet were "KILLING HER!" and she "COULDN'T FEEL THEM," (to be read in whiny three-year-old voice, love you Mariana <3) so Anton (Rotex who was helping me teach her) decided it was a good time to take a lunch break.
Lunch was really simple we had hamburgers, sausages, hot chocolate, and Marabou chocolate. It didn't matter however because it was what we wanted and needed. This was also the first time everyone had been gathered together. Other than eating food everyone was planning for the rest of day. (when they would go home, who to ski with, which slopes etc.) I decided I was going to hit some of the "bigger slopes." (Weren't very big or good compared to where I had been skiing with my host family.{I'm a spoiled child and I know it})
I spent the next couple hours skiing down the harder slopes (big hills) with Clémentine (France/ Canada {it's confusing}), Kevin (Mexico), among others. I did eventually have a slight crash on the "Black" slope while trying to avoid another skier (like I said before it was packed there).
From Left: Clémentine, Kevin, Me
After messing around for a with the others on the slopes I decided to go check on the Mariana who I had been helping earlier to see how she was doing. Much to my surprise and many of the others, she was doing really well. At this point though you could see that she was getting tired, so I got to see her go down the slopes a couple of times before she called it quits.

The rest of the trip was pretty unevenful all I did was ski, eat, sleep, and go back to Stockhholm so I will leave the blog at this.


Semla is a popular dessert in the Nordic and Baltic countries. In Sweden it so popular that it has it's own national holiday that fell on the 28 of February this year. However, the craze for this pastry doesn't just happen on the day. The craving for it normally starts after Christmas (and according to my host father starts earlier each year). There is also an unspoken competition to see who can come up wth the most unique way of preparing it each year. I preferred to eat the semla wrap pictured below because it was less sweet and had more flavor I thought. The traditional one is pictured below on the bag. To eat it you normally warm milk then put the Semla in a bowl and pour the warm milk on it. I thought the tradition Semla was good but too sweet for my taste. P.S. Credits to my host father taking the picture of me below (yes I know I look high) 
Me eating the Semla Wrap

Close up of the Wrap

What a traditional one looks like

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sweden Some Dec. / Christmas Traditions. (#6-10)

6. Children's Program

Julkalendrar is a children's program that is produced every year. It normally is centered around some kids saving Christmas, but it's a new show every year, so the plot is changed every year. There is also an advent calendar that goes with it with each day giving a hint about that day's episode (mentioned in the last post). 

Interesting fact one of the actors for this show came to my Rotary Club's Christmas meeting and sang for us. The songs were messed up joke versions of Christmas songs. Even though it was in Swedish and my understanding was very limited it was still very funny and interesting for me.

7. Kalle Anka (Donald Duck)

Now to talk about the crazy tradition that is Kalle. So one Christmas eve at 3 p.m. Kalle comes on t.v. and you better be there. It was a big deal back in the days for the kids because you didn't get to see cartoons very often. I thought it was strange however that they call it Kalle, but it has all sorts of different cartoons. The only reason I can think of is that originally they only had Kalle (or Donald).

8. Christmas Poems

Swedish people like their poems, so of course, they make it into Jul. I didn't experience this personally, but apparently it traditional to have short little poems or rhymes to hit at what's inside of your Christmas's present.

9.Christmas Eve

This point will be short Swedish people do all their celebrations on the Christmas Eve instead of Christmas day that's it.  

10. New Years

New Year's is quite similar to the celebrations here in the U.S. The only things that are different are that you obviously don't watch the ball in New York and the stereotypical dinner is Lobster.

These are the ten major difference and traditions I could think of if you have any specific questions shoot them below and I'll try to answer them.

Sweden Some Dec. / Christmas Traditions. (#1-5)


Swedish people really like their Advent calendars and Advent. There are many different types of calendars. You have the normal ones that have candies or goodies in them, but you also have other types. For example, one that gives a short little rhyme or poem about the holidays, or another that gives hints about the children's special (talked about later). Advent also refers to the four Sundays before Christmas that are supposed to spend with friends and family. On each Sunday you also light one candle for each Sunday that has passed.

2. Lucia/ Lucia Bullar

This tradition is actually quite strange for a couple of reason. Lucia is a Catholic Saint and Sweden was majority Protestant before they became majority atheist. Also, the actual Lucia comes from Italy from the Roman times. Though all of this Sweden and the other Nordic countries do celebrate her quite heavily. Normally when kids are young, they all are part of the Lucia concert, and of course, all the little girls are Lucia. However, as they get older, it becomes a little bit, for lack of a better word, dignified. There will then only be one Lucia, and the Lucia Girls (her helpers) and the men can't be left out, so they become they star boys. (Dubbed the KKK of Sweden by my host father and I see picture below for why.) Obviously, there can be no tradition without special food, so for the holiday season, and especially Lucia Dagen people make and serve Lucia Bullar (see below). I would give them a 6.5 out of 10 on my food scale. P.S. my school concert will also be below filmed by yours truly.
Lucia Bullar

Star boys

3. Special Drinks Julmust/ Glögg

During this season different special holiday drinks out. One of which I fell in love with Julmust, it is a Christmas flavored and is sooooooo good. It comes out only for Dec., but I have heard it comes back under a different name during Easter. Swedes also drink a lot of glögg during Christmas season. Glögg is spiced/mulled wine, and it is also amazing. It is normal severed in little cups, and you mix almonds in with it. NOW STOP! Before I get a bunch of comments about how I'm not supposed to drink with rotary blah blah blah, this is part of the culture soooooo SHUT IT! Good now that that's out of the way I had two types of Glögg. A low alcohol one (multiple time) and I "high" one (once). And yes I preferred the higher one, but not for the reason that you would think. The low one was really really sweet, and that's normally not my cup of tea. I think this also consequentially made it have a better taste. 

4. Gävle Goat/ Goats in General

In Gävle there is a giant goat made of straw, this wouldn't be a big deal or anything eventful other than in 1966 a vandalizer burnt down the goat. Now there a tradition of cat and mouse in the town where the city to try to stop people from burning it down.  It turned into quite an event with people almost always getting arrested, security cameras, and some crazy stories. For example one year someone used a flamethrower for to get the cities goat. ;) Get it? Okay not funny, but this is a serious thing now with almost all betting sights having a bet on when the goat will be burnt down. Since 1966, I think my host parents said the goat only last the whole season twice. Now for the less hot part of this point. ;) Goats are associated with Tomten (Santa Claus) in the same way reindeer are with Santa.

5. Julboard

There is special food for Christmas here in Sweden called Julboard, but I didn't get to experience it because in my host father's and mother's words, "It's all nasty.... well most of it." And also my host aunt and uncle were in Åre with us so we couldn't have pork because they are Muslim. This was okay with me though because I loved their and my host families company and that's was worth more to me than and traditional food. 

Kosta Boda Glassworks and Hotel (Nov. 20-21)

Believe it or not, Sweden is known for their high-quality glass. It is highly sought after and is of exceptional craftsmanship. Most of these glassworks have been open for 100+ years and have been passed from one generation to the next (this was founded in 1792 so older than our country). Kosta Boda is the favorite location of a many of the leaders in glass art, so there is a hotel that is affiliated with these artists. This is where we got to stay at for the trip we went. The hotel is one giant art museum that you sleep, live, and eat in. The hotel is very plush for this and the art factor the hotel is very expensive. Sadly for some reason, I didn't take photos of the art displays, so I will steal the photos from their website. If you want more you can always look photos up on google here.

Anyways on with why we were here in the first place. This was supposed to be a goodbye to our oldies, but because of the price tag, only two of the oldies could afford to come. There isn't a whole lot to say about the trip. We basically ate food, ate food, oh yah and ate food. But in all seriousness the trip was barely two days, so we didn't do a whole lot. We mostly talk, ate, did some swimming in cold water outside (keep in mind it was almost Dec.), went exploring, and watched glass be made. Was the trip very fun? Yes! Was it worth the steep price tag depend on who you ask :)

I forgot to mention that Kosta Boda has made several of the Eurovision Sound Tour trophies. (Blog Post Eventually Maybe?????)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Thursdays here in Sweden have a somewhat special ritual for me and my counselor. On Thursdays, if the weather and my schedule permits, I go to my councilors house to have fika with him, his wife, and his wife’s grandchildren. Most times we just eat and work to improve my Swedish. However, it is more than that it allows me to have contact face to face with my counselor once a week. Which to people not on exchange doesn’t sound important, but it is very important. While on exchange, your counselor is there to give you advice, help you with the culture, be there to vent to, and help you with you conflicted emotions. I don’t know what I would do without my counselor. There have been too many times to count that he has helped me with homesickness, sort out what I was feeling, and improve my mood tenfold. I guess what I’m trying to say is to the kids going on exchange, or already on exchange with Rotary spend the time with your counselor because building that relationship is the most rewarding thing you can. That is because no matter what your counselor has got your back and will always look out for you.