February 19, 2008

Here Comes the Sun!

Back in Canada I had never felt so sun-deprived as I did here in Sweden this winter. During the darkest of days the sun would rise at 9am and set at 2:30pm but that wasn't even the worst part. You can go on for days or weeks without seeing the sun because it's always cloudy or rainy during the daytime, and when the sun finally peeps through for a glorious moment one day, it's the most miraculous feeling. I didn't realize how much the lack of sunlight would affect me but it took a big toll on me, so much so that I really don't know if I can endure another winter this far up north.

It was quite a drab winter since this was the mildest winter they've had here in 250 years. Snow would have definitely helped to brighten up the sky, but all I saw was rain. Incidentally, the only days where the temperature dipped below -5C was last weekend, during which I found myself lining up for 1 hour to attend Lykke Li's concert, only to be rejected so close to the entrance because the venue had filled up. Frost-bitten toes did nothing to ease my disappointment :(

However, I'm in high spirits now that the worst is behind me. I've been so obsessed with daylight that I've been counting the amount of extra sunlight we're gaining every week (almost 30 min!), and apparently most people here do so as well. In the city centre there's an area with rows upon rows of benches installed all facing one direction but I was quite confused when I couldn't find a stage. I just learned last week that these benches are facing the direction of the sun - in the spring and summer people just sit on the benches, close their eyes and just let the sun shine on their faces.

I'm just absolutely ecstatic for 20 hour daylight in the summer... but by then I'll probably be complaining about how much I miss dark nights!

Posted by mich at 9:29 AM | dreams [0]

February 9, 2008

Happy Year of the Rat!

Gong hei fat choi! ^__^ For New Year's Eve my Chinese friend and I prepared a small dinner for a few friends and it turned out quite well! On the menu we had cucumber salad, borscht soup, Peking duck, homemade dumplings, tea leaf eggs, and soy sauce chicken - I was quite impressed by what we pulled off! I took a bunch of pictures so I can show my parents... they won't believe it otherwise, haha.

This evening I was invited out to a new year dinner at a Chinese restaurant with a Chinese group I had just met. It was a bit weird for me though because they were mostly speaking Mandarin and Swedish so I couldn't understand anything unless they spoke to me in English o_O I was so fascinated though by how they just switched back and forth between Chinese and fluent Swedish, it was pretty cool. The dinner was my first taste of European Chinese food (something I had been really reluctant to try) but it wasn't too bad. The cuisine was more northern-China style so it was quite heavy and saucy, which I'm not used to.

So it's finally February, thank goodness. It felt like January would never end with all my endless nights slaving away in front of my computer. It was such a brutal month for me and I swear I almost turned into a zombie with the little sleep I had. But I did manage to squeeze in a few fun activities to keep my spirits up.

Dinner at Koh Phangan
For a friend's birthday we went to to a really great Thai restaurant called Koh Phangan. Right when you walk inside it feels like you entered a tropical paradise of beach huts, bridged walkways, waterfalls and caves. It even had a "rainstorm" in the middle of dinner. The food actually wasn't too bad. I just ordered a simple vegetarian plate of pad thai, but at $25 that was the most expensive pad thai I've ever had!

Colombian Night
My Colombian roommate gathered her Colombian posse over to our place one evening and cooked us a dinner of arepas, chorizos, and beans. Very yummy indeed. They continued the festivities into our living room by cranking up some Latin music and taught the non-Colombians some salsa dancing. That was great fun, but I was stepping all over people's toes :P

I attended my first symphony concert here watching the Stockholm Philharmonic one afternoon. It was so nice and I got all nostalgic for my symphony-going days with Christina back in Toronto. The repertoire they played that day was a modern set - very punchy, playful and oddly rhythmed, which is something I wasn't used to hearing but I thought it was so fantastic.

Hawaiian Pub Night
Every last Friday of the month my office holds a pub night. This time it was a Hawaiian theme to bring some sunshine to our dark and dreary Scandinavian winter. Some people acted as bartenders all decked out in Hawaiian shirts and mixed colourful fruity drinks complete with umbrellas and pineapples. The Hawaiian island music and leis were the perfect finishing touches... totally made me want to go to Hawaii!

Riga Cruise
Last weekend a group of us took a cruise to Riga, the capital of Latvia. It was an overnight boat trip and everyone was prepared to party and take advantage of the duty free alcohol prices, but our tiny boat was hit by a storm by 9pm. With the extreme rocking and shaking, most of us ended up with pretty bad motion sickness, including yours truly. We finally made it through the night though and spent the next day exploring the city. Riga is pretty small so we were able to see most of the main sites within the day. It still seemed pretty European though... I was expecting more of a Soviet feel. We boarded the ship again that evening and for the ride back we armed ourselves with motion sickness pills. The storm on the second night was actually even worse than the previous but luckily we were already lying down in bed by that time. What an experience... I'll stick with bigger boats next time to Finland and Estonia thank you very much!

Posted by mich at 10:42 PM | dreams [62]