Välkommen till Ashleys liv!

Monday, September 18, 2006

NEW AND IMPROVED BLOG!

That's right, I have a BETTER blog now flush with pictures and updates. Help yourself:

http://web.mac.com/ashley.elmblad/iWeb/Site/Welcome.html

Friday, September 15, 2006

Salty Licorice, Songbooks, and a Night in a Saab

It was 3:45 pm and not only was I early to my 4:00 class by half an hour (that's right, 4 really means 4:15 at Uppsala), but I was fully equipped with my new filosofi student swipe card in my right hand and a battered bag of salty licorice in my right. It was not my first day of class, but for some reason I was feeling particularly eager to listen to my prof "Franz" talk about Aristotle, or maybe I just needed something to do. Either way, I was ready for life...or class I guess.

Now you can imagine the purpose of the swipe card; unless you use the main entrance to the Harry Potter-style maze that constitutes the building cluster where my classes are, then you must have a swipe card and an ID number. So I prance up to the card swiper contraption (think about the entrance to the room Tom Cruise hung upside down in in Mission Impossible) and oh-so-coolly swipe and punch my number. Nothing. Again, oh-so-coolly. Nothing. This continued for longer than it should have, I guess my ego is a little to big to admit defeat to 12 buttons and a piece of plastic. Anyway, my confident approach to the Mission Impossible keypad turned into a hunched-over, abashed, swaggering departure in the direction of the main entrance. I still have to get that thing fixed. Nonetheless, I arrived at my class 20 minutes early.

On the other hand, the function of the salty licorice probably needs some explanation. Let me first make a correction: what is conceptualized as "swedish fish" in the States (red, gummy, tasty, pleasant, mild candies) is actually just training wheels for the real thing. REAL swedish fish is a large chunk of spicy black licorice COATED with salt. My first piece was similar to what I imagine tear gas is like (the unfortunate ones who experienced the riots last Halloween can verify this assertion): my tongue felt on fire with salt-pain, it felt like someone took a liter of shaken-up club soda and released their thumb right at the base of my nasal cavities, and I my eyes swelled up with cloudy tears. That's right, I cried.

Now I must include that this escapade transpired on a train back from Stockholm in the presence of Bergin, Jen, and David (the epitome of a beautiful Swedish man....sigh). The train, Bergin, and Jen have seen me in vulnerable or embarrassing states before, so no big deal. It seemed somewhat unfair though that David was witnessing my oozy, coughy, peculiar near-death experience. To top it off, just before I injected that tear-gas-tablet into my mouth, David had graciously popped one into his beautiful smiling mouth a said with an endearing accent "Ew, these are my favorite." I am still recovering from the shame.

Ok, so that whole story was a bit exaggerated, you get the gist. So back to the function of carrying salty licorice around with me: I came to Sweden to experience life from that of a swede, not a visitor. If the swedes eat tear-gas tablets, so will I. If the swedes refrain from studying in coffee shops, so will I (sad day). If the swedes eat Rudolph (oops, RAINDEER...Freudian slip), so will I. If the swedes wear Olivia-Newton-John-in-the-finale-of-Grease style jeans regardless of gender AND cut their hair into either a mullet or a Euro-hawk regardless of gender, so will...er...well I have to draw the line somewhere.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Never expected to see this...

On Saturday a few of us were planning on going to explore Gamla Uppsala (old town Uppsala, just north of Uppsala) but decided to stay when were heard that there was a ceremony open to the public at the cathedral here (the tallest cathedral in Scandnivia). Turns out it was the coronation ceremony for the arch bishop of Sweden - the last ceremony of this caliber was in 1971. There are bishops from all over the world there; all over Europe and a few places in Africa, all of course dressed up like the Pope. Also, the King and Queen were there, which is big news. Apparently they are rarely seen, yet they walked less than 5 feet away from me (I was sitting in an asle seat)! Now that is something you don't see everyday.

I have tons of pictures that I intend to upload - my computer recently crashed and so it may take a while.

Classes (or just 'class' rather) starts today. Should be interesting...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I've Gone Greek!

Well, not really but sort of. It is required of every Uppsala student to join a nation (a student society representing a region of Sweden). There are 13 nations all of which have their own building, pubs, clubs, cafes, libraries, sports teams, chiors, drama clubs, etc, etc, etc. From what I can tell, the bulk of the social life revolves around the going's-on with the nations; from what I've experienced, the nations are pretty a darn good time.

I decided to join Värmlands Nation, founded in 1660, which is just on the other side of the tallest cathedral in Sweden. The building is old but very cool on the inside. On Monday there is a welcoming dinner/dance/party which should be interesting and in mid-September there is the Reccegask - a prom-like event flush with a 3-course meal, formal attire, and who knows what else.

Asside from signing up at Värmlands, I have been running around like crazy trying to find a used bike (no such thing exists in Uppsala anymore, I am convinced of that), getting a cell phone (for those who are interested, it's 46.76.233.8687 - from within Sweden it's 076.233.8687), paying the rent, getting a bank account, hunting down the hidden philosophy department, making sure the international office knows I'm here, and a gazillion other things that I have yet to do. It makes it much more difficult since I live so far away from campus. Although I love the walk (see pictures), it gets a little tiring after a while.

Once I finally found the philosophy department to check in with my advisor here, I found out that the english-taught philosohpy courses that I signed up for are actually taught in Swedish. The department rarely encounters international students and so doesn't usually stick to the "taught in english" post on the register. However, there are apparently two other international students wanting the courses I'm taking (Aussies...they are everywhere, the only other group that overpopulates them are Germans, well second to Swedes of course) so they are going to teach the courses in english. Now you can imagine how aweful I feel: "Hi! I'm an American and, unlike your entire country and most of Europe, Asia, and the WORLD, I only speak english. I would like to take your class, but see it is taught in Swedish...[sigh]. Could you please accommodate for my arrogance?" Of course they answer with a very enthusiastic yes. It's amazing that as a Swedish student the language of your class can change without effecting you the least bit...something needs to change back home. District 51 hear my plea! (On the other hand, they were advertised as being taught in english so I can't feel too bad - and the texts are english, thankgoodness)

Yesterday Bergin, Jen, and I (all CU exchange students) went to Stockholm just to explore. We were pretty late getting a move-on, so we ended up at our destination museum (the Vasa Museet where they have a sunken viking ship on display) about 5 minutes before closing. So we dwadled around, grabbed some tasty beer whose name I cannot remember, and basically let Stockholm pass us by...very cool. We accidentially stumbled upon the changing of the guards in front of the Swedish Palace. While the pomp and cicumstance was very intriguing, I couldn't stop wondering if Prince Carl was right inside...

Well I am off now to a corridor meeting - the 12 of us need to discuss the approximately 3 of us who have horrible kitchen ettiquette...should be interesting.

...Just got back from the meeting. Lasted 20 mintues in all Swedish (I told them not to accommodate for me). The things I got from it were 1) someone at one time said "55" - I am getting pretty good at numbers, 2) Erika started assusing Martin of not cleaning up the kitchen who then started accusing Fredrik, and 3) we might all pitch in to have a TV in the common room. For being here for a week, I think my swedish is coming along quite nicely. My roommates are being incredibly patient and helpful!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

At 10:00 Everyone Screams

That's right. At 10:00 pm all the students go to their windows, blaconies, etc and scream. Apparently the tradition was started in the 90's to scream at 10 during finals to relieve frustration and the like. Well now it is a daily thing, and quite exhilerating.

Uppsala is great, a total college town which reminds me of Boulder in many ways. The size is similar, there are students (or at least college-aged people) everywhere, the town is incredibly well kept as far as cleanliness, the conditions of buildings, etc. Some of the main differences are that the buildings are very very old, most of the streets are cobblestone, there are not mountains (just hills), and just about everyone is blonde.

As far as my living situation goes, I have 11 roommates - 10 swedes and a dutch guy...lots of fun, but lots of sketchiness in the kitchen. So all 12 of us share a giant kitchen as well as a common room adjacent to a balcony (from which the 10:00 screaming is executed). We each have our own spacious room (about the size of the dorm rooms at CU, but just for me!) with a our own bathroom and hallway/closet. I love the space, but my room feels incredible empty. I am planning on splurging for some posters... My room is furnished entirely from IKEA, quite amuzing!

Speaking of IKEA, one of the greatest experiences was going to IKEA with my roommate Fredrik (see picture - he is wearing my hat, oh and the popped collar is joke, not a serious european fashion) and Fiete (German dude). Untill I made this trip I was using a mummy-bag liner for sheets, and shammy as a towel, and avoiding silverware at all costs. Fredrick works as IKEA so he showed Fiete and I the ropes, as translating our goofy questions into Swedish. PS. Fredrik makes his own bread...it is darn good!

School is supposed to start tomorrow, but when I went to talk to my advisor on friday he didn't really know what to do with me and so he made an appointment for Monday. Luckily there are 2 other Aussies who want to take philosophy C in english so I think they are going to changeg the course for us...it should be an interesting semester. I will keep you posted.

I am still getting settled in, but from what I can tell it is going to be an amazing year. The people are incredibly friendly and interesting, the area is breathtakingly picturesque, and the culture is rich. While I do not know much at this point, I do know that I am glad I will be here for a year.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Life at the Moulin Rouge

Ok so I am not actually performing at the moulin Rouge, but our appartment/hostel is just a few blocks away. We are staying in Montmartre, a district in Paris on one of the only hills, which just so happens to be where VanGough and Picasso used to kick it. It is one of the most picturesque places I have ever been... Also; our appartment is on the same street and a couple blocks up from the cafè where Amilie the lovie was filmed.

One of the greatest things about our adventure has been meeting the other travelers in our hostel. Right now we are rooming with two Dutch guys, one of whom is about 7 feet tall and has to sleep in the common room because he can't fit in the bunk bed and the other who is a mere 6'10". (I am quickly coming to believe that Dutch men are some of the tallest people in the world!) I must admit that upon meeting the super-tall Dutch guy i was a little ashamed - his knowledge of American music was unfathomable! As I was listening to him talk about American lusic I kept thinking to myself 1) "this is the first European I have met that is a true die-hard America fanatic" and 2) "this guy is more American than I am!" I was very impressed - asside from music he knew both the pledge of alliegence and the national anthem...

Yesterday Bergin and I essentially wondered around Paris, walking from theMontmartre to the Arc de Triumph to the Louvre and back. Today we are going to attempt to master the crowds within the Louvre and end the trip with a long and entertaining dinner with the tall Dutch guys...

Tomorrow we are off to Uppsala!

"Yeah, I think tomorrow we should try to stamp out the Paris-sites"
-Bergin accidentially complaining about bugs when trying to makes plans for the next day

Thursday, August 17, 2006

From Italia to Francè in 15 1/2 hours

I cannot decide what was the best place we visited in Italy - they all seemed to get better than the one before while at the same time seeming so incredible in their differences...

Florence: stereotypical Italy. Narrow streets, old yellow town houses with red flowers hanging out of the window, tons of mopeds, gelato...essentially it was amazing! I was able to see my favorite painting, the Birth of Venus by Botticelli (of course after waiting in line for 2 1/2 hours; see painting) but did not get to see David. Rather, I decided to go on a voyage to find this little castle I noticed from the top of the Duomo...quite the adventure. My navagational skills have been non-existent this trip, and seeing as I was by myself, i am entirely surprised that I actually found it. After about 3:30 hours of following a bunch of random uphill roads, I discovered that my destination was not open to the public. This came as no surprise as during the majority of my 5 hour trek I was the only tourist, or person even, that I saw AND I had actually left Florence and entered some other county or region (the houses were too sporadic to consider the area a town). Nonetheless the hike was amazing and I had some of the best views of Florence.
Left: Florence from the top of the Duomo...a really really big church






Left: This is a picture of Florence that I took on my crazy-long hike. You can see the Duomo (big dome/ catherdal thing) in the background. It was from the top of that that I saw the little castle I hiked to - and from which I took the previous picture.


Right: Ah Tuscany...this is a picture of the area I was walking through to try to reach the little caslte I saw. Tons of olive trees and vinyards


After Florence we went to Cinqe Terre (literally "Five Terraces") in northern Italy on the Medeterraen Sea. For a long time the towns were entirely sedcluded - a train system was recently built to access the towns. Think steep STEEP cliffs with houses built onto them...four, five, six storey houses that shift backward a bit at each storey as to keep inline with the slope of the mountain. We ran into a lot of travelers there and had quite a fun time. There were about 10 of us that went on a hike together starting in the first village and ending in the fifth...a nice "stroll" that lasted about 5 hours and had us climbing staricases that spanned the entire height of some cliffs. But you know what they say: beauty is pain.
This is me with Cornigilia (one of the five towns in Cinqe Terre) in the background.













Right: Picture of Manarola, another one of the five towns














A picture of Vernazza - my favorite of the five towns in Cinqe Terre



FRANCè

So Bergin and i finally arrived in Montferrier (just north of Montpellier) last night. Woke up at 4:30 and spent the whole day either on a train or missing a train. As of now, I like the train system in Italy better...darn Nice train station!

Here's the update: Bergin fell asleep on the beach in Cinqe Terre so he is burnt. I haven't done laundry for too long so I smell bad.

We are staying with a good friend of my dad's, Pat, from back in Minnesota when he was just a little kiddo kicking around. Hannalor (Pat's wife) and Eva, Erik, and Thomas (their kids, but more like adults...all in early 20's) are amazing! The accommodation is incredible: hot french bread in the morning, dinner on the table when we arrived last night, an extremely comfortable bed, and one of the most relaxed, open, chill-ed out atmospheres you can imagine. It's pretty incredible. Tonight we went to an incredible french restaurant in a 500 year old building (very tasty, fancy, french, delicious) called "Le Pet au Diable" - literally "The Devil's Fart"...it used to be a blacksmith's shop. Apparently, when the blacksmith would fan the fires with bellows, the flames would become frightfully large - large enough to be called a devils fart. The restaurant is over 100 years old and the name stuck. See www.le-pet-au-diable.com

Today? Went to check out Montpellier
Tomorrow? Going to check out a house that the Shea's have estimated to be a couple of centuries old

Ah, life is good...

NOTE: French key boards are all kinds of switched around ('a' is where 'w' should be, which is where 'z' is, you have to shift to type any number or to type a period, and you have to push about 13 buttons to make the @ symbol, plus tons more...). This should be taken into consideration by anyone looking to write an email on a french keyboard.