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Guys. I kinda can’t believe it. I’ve been in Sweden for A WEEK! I have been without a single familiar face for A WEEK! I haven’t had sushi go-round from down the street from my apartment for A WEEK! And you know what? I’m doin pretty damn good! Frankly, I’m surprising the hell out of myself.
Here are some things I’ve observed in the past week:
A few highlights from the past few days include taking a three hour walk in beautiful Djurgården Park with a new Swedish friend I was introduced to that so happens to be an encyclopedia for Scandinavian knowledge, exploring a new city, and experiencing a high speed train.
Here are some picture highlights!
Impromptu parade of sorts.
My trip to IKEA was a success. The potatoes are whole instead of mashed and the hot dogs are way skinnier. The free bus was amazing. I teared up while looking at couches because I saw our couch and missed Kiel and Bella.
Views from a ride “home”.
Got warm enough to take ma pants off.
Cruising around Uppsala.
Swedish uniformity comes in handy in flash mob situations.
My airbnb hosts win awards for their home brew!
“More falafel less racism”
Very old library.
Unreal danish filled with vanilla custard and blueberries.
I’m currently waiting on Hannah, who will be here in the next two hours! It has been very important for me to spend some time solo, but I’m really looking forward to exploring some more with a best bud by my side!
Peace, love, and patchouli –
I am writing from the living room of my second airbnb. From the couch eight floors up I can see all of Stockholm. The photos you will see were all taken yesterday (Sept 8). I managed to accidentally sneak on a boat trip through the archipelago and to the royal castle– another royal castle different from the other one. The royals actually live at this one. It’s confusing. Yesterday I rode a bike my host lent me all day. It is a really great way to see the city– you miss too much when you’re underground in the subway! I am not meant to go long without riding a bike. While it doesn’t quite compare to the Netherlands and certainly not to Copenhagen, Stockholm has amazing bike infrastructure! Lots and lots of buffered bike lanes and lots ans lots of completely separated bike lanes.
I met two women on the boat. They were about my age and were from Utah and Seattle. They have been traveling like crazy and told me that they average 12 miles a day walking! It was nice to see someone from the Pacific Northwest. We both agreed that Swedes talk about the weather even more than pacific northwesterners– and that’s saying a lot. Speaking of weather, it’s cold! Coming from 95 degrees to 65 degrees has been a bit of a shock. It feels like very crisp fall weather though, and I love fall!
My host calls me “the archeologist” because I’m so interested in humans and the way they live. I’m pretty sure that’s not the completely correct term for what I am, but I dig it. I saw an American movie last night just to observe the differences in American versus Swedish humor. While I don’t have enough data to be conclusive, I observed that Swedes laugh pretty hard at humor dealing with sex and at mild slap stick humor. The pop culture references in this movie — there were many — were completely lost. Crickets. Very interesting. I now also know a number of Swedish cuss words from watching the subtitles.
Today I am taking a free bus to IKEA to see what a Swedish Ikea is like. This may sound really lame to most of you, but you just don’t understand my love for IKEA. I hope they still have ice cream. I will really miss my IKEA partner, Kiel. This bus takes people to and from one of the two IKEAs every hour on the hour from the city center from 10am to 7pm. Pretty serious stuff!
Tomorrow I’m going to the town of Uppsala to visit the country’s oldest university — Uppsala University. I’ll be there until Satuday morning. Maybe I’ll find some college kids and pretend I’m not almost 30!
My new American friends took a picture of me in front of the castle!
This is inappropriate.
You go girl!
These geese are not Canadian.
This sign is for real. What do you think is going on behind that door?!
Peace, love, and patchouli
So it’s been four days since I arrived in Stockholm. This is the first day that I have not been running around like a wild woman trying to squeeze every dime out of my Stockholm card. I’ve gone to more museums than I have in perhaps my entire life. Who knew I was so cultured?
I successfully followed the travel advice of the king of travel himself– Rick Steves. I successfully knocked myself out on the plane with some cold hard ZQuil. By knocked myself out I mean I slept for 4 hours. Then I woke up and watched “Wild” and shared some wine with my seat mate. When I got to Stockholm. I refused to let myself sleep until a reasonable hour. Then, after 12 solid hours of sleep, I think I totally whipped jet lag. Thank god– my jet lag was so bad when I traveled to the Netherlands that I honestly don’t even remember the first two days of that trip. I do remember Kiel and I staring at the ceiling all night long. I also remember how wrecked I was when I realized Netflix, my insomnia medicine, didn’t work in other countries.
Day 1: I look very Swedish
“You looked so Swedish! That’s why I speak Swedish to you!” I heard this roughly four times just on my first day here. When I walk up to a counter somewhere I’m instantly smacked with super fast and overwhelmingly complicated Swedish. I usually stare for a moment in awe before declaring myself as a dumbfounded English speaker. Then, the individual continues the conversation in the most beautiful and impeccable English possible. What that feels like I may never know.
The first place I ventured to was Gamla Stan also known as old town. This was the moment I realized where I was. It was an emotional moment. I am an emotional being. It looked exactly like all of the photos from every travel book and site I have seen. Cobblestone streets, very few cars, and very very old.
Next I went to the royal palace to purchase my Stockholm card — a card that entitled me to admission to many museums and all transportation for three days. On my ways spotted my first condiment udder pictured above. I haven’t seen one in action yet. I am very intrigued. The royal palace was my first museum stop. Royalty is so strange. Do you see that chic purse that Swedish Princess Lillian made herself? I’m currently looking into ordering a Kate/Bella bag. I took a picture of that bishop suit because I felt like it looked like a wiener wearing a bishop suit and that thought made me laugh out loud. By myself. In a royal palace.
I went to another museum attached to the palace. I won’t even name it. It was really boring. I took this picture of a pile of wood. It was a dark and scary museum.
This crazy airbag helmet is everywhere here.
Views while walking along the water in Södermalm. Södermalm is a lot like Portland. I’m currently sitting in a cafe that might as well be Stumptown — complete with waxed mustaches.
Kiel, who comments on my toilet paper usage on the daily, will be pleased to find that most Swedish bathrooms only give you two squares at a time. Sweden’s got your back, KJ.
I took this photo after falling asleep sitting up during a video installation at Fotografiska — a really fantastic photography museum. I call this photo “Jetlagged tourist trying to take selfie while being stared at by disapproving Swede.”
Day 2: A sinking boat, craft beer, and Swedish people invite me to a picnic
The Vasa Museum is pretty impressive. They built an entire museum AROUND a ship that sunk within 20 minutes of sailing to battle. WAMP waaaaaamp! Big fail. Lots of people died of disease in the building of the ship and more people died when it sank. But seriously, look at it! It was a really nice try.
Some jelly fish and views from a very beautiful beer garden. This was the hoppiest beer I could find. It wasn’t Portland beer, but nothing ever is… The Swedes pronounce IPA “eepa”.
Every Swede I’ve talked to has declared their people unfriendly. That being said, five natives invited me to join them at their cheese and shnaps filled picnic! Of course they each took turns remarking on how incredibly un-Swedish this was. I don’t think the folks here give themselves enough credit. They are welcoming when they put their mind to it. We can all consider ourselves closed off sometimes. It’s not too common in the U.S. to invite some rando to picnic with you. Unless you’re Kiel– he’s the friendliest person I’ve ever known and would invite a cold-blooded murderer to lunch with us any time.
These lovely folks stuffed me to the gills with wine, cheese, bread, and meat. We later traveled to a bar together where I had my first experience with Stockholm bouncers. As it turns out, these bouncers can tell you to scram with or without reason. Wrong shoes? SCRAM! Sloppy shirt? SCRAM! Might have had an alcoholic drink in the past 24 hours? LATER! We didn’t get into the bar because one of the men’s eyes looked too sleepy. Dang.
Above you can see pictures from my walk that led me to my Swedish friends as well as my first crawfish experience. Not sold on it. I had heard that folks I’m Sweden like to jump in the water at random. I now have proof.
Day 3: It’s cold and raining and I have a pity party for myself.
Nobody said traveling by myself would be easy. It’s not. You have a lot of time to think and you kind of get sick of yourself. Today I spoke to the Red Cross guy on the street for 30 minutes to escape my own boringness. Yesterday I felt like I did when I was 7 and my mom sent me to camp. I wrote her a letter s day begging her to come pick me up immediately. She got the letters the day she actually had to come get me anyway. Bummer.
It pissed rain and everything closes early on Sunday. So I went back to my airbnb and had myself a good old fashioned pity party. When I woke up this morning I realized that this is in fact the point of me going at this alone. I need to learn to not freak out so much. If you relax, take a deep breath, and vow to change your ‘tude, you will survive! I have five more days until my friend Hannah arrives. Until then I bet I will visit the pity palace a few more times. But I will live. This I know.
This post has gotten ridiculously long. Thanks for sticking with me! If there are grammatical errors they will remain. I am off to travel to my next airbnb! It’s very close to a very nice part of the city and I’m excited to get there!
Peace, love, and patchouli –
This morning I spent 35 minutes trying to remember how to log on to WordPress to write on my blog. As it turns out, I have four Gmail accounts — and had forgotten how to log onto three of them. This, my friends, is the story of my life — and likely many of yours. Kiel repeatedly tells me to find a system for keeping my usernames and passwords but where’s the fun in that? That 35 minutes was probably the hardest my brain has worked in months. You’re welcome, brain.
As the above anecedote implies, it’s been quite some time since I utilized this space to fill you in on the epic drama/comedy that is my life. So much has happened since 2012 — each event more riveting and unique than the last. My hair grew about six inches, I got new glasses like three times, and I’ve continued my efforts to convince the general public that hummus is indeed rotten chickpea flavored sand putty. I’m sorry to have deprived you all for so long. But, fear not, friends, I am back and finally have something worth writing about: I’ve lost my mind, quit my job, and am venturing off to Scandinavia to find myself. Aren’t you glad you’ve tuned back in?!
OH! And I got a dog! Her name is Bella and if you follow me on social media you are likely SO over her.
How I Lost my Mind
In special education there’s a little thing called burn-out. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? When I started my career as a special educator seven years ago, I thought I was SO above burn-out. When I got to Portland and started my job in a self-contained classroom for students with severe emotional and behavioral needs I thought “yep, I’m going to work here in this classroom until the day I retire. No biggie.” I was pretty clueless. That job was and probably/hopefully always will be THE hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m sort of thinking that childbirth might be harder — but then again, maybe not. I’ll report back if and when appropriate.
Since I respect each and every little soul that I taught in the last five years, I will keep all details of my day to day classroom life to myself. What I will say is that, for the past year, it has taken everything in me just to get out of bed and into that classroom to do my job. Everything just felt so hard. My students’ needs seemed larger than life. I felt inadequate to say the least. It was a real struggle. By the holiday break I was dealing with some pretty major depression and anxiety — so I decided to take a vacation to Mexico.
I missed one student contact day during that week in February. What I returned to was a slight display of overreaction and judgement. It was made clear that a select few did not feel that I was deserving of a vacation. This was, as they say, the straw that broke the camels back. After spring break I gave my resignation and finished up the year. I’m thankful for the staff that got me through the last months and understood what I was going through. I couldn’t have done it without them.
I have so many fond memories from my five years of teaching since moving to Portland. I learned a lot about human beings and their needs. I think that I am a more understanding and compassionate person because of my experiences in that classroom.
I quit my job… and I don’t have another one
So, I quit my job and almost immediately everyone started asking me the same exact question “what are you looking to do next? ” It’s kind of like how when people get married they start asking when you’re going to start trying to have a baby somewhere between the cocktail hour and the cake cutting. RELAX, PEOPLE!
It’s like this: I spent the last year basically in agony. I need to c-h-i-l-l OUT. What will I do next? Heck, I don’t know… join the circus? I’m totally kidding — the circus scares the tar out of me. What I do know is that I need to take some time to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I don’t know if I’ll ever teach again. It would take three thousand more posts for me to articulate how I feel about our current educational system here in the US of A. I’ll spare you.
When all else fails, go to Sweden
When you’ve quit your job and have no idea when you’ll get your next pay check I believe one should venture to one of the most expensive countries in the world. When I quit my job in March I was surprised by how many people told me that I needed to go travel. Truth be told, I have always been the type of person to poo poo that sort of thing. But, as I sat in a cafe with my friend Mo listening to her tell me about her big Asian adventure after she quit her teaching career, I could remember zoning out a bit and imagining myself getting lost in a foreign land. That night I booked a plane ticket to Sweden. Thanks, Mo!
I am traveling to Stockholm, Gotland, Uppsala, Copenhagen, and Helsinki throughout the month of September. Out of that month I will be completeley alone for ten days. This whole alone thing is a really important piece. You see, I’m not very good at being alone. I avoid it at all costs. I thought to myself “what kind of almost thirty year old can’t be alone for longer than one day without crying?” I’m choosing to be alone to show myself that I am a self-sufficient w-o-m-a-n. I don’t need nobody to read a stinkin’ map for me! I don’t need nobody to see me crying in an alleyway because I really don’t know how to read stinkin’ maps! Quoting my favorite saying from my earliest years “I get”.
The journey begins…
So here I am, one week from my arrival in Stockholm. Are you ready to follow alongside me as I struggle to read an pronounce words like “sockergris”? “Sockergris” literally translates to “suger pig” which is exactly what the locals will call me. I will likely eat a lot of meatballs and spend a lot of time going in the opposite direction I intented to because I always forget to flip my phone around when using Google Maps. Either way it’s going to be a hoot and a half and I want to document it!
Peace, love, and patchouli
There are lots of people out there that keep track of their lives on a blog because it holds them accountable for the promises they make in the public eye. Wanna eat better? Start a food blog where you incessantly track your every boring bite! Wanna lose a few? Start a fitness blog… because everyone wants to know exactly how far you ran and how many calories your Garmin told you that you burned! I wrote my last blog post thinking that if I told everyone that I was going to sent a bunch of mail out in the month of November it would surely happen. I’ve gotten as far as purchasing really weird stationary to send out and placing my last four stamps on four random envelopes. That’s it, folks. I CANNOT and WILL NOT be held accountable, as I really don’t care either way. I’m here to say that there will be no more promises on this here blog. I suck at sending mail. It’s my thing. If I should get around to sending out any one of those four stamped envelopes, there’s a good chance it will arrive in your mailbox with nothing in it. Seriously. I tried. My apologies to anyone who waited with bated breath for the arrival of my promised mail. You can go back inside now. It must have been cold out on the porch all this time.
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s talk about life since we last met. We had an election. How bout that!? I sat in the same seat for six straight hours at the Bagdad Theater watching white haired men touch magic computer screens and shuffle numbers until my eyes crossed. A few beers and roughly 503 cajun tater tots later and we had ourselves the same president as before!
I gave thanks for the past four days. This thanks giving came in the form of not leaving the house for three days, completing three puzzles in my abundant free time, watching “Lord of the Rings” in my pajamas, eating around the clock, playing pinball, brewing beer, and eating some more. Kiel and I spent our weekend on Vashon Island with his parents. Being trapped on an island turned out to be just what I needed after several long weeks of complete classroom chaos. I was so relaxed that I could have been hit by a car and my limp and lifeless couch potato body would have survived. Is that a weird way to explain it? I was just super relaxed. Ok?
Various Thanksgiving photos:
The Johnson men conquer beer. (Verne, Kiel, and Toby)
Kiel and I pose in front of a cage at the ferry. A moment to remember.
A festive photo of the rotting insides of a pumpkin taken by one of my little cherubs.
Things to be happy about:
– I leave for The Netherlands in 30 days! Got a question for ya… do you have the capitalize the “the” in “The Netherlands”?
– I have a brand new puzzle sittin’ next to me.
– I have weird new stationary.
– My students were super calm today.
Peace, love, and patchouli – Portland Pollyanna
Saturday afternoon – Kiel and I very unexpectedly joined in on an anti-austerity march. Kiel literally pulled me off of the train on the way to another destination because he was intrigued. It was very Portland. I carried a sign I found that read “fund schools, not wars”. Amen. Other highlights included nearly getting run over by a giant horse and finding some awesome shirts that read “I am a teacher, not a test score.” Again, amen.
Saturday night – Jens Lekman concert. Seriously one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. Small venue, positive vibes, dancing and singing along. I have to admit, I didn’t know who the hell he was until Saturday night, but I’m glad I was introduced to this sweet Swedish wonder!
A November goal:
Mail is pretty cool. Wouldn’t you agree? I’m REALLY bad at sending it, and never seem to have stamps, but people seem pretty happy when they receive it, and, bonus, I would rather the US Postal Service not completely tank. With that said, I’ve decided to set a November goal for myself. I vow to send out at least one piece of friendly mail per week beginning this week, the week of November 5th. I say one piece of mail per week as to not set myself up for failure (shoot low)… but I’d rather try for 2-3 pieces.
Looking forward to this week:
– Election night at Bagdad Theater
– Hopefully setting up a much needed happy hour with co-workers… you guys readin’?
– Not having my grad class on Thursday night. Last week I was so bored that I wrote my complete name, Kathryn Marie Laudermilk, in cursive roughly 500 times on my powerpoint notes.
Things to be happy about:
– New boots that have working zippers
– Amsterdam trip planning
– Roommate pizza dinner tonight
– A boyfriend that is slowly teaching me to be ok with being a bit more spontaneous. I’m black and white and he’s the whole beautiful crayon box.
– A long Maura phone conversation on the way to the grocery store. I hear there’s going to be a Coop vacancy soon. Move back? kthanksbye.
Peace, love, and patchouli – Portland Pollyanna