The Halfway Point
It is the halfway point for my time here in Sweden. I want to say that time flies, but once again, the concept of time is subjective and linear; therefore time does not really fly. As I’m writing this blog post, I still have about five months left in my study abroad hourglass. Every time I look back at the glass, I’m relieved to see that I still have enough sand grasping on the glass. But with every glance I take, the specs of sand grow less and less abundant.
So as I hit this midway point, I want to make an effort to stop glancing at the hourglass. Whether that will happen, I’m not sure. Hopefully this long analogy actually metabolizes into reality, but am I not allowed to write like a poet who smoked a pipe of crack?
So let's get to it: what has led up to this halfway point on the overall arc of my study abroad experience?
American Culture Night:
I bought about 10kg/22lbs of potatoes to make mashed potatoes for our Thanksgiving inspired American culture night. Plus cream, butter, parmesan cheese and chives. My secret agenda was to fatten everyone so I would look thinner by comparison.
With the assistance of Grace, Nahyun, and Simon, we were able to make four large pots of delicious mashed potatoes. I loved the rush of making a shitload of food in a limited amount of time. It's better than cocaine!
I also filled my belly with turkey made by our then-current ESN president Matthew Noble. Shoutout to all my other American homies at ESN: Marissa, Shelby and Emmanuel.
Two days later, we had Friendsgiving at Falkenbergsvägen 25. I made my “famous” brined turkey. Nahyun made dumplings. Grace made a lasagne. My Dutch sisters, Kiki and Lis made roasted veggies. Corinne made a delicious blueberry crumble. Guus brought nothing to the table, which is not shocking.
Obviously the turkey was the star, no offense to the roast veggies. One note though: turkeys here are not as big and as cheap as the ones in the U.S. Why can't we bring hormone injections to the Swedes?!?!
The leftovers and all the bones were used to make the best fucking soup in the goddamn world. Sure, it was weird using bones that everyone licked and bit, but at least I didn't catch any of their chlamydias.
During the early mists of December, 52 other ESN students and I embarked on a journey to the Swedish Lapland, a province north of Sweden synonymous for its snowy winters and abundance of aurora borealis.
The trip began with a six hour journey to Stockholm. All the transportation in this trip would be via bus. Combined together, the bus trip to and from Lapland was a little less than 48 hours.
Personally for me, I prefer to be knocked out from drugs or punched in the face when faced with long bus rides. A real friend would've slipped a sleeping pill on my peanut butter sandwich bus snack.
There were times where I felt broken and unable to continue enduring the pain of a long bus ride. Thank god for in-bus wifi, bathroom rest stops and rare lapses of sleep. Or should I thank our bus driver?
Isn't there a biblical story about how Jesus is hiding amongst us? What would be the chances of Jesus being a Swedish bus driver? Pretty low, but people doubted me when I said I could eat a whole rotisserie chicken. I proved them wrong.
I introduced Grace, Nahyun and Philip to the magnificent and luscious amalgamation of culinary beauty that is the fish stew of Kajsas Fisk. They were also my hostel mates for this trip!
Beforehand, we made a stop at Systembolaget to buy some whiskey, because I'm so hardcore.
Late in the evening, I formed an authoritarian dictatorship (called Liping’s Group) and peacefully transitioned it to a democracy. I decided when to go, and which bar to go to. However, my decisions were ultimately overruled through a majority vote.
The next day, a belated walking tour ended with a group of us rushing from Max Burgers to the bus.
I went dog sledding where I fucked up my ankle and smelled dog diarrhea. It was a unique experience where I got to enjoy the multitudinous layers of nature that Kiruna had to offer.
During the break, Lis Floris dropped my ass on the snow. Thus cementing my personal sentiment that you can't trust the Dutch people.
Later on, I fell off a snowmobile and almost hit a tree, which does not help the stereotype against Asian drivers.
To my credit, I only fucked up at the end.. It was the first half where we fell, and I was not the one driving. I was pretty smooth driving around, but I was sweating so hard, my sweat could've recovered California's drought.
We went on a walking tour of Kiruna that had a simultaneous snowball fight with the same intensity as the Jon Snow & Ramsay Bolton war.
In the evening, our small hostel room group made a lazy and unsuccessful attempt to see the Northern Lights. Some walked for 20-30 minutes to a camp site. We walked 5 minutes to a nearby church that was slightly elevated on a slope.
Afterwards, we walked the cold and idyllic streets of Kiruna where I saw a Trump Hotel, mocking me. Even with no Internet and in a different continent, Trump still manages to fuck up my vacation.
At the Ice Hotel:
I saw and toured a $600/night ice hotel. It was interesting, cold and fancy. The rooms had specific themes with ice sculptures matching each theme. There was a snowball themed room that just resembled a boobs without nipples.
The outside was more spectacular though. The sun was setting at around 3pm/15:00. Yeah, you heard me.
I was also pelted by snowballs and knocked into the snow multiple times by Simon. I accidentally bumped him on the lip in self-defense, causing him to bleed. Violence is fun!
At the Sami family reindeer farm, I fed some reindeer. However, I believe they can smell and taste fear. I'm pretty disappointed that none of them could fly. And where was the one with a red nose? It's almost like Santa isn't real. Could you imagine?
One tip if you're planning to visit a reindeer herder, don't ask them how many reindeer they have. It's like asking how much money someone makes or whether their parents are siblings.
Inside a Sami tent, I ate reindeer meat and drank its bone broth around a fire. All while we listened to Niels’ low caramel voice lulling us with his stories.
I only wish that he told us some scary Swedish folklore stories. I would imagine a Swedish scary story is Johanis running out of meatballs and potatoes while finding out Systembolaget is closed for the day.
Right after we got off the bus with our luggage on the snow, and our bowels constipated... I saw the Northern Lights for the first in my life! It danced, it glittered and its light vibrant green tentacles swam through the darkened sky.
However, you need a really fancy camera to really be able to capture the lights. I tried using my iPhone 5S and these were the results.
My fellow Dutch homies did capture some spectacular photos of the aurora borealis. Check out Corinne Hendriks' photo on her Instagram:
After some rest, we barbecued in a Sami tent. We grilled hot dogs, potatoes and sweet potatoes. We chatted and went back outside to see the northern lights again.
It was also my first time drinking: whiskey and coke, gin and tonic, and hot wine. There is a video of me at the hostel after all of this debauchery, and I will press legal charges against anybody that publishes that video.
I also have a copy of that video so if you would like to buy it off me, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During our break, we played card games. Spoons, more specifically. I basically popularized Spoons at the hostel and in Sweden; and hopefully Europe. We met a Swede named Tim who works for SJ as a train attendant. He was not the best at the game, but did get better.
Later on in the evening, we went to a sauna. I also waddled in an ice cold lake and rolled in the snow. That was the fun part of it! You go in the cold and then back to the warmth. My nips freeze at the thought of going back to that lake.
Back to the hostel, we went back to playing Spoons. We also had to finish some of the alcohol, and Tim joined us. It was Grace, Nahyun, Philip, Rebecca, Malte, and Tim.
The next morning, we hiked for two hours through deep ass snow.
The Final Dinner:
I don’t remember a lot. I remember the food, which was the typical Swedish meal: Chicken with potatoes and a tomato. Actually, the typical Swedish component of that dish would just be the potatoes.
There was a great and beautiful rendition of “Stand by Me” performed by Imogen and someone I don’t remember the name of. I gotta reiterate that I can’t handle alcohol.
Our table did the Gangnam style and the YMCA. Nahyun, our resident Korean, was in our table so obviously we had the best dance.
It was a great, great time. Special thanks to Guus Peeters, who really grabbed on my manboobs when we were doing a provocative group selfie. I still got handprints.
At the pre-party, my French beeyotch gave me almost a third of a whole glass of sauvignon. I was more red than America after Trump. Get it? Because we will die and bleed all over the country. This is a political blog!
I danced the night away at Krögers with the help of two tequila shots, plus the previously mentioned wine. This was Grace’s last night in Kalmar for 2016, as she would be leaving Kalmar for Christmas.
With her mascara running and remnants of tears in her eyes, Grace shoddily biked home along with Nahyun and I. They hugged and exchanged a few goodbyes, as I looked on. We walked to our separate rooms, and we gave each other a goodbye hug. But Grace will be back next semester, and I’ll be here as well. Temporary goodbyes still count.
The hungover morning after, a handwritten note sat beneath a wine half empty wine bottle.
A Shoddy Reflection
Many flatmates have left and are leaving soon. Like asking where someone's from during the Intro Week, asking when someone is leaving is common around these final weeks. But departures do not represent the end, they’re just a slight finish of a chapter that opens up to something else.
Some examples: Guus Peeters, my Dutch brother and dear fan of lipinghuang.com, left Kalmar on Saturday morning. But we'll see each in Amsterdam because he works there as a gigolo and we'll be smoking blunts together. Malte Fedderson, Swede of the Year, has left this morning. But he'll visit San Francisco one day and we'll play another game of Spoons.
It's the halfway point, but it feels more like an ending to a chapter rather than the emptying of an hourglass. I'm just shocked that I've managed to keep up a blog throughout my time here. I'm more shocked when I find out (two) people read it.
Saying goodbye is the polite thing to do, because ghosting someone seems inappropriate in these types of situations. But in the grand scheme of things, we're all still connected through some thread because relationships penetrate distance and memory sustains it.
Bye bitches! I'll still be here in Kalmar.