Sunday, August 26, 2012

New country, new blog

For anyone who still follows Frozen Start, please go check out my new blog at

We're now living in Belgium and aren't so much newlyweds anymore, so it's time to create another format. Thanks for following, and I hope you'll do so again using the email form in the new blog. 

Since I'm not completely engrossed in a master's thesis any longer, I hope to update much more regularly! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why Stockholm feels more like home

If Stockholm is trying to woo me, it's doing an excellent job.

On the eve of our search for an apartment in the Swedish capital, we attended a concert by one of my favorite musicians, Adele, and also ate incredibly delicious Jamaican food at Back A Yard.

Growing up close to a big city, I know I've been spoiled by having various cultural and culinary options close by. But it's for these reasons that even in the few times I've visited Stockholm, it already feels more like home.

This is an excellent realization considering we'll be moving there in just a little more than a month. Today, Russ and I went out for celebratory drinks after finding an apartment we like in what's considered the really-difficult-to-conquer Stockholm housing market. Thankfully, this one was at a reasonable price compared to others we saw.

One was incredibly nice but way out of our price range, and another was an odd, converted flat that used to be part of a bigger apartment. The entrance to this one was fun yet humbling, though, as you open the first-floor door and see some winding steps that you go up to the apartment's door. This was most likely where the servants used to enter in the once bigger, bourgeois living quarters.

We are particularly excited about fulfilling a desire Russ and I both have: actully living within a large city and not a suburb of a city. The closest we ever were to this before was a little downtown area that was part of a big suburb. Not exactly the same as Stockholm. Easy access to concerts, salsa dancing, theater, and so on will now be just a walk or subway ride away.

The month ahead is going to be busy while focusing on school and also preparing for the move, but I see this as a great opportunity for Russ and me as one of the many transitions we've been through together in our first year of marriage.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Unexpected Swedish adaptations

An experience buying something online this week caused a new and quite odd turn of events for me.

The price was in U.S. dollars and, unlike when I first came to Sweden, I found myself converting in my head back to Swedish kronor to better figure out the value of the price. When I realized I was doing this, I had to take a step back, thinking, "Wow...have I really been buying things in kronor for so long that my 20-something years of purchasing with USD suddenly doesn't compute as well as this new currency?"

For at least the first four of the nine months we've lived in Sweden, I found myself converting the kronor into USD to better understand its value. To all of a sudden be thinking the opposite is a very weird feeling for me. Don't get me wrong, I still of course understand USD, but working daily with Swedish money has clearly taken on a new meaning.

Another unexpected adaptation was when I was in my Yahoo email, and I was thinking in my head I need to click the "Radera" button, and then realized, oh wait, that's "Delete." Since I started using a separate university email account, everything on this one is in Swedish, and this apparently has caused me to think of radera before the English word delete comes to mind. So strange.

I've always been one of the lucky ones to have oily skin growing up, and have even up to the time we left Texas last year had to get prescriptions from the dermatologist to help with this problem. For the first time in my life, I made an appointment with the dermatologist today for issues with not oily, but dry skin. Again, an unusual experience for someone transplanted from a hot and humid climate to this dry, cold weather.

Also on the weather topic, when I was living in Texas, I many times tried to find shade from the sun. In Sweden I crave the sunlight and do whatever I can to be out in it when it's available. We've now entered a month when the sun is not only brighter, but also out for a much longer period. I can tell I feel less drowsy and have more energy than during the darkest winter months.

Since we have an incredibly convenient place to recycle (our apartment's trash room. aka soprum), I've noticed how we're recycling a significant majority of our waste rather than throwing it in the regular trash. Now, when I'm in a place where there is only a trash and not recycling bins for my paper, plastics, etc., I feel a pain of guilt if I throw away my empty plastic water bottle, as one example. Coming from a place where there isn't any convenient place to recycle for apartment dwellers, and even many living in the burbs, I never have felt this way before. Oh Sweden, how you are giving me more of a environmental conscience.

Despite these realizations, the root of who I am is still there, just with a few additions. And most of these things, learning how to really grasp multiple currencies, understanding a new language and seeing the value of recycling, are all ways I'm developing in a positive direction beyond my own native understandings.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We're moving...

...within Sweden!

To Stockholm, specifically, the beautiful capital of Sweden where Russell will begin a new position (with the same company he's working for now) in March.

We won't move until late May, though, as it would be difficult while finishing the second semester in my master's program. Thankfully, Russ will only have to go to Stockholm a few times a week before we move. But, the 2-hour train ride isn't so bad, especially when there's electric outlets and Internet connection.

For my school this fall, I'll have to come to the university a couple times each week as we'll have more individual rather than in-class work. Next spring, we'll dedicate the entire semester to writing our thesis, so that's even less time I'll need to be at the university. However, for all of the wonderful friends we've made in Sweden so far, we will certainly want to keep in touch and visit as much as we can.

This move is beneficial for both of us, as Russ will work at the headquarters for a division of his company, which means working close to important people, and I'll have a better chance of getting a job post-grad school in this major city.

And of course, there are several other benefits, such as living close to the international airports, and also all the many wonderful things to do, eat, explore, and so on.

The contract is for three years, so I'll hopefully have at least two years to work internationally, and then from there, as a (yikes) recent 30-year-old, we'll decide what we want to do next.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

U.S. Postal Service's Swedish shipment snafu

When sending something via the USPS, I normally have confidence that the item will go to the correct place, unless there's a wrong address or insufficient postage.

Even less likely is the possibility of damage to the letter or package, as I've only seen this happen once in my lifetime -- that is, until now.

The scrap of what once was an envelope with a card was sent in the USPS envelope it sits on in this photo:

Followed by the bolded "WE CARE" is an apology message from the USPS Plant Manager, with statements such as, "We are aware how important your mail is to you. With that in mind, we are forwarding [this useless piece of envelope remains] to you in an expeditious fashion."

Before this arrived, my mom called and said the rest of the letter, including the ripped card, was returned to her. Why, after sending my mom the actual card back, did the Plant Manager think it was necessary to send me this scrap internationally, I have no idea, especially when the USPS is in such financial trouble. I may have pinpointed one of the problems.

My mom predicts that someone (a postal worker, a greedy passerby, who knows) ripped open the card, thinking there was a gift card inside (there wasn't), but this mystery has yet (and probably never will be) solved.

I'm not completely blasting USPS, as 99.9 percent of my mail has arrived properly, and I understand, as the above envelope says, the "202 billion pieces of mail" sent each year by them may cause an "occasional mishap." OK, this is a little more than a mishap, but we'll let the company PR language slide this time.

Unless I'm added to the USPS black list, I look forward to receiving fully intact mail in the future.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

From icy roads to beautiful beaches

During Christmas Eve 2009, Russell and I were battling icy Texas highways on our way to the impromptu (because of road conditions) but decidedly more perfect place where we were engaged.

The initial stress of that evening led to great joy.

For this year's Christmas, after moving to a place with constant winter snow and ice, we decided to take a needed break from the    -20 C/-4 F weather in Sweden and travel to Malta, a little island just south of Italy where we savored the sun and warmth of the Mediterranean.

While the island was small, there were still plenty of things to do, such as some ancient history lessons at the Tarxien temples, which date from 3,600-2,500 BC, and the Hypogeum, or underground cavity, dating from around the same period.

To get to these locations, we rode the public buses, which were old but certainly had some character:

All I could think when we were in these buses was "Hop on the Magic School Bus!" After singing this to myself the entire trip, I noticed that the very last bus we rode was named "Maltese Magic." How perfect is that? The system was quite unorganized, which no doubt added to the adventure. One bus driver, while on the route, asked the passengers, "Does this bus normally go left or right here?" But we always arrived where we needed to go and paid the crazy cheap price of 47 euro cents per ride.

One of the best things about our short holiday was waking up each morning to see the sun rise over the ocean, just outside our hotel room's balcony:

Hooray for nice, winter rate hotel rooms. We also enjoyed one-hour massages that were 20 euros less than the summer months.

On our final day on the island, we visited Mdina, a wonderfully preserved old city on a hill overlooking the green landscape. While we were there, we had the decadent chocolate cake, known as the best cake in Malta, from Fontanella Tea Garden. Go to this link to see the amazing view from Fontanella.

After walking through the alleyways and streets of Mdina, we took what we were told was a 10-minute walk (which actually, at least by our pace, was an hour) to the Dingli Cliffs. The journey was worth it when we saw the scene:

We're now back in Sweden where it's -9 C, but the break did wonders to help us get through the winter months before the lovely summer returns again.

While we were so sad to not be able to come to the USA for Christmas (as we'd like to have at least two weeks of vacation available to fully enjoy our time in Texas), we are really looking forward to seeing everyone there in June or July.

Happy New Year to family and friends far and near!

Note: I'm working on posting more, but I know it's been an ebb and flow between the intensive work for my master's program. Right now, I'm off to continue writing an essay. To keep up with my posts, subscibe using one of the tools on the right side of the homepage.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Swedish perspective of the United States

Note: I wrote the brief article below for a global journalism class and wanted to share it here. Since the assignment was supposed to be short, it's not an in-depth perspective, but is still a collection of viewpoints by Swedish citizens.

People all over the world have opinions about the United States, a so-called superpower trying to inject ideological and other influences throughout the globe.

But what do citizens of Sweden, a place that hasn’t been invaded by U.S. military forces, think about this country?

Dag Blanck, who wrote a chapter in the 2008 book The Americanization of Europe [edited by Alexander Stephan], concluded through research that anti-United States viewpoints by Swedes have been fairly weak compared to other European countries. Reasons Blanck gives for this include historically strong ties between the two countries after a large portion of Sweden’s population, 1.3 million people, emigrated to the U.S. between 1840 and 1930, and also Sweden’s position of neutrality in war-related conflicts.

While there may be less negative sentiment, Swedish people still have certain viewpoints on U.S. foreign relations and cultural influences.

Many people in the world have perceived President Barack Obama as campaigning for dramatic changes in U.S. policies. Christine Beckman of Karlskoga, a Swedish language teacher for 15 years who has researched communication between different cultures, has a different perspective on this president’s goals.

“I think many Swedish people believe whether it’s Obama, Bush or Clinton, it doesn’t matter – it’s all the same and won’t change,” Beckman said.

Anders Avdic, an assistant professor in informatics at Örebro University who has lived in and traveled multiple times to the U.S., is realistic but more encouraged by the Obama presidency.

“I am still rather hopeful and positive about Obama, but I understand it’s not an easy job,” Avdic said.

The professor is mostly satisfied with the presidency, but still disagrees with Obama’s views on strengthening the U.S. role in Afghanistan.

In November 2008, when Obama was not yet an elected president, K-G Bergström, a political commentator for SVT, gave his opinion on Obama’s policies. While many Swedish politicians voiced their support for Obama during his campaign, Bergström believed Europe would be disappointed by certain Obama stances such as supporting the death penalty and choosing not to remove U.S. troops serving overseas.

Along with politics, U.S. television, music, literature and other culture are strongly infiltrated in other countries. In Sweden, it’s almost impossible to not find U.S. music playing on the radio, shows on the television or movies in the theater. Avdic sees the U.S. culture as some of the “best and worst” of influences.

“There is a huge amount of excellent culture from the U.S., and a lot of crap, too,” he said.

As long as the Swedish public radio and television are still around, Avdic said he isn’t worried about the U.S. culture.

Beckman also doesn’t think Swedish culture will be diluted by the U.S. influence, but she wonders how anyone can define the Swedish culture without considering outside influence by Germany, France and many places throughout the years.

“As long as human beings from different parts of the world have met, they have influenced each other,” she said.

For now, while still critical, these Swedish citizens have a more accepting perspective.

© Copyright 2010 by Angela Chambers Jenkins