Monthly Archives: January 2011

Back in Sweden

First full day in Sweden: FULL OF SURPRISES.

Surprise #1:

It is NOT, I repeat, it is NOT freezing cold. When I talked to Simon a week ago, he was waist-deep in snow and talking about taking a break from the cold at a sunny beachside resort in Siberia. I don’t know whether he was just trying to garner sympathy or whether it really was that cold, because right now it’s rainy and foggy but reasonably warm. REASON TO REJOICE!

Surprise #2:

I did not have Swedish class today. I was supposed to start a new Swedish class about two weeks ago, but unfortunately I was not able to attend due to being in the United States. When I showed up for my class today, at 8 am MIGHT I ADD, I had to take yet another diagnostic placement test, wait for an hour, and then talk to the teacher about what I wanted to do. So no learning for me today.

Surprise #3:

I am BALLER at Swedish. WHATTUP!! The diagnostic test was all writing and grammar, the things I’m worst at in all my foreign languages (read: the things you can’t bluff your way through with hand gestures and facial expressions), and I placed into a level higher than what my original placement test put me in. This should also be a testament to the virtue of giving your brain a break, because Lord knows I definitely didn’t study or speak any Swedish for the six weeks I was in the US.

I decided not to go into the higher level of Swedish, though, because they don’t teach any more grammar at that point, and that really is a gaping hole in my Swedish abilities. The difference between the two levels is sort of like high school English class (Swedish) and remedial high school English (Swedish). You read books and write papers in English class—you don’t really learn about sentence structure. What I opted into is the sort of remedial high school Swedish, except that I think it will be mostly made up of foreigners like me instead of actual high schoolers. I almost always choose to just jump into the deep end and figure it out as I go along, but at this point with my Swedish, I think I’ll be missing too much if I skip the grammar class.

So all’s good on that front. The other downside is that instead of having Swedish every day for 2-3 hours, I have it only three times a week, two hours a day. The timing of those two hours is awesome, though: 10-12 am. That way I can work out, read, do homework, write my great American Expat novel, etc. etc. etc. either before or after Swedish each day with no problem.

Besides that, tomorrow I start up again with my babysitting/tutoring for a family in Malmö, Thursday I am meeting with a new tutoring student at Orange Box, and Friday I head off to Gothenburg (Göteborg in Swedish) with Simon to meet up with my friend Steve and go to the Gothenburg International Film Festival.

I am unexpectedly in love with Miami

I don’t know what I expected from Miami, but it definitely wasn’t love true love. Against expectations, though, I LOVE Miami. (And this coming mere days–days, I tell you!–after being in love with New York City.)

I had really low expectations of Miami before I came here, and now I’m trying to remember why. I think that my vision of the city didn’t extend much further than high end clubbing and a sort of cheesy, 80s-style Miami Vice vibe. However, now that I’m here, I’m just totally amazed by the city, the beach, the design, the architecture, the food, the water, the sunny skies and warm weather…

It could also be that my parents are definitely treating me to a great look at the city. If I were on my own, I wouldn’t be eating at the same quality of restaurants, nor would I have rented a car, which has made our sightseeing trips a lot easier. On Tuesday, we went to see the Miami Heat play the Atlanta Hawks, which was totally exciting and thrilling. On Wednesday, we spent the better part of the day exploring South Beach—everything from the Art Deco District to residential areas to Lincoln Mall and Espanola Way. Yesterday, I sat by the pool and read Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, the whole thing, and then we went to Little Havana late in the afternoon, which sadly turned out to be kind of a bust. I think the changes in this area have outpaced changes in Miami as a whole, which made our guidebook (which has been pretty spot-on with walking tours so far) kind of irrelevant.

ANYWAY! Enough with all the rambling. Here are some photos from South Beach’s Art Deco District, my favorite area so far.

The Waldorf Tower Hotel

The Breakwater Hotel

The Edison

East Coast, Best Coast

I’ve never spent any amount of time on the West Coast, really, so I shouldn’t be such a hater. But let me tell you. Being on the East Coast is a-MA-zing.

This weekend, I was in New York City with friends; last weekend, I was in Philadelphia with my sister. Over New Year’s, I was in DC with more friends. Best of all, no airplane rides, no expensive tickets, no overwrought planning sessions. Instead, I’ve just been showing up at a subway or a bus stop and sailing in, hassle-free. (Of course, my parents are driving me to said subway/bus stops, which kind of ruins my Independent Woman self image, but I am both extremely grateful and without a car.)

Here are a few of the highlights.

PHILADELPHIA


Discovering Emily’s secret identity as a lounge singer.

An amazing dinner at Barbuzzo Mediterranean Kitchen and Bar on 13th Street in Philadelphia (part of the incredible 13th Street group of restaurants and stores.)

Things we consumed include but are not limited to: ROASTED BEETS WITH GOAT CHEESE, ORANGE, PISTACHIO PESTO, AND TUSCAN KALE | MIA PERA PIZZA WITH BARTLETT PEAR, GORGONZOLA, WALNUTS, PROSCIUTTO, ARUGALA, AND SABA | PAN SEARED GNOCCHI WITH CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS, BARBUZZO PANCETTA, CARAMELIZED APPLE, KOHLRABI, AND TRUFFLE BUTTER | SALTED CARAMEL BUDINO WITH DARK CHOCOLATE CRUST, VANILLA BEAN CARAMEL, AND SEA SALT | TORRONE-SPANISH HONEY GELATO

Driving back from Philadelphia with Emily; realizing that she just might be the next Ke$ha.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with requests to book Emily for your next office party or festive gathering.

NEW YORK CITY


Lots of quality time with my friends and my cousins.

Juliana and Mike… my go-to hosts for the weekend.

Drew, King of Brooklyn, Purveyor of Fine Goods, Arbiter of Taste, Enjoyer of Good Times


Juliana’s french toast. (There are about four secret ingredients, all of which Mike shared with me. He’s privy to all the secrets.)

Times Square at night.

I know Times Square is touristy and terrible in a way, but it’s also just amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it in my whole life. You can feel the energy of all the people and events and brightly lit signs and everything.

Mario Batali’s EATALY!

Wine with my specialty Italian shopping? Why yes, I think I will.

I’ll take one in every color, thank you.

The New York skyline.

One of the most incredible skylines in the world.

HOME!

Have you seen this video yet? It’s probably the cutest thing ever.

Even before this video was going viral, though, I loved the original by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. I love the way that NPR’s Stephen Thompson describes it: “clamorous and kind… enough to make even the tiniest heart grow three sizes.” I love the soft focus treatment of the band in the music video (see below). I love the way it makes you want to get up and dance.

I’ve been home almost four weeks now, and it feels wonderful. I knew that it would be wonderful to have so much time to spend with my family, but I honestly didn’t realize how good and how comfortable being back in the United States would feel. It’s been a full year of living abroad, and I have gotten to the point where there aren’t many things that I miss from the United States. People, of course, but not things. But it feels so good to be in my own country, to understand linguistic and social nuances, to have my own culture in common with new acquaintances. Those are daily challenges that have become so commonplace that I forgot that they’re there, but now that they’re gone, I notice their absence.

And having my friends so close—it’s unbelievable. To be just a phone call away from getting in touch again without having to worry about time zones or the cost. To be able to drive or take a bus to DC, Philadelphia, and New York from my parents’ new home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It just feels so good.

I have just under two weeks left, and then I’ll be heading back to Sweden again. I’m looking forward to that, too. I like my life there, and I have been extremely lucky in finding real friends in such a short amount of time. And of course… I can’t wait to see my boyfriend again. But now that I’ve been back in the US for this long, I’m feeling the draw to come back. Who knows what will happen in the end, but I’m keeping my eyes open and my ears perked for opportunities to come back.

It’s really great that this father-daughter duo reminded me of the song that I loved so much earlier this year, and it’s interesting to think about the changes that have taken place since the last time I was listening to “Home” on a daily basis. I will always think back to this past spring and the beginning of my time in Vienna when I hear this song. I used to put in my earbuds as I walked down five flights of stairs from my apartment to the street and start listening to my iPod. The chorus would start as I rounded the corner from my side street to the main street into the wind and towards the Ubahn. Even though I ended up loving it in Vienna, it was slow going at first, and I was really sad. I missed my family and friends in the United States as well as my boyfriend in Sweden. I was unsure of myself at work and at odds with Viennese culture. I felt I had to choose to be happy—to choose to get up and focus on the positives before heading off to work. This song picked me up and got me going every morning, and every single day for more than a month, people walking in my direction would encounter the strange sight of some girl with an enormous and goofy smile plastered on her face, listening to a song about capturing the sense of home by being with the ones you love.

I guess that’s what it all comes back to, in the end. Regardless of convenience, regardless of comfort, the choices we make to be with the ones we love are the ones that will lead us home. Right now, I’m so lucky to have two homes: one in the United States, one in Sweden. The trade off is, of course, feeling torn between the two.