Monthly Archives: September 2011

I’m back!

The last 10 days or so have been total, unbroken chaos and work-related mania… but now it’s over, and I’m back!

Last Wednesday, I went on my first real business trip all the way to Stockholm, which made me feel like a very fancy lady, and then yesterday I got back from real business trip number two, which was to Zurich, which totally outshone my former fanciness. Both of these trips were related to my job teaching Business English in Malmö: the first was to make a bid presentation for Skolverket, which is like the Swedish Department of Education, because we’re in the running to win a contract with them, and the second was to teach a full-day seminar to the International Pricing and Market Access department of an international pharmaceuticals company. Both trips were extremely interesting, challenging, and inspiring—I feel more confident in my abilities than ever before, but at the same time, I have a lot of ideas about areas where I want to improve.

Plus the Zurich people put me up in a four star hotel, so I really want to do more trips like this. Ha! How’s that for motivation?

On a different note, it turns out that Zurich is a really amazing city. I had absolutely no time to do any research ahead of time, so I just grabbed a map and hopped on a tram downtown. Little did I know, for example, that a river runs straight through the heart of Zurich, and you can stroll along the water and listen to street musicians play or sit down at a cafe and drink champagne at 3:00 on a Tuesday, as I saw some well-dressed businessmen doing.

There’s also a huge lake with lots of sailboats and a huge expanse of open sky, which gives you this almost-Stockholm feeling, where you feel like the city and the natural world remain in balance, unlike in so many modern metropolises, where skyscrapers obscure the sky and industrial wharves overwhelm the water.

Of course I know that Switzerland was neutral throughout the World War I and II, but I was reminded of that by the pristine condition of old buildings and churches, which have clearly been untouched by the wars that destroyed so many other European landmarks. I also loved the alpine lodge-style buildings standing proudly between more modern apartment buildings and shopping centers!

Oh, and did I mention there was chocolate… and mini macaron-wannabe Luxemburgerlis…! Love.

I took a million pictures (what a surprise), but here are some of the water to get started. Did I mention that it was actually hot, sunny, and slightly-humid? And it’s almost October. Maybe I will have to move to Zurich. Out with the old, in the new (super hot Zurich banker) (just kidding) (unless you’re a super hot Zurich-based banker, of course, in which case I’m totally not kidding).

I especially love the man fishing in his boat—that guy is living the life.

Mexican food in Sweden

Excuse me. AHEM. Excuse… yes. That’s right. DO YOU SEE THIS???

Tacos and a quesadilla from La Neta in Stockholm.

Just when I had given up on Mexican food in Sweden, nay, in Europe as a whole. Just as I had given up on the idea of guacamole and salsa verde and the proper utilization of cilantro.


And that’s not the end of it. Over the last month, I have found not only one totally authentic and totally amazing Mexican restaurant (with some help from Twitter), but two kind-of acceptable Mexican-ish restaurants that I would actually go back to as well.

This story will be continued later when I am not under extreme deadline pressure.

MEXICAN FOOD. The dream lives on.

Mean Mr. Mushroom | The Expat Blog

Read the full story on The Expat Blog at!

I have a confession to make. Even though last year’s mushroom picking adventure (my first time!) was awesome, just unbelievably fun and relaxing, it could have been better in one small way. We could have found more mushrooms.

Last year, we hunted in three different forests over a span of two and a half days, and while I had a great time learning about the different mushrooms and trying to find them, we really didn’t have that much to show for ourselves at the end of the day—just a little half-full bag of chanterelle and “brown soup” mushrooms, plus one giant Porcini (which is called a “Karl Johan” mushroom here).

Not that I’m complaining or anything, obviously, because we had such a great time. It was one of the highlights of my year, I swear. This time around, however, I really wanted a big haul, a huge sack of mushrooms so big it’s worth posting on Facebook and calling your mother six time zones away.

Now that's what I'm talking about. This year's haul of "forest gold," or chanterelle mushrooms.

To keep reading, check out “Mean Mr. Mushroom” on The Expat Blog at 

If you liked this post, you might like:

Mushrooms for Nybörjare: Part One, Le Chanterelle

Into the Woods in Vittskövle

Mushroom picking in Österlen

Photo essay: Out in Gothenburg’s Harbor

Simon and I went to Gothenburg (Göteborg, for the Swedes) a few weekends ago and had the best time ever. On a whim, we took a boat tour through the canals, out to Gothenburg’s harbor area and back.

Thumbs up for the Paddan tour boat company.

It was actually really fun, and we learned a lot about the city in a pretty short, condensed format. And our tour guide was awesome. She had the appearance and energy of a 14 year old girl combined with the sense of humor and disarming lack of self-consciousness of a middle-aged dad wearing tube socks with Birkenstock sandals, if you know what I mean.

In the canal, on our way out to sea.

The city looks different when viewed from below.

Any lower and we wouldn't have made it.

Ducking under “the city’s lowest bridge”—or at least according to our guide.

All smiles... we made it!

Out in the harbor, it was all about the big ships and the city’s shipbuilding past.

The Barken Viking, a floating hotel owned by the Liseberg amusement park.

All part of the Maritime Museum.

Cranes like mechanical praying mantises, waiting for their prey.

Cranes like giant metal giraffes, waiting for a giraffe leader.

The remnants of Gothenburg's ship building industry.

Göteborg, loud and proud.

And then we were back, ducking under another low bridge and cruising along the park-lined canals into central Gothenburg.

Kungsparken (the King's Park) in central Gothenburg.

Besides the one hour tour that we took, Paddan offers a number of dinner cruises that looked really fun… something to think about for next time!

Paddan information in English

The boat leaves several times an hour from Kungsportsplatsen in central Gothenburg.

Visa större karta


Adults 145 SEK (about $20 at today’s exchange rate)
Children age 6-11: 73 SEK (about $10)
Children age 0-5: Free
Family (2 adults + 2 children): 390 SEK (about $60)


If you liked this post, you might like:

Visiting the Fish Church (Feskekörka) in Gothenburg


Mushroom picking in Österlen

Last weekend, Simon and I went mushroom picking with our friends Adam, Sofie, Anna, and Nils. It was totally lovely and lived up to my memories from last year. More to follow later, but for now, a few pictures.

If you liked this post, you might like:

Mushrooms for Nybörjare: Part One, Le Chanterelle

Into the Woods in Vittskövle

Slimfood in Gothenburg (Göteborg)

I always wondered why Swedes were so fit and healthy-looking, and now I know.



Simon and I saw this place when we were wandering through Nordstan, this big mall in downtown Gothenburg. We didn’t stop for any slimfood, but apparently it serves healthy salads and sushi. You can get Fairtrade coffee and organic fruit on the side.


Postgatan 39
411 06 Göteborg


Weekdays 10:00-7:30
Saturdays 10.00-5:30
Sundays 11.00-4:30

Visa större karta

There you have it. slimfood. No idea if it tastes any good, but apparently it’ll make you skinny.

September 11, 2011

So sad, so thankful today.

On the Expat Blog: September 11, 2011

Memories from Vienna: Hundertwasserhaus and Museum

A family friend is going to Vienna on vacation, and since I lived there for six months, she asked me what to do while she and her husband are there. I wrote her back an excessively rambling, long email with ideas and recommendations, but since pushing send on my little Gmail browser, my mind keeps drifting back to Vienna. It’s an incredible city, and I learned so much there—about Austria and all things Austrian, about European history, about the NGO world, about myself, etc. etc. etc. I went back to visit friends for one all-too-brief (stormy) weekend last October, and I would love to go back again.

Anyway, little personal reminiscing aside, here’s a little tip for tourists in Vienna who want to go a little off the beaten track and have even a passing interest in art, architecture, utopian communes, or insane geniuses. Go to the Hundertwasserhaus (first exposure) and/or to the Hundertwasser Museum (full immersion).

This is what it looks like when a professional photographer takes a photo of the Hundertwasserhaus:

Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an idealist and wanted the world to turn away from cities, from grid plans and concrete jungles. He made up his own name to reflect those ideals: Peace-Kingdom Hundred-Waters. The Hundertwasserhaus and Museum have uneven floors and walls that curve in and out because he felt that it was more natural, more alive. Plus, he hated straight lines.

I’m not an art critic, but I found his paintings unbelievably vivid in person. The colors, the lines, the movement…

This painting reminds me of the eyes of T.J. Eckleberg.

This painting reminded me of The Great Gatsby, a book I wish I understood better and which I should probably read again. I had to read it for class twice, once in high school, once in college, and both times it was used as a tool with which to learn literary theory. After hearing a class dissect it every which way of Sunday, twice, and giving it Marxist, Feminist, Psychoanalytic, New Historical, Deconstructionist, etc etc analyses, I sort of lost my grasp of the actual book.

In any case, Fitzgerald writes:

The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic—their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose…

Then there’s this painting.

For some reason, this painting makes me think of Catcher in the Rye.

This guy reminds me of a discontented Holden Caulfield or a male Margot Tenanbaum, but I don’t know why. I like his skin colors. I like his parted hair.

In his own writing: the horizontal belongs to nature, the vertical belongs to man.

I really like the doodle.

These are all parts of Hundertwasser paintings.

Details, details, details.

What the Hundertwasserhaus looks like when a non-professional photographer (me) takes a photo.

Even the area outside the Hundertwasserhaus is a little off-kilter. The normally even cobblestone paths are upended and arranged in mounds with dips and curves. Everything’s a little off. It’s wonderful.

He had a lot of thoughts about art and the creative process, especially its intrinsic relationship to nature. And he had a lot of proscriptions about the natural order of things. According to Hundertwasser,

Paradise can only be made by yourself, by your own creativity, in harmony with the creativity of nature.

He also wrote:

Man is a guest of nature and should behave.

I couldn’t agree more.

One of the artist's insignias.

Blackberry picking season!

To read the full story, check out “Blackberry Season” on the Expat Blog at

After what has felt like just weeks of cold, rainy weather, the sun is finally shining again. Perfect timing! It’s way nicer to go blackberry picking in the sunshine than in the rain.

Blackberries? Yes, please!

One thing that blew my mind the first couple of times I came to visit Sweden was how closely linked urban and natural environments are. I don’t live in the biggest of cities, but it’s a pretty respectable size. Regardless, I can pretty much guarantee that from any point within Lund, you are within five minutes walking distance of nature at all times.

Accordingly, Swedish people (in general) tend to have a much more meaningful relationship with nature than most of the Americans I grew up with—and it’s not just the older generation. People my age, in their twenties, have grown up picking berries, hunting mushrooms in the forest, and making cordial from flowers and leaves cut from bushes.  I’m sure there are people in the US who do this, but certainly not to the extent that I see it here.

I was pretty skeptical of this whole “walk around and pick stuff off the plants” thing when I first moved here, but a year in and I’m totally enchanted. I feel like I’ve spent the whole summer examining the trees and bushes in my neighborhood. Is this edible? Is this? Is this?

Two mystery berries and one wild chestnut.

To read more, check out “Blackberry Season” on the Expat Blog at!

If you like this post, you might enjoy reading “When eating flowers out of the garden is not just for unruly kids,” about the time I went elderflower picking and made elderflower saft. So great!

The Hug Square in Malmö Train Station

Malmö’s Central Train Station has been under construction since last year, and while a lot of progress has been made (City Tunnel, I love you), one terminal is still mostly out of service. It was while walking through this terminal on my way to the train home that I saw this “Kramkvadrat,” or “hug square,” painted on the concrete, a little worn away at the edges and covered with dust.

Standing all by myself in the hug square.