Monday, June 29, 2009

swedish midsummer

in singapore!

when i was visiting my canadian cousin in dublin last summer, it so happened that she'd a friend she knew from college, T, in town at the same time. this summer, T came to singapore to work at the womens' and children hospital for a month (he's a paediatrician) and we managed to catch up! incidentally, T is swedish-canadian. he was born in stockholm but emigrated to canada as a kid. as a sort of farewell to the friends he's made in singapore, he threw a swedish midsummer party, albeit a week late. it was my first introduction to swedish food and T really went to town with herring in mustard, herring in dill, dry bread, smoked salmon with gravalax, swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce, liver pate, caviar from a tube and swedish sweets. we blasted abba (swedish music!) and bopped around decked out in yellow and blue.

totally psyched :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009


or not.

i've the terrible tendency to look for an epiphany in everything. most times, there is no epiphany to be found! hence, the self-imposed steep learning curve isn't much of a curve. and it's gotten particularly obvious when i start to whinge about stockholm.

don't get me wrong. i'm thrilled to be going on exchange. but having decided not to go on exchange once, it's a challenge to muster up the suitable amount of excitement at the prospect of spending a semester away, grateful as i am to the powers-that-be that miraculously wrangled me an exchange place.

i'm, thankfully, not so self-obsessed as to see exchange as a means of finding myself or establishing an identity independent of my family and friends. i know drama queens who make a big deal out of going away and attempt to establish some form of pseudo-independence. if that works for them, great, but i'm not at a stage where i feel the need to prove anything to myself, or anyone else for that matter.

a mad eurotrip isn't on the agenda either, because i've had the benefit of visiting friends while they were on exchange in europe. been there, done that, have the obligatory facebook albums to show for it. been "independent" for 14 weeks (over winter'07 and summer'08) - bought groceries, survived on my own cooking, learnt basic survival skills like vaccuming, laundrying, planned trips, carried a backpack (maybe twice) and realised that while i can survive on my own, i just don't particularly enjoy it. so it's semi-silly to voluntarily spend 5 months away. because i already know i can take care of myself. because i don't have identity issues. plus it's grossly overrated to make a big deal out of exchange when other college kids spend years away from home.

so to buck the exchange-is-my-key-to-independence trend, i welcome any help that comes my way (especially if this help relieves me of manual labour) and am gratefully accepting trip itineraries from friends who've been there done that. yes, i mock myself for being a dependent lump of lard. but independence is overrated. as is self-discovery. i guess i know i can do all that, have done all that and will be the first to admit that it wasn't particularly pleasant and i can do without.

oh, and my conclusion is that there is no epiphany to be found. i'm merely going to experience the wonders of swedish life for 5 months and then come home. hohum.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

hear the gears move

much to my disappointment, it turns out i can't move into my room any earlier than the stipulated date. bummer. that means i need to find alternative accommodation (read: cheap hostel) for a fortnight. while not a big fan of hostels, i recognise that they're a necessary, if not essential, part of budget travel. that said, i absolutely can't wait until i don't have to stay in a hostel any more. hostels are all well and good when you're in a six-bedder with your friends but i don't like having to sleep with strangers. gone are the days when i was certain that i'd wake up with one less kidney (this was just before the nakedlawyers' first foray into bangkok in the middle of freshman year!) but strangers still give me the heebiejeebies. and hostels in stockholm are crazy expensive. ok! enough ranting. was so psyched to see sweden before school started that i went a little overboard and booked myself onto the first flight out of singapore. HAHA.

the game plan looks like i'm going to check myself into a tiny 10bed mixed dorm (ugh.) for two weeks and take day trips out of stockholm. or might do slightly longer trips and not spend more nights than i need to at the stockholm hostel. it's relatively cheap, which also means that it's the most basic of holes in the wall and probably hardly a pleasant place to spend hours at end engaged in deep philosophical discussion. or not.

wikitravel's my new best friend and i'm working out some semblance of a plan for my free fortnight before moving into homeforfivemonths.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

visa application

finally got down to applying for my resident visa. many thanks to M for doing the research and sending me an itemised list of documents that i needed to take with me. having had a tiresome experience at the brazillian embassy two months ago, which saw me making three frustrating trips down because the dude just didn't communicate and the website was useless, the swedish embassy was a breeze. am still somewhat puzzled as to why they need to see how much money i have in my bank account. it's such an invasion of privacy and a letter from the bank or most recent bank statement, is in no way indicative of anything. while i understand that they can't possibly grant visas to applicants who might potentially run out of money and require deportation with taxpayer's money, surely there's got to be some privacy law against having to reveal one's bank balance! plus if they were concerned about potential terrorists, if i were one, i wouldn't be so silly as to give them record of my real account, right? that kind of money be squirreled away in a swiss vault somewhere! they'd be better of running a global discovery for all possible bank accounts linked to my name that shows any sign of suspicious activity. oh well, conspiracy theories aside, i'm glad that the lady at the counter was so friendly. she even directed me to the nearest axs machine so i could pay my mobile bill.

back to the embassy to collect my visa in a fortnight!

in other news, i just found out where i'm going to be staying in stockholm. somewhat disappointed that it's not my first choice but it could be worse. at least i'm not assigned to the blooming construction site :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

thoughts on leaving

it's a little under two months before i leave for stockholm and having just gotten back from the great south american adventure, i'm faced with the inevitable question - so what're you doing this holiday?

and it's absolutely singaporean to instinctively wish i could come up with some impressive answer. "oh, i'm working on my phD, yes it's a little early, seeing how i only graduate next year, but no harm starting early." or "i'm off on a humanitarian mission to the middle of the atlantic to help find other parts of the doomed aeroplane", you know, something blithe like that. but the truth is, i'm not really doing anything till i leave in august, save intensive french classes at the alliance francais in july. i do need to get my swedish resident visa sorted out though and was appalled to find out that one needs an obscene bank balance before the visa application is approved. riddicks. what i sleep with my money under my pillow? then how?

but that's just me being difficult.

it's a little strange to be going away at this late stage, when most of my friends have returned from their year abroad. grateful for the opportunity nonetheless and having traveled the past few school holidays, i'm decidedly more selective about where i go this time. no more random european cities just for the heck of it. oh, maybe a few, but not as often as previously! looking forward to taking my time, to meandering aimlessly and to letting the pace of life slow to a crawl. semi-relieved that i'm not embarking on some epic self-discovery process. i'm not 'missing' so there's no need to 'find' myself if i'm right here. am certain that there will be things that i'm going to lose along the way, hopefully nothing of particular importance, but the search can be saved for that.