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Thank you <3

I would like to thank everybody who actively followed my blog this semester.  As a first time blogger, I had no idea how difficult it can be to maintain a “weekly” blog when everything becomes so busy and hectic.  I’ve had my fair share of late entry submissions which I am not proud of, but I am very proud of most of the work that I have done.  The last few weeks in Copenhagen were ridiculously jam packed with work for me and I was barely able to clutch it all out before going home.  I actually wrote my last paper on the plane home from Denmark!  I’m sorry that I didn’t really get to talk too much about the end of my semester; just know that it was full of papers.  As for my trip to Berlin, that was amazing!  Just know that it was full of Christmas markets and wursts!  And anyway, that is not a DIS Stockholm specific excursion; anyone can go there!  If you think about it, I pretty much covered the entirety of my study abroad program, as I blogged pretty consistently while in Sweden!  It was after I arrived in Copenhagen that everything became crazed and blogging regularly became less manageable.  With that, I would like to conclude my OSCE blogger experience by saying thank you to all of the people who actually read my blog, haha.  My overall review of DIS Stockholm is that it is GREAT!  The move to Copenhagen was not as swift as expected and there were some logistical difficulties while there, but that is mostly due to the fact that it is a brand new program and the directors did not have a whole lot of time to anticipate the move.  Next semester, it will be swifter, for sure, and in subsequent semesters I am sure the move will not even be necessary!!!!  Anyway, I won’t keep you guys reading; I know I tend to get wordy.
Tack så mycket, god jul, och hej då!

Thank you <3

København (Copenhagen)!!!!!

Hey guys, I feel like I apologize for lateness a lot with these blogs.  Well, I’m a procrastinator and these blogs also take a lot of work and time to produce.  Anyway, this blog will sort of document my first week in Copenhagen, but mostly the time I spent here with my dad when he visited this past weekend!  Bear with me guys, only a few more blog posts still to come!

This is Copenhagen:

Okay, where to start?  We moved during what was on of Sweden’s heaviest snowfall in one hundred years. This is what it looked like.
nd we ended up having a horrible delay in our flight.  We had to wait about three extra hours in the airport because at first we had a plane with no crew, then we had to deice the plane, then there were issues with finding a runway, but we eventually made it!!!!  And now I am there in Copenhagen.  The move from Stockholm to Copenhagen in terms of DIS orientation was a little on the meh side.  No further comment.
Anyway, let’s get right to my weekend with my father!
So, first my father came to my positive psychology class on Thursday, and that was pretty awesome!
I don’t have any pictures of that, unfortunately.  So maybe I should just talk about the cool Copenhagen stuff then.  We did lots of stuff.  Let’s get started!!!
So first, we went to this castle.  What’s it called?  The Rosenborg Castle!!!  Sadly, I didn’t photograph the front of it, but I’ve got this nice side view.
AND, this is my dad in the beer room!
I apologize if today’s post is not very lively, informative, or descriptive.  I’ve been rather stressed out and homesick lately and today is the first time writing a blog post has felt like a chore to me.  Anyway, moving right along.  Perhaps I should mention that it was very nice to see my father again.  I’m glad he was able to visit Copenhagen, since I know he never would have were it not for me.  Now, because of me, he has visited two of the five Nordic countries.  He has visited Iceland and Denmark.  How Scandinavian!
Okay, our next cool activity was visiting the waterfront Christmas markets at Nyhavn, which is what most image web searches for Copenhagen will show.  Here is a picture I took myself:
Hmm, what else did we do?
We went to my favorite art museum in all of Scandinavia, Copenhagen Contemporary!
But unfortunately, I’m going to have to cut this post a bit short because I am mentally and physically exhausted but I promised you all that there’d be a blog post today.  So here it is, but you can expect me to add more to it when I have more time and energy, hopefully in the coming days, although I leave for Berlin tomorrow evening!

Bless bless for now!


Norway’s Arctic Capital! (also Paris)

Hello my friends.  Once again, I would like to apologize for this entry being a bit late.  I’ve been ridiculously busy since returning to Stockholm.  Tomorrow is my last day in Sweden before I’m flown off to Copenhagen.  And you would not believe the amount of stuff I still have to get done before then.  Anyway, here is a not so brief wrap-up of my travel week!  Different sections will start with bolded text, so you may read only what interests you if you so choose!

Tromsø, Norway, the beautiful capital of Arctic Scandinavia (I am saving the best part of this trip for the end of the section!)
Tromsø is not actually the capital of anything other than Troms county, of which it is the administrative centre.  Anyway, I’ve been wanting to visit the Arctic for years, and I just so happened to also want to visit Norway.  That is why I picked Tromsø; it was, for me, the perfect way to catch a glimpse of arctic city life! Accompanying me on my arctic journey was none other than my lovely mother, Maureen, who will appear in pictures soon enough!  Tromsø is by far the most populous city and municipality in Norway’s arctic area. Here is a street view photograph that I snapped myself:
Now, I will give you an overview of everything significant that we did in Tromsø.
While in Tromsø, there were several musts on my list of things to see and do.  For me, the most important was visiting Polaria, the world’s northernmost aquarium!  And we did that!  Polaria is a small aquarium most famous for its seals and its short educational films, but it also features its share of fish and other sea creatures.  Someone who is interested in architecture might find the building’s construction more interesting than the fish or the seals, however!
es, that is what it actually looks like, although I did not take that specific photograph.  Do not worry, it is not going to topple over!  It is stable!  Polaria was so wonderful!  I watched one of the film screenings there and learned how the northern lights come about, but I am not going to tell you guys how!  You must find out for yourselves.  The seals were really great to look at…
Here one is being fed…
Okay, that’s enough aquarium talk now, isn’t it?
Our Awesome Hotel: We had the pleasure to stay at the Clarion Hotel: The Edge in Tromsø.  I could give you a million reasons why I loved it.  It was rather fancy-ish, and it is not every day that I am exposed to such cool things in a living place!  The main reason it was so great was the food.  My very first night at the hotel, my mother and I had a late 9:30 dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, and I had, dare I say it, reindeer!  Yes, I ate Rudolph, as the waiter put it!  Here is a photograph of my even-toed ungulate meal, which was actually quite tasty:
And here is another reason why our hotel was great (yes, this is also food-related): open until late at night is a cafe beside a lovely little casual dining area.  On one of our nights, at around 10:00, my mother and I decided to stay in at the lobby and enjoy some coffee and sweets at the aforementioned cafe.  What could be better than this?
I suppose this is not so much a Tromsø specific thing, but it was still a really great part of my travel week, especially since I was able to spend so much quality time with my mom!
Tromsø’s silly yet lovable little quirks: Sometimes, the places with the fewest amounts of things to do are the most enjoyable.  For example, I randomly happened to find myself in this small little glass-blowing shop.  Well, I’m not sure what to call it.  It is a small shop with a professional glass blower that sells the glass artworks made in the shop and here is a photograph of what I saw when I was in the store:
Here’s another fun quirk: in Tromsø, and in Norway as a whole, Sundays are taken very seriously.  Almost everything closes.  Everything, that is, except for the cinema!  And that’s not even the quirk!  The quirk is how Norwegian cinemas serve popcorn.  THIS IS COOL.  In the United States, you receive popcorn at theaters over the concession counter; the clerk makes the bucket and then hands it to you.  In Norway, it’s a little different!  I know this isn’t popcorn; it’s some other Norwegian cinema snack that isn’t found in the US; they also had plenty of popcorn, but I forgot to photograph it.
popycor popo scpopc
They’re like hot refrigerators!  And they’re super duper efficient!  On Sunday, we saw Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children at the cinema, but not before dining at one of Tromsø’s only Sunday restaurants, Bardus Bistro, which also happens to be well known as one of the best restaurants in all of Tromsø!  There, I had a very delicious traditional Norwegian meal: Fårikål!  It is also Norway’s national dish!  It is composed of lamb wrapped in cabbage, but mine also included potatoes and celery root purée!
farikakl lam
The second image is to show the lamb! It was delicious.  I very much enjoy the taste of lamb.
Arguably the most popular tourist attraction in Tromsø is its fabulous hiking areas, as well as the Fjellheisen cable car that carries people up the mountain, Tromsdalstinden, towering over Tromsdalen, the small valley on the other side of Tromsø, across the water from our hotel.  Tromsdalen is a much more residential part of the city, with Fjellheisen being the major source of commerce there.  Anyway, we took the cable car up to near the top of the mountain (where the famous cafe is) and then we embarked on a hike toward the summit (even though we knew we wouldn’t get that far)!  I would have tried to make it to the top, but I had to be considerate of my mother, who, if not for me, would never have imagined herself hiking up an arctic mountain!  We did get pretty damn far, though!  Check out these pics!
Here is a view of the entire city from the mountain!
Here is a random cute little snowman that somebody made!
Here is a really nice picture I took of the mountain.
Here is me making a snow angel … ON THE MOUNTAIN!
Finally, this is my mom all dressed up for hiking up the snowy mountain!
There is not much either of us had ever experienced that compares to trekking up a cold mountain north of the Arctic Circle together.  It was an incredibly uplifting adventure.  But of course, we couldn’t just skip out on the cafe at the top of the cable car route, called Fjellstua Restaurant.  There, we had some of the best hot chocolate either of us had ever tasted.  But don’t be fooled; a subsequent section of this entry will feature even better hot chocolate!  But here, look!
mommyhotchocoalte mehc
It was a good day 😀
Now it’s time for…
Paris, with Rachel Samett ’16!!!
I was delighted to have the pleasure of spending the latter days of my travel break with one of my best friends, Rachel Samett, a recent Skidmore graduate.  She spent her second semester of junior year abroad through Skidmore in Paris, and has returned to be an Au Pair and an English teacher!  She was kind enough to lend me the top bunk in her apartment and the two of us took on Paris!  I had already been to Paris five years ago through EF Tours; it was an educational summer tour of Europe.  So, we decided to do things in Paris that neither of us had yet done.  Our first stop was to adventure through the Catacombs!
mecat rachelcat
We then decided to visit the Luxembourg Garden.  It was extremely relaxing.  I snapped this photograph of Rachel in front of the original French Statue of Liberty!  Wow!
AND we were able to dine at Angelina, one of the most famous teahouse cafes in all of Paris!  This particular cafe is world famous for serving some of the richest, tastiest hot chocolate in all of the world! This hot chocolate was like dark chocolate lava poured into a cup.  It was very thick, and I honestly believe chocolate lava is the best term to describe it!  Imagine super thick dark chocolate drizzled into a teacup and topped with fresh whipped cream!  My word!
And unfortunately, I failed to photograph our nighttime boat ride across the Seine!  That’s alright, though, since both of us had already done it in the past.  Due to work commitments, we spent our remaining time together mostly just chillin’.  However, she did treat me with the privilege to accompany her to work one night at her Au Pair house.  I got to meet two lovely French children!  It was really nice despite the language barrier; I played Street Fighter V with the young French boy!  They even provided me with pasta for dinner!  It was almost like the homestay I missed out on here in Stockholm.  Anyway, on my last night with Rachel, we went to Happy Nouilles (Happy Noodles) in Paris for dinner and then returned to her apartment for dessert.  Said dessert consisted of a fruit cake that I bought from a local bakery–sorry, boulangerie.  I had never had fruit cake before, and I’ve heard nothing but complaints about how horrible it is over the course of my life.  So I decided to try it!  And it was delicious!  I don’t know what you all are complaining about; this cake was marvelous!
I would like to publicly thank my dear friend Rachel for providing me with a place to stay and for spending time with me in Paris!

Alright guys, the next post you’ll see will come from Copenhagen!  Wish me luck in completing the one million things I have to do between now and when I leave on Wednesday!  And friends, family, anyone over the age of 18, please make the right decision on Tuesday.  Please.

Until next time, hej då and au revoir!

My Last Few Days in Sweden

Yes, you read that correctly.  Today is Tuesday, almost Wednesday.  Tomorrow is Wednesday, and Thursday follows it.  Then, Friday afternoon I will hop on a plane and fly to Tromsø, Norway, where I will spend time with my mother for a few days.  Then, I will hop on another plane and fly down to Paris where I will spend a few days with a friend who shall be named LATER.  And then finally, after the week is over, I fly back to Sweden where I will spend a day or two packing up everything before relocating to Copenhagen for the remainder of the semester.  Time flies, doesn’t it?  I must say, I am going to miss it here.  In particular, I will miss the tunnelbana, Espresso House, Pressbyrån, and Max (look em’ up, they’re great!). And I’ll also miss the kanelbullar (the cinnamon rolls) and FIKA!  But most of all, I am going to miss my wonderful apartment here in Sollentuna!  This is the only time in my life and probably the last time for quite a while in which I occupy my own, single-person apartment.  Okay maybe there are things I will miss more than the apartment, but it’s a real perk!  Down in Copenhagen, I have been told that we are going to be in four-person apartments.  Been there, done that, albeit unsuccessfully, haha.  Anyway, this is just a brief update as to what is going on!  Here is a picture of some art we made in my Nordic Contemporary Art class!
Mine is the one all the way to the right on the bottom.
Okay, that’s all for now, folks!
See you all next week!!!!


Hello, all.  I apologize for the clickbait.  In my defense, though, it is not false clickbait.  He really did kill his own wife.  But we will get to that a little bit later.  As you may or may not know, I spent the past week in the Czech Republic, mostly in Prague, but also in Lázně Bělohrad for a few days.  Whew, that’s a beautiful name with all those weird accent marks and such.  Czech is a remarkably beautiful, yet agonizingly difficult language!  Well, without further ado, we will dive into my long study tour week with my positive psychology class!  And for the sake of laziness, I am not going to do a dated, day-by-day description. Rather, I will just describe each activity, the detail in which depending on my interest level.  Now, let’s get started!

The very first night we spent in Prague, we received a detailed nighttime tour of the city, which was intriguing but we were all very tired so it was difficult for me to thoroughly enjoy it.  Regardless, we learned all about the famous astronomical clock.  We were also able to see some splendid views of the cityscape under the night’s chilly embrace.  Here is one such view:
Anyway, that was that.  I’m not much of a history buff, so it didn’t do a whole lot for me.  What comes after this is where it really starts to get interesting.  

Tour from a Homeless Woman
Thanks to a wonderful company called Pragulic, we were able to embark on a guided walking tour through the city led by a lovely homeless woman named Zuzka!  The logic is, well, the 10,000+ homeless people living in Prague spend all day and night in the city; they know the city inside and out.  Therefore, why not employ them as tour guides?  It’ll help them get on their feet and help tourists get to know the city better. Our tour was great!  She was very friendly and helpful, as was her translator!
Thank you Zuzka for giving us an amazing tour of Prague!  I am so happy that Pragulic is giving her and countless other homeless individuals such a wonderful opportunity like this!  We will talk more about the homeless in just a minute.  In fact, we will talk more about the homeless in just a second… 

The next activity we engaged in was an acts of kindness collaborative activity with Czech students.  Us DIS Stockholm students cooperated with students from the University of New York in Prague (UNYP) to develop an act of kindness!  I personally worked with two students from DIS, and three lovely Czech students whose names I will not mention for the sake of their privacies.  Our objective was to take the small sum of money provided to us and use it to generate some sort of act of kindness to make someone’s day better; that someone did not have to be homeless.  Well, with the winter weather awaiting us, we decided to buy some socks, a blanket, a can of dog food (homeless people are frequently accompanied by puppers), and a pack of tampons.  We were able to find the bulk of these items for extraordinarily cheap prices at a lovely little Vietnamese store.  After some searching and one rejection from a man who wanted only whiskey, we came upon a homeless couple with a pupper who was already being given food by a generous party.  It was that couple’s dream come true!  The dog went nuts when he saw the can of food and the man, who was in shorts, was ecstatic to have something to keep him and his wife warm for the winter.  Let me tell you: there is hardly a thing that even scratches the surfaces of the feeling you get when you do something like that.  Sure, it was for a class, but the recipients’ gratitude was genuine.  We made someone’s day.  That is why I have decided to start a project with my girlfriend, Kristen, in which we make small gift baskets and give them out to the homeless in NYC.  The other night, after my professor gave me his sandwich that he did not want, I decided to give it to a homeless elderly man.  Immediately after I handed him the vegetarian club, a woman came over and handed him another meal.  Say what you will, but I say that that was a chain reaction stemming from a single act of kindness.  And we can all do something like that!  It was a beautiful day.

This next description will feature visuals.  Prepare your eyes.
The following day, we took a tour of Jedlička’s Institute.  This was sincerely one of the most uplifting and heartwarming places we could have visited.  What is Jedlička’s Institute, you ask?  It is a medical and educational institution for physically disabled individuals.  Our tour was led by a wonderful man named Radek, a wheelchair-bound, former student and current teacher at the institute.  This place is magical. Even though several students die each year, the sense of community and shared identity at the institute is unparalleled by any I have seen at any other institution, not at Skidmore College, not at any American institution of higher education.  They all love each other so much, it makes my heart so happy.  Let me show you some photos!
Here, you can see my classmates learning about the straw-basket-weaving room.

Here, you see a pair of scissors in the sewing room for people who are unable to properly hold a traditional pair of scissors in their dominant hand.  I love it.

ere, you can see our amazing tour guide, Radek, displaying the use of a cupboard for wheelchair-bound individuals such as himself.  This kind of thing makes me really happy.  If I lived in Prague, I would definitely try to work or volunteer at this institute.  We met a group of students from the institute, and, unsurprisingly but probably worth mentioning, they are all ordinary, capable, and confident young people who just happen to have physical restrictions.  I think the fact that there is such a loving place that provides them the opportunity for education while making their lives a little bit easier, physically, is a truly beautiful thing and something to be proud of as a member of the human race.  I hope to volunteer at such an institute in the United States in the future.

Later that same day, we took a trip to the historic Prague Castle.  Here, we were not given a tour, and instead given the freedom to roam around with a pass and visit the many exhibits on our own.  As I mentioned earlier, I am not a history buff.  So this section will be shorter.  Yet, I cannot deny, the castle is one of the most breathtaking spectacles within the scope of architecture.  Czech this out (please laugh at my joke):
Holy moly, that’s a castle alright.  Boy oh boy.  According to Wikipedia, construction of the castle began in the year 870 and it was completed in 1929.  That’s right.  The castle took 1,059 year to build.  I am at a loss for words.  And interest.  No, I’m just kidding.  I do appreciate this wondrous structure.  The castle is the official residence of the president of the Czech Republic and I’m pretty sure he’s living there now.  Yes, this part of the trip was quite exhilarating, especially when my friends and I ate burgers at a small cafe nearby.  That was tasty.  Okay, moving right along!

The next day, we paid a visit to a restaurant from the Green Doors Training Cafes.  What that is is a series of cafes that employs people who are in the early stages of mental illness onset, particularly psychotic illnesses.  This was another extremely uplifting visit.  We heard the story of a woman named Veronika Havlíčková straight from the horse’s mouth.  Sorry, that was just an expression and I am in no way implying that she is or resembles a horse.  I should stop now. Gosh.  Anyway … Veronika is a woman who suffered an abusive childhood, drug addiction, and still suffers from severe bipolar disorder.  That was just a one-sentence summary, but she made an entire powerpoint presentation and described her difficult life in excruciating detail.  The amount of sympathy we all had for this woman was astounding.  Sadly, I do not have a photograph of her.  But I can tell you that she is currently a peer consultant for other people with mental illnesses, and she is employed through Green Doors!  She also has two beautiful girls and a loving husband and is very happy!  Green Doors was there for her when no one else was, when no other establishment could provide her with work.  Having a mental illness, and a severe one at that, makes maintaining a full time job very difficult.  That is where Green Doors steps in with it’s sympathetic, accommodating nature and helps these people work in a friendly community and live a happy life.  Here is a picture of the meal I consumed at the cafe:
It is a tofu, soya sprout, fried rice dish.  It was very yummy.

Okay, NOW for the event mentioned in the title.
Trigger warning: this section discusses sensitive topics and should be approached with caution.  
Okay.  This was the second visit of the day and honestly shook me a little bit.  We paid a visit to the Bohnice Hospital and Prague Psychiatric Center.  There, we learned about how criminals who were not considered to be sane at the time of the crime were sent there for treatment rather than prison.  There were also former-prisoners who were receiving treatment as well.  I can skip the nitty gritties; psychotherapy groups take place, medications are prescribed, schizophrenic patients receive testosterone-lowering injections.  We had the opportunity to meet some of the patients.  The first man we met did not speak English.  He came in, sat down, and his psychiatrist who also served as his translator introduced him: Hello, my name is ————— and I killed my wife in a psychotic episode.  Anyone who had been dozing off at that point immediately perked up upon hearing the latter part of that introduction.  This man, I believe, is a good man and I have the deepest sympathies for him.  Never did I ever believe I would sympathize with a murderer.  According to him, he had been having problems with mental illness since he was four years old.  However, one night, ten years ago, he was overcome by these horrid hallucinations of his wife trying to attack and kill him, all the while screaming at him that he needed to kill her.  He was terrified, stabbed her several times, and slept, believing the whole thing to be a nightmare and not reality. When he awoke in the morning and realized what had actually happened, he immediately called his mother and told her to report him to the police.  That’s right, he immediately opted to turn himself in. He also told us that he felt as if he needed to commit suicide immediately, but the institution will not let him. When I asked him if he was hopeful for the future, he said that he’d like to be released and move to Egypt where he could work at a Czech concession market.  He said that he’d been interested in Egypt since he was a young child but has never been there.  His psychiatrist told us that it was highly unlikely that he’d accomplish his goal, as even if he were to be released, he has nowhere to go home to and no money.  Still, his mental state has improved substantially over the last decade.  My heart breaks for this man.

The next man we met received not an ounce of sympathy from me.
The second and final patient we spoke to had recently served a 24-year prison sentence and now was being treated at the psychiatric ward.  He was imprisoned for raping and murdering a twelve-year-old girl.  Yeah. He not only raped her, but he also slit her throat.  Here was his rationale: he intended to only rape her, but he had no desire to kill her.  He only killed her because he feared she would tell her family, since they knew him.  Bull.  This man is an awful, awful human being.  The only thing about his entire being that generates even the slightest shred of sympathy from me is the fact that he has pedophilia.  Hear me out.  It is not wrong to be a pedophile.  Being a pedophile means you are sexually attracted to children, and there is nothing you can do about that; it is a sexual orientation.  Acting upon it is wrong, as you are physically and psychologically damaging someone who is not yet sexually mature.  And he acted upon it, and there is no way he can be forgiven for that.  Plus he killed her too.  The way child molesters are being treated psychiatrically is through the administration of medication that serves as a form of castration in order to significantly decrease libido.  It is a tough subject, as people with pedophilia must come to terms with the fact that they can never obtain sexual gratification, and if they receive treatment, they are essentially relinquishing their entire sexuality in doing so.  It’s heavy stuff.  However, I do not feel bad at all for the second patient we met.  Not even a little bit.


Okay!  Finally, I can tell you about arguably the most relaxing part of the Czech trip:
Our stay at a SPA RESORT in the small town of Lázně Bělohrad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There was no rushing on this part of the trip.  We stayed at the Tree of Life Spa!
On the first day of our stay there, I received a classic, full body massage.  Wow.  I had never received a professional massage before in my entire life.  It felt so good!  It was relaxing!  I also noticed that the beds at this hotel were rather uncomfortable and my back was hurting when I woke up.  Could it be that the hotel purposely uses beds that make your back hurt so that you’ll pay for more massage therapy?  Could be!  Anyway, the massage was nice, but what was nicer was the laid back academic activity that came next. We took a scenic hike up to the local church on a hill.  Holy crap.  This trek boasted some of the most beautiful views our eyes had ever had the pleasure of witnessing.  Here, look.
And I’m pretty sure this is the church that we hiked to:
Once we made it up to the church on the hill, Salman, our professor, had us engage in an hour-long period of silence and mental reflection.  It’s a thing he has us do a lot.  He’s really into meditation.  I definitely shed a tear during that hour of no talking.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures during this period.  But let me tell you what I did!  I began by sitting perched on a short wall in front of the church, thinking.  I then walked all the way down, and trekked along a road where I telepathically talked to the plants.  Two adorable young deer sprinted past me.  I also stood in front of a pile of animal poop for a while.  It was a deep pile of poop.  As I walked along one of the roads, I noticed a small area to the side of the road where one car could move to in the event of meeting another head on, as the road was not one-way, but not wide enough for there to be two lanes.  I sat in that small area for a while.  Okay this is boring stuff, I get it.  Long story short: I appreciated the absolute beauty of the nature before me.

That night…

Salman surprised us with an outdoor tent and buffet where we could have dinner!  It was amazing and a super duper generous gift!  Just see for yourself!
And here we all are, eating!
The food was all spectacular, by the way, and it was cooked right in front of us.  And after that we ventured a short distance away from the hotel where we had ourselves a bonfire.  Oh my god.  My jacket still smells smoky and I don’t even care because that bonfire was magical.  We played hot seat, we laughed and drank beer (but not me!), and it was perfect.  Salman told us one of the greatest true stories I have ever heard about his first love.  It sounds cliché, but ask him about it.  It was actually one of the highlights of the entire trip to the Czech Republic.  We also all individually shared our personal reflections on the week as a whole. I know this post is already super long, so let’s just leave it at this: this was the trip of a lifetime, for all of us.
This is a trdelník filled with vanilla ice cream that I ate.  They are not usually filled with ice cream.  This is what a traditional trdelník looks like:
It is a delicious Czech pastry that is basically like, umm, like sugary swirly bread, I guess?  It’s delicious and can be found aplenty in Prague, that is all you need to know!

I apologize for the length of this entry.  It was a long week, but I wanted to try to include as much of it as I could.  I also apologize if at times, it seems as if I am speaking about certain groups of people (the homeless, the physically disabled, sufferers of mental illness) in a patronizing, belittling manner.  That was not my intention.  My intention was to commend the institutions that provide support for these people, and I by no means believe that they are lesser than anyone else as individuals, and I respect them just as I respect anyone else.

If you read everything, wow, you’re dedicated.
Anyway, see you all in my next post, which I PROMISE will be much shorter than this one!

Pre-Prague Weekend Update

Hey everyone!  I apologize for the lack of a blog post this week.  Nothing eventful has happened, I’ve just been totally swamped with schoolwork, and I figured I’d spare you all the details of my assignments. Anyway, next week, you all can expect a BIG post, as I will be in Prague, Czech Republic, with my Positive Psychology core course!  We leave tomorrow morning at 11:45 AM!  Agh, I am so excited!  While I haven’t reviewed the details of the coming week’s events, I do know that we will be concluding our Czech adventure with a spa treatment.  I have never been to a spa in my entire life.  Never have I ever been professionally massaged, yet I am definitely the type of person to unrelentingly ask a close friend to rub my back.  And they usually suck at it.  So yeah, this is going to be an interesting experience for me!

I would highly recommend you all read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  It is a phenomenal novel.  10/10, would read again.

Anyway, the birds of Stockholm say god kväll!

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for updates during the upcoming week of travel, and don’t forget to eat your kanelbulle!

Art and Fika!

Hey guys, how are you all doing?  Not a whole lot has happened in the past week, so I’m only going to talk about two things: my Nordic Contemporary Art Class and Fika!

Nordic Contemporary Art:
I know the title is boring but bear with me, okay?  My class has been taking some really awesome excursions!  A few days ago we went on a tour of the Stockholm metro stations because the whole subway system is essentially one giant art installation!  For my oral presentation, I will be focusing on art from the Fridhemsplan station, pictured below.  There are hardly any metro stations, in fact there may actually be zero, that don’t have any art in them.  It is simply incredible how important art is to Swedish culture, and the entire city of Stockholm is decorated in it!  Isn’t it amazing how even the subway stations are a sight to be seen?  I love them so much.
ast Thursday, my art class visited a public outdoor garden art gallery called the Thiel Gallery.  It was so serene and peaceful and full of elderly couples walking around.  I’ve not much else to say about it other than the fact that the apple I picked from one of the trees was delicious and there was a beautiful and adorable bird there!  Here is a photo of my favorite art piece at the gallery followed by a picture of the bird.
I kinda wanna treat this guy to dinner and a movie.

Now for the bird:

Can anyone identify what avian species this is?

This should be a thing all over the world.  It is one of Sweden’s most important cultural elements.  I liken Fika to the concept of 5 o’clock cocktails.  Fika is essentially a casual coffee break, but it is so much more than just a coffee break.  It is a cultural phenomenon in which you, at any time of day, drink a cup of coffee that is often complemented with pastries (preferably kanelbullar—cinnamon buns—) or sandwiches!  I was never a coffee drinker before, but now I drink at least one cup a day.  Espresso House, Sweden’s superior version of Starbucks, has become my second home, and I even have my own coffee card for the shoppes.  I love Espresso House so much, and if it weren’t for Fika, I would never have discovered this magnificent Swedish coffee chain, or should I say, Fika chain!
Jag fikar på Espresso House.

That’s all for now, folks!
Sleep tight and don’t forget to Fika!


Hej, everyone.  I apologize for this post being so late.  When I delve into the events of the past week, you’ll understand why I haven’t had time to blog.  It’s been a busy bunch of days!

Core Course Week:
From Monday through Wednesday of this past week, my entire core course class (Positive Psychology) and our professor ventured out to Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden by population.  For the sake of time and your attention span (assuming anyone reads this, haha), I am only going to talk about the major events of this trip.  We stayed in a really nice hostel that served us breakfast every morning!  The rooms were about the size of Harry’s cupboard but for two people and with bunk beds.  So that was interesting, but it was only two nights that I had to sleep up there!  The city of Gothenburg itself was quite pretty; it was essentially a scaled down version of Stockholm except with trams instead of trains!  Here is a nice photograph I managed to snag on one of our walking tours:
During the first two days in Gothenburg, we had meetings with individuals from various walks of life; we went to a prison and were lectured by employees about how the system is run, we received an academic talk on maintaining a positive body image, and we even engaged in an interactive session about incorporating human psychology in urban planning!  While all of these events and activities were fun and informative, the real fun part was on Wednesday when, I kid you not, we went surprise kayaking!  Allow me to explain.  We checked out of our hotels and hopped on a bus that drove us about an hour away from Gothenburg (and Stockholm; our trip back was long) to this rural, middle-of-nowhere area.  We arrived at the house of a man named Ivan who was incredibly hospitable, as he provided, in his words, coffee and munchies!  Behold!
14339789_1414492291902281_1884637881_o Photo courtesy of my friend Katie
They were all delicious, especially the banana bread.  The activity taking place at this residence was supposed to focus on the human connection to nature and whatnot.  No joke, our professor did not even know what was coming next.  He was under the impression that we’d be going for a relaxing boat ride or something.  He had no idea that Ivan was about to provide us with a whole bunch of kayaks and have us kayak ourselves across the large lake next to his house to the shore of a mountainous mountain plain area which we would then climb in silence.  Keep in mind, not one of us dressed for operating a watercraft!  I was wearing a nice pair of jeans and a Vineyard Vines sweater, but some of us were wearing nice button downs and stuff!  But it didn’t matter!  We all put on our spray skirts and life jackets and got right on into those kayaks!  Here is me all clad in my kayaking gear:
14375440_1414491408569036_1930266735_oPhoto courtesy of my friend Katie
Personally, I had never kayaked before in my whole life.  It was a new craft for me.  I was so nervous, let me tell you, I was almost positive I would flip over and get all wet and embarrassed.  Well, I was wrong!  It actually isn’t very difficult to kayak and I ended up enjoying it immensely!  There were a few times when I became a bit overzealous and tried to kayak faster than I should have and as a result almost flipped over, but I always managed to safely stabilize myself.  It was such a fun journey, such a great arm workout, I really want to do it again!  Here is a photo of me kayaking:
14394020_1414492185235625_569704935_oKatie also took this one.
It was a blast, but little did I know that the upward climb ahead of me would forever change my life!  Okay not really but it was still epic.  We parked our little boats on the shallow shore where a large grassy mountain overlooked us.  And then we climbed.  We were instructed to spend about 30 minutes in silence for the sake of the class.  So at the beginning of the climb, not a word was spoken except for the occasional profanity quietly escaping from my mouth when I stepped on a thorny plant.  Yeah, we were all barefoot!  We couldn’t wear our shoes in the kayaks which is why we were barefoot.  Being the agile little fox guy that I am, I decided it would be the most fun to leap from rock to rock, from boulder to boulder, sometimes jumping massive grassy gaps.  This was a lot of fun, but it really took its toll on my feet…  My feet were scratched up and cut and … yeah.  But it was worth it!  Because that just made the grass and the soft sand feel all the more glorious when I finally made it to them!  Here is me on the mountain:
And here is me doin’ some climbin’ alongside a general photo of the mountain:
I guess it was more of a rocky hill than a mountain, haha.
Anyway, it is regrettably that I was unable to photographically capture what happened when I went to reenter my kayak to return to Ivan’s house.  I will never forget this.  When I stepped into the boat with my left leg, a tiny little shrimp was splashed into the kayak!  It may have been on my foot and thus came with my leg into the boat, but nevertheless, a little helpless shrimp had come into my kayak!  Well alright, it was not a shrimp.  It was a crustacean.  And from the research I’ve done, it is my belief that the little guy was a northern krill.  Here is a photo from google:

FILE - This July 19, 2010 photo released by the Point Reyes Bird Observatory and NOAA shows a krill from the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off the Northern California coast. Millions of krill, a tiny shrimp-like animal that is a cornerstone of the ocean food web, have been washing up on beaches in Southern Oregon and Northern California the past few weeks and scientists are not sure why. (AP Photo/PRBO/NOAA, Sophie Webb, file)

I remember him being translucent, but not orange at all.  That may be due, however, to the fact that he was sitting inside my yellow kayak.  It took me a while to get him out since he was so slippery, and to do so I ended up having to pick up the poor little guy by his antennae.  The story has a happy ending, though; he made it home safely!  That was an experience I will never forget even though it took all of maybe three minutes.  The final two days of core course week involved learning about meditation, habit-formation, and music therapy.  The music therapy session on Friday was particularly uplifting for me because it gave me the chance to play guitar once again.  Oh, how I miss my beautiful guitar <3

Okay, well actually, it’s Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, or Smash 4, but you definitely heard the bellowing voice in your head, didn’t you?  I must explain!  I am a competitive Smash 4 player; I’ve been attending local tournaments since this past summer.  It’s been tough having to live without playing smash, so what did I do?  I did a little bit of research and eventually came into contact with a group of young men known collectively as the Stockholm Shieldbreakers!  They are a group of Swedish smashers from the Stockholm area who regularly meet to practice and compete in local tournaments!  It is with them that I have spent the majority of my time during the past two days, haha, I am such a geek.  Last weekend I competed in a doubles tournament, Friday night I went to one of the guys’ houses to practice, and yesterday I competed in a singles tournament!  These guys are all very friendly and range in age from 14 to 27!  I’m really glad I’ve found a nice group of Swedish friends to play smash with and also immerse myself in Swedish culture!
Yeah, I know I’m super cool.  You don’t even have to tell me.

Well everyone, that just about wraps up this past week!
I hope you all have an amazing new week and don’t forget to FIKA!

Tall TV Towers and Twisty Twizzler-like Treats

Hej guys,  I apologize for this week’s post being a few days late.  I’ve been busy, OKAY?!
Anyway, where to start?! ^_^  Here’s a brief update: everything is going nicely!  I’ve been meeting new friends, learning a new language, and I’ve even started planning some personal trips to take during my breaks.  Now, I shall dive into the details.

Mindfulness Meditation:
Last Wednesday (the day after my last post), my Psychology of Loneliness class took a study trip to these beautiful gardens in Stockholm for some mindfulness exercises.  I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve never done anything like that before!  Anyway we had to sit on the grass and remove our shoes and socks which sucked because I forgot to clip my toenails and—oh god, too much information…?  Nahh, you’ll be fine.  As if I’m the only one who forgets every now and then!  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, being barefoot on the grass.  We were guided by a talented young American-Swede named Heidi who taught us the AAA system of mindfulness.  The three A’s stand for: Awareness, as in becoming aware that you indeed do have a problem.  Acceptance, as in accepting the issue for what it is and recognizing that steps must be taken to rectify it.  Action, as in acting on the issue to solve it once and for all.  So that was cool, and it was actually rather helpful.  We also had to buy ourselves lunch and then eat in a circle in total silence as part of some meditative exercise which was also cool, but I was more interested in the WATERFOWL!
duckies There are more bird pics to come

The Top of the TV Tower:
On Friday night, some friends and I decided to visit the Kaknästornet TV tower, which is apparently a landmark or something that tourists like to visit or whatever.  I can’t lie, though, it was actually really cool.
The base of the building opened immediately with a gift shop where we bought tokens to ride the elevator all the way up to the top!  Sadly, I cannot remember how many stories tall it was.  However, I did get some pretty great pics of the views from the top of the tower, but I am only going to show you guys one.  One. You got that?
What I enjoyed most of all about the tower was the bar on the second to top floor (there was also a full service restaurant on the floor below that one but we didn’t go there).  The bar had a wide selection of pastries and desserts, and I had this delicious strawberry gelatin cheesecake thing.  And a roast beef sandwich.  I was hungry, okay?  I’d forgotten to eat dinner, so that was my dinner.  And it was absolutely scrumptious.  Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of it.  Use your imaginations.  After we finished up at the tower, we headed over to a Lion Bar (a Swedish bar chain), had some drinks, danced a bit, then scooted on down to a big gay bar called the Candy Bar that was totally lit.  I just said lit.  What is this country doing to me?  But the gay bar was actually a ton of fun!  Lots of space to move around and amazing lighting displays combined with great music made for an unforgettable experience!  Moving on now.

Candy Corner
This is a Pingvin Kokosdrøm Dröm.  I have literally no idea what that means, but I’m guessing it’s a Danish name since the “ø” does not exist in the Swedish language.  But, holy …  These things are literally better Twizzlers!  No joke!  And yet again, I am struggling to explain why they’re better, haha. They definitely pack more flavor in each bite and the consistency is more foamy than gummy, just like the little car candies!  These things are delicious and I will definitely be bringing many of them home with me!

Finally, I’m going to show you some ducks swimming peacefully along the lake near my apartment









And this is what I eat for dinner quite frequently: spaghetti with ricotta sauce, grated parmesan, and some sliced turkey cuts thrown in for protein and taste.

Okay, friends, that’s all for today!
I’ll update you guys again in about a week or so!
Hang tight, folks!

Hej då!

Standing on Graves and Eating Cars

Hej, jag heter Pasquale och jag kommer från New York i USA.  I told you the pretentious uses of Swedish were coming!  All I said was that my name is Pasquale and that I come from New York in the United States.  Anyway, hey guys.  This week is my first full week of classes so I’ll start by giving a brief update before getting into the details.  I’ve decided to drop The Power of the Mind: Psychology of Performance for several reasons.  For one, I am only allowed to transfer major credit from two abroad courses, and I had three psychology classes before dropping it.  Secondly, I can find similar courses at Skidmore, but as far as I know, this is one of my only chances to take Positive Psychology as well as a course on the psychology of loneliness.  I have decided to pick up a class called Nordic Contemporary Art instead, which should be really interesting!  I haven’t taken an art class since middle school and I have never taken an art history class. This should be cool.  All of my other classes are pretty great, especially positive psychology.  It is taught by a 40-something-year-old man named Salman with a silly and cheery personality and a way of speaking similar to that of Skidmore’s own Gautam Dasgupta.  He’s awesome, and so is the class, as it explores how we can use our mental strengths as humans to maintain happiness, rather than focusing on extinguishing our weaknesses.  It’s really an incredible area and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in psychology.  Okay, now to jump into the fun stuff!

A Viking Island Expedition
This past Sunday, a group of DIS students, led by my Scandinavian Crime Fiction professor, boarded a boat and set sail for the island of Björkö where we would receive a guided tour of an ancient viking settlement, Birka.  There were large mounds in the grass resembling inverted craters.  Those mounds actually turned out to be burial sites for the deceased, so we indeed were standing on top of where ancient settlers had been buried!  The most interesting thing I learned while on the island is that there is still a small farming family living there with children that have to commute to school in Stockholm by boat every day!  There were also a lot of awesome animals that caught my attention, like these sheep:

And these ducks:
nd this boat is not an animal but it was still really cool!!!!
verall, the trip to Birka was an incredible experience.  Not only was I able to learn about a historic viking settlement, but I was also able to see some amazing natural landscapes that seemed nearly untouched by humanity.
vyu Notice the sheep.  Baaaaaah.  Ha.  Please laugh.

Crayfish Party
Last weekend, my residential community RA’s threw us all a big Crayfish Party!  I am not referring to any old party that serves crayfish.  Crayfish Parties are actually a Swedish traditional event that usually takes place during the month of August when crayfish are in harvest.  The feast is accompanied by decorations to put up, silly hats to wear, Swedish songs to sing, and alcoholic beverages to imbibe!  Since we could not speak Swedish, the songs were guided by our RA’s, and we would repeat after them as best as we could, which was probably mediocre at best.  Our RA’s even gave us a lesson on how to properly take apart the crayfish and eat them!  I’ve never been a fan of seafood, but how could I not give this a try?  It wasn’t bad, considering that it was flavored with dill, haha.  Unfortunately, I did not get any photos of the entire party, but I did manage to photograph the crayfish:
I also took this snazzy picture of myself wearing one of the silly hats:
me hat
You can sort of see the party scene in the background.  It was lit.

Candy Corner
Finally, I will speak again about Swedish candy.  My feelings have not changed: Swedish candy > American Candy.  There is a particular candy that I have been eating relatively consistently (although candy in general should not be eaten consistently, haha).  It’s called Ahlgrens bilar and was created 1953 by two Swedish car enthusiasts.  History aside, these rainbow assorted little foamy sugar things are highly addictive.  I can’t think of an American confectionary product that rivals this!  The only candy I can think of that even comes close to bilar is the array of candies produced by Haribo, and they are German!  Here is a picture of a bag of Ahlgrens bilar I recently bought:
bilar bag
And here is a picture of them up close!
close cars
It’s difficult to describe the consistency of this treat.  I would say it is somewhere between a gummy candy and a hard candy.  “Foamy” is probably the best word to describe it; it is similar to that of chewing gum.  Let me know if you want some, as I will definitely be bringing back many bags of these!

Anyway, that’s all my time for this week!  I’ll keep you guys updated on more awesome things that happen as well as academic stuff!  Hejdå allihopa!  Skål!

very prity

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