Sunday, August 24, 2014

1 Year!

I cannot believe that we have been living in Stockholm for one whole year!  The saying "the days are long but the years are short" couldn't feel more true.  


I was thinking about what I wanted to say about our year here and I thought about all the things I wish I could have told myself a year ago before starting this adventure so I decided to write myself a letter.  Here is what I would say:

Oh Kara,
You are about to start a crazy adventure.  I know you are terrified and that this is a huge leap of faith and WAY out of your box but trust me, this is where God wants you and He will take care of the details.  The waiting in Olathe is much harder than actually moving here.  Most things will be easier than you think they will be and I can only believe that is because we were covered in prayers from family and friends.  There will also be things that are much harder than you think, like buying butter and sheets at Ikea.  

There will be times when you will try to be brave and keep things just between you, Jake and God but God will remind you that you that He has placed people in your life for a reason.  They are there to build you up, pray for you and love on you.  On those hard days don't be afraid to call those you love and just let it all out knowing they are virtually hugging you and lifting you up in prayer.  Just talking to them, getting texts and phone calls from your best friends will make all the difference.  

You will travel to more places than you can even imagine in the next year.  Through your travels you will learn so much more about yourself and how much you appreciate your husband Jake.  You will figure out how to communicate better and how to slow down your anger when things get stressful.  You will remember you are a team and that as much as you don't want to admit it sometimes you really enjoy that he pushes you to go on all these crazy adventures.

You will make new friends and lose touch with a few friends back home.  Losing touch with friends will be the hard one to swallow.  Some friendships will be hard to maintain and that will weigh on your heart but others will be strengthen and you have to trust that lifelong friendships will be made even better during this time.  I've heard some people say that God gives you friends at different seasons in your life and then once that season is over he gives you different friends.  I'm not sure I believe that 100% of the time but try to trust that the lifelong friends will make it through the 5000 miles.

You will miss teaching, a lot.  It is such a part of you that you will crave getting to sub and eventually be back in your own classroom but for now trust that God has a plan that is bigger than your plan.  Plus think of all the awesome stories you can tell your kids once you are back in the classroom.

Overall you will love this adventure.  It will stretch you in new ways that wouldn't have been possible in Olathe which is why God brought you here.  He had big things planned for you and you need to trust Him.  Trust his timing and his plan and try to give your worries to him.  You will learn that worrying about things is worthless.  If you worry and nothing happens you've already mentally gone through the painful scenario.  If you worry and something bad does happen, now you've gone through it twice.  At the end of your first year in Sweden you will still be working on giving things up to God daily but that is okay because it means you are relying on Him daily.

The verse Ephesians 3:20 seems to sum up your year, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us."  God will continue to work in you and through you and do more than you can ask or imagine.  Continue trusting His plan on this great adventure He has given you.

Love,
Kara
P.S. How long do you think you will claim to not like change and that you aren't adventurous?  I'm not sure you will be able to say that for much longer after this year :).

The last six months have been full of traveling and adventures.  One question we always get asked is, "Does Jake ever work?"  The answer is of course he does!  That is why we are here.  We have been averaging about one trip per month but most of our trips are only four or five days and we always put them on a weekend when we can.  Which means most of the time Jake only has to take off two days of work for each trip.  Before we moved here Jake had quite a few days saved up because he hardly ever took time off but now that we are here and able to travel we are trying to take advantage of being so close to so many fun places!  So don't worry, he is still working :).  

I also want to mention that taking time off over here is much different than in the US.  I've mentioned before that in Sweden you get 14 months of parental leave to share between the parents for EACH kid.  Plus you get pretty much unlimited sick days whenever your kid can't go to daycare or school because of an illness.  On top of that you get five weeks of vacation a year and typically most Swedes take off three to four weeks consecutively in the summer.  In fact, there is a law in Sweden that if you request three consecutive weeks of vacation off your boss has to give it to you.  He can deny four weeks but three is a must if you give him enough notice.  Most Swedes take off the month of July.  Several businesses and shops are closed around the city in the month of July.  So yes, Jake's takes off about two days a month but that is nothing compared to Swedes especially in the summer.

We have been very fortunate to travel as much as we have and trust me we are trying hard not to take it for granted.  We have been told several times how lucky we are and that this is a once in a life time opportunity and we agree.  But, I also need to confess something . . . traveling is hard.  It is very time consuming planning trips.  Granted, we could plan less but when you spend money on a trip you want it to be worth the money you put into it.  I don't know how many hours we put into planning trips before we go but it is a lot.  It could be about the same number of hours as the actual trip takes to be quite honest.  Traveling can wear you out both mentally and physically.  Please do not mistake this confession as a complaint.  I am not complaining that we get to travel I'm just simply stating that great instagram pics of wonderful times on our trip don't always include the hours of hard work put into the trip before we even leave our apartment or the tired feet and bodies we have at the end of a long day of traveling.  And there are definitely some days when I would trade it all in just for time at home with friends, family and Mi Ranchito but then I remember that this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity so I'm going to suck it up and travel!

If you want to read about what we did our first six months you can find that over here.  We went to the northern part of Sweden over our 6th month anniversary of living in Stockholm.  If you want to read about our time skiing, dog sledding or our stay at the Ice Hotel click on those links.

In the last six months we had added lots of countries to our list of new places we've explored. We had a great time in London taking lots of pictures of the Tower Bridge and seeing Harry Potter.  

We went home in April for a quick visit.
Most of my time back home involved meeting cute babies and eating great food while visiting with friends.   Jake's time home was even shorter because he went to the British Virgin Islands to learn how to sail.  

Right after we got home from the states we headed to Ireland for four days and Jake is already talking about going back.  

Then Jake's parents arrived and spent time with us in StockholmUppsala and in the archipelago

On June 21st, we celebrated Midsommar and our 6th anniversary in Nyköping and I realized I never got around to writing a post about that so we shall see if that pops up on the blog sometime but here are some pictures.


I shared that so far summer has been the hardest season for me while living in Stockholm which I did not expect.  I will say after a few phone calls with my best friends and changing up my workout by running outside I've been handling summer much better.  

You got to see a quick tour of the guest apartment right after Jake's parents left.  

In July, we went to Munich and Stuttgart, Germany and then headed to Mulhouse, France to watch the Tour de France.  

Jake's Uncle Bob visited us at the beginning of August and we went on a biking and camping trip across Visby and had a great time.  
We have been busy but we are trying to soak up as many of the adventures as we can.  We have also started planning some trips for the fall that are places that have been at the top of my list to visit!

Some of you might be wondering when we are moving back home.  We originally signed on to stay for just one year.  I could barely wrap my head around that so committing to a longer time frame was just out of the question.  I told Jake that after living here for six months he would be allowed to bring up the discussion of staying longer but until we passed the six month mark he couldn't even bring up extending our stay.  Well, around the fifth month I brought it up :).  Like I said earlier the transition was easier than I thought it would be so I wasn't as scared to stay longer now that I had been here long enough to know what it would be like.  In March we told Jake's company that we would be up for staying another year if they needed him here and thankfully it wasn't a problem.  We've really enjoyed living in Stockholm but we've also really enjoyed traveling and we haven't crossed off all the places we'd like to before moving back.  We know Olathe will still be there whenever we move home and so will our friends and family so why rush getting back.  Whenever we go back home to visit it feels like we've just been on a long vacation.  Everything looks about the same and feels the same and we didn't want to move back after a year and then a month after being home regret that we didn't stay longer.  So we have signed on for another year and plan on coming home in the fall of 2015 which means if anyone thought they ran out of time to visit us you have another year!

I feel like I say this all the time but phone calls, text messages, letters, emails and skyping just make my day!  I love hearing from people.  It just makes home feel that much closer so feel free to get a hold of me!

Thanks for reading all about our adventures, for praying for us and supporting us.  We could not do this without all of the support.  I can't wait to see what is in store for the next six months!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tour de Gotland - Plus Stockholm with Uncle Bob

When we started planning our time with Jake's Uncle Bob he said to plan something we have wanted to do and he would just join along.  So instead of doing the typical touristy stuff since Bob has been to Stockholm before we decided to visit Gotland.  Gotland is a Swedish island southeast of Sweden.  Jake did a great job planning the whole trip and we had a wonderful time.

Bob arrived on Wednesday, August 6th.  We spent the day in Stockholm visiting the Architecture and Design Museum and doing a little shopping.

We started off by having lunch at the Modern Museum because we heard it had a great view and good food and it didn't disappoint.
 The Architecture and Design Museum had an exhibit on bicycles which was neat and fitting considering we were leaving the next day for a bike trip.
 The yellow bike is the current bike postmen use in Sweden to deliver our mail.  You will see these all over the city delivering mail.
 Notice the name on the posters?  Lindblads.  Jake's Mom's maiden name and Bob's last name is Lindeblad.  They are 7/8 Swedish so this was fun to see.

Walking through Kungsträdgården checking out all the flowers.
We went to dinner at Solstugan which is restaurant on Kungsholmen that overlooks the water and has live music.  We hadn't ever been there but we have wanted to go for a while.  The food was pretty good but the atmosphere was really fun.  Plus, they had a smiley face flag!

There are two main ways to get to Gotland, a train to a ferry which takes about 4 hours or a 35 minute plane ride.  We were going to take the train and the ferry but it was fully booked so we flew which ended up being great because then we had more time in Gotland.  We left from the Bromma Airport which is a much smaller airport and it is pretty close to our apartment which meant we didn't have to leave that early before our flight.  We flew out at 7:40 am and landed in Gotland at 8:10 am and we were on the airport bus headed to downtown Visby by 8:15 am.
 Jake decided it would be fun to rent bikes and bike to different campsites around the island for three nights and four days.  I was a little hesitant at first but obviously got on board and I am so glad that I did.  It was awesome!  I had a great time biking.  It was much better than I thought it would be.  Jake went on a bike trip with his dad in Colorado the year before we got married and they biked for 5-6 hours a day up mountain roads.  That did not sound like fun but once Jake showed me the routes and how flat the island was I was ready to give it a try.  They had a camping package where you could rent two bikes, a trailer, two sleeping mats, and a tent for a discounted price.  So we rented that plus an extra bike with a basket.  Jake pulled the trailer, Bob had one of our bags on the back of his bike that had our sleeping bags and tent and I had the red bike in the middle with the basket.  I carried our water bottles, gps, snacks, camera and miscellaneous things.
On our first day we biked from Visby to Ljugarn.  If you want to look at our route that Jake tracked using his Garmin watch here is the link.  The weather was perfect.  It was a little bit overcast when we left Visby and then it was partly cloudy with a little bit of a breeze the rest of the way.  It was probably between 65-70 degrees but not very humid.  We really couldn't have asked for better weather.  We took the main road that cuts across the island which was kind of busy but the cars were very considerate.  All of them pulled over to give us half of a lane or more and if another car was coming towards them they waited until they could pass and give us space.  I think cars on this island are pretty used to cyclists on the road.
I felt bad for Jake because he had a heavy load.  He had almost all of the weight of our stuff plus the heavy trailer.  None of us had touring bikes which are lighter weight and adding the weight of his bike to everything else made it not much fun to pull across the island.  He did a great job but I think if we did it again we might get touring bikes with saddle bags so he wasn't so weighed down.  We ended up going a little bit slower than we thought we would so it took us about three and a half hours instead of two and a half hours to get across the island.  On the first day we biked about 15 km (9.3 miles) and then took a break before jumping back on the bikes.  We had some breakfast in Visby before leaving and then we had sandwiches and a banana during one of our breaks.

We arrived in Ljugarn and set up our tents before the boys headed for lunch.  I wasn't that hungry so I decided to take a nap in the tent instead of having lunch.  When they got back from lunch we headed to the beach which was less than a minute from our campsite.  The water was freezing cold and there was a lot of algae where we were so I didn't get in and the guys were only in the water for a little while before we moved to the pool.

While we were leaving the beach Jake said. "You are the hottest girl on the beach."  I gave him a look that told him I thought he was lying.  While it was flattering, we are in Sweden and girls here are typically in very good shape plus Jake happens to be one that leans towards being overly honest instead of giving empty compliments.  After the look he said, "Well, you are definitely in the top 5."  And I just laughed.  His honesty was a little hard to get used to when we first started dating, like when he said my high school graduation dress looked like a mattress pad which he later changed to a bed skirt :), but now I appreciate it and love it.  At least if he compliments me now I know he means it and he has learned to at least think before he shares a comment that might be too honest :).
After the pool we slowly  hopped back on our bikes and headed about 5 minutes north of our campsite to see some "rauker", which are limestone rock formations which have been eroded over thousands of year by the wind and the waves.




 Jake got a kick out of this stone heart.  He says Game of Thrones readers will understand.

You can see the rauker at the end of this beach.  When we got back I took a shower before heading to dinner.  The bathroom facilities at all three campgrounds were really good.  I like camping and I even like staying in a tent, especially when I can bring my inflatable mattress pad which unfortunately is in Olathe but the sleeping pad we had wasn't bad.  The main worry I have when camping is the bathroom situation.  Flush toilets really are a must and I'd prefer they not be buggy.  All three campgrounds had clean bathrooms with flush toilets and very few bugs.

They also had nice showers.  Each campground had similar systems for the showers.  You had to buy a shower card and load it with hot water minutes.  For two of the campgrounds you scanned your card in the shower and you got hot water with each scan or press of a button.  The shower would run for about a minute and then stop.  Then you could hit it again for another minute of hot water.  One of the campgrounds had the water running the whole time but if you wanted it to be hot you had to scan your card.  I didn't like that set up because then every minute I'd have to remember to jump out of the way of the freezing cold water.  I liked the two that either had hot water or nothing.  When the water wasn't running I could lather up and then hit the button for hot water.  The showers were clean and not buggy and no one threw a frog in there when I was shower (Emily Destined for trouble Martz, I don't think you threw the frog in the shower when we went camping together a long time ago but someone you were with did and I still haven't forgotten.  But, it could also be said that camping with your family and Jan's family is the reason why I camp with Jake today so maybe that cancels out the frog.)
We rode our bikes into town for dinner at Pighuset which was a tapas place that was pretty good.  The atmosphere was really cool.  They had lots of tables outside in the grass and around the building.  I had a really good dessert that I didn't even feel guilty eating because of all the biking we did that day.

The next morning we woke up early to pack up and head out so we could get to Tofta at a decent time.  Our sit bones, butts, were sore but other than that and Bob's knee we weren't in too bad of shape.  It took us about 5 hours to get there because we took more back roads and stopped a few times but this was my favorite day of biking.  All of the back roads were so pretty and there was barely any traffic.  Gotland reminded me of Kansas.  It was pretty flat with wheat fields, cows and horses but then we would also go through a forest area which looked and smelled like Colorado without the mountains.  I loved those stretches.

I realized while biking that looking out the window of a car every once in a while is a completely different experience than biking down the road.  When you bike you get the sights and the smells and you have to look around or else you will crash.  Your mind can just wander and you can get caught up in the beauty surrounding you and it was beautiful.  We had another day of perfect weather.  It was sunny, with a cool breeze and not too warm.  I got a little pink on our first day because I didn't put on any sunscreen, which in Kansas would have been horrible but in Sweden it just gave me a little color, so I made sure to wear some the second day.
Our plan was to grab breakfast before hitting the road.  We found a bakery that opened at 7 am so when we stopped by at 7:40 am to get breakfast we should have been fine.  They were open but they only had three different kinds of rolls.  The guys were hoping for coffee along with something other than rolls but we bought the rolls and decided to get coffee at the next town.  The next cafe we found around 9:20 am wasn't open until 10 am so we kept riding.  The next place was open at 11 am and we found it at 10 am.  We could not catch a break.  I was fine but they guys were really missing their coffee.
We did stop and have some trail mix and we found a place to use the bathroom and fill up our water bottles.  The next place we found looked promising but the closer we got we noticed the sign said open at noon and it was 11:20.  I walked inside just to check and the lady working said they weren't fully open but they always had coffee :).  Now that sounds more like the Sweden we know and love.  The guys had coffee and Jake and I had a cinnamon roll.

This place was really pretty.  Do you see the lawnmower?  We've seen them for sale at Bauhaus, a home improvement store, and I've seen one mowing a lawn once but this one went right under our table while we were eating our rolls and drinking coffee.  I guess it runs all the time and does a great job keeping the grass trimmed.  Sometimes they have to rearrange the furniture to make sure they don't have any spots that get too long and it goes to its charging station to charge up before heading out again.
You can tell this was a back road because there weren't any lines on the road.  We had maybe four cars pass us on this road.  If Jake could guarantee that all bike trips would be this beautiful, with perfect weather and no hills I would say yes to all of them.

We arrived at the Tofta campground around 1:30 pm.  We checked in and then grabbed some lunch before finding a place for our tents.  We had lunch at the Tofta Beach Club which had a nice view of the pool and beach.

The tent sites were in a designated area but they aren't reserved spots with a fire pit and a picnic table like we are used to in Colorado.  So we just biked around until we found one with lots of trees that wasn't close to anyone else and set up there.  There were also about six different electrical boxes you could plug into to charge up your gadgets.  We happened to find one by our tent spot and used it to charge our phones and the gps.
We headed to the beach after lunch.  This beach was much nicer and really busy compared to the last beach.  The guys got in the water and I just soaked up the sun.  The water was still really cold but it didn't have algae like the last beach.

Swedes and their swimsuits are funny, in my opinion.  They often head to the beach in their clothes and then change at the beach.  The large woman's face to the right of the photo is a changing area on the beach but a lot of times Swedes just change right where they are.  Most of the time when they are changing they wrap a towel around their waist and then pull their shorts or underwear down and then pull their swimsuits up.  Most of them have perfected this and so nothing can be seen while changing but some aren't as graceful.  As for women changing their top half most just take off their shirt and stand there in their bras before putting their swimsuit top over their bra before they slide it off.  I've also seen older ladies just topless for a moment or two while changing.

Little kids definitely vary in their swimsuits.  Some run around completely naked both on the beach and at the little kiddie pools around the city parks.  Others kids, both girls and boys, might just have on bottoms.  Some kids have on what I would consider a regular swimsuit and there are just a few who wear one piece suits with long sleeves and capri like bottoms to block as much sun as possible.  Our SFI, Swedish for Immigrants, teacher told us that 10 or 15 years ago you would have seen more kids just swimming naked but now that is more frowned upon by outsiders so they cover the kids up more.

Most females wear two piece swimsuits and the majority of them can pull it off.  For the most part Swedes are very fit so why not wear a two piece?  Most males wear shorts that are typically a little shorter than the swim trunks we would see in the US.  Some men wear speedos or really short shorts but not as many as you would think.  In the city it isn't that uncommon to see both males and females swim in their underwear either after a run or if they are down by the water at night and they didn't bring their swimsuits.

After the beach we took showers and headed to dinner.  We had dinner outside at a restaurant with a view facing the beach but we couldn't actually see the waves hitting the sand.  We did see a very pretty sunset though.
Jake had some of the best smoked shrimp he has ever had.  Bob and I had to just trust him because neither of us likes seafood.

After the sun went down a Swedish reggae band started planning and we enjoyed listening to the band and watching people dance.  We walked on the beach after dinner to get to our campsite.  It was so pretty seeing the moon reflecting on the water.

The next morning we headed to a nearby hotel for a traditional Swedish breakfast buffet and then we headed to the beach one more time before heading to Visby.
Our last day was our shorter ride and there was a designated bike trail but it was my least favorite biking day.  The short day of riding was nice but that was about it.  It was the warmest day we had for riding and the designated bike trail was a nice path right next to a very busy highway.  I was thankful we weren't on the busy highway but being so close to it kind of ruined the scenery.  We were pretty close to the edge of the island so we were hoping to have a great view but we weren't close enough to the edge to really see much and all we heard was traffic.

We are biking through one of the gates to get into Old Town Visby.

We arrived in Visby, which is where we flew into on Thursday, around 2:30 pm and we finally found a lunch spot around 3:30 pm.  After lunch we headed to the campground to set up our tents before heading back into Visby for the evening.  The campground was very full and wasn't like any of the other ones that we stayed at.
Visby is the main city in Gotland and it was hosting a medieval festival that week so the campsite was very full and there were lots of people walking around in medieval costumes which made the experience of visiting a medieval city fun and unique!  The old town part of Visby is surrounded by a wall and there are only a few openings to allow you inside the wall which is where you can shop, eat and walk the old streets of Visby.  We biked to the bottom of the hill and parked our bikes so we didn't have to ride them uphill on cobble stone roads.  We headed to get some ice cream before exploring the town.  When we picked up our bikes on Thursday we walked by a place that had 180 ice cream flavors.  I had been daydreaming about that ice cream while we were biking and knowing I could have some once we got to Visby helped motivate me when the riding got a little tough.  I got three scoops and I let Jake have a few bites but other than that I pretty much ate the whole thing.  We had been biking a lot so I earned a few scoops right?
We walked up the hill to do a little window shopping before we found a place with a great view to enjoy some drinks.
The old town was full of lots of ruins but they were all being rented out for medieval week so we weren't able to go in to see them.
We had dinner by the harbor but the sunset wasn't as good as we were hoping.  I had Swedish pancakes for dinner and Jake had a salad with a whole bunch of seafood.  Bob had a pizza.  After dinner Jake decided to get some ice cream since he didn't have much of mine.
After we got back to the campground Jake and I were headed up to the bathrooms to get ready for bed.  There were lots of big tents with stakes quite a ways from the tent.  As we started walking to the bathroom Jake said we should walk on the path or be really careful not to trip over any stakes.  We made it passed the first tent before I face planted, hard.  I was even being careful!  Jake helped me up and we headed towards the path after I stopped laugh-crying.  I was so embarrassed and my wrist hurt quite a bit.  I took taekwondo in middle school and high school until I got my black belt my junior year of high school.  During all that training I learned the right way to fall to give me the best chances of not breaking a wrist by trying to catch myself.  Well, I did was I was taught to do and kept my arms straight from my finger tips to my elbows so I didn't break a wrist but I didn't think about the watch I was wearing on my left wrist when I smacked the ground.  The clasp dug into my wrist and gave me a nice bruise that was sore for about a week.

Bob also had kind of a tough night because it rained that night and he didn't put the cover on his tent down because it was a pain when getting in and out of the tent so his tent got wet along with his clothes and his backpack.

The next morning we dried off and packed up our tents before we took our bikes back to the bike rental shop.  Thankfully the bike shop let us leave our backpacks in the trailer while we walked around the city some more so we didn't have to carry them.

So thankful we got a picture of all of us with our bikes.  (Also thankful I didn't have to ride very far in a dress.)

On our way to the bike shop we stopped by the Visby Botanical Gardens.  It was really pretty.


We had brunch at a creperie and it was really good.


After lunch we split up for a couple of hours.  Bob was off looking for artwork to bring home and Jake and I did some shopping on the main street.  I found a couple of cute things that Jake really liked which is always fun.  Then Jake and I walked by the church and a few ruins before meeting up with Bob again. 

 I really liked the design of this candle holder.



We had some more ice cream and hung out by the water for about 45 minutes before picking up our bags and heading to the airport.

Once we got home we grabbed some Thai food by our apartment and headed to the rocks to have a picnic.

The next day we hung out in Stockholm and did some shopping.  The guys went to Åhlens and then I met them for lunch at John Chris Coffee.  Then we headed to NK to shop before making our way down to Södermalm.  We found a place in Södermalm that made milkshakes so we picked up a few of those while we walked to a park.
The guys took a nap on the grass while I played on my phone.  (I cannot fall asleep within 12 minutes let alone actually get some rest during that time so I supervised their nap time.)  We walked by the water on our way to Gamla Stan.

We did a little shopping in Gamla Stan before having Swedish meatballs for dinner.  After dinner we came back home and the boys went for a quick swim by our apartment before calling it a night.  Bob flew home the next morning.

We had a great time with Bob while he was here and we were so excited to try something new with him.  Thanks for going on a fun trip with us Bob!