Friday, January 24, 2014

Flying First Class and What We Brought Back from the US

We flew back to Stockholm on Friday, January 3rd.  It was different flying back this time since I knew we had a "home" waiting for us when we got there.  I was sad to leave my friends and family but I was excited to get back and start planning trips to different countries.
I was so thankful our flight wasn't delayed or cancelled and that we left after one snow storm but before the polar vortex (which is a pretty dramatic name and I think people in Sweden would laugh at that).

Landing in Chicago.  Apparently they only clean off the runways and even some runways still had snow on them.  Taxing over snow isn't a great feeling but I am thankful our flights went well and were on time.
We flew from Kansas City to Chicago which is about an hour and a half flight.  We had a two hour layover in Chicago which is just enough time to switch terminals, go through security again, grab some food and get on the plane.  By the time we got through security we had about an hour before our plane took off and we were hungry so we decided eat lunch.  It was our last Mexican food for a while and it was good.

We headed to our gate when Jake stopped by the restroom and left me with two rolling carry-ons and two backpacks and that is when I heard Jake's name being paged.  I kind of panicked because I was worried that our flight was delayed or cancelled since the weather wasn't so great in Chicago.  When I got to the desk they said we had been upgraded.  I was confused since I knew we were already in economy plus and in row nine but I took the tickets and turned around to find Jake.  He was confused since I had just left him but then I told him we were upgraded.  We still didn't know what to think as we boarded the plane.  When we showed them our tickets they said we were to the left.  If you've flown much you know that when boarding a plane you always go right (at least, we always go right).  Going left meant we were in first class. (We learned later that technically we were in business class which is similar to first class but isn't as fancy.  Let's just say it was fancy enough and I will probably still call it first class.)  I could not believe it.  We both tried to hide our excitement but I'm not sure it really worked.  I was pumped!  Jake was too but he was more subtle about it.  I was trying to figure out how to take as many pictures as I could without it being obvious that it was our first time.

Jake started putting our rolling carry-ons away when the stewardess offered us drinks.  They had water and juice. In real glasses.  And the legroom was incredible.  I put my backpack in front of me like I would sitting in economy and that's when I learned that in first class you don't do that :).  All bags must be put in overhead bins or another cabinet for take off and landing.
Our seats were awesome!  In the bottom right hand picture you can see how much legroom I had.  It was insane!  Our seats had a leg rest that we could use, there was a button to push to make the chair massage our backs and then of course the controls to make it almost completely flat.  I was a little worried at first because my buttons took a really long time to respond but my chair still worked which was great.  We also had TV screens, which isn't really that much different than economy seats on international flights except it was so far away that we had to use a remote control (or we could use our feet as some other first class passengers chose to do).

Once we took off they walked around and passed out menus.  Yes, menus.  And they asked us if we wanted to be woken up for breakfast.  We both said yes and then started looking at our menus.
We had a 3 course meal.  They gave us a cloth place mat and a cloth napkin.  We had real silverware, ceramic plates and real glasses.  The first course was seared tuna, fig and couscous salad. I didn't eat much of that.  For our main course we could choose between red snapper, ribs or roasted vegetable ravioli.  I had the ribs and Jake had the snapper.  Mine was pretty good but I was still so full from our food before we got on the plane that I didn't eat much of my meal.  For dessert you could have cheese (because in Sweden people think cheese is a dessert, I don't get it), lemon cheesecake, Ben & Jerry's ice cream and seasonal fruit.  I  noticed that most people were taking two different desserts so I had the ice cream and the fruit.  At this point I was more than stuffed but I'm not sure I'll be sitting in first class ever again so I had to enjoy it while I could.
We noticed on the menu that there was a choice for a quick meal.  I thought that was strange but by the time we were finished with our meal we had been in the air for about 2.5 hours which meant we were only going to get about 4 hours of sleep before they would wake us up for breakfast.  (Our 9 hour flight seems long but when you break it down there really isn't much time to sleep which is why I don't handle flying to Europe as well as I do flying to the US.)  Before we got ready to sleep we told the stewardess we didn't want to be woken up for breakfast.

We brushed our teeth, using our toothbrush and toothpaste from our convenience kit, before trying to fall asleep.  The bathrooms in first class were a little bit bigger than the ones in economy but other than that they were about the same.  We walked past the buffet that they mentioned in the menu after brushing our teeth, which was a bummer because I would have tried some of the chocolate they had.  They had some snacks, sandwiches, drinks, etc.
Jake's ready to get some sleep.

We finally decided to try to get some sleep.  We got situated and pushed the buttons to get our seats to recline.
Trying to show how much legroom I had even with my leg rest out.  The red pillow on my lap is my camping pillow which I take when we travel and it is great!
It turns out that neither of us really sleep well on planes.  We were much more comfortable than we would have been in our economy or even economy plus seats but neither of us really slept that great.  I'm not sure if it was because I was excited from being in first class or that I knew it would only be a few hours before we had to wake up but I didn't get much sleep.  Since we were already up we decided to have some breakfast.
Yogurt, granola, bread, jam, fruit, egg, cheese, ham, lettuce and juice.  We could also have coffee and tea.
The side pocket next to the seat was great.  I could charge my phone and I had a place to put my things.  You can also see the remote control for the TV.  
So much legroom!
Not a great pic but I am enjoying first class. 
We landed in Stockholm at 7:50 am.  One of the reasons I don't handle flying to Europe is because you miss a night of sleep while flying.  Technically you should be sleeping on the plane but I'm not sure that really counts as a full nights sleep.  We landed early on Saturday morning and then we had to make it through the whole day before we could sleep.  It was rough.  It was better this time than when we moved over because at least we had a place we could hang out in and we knew where to get food but it was really hard to stay awake.  Jake handles flying to Europe much better than I do.  I finally called it a night around 9:00 pm knowing that if I slept 12 hours I would wake up at 9 am and that would be fine (instead of wanting to sleep at 3:00 pm and waking up 12 hours later at 3:00 am).  Jake went to bed around 11 pm because he doesn't typically sleep as long as I do but we both woke up the next morning at 11.  I think that is the latest Jake has ever slept in his life.

What we brought back from the US
Before we moved to Stockholm I had a long list of things I wanted to bring with us.  Several of the things I brought with us have been very useful, some we can easily find here and some things I wouldn't have thought would be hard to find here are non-existent i.e. a cookie sheet. Side story: I searched high and low for a cookie sheet once we moved and you cannot buy them anywhere here.  Stockholm is very different from back home when it comes to buying home goods at grocery stores.  Back home you can usually find anything you could think of that has to do with food as well as home goods at Walmart or even a regular grocery store.  Here grocery stores have groceries.  And that is pretty much it.  They have a few cleaning supplies but you won't find cookware at a grocery store.  Jake's boss in Olathe came over in October and he had heard that I couldn't find a cookie sheet and he brought me one.  He carried it in his backpack and took it through security multiple times before he gave it to me.  I was so surprised and thankful.

After we moved I started a spreadsheet (Yes, a spreadsheet.  I LOVE spreadsheets.) of things that I wanted to bring back after we were home for Christmas.  As time went on the list kept getting longer and longer.  It was nice to be in Stockholm making the list because then I knew for sure what things I could find here and what things I would need to bring from home.

The things on my list were there either because I like a specific brand and I can't find that here or it is so expensive here it is cheaper to pack it than to buy it here even though it takes up space.

I posted this pic on Instagram while we were home after we finished shopping at Walmart.
Here is what we brought back.

Things that are more expensive in Stockholm so we brought them back:
(I included some prices in US vs Sweden so you could see the difference. The first number is the price in the US and the second is the price in dollars if I bought it in Stockholm.)
band aidshand lotion - $2.97 vs $9.16shampoo pumps
chap stick - 8hand sanitizershower cap
deodorantibuprofen and Tylenol - 200 tablets for $4.00 vs $6.83 for 30 tabletssnow boots
face lotioninsoles tank tops
face washleg warmerstoothbrushes - daily & travel
floss - $1.47 vs 2.27 krlotiontoothpaste - travel and regular
full flat sheet - trying not to repeat the breakdown postmakeuptriple antibiotic cream
full sheet set - $44 vs $74pensVick's Vapor Rub
hair lotion - $16 vs $28 rolaidsvitamins - daily and vitamin d3
hair tiesShampoo & conditioner liters - $26 for both liters vs $400 for  both in Stockholmwound cleaner
Shampoo - The ones on the left are from Beauty Brands in Olathe and the ones in the bottom right are from Stockholm
When we flew over in August I brought one liter of shampoo and one liter of conditioner.  I wanted to bring another set but I didn't have enough "weight" left in the bag in order for it to not be over the limit.  Once we were here I started looking at shampoo to see how much it would be if I just bought it here.  It is expensive!  Stockholm, in general, is very expensive but that is a whole separate post.  I usually buy my shampoo and conditioner in the summer at Beauty Brands during their liter sale so I get a liter for about $13 which is great!  You can see from the picture that it is normally about $24 when it isn't on sale.  Well, in Stockholm the little bottles that you see in the picture is about a quarter of a liter.  That shampoo is about $44 and the conditioner is almost $50 for a quarter of a liter!  So to get the same amount of shampoo or conditioner you'd have to spend about $200 verses $13.  And that is why I brought two of them with me when I came back.  I know I could just buy shampoo here but I like that shampoo and even if I bought different shampoo here it is still expensive.  And thankfully I put the shampoo and conditioner in plastic bags since the conditioner leaked a little :).

I also brought a few things from home that I already had like a pair of black leggings, a cord for my tablet and my bible.  I thought I could just use a bible app but it turns out I need to hold the real thing.  We tried not to bring very many books over with us since they can add quite a bit of weight but this one needed to be come back with me.

Here are things that I can't find here (a few of these are in the International aisle at the grocery store but they are very expensive:
2 brownie mixes - These are $7.50 in Stockholm and $1.50 at Walmart.goldfish - I got Goldfish from my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law for Christmas and I was pumped!
5 boxes of mac and cheesegranola bars - I take these when we fly and they helped get me through some rough food selections on one of our trips
animal crackers junior mints
badge holder - I used to wear a badge at school and now I needed something to hold my key for schoolnasal salt - I use my neti pot every day and I didn't bring any salt with us when we moved and thought I could buy some here. They don't have it so I had a friend bring some over and I brought some more just in case.
bed sheet holders - apparently I am a little high maintenance when it comes to sheets but I don't like wrinkles :). saltine minis
can opener - they have a can opener here that is strange and I have yet to do it on my own so this was a must.skittles - Jake's boss in Stockholm mentioned Skittles once so we brought him some.
caramel flavoring - thought it might be fun to put in my coffeesudafed - They don't have cold medicine in Sweden. You can get Ibuprofen or Tylenol (which is very expensive) but they don't have decongestants or other cold medicines. I bought Jake something for nasal congestion in November and it turns out it was all herbal and did nothing for him and it was about $18.
crockpot liners - they don't have crockpots in Sweden but my parents ordered me one for Christmas and I am pumped!vegetable peeler - we have one but it doesn't work very well and I have no idea where to get another one
crockpot seasoningswash clothes - you would think this would be easy to find but it wasn't
dryer sheets - they have fabric softener here but my sheets are still staticky so I thought these would help

We had quite a bit of room in our luggage since we did have the Christmas presents we brought home for our families so we were able to get everything to fit and we had about 1.5 pounds left before we were over the weight limit.  

I also brought back some things for my friend Lance.  Lance is the PE teacher at the school that I volunteer at and I offered to bring back some things for him.  He is from California and was very excited to have a few things from home.  His list was much shorter than mine :).  I brought him two large bottles of Advil, 21 chap sticks (I LOVE that he asked for chap stick because Jake gave me a really hard time about bringing some when we first moved but sometimes you just need to stick with what you know works), 3 bottles of eye drops, 1 bottle of nasal spray, Bare Minerals make-up (for his wife) and some San Diego Chargers stocking caps (which he shipped to our house).

After I got back and unpacked I started thinking about all of the things we brought and if I would have changed anything.  I realized that although it is nice to have food from home, especially if I am homesick, actually sick or have had way too much Chinese food in 10 day time :), it probably isn't as necessary as I thought it was to bring it all back.  We are only going to be living in Stockholm for about a year or so and then we will be back eating all of our normal foods and shopping at Walmart where I can get anything I could ever possibly need. So this year is just a short blip in time and maybe I should try to find new foods here that I like because animal crackers will still be there when I come back :).  And I won't be as excited to eat them when I'm home if I bring a huge suitcase full of all of my favorite foods back with me.  I'm still glad I brought them but I'm not sure when we come back home again if I'll put in as much food as we did this time.

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  1. Spam??? What did you do with the Spam??

    1. Haha, Jake thought his coworkers might think it was interesting but he hasn't taken it to work yet so it is just sitting on our counter :).

  2. Kara I'm just loving reading your updates. You are a fantastic writer and share your thoughts very well! Loved the first class photos.

    1. Thanks Janae! Writing isn't my strong suit but I want to remember what we are doing so I've been trying to get over that. Hope things are going well with you guys!


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