Monday, February 24, 2014

6 Months!

We moved to Stockholm. I still can’t believe that sentence and we've been here for 6 months today! Just seems so surreal. In some ways it feels like we just left Olathe but in other ways I feel like I haven’t been home in years. I thought it would be fun to do a summary of things we've been doing over the last 6 months and talk about things that I miss and what I've really enjoyed about living in Stockholm.

Like I've said before I don’t like change. The unknown scares me because I like being in control and having a plan. Making the decision to move here was hard and stressful but ultimately it came down to trust. Did I trust God enough to make the move? Did I trust that He had a better plan than my plan? I was not without doubts when we boarded that plane in Kansas but I did have faith and hope. I had faith and hope that God has a plan and that his plan is better than my plan. That He knew (knows) the big picture in all of this that I couldn't see or understand but that I needed to trust Him and I am so glad that I did. We are experiencing something that I would have never dreamed about and I am so thankful that I didn't let fear stop me.
The transition went pretty well. It wasn't as shocking as I thought it would be. Sure, there were times when I was frustrated and wanted to read an English menu and shop at Walmart instead of struggling through but the struggle made me appreciate things so much more.

Technology has helped SO much! I cannot imagine moving so far away from family and friends and not having technology to make the distance feel shorter. Thanks to technology my friends and family can call or text my old cell phone number, the one I've had for the past 14 years, and it will ring through to my Swedish cell phone and it won’t cost either of us any money at all! (So if you want to call or text me go for! Just remember I am 7 hours ahead of you.) I use Google Voice and an app on my phone to talk and text as long as I am on wifi or I have a data connection. And thankfully one of the only things that is cheaper in Stockholm than in the US is cell phone plans. For $30 a month I get pretty much unlimited phone calls and texts in Sweden (which I barely use since I only have two friends other than Jake) but then I get 1GB of data and even though I use more than that a month it still works.

Facebook is awesome. I am able to see what my family and friends are doing which makes me feel more connected and I am able to share what we are doing. I was pretty quiet on Facebook before we moved. I probably posted something a couple times a month and now I post something almost daily and if it is an exciting day then I post multiple times that day. I love getting comments and hearing from people that I haven’t talked to since high school. It is also fun because several people have posted articles or videos of something they've run across that has to do with Stockholm or Sweden to see if I've heard about it. Facebook chat is also very nice. I use that everyday to talk to friends back home or my friend Lisa in Stockholm.

Last but not least I love Skype and Google Hangout! Talking on the phone is great but seeing someone you love while talking to them is wonderful! If you haven’t Skyped with me but want to just let me know! The best is when I get an unexpected video call. Since I can answer on my phone without worrying about using too much data it is great to see someone I wasn't expecting to see.
I sure do miss my nieces!
What I Miss
The first four months I missed specific foods: espinaca dip and chips from Mi Ranchito, Goldfish, Honey Nut Cheerios, animal crackers, pizza from Pizza Hut and bread sticks from Little Caesars, etc. When we were home for Christmas we ate out at almost every meal so we could get in all the places we had been craving. I went to the store and bought macaroni and cheese, animal crackers and I was given goldfish for Christmas. After I lugged all of my goodies from Walmart back to Stockholm I realized that maybe missing things, like food, is better than figuring out how to bring it all back with me. I will be able to eat goldfish and animal crackers for the rest of my life, obviously they wouldn't ever think about discontinuing them :), so do I really need them while I’m in Stockholm? When I get homesick it is nice to have familiar food but in general I think maybe it is better to find things here that I like and can enjoy while I can. I would LOVE to find a good Mexican restaurant here to enjoy chips and cheese dip but we have yet to find one. There is a Pizza Hut here but the only time we've been there it was about $50 for two drinks, wings and two small pizzas so we haven’t been back.

I miss my friends! A lot. For the most part I have been able to keep in touch with most of my friends. There are some friends that I've talked to more now that we've move than when I was living in Olathe. But there are also some friends that I've had a harder time keeping in touch with. My friend Amber, who I used to work with in Haysville, and I used to talk on the phone every week or at least every other week. We haven’t been able to do that as much now because of the time zone but we are starting to get better at emailing each other random things that used to be a phone call instead. And I have a few other friends that I've lost touch with for one reason or another but some of that would have happened anyway because of all of the transfers that happened in my school district for this school year. The three people I worked closest with at school were all moving to different schools and that was going to be a hard adjustment (and it still is hard if I’m being honest). I have a hard time letting people in but once I do I have an even harder time letting people go. I miss those relationships and being able to see and talk to them every day.

I am missing friends who are having babies. Having a baby is such a big step in life and I am so sad that I won’t be there to see my friends become parents for the first time and for a few friends a second time. I like seeing babies when they are "brand new" aka in the hospital and now by the time I see some of these babies they will be several months old :(.

My Family:
I do miss my family but I actually talk to them more now than I used to. Jake and I Skype with both sets of parents once a week so we "see" them way more than we used to. I miss seeing our nieces and nephews. They change so fast when they are little and it is hard missing out on seeing them grow up.

Get Togethers:
Hanging out with people. We tried to hang out with as many people as we could when we were back at Christmas because we just missed seeing friends so much. I miss random after work get togethers, watching football with friends, going to K-State football games (which means I get to see my roommates as well as my brother and sometimes my Dad) and having people over to play games. I wouldn't say we were super social when we lived in Olathe but we would hang out with friends every now and then. But there is a big difference between hanging out with friends and being able to hang out with friends. We've made a few friends here but we've really only hung out with two different couples. When we don’t have as many friends to hang out with it feels a little pushy sometimes asking the same people to do things every time we want to do something even if they seem to enjoy it.

I don’t miss driving as much as I thought I would. I think part of that has to do with how much I love hopping on the metro. I don’t have to think about where I am going, pay attention to traffic or the weather. I can just sit there and play on my phone or listen to music. I very rarely talk when I’m on the metro because no one else is talking and I don’t like to stand out. So even if Jake and I are riding it together we usually don’t talk. The metro is unusually quiet and in the morning it is silent. No one speaks at all during the morning commute. Everyone is either reading the newspaper, reading their phone or listening to music.
What I Have Enjoyed
I have always loved to travel and of course Jake is up for any new experience. We both enjoy flying and the excitement of going some place new. One of our goals during our time in Stockholm is to visit as many places as we could. We were hoping to go on some sort of trip each month. That hasn't exactly happened but we have been able to see a lot in the last six months. Our first trip out of the country was when we traveled to Taipei, Taiwan for a week so that Jake could work and I could explore the city. On our way back from Taipei we stopped in Beijing for about 72 hours. A couple of weeks after our trip to Asia we headed to our first stop in Europe which was Amsterdam. Jake had work conference for two days but we decided to go a few days early to explore the city together.

We have also gone on a few adventures in Sweden. We went backpacking and then sailing through the Archipelago. We also went ice skating, cross country skiing and to a chocolate festival. Before we went home for Christmas we went to a Julbord at a castle which was a fun experience.

I can’t decide which trip outside of Sweden I liked the most. It is probably a tie between Taipei and Amsterdam. However, with that being said the place I am really thankful we visited was the Great Wall. That is something I will always remember and it was such a beautiful day. As far as staying in Sweden, my favorite thing so far has been backpacking in the Archipelago.

Living in the City & Our Apartment:
I love where we live.  We are close enough to the city that it only takes about 15 minutes by metro to get downtown but we are outside it enough to enjoy parks, trees and the water.  It takes Jake about 20 minutes to get to work and it takes me either 20 or 30 minutes depending on whether I go to my volunteer school or my subbing school.  I really appreciate that there is a small grocery store right at the bottom of the hill in between the metro and our apartment.  It is so convenient and I often have Jake stop by and grab something on his way home.  I do enjoy living in the city.  I like having everything so close but I miss seeing open spaces.  It feels a bit claustrophobic sometimes which I didn't fully realize until we were home at Christmas.

I love our apartment. Most of my friends lived in an apartment after they were married before they bought a house but Jake already had a house so we never got to live in an apartment. As silly as that sounds I was kind of sad about not getting to experience that but now we can cross that off our list. Our apartment is very small compared to our house in Olathe but I love that I only have to clean one bathroom and that sweeping the floor and picking up the whole apartment takes less than 30 minutes. I also love how open and connected our kitchen and living room are to each other.

Relying on Each Other:
At the beginning Jake and I made lots of jokes about how the other person was the only one we knew in the entire country so we better be nice to each other. That was funny and terrifying all at the same time. If you are married you know that marriage is hard. I used to hear that before I was married and I never understood what it meant. When you are connected to one other person for the rest of your life it can be a bit much sometimes. When you only have one other person in the entire country that you can see, hang out with and talk to it could be really hard. But, it has actually been really great. We have had to learn how to communicate differently and give each other space and freedom to do things on our own since we are together so much. I love that we are on this adventure together and that we are a team. Ever since we've been married we always try to remember that no matter what happens we are a team and that we need to remember that even when things get tough.

One of Jake’s favorite sayings since we started this adventure is ‘we are not lost if we are together.’ How cute (and slightly annoying) is that? Jake might be a little directionally challenged so I think this phrase is his way of making me calm down when we have no clue where we are. We have been in so many new places we are often ‘lost’. When we are on a new adventure and we have no idea where we are going Jake will grab my hand and say ‘we are not lost if we are together’ and then I smile and know that he is right (even if I roll my eyes after he says it). We have each other and I am so glad that he is the one I get to experience this with. We will never forget our time in Stockholm and all of these adventures we've been able to experience together.

What Kara Has Been Up To:
The first few weeks after moving I was trying to get us settled and I had two different interviews with schools. I started volunteering at the second school that I interviewed with. That school is in Södermalm. I started volunteering everyday from 8:30 to 2:00 or 2:10. I worked with the PYP6 class (primary years program 6th grade, which is Swedish 5th grade but equal to 6th grade in the United States). In October Jake and I both took a Swedish class at Folks University. It was everyday from 12:15-2:30. After that month I decided to go back to volunteering at the school but only three and a half days a week (Monday, Wednesday-Thursday and a half a day on Friday). I usually help out in the classroom during math and English but I also help in Art and PE. I usually work with Emma, who is one of the PYP6 teachers. She is great and I have really enjoyed working with her.

Before Christmas I decided I wanted to start subbing. I asked my first school if they would be willing to pay me on days that I subbed (typically other teachers just cover and they don’t hire out for subs) but they weren't able to do that. I was fine with that but I wanted to check first. So I put my name on the sub list at first school that I interviewed with and started subbing there. Two days after my name was on the list I had a sub job for 4 days for junior school math (4th-6th graders). Those four days turned into me subbing for 17 out of the next 20 days. I have really enjoyed subbing. Most of the time I am subbing for junior school math or English. I have done a few senior school jobs in art, math and science. I prefer junior school because I actually have a lesson plan and I get to teach. For senior school they give you something for the students to work on the whole hour and then you have to herd cats do behavior management.

What Jake Has Been Up To:
Jake has been going to work everyday at the Garmin office in Stockholm. His job is similar to what is was doing in Olathe. He works as an electrical engineer on marine products. He still gets to work with his friends in the Olathe office on projects and has phone meetings with them which isn't fair is great! (I may be a tad bit jealous that Jake gets to continue to work with the same friends from Olathe and I don’t. If only they needed schools from different countries to work together.) Jake has been able to go out on a few boats to install equipment and test some products. The office in Stockholm is very small. There are about 8 people in the office. So far Jake has enjoyed working in the new office.

When Jake isn't working he is planning future trips or figuring out what crazy adventures he can talk me into :). He gets a little stir crazy in the apartment on the weekends since he can’t do any remodeling projects so he usually plans some sort of outing for us. We've been on several long walks and to a few museums.
Thank you for all of the love, support and prayers that have been sent our way since we've moved.  If you read our blog or my posts on Facebook thank you for keeping up with us!  I love hearing from people back home so feel free to comment to let me know you are there! I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months will bring!


  1. I'm here and I love reading your blog posts! This one was one of your best so far! Hope the next 6 months are equally exciting and filled with even more adventures!

    1. Thanks Angela! I am excited to see what the next 6 months hold too and I'm so thankful to have such a great friend to share it with, even if it is through email instead of in person :).


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