Thursday, April 24, 2014

How I Found Out About Moving to Stockholm

One year ago today I found out Jake's company wanted us to think about moving to Stockholm.  (Before you read this chat for the post I feel like I should give some background.  This was last April and we were planning a trip to California with Jake's parents so I thought he wanted to talk about flights to California.  I had all the prices pulled up in different windows and his parents itinerary so I would be ready to talk about it and then he comes out of left field with the whole "let's move to Sweden" thing.)

How did I find out such big, life changing news?

Yes, life changing news over gchat.  Do you notice that Jake doesn't even acknowledge that he is telling me this over gchat when I ask him about it at the end of our conversation?

A few more of my favorite parts from that conversation:

So that's pretty much how it all went down :).  Jake's reasoning for telling me through gchat was so that I would have all day to think about it and come up with questions so we could talk about it that night.  Well, I definitely thought about it all day so I guess it worked.  We talked to both sets of parents a few days later and then I told a few close friends but then we stopped telling people once we found out it wouldn't be an official offer until the end of June.  And here we are living in Sweden 12 months later and we've been here 8 months today! (I didn't realize until I went back to check the date of when Jake first told me about moving to Stockholm that it was on the 24th which is the same day of the month we moved to Stockholm.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Going to the Läkare (Doctor) in Stockholm

I was a little bit nervous about having to possibly go to the doctor sometime while we were here but I figured it would probably happen since I work with kids.  I didn't know how similar it would be to what I was used to and I wasn't sure how to find a doctor.  Thankfully I am pretty healthy but I was worried that working at a new school would mean it would take me a while to get used to the new germs, teachers totally get that philosophy, and that I might get sick.  Well thankfully I didn't really get sick over the fall and winter but a couple of weeks ago I had to go to the doctor.

Without going into too many details, because some people don't like hearing about them and because I have a tendency to over share :), I had a rash and had to go to the doctor.  I noticed the rash and then a few days later it started to spread.  So the day before we left for London when I was supposed to be subbing I called in sick and instead tried to figure out how to make a doctor's appointment.

I didn't really know where to start looking but I remembered that when we lived in the hotel there was a doctor's office or something similar to that next to the hotel so I decided to try that first.  I also Googled family doctors in Stockholm and tried a few other searches on forums to see what I could find.  I eventually called the place by the hotel.  I got an automated message and thankfully I could understand enough to know which numbers to push to get to the right place.  Travel tip: If you plan on being in a country for a while learning the basic numbers can be very helpful!  I remember shortly after moving here we were waiting for food we had ordered and they called the number, in Swedish of course, and it took us a little while to figure out which number was ours :).  I heard on the message I needed to enter my Swedish personal number, like my social security number but they give it out all the time and use it for everything, and my telephone number.
About 20 minutes later I got a phone call back.  The nurse on the phone asked me what was wrong.  I told her I had a rash and tried to explain the symptoms but she had no idea what the word rash was in English.  I tried explaining it and that didn't help.  I tried to quickly translate it into Swedish to see if that would help but she said someone else who knew better English would call me back.  A few minutes later another woman called and we talked.  I told her my symptoms and answered questions.  I'm not sure what typically happens during these phone calls but since she couldn't figure out what it was over the phone she had me make an appointment.  I had an appointment for 1:15 pm that day which was great since we were flying to London at 7 am the next morning and I wanted to make sure that was still okay.  She also said that when I checked in I needed to ask for a separate room to wait in since they didn't know if I was contagious.  Awesome.

I got to the doctor's office and saw there was a place to take off my shoes or put on blue shoe covers.  I opted for the shoe covers and then I took a number even though the waiting room was completely empty.  They called my number right away and I walked up to the window.  After giving my name they said it was 200 kr, about $30, for the visit.  I paid the 200 kr and they stamped into a booklet that I paid 200 kr that day and then they gave me the booklet to keep.  Once you pay 1100 kr total you get a free card that you can use for a year from the time you started paying the 1100 kr.  So the most I will pay in the next year is about $167 and after that all doctor visits are free.  That seems crazy to me but taxes over here are really high, about 40%, which means a lot of things are funded by the government like healthcare and education. Side note: I have zero interest in turning this post into a political discussion so just know I'm sharing the information and not looking for a debate :).

They told me to go up one floor and wait there.  I didn't mention the "wait in a separate room" thing because that is just awkward.  Once I got to the next floor I was looking around for the waiting room and someone walked up and asked if I was Kara.  They escorted me into an office so I was not with the other patients, which at this point this person was the only other person I could see but better safe than sorry.

The room they put me in was an office with a desk and bookshelves.  There was an examination table but there was a cart and several other things in front of the table so they had me sit in a chair.  I waited about two minutes before the doctor showed up.  We talked; I showed her the rash and told her that I had already had the chicken pox.  She wasn't sure what it was so she wanted me to give some blood and a urine sample.  I walked down the hall to do both of those things and then waited for the results.  This time I was able to wait in the normal waiting room because she could tell it wasn't chicken pox and it doesn't look contagious.  I was the only person in the waiting room as well.  I have no idea where all the sick people are in Sweden but they aren't at the doctor's office which is strange considering it is practically free :) or at least included.
The exam table is behind all of that stuff.
The tests came back fine.  This is where I started to notice the biggest difference between the US and Sweden when it comes to healthcare.  She basically said "I don't know what it is and since it doesn't itch, isn't inflamed and isn't really bothering you, you can just go home and if it gets worse call us and come back." She said I could get some hydrocortisone cream or Benadryl for the itching but it didn't really itch.  She said something along the lines of "We are going to just have to be okay not knowing what it is right now.  That is the best we can do until it gets worse or goes away."  I don't think that line would ever fly in the US.  I don't want you to get the impression that she seemed flaky or that she wasn't a real doctor.  She seemed to know what she was doing and the office was legit but she just wasn't concerned about not knowing the exact answer.  She didn't give me antibiotics or a steroid to make it go away faster even though she didn't know what "it" really was.

I left feeling relieved that whatever "it" was it wasn't contagious and we could still go to London.  Thankfully it went away after about a week and a half and that was that.  And honestly I felt proud that my body fought off whatever it was without steroids.  Over the counter medicine here is pretty expensive and some things that you could normally pick up at a Walmart or grocery store in the US isn't available here like allergy and cold medicine.  They do have ibuprofen but Jake heard from his boss that they don't really take it unless they have to.  If they have a fever they don't just take it to make the fever go down.  His boss said "if you have a fever why would you take something to make your body stop having it.  If it has a fever it is fighting something off so why would you want it to stop?"

I like how a "simple" task of going to the doctor is a new cultural experience since I'm not in the US.  Much like grocery shopping can tell you more about the culture so can going to the doctor.  I've really enjoyed learning more about Sweden than I would able to if we were only here on a vacation.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Peek into our Week #14 & 15

 On Friday afternoon I had fika with Lisa.  It was our second time last week for fika but we had so much to catch up on.  I just love hanging out with Lisa.  Having a friend here has made ALL the difference between feeling homesick and being okay living here.

On Saturday Jake planned a little outing for us.

We went to a big park in Stockholm to have lunch.  We rented City Bikes to get there.  City Bike stands are all over Stockholm from April to October.  You can pick one up at one station and then return it to another station.  We had lunch by the water and then hung out on our picnic blanket for a little while before having fika at Espresso House.

Jake has been making Swedish pancakes for me every Sunday.  Sometimes he eats them as well but he has made them just for me a couple of times.  I usually have them with banana and Nutella or peanut butter and syrup.  Jake likes his with Lingonsylt and whipped cream.

My last day of subbing at my volunteer school was on Monday.  We always have a long outdoor break on Mondays.  This day it was really rainy but thanks to my Hunter boots and my awesome coat I stayed nice and dry.
We went to SFI on Tuesday night and learned all about Påsk, Easter, traditions in Sweden.  Kids get a week off of school either the week before or after Easter.  Swedes also eat lots of candy on Easter.  Sweden consumes the most candy per person in the world.  They eat about 37 pounds of candy per person per year.   I walk by a small flower shop everyday and I finally decided to pick up some tulips.  I thought they were really pretty.

The paper eggs on the left are filled with candy and then hidden for kids to find.  The twigs in the middle are an Easter tradition as well as the Påskmust on the right which if you remember from my Christmas post sounds a lot like Julmust.  It is basically a pop that isn't very sweet and in my opinion isn't very good either :).
This is Påskebrygd which is Easter beer.  Yes, a special beer for Easter.

Very early on in our marriage Jake and I started to play a game called "Who can use the last of the toothpaste" aka who can delay getting a new tube out of the closet.  I usually give up because I get tired of trying to squeeze out the very last drop but this time Jake took it to a whole new level.  He cut open the tube and I admitted defeat.  Last month I hid a new tube and continued to use that until I couldn't help but laugh before I told what I was doing.

Jake and I had fika on Saturday at a place called Vete-Katten.  Jake's dessert is on the left and mine is on the right.  They were really good.

We went bowling on Sunday with Lisa, Jimmy and Makena, Lisa's sister, and had a great time.  While we were there I saw two students that I've had in class.  Thankfully since one school calls me Mrs. Janzen and the other calls me Kara it is easy to figure out which school they know me from :).

Hope you enjoyed another peek into our week!

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Peek into our Week #13

There are so many pictures that I take with my phone of just little things we are doing that aren't worth an entire blog post by themselves but I still want to remember them.  So I am going to try to post a weekly blog of pictures I take on my phone that tells a little bit about what we did that week.  This blog is a place where I can write about our experiences and put pictures up so I will remember this adventure long after it is over.  I hope you enjoy a little peek inside our daily lives.

I planned a surprise date for Jake on Saturday. . . badminton. It was a lot of fun even though I lost. He even played with his left hand for a while. If you read my workout blog you'll know why I included a pic of my pants.#theylasted5minutesbeforeIchanged #atleastItried #fika #janzensinsweden

Thanks to daylight savings time and the fact that we are gaining five minutes of sunlight each day the sun now sets about 5 HOURS later than it did 3 months ago! We have about 7 more hours of daylight during the day than we did in December. We will keep gaining sunlight until midsummer, June 21st, when we have the longest amount of sunlight which is 18 hours and 38 minutes. The sun will rise on that day at 3:30 am and set at 10:08 pm.#ineverusedtothinkaboutsunlight #janzensinsweden

 We have popcorn, cheese and raisins every Sunday night for dinner.  The last few weeks we've added peanut butter and Nutella to the plate.  This Sunday night I tried some wine.  I think me becoming a wine drinker is going to much harder than it was when I became a coffee drinker.  I just don't like the taste.

 I subbed at my volunteer school this week.  I know that doesn't make sense but the teacher I usually volunteer with went to the United States for a science conference and her grant included money for a sub.  Since they were paying me I agreed to sub!  Every Monday we take a one hour outdoor break at different parks around the school.  All of the primary grades in this building do that throughout the week.  The kids always have a great time.

This week the kids were working on their exhibitions which they are giving next week.  They had to think about a problem in the world and then they were supposed to try to solve it.  The groups in my room researched these topics: smoking, computer games, palm oil, animal slaughtering, narcotics and carbon dioxide.  Most of the week they have been gathering their information to create a presentation.  

We also did a little bit of math scattered throughout the week to give them a break from the exhibition project.  I think it is interesting that they kids write in notebooks with squares and they draw a line with their ruler on the left-hand side of each page to make a margin.  Every kid does this.  If you've ever worked in a classroom you know just getting a legible name on a paper is sometimes a miracle.  I was fascinated the first time I saw them doing this.  They also grade their own problems after they finish the assignment.

Hope you enjoyed a sneak peek into our daily lives this past week!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

London: Questions & Answers

Where did we go?
London, England

How long were we there?
4 Days. March 22nd through March 25th, 2014

What language do they speak?
They speak English.  It was nice not having to use Google translate for our trip this time but there were a few times when we heard someone speaking and even though it was English we had no idea what they said :)

What currency do they use?
They use pounds.   Right now £1 is about $1.66.  When I was trying to quickly convert something on our trip I would multiply it by 1.5, which actually isn't enough but it was pretty close.

Were things expensive?
It was pretty expensive in London but some things were still cheaper than in Stockholm.  I ended up buying Hunter boot cleaner in London because it was about $10 instead of $22 like it was in Stockholm.  However, Hunter boots started in London so it could be that it is cheaper because it is from there.

Would we be able to live there for a year?
I think living in London would be great and I think my English would improve :).  I will say I did feel a little more stressed out riding the public transportation and walking around than I do in Stockholm.  London is a much bigger city than Stockholm which would take some getting used to but overall I enjoyed the city.  I could see us going to lots of shows if we lived there and London is more centrally located in Europe which would be nice as far as traveling goes.

What was most memorable thing about the trip?
I think the Harry Potter tour was the most memorable.  We were really looking forward to it ahead of time and it did not disappoint.  I also really enjoyed seeing the Tower Bridge.

What was the food like?
The food was pretty good.  We had Mexican food one night and Japanese food another night but we also had a few traditional English dishes.  Jake had fish and chips and I had pie and mash for lunch on day.  They were both good.  We had a more traditional English breakfast one morning which was a little bit too heavy for starting the day in my opinion.  Some of the options even had chips, aka french fries, as part of the breakfast.  Jake also had tea with milk a few times.  I tried it but just couldn't get too excited about it.  On Sunday we both had the traditional Sunday roast for lunch and it was really good.

Least favorite food?
I don't think I had a least favorite food.  Jake didn't really think most of the food was very flavorful so I think that would bother him if we lived there.  I didn't mind the mild flavors. 

Favorite food?
My favorite food was the Sunday roast.  I had a small portion of roast with carrots, parsnips, potatoes and a roll.

Would we want to go back?
I think we would both enjoy going back to London. Jake would also like to go to a smaller English city or village to experience that culture.  We had fun and enjoyed our time there.  I will say that visiting one of the main European cities puts extra pressure and stress on you to see and do everything you can while you are there.  I didn't enjoy that extra pressure.  Maybe not everyone would feel that pressure but I sure did. When we went up North about a month ago I didn't have as many expectations since I hadn't dreamed about visiting Lappland since I was a little girl.  It was nice to just do things that sounded interesting without feeling like it had to be the best restaurant and tour we've ever been on.  While we were in London I felt like we had to eat at restaurants with great food and see a memorable show because most people dream about going to a show in London so we can't mess that up.  And then we ended up seeing a show that was just okay :).  

What was I most surprised by?
I was surprised by the amount of stress I felt trying to see and do everything we could.  I was also surprised at how big London felt.  I knew London was bigger than Stockholm but I didn't realize how much bigger it really was.  The weather while we were there surprised me.  It was sunny three out of the four days and it only sprinkled on us a few times.  It was a little bit cold but not too bad.

Did we do anything we thought we wouldn't do?
We weren't planning on going to Greenwich but after our bike tour guide suggested it we decided to go and it was good.  It was a little bit stressful making sure we didn't miss one of the last ferries back to London and finding a place to eat dinner on a Sunday night also took a little bit of effort but it was fun and not on the list of things to do in London which meant it was spontaneous which is a win for Jake!  (I’ll explain more about that in the next question.)

What did I learn about myself on this trip?
I learned that flying out early in the morning before spending 4 days on your feet seeing and doing as much as possible probably isn't the best idea :). I like my sleep and I don't really handle the stress of traveling as well as I normally would if I don't get a good night’s sleep. I had a hard time falling asleep the night before we left because I knew we would be waking up early and I tossed and turned all night. So I got maybe 2-3 hours of sleep to start our 4 days of sightseeing. I think we will think about that before we plan our next trip.

We also learned that the way Jake and I like travel and sightsee is very different. I like to plan a list of activities, places to visit, tours to go on and restaurants to eat at before we visit the city and then go to those places. I would call a successful trip one where we went to all or most of the places we planned on visiting while we were there. Jake wants to have some spontaneous fun on each trip. He is disappointed when the only things we do are the things on our list. You can imagine that the combination of these two preferences could be great! We could complement each other and have a wonderful experience together . . . or butt heads the whole trip :). On this particular trip we did a little bit more of the latter. I know I struggled with the lack of sleep and the tired feet. We both had a hard time trying to fit everything in during those four days and making sure they were all the best experiences they could be. I don't want to sound like we didn't have fun or enjoy our time because we did but it wasn't all sunshine and roses. Traveling is hard on your bodies and on your communication skills but I am very thankful for these experiences. We are learning so much about each other and ourselves as we travel together.

If you want to read about our whole trip our first two days can be found here and our last two days are here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

London: Day 3 - Westminster Abbey & Billy Elliot, Day 4 - The Making of Harry Potter

Day 3 - Westminster Abbey & Billy Elliot
We had a free continental breakfast at our hotel before heading off for the day.  It was really nice being able to grab a quick breakfast at our hotel instead of walking around trying to find a place to eat.  We did however accidentally end up in the laundry room of the hotel instead of in the restaurant because the elevator by our room apparently goes straight to the laundry room :).

We stopped by Leicester Square first thing to pick up some discounted tickets for a show.  Jake and I spent several summers going to musicals in Wichita through Wichita Music Theatre so we have seen our fair share of shows which honestly made picking a show kind of difficult.  We didn't want to see something we had already seen.  When I was in London 12 years ago I went to see Phantom of the Opera with my friend Jan.  The rest of our group went to a different show but they didn't have enough tickets so two of us had to go by ourselves.  I really enjoyed Phantom and I had already seen it before but I didn't mind seeing it again in London.  We settled on Billy Elliot.  Our tickets were £26 or $44 cheaper since we bought them the day of the show at the tkts ticket booth.  I would highly recommend doing that if you are ever in London and you don't have a specific show in mind that you want to see.  We had great seats and saved a few bucks.
We walked to Westminster Abbey from Leicester Square.  We stopped at Trafalgar Square which we saw on our bike tour but I didn't take any pictures of it then because it was raining a little bit.
The Blue Rooster is a temporary statue that is changed every year and it was colorful to say the least.
We saw the Horse Guards Parade and we walked past Downing Street where the Prime Minister lives but we weren't able to get very close.

Jake walked by Westminster Abbey when he was in London a few years ago but it was closed by the time he got there.  We decided to take a guided tour of Westminster Abbey which started at 11:00 am. We had about 30 minutes to walk around on our own before our tour started.  We weren't able to take any picture inside since it is a place of worship but we took a few pictures of the outside.

We might have rewatched the royal wedding before going to London to get in the mood and so we could see some of the aerial footage of London and the inside of the Abbey.

After our tour we had lunch at Garfunkels.  I had pie and mash and Jake and fish and chips.  I also had cinnamon waffles with ice cream on it for dessert.  I had been craving waffles for a while and the next day was Waffle Day in Sweden and we were missing it which bummed me out so I thought I would order some for dessert.
We went to the British Museum after lunch.  The British Museum is free and huge!  We knew going into it that we should pick just one or two exhibits instead of trying to see it all.  Even with that plan I struggled.  By this point in our trip I was tired.  My legs and feet were so tired, we were only getting about 6 hour of sleep each night and I was just tired.  The museum was not keeping my attention and I felt like I was sleep walking.  We walked through a few more exhibits including stopping to see the Rosetta Stone.  The Rosetta Stone has writing in hieroglyphics, Demotic and Greek and it gave the first clues about how to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The top left hand picture is made out of wood and the top right hand picture is a sculpture that reminded us of another sculpture we saw and liked in Washington, D.C.  The Rosetta Stone is in the bottom two pictures.

 We had walked by several coffee shops over the past few days so we decided to stop one called Costa to have a cup of coffee to wake up before going to see Billy Elliot.
I had a caramel latte and Jake had a flat white and loved it!

Billy Elliot was showing at the Victoria Palace Theatre.  The show started at 7:30 pm.  We walked around the area for a little while and grabbed a snack at Pret A Manger before heading into the theatre.
The show was good.  I wouldn't say it was great and I don't think I care to see it again but it was entertaining.  It was about a boy who was supposed to be taking boxing lessons but instead became interested in ballet.  The ticket said not suitable for children under the age of 8 because of the language but there were several times when I found the language to be a bit much.  Jake and I also agreed that none of the songs were that memorable either but it was still a good show and I'm glad we went.

Day 4 - The Making of Harry Potter
Jake and I were both excited to go on the Harry Potter tour.  I first read Harry Potter in my Children's Literature class at K-State.  We were supposed to read the third book and I was not excited about it.  I had heard all about Harry Potter before reading the book and I just wasn't that interested but I really enjoyed the third book.  I then read the first book and possibly the second but then I lost interest.  I don't remember what sparked Jake to start reading them but he read the first one after we were married and then we decided it would be fun to read them at the same time and then watch each movie after we finished the book.  So we did that with all seven books.  We heard about the Making of Harry Potter tour in London while we were in the middle of reading the books and we thought we better finish them before we ever go to London so we can go on the tour.  That was way before the whole "moving to Stockholm" thing came about.

The studio tour is about an hour and 15 minutes outside of London.  We had breakfast, packed up and took a train to Watford Junction where we got on a Harry Potter bus that took us 15 minutes or so to the Warner Brothers Studio.
Our tour started at 10:30 am with a welcome from one of the employees and then a quick 3 minute video about the tour.  Then we moved to a theater where we sat down and watched all 8 Harry Potter movies a 5 minute video showing clips from all of the movies.  Then they raised the screen and had us walk to the front of the theater which put us right in front of the Great Hall doors.
A tour guide told us a few things about the Great Hall.  She said that the floor was made out of real stone since they knew there would be so many people walking on it during filming they wanted it to hold up.  Obviously the magical ceiling wasn't there but they had a scale model of the ceiling hanging up that they used for some shots in the movies.  There were also costumes set up throughout the Great Hall.
The gate, costumes, make-up (including Harry's scar), cauldron, long hallway (that they arranged to make it seem longer than it actually is).
Wands, the Mirror of Erised, Harry's Wand, Harry's Bedroom
Gryffindor Common Room
Gryffindor Common Room
Gryffindor Common Room
The Cloak of Invisibility.  After I saw this it made sense that it would be lined with green material so it could be used as a green screen and they could put whatever images they wanted to on the underneath side or Harry could wear it with the green facing out and then he would blend in to whatever he was around, just like the cloak is supposed to do :).
Potions Room - The number of things they had to find to fill the jars to make the room look full and authentic was ridiculous.  I can't imagine having that job.
Hagrid's Hut
Dumbledore's Office
Dumbledore's Office
The Pensieve and the Sorting Hat
Jake in Dumbledore's Office
The Horcruxes, Sirus Black's Motorbike that Hagrid drives (the bigger one was used to make Harry look small and the smaller one was used to make Hagrid look bigger), the moving staircase and one of the brooms they used for special effects.
The Burrow, aka the Weasley's House, and the clock showing where everyone in the family was at that time.
A few more pictures from the tour including Butterbeer which was actually really good.  It tasted like cream soda with whipped cream/butter with bubbles on the top.   

After grabbing a quick lunch and some Butterbeer we walked around the sets they had outside before heading back inside to finish the rest of the tour.

The next last few rooms on the self guided tour were creature effects, Diagon Alley, the art department and the model room.
Diagon Alley

At the end of the tour they have a really awesome model of Hogwarts that they used for some of the outside shots in the films.
You can kind of tell from this picture how big the scale model was, 1:24, but the picture doesn't even really show you how cool it was.  This was the last part of the tour before you entered the gift shop.

Leading into the gift shop they had a room with wand boxes.  Each box had the name of someone who helped with one of the movies.  And they had lots of merchandise in the gift shop including wands. 
We spent about four and a half hours walking through The Making of Harry Potter tour and it was great.  We both really enjoyed it and would go back to that again if it is still there in the future.  We took the Harry Potter bus back to Watford Junction and then took a train to Clapham Junction to get on another train to Gatwick Airport.  We had plenty of time to get to the airport so we stopped at Clapham Junction and grabbed a coffee and a bite to eat since we would be flying during dinner and wouldn't be eating on the plane.  We tried another coffee shop, Cafe Nero, which was really good.  I had a toasted sandwich, a really good cafe mocha and a chocolate torte.  Jake just had a cappuccino and ended up buying a Cornish pasty (similar to a calzone) after we got to Gatwick.  We got back to Stockholm around 11:30 pm and back to our apartment around 12:30 am.

We had a great time in London!  Hope you enjoyed reading all about our trip.

If you want to read about our first two days you can do that here.
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