Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Everything is love.

So I've had some baseball games, gone to a museum, shopped, partied, cheered at a soccer game, attended a jazz festival, and worked on my thesis the past couple weeks. I needed a respite from blogging, but now I'm back, and I bet that thrills my reader.

There's a free yoga meditation class in English near Skanstull. I was a little worried it was a cult, but last week I went anyway. The "class" was more of a "prayer session in some random dude's apartment," but I half expected that. When I arrived they asked me how much meditation I had done in the past, and when I attempted to sit cross-legged they realized I was a beginner. "The essence of Yoga is that everything is of the same consciousness," was the first thing the monk said to me. "It's like ice. It is ice, but it is also water." Yeah, he said that.

The monk had loose white pants, a loose orange shirt, long blond hair tied in a pony tail, and what can only be described as a lumberjack-like beard. I'm certain a blue jay could have raised kids in there. "Matter is not constant," he continued. "Everything in the universe is one consciousness, and Yoga is about aligning yourself with that consciousness." First, we're going to chant, "Baba na, ke ba la," which means "Everything is love." When those words hit my ears, I felt like I had been transported back to the 60's. And what a chant it was.

One guy whipped out an acoustic guitar, we all stood up, and danced. The dance was: pick up right foot, touch floor with right foot behind left foot, return right foot to original position. Repeat with left foot. While we shuffled back and forth you could hold your hands in prayer position, or reach them both up into the sky which I was told "symbolized being aligned with the universe." We chanted and I chose to align my self with the universe until I got bored. We did this for 20 minutes, which is a long time when your singing a song with one line.

Next, we meditated for half an hour. I meditated on myself being love. Five minutes in, I mediated about me feet being asleep. I made it 20 minutes before my knees started bothering me and I broke my impressive cross-legged position. After meditation was a prayer or sermon or something, which preceded the best part: snacks! Apparently the monks own a bakery nearby and bring leftovers, which are quite good. While eating, I talked with a British guy who was planning to hitch-hike around the world and make money by working at orphanages and organic farms. It was an extremely cool conversation. When I left, I felt quite enlightened.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Another New Place and Steamboat Beef

I'm moved into Anton's now. He's been working a lot, so we haven't done too much together aside from play ESPN Baseball 2K5 before bed. You know you're not a teenager anymore when your ass gets handed to you in a video game. And I still can't figure out the base running! Guess I'm just showing my age. The day I moved in, I went on a steamboat tour of Stockholm's Northern Archipelago.

I was supposed to meet Anton's father, Janne, in T-Centralen at 4pm. As a somewhat time impaired individual, I was 15 minutes late. Janne led me to meet his brother, Gustav, and we hurried to the train that went to Kungsträdgården and the ship. On that train, Gustav informed me that he didn't like to be hurried because of his heart condition, and that he didn't appreciate that I was trying to kill him. I am truly super at first impressions. We made it to the boat though, AND Gustav didn't die.

I was a little hesitant to take this 5 hour tour with two men twice my age, but it was worth it. The many islands were gorgeous, and I learned quite a bit from Janne and Gus. Gus is very involved with jazz in Stockholm, doing everything from promoting to performing, and has done a lifetime of research on Louis Armstrong. Armstrong led a more fascinating life than I had realized, dining with much of Western Europe's royalty, opening his dressing room to everyone after a concert, and answering his fan mail personally. Gus told me he corresponded with Louis several times while Armstrong was alive. Janne also bought me what was basically a $75 dollar three-course meal, the main dish being traditional steamboat beef. It was all excellent, and the whole trip was very tranquil and relaxing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

After Work Foolery

Last Friday Johan Lantz and Anton invited out for a little "after-work" drinking. "After-work" is a monthly meeting of young telemarketers from my friends' company where they unwind at a bar. I met Johan and Anton at 6pm in Fridhemsplan. I surprised Anton a bit, because while I had my nice jeans on, I was only wearing a beater for a shirt. I'm assuming that reflects his views on American fashion, and not specifically my style. It was just too warm on the subway to wear the long-sleeve pink button-down I had in my left hand. Soon we arrived at the bar, where our group was enjoying themselves at a table outside.

I was extremely excited. There were several attractive girls there, AND it wasn't suspicious if I talked to them. When I approach an attractive girl that I've never met before on the street, or a club, or on the subway, I can tell their defences go up. And why shouldn't they. Attractive women get approached all the time by guys who say really boring things like, "Do you like American music?" or really only want to sleep with them. I have a much easier time conveying my lovable self when I have a substantial reason to speak with the girl, which could be as simple as her bumping into me a saying, "Sorry." I was going to be part of the group for a while, so it was only natural to meet everyone.

I met most of the people in the group, told a couple stories, asked some questions, and was having an excellent time. It also helped that Victor, a guy from the group, kept buying me drinks. Stockholm is expensive, so I readily accepted what was given to me and I thought Victor was a great guy. Towards the end of the "after work" session, I was engaged in conversation with two girls, while another that I thought was really cute was sitting on my lap. Unfortunately, I didn't know Victor always tries to get new people drunk. And he's good at what he does.

I wasn't really paying attention to the last few drinks he bought me. While I was drinking the last one, I found out it was a Long Island Ice Tea. I followed that up with two shots that may have been double shots, and things went way downhill from there. I had a moment of semi-clarity where I realized what I had done, and decided to wander outside. I sat down on the sidewalk outside the bar, and soon Johan, Anton, and Johan Keding decided it was in my best interest to take me home.

Thank God I have good friends. I threw up five times, twice on the Subway, and I progressively became less and less coordinated to where they basically carried me back to Anton's. Johan Lantz even went as far as to remove and soak my befouled shirt and shoes. I owe all of them a bunch. While the evening didn't end ideally, what I remember was a lot of fun and its just nice to know I have people who about me out here. And, if I didn't make too bad of a first impression, I'm excited to hang out with those girls again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Heeeerrrre's Tommy!

The past week hasn't been the Swedish experience I had hoped for. My consecutive-sick-day streak has reached 18 days. I'm more annoyingly sick than anything else and a simple bottle of penicillin would solve my problems, but we're talking $400 bucks or so for a guy without international health insurance. Good news is, other than one setback, I've been getting better every day.

I've still managed to do a lot though. I've located several second hand stores in Stockholm, learned about meditation and found a free class, found a place where I could go skydiving for 35 bucks, and even started working on my thesis. If there was any question, the last item proves I've been physically and mentally ill. I've also watched countless movies, my favorite of which has to be My Super X-Girlfriend. Luke Wilson has finally found his niche as a male having awkward sex. A couple of other interesting things have happened too, and those posts will be up soon.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Midsommar Night's Dream

Last Friday I celebrated Midsommar, the Swedish holiday occurring on the longest day of the year. I met up with Anton and we travelled to Johan Lantz's place for some beer and BBQ. The guys have been bugging me to try some Swedish "snooze," but I'm not too fond of chewing tobacco. I tried it a year ago, and let's just say one thing led to another and I ended up vomiting all over the Burger King parking lot. Good times.

In Sweden, snooze is a little different. Instead of having to pack and spit the tobacco, it comes in handy little tea-bag-like packets that fit snugly under your top lip. Anton offered me a packet of Gotham Grape, one of the weakest brands. After an what seemed like an eternity of snoozing, the taste dredged up my BK memory. "Are you serious?" Anton asked, "You had that in for like, 7 minutes." I ignored him and continued to feel dizzy and spit the remaining juice into various trash cans. Being the manly man that I am, though, I recovered before we arrived at Lantz's.

After the initial pleasantries and a couple beers, we dug into the traditional Midsommar feast. "Fresh" potatoes, sour cream, and canned raw herring. I drenched the herring in sour cream, forked it along with some potato, and took a big bite. The herring had the consistency of raw ground beef, tasted off ginger and vinegar, and was just generally not my favorite meal. You can see my reactions in my Sweden 2 facebook album. But the drink was supposed to complete the taste, and so I took a swig with the rest of my first bite half chewed. If you've ever wondered, potato, sour cream, raw herring, and Absolut vodka are not a delicious combination. Thank God I still had an open beer. Then they gave me spiced vodka, which is what Swedes really imbibed with the meal. According to my friends, it was much better than strait vodka. They lied.

Mercifully, that was just the appetizer. The entree was beer and steak. After dinner we played some video games, and we were supposed to go out. Unfortunately, Anton became a little under the weather, possibly from having a breakfast of wine and beer before coming over to have champagne, vodka and beer. I had some very attractive, some might say arousing pictures of him passed out on Lantz's bed, but he ended up erasing them from my camera. So overall, I was a little disappointed that we didn't get out, but it was still fun to hang out with the guys. Of course, the day of drinking may have had a negative effect on my diminished health, but then I would have missed the cultural opportunity of raw herring.

Monday, June 18, 2007

My New Place

My time with Timor's family is up. I moved to the south side, and am currently living with the Ramstroms. This is a much better setup. I'm only 15 minutes away from Alby's field and half an hour away from my friends. I have my own room and computer, and there's an ample supply of protein. Also, the Ramstroms are pretty well off and have things like a dryer (most people used clotheslines in Sweden), a home network for their 7 computer, and a large media drive I can access in their sweet movie room. Yes, they have a room designed specifically for movie watching, with surround sound and a bi-level couch. I've been here since Saturday and I've already seen The 300, which was awesome in surround sound, and Borat, which is not so much a surround sound movie. I'm still sick, but hopefully I'm getting better so I can do some more exciting things.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Graduation Party

After the game I raced to Anton's, ate, showered, and prepared myself for the Stockholm nightlife. I wore Anton's black striped pants that didn't fit him anymore, my pink striped button-down, and of course, my shiny, black marching band shoes. Anton told me I looked less American, which apparently is a compliment.

We arrived at the club where the graduation party was. After dealing with the bouncers, we entered that party. There were 18 year-old blond girls everywhere. The majority were cute, but only a couple were truly hot. The venue had an outdoor and two indoor bars, and dance floors coupled with each of them. I chatted it up with my friends for a little bit and Anton bought me a beer. We soon found a lounge to hang out in where it was easier to hear each other. We also went in because there were some attractive girls.

I broke out my camera and had my friends make...interesting poses. I asked one of the more attractive girls to take a picture of all us, hoping it would lead to conversation. She complied, but didn't want to talk. Johan Keding kept pushing me to use the Swedish pick-up line he had taught me. I don't like pick-up lines, but I butcher the pronunciation enough that I figured it would be funny. So Johan and I walked up next to this cute girl and I said, "My friend says I should tell you, "Hej kikset, har stor du och smular." Apparently there's no direct English translation of what I said, but it's something like, "Hey biscuit, I'm gonna make you crumble.'' Oh Sweden.

She cracked up at my pronunciation and we ended up talking for a while in English. I had her teach me a few Swedish words, and we talked about a few other things, but after about 20 minutes I was getting bored so I asked her to play a game with me. It's called "Murder, Marry, Shag," and it's a fun way to learn about what type of person a girl is. Unfortunately, she read far to much into the title, and said, "Oh, the only person I'm going to marry is my boyfriend." Now, I've learned that this doesn't necessarily mean she has a boyfriend, more that I've just conveyed too much interest for her comfort. I explained the game to her and when we got to playing she had a great time. Her friends even came over to "save" her or whatever, and she turned them away twice. Maybe she did have a boyfriend though, because she asked me if my friends were still at the club, I said yes, and she said she had to go. Maybe I should have said no ;) We hugged, took a couple pictures, and my night ended soon after that.

Overall, this was my best day in Sweden. It was so much fun. Hopefully I'll have even better stories like the last few in the days to come.