Kategori: Divia

First hiking trip!


Sweden never stops amazing me with the beauty of its nature; I’ve already said it once and again and again. Add that to the very convenient Allemansrätten (a law that allows you to camp almost anywhere), sprinkle a long weekend in the middle of it, and there you go: the idea to go hiking for the first time was born!

Me being an absolute beginner made things interesting on a few counts: First of all, we had to decide on a path that was attractive but not too long. Pilgrimsleden came to be the chosen one, a 56 km trail that circles around a sizable portion of small lakes. The trail also happened to be close to Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden and third largest in Europe. Then came the matter of equipment: I already had some reliable shoes, but none of the things that would allow me to sleep in the wilderness. Since I knew that your loyal student ambassador Raghu had also camped for the first time in Sweden, I took his kindness and borrowed a sleeping bag and mat from him.

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Ready for action!

The adventure was awfully fun, I was taught the details of how to make a fire, participated in the momentary panic that comes with losing sight of the track, gained a few scratches here and there, but only one fall – which makes me quite proud. What I found surprising is that even if everything looks similar on the map (lake, rock, forest, rock, forest, lake), once you were actually walking you could see how much the landscapes varied along the trail. We came across high points watching over hundreds of pines, forests that were very thick and therefore very dark, long lakes with pristine water, small muddy ones, villages, streams, and sadly, many areas where forestry had gotten rid of a big amount of trees.

The proud fire that I (kind of) helped to produce.

The pretty fire that I (kind of) helped  produce.

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A magical sight

My final observation is that, presumably due to hunger and fatigue, during this trip I had the most delicious apple of my life. I figured that it was all a perfect balance between hard work and small pleasures.

The trip was abruptly ended by the realization that the nights were too cold for the kind of equipment we had. Nonetheless I would repeat the experience, of course with a little bit more preparation. If you get the chance, definitely try to make your own hiking trip in Sweden!

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All pictures by P. Cegielski

Unstable Swedish sun


Over the last few days I have been unjustly woken up by that bright character that managed to scape Gothenburg for most of winter: you see, it happens that around here there is not such a thing as constant sunlight hours. Over winter it can be that the sun hasn’t risen by the time you go to school, and is already down by the time you come back home. Now that both of our feet are into spring, sunlight hours keep extending and extending; and these days sunrise is happening around 5 in the morning while the sun is still somewhere in the sky by 9 pm.

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It was late when this was taken! Picture by P. Cegielski

When you have such a dark winter as here, it is almost mandatory that by the end of it you’ll be desperately craving some of that heavenly warmth. And as much as I did, it is still disorienting for me to go from total darkness to total brightness in such a short time. When it’s spring or summer I always end up going to bed very late because, in my country, the latest you would have sunset is around 7 pm. So independently of when it gets dark here in Sweden (be it 4 pm or 11 pm), my body will assume that it’s 8 pm. And then in the morning, being woken up by the sun in my face at such early hours is, well… let’s say unpleasant.

 

So in my second spring/almost-summer here, I continue to develop my little seasonal coping techniques. My windows have integrated blinds but it has become time to put up the curtains as well, since the closed blinds are no longer enough to mask that early sun. And in the evening, if I’m home I delude myself by closing the blinds by 8 pm. That way my body thinks it’s dark out there, and can achieve a semblance of orderly sleep. All of this daylight musings have led me to conclude that maybe one of the reasons that Sweden strives to be lagom is to have some moderation in something… because let me tell you, there is nothing moderate about the seasons here!

Getting to know Taiwan… from Gothenburg!


If you have ever crossed paths with me you might know that I’m into food: whether it comes to eating it, talking about it or (attempting) cooking it, you will have my full attention. So my fascination with trying dishes from different places is only a logical extension of such. Studying abroad has opened countless doors for this interest of mine, with discovering Swedish culture through food, eating new things in the countries I have visited while on vacation, and by the bond-strengthening method of making international friends cook for me.

So this time the turn was for Taiwanese food, which came in a format other than usual. I found out that NCTU Europe, a group of students with the mission of promoting exchange between Chalmers and the National Chiao Tung University, was organizing a snacks night. This meant that for only 30 crowns I would be taking my first delve into Taiwanese cuisine. So of course I couldn’t resist 🙂

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During the evening we had presentations with recipes from all the 10 dishes that would be served, each one by the master chef who prepared it. Afterwards we proceeded to taste their creations. While I thought that the ingredients to most recipes where similar, I was surprised to taste the differences in them. Many of the dishes were meat based, but two that stuck out were rice balls filled with meat floating in a multi-ingredient soup, and what can be described as a yummy noodle omelet.

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However, the absolute highlight was being reunited with my long lost love, the only item from Taiwan that I had actually tasted before: Boba tea. To make it short (and spare you of all my obsessive praise towards it), boba tea is tea with milk and chewy tapioca balls. It originated in Taiwan and has spread in popularity over the world. I used to have it often back in my island, but had never had one prepared by a citizen of its island of origin. And while delighting myself in its flavor, I discovered as a sample of Taiwanese humor that boba is actually slang for big breasts.

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The most fun part of the night was sharing with students that were somehow related to Taiwan. There were people who were either born there, had been there to study or just took the jump to move there for no reason and being back to Sweden wanted to remember the good days. Listening to their stories was a great way to know more about the place. The whole thing ignited somewhat of a Taiwan craze in me: I have since been to an Asian supermarket to pick up some ingredients and have dedicated this week to perfecting homemade boba tea.  And I heard that NCTU Europe organizes monthly events, so you can also join them to learn a little bit more about Taiwan!  We will probably see each other there!

(All pictures credited to NCTU Europe)

Nature at Härryda


Did you know that every student who is part of the Student Union at Chalmers owns a sauna in the woods? Well, not one sauna for each person of course… But it is a benefit for the Student Union members to be able to rent the facilities at Härryda. The place includes a sauna for 60 people, among other perks.

However, the whole concept of a sauna and my swaying opinion of it (I’m still undecided if I enjoy any temperature higher than 40 °C) is enough material for another post. What I wanted to show you today is the surroundings of the sauna house. The view is what I have appreciated the most when I have visited Härryda.

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This right here, my friends, is one of the most explanatory images of the beautiful nature in this country. Conifers, lakes and rocks are what make the Swedish landscape such a lovely one. Wouldn’t you like to live somewhere like this?

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The view is equally breathtaking at night, when the lake is calm and the sky reflects perfectly on the water. But, that’s something you will have to see with your own eyes. Whenever you visit Härryda, take a break from the heat and have a walk around the facilities! You won’t regret it.

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An extra picture: Icicles, a novelty for a Caribbean girl.

Things you don’t see every day: Göteborg Film Festival


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As every year, the people in Gothenburg could delight themselves with the film festival this past week. It is thrilling to think there will be so much art spread throughout the city in such a short period of time. This feeling is complemented when scouring through the bulky programs that recount the movies and seminars that will happen during the festival. If there’s anything that I, as a student, could complain about in regards to the festival, is the ticket prices. Having to buy a festival pass fr 50 crowns in addition to the 90 crowns movie ticket does not make it the cheapest activity in which you could get involved.  Luckily, a free ticket to the movie ”En chance til” came to alleviate my budget woes.

The crowd!

The crowd!

Once inside the movie theater it was easy to see how well received is the festival, it was a full packed room! A charismatic lady stood in front of the audience to introduce the movie before turning on the screens. This is one of the adorable customs going on in Swedish cinemas that falls in line with the festival motto, ”Things you don’t see every day”. My joy continued even with the vignette, a chilling video that set the mood for what was to come.

The beautiful curtain at Draken theater. My dying phone didn't let me catch the nice lady :(

The beautiful curtain at Draken theater. My dying phone didn’t let me catch the nice lady 😦

In order to not spoil the movie for those who are yet to watch it, I will only say that it was of the good old sad kind. Now I can confirm that paying to attend to the festival should certainly not be ruled away, even if a little expensive. If you want to check out other (better) festival pictures, browse here!

Where did my trash go?


Have you thought about your garbage lately? In places like the one I come from, people don’t need to think much about their waste. It is common to litter on the streets, or maybe if you have a little more foresight you actually put it in a trash bin, but in both cases you proceed to forget about it soon after. ”It will probably take care of itself, right?”. That general mindset used to bother me… I thought, why aren’t we paying more attention to where we put our trash? Why do we dispose of so many things, and once we dispose of them… how come they’re not getting recycled?!

So coming to Sweden was literally a breath of fresh air. Barely any trash to be seen on the streets, where citizens are often forced to think more about their garbage. You have to see what you have at hand and then sort it according to the system that is in place. It was taking part into the kind of system I wished for my country, and for the first time realizing how much garbage I can produce, what sparked the whim to get more insight into how it all worked. And that’s how I ended up taking the Waste Management course in Chalmers. I have to admit that I started  with different expectations; not having had any similar course in my previous studies led me to assume that waste management was a simple matter. Little did I know that it is such an extensive subject! In the course we learned how to treat waste flows that didn’t even occur to me before: magnets, nuclear fuels, tree residues?! So much more than I imagined!

And as it is usual with the best courses I have taken in Chalmers, there was a study visit to show us in live action what we were learning on power point presentations. We got to visit Ryaverket, the plant that receives waste from the Borås municipality. It was fun to see how comprehensive can be the simplest of waste sorting methods. The waste received in the plant is divided into food waste and combustible waste. Into the plant also come wood chips that remain from the forestry industry. As a simplified version, one could say that you feed these  ingredients to the plant and end up obtaining bio-fuel, district heating, cooling, electricity, ashes to be used as fertilizer in the forest, more ashes for back fill and construction, and a fraction of metal to be recycled later on. Absolutely neat. If you wish to read more about the plant, go here. Below you can see the pictures I took at the study visit:

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Accumulation tank

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Trash trash trash! A very special smell in this place.

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IMG_1068 Simone and Huberta, the two boilers

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A truck bringing the wood chips for processing

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The headquarters

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Do you know if you have a similar waste management system in your city? Maybe this post makes you curious about where your trash is going!

Gothenburg winterland!


It is finally snowing in Gothenburg! The weather forecast proved me wrong two nights ago, gifting us Gothenburgers with an awesome sight on Saturday morning. This is the most expected moment of the year for many international students, which can be proved by the amount of snow-related posts in the Facebook feed.

And it is certainly warranted, the hype for the snow. It’s like a whole new era starting for the city; the clouds become fuzzy as if they had been sprayed on the sky and the entire landscape is suddenly lightened up. It also becomes an interesting sensory experience, as every step is accompanied with a crunch under your feet. It will be essential to pay attention to your surroundings… that is, of course, if you prefer not to fall on the ice! Using your cellphone while walking is a no-no, but nonetheless every once in a while you’ll suffer a micro heart attack when your shoe soles can’t quite grip on the compacted snow making you slip. I’m still in my walking-like-a-penguin phase, but I hope to someday be as agile as the people I’ve seen walking without a care, or even jogging!

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Fuzzy clouds

But if we leave out the slipping moments, the combination of the seeing a beautiful new landscape before your eyes, being mindful of your every step and the crisp cold on your cheeks makes it a very relaxing experience. This is without a doubt my favorite part of the year. And therefore a stroll through Slottsskogen was due! Enjoy the pictures below.

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Sun and snow, nothing better!

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A flowing cascade on a frozen pond

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Just a bit of unfrozen pond left for the ducks!

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They came for food…

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And went back when they saw there wasn’t any 😦

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A christmasy Linnegatan

Back to Högsbogatan

Back to Högsbogatan

 

An exciting Nobel Week!


It’s almost sure that by now you have heard about the great minds that were honored with the Nobel Prize this year… Being in the country where it is awarded, I was happy to find out that for Swedes, “Nobel Prize” does not only ring the bell of reading the results in the newspaper. There are a couple more things happening this week, of which the public can take part. On one hand, there is the Nobel NightCap, a relaxed celebration where laureates, Swedish royalty, scientists and students from all over the country have an unforgettable after-party (what does a Nobel laureate have in common with a barbeque and a submarine?). It is organized by students, and offers other students the chance to attend through a lottery. To many, the NightCap is highlight of the week: since journalists are not allowed in the occasion, whatever happens in the NightCap, stays in the Nightcap.

But before the (possibly?) wild partying with Nobel laureates, there is another event arranged to shift your paradigms and stimulate your visions of the future. That is the Nobel Week Dialogue, which has laureates, world class scientists and leaders congregating to discuss a topic that is chosen each year. Everyone can attend free of charge, earning the opportunity to influence the discussions that go on during the day. This year the Dialogue was held in Stockholm with the most interesting subject, “The Age to Come – New scientific and cultural perspectives on ageing”. Since I managed to attend, I thought I could chronicle my adventure for you!

Nobel chocolate. Hopefully an intelligence-confering sweet?

Nobel chocolate. Hopefully an intelligence-enhancing sweet

This year, several students from Gothenburg University and Chalmers were invited to attend to the Dialogue, starting the trip well before sunrise with a bus departure at 3:45 am. After a 5 hour nap we found ourselves in the venue, fresh and excited for what the day would bring. The event began with three introductory talks that set the ground for the first panel of the day, Implications of an Older World. The morning continued with seminar and panels, which ranged from learning that Nobel Laureates and Oscar Winners live longer, to the live try-out of a suit that recreates common aging ailments as short sight and arthritis.

The afternoon brought the most intense part for me, since I participated as a student moderator during one of the parallel sessions. This meant that I got to deliver questions from the online audience to the panel that sat 3 meters across from me. The task was challenging, due to all the information processing, but so much more honoring, as I was able to communicate with leading experts in the subject. It is a wonderful thing to give students this opportunity… and who knows, maybe it’s you next year!

So close!

So close!

With Craig Mello, awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2006

With Craig Mello, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2006

The dessert of the day was a final panel with six Nobel laureates; “A critical mass of knowledge” as moderator Adam Smith would define it. With their expertise and characteristic humor, Elizabeth Blackburn, Eric Maskin, Daniel McFadden, Aaron Ciechanover, Craig Mello and Eric Kandel gave their views on what the future brings for an ageing population. I learned so much during the day that it would be either too long or impossible to write down all the new knowledge imparted by the participants. If you want to get your own overview, I highly recommend watching the keynotes here and to look for #nobeldialogue hashtag on Twitter. You can find the funniest, eye-opening comments of the day  there!

6 Nobel laureates sitting on the stage

6 Nobel laureates sitting on the stage

My aged-up face according to a simulator in the venue

Hope to see you in Nobel Dialogue next year!

Meet & Greet Christmas mingle at Chalmers!


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If there is something that one could unmistakably say about Chalmers, is that they take great care of its students. Ever since the first day I set foot in the university, at the welcoming activity for newcomer master students, we were flooded with all the opportunities and services that are provided to us: from health care and counseling to personalized help to write essays. And this quality is much more present when it concerns international students. For us coming from afar and jumping through a few extra hoops to reach our desired educational destination, Chalmers recognizes our determination and appreciates the value of having a multicultural classroom.

As an additional effort to strengthen the ties with international students, accomplish a more direct contact and being able to provide personalized answers, a new kind of event has been launched under the name Meet and Greet mingles. Unfortunately I could not attend to the first one that was held in October, touching topics like exams, IT services and help in studies. But the second time around, I plan not to miss it:

The theme for the next mingle will be Christmas and Swedish culture, which you could guess is a favorite of mine if you have been reading past posts. Subjects such as activities during the Christmas break, scholarships, medical care and career planning will be discussed in the company of staff from the Student Centre, and the Scholarships, Admissions and Career Services departments. You can also expect some fika (and I’m crossing my fingers for some yummy non-alcoholic glögg).

Göteborg & Co, Fysiken, Akademihälsan and Region Västra Götaland will also be there, so be sure to mark your calendar for December 11 at 11:30-13:00 if you wish to have a chat with them. For more details you can check out the Facebook event here.

Hope to see you there!

Living Swedish traditions: A crayfish party!


If I had to choose among the best parts of living abroad, I would definitely count in the list experiencing the traditions that native people have incorporated into their lives. So far Lucia, Midsummer and Walpurgis have brightened up my year, but there is one tradition that I like so much that I could barely wait to have it again! And that is the Crayfish Party.

Crayfish parties  are held each year close to August, due to a previous ban that only allowed the crustacean to be caught around this month. The celebration warrants a gathering where families and friends enjoy the delicacy rather noisily: it is a whole ritual, that of separating the crayfish into parts and sucking its juices from various cavities. The crayfish is usually accompanied by savory pies and bread, and schnapps which are present at every other Swedish festivity.

My first time in a crayfish party was last year, when the V-department international committee organized one as a way to integrate international and Swedish students. It was such a good experience that I waited for this year’s expectantly, but due to my schedule I couldn’t attend. This sparked the idea of organizing our own with a couple of friends.

In both times, I have ended up full and with a happy face. If I had to guess why celebrations around a medium-sized crustacean have become a hit, I’d say that it’s simple: the whole process of trying to eat crayfish is arduous, completely messy (the party involves wearing bibs!), at times a little violent, but the end result is very much worthy. Crayfish is delicious!

 

Part of the feast

Part of the feast

And now that I’ve crossed from my list organizing a crayfish party, I should soon face the challenge of surviving another Swedish tradition: eating Surströmming. Honestly, that one sounds a bit scary, but I do plan to try it someday. Is there any Swedish tradition that you look forward to participate in while you study in Sweden?