Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sankta Lucia, aka "Saint Lucy"

December 13th marks the celebration of Sankta Lucia in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. This is an annual celebration that has taken place for many years throughout this country, and Jo and I were fortunate enough to be invited such a performance at Astradskolan. When I asked Julle and Daniel where this tradition stemmed from and who this “Lucia” was, they both said she was a young Italian girl who had been burned as a martyr. I didn’t quite understand the Italian-Swedish connection, so naturally I did a little research.
Sankta Lucia girls and Starboys at Astradskolan
According to Wikipedia (where I get all of my information) Saint Lucy, Sankta Lucia, is believed to be a young Sicilian saint who suffered as a martyr. Her legend goes back into the Middle Ages where she had been seeking help for her mother’s long-term illness. After becoming a devout Christian, she vowed to remain a virgin despite marriage and thus was denounced by her betrothed. The date of December 13th traces back to Sicilian Catholics in which large feasts of traditional homemade Italian dishes are eaten in memory of Saint Lucy’s averting of a famine. In Italy, it is also common for children to receive gifts on the night between December 12th and 13th.
Saint Lucy is on of few saints celebrated by the Lutheran-Scandinavian people. This celebration is an adaptation of Christian and pagan beliefs and is based strongly on the yearly struggle between light and darkness in which the winter solstice brings. The tradition of Sankta Lucia has become imbedded in the Swedish culture and is often practiced within individual homes. Typically, the eldest daughter is crowned “Lucia”, wearing a long white robe tied with a red ribbon at the waist and a wreath-like crown topped with candles. Younger girls will accompany her with white dresses tied with tinsel at the waist, while the “star boys” wear white robes, cone hats, and carry stars. It is traditional for the Sankta Lucia procession to sing holiday songs and serve Lussekatter (Lucia buns) with coffee.
Lussekatter and coffee :)
At the school’s celebration, Tomten, better known in America as “Santa”, made his debut. The celebration of Sankta Lucia begins on December 13th (12 days before Christmas) and this holiday season will end on January 6th (12 days after Christmas).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Around the World

Jo and I with Tomten in Ljungby
Christmas, also called Christ’s Mass, Nativity, Noel, and Feast of the Nativity, is an annual holiday celebrated by Christians and non-Christians worldwide. Originally this time of year held a pagan festival in which a winter feast would accompany the Roman New Year - Christians adopted this pre-existing date to commemorate Christ coming into the world. Although there are still many pagan traditions that influence Christmas, such as gift-giving, greenery, and lights, this time of year has become Christianized with the nativity scenes and the honoring Jesus’ birth. This will be my first Christmas that I am not celebrating in America, and thus, I decided to learn more about my new home’s Christmas traditions. I had to do a little research for both countries' "typical" Christmas, and although each family has their own traditions, these are the most commonly practiced. Enjoy!


Date celebrated: December 25; holiday season begins after Thanksgiving (4th Thursday of November) with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade ending around January 6 (when the wise men visited Christ)
Santa bringing up the rear of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade
Typical foods: turkey, goose, duck or ham served with cranberry sauce, plum pudding or pumpkin pie, nuts and fruit, candy canes, gingerbread, eggnog, apple cider, baked breads, cookies
Typical Christmas dinner in America
Decorations: holly, mistletoe, garland, wreaths, snowmen, angels, snowflakes, nutcrackers, Christmas trees, Santa, reindeer, nativity scene, often the roof of the home is outlined with lights
American house decorated for Christmas
Christmas Tree: decorated with lights, popcorn strings, candy canes, ornaments, tinsel, topped with a star of Bethlehem or an angel; typically placed near a window
American Christmas tree
Religion services: Christmas Eve midnight mass, some churches will have Christmas morning mass
Jesus: Born to a virgin mother in a manger in Bethlehem, visited by 3 wise men, surrounded by shepherds and sheep
Nativity team
Santa: travels around the world on a sled pulled by reindeer (led by Rudolph); Santa comes down the chimney of homes to leave presents under the tree while children are sleeping; “bad” children get coal in their stockings; eats milk and cookies; lives in the North Pole with elves and Mrs. Claus; wears red, has a rotund belly and a white beard
Santa flying through the night sky
Traditions: pictures with Santa, writing letters to Santa, Christmas movies shown on various TV-channels throughout the month of December, Nativity plays, Christmas carolers, cookie exchange where families bake holiday cookies/treats and share them with neighbors, “secret Santa” where groups of individuals are secretly assigned to give a gift to another member of their group, mistletoe – if two people are standing underneath it, they are supposed to kiss

SVENSK JUL, aka Swedish Christmas

Date celebrated: December 24; holiday season begins with the 1st Sunday of Advent and Saint Lucia, celebrated on December 13 where boys dress up as “star boys” in long white shirts while one of the daughters in each family wears a white robe, red sash, and evergreen crown with illuminated candles; holiday ends January 13
Sankta Lucia procession at Astradskolan
Typical foods: rice porridge, meatballs, pickled herring, spareribs, small hot dogs, lutfisk, pork sausage, salmon, Janssons frestelse (potatoe casserole with anchovies), julmust (Christmas soft drink), Christmas beer, glogg (red wine with spices, usually served warm), gingerbread, ginger snaps 
Prinskorv (mini hot dogs), meatballs, Janssens frestelse (potatoes and anchovies casserole), the back pot has non-alcoholic glögg in it 
The cold foods: Ham, rödbetssallad (beet salad), mustard, 3 types of herring (tomato, mustard, and vinegar),
deviled eggs, sausage, liver pate, salmon
Decorations: advent candles and large stars in windows, red tulips, nativity scene, advent calendar. outside light decorations, Santa Claus
Advent Candle and Star of Bethlehem in a window
Christmas tree: straw ornaments, star always on the top, candy canes, tinsel, ornaments (red and white), gifts under the tree
Svensk Julgran
Religion Services: Midnight Mass on December 24th
Santa (“Tomten”): A family member dresses up wearing a white beard and red robe, knocks on the door or window to bring a sack full of gifts to the family; he walks around Sweden on a one-man sled to deliver gifts to the Swedish families; eats rice pudding. This is the reason that Americans celebrate Christmas on the 25th. He can come before or after Kalle Anka Jul, depending on the family
Family member dressed as Tomten over the years
Traditions: at 3pm on December 24, everyone in Sweden will watch “Kalle Anka Jul” (Donald Duck Christmas); typically there will be a party on the 25th and 26th for Swedes 18+ where they will oftentimes drink mass quantities of alcohol and celebrate with their friends; many families will eat breakfast on Christmas morning (the 25th) before going out to celebrate. There is a TV show that the children watch where they open their advent calendar candy in the morning. 
Donald Duck's Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

You know you're homeless when...

We’ve all seen the homeless in our area sifting through the trash for buried treasure: old clothes and furniture, sometimes electronics, or even uneaten food. In Sweden, these treasures lie in people’s recycling bins. Jo and I have quite the collection of recyclable items, however it’s mostly the plastic bottles we’re after. Depending on the size, a plastic bottle can be worth up to 2 kroner! Yes, dear readers, I've resorted to scavenging for something that is worth a mere 30 cents. Nevertheless, this has proved to be quite a moneymaking deal, as Jo and I have been doing this since our arrival in September. We have a jar that hides in an undisclosed location in the apartment full of our earnings. This money will not be counted until the last week of our time in Sweden at which point we will be taking our money over to Systembolaget (the liquor store), spending it all, and throwing the biggest and best going away party that Ljungby has ever seen.

Initially, the gathering started fairly low key, as we would just take bottles that were easily accessible. This mainly consisted of people’s trash from the two, and only, get-togethers we had at our apartment. We then decided to move on to practice, asking our teammates to, instead of throwing away their Celsius drink cans, let us take the garbage home. This gradually grew into a part of our everyday lives.

Case 1: At the pre-match meals, some of the team moms provide us with multiple beverage options, usually some flavored seltzer water—its very Euro. The first home match, Jo and I really wanted to take these 2-liter bottles, but weren’t sure how the team and parents (who bought them) would feel about us more or less “stealing” their money. So, I hid the empty bottles in my pants. All four of them.
Bottles in my pants.
Case 2: Any time Jo and I leave the gym, or any place that we see people drinking from cans and plastic bottles, we request that they give them to us instead of throwing them away. Sometimes they forget, forcing us to rummage through the trashcans. Thanks to Sweden, and my low self-consciousness, I can now cross “dumpster diving” off my bucket list.

Case 3: We’ve managed to suck Selma into our twisted ways: when leaving a men’s Elite Series match, she noticed two unattended Coke bottles. We waited for two bystanders to leave the area before swooping in for the snatch. I realize that I just described a hawk stalking its mouse prey, but this is swiftly becoming our livelihood—don’t judge.
Jo caught Selma and I in the act!! 
Case 4: Jo and I went over to Joel’s apartment to watch our match against Falköping. Upon entering his kitchen, Jo noticed 3 FULL bags of 2-liter Coke bottles! We instantly asked his permission to have them. Despite his hesitant “yes”, we nabbed the bags as we left. It’s fair to say that both Jo and I are becoming a lot bolder with our methods of collecting.
Our overflowing recycle bin

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dad's week in Sweden

As many of you may already know, my dad came to visit me this past week! It was so great to have him here with me in Sweden, especially during the start of the holiday season. As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving blog, I’ve been here 3 full months now, and it’s around this time that I’m really starting to miss the luxuries of home. I’ve managed to luck out thus far with the weather – its managed to stay in the upper 30’s and mostly in the 40’s this whole month. I never thought in a million years that I would be thankful for such weather, but after a while you start getting used to how to dress in layers, and I’ve managed to get by unscathed. But this blog isn’t about me; it’s about my dad’s trip here.

Dad arrived in Copenhagen the morning of November 19. We spent the first weekend in Copenhagen, managing to see all the sights in his first day (check out the Copenhagen blog for information about our time in Denmark). Sunday night we made it back to Ljungby, and we would be spending the rest of our time together in Sweden!
Monday was fairly low key as Jo and I had workouts in the morning, and would be coaching the B-team before having our pre-match team meeting and our own practice that evening. I gave Dad a town map and pointed him in a semi-direction so he could enjoy the first of many morning runs – he would go on to run about an hour every morning. 
Dad chilling in Maxi
After showering and going to Maxi for a quick grocery run, Dad was able to have his first Hotel Terrazza experience. Every time someone “new” comes to eat lunch with us, Jo and I have to introduce them to our system: first the salad plate (complete with pizza salad and Rhode Island dressing) and a piece of buttered bread; second you are allowed to get your main course. It’s become a routine for us, and it kind of stresses us out when people don’t follow it properly. Also, since we’re pretty much regulars, we have a table; it’s the one closest to the buffet station and we sit there every day. That evening would start a 5-hour volleyball practice, split between us coaching the B-team, a pregame meeting, and our own 2-hour practice. Poor dad would have to sit through it all! Luckily Malin’s mom was there and gave him someone to talk to.
Tuesday after lunch, we walked over to Astradskolan to get Daniel’s car so we could spend the afternoon in Växjö. We were going to look at some of the larger electronics stores to see if there was a connector/convertor that could somehow allow us to play our movies and TV shows that are on our computers on the TV. Unfortunately, we have an old-school analogue TV and Mac computers, so there would be a lot of wires and convertors needed to get this magic to happen. 
Fixing the new DVD player
Dad, being the president of the Geek Squad, was able to figure out what kind of plugs and wires we needed, and found a DVD/USB player that can not only play multi-region DVDs (because the Euro-DVD players can’t read North American DVDs—who knew??) but also connect my external hard drive!! Before leaving Växjö, we stopped at City Gross (one of the grocery stores) to look for a turkey to eat for thanksgiving.
Gobble gobble!!
Some of my teammates had mentioned that there was a “world foods” section in this store—which we found—and stocked up on pancake batter, syrup, butter lover’s popcorn, and hot cocoa! I clutched each item to my chest as if letting them go would make them disappear. It’s the little things in life. 
Instead of going to practice that night, dad stayed at home to hook up the DVD player and convert my external hard drive so that it could be properly formatted to play movies.
Wednesday, both Jo and I were feeling a little under the weather, so instead of doing too many activities, we went for a walk into the woods near Sunnerbohallen (our volleyball gym). Dad had seen many small Christmas trees that were cut and just lying around in the woods—his idea was that we could steal one and put it up in our apartment! Naturally, we did just that. 
Assembling the Christmas tree
A quick trip to Maxi for some necessary Christmas tree supplies and we were in business. Later that day, I introduced my dad to Swedish chocolate balls at a local coffee shop and bakery called Roddy’s. 
Chocolate Balls at Roddy's
That evening we drove over to Ångelholm to watch an elite series match between Engelholm (the team spelled their name differently than the town, don’t ask anyone why as they have no idea) and Hylte/Halmstad. On Saturday, we would be playing Engelholm at home, so it was a good chance for a few of us to watch them play. Daniel drove Dad, Jo, Selma and I over to the match where we met Jocke and Malin’s parents. It was fun to watch a match with dad, since usually he is in the stands cheering me on instead of us both being observers. The match ended within an hour, and we headed to McDonald’s for quick food on the way back home.
Thursday, we did not eat thanksgiving food. Since our practice is so late, we decided it would be best for us to eat our big meal on Friday. We instead made fajitas!! Jo and I coached the B-team, this time Dad was able to help a little more with some of the instruction. He was especially helpful with Stefan, one of the parents standing in as coach and chaperone. That night at our practice, a few guys were able to come and scrimmage against us in preparation for the weekend’s match. I wish I had known to tell dad to bring his shoes, because I’m sure he would much rather have played against us then sit and watch in the stands.
Friday, Dad and I went to Astradskolan to help in the Advanced English class. It was a cool experience to share with him, as this is something Jo and I do quite often. Basically all we talked about was Thanksgiving and how huge of a holiday it is in America. We then broke the class into two groups, and dad took one while I took the other. 
Dad outside of Astradskolan
From school, I went on to workout while Dad went for a run. We met back at home to start up laundry – an interesting experience to say the least. Most of you have seen the pictures of our laundry facility, but, according to Dad, until you actually experience it firsthand, you can’t possibly imagine how different it truly is from America. 
It's laundry day!!
We made a last minute shopping trip at Maxi to make sure we had all our cooking supplies for tonight’s feast before it was time for Jo and I to head off to practice. Dad stayed in again, this time cooking up all the yummy food. It was finally time for Thanksgiving!!! We watched our first Christmas movie, How the Grinch Stole Christmas while enjoying green bean casserole, corn casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and, of course, TURKEY!
Cooking some num nums

Carving the turkey breast
Saturday, we had our regular match schedule of 10:30 morning practice, showers and pregame meal in the yellow house. Dad was invited to eat lunch with the team, so he was able to go for his morning run. This would be the first match Dad has seen me play in since my senior season at Tampa, so I was really excited to have him in the stands cheering me on. He went crazy with the action photos, and got a real international volleyball experience, complete with the Swedish national anthem. Unfortunately, our team lost in 4: 20-25, 25-20, 16-25, and 23-25. The first and second sets, we managed to hang in throughout the game, gradually gaining our composure as the match went on. In set 3, Engelholm came alive, and we struggled to keep up; however, it was the 4th set that we showed how great Ljungby Volleyball really could be. We led 8-1, then 16-5, and were up 20-8 before Engelholm went on their first run. We appeared to be in control at 23-13, but then the 2010 Swedish champions showed their strength, beating us 23-25.
That night, Daniel drove Dad and I to the Värnamo train station. It was finally time to say our goodbyes and send Dad on his way back to Copenhagen, where he would spend the night at Chelsea’s before flying home Sunday morning. His train was initially supposed to leave at 6:30, but was 45-minutes late. It had hit a moose!!! After a goodbye hug, he boarded the train and was on his way. It was sad to see him leave, but we had a great, relaxing week together in Sweden.
Happy Thanksgiving :)
My dad is now officially the only person in the world with whom I have spent EVERY Thanksgiving. Quite an honor, if you ask me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Swedish Thanksgiving

My family’s Thanksgiving tradition goes back to the mid 70’s when my mom’s family lived in south Florida. Her family began taking a week vacation to Salt Springs National Park located in the Ocala National Forest. Since then, my family has been going camping there for Thanksgiving week every year. Despite living in FL, SC, AL, and 4 years in college, there were only two years that my family has had to change from this routine. In the early 2000’s the camp was being renovated, and we had to stay at Silver Springs (located a few miles away from Salt Springs). The 2nd year was my sophomore year of college; the only year my University of Tampa volleyball squad did not make it to the elite eight, so our season ended before Thanksgiving week. That year we celebrated two Thanksgivings: one in Boca Raton with my mom’s best friend’s family, and the second at my dad’s mom’s house. My cousins and I wanted to boycott this time out of the woods by wearing all black, but in the end our parents and grandparents were able to win us over by providing extra delicious food, a pool, and a television.
It’s amazing how many other Thanksgiving traditions there are in America that my sister and I have missed out on by spending our week in the woods. I had no idea about this whole Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, Black Friday, or that NFL games were on TV. Generally, this week is a time where we can do a whole lot of nothing. I usually spend my week sleeping in, going swimming, riding bikes, hiking, fishing, and telling my great-aunt Mary that I have a twin so I need double helpings on EVERYTHING. She’s known me since before I was born and still allows me to pull this over on her. The best part is that when my sister tried this sneak-move, Aunt Mary scoffed at her.
I’ve been away from home for almost 3 full months now, and it’s around that time that you really start missing the luxuries and comforts that America brings. Luckily for me, my dad has been here this whole week! Having him here is definitely helping me get through the Thanksgiving holiday and made me feel not so distant from my life back in the States. I have so many great memories of Thanksgiving, yet they tend to make being away much harder; in the end, this is just another story to add to my life’s already rather impressive collection (if I say so myself).
It was at first difficult for me to pinpoint exactly why it is that Americans celebrate this day, more specifically this week. According to Wikipedia, Thanksgiving is a combination of European and Native American traditions where individuals celebrate a fall harvest by giving thanks. After the long voyage to the new world, American settlers celebrated a safe voyage, peace and good harvest. Unfortunately, this is only a North American holiday, so in Sweden, Jo and I are left to forage on our own. Luckily, my dad is here to visit this week and will be able to help us with the food preparations. Before Dad came over to Sweden, Jo and I had to do some recon work at the grocery store to make sure that all our necessary food supplies would be available. Luckily, some of the girls on the team were able to help us out, and for those few missing items, my dad was able to bring them over in his luggage. The menu would consist of stuffing (brought from home), green bean casserole, corn casserole (Jo’s family tradition), and of course turkey. They had a 13-pound turkey (bones and all) that we almost bought, but then reconsidered at the last minute since there would only be three of us eating. We opted for a 1.1-kilo turkey breast instead. Waste not want not. Our practice on Thursdays runs until 9:30 whereas Friday practice ends at 6, so we made an executive decision to have a Swedish Thanksgiving on Friday.
I am so thankful to be able to have the opportunity to continue playing the sport I love. Volleyball has managed to open so many doors in my life, and I know that there is no way I would ever be able to live in another country if it had not been for all the coaches and teachers who put up with me being a royal-PITA during my adolescent years.
Mom, Kamryn, Dad, and I at Kam's high school graduation
I am ever thankful for my two overwhelmingly supportive parents; I can’t possibly imagine my life without the two of them, and technically I wouldn’t exist, so “yay” mom and dad!I am so grateful that my little sister has the ability to forgive and forget all the cruel things I did to her when we were younger. She’s truly a better person than I am.Huge thanks to the three best friends that anyone could have; trying to make rational sense of my desire to “find equilibrium” is beyond impressive. I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am for my boyfriend’s unbelievably high-tolerance level; I’m pretty sure that I test his patience every day and he’s managed to suffer through in silence.
I love you all!!
Marion and me at my UTVB Senior night
Erica and I in Walgreens
Me and Sam at the Dallas Bull
Phil and I in St Augustine
To all my friends and family both at home and around the world, thank you for making my 22 years so memorable. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dad in Copenhagen!!

Friday night after practice, Jo and I loaded up our rental car (the same one from our trip to Lund) for our trip over to Copenhagen. We had to stop and fill up with gas, something neither of us were quite sure of how to do. After a quick phone call to Daniel and a search through the Swedish user’s manual, we found our car’s gas type and went to the Shell station. We bought a few road snacks, punched my friend Chelsea’s address into the GPS and were on our way. The roads were a little wet from rain and it was really foggy outside, but we managed to make it all the way to Brøndby safe and sound where we would spend the night with Chelsea and her 4 roommates – Jo and I are SO glad that we are living in a 2-person apartment.
For those of you who don’t know, Chelsea and I played together in club volleyball at JJVA our sophomore and junior years of high school. We played against each other for 3 years in high school (me at Nease and Chelsea at Bishop Kenny); I went on to play at Tampa while Chelsea went to play at West Florida (one of my regional rivals). Now she is playing on a Danish team with one of Jo’s friends, Emily. Emily played two years at North Alabama (one of Chelsea’s conference rivals, thus one of my regional rivals as well). Small world, huh?
The next morning we were up bright at early to head over to the Copenhagen airport to pick up my dad!! Despite him only sleeping for 3 hours on the plane, and it being 1:30am to his Florida-time zone regulated biological clock, he would have no time to rest as we were hitting up the sightseeing as soon as we found some free parking. One of Chelsea’s roommates had told me about an area that would have 2-hour free parking, so the whole day we were able to find similar places around town that we could just use our time-table in the car to park. I had set up a trip itinerary that listed an idea of places that were considered Copenhagen’s “must-see” spots, so we had a general idea of where we would begin. Making our way towards Tivoli Gardens, we crossed over the street and began our walk down Stroget, Copenhagen’s main shopping street. This area starts near the Tivoli Gardens and Copenhagen’s main train station and would lead us all the way through the city to Nyhavn.
Dad at the start of Stroget by the Town center
Before we began walking too far, we decided it was best to get some breakfast and coffee to help refuel us all for the long day that lie ahead. Dad’s wonderful jokes came out when he stated to Jo and I that he was about to enjoy his first Danish danish. Unfortunately, these are referred to simply as “pastries” in Denmark; talk about a killjoy. The streets slowly filled with people as the day progressed, and before we knew it, the pedestrian walkways were jammed full of locals and tourists. We walked down the coastline from Nyhavn towards the Little Mermaid statue. This is definitely one of my FAVORITE places in Copenhagen: a little park right on the Baltic coast plus my favorite Disney character. What more could I ask for? 
Us with Little Mermaid!
Realizing that we were getting close to our 2-hour parking time limit, we started walking back to the car. Jo was planning on taking the train out to Vordingborg to visit her friend Tara for the night, so we decided to take the car over to the train station and help get her travel plan all figured out. This would mark the longest time that Jo and I have been apart since our arrival in Sweden on August 31!! As we were leaving the train station, we saw a huge crowd of teenage girls wearing purple with giant “Justin Bieber” posters and homemade banners. We paused to take a picture, of course, before we headed out towards the Round Tower church and observatory.
In the Round Tower Church
The Round Yower was about 125 feet high, and instead of staircases, they have a ramp that make 7 and a half corkscrews around to the top. The view from the top was a bit cloudy, but still allowed us to see a great view of the city. We emerged from the staircase to hear screams and shouts…the BieberParade (this is not the first time hosted in Copenhagen, check YouTube for some videos) had officially started and the purple-outfitted teens were shouting and screaming out their love for JB. Neither of us could beliebe (sorry about the pun, I couldn’t resist) that we were over 5 blocks away and could hear these fans so clearly. Everyone atop the Round Tower were amazed when we informed them of the parade; a few younger guys decided they should probably head over and see what the fuss was all about…creeps.
We continued our journey, now heading for the Carlsberg brewery. Last time in Copenhagen, we arrived just 30 minutes late for the final tour, so Dad and I aimed to get there with plenty of time to spare. We parked, for free, and wandered around the Carlsberg factory in search of the visitor’s center so we could get our tickets for the tour. After wandering through the gift shop and visitor’s center, Dad noticed that the horse stables were just outside. Thinking this was part of the visitor’s center, we walked in and started looking around; a little further into the stables, we noticed that there was a small courtyard outside. Curiosity got the best of us, so we ventured outside. At the end of the courtyard, we saw a building and decided to go in. I’m pretty sure by this time we had already started our own self-guided tour, also for free. With no one to stop us or check for tickets, we just kept on going throughout the different brewing areas. The entire tour was pretty interesting, and I think it gave me a much better perspective on how much goes on behind each bottle or can of beer that gets made. I had absolutely no idea how much scientific research and agriculture was needed in order to get the perfect brew. Upstairs of one of the buildings, visitors can see the entire Carlsberg collection of unopened beers from around the world; it’s a Guinness Book world record amount!!! There are over 20,000 in the collection, but only 16,592 on display.
Us with the Carlsberg beer collection
From here we decided it was time for some lunch before continuing on our sightseeing tour of Copenhagen. Two pizzas and a shared 1.5-liter of coke later, and we were heading to the botanical gardens. Unfortunately, the gardens (which is free of admission) closed at 4pm, so we were not able to visit. Instead, we parked and headed to the Tivoli Gardens for a Russian Christmas. 
Tivoli Gardens!
Dad was slowly beginning to fade, so I didn’t keep him out too long in Tivoli. It was really fun to see all the different light decorations and displays; we were a little disappointed that there weren’t more shops that we could check out – they mostly just sold food and beverages at the different booths. We did, however, see a Santa that the children were taking pictures with, so I posed from afar and Dad worked some iPhone camera magic to get me next to the big guy. Around 5:30, we decided to head out to the car and make the drive back to Brøndby so Dad could shower and rest after his long day of sleepless travel. He started fading on the couch so Chelsea offered him her room for the night.
The next day we drove over to Fredriksborg to meet Jo and watch her friend Tara, and our mutual friend Jessica, play against each other. We tried to make a comparison for Dad between their two teams and ours, but decided it was best for him to wait it out and decide for himself which team was better. 

Jo, me, and Dad at Vordingborg vs. Fredriksborg VB Match

We planned to stop at the Kronborg Castle on our drive back to Ljungby – a request from Dad, as this is the castle of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Dad brought a newspaper from home, The St Augustine Record -- they allow people who travel to get in a section of the paper if they have the newspaper with them.

Hamlet's Castle!! (this one's for St Aug Record)

We arrived a little after 4pm, which is apparently the closing time for EVERYTHING in Denmark, but managed to luck out and get our own private tour from one of the security guards who was locking up. Jo and I were able to help him take down the Danish flag!!

Me helping lower the flag
We got a few good photos before we decided to leave and head to the Helsingør port to take the ferry across the Baltic Sea to Helsingborg, Sweden. An hour and a half drive later, we were finally arriving in Ljungby. Dad was relieved to be at our apartment and ready to unpack his things in my room. We had some kebabs for dinner and called it a night.
Hamlet's Castle!

Expect plenty more random stories from Dad’s adventures in Sweden!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Annie, the sun WON'T come out tomorrow.

I have yet to wake up early enough to see exactly what time the sun rises in Ljungby – none of you should be surprised to learn, or re-learn, that I am NOT a morning person, or rather “morning pig” as they say here in Sweden. Today, Jo and I had set our alarms to wake us around 10am, hopefully allowing us enough time to eat breakfast and digest our food before we would go to TC for the day’s workout. We left the apartment a little after 10:30 to find that the sun seemed to still be rising. This seemed a bit strange, despite knowing that the farther we were into wintertime here in Sweden, the later the sun would be rising. We went into TC, did our workout and then came home to start the week’s laundry before heading over to meet Selma (one of the liberos) for lunch at a local Thai restaurant. The sun had not seemed to have moved in over 2 hours. It was then that I realized that yesterday, when I went to Astrandskolan (around 1:45pm) to play with Daniel’s kindergarten class that the sun was in the EXACT same location then that it was at 10:30 this morning!!! I know this because on my walk to the school, I was blinded by the sun, exactly the same as Jo and I had been this morning when walking in that same direction.
Where the sun is during the day in Ljungby, regardless of the time
So for you, my dear readers, I did a little research and found that today, November 16, the sun rose at 8:51am. Apparently, we are far enough north on the Earth, that the sun never rises past about 45º (my own personal guesstimation) in our sky, despite the time of day. Instead, the sun remains very low in the sky, rising southeast and setting southwest. 
For those of you who understand best via diagram
It’s very confusing for me, because when I wake up (usually around 10ish) and see the sun still “rising” I think to myself, wow—its still so early! Later (around 3ish), I can see that the sun is starting to “set”, I think that its so late. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to these minimal amounts of daylight. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

LVBK defeated by Lindesberg 0-3

Our journey to Lindesberg began at 6am Saturday morning. Well, technically I woke up at 5:30, but we didn’t start traveling until 6. Jo and I headed straight for the back of the bus, since we all know you’ll have the most space. Unfortunately we were freezing the whole time, since apparently the back of this bus gets poor air circulation and therefore only the front was heated. Boo! Our first stop was just over 2 hours later. I woke up to frost all over the ground. It was only 8:15, so hopefully the temperature would heat up a little bit. Returning to the bus, the team started watching Bad Teacher while Jo and I resumed sleeping. It’s very rare that we are awake in a single digit morning hour, unless it’s continuing from the night before. A little after 11, we arrived just outside of Lindesberg to a shopping mall for a required 30-minute break for our bus driver (who happened to be our libero, Mia’s dad). We wandered around the mall, looking at father’s day gifts (the 2nd Sunday in November, aka today) and getting coffee to help warm us up. The trip from here to the gym was only about 30-45 minutes, and like I had hoped, there was no more frost on the ground by the time we arrived.
View from back of the bus
We had a team lunch of salad and pasta with meaty sauce before going on our pre-game walk around the gym. Going into this match, we didn’t know too much about this team. They have 2 middles that are currently playing in Olympic-qualifications for the Swedish National team, so they wouldn’t be at the match. Their coach is American, whom both Jo and I know from being recruited in high school. Taking one set would be a huge feat for our team, especially since we were playing Lindesberg at home. Like most gyms, this gym is a lot larger than ours, so it took us a while to get used to the high ceilings and regain our spatial awareness. Our Polish middle, Asia (pronounced “Asha”) traveled with us to Lindesberg, in hopes that she had been cleared to play. As we started match warmups, we learned that she would not be allowed to play still, so our assistant coach (who played middle on the team last season) would suit up “just in case”.
Lindesberg Arena
The match began with us trailing 3-8. Despite our errors, we were able to stay calm and unstressed, taking everything in stride, allowing us to rally back to a 13-16 deficit. Once they hit 20-points, they went cruising along to secure the first set 18-25; 8 of each team’s final points were from the other team’s hitting and serving errors; we out-blocked them 2-0, but were also out-aced 3-0. The second set went similarly, with us barely hitting positive (6 kills, 5 errors) while they swung freely with 13 kills and 1 error. Both teams served aggressively, us gaining 2 aces with 2 errors, while Lindesberg was 4 aces, 4 errors in the set. Again, we trailed throughout the set, and at 21-14, they were able to close out the set finishing 16-25. After a 10-minute break between sets 2 and 3, we came out ready to fight. We were able to take a 16-14 lead, forcing them to call a time-out. Everyone was pushing hard and playing aggressively; both sides missed many serves (we had 6 errors, they were 5 errors and 1 ace), but in the end, Lindesberg was able to close 20-25 for a quick 3-0 victory. They were able to remain in system and run a highly effective, quick-paced offense throughout the match; their play is very similar to college teams in the States. Our team struggled to make our own points, finishing with a team hitting percentage of .063 compared to their .317 – both teams had 15 attack errors; however we out-blocked them in the match 4-2. Our serve receive was aced 8 times while we aced them just twice; both teams had 12 service errors.
My "MVP" prizes: backpack, gift card, and flowers
I was voted best player for our team, receiving a backpack, a 300kr gift card to Team Sportia and flowers. We showered and were back on the bus by 4:02 beginning our 6-hour journey back to Ljungby.

Quick Stats
Malin (O1) – 2 kills, 4 errors, 18 attempts (-.111); 0 ace, 1 error
Sofie (O2) – 1 kill, 0 errors, 11 attempts (.090); 0 ace, 2 errors
Jo (M1) – 7 kills, 1 error, 14 attempts (.428); 0 ace, 1 error; 1 block
Emma (M2) – 2 kills, 2 errors, 9 attempts (.000); 0 ace, 1 error; 1 block
Julle (RS) – 3 kills, 6 errors, 20 attempts (-.150); 0 ace, 3 errors; 2 blocks
Me (S) – 3 kills, 1 error, 6 attempts (.333); 2 aces, 2 errors
Lisa (sub for Malin) – 0 kills, 1 error (-.500), 2 attempts; 0 ace, 1 error