Arriving in Mumbai – day 1

The flight went really well, our first flight left around 19 from Stockholm and we had to change once, in Heathrow. We had only one hour transfer time so it was just to go from one flight to the next, very convenient. We flew with British Airways, my first time with them but probably not the last! The seats were great, made to sleep in with extra head support that could be adjusted. I slept quite comfortably (for a plane) almost the whole flight.

When we arrived in Mumbai and stepped of the plane we were hit by a distinct smell, it’s interesting how different airports and perhaps countries can smell. This here was more of strong spices perhaps mixed with incense or flowers. We had three taxi waiting for the whole group (we are 11 people) and it was a bit difficult to see who the drivers were. Some people helped a few in the group with their luggage and we thought they were the drivers or perhaps employed by the airport to help people but they expected to get payed for that small and not really needed help. It’s a bit odd that people expect to get payed for helping a little when it’s not needed or even asked for.

It took about an hour to reach the hotel and it seems to be in a nice little quiet area, not many shops on the streets here but a few restaurants. It’s very close to a big railway station and there are some street shops around there, so will have to check it out more another day. The hotel is also quit close to Welingkar where we will spend some time in lectures and seminars over the next coming days.

We took a short rest when we got to the hotel but didn’t want to waste the time sleeping in the day so we went out to see the area as soon as possible. It was afternoon when we ventured out so it was hot but still manageable. We didn’t go by any map, just started walking and turning left all the time and eventually we made it back to the hotel, it was an nice first look at the neighbourhood. I didn’t see any other tourists out on the streets but I’m sure they are used to them because people didn’t stare or seem too surprised to see us there.

A bit later in the afternoon we had a guided tour of the area. They showed us the train station and told us about the system. It seemed very crowded. The most odd thing for me was that there were separate cars for the men and women and that the doors didn’t close. I wonder how families or couples travel together on the train. Do they have to agree where they are going to get off before getting on or keeping in touch on the phone? Phone seems a bit difficult if it’s very crowded and loud though. That the doors doesn’t close seems a bit dangerous but I guess people here are used to it. It could never work like that in Sweden though, but if people grew up with that system perhaps it would’ve different.

The next stop was a temple, it was a part of a section of Hinduism but not the normal temples. We had to remove our shoes and give it to some people in the window who took care of them. Everyone was a bit worried if they would get the shoes back and the right shoes but the guide assured us that it was no problem (and it wasn’t). The temple looked quite plain on e outside, thought with some sculpturing on the walls, but the inside was really beautiful. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take pictures. It was indoor with big pillars and high ceiling . Lots of carving everywhere and we say some statues of the gods a bit farm away. We didn’t go so close because it was crowded. It seemed to be separate places for the men and women because there were only women where we were. They seemed surprised to see us there and many looked at us with no expression on their faces. When I smiled at them they smiled back though so it seemed ok. They were dressed very beautifully and everyone was in colourful saris or kurtas, I really wish I could have taken a picture of that!

Next we walked through a residential area on the way to a flower market. The houses seems really old and not very tall, about 3-4 stories high. Some of them were built as early as the 1930’s. The guide told us that the insides of the houses are very well taken care of and that the people have their own floor or apartment and renovate it on the inside. Why no one cares for the outside is a mystery to me at least. The houses had a very beautiful structure but unfortunately had not been taken care of properly. If they had just painted some and cared for the housed it would have been a very nice and beautiful area on the outside as well. It was a very quiet and peaceful area.

On the way we stopped at a fruit market that was very nice. I really like the idea of buying vegetables and fruit fresh on the street like that. I wish we had more of that at home as well. I don’t really like going to a big grocery store at home, seems better to buy fresh vegetables than a lot of frozen food like many do at home.

After the tour was over we had some free time left. The group wanted to do different things so we split up. I went with three friends to a shopping street we had been recommended, Colaba Causeway. We had to take a taxi there and that was very easy, just have to make sure they run on the meter. We got to see a lot of the city on the way because it took about 20 minutes to reach the place. When we arrived we just started walking the shopping street, it had both street shops and “real shops”, as well as restaurants and such. It got dark soon after we arrived so it was not so easy to see the whole area. Instead we focused on the shopping and finding a place to have dinner. To find a nice restaurant we asked some guys in one of the shops we visited and they recommended a nice Indian restaurant that we went to.

I already feel that I have use of the knowledge and experience I have gained before coming here. I prepared with watching a lot of documentaries and of course I’m following and reading a lot of Indian blogs. I can notice that I have some knowledge that helps me get by here. It’s probably helpful that I already have many friends from India and other (south) Asian countries. I find it quite easy to understand what people are saying but other people in the group have some trouble with it. I can understand that it’s difficult in the beginning with a very different dialect than what we are used to hearing.

The first day was really nice and I think we have seen a lot and got a lot of impressions to process already. I have tried lassi in the restaurant and it was yummy, the next thing on my list is chai tea on the street perhaps. I asked and it should be fine to drink since its fresh and hot!

Destination India – Study tour

Today I’m leaving Sweden for a two-week stay in India, mainly in Mumbai. I’m going as a part of a course my university has put together, where we study innovation science and management from a global perspective with a focus on India. The main part of the course take place in India where we will be visiting universities, companies, NGOs etc. The university I’m attending is cooperating with a big business school in Mumbai, Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research. They are the ones that have put together the program for us and that make this kind of tours for other universities as well, they call it Destination India – see link here and here.

We have prepared before going there by having seminars about innovation theory and reading a lot about India and the development that is happening there now. Basically watched and listened to a lot of documentaries, radio programmes and read books and webpages.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing how they work with innovation there and what the business culture is like. I’ve read a lot about India before but it has more been a personal aspect and about relationships and such, so to change the focus to the subject I’m studying and combining it with India will be very interesting. My goal is to try to update here as often as possible, perhaps not every day though, and reflect about the days events and what I take away from the experience in India.

The most difficult thing in the preparations have been to figure out what to wear. If I were going as a normal tourist it would have been easy, just to pack like I usually do for travelling. But now we are visiting companies and will spend most of the time in a business environment so have to match the clothes to the appropriate dress code. Here in Sweden it’s still winter and around -10 to a few degrees plus and in Mumbai it’s over 30 degrees everyday, this fact doesn’t really make it easier to figure out what to wear there. Also, we are not used to dressing up for going to school or most companies, here in Sweden we are quite informal and it reflects in the dress code as well. My solution was to pack a few thin clothes that might be too warm to wear but I’ll do some shopping in the beginning of my stay or hope they have AC so it will be alright.

One of the last preparations before leaving for two weeks was to bake a cake for B, it’s something I usually do since he likes this cake (saffron) a lot and will have something yummy to eat when I’m not at home..will miss him a lot but two weeks will pass by very quick I’m sure!

Hope 2013 will be a good year!

Last year was not exactly one of my best years, on some levels it was good but on others it was perhaps the worst one I’ve had. 2012 was a rough year for me but I’m starting to get back up and look forward to what this new year will bring!

I have never really seen myself as a high achiever or to be a type A personality but after discussing my situation with the health support section of my university I’ve come to realize that I fit into that category. I’ve probably always been like this and perhaps it’s been getting worse the older I’ve become. I kept adding more and more things to do since it worked and there’s never been a problem before, in fact I’ve enjoyed it and saw it as a good thing. But somewhere it has to stop and for me it was in the spring of last year.

I had felt somewhat stressed during the previous autumn and winter but it was nothing I didn’t feel I could handle. During that time I was in my second term in my masters program and also took some additional courses on the side. In total I was studying 150%, which was nothing new for me, I had been taking extra courses almost during my whole time as a student. I was also working extra sometimes, just to get some money, it was not a regular thing, more when I got the chance to do it. When I had some time over I also loved to go climbing or go to the gym. At home in the evenings I was teaching B Swedish or trying to study Nepali on my own if he was not at home.  On top of that I decided that it would be a great idea to help with a two-week program that my university arranged for a group of Indian students.

I enjoyed doing all of those things (well perhaps not that work so much..) and thought it was great that I was able to do so many things at once and I must say I felt a bit proud about it. Little did I know that I had passed my limit of what I could handle stress wise. I started to get pain in the chest that couldn’t be explained. It was not the first time I had those (had it since I was little) but this time it was much worse and more frequent. One night I even woke up from the pain and couldn’t move. I remember laying there hoping it would go away like it usually did but the seconds turned to minutes and after almost an hour I decided to wake B since the pain wouldn’t go away. We had to call an ambulance that took me to the hospital and the pain didn’t go away until they gave me a low dose of morphine. They did many different tests but still couldn’t figure out what the cause was.

It took me a long time to connect what had happened that day and during the spring time to stress. I guess I did suspect that I was doing too many things and took it a little more easy but I didn’t slow down enough. It was when I read up on stress and the symptoms of burnout that I started to realize what was going on. To be honest it took me several more months after that to really accept that it had happened to me and that I really really had to revise my plans, especially for my studies.

I had never realized that I could be type A personality that was at risk of a burnout or getting sick from stress. To me that kind of people were the top of the top, the kind of people they put on the cover of magazines, but that was obviously wrong. Perhaps I didn’t realize what category I could be placed in because I’ve always been surrounded by this kind of people. My family is also like this so it’s been the normal state when I grew up. They’ve work extremely hard to create a better situation for themselves and their children. Most of my friends are also like this, especially my best friend who always have a lot of things going on. Lastly my lovely B also fits into this category, with work and studies at the same time and barely a moment of time off. Now that I’ve been through this, or more correctly I’m still going through it, I’m starting to worry more for those close to me. I worry because it really sneaks up on you and if you don’t pay attention to your body and slow down in time it can get really bad, and I would never want what I’ve been going through now to happen to anyone, especially those dear to me.

 I belive that I’ve finally been able to accept that I have to take it easy for a while to find my way back. After all health is the most important thing. I can finish my studies any time, there’s plenty of time, a deadline is just a recommended deadline for a course. I know I will get back there, I will complete my program, just not exactly this moment. For now the focus have to be on feeling good, staying healthy and find my motivation again.

So the most important promise to myself for this year is to not take on too many things at once! I have to learn to listen to my body more and to prioritize, not try to do everything perfectly all the time. Although I have to strive to be a more balanced person I’m not giving up having dreams or goals that I want to achieve! So here’s some of the things I hope for, but don’t push for, this year:

- Finding my motivation for studying again and finish my last courses
– Start writing my master thesis
– Buying a car so B can take a driving licence here in Sweden
– Starting up a business
– Learn to (and have confidence to) have a simple conversation in Nepali
– Travel at least one time

Snowy street outside our apartment

First snowstorm this winter

After an unusually nice autumn with decent temperatures and not too much rainfall winter suddenly arrived. The temperature dropped well below zero in just a few days and it started snowing heavily. It usually comes more gradually with the cold arriving first and the snow much later. I’m used to a cold autumn and start of the winter with low temperatures without any snow for a long time, sometimes not until well into January or February even.

This winter started with a lot of snow very early for the season. It’s been snowing almost constantly for several days now and it doesn’t look like it will stop any time soon. There’s a lot of news about how the snow is affecting people, busses stop going, trains get delayed, people fall and get injured and many cars run off the roads or are in other types of accidents.

I’m not a big fan of the winter season in general because of the cold and wet weather, but I have to admit I do like snowfall. Snow makes this otherwise dark season a little brighter and softens up the bleak and boring landscape. It’s also nice for all the kids (and people who do skiing etc) with a lot of snow so early, it’s a lot of fun playing in the snow, too bad we’re a little too old for that now!

Snowstorm hits the main shopping street

Snowstorm hits the main shopping street

Since the snow came so early this year I really do hope it stays like this at least over christmas. Snow on christmas is a little special since it’s unusual nowadays, as far as I remember it was more common when I was a kid. A white christmas with lights in and on the houses are so nice!

Another reason I hope the snow stays and the temperature stays below zero is that I really don’t like when the snow melts and the ground become wet and splashy, or worse, freeze to ice again after melting! That’s the worst kind of weather here, and the main reason why winter is not my favorite season. Fingers crossed for a winter where the snow doesn’t melt until spring arrives so we don’t have to bother with the spashly streets.

Snowstorm clothes dec2012

Todays snowstorm was not very fun though, the wind was blowing at more than 10 m/s and it’s snowing quite a lot. Only snowfall is quite nice and only wind is also ok, but when you combine the two it’s a different deal. Most people who could probably stayed indoors today as much as possible. I had to go out to go to university and do some shopping.

It was not easy to see where you put your feet since you can’t look straight forward because it’s snowing almost horizontally. To protect the face from the cold winds and snow I wore my scarf wrapped around my face, like in the picture here on the right. This is not my usual style of course but what to do when the weather is like this? :) It was the best way I could figure out so that I could still see the ground even though I had to keep my head down. Perhaps glasses would help, but I guess it would look a bit odd to walk around wearing skiing goggles in the city, hehe. Maybe
there’s a slimmer style to wear in a snowstorm..?

Do you have Swedish ancestors?

If you are an American there’s a chance that you have Swedish ancestors, because one fifth of Swedens population emigrated to the US, around 1,3 million people left to start a new life when life got too difficult here during years of starvation and drought.

A new season of a tv show called ‘Allt för Sverige’, which mean Everything for Sweden, started yesterday. The programme is about 10 Americans with Swedish ancestors who come here to find their roots. They are competing for the chance to meet with their living relatives here, but all of them get the story of their ancestors, information about who they were, pictures of them, and if they stay in the programme long enough they get to see the place their family is from. They visit the village or city and often see the very house their ancestors lived in before leaving Sweden.

The participants get to visit different parts of Sweden, learn about our culture, try Swedish food, learn a few words in Swedish and much more. It’s really moving to see how they react to coming here and what they think about the experience. They all say they feel like a part of their history is missing and want to find the missing pieces.

If you have Swedish ancestors (even if you don’t know who they are) you might want to check out this programme. I don’t know if they air it in the US as well but I really hope they do. I’m not sure if you can view this programme from another country but I hope it works! In case it doesn’t work and you want to see it, try using a VPN tunnel and connect so you get a Swedish IP address, that should solve the problem.

This is the first of eight programmes to come (season 2). The programme is only available for 30 days after it is aired, so don’t wait too long if you’re interested!
http://www.svtplay.se/video/383519/del-1-av-8

A suitcase full of gifts

Last week B went home to Nepal for three weeks to celebrate Dashain together with his family. Unfortunately I need to stay in Sweden, because of my studies, I’m in the last year of my master’s programme and should focus on that. I wish I could go with him to Nepal though, I miss it a lot and can’t wait to go back. After my studies are finished I will definitely start joining B when he goes to Nepal.

Dashain is celebrated in Nepal since a few days back and will continue a few days more. It’s the biggest festival of the year and I use to compare it with our Christmas since the similar things is that its the main festival of the year and people buy new clothes during this time and give gifts or money to each other, perhaps mostly to the children in the family. I have been told about and read about the festival, why it’s celebrated and how, but since I have never celebrated it myself (yet) I don’t want to try to write about it, so I’m saving that for next year perhaps or the next one after that.

It’s been a year since B have been home and last year we didn’t buy many gifts. So because it’s been a year and also because it’s dashain we wanted to buy a few small gifts for the closest family. Having a big family or being as close to the extended family as B is (and what seems to be the norm in countries like Nepal) is really nice but it sure gets tricky when it comes to gifts.

We started with the plan to buy gifts for the closest family members, like father, mother, grandmother, brothers, their wives and children. We had bought a few gifts for the kids when we were at Disneyland Paris this summer so at least we didn’t need to find more gifts to them. It was not really difficult to find gifts for everyone, the guys got clothes and the women got beauty products and handbags. Perhaps a bit stereotypical to buy one type of gifts for the guys and another for the women, but it seemed more difficult to buy clothes for the women since we didn’t know their sizes and also because they normally wear more traditional clothes like sari and kurta suluwar.

After a while we also wanted to buy for the aunties since they are very close to the family and we also stayed with one of them on our visit last year. Then at the same time we thought we ought to buy for the two female cousins as well. There’s only two female cousins among Bs closest cousins so they get much gifts during festival times. Seems to me like the girls in the family usually get more gifts than the guys. We also wanted to buy something for two of the male cousins because they are the two youngest ones.

When we thought we had finished all the shopping we started to write down what we had bought and for whom. We realised that we had bought for all cousins (who were in the country) except one and that seemed unfair so we wanted to get something small for him as well, and then we realised that his wife was the only woman who didn’t get any gift so we had to buy something for her too. Finally we bought for the aunties husbands as well so they wouldn’t be the only ones in the family who didn’t get a gift. It was really difficult to stop this, when we bought for one then another one popped up that we ought to think about and buy for as well.

We had also just heard some good news, our close friends living in KTM is having a baby! So of course we wanted to bring them a gift for the coming baby and the mother-to-be also got a similar kit like the other females we bought for. Just when we thought we had finished all the shopping (again), we realised we didn’t have any sweets or candy, which was very popular last year. So we bought lots of candy and divided up into different bags for friends and family. Finally the shopping was complete! I gift wrapped everything in a few different papers and wrote name tags on all of them, otherwise I’m sure people would have gotten the wrong gifts. Good thing I used to work in a gift shop and can wrap things fast when it was so many gifts!

It was a lot of fun to figure out what to buy for all of them but when the number of people just keeps growing we have to stop some time and it felt good when we had reached that point because I was worried how all of it would fit into Bs luggage. I took a picture of (almost) all the gifts laid out on the sofa, but I don’t have the memory card with me, so picture is coming later!

Luckily I’m used to packing and think I can pack things quite well if I may say so myself. I saw it like a big jigsaw puzzle where each packed gift had its own place. The gifts took up most of the space in the suitcase and the clothing items were in the bottom. B didn’t pack much clothes though, he like to shop so if he needed anything else he could easily buy it there in Nepal. When the bag was full almost all of the gifts fit (a few had to go in the hand luggage) and the bag weight exactly 23 kg, which is the limit!

I think we probably won’t do like this every year, it will be too difficult to buy and pack for that many people every year. But it’s a lot of fun to give gifts, especially if it’s useful things and bought in another county. I look forward to hearing what they thought of all the gifts and if they liked them. We already have a short list of things we can bring next time that will be more household items and less personal gifts, more useful for the whole family.

Happy Dashain everyone! Hope you’re enjoying the festival with friends and family and have a great time! :)

Seasons changing, autumn is here

Autumn is here now in Sweden, days are getting shorter, the weather is colder and all the leafs of the trees start to change colour. The start of a new season here in Sweden is determined by the weather and not on a specific date in the calendar. The definition is that the average temperature of the day/night is getting lower and is between 0 and 10 degrees Celsius. This means that the autumn season will start in the north and move down south as it’s getting colder. There can be up to two months difference between when the autumn starts.

All four seasons have its charm and positive and negative aspects. I feel lucky to live in this kind of climate and country where we have so big changes in seasons over the year. We get to experience these kind of changes so often and see the beauty of each season. Winter with its snow, spring when all the colours come back, summer for the warmth and finally autumn with more colour changes, only with a different palette. Every year when a season is about to change it’s difficult to imagine what comes next. When it’s winter and all the trees are brown without leafs it’s difficult to imagine how it looks like when spring comes and everything turns green. Same thing with autumn when the leafs start to change colour and fall off.

Every time I’m thinking about which season is my favourite I notice that I can’t really decide. Spring is great because the long awaited warmth is starting to come back, summer for relaxing and autumn is nice because we get an excuse to stay indoors and do cosy things like lighting lots of candles and snuggle in the sofa.

Appereance wise though I must say I probably prefer autumn. This time of the year is when I miss living close to the ocean the most. I love how the storms in autumn makes the ocean look. It’s like two powerful forces that gets combined and should be shown respect. Both the strong winds of a storm and the forces of the water in the ocean. A storm really shows how powerful the ocean can be and it’s so beautiful with all the colour shifts.

I also used to enjoy going for a walk in the storms, especially down to the beach. Standing on the cliffs close to the water and watching the big waves come crashing on to land is just a wonderful feeling. The salty water splashing on your face and if you’re standing in the wrong (or right, depending on what you wanted) place you might get awashed by the waves. If the waves are big enough and you’re standing in the right place the wave can pass over your head and you just get a little wet on the top instead of drenched in water. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the autumn storms, perhaps I’ll take some next year if I’m down by the ocean at the right time of the year and the weather is right.

Although there are some nice things with darker evenings I soon get tired of it, especially combined with the cold. I start to long for more sunlight and look forward to the winter solstice so that the days will start to get longer again. Until then I’ll just enjoy the beauty of nature around me as long as possible, all leafs will soon be gone for this year so go outside and take walks, and don’t forget to notice the area around you. :)

our rings

Our engagement – 101010

It’s now two years since we got engaged and I’d like to share our memories from that day with you. If you want to start from the beginning, read this about how we met first.

After living together for a couple of months we knew that this was a serious relationship that was going to last. It’s difficult to explain how we knew, everything just felt so right. I guess it’s true that when you find your special someone you know it, even if you don’t know the first moment you meet. Perhaps it can be compared to a fire, when it’s lit it’s small at first so you might not notice the warmth that it can give you, but once you notices you know that the fire can keep you warm and safe, as long as you keep taking care of it. Maybe it’s not the best analogy but it was the one that came to mind.

We were (and still are) always joking and teasing with each other, and started to joke about getting engaged and married also. I don’t remember who brought it up first or at what time, the discussion and jokes on this topic just kind of emerged and started growing, but if I had to guess I would say it was probably B that started. It took some weeks before we got more serious on the matter and finally decided that it wasn’t too early and that we were actually going to get engaged.

We took the decision together and therefore didn’t have any proposal or anything like that. Taking the decision together felt good and totally natural, no need to go and wait until one person thinks it’s time to get engaged and asks the other person. Honestly I think I wouldn’t like that style, especially since one person (usually the guy) normally buys the rings, and I’m too much of a control freak to be ok with that, haha. It’s also not a part of Swedish culture for one person to propose to the other even though it’s more common nowadays since young people are very much influences by American movies. Here it’s traditionally been more of an agreement between the two persons and deciding together. So for me this way was the perfect way.

When we had decided that an engagement was a good idea for us to show the seriousness of our relationship and that we wanted to get married in the future, we started talking about how we should do it.

We, or mostly I at first, started looking at rings. It was a good thing to start that early because it took quite some time to find the right ones. I usually take a long time comparing products and prices so it was totally normal for me. I don’t remember exactly how long time it took but at least several weeks of searching online, reading forums, visiting local shops and flipping through magazines. Eventually we found the ones we were happy with and actually ordered them online because there was a huge price difference for exactly the same rings we could buy in the local shop.

Since we didn’t have a specific day that someone proposed or a day that felt like we had decided on, we searched for a date when we would exchange rings and have a small gathering of friend and family. After some thought I found the 10th October as a possible date and we quickly agreed on that date. It seemed like a perfect date since it reads as 101010. As if that isn’t enough, if you read 101010 binary it becomes 42, which at least according to the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (by Douglas Adams) is the answer to the question about life, the universe and everything. So I think that date was perfect for our engagement! ;)

A funny side note is that when I told my parents that we were planning on getting engaged my mom said that she had actually thought we already got engaged before the last time we were visiting them, which was in the middle on summer (around July). So they were not the least bit surprised, it more seemed like they had known it was going to happen long before we (or I at least) even knew ourselves. Unfortunately they couldn’t come and join us on 101010 since it was a sunday and a 5 hour drive, so difficult with lots of work the next day. Since B doesn’t have any family here in Sweden none of his relatives could come either. Instead we invited a few of our closest friends to celebrate the day together with us. Our day started at home as we prepared the lunch/dinner for later, getting dressed, fixing hair and waiting for our friends to arrive.

On the way to the bridge

Then we walked to a place we had chosen to exchanged rings. We did that on a small walking bridge across the river in the centre of the city where we lived. We chose that place because we wanted somewhere we could return to a long time after we had changed to a bigger apartment or moved away from the city. This way we could come back to the city, go to this bridge and remember our engagement day. Or perhaps to go any nice small bridge in another city or country too for that matter. The symbolization of the bridge as a passage to a new part in life is also a nice thing to have. We didn’t exchange any special words or poems or anything like that, it would have felt too much like a wedding if we did. We simply exchanged our rings and kissed.

Just exchanged rings

Standing on the bridge

 

 

Luckily one of our close friends that was with us that day had brought her DSL camera and took lots of wonderful pictures, I’m so happy we have those because I had not thought at all about taking pictures at that time. We continued to a nearby park and took more photos there. It was a perfect day really, it was sunny, a little chilly in the air since it was October but not too cold. It was well into autumn and luckily it had been cold before so the leafs were shifting in wonderful colours of yellow, orange and red, both still on the trees and on the ground, couldn’t be more perfect!

After the picture session we all went home to our apartment to have lunch/dinner together. Our place is not very big (36 sq m, open layout) but we managed to all sit down around the table together. While we finished cooking our friends prepared some game with questions about our relationship. The dinner was a good example of that you don’t need a lot of space when it comes to spending time with friends, the most important thing it to enjoy and have fun together. And we sure did! I still remember this day vividly and I’m so happy it was such a wonderful time that we got to share with good friends. I often look at our pictures from this day and smile whenever I see them. If our engagement day could be this fun, then I wonder how our wedding will be in the future! :)

Small party at home

In the park

Different religious views

One of the few things that we have had different opinions about, especially in the beginning, are religious beliefs. B grew up with hinduism and seem to believe in that even though I don’t see him practice it much here at home. I didn’t really know much about his religion before we met and I didn’t have any friends or acquaintances that practices it. In school we learned about all the world religions but Hinduism was probably the one that we talked the least about and I can’t say I remembered more than the names of a few of the gods.

I on the other hand are more or less a non-believer when it comes to religion. Sure I searched and tried to see if religion was anything for me when I was a teenager but it was never something that I liked. I think it’s in part the concept that I disapprove of. To have a set of rules and a book telling stories that most likely did not happen that way anyway as a guide for your life is something that I see as inappropriate. No offence is meant for any believers of any religion out there, this is just my honest thoughts about the concept of religion. I think that people should think more for themselves and decide what they think are right and wrong, and most people probably do that.

Perhaps it’s also been the thought of some god or divine being that has power over us that never made any sense to me. Even if such a thing were to exist I can’t believe that (s)he would judge us, care about which religion we believed in or about doing any kind of ritual to please or worship him/her. If (s)he cared about those kind of things I would think that was a selfish god and then I would be back to not wanting to believe in that kind of thing since I would find it immoral.

I understand that religion can be good for bringing people together and create a sense of brotherhood or community. I just think that questioning things is a part of life and developing the mind. So we should question and ponder everything, not only in scientific areas but also in all other aspects of life including religion. Just following what other people teach and say is strange to me, especially when it comes to moral issues. Perhaps this is because I grew up in a family that was not religious and we never went to church for example. Which by the way is the norm here in Sweden, where most people seem to be, if not atheists, then at least stick to their own personal beliefs. I’m not sure if I would go as far as calling myself a 100% atheist, but at least I’m closer to that than to being a Christian that I was baptised as. I do find concepts like Buddhism interesting, but I would define that more as a philosophy than a religion since there’s no god(s) involved.

So naturally this difference in religious views brought a little tension in the beginning of our dating and relationship, honestly mostly from my side. I had a hard time accepting that B believed in a concept (religion in general) that I thought was wrong and silly. It’s not like we were fighting over the subject, just that discussions on the topic never ended in any kind of agreement. B were always very patient in these kind of talks (as always) and made the point that all religions goes back to the same god(s?) and therefore there’s no point in separating them or disliking people of other religions. I wish other religious groups could take on the same view, so people would stop arguing, fighting and making wars because of different religious views.

In hindsight I wish I had been as accepting and open about his religion as he was about my non-beliefs. I always thought of myself as open and accepting of people’s religious beliefs and like to visit temples and churches when travelling, but apparently it’s easier to accept it when it’s at a distance from oneself. It took some time but the more I got to know about Hinduism and B’s beliefs the more I accepted it and even liked some parts of it. I’ve asked a lot of questions and B has answered all patiently and even told me several long stories that I enjoy listening to. It’s fun stories to hear even if I personally can’t believe those things happened for real, to me it’s more like fantasy stories that’s nice to hear and the stories probably have some important points to teach like most stories do.

Laxmi

Nowadays I’m even ok with having some pictures up on the walls of different Hindu gods, I even helped search for some nice ones online and selected a few to print out. There’s no shops here that’s selling these kind of pictures so we have to find it for ourselves and print out. The one that I like most so far is Laxmi, not only is her name really nice, she’s also the goddess of prosperity, wealth and fortune. Her picture is now on the wall in the middle of our apartment, I don’t know if any visitors have noticed it but no one has said or asked anything.

A little funny thing is that I like to put some pictures or things on the side of my fridge as a part of a vision board, to see them and get reminded of the things we want in life. Since a few months I put some money there with the help of a magnet, at first I just didn’t want to put them in my wallet because the bills were totally new and wrinkle free. Then they just looked nice there so I’m keeping them there to see. The funny thing is that the money just happened to be just under the picture of Laxmi. It was nothing I did intentionally or thought about until just recently. If people would see it and know who was on the picture I’m sure they would think it was done intentionally but it was pure chance.

I’ve also started listening to some songs with Hindu connection, I found them by chance in spotify and think they are very relaxing. They are quite similar to the music I wrote about in an older post with a Buddhist mantra. So when I want to listen to relaxing music, for studies for example, I choose this kind of music, classical or lounge. Good to have found a new category for some change.

I think that our initial tension with different religious views are gone now and we’re both accepting each others views and doesn’t expect the other person to change beliefs about religion. He’s still ok with my non-religious beliefs and I’m fine with him being religious. I can even be a part of it and enjoy it as well as learn more about it even though it’s not likely that I will belive in the exact same things that he does. We don’t have to agree on every single detail, as long as we (mostly me) accept each other. I feel that I have grown up a little more regarding this, life is all about learning new things, both the things you choose to learn about and the things you’re exposed to and need to understand.

Toilet trouble and a possible solution

Ok this is a post about a quite odd topic but I still want to write a short post about it. It’s about the problem girls can have when using the squat style toilets that are common in Nepal and other parts of Asia, and a possible solution. I’m guessing that anyone who isn’t used to that type of toilet gets a little confused and worried about how it will work to use it.

I have read that the squat toilet is actually more natural and good for the body, and even if it is it takes time to learn how to use it. First of all it takes some practice to sit right and your legs need to get used to that position or else they will start to fall asleep if it’s taking too long time. It can also be difficult for older people or those who have some problem with their legs to sit in that position if you’r not used to it. Here’s a useful guide on how to use this type of toilet that I found.

One problem that this guide, and other ones as well, don’t take into account is that it’s difficult for us girls to aim. Perhaps there’s some technique for that that the girls who grew up there know about but at least for me, and I guess for other girls as well, it’s a real problem, trying to aim right and pee slowly so there is lower risk of spatter getting on the shoes, feet or pants. Most guides describe how to use the toilet traditionally but I want to share another possible solution that solves this aiming issue.

At home (family’s house, friends house, hotel etc) it’s a little easier since you might have less or looser fitting clothes on, or you can take your time and take off your pants. Also you probably have soap, water and maybe a towel close by so you can wash your feet after you’re done. But for other situations it gets a bit trickier, like when you’re travelling and stopping at a road side restaurant, bus station or somewhere else. Then you can’t take off your clothes and it might not be possible to wash your feet either, depending on the cleanliness of the place and what kind of clothes and shoes you are wearing. This was always my least favourite part of travelling to new places with bus, using road side toilets.

Shewee

After a tip I found some products that offer a solution to this problem and the one I think seems best is Shewee, it comes in pink or green, with an extension pipe and a case for storage so you can keep it with you when you need it. It works like a funnel (like the one people usually have in the kitchen, only smaller and a little different shape) with a longer pipe, so we girls can pee similar like a guy. It’s very easy to use, but it’s a good idea to practice at home first, perhaps in the shower, until you’re sure you know what you are doing. Be sure to read the instructions too! At first glance it’s easy to think that you just hold the funnel against your body but that will definitely cause an accident. The right way to do it is to let the back end rest against your body and keep a space open in the front, a few millimetres or up to a full centimetre should work as well.

I haven’t tried mine during travelling or out in nature yet, but I’m sure it’s just as easy to use there as it is here at home. I’ll definitely always keep the shewee in my handbag when travelling in Asian countries to make things easier. I’m also considering putting a small (10×10 cm) towel in the case for those times when toilet paper isn’t available, I don’t like the thought of putting my pants back on without getting dry first. I haven’t found any information about this, but when thinking about it I don’t think it should be a problem. From what I’ve heard it’s important to get dry and such a small towel can be washed easily all the time, it’s not like there will be any bacteria anyway since urine is sterile. I haven’t tried this yet so I can’t say for sure if I recommend it but still wanted to share this thought just in case anyone else want to try it before I get the chance to travel.

How did I go intercultural??

I have been thinking about how I could end up in an intercultural relationship. When I was young I had no idea this is where I would be today, of course, who can know such things? What I mean is that there was not many clues to suggest this outcome when I was young, but that the signs started to show as I grew up.

My whole family is 100% Swedish and in the extended family there’s only one cousin that has married interculturally, we are not really close though. I grew up in a small town where there was mostly Swedish people living, we had a few kids with other backgrounds in my class at school but in the society as a whole the non-Swedes were not many. So as a child I didn’t really get to experience a lot of other cultures, except on shorter travels. There were very few things at that time to suggest I would have an intercultural relationship in the future.

I’ve always had a fascination for nature, animals and also other cultures, though it started out mostly with an interest in ancient and historical cultures. I dreamed a lot about travelling to every corner of the world to see all the beautiful nature, cool animals and visit the interesting cultures that was shown on the tv-programmes. On a sidenote I kept having this dream of travelling and eventually did end up travelling quite a lot for my age.

Perhaps it was the growing interest to get to know people from other cultures that was the reason for me to start chatting on the internet, or perhaps just the general interest in this new amazing machine (computer). Either way I quickly found my way out to international chat forums and penpal-sites where I found friends from many different parts of the world, even exchanged irl-letters with a few people.

Of course, as a young girl chatting on the internet there were a lot of guys who wanted to chat, some nice ones and some indecent ones. But as you other girls out there might be able to agree with, you quickly start to be able to identify this kind of people with the type of behavior that you don’t appreciate or want. The problem is that the contacts you don’t want outnumber the one’s you would appreciate and like to be friends with.

As I’ve grown up I still enjoy meeting friends from other cultures and countries, and still like to do it the online-way. I have only become more picky about the people I choose to get to know now a days. Good thing I continued doing this since, if you have read our story, this is how B and I met. Anyway, back to the topic!

After I finished my gymnasium (year 10-12 in school life, high school?) I went out into the world and had adventures. I visited different countries, mostly in south east Asia, and did some of the things I had been dreaming about. For example diving with sharks, manta rays and whaleshark, seeing dolphins and whales, and doing things on land like elephant riding or go trekking for days and sleeping in the djungle. One time I was even chased around the jungle by an aggressive orangutang. I really liked to experience new things and I felt like a second home in Asia.

Even if I didn’t get that deep insights about those cultures since I only visited for a couple of months in each country and didn’t I’ve there, I still felt very much at home. Perhaps liking adventures and always being prepared to change plans is a good starting point for being able to develop a successful intercultural relationship. Or maybe an intercultural relationship can be seen as a lifelong never ending adventure; there’s always new things to discover and learn about.

There’s also some more personal stuff that has led me to where I am today, but I’m not going to share that publicly here and it’s not really relevant to this story any way. The point I want to make is that however unlikely it seemed from the beginning that this is where I would be today, all the experiences I’ve had during my lifetime so far have brought be to this point. Therefore I would never even want to start to regret anything I have done that I perhaps at first thought wasn’t happy that I had been through or done.

To me it feels like all those experiences before was so that I would end up just here, at the right time and place, to meet B so we could start our life together.

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First 400 words in Nepali

It’s time for an update on my language learning. As I’ve written before I have learned devanagari so I can learn new words correctly with the spelling and pronunciation. After that I have focused on learning new words to get some basic vocabulary skills. Now I know about 400 words, it’s at least a start and it feels good to be on the way!

I have focused on learning words with the help of flashcards, I have an app for that on my iPad. After reading some tips on a blog about learning a new language effectively by not using translations, I decided to try that. Instead of translations the word should either be represented with a picture or explained in the language you are learning. Since I have just started learning I have used pictures but I will probably have to use explanations in Nepali as well later on as it gets more difficult to find pictures for the words.

When making my flashcards I used a frequency list for English since I couldn’t find one for Nepali. I also used the categories from that site, for example: animals, city/countryside, people-related, verbs, adjectives/adverbs, home, nature, body, food etc. It didn’t really add up to 400 words so I found some online Nepali lessons and took words from the lists there and added to my different categories.

It seems to work quite well to learn words this way, I find it a lot easier to learn the words with picture than with translations. Somehow it’s just easier to remember a funny or cute picture than a written word.

Perhaps I should clarify what I mean with the statement that I have now learned 400 words. What I mean is that I have memorised the words and get them right most of the time. I always start learning a new deck of cards (=list of words) in the setting called ‘Short time goal / Leitner’ to memorise new words. Once I get to 100% on that scale I switch to ‘Spaced repetition’ to really make sure I remember the words long term. I really like this setting since it adapts the time between a card/word depending on how well you know it, so in the beginning the word comes often and if you keep remembering it the word comes less frequent, and the words you have a hard time remembering are the words you’ll practice the most, great! So when I say I know 400 words I mean I have memorised them and switched to ‘spaced repetition’ a while ago.

I also always start with only memorising the new words and only later switch to spelling. I recently discovered this setting for the flashcards and since I installed/activated Hindi keyboard on my iPad I can start using this also. Even though I memorise all the words in devanagari from the beginning it’s not easy to remember the exact spelling of the word so it’s a challenge to do the spell check as well. It’s my third change in settings for decks. When the words are easy to remember and pose no challenge anymore I switch to spell check and continue like that in the ‘spaced repetition’ mode. It usually cause some setbacks in the percentage shown on the progress of the specific deck, but it’s good to learn the spelling properly as well!

So far I have only focused on learning new words and I think I will continue with that for a little while longer. I just want to understand as much as possible from a conversation and be able to say a few things. Also, since it’s probably more than a year until I visit Nepal next time I just want to take that time and learn lots of words because it does take some time before the words are easy to remember and I get them right.

After learning my first 400 words in Nepali I’ll continue to learn some more the same way. I’m still not sure which those words are going to be because all the lists of words to learn that I have found online contain pretty much the same words. Perhaps I’ll take the words from my Teach yourself Nepali book or from other online lessons, or maybe just start searching for good words to know from my Nepali-English dictionary. Either way, I’ll continue the same method with pictures when it’s possible to represent the word that way. It does take a long time to make the flashcards but it’s also a lot of fun and great to have when the cards are completed.

When I have learned more words I’ll start with the grammar. Right now I just don’t feel like I have time to try to stuff my brain with grammar in a new language since I’m in my final year in my master program at the university. Most of my focus will be going there obviously, but I’ll keep learning new words at least. I think, or hope, that doing things this way will enable me to speak and understand faster when I do start to learn the grammar, since I’ll have a bigger vocabulary to use.

Want to study in Sweden?

If you’re thinking about studying abroad and are considering coming to Sweden to study but not sure where to get the information, look no further. :) Over some years I have gotten questions on how to come and study here from friends abroad and now that I have a blog to share information on I’d like to take that opportunity. So continue reading if you want to know the process and webpages to use when applying as well as some useful information.

You might have heard that studies in Sweden are free, and to some extent it still is. For Swedish people (and those with  residenceship without being a citizen) and for citizens living within the European Union it still is totally free. We Swedes even get some money from the government when we study and can take a student loan to survive during the years as a student, pretty sweet deal. It was only a few years ago that the government changed the rules about school fees for students coming from a non-EU country, it used to be free for them as well. Nowadays though all universities have fees which are set according to how much it actually costs for the university. If you are from a country outside EU then there’s still hope about coming to Sweden for studies, even if you don’t have much money, more on that later in the post but don’t give up reading yet.

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Regret being too shy

There is one thing I regret about my trip to Nepal last time and that is that I was so shy. Yes it’s part of my personality to be shy but I was a bit more shy than usually, since it was so many new things for me. I’m used to travelling but it was different to be in Nepal since I felt a need to observe the culture more and learn more things than I usually do when I travel. Obviously because it was B’s culture and I wanted to get to know it better as I will be part of it and who knows, I might live there some time in the future.

I’ve always been a shy and cautious person. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having that kind of personality either, everyone is different. As I’ve grown older my shyness has decreased and it’s much easier for me to handle new and uncertain situations nowadays. I’m still being cautious though, I like to stay back and observe things when I’m in new situation, kind of to assess the situation.

My shyness had some consequences this time. One was that I declined a friends offer to try on one of her saris. Now in hindsight I really regret this, I would have loved to try a sari to see how it was. It’s such a beautiful piece of cloth and I’ve heard it’s really complicated and difficult to wear. It would have been fun to see how a blond white girl would look like in that, if I could pull it off or if it would only look strange and out of place. I’m also curious to know how it would feel like to wear, if it’s a comfortable type of clothes, if it would feel “right” for me or not etc.

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What to call people?

I have noticed that Nepali people don’t call each other by name. Instead they use more relationship terms or titles. This made it very confusing for me in the beginning, I couldn’t understand that a person called “cousin” or “brother” didn’t have to be an actual cousin or brother but could be a good friend. When B talked of his “cousins” and “brothers” I was surprised about how big his family seemed to be. At first I didn’t think much about it but after a while it started to seem very unrealistic to have so many people to call brother. So I finally realised that all those people were not, what we would say here, real brothers and cousins, but instead seem to be a way of expressing that you are a close friend. It took me quite a long time to get this and I still usually have to ask if it’s really a cousin or if it’s a friend.

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