The 20-Hour Fasting and the Celebration After: A Story of Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr in Sweden

One year ago, prior to my departure to Sweden, I came across this video made by Adeeb, where he shared a bit of his experience fasting during Ramadan (the fasting month for Muslim) in Sweden. For me personally, it was really interesting, because I knew that if I made it to Sweden, I would probably have to fast under the same circumstances like he did, which might be quite different than what I had been doing in the previous years. ;)

In my home country, the fasting duration is usually 14 hours a day, starts with the dawn and end at around sunset. However, as you moved further from the equator, the fasting duration might change year by year, depending on the season when Ramadan starts. This year, in the northern hemisphere, Ramadan was begun in the middle of summertime, so… yes, as Adeeb mentioned in his video, it was 20 hours of fasting this time ;) Of course, there are always exceptions for people who are unable to do that, so no need to worry here. :)

So… how did fasting in Sweden feel like?

Well for one thing, the duration was really long :D I knew many of my friends were genuinely concerned about this long period of not eating and drinking, but thank God, I made it, happily and healthy. <3 I had been trying to live a normal life (as if my life was not normal enough XD ) throughout this period. I went to the Swedish summer class in SFI (with Radek! :P ), went to the concert (there’s a free concert in Konserthuset everyday through summer), and even made a day trip to Uppsala with my friend ;)

Honestly, since the weather here is not as hot as Jakarta, doing the 20-hour fasting is actually quite bearable. Of course there were days when the sun was striking hot, but after some time, you’ll get used to it. The main challenge was probably the sleeping time, because, you know, I could only eat at night, so I usually took a longer nap in the afternoon in order to compensate my sleeping time at night. Some of my (Indonesian) friends were even stronger than me and they usually spent their evening playing badminton while waiting for the time to break the fasting. Unfortunately I hadn’t found the courage to do so this year XD

And what happened after the fasting month ended?

We celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, of course! :D (or Lebaran, as we call it in Indonesia) We usually began the day by going to the mosque and later going to one of our family’s house for the family gathering :) Well since this year I didn’t travel back home, I went instead to Indonesian community gathering in Solna, where I could once again eat some traditional Indonesian foods ;)

Additionally, I also tried to make some typical Indonesian dishes myself, such as opor ayam (braised chicken in coconut milk), rendang (spicy meat dish), and lontong (compressed rice cakes in banana leaves). I have to say that if you want to learn the true meaning of patience, try cooking Indonesian dishes XD The rice cake had to be boiled for 2 hours and should be dried overnight before you can enjoy them, and that rendang dishes took me 4 hours to make, although I had been using instant seasonings XD , but of course they were all worth it ;)

So… that’s a glimpse of my experience fasting and celebrating Eid in Sweden. It might be quite late to say this, but since Eid ul-Fitr is, I believe, also a time of atonement, I would like to apologize if I have ever made any mistakes to you! :)

How was your own fasting/Eid experience? Anyone you know celebrating it, too? Tell me in the comments below! :)

 

Cheers,

Alicia

Back from America!

Hey Guys!

I got back a few days ago from the USA, my home country. I had not been in TWO YEARS. It was so wonderful to see my family and friends.Even though I lived in the US the first 19 years of my life, there is still a ton I have not tried yet. I try to see or do something new every time I go back, keep the adventure alive.

This time I went to visit the Florida Keys. The keys are a chain of islands around the south end of Florida, that most people are familiar with through the Beach Boys song Kokomo. Sadly, there is no real place named Kokomo, but the keys are still worth a visit.

Chickens in Key West

The Chickens of Key West

This is the end of US 1, a Historic Highway that runs North South down the East Coast of the country. It ends in Key West, FL

This is the end of US 1, a Historic Highway that runs North South down the East Coast of the country. It ends in Key West, FL

The Beach at Bahai Honda State Park

The Beach at Bahai Honda State Park

It was such a great trip! The culture is very Old Florida. Key West is a wild party time at night, and a charming village by day. My favorite part was the Snorkeling the reef, I got to swim with Sharks, and Parrot fish, and see all sorts of coral. There are lots of water sports, so you can kayak and see manatees or dolphins, there is a Sea turtle hospital where you can see turtles being rehabilitated for the wild, there is lots and lots of pie. Seriously, eat the pie, it’s delicious.

After the Keys, I visited my Grandmother, enjoyed the Fourth of July properly, and drove to see my Niece celebrate her 9th birthday. It was so great to be back in my home country, and I can’t way to go back again. I hope I never go so long without a visit home, but if I do then at least I have great friends and family here in Sweden to keep me company.

July Greeting – SSES Bootcamp

Hi I am back!

Just flied back from 35 °C Shenzhen – my hometown, and stepped into the 15 °C  Stockholm.  Unlike my Swedish friends complaining the ‘terrible weather’, I enjoy the cool air here 😄

The awaited SSES bootcamp started with the summer rain, with a group of MBA students from Carlson School of Management of University of Minnesota joining. The topic is about medical technology innovation – which is exactly my topic of interest.  The first excitement is the Amazing Race around Stockholm and I am shamed of not knowing many of the spots in Stockholm!  What about you, my dear readers? Do you know about the plaque of the first five nobel prize winners at Stadshuset (City Hall)? Have you seen the Narrow Passage in Gamla Stan? Do you ever hear of Kreditbanken? Now it is time to test your Stockholm database.

IMG_1210

IMG_1218IMG_1216-1

After the race, we had dinner in one of the best restaurant in Stockholm – Eriks Gondolen, which overlooks the cannels around Gamla Stan. What a view!

IMG_1229IMG_1231

Continuing my posts, I would like to write some interesting stories happening in the Bootcamp and more photos are coming!

Happy July to you !

Yi

 

A year in Sweden!

Hello everyone!

It has been almost a year since I came to Sweden to do my master’s programme! Endless days spent on sunbathing and enjoying hot and sunny weather of the Swedish summer…

 

… were a direct stimulus to share my impressions of Sweden after a year living here.

Swedish Nature

Honestly, Sweden is a really picteresque country that cares a lot about its environment. I’m still impressed by the quality of air and water in this country. Simple as it sounds, in Stockholm you cannot really smell any fumes coming out of the cars’ exhaust pipes. Special Swedish policies concerning driving bans in certain areas, few parking lots in the centre as well as number of drivers in the city that is significantly smaller (as far as I know also due to really high cost of fuel in Sweden) than in other cities abroad, makes you feel that it’s not really a biggest city of Scandinavia. Swedes are also very thrifty and feel quite fine with using punctual and efficient public transprt as long as possible. Water quality in the city is not an exception: you can virtually drink water from all the taps in the city without worrying about incoming bacterial revolution in your body. Furthermore, in many bathrooms there are small plastic cups that you can fill in with water if you need to.

Swedish weather is very specific and when Swedes tell you that summer here lasts for two days, you shouldn’t take it as a joke. Today is the 14th of July and the temperature in Stockholm equals to 18 °C with occasional showers almost every day. It has lots of advantages though:

  • you don’t sweat extensively,
  • mostly in public transport, you don’t have to experience people who still haven’t discovered antiperspirants.

As Sweden is not densely populated, the country preserved most of its natural beauty with multiple small and charming towns scattered around the whole kingdom, such as Kiruna and neighbouring villages located in the very North:

or Oskarshamn and Kalmar, both located in the Southern part of the country:

Swedish Food

Many believe that the essence of the Swedish cuisine can be presented in the following picture:

Many also think that Swedes eat barely smelly fermented fish like surströmming:

Nevertheless, apart from hot-dogs and meatballs, which possibly can’t characterize the most refined cuisine in the world, Swedish pastry, in my opinion, is one of the best I have ever tried, and has its reflection in a tradition called fika. Celebrating fika consists not only of drinking coffee and chatting during the break, but also eating cinnamon bun (kanelbulle). Besides kanelbulle, in Sweden you can taste variety of delicious sweets, buns, and cakes, including punchrulle, kladdkaka, semla and licorice marabou chocolate. Smaklig måltid!

Swedish language. From A to Ö.

The language of Sweden is similar to other Germanic languages, with plenty of distinctive words coming from its antecedent, Old Norse. A verb to work in Swedish is basically att arbeta or att jobba. Swedish alphabet is enriched by 3 letters, placed in order just after the standard Latin letters: Å, Ä and Ö. One of my Swedish teachers once compared the letter Ä to the happy cow eating grass mooing and Ö to the sad one mooing because of approaching slaughter… Anyway, Swedish language doesn’t possess stable stressing system that makes it sound very melodiously and lively (that is also due to tonic or pitch accent). Grammar is relatively easy when contrasted with, for example, French, Polish, Russian, or even English.

The verb to be presented for Swedish, English and my native language, Polish:

Swedish English Polish
Jag           är I am Ja jestem
Du You are Ty jesteś
Han/Hon/Det He/She/It is On/Ona/Ono jest
Vi We are My jesteśmy
Ni You Wy jesteście
De They Oni/One

Pronounciation, in turn, is quite tricky as clusters of different letters can result in many distinct sounds. Additionally, of course, it may be funny at first to see a big SLUT on the cinema screen that means END (and famous slutstation meaning last station), FART meaning SPEED or GIFT meaning MARRIED and, at the same time, POISON.

Swedish music

In my personal opinion, Sweden is particularly famous worldwide as a centre of electronic music, represented by DJs such as Avicii, Axwell (both being part of the group Swedish House Mafia), John Dahlbäck, Eric Prydz or Otto Knows. In Sweden there are many festivals dedicated to this kind of music, so if you are really interested in this genre, Sweden is a country you should certainly take into consideration. Obiously, Sweden’s rich folklore is full of traditional songs, nevertheless, the electronic music seems to be the biggest, just after ABBA, export that is recognised in many other countries.

Summing up, as always, feel free to comment, improve my knowledge and write to me in case of any questions regarding your prospective studies in Stockholm, accommodation, cost of living or any other topic that may bother you just before coming to the new country.

Best,

Radek

Stockholm’s Hottest Welcome to the European Champions

Hello everyone,

I have been in a long vacation from blogging. Now I am feeling, as if I am being selfish in that I am enjoying the Swedish summer a lot yet I am not sharing anything😄 Today there was one more awesome event that I should say a bit about it.

I hope most of you have seen and/or heard that the Swedish football team won the 2015 European Under-21 Championship yesterday. Today a huge number of Stockholmers (including myself😄) were gathered in Kungusträgården park to welcome the champions. The crowed was so big that it seemed as if no one in Stockholm was absent from the ceremony. According to the English literature I read, this was the first time for Sweden to win the Under-21 Championship. The last time the Swedish team reached final was in 1992.

Though the temperature was relatively high, it was not able to compromise the celebration in any way. Stockholmers do have an amazingly advanced skill of expressing their feelings. So, I have really enjoyed the ceremony though I was accusing myself for my infancy in Swedish.

Please enjoy the following pictures!

Befikadu.

2015-07-01 17.08.45 2015-07-01 17.09.37 2015-07-01 17.09.40 2015-07-01 17.09.46 2015-07-01 17.14.13 2015-07-01 17.14.29 2015-07-01 17.14.36  2015-07-01 17.16.52 2015-07-01 17.20.22 2015-07-01 17.24.31  2015-07-01 17.26.55 2015-07-01 17.27.00 2015-07-01 17.27.19 2015-07-01 17.27.36 2015-07-01 17.29.05 2015-07-01 17.29.10 2015-07-01 17.31.35 2015-07-01 17.31.38 2015-07-01 17.31.45 2015-07-01 17.31.57 2015-07-01 17.43.01 2015-07-01 17.45.07 2015-07-01 17.45.27 2015-07-01 17.46.10 2015-07-01 17.46.44 2015-07-01 17.47.09 2015-07-01 17.47.40 2015-07-01 17.48.03 2015-07-01 17.57.48 2015-07-01 17.59.13image (36)image (38)

The Long-Awaited Summer Time: Destination Paris

For me, one of the perks of being a student again is that you get a long summer holiday. And believe me, no matter how fond you are with studying, after a whole year of studying you will need a break eventually.

I knew that I’d like to explore Europe during my summer holiday, but apparently traveling for the whole 3 months would not be feasible for me, so my husband and I decided to pick a destination (or maybe 2 ;) ) for this summer and we decided to go to Paris! Yay! <3

One of the advantages of studying at KI is that you have a very good chance to meet people from every corner of the world, and I’m lucky to get to know Olivia, a fellow digital ambassador who originally comes from Paris! I know that you can easily find a guide-book or web article on where to go and what to do there, but there’s something different if you can really talk to people who actually live there :)

So… how was Paris?

It was amazing! Paris was never on the list of my must-go destinations, but it turned out that I like this city very much! The first time I saw the Eiffel Tower from the metro, I immediately thought, ’Oh my God, I’m really in Paris!!!’ :D :D :D

I even managed to go to its 2nd floor, which was a huge achievement for me, because:

  1. I was really afraid of the height and I thought the term ‘2nd floor’ didn’t really reflect the situation :lol: , and
  2. the queue was quite loooooong!

Of course you should expect the 2nd point almost everywhere in Paris during the peak season, because when I visited Louvre, the queue even began right in front of the metro station exit! :lol: I must say, though, that it was totally worth the visit, although never tried to visit the entire museum all at once. *Been tried and failed, obviously* :lol:

Olivia suggested me to go to Musée d’Orsay, and after visiting the place, it’s easy to understand why she loves it: it’s the home of many wonderful artworks! Even the building was something to be admired <3 I think I love Monet’s paintings the most there (although obviously I’m no expert in paintings :P )

As a huge admirer of Marie Curie, of course I didn’t miss the chance to stop by Sorbonne, where she used to study (although I didn’t go inside). However, I managed to visit Pantheon, her final resting place, along with other well-known French scientists, writers, and poets.

Other than that, there were some attractions I visited (or at least went through :lol: ), including Sacré Cœur Basilica, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, and many others! I even tried the funicular to get to Sacré Cœur Basilica, which, like its name, was pretty fun :D

One thing I liked from my visit was the excellent public transportation system (although it was quite hot inside the train ^^’ ) However, you need to be quite vigilant while going around because it was really crowded and the warning sign for pickpockets were everywhere. It was not only the pickpockets though. While I was queuing to buy the metro tickets through the automated machine, I was approached by 3 men who said to be ‘officers’ and offered ‘help’. But I was not sure they were to be trusted because the man who previously stood in front of me received their ‘help’ only to come back not so long after and said ‘I was fooled by those guys’. Of course the 3 men were already gone by then.

Despite that, I also liked the fact that I could enter many of the museums for free (or got the discount, at least), because I was still below 25 years old ;) Sometimes traveling when you’re young has its own advantage :D (Thanks Chen for the information!)

So… that’s a snapshot of my summer time in Paris. What about you? What did you do during the summer? Please leave the comments below! :)

Love,

Alicia

But Sweden is so far away from home!

Hello Summer time!

After passing my exams and wrapping up the end of my first year as a Karolinska Institutet student, I can finally get into vacation mode. Which luckily for me, means a trip home this summer. It has been TWO YEARS since I have been home. Flying is expensive, then there is the car rental, and hotels, and of course buying all the things I have missed while I’ve been away. But it is also the matter of time, it feels too far away to fly home for anything less than a week, but I usually try to aim for three. It gives me time to really get into being home, and time to visit everyone, then I can start missing Sweden and get excited about coming back. Part of not going home very often means that I have to deal with homesickness. I’ve been in Sweden for 5 years and it is home, but it’s not. I have one foot in the USA, and one foot here in Sweden, and both are home. Homesickness is a part of my life, and that is okay.

I was reading this article http://www.rookiemag.com/2015/06/how-to-make-anywhere-feel-like-home/

and it has some pretty good points. The best way to fight homesickness is to feel at home with where you are. I recycle, bike to the store, take public transit, and all sorts of things that my American family find quirky and just odd. Of course, I am also comfortable talking to total strangers over absolutely nothing, I have a sweet tooth which is unrivaled in Sweden, and I do drive when I have to take lots of stuff, buy lots of things, or go somewhere that takes much longer to commute to. My Swedish family just doesn’t understand. On a side note, my sweet tooth makes baking in this country fun because I sometimes get reactions of “Ugh! Is this pure sugar! How do you eat that!? It’s too sweet!” Which amuses me more than it should.

The point really is that homesickness is real, and you have to find a way to help you cope. Here are some of my personal strategies that have helped me through some dark times.

1) Actively build a life for yourself while living abroad. Decorate your living space, go out and try new things, meet-up with people and make friends. If you feel connected to where you are, it will really help keep that stomach-dropping feeling of “I CAN NOT BELIEVE I AM SO FAR AWAY I JUST WANT MY MOMMY” feeling at bay. Be pro-active, and open minded about how all these new experiences no matter how different are great life experiences.

this is the best

2) Be prepared to be homesick. When I get homesick I cook food from my home, I listen to American country music (I’m from the south, that twang speaks to my heart), I read the news from back home. I try to bring as much with me as I can, and let the internet help me feel connected to my culture. Don’t ignore it, embrace that you come from somewhere special and celebrate it.

3) While embracing and celebrating, DO NOT WALLOW. Once you start down the path of “But back home everything is better” it is hard to stop. I have gotten sucked into a few weeks of homesickness misery of missing everything and everyone and getting nostalgic over stupid things I do not even like about my home.i never cry but Fight the wallowing! Do it by thinking of things you do not like from back home, things you love about here, and think about how being away from home is benefiting you. I never saw a porcupine before coming to Sweden, it’s a small thing but it helps me appreciate how special where I am is.

4) Talk to the people you care about from home. Some people use skype, but that feels weird to me and reminds me how far away I am. I got a great international calling plan on my cellphone, and I call my family regularly. I never let it go more than a week, and it means I do not get disconnected from the people I love. I know all the small details, the petty drama. My grandmother’s dislike that her neighbor swims around the edge of the pool instead of laps? Mundane detail, absolutely, but I feel like I am a part of her life. My niece building a blanket fort because her friend was spending the night? I heard all about it. Don’t let talking to people you care about become a special thing, make it routine.

magic

5) When all else fails, plan when you are going home. Knowing you will be there “soon” can really take the edge off. You can make lists of things to do while you’re there, people to see. Let the anticipation of being home soon help you through the time until you can get there.

I hope these tips can help some of you guys while studying abroad. It is a great experience to try new things, but we can’t help craving what is familiar. I hope all of you have a great summer, and I hope I will get to meet some of you at the start of the school year in the fall.

Farewell

18257795718_99805e72d1_o

Today it is midsummer in Sweden. It is not celebrated exactly on the longest day in the year but on a more convenient Friday. The sky is gray and the weather forecast is not promising. We will have a cold and wet ‘midsommar’. It seems it is not uncommon to be this way.

We will have a non-Swedish celebration at home as all the guests are foreigners: Japan, South Africa, Spain, Mexico and Colombia. But we will have salmon and dill, quite Swedish although the fish is possibly Norwegian.

Today I am also writing my last post for this blog. I finished all my courses, the thesis is graded and the graduation ceremony already happened. It is time to leave the student life returning to the productive field. It is almost certain I am not pursuing a PhD, I am not sure I will stand 4 years working in the same research question. And I would prefer to have a better paid job at this stage of my life. But, you know, life not always happen as you want although I cannot complain because I have been doing what I wanted since I left the high school.

This time allowed achieving dreamed goals. I have had the chance to watch the Northern Lights (more than once and even here in Stockholm). I had the chance to sail a Norwegian fiord. This week I watched some noctilucent clouds (polar mesospheric clouds). I have traveled, not as much as some mates but I can highlight I was also able to be in my wife’s dreamed travel: Istanbul. (It was also kind of a dream for me). And, of course, I finished my master at KI. There are many reasons, good ones, why these two years will be unforgettable.

IMG_1924DP

Noctilucen clouds over Stockholm. Note that it was around midnight and the clouds are bright because they are very high beyond the stratosphere

IMG_1925DPIMG_1926DP

I am going to post some more pictures on instagram until the end of June and that finishes all my participation in this fabulous initiative of writing and picturing my life here.

If someone is interested in following me after this you can do it in my Spanish twitter account @elpalabrista, in my almost inactive English Twitter account @juglerofwords. You can see some pictures taken by me at @jugglerofwords on Instagram and my flickr account is Arrubla https://www.flickr.com/arrubla/

Hope the tips I wrote here were useful for somebody pursuing his life in Sweden.

All the best

17822978724_6091175de8_o 18257896060_42c3442112_o

Weather in Stockholm

Although I am not British, weather is a big part of my life. I feel emotionally connected to weather. I feel upset when it is rainy and dark and feel happy when it is sunny and bright. Therefore, Stockholm is quite extreme when it comes to weather.

In April and May, it is one day rain and one day run. So I am quite moody these days. When I wake up but see the absence of sun, I look like this

IMG_0009 IMG_0140

When I wake up by the sunshine, this is me.

IMG_0026IMG_0047

Last Novermber, it is al altogether five hours of sun light in the month. When I look back, I was surrounded by dark cloud as well.

IMG_0049

December and Janunary are the months when sun disappears at 3pm.

IMG_0155

I am now looking for the best seasons of Sweden – Summer, when day is 20 hours long.

IMG_0917IMG_0041

Wish you a sunny June!

Yi

The end of my first year

My last test for my last course for my first year is on Thursday. While part of me is studying the mechanisms of motor proteins and the packing of chromatin, part of me is looking back at how my life has changed in the past 10 months.

IMG_6452

My class started off as a large group, a sea of strangers, and through time spent together and sadly, many leaving the program, they are now a group of people I not only know by name, but can call many of them friends. While I am not a social butterfly, and I’ve missed all the social events of the year, I still feel like I belong to this group of wonderfully wacky intelligent people. It’s a great feeling, finding a place you belong. When I walk through the doors at KI (the Solna campus), I feel like I am coming home. I can lounge on the sofa’s and chat with friends, and I know just where to find quiet corners when I need some privacy to study. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Huddinge campus too, the food is so much better and the technology is more functional, and it’s a great place to study. It just doesn’t give me that warm fuzzy feeling when I walk through the doors because it isn’t my academic home.

I’ve been debating what to write about my first year, and what I love about KI, because sometimes I struggle to find what is good about KI. I spend at least two days of five growling in frustrating screaming ” I HATE KI! ARGHH!!” but then I still can’t imagine myself anywhere else. This is my 6th University, and yet the first one that really feels like a place I belong. I enjoy that my class is a few less than 60 students, although at most lectures we’re probably half that. I enjoy that I know most of the librarians, and the tech support guys, and the lunch lady. I think it is the small close knit community that makes KI so wonderful. Or maybe it is that it’s full of personality, and while it has two hundred years of history can act very much as a blank canvas. You want to see a change at KI? Odds are you can make it happen. Students get to be an important part of the system adding new activities and opportunities every week. We’re not just here to go through the system, attending classes, getting a degree and leaving, while we are here we are part of the community.

I have had an interesting first year at KI. It’s had ups (getting to know my teachers and classmates, learning really interesting things, and finding a productive outlet for my passion for complaining) and downs (every time I’ve used technology at KI for the first time, the times I’ve been told I’m unreasonable in my expectations, finding out another classmate has left the program, or stressing over assignments). For better or for worse, KI will be my home for at least the next two years.

Woohoo for summer!