Rude Swedes are not an oxymoron

Yes it seems strange to call Swedes rude but it is true when certain conditions are met.

Condition one: In a bar. People will push throw the crowds without ever uttering the words förlåt (sorry). Even if you are lucky to find a place with a table to put your drink down, you can bet some girl or guy will push from behind to overtake your spot. I had the experience of having a jackass spill wine (thankfully white) on my Burberry coat while at the bar. I poked him in the side, since he stood at a whooping 190cm, and told him I wanted napkins because he spilled wine on me. He was annoyed and irritated and in a condescending manner, apologized.

Condition two: On the street. Cars will just stop for you, few inches shy of stripping your soul out. People will walk straight into you or push you to the side; no apologies needed.

Condition three: In a restaurant. Tipping? Does not exist; or in rare instances, there is tipping. With that in mind, don’t expect much in the way of service. I have not experienced bad service (maybe because I am foreign) but stellar service definitely is lacking.

Condition four: Alcohol. Need I say more?

Condition five: On the train. You will get smashed; just hope the people nearby are wearing decent deodorant. You do not need to talk to the people around you, ever. Until the train comes to a crashing halt, your train compartment neighbors are invisible.

Americanisms in dating…Of wingmen and pilots

I’ve been trying to come up with something to post about this week and life hasn’t been exciting. I thought however we would revisit Þorbjörn, the little swede I met in the US. We had a discussion about meeting someone in a bar in Sweden versus the US. Here are the conversations (edited to make sense).

The explanation of wingmen in American culture:
Þórbjörn: wingman ??
me: o m g
Þórbjörn: hey, i am from sweden!!
me: in fighter plane scenarios
there’s always a leader whose goal is to hit the main target
his wingmen (flying behind him in formation)
deal with enemy fire
Þórbjörn: haha
me: that’s real air force
in social situations it’s similar
Þórbjörn: so if i want my friend to hook up with a girl, i need to be his wingman?
me: well yes, but it’s an art
you have a lead pilot, usually an alpha male
he’s the most charismatic, friendly, and cunning with women
he’ll always have one or two male friends
those are wingmen
Þórbjörn: haha
me: those guys entertain the target’s female friends
the wingmen also soften the women up by being cute, silly, more romantic
during that confusion
the leader takes his target
Þórbjörn: so extreamly american…
me: hahaha, how so?
Þórbjörn: sounds very american ;)

The Swedish way:

Þórbjörn:my friends in sweden never worked in that way
me: how does it work?
Þórbjörn: how did it work? oh, hot girl, i will go for her, screw you guys
me: oh yah, i was told guys have no problems ditching their friends
Þórbjörn: of course not…you can’t have sex with your friends
me: what about us and how we met?
Þórbjörn: our dating seemed very swedish to me… meet at a bar, have sex, start hanging out, have more sex =)
oh, and one woman at the time… that is complicated enough for me

How to talk to girl in the American bar:
What you do as a male who finally made it past enemy fire and has the target in range.
Þórbjörn: so what would I have done if I was an American?
me: first off, we wouldn’t have never made it to my place b/c i would have expected you to hit on me
and buy me drinks
and flirt and be cute
Þórbjörn: and then?
me: we probably would not have gone home together that night but rather exchanged numbers
maybe make out in the bar
Þórbjörn: that sounds utterly boring
me: LOL
then you would have called me a few days later and ask me out for dinner
Þórbjörn: why can’t you do that?
me: chivalry my friend, male chivalry
Þórbjörn: crazy americans

Ketsumeishi Tabiudo


This is a beautiful song by the Japanese (J-Pop) pop group called Ketsumeishi. Their song Tabiudo is about someone finding himself in the world. I first heard this song while at a screening for the Asia advertisments for Toyota Motor company. The VP of international sales was there and they mailed us a copy of the DVD ads along with the lyrics from Japan! The Toyota video is way cooler I have to admit but since I cannot find the DVD, you all have to settle with the original video from Ketsumeishi, still awesome and taking place in Australia.

When I listen to the song, I envision driving in a car with the wind blowing and seeing all the wonders of the roads, bridges, people, cars and where my journey will take me.

And I normally don’t post lyrics but this song sums up everything that we struggle to find in life. Partial English Lyrics:

I start on a journey on my own
I take a step forward. I feel alone
I am like a free bird
I am standing on a hill and feel the wind blowing
I keep walking and will never stop
I go with a smile and keep going
To a real journey only for me

Imagine you are a little child. You are a bird.
You could fly in the sky
Now, open a map and toward the future
To the journey of hope
Now, you are free. You become yourself
So that you can go anywhere you want.

I wander to find out where I should go.
I get lost till I find out
Even though a journey is only of a roundabout route,
I choose my own way by myself
I think and think, on and on. Night and day
I think it over and I go

We go to the future in ever-changing days
We open the door for tomorrow and start a journey aimlessly
To our future
We live in the time that does not stop

Tabiudo lyrics in romanized Japanese:

Tabidatte hitori ni natte
Fumi dashite kodoku ni natte
Tori no you ni jiyuu ni natte
Oka ni tatte kaze ni fukarete
Akiramezu ni zutto aruite
Akiramezu ni chanto waratte yukou
Boku dake no ari no mama no tabi he
Oikaze dakare karuku fumi dasu
Muki au mirai jibun uchidasu
Kono tabi wa mienu saki ga
Dakara koso fumi dasu kachi ga
Todoku? Toonoku? Tama ni ononoku
Kaze ni osarete sono saki nozoku
Hito wa mina jinsei tabi shiteru
Sorezore ga eranda machi ni deru
Tooku hate nai tabi he
Yukou tomaru koto nashi de
Nanika aru kitto kagayaki masu
Shinjireba kanarazu kagayaki dasu
Nobashita te no saki aru ashita wa
Korashita meno saki nani aru ka?
Kaze makase hane maware
Kono saki no mirai yo hare watare

Chorus:
Ima kodomo ni natte
Tori ni natte sora mo toberu hazu da yo
Ima chizu wo hiraite
Susumu mirai he kibou no aru tabi he
Ima jiyuu ni natte
Boku ni natte doko mademo yukeru kara
Ima boku wo egaite
Tabibito ni naru nomo waruku nai
Itsumoto kawarazu fuku kaze
Kataru koto mo naku tooku made
Kyou mo bokura wa
Mie nai asu wo nozoku kara
Iro iro na katachi de mirai ga matsu
Sorezore yume wo kakae koko ni tatsu
Sono ashi de saa tabi he
Nozonda kotae ga nakute mo
Soshite ayamachi ka tadashii no ka
Ima boku ni wa wakara nai ga
Osorezu ikeba wakaru sa
Shinjite ikeba nanika kawaru sa
Kimama ni sora wo iku kumo no you ni
Jiyuu ni nagareru mizu no you ni
Ikiteru kara koso bokura mo
Kaze ni makase sorezore no tabi he

Yuku ate samayotte
Wakaru made mayotte
Mawari michi bakari no tabi demo
Jibun de erande
Nayamu dake nayande night & day
Nayande nayande yuku
Bokura wa mirai he
Kawari yuku hibi no naka de
Asu he no tobira wo hiraite
Ate no nai tabi ni deru
Bokura no mirai he
Tomara nai toki no naka de
Jiyuu na tabibito ni
Natte iku nomo waruku nai
Tabidatte hitori ni natte
Fumi dashite kodoku ni natte
Tori no you ni jiyuu ni natte
Oka ni tatte kaze ni fukarete
Akiramezu ni zutto aruite
Akiramezu ni chanto waratte yukou
Boku dake wa ari no mama ni

What we do in Sweden during the winter

The very kind gentleman I was staying with explained what the Swedes do doing the winter. I thought, that I and everyone else on Earth already knew of Swedish winter pastimes. Dead wrong we were.

What do the Swedes “do” in the winter season to pass time? Invent things. Yes, build stuff. What do they build? Who knows… an upgraded cheese slicer? spiffier bikes?

As he explained some of the little widgets and such he and his friends built to pass time, I couldn’t help but smile. Seriously, smile. He was explaining everything in a cute, innocent manner though all I could think of, “You build things? Sure you are not hiding the truth? You sure that not after building something, you get tanked at the bar and…?”

Or maybe, “building things” is an analogy to what the rest of us believe the Swedes do during the winter.

Maybe I should stay there during the winter and see what these Swedes are really up to…

What I learned in 40 hours in Stockholm, Sweden

I went to Sweden for the first time on September 1st and stayed for a mere 40 hours (why so short? that’s another story). I feel love in though: the people, the country, the city, the progressive ideals, and the T-banan (a functioning metro system) made me feel “home.” Well, everything except feminism gone insane part.

But I did make some interesting observations while in Stockholm:

  • Clocks are everywhere
  • They are punctual…hence the clocks
  • Men push baby strollers on the streets
  • Women have umbrellas for the rain, men don’t
  • It is fashionable to tuck pants/jeans into boots (for women). I would presume with the downpours it makes sense to keep the bottom of the pants dry and therefore tuck them in.
  • Everyone on the T-bana is on the cell phone. And they like to speak loudly (compared to the French at least)
  • It is fashionable to wear tight leggings and short/half jackets
  • No one jaywalks unless they are a tourist
  • Both women and men love scarves
  • Couples do not make out in public. For that matter, I didn’t see many hold hands.
  • When the rain comes down hard, somehow magically, everyone disappears
  • They use radiator heating and it works!
  • There are no bathtubs…what a bummer for wanting a warm, romantic bubble bath
  • Tabacs are present at every street corner (as in France). Grocery stores? Impossible to find
  • The gutters on buildings function properly, for the most part
  • The weather does change every five minutes (as in Iceland). “It’s not the weather that is bad, it is the clothes you are wearing”
  • The metro is spotless
  • Trains arrive every couple minutes. And yes, the Swedes will freak out if it is late by one minute
  • In the winter, they “build things” instead of…
  • People may look reserved but are very friendly. A stranger saw me struggling to open a water bottle, he came up, opened it, and thanked me.
  • The Swedes thank you for anything they do
  • Not all Swedes have blond hair
  • For that matter, not all Swedes have blue eyes
  • Every other Swede is an engineer of some sort. Worst case, a programmer.
  • And yes, the men are beautiful, but so are the women. Damn that competition.

Last Days in Isafjordur

To think by this time next week I will be in the US living the mundane life is depressing. I cannot fathom leaving Iceland and returning to the US.

But first, my adventures of the last 24 hours.

I spent Thursday night at Langi Mangi for the Pop Quiz contest. Langi Mangi is the local internet cafe/bar, basically one of the only happening places in the city. So there I was, the tourist, the only Indian (or Asian/other person), hanging out with the locals, drinking beer and answering ridiculous questions about the Nordic countries. Unfortunately RF and I got there late and only heard the last two questions (of which we corrected answered and understood one). RF eventually left and I stayed with the locals and discussed politics, facebook, puppets, and possibly other ridiculous things. Of course, these people were so tall I was sitting in the land of the giants. And not just tall, but gorgeous; the Icelanders are beautiful people.

On Friday the class went to the local fish restaurant (same place as the one on Tuesday) and we ate and drank and ate some more. Of course, it helped that our administration was smashed as well by the end and was laughing so hard I thought he would fall into the ocean. I also visited my friend (along with LO) at the tourist office and we partook of Brennivin. Truly a wonderful time to be completely smashed and walking around town.

In the end, I passed out on the children’s bean bag. There is proof somewhere on Facebook of that…

Tjoruhusid: Isafjordur’s Amazing Fish Restaurant

We finally visited the local Icelandic fish restaurant, Tjöruhúsið. Local meaning, a log cabin, a tiny kitchen, and the husband cooking fish on a moving stove. There were three choices: fish soup, catfish, and a type of cod. We choose all of them and then waited.
Menu at Tjoruhusid

We waited and waited; as the air filled with fish, the time passed slower and slower. Eventually, we received some fresh bread and a stick of butter (literally a square block) to hold us down from clamoring like cats. 30 minutes later and a massive porcelain bowl appeared at the table. It was fish soup. The soup was creamy but not too think and held morsels of white fish that melts in the mouth.
Delicious Fish

Another 30 minutes later, our professor plops down at the table and we partake of more beer while waiting for the main plats. They show up… in large ironclad pans. One pan is filled with cod cooked in a creamy, bechemal type sauce. Adorned with grapes, salad greens (the only time I will be able to forage in Iceland), sliced tomatoes, and lemons, the dish is fit for the aristocracy. Or maybe, just the local fisher families of the WestFjords.

Isafjordur: A buccolic city in the West Fjords

Icelandic Flag

Isafjordur, Iceland…a tiny tiny town.

4000 people, one post office, two gas stations, two bakeries. Yet, amazing to live in the fjords. Tall, unwavering, impressive mountains carved in zig-zags. Located near the Arctic circle (66.1N instead of 66.5N), it is good enough to be the Arctic.

If you are visiting Iceland or thinking about visiting Iceland, then check out the Iceland: A Trip Around the Ring Road Guide. Already going to Isafjordur? This is your guide then. =)

History of Isafjordur
Written in Icelandic as Ísafjörður, with some very cool nordic characters not seen in the Latin language system.
Ísafjörður is the largest town in the Westfjards (Vestfirðir) region. It was formed in the 9th century and became a major port city by the 16th century.

In 1786, the King of Denmark (Iceland was a Danish colony) granted Isafjordur municipal status. He also abolished the Danish trade monopoly.

From the mid 1800s to late 1900s, Isafjordur exploded in population and became the center of the fishing industry. It was the city’s golden era of prosperity. Iceland’s largest saltfish exporter, Ásgeirsverslun, hailed from the city. Motorized boats for fishing and freights enabled the town to expand into shrimp. Post World War II, the invention of quick-freezing created another golden era for Isafjordur. Hundreds of packing plants sprouted up in the city and every local was connected to the industry.

But Isafjordur’s fishing success would not last forever. A worldwide economic recession in the 1980s paralyzed the industry. But the Icelandic strength and will power would not allow the industry to perish, and it became leaner, smaller, and still competitive. The fishing industry changed its focus to a fleet of small boats rather than the big trawlers of the 1970s and early 1980s. High-tech industries and research, based on the knowledge and tradition of the fisheries developed, creating more opportunity for the town’s citizens.
Iceland's Independence from Denmark
And of course, the town is on the map with numerous tourist opportunities. Isafjordur also hosts a small university that has its strengths in the Icelandic Summer Course program and graduate studies programs. As I’m here studying there, I’ll give a review of the program soon. Check out beautiful photos of Isafjordur; they should convince anyone to visit.

Food
Let’s face it, there are not many options in the city but there are still great spots.

Langi Mangi
Café, bar/pub in central Ísafjörður. Lunch menu, soup of the day, sandwiches, burgers, pitas. Wireless connection, live music. Licensed.
Open Mon-Wed: 11:00-23:00, Thur: 11:00-01:00, Fri: 11:00-03:00, Sat: 12:00-03:00, Sun: 13:00-23:00.
Web site: http://www.langimangi.is/ – e-mail: langimangi@langimangi.is
Address: Adalstraeti 22, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 3022.

Tjoruhusid

Located next to the Isafjordur Maritime Museum at the waterfront. The restaurant is owned by a quirky couple but they server amazing Icelandic fish dishes. The building is also one of the oldest in the city. Specialize in fresh catches of fish and fish soups.
Open daily during the summer 11:00 – 22:00.
Address: Nedstikaupstadur, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 4419.

Thai Koon
A Thai-restaurant next to the grocery store in the little mini-mall. Great price for a lot of food.
Hours: Mon-Sat: 11:30-21:00, Sun: 17:00-21:00
Address: Hafnarstraeti 9-13, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 0123


Fernando’s

Restaurant in central Isafjordur Ísafjörður with American and Italian menu. Lunch buffet at 11:30-13:30
Open: Sun-Wed: 11:30-22:00, Thur-Sat: 11:30-00:00
Web site: http://www.fernandos.is
Address: Austurvegur 1, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 5001.

Bakarinn
Has tasty cakes, pastries, pizzas, and soups.
Hours: weekdays 07:30-18:00. Closed Saturdays. Sundays 09:00-17:30.
Address: Hafnarstraeti 14, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 4770, (+354) 456 4771, fax: (+354) 456 5065

Gamla bakarid
One of Iceland’s most famous bakeries with tons of breads and pastries. You can even find bagels there.
Hours: weekdays 07:00-18:00, Saturdays 07:00-16:00.
Tel: (+354) 456 3226, Fax: (+354) 456 5026
Address: Adalstraeti 24, Isafjordur

Hamraborg

A very “American fast food” kind of place. Pizzas, hamburgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, etc. Some groceries (ie. milk and bread) and DVD rentals are available. Oh, they also have plenty of candy (godis).
Hours: Everyday 09:00-23:30
Tel: (+354) 456 3166
Address: Hafnarstraeti 7, Isafjordur

Kaffi Edinborg

Brand new café and restaurant in the Edinborg culture house, where the Tourist Information centre is also located. Light meals all day every day, brunch on weekends.
Open: weekdays 11:00-01:00, weekends 11:00-03:00.
e-mail: kaffiedinborg@simnet.is.
Address: Adalstraeti 7, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 4400.

N1
Petrol station, fast food, groceries.
Open: work days: 07.30-23.30, weekends: 08.30-23.30.
Address: Hafnarstraeti 21, Isafjordur. Tel.: (+354) 456 3574

Isafjordur Hotels and Hostels

Sightseeing in Isafjordur

Komdu Saell, Hello in Icelandic!

Bonjour!
…wait, wrong language… Ni hao!
damn, still wrong…

Komdu saell!
let’s hope this is right ;)

I have finally arrived to Isafjordur…a town that literally can be tucked away in Memorial Stadium and the parking lot. ;) It is beautiful here: the massive fjords, dangling remnants of snow, the Arctic Ocean (maybe North Atlantic) and the colorful houses littering the landscape.

I have plenty to post so do check out the blog and flickr for tales, sagas, and of course, photos.

http://flickr.com/photos/blacksapphire/

It’s been 32 hours of traveling, 6 airports, 1 bus station, and 3 taxis. time for bed (i know at noon).