Olivia in Sweden: A Swedish Easter!

April 17, 2017

Happy (Belated) Easter!

 

I hear that it’s common for many Swedes to travel to their holiday cottage in the countryside for a family celebration.

For those more comfortable in the city, its not uncommon to see these beautiful trees on balconies, or in this case, the city center. (Usually, they are much smaller!)

 

 

Here in Flogsta, we had our own little celebration!

 

 

We all brought meals and desserts that we had prepared.

 

We even put up our own little Easter tree.

 

 

And finished the day with a successful egg hunt, which we had all hidden in our rooms!

 

More spring festivities are on its way! Until next time!


Janus in Singapore

April 3, 2017

Nasi Lemak from Adam’s Corner – for S$6, the perfect post-night out meal!

It’s difficult to describe what exactly Singaporean cuisine is. It’s not like the other Asian cuisines where you can say that a certain dish is uniquely Japanese, or Chinese, or Indian, or Filipino. Rather, Singaporean cuisine, like many other facets of the nation’s characteristics, is made up of the recipes and ingredients that Singaporean citizens have brought from their home countries, modified over time by exposure to the many other cultures and tastes present. Perhaps the most famous meal in Singapore is Hainanese chicken rice, an extremely simple dish made up of rice cooked in chicken broth or chicken fat, boiled chicken, a light soup on the side, and your choice of dipping sauce, usually spicy. Like many things in Singapore, it isn’t entirely clear where it comes from. Although the name suggests that it’s a dish taken from China’s Hainan Province (an island at the southern tip of China), it’s also a fairly common meal in Malaysia.

A lamb shank from a Lebanese restaurant in Kampong Glam. On the pricey (S$24) side, but the meat is unbelievable tender and flavorful

At first, I thought it was ridiculous that such a plain meal would become the face of Singaporean dining, but after spending the last three months in Singapore, I’ve come to appreciate it. It’s a dish that doesn’t have much in terms of taste – there’s only so much you can pack into boiled chicken and rice – but somehow, the restaurants in Singapore that specialize in it have all mastered it. I think part of the appeal, part of the reason it’s so famous, is because the taste is so basic and natural that you can never get sick of it. This last week, for example, I had it three or four times, a fairy low number compared to some of the busier weeks I’ve spent in Singapore. And yet each time, I was satisfied, and went home happy because I ate a meal that was cheap (around $3-4USD), healthy, and filling.

 The Singaporean take on wings and barbequed meat on a stick. S$10 gets you what’s in this picture.

Nasi Lemak, another rice dish, is also quite famous. Unlike simple-flavored Hainanese chicken rice, I would describe a Nasi Lemak dish as quite full of flavor – and at at some restauraunts I’ve eaten at, the flavor is bountiful to a fault. The rice is cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf, which gives it a fragrant and cooling touch. I imagine this is to serve as a counterbalance, a palate cleanser of sorts for the extremes provided by the sides that come with the rice.

These ground beef noodles are some of the most delicious I’ve ever. When I have time in the mornings, I trek about 10 minutes to a corner of Little India and eat two of these S$2 delights.

My personal favorite Nasi Lemak comes from Adam’s Corner, a small 24-hour outdoor restaurant just a short walk away from away from our flat, which serves as the unofficial rally point for my group of friends after a night out. I order the chicken Nasi Lemak, which comes with cucumbers, fried chicken, a fried egg, VERY salty dried anchovies, and a very spicy chili paste on the side. A lot of my western classmates don’t enjoy it – they say it’s simply overwhelming. But my Singaporean classmates are all in love with the meal, and personally, it reminds me a lot of the cuisine from my home in the southern islands of the Philippines. This is unsurprising, as Mindanao is known for having quite a bit of Malaysian influence.

A Malaysian food platter from a resutauraunt in Haji Lane. S$30 for a dish that’s supposed to feed three, but easily fed our group of five hungry tourists who’ve been walking all day.

Nasi Lemak and Hainanese Chicken Rice are dishes that, for lack of a better term, I would describe as street food. They’re both quite cheap and common in Singapore, and often served by mom-and-dad style restaurants that often only offer outdoor seating and may not exactly meet health or cleanliness standards in the U.S. However, these types of foods are probably the most characteristic of Singapore, and the restaurants that serve them can often be found densely concentrated around Hawker Centres, which are sort of like outdoor food courts. The popularization and government support of these centres have all but eliminated actual street foods in Singapore and have made eating this kind of cuisine much more sanitary and tourist friendly.

Chicken Rice – usually, the chicken is boneless and sliced, but this one is supposedly “sea salt infused.”

However, if you’re still not convinced and want to go somewhere where that offers an opportunity to try all these different foods but in a much more upscale setting, I suggest going to the food street in Kampong Glam. Right next to the beautiful Masjid Sultan and the quirky Haji lane, this street offers a variety of cuisines, from Malaysian to Thai to Persian to Lebanese, all in a much more tourist-friendly and traditional sit-down setting. The prices are much higher and comparable to sit-down restaurants back home, and I honestly couldn’t justify eating there except to splurge on a weekend dinner with the flatmates, especially given the easy access to equally delicious food at much cheaper prices.


Olivia in Sweden: Flogsta Cat and Chocolate!

March 14, 2017

I’ve met a celebrity here in Sweden!

His name is Ingefära, which means “ginger” in Swedish.

 

 

He is a cat that lives here in Flogsta and he is known for traveling. He even published a book about his travels and he’s only 2 years old! What were you doing when you were 2?

 

 

We were pleasantly surprised to open the elevator door outside our corridor only to find him waiting inside! We played with him, fed him, and provided him time to sleep before he took off on his next journey. I look forward to seeing him again.

 

 

Since he’s been gone, I’ve kept myself busy with a new job. Last week was my turn to take out the trash! Sweden is very environmentally conscious and we have 6 different containers depending on the type of trash being disposed of: plastic packaging, colored glass, metal packaging, newspaper, cardboard, and clear glass.

Looking forward to not having to deal with that for a while!

 

 

Thankfully I didn’t have to spend too much time wallowing over Ingefära’s absence or my trash duty. Last weekend, a nation hosted a “Chocolate Gallop” with over 40 different chocolate treats. We arrived late but were still able to make off with some delicious treats. Woo-hoo! Until next time!

 


Olivia in Sweden: Screaming and Food!

February 3, 2017

I’m a little biased but I’m pretty sure I live in the best student residential area in all of Uppsala University.

To prove it, here’s a little tradition I’d like to share:

 

The Flogsta Scream occurs every evening at 10 p.m. sharp. Students open their windows and scream out into the night. Simple, right? The tradition goes back decades! Though I haven’t measured the decibels, I think the loudest screams occur on Sunday nights.

 

In addition to traditions, I have made some wonderful friends in Flogsta. In the Flogsta residential area there are several apartments. The apartment I live in has 7 floors. Each floor has two corridors on opposing sides. Each corridor has one kitchen shared by approximately 12 people. I share a floor with native Swedes and other international students hailing from Brazil, Australia, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada, and USA.

 

 

Swedes really love cabbage. I tried a stuffed cabbage roll, which proved to be very savory.

img_4193

 

It’s also been confirmed by some Swedish friends that they like to put bananas in almost anything. It can be found on pizza or mixed with some rice and chicken. I had the latter, which made my dinner subtly sweet.

img_4194

 

As I’ve been introduced to food from Sweden, I’ve also been introduced to food from other areas of the world.

 

img_4144

Here is some fairy bread, which is sliced white bread spread with butter and covered with sprinkles. Apparently, it has to be cut into triangles and the Australians are quite proud of this delicacy!

img_4145

 

This is a Dutch Stroopwafel. It tastes best when placed in a microwave for 2 seconds! This lets the caramel inside melt. It was heavenly!

img_4171

 

We also had a sushi night on Sunday hosted by my Japanese friend. I got to roll Sushi for the first time in my life! We were all proud of our handiwork.

 

It’s nice to know that wherever you go, you can discover other cultures!


Clara in Italy: Naples, Pompeii etc

January 19, 2017

I’m home now, have been for a while, but have only just contracted some kind of horrible cold and am full of aches and shivers. It sucks, but oh well. The price you pay for a properly cold winter here in western New York!

For the very last part of my semester abroad, we traveled down south towards Naples, staying in a little town called Vico Equense some miles away. Vico borders the sea, and the beach was good fun for me! Found a wonderful hagstone that I somehow managed to cram into my suitcase intact.

hagstone.jpg

It was rather obnoxiously heavy, I don’t deny it, but totally worth it.We also found a bunch of hermit crabs! This one was really nervous. I felt sort of bad for scaring it, but we released it after about a minute, so I suppose no harm done.

hermitcrab.jpg

And on our way, we met a really cute cat that followed us for a little bit before running off.

cat.jpg

Not to mention the actual beach.

All in all, a lovely town, though we didn’t get to stay for too long.

In Naples, we went to the Capo di Monte museum, which, if I am honest, was too much art for me to handle. I was arted out. Like, there was so much art this semester, I could barely function at this point. Nevertheless! Some cool, cool stuff to be seen, such as some of the most beautiful drawings by Raphael I’d ever seen??

I don’t even really like Raphael, I’ll admit that right now, but oh BOY, look at how pretty that is the photo doesn’t do it justice.

raphael.jpg

Like. Listen guys. Listen. This is the sort of drawing that I WISH I could create. Holy crap. I cry a thousand tears.

Anyways, besides that, I also got to see this painting of Atalanta???? I didn’t know it was here??? Oh man?????

atalanta.jpg

Atalanta! My idol. Sort of. Well, I don’t know, I respect her anyways. And I really like this painting and one time I created a graphics set using it and anyways, this painting is cool and I like it a lot and I got to see it in person. That’s what I was really trying to say. Photo is still pretty terrible at doing justice to the painting, but anyways. There it is.

But here’s my favorite thing I saw in the museum. I have no idea what it really is, but I’m guessing a sort of writing set/table and?? It’s gorgeous. Look at it.

writingtable1

So much mother-of-pearl and the fineness of the details in it. It was really stunning, not gonna lie.

And finally, some cute little porcelain figures that imitate curly fur ridiculously well. Dang, right?

Yes, you heard me right, that’s porcelain. What kind of nonsense.

I’m getting carried away, because that wasn’t even my favorite museum during this visit. I’m only going to post one picture from my favorite because I actually didn’t take that many photos. In a sort of backwards way, it’s a testament to how excited and awed I was, okay? The Archaeological Museum. Oh my god.

mosaic.jpg

Look, I’m not going to show you any more because my photos are abysmal. Just. If you ever have the chance and you are as much of a nerd for classical art as I am, go here. I’m not kidding. This stuff is incredible. I just want to touch all of it, oh man. This stuff is thousands of years old!!! And it’s so NICE. Like WOW. Do you see that?? That’s not a painting, that’s a mosaic and it is amazingly preserved. From Pompeii. This whole exhibit gives a really human character to the city and the people that died. Again, I cry a thousand tears. Art man. Art is incredible.

I loved this museum. It was one of my favorite places in Italy. I mean, besides Pompeii itself, which was also incredible and a weird transcendental experience for me, the adult who was once a small child fascinated with the Greeks and Romans. (Not quite as incredible as visiting Delphi a few years ago, which just???? I still can’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that I’ve been there. But I digress.)

I have almost no pictures from Pompeii itself, same for Naples, which is sort of a shame because that was a mistake on my part. But here are just a couple notable things.

1. Pompeii

Some really human graffiti, and an incredible restored painting. I couldn’t deal with this okay. It was so cool.

graffiti.jpg

2. Naples

THE TRAIN STATION FULL OF PLASTIC SNAILS. IT IS MY FAVORITE THING.

trainstation.jpg

I think that’s an appropriate place to leave you all because hey, why be so serious about it? Giant plastic snails are just as artsy as some classical paintings, and they bring me around the same amount of joy. (Okay, maaaaaaybe the classical paintings bring me a little more because they appeal to my inner child, but still.)

Stay determined, y’all. Hope you enjoyed what I had to say about the joys of Italy.

 


Clara in Italy: Isola Maggiore

October 21, 2016

Soooooo, it’s definitely been a while since I posted anything. I have a super compressed semester (like, half the time or something? Ten weeks??), and the crunch is sort of unbelievable sometimes. So here we are, and I really do want to write about a lot of stuff! But I suppose I will start with my drawing class’ trip to Isola Maggiore, a little island out on a lake not too far from Cortona.

There’s the lake in the distance!

1lake.jpg

Fair warning, this post might be a bit over-detailed and boring, mostly because I just really, really loved this trip. I had a really lovely time.

Our first stop was a little town called Passignano sul Trasimeno right on the shore. Also a very lovely place, where I found lots of tiny enamel pins of American alternative bands from like the early aughts/90s? what.

(Did I buy them? Yes. Yes, I did. Because I’m trash.)

And then there was a ferry that we had to ride to get to the island itself, which has a permanent population possibly in the single digits.

I just think people are really lovely when they’re looking off of a ferry. Maybe that’s a bit weird. Anyways, here’s a first view of the island itself!

6im1.jpg

So full of trees and rocks! And there’s a castle (which I’ll get to later, but like seriously, the castle). To be totally honest though, my very first priority was getting myself to the lace museum, which was definitely worth it.

From what I can gather, this is actually a form of Irish crocheted lace, which you can see from the close-ups. Just. Crocheted with extremely thin thread. I totally want to learn how to do it. It’s just so lovely and incredible. I took a bazillion pictures of all the patterns I thought were really cool. To be honest, it doesn’t look particularly difficult in terms of pattern–just… size. And execution. Pretty sure I understand how it works for the most part, but dear lord. Thread thread thread!

There was also a door at the very top of the stairs that led to an empty attic room that I perhaps should not have been in, but it was definitely open, so…?

Back to the lace. Apparently, the woman who brought it to the island wanted to teach the women of the island a viable trade to make a living there in the first half of the 20th century. It’s actually a practice that’s mostly died out by now, but there are still maybe three or four women who still do it. They’re really nice and very skilled. I mean, they’ve been making this lace for longer than my current lifespan several times over, so I suppose that’s not surprising, but damn.

 

Seriously. How. I bought a piece of her lace since she was selling. It’s a little soft beige piece.

Back to the island. And the great photo opportunities! Just look at the textures of the wood and all this interesting stuff! Is that a fairy ring on the ground? Did the wood grow into a circle that way or is it magic? Or both?? Who knows!

17im4.jpg

Cool lizards on a burnt tree! Rusty… thing! (feat. lens flare)

Trash?

20im7.jpg

And castle. Which was apparently forbidden. But there was a gate that was wide open with no signs on it that just looked like a road, so half the class wandered over apparently. It’s easy to see why it’s forbidden. The whole thing looks like it’s about to come down around your ears.

 

And there was this abandoned boat just sitting there?

29boat.jpg

Anyways. Really cool place. Kind of terrifying. Very fun. Glad I went. Also found lots of nice bones on this island that haven’t been cleaned yet, or I would definitely post pictures. Someday! When I’m not being slowly crushed under the weight of academia maybe!!

Also I made this little watercolor of the landscape. It’s all right, I think! I should have definitely done more actual drawing, but man, the island was just too exciting.

watercolor.png

I think I’ve talked enough about this island. Basically, I highly recommend it for anyone like me who likes weird and pretty stuff! And spending some time alone. That was nice too. I’ll leave you with a final view from Passignano sul Trasimeno of the lake itself. They said it would rain, but! We had a really wonderful day.

30pst2.jpg

Until the next time I manage to get enough time to sit down and write. 🙂 Stay determined!

 


Naomi at Akita Week 4: 東京 chillin’

September 30, 2016

This past week/weekend, I took an overnight bus to go visit my close high school friend, Diane, in Tokyo. I was on the bus for about 11 hours and you would not believe this, but I forgot my earphones back at the school. I almost cried when I reached into my empty pocket. I ended up buying earphones at ドンキホーテ in Shibuya for the night bus back. Anyways, the first day I got there Diane had work from 11AM-5PM so I headed to Asakusa to meet up with some AIU peeps that also decided to head to Tokyo. We walked around Sensō-ji, an ancient Buddhist temple. I just learned it’s actually Tokyo’s oldest temple, as well. After walking around, we had time to spare, so we walked around and found a barbershop for Nico to cut his hair. He ended up paying half the price because the barbers were too afraid to cut his hair too short. They were really sweet though. One of the barbers asked Jeremy, Thomas, and I to come sit inside since it was sprinkling. We decided to sit outside though, as you can see in the picture above.

img_0304img_4625

After a long night out, Diane and I decided to head to Yokohama. My mom suggested we go there since they have a Cup Noodle Museum. It was only a ‎¥500 entrance fee. One of the floors even had a workshop where you could make your own cup noodles. Unfortunately, there were too many children and Diane and I were too hungry to wait. We ended up heading to Chinatown and eating there! There was so much panda merchandise and stores selling Baozi (steam filled buns). After walking around everywhere, Diane and I headed to her rehearsal – she’s in a startup band with Avex. I brought my camera with me because she wanted me to take videos of them performing so they could look over it. I couldn’t help smiling the entire time I was recording. They were killing it. Diane is the vocalist, along with another girl. She has always been a good singer. Going to karaoke with her can be intimidating sometimes because she belts the songs out, especially when Lady Gaga comes on. We actually went to karaoke the night before though and we all sang Jackson 5. Well, she sang it and the rest of it just yelled obnoxiously.

img_4683

Unfortunately, it rained the entire time I was in Tokyo so I didn’t take many pictures. BUT, on my last day the sun decided to come out. We woke up in the afternoon after a night out and headed straight to the Sky Tree. The picture above doesn’t do it justice. It’s the tallest structure in Japan at 634 meters. I wanted to go to the top despite the price (¥4000) but there were too many people. You had to stand in line to get a ticket to make a reservation to buy a ticket. We didn’t have enough time to wait and we didn’t want to wait either so we headed to Tokyo Tower. This is definitely worth mentioning though, the train from Sky Tree to Tokyo Tower was wonderful. The air conditioning was so refreshing and the felt seats felt so nice (lol). The entire time I was there, Diane and I made sure to stand in the area where the AC was blasting on the train. Thankfully the trains weren’t too crowded most of the times we went on. Anyways, we arrived at Tokyo Tower after the sun had set. It was definitely not as tall as the Sky Tree but we went up to the 250th floor and the lights were beautiful. It was crazy seeing the concrete jungle below us.

IMG_4599.jpg

Just wanted to show you guys this picture. I took it from Diane’s balcony – she lives on the 12th floor. If you look very closely, like super closely, on the top left you can see the Tokyo Tower. Oh, one other thing I wanted to mention: the new earphones I bought at Shibuya? Yeah, I already accidentally washed them in the laundry…


%d bloggers like this: