Egypt & Not much time left in Beirut

I am sitting with three layers of clothes next to a small portable heater. Does it get so cold in Beirut you might wonder…? Well, the outside temperature during the day is still around 19 degrees but it gets colder in the night and more importantly due to the lack of any real insulation indoors it’s pretty much as cold as outdoors. One morning I looked at the thermometer in the corridor and it showed 14 degrees.

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Beirut has become my home. Especially throughout the last two month I have become so used to the environment and I have really grown to love the chaos and liveliness of the city. Even harder to imagine is now that I will be going back to Sweden in a bit more than one month. Time just seems to fly here. I am very torn about going back. On the one hand I look forward to seeing my friends, having all the conveniences of constant electricity, fast internet, western food etc. again (while I am writing this we just lost power and switching it to the other power line didn’t work, let’s  see how long it takes this time) on the other hand I really do not look forward to the Swedish dark and cold weather. Also even though I feel confident about my thesis topic, I am sure it also will be a challenge to get it done throughout the next months. Well and then, then it’s time to enter the grown up world as if everything goes as planned I will graduate in June 2016. Crazy thought isn’t it?

My father visited me here in Beirut last weekend which was really nice and my Mother will come over Christmas and New Year which I look so much forward to! But now, let me tell you a little about our Egypt trip in November. We did a great round-trip throughout the country, have a look at the map;

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We flew to Cairo were we spent a night in a super nice hostel and walked around the city and a bazaar. Cairo was very big, loud and overwhelming but at the same time especially some corners in the city center surprised us with a lot of charm and welcoming people.  Apart from on the actual bazaar people in smaller streets and in shops welcomed us to Egypt without trying to sell us stuff. I thought wow maybe it is not that bad with people trying to sell stuff and trick you. Yeah. I just haven’t had seen enough of Egypt yet.

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The next day we went to Giza to see the pyramids. After finding our way through using the tube and a local bus we met a pretty nice guy who said he will show us the way. Yes he did show us the way but to an office where they talked us into buying a carriage ride to the actual pyramids… Oh well we thought, it could be an experience as well. The actual pyramids were nice but I have to be honest somehow I was less impressed than I thought I would be and everything was so repulsively touristic. You could not go 50m without being bother by at least 3 people who tried to sell you useless stuff, camel ride or else. I understand that they are frustrated that tourism is not doing well in Egypt since the revolution but that does not excuse being overly pushy and even telling lies to trick you into buying stuff.  However overall I am still glad we went, since I was a small kid I wanted to see the Pyramids.

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In the evening we went to the train station to catch a sleeping train to Aswan which was absolutely amazing. The train was nothing fancy but we had our own little compartment with bed to fold down, we had a super nice train conductor who took great care of us, they served us dinner and the beds were even fairly comfortable. The ride took around 12 hours and when we woke up in the morning the view out of the train window was amazing. Driving along the river Nile and through small places was pretty magical. In Aswan we had booked a hostel a bit outside of Aswan on the other side of the Nile in a small Nubian village. The taxi driver had some troubles to find it at first and when we did find it the outside really did not look too nice BUT when we entered and saw the amazing roof terrace and the view every doubt was forgotten.  The staff was really nice and our room clean and simple. While living there we visited an island in the Nile and had a look at the temple of Philae. We also did a day trip to Abu Simbel right at the border to Sudan. The temple there were absolutely amazing and became and remained my favorite sight throughout the whole trip.

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From Aswan we took a bus to Luxor where we yet again where incredibly lucky with our chosen hostel. It was also a bit outside the city on the other side of the Nile (a boat over from central Luxor took about 5 min). The people in that hotel where even nicer, we had a beautiful room and the roof top terrace was breathtaking. Also the Egyptian traditional food was great! In Luxor we did two things. My first hot air balloon ride over Luxor which was more than breath taking and absolutely worth it to get up at 4 am. During the day after the balloon ride we rented a taxi for the day and looked at all sorts of sites like the valley of kings and other temples. That was also when I slowly grew tired of wall paintings, temples, statues and all other cultural stuff. I really wanted to appreciate every place we visited because I am sure every single of them would have impressed me a lot if I would have seen them during the first days but after so many days of culture and art I just couldn’t really anymore.

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That was also when I was pretty done with people constantly trying to sell us things and to trick us. I don’t mind so much when they try to rip you off and give you bad prices, it’s their job , they need to make money and if you have the patience to haggle you usually can get all prices down a lot. But what I do mind is when people start to actively try to trick you. In the evening we were walking around Luxor and a guy approached us saying “Heeyy good to see you again!! I am working in your hotel kitchen, remember me??” My first impulse was to smile and say “ohhh yeah…” as I trusted that my bad memory and face recognition has simply failed me once again but after a few seconds I thought waaaiit, our whole hotel has about 4 people working there and I know them by now and this is not one of them. That was also the moment he started to try to sell us a boat ride….  Well, we left him and went on walking. No longer than 3-5 min later another guy walks towards us; “Heeyy good to see you again!! I am working in your hotel kitchen, remember me??”  That was when I lost it. I am really not the angry type of person but something snapped in that moment after being bothered every single day by hundreds of people and I got so angry” I f**** heard this one before , another guy just tried the same f**** trick, get the hell out of here you asshole…! Yes, yes… I am not proud of the language but I just was so done with these lies and tricks. Well at least the guy walked away as fast as he could.

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After calming down and relaxing at our great hotel, the next day we took a bus to Hurghada to go scuba diving there. We did not see much of Hurghada since we arrived in the evening and went to dive straight in the morning but the first impression was not great. Touristic and our hotel was next to a 24h bar which had loud bad music on the whole time. But the diving was great. It was my second dive in my life and I loved it even more than the first time in Jordan. The diving teachers were super nice and the boat with which we went out was great. Over all the day was a little much though because we went on in the evening on the same day to get a bus back to Cairo.

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Back in Cairo we stayed at the same hostel as in the beginning. The next day was our last day in Egypt. Our flight was at 23.00 in the evening so we had planned to just relax and visit the Egyptian National Museum. Well, here I am going to admit something, ready? I really did not like the Museum! Everyone had said it is so great but to me it was a big mess of 1000000 of things, it was too big and I was simply done, done and done with anything what had to do with Egyptian history 😀

Overall it was a great trip, lots to see, beautiful nature and sites, we met great people – my impression of Egyptian people was that they are great and really kind and welcoming people as long as they don’t try to sell you things. This is of course a generalization (which I am usually against) and is simply based on my experiences during the 10 days in that country.

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Now I am back in Beirut since over three weeks and the days go by faster than I can comprehend. I like experiencing new places and it is easy for me do adapt to different living environments and I think one reason why that is so is that I pretty quickly develop small habits and ‘traditions’ which are only mine, which I can look forward to and which give a little sense of stability. I don’t have to have them daily but on a regular base and they always come by themselves without me forcing it. I have them in Sweden, I had them in Jerusalem and now I have them here in Beirut.
For example, my default lunch here is Hummus. I have figured out that the best hummus in town is sold by a really sweet guy in Hamra just a 2min walk from where I work. So when I go to get lunch I walk out of my office, walk by the shoe store and look at a pair of awesome shoes which have been in the window for months but are too expensive to buy them. I walk by the homeless guy whom I sometimes give some money but most days just a smile and then I arrive at the little hole in the wall where ‘my hummus man’ greets me with a smile and asks me how I am. I don’t have to tell him anymore what I want he knows it is hummus with veggies, and the oil in a little extra container since I don’t like when they drench the hummus in it. Whenever I walk back to the office with my hummus I feel happy.

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Another example is taking the minivan to work in the morning. 3 min walking from my home there is a bigger street where minivan no 4 goes to Hamra. They are usually really old vans which fit between 9 and 15 people depending on if the foldable seats on the side of the benches get used or not. You stop the van where ever you stand on the street and hop on, you usually have to crouch and take care of your head while finding a spot. Sometimes they close the door, sometimes they don’t. Their driving style is often absolutely outrages and often the van is stuffed with people and the radio blasts Arabic music. Traffic is always bad when going to Hamra. When I took this kind of van the first time it was a little intimidating but by now I somehow find peace in that chaos. Catching my ride, sitting in the van listening to Arabic music while looking out of the window I feel strangely content.  I can sometimes get the same feeling when taking a taxi or a service around here. One day I was going to the German embassy which is out of town and it took me a while to pursue a taxi to take me there for an okay price and once I was finally sitting in the taxi , slightly proud that I had done a good job in getting down the price a lot, I just smiled. The cab driver which seems slightly annoyed by having agreed to drive me that distance for a cheap price suddenly looked at me and started smiling very bright and said “wow you look happy!”

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Living here can be annoying sometimes especially when you need to buy something more specific or a bit out of the ordinary, you either simply cannot get it or have to pay 5 times the price it should be. Nothing is perfect here and right now I would not mind a proper heater in this room (well and electricity which is still not back…)  but overall I have come to love the vibe of Beirut and her quirks a lot more than I ever thought I would. I made awesome friends and have experienced so many great moments here. A bit more than a month to go. Right now, I don’t really want to leave.

Thank you for reading 🙂 and have a look at a few more images below from the trip through Egypt.

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Internship in Beirut & Life in Lebanon

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Last week we visited the three schools again which the organization I am currently interning at has built in the Bekaa region east of Beirut. While I was sitting in one of the school yards waiting for my ride back to Beirut a girl came to me and asked what my name was (my Arabic is by now just good enough to have a very basic conversation). I told her my name and asked for hers. Then she asked what my Mother’s name is and she told me the name of her Mother. Then she said something I didn’t understand, so I got someone to translate for me. She had said “my parents are both dead now.”  Later she told us that she is living with her uncle in the camp now but he always comes home very late.  In moments like this I wish I would be fluent in Arabic and could actually talk to those children and especially to this girl. Now I could only give her a sad smile and say that I am sorry and rub her shoulder. She kept sitting next to me for a while and then left to join some other kids.

11990162_10206707917329881_1969238486_oMy task that day in the field was a rather simply one; to take new pictures of the schools and children and think about ideas for new posts on social media and our newsletter. It was the first time I really came in close contact with so many kids and they were all more than interested in me and the big camera I had with me. Generally my internship here in Beirut has been good so far, I sometimes wish I would have more responsibilities than I currently do. Many of my tasks are rather basic and I often don’t feel very challenged. I however don’t really want to complain, the work here gives me a lot of time to be able to work on my Master thesis idea which I greatly appreciate and some tasks are truly jhguguzgbuhbjinteresting and fun. Moreover I really like my colleagues and the work environment and that’s worth a lot. I enjoy the field trips since it usually gives me the chance to talk to and listen to people and their stories. Generally I learn a lot here simply through talking to the people I work with and through meetings or conferences I can attend.  I, for example, attended a conference at the ministry of education and a meeting at the UN which was very interesting. Most importantly the cause my organization works for is more than important; making education and humanitarian aid accessible for children living in refugee camps and thus targeting a whole generation at risk. (If you want to read a short summary about the organization I work for, you can click the picture above to make it bigger, and that by the way works with every picture on this blog).

I have talked with quite a few people now who currently do an internship at a NGO and it seems to be a very common phenomena 12171043_10206707918649914_1835074399_othat people feel that they are not particularly challenged. However, I think often it is what you make out of it. You can propose own ideas for potential tasks or research from which you and your host organization can benefit. Taking own imitative takes some energy but is quite often very rewarding. Hence I decided for my final internship paper I will write a think-piece (basically an article which includes own experience and opinions) on the concept of education as a cultural and social tool. I plan to explore the connected challenges and issues when it comes to educating Syrian refugee children living in camps in Lebanon. More specifically I want to talk about the challenges between the theoretical ideas and their actual practical implementations. Everyone has ideas and wants to be involved and wants to help this good cause but many don’t think about the challenges which come with implementing ideas in such an environment and thus unfortunately some ideas or planned activities help little or have little valuable effect. So hopefully if I succeed on creating a good piece of work and publish it, not only I will benefit from it but my organization as well.

Talking about challenges, learning Arabic is for sure a big one! Since my last blog post I have been taking classes for 4 weeks and have done quite some progress. The classes are twice a week and each lasts for 3h. They are split in to two blocks. In the first one we learn to read and spell the Arabic alphabet and in the second one we learn how to talk and have a conversation. In the beginning I was quite frustrated as I felt I am not fast enough, however, slowly but surely I got the hang of it. Now the course ends next week and I have learned the whole alphabet and can do basic reading. For some letters I still need my alphabet table but for most of them I actually don’t need it anymore. I am able to have a basic/simple conversation and I know quite a few words in general by now. Now I just need someone I can practice talking with and keep on doing exercises in the two school books I have. Apart from that it is a very useful language to know, I have a lot of fun with learning it so I truly hope I can keep up practicing and using it!

12171303_10206707716164852_1605762369_oNext to working and learning Arabic life here in Lebanon is good. We still have summer weather here whilst my friends in Sweden start wearing winter jackets. I do miss the Swedish autumn coziness, however, if I honestly think about it, I would get annoyed by the grayness and rain pretty quickly. Well the grass is always greener on the other side isn’t it…?  We use the weekends for travelling around the country which has been really great so far. The two bigger trips we did in the last weeks where to Byblos/Jbeil and to Tripoli. It is pretty easy to get around Lebanon with buses/vans and taxis and it’s really cheap as well. The trip to Byblos/Jbeil was really, really nice. It felt like a mini vacation from sometimes rather hectic Beirut. The old part of town is really pretty and calm. You can find many shops and souvenir stores however when we were there 12170943_10206707711404733_627956191_owhat you couldn’t find was tourists! Everything was fairly empty and strolling around was just relaxing. We had very good food at the old harbor and visited a big castle which had a great view over the whole town once you managed to get all the stairs up.  Our trip to Tripoli was quite different in comparison.

IMG_2630_adjustedI saw an event on Facebook about an organized tour to Tripoli and some friends recommended it as well to me. What you have to know, I am really really not a fan of guided tours. I much rather explore places on my own or with someone but not in a large tourist group. I think one reason for that is that I am still traumatized by a class trip to Italy in 12th grade where we had to attend a guided tour in almost every city we visited and well, let me put it this way, it felt like we visited every single city and town there is in whole Tuscany…. But I thought oh well why not giving it a try again, maybe it will be nice. The whole trip in total was nice, the tour, well, the guide had a megaphone… Now imagine Tripoli not being the most touristic town in the world and a group of around 30 stereotype looking tourists following a lady with a very loud megaphone. Yes. Awkward.

Well, we made the best out of it. We tried to walk last and after a while, oh the joy, the megaphone was broken. The good thing IMG_2484about taking the tour was we for sure got to see some corners of the city which we wouldn’t have found by ourselves and we got to know some very nice people in the group. Tripoli is a interesting city, the old part of town is quite beautiful and the food we had was just great. So overall we had a good time. In the evening back in Beirut we went to a wine festival in a big park close by to where we live. We went with one of the girls we got to know that day and a classmate of mine and her friends. You pay a bit less than 25 dollars entrance, you get a glass and then you walk around many, many tents put up by different winery and you can try as much wine as you want. A pretty neat concept I have to say and we had a really great time.

IMG_2383Other things which happened since my last blog post where for example our adventures with the Lebanese customs…. Let me just say that was probably the most ridiculous thing I have experienced here. Rickard wrote a whole blog post of its own on that one, you can read it here .  Apart from that we joined a gym here after all. We first thought we wouldn’t since it is really expensive here but then we found a small gym in our neighborhood. All the machines look like they come from the early 80s or late 70s but they work, everything is fairly fresh, the people there are nice and they have a women’s only room which I mostly have to myself when I am there. We also figured out why it is so popular for expats here to go to the cinema. Especially the cinema in the Souks here in Beirut is really fresh and nice, all movies are shown in original title and Arabic and French subtitles. When you sit in there and watch a movie it just feels like being back in Sweden. So if you want to feel like you are home again, just go watch a movie and catch  a break.

Lastly our flights to Egypt are finally booked, so we will have a 9 day vacation in November! The plan is to fly to Cairo and then travel around the country, we are currently planning the details and I will for sure tell you about it here on my blog once I am back! Thank you for reading, stay tuned and have a look at the picture series below.

– Children of Bekaa- 

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Hey there Lebanon!

I am sitting in a big fancy looking hall when suddenly the speakers start shrieking and with full blast comes out the Lebanese national IMG_1467anthem. It was almost comical, everyone rose up (the hall was full of expats and NGO workers and only a few people I would identify as local), no one sang, apart from the speaker in front of the hall together with the sound system which was judging by the sound quality at least 30 years old. This was my first official conference at my new internship here in Beirut, Lebanon.

Yes, I am running around the world again and enjoy it to the fullest. After two years absence I am finally back in the Middle East with all it’s beauty, quirks and annoyances. We arrived in Beirut the 26th of August after taking a stop in Athens to visit the Acropolis, and the last three, almost four weeks have been more than interesting. The city is vibrant, very much alive, full of contrasts, beautiful and ugly, kind and harsh at the same time. It’s the kind of city you want to explore and feel. We live in a residential area a bit outside the city center which usually surprises other expats when they hear about it but I IMG_1330really like it. It feels more real than for example Hamra, the central district. Walking through Hamra street (where I also work) feels almost like walking through any common Western city. I like the flat in which we live in it has a lot of charm and I already feel home here. Like I said, this city is full of contrasts you find rather fancy districts, there are many new houses and at the same time you can find houses where the remains of the civil war and the war in 2006 are still very visible, you can find hip areas, really normal residential areas and rather industrial like areas. There are lots of nice bars, clubs  and cafes here, the bar I spent my 25th birthday at (The Junkyard in Mar Mikhael) was just awesome and the altcity cafe in Hamra has been a lifesaver for Rickard as they have a lot of work space, fast internet and good food. Every day I hear Mosque singing which I have missed since I have been to the Middle East last 🙂

Another thing which I truly like here is the people. Most of them are really kind and welcoming. The only times I sometimes feel IMG_1472someone tries to take advantage of me not being from here is when I try to catch a taxi (or ‘service’,  a shared taxi) but slowly I know how much which distances should cost. So they usually quickly come to understand that they can’t fool me, or they still do and then it’s their bad they won’t make money of me as I have no problem with walking.  Apart from the lovely Lebanese people here I have met a nice Norwegian Girl, the people at work are really great too and another Italian friend currently lives in Beirut as well. On Monday I will start a Language course in Arabic (birthday money well invested!) which I very much look forward too and where I hopefully will also meet many interesting people!

Now to answer the question almost everyone has asked me; no I don’t feel unsafe. I have not ever felt unsafe in Beirut, I have walked through many areas, I have walked alone and I have been out night times. Also during the the travels we have done so far to other places in Lebanon I have always felt safe and welcome.

IMG_0378My internship at Kayany Foundation here is interesting and I think I can learn a lot here. The organisation works and does projects with Syrian refugees and focuses on education and building schools for children and youth in camps in the nearby Bekaa Valley. When I have worked here for a while I will dedicate a whole blog post to my work, for now this is more aboutIMG_0491 my first impressions of living in Lebanon 🙂

If you have been pampered by Swedish efficiency the past few years there are a few things to get accustomed to when living here. Let’s put it that way, almost all the ‘annoyances’ here have their bad and good sides, however,  it’s easy to romanticize things here as an European expat who knows that she can leave any time fancied and get back to her privileged country of origin. It is interesting to talk to people about the conditions here at first I have gotten the impression that many have somewhat accepted their state of being here and don’t care overly much, however, if you actually talk a bit more with them and basically ‘dig’ a bit most people are quite frustrated with many things here (this weekend I was sharing the back of a taxi with two twins, Lebanese women in their 40s who had a lot to say about that topic…). The political situation here has been and  is difficult and I am sure everyone has heard about the trash crisis here, which is only really the tip of the iceberg. I decided I will write my Master thesis about the political situation here and/or the general geopolitical situation of Lebanon and the connected issues and risks. I am currently doing a lot of research on it. Once I am really into the topic and feel comfortable in expressing my opinion I will dedicate a whole blog post to this topic as well.

Okay let’s get back to how I experience life here;
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Power cuts. Before coming here I expected 3h power cuts per day which usually should be easily dealt with by switching to a generator or an alternative power line. Reality looks a bit different, at least where we live and considering the last two weeks. Most days we experience three cuts and many of them can’t be countered by the alternative power line, leaving you without electricity and internet. Good things are ; I read more books, I spend less wasted time on the internet, if the cut happens at night candles make everything very cozy and I made tea on a gas stove for the first time in my life :P.
Bad things are; if you rely on the internet for work like Rickard does – you feel yourself pretty screwed sometimes running around Beirut finding a cafe with WiFi and power, or like the other night when the power cut while I stood under the shower and did not bring my phone or a candle with me into the bathroom… Since a couple of days the power has been a bit more reliable, let’s see if it stays that way.

Let’s get to the traffic and streets here –  I think Beirut is the least pedestrian friendly city I have ever visited. Cars drive where and how IMG_1095ever they want, red lights don’t necessarily mean they stop, they park everywhere which makes walking longer distances sometimes slightly challenging. Also, in Beirut you don’t stop a cab, the cab stops you – or honks at you. The more Western you look, the more honking. On the plus side – once I have lived here for a while my reflexes will be trained like they never have been trained before 😉 Also, interesting enough, there seem to be some unspoken rules for how to get your way as a pedestrian. Once you actually don’t stand like a scared tourist girl at the sidewalk waiting for ever to get over a street but simply demand your right to walk with some decisiveness and make eye contact you usually get your way without seeming to really upset anyone.  There are shared taxis which you can catch pretty much all over town and pay around 2 dollars to get around within the city,  there are also buses and mini vans which you can stop almost anywhere and hop on and hop off again when you want. I have come to really appreciate that concept when going to work. I still walk a lot since it is a nice way to get to know the city, by now I can almost find my way around without maps. However I really have to highlight I have never in my life felt so much appreciation for an app as I do for “Here Maps” this wonderful app has better maps than google maps (at least in Lebanon), it is for free and if you download the map for the country you are in (again for free) the app works beautifully offline and can navigate you. Especially in the first two weeks I would have felt pretty lost without it.

IMG_1462The weather. The weather has been tough on me especially in the first week. It 20150910_205701has been very hot and really, really humid. Now slowly slowly it gets a bit cooler here but I yet haven’t managed to arrive at work not sweaty. We have an AC at home which works when the main power lines functions so that’s at least something. I start to appreciate the evenings here, now you can actually sit outside and enjoy it. Especially on the wonderful balcony we have at home which has come to be my favorite place to hang out if the heat allows it. A week or two ago we had a sandstorm here for a few days. I was breathing dust for about three days and that in combination with the heat and humidity was hard to bear sometimes (the pictures below which look really dusty are from those days) but ever since the storm passed the weather has become nicer and nicer. October is supposed to be a really nice month, around 25 degrees and a lot less humid. Looking forward.

Apart from my field trips into the Bekaa valley with work we have visited two other places in Lebanon so far; two cities in the South, Saida and Tyr also called Sour. Taking a mini van to Saida was more than easy and we spend a nice day there walking along the water side, visiting an old crusader castle and had amazing Lebanese food. At Tyr/Sour we spend a day and night this weekend and it was a really great mini vacation. The city is known for its nice beach so we went swimming for the first time since we came to Lebanon. IMG_1375The water was crystal clear! Swimming in Beirut is not really a great idea as the water is rather dirty. We spend the night at a nice apartment which we rented over Air BnB and went out for dinner at the harbor in the evening. Now we just came back home and we actually had electricity and internet so I thought I finally get to my blog again. If the internet allows it I will attach some pictures to this post from Beirut, Saida and Tyr/Sour. Now that I got started to write about my time here I will update my blog every 3-4 weeks again or if something interesting happens earlier as well so you can follow me around. Stay tuned and thank you for reading!

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The view from our Room during the Sandstorm

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Travelling in the minivans

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The view from our balcony in Tyr/Sour

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Probably one of the worst advertisements for a seafood restaurant I have seen

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One of the many cats in Beirut

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Fancy Architecture

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Beautiful Stairs on Gemmayze Street

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Sandstorm Remains

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Having an emergency case at work when having no power at home is not fun, thankfully many Cafes have WiFi

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Our lovely Balcony at home, Rickard trying to make Semi-Lebanese Food 😛

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Contrasts

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I spend my 25th Birthday at this great Bar, after telling them its my birthday we got lots of free stuff and a birthday desert with fireworks  😀

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Balcony Evenings

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Power Cuts

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Power Cuts 2

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Street in Beirut

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Dusty City and tenting Activits

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Downtown

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Mohamed Al-Amin Mosque aka the Blue Mosque at the Martyr Square

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Old Buildings

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Tyr/Sour

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Between the Flags

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Swimming and Lebanese Beer

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After enjoying the sea and sun

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UN Visit

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Evening in Tyr/Sour

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Sunset

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Sunny Flag

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Lebanon!

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‘ There’s something in your face’

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Dinner at the Harbor

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Who would have thought ruins close on Sundays…

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Mediterranean at it’s best

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One of the Schools built by Kayany in the Bekaa

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Bekaa

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Camp Life

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Taking the Bus to Saida

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Mosque

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Saida

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Enjoying Lebanese Food

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Saida

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Crusader Castle in Saida

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Enjoying the View

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Saida

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People of Saida

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In our Neighborhood

Next adventure ahead !!!

Life is getting really exciting again!

Everything is taken care of and fixed, the next adventure is only  7 weeks away!  I got an internship at an organisation in Beirut, Lebanon our new home for almost 5 months starting from the end of August. Contract is signed, flights are booked, and a place to live is found.  I will work with an organisation which works with Syrian refugees with a focus on education for the new Syrian generations. ( I will write more specifics once I have started working there, so stay tuned!). I am very excited that I will live once more in the Middle Eastern region which I am so fascinated of and interested in. Also, that of course will mean that this blog will be quite lively in the coming months 🙂  My beloved adventure-partner Rickard will once again join me for an adventure and will work from home while staying in Beirut. While we lived in Jerusalem that worked pretty well, so let’s hope we can work around the rather bad internet in Lebanon.

Lebanon ?! You might ask… I have gotten all sorts of reaction to my choice of country from ‘ oh my that is so amazing’  to ‘what?!?! Isn’t that all war zone???’  Yes, Lebanon is not Sweden and it is of course less safe than the latter but especially central Beirut is considered as safe and it is a vibrant, diverse and beautiful city. Lebanon is an incredible country with a long history. War, conflicts but also amazing culture and people.  I have friends who used to live in Beirut and who are currently living there and they are all in love with the city. The place where we will live at is a big shared apartment where we will live with a local as well who will help us with information needed when living in and exploring Beirut. Have a look at this article or maybe only at the very short video on top of the page http://edition.cnn.com/2015/06/20/travel/beirut-bourdain-parts-unknown/  , my favorite quote in this text is probably the following;

“A place where bikinis and hijabs appeared to coexist seamlessly — where all the evils, all the problems of the world could be easily found, right next to and among all the best things about being human and being alive. This was a city where nothing made any damn sense at all — in the best possible way (CNN, 2015).”

I have talked a lot to people who used to live in Beirut, who come originally from there and to people who currently live there,  they all love it and  I am very confident that we will have a great time with rich experiences!  And not to forget, I really believe it is a highly important cause I will be involved with at my internship, a cause I burn for and am ready to invest a lot.

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Best classmates!

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Midsummer food!

Apart from this great news the summer has gone pretty well so far, I had my last exam at Uni in early June and since then I have spent my days with planning, meeting and spending time with friends,  we had a really nice midsummer day and once the Swedish summer came around enjoying the sun was a long anticipated option as well. It was actually really hot the past few days or week, so yes, summer in Sweden is possible!  Tomorrow I will fly to Germany to visit my family and friends without any studying stress, I look very much forward to that! Especially to see my Mum and my beloved cat Jimmy !!! My Dad, friends and so on,  without any stress! 🙂

After Germany there is pretty little time left in Sweden. I will finally visit Stockholm (can you believe this? I have lived in Sweden for over 4 years now and have never been in Stockholm!), we will go to Austria in early August with a short stop after in Germany again, and then it will be all about getting the flat ready and clean for a really nice Icelandic couple who will rent the place while we are gone, and of course packing!  One suitcase will have to be enough for 5 months, I remember the challenge from moving to Jerusalem ….
Below you can find a few more pictures from the recent weeks, enjoy them and keep checking my blog soon it will be very interesting again to pay it a visit!

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Enjoy the sun and free Lunch at Kontrapunkt

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Summer vitamins 🙂

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Relaxing at the water side with a view of the Turning Torso

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Sun, music, friends – summer!

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Ready for midsummer!

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Noni definitely thinks it is a little warm at the moment!

It is April 2015 already?! Studying & Internship Hunt – Some Reflections

Since the new year started I have neglected my blog, I had several ideas what to write about in between but I never felt I have the inner calmness nor the time to really get at it. It feels like a lot and not much at the same time has happened in the last four months. I studied a lot, I got a mean flu virus which made me be bound to my bed for a few weeks, I went to Budapest to visit my dearest Marie, I made plans –well I tried to make plans – for my upcoming internship in September and I had my beloved mother visit me here in Sweden over Easter. I meant to go to Germany as well but didn’t find  the time and will now go in May for a family reunion event instead.

My studies go well, however, I don’t like my current course very much (Theories of Social Sciences) so I catch myself frequently dreaming away about the future. In one year and two month I will be finished with my Master Studies (if everything goes according to plan) and I will enter the “grown-up-working-world.” When browsing some current job vacancies which sound interesting to me (that currently is conflict and security analysis, project management in different areas of conflict resolution etc.) I painfully have to admit that without much working experience in those fields you don’t get very far. The highlight in my browsing was a job vacancy by the UN for a position as a chief of branch in political affairs, and it stated; “required work experience a minimum of fifteen years in international relations, political affairs, conflict resolution, preventive diplomacy or peacebuilding.”

So far I can “proudly” say I have (next to little jobs and continuous volunteering) 5 months of work experience in the field, acquired during my internship in Jerusalem at the NGO CDCD in winter 2013/2014.  So when sitting in another lecture, in which yet another teacher blabbers something about which kind of epistemic approach can be found in that and that theory I tend to feel restless about my future. Yet I shouldn’t forget that a master’s degree in the field I am interested in is kind of vital. All the jobs I have looked at so far (e.g. at the UN) require a masters degree. So I am pretty certain I am doing the right thing which I have to remind myself from time to time, and especially, in the rather uninspiring course I am currently involved in.

At the moment I am searching for an internship placement for the coming September for 5 months as a part of my studies, which turns out to be a bigger challenge than it was during my Bachelor Studies. Well, admittedly back then I was incredibly lucky. I sent one application to an organization which sounded interesting, which then only a few weeks later accepted me. And not only that, it was an amazing place to work and I learned a lot. Working in East Jerusalem also strengthened my interested towards the Middle Eastern region. Already before I did most of my research about conflict in this region and since quite while I have focused most of my papers on conflicts in the region as well. So you can guess where I would like to do my next internship, yes indeed, in the Middle East.

I applied to several organizations in Beirut, Lebanon but have not heard back from them yet. I had also applied to a great organization in Bahrain however it turned out that the placement would be in their office in Copenhagen. I still consider doing that, but to be perfectly honest I would like to go somewhere further away.

I feel fairly stressed about finding an internship at the moment, however, I think I am more stressed than I actually have to be simply due to the group pressure which unavoidably is created when all the students in one class almost every day talk about it. “Have you heard anything back yet?” “I have sent x amount of applications“(many more than I did…), “I have gotten an internship” and so on. I think this is a very normal phenomenon but I can’t help it to get more stressed even though time wise I am apparently still doing pretty okay. Many internship calls for coming autumn are not even published yet and several other deadlines are not till the end of April/beginning on May. Still, being spoiled by my smooth experience with applying to my last internship, I feel a little uneasy for now.  But I am also sure that I will find something suitable in time. Gotta get started to accumulate those 15 years work experience don’t I? 😉

Sometimes I think about some trips I have done , road trip through Morocco, road trip through Jordan and the road trip through the Westbank and Israel/Palestine and then I just want to escape little Malmö and get out into the world. Admittedly though Malmö gets a lot nicer now that spring slowly hits. The sun comes out more often, the ever-lasting Swedish winter darkness has disappeared and the temperature got up a little. I look forward to the summer, to being outside, to hopefully travelling and to have this semester done in the beginning of June. Then it’s one year down, one to go!

Everyone who reads this who is currently searching for an internship or a job or simply tries to figure out their future; You will manage it, the best things in life take some time, so don’t get discouraged 🙂


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Autumn Reflections

It has been a while since the last post. I didn’t write anything for almost two months. It feels like much has happened since we got back from our hiking trip and since my master program has started, and at the same time it feels like nothing has happened at all. One thing is sure though, it got darker. Autumn and winter in Sweden can be quite the challenge for keeping up the motivation and mood. A day light lamp helps. Get one and you will see.

I have been studying a lot. The first course of the program was really good and I enjoyed meeting new people and extending my knowledge on things I had previously studied. The

20141029_14440310420035_737073519675291_3082026501881859473_nsecond course (methodology) turns out to be more of an annoyance. It seems to be a common phenomenon that courses in methodology are poorly structured, badly organized and often feel pointless.

Being the student representative of the program, others and I have had a meeting with the union about the problems in the course. The result was that we will have a meeting with the responsible teachers and the union together next week. Let’s see how able the teacher are to take criticism. The course lasts 10 weeks and I will dance in joy when it’s over. The course which will follow after is on the topic of globalization, conflict, security and the state, and I have high hopes that it will be far more enjoyable.

For a few days in October I have been to Germany which, as always, was too short and really nice.I had some fun time with new friends, especially on Halloween with fellow students at a

10700395_10204217668195209_3414285736167084061_o‘sitning’, a Swedish student tradition. When you study at Lund University you become a member of a Nation which organizes events. You can work with them as well which is usually quite a lot of fun. You can book a sitning at the nations which means big amounts of students get together for a three course dinner which usually has a theme. While having dinner it is quite common that people sing selected sitning songs and then  go clubbing afterwards. All together for a very student friendly price.

Apart from that I have spent some fun times with old friends and Miles visited us in Malmö ! I worked together with him in Jerusalem and he has become a dear friend. The time with him here was a little bit like being back in Jerusalem 🙂  Also I just spent a lovely time in Denmark with Rickards family in a beautiful Hotel about an hour away from Copenhagen. But mostly it has been studying, studying, studying. All work no play makes jack a dull boy. Didn’t that saying go something like that ?

It has been 10 months ago since I got back from Jerusalem, and the more time passes the more I start missing  it , the work , the people and the city. Following closely the events which have been occurring during and after the last Gaza incident makes me want to go there even more and get into work again, even if the changes we create are small, one has to start somewhere.

IMG_8146A bit more than one year ago we did the Road Trip through Jordan, one of my best trips in my life ! I miss travelling and experiencing new things. Being in an unknown environment.IMAG1282_1 I do love Malmö and I like my life in Sweden but the amount or kind of travelling this year somehow did not satisfy my wanderlust. Maybe that is one reason why this blog has gotten not so much of my attention lately. With all the studying and not much travelling or no extreme experiences I often felt uninspired to write.

Next year in September I will be able to go abroad again for a 5 month internship. I look much forward to that. So far I am quite certain it will be the middle Eastern region again but nothing is set yet. Over all the studying  I had not much time to do research about it. I could mostly consider Beirut, Lebanon or Bahrain.  If I am perfectly honest I would love to go back to Palestine but future wise it would be smart to gather experiences in different environments.

Until then I am not sure how much time there is for travelling. Over Christmas I will go to Germany which I look forward to.  Maybe I will manage to do something over Easter so I don’t have to wait for the summer. “The Wanderlust has got me… by the belly-aching fire” ( Robert W. Service, Rhymes of a Rolling Stone).  

20141101_165108Soon Malmö will shine with many lights and Christmas Decorations, it will get even darker and colder but at the same time cozier and I have a reason to procrastinate with baking. I 2014-10-23 16.45.22remember in 2011 we went to Cran Canaria for a week in early December, that made me appreciate Malmö and its winter beauty a lot more. I wish I would have the chance to get out for a few days to somewhere , where it’s warm, where I don’t have to study and then come back with new energy and much more appreciation for Malmö’s dark but glittering winter. Well, overall I should not complain. A strong case of wanderlust is not a severe problem 😉 I have no regrets that I decided to do study a master program as I think in the future when I start being part of the grown up working world it will come in handy especially in my field.

So, I wish you all a lovely winter , a beautiful Christmas time and to my friends in Palestine and Israel I hope you stay safe. I will see you soon again !

Hiking Adventures in Sarek National Park

 

 

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“No , no this is not gonna work, the water is going above my hip and the current pulls my legs to the side, I am coming back,” I screamed to Rickard who was waiting at the side of the ice cold river.  We couldn’t make it, again. This was only one of the experience which really got my heart beat up while we went hiking in the North of Sweden in the Sarek National Park.

 

Two years ago we went for the first time for ‘proper’ hiking up North in Sweden in the Padjelanta National Park. 160km in approx. 12 days. I never thought I am a hiking person . In fact, when I was younger I always thought hiking is boring, exhausting and simply not my thing. Well, I was wrong. When we decided to go for IMG_7831the first time two years ago I was skeptical but open minded. We got really, really good hiking gear, we did thorough planning and spend a lot of thought on what will be too much and what not. To summarize it ; I had an awesome time. The combination of walking, experiencing the nature and the rewarding views after climbing a peak and the break of everyday life was just great. However, that trip was the whole way through on trails, path and in between there were huts maintained by Sami people ( the native Swedish people) who sold food and had emergency phones. So overall it felt pretty safe even though we were in the middle of no where.

One year ago we did a smaller trip at the border to Norway. It was really nice, the nature was beautiful but it was super easy terrain and almost through the whole time we had cellphone reception which we did not have the year before. It gives you a whole different feeling if you simply don’t have the possibility to call10252019_10203574958447867_5412173936381851949_n someone, check facebook or your emails. It feels at first odd and then simply very very free.

After the two hiking experiences we thought we are up for a bigger challenge. We went for Sarek National Park. It is a neighboring park of Padjelanta but much more demanding, more difficult terrain and no roads, paths or huts are existent. The homepage of Sarek actually states: “

“I want to go hiking in Sarek”, you say. We, the administrators of the national park, hope you know what this involves.
Sarek is a magnificent untouched alpine area with sharp peaks and glaciers. Between the mountain massifs there is a network of deeply cut valleys with swift streams.In other words, the terrain is physically demanding for the would-be hiker.
Sarek is a wilderness without roads. The central sections of the national park are many kilometers from inhabited areas. There are no touristic facilities established, no trails or cabins here. The hiker is in serious trouble if a major accident occurs.
We want to warn you for hiking in Sarek if you are inexperienced. You should always have successfully accomplished a fair number of mountain expeditions before you set your sights to Sarek. “

Yes, I know, sounds hard doesn’t it ? We decided to go for it anyway. 13 days of actual hiking , approx. 125 km, Rickard carried 27 kg in his backpack and I had approx. 18kg. Out of that 14 kg were food. The rest was tent, clothes, stove, rain ponchos, knifes, hygienic utensils and other handy things. We had a paper map and also a phone with the maps and GPS. We had a little solar panel which we strapped on the 10421198_10203574959927904_6813787068619433939_nbackpack while walking to be able to recharge the phone in the evening.  Also, we actually invested quite some money into an emergency device. You press a button in a case of emergency and it sends a satellite signal to the rescue station of the country you are in, and they will send a helicopter to pick you up. Luckily we did not need it, however, it was a good feeling to have it.

To be perfectly honest, we underestimated the challenge a bit. We were aware that this will be harder than anything we have done before, however, we didn’t think it will be that hard. We planned a pretty detailed route and time table, after two days we started to doubt if we would make it in the time frame we had thought of…….. What we simply underestimated was how incredibly slow you walk in that difficult terrain ! For example sometimes the amount of kilometers we wanted to go on one day weren’t really much , like 9km. BUT our average speed was often somewhere around 1,5km/h. Crazy huh? We often thought “maaaannn if we would walk that in the city it would be done in 2 hours and now this takes 6 hours instead.IMG_8918

So after 3 days we sat down considering changing the route completely and hike over to Padjelanta, where we had done the trip two years ago, and take the same route again. We discussed it thoroughly and came to the conclusion that would feel like giving up. Sarek would have defeated us after three days. That simply did not go well together with our egos 😉 So what we in the end did was we re-planned the route to  (at least we thought that…..) make the route shorter. Still, we were afraid we would not make it back in time for the train which we had booked and paid a lot of money for. So we started to have hard days, IMG_8768and with hard days I mean 12 hour days. Yes we had breaks but still we would arrive in the evening at the next tent spot as late as 23.30 pm. After eating dinner around 12.00 am we finally were in bed and sometimes one of us would say through a yawn “should we play some cards or something?” The usual answer was hmm…meh…… and a few minutes later we would sleep. There was just no energy left. It was truly pushing the limits but at the same time we got rewarded by
the amazing landscapes and views when we once again climbed a mountain or made our way down into valley.

After some days even though it was hard we started to get the hang of what kind of terrains where to be expected and how to treat them differently. We developed favorites and most hated terrains; conveniently enough Rickard and I had quite the different opinion on which one are the hardest, so when one of us had a hard time the other one could motivate. The terrains I disliked the most where steep downhills with head-high bushes and streams in between which you would often only notice when you stepped/fell into them . My second most disliked terrain was very hard uphills where I sometimes would simply either reach the limits of my energy or my calves would burn so much that I IMG_8158just had to stop. Rickard’s most disliked terrains where when we had to walk over rocks and stones over long distances, a few valleys we had to climb down or up would really only consist of huge boulders and small stones which could be quite annoying . His second most disliked thing was crossing rivers. Rickard being not the biggest fan of water and being slightly sensitive to coldness, I mostly took over the motivational part when river crossing was on the schedule.

We had to cross quite the number of rivers , most of them originating from glaziers and therefore being really cold and often quite strong. Rickard has hiking rubber boots which got him through less deep waters and even if the water was too deep for them , they would dry quite quickly. I , however, have normal hiking boots so I did the river crossings in Crocs. Yes Crocs. Even though I am not very sensitive to cold water, sometimes the water was so cold it really took my breath away. Crossing a river is never a fast thing to do as one has to consider that it potentially could be a dangerous thing to do. We always had to test the water first, how deep it is, how strong the current is and if the riverbed is either made out of stone or mud. The probably biggest challenge we encountered while hiking was actually related to a river crossing.

We had planned to cross a bigger river in the beginning of a famous valley called Rapadalen. While walking down a mountain towards the valley we could already see that we might have underestimated how 10603265_10203676392823663_5461524550378112499_nIMG_8816big the river is. When we arrived at the river our doubts got confirmed. We faced a big river with a strong current. Even though almost knowing that we won’t be able to cross at that point we tried and failed. Too deep, to strong, too muddy. So we kept on walking along the river and tried several times, and failed. We failed crossing it for almost 2 days and in the end we had to make an ~18 km detour.  On top of the frustration about all the failed crossing attempts, we had to deal with bushy and muddy terrain along a mountain side the whole time. It was really hard to keep up the good spirits. After almost 2 days we finally found a spot where we hoped we would make it, even tough it was still pretty deep and strong. You are actually never supposed to cross rivers where the water level rises above your knee as it can be very dangerous in case you fall and the current pulls you under the water or else. We decided we will max. go to our hips. In only underwear and Crocs , holding hands with Rickard (which you are actually not supposed to do either as one falls, the other one might fall too- but in our case having found only one good walking stick which Rickard was holding in his other hand , we had no other chance). We took it slow and careful and stabilized properly after each step. The water rose just above my hip and was freezing when we reached the middle but then we were simply not willing to fail again. AND WE DID IT !!! When we finally reached the other side we started screaming and dancing on our numb feet and laughing like hysterical people. It was such a strong feeling of achievement, I felt more achieved than when I got my Bachelors degree in June 😛

The whole time while hiking we saw 42 people.  13 in first two days , then we didn’t see a single soul for 7 days, and then towards the end getting closer to the border of the park we saw the remaining 29 people. It felt quite odd not seeing anyone for a whole week but it also felt really free and refreshing. We met many reindeer which actually helped us quite a bit since they often created little trails to walk on in difficult terrains. We did not see any moose. Again. I live over three years in Sweden and still have not seen a single one !

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After the first 9 days and the successful river crossing the terrain started to be a bit easier and we noticed that we actually have more time left than we thought, which took away the pressure a lot. We finally had time to actually enjoy the time in the tent as well , playing cards and word games, watching movies on Rickard’s phone which was an absolute highlight on some evenings 😛 and simply laying around and being a little lazy. We were very lucky with the weather apart from the last days when it rained fairly often and even stormed in some nights. One night the wind and rain was so strong

IMG_8496we were truly concerned that the tent is going to break. And it got cold in the night, really cold. When one believes the weather forecast, it was 1 to 5 degrees in the night. Thankfully we have great sleeping bags and well isolated mattress against the coldness in the ground. One thing, apart from being cold, which I really can’t stand is having wet pants from the rain. I can deal with wet hair, arms, upper body, even feet but when my pants get wet and stick to my body and the cold wind blows, yea it’s just not fun. Once we tried to make a fire to dry some of our stuff , when Rickard finally (and believe me it took time…. :P) got a fire started, it started to rain. When he finally almost succeed again it was so late that we had to go to bed as we couldn’t stay up all night watching the fire because we had to start early the next morning.

10411901_10203574959127884_6755736360747589261_nWe did quite the spot-on planning with food. As I said, we brought 14 kilos of food. Sounds much doesnt it ? It actually wasn’t. We usually had a small breakfast, a full meal for lunch and a fairly small dinner again and in between some snacks for keeping up the energy , like nuts and dried fruits. The snacks ran out fairly fast but the other food was well planned, we got back with one pack of chewing gum and one instant coffee. 🙂 Surprisingly enough (as I usually have bad luck) none of us got really hurt apart from the normal events of back and foot pain. I fell a few times but never hurt myself badly. Rickard got a bad blister which we had to take care of several times a day but apart from that nothing really happened.

On day 6 our camera rolled into a river. Bugger. But at least we have images for the first half and the insurance will cover it. So we decided that we wont get too upset over it. We got quite a few very nice shots as you can see (by the way, you can click all of the small images to watch them bigger) 🙂

In the end we managed to be back 1/2 a day early. We had booked a bus which would pick us up the next day at 14.00 pm.  We didn’t note down any other bus times and we obviously couln’t check them online as we still had no cellphone reception. Rickard faintly remembered that there were two busses a day, and one other might ( !) be around 10.00 am . We took the chance and the next morning we packed up and went at 9.30 am to the stop. At 09.40  it started to rain a little. By 9.50 the rain was pouring down. We have two rain ponchos , we used one to cover the bags and the other one to cover ourselves. We sat on a rock cramped up under that poncho and waited. Waiting for something, freezing in heavy rain, which you are not sure if it will actually arrive is tough. At 10.15 our feet had fallen asleep and our good spirits where gone. What if we would have to go through this til 14.00 pm…
Suddenly Rickard screamed: ” the bus, the buuuuuusssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” And we jumped out of our rain poncho screaming and waving through the rain. Rickard who had not considered that his whole left leg fell asleep completely, jumped from the rock, almost fell, lost his shoe with a face of extreme confusion until he noticed he can’t really feel his leg. I bet it was a funny scene to watch for the bus driver. When the bus door opened we must have looked truly pity worthy. Wet to the bone , jumping and trying to get back the feeling in our feet and legs again , pleading the bus driver to take us in even though our ticket were for the later bus. We were welcome to board. I had never been as happy to be in a bus as I have been that day.  🙂

On the way back in the train we had our private sleeping cabin (on the way up we had a shared one) which was really luxurious after having slept in a tent for two weeks. 23 hours train ride was suddenly not really a bad thing any more. Coming back from hiking having a bed, different kinds of food, a proper bathroom, internet and cellphone reception again seemed enormously great. You really get to appreciate the ‘normal’ things again when you have been out in the wilderness for a IMG_7747certain amount of time !

After finishing the hike we talked about if we would have done it , if we would have known before how hard it would be. We came to the conclusion that we are incredibly happy and proud that we have done it but probably would have planned an easier route and not cross the whole park. It was one of the most physically demanding things I have done in my life so far and I am extremely proud that we after all managed so well. I’d say we are a good team in mastering adventures 🙂  Sarek was demanding and hard but at the same time incredibly beautiful and rewarding .

Now being back home my Master Studies at Lund University have started and I am most of the times bend over some books as the reading work load is ,well, challenging. So far I really like it and am pretty optimistic about the upcoming two years. In one year I will do an internship again as a part of my studies and at the latest then a new adventure is on the schedule 🙂 I would love to go into the Middle Eastern Region again, I have some ideas but no concrete plans yet, we will see 🙂 I am also sure that I will run into some other adventures before that, and then I will of course write about it here and you will hopefully enjoy reading it 🙂

 

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Sikia, Greece !

chalkidiki2_clip_image002_0000With almost more freckles than sun tan and unfortunately 19 mosquito bites I am sitting in the midday heat on my bed writing while looking out 10404484_10203338645820199_8609778010010199365_nof the window over the hills which surround Sikia. A little breeze comes into my room and I have to admit life is pretty good, even though the mosquito seem to be overly attached to me 😉
Sikia is a little village in Greece on one of the peninsula in the region Chalkidiki. It’s the middle peninsula (see image) and called  Sitonia. 2 hours by car from Thessaloniki. My Mother and I came here for vacation the first time in 1999 when I was 8 years old. Since then we came over here almost every year until three years ago when I moved to Sweden. Now we are back and it feels like home. I am almost 24 now so the first time we came here is 16 years ago. Crazy. 16 years passed and every time we come back here and drive into the village I look up the hills where always a single tree was standing in something what looked like a little dent on the hill. Now the three has another tree besides him which spends him company. ( You can click all images to watch them in big).

20140702_20060520140701_161225Mum and I always rent a car at the airport and drive along the coast up to Sikia, the last bit of the journey is always the nicest since you have a great view over the Mediterranean sea. Having a car in Sikia is handy since the beach is about 10 min driving away. There are buses as well and of course cabs but an own car it’ just nicer. In the first years we stayed at a house of friends which was build on a little hill with a view over the village. We had a little apartment inside that house which was cozy and had a typical Greek little kitchen and a big balcony. A garden build on the stones of the hill was full of flowers and had on the opposite of it a tiny house where the toilet and the shower was in. We called it the Akropolis. It was annoying to walk over there to use the bathroom and hot water was only available when the sun had heated it up but still, it had its charm 🙂 Later one of the house owners built a cute, tiny bathroom in the apartment. 20140701_161215I loved being at that house as a child and I would spend lots of time reading on the balcony, having breakfast with Mum or just looking over the village.

In later years we started living at a house of a friend of my Mum. This house is big, beautiful and really nice to stay at. It has a balcony as well with a great view over the village and a big garden. The door and the windows are painted in that typical Greek blue, which I love so much and every years we stayed at this house we had some cats around which appreciated very much when we gave them some food. This year we have IMAG0774 compared to the other years not many around. Three which are there every day and one or two which sometimes comes by to steal some food from the others. Two of them are Mum and Kid which enjoy playing around in the garden. I think it has another kitten which always sits on the neighbors roof and screams Maybe its stuck there, it never comes down. Maybe tonight we will try to rescue it and with my bad luck I hopefully won’t hurt myself doing it 😉
IMAG0780_BURST002_COVERThe village never changes much but it is noticeable that many people have left. More and more houses are empty and slowly taken over by nature. IMAG0777_BURST002Our favorite restaurant is long closed and not so many friends we used to have are around anymore. When I was younger we met every year many known faces. Now it is less but some are still here. Mum and I have a good friend from England who lives in Greece and has a house in Sikia. It is always really nice to meet her again. Her son is visiting at the moment, who I also know since I was a kid, and tonight we gonna have dinner together. My childhood friend which I got to know in the first years , a German girl who lives in Greece, I will see again as well tomorrow. I always liked her a lot and I didn’t see her in many years and I look much forward seeing her again !

We weren’t here the last three years and coming back now after finishing my Bachelor Studies in Sweden and having my Master Studies ahead of me feels very calming and relaxing. I somehow have the feeling I can relax here even more than I used to. When I was younger I could never wait to go to the beach, downtown or out for dinner. The time around midday when it is too hot to really do anything I often felt was too long even though I always loved to read for hours. Now I enjoy the siesta time and I enjoy taking it easy. I am not bored and I rather feel the time flies by. Maybe that’s how it is when one gets old 😉
10464263_10203344731412335_1760264349279055170_nIt is a long time ago that I went for a vacation like this. For pure relaxation, staying at one spot, not travelling around and spending lots of time drinking ice coffee and swimming. I love adventures, road trips, travelling far and doing lots of things but this is very nice too. It is nice that Mum and I keep up this tradition and 10 days are not too long either. In August I will go hiking with Rickard high up in Sweden again in an area with the highest mountains and no hiking trails, so I will get my adventure there 🙂
I have so many memories of the time I have spent here in Sikia, if I would write them all down this post would be way too long. However a few things which come into my mind I would like to share.
A must is the ice coffee called Frapée at cafes in the center of the village after breakfast and before the siesta. Sometimes we drive to Sarti a rather 20140630_122542~2touristic place approx. 8 km away from Sikia where we go shopping and spend some time at the cafes along the waterside. As I mentioned before siesta time is relaxing and very calm. Full of reading, naps or writing 20140630_123356 (1)postcards. Yes I still write postcards and I love it. People should do it more often even when they could send an email instead.
Talking about emails, we have no internet at the house , so just when we go to a cafe which has wifi I get to check mails, Facebook, news etc. Back in the old days we first had no internet at all and then after a while they had internet in the local internet cafe where we would go to check mails one or two times during our stay. I have to say I don’t miss it. It is nice for once not be over rolled by Facebook, Whatsapp, mails and what not, and if you really need to communicate there are still SMS.
I am reading a great book at the moment, Mum bought it for me in Germany so I read it in German but it is originally from the UK. It is called 20140701_161151“The adventures of Goodnight and Loving” by Leslie Thomas, written in 1996. The German title is “Die unfreiwillige Reise des Mister Goodnight.” Everyone who likes life, travelling, is sometimes bored of daily-normal life or simply likes adventures but is not sure how, or if, going for one would be a good idea should read it. It is a ‘light’ book and even though I have only started a few days ago I am already over page 200 🙂 so go to your local book dealer or library and get on it ! 🙂 You won’t regret it.

IMAG0742In the late afternoon we always drive to the beach where I try since days to become brown and not only very full of freckles 😛 Swimming is amazing here since the water is crystal clear (if there wasn’t just a storm) and really warm. My favorite beach is still Linaraki . It is a huge bay and on the weekend fairly full, however, during the week not very much. This year we didn’t come during the high season which rather starts in the middle of July, so often we have many meters to the left and right from where we lay 🙂 The water can be calm like in a bathtub and can have waves as well. Yesterday the waves were a little higher and we jumped over and into them. Lots of fun ! There are several smaller bays around as well which are nice but not ideal for swimming rather for snorkeling since there are many reefs in the water.
IMAG0752After the beach we often stop at a supermarket next to a gas station where since always sits a rather ‘big’ women at the counter. We call it ‘the supermarket of the chubby one’ and it’s a tradition to stop there and see if she is still there and buy some stuff. When I was a kid, I always would go inside there without shoes because the cold tiles under the feet always felt wonderful. I did that again yesterday. Still feels great 🙂
Sikia has still inhabitants which take it pretty serious with going to the church, praying and singing. Which one could think is nice BUT the priest  here, well lets put it in that way, is a bit over enthusiastic with his religious duties. Every Sunday in the very early morning first the bells start ringing but not the nice kind,no. It sounds like an alarm , like the world is going under. In the first years here I always got scared later then annoyed. After the bells the praying starts and believe it or not, the prayers are transmitted over speakers through the whole village and last quite the while 😛 But even this annoyance has become part of our tradition and last Sunday when the bells went all nuts I was laying in my bed grinning over the fact that this still had not changed. I remember one year someone sneaky cut the cables of the speakers and no praying could be transmitted, that was (at least for me) really nice 😉
10439029_10203344882456111_3964984915309628150_nI love Greek food, so dinner time is always great. Most of the time we go out in the village but sometimes we 20140702_200846drive somewhere like to my favorite restaurant at a beach. It is called Zorbas and sits on a little hills directly above the water. When I was younger me and friends would always climb down there and feed the fish with bread left overs from dinner. Sitting there and watching over the ocean is pure bliss.
After arriving there yesterday, however, we had to notice that it sadly had closed…. But on the other side of the beach there is another restaurant with an almost equally nice view and really good food.The nights are warm and full of stars, since Sikia is not very big there is not much light which lets you really enjoy the night sky. Having a last drink in the night watching over the village and listen to the sound of it, is just great.
10455434_690572290992081_1285210970646812170_nA few days ago (as probably many of you know) Greece played its last game in the world cup this year which is sad however; we had an awesome time at a bar watching it! There is a bar at the village center or square called Queens Bar. We went there before it had this name and before they completely renewed it. All in the style of the music band Queen and many other pictures of Rock legends. They really invested time and work in it and the owners are really nice 🙂 We watched the game there and I can’t remember I ever got so worked up over a German game like I did over that game !! It was great atmosphere even though there weren’t so many people in the bar. Sadly Greece lost but at least we had a lot of fun ! The next day Germany played and we left after 45 min to watch the rest at home where I overslept the goals made my Germany 😛
IMAG0783Sikia is also nice because it has no tourist overload, there are always a few other Germans or people like us who come back often for vacation but that’s pretty much it. Sarti the other close by village rather reminds me of a tiny version of the ‘Ballermann’ in Spain. If you want a nice and relaxed vacation which is not about being on the run all the time but still don’t want the typical all inclusive touristic hotel stuff then you should come here. If you feel active you can still go hiking, do donkey riding in the hills, go diving, take a boat trip to look at the half island Athos where only monks are allowed to step on (we did that in the first year and dolphins where following the boat 🙂 ) or you can take trips to Marmaras, Torini or Nikiti. We have done all this years ago and for now rather feel like lots of relaxation 😉

Let’s see how well it works to upload this later from a cafe, internet is not the fastest here but as well rather ‘relaxed’  😛
Next week I am back in Sweden and then it the beginning of August adventure hiking is on the program 😀 the trains up north are booked, 24 hours up and 23 hours down. We have beds in the night train and on the way back we even have our on sleeping cabin 🙂 I will soon write a post about the trip and which route we plan to hike and so on , so stay tuned 🙂 I wish you all a great Summer and thank you for reading !

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To Marie

I came home at 06.30 am on this Sunday morning, 1. of June, after walking you home
I walked through the empty and already sunny Malmö, listening to music on your old ipod
It was a long time ago that I had such an amazing night out
Walking you home and having a good talk and many laughs just topped off this great night
In the evening you walked to my place , so it was just balanced that I walked you home this morning
Pretty much everything in our friendship is greatly balanced
This night we danced for hours, got free drinks without getting badly hit on, and shared many laughs
We didn’t dance together in a while, we should do that more often before you leave Sweden
You will leave Sweden soon, what an odd feeling
We see each other almost every day, if not even twice
Like yesterday, we met up in Simpan , you walked all the way there because you know I love this place, and we usually have great time there
You do many things I appreciate, and I hope you think it is like that the other way around as well
If something is bad you are always there to tell me everything gonna be alright, and I do the same for you
Or like we say: Alles wird gut.
When you leave in the middle of June I gonna feel a bit lost
But we have managed living in different countries before and I will visit you and you will visit me
Maybe one day we work together and make this world a better place (ha, now that sounds deep, doesn’t it ?)
One day I might start sharing your interest in the Caucasus Region and we will meet up somewhere there
One day you might miss Sweden so much that you come back , or not, we will figure something out
We always figure things out , one way or the other
This night I felt so full of joy and happiness, and you were the perfect person to share those feelings with
Do you remember that guy who was wearing sandals with socks ? I told you, no need to worry about looks when going to a party like this
You always look fine anyway, and yes I know, you don’t believe me when I say that but it’s a fact, live with it
I should be in bed by now so I will be refreshed later, so we can meet up again and prepare our Thesis Opposition Seminar on Monday
Crazy, on Monday everything gonna be over
Three years at Malmö University are coming to an end
We helped each other through the last two months writing on our theses (did you know this word is the plural of thesis? me neither, guess who used it wrongly in her thesis, yes, me)
Many hours spent together in both libraries, several cafés and at my place
Our brains sometimes felt like pudding, and our coffee consumption wasn’t always healthy anymore
And, we did it, we both did it
Only the opposition is left
After Monday the summer starts
Cheers to us!
All this makes me feel old sometimes, but hey we are actually super young
I am ~3.5 months older than you, old-young me
We gonna have a degree on Monday and you will move to Budapest and I will study in Lund
Yes, I stay in Sweden and you will leave, who would have thought that
Well, we did, it was clear that this is how it will be
Maybe we do an internship together in our choice semester while doing our Masters
Wouldn’t that be great, meeting up somewhere in the world, spending 6 Months together working
We should do that
I am drinking lots of water now, like you said we should after a night of dancing
After an awesome night of dancing, a really great night
Do I sound too deep, too girly? I hope not but even if, then you have a reason to mock me when we meet up later
When I look outside of my window I see over Malmö and think maaan, I should eat something
Ha, you didn’t expect that, didn’t you
We will make this first half of June awesome , I am sure about that
Let’s dance, let’s inline skate, let’s sit in the parks and meet up with other friends
Let’s enjoy the last weeks together in Sweden, and let’s tell each other everything gonna be fine like we always do
Let’s make fun of each other when we are once again acting so typical, suiting to our characters
Let’s promise each other we will skype more than we did when you were in Azerbaijan and I was in Israel
But hey, when we were in these countries we managed to be awesome friends anyway, even though we are lazy skypers
We will manage this time as well, but I have to admit, Rickard will have to listen to a lot of complaining about your absence
He will have to deal with it, he is used to me talking about you
It is 07.40 am now and I really should be in bed
Instead I am listening to Sonnentanz by Klang Karusell,feeling happy, tired and a little girly writing this for you
You are used to me being a bit girly sometimes
You are used to pretty much any mood I could possibly be in, and you never fail to put up with it
I am really thankful for that
I am really thankful that we met, that we studied together, and that we became such amazing friends
I hope we are still friends when we are really old, so we can sit together and laugh about the old times
Then my hair will be grey and maybe yours too, and I will finally not be the only one with some grey hair
Now hold on tight for the ultimate girlyness: You are like the sister I never had
Sounds strong huh? But it feels like it, so I say it
I will name my future minipig like you suggested: Carlos Bacon Mini Pig Petrak
That minipig will be amazing, it will not lose any hair and will love both of us
Now it is time to go to bed
Thank you for everything and I look forward to spend much more time with you in the future, no matter in which country

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Writing a Bachelor Thesis

10310982_10203028551588037_1199709443790981195_nThursday night, I spontaneously went out for a beer with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. This guy comes over to our table and starts talking to us. After a while we arrived at a typical topic, age. After hesitating he guessed me to be 27.
Really ?! 27 ?!! I knew I looked everything but fresh and youthful this night after sitting the whole day in the library working on my thesis but 27 crushed my ego that moment. Later when I went home, standing in the elevator, I took a closer look in the dirty mirror. Are these wrinkles around my eyes ?! Are these shadows under my eyes rests of mascara of my skin telling me that I need more sleep ? I decided that self-pity does not help. Moreover, earlier that day I got ask for my ID when I wanted to buy Snus. Hah in your face stranger!!!
Tomorrow first thing I will find my eye-creme again and this time I will not be too lazy to use it longer than a few days.

Writing a bachelor thesis is stressful -as I thought before it would be- but it is stressful in a different way than I thought. The other day I caught myself staring at the clock. Everything was prepared, energy drink, coffee and snacks, paper, pens neatly put up next to my laptop. It procrastinationis 12.55 pm . I had promised myself to start working on my thesis at 13.00 pm.

12.56 I stare at the clock.
12.57 I start contemplating about cleaning the flat while staring at the clock.
12.58 really? Three minutes are gone already, noo.
12.59 staring.
13.00 staring.
13.01 I am still staring at the clock, not moving.
13.02 F*** Laura gooo, get on it, come one!
13.03 why is my coffee cold??
13.04 maybe I start 13.30 instead….or I just take a nap. Naps are nice. So nice.

Procrastination and I have become best friends since I started writing my thesis 😉

Writing a thesis is stressful, yes, but what is really stressful about it that you have to be involved with one topic over a long time period , you Naptime-then-and-nowhave it in the back of your head all day, no matter if you are studying or trying to relax. Every time you get asked to do something fun you 10256493_10203013427609947_5118602304146115799_nevaluate if you can allow it yourself time wise. Another glass of wine ? Better not. If I have the slightest hangover tomorrow I can’t study properly…. It takes so much energy to have something in your mind all the time. It is sometimes truly frustrating. I got mad at my thesis several times. I got mad, sad, annoyed and angry but so has almost everyone I met who is writing their thesis. It’s part of the process and you just gotta accept it. Sometimes you have good days, bad days, productive days, lazy-days or just shit days where you decide to screw it for now and watch series and take a nap. That is okay. Just try to keep the balance between them so you get done in the end.

I have worked on my thesis all over Malmö. In both libraries, at home, and at various cafes. In my favourite cafe the bartender asked me once when I arrived yawning : “still working on your thesis ?” me yawning and nodding. “here you go , coffee will help!” When I talk to friends one of the first question is always, how is your thesis going ? Same when I write with friends on Facebook. You start comparing yourself with others who are writing their thesis at the moment as well. “Oh he/she has already xx amount of words and I only have xx words….” Then you notice how grumpy you get but actually you should be happy for them. You will always find people who you think work better or Ah-Finalsworse than you but actually comparing does not help. Everyone works differently, some take much time , some not. Some start last minute and still pass. Some started months ago and brag how far they are and then get a bad grade. Or the other way around. It should not matter. However, it is in human nature to compare yourself with others so I decided  instead of only getting grumpy at myself when someone does better progress than me, I get a little grumpy (can’t lose it fully) but mainly I decided to be happy for the other person. 😉

Thesis writing brings fun as well. First of all when you actually did some progress and then scroll up and down in your document and realize hey I made this !!! I know its a normal thing nowadays that people get their BA degree but still, you produce a 40 to 50 pages thesis in the end that is actually pretty cool ! Moreover you get to complain together with your fellow thesis writers over how annoying this work is and spontaneously decide actually you could go now and have beer instead of working more and you end up having real quality time. Even when the deadline is approaching one should not forget to have little fun from time to time 10254010_10203001994484126_4875933436752753888_nand tell the little mean guy in the back of your head to shut up and stop telling you that you should rather figure out how to do your analysis section. I had a great 1545157_10202996496706685_8893028120118811614_ntime with Marie dying our hair and drinking wine instead of studying.  I get really happy when studying and actually progressing and then taking a well deserved break. After finishing my thesis I will probably never forget again how NGOs can influence peace processes, which is quite handy to know in my field of studies. I had hung up my research question all over the flat to keep it in mind and reflect on it. After a few days I noticed Rickard had re-printed it and did slight editing.  I couldn’t stop laughing for a long time (see image above) 😉

My deadline is in 10 days, I have written 80% of my thesis and have my green-light supervision tomorrow morning, then I will get to know if my supervisor thinks that I am ready for the final 10169456_10202965961583326_112176163853929825_ndeadline — and what I am doing right now ? I am sitting in the library writing this blog post and contemplate about buying a bottle of wine on the way home because I think I truly deserve it. So, will I fail because I wasted some hours now ? No. I will perhaps fail if I get to know tomorrow that the way I do my analysis is shit and I need to re-do it 😛 😛 😛 Right now writing this blog makes me feel good. Trying to delve deeper in all the data I have left to analyze makes me not feel good today, so I pick the one which makes me feel good for now. Sometimes procrastinating is actually really healthy for your mind, if 10172756_10202946180488811_5685909570448075240_nyou do something else instead of studying what actually makes you feel happy or good. Even though I have been stressed and under pressure I backed colorful muffins, found my inner child again on an awesome slide in front of a friends house 10310620_10202952978338753_1823516007174089634_nand I went to Valborg in Lund with my friends and we had a great time. And soon everything is done and over and after hopefully passing we can all enjoy the summer ! 🙂