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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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!

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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Road Trip Essentials !

Summer Time is Road Trip Time !
I was asked to participate in a great campaign by RelayRides about road trip essentials!  I made some really great road trips in my life and I definitely think that every road trip should include some essentials which should not be missed! My three favourite road trips I made were one in Morocco in 2012, one through Jordan in 2013 and another one just recently in January 2014 through Israel and the Westbank. Have a look at the collages below I made and get an impression of the trips (you can click them to make them bigger!). Did you have a look ?! 🙂 Can you guess what for me the first and foremost thing is to have with me ?! Yes exactly, great company ! All three road trips I  made with  my boyfriend and we had such a great time exploring the different countries together!

I am sure one can have a great road trip on their own as well, however, when it comes to me I really enjoy having someone with me I can talk to, laugh together and plan the trip together. When it comes to planning a road trip there is one philosophy I live after ” too much planning makes you unhappy!” Yes, I know some planning is needed but too much planning and sticking to one idea of a route makes you miss out on places and streets you otherwise would never have discovered !  When I do a roadtrip we plan the basics; the approximate route, where we can rent a car or how to get around ( I wish RelayRides would exist in Europe, its a really great idea, check it out if you live in the US!) and a timeframe which often has to be fairly exact since we are all bound to duties such as work or studying.

Another thing which needs to be taken care of is great music !!!! There is nothing better than driving down a road and watching the landscapes and listening to your favourite music. When we went to Morocco we actually made our own CD (how oldschool 😉 ) and ended up listening to the same 25 songs the whole time (yes, surprisingly enough I still like them all!). We left the CD in the car when we gave it back, so the next person who will drive that car would have a nice surprise. When we took the road trip through Israel we had a cable to connect our smartphones to listen to good music (not so old school anymore) and the same goes for the Jordan trip where we listened to my ipod or to our smartphones while driving with either buses or cars around.

Almost as important as great company is a sense of adventure! If you have the right mindset and feel adventures, annoyances which may occur are not so annoying anymore but rather exciting and funny! The GPS doesn’t work properly in the middle of nowhere in Morocco? No problem, we enjoy the view until we find a local who can help us out. If we wouldn’t have been lost a couple of times on our road trips we would have missed out on meeting great people, seeing awesome corners we would otherwise have missed and having a lots of laughs when we figure out one more time that we are about to drive into an open field.

However, not to forget is a rather boring thing; a USB charger which you can plug into your car’s cigarette lighter. No matter if you wanna make a call home, find your way around with google maps, or want to listen to music. You have to admit, all of that gets rather hard when your smartphone/navi/tablet does not work anymore. Or…… you prove yourself that you are not dependent on modern technology and get an actual map 😉

Snacks and water are not to be missed as well, in my case I pretty much always have a redbull with me since no one wants to get tired behind the wheel or as the person who entertains the driver. Great snacks are any kind of nuts, they give you energy, are healthy and you can get them pretty much all over the world. Breaks while doing a road trip get a lot more fun when you bring some playing cards (the simple normal kind) and just sit down somewhere and have a game. It’s quite refreshing for the mind!

You should not be in a rush. What I have noticed when taking a road trip is when the driving gets annoying because it takes sooo long, then you have to take an additional night/break somewhere. Rather skip one stop you had planned and really enjoy where you are right now, than getting stressed. A road trip should be fun and not about getting as fast from A to B as you can. We usually plan the stops on a day to day base with having our approximate route in the back of our heads. Then you can evaluate on the spot if the next day should be more about driving or taking it easy.

Overall, I love road trips and in my point of view it is the best way to explore a country! If you have the right company, time, an adventures mindset and good music you are all good to go ! Driving through Morocco, Jordan and Israel  I got a real impression of the country and the people, if you have an open mind and are not afraid to talk to strangers you will have a great time. 🙂 I look forward to my next trip, it’s time to get on the road again!

 

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Easter, the Danger of Ikea Bags & Summer Plans

Did you know that Ikea bags can be quite dangerous ?! Me neither. Well last weekend I had a little encounter with an Ikea bag which was filledBlue-Bag0403 with BBQ stuff standing next to our picnic blanket. I was the chosen Grill Master for that day and Rickard, my Mum who visited over Easter, and I had a really nice time. Walking by the Ikea bag my foot got stuck in one of the handles and I fell down , whole body length and landed on my left wrist. Pain got worse over time and so did the swelling, so to make a long story short I ended up in the hospital once again. Lovely Swedish Hospital in which have been been quite a few times in the last three years. Me and my luck 😛 The result after the x-ray was that it is not a fracture but a sprain , which ironically often hurts more than a fracture.  Now it is better but still hurting which is particularly annoying while typing but if I can write my thesis I might as well can do some fun writing for my blog 🙂 Apart from the Ikea bag incident I had a lovely Easter time with my Mother! We did Easter Egg painting, an Easter Egg hunt, we had a big Easter Breakfast and a really nice Easter Walk 🙂 The rest of the time with my Mum in general was really nice ! See pictures below 🙂

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My thesis writing is still going on and my progress is not as fast as I wish it would be but I think I am going in the right direction. I have a little bit less than a month left to write it and I think I will manage. I don’t like that my next two years basically depend on this one paper. If I don’t pass it, I won’t be able to go on with my Master Studies but hey I have gotten till here so I will finish it ! 😀 The Examination Seminar is in the beginning of June and right after the Distortion Festival in Copenhagen starts which is great timing and I already look forward to celebrate that my Bachelor Studies are over, all day and night long with my friends at the Festival 😀 😀 😀

In the end of June I will travel with my Mum to Greece. It is an old tradition since I was 7 years old to fly there in the summer and I look much forward to do it again and just relax in the sun ! 🙂 We always travel to the same nice village called Sikia which is about 1,5h from Thessaloniki on the half Island Sithonia. We have friends living there and every time I arrive there it feels like coming home. I haven’t been there the last couple of years so it will be nice to be at this beloved place again. The three pictures below are from the last time we were there:

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In August before my Master Studies start me and Rickard plan to go hiking again !!! Two years ago we did an amazing trip up up North in Sweden and were hiking in a national park called Padjelanta . We did a 160km trip! Last year we did a shorter hike along the border to Norway which was really nice as well but rather relaxed. This time we want to hike in Sarek. It is approximately at the same height in Sweden as Padjelanta but the mountains are much higher and there are no hiking passes or little huts in between. It is for sure not a beginners hike and I have lots of respect for the wilderness up there. We will have to plan the tour very well and count in at least two weeks for it since depending on the rainfall it might happen that rivers cross our way which we will not able to pass. I found this really encouraging statement of the administrators of the park 😛 :

“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.”

Padjelanta was demanding too, however, sometimes you were able to find huts where you could buy some bread or cookies and most of the time you could see a pass to follow. This we won’t have in Sarek but I think it sounds like an awesome adventure 😀
When we have planned the trip fully and took everything into consideration we have to consider,  I will post our hiking plan here so you can read about it 🙂 And in case anyone worries …… we have really good gear and will evaluate all dangers properly before we start 🙂 Look at the two pictures below , how can one be not excited to go ?!

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Roadtrip awesomeness !

The time in Israel & Palestine is coming to an end. Tomorrow early early morning a taxi will pick us up and drive us to the airport. After a stop in Istanbul we will be back in Sweden Sunday afternoon….. I still have a hard time to comprehend that this time here is really already over! Right now I am blogging from a really awesome hostel in Tel Aviv were we will spent our last evening.  Let me give you a quick recap about the last week and our awesome roadtrip and then you will find some pictures from it below as well.

After leaving Jerusalem on the 21th in the afternoon we got our rental car which looked liked a wannabe version of a pitty cruiser and was probably as strong as a trabbi, but it carried us everywhere we wanted and so I shouldn’t really complain. For me a car has to drive and not much more. 😛 Our first stop was Nablus in the West Bank were we stayed at a really nice little Hotel and were amazed by the friendliness of all the people around us. We enjoyed a stroll through the city markets, had good food and of course smoked a shisha. We meant to go to Jericho before that but we decided to skip it after all, as there is not too much to see apart from that it is a really old city. We took it in general a little easy on visiting sites, ruins and other things like that since we both felt a little done with history and ruins after our Jordan trip and all the things we did and visited in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Our focus was a little more on relaxing, enjoying awesome views , meeting nice people on the way and simply doing what we felt like and not “what we have to see.”

After Nablus we drove up north to Nazareth were we had lunch and took a stroll around, it was nice and all but to us nothing super special, probably again due to that we just have seen so much in the last 5 months. After that we went along to Tiberias at the Sea of Galilee and immediately loved it. The weather was warm and nice, we visited hot sulphor pools and had really good food and felt really homey in our hotel which had a awesome roof terrace all to our selves. So in the end we decided to stay two nights instead of one. Didn’t regret it 🙂

Our trip went on to the Golan Heights which is occupied by Israel as well and belonged before to Syria. It was a beautiful landscape up there and we really enjoyed driving on the fairly empty streets. On our way to Mount Hermon right next to the Lebanese and Syrian boarder suddenly the road was blocked, we could hear machine guns and saw lots of soldier in the mountains. We got out of the car to see what this is all about, being fairly close to crisis ridden country boarders it was a very interesting feeling to experience. It turned out that it was the Israeli Army which did training in the mountains and we were told that they are done soon and the road will be open again. So we took our chance and took lots of pictures which surprisingly the army did not forbid. Normally the IDF is not very keen on pictures 😛

Arriving at Mount Hermon and getting up to the top with a lift we got an amazing view and funny enough, some snow and they were renting out slides up there ! So we took the chance and rented one and went down a little snowy hill with all the other kids 😉 Our journey went on to Akko in the late afternoon. A beautiful and cozy coast city I immediately liked a lot. We had walks on the city wall along the cost, of course again really good food and we even visited a citadel and went through a Templar tunnel which was really interesting ! We enjoyed a really really good dinner at the port in Akko. After having been eating Falaffel, white bread, hummus, tahina and all the other nice Arabic foods you can find around here, it was great to  have seafood and full wheat bread 😛 🙂

Next day we went to Haifa and had a look at the beautiful Bahai garden. The garden has 17 or 19 terraces and provided an amazing view down to the sea. We did not spend too much time around there as we started late that noon with driving and we wanted to get rid of the rental car in Tel Aviv before 06.00 pm.

Last stop before arriving in Tel Aviv in the evening was Caesarea where we had a look around some ruins and beaches and enjoyed lunch in the sun. Arriving in Tel Aviv we found our hostel fairly fast. It just opened half a year ago and is located in an old textile factory(Overstay Hostel). The whole style of it is very alternative, relaxed and cool ! Everything is full of graffiti and art, people are super nice, lots of different furniture types can be found and the roof top has an awesome lounge -chill -out area. You can rent a bike for one Euro a day. So we did that the next day and biked around Tel Aviv and the coast side. I like Tel Aviv a lot ! I thought it would be bigger, noisier and not so welcoming but that’s was totally wrong. The city has many awesome corners and cozy streets, nice bars and cafes and the beaches along the coast are awesome to hang out and enjoy a beer ! Today we took the bikes to old Jaffa which is right next to Tel Aviv and hang out along the water side and were over all pretty lazy. We might had have a few drinks in the hostel the night before, met some cool people and therefore we miiight be a little hangover today 😉

Over all the short roadtrip was relaxed and really great. No problems and lots of fun. Now I gonna slack around the hostel and hopefully catch some sleep before we have to drive to the airport. Thank you Israel and Palestine for amazing 5 months, I saw a lot, experienced a lot, learned a lot, met amazing people and the time here gave me over all a great opportunity to grow! I look forward to my next adventures and will keep you updated here ! Let’s hope I won’t freeze to death in Sweden, there it is about 30 degrees less than here right now…. 😛 Now enjoy some pictures I took in the last week :

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21 Things I will miss about living in Jerusalem

Less than two weeks left in Israel & Palestine!
Since my post about the ’27 reasons to miss Malmö’, I thought Jerusalem deserves something similar. So here you go:
21 things I will miss about living in Jerusalem:

1. All the friends I have met through my work and all the friends I have met outside work, Palestinians and Israelis. They are great people and I will miss them much.

2. All the stray kitties we have met on our evening walks, some of them we even have fed for a while. If I could, I would adopt them all.

3. The friendly old newspaper guy I met every morning at the corner of the Mamilla Mall. Even though he knew I can’t read Hebrew he gave me a paper every time explaining something to me in Hebrew. When I started to learn a few Hebrew words his smile in the morning got even brighter. I think he never gave up the hope that I will learn Hebrew some day.

4. Even though I often cursed that I live so far away from my work (depending on the different location we have lived at, my walk to work was always between 30 and 45 min) I overall enjoyed walking first through the center of the Western side and then arriving at the busy Arab side where in the morning people sell freshly baked sesame rings on the side of the streets. While listening to music on my mp3 player and walking I had lots of time to think and reflect on my life here. (In case you wonder, the bus connection and the traffic here is so inefficient that it wouldn’t have made a difference in time spent).

5. I will miss my work. A lot. I have learned so much and I got to know so many interesting people. My boss is one of the greatest persons I have ever met and all my colleagues have been wonderful. Even the grumpy Armenian 😉 Finally getting the chance to work practically in the field I have studied in since over 2 years has been a great experience.

6. Being able to get a freshly pressed pomegranate juice on almost every corner and feeling a nice vitamin boost after a night out.

7. Taking trips to the West Bank to the vibrant city of Ramallah or having a shisha on the main square in Bethlehem watching all the people passing by on their way to the birthplace of Jesus.

8. Going out to clubs and bars around Yaffa street with my friends, catching the happy hour at Hataklit and then going dancing in the crowded Video pub. The atmosphere around Yaffa street especially on Thursday nights is awesome.

9. Visiting the old city and wandering through the different quarters, especially the Arab quarter feels sometimes like being in the tale of 1000 and one nights.

10. Hanging out in the Austrian Hospice and enjoying the silence of the garden while listening to the Minarets singing and watching the people walking by on the street below.

11. History. I have to admit I was never too much into ancient history but since you can find history here around almost every corner, it was easy and interesting to learn something new almost every day.

12. The countless interesting conversations and discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about the whole region in general and about the different cultures and traditions which can be found around here.

13. Dinner nights with friends, always full of good food, fun topics to talk about and overall simply a great time spend with lovely people.

14. Night adventures on Jerusalem’s playgrounds with friends.

15. Arabic food. I just love it.

16. Meeting new people from all over the world and receiving many invitations to visit the different countries they come from.

17. Going to the Mahane Yehuda market, buying fresh food, fresh halva and spices and simply enjoying the vibrancy of this place.

18. Seeing the people living here getting overly excited about the snowfall in December was more than fun. Nothing worked in the city anymore, the office was closed and so on. This made snowing a lot more interesting than in Sweden or Germany.

19. 
The friendly guy working in the little store next door to the office. He alway welcomed me and the other interns with a big smile and asked how we are today. He ecouraged me to speak Arabic and taught me how to pronounce many words correctly. I really like the language and hope I can improve it in the future.

20. The weather (apart from a 10 days period in December) has been great. September to November it was really warm and after the snow in December it is now pretty mild again. During the day the temperature reaches around 16-18 degrees. It has rained maybe 4 times in the whole period I have been in this country.

21. The singing from the different minarets around the city. You can’t hear it that much in the Western part but even there if you listen from our kitchen window very closely, you can hear the wind carrying it around the city. So it turns out I have a thing for Arabic music.

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