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Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Smatterings

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm

You know how sometimes, as you are living your life, you notice strange/noteworthy/quirky coincidences happening in your surroundings?

Like you are watching some of your tv shows: Gossip Girl, Greek, Glee, and you notice that the 3 episodes you happen to watch that week are all dealing with the same issue – virginity?

And your two simultaneously favourite songs of the moment both deal with flying aircrafts? (Airplanes ft. Hayley Williams by B.o.B., and Flying Machine by Everly).

It’s not really that they are a strange alignment of events in the universe, trying to tell you some sort of message, it’s just that your brain has a natural tendency to focus selectively and categorize so that you think you are seeing patterns where they are in fact no more than happenings of chance

It still amazes me.

Now, for some random smatterings.

If you liked books by Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven), you might also like this website. It was created by a man to document, with photos, the last living days of his elderly father who has memory deficit problems. So sweet.

Do you ever wonder how trends come to be? How designer labels happen to all present some of the same patterns on the catwalk some seasons? You can bet they aren’t consulting each other. So what is this mystery trend generator? Find out here.

There is a great yoga pose that helps you strengthen the muscles you need to strut and swagger on those 4 inch talons. But for all that I love about heels, I do think there is a limit – not only imposed by the height of our boyfriends but also by more pertinent safety concerns.

Now that teetering 5, 6, and 7 inch heels (Louboutin is soon introducing an 8 incher) are dominating the runway and, AMAZINGLY, market shares as well, I feel like women have to stop pushing the envelope with their wallets. Seriously. Check out this slideshow. If models are falling over just by walking down the straight flat catwalk (remember now, these girls make an entire career from walking in heels), what chance do normal women have with these heels in the streets?

I have been drooling over these Manolo Blahnik’s FOREVER because they are so fantastically impractical and beautiful and LOOK AT THEM!! But now Victoria Beckham is wearing high heels with no heels at all?? Kills the fun.

I own 2 pairs of 5 inch shoes and I wear them maybe twice a year, around the house, for fun. I don’t have curbside limousine service and struggle to find occasions to rock those heels. So I guess I can understand why women just want to own a few pairs of these to satisfy some whimsical shopping urge. They’re fun to own but not as fun to wear.

In the way all impractical fashion trends go, I think the dagger heels are soon going to pop the balloon of commercial frenzy they are rising on.

Long live the classic 4 inch heel ❤

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Full Moon Party (no relevance to Twilight, I promise)

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2010 at 1:35 pm

In Thailand, there is a monthly tradition that takes place on the peninsular beach of Haad Rin on the island of Ko Pha Ngan each month: The Full Moon Party.

Originally, in the mid-eighties, the party took place at a wooden disco and contained a few dozen travellers. After gaining much fame through word of mouth, the party now attracts 20 or 30 thousand visitors each full moon.

According to Wikipedia (my favourite quick ref), the party is often characterized by dangerous activities such as fire rope skipping and other illegal shenanigans ’til the sun comes up. For many, it is the “ultimate party experience.” (This reminds me of the Great Wall Beach Party that takes place every June… at the Great Wall, where it meets the Yellow Sea. To me, that was the ultimate party experience.) I’d like to visit Thailand someday…

Enough with historical ramblings. Helsingkrona Nation hosted a Full Moon Party last Friday!

No beach and no warmth, unfortunately. But they decked the place out with black lights, performed a professional lazer show amidst smoke, and gave out free UV body paint, woohoo!!

Jason took advantage of the paint. No wonder his sign is Leo? Oh wait, it isn’t. It’s Virgo.

The Waynes make a second appearance at Helsingkrona.

Awww, Elena hurt her leg on the stage. She’s so cute.

GIUULIIAAA! My favourite Italian corridormate.

MAAIIIKEE! My favourite German corridormate.

Derek and Sylvia, the cool Kiwi and the crazy and beloved Dutch girl.

There she is again.

Spoletorp North crew. Oh, and Jacquie.

Are you ready for the Spencer dance?

THE SPENCER DANCE! (Easy-to-follow steps: one arm UP, one arm DOWN, and JUMP!)

Someone is trying to high two the camera in the foreground there.

Don’t have Spring Break… but we still find reason to celebrate

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2010 at 8:57 pm

The Spring Break Beach Party was a long time ago. It was actually BEFORE we left for Russia! But since we don’t get Spring Break here (what we do get is a week-long Easter break), we decided to just dedicate a party to it and pretend we’re on a crazy Spring Break! (What would you do?)

So then, after that event, we went for delicious pizza with just a little too much garlic sauce at Grill Station, my favourite after hours greasy food joint. Manned by one man who really loves to joke around about shortchanging you. I may look like a glutton, but I have only ever been able to finish half of one of those in a single sitting.

And that was that. It was a warm night in Lund – I was fooled into thinking Spring was around the corner. Not yet. It snowed last week.

About 2 weeks later, the wild flowers started to bloom in Lund. They are a beautiful shade of light purple – absolutely fabulous! All I’ve ever known were wild yellow flowers. I miss you, dandelions and buttercups.

I’ve held off on posting too many photos of Lund University until the weather got nicer. At last, it has! (Finally, finally, finally!!!) This is the AF Building, the main university student gathering place. I’ve posted photos of it in the wintertime here. Much lovelier now, isn’t it?

The main university building, which I’ve only been inside once, during the Welcome Reception.

The library.

And, just for kicks, Spencer found an ice shot glass mold so we’ve been making ice shot glasses. Doesn’t work as well when you’re not in -20 degrees (like in an actual ice bar).

Tipping Culture

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Having traveled for a few months through a continent where the price on the menu is EXACTLY the price you pay for a meal has made me realize… tipping culture is kind of ridiculous.

I mean, when you go for dinner in North America and order a dish for, say, $14.99, you know that you will actually be paying like $20 for it after taxes and tips. How confusing is that?

If taxes and service fees were included in the price of a dish, then everybody is happy, and I don’t think servers would provide any less service. On the contrary, it becomes ridiculous when servers who provide sub-standard (or bad) service still expect tips back home. Tip = gratuity = additional payment for good service.

I’m happy to pay a server extra for good service because I think they deserve to be making way more than minimum wage! In fact, I think I’d rather tip 20% for exceptional service once in a while and not leave a tip once in a while when your rude server forgets what you order and then forgets to enter it and doesn’t really give a rats ass about your dining experience because they think tips are such a damn social necessity that you won’t dare to not leave one.

Granted, I’ve never worked at a restaurant. But, most people haven’t. I think I’d be more happy if service fees were included in my bill, so that servers are making a fair wage and aren’t so concerned about turning over tables and rushing customers through courses and get grumpy when we don’t order drinks because a) I wasn’t 19 and b) the boyfriend is driving. UGHH.

Since tipping culture IS a part of the North American lifestyle, all I can say is that… when I dine out, I’d rather have familiar servers when I visit my regular eateries because then you know that a) you will get good service b) you will want to tip them more c) they will recognize you and give you a better eating experience.

Imperfect logic and highly controversial, I know!

Rant over.

Freetown Christiania

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2010 at 2:43 pm

On the 20th of April, we (a bunch of Canadians and 2 Californians) visited Christiania, a little self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood in Copenhagen. Inside, it was like a little Disneyland, without the rides. It was very colourful. No photos tolerated at all, so we only have photos of the sign and wall mural outside. It was a dreary rainy day in Copenhagen.

This neighbourhood is very unique and exceptionally gorgeous; I definitely suggest going for a walk through it (and grabbing a bite to eat at the Sunshine Bakery – located in a portable – while you’re in there). The people are friendly and you see every kind of person, the old, the young, foreigners, locals, even babies. I didn’t approve of seeing the last one; it wasn’t the best environment for delicate young lungs.

The Copenhagen metro is a lot of fun to ride. The stations are very new, and there is no driver so you can sit in the front and it feels like a roller coaster ride… without the rolling and coasting.

Sea Battle

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm

NEWSFLASH! Yason and I just did some guilty online shopping at Björn Borg for stylish and comfortable Swedish underwear.

They’ll match our Swedish Nudie jeans and Swedish H&M clothing and Swedish IKEA furniture and  pretty soon our very expensive Swedish Bruno Mathsson chairs.


Just kidding about the chairs, they are too expensive. Just trying to soak in the Swedish way of life by submitting ourselves to unhealthy consumerism. Yesterday, I went on a limb and bought a Danish swim suit!

Anyway.

Last week we were busy participating and then recovering from Sea Battle. Sea Battle is a booze cruise event, wherein 2000 international students studying in Estonia and Sweden hop on a cruise and visit Stockholm then Tallinn. On board, there are several planned activities such as speed dating (such an awkward experience), karaoke, buffets (free wine and beer – good idea? turns out not), live music and bars/clubs.

It was a good time. I decided to dress up as TINKERBELL (suitable, I think, for the “Sea Battle” theme). Association: Tinkerbell -> Peter Pan -> Captain Hook -> Pirate -> Sea Battle, yes?

Tragically, no one else saw the need to dress up, except for some people who had comical home-made t-shirts. Lame. I made Jason a shirt that said [front] “LEGEN- wait for it…” [back] “-DARY!” Awesome. High five.

So the Speed Dating was pretty much a sausage fest. Note the number of guys sitting on the side because not enough girls showed up to pair with them. I wasn’t there on the second day of Speed Dating but I heard it was even worse; the announcers kept calling for girls to show up over the P.A. but I think that scared them away even more.

Also very memorable was the line up to the buffet.

And the delicious buffet itself. What a hedonistic boat.

After an undocumented fun night we arrived in Tallinn in the morning. The only part people (tourists) really visit is the quaint and picturesque “old town” portion, which is dramatically different from the newer part of the city where people actually live.

Tallinn, though once under the rule of the USSR, is one of the best preserved historic centres in all of Europe. Turreted walls, gabled roofs, and winding cobblestone alleyways – all mostly in tact.

Within the centre of old town is Raekoja plats, a square where the only surviving Gothic Town Hall in Northern Europe still stands and is still in use. Sorry you can’t see it in this photo, but this is where we had lunch.

The couple in the background was totally into being in the photo.

Oh, here it is, the Gothic Town Hall.

Outside the Polish Embassy was the memorial to the late President.

The  Danish King’s Courtyard.

We climbed this big tall lookout tower thing.

The staircase was VERY narrow and steep and winding and stoney.

One of those arrow things that Legolas shoots arrows out of.

Oh hello there!

Alexander Nevsky Church, very Russian. No photos allowed inside, but it was smoky and beautiful because you could see rays of sunlight shine in through the smoke.

We climbed up a tower called Kiek in de Kök (what does that sound like?), which was an artillery tower. Now it’s a very cool museum, though the tower still has cannon balls embedded in it’s outer walls. This little display was about the Black Death. The long beaks were where people stuffed flowers and nice-smelling things to cover the foul odor of death.

This is St. Nicholas’ Church, or it was. Now it’s an art museum and concert hall.

This is the basement of the Dominican Monastery; now it’s an art gallery showcasing the owner’s work. Given that we were in the basement, I know how ridiculous it sounds to say we weren’t able to find out how to enter the actual monastery…

We did some antiquing and found some old CCCP stuff.

In a little courtyard behind the Kadriorg Palace, where there were benches and a stone ledge that overlooked the entire city. We saw like 7 couples there and only one awkward duo of dudes, true story.

Found a duckie!

Some old, some new.

And… I don’t have any photos from the ride back from Tallinn to Stockholm, but it was a good night.

St. Basil’s, The Kremlin, Folk Dancing

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm

St. Basil’s Cathedral (mentioned earlier). Here are photos of the inside! I think this is the burial of somebody important?

You could only climb through the entire church through original very well-worn stairs like this.

The interior was much older than I expected. There are 8 spires; you could visit all of them.

And even the outdoor parts.

And The Kremlin. Finally, we made it inside. The huge wall is a great mystery while you’re in Moscow – during your entire stay, you stare at the tops of the walls and wonder what’s inside. They walls were built in the 15th cent by hired Italian masters. The wall ranges from 5-19m in height due to the hilly nature of Moscow; like Rome, Moscow was built on 7 hills. The thing is, as soon as you’ve been around the inside, you don’t look twice at it again. Illusion gone. Mystery unravelled. Go home. Bye bye.

Anyway, you still need to see photos of the inside! The streets inside were dotted with guards who blew their whistles and yelled at you every moment you strayed from your tour group. The only way to go inside The Kremlin is with an accredited guide.

The main part of the Kremlin is Cathedral Square, where the important Kremlin churches are located. First is the Cathedral of the Dormition (when Mary ascended to heaven through holy sleep).

This is the church were all the tsars had coronation or wedding ceremonies. The chandelier pictured here is silver, and amazingly heavy apparently. No photos were allowed; this is the only one I managed to sneak. Damn DSLR’s make such a loud CLICK with every photo.

The other important church in the square is the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael.

This is where all the tsars up to but not including Peter I are buried (starting with Peter, they were buried in St. Paul and Peter’s Fortress in St. Petersburg). I stole another photo of the iconostasis but it’s not very clear. Apologies!

There is a great number of other churches in the square, but it would be tiresome to write about all of them. Here is Ivan the Great’s Bell Tower, said to be at the exact centre of Moscow and looks like a burning candle. The bell weighs something like 70 tons and was the heaviest for a long time until another Russian city decided to build one that was 72 tons – ouch.

And behold, the largest cannon ever made, the Tsar Cannon. With 2 ton cannonballs. Funny thing is that the cannon was actually designed to fire grapeshot, and the diameter of the cannonballs exceed that of the cannon barrel. It’s never been fired in battle.

Here is the Tsar Bell, the heaviest bell in the world, never been rung. A piece of it cracked off while it was still in the casting pit, due to a fire started from the effort of trying to lift it out.

Just for kicks, here is Jason’s grope hand.

Here is the Armoury; I am pretty much devastated that we didn’t get to visit the inside of. Was really hoping we could. It has the largest collection of Faberge Eggs in the world and many other Imperial treasures that are amazing and awesome and off-limits for public viewing. Sigh.

Oh, I almost forgot about the State Kremlin Palace, because it looks so out of place in the Kremlin. Nikita Khruschev insisted for it to be built, although it’s a sore thumb (methinks) with the historic milieu of the beautiful Kremlin. It was meant to be a modern place for Communist Party meetings.

Now, without much further explanation, I present to you MANY photos from a very entertaining Russian folk dance performance that we watched. This was at the Nicholas Palace in St. Petersburg.

This guy threads better than the guys on ABDC!

Another post about Russia because it is even bigger than Canada – props!

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 at 10:34 pm

When you think of Moscow, you think RED SQUARE! You also think subway bombing, but that is sad. Anyway, the Red Square is just grand. At one end of the square is St. Basil’s Cathedral of utter and complete show-off-beautiful-bright-look-at-me-ness. St. Petersburg’s Church of the Savior of Spilled Blood (from 2 posts ago) has similar architecture, but was actually built to resemble this one.

The sun sets on it at night – it’s breathtaking.

To the left of St. Basil’s is the Kremlin (meaning “fortress”), surrounded by this big red wall with lots of towers. The 5 highest towers have red starts atop of them that are made of ruby glass and light up at night. Within it is the seat of the Russian government. Within the Kremlin there are 4 palaces and 4 cathedrals.

Nested between the Kremlin and the square is Lenin’s Mausoleum, which is where Lenin’s dead body has been preserved and set on highly securitized display. The line up to see his is over 100m away from the actual Mausoleum! Viewing hours are very limited, and they let you bring NO electronics inside, so I don’t have a photo of his body. Like I mentioned earlier though, it looks like he would fit right in a Madame Tussauds. Behind the mausoleum are the burials of other important Russian leaders. The small bust you see in the left background of the photo is Stalin’s bust, resting over his grave.

Next to it is the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier, with the Eternal Flame of Glory. It is dedicated to the Soviet soldiers who died during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 (or, the Eastern Front of WWII). Lots of people still came to lay flowers; it is traditional for newlyweds to come to lay flowers, as a way of being thankful for their opportunity to marry.

Across from the Kremlin is GUM, the most beautiful and lavish shopping mall I have ever seen, with LV, Chanel, etc, etc, and cherry blossom trees within the halls.

Just outside the Red Square is a wishing circle of sorts. It’s funny. Tourists and whatnot come and stand in the centre. They toss coins over their heads and make a wish. Right behind them, vagrants were just waiting there and picking the coins right up as they landed (but only if it was over 5 rubles). So ironic, that people would rather toss coins onto the floor than just hand them to the homeless on Easter Sunday.

We arrived in Moscow on Holy Saturday (the celebrated Easter day in the Russian Orthodox calendar), and all the churches were bustling with lines of people who came to bless their Easter cakes before eating them.

Wherever there is a tourist attraction, there are souvenirs markets. I bought a Russian flask – I thought it was appropriate.

I was actually quite surprised to see this: the North Korean Embassy in Moscow!

I also felt quite self-conscious taking photos is the Moscow subways – apparently this is not allowed. But they are beautiful!

This is the Church of Christ Our Savior, the main functioning church for the Moscovians.

That night was the Holy Saturday midnight Easter mass. The Patriarch was there! In light of the subway bombings, security was super tight here in Moscow for Christian Easter. You couldn’t even cross the street in front of the church without being checked. Huge crowds showed up trying to get in, but you couldn’t get into the church without an invitation.

The next day, we did manage to get in for Easter Sunday, but it was for a religious service, so no photos. It was GORGEOUS inside (as with all Russian churches). Security to get in was tight.

Many religious figures were making their way in as well.

All over the place are these little portable boxes that are covered with window ads except from a tiny hole through which you buy things like ICE CREAM, drinks, and fruits. It was difficult for us to do box business because the woman inside spoke no English, thus we had to point to a photo. Of course, she couldn’t see what we were pointing to from within the box… you can perhaps imagine the frustration.

No disrespect intended, but we couldn’t help noticing what these would look like in your rear view mirror.

We visited the Moscow Museum of Modern Art; it’s courtyard was decked out with large metallic townsmen.

It’s interior was decked out with… modern art, unlike any other kinds of modern art I’ve seen. I wasn’t allowed photos, but I had to take one of this parachuter.

In front of the enormous National Library, there is an enormous monument of Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Like I said earlier, the hotels are located in “tourist wastelands,” as evidenced by the view from our hotel window. The big colourful building is a marketplace, dedicated to ripping off tourists.

Here’s some more of the non-touristy part of Moscow.

Back on Wed

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2010 at 4:59 am

I’m going to Sea Battle, aka Estonia. Will finish posting about Russia when I’m back on Wednesday!

❤ <3!

St. Pete’s, cont.

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm

We visited the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood again by day so that we could actually go inside.

Best decision ever. Instead of paint, the interior of the church has over 7500 square METERS of mosaic. It is said that it was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible. After it had been built, Ivan ordered that everyone who worked on it had to have their eyes clawed out so that they could never again make anything comparable in beauty.

If you look up at the onion dome mosaics by standing in certain parts of the church, you can see the face of Jesus.

There is so much to say about the distinct architecture of Russian or Eastern Orthodox churches. It’s very fascinating, and I’ll note the basics below, but you may read up more about it here if this architecture stuff tickles your fancy.

Whereas basilicas in the Western Orthodox tradition are able to be very long in shape, Eastern Orthodox churches tend to be more centralized, shaped kind of like a square cross. Russia’s cathedrals are therefore somewhat square-ish in area, with towers spires poking out everywhere. From Russia’s pagan history, it adopted the tradition of having churches being the burial homes of saint (and tsars); the domed ceilings represent heaven.

You’ll notice there are no pews. Worshippers are expected to stand for services. The walls are entirely covered with portrayals of saints and biblical stories. The symbolism of the iconostasis and the sanctuary are quite interesting but too lengthy to describe. Women are expected to cover their heads before entering a church, because demonic spirits reside in the heads of females. I did cover my head at some churches, out of religious respect rather than religious adherence, since it was the Eastern Orthodox Easter weekend when we were in Russia… what a time to visit churches!

Something about visiting churches makes me crave dessert so much!!

After chillin’ for a while in the town, we went to visit Peter and Paul’s Fortress, which was actually built to fortify the city against Swedish attack, ha! Inside, there was the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which is where all the tsars since Peter I are currently buried.

The iconostasis in this church rises like a tower; that’s pretty special.

You can see the tombs, but their bodies are actually 6 feet under. The place was still a little bit eerie.

Attached to this was the small State History Museum, where I learned about the fleeing of Anastasia and her family (yeah, like from the Disney movie).

Also inside the fortress was the fascinating prison used for holding political prisoners (such as Trotsky). We visited the rooms, saw the uniforms; it was creepy. They sound-proof all the walls to induce complete isolation for the prisoner; the only form of human contact allowed was food delivery – even then, they saw no faces. The prisoners developed a knocking system to communicate with each other, similar to morse code.

Jason was a particularly important political prisoner of the revolution, as you can see. Normally, he would have to wear a canvas straightjacket or something and have shoes with no laces.

You may have heard that the Russians can be pretty strict sometimes. They have even less tolerance for stupid foreign visitors!!

That’s me, sitting in the lap of Santa Peter the Great.

We had quite an adventure in St. Petersburg, especially when trying to order food (by pointing at pictures).

I also loved haggling; I bought myself a little Fabergé Egg jewel and a polar fox fur hat (please still be friends with me) off some sketchy market guys. I especially love to haggle and then walk off, “deciding not to buy,” without ever having the intention to buy in the first place. No one feels ripped off in the end and everyone has their fun! At least I do =).

[The next day, we drove the Moscow, spent 2 days there, drove back. Moscow is for another post. The story continues.)

This is the Cruiser Aurora, the ship that fired the shot that started the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. This all takes me back to IB History, Ms. Puzio’s class. As photographed, every touristy attraction is flanked with street marketers.

It just so happened to be Easter Sunday (the really big Eastern Orthodox Easter day is actually Holy Saturday, which is when we were in Moscow). We visited this functioning church to see how Easter was celebrated in churches.

People were lining up for a long time to pray to and kiss the painting of Mary at the iconostasis. They are all on the left because Mary is on Jesus’s right hand side on the altar; John the Baptist always on his left.

Dozens of smaller ones were set around the church as well, for people to pray to and light candles at. They looked like this.

Guys, this is such inconsiderate behaviour – you are on the doorstep of a church!