On kitchens and strangers*

*who soon become actually really good friends who you go on road trips and celebrate birthdays and drink tea with.

When deciding where to go on exchange, I knew I wanted to go somewhere that I could have the ‘student living experience’ which I feel like I miss out on when I’m in Canberra. Living at home is great, and I really don’t think I’d have liked doing my whole degree away from home, but there was always a feeling of wanting to experience what it would be like living in student accommodation.

Enter: Lappkärrsberget.

img_6083

Or as everyone who isn’t Swedish and can’t pronounce the name correctly/at all calls it: Lappis.

I love it here. It’s a ten minute walk into the main campus and has super easy access to public transport. We are basically in the middle of a botanical garden so there are loads of pretty walks to do, particularly along the waterfront. “Lappis Beach” which is really more of a lake with a bit of sand and some barbeques was where we spent pretty much every night the first two weeks we were in Stockholm.

I live in a corridor with about 12 other people. Everyone has their own room and bathroom, and we share a kitchen. I really wanted to make an effort to meet and get to know the people in my corridor. I didn’t want to be that person that only says hello as we’re both entering and leaving our apartments. Luckily the people I live with are pretty awesome. We’re from all over the world: India, Australia, Sweden, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, to name a few. Between us the average number of languages spoken is probably three (but that’s only because I single-handedly bring down the average quite dramatically by only being able to speak one language).

img_6396
Photo from when a few of us went on a road trip to Fjällbacka

We’re a bit of a funny bunch but we all have a good time when we get together. My favourite thing about living in this corridor was that there is always someone around to talk/ joke/ cook with. I’ll be honest, my kitchen isn’t the cleanest, or the newest. The chairs at the dining table are mis-matched and there is quite a bit of clutter from people who used to live here. The power often goes out and one of the ovens works I’d say 50% of the time. But I have a cupboard with my name on it and we all leave little notes/jokes on post-its for each other. I also share a fridge with my neighbour who often lets me use his milk because I always seem to be running out (#teadrinker).

img_8022

With everyone still away on Christmas break, the corridor feels quite empty to be in. I’m not looking forward to having to say goodbye to everyone in ten days, but I know that if I’m ever in Europe again I can visit any one of these guys and they’d be happy to show me around their home towns. And I’d be the same for them.

Stockholm, So Far

img_5341

It is almost a month since I touched down in the land of ABBA, IKEA, and H&M, otherwise known as: Sweden. And, more specifically, Stockholm. Where I’ll be living for the next 5-ish months which I still have to remind myself is an actual happening thing because sometimes it feels very surreal being here. But that’s a post for another day. In my time here so far I’ve learnt that:

  1. Sweden is much more than its famous exports (whose names are commonly capitalized? I just noticed that.) But, the stereotypes about Sweden/ Swedes are fairly accurate especially since,
  2. Swedes are just as good looking as they are stereotyped to be. Walking through the city I feel decidedly short, very un-blonde and completely lacking in any sort of fashion sense. But I don’t even mind because they are very nice to look at/ be around.
  3. When in Stockholm, it’s best to just embrace the fact that wherever you go you will proclaim ‘oh my goodness how STUNNING?!’ because you literally cannot find a bad-looking part of town. I’ve tried. Even in the more ‘hipster’ areas: where other cities are heavy on the grunge and bordering on plain dirty, Stockholm has the balance of ‘cool’ and also ‘nice place to actually spend time in’ juussst right. In fact, many of the metro stations have been designed specifically to be beautiful/ artistic so even when you go underground you’re still impressed with the city.

img_5051

My time here has so far been spent making friends, setting up my room, exploring the city, and doing very little uni work while simultaneously trying to pass the subject. I sometimes forget that I am technically here to study, but luckily my course is more ‘self-guided’ than compulsory classes. There is quite a lot of reading which I don’t actually mind because I have gotten to know quite a few parks and gardens (of which there are plenty. I probably won’t even get to see them all to!) and set myself up on a blanket with my books and some snacks. (Much like if a tree falls in the woods but no one is around to hear it etc. etc., if you don’t snack while studying, did you even study at all?)

img_4912img_4913img_4978img_4968

And for a minute I have to be boring and talk about the weather because it has been so incredible. In my defence the weather has been the topic of conversation for everyone because it’s been so good! A Swedish guy who lives down the hall from me told me we are so lucky for it to be this warm at this time of year because usually it goes cold as soon as September starts. But even today it was a warm and sunny 17˚C! (#globalwarming). I’ve been trying to soak up the warmth and the sunlight because when people aren’t talking about the amazing weather, they are talking about how it will soon start getting dark early in the afternoons. When I first arrived I actually kind of scared by just how much everyone talks about it. My attitude is just like guys! Let’s all just enjoy what we have now! The clocks only go back in October! Stop freaking me out!

img_5553img_5718img_5169

img_5744
500m from my front door and you could easily forget you are even in a city.

I’ve been doing an introductory Swedish course for the past couple of weeks (my teacher looks like a Viking!) and I suck at it. In order to do the second part of the course you have to pass the exam next week which I am almost 100% certain I will not. The only Swedish word that I can say with confidence and that I understand/use in everyday life is ‘fika’. Basically it is a tradition which means to have a break with a friend, drink a coffee, and usually involves something sweet. Like a kanelbulle (cinnamon bun). Or the more hipster and equally delicious kardemummabullar (cardamom bun). This tradition of buns + breaks is one that I have really embraced. Although, I have limited myself to having buns only on the weekends since I went slightly overboard during my first couple weeks and decided that my growing habit was not good for either my wallet or my waistline. If you’re in the area and looking for a place to start your bulle addiction, Fabrique is your best bet. (But to be honest I have not yet met a bulle I didn’t think was delicious – even the ones from 7/11 are very decent!)

img_5062
This *huge* bulle was from Cafe Saturnas on Eriksbergsgatan. Usually they are about a third of the size, but sometimes you have to treat yo self.

In other news on embracing the Swedish lifestyle, I even bought myself a BACKPACK which I love. I wonder why I haven’t always had one because I can pretty much fit my entire life into it and set out for the day with everything I need. It’s a Fjällräven because obviously I’m in Sweden now and figured if I can’t be blonde I should at least try to fit in with what almost everyone carries their stuff in (even little children! They have the cutest mini Fjällräven’s and seeing them always makes me smile). Mine is also bright yellow and makes me so happy every time I see/wear it.

img_5048img_5323

This past Saturday I went to Uppsala with a few friends. It’s a tiny little town about forty minutes from Stockholm by train. It was so quaint and quiet and pretty. But I couldn’t help feeling very relieved when we got back to the city, and felt at home among the bright lights, busy streets, and colourful buildings. My first month here has been a dream – here’s to the next five-ish.

 

 

 

Thoughts on moving to the other side of the world, before moving to the other side of the world

img_4948

Next week, I will be heading off to study in Stockholm for six months. I’ve had my last shift at work. I’ve fare-welled friends. I’ve not quite started packing because I’m fairly sure it’s a requirement of travel to leave it until the absolute last minute.

In the midst of my excitement for life in Sweden, I hadn’t given much thought to what I will be leaving behind in Canberra. I grew up in Johannesburg, and when my family and I arrived here seven years ago, I remember that it immediately felt like home. In the last seven years, Canberra has changed a lot. I’ve loved seeing how it’s grown into what it is today, without losing its small-town feel.

As my departure date draws closer, I’ve begun to realise that there’s lots of things I’ll miss about Canberra. I’ll miss driving over Commonwealth Avenue Bridge on a sunny morning, looking out the window at the green trees and sparkling lake. I’ll miss spring, its cotton that collects like snow on bushes, which sends students into a panic about impending exams. I’ll miss the way the city comes out of hibernation as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer. I’ll miss the view from the top of Mount Ainsley, especially at night when the lights spread out across the city.  I thought I might even miss the cyclists, who I typically think are the worst, but I hear Stockholm is a really bike-friendly city, so no such luck. Mostly, I’ll miss the familiarity of the place I’ve grown to know and love, and the thought of finding my way on my own in a city I’ve never been to is a little daunting.

In saying this, I’m looking forward to exploring new places. Jane Austen writes, “If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” While I’m sure there’s plenty of adventures left in the ‘berra for me yet, I’m putting them on hold for a little while. Europe is a thrilling place to explore. I’m sure I’ll fall in love with other cities, and probably want to stay there forever. But at the end of it all, I know that none of them will be home.

An Appreciation for Poetry, or, Something I Didn’t Have A Year Ago

In my first English course of my first semester of my first year of university, we studied poetry for a few weeks. My lecturer asked if anyone read poetry and some lass went on about how she “reads poetry every night before bed by candlelight and while sipping a big glass of chlorophyll water.*” My eye-rolling was cut short when I realised that lots of people around me were nodding in agreement. Is this a thing? Do people actually read poetry for fun? Did I tell mom I wouldn’t be home for dinner that night because I was tutoring? All questions which ran through my head along with the thought that the only time I’d ever read poetry was for study purposes and, while I’d enjoyed Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner when we studied it in Year 11, I didn’t think I would be the type of person to actively seek out poetry to read in my spare time.

Fast forward a year later and I’ve changed my tune. It turns out that it took having to write some poetry as part of my portfolio for a Creative Writing course I did this semester for me to begin to appreciate poets. Because writing [good] poetry is really very hard. Like villanelles for example – beautiful to read, impossible to write. I’ve even bought a book of Neruda to, gasp, read before bed. It hasn’t happened yet because Mindy Kaling’s book, Nora Ephron’s essays, and Season 4 of Orange is the New Black have been occupying my time. But, now that I’ve finished two out of three of those (I can’t even with the last few episodes of OITNB), I’m hoping to add a bit of Neruda to my now seemingly endless spare-time that comes with the end of the semester and the ‘no uni until August’ thing that comes with going on exchange.

In the mean time, here are a few of my favourites at the moment:

Emily Dickenson
~ Emily Dickenson ~
Dylan Thomas
~ Dylan Thomas ~
Pablo Neruda
~ Pablo Neruda ~
Edgar Allen Poe
~ Edgar Allan Poe ~
Shakespeare
~ William Shakespeare ~ 
{Also, if you have never looked up a translation into modern English of this you are missing out on possibly the most romantic poems ever.}
Langston Hughes
~ Langston Hughes ~
Billy Collins
~ Billy Collins ~
{Also Passengers }

*So she didn’t actually say the candlelight and chlorophyll thing. But my previous assumptions of ‘poetry before bed readers’ caused me to add this picture to her in my head. My time in lectures is 70% spent listening to the lecturer, 30% judging other people.

Love, Maeve4

Life, etc.

IMG_4298.JPG
Canberra, I might just miss you. 

Last night I watched NCIS. Not because I’m a fan. Not because I’m particularly interested in crime/drama/forensics shows. Just because I’ve finished all my assessment for this semester and it was on and I could without feeling guilty for not doing something productive. I’m still trying to get used to not having an essay to write or a lecture to watch or an exam to study for or a (weekly) set novel to read.

Oh, by the way, I’m moving to Stockholm. Just for six months – I’m going on exchange at Stockholm University. I’m leaving in August. There’s a lot to organise still. But also, not. I want to have a place to document my time overseas in words and pictures in the moment. Because holy shit am I bad at developing photos into something after the fact. “Make a book of my gap year photo’s” has been on my bucket list for two years now. It’s a little embarrassing.

Also, I recently finished a creative writing course at uni which I loved and which made me realise that I really want to do this whole writing thing. My lecturer (who also happened to be my tutor/ the best person ever) said the best piece of advice she had for writers in this day and age is to get your work ‘out there’ as much as possible. Publishers want to be shown that you’ve got people who read what you write, and would potentially buy it. So hey, hello any future publishers reading this! We’ve got a little following over here, you’re welcome to join.

In other news, I updated my ‘About Page’ to be a little less, well, obnoxious. It needs a bit of work but for now – that’ll do, donkey.

So I mean, get ready is all I can say. About to be a whole lot of rambling and bad photos going up in this place.

Love, Maeve4

What Maeve Did // September & October

The fact that I’m writing a September & October recap one week into November should be enough of an explanation. Long story short, it’s been a busy few months. The end of semester is no joke. And just like that, I’m almost finished my first year at university! I’m still compiling my thoughts about it all. Hopefully I’ll post a little something up here after I *officially* finish on the 19th, the date of my last exam. (It’s European History, just in case you were wondering.)

But first! September AND October. Spring in Canberra sprung and it has been glorious. I love this time of year – the whole feel of the city changes, like everyone’s breathing out after what felt like a never-ending winter. Here’s a little bit of what I got up to:

New additions to the bookshelf - I guess I'm a little bit into memoirs by fabulous women (for good reason! These should be mandatory reading.)
New additions to the bookshelf – I guess I’m a little bit into memoirs by fabulous women (for good reason! These should be mandatory reading.)
Collage
ANU got its own geo-tag! Also, please just appreciate how freaking gorgeous Steph is. Thank you. // Yes, okay totally elitist and there are a million and one signs around, but how many times do you get to say you go to a university that’s number one in Australia and in the world’s top 20?! // THE FLUFF – started falling the first week of October and sent everyone into a made panic about exams.
IMG_3475
One grumpy cat.

Continue reading “What Maeve Did // September & October”

The First-Time-Traveller’s Guide to: Dublin

Dublin

We were only in Ireland for a week, and it stole my heart. The people, the music, the scenery – stunning.

Here’s what I learnt in what could have been my favourite place on the trip:

Where to Stay

When we were in Ireland, my sister was on exchange at University College Dublin, so we were lucky enough to be able to stay with her for most nights. However, we’d booked a Paddywagon tour leaving the morning after we arrived, so we decided to spend our first night in the city, closer to where the bus would depart. We chose Abigail’s Hostel, which was perfect. Located right in the heart of the city, O’Connell Street, Trinity College, and Grafton Street are literally a five minute walk away. Had we not been with my sister for the last nights of our trip, we would’ve been happy to stay at Abigail’s!

Getting Around

From the Airport
When you arrive at the airport (Terminal 1 or Terminal 2) and head outside, you’ll see a number of different options for getting into the city. We chose the Aircoach, as per my sister’s recommendation, and booked our tickets online beforehand. Don’t stress if you don’t manage too! There is a ticket booth outside the terminal where the buses leave.
If you’re staying  at Abigail’s, the stop you’re looking for is O’Connell Street. Ask the driver to let you know when you get there! One thing you learn very quickly is that the Irish are incredibly friendly, and happy to help you out 🙂
Around the City
Another thing you’ll learn quickly? Dublin buses are incredibly frustrating, especially if you don’t know how it all works. Not in terms of availability or bus stops, but fares. Basically, you need to have exact change to be able to travel to particular zones. When you get on the bus, tell the bus driver where you’re going, and he’ll let you know how much it will cost you. You don’t really want to be scrabbling around in your wallet during peak hour though, so definitely get the Dublin Bus app. It’s free, provides real-time information on which buses are coming and when, and also has a fare-calculator. This way, you get on the bus with the right amount, pop it in the coin dispenser and tell the bus driver how much you’ve put in. He’ll print you a ticket – hold onto it! You don’t want to be kicked off/ fined by a ticket inspector.

Must-Do’s

  • The Guinness Factory: I discovered in Dublin that I am very-much a Guinness Gal. I do have Irish heritage on both sides of my family so I’m sure that’s a factor. Even if you haven’t tried Guinness before, or aren’t it’s biggest fan, I would still recommend spending an afternoon at the Guinness factory. Not only do you learn a whole heap about the beer-making process (surprisingly fascinating), and get to pour your own pint (I consider myself an expert now, just btw), the view from the Gravity Bar alone is worth it.
Guinness
We poured our own pints! // Touring the factory, you get the cutest little Guinness taster.

Continue reading “The First-Time-Traveller’s Guide to: Dublin”