Monday, April 28, 2008

Vår är här!

Spring has arrived in Uppsala! We had almost a week of solid sunshine until yesterday when it clouded over (but no rain!) Spring brought everyone out to the river and it seemed like every shop in town started to sell ice cream. If you didn't know better you would think that no one works in the city...but then again, it is a city comprised of 40,000 university students, so maybe it's not that far from the truth.

I celebrated my b-day on Saturday and we had a fun time with friends from around the world - Sweden, U.S., Canada and Australia. We hit a night-club in town and it was pretty popular so we made a good choice. Here are a few pics from the evening (including one of our deck with the flowers we planted)!

So this week we have what is called a "Red Day". Red days are every Sunday and then stat holidays. They pretty much mean days that you usually don't work. Before every red day (holidays not Sundays), people generally get a half-day off of work, and since they only have a half day they usually take a whole day. This week since the Red Day is May 1st which is a Thursday most people will take Friday off too, which means that this is a very short work week for lots of people.

May 1st is called Valborg in Swedish. After doing a little searching I discovered (thanks Wikipedia) that Valborg is derived from St. Walpurga, a woman who was born in Wessex in 710, moved to Germany and joined a nunnery and then became a saint upon her death. She actually died on Feb. 25th but her relics were moved to their resting location on May 1st and thus the day, which had traditionally been a pagan festival celebrating the start of spring became intertwined with a Christian holiday (which has happened with a lot of pagan holidays). In the Norse tradition, May 1st celebrated the time when Odin died to retrieve the knowledge of the runes (but I haven't looked this story up yet). It was said to be a time of weakness between the living and the dead. And one of the traditions is to have large bonfires to ward of the sprits that roam the Earth that day.

In Uppsala, the last day of April, or sista april is also highly celebrated by the students of Uppsala. The tradition is to have a champagne breakfast in someone's home. Then to go down to the river, where students have built rafts and ride over the rapids/weir in a competition. Then the mob moves to the hill by the castle where everyone imbibes in a picnic lunch of shnapps, sill (herring), potatis (potatoes), köttbullar (meatballs), and probably other Swedish delicacies . The presidents of the two universities, Uppsala Universitet och SLU, both give speeches in front of the large library at the top of the hill, and then all the students throw their traditional white student hats (look like captains hats) into the air. The afternoon then continues with concerts, singing and partying into the wee hours at the Nations houses (somewhat like frats - but co-ed and representing different regions of Sweden).

I found this photo on Wikipedia (its a bit grainy but you can see the church and the white hats of the students)

We plan to partake in some of the activities but more so for the experience! We have a bbq to attend that evening so it will be more laid back for us.

Hope you are enjoying the spring wherever you are!


Monday, April 21, 2008

As requested...

As requested, here are a few pics of my sister and B.'s wedding

And a few of beautiful Canada!...Enjoy :)

An Interesting Perspective

So for those people who aren't familiar with the Swedish housing market, it can be a bit interesting (or frustrating depending on how you see it). In terms of rentals, the current system involves people signing up on queues for various apartment companies, and hoping that you are at the top of the queue when a good apartment comes up for grabs. This means that once a person has a first-hand rental contract they are very hesitant to give it up. For this reason, its really hard to get a first-hand contract (especially in Uppsala). Instead you have to sub-let from someone. This is extremely evident at this time of year as there are now many apartments listed for rent for the months of May through August, and very few for any longer than that (August is when school starts again). Rent is also controlled by the government and so rental prices are fairly low, at least when you look at the demand, and do not differ that much across the city. This means that we paid about $950 Canadian for an apartment in the most desirable part of town, that was approximately 800 sq feet, and had a beautiful courtyard and now we pay $800 for an apartment that is half the size, in a less nice neighbourhood, where we look at all our neighbours across the street. It also means that there are way fewer apartments than are needed as companies are not willing to build more because they don't make enough money. The Swedish government is in fact thinking of changing this though...check this out for more info on the current "hot" debate in Sweden.

Anyways, the good news is, is that we may have found an apartment for the rest of our time here. We are going to take a look at on Thursday afternoon, so keep your fingers crossed. The only bad thing is that we might have to overlap with our current contract for a couple of months, but I guess its worth the cost if we have peace of mind.

My other news is that I finally signed up for the free Swedish courses offered by the government but they probably won't start until August, so we'll see if I'm still interested by then :)

After our experiences here looking for a place to live, I can only say that I don't think that I will ever get as stressed about finding a place as I have been here. I'm looking forward to moving back and being able to find a place that we can keep for as long as we want! We could probably very easily become professional movers with all our moving expertise :p

God kväll!