Abisko, Lapland. “You are number 1….. in queue”

“You are number 1….. in queue”

The words of the grammatically incorrect monotone voice on the other end of the phone 18.48 minutes has passed and yet we still number 1 ‘in queue’. Don’t get me wrong Abisko, Lapland is absolutely sensational, breath taking and awe-inspiring, but the staff here at the Abisko Mountain Lodge, were used to co-existing with scrotty students, over-complaining middle aged couples and snotty little children. Before we’d even opened the door to our picturesque 4-bedded cottage we’d had a harsh encounter with the receptionist (whom was clearly the owner of the lodge) who quite clearly founed herself fit to ‘fulfil our needs’ by ignoring every single question we had asked and replying with unrelated imperatives.

Us, the scrotty students, thought we had booked a cottage for 8 people. However the receptionist/ lodge owner/angry woman behind the desk screamed back, “No, that was not the booking, you must rent 2 separate cottages.” After fumbling through a half frozen bag that had travelled all the way from Uppsala by train for 17 hours the confirmation email was placed in front of the lady.
She bearly looked at it for 0.2 seconds, instead her eyes merely scanned at the edges of the A4 piece of paper and gave it a dirty look, as if it was going to give her a paper cut, or even a disease.

“You booked 3 times, 15,17 *breath* 14,16 *breath* , 14, 17”

At first I thought she was just hurling random numbers at us but then after a later reflection in the  shower a few weeks upon my return I realised she must have been referring to the dates!

Well anyway I could waste my time here and totally re-enact the entire scene but the devilish caricature-like image of this woman should now be palpable, instead I will choose to highlight the best bits of the drama and let decide…..

After trying to fight our case she put us into two seperate cottages and then charges us for both even though we only wanted 1!

 

We didn’t book any activites in advance so we were getting on their nerves (quite clearly OUR fault haha!) Also the prices of these activities were literally double of that of sourrounding lodges!

 

She called us “a pain in the ass” upon departure!

 

We were obviously trying to challenge the fact that she should charge us for two lodges if we only booked one! She then knocked 500 kr off, because she knew she was taking advantage of us! And then screamed “I’ve knocked 500 sek off and was like I still can’t believe your still arguing!” As me being the peace keeper of the group, I stepped in because she was wagging her finger and pointing forcefully in my little cute Taiwanese friend’s face. I replied we are not arguing with you, we would just like to resolve the situation, and it’s not nice that you should point in peoples faces, as it comes across as rude” – in a very calm and collected manner!

Instead she screeched “Well you’re coming as rude!”

 

Before the whole exacerbation of the situation, one of the staff rudely said to one of my Malaysian friends. “Next time you speak to me look in my eyes”  and replied “you can look yourself” when they asked her to clarify  the train times.

We didn’t have the internet as we couldn’t access it in our cottage, the explanation for this (they said) was because “Sweden is very long!” Therefore we went into the lodge reception for the chance to use it (even though the signal was down for most of the time). However they kicked us out and said we weren’t allowed there after 7pm as “this area isn’t just for you know, it’s a place for our lodge guests and you have a cottage!”

They also didn’t let us have our bags when checking out in the reception, they said we must leave them outside, when asked why she gave the same monotone reply, almost like that of the answer machine voice, but with a vengeance. “this area isn’t just for you know”. To look at both sides of the argument I could understand if the reception area was 1x2sq. metres. But no! It was massive!

So in conclusion, they just didn’t like us, we tried to communicate but the female owner/receptionist/whoever she was, had such a temper! She said that if we didn’t like the experience then we should write about it on the review websites. Perfect! So I did. I also wrote a blog dedicated to the whole ‘experience’, nice one love!

Bike Fail.

Ok, so I’m not totally over it, neither am I willing to except it. Everything written here is 100% true, so yes please sympathise with me. I hope that nobody else has to experience what happened to me. But please do read on.

It happened over three days….

Day 1: I was riding my bike, admiring the gentle curves of the mountainous hills, the atmosphere was lined with tranquillity and my olfactory senses fabricated an illusory day of blissfulness and harmony.

I felt a slight judder, but due to the amorous mood I was in I thought it could have been just a hedgehog or maybe a small dog that I had ran over. Either or was totally fine, so I continued, still thinking of animals, smiling cheerfully with the thoughts of happy sharks and cute little angler fish floating in the sea.

My sister rang me and asked her to run important errand for her by 6pm. That’s fine, I thought, plenty of time! I had almost over an hour to cycle back from the gym; it normally takes about 20 minutes, no sweat! (sweat – that’s a joke right there, I’d just got back from the gym where you’d expect to….sweat! Ok, not funny). So anyway I’d continued the journey and then,

***POW!***  THE BACK TYRE PHYSICALLY DETACHES ITSELF FROM THE WHEEL AND IS HANGING OFF SO I’M NOW RIDING ON THE METAL PART OF THE WHEEL!!!

The breaks jolt and the tyre is in fact dragging behind me…. the need to get home for 6pm is playing on my mind, so I’m walking fast, and I make an intelligent decision to rush for the next bus home! Perfect! So i’m trying to chain my bike to the nearest lamppost limbs shaking and trembling with convulsions, I’m fumbling with the lock which just keeps on jump out of my hands, from the peripheral edges of my pupil I can see the bus approaching in the distance, so it makes me tremble more, resulting in a catch-22 situation, ahhhh why can’t I keep calm under pressure? Just as I’m finally locking the bike to the post, the bus goes past!!!!! Grrrrr, all I could do was pray for the bike not to be stolen when I revisited the next day, and for now? Walk by foot back home….

Now taking the opportunity to actually have a good look at the tyre of the bike, which is totally weird may I add. It did not consist of an inner and outer tube, instead just one tube which was too big for the frame, and was folded over twice to make it fit! How scandalous of them!

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I didn’t plan to have my camera with me, nor did I find it funny at the time, however I would like to  show you a reconstruction of the bike.

 

Day 2: What I failed (a constant re-occurrence in my life) to say was that I decided I had no choice but to ride the bike approx 3.8 miles into town to the bike shop. (Yes I just google mapped the distance.) And I had no choice but to force the tyre back onto the frame with a KNIFE to put it back on. How clever of me, putting back on a penetrable tyre with a knife haha!

On the way, after getting more stares than a person that gets stared at alot. I decided that I would just have to get on the bus to town….Surely rule enforced Sweden would just let me off for just ONE TIME (you’re simply ‘not allowed’ bicycles on the buses here) so I approached this man, in the dark at the bus stop…I know I know!

He conveniently spoke perfect English (better than mine) so I asked him if he could ask the bus driver (in Swedish) if I could just this once – due to the mitigating circumstances, if I would be able to get on the bus with my epically broken down bike…Now sweating beads of shear desperation, the guy nods at me and then we waited for the bus to approach and open it’s doors ….Then the guy WALKS ON THE BUS AND SITS DOWN WITHOUT EVEN ASKING THE BUS DRIVER IF I COULD GET ON! Come on!!!!! Could this day get any worse? I think you know what the answer is…..

Ok, so that guy just did me like that did he?! I carried on through this field, where there are sheep (behind fences of course) and I then thought if I stop the wheel from dragging behind me, then at least people will stop staring at me…So I lay the bike on it’s back and preceeded to detach the wheel.  BIG MISTAKE. Couldn’t get it back on….So now instead of just the tyre dragging behind me, the entire metal wheel frame is hanging off! I swear to you, there was no tactic, no method ever heard that would get this wheel back onto the frame!

I trembled on whilst limping beside the bicycle….”f**k it” I thought. I called a taxi. It did NOT come. I called another after giving my favourite taxi name “Sarah.” I wasn’t even going to try my actual name with another Swedish operator. The taxi comes. Relief!!! Ok so now, this is where I really should have re-evaluated myself. I was in a high-waisted skirt, knee length socks and oil on my face and trying not to play the ‘damsel in distress’ card. But I was in need, I needed help, I was close to tears…So yes, I did play that card.

My bike really wouldn’t fit into the boot of the car and so he kept saying, “Sarah, you’re really going to have to help me get this in…” Those words did not bode well in this situation, and I really did have a weak shoulder after injuring it during cheerleading practice (don’t say anything, don’t judge me!) So anyways, I’m trying to lumber a semi-detached bike in the back of a taxi-man’s boot who thinks my name is really Sarah on the streets of Uppsala. Ok. So you’re thinking that’s the worst it can get? NO! Of course not! Do you know who I am?!

Ok so I’m nearly crying in the taxi, I nearly get to the bike shop but then, obscurely the taxi man holds the fare at around £20  when I ask why he stopped the meter, he told me it was because that replacement of this I could give him English lessons and that he will call me on my mobile number that he could retrieve from the computer system! Creep! But I just threw the 200kr at him and ran off dragging the bike out of the boot with me! What a creep!

But what matters? I’m finally at the shop with the bike! However, I failed to mention that I made it to the shop when the bike had broke down the day before, WITHOUT the bike. And the guys that work at ‘M T Cykel’ said they would come and collect it. Which they did not.

However, I thought, ‘let’s drop the beef’. Yes, it was their bike that had a faulty tyre, it was not finished at it pick-up time (so I had another 3 previous visits to this shop), it was horrendously over-priced (1300 kr/ £120) for the rubbish piece of scrap metal which it actually was, the guys that own the shop were kind of creepy and offered me a bigger discount if I’d ask one of the guys in particular for a cheaper price. BUT! I was willing to over look it. I just wanted my money back (I had already had it ‘fixed’ once before!) I just wanted my money back!

So I politely asked if I could wipe all of the oil off my hands, they said they were ‘busy’ so I waited, waited and waited and then they finally conversed with me. I simply asked for a refund, as this bike was literally my nemesis! He creepily smiled and then examined the bike. He stated that the back bike tyre was flat and was pretty destroyed. In return, I replied that this was correct as this was what I was returning the bike for. In response to that, he said that the only thing he could do was to take the bike back but he’d have to deduct another 300 kr off the broken tyre! I was livid! How could he charge me for a tyre that was faulty in the first place?! It didn’t even fit the bike! However, I was so exhausted and fed up of this bike that after a few minutes of me trying to demonstrate that this was not fair, I decided to give in and except the 1000kr/ £93 for the bike in hope that I could just walk away and buy another brand new one. So he asked for the receipt and all would be done. I reached in my bag, retrieved my wallet and pulled out the receipt. But that was not the receipt. The receipt was not there!!!!!! With the option of falling to my knees in despair, I accepted defeat, decided that I should sleep it off and return in the afternoon with the receipt after class.

Day 3: I did indeed return to the bike shop with the receipt and I walked away scowling with 1000 kr minus the 300 kr for the tyre and 200 kr taxi fair. Fail. The end of the Bike Fail.

I’m sorry but that’s not it! Hahaha. I hope you are still reading, but in short….. I went to Biltema, which is a mission and a half away, it’s a shop notorious for having things that work (sort of) at good prices, kind of like the Argos of Sweden. So I sat on that sweaty bus (of course I didn’t have a bike to cycle) and I made sure I got there, which I did! I brought a new bike at approximately 1700 kr and cycled home! (I got a little lost) But, at last! A new brand bike with no gears *gulp*.

Then after a few months, it got stolen.

Fail.

Why are Swedes so random?

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When I used the word Swede, an intelligent friend of mine asked me to clarify whether I was speaking about the dull, tasteless and lifeless thing that you find in supermarkets and I replied, “Swedish people, yes”. Only kidding, Swedes I love you, and no I am not aiming this comment at the turnip (well you’ll have to judge whether I’m joking or not). I will try and use the term ‘Swedish people’ to avoid complication between the vegetable and the blonde person…well they are just as quiet. Joke. But they are probably amongst the most random people I’ve ever met.

Well, I suppose it’s not the people individually, it’s the culture. I mean who goes to the supermarket and doesn’t pack their bags whilst the items are going through the checkout, instead they merely wait until the bitter end, until after the payment is complete and all of the items are soullessly lumped on top of each other. The tomatoes are now gashed by the baked bean tins and the grapes are now being swallowed by the halved cantaloupe. Not only are your most embarrassing items on show for everybody see for those 1.38 minutes you grin at the checkout girl, nodding to everything she says in an attempt to fool her in to believing that you speak Swedish but no, that’s not even it. You then have to rush to pack your shopping into reused bags (not because i’m eco-friendly, well sort of, but because carrier bags her are expensive. I once spent almost £4/40kr on a paper IKEA carrier bag, and IKEA is a Swedish brand!!!) Actually don’t even get me started, that’s a completely new blog topic…hmmm light bulb moment. I’ll write a new blog entitled ‘stupidly expensive things that i’ve bought in Sweden, that shouldn’t even be expensive, but they are because they’re from Sweden,’ check it out in a few weeks…

But anyway, another peculiar thing about Swedish people is that they queue to take a ticket for a queue. No lie. Read that sentence again. Yes, there are no errors. Ok well maybe I’m exaggerating a little…me exaggerate?! There’s not always a queue for a ticket per se, well hardly ever, it’s most frequently one of those regrettably awkward moments when you both go to the ticket dispenser at the same time and you have to act like the bigger person by letting the 80 year woman with a zimmer frame and liver spots go first, psssh do I ever?! You snooze you lose, that’s my motto, get to the back granny! Or if you’re a professional ticket swiper like me, you spot your competition, distract, trip up or rugby tackle (whichever is most appropriate in an overcrowded train station, shopping centre, or pharmacy) to get your win. Once again…You snooze you lose, and if you do end up losing, what is the harsh penalty? Having to wait an extra 30 seconds until your ticket number is called at the next cashier = fail.

Pre-paid electronic bus passes is the next rant subject area, nope you can’t even pay cash for a ‘one-off’ occasion to get on a bus. You have to go the central station, or a place which offers the same type of facilities, e.g. a big supermarket whose distance is at an equal inconvenience. You then have to be prepared to top up in “even hundreds” – as quoted by the kiosk lady – so that’s like 100kr (£10), 200kr, 300kr etc, there’s no topping up 5kr (50p) to scrounge together the last few pennies on your card for a single journey! So visitors Uppsala, be aware;  either get clued up and get an electronic bus card or text ticket only available to Danish or Swedish phones or….play the ‘hopeless international student’ card! None the less, you can pay with a debit card, with the minimum charge being 30kr – or man up and cycle!

Actually, that rings a bell. Oh and the bells are quite crappy on the bus, you have to really press it in to notify the bus driver to stop. In fact you really really have to press it in, to the point of digging your thumb nail into the crevice of the gap and actually letting your nail act as the point of contact between the circuit board and the live wires, so that now the electricity can flow freely to allow the sound to be generated as an output.

And I was talking about Swedes being random….

Erm. What do I have left to say…..

  • Their payday is on the 25th of every month. Random.
  • If want to get a Personal Number (a residential/citizen number) to get a job, join the gym etc then don’t bother, the system is way too complicated for that.
  • In some areas they eat rotten fish called ‘Surströmming’ whereby you have to eat it like this….
  • Their last bus from my apartment to a supermarket filled area runs departs around 7pm, even though shops are open until 10pm, so you’d better be eating those raisins until tomorrow morning if you don’t plan your weekly shop properly…
  • At a highly populated student accommodation area named ‘Flogsta’ the bus stops running from 1pm-4pm on weekdays to the area of SLU when students have lessons to go to!
  • If you want a friend to visit you and get into nations…then you need a PASSPORT or another photo ID along with their home university card and a fee of 75 sek. You then need get this approved at an office in the city centre, which has the strangest opening times… http://www.kuratorskonventet.se/default.asp?sc=page&sid=11
  • If you’re an idiot like me and fail to realise that you need to change your login password for university computers by a certain deadline, you’re most likely going to need your password reset. For this the requirements are; to find the IT office. Get there (NOT in lunch time hours – unknowingly I’ve tried that before). Show them ID. You then must wait a few minutes to an hour to get your password reset to find out that it will not work for all universities in Uppsala in which you study, therefore you must return to the IT office at opening hours with your PASSPORT (you can’t just send them an email), to resume the process!

I’m going to take a lesson from the random Swedes themselves and abruptly end this conversation now.

Bye.

P.s. One must read this blog as a small display of bitter experiences which have happened to me in the past and therefore these are touchy subjects that I will probably be still sour about until the bitter end. In addition to this I would like to state that I can not guarantee that you will experience the same things here, nor will they indeed tick you off in the manner as they did with me, instead you should be optimistic and positive for your potential future here at SLU.  I take no responsibility if you visit Sweden and none of these enjoyable experiences ever happens to you. I will just be green with envy. Life experience hurts.

But I love Sweden! *this sentence was not added after I already wrote the blog to convince people into thinking that I love Sweden. Nor was it written in attempt to allow my editor to publish it. Finally, may I add that it was not written whilst my editor’s gun was held to my left temple with added pressure being applied to the trigger.*

I am scared for my life now. Hahahha, joke! Sweden is amazing!  But I’m still scared – if you don’t get a blog from me soon you know why…

Peace, Love and Prosperity.

I’m here.

I’m here. Yup, that’s right. I’m in Uppsala right now, on campus at my cute little IKEA desk, in my cute little IKEA room. For those of you that don’t know me, or perhaps never will, (i’m not sure if that introduction was too blunt *edit*) it’s my first blog for SLU, hence why I haven’t acquired the appropriate use of the edit tool just yet…It’s going to be an effort to formally introduce myself over the internet and all, but I suppose the best first impression you will gain of me is via a verbose synopsis overflowing with grammatical contractions, errors and excessively long sentences, which is indeed a reflection of what you’re reading now.

Okay, so let’s ‘cut to the chase’ (that’s a twee little phrase we use over in England) I’m from England, which is pretty obvious since I just said the word England, and now I can’t stop saying the word England, but Birmingham to be precise. I like toast. No, I love toast. I’ve been in Uppsala, Sweden since August 22nd. (I don’t know who permitted me to say the date backwards, as it’s not typically written like that in the UK, but I must have picked it up from this cute little American girl I hang around with, from now forth I will rename her as…‘Buttons’). Well anyway, let’s continue…But before we do, I must warn you now that I have a tendency to drift onto other non-related topics and I would really say it’s a fatal flaw, just like the stories surrounding Olympian Gods in Greek mythology. See, what a prime example I’ve just demonstrated! Greek mythology?! I really do need to sort my life out for the blog’s sake.

*2nd attempt of introduction* (note to self, start with your name)

My name is Tineka Blake, I started my undergraduate degree at Leeds University which is really an amazing place to be a student! I’ve been studying biology for the past two years and will continue to study it here at SLU. I’m 20 years old, yes that has been a slight issue – but if you stay tuned into my blogs then you’ll understand why. I have a very ‘unique’ British accent (along with 1 million other inhabitants) which stems from the mid-regions of England, but I’m sure others wouldn’t have put it so nicely (e.g. Joe Wastie/anybody else from the south/north/east or west of England). I enjoy taking long strolls in the park, ha! Only joking of course, I’m a tad more active than that… I have an absolute infatuation with dance and I’m currently trying to inject it into the streets of Uppsala!

Oh yeah, I’m a girl. Hopefully when this blog goes out I will have figured out how to attach one of the most unflattering photographs of myself, so people will feel sorry for me and read more of my blogs. Oh the joy! And that’s it really. Sorry to be blunt but there’s really nothing more to say except that it’s pretty dark outside and I’m getting sleepy at 4pm….4pm! What a funny thing living in Sweden/being a lazy student/eating chicken does to you.

Well if I haven’t bored you by now and you are in fact a human being reading this sentence, then expect my future blogs to be;

a) less annoying than this introductory blog,

b) filled with what’s going on in my life,

c) and most importantly, UNCENSORED!!

I’m fed up of reading blogs which are prettied up and edited out so they don’t contain any juiciness, and I’m tired of those that roughly outline their last trip to Stockholm as “nice and pleasant” with a couple of jpegs thrown in for kicks. Well, let me tell you now. Stockholm is NOT “nice and pleasant” it’s rugged, fierce and unnervingly bold, it’s BRILLIANT! In fact reminiscent of London at the best of times.

This blog will contain the real ‘ish’ even if I have to drop in a few names here and there to show you what i’m REALLY talking about! (I now hope that all of my friends don’t get scared to leek their most inner truths and secrets, but their lives will be hideously unwrapped and unfolded right here in this blog for you to cowardly sneer, scorn and mock from behind your anonymous computer screens. NOT. I’m undoubtedly sure that most of the laughs will be at my own expense due to my tendency to often fail at the most simple things in life. )

Ok, so i’m going to stop babbling now and let my literary skills take a rest …I need to do some homework that will be due in soon, a presentation that I haven’t started due to me cycling into town to buy french bread and… go downstairs and microwave some more mince pies.