Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A while ago

Forever ago we went to Stockholm for the day. I'm just now getting around to posting some pics from the trip. It's only a 40 minute train ride and is such a beautiful city to visit. Here's Jen (the other staff girl) and I on the train:

And we didn't realize this until later but Josh snapped this great pic of us...

This pic cracks me up everytime I look at it. We look so mad to be on the train.

Anyways, once we got to Stockholm we walked around, did a little shopping and enjoyed eating at different restaurants (the ones in Uppsala are getting a little old now). It was a fun free day with our team! Here are some pics:

There was some national event going on the day we were there, so they had a huge band playing outside of the royal palace.

For dinner that night we went to a nice restaurant we had been to back in October when we were here with our UNC staff team for the vision trip. I opted for some amazing pesto pasta and Josh thought some reindeer sounded good. Yep, reindeer meat. Here's a pic of it

So that was our day in Stockholm! Blog again soon!



So, if you tuned in last blog we were taking a cruise to a land called Estonia. I don't think I had ever heard of this country before to be honest. So we didn't know what to expect. We got there in the late morning and had until dinner time to walk around. The city was really pretty- on the water with really old buildings everywhere. An old church was one of the first things we saw and it was beautiful. This is the best pic we got of it so you can't really tell how cool it was:

We wanted to climb to the top of it but it cost money so we passed. After that, we just walked around the city looking at the buildings and going in cute shops (if there was any doubt about who was writing this you now know its Erin with the word "cute"). Here are a few more pics:

And here we are on an ancient pile o' rocks...

Probably the highlight for Josh was shooting bows and arrows. Yep, you heard me right. Estonia liked to play up its medieval-ness so they had a place where you could pay to shoot arrows. He had to wear a cape and everything. He did surprisingly well having never done that before and got lots on the target. We'll post a video of it later but heres a pic of it:

Let's be honest, that was my favorite part of the day too. So hilarious! After our step back in time, we went to lunch. Had great Italian food downtown at an outdoor cafe. The most random point of the day was while we were eating lunch we looked over and saw this

People dressed up as Russian dolls. You know, the usual. They were passing out flyers for something but we couldn't read the language so we're not sure what it was for. Oh Estonia! The country used to be part of the USSR so there is a neat mixture of Europe and Russia there. Thus the Russian doll-fest.

So that was our mid-project trip! More soon about our last week and a half in Sweden!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Say what?!

We see this sign every day as we walk back to our hostel and it always makes me laugh.

Any guesses on how to pronounce it?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cruising back in time

Hello faithful blog readers! Thanks for stopping by (college roomies- you know that video of that kid from New Mexico popped into my head when I just typed that.."Hello my future girlfriend....bye, thanks for stopping by!") Ok, I digress...

We're back in Sweden after our 2 day cruise to Estonia (we got back on Tuesday but I'm just now having time to blog it up). What an adventure! Before we left, the other staff with us warned us not to set our expectations too high and that the word "cruise" may be used liberally here. So I was a little nervous heading to Stockholm on Sunday...what exactly am I getting myself into? Is this going to be a little ferry boat that we're sailing through the Baltic on? And mostly...why, oh why didn't I bring Dramamine with me?!

Thankfully my fears were not realized as we pulled up and saw this...

Yay, a real cruise ship! We boarded late afternoon on Sunday, got settled into our miniature room and left the dock around dinner time. There are a lot of little islands off the coast of Stockholm, so it was beautiful to see them as we sailed by.

The cruise, like any in the US, had a big buffet. Unlike the US cruise ships however, I didn't know what much of the food was. What I did know was what cheese and crackers looked like so I went with that for dinner the first night. Josh was a little more adventurous in his food selection- some pasta with mystery meat in it and such. We had purchased the cruise tickets about a week before we left back in Uppsala and found out that if you wanted unlimited soda it was going to be like $20 more. We decided we could all drink water for that long and opted out of that expense for the project. What we didn't realize until that first night at dinner was that the water was not included for free either. Water? Are you serious?! After much miscommunication with our waitress (a hilarious moment that I can't do justice to over blogging) we realized that we could either buy $3 bottles of water or not have anything to drink. We opted for the expensive water rather than spend night #1 parched. Random moment #1 of many. Here is some of our group at dinner:

From dinner time Sunday until about 10 am Monday morning, we cruised the Baltic Sea headed for Estonia. There were so many hilarious moments on that cruise. The first night we decided to check out the entertainment and shows they had going on. And I am so glad we did. They had a band playing lots of early 90's obscure hits. Such as "Crush" by some girl band I can't remember, some Sheryl Crow tunes (which we did the electric slide to...why not?!) and "Achy, Breaky Heart." I really don't think I've heard that song in at least 10 years and I've heard it twice now since I've been in Sweden. Anyways, the band was called "Night Flight" which just made me laugh (1) at how cheesy the name was (2) how we aren't on a flight but on a boat and (3) how all of their outfits and decorations were straight out of the early 90s. I definitely felt like I was on a time traveling cruise ship. Side note: here we are on the boat. It was a little windy if you can't tell...

Wow, this is long. We haven't even gotten to Estonia yet :) I've just decided this post is going to be about the cruise and I'll do a separate one about Estonia.

So yes, the cruise was hilarious. One of the highlights for me was that they had Karaoke. Um, yes please!! The first night there were alot of people signing up so I didn't sing but alot of the students did. A little Bon Jovi, Backstreet Boys and lots of Swedes singing Mama Mia (shocker!). Random moment #100 was hearing a middle-aged Swedish man sing "Feelings, nothing more than Feelings."

We headed back to our tiny cabin later that night and tried to figure out how we were going to sleep in these little beds. Not me so much, but Josh. There were 4 bunk beds sandwiched in there- Josh finally found the one where his feet could hang off of the end most comfortably and called it a night. Our bathroom was hilarious too. The don't really have dividers between toilets and showers here in Sweden and they definitely didn't in the tiny cabin bathrooms. So anytime one of us would shower the entire bathroom would be soaked.

So we arrived safe and sound Monday morning in Estonia and had the day to explore (more on that later). That afternoon, we hopped back on the cruise and headed back across the Baltic. By the trip back we discovered that there was a children's buffet with fries and chicken nuggets so I sneaked that instead of eating cheese for dinner again. All 27 of us bought drinks in Estonia so we wouldn't have to drink $3 bottles of water.

And since I missed my 15 minutes of Karaoke fame on the first night, I made sure to get my name on the list early. I sang "No Scrubs" with some of the girls. I never realized how much the chorus repeated itself until we were all standing up there repeating it about 80 times. Then Josh and I finished out the night with "I Swear," a cheesy 90's love song, which I could barely sing because Josh was making me laugh so hard. Here's a pic one of the students got of it:

The cruise was really fun- a great time to bond and just have good down time with our summer project team. It was refreshing to have some time away before we wind down ministry on campus. We've had 3 days of ministry this week and will have 4 next week before we head to Germany for debriefing on Friday. Hard to believe our time here is coming to a close!


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Medieval Times

Sorry for the lack of pics lately..I keep meaning to post about our trip to Stockholm but I need to track down some pictures first so it still has happened. But today we head to our mid-project retreat. We are, randomly, going to Estonia. It's a country across the Baltic Sea from Sweden (yea I'd never heard of it either!). We head to Stockholm today by bus, get on the cruise ship (they might use the term cruise ship loosely here...we'll see!) And head to Estonia overnight by ship. We'll spend tomorrow (Monday) in Estonia looking around the city called Tallin (I probably spelled that wrong).

From what we've heard its a well preserved city where some of the buildings date back to the 800s. What?! We've heard it's a beautiful city that looks like a fairy tale, according to Swedes we've asked. Our American friends who have been said it looks like Shrek. So here we go, fun medieval times ahead! Hope unlike the Medieval Times in Myrtle Beach I'll be able to use a fork and knife at restaurants :)

We'll be back on the blog after we get back Tuesday!


Ministry lately

So we have been doing a few other things besides jumping off high dives and watching high schoolers ride in dump trucks :) This past week was an exciting one for ministry. Students are beginning to have exams now, so it has been a little harder to meet them since everyone is really busy. Last Monday, however, we had a cookout which we invited our Swedish friends to. Since it's exam time and considering the apathy of many Swedes we weren't sure how many folks would actually attend. Last year the summer project did a similar event and only a few folks came.

We were SO excited when 20 students ended up coming!! We were able to just hang out, play games with them, and get into further conversations with some of them about spiritual things. The long-term staff in Sweden were at the cookout, which was great because they are now connected with these students and can keep having conversations with them long after we're gone.

One of the students we've met this summer is named Elin. Elin met Theresa (one of the summer project girls from UNC-W) the first week we were here. When Theresa asked her what she thought about God, she said "For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son." Theresa was totally shocked! Many students here have been to confirmation class when they were younger and for most it is a hoop to jump through because of tradition. Many students I've talked to honestly only went to confirmation because they get presents after they're through! But for Elin, this verse she heard years and years ago stuck with her. She told Theresa she didn't really know what it meant though, it had just stuck with her for some reason. Theresa was able to tell her what it meant and explain the Gospel to her. Through their conversations, Elin decided she wanted to read the Bible and her and Theresa are continuing to meet to talk about it.

Another student we've met is named Emme. Rachel and Meredith, two girls from Duke, met her two weeks ago. They talked to her some about spiritual things and she was interested enough to meet back up for "fika" this week. They decided to bring Chrysta, one of the long-term staff, along with them so Emme could meet her. Although she is still not sure if God is real, she decided she wanted to read through the Gospel of John with Chrysta, Rachel and Meredith. Chrysta remarked later than in her year in Sweden doing ministry, this was the best conversation she has had. Thank you so much for your prayers for the ministry here. These stories, and many others, have reminded us that God is at work here softening hearts.

As encouraging as these stories are, the reality is this is spiritually still a very dark place. A few nights ago some of our students went to a park to hang out. The park was packed and one of our students asked what was going on. It sadly turns out that this was a "hook up" party where people come to meet a girl or guy and invite them back to their apartments. As the students looked out at the hundreds of Swedes there, their hearts broke at how many people were there looking for satisfaction from partying and sex, when really Christ alone is who can satisfy their souls. It has been absolutely overwhelming and heartbreaking at times to see how many things Swedish students are running to to try to find life and satisfaction. As much as our hearts break for them, we know Jesus' does more:

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." -Matthew 9:36

Pray with us that God would open Swedes' eyes to see that HE is ultimately what they are searching for. And that they would run to the Good Shepherd that loves them more than they could imagine.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

10m High Dive

Josh here...I'm back!

This is not among the stupidest things I've done in my life, but it was on the scarier side.

Today some of the guys went to a indoor swimming facility here in Uppsala. They had Olympic regulations dives. 1m, 3m, 5m spring boards. And 5m, 7m, and 10m platform dives. Don't ask why but I went straight to the top. Go big or go home I guess. Approaching the edge of the board made me second guess why this was a good idea. 33.3 feet doesn't seem like much in any other context. But if you are going to subject yourself to gravity at that height its quite a rush. It was the most unnatural thing in the world to approach the edge and let go. I'm sure if we had a close up of my face you'd see fear in the whites of my eyes.

Here is the result. Quite a splash. My friends from Willmington, Ben and Kyle offer some commentary...

Two other guys did it to... Here is Scott, student from UNC. Right before he jumps listen for, "I can't believe I'm doing this."

And here is Treece, other staff guy from Willmington.

Dumptruck Graduations

Remember high school graduation? The feeling of 13 years of school winding down and college just on the horizon? The fun of celebrating with your friends...piling into the back of a dumptruck with 30 of your closest friends and riding around town? Yea...me neither.

Yesterday was graduation day for high schools in Sweden. And the tradition, for some odd reason, is that students' parents rent dump trucks and tractors and people pile into the back of it. This is hands down one of the funniest phenomenons of Sweden I've witnessed so far. They load up speakers and blast music and everyone just stands in the back of these trucks and sing and yell. And the poor truck drivers drive them around town ALL DAY! I cracked up each time one drove by...which was a lot. So congrats class of 2010, YOUUU DID IT! Maybe next year go for a cookout instead??