THE FIRST WEEK

I’ve survived my first week in York, and thereby officially made it through the hardest time of moving abroad/to a new city. Yay!! I’m starting to feel at home in my flat and to find my way around town.

With the help of google maps I found a potential running route and went out at dawn on Friday morning to escape the worst traffic. I got lost once or twice, but I also saw a hot air balloon fly into the horizon, met a flock of sheep grazing an endless field, and ran along the quiet river in the crisp morning air. 

On Friday night I skipped the pub quiz for postgraduates and embraced my solitude with cheese and a good book instead. That's what has been the biggest difference so far compared to when I moved to Edinburgh; back then I was so afraid that I'd be alone for the rest of my life, and therefore desperately took every opportunity there was to meet new people. This time I allow myself to take it slow and stay in if I don't have the energy to socialise. I'm constantly trying to lower the expectations and pressures that I put on myself, to be my own best friend - and to be able to be this comfortable in my own company feels like a very big step in the right direction.

But I didn't have to be alone for very long, because look who's here!! Fatou is going to do a MA in Religion and Public life at the University of Leeds, and since she hasn’t found a place to live yet, and Leeds is only 20 mins away by train (!!!), she’s staying with me until she finds somewhere to live. AAH LIFE. You can’t imagine how nice it feels to have her here, and knowing that she’ll be so close for the year ahead. <3 

Today we studied + looked for flats in a café for a few hours, hung out by the river in the sun, explored the food festival that's on this week in York, managed to grab some heavenly brownies for 50p just as the market was closing, and had a floor picknick (as I don't have any chairs yet...) when we got back home. By far the best Sunday activities. 

Tomorrow is my first day of uni!!! We have induction between 10-16, and I'm so, so, so excited (and also a bit nervous) to meet everyone! Wish me luck!!!

A WALK THROUGH YORK

On Wednesday I went for a walk through York and brought my camera, yay! Here are some snippets from my new hometown: 

Have you ever seen anything more British? No? I didn't think so. It's like stepping into a Harry Potter world - especially the Shambles, it’s literally Diagon Alley, albeit full of tourists.

The whole city centre smells of sweet chocolate, and as you make your way through the center you catch glimpses of York Minster between the buildings. York Minster is the biggest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe (I learned that during a History of York talk for all the International Postgraduates at Uni of York, hehe) and so, so beautiful! Also, it's so hard to photograph cities and buildings? There are so many lines and angles! I felt a bit rusty after spending 2 months in the forest photographing soft things like trees and animals. 

The last few days I have, apart from taking walks through the city, explored the campus, found the building for Women's Studies, and attended some Postgraduate Induction talks. Done pre-course reading in the library, been to a Postgraduate BBQ that my college (yes! they have a collegiate system at Uni of York, very British) arranged, and met so many nice and friendly people. 

So far I really, really like it here. I have a feeling that this is going to be a good year. 

UPPSALA IN BLACK AND WHITE (+SOME COLOUR TOO)

I made it safely to York, got the keys to my flat (it's so nice!) and have spent the last 36 hours unpacking my stuff and trying to figure out the basics of life (i.e. where to buy food). I've gone through every emotion in the spectrum (from euphoric to uncontrollably sad), like you do when you move to a new place, a new country, where you know nothing or no one. Luckily Otto pieced me back together last night over the phone, and I feel like a person again.

Anyway, everything feels so new and foreign (and amazing too!!) that I haven't really got the words to describe it all right now. Let's look at my 6 days in Uppsala instead:

After 3 weeks apart the adrenaline was rushing through my body as I stepped of the train, seeing each other again was even more amazing than I imagined. Otto showed me the ecosystem that he has built during these weeks, the main components of his new life. We went to the library to study, we discussed ideas for one of his essays (it was so fun, I can't wait until I get to study again), and ate lunch at the konditori he usually goes to. We explored the city, were amazed by the art gallery (like we tend to be), walked through the gardens, and went to a short film screening. We biked to Gamla Uppsala, climbed the hills and ate brownies in the shade, and later the same day we made our own party hats and threw a kräftskiva together with Otto's friends. Did everyday things like eating breakfast, falling asleep/waking up next to each other, buying food together, walking hand in hand in silence, watching movies in bed - all the little things that you value 1000 times more when you're apart.

p.s. till dig som kom fram till mig på lördagsnatten och sa att du gillar min blogg; tack tack tack igen! Jag blev så himla, himla överrumplad att jag inte riktigt vet om jag fick fram det jag ville säga, men tack! Du gjorde mig så fnissigt glad. <3

THE WEEKEND OF WALKING

This weekend was a very sad one here in Piggaboda, as we had to say goodbye to our little dog Bamse. </3 He jumped down from the bed on Thursday morning and when he landed he started screaming in pain (it was the most heartbreaking thing ever) and he wouldn't move. We drove him to the vet who thought that he had an internal bleeding, but as Bamse also had a heart murmur his heart wouldn't make it through surgery - and we had to put him down. It was the saddest day ever and we cried our hearts out. Now he's resting next to his dad Snobben, and our other dog Plum, under the Hawthorn tree. At least he got 13 years of the best life a dog could wish for. <3 

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So this weekend we've been out for a lot of long walks since walking in quiet forests is the best thing to do when you're sad. Our farm borders the grounds of a Baron; thousands of hectors of forest upon forest, walking there is like walking through no man's land = best thing ever when you don't want to see people. Johanna and I picked a basket full of the biggest chanterelles we've ever seen and listened to the silence. 

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On Friday morning the forest was wrapped in a thick fog, and with the sun shining through everything was covered in a peculiar white light. We walked down to the lake first thing in the morning and sat down on the deck, talked about everything that came to mind while looking out on the still water. 

Saturday and another walk. We had no luck in picking chanterelles, but the forest was ever so autumnal. We also drove 26 km (one way) just to buy sweets for our movie night. Very reasonable if you live out in the middle of nowhere like we do.

Yesterday we (Johanna, Pär and I) walked along the old railway track down to the lake and swam in the dark waters. It was much warmer than I expected? So weird but nice to be able to go for a swim in September. 

Tomorrow I'm leaving Piggaboda for a week(ish) in Uppsala, and then I'm heading to York!! And even if I'm beyond excited to see Otto, to see my new home town for the first time, and start uni again (!!) - I know I'll miss the forest, all the animals, my family, and the slow-paced way of life here in Piggaboda. It's been a good summer. 

SEPTEMBER

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The ground is sprinkled with leaves in every colour of autumn; first birch, then oak, now aspen, and soon maple. The swallows have left for the south, so have the cranes. The rowan berries glow bright red in the evening sun, and we take turns in saying "it's going to be a cold winter". The apple trees bend under the weight of the fruit, and every minute you hear a dull thud as yet another apple hits the ground. The house constantly smells of apples; apple pie, apple crisps, apple sauce, apple everything. Apples and chanterelles (we've lost count of how many litres we've picked this year). 

September, I like you. A lot. 

MY FACE + LIFE UPDATE

Photo by Johanna (of course <3). 

Okay, so this whole moving-to-york-business is starting to feel real. I’ve enrolled online, been given a student number and have access to our student portal. I’ve signed a contract for a studio flat, I’ve booked my plane tickets, and I’ve introduced myself to the rest of my class in our student blog (everyone seems so nice!!). Now I just need to wait. 

Seeing everyone else going back to work and uni after summer while I’m still in some kind of holiday mode has made me feel like I’m in a time vortex where nothing makes sense. The sun just goes up and down, endlessly. I’m restless, and even if I try to enjoy the utter privilege of being able to spend the summers in an Astrid Lindgren-saga, my whole being is itching for a purpose and a context again. For studying. For learning. Although, I have to admit that I'm a tiny bit worried that my brain will have turned to absolute mush during these 4 months of summer holiday.

The 19th of September I’ll arrive in the city where I’ll spend the coming year, the place where I'll once again build a life from scratch; make new friends, learn new things, probably have a few mental breakdowns, discover new favourite places, laugh, cry, and let life happen. My new home. I can’t wait. 

GOOD GOLDEN MORNING

Good morning and happy Friday! Not that it makes any difference for me what day it is, it feels like my life has turned into a perpetual holiday. I started today with a morning run to the lake where I took a quick swim in the ice cold water before running back home again. It feels so amazing to be able to fully enjoy running. It has previously been filled with so much anxiety, so much pain, but now running fills the same function for me as I imagine meditation does for a lot of other people - it's my happy place. Anyway, I just wanted to say hi and show you these photos I took yesterday when the sunrise showered the forest in gold. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Now I'm off to prepare tomorrow's crayfish party! Speak soon!

SUMMER WITH HIM

last photo by Nastasja

last photo by Nastasja

Summer is over. I can feel it in the chilly morning air, in the scent of the forest (wet moss, decaying mushrooms, and drying leaves), and in how the wind stubbornly finds its way through my jacket. This summer has been filled with amazing, beautiful, blissful moments that may seem simple to the eye, but felt world-changing. Moments that I know I'll treasure the coming year when we're separated by the North Sea, so I'm saving them deep within, in wait for yet another summer and the rest of our lives. 

THE STUDY SURVIVAL GUIDE

Now that schools and universities are starting again it's high time for a little study survival guide! Yay! Although, as I'm starting my master in less than a month (!?!) I'm a bit scared that I'll jinx my study abilities too much by publishing this post, but (touch wood) hopefully it'll just serve as a reminder for myself as well. 

Before we start, I need to take a moment and emphasise how individual the learning process is. These are the things and methods that work for me, but they might be a total disaster for someone else. So the most important thing that I can say is: find your own way of studying. It takes time to get to know yourself and your workflow, so if you're in first year and feel super lost and have no clue what you're doing - don't panic. You'll be fine, I promise. 

Rule number one: stick to your deadlines. So boring, I know, but it is so important in order to manage your workload and to not put yourself in the stressful, painful, and completely unnecessary situation of having to do all-nighters at the library in order to get your stuff done on time (been there, done that, never doing it again, etc.).

I find that the best way of avoiding deadline stress is to look at how many assignments you have during the semester ahead of you; write them down in your calendar, estimate how much time you need to finish each assignment, and set dates when each assignment/step needs to be done, so you know you'll have enough time and don't get overwhelmed with work.

structure your day.

I try to treat studying as a normal job, with set times and tasks for each day. Therefore, my top tip is to make a schedule of your day - and stick to it. It doesn't have to be something advanced, and you don't even need to write it down (although, I'd advice you to, because writing it down makes it harder to cheat and trick yourself into not working), as long as you know what you need to do, when it needs to be done, and how you are going to do it.

With that said, breaks are as important as the actual work, because if you don't take breaks your brain will eventually shut down. I've noticed that it is easier for me to relax during my breaks if there's a clear divide between 'work time' and 'break time'. Therefore, if I'm studying at home, I go out in the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea/coffee, or if I'm in uni I go for a short walk around the campus, just to get away from the screen for a while. 

break it down. 

In order to get a better overview of my work and what needs to be done I break it down into smaller parts. If I'm writing an essay (or any other piece of work), these are usually the different steps I go through:

- Research: this is the phase which usually takes the longest, where I get an overview of the literature and slowly form an argument. I find it very beneficial to take notes while researching; I don't write down every useful thing I find (that would take way too long), but I jot down key words and especially good resources (the oldest trick in the book, but oh so good; if you find an article that fits your essay perfectly, look up the sources that the author refers to, and you might find that you can base your whole essay on those, hehe). 

- Structure: what do I want to say in my essay, and how am I going to say it? This will form the skeleton of the essay, and I usually give each paragraph a heading (e.g. for the last essay I wrote at QMU the structure was: introduction, feminism and the sex/gender dichotomy, essentialism within feminism, overview of Butler's argument, deconstructing sex/gender dichotomy, the normativity argument, conclusion) so that I don't get lost while writing. And another top tip: make a mind map out of your essay structure! It makes it so much easier to see how the key points connect and how they interact with each other. 

- Writing: then it's time for the actual writing. Use resources that make it easier (I'll get back to this later), and re-write over and over and over again until you're happy with your text. Don't be scared to use new words and 'imitate' academic writing to the point that it feels a bit cringe; that's how you learn how you're 'supposed to' write (+ fake it 'til you make it is a thing in academia too, that's how I got through the first half of my degree). It's also important to know, or at least have an idea of, what kind of writing that your field wants. For example, when writing psychology essays I had to restrain my language and adopt a very formal and objective tone, whilst I could experiment and be a bit more creative in sociology essays. 

Referencing: often the references make up 10% of the mark, and since 10% definitely make the difference between an A and a B, I never leave it too late but put aside at least a day for referencing. The best thing is to reference continuously throughout the writing process so that you don't forget where you found what information, and then you'll also avoid the horribly boring and tedious task of writing out all the references in one go.

- Proof read: I read my stuff at least 5 times before I submit it. It's so important to proof read in order to get your essays flow, to make sure that everything makes sense, and to give you a chance to correct mistakes and improve the quality of your writing. Also, team up with a friend (preferably a native English speaker if you're a little foreigner like me) and proof read/discuss each other's essays! I usually get Otto to go over my essays and come with constructive criticism and correct stupid grammar mistakes = invaluable help. However, even if you're not writing essays in your second language, ask someone to read through your essays before you submit them! Others will always find mistakes that you miss just because you've been staring at your essay for too long.

The same goes for exam revision: breaking it down into sub-parts makes it much easier to get an overview of what needs to be done and makes it feel less daunting. I usually write down each step in my calendar (along with my overall plan of the semester) so that I know that I'll have enough time. 

reading.

Reading academic literature is not as easy as it can seem, and you save so much time and energy if you have a good way of 'dealing' with dense academic texts. This is what works best for me: 

- I read through the article/chapter from beginning to end, look up words and jargon that I don't understand, and try to form a general impression of the article; what is the author trying to say, and how? What theories are in use? Any research? What previous knowledge do I have about this topic? Do I agree/disagree, and why? 

- I go through the text again and highlight the important parts. 

- then I read through it one more time, but only the highlighted parts, and take notes of especially useful things. 

- I also jot down initial thoughts/reactions to what I've just read, everything from questions, to things I need to look up/read more about, and ideas of how I can use it in my essay.

It may seem like a tedious process, but it helps me understand what I'm actually reading, which is of course much better in the long run. Also, if you can, discuss what you've read with other people! Input from friends that do the same course/classes as you, and friends who have no clue what you're talking about, is so important! It'll give you other perspectives and, hence, add another layer of understanding to your readings. 

when and where? 

Where you study is super important. You need a place where you can work efficiently, with minimal distractions. Preferably with coffee within reach. Sometimes that's a quiet library, sometimes that a cosy café, and sometimes that's your desk at home - for me that's completely dependent on the assignment and mood of the day. But I'd advice you to scout out a handful of study spots where you know that you can work comfortably!

When you study is also super important. I personally get more work done between 8 am and noon than I get during the rest of the day, no joke, and therefore I always try to put aside those hours for work. But I also know that other people work best after midnight. So find out when you're the most productive and plan your schedule after that; there's no right and wrong, as long as you know that you'll be productive and get the work done on time (and preferably have some kind of functioning sleep+food routine).

webpages. 

In order to smoothen the writing process I always have two tabs open when I write essays; the first one is tyda.se where I translate from Swedish to English or vice versa; and the second one is thesaurus.com where I look up synonyms to words and phrases so that I don't repeat myself. 

apps.

Kill News Feed is my new best friend. It's an app for Google Chrome which does exactly what the name implies - kills your facebook feed (aka productivity's worst enemy). So when I log in to Facebook I see a blank page instead of the newsfeed. You still get notifications and you can still do and see everything else, it's just the newsfeed that's gone. You might miss out on photos of what your old high-school friends had for dinner yesterday or random videos of cats, but it will prevent you from falling into the black hole of aimlessly scrolling through your facebook feed.

SelfControl is an app for your laptop that allows you to create a blacklist with the webpages that you know will distract you (I have bloglovin, facebook, gmail, the guardian, etc. on mine) and block them for a set time of your choice, everything from 15mins to 24hrs. 

Noisli is a webpage where you can listen to sounds like rain, thunder, waves, etc. You can mix and match the sounds, and adjust the volume to your liking; perfect when you need to focus. 

And those days the library feels like a prison you can listen to these sounds and pretend that you're at Hogwarts instead. 

music.

I also have some go-to study music that I listen to whenever I'm tired of listening to rain. I have a meticulous system worked out for when I listen to what music, and therefore I need to squeeze in yet another disclaimer: this is the music that works for me, and it might be the worst possible study music for someone else (e.g. Fatou, who rather listens to Drake or old 90's music when she studies). So if this music doesn't work for you, find something that does!

Anyway, this is my most used study-playlist on Spotify. It's full of tried and tested classical tunes that I listen to while I write essays (and yes, it was playing non-stop while I was writing my dissertation). Some of it is a bit weird, but it always gives me energy to keep on going and puts me in a good mood. But beware, it's horrible to listen to while reading stuff that requires full attention, and you'll probably get an annoying earworm or two.

When I need something less distracting but still upbeat (e.g. when I read articles or do research) I listen to Gidge. When I'm stressed and need to calm down (and later in the day so that I'm not too hyped when I go to bed), I listen to Grouper

other. 

Good, noise cancelling headphones, for obvious reasons. 

A calendar that gives you a good overview of the coming week/month, and that has enough space to write in. I've been using Moleskine's Weekly Diary Notebook for years now because it has everything I need, but find something that works for you! 

food.

To keep your brain happy, you need to keep your body happy. And how do you keep your body happy? With food, of course. You need to eat regularly and properly to keep your blood sugar levels even, because if your blood sugar drops it will be impossible to focus and get anything done. Apart from the regular meals I always make sure that I have some kind of snack ready if I feel that my attention span is getting shorter due to hunger; nuts, fruit, date balls, dark chocolate, etc. 

sleep. 

Another, very self evident thing, but yet so important: you need to sleep if you want your brain to work. I'm one of those people who stop sleeping as soon as I get a tiny bit stressed, which means that I need to actively work to keep a healthy sleep routine. This is what has worked for me: 

- Never, and I mean NEVER, study in your bed. It will be the end of your sleep.

- Implement an evening routine that helps your brain + body relax before it's time for bed. I have a 'sleep easy' herbal tea that I drink every night, I light candles, and read a chapter in a book. Very cliché and mindfulness-y, but it works.  

- Have at least 45 mins of screen-free time before going to bed. 

- Think about things that make you happy before you fall asleep, it will keep you from dreaming nightmares about your dissertation and prevent you from getting anxious over all the things you need to do. 

- Go to bed + wake up at roughly the same times every day to give your body a sleep-wake-routine. 

exercise & fresh air. 

I've noticed that it's so much easier to focus (and to relax, and to sleep well) if I get at least some fresh air and exercise everyday. Again, it doesn't need to be anything advanced or last for hours on end, but a 30 mins walk in a park makes all the difference in the world, trust me. 

take a break and do something fun. 

Okay, I admit that I'm the worst for taking proper breaks and 'allowing' myself to do something else than studying, but I'm trying to get better and I know that it makes such a big difference to my performance and wellbeing. Also, remember to write down the fun things that you have planned in your calendar, however small or insignificant they may seem, because it'll make it less stressful to look at the coming weeks. 

treat yo self.

Reward yourself when you've done something you're proud of, when you've finished an essay or just had a productive day. It can be anything from having dinner with your friends, buying a new notebook, binge watching your favourite series, or anything else that makes you happy. 

study anxiety. 

The fear of not being good enough, the fear of failing, is the most draining, horrible thing ever; making it impossible to get any work done. I feel it sometimes, luckily very rarely nowadays, and I've noticed that the best way to get through it is to take a deep breath and just do it. It doesn't matter if it doesn't turn out great, or if you don't get an A (or even pass), the most important thing is that you keep on trying.

ask for help. 

Ask for help if you need it, both with study related things and if you find it hard coping with the stress. You're not weak if you do, just human.

Pink waters and a dark forest

Look who took the train down from Borås to hang with me and Otto for a couple of days - Nastasja!! I hadn't seen her since November last year so I was over the moon. 

We did typical countryside things like fishing in the most incredible sunset! 

And look!!!

Nastasja caught her first pike, ever!! We threw it back in again, of course. But still! Since we're not very savvy fishers we were so excited and surprised.

And look at this amazing sunset?? Thank you, Piggaboda. 

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To our left the moon climbed the sky and I got the chance to use one of my favourite Swedish words; mångata.  

We stayed until the daylight disappeared and the previous day was just an orange glow in the horizon.

We also picked bilberries! Another typical activity when you live in the middle of a forest. 

These two ♥ 

And filled another basket with edible gold. We also had a lot of fika, watched Lawless, talked talked talked, and just enjoyed being in the same place for once. Thank you internet and the blog world for this incredible person. ♥

A weekend in Gothenburg, seen through my phone

Min lilla sovkatt. ♥

Otto and I spent the weekend in Gothenburg, visiting my aunt and her partner at their beautiful summer house by the sea. We ate delicious food, did some sightseeing in the soaking wet weather, were so happy when the sun finally warmed our cheeks again, drank coffee and talked talked talked until late with the murmur of rain and wind as background noise. Spent the sunny Sunday afternoon at Marstrand with food, ice cream, angry sea gulls and the smell of salty waters, before we took the train back home to Småland. So happy and filled with energy after an amazing weekend.

Today I tried to go for a run in the morning, but 2k in I got the worst period cramps ever and decided to lie down in the middle of the forest to wait them out. It didn't succeed, instead I threw up, and walked/crawled home again. The contrasts of life, huh? So I've spent the day taking it easy in the sun, napping, and eating loads of chocolate. Which is not too bad, after all. 

the cat sitting week

Last week Otto and I were cat sitting Otto's aunt's cat at their summerhouse outside Oskarshamn. We went for long walks in the forest, ate massive breakfasts, drove over to Öland and had ice cream by the sea, went for morning runs and ran faster and longer than ever before, watched films every single night (Swedish thriller in my <3), went to the nearby elk park, had coffee with Otto's grandmother, read wrapped up in blankets in the chilly evening air, and devoured the long lazy days. 

35mm: Swedish summer

It's funny how much more attached I get to analogue photos compared to digital - they feel like little treasures, pieces of art, part of me, in a completely different way. Probably because of how much more important your interaction with the light becomes when you can't see the result straight away but instead have trust your abilities and let go of the control for a while. To celebrate that I've found a medium that feels like home, yet unexplored and exciting + to motivate me to do more, I've created an Instagram account for my 35mm photos! You can find it here: j.stroud35mm

And I've also started posting on my personal instagram again! So if you want to see photos of Otto feeding elks, breakfasts and other random things that happen in life, follow hejjenka.

a walk at 4 in the morning

I'm back in Sweden again to spend the rest of the summer here in the forest. The first morning back in Småland I woke up at dawn by the sound of the cranes and decided to go for a walk in the misty morning air. Nature is stiller than it was a month ago, it's like the greenery is as lush as it can get and now, instead of hysterically trying to bloom, it's resting in all its splendour. I listened to bird sounds in the distance (black-throated loon, woodcock, crane), ate my first homegrown pear of the year, got cuddled/followed by our cats, and was blown away by the beauty of the burning sky. When I climbed into bed again an hour later, my limbs were cold as ice, but my mind quieter and calmer than it's been in a long time. 

MY GRADUATION! (or that time we all dressed up like Harry Potter)

Finally, the long overdue graduation blog post, yay! I'm usually not a fan of ceremonial things with dresscodes etc., and I know it sounds cheesy, but it was truly one of the best days of my life. Even if I was running on only 3 hours of sleep due to nerves, and even if I was so ill I had to fight the fever with ibuprofen and lots and lost of water - I could not stop smiling. Let's have a look at some of the photos Johanna, my super photographer sister, took: 

Look, so happy! Here with my cute parents. 

And my little family: my aunt, Otto, mum, dad, my brother, and my aunt's partner. + my sister behind the camera. The robes we had to wear were so cool! I felt just like Harry Potter, one of the many perks of graduating. 

And one with my little sister (who's 15cm taller than me, lol). 

They had a bagpipe band playing, very Scottish. 

And Fatou!! Look how happy, cute and nervous we are!

Then it was time for the actual ceremony! They played organ music, held a couple of speeches and handed out our degrees. We had to walk across the stage in front of our teachers when they called our names, get cap doffed by the principal, and then we received our degree by the other side. I was so scared that I was going to face palm on the stage, heh. 

But I didn't fall!! Such a relief. 

Got my degree! 

Just after the ceremony, before we headed off with our families, we took a photo of our girl gang. These girls have been my group throughout these four years, we've been holding each others backs and encouraged each other to try even harder. They are so intelligent, ambitious, powerful, and funny - and I can't wait to see what fantastic things the future will bring. 

♡ ♡ ♡ 

You know the "I just want someone who looks at me the way my brother looks at ketchup"? Well, I just want someone who looks at me the way Fatou looks at her degree, haha. 

We were so hysterically happy. 

Before we headed off to the reception at QMU we had to take a photo with John, aka everyone's favourite teacher/person. He was my dissertation supervisor, and I really couldn't have wished for a more supportive and inspiring supervisor. 

At the reception they welcomed us with more bagpipes. 

We filled our hungry stomachs with canapés and I showed my family around campus. 

Took obligatory photos with my degree in front of QMU. 

And was cute with Otto on the deck by the pond. 

I also had to pay one last visit to the outdoor gym that Fatou and I've been using during our 10 mins study breaks. If this was a broom instead of a crosstrainer I'd be the most Harry Pottery person after Harry Potter himself.  

And my whole family joined in. 

Then I put on some more lipstick, took the train into town with my little Swedish contingent, and met up with Fatou's family at Las Iguanas for some Latin American food. 

Oh, and I also met this cute little sausage dog. Best day ever. 

the hottest day of the year

Yesterday, which was to be the hottest day of the year, I woke up here. Otto always reads the news first thing in the morning, while I'm scrolling instagram.. hehe. 

We had breakfast, and I got ready to meet up with Fatou. 

We had decided to seize the amazing weather and climb to the top of Arthur's Seat! 

We were geeky and cute with matching tote bags that we got from the QMU graduation reception. 

We started our walk to the top! We skipped the normal route and took a more scenic (and steeper) one.

Fatou was feeling the summer so she decided to take off her shoes and walk barefoot!

Almost there! We stopped to cool down in the breeze (and to catch pokémon!) and look at the view. 

How can it be so pretty?? I don't understand. 

At the top! 

Dogs!! First time I've ever seen dogs up there. The German Shepherd was loving life. 

Hello, you ant sized little people down there. 

I said "I love this city!" so many times, but I really do.  

Then we climbed down again. I also want to point out that Fatou was STILL barefoot. ♡

We sat down in the grass, ate some melon and talked about politics, summer and life. 

Fatou needed to study for an iSyllabus exam that she was taking the next day so we headed back down again. 

I hugged Fatou goodbye and started walking through the city, past Dean Village. 

Up to the Modern Art Gallery. 

Where Otto was lying in the sun on the mound outside Modern One. If there's a sunny day in Edinburgh you'll most likely find us here, reading and eating lunch. The shape of the mound shields from the most stubborn of winds and it always gets super hot up there - not that it was needed yesterday.

This is what I'm reading right now! I read Things Fall Apart by Achebe in highschool, really liked it, and decided that it was time to read more of his work. So far it's really good! We read and got fried in the sun (I had forgotten to put on sunscreen.. very big mistake) until the gallery closed at 5. 

Later we had the most summery dinner in the garden: hotdogs, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and potato salad. It was so good. 

The setting sun tinted the chimneys red, and the air was hot and humid. 

Then we read some more, edited photos and I turned into a lobster. End of the hottest day of the year! 

a Sunday in Edinburgh

Let's have a look at what I did yesterday: 

I woke up at 7 and did some reading for the MA in Women's Studies that I'm starting in September - so exciting! I also researched some PhD opportunities for next year, better to start early etc. I'm considering to do it in Sweden, but it seems so hard to get accepted? Or should I stay and do it in the UK? Don't know. 

After a couple of hours my stomach was screaming for food, so I woke Otto up and we had breakfast: greek yoghurt, nectarines, egg, cheese sandwiches, and turkish coffee. 

After breakfast I got ready and put on my face. A lot of you have been asking about my eyeshadow; it's from Mac in the shades Honey Lust and Star Violet! They're my absolute favourites out of the eyeshadow palette that I bought to treat myself after getting accepted to York - I've been using them so much that they're almost out.

And how nice are the (bottom) earrings that my family gave me for my graduation? They're kind of L-shaped, but from the front they look like straight lines. I've been wearing them every day, I love how simple they are, yet not too subtle. And they go so well together with the flat round ones I got from Nastasja for christmas.

After breakfast we took the bus into town.

At Princes Street we got new glasses for Otto, picked up a book from Waterstones, went on a hunt for black, leather loafers (also for Otto), and fought our way through the sea of tourists. 

After a little food break in Princes Street Gardens we went to the National Portrait Gallery to check out the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 exhibition that is on right now. It's the second time I've seen it and it's really 10/10, so amazing. It's on until the 2nd October and it's free, so go see it if you're in Edinburgh!

And look at this artsy photo person, he's 10/10 too. 

We walked back to Otto's place and rested our legs for 10 mins before it was time to head down to the shore. 

We had booked a table at Café Tartine! It's our new favourite restaurant in Edinburgh, the food (especially the mussels) is heavenly. 

1kg mussels for Otto, and 0.5kg for me. In creamy garlic and white wine sauce, with chips and bread. Mmmm.

We ate and ate and ate until we morphed into mussels. Then we rolled back home and spent the rest of the night playing Pokémon! I feel like I'm 10 years old again and it's great. 

SCOTTISH BEACH SUNDAY

I've been in Edinburgh for a week now. Three hours ago I hugged my family goodbye as they climbed into the taxi that took them to the airport. I had the best graduation - I'll tell you all about it when my sister sends me the photos that she took - and the best week together with my family. We've been all over the place (my phone tells me we've been taking 20,000 - 33,000 steps/day, phew) and I've showed them everything touristy + my best spots in Edinburgh, had so much amazing food, and just enjoyed spending time together again. 

On Sunday we decided to have a quiet day and hung out in their airbnb flat most of the day. But we also took the bus to Portobello Beach and had greasy, delicious fish & chips to the sound of the waves, walked along the shore in the rain, and talked to all the dogs we could find. 

What we did in Mavrovo, Sofia and Bitola.

Here's what happened between Skopje and Ohrid! Brace yourselves for the longest blogpost in the history of this blog: 

After leaving Skopje we arrived in Leunovo, a tiny village in Mavrovo National Park, just as the sun set behind the mountains. We had turkish coffee with our airbnb host, and then we went fishing with his cousin and his family in the purple dusk. They didn't speak a word of english, but we had such a great time together anyway. No fish though! 

The next day we explored the little villages that skirt the lake, in one of them we found this church that left us breathless. Until we realised that the paintings on the walls were actually wallpaper and not actual paintings. :((

We drove along windy roads through the mountains, past little farms and saw more goats and donkeys and cows that we could count. We stopped by the river and dipped our feet and hands in the perfectly clear, ice cold water to cool off in the pressing heat. 

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And stopped for lunch in Jance, the most picturesque village I’ve ever seen. Located on a hill so steep that the car struggled to take us up the road (we parked it halfway and walked up instead), with only 50 inhabitants but a hotel, churches and a mosque. We ate lunch while the call to prayer filled the air and couldn’t stop looking at the incredible view. Such a magical little place. 

We explored some more (more mountains, goats, scary roads, espressos etc.) and ended the day with pasta and pesto picnic on our balcony while watching the sunset. Life, you're too good sometimes. 

The next day we set out for Sofia in Bulgaria! A while ago I told my friend and classmate Vessi about our holiday in Macedonia and she excitingly suggested that we should take a detour to Sofia to visit her in her hometown! Feeling spontaneous, Otto and I checked that it was okay to take the rental car out of the country and booked a cheap airbnb. But before leaving Macedonia we stopped at Matka Canyon for lunch and some scenic landscapes. 

Since comprehensible road signs isn't a thing in Macedonia we got lost. So, so lost, and drove around the countryside and random little towns that weren't on the map for 1.5h before we managed to locate ourselves. After we'd crossed the border in the mountains, we took a breath of relief as we knew it'd be pretty straight forward after that and stopped for sandwiches in the most beautiful of landscapes () before we continued driving. Also, pro-tip: never ever drive in Sofia. Especially not in a rental car. And especially not when you've already been driving for 8 hours and it's dark and you have no clue of where you're going. Because all the streets are one-way and the other drivers have no patience for even a second of hesitance, and you will have to dodge cars and people and bikes coming from all directions. It was stressful to say the least, but everyone involved (including the car) survived. 

Our first day in Sofia we woke up to the news of Brexit. We had breakfast and sat out to explore the streets of Sofia, but it was hard to enjoy the excitement of a new place when it feels like you’ve just been backstabbed by your best friend. Brexit was the only thing we could talk about, but feeling lost for words we often fell silent and stared into the distance. It kept us up at night and the photos of a celebrating Nigel Farage made my stomach turn. The UK is my home, where I’ve planted my roots, and where I planned on living my life. This turned everything upside down and we were angry, sad and disappointed. At last we had to put a ban on reading any news about Brexit, the UK or Scotland (although the prospect of a new independence referendum is the only glimmer of hope in this freaking mess), because it put us in a gloomy mood = no good when you’re on holiday.  

The post-brexit depression is the reason why our four days in Sofia only make up a handful of photos and videos on my memory card. But apart from talking about how much of a mess the UK is right now we also: got caught in the rain and took shelter under a tree while we watched the people of Sofia hurry by. We met up with Vessi who took us to a restaurant and introduced us to Bulgarian cuisine, she navigated us through the vibrating night and we hung out with her friends in a hidden bar. We had picnic on a bench while the thunder roared over our heads, we spent hours in the National Gallery getting lost in Bulgarian art, we had breakfast with the windows wide open while the sounds of the city (singing birds, rustling trams, people speaking fast in Bulgarian) filled the room, and read books spread out on the grass in the sweltering sun. 

Then we hit the road again! Here illustrated by a sandwich stop by the road = classic roadtrip moment. 

Through the mountains (we had to stop for a little turtle that was crossing the road!! so cute). 

And along the wineries in the south. 

Before ending up in a village in Pelister National park, next to the city Bitola, where we stayed the night before continuing to Ohrid in the morning. We woke up to this incredible view. Visiting this village was it was like travelling back in time, the fields were cropped by hand, the sheep were herded up the mountains in the morning, and the horses ran loose with a bell around their neck. It brought me back to growing up in the countryside, how it felt when I was a child, when my grandparents still were alive - and somehow, I found a piece of my childhood in the middle of nowhere in Macedonia. Who would’ve thought. 

Our first day in Ohrid: thunder, churches and turkish coffee.

Hello! I'm so sorry I'm a perpetually bad blogger, but screens are so boring during summer?! And especially when you're on holiday. Anyway, last Monday, after driving around the whole of Macedonia (+ to Sofia in Bulgaria!), we landed in Ohrid, a little city that is perched between the mountains by Lake Ohrid. We've been savouring the history and culture of this place, swimming in the lake, collecting freckles in the sun, going for morning runs along the still water, eating more watermelon than I thought possible (it costs 25p/kg here!! never been happier), reading and playing chess. This is what our first day looked like:   

I woke up around 5 and watched the sunrise from our balcony, the city was completely still and quiet and the air was so easy to breathe. Then I crawled back into our warm bed and slept for a couple of more hours. 

I had breakfast on the balcony with this guy! We've been eating all our meals out on here for the past week and it's been the best thing ever = I must have a balcony in my future home. 

Our weather apps told us that it was going to thunder the whole day, but since we couldn't see any signs of storm we were sceptic. 

We sat out to explore the streets of Ohrid. It's such a beautiful, lush little place. I stopped every 3 meters and forced Otto to look at cool/weird/pretty trees and flowers and cats. :)

But then the sky started to darken and we could hear thunder in the distance. So decided to check it out and made our way to the lake shore. 

We walked along the boardwalk.

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Until we ended up at the church of St. John at Kaneo (i.e. the church that is in every photo and postcard of Ohrid) where we found a spot on a cliff to watch the storm roll in over the lake. It was the most beautiful, majestic thing I've ever seen. Nature <333

When the storm started picking up we headed back into the city for shelter. 

We stopped for pizza lunch at a restaurant just next to church of St. Sofia. According to legend Ohrid once had 365 churches, one for every day of the year, and even if there aren't that many now you see churches everywhere you turn. 

After lunch we walked along the lake, picked up some food for dinner and headed back home.

We got home just in time as the storm hit the city, and we spent the afternoon playing chess on the balcony to the sound of the rain. 

But after a while we had to move inside because the rain got so heavy that it started to rain in on us. 

Although I had to run back out all the time just to look at THIS. You couldn't make out the silhouette of the mountains for all the rain and I had a little double rainbow moment on the balcony.

Otto beat me in chess. Twice. And since I'm the worst loser you can imagine I was super grumpy afterwards :)) But Otto made us turkish coffee so then naturally I stopped moping around. 

As the sunset painted the sky red orange purple and pink we had watermelon salad with feta cheese and olives for dinner, and that was our first day in Ohrid. Today is our last day, and the weather app says that it's going to be another thunderstorm!! Hope so. 

p.s. I was too lazy to carry around my heavy DSLR this summer so all the photos from the past month are taken with my little point and shoot camera. I thought it'd compromise the photo quality a lot, but I'm so surprised by how good the camera is keeping up??