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Hellos and Goodbyes – Travels and Visitors Bittersweet

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Hello again from Sweden!  I feel like the last 3 months have been an absolute whirlwind and I’ve just now been able to sit down and reflect on everything that I’ve done.

My last entry was written while I was travelling with my dad over the Christmas break; we visited about five cities in Italy, and then went to Greece for a bit before I returned to Stockholm. I loved Italy, its people, and of course the food.  I had possibly the best pasta dish of my life in Amalfi – fettuccine noodles with eggplant and mozzarella in a tomato sauce; and one of the best desserts – a cannoli, from a pastry shop in Naples. 

I got to see the Pope in Rome on Christmas Day; ate the original Napoli pizza with locals who then took my dad and I out for drinks; and toured the ancient roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  After another incredible euro-trip with my dad, we parted ways in Athens on January 5. I felt a bit melancholy at the fact I didn’t know the next time I would see my parents again. I was lucky enough to have both mum, dad, and bro visit me in Sweden… I always think about how hard it was when I left the U.S. to move to Canada after university; literally moving a half a continent away from my parents for the first time… while our goodbyes have never been as hard as that one, regardless of the circumstances, it’s never easy to say goodbye. Fortunately, with the use of Skype and email, I feel closer to my parents now than I ever did when I was living at home, or at college when I was only 4 hours away from them. 

Mixed with the feelings of leaving my dad was an eagerness to get back to a normal workout/hockey schedule with the team, and also anticipation for some new visitors when I returned to Stockholm.

Only a few days after I returned to Sweden, my friend Graeme from British Columbia came to visit. I met Graeme a few years ago from being involved in the Red Bull Crashed Ice races in Canada.  Crashed Ice is actually one of the main reasons he came to visit me in Sweden as well – there was an event in Helsinki February 1 which he raced in, and so along with visiting me, it was a good excuse for a vacation.  About 2 weeks after Graeme arrived, one of my best friends, Rachel, from UND also came to visit.  Rachel played hockey with me at UND and since graduating, she’s the college friend I have stayed closest with. Rachel was doing a mini-Scandinavian tour, visiting Norway, Iceland, and then me in Stockholm. Having visitors is a great reason/excuse/way to force you to see your own city.  While I wouldn’t consider myself a local by any means, it’s always fun showing other people around where you live, seeing their reactions, and it makes you do things you might not otherwise on your own.

(My friend Rachel and I before the Opera luncheon)

Rachel, Graeme and I did walking tours, went shopping, partied a bit, made “Swedish” tacos and kladdkaka with my teammates, went to a luncheon at the opera, and even helped out at Segeltorps’ skridskodisco (skating disco) – an event the team puts on for local kids to fundraise for the team. I signed my two Canadian visitors up to help with the waffle stand at the skridskodisco.  We sell waffles and drinks to the kids and parents and it is always a huge hit. The language barrier between us three Canadians working the stand and the Swedish kids at the disco proved to be an issue until my goalie, Ida, stepped in to translate.  I think both Rachel and Graeme enjoyed the event and I love being able to provide a unique experience like that for my friends.

(Graeme, Ida, and Rachel manning the waffle table at the Segeltorps Skridskodisco)

Rachel left Stockholm on January 31, and Graeme and I traveled to Finland for the weekend for his Crashed Ice race.  Graeme left Stockholm to return to Canada on February 10, and that brings me to today, the first time I feel, since early November that I’ve had a day to myself.  We don’t have league games now until March 14 because of the Olympic break, so the next 5 weeks will be just practice and a few training matches against other Riksserien teams. 

The regular season ended January 26th and our team fell in last (8th) place in the league.  The hockey leagues in Sweden have a relegation round in addition to championship playoffs at the end of each season.  Since we finished last, Segeltorps, along with the 7th place team, Sundsvall, will have a relegation playoff with the top two teams from Division 1 (the league below the Riksserien).  The top two teams from the relegation playoff will qualify for the Riksserien for next season; the bottom two will move to Division 1. I’m confident our team will finish in the top in the relegation round; our play significantly improved in the last few weeks of the season, even finishing the regular season with a win and tie on the last weekend. I’m looking forward to a month of hard training, spending time with my teammates, taking some time for myself, and mostly just enjoying and making the most of my last 6 weeks in Sweden.  Time flies …

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