wedding season.

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I moved to Zurich! But I won’t tell you about that yet (I don’t know how to describe it yet, myself – still processing). But before I moved to Zurich, I went to three weddings this fall. Whoa.

I have hit the age (27) when all of a sudden weddings are EVERYWHERE. Already this year, I had missed a boatload: my friends Sean and Sarah in Vermont; my friends Courtney and Warren in Colorado. Also this fall was my friends Andrea and Brian, but it was at the same time as one of the other weddings. My college friend Sarah also got married this summer.

Out of the three weddings, I was a bridesmaid in two. I was excited, but I also approached the first wedding with trepidation. I wasn’t really sure what all of this is about.

But as it turns out, weddings are just about friends. And I had a phenomenal, wonderful time hanging out with my middle school friends when one of them, Thomas, got married to Becca. Photos from Becca’s uncle Mark:

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Becca and Thomas were so generous with their time – we spent a lot of happy hours together, along with some friends we hadn’t seen in a very long time. The top photo from this post is me and Harker, the best man, hanging out with Thomas and remembering things from years ago, when Thomas and Becca first started dating. The whole weekend was also an amazing opportunity to catch up with Eric, Lily, and Geoff, among others, who I hadn’t seen in years. They are all doing amazing things, from designing toys to building their own houses and protecting Lake Champlain. We turned out okay, we kids.

Then, a brief break, and on to wedding number two: my friends Lauren and Daniel. We went to Maine and did the whole deal at a YMCA Camp on a lake. Photos from Tori Lee Jackson Photography:

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The other great things about Lauren’s wedding is that it was almost entirely do-it-yourself. We set up the tables and chairs, made the rehearsal dinner food, made the bouquets. That last part was tough for me, as I have no previous flower-arranging experience and little artistic talent.

Lauren was a teammate of mine at Craftsbury when we were ski racing. Longtime readers of this blog probably remember her, in fact. Her husband, Daniel, is great – and I remember when Lauren told me about him for the very first time, back when we were in Craftsbury. I’m so happy to see them together and it was such a joy to be part of their weekend. Again, they were so generous with their time, and with their idea of the camp: it meant that everyone could stay there for the weekend, there was plenty of space for the kids to play (and adults, too). There were campfires at night and horseshoes during the day; some guests took canoes out on the lake. A photo from Nina Murray, another bridesmaid, of us ladies hanging out and getting ready:

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Finally: on to Houston! My cousin Harrison got married. He’s the first Little of our generation to get married, so it’s a pretty big deal (I have not yet succumbed to the pressure… and also I failed as the oldest cousin). And it was a joy to have the whole family together for a happy reason, unlike a funeral.

I also really enjoyed Houston. There were plenty of beautiful parks and outdoor areas to explore, and my aunt and uncle have a really beautiful little place in a nice neighborhood. We spent a lot of time sitting out on their back patio overlooking their pool.

I spent most of my time palling around with my cousins Jess and Emily. It was Emily’s 21st birthday the night of the wedding. We’ll leave it at that.

This is not Emily, it’s Jess:

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And then, that was it. I flew home and soon moved to Zurich.

One thing that I’m really happy about is that these weddings gave me an opportunity to catch up with friends and family from all the different spheres of my life. I’m going to be away for a long time: I got to have a nice goodbye tour.

And while I don’t plan on getting married anytime soon (despite my cousins’ request that I do get married, and have the wedding in Zurich, so they all have an excuse to go to Switzerland), it’s cool to see my friends and cousins settling down. I’m looking forward to that day myself – sans wedding. In fact, three years in Zurich counts as settling down, to me.

Trøndelag.

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And so, one day, we left Svalbard.

It was sad, in a way, and it had its snafus. We went for one last hike; we drove the car back to the airport, stopping to fill it with fuel along the way but struggling for ten minutes to get the gas cap off. I laughed: what if we missed our flight because of the rental car gas cap?

And then we were off to Tromsø. It had been sunny, but chilly and blustery when we left 78˚N. We flew over the archipelago, seeing the many many glaciers we couldn’t see from town – Spitzbergen is covered 60% in snow (don’t quote me on that though).

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When we landed “down south”, it was t-shirt weather and the sun was hot. We had to pinch ourselves to remember that we were still far, far farther north than most people will go in their lifetime. Tromsø felt like the tropics.

Our friend Cecilie picked us up at the airport and brought us back to her house, where we also met up with our friend Nikoline. Then they drove us out of town to a favorite picnic spot along the fjord. In the back was Cecilie’s bassett hound, panting and shedding adorably.

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It’s hard to describe the sun in the north. I didn’t have a reason to because in Svalbard, it rarely shown. On those few days that it did, it was strong and bright and a joyous occasion.

When you’re merely in normal Scandinavia, the summer sun begins to dip at night. It might not get dark, but it’s not like noon, either. Sweden and Norway, especially in late summer, are encompassed in a glow of dusk – the sun resting at an angle on the horizon, bathing everything in its peculiar light. Amazingly, my camera did manage to pick this up.

We could have sat there for hours in the sun, all night, really. As it was we walked along the shore and the basset’s short legs took him to and fro. Sometimes he’d slip and almost fall, but he gamely scampered on, betraying no sense of the fact that he was not a dog built for anything but flat ground.

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Cecilie made us salmon burgers, the most delicious. And brownies, which we heaped with ice cream on top. She had found Helen her favorite new drink, a special ginger beer that we had never heard of before. The only thing better than the scenery in Tromsø was the hospitality. I really hope that I can offer Cecilie and Nikoline the same in return one day.

Helen and I had to catch a 6 a.m. bus to Sweden the next day, but Cecilie gamely woke up (despite not being a morning person!) and packed our lunchbox with not only lunch, but all the rest of the brownies. When we ate them in Narvik before switching to the train, I had rarely felt so spoiled in my life. Cecilie’s mother is American, so she knows how to make a real brownie.

And then we were off, traversing through the fjords and over the mountains. I had never thought much of northern Norway, but as the bus wound through the alpine landscape, I thought it might be my most favorite place ever. I wanted to jump off the bus right there and wander off into the heath, to climb over the bare rock hills.

It wasn’t just the Tromsø fjord that was so astonishingly beautiful; it was everything going East, too. I definitely have to go back some day.

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camaraderie and gluttony.

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I recently received a great e-mail from my friend Susan. I had been telling her about my rollerski adventure up Fluelapass and she told me, among other things: “I think you are a glutton for punishment.”

This took me a bit by surprise. I’m not going to deny that it might be true, but it was a pretty serious case of the pot calling the kettle black. I know a lot of athletes, a lot of very good ones in a variety of sports, but out of all of them, Susan has the most gut-churning ability to dig deep of anyone I’ve ever met. This is the girl who literally pushed so hard on her bike trying to keep up with the guys that she blacked out and crashed off the road. You will seldom see anyone on the biathlon World Cup who is so willing to go deep, deep into the pain cave as Susan. It is her superpower.

So when someone like that calls you a glutton for punishment… you think, shit? Am I doing something wrong? Am I doing something right? You begin to wonder what, exactly, you are doing with your life – after all, there is no professional reward for such behavior. We “adults” with normal “jobs” (okay, my job barely ever feels like a job) don’t have any reason to attempt stupid feats of athleticism.

But, for some of us, it’s a way of life. It’s true. And some of us understand that. At the end of the work week – or even in the middle – what better way can you satisfy yourself than trying something that requires you to fully test your limits?

This weekend, my friend Rosalie came to visit. She’s living in Bern and I hadn’t seen her in a while, but our lives overlap so much: she’s four years younger than me, but went to the same high school, through the same ski club, to the same college, and knows many of the same people. We’re both deeply interested in environmental issues, although Rosalie has gone admirably further than I have in doing actual on-the-ground research on a bunch of cool topics, including social ones. People sometimes marvel at the way I pick up and move to another new country every few months, but Rosalie is so much more fearless than I am. I’m in a masters program; she has, on her own, landed herself in Rovaniemi, Finland, or in Bern, to do projects that she conceived herself with little to no supervision. And both of us hope to end up writing about these things we care so much about.

She wrote a great blog post about the weekend, starting with a snafu at the train station that left me feeling like the worst host in the world. I was a little late to meet her, and couldn’t find her; the cell number she gave me wasn’t working; after circling the station for 20 minutes, I headed to the other station, where I didn’t find her, and then to the office to see if I had e-mail. Finally I returned to the original station, over an hour after she was supposed to arrive, only to find her there! She had been there the whole time, but we must have each been walking in circles and always on opposite sides of the building. But anyway, we found each other. And the weekend began.

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And what a weekend it was. We looked eagerly at maps that first night and decided to hike out the door as much as possible; buses go to cool spots up the valleys, but here in Switzerland, they are expensive. Luckily, I’m housesitting in an amazing location and there’s more than enough terrain out back to keep you occupied for days. So come Saturday morning, we were drinking coffee on the front lawn when my friend and coworker Sofia pulled in on her bike to complete our hiking trio. It turned into a 13-mile day with one continuous 3,000-foot ascent, a lot more smaller and more gradual ones, and some incredible, awesome, unbelievable scenery. We were so tired we soaked our legs in the stream and took a nap before we could muster up the energy to grill up sausages (once again in the front yard) for dinner.

Day two dawned a bit cloudy, and since Rosalie had made me rhubarb crisp for breakfast (ROSALIE YOU ARE AMAZING) we enjoyed a long, relaxing breakfast. I never get to do that during the week – I’m up at 5:30 at the latest, and I have a half hour bike ride before arriving at work by 7. So to have an extra hour to lounge around and talk about interesting, funny, deep, serious matters with a buddy felt like heaven.

IMG_1246We started hiking and we were both tired. But you can’t admit you’re tired, right? My calves were burning but we both pushed on. I had made a grave mistake in my map-reading and it took us over two hours to reach Oberalp, the “start” of our planned hike. But once we were there, things seemed better – we were heading up an incredibly beautiful valley, past idyllic cabins for farmers and shepherds, and cute cows. You know, typical Switzerland stuff. Finally, we reached the last pitch and climbed up to a windy pass. On the other side, we stopped for lunch. It was perfect. We were in the middle of nowhere, seemingly, with towering mountains and snowy glaciers as our backdrop. Life was good.

From there… we descended. Some sketchy loose dirt paths at first, down to the valley floor (still very high actually), then down some sketchy loose singletrack to the next dropoff which happened to be above a tall, Yosemite-esque waterfall, and then down past the waterfall to the hamlet of Sertig. At this point, the watch read about what I had projected for our total hike to take. We were pooped.

I had offered several options for getting home. The first would be to take the bus to Clavadel, but it didn’t go back towards our house, so we’d have to hike a bit from there or else go further and connect to another bus to get home. I also mentioned that we could try to hitchhike to Frauenkirch, but Rosalie vetoed that (probably good, I’m not so adventurous with the hitchhiking). Or we could walk – I estimated that it would take us an hour and a half. As we stared at the bus schedule and tried to decide whether to get on or not, we hesitated. Walking didn’t seem soooo bad. Just an hour and a half. Then, the bus pulled out of the parking lot and left. Too slow. The decision was made for us.

And… it turned out to be much more than an hour and a half of walking. We were in pretty serious bonking territory, armed only with water and a couple of carrots for snacks. By the end, we had to stop and by ice cream at Frauenkirch to make it the final 15 minutes back to the house. When we walked in the driveway, Rosalie checked her Garmin: 18 1/2 miles. We had been out from nine to five, like a regular job. Later, she realized that the GPS didn’t pick up satellites immediately, so it was actually 20 miles.

That certainly justified how exhausted we were.

I am kicking myself for being shitty at reading maps. The main, interesting part of the hike? It was exactly as long as I thought. But the traversing of Rinerhorn to get to the start, and then the long way back from Sertig, wow, I totally blew it there. And we were in for a rough ride because of it.

Yet we each had the chance to bail and take the bus, and we each turned it down. That’s what it means to be a glutton for punishment, I guess. Maybe that makes us bad adventure partners; we’re ambitious and don’t want to admit any little weakness, ever.

But maybe it makes us good partners. We both take responsibility for the crazy situation we got ourselves into, and despite the fatigue we’ve suffered in the few days since (and the fact that I came home and ate everything in the kitchen… really everything….), I think we both have pretty fond memories of Sunday. It was great! It was fun! It was beautiful! Rosalie made a snow angel!

We’re already planning to meet up again, this time in Bern. I may be crazy (my dad told me recently that I “didn’t have to be the ‘crazy American’, you know”), but it feels so amazing to know that I have kindred spirits among my wonderful group of friends, and that we can satiate ourselves with whatever ill-advised physical tests we want. What is better than that?

voyage aux alpes.

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A few days ago I saw an opportunity: a Monday morning with no class. That meant a weekend a few hours longer. This could not go to waste and on the spur of the moment I bought a train ticket for Grenoble, booked a hotel, and got my skis down from their dusty perch atop my closet.

This is the beauty of your 20’s, I’ve said again and again: you can get up and go. You have work or school, but no house, no husband or kids, no pets that need to be fed, no garden that needs to be watered.

My approach to travel has certainly changed a bit since beginning grad school, though. Now I spend the time to search out a deal at a fancy hotel, and it’s totally worth it because the craphole of a dormitory that you are stuck in is so miserable. Even if time is money, it’s reasonable to spend some making sure that you’ll have a big bed and a nice shower (the benefit of traveling at the last minute is that even if I’m cheap, I’m a better guest than having an empty hotel room). These are things that do not exist at CROUS Montpellier. Even in Sweden, I used to simply look for the cheapest hostel or a floor to crash on: better to spend the money on many trips that cost practically nothing. Now, with a little bit more cash spent, I can enjoy comfort that I never, ever find in my daily life.

(To my classmates who say that everything is too expensive: I suggest a job. I have one and I haven’t died yet or failed out of school, and even the tiniest bit of extra money every month makes a big difference in how you’re able to spend your time.)

And so on Saturday I found myself at a hotel in Grenoble, with a shower that poured water out of a foot-squared matrix of spouts like a rainstorm. I sat under the hot water for 20 minutes, soaking up the chance to be in a shower where you don’t have to hit the button every 15 seconds to restart the water. There’s plenty of water here.

The plan had been to ski, but that first day it hadn’t worked out with the buses, so I ran up and up and up into the hills above town, first past the views of the city – which says it is the second-largest economy in France – flanked by Alps, and then into the hill farms, no city in sight. My calves ached, my knees twinged on the way down, my feet slapped. I collapsed into my huge bed that night.

Come Sunday, I finally boarded the bus to Autrans. It was raining and gray. In the city, there was no snow to be seen anywhere. As we rounded one hairpin turn after another, cutting through gorges and across cliff faces, there was still no snow. I got more and more nervous.

About ten minutes before arriving at the small town that hosted the cross country ski races at the 1968 Olympics, I began to see snow through the fog. But it was still raining. It was 9:30 and the bus home didn’t leave until 5:30. I wasn’t sure how I was going to occupy myself all day in the rain.

After walking to the nordic center, I timidly approached the ticket booth.

«Je veux skier, même s’il ne fait pas si beau» I said, doubtfully.

«La neige est bonne» the woman replied. «C’est meilleur que s’il faisait chaud…»

I thought to myself, of course she’s saying that. She’s just trying to sell tickets and convince people that it isn’t completely disgusting outside. That’s her job.

When I finally stepped into my skis and took the first few strides, though, I saw she was right. They had groomed that morning and the corduroy – barely skied on because the weather had turned most people away – was surprisingly fast. It felt more icy than waterlogged, and didn’t have the cementy-potatoes feel that I had been dreading. Okay, maybe this was going to be fine.

Just as I had on my run the day before, I climbed up and up and up to start. Knowing that I had almost 2000 feet to ski up into the Alps if I really wanted to try the whole trail system, I paced myself. But the skis slid easily, and my body worked better than I had expected after the hard run the day before, and after a month of not skiing.

I eventually reached the upper trail center of Gève, where it wasn’t raining anymore. Half my climbing was complete. Onward I skated, onto a trail called “Panoramique.” Not so much today, but it would take me up to the ridge and around a snaking bowl that, I am sure, would have had lovely views if it hadn’t been fogged in. Every once in a while things would clear for a moment and in just one direction I would glimpse a few ragged peaks before they disappeared back into the fog.

After two hours of skiing and some hard climbs, I reached La Quoi. But things weren’t over yet. Up here, it hadn’t been groomed, and the skiing was slower; it was also snowing. But there was a loop of maybe eight or nine more kilometers along the ridge, which dropped down to a refuge before climbing up through a steep meadow to rejoin the trail and head home. At the refuge I bought a lunch of ravioli and cured ham, plus an entire pot of Russian Earl Grey.

Back on my skis, it was cold. The next few kilometers alternated between rain and snow. I had expected to feel better after lunch, but I had been skiing for almost three hours already and I did not feel better at all, at least not at first. I began to wonder if I had made a huge mistake: the weather was terrible, and here I was, 15 or 20 kilometers from the touring center, cold and tired. I could die out here!

That was a little bit melodramatic. Yes, climbing was hard, but as soon as I got on more gradual terrain, it was so easy to be on skis, gliding along, even in the slow mush. At one point, feeling cold, I decided to sprint up a hill to try to get the blood going. Much to my surprise, after a long ski and months of no speedwork, I fell into the easy rhythm of attacking and reached the top of the hill warm.

It was an exhilarating feeling: I’ve still got this. Against all odds, I’m still a skier.

And as I began my descent of the Alps, cruising around corners and gleefully picking the best lines, popping up and over the hills with my momentum and a few quick hop skates carrying my speed, I thought: I’ll always be a skier.

Maybe it’s not so different than the joy I found in Font Romeu a few weeks ago. But for one thing, I’m in better shape now. Trails or no trails, two weeks ago I decided that I would be damned if I sat on my ass all day and signed up for a marathon to kickstart a running routine. I have incentive to go run, even if I don’t like the places I’m running. After two 30-mile weeks and a crash diet, I felt fit (fitter; hills still kick my ass). I swear I felt lighter and stronger than I had in Font Romeu. Skiing for hours was hard, but not as hard as it had been then.

For another thing, my entry to Montpellier had been confusing, more confusing as time went by. I found myself in a city unlike anywhere I had ever lived. Not a city to be a sportswoman. There’s a lot of pavement and cars that pay no attention to pedestrians or cyclists. In the first few days I thought, well, I just haven’t found the good part yet. But as the weeks wore on, it seemed more and more impossible that my kind of city even existed within anywhere in Montpellier.

Here, there’s no ski club for me to embed into, nobody to tell me the secrets to happiness. Some of my classmates have made new friends here, outside our program. I’m jealous. They have people who share their interests and their cultural backgrounds, people to cook Chinese food with or talk in Spanish. How did they do it? Where are the people like me? I glimpse them every once in a while, but I can’t truly find them.

Hence, running in yucky places, on the hot pavement, dodging ubiquitous dogshit that covers the sidewalks.

It’s not that I’m not having fun – it was nice to have so many options for what to do at night, pubs and restaurants and classmates who I love. We have a good time. In the last few weeks it has seemed so impossible to have the kind of life that I’m used to that I thought, well, maybe I just resign myself to this semester being different, because this isn’t miserable.

Back in the States, my friends are all multitaskers. They are professional skiers who paint amazing pictures in their spare time (look at Hannah’s website!); scientists who get out every weekend to kayak or rock climb or mountain bike; professors who rip turns on their tele skis at every chance; adults with full-time jobs who nonetheless donate their free time to coaching kids. They hike the mountains, play Frisbee, farm. Doing one thing never means that they can’t also do something else.

That’s how I lived too, but it’s foreign here. Sure, people have interests – drinking, watching movies or sports, eating, (occasionally when the weather is good) being a tourist, talking to their boyfriend or girlfriend on the phone. These interests prevent many further trips and adventures. It’s “normal” that these simple things are all a student has time, or desire, for. Being a student is apparently very limiting.

School had never defined me before, but I was ready to let it. Maybe this was my new life, the kind of friends I would always have. Maybe my old life was over; maybe this was growing up. Had my friends at home just not grown up yet? Or was following several passions a uniquely American trait? This wasn’t so bad, after all. We won a bottle of vodka in that pub quiz. In a few years, I’d be married to another scientist, doing research somewhere as part of a PhD.

As I skied back down to Autrans, I rejected that completely. Not a single person I know in Montpellier knows or understands the joy that I get from being on snow, or how having skis attached to your feet is easier and more natural to me than running. They are my good friends and always will be, but they can’t be my only friends. Just as a few of them have found people outside of our program, I need that, too.

To come back and not be able to even convey this feeling I had on my skis was just wrong. To not be able to share this trip with anyone was disappointing. I have no problem traveling alone – I find it much more agreeable than most people probably do, and it’s relaxing to be able to decompress and just not talk – but there’s an undeniable yearning to have someone to experience these new places with. I wish I could have turned to someone as I sped through the trees and said, “isn’t this awesome?”

But nobody was there.

If I can survive this semester, I’ll find them again. If I marry another scientist, he’ll be one who climbs mountains or ride bikes or does something – anything – in the outside that I love so much. Maybe he’ll fish or hunt, or watch birds or dabble in nature photography. Maybe he won’t be a scientist at all. Maybe I won’t get married at all! But in the next months, I will find some friends who won’t pass off my trips as that unfamiliar, but cool, I guess, thing Chelsea does because it makes her happy.

Sitting on the train back to Montpellier, my legs ache. That’s my souvenir from the weekend – that and the reminder to keep being myself, that my people are out there and sometime soon I’ll find them. Until then, I’ll keep running and enjoy the nights out at the pub. Just not every night.

last days.

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Another stolen photo from Min Ya.

Today I move out of my dormitory, into a hotel for a night, and then – hopefully – out of Sweden. (I am still having visa problems so maybe not, but that’s another story.) I can’t believe it has been five months – what? How is my time here already coming to an end? I don’t want to leave. A classmate who is already in Montpellier, France, where I’m headed, posted on facebook that it was “22 degrees, get excited!” and I was not excited at all. It’s January. I don’t want winter to be over.

Last week we had a fun winter school at the Erken Laboratory, a limnology field station owned by the university. Aside from a presentation from the director of the lab, we didn’t do any limnology; instead, all of us MEME first-years gave presentations on a general theme of “evolution in a world of human-induced change.” I talked about the evolutionary consequences of overfishing and overharvesting, speaking quite a bit about cod, which I hoped would make my uncle Todd proud. In all, the presentations were really great – it was impressive for a student-organized symposium that people put so much work into things. I think none of us wanted to embarrass ourselves in front of our current or future classmates.

We also brought in several speakers from Uppsala and other universities, who gave great presentations about their research and offered to take in anyone who was interested in doing a project with them. So that was cool.

But mostly, we enjoyed the scene – the lab is on a huge lake, 25 square kilometers, and surrounded by some forest and a lot of farmland. We stayed in the “manor house” that had been donated to the University in the 1920’s to start the field station, and it was quite cushy compared to other field stations I have visited! We had a huge kitchen, some sitting rooms, board games to play… and the beautiful outdoors to explore. Every morning and afternoon walking back from the lecture hall we would have these views, like in Min Ya’s picture. Half of the students are currently at Groningen University in the Netherlands, and we hosts were excited that we could show them the real Sweden. The lab even has a sauna, so we could teach them the ways of heat and steam.

I managed to ski most days, not on trails but just tromping around in the fields or on the snow-covered lake. One day I saw a pack of wild hogs running along the treeline of a hayfield. It took a few looks to realize what they were.

So that was lovely, and it was nice to see our friends from Groningen, who we hadn’t seen since summer school if at all – a few I had never met. Of course, they were awesome. I miss them already. We’ve made a vow that our cohort will stick together, no matter where in the world we happen to land.

Just before winter school, I jumped in a ski race – a local one, but a 40 k seeding race for the Vasaloppet, the biggest marathon in the world. There were hundreds of people and it was a delightful shitshow of sharp corners and disappearing tracks at the start. I spent the whole race passing people and was shocked to end up third! I even won some Swedish money and a new ski bag, which unfortunately I didn’t need so I passed it off to a friend in my ski club.

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It’s hard to sum up my time here in Uppsala – I will remember it forever. And I am completely certain that I will ome back next spring to do my final project here, because I love it. I love the town, the city, the university. The department where we work is amazing and everyone is very friendly; they are nice to graduate students, respect graduate students, and have enough money that they are always offering to help you do a project in their lab. I’ve never seen such a great research and learning environment before, and it’s certainly something to aspire to.

But I’m also going to miss my friends! Half of our coursemates were regular masters students here, so they will be sticking around when we leave. I feel bad abandoning them because they have been so fun; it will be really special to come back and finish my degree with them. I’ll also miss the ski club, a lot. It has a unique feel to it with all adults and skiers of all levels just getting together to go train, have fun, and learn from each other. I think it’s a great model and not one that is so common. Of all the people in my program, I’m the only one that did any sort of activity outside of school and I’m so happy that I did; these new ski friends are amazing and welcomed me with open arms. My classmates didn’t make many Swedish friends or learn much about Sweden; I did. Lucky me.

So, til next year, Sweden! I’ll think of you often, as I’m melting on the Mediterranean.

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a crazy family.

On Sunday night my housemate Heather and the women who lives in our backyard, Elizabeth, wanted to carve pumkins.

So we did.

First, a little bit about our housing arrangement, which is unusual. Our house is on the edge of the city, definitely still in the neighborhoods but not downtown; as a result our lot has more of a yard than I’d expect. It’s full of berries and fruit trees, and also a pair of yurts where Erik and Elizabeth live. Erik is our landlord’s son and Elizabeth is his girlfriend. They are younger than me but older in a lot of ways too; they work in gardens and on wood and with their hands, don’t have many amenities, and survive almost entirely on cash. This summer they got a truck and were so excited. They don’t pay rent.

The situation is mostly wonderful because Erik and Elizabeth are really nice. Sometimes, it’s strange to have people living in your backyard regardless of how nice they are, though. This weekend Elizabeth was talking about how she wants to get ducks because duck eggs are so good, and I just thought of how I didn’t really want ducks wandering around our yard. I didn’t want to be stepping in duck poo all the time, and I just didn’t want to deal with them. Then I felt bad. That’s the thing about Erik and Elizabeth: whenever they ask you about something, you feel like you have to say yes even if you don’t want to because the idea is so charming and sustainable. You feel like a grouch saying no.

That didn’t come up in our pumpkin-carving evening, though. Because who doesn’t want to carve pumpkins? Elizabeth had dragged Erik to the pumpkin patch and they had each picked out a nice carving pumpkin. Heather, on the other hand, grabbed two smallish pie pumpkins from the supermarket.We figured we could use the pumpkins for pie after we looked at them for a few days. I’m not sure that’s how it works, but we’re going to try.

My other housemate, Laura, wanted to cook up the pumpkin seeds, so Heather and I each took a pumpkin and a few of Erik’s carving tools and the four of us set to work on the floor. It was immediately clear that everyone else was way, way more artistic for me. I briefly thought about doing a jack-o-lantern that wasn’t a face – maybe a tree, or a cat, or a snowflake – but then I thought, who am I kidding? I can’t draw that stuff. Much less carve it. So that was that, I was making a face.

Considering the amount of time I spent on my pumpkin, which was roughly the same amount of time everyone else took, the result was kind of lame. I mean, look at Elizabeth’s pumpkin:

Elizabeth thought that her pumpkin ended up looking like a monkey wearing a fez. And Erik’s pumpkin – the one on the right in the top photo – was absolutely incredible. He didn’t carve through at any point, but literally whittled a face out of the pumpkin flesh. Entertainingly, it ended up looking like a monkey too, and we wondered why they liked monkeys so much.

Despite being completely outclasses in the artsy-fartsy department, it was a lot of fun to sit around the floor joking and eating Laura’s delicious pumpkin seeds. We may have been more focused on our designs than we were when we were kids, but we had no less fun. I hadn’t carved a pumpkin in years, but I think I am going to have to make a habit of it again. Especially with friends, it’s a nice way to do something fall-like!

Although hopefully my jack-o-lanterns will get more ornate if I keep practicing…. although this fellow does have a bit of his own charm.

Head of the Charles.

I went to Head of the Charles! It was fun. I took a bus down to Boston on Saturday evening with Lauren, and we stayed with a friend of hers in Cambridge. We went out to dinner and did city things that we can’t do in Craftsbury – totally great. Then, early Sunday morning, I took Western Avenue over to the bridge and started working my way up the course. That early, it was peaceful and the light was beautiful.

After a morning of spectating pretty much on my own – although I did see Tom Graves for a bit – I ran into a bunch of the Small Boat Training Center folks, which was really fun. It was awesome to hang out with my friends from the summer. Yay! Friends! I felt very lucky and very glad that I had made the trip.

I really enjoyed hanging out and watching the racing. Terrence snuck me into the Cambridge Boat Club, which was fun. Watching a huge sporting event made me very excited for the beginning of ski season – seeing everyone’s excitement added to my own excitement to be racing soon.

I took a lot of pictures. Here’s one of the Dartmouth heavyweights:

And the lightweights:

At the end of the day, the light got beautiful again. It was awesome.

Mostly, though, I was just so so happy to be hanging out with my wonderful, entertaining friends. I love you guys!