Thesis work started!

So now I have a sponsoring company, as well as a well defined project for my final thesis project! An infant carrier for Haglöfs! I’ve started to do a lot of the research, including tons of background reading on ergonomics, infant development, parenting, as well as looking on the internet to see what products exist today, and for inspiration in general.

It’s a bit ironic that my first design project – a homework assignment submitted to Umeå as part of my entrance application – was a backpack, and that my final projectwork as a design student will also be a type of backpack =)

But looking around the net, I stumbled upon a really fantastic website obsessed with all things backpacks, Carryology. I’ve been looking for a great looking and practical backpack for some time, and have bemoaned the lack of selection and design. I want a nice looking, comfortable backpack to carry all the things I need everyday, such as my 15.6″ laptop (which gets quite heavy after some time on my back, let alone if I were to use a messenger bag), that could carry enough things for an overnight trip, and look stylish and fit my everyday style. Most backpacks look too much like a hiking bag.

I had a second interview with Volvo Cars a few days ago (want the job so bad! Fingers crossed that I make it onto the 3rd and final round!!)… Anyway, I needed to go to an evening recruiting event, stay overnight in Gothenberg, and go to an interview the next morning. I didn’t have many bags to choose from that would be large enough to carry my overnight necessities (without being too large) and professional looking (or at least not like I was going hiking). Now I found this bag from Cote et Ciel, which I am in love with, and thinking about buying:

Cote et ciel rucksack

Reminds me of origami! Love the Japanese aesthetic, and simple lines. Undecided if I want it in grey, black, or tan.The lighter colours show off the form really well, but black goes with everything.

The other bag I’m considering is from Mission Workshop. I love that it is waterproof and expandable (so practical!), and would work really great for when I travel, but it looks a little on the big side and maybe overwhelming on my small frame.

Mission Workshop Rambler

I also like this bag from InCase, but apparently it’s not in stores yet… And perhaps it is a little on the small side to be used for travelling.

InCase backpack

When I think about the number of times I have thought, “I wish they made better looking camera bags!” “Backpacks!” “Laptop bags!” And all other types of practical bags. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to go into soft goods design, considering the amount of time I have spent and spend travelling, as well as my interest in design and fashion! It makes a lot of sense… something to think about if Volvo Cars doesn’t pan out.

Some days I feel worried and a bit stressed that I can’t/won’t be able to think of a great idea or design for my final thesis project… Don’t want to let down Haglöfs (or my own hopes for myself). But I feel a little inspired after seeing great backpack designs online, and maybe I need to scale back my hopes to solve all the problems of the world / imaginable / of parents everywhere, and concentrate on making a beautiful and functional product.

The other night, Per and I watched “Modets offer” on SVT, a German produced documentary translated into Swedish about how the fashion industry is exposing people to hazardous chemicals used during the production of textiles. Of course there is no easy solution, unless we start growing and producing our own textiles and clothing under conditions where we can enforce the production methods (and pay accordingly and suitably). I have really believed in buying only quality footwear, because they last longer, are breathable, more comfortable, and look better. I think that producing, selling and buying cheap shoes made of leather are a waste of really good material. Though the documentary found that even expensive shoes could have traces of banned, hazardous chemicals, I think that consuming less, but better quality items is a step in the right direction. Cheaply produced clothing is also a waste of resources and puts workers’ health in developing nations at risk. I don’t shop for clothing very often – especially compared to the average woman – but the documentary definitely makes me rethink my consumption habits.

 

Inspiring and depressing at the same time

I just watched another great TED Talk by Jonas Gahr Store, Norway’s foreign minister, emphasizing the importance of open dialogue in politics.

Fantastic speaker, and amazing CV… which led me to wonder, who the heck is Canada’s Foreign Minister?….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minister_of_Foreign_Affairs_%28Canada%29

Seems to be a bit of revolving door… The current Minister of Foreign Affairs is John Baird, since May of 2011… with absolutely no international experience on his CV. Oh wait, he WAS Environment Minister during 2007-8, and you can see the fantastic results of the environmental targets made…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-16153800

Sum up:

The Canadian government has announced it will formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, making it the first nation to do so.

The move was expected, as the country declared four years ago that it did not intend to meet its existing commitments, and its annual emissions have risen by about once third since 1990.

Pathetic and utterly embarrassing. Having lived abroad for a few years now, I really notice Canada’s lack of international involvement and global perspective, from its citizens up to its top levels of government. I used to think (and still cling to hope) that politicians were smarter than most of the population, and therefore better qualified to make decisions that affected our future lives. Depressing to think about the lack of smart leadership that exists in Canada.

Highlights of 2011!

The year has gone by in a flash, and looking back now, I realize there were so many amazing experiences! It really feels like a snowball effect; that by taking steps and risks towards what you truly desire, that so many good things follow!

In December/January, on my way to Taiwan to visit Per, I visited Copenhagen again, revisiting the place that inspired me – the Danish Design Center – along with the industrial design museum. I also got a taste of Russia, with a stop-over in Moscow, where I had my most entertaining flight to date, on Russian Aeroflot airlines… You can ask me about the story in person =) I got a lot of new impressions, met with old classmates from Umeå, and shopped till my backpack was bursting with cool and cheap Taiwanese fashion.

Taiwan, Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial

Taiwan, Toroko Gorge

New design inspirations from Taiwan =) =)

Rang in 2011 with Eve at Luxy nightclub in Taipei

Back in school for the winter/spring, completed 3 good school projects, all of them with positive feedback from our teachers and the companies! Volvo Cars encouraged me, along with 3 others in my class, to apply for jobs at Volvo because “we need engineers like you”. My lighting teacher passed along the name of a company that he thought I should pitch my lamp to (though I haven’t had time to follow through yet).

My Volvo seat concept

My helicopter concept

My work lamp concept

In February, I visited Stockholm twice. Once to see the Stockholm furniture fair, visiting with some friends, and the second on my way up to Umeå to visit my friend Roy, also spent visiting a museum with fantastic impressions, and crashing with a couchsurfing friend!

Stockholm furniture fair. Love this bedroom, but especially the lamp!!

Another interesting photo exhibit.. Basically Sweden had the lowest housing standard in the 1930s until they formed what is now the Swedish Consumer Agency, that observed, tested and made recommendations for household appliances.. the start of Swedish design?

Snow castle in Umeå. Amazingly no one steals the reindeer fur set on the benches, so that everyone can enjoy them… the Swedish collective

I visited Vienna in April, a dream of mine for some years, to revel in the artwork of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt.

Vienna, secessionist building

A second visit to Umeå in June to visit friends again, see the (amazing and inspirational) degree show, and the keynote speaker Richard Seymour, an extremely inspiring and optimistic designer! Said something along the lines of…

“Technology is not our limitation, our imagination is!”

I got an email response to a summer internship I applied for, along with a second follow up! I didn’t secure the position, but the fact that I am getting responses to my work is very encouraging!

Spent the summer flying and travelling around the globe, literally. Starting in June from Denmark, to Taiwan, China, New York, Canada, and back to Sweden for September.

In Taiwan, I took it easy for most of the 3 weeks, to sleep, recover and plan the China trip, though we had time to celebrate Swedish midsommar and made one last excursion out to Green Island. We only spent 2 days and 1 night on Green Island, but I would highly recommend it if you are in Taiwan, to take a scooter around the island and snorkel or scuba dive. I was skeptical about how good the snorkelling could be, so close to the shore, but I would say it was maybe the best snorkelling I have ever had!

Swedish midsommar celebration in Taiwan

Green Island, Taiwan

Green Island, Taiwan

I had planned to write about our 5 week China trip in a separate blog entry, but I’ve been so busy that I never got around to it. China is at once exhilarating, frustrating, fascinating, and full of scammers but also very kind people… It was my third visit to China, and so much has changed even from 2005 and 2008. The amount of tourism is growing staggeringly fast, especially by the growing middle class, but English is still quite limited in most places. I was grateful that Per learned quite a bit of Chinese, as there were many situations where we would not have made our way without it. I had intended to write about a lot of travel advice and tips to avoid scams that I would give to people planning to travel there independently, but maybe it’ll have to wait another day…

Irregardless, I would say that Sichuan province, particulary towards the Tibetan areas, was the highlight of our trip… If only the Chinese government had not stopped us and all western tourists from continuing onwards,”closing” all Tibetan districts, forcing us to turn back to Chengdu after all the trouble it took us to get there…

Shanghai

Panda center in Chengdu

Children’s school play in Kangding, Sichuan province

Tibetan gravestone in Kangding, Sichuan province

Day hiking in Kangding

Rich, yak-butter filled Tibetan bread… soooo good!

Xi’an muslim night market

Stepping up Hua Shan. One of 2 famous mountains we walked up (Emei Shan the other)

Beijing’s 798 Art District… the most interesting, and ‘authentic’ part of Beijing for me

On an “illegal” and little visited part of the Great Wall with a random local who insisted on a photo together. He came running down from another tower in worn out shower slippers yelling at us to “Be careful!” and to hold onto the sides of the wall for support, since we were falling on our asses despite proper hiking boots. Amazing!

I flew onwards to New York (my first ever visit!), while Per spent a few more days in Beijing before he would go onwards to Thailand for a few days. I stayed with my sister for 10 days at her ritzy place on Park Avenue (I think it was the first time we got to see each other in 2 years?). I was able to visit a great design exhibit at MoMa, as well as an exhibit with Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele at an Austrian art museum! I also had a chance to catch up with an old classmate from Umeå a few times over lunch! Nice thing about having studied in Umeå is that you make friends from all over the world!

To sum up New York…  The museums were great, the food a bit disappointing and expensive, and the sites – well, a bit uninteresting considering the several thousand year old sites I had visited in China. For me, the best part of New York was the people and the people watching! I could imagine living there would be great… only if you could manage a high paying job that would cover the astronomical rents, and one that wouldn’t expect inhumane working hours…

Where else but New York City?

Returning to Canada, I managed to squeeze in quite a lot of visits, and errands, with the highlight being two of my best friends getting married to each other! Of course it felt a bit short, but I was glad I always had someone to see or something to do, and was never bored.

Tim Horton’s, how I miss you!

Back in Sweden in September, we managed to squeeze in one last sailing trip. We could actually swim too, though it was 17 C in the water, which made it very short bathing.

End of Swedish summer sailing

The sailing trip would foreshadow the theme of “compact living” for the fall semester… Our school project would be to design a caravan, and the project would take the full 3+ months. I spent a lot of hours, days and nights in the project – some of it feeling very stressed. But overall it was very fun, designing my “dream” caravan – one that would show my design philosophy and aesthetic in my portfolio. In the end, they chose 2 projects from the class to be “closed” for possible further development. One of the ones they picked was me! Ironic that in doing the project for myself, and to show in my portfolio, meant that the company was so impressed by my result that I am no longer able to show it to anyone due to confidentiality… Awesome! =)

Along with a momentary payment came an offer to continue the work for our thesis project. I had to turn it down because I already secured a great company for my thesis! I had managed to secure one interview with a company doing a project that would have been beyond my expectations, but the client funding fell through. Still, I am very happy that they liked my portfolio enough to call me in! The other interview I secured, and will continue my final thesis project work with, is Haglöfs – which is like the North Face of Sweden! Beyond excited and almost in disbelief!

Between working hard on my portfolio and the caravan project, we took a little time out in October to visit Copenhagen, Denmark and Germany!

Koge, Denmark

Per and I also managed to experiment a little with some new recipes for the moose he hunted.

Successful first attempt at ossobucco, made with moose meat

Winter arrived, at least for a few days, here in southern Sweden

And now it’s been my fifth Christmas in a row away from Canada. Miss my friends and family a little, but glad I have a Swedish “family” to celebrate with. All in all I would say it’s been an amazing year, and I know that the coming years have even more in store for me. Happy new year to all!

Globetrotting update

So much to process. Currently back in my hometown in Canada, visiting friends and family, and trying to wrap up loose ends from being away for 2 years. Spent 32 days in China (where wordpress was blocked), and have so much to say, though when time passes, I feel less motivated to write about things that have happened so long ago. Went to New York for the first time, where I spent 10 days visiting my sister, where all the stereotypes and expectations I had were completely turned upside down (in a good way). In one week I’ll head back to Sweden, making it literally, a round-the-world journey.

Being back in Canada feels strange in some ways. There have been moments when I feel like I don’t belong back here, and feel awkward and a bit out of place. But there aregood moments: indulging in all the Asian food I’ve missed while living in Sweden, being able to talk and be understood, and being able to laugh so hard again with old friends.

Again, there’s so much going through my mind right now that I don’t quite know how to put it into words.

update from Taiwan

So much has happened since my last “real” update back in January! I’m in Taiwan at the moment, vegging, updating my online presence, surfing the net, researching for and planning Per’s and my trip to China next month, and mulling over my final thesis project work for next year… (scary!)

Design/school/careerwise I’m very happy! I asked (to no one in particular, just outloud, or at least inside my head) for more meaningful projects with great companies, that would push me to the next level, and I couldn’t have asked for more! I promised myself I wouldn’t work myself to the ground like I had last year in Umeå ever again, but I came pretty close. However, it’s rewarding that companies have expressed interest in my work, which makes me feel that all the hard work is paying off! I came close to, but didn’t manage to secure an internship this summer. Still, it feels good.

I had given myself a few days off and travelled to Vienna over Easter holiday. Initially I felt so guilty for taking time off when I could have been working on a project. But I was so glad I went. I had been longing to see Egon Schiele’s work in person for some time, and it was good timing for a visit as there was a special exhibit featuring Schiele!

I can’t get enough of seeing his work – I would go back for another visit just to see his other work in rotation at the galleries. I gained a new appreciation of Gustav Klimt’s work in person. Stunningly beautiful and exciting. I thought about buying a poster as a souvenir, but they were so disappointing in comparison to the real thing, that I passed on it. It was great to get away and experience a few days of summer as the weather and the city were gorgeous.

Museum quartier, Vienna

Beautiful architecture in Vienna

I thought I would feel reenergized after visiting Vienna to push on until the end of the school year, but instead, I felt tired after months of pushing myself to the limit. As well, I’m not used to the school year being so long, as in Canada we finish for the summer in mid-April, and in Sweden I still had another 6 weeks to go. Of course I still worked, but at a slower pace. And took time to enjoy myself, like at the DJ Jazzy Jeff show at Jönköping’s student bar (awesome show!):

I made it up to Umeå twice this year, once in February, and again in June for the design school degree talks (where Richard Seymour was the keynote speaker!). It was great to see that type of atmosphere again. Sure, it’s a bit dangerous in that you can easily be sucked into being a workaholic, but the level of work is really inspiring! And I miss the work hard / play hard, more social atmosphere a bit. (Wonder how it’ll be in my program next year, now that students from outside the EU are pretty unlikely to apply for Swedish schools due to the start of tuition fees.)

After the degree show in Umeå, returned to Jönköping to clean out my flat (moving to a better location and room next year!), and then spent a few days being spoiled by Per’s parents by lots of delicious food and great Swedish weather. Have more to say, but I should probably update more often, with shorter posts.

Hiking Kungsleden / The Royal Trail – summiting Kebnekaise!

As they say, better late than never? The final installment of my hiking trip! (from my hiking trip during July 2010)

Day 9, July 24, 2010, Summiting Kebnekaise. I packed sandwiches and 4L of water because there is not much water when hiking to the top of Kebnekaise, and what little water is present isn’t very good for you. I estimated that summiting Kebnekaise would take me 14 hours round trip, given that I’m not so fit. I had to check out of my creaky cot room of 26 and into the new dorm room for 4; the fjällstation reception opens at 7 in the morning and closes at 10 PM, meaning I would have to be at reception right when it opened, and then haul ass for the hike.

The day before, I had been nervous that the girl had not done the reservation for me properly, and my suspicions were confirmed… They morning staff couldn’t find the new reservation, and they said they would check with the afternoon staff what happened. In worst case they would hold a cot for me – as long as I returned before 10 PM. I tried to emphasize my concern that I might not make it back before 10 and she just shrugged her shoulders. Wasn’t her problem. Customer service in Sweden sucks asssssssssssss!!!!!!!!! It was unbelievable that they screwed up the booking, and offered no advice on who to contact if I didn’t return in time. I’m sure there have been people who couldn’t make it back in time – and don’t they have arrangements for registering for search parties if solo hikers do not return?? It is a mountain!

The whole debacle at reception took 30 minutes, and wasn’t even properly resolved. I was stressed because now I had lost 30 minutes of hiking time. I tried to set a quick pace during the easy, flat start of the hiking path. The uphills were so brutally difficult for me.  I can walk quite fast on the easy terrain, but uphill was a slow slog with lots of breaks (every few seconds I had to pause to catch my breath). Families with kids blasted by me, only to pause frequently for snack breaks, where I passed them again, like a neck and neck race. A man in his 60’s(?) with a long grey beard, crazy hair, and long sinewy legs, passed by me effortlessly. I dubbed him “mountain man” because I would have believed it if someone told me he had been living out in the mountains for several years without contact with civilization.  I saw him again on his way quickly back down far before I was barely to the top.

1Starting out the hike on easy terrain and gorgeous weather, 5 C

2Beyond the easy first section, the hike to the top is hours of pure torture on your instep with stones, stone and more stones

3Halfway to the top, at 1700m (1200m gain from Kebnekaise fjällstation). But, there is an elevation drop down to 1500m (200 m loss to be regained) before reaching the top of Kebnekaise, 2100m. Total elevation gain 1800m + total loss 1800m.

4At 1700m. Kebnekaise’s peak in the distance. But first I would need to drop and regain 200m in elevation.

I was almost crawling the last 200m up. But so worth it. Perfect day. Perfect view. Couldn’t ask for more.

5I made it! Just beside the peak. (And of course I HAD to blink the in one of the few photos of me.)

6The peak, not for acrophobes… The top is about 1 m wide and 5 m long with a steep, narrow ridge on one side. There are only 2 directions you could safely slip off, to where I’m standing, or down the narrow ridge.

I was too scared to take any photos from the true peak, knowing that people have fallen off and died. I tried to take some photographs but it was really difficult to capture how truly breathtaking it is. So instead, tried to be in the moment and enjoy the view, spending about an hour near the top.

The way down was pure pain at every step. Knee crunching descent/hell, and about 14 hours after I started, I was back down at Kebnekaise fjällstation.

When I returned 15 minutes prior to reception closing, the girl from the morning was there as promised. However, she said she talked to all the afternoon staff, and none of them recalled booking anything for an Asian girl the day before! Unbelievable! I was the only Asian female in the whole station, yet the flighty girl from the day before apparently didn’t remember me… I tried asking in many different ways as I could just in case it was just misplaced! I resigned myself to another horrible night in cot.  But after having stalled and talked for so long, and maybe because she felt quite sorry for me, somehow it occurred to the girl, “Wait, do you have an STF membership?”

The STF cabins are apparently not part of the normal booking process??… There was one last bed free (the one the flighty girl from the day before was supposed to have booked for me). Yes! A 4 bedded room! With showers in the same building! (As opposed to the communal shower house.)  So I can highly recommend purchasing an STF membership if you will be hiking Kungsleden and/or Kebnekaise.

I treated myself to the overpriced BBQ burger at the cafeteria. I barely had the energy to stay awake to eat, shower, and organize my things for my early morning departure (so that I could get back to Umeå without sleeping in Kiruna). I only slept from 11:30 PM until 5:30 AM, but it was a sound sleep in a luxurious bunk bed in a room with a quietly sleeping Swedish family.

Day 10, July 25, 2010, Kebnekaise to Nikkaluokta. 8 km of flat terrain, followed by a boat (runs twice daily, saving 6 km of walking), and another 5.6 km of flat terrain. A nice, easy recovery walk, especially after hiking up Kebnekaise. Leaving Kebnekaise fjällstation, I saw a few other early morning “hikers”. They were looking for the helicopter pad to leave via helicopter.

7Took the boat for 200 SEK to save 6 km of walking in order to make the bus departing for Kiruna at noon.

8At the Sami village on the other side of the lake, there is a LapDånalds. Unfortunately they weren’t open yet, otherwise I wanted a reindeer burger!

Walking the last section to Nikkaluokta, I passed many hikers who were just starting on their hike in the opposite direction to Kebnekaise (most don’t continue on much farther than Kebnekaise). I was amazed to see a girl with a pack that looked like it weighed at least 25 kg, only steps past the starting post, hunched over and straining. I don’t know if she ended up ditching any of her things on the way, because I couldn’t see her making it very far.

Waiting at the bus stop at Nikkaluokta, I saw the mountain man again (who had also taken the boat). He said he was impressed by how fast I was walking the prior morning, but I said it was only during the flat parts that I could walk that fast, and how difficult and painful the hike was for me. He said it correctly, that it was all “mental strength”, and that for him, it also hurt at every step! I almost rarely have problems with my knees and feet, and every step down Kebnekaise sent pain through my knees. I can’t imagine how much pain someone who didn’t have healthy knees and feet as I do, would feel. I’m envious and aspire to be as fit as the people who breezed up and down the mountain.

The bus that runs from Nikkaluokta to Kiruna only takes cash (no credit cards). I planned to take the train from Kiruna to Umeå, where I had my student flat, to save myself a night of accommodation. In a rush to catch my train, I bought a burger and fries to take away from a northern Swedish “fast-food” chain. I had to wait over 15 minutes for my burger. That’s fast food in northern Sweden for you.

Waiting at the train station, eating my burger and fries on a bench, I felt kind of sick. Almost as though my body was rejecting the unhealthy, greasy food. I felt inspired to continue this healthy way of life I had been doing (at least in that moment :)). Lots of activity. Food as fuel, but really enjoying and savouring fine food, as a special occasion. And the simplicity of having only the things I need on my back, consuming as little as necessary, moving by my own muscles and feet. And a greater appreciation of modern conveniences, such as clean clothing, showers without needing to carry the water I use.

Of course the train was several hours late (surprise, surprise). The whole time I was waiting I had wanted to use the toilet but was afraid the train would come barreling into the station, taking off after stopping for a few seconds. I couldn’t get any information on how much the train was delayed from SJ, because “it’s a different train company”. Nevermind that they are using SJ’s train station.

Reflections on the blur of the last few months

Apologies for the lack of updates (to my one subscriber, my sister)… The final installment of Hiking Kungsleden and climbing to the top of Kebnekaise will have to wait a little longer still.

The last few months have been a blur: I started my masters in industrial design, in a completely new town, this time in the south of Sweden. I met new people, partied alot, travelled alot (visiting companies around Småland, as well as my Christmas break vacation through Copenhagen and Taiwan), but also worked hard. I might say a little too hard, but I haven’t worked myself to the near breaking point that I did at Umeå – which I vowed not to repeat again this year – yet I can’t help but feel guilty that I didn’t push myself a little harder.

Initially I was elated and grateful to get into my program, and finally could see how far I had come after my first year studying design. But with the first semester of my new program – and therefore, 25% of my masters program complete – coming to a close, I am slightly disappointed at the program and at myself for not having come further. I’m frustrated with the amount of group projects that we have had to do, which take up a lot of time, with very little return. Yes, if a diverse group of people work well together, then the result is much better than what any single person in the group could have done; but the situation I encountered over and over was having to do the majority of the work on my own, with the end result being worse than I would have done on my own without hours wasted attempting to meet and work as a group.

There isn’t so much time left for me to “get good”. Or as good as the level that I wish to see for myself. Passing the courses is easy and has no meaning for me – the standards that I hold myself to are much harsher than any teacher would comment. My insomnia this school year has been even worse than last year. Many nights, I lay in bed, absolutely exhausted from working at school all day, but the pressure and stress I feel keeps my mind awake (and wishing for some sleeping pills). I want to be a skilled and employable designer more than anything I’ve ever wanted before. I’ve never allowed myself to hope for something like this before… Admitting it to myself, and admitting it out loud to others has taken me a lot of courage. I still expect that some will scoff as they did before, but now I feel that my determination will win out, and the slight risk of failing is worth it.

I spent a few days in Copenhagen, checking out the Industrial Design museum, as well as the source of my epiphany from 2 years ago, the Danish Design Center. I jotted down a lot of notes from my days here, thinking about the direction I wanted my career to go in. Just briefly, I would say that I am glad of the trend that progressive design firms seem to be moving away from simply putting a new pretty package on old solutions, and are trying to tackle the next generation of problems. It’s absolutely perfect for me!

Then I spent 3 weeks in Taiwan visiting Per. I had no idea what to expect from Taiwan, and it was a pleasantly surprising mix of China and Japan. Some superficial observations about Taiwan:

– I created a lot of garbage even during my short stay there, by all the disposable cups, bowls, chopsticks, packaging, plastic bags, etc. I did like how they had clearly marked items that could be recycled by a special symbol (and a lot of the packaging was recyclable), but they could do a step better by simply reducing the amount of packaging they use, and by using more reusable items. For example, in a restaurant, it really wasn’t necessary to serve us the meal in disposable tableware! And I didn’t need to have my drink that I purchased – in a plastic cup – placed into another plastic bag, for “ease” of carrying.

– I’ve never heard such polite Chinese spoken! Even teenagers say thank you to the bus driver and clean up after themselves in food courts.

– I’ve never seen such non-aggressive dogs roaming free! Likely it’s due to being so well fed from table scraps. They were pretty cute and friendly and grew on me after awhile.

– I never thought I could feel so cold at +15 C… Sweden and Canada don’t feel as cold, when you can at least escape the cold by going indoors to heated buildings.

– I really would like to learn more Mandarin. But add that to the list of a 100 things I would like to accomplish sometime in the near future now…

We had a chance encounter with a Swedish man at the airport. He was married to a Taiwanese woman, and had his own business in Sweden, in a really fascinating field. What was interesting was that he started out in a very different field! Makes me even more convinced that I need to find my “niche”, to secure demand for my skills… I met up with one of my classmates from Umeå in Taiwan, and she was soon on her way to Copenhagen to start her masters. It makes me really happy to hear of the successes of my former classmates! When I look at my former classmates, I can clearly see their “niche” (or did they already know their niche and already start to market it?). But I’m not so clear on what my own strengths are.

As for travel, I think that the travel bug has lessened somewhat in me. I’m still interested in going to other countries. But I want to experience it deeper than just a few days or weeks. I want to communicate with the people and get a deeper sense of the place and its people. Learning another language is so time intensive, but so rewarding I think. (Yes, I need to learn more Swedish, though I’m trying.) I am so envious of people who really get to experience a place. I wonder if I’m able to do the same, or whether I let my shyness hold me back too much of the time.

Sleep is beckoning me, so I shall have to ponder all this some more later.