When Trains Don’t Work

If this is not the first time you are reading something I wrote, you probably know I have an overwhelmingly positive view regarding Sweden. I like the food, the education, the public transportation, nature, the parks. Maybe not the housing situation, but apart from that, I love everything. My appraisal Swedish way of life even got me some emails calling this my texts “bullshit government propaganda.” Anyway, today I have to say I had what is probably my first bad experience over here. Nothing serious, but just super annoying.

Here we go.

I just started my last KTH Semester (boy, that was quick!), which means that now I am writing my Master Thesis. I don’t know how it works where you come from, but here it is widespread to write your thesis within a company, almost like an internship; and given I have some academic research ambitions, I decided to write with RISE, a research hub.

[I will definitely write a post about how thesis works at KTH, my specific project, and Rise in the future.]

However, the Rise unit I’m working with is not in Stockholm, but in Eskilstuna, a city roughly 100km from T-Centralen. It is an ok commute, takes me around 1 hour to get there. Not bad, and since the trains are comfortable I often manage to read and get some work done.

That said, I had a clear plan in mind for a beautiful Wednesday: get on the 08h50 train, read a couple of articles on the way, reach Eskilstuna 9h50, and have a super productive day at Rise, discussing my readings, and refining my project. Sounds, cool, right?

It was cool, up until we reached Läggesta station, two stops before my final destination.

After waiting there for a while, I realized this stop was taking a little too long. I overheard some guys near me briefly discussed something about a bus leaving in 3 minutes and stormed out the train like there is no tomorrow. As there was no announcement on the speakers, I figured out they were young and maybe had just found a reason to skip school and have some fun.

I could not be more wrong.

what the train did to my planning

After 20 minutes (around the time we should have been reaching Eskilstuna) I took a look at SJ website: technical failure. A generic error message, not saying much. But still, the train was scheduled to arrive in Eskilstuna 10h05, no biggy. 

Time passed, however. And after some good minutes, I finally managed to find someone from SJ. Apparently, there was something wrong with an intersection, and our train was not able to change tracks. They had called some technician, but it had been almost half an hour, and so far no one showed up.

My estimated time of arrival kept changing. 10h30. 10h45. 11h20.

God damn it, I would never get there.

No, no, no, Tomas, we are not going to Esklistuna

Finally, I decided to cancel my trip to Eskilstuna. There was a train in the other direction, towards Stockholm Central in 30 minutes. That was my chance to at least get somewhere. I left the train, changed platforms, bought a new ticket. And little by little, more people showed up.

But then came something on the speakers, and with my bad Swedish I was I was able to distinguish something. The train was not coming to this platform, but to the other one. That did not make sense as there was a train stuck on the tracks. Even though people went that direction and I followed.

Then they entered on my previous train. SJ decided it was not getting to Eskilstuna anyway, so better turn around and get back to the capital. I got in and waited, and waited, and waited. A good half hour later (30 minutes after it was supposed to depart), it finally left Läggesta. I now seemed to be heading somewhere, although not where I planned to spend my day.

Even before the first stop, though, some new information. As it was not my fault, this train was free for me. They said it on the (Swedish) announcements. Also, the train for which I bought a new ticket was not coming, so I just wasted some money.

Well, this was not how I intended my Wednesday to go. I planned to be super productive and get lots of things figured out. Now it is now past lunchtime, and I have been stuck on a train for good 4 hours. 

Let’s see if the second half of my day goes better.

Just to be clear: even if the whole situation was awful, the SJ Team was really nice and tried to be as helpful as they could, at least when I could find someone. The lady taking care of tickets even apologized a lot for not be giving announcements in English, but this is on me, right?  It is past time I upgrade my Swedish. Also, apparently I can get refunds for everything, so  I probably just wasted time, not money. It is something, already.

 

Winter Hiking in Tyresta National Park

Last Saturday I was sweating a lot and complaining about the 34° degrees Celsius on the thermometer. But now I am back home, and thermometer was marking -6°. And what I decided to do? Join some other international students in a 12km hiking crossing Tyresta National Park.

It was a fantastic day, however tiring and exhausting. I can’t wait to try it again, and I highly recommend you to try if you can. Here are some pictures!

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4 Things that Make Brazil and Sweden *REALLY* Different

Aside from meeting friends and family, eating a lot, going to the beach, and enjoying some sun; my last couple of weeks in Brazil also served to remind me how different it is from Sweden and Stockholm. Of course, I always knew they were pretty contrasting, but staying a whole year away just made the differences way too apparent.

But seeing these differences also revive my interest in Stockholm. You see, when you get to a new city, you have a fresh pair of eyes, but the novelty factor fades away with time and routine. Now, I think I will once again appreciate the particularities of Stockholm.

Does it seem interesting?

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Time to Leave Brazil

Once again, here I am after 24 hours of travel. But yesterday, while waiting for my flight I wrote a little reflection on my time in Brazil:

Here I am. Sitting once again at São Paulo International Airport, heading to Stockholm. The exact same place with the destination, but today, one and a half years later, it just feels so different. It simply feels weird.

You see, I Spent 30 days back home. I slept at my parents’ place, the home I grew up at. My both brothers were there also, something that didn’t happen for at least three years. I met friends and family. I ate my favorite food, went to all the restaurants and bars I had always frequented. I all felt so normal. To be honest, at some point I had the sensation that all that Stockholm thing was nothing but a dream, and I had woke up back at my regular life in Brazil.

At the same time, after spending more than a year away, things that appeared normal before now seem awkward. (I will write about this differences soon). So it is not just natural for me to be around in my city, I can’t imagine myself with the same routine I Used to have here. After all, I like my life in Stockholm. I have friends, a job, my studies. My plans are over there.

Anyway, I’m writing this because it’s a weird sensation. Last time I was here at this airport I had no idea where I would land, but the excitement went over any other feeling. Now it is different. I am eager to get back to my apartment and my life, but it feels heavier to leave Brazil behind.

My period here was amazing even more than I had expected, maybe. But it also remembered me how much I left back home. It is something you need to think when you decide to study abroad, I guess. But be certain that, even if sometimes it is hard, it is always worth it.

/tomas

 

Escaping the Swedish Winter: a Week at the Beach

I guess that when I told people I was coming to Brazil, they would often figure something like this.

Beautiful beaches, amazing sea, endless sunny days. Well, unfortunately, that was not the case. As you know, Brazil is huge, and I was born in the only part of the country that, even with access to the sea, has awful beaches.

How awful, you ask? Well, this was the local newspaper cover couple of weeks ago.

Isn’t it a tropical paradise?

Well, the case is that I came here to spend time with people, not to to be a tourist. So I had a fantastic and relaxing week at the beach, celebrating New Year’s and spending offline time with my family. I guess it is really different from what I would be experiencing in Sweden, so I wanted to share it with you.

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