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(A Rather Long) Highlight of 2018

I’ve seen so many bloggers wrote their 2018 highlights on their blog, and I can’t help but feel, ‘I want to do that, too!’ (Yes, I’m easily influenced 😅) so here goes…

January

It’s our wedding month, so I wanted to do this post-wedding photoshoot (again) with the winter wonderland theme. Luckily, we had enough snow and the weather was really good on our wedding date, so it was really lovely.

February

We traveled to Poland to arrange the new residence permit (more story here). Turned out to be a nice trip, after all. Poland was lovely.

Sunny day in Gdansk

Gdansk covered in snow

Dream comes true! Visiting Marie Curie’s Museum

Also, time for some winter sport, obviously. Tried skiing for the first time (and probably last 😂) Honestly, I would choose ice skating over skiing any time.

Skating on the lake. Not the easiest thing, but fun!

Tired face after try skiing for the first time

March

I don’t think many things happened in March, actually. But it was still snowing in Stockholm so it was cool. I did visit the Natural History Museum for the first time because I wanted to see Erik Johansson’s exhibition (it was the last day when I visited). Let me say, I was hooked by his works 😍 I really love this ‘Full Moon Service’ picture and keep on dreaming that someday someone will give it to me 😂 The museum itself was nice, with beautiful building, but I saw that the it was targeting children more. Eh, but it was still fun to visit anyway.

Erik Johansson’s Full Moon Service

April

SAM SMITH CAME TO STOCKHOLM!!!!!!!!!! OH. MY. GOD. Fangirling so bad. It was amazing. Hands down.

Also, met my high school friend Dixie who just recently moved to Sweden! We hadn’t met for, like, a decade? It was unbelievable 😆

The cherry blossoms just started blooming at the end of the month.

And I also took this 1-day self defence training for girls. Highly recommended!

May

It was a beautiful period in Stockholm, because all the flowers were blooming. I had my first violin performance since forever (it was awful, I had to say), but it was fun anyway. Also, the new Karolinska University Hospital was inaugurated and I accidentally came at the right time to see the King cut the ribbon (important moment!)

Beautiful campus in spring

I always make this funny face when performing

King of Sweden!

June

Eid Mubarak! My mom sent me 2 beautiful dresses, one which I wore during the celebration at the embassy.

Also… WE WATCHED WORLD CUP IN RUSSIA!!!!

Although it was definitely a sad moment for team Germany 🤷🏻‍♀️

Happy face, before we knew the fate of team Germany

But it was a fun time (aside from seeing Germany lost and trouble with the passport). Kazan was a wonderful city, and so was Moscow. We took the free train provided by the government to travel between the cities and it was comfortable. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but they did a good job arranging the World Cup.

Kazan. See the green roofs? Super love!!!

Moscow. Look at the colours!

Also watching opera in Bolshoi Theatre, because why not? 😀

Also, Russia can be very hot in the summer. Just saying. I did not expect this at all, to be honest 😅

July

It’s time for a trip to Cyprus!!! I really can’t thank my best friend Marios and his family enough for letting us stay in their apartment throughout our stay, and having him driving us around THE WHOLE ISLAND for the rest of our holiday (since, well, none of us could really drive 🙈).

But seriously, Cyprus has some of the best beaches I’ve ever visited in my life. I’m so glad I bought that swimming donut 😂 (I’m suck at swimming), but some of the water was really shallow you can technically just walk to the middle (it was amazing). Of course we did not only go to the beaches, although that was the big proportion of what we did there. The archaeological sites there were also magnificent. Although be prepared for the hot weather if you visit in the summer. At some point it reached 40 degrees Celsius, but when I asked my friend if we should just stay at home he said, of course not. So that’s that. 40 deg is fine. With right precaution 😅 (to be fair we visited the mountain that day, so it was cooler. By cooler I mean 36-38 deg 🤣)

Larnaca, the seaside city where we stayed

Cape Greco

Fig Tree Bay. Of course it was full of people.

Lunch under the grape tree (?)

The bakery in the traditional village

Kourion Archeological Site (just a part of it, the site is HUGE)

Larnaca Salt Lake. You could see the mosque to the left

Aphrodite’s Rock

Meeting this fur ball again *love love love

August

It was Risan’s birthday, and we celebrated at home. I did not have a decent picture to post here, unfortunately 🙈 Also, I attended the Europride Parade in Stockholm.

September

Time for a trip to Lisbon! I read somewhere that it was the sunniest capital in Europe, yet it was mostly cloudy during our trip there 😅😅😅😅 I am not sure if I like it or not. I mean, Lisbon was fine overall, but nothing has a really wow factor for me. But don’t let my judgement affect yours! The oceanarium and monastery were wonderful, though.

Jeronimos Monastery

The famous yellow tram

Also, I participated in the election in Sweden for the first time! So since I’ve been residing here for a number of years, I got to participate in the election for the kommun and landsting. I am not sure what the English translation should be. Municipality and county? One thing I liked about the election here was that you could take a lot of different valkompass (literally: election compass), an online ‘quiz’ (usually by news agency) to determine which party has the closest vision with you. And honestly, it helped a lot!

October

Time for an autumn photoshoot! It was another wonderful time in Stockholm since the leaves were changing colours and there were plenty of sunny days.

Also, I attended my friend’s Dr. Lisa Blom’s defence and afterparty. So, it seems customary here to hold an afterparty after your defence and invited your supervisors, opponent, family, and friends for a nice dinner. Some even said this is like a second wedding. And honestly, I am freaked out a bit because this kind of party is never cheap in Sweden. And as strange as it might seem, it is apparently common for the host to ask the guests to pay for the foods (not for my friend’s party though). But coming from where I come from, I can never think of asking my guests to pay for their foods! But we’ll see…

Speech from the supervisor

November

MY BIRTHDAY!!! Although technically the celebration was done later 😆 We went to an Indonesian restaurant and for some of them, it was really the first time they tried it. I had a hard time describing the food, there should be a guide to explain this 😂😂 How would you actually explain the differences between rendang, gulai, and kari?

December

My first debut as a violist! Funny enough, I was placed early in the program because the person who arranged the schedule, upon seeing the name and the song I was gonna play, thought that I was a kid 😂😂😂 (the kids were put early in the program and adult students were put later). Well, I couldn’t blame her, since I only played a Christmas song with my teacher 😂😂

I also visited the newly renovated National Museum in Stockholm. I loooovvve it! Now it’s number 1 on my must-visit list in Stockholm!

Entrance to the museum

And last but not least… Winter trip to Italy!! We were originally only planned to stay in Rome, but we saw all the major highlights in 3 days and so we thought, why not make a trip to another city? So we also went to Venice!!! So excited!! 😆 Rome and Venice were absolutely wonderful! The foods were also amazing! (Well my favourite food has been spaghetti since I was 5, so it was absolutely a trip of a lifetime 😂)

My favourite site: Trevi Fountain

Vatican

Colosseum

Roman Forum

Grand Canal

Sunset in Venice

So that’s pretty much my adventure throughout 2018. I sincerely hope that 2019 will be a good year for all of us! 💚

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Watching World Cup 2018 – live!

Watching football is one of my favourite sports – if that’s ever counted as a sport (probably never 😂).

It was all started with the 2002 World Cup. For the first time in history, it was organised in 2 Asian countries, so all the matches were arranged during day time, or at least not very late at night (read: during my waking hours). It was also the first time I watched Germany played, ever (or any football match, really). They beat Saudi Arabia 8-0 in the opening match. I was impressed and immediately fell in love with Miroslav Klose ❤️ #eh

So ever since that day, I closely followed their journey throughout the World Cup, and later on the Euros. (I am never interested to watch club-level championships). Sometimes I wish that I could watch them played, live, but of course that was just a dream. Honestly, I never give it much thought (because it’s likely to be super expensive). For me, the most important thing was to see them win the tournament. So you could imagine how ecstatic I was when they finally won the 2014 World Cup. My brother and I were jumping and hugging each other like crazy at 4 in the morning. Twelve years I’ve been waiting for them to lift the trophy. And that day, I thought my World Cup journey was complete. The feeling that was exacerbated by the fact that most of the players on the team retired just afterwards, including Klose himself. And they were the generation of players that I’ve been following for the past decade. Which is why, to be honest, I didn’t make any plans to attend this year’s World Cup. I even missed the first (ticket) sales phase. But then some of my friends I knew managed to get the ticket, so I thought there might be hope and made a mental note to participate in the next sales phase.

When the second sales phase opened, my husband and I stood by our laptops and phones, all with the World Cup ticketing page opened. I also checked the Twitter to see how it went for other people. It was crazy. Apparently many people could get into the website immediately but could not proceed through the payment. I did not have much hope actually. But after 5 hours, my husband could get in to the website!!! Of course most of the tickets were gone, but there were some tickets left for Germany’s match with South Korea! We proceeded to choose that ticket, went through the payment page, and that was it!!! We got the tickets!!! Alhamdulillah! ❤️❤️❤️

Afterwards, we just realised that the match would be held in Kazan and truth to be told, we had no idea where Kazan was. We checked Google maps and found that it was in the middle of Russia. Ok perhaps not in the middle, middle, but still a bit further east from Moscow. We immediately booked the flight and hotel, because we were afraid that it would get more and more expensive later on (they already were). And since ticket holders were entitled to free transportation between host cities, we also decided to book the train tickets to Moscow and had our flight back from there. Oh and I should also probably mention that you don’t need visa to travel to Russia during the World Cup as long as you own a match ticket and apply for FAN-ID document.

We arrived in Kazan one day before the match. While taking a walk that afternoon, we saw a bunch of people wearing German’s attributes gathered around a hotel. Then I saw a bus with Germany’s flag on the side. Then it dawned on me: this must be the hotel where the team stayed!!! And it was just one block away from our hotel!!!

We decided to join the crowd and wait. But nobody really knew when they would go out. I was tired and it was a really hot day, so we decided to come back later. At least I had taken a selfie with the bus (I know, pathetic 😂).

When we went out for dinner, we saw that the crowd was still there. So we took a swing and decided to wait (again). It was a very long wait. And I stood on the wrong side so I did not actually see when the players got into the bus. But for 10 glorious seconds I saw Joachim Löw with my own eyes. And for another 10, I thought I saw Miroslav Klose on the bus. Like the others, I frantically waved when the bus left. Some players smiled and waved back. Now I finally understand how fangirling feels like 😂😂

The next day was a big day for us. It was a match that would decide whether Germany would proceed to the next round or not. I was nervous, as if it were me who would play. We decided to go to the stadium early, and by early I mean 3 hours before the match. During the match day, we could use the public transportation for free, and there were also shuttle bus from the city centre. The volunteers helped us showing the way. And I should mention that I really appreciate the volunteers’ presence there. They were really nice, helpful, and all smiling.

We had to get off some distance away from the entrance to the stadium and walked for about 15 min. And along the way, the volunteers were again there, cheering for us (probably to lift our spirits also because it was not easy walking in such a heat). 😅

When we arrived, we decided to buy some water first (because we were not allowed to bring any food & drink from the outside). I said we could buy 2 bottles but my husband said we should buy 3. What we did not know was… The seller would take off the caps and put the bottles inside a huge glass. So then we had to carry those 3 glasses everywhere in the stadium 😅 (lesson learned: don’t buy more than you can carry).

Because we bought the cheapest tickets for the match, we got seated on the short side of the stadium, behind South Korea’s goalposts and together with Russian supporters (the citizens of Russia had their own special price). My first thought was… wow the field was so small! Well of course it looked small because we saw it from above 😅😅 From where I sat, I couldn’t even see the players’ face, so it was a bit of a lost cause trying to identify the players by myself.

There were some things that I did not know before I watch a (World Cup) match in the stadium:

  1. There was Wi-Fi in the stadium
  2. The referees also had to do some warming up (not important, I know)
  3. The supporters could get really, really loud
  4. The screen in the stadium did not show the match that was being played (like in the TV), but instead when there was a goal it would show the word ‘goal’ and when somebody got the yellow card, it would show the yellow card and the name of the player 😅

At first I was pretty optimistic with the match. But in the middle of the match, I saw that Sweden had had 2 goals against Mexico and Germany had not scored anything. Then happened the first goal. Then the second goal. To be fair, I did not blame Neuer for trying to get in the middle of the field. Time was running out, and they were one player short. Honestly, I did not see the two goals on my own because everybody around me were standing and I was just sitting there. It was too painful to watch.

So yeah, they were out of the tournament. I tried (nonchalantly) to convince myself that it was just a game, and they could not be on top forever, they were bound to lose sometimes. I am not a football expert and I don’t know technically what is wrong with the team. But one thing for sure was this was not the same team that had won the cup 4 years ago. Still, I could not sleep that night 😅

It was still an interesting experience, though. And I certainly never thought that I could see a World Cup match directly with my own eyes. Truly an experience of a lifetime and I am grateful for that. Although if I am being honest, I enjoyed watching in front of the TV more, actually. I could really see who was currently dribbling the ball, you know, close-up, and it was less noisy (most of the time it would be me making the noise 🙈).

So the million dollar question then: who do you think will win this year’s World Cup? 🤔

In front of the stadium
When the match started
That pathetic selfie with the bus 😂
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My Top 8 Guilty Pleasure Songs (Eurovision 2017 Edition)

After I shared my top 5 favourite Eurovision entries, it’s time to share my ultimate guilty pleasures list XD

These are the songs that might be quite unpopular to be liked, with eccentric/strange packaging, disastrous live performance but good radio version or vice versa, or other kinds of flaws… but I still find them enjoyable at some point in my life. So… here we go!

8. Slovenia

This song came to my attention only because I was searching with ‘my’ keyword in Eurovision 2017 Spotify playlist. I was looking for ‘My Friend’ (Croatian entry) and I didn’t delete the keyword and this song was played immediately afterwards (weird story, I know ^^’ ). This is another ballad which some people might find a bit boring, but it was not that bad, actually. Well, to be honest, the one in Spotify is better than the live performance ^^’

7. Estonia

I always have a high hope for Estonia since Elina Born & Stig Rästa‘s performance in 2015, but honestly, this one is no match for that. In spite of that, I keep listening to this song over and over again. I don’t know. I like it when they sing the ‘Aaaaaaaa…’ part in the refrain ^^’

6. Cyprus

🙄 was my immediate reaction when I first listened to this song. It did not help when I watched the video clip either but somehow it helped when I finally saw the live performance: I think Hovig hit it off. I appreciate the choreography and although it was often compared to Belgian 2015’s entry, in terms of packaging, I think this entry has a better song (more melodious, probably, I don’t know). It’s still not a song that I like head-over-heels but I’ll say not bad for now (what a huge change of mood ^^’ ).

5. Ukraine

Again, another song I found accidentally through the Spotify playlist. In the sea of ballads, this song feels kind of refreshing. It certainly reminds me of The Rasmus, or Muse probably. I might not like the visual (live performance), but this is an okay song to listen to.

4. Greece

I love the singer and I wished she had sung in Greek. I was kind of disappointed when they chose this song instead of the other one. I disliked the video clip they released but the live performance was a little bit better, actually. I wish she would hit the high note, though. I think it will boost her performance, but let’s see!

3. Germany

I really feel guilty for actually liking this song because the beginning sounds like a copy and paste of Sia’s song. But otherwise, this is a catchy song – or at least easy to listen to. And thanks to the familiarity of the melody, I find myself sing along to this in no time (facepalm).

2. Moldova

I always like the song that makes me dance. And weird as it can be, it’s – always – hard – for – me – not – to – like – a – song – with – violin. So there it goes with this one. Catchy rhythm: check, killer dance moves: check, energetic team: check, dress transformation: yesssss! how did they do that?? XD In two words: sleek performance.

1. Montenegro

This entry is on top of my guilty pleasure list. And to make it worse, I have actually known (but did not want to admit) since I first listened to the song. As opposed to the entry from Moldova, I did not actually like the live performance (or the video clip, for that matter). But then again, I can never refuse the song that tempts me to dance. So yeah… this is my ultimate guilty pleasure (facepalm) XD

So here you are. My ultimate guilty pleasure list. I don’t know why I have so many guilty pleasure songs this year. What about you? Do you have a song that you like but don’t dare to admit? :p