TiK ToK

My time in Sweden this month has been absolutely fantastic!

 

The first week of July was Almedalen Week, an annually reoccurring event since 1982 where political speeches and seminars are held in a park on the island of Gotland. It is attended mostly by politicians, NGO’s, lobbyists, and journalists. A majority of my colleagues ventured off to the island to attend the seminars and give speeches and so forth. Fortunately, I was kept busy with some research projects and other various tasks.

I actually was able to meet up with fellow interns from the Danish, Finnish, French, and German embassies here in Stockholm that week! It was really fun and interesting to discuss our travels, our experiences in Sweden, and our academic pursuits. 

Interns from the Danish, Finnish, French, German, and U.S. Embassies!

Interns from the Danish, Finnish, French, German, and U.S. Embassies!

Last week I attended a "Stockholm Expat Meetup" event where the proposed plan was to go to a restaurant called Indian Khusboo for Bangladeshi cuisine, then hit up the clubs. I have never tried Bangladeshi food, but love meeting new people and I don't mind dancing the night away!

I arrived at the restaurant and met new people, made friends, and had a delicious meal! There were at least 30 people there that came for the meetup and I assuredly had a great time. From there, we went to  a bar and we mixed and mingled there for quite a while, then off to the clubs we went! Not much else to say besides the fact that I went to bed around 4:30AM and snapped a picture of the 3:00AM sunrise. It was a superb night to say the very least.

Instagram picture of the morning sunrise at ~ 3:00AM

Instagram picture of the morning sunrise at ~ 3:00AM

My friends and I went to a Ke$ha concert held at Gröna Lund, an amusement park located in Stockholm on the Djurgården island. The concert was insane. Though, it was mildly amusing to see families slowly dissipate from the concert area as the stage performance and lyrics gradually increased in absurdity...

This week I assisted in arranging a fika (coffee break) session on behalf of Ambassador Brzezinski at the Ambassadorial residence in Stockholm with interns from Princeton University who are spending their summer working for Göran Pettersson, the Head of the Swedish/U.S. Friendship Group in Parliament.

It was a great afternoon that consisted of drinking coffee, eating biscuits and cookies, and discussing assorted topics.

From the Ambassadorial residence, I guided Göran Pettersson and the interns to the U.S. Embassy so we could meet with various Foreign Service Officers and gain insight of the various career options within the State Department.

Ambassador Brzezinski, Göran Pettersson and his interns, and myself!

Ambassador Brzezinski, Göran Pettersson and his interns, and myself!

My final days in Sweden are quickly nearing, but quite honestly, I couldn't have pictured myself anywhere else in the world for Summer 2013.

 

-Anourath

Red Bull "Flugtag" - Stockholm, Sweden

Tens of thousands, if not a couple hundred thousand sometimes eagerly anticipate and attend or inadvertently stumble upon each Flugtag, the German word for "flight day" or "airshow” hosted by Red Bull throughout the world and of course in the United States. It is the time for crowds to gather and watch daredevils and amateur inventors alike attempt flight.

All those participating probably signed consent forms in case the chance of death occurred due to their plummeting downfall from a self-made flying craft. A majority probably were built in a shed somewhere with the aid of a hammer, planks of wood, Styrofoam, spray paint, a handsaw, and a simple dream - to fly. Precision tools, a bachelor’s degree in physics or aeronautical engineering is optional and definitely not required, or necessary encouraged. As per event regulations and rules, engines, rockets, batteries, and the like are prohibited.

This time the Red Bull Flugtag event was held in Stockholm, Sweden on Sunday, 30 June 2013. It amassed over 35,000 spectators and showcased the raw talent and ambitious goals of a few dozen teams. The teams were judged on a numerical scale by a panel of judges. The three criteria judged were:

  1. The length of the flight
  2. The creativity of the flying machine
  3. The team’s ability to entertain the audience

I first learned of the event whilst coming back from the Independence Day Celebration hosted by U.S. Embassy Stockholm last Thursday at the Sheraton Hotel. Traveling via taxi with my colleague, we passed by the Café Opera and saw a prominently erected ramp, bearing the Red Bull logo, that led into the waterfront. Word around the office was that the Flugtag event was to be held on Sunday around noon, and that it would draw a massive crowd of spectators.

Back in the U.S. I had seen commercials on the television, viewed Youtube videos on the Internet showcasing the Flugtag, and heard talks and chatter of the amazing spectacle from friends and acquaintances.

This marketing campaign ploy is indeed clever. The company slogan is "Red Bull gives you wings." What better way to affirm or disprove that statement than to test an amateur “flying” contraption in front of a massive audience?

Red Bull has become an iconic and recognizable international company, with its tall and slender cylindrical silver aluminum cans accented with blue. If I were to stroll through the Marriott Library at the University of Utah on any given day, I would come upon a plethora of Red Bull cans in plain sight. From the standard sugar variant, to sugar-free, and zero calories, then you would see the variance in sizes too, from 8 fl. oz, 12, 16, and even 24 fl. oz. There's a size to fit every level of your depraved, nefarious caffeine addiction.

It would be an insult to my fellow college students by failing to attend. Red Bull has aided students in pulling all-nighters in order to complete a special project or research paper, the beverage that reduced the sleepiness a restless driver endured,and was the company that sponsored the successful stratosphere free-fall jump and descent from space.

Well, on that cloudy yet temperate 66 degree Fahrenheit day - Swedes, tourists, expatriates, wanderers, and all of humankind present in that area in Stockholm were able to witness the flight attempts of aviation pioneers.

Not quite sure if all of the participants were wired-up on caffeine, taurine,  or some other word with multiple syllables depicted on a can of Red Bull, but all the teams performed remarkably. My particular favorite teams were #ILikeItDirty with their unforgettable dance introduction and song, team Magikarp with their Pokemon themed project, and the Disney Aladdin themed team with their belly dancing and swords, Flying Carpet.

I genuinely had a great time and was able to witness the event in its entirety.

All had an introductory act or dance accompanied by music such as "Party Rock Anthem" and "Harlem Shake," and was sometimes accompanied with fireworks or fire extinguishers.

With their securely fastened helmets and life-preservers buckled neatly with the assistance of mini-skirt clad women with flight attendant hats and scarves, the brave souls nonetheless attempted flight. Now, I presume the flying machines were not FAA-approved because some plummeted into the water after their contraption came crashing down from the ramp, others were ejected from their craft almost immediately, but one team managed to stay atop their flying machine without plundering to the watery depths.

Costumes were adorned, cheers were yelled, GoPro cameras ready and mounted, the plunge imminent - Red Bull Flugtag in Stockholm was a success and the brave pilots and crew members were welcomed with cans of Red Bull and applause for their momentous work.

During intermissions we had water propelling machines attached to people in the water giving a spectacle, musical performances, we had parachuters rustling down from the sky attempting to land on the ramp - with one being successful, garnering much applause from the audience.

We live in a world of possibility. Maybe all you need is a pair of wings or a special aluminum can filled with hopes and dreams, and an audience?

Nothing is truly impossible, retrospectively what we might perceive as impossible may merely be an endeavor yet to be achieved or conquered. So what are you waiting for?

Dream big and dare to fail.

-Anourath

Red Bull Flugtag - Stockholm, Sweden - 30 June 2013

Red Bull Flugtag - Stockholm, Sweden - 30 June 2013

Somehow

My time in Sweden so far has been absolutely splendid!

 

Had lunch with Ambassador Brzezinski on Monday and apparently the diplomatic cable I drafted earlier, originally directed to posts within the Bureau of European/Eurasian Affairs, was directly distributed by the Ambassador to prominent officials in Washington D.C. and to other U.S. Ambassadors around the world.

Too bad I'm only here for the summer!

Attended last week a Foreign Commercial Service and Economic Statecraft meeting with the Ambassador presiding.

My supervisor and I coordinated a FIRST Lego League (FLL) Innovation Ambassadors event at 3M Innovation Solutions where the Ambassador gave remarks to the youth present. The students also demonstrated their Lego inventions and presented their prototype for aiding senior citizens. Ambassador Brzezinski also joined the students for a live broadcast hosted by the State Department linking FLL teams from Chile, Israel, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden with teams from Washington D.C.

Secretary of State John Kerry broadcasted welcoming remarks on the feed and the participating Swedish students and other international teams were able to submit questions via Twitter to the U.S. teams in Washington D.C.

Afterwards, 3M Sweden Country Director Lars Näslund took all of us on a tour of the 3M Innovation Center.

 

3M Innovation Center - Sollentuna, Stockholm

3M Innovation Center - Sollentuna, Stockholm

U.S. Embassy Sweden hosted its annual Independence Day Reception on Thursday, 27 June 2013, held this year at the Sheraton Hotel in Stockholm. Over 500 people from other diplomatic missions in Sweden, Embassy contacts, and so forth attended.

I had a great time and almost shed a tear when the Marines presented the American flag during the National Anthem. My internship started over seven weeks ago, which in retrospect isn't a very long time, but there is no doubt that I miss and very much appreciate the United States of America and its values.

In addition, there was Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

 

U.S. Independence Day Celebration!

U.S. Independence Day Celebration!

-Anourath

Wish You Were Here

From drafting a diplomatic cable, to sightseeing and attending events, or sitting in on teleconferences - June 2013 has been an exciting and rewarding month so far!

I drafted and released my first diplomatic cable with the approval of my Political-Economic Section. The Ambassador also reviewed my work and did not make any revisions to my draft. Apparently I did a rather good job because I received kudos from the U.S. Ambassador to Albania, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who joined the Department of State over 30 years ago, for the quality of my cable.

Swedish National Day was 6 June 2013 and the Royal Guards rode horses through the streets of Stockholm. That day I roamed the Royal Apartment and went to Kungsträdgården to enjoy delicious food at “Taste of Stockholm.” Princess Madeleine of Sweden married a New York banker, Christopher O'Neill, at the royal chapel in Stockholm, Sweden on 8 June 2013. I am still under the impression that my invitation to the royal wedding was lost in the mail.

View of Royal Guards on horses from my apartment

View of Royal Guards on horses from my apartment

Sat in on some teleconferences with the Department of State in Washington D.C. and other U.S. Embassies in European countries, which was entertaining.

Met Damon Wilson, an American foreign policy adviser and current executive vice president at the Atlantic Council of the United States and was particularly interested in what he said in regards to national security, NATO, transatlantic trade, and cyber security during a private lunch session.

I assisted with registration at the 2nd Annual Nordic Somali Youth Summit, a conference to empower Somali youth in engagement and action. It was held at the Hilton Hotel Slussen. I then took a taxi ride from that venue to the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (Utrikespolitiska institutet), but unfortunately I was dropped off at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Utrikesdepartementet) instead and did not realize I was at the wrong location for quite a while. I ended up being approximately 40 minutes late to a private presentation event of a report to senior diplomats and ambassadors of a couple dozen countries in Stockholm. Oops.

 

Snapped a quick picture from the Hilton Hotel

Snapped a quick picture from the Hilton Hotel

On Thursday, 13 June 2013  I attended a meeting with the incoming Economic/Trade team heading off to the Swedish Embassy in Washington D.C.

Later that day I went to an event hosted by the Polish Embassy to mark the Polish Presidency in the Visegrád group - an alliance of four Central European states (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) for the purposes of cooperation and furthering their European integration.

Yep. 

-Anourath

Tasty hors d'oeuvres and Other Stuff

Well, I am still attempting to catch you all up to speed as to what I have been engaged in the past month or so. Resuming from where we left off last time, I attended the “20 Years of Cooperation and Friendship after Czechoslovakia” event hosted by the Czech and Slovak Embassies in Stockholm, Sweden at the Historiska museet (Museum of National Antiquities). There were traditional dance and musical performances along with speakers that lectured about the history of Czechoslovakia and the current relations between Czechs and Slovaks.

I was entertained by the performances, intrigued by the lecturers and had an excellent time at the cocktail party afterwards. The hors d'oeuvres were tasty and I met some charming, interesting women.

IMG_0127.JPG

On one occasion when I met with the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, Mark Brzezinski, I mentioned to him my interests in the Fulbright program and coincidentally he was hosting an annual recognition ceremony at his residence later in the month of May and invited me to join. I gladly accepted and met interesting people. Funny enough, I ran into a fellow Ute at the event – Dan Sweeney, who did his Fulbright research on renewable energy and fuel production from biomass residues! When the event was coming to a conclusion, I invited everyone to my residence for pizza and beverages and we all had a good time.

Go Utes! 

Go Utes! 

On Wednesday, 29 May 2013 we had a couple dozen University of Virginia MBA students visit the U.S. Embassy to hear about the business environment in Sweden for U.S. companies and to hear Ambassador Brzezinski speak. Stockholm was their first location on their tour across European cities for the summer. I was able to help escort them from the Security Guard House to the Embassy building, had lunch and mingled together, and I discussed economics and business with the UVA students. I then went to attend a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event regarding Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and noted the concerns of corporations, banks, and lawyers for the U.S. anti-tax evasion legislation and its implementation.

Later that day I arrived at the residence of the Public Affairs Section Counselor to watch a screening of a documentary regarding Afghanistan. We then discussed our thoughts and concerns pertaining to the video with the director of the documentary. Fun event, I enjoyed it.

I’m pretty sure I promised that this blog entry would talk about parks & recreation, but nope. Apparently that didn’t happen.

That’s about all the noteworthy things that I am at liberty to publicly blog about in regards to my experiences in May 2013 while living in Stockholm.

-Anourath

Secretary of State Visit, Blueberries, and Washing Machines

In my prior post, I promised blog entries pertaining to the Secretary of State visit to Sweden, stuff about parks, and the mysterious workings of Swedish laundry machines, my internship experience, and so forth.

I wish I could promise you that those topics will come into fruition sooner rather than later. But alas, I will take the time to introduce you all to my current obsession: blueberries. As of Saturday, 1 June 2013 when all of this blogging began, I went to the grocery store and bought a 125 gram package of deliciously antioxidant-rich blueberries for 15 SEK (Approximately 2.26 USD).

I quickly ravaged the blueberries after washing them, as that was the instruction on the plastic packaging. Also, it noted that the blueberries are to be kept refrigerated, but honestly nobody has time for that.

Anyway, today I went to my convenient, five minute walk distanced grocery store, Coop and bought more packages of blueberries and washed them upon arrival at home. Without hesitation I promptly put them in my refrigerator after eating a few handfuls of the delicious fruit known in Sweden as blåbär. Now as I type away words and sentences for this blog, I should probably cease and desist the thoughts and sentences I am construing that pertain to blueberries.

The term we folks here in the Department of State utilize when referencing a Secretary of State visit is “S. Visit.” Preparations for the S. Visit occurred weeks in advance and it was excellent timing that I arrived in Sweden a week prior to the big visit. S. Visits to Sweden have been historically rare, Hilary Clinton visited June 2012 but that was the first Secretary of State visit in decades.

John Kerry arrived on Tuesday, 14 May 2013. I was able to assist in preparation at the Ambassador’s residence where Secretary Kerry would visit, have lunch, and meet the Embassy staff. I was fortunate enough to shake our Secretary of State’s hand and meet him, but it would have been extremely inappropriate if I Snapchat’d the interaction. So there are no pics available, but that’s ok because that interaction is still ingrained in my brain. Yes, I have washed my right hand since that faithful Tuesday afternoon. From Stockholm, Secretary of Kerry then traveled to Kiruna, Sweden’s northernmost city to attend the Arctic Council meeting.

I video chat via Skype with my parents on a weekly basis and my mother is particularly keen on reminding me to do laundry. My proficiency in the Swedish language is next to nonexistent being that Swedes here can transition from speaking Swedish with their friends to directing you to the nearest McDonald’s in excellent English with ease. This lack of ability for the Swedish language proved a hindrance when trying to perform the necessary task of laundering clothes. Upon consulting the Swedish instruction manual for the machine, I eventually got it working and was mindful that the temperatures utilized were indeed Celsius. Noted, the washing machines here have particularly harsher wash cycles.

My next blog entry will partly pertain to parks & recreation. Oh, will probably detail my internship experience more and have less references to blueberries.

In the meantime, there are pictures of my apartment above for your viewing pleasure. I live across the street from Sankt Johannes kyrka (St. John's church).

-Anourath

From Salt Lake City, Utah to Stockholm, Sweden

Hej hej!

Wow, where do I begin? I suppose you readers are curious as to how the Stockholm riots affected me, what activities I have partaken in, the experiences I have had at U.S. Embassy Stockholm and so forth. All great questions, but I particularly am not fond of blogging and documenting all of my experiences and leisurely activities. I would much rather prefer the usage of Snapchat to share the brief moments in my life - albeit Snapchat is a more transient form of communication, but I suppose I will give you all the prospect of seeing mere glimpses of my life through blog posts. It's only for a summer, how hard could it be?

I acquired an overseas internship with the U.S. Department of State at Embassy Stockholm, Sweden in the Political-Economic section. Upon completing my final exams and papers, I departed Salt Lake City on Monday, 6 May 2013 and arrived at my destination on Tuesday, 7 May 2013. On my transatlantic flight, I watched Pitch Perfect, Argo, Top Gear, just to name a few titles.

I currently reside in a furnished and spacious 4 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment with full kitchen conveniently located in the city center of Stockholm. Did I mention that I have this entire apartment all to myself? The Embassy's Housing office was able to provide me this recently vacant apartment, which I graciously accepted. Housing is extremely difficult and competitive, not to mention expensive in Stockholm.

Jet lag was rather difficult to overcome, I slept at minimum twelve hours each night for about a week and a half. Now I get approximately eight hours of sleep a night.

Undoubtedly, I attained a cell phone plan because not having a functional cell phone in Sweden is tantamount to kicking baby seals.

My next blog posts will have details of how I met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, my personal difficulties of understanding the washer/drying machine, my adventures to the various parks in Stockholm, how my internship is going, and everything else in between.

Stay tuned!.

-Anourath

Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm. Cherry blossom trees, fountain, people.

Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm. Cherry blossom trees, fountain, people.