Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Skellefteå days

I have been Skellefteå for over two weeks now and in the short duration I have already witnessed the good and bad of its weather. Good being 20C, sunny, cool breeze coming from Skellefteå river and bad being overcast, rainy and damp. It is a small city with city-center, picturesque landscapes and woods all in close vicinity. When you come from India, a place buzzing with gazillions of people, lot of garbage dumped everywhere and to click a photo with beautiful surrounding most of the times one would need to travel few miles at least but the western world with its cleanliness, neatness and planned roads overwhelms you, at times so much so that you open the door and it makes you wanna click photos.
We have been put up in a place called Stiftsgården in a shared accommodation, can't be called a lavish arrangement but we have adjusted well. The place has some history associated with it, one of its buildings is the oldest construction in city and it is in middle of complex belonging to city's biggest church and graveyard. It is not far from my work-place and city center, makes it easy to cycle to both places every day. The conditions have been suiting well to me with cycling adding the zing to daily routine. We are in all a group of eleven people here and all of same age-group so helped in connecting well. In the two weeks, we have been to a beach, a lake and hiked to a rocky mountain top apart from daily explorations on the bike.
This is end of summer here in North Sweden, so people are in general celebration mood, they have had their vacations, been to beaches and charged themselves enough under the Sun. Pretty soon they have to prepare themselves for the ugly side of weather, the harsh winter. All summer there have been various events held in and around city making it a worthwhile tourist destination this time around the year. For past four days there was a food festival on. It is mainly showcasing the food from this part of world specialty being Reindeer meat and Solomon fish. A special note should be made for couple of Thai food vendors; sadly they were too selling non-veg food. Though I am a big foodie, being vegetarian my options had been really limited, out of fifty odd shops I could try only couple of things. Still the whole experience has been quite good also as it helped me check out Swedish girls. In the nights there was a band performing which used to get the whole neighborhood alive. Young hearts of all ages thronged the place in dead nights and danced under the tents and at times sing with the band.
Five more weeks to go and many things around Skellefteå, I hope to have more enriching experiences.
Few tips if you are travelling to Skellefteå:
* If travelling in Aug-Oct, carry an umbrella and a rain-coat.
* It would be handy to carry a cap to cover your ears and hand-gloves.
* For vegetarians, Max burgers offers veggie-burger, also you could get Falafels and veg burgers at other local vendors and of course there is subway with couple of pure veg products.
* Bikes are probably the best ways to move around in Skellefteå, you should be able to rent it for around 50SEK/day.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Different Worlds

Vow, a lot of big events have happened in my life in last couple of months than last two years, I got possession of my house in Pune, I switched job, left Coriolis to work with Tieto and now I am visiting Sweden for seven weeks on official assignment. Though I had booked the flat for quite some time now, but getting the possession has changed lot of parameters, full EMI payments are being deducted from my account, a lot of money just vanishes in fixing little things in house and yeah this flat has made me a land-lord as well :-).
Tieto has been a quite a different experience, I spent four and half years at Coriolis, a twelve people strong company, but Tieto has offices possibly in each continent with more than seventeen thousand employees all over the world. The challenges for both the companies are quite different creating very different cultures and processes. Both of these things have caused subtle changes in my life but being in Sweden has had a direct impact on my lifestyle although for a short while only.
I am currently in Skellefteå, a small city even compared to Swedish standards with a population around 32k, and it is a very quiet place. But, like the whole of western world, it is well equipped with most luxuries of life. I have stayed in USA for few months and though back home when we might feel whole of western world is same, within a week I could spot lot of distinctions between the two places. US is more multi-cultured, it is very easy to spot Indians, Chinese, Koreans, Mexicans, Africans and of course Whites and natives. You can find Indian grocery shop and Indian restaurants on each corner and if you are (un)lucky you can catch Himesh Reshammiya performing live in concert. On the other hand, I did not find as many different races or colored people here in Sweden. Also, Indian food is kind of alien here. There are some products available in super-market offering Indian taste but they are all made in Britain and I am quite sure they must be lowered a lot in spices to comfort the western-stomachs so the purist that I am, I don't buy them instead preferring to settle for the native falafel :-)
Other big difference is language, it is not guaranteed here that everybody here would be fluent in English actually it is easy to bump in to people who know hardly any English. All the signboards are in Swedish though the script is Roman but the words are very different; their length and heavy usage of umlauts make them difficult to read and remember. In general I found people very friendly, relaxed and at leisure. In US, I used to see more cars and hardly any people. Definitely cars were shinier in US and you needed to get on freeways more often. Here bike-lanes are very well developed and highways are not as big. I must admit, I found US more political there is some charge, stress about US that is missing here. Of course being Europe and that too countryside, this place is more picturesque. I am not sure if this phenomenon is all over Sweden or it is limited to Skelleftea but lot of people here move around on cycles and even I am given one.
Alright folks this is it for now, I am hoping to check out more of Skellefteå and Sweden and possible other parts of Europe during next six weeks if things fall in place. bfn.