Category Archives: I live, I share

Spain | The company summit!

Le Meridien Ra Beach Hotel and Spa is a 5-star luxury beach hotel in El Vendrell in the country of Spain and luck was on my side for I get to join the company summit within the month of joining. It was an all expense paid trip for 300 employees and was planned in a way that everyone gets more personal time than sitting down on a conference room with a power point presentation. Every day there is an activity and every dinner had a theme.

The 5-star Location

Ola España! 

Thursday, we arrived in Spain and a bus took us to the resort which is about 40 minutes from the airport. Everything was prepared so when we arrived at the resort, we only had to pick up our room keys, drop our bags, freshen up a bit and eat dinner. I had a bit of a problem, when I wanted to open my suitcase because my code did not work. I know the combination has never been changed but it just did not want to open up after several attempts. I called the hotel front desk personnel to have somebody force open the bag and right after i placed the phone down, I unknowingly moved the first number and when I pushed one last time, it opened. Talk about irony. I had to tell the guy by the door that it was fixed.  Well, gears break and probably that’s what happened.

A summit is not complete without a conference

Friday, we had a conference hosted by the CEO, he mainly talked about how the company is performing, market trends, important events and gave out awards to the different departments and people. In between the conference was of course fika,  where we got to socialize with our colleagues over coffee and pastries.

Team building by the beach

Saturday, we had our team building activity by the beach, no cheating allowed or we all die. Very simple rule. This was the shortest day of the summit, it gave us the time to sneak out and head over to the capital, Barcelona!

Warm weather is over

Sunday, it was time to leave the warmth of Spain in exchange for cold Sweden. We left early for the airport because it was that time where the Catalans will vote to become an independent country. From check-in to pass security control took us an hour. I thought it was because of the protests but then our colleague who was from Barcelona said it was normal. So, a tip? In Barcelona, be an early bird in the airport. After the security control, there was no information on which gate our flight will leave and it was also not printed in the boarding pass. We were lining up like the rest of the people and I noticed it was towards passport control. It felt wrong, I asked the security personnel and showed her my boarding pass, she told me which gate and it was a floor down. I was lucky, the other guy was not. He went through passport control and there was no way back unless you talk to the police. Good thing our Spanish friend and another Swede were there, they rescued the other guy.

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What I did

  1. Socialized – I shared a room with someone I only met the first time and she is really friendly so the bed sharing worked very well.
  2. Socialized – I shared tables with different people every meal and I met colleagues from different races.
  3. Socialized – I went hiking with 4 older guys I met during lunch, we got lost but found our way back to the resort.
  4. Socialized – I went on a side trip to Barcelona with another group of guys and discovered just how beautiful the capital is.

I am so social now, I cannot wait for next year’s summit! 😀

Working in Sweden | From Aprons to Blazers

To land a job of my field was the most challenging in Sweden, to land at any job was next.

The first few months living in the country was fine, I started studying the language through SFI and it went fine. I would spend hours reading and watching Swedish shows to learn it as fast as I could. To me this was my ticket to having a job, at least that’s what a lot of companies I applied for made me feel. I have read a lot about immigrants not being able to get a job even when they are qualified for it because companies prefer Swedes and that connections are an important part of being employed. I did not want to believe it until I had my own dose, countless rejections from big companies . No interviews, just regret emails. The phone calls I normally received are from recruitment agencies doing preliminary phone interviews and then I did not hear from them again. I made several follow ups and had received several reasons why they can’t hire me like:  your visa is not eligible for a permanent position, our client wants to hire Europeans only. The first is not true, the second is racism.

Few months after I got my first job as a buffet attendant/kitchen help through a chef friend who works in a school kitchen. I was good match for the job not because I have the experience but because the company gets support from the unemployment office (instegsjobb) and that meant savings for them. I was happy that I was hired, that I can finally get into the Swedish labor market and hopefully get something better in a year. After a few months of working, I started to realize how bad my situation was. I got below minimum salary despite the fact they receive government support and since they are not part of the union, there was not much that can be done about it. The entire time, I felt I was taken advantage of. While it was a good way to kill time and earn a little, it was also eating up my self confidence day by day. I would go to the school cleaning the canteen or what Gothenburg calls ‘Bamba’ and then setting up everything needed for lunch and then cleaning up once it is over. It sounds so easy but it requires a lot of work of which nobody appreciates. Yes, breaks are hard to get. People around me made me feel I did not matter, they act superior, that they are better than me and sadly, i felt inferior.  The confidence I have built up for years was slowly slipping out of my hand, it was a struggle to hold it.

I never stopped looking for a better job while I was working in what felt like slavery in modern times. I joined facebook groups for professional women, met new people in my attempt to grow my network but it was not successful. I met helpful people who directed me to companies and referred me to but still nothing. I was starting to question my skills and experience that maybe I am not good enough. It was a good indication that my self confidence is on the verge of death. One day, I saw a post in LinkedIn for a Business Analyst position and it did not mention about being fluent in Swedish so I took another chance. The worst they can say is No and I am used to it after being rejected numerous times. A week after, I got a voicemail from a recruiter asking me to callback. When I did, she scheduled me for an interview and that moment was my happiest. Just landing on a personal interview felt like a big achievement. The interview went well and they liked me, there was just one problem; I did not have an experience with vehicle systems and they were uncertain if they can get me a client at all since a huge percentage of the market in Gothenburg has something to do with vehicles. I was a bit sad but then at least they liked me. 

Weeks passed and I went on a holiday to the Philippines and while I was in the middle of the waters in Coron I saw a missed call from the recruiter. I called back as soon as I arrived in the inn we were staying and she said they might have a client for me. As soon as I arrived in Sweden I informed her that I was back but by then she was on a holiday so I never heard anything for about a month. I have been thinking of quitting the kitchen job even before I visited the Philippines because of my employers and the low pay but has been pushing it back since there is not much of a choice anyway. I thought I can keep going until I was told that I was not working hard enough because it was not my line of work. My chef thinks otherwise, my colleagues think otherwise and they just crossed the line. I quit and my mornings have been happier since then. 

A few days after I quit, I received an email from the consulting company asking me to come over for a preparation for a client interview. He asked about my experience, talked about the client a bit and was convinced that I have the right experience to what the client was looking for. We went to the client and the interview started. It was not the formal type. It started with an introduction and they talked a little about the project and asked about my role. I had more questions for them than they had for me and the interview was done. The senior manager said they can provide the feedback in 2 weeks time since there are also other people on the list.

Four days later, the client called and I was hired. My mornings just got even better…

Writing this story makes me smile because this is a great reminder that:
I am a strong woman.
I don’t settle for anything I don’t deserve.
I am better than what I think.
I have a strong support system. A husband who loves me unconditionally. A family who listens.

from Aprons to Blazers2222AB61-A6A2-4120-82F2-245B728EB0F5

Gothenburg | Bike, Bike Lanes, Bike Stands

Spring was fast approaching by then and I had my mind locked on the idea of owning a bike. There was no important reason behind it actually, I just wanted to own one and use one when I feel for it. I started discussing it with my better half and he asked 2 questions that almost convinced me that I should not have one. First question: When will I use the bike? Second question: It is almost always windy in Sweden and pretty sure that it will be cold, so back to the first question, when will I use the bike? He nailed it of course like always but I already told myself that I will have one so to meet halfway and not to feel too bad if I don’t get to use it, I bought a cheap but working second hand bike. The bike costed me only 200kr but the accessories was around 350kr. Not ideal I know but I soon realized that my head is a lot more important than the bike, thus, the helmet.

Bicycle Requirements

I looked up bike rules and requirements right after I shopped for one and found a site that details such. Here is the link but it is in Swedish so let me summarize what it says in English.

  • A bicycle should have working brakes
  • A bicycle should have a working bell.

When driving at night, the bike should have reflectors and lights as shown in the below picture taken from the same website above. This would be a lot easier to show than to write.

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Helmet Requirements

Anyone below 15 years old are required to wear a helmet when biking even in a fenced area. Anyone 15 or above has the option not to wear one but it is always safe to do so.

Bicycle Rules

Gothenburg has bike lanes, a lot of them, almost everywhere. It also has bicycle traffic lights that are almost always automatic, no need to press the button when you need to cross but be mindful, some are manual still. When making a left turn, you wave your left arm so bikers behind you will know. The same thing goes when you make a right turn, you have to wave your right arm. The bike lanes have arrows that inform whether it is one way or 2 way. When in doubt, get off and walk instead on the pedestrian lane until you figure out what you need to do or where to drive. I do this a lot of time to get myself out of trouble most especially if I am new in the area.

Bicycle Stands

Just like bicycle lanes, bicycle stands are also quite common. They are mostly in places close to tram/train/bus stops. Schools, buildings, supermarkets also have bicycle stands close them. When you own a bike, own a bike lock! It is good to secure your bike when you plan to leave it in a bike stand.

 

Are you a bicycle owner in Gothenburg? Ska vi cykla tillsammans? (Shall we bike together?)

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Bicycle stands
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Bicycle lane
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Bicycle stop lights

Gothenburg | Valhallabadet

I got hooked up to swimming when I was back in my home country and when I moved to Sweden it was one of the things that I missed doing. I am not a good swimmer, in fact it was not until late 2015 that I enrolled myself to a swimming class to learn, but I enjoy the waters and swimming is my happy pill.

There are a few places to swim in Gothenburg city and the most accessible for us is Valhallabadet. The closest tram stop is Scandinavium and after a few meters will be the swimming hall. They have different prices published in their website but we chose the 10 times pass as a way to test.

First time user, first time blooper

After registration, the reception will give you an armband with a sensor that you will use in getting inside the changing rooms, closing and opening the locker and turning on the shower. There are separate rooms for men and women because people get naked inside the changing rooms. No cellphone is allowed and shoes must be taken off. I chose my locker and I have not a single clue how to use it and could not see any instructions within my vision as well. There was a blinking red light inside and I experimented. I tapped my armband and the light stayed solid. I closed the door with my bag inside and I hear it clicked and locked. It was a good sign, I figured how to lock the locker. Now I wanted to change clothes so I can shower and swim but my locker will not open. There is a wifi sign on the locker that should be where the armband must be tapped but it did not work. I tapped, slide my armband for what felt like a hundred times to no avail. I was getting hopeless so I asked one of the women there for help, she tried but it really did not want to work. She said it should just be like that, maybe it is broken. I stood there, taking a deep breath, tried the armband again and voila! The stubborn locker opened. When I finally got my clothes I started looking for a room to change into my swimwear but I could not find any. It was then I realized people change in front of their lockers.

Shower first

Just like any swimming hall everyone is required to take a shower before getting in the swimming pool. The recommendation is to shower without the swimwear probably to wash off dust from the body but I normally just wear it and shower thoroughly. The armband sensor turns on the shower and this I realized quick. There is a white circle close to the shower controls that looked like the one in the armband so I just tapped and water started coming out.

25 meter or 50 meters

There are 2 big pools, one is 25 meters long and the other is 50. We started with 50 but it was like a train of swimmers going back and forth and I can’t keep up with them. I have low stamina and I needed to get used to the water again first so we moved to the 25-meter pool where half is used for training, the other half for people like us who just wants to hang around and the other part is for diving. The pools are deep and since it has been a long time since I swam I panicked (lol). I did mention I am not a good swimmer.

No swimwear here

Sauna is always a good idea after swimming to relax the muscles and feel some heat. I love wet sauna for it doesn’t suck the water out of me and I can relax better than in the dry one. No swimwear is allowed inside the sauna. The first time I had the most awkward feeling because being naked in front of others even when you are of the same gender is not a norm in my home country and I lived for decades there so imagine how I feel! I had to swallow tons of saliva to just wear my skin in a room with people I do not know. On the second visit though I managed to get over the feeling and was able to relax a bit more.

Another Round

We have consumed our 10 times pass and we are getting another set this week! More swimming in the coming weeks that will hopefully build my skills and stamina to transfer to the 50-meter pool.

Jag älskar simning! (I love swimming!)

Gothenburg | Cherry Blossoms

When I hear cherry blossoms I think of Japan mainly because when I see pictures of this beautiful tree it is always taken in Japan. This association has then changed when I first laid my eyes on a cherry blossom tree close to where we live and was told by my father in law that there are a lot more in Järntorget! What a relief, I don’t have to go to Japan! 😛

If you live in Gothenburg don’t miss the cherry blossom trees at Järntorget, they are beautiful!

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Gothenburg | Statue Walk

I found these mini cards in the hotel with short, precise information about the tourist spots in Gothenburg and I think it’s a great idea to have them hanging in hotels. Some of the cards offers discounts to city activities as well so it is perfect for tourists. I have 2 favorite mini cards, one is the statue walk and the other is the sculpture walk. Each walk is estimated to be completed in 1.5 hours if you follow the map. Today, I dragged my husband to do the statue walk and my plan was to take the trams to make it fast and easy but my husband refused to. ‘No cheating, we walk because it is a statue walk for a reason’, he said. I walk slow and stop a lot to take other pictures, so after 2.5 hours we were done, an hour more than it it supposed to. It is not entirely spring weather in Sweden yet so it was cloudy and foggy during the walk. The good thing though is I can skip the layers of clothes and use a thinner coat, it is not freezing outside anymore.

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The mini card for the tour.

So here it is, the famous statues in Gothenburg.

  1. Gustav II Adolf’s Statue. Bengt Erland Fogelberg (1854).
    Address: Gustaf Adolf’s Torg (On the Square)DSCF5760
  2. Skärgårdsfiskare (The Fishers) Svenrobert Lundquist (2003/04).
    Address: Fisktorget vid Feskekörka (at the “Fish Church”)DSCF5773
  3. Karl IX:s Ryttarstaty (Horse Statue) John Börjeson (1904).
    Address: KungsportsplatsenDSCF5777
  4. John Ericsson Statue. Ingel Fallstedt (1899).
    Address: At the northern end of Kungsportsavenyn (between Nya Allen and Parkgatan)DSCF5779
  5. Karin Boye Statue. Peter Linde (1987).
    Address: In front of the City Library (Stadsbiblioteket)DSCF5785
  6. Poseidon med brunnskar. Carl Miles (1931)
    Address: At GötaplatsenDSCF5787
  7. Danserskorna (The Dancers). Carl Miles (1952)
    Address: Göteborg’s Konsthall (the Art Gallery)DSCF5793
  8. Vingarna (The Wings), Carl Miles (1916/1940)
    Address: At the Göteborg’s Art Museum on GötaplatsenDSCF5803
  9. När Vänskapsbanden knytes (Friendship). Wälino Aaltonen (1955)
    Address: Näckrosdammen (The pond)DSCF5804
  10. Ingo – the Champ. Peter Linde (2011)
    Address: In front of the arena Nya UlleviDSCF5810
  11. Gunnar Gren Statue. Jan Steen (1993)
    Address: In front of the arena Gamla UlleviDSCF5817
  12. Evert Taube Statue. Eino Hanski (1996)
    Address: Jussi Björlings Plats next to the OperaDSCF5713

Sweden | Gothenburg City

One little disadvantage of being a resident in a beautiful city is that everything that surrounds you and those that you often see turns into a usual scene. I remember the first time I visited Gothenburg or even on my first few weeks I was in awe with everything I see. The trees, buildings, monuments, cemeteries, houses, stores, parks, benches and even the streets bring spark into my eyes, but now, now that I am seeing them almost everyday, now that I can go around when I  feel for it, now that I don’t have a return ticket to the Philippines, they become the usual. It is not bad, it is normal and it happens. I am almost there so before I get to that stage, I would play tourist once again.

I have been here for 6 months, not too long, not too short but enough for me to start my walking tour around the city, just like a tourist would. My walking tour started at the Central Station and then i let my eyes and feet decide afterwards.

This is Göteborg!

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Nordstan, the mall.
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Bridge to Hisingen
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Viking, the restaurant
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Lilla Bommen

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Kronhuset, one of the oldest buildings in Gothenburg
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Haga Kyrka. Kyrka means church

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King Charles IX at Kungsportsplatsen

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Haga
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Skansen Kronan
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Oscar Fredrik Kyrka
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Feskerkörka, seafoods are sold inside.

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Järntorget
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Bikes for rent
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Sunset at Brunnsparken
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Poseidon at the Avenyn