Nascida e criada em Portugal. Já morei na Polónia, no Brasil, na República Checa e agora é a Suécia que me acolhe.
O meu blogue, tal como o meu cérebro, é uma mistura de línguas. Bem vindos!

Born and raised Portuguese. I have lived in Poland, Brazil, Czech Republic and now I'm in the beautiful Sweden.
My blog, just like my brain, is a blend of languages. Welcome!

segunda-feira, 27 de março de 2017

Top 5 essentials - others

When I was writing the post about the 5 essentials in Sweden, for the Newbie, I started thinking about other essentials I may have used when I was living in other countries. I gave it some thought and here are my Top 5 essentials in all the countries I have lived. I must confess that I had to push a little extra to get to the ones in Poland. It feels like I lived there a century ago!!

I'm not sure this will be as much fun to read as it was to write but I hope so!

1. Sunblock - The sun surely shines a lot in Portugal, even in the winter.
2. Sunglasses - The sun shines a lot and can affect sensitive eyes, especially to those not used to it.
3. Warm bed lining/pyjamas - Winters in Portugal are mild, but the temperature is often the same outdoors and indoors.
4. Indoor slippers/flip flops - Many houses and flats in Portugal have tiled floors. These are really cold, sometimes even in the summer, so indoor shoes are needed.
5. Strong stomach - if you want to try everything there is to try. Portuguese food is awesome, but it can be on the heavy side and sometimes a bit on the weird side too. It is usually worth it!

Sunrise in Brazil

1. Sunblock - The sun shines even more than in Portugal. Use a stronger SPF.
2. White clothes - They help to keep you cooler. Other lighter colours work.
3. Good skin moisturiser - Your skin will be thankful, after all the extra showers you will need.
4. Deep pockets or pockets with zippers - Or any other kind of protection against pickpocketing.
5. Water - Tap water is not drinkable, so I always carried with me a bottle of filtered water. 
6. Patience - Sooner or later one needs to deal with the complex, unbelievably weird and famous Brazilian bureaucracy. Patience is needed. In large amounts!

1. Gloves/hat/scarf - also essentials in other countries, but it was in Poland that I understood how important they are.
2. Dictionary - many people don't (didn't?) speak english and with smartphones still under development it was one of my best friends.
3. Polish crash course - see number 2.
4. Sports equipment - winters are grey and depressing, and the best is remedy is to practise a sport. Poland is full of great gyms, fitness classes, football pitches, indoor swimming pools, salsa clubs, you name it. 
5. Deck of cards - to break the ice in a party, to play solitaire when there's no electricity, to take to a picnic by the lake in the summer. 


PRAGUE (in CZECH REPUBLIC, but some are exclusive to the capital city)
1. Public transportation card - Cheap, good coverage and very useful.
2. Camera - It's a gorgeous country and great images await to be photographed.
3. Comfortable shoes - because you do want to walk around a lot and not miss anything.
4. Czech crash course - it is always better to know a few words in the language, especially if you want to explore outside of Prague.
5. Time for culture - Art, music (jazz, classical, blues, exotic, ...), theater (dark light, puppets, experimental, ...), etc. There's so much cultural events happening all the time that I was "forced" to leave my assumptions behind and enjoy new things. I never regretted any event I attended, even the most weird and exotic ones. I only regret not having it done more. 

sábado, 25 de março de 2017

quinta-feira, 23 de março de 2017

Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov is a charming little town in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. This was the place most pointed out by Czechs when asked about the place one should absolutely not miss in the country. The city is gorgeous with narrow cobbled-stoned streets and colourful buildings. It's center is crossed by the Vltava river, still small, which increases even more its beauty. At night, the city lights just bring it a whole new look, with breathtaking reflections on the calm waters. It is absolutely the place to visit in Czech Republic. After Prague, of course.

Český Krumlov é uma pequena cidade encantadora na região da Boémia do Sul na República Checa. Este foi o sítio mais apontado por checos quando inquiridos sobre o lugar que não se deve absolutamente perder no país. A cidade é deslumbrante com as suas ruas estreitas e empedradas, rodeadas por edifícios coloridos. O centro é atravessado por o rio Vltava, aqui ainda pequeno, o que aumenta ainda mais sua beleza. À noite, as luzes da cidade trazem-no um novo olhar sobre a cidade, com reflexões de tirar a respiração nas águas calmas. É O lugar para se visitar na República Checa. Depois de Praga, é claro.

The Český Krumlov castle is the second biggest in the Czech Republic, only beaten by the one in Prague, which makes it unusually large for the size of the city itself. It seats on top of the hill and provides gorgeous views over the city and the Vltava river.
O castelo de Český Krumlov é o segundo maior da República Checa, apenas superado pelo de Praga, o que o torna invulgarmente grande para o tamanho da cidade em si. Fica localizado no topo da colina e oferece vistas deslumbrantes sobre a cidade e o rio Vltava.

 My sister looking at the landscape / A minha irmã a apreciar a paisagem

City as seen from the castle, with the St. Vitus church in the background.
Cidade vista do castelo com a igreja de S. Vitus ao fundo.

The garden and the arches below also belong to the castle complex. A large, pleasant and interesting area.
O jardim e os arcos abaixo também pertencem ao complexo do castelo. É toda uma área agradável e interessante.

 St. Vitus church / Igreja de S. Vitus

We also went up the castle tower and got a panoramic view of the surroundings. It is quite high up compared to the bottom of the city. It was a nice day with a beautiful blue sky, although quite cold.
Subimos também a torre do castelo que tem uma vista panorâmica dos arredores. É bastante alta em comparação com a cidade. O dia estava bonito com um céu azul brilhante, apesar de estar um frio de rachar.

We visited an antique shop/museum that showed some products of the good old days. Among them we found some hair lotion called Portugal. Quite the coincidence!
Visitamos uma loja de antiguidades/museu onde vimos alguns produtos dos bons velhos tempos. Entre eles encontramos uma loção capilar chamada Portugal. Uma feliz coincidência!

Of course the experience included some eating as well. Bohemian food is very popular in Czech Republic and we did enjoy our choices, especially the potato pancakes (on both pictures on the left).
Claro que a viagem também incluiu comida. A comida da Boémia checa é bastante popular e nós gostamos de todos os pratos que experimentamos, especialmente das panquecas de batata (em ambas as imagens à esquerda).

As the food was not that light it felt good to go for a walk and enjoy the city night lights and reflections. Quite a view I must say! It was the perfect end of our trip and of our time in the country. We did go back to Prague afterwards but then it was just a lot packing and stress.
Como a comida não foi era muito leve soube-nos bem um passeio nocturno, durante o qual desfrutamos das luzes e reflexos da cidade. E que belo passeio que foi! Foi o final perfeito da nossa viagem e do nosso tempo no país. Ainda voltamos a Praga, mas foi já tudo muito stressado e com muitas malas para fazer.

Goodbye Czech Republic!
Adeus República Checa!

terça-feira, 21 de março de 2017

Six degrees of separation #2

Sometimes I want to believe that we are all related and that within 6 steps we can connect any 2 people in the world. (There's actually a Swedish TV show who plays with this and it works most of the times). 

Today I met a woman who works in a local museum. She is Swedish. We talked for a while and it didn't take too long to find a connection point between the two of us.

I told her I am Portuguese and she replied she has only been to Portugal once, in the 90's. She went with her football team on a training vacation to Algarve. At the time, there were a few Swedish football players in Benfica and it was common for the teams to visit each other. She remembers going there to train and she also remembers when Benfica visited Sweden. She met a few players and even has an autograph of Valdo. In the 90's, I was a huge fan a football and Benfica has always been my team. In the weekends, me and my friend Catarina would sit at home, listen to the matches on the radio and write funny reports about it that we would then compare on the Monday after in school. We were crazy about João Vieira Pinto, mas we were also big fans of Valdo. 

To meet someone so far away that had actually lived something similar to me was quite exciting!
Deep inside we are indeed all connected to each other, whether it is through relationships, events or life experiences.

domingo, 19 de março de 2017

Life is full of irony #2

That life is ironic is no big news, but sometimes things happen in such a timing that I feel life is testing me instead. That it's questioning my choices and making me re-think my decisions. 

In April last year I was offered my dream job. In another country. I had been in Sweden for 3 and half months and I did not want to move. I had decided that this was it, no more moving. I was certain of my decision and I turned the job down. 

I was unemployed for all of 2016 and many times I questioned what to do with my life. I'm an educated chemist with 10 years of experience. I'm also a chemist who has nearly always been unhappy with my jobs. I wondered if I should just quit and work in a different area. Or was I just unlucky with the places and people I had worked with? These and a million other questions assaulted me for months and months. The indecision, the not knowing what to do and the pressure to pursue my happiness were almost suffocating at times. I always thought time would bring clarity but what if it didn't? I hided my anxiety behind training, school and other daily routines. It worked because I kept myself busy which at the same time relaxed my fears. As time passed things did became more clear and I decided to leave chemistry.

In the end, it was not so much of a decision but more like an admission to myself. I knew I didn't want to work on the same thing again, I was just scared of saying it out loud. I looked back at everything I have done and I chose to work with the one thing that had always make me happy: organising big conferences. It was December 2016 and I had a lot to think about and plan. The timing was perfect, as I could now speak reasonable Swedish, which would be essencial to enter the market in this area. In this way, I started 2017 with three plans. 

Plan A: Look for jobs in that area.  
Plan B: Arrange for an unpaid internship and get enough experience that way. 
Plan C: Take a 2 year course in the area (free in Sweden), which would almost guaranty me a job at the end. 

I sent numerous job applications, some spontaneous applications, emailed conference centres, registered in different help groups, etc. It really made a huge different to know what I wanted, because I got myself a goal and worked towards it. When nothing worked, probably because organising a couple of conferences and a few smaller meetings was not enough experience, I went for plan B. I arranged an internship, thinking that if I would be so good at it they would want to hire me at the end. In case that didn't work, I was already arranging translation and conversion of all my certificates and grades in order to take plan C.

All was planned. In February I got an internship. The people seemed really nice and the job easy enough. I would start in April, when my Swedish course went from 20h/week to 5h/week.

And then the phone ringed...

Hej! Do you remember that job you applied for in August last year? We want to interview you.
What job? Ah... that one... in Chemistry...
Confused and surprised, all I could think was "stupid ironic life, always testing me!"

I accepted the interview but I did not want the job. I did not want it so bad that I barely prepare the interview, reading only my application letter.

I got there and met two really nice people. They made me so comfortable that I forgot I was in an interview. The description of the job also sounded much better than what I thought. It was actually quite different from what I had before. I left the room wanting the job. 

Two days later I got a call back to a second interview. But now I wanted it and I was nervous as hell! It went alright but not as well as the first. The decision would be made within a week, they said. It was only between me and one other person. As the days passed I convinced myself that it wasn't me, a self-protecting mechanism. 

But it was... a week and a day after I was offered the job. 
Will it make me happy? I don't know. 
I surely hope it will. 

This time, life showed me I was not ready to abandon my area. 
But this is the last chance I'm giving it.
It's all or nothing.

segunda-feira, 13 de março de 2017

Random 'facts' about Sweden by Colin Moon

I saw a list of 15 random 'facts' about things Swedish on LinkedIn and after having a good laugh I decided to share some here. 
  • Food There is much variety. Mustard, for example, sweet or strong or both, comes in jars, tubes or squeezable bottles.
  • English Swedes are excellent at English. A manager at a global company wanted to say a few welcoming words to a group of international visitors. 'You are almost welcome to Sweden', he said. 
  • Religion Most Swedes, thank God, are not that religious. Anyway, if Christ came down to Scandinavia he'd have to change planes in Copenhagen.
  • Decision-makers Saying yes or no can lead to conflict, so Swedes have invented a cross between the two - 'Nja'. This means yes-but-no-but-yes-but-no-but-yes...maybe...not sure.
  • Common sense When God gave out common sense then Swedes were at the front of the line, waving their queue ticket, which by the way was invented by a Swede, Bengt-Åke Nummerlapp.
  • Neighbours Norway is a strange place outside the EU, very rich and therefore less of a joke these days. The Danes drink beer in the street so they are considered continental and the Finns think the Swedes are talkative, sophisticated socialites.
  • Eating out In other countries people fight to get the bill. In Sweden, however, people divide it up. Lena should pay less because she didn't have a starter and Ola should pay more because he drank like a fish.
  • Swedish history Gustav Wasa. He invented crispbread. *(Joke between Vasa, the king, and Wasa, the brand)
  • Swedish seasons The Swedish summer is the warmest day of the year.
  • Punctuality In many parts of the world meetings start when they start and not before. In Sweden, meetings start on time and finish with 'any other questions'...but don't you dare!
Original text by Colin Moon.

quarta-feira, 8 de março de 2017

The Newbie - Top 5 essentials in Sweden

Everyday before I go out to school, to run, to the supermarket, to whatever I take a quick look at the thermometer I have in the window. I actually have two, each facing different sides of the building. I have never used a thermometer this much. Sure I used to check the weather and see if I would need a warmer jacket or if it was going to rain, but in Sweden the thermometer became my best friend. 

Truth is that even though it's winter the temperature can be -10 ºC or 10 ºC. I might need my super warm coat or just the warmer one. My super warm hat or the lighter one. The same happens in the spring. The sun shines outside and it looks like a lovely day, but is it 10 ºC or 20 ºC? It's very easy to get fooled, specially when indoor the temperature is always the same. 

All this got me to think that each country brings its own essentials. Things that we have never used before, or have needed less, and that now became important and every day essentials. I gathered 4 others besides the thermometer and wrote about it in my latest post in the Newbie Guide to Sweden. Are you curious? Great, read all about it here

terça-feira, 7 de março de 2017

You got to love Sweden #14

It was lunch time in school. I was peacefully eating when it happened. I was not alone but there was no one I knew. The fire alarm went on. Oh great, now what? Everybody calmly grabbed their stuff and started heading outside. I was in the "food room" in the ground floor and I had left my jacket inside the classroom in the first floor, as all my classes both in the morning and in the afternoon were in the same room. It had been snowing. It was -2 ºC outside and I couldn't go up and grab my coat. Just great. I went out and waited in the square in front of the school. Luckily, I had a cup of warm tea but I quickly got cold and started shaking. I could go home but the damn keys were in my coat's pocket. 

The school is quite big and this could have taken hours! Was anyone even doing something? Yes. The fireman showed up less than 10 minutes after. They quickly checked the whole place and soon we were allowed to go back in. Once inside we could really tell who had had jackets on and who didn't. The fireman concluded that what caused the alarm was a bored teenager who activated the sensor using a lighter. Thank you kid. We not only got to freeze outside, some more than others, as we also got to not finish our lunches. All because you were bored. 

Why did I assign this post to You got to love Sweden? Because it was all handled quite efficiently and orderly. No one panicked but at the same time no one ignored the alarm. The fireman came quickly and worked fast. The alarms worked (not like in certain labs where I have worked!). 

It's good to know that all works.
But from now on I will always take my jacket with me. 

quinta-feira, 2 de março de 2017

Stories of my world #10

I had heard of her long before we met personally. She is well known among the scientific community all over the world, as she was the first woman to become Institute Professor and professor emerita of physics and electrical engineering at MIT. Among many other firsts. She was so popular that every conference in the field wanted to have her as a speaker. It was in one of those that I met her for the first time. It was the year 2008 and she couldn't care less about another young researcher that seemed fascinated just to be in her presence. I'm not going to lie, I didn't like her then. Our paths crossed again a few other times and I started seeing what her life was like. She loved her work more than anything, many times refusing to rest to just keep working. She met hundreds of people in each conference and everybody wanted to publish articles, chapters or entire books with her. Her name in the list of authors meant really a lot. She was a star and she loved it. But I also saw the other side. Or rather I feared there was another side, in which people, some people, were pursuing more their own interests than honoured by having her help and kindness. And she was kind.

Three years ago me and Johan visited her group at MIT for a couple of weeks. It was December and the weather was awful. We were staying in some old apartment that started flooding in the middle of a rain storm. We were supposed to leave to give a presentation to her and her group. There and then we had to chose between leaving and letting the apartment flood or staying to squeeze the towels and change the bucket that were holding the water drops. We chose to stay missing our presentation (and a 20 minute walk under the rain and wind). She was so sorry that to make up for it she proposed us a collaboration on a book chapter she wanted to do. We missed the presentation and SHE was sorry. That was the turning point.

After that I also started to see her off-work side, hard to spot since she was always working. She told me about her family and showed me pictures of her grandchildren, like any other 80 year old. She fell asleep sometimes during the talks in conferences. She could get tired. She was human after all! 

The last time we met was in another conference, in 2015. She was 84. Her mind had started to show signs of weakness and her speech during the opening ceremony was confused. Suddenly, all the attention she usually had in conferences vanished and I saw her alone on a few occasions, when before she wouldn't be let alone for a single second. One of the evenings she was looking for someone and asked me for help. She was supposed to meet a German guy, whose name she couldn't spell and who was not attending the conference. We went into her room (the conference was at a hotel), and tried to find clues about his contact details. She had work papers all over, on the bed, the desk, the floor. Her room showed well who she was and it was as I had imagined. We finally managed to get hold of the person, who said he was stuck in traffic. We spent a couple of hours together, waiting and talking about life, science and other things. I made jokes at the situation saying we would form a great team of detectives. She laughed. It was lovely. That's how I want to remember her: laughing and talking with a warm smile on her face. Wearing her red coat.

She passed away a week ago. I bet she worked until the very last day. She was the Queen of the nanocarbon. She was Professor Mildred Dresselhaus. But for all of us, she was Millie.

PS. A few weeks ago was released an ad featuring Millie, who supported women in science. Don't miss it, it's brilliant! Watch below.

quarta-feira, 8 de fevereiro de 2017

Just another manic... Wednesday

I had a meeting to discuss the possibility of doing an internship. It was this morning at 8 am. It was outside of the city and it would take me about an hour to get there. This was the closest I have gotten to an interview, so knowing myself and how clumsy I can be, I planed everything as much as I could to make it a success. I would have to take the first bus of the day to that part of the city, from the center, so I had to make sure I wouldn't miss it. As a precaution I took an earlier tram to make sure I would be at the bus stop in time. I got there at 7h20 and I froze while waiting for the bus. I proudly got to the meeting place at 7h50. 

Perfect, just like a Swede would do! No Sara way this time!

I was warmly welcome by members of staff but the responsible that would meet me was not there yet.

8:00... 8:10... 8:20...

Well, this is odd. Maybe something happened. Swedes are never late!

Let me check my email... ok, the meeting is at 9am!!!

She booked the meeting and sent me a notification straight from the outlook calendar, which for some stupid reason is in the portuguese timezone in my computer, and it automatically converted the time of the meeting! Luckily, it was portuguese time and not another one, and I got there an hour before and not after the meeting!

If only the book I had with me was not called "Barbara the slut" I could have read, but like that I didn't dare.

Just another day in the Sara world...