Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pictures, Pictures, and More Pictures (and Maybe a Video)

Hej hej everyone!

At this point I have so much to show you in photos from the past couple of weeks. Everything including the Auroras, sunsets, the town, and the ice road (not particularly in that order).

There's so much I don't know where to begin. How about the town of Luleå? Last week I went into town to take care of paying my rent, as well as searching for a shop that could clean the sensor on my camera (which was unsuccessful). Anyway, I'm always looking into improving my photography skills and I set a goal to force myself into taking street photos. At first I felt a little out of my comfort zone since I normally shoot landscapes but I fell into a groove. I started meandering the streets of town and then made my way towards the South Harbor.

On the harbor you can find the ice road, which branches off to the smaller outlying islands, as well as the main road which winds around the town into the North Harbor. Since I had so much time I figured I would take a walk down the ice road a few hundred meters. Several locals were out and about on the ice road. Some people walking, others ice skating, and even a few trail-blazing snowmobiles off the beaten path. It was an incredibly sunny day, as you can see. Because of Easter coming up, a lot of people were taking holiday for the week, hence the reason for the larger crowds. Before making my way off of the ice I snapped an awesome panoramic of Luleå. It's a nice town when looking from the interior streets, but when you can see the town from the distance with a little sunlight, you really can embrace its hidden charm.

Later than evening, my Spanish friends, Dani, Fernando, Adrian, and I wanted to see what the town had to offer (photographically speaking) late at night. We set out by bike for a twenty minute ride into town and went out onto the North Harbor ice road. Quite the opposite of NYC, Luleå definitely sleeps at night. Other than a few cars, there was not one soul around. On the ice, it was the same story. Except I was a little nervous. Even though the ice is still very thick (at least a meter), it still cracks and settles. Over the dark abyss you here faint pops from the ice, sometimes even very close to you. At one point, just being reactionary, I jumped and ran for it after the ice settled right under me. Quite scary if you're not used to it. Still I managed another panoramic of Luleå.

After meandering through the streets and shooting a few more photos, we biked back to our apartments and enjoyed a warm up with a steaming cup of tea.

The tallest point (at least to my knowledge) in Luleå is Ormberget. There you will find a small training hill for skiers and snowboarders. On certain evenings the slope isn't operating and you can watch the sunset. I've done this on multiple occasions and have shot some of my best sunset photos there. In the photo below the silhouette is my friend Benoit from France. I've mentioned him in previous posts. The photo to the right was actually taken a about a month ago. Due to the days becoming significantly longer everyday, the position of the sunset constantly changes. In these photos, the sun is setting in two very different places along the horizon, although it may not be indicative from these photos alone. 

The next theme is something I was very excited to see when coming to Sweden. For the first month here I never saw the Aurora but was told I missed it on a couple occasions. In my last post's video I shared several photos of my first experience. Since that video, the Aurora has produced better shows, and I captured two of them.

On the morning of March 17th I caught word that there was a massive solar flare launched from a sun spot many times larger than the Earth headed our direction. I checked the Auroral Oval satellite image and found the effect of that flare seen below. The sky was on fire! Early that day the clouds blanketed the sky and I thought it wouldn't be possible to see the lights. For once Mother Nature cooperated and the Aurora lit up!

Here's what I managed to capture.

I thought this would have been THE night to see the Aurora. But I was mistaken. Just last evening, the 29th, a sudden solar storm was heading in the direction of our planet. This time the sky was perfectly clear. After waiting for about an hour on the lake ice with my friend, Romain, the heaven's opened up! At first, there was a single isolated streak lingering above our heads and then the lights became very active and started dancing all across the sky, flashing not only green but purple and pink also. This is what became of that storm.

I want to leave you with one more thing: a video. Two weeks ago I took an overnight trip north into the Arctic Circle to Kiruna. There, myself and four others stayed in a cabin for the night and then woke up the next morning for a snowmobile tour to the Icehotel. I'm going to be visiting the Icehotel again this Wednesday on a bus trip but I wanted to share this video with you until I write about the trip in more detail in the next post. Enjoy!

Also, speaking of trips, I will be away from Luleå for about ten days on a boat trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, with stops in Helsinki, Finland. My adventure will finish with a three day stay in Stockholm to tour the city. So definitely stay tuned for my next couple blog posts.

Thanks for reading and check back for updates from Emily, Lauren, and myself!

- Jonathan

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

22 in NZ!

So, I turned 22 last week! Man, that last year went by so fast. The celebration was awesome, it was honestly one of the best birthdays I've ever had. My four roommates surprised me at 7 a.m. with balloons and singing and homemade breakfast. They gave me a New Zealand flag for my present :) 
I felt really grateful to have so many amazing friends around and to be able to live in this awesome country even though I was missing my family friends at home. 

This past weekend I went back to Tongariro National Park and Taupo with 11 other people to do some hiking while the weather is still nice. I did a five-hour hike to Taranaki falls and the upper and lower Tama lakes. We spent the next day relaxing on a sailboat on Lake Taupo. It was a perfect weekend. 

This weekend is Easter and I have almost a week off school! I didnt know that until, like, today though so I didn't plan anything big, but me and a few friends are going to Waiheke island for a few days to explore the beaches and wineries. And it's only 45 minutes away by ferry! Then back to Auckland to get some actual homework done! I havent actually done much work since school started, but they don't have nearly as much as Clarkson. The assignments/tests are just worth a lot more, which can be a bit scary. I am loving all of my classes (or papers, as they call them here), they are all really different and interesting and the professors are super laid back and nice. And people walk around barefoot a lot here - random...

Yesterday I booked a flight to Thailand for the mid semester break!!! I can't wait! 

Happy Easter Everyone!


 Mt. Ruapehu and Lower Tama Lake
 A warning sign at the beginning of our hike
 Taranaki Falls
 Mt. Ngauruhoe (aka Mt. Doom) and Upper Tama Lake
 Me and my two friends at Lake Taupo
 Sailing Lake Taupo with some other international students from AUT
Some Maori carvings at Lake Taupo

Friday, March 22, 2013

London Again and More Travels.

Things have really started picking up for me. I have been traveling a lot and constantly busy! I am having a lot of fun with the friends that I have made here. I should note that Newcastle is known for it's night life among other things such as the original castle which I've noted in an earlier blog post. The culture is much different than that of Upstate New York. Interacting with the local "Geordies" is quite the experience. This is what the locals to Newcastle are called. They have a distinct accent that is borderline Scottish. I often struggle to understand them. Their accents are easily distinguishable from London locals once you hear it enough. Also, I have been spending time with people from back home who I meet up with for travels. It's nice getting visitors in the UK. Clarkson student, Alex Slemp, came to visit me in London and Newcastle.

I made my way to London again, and did the usual tourist things. I also got to see some new things, which was very nice. London is an amazing city, I can say for sure that it is my favorite city. I've been there a few times now because it is so easy and cheap to get there. I always find new exciting things to see! This time, I stayed in a hotel for a few nights to enjoy the city. I feel very comfortable here, which makes sense really. It's hard to believe that I have been here for so long.

I had a nice time with my international friends at a night club.

Visiting Westminster Abbey, London.

Cornell and Clarkson educations coming in handy at the Science Museum in London.

Enjoying Espressos and Lattes at Nude Espresso, London.

American students enjoying the shore at Lindisfarne-The Holy Island, UK.
Touring the Lindisfarne Castle, and enjoying the beautiful views.
I am leaving for Barcelona, Spain today. I am really looking forward to warmer weather! It is so rainy and cold in Newcastle lately. I will be there for four days.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Surviving the Earthquake

Today there was an earthquake in Auckland!! Dont worry though, it was only a little one. I was just sitting on my bed and it started shaking, I just assumed my roommate was moving furniture around or something but then everyone started posting on facebook about how there was just an earthquake! It really wasnt scary at all, but it's cool to say that I've felt an earthquake :)

I finally got my schedule figured out on friday, which means that I missed 2 full weeks of 2 of my classes. It's really hard to find classes though because this is the first semester at AUT so none of my engineering classes match up, and they have a different curriculum anyways. So it turns out I am actually getting a semester behind right now, but it is too late to do anything about it so I am just going to go with the flow and enjoy my classes. I'm taking photography, manufacturing technology, mechanical design and analysis and creative process. 

I am loving living in Auckland! It's warm and sunny pretty much every day and there is a ton to do, like markets and festivals and shops and parks. Yesterday, I went to a farmers market and the vendors kept giving us free food, it was so nice. The people are amazing too, New Zealand is such a backpackers country so everyone is really cool and interesting. I am so excited to spend the next few months here!


 The view of Auckland from across the harbor
 Auckland city sky tower and AUT
 The Auckland arts festival
My roommate Nanna at Takapuna beach

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Most Amazing Day to Date!

So I know that it has been a few weeks since my last post. It's been difficult to try to write about something because I haven't traveled outside the Luleå area and I have finally come to grips with the fact that I do have school work to do (yes, Tony, it isn't all fun and games while abroad). 

However, on March 1st, a Friday, I planned a trip with my French friend, Benoit, to go to Storforsen. We also took along three others: Brice, Remy, and Enishi. We rented a vehicle from a company called "Rent-a-Wreck" (I know what you're thinking and I was a little hesitant at first). In the video below there is a picture of our ride in all it's 1.4 liter glory. The video itself highlights all of the best photos I captured during our visit and is a much better representation of the trip than what I can describe in words. One thing I did want to mention: I tried to capture video so that I could pass it along to you, but I was having technical difficulties with my GoPro camera so it didn't happen as anticipated. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy that part of the video.

I say "part" because the second half of the video contains even more photographs from the very same day. For the first time here in Sweden (and for that matter, in my life) I saw the Northern Lights. It was more than I ever expected! It had a huge impact on my appreciation of nature. It also tested my photography abilities, and in which I am excited to pass along some awesome photographs.

Tim adL of Germany

Likewise, I asked my good friend, Tim, who also joined me on the shoot, if I could borrow some of his straight-off-camera pictures. Tim managed to capture the lights much better than me since he had gone out earlier and the lights were much stronger at that time. Unfortunately, I was unable to join him at that earlier time due to a conflicting dinner party I was attending (more on that in a moment). I did meet up with him and Benoit later that evening and we spent two and a half hours out in -10°C weather (and with the wind it was even colder). If you would like to see more photos from Tim since his arrival to Luleå (back in August) feel free to visit his blog.

In the middle of Storforsen and the Northern Lights I attended a German dinner with some of my closest friends I've made here. Anytime I can have a cultural meal (food, atmosphere, etc.) I take advantage of the opportunity. Dinner was composed of white sausages (weisswurst), pretzels (brezen), pasta salad, and wheat beer (weissbier). I was told that it was not only a German dinner, but a very Bavarian one as well. Afterwards, we pulled the table away and sang and danced to some German party songs, most of which I learned the moves to... The people I was with were incredibly awesome! I really appreciate everything they have taught me about their culture. And because of that dinner party and the company I was in, I truly felt German at heart.

I hope you enjoy this video. It is a little long but bear with me. It is much more indicative of my day than words can describe.

As always, I love to hear a good word from you all. Don't hesitate to drop a comment below or on my YouTube channel.

- Jonathan

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


This morning I got back from my trip to Paris! I was there for 4 days, using London as my flight departure location. I've been to London a few times now, because the flights are usually pretty cheap out of the airports there.

Paris is stunning, and there is just so much to see! Being a student gave my friend and I an advantage, because we rarely had to pay for any of the sightseeing. European college students get in free for most places, which was a nice way to save some money. Paris can be pretty pricey, between the food and entertainment. The shopping was amazing, and I really want to go back some day.

We saw so much in such a short period of time. The metro makes it very easy to see everything you need to see, and the train brings you to anywhere a little farther away; such as Versailles. We saw the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dam, Arc Triomphe, Opera, Champs de Mais, Place Concord, The Louvre, Luxemborg, and many more things we just came across. It was unbelieveable having the opportunity to see such historical sights. Looking at the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dam, etc. was unbelievably incredible.

The buildings were amazingly beautiful, the food was delicious, and the people were very friendly. Most people spoke English, but when they couldn't I could speak Spanish with them. Everyone is bound to know one of the two. Unfortunately for me, I cannot speak French at all. This was never really a problem though. The crepes and french cheese were so amazing. Creperies and crepe stands were everywhere!

Paris is such a beautiful city, and you could be a tourist there for months finding new things every day.

The Eiffel Tower was breathtaking.

The Arc de Triomphe was so pretty at night.

The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower was amazing.

This was adorable, Le pont des arts.

My friend Dylan and I in front of The Louvre.

Luxembourg was so pretty.

Notre Dam was exactly how I had pictured it would be.

I was not expecting to see the Statue of Liberty in Luxembourg.

The gold details at Versailles were incredible.

Versailles was filled with picture perfect scenes.

Looking forward to more adventures to come. Some day, I will go back to Paris.


Monday, March 4, 2013

O-Week and Shark Attacks

Well, the past week has definitely been a lot slower than my first month in NZ. I moved into my new apartment about a week ago and my roommates are all international. There are 2 girls from China, a girl from Malaysia and a girl from Denmark. It's a very interesting group of people! I live on the 6th floor of a student apartment building with an amazing view of the harbor. 

Since we are all international, our apartment is lacking many common necessities such as hand towels and cleaning supplies. That's not really something you think about when moving abroad. 

At orientation, I met a ton of other study abroad students. There are way more Americans than I was expecting. We also had a day where we toured the campus and went to a bunch of presentations which made me feel like I was a freshman again. It was pretty boring actually. 
On the weekend, I went to a beautiful black sand beach on the west coast called Mirawai Beach. A couple days later there was a shark attack there that killed an award winning movie director. That was the first fatal shark attack in NZ in like 45 years! Its so crazy that I was there 3 days earlier. 

The rest of the week was actually pretty uneventful though, since I dont have much money left I cant do very many things around the city and I am also really lazy and tired from travelling for so long. I have mostly just been looking for a job and failing miserably since I dont have a work visa so I need a cash job. Fingers crossed I will get one soon! 
I had my first class yesterday and I was literally one of two girls in a class of around sixty five guys. And I thought the Clarkson ratio was bad! Hopefully they are not all like that...

Sorry for the lack of photos this week :(


 International students at Orientation
Mirawai Beach