I went to this fast food burger joint called Max. I only saw women behind the counter, and they were all gorgeous. The surreal thing was that it was seriously like walking into the middle of a porn movie. It’s not typical to see model-esque women like that flipping burgers.

Strangely enough, I haven’t had any Swedish meatballs. I haven’t even seen any for sale! An no, that’s not an euphemism.

I’ve spent the past 24 hours exploring Stockholm with two Pakistani guys who have their own business over there. It was amazing to chat with them about the difference between the way Pakistan is really like, and the media projection. They also showed me some beautiful mountain scenery of back home.

I also learned a lot about the Muslim religion and how, just like Christianity, the fundamental message is about love, but there’s a bunch of extremist which ruin it for the rest.

April 23rd, 10:10PM in a Hostel in Stockholm

In talking to the Sweed in my night sleeper, I found out some very interesting factoids about Swedish couplehood. We talked for a while and he mentioned his wife. And a bit later, he mentioned his girlfriend. Ah ha! So the Sweeds DO get to have it all. The beautiful scenery, the beautiful women, and multiples of each!

But no. He called her his wife because they’ve been together for 13 years and have 3 kids together. But they’re not married.

All of this is common around here. He asked her about marriage one time, but she gave him a very strange look and he dropped the subject. Many times, couples will get married after 25 years as an excuse to have a party. I swear..blondes do have more fun.

I also told him about how the Americans worship the Swedish women, and were they really that beautiful? His response: “We don’t deserve them.” So far, I think he’s right.

April 22nd, 1:49PM on a Swedish Train to some city that I still can’t pronounce or spell correctly.

After spending the night with my newfound Dutch friend, Henk, I learned how perfect Ikea fits into the European home. Amsterdam is a beautiful and decadent city with sightseeing in the morning for the grey-hairs and enough sex toys and shops to make my mom blush. Not that it would take much.

Speaking of Momma Falgout, I met up with her, Uncle Bill and Aunt Bobby in Amsterdam and we were off to the Van Gogh museum, Anne Frank house, mini-boat tour and the always International, Hard Rock Cafe. They just finished an Old People’s Cruise seeing the blooming Tulips. Now before you wonder why you’d cross-country travel just to see flowers, trust me. Even I was impressed by these flowers. This coming from someone who won’t grow anything unless you can eat it.

We stayed in the Victoria Hotel, a former Gestapo HQ, and woke up at the butt-crack-early time of 6AM for our personalized tour by Sergio, one of my new favorite people. He entertained us as he took us around the Rembrandt gardens, one of the oldest windmills (1637), the Peace Palace, the Boobie Bridge, the Clogs and Cheese store, and a restaurant where we tasted raw herring. Tasty, but disgusting texture. He also tried picking up a few women for me, but I told him I had a girlfriend. He just smiled in way that could mean many different things in a country where prostitution is legal. And he did this, all the while sounding like a cross between Borat and Fernando from the Grand Theft Auto game.

As soon as we got back, I jumped on a night train to Copenhagen where I met up with some Vancouverites and a Sweed. Hopefully, the rocking back and forth of the train will give me a good nights sleep opposed to rolling off the top bunk.

I’m still feeling ill, but I refuse to let the sickness win…even though when I blow my nose, it looks like a leprechaun died inside me. I’ll get him all out. Maybe I just need to drink more.

April 22nd, 9:14AM, on the tail end of the Night Train to Copenhagen.

As is common with many exchanges, I walked out of it with a smile on my face and sick the day after. I was glad to get out of London, quick trip to Paris and then off to Berlin. Berlin is a beautiful city that has worked very hard to remove the dark scar of Wars long past. And it’s done a fantastic job.

I hobbled my way to a bike tour around Berlin in the morning only to find out that our guide was sick and hospitalized. Most of us waiting around went our separate ways, but me and this guy from S. Korea walked around and chatted. He used to be in the Korean Military and after some discussion about my favorite Korean movie (Attack the Gas Station), he actually has done PAGOOO!!!

It’s been validated! This actually does happen! He had to stick his hands behind his back, and then balance himself using only his head and the tips of his toes with his butt in the air, making a perfect upside-down V. Try this at home. I’m sure you’ll be amazed at how difficult it really is.

Afterwards, we parted as I went back to the hostel, crawled into my top bunk and crashed for about 12 hours. When I crawled down, I woke up the person below me, I apologized and realized, it was the same Korean guy from yesterday. Crazy! We laughed about this and then headed back out to the bike tour area again for another chance.

It was lead by a spunky Sweed who told us the story of the Berlin Wall collapse and how (if the story is true. I’ll have to Wikipedia it) it was all 100% unintentional. There was a plan to remove travel restrictions between East & West Berlin; however, it was part of a long plan with practically impossible hoops to follow, years worth of paper filing, and an outstanding cost to the process. But during the press conference, the leader of East Berlin only read some part of his news notes and permanently removed travel restrictions. And thus the wall collapsed. Le oops!

I’m now heading to Amsterdam where I’m going to spend a night with the other guest I met from LLX. Gotta love the Lindy housing network. Tomorrow, I meet up with my mom who’s visiting the Netherlands for the Budding of the Tulips.

One interesting note of national profiling I’ve learned is that our Swedish tour guide would get scowls and rougher service when she’d talk in English with a slight American accent. But when she told them that she was from Sweden, they immediate apologized. It’s amazing how much Bush is really hated outside of America. It makes me sad that America has created such disdain. (Many of which have currencies stronger than ours. Sorry guys, but the almighty American dollar isn’t worth much out here.) I hope that we can mend this international relationship soon.

I also found out that the Germans really don’t love David Hasselhoff. It was just that one song. Riiiiiight.

April 19th, on a train from Berlin to Amsterdam

My second International Exchange has been a great adventure. Although, there are some differences which struck me as odd.

One I wish I would have learned before coming is that it’s common to dance with the same partner for two consecutive dances. This was a bit of an ego deflator as I thought I was so good that all these girls asked me for a 2nd dance, but it’s just the way that they roll here. There’s a bunch of good dancers here, so it wasn’t a problem, but so many times I found myself finishing the dance with one girl, hearing the next song come on and then wanting to find another follow to dance with, but sticking with the same one. Not a complaint, mind you. Just different.

The other is that this Exchange is dance event first, and a social event second. I’ve been to so many exchanges by now that it’s quite the opposite for me now. People dance, and if they sit down, they look at everyone else dancing. Noone’s grouped together, pouring each other drinks, no cliques hanging out together. Just dancing. Once again, not a complaint. I danced my butt off at this exchange, when I’ve been drinking at all of the others.

There was no arse-slapping either. Well, at least till I noticed it was missing. Few things will catch you off guard like saying, “You know, there’s no ass-slapping at this exchange.” And then having your Asian dance partner say in her Australian accent, “Yeah! I like that!” Definitely not a complaint.

I’ve also seen more ariels and Zoot Suits today than in the last 3 years of my dancing. I guess just like what’s cool in America hit Europe years later, what’s lost fashion travels just as slow. Ok, this one’s a complaint. 🙂

There were a few snacks for us and one guy said in his perfect English accent. “There’s such a wonderful selection! This is quite exciting!”. My internal dialogue was, “No. If some girl just took her top off and started running around, THAT would be exciting. This is just fruit and candy.” It’s amazing what we find amazing.

April 15th, 5AM in the same Flat in London

Even inside Europe, there seems to be different levels of modesty. Currently, I’m sharing a room with an English woman and a guy from Amsterdam, Hank. Needless to say, I was quite surprised to see Hank walking around in nothing but his tidy blackies and no shame. He’s a pretty fit guy, so I respect that. I don’t think our English host would be caught dead like that. And the night before, I shared a hostel room with 2 middle-aged women from Sweden. One just wore a pair of undies and I got flashed some post-prime boobies. I think it was accidental. I HOPE it was accidental because she also invited me to stay at her place if I went through Sweden.

I also had an interesting conversation with an Australian regarding American and it’s Sexual Confusion. Case in point: More often than not, if a couple has been together for a while, they’ve had sex. It’s pretty much a given in this day and age. However, there is still a social stigma on living together.

Also, in America we can show the top, the bottom, the left, the right, then hand-held, the leather-clad, the compressed, and the tasseled boobie, but for the love of all that is holy! DON’T SHOW THE NIPPLE! We can show a man getting cut in half, brains throw across everywhere, blood splattering on other people. BUT DON’T SHOW THE NIPPLE!

April 14th, in a Flat in London

I’ve had a few people ask me what I thought about the different cultures. Here’s a compilation of their questions/answers:

–What do you see about different cultural conversations?

That’s a very interesting question which seems to be universal across everywhere in Europe, but subtle differences between each country.

I’ve found that I can make friends really easy by saying I’m from Dallas, Texas (Ah!!! TEEX-ASS!, as they say) and then singing the first 4 notes of the Dallas, TV show theme song. They usually finish the rest.

I was worried that when I got here, they would not like Americans because of the Bush. However, they do have a strong distinction between Bush and the rest of Americans. No matter what, they still love our culture. And when they tell me they can’t stand Bush, I tell them that we have something in common. That seems to create an even stronger bond.

I haven’t witnessed the “Americans are rude” conversation much. Previously, I was aware of the “French are rude” conversation, but almost all of the French guys I’ve hung out with have been extremely friendly. I’ll be able to provide some more info on that when I get to France in the next few weeks.

Both the Socts and the Irish love drinking. It’s a form of socialization and bonding that seems to be deep rooted into their culture. It’s a really beautiful thing to be able to walk into a pub and be talking to a stranger in about 5 minutes.

I’m a fan of the smaller towns as I find more interesting and warm, friendly people there. Like all big cities, you’ve got people involved in their agendas and schedules. While in the smaller areas, I’ve had people stop their yard work to talk to me and share ideas.

— Conversation between me and my sister:
me: The Dollar’s really not worth much here. It’s 2:1 ratio for here and the Pound. So, everything costs 2x as much. I had a $15 burger. And it wasn’t blow your socks off amazing.

Michelle: That really sucks, but what are the girls like?

me: The frenchies are gorgeous. I’ve met a few beautiful English women, but all the other guys seem to think that English aren’t that attractive. The Scotts aren’t as attractive, but the Irish are better. But almost all of them have great butts. Right now, my ranking system is Scots -> Irish -> England -> French.
Michelle: didn’t know you were a but man
me: I’m not. But I’m constantly walking around and when you’re following people, it’s what you notice.

P.S.: While some people might take offense to my physical attractive ranking system, I will have to say that the people I love the most and think are the best in the planet is in the reverse order. (i.e. The Scots are #1 in my heart.)

Even though it can seem expensive, there’s something to be said for the Eurorail Pass. Rick Steves calls it “Forced Luxury”, as you can only get it in 1st class.

My backpack, unkempt hair, cargo pants and tennis shoe carrying self feels somewhat out of place in these wide seats next to business men, all in their fancy blue shirts and ties, Blackberries, clean haircuts, newspapers and proper accents. There’s even an LED system that shows people’s reservations with their names. There’s no names in my spot, so I’ll just wait till they ask me to move. I hope that Mr. Redmond Carrol is grateful that I did laundry yesterday. There’s a place for me to plug in my electronics and our stewardess is even a cute girl with a nice French accent.

I’m definitely hanging out with Whitey now.

April 12th, 2007 – On a Train from Cork to Dublin

If 10 years of Texas hadn’t converted me to a beer drinker, then I figured 2 weeks of Ireland and Scotland, would be my last shot. Nope. At least I got into Ciders; so it’s not a complete loss. Kathy’s not disappointed tho, as she still got someone to drink fruity drinks with. I did refrain from ordering a Smirnoff Ice tho. It was like being in the Garden of Eden!

Speaking of running around naked, I didn’t walk around in a Kilt and/or tromp around the Highlands of Scotland in the buff. It was freggin’ cold. Maybe next time. I’m definitely coming back and bringing my…well, lack of inhibition.

Stop. Change. Start. I’m sharing a room with a guy named Lindy and most of my shirts are from Lindy Exchanges. He said that he’s never seen his name on that many shirts before.

I knew that when I came to Europe, that there would be a language barrier. It’s bound to happen. I just figured that it would be between me and the French or the Germans. Not with the Irish or the Scots. As much as I love those people, trying to listen in on their conversations is like performing Calculus with a slide rule. Both leave you wondering, “People actually act like that?!”

April 11th, 2007 – Kilarney, Ireland

On Easter Sunday, I visited not just 1 church, but 3 of them! She doesn’t need to know about the pub afterwards, but I think she’d be more at ease with me participating in that part of the Sunday Catcholic tradition.

After a great trip around Dublin and then seeing the Cliffs of Mohr, I’m resting my weary feet in Killarney. A small town with some great pubs and traditional music.

On my way here, I made friends with some more Americans (one from Tulsa, even) and yet another German. Funny enough, the german guy was the closest I’ve seen to a leprechaun here yet. Maybe I need to go in search of more rainbows.

Speaking of rainbows…

–Snoopykiss wants to go to Candy Mountain. And to bed.