Today in Sweden

Today was the experience I love about travel - feeling a bit out of your comfort zone - not knowing what to do or where to go and just having the opportunity to leave yourself open to new things.

When we arrived, Heinrich our bus driver picked us up at ARD airport in Stockholm and gave us a partial tour - pointing out the royal palace and several monuments. Tiger Woods apparently has a flat on the most exclusive street here in Stockholm. We were dropped off at Zinkensdamm Stadium - which is about two blocks from our hotel - which is a boutique-style. It reminded my roommate Tarsha - O-LINE from Baltimore - of a college dorm room, but is pretty well appointed. I was surprised to have a towel warmer and a hair dryer... and there's free wi-fi in the lobby - though I won't be using as it cut me off this morning. The bed is pretty comfy so far and we have a tv which has been on for about five minutes (world cup now while I type).

We dropped off our stuff in the room and learned on the bus trip over that today was Midsummer Holiday in Sweden, so the entire city and country is off. Tonight, Tommy from the IFAF said the holiday is like the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled together. Since I was ignorant of this, we found a place that happened to be open for exchange, as they only accept Crowns (SEK) or Euros. I had some cash, so Vaz (DB from Pittsburgh) and I set out on an adventure.

She thought I misled her when I said it was around the corner - really it was two miles, but it was an easy trip. It was somewhat difficult to tell which street signs were really signs and which were directions to other things, but we found our way to the exchange place and learned about the Crown system - essentially everything is in multiples of one - except one coin, which is half of one. Perfectly simple. Vaz was concerned about dehydration (which we both were feeling) and the fact that we'd use up all our energy walking - since when we arrived, the coaches told us we'd have a practice this afternoon - so we took the bus.

The man at the exchange told us it was 25 crowns (it's about 7-8 crowns per dollar - so around $3.50 US) to ride the bus, and we made sure we had the change. When we found the No. 4 bus, which went the right way, our driver told us we needed tickets. I think he felt bad for us, and allowed us a free ride. He showed us where to buy the tickets, but from what I can tell, everything is within walking distance and the locals here ride bikes everywhere - older people - younger people - kids - it's amazing. There is a bike lane on every road we've driven with the tour bus, and that's inspiring to me. Talk about getting your physical activity! :)

Upon the return, I bought a small sandwich for 22 crowns and ate some fruit Vaz and I found at a market along our walk for 47 crowns. I ate and when Tarsha returned from her adventure, we both took a nap. Unfortunately, our television alarm failed to wake us from our tired slumber and she woke me up 2 minutes before we were supposed to be in the lobby for practice. Luckily, most others were still scattered when we got downstairs, and it was fine... but a little more rushed than I prefer.

The hotel is situated in a park area - so we walked across the street and into the park where literally hundreds of people were picnicing, cooking hotdogs on the smallest grills I've ever seen, drinking, sunbathing and enjoying the beautiful day. We nabbed a corner of this park and went through our dynamic warmup, stretches and then formations and groups for different personnel groups - BIG, superbig, BEEF, special teams, and different offensive looks. We will have a formal practice tomorrow at the stadium and this was very Sandlot-esque, but the best part was that we had a captive audience. All eyes were on the USA today as we went through our routine, which was very well refined in training camp. It was very cool to have some people curiously looking and others cheering for us while we did this today.

Afterward, we had a little free time and then we went over to the next town where Teams Canada and Austria are staying for dinner next to the Baltic Sea. We took a ton of photos and had some Swedish ice cream. Apparently the tastes here are for black licorice, as everything is flavored that way from cough drops and mentos to ice cream bars. Not a fan, but it's cool to see the trends.

We had to wait a few minutes tonight for the bus to dinner and it was pretty cool because Pringle (NY), Adrienne (NY), Lee (my ATL teammate) and Marks (Chicago) were coming up with our cheer for gameday.... I was honored to represent for the lyrically-and beat-challenged on the team in the creative process, which was pretty great I have to say and I got some credit for not being that way from my experience in ATL........ we're going to teach it to the team tomorrow probably because tonight's success period we did on the bus and I'm pretty sure 80 percent of the team fell asleep while Coach Mac was talking.... more on that.


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