If you're bored, go get a haircut

Finally! I've been saying that I will cut my hair shorter forever now but I found it difficult to let go of my long hair. Since we came home from the U.S., however, I've felt that it really is about time, I just couldn't stand my hair anymore. I didn't have the energy to curl it or iron it, or wash it more than once a week, I just had it in a ponytail all the time. And now I wonder why I didn't do this earlier, it's such a relief! Such a small thing, but such a great feeling!

Where the sun always shines

After spending the night in San Simeon, we continued to drive south towards Los Angeles. The stunning Highway 1 environment subsided after San Simeon, so we didn't stop as much as before. However, we made a little longer stop in Santa Barbara to eat (one of the tastiest pizzas I have ever eaten), check out the beach and take a walk on the pier. Now it really felt like the California we get to see on tv.


I thought I liked cookies, those ordinary cookies from our local store, until I tasted cookies from the American McDonalds. Three irresistible, soft cookies for $1. Why, WHY, aren't they sold in Sweden!? Maybe it's for my best that they don't have any here since I ate several daily.

And this is how it looked, the closer we got to L.A. Welcome to the city of cars!

Travel the world

Life goes on as usual,
there's been a lot of work with the project and other things, it's cold outside, and so on. Whatever, I'll go straight to the point - I'M TRAVELLING AGAIN! In late February, I'm going on a study trip to Hong Kong for ten days! HONG f-ing KONG! Can hardly believe it's true, I'm so happy! And, as if that is not enough, me and my boyfriend are going on a weekend trip to Barcelona next weekend!!! I actually booked that trip back in September and it was supposed to be a surprise for him which he would get only a few hours before departure. I planned everything in detail, how I would reveal it to him and how I would have his bag packed, just to screw up and accidentally reveal the trip a month in advance. I was so mad at myself that I started to cry as a child (pms), haha. He was happy, though! And when I got passed the fact that I ruined the surprise, I went back to being happy myself. You probably know by now how much I love to travel, I feel like the happiest person in the world right now!
Picture source

Driving down Highway 1

Our last morning in San Francisco, we went to the airport to pick up our rental car and start driving south along the Californian coast. I understand why Highway 1 is seen as one of the world's most beautiful roads, the environment is absolutely incredible! The road is designed so you can park beside it any time, very apt since you want to stop every ten meters because the view just gets better and better.

After a lot of touristing by fot in big cities, with blisters on our feet, it was such a liberating feeling to drive your own car and enjoy the nature. Later, we missed te walking in cities, but we'll get to that. You always need a bit of variety and this was a completely new experience in that big country.

We stopped as soon as we saw a beach. Breathtaking, I know. We took off our shoes and ran and jumped around in the sand for what seemed like hours. We also dipped our toes in the icy Pacific. It felt so strange watching the horizon and realizing that there is nothing else than ocean all the way to Japan and my beloved Tokyo, and now I have been from one "world's end" to the other.

At Big Sur we drove in to a forest and suddenly we were in the middle of huge tree trunks in a large camping area. We never explored it properly but we visited a typical american camping house to eat something in their restaurant. You have to take the opportunity to eat when you find food since there is really not much along the road, neither gas stations nor restaurants.

The sunset over the Pacific Ocean was also breathtaking. But I recommend watching it from where you've booked your motel. We had wrongly calculated the time. Although we had a lot of time to drive, we also made a lot and long pauses, and for some reason we thought of miles as kilometers, until we realized that it was almost twice as far.

This meant that the sun set 1-2 hours before we arrived, which in turn meant that we had to drive in the dark, where the car lights and reflections along the way is the only thing you see, and we had to drive really slowly. NOT FUN when you know there is a steep slope right next to you and the road only gets curvier and curvier. As if it wasn't enough, the fog came over the land like a tsunami. Do you see that thing that looks like a wave in the picture? It's the freakin' fog! In the end we drove 20km/h in darkness and fog until we arrived at our accommodation in San Simeon. Lesson learned.

Camera and Equipment

Camera: Sony NEX-5 (or Sony NEX-3, we have two at home, but the pictures looks almost the same). It's a compact, mirrorless camera. It is much smaller than the standard SLR cameras, but also has the ability to change lens and flash, and is very easy to handle.
Lens: Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 - It has a zoom function (the more you zoom in a object, the shorter the depth of field). I have taken most of the pictures on the blog recently with this lens, eg all pictures from the USA. It came with the NEX-5 camera. Sony 16mm f/2.8 - This lens came with both the NEX-3 and NEX-5 and is the one I use the least because it is a wide-angle lens with a little of a fisheye effect. The advantages though are that you capture a lot more in a picture and that it's much smaller than the other two. Sony 50mm f/1.8 - Newly purchased from Amazon, about the same size as the first one but has a really shallow depth of field. Very good auto focus and sharpness, perfect for portraits, but less great to shoot landscapes and buildings with. Since it's very zoomed in you have to take a few steps back from the object. Picture examples here and here.
Filter: Hoya 49mm UV (C) Digital HMC - Newly purchased from Amazon. Works best as a lens protection.
Pocket tripod: My "invisible photographer" who fits in all my handbags and is frequently used when travelling. Don't know where it was purchased but it can be screwed on almost any camera that is not too big and is a very good thing to have if you don't want to ask others to take the photo.
Remote control: For Sony's NEX cameras, also new from Amazon. Good addition to the tripod. I've tested it and it works with the NEX-5.

After all the questions about my camera and photography tips, it was about time for a post about my equipment. However, I'm far from an expert on the subject! Since I want to take a photo as quickly as possible, I rarely spend time on changing the settings. I use the auto function a lot and I think it works fine for the most part. Sometimes I set the aperture myself or change scene selection. But I don't want this post to be completely without tips, so I can still tell you that I think a lot more about in what light I take the picture, if it is backlight, direct sunlight, etc. I never use the flash unless it is an absolute must because I think that it's always better with natural light. I only use it if it's completely dark, in a club for example. But I'll rather by some lightning or put the camera on a surface or pocket tripod so the image don't turn out to be shaky in poor lighting.

I edit pictures in Photoshop CS5. For the most part I brighten up the pictures and increase the contrast. For those of you who have Photoshop: I usually go into Adjustments > Curves, and drag the little arrows in different directions. Sometimes I change the hue slightly in Adjustments > Color Balance or Adjustments > Selective Color. Then I reduce the image to the size that it will be published in the blog and sharpen Filter > Sharpen.

Bosnians on tour in Kaunas

Yet another city painted in blue, yellow and white, yet another match won. My God, it was hard to watch that game, I had such anxiety when we still had not scored after the first half, although we expected at least a few goals. Thoughts flew through my head about the sadness and disappointment there would be if we didn't make it, how I would delete my instagram, blog, facebook, drop out of school and move to the other side of the world... Okay, not quite like that, but almost. The Lithuanians drove me crazy, they fought so hard like it was their World Cup ticket at stake and not ours, we even began to speculate that the Greeks had paid them. But then came the saving goal, and that wonderful final whistle. Tears rolled and everybody hugged everybody. Just that moment was worth it all!

World Cup in Brazil, here we come!

We went to Kaunas in Lithuania to witness this event and the wonderful moment when they blew the final whistle and it was clear that we had won. The joy was overwhelming, but you can see in the video how it was celebrated in Bosnia! How we've been waiting for this after all the times we have stumbled at the finish line and still cheered over and over again with even more strength every time. You may wonder why the heck Bosnians celebrate like we've won the World Cup, when the chances are that we don't make it any further from the group stage. But just to qualify for the World Cup, along with countries like Germany, Spain and England, is a huge success for our war-torn country that didn't have a national team until after the war in 1996, when they didn't have any resources and traveled around a shitty little bus, but did their best because they knew better times and new generations would come.

But the important thing to point out is that it is about much more than just football. That success is huge when it is not moving forward for the country anywhere else, neither politically, economically nor socially. This article by Aftobladet quoted a supporter from Sarajevo: "They have no idea what they have done for the people here. We all need a little Brazil. It's not even about football anymore. This is a feeling that many of us has forgotten and the younger generation never have experienced, the feeling of success." In a country with corrupt politics, where frustration over unemployment and hopelessness creates even more conflict, the success in football is something that really unites the whole nation and all of us Bosnians scattered throughout the world.

For me, the national team represents the country in more than just football. The national team consists of people of different religions and backgrounds but who still see themselves as a team, a people, who love and play for the same country - an attitude that I wish all the people in the country shared. And despite the setbacks we rise up again, and love and cheer wholeheartedly again and again. Even when it feels hopeless. Throughout history, the country has risen from several wars and I'LL BE DAMNED if it doesn't rise from this hopeless postwar situation still going 20 years later, because that's what Bosnians do - rise. I hope this success raised hopes for the future.

I didn't mean to write a whole article, I just want everyone to know! And now the whole world who watch the World Cup will see Bosnia & Herzegovina on the map. We have fought and earned this. We have among the best, if not the best, supporters in Europe (yes, I said it, and you are welcome to refer to a nation that despite its small size literally invades cities and takes over the arena of qualifying matches). A lithuanian posted the clip below on Youtube, it's from yesterday when we marched to the stadium in Kaunas. The second video is a bit longer with the reactions and interviews with players and reporters crying. I have also cried a number of times. My own pictures and videos coming soon, right now I have no energy left.

Despite all this euphoria, I feel like I must address something incredibly tragic that has also been on my mind all day. Three Bosnians died in a car accident this morning when they drove through Poland, on the way home directly from the game. They were big supporters and one of them was the leader of a supporters group, and also took part in an interview during the day where he says (almost as if he knew) that he wants everyone gets home safely to their families without any car accidents. Life is so short and even in the most wonderful moments something so tragic can happen. Never sit behind the steering wheel tired, accidents happen in a second. My thoughts go out to their families. And everything they have done for the national team. Rest in peace.

Happy 18th Birthday Dennis

My brother turns 18! I'm still amazed by how tall he is next to me! My mental image of him is that he's still the family's baby, that little kiddo who always ran after me. And suddenly he is the one who has no time for me, suddenly it's he who yells at me for always forgetting the keys or for being stupid, and he's the one who has to pick me up and give me a ride because he's getting his drivers license before me. What a strange, and wonderful, feeling when your little brother, who you have been taken care of your whole life, suddenly is changing roles with you. I love you the most, my baby brother.

October is a symphony of permanence and change - Bonaro W. Overstreet

What if it could look like this the whole autumn? Yesterday we took a several hour long walk in this wonderful enviroment on the island of Djurgården, where we also tested my new camera lens (which I love!). The day ended with a football night, with success for both Sweden and Bosnia. On Tuesday we'll go on a supporter trip to Lithuania, yey! If Bosnia loses, you will not hear from me for a while...

Middle of the week update

Are you tired of my pictures from USA yet? In that case, I'm sorry but there's still a looot of pictures comming up. At this rate, hopefully all will come up before 2014. But I promise, USA is not the only thing on my mind (although it may seem so, given the picture). I thought that after the trip, which we looked forward to half a year, I would feel down when I got home, that it would feel empty, but no! In fact, I think I've never had such a positive attitude about the upcomming fall and winter! The solution is simply to plan events and more trips to look forward to and to, as often as possible, meet up with the wonderful friends you have in your life, whether you have a lot of work/school or not. Now I have had a non-stressful period in school and that's why it has been easier to plan something on weekday evenings, but I have to try to be just as social even during the more hectic periods when I'm worn and tired, because it gives me so much extra energy when I spend time with my people. Much love to you.

Speaking of school, the first urban project has started. We work in groups for the first time (which is weird that we have not done before, given that the entire profession of architecture is a group work), it will be interesting to see how it goes! Right now we are in the sketch/discussion phase. I both love and hate this phase, it's fun and not as hectic, but I just want to get to that stage when you know exactly what to do. And I would also prefer not to think about that I should start to look over my portfolio because in a few months I'm doing my bachelor project and have to start applying for a traineeship. Help.

If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

After the visit to Alcatraz, we spent the last day by just walking around in San Francisco. We saw Lombard Street among else - the world's crookedest street that most of you have probably seen. So beautiful, both the view and the decoration. How often is a street a tourist attraction?

At Lombard Street, we jumped on a tram for the first time! We had heard, and seen, that the waiting time in line for these is over one hour! Absolutely crazy since it was so easy to just jump on it when it stopped on the street. We were probably just lucky that there was no ticket control at the time. It was, however, a great experience to hang on to the tram while going up and down hill, it felt a bit like being in a movie!

Afterwards we walked around Union Square and went shopping a little. I couldn't understand that we walked down the same street as when we arrived to SF, when it was so gray, cold and depressing. This was a completely different city, a sunny day with a lot of people. And by now I had already fallen in love with it. The next day, however, it was time to leave San Francisco for a new destination.

Break the rules and you go to prison, break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz

Our last day in San Francisco began with a visit to one of the world's most famous, former, prisons - Alcatraz. That is also something I would recommend if you're staying in SF, especially if you're familiar with the movie or stories from Alcatraz. It's a very interesting and terrifying experience at the same time when you imagine what it was like there only 50 years ago.

On the island you can walk around as you want and in the prison you can go on a self-guided tour with headphones and a media player - a very good thing since you can walk at your own pace, and the tour narrators actually were the prisoners and prison guards. We even got to see pictures of all the people they talked about. In the background you could hear sound effects and such to make the experience as real as possible. 

One of the prisoners said that the worst thing was the view of San Francisco and that it reminded you of what you had lost, every day.

You've all seen the movie "Escape from Alcatraz" with Clint Eastwood, right? It's based on a real escape, and perhaps the only successful. Here you got to see the real fake head in Frank Morris' cell and the holes they crawled through! In the picture below you can also see the passage behind the cells. From there they climbed three floors up to the roof where they built a raft. It's amazing how they managed to do all that.

Since we brought a computer with us to the U.S., we made it a thing to download movies that was set in the city we stayed in, and watch them before bedtime. That evening we downloaded Escape from Alcatraz, of course, and it was a completely different experience to watch it after being there. And after all we have heard and seen, both during the visit and on documentaries, and the fact that their bodies were never found, I am completely convinced that the three escapees survived, despite the icy cold water, and lived the rest of their lifes somewhere in South America.

Golden Gate Bridge

The best experience in San Francisco was to bike along the coast and across the mighty Golden Gate. We rented bikes at Fisherman's Wharf and rode along harbors, parks and beaches until we arrived to the bridge. We got a map with suggested bike routes so it wasn't hard to find, we just went ahead and enjoyed the ride. And stopped all the time to take new photos the closer we got to the bridge.

The bridge is 2150 meters long so cycling is preferable, rather than walking, but in any case it's a great experience because it is so much bigger and cooler in real life than you'd imagined. You've seen it so many times in the media and suddenly you're biking across one of the world's most famous landmarks.

Once across the bridge, there is a lookout point just to the right where most people stop to take pictures. We were not satisfied with that, though, since we, thanks to my Google-research, knew that we could get up to the Marin Headlands for an even more amazing view. To get up there, however, was not easy. The bike path ended and for some parts of the road we had to go out in the terrifying U.S. traffic, it got really scary a couple of times...

...Not to mention the uphill. I gave up after a few meters, and dragged the bike the rest of the way up while I cried "wait ... wait ..." like a fat kiddo /the girl who made a generous donation to Fitness24 by buying a gym membership but not going to the gym for six months.

But it was so worth it! The view was amazing and we stayed up there a long time and just enjoyed everything... and gambled with life by taking a lot of acrobatic pictures near the cliff... Until we got very hungry. Note to self: Never forget food.
Since we stayed up there for a while we had time to see the famous fog slowly sweep over the city. Half of the bridge and the city just disappears in the fog! Coming from the other side at the time, that is, from San Francisco, you don't even see that there is a bridge there. The interesting thing was that it was still sunny and hot on this side.

That might explains all the summer houses on this side. The hills protect this area from wind and it was probably ten degrees warmer here than in San Francisco. A very nice little place! We biked to the small town center and took the ferry back to San Francisco - really apt since we would never ever have made it the whole way back on bikes.

Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39

The second day in San Francisco we also visited Fisherman's Wharf and the popular Pier 39. Cute, colorful and touristy! But despite the big croud of tourists it was really delightful to walk among all boats, small shops and restaurants... and arcades a la American style, which I eventually had to drag my boyfriend out from. And not to forget one of the main tourist attractions - the seals!


The City of Love and Peace

San Francisco. The city with lots of hills, trams and houses with bay windows. We had heard many good things about this town, and although they were true, that wasn't our first impression. After a six-hour-long trip from New York we had traveled another three hours "back" in time, and fifteen degrees cooler on the thermometer. It was colder than Sweden. The first thing we did when we got off the train from the airport was to run into McDonald's, and the first thing we saw was a lot of homeless people walking around in the area. It felt far from the city of love and peace.

We stayed in a hotel near the gate to Chinatown, right next to the financial district. Good location since it's really in the middle of the city and you can walk to almost everything, but I was not very fond of the Chinatown. Especially not when we arrive exhausted and want nothing else than to sleep, but there's a chinese man in street corner, playing an instrument with only two strings for SEVERAL HOURS. Our window had absolutely no isolation which means that we heard everything from outside and it was just as cold inside as outside. I got into a mini-depression that day. It was hard to leave New York, where we had already gotten some routines, a sense of security and favourite places, to arrive at a new city that doesn't live up to the expectations right away, and where you're also freezing your but off. In addition to that, we were undescribably tired after all the walking in NY, I can't explain how much my legs and feet ached. For the first time ever, we slept a whole day while on vacation, and it was so worth it .

But new day, new beginning! The next day was a bit warmer and the sun came out after the morning mist. We finally left the hotel to explore San Francisco, and the impressions got better and better. Not that the Chinese enviroment wasn't cool, we checked out that area too, but it didn't feel like being in the U.S. It's the largest Chinatown (except in NY) outside Asia!

Jeans and sweaters felt quite strange after the sultry heat in New York. But since it was neither cold nor hot it was a pleasant weather for tourists. When the fog swept over the city it became much colder though. San Francisco has a very special climate since it's surrounded by water on three sides, and apparently it tends to be colder in August than in September and October due to the fog and the cold winds. So much for California heat...

The city is also famous for being built on hills. Even if you have read about it and seen pictures of it, you still get surprised at how steep the streets actually are. Especially when you have to WALK all the way up! However, you can avoid the worst hills just by walking around them, hehe. Lucky for them all their cars are automatic.

Something else very characteristic of San Francisco are the houses with bay windows a la "Full House". Sorry for nerdy architect talk, but I thought it was very interesting how most buildings adhere to certain parameters, like the same number of floors and bay windows, but vary infinitely in the design, which still makes the city vibrant and interesting. And there are lots of modern interpretations of these bay window that follows below:

Fun, huh? I photographed lots of buildings, but this is enough for now. The second day we also visited Fisherman's Wharf (which I'll write about later) and took a hop-on-hop-off bus tour which was the stupidest thing to do at 4-5 pm when the fog and the winds sweeps over the city. It blew so hard when we drove towards the Golden Gate that I had to duck under the seat.

Luckily we had the funniest, Irish, guide that made the tour worth while. He deserves a final picture here!

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