31 December 2009

in summary

today is the last day of the year, the last day of the last ten-year segment of our lives, a full moon, and a blue moon. i have a cabinet full of party poppers and it's only fitting that outside my wall of a window i can see the canal frozen over in minus two degree weather and the sun's futile attempts at lighting up the city. even at 11 o'clock it looks like we've barely shivered past sunrise: the light holds the same power over the land that it did in the summer, except it's much more subtle now. i'm ecstatic to see the gentle sheen of it against a fifth-floor window. it feels like the planet is shutting down. things are dying! the canal is frozen, i tell you! but as a friend told me, no, things are just resting. getting ready for spring. as am i.

the last two weeks have been busy busy busy. my friend cody came for a visit; he's still here and i'm happy for his company.

we saw the nutcracker at the royal theater. it was awesome.

snow came to copenhagen and we played in it.

basically, my "i just biked three miles in the snow and it feels like my fingers have fallen off my hands inside my gloves, and i don't even know if my nose is still on my face" face

cody found a cargo bike on kongens nytorv. when in copenhagen...

we celebrated the winter solstice, then we got on a train headed for the swedish west coast.

once there, we spent four days celebrating christmas with my swedish family, which involved a fantastic amount of cakes, cookies, christmas candies, and quality time. and of course kalle anka (donald duck) on christmas.

my host dad and niece

santa and his lady came to give out the presents

it was so good to spend christmas with my swedish family again; the last time i did that i thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. but coming full circle was even better. the traditions felt clearer and i remembered a lot of things that i hadn't even realized i'd forgotten, like how to make ischoklad, and how you sign your presents with "wishes" instead of "from".

the road from my host family's house to town, a comforting sight made nicer by the snow

while up in sweden we even managed to meet up with a bunch of my old school friends, most of whom i hadn't seen in two and a half years. that was good, really good, even though the music sucked and the beer was expensive. it was extremely satisfying and exciting to reconnect with people that i virtually haven't had any contact with in the past couple of years, and just to catch up.

on our way back to copenhagen, we stopped in lund to visit catherine, one of my best friends, who i hadn't seen - again - in over two years. she picked cody and i up at the train station and we picked up right where we had left off. i got to meet her boyfriend and lovely family, who had us over for dinner. that was the closest i've come to feeling homesick in months, maybe just from feeling the "homeyness" that comes from being in someone's home that isn't my own.

it's good to be back in copenhagen. all the snow that fell just before we left has melted but it's still just as cold (and just as painful to bike). the next celebration is new year's eve. tonight. i don't really care what i do or what party i go to - the only thing that matters to me is being with my friends, which i know i will be. so it's going to be a great one.

peace, love, and sunlight for the new year!

16 December 2009

julefrokost and more

imagine an industrial kitchen full of twenty-somethings in three-foot-long santa hats armed with snaps, beer, and giant party poppers. oh wait. i'd better explain snaps first. snaps, also known as aquavit, also known as schapps, is a traditional scandinavian alcohol usually flavored with fennel and other interesting things like that and drunk in massive quantities, particularly in the dark part of the year.

in the kitchen there is a giant table decked with a red velvet cloth and probably a kilo of pink heart-shaped glitter. the table is set nicely, and we sit down alternating boy-girl-boy-girl for as long as there are enough boys. when we run out of boys, a bunch of girls take over a corner.

we eat a lot of fish, herring and salmon. all this is eaten with rough, dark, sour danish bread. after the fish comes meat. meat, meat, and more meat: duck cooked with plums, meatballs, sausages, roast pork, and liver paté topped with mushrooms and bacon!

there is no water on the table so you wash it down with snaps, which you chase with beer. everyone is laughing and some people are singing. you feel really full so you get up and start dancing before the dessert comes out. then you eat a bowl full of rice pudding flavored with almonds and cherry sauce, and go back to playing limbo. you haven't played limbo since you were seven at the roller-skating rink and laugh when you fall on your back and then find another christmas beer.

sometime during the present game a giant party popper explodes. you don't notice the explosion until you realize you are covered in iridescent confetti.

this is danish christmas lunch.

now that all the fun is over, i'm back to writing for my last exam. my danish class is over at last and i just have a conclusion to write and then i'm done with kierkegaard. it's snowing. it's been snowing off and on for a day and half and finally the snow is beginning to stick to the ground. there is a layer of it growing thicker and thicker and some of my neighbors are outside throwing snowballs around. i hope it sticks overnight, i really do. one of my best friends from california is here and we are having immense amounts of hygge. the snow helps!

although it has been freezing - and below freezing - we went to a free outdoor concert last night, to see gogol bordello, a gypsy punk band. they're probably the only band that i'd stand outside in below-freezing weather and, yes, snow, for an hour and a half to see play. they have so much energy that you really can't help dancing to them. what with COP15 and the entire world having its eye on copenhagen right now, there is lots of cool stuff going on in my dear little city. like a protest of a hundred thousand people on saturday that felt more like a parade than a demonstration. it was a good time, with music, dance, floats, confetti, and a real sense of community.

07 December 2009

no time like the present

i'm dizzy from my ride home in the rain, biking through the wet dark, hardly feeling the barrage of raindrops thanks to my hot pink helmet. i signal a right turn with my gloved hand, following the woman ahead of me. make eye contact with a stranger outside of tivoli in passing. we share smiles, secrets.

i know i've been in copenhagen for too long because i don't mind the rain anymore - if i even notice it - except for the fact that the drops on my glasses dangerously obstruct my vision. it's been raining more often than not since july. i wish it would snow already.

the hardest thing about moving to a new city is that the people you meet - because doubtlessly you will meet people, sooner or later - don't need you like you need them. they need haircuts, vodka, nightclubs, brunch just like you do, but they don't need your company.

thousands of words lose their meaning any given second. i am hung up on describing the connection between the eternal and universal according to the greatest thinker denmark has ever had (and probably will ever have). my preoccupation with danish grammar - correctly positioning adverb in front of helping verb in front of main verb - has wormed its way into english. kan. ikke. tænke. helping verb, adverb, main verb?

classes are over. exams are coming. so is obama. again. i hope they don't close langebro and isolate us from the mainland.

05 December 2009

life is rad

yesterday allie and i baked chocolate chip cookies again and then brought them to a party with us.

the cookies proved to be a brilliant idea at 3 a.m. when there was no more beer to be had and we needed fuel for dancing.

but before that, i had an interview! for a job! which involves me proofreading in danish...?! i'm not really sure how that will go. but i do have some sweet new shoes that make everything better.

since i have all this work to get done, i've been getting creative and doing lots of projects in between working on loads of english-danish translation and thinking about writing my kierkegaard paper. today i made these:

i had forgotten how much i love to collage! i freaking love collaging! and all these cookies! what have i been doing since high school?!

03 December 2009

as if the weather gods know it is december now

it has been icy-cold and even somewhat clear these last few days. today it was overcast but on tuesday it was gloriously sunny, all lego-yellow buses glowing against the electric blue sky with the smell of æbleskiver chasing diesel through the crisp air. the temperature hovers just above freezing, waiting to fall as the countdown to christmas grows shorter and shorter.

one way to count down: a cookie advent calendar my friend laura and i made for our kitchen. i love our kitchen.

christmas is really pervades everything here. it could take you over if you didn't watch out. in fact, i kind of think the greater danish population turns into christmas robots around the end of november. and there are christmas trees everywhere - on the streets, in the city squares, in my university, outside of the metro stations, at my bank, even in café doorways. and i'm not talking about any of that fake christmas tree bullshit. these are real trees with prickly needles that you can smell if you step close enough. i can only think about how many christmas tree farms denmark must have.

one of the jultræer that are taking over copenhagen... on the deck of a boat that is a hotel.

there's also an advent calendar on t.v. four, in fact: two for children, and two for adults. it's not like they don't have advent calendars full of chocolates that you can buy in grocery stores (yum!), but they also have special t.v. programs in the twenty-four days counting down to christmas. obviously, they begin on december first and run until christmas eve. basically the entire country watches them. i saw two last night: one kids' one and one for adults. the kids' one was full of morals, social lessons, and elves, whereas the adult one was more a finely-honed display of danish black humor in which all the characters (for last night's episode, an old man, his son, a prostitute, and an immigrant) are played by one actor. last night's episode involved the announcement that the old man's hot dog wagon had been destroyed (by whom? who knows!) and the arrival of the immigrant who offered to fix it for free. then we found out that the old man's son had gotten the prostitute pregnant! i can't wait to see what happens tonight!

elisha brought me a gummy alphabet from berlin. before i devoured the majority of the bag, i played with the letters for a while, despite a serious lack of vowels.

winter in christianshavn.

my island from across a sort of lake thing that used to protect copenhagen from its attackers.

there are a lot of swans in copenhagen.

i saw a little danish band called the rumour said fire play at ideal bar at vega last night with my friend nina. it was a nice show. the idea was that it was a "quiet concert" where everyone sat and listened to the music. it worked really well except that all of their songs except one sounded the same and the audience got bored. but still, it was really nice music. perfect background or middle-of-a-mix-tape music. on saturday i am going to see the raveonettes at big vega! i am so excited. i've seen them before (at bimbo's in san francisco around this time last year) but they've just put out a new album and it will be awesome to see them in their homeland. i hope. whatever. they're awesome regardless. this is, after all, what i came to the city for.

30 November 2009

the holidays have begun

i have to do this in a list because too much has happened in the past week and a half to sort it out any other way.

1. there was a week of concerts. i saw monsters of folk, the dodos, and port o'brien all in copenhagen within the span of a week. i saw monsters of folk because it was something fun to do on a friday night and because i mostly just really like m. ward. the dodos were a lot of fun even though i've hardly listened to them, and as always it was fantastic to see port o'brien (for the umpteengazillionth - or just tenth - time) since they have made it out of our hometown and into the big bad world of rock stardom. it was bizarre seeing people i know from home in copenhagen - in a totally awesome way, of course. lots of dancing and yelling ensued.

the dodos - i really want to play this instrument

fantastic fun port o'brien. it was almost exactly a year since last seen them, at the crepe place in santa cruz. somehow all this did not make me homesick. i was precisely in the right place at the right time.

of course there was some stage-dancing during "i woke up today"!

2. thursday was thanksgiving. it was also the night port o'brien played copenhagen. in order to celebrate this properly, two of my best friends and i - one american transplant living in sweden, and one dane who's spent a fair amount of time in the U.S. - decided that we needed to make a gigantic, delicious, and vegan dinner. which we did. patch and i spent all day thursday cooking, then indigo came over with her contributions. eventually more people showed up and we ate. we were nine in the end. i thought there wouldn't be enough food, but i still have leftovers. the salads, homemade bread, raw pumpkin pie, and zucchini muffins are gone, but i still have a fridge full of mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, veggie stuffing made with rye bread, and a root bake with some apples for good measure. everybody brought wine and got along splendidly despite the fact that we all speak a variety of nordic languages: we were two and a half americans, five and a half danes (one guy is half-american, half-danish), and an icelander who lives in sweden. in fact, i think saying "got along" is an understatement. it was a fantastic time. after polishing off a few bottles of wine, most of us rolled out our bikes to see port o'brien. ah yes. the feeling i got from all of this was that my home is altogether portable. this year i was especially thankful for friendship (and especially for friends who cook with/for me).

the supplies in my awesome (industrial) kitchen. 2 giant zucchinis? check. liter of olive oil? check. bottle of wine? check.

patch with his zooks all the way from his little swedish farm.

the finished product. i had never cooked so much before! let alone all vegan... and 100% delicious.


i just love this picture, not least because these guys are both named rune (and they are both super nice).

my plate

3. on friday afternoon, my friend elisha came from berlin. we spent the weekend doing great touristy things and basically being girls together. we posed for pictures with the little mermaid (which really is not such a great idea, especially in the winter, because the statue is a little ways out in the water and the water is cooold if you slip in, but it really actually is a good idea anyway), saw the whole city by foot, watched the top of the city christmas tree explode in fireworks, treated ourselves to girly drinks in oh-so-hip nørrebro, got brunch, and visited malmö (in sweden) for a day. it was great to hang out with a friend from santa cruz and speak some "california english" (e.g., "it's totally sick that the little mermaid is hella hot.")


not gonna lie: this unicorn is probably what made me decide to live in copenhagen.

cafe cozy.

good trip!

4. i'm done with half of my classes for the semester: i had my last kierkegaard lecture today, and all that remains is to write a 15-page paper. i have one more danish lesson, and then an exam in two weeks. the exam is going to be nuts: six hours to translate two pages from english to danish. i wish i had a dictionary of idioms. do those exist? anyway, i've started dreaming in danish sometimes and i think way too much about word order, even in english now. i think this crazy language is starting to click.

19 November 2009

protestation, demonstration

this, and lots more, is what's going on at my home university right now:

students are getting out of the classrooms to march, block entrances to campus, and occupy buildings, to protest, among other things, the 32% - read: major - fee hikes that are being imposed on us in order to pay for the university of california, "one of the world's top research universities", to be run like a corporation, selling bonds and raising administrators' salaries as our classes, faculty, and student housing are cut dramatically. as of last year, the number of art, music, and humanities classes were cut dramatically, professors who were untenured despite having taught at UCSC for over twenty years were "let go", and the number of freshman students admitted was even severely reduced.

as a student at UCSC - probably one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, i mean, look: the ocean is right there - it's sometimes hard to remember that although we live in a beautiful bubble, not everything is perfect. our campus is known for "activism" that takes the form of people moving into trees to protest construction that unfortunately has already been approved years previously. but in this case, my colleagues are working with students of the entire wider UC - indeed, the entire fucking state - to effect change. oh, change is a word we've been tossing around a lot lately. you could say the entire US presidential election of 2008 hinged on that word.

so it feels pretty strange to be here in calm, quiet denmark while all this is going on at home. admittedly, it's a good time not to be in california. i wouldn't have any better luck finding a job there than i'm having here, as unemployment in my home state has soared to over 12%. walking by copenhagen's parliament building today, i heard some recorded reggae music booming across the square from a van with a sign hanging from it: "yes to democracy, no to police state." that's all very well and fine, but i am not convinced that hanging a flag from your van, playing bad reggae, and drinking free samples of redbull that the cute girls up the street are handing out to each and every passer-by is really going to make the politicians listen, let alone bring an end to this sick form of "democracy". not that my fellow students are managing to get a whole lot done at my school, but things can only improve from here, right? last i read, the UC regents approved the 32% tuition hikes. and that's just the tip of the iceberg.


17 November 2009

first things first

today the sky cleared up - for parts of the day, at least - and i saw the sun for the first time in weeks. it filled me with a rush of energy and i realized exactly what i've been missing.

blue sky!

then my mom left. it was fantastic having her visit after not seeing her for nearly five months. it didn't hurt that she brought me practically a whole suitcase full of things i've been longing for from california: refried beans, tapatio, chocolate chips, acrylic paints, my ukulele, and some clothes! it was like christmas. only better.

while she was here, we did lots of good stuff. like exploring copehagen, climbing the round tower, taking a canal tour (of course), sampling danish beers, and seeing a ballet at the royal theater. we also spent the weekend at my host family's house in sweden, which was lovely as only going home can be.

touristas. nyhavn.

it rained pretty much nonstop all last week. of course, it got nice when we left for sweden. but until then, we just did a lot of exploring in a drizzle.

then we got dressed up and went to the ballet.

girls' night.

we saw a danish ballet called napoli. it's an old story, but it was set in the 60s and was very dynamic. last i checked, i wasn't really into going to the theater, but this was really cool. the whole show was really fast-paced and the costumes and music - not to mention dancing, god - were amazing.

this is a rugbolle, a roll of typical danish dark, sour bread. like pumpernickel, i guess. it's dense and delicious.

we tried to climb that tower, but it was closed for the season, so we went to christiania instead. not a lot going on there on a thursday morning.

smørrebrød, yum. more rugbrød and lots of butter.

although we couldn't climb the tallest spire in the city, we did climb the round tower. i could have hung out there all day.

then we went to gothenburg. i love that city so much. and, conversely, this type of stuff is exactly what i love about copenhagen.

in gothenburg we met up with my "other" family, my swedish host family, and went to liseberg (an amusement park) together.

at home at their house, we had lots of treats and chill time. it was great. i always love coming home to their house.

it was really great to play tourist in my own town for a week. i've gotten so used to living here that i don't really take in the sights anymore, focusing instead on just getting where i'm going without even thinking. so showing my mom my københavnsk life was eye-opening for me, as well, and on our walks around town, many parts of the city fell into place in my mental map. and i finally rode copenhagen's "wheel of excellence" last night after having wondered for a while what the hell it's doing right by vesterport station.