22 July 2009

religious experiences

here's to a break from studying for my (first) danish exam tomorrow!

yesterday i climbed rundetårn, the round tower, a tower in the middle of copenhagen that was built in the sixteen-hundreds. like most things in denmark (except for the people), it wasn't very tall, but from the top, my friend adam and i got a lovely view of the city. seeing the city from an aerial perspective really helps things to fall into place! i felt like a tourist for, well, only the second or third time since i've been here, surrounded by people speaking polish and... swedish! i love hearing swedish when i'm used to being surrounded by danish.

anyway, after the tower we went into a church connected to rundetårn. i don't know what the church was called, but it was very beautiful and echoey. adam was very tempted to play the organ, and i to tapdance. but we restrained ourselves. one thing that we thought was interesting was that there were two sets of iron gates, one on each side of the altar. the gates on the left had straight points, while those on the right were squiggly. were the squiggly gates supposed to represent the gates of hell? why would the gates of hell be on the right? isn't it the left that belongs to satan?

glas in a window of rundetårn - mysterious

view from the top of the tower


oh lord

despite all the beautiful danish culture, there are some things i miss from california. namely, avocados. there are avocados here, but they come from south africa or israel or somewhere, and they're neither as flavorful nor as buttery as our california avocados. and every time i buy them i forget i have them and they go bad and i end up feeling like a horrible person. i also miss running barefoot on the beach and having to alter my pace to avoid jellyfish and rocks - like playing hopscotch alone in the sand.

i am happy, however, for the little things. black tea with honey and cream, and homemade cookies inside when it's raining. the week is almost over, and i've already been here for a month. tomorrow i have the first part of my danish exam, which is written, and i have the oral exam on friday. after that, vacation!

a latte or café au lait costs nearly $6 here. needless to say, it's not something i indulge in often.

i rode by this church on an epic hunt for a flea market last sunday, thought it was beautiful.

nu skal jeg tilbage til dansk.

19 July 2009


i never really wrote about my first twenty-four hours in copenhagen. they were, to say the least, strange ones. my mentor picked me up at the airport, and immediately started in on me, saying, "it took you a long time to get out here!" well, see, i had to get my luggage. and change money. and figure out where to go. and that was just the beginning.

my mentor's name is lisbeth monsted larsen. she is forty-five and lives in farum (forty-five minutes away from the center of copenhagen by train), so there is quite a gap between us. when i arrived in copenhagen, she picked up me at the airport as promised, but she forgot to bring my keys (which she had already picked up the previous week), so i had to go with her to her house in farum in order to get them to get into my room. i wanted to come back to tietgen, my residence, that afternoon, which was sunday, june 21, in order to get settled in before starting language class on monday morning, but lisbeth made me stay with her for the night, saying that it wasn't safe for a young girl such as myself to travel to and through the city alone, especially in the evening or at night. she also warned me to watch out for anyone of middle-eastern or gypsy descent, saying that they would throw rocks at me because "they hate girls." I would like to attribute this insight to a cultural difference, but I have never, ever encountered such strong racism before.

at lisbeth's house i slept on the couch in her living room with her four dogs, three greyhounds and a whippet that she spent my entire stay telling me about. At 4.00 a.m. she got me up to walk the dogs with her before we went back to the city, so i could get into tietgen just in time to drop my stuff off before my language class started. i went along with everything she asked of me out of politeness, but i will not be meeting with her again, as she put me in a plethora of awkward, difficult situations. she came across to me as being very lonely and needing a friend, all the while telling me about how much she loves her solitary life with her dogs.

and here are some haikus i wrote while unable to sleep that first night:

around two-thirty
the birds begin to sing: day
breaks, day breaks, day breaks!

her house: an homage
to dogs of royal blood from
madrid, bin liners

she has no children
never will. instead, keeps blooms
on the white bookshelf

anyway, that's that.

i got a new (old) bike! my green bike, while beautiful, is too much for me to handle, and i'm going to sell it. i am now the proud owner of a silver three-speed danish bike that i bought for $50. i don't recognize the brand, but it fits me really well and i've been riding all over the city, especially this weekend.

here i am with stella ruth.

she needs a little love, but she's in pretty good shape.

on thursday afternoon i finally took some pictures of stuff that copenhagen is famous for while enjoying the late-evening sun.

den sorte diamant - the black diamond, copenhagen's royal library. i'm going here with my class in a couple of weeks!

the graffiti on that bridge says "be happy" in yellow bubble letters. i live on the other side of the bridge, behind all those buildings.

i don't know what this lion's about, but i like it.

just another beautiful canal.

nyhavn. denmark has seagulls, too!

more nyhavn

kongens nytorv - the king's new square

i'm not really interested in architecture, but i just thought the contrast of textures here was so, so cool. and very danish.

15 July 2009

kun for mig

summer in denmark feels like this, and smells like strawberries.

anyway, the sun now sets in copenhagen around 9:30 p.m. it's a huge bummer that the days are getting so much shorter so fast, but it's also a huge reality check. i have to say that the things i enjoy most about living here are the small things: finding "authentic" tortillas (which is to say, a brand i recognize, although they are produced in the netherlands) at the grocery store, asking a stranger for directions in danish and understanding the answer, and finding out that i actually have stuff in common with my floormates, or kitchen group.

there are eleven people that i share the kitchen with, and i feel like i really lucked out. i've never really had good roommate luck - i've always just ended up living with people i don't mesh with in the least - and am really happy to be sharing a kitchen with a bunch of conscientious, interesting, and mature but fun-loving people. granted, these are just first impressions. but they did bake me two cakes for my birthday, and that counts for something.

tonight i got together with a bunch of my language classmates (nine americans and a canadian, to be precise) and we made breakfast for dinner. you have to understand that it had been at least three weeks - almost a month - since any of us had eaten a "proper" breakfast, with eggs, bacon, pancakes, toast, the works. it was kind of insane cooking with ten people at once, but we all left satisfied and danced to techno while doing the dishes.

today after language class, i went on a canal tour of the city with my class. the canal tour is the essential copenhagen tourist thing to do, and while on it i saw a lot of the "sights" of the city for the first time, like the little mermaid and amalienborg palace. it was a really nice and relaxing way to see lots of parts of the city that i vaguely know, if only for certain landmarks like spiral towers and copper roofs.

here some recent pictures from sweden last weekend (i went on saturday). i unfortunately forgot my camera during the canal tour today.

"at work? refrain from drinking alcohol!"

the red houses with white trim are the definition of classic.

this is my friend patch.

i ordered a burrito at a café and this is what i got. it was good, but more like an enchilade filled with a cinnamonny sauce vaguely resembling mole than a good old rice, bean, and cheese burrito. which, by the way, i miss. in order to resolve this, i made some spanish rice last night. it was surprisingly good. i was really pleased with myself, because not only had i never made spanish rice before (i don't really cook), but it was delicious.

by the way, i am going to iceland in ten days - for a week! i can't wait!! i'm going by myself during my week off from language class, and i can't wait to see what kind of adventures iceland has to offer. you know, stuff like geysers, geothermal pools, and waterfalls. ten days!

12 July 2009

two decades

on friday i turned twenty. it was really amazing to celebrate here in denmark. even though i've only been here for three weeks (as of today!) i feel like i have, or at least am making, friends here. plus, two of my old friends were here to celebrate with me: lotten and andreas stopped here in copenhagen on their way back from a month traveling eastern europe! it was absolutely wonderful in every way to see them again. for a whole day we just hung out, made food, ate, and talked. it was exactly what, i think, all of us needed.

i had language class on friday morning, during which our teacher taught us the traditional danish birthday song. it's really complicated compared to the american one, with four different verses. it's also ridiculously cute. it roughly translates to:

"today is (name)'s birthday,
hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!
she surely will receive a gift
that she has wished for this year
with lovely chocolate and cake.

and when she goes home from school
hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!
she'll go home and have a party
and whoever comes as a guest
will get lovely chocolate and cake.

how she smiles, how she's glad,
hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!
but this day is also nice
because at home mom and dad wait
with lovely chocolate and cake.

finally we sing loudly,
hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!
may (birthday person) live long
and have her wishes fulfilled
with lovely chocolate and cake."

aside from class, i had that song sung to me a couple of times later in the evening: first when my exchange student friends gave me a lovely chocolate cake, and then when my hallmates surprised me with two homemade traditional danish birthday cakes! it was really nice and i really did get warm fuzzies from all of it. it was great to be with so many of my friends in one place. it did storm briefly, but the rain pretty much vanished by the time we left to go out.

lotten and andreas and our midnight dinner when they first arrived

learning the birthday song in language class

people came over

since it was raining outside (and by raining, i mean thunder and lightning and water gushing down from the sky) it was nice to hang out inside

in denmark, flags are a symbol of happiness, which is why they're used when celebrating birthdays and christmas. additionally, stores put flags in their windows when they're having sales.

that's just about everybody

my hallmates wrote me a note saying "tillykke med fødselsdagen," which means "happy birthday" in danish

they also made me these two lovely cakes! the cake my exchange friends made me is there too. i have never had three cakes on one birthday before.


later when we went out, we of course had to stop at a pølsevogn, or hot dog wagon. danish hot dogs are so, so good. i don't know why. i'm not really a fan of hot dogs in general. maybe it's all the toppings!

although i did miss my american friends and family, i had a fantastic birthday here.

09 July 2009

on christiania, and feeding myself

my danish life pretty much revolves around food, and, of course, drinks to accompany the food. that means i've been getting pretty used to carlsberg pilsner and tuborg classic - both pretty legit beers, in my opinion. kind of like eating bread with cheese. good for any time.

with that said, i eat a lot of bread with cheese here. a lot, a lot. open-faced sandwiches rule. they are easy, delicious, satisfying, and nutritious. i have yet to try smørrebrød (literally "butter bread") from a shop here, but it's everywhere.

the other day i experimented with cooking meat by myself for the first time. it was just chicken, which i ate with pasta with sundried tomatoes, but it was pretty good. see?

i go grocery shopping at least three times a week here. that's partially because i grocery shop by bike, meaning i can't carry a whole lot at once, and partially because every time i do go, i either forget something or can't find it. i end up having to go to different stores for different things. the grocery stores here are a lot smaller than american grocery stores (big surprise, right) and the cheaper ones are not very organized. if you go to netto or fakta at the end of the day, don't expect there to be any tomatoes left. and if there are, don't expect them to be on the tomato shelf: it's far more likely that they're mixed in with the cucumbers, or sitting on top of a bag of potatoes.

grocery/bike basket

on tuesday i went to christiania ("free town christiania", a part of copenhagen which doesn't consider itself part of denmark or the E.U.) with my language class. it's a really controversial place which the government has been trying to shut down since its formation in the early 1970s when squatters took over abandoned military barracks in a part of the city that once used to be part of the barricade around the city. today it's a haven for all sorts of alternative lifestyles. its inhabitants don't pay taxes but still get all the support of denmark's universal welfare system, which is another side of the controversy. i, however, love christiania, even if only for the ubiquitous art, overflowing gardens, and relaxed attitude.

i love these bike racks! christiania is evidently all about recycling.


during our tour

me with a travelling german craftsman, in front of the banana house (built by the real travelling german craftsmen)

sunny days in denmark are to be treasured

i'm not exactly positive what a himalayan mountain guide is doing in denmark, but i like it.


one more thing: today it was sunny, then cloudy, then stormed briefly, then was cloudy again, all with about a million changes in between. now it's sunny again. i guess there is a saying (whether it's in all of denmark or just copenhagen i don't know) that if you don't like the weather, just wait fifteen minutes and it will be totally different. that is completely true.

06 July 2009

my other home

this past weekend i went to see my host family in sweden that i hadn't seen since i left two years ago. it was amazing to come back and come right back into the family - it didn't feel like two years have passed since at all. in fact, i have a hard time believing that they did.

i got to their house around 7 on friday evening (after some minor train misadventures, in which i discovered that although direct trains from göteborg appear not to run from ørestad station, they actually do). the whole family was there - waiting, with the flag up, to eat dinner. it was so nice to see everyone again, words cannot describe. i was just at home again.

after dinner and lots of conversation, i went with linnea and her boyfriend john to go swimming in the ocean, and who did we meet along the way but my old classmate and friend, harald! he had heard that i was in town. we brought him swimming with us. the water was warm, the sun was just setting, and there was not a jellyfish to be found in the water we were jumping off of the dock into. it was the perfect ending to a fantastic (and long) day.

on saturday i was going to bake with gunilla, but i accidentally slept until 11 and woke up just in time for coffee. sometimes it's nice not to be a student and to have other people feed you and encourage you to sleep in. anyway, after fika we went into town, did some shopping, ate some ice cream, and then went over to my host grandparents' house for a real swedish dinner: meatballs and potatoes, complete with brown sauce, lingon sauce, tomatoes and cucumber, and other veggies. so by four o'clock when i was supposed to go to a potluck at my friend sofia's house, i was stuffed. i had to rest for a bit before making my way over there. all these houses are within walking distance of each other, but still.

sofia's was really nice. there were only a few of us there but it was so nice to see them again, and again, it did not feel at all like two years had passed since i'd seen them. coming back, too, it felt like these people are really my friends, and not just people i know from a year abroad in high school. plus we ate more delicious things, like cake. later we decided to go into the city (göteborg), where we sat outside a pub and just had a couple beers and, essentially, chilled.

all in all, i had a wonderful weekend, and i can't wait to go back and visit again.

four hours on a train is not so long. i spent it watching the countryside change and listening to music.

finally back in göteborg!

håkan, with gunilla, john (linnea's boyfriend), and linnea in the background. they bbq'd for me!

dinner with the whole family, mysigt

fresh swedish strawberries and ice cream for dessert

getskär, where we went swimming

linnea and her boyfriend john

elva kaffe - eleven o'clock coffee, a weekend tradition

fika, one of my favorite things in the world. essentially, coffee, snacks, and just hanging out. gunilla baked kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls) for me! i was going to bake with her but i overslept.

july 4th. they had the flag up for me because i was visiting.

mormor and morfar (grandma and grandpa)

me with my host parents

real swedish food - köttbullar

sofia organized a little get-together

and made a delicious cake, which julia gull is holding.

sofia and julia a.

öl and flowers


gunilla, my host mom. more fika!

time to go "home".

heading south

oh, i was just here! the airport.

typically danish.

i'm glad we got so much sun the first couple of weeks i was here, because it's all rainy and gloomy now.