30 October 2009

a day in the life

i wake up at 7.34 a.m. to sunshine. pull a sweatshirt on, uncurl my legs, and roll out of bed. look out the window. there it is: a whole city being blasted with the rising sun for the first time in weeks. i put my running clothes on: leggings, shorts, long-sleeved shirt, t-shirt. if i layer up enough, i can drag myself outside to run when it’s barely forty degrees. i find my ipod and settle on cut copy.

i move through the surprisingly still morning, getting my groove on without hearing what my feet are dancing to. for once it isn’t windy and everyone else and their dogs on the harbor promenade smile at me in passing. i come back to my apartment with a dripping nose. hop in and out of the shower, real quick. once dressed, i eat müsli and a banana while half-watching the danish news, something about a comedian.

i bike into town on flat tires. spend the fifteen-minute ride thinking about all the small things i need to do in the near future. realize i might be stressing myself out; smile to myself when i cross the bridge and my black-wool-clad back is directly exposed to the sun. the sunlight feels good on my scalp and the wind massages it gently.

i drop off a resume with a smile. i don’t expect to hear back from the establishment. i get a text from anna, saying that today is just not a good day, but how about another? i guiltily buy a pair of jeans at h&m.

on the way home, i stop at a bike shop to pump up my bike. i struggle for a few minutes with the air compressor and the foreign valves. there is a line waiting for the mechanic’s attention. i walk my bike two blocks to another shop with a different kind of compressor and happily ride home on rock-hard tires.

at home, i pull eggs, tomato, bell pepper, and kale out of my shared refrigerator. my flatmate asks if i am making a frittata. in the pan, it turns into a scramble. we talk about school and vegetables.

i spend the afternoon reading, writing, reading, writing, and reading some more. somewhere in there i have a cup of green tea. i make a lot of lists, one of which is entitled “things you absolutely must avoid”: caffeine, alcohol, processed sugars, spicy foods, fatty foods like milk slices, which, i’ve recently discovered, are like ice cream sandwiches but with a vaguely orange-flavored foam filling instead of ice cream. no more of those for me. not that i was that impressed with them the first time around. i make mental notes of authors i need to read: anais nin, knut hamsun, noam chomsky.

by 4.45 p.m. it is dark outside. i decide that going for a walk is not really something i want to do and that the library can wait until tomorrow. the evening passes in a frenzy of danish translation, leftover soup, and brainstorming for my upcoming philosophy paper. i am reminded that my seven-year-old self’s self-discipline was enormously superior to that of my current self.

28 October 2009

cornbread and peanut butter

inside my sweatshirt it is warm. when i lean over, heat spills out into the cold night. it's hard to believe that winter is two months distant.

after all, there are still leaves on the ground. everywhere.

but this is a view of a lake at 4 p.m.

one of my best friends from santa cruz just left copenhagen after visiting me and our mutual santa cruz friend for a week. it was fantastic to spend so much time with people from "home" and share the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of our city with our visitor. we spent a lot of time hanging out, drinking tea and cooking as well. seekay left me with a jar of peanut butter, and today i had the most wholeheartedly "american" meal i've probably had in years: peanut butter smeared on bananas, with a side of cornbread with honey. when i was younger i didn't really like peanut butter or bananas. but luckily with age i've chilled out a little, and that has extended to my tastes in food. cornbread, though, i've always loved. i baked some last night, and it was probably the most perfect thing i've ever made. it came out of the oven steaming and perfectly formed, with a crispy, smooth surface.

we did a lot of walking

and some cuddling.

the three of us also got smørrebrød - danish open-faced sandwiches - today. they didn't disappoint. mine was a piece of heavy rye bread slathered with goat cheese and a relish made of dried fruits and nuts. it was my first traditional danish smørrebrød; i'd only ever made them myself before, both at home and in the school cafeteria.

the school cafeteria is in this building

but real smørrebrød looks like this.

i checked the times for the sunrise and sunset tomorrow. 7.09 a.m. and 4.37 p.m. it's been dark for five of the twelve hours i've been awake today. something is wrong with this picture. no, the AFS slogan is ingrained in my head for life: it's not right, it's not wrong, it's just different. i think the other exchange students hate me for spewing this gibberish all the time.

so what do i do since it's dark all the freaking time? i light candles. and i finally bought some yeast, and i'm going to start baking bread.

as it gets darker, the danish hygge instinct gets stronger. we spent about an hour lingering over dinner tonight. i'm looking forward to winter in a way. after all, it can't get a whole lot colder than this.

24 October 2009

it's 2:32 a.m. on a sunday but the time is about to change.

i wasn't aware that it was time to fall back until i was told a few hours ago at a friend's house. i just came home by bus - only the second time i've taken the bus in copenhagen - and am listening to the sweet tinkles of yann tiersen's amelie soundtrack. i wish i could play accordian. i tried once, but i lacked dedication and arm straps. what i really want is a toy xylophone. if only i had a toy xylophone, my life would be complete. a toy xylophone, no more cell phone bills, and a house in the hills on the sea.

my friend seekay has been visiting me and our friend allie for the last few days, so we've been doing lots of fun things. today we went on a canal tour of the city (they're so relaxing), ate at copenhagen's best bakery (where i am trying to get a job, but keep being told that they just don't have any spots open), and climbed the tallest spire in copenhagen, vor frelsers kirke. the closer to the top you get, the ricketier the stairs get until you finally end up on a skinny balcony with a gold railing overlooking the city. then you keep going up the slippery copper stairs and crane your head to try to get a glimpse of the gold globe at the top of the spire, holding onto your hat all the while because the wind is trying to snatch it away from you. and the mist gets into your eyes even though you are wearing glasses, and you hold onto the railing even though it's so cold you think you won't be able to remove your hand from it when it's finally time to descend that staircase. you descend only after you've gotten a 360 degree panoramic view of the city, located your house, nearby metro stations, canals, flower shops, and cafes, and picked out where you'd most like to live, if you could choose any building in copenhagen.

i've seen the city from so many different angles today: by foot, by boat, from the tippy-top of a church, and from a bus. it's so strange seeing the city by bus - it passes by too quickly to get a feeling for the individuality of the neighborhoods. it's strange, also, that i traveled by virtually every mode of transport except bicycle today. i think seeing the city by boat is my favorite, or at least seems the most logical to me, as the whole city is based on a network of canals.

in other news, i shaved my head. actually, seekay and allie buzzed it for me. it feels gooood. it's cold outside but i have some really good hats and a lot of scarves. i like not really having hair and being able to see my natural color again. a new start. the first time i washed my hair after buzzing it i accidentally used at least four times as much shampoo as i needed to. oops.

allie hacking away at my dreads

this is just hilarious

seekay cleaning my head up in a slow but sure process

i only had my disposable camera with me for all the touristy stuff we did today, so i don't have any beautiful copenhagen pictures to share right now. but soon i will have some on film, which is even better.

21 October 2009

shrouded in a rare fog

what i loved about the City was the novelty. that there was always a weekend full of great adventures - hills to climb and double yellows to straddle, buses to chase and bottles to empty - and at the end of it all, before the novelty wore off, i got to go home, take a shower, go to sleep, and wake up refreshed. the novelty of this city has long since worn off - stained, like everything else of mine, with bicycle grease - and i haven't chased it. i don't ask where it's gone. there is a lot to see, but nothing strange about any of it.

this is why i will never live in san francisco.

i haven't changed my earrings in like six months and there is a stream of green gunk coming out of my nose. better out than in, right? my sinuses are clogged all the way to the insides of my ears and when i woke up at 7:45 this morning for no reason at all it was still dark, dark, dark outside.

17 October 2009


my favorite things about traveling are the small things, and going home. in california, i had tried the combination of red wine and coca-cola in equal parts thanks to a friend of mine, but until going to the basque country, i didn't know it had a name. in fact, it has many names. but the basques call it kalimotxo (calimocho). red wine and coke sounds like a pretty bad combination (and a pretty good recipe for a hangover) but, seriously, have you ever tried vodka and redbull?

this was next door to the hostel i stayed at in san sebastian. it was raining all morning, but then the sun came out, and these guys came drifting down the block with their song to amuse the people at the café next door to my hostel. the accordian was especially great.

in france, the train conductors (is that what these guys are, or would a more appropriate word be "attendants"?) still wear adorable hats. and blow whistles!

rain, rain, rain. fall.

i met these two lovely ladies in san sebastian and they forced me to come have a cup of hot cocoa with them. not going to lie, it was probably the highlight of my week. i got to speak spanish and connect with a lovely eleven-year-old girl and this wonderful woman completely unexpectedly.

on my way home (in bilbao) i went to the guggenheim museum. it was pretty cool.

octopus waiting to be eaten.

i left spain with a cold, a stomachache, a seashell i found on the beach in san sebastian, two local bottles of wine, a basque flag, and eleven bottle caps. it was a good trip (is there ever a bad one?), but i was ready to come home. when my plane landed at kastrup, the captain announced that it was seven degrees outside (about 44 fahrenheit). the transition into winter is not one that i am ready to make. i wasn't even ready for fall! i am happy to be back in "my" city, though.

i just finished "a farewell to arms." i have a really hard time getting into war stories (not that war was the primary focus of this book, but still) but the ending was heartwrenching. hemingway is too good. now i'm reading "extremely loud and incredibly close" by jonathan safran foer, which i might like even better than "everything is illuminated." he has such good control over language and the way the story is constructed is really interesting: he has at least two different narrators, but they both speak in first person.

15 October 2009

el país vasco, the basque country

i was greeted in san sebastian, a fishermans' village turned resort town, by raindrops that put copenhagen to shame. they came out of nowhere as i was walking from the bus station to my hostel, soaking me completely and unraveling my plans of spending the afternoon at the beach.

san sebastian is, for those of you that know california, like a hybrid of santa cruz and santa barbara. imagine santa cruz with all the wealth of santa barbara, a few palm trees, and a lot of people walking their dogs without leashes. imagine the boardwalk beach with a break as rideable as pleasure point.

it was pretty small while i was there. i wish i had gone out this evening, because most of the rest of the time there was an onshore wind.

i was in bilbao for 12 hours before going to san sebastian but didn't see much of the city - i arrived at 11 at night and left at 11 the following morning. the bus ride to san sebastian was beautiful. i had no idea spain could be so green; the basque country, however, gets the most rain of all of spain, and is covered in trees. if not for the beaches and all the tile roofs, i would have thought i was in sweden.

i had a window seat on the bus

and after i dropped my stuff off at my hostel, i went to the beach.

then i walked around town for a while.

most of the dogs i saw weren't on leashes, and there was a whole pack of stray cats at zurriola.

landing in madrid on the way to bilbao was exciting. the city is framed by mountains and the ground is a vibrant red, very rich. my week in the bay of biscay (or bizkaia, in basque) definitely made me want to see the rest of spain - i heard so many amazing things about barcelona and madrid from other travelers i met along the way. i also went to france (just to hendaye and biarritz) on sunday, just for the day. it was raining and just about everything was closed but i got an amazing chocolate-filled pastry at a little bakery where all the locals were coming in for their daily loaves of bread. it was really frustrating not being able to speak french.

waiting for my train in hendaye

back in san sebastián

pintxos and sangria at my favorite bar, where i befriended the waiter because i was the only one in our group (of mostly aussies) who could speak spanish

i was able to get by with my spanish in spain, although most of the people i met were native english speakers, as well as a few fantastic danes and an austrian. but i hardly spoke spanish the entire time i was down there, which was disappointing. i did, however, get to use my spanish at the tapas bars and with a woman i met on the street with whom i got hot chocolate and discussed life. people are just so nice.

the old part of the city

fruits and veggies and garlic, oh my!

i really felt a cultural difference coming from denmark to spain. i didn't feel like i was experiencing spain from an american perspective - maybe just the perspective of a displaced american who is used to life in denmark, although i'm not sure. anyway, people were so helpful and friendly there. here, no one would ever notice you looking at a map and ask if you needed help, or overhear your question on a bus about how to get somewhere and then take you with them because they were going to the same place. also, in spain people actually show their emotions on their faces. the people-watching was incredible because you could follow an entire conversation without even needing to hear it.

i think my favorite thing about san sebastian was the food. i had tapas the first three nights i was there. in the basque country they're called pintxos, and, well, i don't know about tapas anywhere else (it was the first time i'd tried them), but they're probably one of the best food inventions alongside burritos and sushi. i love the concept of going to a place, choosing food from what's laid out in front of you, having a few bites and a drink, and then moving on to the next place. i only encountered one tapa i didn't really like; i think it was filled with cod roe. but i tried octopus, cod tempura, cheese stuffed with like a shrimp salad, and who knows what else and loved it all. i also discovered that i really like sangria.

the one tapa i didn't really like was the one on the far right. i think it was a sac of some sort filled with cod roe and topped with onions.

so all that was amazing. the food was amazing, the drink was amazing, the hostels were fun. however, the weather was a different story. i went down to spain to surf and get some sun before settling in for the long haul that is the scandinavian winter. however, it was only really sunny two out of the five days i was in san sebastian. it rained off and on, and was pretty windy. although it wasn't cold, the surf wasn't any good, and i only went one day. i did, however, surf twice in that one day, and had a lot of fun.

in san sebastian there is a statue of jesus on top of a castle on top of a hill, which i climbed twice. on top of the hill you have a great view of the city, and the place is really peaceful.

about to head up

from the top

view from the other side of the castle

up close and personal

basque, obviously, is everywhere. it's a completely different language from spanish, and the basque culture is different as well. i don't know that much about it, but while i was in san sebastian there were a couple of (peaceful) demonstrations for basque separation. the place is definitely full of life.

05 October 2009


it's so cold. i'm not ready for this! i don't even own a pair of gloves ... yet. i went outside tonight in boots, jeans, a scarf, sweater, and jacket and promptly turned around and went back inside. i have a craving to see the stars.

another long and stimulating monday done. i got up early this morning to go to the store, since i ran out of some essential food over the weekend and didn't have any yogurt or passable breakfast food, not even bread. i awkwardly got there just before it opened and was surprised to see that i wasn't the only one waiting at 9.00 for fakta to open its doors. a woman walked by - everyone is wearing boots, gloves, and wool coats now - and smirked, "is there a sale?" no, just a bunch of hungry neighbors. grocery stores are closed on sundays.

it's nice to live somewhere where the leaves change colors.

i had a nice weekend. danced to the spice girls and went to a party with my new friend hannah, went on a søren kierkegaard-oriented walking tour of the city in awful (rain, wind, cold) weather with a hangover, got coffee and talked philosophy - and about how australians say "heaps" heaps - with my friend kristen, watched weird danish t.v, watched the wind blowing the rain horizontally out my window. normal, comfortable.

rainbow! this is not during the crazy blowing rain.

on wednesday i'm going to spain. that will be different. i have no idea what to expect except a different kind of confusion.

i've been thinking a lot lately about how i feel like everything in my life, that is to say, the total of things which i am experiencing or have experienced, is disconnected and, thus, disorienting. but i'm not the only one who feels like this; our whole society is disparate and disengaged - from what, i don't know. but søren kierkegaard was writing about this in the 1800s, and that reassures me. even in 1847 he wrote about a society in which the majority of individuals were disengaged from their true selves. and we think we have come so far!

02 October 2009

they should call this place the windy city

copenhagen is going ballistic right now. the city is hosting the olympic congress, where they (who "they" are, i don't know) will decide - today - where the 2016 olympics will be held. oprah and the obamas are in town to support chicago's bid, and basically all that's been on the news for the past couple of days has been the obamas this, the obamas that - with a few pauses for oprah, and, of course, the other international celebrities who are in town supporting their cities' bids: pele, the king of spain, some important people from brasil and japan. most of the celebrities went to the opera house last night; the queen was there with her family, too. anyway, the media is ridiculously focused on the obamas, more so than the eventually upcoming olympics. i guess it's a good thing that the world loves our president, but i'm a little bit embarrassed to be american. i'm from california, i really don't know anything about illinois, and i don't care where the 2016 olympics are. if anything, it would be a cool reason to go to rio.

back to copenhagen. i guess oprah was downtown on strøget (copenhagen's main walking/shopping street) on wednesday, and i think most of copenhagen - well, at least all the americans i know - are wondering exactly how and where the obamas can be found. my friend nina was actually not allowed into her school yesterday; the police had blocked the area off because it was close to the opera house, where all the celebrities and royalty were to be later in the evening. copenhagen is usually a very chill city, so this is quite the change of pace.

copenhagen has suddenly gotten cold. i went out to go for a run yesterday morning. i think it was between 45 and 50 degrees fahrenheit, and i was just in leggings and a t-shirt. the wind was really nice once i got warmed up, but my hands were freezing for the first ten minutes i was outside. the weather shift is affecting me (and some of my friends) physically; i've been really tired and sluggish for the past few days and i can't really think of any good reasons to go outside except for trips to the grocery store for cookie ingredients, because all i want to do is stay inside, get cozy, and bake. in fact, yesterday afternoon, my friend allie came over, and that's exactly what we did. we made delicious chocolate chunk (as chocolate chips are nowhere to be found) cookies, and didn't even get sick from all the dough we ate, despite my flatmate yelling at us, "don't eat the dough! it has raw eggs!" to which we were like, no big deal. as it it turns out, danish eggs aren't pasturized. but we're fine. no salmonella, no swine flu.

and one last thing: i cut most of my hair off! it feels really good to be able to touch my scalp again.