28 February 2010

shades of grey

time is going so quickly. it's practically march already. plans are falling into place. i will celebrate the equinox, a necessary complement to the solstice. already the snow is being washed away by sporadic rains - nothing to be concerned about yet, although i doubt denmark will ever know a drought, even only in theory - and the ice on the canals is cracking. it makes a pleasant sort of itchy, squeaky sound as you pass by it, as if it's trying to communicate with your bicycle's rusty chain. the two of them scheme: let's get out of here! the water molecules want to be freed from freezing, and i don't blame them. i, too, am tired of constantly being cold.

this weekend my dear friend marie came down from gothenburg to visit with a friend of hers, now a friend of mine, too. we had a good time traipsing around the city, soaking in the cafe atmospheres, digging through thrift stores (my favorite), and overall just enjoying life in the big town. gothenburg is really similar to copenhagen, but it's a lot smaller. we kept giggling about how easy it is to hop on a train and be in a different country.

in christiania we found a spaceman

at home we chilled out

and in the city we got rained on but our spirits were high.

when i first got to copenhagen, i, like all tourists, was charmed by the quaint buildings, the preserved past that is so present, especially seen from the top of round tower. yellow walls and red rooftops and all that. but as slowly as my hair grows out i became immune to all this classic european charm which, after a while, becomes so easy to dump into the "been there, seen that" box.

now my favorite things about copenhagen are the things most people don't see: the dump as viewed through the broken window of an abandoned boat on the south harbor, and, on the dock not fifty meters away, the woman who sits alone in a black jacket in front of a white apartment building, staring absently at that selfsame heap of trash. the wall on the opposite side of the harbor is emblazoned with "YOUR MONEY IS WORTH SHIT" in giant yellow block letters. i can't decide if this is a play on words or a careless display of ignorance - another level of not giving a fuck.

i'll miss the harbor. i know that already.

24 February 2010

godt tilpas

i love my mornings here. either i have class at eight and i'm out of bed at seven, pulling open the curtains to see if the sun is showing any signs of making an appearance - yes, the days are getting noticeably longer now - then pulling on my tights, which i've been wearing under jeans and leggings alike all winter, before downing some fruit and filling a jar with tea for lecture, or i wake up slow, savoring the flavor of winter. the thing i like best about right now, february in the north, is the feeling of wool against cotton where my legs meet my feet, muting my footsteps as i pad across the ever-cold concrete floor. sometimes i lie in bed with a book for a while before rising. if it's sunny, the yellow hue will penetrate my grey curtain, otherwise, the grey of daylight will simply be intensified.

some of the people who live in my building have never seen the canal beneath my window because it's been covered by snow the entire time they've been here. and it is a bit unreal that the winter wonderland has lasted this long - all the danes say so. we're steadily nearing march and i've been dreaming of an escape to morocco to get back in touch with the sun, but it's looking like that's not going to happen, thanks to some internet travel agent troubles. (an aside: don't ever buy tickets through edreams: they're not only entirely unreliable, but also entirely sketchy, scammy, and just overall bad news.) so i am loving the fickle north for all it has to offer instead.

went to see the little mermaid one last time before they sent her off to the world expo in shanghai.

this time, the ocean is frozen.

little bits of street art.

this is my university, which i've been meaning to take pictures of for months. it's very modern and might as well be from a different planet than UC santa cruz.

snow, snow, snow, bikes. what else is new?

today i went to this museum, called thorvaldsen's museum, mostly because it's free on wednesdays and i needed to do some exploring. i didn't know what kind of a museum it was, exactly, and was awed when i was confronted with giant marble men with weapons on horses upon walking into the first hall. and that was only the beginning. the atmosphere was like that of a church crossed with an art gallery, all quiet, heels clicking, and attention to detail. this is when i am reminded how cool it is to live in a capital city for once.

this guy was cool, although maybe not so impressive as the statues that were four times life size.

and since i'm spending so much time indoors instead of going on great outdoorsy adventures, i've been painting some silly things.

magpies won't stay still for you long enough to take a picture of them, so i had to make a painting instead.

there's something about the deep sea.

of course denmark's national bird is a swan. this is, after all, the land of the ugly duckling.

22 February 2010


as of today, i've been in denmark for eight months. count them, june to february. that's three-quarters of a year. in all this time, i've seen a lot, done a lot, met a lot of great people, learned a lot, re-learned a lot, and been grateful for a lot. but it's all made better by the fact that today i finally found refried beans - pinto and black! bliss!

it's funny how far we'll go to find that what's right in front of us might just be all we need.

16 February 2010

ten things i love about denmark in no particular order

1. organic food is usually really comparable in price to non-organic stuff, so it's actually pretty feasible to buy organic a lot of the time. denmark's a really "green" (in the sense that it's trendy and has saturated mainstream culture) country and you can get a lot of organic stuff even in the cheapest grocery stores.

2. there's no rush. people don't really seem to hurry here - they just do everything really efficiently. (with that said, i am getting faster at bagging my groceries.)

3. people care. sometimes it drives me crazy when people ask me really inane questions (does it really matter why i'm in my pajamas in the kitchen at 2 p.m. on a weekday?) but i can appreciate their taking an interest. i feel like people mean what they say (and say what they mean) a lot more here than in the united states. sometimes this comes across as being nosy or cold, but i attribute it to the lack of the false politeness that most of us americans are raised with.

4. biking everywhere.

5. and when you can't (or don't want to) bike, mass transit will take you wherever you want to go. trains and buses and subway, oh my! and it's all so easy.

6. this place is so quaint and charming and just overwhelmingly cute. i don't usually think about it anymore, but when i was at the queen's palace (amalienborg) this afternoon with a couple of friends, one of them pointed out the cut-out hearts in the guards' - well, i don't know what they are, but they look like mini outdoor closets - constructions where they walk around outside of the palace, exclaiming how cute it was. which it is, if you look.

7. attention to detail. for example, i have cabinets on my ceiling, in the space between my roof and closet.

8. danish is a really cute language. it's unique, that's for sure.

9. the snow falling outside my window.

10. the extreme weather and seasonal changes, which always provide entertainment and material for conversation.

14 February 2010

adaptation/obsessed with the weather

adaptation, n. the action or process of adapting or being adapted; a change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment; the process of making such changes.

i go through phases of output, of producing, when i can't stop making things, even if they are very small. i also go through the opposite, when i am transformed into a sponge that, though enabled with a brain to do what it pleases with, just absorbs everything in the vicinity. right now i am taking in, absorbing, close to saturated, gasping for breaths of colder-than-freezing nordic air. i am reading about the concepts of nordicness and scandinavianness. that they, like language, are socio-political constructions based in nothing but an outdated romantic idea. hah! and this is what we call fact.

so i'm having a pretty hard time writing anything more than a scattered fragment or two. it's like since i've gotten back into the system of taking notes for class again, i can't spell anything out in any form but bullet-points.

as for adaptation: that's what we're all doing here (this is me identifying myself as belonging to a group known as international students). and we're all excellent at it for the same reasons that we are (thankfully) excellent at breathing and using our dexterous fingers and even our small, conditioned minds. if someone had told me three years ago that i would be living by myself in an apartment in a city, not eating gluten or dairy, and running in the snow (okay, not while it's snowing, but there's snow on the ground), i would have laughed in their face. i would have reminded them that i can't live without burritos or jumping in the ocean anytime i feel like it, without feeling sun on my stomach in march and a ground-floor window. but here i am. remarkable.

and enjoying it! so enjoying it. we've come around the bend. spring is coming; we're more than halfway there. fastelavn - kind of the danish version of halloween/carnival - was today, and it marks the midpoint between winter and spring. also, the sun doesn't set until 5:12 now. whew.

this is what it looked like at the end of our last totally clear (brilliant) day.

i like this picture. lisi, loppen, christiania, during fanfarlo concert.

and it's been fashion week here in cph.

i don't really know what that means except for a lot of people buying things, runway shows somewhere, and girls in leather pants and heels way too high for cobblestones striding down the middle of non-pedestrian streets.

oh, and model mannequins! it was great, they were moving around and laughing and generally looked like they were having fun.

and a dog named baguette (although maybe that was totally normal).

there's still like a foot of snow on the ground.

06 February 2010

middle of the road

this has apparently been the snowiest winter denmark has had in at least twenty-three years, if i have my facts right. typical enough, right - at least i didn't come here all the way from california for nothing but rain.

with snow comes freezing and icicles. check out the ice on this bike!

the bike lanes here - unlike in berlin (really, i'm glad i don't live there) - are plowed so biking in the snow really isn't so bad. except when giant snowballs and hunks of ice lie on the path. and when the slush starts getting everywhere.

and if you're a tiny kid, what better way to get around than to have pappa drag you on a sled?

there aren't that many hills here, but there are sleds and parks aplenty.

i'm feeling really stuck in between denmark and california, between danishness and americanness, right now. when i'm with my danish friends, i feel like they are so much more rational, methodical, and less spontaneous than i am. they plan how long it takes to bike to a show and exactly when to get there, and compared to them, i fly by the seat of my pants. yet compared to my american friends, i am over-exacting, a little too conscientious, and probably even boring. i'm always the one who tries to rally the group, which is strange, because i am really not a group person.

so right here, right now - on my cozy, velvet, newly-acquired couch - is where the rationality of scandinavia and all the unpredictability of the americas collides. i'm pretty confused pretty much all of the time. by now i speak enough danish, except on days when i can't talk or just don't want to. but of course i still can't express myself and make myself understood as well as i can to speakers of my native tongue. on the other hand, most of my english-speaking friends don't understand danish and don't get "that" side of things. i don't know which side of the looking glass i belong on.

yet i'm not homesick. i don't feel like leaving. i'm enjoying the fact that i've gotten used to freezing weather and am looking forward to the promise of spring. i take pleasure in the knowledge that each passing day is a little longer than the last. i even saw some blue sky yesterday. but that doesn't change the fact that this is not my home. hence all the nesting.

02 February 2010

i don't wanna wake you up but i really wanna tell you somethin'

i came back from berlin with

one much-needed burrito experience

it wasn't from a taqueria but for not having a burrito in over seven months, i was satisfied enough. overjoyed is actually more like it.

two new (used) wool clothing items
three turkish food experiences
four bottles of alcohol
five days of unwashed clothing and unshowered self
six clementines
several new friends
fourteen hours spent on buses
maaaybe fifteen hours spent sleeping
one hundred and seventy-four photos

after getting into the city, we went straight to a bar to meet up with our friend who we stayed with.

happy travel buddies.

so much cool street art

all over the place.

it snowed but it actually wasn't really that cold.

we spent one day at a spa on the spree in the saunas and swimming pool. nudity was mandatory. we're not in kansas anymore.

playing tourist with karl marx

and at the east side gallery, what remains of the wall. it was crazy to see that this symbol had actually been manifested and even better to see how it has been reworked.

dinner with elisha, who we stayed with our last night in the city.

the berliner dome & full moon.

so much awesome street art.

the title of this post is from a sign i saw on a building in friedrichshain. i don't know what it means or what it referenced but it was a good one.

i liked berlin a lot. it was big. you could take the u-bahn forever if you wanted to.

lisi and raphael, who we were staying with, emerging from underground.

i liked that the u-bahn was yellow. i liked seeing the exposed and maybe-crumbling brick in the city. the street art and the surprises around every corner. the playgrounds and cozy cafes and bookshops, especially another country, where on friday nights expats gather, hang out, drink red wine and share ideas.

i'd like to go back sometime. but i also like living here. our metros run all night even if they don't know how to deal with all the snow we've been swamped with in the last few days. this has been a record-breakingly cold and snowy january. a good year to be in denmark, for sure.