31 May 2010

sunshine island

i spent the weekend on the island of bornholm, a danish island in the baltic off the south coast of sweden. the little island is nicknamed sunshine island because it gets the most sun in all of denmark, and is a popular tourist destination, especially for germans, apparently. the place is incredibly quaint and cute, like what comes to mind when you think of danish stereotypes: windmills, long slow roads, fields of flowers and wheat and butterflies and bees, and, of course, an omnipresent coast. the island is known for its smoked herring, which didn't disappoint. unfortunately it was a bit on the cold side for swimming, so my friend dice and i satisfied ourselves with hours and hours of biking instead.

unlike the rest of denmark, bornholm actually has hills. after months of biking in flat, flat copenhagen, this was an exhilarating change. as my bike only has two gears, it was kind of a bitch to get up some of them - especially with a pack full of cameras and books on my back - but with a tailwind it was fun and with a headwind it was, well, rewarding to at least zoom down the other side. it had been a long, long time since i had flown that fast. and we flew for miles. i think we biked sixty kilometers on saturday, a first for me.

we took a train from copenhagen to ystad in sweden, where we caught the ferry to rønne in bornholm. dice is a little tired but stoked for the adventure.

on our bikes, we had to wait in line with the cars to board the boat. vroom vroom!

can't you just smell how sweet? by 10 a.m. we were already outside of the main town on bornholm and poking our noses around.

so bornholm has these round churches that are special for the island. i thought this was one but it seemed more like a military building than a church. in any case, it was a round tower.

this is what the inside looked like at the top. i love open rafters...

bike paths plus tailwind plus sunshine plus sweet-smelling fields in bloom equals bliss. dice is taking it all in at full speed.

it was really, really, really good to be in nature with no thoughts of a city anywhere nearby.

lots of forest and wildflowers!

the first town we stopped in was nexø. for such a little place it looked pretty industrial. here the wind was blowing too much for our liking, so we continued pretty quickly.

there were some really great clouds on saturday (see the heart?). and the sun was such a pleasant surprise!

the amount of cuteness concentrated on this island is just incredible.

we stopped for lunch on saturday at the smokehouse in svaneke. the smokehouse was fully functioning and you could watch them take the herring out of the ovens. they had mackerel and eel, too, but i chose a herring for lunch.

smoked herring, chives, radishes, raw egg yolk, rugbrød, and butter.

first you remove the head, then the tail. then take out the backbone...
this much i learned from the sign on the wall while waiting in line to order.

with the egg yolk and chives on the bread. so salty, soooo delicious.

 the atmosphere inside the smokehouse was so cozy and inviting. the walls were black but there were these huge windows and big wood tables, and the rooms were full of people talking and laughing over fiskefrikadeller (fish meatballs), beer, and aquavit.

then of course we had to stop for local ice cream...

sunset over gudhjem, where we crashed for the night in the forest.

yellow was definitely the color of the weekend, even when the sun wasn't shining (like sunday morning).

more of a little harbor.

and a little library.

i think if i were to move back to denmark i would want to live on bornholm. having grown up in a tourist town, i'm sure it would get annoying in the summers with all the vacationers, but the rest of the year i can imagine being so peaceful. i love the sense of community on an island. i like that people - well, i mostly noticed it with other bicyclists - greet each other on the streets there and the simplicity of the place. bus number 7 drives around the whole island. i think we could have biked around the entire island if we had planned for that, but three-quarters of it was definitely satisfactory! i didn't want to stray from the coast; it was so comforting to constantly have the ocean in sight and within earshot. 

26 May 2010

sneaky feelings

i turned my exams in today. it feels good to have my brain back. i hope i never have to write twenty-four pages about politics again.

so it's getting down to the wire and i'm having to do logistical stuff to sort out my last bit of time here, like sending all the stuff that won't fit in my suitcase back to california by boat. i've had this box sitting in my room kind of full of all this stuff that takes up space but isn't really heavy (wool clothes, winter boots, my ukulele, a blanket) for about a week. i was filling it up slowly, considering what i'll need in my last weeks here and what i can do without. rain pants? hopefully i won't need them.

but today i was in get-things-done mode and after printing a hundred and thirty-two pages and delivering them to my department's office, i just wanted to be off with the damn cardboard box, too. so i reconsidered everything inside the box one last time and threw my slippers - which have been indispensable since november - in as well, then taped it up solidly. i addressed it to my parents' house and then kind of just stared at it for a moment. it was a strange sensation to look at the contents of what was just my multi-dimensional life all packed up neatly like that, hidden from view.  looking at my "permanent" address - strangely all-caps - on the cardboard with my little name and soon-to-be-invalidated return address in the top left corner was abrubtly nauseating and i had to stop looking at the thing and just pick it up and carry it out the door before the queasiness overcame me. the wool blanket that i bought at dóra's mom's shop in iceland that kept me warm all winter and has adorned my velour couch for these last temperate weeks, my thermals that i never really did end up wearing because tights were just more sensible under jeans, and my chunky black boots that i've tromped all over europe in, through mud, forests, rain, cities, snow, slush, salt, ice, drunken nights, ambitious mornings, and everywhere in between are all in the hands of the danish postal service now.

it was a hassle to get the box to the post office. it wasn't that heavy - just 15 kilos - but it was awkward. i had assumed i'd be able to roll it down to the post office on my bike but it was far too big to balance on the back rack, so i hauled it all the way down, to the island's brygge posthus in my arms, exercising my paddling muscles for the first time in a long while. i have bruises from the thing banging against my thighs now, but the sun i got on my bare shoulders during the fifteen-turned-into-thirty-minute walk compensates for those.
so this is all totally symbolic. i am not nostalgic yet. but i can feel it creeping up, bilious, and tearing at my insides, urging me to keep my eyes open, like a fresh traveler or observant tourist does, for as long as i'm still in this amazing place.

i mean, i've only just discovered my favorite bookstore. it has extensive shelves of communist literature (all in danish, though) and books of poetry for only ten crowns. my suitcase is going to be a heavy one.

25 May 2010


i don't really bake, ever. i'm not good at it, and most of the time i just don't think about doing it. if i really want something sweet i usually just gnaw on chocolate. but tonight i wanted to finally use up some of my date syrup because i won't be able to take it with me on that plane to the states, so i mixed it up with melted chocolate (two bars), two eggs, a spoonful of baking powder and a can of garbanzo beans. out of the oven, the cake steams sweet and dark like a rich loam after a summer rain.

it tastes just right and made a perfect distraction from editing twenty-some-odd pages of essay. i want the semester to just end already so i can go back outside and play

in the falling flower petals that swirl on the wind, perfuming the sidewalks before landing in the gutters
and make wishes

'cause i'm a kid. copenhagen's real nice in the sunshine.

24 May 2010


there are some things about living in a major european capital city with which no other place can compare. like world-class music venues that happen to be a five-minute walk from your ultra-modern dorm room.

this weekend i was fortunate enough to see two fantastic concerts, one at loppen and the other at DR koncerthuset. best coast made me giddy and got me dancing and joanna newsom left me floating, high on harp melodies.

i went to best coast on saturday night with bjørn and baijie, and simon, esther and some others were also there. simon and esther work at loppen which, if i were staying here longer, i would totally want to do to. it's such a good vibe in there, with the rustic walls and ceilings, cheap drinks, and generally good company and music. loppen has turned out to be my default place to go see shows; they have so many good concerts. it's funny, actually, that being all the way over here in denmark, i've seen tons of californian music (the dodos, port o'brien, best coast, joanna newsom). it keeps me grounded, in a way (and it was awful cool to see van and ryan in christiania).

i dug best coast. i dug the no-bullshit attitude and the short quick a-little-bit-melancholy pop and their style and the fact that they have a girl drummer.

i dug dancing with girlfriends and even the opening band with all their twist-inciting energy. when they finished their set i decided it was the best show i'd seen yet this year.

then i saw joanna newsom last night with patch and his mom,

rune and liv,

and my friend marcello, and joanna newsom and her band just completely blew saturday's show out of the water. i've been wanting to see her for over three years and i'm so glad i've finally seen her hands on her harp live. it was so beautiful and awe-inspiring. how can someone's fingers even move that quickly and surely? she played piano, too, singing all the while. she played with five other splendid musicians who were playing guitar, recorder, banjo, violins, trombone, drums, and tambourine, as well as backup vocals. i got shivers many times. she played mostly new songs, but a few old ones, too. she's the only artist i've ever seen who sang more clearly during a performance than on an album. i could hear every word of "the book of right-on"; it was amazing. my favorite song she played, though, had to have been "good intentions paving company" from her new album: it was all building energy and rhythm with bottles and sticks and slow turns in song. i wish she had played "in california" and "clam crab cockle cowrie" but i was more than satisfied with the set. she finished with "peach, plum, pear"; with that, i felt at home in my head and heart.

she got two standing ovations because she's fucking amazing: she's beautiful, obviously an amazing musician and really sharp, has great style, and, from the looks of it, not pretentious in the least. another really cool thing about the show was that she took a break in the middle of it to tune her harp, during which the audience got to ask the band questions. it created some interesting dialogue about european footwear and the venue. the DR concert house is pretty amazing. it feels like being inside a beehive.

21 May 2010

so much

ki am all over the place. scatterbrained and loose-footed. what day is it? how old am i? you know how it feels?

so i am listening to one of my favorite talking heads albums, fear of music. the song animals (they say they don't need money, they're living on nuts and berries. they say animals don't worry, they're living on nuts and berries. you know animals are hairy? they say animals don't worry. they think they know what's best, they're making a fool of us. they ought to be more careful, they're setting a bad example. they say animals don't worry, they're living on nuts and berries...) reminds me of driving country roads in this kind of weather in california to spend hours digging in dirt, pulling up weeds and eating blueberries. it's almost hot here, and muggy. it was warm enough last night to spend hours outside drinking wine and eating cake in the kødbyen parking lot. it's just so nice to be able to hang out without having to be inside.

what else? not long ago becky's friend quinn who is from wisconsin - but they're friends from poland - happened to be in town from stockholm so we went wild at the tietgen party.

 quinn & co. groovin'

it's a small world. last night i learned how to make foccacia and gnocchi di patate.

fab knows bread.

pretty little gnocchi. homemade potato pasta.

i am burning to go to italy. i need the south after all this northern exposure. exam deadlines are looming and i have lost my mind to empircal data and other people's words.

 i've been getting cultured. saw oddsac at grand. it was good to get out of my own world of sensory overload and into someone else's.

i have this freedom here that i don't have in the same way in california. i know i'll miss it. 

rådhuspladsen. hustle and bustle. tourists, pigeons, and a hot dog wagon.

i've been here for such a long time that i have stopped really looking at things. i usually roll on by rådhuspladsen with just one ear tuned in to see what might be going on - if the "indians" are playing in the square, trading exploitation of culture & self for little golden coins, or if there's a demonstration or football rally - or a glance if i'm waiting for the light to change. i've been here for such a long time (eleven months today), and so indefinitely that the idea of what's coming up hasn't really fazed me at all - i've always been going to still be here. but now events are coming up that i won't be able to attend because i'm not going to be on the continent. it's kind of weird to see a flier for a concert and think in this weird, disconnected way, "july 2... i won't be in denmark anymore." that's alright. i've been here long enough and i couldn't stay here forever, anyway. but these last weeks are so nutty just because there is a looming deadline. the deadline for my sanity is may 31st, when my exams are due, and the one for my whole "trip" is only two weeks after that. which, thinking about it, sounds just right, except i am trying to squeeze in last trips that i haven't felt the compulsion to make in all the months i spent wallowing through the winter, as well as tie up my - loose and scattered - ends here.

16 May 2010

at snakke dansk

i really enjoy speaking danish. the gurgles and glottal stops fill a space in my mouth that english has never touched. i like the efficiency and directness of the language: the compound nouns, the point-blank names for concepts and descriptions, the way articles are attached to the ends of the nouns. i like expressions that we don't have equivalents of in english, even if i don't always get them and more often than not can't later remember them. visually the language appeals to me, too. i like the three "extra" vowels, the fact that there is no "x" ("ks" is used instead), and all the g's and k's. the discrepancy between orthography and pronounciation, for example the multitude of silent letters - only about half of the letters in "selvfølgelig" (which means "of course" or "obviously" but transliterates to "self following") are pronounced - is a challenge which makes both speaking and spelling difficult, but it keeps things interesting, at least, and adds to the feeling i have that danish is a secret language and it's just a matter of cracking the code. the difficult thing is that there doesn't really seem to be a code. i'm sure there are lots of linguistic rules than can be explained by morphological weakenings or whatever but most of the time it's a trip just to figure out the patterns of this language, let alone what the exceptions are. are g's always silent? no. when do you pronounce an "l"? good question. what about a word-final "n"? most of the time, just use your intuition. what about d's? don't even ask.

i really hated phonology, but i am starting to see how it is useful. i just wish i could remember some of the stuff i learned in that class.

with all these linguistic idiosyncracies aside, the single thing that makes danish "difficult" to learn (as anyone will tell you it is, even though i'd argue that it's really not that complicated of a language - you don't even have to conjugate verbs according to person, let alone gender!) is the social climate. i'll explain. the danish population doesn't expect foreigners to learn danish. they just don't. danish is "only" spoken by five and a half (maybe six) million people, including people in greenland and the faroe islands. denmark's a homogenous country populated mostly by ethnic danes, whose families have spoken danish since before my country was even an idea. immigration on the scale that it's on now is a recent phenomenon in danish history and, simply put, most danes don't expect people who didn't grow up speaking danish (whether "proper" copenhagen danish or provincial southern jutlandic is a different story) to even try to wrap their tongues around these combinations of sounds. and herein lies the challenge. as a foreigner, if you want to be understood by the danes, you have to convince them that they can understand you. your pronunciation has to be spot-on. danish relies heavily on intonation and inflection and if you pronounce a word with the stress in the wrong place, people won't understand you because they're not used to hearing it spoken that way. not because it is wrong, per se, but that is simply Not How It Is Done. there have been attempts by the danish government to revise the danish spelling system to make it, in fact, more systematic and thus easier to learn - even schoolchildren have a hard time learning to spell danish - but these attempts have been met with resistence. i think a deep-seated traditionalism in the "danish national character" (if that even exists) is responsible for keeping people not only hanging on to the quirks of "their" language but also for keeping immigrants out, danes in, and everything, more or less, in its right place.

15 May 2010

from my notebook

i am really enjoying life. one hour reading, three hours at a cafe with esther - i am really getting my priorities straightened out! cafe blå time was great. a candidate for favorite. there have always been too many to pick a favorite but i got a good feeling at this place. we were like pretending we were in paris except there was no french, just tea and sandwiches. they had long since run out of croissants. when it was our turn to order the power went out. all we could do was giggle with the waitress and watch as the barman disappeared down through a trapdoor to set things in order. then in the evening at zusammen i met this french guy, cedric. he was saying how much of a francophile - and more specifically, parisophile - city copenhagen is. i had never noticed it but had to agree! working behind the bar tonight, signe taught me how to make drinks. so now i can do something useful. at least i can make a mojito. and even a strawberry daquiri. we closed early because no one was in the bar except the metal band who had long since finished playing and had only their beers left to their names. anyway i think jacob was anxious to change his shirt and get to vega. riding bikes i think it was warmer at 1 a.m. than it had been for the last three days. there's a photo festival going on so vesterbro is screaming party. i danced until i thought my blisters might have popped and couldn't stand up anymore, then plopped myself on a wayward staircase in the heart of lille vega to bob my head to the electro, watching people being people on the dance floor. a lot of black, an abundance of hipster glasses, a moderate amount of hair gel and rune was there, too. at four a.m. the seagulls squawk.

so much cafe time. taking a break from reading at the royal library for lunch.

tea and talk with esther in a corner window.

fantastically cozy

on store kongensgade. i like these crannies in the city center.

making myself useful at cafe zusammen. with not so many customers, we had the freedom to practice making ginger cocktails, among other things.

three cafes in one day is not so bad at all!

09 May 2010

another one of those

 weekends - they just go so fast!

happy mother's day, by the way. mom, i'm thinking of you although you are probably thinking of better and more exciting things than mother's day. but you yourself are the best and most exciting!

it was looking like rain all weekend but the rain never really came. the steel-grey skies were enough, though, to make us (me, my flatmates, indigo) want to stay inside being cozy. and staying in being cozy is nice but we've just escaped from a long, long winter and i want to be swimming and sunbathing already. so yesterday indigo and i ventured out for a saturday-afternoon street party which was more of a mutated flea market than anything. it was nice and very copenhagen, very chill, upbeat, a little artsy, very nørrebro. there was good music and people hawking their wares - or rather just waiting patiently for all of us shy shoppers to ask a price - and cheap beer and lots of falafel and lots of used books.

blågårdsgade is a happenin' place 

i wish i could read arabic
this guy seemed a little put out that i only wanted a picture and no fish

what's inside the tent?
a circus-like atmosphere

i have grown to love sundays here. i used to never be able to enjoy sundays knowing that monday was looming, but this last semester, monday lost its meaning as i only had classes tuesdays, thursdays, and fridays. and with all my monday-associations gone, sunday has gained a degree of pleasure and leisure unlike ever before. they don't need to be extravagant, but sundays are for waking up slowly, lovely breakfasts, long walks, and, of course, getting stuff done - whether art projects or exams. today i did all of these things and i feel damn good. now i am winding down listening to a perfect mix from a dear friend who knows how to compile songs in the most sonically-pleasing way, ready for a monday full not of school but everything else.