The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
- Saint Augustine

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day One (All Twenty Eight Hours of It)

Does the same date apply here? I feel as though I have been thrown backwards into a time when cobblestones and bricks lead Vikings to their barbaric ships and yet simultaneously thrust forwards into the throngs of beautifully genetically enhanced citizens that remind me of the Utopia described in Time Machine. For this is the land of the fair-haired, tanned-skinned conquerors of the north! With white teeth and sparkling eyes, where both men are women are strong, but hold themselves with a seemingly impossible gracefulness. Needless to say, I feel a bit morlock-ish, but don’t we all.

I spotted my first one at the San Francisco International airport as I sat two hours early for my flight. My father, bless his soul, wanted me to have plenty of time, to relax before the trip. I, instead, utilized it creeping on every person in a ten-yard radius of my terminal, hoping I might catch a glimpse of one of these golden gods. When I finally spotted him, I laughed at myself for thinking it might prove difficult to find one. He oozed Danish. First of all, this was the best-groomed man I’ve ever seen in my life, Ken doll to the tee. Freshly waxed head, manicured beard; sweater tied “polo-style” over his button down shirt tucked into classic khaki’s with Sperry’s boating shoes.
He had a side bag. 
The woman following him was the female counter part, the spitting image of Kate Bosworth- only blonder. There was a moment on the street today I thought I was hallucinating from the 20 hour non-sleepathon that some like to call “assimilating to jet lag” (Still awake by the way… twenty seven hours strong baby…yet…so…weak) when I thought I saw thirty Kate Bosworth’s on identical bikes and various clothing (all stylish) charging towards me. And then I remembered I was in Copenhagen. This is where the beautiful people are hidden. Just as Santa makes presents in the North Pole so no one would never find them, God kept the beautiful people in Denmark. It’s just too cold for people to take the initiative to go get them… the presents I mean.

For this and many reasons, I dream of one day being mistaken for a Dane. A dashing dame like Dane would be nice. As I was getting lost on the streets on Copenhagen today (I’m not even going to pretend I knew where I was going) I’d see people looking at me and I would hope they saw me as a local. That’s why I haven’t spoken yet, I want to keep the illusion going.

When all I know is “Hej!” and “Tak” aka hey, and thanks, you can only use those so much before people begin to not only question your nationality, but also your sanity. Besides, I don’t want to make the mistake of initiating a conversation in Danish and then be expected to follow what they’re saying. I’ve learned that before with Spanish. I’ve pretty much exhausted my five phrases at Hernandez Market down the street from my house in Santa Cruz. One day I go in to buy… tortillas (Rigg ladies, that one was for you) and I open with “Oh-la, ko-mo ace tas?” (Yes, it sounded like that) What proceeded next was the beautiful bubble and incoherence of a foreign language. When I realized I was supposed to understand this as the cashier raised penciled eyebrow at me, I red-face nodded “Si” to the question, “Si” to the amount and “Gracias” to “paper or plastic.”

Once I get the language down though, I’ll be grooving.

Perhaps one of the most startling things for me about being in a foreign country was the idea that THERE ARE ACTUAL PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES. An obvious statement, I am aware. But I put it in caps to warn those whom, like me, didn’t conceptualize this until I saw it for myself.

On the plane this morning (last night? Yesterday?) a family sat across the isle from me, mother father and daughter. Tanned with snow-white hair. Duh.
Although they spoke Danish, you could still she the universal softening of a mother’s face when she saw that her baby had fallen asleep. The sleeping family next to me was no different than any in America, only blonde. 


 So… Picture time! I took far too many. What’s funny to me is I mostly snapped pictures of cool buildings without knowing what they were. It will be fun to go back at the end of my time here and realize I photographed a cafeteria. It's taking far to long to upload with this connection, but I'll try to start a flickr account and attach them all soon. So just a few teasers. 

This two are from Tivoli Gardens, which is an amusement park. Although if Alameda County fair was a local burger joint, this place would be Jean-Claude's steak house.

A yummy date and dried fruit stand at a strangely wonderful market I found myself at. 
 Shopping District
Some live music in the square

After fourteen hours in the plane, a four-mile meander, some freshly grilled lamb and a single serving sip of complimentary wine... I think it's time I turned it. Goodnight Copenhagen, I look forward to waking up to you tomorrow.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Odyssey Continues

"Oh you want to study abroad? We just need every identification form you've ever filled out, EVER, in triplicate. A photocopy of your passport and the real passport. Plus more money just for fun!" - Loosely quoted from Justin Time, another University of Copenhagen Exchange student.


Just received an e-mail form the Danish Immigration Service (not the kind of e-mail I like to get at 7:00 am before my coffee) saying that the money I had sent to process the application was about $19 short. It's sitting there in their sun-deprived, Danish palms, but they won't open my file until they get the money.

Apparently when money transfers overseas, a mysterious sea monster takes just enough to make it impossible for them to process an application but not enough to make you sweat. I envision Scylla, the six-headed sea tyrant from the Odyssey. I mean, Homer was right about Troy, perhaps this mythical money monster does exist. I'll just have to sacrifice six able-bodied sailors (or in my case 19 american dollars) for the fee of entry.

Anyways, after transferring the money this morning, I get home to a call that the bank forgot the router number and I needed to come back in and refill out the forms. Overall, sending the wire was much more expensive than the actual amount but hopefully the overseas money monster will stay away this time.

Heres one way to think about it, if this is the worst thing that happens in my travels I'll be a happy camper, or a hostel sleeper, or in my case a dormitory dweller.

Below photo: Odysseus facing Scylla. (It was before she had her coffee too)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Preparing to Leave

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page"- Saint Augustine
The quote that starts this page was used during our Education Abroad Orientation.
Before this day, studying abroad was an idea.

For me, it never seemed that this kind of adventure was obtainable. I was used to friends coming home from vacation, tanned from a tropical sun I never felt, sharing picture of places I never saw and retelling stories of culture I could not understand. I imitated their smiles wanting to share their excitement. But my eyes did not light up, flash with the freshness of new sights as theirs did, for I could never fully grasp their experience. I would have to make my own.

Upon starting the application process, I felt as if I was asking for something unobtainable. When people asked me where I planned to go, I answered "Denmark!" the way a starry-eyed third grader tells you they're going to Stanford. It was a dream. It was unrealistic for someone like me who had never even traveled to the east coast of my country.

But scanned document by registration form, bank transfers by conformations, page by page and little by little the path began to clear. And one day I got an email confirming my plane ticket. I was going.

That day at orientation, I saw others around me wanting to improve their college experience, to see what else the world has to offer, and learn about another culture. The gleam in their eyes was not of experience but of a contagious excitement for life. How could I not catch the bug?

I caught it bad. Excitement, anticipation and anxiety fester like a fever as the day to departure draws closer. I ask myself, how do I prepare?
Perhaps the wisest words are that I simply can't. There will be situations in which I won't know what to do, but discovering the solution is part of the adventure.

I've learned a thing or two from Indiana Jones, I should be fine.

This song has grounded me in the last couple days: Kong by Bonobo: