mishaps

Returning Home

After almost two weeks back, I think I’m ready to write about what it feels like to be home.

Firstly, my time in Iceland was a fantastic decision. Leaving Copenhagen, the city that had begun to feel like home was definitely sad for me, and I have a feeling that if I had gone straight home to Tennessee, I would have cried the entire eight hour flight. After six days in Iceland, I made the rest of the journey across the Atlantic to good ‘ol US of A. I was lucky enough to get seated next to a former DIS student who had moved to Denmark and was returning to the US for his college reunion. It was especially nice to have someone to chat with in Danish in the line for customs and get the new experience of having et hemmeligt sprog  (“a secret language”) that no one knows.

I returned to my hometown for only a day, unpacked all my winter clothes, and repacked summer clothes before heading for Nashville to move into an apartment for the summer. Unfortunately, I have not managed to secure a fancy-schmancy internship for the summer, so instead I got a job working for Vanderbilt in Alumni Relations. Basically that means I call alumni all day and try to convince them to donate money back to the university to fund scholarships. It’s definitely a big change from my life in Denmark, but I AM happy to be back, and ready for my last year at Vanderbilt.

It’s strange to start falling back into my old life here in Nashville; whether it’s the heat, the cowboy boots, or the country music, it’s a completely different world than Copenhagen. I miss biking the most; in fact one of my roommates insisted that he was going to create a “curse jar” that I had to put money into every time I mention bikes or bike lanes.  I still find myself saying “hvad?” or “hva’?” instead of “what” and “nej”  instead of no, and I’ve continued to watch Danish T.V. online because I can’t bear the thought of forgetting all I’ve learned in my 9 months abroad.

Above all, it’s good to be back, but I’m definitely not done with Copenhagen yet.

Til alle den Københavners hvem læser den her blog, jeg håber vi ses snart i den mest hyggelig by i verden. Mig, jeg savner Danmark, og jer, og jeg vil gerne sige mange tak til alle mennesker hvem var så venlig og hjælpsom da jeg prøvet at lære dansk. Uden jere, jeg kunne ikke havde haft den samme oplevelse. 

 

Den Sidste Kærlig Hilsner,

Molly.

Dangers of Biking

I generally like to think that I’ve made pretty good choices in my quest to integrate myself into Danish culture. But here I want to address a huge mistake I made that could have had serious consequences: Not wearing a bike helmet.

Everyone knows you should wear a helmet when you bike, just like everyone knows you should study 10 minutes every day instead of cramming for 4 hours before a test. DIS in particular has signs all over reminding people that cycling crashes happen, and can sometimes even lead to death. The Biking in CPH page on the DIS website has a guide for helmet measurements a lot of other useful information about the laws and dangers of biking in Copenhagen.

But of course I didn’t listen. I bike one of the busiest roads to and from school every day, with no helmet. And two days ago, I crashed. I was coming down the bridge pretty fast when I hit a bump or a curb, throwing me over the handlebars and smashing, face first, directly onto the asphalt.  Luckily, I was wearing jeans and a leather jacket, so I didn’t end up with any scrapes on my body, only soreness from impact, I DID get some pretty gnarly scrapes on my face, but ended up relatively unhurt.

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Terrifying looking scrapes and scars

My bike was unrideable for the time, so I locked it, left it, and walked to class with my face covered in blood, receiving some stares along the way.  I had a ton of work to do, so I hadn’t really stopped to consider whether or not the accident was severe or not, but I DID ask another student to make sure I didn’t have a concussion. It wasn’t until later that evening, after I had finished a paper that was due that I realized how fortunate I had been to walk away with no broken bones, no stitches, and no head injuries.

Basically, this is my personal recommendation that if you’re going to bike a lot, especially in the city, wear a helmet. We all think that the accidents won’t happen to us, and they don’t, until they do.

1. Maj

Candid in fælledparken

Candid in fælledparken

May Day/ the first of May is International Workers Day. While it might be commemorated or acknowledged in small ways in many countries, in Denmark, it’s a pretty big deal.

In Copenhagen, starting around 10 am, thousands of people begin crowding into fælledparken in Østerbro just to hang out with friends,  drink beer, and relax. It’s not really like a party, but when you’re surrounded by thousands of cheerful people in a sunny park, you can’t help but feel happy and relaxed.

Artsy Carlsberg photo

Artsy Carlsberg photo

The Danes get pretty dark, gray winters, so when the sun comes out, everyone takes advantage of it. When the weather is nice, the city of Copenhagen can feel a lot like a college campus; every available park, beach, city square, harbor wall, public terrace and green space is filled with people just enjoying each other’s company.

Beautiful people

Beautiful People 

Maybe the high cost of pretty much everything encourages people to look more towards each other for entertainment than some sort of screen or product. But whatever it is, I know that I like it.

cutie #1 right here

cutie #1 right here

The best part of traditions like this is that they’re ideal for spending time with the friends that I’ve made since moving to Denmark, especially as it’s all coming to an end. It’s bittersweet to have to acknowledge that I only have two weeks left in this lovely country.

Staycation in Copenhagen.

Today is truly the last day of my final travel break; it’s crazy to think that in the last eight months, I’ve had six weeks worth of breaks meant especially for traveling, and during them I’ve been to Cork (Ireland), Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, and Prague.

I realized that I’ve gotten pretty spoiled with my traveling, because peoples photos of Greek isles and warm beaches just made me insanely jealous. As a Southerner who legitimately likes the heat, even the stifling, humid, 90ºF heat of a Tennessee summer, the weather has been starting to get to me a little.

Luckily, the weather this week has actually been great, and I’ve been able to take advantage of it with lots of outdoor activities. But the best part of staying in Copenhagen for the last break was undoubtedly getting to spend lots of extra time with my host family and hang out with friends from højskole.

Too many selfies with my host sister

Too many selfies with my host sister

So without fourth ado, a list of all the possible fun things you can do in Copenhagen when you decide not to travel on one of your breaks.

 

Bake Cookies with your host family/visiting family

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Climb the iconic spire of Our Saviors Church in Christianshavn to get a nice view of the city

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Hang out in Amager fælled and enjoy the sunshine

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bring your bike on an s-train and explore a suburb

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Spring has most definitely sprung

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walking through the woods in Humlebæk

Go to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

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Legos in Louisiana's Børnehuset

Legos in Louisiana’s Børnehuset

Visit the old Carlsberg factory/museum

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Join a family/ community activity

My host mom & I washing boats at Lea's Fritidshjemmet

My host mom & I washing boats at Lea’s Fritidshjemmet

 

Despite the fact that I purposely planned nothing for this week, it was busy, full, and flew by all too fast.  It’s about that time where I need to start finishing up all my final papers and projects, with only a little less than a month left in Copenhagen until I head back to the Nashville heat for the summer.

A week at home

It’s already the Friday of my travel break and I couldn’t be more glad that I chose to spend it in Copenhagen. Not only has the weather been lovely, but a week of relaxing was exactly what I needed.
Predictably, I haven’t actually gotten ahead on any of the homework or final assignments I told myself I’d do, but I have definitely enjoyed watching too much tv, meeting with friends over beer, and biking aimlessly around Copenhagen for hours.

Yesterday I biked 8 miles down to Dragør in the southern, less developed part of Amager.

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The town was quaint and adorable, but probably would have been infinitely more enjoyable on a nice, sunny day.

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Even though there wasn’t much there, in the end I felt pretty satisfied because biking 16 miles in windy Copenhagen counts as exercise, but is not nearly as dread inducing as going to the gym or taking a run.

and some days you fall off your bike.

In a city where bikes are the main form of transportation, accidents are pretty much inevitable, but don’t worry no one was (badly) hurt!

first, in case you need a quick refresher on how ingrained bike culture is, here’s a couple of photos from google image searches of biking in Copenhagen.

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none of the above images are even slightly unusual; bikes are for utility and everyday life here, so baskets overflowing with groceries, trailers towing loads or cargo bikes weighed down with people and things are all part of the everyday image of life in this city.

My host family doesn’t even own a car, so when they need to get a large amount of groceries, the Christiania bike is the way to go.

A couple days ago, I decided that if I’m to be truly culturally integrated, I’ve got to be able to ride one of those heavy monsters, so I took the Christiania bike out on the paths of Amager Strandpark

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Although it was heavy, and definitely different than riding a “regular” bike, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I expected. Maneuvering required a bit of getting used to, but these bikes are sturdy, heavy, and safe so it definitely wasn’t a scary experience. I jokingly referred to it as the Copenhagen equivalent of driving an SUV or a truck.

As I said before, with so many bikes on the road, crashes and falling off are just inevitable occurrences that spring up in day-to-day life. Predictably, they tend to happen when you’re using a bike in a way that’s not quite what it’s intended for… like putting a second human on the front rack.

This is my lovely friend Elsa, another full year exchange student, and the bike her host family has lent her has a front rack that looks deceptively like the perfect place to put another human who happens to not have her bike with her (me)

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it LOOKS like it’s made for another person to sit on.

Unfortunately, we decided that we should test out this front rack/chair on a downwards slope, and let’s just say we didn’t get very far before hitting the pavement. Luckily, the worst injury was a skinned knee and hole in my tights. We’re determined to make it happen before we go home in a month, just next time, maybe not on a hill.

Vi taler Dansk og Norsk sammen

Not everyone is enthusiastic about trying to learn a foreign language, but if you are, Danish poses a particular challenge because even if you find the written language easy, it can be difficult to find people patient enough to try to understand a heavy American accent. Basically a huge thank you to my friend Anni who patiently talks to me even though I make fun of how silly Norwegian sounds. Although Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are all relatively similar, I can barely tell the difference between written Norwegian and Danish, despite the fact that they sound quite different.

To do in Prague: Hemingway Bar

With three days in Prague under my belt, it’s safe to say that I love the city and would highly recommend a visit there to anyone interested. Although more extensive blog posts will wait until I get home, I haven’t shut up about the Hemingway since I went Sunday night.

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We arrived in Prague on Sunday, and after a group dinner with my core class (which is typical of DIS) I went to meet up with a friend of mine who is spending a semester abroad in Prague.

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We hadn’t seen each other in almost a year and decided to grab a drink to catch up. He suggested the Hemingway bar, warning me that it was “a little expensive” but had really interesting and tasty drinks. I can say with absolute certainty that I’d recommend it to anyone; it had a nice ambience and the mixology of the drinks was fantastic. I insisted on going back, and over the three nights I was there I had a “red carpet”- a fruitier take on a whiskey sour, a “dark &stormy”- which was pretty much a mojito with ginger instead of mint, and a lavender martini. It was the type of cocktail bar that I could NEVER afford in Copenhagen, but was quite reasonable in comparison.

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How do you say “lame” in Danish?

The thing about DIS is that since you get THREE WHOLE WEEKS of time off from classes to travel, the on class weeks tend to be pretty hectic with regards to classwork, often making it hard to find time to blog. The last two weeks have been no exception. I’m off to Prague for my long study tour early tomorrow morning, and of course I would decide that now is an ideal time to blog, even though I haven’t finished packing.

My last week has been a whirl of midterms and short papers, but luckily my friday was left essentially free for me to relax and prepare for my upcoming travel. Last night a friend of mine from the folkehøjskole was performing at a nightclub in København, so I invited two other American friends from DIS to go watch see the performance.

Of course, nearly everyone from the højskole was there, so after the performance we headed all went to a bodega to catch up. When I got there, one of the Danes asked where my two American friends had gone, and when I explained they were tired and had headed home he responded “lame!” I took that as an opportunity to try to learn a new word, asking “how do you call someone lame in Danish?” His response: “Fucking Svenska.” I burst out laughing because, for those unaware, the word “Svenska” actually means “Swedish” in Danish. When I asked if it was really appropriate to condemn an entire ethnic group, especially with our half Swedish friend sitting right next to him, he looked shocked that I had actually understood the word. To me, one of the most rewarding parts of learning Danish is that, as an American, people usually underestimate how much you understand, and are often shocked if you achieve even elementary proficiency.

Murphy’s Law: Every disaster is a Potential Adventure.

… or at least that’s what I keep trying to tell myself.

Unfortunately, I managed to book my flights back to Copenhagen right when a massive blizzard started trampling the East coast. My perfect plans to fly from Nashville to JFK, and JFK to Copenhagen started to fall apart in the wee hours of this morning

A hyggligt gathering, celebrating one of my best friend’s 21st birthday seemed like  perfect way to leave another semester at Vandy behind, but about midnight, I got an automated phone call informing me that my flight to JFK had been rescheduled to Wednesday. I panicked immediately, and started making calls, explaining that it was absolutely necessary to get to JFK by 8 pm. A very kind customer service lady managed to put me on an early morning flight to Ronald Reagan in DC, where I could take a shuttle to get a flight from Baltimore to JFK.

at 2 am I had worked out all the necessary details and booked a shuttle, handling things responsibly, like the adult I pretend that I am. I headed to the airport at 6 am, went through security without a hitch, and proceeded to fall asleep at my gate because I had been up late trying to fix canceled flights nonsense, so deeply asleep that I *ALMOST* missed my flight. My anxious personality had my fingernails chewed to nubs in minutes on my first flight.

When I landed in DC, I had a voicemail. My latest flight to JFK had been canceled, again I was scheduled to head out tomorrow. Despite my very concise explanation about why I needed to get to JFK TONIGHT, and my very obvious efforts to hold back tears, customer service basically told me there was no way in hell I was getting to JFK today.

Luckily, I happen to have family in DC, and after a call to them, they were on their way to pick me up, so I don’t have to sleep in an airport, which is always a terrible experience.

Not so luckily, I’ve learned that when you book flights through non-partnering airlines, they don’t have to honor delays or weather inconveniences that cause you to miss your flight, so I am currently in limbo as to whether or not I’ll be paying $500 extra dollars to get to Copenhagen. Also unluckily, I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to get through immigration, because my temporary re-entry permit (issued to deal with the fact that my new residency permit had not yet arrive) expires on the 22nd of January, and I now won’t be getting to Copenhagen until the 23rd.

But, I’ve said before that I wanted an adventurous life, so I guess I got what I wished for so far. Never a dull moment, but wish me luck if you’re reading!