Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This is the Sound of Settling


Death Cab jokes aside, with the start of classes in but a few hours here, the settling has finally begun. Last night I actually did some readings for today (shocking, I know!), they have assembled quite a collection of texts for us. Classes here are an hour and twenty minutes -- also roughly the time of my commute -- which I suppose is a pretty good time frame considering I only have them twice a week at most.

I'm excited to get into a schedule of sorts, this past (almost) week has been so breakneck that I fell asleep with my clothes on at 8pm last night. Despite the fact that it's now 4 am, I'm lucky I woke up at all considering I didn't even stay conscious long enough to set an alarm. The trickiest parts of my day will involve getting back to dinner here on time at 6, which affords me ample time to relax, study, slaughter people in ping pong or even go back out into town again. Thursdays I have to be up at 6 am to get to my 8:30 class on time, which is hideously unfortunate, but with a week like this one I had no issues getting to sleep on time. The rest of the week I get to sleep in at least a little bit, though breakfast here is so good I'm not sure I'll want to sleep past 8 am.

Breakfast brings me to one of the most outstanding things I've experienced here so far, what I'll call the "Dual-Dairy Dynamo." Europe is full of hilarious contraptions and wingdings, especially in the toiletry department, where their variable flush technology (Gundam Wing fans read: Vernier toilets) is light years ahead of ours back stateside. But this machine outshines even the most water-conservative toilets by far, encompassing pretty much everything we're lacking in the US -- finesse. This device is comprised of a large threaded bolt in the middle of a round wooden platform, connected to a metal base. Branching out from the top of the bolt is an aluminum frame that spans the wooden disc in essentially a lightning bolt pattern, creating two corners. On top of that, capping the bolt, is a handle that lies parallel to the ground with a wire strung taut under it. Place two blocks of cheese on the wooden disc in the two corners of the frame, rotate the handle and experience the most perfectly sliced cheese you will ever encounter in the vast and interminable complexities of the cosmos. As the handle rotates, it turns the bolt, pushing the wooden platform up further to engage the next slice of cheese from the block, ensuring absolute uniformity in slice parameters. Simple. Elegant. Impossibly delicious. It's pretty much been solely responsible for getting me out of bed every morning.

I had my first course of Survival Danish yesterday, thrust into an awkward world of brutal glot-swallowing and pronunciation rules that I still can't quite grasp. In almost every situation, the Danish letter "d" has a soft pronunciation, which sounds something like the cruel bastard child of a Chinese person pronouncing a French "r" and a quiet "th." Nobody has really been able to explain exactly how it works to me yet, including the Danish professor herself, and even now it is apparent that even the pronunciation rules apply loosely and with a decent amount of exceptions. While it's tempting to acquiesce to the fact that I'll never pronounce things like a native speaker and give up now, I feel like enough of a fool anywhere I walk either blatantly talking in English or butchering their street names that I think I'll tough it out. Also, my grade in Beginner Danish probably depends on me actually trying.

Beyond being anxious to see what kind of workload I can expect from this semester, I am looking forward to this weekend a whole helluva lot. There's ice skating, tours of local castles (the town I'm in, aside from being the closest to Sweden out of any point in Denmark, is the site of Shakespeare's Hamlet and the famed castle therein), trips to IKEA (Jay Lidaka, if you're reading this, I'm talking about the original IKEAs -- you know, before they got famous) and all sorts of other shenanigans. After being pretty much compelled into the city and feeling such a strong drive to explore and get lost among its poorly labeled streets, I am interested to see how we as a group and I as an individual will handle all of the free time. I'm sure it won't be terribly hard, but staying active through this whole semester is my number one priority so I'm trying to be -- get this -- proactive about it. har har har!

What I'm trying to say is, it's only a matter of time before my engine of truly awful puns kicks in here. My comfort level with everyone around me is rising, but I can only imagine the complications that the language barrier will bring to my already confoundingly obtuse portmanteaus and "plays-on-word," if you will. The British accent has already been featured in the periphery, but I anticipate that it will make a strong showing this semester.

For the first time today I stopped into what I anticipate will be my staple food source this semester: one of the dozen Shawarma hovels dotting the weathered landscape of Copenhagen. For 7 USD (a pittance in the restaurant scene of this accursedly costly nation) you can get a pita heaped with spiced lamb and yogurt sauce. To compare, most pub burgers in this city are almost $20 a piece, excluding drinks. Tax and tips are already included in the menu price, to be fair, but the price difference is still unsettling.

This place is so full of ups and downs on an almost minute-by-minute basis that even if I didn't still feel the jet lag a little bit I'd be suffering from the same kind of emotional whiplash. I've devoted so much of my personal life to minimizing the painful parts of experience that I've missed out on how invigorating really living can be in the rawest sense. This trip is like sledding at Chelsea school down the street or gliding off of a cliff -- the fall is precipitous and scary and fast, but then I feel my mind racing and my heart pounding and snap my wings open and smile. I think it's true that we need the low points in our life to show us just how far up the high points are -- all we can really do is hope for a decent ratio. I think it's time to embrace this fact for what it is and revel in the sadness of life.


  1. I totally didn't realize they ate shwarma out there, its what we lived off in Israel, but I thought it was like an exclusively middle-east food.

  2. it's too pro. It's cheaper than a large soda and huge

  3. it all sounds so good!! are you able to post pictures at all? i'm excited for your exploring, i'm going to live vicariously through your adventures for a bit...

  4. I'll try to get pictures up, I've only taken a few of things that amuse me around the city. Mostly I'm relying on other people to take the important pictures for me. Perhaps foolish, but it's less I have to worry about and I don't look like a clown running around the city/stopping in the middle of the street to snap mediocre photos of buildings I'll forget in a week.