An Observation

I’ve been away from Denmark for a whole month now, and aside from the differences in language, behavior, and average daily amount of sunshine, (all of which I’ll get around to writing about someday) this is basically the biggest contrast:

Baby strollers.

American kid strollers

Danish kid strollers

Those things are tanks, man.

More later on what being back in California is actually like!

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The Sun Also Rises (in California, at least)

Anyone who says time travel is impossible has just never flown from East to West.

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So I’m back in California! Getting on a plane on a very very dark Danish morning, and getting off that plane to 25˚C (78˚F) blistering sunshine and characteristic Riverside smog, definitely felt like legitimate teleportation. It is very strange to be back.

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DAWG

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Contemplative bro

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Every year on Dec 24-25, Buttons magically becomes elf-dog

One of the first things I did when back in CA was to climb as many hills and mountains and things as possible. There hasn’t been a single cloudy day since I got back!

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Sycamore Canyon in Riverside

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Morning walks. So good to see a sunrise again

From the top of Box Springs with Nick and Gaby

From the top of Box Springs with Nick and Gaby

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“Hiking” up to the Hollywood sign with the cousins

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There are lots of feels that come along with packing up and moving across ocean and continent, leaving so many things and people behind and not knowing if or when you’ll ever see them again. But, the literal “bright” side is that I’m coming home to such a beautiful place!

Times They Are a-Changin’

I’m leaving Denmark on Monday, and my physical life is now in boxes. It’s a weird middle ground—neither here nor there, a transition. I have to choose what to take and what to leave behind. Of course there are some things that I can’t help but take — like memories and experiences and the way I’ve permanently changed because of this wonderful place with its wonderful people. But each of these internal mementos can also map to the material. The age of digital pictures has made it easy to take around some of life’s reminders on a laptop, but what about all the things that are only physically tangible, things you just cannot take? There’s my guitar. It was cheap but it got me through long days, and I’ve become a better musician because of it. But I have to sell it. There’s this random Danish lotion I got from the supermarket. I wore it all summer, and if the Copenhagen sunshine ever had a distinctive smell, it’s of that lotion. But I don’t have room to pack it. Then there are permanent fixtures about Denmark itself that I of course can’t bring — Kaffenhavn, my favorite coffee shop; the park near Christianshavn, the clean air, the 150S bus. Perhaps I’m anthropomorphizing too much, but I’ve ascribed personal importance to everyday things, and I’m going to miss all of it.

But, I know this will happen countless times in life. We simply can’t hold on to everything.

Change is a constant presence. I’ve had to come to terms with this in the last five months. I guess this is what scares me about any future prospects of living outside of safe little Southern California for extended periods of time — I’m leaving a piece of myself in every place I go, and what if I just become Voldemort with a bunch of horcruxes scattered throughout the world (except Voldemort was an idiot and only hid his in Great Britain… greatest dark wizard ever YEAH RIGHT). And this prospect of wandering is simultaneously frightening and exhilarating.

But I guess that’s one of the fascinating philosophical aspects about studying planets and the universe (you knew I would make this post about space, didn’t you). The world is carved up with geographical and cultural divides, but every human being shares the same last line on their addresses: Earth. It sounds damn cheesy, but it’s comforting to know that we all, in a sense, have the same home. So no matter where I go, I guess I’m always at home. 🙂

A photo of Earth from Voyager I in 1990, 6 billion km away

“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” — Carl Sagan

The Copenhagen Zoo

I went to the zoo a few weeks ago! I totally didn’t expect to spend four whole hours there, but looking at animals seems to stimulate excellent philosophical conversations about evolution. Here are some pictures, courtesy of the always awesome Nis.

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Badass female lions ‘trollin while the male lion just sits in the corner

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Me being scared of said lion. As a side note, there is an entire albums worth of pictures from this day of “Lori looking scared in front of animals”

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EMPEROR KUZCO

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Okay yes I know it’s a camel but still, looks kinda like Kuzco

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Pretty sure they’re sitting in that circle learning how to make fire

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isbjørne! Kind of what I would expect Iorek Byrnison to look like. Except less armor.

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BEARS. BEETS. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

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The face of a totally competent tour guide

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Tigger

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Cue “Wildcat” — Ratatat

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Do I fit in with the penguins?

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Zoom in and look at the middle seal’s face. Seriously I think he’s about to go postal

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Kanga and Roo in her pouch!

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Giraffes are eating my head

Latitude Adjustment – A day in my shoes!

If you live in southern California, you’re probably used to looking up around 12pm and seeing the sun approximately overhead, almost year round, right? Here in the land of Vikings, as we are blessed to be at 55 degrees latitude, the tilt of the Earth is much more dramatically felt. This means that in summer, the sun is out for a really long time—rising around 4am and setting fully around 21.30 (9:30pm)—and in winter, the sun only makes a guest appearance in our daily lives.

I use a program called Stellarium to see exactly what the sky looks like without clouds or other disturbances. You can set different dates and times, or turn features on to see constellations and other details. This is what Saturday looked like, facing South (the landscape is just a generic background) :

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At approximately noon

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Note the timestamp in the bottom center: That’s where the sun was at 3PM!

Check out how low the sun seems to stay to the ground! It also doesn’t “rise in the East, set in the West” like we’ve always been taught—in winter it’s more like rising in the Southeast and setting in the Southwest. In summer it’s Northeast and Northwest.

While this is really cool from a scientific standpoint, it’s not so practical—these are some dark days!

A Life Update Part 2: The Internal

Let’s talk about mental health!

Okay, maybe not the most common way to start a post on a travel blog. I’ve been putting off writing this, cause it’s really damn hard. And I was unsure if it was something I really wanted to share with the whole wide internets. But I decided to, because I think this subject matter is extraordinarily important. I have learned a lot about myself (an obnoxious understatement) from living away from home for four months. But what I want to focus on is what I have learned about the practical necessities of having human relationships.

I suppose that sounds really wordy, but the essence of what I have realized is this: we need people. We need people to interact with, to laugh with, to eat with, to exist in the same room with. We need people, or even just one person, to be honest with about our struggles, people who will provide support, people who will stick with us when we’re having a bad bout of homesickness.

I always thought I was really good at being alone. And this nonchalance about the importance of friendship, combined with being a foreigner in a new country with a new language, slid me quietly into isolation. Now, isolation is not necessarily physical—it’s more like a lack of roots. Roots don’t just hold you to a place, or school, or job; they hold you to people. You can be alone in your room, and still know that you’ve grown roots with people in such a way that you could call them up at any minute just to talk or hang out. The problem with isolation is that you’re alone in your room, and you have no one you’d feel comfortable enough to call. This is where it gets unhealthy. This is where having strongly rooted bonds with other human beings is essential.

I don’t think I invested enough time or effort into forming these necessary roots with people because 1. I thought I didn’t need them and 2. I figured why bother, since I’d be moving away in such a short time. But suddenly I was a few months into living here and I felt disconnected and adrift, because I had never settled down into a stable social group and yet it seemed everyone else around me had. This is a scary feeling. You feel like you can’t reach out, and then it’s possible for all those things percolating in your head to ferment, and then you don’t want to reach out. In the same way that you shouldn’t just ignore a persistent discomfort in your body, you shouldn’t ignore a persistent discomfort in your thoughts—because it will get worse. But it’s quite hard to do, when you feel you have limited places to turn.

One of the most comforting things imaginable when life gets difficult is someone literally or figuratively holding your hand. But finding the people who you are comfortable with holding your hand is also difficult! It takes time and a lot of effort, and that’s why I’m SO glad that, even though I didn’t do all that I could’ve or should’ve in building friendships, I have in fact met two people in Denmark that I hope will be part of my life forever in some way or another. These are the people who I force myself to call when I feel scared or shitty, I force myself to swallow all of my I-can-do-it-on-my-own pride and acknowledge the fact that people need people. I need people.

Again, it is hard to find those that you can trust, whether you’ve moved to a new country by yourself or whether you’ve been in the same place for years. But the effort is necessary, and the effort is worth it.

This is the most important lesson that I’ve learned, vastly more valuable than learning about socialism or cooking or language. I value friendship so much more highly now than I ever have before. This is the knowledge and experience that I will undoubtedly carry with me throughout the rest of my travels and the rest of my life.

Danish Thanksgiving

This year was my first Thanksgiving as the solo project manager! It’s one of the few very “American” traditions that I am really fond of, so I wanted to do it well, but the thought of tackling an enormous dead bird and all of the other side dishes and accessories was quite daunting. Not to mention I’ve been pretty sick this past week. So of course, I planned ahead and made a bunch of lists! And with a few emails back and forth with mom, I set out on Thursday morning all fresh with holiday spirit and whatnot. And thankfully, the sun decided to shine the whole day.

The first thing was the turkey. Around this time in the US, literally every single grocery store is stocked with a seemingly infinite supply of these hapless birds. But of course, in Denmark, it’s a little more difficult. I did manage to find a nice turkey at a gorgeous market called Torvehallerne—a bit expensive of course, but that’s just how Scandinavia rolls.

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Boom. After picking up a round of brie cheese, I jumped back on the metro armed with my 8 lb dead bird (and I have never felt more like Patrick Bateman.)

I really didn’t have much clue of what I was doing when I roasted the turkey, and plus I didn’t have a lot of random things like metal skewers or string to make it look all nice. Soooo I’m just not going to post a picture 🙂 But let’s just say that it ended up okay.

I kept the rest of the menu really minimalistic, but there were a few things I could not cut because WHAT is Thanksgiving without stuffing?!?!? I decided to make mine from scratch. And the cranberry sauce too!

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Something I decided to try this year was making baked brie with apple compote. A bit unconventional for Thanksgiving, but it just sounded so good. And I think it turned out ridiculously well.

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And of course, it was necessary to have the most classy napkins in existence:

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Very hygge. While it was a bit unconventional, I think my Danish Thanksgiving was much more of a success than I expected.