Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 1

Hello, friends and family. Well, here we are: Copenhagen, Denmark. Much has lead to our journey to one of the happiest places on earth, and there is much yet to explore. Pain and joy and the unknown await us. Sleep hopefully is in our future. We have gone from the scorching summer of Kentucky to the cool beginning of autumn in Zealand. Orientation begins on Sunday, classes begin on the following Thursday, but for now let's take a minute to rest now that we've reached our destination.

I'm not sure why I wrote the introduction to my blog with the royal 'we;' could be because I've made the entire trip with one of my best friends, Tommy Skaggs, and I've been moving and thinking in a collective for about a day. In any case, I arrived in Copenhagen at about 7:30 AM, which is 1:30 AM EST, and needless to say, I am kind of dazed-and-confused. The flight from New Jersey was relatively uneventful, but economy seating didn't afford for much leg-room, and it took two anti-histamines to put me in a somewhat sedated state. The line for passport checking was lengthy, yet moved rather quickly. The Danish woman greeted me, glanced over my residence permit, and inquired, "You will be learning Danish, then?" She smiled when I mumbled I would try, and sent me off to Customs, consisting of a group of security and airport employees standing around talking to one another, and passengers simply grabbing our bags and walking out. Tommy and I were met by my grandfather, John, and we promptly dismissed the possibility of taking the taxi, and decided to ship ourselves using the Metro. Emerging from the tunnel into the light of the early morning, I thanked heaven for a safe travel, and for temperatures below 90 degrees F. The first really standout thing I noticed was lots and lots and lots of bikes. They are everywhere, everyone has them, and they will run you over if you happen to be caught in their lane (fortunately I haven't witnessed any such accidents yet). From a general guesstimate I would say bikes outnumber cars at least three or five to one. There is a plentiful amount of specialized bikes for adults with kids and bikes with big carts in the front if you have more than you can take on your back. Cars here are most certainly European, and I kinda love that, because all my favorite car companies and models are European. Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes,  and Mini-Coopers (my absolute favorite car) litter the traffic lines.

The architecture  of Copenhagen is one of the most defining character traits of the city. Streets are for the most part very narrow, cobblestone, and surrounded by buildings older than the United States. Apartments and offices as well as monuments and churches are centuries old, and as such are very organic and pragmatic without the tomb-like feeling of modern copy-and-paste buildings so often seen in America. Despite the age of the structures, or maybe because of it, I get a sense of development, and of rejuvenation: there is continual construction going on in the city, a restoration of the old town, as well as some large scale projects that look decidedly sleek and twenty-first century. And, rather than being claustrophobic and suffocating because of the close proximity of people, and vehicles, and buildings, Copenhagen feels very... ordered, as if everything has a place, or perhaps there is space for everything. Courtyards in the center of apartment and office complexes create a private, shielded, greened area for residents, water channels throughout the city break up neighborhoods and districts, and parks are scattered throughout. There are a ton of boats on the water-ways, tethered right below the five story buildings that line the banks. Public transportation here is brilliant, from what I've seen so far: clean, fast, and on-schedule, and determined to stretch everywhere. I'm sure I'll have more to say on the character of the city and the efficiency later as I actually experience it more.

We walked down to my apartment building today, which is literally about a two minute walk from the buildings where my classes will be, so I can see myself sleeping in way too long, with the confidence I can just jump out of bed and run over to DIS. The apartment looks super nice, and I think the DIS classrooms will be pretty cozy, hopefully they'll be warm enough in the winter, and hopefully I won't fall asleep in them if they are comfortable. The neighborhood my classes and apartment are in is pretty cool, from the very little I've seen. Lot's of little shops, and it is pretty near the city square which is good for transportation purposes, and comfort fast-food (yuck).

In terms of emotions and feelings... not really sure where I stand on it all. I think I'm still too much within my comfort zone with Tommy and my grandparents with me, that I don't know if I've truly arrived in Copenhagen. I'm less intimidated, I think, by the prospect of living in Copenhagen now I am here. There was a moment for me, when I sort of paused and realized, "wait, yeah, this is a city, people live here, people coexist with hundreds of thousands of others everyday, I can do this to, I'm just another resident." I'm feel kind of guilty because I know hardly anything about Denmark, and have no grasp of Danish at all, so I am under the impression I am not going to be actually living and experiencing Copenhagen because I'm going to be missing the heart of it all, some of the parts that make Danish and Denmark. Plenty of time to learn though. I'm excited for it certainly, but for now, my exhaustion is tempering both my enthusiasm and my nerves. I think transitioning will be smoother than for most people, and easier than some other transitions I've made. But I feel sort of like how I did when I came to Knox: yep, this is what I wanted, I'm here now, let's go to work. Thanks everyone for reading especially if you stuck with the post all the way to the end, I know I can be very wordy and drawn out, and I'm sure most posts will be as such. I'll try to post pictures as often as possible as well.

Information for the Readers:
DIS = Danish Institute for Study Abroad. DIS is not part of the University of Copenhagen, though some classes are. My classes will probably all be at DIS, who has three buildings on the street just one over from my apartment. Classes will be taught in English and the academic expectations, I think, will be as rigorous as Knox.

My Classes:
        European Union - this is my 'core' course, the central class for the 'tract/program,' European Politics and Society (EPS). It is with this class that I will go to Germany and Belgium on my study tours, to look at NATO and EU institutions.
       Muslims in the West
       International Law from a European Perspective
       Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in International Policy (Tommy and I share this course)
       Espionage in the Cold War

My Living Situation: I will be living in an apartment with five other Americans who are also enrolled with DIS. We will move in Sunday, I believe. From what they've told us, we each get our own bathroom and bedroom, who knows if that's accurate. I'll post my address once I know my room number, so I don't mislead anyone with some partial address. Tommy is living with a host family.

I do not have a phone yet but I will let people know once I procure one. In the meantime I can check my email, blog, and facebook everyday, so drop something on me that way.

I'll share more information I think interesting or helpful as the days progress.

1 comment:

  1. Martin,

    Wonderful Blog! You are a gifted writer. Thanks for sharing with us. Enjoy what will be a great adventure. Poppa