Archive for January, 2011


Den Lille Havfrue

On a subconcious level I probably knew that eagerly taking pictures of the United States embassy would not be a good idea, but I simply couldn’t miss on the photo-op. “Hey, HEY!” yelled the guard as he ran towards us.

 

That night I wasn’t there to gather intelligence on strategic US objects and the guard too must’ve realized that I don’t look like much of a terrorist, so he let us go – not before making me show him the last pictures in my phone, of course. For the past few days I’ve noticed a phone-repair van parked outside my house, but I’m sure that has nothing whatsoever to do with the embassy incident. The Danes, after all, like to take their time when working on something.

 

On the night in question, as I said, we were not up for trouble. The idea instead was to go and see the Little Mermaid. This was actually my second visit to the Mermaid in three days, as on the first visit the statue had seemed rather unremarkable. The second trip confirmed that the Little Mermaid indeed was nothing too special.

For the record, I was into the Little Mermaid way before she sold out.

 

Still, I guess you can’t just live in Copenhagen and not once visit the Little Mermaid.

 

Sunday was more exciting though as we once again took advantage of the free monthly S-train rides and headed to Frederikssund.

Also, apparently the S-trains run on Windows.

Because it was a nice sunny day, we thought it’d be good to go to the seaside. And Frederikssund is on the seaside. Sort of. What we saw could well have been the sea, but it looked more like a long lake. The map said it was a fjord, but I took that with a grain of salt.

 

The highlight of the day were the swans – the ninjas of the animal kingdom. They had occupied the better part of the Frederikssund harbor, hoping to lure in unsuspecting humans. We could tell by the hissing noises they made that they craved for human blood. Swans are much like the raptors from Jurassic Park. As we were merrily posing for pictures on the waterfront, we failed to notice the swans very slowly, but surely surrounding us. Fortunately we scattered before they could move in for the kill.

Swans pictured here in attack formation.

 

After taking some obligatory Erasmus group pictures and after taking a few, as it turned out, wholly uninspiring hilltops we headed back to Copenhagen for some much needed coffee. Somehow the three Greek guys visiting their friend in Denmark never made it on the train. I have yet to learn of their fate, but I suspect the swans have again claimed some innocent lives.

 

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Liminality

A couple of days ago, Estonia took on the Euro as its legal tender. It’s a change, and a pretty big one at that. And changes, especially the big ones, have a habit of bringing with them anxieties and confusion.

 

I only have seven days left in Copenhagen before I have to go back to Tallinn. And it’s a scary change. It’s also a relatively big change. I say relatively, because as big as the change will be, it will only affect me. Certainly, going back to Tallinn is going to involve plenty of merry reunions with people I haven’t seen in a long time. And certainly, they will be excited to hear about all the unbelievable and the crazy things that have happened in Copenhagen. At least initially so. As time passes, people will eventually and inevitably grow tired of my stories of how wonderful life was in Denmark. These stories will lose significance as change becomes naturalized. The trouble is, for someone returning from Copenhagen, the changes will be painfully obvious for quite some time.

 

Four years ago I had the immense “honor” of serving in the loving and giving family of the Estonian navy. And by “loving” I mean the kind of love an alcoholic might show their children, and by “giving” I mean ten euros per month (minus taxes). When I finally got out of the navy, I obviously wanted to talk about nothing but the navy. It’s understandable. People always share with others their recent experiences. But if you’ve just spent 11 months in a military organization, it leaves you with little common ground between you and your friends.

 

It’s a similar story with the Erasmus experience. All the good and the bad that has transpired in Copenhagen will form the core of my recent life experience, and it will be the source of many of my stories for some time to come. The trouble is, while I was living in Copenhagen, everybody else was more or less engaged in their daily Estonian routines. All the events that have fundamentally changed me as a person during the exchange are something that people outside that sphere will not be able to comprehend nor relate to. And while the exchange might leave you with plenty of new friends, your stories will be alien in your “home” context. The joys of overcoming a blizzard on your bicycle, all the dirty deeds committed at the Moose bar and all other points of reference will not translate easily, because experience is inherently connected to sharing. And sharing, the word has it, is caring. If you haven’t shared, then you can’t really care.

 

Reverse culture shock is something that most Erasmus students will have to cope with. Interestingly, I had no trouble whatsoever with integrating into the Copenhagen way of life. A mere 72 hours after my arrival, I was already happily cycling through the city’s streets with a bag of meatballs and a six pack of “Danish Pride” in my basket. The future was wide open and I was eager to jump into the exciting life of an Erasmus student.

 

And what a wild ride it has been.

 

It has been said that the first casualty of war is innocence. The first casualties of an exchange experience are responsibility, sense of decency and caution. Most Erasmus students will likely agree that studying is not their primary concern. The primary concern for exchange students is making friends (and making out).

 

But as a friend of mine put it best, the Erasmus life is not real life. You live inside a bubble – and the bubble is awesome. There is an inherent tragedy here. Leaving Copenhagen will be a nightmare, and once you leave, it will be for good. Of course, you can try to return to Copenhagen but you might find out that the real Denmark is an unforgiving place and the Danish society, not unlike the Estonian one, is not always welcoming to newcomers. The diverse international community you once enjoyed might elude you altogether. For me the primary motivation for going to Copenhagen was the alienation from the fiercely nationalistic and aggressively territorial Estonian mainstream culture. This is why the warm embrace of the Copenhagen international community was a huge relief for me – and the closest thing I’ve had to “home”.

 

But I guess it’s not all that bad. I’ve chosen my social circle well, or rather, my social circle has chosen me, and that circle will be my safety net. It’s a very, very mischievous social circle, but the idea that all problems can be solved with pub-crawling, beer and Jäger-Absinthe shots is exactly what makes it such a neat circle to belong in.

 

Also, I still have a week left in Copenhagen and I suspect, if previous adventures are anything to go by, this week will be very naughty indeed and I will make damn sure that I go out in a blaze of glory.

 

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Acopenhagenlypse Now

I was mortified to find dinosaurs in the apartment after the New Years party. So far I have located and dispatched three of them, but I suspect at least one is still at large. Hiding, waiting. I fear for my life, and my sanity.

 

We had been at the Radhuspladsen the night before, watching the fireworks display. The haphazard event included no city sponsored displays and instead the local Danes were allowed to shoot dangerous projectiles in the air without much concern for their safety, nor for anybody elses. Not long after arriving at the square it became painfully obvious as to why many onlookers had brought industrial-grade safety goggles with them. The drunken Danes were running loose, firing their immense arsenals at random, trying to out-do each other’s kill streaks. I saw no fire trucks, but the police were observing the madness from a safe distance, because why busy yourself with precautions when you can simply deal with the consequences.

 

Aside from the dinosaurs, I also found two large helium filled balloons in the living room, tied around the neck of a dismembered mannequin.

 

Also, for whatever reason, they had tried to shave him.

 

By now I have cleaned up most of the mess but a large number of dirty dishes still await my attention.

 

I love it how people, when they’re drunk, always make an attempt at cleaning up the place just before crashing their faces into the floor. It’s the same story in every country. You wake up to find, typically, a stack of plates carefully balanced on top of a wine glass positioned as close to the edge of the table as humanly possible. If I didn’t have faith in the kindness of drunken visitors, I would suspect someone had set up an elaborate trap. Also, I found a pink plastic spider floating in a glass of water:

 

WHY!?

 

Despite having spent the better part of the morning on picking up mandarin peels turned into makeshift ashtrays (again – why?), I still couldn’t help but smile when I saw the strings from the crackers carefully wrapped around the biscuits and the half-full cans hidden underneath the chairs. For all these baffling deeds must’ve been committed in a state of utter euphoria. Or madness. Yeah, my money’s on madness.

 

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