Friday, June 22, 2012

First days in Paris

I spent my Wednesday in Paris sleeping. I woke up around 12 or so and made a "frozen" pizza (it was refrigerated...can you believe that? so it takes less time to cook. awesome!) then went back to sleep until 6. I  had been pretty sick the day before and I had virtually no sleep the previous nights so the 16 hours or so of sleep that I had this night were incredibly important. Then I met up with my friend Olivia from ISU. Can you believe that?? My friend from freshman year Calc II just happened to be in Paris at the same time I was. So we met for dinner and went to this cafe. We waited for like 15 minutes and weren't helped, so I went up to the bar and said "we are sitting over in this corner and haven't been helped", the waiter guy made some noises (might have been french words? not sure :P) and motioned me away. after waiting a bit longer we hopped down to the next cafe where we were waited on instantly. Much better experience :D Then we went to the Eiffel Tower with the intentions of going up the stairs but we realized we were there too late. So we settled for walking around the grassy areas near it and watching it light up. It was beautiful, seriously. I loved it. Then we saw the peace memorial which is some glass panes with "peace" written in different languages. Except it isn't so peaceful because half of them are shattered and some are missing because people keep throwing things at it. Oops. Then we made our way back to our area of Paris and said our goodbyes. It was great seeing somebody from home, if only for a night :D

The next day in Paris was a bit longer and even more exciting. Nat and I woke up and headed out to see the Arc de Triomphe and walk down the Champs Elysees (a LONG and "beautiful" avenue in Paris). The Arc is MASSIVE, much bigger than I was expecting. I really enjoyed seeing it. Champs Elysees is where the Tour de France finishes each year. I appreciate it for that reason, and I look forward to seeing it in the race this year, but other than that it was just another pretty boulevard IMO. It had some really fancy and expensive shops though. At the end there is an Egyptian Obelisk and some beautiful fountains. Or at least they would have been if the water had stayed in the fountains...instead it started to pour rain as soon as we got there. This was the only place we'd been "out in the open" so far, so it couldn't have picked a worse time to start raining. I loaned Nat my jacket for protection, so by the time we got under cover about 10 minutes later I was soaked. We found a metro line and went home to change, then we went back out to meet up with some Erasmus friends at a bar :D

It was a WONDERFUL reunion between me, Anais, Alexis, Meg-Anne, and Jeremie, some frenchmen from Odense. It had only been a couple days since I'd seen a couple of them, or a week or two at the most for the rest, but it was still nice. They complained that hearing only french around them was boring, and they missed speaking English (though that didn't stop them from speaking french around me ;D). We were also with Alexis' brother, Alexis' gf, and Alexis' brother's gf. They had plenty of questions for me and I taught them some English and we had a good time. They really struggled to understand why I was only drinking water from 6-8 though, but o well! Then went to a Falafel joint in the Jewish district of Paris (Jeremie is Jewish). I had some kosher shawarma and it was delicious! Though I regret not asking for the Falafel mix :P All-in-all it was a good night and I'm glad that I got to see my French friends in Paris. Nat asked me if it was weird, and I said "no, not yet. I saw them just a couple days ago and I traveled with them before so this feels like just some more traveling. But if I came to Paris in a year from now (or even longer!) and saw them in Paris then yes, that would feel strange. And I really hope that happens!!"
Then today Nat took me out to see Sacré-Cœur Basilica (Sacred Heart Basilica) at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. It was the prettiest thing I have seen since I came to Paris and maybe since I came to Europe. The outside is BEAUTIFUL, and the inside was also (but it said not to take pictures so I didn't. Even though maybe it meant no flash? o well. too late now!) Near the building is an artists district filled with street painters that just paint their style all day (caricatures, parisian scenes, stylized eiffel towers, or more sophisticated things). Even the simple stuff was good, but there were some genuinely talented artists there that made some great paintings I wish I could afford. We visited a statue of a man coming out of a wall that was based on an old story by a famous Frenchman about a man that could go through walls to hear conversations he shouldn't, to get away from trouble, etc. Nat visited it when she was a school-child because she used to live in this area and attended school nearby. I thought it was neat to share in that part of her childhood, she just thought it was weird to be back in this area of town XD

Overall a good couple days. I stay here until the morning of Tuesday June 26 when I spend the day traveling to Leipzig, Germany where I will stay with my friend Silvia until Saturday June 30 when I will take a train to Vienna, Austria. There I will stay with Christina's sister Veronika and Christina will come join us, and I will leave on July 4th to go to Vilnius, Lithuania. "Where is lithuania?" you might say? Good question, but google can probably show you :-) There I will be staying with Raimonda and Gintare until July 9th when I head back to Copenhagen/Odense for a few days before finally coming back to Iowa on Friday July 13th.

From there we headed back to the area that we got rained out of the day before and got to appreciate the obelisk without rain and walk to the Louvre and it's trademark Glass Pyramid and the inverse pyramid that goes into the mall below. It was really cool and the architecture of the Louvre is just stunning. Nat isn't so big on museums and I'm not big on spending money so we didn't go in :P Instead we walked over to Notre Dame Cathedral. From the front I don't find it very impressive, nor do I find the inside to be anything remarkable (though to be fair, service started before we were able to take a full tour). I mean, I really liked it, but compared to Sacré-Cœur Basilica I just wasn't so impressed. But it was HUGE, so it does have that going for it. And from behind it really is a gorgeous building.

After that we made our way back home and stopped at the super market where Nat bought some Foie Gras pate to show me. It really did taste pretty good, I can imagine how good it might taste at a restaurant, but I am not sure the taste makes it worth the ethical concerns. That being said, the ethics of animal treatment in the US is certainly up for question so I am not prepared to judge the French at all :P

Thanks for reading, everybody, I really appreciate it!!

Au Revoir Erasmus, Bonjour Paris!

The morning of Monday, June 20 I said goodbye to Erasmus. I didn't actually sleep much (2 hours) because we had a "goodbye" night on Monday and I had some packing and stuff to do and more stuff in the morning. So I woke up at 7:30 and met the "janitors" to ask what I needed to do before moving out (Luckily nothing other than clean. No moving furniture or anything), then I woke up Guvanch to say goodbye (he'd been asking me to grab coffee or cake or something but I'd been too busy), then I headed to the market to buy some strawberries and pineapple. I then biked the 4 miles across town to Rasmus Rask to surprise Aurelija and Raimonda with a delicious fruit breakfast! They were shocked but extremely happy :D It was really important to me to see these girls one last time before I left Odense, even though I'll be staying wiht Raimonda in Vilnius, Lithuania in a couple weeks and I should be seeing Aurelija in Iowa (ames hopefully!) or Minnesota sometime in September. Then I went and woke up Christina (who also lives at Rasmus Rask) to say goodbye. The night before she said "Tell me when you will be at the train station so I can say goodbye" and then she went home with a fever. So instead of making her bike across town while dying, I thought I might say goodbye to her at home. She was appreciative, and then I went on my way...

I then rode to Skt Jorgens Gade 21 to get my boarding pass from Czuczi who had been kind enough to print it for me. I talked to him and the rest of the gang for a bit and the said my goodbyes. Then Anais started freaking out and I wasn't sure turned out that Czuczi had started crying behind me. That totally broke my heart...He is such a sweet and quiet guy, but always with a smile on my face. I had no idea that I meant that much to him, and it really got to me. I held myself together until I got out the door though, but damn that was hard. Then I went to the train station an made my journey to Copenhagen where Corina was waiting for me. She'd gone to London for the weekend and we hadn't been able to say goodbye before I left but luckily our schedules allowed us to meet in the station. She was the first thing I saw when I came off the train and walked up into the main station and she hurried over to me already crying D; We spent the next half hour walking towards the airport part of the station and talking and it was really great.

Then I went and waited a couple hours for my plane to leave. Did I mention that I was super tired and afraid of falling asleep this whole time because I didn't want to miss my train stops/miss my flight/etc? Awful. So I was finally on the plane and I was able to sleep just a bit, but my nose was SO stuffed and I was sick for the first time since coming to Europe and every time I fell asleep I woke up right away startled. But then I was in Paris and had to catch a train to the city proper and again I had to stay awake. I entertained myself a little bit by eating the remainder of a bag of lays baked bbq chips in the most American way possible. Licking my fingers, pouring the crumbs into my mouth, etc. while being watched by some French woman. It was fun :D Then I got on the metro and made my way to Nat's place (you may remember, Nat is Anais's friend and I met her in Stockholm when she traveled with us. She lives IN Paris [not near, not around, but actually IN Paris]) where she and her boyfriend met me at the metro stop and took me out for Japanese food (thanks Anthony!). Then we came back to watch some Ryan Gosling movie and I saw the Eiffel Tower light up for the first time from the window of her flat. ISN'T THAT AWESOME? I think so. It was a long day and I can't believe I stayed awake through it all (10 hours of sleep across the three previous nights...) but I did. More news to come :D

Thanks for reading~

Beer Bottles, Hospital Visits, and Goodbyes

Last week was, by far, was the craziest week of my Erasmus experience and possibly my life. And that is saying a lot...(my terrible start with messed up flights getting here, losing my baggage, and my computer charger breaking right away; 80% vodka induced sickness on a cruise from Stockholm forcing me to buy new clothing in Estonia; BILKA Marathon and putting a tree in our kitchen for my dormitories birthday, etc.)

Wednesday June 6:
Spent the afternoon preparing presentations for my exam the next afternoon before going to the final quiz night for Team COCO with the addition of Julie as our Danish translator and some other friends. It was fun, but of course we did terribly and lost. So, as with every Wednesday, we went afterwards to LA Bar for an hour of free beer and so Christina and Julie could attempt to find "Snake Juice" from Parks and Recreation. (Video here) I don't think they were successful, but it was definitely a great night!

Thursday June 7:
Woke up and relaxed a bit before taking my Project Work exam which I rocked and got a 12 on as I said in the previous post. Then my group and I continued working a bit more on our project and made our personal presentations for our exam the next morning at 8:30. We thought it would be at the main campus where our supervisors office was, so we made plans to meet there at 8am and I set my alarm so I wouldn't oversleep the next day. Then we went to LA Bar at 10pm for hour one of free beer, then ABar for their hour of free beer. Andreas, one of the ESN Board members, convinced me to try this thing called a Lamborghini which starts with lighting a sambuca shot on fire in a normal glass and then having a shot of tequila, bailey's, and something blue ready. You drink the sambuca from a straw and as you finish it then you pour in the next shot, then the next, blah blah and do it all in one go. It was actually pretty fantastic. Then I danced and had a great time and then somebody that I have a history of not getting along with approached me and said something stupid. Not sure what happened next, but then we were on the floor and our friends made us separate. There were no punches or anything, it wasn't a fight, but it was enough to make me look at my watch and realize it was 3 am and that I needed to go home for my exam. So then I went home and fell asleep at 4.

Friday June 8:
I woke up and looked at my phone to see the time: 8:29. If you recall, my exam was to start at 8:30. Oops. I panicked and put on clothes, ran down to my bike, and biked as fast as possible to the main campus. I called my groupmates but didn't get an answer until I arrived at the campus. They informed me that the exam was, in fact, at the engineering campus and I needed to turn around. I rode back there but, because my bike is a POS, my chain fell off along the way forcing me to run with my bike to the school. I got there and walked into the exam room as my group finished up with the group part and so we immediately walked back out into the hall. So that was a great start...then I nervously waited for 30 minutes before it was my turn to do my individual presentation. I took a couple mints to freshen up, and then I went in. My presentation went fine (though I couldn't really stand up straight) and I knew the answers to the questions they asked me, one of which was to describe if there were any software models that we'd considered implementing in our project and I was able to explain the lack of separation between GUI and Business Logic in Android and how that prevented us from truly implementing Model-View-Controller. So, despite my showing up late and disheveled, I was able to prove that I put effort into the project and knew what I was talking about and earned a 10 out of 12 on the exam (10 is the second highest grade and equates to an A or A- on the US Scale. 12 is the only higher score and it really means that you learned MORE than you needed to, so it's more like an A+/really high A in the US.) So that was a crazy morning...

Then I took a nap to get the energy for Friday night. I started out by watching the opening game of the Euro cup, the European football championship, between Poland and Greece. I don't usually watch football, but I really do enjoy it when it is at this level (i.e. the big national teams). Then I was invited by some Italian girls to their flat with a couple other friends for an Italian dinner of pizza, meatballs, and some home-made salami (by the girl's father! how cool is that??) and washed it all down with an Italian drink called Spritz (White Wine, soda water, and Aperol). We had some good conversation and then played a home-made board game before going out for the night. I met up with Christina at ABar and met her sister Veronika who was visiting for the weekend with her parents. Veronika greeted with me chocolate cake that she'd snuck in. I knew right away we were going to be best friends. Nothing crazy happened this night, though!

Saturday June 9:
Day of sleeping and being lazy followed by the Denmark/Holland Euro game. Nobody expected Denmark to win, but they got an early goal and kept the lead throughout! Amazing. Then I went over to Rasmus Rask dormitory to meet with the Lithuanian girls and share the pictures we have of each other. So Aurelija, Gintare, Raimonda and I spent an hour looking at pictures and then making a cake for the going away party some others were having later this night.

Then we went to that party. It was a joint affair between a Spanish girl named Silvia and a Polish guy named Kamil. That meant that all of the Spanish people and all of the Polish people (two of the larger groups of Erasmus students) were there plus all their friends, so it was pretty big. Everything was going really well, but since there were too many people to fit into the small party hall that they'd reserved, a lot of the people were outside. This meant that it wasn't hard for some uninvited Danes to show up and join the party. I was talking to a friend and took a step backwards and accidentally bumped into one of them. Of course, I apologized, but it shouldn't have been a big deal. To him it was, though, and he started yelling at me. Then he shoved me into another guy, causing him to drop his beer. The second guy started yelling at me too and telling me I owed him a beer and stuff. My friends did their best to separate us and make the guys leave, but as they did so the second one grabbed a broken beer bottle from the nearby trash can and made to stab me with it (This I did not know at the time but was informed by a sober spectator later. Thanks George!) but since he was being escorted away he threw it at my head instead. Who does that??? Seriously? But when that happened I was already talking to Veronika and I just felt a tap on my head and thought nothing of it. It wasn't until somebody told me that I was bleeding that I realized my face was covered in blood. Maria, my Spanish friend, as well as Sandra and Laura were the heroes of the night though.  They got me to the bathroom and cleaned my face and then encouraged me to go to the hospital. It took them about 40 minutes though, because I kept wandering off to say goodbye to every single person at the party and to dance. Then finally they got me into a cab.

The Danish emergency room is pretty nice. You walk in and tell them your CPR number (basically social security number) and they take care of you, free of charge. I got 4 stitches in the top of my head and then I was good to go. I wanted to go back to Rasmus Rask because a) that's where my bike was b) as part of an inside joke I brought eggs that I was going to make for eggs for breakfast the next day and c) More reasons. But the spanish girls decided I needed to go home so we went back to HCO. When we arrived around 5am I woke up my friend Cecilie on our floor. She is a med student and works in the Emergency room so I really wanted her to know what had happened (she later gave me a mock bill for her services. It's really clever and apparently I owe her a cake now). Then I went back to my room and called my mom so I could let her know what had happened. I should have gone to bed then...but I got a text from Christina saying that Cal had held up his end of the aforementioned inside joke and brought bacon. I really wanted eggs and bacon. So I ran the 6.5 kilometers/4 miles from my dormitory to Rasmus Rask. It sucked. But I got to hang out with Christina, Cal, and Arturs and eat some delicious eggs and bacon at 7am :D Christina's sister was asleep and didn't want to wake up to have the bacon though so she didn't get any. She missed out :P

Sunday June 10:
After a couple hours of sleep, Christina's parents showed up to take them out for the day. That meant I had to leave. I walked a few doors down and spent the day hanging out with Aurelija and Gintare and watching Good Will Hunting which was amazing. I can't believe I'd never seen it before! The girls loved it also but were surprised by how many F-Bombs there were in it. Frankly, I was too haha but it was really good dialog so it was ok. Then I left and showered and met up with Cal and Olli at Arturs flat for yet another night out. Apparently Arturs was given 30L of boxed wine at his job because they stopped selling that brand, or something, and so needed to get rid of it. Christina and Veronika joined us a bit later. The highlight of the night was Veronika talking very protectively but proudly about her sister. Some gems: "I am my sisters sister and she is my favorite sister. She is my only sister, but I have seven others. She has really small hands" (all of these things are true. except the 7 sisters part. but especially the hands part) So yeah, that was fun.

Monday June 11:
Monday was the last day of "Monday's Cafe". It was also the France vs. England Euro game so the place was packed with French people supporting their team (there are very few Englishmen here). The game ended in a draw which is better than a loss because there was also free beer this night to celebrate the last night of "Monday's Cafe", and drunk football fans...well...You know what happens. The "meal of the day" was fried chicken breast (not breaded, just fried on a stovetop) with curry sauce, rice, and a veggie salad. By that I mean cut up lettuce, cucumber, onion, and peppers and guess what? I ate my entire plate. I know!!! I am as surprised as you are, but I actually ate vegetables. Then after an hour or two of mingling and talking to people I ordered a burger. Monday's Cafe wouldn't be Monday's Cafe without ordering a burger. It was delicious. And I ordered it just in time, too, because shortly afterwards they had to stop selling the burgers because they ran out of beef. After Monday's we attempted to go to Dexter, but it was closed, so we went to a different bar instead, followed by a birthday party/going away party for a German girl. At this point I am amazed that I am still alive and functioning. But anyway "alles gut!" Or, in English, "all is good" :P

Tuesday June 12:
After somehow still being alive, I spent some time thinking about what other American dish I would cook for the Spanish Dinner this night. Then out of nowhere the thought occurred to me: Sloppy Joes. A quick google search showed that they were easy to make from scratch (of course you can't buy a can of manwich sauce here. and we always make our stuff homemade on Tuesday anyway) AND they were invented in Sioux City, Iowa. How awesome? "Authentic" Iowan food :D The Spanish girls made another Spanish Omelette but this time with Tuna and Cheese (their first time making it that way) and I really liked it. Malu, my Kurdish ESN Buddy, and her friends came with some spring rolls, a rice dish, and something else. It was all delicious! But, like always, it was way too much food O_O And then afterwards, instead of going to bed like a normal person, I reheated leftovers and brought them to the University to Christina at midnight because she was still studying. Now, as I write this, it is 4am in the morning and I am still at the university.

Thursday June 13/Friday June 14:
Those of you that were around know what happened...but let's just say I turned my bike upside down and tried to open the bike lock with my credit card, I didn't want to take a cab home "because of wallet", and I lost my phone...but Maciek managed to get me home. The next morning Enrico and Daniele greeted me at my exam and dealt with my phone an bike confusion and congratulated me as I passed my final exam with a 10 (this was about Android programming and went really well!).

Saturday June 15/Sunday June 16/Monday June 17
Many goodbye events and riding around town to see everybody and tell them goodbye. Saturday was the big "goodbye party" at Retro, the final goodbye. I took my ESN Flag to have it signed by as many of my friends as I could and the marker left marks all over the bar...oops :D It was an interesting night, but definitely a great one that I'll remember for a while. Sunday and Monday nights were at Ryan's to say goodbye and watch the Euro games, and Monday night ended at Skt. Jorgens Gade 21 where we spent some quality time just talking. My Polish friends poured us a symbolic final drink of their Bison Grass Vodka and Apple Juice. It felt incredibly special for me to share that with them and end things in the place and with the friends that I started my Erasmus experience. I think I said goodbye to most people no less than 4 times (which gets really emotionally draining, but was definitely worth it), even the ones that I knew I would be visiting in Paris, Vienna, or Vilnius, but I feel now that it still wasn't enough :-/

Sorry for the lack of pictures, this post was more of a personal post for me so I can remember the things that happened here. Unfortunately I didn't write it in a timely manner so many of the details are lacking, but o well, hopefully it will be enough of a trigger for me.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Birthdays and Movies

The last two weekends have been reasons to celebrate. Christina celebrated her birthday followed by Aurelija celebrating hers. It makes me sad that my birthday was at the very beginning of my exchange when the Erasmus community hadn't really formed yet, but it was great to see so many people coming out to celebrate with these girls. For Christina's we had a nice bbq before spending the evening at the Rasmus Rask Music House (a room you can reserve for parties). For Aurelija's we met at the music house in the evening where her and the other girls had prepared a table full of hors d'oeuvres. They even did a traditional chair lift with her on it! Both parties were wonderful. I've been here for 4 months which in reality isn't that much time. And I've only been friends with these girls for a smidge over a month. But it feels like it's been so much longer and it's going to be painful to leave. But like I wrote in Aurelija's guest book: "It's not goodbye, it's see you later!" Which, in her case, is actually true because she is coming to Iowa/Minnesota again for a few months to work. If at all possible I am going to visit her at a carnival and eat some delicious funnel cake with her! Can't wait! Hopefully she can visit Ames, too, so I can show her how beautiful and how different my University is from SDU and many of the other European universities I have seen. (Our campus is big and spread out over many many buildings with plenty of space between them whereas many of the universities here are smaller and more concentrated on one mega-building with some auxiliary buildings)

The birthday girl Aurelija and her "family" :D 
Getting a kiss from the birthday girl! I may not look like it, but trust me, I'm happy ;D

And Saturday I had a movie/pizza marathon with Christina and Julie. We bought a lot more ingredients than we needed, but it was great! We watched Crazy, Stupid, Love first because Christina hadn't seen it yet. I had forgotten just how good it was and how it could make you laugh one second and almost cry the next. Also: The Gosling. He is perfect. After that we watched Iron Man because again, Christina has apparently never seen a movie in her life. I love that movie, it stars Robert Downey Jr. as himself. Then we watched Iron Man 2 because somehow I hadn't seen it. Oh, did I mention that I never knew Coulson was in ALL of the Avenger movies? Seriously? But the way that they tied them all together is amazing. Whoever the brain was that said "ok, let's make several different superhero franchises with some of the biggest actors in Hollywood and tie them all together and make them awesome enough for comic book fans and mainstream enough for a general audience" deserves a high five. Why can't DC do this? Why are their movies not as good? (excepting Batman. They NAILED that). But anyway, we made one pizza and divided it into three and said "Aw, this isn't big enough. Let's start the dough to make another" (oh yeah, we made it from scratch. homemade dough, sauce, fresh toppings, etc). But then we ate it and realized that we definitely didn't need another. Overall it was a good night!

I just had my second exam today! I got a 12 on it, the highest score. It was "project work" and was super easy, but still. I am happy! I am finished with exams next Friday, then I travel a bit (I purchased some of my tickets already! I'll give you all the details next post), then I come home July 13. Too soon. But until then I will continue to make the most of it! Thanks for reading :-)

mmmm homemade pizza. The "meat only" section was mine haha

Monday, June 4, 2012

New Friends, Good Food, a Great Life

First things first: I passed my first exam! It was for my C# programming class. Beforehand we are given a list of topics that we should prepare for (i.e. make a powerpoint presentation for each one) and then when we show up to the exam we pick a card with a number, the number we get corresponds to a topic. and then we give a 7 minute presentation on that topic and provide examples from our project, then the instructor and the other examiner ask questions for a bit about the topic and then we wait for our grade. I received a 10 on the danish 7 point scale which is the equivalent of an A, A- or so, MUCH better than I thought I would do. Only 3 exams left, wish me luck! And sorry for the lack of pictures. My "party" camera is broken, and my nice camera is too big to take to take everywhere with me and when I take it to other events I always forget my memory card...Ok, so now the fun stuff.

You might think that after four months of constant interaction with the Erasmus students all gathering at the same bars, going on the same trips (Copenhagen, Berlin, Seabattle, etc), and having so many mutual friends that it would be hard to keep meeting new people. But no. Almost every week I meet new friends and often in serendipitous ways. On my way back from Legoland a month or two ago I couldn't find an empty seat with a friend so I sat next to girl I didn't know. She wanted to nap, but instead I chatted with her for a lot of the ride and found out her name was Gintare and she seemed pretty cool. Then, shortly after that I met her again at the Eurodinner where her and her other friends (Raimonda, who has a PERFECT smile and Aurelija) were preparing Lithuanian food. These girls (and their Polish friend Ania who might be the only person in Odense that likes to dance more than I do!) are the happiest, loveliest, and most adorable people I have met here and their love and enthusiasm for life is contagious. That night I found out that Aurelija had actually been to and worked in Iowa! She has a summer job with a carnival company and travels with them through Minnesota and Iowa between July and September doing concessions. It was amazing to find somebody who had been to Iowa and knew about the greatness of funnel cakes, corn dogs, and fresh squeezed lemonade! Then, a few weeks ago I met an Austrian girl named Christina who speaks pretty perfect English (she has spent a lot of time in New Zealand, but I'm quickly fixing her accent and some of her silly vocabulary) just by saying "I am from Iowa" and her replying "I know where that is! I study American Studies. The capital is Des Moines!" Or something like that. It just so happens that we love pretty much all the same things and now we own matching "I AM SHERLOCKED" shirts. Bros for life. Christina and I, together with Julie, form the "Terrific Trio", a group of fast-talking, nerdy pals who watch BBC shows and superhero movies. She's a cool Dane who studies English and has, with her own dyed hair, inspired me to continue dying mine red when I get back. Then I met a friend Madara from Latvia who also speaks great English and is one of the few people I've met here who can talk almost as fast as me (Madara, you owe me a horror movie and something crazy!). Then Laura and Veronica, Italians studying physiotherapy who don't like to give massages because nobody ever wants to give them one (oh, and Laura, I still owe you a massage!! And Veronica, I'm waiting to try your cookies :D). Then...yeah, there are many more but I think you get the picture. And that's part of the reason I don't want to leave, I am just getting to know some of these people and I know there are many more great people to meet! But that's ok, I am sure there some cool people to meet in Iowa, too.

Tuesday dinner with my Spanish friends is back in full swing! It is great meeting new people, but it also quite comforting to spend some time with my older friends :-) Since the ham balls were such a hit with the girls, I decided to continue cooking them Iowa Cuisine. I made them a dinner of Tuna Casserole with peas and potato chips on top which they loved. They returned the favor by making me paella the next week. YUM. It was delicious, and I promised one of my fraternity brothers that I would bring him back the recipe haha Then the next week I prepared what I would consider a traditional (if somewhat limited) Christmas Dinner/holiday dinner/family reunion dinner of a baked ham, cheesy potato casserole, and green bean casserole. (if you want to know what any of the dishes I mentioned are, just comment/message me and I'll explain to you!) Again, it was a hit! And it makes me feel really good that I can a) cook some real food and b) cook real IOWAN food while in DENMARK! So, if for some reason I end up living in Europe after I graduate I can be happy knowing that I can still have a taste of home. and c) that at least a few of my friends now know there is more to "American Food" than just McDonalds and fast food. Oh, and below we were celebrating the birthday for the girl making a silly face! haha

I have another blog post written already, actually, but to keep this from being too long I'll post it in a day or two. Thanks again for reading :-)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Aarhus, Free Hugs, and a Tearful Goodbye Party

A couple Friday's ago I took a road trip with some friends to Aarhus, the second largest city of Denmark. Ania, a friend from Poland, has a car that we were able to take which was great! The main reason we went was to visit the art museum which is topped with a circular walkway with different colored clear walls that make a rainbow, so you are bathed in colored light. It is called "Your Color Panorama", and as you walk through it you can tangibly feel the color changes and feel different emotions. There was also a great exhibit by an American artist named "Oursler" whose technique involves video of faces, or face parts in interesting shapes, often paired with dolls and it is really hard to explain. I have video of one exhibit on facebook that he made with David Bowie's face and I loved it. There were also a bunch of other great art exhibits as well. After the museum we just went around the city which was great. It was a step (or two or three) above Odense in terms of size, but still smaller than Copenhagen and would be a wonderful city to study or work in. We also found the sister sites for some bars that we have in Odense like "The Australian Bar" and "Bodegaen".

Then Saturday I had to meet in the City Center at noon for something I volunteered for. It was initially a surprise and turned out to be a "Free Hugs" session. We did this to support the 25th Anniversary of the Erasmus program, the theme of which is "Social Erasmus". The idea behind Social Erasmus is that the communities accepting erasmus students really give a lot to make the experiences for them great, and the students really appreciate that and want to give back. Our ESN board thought about how we could do that, and after considering how little trash litters the streets of Odense and how few homeless people the City has, we should show our appreciation in a more direct way by spreading smiles and hugs in the city center. Unlike southern Europeans, the Danes aren't as "touchy" with friends, let alone with strangers, so we received plenty of odd looks. But our enthusiasm was also infectious and most of the people that didn't want hugs at least started smiling when they saw us which we considered a success. But we also gave out a LOT of free hugs (Gratis Kram in Danish), including one hug to a "biker" which really impressed Andreas who is very afraid of them. Apparently they are connected to hells angels or something and the Danes are scared of them. O well, I wasn't scared :D I also got to hug a dog which was probably the highlight of my day. I haven't been close to a dog since I got here! And after a few hours of hugging we celebrated with some ice cream and then relaxed in the park for a few more hours. It's lovely because you can relax in the sunlight in the park, casually have a few beers (or, in my case, ciders), and people have a good and relaxing afternoon. I wish that public drinking was legal for reasons like this. O well. Also, there is a club called the "Buffalo" club that we all got roped into joining. Basically it means you must always drink with your non-dominant hand. So if you are right handed, all drinks (water, milk, juice, anything) must be drunk with your left hand. Or, in my case, with my right. If you get caught drinking with the wrong hand somebody says "buffalo" and you must finish your drink. If they are wrong, though, they have to finish theirs. At the park I had a 1.5 liter bottle of water. I took a drink from it using my left hand and somebody called buffalo on me. ::sigh:: But I had to stay true to the game so I finished it!

Then last Saturday was the final "ESN" organized party of the semester at the club Retro. It was a "write on me" party where we all came in white shirts with markers and stuff. It was AMAZING. Usually people come and kind of stick with their group of friends at the parties, but this one had a lot more mingling and interaction because we all had to go around and talk to each other so we could write great messages on peoples' shirts. A few girls made the unfortunate decision to wear dresses or other non-white shirts, so their bodies became their paper. So me being me, I wrote "Property of USA" or just "USA" across their chests. It was the most American thing I could think of to do at the time XD My favorite messages on my shirt are "I speak England very best, and I am getting bester and bester! George", "You are a real Polish person now -Stan", and many other nice messages. It was a magical night, and when we left the party the sun was up (it rises at like 4:30 here and it gets earlier every day) and we chatted a bit while sharing a free giant slice of pizza that some random stranger gave us as he walked out of the pizza joint and then we parted ways and went home. I was fine until I took off my shirt and started reading the messages and then I just broke down into tears. It's not that I don't want to come home, because I love my friends and family back in Iowa, it's just that I am having a wonderful time here with so many wonderful people that I don't want to leave. So yeah, I was distressed.  I have a habit of visiting my friend Sandra when I come home to talk for a few minutes before sleep if she is awake, but this time it was more important. So I knocked on her door (it was close to 6am so of course she was sleeping) and she gave me a big hug and we talked for an hour or so about the party and the messages on my shirt and the semester and everything. I was really upset for a while, but she calmed me down. She is such a good friend :D Sandra, I will miss you!!
The lovely Laura's
The Bulgarian Beauties

I am TRYING to keep posting so I am current. but to keep this from being too long I'll fill you in on some other events next time. Love you all and thanks for reading!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sorry it took so long!!!

My last post was over a month ago and I apologize for that!! I've been really busy :-/ I took a bus to Stockholm where I saw the city again, experienced a real swedish sauna before taking a two day sea cruise to Tallinn, Estonia and back. I ate traditionally made deer (or bison? or something not normal?) soup in a candle-lit old-style cafe and bought skinny jeans from a Spanish store called Pull & Bear while in Tallinn. It was a CRAZY wild experience and I can't mention it all now, but feel free to ask me about it!


The guy in the middle picture passed out on a bench and was oblivious to us stacking all these things on him. Even when we posed next to him for a picture and accidentally knocked it all movement. But then a short while after we left him alone he was up and back on the dancefloor XD

Then after that I went on an ESN trip to Berlin which was also amazing. I have been wanting to visit Germany since my first day of German class in High School and it lived up to its billing. It was quite a different feeling than the other cities I have been in, both because it was bigger than most of them and also because it is "newer" than them with history that I can immediately relate to. It is "newer" in that it was destroyed in WWII and then was oppressed and is now flourishing as a European capital. When touring the city I could feel this, there was a tangible feeling of recovery and progress when walking past a section of the crumbling Berlin Wall next to a shiny skyscraper. Also, when visiting the other places, of course you could tell there was rich history but it wasn't "my" history, nor was it recent enough to relate to. But walking around Berlin and seeing Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (which we visited on the way to Berlin) was VERY relatable. It is history that my grandparents would have experienced, something recent, and something far more relatable than the wars of kings of centuries ago. The first night we went to a traditional German restaurant to have some crispy pork knuckle. It was pretty good, but a bit too much work to eat for my taste. I asked for water and realized that it was about 3 dollars for a then I ordered a beer. It was bad...but that's probably because I don't like beer :P but afterwards we tipped our waitress and I said to her "We were hoping we could get a picture with you" because she was wearing more traditional German clothing and so she did. Then she says to me "I can take a picture with just you if you want" and I was like "uh what?", really confused, but she was cute so of course I did haha then I walked around Berlin with my friends at night and saw the Brandenburg Gate which is BEAUTIFUL, far more so than during the day. Needless to say, it was great and I wish I could say more!


Above you can see the gate at sachsenhausen that says "Work Makes Free" in Sachsenhausen and picture of a weird guy being talked to by the police. I took this picture and the police got super mad at me and rushed at me and yelled at me to delete the pictures. Oops. I guess I missed one ;-)

Recently HCO celebrated its birthday which is basically VEISHEA for just our dormitory in Denmark with Danish laws. That means public drinking is fine, streaking is not a problem, etc. So the first major event that I participated in was the Bilka Marathon. I wouldn't usually describe drinking, but this event is just so bizarre and something we couldn't do in the US that I have to. Basically, a group of 100 of us walked 1.5 miles to Bilka (their walmart) to buy about 14 beers (or more if you're a real viking) and then walk back to HCO with our full shopping carts stopping at each of the 14 benches and drinking a beer while talking, having fun, etc. This could never happen in the US. Firstly, public drinking isn't legal. Secondly, our university students would do things to get hurt, to hurt others, or damage property. That's why we can't have nice things :-/ The police actually stopped us once, but only because we were blocking the bike path and they said we just need to be more aware of people wanting to use the bike path for its intended purpose. Danish police are very chill. Beyond that, there were also sport tournaments for football (soccer) and sand volleyball. One of our football players was injured during the Bilka Marathon so I ended up having to play for my kitchens team. They were actually surprised by how "not bad" I was which I took as a compliment. I didn't make us lose the semifinals, and we did ok in the finals (lost in shootouts after a tie game). There was also a few streakers a few different times, but here that's not considered a big deal at all. For getting second, we won a case of beer. Again, would that be a prize in the US at a dormitory event? Probs not. Then, on one of the nights, a tree ended up in the window of our Kitchen. It used to be a yearly tradition to hang a tree out of the window of my kitchen at HCO, but they were threatened with eviction if they kept doing it so they stopped for a couple years. But this year we made t-shirts with a tree hanging out of the window, so what choice did we have? The results speak for themselves. See pictures below :D