18 December 2010

Copenhagen: The Final Chapter

I left Copenhagen a couple days ago after a stressful and emotional week. I had a list of errands that was longer than an anaconda, and in the end, I didn't manage to complete them all. I also didn't get the opportunity to say goodbye to everyone I would've liked to, but hopefully I will see many of them over the coming weeks as I set off on a new adventure around Europe and North Africa. I'm currently in London and worrying that my backpacking adventure may start with a hiccup: each of the major airports today closed down due to this morning's heavy snowfall.

My final Kafa X-perience
My final night in Copenhagen was spent doing my favourite things. At Kafa X, we munched on delicious (and dumpster-dived) vegan food with a handful of remaining exchange students. Later on, we moved onto Stash's place, right in the city centre, for some cheap Tuborg beers and nice hygge. After a few drinks and some short, honest and heartfelt exchanges with my friends, I farewelled them with a final hug. I slipped my thick mittens on and prepared myself for one last bike ride in Copenhagen.

Stash's place
It was an unusually lonely bike ride for me. During my time in Copenhagen I almost always had a companion to ride home with. Not Tuesday night though, as my neighbouring friends had either left Copenhagen already, or were at home preparing for the next day's exams. I have many great memories of riding home through Enghavavej. I remember one of my first rides home - I was with Tom C. He stacked it behind me because I applied the brakes too suddenly at an orange light. Rookie error (on my part!). Then there's the time we somehow ended up at Sydhavn after following Ed P home from Christiania. And that time Tien and I looked for the sea, only to end up at a MacDonalds in the middle of nowhere. And the time Mala, Aurora and I decided it would be smart to ride home from the local Netto through the thick snow. We all ended up stacking it and Aurora still sports bruises from that incident to this day. Then there's that whole list of late night drunken bike rides home, dangerously weaving in and out of the bike lanes whilst singing at the top of our lungs...

Copenhagen has been a truly memorable experience for me. I will finish my final post on Copenhagen with an extract of my testimonial I wrote for the exchange office back home.

I made many amazing friendships on this exchange that I will cherish forever. It’s the friends I've made that really enhanced my exchange experience. For instance, I had Danish friends who taught me the art of drinking snaps during the course of dinner, Greek friends who’d slap the back of my head after a haircut, Belgian friends who spoiled me with their Belgian chocolate desserts, and Swedes who’d show me a good night out just across the border of Denmark.

I must warn though, exchange is not a completely smooth and easy experience. Be prepared for some challenging times. It is tough to settle into a new country without initially having like-minded friends. Remaining positive during the winter can also be difficult, with the sun setting as early as 3pm. However, this experience has taught me that tough challenges are part and parcel with any life experience, and that the right attitude and outlook will always help in overcoming such adversity.

15 December 2010

Saint Lucia's Night

Every year on December 13, each town in Sweden elects a girl to portray St Lucia. With a crown of candles on her head, she leads a procession of young women. The young women, in their beautiful white gowns, carry candles in their hands. It was commonly believed that the longest night of the year (ie. the darkest day of the year) was on December 13, which is why this event is held on this day annually.

I learnt all about this from David M, who led us on a very insightful experience of St Lucia in Malmo, Sweden. Apparently, the most beautiful girl is selected to portray St Lucia each year. My Swedish friend, Ester, claims she was overlooked in high school to portray St Lucia: she was the runner-up, and to this day, this has scarred her.

The ceremony took place in the centre square with the girls angelically singing many well-known carols. The city was so different compared to my last visit a few weeks ago. This time, it was decorated with countless beautiful lights, Christmas trees, an ice rink, and there was also a clear room in the city-centre which radio hosts resided in, in an attempt to raise money for charity.  While we stood outside to appreciate the carol-singing, the extreme cold eventually became too much for us to bear; our feet became numb and we were shivering. David then kindly brought us to a warm Caribbean-themed restaurant where we happily indulged in some exotic food whilst letting our feet thaw.

12 December 2010

Negative Three Degrees. Negative Several Friends.

  • The laundry room at Tranehavegard.  A retired Danish man sips on a beer while waiting for his load.  Looks like Santa Clause.  Maybe he is.  He complains about how absurd it is that he has to pay tax on his pension payments. He gets his English and Danish words muddled up.
  • All out of toiler paper. Four days til I leave. It's a two week investment. Steal some from the Jurahuset instead.
  • Looked outside.  It's a sunny day.  Walked outside in a jumper and flip flops.  Took some photos of my bike. Trying to sell it. Ended up freezing. Ran back inside after a minute. Negative 3 degrees. Sunny days are deceiving.  (Oh! Let me know if you're coming here on exchange soon and want to buy my bike!)
  • After hours.  Bispetorvet building. We work the sound system downstairs. Calvin Harris' latest album. Beers from 7/11. Free foosball. People upstairs: studying, stressing and jealous.   
  • Kitchen is cold. Used a spanner to let the air out of the heater. A black liquid spurts everywhere uncontrollably. Kitchen floods. Clothes ruined.
  • First time visiting Frederiksberg Have. We hire ice skates. Big ups to European skaters.  But not Greek ones.
  • Drinks at Stash's. Tuborg plus pizza. Frozen pizza is ten times cheaper than a restaurant one. Also ten times worse.
  • Friday night. Norrebro House party. 4th floor. Bad speakers. Heaps of popcorn. Lots of goodbyes.
  • Last night.  Half price dinner at Dalle Valle. Grilled Salmon. More goodbyes.

10 December 2010

The End is Near, Louisiana

On Monday, I finished my last piece of assessment for my degree ever! The prospect of no longer being a student triggered a mix of thoughts and emotions in me.  I've been warned it'll be the little things I'll miss like enjoying student discounts (on transport, movies etc), having plenty of spare time and being able to sleep-in.  Eeeek!

It's been a jam-packed week for me as I attempt to fit in as much as possible before I leave Copenhagen in less than a week.  I've been organising my next month of travelling around Europe and North Africa, running errands such as closing bank and phone accounts, and of course, spending some quality final moments with my friends before we all leave.

Christmas markets seem to have popped up everywhere in Copenhagen.  I stumbled upon one on Monday evening just off the main street of Stroget.  A number of edible treats like pastries, toffee apples, and glogg were on show, tempting us into emptying our wallets.

Christmas Markets
Later that evening I went to Nick and Maria's place in Vesterbro for the weekly movie night they've been running for a month or so.  The two of them cooked up a storm for dinner as usual (which I'm so grateful of!), and with ample popcorn on hand, we watched City of God on their friend's projector.  Every time I watch a movie there, I can't help but add it to my list of favourite movies ever!  Previous movies there include Trainspotting and Exit Through the Gift Shop.

On Tuesday, a handful of us finally visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.  I've heard amazing things about this place since I moved here, and it easily lived up to expectations.  We spent a whole day there, exploring its numerous exhibitions and outdoor sculptures by the sea.  I was particularly impressed with the exhibition by Walton Ford, whose beautiful, highly saturated life-sized paintings of exotic animals commented on how humans associate animals with certain traits.  For instance, in his Birds of America project, his work discusses why the USA decided to adopt the Bald Eagle as it's national bird, contrary to George Washington's suggestion for adopting the Wild Turkey (which, unlike the Bald Eagle, is exclusive only to North America).  What is it exactly that gives a Bald Eagle the desirable human traits of courage and bravery?

Walton Ford's Exhibition
Outside Louisiania
Outside Louisiania
While I was there, I was also excited to see some of Yves Klein's work.  I've known about his legendary work ever since high school when my friends Michael and Charles told me all about him and his creation of International Klein Blue, a special colour of blue that retains its pigment when suspended in oil.  They're in a great band from back home called Yves Klein Blue and have been making waves for years.  Check them out while you're here!

Now I have to run.  (Errands).

04 December 2010

First Goodbye and Metro Flashmob

Saturday night and I'm staying in.  How depressing!  I'm skipping a Finnish Independence Day party tonight that I really wanted to go to, to reunite with some old Scandinavian friends I met in Hong Kong a few years ago.  Why?  Because I have a 4,500 word paper due on Monday that I'm still yet to write.  It's supposed to be a relatively simple paper to write, but it's my last piece of assessment (ever) for my 6 year dual degree.  Knowing that makes it a little more difficult, and it's making me nervous!

Today also marked my first goodbye.  My dear friend Aurora, who I've been spending lots of time lighting candles with of late, was the first of my many friends here to leave Copenhagen.  I've been on exchange before so I know what to expect from marks the beginning of the worst part of exchange: the goodbye period, and it happens all too quickly.

On a brighter note, last night there was a flashmob party on the Metro.  A few of us left the Jurahuset Friday Bar early to attend this party-on-a-train event.  Our group arrived at Norreport Station at 10.30pm, half an hour after the scheduled party-train left.  However, we were relieved to find over a hundred other revellers waiting at the station for the next party-train to arrive.  When it finally did, we flooded the train with numerous alcoholic beverages in hand.

We were packed like sardines on the train, listening to dance music that wasn't quite loud enough for anyone to bust a move.  There were no disco-balls nor fancy lights - just a lot of people squished awkwardly on a train and just appreciating how weird the experience was.  After arriving at the next station at Forum, some of the revellers hopped off, and some commuters, unaware of what was going on, hopped on.  As soon as the doors closed, all those around them started jumping, moshing, singing, and anything else that would make them feel uncomfortable!  It was hilarious to watch, but after a couple more stops, we'd had enough and were actually feeling nauseous.  By the time we arrived back at Norreport Station, we noticed that the train security staff had come out in force to stop the party, and to check for valid train tickets - which none of us had.  Good thing we'd hopped off early.

01 December 2010

I finished an exam today and only have one piece of assessment left in my undergraduate degree!  I'm not at all used to oral exams so I was relieved when it was all over.  I tried recruiting a number of people to go to the Tivoli Gardens with me tonight, but many couldn't make it for the following reasons (which are becoming more and more common):
  • Studying for exams
  • The snow/cold (tonight was -5 degrees celsius)
  • Dangerous bike riding conditions
  • Poor train connections
  • Harry Potter 7
Fortunately, Mala, Igne and Aurora joined for what was to be a joyous evening. We felt like wide-eyed children again with thousands of fancy lights illuminating all the park's attractions; from pirate ships, palaces and pagodas to willow trees and merry-go-rounds. After drinking a few servings of gløgg (a type of warm, sweet Danish mulled wine), we decided it'd be fun to go on the chair-swing carousel; not such a good idea unless you enjoy being nauseous!  

28 November 2010

Snow Fight!!1!!one!!!

It's been a crazy week of snow and studying this week.  Unfortunately the train network on our side of town is down for renovation for a couple weeks which means for all of us living in Tranehavegard who want to go to our campuses to study, we either have to bike in the ice and snow which can be dangerous (but I love the thrill) or endure the crowded and slow buses.  Alternatively, you can be mega lazy and just stay inside, which is what the majority of students seem to be doing now...including myself.

View from the apartment
I'm spending the next few days at A's apartment across the street to keep each other company in these dark times and to ensure we don't procrastinate too much during our study sessions!  We have created some nice 'hygge' to assist us.  This is one of those words that even my Danish friends struggle to define.  The closest  translation I can think of is 'cosiness', however, I've been told this translation is still inadequate.  We have three candles along the window sill and all the heaters are turned up to the max.  There are large snow flakes floating around outside, however, it is getting dark very quickly, and early, around 3.30pm.

Last night one of the Canadian students organised a snow fight at midnight.  With only a few hours notice, over a dozen of us met up at the benches between our apartments for an unforgettable battle.  The Australians really struggled; our snowball-making skills and throwing accuracy just didn't cut it compared to the Europeans and Canadians.  Thirty minutes later, we were all left panting, cold, soaked and grinning*.

*except poor Mala who got hit by Ed a lot

27 November 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

Last week I was annoyed because someone had stolen my camera equipment at Kronborg Castle, which included my Krumpler bag and telephoto lense, which amounted to over $400.  In the past fortnight, I can think of at least 5 friends who've had their bikes stolen, and just yesterday my friend's bag with all her valuables inside was snatched too.  I was starting to lose faith in Danish people...until I was on a train last night heading to Vega to see Jamie from The XX play a DJ set (I didn't end up going though).

Snow has been sprinkling over the city for the last four days and it seems that everyone has abandoned their bikes to catch public transport to get to places.  Unfortunately, four days of snowing also means that train tracks get damaged, which is exactly what happened last night.  As the train that I originally assumed was heading to Enghave arrived at Kobenhavn H, a young lady asked if I spoke Danish.  I said no, and then she explained to me that the train was reversing to head to Hillerod, which is a long way away from my place, in the other direction!  There was a girl who had passed out on the train and she had also tried to assist her in getting off at Kobenhavn H Station.

I spoke to the young lady, Katrine, for a while who translated everything for me, and we walked around the streets to find a bus to catch together to the next train station.  I found out she'd spent half a year in Australia a few years ago and we were both reminiscing about the weather and beautiful beaches there!  When we hopped off the bus, we were told we'd have to wait another 15 minutes for the next train, and at 1am, with snow showering everywhere and ourselves sobering up, it did not seem like a viable option to wait!  She kindly paid for a taxi home from the station and I feel so indebted to her.  The kindness of strangers.  Without her, I think I would've fallen asleep on the train and ended up at Hillerod!

23 November 2010

Indendørs Loppemarked Volume 2

You know I'm supposed to be studying when I'm doing two posts in one night!  Warehouse Markets: turning trash into treasure.

Maedhbh dazzling in her new velvet suit
Steph looking cute as a pea with her new beanie
Lizzie tossing up whether to buy this sweet suit (I hope she did)

SNOW (plus people's kitchen)

Just like every other Australian here, I'm excited that it's finally started snowing in Copenhagen!  It's actually my third time seeing snow this semester.  Previously I saw some in Norway (I went crazy!) and then last week in Lund. 

This is my street
I wasn't nearly as excited as my Australian friend, Charlotte, who lives across the road from me.  I was just riding home when she called me and excitedly screamed "It's snowing! Let's go play!".  It was 9pm and 0 degrees but we still managed to take some photos and throw some snowballs at each other.

Snow just happens to be one of my favourite rappers as well.  Check him out:

Tonight I went to People's Kitchen (pictured below) in Norrebro.  I don't think I've written about it before but it's a fantastic concept.  Basically, you go to eat mainly vegan food in a worn-down space using second-hand plates and cutlery.  It is a donation-based dinner prepared by volunteers, and 20DKK ($4) is the typical amount to donate.  After finishing the delicious meal, you wash up and dry your own plates and have the option of hanging around for free tea and playing board games.  They also have a whole lot of bread and pastries for you to take home; I assume they are the leftovers of a nearby bakery.  Tonight, we were lucky enough to have some biodynamic farmers from Jutland (mainland Denmark) give us a fantastic insight into biodynamic farming.  These farmers focus on the holistic relationship between soil, plants, animals and humans.  They were extremely spiritual farmers and I was completely fascinated by their unusual farming techniques and opinions.

There's a People's Kitchen each night at a different venue, but I usually go to the Tuesday one in Norrebro because there's a sweet hangout nearby that plays free interesting documentaries on Mondays and Tuesdays.  In recent weeks, they've played 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' and 'Taking Liberties'.  Here, we sit on old couches in a dilapidated building and enjoy cheap beer, and occasionally, if we're lucky, free popcorn and chocolate milk.  As it's been getting colder, less and less people have been going so it was amazing having the whole place to ourselves last week (pictured).

21 November 2010

We should Swede this film!

The title of this post does not make as much sense as I would like it to, but if you're a fan of Michel Gondry's 'Be Kind Rewind' you'll understand it's a reference to that.

L and I visited a friend of ours, Hannes, in Lund (pictured) on Thursday.  It's a pleasant student town where everything seems cheaper than Copenhagen except for alcohol, which is monopolised.

We hung out at Hannes' student residence and had a big night with a few of his dorm mates (pictured).  During the partying, I couldn't help but wonder whether I would've had a more fun time in Lund than I currently am in Copenhagen.  I remember Lund was originally my first preference on my exchange application, but I switched it to Copenhagen at the 11th hour, believing Copenhagen would have the social aspect of Lund plus more in terms of attractions, cultural events and things to do.  Oh how wrong I was.  Seeing Hannes socialise with his flat mates and hearing his stories about the almost-daily Nations parties made me realise how silly it was for me to consider the social aspects of Lund and Copenhagen to be comparable.  I believe Lund is definitely a better place than Copenhagen if you want to live a partying lifestyle and constantly meet people.  However, it is a small town where after a couple of hours I felt that I had completely explored the town.  For someone like me who's travelled across the world to see Scandinavia, I think Copenhagen was a better choice in that it's a better base in terms of weekend travel trips, and because there are lots of 'artsy' things to do which align with my interests more than partying.  However, I find that with all my friends in Copenhagen living so far from each other and the lack of large and frequent parties, this has stifled my ability to meet and get to know as many people as I would have had I lived in Lund.

On our way back to Copenhagen, L and I decided to stop by Malmo (pictured), the third biggest city of Sweden.

There are three reasons why I (and I know many people do) would shop at Malmo over Copenhagen:
  1. There is no shortage of unusual public art in the shopping district (pictured below)
  2. It's cheaper to shop there than Copenhagen (but it's still Scandinavia, therefore, more expensive than the rest of the world!)
  3. They have everything* you need in their large stores and malls. [*probably not mythical creatures]

After bugging the lady at the Malmo Tourist Office, she let us use her phone to call our friend Gustav (who we met in Hong Kong on exchange years ago) unexpectedly.  We were extremely fortunate in that he was able to take time off work on such short notice to catch up with us for a lovely drink!

For Leah and I, it was amazing how many friends from our exchange in Hong Kong we caught up with in the last couple weeks.  For instance, last week in Amsterdam we also met up with Remco (Dutch), Marion (Dutch), Cornelius (German) and Victor (Dutch) for the first time in years.

20 November 2010

Kronborg and Crystal Castles

A few days ago we caught a train to the north-eastern tip of Zealand to a town called Helsingor.  Sound familiar?  Well, Helsingor is actually where Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet was set, except that in the play it was referred to as Elsinore.  The main attraction in Helsingor is Kronborg Castle (pictured), a world heritage listed fortress located at the sound between Denmark and Sweden.  Every year there is a re-enactment of Hamlet staged at the castle.  Celebrities such as Jude Law have recently performed in such productions.

After a long and exhausting day at Helsingor, we spent the evening jumping around to a very solid set from Crystal Castles (pictured) at Vega.  It was actually my first international gig in Copenhagen.  I've been kicking myself all semester for forgoing opportunities to see Beach House, Foals, Blonde Redhead, The New Pornographers, Animal Collective, David Guetta and Broken Social Scene, so it was finally good to be able to sing and dance to music I love with dozens of other exchange students.

18 November 2010

I AMsterdam

Last weekend, Leah and I snuck off to Amsterdam to escape the increasingly undesirable weather of Copenhagen.  Our friend Marion, who we met on exchange in Hong Kong, was our hostess with the mostess.  She provided us with bikes, mattresses and very generous hospitality...all this across the street from Anne Frank's House!

After arriving on Friday night, we danced all night at the Sugar Factory's Voodoo Party.  I felt like a kid again when I entered the club; there were rows of colourful costumes to hire (for free) and numerous queues to get your face painted in neon colours (pictured).

On Saturday we walked around the city and I fell in love with it.  The streets were already decorated with Christmas lights and there was a cosy feel to the city.  There are canals everywhere (pictured) and it started to feel like we were walking around in circles.  Every street and canal look the same!  We stumbled upon some nice cafes and 'coffee shops' and also did some shopping at some flea markets.

The most unusual thing I witnessed in Amsterdam was the arrival of Sinterklass (Santa!) on the main street.  He was welcomed by a roar of children's cheers as hundreds of his 'black' helpers (pictured) paraded through the streets, handing out candy and biscuits.  His helpers were actually Caucasian people who had painted their faces completely black.  Leah and I found this to be controversial, as we thought it could be interpreted as portraying black people as slaves.  Marion explained that the helpers were black because they'd help Sinterklass by sliding chimneys to deliver presents, thus becoming 'sooty' or black.

Other places we explored included the red light district, Van Gogh's Museum, the flower markets (pictured), the Jordaan neighbourhood, the Begijnhof houses (pictured), Anne Frank's House and Marion's rooftop (pictured).  There is too much to summarise here so hopefully the pictures will do justice.

09 November 2010

nvahyN is Nyhavn spelt backwards

I'm pretty sure I'm the last exchange student to visit Copenhagen's most touristy area, Nyhavn.  I went there yesterday on what was considered by many a 'good' day in terms of weather: 6 degrees and lots of wind.

Ever heard of the travelling gnome?  Well, this is a picture of Clarence the Mantis; Leah's travelling macho-baby-doll/thing/creature.

I'm currently lounging in Paludan, every law student's favourite cafe near campus, perusing through the CPH:DOX program with Leah.  She's leaning over my shoulder, telling me that I spelt 'favourite' wrong, but she's American so she wouldn't know better.

08 November 2010

A Force to be Reckoned With

This week my blog reached a milestone - 2,000 views!  Watch out Google, Facebook and Yahoo; you have a new competitor in town!

I am so glad to see that people out there actually read this!

I've been so busy of late.  My best friend from the US (who I haven't seen for 18months) just arrived in CPH this weekend.  She's staying for two fun-filled weeks so I spent all of last week smashing some readings out of the way. Yesterday we spent a whole day at KB Hallen looking through people's trash and turning it into our treasures (pictured).

I've noticed this week that all the leaves around CPH have either fallen or are about to.  I brought my camera with me to campus last week in the hope of capturing the last remnants of a once-colourful Copenhagen (pictured).  Caro, as usual, is a natural when it comes to photos.

03 November 2010


While I was studying today I was hugely distracted by the CPH:DOX looks WHOA!  I'm going to look into buying tickets tomorrow for a number of documentaries including one about Joaquin Phoenix's past year as a fake rapper.  I have to admit I fell for his crazy stunt, but I still have a lot of respect for him; I think it takes a lot of courage to pursue such a creative project that has jeopardised his acting career. 

As part of the festival, there is also a Youtube Battle next Saturday evening that I wish I could go to...but I'll be in Amsterdam.  It's basically an event in a bar where two groups compete to win cheers from the crowd by taking turns in playing the most random/gross/interesting/funny/weird/creative youtube videos on the spot.  My friends back home, Caley S and Steve M, would've especially loved it.  In fact, I picture them battling each other in a Youtube World Championship one day.  Steve would unleash a video of synchronised Japanese businessmen.

Then Caley would respond with a pokemon video of Australian politics.

01 November 2010

Halloween: no tricks just treats

I had a priest, an astronaut and some others over last night for pre-drinks, pre-eats and face-painting before the big Halloween party down the road at Vega.

I wore a Nokia 3210 costume I made a few weeks ago for a 90s party at Egmont Kollegium, and it was kind of tricky riding my bike in it.

While we were at Vega, I was stumbling around looking for a bathroom and before I knew it, my friend Lizzie pulled me up onto a stage and I had apparently won a best costume prize.  I scored a bottle of Fisk, Denmark's national (and grossest) drink and enjoyed it with my blood-oozing pals and Superman!