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 glΓΈgg (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!