Thursday, January 25, 2007

Easy & Me

Strangely, I've been finding myself in bed at the end of the day with a bunch of little cuts on random parts of my body. Like right now, I found a new one on my left thumb. After careful consideration, I think these cuts may have to do with all of the sharp-dressed men I see in Copenhagen. OOOOOOOH. But seriously, the little cuts are one of maybe two things that are hard about life here, which is to say that life is, incredibly, not hard at all.

Let me begin by describing my last few days. Tuesday's commute went as smoothly as ever except that I accidentally parked my butt in the strip of seats dedicated to cyclists with their bikes and parents with their strollers. Afraid of appearing skittish, I try to feign a sense of deliberateness behind all of my actions. The story behind all of my behavior here is never ignorance, no, I meant to block that biker, he gave me a funny look. And, yeah, I wanted to sit next to an attractive father with his even more attractive baby girl, the latter wearing a puffy fuschia snowsuit (the former sadly not), and watch them both read the newspaper. Babies speaking Danish is about the closest I come to cute overload and I have a notoriously high tolerance. In other words: dead.

So far I've just been attending various orientation seminars, trying to find each of the many scattered DIS buildings, holding my paper materials in mittened hands while desperately holding my hood close around my ears (which will likely fall off somewhere in the next 48 hours). DIS likes to advertise itself as a roller coaster experience, replete with ups and downs, creaks, groans, excited screams and a certain rush of endorphins, which I find funny mostly because for a country so flat, they sure have to create opportunities for hills and thrills. This brings me to my first point: the Danes like life easy and so do I. Actually, if Denmark were, say, a man in tight pants with a strong jaw and a gold medal in cuddling, we'd probably be married and living in a blissful household where the only problems we face would be how we're having too much sex and being able to afford our zillion kids' appetites for gourmet food and beautiful clothes (answer: rob a bank, get away with it because no one has the energy to chase/prosecute us, the people whose money we stole simply go take advantage of the incredible public welfare here, living happily ever after, and really, they see where we're coming from, so they certainly don't want to hurt our chance at a steady livelihood, and hey, more power to us). Here, everybody wins because nobody loses.

Of course, to give credit where credit is due, it's not that nothing is hard, it's just that even things that would be hard for Americans are suddenly no-sweat for a well-adjusted Dane. For example, women here like to bike through the frigid streets wearing only stylish wool coats, colorful hats and high heels. No problem. Babies are out in carriages with or without windshields and lovin' it. In fact, I distinctly remember one baby sitting up in his stroller to look at me standing on a streetcorner in full epileptic shiver mode to say, "Suck it up." And this doesn't even begin to touch upon other ways it seems the Danes have of making life easy, like the fact that beer is quite literally cheaper than water (I'll certainly be carting my fair share of beer bottles in a hypothetical red flyer wagon to be recycled at the grocery store), and any variety of meats are available as pastes, many dispensed from tubes. It's worth mentioning that the sound I make when I tilt my head back, detach my jaw and squeeze the tube materials into my mouth is something akin to Danish. What I love most about these pastes is that they render chewing superfluous at best, almost obsolete at worst, a kind of outdated, novel activity, like cashing traveler's checks, manual plowing or riding a unicycle. While it may be inconvenient at times that stores open late and/or close early, I can't blame them. It's as if an entire country got together, decided they wanted to sell some goods, make some people happy, but, like me, didn't really want to wake up all that early and certainly didn't want to miss their baby's first words were they to grace our ears in the afternoon or on a Sunday (though I don't have a baby). All in all, the country seems founded on a sense of contentment and that is something I can certainly live with.

That said, this contentment-as-virtue state of life here makes the difficult moments stand out all the more. I should preface this by saying that I love that DIS takes care of us international students, gathering all of our paperwork in one convenient if embarassing official embroidered messenger bag, and holding our hands through the adjustment process. They have most if not all things taken care of for us. (I sometimes speculate that if I were to lose a liver or some organ, DIS would have a vault somewhere deep in Vestergade 10 with a perfect match liver waiting for a transplant, provided the need arise within the six weeks for which the DIS-issued health insurance is valid.) And on Tuesday, after a long day of orientation and survival Danish, it was nice to find that DIS employees had gathered every single one of our textbooks for us. However, it was not nice to find that these textbooks were gathered into large, bright blue IKEA bags. The basement of Vesteragde 7 was a virtual sea of giant blue bags, arranged alphabetically, sitting like sputtering masses of unfathomable girth, or something. Each of the students then had to carry these monsters home, which for some students meant an hour-plus commute, and for all of us meant walking side by side with graceful, efficient Danes. I personally did my best to efface my struggle, but it probably was more than a little pitiful to see my frame carrying a bag half my weight on my (now bent) shoulder. But I'm not complaining.

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