Though it’s been just under two weeks since I arrived in my new home, part of me feels like I never left in May of 2011. Walking through the city streets of Copenhagen I have reached a point where when I overhear a conversation going on in English, I am almost surprised; my ears have adjusted to expecting the sounds and patterns of the Danish language, though I most often (when I actually mean “always”) haven’t a clue what is being said by those partaking in the conversation. I have, however, acquired an increased appreciation for the power of expression. There are those hand gestures, smiles, frowns, hushed tones, and various other vocal intonations that are universal and can reveal the gist of the recounting being told by one friend to another, or the gentile words being exchanged between an elderly couple.
Not to worry, however, I have been doing things too – not simply observing people.
I was so taken with stand- up paddle boarding that I took advantage of the free trial being offered in the harbor of the Islands Brygge area of the city a second time last Sunday. While the weather was not quite as ideal as it had been on the previous day, I still had a great time (and a great work out). The afternoon was met with sunshine as I met up with some other intern buddies at the Stella Polaris concert taking place in the beautiful Østre Anlæg park behind the National Art Museum. While it was packed with many people, the diverse crowd – infants, teens, university students, middle-age-ers, and retired folk – all enjoyed the “chill” music alike.
Monday commenced the start of my first full week at DIS. Yes, I will admit it is a lot of work, and entails a learning curve so steep, the free-soloer Alex Honnold may think twice about trying to scale such a thing. Nonetheless, I am enjoying the challenge and actually find it quite fun with the constant energy at DIS and the never-ending tasks that need to be completed. The week was highlighted with an “intern barbecue” hosted by the Director of DIS at his lovely home north of Copenhagen which was also attended by the various Program Directors and the administration of DIS, a Science and Health department lunch to celebrate the hard work of the outgoing interns and the commencement of the incoming interns at a fantastic restaurant known for it’s økologiske mad (translation: organic food), and a reception for the 50th birthday of DIS’ facilities manager on the terrace of the main DIS building. All in all it was a superb first full week at work – I cannot find one single reason to complain – even a little bit.
And then to the weekend…. I had been looking forward to this weekend since before I left the US as my host sister from when I was a student here had invited me to her birthday party weeks ago. Starting in the late afternoon, she and her boyfriend hosted a hyggleligt “garden” birthday party in the courtyard of their apartment building. We started with a variety of birthday sweets (carrot cupcakes, blueberry pancakes, strawberry lagekage, strawberry tarte, cheesecake, assorted fresh fruit, amongst many other things) that she had made (yes, she had been very busy in the kitchen) and enjoyed the company of each other. Despite the fact I was the only non-Dane in attendance, I really felt right at home with the family I had spent so much time with in the Spring of 2011. Most of the conversations proceeded in Danish, but that didn’t bother me as I was perfectly content trying to pick out words I recognized and practice listening to the patterns that Danish uses in speech. I do plan on taking a Danish language class eventually, so I might as well get used to it now! The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying each others’ company and playing some games of croquet. Once the sun started to hide behind the surrounding buildings and we got a bit of a child, we moved the party inside where a fabulous dinner had been prepared. The food choices were extensive and delicious – and the company and conversation (even if I couldn’t understand all of it) was equally as special.
Waking up this morning I am pretty sure I had a smile on my face after the previous evening’s festivities. Once again the sun was shining with barely a cloud in the sky (if you must know, that is a rare occasion for Denmark), and so I put my “walking feet” on and explored the city. I made my way to the often-talked-about flea markets where really good clothing, as well as just about anything else you might want, is sold for super cheap prices. Following my “flea-marketing” I meandered back to the King’s Gardens where I took a Sunday afternoon nap in the sun surrounded by many picnickers, croquet-ers, sun-bathers, and those who just wanted to be out of doors and get a good dose of Vitamin D. Laying in the sun and listening to the sounds of the gardens – the birds, the children squealing with joy as they ran up and down the paths, the groups of guys playing intense games of Kubb, the couples enjoying glasses of wine with their picnic hors d’oeuvres – was a great finish to a relaxing, but still busy, weekend. With each day that passes I feel a little bit more of a Copenhagener, and even though there are still some bumps here and there adjusting to this lifestyle abroad, I can’t help but smile every morning when I walk out on to the street and remind myself that I am in Copenhagen. In Denmark. In Europe. I really do just have to pinch myself sometimes.