Sunday, February 17, 2013

Riding my bike like yeahhhh

I'm back! I don't know if anyone actually reads this blog, but I did enjoy writing it before grad school applications ate my life - so let's see if I can get this thing going again. Most of my entries will probably be AmeriCorps-related, but knowing my deep, undying love for all things Cope; there's probably going to be a little Danish thrown in from time to time. 

Had a major DIS flashback today whilst snowbound in the Bourne I made a playlist. Obvious course of action, selvfølgelig.

Most of these songs are ones I remember hearing over and over while clubbing (usually at the notorious Kulør Bar), so they're pretty dated now. I'll never forget Ian relentlessly mocking me over my love for the Belgian version of "Ayo Technology." Other songs can be pinpointed to more specific moments: hearing Lady Gaga's newest song circa fall 2009 and mistaking her for a Danish pop singer, chasing a crying Becky down a street in Rome, seeing Medina perform live!, and asking a bunch of Danish teenagers listening to Pitbull's "Hotel Room Service" if any of them had actually ever been to a Holiday Inn. But some songs are really good; especially the ones by Mew. 

Grab a Carlsberg Elephant from your nearest corner 7-11, and you'll be good to go!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lop City: Month 1

Our lovely little home.

 Have I already been on the Cape for a month?! Time sure does fly when you’re at lop city. Sometimes, when we're doing service with tools, I like to sing a lopping song to the tune of Taio Cruz’s Dynamite. “I came to lop, lop, lop, lop, get out the way, me and my crew crew crew …and it goes on and on and on!” Yeah, I’m a dork. But don’t worry, I mostly sing it to myself in my head. Whatever gets you through the lop day?

Hm…so what can I say about AmeriCorps Cape Cod? I live in a house with thirteen other people, and only two bathrooms. This actually hasn’t been such a problem so far, but we still have ten months to go, so we shall see! Our house is literally a stone’s throw from a retirement home. I’m sleeping in a bunk bed for the first time since summer camp. You can’t keep a secret from anyone, and pitchforking for 8 hours ain’t no joke. I’ve even been given the spectacularly unfortunate nickname of ‘Pooper,’ in reference to my stint in this costume. But I love it here, and the other corps members are an awesome group of people.

Oh yeah.

  Training is over, and now each corps member has an individual placement (IP) twice a week, along with a community development day and two days of direct service. I can’t believe how many new things I learn everyday. Before coming here, I had never even held a drill before. By the end of our one-day carpentry training, I’d helped to built six wooden kiosks. I am pretty terrible at using a hammer, though. I can’t nail anything straight!

My IP is with the engineering department at the Falmouth Department of Public Works, focusing on mapping stormwater outfall sites, and public outreach to raise awareness over the environmental issues that can arise due to water pollution. Since Cape Cod has a single-source aquifer, it’s very important to prevent water contamination. With most houses on the Cape still having septic tanks, and the water table being so low in many areas, this is a serious issue. I’ll be working primarily  on doing outdoor mapping and inputting data into GIS. Yes, fellow Gburg ES majors, seems as though I can’t escape the GIS lab after all!

Downtown Falmouth (or DTF, as Will has named it) has the most adorable collection of restaurants, stores, coffee shops, and bars. I can’t wait to check them out on my lunch break (well, not the bars). My start time for work is the ungodly hour of 7:30 AM, but at least I’m done for the day at 4 PM. It seems as though my time in the office and out in the field will be balanced pretty evenly, which should hopefully keep things interesting. My boss Bob took me out on a tour of Falmouth on Thursday, and we visited all of what he considers to be the best beaches. Sitting there in the DPW truck, rocking my yellow reflective vest and gazing out at the shoreline, I couldn’t help but think to myself that this is not real life! It was a hard decision to make, but I’m so glad that I finally settled on AmeriCorps. Apparently, I was talking in my sleep during the first week and said aloud: “I like it here.” Hopefully I can maintain this level of excitement for the rest of the year!

Explaining what groundwater is to grade schoolers with the help of my trusty fish hat.

 What else…Jenna, Kayla, and I visited Martha’s Vineyard last weekend for the first time! I spent most of our time there identifying candidates for my future home. Someday, I will be fabulously wealthy, and I will live here. Worst-case scenario, I at least need to find a friend with a boat - a man-friend or a regular friend, either one is fine. Maybe the Cape Cod goggles will help? I was also struck by just how many Black Dog General Stores there were on the island – whoever owns the company must be loaded. All of those $25.00 chew toys really add up, I suppose.

Clam Chowder at the Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven.

 The leaves have started to change, and I am experiencing the beginning of my first New England fall! We were given mini-pumpkins at an early-October service project, which have been stuck in random places throughout the Bourne house. A few of us have gotten this idea into our heads that we need to carve pumpkins, so I think tomorrow we may venture out to a patch. In Copenhagen, there wasn’t really a fall season last year; we skipped straight from summer into a rainy, gray early winter. I’d forgotten how invigorating the crisp feel of the air around this time of year can be for your spirit. There’s so many awesome things about fall. Slipping into a flannel shirt and your favorite pair of boots, sipping some apple cider and walking through fallen leaves, curling up with a good book in front of a roaring fire. We’ve been having fires every night and it’s pretty much the best thing ever.  Add some Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin munchkins, and the obligatory viewings of Hocus Pocus, and you are set! On Cape Cod, we get the double whammy of fall leaves AND the ocean, which thanks to growing up in a landlocked state I react to like  a starving person being given a steak dinner. It’s like a scenery orgasm!

Bourne huddle during capture the flag at the National Seashore!

Right before we went out for my of the more normal pictures of the night.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Our daughter has been abducted by these beige lunatics!"

I'll have a post up sometime tomorrow evening on my adventures in Cape Cod thus far, but I FINALLY saw Moonrise Kingdom this afternoon, and it entirely lived up to my expectations. What a ridiculous -yet intriguing! - little movie. Wes Anderson always does such great job of creating these complex settings, almost like little universes, for each of his films. One critic referred to Anderson's style as 'cinema-as-diorama.' Moonrise Kingdom may be my favorite Wes Anderson film yet, although it's definitely over the top. Some people might say that the film is entirely too based upon Anderson's previous kitschy formulas, and if the film hadn't featured such great actors in the lead roles, I might have had to agree. I found it very interesting how each of the characters in the film is struggling with the same issues, and yet react to Suzy and Sam's dilemma in wildly different ways. Overall, it was a very charming, quirky film that momentarily touches on deeper themes of loneliness and human connection.

You had me at 'Edward Norton as a scoutmaster.'

And I definitely want to be Suzy Bishop for Halloween, just for the blue eyeshadow alone!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Da Cope to the Cape

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” - Azar Nafisi

(with credit to Toogtyve)

Upon leaving Copenhagen at the beginning of July, I began a period of readjustment and transition that will come to an end when I arrive in Cape Cod this Sunday. I’m close to the same person I was three months ago, but I don’t expect that to be true after three months on the Cape. Being home again has been wonderful. I’m excited about my next step, but it tastes a little bittersweet. I feel as though I’m constantly saying goodbye to everyone I love! How is it possible to miss so many people at once without bursting?! But I am glad to have had the opportunity to reexamine myself in the context of home: to see how I have changed throughout college; while interning in D.C.; while living abroad. I’ve gotten to know old friends in new ways, see my best friend, and spend time with a certain boysenberry – something entirely unexpected, but very much enjoyed.

 I visited NYC for the first time in half a decade, and I actually liked it! I was (mostly) productive and went through all of my Fulbright data. What I remember of it, anyway…
I was also able to finally see one of my little brother’s soccer matches, and realized that I have reached the age where I do not really find high school boys attractive.This is probably a good thing, cause I turn 24 at the end of September!

I’m already pretty stressed about taking the GRE and applying to graduate programs, but one promise I am trying to keep to myself this fall is to really pause and take in what is going on around me. In the U.S., we are incredibly fond of rushing on from one thing to the next. I need to remember that introspection is not a bad thing. It doesn’t mean stagnation – it means figuring out how to move forward. I want to be really present in my everyday life. If I can capture even a bit of the excitement and engagement I felt while in Copenhagen, then I will have succeeded!

Man, I am having some weird mood fluctuations. Excited! PANIC. Excited! PANIC. I’m supposed to move into the AmeriCorps house between 12 PM and 4 PM. My dad wants me to leave early in case I get lost, but I think we can all agree that I will not be leaving at 6 AM on Sunday morning. Pigs would be flying, flying high and having unicorn babies before that would happen! I’ll be lucky if I make it out of the house before 9 AM.  I feel kind of like a little kid on their first day of school, except this is the first year since beginning kindergarten that I will not be a student. Can AmeriCorps Cape Cod somehow fulfill my need for snack time, recess, and dance parties? We shall see!

Random stuff for you to enjoy: (for those who asked for the old blog link)

annndddd... the most amazing pictures from my trip to Finland back in March! Thank god Alan's camera was able to pick up the lights!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I arrived in Copenhagen to begin my Fulbright grant one year ago today.  I may physically be in the U.S., but mentally, I am far, far away. I am sitting on a blanket in Kongens Have, a ginger lemon Somersby in hand, surrounded by my friends and flatmates, enjoying the way Copenhagen comes alive in the sunlight. 

Here's to hoping that what comes next has its own special magic.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Formerly MIA Blog Post #1

Fulbright Arrival, written early September 2011?

The first time I landed in Copenhagen, the weather was amazing. As the plane came into Kastrup airport, the music being piped over the loudspeaker was that "Perfect Day" song from Legally Blonde. Windmills, sparkling blue water, tiny rustic cottages, and not a cloud in the sky are the images that come to mind when I think of my first day. I remember getting a sunburn the first week because hey, what were the changes I'd need sunscreen in Scandinavia?  Well, touché Copenhagen, you sneaky little city, you and your weather have fooled me again! I can now say I have worn a scarf in August.  According to records at the University of Copenhagen, this summer has been the wettest on record in over 100 years. In retrospect, I would have been much better off leaving my sundresses at home - bringing some rainboots would have been a MUCH better idea.

I was lucky enough to have the entire row to myself on my flight over this time; however, I was sitting in the very back of the plane, located directly by the bathroom. This resulted in two scenarios happening multiple times during the 7.5 hour flight: a) I was woken up repeatedly by loud flushing noises, or b) made awkward physical contact with someone waiting for the bathroom in the aisle. Why was this awkward? I'm not really an attractive sleeper, and this is especially true when traveling (anyone sitting next to me in the van during Randy's Colorado class can testify to this!). My mouth falls open, my head tends to flop around, and I can violently jerk awake at random moments. The Danes seated around me were much too polite to crack a joke at my expense, but I could feel their stares of judgment.

I arrived in Copenhagen at 7:20 AM on August 22, exactly two years to the day that  I first came to Copenhagen when I was studying abroad. Amazingly, I think I may have actually brought less stuff with me! Watching my host family try to fit my XL suitcase into their tiny Volkswagen Jetta the first time around made quite an impression. However, this did not make wrestling my three suitcases onto a luggage cart any easier – enter host dad Thomas to the rescue! Thomas, who works for SAS, was thankfully on duty that morning. After a nice big hug, we went outside to meet my host mother Tina, who was enthusiastically waving a Danish flag.  Tina gave me a ride to my apartment, located on Store Kongensgade, between Kastellet and Kongens Nytorv.  

I’m going to be honest – my first thought upon opening my apartment door was that I’d made a huge mistake in choosing to live here. The radiator was leaking, the "man in the oven" was making weird banging noises, and our bathrooms resemble a set from the movie Hostel. In my jetlagged state I decided it would be more healthy to laugh about my situation. I wasn’t laughing so hard half an hour later, when I ended up holding up the shower curtain  with one hand and standing in five inches of water. It made my old bathroom in Corkran 209 look like a palace. Then I collaped onto my bed and slept until 1 PM the next day, when I opened my door and literally collided with my new flatmate Caroline, who is from California. She’s also incredibly tall, and I look completely ridiculous standing next to her. Caroline had been staying in the apartment alone since the beginning of August, and was overjoyed to not be alone anymore. 

View from my room.

Looking down Store Kongensgade toward Kongens Nytorv.

My Fulbright Orientation began on August 25th, giving me three days to unpack, settle in, and become completely confused when grocery shopping. Last time, I was lucky enough to not have to do shopping as I lived with a host family. This time, I brought home what I thought was milk – imagine my shock when I ended up pouring peach yogurt onto my cornflakes the next morning. Even more shocking? It actually didn't taste too bad...

The day of orientation ended with dinner aboard the Saga Queen, this swanky dinner boat docked at Havnegade. And guess what, Courtney and C Hoy! Carsten was doing the Danish history tutorial! Of course, I already knew ALL about the British bombardment of Copenhagen and the five-finger system of building. Carsten remembered me, and later that night we had a happy little reunion where we discussed the wonders of dentil molding and pilasters.  After the dinner was over, a bunch of us went to a bar and proceeded to celebrate the Fulbright, meeting new people, and it generally being such a great night. I hadn’t really celebrated the grant yet, so it was nice to finally do so – in Copenhagen, too! However, all of that celebrating took its toll – it ended up taking me an hour to walk home, as I went in completely the wrong direction and found myself in Radhuspladsen instead of Kongens Nytorv. Undskyld!

 The next morning, I opened the kitchen door to reveal our third flatmate, Stefano from Milan, Italy. He asked if I had been to Milano, to which I replied that I had not, but I was a huge fan of the Pepperidge Farm cookie. This was the first of many references to be lost in translation during my first week living in Copenhagen. 

First Semester in SKG 97, written November 2011?

Despite its flaws, our apartment is located in a great area, right between Osterport Station and Kastellet, a short walk from Den Lille Havfrue and Magasin. Store Kongensgade 97 is an  six-floor apartment building located on one of the main streets off of Kongens Nytorv, with the first floor housing a closed pub. All flats in this building are student-leased, although the surrounding buildings in our block contain mostly families.  There’s a great inner courtyard with grass, trees, and a couple of picnic tables – of course, surrounded by many, many bikes. Our apartment houses seven people in two double rooms and three single rooms, plus two bathrooms, a kitchen, and the world’s smallest common room. Annerieke and I are in the first double, while Ola and Ala, aka “the Polish girls,” are in the second. Stefano, Julien (France), and Caroline all have singles. 
How to describe daily life…Stefano likes to sing. A lot. So chances that I will hear Nirvana lyrics, songs from the musical Hair (his favorite), or random verses from an Italian opera each  day are quite high. Ola and Ala are super sweet, and make tea about ten times a day. Julien usually stays in his room, except when he emerges to make the same thing for dinner he has eaten every day since he arrived – pasta with bread and either fish or chicken. I am convinced he will come down with scurvy before the end of the semester. Annerieke is typically on Skype, or being super blunt or sarcastic in Dutch fashion toward me, her crazy American roommate. Caroline can be found reading, at the gym, or fighting with Steffie. 
Our adorable courtyard.

My first CPH adventure with Steffie at Vor Frelsers Kirke..."Okay, we go down now?"

Oh Care Care...

It was like living with a French Abercrombie greeter.

Anneriekie & Clementine at Tivoli Christmas
SKG 97 love!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Motivation to become a light packer?

The Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consists of five villages nestled along the cliffs of northwestern Italy. Due to the steep topography of the region, the easiest way to access CT is either by boat or by train, resulting in a distinct lack of the kind of corporate development I think you would typically find in a coastal vacation destination. Martina and I decided to stay in Monterosso al Mare, which translates to ‘Monterosso by the sea,’ for the first week of our “honeymoon” vacation, as we came to call it after discovering that 80 percent of the other tourists there were on romantic getaways. We managed to snag the last room in Albergo al Carugio, a quaint family-owned hotel located in the old town of Monterosso. With a gorgeous outdoor patio surrounded by lemon trees, a fabulous staff, and our own bathroom, what more could we want for 65 euros a night?! (the private bathroom was seriously key) Andrea, the owner and manager ,went above and beyond in helping us with anything we needed…such as carrying our luggage up the huge flight of stairs to our room. “You have a lot of luggage! You said you had a lot of luggage, and most people say that, but WHOA, you actually do!” We were obviously his favorite guests that week.

When I say that it is truly a miracle that Martina and I made it to Monterosso in one piece with all of our luggage, I am also not exaggerating. In fact, probably the most eventful part of our trip occurred while traveling to and from Milan. For this reason, I am going to spend most of this post describing the events of that day. I could not physically carry my two suitcases and duffel bag altogether, so Martina very generously offered (okay, I may have swayed her with my puppy dog eyes) to take one in addition to her massive orange monstrosity. You can’t take luggage carts past the ticket stand for the train to Milano Centrale – here’s a picture of the slowly dawning horror on my face as I realize that we are going to have to carry everything on our own.


But the worst part was yet to come, as we entered Milano Centrale all the way across the station from where our train was departing – twenty platforms away, to be exact. Milano Centrale is pretty darn big, and we were definitely a sight to behold as we stumbled up and over, moving at pace of roughly twenty steps every five minutes. We had a routine worked out where I would sling the duffel over my shoulder,  and drag my suitcase behind me, gritting my teeth  and speed walking as fast as possible. Step step step step step drag drag drop stop, repeat. Martina preferred a slower approach, where she would half lean on her suitcase, dragging it forward while pulling mine in her other hand. It was like watching the Olympics, if making extremely ugly grimaces, sweating profusely, and walking appalingly slowly was an event. 

Twenty minutes later, we came to platform 20. Half an hour later, we realized that our platform had been changed to #16, and had to move everything over.  Our train consisted of six- person passenger cars with luggage racks, but let’s be real, there was no way in hell we were actually going to be able to lift our bags above our heads! We instead stuck them in the hallway. This turned out to be a problem, because said hallway was designed to be just wide enough for the snack cart to fit.  If looks could kill, the snack cart guy would be rolling over my dead body, not just my suitcases. So about twice every hour, the snack guy would ring his little bell, and I would walk out to move my things until he had gone by – it could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship, if only he had just smiled…instead, he would ding his bell at me harder if I wasn’t moving quickly enough.

Now, one of the reasons we picked CT is because we wanted a locale a bit less touristy than a regular beach resort. In this case, less touristy translated to no elevators or escalators to be found; one of the least handicapped accessible places I have ever visited, including national parks. To top off our seemingly never-ending saga, after successfully making it down stairs and calling a taxi, the first two drivers we called barely spoke English, and I had stupidly packed our Italian vocab book for beach reading.  This is how my conversations with the drivers went: “We’re at the main station and we need a taxi to the square or Via Roma in Monterosso, please.” “…scusi, no English.” “Ummm Statione! To Via Roma!” Then we would both stop, listen to each other breathe for a second, and start the conversation all over again.

In October 2011, floods and landslides devastated CT. Monterosso and Vernazza were hit especially hard, and after looking at pictures of the damage, it was truly amazing ready that they were open for tourist season. Part of the preparation process involved the instillation of drainage grates across the road leading up from the main square in Monterosso, where the taxi dropped us off.  I couldn’t push my wheels over the grate, but I also couldn’t pull my suitcase up the hill.  I had to stop, turn the suitcase, pull it over the grate, turn it again, and then push it up the hill with my stomach. There were at least ten grates on this stupid hill. Since it was close to dinnertime, the street was full of tourists and locals staring at us, trying to figure out why on earth we would bring so much luggage on vacation. Eventually, a nice lady from the wine shop came over to help us, but not before chastising me for overpacking. “I’ve been abroad for a year! This is for a year!  A year!”                                     The best part? It turns out that Martina’s suitcase had two broken wheels.

After we semi-pulled ourselves together and changed out of our sweat drenched clothing, we grabbed some pizza, a bottle of wine, and sat down to watch the final Euro Cup match between Italy and Spain. This was the only part of the trip where I wished we’d chosen Spain as a destination, because we saw A LOT of sad Italians that night.  Martina and I tried to distract ourselves from this by debating which football team was more attractive. 

I was trying to get rid of books I’d collected in CPH left and right, so I may have forced Martina into reading The Hunger Games (but don’t worry, she was totally Team Peeta).  Italy dubs their TV programming, which I found surprisingly enthralling. Ohhh Martina! What shall we watch tonight?! City of Angels, or an old Italian beach movie where a hairy man is smearing and  licking Nutella off of a supermodel?! Magical. Another plus was catching a documentary on the singer Rino Gaetano, whose songs Stefano would sometimes play for us to hear in our apartment.

Milano – like the cookie! – was a very different experience after CT, but still very enjoyable. Because Milan has such an emphasis on industry, such as banking and fashion, when compared to other famous Italian cities, I think it was the right decision to only spend four days there and a week in CT. In fact, maybe even two days would have been enough to see all of the major tourist sites, unless we had somehow found the money for a side trip to Lake Como. The upside of staying four days was that Martina and I became even more relaxed in our approach to this trip – I mostly blame our hostel, which enabled us by serving breakfast until 12 PM.  We strolled through beautiful streets, sat at neat little cafes, and saw some very beautiful architecture, ruins, and paintings. Of course, there was some shopping too, but Mango and the kitschy little shops on Corso di Porta Ticinese were more our speed than Dolce & Gabbana.  I am no Carrie Bradshaw, but the shoe stores in Milan were a little piece of heaven, especially Mauro Leone, where all of the colors brought to mind a candy shop, except that you can wear the candy! Too bad my feet were too fat for all of the sizes that were left.

As for the rest of our trip, I think that showing you some pictures is necessary. Here are some snapshots of a blissful twelve days spent hiking, swimming, sweating, sleeping,  and stuffing our faces with delicious food.

Just picture us "strolling" through here with our luggage.

Our amazing view on the night of July 4th!

Really excited about the BEST tiramisu. Ever.
Take away all the people, and it could be a shot from National Geographic!
When the tide went out, there was the most amazing sound. The ocean that day looked & felt like swimming in seltzer water.

Luckily, we got most of our bikini-wearing over with before...

eating multiple servings of pesto gnocchi!
and pesto focaccia for breakfast every day...
and fresh bruschetta...
and big heaping plates of risotto!
Martina then had some issues with her cone.
I'm pretty hopeless at not tripping down the stairs...
but pretty good at getting stuck on top of boulders.

We're both pretty good at sweating! This was taken after about 15 minutes of hiking.
This photographer had a beautiful exhibition to benefit the recovery efforts. Wish my pictures turned out half as good as this one!

Wall-E at the Duomo!

Peace out.