Under Construction

Construction at Østerport StationEverywhere you turn in Copenhagen there is construction. Omnipresent are the giant cranes that incongruously litter the historic city skyline. The level of high green walled construction sites seems in high proportion to the lovely Danish architecture. Behind these walls echo the seemingly perpetual noise of excavators, dump trucks, jack-hammers, blow torches. Lucky for me, despite my distast for the impacted sight lines and vistas these sites create, is the fact that many of them have wonderful murals, providing many opportunities for creative and beautiful public art. Being a member of my public art council in Oregon, I can get behind this.

Construction in the Lakes near Østerbro

But, what are they constructing? I’m glad you asked. Behind all those green walls with their muraled façades, will be the new City Circle Line Metro – known as Cityringen here in Danish. Like everything that I have experienced here, there is a beautiful design and polish to the Danish intent for this Cityring. Here is the graphic presentation of the lovely Circle Line (that is already behind 7 months in construction and slated to be opened after our visas expire in the summer of 2019. Boo.)

Beautiful Danish design in theory
Beautiful Danish design in theory

Here is another – not quite as perfect representation.

Not as beautiful Danish design – but a’ight

And here is what it will actually be like traveling on the circle ring.

Danish design in reality

To be honest – when I found out that it wasn’t actually going to be a true circle – which would have been so much cleaner – my internal Spotify loop of Beyonce’s “to the left, to the left” suddenly faded out. (Record scratching silence ensued.) Suggestions for new musical representation of actual shape of the circle line solicited and encouraged. Please comment below. I digress. (I’m good at that.)

Why am I so interested in a new Metro system that I will be unable to utilize? (Unless of course, we do come back to visit lovely Copenhagen in the future. A future in which I would be pleased to partake of a ride on the ring.) Why now though? Who really cares besides all the cool art? (Don’t worry – there is lots of it shared in the gallery below.) CLICK. Here’s why. This morning, while walking to one of my favorite café’s on the lakes – Den Franske Café – that big ugly green wall that encroaches into our neighborhood’s end of the lake and sits plainly in view from the café – made me stop.

Cityringen construction IN THE LAKE
Cityringen construction IN THE LAKE

Construction. Ugh. Ugly, noisy, slow, loud. BUT. I realized. I… am also under construction. An expat under construction, if you will. The idea was couched, the plans were agreed upon, the contractors determined (maybe not fulfilling expectations yet), champagne crashing ground-breaking has occurred, construction has started and earth is being turned. But.

It’s noisy. The biker who bangs on my window and yells at me in another language what I can only assume is something akin to the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing. You’re right! I don’t! EEEK! I’m sooooo sorry!! I didn’t see you there around the CONSTRUCTION that is taking place right outside my building. Noisy. Children who don’t have the established outlets or courage yet to set out on their own and spend a wee bit more time together than they are used to – Noisy.

It’s ugly. Messy and frought with emotion. Hard to correlate the initial butterflies and anticipation with the reality of the now. There have been a myriad of scientific studies done that illuminate the phases one might proceed through during an expatriation. I will divulge that I have clearly moved past the “honeymoon” phase and am a wee bit mired in the “culture shock” phase. Being the middle of vinter does not assist said feelings of dislocation, confusion and the rapidly rotating emotions of frustration, apathy and a dash of annoyance. I know this too shall pass, but for now I will embrace the valley. From changes, challenges and seasons past – I know the peaks will be all the more worthy for having felt the low.

It’s slow. Incremental. Like grass growing. Slow. Like the few minutes a day we glean of daylight. Slow. When I think I understand something, I quickly realize that I have no idea. Aha! Oh. No? Ok. Square one. Everything takes longer. Easy tasks become challenging. There is a sense of wings being clipped at times. Expectations have been lowered, so that little triumphs and discoveries can be exalted when found, which is good. But it is slow, this construction of my expatriated self.

It’s LOUD. I will proclaim to you LOUDLY (here and on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Instagram and Pinterest – that’s pretty loud right?) that I am working on it. Have patience with my construction. Be prepared for delays and oversights and cost-inefficiencies. I’ll let you know when we’re moving into the next phase. For now – enjoy the photos. Cheers from Denmark. PS – don’t worry about me #imok.

Fisker

Big boy did some reconnaissance online and garnered yesterday’s winter excursion destination.
Furesø – a lovely lake about 20 minutes drive from our house. Walking paths, crunching snow, quiet docks, alas, no friske fisk for dinner. We had hoped to warm up the darling Jægerhuset with views right on the water, but missed the timing of their service. We’ll definitely be back to lay our lines and hopefully have better luck. What I won’t want to miss is a voyage on the Bådfarten.Yep. I said it. No need to plug your nose for these pics though! Enjoy. Happy Mandag!

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Explørdag – Volume III – Nørrebro

It’s Explørdag once again. We’re staying local and I have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to our neighbor, Nørrebro. One of the 10 districts (burroughs, ‘hoods, areas) that comprise Copenhagen’s capitol region. This Saturday it was an Explørebro. The Danglish continues to evolve. Forgive me.

Harken back, if you will, to medieval times – Copenhagen an emerging trading port in the Baltic has become the center of Scandinavia. Historically speaking, a city’s evolution into grandeur is rarely without challenge. A walled edifice, traditional throughout Europe, was erected to protect this growing economic base on the Øresund. From what I have learned, there were four original “gates” (unfortunately all dismantled in the mid-nineteenth century) that offered access to the growing Copenhagen centret. As for these historic ports, their impact remains solely in name and geographic location to the center city – Vesterbro to the west, Nørrebro to the north and Østerbro to the east. (Amager to the south). Literally translated in our modern languages they mean west bridge, north bridge and east bridge respectively. A little etymology again; call me a word nerd and bear with me. But there was no actual bridge at these points and rather the titles evolved from the Old Norse word brolagt meaning paved. These were the original paved entrances to the main city.

We live in Østerbro – the eastern bro. Standing in the historical old center of Copenhagen – we are the furthest ‘hood to the right, in geography alone – I can not attest to political leanings at this date, although it is definitely more family-oriented and ostensibly more conservative. In stark contrast, nearby, radiating from the city center to our left is Nørrebro. You can ride, walk, shuffle, skip, bus, dance down the man-made lakes that separate the old town from the “bro’s” and find yourself in Nørrebro. The northern bro is the wild one. Exotic and gritty. Complex and crazy. Graffiti and grunge and good food and young people.

The Northern bro - Nørrebro
The Northern bro – Nørrebro
Nørrebro-fiti
Nørrebro-fiti

Colors are different here. Smells are different here. Sounds are different here. I like it. Many of the city’s immigrants have pooled together in Nørrebro, which is part of the reason it feels different from other neighborhoods. Traditional Danish culture comingles on a daily basis with a diversity of cultures from many of earth’s corners here. It’s spicy, colorful, flavorful and exciting.

One of the most flavorful coffee purveyors in Copenhagen hails from Nørrebro. Myself migrating from Portland, Oregon where coffee micro-batch roasters, coffee houses and baristas with skilz were second only in popularity, diversity and unique flavors to our world-famous craft brews and microbreweries – I will admit that I may have moved here dragging a suitcase full of coffee snobbery. Insert The Coffee Collective. Mid-way down on Jægersborggade, an underwhelming (on first impression) street above the Assistens Kirkegård (Cemetary) in the middle of Nørrebro. (An aside – a veritable who’s who of Danish super-peeps are buried or memorialized there… heard of Hans Christian Andersen? Søren Kierkegaard? Lots more.) But I’m not seeing dead people today, I’m here for the coffee. And it is delicious. A tiny step down into the – dare I say “garden-level” – original shop collects a LINE every time we’ve visited. It’s not quick, but worthy. And they have converted me from my normal latté of yore. In Copenhagen – my order is a cortado. Less milk, more rich espresso. Short, beautiful, luxe. I’m in love.

Cortado luxe from The Coffee Collective on Jæegersborggade
Cortado luxe from The Coffee Collective on Jæegersborggade

Caffeinated and happy, I’ll share my next love in Nørrebro – can you guess? It might have something to do with Kunst. Art. Korrekt! Slicing through several northern bro blocks is a fantabulous public art space known as Superkilen Urban Park. We met Superkilen by surprise when dropping our eldest off for practice with the Copenhagen Lacrosse Team (of which he is the youngest player – lacrosse is not big here – more on that in another post.) They were practicing at the amazing sports facility Nørrebrohallen, the entrance of which is on Red Square – one beautiful and interesting segment of Superkilen.

Spicy colors of Nørrebro
Spicy colors of Nørrebro
Red Square of Superkilen
Red Square of Superkilen

Swings, kids, skate ramps, a boxing ring and workout equipment set in an open pinkish red plaza with nod to Russian iconography. Hunh? It works. Warm and inviting and fun and piquing and entertaining and interesting all at once. There are several other sections to Superkilen that will have to be adventured on another Explørdag. For now – enjoy the warm tones and exciting colors of Nørrebro. It’s Saturday night – I’m going out! Skål!

A Winter’s Expatriation

Today the temperature wavered between 0 and 2°C. That’s hovering at freezing for those who don’t automatically correlate to the metric system employed here in Denmark. Employed pretty much everywhere else in the world save for the United States and four other small mostly Caribbean nations (all of which I have been too weirdly – ‘cept not Palau.) Here in Denmark, the temperature is the only thing that I have not used an app, device, Google function, etc. to convert. I regularly convert prices in shops from Danish Kroner (DKK) to U.S. Dollars ($$$) to try and keep a healthy perspective on what feels like (and usually is) ridiculously high price tags for nominal goods and services. I convert street signs, parking signs, shop signs, directions, washing machine instructions, food labels, recipes, ingredient lists, menus, bank notices, post office announcements, furniture advertisements – basically everything… from Danish to English. But I don’t convert the weather. Why?

It is what it is. I cannot control the weather anymore than I can control the unwavering and inexplicable popularity of black licorice here in Denmark. Seriously – they put it in, on and with EVERYTHING. Licorice candies come in more shapes than you can imagine. There is chocolate licorice. Licorice ice cream. Licorice gum. Alcoholic licorice. Cocktails with licorice candies in them (I did not try that, but witnessed many being ordered.) Licorice cakes. Chili-spiced sour licorice gummies. Um, eww (those were on sale by the way, maybe I wasn’t the only one who thought as such.) I digress. Out of my control.

Weather is something you have to feel. Does it feel cold? What temperature is that? 2°C? 8°C? It’s all relative right? A Southern Californian comes north and wears her sweater on a summer eve in Oregon when we might be rocking our sundresses and sandals. Michiganders don’t stop when the temps dip into negative Fahrenheit parameters. Nor Minnesotans, or Kansans, or North Dakotans or anyone else who lives in those states where Polar Vortexes exhibit icy wintery tentacles of horribly long winter-ness. Nor Danes apparently for that matter. Upon initial assessment, I will admit that they are a pretty darn hardy bunch – biking in all sorts of weather. Although I have yet to see it get REALLY upper Midwest cold here yet. But, I may have just jinxed myself.

Vinter Swans don't mind the koldt.
Vinter Swans don’t mind the koldt.

My point is – how will you get to KNOW what a Celsius temperature is, if not by feel. So converting it all the time actually defeats the learning process. This is what 2°C feels like. This is what 20°C feels like (although I don’t know that feel yet – I’ll have to get back to you.) Does that make sense? Sure. So why all this about the weather? About as interesting as my dear Grandma’s annual birthday cards dutifully describing the latest in south-eastern Kansas weather along with my anniversary wishes. I can’t control the weather.

It’s vinter. Winter in Denmark. I know I keep saying that – but it is. It’s dark. Getting lighter everyday though – we can all feel it’s incremental progression like pebbles being dropped into the bucket. It’s cold. I don’t care where you are from and what is relative to you, but 0°C is cold. I know – it can be colder, wind chill, lake effect, tree-boring insect killing vortexes and such, etc. etc. yada yada… Bottom line, 0°C is cold. And it’s precipitous. At least today it was. Rain turning into snain turning into fluffy white puffs gently falling and all is quiet for a few minutes – BEEEEEP, repeat cycle. Rain into snain into fluffy white puffs. All day. Nothing sticks, but those few minutes of fluffy puffy are lovely. But koldt.

It's koldt!
It’s koldt!

Winter is a difficult time to expatriate. There is a reason bears hibernate in the winter. It’s cold. (Please just give me the simplicity of this example for sake of theorizing here.) Back home in Oregon (plus years spent at college and beyond in Seattle) we know winter has its propensity towards impacting one with a certain Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s truth ink. It’s called S.A.D. People have their own ways of combatting winter blues. Some use light therapy (I think that is big here too.) Some use drug therapy. Some use pre-planned vacations to warm tropical destinations as therapy. Myself – I always have allowed winter to be a down time. Keep schedules to a minimum, plans light. Consciously saying that it is ok to hibernate to an extent. It is ok to succumb to the down cycle. Knowing the up is coming, it is a veritable emotional hibernation of sorts. A recharging and recouping and renewing hibernation.

"Uuaah, the cold! Come in and get warm!"
“Uuaah, the cold! Come in and get warm!”

Why then – wouldn’t I do the same here in Denmark? Aha moment. Actual Edison light bulb went on yesterday near a lake near a palace alone with the birds. I have been feeling a self-imposed pressure to connect, to “get out there”, to recreate the social networks and circles I miss from home. I should be doing x. I should be doing more y. I should. I should. There is a lot of pressure in SHOULD. Yesterday, I gave myself an out. I will allow myself the space to internalize right now. Circle the wagons. Bring it on in to family-ville. Cozy up on the couch with Master Chef Australia and Cake Boss. Emotionally hibernate. This doesn’t mean putting all emotions on hold by any means – we are as a family definitely still all feeling BIG emotions. FULL of BIG emotions. Every day. Even on Lørdags. But what it does mean… is that it is saying it is ok to take this expatriation slowly. Adjust. Learn on our own terms. Experiences, social circles and networks will evolve. They always do.

Speaking of social, I’m no recluse, not in my nature. In fact – I had coffee with my one Danish friend today. It was needed, entertaining and delightful. While recanting my “aha” moment – she nodded and enlightened me to a lovely Danish saying. I wish you could hear her say it – because it rhymes. “Burde er lig med byrde.” It means Should = Burden. Exactly what I was feeling. What a validation and heavy sigh of relief. Now I SHOULD go to bed. 😉IMG_0018