Crash, Chairs, Classes, Cafe

“You made it through the first week! Did you do anything? Did you do anything scandalous? Well…you should!”

–one of my professors

I fell off my bike! Does that count?

This week started off with a bang–literally, alas–when, after a horrible skid into the bike path on the way to catch my train, my nose hit the sidewalk. While I was relieved to find out I didn’t break any bones or need stitches at the hospital in Roskilde, I had to stay home the rest of Monday–missing what was shaping up to be an exciting Hegel-Kierkegaard double-header of discussion between my two philosophy classes. (That’s not sarcasm. I’m a nerd with so many questions to ask.)

After yesterday’s naps and ibuprofen, I’m feeling fine. If anything, I’m grateful this accident showed me yet more examples of the kindness of my neighboring Danes–the man who drove me back to the folkehøjskole and gave me paper towels, the hospital staff who were able to check up on me in English–as well as from DIS housing friends who offered me help. I also now have a cool scar; my reaction to discovering this in my post-crash daze was not disgust, but wow, this is going to look so punk.

(NB: NONE of this reflects biking safety in Denmark–only my own clumsiness. If you’re here or coming here, PLEASE take advantage of the cycling culture!)

Chilling out in my room for the day with the curtains drawn gave me lots of time to draw bad comics.

Even a residual headache can’t dull the memories of last week–that first real week, the safety guardrails of orientation lowered down. I spent last Wednesday as a tourist, wandering in the area around Kastellet–a five-pointed castle fortress–in a rare burst of morning sunlight. I climbed up a hill at one of the points and looked down on St. Alban’s, an Anglican church; I left the other four (and the church itself, which was closed off for Communion) for another day.

Realizing I was by the waterfront, I walked out to the Little Mermaid statue, reasoning that there couldn’t be that many visitors for her on a chilly morning in January. I was very wrong–but angled my camera in such a way that no one could ever tell:

Right up on nearby Bredgade street is Designmuseum Denmark (free admission for students!). I hung around there into the afternoon, pacing through rooms of bicycles, pottery, accessibility devices, furniture, recycled materials imagined into new forms. And chairs–one long exhibit of chairs with flickering automatic lights in front of each model, like the back hallway of a spacecraft. I felt in over my head at some points–the museum’s collection stretches back to crafting from the pre-industrial era–and was happy whenever I ran into typography and image, my favorite touchpoints of design. Post-museum treat: a cinnamon snail (the Wednesday special) at St. Peter’s, the oldest bakery in Copenhagen.

Typically, Wednesday is reserved for DIS’s out-of-the classroom “field studies” for each of my classes; on that day, I lucked out with a free morning. From now on, though, the rest of my schedule is locked in–I bid goodbye to the pop-up sessions and 3pm jetlag naps of orientation. On Mondays, I take the subway to the south campus of the University of Copenhagen for “Kierkegaard’s Authorship”, a class which has already spawned some pretty heady conversations. In the words of our professor Brian*, Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish existential philosopher whose writings we’re studying, is the kind of thinker with ideas you return to “when it’s 2am and dark and you’re in bed staring at your hand. What is this hand? you think. What does it mean to have a hand? Who am I?

Not quite a 2am existential breakdown, but here’s what an evening walk home from the train looks like in Roskilde.

I also have Brian for my core course, “Religious Mythos and Philosophical Logos”–which, as of an executive action on the first day of class, has been shortened to “Mythos and Logos”, or “Myth and Reason”. (Cue a sigh of relief from us all, who kept tripping over the first name during icebreaker games.) We spent week one reading ancient Greek creation myths and excerpts from tales like the Odyssey, trying to piece together what relevance these stories had in the societies of the people who originally told them.

Last Tuesday, I went to the Ny Carlsburg Glyptotek museum’s weekly free day, and pored over their collections of Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities. What new things, I wonder, will I learn about the worldviews of the people who made these pieces by the end of the semester?

*Keeping with a Danish practice of informality, all my teachers here go by their first names.

Spending dusk in the Roman statue hall at the Glyptotek.

Great, sweeping stories–ones that could be the backbone of a nation–also seemed to be the theme of the first week in all my other courses. In “International Advertising”, we watched promotional segments from around the world, talking about which cultural narratives they were made to reflect. My “Learning in Scandinavian Classrooms” professor said you can’t think about what makes a good education without also considering what makes a good citizen. (I want to push back on this a little–could there be education towards an even greater good than a “good citizen”?–but we’ll see where I stand at the end of the semester.) Between my increasingly less mangled attempts at pronouncing the “ø” in my Danish class, we began talking over where the language fits into the country’s national history.

A lot to mull over–but not too much. Last week closed out on Friday with a fun “cultural assignment” scavenger hunt for that last language class. My group researched and walked the Kongens Nytorv (“Kings New Square”) area, taking documentary selfies at important sites (including Nyhavn, the famous canal of the colored houses, at the bottom left). We each got 100 Danish kroner (around $10-12 USD) to use at the “best coffeeshop” we could find in the area. I’m no coffee connoisseur–I actually spent my kroner on hot chocolate–but I’m willing to vouch now for Cafe Ermanno, which kept us dry after the drizzly final leg of our adventure.

In between: I picked up flyers for Studenterhuset (a student union/activities hub for anyone attending college in Copenhagen), an international church, and DIS’s film club at Activities Fair night. Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology re-tellings kept me company on the commute from Roskilde into the city and back. I had an involved dinner conversation with Danish and Norweigan ROFH students about California wildfires and Scandinavian fjords. I was selected to be a DIS student blogger! (Look for my face, sporting an action movie villain gash, on their website very soon.)

And tomorrow morning, it’s Wednesday again, and I do have a field study. I’m waking up at 6:45am to leave Roskilde and observe a Danish public school with my education class! Stay posted, and I’ll let you know if I scare any kids into always biking with a helmet on.