All These Things That I’ve Done

So, as expected, I’ve been pretty terrible at updating this.  However, since today is exactly one month since the day I arrived in Copenhagen, I figure I might as well procrastinate by telling you some stories about what I’ve been up to.

In no particular order:

  • Went to a town in Sweden called Malmø for a day. Now, I’ve been wanting to go to Sweden ever since I watched both Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films, but Malmø looked nothing like the places in the movies–except for the general dreariness and horrible weather. Apparently, there’s not much to do there when it’s raining/snowing/pissing sludge on your face, but the highlight was definitely seeing the Turning Torso. 

Image

As you can see from the picture (which belongs to Google, not me), the building is pretty freaking tall. In fact, I couldn’t see the top because of all the mist and fog. Sadly, I could only gaze in awe at the building, because I was apparently not important enough to be allowed inside. 

Malmø’s definitely worth checking out for all the funky architecture. Here are some more cool Swedish buildings/bridges/random structures in the middle of the city:

Image

Image

Image

  • Almost got into a fight with a drunk Danish guy for calling me a “retard American”. Those Danes sure are pleasant drunks.
  • Went to a concert to see a popular Danish band called The William Blakes (http://www.myspace.com/thewilliamblakes). The venue was a place called Amager Bio, which was essentially a bigger version of the 9:30 club (for all my DC folks). Now, this band didn’t have the most danceable music, but I was taken aback with how comfortable everyone was with standing still during the show. I swear, at some points, it looked like a room full of statues.  It was still enjoyable, but I think I’ll want to choose a livelier band for the next concert I go to. 

*On a side note, LMFAO performed in Copenhagen last night. And I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but part of me regrets not going. 

  • Ate 8 eggs in an hour yesterday. Long story. Apparently it’s “unhealthy” though. 
  • Found a candy store with all the American junk food I’d been missing for the past few weeks. I even got to reunite with my best friend!

Image

  • Joined an international choir because (a) why the hell not?, (b) it’s a great way to meet people from all over the world and (c) I’m slightly obsessed with the director, who reminds me of a less terrifying version of Bellatrix Lestrange.
  • Partied with Danes on Fastelavn, which is essentially Denmark’s version of Halloween. What I like about Fastelavn is that people are actually creative and go all out with their costumes. Costumes did not look like this:

Image

In fact, they looked more like this:

Image

Image

The one thing I don’t like about Fastelavn is that they don’t share the Halloween tradition of gorging oneself with 500 pounds of candy. DIS has its Fastelavn party next Sunday, so I’ll be sure to post some pictures after that. 
———————————————————————————————————————-

I could write more, but I doubt any of you want to read about the papers I’ve been writing, the countless depressing movies I’ve been watching for European Film class, my frequent trips to the same two bars, my countless visits to the grocery store (not being able to buy in bulk is still frustrating, however “healthy” it may be), etc. 

So that’s all for now. Unless something extraordinary happens soon, my next post will probably be after my long study tour to Bosnia during the first week of March. So stay tuned!

Advertisements

The Grey (aka Western Denmark)

One of the great things about DIS is their use of study tours, which are “faculty-led, academic tours…to enhance your studies adding a strong European hands-on dimension” (DIS, 2012). For my program, Justice and Human Rights, it was more of a weekend of hanging out and partying with our classmates and professors. Definitely more touring than studying.

We started with a 4-hour long bus ride to Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark. After sitting in on a class about human rights at Aarhus University and eating dinner with some of the students, we hiked to a bar somewhere downtown, where we proceeded to hang out with some crazy Danes and our insanely fun professors (one of whom is surprisingly obsessed with The Hills and Laguna Beach, despite being a top military advisor).

Day 2 began with a trip to ARoS, one of the strangest yet coolest museums I’ve ever been to. Although the museum featured art from as far back as the 1700’s, the contemporary art was easily the most memorable. And by memorable, I mean hilarious. Call me ignorant about art, but I don’t know how you can look at these and not fall on the floor laughing.

 

Image

I call this one "The Danish Chainsaw Massacre"

Image

Glad the Danes know how to rock the Asian squat too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image

The second creepiest thing at the museum, behind a video of a dog joining stick figure sex

 

Image

WHALECOPTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the exhibits were pretty impressive though, most notably a room with six different colors of fog and the “Rainbow Panorama” at the top of the building. Whoever designed this museum must have had an intense rainbow fetish.

Image

Image

On day 3, we first saw a section of the Atlantic Wall, which is a series of bunkers and other mechanisms built by Nazi Germany to protect itself from an Allied invasion. Our tour guide told us that people had found landmines there just a few years back, so that was comforting. It was cold as hell and a little depressing since it looks exactly like the place where Dobby is buried in the Harry Potter movies, but it was worth it–if only to see such a beautiful beach.

Image

Image

We finished up our trip at the Jelling Stones (in the town of Jelling, of course), which are humongous stones carved by the first king of Denmark, King Gorm and his son Harald Bluetooth. There’s only two main stones (which are now encased in glass since people kept graffiti-ing them), so we went most of our time at the next door museum. We heard a lot about Viking myths (for example, the fact that they never actually went to Minnesota), which forced me to question most of my preconceptions. Did you know that the Vikings were fairly obsessed with their personal hygiene? Or that they used their own urine to start fires? Crazy stuff!

Image

So after my phenomenal short study tour, I am counting down the days until I go to Bosnia with this class…for an entire week. Mad love to my JHR crew!

Life in a Danish Prison

Week two has been fairly uneventful; I’m mostly figuring out and settling into my routine.

When I wasn’t in class, I was either (a) trying (and failing) to swing dance, (b) rock climbing (which has quickly become my new favorite hobby), (c) getting creative with my cooking (I’ve recently started making double- and triple-decker fried egg sandwiches, which I’m sure is doing wonders for my cholesterol), or (d) dancing my ass off at a bar/club called the Happy Pig which is thankfully only a street away from my apartment.

Google, this is what you come up with when I search "Happy Pig"? More like Demonic Pig

However, the highlight of my week was a field trip to a Danish open prison called Jyderup. Without going into a long explanation about the Scandinavian criminal justice system, here are some ways Jyderup was different from American prisons:

  • The prisoners’ rooms in Jyderup did not look like this:

 

In fact, they looked more like this:

Overall, the conditions were far nicer than anything American prisoners could ever dream of. Not only are there rooms nicer than     most U.S. college dorms, the Danish prisoners are allowed a TV, video game consoles, etc. They share a communal kitchen where they prepare their meals; most of our group was shocked at the GIANT knives at the prisoners’ disposal. On the grounds, there is a church, fully furnished gym, and get this, TANNING BEDS. There’s a reason most believe Danish prison is nothing more than a peaceful vacation resort.

  • The Danish prisoners have a whole lotta freedom. At this prison, they’re allowed to go home every three weekends and they’re simply trusted to come back on Sunday night (probably has to do with how much the Danes trust each other). They’re allowed to have their family visit their rooms, which are treated by the prison as their homes. I even passed one room where a guy was playing Farmville on his laptop!
  • Sentences in Denmark are far shorter, and they don’t believe in the death penalty. It’s not uncommon for people here to receive less than ten years for severe crimes such as homicide, although the more serious criminals are usually sent to closed prisons instead of open ones. Overall, Denmark appears to take a more rehabilitative stance to criminals, which is far from America’s obsession with punishment and retribution.
  • Nearly all of the guards at Jyderup are female, and they have a surprisingly close relationship with the male prisoners. Our tour was led by a female guard and a prisoner named Johnny, and they seemed like best friends! I realize their relationship is probably more professional than they let on, but I was amazed that they were joking around with each other and that they knew details about each others’ personal lives.
  • Speaking of Johnny, he certainly was not a prisoner who looked like this:
In fact, he looked more like this:

Without the jumpsuit and the whole being behind bars thing...

Honestly, I had no idea that Johnny was a prisoner until he starting mentioning his crimes. He also explained to us that even though the prison seems like a utopia to an outsider, it’s crushing him to not be able to go home whenever he wants to. I’ve actually heard about quite a few Danish prisoners who wish they were “behind bars”, so that they wouldn’t have to live with the faux sense of freedom found in open prisons. Many of the prisoners, Johnny included, managed to have a sense of humor about their situation. I guess a tanning bed isn’t enough to lift someone’s spirits.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Overall, I’ve come to the conclusion that this system works well for this particular culture and society. There are so many reasons why a similar structure wouldn’t work in the U.S.: less trust in our fellow citizens, higher crime rates, a more unequal income distribution, greater racial and ethnic diversity, etc. In fact, there’s some emerging evidence that it’s not even working for Denmark–at least, as well it should be. Recidivism rates are increasing and everyone I interacted with at the prison spoke about how Jyderup’s rehabilitation attempts aren’t always successful. Part of me thinks that Denmark is doing something smart, and another part is starting to believe that they’ve just gotten lucky.

I will have more to write about this subject after I visit a closed prison in a few weeks. In the meantime, happy Super Bowl day!