Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dispatches from my iPod (something I've been meaning to put up for a while)

Overheard in class of particularly smug teacher:
They were first Americans
First gemerATION American (smile)

According to a friend:
"Americans in German movies are like you, very enthusiastic"

Why is it that when someone is clearly having an internal problem we have to all pretend "no way, it is so HOT in here" even though it's freezing?!?
Can't we just say "nope, it's just you, sorry"?

Fist clenching moment du jour:
When the woman at the jankey grocery store in line in front of me buys $3.50 worth of stuff with a credit card while the long line of xberg-ers behind her glares at her yuppie display with such ferocity that the back of MY head hurt.

When Hertha, berlin's soccer team, got a win on the same day as the two teams closest to them in ranks #2 and 3 were either tying or having a bad day, the tv announcers on the subway said "Hertha #1! At least until Sunday evening [when team #1 had THEIR weekly game]." that, babies, is good old fashioned, German, "don't get too comfortable or pleased with yourself" viewpoint.

Germans do get mono, but they call it something else

When informed unnecessarily loudly by a guard that we couldn't touch the kids' mosaic exhibit, Philippe noted
"a children's museum where you can't touch anything!"
"Well, it IS a GERMAN children's museum."

A Canadian kid was like randomly in class today. Teacher asks
"why are you in my class?"
and he responds
"because I was tired of baking".
after a long, awkward pause, I accepted this.

Great discovery of the day:
I can type up blog entries on my mp3 player while in line and on my hour long commute! Yay rachel maddow and blogging!

I AM part of the problem

Sent from my iPod

Monday, April 27, 2009

Copenhagen pictures and things that don't belong elsewhere

Most of these are from Philippe's Camera and I stole them

Cool statue dealy at Louisiana

Me looking out at Louisiana




Isn't this CUTE?!

Oh, look! Christianshavn!

This is a picture Phil took of some of the statues at Louisiana.
Cool huh?

The Danes LOVE doing this...they just kind
of abandon their bebehs on the sidewalks.
I think it's a GREAT strategy!

We found a thingy...and began to go crazy with it

phil was attacked by small Danish pirates in the course of filming
luckily we caught the attack on film
Philippe was not seriously injured

Rcmct: happy bjirthday!

So Philippe had noticed before we left that it was going to be the Queen of Denmark's birthday on our last day, so we casually planned to wander over to the royal grounds to see the nice lady after some strolling.

We started her birthday at the botanical gardens close to the royal military training building...or something that serves a similar function.

coffee? It didn't taste like it

We noticed there a pack of Danish military in full dress trying to find a line. We stood by watching, as they formed up, the band came out, and more "where am I supposed to stand?" ensued. We are both no strangers to marching band, so we watched with a good deal of sympathy. When they processed out, I figured "why not follow them?". Phil very kindly obliged.

What then happened was the 6 piccolo, 3 trumpet band wandered they snakes through the old city, picking up smiling, blond citizens along the way. It was so cute to see all the adults and kids with their flags sharply processing; something else I like about these traditions is that it allows people to celebrate their country without being militaristic (America, France) or creepy (errr...), it makes me smile.

We then reached the palace, which was totally full of people, some more Danish than others

Australia? Really?!?

And we jostled and waited for Margaret to come out and wave. I noted that there were so many people but no snipers in the perches, but then I remembered the line that a certain Nordic king at one point "had 4 million bodyguards".

Some time later, she finally emerged, waving to the crowd like a beauty queen in a nice pink sash.
The tradition is that she comes out to make an appearance,
and then she goes back inside,
but we are supposed to sit there and wave more
and yell louder
like "If you don't come out then we won't go home!"
and then she obliges.

We did not stick around for the second encore though, since Phil had a train to catch, and we had yet to tear into one of the famous Danish open-faced sandwiches, so we ran off to Nyhavn for a wonderful nosh as the band played the Danish national anthem and of course "HaPpYbIrthDaY ". Cute, nah?

any day is a good day for a parade

pretty sure this is some kind of anthem...of something

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rcmct: can't spell rampart without Art

I couldn't figure out a better title, oh well. One great thing about denmark (and if you read vanity fair probably Iceland, with disastrous results) is that they are willing to identify and support the arts, so you have these great places in and around Copenhagen such as the State's Museum of Art, the massive Louisiana, and the Danish Design Center, where you can look at some really great...stuff. Phil and I are nothing if not people who appreciate shiny things in a profound way, so we put the Louisiana on our list, and, while on a nice little wander, we accidentally lit on the State's Museum of Art.

- Freddie and the Surrealists
This exhibition was done semi-chronologically but also divided up into themes like "dark desires" or something. I don't get surrealism as such, but I found his work brave and confusing and...just the kind of art that will really make you squirm
- The Door Thing
So these signs were up all over the place indicating "exhibit x -->" and we being young curious troublemakers Ala Scooby Doo, followed them to a long dark hall with one rather beaten door, which we opened, which led to another door, which led to another, and so on till we got to a very long, winding hall, and then another creepy, scary set of doors, and before we knew it we were on the OTHER SIDE OF THE MUSEUM! Phil contends they led us in a line across the museum...I say it is magic

- Modern Danish Artists
Leaving aside the I'm a citizen of the world attitude, they were pretty impressive, full of bright colors and 3d things that make avrying degrees of sense ("flying steamroller") and were simply delightful

The best thing about the louisiana is that it's by the sea: you can literally see Sweden from there. You buy a special train ticket to this small town and then walk for 15 minutes through cute pastoralness to what looks like a hobbit home, a cute little house whose massive lot was bought for the museum. It looked a bit underwhelming, but then we walked in and BOOM! From cute 1900 Danish landed elite to the "when is this supposed to be" futurism of a modern art bunker. It was massive, winding and wonderful. The biggest exhibit was a retrospective of Max Earnst (earnst? He should take himself less seriously! LOL). It was really well displayed and just wow.

I especially loved the works portraying napoleon on St. Helena and his lumbering oaf, symbolic of war. One danger of the exhibit was that some of the statues were coordined off at shin height, so...if you are busy looking at the art, you might--say--trip over the very strong coordins and...

maybe almost knock over cosmic asparagus and REALLY mess up your shin in the process...


There is also a REALLY sweet park in the middle of the museum, where you can get a piece of Max Earsnt cake or picnic in a sculpture garden by the sea.
Here are some Picts of us in the sun

And then it was time for the museum's impressive permanent collection, which was just great. They had Picasso and Liechtenstein's, emerging artists who played with glitter and neons and an awesome photo of the little mermaid posing against a mirror called "when a country falls in love with itself.". Her whistful looks and body pose tOTAalLY work in making her look like a vain, self-obsessed creature.

Monday, April 20, 2009

RCMCT: A Tale of a Murderous Spaniard

I wouldn't dream of linking to an NYT article, since they charge you money, but if one were to wander over to their Travel section, one would find an article on how classy hostels are getting, how they once were sketchy but now are modern, fashionable accommodations, and this is totally true. What the author neglects to mention is the dorm accommodations pt you in contact with...special people. In our room there was a Spaniard, who'd been on my bus from Berlin, a Japanese design student, a German on a driving tour, and a girl I think was American. This is pretty average I'd say for a hostel, lots of young internationals out to make friends, have some drinks.

The spirit of cameraderie lasted only until midnight though, when the very short Japanese guy began SAWING LOGS. Everyone heard it; no one could sleep; we were all mad. I thought it was Klaus, till I yelled "MENSCH!" and heard an equally annoyed "Was?!" Then maybe Diego...till I heard strong language from his bunk. Phil was shifting uncomfortably; it had to be coming from that guy, and it lasted until 3AM!! Every now and then he'd stop for a few seconds and the room would get nicely quiet, but then it would start up again and be followed by loud grumbles from all the others. I tried at one point to turn up my iPod to drown it out or something, but the tenacious guy actually snored LOUDER THAN MY iPOD...and not even in rhythm with it.

I awkwardly brought it up the next morning, while he was in the shower. "Did y'all--um--hear something last night?" Diego yelled, "I was ABOU' TO KEEL HEEM!" Ok, I wasn't the only one. I shared that I'd thought it was Klaus, and I'd hesitated to say anything because he looked like he could beat me up, but I was pretty sure I could take the littler one, should he get feisty. "I SWEAR TO G-D, I WENT TO SLEEP IN DE CORRIDOR!" Diego kept yelling.

So the next night I had a plan: I went to bed with a pad of paper on the mattress. Sure thing, the cartoonishly loud snoring stated up again, but I had a plan this time. I quietly ripped out a sheet, crumpled it nice and tight, and--using my best softball alum skills--I threw the paper at where I assumed his head was in the dark.

It's not UNLIKE those 3 Navy SEALS who took out those pirates in the dark of night (USA! USA!). Like them, I too hit my target with the use of my skills and to great effect! He snorted once, and then rolled over and promptly stopped snoring.


THESE COLORS DON'T RUN (said in Texan accent)

RCMCT: It's not Quite Breakfast, Not Quite Lunch, and it Comes with a Slice of Melon at the End

As a good alumn of St. Almost (for you Tens, it's the St. Regis of elementary schools)I grew up with a healthy respect for the cool older girls, the ones who were secure and aware of how to undermine authority (little did 4th grade Katie know that 12 year olds are the least confident of any demographic, but REGARDLESS), so I was immediately a memeber of the Marina Fan Club. I changed her name for internet purposes, but you probbly know of her if you know me. She was a Dane in my orientation in Tuebingen some while back, and she was just cool. She was a smart "punker" girl with a lot of humor and a great attitude, and we all wanted to be her in some way. When she wouldn't be seen in town for a while, people would ask where she was, make up stories to excuse where she had been. Everyone had a Marina story, and they would all end in "she is"

So imagine my shock when she friended me on Facebook, when Marina wanted to know what I was up to! What an honor! We got to chatting; I told her I was in Berlin, and she told me that she'd lived here for quite a few years (imagine What to do in Case of Fire), and she returns often. In turn I told her of my plans to visit Copenhagen, and we'd tentatively set up a coffee. She, being so insanely busy, then changed it to brunch at her place. I was curious about it, since really only a building as cool as Pee Wee's would be worthy of her, and it didn't really disappoint. She lives in a great quarter, has a nice courtyard, and keeps a tidy if not East-Germany-Small place.

Trivia Fact: did you know that it was standard for a long time for Danish apartments to not have baths? Thus the popularity of the sauna.

She threw together an AMAZING spread for someone who didn't even have time for our visit: beer-spice break, rolls with melting chocolate, scrambled eggs. It was great. I felt bad that we just brought some sweets from an albeit fancy bakery. As we talked, it felt like we had seen each other just last week and not a year and a half ago, but I did keep learning mind-blowing things about her like she had been a semi-pro gymnast (makes sense, the girl is in shape like whoa), she too is vexed by the problems of a long distance relationship, but appreciates "Le Skype," she is almost done with her PhD, and she is still not entirely giving up on the idea of taking the state exam for being a pastor after her work is done--OH--and she can read ancient Hebrew, which she and Phil could talk about. Isn't that COOL?!!

I kept alternating between bieng a casual conversationalist (schmoozing) and being that elementary schooler, looking up to the older girl and being amazed that she would even talk to me. That girl has an amazing life story, and I'm so happy that I got to hear some of it, especially the charming but hard to understand Jutland accent.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

RCMCT: Parks...and More Parks

So if you're in Copenhagen, it is sort of required that you pay homage to the Little Mermaid. I've done it, mom probably did it, you just have to, so Phil and I schlepped up there, to her lonely perch on the far side of town, stopping by some of the bigger state buildings/royal properties along the way:

out by the palace

and then...she was there, looking sad and wistful even as the sun touched our skin, the skies shone bright blue, and the attention swirled around her

the Little Mermaid's older and less little
brother, pondering why no one ever
stops to take pictures in front of him

We didn't dally, since one half of our group--I won't say who--didn't grow up with a picture book translation of the story and therefore didn't get the same chills in his spine as I did. Then it was off to another destination, a park next to the National Art Museum for a picnic lunch. The weather the whole time was terrifyingly nice for a Danish spring. Yes, we had to wear spring jackets, but the sky was often cloudless, and I am of the opinion that I look stunning in an H&M corduroy jacket, so a win all around. We sat in the sun on a lovely Easter Monday in a nice park, and then like a storm they fell upon us


Two of them, breathing so heavily that the onomatopoeia "snerk" would best describe. He and his roley poley lady-pug-friend came running into us like comments, burying their faces into our bag of cookies and standing there, snerking and waiting to be played with while their owner yelled "Sorry! We don't feed them!" Hehe.

We sat there some time more, reading and sunning before taking in an exhibition on Freddie and Surrealism [more on that later]. When we emerged properly confused and turned around, we hit another park! It was the King's Garden, full of Danes playing, smoking, throwing large wooden sticks (explanations welcome!) an socializing their energetic doggies:

2 weenie dogs on crack + 1 corgi = awesome

It was very pleasant to just be amidst the relaxed folks, cheerful and chill people speaking a language that is difficult to take seriously. We even had time for a little vocabulary practice:

RCMCT: Deja Vu

"I've been here before." I found myself thinking this quite often as we strolled through Copenhagen. It's actually a very pleasant thought in this case, because my first trip to Copenhagen was so wonderful, and part of my goal for this trip was to communicate to Philippe my love of the place. In that spirit we spent multiple nights in the cool quarter of Nørrebro, a great corner. I passed by Sankt Hans Torv, Rust and Asistens Cemetery. I ate again in the Laundromat Cafe, in which a sign now shows Barack Obama and says "We congradulate you sir, and if you and your family come by for lunch, it's on the house." I had a heavenly crab salad, not dans la maison though.

Another night we walked through the alarmingly nice weather to Kate's Joint, an almost-out-of-the-way Indian fusion restaurant with modestly-priced eaties.

I think this caught Phil by surprise a bit, this hip edge to the town, that encouraged us to grab a licorice ice cream (that's right, you read it right) and wander about. I suppose he expected something a bit more...rustic, Vikingy, which I too had been expecting when I first came over. Also surprising to me was how well I remembered the routes, the roads over the lakes, through the quarters, like a magnet was moving just under my feet, directing me to my "old haunts." I love saying that, even though it's almost totally wrong. I was just there a handful of days some years ago.


A few weeks ago Sara and I went on a Pilgrim Journey with church, hiking 24km of the actual "San Diego de Compostella" way between Fankfurt am Oder and Briesen. Along the way, the organist of the church, Mika, took pictures, and I think they tell very well the story of our decidedly modern pilgrimage.

After one of our five masses, we decided to have coffee and ice cream (and beer if you're our pastor) at a cafe in one of the small cafes...haha. We're not Chaucer's pilgrims!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Random Collection of Meditations on a Copenhagen Trip: The Odd-e-see

So I got up at 5AM to get my things in order for the trip:

filing my taxes packing arranging finances making sandwiches for the bus trip

On the subway, as I sat with my massive backpack next to me, I looked up at the young man right across from me, a lad not exactly ready for the season, sporting a buzz cut, hoodie, and Thor Steinar fanny pack.
A Word on Thor Steinar This is a brand notorious for being worn exclusively by white supremacists on the Continent. There are two such stores (Think Hot Topic for skinheads) in Berlin, one embarrassingly close to Alexanderplatz, and they were both greeted with this reaction from the general public

Usually I'm not for destruction of property, but...

I looked at him, but instead of throwing up or panicking, I just closed my eyes and thought "Yup, it's time for me to get out of here."

Since I was 30 minutes early to the bus station, I was rewarded with an enviable window seat; I was STOKED. It was not to last though. As I dozed in the ZOB, I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard some nonsensical babbling, followed by "Can we switch seats?" I lit upon two realizations at that moment:

1. I don't get Danish- Spoken, it is nothing like Swedish or Norwegian 2. I could be a good person and let this nice young couple sit together even though they showed up late, or I could be a jerk and NOT take their kind offer of sitting next to a rather creepy looking fellow.

So, I'm a jerk, but a jerk with a window seat! The he-Dane then sat next to me, and the she-Dane across the way, holding hands like parted lovers. Ugh.

To get to Denmark you have to take a ferry at Rostock in Germany. Here you have a chance to get off the bus and stand on deck, watching the Easter kites flying over the German beach

This I did for the hour and a half ride. When we all got back to the bus though, guess who was in my seat? That's right. I swore into my phone in my angriest-sounding French as I took my new place next to a perhaps Lebanese, certainly over-cologned man; the couple didn't understand what I was saying, but at the same time, they DID. For the next hour or so I took stock of what kind of people take the bus in Europe:

-couples who think it's cute -groups of people who try to talk the whole time -poor people -students -people who are betting that international security controls at the ports won't catch them

Just about when I finished allocating everyone on the bus to one or the other category, we were in Copenhagen! Yay!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Day 234 (I just made that up) Fieldnotes

[NOTE: this is me, Kate, writing in the voice of a way of saying the sun is shining, and the weather is great]

TOPIC: Local Religion

The inhabitants of B
erlin appear to have a sun-worship based religion, one in which the appearance and disappearance of the sun effects heavily the patterns of day to day life.

The Sun is seen by Berlin natives as the permissive entity, in essence giving Berliners safe passage to outdoor life and social interaction. Conversely, the disappearance of the sun signals that it is time to drive interpersonal friendships and public interactions inside, away from clouds and what is seen as "bad weather." The worship of the sun takes place in communal gatherings in local parks (eg. Viktoriapark),

and is celebrated by partaking in the sacrament of ice cream and
the sacrifice of summer beer and picnics into the mouths of the believers.

The Sacram
The sacrament of ice cream (Eis) is one that takes place continuously in Germany, though during the winter months it is taken with decidedly less regularity and almost never on the streets or in the public eye. This taboo is lifted with the warmth of the solar "being," and the public celebration of their "mass" begins.

The more dedicated practitioners of this religion may opt for more intricate ways of celebrating the mass, such as this, known as "spaghetti Eis"

Sacrificial Beer
Many types of beer have been deemed "worthy" of sacrifice, and there appears to be little consensus on which, which has lead to schismatic groups advocating such different liquids as:

Fruity Beers

Beers mixed with juices or sodas

Beers with measures of flavored Syrup

or, for those unable to afford such colorful luxuries

The Consumption of Sacrificial Food
The sacrifice of "picnic foods" into the mouths of practitioners is even more varied, but it breaks down into general "synods" if you will:

The Semi-Almost-gelical Picnic of the Sandwich

The Greater Bavarian Snobby-fruit Enthusiasts

The Southern Ethnic-food eaters (largely hummus-based)

The less centralized, Universal Picnic of Yesterday's Leftovers

Feats of Strength

In addition to this consumption, the locals practice sun-worship by showing to the sun what talents they have accumulated in the past months of darkness. These include but are not limited to:


Unicycle Riding
Frisbee throwing
Three-chord guitar playing


...And ye, it was good so (play off of und dass ist gut so)