U! S! A! U! S! A!

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I’ve been rather overwhelmed at the idea of writing a blog about my last week… Today marks the half waypoint of my trip. I am in the dead center…and I feel some sort of personal responsibility to conclude in some way what I have learned and accomplished so far….so I can gain a sense of task geography and so I can have a better idea as to how to plan the remaining month and a half. A travel report card of sorts. I’d like to think that I have a better idea of what is possible and how long things take here….But that seems like a trap somehow….arrive, discover, then set limitation one later calls “facts”…

This is a common trap for travelers I think…One becomes so eager to bring a story home that one doesn't wait for the other sides of the story to appear…to view a scene objectively for a few weeks, waiting for the more detailed idiosyncrasies to uncover deeper clues…(I am practicing this with my prostitute watching. I ride my bike through the long line of them everyday…watching…immersing…refusing to let opinions settle…subculture, if you can call it that…is always infinitely layered)

I left for Denmark Friday before last. I found a 20 euro ticket from Berlin to Denmark that was marked as a 6 hour trip and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to visit an old friend and find out where she comes from. I met Mette at the Old Town School of Folk in Chicago about 5 years ago. I used The Old Town music rooms for practice and songwriting when I first moved to Chicago… I kept running into Mette and we somehow had this mutual respect and understanding for eachother than mainly went unspoken…but was always understood. She was there doing mostly the same thing I was doing…only she was on a three month trip from Denmark….so she had a different fire and was more involved in the Old Town community. I sort of scurried in, made my practice hours…sometimes sat in on classes and walked out with my headphones blasting, lugging my guitar through the snow to the train to the bus to the walk home…. solitary, in my usual melancholic, abstract poetry head space.

I had NO idea what to expect from Copenhagen. I didn't even really understand how I was getting there. I just knew I show up at this time and place to this bus number and play along. When the bus stopped for 45 minutes, 3 hours in, I just went with it….When it drove onto a boat…I went with it….when everyone got off…I got off…after one and a half beautiful hours on the darkest, most shimmering water I’ve ever seen… I step back inside the boat to find it empty…scurry into all nooks and crannies of the boats belly, trying to recognize a face on any of the busses packed like sardines in the parking tunnels….3 more hours of driving through lush country side and I arrived in Mette’s habitat. We spent the next three days ALL over Copenhagen. Copenhagen is tasteful, comfortable, easy to live in (the government takes care of its people…so well, says Mette that the people don't take care of each other, which she believes is what makes Americans so beautiful…that they take care of each other because their government doesn't), melancholy (the buildings match the grey skies, light rain that we rode our bikes through) and the Danish are the most beautiful people I have ever seen. As a clan, they have the highest percentage of fashion magazine beauty…ever. I felt really apologetic walking through the hip parts Copenhagen looking the way I do…I kept telling myself “you have personality and you're a traveler…that makes you special” Ha! It is when you notice this kind of self talk that you know you’re in trouble….and probably the ugliest person in the room…which I definitely was…It was, however a little creepy to see so much Aryan race in one place. I immediately yearned for skin color…any color….just a color….

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Upon arrival in Sweden, (my last day in Scandinavia) I immediately noticed a younger energy…a faster vibration…and a more obvious Viking lineage. These women are stunningly beautiful, but narrow and slightly masculine…and would definitely kick your ass. We saw some castles reminiscent of sleeping beauty (the only reference I have for castes as an American…) and I immediately had dejavu inside one of them…which clearly means I was a princess in my last life? :D

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On my many bike rides with Mette, through Copenhagen, we discussed Scandinavian social behavior. One of the interesting things that came up after spending a beautiful night with one of her friends, a jazz singer, and all around outgoing lady (outward self confidence is not common in Scandinavia…) was the The Law of Jante… a law of group behavior in Scandinavia that "negatively portrays and criticizes individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate." These are rules most children a raised with and they are as follows….

1. Don't think you're anything special.

2.  Don't think you're as good as us.

3. Don't think you're smarter than us.

4. Don't convince yourself that you're better than us.

5. Don't think you know more than us.

6. Don't think you are more important than us.

7. Don't think you are good at anything.

8. Don't laugh at us.

9. Don't think anyone cares about you.

10. Don't think you can teach us anything.

(*us = the community)

As you can imagine, returning to Germany after four days amongst this kind of thinking was....interesting. A culture shock. The Scandinavians I met all generally agreed that they had never met a German with low self esteem. Which made me laugh. Its true in a way. Its the beautiful thing about Germans, its what makes them so exploratory and active....but there are exasperating sides to this attribute as well....

My returning train, bus and ferry to Berlin was overnight….I will never book and overnight bus ever again. The bus was packed, the journey was long and complicated (get off the bus, on the ferry, don't fall asleep, someone will steal your stuff…back on the bus…wait in line to pee….wish you had chocolate and decent coffee or tea….etc etc etc.) I got back to Berlin at 8am, totally ragged and still awake after 22 hours of traveling (Sweden, Demark, Germany in one day), and hour before my language class starts. I spent the following days at the Philharmonic figuring out various ways to ask people who were leaving, politely, for their ticket so I could see the remaining part of various performances. I have seen Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, and various incredible touring choirs this way, one of which was lead by the divine Andre Thomas. I cried so hard at his gospel concert that I developed a headache. Hearing American music from a sparkling spiritual American and feeling the Holy Spirit hover in the Berlin Phil was one of the most beautiful musical experiences I have ever had. Maybe its that I miss the US, maybe its hearing people sing in my native language, maybe its finally getting to see a significant amount of skin color. FINALLY. I don't know what it was exactly but good God was I proud to American that night. 

I had my first voice lesson at the Komische Oper yesterday with an incredible German mezzo Soprano.  For whatever reason it felt like a huge step for me. I was terrified days before the lesson, feeling like I wasn't nearly good enough to be waltzing into the opera house and singing for this wonderful woman. However, in line with the rest of my trip, I just put on my "yes I am suppose to be here" face and went through with it.... I was at once reminded how much I am in love with singing and how much I need to be doing it more....

As for my travelers report card...I guess if I have learned anything on this trip its that anything is possible…if you show up with the biggest and most patient cojones the world has ever known…and walk into the mouth of your dark future, consciously trembling….You end up in places so amazing you are afraid to question or discuss them as you fear the veil will lift, the magic will vanish and you’ll be kicked out of Neverland. This is not to say I never experience set backs…That is silly…I am still a young overly self critical girl with quickly reoccurring fits of melancholy, very little money and questionable language skills…..But I’m so fascinated with the spell of cultural expansion I’ve been under that set backs have no time to sit with me…I have no time to sit me either…Which can be an issue sometimes….and that's when I find a little Italian café to spend 3 hours and 3 euros at, listening to a softer language, drinking a deeper espresso and writing nonsense in my journal. I haven’t seen anyone else here keep a journal…I'm sure everyone thinks I’m 12....This is not the way I wanted to end this blog...but its ending here.

girl talk bathroom stall at a club in Copenhagen. two toilets side by side so you can gossip while you pee.

common bar set up in Copenhagen

Danish bread and butter. wow. no words. 

The Danish really like the word "fuck". really. really like it. Its actually kind of uncomfortable

I forgot the name of this Bridge.....

magic trick. Mette and I were trying to figure out how the did it....

EVERYONE rides a bike here. The bike laws are sooo strict that more people get fined for disobeying bike rules than get fined for speeding or bad parking etc...

English garden in front of the library...this is the old side of the library, there is a modern half built on top of the old structure visible from the other entrance...

study hall in the library

Ferry tour with Mette :)

Herring platter at an old cafe the Hans Christian Anderson use to frequent.

The festival at which people sing danish folk songs while they burn a giant witch doll.....

castle behind the witch burning festival

Sebastian and I waiting for the witch to burn.

The Queen's residence.

Arrival in Sweden

Rock n Roll photography museum in Sweden

me on the ferry ride back home....about hour 20 of traveling. thought I should document it haha