Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Initial impressions: Part 1

Spending six days in Denmark was really great. One of my big concerns was showing up for the first time laden with luggage and three kids in tow to a completely unfamiliar country where I had no idea where to go or who to talk to. I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to visit by myself (although it would have been really nice to have Shannon with me) and get a little bit more familiar with the city and people.
Outside the first build built at the campus I'll be working. est. 1855.

The Lab where I’ll be working invited me and paid for my visit, so the main purpose was to meet them, discuses my research project, and become acquainted with the lab; so I did not have a lot of time to be a tourist while I was there. However, the trip was eye opening to how different a lot of the aspects of living in Denmark are going to be and how similar others will be. I thought I'd just share a few of my observations:
Downtown Copenhagen
The day I arrived it was cool but the sun was out for a short part of the morning. Nicolai, the professor that I will be working most closely with and who picked me up from the airport, kept saying how great it was that the I arrived on a day when the weather was so nice. I did not think it was really that nice it just seemed normal to me (since it was my first day it was the only weather I knew), that was the last time I saw the sun during my visit. I guess for some reason, probably something to do with how much water Denmark is surrounded by, most days in the winter are overcast (perhaps the name of this blog is not that accurate). The temperature was about the same as in Northern Utah right now, but I was glad I had brought my winter coat and hat because it felt much colder; I think it is because the humidity conducts the cold more easily.

Another somewhat unusual aspect was how early it got dark, by four in the afternoon the un-visible sun was setting and by five it was dark. I have been told it will only get worse for the next few months. This was somewhat challenging since it was always dark when I was trying to find my way around in the evening when I had any time to myself.

The Danish money is called a Krone (crown in English), one Krone is about 18 cents, but that means very little. I found very quickly that thinking in Dollars was going to get me nowhere, even if I was able to do the math in my head, things are so much more expensive in Copenhagen (one of, if not the most expensive city in Europe) the value of everything can’t be compared to what it would cost in the US. I think once we move over the it will take us a while before we can spot a good deal or are able to really know what things should cost.
50 Kroner is the smallest paper note they have, everything smaller are coins
 I have known and been prepared for all the unit changes that we are going to have to deal with. Europe uses the metric system (which by the way the US should us too); I am pretty comfortable using it for distances and area but less so with volume, so that will be one more thing to get accustom to.  They also measure temperature in Celsius, which I have to use with my work, so that’s not a problem (although my brother Blake can make some pretty compelling arguments as to why the Fahrenheit system is better, however, there are no arguments for not using the metric system). I have to be careful when writing the date because they write day/month/year instead of month/day/year (it is only confusing for the first 12 days of the month). And they don’t use pm, everything is in military time.
The red line on the corner of the building is a thermometer, it is 10ºC (50F)

The food was not as different as I had expected (maybe even hoped). In fact I don’t know if I really even had an authentic Danish dish (Shannon can’t believe that I didn’t even buy a danish); I think, like America their cuisine has been greatly influenced by the rest of the world and it is hard to say what is Danish and what is not. Breakfast was probably the most unusual, I ate at the hotel and had bread with sandwich meat and cheese on it and yogurt with granola mix in, it was actually pretty good and kept me full better then cereal does at home (this meal is not so much unusual as it just seem more like lunch than breakfast).

Breakfast line - breads and yogurt.
Breakfast line - meat and cheese
I ate a lot of sandwiches for lunch and dinner, but I also had Chinese and Thai food. One night I bought a hotdog from a street vender and while the food was normal they served the bun and meat separate (I dipped the hot dog in a pile of ketchup and ate the bun like a roll).
Club sandwich I ordered, so good!
The salad the professor I was eating with ordered.

 Probably the most unusual part of eating was watch how they used there silverware. From what I observed, Danish people hold their fork in there left hand and a knife in there right, and they using them together with extreme dexterity that is hard to describe. Everything is cut in to neat little bites, no stabbing was necessary. This probably sounds like something silly to notice but it intrigued me to watch. I tried to imitate it but found it be more difficult than using chopsticks (although I have never really seen those used authentically and would probably be equally amazed); I would quickly become frustrated with my lack of coordination, put down my silverware, pick up my sandwich and take huge messy bites like any true American.
The grocery stores seem to everywhere. Not as big as in Utah, but bigger then I would have expected with the frequency I found them. I guess shopping for a several weeks at one time is not custom, rather going each day to the store is more common. One more change for us to adapt to.

One of the major grocery chains

Inside the produce department

Well I see that this is not going to be a short blog, so I thought I would post this much and do a second part later.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Short Vist: Day 1

I have always thought that jet lag was something beneath me, or at least I could beat it. My plan was to fly exhausted so that I would have no choice but to sleep on the long flight East and arrive as the sun came up in Denmark refreshed. Part 1 of the plan went well; I complettly exhusted myself by sleeping only 4 hours the night before my trip, and not napping during the day I was traveling. Despite how tired I was I could not fall asleep on long flight. Luckily, I was able to enjoy the 9 hour flight in business class, having been upgraded so a family could sit together in economy (it is going to be hard to give up the leg room on the flight back).  Needless to say, I spent my first day in Denmark in a sort of fog, wondering around with my mind moving in slow motion. 

Sun rise in Frankfurt

The flight took me though Frankfurt Germany and then to Copenhagen, so the stamp in my passport is German, not Danish. Nicolai, the Major Professor that I’ll be working with picked me up at the airport, helped me get some Danish money and showed me how to use the public transportation. I could not check in to my hotel until 3 so, Nicolai and I wonder around the city all morning. 
View coming up from the Metro

It was really nice to have someone that knew what was going on to guide me, I would have been completely lost without his help. 

We had brunch, which was pretty good and not that unusual as far as foreign food goes, and then visited the University where I’ll be working. The labs are really nice, lots of room and good equipment. 
University part across the street from my new lab

Nicolai left me about 2 (after I was able to check into my room a little early) and I called and arranged to make a trip east of the city to view an apartment. I was surprised that I did not have too much trouble figuring out how to negotiate the metro and trains to get to where I need to (although I think I did overpay). They guy picked me up at the train station and took me to his apartment. It was nice but small (which is the best we can hope for in Copenhagen).

I made it back to my room around 5pm (it was already dark outside) and called my wife on skype. I wanted to go to bed at this time, but figured I should probably try to stay up at least until 8 or 9. So I went and wondered around the city for a while. 

It was fun, I like that where I am staying is not a tourist area so I really get to experience the real Copenhagen (at least I think so).  I found a grocery store and wondered around trying to find food I recognized (most the food is the same as we are used to just the packaging and foreign words are unfamiliar) until they kicked me out so they could close (a lot of stores close early and open late). I purchased a Rümün off a street vender, which seemed a lot like a gyro, before heading back to my room. I managed to stay up until 9, keeping myself busy by ironing my closes and sending pictures of the apartment I looked at to Shannon.  I fell asleep almost immediately and slept until 1am (GRRR), I dozed off and on after that until 4, when I finally couldn’t stay in bed, and got up and wrote this. Over all I would say the first day was a success.
These guys helped me find my Hotel