Sunday, January 26, 2014

Let's Try This

I think we're going to go for more frequent, but shorter, updates about life in Denmark. Ja?

God. (That means good.)

So they ring the church bells here. A lot. Like every hour. Every day. For several minutes. I live near two large churches (1 church, 1 cathedral) so I can here them if the telly isn't on even with the window closed, but it's not loud enough to be annoying, just be there. It reminds me of Spain, except those were louder.

We've finally had a string of sunny weather. It's also about -15C outside with the windchill, but it's sunny. I have resorted to being Canadian wherein that is enough to celebrate, no matter the temperature. It's supposed to warm up to zero and snow tomorrow though. I am glad I went for the bus pass option though, because despite warming up the winds are supposed to stay about 25km an hour, which will feel cold when it becomes damp again. However, on the flip side I can set my room heating at the lowest setting and not be cold which is totally an improvement over England.

[It better be spring when I get back, that's all I'm saying.]

Requisite writing update: I need to add about 500 more words to this chapter and then edit it for declarations before submitting it to my supervisor next Friday. Doable, but the hardest 500 words of the 8000 I think.

I also need to stop writing that story someone goaded me into writing. I mean, I was always going to write it. I've been meaning to not write it for ten years now, but now I'm actually writing it and that's a problem. I have more time than I thought right now, due to being further through Chapter 2 than I planned (I was aiming for mid-February, not end of January), but I could be using those extra two weeks to do other, more important, things. However, as usual, I write academically better and more efficiently if I'm also writing fictionally at the same time. Maybe I should stop fighting the inevitable that I've been fighting for ten years since I started this whole academic/fiction writing battle in first year of university (okay, it was 11 years ago, I've stopped counting, so what?).

I'm aiming to go to campus three times this week. There's an end of month meeting on Thursday to prep for, so that is pretty much that day out the window. I'm hoping to get the rest of this chapter written Tues/Wed. I might not end up there all three days, but we'll see. It's actually nice to get out to a different place that is not just the grocery store or the centre and is warm (gods, is my office warm!) Change of scenery was rather the whole point of this trip, after all. Kirsten (my Danish supervisor) is currently away for the next two weeks, but when she gets back I hope to have some good prep work done and can sit down and plan out exactly what Chapter 4 needs to be. And then write it before March  31. That's the plan.

Apparently 'Brave' is 'Modig' in Danish. I just learned this.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Life in Denmark

This isn't about writing, because I haven't done any of that for ten days (*cough*twoweeks*cough*).

A lot fewer people smoke in Denmark. This is so nice. It means I can walk down the street and not have a coughing fit. It also means that leaving and entering public buildings is mostly safe. It's nice. Why are other countries like this? Namely England, where I can't walk more than a minute anywhere without smelling cigarette smoke.

McDonald's here tastes exactly the same as in Canada, by which I mean the salt is almost at unpalatable levels. Also, you can get mayo with your fries here, but the mayo is different from anywhere else's mayo. It has herbs in it. It's sort of awesome. Except for the salt. On the hamburgers too, not just the fries.

That make a chocolate treat over here that supposed to be for kids, except it has rum in it, so maybe not? It's Toms chocolate turtles and they are like Creme Eggs a bit, except with rum and carmel instead of…whatever that actually is in the centre of a Creme Egg. Also, it's shaped like a turtle, rather than an egg, but it's the same size (though the chocolate is like 50% cocoa, which is awesome).

They have so many grocery stores here. I mean so many different chains, and they are all small, except for Bilka, which is huge like Morrisons or the Sainsburys or Tescos superstores. I haven't been in it yet, but I'm sure I'll go eventually. All the others are small ones, but larger than express stores (that's what 7-elevens are for). Also, there are 7-elevens everywhere, which is weird. In Copenhagen you couldn't drive a golf ball without hitting a 7-eleven.

The pastries aren't as awesome as I was lead to believe. However, the bread is delicious and healthy and yummy!

Food is super expensive. Nearly twice what it is from Morrisons, which is where I usually shop. It's a lot closer in price (but still more expensive) than in Canada, except for milk which is still cheaper. It's more expensive than I thought, so I've stopped trying to do the depressing conversion in my head and hoping that the money the university owes me comes in before next month (seriously, what is taking so long? I've not been paid since the end of November!!!)

I've been basically living off pasta and sauce (homemade though!), stir fries and sandwiches. The meat variety here is awesome though and I'm going to eat so much because when I go back to England I pretty much have to be vegetarian because of my living situation.

Houses here can be old. In fact, the apartment block I am in was built in 1909 and others in this neighbourhood are a decade older than that. But they actually put insulation in them so the walls feel warm when you touch them and the windows have been long since upgraded (before 1999, when my landlady moved in) to double pane. Hallelujah! They also have this weird way that they open, but it works really well and you can feel it when you open them, feel the seal break. Which is comforting.

There is a lot of American telly over here. A LOT. Also, UK telly, but less of it, and it's things like medical dramas and Downton Abbey. They seem to love American sitcoms, which all date back at least a decade. And American cop dramas. Every version of CSI, NCIS, Law and Order, etc, etc, etc. is shown in reruns here. And action movies. Action movies every night.

They also love IKEA, which is understandable, considering, and every city has an IKEA in it (or used to at least). The largest one is here in Odense and I've been reliably told it's the biggest in all of Europe, so I'll have to go and see. IKEA and Bilka together, as they are right beside each other.

They have malls here too. Proper indoor malls (like Highcross in Leicester) and about the same size. It's very American, because it's way out on the edge of the city and surrounded by parking lots (unlike Highcross, but very like Mapleview in Canada). The bus passes by it on the way to and from campus so I shall have to stop one day.

I've costed it out and it makes the most sense to get a bus pass, which gets you discounted travel, rather than rent a bike. A bike is going to be about 100k a week and the bus is only about 50k a week, or less if I don't use it (I only pay no the pass for what I use, whereas with the bike I pay whether I use it or not). So considering the weather is basically freezing and wet, I've opted for the bus pass, at least for the next while. If spring arrives I may reconsider.

I've also decided to stay in Odense for the duration. There is the opportunity to move to Roskilde, near Copenhagen, but then I'll have to go through moving all over again, and that took a week out of my schedule. I really don't have time for that, and also there is an issue with office/work space in Roskilde that would be problematic. I wouldn't have a desk in my room, so could only use the office on campus, which means only working in restricted hours, not when I feel like it. That doesn't really work for me. Also, I don't like sitting on my bed with my computer, even when I'm just surfing the internet. I find it awkward. It seems such a little thing, but it's important to how I work so I can't ignore that. It's just easier to stay here. There's a conference in March anyways that I'll go to so I'll get to meet the Roskilde people then.

My landlady is really nice. She's very direct, which is a nice change, and we've had some great conversations. She let me gone on for an hour about the Camino a few nights ago, which I thought was really nice of her. I found it quite cathartic to reminisce and be honest too and to tell it to someone who knows what it is and knows people who have walked, but isn't clear on the details (she is now!). She also seemed genuinely interested, and it's nice to have a captive audience. I have to say that no one else has really asked me about it much since I got back, beyond the simplistic 'so, how was it?' It was great to talk it out, anyways. I should get back to finishing that book. It's nearly done. Gulla works away from the house, so she's gone sometimes as much as five days a week and other times only one day a week, depending on her schedule. Last week was 5, this week is 2, next week is none, but then it's 5 again the week after. It's really quiet when she's not here, but that's kind of nice too. I can come and go as I please either way, but I've gotten used to having someone else in the house in the last couple of years.

Once the weather improves I will do the tourist thing in Odense. There's several museums here worth visiting, and a really nice looking cathedral, and also a lot of park and trail to walk when it's not -6C outside. I've been told spring usually comes in around mid-February so only a few weeks left to wait before I can go explore. It's nice to have those to look forward to. There's two great outdoor museums here too, but they don't open until May, unfortunately. Still, I might rent a bike for a few days in March if the weather is really good and go out for a ride in the country. I can probably ride *around* Odense in a day, and everywhere here is flat. Flat flat flat.

I need to edit Chapter 2 of my thesis (okay, a bit about writing) and add a couple thousand more words (I know what they need to be, it's just…well, adding them). I hope to get that done by early February so I can edit Chapters 1 and 3 properly before the end of the month and also get some more reading done for Chapter 4, which I can then write in March. That's my deadline for the first half of the thesis, is the end of March. Then the end of July for the second half, and the conclusion to draft in August. And then three months to solely edit (mostly the second half). I think that's doable. Hopefully. That might depend on my editor's schedule, but I can hope she's as available as she said she would be. She is only allowed to do spelling/grammar editing anyways, so that shouldn't (ha!) take too long. My advisors are doing the content editing, as they should. Hopefully they don't disagree! I think I'll send Dave only parts to edit, the parts I'm really not sure on, rather than the whole thing because that's a lot for him to work through. Ross, after all, has already gotten a quarter of it by now!

I think this is long enough, yes?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Lands

Time for a new tag, I think.

And a proper blog post. Because the key to motivation is to have ten people ask you if you're going to do something. I always cave to peer pressure.

I am sitting in my office looking out on a very wet, but at least still green, courtyard garden. I am sure it looks stunning in the summer with the bushes and creeping vines. It is still a better view than what I usually see from my office window (a brick wall and grey sky). The important thing is that I have an office which is, 6 days of the week, private (on Thursdays, as today, one of the MA tutors comes in to do work, but I still get the nice desk).

I'm settling in here in Odense (1.5 hours west of Copenhagen, on the island of Funen). The city is about the size of Leicester, or a little bit smaller, but the university is about twice the size (though not twice the student population, interestingly). It is set 2km outside the city on a huge expanse of property, larger than anything I have seen since brief days of venturing onto University of Waterloo's vast campus in Ontario (and this one is bigger than theirs). It takes a bus or a bike to get here, and today I figured out the bus, which is pretty good. It leaves from not far from my flat and drops off right at the front door of campus, for only £4 for a day ticket (or return, same price). It goes passed the big shopping mall, Ikea, and the big grocery store, so at least if I need to get things I can take the bus to and from, rather than trying to fit shopping on a bicycle.

Living here is certainly as expensive as they say, though most of that is food cost. Things like rent and utilities are actually very similar to England (Odense = Leicester), but food is almost twice the price in many cases. Going to have to be very careful of what I eat, and definitely much less eating out then I used to do in Leicester (read: I will not, therefore, be eating out AT ALL). I guess people get around it by owning a bike instead of a car (though there are plenty of cars around) and decent wages.

However they manage it, going to the grocery store is painful for me, as I'm used to the cheap prices of the UK. This is more similar to Canada (though different things are expensive. Except yogurt. Yogurt is just as expensive as in Canada). But as I've long since had to stop worrying about Canadian food prices, I'm trying not to mentally do the tally in my head when I shop. I've been told doing so is a recipe for insanity anyways, especially when converting Kroner to Dollar. It's a bit better Kroner to Pound, only because the Canadian dollar is so crap at the moment (and don't get me started on Dollar to Pound rates, it makes me cry).

But enough about never-ending money issues. I do like Denmark. The people are very friendly without being overly friendly, and helpful. Everyone is polite and follows the rules and the rules are simple. Things are very well organised and I can only hope that Line is having as easy a go in Leicester of it as I'm having here. My last goal is to rent a bike (imagine that won't be cheap, but probably cheaper than taking the bus 3-4 times a week). There is a place down the way, so might venture there on Saturday (bit of a trek from my house, but if I get a bike I can bike back!) Certainly walking to campus is not an option. So it's bike or bus. We'll see. I can only go and ask what it will cost.

It's looking as if I might not stay in Odense for that long, just until the end of February. I need to find out if I'm contracted in my accommodation here or not. If not, I may move to Roskilde for a month and be closer to Copenhagen and the main base of the DREAM department (I'm in one section of it here in Odense, but most live and work in Roskilde and hour east of here). It's apparently a beautiful town and in the spring will be perfect. Practicalities to figure out first, but it might all work out. It's easy to stay here in Odense, but might not be as much fun. I'll sit down and figure out the cost and see. They are happy to have me if I go and will be able to find space for me there, despite the fact there are more people around. I'll find out and make a decision next week and then can plan out my long-term time in Denmark. I think I will be leaving for England on the 1st or 2nd of April either way, via Birmingham this time, because I've had enough of Heathrow Airport and the blood underground until the summer. It's more money to fly to Birmingham, but on the flip side its a cheaper train ride back, so it might equal out to about the same (or near enough). Either way I have to leave from Copenhagen, so it's back there for a day (if coming from Odense) or right to (if coming from Roskilde). Wait and see. I'll feel better when all is sorted next week.

Right now I am trying to get back into my PhD. I've not done any work on it for a week, but I needed that mental break. I've been exhausted since I got here, and that's probably from working all through Christmas as well as moving. Feeling better today, so hopefully by tomorrow I can start some serious work. At least get the next chapter planned this weekend so I can get to writing. Painful, painful writing. I expect I'll have a post about that in the next couple of weeks.

For now, this one is long enough.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Off Again

In the true spirit of being an international student, I'm off again to my third foreign country for study (previous being England and Italy). Denmark should be a lot more like England than Rome was, I should think, seeing as I don't have to worry about being misunderstood.

I have to get two things accomplished in the next two months. And two things I would like to get accomplished. Those four are not the same things. Typical.

Still, a change of atmosphere will be good. Working all through Christmas has lead to A) cabin fever and B) hatred of the colour of my office walls. Just being in another room for a while will be nice, and there is a really great city to explore on days it's not pouring rain (maybe in March?) And it will be warmer (and also a smaller area to heat and, you know, a building 9 years younger than the one I live in FTW!)

Still, moving to a new country/city/neighbourhood always puts me on edge. Social anxieties are annoying things and I am at my worst when thrust into a new situation (particularly when I'm the one that put myself in that situation - I volunteered for this). I am hoping the transition won't be too bad. This is entirely dependent on A) liking my housemate and B) not disappointing my new supervisor. We shall have to wait and see on that.

I'll try to update more while I'm in Odense, mostly to procrastinate the things I have to do. I won't be starting a new blog at all, but stay tuned to this one!