Copenhagen Under Siege

It’s just after 2:30A.M and I’m freshly returned to my apartment.  As I write this quick update the majority of the Copenhagen Police department is mobilized with what looks like military backup.  An active shooter remains on the loose in the heart of Copenhagen.  Trains are bypassing Norreport station and all vehicles entering and exiting the area are being checked at Police checkpoints.  In addition to a level of mobilization you almost never see from the Danish Police, they are also armed with assault weapons and in heavy bulletproof gear. They are on high alert and have been targeted repeatedly by the gunman. Right now it looks like at least five officers have been injured by the gunman, one civilian is dead, with a fifth individual also likely dead or in severe condition after being shot in the head.

*The suspect was engaged in a gunfight with Police early Sunday morning and has now been shot and killed* – 11AM (2/15/15)

I spent my evening dancing Salsa and Bachata in the city center.  My evening ended around 1:20AM…shortly after the apparent second shooting by the gunman, which took place near Norreport station at a Synagogue (about a 5 minute walk from where I was).  As we approached Nyhavn my friend and I noticed that it was extremely quiet for a Saturday evening (and Valentines Day no less).  There were two officers standing guard with assault rifles clearly visible.  I assumed it was a show of force for tourists as a precaution after the shooting which had occurred earlier in the day.  It was only as we got closer that I realized they were likely standing guard over the French Embassy which sits kitty corner to Nyhavn.  We spoke to them briefly and they informed us that a second shooting had taken place and advised that we return home.  Abandoning our stroll along Nyhavn we turned towards the Metro. As we did an unmarked van pulled up. It was full of what looked like a strategic military response team.

Discover Your True Self – #Studyabroadbecause

From time to time I’m asked to do interviews about my travel or study abroad experiences.  In the past I’ve been bad about sharing those here on VirtualWayfarer.  These interviews surface a different side of my travel experience and offer me a chance to offer advice through a slightly different lens.  As a result, I’ll aim to be better about linking to the most content rich of these interviews when I do them. The latest of which was an invitation to weigh in on why people should study abroad while simultaneously sharing my own study abroad story. I’ve re-produced the first two questions in the Q&A here. Make sure to click over to Wandering Educators for the full interview.

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?

My story is fairly complex. As a kid, my parents homeschooled my brother and I in place of 5th and 7th grade. 5th grade was spent backpacking Europe. 7th grade was spent in a 32-foot 5th-wheel trailer as we took a year and drove across the United States. I did my first study abroad the summer of my Freshman year of College. I was incredibly nervous despite the childhood trips. It was a 6.5 week Honors study abroad program in the British Isles. I debated doing a full semester or year and really wanted to, but could never work up the nerve. The summer program ended up being a great experience. Despite loving it and really flexing my travel muscle, I still never quite worked up the courage over the remaining 3 years of my BA to do a full semester or year abroad.

When I graduated, I turned around and tossed caution to the wind. After 4 years of being worried about doing a solo semester abroad, I closed my eyes and jumped into a 3 month solo trip through Europe. I figured it was now or never. It was amazing. I returned to a full-time job in Mergers and Acquisitions, where I managed two 16-21 day trips a year for the next 3 years. Then, tired of Arizona and eager to return for a Master’s, I applied to a number of schools selected based purely on reputation, the appeal of their location, and if they had a communication program. My methodology? A list of the top 50 Universities in the world and an afternoon of research. I ended up with 8 Universities split between 4 PhD programs (trying to skip the MA) and 4 MA programs. Of these, 3 were in Europe. All of the PhDs rejected me and the MA decision came down to Georgetown in D.C. or the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Georgetown wanted $30k in tuition a year. University of Copenhagen offered me a complete tuition waiver…as well as a 2 year visa to live in and explore Europe. The opportunity to do what I hadn’t had the nerve to do previously was too enticing to resist (and that tuition waiver helped).

Despite having only spent 2 days in Denmark during a trip the year before, I relocated figuring I’d see what happened and give it a go. It was one of the best and most pivotal decisions of my life.

Zambian Children – Weekly Travel Photo

During my time in Zambia, my  understanding of children and what they are capable of fundamentally changed. Not only did the children of rural Zambia awe me with their love of life, constant smiles, and zeal for enjoying every moment – they also showed me how many of the narratives about western children and their abilities are grossly misplaced. The children I met and observed were responsible. They were capable. They worked well together and looked after each other.  It made it clear to me that the way we coddle children in the US, Europe, and other parts of the industrialized world has come with a cost.  On the one hand it means those children get to enjoy their childhood in a carefree fashion which is wonderful and something I wish more of the Zambian kids got to enjoy.

Malaga In January – A Pleasant Surprise

Seville, Granada, Cadiz … these are the cities that spring to mind when you talk about southern Spain in winter. Cities with rich architectural history, stunning old towns, vibrant cultural attractions and a charm guaranteed to steal your heart.  Malaga? Not so much. Unless, that is, you’re on the hunt for ugly cement resorts, overly crowded beaches, shady tourist restaurants, and an old city swallowed long ago by the forward march of industry and excessive tourism.  At least, that’s the Malaga I expected. My lazy Google pre-trip search did little to assuage my concerns. Photos from above showed me a modern city with beaches and a skyline marked by the jarring sight of ugly hotel elbowing its way in front of ugly hotel.  A perusal of a few top 10 things to do in Malaga lists further cemented my plan to use Malaga and more specifically its airport as a cheap way-station to get into and out of as quickly as possible.

Florence in Black and White – Weekly Travel Photo & Product Review

Holding my breath I closed my eyes. Around me the auditory press of a vibrant Italian city roared about its daily business. Filtering through the array of sounds I sorted out the thread I was looking for – a rhythmic sound. An organic sound. The sound of boat paddles slicing smoothly into the currents of the river, extricating itself, and slowly dripping droplets of water in its wake. It was the subtle splash of a boat advancing against the current and immediately triggered memories of my childhood. Of times spent in Mexico in a small inflatable kayak paddling gracelessly against coastal currents and a mild wind. So much was different and yet so much was similar. The sleek suggestion of movement, the groan of the oar, and the sound of the boat cutting through the water.

Hostel Etiquette – Sleep In Your Own Damn Bed

There is a pandemic raging through hostel culture…and no, it isn’t bed bugs.  In a sleepy dorm room somewhere nearby a tired individual has made the grand trek up four flights of stairs, down a long zig-zag hallway all while fighting the never ending battle that comes with magnetic keycards. You know the battle i’m talking about; the first attempt never works, then you try it again … slower … no luck.  Confused, you then rotate the card and try the other end … but, no, that’s not it … then on the fourth, fifth, sixth, or sixteenth try you get the timing and pressure just right and the door makes that loud grinding noise causing the hairs on your arm stand on end in a mixture of discomfort and relief.

With every bit of Elven deftness you ease into the room and carefully navigate to your bed praying you don’t trip over a backpack or pair of carelessly tossed shoes. You may be returning from a night out on the town or be freshly arrived.  Either way; eager to kick off your shoes, slide into bed, and rest…you notice a lump and mess of disheveled sheets in the bunk you’ve been assigned.  Careful not to bathe the whole room in light, you use your cell phone to check the bunk number and the number on your card. Then the annoyed conundrum strikes. You’ve been the victim of a bed thief. What to do? Do you dump your water bottle on the person? Storm to the door and turn the light on making a scene and waking up the rest of the room? Head back to reception?  Is there another bed available? Is it a bed you want?

Behold the Valley of the Sun

With roughly 4.3 million residents in the greater Phoenix metro area the city, named after a mythical bird, has wings that cast a mighty shadow.  So mighty in fact that if it were converted into a stand alone country that population would make it the 127th most populous country in the word – right between Croatia and Georgia.  It is a city of diversity which is the source of many of its greatest attributes but part of what makes the city, and the state it resides in, a lightning rod for national debate and controversial discourse.  It’s the city where I spent my undergraduate years and a city I experienced in a whole different way as a business professional.  Now, as someone who has spent the majority of three plus years away from Phoenix I want to share with you the things I miss and the things I look forward to experiencing for the first time the next time I find my way back.

Fun Fact: The Day is 37 Minutes Longer in Southern Denmark

The dark depths of winter in the Nordic countries is a topic often discussed and in some ways synonymous with the various nations’ identities. As an Arizonan who has re-located and spent the last few years in Denmark, the pressing darkness of the winter months was definitely a challenge to tackle. Still, with a trove of Vitamin D supplements and a small army of candles I’ve not only survived but thrived during Denmark’s long, dark, winters.  Though, perhaps, I exaggerate a bit unjustly.  After all, while the days are often frustratingly fleeting during winter, we still have the luxury of enjoying bursts of sunlight which can genuinely be called days.  This, unlike our northern brothers and sisters, who at times see little more than the briefest, twilight infused tease from the sun.

It is also often bordering on the impossible to talk about Denmark at any great length without being reminded by both Danes and foreigners alike that it is, after all, a tiny little country with only 5.6 million residents. I would even go so far as to say that among Danes it is a badge of honor. Given all they accomplish and their impact on the world at large? … perhaps rightly so.

I share all of this because I think it sets the tone for why so many of us often forget just how large the world we live in actually is and the quirky dynamics that result when a nation’s borders and the mental identity we associate with  those borders collides with the realities of the earth’s rotation and orbital tilt.  If you, like me, often find yourself thinking about Denmark as one semi-homogeneous country in almost all things the following may shock you.  Had you settled in for a Carlsberg on a beach outside the Danish town of Hirtshals near the northern tip of Jutland yesterday (December 28th) and called a friend in Sønderborg, a lovely town situated at the base of the Jutland peninsula and just next to Denmark’s border with Germany, you would have learned that your friend’s day was a full 37 minutes longer than your own. Jealous? I know I am.

Despite only being a three and a half hour drive to the south (and as a result at the opposite end of Denmark) the difference between sunrise and sunset between these two cities is significant.  That’s a distance just longer than the space between London and Leeds in the UK, Berlin in Germany and Prague in the Czech Republic, Santa Barbara and San Diego in the USA, and between Washington D.C. and New York City. Not bad ehh?

Want to have some fun? Calculate the difference in the length of your day against other locations within your own country. There are a few services on the web that will tell you how long the day in various cities will be, or you can calculate it on your own using Google to pull the sunrise and sunset for various locations. Also, thanks to Maja, a friend and local Danish expert, who tipped me off to this simple but surprising mental exercise.

Oh, and I suppose I’d be remiss in my responsibilities if I didn’t answer that age old question – just how large IS Denmark?  The country is roughly 368km [229 miles] from north to south and about 450km [280 miles] from east to west (excluding Bornholm). Who is ready for a roadtrip?