Take your tablets

The main news to report from sunny Denmark is that it is not actually all that sunny. It is the middle of summer and we have had almost three weeks of continuous rain, this has proven to be a blessing for many reasons. One is that the rain has blessedly rinsed the air clean of pollen. Pollen which had me resembling that nerdy kid at school (you know the guy with the homemade T-shirts and glasses that everyone beat up on). Due to the rain Jette and I spent a whole Sunday cooped up in our loft apartment watching the rain. We don’t like to watch Tv and were not inspired to rent a movie so we just sat and chatted. Conversation turned to embarrassing fetishes, as it does, and we discovered that we both share a secret and closely guarded fetish. I think that sharing our buttoned up compulsion has made us stronger as a couple.

That’s right, we dusted off a jig-saw puzzle and spent a contented afternoon searching for that bit with some green-but mostly blue. A sailors foot proved elusive to the last. I know you are probably reading this at home and thinking, for F-sake! You have moved to Denmark and waste your time sitting around indoors doing jig-saws. Go outside and chat to Mary or at least stand in a field and look at windmills. Say ‘Enschool’ or ‘Vor-dan-goldi?’ to a local you ninny. In my defence after four weeks living here I am starting to acclimatize to my new surrounds. I am no longer amazed at the sight of lilliputian cars and old women riding basketed bikes around the wrong side. The steady stream of blonde Heidi’s and Hans’s speaking through perfect teeth like the Swedish chef off the muppets no longer makes me stop in my tracks and stare open mouthed.

The third blessing bought on by this deluge has been less distraction from my studies (writing rambling blog entries and stalking Tasmanian friends on Facebook does not count). True to form I have constructed a tight schedule for myself this semester. I am off to explore South East Asia in a few weeks with Jette before bolting off to the mountains of Nepal where I will raise my altitude record with a Kiwi mate. This schedule means that I have a whole semester worth of Uni work to finish in two weeks. I need to get seriously ahead with assignments.

My first writing assignment is a compare and contrast essay on two travels books. One is written by the peerless Bill Bryson, the other by lesser known Sarah Darmody. Bill wanders through Europe happily teasing beret wearers and drunken Germans, Sarah rides a Greyhound bus through America missing her boyfriend. There is plenty to compare, I started with the similarities. Both books are written on paper, both have a barcode and an ISBN number printed on the inside of the front page. Both are in English which is nice. Bill’s novel however arrived promptly from Amazon, dog eared and scribbled in, Sarah’s arrived three weeks late, after three increasingly stern emails, crinkling new and expensive. I am yet to tackle the difference bought about by the writers different gender, age, humour used, writing style, location, experience, use of dialogue, metaphors, similes….yah, yah, yah.

I am pretty sure that, travel writing being a course offered through the arts department, if I sneak the words ‘Neophyte‘ and the phrase ‘Pose colonial discourse‘ or ‘orientalism plays a significant role in this work‘ I will get a distinction. I will let you know how this theory works out.

grey Take your tabletsBecause it has rained non stop for so long my training for Nepal has involved climbing with friends at the gym (very exciting) and swimming laps at the local pool (not very exciting). Some of the serious swimmers have waterproof music players which seems like a great idea. I find that my mind wanders as I gasp through my 40 laps and I constantly lose count. I am either finishing on 38 or 56 laps, my legs feel totally boneless when I beach myself gasping on the tiles so I sincerely hope it is 56. On Monday when I was swimming laps I sneezed and a little bit of snot floated off into the neighboring lane. This started my mind wandering, it is hay fever season and I notice plenty of people walking around and covering their nose with handkerchiefs. Each sneeze would release about, let’s say, a plug of mucous weighing half a gram. There are ten lanes with approximately six people in each lane. Assume they all swim thirty laps and sneeze once in ten, the low lying haze of chlorine over the water really irritates the nose. That is 1.5 grams of snot per person, per swim. That is a total of forty-five grams of snot jettisoned into the water. Furthermore, being very conservative, it takes on average one hour to complete thirty laps, the pool is open for eight hours, that is seven-hundred and twenty grams of snot, almost a carton of milk, going into the pool every day. I swam and pondered this disturbing daydream and lost count of my laps, somewhere around thirty-seven, or one-hundred.

When I turned and realized that you sweat when exercising, even in the water, I finished my lap in record time and ran to the showers away from the snot soup. My next challenge was the naked showers which I have grown to dread. Some time ago Jette explained to me that the numerous Danish signs around the shower state specifically that swimmers must shower naked, none of this hiding in your shorts business. I told her that I intend to maintain my stance on my desire to keep ‘Mr decision maker’ purely for exclusive viewing, they cannot force me to wave in the breeze, surely. As I shower I imagine a lonely, be-speckled librarian type in the office upstairs. She is surrounded by CCTV monitors frantically printing these compulsory nudity posters as fast as they are pulled down.

Anyway, enough of the shower, no doubt you are starting to get the impression that all I do is scurry around Danish change rooms covered by my towel and dream about jig-saws. Sorry, no I have not finished. In the spirit of cultural integration I found a lovely quiet corner where I can shower naked and change without feeling like a contestant in ‘check-mine-out-guys’. My corner is next to a large dark wall, to me they looked like tiles on the wall. For the last three weeks I have been enjoying my private changing area, that is until I recently spotted a door in the wall. On Monday I made the unnerving discovery that this door leads through to a sauna. The whole wall which I have been changing near is tinted glass, behind which is a wooden grandstand facing this one way mirror. People enjoy their saunas (naked of course) and look out into the change rooms. I did not have the nerve to look inside the sauna for fear of being greeted by a crowd of be-speckled librarians cheering me on. Anyway, now I have finished rambling about my change room phobia….

What else has been happening? Jette and I have managed to survive despite the kitchen at her work, who provide healthy meals ridiculously cheaply, being closed for holidays. We have been living on a diet of quiece and hastily thrown together salad. Thank god for the farmers market which is held across the road every Wednesday and Saturday. Umm…I went to the pharmacy and bought some drugs. The rules here are really strict, you need a prescription from a doctor to buy Telfast 180mg, but not the 120mg strength, the pharmacist told me this while looking sternly at me over his glasses. Apparently pharmacists worldwide have a habit of taking themselves far to seriously. I have had ten years experience as a Pharmacist and I do not know of anything exciting which can be cooked out of this hay fever remedy. I tried to persuade him to sell me some 180mg’s under the counter but met a roadblock

Deciding to simply take 2x120mg tablets I bought up big and left. On my way back to the apartment I passed the pub with all the zimmer frames parked outside, it piqued my curiosity. It was after midday, why shouldn’t I pop in for a beer? Aarhus is dotted with pocket-sized pubs that sweep lost, lonely souls off the street like a river eddy gathers leaves. Inside through a dense cloud of smoke I was greeted by three aged pokie machines and four equally tattered faces. All the contents of the pub seemed surprised to see a person enter without walking aids, or emphysema. I managed to order a beer despite the large, short haired lady’s lack of interest in foreign language. Feeling my lungs start to protest the local lack of oxygen I sculled my beer and burst outside through the door. I was chased through the entrance by a tsunami of cigarette smoke also trying to escape the den. I returned to the apartment, took two Telfast and got back to my assignment.

On way my to climbing on Wednesday I took a detour. There is a lovely string of leafy parks which follow lakes around to the climbing centre, I thought that this would be a much more enjoyable ride to enjoy on the girl bike than the traffic laden main road. I was right. Crossing the road to the park entrance a man in a car slowed, beeped his horn and holding my gaze made angry walking motions with his pointer and middle finger. Apparently I had enraged his sensibility by riding across a pedestrian crossing, the highest form of sin. Danish drivers are so robotically law abiding that even a slight transgression such as this is viewed with indignation, I would love to see them driving in Bolivia. The ride to the gym through the park was enchanted, green fields, hippie houses with hothouses (guess why) and willow shrouded ponds, I felt like I was inside a poster promoting Denmark. I saw a brown slug the size of a T-bone steak crossing the path, he was big enough to crash your motorbike on. Stopping to take a photo the slug bunched up into a fist sized ball and started oozing slime with excitement. Danish slugs have not been covered by my education in any great depth to date, being unsure if his next step was to fire out a jet of acid or sharp darts at me I left him alone.

At the climbing centre our little group grew by one. Felix, a most agreeable German PHD student joined us on the walls. Felix is studying nano-technology ( small stuff) and is a much more advanced climber than I. Watching him climb inspired me to climb the red route without using easily reached foot holds on the lower section. The four of us were completely worn out after ninety minutes so I packed up my ballet shoes and rode back through the parks. Being careful to avoid those dart throwing massive slugs I returned home to find Jette using my laptop.

She was not making joke Facebook updates while I was gone (I can be silly enough on social networking sites without her help) she was feeding another of her fetishes. A second fetish of Jette’s, and one that I shamelessly exploit, is proofreading. Jette loves to flex her formidable English muscle by proofing what I write, searching for capitalization and grammatical errors she does not have to dig very deeply. Without her help much of my rambling would read like a drunken dyslexic has found his mums old mechanical ‘Underwood Five’ in the attic, dusted it off, found an ink ribbon and started pecking away.

Like a blinking koala Jette tore her gaze from the sea of blue change tracking on the screen and said that we may have a small weather window on Saturday to visit Lego-land. This had me running around in small circles instantly. Clapping open fingered I said how much I wanted the Star Wars Death Star and the Dragster mechanic kit as a kid. For both my sake and my nephew’s (he will get presents) I hope that the Danish meteorology service is right this time.

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