Europe

Blind date

grey Blind dateYesterday I had a blind date who bought along his regular partner, the previous night I cooked a steak on the smallest barbecue I have ever seen and watched four Danish blokes gaily hurling a Frisbee at each others bottoms.

Jette and I had plans to catch up with our friends Mette and Kenneth again. Being summer ( sorry, had to mention it), being summer (sorry), we decided to meet in the park for a barbecue. There is a lovely grassy park just four blocks away from our apartment, locals frequent this area to throw a frisbee, cook or to simply lie near a tree under blankets giggling. By the time Jette and I arrived, Mette and Kenneth had claimed a good spot and had settled in. Kenneth and I messed around with the barbecue coal speaking slowly in a man-ish way while the girls caught up on news. Second only to talking about the weather Danish people love cooking on small Webber Barbecues. Small. Kenneth’s barbecue is big enough for six sausages, perfect for cooking for four. I had wondered what I find see when Jette said they were bringing their barbecue along. Finally, after I put out the coals by replacing the lid and Kenneth singed a finger relighting them, we had enough heat to cook.

While eating our steaks and generally relaxing in the sun (it was almost 8:30pm and still light which I can never get used to) we spotted four young chaps throwing a frisbee. They were all wearing jeans cut off short and white polo tops. I don’t want to cast dispersions but they did look like the type who view changing rooms less as an awkward necessity and more of a buffet, if you get my drift. Not that this kind of thing bothers my in any way. The boys were gleefully standing in a circle throwing a Frisbee and running around giggling like schoolgirls. Whenever one lad dropped the Frisbee twice they would punish him. He was made to stand facing away from his friends while they others got three free shots at his bum (with the Frisbee). They soon tired of this game and had a pushup competition, the winner convincingly destroyed the competition with three and a half. We tired of watching them when they forgot about the Frisbee and started playing tag while clapping open handed and laughing hysterically. Being a school night we contained our drinking and…actually we didn’t drink at all,  packed up early. Another great night with mates. (By the way, if anyone living in Vietnam is reading this Kenneth and Mette are lovely people, they will be in Hanoi in October, can you invite them over for dinner?)

grey Blind datePreviously in the week I contacted Dieter who runs the climbing centre to ask if he knows anyone needing a belaying partner. Dieter gave me the email address of an Italian beginner Federico and told me to contact him. Federico replied to my email saying that he would be more than happy to climb with me so we arranged to meet last night at the climbing gym, 6pm.

At the gym and having no idea what Federico looked like I asked a chap in the change room if his name was Federico. He guardedly replied; “No, my name is Arthur…but I am meeting someone with that name, do you have an appointment with him”

“Not as such mate, my name is Ben, I emailed Federico and we arranged to climb together tonight, are going to join us?”

“I…Federico is my regular climbing partner, this is our normal climbing time, he didn’t say he was seeing someone else…”

With Arthur searching my face for giveaway clues to why Federico would try online dating I went on to explain that I was new to the gym and Dieter had given me Federico’s email to help me find a climbing partner. I felt somewhat like a scarlet woman, but, as I explained my situation Arthur dropped his guard and told me they both were new to the ‘scene’ and that he would love to have a third person join in. Federico was late so Arthur and I went out to climb. It was wonderful to have a rope partner, I was starting to get bored with the shorter unroped routes. We were gleefully climbing away on the beginner routes when Federico arrived and apologized to Arthur for being late. As Arthur lowered me from the top I watched them chatting. Slowly I floated to the ground, feeling something like an unexpected dancer crashing a Ballet performance, and introduced myself to Federico. The three of us spent a brilliant three hours trying out new routes and setting climbing challenges for each other; “Only use the blue holds this time” and “try doing it without using that big easy grip” I had a much more intense workout than previously on the low routes, with only one small fright.

Being very new to climbing of any sort Federico is still learning the mechanics of belaying. We discussed signals for the climber to communicate to the belay with. One slap on the wall means holds me here for a rest, two slaps, like tapping out in wrestling, means I am done, bring me down. I had just reached the top of a new route and tapped out. Federico started lowering me from my perch ten metres up. He somehow lost his grip on the rope and sent me into free fall for half a meter or so before grabbing the rope again. This is not very far at ground level but was definitely far enough to give me a little rush of blood up on the wall. As my harness caught me I looked down to see Federico stumbling with the sudden shock of my weight on the rope. He regained his composure and started lowering me again, much more slowly this time. Once my feet were safely on the ground again I looked at Federico who was slightly embarrassed at his little stumble. I just I told him that I am in hurry to get back to the ground and thanks for catching me.

Arms totally pumped out I rode the girl bike home and passed a quality evening boring Jette by excitedly re-telling stories about the climbing. What a fantastic blind date, not one but two new people to climb with now. This is handy as Federico is going home to Italy on Sunday for a holiday.

This morning I woke hardly able to life my coffee to my lips and realised that I have never woken up this sore after a blind date before.

Life 2.0

grey Life 2.0Jet lag is a bitch. Jet lag halves your intellect and reasoning abilities and has an amazing ability to make you mess up words. The first half a day or night or so is not so bad, adrenaline and fresh sights put jet lag in the background. When the adrenaline wears off however fatigue descends like a heavy coat and you find yourself waking at 2:30am wanting lunch or dozing off at midday in a cafe after ordering a flat white chair, one peanut.

For few weeks now I have been working on a devious scheme to beat combat this nasty ailment. Back home in Tasmania I have been staying awake until around 4am then waking at 11am, this was possible as all I needed to do at home was pack, work on my book and help Dad wade through his collection of fine scotches… Sorry how rude, for those who don’t know, my name is Ben. Fourteen months ago I liquidated my blue collar life and threw all my cards in the air, and I mean all of them. While waiting for them to land with a new direction for me I busied myself by running around the place having a few adventures while meeting some wonderful people.

The most wonderful person I met goes by the name of Jette (‘Yeh-teh’, not Yeti or Jetty). Jette is Danish, she comes from Denmark, that small flat country on the other side of the world where people eat prawns in mayonnaise and pickled herring for breakfast. At first this distance seemed inconvenient, Denmark is as far as you can travel from Tasmania without dodging polar bears. Thankfully, after we met during my last walkabout (while cruising the Galapagos islands, I know, I know!), we managed to cross paths a few more times and stay in regular contact thanks to the wonder that is the internet. During my travels I unearthed a latent love for writing, it had been lying dormant since I suffered that teenage phase of penning dark, forlorn musings and burying them in the backyard for later. I needed to be with Jette and wanted to explore writing, the problem was how to combine the two? Obvious solution; move to Denmark, study writing online.

Day one

I mentioned before that Denmark is a long way from my native Tasmania. My move to Aarhus cost me 31 hours and 40 minutes in transit, 63 episodes of Masterchef for you couch warriors. Continuing my little scheme to beat jet lag I set my clock to Denmark time when I got on the plane in Melbourne, I would now sleep according to Denmark time. This meant staying awake until a stop over in Hong Kong, 7am in Australia. This presented little problem as a) I was excited and b) the Chinese lady next to me promptly fell asleep and attacked my nostrils with a barrage of flatulence that would continue for the 10 hour flight. I sat down in my seat, removed my heavy boots (avoiding excess luggage fees by wearing all my heavy clothes), put on my ugg slippers (no comment please) and started watching a bad movie about a strange boy and his mother, a nurse who raped an unconscious soldier to get pregnant. Three movies later, convinced I would be having an image free nightmare involving only the sense of smell, we were let off the plane in Hong Kong. I did not want to hold up proceedings so went straight to the new gate, paced up and down the travelators then discovered the free wifi and sent a few emails before getting back on the plane.

The farting Chinese individual had thankfully been replaced with a very agreeable miner from Perth who had missed his flight to the Greek isles and was flight hopping in an effort to catch his girlfriend. Chris didn’t fart. After a brief chat he fell deeply asleep and hardly stirred for the remaining 12 hours. Soon bored with focussing on the little screen in front of me I struck up a conversation with the older chap across the aisle. He and his wife were off on a ten day cruise starting in Amsterdam. We shared the shallow conversation of two complete strangers thrown into contact, soon out of surface layer banter we went back to work. Him squinting at Sudoku, me being restless and needing to stretch. Towards the back of the plane I looked out over Siberia while trying to unknot my back and legs when I struck up a conversation with a tall long haired chap. He was on his way to the UK to work on a documentary on crop circles, now this was more like it. Before long I had moved to the vacant seat next to him and we were sharing travel tales and photos, him drinking beers, me on the water. This guy has lived! Throughout his life Greg had been a maths teacher, a musician, traveler, in the 80’s he crashed the party that Alan Bond threw in Europe after winning the Americas Cup. Greg showed me his documentary in progress and explained some of the more wild theories thrown up by the drum banging types who are invariably found around crop circles. Two hours later the beers which Greg was drinking were making him louder and louder so I decided it was time for me to return to my position, seat 70G.

One salt laden, ankle swelling meal later I was in London, Heathrow airport, the fourth busiest in the world and easily the most multicultural. Feeling like Will Smith in Men in Black when he was shown the alien departure lounge with time to kill I perched myself near a window, attacked a salt free fruit salad and started counting planes. One took off every 30 seconds from the one runway in sight, amazing. I was really too tired to care. Next leg, London to Copenhagen. Jette assured me that if I got off the plane quickly in Copenhagen I would be able to run and catch the direct train to Aarhus avoiding the following train that stops at every station along the length of the country. We landed ten minutes early and, being seated near the front of the plane, I was looking good for a quick getaway. After five minutes of standing with my head against the overhead locker with my bag in my hand ready to fly the captain came over the intercom. “Ladies and Gentlemen, sorry for the delay, we have had a warning alarm come on with the sky-corridor, it would be best if you took your seats while we get an engineer to asses the problem.

Thirty five minutes of sitting right near the quick train passed before we were let off. I unashamedly ran around cramped up old people, nearly trampled a few tired kids, was the first through immigration, stood right near where the bags come out of the conveyor, grabbed my bags, didn’t declare my massive cache of antibiotics (for later in the year), ran to the train and promptly missed it.

When Albert Einstein wrote his most famous work he was right that time slows down as you increase in speed. He missed mentioning that time also slows down the closer you get to your destination. The train paused at each stop for about one and a half lifetimes. Trees, wind farms and houses passed by at a glacial speed, I feel asleep. I woke when the train pulled into Aarhus station. I ran off the train with my new porta-life strapped on my back and found Jette. Jette had been waiting on the platform also suffering an Einstein time bend for the last two hours.

Life 2.0

Wrong side of the road and masturbating chimpanzees!

grey Wrong side of the road and masturbating chimpanzees!

 

 

 

I once read a science fiction book where scientists bred modified chimpanzees smart enough to fly spacecraft. Chimps do not possess human vocal cords and can’t speak, hence communication was an issue. The other problem was that the space monkeys had had their intelligence further boosted with a hefty dose of human hormones. Once in orbit, full of raging hormones and curious about themselves and the world the entire simian crew discovered masturbation and neglected to steer. Keepers watched through closed circuit television as the spacecraft burnt up on impact with the earths atmosphere, the chimps, arms a blur, did not even look up…

I will return to the chimps later on… where did I leave off last time? Sapphire blue skies, rubbish bins, rock climbing, blah, blah…A big difference which I have not yet mentioned is that being in the middle of summer it is light, all the time. The sun rises at around 5am and hangs in the sky until 11:30pm. This is fantastic news for vitamin D production, bad news for sleep patterns. The light definitely has its benefits, often Jette and I will go for a stroll before dinner along the waterfront, returning at 8pm to cook dinner in the sun. Hearing people passing below my window as I drift off to sleep I sometimes think it is grade four summertime again.  Mum made me go to bed early and I would lay in bed awake enviously listening to the cool kids still playing outside.

Speaking of cool kids. The Danish equivalent of grade 12 has just finished their exams and kids have been partying like banshees ever since. In Australia when college finishes most people find a paddock somewhere to stand around a bonfire getting drunk and fighting, or kissing. The Danes celebrate very differently. As each class is let out someone organizes a big cattle truck, army truck or similar to drive the whole class around town. With huge stereo systems blaring the trucks are decorated with banners, streamers and littered with drunken classmates before taking to the streets. It is almost a competition on which class has the loudest, most decorative truck…pimp my truck. The entire class spends what is left of the day and most of the night making surprise visits to proud parents. At their homes they receive beer and toilet breaks before returning to the road to drive around again yelling, dancing and sharing their joy with the world. I lie in bed in the sunlight and wonder if these school leavers realize that soon they will be facing either real jobs or university studies. I reckon that thought would tone the buggers down a bit.

Currently my new city is trying to build a name for itself as the cultural capital of Denmark. To this end Aarhus is currently host to an impressive sculpture by the sea display. Picture a sprawling seafront park with massive oversize sunglasses and randomly placed sculptures dotting the waterfront. Elderly art critics walk around wearing berets and pushing half glasses up their noses as kids run, yelling between adult legs climbing everything with abandon. One of the bigger pieces consists of three double length shipping containers perched on end with a small container containing a bell suspended between them. That is all, the containers just sit there quietly rusting away, the occasional passerby stops to ring the bell before losing interest and moving on. Art, there is no definition. My hairdresser told me that a group of local artists got upset about the sunglasses sculpture saying that it is not art. No one got upset about the upended containers though, being both an eyesore and completely useless they are clearly art.

Oh yeah, I got a haircut recently, two actually…

While walking around the sculptures on Saturday I got thoroughly tired of my long messed up hair blowing into my face and asked Jette if she would give me a trim. This saw us on Saturday night, me sitting in a chair laughing and heckling as Jette nervously circled, snipping at wayward locks. Jette soon found her confidence and gave me a decent shearing. As a hairdresser Jette makes a really good lawyer, it was a great first try though! Following my instructions Jette cut it really short at the front and top and left it long at the back. Business at the front, party at the back equals a home made mullet, or ‘German hair’ as it is known here. I was very excited with my new look but as my front end resembled an old frizzy microphone it needed some tidying up.

On Monday morning first thing I went out and found a hairdresser to tweak my style somewhat. Telling my second hairdresser that I trusted her judgement as long as she left it long at the back I sat down and, with her limited English, we enjoyed a stilted conversation for half an hour. As if programmed to cut all hair the same she finished, leaving me with a typical Danish, short all over, cut.  Not to worry I am determined that the mullet will return! Monday afternoon I faced a massive struggle with writing block so I decided to simply give up. I went to the climbing centre for a workout.

Just getting to the centre was a mission. The first time I went out Jette kindly took me in her Fiat Punto (more about this automotive masterpiece later). Once I started climbing Jette found a seat and patiently waited for me to finish, watching like a patient soccer mum. Yesterday I had to make my own way out. I took Jette’s step through ‘city-girl’ bike with a wicker basket on the front. In the basket were my new, brightly colored climbing shoes with the pointy toes. I set the hilltop hoods on my iPod and left the building. The first few intersections proved a massive challenge. When the light turned green I rode through the intersection and would instinctively turn straight into oncoming traffic, panic, then ride up onto the pavement to regroup before trying again. I made a few bad turns but soon I was making my way up the correct side of the road towards the gym. The Climbing centre is located in a ‘bad’ area of town, revved up cars raced past with music blaring and passengers staring as I pedaled along quietly listening to my music.

Notwithstanding, it was a lovely ride out to the centre on ‘city-girl’, most people smiled as I passed and I could not help grinning about bringing people joy with my ridiculousness.

Unable to communicate, with burning forearms and sweat dripping off me I spent two hours mimicking people around me in the empty dive pool retrofitted with climbing walls. Looking up at observers above I fell limbs akimbo and rubbed my burning forearms while laughing to myself. It must have been a zoo-worthy sight, the lone guy at the climbing centre falling off, laughing at private jokes and not managing to speak with anyone, but it was brilliant fun. Next time I go I will try to act normal as I need to find someone to team with for belaying. Rock climbing is incredibly hard on the forearms, my legs and, well, all over hurt when I finished dragging myself around the obstacles.

The only time I felt a big awkward about my transport was when I finished climbing and asked the duty manager Mikael to let me into the bike shed. I wheeled the city-girl out from amongst a selection of very masculine mountain bikes to catch a poorly stifled laugh from him. Mikael then watched with a bemused expression as the new guy put his pointy shoes into the basket and set off down the wrong side of the street, back erect, earphones in, with a big grin on his face.

I sat on the generous girl-seat and threw myself into a rush of oncoming traffic. As I slowly orbited the roundabout backwards I thought about my communication issues and burning forearms and could not help grinning as I remembered the story of those masturbating space-chimps.

In the Groove

grey In the GrooveDenmark, where the sun always shines above a sapphire sky. Children play in parks with under fairy floss clouds with gumdrop smiles, Elderly people hand out sweets while nearby adults stand watching and discussing issues, glowing with health. The adults don’t have many issues to talk about as the government presides over after its people without corruption or prejudice. Students excitedly ride in the sun to school, eager to learn about the world and happily chatting as they pedal.

Ok, so I may be getting a little carried away, but I have found a really nice groove in this agreeable country.  It has been ten days since my train pulled in Aarhus and, with squealing brakes, launched me upon this city. Jette leaves for work early after we have breakfast together, I am having no problem waking as my body still thinks that 8am is actually 4pm. When Jette leaves for work I make the first of many coffees before sitting at my new Ikea desk. Looking out at commanding views over the red brick buildings I happily write the day away undisturbed. I am working on a book about my travels and ‘past life’ in Devonport. This has proven to be surprisingly tiring, to put so much effort into a document with no guarantees of being read demands a certain kind of faith. Despite this lack of assurances I am thriving on the challenge as I am both learning how to write more good (yeah, sorry!) and I reckon that the worst case scenario is I will finish with a first class diary of my recent adventures.

Jumping back to my last blog, one extra difference that I noticed about Aarhus is that the rubbish bins are different. We live in a very dense residential area which, considering the very few tiny rubbish bins outside each building, is incredibly clean. Yesterday when I was outside stretching my back I heard a rubbish truck pull up. The driver jumped out and attached a hook to the big metal loop on the top of the tiny bin. He raised the crane, lifted the smaller bin to reveal a huge rubbish skip attached at the bottom which lives buried under the pavement. This is how the streets are so tidy despite such small bins. This ingenuity impressed me more than I would like to admit, I will try to catch a photo next Thursday when the truck visits next.

Almost every night since I arrived Jette returns from work (writing non-disclosure statements and other tricky agreements for Vestas) and we go out. We don’t go out to drink or eat rich foods, no, we have become exercise nerds. Both of us are highly motivated for different reasons, Jette wants to get fitter to maybe climb Mount Kinabalu in Borneo with me this August, I need to loose the beer tumour so as not to die in Nepal. We either go across the street to the big public pool, with naked change room men, or two blocks away to run through the birch forest. grey In the Groove

On Wednesday night I also added another type of exercise to my regimen, rock climbing. Aarhus has an extremely well set up rock climbing centre located in an empty dive pool. The local council could not justify the expensive of fixing a recurring leak so they handed a free lease to a bloke called Dieter. Dieter is a grey bearded Aussie, quietly spoken he defies his age by racing up the walls with all the energy of someone half his age. The night I signed up for the club Dieter had to test my belaying skills, that is where you stand on the ground and hold the rope for a climber to break a fall. I have not done much belaying, only once in Thailand for a very experienced climber with no risk of falling and once in Huaraz, Peru under similar circumstances. Unsure exactly how to belay safely I studied a few youtube videos and practiced the motions. When Dieter asked if was experienced with belaying I just said; “Yeah I have done it a few times” not exactly a lie!

Dieter found a climber for me to belay and I nervously watched her quickly gain height. Copying the motions from youtube I drew in rope as she ascended then slowly lowered her down once she reached the top. Dieter was suitably impressed and reverently placed a small red sticker on my membership card allowing me access to the roped area. Next it was time for Dieter to check my climbing form. I had just swum over a kilometer in the pool and, thinking he only needed to check my belaying, was wearing jeans. I grabbed a pair of sticky ballet shoes from the rack, tied in to the rope and looked up.

The hugely daunting wall stared back at me with its tiny hold holds mocking. Taking a deep breath I climbed. The holds were quite easy to grab and despite being tired from swimming I was soon three quarters of the way up, and stuck. I spotted a good hold to my right and just about lunged for it but looked down first. The woman responsible for my survival of a fall was casually talking to Dieter and not watching me, the rope was loosely held in her hand. I waited for a few moments before she looked up, took in some slack, I lunged. Mine was a very uncommitted lunge my arms flopped against the wall with all the grace of a thrown rag doll. I slipped and fell back onto the rope. I was lowered, sweating and a little shaky but addicted.

Jette and I returned to the penthouse to prepare dinner. Even feeding yourself is easy in Denmark, where Jette works there is a service where the kitchen provides terribly healthy meals much more cheaply than they can be prepared at home. This means that all we have to do at dinner time is to prick the seal, pop whatever tasty treat is on the menu and leave it in the oven for 20 minutes. It really could not get any easier, after all that training I doubt we could be bothered cooking anyway.

So, pretty much, I spend my days talking to my computer and feeling disgustingly healthy, my university texts look at my while I write away. Someday, soon I am going to have to take the plunge and tackle my unit readings. The title “The Rhetoric of Empire; Colonial Discourse in Journalism and Travel writing” fails to inspire me. No, that is a lie, it does inspire me, it inspires me to make another coffee and continue working on my book, keeping my fingers crossed that some silly bugger somewhere will want to convert my ramblings from a word document into print…

The little differences

grey The little differencesWhen Vincent was describing his trip to Paris to Jules in Pulp Fiction (just before they shot the black drug dealers with the tasty burgers) he was saying how it is the little differences that he noticed. Since expatriating myself to Denmark I have been noticing the same thing, some things are so very different as to be noticeable, some so very similar as to stand out.

Last time I visited here the main thing I took home was that some Danish people, I will not name names, eat prawns in mayonnaise for breakfast. The most obvious example is that the roofs are very steep here. They sit at an angle of about 60 degrees as opposed to the 30 degrees at home. I think this is because when it snows in winter the builders like to encourage the snow to fall off rather than crush a building. Jette and I went swimming on Friday night, we have a big public pool right across the road. Obviously the sign outside the male change room was different, it said ‘herreomklædning’, once inside the differences continued. I was greeted by the sight of three men standing around chatting, completely nude, not a thread. Now, thankfully back home in Australia I did not have any reason to spend any time in change rooms not being a football player but I do not think that Aussies would be comfortable standing around penises in the breeze chatting like that, maybe they are, I will never know. I found a corner to change in, hastily threw on my swim shorts and went swimming.

The public toilets here are really clean and fresh looking, you have to pay which is not a huge impost considering a fee of three kroner saves one from having to stand in ankle deep urine reading about some poor bloke who wants to meet his soulmate. The bread here is amazing, two nights ago Jette introduced me to Danish Rye bread, not the soft fluffy stuff we get in Tassie. This Rye is solid and almost black, full of grain one iPhone sized slice had me needing an afternoon nap, great with Vegemite, which by the way you cannot buy here as it is enhanced with Vitamin B. The Danish food authorities are trying to decide if it is a food or a vitamin supplement, judging by Jette’s reaction when I fed it to her there would not be much of a demand for this black gold in Denmark.

Pushbikes and cars. The most common method of transport is pushbikes, it is not uncommon to see a grandma pedaling furiously around with her shopping or a father with his entire family perched on handlebar seats and tucked into little trailers attached to the seat post. Every road has a one quarter width lane purely for pushbike use. When crossing the road it is important to look carefully as the bikes are quiet and can really sneak up on you. Speaking of crossing the road, they drive on the wrong side here, sometimes I find myself forgetting and more than once I have taken my first step only to have a bus or a grandma on a pushbike go whizzing past my nose.

Because they drive on the wrong side of the road it is natural for Danish people to walk on the wrong side of the footpath. I find myself constantly bumping into other pedestrians while out walking and doing the weird walking-more-slowly-from-left-to-right dance when approaching random strangers in the street…while I am on random strangers, Aarhus has passed the stranger smile test. Today on my way to the supermarket I did a little test that I sometimes do in a new city, I simply smile openly at strangers to gauge responses, Aarhus had a nearly 100% strike rate with the return smile. I may have been a bit ambitious with the skinny jeans wearing teenager with spiked up hair.

The cars are tiny and most drivers have an uncanny ability to fit them into postage stamp sized parks. Cars names are along the lines of the Chevrolet ‘Sprite’ the Peugeot ‘Happy little fun car‘ and the Renault ‘I don’t care if you think I am gay sedan‘ It is rare to see a car that will comfortably seat more than two adults, or four midgets. Last Thursday Jette took me to a work function to meet her colleagues. One similarity that stuck out is everyone enjoyed a good laugh and the blokes were interested in cars. Bernt, one of Jette’s colleagues arrived in a Chevrolet Eldorado, the boys, including me, were soon outside kicking tyres, listening to the big V8 engine and drinking beers, not dissimilar to what would happen in Australia except that Bernt had been spared the expense of a right hand conversion.

I am relieved to report that the most commonly used greeting is ‘hi’, their formal greeting when meeting someone in a position of authority or who you want to show respect to is ‘G’day‘ this did result in a few funny looks when I said “G’day” to the supermarket boy packing my groceries this afternoon.

Saturday night was a big party night, Jette’s father Jens Peter and his partner Majbrit held a combined 110th birthday party, Jens Peter recently turned 60 and Majbrit 50. The night started out like any party in Australia with people lining the walls clutching their drinks and suffering halting conversation. My conversation was even more stilted by my non-existent Danish, basically I hung off Jette and tried to find some English speakers. When we sat down to dinner however I learnt two things about parties in Denmark. One was that instead of making speeches it is completely acceptable to write a song and have everyone in the room sing along (quite a sight, especially when you cannot understand a word) and Two that anytime the conversation falters at the table it is completely acceptable to say “Skol” at which point everyone at the table has to take an enthusiastic swig of their drink or risk looking rude and uninterested. I had finally learnt a useful Danish word and was enjoying a chat with the English speaking lady that Jens Peter had kindly sat next to Jette and I. Leaving the table after dinner thoroughly skol’d I had a lovely chat with Jens Peter about Australian bushwalking and the like (surprised?) before retiring to a corner with Jette’s sisters and brother in law. As the night grew old the party morphed back into what you would commonly see in Australia, some people drinking, the obligatory way too drunk guy trying to make friends, more people dancing, they love ACDC here, which along with my lengthening hair, makes dancing, or standing there banging my head, easy.

The following day back at Jette’s apartment I managed to assemble my Ikea desk bought on Saturday and set up something of an office from which to study and work on my book. The view out the window over Aarhus serves as both inspiration and a reminder that I am no longer living in Tasmania, not that I can forget, every time I open the fridge those prawns are staring back out at me.

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This business partnership has expired.” Ben has no idea what adventures are in store when he sets out to discover what lies over that next mountain.

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