Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dear family, I have turned into a gypsy (of sorts)....

Upon realizing I am becoming very poor, I have been going on the slimmest budget you can imagine (yes it still affords bikes but that can be sold back you see).  It's actually amusing the things I have stopped buying...lets just start with toilet paper.  Now don't be alarmed, remember I said gypsy here and not 'gross person.'  I also have a reason behind not buying the pricey toilet paper anymore - I was the only person who ever bought it, and I get tired of that. If no one else will ever buy it here then neither will I! I thought it would just make someone else buy it at first...but this is not the case.

No, I steal toilet paper slowly from public places. i will just wind a bunch around my hand (I'm getting really good at it, what a skill!), and then put it in the bottom of my bag, take it home, store in room, saving money!  Often as well I think (while at my apartment), Hmm I have to use the bathroom, I'll go in Field's on the way to class...hehehe. It amuses me.  I'm still hopefully though that someone will buy some...but yeah. It's much easier to steal toilet paper (and I could just be going there to use it all the time...so I'm just taking it some place else so they don't have to clean right?), ...anyways, it's easier to steal toilet paper than to steal delicious pastries. So I buy those! 

Speaking of delicious things....it just so happens that outside of my Danish class today Jenna (another Australian friend, she's super cool, don't know if I have mentioned her yet), and I spotted some .... leftover cake! Outside of the same door that one time had all these water bottles so a bunch of us poor students helped ourselves to those too...

This cake looked pretty good.  Hard to afford kage here (cake)....so I helped myself to just one of the three random pieces....and yum! so good, so moist, chocolate icing with coconut on it...during the Danish break we split another...and I may have the last piece here wrapped up in a napkin that I will be having after I make myself dinner, which I meant to be making right now but...just in that writing mood while I have so much on my mind you know?  Hmm...

I don't know what else I do that is especially gypsy-ish, maybe that was too strong of a word to use and UGH ghost whisperer is on I despise this show what a waste of an English language show....But! I do a lot of pretend shopping, being a girl (I think we all like new clothes and thing to some extent but also I blame the media, we are pressured to buy things and look nice and have more clothes items than men I think), anyways, I'll see things that I have decided are affordable and just want them...talk myself out of them always, and today I even tried on things while walking to my bike to go home, and talked myself out of everything! Feel very proud about that :)

I also had the strangest experience today and I think its the sunrise at 4 30 am that is getting me - I woke up and thought 'oh I need to bike into the city but I definitely slept in, it must be 11 am!' but no, it was 7 30, and I looked at how bright it was and thought, 'noooo my phone is broken, that's so sad, whatever shall I do,' and I thought I'd just go back to sleep until my 8:08 alarm went off, but suddenly I was flipping through a yearbook laying on my bed on my side just like I was sleeping, and trying to find pages that matched, there were so many, and I thought 'ah I'm getting tired of this I'll just get up now and get ready, why waste my time with a yearbook, and I started to get up but then realized my eyes were closed AND THAT I WAS SLEEPING. And seriously this was withing 7 minutes of waking up the first time!  So...I thought that was very strange..

Okok now I will cook, I have to study a lot tonight because I volunteered in class today to have a mock oral exam in Danish in front of the whole class (oh humility!) but thought that'd be good encouragement for me to study....can't hurt anyways....oh and another cheap thing - besides the fact that I buy the broken delicious food to save 10 kr (oh how I want the prettier ones with more icing..), I have now invested in juice concentrate, so I just mix that with water and will have another drink besides water now.  Yay!  

I say all this, but then I bought a 'Find Holger' book (the Scandinavian version of Where's Waldo - and they say find instead of where is, which would have been hvor er) as I saw it two days ago...I have a 'Where's Wally' (the Australia/NZ/UK) version already from once while stuck in the Sydney airport for a layover, and well, I just want to collect these...it amuses me, plus seriously I like the idea of finding things...it's an amusing book!  And seriously how did Waldo turn into HOLGER.

Mmm...food time!!! :)

For somebody who don't drive, I been all around the world...

Ok I know I haven't (sadly) been all around the world (yet), but I have recently purchased a bike!!! So everyday (ok this has been my first full day of riding in KΓΈbenhavn) I have that 'Brand New Key' by Melanie song stuck in my head so I'm always softly singing "I rode my bicycle past your window last night..." etc etc.  It's so good I love that song.  About my bike - it's amazingly old :)  Sort of this awesome rust color painted over the rust, no handbrakes, just have to backpedal, sweet wire basket I can put my goods in...strange seat, loud little bell I used today when I just passed someone on the way home from class :)  I feel sooooooooooo Danish!!

So, about biking - apparently I haven't done this in awhile?  I got it last night from this Danish man (min nabo Daniel basically found it online for me, bid on it, and then took me there to pick it up whilst I brought the cash) and thought, oh yeah, let's bike ride so I can find my classes on the Amager campus! Maybe 40 minutes or so of riding, I'm in love with it, today 9 am get to the bike to go into the city and well, my butt is so sore, AMAZINGLY sore.  I'm so out of bike-riding shape, it's just been far too long!!  At first it was fun being jolting around on random cobblestones, but for maybe the next few days (hopefully just a few days!) I will be standing up during that portion.  

I am also a very nervous city biker.  I've never really done anything bigger than cross the highway on the way to Jeannette's....seriously.  Now I'm suddenly on roundabouts and crossing many lanes and using bike lanes, hand signals,  my sweet bell....It was sort of really nerve-racking at first but maybe tomorrow after two more separate trips into the city (Ahh I need to strap a pillow onto my seat but it could rain!) maybe I'll get the hang of it more.  I currently am not sure how I will even get back tomorrow after class without following someone.  On my first 'by-myself' journey in the city today after running errands I found myself...just following people again haha.  It's so much easier, then I don't have to worry about doing something wrong, surely the Dane's know what they are doing.  Hopefully soon I'll have a really good feel for the city/at all the direction of things, especially since it is absolutely GORGEOUS to bike around.

Seriously though, when I was saying bye to my neighbor who I followed in, the first thing I did was ALMOST run into a pole.  And for a bit I was getting nervous and I'd just walk with my bike instead of bike-lane turning left turns.  I mean a car could hit me right? But apparently not- THOUGH, not to worry anyone, but as I am proudly  biking along, knowing what I'm doing for once, some insane taxi pulls a U-y and yeah...scary, thought I would die, but here I am typing!  At least it was not my fault :)

Anything else good to say about biking? I like biking through puddles...Eh. I think I've covered it, just need to buy some bicycle lights tomorrow :)  Should only be 20 kr ($3.80) Yay!  I apparently was quite lucky with the price of this bike as well, 600 kr, but it came with this ancient and awesome complicated lock, which locks apparently cost around 200 kr? Says one of my flatmates.  I do not want to verify with a Dane in case they make me feel like I got ripped off.  Generally people pay 600 lowest for a nice working bike (did I mention the new tires), and will easily pay 800, and these are all for used crappy ones.  When I was looking at the pretty classic city style bikes (nothing fancy here, no carbon no crazy good names that I know of), even the cheapest ones are in the thousands.  Everything is just more here!! However, I will be selling this bike before I leave, hopefully for 600 kr!!! I mean it came with a basket too!!

Also, I was SOOO tempted to buy a metro pass today, the monthly that I usually get but expired the day I got the bike...it's 320 kr a month, so just 60 bucks for constant access to buses, trains and metros in the main two zones I use, and while it's such a cheap deal I think, I just want to not buy it and just bike everywhere, save that money!!! So tempted though...my kroner was just staring at me in my wallet...but no!

Another very awesome thing that happened today - not bike related - As I was sitting studying earlier in the city there was a fish tank sort of in the middle of the room, and this small child beating the fish from the outside with his apple.  Of course, being an insane kid as I think all kids must be, he only smashed the part that he had bitten out of, just one bite out of the apple.  Against the glass. Over and over.  And the fish would just sort of shake in the water, and then swim a bit, shake some more, and particles of apple were smushed on the glass...I probably watched this for 10 minutes.  As did his parents.  Hehehehe...it amused me greatly.

Now back to studying! Actually I'm going to make food...I bought an eggplant recently (they are just beautiful I think), and...some asparagus....what do I do with that? Build my muscles for biking!  Aww wait I bet I need to eat meat for that...noo...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Did you just call me white? ...Did you just ask for money, again? :( I love Africa!

I feel I just take ages to write about things on here but I'd love to be caught up... I am currently doing this 'danish study - email people back - danish study - figure out contract things for home - danish study - possible blog post?' thing.  Which is where I am now! And since Africa was soooooo amaaazing I figure I should get on to tales about that because seriously people, it changed my life. It's been terribly long since I've been there though now so I will just forget the chronological order of things and tell you whatever I feel like.  

(then about a week passed before I finished this - seriously, how did I get so busy! I thought I didn't ACTUALLY have to do schoolwork here...if only Purdue didn't take the actual grades and it was just a pass fail...)

So, Africa, where should I even begin? I love it, I hardly got bit by mosquitoes.  Apparently it's not the season for that so I'm glad I didn't bother with malaria pills!  Especially since they were 1000 kr....Wow this is difficult when I wait for so long!  

Besides amaaazing food (a lot of peanut sauces as they farm peanuts, rice, and fish), the Gambians themselves were entirely interesting.  They did not hold back on asking for money, which was the only annoyance of the trip.  Here is how it would be - we would say 'how far is the walk to the ATM? and the taxi controller man would say 'its impossible to walk, you need a taxi, will take two hours at least' and refuse to tell us the directions. Then KEVIN (this guy who tried to get us everrryyy day to go on some Senegalese official tour with him) would pop up, guilt us with things like "i waited for you guys yesterday, thought you said you would meet me at 6 (which we never said), and as soon as he heard we were just going to walk somewhere he would tell us 'oh, you need a guide for that, come, i'll get you one', then when we said no he'd say, no you cant walk that far ever, you need a taxi'.  Often we would just leave and walk.  Turns out it was a nice 30 minute walk! But even on the way there some Gambian followed us the whole way trying to get us to eat at this place or that, and then wanted us to guy him dinner? I really became ruthless in The Gambia, just a rude white woman!

You can really get yourself in some random and epic adventures walking around.  Once this man was all "hey, let me show you this, come come,' and as we were sort of just wonderful AND as I am traveling with a 6'5" white guy (yay intimidation factor) we decided we'd see what he had to show us, and turned out it was the poorest place I have even seen in my life, and definitely the dirtiest.  It had a ridiculously high orphan population and was just so....touching, especially when all the kids would come and go 'tobak, tobak!' (white person), and touch you and just go on in whatever language they spoke.  You have to ask a lot before taking photos of people's extreme poverty as well, but generally after asking them they were OK.  The kids though...the kids just break your heart, you want to do anything for them, especially to get them from growing up and turning into the swindling tourist guys.  This particular village sometimes has peace corps volunteers, which to most of the people I met on this African adventure was the only type of American and had ever seen.  However I wonder what they did there because it was still sooo poor, just building these mud huts that would be ruined in the monsoon season...I dunno.  This village also had an amazing trash dump...everywhere. Of just...pieces of cloth and bras (? weird I remember stepping on a few), and just paper...yeah...I'll have to put up some photos on here.

Lets see what else did we do....we went to markets in both Banjul the capital (such an amazing CAPITAL, I mean, I think Mt. Vernon is small and behind the times, this really puts you in your place!), and ...something that begins with an S...Serre Kunda!  which were supposed to be the biggest markets in The Gambia.  The ones in Banjul were super fun due to the fact that they had all the tourist stuff, so the necklaces and wraps everyone wears, all sorts of paintings and wooden things, and you could bargain like MAD. In fact i often just said horrendously low prices because i wanted to let them know i wouldn't buy it and they would go 'ok :( you're my first customer, i have to sell it'.  also apparently I am related to lots of dark complected people. Sister, sister come here, take this necklace for free, (which I did, thank you....person whose name I forgot.. I now only remember Fatima the fruit lady!)....but yeah. I bought so much stuff there and it was probably all less than 10 USD.  The Dalasi is a high currency though (I possibly just made up that term), so I'd be slightly alarmed when things would be 100 Dalasi, because I'd think, 20 dollars, no way! acting like it was the Kroner, when in fact it was more like three dollars....hehe...or the amazing ice cream we got in the Serre Kunda markets for 25 cents...

Speaking of those markets, those were not for tourists. Seriously, Daniel and I were often the only white people in sight. Also its difficult to really bargain there, our taxi driver came with us and we would give him money so he would get us Gambian prices....but I mean, we do have so much money compared to them and it's...obvious, we simply cannot blend end.

Serre Kunda was this endless array of market food and ... crappy clothes....for example, I saw a kid wearing a Dairy Queen polo, like a workers polo. Something I couldn't even buy at home.  Very interesting...but they sell it all and they at least didn't try to sell us a lot of that stuff because tourists just go their to look...And its just like you would think African markets would be like - insanely colorful, loud, music everywhere, people EVERYWHERE, busy like you can't imagine and we were on the least busy day....just amazing, I loved wandering the markets for sure. Our young taxi driver took us to the black markets too, where things that were stolen were being sold and we were given fishy looks...I think I also saw some prostitutes while I was there...but not sure, wasn't about to ask!  And then at the end he took us to this 'slaughter house'.  Was that ever a food science NO. I seriously don't know how I didn't vomit - it's almost as though the smell and the sights were actually that bad your body couldn't even register how gross it was. heads of animals just on the ground, everything is outside so flies are everywhere, but it was in this open walled barn sort of thing and really dark, and just piled on tables everywhere were random disgusting things, I hardly wanted to take out my camera to have it around that....but the people were awesome, trying to sell us these disgusting things as a joke, because obviously we were not there to buy...intestines?  The Gambians definitely had a good sense of humor.  Once, Bob (who I have mentioned before) said something like 'you all right?' but with their accent I decided to misinterpret it to make a joke and said 'did you just call us all white?' and he was so shocked and then laughing a lot, but they were almost making jokes about our whiteness and how to get BLACK AS EVER like them so figured I'd join in!

Before I go to bed (and tomorrow I'll have to load some photos) I will also mention this monkey walk we did once - went to the national park where the signs are all 'don't take peanuts' but our guide of course brought peanuts for us, and suddenly monkeys are everywhere, including jumping out of trees onto  my back.  It was amazing, it was magical, earlier we had petted crocodiles, oh and our guide let us know that basically everyone in The Gambia believes in pretty insane powers of ....herbs and stuff.  The would go on and on about how the president had found the cure for AIDS, don't you know? And so many other cures just from each leave on every plant, and also a lot of people wore these Juju belts I think, and seriously the guide for crocodile and monkey day literally thought that if I were to take a knife and stab him, his skin would NOT be pierced. He also told us the story of his circumcision.  Seriously the things you don't want to know, yay cultural differences! Alllways makes for an interesting time.  

I'm thinking Senegal stories and .... pictures tomorrow. Sleeep tiiiime! :)