Saturday, October 20, 2012

A lovely surprise :)

Today, I woke up to the surprise of 60 degrees and sunny. I never thought I'd be so happy to see the forecast, and after stepping outside my bedroom door, I knew it would be a travesty to stay inside all day. So, I hopped on the metro and then took the first bus to explore an uncharted area of town - Nørrebro!

I got off the bus when I saw some cool shops and cafe's, and then settled into a cafe with my kindle. I was lucky because this particular cafe was doing a deal - 50% off everything on the menu! One chai latte and a lox and cream cheese sandwich later, I was satisfied and feeling the hygge :)

After, I wandered down the streets of Nørrebro, going into some shops and little trinket stores. As I was crossing the bridge back to downtown, I noticed a hammock on a little grassy hill next to the water. I decided to settle into the hammock for a little while and read some more, soaking up the sunshine.

I then went to my favorite market, the Nørreport Glass Market, sampled some cheeses and salami, then went for a cup of coffee at Studenterhuset. I'm now home getting ready to welcome a group of friends from my Medical Practice and Policy class to Amager for a bonfire! We all leave on our trip tomorrow, so we're doing a little bonding beforehand which should be really fun, especially since it's so nice out!

I'll post updates from my trip when I can!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sickness and Visitors

The past week had many ups and downs, including several visitors and my first trip to a  Danish doctor!

When I got back from Poland, I had developed a horrible throat infection to the point that my fever wouldn't go down and it was so swollen I could barely eat. I had to wake up at 8 to call the doctor's office and make an appointment for that day. I got lucky and ended up getting an appointment for noon, and headed over to the doctor's office. When I got there, he saw me right away, did a rapid throat swab and prescribed me pennicillin within 3 minutes - the results of the test showed strep. I was so relieved that it wasn't a virus so I could just pop the pills and continue on with my week! Too bad I ended up getting a cold on top of the strep, so I've still been recooperating, trying to drink fluids and sleep as much as possible.

Anyway, then Saturday, my friend Matt from birthright had a layover in Copenhagen, so I spent the day showing him around Nyhavn and Strøget. That night, my friends and I went to the Meatpacking District, a trendy area of town for a warehouse party. It was overall a really fun night!

Then, Sunday, I welcomed two Australian travelers into my home - I met them briefly in Berlin, and they found me on the Couchsurfing website and asked for a place to stay for a few nights. We spent a lot of "hygge" time hanging out at my apartment with candles, drinking tea and talking about our travel stories. They've been traveling around Europe for 6 months, and have at least 3 more to go. I envy their lives!!!!

The rest of this week has been filled with numerous exams, and a field trip to the Science Center with my Communicating Science class! It was actually really fun, we played on all of the equipment and felt like little kids again. I'm preparing for my study tour, which leaves this Sunday, to Vienna and Bratislava. More updates to come!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sorry for the delay...

I've been horrible about blogging. I got wrapped up in my travel weeks that I've been MIA for quite some time, but I'll do my best to sum up what I've been up to for the past few weeks!

Amsterdam: was really fun! I visited my friend Lily and she showed me around the city - from the Cheese Museum to the Red Light District, Anne Frank House to the beautiful canals, I got a really good overview of the city. I even tried a savory pancake with chicken, pineapple and cheese. It was interesting but really good!

Came back to Copenhagen for 4 days, then left on solo travel to....

Milan/Budapest - Me and Tim got to Milan late at night on Friday and went right to the hotel/to bed. The next day it was raining and really ugly out, but we walked around the city pretty much all day, seeing sights such as the Duomo and shopping on the famed streets. We ate some authentic Italiano pizza and gelato. We got really lucky because it usually costs 12 euro to go to the top of the Duomo, but that day they were doing a medical study where they check your heart rate before and after you climb the stairs to the top and then you get to go up for free! We did that - the sculpture at the top was gorgeous, as evidenced by the pictures:

At night we flew to Budapest. We were in our cab to the hostel from the airport at around midnight and didn't know what to expect at all about the city, but we ended up driving by a bridge that connects the Buda side to the Pest side and were seriously blown away by how gorgeous the lit up buildings were. Winding through the small streets, we were so excited to start exploring the next day. On our first real day there, we took a long walking tour of the city and learned all about the history and sites of interest. After the tour, we relaxed for a few hours and then went to the famous Restaurant Street, where we sat outside and had a really good (and cheap!) dinner. We walked along the river and then went to a ruin bar, a building that was bombed during WW2 and was later turned into a bar. It had awesome artifacts and there wasn't really a roof, its really hard to describe, but it was a really cool place to experience!!

After Budapest, Tim flew back to Dublin and I flew to Berlin. I arrived in Berlin at night and went to my hostel located in Kreuzberg, which is the "up and coming" neighborhood (read: ghetto). My hostel was really cool, though, and had a big common room where other travelers were mingling. After settling in, I walked up to a group of people who turned out to be from Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Colombia, and ended up spending the night with them! It was really cool how friendly and open everyone was, since I was traveling by myself. The next day I took a 3.5 hour free walking tour of the city with Jonathan, one of the Costa Ricans I had met. We saw amazing sights of Berlin - the holocaust memorial, Brandenburg Gate, the "Car Park" over Hitler's bunker, parts of the Berlin wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Book Burning Memorial, churches, the parliament, you name it! It was a really informative tour, even though I was completely exhausted afterwards!

After the tour, I went over to Jochen and Beate's house for dinner - Jochen was my uncle Doug's host brother when he spent a year in Berlin in high school, and Beate is his wife. Doug told them I'd be in Berlin and they invited me to their home. It was so nice getting to know them, and they fed me very generously!! After the dinner, I headed back to the hostel and went out in Kreuzberg with another traveler I had met earlier that day.

The last day in Berlin, I wandered by myself along the East Side Gallery and partied for Reunification Day (Oct 3) in Alexanderplatz. I got back to the hostel around dinnertime and ended up sitting on the couch with a girl named Gemma from Australia, and we decided to go to dinner together. Some people around us heard us talking about it, and we ended up getting a group of 4 to head out to a Vegan restaurant for dinner! I had vegan zucchini and cashew pizza and "cheesy" pasta with was a really interesting, but DELICIOUS meal. After dinner, we went on an alternative pub crawl that our hostel sponsored. That was a pretty interesting night...but I'll save that for my journal ;)

Early the next morning, I flew from Berlin to Krakow where I met Jack, Doug and Dubi for our Roots Trip. We spent the first day exploring Kazimierez, the Jewish area of Krakow. We ate amazing Polish food like peirogies and potato pancakes....comfort food at its best! The next day, I woke up with my throat completely swollen and a fever - perfect. It was pretty miserable but I couldn't miss what we had planned for that day - a private guide was taking us through the history of Poland, from the old Jewish ghetto of Krakow, to Schindler's factory, to Plasow work camp, and finally to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The tour was completely moving - it was so sad to retrace the steps of my history, and words can't describe the feeling you get when you enter all of these places. I made a video to commemorate the experience - it is below.

The next day, we did a day trip to Nowy Sacz, the town my great grandparents were from, and where my Saba Dov was born. We explored the city center as well as went to several synagogues and cemetaries. We even got to see Dov Beresh, my great great great grandfather's grave. It was interesting seeing where I'm from and spending time with my family.

The following day we all headed back to our respective countries. It was an amazing travel week, and I was so thankful to get to experience everything I did. It ended up being so much more historic than I thought it would be, and I learned SO MUCH about the world around me and also about myself - what it is like to travel alone, how to navigate a foreign country, and how to always stay positive in the midst of illness :) I'm happy for what I have and so lucky to have my friends and family!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Amsterdam bound!

I'm currently on the overnight train to Amsterdam! It is 16 hours long and I am already starting to go crazy after only one hour. Luckily, I bought a "couchette" car so I kinda have a bed (its more of a bench but it'll do)

Here's a little cultural insight! One of the top songs in Denmark right now, Lækker:

Last night we had a bonfire with the DISers at my kollegium in the forest near our dorm. It was SO much fun being in the woods, we made smores and sang old 80's and 90's songs :) the nice thing about being in Denmark is that people are so laid back and don't care about things (such as noise) like they do in the US, so it didn't matter that we were belting out songs and drinking beers in an open area because the police really don't care about things like that. I think that mentality should really be brought back to the states.....

I'll write again once I have stories from Amsterdam! :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Week of Classes

This week was pretty busy with school and not much recreation unfortunately... though I did have an interesting field trip yesterday to a cancer rehabilitation center with my complexity of cancer class. We visited the "house" (as the tour guide kept saying), that is part of the municipality of Copenhagen and provides cancer patients access to personal training, nutrition and cooking classes, group workshops and social events. It was a BEAUTIFUL building with so many little nooks for chatting with other visitors and rooms to watch films and do yoga and other physical activities. She told us about 1000 cancer patients and survivors use the facilities regularly, and it seemed like a really wonderful resource that I haven't seen any similarities to in the US.

Other than that, I started my work-study job at the library this week. It is pretty boring (I just sit at a desk and check in books, which rarely happens because the library is tiny!) but I've talked to a few students who come in so I guess I may meet some interesting people! Also the money can't hurt when I'm planning TONS of travel.. my list of destinations follows:

Sept 21-24: Amsterdam to visit Lily
Sept 29: Milan with Tim
Sept 30-Oct 1: Budapest with Tim
Oct 1-4: Berlin by myself (I have some contacts I can hangout with!)
Oct 4-7: Krakov and Novy Sacz with Jack, Doug and Dubi!
October 21-26: Bratislava/Vienna with Medical Practice and Policy
October 26-29: Possible after-tour trip to Prague with MPP friends
November 10-18: Madrid and Barcelona with Anna!!!
December 1-3: Possible trip to Greece with Aly, Genna, Maggie and Marissa!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Little Surprises

I'm continuing to be charmed by Denmark more and more each day. I went into the city yesterday (Saturday) to feel a little more productive, even though all I wanted to do was get hyggelig (cozy) in my bed and watch TV on my computer - I woke up feeling really homesick and just overall unhappy, but after a good cry and Skype with Tim, I was ready to get out of my room. I'm only here for 4 months, so it would be a shame to waste a beautiful day! I took the metro in and went to my favorite coffee shop, Studenterhuset. However, when I got there, it was filled with tables and people selling all sorts of clothing/accessories/ a flea market! I knew at that point I wouldn't be getting much homework done so I perused the stands. Clothing here is extremely expensive, so it was great to find some name brand items that people were reselling for extremely cheap. I found a pair of shoes that I fell in love with instantly (picture below) and asked the girl how much they were. She replied "15 kroner" and I thought I heard wrong... did she mean 150? "15?!" I said. "Yes!" she replied. There are 6 kroners in the USD, so I had just stumbled upon a pair of shoes for just over 2 dollars. Day. Made.

Ok, I know they look kinda dirty (and that's mostly because I wore them out last night to a bar) but they are awesomely comfortable!!!

I then sat outside (since there was nowhere to sit inside) and actually did get some homework done. After that, I was going to walk back to the train station, but I got seduced by my favorite place in all of Copenhagen - a place we refer to as "the Glass Market," eventhough I'm sure it has another name. It is two huge glass buildings right behind the train station that are hidden so that most people don't even know they are there. But, it is a huge market with different vendors selling fresh fruit and vegis, fish and meats, spices, chocolates, baked goods, and olive oil. Almost every stand has a table of samples, and the owners are usually very generous with their portions. So, instead of going home to make lunch, I decided to have lunch at Glass Market by wandering from stall to stall and taking advantage of the samples. Much better than Costco.

After a hearty meal of cheeses dipped in dill honey mustard and freshly baked bread soaked in garlic infused olive oil, I spotted Maggie, a friend from my kollegium who, surprise, was doing the exact same thing as me! We went back to our kollegium together and I rested before a night on the town with 3 of my girlfriends.

At one of the bars we went to, we hungout with a group of 8 British guys who were hilarious and really fun. What started off with me crying into my pillow about how much I wish I was home turned into one of the best and most surprising days here so far. I think I'm starting to call this city home :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Short Study Tour

My Medical Practice and Policy left on our short study tour to western Denmark on Monday, and spent 2 nights in 2 different cities - Vejle and Århus - doing both cultural and medical activities. There are 20 of us in our class, and we were accompanied by Henrik, my biology of cancer teacher, and Stephanie our TA.

We first took a bus to a place called Koldinghus, one of the original castles in Denmark. We got a guided tour of the castle which was interesting (but somewhat anticlimatic because the castle had burned down in the 18th century and there wasn't much original stuff left).

After that, we went to the Monkey Trail, which I was really looking forward to since me and my roommate Mathias found a monkey hat in our apartment's junk bin... so I brought it to wear on the ropes course. Our class really bonded with each other after attempting really tough rope obstacles, and though many of us got injured, I was the most proud of my huge bruise on my arm ;) It was beautiful outside and we were in the forest doing ziplines, climbing and jumping from platform to platform. Fun stuff. We then went to a hostel in Vejle and spent the night playing games and bonding some more. I really love our class and we all get along really well!!

Our group at the Monkey Trail! (Henrik my professor is in the monkey hat..)

The next morning, we woke up and went to visit the Jelling Stones, another cultural artifact in Denmark. It is supposedly the place in which Denmark got its name, and there are old stones with inscriptions about the start of Christianity in Denmark. We had a tour and got to climb the mound in which it is said that an old king of Denmark is buried under.

Next, we went to Aleris-Hamlet Hospitaler, a private hospital in Denmark. A little about the Danish healthcare system - all citizens of Denmark are covered under socialized medicine, and have access to a general practitioner for free any time they need. Everyone is assigned a GP based on their geographical location, but if you want to switch, you are allowed to as long as the GP you want doesn't have too many people in their area already assigned to them. If you get sick, you visit your GP and they can refer you to a specialist, also covered under the national health insurance. However, you cannot just go to a specialist whenever you want. The reason their system is so successful is because the GP's are the gatekeepers to the system, meaning that they handle most of the "trivial" issues, which is much more cost effective, and the specialists are only used when absolutely necessary. One may ask, isn't the wait time an issue? Well, Denmark has combatted this with the invention of private hospitals. There are several private hospitals that have opened, and citizens can buy their own health insurance to go to them if they do not want to wait for a public hospital. Additionally, if the waiting list to see a specialist is longer than 1 month, the Danish healthcare system will pay for you to see a private doctor. This is good and bad - the good thing is that it eliminates the long waiting lists and gives everybody access. However, it leaves less incentive for doctors to stay in the public sector if they will be funded by the government to work in the private sector. Still, many Danish people resent the private system and choose to stay public to withhold the integrity of the country.

SO, the first visit was with the CEO of the private hospital. He was very pretentious, and while he was a good speaker, you could tell he was trying to sell us on the concept of privatization - which, I do understand there is a need for. Public hospitals do not cover cosmetic surgery or elective surgery (such as some opthamology surgeries or cosmetic reconstruction). They also give competition to the public sector, which helps the public sector to constantly improve. What else is interesting is that their "right and left wing" governments all fall under the American Democratic party. So, if people are concerned that the government may be "too conservative", it is still liberal by American standards.
Our group at a port during a quick ice cream break :)

Next, we visited a GP. It was my favorite visit of the trip because he was so warm and friendly, and stressed that holistic treatments to illnesses are both cost effective and the best approach. At one point in the talk, he said "you guys look tired! everyone up!!" and taught us a Danish children's song and dance.  One interesting thing was that as a GP he takes care of people from "cradle to grave", so he is basically a pediatrician, ObGyn and internist all in one. I would love to do what he does, but it is hard because in the US, family medicine is very different (from what I've heard). I'll definitely need to do more research.

That night, we stayed in Århus, the second largest town in Denmark. I had a really good dinner with some friends, and there was a street festival going on so we just listened to live music and walked around. It was a really nice evening!!

The next day we went to Aros art museum, which has really weird modern art. After, we visited a research center, but it was really boring so I won't even explain it. We then ventured back to Copenhagen! All in all, it was a really great week and I"m looking forward to going to Vienna and Bratislava with the same group of kids in just a few weeks :)