I just thought that I'd send out another email to keep you up to date on my trip. :-)
Well, to be honest, we haven't exactly gone out and done anything too exciting in and of itself, but I've had a lot of time to study the different habits and customs here, and I think that they're interesting enough on their own.
I think I wrote a bit about the shopping/restaurant area in my last email. Well, we've done quite a bit of shopping since then, so I have lots more to talk about in that arena. First of all, the main shopping area here is very quaint and beautiful. You have to drive to a parking ramp of sorts (or just find one of the limited street spots), pay for a parking pass (which you put on your dashboard), and then walk to the shopping area. The reason for this is that there is no driving allowed on those streets. They are about as narrow as a driveway, and there is a fair flow of people walking around, so driving on them would be a nightmare anyway. These streets are twisting and paved with a mix of narrow concrete pavement paths and cobblestone. The buildings are tall and stately and are almost all hooked together. So really, it's like there are little shops on the ground floor of a big long building that's painted different colors to make it look like it's really separate buildings. Hope that makes sense!
Anyway, the shops are so beautiful, even just to look at! They all have huge front windows and beautiful displays. And, a lot of them are having sales right now, so they have tables of sale things set up right outside their stores, just like when the mall has a big sale. The only difference is that these stores sell some very interesting things, so you tend to have tables and racks lined up on the streets filled with peek-a-boo bras, thongs, furniture, Pier One-type decorations, food, books, EVERYTHING. By the way, I'm really glad that I came during January when they're all having sales, because the sales tax here is *25%*!!! And Iowans bitch about raising the sales tax one penny to fund schools. They have no idea...
In addition to this shopping area, there's another place to go that's huge and sort of a combination Wal-Mart/Hy-Vee. We went grocery shopping there a couple days ago and it was pretty interesting. First of all, in order to take a cart, you have to put 10 or 20 Kroner (about $1.50-$2.50) into this little box on the cart so that it will release from the cart line. Pernille said they do this so that people won't steal the carts. Like in their trunk or what? I don't know. :-)
Anyway, for those of you that are deeply involved in the business of grocery stores, I think you'll find this interesting. The cashiers are allowed to sit down while they ring up groceries! The guy that rang mine up the other day barely looked up at me. And after I paid him, he just threw the change in this money plate in front of me without so much as a thanks. On the whole, though, I think this is unusual treatment. In all of the other shops I visited, they were very small, so the shopkeeper was really nice and attentive. Oh, and at this other, much smaller, grocery store we visited, you can park on the roof and then walk down some steps into the middle of the store. When you're done, you take an elevator up to the roof, along with your grocery cart. Oh, and you get your money back once you push the cart back into another row of carts.
Pernille's family continues to be wonderful. We have had dinner with them several times now and it's always good. And they are always trying to make me drink wine. Seriously, I had NO idea how much wine people could drink. I think their family kills 2 bottles of wine a NIGHT! You know how we might have pop or a beer while watching tv at night...well, they drink red wine. Glass after glass after glass! At the store last night we bought 8 more bottles! Fuck! I sometimes have a glass, but since I'm not really a fan of dry red wine, I tend to just have one of their "Snowflake" beers or a sparkling water with lime. But I don't think I can impress upon you how much they would like to see me drinking more. It's so odd after coming from a family that drinks wine mainly just on special occasions.
Oh, and EVERYBODY in this house smokes, except me. UGH. I think that all my clothes are going to reek when I get home. And when you go out to a restaurant there's still no reprieve because there aren't separate sections for smoking and non-smoking. On Tuesday I bought some Cuban cigars. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? ;-) Just kidding Grandma! Actually, Pernille's dad and I are going to smoke them at the big dinner party they're having here on Saturday night. The party should be fun, but I have the idea that I'm going to be the American guest on parade. Already Pernille's aunt has booked 4 hours of English practice time with me. :-) Should be a blast since apparently her speaking level is as good as Pernille's parents. As for their level, well, just think "worse than YOOKI." ;-)
Tonight I was telling Pernille's dad that I was tired even though I actually got some sleep last night. Well, now I've got doctor's orders to sit in front of his natural light lamp for a half hour tomorrow. Some of you know what I'm talking about, but for those of you that don't, it's a lamp that sufferors of Seasonal Affective Disorder have to sit in front of because the lack of light in the winter affects them poorly. Not that I have SAD, but he just thought it would help. Should be interesting. :-) It's just that it's been gray and bleak here almost every single day. Plus, the sun sets before 5 and doesn't rise until almost 9. But, on the bonus side, in the summer the sun sets around 11pm and rises again around 3am.
The people here are all so beautiful. Seriously, there are like models everywhere. Skinny little bitches practically clog the streets. Oh, speaking of streets, the people here drive like maniacs. When I drive with Pernille I have to close my eyes. In the little streets close to the shopping area, the speed limit is about 40! And there are people on bikes EVERYWHERE. You'll be driving along a huge street and they'll be one right next to you in the middle of traffic. Apparently, drivers here have more consideration for bikers and pedestrians, but it just makes me nervous! Another interesting thing is that every car has a little clock pasted onto the lower inside right corner of their front windshield, one of the "Be back in _ minutes" kind. In some parking lots, they have to set the clock for the time they left and then they get a ticket if they're not back in so many minutes. How this works effectively is beyond me.
Every night there are cool movies on TV, in English with Danish subtitles. They have about 35 channels, but most of them are in German, Swedish, or Danish. European MTV and VH1 are really cool; they play music most of the time, for a change. One of the channels turns into The Playboy Channel after a certain time, but Pernille tells me that that's just standard practice, nothing her dad is paying extra for. ;-) Which is a good thing, because her dad goes to bed almost every night by 7pm. We've also been renting movies. Last night we watched "Scary Movie" and I thought of you, Stephan. Well, just during the scenes involving hard core narcotics. ;-)
Anyway, it's getting rather late and I really should head to bed. I hope that you're all doing well and that you'll forgive this rather uneventful email. Next time I'll be able to report on our trip to Germany. Take care and know that I'm thinking of every one of you.