Friday, January 12, 2001

I never thought I'd make it! (To Denmark, that is...)

Hello to everyone from Denmark! I hope that this won't be too too long, but I wanted to write you all to let you know how things are going here. :-)

First of all, the flight over here wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be! As most of you know, I was dead terrified to fly. Period. But, after I got on the flight, I calmed down considerably and actually enjoyed it-to a point. I was sitting next to some nice people, and contrary to my mother's advice, I actually talked to them. One guy was flying to London on business, one guy was in the Armed Forces (stationed in Omaha, doing recon survival technique training) but he was going to London for his grandma's funeral, and one couple was very sweet and helped me clean up after I knocked my full beer can off of my dinner tray! And, despite my earlier plans, I did not get tanked before or during the flight. I had one can of beer, one glass of wine with dinner, and one glass of Amaretto after dinner.

I couldn't sleep a damn wink! I didn't doze for one freaking second, and that totally sucked later on. And the seats were so uncomfortable! I leaned mine all the way back, but I think that was like a grand total of 4 inches. Whoopee shit! I did have the aisle seat, with one empty seat between me and the next guy, so there was room in those directions, but the seats still sucked. There was only mild turbulence, so that was good.

When we landed in London, it was totally cloudy, so I couldn't see shit, which was very disappointing. And actually, we didn't even really land in London. We landed at an "annex" of Gatwick airport, clear out in the country! This "South Terminal" was really busy, though. I was so scared getting off the plane! But, I followed everyone else and there were these moving walkways that made getting into the terminal a lot easier. It wasn't one long continuous walkway, so I had to get on and off about 10 of them. I think it was probably close to 3/4 of a mile between where we landed and where we had to check in.

By the way, it is SO bizarre to finally hear an actual British person talking! Even though I'm a huge fan of British movies and TV, it is just so WEIRD to hear it spoken TO you. Plus, some of it was very hard to understand! Anyway, the people were very nice at the check in desk and I was sent off to the main international departure waiting lounge. Well, so much for it just being a room to sit it!!! It was HUGE, like a freaking mall!! It was a round building, with two floors, and the center was completely open, so you could look up to the second floor and see all the shops and stuff. There were more than 30 duty-free stores, including outlets for places like Harrod's, a fish&chips place (I ate there-very good!), and even a McDonald's. By the way, the McDonald's was the same as here, but they had fish sticks and a vegetable burger on the menu.

When I first got in there, I looked for a phone to call my mom because I had bought a phone card before I left so that I could let her know I was ok. Well, apparently I am completely stupid, because I had forgotten to write down the country codes for calling out of England and into the US, and naturally, the phone I found didn't have those codes listed. So, I was in a total panic. Sweating, looking nervous, freaking out, obviously American and a first-time traveler...I just kept thinking that I looked like a perfect target for a mugger or something, so that made me worry even more! :-) So, I tried asking for info at a flight desk, but they just gave me a number for the operator on the phone. That didn't work, so I started walking around again, totally freaking out! Finally, I found a phone that had the codes on it. But, it wouldn't take my credit card or my phone card! Then, I went back to the first phone I had found and THANK GOD, it took my card. I talked to my mom and that calmed me down a bit. And even though I had woke her up at 3:30 in the morning, she was very nice to me.

After that, I looked around at some of the shops. I found some Cuban cigars, but I wasn't sure if it was OK for me to buy them and take them to Denmark. I had to be patted down by the London security people because of the metal on my fucking shoes, so I didn't want to risk the additional shame of being taken away in handcuffs to an interrogation room just for being an American carrying Cuban cigars!

Anyway, it was just sooooo amazing to hear all the different accents and everything. It was like my dream come true! Finally I was somewhere I had always wanted to be! Eventually, I bought some lunch and sat down to rest. I waited for EVER for my gate to be announced. They didn't tell it to me when I checked in. They just said that I'd have to watch the monitors in the afternoon. Well, the monitor didn't post my gate number until 30 minutes before the plane was scheduled to take off!! I was starting to get nervous by then, I'll tell you!

Anyway, I found my way there and was able to board with no problem. The old lady next to me on the plane was very sweet and translated the Danish for me. She was even able to get me a free glass of Bailey's. The seats were even smaller than on Northwest. I barely squeezed my big-fat-American-fast-food ass into these seats that had obviously been designed for tiny Scandanavian supermodels or something. It was so humiliating when they brought the "cold meal" (piece of something that looked, but did not taste, like chicken, and some pasta shells with a pathetic tomato sauce), because I couldn't even find the tray (it was hiding in the armrest) and then when I did, it would barely fit in front of me. I mean, we're talking like my gut was fairly hanging over it! I thought I was as embarrassed as I could possibly be, and then the stewardess told me that I could use the tray of the empty seat next to me if I wanted to. Ummm, no thanks, I think I'll just fling myself from the plane right now, if that's alright with you.

Anyway, it was a short-enough flight and by that time I was too tired to care about much of anything. I honestly wouldn't have cared if we started to plummet. I actually thought to myself, "Well, at least if we crash I'll be able to get some fucking sleep." (At that point, I had been awake for more than 24 hours.) So, by the time Pernille picked me up at the airport, I was more than ready for a nap! I slept in the car a bit on the hour and a half drive to her house.

By the way, Denmark reminds me so much of Iowa!! It's still very green and the just seems similar. I think it's because they're also a very agricultural place. Anyway, it was lovely-what I could see of it, in the twilight, that is...

I got to Pernille's house and her mom ran out and gave me a huge hug! She is so so nice and just tiny, like a little doll. I don't even know what her name is, because it's so complicated to pronounce! And Pernille's dad, Ole, is also very nice. He is very funny (when I can understand him) and was very welcoming. Their house is actually very tiny. But, it's VERY well decorated and just awesome. Their whole living room glowed because it's painted gold and they had candles lit everywhere for dinner. And Pernille's mom takes painting classes, so the whole place is filled with her paintings, and they're very cool. My room is very small, less than half the size of my room at home, but it's still awesome. And their bathroom floor has heated ceramic tiles, so your feet aren't cold when you get up in the middle of the night.

At dinner, her dad kept insisting that I drink wine so that I could sleep well. I should have told him that I didn't need the help, but he was being so nice that I couldn't say no. It was so funny because her dad kept wanting to make toasts to my arrival, good health, excellent sleep, a good life in general, etc... Their word for toast is something that sounds like "Skoal!" LOL Anyway, I told him that my family makes a toast by saying "Salute!" and he liked that. So, from then on when he made a toast, he said, "Salute!" It was a lot of fun. :-)

Her dad is also big into music of all types, and so is her mom. So, once they found out that I like Frank Sinatra (he's a god to the Danish people, according to her dad) and Dean Martin, he insisted on showing me some of their CDs. Her mom likes Dean Martin and Freddy Mercury of all people. She had a record of his that he made with an opera singer. Bizarre! It has the song "Barcelona" on it, which I had never heard of, but it's supposed to be famous. Her dad was talking about Freddy Mercury, in Danish, and he apparently called him a bad word that Pernille said translated to "Someone who likes to get fucked in the ass." I was surprised to hear that they just had one word for it! Apparently Americans are quite a bit more prolific with their homophobic slang. ;-)

And then her dad brought over this CD by a Danish guy that dresses up like an East Indian and sings songs about curry and his sitar and stupid stuff like that. It was weird! Apparently, Pernille's mom dressed up like this guy for Halloween. He wears clothes that look like pajamas, a turban, and he paints his skin so that he's totally dark all over. Hmmm...I don't think that the Politically Correct people of the US would appreciate his humor. It reminded me of the performers of the good old days that used to paint themselves with "blackface" in order to play black people. Like Bing Crosby in "Holiday Inn", as a matter of fact.

Anyway, after 3 or 4 big glasses of Spanish red wine, and two bottles of special Danish "snowflake" beer, I was more than ready for bed. I went to bed at 11 o'clock and I woke up at 6pm the next day!

Tonight, Pernille and I went out for dinner. I can't even begin to tell you how cool it was! Aunt Maggie, now I know why you kept encouraging me to go to Europe and travel. It is beyond words! I felt the whole time like I was on the set of a movie! I kept expecting any moment to look up and see the ceiling of the movie studio. It was amazing!

We ate in their central downtown area and it was filled with twisting little cobblestone streets and shops with colorful displays. We parked by this enormous white church and walked a few blocks to a Mexican restaurant, but they were too busy and weren't accepting people without reservations. So, we walked a few more blocks and found this great Greek restaurant.

I've never had Greek food before, but it was awesome. The atmosphere in there was like magic. It was small, and they had people crammed in everywhere, but that just made it cozy. The owner was there, sitting at a table, drinking with some customers. Shortly after we got there, he went to the back and brought out his guitar. Two of the waiters went and got a little bongo-type drum and a flute. They all started singing and playing. It was so cool! At first, they just sang Danish songs, but then they changed to American and Spanish songs. I can't explain how surreal it was to be sitting in Denmark, in a Greek restaurant, listening to "La Bamba", with flute accompaniment. I LOVED it!!! (One thing I didn't like, I must say, was the fact that restaurants here are not divided into smoking and non-smoking. It was very strange, but oh well.) Oh, by the way, they had the most fabulous olives! I was thinking of you, Stephan! I think you could really make some money on that Greek olive farm of yours. ;-) And they were black, which I normally don't eat, but these were salty and just wonderful, despite their pits.

After dinner, we walked around for awhile and looked in the shop windows. Of course, they were all closed, but we planned where we would go shopping on Monday. There was even a 7-Eleven!!! It was open 24 hours/day, so I had to go in and take a look! It had mostly Danish stuff, but there were some American candies and drinks. There was, of course, the ubiquitous hot dogs on the rolling metal roaster-thing. Ugh. By the way, for those of you in the know, there are Toblerones EVERYWHERE over here. :-) I think I'll be shipping some home for my later enjoyment.
When we got home, we watched the end of "The Client" with her mother. In English with Danish subtitles, naturally. After that, we watched our movie. We had stopped to rent a movie, which I can't remember the name of now. Bruce Willis is a hitman and Matthew Perry is a dentist...I don't know. :-) But, it was very funny. By that time it was 2am, and even though I wasn't tired, I went to bed like Pernille and her mom. Well, not really, because here I am writing this message to all of you. :-) It's about 3:30am now, and I'm supposed to get up tomorrow at 10am, so I guess I had better let you all go.

Sorry that this ended up being so long, but I am just so overwhelmed with this experience that I had to tell you all. Thank you to everyone that helped me get over here. I really appreciate it!!!! And Mom, thank you for packing my suitcase, but now I'm screwed because I don't know where anything is!! ;-) I promise that my next email won't be so long. I hope you all forgive me for writing so much. And if I find out that you ditched half-way through (Ahem! Stephan! Ahem!), you're going to be in big trouble. Yes, there will be quizzes when I get home! ;-) Anyway, I'm going to buy a phone card when the stores open on Monday, so I'll try to give you all a short call then. I hope everyone is doing well! Talk to you soon!!

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