Danes and Swedes and More, Oh My!

Hello again readers! Sorry for the bit of a delay on this last post. I'd love to tell you something dramatic happened like my bag was stolen and I spent the last days tracking down my belongings Liam Neeson style, but the reality is I've just been enjoying all the sights and selfishly put my own fun above the pressing desire for my latest written masterpiece. So sorry again!

 

That said, I have plenty of updates! Our first morning in Copenhagen, we got up bright and early to head to the Danish Immigration Museum. After what I will call a slight transportation hiccup (fyi the Metro doors close very quickly here), we managed to find the right building and start our tour. As we passed through the building, we were told the full history of immigrants to and from Denmark. Either most of our class found it incredibly moving or there's a bit of a cold going around from walking in the rain because every time our guide stopped talking, a chorus of sniffles erupted.

 

After the tour and a lunch break, we returned to the museum and were given a more in depth look at immigration and complications that can accompany the process. We were allowed to ask questions following the presentation, and it was interesting to get a glimpse at what a "Danish" person looks like and how it might be difficult for an immigrant to integrate identities.

Since we had the space reserved (and nearly unlimited coffee, tea, and cookies available), Todd and John graciously made the suggestion that we crank out some presentations over our research paper topics. I'm not sure if they read this blog, but I think there was a lot of chatter about how moving the Geert Wilders presentation was. In reality, all of the presentations were well done and it was amazing not only to hear details about the countries we've visited, but also to get each person's approach on the topics.

 

That night we returned home, and the next phase of cheap eating was initiated. Especially if you know you are going to be in the same place for a while, grocery stores are your best friend. When you first enter, don't take anything off the shelves unless you're positive you'll buy it. I find it's helpful to walk around the entire store and price compare first, just to make sure you get a feel for what's available and so you don't commit too soon. It's a game of patience, but it definitely pays off in the end.

 

Unfortunately, the next day our speaker was cancelled. Being the optimists we all are, instead of losing motivation or becoming disappointed, we somehow managed to dry our tears and explore Copenhagen. The weather tried to slow us down, sending in thick snowflakes and occasional rains, but nothing was going to prevent us from making the most of a free day. Different groups sought out parts of the city to find the mermaid statue (I'm told it's famous), a tower that gives a nice view of the surroundings, and a section called Nyhavn which holds various wooden ships and is surrounded by colorful buildings.

With a full day of sightseeing completed, we set out the next morning for Malmo, Sweden to talk to Anne Sofie Roald at the University of Malmo, as well as Ibn Rushd, a semi-governmental foundation trying to increase the connections citizens make with Muslims. Anne provided us with some (much appreciated) strong coffee and presented a case about majorities versus minorities in Sweden and the factors that play into various tensions. She came across well studied and we had a relatively formal presentation. At Ibn Rushd, however, the discussions were a bit more relaxed as we learned about the inclusive picture they present and the various events they are a part of including cooking classes and music recording.

Despite the full day of activities, we still managed to get a bit of wandering in. Malmo is a beautiful city at night, full of lights hanging between the streets and a dim glow from their various shops. The parks were completed with benches, fully lit trees, different sculptures, and even a few fountains still pushing through water. In case anyone happens to travel to Malmo, I should stress Sweden is not, in fact, Denmark and the countries use different money. I can confidently say if you happen to forget, the cashiers will be more than happy to politely remind you where you are.

The following day, we returned to Sweden to visit the Danish Institute Against Torture and got a crash course in definitions and implications. Especially with the latest US torture reports and CIA involvement, it was very interesting to get a European perspective and discuss the use of various techniques during the "War on Terror." Afterwards, we quickly changed gears and headed to perhaps the most welcoming place yet. We toured an Islamic Center that thoroughly promoted inclusion and peaceful measures. The center was surrounded by an Islamic-affiliated school, complete with classrooms, a gym, and even a wood-shop area. When we finished the tour, a man gave us the history of the grounds in such a way that I can only describe as a jolly Grandpa, cracking jokes and emitting sincere happiness in all aspects of his being. It was heartbreaking to hear of their past struggles, involving sniper attacks and fires. Through all the chaos and over the years, it is inspiring to see their message of peace and inclusion remain unwavering.

We ended our last night in Copenhagen with a delicious group meal at a Mediterranean buffet. Not only was it all you can eat, but it tasted delicious! Although there was no meat and occasional questions like "what is the translation for the word falafel" were asked, it was a lovely evening I fully enjoyed.

I know our stay in Copenhagen has been the longest yet, but time is flying by. Tomorrow we get on a plane to head to London where we will be staying the rest of our trip. It will be nice to be in a place with less of a language barrier, and personally I'm excited to get a full dose of British accents. Maybe by the end of the trip I'll have my own perfected. Until then, thanks for reading!

Ben Harney

An area in Copenhagen called Nyhavn where boats can tie up.
The view of Copenhagen from the top of a tower.
A snowy day in Copenhagen.