Friday, May 16, 2014

Velkommen til Danmark!

... and what a welcome it was!  After 20+ hours of travel, we were met at Aarhus bus stop by Trina and Katrina from the Center for Massive Data Algorithms (MADALGO) of Aarhus University, where Suresh will work. These two amazing women took care of our international move from the Denmark side with such ease and grace that it took my breath away.  Having moved internationally once before (to England) I knew how traumatizing and painful such an activity can be, and this move was as smooth as a 4,933-mile move could possibly have been. When we arrived, it was drizzling lightly, and the sky was a gentle gray. We arrived at midday at the bustling bus terminal, but were quickly shuttled away in taxis (one entire taxi for our suitcases, all six of them, and one for us) to our new residence in the guest faculty housing units on campus.  The campus area where the residences are located is called Nobelparken, in celebration of the Danish Nobel Laureate Jen Christian Skou who, along with Paul Boyer and John Walker described the energy conversion properties of ATP in living things.

When we arrived at our apartment, we couldn't have been more delighted: it was spacious, more spacious than anything I had ever stayed in in Europe, with three bedrooms and two baths, furnished in a Danish style throughout. Everything looked clean and spare and inviting. The big windows give us a view of Aarhus University campus buildings, and a large lawn below apparently affords play space for dog-sized wild rabbits who come out in the evenings.

We spent the next day stocking up on food and getting the household set up, as well as madly googling washing machine instruction manuals in English so that we could decipher the mysterious symbols indicating different wash settings on the machine.  We also enjoyed taking guesses in the grocery store at the contents of milk cartons (we were searching for heavy cream so I could make an alfredo sauce - turns out it's called "piskefløde," and Suresh guessed correctly based on the fat content reported on the carton).  Since the cost of eating out in Denmark is prohibitive, leaving Berkeley means leaving the restaurant-hopping lifestyle behind for the time being.  And I'm sure my waistline, despite the piskefløde,  will thank me for it!

We're getting lots of friendly glances from the Danes - we clearly look like foreigners, and our loud American English voices raised in wonderment at nearly everything we take in would have been dead giveaways had our looks not been. But the guidebooks were right: the Danes are a friendly people, and one need only approach one looking bewildered in order to get cheerful help, in perfect English.  This does not diminish my ambition to at least learn a few useful sentences in Danish while I'm here, but it certainly helps us get by in a new country while confused, disoriented, and jet-lagged.

To round out the red carpet welcome we've received, we made a visit to Suresh's institute on our third day in Denmark, shook hands with his colleagues (many of whom he knows well and has collaborated with and/or worked with before), and had dinner at the home of his friend and colleague, Seth Pettie.  Seth's wife Liz and adorable baby daughter Sonia have been in Denmark on sabbatical for nearly a year now. They generously shared with us invaluable information about living here, while Sonia regaled us with her super-flexible yoga poses, and taught us a few Danish words: "æbel (apple)," "ris (rice)," and how to count in Danish to six.  I am enormously grateful for this new friendship and all the help and generosity we've received.

It's been a great start to our Denmark adventure.  And yes, the boys were delighted to discover that the ice cream is served here in gargantuan proportions.

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