Before departure, I rolled my eyes at homesick clichés with Army brat poise and savvy globetrotting know-how. Both proved as futile as my attempts to open a Danish yogurt lid on the plane. In the face of flight delays, my bottom lip quivered so pathetically that foreigners hastened to stow my overhead baggage for me and gently asked if it was my first time flying.
Squeaking a meek “yes” rather than own to eight years flitting back and forth between countries, I then sat through orientation, biting back body-racking sobs as a mental loop of “I want to go home” muffled Danish presenters’ cheery reassurances. Fast-forward to me coiled in a fetal position in my single dorm, desperately twisting safety scissors into a stubborn cork for lack of wine-opener.
My resilience manifested itself in shoving a potato peeler into said cork until it exploded in a joyous fountain of foam. This was the most resourcefulness I could be credited with as the week’s events unfolded.
I didn’t have my own Danish money the first six days. I decided to forgo reading the arrival handbook, forget tidbits and tips proffered by IU’s summer session because what is true adventure without complete disregard for preparation or safety? I waited until the night before I left the U.S. to ask my parents in casual passing, “How do I pay for stuff while I’m there?” You know, like a trail-blazer. Their jaws dropped an inch with each card I’d never procured: ATM, debit, credit. They proceeded to help me take out travelers’ checks and VISA gift cards mere hours before my trans-continental flight in hopes they maybe worked.
I would say travelers’ checks exchange fees are fairly astronomical, but there’s nothing “fair” about them (except for my lack of preparation. In that case, the cost is fair. Or “fare.”). Danish card payments also require a pin number, rendering my gift cards useless. A three-day farce ensued in which I sprinted between non-existent and non-transferable banks, each time looking up at the gorgeous blue sky, ready for a jet to spell out “NICE TRY, LOSER.” I was feeling as drained as the battery of all my electronics.
That was another stroke of genius on my part: flat-out refusing the purchase of an adapter pre-departure due to smug penny-pinching’s fortitude. I’d heard tale of these alleged “adapters” (I’d grown up with them). I pitted myself in a weird contest with a plug, madly cackling, “We’ll see who’s adaptable!” nearly frying my nerve endings. All communication, my sole means of rising above poverty, was fading fast. My story, however, isn’t an uplifting pursuit of “happyness” in a country where it’s ranked number one.
I had a family earnestly trying every method they could to flow me my luxurious thou, floor-mates spotting lunches and chargers, and friendly, English-speaking, did-you-fall-out-of-a-GQ-bodied Danes to foster exploration around the prettiest city I’ve ever had the misfortune to know. The Danish Institute for Study Abroad also provided a 24-hour computer lab and $200 food stipend. I had it made.
Here I was, innocently trying to bathe in negativity, relish its sweet embrace, tell myself nobody liked me and how lonely I was, and girls were literally pounding on my door and calling my name to go to clubs. I didn’t remember posting a Facebook invite on our dorm’s page to crash my pity party. And despite the inordinate amount of summer holidays in Denmark, my self-serving sob fest was not one open to the public.
But it wasn’t that festive either.
Copenhagen is glorious. I made it a week without spending a solitary dollar and the spectacles were so spectacular that despite my best efforts pretending to be in over my head, I was head over heels. The Little Mermaid. The Botanical Gardens. Sparkling, windy harbors. Places so picturesque that I swore I heard “Dulock is a perfect place” with every distant bell chime. There are grassy fields and urban arenas filled with toddling FIFA superstars at every minute of the day. And I was taking them all in with a myriad of sweet, hopeful, hilarious floor-mates. My quest for dubloons was finally resolved with a wire transfer so I could join my new friends on more touristic adventuring like concerts and chair swing rides at Tivoli amusement park.
My feet are bruised. My toes are poking through the tops of all my shoes. But these are now symbols of success. Self-pity doesn’t serve exploration. You know what does? A whip and a fedora.