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Friday, June 16, 2006

Denmark

June 12 - IT Begins [special note: we have photos to accompany this post but blogger's not havin' it.]

7:20 pm Toronto time/8:20 pm Halifax/ 1:20 am Copenhagen -- at Pearson Airport Toronto

On our way to the colonizer first: Denmark. Later the former colony: the "Gold Coast", Ghana, so named for an ancient king.

Sadness leaving Ma & Pa, especially when Ma says "I don't want it to be over." Sadness leaving pets too especially what with LG in a cantankerous crotchety mood and his claws equally angry - I hope he's not sick, he so rarely flashes sharp bones.

It's a day of airports and headsets, adjusting watches and brainclocks to new local times, petending it's 1 am though my stomach says supper.

It begins in a spin, in a blink it will end. All our reading can't prepare us, but it may give us the illusion of readiness, of control over god's country, we the alien invaders, the dirty foreigners.

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"She told me about Sir John Hawkins, the Englishman who pioneered the slave trade between Africa and America, so that forty million Africans ended up dead or condemned to a life of slavery." --Minke in Pram Toer's 'Footsteps'
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I've married into the Finnish mafia, which has an excellent benefits program that provides free beds, dj services, international accomodation in lakeside cottages with saunas, and access to travel agents. In addition the Finnish mafia is well networked to other ethnic mafias, including British Airways. Thus I find myself, bride by side, embarked upon a cutthroat cost transAtlantic flight for 2-3 months of linguistic and geographic seclusion and comtemplative thought.
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June 13, 4:30 am, London England time

Watching 'Good Night and Good Luck'- getting hard to stay awake. It's a good movie.

I'd like to make a movie or write a bok, or maybe just a short story, about the women, or maybe just one woman, in these times, when men were men and tough and emotionless, dignified and brimming with integrity while their women served up the scotch neat neatly. It was a man's world then, which I guess is why all the stories reflecting back on that time are stories about men, sympathetic strong men defending and protecting the weak, including their sympathetic and supportive women. Yet I suspect in reality the women were also strong, not only supporting their men but guiding, influencing, inspiring them, and living extraordinairy lives in their own right.
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9:20 am - Heathrow

Ah yes, Europrices: $7 for 2 lattes, fair trade organic.

The Times, newspaper of the year, tells me that bigoted idiots dominate radiowaves here too. And the same debate over Afganistan. With Cousin David and other soldiers in heart I wonder why all the talk of withdrawal after one soldier's death - what did they expect? Why don't they ever think of withdrawal when the other guys die? If we can't stomach the deaths of our kids we shouldn't send them to war, should we?

In other news, Senator Byrd of West Virginia is celebrating 48 years of institutionalized racism manifest, while PM Tony Blair backs London's Police Commish because apparently questioning the positions of anyone in authority is unconsionable for the PM of a Major World Power, at this time. This is why I don't read the fucking news anymore.
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June 14, 11:20 pm, Copenhagen, city of bikes, beautiful babes, and babies. Remind me to google Denmark's populatino growth stats because I could swear there's a baby boom going on here. Maybe it's just my age.

We're shacked up with one of those beautiful Danes and Hubby Brad from Toronto and their two babies Emile, 5, and Freja, almost 1. Freja's main frustration is learning to crawl, but I ain't got the coordination to put my hands down without faceplanting.

Brad's main frustration is the xenophobia of the Danish government, which already sent him back to Canada once and would probably enjoy doing it again. "The Foreign Minister brags about reducing the immigration rate," he told us. "I know exactly how she did it, by increasing the bureaucracy, letting the wheels spin even slower. You go into the immigratino office now and the whole place smells like fear. My son is considered an immigrant even though he was born here."

Inez's friend Mes explained that the far-right government rules beacase of its alliance with a further-right party. "Have you seen that movie 'Dumb and Dumb-ar?"

But Copenhagen is beautiful. The sheer quantity of bikes is enought o make cranky anti-cyclist crackpots cringe back in Canada or even Londond England. The infrastructure is oh-so-simple-and-safe and any halfwit ever to visit Europe could be inspired, so why can't we North American gas-gulping lunatics get on board for the love of deep fried gravy?

What with the peachcream weather, Arian models roaming everywhere, and gourmet cheese sacrificing itself at our pituitary glands, we could easily be duped into thinking our mutual fate blessed by Amelia Airheart or Alphonse Dubois, who invented imitation fur, but we must maintain a false air of humility regardless of the worshipping masses laying home-made salad at our feet.

Memories of things left behind are the anti for my gloat: I miss the little things, namely Bosh and LG, or the big beans of longtime human friends. I think often of Martin and his motorcycle, and I hope he is as well as the dreamtime him who visited me in the near future. I think too, and even try to explain to anti-Danish government folks that immigrants are everywhere, of the ones who work and tow, muscle up other people's economies so they can maybe one day if they're really lucky get trickeld down on by the established ones above them.

As Mes put it "the longer I was away the more I realized everywhere is the same. In Bolivia there are corrupt people at the top who already have enough but are greedy for more. In Denmark, there are the same." What is different is that in Bolivia, his wife was given a luxurious house and generous salary, & he felt and was very privileged. As in "What a privilege to get to spend so much time focusing on my daughter."

But what treatment does a Bolivian get here? I ask this as a man with great privilege: educated, employed when necessary, now free and able to travel and visit friends, read. Write at leisure. I am so thankful for such freedom and privilege. And I am so aware that it is not afforded to everyone. Sometimes my colleagues of the left talk of privilege with spiked tongues. I think privilege is something that should be shared, not forsaken.
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June 15, 8:10 pm, Copenhagen

The concept of exclusive communities bothers me less than concepts of exclusive nations or even exclusive organizations. Maybe that's because I believe more strongly in communities and their rights than I do in nations or organizations and their respective rights.

Today we visited the exclusive community of Christiana, which after being abandoned by the Danish military in the early 70s was taken over by hippies who struggled politically and won ageainst a confused municipal government for a high degree of political and economic autonomy. For decades they had a beautiful thing, according to Brad, but have recently become mired in individualist conflict over petty things like property boundaries and profits from their lucrative hashish market.

Christiana is an exclusive, economically self-sufficient community. Money comes in from retail, restaurants, and hash. Outsiders can work there but to live there you must be recommended by a resident to fill an open spot. To sell drugs there, you need to live there. A 19-year-old outsider violated this rule and some local dealers beat him to death, even though violence is not tolerated in Christiana. Even in community, self-serving exclusion can be your downfall.

As a visitor I enjoyed the place. Sucked down a reasonably priced (for Copenhagen) vegetarian organic pasta couscous salad and brown rice, strolled around and drank latte from a real glass on the lawn. There is definite appeal to the idea of living in an economically self-sufficient community, and Christiana is resplendent in natural beauty - a gorgeous rolling river and greenspace everywhere, ancient brick and mortar buildings, no motorized vehicles except for deliveries. It would be a shame if the local government succeeds in its plans to "normalize" it. The recent murder has providd just the impexcuse needed to crack down on these rebel freaks and cash in on some primeass real estate.

The ride back was the best part of my day. I sat in the cargo part of Brad's bike and fed Freja a banana in tiny pieces while doing my best to keep her little hat on her head. Pity the baby who hates the sun and her hat with equal venom. But boy did we bond.

Later Emile won my heart forever by telling me that I was THE COOLEST builder of Lego in the entire world. Last night I made him a 'Millegio Falcon.' Brad ceded his former title to me with just a touch of muttered jealousy, then promtly demonstrated just who the wrold's coolest sword fighter is, lest his son forget too soon.

-Risto (Finnish for Chris)

6 comments:

mri said...

Hi friendlies! Thanks for the update. I'm fascinated to be able to plug into your time travel. :)

benjibopper said...

great to have you with us my friend!!

karen said...

hey it was interesting to read your thoughts on christiania. I remember visiting there in '99 with a friend of mine. her cousin lived in copenhagen and had stories of applying to live there, to no avail. I guess there are a lot of reasons for all the self policing that goes on in that community. it's a facinating place isn't it?

benjibopper said...

quite fascinating. like many fascinating places i have been it made me long for fluency in all languages so i could better understand it. self policing is one thing but i think these guys overdid it in this particular case. but being from foreign my opinion is of little consequence.

karen said...

agreed. beating someone to death is going too far. sadly capital punishment is not as uncommon in this world as we would like. I can only imagine how complicated the politics are in a community where the local economy is based on selling drugs that are illegal in the surrounding city.

hmmmm... kind of makes me think of the whole decriminalization of pot debate happening in canada...

what's your opinion of cohousing/intentional communities in general? I haven't been to any others just read about them.

benjibopper said...

my opinion on this concept is fairly uninformed. i did stay on a disfunctional (in my view) one for a month in BC. I had a good time but only because the other volunteers there were so great. They people who lived there were, um, less than harmonious.

But I have heard really good things about other ones, particularly the Camp Hill projects living with people who have special needs.

Conceptually I think it's great, but because these things are still fairly rare I guess in practice it can be quite difficult because they dont have a lot of successful models to follow.

I should mention though that Christiana seems to have a lot of other things going on economically besides just drugs. Lots of cool handicrafts, food places, bike repair, etc., and I hear they barter a lot too.