Buenos Aires–travel to and first thoughts

Hola desde Buenos Aires!!

I’ve got a story to tell. Travel here was notable.

On the train ride from Roma Tiburtina to Fuimicini Airport, someone was having serious gastro-intestinal issues. This was not any normal fart, in fact it was one of the most awful smells that has ever been registered in my brain. That’s saying something after spending the past four years with a bunch of dingos on my college rugby team, where a lot of off-putting smells were produced from a whole lot of off-putting activities. This smell was so potently rank that it sent the whole 60 seat train carriage spasming in their seats. I’d imagine that this would work better than tear gas. My fellow sufferers were grasping at their arm rests with looks of desperation. At one point I played would you rather…have a broken arm from jumping out of the train buckling through Rome at least at a 90kmh tick or deal with this stench produced just about on cue every 4 and a half minutes for another half hour. It was like opening the drawer of the fridge where you keep wet spinach that’s been soaking there for over a year. Or quiche. Disgusting, messed up quiche.

I’ve never seen a more chaotic plane boarding process than watching the Italians and Argentinians mob their way onto the Boeing 777. Woah nelly. The plane is right outside and the pilot is hanging out in the corner back there. Lets all cool down a second. People were so frantic to get on board that they were trying to sneak in through the first class ‘sky lounge priority boarding’ entrance. The whole scenario reminded me of the part in Titanic when everyone was fighting for survival and trying to get one of the last spots on a safety boat. I just sat back and watched this hollywood quality entertainment unveil before me.

I’d relate to the commotion if everyone was rushing to get to their first class seat where they were served champagne and strawberries from the vine. But, the 99% of us were not heading into la la land. People are pushing and shoving to sit in a sardine can for 14 hours? Shit. Their vacation must have really been a downer. Maybe these plane-boarders were just trying to get as far as possible from the man with the seriously diseased GI tract. I understand now.

I was sitting directly over the wing of the Alitalia 777 on the window next to a Argentinian couple. I tested my spanish to set a benchmark. I determined it couldn’t get any worse. Which is good. There’s room to improve. My spanglish though, I was very proud of my spanglish. I understood about half of the words that they were saying to me, and I was able to convey about a quarter of my thoughts to them, so all in all we had about an eighth of a conversation. And that’s pushing it.

The flight was bumpy. The whole way. I was like baby trying to sleep in a cradle that was being rocked by a gorilla. I got some good sleep, although patchy, and the 14 hour flight went by quicker than I had imagined.

At one point, I just stared out at the stars from the cloud-top perch of the airplane. Up above the clouds, the universe was bright and crystal clear. The galaxies were illuminated. Below me was an abyss. A vacuum of darkness. The Sahara desert.  I was in the midst of peace and quiet of the sleepy plane cabin yet I felt so rampantly and completely alive. It was one of those moments. Then the gorilla came back and rocked me back to sleep.

The sun caught up with us once again and rose over the horizon after an extended period of night. I looked down below the massive wing into South America. Mountains, lakes, large features, and unpopulated terrain. I got a glimpse of Montevideo and the plane braked and descended quickly into EZE airport. I got a flyby past Buenos Aires and landed safe and sound. The cabin erupted in applause when we landed. Is that an Italian thing to do? Or just an elderly person thing to do? Or was it because it was such a long flight. But a computer mostly did it anyways, right? Anyways, I was surprised by the applause. I didn’t clap. But thanks Mr. Pilot for taking me across the pond safely.

I got in line in passport control. Waited in line for ten minutes, sort of sleep walking. I got to the booth. Hola, como estas? I said with a big grin, proud of myself for sparking off a conversation…correctly. Nailed it. We went through the regular passport control conversation. Then he said, Have you paid your reciprocity tax? All of a sudden I got this flashback to reading about Visa requirements for Argentina. You don’t need to register for a Visa, you just need to pay your way into the country. $150 bucks. Oh man. No, silly little David forgot. Follow me, he said as he got out of his official booth and escorted me through a long corridor and into a holding cell.

The holding cell was a blank room with three chairs, one already occupied. The room was just big enough to fit a mini-cooper snugly, the plaster on the walls was chipping and revealing concrete behind. There were 9,312 grayish tiles in the room. Yes, that’s how long I waited.

When I first came into the room, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing there. My passport is a little sketchy. My picture is from when I was 15 and I have an Indian, a Chinese, and a Kenyan visa in my passport (even though I have never been to Kenya nor do I have any plans to head in that direction) so I’m sure I seem slightly odd to immigration officers. Was I going back here to get interrogated? Bring it on. But when I got into the room, there was already a guy there. He was a Brit, built like a rugby player–a tight-head prop (lineman for the football analogy)–who looked as mean as a gator. He looked like a trouble-maker so maybe in fact I was being detained for something.

But it all came clear when I sat down next to him and he said to me in a cheery british accent, mate, I’m guessing you forgot to pay the visa too ha ha he. He was all clad up in a nice suit, and he started laughing about how he got to miss out on the boring business meeting he was supposed to be present for in the city center. He got sorted out in the first five minutes I was there, but he told me that it takes a while.

I had to wait a long time to wait and get it all figured out. The whole time I was really worried that someone was going to pick up my bag and run off with it. The saving grace was that nothing in my checked bag was more valuable than the bag itself. In Italy, I put it down on the street outside of a car mechanic’s garage so half of the bag is stained a different color and reeks of gasoline. That was likely a deterrent. Good move Davie!

Into the holding pen strolls another character, Rory. Rory is a tan and long haired surfer bro who just landed from Hawaii. He pulled the smart move. Rory admitted right away to the border guards that he hadn’t paid the Visa, so he was ushered past the 10 minute line (great move) and right into the holding pen.  He had a Dakine backpack with a miniature skateboard attached to it. For his whole trip he’d packed up in two small backpacks. A leather jacket hung around the straps of one of them. This guy was very clearly a boy in a man’s body. Awesome. We got to talking. He was especially free-spirited and care-free. His aura led me to believe that he was used to a certain type of lifestyle. Even the biggest ski-bums and surfers I’ve met aren’t this chilled out. Maybe he’s a celebrity, I thought. It turned out that I was, in fact, sitting next to Rory Bushfield!

Rory Bushfield is a Canadian professional skier, filmmaker, and reality star. Bushfield is a former member of Canada’s World Cup team, skiing moguls. He has also competed in slopestyle skiing before focusing on backcountry skiing and filmmaking. (wikipedia).

The detainment cell was sort of like hanging outside the principals office, waiting to get told off for pouring chocolate pudding on the blonde girl we had a crush on, hoping that this would make her fall madly in love with me.

I later found out that Rory Bushfield was the husband of Sarah Burke, the skier who tragically died last year after a half-pipe accident. He is traveling around the world, living his life to the fullest, the way he knows Burke would have wanted him to live and the way he would have wanted her to go on if he had a tragic accident himself. I have a profound respect for Rory. It was really pretty cool to get to spend time with him.

In the rush after they finally released me, I was so flabbergasted that I forgot to realize that the Argentinian border control never gave me my credit card back. It’s stuck at the Alitalia office in Ezeiza Airport.

One of the border guards, who seemed earlier like he was getting off on giving me a hard time, turned out to be my number one fan after he released me from the cell. He had read the letter from the Watson HQ explaining who I am and why I was doing so much concentrated traveling. The guard started asking me questions about how my trip was going and what I was excited about later. He helped me find my bag, which at this point was in the unclaimed baggage department, he walked with me through customs, and even waited for me when I went to the bathroom. The whole time we just chatted. It was pretty strange. He was just about my age so I didn’t think he was asking the questions in a suspicious, border guard kind of way. But I was considering whether this was some sort of cross-examination.  After I got through customs he said, okay, I have to go back to work now. Nice talking to you. Buenos dias. That sealed it. I think this guy was genuinely interested.

A slew of conversations ensued after and set a great, positive first impression of Argentinians as friendly and talkative. This was extremely refreshing after the ‘mind your own business’ attitude of southern Europe. After I left the terminal to find the shuttle, there were two middle aged women who were asking me questions in Spanish. They didn’t speak any English and knew I didn’t speak much Spanish, but they were determined to have a conversation with me. With sign language, and a little bit of acting, we got somewhere. It made waiting in line for the shuttle quite pleasant. One of them told me that I looked like Prince William. Thanks. I get hit on my older women much more than girls my age. Why?!?

Yesterday, my first day, was great. I found a spanish school, took the placement test, and passed into a intermediary-beginner course. I get to start tomorrow, jumping mid-week into a course rather than needing to wait until Monday. In the afternoon, I went to a free trial of a cross-fit class. It was entirely in Spanish. I misunderstood the work-out. I thought we had to do 5 rounds of 15 push-ups, 10 pull-ups, 5 box jumps within 17 minutes, but it was really just as many rounds as possible in the 17 minutes. Oops. I went really hard at the beginning and was gassed by about the 12th minute and got pulled out. Embarrassing. First time doing cross-fit is rumored to be tough. Tougher doing in a foreign language.

My roommates are awesome. Two are from Buenos Aires, Paddy and Maria. Maria is going to be a great spanish coach. We sat down for a bit in the living room and she refused to speak or let me speak English, which really is great. Paddy and Maria are both in their early 30s but they are welcoming hosts. The living situation here is great so far.

Like many people in my generation, I’ve been playing a lot more Lou Reed and really digging in after his death. What is that about being an artist? Your recognition takes off once you hit the grave.

Here are my thoughts so far.

The most amazing this about this fellowship is that it throws you into situations you are entirely unprepared for and the challenge is to make some sort of structure for yourself out of the madness. It happens so many times in a concentrated period and allows for education, growth, self-reflection, and just awareness.

You’re thrown out onto slippery, uneven ground and look for your footing. I walked out onto the streets of Buenos Aires yesterday. The language barrier is intimidating. Toilets are whirlpooling the other way The whole place had this crazy flare. Very much a different world. I look forward to seeing how I grasp ahold of life here.

Bienvenido a Buenos Aires!

Argentina

I’m off.

It’s an odd feeling leaving for a big trip when you’re already on a big trip. There’s no chance to walk through the house ‘one last time’ to savor all the sights and smells, no big hug with the canine, no run upstairs to make sure you packed your underwear, etc. I just crushed some tomatoes from Adolfo and Catarina’s big bowl of cherry tomatoes and made sure I had my passport.

A lot of the excitement and anticipation I was feeling back home before leaving for the Netherlands is back, baby! I got pretty drained the past few weeks hopping south through Europe but I feel invigorated and ready to go.

Recents

I went into Rome today, walked around for a bit. There were hoards of people around the Vatican because the Pope was talking in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. I got intimidated by the crowds and retreated back to go to sleep. 3 weeks on the move and I’m beat! I could have spent a lot of time and energy digging into Rome this weekend but I think I have to weigh the costs and take advantage of an apartment to just chill out before putting this first quarter of my fellowship to bed. Still the city is built around Roman Ruins. Sooooo coool. I got some of the sights just by sitting in the bus and looking out the window.

I think I found a place to stay in Buenos Aires for November! Which is great. Also, the Bowdoin Rugby godfather, Andy Palmer connected me to the Dartmouth Rugby godfather who is posted up down in Buenos Aires. I think he’ll set me up with a club to train with. I’m getting excited to jet down to South America and get my cowboy on.

I’ve been rocking out with the agua colors recently. Really fun. I have an awesome little pocket set. They are much more fun than I had imagined. These really look better in real life. Its a bummer sending you a snapshot but just get excited to see fo real.

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This is my friend Sarah Diamond. She is crushing a pastry like the champion that she is. The pastry kind of looks like a cigar, or poop. Sarah can decide and email me the title when she decides what she wants to be mouthing.

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These are boat builders in Copenhagen. Completely unintentionally, the painting kind of turned out like the DVD cover of one of my all-time favorites. I knew I recognized the painting I just made from somewhere. Weird.

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Torcello, Venice Lagoon.
IMG_5174Charles Bridge, Praha

There’s some other stuff I’ll clean up/finish up and send your way.

Venice via Berlin

There is a myth about Bruces and spiders. No male Bruce is ever allowed to kill a spider.

To keep the story short, one special spider pumped Robert the Bruce (King of Scotland) up so much that he fought all the British out of the highlands and won Scottish Independence. As I’ve been told, it’s terrible luck to kill a spider. I’ve never intentionally killed one. Although I heard a rumor that you eat at least a spider a year in your sleep. 

There are no rules working the other way though. The spiders of Venice ate me alive. And I probably ate a half dozen of them considering I definitely had some crawling on and biting my face. 

Buckle up. It’s going to be a long one. It has been a while and I have a lot to catch you lot up on. Even my older brother Benjamin, who is as easily entertained as a 6 month old kitten, has been asking me why I’ve been so lazy.  More recently the question turned to, ‘are you even alive?’ The answer is almost. I’m a tattered carcass eaten up by the creepy crawlies in Venice. 

Here I am. In Rome. I clawed my way out of the Venetian lagoon alive with four spider bites on my face, (one right under my eye which looks awesome). My hands, arms, and shoulders are lumpy, an incredible gnawed up topography that’s making the alps look down jealously.

Yesterday was my birthday. Happy birthday to me. I did something I hadn’t done before so I ate squid. I didn’t like it that much. It wasn’t fried-up and delicious like calamari. It was a whole squid. I would have had more fun eating a series of erasers. Add some butter and lemon and it would have tasted the same. But whatever. I ate squid.

Venice should not exist. It’s beautiful, but at the same time it’s hideous. It is a theme park for tourists with too much money and too little creativity to think of a more original place to spend their vacations. Venetians, besides the trattoria owner where I ordered squid, are rude and mean to tourists even though the whole city is propped up by tourism.

And that’s about all the city is propped up on. The city’s foundations are built into mud and most of the buildings lean one way or the other. Some lean a lot, like the a church tower near the Piazza San Marco.

I don’t like tourists. Even though I am one. But I’m different. #2chainz

Either way. Venice is beautiful. I won’t argue there. The uploader is being fussy. I’ll update this post later with more pictures.

It’s a great city to look at thinking about how cities can function on the water. There are no roads in Venice. Every daily necessity, post and packages, construction materials, beer, wine, vegetables all need to come in on boat through the canals. The only roads are waterways and it was really interesting to see how the city got by with services brought in via agua. It’s funny to think that Venice isn’t doing something special, rather it’s just sticking to a historical method. For centuries, waterways were the lifeblood of cities. The horse-less carriage took over and developed into lorries and 18wheelers, but in Venice, the traditional way remained. There is just no other possible way to do it. 

There is water everywhere. creeping up against the stone banks of the canals. Storefronts have special fittings to slide boards in and keep water out if the tide breaches the streets and there are temporary elevated walkways that can be installed when the streets get flooded. Otherwise, you just get wet. Here are some great pictures showing Venetians making the most of the tides and rising seas: here.

Besides small scale adaptation, Venice is completing the MOSE project, a large scale flood barrier designed to isolate the Venetian and the surrounding islands in the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea and keep the water level surrounding Venice lower than elsewhere.

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Bonkers. It’s all underwater so there wasn’t anything for me to go see. This youtube provides a sound explanation, though.

Where there is a will, there is a way. Venetians have a will to keep that place around. As Lonely Planet puts it, “You may have heard that Venice is an engineering marvel, with marble cathedrals built atop ancient posts driven deep into the barene–but the truth is that this city is built on sheer nerve. Reasonable people might blanch at water approaching their doorsteps and flee at the first sign of acqua alta (high tide). But reason can’t compare to Venetian resolve.”

Before Venice I was in Berlin, probably my favorite city I’ve seen so far. Here’s what I wrote on the plane about the trip:

I’m typing this out 25,000 ft above Germany. The cabin is turbulent, rumbling around in the evening wind and rain. Sitting in the very back row in the window aisle, I’m looking anxiously around at the joints of the EasyJet doors and hoping that the budget airlines use non-budget materials.

Below me is Berlin, an absolute ogre of a city. I mean ogre in the sense of donkey-loving green-knight rather than rip your eyes out and pop them in a martini ogre. It is a city of layers.

Berlin is a city that is condensed with history. The history has left it’s mark on the architecture and has visibly scarred the built environment. From bullet holes to cold, boring soviet architecture to Prussian Palaces, you can see signs of Berlin’s history everywhere.

You see the city’s attempt to move on from its more recent horrific historical episodes in many ways—through amazing memorials and museums—but mostly through the vibrant culture that has emerged out of the dust and rubble. The city is not rich—it’s struggling to find the funds to rebuild the central palace and the project has been delayed for almost a decade. But the city is culturally rich. It is stocked with young people, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, or graffiti artists. Here are some examples from the Mauer Park Flea market. It’s such a vibrant place. Scenes like this were easy to stumble across. 

I was lucky to get to know a Berliner, Mustafah who moved from Brooklyn to mesh into this artistic haven. Mustafah uses the city as an access point to reach all corners of the earth and shoot photographs for his project highlighting the misuse of water—the world’s most precious resource.

Mustafah Abdulaziz has spent the past couple years creating a portfolio of photographs that show human interactions with water all over the world. Ranging from shooting cholera outbreaks in Sierra Leon to documenting religious customs on the Ganges, Mustafah is attempting to create a comprehensive overview of water related issues all over the world.

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Sounds similar.

I first heard about Mustafah after seeing some of his pictures in an article in the New York Times when I was doing some research on Varanasi, India.

I really liked the work, incredible stuff, so I went to his website and learned more. See his work here. I got in touch, just tossing out an email and hoped for a response. He got back to me quickly, saying he was off shooting in Pakistan and would write me in full when he got back to some spectrum of normalcy.

We met in a café in Berlin and shared our stories. He’s only a few years older than me, maybe 26 at this point. I am a guy who is just jumping into the real world, and diving into my first project solo without guidance of professors, teachers, or formal structure of school. I was most impressed seeing how laser-focused and driven Mustafah was about his artistic pursuits. As someone who is just knocking on the door of the art world and peering in, it was great to see the impact that dedication and passion can bring to what you’re doing.

See his work here: http://www.mustafahabdulaziz.com/

I’m sure Mustafah and I will connect and talk further as we both get down with our projects.

Some other highlights of Berlin:

-Daniel Libeskind’s addition to the Jewish Museum. I’ve never had an emotional response to architecture before. The garden of exile is on a sloped ground, but huge rectangular pillars rise off the ground, creating odd angles. We are used to 90 degree dimensions walking around space. In this garden, the angles are skewed. Just walking around for 3 minutes made me feel so nautious I had to go inside. At the end of the hall of the holocaust, you enter a giant chamber that is traingular and four stories high. It is the same temperature as the air outside and has one slit at the top to let in natural light. But, it’s not the cold air in the chamber that makes the experience chilling.

-Walking tour. A British guy gave me and some other people in my hostel a free walking tour (you pay by tipping). He rattled off amazing facts about Berlin as we walked around the historical sites. Amazing stuff. Got me curious. I definitely want to start reading more about the history of Berlin.

-East Side Gallery. The largest remaining section of the Berlin wall no longer separates Berliners, but brings them, alongside flocks of tourists to see the largest outdoor gallery in the world. Graffiti. But you don’t need to go just here for cool stuff to look at. There is graffiti all over the city.

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Believe it or not, I’m 3 months into the year. So I had to write my first ‘long letter home’ to the Fellowship HQ:

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Having some trouble uploading stuff. Will post more, with recent drawings and watercolors later!

Hamburg

I was by myself  in the drizzling rain in front of Hamburg’s state house eating a döner kabab for dinner. The people watching was supreme. Just about as good as it gets. The World Wildlife Foundation had a fundraiser for panda’s. They had about 1,600 plastic terrier sized panda bears strewn all across the plaza. They were selling them in order to raise money for conservation. I saw couples awkwardly taking pictures of each other, but in order to get the whole state house in the picture frame, you would need to back up about 20 yards. So I’d see men or women just standing there with a half-smile, awkardly shifting their weight from one leg to the other, while the other would back up and take a shot. Then they’d switch. That happened about eight times. It was magic. There were some asian solo travelers who would creep around, scanning to make sure nobody was looking and flick off a Ben-Bruce style selfie (peace sign included, though).

The clock struck 7pm.

I had one of those google map moments in my head where I zoomed out from where I was sitting to see the cityscape of Hamburg, then Europe, then roll across the Atlantic to Maine then down onto Brunswick, then right to the Bowdoin Rugby field where the boys were kicking off at that exact moment against the University of Maine Farmington.

Saturdays with the Bowdoin Rugby Team were my fondest memories of Bowdoin. Envisioning them taking the field put shivers down my spine.

I realized how far away I was–in more ways than just geographic distance–but at the same time I felt very content to be where I was, with my kebab, and with my thoughts and an awesome gothic statehouse to engage with.

Today was a day that I felt the magic of traveling, discovering new places, popping into unknown places, and finding unexpectedly brilliant results. The magic comes from the unplanned.

I only had one full day in Hamburg, so I really wanted to learn as much as possible about what the city is doing in terms of climate adaptation and flood resiliency. I’d been told by various people in the Netherlands and by an architect back in the United States that Hamburg is on the forefront of integrating coastal defenses into urban design. I didn’t really know where to start looking, but I knew, from my experiences in the Netherlands, to walk towards the water then start looking there.

I had a faint conception of what to look for. I’d heard of elevated promenades, watertight garage doors, and a large-scale riverfront development project. Google led me towards the ‘Hafen City’ development project and signposts on the street led me to the ‘Hafen City information center.’

Hafen City is the largest development project in Europe. Hamburg is trying to revitalize the city center and replace old warehouses, factories, and dock space with a mix of offices, residential apartments, and shopping. The centerpiece of the project will include an aquarium and a big symphony orchestra concert hall.

The inner city of Hamburg has struggled since the World War II when 50% of the city was bombed and destroyed. In the 80s, 0.8% of Hamburg’s workforce lived outside of the city and commuted in. Most of the residents of the city center were on social welfare benefits. It was not a pleasant place to be.

Hamburg is located on the Elbe River, but the city has never has been integrated into the waterfront. The riverfront of the city ended with large red brick industrial warehouses that were built out of the riverbanks.

Citizens of Hamburg thought of the city limits as the warehouses, they never interacted with the river, even though the River was brought Hamburg’s economy to life in the first place. Hamburg is the second biggest port in Europe. (After Rotterdam).

The Hafen City development project extends the city beyond the thick curtain of the red brick industrial warehouses. The developers of Hafen City are charged with the project of making a new city center. How do you make a place from scratch. They seem to have very successful projects to bring art and culture to the new development. The impressive concert hall (I only saw the model) should also really help. The developers are integrating a new waterfront into the urban fabric in a way that has never been done in 150 years of Hamburg’s history.

Building in the river comes with risk, however, even though the city is miles inland from the North Sea, the Elbe River has huge tidal swings and storm surges travel up the river. The tides swing about 8m each way. The most recent floods in Hamburg were in 2007. Hafen City has built up with flood defense in mind. It is built on three different levels, and there is a public promenade up on the 1st floor, one floor above street level, so that people can move around if the water slips onto the streets. Offices have 1st flood entrances and can seal their ground floor entrances water tight to prevent damage from occurring.

What I found interesting was that the city split the cost of flood protection with the private property owners in each place. The paid for the civil engineering to build the two separate levels, while the private property owners pay for the rest of it, watertight seals and proper foundations and so on. It’s a project that can handle water. So bring it on.

I was pretty impressed with myself for learning all this in one day, one morning at that. Here’s how I did it:

As soon as I walked into the Hafen City information center, I saw a sign welcoming the Danish Society of Architects for their presentation ‘Hafen City: Sustainable Development for Europe’s Coastal Cities.’ I thought I came from Copenhagen so I’m almost Danish and I like to draw pictures of buildings, so I’m almost an architect. I saw the big group gathered around the small models of the islands. Almost five minutes after I walked in, someone in a suit gathered them all and directed them towards a room. I slipped in the back and sat down. I didn’t say a word, scribbled some notes in my moleskin notebook and blended right in. I slipped out before the last question was asked and nobody noticed.

In the afternoon I went to the Hamburger Kunsthalle Museum. I had a blast drawing cartoons of painted portraits. I’ll post them up later. Some are pretty funny. Lots of things in Hamburg are called ‘Hamburger ____.’ I’m not going to lie, I went into one of them and asked if I could get a hamburger there. The guy looked at me for a couple puzzled seconds thinking this idiotic American and told me this was not a burger joint, it was a museum of artifacts collected by Hamburg’s sailors over the past 300 years. Many europeans think Americans are all fat and stupid. I am responsible for converting one more.

Some city’s are quite dreary with all the common global brand chains. Traveling makes me reminisce and dream about what traveling might have been like 30 years ago when places seemed so much more ‘authentic.’

Ben and Jerry’s is all over the Netherlands. To me B&Js is a mark of true Vermont. It’s a symbol of the states and represents northern New England the place I identify with. The ice cream is all over the Netherlands because Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company owns a majority stake of the ice cream.

7/11s are on every other street corner in Sweden.

McDonalds has continued its quest to take over the world and Burger King is following close behind.
It’s quite a dreary sight walking out of a city’s central station and into the downtown and find nothing unique or definitive about the place you walk into. Global branding takes its toll on the character of these cities.

It takes time to dig deeper and discover what makes a place what it is. I felt pretty happy once I wandered off the beaten path and found the old red brick buildings by the waterfront. The bricks were beautifully stained over a century and a half of weathering and in contrast of the green copper roofs they were really quite brilliant. So much nicer to wander through than alleys of fast food chains.

Thats just the reality of our time: Information. Digital connectivity. Global brands. iPhones. In another 50 years someone will be traveling, or teleporting around the world on reminisce on my era of traveling. As Woody Allen points out in Midnight in Paris, it’s easy to romanticize about a bygone era. Just find the meat of what you have in front of you.

Speaking of Paris. I’ll be there next weekend to see Sarah Diamond, who I haven’t seen since Milton and maybe meet up with my dude Stanton Plummer Cambridge.

I’m hopping on a bus to Berlin tomorrow.

Copenhagen

In the summer of 2011, 6 inches of rain fell on Copenhagen in less than three hours. The deluge flooded city streets, parks, and seeped into the city’s basements and cellars. The rain cost the city 6 billion Danish kroner, a little more than 1 billion dollars.

Copenhagen has a Climate Adaptation Plan, which was developed that same year. The plan takes initiatives to prevent damage from climate change. Constructing dikes, limiting building developments in low-lying regions, and expanding the capacity of sewers and managing rainwater are a few things the city hopes to accomplish in the coming years to become more resilient to the threats of climate change.

I’ve come to realize that often times it take a disaster to wake a city up, to make politicians and decisions makers aware that these threats are very real. We saw this in New Orleans after Katrina, in New York after Sandy, and again here in Copenhagen after these floods. As Jos Besteman in the Netherlands told me, North Holland tax payers are getting frustrated by the cost of flood protection paid to the Water Board, they said a storm would change public opinion–protection is something worth paying for.

Copenhagen’s sewer systems are not fit to handle the predicted increase in precipitation. The Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan describes a plan of attack for preventing another costly flood from uncontrolled storm water. By expanding its sewers, creating underground basins and improving pumping stations, Copenhagen would be able to increase the capacity of its drainage network. Making large scale manipulations to the sewers would be very costly, though. The city hopes to implement techniques to manage water locally. If individuals make small scale changes all over the city by replacing impermeable surfaces with porous material that lets water percolate naturally into the ground, the city could see large scale results. Finally, the city has plans to direct water away from buildings, cellars, and roadways and towards parks, sports fields, or parking lots where excess water would do minimal damage.

Copenhagen’s Climate Adaptation Plan also mentions preparing for rising seas. The study notes that Copenhageners should expect a 1m rise in the next century. If the city did nothing, this rise in sea level would cause the city considerable damage.

Honestly nothing cool or noteworthy happened in Copenhagen. I went to a museum to see some paintings I learned about in Professor Docherty’s European Art class at the NY Carlsberg Glyptotek but all the famous paintings were out in other countries on tour. I went to the Opera house to admire the architecture but it was closed. I got lost and rained on. I just figured that Copenhagen wasn’t too jazzed to have me. Whatever Copenhagen.

I met Christa Villari, a Bowdoin junior who is studying abroad in Denmark and also caught up with Dennis Liu, another Bowdoin guy who played rugby with us last spring. It was cool just to walk around and take some pictures and draw some drawings. But really, nothing notable whatsoever.

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I am in Hamburg, Germany right now. I found a hostel next to the Central Station. The hostel is called ‘The Generator’ and is basically just like a dog kennel for young people. There are 10 floors of 30 rooms with six bunk beds. Its flocked with groups of Germans out and about on ‘stag’ weekends. The place is made for groups of people traveling together and looking for a cheap place to sleep, since they’ll be out all night at bars anyways. It’s a tough environment for me, riding solo. I just laughed it off to prevent myself from thinking about how horrifically depressing it really is. Either way a bed is a bed. This is better than the alternative, which is staying in central station with Hamburg’s homeless. They smiled at me with rotting teeth as if I was a piece of delicious prime rib as I wandered around in circles trying to remember who I was, where I was going, and why I was in Germany.

Hamburg has some really interesting sea level adaptation projects. Near the river, Hamburg has developed to allow the ground floor to flood. Storefronts are prepared to take water in, rather than block it out. I should learn more as the weekend goes on so I’ll keep you posted.

Had some pretty odd experiences on the train which I’ll tell you about soon. But…crossing from Denmark to Germany the train got on a boat!! Each country has its own

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Malmö

The Kallbadhus is a public bath where you jump into the ocean then get roasty toasty a sauna. The real champions go in February when you dive through a hole in the ice, swim to Denmark and back underwater, fight off polar bears, then go warm up.

The water isn’t terribly cold yet so it wasn’t too bad to hop in, but it wasn’t so warm that you would want to leisurely swim around. It was a solid 10 seconds in then out after a brisk walk to the sauna.

I was there at 3 o’clock on a monday. So most normal people around my age are either at work, or at school. The majority of the other fellows relaxing Viking style were elderly men, all at least 40 years older than me. I realized right away as soon as I walked in that this activity is something that takes place naked. I figured, hey. Never thought I’d go skinny dipping with some Swedish grandpas. Check that off the bucket list. Grandspa. The building was really beautiful, though. It was out on the water and had a beautiful wooden deck with brilliantly colored green changing rooms. The whole place looked like a small slice of paradise. The throngs of naked old-timers brought me back to reality though. Overall it was a great traditional swedish experience.

Today I met Tyke Tykesson, a planner in the strategic department of Malmö’s city planning office. Malmö has a pretty interesting history and has developed–if you distill it as much as possible–from a ship building town to a university city that designs video games and records Sweden’s major artists.

Sweden isn’t too threatened by sea level rise but its southernmost tip, Malmö’s surrounding area, is quite low-lying. Tyke has done some initial studies in the planning office to gauge the vulnerability of the city. But he was pretty interested to hear what I had learned so far during my two month stay in the Netherlands.

Malmö is quite an impressive city that has grown a lot in recent years. The city developed its western harbor from a stagnant industrial port to a very hip environmentally progressive neighborhood. The western harbor is an extremely attractive place for people to live. Danes even commute over from Copenhagen! It’s quite remarkable that Malmö was able to transform an industrial wasteland into a trendy, modern, environmentally friendly place to live. The neighborhood is defined by this building:

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The Turning Torso, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava is the tallest building in Sweden.

Here’s my watercolor painting of it:

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Malmö is getting wind of the bike craze! Good to see.

Here are a few blasts from the pasts:

I wrote a letter to the King of the Netherlands a few weeks ago… why not!

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Today I got wind of a response:IMG_4668

No hard feelings, your Majesty. But hey, can I now tell people that I had an official correspondence with the King of the Netherlands?

Righteous.

Here are some nice photos from Rotterdam Rugby Practice:

It was such a great experience playing with these guys. I’ll look back fondly.

And here’s a treat…the real blast from the past. Malena has a few photo albums with pictures from when she lived with my family from 1995 to 96. And a few from some years later.

This evening Malena and I met up with Malena’s mom, Mona who lives right outside Malmö near the bridge over to Denmark. Mona offered to cook me Swedish meatballs. She made them for me for my 14th birthday. They tasted exactly the same 9 years later! It was so nice to see Mona.

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We also stopped by a gigantic open pit limestone mine and went to take a look at the bay between Denmark and Sweden.

The view of Denmark–c’est bon.

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Tomorrow and Friday I’m going to go and explore Copenhagen. It only takes half an hour to get over there from Malmö so I’m going to spend the nights here with my nanny. She has been treating me like just way back when I was baby Davey.

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