June 12, 2003
No place like it..
It's weird to be home. Familiar and yet not all I expected it to be. Not like Vilnius is that wonderful compared to Chicago, but coming back wasn't as monumental as I somehow thought it might be. I guess I'm starting to think that life in any city is not terribly different from life in any other city. Different language, different money, but the food isn't all that exotic and the people are basically the same.
Anyway, in reverse chronological order:
Jet lag this morning.. I was alright yesterday morning but I think I've now entered the three-days-of-waking-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn phase. I did notice that the sun rises at about 5am here, which isn't all that different from the 4am sunrise that I thought was so remarkable in Vilnius, if you consider that Chicago's on the eastern end of a timezone and Vilnius is kind of on the western end of it's timezone.
If you ignore many large bottles of water, I hardly bought a thing on this trip. A campstool, an old Soviet camera ($10 Smena, just for the hell of it), and a couple of CDs. I did, however, take 1855 photos.
Copenhagen was interesting. I wasn't there long enough for it to be anything more than "interesting." It felt incredibly modern and organized compared to Vilnius, and yet I could feel the connection to old industries like shipping. There are 7-11s everywhere (I was standing at the counter of one, buying a bottle of water, and out the window I could see the next 7-11), the women aren't all that attractive (the good-looking ones all somehow looked like Nina Perrson), the food was just OK, everything's pretty expensive (at least compared to Vilnius), and they need a better subway. The bike thing, however, is really cool.
Everyone in the whole damn city bikes. There are bikes parked everywhere, most of them simple and utilitarian and with a wire mesh basket on the front. All major streets have separate raised bike lanes on both sides, and there are even separate traffic lights for cars, bikes, and pedestrians.
side side walk walk ______ bikes bikes ______ _______ cars _______ ___________________
The best thing about this separation is that as a pedestrian, you don't have to worry about people zooming by you and clipping your elbow with their handlebars. As long as you stay on the sidewalk, and the bikes stay in their lane, everything works well.
It was a relief to be back in a truely large city, and a diverse one. In Vilnius I saw about seven people that weren't white, and one of them was with us. Copenhagen looked almost like Chicago, except people from different backgrounds were all working on the same street, rather than in their own neighborhoods. This helped me understand Chicago's segregation issues a bit better.
My flight from Vilnius to Copenhagen was spent stuck between one of the engines and an overzealous Christian. She started talking to me before I had a chance to pretend to be reading or listening to music, and didn't stop until we left the plane. She was a nice enough person, and didn't ask me about my religious beliefs until we had begun our descent, but for how many things can one thank God? I think religion usually does more good than harm, and it can be very helpful for some people, but to attribute everything good in your life to God and everything bad to "God's plan" just seems so.. Well you're denying that shit happens and you're not taking credit for things you make happen for yourself. She was thanking God for her adrenaline rush before performing that cured her stomach ache..thanking God that her fellow traveller got a replacement passport the day they were scheduled to leave.
It's kind of like, if everything's in God's plan and he'll make everything he wants to happen happen, why not just sit around in your underwear and eat peanut butter and wait for him to do His thing? And if nothing happens, that must mean that His plan calls for me to sit around and eat peanut butter in my boxers.
After waiting in a long line to check into our flight from Vilnius to Copenhagen, the Scandanavian Airlines folks had a hard time figuring out our tickets, considering we had changed them three time since they were first issued. Then, onto Passport Control.
My coworker got through passport control without issue.. When the lady scanned my passport, however, she started looking at me very suspiciously. After checking my boarding pass, she started looking at the first page (picture, etc.) very closely, then the visas. Then she went back to the picture and looked back and forth at the photo and at my face a good five times. She then asked me to wait by the side of the booth.
A minute later two police officers came up -- one laid-back tall guy and one short, uptight woman. The man had a Lithuanian passport in his hand and they started comparing my passport to the one they had. When the short woman saw the Lithuanian passport next to mine she actually laughed -- perhaps she thought we looked nothing alike? I can't help but wonder who this guy was, what he had done, and why the police kept his passport and other ID cards handy.
After a few minutes of discussion the tall guy asked me first if I spoke only English, then if I had any other documentation. I produced my driver's license which has a picture very similar to my passport (shaggy hair, a bit heavier, full beard). I then thought of my work badge which was taken only a month ago and looks much more like me -- very short hair, skinny, full beard. When the short woman saw the Motorola badge she said, "Ohhh..Motorola!" And they all laughed. I have to assume that they had already determined at this point that I wasn't the wanted Lithuanian.
The tall guy told me to "have a nice flight" and they started walking off. I tried to ask them what the deal was but they ignored me (or pretended to?). Hopefully that's the last incident of this trip, unless there's a Danish terrorist that looks like me.Posted at June 12, 2003 05:39 AM, Categories: Beardcore