Today has been quite a day. Last night before I went to bed I noticed some itchy red welts had formed on my arms and shoulders. Were they mosquitoes or something worse?
When I woke up this morning, I had more of them: on my hips, legs, arms, and now shoulders. I went to the reception of the hotel and told them I think the room might have a bug issue. They moved me to another room only 2 doors down. When I opened the door, the first thing I saw was a dead bug lying on its back on the white IKEA desk. That was it.
I checked out of the hotel after finding a rental apartment nearby. Before I made the leap, I was sure to contact the host and make sure it was available. As soon as she replied and said it was (at $60/night for a whole house too!) I left.
The problem was that check in was not until 4:30pm when she was off work. I had my entire luggage with me so what was I going to do? I went to a little restaurant on Østergade to have breakfast and figure things out. The lush brunch that they had did a lot to ground me: scrambled eggs in a round cup, some mortadella-like meat, fruit, a tiny flapjack, coffee, OJ, bread, and butter. The feast helped mitigate the anxiety I felt towards the whole situation.
After I finished eating, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with myself. I wandered around trying to find another café to no real avail. The weather looked questionable as well. I remembered that there was the tourist center across the way from the hotel. I decided it was worth checking out as much as any other since my luggage restricted me from wandering around very much. I gave up on the Japanese Garden idea because I was dragging around my entire luggage and it looked like it was going to rain.
The tourist center is a café, information venter, and library all rolled into one. You walk in past shelves of tourist brochures to the information desk. Past that and to the right lie rows of library books, a kid’s play area, and a small table with coffee and tea for anyone to enjoy. On the other side of the building one can find a series of meeting rooms along with a few rows of computers with Internet access. I sat down in the tourist center at one of the squat tables next to an outlet to charge my phone. I pulled out my copy of Leviathan Wakes by James Corey settling in to read until I at least had a full charge on my phone. The first time I looked up from my book at the outside world, it was raining.
I guess this was how I was going to spend my afternoon.
I read about 30 pages and got my phone up to 90% before I decided to at least try to walk around more. I ventured outside as if expecting some other café or entertainment to magically appear, but it did not. I could have gone to the Struer Museum, but we are supposed to go there for the dinner tomorrow. I ended up looking around and coming right back to the tourist center, this time mixing it up by sitting on a couch where I perused the AES program for the week to plan my tutorial schedule. I kept thinking about what else I could do, but time just passed and soon it was almost time to meet up with the hostess. She was kind enough to pick me up after she got off work since it was raining.
I ventured to the grocery store to grab some yogurt and bananas for breakfast before heading to the Folkets Hus to meet her. We arrived at the same time. Connie wore thick glasses and a warm temperament. The house, it turns out, was just up the road about a 10min bike ride. She offered to loan me her bicycle, which I gladly accepted. The squat ceramic-tiled house has an apple tree laden with fruit along with a greenhouse with a bench to reflect on. She told me I had the whole place to myself, which I honestly had not expected. I just saw she had good reviews, was in Struer, and I was desperate to leave the hotel. She even said I could use her laundry! Hot diggity damn! After she left, I made myself comfortable. I decided to take a shower and change before heading to the AES reception. The ride back “downtown” was refreshing after so much sitting. I enjoyed looking at all the homes with matching brick work. The word “quaint” came to mind.
The reception was being held at Apollon: a restaurant/movie house. I drew in a deep breathe of self-confidence before entering the heavy glass doors. About fifty people gathered inside. In the center of them all stood a long table with name tags and conference swag on display. I found my name tag, grabbed one of the bags, and then headed to the bar for a calming, inhibition-loosening adult beverage. They only had one IPA, but I was happy to try a local brew.
There is an art to joining random conversations: a kind of testing, probing, and observing before you dip your feet in. Sometimes I have trouble with these sorts of things when in a room full of people I don’t know. Other times the anonymity gives me a certain level of confidence because nobody really knows me yet. In this situation, strangely, I was pulled right in.
Three men from the University of Denmark had been talking amongst themselves. A guy named Franz who looked like the European Napoleon Dynamite in the best possible way was drinking the dark ale of the same brewery I was drinking. I asked him how it was. From there came discussions of origin, Danish words and language, where we all worked, and so on. I joined them for dinner at one of the tables in the restaurant. A man who claimed to be the governor of Venø, an island close by of only 200 people, soon joined us as well as a man named François who I got into some wonderfully deep discussions with.
If there is one food you can find anywhere in Denmark, it’s the hamburger or fish and chips. The restaurant was no different. It took forever to get food but it did not really matter because the conversations were so engaging. After dinner we watched “The Dark Tower” in Dolby ATMOS in the main theater. The movie changed what I remembered of Stephen King’s gunslinger series, but more than anything I just enjoyed the moment, being there with all these heady audio people watching a movie and eating popcorn.
While I was biking home that night, the smell of fresh rain filled the air as I peddled up the long dark road. I felt like everything was going to be OK.