Sunday, August 29, 2010

On the Eve of Medical School

I just uploaded onto facebook photos of my white coat ceremony that happened earlier today. After finishing uploading, I flipped through the photos. I seemed to me that that I looked older and more mature in those photos than the image I have of myself. Maybe it's the short hair, the smartly cut dress, or the (albeit short) white coat. Or maybe it's that in my mind, I know that it's the beginning of a formidable commitment.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


As popular and fun to read as travel writing is, it was never my intention for this blog to be a travelogue. I intend to update regularly but everyone in medical school tells me this will consume all my leisure time.

You may have noticed the new title of my blog. The end of my time in Denmark made me feel that that experience was fleeting, thus the previous title. But now I'm embarking on four years of medical school where the body is the subject of study. I think it also encompasses my interest in the body in society, in politics.

Today I had the first of a week-long medical school orientation. Immediately I was reminded of a similar experience, the orientation program for Aarhus University exchange students. The people I met my first day at Denmark Today, at the very first activity, became my friends for the rest of my time. So perhaps the same will happen now. We'll see.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Travels: Toilets

This is a restroom at Warsaw.  Circle = female. Triangle = male.  Yes, I was puzzled when I first heard about these signs on a travel forum and then I saw one with my own eyes at the National Museum in Warsaw.

Every country I got to seems to have slightly different restrooms.
First, there's the matter of what we even call them. European non-native English speakers call it toilet. It's also the word written on signs for public restrooms. This sounded vulgar to me at first but then I too started to call restrooms toilets.

Then there are the stalls. But all European restrooms "stalls" aren't stalls because the toilets are separated from the adjacent toilet by solid walls -- yes that go all the way up to the ceiling and down to the floor.That "foot-tapping" scandal involving some politician (or was it an evangelical preacher?) wouldn't happen in Europe.

Danish restrooms are unique for having er ... feminine hygiene product disposal bins that are just plastic bags suspended by a piece of metal attached to the wall. I didn't see these anywhere else except, I think, Norway.  Like so:

It's also very common in public restrooms and bathrooms at home to have two water levels for flushing, indicated by the bigger and smaller buttons. Oh I almost forgot! The fact that the flush is operated by a button ABOVE the toilet is different from the States too.

I'll also never forget a discussion among members of bidet using cultures (two Italian and Turkish friends) and non-bidet using cultures (me).

I could detail the restrooms I've seen all over Europe but I'm flying out to SoCal very early tomorrow morning. This also means no new blog posts for about another week.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Travels: Girls and Boys in Denmark

During my last days in Århus, I went to Legoland, probably the most famous Danish tourist attraction after the Little Mermaid statue. At the Legoland gift shop you can buy Lego sets, spare Lego body parts, and these silicone ice cube trays.
Legoland gift shop. July 2010.

The gendering of toys is a worldwide phenomenon, it seems. Even in Scandinavian countries with some of the most impressive levels of gender equality in many areas. It's also a popular subject of Sociological Images, a sociology blog. It runs a series on gendered toys and used this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomic as illustration of childhood socialization via boys and girls toys.
A window in Copenhagen. February 2010.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wrap up: Time and Place

 I've been back in the States for three weeks. It feels much longer, like I've been here all summer. This surprised me. I thought that I would feel more reverse culture shock, that Ann Arbor and East Lansing would feel more foreign. I thought that I would feel uncomfortable driving my car again. I thought the American hypermarts would overwhelme me. I thought I would cringe at American-accented English.

The first three to five days, I felt this way. I wanted to find all the foreign things I had in Europe. Trader Joe's 100% Rye Bread is a close approximation of rugbrød. At a restaurant in East Lansing I had Zywiec beer.

At the same time as the discomfort, however, these were also glorious days of rediscoveries. I finally got a fragel, which I wanted to do the last day before I left in January but the store was closed for the holidays. So I fulfilled a wish I had maintained for six months.

By the time first weekend was over -- I came back on a Monday -- it felt like I had been here in Ann Arbor all summer, which begins for most American college students in early May.

This doesn't mean I've forgotten about Denmark. The opposite: I think about Denmark and Erasmus all the time. Like I've said many times before, those six months were the greatest six months of my life. The people, the traveling, the just hanging out in Århus. But I'm not raving about it to everyone the way I thought I would. I feel like I've entered a different chapter of my life. Denmark exists in memories. For the people I met on Erasmus, we're all post-Erasmus now and that's the way it must be. I feel that if I keep talking about Denmark and exchange that I'll start to have Peter Pan syndrome. As much as I would like to go back to Denmark, I can't because by "Denmark" I mean both a place and a time. Maybe sometime in the future I'll go to Denmark but we've all moved beyond that time to new endeavors.

My train from Århus to Copenhagen airport as it passed Copenhagen central station. July 12th, 2010 approx.12:30am