Monthly Archives: September 2008

In Brussels, covering the European Union

Sorry I haven’t been updating here much, but I wanted to be able to have time to upload pictures online before writing a decent entry. I am sorry I haven’t noted you and I promise to tomorrow morning.

I just had one of the most amazing, exhausting, at-times-pissed off (like when I was pickpocketed), weeks of my life. I spent 8 days in Belgium (7 days in Brussels, 1 day in Brugge). I spent most of the week reporting on the European Union, which is like the Washington D.C. of Europe. I mean, how often can I say that?

I found out that the European Union sprang for at least half of my class’s hotel and restaurant bill. And okay, there was a red flag going up in my head, saying “Uh oh, something unethical is going on here.” But you know, Europe is not like the United States. The overall government actually loves journalists. We even had access to this huge room that had free Internet access and telephones. And the nice thing about the EU is that it’s easy to get sources to talk to. Politicians are generally willing to talk to you, and if they’re not, well they’ll send their assistants, who are just as competent. And you can ask them tough questions and they’ll answer it.

This is one of the major buildings, forgot which one it was, but it looks nice, eh?

This is the European Commission building, or the European Parliament building. I get them all mixed up:



This is a typical journalist press conference. See those people in the glass boxes near the ceiling? There are 23 boxes, representing the 23 languages of the European countries in the EU. Each box contains three translators, and between the three of them, they are expected to know the 23 different languages. They also have to translate really quickly, almost as the same time as the speaker onstage, so I don’t know how they do it, because it’s all unscripted. From there, the journalists put on the headphones attached to their seats and select the language they want to hear the press conference in. Hands down, the most impressive thing in the EU:

Mr. Big Man on Campus: Jose Barroso (middle), the president of the European Commission, the most popular and powerful person in the EU:

Jerram and his stinkface:


 

My press badge. This is the badge that gets me through many guarded doors and gives me access to awesome stuff:

The badges gives me access to stuff like these:


 

Journalists get free phone calls and Internet access:

Only special, important people like us can access this building. I’m serious, they checked out badges:

My lovely classmates:

Here are some official-looking stuff:

Where politicians from 27 different European countries meet 3 weeks a month, five days a week

Lisanne demonstrating the hard work of these politicians:

 

The endless mailboxes of these representatives:


 

We saw history in the making. This was the launch of EuroParlTV, which some of my fellow journalists dubbed EuroPropagandaTV, but I am more optimistic about it. It’s basically a way for young college students to get more interactive with the European Union.

Again with the language interpreters:

And last but not least, the free lunch buffet they gave us as student journalists. Somehow I felt the need to write only positive things about them afterwards.


 
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Quick update in Belgium

I’m currently in Brussels, Belgium to cover political news about the European Union. Brussels is the most beautiful city I have ever been in, and my class is staying in a super swanky fancy hotel that my school paid for mostly. I will update soon with pictures, as I’ve taken a lot of them and I’ve got so much to tell you. But my Internet connection in my hotel room is currently down so I’m writing this in the lobby, and there is limited space.

I’ll leave you with a picture I took in my hotel room, and showing off the jet black dye job I added onto my hair (shot from an angle that is more flattering to my face I think).

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The crap that are my feelings

I wrote a song right before I left for Denmark. I had felt this intense depression and anxiety. Now that I’m halfway around the world and I still get the same feelings sometimes, the song grows even more fitting. I don’t like how it has this emo feel, but it seems to describe what I’m feeling right now. I know I should cheer up and stuff and just giggle at how I’m in Europe and spew rainbows and butterflies from my mouth, but I can’t help it, I just feel really down. No offense to anyone though, feel free to spew anything you want, just let me feel this way for a while until it goes away. Sometimes I just need to soak in the crap that are my feelings.

Going

I’ve been walking this world for 23 years
And I’m starting to wonder what I’m doing here
I’ve got a past and a history
But no future in sight that is ready for me

Sometimes I wonder if I’m living this life
Something here just doesn’t feel right
The skin that I’m in seems somehow not mine

But I’m not sure what would make it right

I don’t know, where to run, where to hide
Wherever I go, I still feel empty inside
I’m just going, going, going

A thousand crossroads have come and gone
Every time I chose love, it’s turned out wrong
I’ve been running in circles for so much time
A thousand stories, but the same plotline

I don’t know, where to turn, who to blame
Wherever I go, it’s always the same
I’m just going, going, going
Just going, going, going

I don’t know, where to run, where to be
Wherever I go, I still don’t feel free
I’m just going, going, going
I don’t know, where to turn, who to run to
Wherever I go, I just can’t break through
I’m just going, going, going

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Doing laundry in Denmark

I’ve done my laundry about 6 times since I’ve arrived in Denmark. And let me tell you, I finally got it figured out. And it’s not because the machines are overly complicated (okay, they are) but that some machines are defective, and some just work better than others even though they look exactly the same.

The first time I did my laundry I chose the washing on the left side corner. Bad machine. I was wondering why it didn’t give me all the options the poster on the wall had advertised, but I thought nothing of it until my second time doing laundry and the other machines had all the advanced options. For my third time doing laundry I tried the one on the left side corner and again it gave me limited options, so Aha! The machine was indeed crappy compared to the other ones. Oh and by the way, when I say overly complicated, let me put it this way: you get charged by what temperature you wash your clothes in (95 degrees, 60 degrees, etc.) and your detergent and fabric softener are already included in your wash (you don’t have to buy your own soap), but you have to activate it by pressing this panel on the wall near the card reader. Well, now that I think about it, I like this way much better than how it works in the U.S.

Now the dryer is much trickier. The majority of Danes don’t use dryers, and it reflects in the fact that there are only 5 dryers for a big dorm population. The first time I washed it, I chose a defective machine also, and I had to pay 5 times for my clothes to be dried enough to wear (Okay, it didn’t help that I had unintentionally set it on “Koldt” which means “cold.” Still that doesn’t explain why my clothes were still really wet after 4 cycles.) The second time I used the dryer on the corner and I left my clothes in there for 45 minutes, thinking it would stop on its own like the other machine did. But no, it stayed on and I was able to have my clothes nicely dried with only one payment. The third time washing my clothes, I used another different dryer and that one left my clothes damp and I had to pay twice to get it dried enough to wear. Tonight I used the one in the corner that I had used my second time and it worked perfectly. So from now I’ll use that one. But the dryers are much, much more complicated than the ones in the U.S. First off, there are settings for hot, cold, medium warm, medium cold (all of this by the way was in Danish and I had to figure it out myself). Then for the level of dryness, there are 7 settings to choose from, and I still haven’t figured out what all the settings mean because again, they’re in Danish. But there’s one setting with a drawing of 3 water drops which I took to mean that the clothes are really wet, so I’ve been using that one ever since. And as I said, the majority of Danes don’t use dryers, so maybe that’s why their drying technology is lacking.

However, I do like the fact that there are so many contraptions to air dry clothes. It’s not like in the U.S., where people just put up a clothesline and put clothespin on clothes. In fact, the first time I went to Denmark with my mom (when I was 10) my mom fell in love with these contraptions so much when she saw my aunts and uncles using them that she had some of the contraptions exported to our home in the States, and even to this day, my mom still air dries all of our clothes (and then throws them into the dryer for 3 minutes to get rid of the air-dried feel of the clothes).

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Getting my body back

I am excited. I’m getting my body back to where I want it to be. Two weeks ago, during the Copenhagen trip, I gained a massive amount of weight. I was pretty chubby. So I’ve been spending it ever since trying to get my body back.

But this time it’s different. I’ve always been a yo-yo-er, as in my body would fluctuate like crazy. That’s because I would pig out and gain weight, then I’d feel guilty and work out like a maniac to get my body into good shape, then I would reward myself by cutting back on the exercise and eating more. When I was a kid, I could get away with eating a lot because I was doing sports like everyday. But now that I’ve stopped being active, I’m having weight problems.

Well now I’m realizing a good way to maintain my weight. I won’t pig out anymore, nor will I starve myself. I’ll let myself eat normally but if I’m not hungry, I won’t eat to pass the time. Also, I won’t force myself to work out like crazy anymore, because when I do that I get tired of it as soon as I see results and won’t be able to stick to it. So this past week I’ve been running or exercising when I can fit it in, but I do it in a way that I’m not doing it just for the sake of exercise. This morning I woke up with a firmer, tighter stomach and I was so happy. And my butt is getting firmer too (yes, gross for you to read about), and I’m losing flab. I’m gonna have my ideal body in a few weeks if I keep this up I think. 🙂

Here’s a picture of us having dinner at Mackie’s last night. I’m proud of myself for only having fries for dinner (especially because their burgers were almost $25 U.S. and their pizzas were $35 U.S.!)

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Spending time alone

I think I’m going to have to get used to spending a lot of time having fun by myself over here. It’s just difficult trying to make good friends here that I can hang out with.

There are two reasons: the first one is that I live over four miles from where the majority of the students live. So I miss out on a lot of the things that they spontaneously do together. Every time I want to do something with them, it has to be planned out and becomes a big production, especially because there is no bus that goes directly from their dorm to mine. So it’s really easy for them to forget about me, or invite me somewhere as an afterthought. In fact, it happened earlier this week. I was supposed to go downtown to see some of the festival with them. They were supposed to text me when I should leave for downtown to meet them. But they never did, and later that night one of them apologized and admitted they forgot about me. And, although I was kind of annoyed, I don’t really blame them. If I were in their shoes and there was one person who lived by himself out in the middle of nowhere, it’d be easy for me to forget that person too.

The second reason is that I just don’t share the same interests as most people my age. I like engaging in clean fun, meaning I don’t like to go to bars. And for example, tonight we had fun downtown for dinner and a little concert, but then they wanted to go to a bar where everyone smokes and it’s really crowded. And I can’t handle that environment. I have a slight respiratory problem so it’s difficult for me to breathe in stuffy, smoke-filled room. It’s a tiny bar with about 35 people packed into it at all times. So I went out and sat outside by myself for a while. Then I started walking to other parts of downtown by myself. This Danish man came up to me and asked why I was hanging out by myself on such a nice night. And I told him that my friends were in the Billabong Bar and that I couldn’t breathe in there so I decided to go for a walk. He said that the Billabong Bar is one of the few bars in Arhus that permits smoking indoors and that it was pretty inconsiderate of my friends. And I said, no, I’m sure they’ll check up on me soon. And so he left. And I admit, after waiting for a while more, I was thinking maybe he was right. And so I went back to the bar and told my classmates I was going home.

But I don’t blame them. I don’t expect anything to do anything more for me. It’s probably their only chance to party in Denmark and I don’t expect anyone to give that up just because I can’t handle smoke. It’s not anyone’s job to keep me company.

And it’s because I haven’t put forth any effort.

Because they all live pretty close together to each other and that is why they hang out together so much, I’ve been trying to see if I could become friends with the other people in my dorm building. Last Wednesday I went to the dorm meeting and everyone there was Danish. They all kept speaking in Danish, and when they did speak in English, it felt really forced and they kept looking at me, making sure to let me know that they’re speaking English just for me. After 40 minutes of that awkwardness, I excused myself and left early.

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Glad the crappy week is over

The past few days have been, to use an Alanis word, “tumultuous.”

My brother played this silly game on Facebook, where he put an Alphabetical letter on a bunch of my pictures. Then he said, “It’s an anagram.” And knowing me, I was anxious to solve it. The letters were S-T-H-G-E-I-E-L-W-O. My first guess was “glow shit.” Then I was eating my sandwich and that’s when I figured it out: “Lose Weight.”  That jerk. Yes, I know I probably gained like 20 pounds in the last 2 weeks or so. And looking at my pictures, I agreed, I was becoming pretty chubby to say the least. So starting yesterday, I’m back to working out and eating less. Funny thing, my body weight fluctuates like crazy. I can be lean one week, then chubby the next. And I admit I have a food binging problem and I should stop.

The Copenhagen trip was kind of bad. Despite the fun captured in the pictures in my last entry, it was really miserable at times. We were all in a high stress environment and almost all our daylight hours were spent working on our reporting. By Friday I had finished all my reporting and videotaping and was about to create my news video. Then the worst, unimaginable thing happened: I found out almost all of my reporting footage had been accidentally erased. When I turned on my tape, most of it was of my room. I had accidentally hit the “record” button while I was transcribing my notes. Now, I told you guys before I’m not a cryer. But at that moment I wanted to bawl. All of my best work had been deleted, gone forever.

I stayed up until 2 a.m. making this shitty video yesterday out of the few scraps left on my tape. I was so mad at myself. It could’ve been so much better.

 

Suggested headline: Denmark plans to put clean energy on the map

 

 

In keeping up with its reputation worldwide as an environmental trailblazer, Denmark is getting ready to unveil its latest project: an interactive online map that identifies the locations of clean energy companies and organizations.

Set to launch in early 2009, EnergyMap.dk would enable organizations to show what they are doing to combat climate change and promote renewable energy while letting Internet users see what kind of clean energy practices are going on in their area.

Its premiere date will coincide with COP15, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and is handled by Climate Consortium, a public-private partnership set up to help promote Denmark for that conference.

“You could say it’s a dating portal. But it’s business dating because it works with profiles and these profiles are then displayed on the cases that are shown on the map,” said Hanne Roulund, an adviser at the Confederation of Danish Industries (DI) which helped develop the concept of EnergyMap.dk. She said the site could also promote climate-related events and provide official delegations or environmentally-conscious travelers with routes to see some of the things on the map.

The concept of EnergyMap.dk started out in early 2007. According to Roulund, the idea originated in VE-Net, the Danish hi-technology network for renewable energy. The Danish Energy Industries Federation (which is part of DI) runs this network together with the Danish Technological Institute, and the Danish Energy Industries Federation was responsible for developing the concept of EnergyMap.dk.before the reins were handed over to Climate Consortium.

EnergyMap.dk is, in a sense, similar to San Francisco’s SolarMap, which launched last year and aimed to promote solar energy by allowing residents and organizations to chart where they have installed solar panels. Roulund said she came across the Solar Map last year, but that EnergyMap.dk would take the mapping premise and take it several steps further.

“There are some similarities because there are things charted on a map,” Roulund said. “But it would be organized a different way, with contact as the main focus. It’s going to be result-oriented in a sense that it’s focused on making contacts so that people who are searching for solutions are able to find the companies or the reasons behind the solutions. It’s a tool to help other countries, other companies, other actors live up to the climate goals and swap climate solutions in a more practical way.”

Johanna Partin, the renewable energy program manager for San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, which handles the Solar Map, said she has not yet been aware of EnergyMap.dk, but that mapping tools can help promote environmentally-friendly practices.

“We found this to be a very useful tool in helping residents to get a sense of our existing solar installments, and as a resource in helping them understand whether or not it’s good for their building,” Partin said by telephone.

Currently, the Climate Consortium is working on getting organizations and companies to sign up in anticipation of the Web site’s launch.

“It’s a question of us telling everyone to start feeding in all the information that is required so you can have your individual slot,” said Finn Mortensen, executive director of Climate Consortium. Although the basic package to sign up is free, Mortensen said, a renewable energy company like Vestas could pay extra to show a video about its wind turbines on the site.

Extra fact: Denmark is known for being one, including the first country to dedicate a ministry or governmental department to climate change.

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