Beaches and Burglaries

We left the summerhouse on Tuesday evening to head to Oslo for the rest of the week. My time on the fjord was quite refreshing after being on the go for so long, getting to eat home-cooked meals and give my feet a break in the sun. My sneakers pretty much never got put on, and my breathing feet thanked me for that. Tuesday evening in Oslo was pretty chill, considering we got in around 8pm and had to grab groceries for the week. We went to bed relatively early and got up the next morning to go to the beach. Marianne had a package coming between 3-4 on Wednesday, so we went to the beach knowing we’d need to head back around 2:30. It was really hot out – the heat has been near record-breaking in Oslo this past week – so we would alternate lying out on the hot sand in the open sun and hopping in the cold waters of the Oslo fjord. Once we cooled off in the water, we’d hop out and dry in the sun only to get wet again with sweat.

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There were tons of naked babies running around (how European), gorgeous Scandinavian couples (I swear there’s something in the water here) and swans unafraid to gather around the humans, one of whom sat guard outside of a baby carriage for a short time (okay I’m actually afraid of swans ever since I got chased by one when I was little). At 2:30, we headed back to the apartment, which is when the real action of the week occurred. Marianne’s flat is on the top floor, and when we got out of the elevator we noticed an oddly familiar sheet sitting outside of the roof access door, which was wide open. Marianne put her key into the deadbolt lock, turning with no success. Then we noticed that there were indentions on the side of the door near where the locks were. “Oh my god someone’s broken in,” says Marianne. 20140726-232817-84497114.jpg There’s no way. I’d left my iPhone and wallet in the apartment since we were going to the beach, had my laptop and passport there. Everything important to me and my travels was sitting inside of that apartment. “They didn’t get in through this door,” I say. “Could they have gotten in through the roof?” I was holding onto the hope that someone tried unsuccessfully and that everything was fine. I climbed up the ladder onto the roof and ran across the hot black ground there to the side overlooking the veranda. The door to the apartment was wide open with the lock busted. I ran back and Marianne was talking to her dad, who had called the police. I go into a full on panic because I’m assuming the worst, that everything is gone, that I’ll have no way to get money or get out of the country, that I’ll have to figure out getting a new phone in a foreign country and have to replace my laptop (which, though small, had a blog post written and ready to go up that I thought I would lose forever). 20140726-232817-84497993.jpg When the police arrived, they couldn’t get the front door open either, so they had to call a locksmith. Marianne’s family – her brother, sister and brother-in-law all showed up. The police were going to take a while, so we left for a café while they took pictures and fingerprints from the scene, and it was more than two painfully nerve-wracking hours before we would realize what was taken. When we got to the café, I used Marianne’s brother-in-law’s “Find my iPhone” app to check for my phone. It said it was still in the apartment, but it couldn’t find my laptop. My laptop wouldn’t have been connected to wifi, so seeing that my phone was still there I had hope. The police called Marianne to survey the scene and tell them what was missing, and finally Marianne’s family and I were able to go back into the apartment. Somehow, all of my things were there except 300 NOK (about $50), which felt like nothing compared to what I thought would be gone. The burglars did manage to steal the Tyvand’s safe, which had silverware and passports in it, and most of her mom’s jewelry and some silver ornaments for their Norwegian national costumes. Things were thrown everywhere and there was fragmented wood surrounding the door to the veranda where they had broken in. After we had checked the apartment, we left to grab sushi and decompress and spent the rest of the evening cooling down in the apartment. We couldn’t be bothered to go into Oslo as we had planned after such a stressful day.

Dear Kragero

This letter brought to you by my laptop surviving a burglary in Norway – more on that next time…

Kragero

Dear Kragero, 

I spent my days with you watching the sun make its slanted path across the sky, not setting until past 10 and never truly getting dark.

Midnight on the Fjord

Your long, easy days helped mend my tired feet. Your cool, salty waters woke me from my lazy naps, the salt curling my hair in the warm breeze.

You were three days of fresh air, sunshine, kayak and motorboat rides and dips in the fjord to cool down in this year’s unusually hot Norwegian summer. You were long talks about politics and culture, about international friends and the trip the Tyvands once took to Siloam Springs, Arkansas, where I haven’t even been.

Kayaking

Meals too were eaten in the open air, underneath a large umbrella to keep us in the shade. Coffee and cereal in the mornings, Italian pizza in the village nearby for lunch, Norwegian salmon or hot dogs in potato tortilla-like buns in the evenings. Would dinner be at 4:30 or 7 or 9 today? Only the day could decide.

Late night dinner

We took a boat ride yesterday, past the islands and through the fjord out to the open sea. We anchored near a small island and jumped off the boat into water that first knocked the air from my lungs but then felt warm under the sun floating on my back. We snacked on Norwegian sweets – one almost like a pancake and the other like some sweet tortilla.

Taking out the boat

As I floated, face towards the sky and body cool under the water, I couldn’t help but think, there is nowhere in the entire world I would rather be than here.

Thank you.

Brennan

Good friends

Out on the boat

Copenhagen, July 17-20

Looking over Copenhagen

Cassidy and I saw Diplo on the Wednesday night before I headed to Copenhagen, giving me only a few hours of sleep before catching the 6:20am train. I slept most of the five-hour ride, which I assume was beautiful, and got into my hostel around noon.

I couldn’t check in until 2, so I grabbed a veggie burger and walked around the Assistens Cemetery, where Hans Christian Anderson is buried. The cemetery is more of a local park than anything, with young (shirtless…) fathers lying on blankets with their babies and couples sharing benches.

I headed back to the hostel and took a well-needed nap on the top of a three-story bunk before waking up to a new girl named Betsy in the bunk below talking to one of our roommates across the room. I heard her say she was from the states, so I rolled over and asked her where she was from: Maryland – only an hour outside of DC. We talked for 20 minutes before I actually got out of bed and we saw what each other looked like.

Christiania

Three 18-year-old English girls who just finished their A-levels came into the room after a short while, and the five of us grabbed a bite to eat before heading to Christiania, which is kind of a free town within Copenhagen. There’s a marijuana market there, lots of artwork, bars, outdoor seating and a large warehouse where a couple hundred people live. We had beers by a lake there and enjoyed the late sunlight until 10:30 before heading back.

Christiania

At the hostel, we met another group of seven Brits interrailing after their A-levels, as well as an American named Maxine, and chatted with them for a while before going on a walk. Most of them intended on going out, but we mostly just wanted to explore.

Copenhagen Opera House

Betsy and I spent pretty much all of our time together, though I took a walking tour by myself. We went to the Danish National Museum and a theme park called Tivoli, where we ran into an Australian girl who took a bike tour with me in Stockholm. We rode a roller coaster there after exploring a bit and then grabbed dinner. We went back to the hostel and spent some more time with the large group of British students.

Tivoli

The next day, Betsy and I went to a really nice food market, where I had a Smorrebrod, which is a traditional Danish open sandwich. Mine had mackerel on it and was by far the best thing I ate in Copenhagen. We also got this Jersey cow ice cream on a stick that was fabulous – mine was sea salt caramel and pumpkin seed and hers was some kind of honey oat flavored. After the food market, we headed to the National Gallery, which had a really nice modern collection.

Secret Tunnel

Two years ago, my friend and I were travelling in Berlin when we met two English-speaking girls – Sisi from Copenhagen and Chloe from Oxford – and ended up spending an evening and a lunch with them. They were both au pairing and had met only a couple months before. Anyway, I told Sisi I was in town and she met up with us at the gallery.

Sisi and Me

It was pretty wild seeing Sisi after such a brief meeting two years ago and catching up on everything. Chloe still lives in Berlin, and the two of them have stayed good friends since we met them. Sisi is back in Copenhagen studying, where the government pays students to go to school. We spent a few hours in the Botanical Gardens, walking around and at a café in Norrebro, the neighborhood our hostel was in and where Sisi lived.

There’s something really special about international friends – regardless of how short of a time you meet them or where you are in your life, it’s always nice to catch up and see them when you are in the same place. There’s this strange openness about these friendships because you know that you having ever connected was by such a slim chance and that the friendships may be just for a day or two where your paths cross. You may never see these people again, but if you do it’s always interesting and welcomed.

Americans in Copenhagen

After grabbing drinks at the café, we said our goodbyes (maybe to one day see each other again, who knows where) and Betsy and I headed back to the hostel. The other American girl we met, Maxine, and I left to see a DJ set by Dillon Francis and Flosstradamus. The show was sick – I moshed for the first time, though it was more of a toned down mosh pit than others – and we left with a new Danish friend to grab some more drinks. 

Flosstradamus

As usual when I have to travel these days, I got almost no sleep before having to get up at 5am to head to the airport for Norway, where I currently sitting on the shore of a fjord sipping on some coffee. Will get back to you on that one. 

A Letter to Stockholm

Skansen

Dear Stockholm,

Thank you for welcoming me to Europe with open arms. Looking back I will remember you by the people I met and the stories they told.

From an American girl finishing up her third session with her favorite tattoo artist, to an English friend who once hallucinated on what he thought was throat medication that his mouth was a jazz bar where a customer kept buying drinks and spilling them, causing him to spit over and over again. And the Swiss friend who hallucinated on something less accidental and took 200 selfies because he thought he was so beautiful.

New Friends

Your stories gave me new ones to tell.

Like giving Diplo a high five after yelling “AMERICA!” at him and drinking too much with the Swedes we met at his show, at an outdoor venue looking over the entire city and the long day’s sun that sets past 10pm.

Before Diplo at Mosebacke Terassen

And like travelling 45 minutes through a daunting subway system to get to a bar that wouldn’t let us in before close, only to meet two Swedish girls who were infatuated by our foreign accents.

“Come out with us tomorrow – our friends will love four cute foreign boys!”

And the boys got so excited about these two Swedish girls while I chuckled to myself wondering if they knew why I wasn’t excited in the same way…

Visiting Skansen

Like a group of us almost crashing our bikes every few minutes on a bike tour because they had back-pedaling breaks instead of handle ones.

Thank you for the stories and the friends, and the wonderful introduction to this continent I don’t think I’ll ever want to leave.

Brennan

Europe: Day 1

I’ve officially made it to Stockholm after an uncomfortable seven hour flight (being 6’2 and sitting in economy just doesn’t ever work out) that I somehow managed to get some sleep on (thanks Benadryl).

It’s raining right now, and I’m exhausted, hence me not feeling too bad about sitting in the hostel for a minute to catch my breath. I’ve been wandering through the city center all day by myself – my friend Cassidy gets in tomorrow, so I haven’t been too concerned with making friends in the hostel just yet. I think most everyone is probably out doing their own thing right now anyway. I’m planning on doing a bike tour tomorrow so I can get better acquainted with the city and maybe meet some new people.

I’d forgotten the feeling of being alone in a foreign city, the awkwardness of ordering things in English and longing to talk to the few people I hear speaking my own language. There’s a strange juxtaposition in feeling independent yet confused and lost. I’m realizing again that I’ll have to put in work to get what I want out of these next couple of months here – learning a few phrases in the local language and going out of my way to make new friends and exploring buddies.

But first I’d like it to stop raining.

A Letter to New York City

Times Square

Dear New York,

I come back to you like an addict, an on-again-off-again lover who feels in his heart that one day we will only be on.

I love the way the cool air of your subway trains almost makes up for the suffocating heat of your platforms, the satisfaction I feel when I snake past frustrating packs of stopped tourists on the sidewalk, the relief of finding a Starbucks without a bathroom line after an over-delayed train ride holding my bladder. 

Though I’ve never called you mine, I hesitate when a stranger asks if I’m a tourist or a local. I proudly recite directions when I know them and tiptoe reluctantly around the many questions I cannot answer about you. 

I leave you today not knowing when we will be back together, or for how long, but the tryst has been satisfying for the time.

Till we meet again.

Brennan 

The Highline

A Letter to Atlantic City

Caesar's Casino

Dear Atlantic City,

Give me my money back.

I did not plan for you. I did not know your beaches bordered casinos, that my nights would be spent with beeping slots and spinning wheels and green tables 

And I wanted another Beyoncé ticket.

Yes, I first walked away from your enticements, even. But patience is a more difficult game than any within the walls of your buildings, and waiting led me back.

And I will not be seeing Beyoncé again.

Brennan

Let’s Run Away

Today marks five days into my grand summer trip, already having taken two planes and four busses back and forth between three different cities. The short of it is that my two friends, Laura Ann and Jodi, flew three separate planes to New York on Friday before bussing to Atlantic City for the weekend, back to New York for a day and then to Baltimore and back on Monday/Tuesday early morning to see Beyoncé. But of course the short of it won’t suffice.

When I first got into New York City, I spent about five hours in Port Authority reading The Bean Trees and waiting for Laura Ann and Jodi to get in (Jodi’s flight was cancelled and she got in late). Of course American Airlines wasn’t satisfied enough with cancelling Jodi’s flight and lost her luggage, promised her twice it would be there Friday night or Saturday morning, then within two days and then finally guaranteed 100% that it would get here Sunday afternoon. Nope – came in at 2am on Tuesday morning, four days later.

Atlantic City nights

We stayed with my friend Jacob in Atlantic City, where I lost more than I’m willing to admit in the casinos (didn’t even realize that was the main appeal of AC) and enjoyed a long day at the beach playing Frisbee and jumping into the cool waters. Jersey was different and the same than expected, as most things are, with plenty of guidos (one of whom hocked a big one on a cop) but also people just wanting to soak in the ocean breeze and sun. The weather was perfect, and it was really good to see Jacob again.

Tossing the day away

It’s funny how Jacob has become friends with Laura Ann and Jodi through me, my friends from home befriending my friends from college. We explained it many times to his family and their friends, assuring them that we weren’t just taking advantage of their house but were all good friends enjoying a reunion.

The crew on Ventnor Beach

From Atlantic City, we headed back to NYC (but for real this time – not just a day at Port Authority) to meet up with our friend Christa, who we are currently staying with. Most of the day was spent shopping for Jodi since she was still wearing her clothes from Friday and American Airlines offered to buy the things she needed for the trip. They originally said up to $100, but that is certainly not enough for toiletries, clothes, underwear and beachwear. We grabbed the biggest pizza I’ve ever seen at one of my faves, Artichoke Pizza, and headed back for the night since we had an early morning.

Monday was our Baltimore day, and of course since things can’t be easy, Megabus sold our bus tickets in front of our faces five minutes before our scheduled departure. We barely managed to make it on standby on the next bus out, which broke down after 40 minutes. No worries though – I managed to snap this cute photo in the grass at the rando New Jersey gas station we got acquainted with! Yes, those pants have both leopard print and faces, and yes, I had to wear my Yoncé outfit all day, which constantly required me to check my pockets, which couldn’t hold my phone and wallet for shit.

Ready for Yoncé

We got to Baltimore just in time for a sit down dinner (phew) and headed straight to M&T Stadium for Bey and Jay. I would write about the show but there are few words that capture the joy I feel when I see Beyoncé live. The production was sick, Bey managed to step up every number from her last show and the interactions between Jay and Bey were beautiful. I won’t say I didn’t cry during a good half of the show, especially when a video of Beyoncé riding slow motion on a black stallion appeared on the jumbotrons for a solid minute.

We caught our Megabus (on time) at 1:10am and got back to Christa’s apartment at 5am, and today has been mostly chill, grabbing lunch with Laura Ann’s cousins and hitting up the HBO store for some Game of Thrones shot glasses. Laura Ann is headed out tonight, Jodi on Thursday and me on Sunday, though my journey is just beginning. I’m headed to Stockholm then to begin a two week tour of Scandinavia before heading to London.

The first day of my adult life

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Jonny, Juanita and me during my last week at Northwestern.

In the four months since my last post, I have finished my last semester at Northwestern, gotten my first paid job at SKDKnickerbocker, become an uncle, turned 22, volunteered at two Human Rights Campaign galas, moved twice, obsessed over Beyoncé’s new self-titled album (oh my god Microsoft Word corrects Beyoncé to add the accent!), contributed to marriage equality in Illinois and closed out one of the most important years of my life.

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Me and my adorable newborn niece, Vivian Yee Suen!

Maybe I’ll have time to reflect back on some of these events in blog form, maybe not. Today, however, is a day that screams “BLOG ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS.”

Today marks my first day living in DC as a college graduated, employed adult. It feels weird – a combination of curious, excited, nervous, “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time” (I hate to say it, but the anthem “22” describes my life just six days after my 22nd birthday down to the T-Swift).

I got out of bed at 2:30 today. I start work on Monday, and I wanted to enjoy having nothing to do before I start working 47.5 hours a week. I explored my new neighborhood, called Eastern Market, which I think will be a perfect place to start out my new life. It’s rainy outside, but I didn’t mind. I ate at this nice diner I had heard of called Ted’s Bulletin – grilled cheese and tomato soup – and checked out a few of the other restaurants I’m sure I will be tired of in six months. The food and flea market that Eastern Market was named for was a little bare bones today, probably because of the weather or the later afternoon hours in which I explored it. It’s going to be nice to be able to get up early and buy fresh produce on the weekends.

I’m not quite sure what my living situation is right now. I’ve got a room in what I believe is a law firm operating out of a house, and I think that my landlord, who is a lawyer at the firm, lives somewhere in the house or in an addition to the house. I should have three other roommates, but only one is here and I haven’t met him yet. The room is pretty big, with two closets, a desk and plenty of drawer space. I’ve got a comfy queen bed that I am lounging on as I type this. I’ve got two big windows facing a street filled with row houses, trees and a couple of small but pretty churches, and I’ve been enjoying watching the passersby with their umbrellas in the light drizzle. Vampire Weekend is playing on shuffle, as it has been for the past week since my friend made me get their CDs.

I am anxious about living in DC without knowing many people. I am starting a whole new life here, and that is intimidating. I am most afraid of loneliness; it would be too easy to just work and go home, occasionally seeing the few familiar faces I know here and never meeting new ones. It’s going to take a lot of energy and effort to meet people, and I’m not sure how to get started. At least once work starts on Monday, I will be busy and hopefully meeting some people through that.

Hopefully, three months from now, I can look back on this and think, “wow – I had no idea how many great people and what an awesome time I was going to be having!” It’s always scariest at the beginning of a new chapter, when you don’t know what to expect, which people are going to become your friends or what your routine is going to be. I look back on college and think about how I met the people that ended up being my best friends, how I never would have imagined the impact they would make on me the first time we hung out. How I met my friend Jonny on Facebook before college even started or Juanita walking on the stairs of our student center or Kate on my pre-orientation backpacking trip or Britt in the hallway outside of a friend’s dorm room or Jacob at a party for a student production I had worked on.

First year of college with my best friend, Jonny.

I will admit that it does feel much scarier than when I first started college. College is built for you to make friends, with clubs and class and dorms and events. Aside from work, I am going to have to seek out those things on my own. I’m always open to advice if you’re one of my friends who have already started adulthood.

Here’s to beginning my new life.