Blue Pencil

13 Oct

During our visit to Istanbul, my class also had to attend several academic lectures and visits.  One of them was to Mavi Kalem, or Blue Pencil.  Mavi Kalem is a social assistance and charity association established in Istanbul in 1999 after an earthquake in the gulf there.  A group of women decided to do relief work and joined forces and have continued the organization since.

The goal of the organization is to spread and develop charity work and volunteerism.  They work in the Fener-Balat region of Istanbul, an area of Istanbul heavily populated by minorities.  Balat has many Kurds, Greeks, and people from the Black Sea region.  The area is very diverse and faces issues discrimination.  Their target group is children, youth, and women and their focus is on women’s rights, children’s rights and education, empowerment, and participation in the community.

Fener-Balat is a rather dilapidated neighborhood


The people who volunteer and work at Mavi Kalem are not paid.  Many of the volunteers are through the European Volunteer Service.  EVS is sort of similar to Erasmus.  If you come from a state that is a member of the EU, you can travel to volunteer anywhere where there is an exchange set up.  I wish the US had something like that!  It seems like all of the volunteer opportunities abroad cost something for the volunteer.  If I am volunteering, I would prefer NOT to pay for it.  I am already doing enough by giving my time and effort.

On a side note, while we were waiting for our meeting with Mavi Kalem to start, we explored the streets a bit.  We ran into a music video shoot for a Turkish singer.


No idea who the guy is.
But he must be famous in Turkey!


Why is my donut $3?

11 Oct

So after grocery shopping on Sunday, I decided to snag a donut from 7/11 to reward myself.  Reward myself for what you may ask?  I’m not so sure.  For making it back from Turkey and staying in all weekend, alcohol-free, rejuvenating my energy?  Sure, that’s the reason.

But on another note, my donut cost 15kr … costing almost $3 (Okay, $2.75, thanks to the super strength of the dollar lately!)  That is because as of October 1st this year, Denmark passed the first ever tax on saturated fat.

Their goal is to curb obesity in Danes.  It is estimated that 10% of Danes are obese.  In America, over 2/3 of the population is overweight and 34% is obese.  It’s pretty sad that Denmark is making such an effort to curb obesity by imposing this tax while America is over 3x as obese and doing nothing of the sorts.  Take notes future government of America!  Because 4% of deaths per year in Denmark are attributed to obesity.  I cannot imagine what the numbers are in America.

The tax is as follows:
For every solid kilo of saturated fat, 16 kroner will be added.  So that might not make a huge difference day to day, a package of butter being 2.5 kroner more expensive.  But it is estimated that if an average family with two children do not change their fat purchasing habits that it will cost the family an extra 1,000 kroner a year, or roughly $183.

Fair enough, cut out the fatty foods and make the population healthier and thinner!  But apparently the tax has been taking some heat because of some of the foods that the tax has been added to.  Basic foods such as low-fast yogurt, lunch meat, etc. are having the tax added to them.  I understand that for whole-fat milk, processed snacks, etc. the tax should be enforced, but I don’t find it fair to tax literally everything with fat in it.

We will see how it goes! I wonder how much the tax will cost me for the remaining 2 months I am in Denmark.  Perhaps not much, but maybe it will inspire me to cut out those super tasty pastries at Andersen Bakery I pass every day on my way to class.  Not.

Sophia Hagia and the Blue Mosque

10 Oct

The Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque were on our agenda for our first day in Turkey.  It is difficult to imagine that the Hagia Sophia was built in 537 A.D.  That’s when the Danes were up here still living as Vikings.  So incredibly that the Middle East has such a history of civilizations, but today they are not the leading region in the world.

Inside the Hagia Sophia.  Magnificent!

Hagia Sophia

Inside the Blue Mosque
Not so blue anymore! But all the white was once painted blue.

Our view of the Blue Mosque from dinner.
Jakob sure knows how to pick a restaurant!

Beirut, Turkey.

8 Oct

No, I am not bad at geography.  I know Beirut is the capital of Lebanon and not a city in Turkey.  However, did you know that Beirut is big in Turkey?  I am talking about one of my favorite bands, Beirut.  I had the amazing experience of seeing them live this past summer at Lollapalooza and it may have been the best live performance I have witnessed of any band.  Their encore however, was not on any of their EPs or LPs.  Once I finally found the set list from the show, I discovered it is a cover of an old Turkish folk song, Şiki Şiki Baba.

I decided my one mission while in Turkey this past week (besides scoring some awesome harem pants for travel in Morocco next month), was to find out what Şiki Şiki Baba is all about.  I asked our tour guide and he had no idea.

Later in the week, we had dinner with Turkish students from Bilgi University at a traditional Turkish food restaurant.  I thought I would give it a shot and asked the girl next to me if she knew what the song meant.  She explained to me, after consulting with her friends, that the song is just a non-sense, fun song.  But her question for me was, “How do you know about Şiki Şiki Baba?”  Fair enough.  So I told her how one of my favorite bands did a cover of it this summer at the music festival I attended.  When I said it was Beirut, she freaked.  She and her friends ecstatically explained how much they love Beirut and how popular in Turkey he is.  However, she thought they were from the Middle East and I corrected her that they are from America.  I learn from her, she learns from me.  Anyhow, I just thought it was neat that I finally found out what the song means and that Beirut is more popular in Turkey possibly than in America.

Live performance of Şiki Şiki Baba by Beirut

Why Agnes Only Got 30 of My Kroner

2 Oct

I know I raved about Agnes Cupcakes earlier this month, but I have not bought a single cupcake from them since. There are three reasons:

1. They are 30kr a piece ($6 USD)

2. My mom tried to get them to deliver cupcakes to DIS on my birthday and the guy told her he would take care of it, but blew her off. I ended up getting nothing on my birthday. Thanks Agnes

3. I found a new cupcake shop: Serenity Cupcakes!!!!

Alright, I clearly admit it: I have a cupcake problem. While I am in Richmond, I religiously check the Facebook pages of Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe and Carytown Cupcakes for the flavors of the day/week. So once I got here, naturally I would seek out some new cupcakeries. Unfortunately, everything in general is more expensive in Copenhagen. But $6 for a cupcake? And I thought $2.50 was a little much. But so be it, that is the way of Copenhagen.

But in browsing online, I found a new place to try out: Serenity Cupcakes. Agnes has certain flavors for each day of the week, but Serenity’s changes it up day to day, often with new surprises that the adorable lady who owns it whips up. Not to mention, their cupcakes are only 25kr, an ENTIRE DOLLAR cheaper. Okay, so that’s not a huge difference, but hey, I am a broke college student; I’ll take what I can get.

When I first entered the bakery, I fell in love. The decor is exactly how I would imagine my cupcake shop to be if I were to open one some day. Lavender EVERYWHERE! Everything was so girly and adorable, exactly how a cupcake shop should be. Agnes on the other hand is way too commercial for my tastes; it does not invoke the Danish concept of hygge in my opinion like Serenity’s. Okay, so great great, the venue is perfect. But what about the cupcakes? All I can say is super-lækker (or incredibly delicious)!

Serenity Cupcakes

So far, I have been back three times for cupcakes.  The first time, I dragged Robin, my visiting family brother, along to try them out with me one day after class.

Blackberry Cupcake
Note the cute sparkles and sprinkles on top!

Then it’s totally possible that the very next day I dragged Kali along with me.  We each bought a cupcake and shared them.  Sorry for being a bad influence… I know I’m a cupcakholic.  The first step to recovery is admitting the problem.

Our cupcakes at Serenity’s!

Autumn in New York
Pear and Plum cupcake

Rocky Mountain
Where Kali is from!

And then 4 days later I convinced Avery to go with me.  Told you, I am a horrible friend.  Unless getting my friends hooked on cupcakes is a good  thing!

Pumpkin Paradise! Cream cheese frosting!
My absolute favorite so far. It was moist and so tasty.
Perfect for welcoming fall.

On a side note, I am writing this post from Istanbul!  I will be writing many a posts in the next few days/week about my adventures here.  To tide you over, here is the view from where I ate dinner tonight of the Blue Mosque.

No I did not use zoom.  Yes Istanbul is now the most beautiful city I have ever visited.  Yes I have only been here for a day.

Fairytale Island

1 Oct

To wrap up my series on my trip to Funen, I’m actually going to share a bit about Funen and what I saw.  Funen is an island in between mainland (Jutland) Denmark and Zealand, the island where Copenhagen is located.  The island is super adorable, with small fishing villages and colorful cottages with thatched roofs.  Embarrassing as it is to say, I thought this was what I would find in Copenhagen.  So naturally, I was delighted to get to see Funen during my time in Denmark.

Fishing Village

We stayed in Odense overnight after the castles and before hitting up the H.C. Andersen museum and a 19th century Danish village.  Odense is the third largest city in Denmark (167,615! so tiny for being the third biggest in Denmark!).  It is full of culture, as past kings have spent much of their time there.  It was also the birthplace of author Hans Christian Andersen (you know, the Little Mermaid, the Ugly Duckling, the Princess and the Pea…).

And yes, most every street looks like this! So adorable!

Told you! More cute streets

Hanging out with HC

Andy Warhol of an HC cutout of Thumbelina

Just hanging out with a Viking king, NBD

The Funen Village, a 19th century Danish replica village

Loving all the windmills in Scandinavia!

Castle Number 3: Egeskov Slot

30 Sep

Still on Funen, I visited my third castle of my travels this fall.  We visited Egeskov Slot, a 14th century castle.  The name means “oak forest” because supposedly it took a whole forest of oak trees to build the foundation.  It is located in the middle of a small lake and the only way to access it back in the old days was by drawbridge.  The castle is the best preserved Renaissance water castle in Europe.  The gardens surrounding it are absolutely gorgeous!

The Danes seem to really love to hunt

This was one of a TON of rooms of a dollhouse that was built for a daughter of someone living here at one point.  The entire house was intricate, and actually, was built for fairies, not dolls.  I wish I were a fairy and lived there.

These little guys just sauntered around the corner to surprise me!