My return to Northern Europe marked the beginning of another end. My European leg was coming to a close and I had nominated Copenhagen as the place I would wait out my visa application for India. This was largely due to the fact that my cousin lives there (and the visa office’s murky responses about how long it would take to process my application). His inevitable offer of a place to crash was a welcome respite for my increasingly destitute bank account and I accepted happily.
As chance would have it, his housemate had just found an old bike, abandoned through no failure of function and ready to go. So I was the happy recipient of a large orange single-speed, free to take my place in the well-populated cycle lanes of the Danish capital. The old Dutch habits came back easily and, with my visa application lodged, I was soon speeding my way towards Christiania and all it promised.
I’m not sure how you picture an exchange, if you’ve never been on one. I’m not even sure that I had a picture in my mind when I upped and left Auckland at the end of last year. The Exchange Office’s propaganda promised “international experiences” and “new friends;” and the walls in their office were crowded with pictures of people in exotic locales smiling maniacally for the camera.
At the final meeting there were murmurings that things mightn’t all be roses and sunshine, and that we should prepare for “culture shock” – but I paid them little heed. I’d been overseas before and knew what was to come, more or less: crazy nights, hot girls and little responsibility getting in the way.