Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Aarhus Film Festival (part 2)


So I arrive at the Aarus station and drag my luggage up the stairs to... an indoor mall-like area. A ticket sales counter, a bunch of restaurants, some clothing stores and when I walk North I exit to the street, South takes me to a huge shopping mall with dozens of stores. Everything is written in Danish - I can’t tell what is a restaurant and what is a ladies lingerie store. But it doesn’t matter - I’m looking for the cardboard sign with my name on it. Hundreds of people in the train station - no cardboard signs at all. Well, they have my photo on their website, so they know what I look like, all I have to do is wait for a while. And wait. And wait.

No one comes.

After a half hour, I decide to make my own cardboard sign. I write my name on a piece of paper and hold it up as I drag my luggage around the mall. Then I go outside to the street with my sign and stand there for a while.

No one comes.

All of the signs are in Danish and everyone around me is talking like the Swedish Chef from THE MUPPET SHOW. I haven’t slept in over 48 hours and I need a bed - now. I continue to wander around dragging my luggage and displaying my sign.

No one comes.

The kink in my neck from being crammed into the airplane for a dozen hours is getting worse - I need to get to my hotel right now....

No one comes.

After an hour I begin to worry. I’m in a strange city, I don’t speak the language and I can’t even tell what the signs mean. I dig through my bag for something that might have festival information on it - and realize that almost everything has been by e-mail that I have *not* downloaded to my laptop. It’s still available on line, but how do I get online? Then I find my copy of my contract for the event - no phone number, but it has an address on it. Great! I now have a destination!

Outside the train station is a huge city map. I drag my luggage down the steps and across the bumpy cobblestone walkway to the map. I look for the name of the street on the contract - hoping that it is close by. There are buses that pass in front of the train station - but everything is in Danish. How can I tell which is the correct bus? I look over every street name on that map... and none are the street on the contract. But all of the names have weird letters - letters we don’t have in English. Maybe the street name translates to something else? This language this is a huge problem.

Well, there are a couple of taxis by the train station, so I’ll take a cab to the festival address - and from there they can take me to my hotel where I can sleep. I get into cab and point to the address on the contract... and the driver says he has no idea where that street is. He speaks English and has been in 38 states in the USA on vacation. I tell him I’m from Los Angeles, and we discuss Pink’s Hotdogs while he’s feeding the street name into his GPS...and a map pops up. "Okay, I know how to get there now." We drive away from the train station... and down a very long street... and onto a highway that takes us away from the city. "You’re sure this is the right way?" "Oh, yes." We drive on the highway - through fields and farms. Something is wrong. Could it be a typo on the film fest letterhead? What if I end up in the middle of nowhere in a country where I don’t speak the language and have no way to contact anyone for help?

My cell phone doesn’t work here. That’s going to cause a problem later on, because I used to wear a pocket watch but now I just use my cell phone clock to tell time... and it isn’t working. So I’ve been using my iPod clock which I’ve set to Copenhagen time.

We drive so far away from the city we hit another city - actually a suburb of Aarhus. And drive down a small road to a nice little neighborhood... and the address on the festival letterhead ends up being an apartment. Must be a mistake! Except one of the names on the apartment building’s legend is the Festival Director’s - she’s running this out of her home! I pay the cab driver 250 kroners and push the buzzer - no answer. I push it again - nothing. Of course she isn’t home - she’s somewhere running the film festival or maybe waiting for me at the train station. The cab driver is about to take off and I stop him. I put my luggage back in the cab and ask him to take me back to the train station. Sure, why not? He gets another 250 kroners. He’s just made 500 kroners for driving around in a circle.

Back at the train station exhaustion and panic kick in. I have no way to contact the film festival people and really need to sleep. What if I never find them? I’ll have to find a hotel for the night and pay for it out of pocket (so far I’ve paid for my plane ticket and train ticket and the taxi... but they are supposed to reimburse me for the plane ticket.) How many kroner do I have left?

How much does a hotel cost?

I come up with a genius idea - I buy a newspaper and look for some mention of the film festival. Sure, the paper is in Danish, but maybe "cine" or "film" looks the same. I read the entire paper - nothing that looks like a film festival story. Okay - next plan.

Well, I have all of these e-mails online form the festival, if I can find a way to get online, I can access them... and maybe they have a phone number. That seems like the solution. All I need is an Internet Café or maybe a Starbucks (for wifi access). I ask someone if they speak English (yes - most seem to) and where the nearest Starbucks is (strange look as if I were speaking a foreign language... okay, I was speaking a foreign language to them, but I thought they might understand). Everyone I asked gave me a really strange look when I asked about Starbucks.

Okay, maybe there’s a Danish word for Starbucks that I don’t know. So I start asking about Internet Cafes. Nobody knows where one is - and this doesn’t surprise me much. If you live in Aarhus you probably have internet at home and don’t need to know where a rental computer is.

One girl tells me there is a library with computers I can use and points me to the deep city.

Okay - I’ll drag my luggage to the library. Maybe there’s a pocket map I can buy at the train station ticket office that shows me where the library is. They not only have a map - it’s *free* to travelers. I grab it and try to find the library... and notice an advertisement on the border of the map for a computer gaming café... with internet. That becomes my new destination. I drag my luggage on cobble stone streets all the way across town to the gaming café.

Those little wheels on your luggage were not designed for cobblestone streets. That coffee I had on the train a couple of hours ago has worn off long ago, and I catch myself dozing off while waiting for a green light to cross the street. My luggage is also fighting me in other ways - my computer bag keeps slipping off my shoulder. I just have too many things to juggle for a city with cobblestone streets and a guy with no sleep for 48 hours. I keep my eyes open for a Starbucks - maybe I don’t have to walk all the way to the gaming café?

No Starbucks.

I pass a McDonalds, and remember a recent news article that the McDonalds food in Denmark has much much lower fat than McDonalds in the United States. Nice to know, but it doesn’t help me with the e-mail issue. Since the Starbucks name may be different in Denmark, I keep my eyes open for the logo.

No Starbucks.

I also keep my eyes open for an Internet Café - but all of the signs are in Danish and I have no idea what they say. Is that a restaurant or a gay bar? Can’t tell from the signs. I wonder what the word "internet" would look like in Danish? Some words might have common origins, but new words might be totally different. For all I know, I’m passing dozens of Internet cafes - I just don’t know it.

I know I’m not passing any Starbucks. In Los Angeles, there’s a Starbucks every couple of miles. In London there are more Café Neros... but still enough Starbucks that I would have passed three or four in the amount of walking I’ve done. The kink in my neck is getting worse - and the heavy laptop bag isn’t helping. In this weakened state, I’m afraid my neck will be ripped right off. And I have to get all the way cross town to this gamer’s cafe... unless I can find a Starbucks.

What if there are no Starbucks in Denmark?

I drag myself and my luggage all of the way to the other side of town where a river cuts through the city and everything becomes 2 levels - one at the water and one at the street overhead. My gaming café is on water level, which means I have to drag all of my luggage down a steep stairway. My luggage is so heavy to me at this point that it almost pulls me down the stairs a couple of times. I fall and die in Denmark.

I get to the gamer’s café and they have 3 computers - I rent one for half an hour. Everything is in Danish - what do I click on to get English? What do I click on to start? I make an arbitrary decision and get to Explorer. Get my e-mail. Find the piece from Marina at the festival.... and it not only says she will meet me at the trains station, at the very bottom it has her cell phone under the signature. Now here is the dilemma - do I call from here or go back to the train station and call from there? I’m guessing she is closer to the train station than this odd bi-level section of the city where the gaming café is (called the Latin Quarter - it’s the grungy place where all of the punk bars are). Okay, I guess I’m dragging my luggage across all of those cobble stone streets to the railroad station.

I get back to the railroad station and am now a sweaty mess - and dead tired. My next challenge is to figure out the payphones - everything is in Danish. I also have to figure out the money so that I know what to put in the payphone. I get this figured out (I hope) and dial Marina’s cell phone.... and she answers in Danish. I have no idea if I have dialed the correct number, so I speak slowly in English. "This is Bill Martell. I am at the train station. Can someone pick me up?" "William Martell?" "Yes." Then she apologizes for forgetting to pick me up and says she will send someone for me in 5-10 minutes.

I wait outside the train station with my little sign and about ten minutes later a cute Danish girl named Siggy walks up to me. She introduces herself, says she will take me to my hotel... a short walk. I’m at the point where taking a taxi half a block makes sense, but I drag my luggage and follow her. My hotel is about 4 blocks from the train station. I have walked all over the city, when I could have just walked four clocks.

Siggy checks me in and says Marina and the other festival organizers would like to meet me for coffee. "Can I take a nap first?" Siggy phones Marina and we decide to meet at 9pm... which gives me four hours to sleep. I take my mag-key, enter the elevator and press the button... and nothing happens. I press it again - nothing. I realize that if I spoke Danish I would have read the instructions to place my mag-key in the slot and press the button. Actually, some trail and error is involved until I figure this out and get up to my room... where none of the light switches work. Again, had I been able to read Danish I would have figured out that my mag-key needs to be inserted in a slot near the front door to operate the lights. The key must remain in the slot. Remove the card, all of the lights (and power) goes out. Once I figure this out, I use the bathroom and realize there is no handle to flush (also - the toilet paper is kind of strange - there’s a cutting blade instead of perforations). I finally figure out that a plastic thing on the wall is both a light and the flush button. I’m sure this makes the bathroom look sleek and modern... but when you haven’t slept in two days it’s hard to figure these things out.

I climb into the bed, set my travel alarm, and sleep for fours hours. The room telephone wakes me up moments before the alarm clock. It’s Marina in the hotel bar, will I be right down? Sure... after I shower.

Marina is a transplanted Russian who has Danish as a second language and English way down the line somewhere. She has accents on top of accents. Siggy is there, along with another very attractive woman (Sigrid) who speaks English very well. They welcome me to the city, buy me a beer (Carlsborg) and when I ask how many people are in my class on Saturday they change the subject. I decide not to bring up my 500 kroner taxi ride - even though she was supposed to pick me up at the train station, I should have brought the e-mail with cell phone number with me. So I’m going to eat the 500 kroner taxi ride. Marina tells me I will also participate on some panels if that is okay with me ("Sure") and do some private consultations with students on Friday and Sunday if that’s okay with me ("I guess that’s okay").

They give me a package that includes a map of the city, my all-access festival badge, the festival’s program, etc. She also tells me that seating for some films may be limited, so I should get a ticket in advance to any movies I want to see. The opening night movie starts at 4:30 pm tomorrow (kind of early) and the opening night party is at 7pm. If I have some spare time tomorrow before the film, they suggest I tour the old town of Aarhus - it’s on the map. I ask where the festival headquarters is... and they point to the convention center of the hotel. Again, instead of walking all over town with my luggage, if I had known this hotel was the center of everything I would have just walked here. They ask if I would like another beer - but I’m so tired I decline. I go back up to my room and I’m asleep almost instantly.

Tomorrow is the first day of the festival, and my laptop battery is dead.

- Bill


James Patrick Joyce said...

they change the subject

Yeah. I'd be dreading what's going to happen next.

They "forgot" to pick you up. Maybe they "accidentally" listed you as Steven Spielberg.

That'd be fun. Just tell the audience that you're Spielberg, throw on a diesel cap and talk about your experiences filming Scary Movie 4

Ryan Rasmussen said...

Denmark is far too awesome for Starbucks. You'll see.

BTW, there's a Internet cafe called Boomtown on the main canal street.

wcmartell said...

And Boomtown is the place I found! And it was awesome.

- Bill

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