Abandon Ship

I've been in NYC for a week now and my relationship with this city is alarmingly still alive and well. I fell in love with its energy at the age of 18 and can confidently say that it is the one city that continues to romance me. When I resided here for a summer while working on a project, I felt ever so present and confident with myself, and every year that I come back, I experience new happenings (and, of course, food) that also somehow reflects the relationships that encompass me during that particular time. This is a place where being independent is everyone's core, but it's also a place where you're allowed to cry in the midst of strangers. (Google it. Tumblrs galore.) I love it.

When I was living here a few years ago, I loved having permission to be independent and free. I read a record amount of books during my daily commute, nomadically wandered around the city without a care in the world, and felt strangely communal with total strangers who were also happy to be given permission to just be themselves. I grew strong.

Since I left and have been residing in Chicago for the past few years, I feel as though that I may have lost some of that strength. I'm not sure if I still have the pillars I built for myself while I was here - or, they just might not be as foundational to how I operate right now. I'm also strangely not panicking about this realization. 

Carnegie Hall

The other night, I went to Carnegie Hall to see a piano recital. The pianist happened to be a Korean girl who graduated from the same college that my mother graduated from so that was something. She was going to be playing music from 3 different composers that I am fond of so I was ecstatic for an evening of sound.

I got there a bit early so that I could sit in Carnegie Hall's presence. It's a gorgeous place that is majestic in its existence, and you should try and pay a visit if you're ever in NYC. I took some photos and waited for her to begin. 

The first half of the performance went well. I could tell she was a bit nervous but I could also tell that she had been training herself to fall into the music with honest artistry while performing. She was good. Everyone else in the room thought so as well. 

But the second half of the recital was what I was really excited about. It was separated into two pieces: Richard Cornell's Lutine Bell and Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No.6 in A Major, Op.82. During Cornell's piece, she played her heart out and was able to express her tone through the piece that is different from other performers. It was quite beautiful and the audience was pleased. 

And then it went silent. For 3 straight minutes. 

The room started to stir tension and began to look to others in the audience for some sort of affirmation of the confusion that was flooding the room. She then looked at us and stated:

"Thank you for coming to my recital. I really appreciate it. At this time, I cannot finish my performance. Thank you, again, for coming."

She walked off stage, the lights came on, and the room trickled out.

On my way home I thought about what she did and why she did it. I also wondered, if I were in her situation, "Would I be able to do that? Just walk off stage and quit?" It was bold, embarrassing, human, and a litter of other adjectives that would take a while to list off. "Did she forget? Did she panic? Was she feeling like she performed her last piece so well that she wanted to walk out on top?" I literally have no clue.

I know I've written my analysis on a lot of situations but this experience is beyond me. I'm still not quite sure how I feel about it and I'm not sure I care to. It was strange and puzzling.

I grabbed a slice of pizza and shrugged it off. Have you ever abandoned ship like that?

Solfinn + Family

Remember when I went to that pop-up dinner from Rødder? And then they invited me to their wine shop the day after? I went and had a wonderful hang with them. 

One of the things that Rødder prides itself on is their knack for finding natural wine that is oh so delicious and wonderful. I bought a bottle to gift the Airbnb that I was staying at but felt tempted to bring it back home to the states with me instead.

Inside the store there are rad posters of bands and just a quaint space where you can tell most of the finances and emailing takes place for this small business. 

The sweetest treat of the day, other than the amazing rosé they opened and shared, was the arrival of Solfinn's daughter who was dressed oh so french and chic. 

I also met Solfinn's wife who had apparently designed some of the posters that were inside the wine shop. She is an architect by trade and told me that she will be returning to work in a few months.

She was so social and playful the entire time and was also very curious when it came to my camera. (Photographed here is also the international phenomenon, Sophie la Girafe)

Solfinn and his beautiful family. They had just spend 3 weeks in Paris for their holiday and were back in Denmark to cook up a storm.

I was so pleased to be able to hang out with just awesome people and I really felt all the kindness ooze out of everyone. Maybe it was the weather that day or it could've been the wine but it was just so chill. 

I love good people.

Danish Culture

During the first part of my trip while my friend was traveling with me, two of the hosts we met at the Airbnb mentioned that Danes aren't very friendly and that they are hard to get to know. I heard this a few times throughout my trip but the more I spent time in Denmark, the less I believe this to be true. 

I thought about why I didn't experience this distance between myself and the Danes and I concluded that it could be because of my Korean culture. Both cultures are pretty reserved and it takes a bit of time to create bonds and friendships with people.

There are no good or bad sides to this. It's simply just the way certain populations work. But like I said, I did not experience this and I believe it is also partly because I met so many people in the arts as well as the restaurant service industry who were all so welcoming, friendly, and kind. 

Fie, one of the girls I met at Alhambra & Sons, was kind enough to extend a sincere welcome and offered to take me to the part of town where she grew up. I was floored by her kindness and gladly received it. We actually talked about this activity of invitation during our hang out and she too said that it is out of a Dane's norm to ask someone out to dinner and a get-together so quickly. At this point, I could care less because all I felt was warm, sincere kindness from a human to another human. 

I learned so much about Fie and her family during the few hours we spent time together. She showed me her hometown which was a gorgeous place that had rich history and lovely architecture. We talked about many things and she shared with me her Christmas traditions (Christmas is celebrated profusely in Denmark - something I am dying to experience), lovely stories about her family, and hilarious jokes about the current state of Danish politics. All I could think was, "This is so wonderful. She is so wonderful. How did I get here?"

Some facts about Denmark

1) In the old days, there were dog statues in the windowsill of many homes. Why? You're going to love this. 

Apparently, some of the women of this town didn't enjoy monogamy so whenever the dogs were facing out towards the street, it meant that their husbands were home. When their husbands left, however, they turned the dogs to face inward - to beckon in their lovers. Ha. I couldn't stop laughing at this story. There are also these old contraptions of mirrors by the windows to spy on the street and everything. Such clever ladies, I'd say.

2) Danish people never complain. 

This was the view from where we were eating. Gorgeous.

We ate by the seaside and I ordered a Coke Zero for my fried, seafood meal. Don't ask me why but I love Coke Zero and can tell the difference between Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and just Coke. Ew. I'm grossed out at myself after reading that sentence. Anyway, what I had received initially was Coke and after a couple of sips, I asked the waitress if she would bring me a Coke Zero instead of the Coke. Simple mishap - could happen anywhere, right? Oh man was I in trouble. Fie was kind enough to smooth out the situation but after the waitress left, she told me, "Yeah... Danish people don't complain about those things." 

I was utterly humiliated but allowed myself to slowly forget about it as we continued to eat and share stories about our lives. I felt really awful about not keeping to cultural specifics because I felt as though I had bad manners in that moment - but I guess this is why we travel. To encounter these kinds of moments and re-evaluate why we do things on a day-to-day basis. 

3) Be very afraid of geese. 

This is a seaside pool where locals come to hang out. Nearby, the goose farm exists.

Roasting and eating a goose during Christmas is actually a thing in Denmark.  I think it originated here and there was a goose farm pretty close to the seaside. Coming from a Korean family, I never knew what you were supposed to eat during Christmas and our family quickly decided to not figure it out but to feast on grilled meats on a tabletop grill. Fie shared that during the early winter months, children would wander together to the community pool by the lake but would be firmly warned to stay away from the geese. Fact: They can get to be the size of little ponies and can attack people if provoked. How do you categorize this? First world problems? Someone help me. 

I was so thankful to have had this experience with Fie. She also took me to Denmark's famous ice cream shop called Ismageriet where I had delicious elderberry ice cream with marshmallow goo on top. Just thinking about it makes me want another taste.

There is always a line but it goes quickly. Be prepared to know what you're going to order when you get to the front! (You can also taste as many samples as you'd like but the people behind you may judge.)

UX notes: Just like cultures have their own set of manners and rules for how things should behave, digital products informally have rules for proper manners as well. For example, asking for a credit card to test out a trial run for an app? That's bad manners. Hiding a button to encourage an accidental invite to everyone you've ever had an email exchange with in your life as LinkedIn connections? Bad manners. It is important to look at the culture of what positive manners products are producing and follow suit. Otherwise, where is the human culture in technology?

More Visual TREATS:

Traveling to København

Photo Credit: Ping Yi Wang

Photo Credit: Ping Yi Wang

I thought it was important to go somewhere I didn't know too well during a sabbatical but to also stay away from over extending myself during this important time I have. Traveling can be exhausting so I committed to stay put even though it was very tempting to plan trips to Paris, Berlin, Prague, and the list goes on. 

For me, I planned to go to Copenhagen, Denmark. I chose Copenhagen because I had been there with a friend of mine for a few days before a graduate school trip and I absolutely fell in love with it. Besides being a design Mecca, there was something about that city that initially attracted me. The vibe, bikes, design, fashion, and so much more. 

So I flew. And landed safely. (I've recently acquired a fear of flights so I was happy the flight was successful.) 

My friend Ping from New York came with me and she planned to adventure around with me for the first week. Here is an accidental photo while we were trying to take a selfie.

My immediate experience after landing:

Being in the User Experience + Service Design industry, I want to share my first experience I had when landing in Denmark. 

A Simple Feedback Kiosk

I had to purchase a train ticket to get into the city and after doing so, I was met with a feedback engine. Very simple and direct but it enticed me to give my opinion which is very good in the UX world.

The person who helped me purchase my train ticket was kind enough to tell me exactly how to get to the particular train I needed to go to and was pleasant to converse with during my transaction.

I pushed the green happy face to the far left. 

Good start to the trip.