I intended to send out this post about three weeks ago, but despite my protests, time is flying by without abandon, and it’s now been over a month since I arrived in Copenhagen.
These past few weeks have been humbling and thought provoking as my core course* delves into Denmark’s colonial past and present, and Europe’s current migrant crisis. It’s made me reflect on what it means to travel.
Europe faces the largest wave of migration since WWII, and was deemed a crisis when a boat carrying about 100 people sank in the Mediterranean last year. Considering the magnitude of the current situation, the number of lives that the next few years, months, weeks will affect.
The migrant crisis in Denmark is loud, yet incredibly silent. I see it and the rest of the city sees it, too – in the newspapers, on the tv, on the Internet. Yet it hasn’t much changed too many people’s daily lives. We still go to school, work, go shopping at H&M, watch our favorite TV shows at home. Some lives don’t depend on this discourse. Ultimately, it’s ubiquity lends itself to its invisibility. Because it is everywhere, it fades into the background, distant hum we can choose to ignore, apart of our landscape that can be cut from frames. And exactly this decision to choose whether or not to pay attention to this discourse which has opened my eyes more so to what it means to be privileged.
For my core course, we went to an “asylaballet” called “Uropa!” a performance integrating ballet, interpretive dance, light shows, electronic music, and six men and women describing their experiences as a refugees, their journeys to Denmark. It’s hard to do the ballet justice with written descriptions. I left speechless, a mixture of sadness, anger, desperation, and awe. I felt useless, but at the same time I felt there was something I was missing, something I must be able to do to help the situation – but what?
Now I wonder what it means for me. What does it mean if I can move freely through the space and throughout Europe, get a student visa, and take a place in Denmark, while someone who needs to leave their homeland, is forced from their past lives with the consequence of death, cannot? I’m not quite sure, but it’s opened my eyes to a lot. I’m enjoying myself immensely in Denmark (great food, good company, easy public transportation) but really, why am I here? It’s plagued me a lot these days. I love this country and the luxuries it’s afforded me. I love to walk around and experience all of the new sights and customs around me. Yet I can’t help but wonder, why do I travel?
I think I’ll write about this more in the near future. Stay tuned. Another update on classes/trips soon to come!