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Keep Your Friends Close and Your Wallet Closer

By Ashlyn

The Danish word of the day is mister.

The definition of the word is to lose.

On Sunday the sun managed to struggle out from behind the clouds for longer than a 20 minute clip. My friends and I felt optimistic about the weather, so we left the house in search of the magical land of Christiania.

Christiania is a not-so-secret secret “alternative living community” nestled in the heart of Copenhagen. A relic from the early 70s, the town has been built up almost by hand by its inhabitants, who live free (almost) from the rules and laws that govern the rest of Denmark. Imagine, if you will, walking into a huge abandoned theme park that is full of trash, graffiti, and weird-looking structures that are partially covered in uncut grass and moss. Now picture huge, psychedelic murals wrapping around almost everything in sight. Now add the persistent scent of smoke and garbage that hasn’t been taking out. That’s Christiania, in a nutshell.

The walk we took was fascinating. We strolled down muddy sidewalks, viewing the homes of the inhabitants of the “free town.” Many were built up from scratch from scrap materials. Some were made from abandoned warehouses and buildings. We saw makeshift children’s playgrounds, organic food restaurants, and plenty of flowers growing everywhere. There was even a stable deep inside the neighborhood, filled with horses and one sweet looking donkey.

Just outside there was a bakery called Lagkagehuset (a chain popular in Denmark) so we popped in to get a quick dessert. I ordered a pastry with custard in the center. As we stood huddled around a table, munching, a family suddenly came in with a sick child. The child was coughing abnormally, and not wanting to get sick in a foreign country (even though Denmark’s healthcare system is excellent), we decided to eat the rest of our pastries on the go. It was a 20 minute walk back to our dorm.

Climbing up the steps to my room was when I realized – I had lost my wallet. Now, losing your wallet in a foreign country isn’t like losing it at home. It sucks either way, but losing your wallet abroad is like losing your lifeline. I immediately panicked. All of my ID cards, plus my debit card and some cash was in there. My first instinct was to contact my parents and ask them what to do. But… when you’re thousands of miles away from home, you have to figure things out on your own. You can’t rely on mom and dad to help you because they physically can’t. Luckily, my roommates are sweet girls and helped me figure out the phone number of the bakery we had visited (the last place the wallet had been seen.)

Luckily, and due in large part to the kindness and honesty of the Danes, my wallet was still at the bakery. I’ve never run a mile so quickly in all my life. As I approached the counter the women behind it laughed a bit and told me to be more careful next time. When they gave it over to me, not a single item had been touched or moved. Back home in D.C. I doubt I would have been as lucky. I might have gotten the wallet back, but the cash and card would likely have been lost.

So what I learned this week was this - keep your belongings close when you’re away from home. Remember that you have to rely on yourself (and your good friends) to tackle tough situations. This can seem like a bad thing, but it’s actually a good thing. It’s a chance to test yourself, to grow a little in terms of maturity and learn how to handle situations more calmly. You need to be flexible and independent to travel abroad – and, even if you’re neither of those things (like me), you’ll learn quickly on the job.

…And one last word: thank you to whomever found my wallet at Lagkagehuset and turned it in without stealing from it. You’re a life saver!