342, 342, 342. I keep repeating these numbers to myself. I just pulled a little red slip of paper from a hat with this number on it. I’ve already managed to misplace the slip. It would seem that my purse has stopped performing its normal duties as assigned. So I repeat this number over and over in my head so I know where to sit for dinner. That’s the system for this evening’s activities. Assigning each student with a number is really the only way to effectively seat 800 exchange students for a meal.
At the time we are instructed to find our seats I wander away from the friends I know (and would like to dine with) and weave through the sea of tables. Each table is adorned with candle lighting and place settings for 6 new strangers I am about to meet. I find my table and take my place with two guys from Italy, a guy from Germany, a girl from Norway, a girl from Taiwan, and a guy from Denmark. We do the normal introductions consisting of name, home country, and where we live now. A few bits of small talk are sprinkled in like “Yes, my place is in a great location, but we share one bathroom among ten people. But I look at it this way, if the next place I live I only share a bathroom with eight people I’ve moved up in the world.” (That’s my standard response to my living situation. I’ve grown tired of saying it over the past two weeks.) After we cover the standard information the conversation turns to my political views as an American. Hmm, and I was just starting to enjoy my election free existence in Denmark.
I try to form a few politically correct, non offensive sentences and then I attempt to change the subject. I say, “So earlier today I went to the European Strong Man Competition with some friends. And let me tell you, you’ve never truly lived until you see a bunch of burly dudes lift barbells as heavy as a horse and pull a tractor trailer.” Now I know this sentence could incur one of two responses. A: “Hey that’s hilarious and fascinating, please tell me more about European body builders.” or B: “Umm ok, that’s a bit strange and when did your body builder fetish begin?” I garner the table’s response as someplace in between. But seriously, this topic is pure gold, much more fascinating than politics, and absolutely truthful as to my whereabouts for the day.
A guy that lives upstairs from me had found out about the Strong Man Competition a few days ago. When he mentioned that he and a few other people were going, I jumped at the chance. (Actually I’m not even really sure I was invited – I may have invited myself.) We took the train out to Klampenborg. The competition was scheduled to take place in the amusement park. We exit the train and follow the crowd into the park. Apparently others thought this seemed like a nice way to spend the day as well. We arrive just in time for the tire roll. Two beefy guys move a tire that is taler and wider than me into a roped off arena. And the games begin! The announcer is yelling something in Danish. His voice is the equivalent of an announcer for the Monster Truck Rally. The only thing I can make out is that the next contestant is Richard Dennis. I decide I will become Richard Dennis’ biggest fan! He steps up to the tire and begins to flip it from one side of the arena to the other. A series of beefy men follow Richard Dennis’ lead. From what I can tell there is a gentlemen named Boris and another character named Mr. Pederson, but that’s all I can make out from the announcer’s yelling.
My support and devotion to Richard Dennis prove to be helpful, he wins the tire portion of the events. The competition moves onto the stage. Everyone gathers to watch these men lift a barbell with an insane amount of weight. The first round seems effortless for these men. It is as if the announcer casually yells “hey can you get that out of the way for me? I’m expecting company.” The next round proves to be more difficult as more weight is added. Now, I don’t know exact weights since I haven’t really caught onto the whole kg thing and I haven’t been practicing my numbers in Danish. (On a side note, I’d like to write someone in the US a letter about Celsius vs. Fahrenheit, liters vs. gallons, miles vs. kilometers, pounds vs. kg. We are the only backwards country in the world not on the same metric system!) I think I heard 180 kg at one point. So that’s roughly 400 pounds. Crazy! I need to befriend these European behemoths so I have a good person to call next time I need to move a piano or an elephant or a small beach house. In the days when my dad, uncles, and grandfather had to relocate out double seater outhouse in Maine, these men would have been handy to know.
As the weight piles on the contestants dwindle. My hero from the tire race, Richard Dennis, goes down in a blaze of glory. He dislocates his arm from his shoulder. Richard Dennis’ arm dangles from his body and I turn to the guys next to me to say “That happened to my mom once, but somehow it didn’t seem quite as impressive. I’ll tell her to work on theatrics for the next time.” Large men come to his rescue to return his arm to proper order. I guess this is an occupational hazard that Richard is used to because he considers competing in the next event. He reconsiders and drops out of the strong man competition. My hero has fallen. He had good timing though, because we have to leave to catch the train back for dinner. I wish I could have stayed longer. I wanted to hold out to see the horse toss or something like that. But alas, my time at the Strong Man competition has come to a close.
We walk out of the park talking about all the cool things we just witnessed. We are like little kids who just rode their first roller coaster. We talk about the day’s events all the way home. I can’t believe the people sitting at this table with me aren’t impressed with my choice of conversation topic. I guess you had to be there. . .
In case you’d like to brush up on your foreign body building. . . actual footage.