Hallie Johnson
2005-06 Outbound to Denmark

Hometown: Orange Park, Florida
School: Ridgeview High School
Sponsor: Orange Park Rotary Club
Host: Rødekro Rotary Club, District 1460, Denmark

September 2 Journal

It’s been almost a month since I left home, and as this is only the first entry, it’s bound to be slightly on the long side. Please bear with me.

The flight over here was absolutely hellish! I got to Detroit OK, but while we were waiting to take off in Detroit some idiot hit our plane with the baggage carrier. We were consequently delayed three hours while they debated whether to put us on a new flight or fix the damaged one. We were eventually put on a new plane and sent on our way to Amsterdam, but we had missed our connecting flight to Copenhagen by that time. When we got to Amsterdam we were rerouted to Copenhagen via Stuttgart. We had the longest layover ever in Germany so that, by the time we got to Copenhagen, everybody who had had a flight somewhere else in Denmark missed it. I and five other exchange students ended up staying the night in a hotel in Copenhagen. The next morning I caught a new flight to Billund, and my family, thankfully, was waiting for me when I got there.

I fell asleep on the ride home, so I missed seeing a lot of Denmark. When I woke up I was in Rødekro and not five minutes from my new home. When we got home I ate, and then unpacked my stuff. The rest of the day passed without much incident. I went to the stables with my sister Iben, ate dinner, met the rest of my family, went back to the stables, then returned and went to bed.

Since the first day, this exchange has been a continuous roller coaster of ups and downs (mostly ups). The first week and a half of my stay was part of the summer vacation and I rather wished it would have stayed that way. I went to Germany three times with my family on shopping expeditions, we went to the circus, I met all my host families and my Rotary Club. It was just a wonderful beginning. Then school started. School is alright, I've made friends with some of the exchange students and with a few kids in class, but it's still school, which means it's waking up early and forcing my brain to concentrate (which is especially hard when you have no idea what is being said). It is however beginning to improve.

I came back yesterday from the Rotary culture camp in Bjerringbro. It was pretty fun. My Danish definitely improved, for which I am thankful. It was pretty boring until about the third day, by which time I had made some really good friends who I hung out with for the rest of the week. We visited this awesome castle, Kalo Castle, and I took almost an entire roll of film there. It was so cool. I can't wait to develop my photos to show you guys. That day we also went to an old city called "Den Gamel By" (The Old City). Unfortunately is was raining when we went, otherwise it would have been really fun; as it was however I spent most of my energy trying, but failing, to keep dry. After "Den Gamel By" we went to Århus for two hours of shopping. I really liked shopping in Århus, and I would really like to go back when I have more money (big smile!).

I am finishing this up during a break in class (three hours of geography is a little much I think). Today I start my Danish lessons at the “Ungdomsskole” (youth school).

Med venlig hilsen

Hallie

October 1 Journal

Today is my two month anniversary in Denmark. I had a little one person party in my room this morning to celebrate.

By this time life in Denmark has begun to settle down. I have a pretty set routine to my life, and I must say I like that. Nothing like calm and order in an exciting chaotic life, that's what I say. But seriously, this routine was what I was looking forward to here. The everyday ordinariness that I loved back home I now have here, just in a different sense. I don't feel like I'm on vacation anymore and it's a very comfortable feeling.

Though I may be glad I don't feel like I'm on vacation all the time, I never mind a brief reprieve. Last Thursday one of my Rotarians and his wife took me to Copenhagen for the day and it was incredible. We got there around 9:30 and Vibica, the Rotarian's wife, and I set off to find the gågade, where all the shops are. Being a little country bumpkin, I was not fully prepared for Copenhagen, though I managed to keep my jaws together. The gågade, walking street, must have been a couple of kilometers long. And the shops. I couldn't have afforded half the things in some stores if I mortgaged my mother's house. Luckily my companion was familiar with Copenhagen, so we were able to come away from our adventure with new things in hand and money still in our purses.

Around lunch time we met Kell, the Rotarian, and proceeded to the Copenhagen fire station, where he had been buying new fire trucks for Rødekro, where we live. (Kell is the chief fire man for Rødekro, don't think I mentioned that earlier). We had a tour of the fire station, and we got to see the room where emergency calls come in, and all the fire trucks, and ambulances. It was really cool. After the fire station, Kell and Vibica decided to show me the sights in Copenhagen. We went to see the Little Mermaid statue. Kell was quite amused over all the fuss made about a such a little thing. Next was the palace where Queen Margarethe and the royal family live while in town, they weren't there when we went. The place was extraordinary. Further beyond the palace was this incredible domed church, and it just so happened to be centered in the middle of the palace so that it looked as though it was a part of it. It was just beautiful. Across the street from the palace is a public garden on the water. Across the water is the new opera house, that was donated to the city by a very large company whose name I can't remember, and the Queen when she's in the mood for opera sails over the to the opera house via these really cool old boats that stayed harbored at the gardens awaiting her commands. It seems so very picturesque to think of the queen descending from her castle, boarding one of the boats and sailing across this tiny river to the opera house.

After the queen's palace we went to Nyhavn, a very popular old street with a great many cafés on the water. My hosts told me Nyhavn used to be an area of disrepute, ten, fifteen years ago, but is now the most fashionable street in Copenhagen. We picked one of the cafés, sat down and had a coffee while listening to jazz music coming from a couple of street performers. By this time we were all getting a little hungry so when we finished our coffees we headed off to Tivoli where we were planning on eating supper.

Tivoli was fantastic, as most everything that day had been. It was really odd to think of this amusement park in the middle of a city. It was dark as we were leaving and Tivoli by day is one thing, but Tivoli by night is a completely different. It's spectacular, like Disney World in Copenhagen. All these lights every where, in trees by the sidewalks glistening off the water. There's this one building, like a miniature Aladdin's castle as you leave, that is especially cool. It's all white, and right next to the water and fully outlined in different colored lights. I had thought it pretty when we came in, but when we left it was magical. Just the effect of it's reflection on the water set off by the dark canopied area right before it. I unfortunately did not take a picture of it, something which I regret severely now. Tivoli was the end of our tour in Copenhagen. We went back to the fire station, which was across the street from Tivoli, because that's where Kell had parked his car. As we were leaving Copenhagen all the lighted advertisements came on and that was a beautiful, though modern, farewell to a perfect day.

November 1 Journal

Hej alle sammen,

Three months. It seems like ages since I first came here. I can't believe so much can happen in such a short space of time. Last weekend was our Rotary gathering in Holbæk, a rather small town close to Copenhagen, and it was so bizarre to hear the exchange students from Australia and Argentina talking about going home. I can't even imagine that now. It seems so far in the future.

The language is coming easier and more natural now, and I must say it's about time. I would not for the life of me wish to go back to when I understood nothing, especially not now when I'm when it's finally begun to come along. Something exciting happened in a grocery store the other day. I was waiting in line to weigh some produce for my host mom, and the woman in front of me was having trouble reading the German on the scale, we were in a German grocery store, and she turned and asked if I was German and I said no then she asked me if I was Danish and without even thinking I answered yes. She then went on to ask if I could read the German and unfortunately I couldn't, but that's not the important part. The important part is that I was able to pull off being Danish. I have never been able to do that before. Mostly the second I open my mouth the light clicks on to whoever I'm talking to that I'm foreign. But it didn't here. It was so exciting, I felt like singing, but luckily I was able to refrain myself. Maybe this doesn't sound so exciting to those of you reading this, but when you having been trying to fit in to a society without success and something like this happens, it's just like all the hard work has paid off, and it is finally worth it to learn the language and try to fit in.

I don't know whether I've mentioned this in another journal, but I took up riding lessons here in Denmark, both my host sisters ride and I've always wanted to learn. For the first couple of times I was on a horse I hated it. Maybe this was because I spent more time on the ground than on the horse, or because it was impossible to breathe when riding faster that slow trudge, with all the bouncing and such. Now however it is one of the highlights of my week, luckily they come on Mondays so it's like consolation for losing the weekend. I can now remain firmly on the horse through all forms of trotting, walking, galloping, even jumping, though that's sometimes a little iffy. I don't know what I'll do when I get home and I'm not riding anymore. I ride a horse called Montana, rather funny, and it looks a bit like a mustang. It's a bit slow, practically have to beat the thing to get it to move (that was a joke), but I like it despite its drawbacks.

My host mom told me this morning when I was moving to my next family, and it makes me so sad to think of leaving. My family is so wonderful, and even though my next family is really nice, I don't know if I can like them as much. I only have about three more weeks with the Heisels, I'm moving on the 25th of this month.

Well I think I've said just about everything. I would just like to congratulate Rotary on their new commercial, and say many thanks for this opportunity.

Med venlig hilsen

Hallie

January 31 Journal

Hej

I can't believe I've been here for six months already.  Time for a cliché, but It seems like just yesterday that I first got here, and now my year is halfway over.  I think Sierra's illustration pretty much nailed the whole exchange, and that by the sixth month you can't ever imagine going home again. 

Well as it's been a while since I wrote I have a bit of catching up to do, beginning with Christmas.  It was one the best Christmas's I've had.  The food alone would be enough to make it incredible, it seems like we were always baking something new, and between the Jule Frokosts and parties I don't think I was ever once hungry.  The time before Christmas was exciting, but Christmas Night, because Danes have Christmas the evening of the 24th, was the best.  My host parents' (my new host parents) family came over, and as there was going to be little kids it was decided we needed a Santa, and who got picked to be Santa?...me.  It was so much fun, I have never played Santa before, but I think pulled it off pretty well, though I was having the hardest time trying not to laugh, as was everybody else, because trying to make a deep voice and talk in danish at the same time is not particularly easy, to say the least.  Anyways the little kids didn't know the difference, even though I was an incredibly short Santa, 5' 5". After Santa left we danced around the tree, and sang, and then after that was done we opened presents.  It was odd missing the excitement that comes with waiting til morning for Christmas, but it was still really great. After Christmas of course comes New Year, and New Year's Eve our neighbors came over to fire off fireworks.  I think we were out there for an hour or so with the fire works, it was so much fun.

After the holidays it was back to school again.  School's going fine, still having a little difficulty in class, but definitely not as much as before.  We have a holiday coming up soon and my family and I are going up to Løkken, a town in the north of Denmark, for the week.  Jette, my host mom, told me that there's a place on the coast where you can see the Baltic and the North seas colliding, you can actually mark where the waves hit.  Anyways I'm really looking forward to it.

The best, however is to come in March when my class and I take a school trip to Rome.  We're going to see Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii on the way, and of course everything in Rome, the Coliseum and St Peter's cathedral.  Oh I just can't wait.  We're having a fund raising thing on Friday where we cook dinner for our parents, Italian food of course- and that means spaghetti and pizza!

Other than this things have been pretty quiet.  My family has been taking me around to see parts of Søderjylland, which is the area I live in.  We've been to see Gråsten castle where Crown Prince Frederik and his wife Mary, and their new baby Christian Valdemar Henri John, are going to live in the summer.  I've also been to see the battle site where Denmark lost their border to Germany, and to Sønderborg Castle, which is now a museum which explains all about their switch from being German to being Danish, which is actually a pretty neat story.  Apparently the people living on both sides of the new border (because it was moved north after Denmark lost) voted on whether they wanted to be a part of Denmark or a part of Germany, and of course they all wanted to be Danes, so the border was moved south again. 

Well I think that's about everything.  I just want to say to any of the exchange student hopefuls, if you picked Denmark, you are incredibly lucky.   There is no possible way not to enjoy yourself here and have a wonderful year.

Kan I har det godt!

Hallie

April 23 Journal

Kære venner og familie,

I am dreadfully sorry for how long I have waited to write this journal. I have been busy lately, which is what I'm using as my excuse. A great deal has happened since my last journal (considering it's been a couple of months!) so this might be a long one.

February- The first weekend in February I went up to Århus to meet with some exchange student friends and it was wonderful, we were all from N. America, so it was nice being with people who could quote from the same movies and knew the same jokes etc. I miss the humor in America a lot, the Danish humor is really funny, just kind of hard to pick up on. The week of the 12th-19th my family and I were up in Løkken in the North of Denmark for our winter holiday. We rented a summer house close to the beach and the woods, really nice! We went up to see Skagen, the most northerly point in Denmark. It was amazing, so clear and light. The waves weren't so prominent so we couldn't really see the two oceans colliding, but you could definitely see the currents moving towards each other, and you could see so far out on the horizon, it was like it was shaped differently (ridiculous though it sounds). The last two days in Løkken (wow that vacation went quickly!) it snowed, so of course we had to go for a walk in the snow! I had earlier knitted (yes I can knit!) a scarf for myself, well more like a blanket, so I finally had an opportunity to use it. I had it wrapped all over my head like the Arab women do with their scarves, so all you could see were my eyes. This ended up being a bit of a draw back during the massive snowball fight we had on the beach! I was clobbered by my brothers several times because of my limited vision. That week was one of the coziest times I ever had, sitting by the fire place at night playing Phase 10, a card game for USA that my family loved, and going on long walks and relaxing, I could have stayed there for ever. It was however not to be and return home we did on Sunday. The next weekend I spent with a Rotarian family, Conrad and Maren, at their house in a place in Aabenraa called Løjt land. It was beautiful, perfect example of "rolling hills" and "patchwork farms" I have never seen those two expressions better described. There's also this really rich Dane that works in Tokyo who summers in this area, and he also owns about 50 old houses, from 16-1700's that he restores and rents out to people. These houses are incredible, with the thatched roofs and small widows, chalked walls. I just love them, it's one of the most beautiful places in Denmark I think (Løjt land that is). It was unfortunately winter when I visited, but now it's almost spring and they promised me another visit once all the flowers bloomed. I can't wait for it!

March- The first weekend of March was a Rotary get together in Copenhagen, in a school in the Copenhagen kommune. It was a fun weekend, nice to see all the exchange students again. We learned how to lancere at this get together, and put on a show/dance for ourselves and visiting Rotarians. I thought it was great fun, learning to dance this lancere, got rather good at it too, if I do say so myself. From the 19th-25th I was in Rome(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and wow that was incredible, and amazing, and fun, and incredible. I did not think there could be so many interesting things in one city alone. We visited the Spanish stairway (I think that's what they are called in English) and the Trevi Fountain, and St. Peters cathedral, and we saw the Pope, and the Pantheon, and the Forum (which I think was the coolest thing we saw in Rome, even more than the Lateran cathedral, or Peters Cathedral or even the Coliseum. This place was awesome, you could really feel all of Rome's old glory and splendor here, see how the most important area in Rome once was built, oh it was just amazing), we saw the Coliseum and the Catacombs. We went out to eat every night and had some, well no, the best pasta I have ever eaten, there was this one really good restaurant were I got this ravioli spinach thing, for lack of a better description, and really this meal was good. We also went to see Pompeii, which is just as incredible as Rome, and entire ancient city preserved, with graffiti on the walls and the buildings foundations. In the streets they are placed these high stones at intersections, so that if the streets were flooded you could get over without getting your feet wet, smart huh? It was all these little things that you could see, see how people lived and how their city functioned, that I thought was the most incredible. We were supposed to go up all the way to Vesuvius as well, but the weather was really bad, foggy, and it was said to be not worth it. We did however get a great view of Pompeii while going up the mountain, so not a total bummer. The last day in Rome we visited, for those of you that have read Angels and Demons, Fontana di quattro fiumi, in Piazza Navona, where the cardinal was killed, the water element. Anyways, I had to present to my class on it, and it is a wonderful little plaza. Many famous writers and thinkers have come to this plaza because it is quieter than the rest of Rome. We had time to shop that day, then headed back to Denmark. My Granddad and my brother were already in Denmark when I got home, they were waiting for me at the Copenhagen Airport, so the next day I took a train up there and we walked around Copenhagen and saw as many sights as we could before we froze to death, it was snowing and windy, not the most ideal weather. But they saw most of the center of town. We went home to Sønderjylland the next day. It was lovely having my family there, showing them the things I have done and seen, my school, my town, areas in Sønderjylland that my family had shown me. They were there for a week, and it wasn't nearly long enough to show them everything I wanted them to see. They left on the 30th, and on the 2nd of April I moved to my last family. It was hard to leave the Petersen's because they were a wonderful family and I felt so at home with them. But my new family the Hansen's are really sweet too, and I knew them before I moved in which has made things easier.

April- Like I said I moved the first weekend of April, and got myself settled in. I live in Aabenraa now, which is different, there are noises all the time, and I gotten so used to the quiet countryside. It's nice being closer to my school and my friends though, most of them live here in town. Last week was our Easter holiday, and I met all my new family's family. We went up to Århus, such a lovely town I would definitely consider living there, for a shopping trip. Otherwise it was a quite vacation.

Next month, in case I don't find the time, or the will to write, I am getting more visits from my family, which I can't wait for. In June, the most exciting thing of all is happening, I'm going to help the Haderslev Musuem (Haderslev is a town not far from here) with an archeological excavation in Rødekro. The town wants to expand but the area where they will be building has to be inspected first for items of historical significance, which is what the museum, and now I, am going to do. I can't wait for this, because as you all know it is my utmost dream to become an archeologist, and this of course fits right in. I couldn't believe when I got the news, my last host father Lennert told me and the poor guy had to listen to how excited I was for twenty minutes, plus I had just gotten back from Rome and was looking forward to seeing my family. I don't think I once drew breath the whole way home.

Well that brings us to about now. Can't believe I only have two months left in this little country. Doesn't seem possible that my year is almost up. Thanks again to Rotary for this experience!

Kærlig hilsen

Hallie

June 30 Journal

Mojn alle,

So it's soon that I'm traveling home, tomorrow actually. I have had the loveliest last three weeks here, a perfect send off from a wonderful year. I was out traveling Europe with my family, and flew from England to Denmark so I could be home in time for my ARCHEOLOGICAL DIG!!!!!!!!!, which was the coolest thing I have ever done, apart from this year. I have wanted to be an archeologist since I saw Indiana Jones, and now I got my first chance to really experience it. I met up with my group at the museum on Monday (12th) and we headed out to the dig site, which was actually not too far from where I lived with my first family, and Ingo, the archeologist, began to explain what they'd found earlier and what we were to do. They'd found evidence of three houses from the iron age, which he thought were built one after the other, maybe a family that had lived there and rebuilt the house another location when it got too old or burnt down.

The remainings of the houses were simply ceramics, and differences in the color and density of the ground. Where it was darkest was where the post holes had been, or a fence, and it was so cool how Ingo could just see what it was by noting the shade, etc. The same with pottery, just by seeing the types of decoration or the way it was shaped he could tell that it was so and so many years old. There were also two studying archeologists on our team and they were really good brains to pick, concerning schooling and finding jobs etc.

These last two weeks have been a series of goodbyes. Goodbye to friends, and Rotary and families. Quite depressing, haven't really felt that I'm leaving yet, even the eve of departure. I'm exciting about seeing Florida again, curious to see if it's like I remember, but then I want to come home again, and that's the most depressing thought, that I won't be coming back, at least not for a long time. This is my very last journal entry, not that that's so emotional, haven't really done so well keeping up with it, but I would like to just say thank you to my family, parents especially and Rotary for this year. I've had a lovely time, and would not have come to be so without you.

Mange kærlige hilsner

Hallie