Wow, my first journal already! It’s so exciting, everything I see or do, I always think “Oh, this is going in my journal!” And now that I have started to write it, I don’t know where to begin.
I left Gainesville for Jacksonville on Friday evening went to dinner with my mom and her best friend, Sheila, then the next day woke up at 6:30 for my 9:54 flight to Washington Dulles. A lady at the check in counter gave me this word of advice, and other exchange students probably no this already, but she said, and I quote, “Trust NOBODY!” It’s true; you can’t believe what people say, I mean yes, your host parents and Rotarians, but others not so much. You never know in a foreign place. I wasn’t nervous or sad, until I boarded the plane. I didn’t really know what to do at that point; I just sat there blankly, trying to find out what I really felt. (Sorry Daphne that I missed you in JAX!)I had a five hour layover in Dulles, and all I did was read a book and eat some lunch. I got on my next plane for Copenhagen, and boy was it a long journey! When dinner was served, turbulence occurred and guess what happened, yes, my meal went all over my clothes. My mom told me to bring an extra pair of pants, but I said “Mom, there is no point when I won’t encounter anything.” Man, was she ever right. I barely slept the whole time and by then I had finished my book and had about 3 hours left. As soon as we landed in Copenhagen I was supposed to grab my bags, but I didn’t know that until I was at the gate, but luckily enough somebody there grabbed it. I got to Kangerlussauq and had to board my next plane for Nuuk. We got to Nuuk, but the fog was so bad we had to turn back around. I got to the airport thinking I was in Nuuk looking for Udo and Birgit, but it looked so familiar. As soon as I looked around I saw a lady I talked to on the plane from Copenhagen, she helped me figure everything out. So, soon enough the fog had cleared and I was headed for Nuuk.
My host family is so amazing. They treat me as if I am part of the family; I wash your clothes, but do not iron them, you do something and you leave a note, don’t ask to do something, just do it. I love the feeling that I am trusted and I know that I will not let them down. As soon as I arrived they took me fishing, I was the first one to catch a fish, and it was nothing we could eat. POISONOUS! Then I caught another but it was a baby cod, which is no good. Daniela and Marcus, guests from Germany, were making jokes about how if you cannot catch the fish, you cannot eat the fish. It sounded better in German. We have also gone out to an ice berg where I got to “pet” it! :D The weather is so nice and when the sun is out, it can be quite warm. Soccer matches have been going on a lot lately, and we live right on top of a hill so we look out our windows and see people sitting on the rocks watching the game go on in the stadium. It’s kind of neat.
I had school a day after I arrived, it was overwhelming but I survived. School is so much different, all the buildings are spread out like a college and you stay with the same class the whole day, so they become your good friends. Teachers are not as strict as I am used to. We only have three classes a day and they last for an hour and thirty minutes with smoke breaks. Almost all the kids here smoke. My host mom calls Greenland the laid back country. You could never come to school or do your homework and they don’t really mind it. During lunch you are allowed to go home and eat and then expected to be back at school at 12:15. School starts at 8:15 and ends at 13:50 (1:50). There are always school activities going on and everybody participates. Everybody is everybody’s friend, no cliques. The students in my class are giving me Dansk lessons when the teacher leaves the room, and on snack and walking to class breaks. I get a few words in once in awhile, but each day it gets better. Hopefully in a month I will be able to understand it. J
All I can really say is that Greenland is a beautiful place, and I am SOOOO happy that I chose it! I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, jumping out of bed putting my scarf and jacket on and heading to school. Greenland was a great place to put me in. (: Tak Rotary!
When I first chose Greenland, it was to be different, be the crazy girl from Florida going to an ice sheet, but now, it’s because my heart belongs here. It sounds crazy, I know, but Greenland makes me smile. I wake up every morning smiling and humming, enjoying everything around me. The Ravens screeching of hunger, or maybe talking to each other; the wind gently tapping your window. It’s so relaxing! The snow has finally fallen on the mountains, and soon it will be covering the green grass. My world will soon be white, and the sky will be dancing with the northern lights.
Things to know about Greenland:
When you’re meeting someone, girls give you hugs, boys give you a hand
Everyone speaks English, so don’t sound out every word to make them feel stupid
Smoking in restaurants is normal
Not all alcoholics (Nete told me to put this up)
Lovable, down-to-earth people
Houses, schools, hospitals, grocery stores, like any other town
The stones on the mountains are the oldest in the world
Kalaallisut/Greenlandic is the most spoken Eskimo language
You eat TONS of bread and fish!
Babies are left in strollers outside when you shop
Dogs and cats can do their own thing
Ravens eat out of trash cans
Greenland has the FRESHEST water on earth (: It’s really yummyy
My “host” family is my family now. We do everything together! From walking the dogs - to family game nights. You don’t get home sick when you feel at home. Of course I miss my mom, dad, and brother, but you need to focus on the now and where you are. My “host” sister, Sofia, is one of my closest friends here. She’s such a sweetie and is just like me! All my friends say we look a lot alike, and we both smile and say thanks! We both share clothes, and always ask “Does this look alright?” or “What should I wear tonight?” I love being a big sister. I also got to meet my “host” brother, Sebastian, who’s in boarding school in Denmark. He’s tall and really nice. Plus, we goof on Sofia a lot. That’s what being the youngest is like!
I have been so busy with school, hanging around town, and being with my host family that I haven’t had the feelings of being homesick. I guess we all know that were going to be back home within a year, and we have to live life to the fullest. Being an exchange student is hard, sometimes when you hang out with your friends, they talk in Danish, French, or another language, so you have no idea what they are saying and then you sit there like a lost duck waiting for someone to talk to you. I am starting to understand the language more and more every day. I am also trying to learn Greenlandic and German (since my host family speaks German the most), but Danish is much easier. Words are very similar; they just have a more ughh sound. It’s so fascinating to listen to them talk, I always smile and giggle when I see them speak English because they seem so happy!
As my journey continues in the extreme cold weather about to get colder, I must say that the Northern lights are the most beautiful thing alive. The first night I saw them was when I went on a long walk with my best friend Nete, she told me to look up and see the northern lights, I did and I started to cry. It was amazing, something you can’t really describe. It makes you all giddy inside and want to dance. The green strings of lights are dancing in the dark sky, and it just makes you wonder how something so beautiful has come along. It was by far one of the best experiences here. I remember a night I went to the far side of town with my two friends Lauritz, an exchange student from Germany through AFS and Thomas. We stayed on the mountain for at least 3 hours taking pictures of the northern lights and staring at the stars, and the shooting stars as well. I can’t wait until the ground is covered in white fluff and the sky is dark with the dancing green lights. It’ll be the prettiest thing on the earth!
At the beginning of October, my host mom, Birgit comes up to me and says, Cuno, my next host father, would like to take me hunting for the weekend. I was super excited, but had no idea what you need to bring to go hiking. I packed warm clothes and Sofia checked over the things I picked out, and approved. I left Friday to the harbor to meet with Cuno. He brought a lady from Canada, Kirstin who hunts mainly for research. During the 2 hour boat ride, Kirstin, Cuno, and I talked about how Danish and English are so similar. The water was calm and the air was cool. Ice burgs flooded the water, so every second the boat would go left, right, left, right and so on. I saw a whale and a seal on the way there, and it was my first time! When do you ever get a chance to hike 10 miles and hunt for reindeer in Florida? Well, never! That’s something great about being in Greenland, but it has its disadvantages too. For example, the terrain is squishy and the hills are high. 10 miles may seem like 100 when you reach the reindeer. Nothing can stop you when walking through muddy holes, no snakes, no alligators, and especially no spiders. I kept looking down thinking there might be a snake, and then I remember that Greenland has no snakes. We may not have the little things, like snakes and alligators. But we have the foxes and the polar bears. I learned something interesting about polar bears this weekend on my hunting adventure. When you see a polar bear, you don’t run into different directions, you sure enough don’t stand by yourself; you hook arms with your hunting buddies to make yourself look bigger than the polar bear. They’ll feel threatened and move on.
I think it’s time to start talking about the language… Man, I never realized how hard Danish is. Sure, I practiced a lot before I came here, but it felt like I didn’t know anything when I got here. The pronunciation is really hard. You have the ø, æ, and å. They all sound completely different, but at the same time they sound the same. Although I am learning Danish, I am also learning Greenlandic. It’s a very tricky language. I am getting good at, and my friends, which are mostly Greenlandic say I am better than Marie, my other friend who’s from Denmark. They always laugh at us when we try talking in Greenlandic to one another because we sound so funny. The reason for that is, they talk with their tounge and throat, and so does Danish. English uses the front of your mouth. Everyone goes ”THHHHHHH! Jenny!!” and I try, and try, but never seem to get it right. The word rød, in Danish, which means red. Is one of the hardest words I know. I sat at lunch one day and kept trying to say it, my friends and I eventually gave up. My goal while I am here is to learn Danish, but I realllly want to learn Greenlandic! It is so amazing and I love the difficulty. (I am going to translate random words in Danish and Greenlandic so you can learn!)
My skin has never been so dry, or white. My classmates always comment on my very pale skin, saying ”You’re from Florida, shouldn’t you be really tan?!”, I simply say ”I guess I am from Greenland now.” They all love that I consider my self a Greenlander/Kalaaleq/Grønlænder. I have used about 3 bottles of lotion already, and I have 5 more waiting to be used.
It seems crazy to me that practically everyone here smokes. Friends always tell me, “Today’s the day I stop…Or this can be my last pack.” I never believe them, because the next day, they have a new pack and are running out on the 5 minute pause during class. My friend Aimee told me the youngest she has seen smoking was 4 years old. I was lost. I wanted to know how a 4 year old even got the smoke and how they knew to use it and light it. I couldn’t believe the words that came out, a FOUR year old? Like really?! I still can’t believe it. It completely shocked me. There they are 4 years old and already ruining their lungs. How is that even possible? After she told me that, I never was able to stop talking about it, then my best friend, Nete, told me “Jenny, it’s just the way things are. It seems crazy to us too, but we can’t stop them. If they want to do that and try to look cool, then let them.” I realized she was right. I am in a new culture, I shouldn’t be standing there comparing this or that to America, I should just realize that I am somewhere new and I can’t do anything about the way that they live.
The most popular myth in Greenland is the Tupilak. It’s a mask made of bone or teeth from a whale, and when you have a hatred for someone, you tell the Tupilak and it goes and tries to scare the person who you cursed. The job of the Tupilak is to scare the person or try and kill them, if they don’t succeed at what their job is, then they must kill the owner who made them.
The snow has finally fallen on the ground! Tuesday night Nete, called me and told me to look out my window, so I did, and I screamed seeing there was snow on the ground. Since, for the past week, I was staying at my next host families house while my other host family was in Florida (LUCKY), I told Susanne that I was going outside to play in the snow. She giggled and said you have fun baby. And I was talking on the phone and running in the snow. I was so happy, I couldn’t stop giggling and smiling. It felt like I have never seen snow before. The next day, me and Lauritz got into a snowball fight at school. He won; and got scrapes from slipping on the ice. Since, in my future I want to be a nurse, I was like here you need to clean this up! All my friends call me the mother of the group. I guess it shows that my mom has taught me well.
Greenland’s weather has turned for the worst. Thanks to Global Warming, I am stuck walking in rain.. Which I hate! It’s freezing cold and it’s raining! Let’s not forget to mention the strong winds, it feels like you are walking in a hurricane. It’s starting to get dark around kl. 13.30 (1:30 pm) and starts getting bright about kl. 10 (am). It’s hard to adjust, but after a week, it becomes adaptable. I still take naps after school, which messes me up, because then I don’t go to bed until 1 or 2. I don’t really know what I do, but I usually text my friends or read. Snow finally fell on the ground at the beginning of November, which means it’s going to be a long winter! The snow only stays on the ground for a few hours, but it’s not the fun fluffy snow, it’s the slushy, hard to walk in snow. I still need to buy good shoes for the snow, but they are so expensive! I want some seal boots, but then I won’t be able to take them back to Florida! The ponds are frozen since the weather has been cold, so I have been able to run on it. After school, my friends and my host sister have played on it, it's really fun! Dangerous yes, but you only live once! :D
I recently switched host families. My host sister, Sofia, was crying and wouldn't let me go. She's so cute! But my new host family, is so sweet. I have a day where I have to cook dinner, and put on "Dish Duty"! :) It's actually feels like I am more independent. Plus, they eat SUPER SUPER SUPER healthy, so I have lost even more weight. It's fun though, we always watch crime shoes together!
I am a freshman all over again at school! Being picked on, also boys always trying to get with the younger girls. But instead of a high school, it’s more of a college. They want to prepare you for what will be in your future, since most students go to Denmark for college. I feel like it will be helpful when I get back to Gainesville, and going to Santé Fe Community College (Duel Enrollment). Right now, 1G which is the whole first year must write a report. It’s about water, how interesting, not! I have a group of 2 of the smartest girls in class and the sweetest, lucky me! Since we have this report, we get to take class off for Geography, Chemistry, and Biology. At school, lunch break usually ends up as a snowball fight, girls against boys. We all know who wins, the boys. Only because they don’t have purses, and run in heels. I have slipped sooooo many times going down the hill that I have just gotten used to it. At school, we have the 3G’s be the master of the 1G’s class. Meaning 1G’s are the slaves. So, there is this party called the slave party for all those who haven’t got a master yet. I was going to go, thinking it would be fun, until… I found out that when the master “buys” you, they say I want to buy that person for ___ shots! Like, omg, so I am totally not going. I don’t feel like cleaning up after my friends and having to be scared if I can’t find them. It wouldn’t be any fun for me! So, my friend, Aimee and I decided that we’re just going to chill and watch some movies, like we always do. (: Actually, I am very happy with my grades at school!!! Probably better than they are in America. I got a 43/45 on my Greenlandic exam, and got a B overall in that class. I was very happy, and so was my mommy!
I have some of the best friends I could ever ask for. I feel so close to them already, and we already have planned moving in together. One of my friends, Inuuna, she plans on kidnapping me so I can’t leave her and Nete in Greenland. Since, most of my friends will either move to Denmark or just drop out of school, which is common. We do everything together; from shopping to having crazy sleepovers! I have learned everything about my friends, like what pushes their buttons, and how they are when they don’t want to do something. My friend Inuuna always says “Want to watch a movie?” and that always means “Want to watch a movie so I can sleep?” So, whenever she asks that, I just start laughing.
What adventurous food have I had since I have been here? Well, I have had seal, reindeer, muskus, and whale! Seal is delicious, and so is everything else!! I learned that when you first eat seal, you have to watch how much you eat because if you eat too much then you’ll throw it up. Whale is reallllllly chewy! The other day, I was at my friend Inuuna’s house sleeping over, and we were eating whale, and she was just chewing it like it was nothing, I put it in my mouth and felt like my teeth were breaking. She started laughing saying that she has Greenlandic teeth and I don’t. I was just laughing, and trying my hardest to chew! Reindeer is quite amazing, probably the best meat you will ever taste.
ALEE! SUIT? (=
Time has flown! I can’t believe that I have been here for 5 months already, and only have 4 months left. My friends and I talk about it all the time. It makes us all want to cry, but we’re so happy that we’ve bonded. I have met some amazing people here, and these people I will never forget. They have become part of my family. We already planned the night before I leave and the day I leave. We’re going to have a big sleepover, watch movies, and share memories. Then I will go to the airport with all my friends, host families and Rotarians, do our goodbyes and be on my way to Denmark for the Euro Trip. We already plan on bringing boxes of tissues! This place has really taken a place in my heart- the people, the nature, and the city. I couldn’t look at it without smiling and feeling warmth. I still may not fit in as much as I would like, but I consider myself a Greenlandic. I am trying my hardest to learn the national language, but it is really tough. I actually am better at speaking Greenlandic than Danish! I understand all Danish, and still learning on how to speak better. I’m having some difficulty in pronunciation.
I’m exhausted. I never thought that I wouldn’t like school so much. It tires me out, having the 34 hours a week doesn’t help that much. I come home and just try to relax as much as possible. Reading helps a lot, but also running. Although I find it tough running on ice, it gives me time to think. Everyone needs that time alone, to just open up your mind.
Christmas! Christmas! Christmas! Probably the best time of my life! It was so different, and exciting. I started off by waking up early, kl. 9, and eating some breakfast. You start off by giving each person one gift. After breakfast, you clean, cook and get ready for everyone to arrive. After that you get dressed in fancy clothes to enjoy dinner. You have tons of food, and dinner last for a couple hours. Once dinner is finished you open all the doors in your house and light the candles on the tree. Then you join hands and sing songs- Greenlandic, Danish, and English. Then you form a line and dance around the house going in each room, which believe me was super silly. I couldn’t stop giggling. You open gifts after dancing and giving your hugs. I got all Greenlandic presents.
HAPPY NEW YEARS! This New Year’s will never be topped. It was the longest and wildest time ever! We get dressed up at about kl. 18 and then start dinner at about kl. 18.30. Around kl. 19.50 You go outside to watch fireworks for Denmark’s New Years. Man, what a beautiful site! Then you go inside to eat some more, and drink Greenlandic coffee. (It’s really strong!) Then at kl. 23.40, “Dinner for One” comes on, it’s this old movie that plays every year, and was probably the funniest thing I have seen in awhile. After the movie, you say happy New Year and go outside for another show of fireworks. This time it lasts for 45 minutes. It was so spectacular. After 12, you go off to meet with your friends and spend the rest of the night out. It was a memory that I’ll never forget!
And I am so excited to know that there are upcoming exchange students who are where we were last year, it’s so exciting! And more people should choose GREENLAND!!! :D Good Luck. God Jul and Happy New Year everyone.
Greenland is my home, and always will be. There isn’t a day that goes by without me smiling and laughing so hard I feel like I just did a work out. I’ve tried to see what it would be like when I get home, but it’s hard to picture myself somewhere else. Everyone has those addictions, and mine is Greenland. My heart fell in love with the people and city, my mouth speaks in 2 languages, and my stomach is in pain from all the laughter. Who would want to leave a place that has really become somewhere you love? Not as a vacation, but as a home. I’m happy to say that my best friend, Inuuna, is coming to visit me for a month in Florida. It gives me a chance to show her my culture and how I live. It also will help me stop my sadness from leaving this fantastic place.
All those people who didn’t believe that going away for a year would really do much, well if only they knew how much they were missing out on this life changing experience. Who can go back and say that they had the best high school experience in a different way than others – we can. People will never understand how much we gave up going through this exchange, whether it’s making up a year of high school or passing down a great job. We all sacrificed something, and came out of it with a head held high, a crushed heart, and a new image. You have to see things in a different way, positive rather than negative.
People always ask me about weather. Either is it cold, or is it always dark. Well, you never know what the weather really is like. Some days the weather is warm and bright, or freezing and snowing. The snow was melting last week, then it started snowing this week, and now it’s melting again. It just doesn’t know what to do. No matter the weather, I walk home every day. Just to get that alone time to take in everything that’s happening. It’s been blowing my mind.
When you’re on exchange, you always want to join a club or a sport. It helps you meet new people. I have started taking karate. It’s so much fun, and I am actually really good at it, at least that’s what my trainer tells me. Some of my friends and I joined together, and now we always bring it up. We always say that if someone bothers us, we know karate. I have decided to take it up when I get back to Florida. It’s a great way to release stress and gain confidence. I would never think of myself as doing karate, but it gets your energy up and you can’t help but feel so happy afterwards.
My school always throws a party every month. I had prom at the beginning of February. I went with my friend Maasi as his date. Later on, at about 11 pm, my friend Inuuna and I decided that we were bored, so we went to her house and watched movies. That was my first and last prom. The last one we had is called “Fastelavn” it’s sort of like Halloween but it’s in February and you don’t dress up scary. You dress up in fun clothes. Both my friend and I were a “West Ham United’s Worst Hooligan” which was a lot of fun. We chanted our anthem- Forever Blowing Bubbles and we blew bubbles afterwards. It was a lot of fun.