So much has happened in the past two weeks that I feel like I've been here for much longer. Then again, even though it might be early to think so, I also get that weird feeling that my time here has a due date. But for as far as it's been, all my friends, Rotexs and Rotarians that talked to me about this exchange, have been right. It has been so much fun, every second of it. I arrived in Copenhagen on August 7th, 2011 around 7:35 am (local time). I still couldn't believe I was here until some estranger came up to me asking things in Danish which I could not understand a word of. My very friendly counselor, John, took me from the airport to his house in Svinninge, which also happens to be very close to my 3 host families. And so it began. DANISH BREAKFAST! I already know I'll be coming back home in a year with an extra 50 pounds haha. My first host fami..., or should I simply say "first family" was so welcoming. They were the firsts to bring me closer and give me a hug, and made me truly feel like home. I told them yesterday, I wouldn't have ever thought that I could get a family where I could fit in so perfectly as them. They smiled. And then we started joking around as I've noticed many Danes do here. It's just how life is here.
It would be very hard to give a very detailed report only every month or so, so I decided to make my own personal "picture diary". I've been taking lots of pictures, even of the little things that happen every day, and saving them. It is much easier to record memories, and good time that I had no matter where. I was just looking at these pictures before I started writing this, and I remembered one big thing about this exchange. To learn from my host country. One the first days I was here, I was so tired from the "overload of information" that I crashed on my bed for hours. I believe the language might be the hardest task I'll have this year, but it is pretty obvious that without it, I won't get far. But it is also very funny, and strange, how a person can go from not understanding anything, to catching some words, and even joking around in another language after a few days. You suddenly get a feeling of victory, where you have succeeded, reached your goal. I cannot wait until I'm fluent in Danish. It's just a must. Also, the Danes are very green and environment-worried people. Lots of little things called my attention: Toilets that save water, classrooms that use the sun a source of light rather than electricity, "deposits" on soda cans and bottles which you can retrieve after you've returned the bottle/can to a recycling place, and even the lights on the streets which are turned off around the evening to save energy. And these are just things I've seen in the past 2 weeks!
But other than that, everything is just a new adventure. Making friends in a school where you're totally new and different, trying out new sports, eating things you've never tried before, going out to places where you've only seen in movies, or even just the smallest family time you have at dinner with 5 complete strangers who very quickly become your new best friends. It's a whole new life. I can't thank my families and Rotary enough for this chance. I look forward for the next weeks to come.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
It is November 17, 2011. Summer has left me a long time ago, and I’m currently trying to adapt myself to the fall, which is insanely cold to me. Everyone here laughs when I tell them I’m cold- “If you’re freezing now, just wait until winter.” This is that time of the year where you look back into your luggage and say “Darn, I should have brought that ugly sweater my mom knitted me!” Luckily even without it, I still haven’t been sick here, which is a big thing compared to most Danes. The weather is always so unpredictable here that when we have a sunny day, they treat it as a national holiday! You would think that talking about the weather is something we do when we’re bored, but here that is its own subject! Danes can discuss about the weather for hours. And plan things to do outside, which usually are only consisted of sitting by the porch and enjoying the sun. You also tend to see people running outside, but that’s just an everyday thing. They are ridiculously concerned with their health here, and trying to explain to them that in America we do not eat McDonald’s everyday and that our population is 99% obese, is practically an impossible task. I hear stereotypes about Americans every day, and actually just about every other race as well. But that has a lot to do with the schooling system here. It is dealt with as a political system. In class, we only pick up the books to have an overview of things. Then 5 minutes later, our classes become live debates. It is crazy. Everyone has a different perspective of something and the teacher acts as the judge, who is not biased not any side. So everything is taken under consideration, and you feel like a war is going to start. Don’t get me wrong, Danes are amazing loving people. But overall I find them very mature, especially at young ages. For example, even though you may only vote when you’re 18 here, politicians come to our “high schools” and “middle schools” to present their party’s offers to our country. After their presentation, there is a big questionnaire part part that is open to all students, and just about everything is asked.
This is all great. I go to school along with all the other young Danes. Have fun while people ask me to say things which I pronounce funny. Go out with friends every once in a while. Suddenly becoming part of the group is not such a hard task. Rotary has been so kind with me. I go to meetings almost every Wednesday, and there again is just like another day in school. They start using their “Danish humor” to prank on me. This sarcasm just won’t go away! I’ve already seen a few parts of Denmark, like the so-famous Tivoli. Also Århus, the second biggest city in here. And went to a Harry Potter festival in Fyn, the middle island. I’ve just recently joined our school’s crew for the “Homecoming” show (which here is called “Galla Feste”) so I’ve been spending a lot more time at school with some new colleges while practicing the Saxophone. I play soccer with some other guys at my city’s club. On the weekends, I’ve been lately spending it with the family or friends while usually trying to make some food and watching movies. Well I’m horrible cook so it’s more like sitting there and watching them cook haha. Sometimes we make bigger plans as well. For example, going to watch a soccer match in Copenhagen! That was also my first match, so you can just imagine how amazed I was sitting all the way at the top! There’s some other beautiful sight-seeing in Copenhagen. It’s a huge city which physically looks different every couple of hundred meters. YES, meters. I’ve already adjusted myself to the metric system here, along with every other type of measurement which we don’t often use in the US. School is so much fun, because I get to be with some many different people, and they usually have the most random questions to me about US. And they also help me so much with Danish. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to give a small speech yesterday at my Rotary meeting, just in Danish, which apparently lasted almost 20 minutes! I was so proud of myself!
I find it very hard to explain the things that have been happening with me for the past months. Because as the time is passing (very quickly btw) you actually start feeling things you can quite explain. And I think it all goes back to point A: the language. I feel very comfortable with the language now. I’m not even close to being fluent, no. But after 3 months here, I’m finally able to have small FULL conversations with people. And I believe that the weirdest and coolest thing about it, is not the fact that I can speak some Danish now, but the process it was to get this far. And that’s because you’re not just learning about the language, you’re learning about yourself. So many things you start taking under consideration which you didn’t before, you start looking at things with different eyes. This is when you say “Yeah Ok dad, so maybe you were right about that too…” And it’s a scary thought that a person can change so much just because of his surroundings.