September 1, 2013
Three weeks in Denmark and I love it already.
I arrived in the small town of Sorø on Sunday, August 11 and immediately went to my school the next day. I swear it must be a record. School is amazing. I attend Sorø Akademi Skole, the second oldest school in Denmark. It was originally established as a monastery in the twelfth century and it is absolutely gorgeous. Coming from a place where thirty years is old for a building, passing the school church that is older than my country is just astounding. School is good so far. In Denmark, students are grouped according to line of study, and then they have all of their classes together, with the teachers coming in and out. I am in the second grade (equivalent of eleventh) and in the language line. My class is super nice. Since my first day they’ve been very welcoming and friendly. They call teachers by their first names, which is different. Danish kids are allowed to have their laptops and cell phones and other electronics in class and that surprised me. Of course they text and go on Facebook all the time (they’re teenagers, what do you expect), but they actually pay attention and contribute to class conversations. If American kids were allowed computers in school, no one would get any work done.
The town I live in is extremely small coming from Orlando: only 5,000 people. (The school is even smaller with 500 kids. Coming from Dr. Phillips High School with around 4,000 students, I was a bit shocked.) I am currently living on a farm with my first host family. The family consists of a mom and dad and two brothers: Gustav who’s sixteen and Christoffer who just turned fourteen. The entire family is really nice. They also have two dogs, which is especially nice when I’m missing my puppies at home. I am pretty sure they didn’t take me too seriously when I said I was short. (I am five feet even.) My counselor bought me a bike to ride to school and it was way too tall, even with the seat as low as it could go. My family thought it was funny. So now I’m using Gustav’s old bike from when he was about eight or so. And I get short jokes every now and then. Every day we have teatime around three and we sit down to family dinner at seven. I was not expecting the whole utensil thing; they keep their fork in the left hand and their knife in the right hand and they don’t ever switch. I might be ambidextrous by the end of this year. They also use a fork and knife for everything! I have eaten spaghetti and rice and bread with a knife. Weird.
My Danish isn’t going too well. Everyone here speaks English so it is really easy to just lean back on that crutch. I just went to Intro camp where we had tons of Danish lessons so it’s getting a little better. Danish is a fairly easy language when it comes to grammar, but trying to pronounce everything is so difficult. It sounds like Danes are just mumbling with food in their mouths all the time. When you learn Danish you feel so stupid because it just sounds like you’re just making a bunch of puking noises that all sound the same. Oh, and if you do go to Denmark, be prepared. Everyone will try to get you to say rød grød med fløde. But just get back at them by making them say refrigerator or squirrel or parenthesis.
I have been in this country for three weeks now and I still can’t believe I’m here. It’s so weird to think that I’m currently in a different country, a different continent, even a different hemisphere. Thank you so much, Rotary, for this awesome opportunity. It has been the experience of a lifetime, and it’s only the beginning.
December 4, 2013
I think it’s been a little over three months now. Maybe four. I’m not quite sure. Time goes so fast and the last thing I want to do is keep track of it.
I have changed host families since my last update. Now, I am an elf in a family of giants. I live with my host mom, Helle, my host dad, Peter, their two kids, Frederikke (17) and Kristian (14), and their little terrier Jack. I’ve been with them about a month and I love them. Frederikke and I get along very well; we like the same books, the same tv shows, even the same youtubers. She is in the same grade as I am, but in the science and math line, so I never see her. Kristian is very nice too. And Jack is very friendly. I will be living with them until the end of January. I feel so comfortable with this family because they’ve accepted me as one of their own. They call me their “daughter” and their “sister” and it feels so good.
School is so boring because I’m still not that great at Danish, but I’m getting better. I understand a lot more. I have Danish class twice a week at the youth center and lessons in school twice a week. My family also helps me with the language, but we still speak English fairly often. Helle is forcing me to read little kids’ books.
The next part will be a list. Because it’s easier just to list things.
- When people say ¨how are you¨ or ¨how was your day, they actually want to know. It doesn’t cut it to just say fine and move on.
- Rugbrød and ladkrids are absolutely disgusting.
- But most of the food is delicious. Like pålægschocolade, remoulade, frikadeller, flødeboller, æblekage, risengrød, and so on and so forth.
- They never mash their potatoes! Never! Well… rarely.
- All Rotary meetings open with a song.
- There is no word for please. Translated directly, Danes sound really demanding.
- They have inside shoes and outside shoes, a concept that, for some reason, took me a while to grasp.
- Public transport is expensive, but extremely reliable.
- But most people bike everywhere. They LIVE on their bikes. For example, Kristian could ride when he was three, no training wheels or anything. I’m still really clumsy on my bike compared to the Danes.
- Danes are very family-oriented. Families have dinner together every night, sometimes even breakfast and lunch too, and love spending time with each other.
- Nothing is more pleasant for the Danes than taking a walk in the forest, even though it’s freezing outside.
- Everything is super expensive here. If you see a piece of clothing for twenty dollars, buy it. It’s dirt cheap.
- Although everything is expensive, they get paid quite a bit. The minimum wage is like twenty dollars an hour.
- Then again, Denmark has some of the highest taxes ever. The state takes fifty to sixty percent of everything you make.
- But you get most of it back in free health care and stuff like that.
- Most boys actually care about how they look. When I went to Edinburgh with my class, the boys spent way more on clothes and shoes than the girls did.
It is getting so cold outside. It has yet to snow, but it won’t be long now. With the holidays and my birthday coming up, I’m surprisingly not as homesick as I thought I’d be. I made Thanksgiving dinner for my family and they loved it. Turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, corn bread, and pecan pie. How much more American can you get? We invited Helle’s parents over. Everyone was very excited to experience an American tradition. And I’m excited to experience all of the Danish Christmas traditions.
I have learned things already. Not just stupid, little things like how to set a table properly and how to cook some things. I’ve learned that some people just don’t click, no matter how nice they are. I’ve learned that school and careers aren’t the most important things in life (still important Mom, just not the MOST important). It is much more important to try make others feel good and happy, to make yourself feel good and happy. Try to make the world a better place in whatever little way you can. Do what you love. And I am lucky enough to be doing just that: learning a new language and a new culture, meeting new and interesting people, trying new things. I am so lucky.