2004-05 Outbound to Denmark
Date of Birth: February 24,
School: Gainesville High School
Sponsor: Gainesville Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida USA
Host: Aarhus Vest Rotary Club, District
August 18 Journal - "Many Danes have
asked why I didn’t go to Norway or Sweden where there are beautiful hills
and mountains. However, when compared to the flat Florida landscape, the
Danish rolling hills of Århus are welcome."
September 28 Journal & Pictures - "I
make plenty of mistakes, and I practically have a flashing sign over my
head screaming “FOREIGNER” when I open my mouth, but I don’t care."
October 27 Journal - "I never thought
I would say this, but I actually miss homework. They don’t really assign
homework to the students here, and when they do it is something way over
November 29 Journal - "The
absolute beauty of autumn was stunning. And when that disappeared I was
captivated by the way the frost glittered all over the city. Then we had
January 25 Journal & Pictures - "So
I’m stuck at home with the flu... yes...home. Because that is what this
place is to me now. Home. I never thought it was possible to have more
than one home."
March 20 Journal & Pictures - "I woke
up early for a traditional birthday breakfast. Mette had spelled my name
out in gummi-bears and all my presents were sitting out next to mini
May 28 Journal - "My life has taken a very surreal turn lately. You see, I
that I only have 5 days left before I hop on the plane back to Florida. It
doesn’t seem real."
am supposed to describe myself in a brief and direct biography. This is
hard for someone who has the tendency to ramble on, about scattered
topics, which usually have only a single thread in common. Here is my
attempt at just that. I am currently a sophomore at Gainesville High
School, in (as one can easily guess) the city of Gainesville, in the state
of Florida. I just recently turned sweet 16, and I can only wonder how
this age will be spent in my year abroad. However, while I am still in
America, I live with my two younger sisters, my dog, and both my parents.
That last statement is a little off because for the past year it has been
more like "just us 4 girls" while my father commutes to and from
Russia. This, however, is just a temporary situation.
As for my current interests, Art and Computers rank numbers 1 and 2 on
my list of priorities. My life is currently engulfed with painting,
drawing, sketching, and just plain creating. However, to say that I am an
artist is way off target. I am only a beginner, and I have massive expanse
of learning and experience to make up for until I can properly receive
that title. As far as computers are concerned, I have an increasing
curiosity as to how to manipulate the Internet and other programs to my
own liking. I currently have a few web-sites behind my belt, and I have a
plan of making a new one, which will focus on the experience of being an
exchange student in Denmark, and all the adventures that come with it.
This Bio is already too long, and it hardly says who I am as a person.
I consider this a glimpse of my life Pre-Denmark. Perhaps, I will be a
completely different person after I return. However, I hope that the
returning Me will be a revised edition to the current Me, filled with new
experiences to share, new to call my own, and a different outlook on life
as an individual.
August 18 Journal
amazing how much can happen in just over two weeks. I arrived on Saturday,
July 31st after 24 hours of traveling (land and air time) and no sleep for a
little more than 30 hours. I was way too excited to get any sleep on the
plane, no matter how hard I tried. I spent the time watching movies, writing
in my journal, listening to music, and hanging out with all the other Rotary
exchange students that were traveling the same flight. My family picked me
up at the Århus airport and there was the expected nervousness and awkward
silences. I dozed off for most of the ride back to the house, but I couldn’t
help notice the beautiful and different landscape.
Many Danes have asked me why I didn’t go to Norway or
Sweden where there are beautiful hills and mountains. They think that
Denmark isn’t really very pretty, but that it has other good features.
However, when compared to the flat Florida landscape, the Danish rolling
hills of Århus are welcome. There are certain places that you can stand
where you can see the whole city.
My first host family is very nice. It consists of my host
parents, Keld and Rikke, my host sister, Julie, and host brother, Frederik.
They also have a girl my age, Sofie, who will be spending the year in
Canada. In her absence, I will be taking her room. I met Sofie a few days
before she had to leave. She showed me some areas downtown and taught me
some of the bus system. She was a lot more depressed than I was about
leaving. I did not cry when I said goodbye, nor did I have any urge to so
for quite some time. It wasn’t until the end of my first week here that I
shed any tears. My eyes would water cry at random things that should not
have triggered tears. This lasted for about
3 days, and during that time I felt stabs of homesickness. I wasn’t homesick
for Florida, I was homesick for family. That passed quickly though, and I am
now a very happy person.
I am making many friends here. The people in my class are
very nice and accepting. They try and help me out as much as possible and I
spend a lot of time with them. One of my first days of school, two friends
of mine took me downtown and bought me some ice cream (mango, passion fruit,
and hindbær flavors). We had a great time getting to know each other. I
remember that at one of the orientations we were told something a former
student said, “I wish they could know me in English.” I don’t feel the same
way. In Denmark, people CAN know you in English. Instead, I think, “I wish
they can know me in Danish.” I want to be able to speak Danish. To be able
to join in a conversation and understand everything that is going on. I
don’t feel comfortable with people translating for me and saying things
twice (first in Danish to the other people, then in English to me.) This is
my main motivation in learning the language. Today I will start my weekly
Danish course, and next week I will be at a language camp in Copenhagen.
Hopefully, I will be able to start picking out words when the teacher speaks
to us soon.
I’ll have a lot more to talk about next month.
September 28 Journal and Pictures
Well, my quest to learn Danish is
progressing very fast. I can hold a conversation with my friends and
generally understand the dinner table talk. The key is to not be timid. I
make plenty of mistakes, and I practically have a flashing sign over my head
screaming “FOREIGNER” when I open my mouth, but I don’t care. I say what’s
on my mind and my sentences become more comprehensible as time goes by.
And time is flying. It has already been more that two
months! I try and keep busy, but in Denmark that is a little hard to do. I
have to be very forward and get my friends’ schedules at least a week before
hand, so we can plan something to do on the weekend. Nothing spontaneous
here. If I wait too long to see what they are doing, then the slot will
already be filled and they will be too busy to hang out. Everyone carries
around their student calendar/ appointment book, and they seem to be really
organized. I’m looking into joining the clubs here. If not sports, then
maybe a photography class or something similar.
I am going to change host families on November 1st. That
seems far away, but I am sort of looking forward to it. My current family is
a perfectly nice and normal family, but there is nothing holding me back
from moving to the next one. My host siblings ignore me, and I get pretty
lonely in the house. Maybe the next family will be better.
As far as school goes, I have settled into a general
routine. There are certain classes where the teacher ignores me and as long
as I turn in the rare assignments we are fine. In some classes I have
special assignments that help me learn Danish. For instance, in my Danish
class yesterday I wrote a poem describing the character of Gainesville,
Florida. The rest of the students are analyzing an intense poem written by
the Danish equivalent of Shakespeare, so it is understood that I have no
clue what is going on. The special assignments are helpful in these cases.
Some interesting thing I have done lately include:
- Going to a Danish football (soccer) match. Very spirited and loud.
- Rotary camps where I met all the “oldies” from Australia and New Zealand.
- Going to many birthday parties and school festivals. It seems like
everyone has their birthday in September!
- Learning the city like the back of my hand.
- Preparing for the Århus Kulturnat. (My city’s Culture Night)
- And I am currently starting a search for a Coffee House. They are
practically non-existent here, but I have heard of some.
Well, that’s it for now.
Vi ses næst måned
Megan and I in the airport
The Americans in Amsterdam
on our way to Denmark
A view of my city from the
top of the ARoS kunstmuseum
Another view from the top
of the ARoS kunstmuseum
The current exchange
students in District 1450
Me being a tourist
October 27 Journal
|Hej! So another month has gone by. My definition of time is
definitely changing. The length of one week no longer has the meaning.
I’ve been pretty busy the past couple of weeks. I have
already moved to my second host family. This family seems pretty nice. They
are very different from my last one in several ways. I no longer have
younger siblings. Instead, there is a girl my age, Kathrine, and an older
guy named Andreas. We have a dog too! This family is really loud, outgoing,
and active, whereas my last family was calm, quiet, and collected. I enjoy
both so it all works out for me. Adjustment to a new surrounding is coming
on pretty easy. I decorated my new room with pictures I have drawn and I’ve
fallen in love with the outcome. I should really consider interior design…
it’s a lot of fun. My host mom is really into art, so we have a lot in
common. She suggested that we can paint together and stuff. She also said I
can use her painting room whenever I want. It looks like it will be a lot of
I never thought I would say this, but I actually miss
homework. They don’t really assign homework to the students here, and when
they do it is something way over my head. One of my teachers still has me
doing little assignments, but the rest don’t really ask for any. I’m
starting to wonder how the grading system works… no assignments, no tests…
what is there to grade? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
I’ll write more about what is going on here really soon,
since I can’t think of anything to write right now. I do, however, have some
news for you guys to think about….
MY FAMILY IS MOVING BACK TO FLORIDA! Not back to the same
city, but I will still be able to visit and everything. I can come to the
welcome home dinner and see all of you guys again. It looks like they will
be going to New Port Richey in Pasco County (near Tampa for those of you who
don’t know where that is.) I was sort of looking forward to England… but it
makes so much more sense to be back in the states on so many levels.
As I said, I’ll tell you all more later, when I actually
have something to write. And I'll throw in some pictures too...
November 29 Journal
|So much has happened, so much to say…. where do I start?
Hmmm…let's do this chronologically then.
First off… I would like to thank
everyone who told me I should keep a journal. You were so right. I
have been actively writing in a journal (for the first time in my life) and
I'm very glad to have it. Actually, I’m currently on volume 2 since the
first book filled up so quick. It also makes recaps like this so much
I failed to mention some of the more
exciting parts of October in my last entry. Such as the
demonstrations that Megan told you guys about. I’ll just quote what I wrote
about it at the time… It’s a lot more lively that way.
October 05, 2004 -
“This is pretty exciting. My school is in the middle of a demonstration
against education cuts. The students are barricading the doors and blocking
the teachers from getting into their rooms. Actually, all the students
managed to get all the teachers out of the class rooms and heard them into
the teacher’s lounge with a series of human walls. It was really quite easy
for them to accomplish because the teachers all agree with the students on
the issue that they were protesting (they just weren’t allowed to voice
their opinions or they would risk losing their jobs.) Half of the school
just left to protest down at the town hall while the others stay and hold up
the fort here. I'm learning a lot about what the different political
opinions of the youth are. I wonder how many schools doing this. I know it
is happening all over the country.”
Wednesday, October 06, 2004 -
“Day two of demonstrations. Yesterday I headed down to the
town hall at around 2 o'clock after "holding down the fort" at the school.
There were hundreds of students down there. Very exciting. Then, last night,
there had been a planned film festival that was still on. I went there and
many students slept at the school so that when teachers and students arrive
today everything will be blockaded. More than ever do I wish I had my camera
here to photograph this. They have a series of chairs and stools in front of
the door in the shape of Sata's sled. They even have animals and decorations
all over it. There is an old fashioned alarm clock with wires attached that
looks like a fake bomb around the chairs. That would SO get someone arrested
in the states. They also have this inflatable alligator on top of the chair
pile to "ward off" all who dare enter. Its a lot of fun. I don’t know how
long it will go on though. A lot of people do not agree with it. I'm not
taking any political sides in this, I’m just observing and learning. To me,
it sounds like the demonstrating group would be the extreme liberals in the
states. Even though the two political systems are incomparable. After this
demonstration I am to give a speech about the USA to a class of 8th graders.
(that means slow speaking and hopefully they will pick up some of my
English) I just got the information on what I am to talk about last night.
It should be easy.”
Thursday, October 07, 2004 -
“Day THREE of demonstrating! It ends
today though. They were demonstrating in the morning, and then everyone
voted and we ended up heading to class instead. Classes just resumed as if
nothing had happened and the demonstrations weren’t even mentioned.”
I spent Halloween with all the other
exchange students in Denmark. It was nice to meet all the “oldies” (the
exchange students who arrived in the winter) but it was also sad because it
was the last time we would see any of them. It was actually a weekend put on
by rebound exchange students from Denmark who went to America and fell in
love with the tradition. Here are a few pics from that weekend:
having fun carving the pumpkin…
group photo of all the exchangers…
This month has been SO busy. Filled
with ups and downs. The downs being the discovery of exactly how much
weight I have gained since I have been here. My clothes still fit so I’m not
worried there, but I have become more physically active. Now every Sunday I
rollerblade around the lake (10 kilometers).
It also makes for some quality bonding time with my host sister, Kathrine,
who joins me.
I’ve also noticed the weather a lot
lately. The absolute beauty of autumn was stunning. And when that
disappeared I was captivated by the way the frost glittered all over the
city. Then we had snow! It only lasted one day and then it rained and turned
into slushy mush… but it was snow all the same! It’s gotten a lot warmer
How about I quote a few more of my
Wednesday, November 24, 2004 – “I
went to this movie that was all in French with Danish subtitles with my
French class. I was amazed at how much I understood. It is so much easier to
read Danish than to listen to it. I know I am not happy with the amount of
Danish I speak. I spend way too much time speaking English because it is so
easy to just fall back on. But after watching this movie I thought back to
when I first came and how much Danish I knew then and I realize that maybe I
have learned a thing or two. I now understand what people are saying... I
just need to work on speaking it myself.”
I truly believe that it is harder to
learn the language here than in some of the other countries because of how
much English everyone knows. My friends flip from Danish to English and than
back to Danish without even realising it, and they do that with themselves
too, not just with me. TV and movies are in English, the radio is dominated
by American singers, and often the billboard advertisements are even in
English. I’ve come to realise that this is part of the culture. American
culture and Danish culture are so intertwined that I can no longer pick out
the differences between the two. It's hard for me to remember if the meal I
am eating is something we have back in the states as well, and stuff like
that. When speaking English people here either have a Danish accent or an
American accent, and they use American slang all the time.
November 25, 2004 “THANKSGIVING!
It completely and totally rocked! I made all the classics…turkey, stuffing,
yams, green beans, biscuits, corn bread, deviled eggs, potatoes and gravy. I
had tons of help from my host mom with getting the ingredients, but I ended
up cooking most of it myself. I had a blast though. I truly enjoy being busy
and stressed. After everything was cooked I kept pacing the kitchen trying
to find something to do until my friend Julie looked ate me and was like…
“Sharon, slappe af!” which means calm down in Danish. Two of my friends
came; Julie and Camilla, and my host family consisted of 6; my host parents,
sister, brother, grandma, aunt, uncle, and cousin, and then 3 family friends
came as well. So in total, 13 people showed up for the dinner and I am happy
to say that it was successful. Everything tasted the way it should and
people seemed to love all the food. They were sceptical at first with the
thought of marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes that are an orange color,
but they loved the taste. And stuffing is the hardest thing to describe in
Turning leftover rissengrød into kage….
host sister helping me cook them…
November 28, 2004 – “First
Christmas tradition of the year! I woke up and noticed I had a Santa hat
tied to the doorknob outside my bedroom. Inside the hat was a little gift! I
opened it and there were the most beautiful earrings inside. My host mom
rocks! So I learned that this is the start of Advent and every Sunday until
Christmas we will be getting a present on our door when we wake up. So
The Christmas season is now upon us.
The city is decorated in lights and everyone is getting into the spirit. I
think I’m going to have a lot of fun celebrating Christmas. Not only will it
be my first Christmas in Denmark, but it will be my first Christmas ever!
The traditions are so different here, but I’ll wait to tell you guys all
about that in my next entry.
January 25 Journal
|Hej alle! It’s about time I wrote another journal entry…sorry for
So I’m stuck at home with the flu... yes...home. Because
that is what this place is to me now.
I never thought it was possible to have more than one
home. If you think about it there isn’t any reason for there not to be.
“Home is where the heart is,” and seeing as there are people with my heart
all over the world, then I guess that means I truly have more than one home.
Home is not a place, at least for me. I used to think about “home” and I
would picture my mom, dad, and sisters. Now I when I think about “home” I
see this little screen with arrows pointing in two separate directions. I
follow one and I see the previously mentioned faces of my family. Then, if I
follow the other arrow I see all the faces that I have encountered here,
most prominent are my host family and friends.
So the people are my home, not the place of residence.
This is important to know, seeing as I will be changing my place of
residence at the end of this month. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I
love my current host family. I fit in perfectly and I’m comfortable here.
Staying with them has been an awesome experience and I’m not sure if I want
that to end. I’m at the point where I look forward to telling my host mom
what I did that day and casual banter with my host siblings comes naturally
to me. My current host family organized a little get together with my next
host family a few days ago. Nothing big, just a casual cup of coffee to talk
over. I’m pretty sure this host family was just as curious as I was to see
what my next one would be like. We discovered that they seem incredibly nice
and they have a witty sense of humor. Sarcasm is something that the Danes
have perfected. I wouldn’t be surprised if they invented it. Anyway, we
talked about where I would live and what their life is like. There is
promise of travel. The most recent being a trip to Paris on February 12th,
the beginning of our winter break. It will last for 3 or 4 days and I am
incredibly excited! Overall, I think I will love it at my next family as
well. Which will hopefully add even more faces to my picture of “home.”
But I can write more about them later. I have been so
incredibly busy that I haven’t been able to write about what has been going
on since my last post. So lets recap on the last two months:
December began with the duty of deciding what our
return date would be. I know, right? Only December, and we are already
thinking about which date we should return on? Well I finally decided on
June 3rd. So now that that is out of the way, at least I don’t have to worry
about it. It did come up in a recent conversation, however. In my language
class we were discussing the fact that a new batch of exchange students
arrived on the 23rd. Officially changing our status of “newbies” to the more
respectable status of “oldies.” It made us think about how time is moving so
incredibly fast. I have been here for almost 6 whole months, meaning I only
have 4 more months left in Denmark. Then someone said that 4 months is
actually around 17 weeks. 17 Weeks! Barely anything on the scale of our
lives. This is an open door of opportunity, but the door will only stay open
for so long. I really need to make these remaining 17 weeks worthwhile.
on December 7th, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah came. I took the opportunity
to share with my host family aspects of my life. I told them the story of
how the holiday came to be and we participated in some of the traditions
together. They were with me when I lit the menorah for the first few times
and on the last night some of my friends came over and we played dreidel. I
only felt a slight twinge of the “holiday blues” that many exchangers get.
It passed after talking with my family and listening to them celebrate the
holiday over the phone. Here is a pic of the menorah that my family and I
Later in the month, I took part in an awesome Danish
Christmas. The week before Christmas I made tons and tons of cookies with my
host sister, Kathrine and then on the 24th I went to the church with my host
family. After that we all went to my host Uncle’s house and we spent
‘Juleaften’ or Christmas night there. We had a really traditional dinner and
I had a good time getting to know everybody. Then Mads (host cousin),
Kathrine, and I went to get all the gifts from the car and put them under
the tree. Now there were millions of gifts. I’m amazed we fit them all under
the tree. Once we were done we had to leave the room for my host Aunt and
host Uncle to light the candles on the tree (they use real candles instead
of Christmas lights to decorate the tree). When they finished they let
everyone come back into the room and we all stood around the tree. Each
person got to choose which Christmas song we wanted to sing, starting with
the youngest child and working our way up. We held hands and danced, sung,
and laughed around that tree. Then Mads, Kathrine and I took turns pulling
out gifts and handing them out to everyone. I had so much fun and got so
many cool things. Definitely a great first Christmas! But it doesn’t end
there… In Denmark, not only do you have Christmas night on the 24th, you
also have Christmas Day on the 25th, and Second Christmas Day on the 26th. I
spent the 25th at Mathilde’s house for a ‘Jule frokost’ meaning Christmas
lunch. Basically, it is just an excuse to eat lots of Christmas foods. And
then everyone came to our house for the 26th to eat even more food. So much
Pictures from December:
|These are some of
the decorations around the house. In Denmark they don’t really use
Santa... instead they have Nisse... little mischief making
|My host sister
Kathrine and I made tons of cookies to give as Christmas presents to
family friends and Rotarians.
And of course, the Christmas tree packed with
presents. It’s sort of hard to see from this pic but it is covered with
candles that we lit. It was really very beautiful.
This is also one of the Christmas
decorations/traditions. There are these cone things all over the tree
and some of them are filled with little cookies for you to snack on.
Then the beginning of January commenced with an awesome
New Year’s. It started with a large get together at a family friend’s house
where we ate more food and listened to the Queen’s traditional New Year’s
speech. Afterwards, I went to a party at my friend Jakobe’s house. We saw
the fireworks at the school (cause she lives right next to it and it has the
best view) and they were really pretty. Instead of there being one huge
professional show for you to watch there are fireworks all around you. Every
other house in the city was setting off the expensive stuff. No matter which
direction you turned you saw fireworks. It sounded like a battle zone (or is
that battle field?) One tradition that stuck out in my head was that
everyone stood on the chairs for the countdown and jumped down when the
clock struck midnight. I’ve been told that this is not necessarily a Danish
tradition but that it is still very popular among many Danes.
Pictures from January:
Snow!! Snow has actually been very rare this year in
Denmark. It has snowed only a handful of times (only one inch thick or
less) and they predict that there won’t be much more at all.
This is my host mom, Birgit, and me. She's a
really sweet woman that I'm really gunna
miss when I go to my next host family.
My host sister, her friend, and me
Gotta love the crown. They were really into all the
party hats for new years.
We also had a hurricane in the month of January. It was
actually the first storm I experienced in Denmark. You get all sorts of
weather here. In one week you can have rain, snow, hail, frost, wind, and
clear skies. But we never seem to get actual storms here. I remember looking
out the window and seeing the trees sway and bend. It reminded me of
Florida. The sound of wind blowing the trees against the windows and
branches falling on the roof. The only thing is... in Florida you also have
the sound of pounding rain during a storm. That was missing here. It seemed
to be all wind and only a slight drizzle of rain. Anyway, it was a HUGE deal
to have a storm/tropical storm in Denmark. The whole country freaked out
about that one.
And on the language front. Speaking Danish has been
getting easier and easier. I think less about what I am saying and words
seem to flow out of my mouth now. I consider myself rather fluent in the
language, even if I have troubles with certain words in certain situations.
Danish comes naturally to me now and I often think solely in Danish without
The last thing I wanted to mention is that I have been in
a REALLY great mood lately. For no apparent reason the past month has
been just awesome. Everyone says that this is where the exchange gets good,
and I have a feeling that they are very right.
March 20 Journal
|Wow, I’m amazed at how much has happened since I wrote last. The
beginning of my exchange year had periods where I had absolutely nothing to do
and therefore nothing to write about. Since then, my plate has had more and more
piled onto it. To the point where I do not have enough time to fully digest what
is going on in my life anymore. That’s where writing in a diary comes in handy.
I can sit down and just let words flow through my hand. The speed at which they
come is increasingly fast and in no time I have a record of what is going on in
my head. I seriously recommend to all exchangers to write in a journal often
during your year abroad.
Journal keeping can sort of be related to cleaning a
teenage bedroom. Clothing strewn all over the floor, bed, and desk. Homework
papers covering all the remaining counter space. There is no time to go in a
pick up the mess, so instead it just gets worse and worse, until you just
can't take it anymore. The decision is finally made to crack down and clean
up. It takes a few attempts to find enough discipline to get started, but
after awhile a routine starts to form. Before you know it, the room is clean
and you feel so much better about yourself. The same goes for keeping a
journal. Your mind is the room and your thoughts are the sock on the chair
and the stack of papers by the door. As the words flow from the pen they
organize themselves to form a nice and tidy mind. Anyway, I’m getting off
topic here. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the more often you
write the less often you have to clean it up. I’ve been slacking on my
writing duties so its about time I clean out the old attic.
To start with, I moved to a new host family. These people are
amazing. I feel so at home and comfortable here. I have two host siblings,
Mette and Søren, two host parents, Jens and Vibeke, and a dog named Malou.
Mette is fourteen years old and the perfect shopping partner. She has become
a close friend and is one of the easiest people to talk to. Søren is
eighteen and has a great sense of humor. Though I don’t see him very often,
since he lives at an English speaking school in another city during the
weekdays, we have had enough time to get to learn quite a bit about each
other. Vibeke and Jens welcomed me with open arms and attentive ears. Within
the first week that I was here I felt “a part of the family” and the
awkwardness that normally lingers at first, melted away at a shockingly
I have been developing lots of bonds lately with those
around me. Obviously with my host family, but also with my friends. We’ve
had a lot more time to hang out and acquaintances have become close friends
and close friends have become best friends. Bonds have formed and I wish to
keep them intact for as long as possible. I’m starting to get mixed feelings
about returning to Florida. It will be a true test on these new strings that
bind us together. Hopefully I will be able to braid those strings into
strong ropes within the next two and a half months.
saw a trip to Paris with my host family. We had an awesome time there and I
have to say that Paris is the most beautiful city I have ever visited...
despite the horrible weather we had. We managed to fit all the most
important tourist sites into just one week jam packed with days that
required good quality walking shoes and a relaxing bath that night. I was
amazed at how much French I actually understood and how easy the Metro is to
follow. The art in the Museé D’Orsay was stunning. I saw Degas pastels and
Van Gogh’s portraits, along with many more artists that I have studied and
The architecture of the Sacré Coeur is impressive and we
were actually able to go inside and watch a real Sunday service. Everyone
that steps foot in that building respects the holiness of the place and even
though there were hundreds of people inside, only the sole voice of the
priest resounded in the room. The Notre Dame is a contrast in so many ways
to the Sacré Coeur, but it was beautiful in its own right. We went to so
many places and ate out at so many restaurants. We had a great time.
After Paris, we spent the rest of the Winter Break at my
host family’s summer house. And in a few days we will be returning to said
summer house for påske ferien (Easter break). It is a peaceful and sweet
house in a small town on the North-Western coast. It is very common for
people in Denmark to own both a normal house and a summer house. The summer
house is a perfect place to go and get away from it all. A great concept.
Then on February 24th I had my birthday! It was so perfect. I
woke up early for a traditional birthday breakfast. Mette had spelled my
name out in gummi-bears and all my presents were sitting out next to mini
Danish flags. I got to open my presents and every present was perfect. My
host family had gotten me awesome gifts, my previous host family sent some
and had just received a package from Florida. It was absolutely perfect. My
mom called later in the day while I was drinking the Barnie's coffee she had
sent me and my grandparents called later in the day. That night we ate a
special dinner and we had a traditional layer cake and I blew out the
candles. The whole day had this really nice and very special feeling to
it... one of the best birthdays I have ever had.
Most of March consisted of stressful homework and getting
sick again, but soon I was off to Berlin. We did so much; tourist sites,
school assignments, partying, and just hanging out. I learned a lot about my
friends and a lot more about how they interact with each other when living
together. There has been a sudden burst of improvement in my language skills
and that is all due to the help of my friends. The simple act of correcting
my grammar when I speak and write is a welcome way of learning. We talked
about all sorts of topics, from what our favorite foods are to the
casualness of sex in Danish teenage life. We had a blast. There is so much
that we did that (knowing me) writing it all down would take pages and
pages. I won’t bore you with all the details and instead I will leave you
with one sentence. This trip has been just one of the many experiences that
have made this year one to remember and cherish.
May 28 Journal
|My life has taken a very surreal turn lately. You see, I
that I only have 5 days left before I hop on the plane back to Florida. It
doesn’t seem real. I feel like I suddenly jumped off the carousel and now I’m
looking for something to grab so I can jump back on. Only, the carousel is
moving too fast and it is impossible to continue life as it was. I have to step
back and move on and find a different ride at the fair. It's a strange feeling,
but it is something I am ready to do. I’m going to see my family again. I am
going to see my old friends. I’m going to re-visit my old life. I’m going to
stop living this “dream” and wake up to reality.
But my reality is not the same reality as the other
exchange students. As I mentioned in previous journals, my family has moved
around a bit since I have been on exchange. They moved to England and then
back. They are currently (and now permanently) living in Tampa, Florida.
They moved into their new house a few days ago. So I won't be returning to
“the way things used to be.” I will have a new city, new house, new school,
new friends, new job... the list could go on and on. I won't have to worry
about people expecting me to be the same way I was before I left, because I
will be starting fresh once again. I sort of feel exactly like I did before
I left to come to Denmark, I am on the verge of a new adventure.
As for a recap on what I have been doing since March...
well, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I celebrated my first Easter. It was
lots of fun. My host siblings and I received a big cardboard egg filled with
millions of chocolate, licorice, and marzipan mini-eggs. Easter was also my
host grandpa’s 80th birthday. So we had a huge party with all of my extended
host family attending.
I also have continued with my new fascination with mother
nature. Here is an except from my diary in April:
søndag, 10. April 2005 I went out to go on a walk with the
dog today and it truly felt like spring. The birds were all singing
different songs, and the sun was warm on your skin despite the cool breeze.
The trees are budding with spurts of leaves and baby pinecones. All the dogs
were running around chasing and sniffing each other. People were having
picnics and riding bikes. Truly and completely SPRING. I've never actually
seen spring at its fullest before. In Florida they say that the seasons are
described as; almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas. We never
really feel the change from one season to the next. And that change is
actually very deep. Everyone's face now bears a smile. People's moods are
lifted and the overall happiness seems to be contagious. I didn't even
realize that winter was making me slightly depressed until I saw how spring
did the opposite. I think I sort of had the opposite of cabin fever. I
always wanted to stay inside and sleep instead of the other way around. I
had wanted to stay in the so called cabin and not leave but now it's
different. It's a time of change.
I’ve been doing some traveling around Denmark as well. I
visited Copenhagen, not too long ago, with my host sister. We had a blast.
We went to all the tourist sites and did a whole bunch of shopping. Then I
went to Ebeltoft with my host mom one weekend. There was a new Hans
Christian Anderson exhibit at the glass museum and we were curious and
interested. That was also lots of fun.
Oh yeah, on Thursday I gave my Rotary speech. I spent 40
minutes standing in front of my club talking about what I did this year in
choppy, nervous Danish. They all seemed really impressed with it afterwards,
but while I was talking I kept on looking into their really bored faces and
thinking, “should I be making more jokes?” But it is done and over with now.
They told me that all their previous exchange students only talked for five
minutes and in English, so I went far beyond their expectations.
When I got home from the Rotary meeting I proceeded to
bake 9 dozen cookies. I have become famous here for my “American Cookies”
(you have to love the recipe on the back of the Tollhouse Chocolate Chips
bag). I mentioned to my friend that I was making the cookies for my going
away party and they all literally jumped for joy. It made me smile.
Then the next day was the going away party. I had a bunch
of friends over. Eleven friends actually. We had a blast. We made dinner
(with lots of potatoes) and drank wine while talking our mouths off. They
got me this beautiful necklace with matching earrings as a goodbye present.
I’m going to miss them so much. Really.
Then today all of my host families are coming over for a
farewell lunch/dinner. I think there will be around 15 people here for that.
I cant help but think that that will be a little weird. When I think of my
life in Denmark I sort of think of 3 different mini-lives, and now they will
all be in the same room at the same time. I hope it wont be too strange.
But then again, as I said before, strange and surreal have
become flashing billboards in my life right now.
Besides that I have just been living regular old normal
life. Gossiping with the girls about which guy we think is cute, stressing
over school grades, making plans for Friday night. You know... normal life.
It’s funny that when life becomes completely normal, I have to leave.
So this is my last journal. I want to thank everyone that
read it. To all of you that are thinking about becoming exchange students in
the future, go for it! To all the outboards that are succeeding us, good
luck! And to all the exchangers that are finishing up our exchange year,
congratulations, we made it!
Thank you Rotary. You changed my life.
Knus og kys,