Monday, January 14, 2013

Christmas in Denmark

My bike basket covered in snow.
This was an amazing Christmas.  I had a Secret Santa or nisse that brought me a stocking and decorations over my door.  Then I received a Christmas package from an amazing friend back in the States.  I hate to admit this but it is true.  I was secretly moping because others were talking about getting packages and presents and I knew that this wouldn't happen for me.  I was wrong because I did get a package and I can tell you that it brought a grin to my face just like I was a kid again.
From my Secret Santa

Our little group got together in our common room and had a Christmas dinner together.  It was a nice gathering and another way to share the holiday.

I made some Danish Christmas heart decorations for the party. 
Yummy dinner
Gift for our dinner from a friend that went home.
We also had one of our teachers invite those who weren't going home to his place in Kolding.  We got to go to a couple of museums and have a meal there due to another person at school.  It was so kind of them to reach out to those of us who wouldn't be able to go home to family and/or friends for the holidays.  We first went to a modern art museum called the Trapholt Museum and we got a special tour of Arne Jacobsen's summer house.  It had furniture, fixtures and dinnerware in the house and you actually got to sit on the furniture.  That was unreal.    We ate lunch there at a buffet that had some very interesting nouveau Danish food.  Our host didn't even know what many of the dishes were.  But they were good.

Arne Jacobsen summer house.

Trapholt Museum piece

Trapholt Museum restaurant

Trapholt Museum entrance

After that we went to the Koldinghus Museum, which you will know from previous posts that I had seen before.  This time we got a little special something here as well.  Apparently in the horse carriage house there is an old jail area from the Nazi occupation.  We got the key from the gentleman at the entrance and then let ourselves in.
Koldinghus "Halte hoch deine höchste hoffnung" "Hold up your highest hope 

Inside the Nazi jail.  Koldinghus

Koldinhus, Nazi jail, weapons of torture.

After that we went to his house where his wife cooked us a classic Thai meal.  It was a lovely home.  There were books everywhere you look and that makes a place home to me.  I miss my books being out on bookshelves.  And I miss the books that I have had to get rid of.  Oh well.

On our last day of Danish classes before the break, I gave a presentation on Danish birthdays and so I made one of there classic morning birthday cakes for the class the night before.  It was a rather odd venture as the cake required yeast.  I was a little afraid.  The last time that I tried to make something with yeast, I ended up freaking out because my hands were glued inside of dough gloves.  I guess being pregnant and hormonal didn't help my experience.  This time when I got to the stage of the dough glued hands, I held myself in check and kept going.  I survived and was able to bring the cake to school the next day.
This picture from the web looks just like the cake that I made. 
On the last day of university, we had an "afslutning" at the cathedral.  The choir sang three songs for the people.  The most amazing thing was that I got to sing with a real cathedral organ.  It was awesome.  We also a song in Danish and our last song was "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and we sopranos sang the descant.
Julafslutning pamphlet

Once school was closed, I got all caught up on the Danish television Christmas series.  I really enjoyed the one about kids who go to Valhal.  Guess what it was called.  Jul i Valhal.  Surprise!
A picture from the web of Jul i Valhal
During the holiday, we had two assignments to complete and get our lesson plans ready for our month of practicum.  We had all of our lesson plans on a platform called Pirate Pad.  Then it wouldn't work.  I didn't panic.  Yet.  I tried for 3 days and then asked others to try.  It didn't work.  Now I was ready to cry.  I had done so much work and loaded so many materials for the assignments on there.  So we had to write it all again.  Not a fun part of Christmas vacation.
I find this amusing.  Hummer soup.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Is Near

Anything for a picture.

I had had a couple of mysterious calls come in during the day on Dec. 3 but I didn't know the number and I could not catch it in time as I was in class.  When I came home later on and was in the middle of doing my homework, my cell phone rang again.  This time I caught it.  It was a person from Haderslev Ugeavisen (Haderslev weekly newspaper).  He asked me about some photos that I had sent in to see if they wanted them for the newspaper.  Then he went on to ask me many many questions about who I was and what I was doing here in Haderslev.  At the end he told me that he was going to write an article about me for the paper which will show up on the 19th or 26th of December.  Holy cow.

I made it up there for my photo!

I have joined our little college choir.  The first practice that I went to was so wonderful.  I walked home on cloud 9.  It was such a wonderful feeling to be back doing something that I loved so much.  I hadn't even realized how much I had missed it.  Then last Thursday we had a little Christmas concert at school.  We sang four songs and it was amazing to be back on stage performing for others.  The folks who put together the decorations for it were just wonderful.  They had put up Christmas lights everywhere and boughs of Nordman fir all over.  There were tables dressed in red tablecloths with a candle and more boughs on them.  They were selling cakes, beer, and tea.

Our International group had a Christmas dinner together.  We all brought a piece of the meal.  I had no idea what was served for a Christmas dinner here.  It is called a julefrokost.  So our organizers made a list of food and we all chose something to bring.  I brought something called leverpostej with bacon and mushrooms.  I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it though and had to ask.  It turns out the you fry the bacon slivers and then cook the mushrooms in the grease left over.  Then when it is served you spread the warmed up leverpostej on bread and top it with the cooked mushrooms and bacon.  Oh my goodness but it was amazing.  I think even those of you that don't like liver, which is the base for leverpostej, would have like this.

salmon, dip sauce (honey mustard, dill sauce) 
shrimp and mayo
karrysild (herring with curry salad) 
eggs (eggcake and hard-boilded eggs)
dark bread and white bread
leverpostej, which is a liver spread (with roasted champignon and bacon)
red cabbage in jars
baked root vegetables (rodfrugter)
cheese plate with grapes and pepper (three different cheeses)
ris a l'amande with cherry sauce 

That was an amazing meal and a huge thanks goes out to the organizers.

I have been watching a number of different Christmas shows.  One is called Julestjerner which means Christmas star or poinsettia.  It is the story of a family that loses their home in town and find out they have a place that they have inherited in the country.  All sorts of strange things happen to them there including things that happen due to Christmas elves called nissemænd.  There is another one called Jule i Kommenen which is more adult oriented.  The mayor is a little nuts and not very mayor like thus causing all sorts of difficulties.  Then there is Jul i Valhal which tells the story of two children who find the ancient Norse god Loke tied up in a cave.  He finds a way to get them to untie him.  He is the trickster god, among other things, so trouble starts and the kids end up going to Valhal in order to find a way to fix what they have done.  Sadly, I don't understand all the words so I am sure that I miss a lot that is going on but it gets a little easier everyday.

Christmas decorations at my school UCSyd Haderslev. 

Christmas is such a huge thing here and it goes on all month long in different ways.  We also had a little Christmas gathering with our class where we brought a candle, treats and a 10 kr. present with us.  We sang a couple of Christmas songs and then we played a game with the presents.  We had to throw a dice and whoever got a six would get to chose a present.  Then when there were no more presents in the middle, you would take one from someone else.  At some points people had nothing while others they had many.  This was a little uncomfortable for those of us who were Internationals as we didn't know what was going to happen at the end.  It could end up with one or a few people having all the presents and then others having none.  That didn't seem very friendly.

It turned out that people who had more than one gave the extras away to those who had none.  That also caused a little difficulty because there were those who felt embarrassed to accept one as their culture had taught them that that was like accepting charity.  I think that it might have helped if we had understood the rules of the ending at first although, I had spoken to someone from one of those cultures and they said that it would still be difficult to accept.  It was that strongly engrained in them.

We have had a couple of parties that are also sad as we have two of our International fellow class members make the decision that this isn't right for them.  So they have gone home.  We will miss them.

Cooking dinner.

Enjoying a hyggelig dinner.

Candles make things hyggelig.

An interesting game building towers until they fell.

It has snowed a few times over the past few weeks and we have built up a pretty decent amount of snow.  As of right now, it is in the process of melting as the temperatures have gone back above zero.  Sadness.  Today has been quite foggy and surrealistic due to the melting snow causing a lot of moisture to be in the air.  A few nights ago it was bitter cold with raging winds and snow falling that was more like mini ice pellets than snow.  I love all of it.

On the way to school in the morning.
Snow on the cafe tables in Torvet Square.
Snow melting and falling off of my roof.

A realistic look at the fog today here in Haderslev.

Coming home and covered in snow.

The nissemand or kvinde struck again at our apartments this morning.  I went outside awhile after I got up to find that there was a Christmas stocking for me at my door.  It brought tears to my eyes.

My stocking from the nissemand.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Officially Christmas time in Denmark

Have you ever had pálinka?  I hadn't until this week.  It was homemade too.  If you want an alcohol with a horse kick, this stuff has it in spades.  I was introduced to it along with homemade hungarian cabbage and meatballs made by grandma.  It was incredibly delicious.  Being a part of the International community, one certainly gets to have a plethora of experiences and I am happy for that.

I guess that it was a week for firsts as I witnessed my first ever epileptic fit too.  While taking a smoke break out on the balcony at language school, I noticed that a man was looking rather odd.  I had been about to go in but I turned around in a heart beat and went over to see if I could help.  As I was going over, he started to look more and more off and it seemed like he was collapsing into a guy who was standing just behind him.  As I arrived, he started to seize and I and the other guy carefully lowered him to the ground.  He was so unbelievable rigid.  As we took him down, my leg ended up being trapped between his legs and I could feel the force of the seizure through my leg.  I managed to extricate myself and continued to stay with the guy.

Someone else came over and was trying to put a cup of water to his mouth.  I forceful said no and pushed the glass away.  Obviously they didn't realize that he couldn't drink and it could even cause a problem.  Then he started frothing at the mouth and I gestured to those around me to turn him on his side so that he wouldn't take it into his lungs.  I don't know how long this went on but it felt like it was a long seizure.   There was a point when I could see his eyes roll up in his head as he went out.  Finally, you could see him slowly start to come back to us but he was just not really with us at all.  He didn't know where he was for a while.  At this point, some of the employees of the school came out as well as the head master and I felt that it was appropriate to leave as they seemed to understand the situation.  I think that it was a little while before I calmed down.

My group wrote our first official assignment this week and it was quite an experience.  Three out of four of us had never had to try to do a written assignment as a group.  It was very frustrating at times but we did get it done and turned it in.  I have no idea whether or not it will be considered okay or not though.  There needs to be training for people that have no experience in it.  And I would even say that it would be important for people who are used to doing it but can't put into words how it works or why.  I also think that there are types of assignments that it is good for and types that it isn't so good for but I haven't enough experience with it to specify what exactly.

We had an assignment this week in Danish class to go out into the community and ask questions and get information on certain places to make a report for the class.  It was a lot of fun.  My group went to the Activity House here in Haderslev.  What an amazing place it was.  There are two floors of workrooms.  One is for metal work and  woodwork and the other is for glasswork and sewing crafts.  There is one official person there to help you and some volunteers.  You pay only 20 kr. for a day plus you pay for any materials that you use.  It is like a candy store when you walk in with all the equipment that you could ever imagine having a need for.  I hope to be able to use this one of these days.
This is the link to their website.
Activity House Haderslev
Picture from Aktivitetshuset webpage. Sewing room.

Picture from Aktivitetshuset webpage.  Metal shop.

The same people that shared their pálinka with me earlier in the week, had me over again on Friday to share in a feast.  It was the naming day for two people.  We don't have this back in America or Canada but I also heard about in when living in France.  It is the day that matches the Saint who also has your name.  We had deer meat that had been brought over from Hungary and cooked into an amazing dinner.  The meat and sauce was served over a cooked potato that was cut up.  It had Juniper berries in the sauce too.  I have not had venison for years and thoroughly enjoyed getting a chance to eat it again.

On Saturday, we went to a second hand market that they have once a month.  It is actually quite close to where I live so it was easy to get to.  They had anything that you could possibly want there.  I bought a book from 1899.  It is a book of the plays of an author called Ludwig Holberg.  I had no idea who that was but my roommate told me that he is actually quite well-known and an important literary figure here.  It took me hours to try to read just the very beginning of it.  It wasn't just that it was a foreign language and that it was an old form of it, but also that the typography was even more unfamiliar to me than just simply that the s was the long version.  You would never imagine what the k looks like.  I had to spend a long time on the internet trying to find the typography so that I could interpret it.  But I found it.

Ludwig Holberg Comædier 1899

Ludwig Holberg Comædier 1899

Gothic Alphabet from 1890 in Denmark

Apparently, we have an official nissemand (elf) here.  On Friday, when we got up in the morning, someone had come by and put some Christmas decorations on four of our apartment doors.  It was the sweetest thing ever.  We have had such fun trying to figure out who it might have been and the mystery of it is quite entrancing.

Christmas decorations left by a mystery nisse. 

Dec. 1 was also the official day for the Danes to put up their Christmas decoration and start the month long festivities.  At the second hand market, I found two classic style nisse to put in my window and I got a Santa hat as well.  I only spent 25 kr. for the book, two elves and hat.  Awesome.

Classic Danish Christmas decorations

This is also when the "Julekalender" starts on TV.  Apparently, this is a tradition and every year whatever happens the day before on the 15 minute program becomes the water cooler conversation for the next day.  I have seen a few of them from the previous years on youtube but I don't get the channel that they are on so that I can watch them each day and be a part of the Danish culture of the season.  Oh well.  Maybe next year.

An example of the Julekalendar shows.

Today, was a free day at the Archeology museum here in town and they had all sorts of fun activities for the kids as well.  They had a game where the kids had to seek out the clues left by the nisse all around the museum.  You would find little tiny elf footprints all over the museum leading to something for the game.  They had singers and glogg.  They had Santa and the night watchmen.  The building was quite impressive especially considering the small size of the town that we are in.  There are a number of medieval buildings dotted around the space with original materials in them set up as they would have been back then.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Holiday cheer

Little girl gets to pick a candy from Santa's sack. 

They look so amazed.

A little glogg and some æbleskiver.

Haderslev night watchmen (vægteren)

Oh yeah.  It snowed too!.  It snowed on Dec. 1 in the evening and we all ran out to see it.  Then a bunch of the crowd up here ended up in a snowball fight and sliding.  One of them had never been in the land of snow in her whole life and it was just like watching a kid's first experience with the stuff.  So much fun to see!  It was coming down in those huge fat snowflakes that cover the ground with great haste.  Today, when I got up the snow was still there and plus more that had fallen during the night.  We walked down to the museum in a beautiful white wonderland.  I have missed snow so much.

It is just starting to come down and everyone is so excited.

Me and the snow!

Games in the snow.

What I saw the next morning.

Walking to the museum.  Gorgeous.

Still walking to the museum.  Still gorgeous.

And the sun goes down on a great day!