Saturday, September 29, 2012


In someone's yard for a while.  I think it may have something to do with a 30th birthday. 

I have been working my butt off trying to feel like I can get a grip on the language and the changes.  I had a meltdown in class again this week.  This time it started because the teacher was expressing her feelings about the class members who were not participating in class and assignments enough.  I understand her frustration as a fellow teacher.  It hurts when you are putting your all into helping people get what they need to learn.  Then when you see them not giving you as much back as you are putting in for them, you sort of have your own meltdown.

They say fart all the time.  It means speed but it still cracks me up.

My problem was that I emotionally couldn't tell the difference.  I knew that I was putting in a lot of hard work and I knew on one level that it wasn't aimed at me but it seems that my emotional side is a little sensitive right now.  I started getting teary-eyed and sort of sat there with my head down and my hair hanging around my face while trying to gather myself back together again.  It took awhile but I thought that I had managed and when I went to answer a question the flood gates let open.  I even laughed at myself in the middle of getting all emotional.  Poor teacher.  She looked at me and said that she didn't know if she could take it again.

After classes were over for the day, I went to town and wondered around trying to figure out how to find pure white or blue white light bulbs so that I could put one in the lamp by my desk.  I know that with the lessening of sunlight that I am at risk for getting SAD.  I asked and asked and asked but no one seemed to know where I might find them.

I decided to go to the library to set up my library account.  I went in and asked at the desk about getting my card.  The lady that was behind the desk didn't have the best English but she sure did try.  She was very generous and helped me by showing me how to check books out and took me to the children's library section so that I could get help finding the types of books I wanted for learning.  I wanted picture/word books like Richard Scary books and I wanted cartoon books.  Little did the woman know that I was teetering on the edge and I found myself getting all wet around the eyes again.  I was just so raw.  I did manage to get out of there without completely cracking.

After I got home, a couple of my neighbors came by to see how I was doing as they hard heard that I had lost it in class again.  They were so caring that I started to feel it happening again.  Poor guys.  It is tough to see a grown woman start to lose it.  They told me that I needed to learn to relax and take it a little easier on myself and, of course, they are right.  I just have never been could about giving myself permission to relax.  I have been trying to this weekend though.

I did one thing on Friday night to take myself completely away from the entire thing.  In Haderslev, they have night watchmen, vægtergangen, that wear the Medieval outfit, carry lanterns with real candles in them and a scary item called a "morning star."  You can see it in the picture.  The ones that they are holding are real and they have to carry a licence with them while they have the weapon on them.

Haderslev Night Watchmen.  Henning Jeppesen is the furthest left.

I arrived at the starting point which was in front of the church to join them walking around the town and listen to what I could of their talk about the history of the town.  A friend from university joined me.  We ended up going with one gentleman all by ourselves and ended up going on a 2 hour tour of the town.  It was quite magical.  At times it even began to feel like we were starting to transcend back to the middle ages.  Our tour guides name was Henning Jeppeson and he was wonderful.  He gave us the whole story in English, only occasionally using Danish words when he couldn't come up with the English for something.

I believe that at the end we got a special little treat.  He asked us if we would like to see the watchman's house.  Well, of course, we said yes.  He took us into this small room with a kitchen table and chairs in the middle.  It was surrounded by the paraphernalia  of the job.  There were more morning stars and medieval manacles that they wore as they walked the town.  There were large pictures of the ancient city around the room.  He offered us a little drink of a special drink that they have.  It was a very magical night and just what I needed.

Mågeklatter=Seagull Droppings


Rådne Fisk=Rotten Fish
I was told about Bonbonland before I left and I found these candies that went with the theme park.

I made a master shopping list this morning from the advertisements and then hopped on my bike to go to town and hit up all the stores for my groceries.  I got all the way downtown and couldn't find the sale prices so I took another look at the circulars and found that all but one, the closest to me, wouldn't start until tomorrow.  I had even tried to make the trip in between rain storms but got lambasted by one as I was getting to the bottom of the hill.  There was nothing to do but ride back up and go back home until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Getting Baptized

Last weekend was a bit of lazing about, doing shopping and cleaning.  Oh and homework.  Ah the life of a student.  I spent a good amount of time going through all the circulars to find the best shopping deals for my food of the week.  That took me a long time.  They have a surprising amount of grocery stores here.

 At my closest store, Kiwi, I found a packet of ramen soup so I thought I would give it a try.  It all looked normal from the outside but inside the pack was a different story.  There were three little packets inside.  One had the broth powder, another had chili powder and the third had a bit of oil.  I threw it all in and when I took a bite, I near to blew the top of my head off.  I thought that I was habituated to spices with using a lot of wasabi and being around a lot of Mexican food.  Ai ai ai, was I wrong.  I guess next time I will use less of the chili pack.

Salty licorice pipe.

I took another trip to Jysk that weekend and bought a couple of pillows.  Now that my new roommate is here, I was back to only one pillow and that was super uncomfortable for relaxing on the bed.  I don't have a couch to relax on you know.  I also bought a pack of 10 hangers as there were only 5 here in the apartment.  I was very proud of myself because I was really trying to use whatever Danish I had in order to get what I needed.  I also used to Danish to try to find an electrical chord for a sewing machine.  I actually found a sewing machine by the garbage but I need a chord in order to see if it even works as there wasn't one with it.  Wouldn't that be awesome if it did?

When I first got this apartment, I noticed that the shower head was super high.  It seemed like a giant must have lived here before me.  I didn't think anything more about it until my new roommate moved in.  I took a shower after she had used it and I realized that the shower head was now down to a normal height.  Doh!  I could have adjusted it all along but I guess with my American habits, it didn't occur to me that it was possible.

 Super thin chocolate to make breakfast sandwich with.

I got another new neighbor that last weekend too.  She was very nice and actually came over to me to chat.  She asked me in Danish if it was okay to come and say hi.  Of course I said yes but had to tell her that I wasn't able to communicate in Danish.  Just like most people here, she has a good command of English.  We talked for a long time.

After school on Monday, I went to turn in my boligstøtte.  We found out that there was a housing aid for people.   It took a group effort to figure out how it worked, where to get the papers, and how to fill them out but we did it.  I had my Norwegian roommate help me with the details of the paper.  As a Norwegian, she is able to read almost all of the Danish stuff and understand it.  Together we had to work out a couple of words using google.translate but in the end it was a success.  When I took it in, I had a couple of questions but it turned out that I didn't need that info.  The kind lady at the desk wrote something in Danish where the income lines were and then I was done.  Easy-peasy in the end.

Then I had to get something called a NEM ID.  This thing had stumped me since I first heard about it.  I couldn't quite grasp what it was or how it was used.  My first step was to go to the counter in the Kommune and tell them that I wanted one.  That was easy enough.  After awhile the lady came back and handed me a stack of papers and a couple of envelopes.  Inside the envelopes were all the ingredients.  I had another number in the letter.  In another envelope was my access code.  In the third envelope there was a paper that had a whole bunch of miscellaneous random number sets. 

 Rosie the Riveter in the Danish newspaper.

I was with my neighbor so he and I went back to the information desk and the lady there helped us get online to register our NEM ID.  It turns out that all those numbers are like an ever changing access code system.  You access your accounts with your name and regular password and then you get a new page with the first half of a code and you have to enter the second half of the code from your little card.  Each number set is good only once and the system knows which ones have been used.  It automatically sends you a new card of numbers when you run out of the first set.  I hope that all makes more sense to you than it did to me the first time I heard about it.

Here is a fact about Denmark that struck me as very strange the first time that I saw it.  In Denmark, you are allowed to drink outside anywhere.  There is no law against it. 

Here is the rule according to Wikipedia,
To buy alcohol (above 1.2% and below 16.5% ) in stores, one must be 16; but to be served alcohol at bars, restaurants and discos, the minimum is 18. For alcohol above 16.5%, the age is 18. There is no drinking age, only a purchase age, and an adult may buy alcohol for a minor. By tradition, youths are privately allowed to drink alcohol after their confirmation. If a shop or bar fails to ask for an ID card and is identified having sold alcohol to an underage, it is subject to fine. A national ID card, obtained in the local town hall, can serve as age verification. This card is rarely used though since a passport or moped-licence can sometimes be used.

You will also see people walking around with yellow jackets on during the evening and night when people are out drinking.  They are volunteer adults who make sure that people are okay or help them out if they are in trouble.  It is a truly awesome thing to have.

The little red girl sign continues her journey.  She is now but a shell of her former self.
On Tuesday, I had a meltdown in my Danish class and had to walk out.  The teacher was asking me a question and I had no clue what she was saying.  She repeated it a few times and asked it a different way etc.  I was like a deer in headlights.  I didn't know what she was saying or how to answer.  I didn't know how to say that I was stuck.  It was like I just froze, then melted and the tears began to arrive in my eyes.  I spun on my chair and walked out of the classroom without a word.  Out in the hall were a number of my colleagues and they tried to help me.  Then I totally burst into tears.  I tried to gather myself to head back into class and was getting there when the teacher came out.  She wanted to know what was happening and I tried to explain but just ended up worse off than before.  I got the ugly cry with all the hiccoughs and all.  My friends tried to intervene with the teacher for me, bless their hearts.  I was finally able to gather myself enough to go back into class.

When we were back in the classroom, the teacher opened it up to the whole class to find out how we were thinking and feeling.  The dam bursts.  Two more girls ended up starting to cry and everyone was able to get a chance to speak, in English, about what was stressing us out.  She explained that she was trying to get us prepared for having to observe a Danish class in six weeks and to go into a classroom and student teach in 4 months.  She also gave us a page of classroom questions in Danish to use.  She gave us permission to speak in English when we were hitting the wall and that was a big help.

I finally got a chance to talk with our International Coordinator on Thursday.   I was able to talk to her about a few major concerns and ask her a backlog of questions that I had.  She was so nice and welcoming.  I never felt in anyway like I was being a burden or that she didn't want to hear what I had to say.  She was well chosen for her job.  

Friday was the schools birthday so it was closed to classes for the day.  Instead we had a huge adventure to go on.  It started with a breakfast in the morning that we paid 5 kr for.  I was not expecting more for that price and so was pleasantly surprised with the breakfast sandwich, fruit and fruit juice.  Then we got on buses and were taken out to the far end of the lake.  From there we had to walk back to the school with our groups and a map.  All along the way, there were challenges for us to participate in.

5 kr. breakfast.   Yum yum.
On the bus to our adventure.
Playing a game called Kubb.
It was very similar to the games we played for our previous team building exercise.  This time though, there was alcohol involved.  There were mental challenges and physical.  We had three minutes to make the longest line possible out of clothes and bodies if they were nude, except panties for girls.  We had another one where the game was to go around in a circle counting but you had to say boom if the number included a 7, multiple of 7,  or the digits added up to 7.  If you got it wrong, you had a choice of taking off one piece of clothing or doing a beer bong.  Yikes.  I was ever so careful to not get it wrong.  I would have rather taken clothes off than do a beer bong but my prudish North American ways do not much like the clothing off option either.  Another game was to guess the ingredients in an obnoxious mixture in a shot glass.  I got the ingredient ginger right!  

Chain of clothes and human bodies.

Wagon of backpacks and alcohol.
What to do with the alcohol wagon when you have stairs.
The last stop on the route was a water slide they created in the park near the school.  Much fun was had there.  I had fun taking the pictures.  

A little food break on the way back.
Human sled on the water slide.
I am sure you guessed how it was going to end.
Then we went to the final final stop at the school.  We saw people getting undressed again.  Lord have mercy, what is it this time?  When a few people came around the corner we could see that they were wet.  I decided that whatever it was, that I would do it but I would do it with my clothes on.  I took off everything that I could but left on my pants and t-shirt.  I went to the guy holding out the blindfold and donned it.  I guess I have a big head because we almost couldn't get it attached.  Then off we went.
I was guided by hand through a mystery maze of ups and downs, jumps and crawls before finally being lead back outside again.  This is where it got tough!  I had to get down on my belly and crawl military style across two tarp lengths, I believe covered in what I believe was whipped cream.  Then I had to crawl across another section that was filled with noodles.  I had to belly crawl and roll onto my back and all.  I later found out that they took pictures of us at this point.  I haven't seen mine yet.  We also had to crawl through coffee and grounds.  I could smell what that one was.  Finally at the end of hit we were hit with a stream of ice cold water from a garden hose.  I can only presume that they were washing some of the gunk off of us.  

Oh, but that wasn't the end at all.   We next had to sit down with our legs stretched out in front of us and scoot forward.  You realize that you are on a decline and swoosh, down you go into a pool of ice cold soapy water.  I think that I jumped up and out as fast as a cat hitting water.  

Bath time.
It is over.  You take off your mask and you are officially baptized as a member of the school.  We each got a certificate with our new name on it.  Mine is Colleen Cougar.  Yes, I know.

It is official!
I then walked another 2 km. home in my dripping wet clothes.  Many people continued on drinking and partying after this until the wee hours of the morning but not me.   All in all, I walked somewhere around 14 km or 8 1/2 miles between 7:30 AM and 4 PM that day.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

First Real Week of School

I have to get up every day at 6:45, leave the house at 7:30 in order to be in class by 8:15.   That means that I need to be asleep by 10:45 each night in order to get 8 hours a night.  Not so easy.  I don't know how long it has been that I have gone to bed around midnight every night.  You would think that having to adjust my body to a new time zone that I could also have done that at the same time but it didn't work.  I went almost immediately to sleeping at midnight.  I have no explanation for it. 

Most days we have only a half an hour for lunch and on two of those days we have to walk to another location during our lunchtime to get to our Danish classes.  We are trudging along with our backpacks on and sandwiches in our hands and mouths.  Not exactly relaxed eating. 

Monday was my first real Danish class.  I felt like such a dunce.  It felt like I had cotton batting in my ears.  Being an adult unable to communicate even in the simplest ways sucks!

Gas here is the equivalent of $8.70 US per US gallon.  It took me a little bit to figure that out.  The American gallon is smaller than the British gallon so one cannot do a standard calculation for both.  You have to be a math wizard.  :)

Tuesday we had Danish class from 8:15 in the morning until 1:45 in the afternoon with a couple of breaks and 1/2 hour lunch.  The morning wasn't too bad.  We have an instruction for the morning that I really feel works for me.  But then in the afternoon we have a different instructor.  He is a very nice guy but....  First of all he talks so quietly, I have a hard time hearing him at all.  I certainly can't hear how he is using his mouth to form the Danish sounds.  Secondly, he switches over to instructing in Danish after very little instruction in Danish.  I can appreciate that this is a method of teaching language but he doesn't speak in simple baby sentences with words that I am familiar with.  I am not really familiar with any words at that point.  No lie, I almost cried before we got out of class.  I just couldn't follow anything at all.  I looked around the room and it seemed like some people were getting it but not me.

Some of the students had been given a piece of construction paper to fold and make a name plate for class.  I hadn't been given one as they had run out.  Some people made theirs out of regular school paper.  I chose instead to use my Universal Studios name badge.  It amused me to no end.

After class, I went for a little walk by myself to have a little photography time.  Then I went to the grocery store and saw one of my fellow classmates in there.  We talked for awhile and then I thought that maybe I could check at the Kommune (town hall) to see if they had my CPR number yet. That is like your social security number.  I looked at my watch and I had 5 minutes to get there.  They close on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 3PM.  Yes that is correct.  Thursday they stay open until 5PM! But then on Friday they close at 1PM.  Who gets these kind of hours?  I sped walked over there and made it before the doors were closed.  My number was ready!  But I still have to wait until the end of this week to get the physical card.  I can't do many next steps until I get this thing, for example, get a bank account. 

In front of the Kommune there is dog parking.  No really!

 Now that I have a CPR number, I have access to medical care and this is the picture of the building that houses my doctor's office.  I had walked around town, as you know, many times.  I thought it was odd that I never saw a label for a doctor's office.  This building is on the main street I walk on into town and have passed it many times.  Would you have guessed doctor?

The people here in town always call the pedestrian street the "walking street."  I believe that if you do a literal translation of the word gågade that you come away with just the, walking street.  Language is so interesting.  This sign also says that driving is permitted.  Isn't that the opposite of pedestrian zone?

Wednesday, we had a class on comparing education in different countries.  It was quite interesting especially when they were talking about what it was like in Denmark.  Apparently, the classes tend to be quite chaotic so this will be interesting to see in person.  I believe that by the end of this semester we will have a week of observation in a classroom.

The Danish system of teaching is based on the principles of co-operation more than anything else.  They are not getting the highest scores in knowledge level per age group but the interesting thing is that regardless of not having the best scores, they have a very sound economy and good working conditions. 

In my English class on that day, we had to make presentations in groups of three.  The topic was a lesson plan.  Our group went first and my turn came after the other two.  I have to admit that it felt quite good and I felt very comfortable being up there in front of the class.  It seemed like a natural place to be.  I went right back into being a teacher.

Thursday, I had a meltdown and it seemed like everyone else in the group of Internationals here had one too.  It was like my brain just lit up with the tilt sign flashing on and off.  Nothing was making any sense in any language at all.  One of my classmates was trying to explain to me what the NemID was.  It sounded like utter gibberish.  Perhaps it was due to another full day of Danish class?

Meet my Danish class.

 Friday, we went back to our English class for the morning segment.  It was a hot mess.  Our teacher doesn't seem to have any skills as a teacher.  She starting talking and referring to some material or other but she didn't clue us in to what it was and so we were all scrambling to find the info.  She finally deigned to tell us but showed us so quickly that we couldn't follow her.  I asked her to do it one more time and she got all huffy saying that she would show it one more time but that was it!  Then she started to tell us about some theory or other but she didn't give us any lead or explanation of what it was she was about to tell us.  I was sitting there with my computer open on a fresh document page all ready to take my notes.  I couldn't do it.  I wasn't able to keep up with what she was saying and I couldn't even grasp what she was talking about.  My English is at a very high level and there is only one other native English speaker in the class.  She couldn't get it either.  That means that all those who were second language speakers had no chance at all.   The end result of her having lost the class was that they were all on facebook talking to each other and complaining about the teacher.  I later found out that this was universal amongst our year and that the previous year they had complained about her, yet, she was back again.

I had noticed in a previous class with her that she had written herself a sheet of paper which I had presumed to be her notes about what she wanted to cover.  What I realized after watching her reading it was that they were not actually notes as I know it.  It was a written piece that she just simply read to us. 

During class, she referred to an article that we were supposed to have read and we told her that we were unable to find it or access it.  She showed us how to do it but we had to explain to her that our student version of Blackboard didn't give us the same access.  She tried it a couple of times.  In the end, she did it another way and left it at that.   The class was ending to I went to make sure that her new link was working and of course, found that it didn't.  I walked up to the front of the class with my computer to let her know.  She just rudely blew me off saying that she had something she had to do.  I watched her and it was to take her video out of the machine.  I was so furious that I just packed up and headed out of there.  I couldn't have spoken one polite word to her at that point so it was best that I leave.  Apparently, almost having a PhD. doesn't make you a good teacher.

I got a new roommate on Thursday.  She is in the Erasmus program so she is here for six months to learn.  She is from Norway.  She is so lucky because Norwegian is close enough to Danish that she can pretty much understand everything.

In Danish class, I got a USB stick with a computer program for interactive Danish.  I was so excited to get home and try it out.  It won't work on my MAC.  Great!  Hopefully they have a MAC version.  If not, I am going to ask them to give me access to the online version.

Friday night was a humdinger.  Everyone let loose there stress of the week.  Many who didn't have the afternoon Danish class started much earlier with there partying.  We joined another International group at their house to start off.  They had made some concoction that I dubbed the witches brew.  It was like a random mixture of booze that just tasted awful to me.  A few people liked it though.  After that we all walked over the the University bar and had a great time.  When I walked home at just after midnight, the street lights were still on so I guess they leave them on later for the weekend events.

The witches brew was not quite finished off yet.

This is an advertisement for new bartenders for the University bar.  Hmmm.

This one seems a little cheaper at $8.45/US gal.