Thursday, December 23, 2010

December

So I've now moved in with my second host family, (I've actually been living with them for almost a month now) and I love them just as much as my first family! I finally have a sister, Lise, something I've begged my parents for my entire life, and my younger brother Stig is hilarious. They were originally supposed to be my first family, but they were switched to my second because they live closer to the school so it's easier for me to bike there in the winter with all of the snow. Speaking of, we have a ton of snow in Denmark now! They rarely have a white Christmas (I think they told me this was the third time in the past 40 years they've had a snow for Christmas) so this is something special! We've got about a half meter of snow covering the ground, but since it's so windy here, there's huge drifts that are over a meter high. Usually when they get snow here, it disappears after a few days, but there's been snow here since the end of November. Christmas time here is adorable, though, and with all of the snow, it's even better! Unfortunately, Denmark is completely flat, so there's no place to go downhill skiing or snowboarding. But I have been out cross country skiing several times and the scenery is gorgeous!
I've been on winter break since last Friday, and the other 3 exchange students at my gymnasium and I were asked to give some sort of presentation on the last day. So we put together a little Christmas film! We shared it with the whole school at our Christmas assembly, and it was really fun! We also danced around the Christmas tree at school (a Danish Christmas tradition) and we sang songs and had a hyggelig time! You can watch the video at the bottom :)
Tomorrow is Christmas here, though! They celebrate Christmas the evening of the 24th, so it'll be interesting to wake up on the 25th and already have opened all of my presents. But Stig is going to wait until the 25th to open his presents; he says he wants to try it the "American style". We'll see if he can actually wait that long :)
One more little update, I get to start taking guitar lessons after New Years! I'm so excited for this, and Rotary has even offered to pay for my lessons. How amazing :) I love Rotary, and I love my year here in Denmark! Congrats to all of the students back home who just found out which country they'll be going to next year! It honestly will be the most amazing year of your life.

video

Glædelig Jul! Merry Christmas!
-Heidi

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

And Time Does Fly

So I wanted to give a little pep talk to the upcoming Rotary exchangers before their interviews, but unfortunately I’m a poor blogger and now I’m too late. BUT, I can still give you some timely information on the amazing year that is ahead of you. Like many of the other exchangers are saying, it’s hard to think that a year ago was when we made our decisions on which countries we wanted to travel to. Being one of the younger ones, I had many countries that I could still choose from. I remember going into the cafeteria where all of the tables and booths were set up, and not knowing at all where I wanted to go. I had no specific place in mind, and no real requirements either. So I sloooowwwly made my way around the room, stopping at just about every booth. Now to be honest, I really don’t know why, but something about Denmark caught my attention, and after I left the booth, I knew that that was where I wanted to go. Everything about it sounded appealing to me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I continued to look at the other countries, and liked many of them, but Denmark still stuck on top as my number one choice. Making the decision of which other 4 countries to put on my list was probably the most difficult one I’ve ever made. I was just barely young enough to go to Denmark (actually I was about 10 days too old, but they said that didn’t matter), so if I didn’t get my first pick, I needed to have my other choices be ones that I really liked as well. Unfortunately, I liked them all about the same. I was so eager and excited to just go anywhere and see anything! I think my mom and I sat in the library for about 3 hours while I tried to decide what to put next on my list. (I think I ended up putting Ecuador, South Africa, Sweden, and Chile.) But after it was all done, I had to wait. Those waiting weeks seemed to take forever.
I remember the day that everyone got their countries; Mia was the one who informed me first about where she was going. She was jumping around in our Spanish class yelling Argentina! I was so excited that we were finally finding out where we were going to be spending the next year of our lives! The next hour, Beret left school so she could go home and check her mailbox, and she and Aletha found out they were headed to Brazil! I remember sitting in the yearbook room with Carly and Stina, and we were all trying to call our parents and have them check the mail to see if we had gotten our letters yet.
Since no one was home, I decided to also leave school (I only had study hall left that day) and see if my letter had arrived. It hadn’t. So I waited as patiently as I could until the mail came. My mom came home from work, and as she stepped out of the car I noticed she had the mail in her hand! I ran outside and started searching through it all, until I finally found the letter addressed to me. I was freaking out, (and I’m getting all excited right now as I write this because it was such a happy day!) I opened it up, and didn’t even read what the first part said, all I was looking for was a country name, and sure enough, DENMARK was written on the first line :)

After being here for 4 months now, I couldn’t be happier with my choice! I honestly love it here. And sure, there are some days when it’s dark and rainy, and I wonder why I didn’t chose some place warm and sunny, but I take one look around, and I see all of the amazing people I’ve met, and all of the extraordinary things I’ve learned, and all of the unforgettable memories I’ve made, and I realize how lucky I am to be here and that there is no place I would rather be. So whether it was the delicious food that caught my attention, or their eco-friendliness, or maybe even the cute boy that was working at the booth, I’m so glad I fell in love with Denmark and I’m so very glad that I get to spend my year here!

For all of you who have just finished choosing your hopeful destinations for next year, just know that whether you get your first choice, or you get a country that wasn’t even on your list, you will have the most incredible year ever. Rotary gives you such an amazing opportunity to grow and to learn so much more about yourself. You get the chance to meet people from all over the world, and to experience new cultures and ways of living. I can’t thank Rotary enough for giving me this opportunity. These past four months have been phenomenal, and I it’s crazy how fast the time is going by. The “Oldies” only have a few more weeks left here, and I can't imagine what it’s going to be like to say goodbye. But best of luck to all of you! And no matter what the other exchangers have told you, Denmark really is the best country, so I hope you put it down on your list :)
All for now,
-Heidi

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner

I apologize for not updating the blog in a while, but as you can guess, I've been very busy!
But being that yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I'm in love with Thanksgiving food, I decided to attempt to cook some! Now this may seem like a scary thought to some- Heidi working in the kitchen all day with knives and hot surfaces- but I can assure you that very little harm was done.
I told my host family that I would make my favorite dishes, which included green bean casserole, corn casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and of course the turkey! So I started out by emailing my grandma to get as many tips as possible on how to actually make this all! (I also spent many days researching recipes and watching a few YouTube videos.) The trickiest part of this whole ordeal, was not going to be actually making them, but finding all of the ingredients! Denmark doesn't believe in canned food, only fresh food, so I had to find substitutes for a lot of the recipes. Since they don't have canned pumpkin for the pie, I decided to go with butternut squash pie instead (it tastes basically the same). I figured it will probably all taste much more delicious being completely homemade from scratch, but it would also mean more work for me to do. So I asked a few of my friends from school if they wanted to help make an American Thanksgiving meal and then we could all eat together! They were completely thrilled, to say the least. So I wrote down the recipes for all of my dishes, and I showed it to Susanne, and we went shopping! We only had a few problems while shopping; we didn't know what nutmeg in Danish was, so we couldn't buy any, and we couldn't find a turkey... kind of an important part of Thanksgiving. We went to several different grocery stores before we finally found a full turkey, and there were only 3 of them. We took the biggest :) When we got home with all of our groceries, Søren knew what nutmeg in Danish was (muskat) and it turns out they had some at home, so we got lucky!
Wednesday night I made the pie and it smelled sooo delicious! I had to leave a little note out for Søren and Niels, reminding them that they were not allowed to eat it until Thursday night. The next day I came home from school around noon and began cooking. We only have one tiny oven, so I baked the casseroles first, and then put the turkey in the oven. This was the tricky part. We didn't have big enough roasting pan, or one with a lid really, so we ended up putting it in a cooking bag and then just setting it on the oven tray. I wasn't really sure if this would work out, (to be honest I wasn't sure if any of it would turn out..) but we didn't have any other option really. Then around 3 o'clock, Anne Katrine, Frederikke, and Cecilie came over to help me out, but at this point there wasn't much for us to do so we sat around and chatted (in Danish) and played guitar and sang Christmas songs! Tonight we have our school's birthday party, where all of the students, parents, and teachers come the the gymnasium and eat together, and then there's a dance party afterwards. Apparently this is as close to prom as it gets here, but only the 3rd graders (seniors) are supposed to dress up really nicely. Anyways, each class is suppose to decorate their table according to the theme, which was the four elements of life, and the four of us were in charge of candle holders. So we took some carrots, potatoes, and parsnip and cut out little holes to make the cutest candle holders ever! Then we got back to our Thanksgiving food, and we made the cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. This is where my casualty occurred. As I was peeling potatoes, I accidentally peeled off the tip of my finger... oops. Luckily, both my parents are vets so they have a lot of first aid-like items at home! So no worries, my finger is okay :) We finished making the rest of the dinner and then all seven of us sat down to table FULL of delicious looking food. I couldn't believe how well everything turned out! The turkey wasn't dry, the stuffing wasn't too soggy, and nothing was burnt. It was a miracle! I never would have guessed that I could make such a meal, but I guess Denmark has done me well! We prayed before eating, (something they had probably never done before) and then dug in! They loved it. They told me that they had never tasted anything like it before; they had had mashed potatoes before, but they usually just eat boiled potatoes, and they have turkey, but it's pretty rare to eat. I think the most different for them was the butternut squash pie. It has that smooth texture and they just found that to be the weirdest thing ever. We had some leftover pie, so Susanne said I should just bring it to school for everyone to taste. I brought it to lunch and shared it with 4 guys from my class (everyone else was setting up for the party) and they devoured it. Søren and his friends were a little upset I didn't save any for them, so I might be making another soon! I'm also making another corn casserole to bring to the school birthday party dinner tonight.
Overall, it was a very very successful Thanksgiving in Denmark!
I switch host families on Sunday, and I can't believe how fast 4 months has gone by! It's going to be a little weird switching, but I think it will be all be just fine! I'm very lucky to have such amazing host families :)
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that we have SNOW! I'm so excited, but the Danes are all very worried because they normally don't get snow until after Christmas, so this is very unusual. It's perfect winter weather weather for me right now, about 30 degrees Farenheit, but it's freezing cold for everyone else. I got to bike in the snow yesterday, and it's a bit difficult because sometimes your tires slide on the snow and slip on the ice, and today during our mid-class break, a few of us went outside and had a mini snowball fight.
You can check out pictures from Thanksgiving HERE!
All for now!
-Heidi

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hyggelig

Hyggelig (pronounced hoo-guh-lee) is a Danish word that I absolutely love. It has no direct English translation, but it basically means being comfortable, happy, cozy, and content all at once. Hyggelig is staying up all night with a classroom full of exchange students all speaking different languages. Hyggelig is relaxing at the summer house playing cards with your family while your little sister braids your hair. Hyggelig is sitting in the aisle of a crowded train with the rest of your classmates, playing guitar and singing songs. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing in the past week!
I’ve been on 3 different trips around Denmark since last Friday, with less than 12 hours in between the first and second, and only about 30 minutes in between the second and third trip. My first adventure was to Holbæk for the Rotary Halloween party. It was a pretty casual Get Together put on by ex-exchange students from Denmark, and of course it was a blast (as all Rotary events are). We danced, sang, took millions of pictures, carved pumpkins (which most of them had never done before), and ate Danish food! This was the last Get Together for the “Oldies” so it was pretty emotional at the end as we were all saying goodbye.
For my next journey I went to Copenhagen for 3 days with the music half of my class. The International half of my class went to Germany for those days to stay with host families there, but since I don’t know any German at all, they thought it was best that I went with the music class instead. I completely agreed. We stayed in a hotel right in downtown Copenhagen with rooms that had three triple bunk beds in them so we slept 9 to a room. Very hyggelig :) Our schedule for the 3 days consisted of a Danish musical, a ballet, tour of the Opera House, and a Beatles dance/musical performance (probably my favorite). We also had time to walk around and shop in Copenhagen which is always very fun! On our way home, our train from Odense back to Ringe was canceled, so we had to wait about 40 minutes for the next train. While we were waiting, the other half of our class showed up at the train station too! They has just returned from Germany with some German exchange students that would now be staying with them for a few days, so we all got to take the train home together! We all sat together and in the aisles and had a wonderful 20 minute train ride home :)
My last trip of the week was to Fjellerup which is on what is called the “nose” of Denmark on Jylland. I went to the summer house here with my second host family and a two other families. I had met my second host mom and dad before, but this was my first time meeting Lise, my 13 year old sister, and Stig, my 10 year old brother. I absolutely love them! They are so full of energy and always making jokes and playing games; there is never a dull moment, and I love it! We played card games, made pancakes, went on walks along the beach and through the fields (so gorgeous!), visited a beautiful Glass Museum in Ebeltoft, shopped in Randers, and spoke Danish the entire time. Stig and Lise don’t think they’re very good at English (they’r mother thinks otherwise) so we only spoke Danish, which was really good for me! There were times when they would all start talking too fast for me to understand, or they would say a word that I had never heard of before, but for the most part I could understand them. But I’m back home with my first host family now, and speaking as much Danish as I can. I switch host families on November 28, so I think I’ll be staying put until then.
It’s kind of crazy to think that 101 days ago (yesterday was my 100th day in Denmark by the way- time needs to slow down) I didn’t know anything about this language or this culture, and now I’m speaking it and understanding it and living in it! Sometimes when I say something in Danish, I stop and think ‘Was I just talking in English? That sounded too natural to be Danish..’ It’s a weird feeling, but a good one at the same time!
Well I’m going out to dinner with the family now! Henrik is home on break from school for a while, and Niels passed some sort of veterinarian inspection today, so it’s a special occasion :)
All the best,
Heidi

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Efterårsferie

This past week we had fall break (efterårsferie) in Denmark. It’s an entire week off, and most people use this time to travel around Denmark, or around neighboring countries. Søren went to Belgium, France, Germany, and Spain to visit friends from his exchange to Australia, and I stayed in Denmark and visited all of my friends here! I was with different people every day and doing something new every day as well. I kept very busy (which I love) so my efterårsferie was simply delightful!
Here are a few of the exciting things I did over my break:

-I went to Fredericia on Jylland and met Denmark’s best guitarist (in his age group).
-Made the world’s most delicious banana chocolate cake!
-Ate pigeon. It was great.
-Carved pumpkins and cooked the pumpkin seeds.
-Had a movie night with all of the girls in my class.
-Ate Turkish candy while at a sleep over with Turkish exchange students.
-Went to Odense to the Harry Potter Festival with a few exchange students from Canada and the U.S. (unfortunately I missed the day that J.K. Rowling was there..)
-Took a train to Copenhagen with Missy and met up with our friend Manuel from Mexico.
-Got to see Nyhavn, the Opera House, and the Queen’s Palace in Copenhagen.
-Made American/Mexican/Danish burritos.
-Made a cookies.
-Met some of the oldies (exchange students that have been in Denmark for 9 months already) and spoke some Danish with them!
-Met up with more Mexican and Brazilian exchange students in Copenhagen and got to speak Spanish the whole day with them :)
-Went to Frederiksborg Castle with Susanne, my brother Jens, his girlfriend Mathilde, and Grandma Nina.
-Got a boat tour of Copenhagen.
-Ate at a running sushi bar with Jens,Mathilde, Susanne, and Henrik. (I didn’t know how much I loved sushi)
-Saw the old Viking ships that were dug up from the bottom of a canal and rebuilt.
-Went to Roskilde with Susanne and saw the outside of a beautiful famous church there; there was a concert going on inside so we couldn’t go in...
-Came home and realized I had school the next morning. Dang.

But I think all the nonstop activity got to me, because I’ve got quite the cold and my body is just exhausted. So today I’m taking a day off to recovery. Susanne and Niels have been so extremely helpful and are taking very good care of me :) Hopefully I’ll be better soon, because I’ve got more places to go and people to see, starting Friday with a Rotary get together in Hoelbæk. The day I return from that, I’ve got a class trip to Copenhagen for 3 days, and then when I get back from that, I’m going to the summerhouse in Jylland with my second host family for a few days. I really do love being busy, but I have to remember to slow down a bit and take care of myself. Plus, there is so much to see and do everyday, I need to take some time to take it all in and remember all of the amazing experiences I’m having.
The weather here is getting colder, and the days are getting shorter. Yesterday I biked to school in the dark... not fun... and the cars were covered in frost this morning, too. There was suppose to be snow last Wednesday, but it turned out to be just really cold rain. I’m pretty excited to have winter here, but I’ve been told that they don’t always have a white Christmas, which would be something new for me! I secretly hope that there is snow on Christmas, though.
As far as the language goes, I feel like I’m a bit of a pitstop right now. I’m not learning as much as I did earlier, but that’s because I know all (or most) of the basic conversation words and phrases. Now I just need to learn all of the other words. And besides my Danish classes every Monday, the only way to do this is to speak Danish and keep asking questions! So I feel like my skills are slowing down right now, but I’m still learning new words everyday, and I just have to use my Danish as much as possible to learn more.

Here is a link if you'd like to see some more photos of my exchange so far!

-Heidi

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Still Lovin It

Well it's been another great week here in Denmark! I'll try not to make this too long, but here's a bit of what I've been up to in the past week:

Saturday Oct 2
  • Susanne and I drove over to Jylland, the main peninsula of Denmark, to the small town of Ribe. It's Denmark's oldest town, and they happened to be having a their Fall Festival (similar to Crazy Daze in Nfld) when we arrived, so we bought a few homemade knit hats and some flowers from them. We also climbed 251 stairs to the top of the church where you could look out over the entire town and see for miles in every direction because the land is so flat.

  • We then drove south to a town called Uge where Susanne went to look at a horse's eye. Our plan was to go to Germany afterwards and just buy a few things over the border, but her work took longer than expected so we didn't quite make it there.

  • Afterwards we drove to another town in Jylland and had dinner at her friend's (who was an exchange student in Massachusetts when she was younger). We had some delicious food and then we started on the hour and half drive home.

  • Monday Oct 4
  • Danish classes in Svendborg continue every Monday. This day, though, all of the different countries went up and told about the school system in their country and how it's different from Denmark. It was really interesting to learn about all of the other countries, and we did this all in Danish, of course, so that made it even more exciting :)

  • I attended another Rotary meeting in Ringe. It wasn't for any special reason, but my counselor said that it would be one of the less boring meetings so he asked if I wanted to join! He also told me that they were having a really good meal that night, so of course I went. It was a good thing I went, because I got to meet the Rotary President of Denmark. He has to go to all of the district meetings in all of Denmark, and in Lithuania, because apparently they're part of our Rotary program as well!

  • Wednesday Oct 6
  • At school we had our first lesson, and then the second lesson was replaced with a live jazz performance for the entire school. I'm not exactly sure why, but every now and then we have these large school assemblies and they cancel the classes and everyone gathers in the main commons for whatever event they have planned. So far we've had a surviver from the Holocaust, a speech on "Sex and the City" and New York, and then this live jazz band. They were very good, and it was a very hyggeligt (this is a danish word which has no direct english translation, but it basically means cozy and happy and fun and wonderful. This word is used very often here)

  • After school I biked to my friend Frederikke's house for a sleep over. We had a challenge that she could only speak english and I could only speak danish for the whole night, and it worked for most of the evening, but I was showing her some pictures from the U.S. and then prom and Beat Cancer came up so I switched to english so she could get the full effect :) Then she taught me how to play a few songs on the guitar and she helped me with some of my Danish homework and we ate the best pizza I have ever tasted; her mom made it and luckily there were leftovers so we took some with us for lunch the next day at school. It was a wonderful night!

  • Friday Oct 8
  • At school there was a campaign going on during lunch to try and get Danish teenagers to not drink as much. So they had these goggles that you could put on that blurred your vision and made it seem like you were drunk, and I'm not really sure how this was suppose to help, because most people had a great time playing around with the goggles, but supposably this was going to make them drink less. We'll see if that works.

  • After school we had a Friday Café in the basement of the gymnasium, and then later that night there was a "musikklasse fest". Even though I'm not really in the music class, I was still invited to the party. It was for all three grades that are in the music class, so it was fun to meet some new people!

  • Saturday and Sunday
  • I had two birthday parties on Saturday. Danish birthdays = Danish flags everywhere! And really good cake of course. The first one was a brunch for Kaya, one of the exchange students from my gymnasium. It was just a few of the exchange students there and it was very fun! The the other was for two girls in my class for their 18th birthday, also very fun.

  • On Sunday I had my first volleyball tournament! We played two other teams, and lost to both... but it was still a really fun day! There were only six of us there, so we all got to play the whole time. My host dad said that next time I have a tournament he'll come bring some cheerleaders to help my team!

    All for now!
    -Heidi
  • Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    A Day in the Life

    Jeg elsker snakke på dansk. I love talking in danish.
    I feel like the language is becoming more and more natural for me to speak, which is great! There's obviously a lot of words that I don't know yet, but I try to make do with what I know, and I am constantly asking how to say new words in danish. My wonderful classmates have been extremely helpful with this, along with my host family, of course! The other three exchange students at my gymnasium and I all speak danish to each other (or we attempt to) on our way to our danish lesson every Monday. I think we feel more comfortable speaking danish to each other because we're in the same situation here, trying to learn the language and adjust to the culture, and if we make a mistake, it's completely okay, and no one cares. And it's not that my danish friends would care if I made a mistake when speaking danish, but you feel more relaxed when you're talking to other exchange students. But either way, I really enjoy it when I can speak to someone in danish. It makes me happy :)
    I'll do a quick update, and then I'll give the run-down of an ordinary day here in Ringe, Denmark.
    This past weekend I took a family trip to northern Køpenhavn to meet Niels's mother, Nina, and to celebrate her birthday. It was about a 2 hour drive and Søren and I watched "How I Met Your Mother" the whole way. Henrik, Jens and his girlfriend Mathilde, all met us there, as well as Nina's brother and several friends. We ate a lot of delicious food, sang a few danish songs, spent many hours talking and drinking tea, and had some lovely cake. We also drove to the beach (about 5 minutes away) and since it was a bit too cold to swim, we walked around and Susanne and Niels collected some mushrooms, which we enjoyed with our steak the next night!

    Alright, Mom, this is the part you've been waiting for:
    I get up around 7 20 every morning, usually by an alarm on my phone, and Susanne always comes in around 7 30 to make sure I haven't gone back to sleep.
    I eat breakfast at about 7 45, usually a bowl of cornflakes and toasted bread with cheese and homemade marmalade, and then Søren and I try to leave at 8 to get to school before 8 15. It's about a 10 minute bike ride from my house to school, and on rainy days, we get to take the car.
    On my way to school I get to bike over "Ringe Lake" which is really more of a pond, but it's gorgeous! There's a path that goes around the whole thing, and then a path and bridge that goes through the middle of it. There are so many ducks and swans on this lake, and sometimes you can barely go over the bridge because of all of the ducks.
    At school I have between one and three classes each day. Each class is 90 minutes with a 5 minute break in the middle, where students usually grab some bread form the canteen or have some fruit to eat. My classes are Danish, English, Spanish, Religion, Chemistry, Nature Geography, and History, and then I also have gym class once a week. Spanish is an obvious favorite, and I really enjoy Danish as well, but I'm surprised at how much I like my Religion class. Half the time I have no idea what is going on, but the teacher is really good at trying to help me and include me in the lessons. Today I had Danish for the first lesson, then Nature Geography, and I was done with school by 11 40. Usually I would just go home after this, but I like to hang out with my classmates at lunch, so sometime I'll stick around and eat with them. My host mom packs a lunch for Søren and me almost everday, usually consisting of two sandwiches, and an apple or plum picked straight from the trees in our garden :)
    We have 30 minutes for lunch, and then the third lesson begins. Almost all students are done by 2, unless they have a fourth lesson, or some extra assignment.
    After my classes are finished, I bike home, have an after school snack, usually cereal or smørrebrød (an open-face sandwich), and then I basically have the rest of the day to whatever I would like! Somedays I'll hang out with friends after school, and we'll go downtown, to their house, or to Odense. And since I'm in the music class, nearly all of the student know how to play guitar, and soon, I too will be able to play, thanks to some of my fabulous friends :) Somedays I'll go on a run down the path in the backyard and take some pictures and visit the cows (we have a new baby calf that is adorable). I also have a very sweet, 13 year old neighbor girl named Maja who comes over and visits often. She teaches me danish, and I help her with english! And sometimes Søren and I will experiment with some food, and most times it's edible! I actually do a lot of cooking here. Back home I rarely cooked, (for certain reasons...) but here everything is homemade and fresh, and I try to help out with making the food as much as I can. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I also have volleyball practice at the gymnasium.
    We have dinner around 8 30. The meal usually includes some sort of meat, peeled potatoes, salad, and rye bread. Sometimes we'll have a small dessert afterwards, but danish dessert is not what I could call "dessert". We've had yoghurt with sliced fruit for dessert, or pancakes (more like crepes), and if I'm lucky, a small piece of danish chocolate. There isn't much for sweets here, and when I told them that I eat chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, their response was "But that's so unhealthy!" They think it's a bit odd that we eat pancakes for breakfast, let alone chocolate chip pancakes...
    Around 11 I'll usually start getting ready for bed, and then I do it all again the next day!
    It's quite the wonderful life!
    -Heidi

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Weekend Adventures

    So this past weekend was a very eventful and tiring one. It started with sports day at the Gymnasium, which was a blast! Instead of having classes on Friday, we all signed up two different activities that we wanted to do for about and hour and a half each. I signed up for yoga (of course), and square dancing, but something must have gotten mixed up because instead of yoga, i was put on the list to do combat, which is some sort of martial arts/self-defense mixed with dance... quite interesting, but it actually turned out to be really fun, but very tiring! Then at the end of the day, they had a class tug-of-war contest. My musical class is not the strongest, so weren't too concerned about winning. For the past 2 years, the sports class has won this competition, but this year, Søren's class, the "nerd" class, beat them. It was the most intense game of tug-of-war I have ever seen! So everyone in the gymnasium was very excited that the sports class was beat. Afterwards there was a café in the basement of the school. The teachers were selling beer to the students, (which still just blows my mind that that's normal for them) and they all thought it was weird of me to have chocolate milk instead, but they've got real good chocolate milk in Denmark!
    After the café, Søren headed to Copenhagen for the weekend, and I met up with Missy, the other Rotary student from Minnesota, at the train station, and we spent the weekend at my house in Ringe. Missy is living in Faarborg, a town about 30 minutes away. I told Niels and Susanne that we would make them an American meal for dinner, so the first thing we did when she arrived was head to the grocery store in search of some American food. We didn't find much. We were planning on making hamburgers with baked beans and potato chips, and brownies for dessert, but we couldn't find any baked beans, so we settled for beans in tomato sauce, and we also couldn't find any brownie mix, so we decided to rice krispie bars instead. Also, apparently Oreos are a new thing in Denmark, because at the grocery there was an Oreo stand and the woman there was giving Oreos to people to try and she was telling them how you're supposed to twist them open and then dunk them in milk. It was quite entertaining to watch! Ben&Jerry's ice cream is also new in Denmark, so it's very expensive to buy at the stores, and they only have like three flavors of it. We probably spent almost an hour in the grocery store, looking for different ingredients and such, and since neither one of are that good at cooking, we had to call a few people for advice, but it all turned out delicious! The burgers were nice and juicy, and we taught Niels and Susanne to eat the beans with potato chips :) Then we brought out the dessert and they had never seen such a thing. They seemed a bit skeptical about it at first, but they both ate it, so I think they liked it!

    The next day, Missy and I went shopping in Odense, but we got there at 3pm, and apparently all of the shops close at 3 on Saturdays... so we just walked around and bought some ice cream while we waited to meet up with my parents and some neighbors for dinner. Missy and I arrived to the restaurant before everyone else, so we were sitting around waiting and a waitress came over and asked us if we had reservations, and then we started talking to her in english and we told her we were meeting some other people here but we didn't know how many or if we had reservations. Once everyone else got there, we were looking at the menu and Susanne was trying to describe what all of the food was, and the same waitress came over and handed us two english menus, which made the process much easier. The food was delicious and it was fun to visit with all of the neighbors and test out some of our Danish with them.
    The next morning, Missy's family came and picked us up at 8.30 and we headed over to Billund to Legoland. It. Was. Amazing. Everything there was made out of legos. They had huge Lego statues all over the park, and they had a "Miniland" which had famous villages and buildings from all over the world, made of Legos.




    There were more than 20 million Legos in the miniland alone. The Mount Rushmore statue in the picture was made up of over 1.5 million legos. Then there was also rollercoasters and other rides that you could go on, and they were all decorated with Legos and they would take you through paths that had different Lego themes with more huge Lego sculptures. It truly was amazing that everything was made of Legos, and on a lot of the sculptures it said how many Legos it took to make it, and how long it took. We spent the entire day here, and once again, it was exciting, but so very exhausting. I slept very well that night.
    -Heidi

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    Egeskov Castle

    In the past week I've been enjoying being back at school with my classmates, and also back at home with my wonderful host family. On Thursday I went to a concert in Odense for a band called Dúné. It was a free, outdoor concert and they were very good live. I went with Soren, Missy (the other exchange student from Minnesota), and her host sister Marie-Louise. There were so many people there, but somehow we managed to make our way to the front of the crowd during the concert. We stayed out a bit late for a school night, but it was worth it.
    My father, Niels, is a veterinarian who works with large animals, and on Sunday, he asked if I would like to come with to some of his "patient's" homes. I figured it would be some great bonding time, so I agreed to go along. We went to 3 different farms on the Fyn Island and he helped a cow that couldn't stand up, a horse that wouldn't eat, and another horse who couldn't control it's saliva. It was quite an interesting experience! I got a tour around one of the farms and I got to see the robot milking machines that they use on the farm. Once we returned home, Soren and I took a trip to Egeskov Castle in a town called Kværndrup. This castle was amazing! It was built in 1554, and is known for being built completely on oak piling in the middle of a lake. It is the best preserved moat castle in Europe, and the current Duke actually lives there! We took a tour around the upstairs floors of the castle and then we walked around the mazes and the museums around the castle. The inside was gorgeous. My favorite room in the castle was "Titania's Palace" which had a doll house in it that took 15 years to make. The details on this doll house were incredible, and there were so many small pieces of furniture in it. The museums around the castle had old fashioned cars, motorcycles and airplanes in them, along with several souvenir shops and dining areas. Overall, it was a great day! Here are a few photos from the concert and the castle:





    -Heidi

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    Intro Camp

    On Sunday, I came home from what can only be described as the best week of my life. The Rotary Intro Camp was a blast! I had so much fun and I made so many new friends that I already miss, even though we've only been apart for two days.. For those of you on Facebook, you may have already seen the millions of photos from that week. For those of you not on Facebook, I've got plenty of pictures here for you. Our days were pretty routine at the camp. Breakfast at 8, Danish class from 9 until 12, lunch, class again from 1 to 4, then we had some free time, dinner at 6, and then they usually had some sort of entertainment for us in the evening. Our classes looked something like this: (You'll find me in the top left)


    The food looked something like this:

    Okay fine, just my food looked like this...

    Our free time consisted of pool, foosball, dance parties, and sitting around the couch singing and trading pins for our Rotary blazers.


    The surprise entertainment included a cheesey Danish film, a live band performance by the Striving Vines, a bonfire with brød on a stick, soccer, and on the last night we had a dance.




    On Wednesday, we took a trip to Viborg and got to walk around the town. We were suppose to have a tour through the cathedral, but it was locked when we got there, but it was still a gorgeous little town to explore. Then the buses took us to this hilltop with the most beautiful view! We had scones and tea here, and then returned to the school for more Danish lessons.





    Friday we went to Århus to visit the Art Museum and do some shopping. I bought some clothes and then most of us went out and bought a bunch of chocolate, because they were only feeding us healthy food at the camp, and we were in need of some sweets! The art museum was actually really cool, and their most famous piece, "The Boy", is pictured here, along with the mirror room, and me by the museum.





    During the classes we learned a few more basic phrases, the past, present perfect, present, and future tenses, and a ton of new vocabulary. We also learned a new Danish song everyday. Our teacher would show us a popular Danish music video and then we would get the lyrics and he would help us translate it all. It was a fun way of learning some new words, and at the end of the week, everyone was singing these Danish songs :)
    On the last day of the camp, each class put on a little entertainment piece, and then the teachers all performed a few of the songs we had learned. Then we had a dance and everyone was preparing to say goodbye in the morning. It was the most exciting week, and I found it so amazing that there were so many different people from all over the world, all blending together and connecting so well! I became really good friends with many of the Spanish speaking students, (they all thought it was really cool that I was almost fluent in Spanish), and with the Brazilians, because they always start the fun! My blazer is now full of pins of all kinds, and my wrists are crowded with bracelets and ribbons from all over as well! The Brazilians had the most people by far, so of course I have a ton of Brazilian pins and scarves and bracelets now.
    As much as I miss the Intro camp, it's nice to be back with my host family, and to go back to school. I missed my classmates, and plus I get more sleep here than I did at the camp. I'll leave you with a few more pictures from my amazing week:


    Pictured here is Missy (from my district in MN), Gustavo (My host brother from my 2nd host family is in Brazil right now living with Gustavo's family), Ayume (from Brazil), and me.


    Missy and me with our Brazilians friends in our blazers.


    All of the exchange students from the US.


    Me, Tommy, and Missy, (we all flew to Denmark together).
    -Heidi

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    Danish Lessons

    For the past week I have been attending a class in Svendborg, a town about 15 minutes away, for exchange students on the island of Fyn. There were 14 of us in the class; 4 from Turkey, 2 from Japan, one from Thailand, 3 from Italy, one from Finland, one from Latvia, and 2, including me, from the USA. The three other exchange students from my gymnasium were at the class as well, so we all took the train together to get to the class everyday.
    I felt like I was in kindergarten all over again- learning the ABC's, how to count to 100, the names of the months and days of the week, and learning to say the time, all in Danish of course. The teacher only spoke to us in Danish (unless we were all really struggling) and she spoke very slowly and used many hand gestures to help us figure out what she was saying. It worked though! I can now say all of the previously mentioned, and several basic conversation pieces such as "How are you?" and "Can you please repeat that?" and "Can you please speak more slowly?". Very useful. The class continues every Monday from 8:30 to 12:30, for about another month or two. My host family said I am picking up on the language very quickly, which is good because several of my classmates at the gymnasium said they would give me two months to learn Danish, and then they wouldn't speak any english to me! Quite the challenge, but I accepted. They've got a countdown going already, so I'm studying away!
    I attended my first Rotary meeting on Tuesday, and it was actually pretty exciting! My counselor, Arvid, picked me up from my house and took me to the meeting which was only about 5 minutes away. I was greeted by all of the Rotary members and they were all so excited that I could be there. We started out the meeting by singing a Danish song, just for fun, and then I introduced myself and told them where I was from (in Danish), and then we were served dinner. After dinner we had coffee and tea, and then the Rotary members talked about an upcoming fundraiser they were putting on. Afterwards they had a small break and several of the members were taking pictures with me and talking to me about the places they had traveled to, and that was about it! The meeting continued for another hour, but Arvid took me home because he said it would put me to sleep if I had to listen to it. He's great.
    On Sunday I left for the for the Rotary Intro Camp for a week in a town in northern Denmark called Randers. I absolutely love it so far. All of the Rotary Exchange students who are in Denmark are at this camp, so there's 150 of us, and it's a blast! So many people form so many different places, and we all act like we've known each other forever. Here we have Danish lessons for 6 hours each day, but I'll get into more detail on the camp once it's finished. The language isn't too difficult yet, and it's more similar to English than I expected. Here are a few pictures from my first 3 weeks:




    The bunkers on the western beaches, and the surfers.



    My puppy, Mali. She came with us to the west coast.



    The delicious fish dinner that Niels cooked up! One of the best meals I've ever had.

    -Heidi

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Skole

    Tuesday. My first day of school. The day where I would receive a tour of the school, meet the other three exchange students, and meet my new teachers. Or so I thought it was Tuesday...
    It turns out my first day was actually suppose to be Monday, but my host mom and I both could have sworn the paper said Tuesday! So I kind of skipped my first day of school. By accident. Instead I got a quick tour on Tuesday and I only met one teacher, and no exchange students. The school was very kind about our little mistake, though, and I got to start school the same day as all of the other students.
    So today, Wednesday, I finally got to go to my first day of school in Denmark. And it was great!
    Danish schools are a bit different from Northfield. School starts at 8 15, and the time you're done depends on what classes you have that day, so it could be anywhere between 1 and 5pm. My school, or gymnasium, as they call it, has a first, second and third grade. I'm in the second grade, along with Soren. But each grade is split up into classes which they stay with throughout the day, and then the teachers move around to different rooms; the only time the students move is for a science or an art class. The class i'm in is called 2im, meaning the second grade, international music class. This class stays together for all subjects except for music and language classes, then they split up depending on which subject they're focusing on. I'll be in the international half of the class, but ironically enough, I'm the first exchange student to be in the international class! Each week is a different schedule, and we have to check online to see what classes we have each day that week. About 90% of the school work is done on the computer, and they're trying to become a paper-free school!
    Today was a shortened day, so school didn't start until 10am. After biking to school in the rain, I met with Kamilla, one of the school counselors and she introduced me to a few of the kids in my class so they could show me around. The first class I had was Nature Geography, and the teacher talked the whole time about what we would be covering during the year, but of course it was all in Danish so I have no idea what we will be covering during the year. Next there was an assembly to welcome the first grade class to the new school. Everyone in the school participated and the teachers taught us a short dance and then we danced with the first graders to polka music. It was quite interesting, and apparently they learn a new dance each year for this assembly. Next I had Ancient History, and then Danish class. The people at the school were all very friendly and outgoing, and I made many new friends (though I don't remember half of their names). I was surprised at how much I was able to entertain myself while all of this Danish speaking was going on! But luckily I start a Danish language camp next week, and then the week after that I have my Rotary Intro Camp where I will also be taking Danish lessons! So I'll be able to communicate with them all soon.
    Okay enough about school, much more has happened since I last wrote. I found out that the sour-tasting milk I put on my cereal last week is actually called Okologisk and it's basically the stuff that is left after making butter, but some Danes drink it and use it on their cereal... This past weekend I got to meet Henrik, my 22 year old brother who has been working as a lifeguard for the summer. My family took a trip to the upper western coast of Denmark, about a 2 hour drive from Ringe. There are about 4,000 bunkers from WWII all along this coast, and they were pretty cool to look around in! At the beach, Henrik and Soren then taught me how to surf, which has been a definite highlight so far! I've also been eating a bit more interesting food, but still loving it all! The other night we had squid spaghetti. Yes, squid. It was so so delicious. I also ate herring, and my host mom was so surprised that I actually liked it, so she took a few pictures of me eating it :)
    I'm learning new Danish words each day, and I'm loving it here more and more!
    All for now!
    -Heidi

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Odense and Copenhagen

    It's only been 2 days since my last blog and I already have much more to write about! The life of an exchange student is not a dull one. On Monday, I slept in until about 11:20 and I thought I was going to be the last one awake and I was all worried that I had missed breakfast and possibly lunch, but when I came downstairs, my mom told me that Soren was still sleeping. So I felt better, and was glad to hear that Soren enjoys his sleep as much as I do. Susanne got out some cereal for me and what looked like milk... So I poured a bowl of corn flakes (that's about the only type of cereal they have, and I miss Malt-O-Meal already) and poured the "milk" on top, but it turned out to be more like a really thick cream that had a bit of a sour taste to it. Similar to condensed milk, but I wasn't really sure if they covered their cereal with it, or if it was a substitute for milk, so I struggled for a bit. But I ate it all, and it was pretty good! Then Soren came downstairs and poured himself some cereal, but he took out the milk and just ate it normally, so I'm not really sure what or why I put this other substance on my cereal... Oh well! After breakfast, Soren took me to the school we will be attending and luckily it was open so he was able to show me around and he told me a bit about how their school day works. I will get into more of the school subject once I actually start. We then went and picked up my host brother, Aske, from my 2nd host family (Aske leaves for his exchange to Brazil tomorrow) and the three of us drove to the town of Odense, which is the largest city on the island of Fyn. We walked through the downtown area and did some sight-seeing, but my favorite part of our trip was when they let me order our lunch. It was my first time testing my Danish, and after repeating to Soren and Aske what I was supposed to say about 10 times, I asked the lady in the hot dog wagon for three hotdogs. It must not have been that bad, because about 30 seconds later we each got our hotdogs! The Danish hot dog is a bit different, though, but much more delicious. The actual sausage is a bit longer than the bun, and then 3 sauces are put on, mustard, ketchup, and remoulade. Then it is topped with fresh onions, crispy fred onions, and pickles! It's pretty messy to eat, but very good! I also tried licorice sticks. Apparently licorice is the big candy in Denmark and they love it. I'm not too fond of it. These sticks were literally small parts from licorice roots and you just sucked on them and you got the taste of the licorice. We spent the majority of the day in Odense and then drove back to Ringe. For dinner that night we had chicken, corn on the cob, and a small "salad" containing tomato, avocado, and a special cheese made with wildebeest milk. It was all very tasty!
    Today, Susanne and Neils worked all day, so Soren and I took the train to Copenhagen. It took about an hour and a half to get there, but it was pretty cool to take the train, especially since we go through an underwater tunnel to get to the island that Copenhagen is on. Once we were there, we met up with two of Soren's friends that were exchange students in Australia with him 2 years ago. Caroline was from Norway, and Jonas was from Copenhagen. We went into the amusement park called
    Tivoli, which is in the center of the city and has a lot of really neat old-fashioned buildings and rides. Soren bought me a pin there to put on my Rotary blazer :) After the park we walked through the main street, which is one of the longest shopping streets in the world! There was a lot of cool buildings there, but what I really liked about it was that there weren't any skyscrapers because they didn't want to cover up any of the old, historical buildings in the city. It was a really pretty place and there were bike everywhere! I loved it. We said goodbye to Caroline and Jonas and got back on the train to Odense, where we would take another train back to Ringe. However, the train to Odense was delayed about 40 minutes and once we got on, there were no seats, so Soren and I started a trend and sat on the floor in the aisles! About halfway through the ride, the train stopped because a man on the train was having breathing problems. They completely shut down the train and all of the lights turned off for about 5 minutes while they started it back up. Then we continued on to Odense. Once we got there, we bought our tickets to Ringe but the screens that tell when and where the trains will be were all turned off and we found out that the trains were done for the night... sweet... Soren said we could just take the bus back, but the bus that went straight to Ringe had left about 5 minutes before we got to the station, so we took the bus that took about 3 times as long to get to our town because of all of the stops it made. Soren and I had some great bonding time as we were traveling, though, and we're becoming really good pals!
    Tomorrow we don't have anything planned, which is good because my feet are quite tired from all of the walking. For dinner tomorrow night I'm making Sloppy Joes! This should be interesting considering I've never made them before... But Soren said he would help me.
    Wish me luck!!
    -Heidi

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Arrival

    So, I wasn't originally planning on having a blog, but after my list of people to write letters to got to more than 50, the idea seemed a bit more appealing to me. So here it goes..
    Today is my first day in Ringe, Denmark, and so far I absolutely love it! My airplane left at 3:30 pm on Saturday, and I finally arrived in Billund, Denmark, (which is where Legos are made) at 10:30 am Sunday. I flew over with two other exchange students from my district who were also going to Denmark and I am so glad they were there because I would have gotten completely lost in the airports. All of my luggage arrived safely and my Rotary Counselor, Arvid, and his wife were at the airport to pick me up. They are so sweet and were very excited to have me there. We took about a 45 minute car drive to a town near Ringe where Arvid lives. On the ride there, I saw more windmills than I've ever seen before! It's fantastic! I also noticed that there was not a single pick up truck nor SUV on the road. They all drive small, eco-friendly cars and some people seemed to just barely fit in their cars. Once at Arvid's, all 3 of my host families came with one of their children to greet me and to have lunch. I love them all! They're just amazing and my host siblings and I bonded quite well! The lunch table had about 10 different bottles of wine on it and everyone was grabbing their favorite kind. My brother, Soren, asked me which kind I would like... not knowing what any of them were, or what they tasted like, I simply shrugged my shoulders and was hoping that maybe there was some other option. I think he understood because he then passed me the sparkling water :)
    After lunch, my first host family took me to my new house and got me all settled in. In this family I have my mom, Susanne, father, Neils, and three brothers, Soren (18), Henrik (22), and Jens (24). Henrik and Jens are both living in Copenhagen and studying there, so I have yet to meet them. My host mother told me I could sleep for as long as I would like once we got to the house, so that's exactly what I did! I only slept for about 2 hours, though, when the sweet, sweet smell of chocolate cake caught my attention. I went downstairs and helped Soren and Susanne continue to prepare for our dinner that all looked delicious! So far I haven't had anything too weird to eat, and I'm liking the rye bread more and more!
    Soren and I are becoming great friends, and we're not positive yet, but we think I'll be in the same grade as him at our school, which is only a 10 minute bike ride from home! Arvid told me he would take me to the school before the first day (August 10) so I can meet some of the teachers and become familiar with the area. Then, on the 22nd, I leave for Language Camp until the 29th. Hopefully it will help me because at the moment, my Danish is quite poor. Luckily, all of my families speak English very well!

    Time for dinner! Farvel!
    -Heidi