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!

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.

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: