Friday, 29 October 2010

Fall Break

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

I will not become a lazy blogger. I will not become a lazy blogger. I will not become a lazy blogger. Maybe if I say it enough times it will become true. Either way, I’ll try harder not to put off posting.

Last week was Efterårsferie, or more easily said as Fall Break. A concept that I hope to bring back to Canada with me.

Friday after school we drove two hours to Fyn to stay with my host moms sister and her family. We arrived Friday evening and had dinner, and then Friday night we decided to go to a movie. Fun, right? Not exactly. We got there and the movie started, and I’m sitting there thinking that they’re speaking really weird English. Turns out it was not english. The movie was German, with Danish subtitles. I followed along as best as I could with the subtitles for about ten minutes, but I was getting really confused, so I put my hood up and took a nap. I’m pretty much always tired here, so sleeping on demand is no problem.

Saturday we drove to Odense, and went to the Hans Christian Anderson museum. They had lots of old things from the 1800’s, including an old wooden bike that I can’t imagine having to ride, and his teeth. Yeah, you read right. They had H.C. Anderson’s teeth there. Or his dentures, rather. But still, gross. And then we got to see his actual house. It was so cool to see how small houses were back then. The doorways were barely taller than me, and the rooms were closet sized. I’ll never complain that my room is too small again.

Simone and I outside H.C.Anderson's house

Saturday night we drove back home, and then bring and early Sunday morning Chelsea came over and we started preparing thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is a really big deal to my family in Canada, and I wanted to share it with my family here. So Chelsea and I spent all day cooking all of the traditional thanksgiving food. The only thing different was that we had to substitute turkey for chicken. And we made pretty much everything from scratch. The stuffing was easy, but the pumpkin pie was not. We started with a legit whole pumpkin, and then had to cut it apart and bake it, then we had to microwave it so it was soft. Then we had to scoop the pumpkin off the skin, then puree it, then add all of the flavors. Overall it took more than two hours. But now I can say that I know how to make pumpkin pie from scratch! It was totally worth it though cause besides my counsellor, no one else had really tried pumpkin pie before.

What it looked like in the beginning

After! It was a great success!

My counsellors family came too, so it was my family, Susanne’s family, and Chelsea. It was really, really nice, and I’m so glad that I got to share the holiday with them.

Me, Chelsea and my host mom.

My amazing counsellor and the thanksgiving chicken.

Monday to Wednesday I stayed with my friend Erica, who lives about an hour away. I love hanging out with exchange students because it’s so natural. We dyed our hair, and watched movies, and went to dinner and shopped and it felt so normal. Monday night we were having dinner in Copenhagen, me, Erica and another exchange student, Hillary, and we were just looking out the window and it was like woah, how crazy is this, we’re having dinner in Copenhagen. We’re surrounded by amazing buildings and castles, and this is our life for the next eight months. It’s really crazy to think about.

Ready for girls night out.

Wednesday night I came home, emptied my suitcase and then immediately repacked it, because Thursday was the day I had been waiting weeks for -- I left to go visit Emma! I hadn’t seen her since intro camp back in August, so it was so great to be back with her. We shopped and went to see Paranormal Activity 2, and ate lots of fast food, and on Saturday we went to an aquarium, which was so much fun. They had all sorts of crazy fish and we were like little kids, ‘oo’ing and ‘aww’ing at all of the colourful fish. And I bought a stuffed stingray which is pretty much the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen, but I love it so much because it’s a reminder of my amaazing weekend. This weekend was the first time since intro camp that I was 100% myself. We were loud and crazy and annoying and it felt just like I was at home with my friends. It was really great, even thought I think we scared her host family.

Me and Emma with the awesomely ugly stingray.

This week I was back in school, and this afternoon I leave for Holbæk, where all 200 of us in Denmark will meet for a halloween get together weekend. I’m super excited, especially since they don’t really do halloween here, so I’m happy that Rotary is doing something for us so that we can still celebrate with our friends. And then Sunday night I think that me, Simone and her friend will try trick or treating, even though I don’t actually think that people will have candy to give us, but it’s worth a try.

Also, on Monday I will be starting with a new class at school. I’m going to be with a first year class, which is 16-17 year olds, instead of the 17-18 year olds that my current class is, so I hope it will work out to be with kids my own age. So I’m really looking forward to fresh start, and hopefully things with school will pick up from here. :)

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Kærlighed fra Danmark


Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Truth about Homesickness

If life was easy, where would the adventure be?

This post is going to be a little bit different from my other posts, because it’s not really gonna be about what I’ve done so much as how I feel. Because with the two month mark (which was this past Friday) comes the end of the honeymoon phase. And to be brutally honest, it kind of sucks.

I don’t know how to describe how I’m feeling, so I’m to quote it directly off the Rotary website:

"Stage 1: "The Honeymoon" of Initial Euphoria/Excitement

-Excitement with new sounds, sights, smells

-Superficial involvement in the host culture (like a tourist)

-Intrigue with both similarities and differences between the new culture and your home culture

-Lots of interest in learning, very motivated & cooperative

-You feel like you will be able to handle anything--"I am not going to have any problems adjusting!" . .

Stage 2: "Culture Shock!"- Irritation/Hostility

-The novelty of the new culture has worn off, and you now focus primarily on the differences between the new culture and your home culture

-Small differences feel like major catastrophes!

-You become overly concerned with/stressed out by small personal problems and feel helpless and frustrated (you can’t make sense of the bus schedule, you don't have hot water in the mornings, you cannot access email from your home, the hours of school are weird, etc...)

-Stereotypes and prejudices surface: you feel like the host nationals are cold, unhelpful, snobbish, etc.

-You search out exchange student friends

-You are homesick (culture shock is a form of homesickness)!

-You miss your friends and family in Canada and to make matters worse, you hear that your high school football team is doing fantastic and the weather at home is glorious etc."

I love Denmark so much, but I miss Canada a lot too. It’s little things like the mountains, and the colorful leaves, and the whole October/Thanksgiving/Halloween feel, that I really miss. And of course my family and friends. I know that this is part of the experience, and I know that I’m not alone. And I’m so incredibly lucky to have the most amazing host family ever. I love them so much. And I’ve met my second and third families and they too are so awesome. So that makes it a lot easier.

I love being around other exchange students because we can all totally relate to each other, and it’s so nice to talk to someone who knows exactly how I feel. I’m so lucky because I live really close to another exchange student, Chelsea, and we hang out a lot. A few weeks ago we went into Copenhagen together, and I had so much fun. When I’m with my classmates I always feel so left out cause I have no idea what they’re saying, but with the other exchange students I feel so much more like, at home, if that makes sense.

And this past Saturday I had 8 girls from my district over for a movie night sleepover thing, and it was really fun. Some of the girls I hadn’t really met before, but after like five minutes it’s like I’d known them forever. Simone and Therese were gone for the weekend, so we had all of upstairs to ourselves, and it was so fun. I used to do things like this with my friends at home a lot, so it was nice to do something familiar.

And then there’s is so much harder than I ever thought. I’m still finding it really hard to make friends, and it’s starting to get really discouraging. I’m friendly with the girls in my class, but I’m not particularly close with anyone, and we don’t really hang out outside of class.

My friend sent me a link to a website where an American living in Denmark talks about Danish culture, and one of the paragraphs explain really well what it’s like here.

“Before I came to Denmark, I knew a group of Danes back home. One day I was visiting them, and they mentioned that someone called Henrik was arriving from Denmark. We went to pick him up at the airport. Everyone was speaking Danish to each other, so I wasn’t quite informed about the whole situation, but it took me a few days to figure out that Henrik was not part of the group. He was a complete stranger to everyone, and yet I got the distinct impression that everyone not only knew him, but that he was somehow related to one of the others. He simply integrated with the rest of the Danes, like a drop of water merging into a puddle.

I remember how I envied being able to relate to others so easily, and I imagined what a big, happy family Denmark must be. I was attracted by the idea of egalitarianism and the implications it held for relationships among people in a greater society, how it can facilitate collective expressions of ordinary people’s wishes in a true democracy, how it can allow the individual to grow with others to attain his full potential, without fear and intimidation.

I foresaw endless scenarios of people realizing and expressing the full extents of their imagination. But in Denmark I found a paradoxical place, where such an environment exists, yet its imagination is held in check by an invisible power. The country’s character and essence is determined and defined simultaneously by a collective, consensus-driven will and an extreme individualism. People have a solid and intimate implicit understanding of each other, yet they choose to live in ways that isolate themselves from each other.

If you are not used to it, the aloofness and isolation that springs from this kind of individualism will seem unfortunate, and it will wrack your brain. But if you are going to live in Denmark, it will, for better or for worse, inevitably become part of your reality.”

My class went out for dinner last night, and I feel like that helped to get to know them outside of the classroom. They all seem really nice, and I really want to be good friends with them. Hopefully we can do more out of school outings together, because it’s so much easier to talk and get to know people.

And while I’m talking about school, I have to tell you what happened Tuesday. The government is trying to take away funding from the school, and to show how they don’t agree, a bunch of classes decided to strike, mine included. So pretty much what that means was that we got to school and barricaded our classroom door shut, and we all sat out in the hall blocking the door, and when our teacher came we didn’t let her in, and the girls in my class were saying something to her (I don’t know what) and then she just left. So pretty much we didn’t have class all morning, and we just sat in the hall. And then at 1 the entire school striked, and all of the students went home.

It was really cool because I don’t think something like this would happen in Canada. Striking is for adults, not for kids. But here once you are in Gymnasium you are pretty much an adult, and there for you have the same rights as adults, and can fight for them. It was a really cool thing to experience. I like how here I’m an adult, even though I’m just 16. I think it will be weird going back to Canadian school where you are treated like a kid right up until you graduate.

People sitting in the canteen with signs.

One of the barricaded classroom doors.

So yeah, pretty much that’s all for now. It feels like winter here. It’s cold and rainy and windy and dark. It’s always dark here, but I don’t mind because it’s very hyggelig. (A danish word with no direct translation, but is kind of like cozy.) So I’m gonna make some hot chocolate and go watch a movie.

This Sunday is another Rotex dinner, so I'm really excited for that, and fall break is coming up, and I'm so excited. My host family is taking me to Hans Christian Anderson's birth place, and on the 17th Chelsea and I are making Thanksgiving dinner for my family and my counsellors family, and then I'm going to stay with Emma for a few days!! So I'm really really excited! It should be a fun week, and nice break from school :)

I hope everyone is doing well!

Kærlighed fra Danmark (Love from Denmark)