Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Six Months Later

So it’s been nearly six months. And what a fast six months it’s been. I still feel a pull in my chest when I think about Denmark, but I can go days now without thinking about my exchange. A lot of times it doesn’t feel real, the people and the experiences are just figments of my imagination. I don’t look through my pictures as often anymore, my scrapbooks and journals are long since packed away. I am fully immersed in my life in Canada. I like to think that I’ve done a good job of moving on.

However, while I think I am finally in a place where I can say that I have moved on, I know that I will never move past Denmark. Because, how can I? My exchange is in the past, but the people I love will never be behind me.

To my host families, I know I am horrible at emailing. I told myself I wouldn’t be, but I am. But you wouldn’t believe how often I talk about you all. I cannot drink tea without thinking of my first host family. I don’t think I even drank tea that often in Denmark, but I now associate tea with a cozy evening with my first family. I’ll be talking, and I’ll hear myself saying, “My host mom this,” or “My counsellor that,” People ask me if I miss you guys, and I can never make them understand just how profound that yes that I reply with is.

I found that I had to distance myself though. Hanging on to something that is over was too sad. I aspire to reach a place in my life where I can look back on it all and smile, and be content. Right now I run between each extreme, wrapping myself in my flag looking at pictures and crying, or pretending that Denmark never happened. And in finding the happy medium, I feel like I have lost contact with the people from my exchange. I get so caught up in trying to remind myself that the experiences are over, that I need to remember that the people are still there, and we can still be a part of each others lives. My new years resolution for 2012 is to keep in better contact with everyone, because I don't think you will ever understand how much you all mean to me, and how sad it makes me to think of how long it's been since I've seen or spoken to most of you. This goes for my friends and my host families and everyone else from my exchange life.

But it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten, or don’t love and miss you all. It doesn’t mean that at all.

While all of you are moving on with your lives, I am too. But life back in Canada is not what I had thought. I was honest in my blog all throughout my year, so I suppose I will be as well now.

Sometimes things happen in life that are so beyond your control. Sometimes things take over you to the point where you have lost all sense of what makes you, you. That’s what I am struggling with right now. I have lost myself and I don’t know how to get myself back.

I joined swim team at school because I wanted desperately to be in the yearbook, and swim team is the only school team that allows everyone on, no matter their ability. You’d be amazed just how calming it is to be under water. And I’m skiing again, which feels amazing. The kids I work with are so adorable, and it’s so fun for me to see their love for skiing develop.

The next few years are uncertain right now. Plans are changing and things aren’t the same anymore. And as someone who craves control over her life, the uncertainty is brutal.

I am at a new school, trying to recreate myself, although that is proving difficult. Moving schools, I've learnt, just like travelling far from home, does not change who you are. Where ever I go, there I am.

Sometimes keeping quiet and just blending in is the best way. I don't always need to be talking, just listening is okay now too. I still have the eye of an exchange student, seeing things in ways that my peers don’t. Sometimes I like to pretend that I’m just a tourist in the this city, another one of the inbounds, and that I’ll be going home to Denmark next summer.

People ask me if I knew way back then where I would be right now, what I would be facing, and the challenges I would be dealing with, if I would still have gone. At first I had to think really hard about it, if it was all worth it, but now I answer with a yes before they even finish the question.

Despite all of the difficulties now, I wouldn’t have stayed back in Canada. I wouldn’t have given up the experience that I had. I would never in a million years have given up meeting my host families and amazing friends. Sometimes I have to convince myself harder, but I know that it was worth it.

I left a part of me in Denmark, but I know that while I can’t see it today, and I might not be able to see it tomorrow, that all of the stuff I gained makes up for it. And maybe one day I'll realize that I did not in fact lose anything in Denmark, and that I came out of everything a stronger person. It's hard to see clearly now, but I have to believe that I'm going to come out of this not only okay, but better than I was before.

Because, this too shall pass. And once it does, I will once again be left with the amazing memories from what I still do believe was the best year of my life. Six months later it's still obvious that the friends I had in Denmark were the best friends I will ever have. The days and nights we spent together were some of the best in my life.

Despite all of this though, I do feel the need to add that generally speaking, I am doing well. School is hard, but I love it. I have some really good friends, and it's exciting to finally be grade 12 -- top of the school. I love being involved in school teams and clubs like swimming and other volunteer opportunities around the school. And despite being at a new school, I am so grateful that I am still close with all of my friends from before exchange. I like working again and earning money, and I love the freedom of being home and not having to feel guilty about hiding in my room, or going out with friends. I got my graduation photos taken last week, which I have to admit was beyond exciting. I felt SO grown up in my cap and gown. You'd think that all of these setbacks would have convinced me to take an extra year to graduate, but no sir! I am as determined as ever to walk the stage in May. I have my gown ordered and everything.

I still have my hedgehog, Chompy, and I love him to bits.

Last month I visited Emma and her family in Boston for Thanksgiving, and it was so amazing to see her again! I swear it was like we had never been apart. It proved to me that we really will be best friends forever! (Corny enough?)

So while yes, I am facing some pretty major challenges in my life, there are also good things. They may be small, but they motivate me to keep chugging through.

My exchange is long over, but life is still going on.

I learnt a lot, and I still am.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. ~Author unknown, commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin

I meant to write this a long time ago, and then I decided I wasn’t going to write it at all, and now I’ve decided that it doesn’t feel right to leave my blog “incomplete” so I will write this post, then lay my blog to rest.

Before I left, and even throughout my year, I got asked a lot why I chose Denmark. Most of the time I half laughed, and said, “Well, it’s the happiest country in the world.” And then left it at that. But the reasons behind my choice were so much bigger, and many times throughout my year I questioned my reasoning, but now, after being home nearly two months, I think I’ve come to peace with everything.

I chose Denmark because yes, it is the happiest country the world. But even bigger than that, I was so curious how they could possibly be happy living in small houses and driving fuel efficient cars and paying so much for everything. I wanted to find out what exactly makes a country happy. At the time of country selection, in January 2010, I was also itching for more than what I had. I went to a very small high school where most of the kids were pretty conservative, and I wanted more. So when I heard how much freedom Danish teenagers had, that appealed to me in a really big way. The Danish culture seemed like one I could see myself fitting into.

So what does make Denmark the happiest country in the world? I can’t officially answer that, but I can give my opinion. And because I’m sure some people won’t agree with me, I will clarify that again. It is my opinion based on what I observed and experienced throughout my year. Nobody has to agree with what I write.

Danes are content. They are not greedy, they are not always wishing for more. Most of them are very happy with the lives they have. In Canada, the wealthy have huge houses and fancy cars, the middle class have average houses in nice neighborhoods and drive one or two practical cars, and the lower class live in smaller houses in less desirable areas and maybe drive one lower end car. In Denmark, you can’t really look at someones house and car and immediately tell how much they make. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, everyone lives on basically the same level. This eliminates a lot of the competition and stress that North Americans face.

Imagine, if you weren’t always wishing for a better paying job, or a nicer house, or a fancier car, would you be happier?

Something I figured out about half way through the year though, is that while Danes are happy people, if you took a group of North Americans and plopped them down in Denmark, I don’t think they would be as happy. I imagine my family of four living in my last host families apartment. We would literally tear each other apart. Sharing one bathroom, Jackson and I sharing a bedroom, a kitchen the barely fits three people. Many Canadians are spoiled with the amount of space we have per person, and if we were all of a sudden crammed so close together, I don’t see us being as content as the Danes are. Even for me, I did not particularly enjoy living in such close quarters, and I had to keep reminding myself, “This is part of the experience, in three months you will be back in your own house where you have the entire basement to yourself.” Yes, this sounds bratty and spoiled, but it is how I’ve been raised. And it is how I hope to raise my kids if I am able to do so. I love my family, but I could never live somewhere where we are always running into each other. I’d feel like I couldn’t breath. But I guess this is one the reasons why Canadian’s are not as happy as Danes.

Another big thing, is that Danes are basically taken care of. They pay very high taxes, but they have free health care, university is free, and the elderly are taken care of. It’s not like here, where the rich are taken care of, and the poor are on their own. In Denmark people don’t have to stress about money in the same way we do here.

Furthermore, on the note of not stressing, Denmark is not nearly as competitive as Canada. Danish kids do not have to compete with their peers to get into university. And even more, Danes do not know the stress of figuring out a way to pay for university. Higher education is a given for them, and sitting here as a soon-to-be grade 12 who’s mind is full of getting into and then paying for university, if I didn’t have that stress, I can say I would be a much happier person.

Happiness is not shown in the way I imagined it would be, and I think you have to spend a fair amount of time in Denmark to really see it. Danes are really people, they have problems, they have bad days, and don’t get my wrong, they certainly do have stresses in their lives. But this being said, even with all of the day to day problems they might have, I do believe that it can be argued that they live better lives than we do here. But again, how happy you are in Denmark depends on how you’ve been raised and what you value in life.

Basically, in conclusion, I did see a bit of what makes them so happy, and I have learnt a fair bit about how I can live a “happier” life, but a lot of what I saw I cannot apply to my life here in Canada. Sadly it just doesn’t work like that. I am still doomed to suffer the same stressed and worries and that everyone before me did, but I least I know what a simpler life looks like, and am confident that if I choose to be happy, then despite all of the bumps in the road, then I will be happy.

My second “pull” to Denmark, was the freedom. And that did not disappoint. I loved being treated like an adult. I loved how adults talked to me like I was an equal. In North American adults talk down to kids, whether they notice it or not. I also loved how 16 year olds pretty much had the same freedom as 18 year olds. I could go out to bars in Copenhagen and come strolling in a sunrise and no one ever said anything. It was a great way to live. I also loved the trust people had in me. I loved that at school parties were are allowed to drink and they trusted us not abuse the privilege, and for the most part no one did. It is something that would just not work in Canada.

I went to Denmark in the pursuit of happiness, and maybe I didn't find it in the way that I thought I would, but I certainly did find it in all the friends I made, and the families I lived with, and the amazing life that I was so lucky to live. The happiness I felt in Denmark was something I had never felt in Canada. It was a cozy content-ness. I found happiness in drinking tea with my host family, sitting in the park with my friends, watching movies with Simone, hugs from my Danish mom and counsellor. I discovered happiness in the the warmth of the sun after 5 long months of darkness, and looking over the ocean at the coast of Sweden. At going to Rotary meetings and the days I spent with Candice. It was the little things that made me happy, and I hope I can continue living like that, finding happiness and content-ness in the little things in life. It is just an amazing way to live. You see things in such a different light when you are not constantly wanting more, and you take notice in all of the little, but still amazing, things in your life.

Denmark is an amazing country, and despite some of the parts of the culture that I didn’t like, I overall fell in love with the country. I would go back in a heartbeat. And I plan to, someday.

So what is next for me? I start school in a little under two weeks. I have decided to start at a new school for Grade 12, for a variety of reasons. I’m hoping to graduate in June, but there is the chance it won’t happen until next December. Who knows, and ultimately, who cares.

As for travel, who knows? Exchange was such a huge part of my life for so many years now, and now that it’s over and done with, I’m not entirely sure what to do next. I want to go back to Denmark at some point. I’m hoping to au pair there next year, if I finish school in time. I fell in love with the country and most of the culture and just in general with the Danish way of life, not to mention I love my Danish family so much, and I miss them more than I ever thought I could miss someone I’d only know for eleven months. I miss my counsellor and her no bullshit advice and awesome personality. And I miss all of my friends and the amazing times we had together. It took traveling half way around the world to find what I always felt was missing, and to meet people who I connected to in such a deep way.

This adventure is over now though, and it’s time to focus on my next task, nailing Grade 12.

And then who knows. Maybe in the Spring I will do a post about where I am then. University? Traveling? Au pairing? Or something entirely different?

I’m off to Boston in November to visit Emma, and then I can only hope that next fall is Denmark.

So now I am ready to officially put this piece of exchange to rest. Thanks so much to everyone who followed my journey, and if you have any questions or anything, please feel free to email me. princessdaisy@shaw.ca

If you are my Danish family or friends reading this, please know I love you so much and miss you so much and hope that you stay a part of my life forever. You guys mean far too much to me to ever lose.

If you are an exchange student, have the time of your life. Exchange will change you in ways you can’t even imagine.

And if you are someone else, thanks for following my adventure and I hope you maybe learnt a bit about Denmark through my posts.

Lots of love from somewhere between Canada and Denmark,


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.

“We can never turn back the pages of time, though we may wish to relive a happy moment, or say goodbye just one last time, we never can, because the sands of time continue to fall, and we can’t turn the hourglass over.” — Unknown

So I’m home now, right back in the exact same place where I was last summer, and the summer before that, and all the summers before that. It’s weird, being home. Leaving Denmark was just the hardest thing. My first host mom, my counsellor, four of my friends, and of course my last host mom and Emma were there.

From the second we walked into the airport, everything was CHAOS. There were so many people, the lines were insane and there was no room to navigate all of my stuff. I had done self check in the night before, so I could go right into the baggage drop line, but Emma couldn’t. My host mom went off with Emma, and I went by myself. Things had been a bit tense at home that morning, so I was already a huge ball of stress, not to mention I was a mere hour away from saying goodbye to my Danish life.

I had my awesome friends there though to help me figure things out, which made it a bit better. My counsellor saved the day when she showed up too. She was super calm and took over everything. The line to drop my baggage was so long, and then I finally get to the front, and the SAS Bitch was like, you have too many suitcases. So sue me, I had three suitcases. Did she not realize I wasn’t just going on a two week holiday?? I had my whole life in those suitcases! Obviously she didn’t care though, because she sent us away and told us to get it town to two bags and my backpack. Again, thank God for my counsellor, because I was freaking out all over again. I opened my smallest suitcase and threw all of the contents into my two bigger ones, and then Susanne packed it nicely so it all fit. I did have to part with some of my food and a few shirts, but in the moment I didn’t care at all, I just wanted it to be over.

So then I had two 32 kilo suitcases, when I am only allowed one 23 kilo suitcase. I had come into the day expecting to pay 300kr in extra bags, so when she was all like, ‘That’ll be 750kr,’ I was not prepared. Susanne was awesome and covered it, and then I payed her back with all of the cash I did have on me. I definitely hadn’t wanted to spend that much on bags, but I didn’t want to waste my last few minutes with everyone arguing with the airline lady. I just wanted to be with the people I loved for one last time.

We all met up at the Starbucks, and that was when it started to sink in. It was over. The best year of my life, over. I had said a lot of hard goodbyes already. Saying goodbye to Simone the night before had been so hard. She is one of my best friends, and even more, she’s the sister I had always wished I’d had. And I didn’t want to leave. Her, or anybody for that matter. I didn’t want to leave my amazing life.

But standing there in the airport, it hit me, that was what I was doing. I wasn’t at the airport to see off a friend like I had numerous times in the past few weeks, I was there because it was my turn.

We didn’t have a lot of time, so the hugs started right away. Both Susanne’s gave me letters to read on the plane. The first person I hugged was counsellor Susanne. She has been in my life the longest, and she has been the one who has been there the entire year. Whenever I was sad or needed help or anything, she was the one I went to. I feel like in my first family I had a really good relationship with my host mom, if I was sad or just needed to talk or whatever, I felt totally comfortable going to her, but even though I loved my other three host moms too, I didn’t feel the same way, so once I left my first family, my counsellor was the one I went to. So hugging her, everything just flashed through my mind. My first day, driving with her home from the airport, in September talking about school, all of the times we talked throughout November when I needed to move families early because of the cats, when I went over around Christmas, and tried Risengrøl for the first time, and I was so surprised when she told me that’s what they left for Santa. And there is so much more that unless I write a novel, won’t fit into this post. I couldn’t find the words to thank her enough.

And then next was my first host mom Susanne. She is a second mom to me, but saying goodbye to her was a million times harder than it had been to say goodbye to my mom last summer, because I don’t know when I’ll be back in Denmark, and even when I am, I will never truly get to be back. I remember when I first got to Denmark, and was homesick, she would give the best hugs. And even after I moved families, whenever I saw her, I’d get a legitimate mom hug, and ask any exchange student, there’s not a lot of things better than that. And then in the airport I just couldn’t admit that this was the last time I would hug her for I don’t know how long. It was just, I don’t even know, so heartbreaking.

I said goodbye to Charlotte next, and I don’t even think either of us knew what to say. It just didn’t feel real that this was the end. I had talked to Julie for months before I came to Denmark and she left to Australia, and it was just to crazy that now it was goodbye.

And then I had to go back to counsellor Susanne one more time. She gave me some final words of advice, and then I had to go. My friends ignored the passengers only line, and went right up to security with me, but for my host moms and Susanne, that was it. We went up the escalators and I looked back and they were all waving and I just wanted to turn around and run back to them and beg them to keep me, but I just had to give one last wave, and then look forward, and just keep walking.

(Me and my counsellor, Susanne)

(Me and my first host mom, Susanne)

(My first host mom, my last host mom, me and Susanne)

All year it had been me, Claude, Emily and Chelsea. We had always gone out together, had sleepovers together, shopped together, pretty much everything. So saying goodbye to Emily was especially sad. And my newbie Bec, who even though I’ve only known her 6 weeks, I love so much. And Laura, my first Australian friend, and Brittany who I had some seriously awesome times with on Eurotour, and the weeks after. Saying goodbye to my friends was so hard. They were the people who made year so much fun. They were the ones who I had the craziest times with, and who I could tell anything to, because they all just got it. They were the ones who I’d have sleepovers with and we’d lay awake in the dark just talking about all of the amazing things we want to do with our lives.

I’d been in that spot near the security area so many times, but I’d always been the one waving off the person who actually walked down the hall. The end of that hall had always been some elusive unknown that back in January when I said goodbye to Hannah, I couldn’t wait to experience, but then in June seeing off Nova and Chelsea, I had no desire to go down that hall. But that day, it was my turn, and as much I didn’t want to, I had to give my final hugs and then keep walking forward.

Luckily I had Emma with me, which softened the blow of leaving Denmark. We sat on the plane together, watching our home, and our exchange year, disappear beneath the clouds.

(Emma and I on the plane to Frankfurt)

In Frankfurt I walked Emma as far as I could to her gate. We hit a road block though, at passport control. I wasn’t leaving from the same area as her, so I couldn’t enter into her section. So in front of passport control was where our journey together ended. I suppose it’s fitting, our time together ended just as awkwardly as it had begun. We sat down, not talking, refusing to admit what was about to happen. It wasn’t until they made an announcement that her plane was boarding that we looked at each other, and then stood up and hugged. I can’t explain how hard it was to say goodbye to Emma. I have never had a friend as amazing as her. Someone who is so much like me, and I can just be totally myself around. There is no way my year would have been as amazing without my monthly visits to or from Emma. So saying goodbye, and knowing that this stage of our friendship was forever over, was horrible. Now it’s down to visiting her maybe once or twice a year, maybe less as life goes on. And of course we will skype and email and call each other. I know we will be best friends forever. There’s no way that I can let a friend that amazing slip away. Watching her walk through passport control, and me standing there crying, just sucked so much. I don’t understand how a year can be over. It was just last week we were starving at introcamp, sitting in her room not talking to anyone, and now we were saying goodbye. This part of exchange makes all of the other hard times seem like nothing.

When I was in Denmark, I thought there wasn’t a worse feeling than homesickness. I thought being away from Canada was the hardest thing. But now that I’m back in Canada, I realized the homesickness I felt in Denmark was nothing compared to the homesickness I have now for Denmark.

It also wasn’t until I was back in Canada, and found myself referring to Denmark as home, (as in, “Wow, only three dollars for this coffee? At home I would have payed ten!”) that I realized how much Denmark feels like home. The life I had there, the people in it, the things I did and the places I went, it just all felt so right. I love the way Danes are, I love the way they think. I love what it was like to live there. The only thing keeping me from quitting school and going back there right now, is knowing that the life I lived was not a true Danish one. I lived the amazing carefree life of an exchange student. I know that truly living in Denmark is nothing like the life I lived there, but that doesn’t make me miss it any less.

Being back in Canada is nice though. To be back in my house, in my room, in a kitchen full of my favorite foods. My first night home, one my best friends came over, and we sat in my room and she filled me in on everything. And hearing her talk about everyone was like pulling a familiar wool blanket around myself. It didn’t feel totally right, but at the same time it gave me this warm and secure, and kind of comforting, feeling. I hadn’t left Denmark to come back to nothing. I had left Denmark to come back to a lot. I didn’t leave my friends to come home and be friendless; I have amazing friends here. Saturday night two of my best friends, Maddie and Emily, threw me an amazing welcome home party. We all hung out and had dinner at Emily’s house, and then we drove to another friends house and chilled in his hot tub and I had a slurpee and Timmies and it felt so normal. Like I had never been away.

(Yay Slurpee!!)

(Yay Timmies!!)

Being home, with my family and friends, and being back in school, and just being back in my life, I just can’t believe a year can go by that fast. There were weeks that dragged on, but sitting here now, it truly feels like the blink of an eye.

The first few days at home were so hard. I was busy with friends, which was so nice to be back with them. But it was hard to be away from Denmark. I couldn’t think about it without tearing up. And then I started school two days after I got home. I wasn’t over the jet lag and I was so tried, and so sad about being home, and everything just felt wrong. But somehow, every day it gets better. And I can see that maybe it’s good how busy I am. My Canadian life is in full swing. I went out Friday with my friends, and last night I babysat for the family I’ve babysat for since I was 12. Everything is back to normal. And that makes it a lot easier to be back. I still miss Denmark like I don’t think anyone understands, and it still takes massive willpower not to pick up the phone every day and call my host family and counsellor and friends.

But I need to remember that I can’t keep looking over my shoulder. Just like in the airport, when I had to keep walking forward, it’s the same now.

Instead of looking back and wishing I could go back in time to be back with my host families, I need to find a way for them to fit in with my life now, and in the future. I know they will be in my life forever. I know that at my wedding, Simone and Emma will be two of my bridesmaids. I know I will never lose any of my Danish family or friends. I’ve been emailing with Susanne, and one of the things she wrote in one of the emails was, “...but I know we will keep in touch the rest of our lives and that sure is a good thing to remember.” And that’s true. Just because I’m back in Canada doesn’t mean I’ve lost anybody. I love them so much, and just because I won’t see them very often doesn’t mean I’ll ever love them any less.

My year in Denmark was amazing. It was nothing I expected it to be, and everything I needed it to be. I would go back and live it over in a heartbeat. I did so many amazing things, and met so many incredible people, and I learnt so much about myself. And just because I’m home doesn’t mean I’m done. I’m going to use everything about this year to help me to continue growing and changing as a person. Denmark will forever be a part of me. I still can’t believe it is over. I no longer can use the excuse, “But I’m an exchange student!” Being an exchange student is an amazing thing. If you’ve followed my blog throughout the year, you know it’s not always easy. But I can safely say, it’s a million percent worth it.

Now I’m moving on with my life post Denmark. I am busy with summer school and my friends and being a mother to my new baby, Chompy the hedgehog. For some reason, all throughout my year, I had a weird obsession with hedgehogs, so right when I came home, I went out and bought my very own pet hedgie. My life is building up around me, and everything is falling intro place. Everyday it gets a bit easier to be back, but that doesn’t mean that Denmark is ever far from my mind, or that I can’t wait to one day go back.


I’m planning to do one more post within the week, just doing a bit of a comparison on Denmark and Canada, because now that I’m back I can see everything with a bit more perspective.

This post was really hard to write, because it was kind of the first time I’ve really sat down and admitted that it’s over.

Thanks for reading though. I’ve loved keeping this blog, and it always makes me so happy to see my page hits go up.

It feels weird to not sign this, Love from Denmark, so instead I will sign it, Love to Denmark, the amazing country and all of the incredible people in it, particularly the ones who played a huge part in my year and who are forever in my heart.

Tusind tak!


Thursday, 30 June 2011

'Twas the night before departure...again...

We laughed until we had to cry, we loved right down to our last goodbye, but over the years we'll smile and recall, for just one moment - we had it all.

So here I am, eleven months later, the night before departure. This time is so different than last time though.This time around, what waits on the other side of the flight is not unknown, it’s what I’ve always known, except I know it won’t be the same.

This past week has flown by. I’ve hung out with friends, packed up my room, said goodbyes, and started to get ready to part with this life.

Emma is with me, which is the way the end of my year should be. She’s my best friend, and I am so glad we are leaving this year together. We’ve been busy, shopping for Danish food, seeing Copenhagen and figuring out exactly how to cope with the year we waited forever for coming to an end.

Tonight was the hardest goodbye so far, to my first family. We had dinner with them, and it was so normal. It felt like any other time I was with them. But then the evening came to a close, and that’s when I had to do what I had been dreading, say goodbye. I know it’s not goodbye, because I love them way too much to not have them stay a part of my life. But I don’t know when I will be back, and I don’t know what it will be like to visit. It won’t be the same, and that’s so scary.

This year has been everything and nothing like I imagined. I have grown up in so many ways, and I see things so differently now. I’m not the same person I was when I left Canada.

I’m really sorry I can’t write more clearly. I don’t want to go home. I can’t actually explain how much it hurts to have to leave the life I worked so hard to build for myself here. I don’t want it to end.

Tomorrow is going to break my heart. My counsellor and my first host mom and current host mom and a few friends will be there, and Emma who I’m flying out with. I leave the house in less than six hours.

Thank you so much to everyone who made this year possible for me. It doesn’t feel real that it’s over. I want to stay in my perfect little Danish bubble.

I don’t want to leave my Danish family. I don’t want another exchange student to come to my club here. I don’t want to leave.

But sometimes life sucks and we have to do what we don’t want to. Including leaving the best year of our lives behind. I know I have many more adventures ahead, but at the moment it breaks my heart to leave this one behind.

I love Denmark and everyone in my life here so much.

But now it’s time to say goodbye to my family to go back to my family and leave home to go home.

Tusind tak Danmark for en FANTASTISK år, og vi ses igen snart.

Talk to you from the otherside of the pond,


Saturday, 25 June 2011

The best of the best

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why itis here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

-Douglas Adams

Wow so another busy week has FLOWN by and now I sit here with 5, yes, only 5 days left in Denmark. I am bumming my host sister’s computer, so I don’t have time to write a big long update, but I will give you all a quick update of how things have been the past week and a half.

I’d heard from many people that the last few weeks your exchange are some of the best out of the whole year, and I hadn’t really gotten it until now, but it is really true!

I have been out almost every single day since Eurotour. Since the last time I updated I went to Simone’s going away/16th birthday party, which was really fun! I still think it’s so crazy how there can be fifty teenagers outside drinking and going crazy and my host parents are sitting just inside. I’m going to miss Danish parties so much! I slept over that night, and then the next day I just spent the day with my first family. We did normal things like grocery shopping and cleaning the house, but it was my last time properly spending the day with them, so I was just so happy to be there.

Then last Saturday my friend Sophie who just got back from her exchange year in the US slept over, and then in the morning we made American pancakes. I had seen Sophie once when I first arrived in Denmark before she left on her exchange, so it was really cool to see her now, and the end of our years. It makes the past ten months seem like the blink of an eye.

(Sophie and our American pancakes)

On Monday I went over to Candice’s for a visit. This was one of the last times I’m going to get to see her, and it was so nice to just see her and visit. This whole year she has always been there and I’ve always loved being with her and her family. Sometimes I can’t believe that eleven months ago everyone who makes up my life here were only strangers. It feels like I’ve known them forever.

Tuesday I met with Susanne in the morning, and then spent the rest of the day and evening with my third family. In the afternoon it was just Carina and I, and we hung out and talked and just caught up. She leaves on her exchange to the US in less than two months, so we have tons to talk about. And then my host parents came home and we all had dinner together. That was the last time I would get to see them this year, and they were the first major goodbye I had to say. It was so weird leaving, because who knows what I will be like next time I see them. I’ll probably be done high school, maybe even already in university. This was the last time seeing them as exchange student me. Next time I’ll be someone totally different.

Wednesday a group of us hung out in Copenhagen for the day just shopping and eating and all the stuff we always do. It is just so surreal that this is all coming to an end. It’s all so normal and I’m in such a routine, and I am not even a little bit ready for things to change.

(Doing what we always do, sitting in McDonalds doing nothing for hours on end.)

Wednesday night was mine and Chelsea’s last school party. I thought it would be wild fun, but it ended up just being so sad. Chelsea and I sat there and looked around the school and thought of all the crazy (and even boring day to day) stuff that has happened here, and the fact that we would never be coming back was just so, so sad. And then she started crying, which of course made me cry, and from there I just couldn’t stop.

(Me and Chelsea in front of the school.)

Weather wise, I was dressed horrifically inappropriate. I was wearing tiny shorts and a t-shirt and little flats, and it was ten degrees and POURING rain. I didn’t have a jacket or anything, and we were supposed to walk home. (In my defence, when we left the house the weather was nice.) So we took the train to Taastrup station, but it was the worse rainfall I had ever seen. Within minutes the streets were flooded and I was so cold I couldn’t stop shaking. Chelsea called her host mom, who is my counsellor, to pick us up. And when she gets to the station she takes one look at me and gives me this look of, ‘Have you not learnt.’ All year she has been telling me to dress warm, and I’ll be like, no, it’s cool, I’m from Canada, I can handle this. But I never account for the wind, and I am ALWAYS cold, but then I never remember that for the next time. So again, she looks at me and is like, ‘Where on earth is your jacket?’ And of course I have to answer with, ‘I got this, I’m from Canada.’ It just seemed weirdly appropriate that the year would end the same way it started, with Susanne telling me to dress warm, me not listening, and then in the end she gets to say I told you so.

And then Thursday I spent the day with my newbie, Laura. I went to her house and we hung out and watched movies. She is so sweet, and I love spending time with her. And then in the evening we went to this carnival for Saint Hans. Here is the wikipedia article explaining what it is exactly:

In Denmark, the solstitial celebration is called Sankt Hans aften ("St. John's Eve"). It was an official holiday until 1770, and in accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day, it takes place on the evening of 23 June. It is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people.

It has been celebrated since the times of the Vikings by visiting healing water wells and making a large bonfire to ward away evil spirits. Today the water well tradition is gone. Bonfires on the beach, speeches, picnics and songs are traditional, although bonfires are built in many other places where beaches may not be close by (i.e. on the shores of lakes and other waterways, parks, etc.) In the 1920s a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth (probably made by the elder women of the family the bonfire emerged as a remembrance of the church's witch burnings from 1540 to 1693. This burning sends the "witch" away to Bloksbjerg, the Brocken mountain in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day. Some Danes regard the symbolic witch burning as inappropriate.

In 1885 Holger Drachmann wrote a midsommervise (Midsummer hymn) called "Vi elsker vort land..." ("We Love Our Country") that is sung with a melody composed by P.E. Lange-Müller at every bonfire on this evening.

It was a really cool thing to experience. We didn’t go crazy and stay out all night partying, but it was cool just to see everything.

(The bonfire before, you can see the witch on top ready to be burned.)

(The bonfire all lit up and the witch burning!)

Friday my first host sister had her graduation wagon ride. Danes love to party. Like, love love love it, so of course graduating gymnasium calls for a party, or perhaps twenty five? It is the coolest, most fun looking tradition; each 3rd year class from every gymnasium gets a wagon type thing attached to a truck and it’s decorated and then they drive around to each person’s house where the person’s family puts out food and drinks and stuff. It looks like so much fun, and I was so glad I got see it, even though of course I wish I could have experienced it on the wagon!

(These are what the wagons look like, but each one is decorated differently.)

And then today was our going away day. It wasn’t Rotary official or anything, but a big group of us met in Copenhagen and went shopping and then in the evening we went for dinner. And while we were walking around so many of the graduation wagons from all the different schools drove by, and the kids were on them drinking and screaming and singing, and the driver is blaring the horn, and the cars around are also honking, and it’s one of those things where everyone seems so happy, and you can’t help but smile. Today was also our last day hanging out as a group. It’s always been our thing, meeting in Copenhagen and just doing nothing. And today was the last time we would ever do it as a big group. It didn’t feel like it though, it feels like next Saturday I’ll be right back in the same park with the same people do the same nothingness for hours on end. The fact that I won’t be in Denmark on Saturday is something that I refuse to admit.

(Me and my newbies -- Bec, Jess me and Brittany.)

(All of us hanging out in Copenhagen. I love these people so so much.)

I have started packing. Or rather, I decided I would start packing, then I dumped everything on my bedroom floor, and that was it. That was on Thursday. I have not touched anything since then. All of the things in my bedroom make up my life, and going through it all and trying to pack it away is so hard. Both because it’s sad, and because I have SO much stuff!

I have only five very busy days left though. And Tuesday morning Emma arrives, so really it’s only 2 days to get packed. And I know they are going to fly.

Everything is so perfect right now. I have had non stop plans for almost three weeks. I am so happy. But I’m not living a sustainable life right now. As much fun as it is to shop and eat and sit in parks and talk for hours on end and spend money left and right, I know it’s not something I can keep up forever. I wish I could, so badly. The past three weeks have been some of the best of my entire life, and it’s so hard to think that it’s over. Nova goes home Monday, and Chelsea on Tuesday. And then it’s my turn on Friday.

And then I don’t know what.

Kærlig fra Danmark,