Thursday, 21 April 2011


Hi again!

This past week I was in Istanbul with my school, and basically it was the most AMAZING week ever. I was really nervous that I would sort of be on my own, but that wasn't the case at all. The girls were all so friendly, and it was just such a great week, I don't think it could have gone better.

We landed in Istanbul and the second we left the airport we were all hit with a major wave of culture shock. It started when we were trying to buy tickets for the metro, and no one knew how the machines worked and it was all in Turkish and no one spoke English to help us. That was a major thing that I never experienced in Denmark, the lack of English, and boy let me tell you it's hard. But we figured it out and made our way towards the hotel. We were walking from the metro station to the hotel and saw this little street fair type thing, and stopped to take pictures, and that was when we had our first encounters with Turkish men. 90% of my class is blonde haired and blue eyed, and the men just like flocked over to us. Even I was getting comments, and I have dark hair and eyes. It was a little bit creepy because they were a lot older, and saying things like, "How are you? You look really good." And then they'd ramble on in Turkish. Really different from Denmark.

Istanbul looks so different from Denmark too. Denmark is very cute and organized and very well put together. Istanbul was totally opposite. The buildings weren't in great shape and there were random signs and posters everywhere, and people on the street trying to sell us stuff and tons of little markets and stuff like that. And don't even get me started on the driving! Red lights and traffic lanes mean nothing to them! Traffic was crazy and people were honking like crazy. And busses and taxis just stopped wherever they felt like it, they didn't bother pulling over to the side of the road to let people in, they just stopped in the middle of traffic for you.

(People all over the streets selling knock-offs)

(View outside the hotel window)

Once we got settled in the hotel, we went to dinner as a class. Everyone was in really high spirits and we were having a lot of fun together. We went to this little restaurant near our hotel, and the waiters were all super friendly and the food was soooo cheap!! Like 30TL for a full meal and drink, which I think is about $5.00. It was a much welcome break from Denmark's overpriced food.

After dinner everyone started to go their own ways. That was super different from Canadian school trips. When my grade 9 class went to Washington DC we had a strict curfew and couldn't even leave our hotel room after 10pm. Here though we could do whatever we want. A group of girls went out drinking in the city, and the rest of us went to this little cafe near the hotel. We drank Turkish coffee and ate baklava and smoked water pipe, and it was a really awesome way to start the trip. It was so layed back and even though I'm not in their class, I really felt like part of the group, which I was really happy for.

Tuesday morning our first stop was a private high school where we got to see up close what Turkish teenagers and schools are like. Turks are such friendly people, and they were so welcoming to us. We got a tour of the school and got to make candles in the chemistry class, and then we got split into groups of four and got to sit in on an actual class. I think it kind of opened everyone's eyes as to hard it is to sit there and not understand anything. I'm so glad that we got to go to the school and see up close what Turkish teenagers are like. It's amazing how different people from different countries really are. I know that sounds kind of like, duh, but I think it's kind of cool how depending on where you grow up, your personality is so drastically affected.

(The class we visited)

After lunch we went to a panorama museum, which was really interesting. To be honest I don't totally know exactly what we were looking at, but it was something about how Istanbul was conquered (I think...) Regardless it was really cool to see. And after that we got to go to the grand bazaar, which is one of the things I was most excited for. It was so insane but so so cool. Everyone in the stand were calling out to us to come into their stalls, and some of the things they said were so funny. "You look like a next top model!" "You're so beautiful, let me show you X item!" Stuff like that. Some of the stuff for sale was actually really cool. I bought some little purses and pants and apple tea and some other little things that I can't remember off the top of my head. It was really fun to bargain with them and see how cheap I could get stuff for. I think I did pretty good, to be honest.

(The panorama museum)

(The Grand Bazaar)

For dinner on Tuesday I just went with two other girls, Ana, the exchange student from Brazil, and her best friend Stephanie. It's amazing how friendly the waiters are. Not that Danish waiters are rude, but the ones in Turkey went out of their way to be friendly. I felt really bad because it never even crossed my mind to tip him. In Denmark you don't tip anyone, but thinking about it I think we should have tipped him. But I guess it's too late to do much now. Tuesday night we did the same thing as Monday night, going to the cafe, and it was really cozy. Wednesday morning we walked all the way from the hotel to the Greek Orthodox Church, and trust me it was far. But it was totally okay because we got to see up close how beautiful Istanbul really is. The streets and buildings were just so different from anything I had ever seen before, and I felt like I couldn't get enough of it. After getting to see three totally different countries, I'm starting to realize just how much there is out there, and I want to see as much as I can. I love getting to see other countries and I hope that throughout my life I can see as much as possible.

(Group photo outside the Greek Orthodox Church)

The Church was really pretty, but we sort of got stuck in the middle of this service, and we ended up having to sit through this whole hour long service thing that no one understood a word of. It was cool for about ten minutes, and then people started to doze off. I was sitting by the door and there was this wicked cold breeze, so I couldn't fall into a deep sleep, but I was close.

We went for lunch next at the sketchiest place ever. It wasn't even a real restaurant, it was like a little room with some tables and a stove where they cooked the weirdest food. And we couldn't even choose what we wanted, they just sort of gave it to us. Definitely an experience. We didn't die though, so I guess it wasn't too bad. After we ate we headed to the Bulgarian church, was was really pretty. There was no service this time, so we just went in, looked around, then were done. Our next stop was a mosque, and along the way this awesome car like pulled up next to us and they were playing music and had a camera guy with them, and a bunch of the girls in my class started dancing with them. They told us they wanted to use us in a TV show, so I think a few girls got their phone number, but I don't think anything ever came of it. It was really funny though

(The guys playing music in the car)

Finally after a coffee stop we made it to the Mosque. We all had to cover our heads and then we could go in. I've never been in a Mosque before, but it was really interesting to see all of the people on the floor praying. That's another thing I found so cool about Istanbul, the prayer call. Five times a day you can hear people being called to the Mosque to pray. It sort of sounds like singing, and coming from a non religious home and host country, it was really interesting to experience a culture so dominated by religion.

(Me in the Mosque)

Wednesday evening we went to a shopping street called Taxim square. We went by taxi which was an adventure in and of itself. 4 seatbelts? So what, lets fit nine people in and not buckle up and have our taxi driver drive around like a mad man. I was almost sure we were going to die, but our driver was actually really good, and got us there in one piece (and for only $5.00). The shopping street reminded me a lot of the pedestrian streets in Copenhagen. It wasn't like the bazaar, it was a lot more high class with regular stores and set prices and no people trying to convince you to buy from them. And the best part was that we found a "cheap" Starbucks!! There is only one Starbucks in Denmark and it's so overpriced, like, $10 for a frappachino. This one was the same price as back home, which after nine months of Danish prices is wicked cheap, so of course I made the girls stop so I could buy one.

(Taxim Square)

(Me and Jane in front of Starbucks)

Thursday was our last full day, and we started off by going to another Mosque. I can't remember what it was called, but we got a tour around and one of the priests talked to us and we got to hear a lot about different Mosque's and we were able to ask our questions. The girls in the class have been learning about Islam all year, but for me this was all new, so it was a lot to take in all at once and I didn't totally understand everything, but it was really interesting to hear about. By the time we were done it was pouring rain, which sucked. The other days were all really nice, and it's definitely a lot less enjoyable to walk around in the rain. We got to see the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sophia, and then we went to look at another museum. It was so cold though that a group of us ended up bailing out and just going back to the grand bazaar. I bought some cute tea glasses to give as gifts, and I even bought my own mini water pipe. I don't have a huge interest in smoking it, but it is really cool looking with Turkish designs, and it's pretty small, so I think it will be a cool souvenir from the trip.

(The Blue Mosque)

Since Thursday was our last day, our teachers took us out for dinner which was really nice. I had such an amazing week and all of the girls were so sweet, and it was nice to end it together. After dinner almost everyone headed to the cafe we went to the first two nights. This is another very...different thing about Danish school trips. As if going out drinking isn't weird enough, try adding going out drinking with your teacher! Yeah, just a tab bit different from home. It was really fun though, and such a great way to end an amazing week! We stayed there until the cafe closed, and then some people headed out to go clubbing, and the rest of us headed to the hotel bar. It was such a fun night, and everyone was in such a great mood and just having fun. We ended up staying there drinking with our teacher until nearly 6am. I don't think that's a night I'll ever forget. It was so much fun!

(Us with our teacher in the hotel bar)

And then Friday was home time. I wasn't nearly ready for the week to be over, and being back in Denmark was weird. We were waiting for out bags and it just hit me how long I'd been here, and how fast it's gone. I remember waiting for my bags back when I first got here as though it was yesterday, and now to be in the same spot but with only two months left it just so...wrong. This year isn't ever supposed to end.

So yeah, that was my trip to Istanbul. Even though I was a little nervous, it ended up being one of the most amazing weeks out of this year, and I'm so glad I was able to go. Thank you so much to my amazing Rotary club who made this amazing week possible! I am so grateful that I was able to participate in such an amazing trip!!

And as I write this I'm on the train back from visiting Emma, but I think I shall save that for my next blog post because this one seems long enough!

Sorry it was so long, but it was a really packed week!


ps. Here is the public link of the facebook album with more pictures:

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Gala, Skagen og dejlig sol!

If I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal giver of life would be my god.

Sorry I haven't written in a while, but I have been so busy! Things here have picked up SO much in the past few weeks, and I am the happiest and busiest I have been since I got here I think. Life is just so amazing at the moment, and I never want to come down from this happiness high! I haven't written a real update in a while, but hopefully I can remember everything I've done since then.

The weekend of March 25-27 I had two friends stay over with me, Nova and Emily. Normally on the weekends we go out into the city, but that weekend we decided to just have a girly weekend, and we watched movies and did facials and talked and it was really nice. Saturday during the day it was pretty nice out, so we walked around the city and had lunch, and then went back to my house for dinner and quiet night in. I love living right in Copenhagen, because it's so easy (and cheap!) for me to get around, not to mention how amazingly gorgeous it is!

(Thomas, Me, Nova, Emily and Claude out for lunch in Copenhagen)

Sunday the 27th I made the long trip out to Hillerød to meet up with the Danish girl who will be coming to district 5360 (my home district) next year. Her name is Helene, and she is really nice, and her family has hosted a bunch of students, so it was really easy to feel at home there. We started off the afternoon going to the big castle in Hillerød, which was amazing to see. You know you've been living in Europe too long when walking around thousand year old castles is a normal way to spend your Sunday... After that we walked back to her house and I met her family and we just talked and I told her a bit about Alberta and answered her questions, and then I stayed over for dinner. It was a really awesome day, and she had these two awesome huge dogs that I just fell in love with. They were so friendly and cute, and they made me miss my dog back home! Next year she'll be living almost two hours from me, but I still hope to meet up with her at some point and we can eat Danish food and have a big Denmark fest!

(Me in front of the castle in Hillerød)

School is pretty blah. The end of the school year is so close now, that I've just given up stressing over school, because it's clear to see that it's a lost cause. I still go of course, but I'm not bending over backwards to find my place anymore, it's more a matter of just smiling and getting through it. However, Friday was my schools Gala, and it was actually so much more fun than I had expected. I didn't really know to what to think going in, but it ended up being a great night with my class. I started off the night by going over to Chelsea's house and getting dressed with her, and then her host dad drove us to the school. For dinner we had like class pot luck, and it was a really nice time to spent with my class not in a formal setting. We just ate and talked and had class awards, and everything went really well. After the dinner part, we all went and did this old Danish dance called the lancier. The past few weeks we had been learning it in gym class, and it was funny to see the whole school doing it.

Here is a
youtube link to what the first part looks like, so you can get an idea. There's five parts in total.

(Me and Chelsea all glammed up for the Gala)

(Me with some of my classmates)

Once that was over, the regular dance started, and for that I hung mostly out with Chelsea. I also stayed over the night at her house because early Saturday a Rotarian from her club and his wife picked us up to take us to Skagen. Skagen is a little city at the very top of Denmark, which is famous for it's art museum and for where two different oceans meet.

It's about a five hour drive from Taastrup, so as soon as we got there we went for lunch. Another thing Skagen is famous for is the seafood. The entire lunch menu was fish, and as someone who doesn't eat seafood, it didn't take me long to choose the one safety food off the menu which was just a chicken club. The whole time while we ate and I watched Chelsea eat her shrimp with the eyes still attached, I counted my blessings that I wasn't placed there.

After we ate we took this little bus up to Grenen, which is the the northmost tip of Jutland, and where the two seas, Skagerrak and Kattegat meet. It was windy and cold, but because Chelsea and I posses the Danish Viking spirit, and because neither of us knew when we'd be back, we braved the elements and rolled up our pants and went and stood between the two oceans. Our feet were freezing, but we were both really happy.

(Me and Chelsea standing between the two oceans)

On our way back to our hotel we stopped at this buried church.
Skagen is really windy and really sandy, and over time the sand moved and slowly buried this church, and now all that's left is the tower. At first I thought the tower was the church, but then the Rotarian we were with explained that we were standing on the church; the sand had packed down enough that it was like solid ground.

(The tower of the Church)

It was getting pretty cold, and we were all a bit tired, so we headed back to the hotel. And oh my God what an amazing hotel it was. It was mediterranean theme, and soo awesome. And the best part was the amazing pool! It had a huge water slide and just looked so amazing! Neither of us had bathing suits though, so we decided to go walk around town and see if we could find cheap ones. Back home stores are open until at least eight on Saturday nights, but here everything SHUTS DOWN at four. No joke, it was a ghost town. We did find a cheap grocery store that was still open, but there wasn't really much else to do.

(The amazing pool at the hotel!)

(6 o`clock at night and not a person in sight)

We met back up at the hotel for dinner, which was so delicious. I swear I've never eaten so good or felt so full in my life as I did that weekend. So much good food! Eating out in Denmark is so expensive, so it was a really nice treat for us. As the night drew to a close, Chelsea and I decided that the pool was simply too amazing to pass up, bathing suit of no. So we went up to our room and put on t-shirts and proudly marched down to the pool in our t-shirts and underwear. We didn't even care how weird we looked because we had so much fun!

Sunday morning the amazing food continued, both with a breakfast buffet, and then a few hours later a huge lunch. For real I felt like I had gained 5 kilos, and I didn't think I would ever be able to eat. Somehow though I managed to waddle my way to the Skagen Art Museum. Skagen is famous for it's art because apperantly the light is special here, so people loved to paint here. The museum was really interesting though, and the art was very good. I couldn't see any difference in light, but I suppose I just don't have that artists eye.

That was where out weekend came to a close, and we made our way back home. It was late by the time we finally made it to Taastrup, so I spent the night over with Chelsea and then went with her to school Monday morning. Chelsea is so nice, and is so easy to be around. I'm so glad that she goes to my school and that I always have someone to talk to and we can relate to each other, and it was really nice to get to spend such a great weekend with her.

That week was pretty quiet. I got really sick Monday night, so Tuesday and Wednesday I just spent in bed. Being sick in Denmark is so hard because they don't have any over the counter meds to ease the pain, so my poor body actually has to work to get better.

Thursday I went to school for the last time over the next three weeks, and then Friday I had off, so Charlotte and I ran some errands, and then Chelsea came over and we made brownies. The weather here is getting so nice, and I can just feel my mood lifting. The atmosphere in Copenhagen is amazing, and I feel so lucky to be here! Saturday afternoon I met up with two other exchange students, Dia and Sarah, and we went shopping around Copenhagen and made a stop at the american food store, which I'm always happy for. Shopping in malls here isn't really popular, it's all about pedestrian streets, so we could shop and be out in the sun. Best of both worlds.

After we parted ways I headed out to my first family's house to spend the night with them. Like I've said before, I always feel at home the second I walk in the door, and I love spending time with them. We had dinner and then Simone and had a Twilight movie night. We had been talking about doing this forever, so I'm so happy we actually did, and that it wasn't one of those things that never end up happening.

Today was so hot, and I spent most of the day with them as well. Susanne, Simone and I drove into Copenhagen with the intention of going to the zoo, but it was so crowded, so instead we went into this park and just enjoyed the sun, and then drove back home and ate bagel sandwhiches and Simone and I fell alseep in the yard, it was so warm and sunny. I really hope this weather sticks around, because it's so much easier to be happy when the sun is shining.

And now I'm last minute packing because tomorrow morning I leave for Istanbul, Turkey. I am going with my first class, the one I moved out of in November, so I am a little bit nervous, but I just hope that if I'm outgoing and friendly that things will be okay. I can speak much better Danish now, so I'm hoping maybe that will help.Either way, I'm really looking forward to seeing a new country and culture, and I'm sure I'll have loads of fun.

So I will try to update soon after I return home on Friday!

Kærlig fra Danmark,