Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Dog Ate My Homework

My fiance wrote up some phrases in English for me to translate into Danish.  I did two of the phrases last night, which was not at all easy.

I'd planned to work on some more tonight, but...

I was busy watching Bridesmaids and drinking brandy.

Which is not exactly the same as a dog eating my homework (and it would take a very talented dog to eat the email the homework was sent in).

Luckily, Professor Fiance is pretty easy on me and has given me an extension until tomorrow night (he just told me he could be tougher on me... but I don't believe him).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Informal Formal Danish Class #1

I've made it through my first Danish class.  Just a handful of us in a room in Boston in a building owned by the Unitarian church, with an organist from Denmark teaching the lessons.

Already I'm finding it infinitely more helpful than learning from the Teach Yourself: Complete Danish book/CDs.

While the class moved extremely quickly, and my fiance commented that what we'd gone over today would take weeks if not months in a formal Danish class in Denmark, I already feel like I've learned more of the basics than I would ever pick up from the book.  While the book starts off with a conversation, and then lists the definitions of the words after the conversation, such a method would really only be helpful if you already have a grasp of basics like how to say each letter and each number, or the days of the weeks or months, or years.

We covered some of those basics tonight, and will hit the rest of them next Wednesday.  Having an actual human being to interact with and ask questions of is so much more helpful than having a CD that just assumes I understand.

Or rather, assumes nothing but doesn't care.

The "Great" Bridal Expo: or How Not to Run a Bridal Show

Most brides-to-be bring their mothers or bridesmaids to these bridal shows.  Most shows are alright, especially if they serve drinks and have lots of cake vendors offering up samples.

As my mother and all of my bridesmaids live in other states, I asked my poor fiance if I could drag him along.  He wasn't excited about the prospect, but I would have been concerned if he had been.  He was a good sport though, which is always appreciated.

The "Great Bridal Expo" at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel started at noon on Sunday, but we arrived around one o'clock.  We entered through the lobby, and there was no sign of a bridal show at all.  Just hotel guests and employees milling about. 

And then we looked up...

On the balcony that surrounded the lobby was a line than snaked all the way around the place.  We tried to find either the beginning or the end of the line and couldn't seem to find it.

Frustrated and hungry, we went off to find some lunch.  A little food goes a long way to improve patience, so we decided to give it another shot after we'd eaten. 

This time, we went in through the back entrance, and there it was.  And... almost no line left at all.  I barely had time to fill out my registration form before we got to the check-in table.

As for the "expo" itself?  One small reception hall packed shoulder to shoulder with brides and bridesmaids and mothers (and even a few fiances), but almost no vendors worth more than a brief glance.  I think we spent less than 10 minutes circling the place.  A few tux shops, a few jewelry places, one bakery that didn't bring any cake (!!), and then a bunch of dentists and plastic surgeons (...for the bride who's just not good enough to get married yet?  Come on...).

Where were all the good vendors?

At the OTHER bridal show.  The one at Fenway.  The one I didn't even know about.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fascinating Posts About Danish... Later.

Not now.  But later.

A few weeks ago I found myself doing a Google search for the words Danish, lessons, and Boston.  The search came back with quite a few relevant leads, so I emailed a few links to my fiance to get his thoughts.

Turns out, he's been a busy bee since then contacting these various institutions about their services, and has found us a conveniently located, reasonably priced option for Danish classes.  Classes with other students.  And a real live teacher.

So, starting on Monday (two days from this post, for those keeping track), I'll be starting up classes.  I tend to do better in a classroom setting than I do when trying to teach myself something.

My self discipline is not one of my best things.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ruby Reviews a Comedy Revue

This blog is not about Denmark, or anything related to the Danish language.  And it's not even about the wedding!

Nope, this is a little review of last night's Bill Bailey show at the House of Blues in Boston.  If you're not familiar with the fine work of Mr. Bailey, here's a little (hour-long) taste:

Last night's show was fully hilarious, but it did have some slightly awkward moments.  we'll start with the crowd.  Now, as you can see in that youtube video, he tends to draw a pretty massive crowd in the UK.  Sadly, not so much here.  We were excited when we got there and were told our balcony seats were being upgraded to floor seats, only to find that they were doing this because even the floor hadn't sold out.  The floor was maybe 2/3 full.

So the show started, and laughter ensued.  The crowd, while totally engaged, was also totally bizarre.  The heckling included shouts of "Enthusiasm!" and "You're Bill Bailey!"

All in all, it was a great time, but in the end, he left the stage and we thought the show was over.  Some folks were expecting an encore, but maybe 1/3 of the crowd started to leave... and then he came back on stage for his encore.  Awkward.

Thing is... this then happened A SECOND TIME!  To be fair, this time, while a bunch of the crowd had gotten up to leave, a loud percentage had stayed chanting his name.  And he came back with his glass of wine saying "What do you want??  I already have my wine!"  He graciously did another song, left again, and the sound folks put on music cuing us that it really was the end this time.

It really was a lot of fun, but I have a feeling he finished this, the last show on his tour, on a bit of a "WTF" note.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How to Learn Danish Without Really Trying

On Saturday night, my fiance and I had company over for dinner.  Now, in our house, that means an aperitif of gin and tonic to start, followed by several shared bottles of wine with dinner.

Some time in the middle of the meal, my fiance said something in Danish.  For the life of us, neither can now remember what the phrase was, but right after he said it, I said "Oh, that means..." and then I translated the phrase.

It was one of those moments where I said the translation, stopped, and then said "How did I know that?"

The answer?


Apparently, I'm pretty good at understanding Danish after a few drinks.  And as a Danish friend pointed out after I mentioned this, it may also help with my pronunciation.  In fact, my fiance just agreed that "the Danes rarely speak Danish when they're sober."

Were I much of a drinker, I would say I could learn the language much faster if I just stayed drunk more of the time.

Sadly, it seems am going to have to continue to learn the hard way.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Anxiety and Naughty Words

I found myself really anxious this week.  I couldn't figure out what my problem was.  Thursday night, I actually told my fiance that I needed a drink.  I almost never do that, and especially not during the week when I wake up at 4:30 in the morning.

So he poured me a brandy and suggested we listen to some Brandi Carlile (which is always a good idea, no matter my mood), and I got right down to being introspective.

And then it hit me.  The reason I had been feeling anxious, the reason why going to work had felt especially difficult lately... I needed to tell them I was moving.

Yup, I hadn't actually mentioned to my bosses that I am leaving next year.  I thought I'd wait, so as not to give any excuse to let me go early (with a wedding to plan, that's definitely not something I can afford right now).  So, I'd been going to work every day keeping this secret, and it was making me miserable.

Yesterday, I told one of my supervisors.  He was 100% supportive and said telling the Big Boss wouldn't be an issue. He was actually glad to have lots of time to find a replacement for me (it seems my job is cursed... every fill-in we've hired to cover my vacations has quit).

And, you know what?  I feel a lot better.

And so, to bring you into the weekend, I present...

Danish Words With Naughty English Meanings!!

Fart - means "speed" in Danish
Slut - means "ended"
Slag (which, to be fair, is more UK English than American) - means "type" or "kind"
Tit - "often"

And no, it's not naughty... but one of my favorite words in Danish (of the ones I've learned so far) is "snart."  It's just plain silly and fun to say.  It's meaning?  "Soon."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's a Small World... (After All...)

BWAHAHA!  Now that's stuck in your head.  You're welcome!

This is just gonna be a short post, but I had a crazy thing happen today.  I joined a Facebook group for Americans in Denmark, and posted on the wall that I was looking for advice on good language learning programs.  One of the girls who responded happened to look at my profile and noticed we had a friend in common.

Yup, a random American girl in Denmark went to high school with a coworker of mine.  A coworker of mine who also happens to know my fiance as well (and not just from the company Christmas party).

Small flipping world, ain't it?

That's all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Wedding WILL Annoy You

A coworker and I used to laugh at people who were constantly talking about their weddings on their Facebook pages, or the local news anchor who did a segment showing off her wedding pictures, as though the whole city thought her nuptials were as big an event as she did.

I used to feel so very superior, thinking, "How ridiculous. All she talk about is her wedding. Doesn't she know that no one cares?"

Well, let me just apologize right now for complaining behind the backs of brides for so long. Why? Because I have become that bride.

Wedding planning has taken over my life and I find myself thinking and talking about it almost constantly, whether people want to hear about it or not. It helps to have other things, like Danish lessons, to focus on. But I'd say my brain is currently about 90% wedding, 5% Danish lessons, and 5% everything else.

I've found that there are two camps of people when it comes to wedding talk: Those who love weddings and want to talk about how the planning is going and give advice, and those whose eyes glaze over and may or may not ask me to stop talking. There seems to be almost no middle ground, either.

I'll try to keep my wedding-related posts to a minimum. "Try" being the operative word.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I'll Have the Pre Cana with a Side of Turkey

It's official.  The Catholic church just certified me to get married in one of their parishes.  I'm as shocked as you are.

If you'd asked me a year ago if I'd be having a traditional wedding in a Catholic church, well I may have laughed at you.  Not because I was ever particularly against it, or the wedding traditions of any religion really... More that I would have laughed at the idea that a Catholic guy would marry me.  I'm not exactly churchy.

But there it is.

We spent the weekend at the Espousal Center in Waltham, MA doing their marriage prep weekend, as is required by the Catholic church where we're getting married next Spring.  It was actually a great experience, if you don't count my general awkwardness with all of the religions parts.  It was nice to have a specific list of topics to discuss.

I think the biggest thing that we learned  this weekend was that we actually know each other very well.  And we tend to either agree on most things or know where the other stands pretty clearly.  As my fiance said as we finished up our last discussion, "I guess this means we're ready to get married."

Truly, though, we are very lucky to have families that are completely supportive and that we're generally very open and honest with each other already.

We were wearing our smug faces for much of the time.

"But what about the turkeys?," I hear you asking.

Relax, I'm getting to that.

There were turkeys.  Out of nowhere.  Wandering around in the parking lot and the lawn.  At least half a dozen of them, happily gobbling away and chasing each other around while we were outside filling out our questionnaires.

Gotta love random turkeys.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why do you hate consonants?

That's right, I said it.  The Danes hate consonants.  So many are softened to the point of being unrecognizable or just forgotten altogether that it's making me feel like I'm speaking like a drunk.

And not only do they hate consonants, but they love vowels so much that they have nine of them.  I'm still working on remembering the new ones, and trying to hear the differences between the long and short vowels... which generally sound the same to me.

I will say this, though... Language learning books for adults are much more realistic.  For example, in the first conversation in lesson #2, Hans tells George (who has just arrived from England), "Du trænger til en gin og tonic, George. Det gør vi alle tre."

Translation?  Well, of course he's saying "You need a gin and tonic, George. All three of us do."

Amen to that Hans.  Amen to that.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Are you gonna wear wooden shoes?"

I didn't know much about Denmark or about the stereotypes placed on the Danes themselves until I met my fiance. I figure that's probably the case for a lot of Americans who have never been there and are not of Scandinavian descent.

I do, however, get asked some interesting questions when I tell people that I'm moving. Here are some of the questions, and some of my answers:

Q. - What are the Danes like?
A. - Well, there are stereotypes that the Danes are very reserved and slow to trust, and can be hard to get to know. That may be true in a lot of cases, but I have the benefit of a fiance who lived there for several years and already has a lot of close friends there. When we visited for a couple of days back in April, every Dane that I met was incredibly warm and kind, though perhaps a bit shy at first.

Q. - Doesn't it get really dark in the Winter?
A. - Well, yeah. They're pretty high up there latitudinally. I have the advantage of having lived the life of a mole for the last several years. Going to work before dawn, sleeping during the day, and often heading home from work after sunset. So long nights? I can handle that.

Q. - Is everyone there really tall and blonde?
A. - Yes. Okay, that's a lie. But they do have more than their fair share of tall, blonde, model-esque folks. I've got the tall bit down, and I've kept myself blonde for a few years now... but the brown eyebrows may give me away as a non-native.

Q. - "Are you gonna wear wooden shoes?"
A. - Wrong country. The Danes are not the Dutch. It's surprisingly common for people to get confused about the northern European/Scandinavian countries. Then again... I wouldn't wear wooden shoes either way. My feet are big enough as it is, and they're hardly dainty.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Danish Language Learning Process

Last night, I went through the pronunciation guide and lesson #1 of Teach Yourself: Complete Danish for the 2nd time.

The good news is that I have about a year to learn the language.

Today, I thought I might explain my process. At the recommendation of my fiance, who is already fluent in Danish, I am going through each lesson at least twice before even trying to pronounce the words or do the exercises. Well... I'm trying. I still can't help but try to repeat what I'm hearing. Any fly on the wall listening to me would think I was insane.

Last night, a friend told me he'd never heard Danish spoken, so I sent him a youtube clip from "Forbrydelsen," the original version of the TV series "The Killing" which takes place in Copenhagen. His response? "It sounds like English. Backwards."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Now...This is a story all about how...

Who starts a blog title with Fresh Prince lyrics but doesn't finish them?

This chick.

Anyway, I figure a bit of background is in order. So, I'll get you up to speed on some recent history:

In the Fall of 2008, right in the midst of the recession, my company basically gave me an ultimatum. Move to Boston (where, after one miserable semester of college, I ran screaming and swore I'd never go back) and keep my job, or stay in the already economically depressed city where I was... without a job. I grudgingly went with the former.

The next two years were some of my worst. With two cancer diagnoses in the family, one of which took me to a funeral on my birthday, a tumor of my own (thankfully benign) followed by surgery, plus the advance of the recession leading to pay cuts at work... twice, and all topped off with the death of a beloved family pet... 2009 could have been better.

While recovering from surgery that year, my oldest friend came to visit for a few days. The girl is always putting ideas in my head. I mentioned wanting to travel some day, and she insisted that I somehow move overseas. She made it sound so simple! I could just go! I seriously considered it while she was there, and then promptly lost all faith that I could make it happen.

2010 was a small improvement, but still riddled with heartbreak and frustration and that feeling that had been eating at me that I just wasn't... home.

In the Fall of 2010, a charming Englishman came into my life. The first time I met him, I thought, "I don't know if he's flirting, or just English..." In America on a two-year contract with his Denmark-based company. And what did he want? He wanted nothing more than to bring me with him when he moved back to Europe.

In April of 2011, he proposed on bended knee. In May of 2012, we'll be married.

I won't lie, I sometimes feel like my life has become an embarrassment of riches. But I am looking forward to the adventures to come.

At some point karma changed its mind about me, and I am okay with that.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Kan jeg Dansk? Nej.

Can I speak Danish?  No.

And the prospect of learning is daunting.  As my Teach Yourself: Complete Danish book mockingly tells me, "Danish is not a phonetic language, so spelling is no guide to how a word is pronounced."  Granted, neither is English, but I learned that when I was young and impressionable and didn't know that languages could be phonetic.

Then I went and took Spanish in school, which has extremely simple rules for pronunciation that are pretty much always followed.

I'm starting to think that the biggest problem with trying to learn a language at 30, as opposed to when we're kids, is that we're much better at convincing ourselves of how difficult it will be.

Kan jeg Dansk? Snart.  Damnit.

Mom Says I Should Be a Writer

When I told my mother that I was considering going back to school for music when my fiance and I move to Denmark next year, she had the reasonable motherly response:  Make sure you have something to fall back on.  She's been giving me that advice since I was a little kid who dreamed of being a Broadway star.

She was right, of course.

This time, her advice included "I think you're also a really good writer.  Something to consider."  Now, my mother has always been the smart one, so I realized I'd be a fool not to consider it.  However, writing has never struck me as something I had enough skill with to make a living at it.  So...

I'm giving it away to you for free.

You're welcome?