Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Week of Worry

What a week!  Where to start?

It has been a week of worry, on various levels.

Starting with the largest:  I mentioned in my last post that Hurricane Sandy was heading straight for most of my family.  Sunday through Tuesday were spent trying to get updates from anyone who still had power, and finding out if everyone was okay.  Seems that they are all fine, thank goodness.

Then there was Monday's module 2.1 Danish test at Studieskolen.  The teacher had sprung the news of the test on the class on Friday.  I happened to be out sick on Friday.  Of all of the days that I decide I need to take my first absence...  I had nightmares about the test the day before.  It was a long test (took an hour and a half), but it was mostly a formality.  It seemed she only gave it to get a reading on who was still following the course, and if anyone should repeat module 2.1 before continuing to 2.2.  My test was full of minor mistakes, but she met with us individually afterwards and told me that I was fine and that I was clearly taking the class quite seriously.

And then, of course, there's the puppy.  Ladies and gents, meet Wooster, our 8-week-old papillon.

I picked him up yesterday out in Strøby.  Did you know that puppy training is exhausting?  I certainly know that now.  He wasn't especially happy overnight, so I didn't get much sleep at all.  Even when he was quiet, I was wide awake worrying about if and when he would cry again.  His little cry breaks my heart, and I have to learn to be less of a pushover.  Puppy training is shockingly tiring.

I think all of my worry over the past few days hasn't helped him to be less nervous about his surroundings, so I'm working on staying calm now.

So far so good.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

All Eyes on Sandy

The "Frankenstorm," also known as Hurricane Sandy, is bearing down on the northeast of the United States as I type this.  Most of my family lives in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, so they're all hunkered down for this storm, whatever it ends up being.  They're saying that this combination of a hurricane and a huge snowstorm has the potential to be the worst storm to hit the area in 100 years.  I even read somewhere that flooding in some areas could be the worst they've seen in 500 years.

All of that in mind, my folks seem to be in good spirits.  Prepared with extra gas for their generator, plenty of food, water, booze, and an expectation that they will lose power at some point (and possibly for a while)... they seem to be in good spirits.  Hoping to hear from everyone in the affected area after the storm, as soon as they're able to get in touch.

Back here in Copenhagen, we've got some chilly weather, but nothing extreme.  In fact, my husband tells me that the most extreme weather that Denmark generally is some heavy snow and wind that's no worse than Winters he saw when we lived in Boston.  It's strange to feel like we're in this fishbowl of mild, predictable weather patterns while almost everyone I know prepares for the storm of the century.

Here's hoping it's just another media exaggerated frenzy that results in no more than a few downed twigs.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Puppy update!

Last week, I very excitedly made plans to have a friend drive us out to a breeder west of Roskilde to pick out a puppy.  My husband had called and made an appointment and everything.

He mentioned, however, that part of what made the conversation difficult was that there were loads of dogs barking in the background.  This worried me a little bit, as did the number of dogs they appeared to have on this farm in the pictures on the website.  So, I did some googling.

While opinions of the place varied really widely, and a few people seemed perfectly happy with the puppies they'd picked out, there were far too many negative reviews to make me comfortable.  People saying that they'd bought dogs from there that got sick within the first year or two and died, or dogs that had genetic issues that the breeder had never bothered testing for.  Plus, several reports that this woman has somewhere between 75 and 100 dogs that are kept in unhealthy conditions.

As much as it kills me that I can't go and rescue every single one of them, I just can't bring myself to support a puppy mill like that.

So, we shifted our thinking a bit, and did some looking at breeders approved by the Danish Kennel Club.

Readers, it looks like I'll be picking up this gorgeous little man next week:

He's a papillon, and will be 8 weeks old when I pick him up on Tuesday.  His name is still under consideration, and we are open to suggestions.


Friday, October 19, 2012

The Kunst Conundrum

I like living in Copenhagen.

I can't really explain why, but I feel comfortable here.

In Boston, I had a job, friends, a busy social life, lived fairly close to family... At the same time, I always felt out of place.  I was always looking for an excuse, any excuse, to leave.

Despite my minimal skills with the language, I don't feel out of place here.

At the same time, I've been feeling like something is missing for a while now, and I was having a hard time putting my finger on the culprit.

It took a trip to the art museum to figure it out.

A couple of classmates from Studieskolen and I took Wednesday afternoon to go to Statens Museum for Kunst (translated, it's The State Museum for Art).  The Matisse exhibit was nice, but most modern art doesn't do much for me.  It was the European wing upstairs that I liked the most.  My preference is realism.

I guess I liked it so much that I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't fall back to sleep, because I was plotting how I was going to start up drawing again in the morning.  A few years back, I bought a "22-piece colored pencil" kit from an art supply store in Boston, but I'd never bothered to open the damn thing.  So, first thing yesterday morning, I went to my bookcase, took out my sketchbook, and hunted down the colored pencil kit.

What I was expecting to find when I opened it:  22 colored pencils.

What I actually found: FIVE colored pencils, TWELVE instructional flash cards, a pencil sharpener, some paper, and a piece of plastic with the shapes of leaves for the purpose of rubbing the shape onto paper...

It was a huge disappointment.  Of course, it's my fault for not reading the box to find out what was included.  I just assumed... what else could it possibly be other than pencils?

It shouldn't have been much of a big deal, but the foul mood that it put me in made me realize what's been missing...

A creative outlet.

You might be thinking that writing this blog should be a creative outlet, but this is more like talking than anything else.  I think something, I put it down.  I re-tell life events here just like I would tell them in conversation.  Not much creativity involved.

I've applied for a few jobs in arts-related fields lately (one in the music department at a library, and one in an administrative role at a local theatre).  I think that if I were to get either job, it would help to fill that place that's been feeling empty lately.

For now, though, I think I'm going to make my way to an art supply store today to buy some colored pencils.

At least 22.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Potato Vacation!

Happy kartoffelferien, everyone!

What on earth is a kartoffelferie, you ask?  Why, it's a potato vacation, of course!

At least, that's the literal translation. "The potato vacation" or "the potato holiday."

And why do Danes have a potato vacation, you ask?

Well, technically, they don't anymore.  The tradition of having this week in October off started so that students could help the family with the potato harvest.  These days, however, it's really just the Danish version of the Fall school holiday.  Think of it this way: Danish kids don't get a Thanksgiving break.  Instead, they get a potato vacation!

I started the week off with a bit of sightseeing with my husband and an American colleague of his.  We decided to climb the many, many steps of the Church of Our Savior.  Copenhagen has quite a few tall, beautiful church spires.  This one, however, is the only one with stairs on the outside, that you can climb all the way to the top.  It was a chilly, windy morning, and it had just rained.  All of these factors made for a terrifying, somewhat slippery hike up the spiral staircase.  But we did make it to the top, and the view was spectacular.  It looked a little something like this:

(The above picture is courtesy of my Instagram account, which you can follow at "thisgirlsaysow" for many more pictures of my adventures in Copenhagen and elsewhere)

Here's a little tidbit about my kartoffelferien that you may not expect:

I wish I didn't have one.

Strange as it may sound, I'd rather have class this week.  It's been really good to have something specific scheduled for my week.  An excuse to get myself up in the morning, and a way to keep my brain working on something useful.  Plus, I'd much rather finish up module 2 at Studieskolen a week earlier rather than spend a week watching too much television.

If my 15-year-old self were to read that, she would shake her goth little head in dismay.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

'Scuse Me, Pardon Me, Coming Through

If there's one quirk about the Danes that seems to annoy both Americans and Brits more than anything, and that every one of them notices fairly quickly, it's the strange way that Danes behave in crowds.

The first thing you'll notice if, for example, you take a stroll on a sunny day through central Copenhagen, is that everyone seems to be very rudely bumping into you.  In America and the UK (and probably other countries that I've never been to) there tends to be an unspoken rule about which side of the sidewalk to walk on so that everyone can pass without being jostled... in Denmark that unspoken rule doesn't seem to exist.

My husband warned me about this before I ever set foot here.  He refers to it as their "lack of spacial awareness."  My first experience with it was more than a year ago, when I visited Denmark for the first time.  If I remember correctly, we were standing on the platform at the Roskilde train station and a woman turned around without looking and elbowed me.  She didn't hit me hard enough to do any damage, but certainly hard enough that we both noticed.  Or, should have noticed.  She didn't seem even vaguely aware that she'd done it.  Had this happened in America, even in cities that are considered to have the rudest people, she would have at the very least turned around and apologized before going about her business.

This is not the case in Denmark.  Indeed, it must be such a normal thing that apologizing didn't seem to even cross her mind.

Foreigners that I've spoken to about this usually think that this behavior among Danes is extraordinarily rude.  Personally, I don't think it's actively rude, but it is certainly passively rude.  Rudeness through obliviousness, or perhaps a certain social awkwardness that makes talking to strangers too scary.

Even if it's to apologize for accidentally hitting them.

In fact, there's another side to this "spacial awareness" coin, and I think it very much relates to this awkward fear of talking to strangers...

Let me set the scene: This particular grocery store is set up so that as you enter, there's a bakery counter on the right, and the cash registers on the left.  This can create a small bottleneck if there are people finishing checking out, a line at the bakery, and someone trying to enter to store.  Yesterday, I encountered this very scenario as I was leaving.  One woman in line at the bakery was clearly standing directly in the way of a women with a stroller trying to enter the store.  I would have politely tapped the woman on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me."  The woman with the stroller, however, instead of talking to a stranger who was quite obliviously standing directly in the middle of the walkway, moved a stack of grocery baskets out of the way so that she could squeeze past without touching the other woman.

The question I have is this:  Do the Danes find making their way through crowds as awkward and frustrating as we foreigners to?  Do they know that there's a better way?

I say we foreigners band together to teach them.  Who's with me?

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I want a puppy.

Have I mentioned that I want a puppy?

Also... I want a puppy.

Oh, you weren't aware?  That must mean we haven't had a 30 second conversation in the last month.

Yes, I've gone a bit overboard with my obsessive hunt for the perfect puppy, and I've also gone a bit overboard with my own excitement at the prospect of it.  To the point where I tell pretty much everyone I speak to that "we're getting a puppy!!!"

This overly enthusiastic statement on my end is usually responded to with a look of "woah, chill out, lady," and me having to apologize for being a bit of a freak of nature about the topic.

Truth is, we haven't actually found the right puppy yet, so we have no idea when we're going to get one.

I will admit that not only have I been watching the local pet classifieds obsessively closely (I check them at least half a dozen times a day), but I've also been watching videos on YouTube about how to raise puppies, and how to choose the right puppy, and about the temperaments of all of the various breeds of dogs... and also videos of puppies being adorable.

I grew up in a house full of cats, and I've lived with pets almost my whole life.  That is, until 2006, when I moved in with someone who was allergic to cats.

Six years without a pet has been quite enough, thank you very much.  It is now time for a puppy.

I promise to shut up about it once we get one.

Have I mentioned that I want a puppy?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Beslutninger, Beslutninger

Get your mind out of the gutter and put the title into Google Translate.

I came very close to writing another blog post about how I'm still studying Danish, and what grammar/vocabulary/pronunciation we have been working on this week.

And then I remembered that I actually do have a life outside of Danish class.

Not an easy thing to remember, because... well... I don't have much of a life outside of Danish class.

Most of my spare time is spent hunting down jobs that don't require fluent Danish, hunting down hobbies that don't require fluent Danish, and playing housewife.

That last one is the one that takes up the most time.  And as someone who has spent half of her life working, I find not working to be strange and vaguely uncomfortable.

Truth is, I've found myself in a situation where I have a lot of options, but don't know which path to choose.  Or rather, I will have a lot of options, once my Danish is good enough that not being good enough at it is no longer an obstacle.  Right now, it's a major obstacle.  Yes, all Danes learn English at an early age.  But most workplaces here still speak Danish in their day-to-day interactions.  Yes, some schools teach some of their programs in English.  But none of those programs in English are programs that I'm interested in.

Except one.

I had a little college reunion with a classmate of mine from my time at a musical theatre conservatory in New York City more than a decade ago.  She and her husband have been traveling the world for the last year, and spent a few days here in Copenhagen.  We were able to catch up for a few hours, which was great.  And reminiscing with her was another reminder of how much I miss music, and how much I wish I was still singing.

If I were to go back to school to study music, there are two options here in Copenhagen: There's the Rhythmic Music Conservatory (or Rytmisk Musikkonservatorium), which is focused on non-classical forms of music, and also tells me that they teach their classes exclusively in Danish.  And then there's the Royal Danish Academy of Music.  Their focus is more on the classical side of things.  They tell me that they teach their classes primarily in English.  Great, right?

It would be... if I could get through the audition process.  

Just getting into the vocal music program there requires skills that I never even considered learning, despite years of voice training.  I'm not sure that I have the time to learn German and how to play piano on top of learning Danish.  Not to mention... I'm not all that interested in focusing entirely on classical music.  A little bit here and there is great, but I'd miss showtunes and jazz standards and belting as loudly as possible way too much.

So... decisions, decisions.