Sunday, December 30, 2012

The New Years Look-Back of Awesome!

It's the end of the year, so it's time for the ONLY LOOK-BACK THINGY YOU'LL EVER NEED!

That's not true.  I just lied.

Let's be honest, no one actually needs New Years countdowns/looks-back of any kind.  But since we're here, and you've already read this far...

As far as years go, this one has been a doozy.  I have the pictures to prove it!

One year ago, I was working in Boston, living in Cambridge, and seriously stressing out while planning a wedding.  Shockingly, said wedding went off without a hitch.  It's true!  Photographic evidence, exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

We'd expected to move to Denmark in August, but found out just days after the wedding that we had to move at the end of June, just weeks after the wedding.  We did manage to fit in honeymoon in New Orleans, though.  Here's a lovely 'gator that we met there:

We arrived in Copenhagen on July 1st, and it was the perfect time of year.  It looked like this:

I've spent the majority of time since then learning Danish, but I've spent the last 2 months also looking after this little heathen:

Well, now you're up to date.  

As far as New Years in Denmark goes, it seems to start a few days in advance.  At least, it sounds that way based on the fireworks that we've heard for for the last few nights.  We have two options as far as plans go.  We may go to our local pub, or we may stay home and have a quiet night in.  The latter is the most likely, but... we're mysterious and won't decide until the very last moment.

Maybe we'll have an adventure!

But even if not, happy New Year to you from my husband and I!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Very Expat Christmas

We didn't have a particularly Danish Christmas this year.

Instead of celebrating on the 24th, as they do here, we kept with American and English tradition and celebrated our low-key Christmas on the 25th.  My husband made an amazing duck for lunch, plus Christmas pudding with home-made custard, and for dinner I made some steak and potatoes.  I got my husband the Game of Thrones books box set, so we both spent much of the day reading.

It should be noted that I am still on book one, which we bought several months ago, while he is now more than 300 pages into book 2, having started reading it yesterday.

In other quasi-literary (well, not really) news, we spent the evening of the 23rd out to dinner and a movie with a classmate and her husband.  We went to go see The Hobbit (or "Hobbitten," as it's called here).

I've come to expect the Danish subtitles when going to an English language film here, but I tend to forget that any parts of the film in any other language (say... Elvish for example) would also only have Danish subtitles.  So, I found myself putting my Danish lessons to good use during this one, and surprised myself with hour much I was able to understand.  There were still plenty of words that I didn't understand, but I understood enough to figure out what was going on.

As far as the movie itself, my husband and I agreed: It was a fairly good movie that couldn't decide which audience to play to.  The book is basically a kids book, and the way the movie started, I thought perhaps the movie was going to play more towards a younger audience too.  But as it went on, it got darker and more graphic, and it seemed to fall into the same feel as the Lord of the Rings movies.  Despite that, though, we definitely enjoyed it.

Next, we'll start watching seasons 2 and 3 of The Killing (or "Forbrydelsen").

With English subtitles, of course.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Advice for Men

Well, it's just after 11am in Denmark on December 21, 2012, and so far the world hasn't come to an end.

So, that's good.

Since it seems pretty likely that Christmas is, in fact, coming this year, and those of you who were banking on the End Times may have some last second holiday shopping to do, let me offer up a tiny bit of holiday advice.

Now, I don't know if women do this, but I've known at least a couple of men who have this one very bad habit right around the holidays (or their birthday):

They go out and buy things for themselves.  Or, they may mention in passing that they plan to buy something for themselves.  Something that they may have also, in passing, mentioned to their wife or girlfriend that they might want.

You know how when you're having a fight with a woman, she seems to have this uncanny ability to remember tiny details of past conversations and bring them up?  Well, that superpower also can be used for good.  Like... remembering that you mentioned you wanted something months ago, and then getting it for you for your birthday or Christmas when you've completely forgotten even mentioning it.

This may not be true for all people, but I think most people like their gifts to be a surprise.  That's why we wrap them, after all, isn't it?

So, if you don't want to put someone in the awkward position of having to explain why you REALLY, REALLY shouldn't buy yourself that specific thing just before Christmas...

Just hold off for a few days.  Give it until December 26th, at least.

You might be glad you did.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Studieskolen - Module 2 Test Results

As Christmas and New Years not-so-subtly creep up on us, so did my module 2 Danish class slink back into the ether.

At least, that's sort of how it felt.

As needlessly nervous as I was for the exam for module 1, I was equally indifferent to my module 2 exam.

I expected to be in even more of a panic than I was the first time around, but I was so tired the morning of the test and had so much to do to prepare for my audition that night that I just didn't wasn't all that concerned about the test.

Turns out, I didn't need to be all that concerned.

It was a fairly straight-forward event.  We started with the listening section, which had 3 small sections where we listened and chose the correct answers.  Then it was on to reading.  Again, a few short sections where we had to read something brief and determine the right answers.  The written portion was almost exactly like the one we practiced with in class: we had to write an email (this time to an old Danish teacher) talking about our new Danish class.  And finally, the speaking exam, where I first spoke for a minute or so about what I do in my free time, and then had a dialogue with two classmates about a topic chosen at random.  Our topic was "børn," or children.

The teacher gave us our results right after the spoken portion, and it seems that most of the students in the class passed.

I was far too distracted by my impending audition to celebrate.

I'll post an update on how all of that went down once I hear the results.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pitch Perfect Wannabe

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with two kinds of music:  show tunes and a cappella music.

As you can imagine, I was way cool...

An opportunity popped up out of the blue last week to audition for a local a cappella group.  I'd been considering trying to find a choir to sing with, and I've always wanted to try a cappella, but I hadn't really gotten around to taking more than a passing glance around the Copenhagen music scene.

But when I saw a posting looking for a soprano for this group, I responded without even thinking.

A few days later, I got word back that they wanted me to come in for an audition on December 12 (that's tomorrow, for those of you keeping track).  They sent along music for two songs that they wanted me to learn, one of which is in Swedish.

Oh, by the way, my Danish module 2 exam is also tomorrow.

Busy day coming up.

For now, I'm working on learning the songs, focusing mostly on the words for the Swedish one.

It would be a lot easier if the puppy didn't think I was howling in pain every time I started singing.  Every time, he stops what he's doing and jumps up to try to lick my face.

It's sweet, but... not helpful.

And speaking of the pup, he's been having a blast with the snow lately.  Here's a recent romp in the dog park:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Studieskolen: Prepping for Danish Module 2 Test

The test to finish module 2 for Danish at Studieskolen sort of snuck up on me.

All of a sudden, it's less than a week away.

The whole process has both been spelled out for us and remains shrouded in mystery, so today I'll fill you in on what I know about the process.

The module 2 test for Danish is provided by the government, not by the school.  So everyone trying to move on to module 3 will be taking the same test.

There's a lot more to it than the quick-and-painless oral exam for module 1, which took less than 10 minutes.  This one is set to take a couple of hours, and is broken down into 4 parts:

1 - Writing: We'll likely have to compose an email about a given topic.  We did a practice run in class yesterday where we composed an email to some friends about our Danish class detailing what we do in class, homework, our teacher, our classmates, etc.  There may also be some fill-in-the-blank worksheets to complete for this section.  The practice we did for that was shockingly simple.
2 - Listening: In this section we'll listen to some audio of people speaking Danish and have to answer questions or match up correct answers or fill in blanks as it relates back to said audio.
3 - Reading: This will involve reading various texts and once again include things like answering questions, matching up correct answers, and filling in blanks.  Our teacher also mentioned that we'll have one section that involves crossing out sentences in a text that don't make sense with the context
4 - Speaking:  During module 2, we've been given 3 short novellas to read.  As part of our spoken exam, we'll give the teacher a list of the 3 books we've read and two other topics (either from essays we've written or informational texts in our textbook), and she will choose one at random.  The idea here is that we walk into the test able to talk about any of the 5 topics, but we only talk about one.  We go into the spoken exam in pairs, so that we can also have a dialogue with one of our classmates as part of our "grade."

Actually, the tests aren't given a grade.  You either pass, or you fail.  Failing means repeating module 2.2 and trying again after another 6 weeks of classes.

Passing, of course, means moving on to module 3.

I'd kind of prefer the latter.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas in Denmark: First Impressions

Back home in America, the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier each year.  As early as September, stores are putting out Christmas decorations or stocking the shelves with holiday-related kitsch.

And every year, radio stations have an unofficial race to see who can switch to 24-hour Christmas music first.  Once they do, all of the other stations who'd planned to do so rush to change their format until after the New Year.

And don't get me started on the ridiculousness of Black Friday.

As I'm sure a lot of Americans will agree, the holidays can be an extremely stressful time.  Have to get the best gifts for the best price, have to find something unique, have to impress the family and the friends and bake (or buy, in my case) more cookies and pies than necessary.

Call me a Scrooge if you will, but it's been a while since I was actually a fan of Christmas.

In Denmark, though, it seems to me a much nicer thing.  A few tasteful decorations go up here and there in November, but most wait until December 1.  And the decorations that do go up are so much less garish.  It just strikes me as a much more subdued, tasteful thing, and less of a competition to see who has the most "cheer."

As far as Christmas traditions in Denmark, I don't really know much about them yet.  I can tell you that Danes generally do their celebrating on Christmas Eve, as opposed to Christmas Day.

And then there is the company Julefrokost.

I have yet to experience one myself, but these are Christmas parties hosted by companies all over Denmark.  Technically, "Julefrokost" means "Christmas lunch," but it's generally more of an afternoon-into-evening-into-early-morning kind of thing.

And they're notorious.

It's traditional for employees and their bosses to eat and drink more than is good for them, and to act out.  Rumors abound about how the divorce rate jumps up right after Christmas because of all of the Julefrokost indiscretions, and how bosses and employees are known to regularly hook up at these parties and then never speak of it again.

I'm sure that's the case at some of them.  In general, though, it sounds a bit like a "big fish" story to me. People love to appear to have a wilder life than they actually have.

This Danish Christmas season started with a little bit of snow here in Copenhagen, so I thought I'd share the latest picture of our puppy, Wooster.  Here he is, enjoying his first snow day: