Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Preview

A friend of mine once told me that odd numbered years tend to be the toughest.  Not all odd numbered years, but when a year is tough, it always seems to be odd numbered.

Now, I don't really believe in that kind of thing, but I will admit that 2013 has been a tough one, with almost everyone I know going through very difficult times.  And I'll also admit that the last year that I had that came anywhere near to being as tough was 2009.

The good news is that 2014 is just hours away, and while much of how the year will go is up in the air, I'm doing my best to think of it as a year of possibilities.

So, what can you expect to read about?  A few things:

- On the 6th of January, I'll make my way back to the halls of Studieskolen to begin module 6.  That's right, they actually let me in.  My oral exam didn't shake out as I'd hoped, as I was unexpectedly and excessively nervous.  Having walked out of my little presentation with only a 7, I had to call the student counselor to see if they would still allow me to proceed.  Luckily, the writing portion of the PD3 is the most important for module 6, and I'd gotten a 10 on that, so they signed me up without any issue.  So that means even more Studieskolen updates.

- In February, the university application website opens, and I'll be able to start applying for programs at several of the schools in the Copenhagen area.  Once all of that's done, I'll try to give updates on that process and the process of applying for SU (the student stipend that Danish and other EU citizens receive when they attend university).  I've heard horror stories about how much bureaucracy and misinformation there is when it comes to my particular SU loophole, so… that should be interesting.

- We may have a chance to make a trip back to America this year.  It's strange that it's been a year and a half since we've been there.  The time here has really flown.

- Hopefully, if everything goes as I hope it will, I'll be heading back to school in the Fall.  Which program?  I don't know yet.  Which school?  Also a mystery.  But I'm sure I'll post as soon as decisions are made.

So, I hope you all have a lovely New Years, and I hope your 2014 is full of just as many possibilities.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


The reading and writing portions of the PD3 exam were just under two weeks ago, and despite all of the preparation, I still felt nervous and unfocused.  I just barely finished each section within the allotted time, mostly because I spent huge portions of time just staring down at my paper.

A few days before our scores were due to arrive, our teacher gave us a look at the answers to the reading portion.  This was great and all, but with a crap memory like mine, it only helped to confirm the few answers that I could remember.  Since our own answers were off being graded, we only had our own memories to go by as we checked the answers.  What I was able to confirm was that the one question I was almost sure I got wrong was, in fact, wrong.

We celebrated finishing the most time-consuming bit of the exam with a party at our place the Friday after the exam.  Everyone brought a dish from whatever country they came from, and the evening was full of fun conversation and TONS of food.  It was the very definition of Danish hygge.

On Friday morning, as I walked to class, I checked my email hoping I would have the email containing my grades.  I had, indeed, received an email from the school, but it looked at first like it only contained the time and place for my oral exam on the 16th.  As I scrolled further down, though, I got a shock that almost had me shouting out loud right there on the sidewalk:

Resultatet af dine skriftlige prøver fra denne termin:
Læseforståelse:                    10
Skriftlig fremstilling:              10

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles… I actually managed to get the 10s I will need to continue on to module 6 after New Years!

I also received the subject for which I'm supposed to prepare a 2-minute monologue for the oral exam: Illegal dog breeds in Denmark.

We all know I love to talk about dogs, plus the topic was given well before we were expecting, giving us even more time than we thought we'd have to prepare.

Merry Christmas to me!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Studieskolen - HERE COMES THE PD3

What a terrible blogger I've been!

With the looming PD3 exam, I've been utterly distracted.  So distracted, in fact, that the damn thing snuck right up on me.

In fact, it's tomorrow.  Or rather, the first part of it is tomorrow.

Since we've spent the last month or so doing practice exams with actual previous PD3s, I am able to give a pretty good breakdown of how the thing works.  So, here goes:

The first day of the exam lasts about 5 hours.  It starts with the "reading and understanding" portion, which is broken up into 2 sections.  First, we're given some kind of information booklet (so far we've seen booklets about Danish taxes, university programs, nature hikes and short trips within Denmark, among others), from which we answer maybe a dozen questions.  We're given 25 minutes for this bit, so it's all about reading the Table of Contents and scanning through information.  Next, we're given a packet with 2-3 articles and we're given 65 minutes to read them and answer questions.  The tricky bit here is that they're looking for very specific answers, so if you haven't fully understood the text, you're likely to give either too much or too little information for your response, leading to them counting your answer wrong, even if it's mostly right.  An important thing to note for this part of the exam is that, despite being allowed to use dictionaries for this part during all of the previous module exams, dictionaries of any kind are not allowed during this part of the PD3.

We'll then be given a 30 minute break, followed by the writing portion.  Good news, folks - dictionaries of all kinds are allowed for this part!  Here, we're expected to write two essays.  One is a response to a letter or email, in which they're looking for more casual language.  And for the second, we have a choice between two topics:  One is based on statistics about Danes or Denmark in which we're supposed to show that we know how to analyze and discuss said statistics, and the second gives a topic for which there are several points of view and asks that we discuss the merits of some of them.

As I mentioned, we've been doing practice exams for the last month or so, and our teacher has been grading them as though they were real PD3 exams.  Being used to an American grading system in which we're either graded from A to F, or we're graded on a percentage scale up to 100%, the Danish grading system is baffling to me.  The possible grades are as follows: -3 and 00 are the grades below the failure line, a 2 is a passing grade, next is a 4 (which is the score needed to attain citizenship), followed by 7 (the American equivalent to getting a B), and finally 10 and 12.  You need a 10 on all sections of the PD3 in order to proceed directly on the module 6.

How have I been doing to far?  In the beginning, I was getting 7's on absolutely everything.  Even the ones that I thought I'd done really well on, always a 7.  Lately, though, I've been doing better.  Mostly 10s, and even a 12 last week on a "reading and understanding" portion.

Here's hoping tomorrow's exam goes as well.  A lot is riding on it.

No pressure or anything...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How Rude...?

Before moving to Copenhagen, I read a lot of accounts from foreigners living here who complained that the Danes were rude.  I argue that "rudeness" is highly relative.  How rude the Danes seem depends a lot on how friendly your home town is.

My home town?  Not especially friendly.  Let me describe it a little bit...

I grew up in a suburb north of New York City.  It's close enough that folks who work in NYC can buy homes and commute to work.  It's got its pockets of less well-off areas, but overall the whole county has a good bit of money.  And one thing that I've learned from having lived in both poor and wealthy cities is that folks with lots of money don't always feel the need to be friendly.  Conversely, when I lived in Buffalo, NY, which is known for being almost as poor as Detroit, I found that almost everyone I met was open and friendly.

So now, let me compare waitstaff and retail workers in my hometown to the same here in Copenhagen.  Back home, most of them are teenagers and 20-somethings.  It's tough to make enough money making minimum wage or collecting tips to afford a place to live there, so a lot of them are still living with parents. Think back to yourself as an awkward teenager or disgruntled 20-something, and imagine trying to put a smile on your face and be friendly to a bunch of folks your parents' age who make more money than you.  So, you'd tend to get service that was lackluster, to say the least.  Here in Copenhagen, people live a fairly private life, even when in public.  Interacting with strangers on a daily basis doesn't come easily to a lot of Danes.  That being said, even the folks working in restaurants or in retail shops make a living wage here, so they tend to be less irritated about having to be at work.

Sure, the waiters don't work for tips here, which means they don't feel the need to put in the extra effort to be nice.  But what that also means is that when they are nice, it's much more genuine.  And let's be honest, the tip money doesn't help the kids back home working at the local diner to be especially friendly.

I can certainly see how coming from a town where everyone's fairly nice to everyone else can make the Danes seem cold to the point of rudeness, but I've found that folks here are usually as nice to us as we are to them.  They don't take terribly kindly to being talked down to, as they have a culture that says that everyone should be on the same level, but my experience has been that when I'm smiling and kind to waitstaff and shop workers, they're pretty much always as smiling and kind right back.

Monday, September 23, 2013

That Time I Woke Up Danish

Just an absurd little anecdote for your first day of Fall:

Last Thursday, I had a very minor operation in what I hope to be the undramatic dramatic conclusion of my adventures getting an up close and personal look at Danish healthcare.

I've been conducting all of these meetings and examinations at the hospital in English, partially because I'm much worse at Danish when I'm nervous, but also because I don't want to mistranslate something that's said to me and have it lead to major confusion.  That was the case on Thursday, of course.  I chatted with all of the nurses in English, chatted with the surgeon in English, chatted with the student doctor who was watching the whole thing in English as well.

And then, they put me to sleep.

In my half-awake, drug-induced daze, I don't remember what questions they asked me when they woke me up from the anesthesia, nor do I remember if they asked them in English of Danish.

I do remember realizing almost immediately that I was responding to them in Danish.

In fact, the one thing that I very clearly remember saying as they rolled me back into the recovery room was, "Jeg ved ikke, hvorfor jeg taler Dansk."

Or, "I don't know why I'm speaking Danish..."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Wait, what?

I've talked a lot about how difficult it can be to pronounce Danish words to a degree that the Danes will understand.

Today, let me talk a little bit about how hard it is to understand the Danes.

First, a clip from a Danish film that we watched in class yesterday, called "Bænken" or "The Bench, " in case you're not sure what Danish sounds like:

Our teacher has taken to showing us Danish films on Fridays that are in some way related to the material we've been learning.  The current chapter we're working on is about Danish drinking culture (the Danes drink a lot), and this film has a lot to do with excessive drinking.  So, not only are they speaking Danish (which is mumbly on its best days), but the characters are also drunk off their asses most of the time.

That being said, we always watch Danish films with Danish subtitles, just so that we can follow what they're saying.  Not such a shock for a foreigner to have an easier time if the subtitles are there, sure.

The thing is, the Danes use the subtitles too.  I was just chatting with a Danish friend earlier today who said that she often turns on subtitles when watching Danish movies.

Now, sure, a lot of countries have a variety of accents which people from other parts of the country have trouble understanding.  England is a great example, as they have countless different accents, and people from the south of England often have trouble understanding accents from the north.  The opposite can be said of the US, in fact.

The thing is... Denmark is a very small country.  There are only 6 million people living here.

It strikes me that 6 million people shouldn't have such a tough time understanding each other.

But the one phrase that you'll hear the Danes say to each other more than almost anything else is, "Hvad siger du?" which translates to, "What did you say?"

Friday, August 30, 2013

Pludselig Kan Jeg Forstå Dig!

So... all of a sudden, I can speak Danish.

I'm not sure when the shift happened from me feeling like I just didn't understand enough Danish to converse to suddenly feeling fairly comfortable with it.  The change seemed to just appear from thin air.

It's a nice change.

Last week, I was hunting for a used digital piano on what is basically the Danish equivalent to Craigslist.  I wasn't feeling terribly optimistic, because I'd never had a response from anyone I'd ever contacted from the site about anything.  This time, however, I felt at least confident enough to write my inquiries in Danish, so I responded to two ads.  And within an hour, I had responses from both.  I arranged to take a look at one of the pianos, and when I was biking there, I decided I would try to get through as much of the conversation as possible in Danish.

We ended up doing the entire deal in Danish, and he actually seemed surprised to find out that I wasn't Danish.  Point for me!

And just now, while out walking the dog, I struck up a conversation with a woman who's daughter I normally see walking their dog.  She asked me where I was from, and when I told her, she said (in Danish, of course), "Oh, yes, I thought I heard a bit of an accent."  She was then surprised to learn that I'd only been here a little over a year.

Granted, I've gotten pretty used to responding to the kinds of questions other dog owners ask, so it wasn't anything too complicated, but I'm feeling a little bit proud of my Danish skills lately.

It's refreshing to suddenly understand most of the conversations going on around me.  There are still countless words that I don't know, but I'm feeling more and more confident that I might be able to do fairly well on my PD3 exam in November.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 5.1, The Remix

Oh, hi there!  Thought I forgot about you, eh?

Nope, it's just been a busy Summer, with doctor visits galore, classes, traveling to see a sick relative, and having family in town.  Not to mention a puppy who's managed to end up with giardia, which has been... smelly and time-consuming.

But, as planned, I have returned for another go-around with module 5.1, rejoining my class from before the Summer "break."  And boy am I glad to be back.  It's nice to see familiar faces and to hear familiar Danish.  Plus, I really do like the way our teacher teaches.

In other news, last week I embarked on what I'm calling Project Let's-Find-Out-if-Ruby-is-a Piano-Prodigy.

In preparation for auditions to try to get into a music program at a university here in Copenhagen, I've started to take piano lessons.  I've never taken lessons on an instrument, and have only really learned to read music as a singer, so... I'm leaning towards me not being a prodigy.

That being said, I do have the advantage of already knowing quite a bit about music, so the teacher has been able to skip a lot of the basic music theory stuff and jump right into trying to train my hands to listen to my brain.

I'm convinced my left hand is controlled by someone other than me.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cozying up to Socialized Medicine

Over the last couple of weeks, I've managed to get a first-hand look at some of the pros and cons of the Danish healthcare system.

Up until two weeks ago, I'd only needed to see my regular doctor a couple of times for minor things.  But sometimes life decides to toss a whole lot at you at once, and this appears to be one of those times.

Having visited my local hospital 3 times in the last week and a half, and with more visits impending, I now have a much clearer understanding of the way the system works.  And, in some cases, doesn't work.

I'll start with my first trip to the hospital, which was about a week and a half ago.  We probably should have asked the taxi to take us to the ER, but we just asked to go to the hospital.  So, he dropped us off at the main door, and we went to the information desk to ask where to go.  Instead of sending us to the ER, he sent us directly up to the department that would deal with my particular issue.  The nurses there were lovely.  I filled out some forms, and waited around for a while.  They were right in the midst of a shift change, so it ended up being a couple of hours of waiting, but otherwise they were all perfectly nice.  When I finally saw a doctor, she was absolutely lovely.  When it was all done, I was sent on my way, relived at the idea that I wouldn't be getting a huge bill in the mail from the ordeal.

Visit number two happened a few days later, and didn't start out quite as smoothly.  We went, once again, to the information desk, who sent us to the same department we'd been in a few days prior.  When we got there, we couldn't find anyone.  We finally came across a doctor and explained why we were there.  She looked at us baffled, and told us, "You can't just come up here.  You have to have a doctor call us and tell us you're coming."  I explained that it was Saturday, which is why we couldn't have gone to my doctor, and she told me that an emergency doctor had to call her department.  When we asked where we could find an emergency doctor in the hospital where she works, she responded with, "I don't know.  Can't you just Google it?"  At that point, we went back to the information desk and were directed to the emergency room.  From that point on, everyone was much nicer and more helpful.

At the end of visit number two, I was told that (if necessary) I could come back within the next seven days without having to go through the ER first.  This turned out to be necessary.  I decided to call first to let them know I was coming, so I looked the number for the department up on the hospital website.  The woman on the phone was lovely, but told me to call another number.  I called that number, and was rudely told to call another number.  Luckily, the third number was the charm, and off I went.  This third visit also went fairly smoothly, though there was some confusion when my doctor changed in the middle due to another shift change.

One thing that I've observed over the last year of living here and my occasional trips to see the doctor, is that they seem to like to do as few tests and examinations as possible.  In fact, I have never once actually been examined by my doctor.  Every time I visit him, I sit in a chair and we chat.  Sometimes he'll refer me somewhere for blood tests or other various things, but he has never once even touched me other than to shake my hand.  It makes sense that, with socialized medicine, they don't want to spend any more time or money than necessary, but I do worry that they might miss something crucial.

That being said, the hospital is planning to have me back for even more tests for an issue that my American doctors never seemed to question.

The best thing about all of this is knowing that, not only will I not be getting a bill in the mail, I also won't have to spend days on the phone arguing with an insurance company to get them to cover it.

The bad news?  My impending hospital visits involve needles.  Lots and lots of big, scary needles.

Have I mentioned my needle phobia?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 5.1, The Overachievers

Who goes to Summer classes at Studieskolen?

The overachievers, that's who.

At least, it seems that way.

While the class is supposedly supposed to have 11 people in it, it seems that there are actually only 5-7 students.  This is the smallest Danish class I've been in at Studieskolen, and it's nice to be able to have more individual attention.

Like I said, though, the other students in the class are all damn good at Danish.  One girl said on the first day that she only reads books in Danish, so her vocabulary is freakin' enormous.  One guy (the only guy in our class, other than the teacher) said that he learned Danish at age 16, though I'm still not quite sure why (he's Turkish, and Danish seems like a pretty obscure language to learn in high school). Still another girl has already done module 5.1 once before, so she's got all of the answers in her book already.  Not to mention, when I arrived in class this morning I saw her reading the dictionary!

So, I'm feeling a bit behind at the moment.

The good news is, the class is as relaxed as a Summer class should be.

The bad news is that it turns out that our class will be cut short by 2 weeks, as the teacher who was supposed to teach at the end is in the hospital (she's fine, but won't be able to teach, from what I understand).

So, more than ever, I'm glad that I decided in advance to repeat module 5.1 in the Fall, so that I'm sure not to miss anything important.

I'm still annoyed that my own memory for words sucks so much.  Anyone have any memory-improving tips?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 4.2, Exam Part II

Oops!  More than a week later, and I still haven't posted about the second half of the module 4 exam.

So, here it is:

On the day of the first half of the exam (which was a Friday), the teacher paired us up and gave us our time-slots for the spoken portion, which would take place the following Monday.  I was paired up with a friend that I'd been in classes with since module 1, so I felt good about that.

The spoken exam was almost exactly like our spoken exam for module 2.  In the first half, we blindly chose from a list that we'd made of the 3 books we'd read during the module and two topics which we'd researched and prepared a 2-minute presentation for.  I ended up choosing one of those topics, and spoke a bit about the difference between how radio stations and media conglomerates work in the US as compared to how radio functions here in Denmark.  The friend that I was paired with spoke about one of her books, which I believe was called something like "Den Grå Mand" ("The Gray Man").

In the second half, the teacher handed us a piece of paper with a topic and a few words to use as jumping-off points.  The goal was simple to have a brief conversation with our partner about the topic.  Ours was TV, so we chatted a bit about how neither of us watches much Danish TV, but that she likes the show "Matador" (which is an older Danish program), and that my husband and I are planning to get caught up on seasons 2 and 3 of "Forbrydelsen."

In the end, we passed without any major issues, as was the case for everyone in the class (as far as I know).

Since it's been a week and a half since all of that, expect another post about my impressions of the start of module 5 sooner than later.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 4.2, Exam Part I

It's been hot and humid in Copenhagen over the last couple of days.  While 70+ degrees (fahrenheit) never used to feel especially hot, here in Copenhagen it feels oppressive.  Something about the combination of the angle of the sun and the high humidity.

That, and the total lack of air conditioning anywhere.

It was in these sweaty conditions, and accompanied by the seemingly unending sounds of construction outside of the Studieskolen building, that we took the first part of our module 4 exam.

The test was fairly similar to previous exams, although it seemed to take much longer.  We started with one of two written bits, for which I wrote a letter about where and how I grew up to a fictional person compiling stories of people's childhoods.  We then moved on to the listening portion, in which we listened to various passages and answered questions based on them.  This was then followed by the reading and understanding portion, where we had a variety of tasks involving reading or scanning through texts and answering questions or filling in blanks.  The teacher was kind enough to break up the two long writing assignments, so we finished with the second of these.  The final written task asked that we write an article for the fictional school newspaper discussing the pros and cons of volunteering to visit lonely elderly people in connection with the Red Cross.

We were given the test without any breaks, and the whole thing took 3 hours.

I was sweaty, tired, and starving when I left, but I'm 99% sure that I did just fine.

Providing I didn't somehow manage to bomb the whole thing, and that I don't completely forget how to speak Danish in anticipation of the spoken bit of the test on Monday, my plan is to attend module 5.1 over the Summer.  The dilemma I briefly had was that my current teacher, who I have learned so much from, is taking the six-week Summer break and not continuing on to module 5.1 until August.

The solution?

I will most likely repeat module 5.1 again in August, because he's definitely the best teacher that I've had here so far.  Plus, the more time I can spend in module 5 before the PD3 exam in November, the more likely I will be to get the minimum 10 required to move on to module 6.

Whatever it takes.  Within reason.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 4.2, EXAM PANIC!

They've gone and scheduled our module 4 exam.  It'll be broken up into two bits.  The first bit will be a week from this Friday, and the last bit the following Monday.

As far as the actual make-up of the test, I don't have too many details.  What I do know is that, much like the module 1 exam, we will have a spoken portion in which we are given a topic at random (from a list of three books we've read and two topics that we've prepared), and we are supposed to talk about the topic for two minutes, followed by questions from the teacher.

As far as the rest of the exam, for now I assume it will be much like the previous exams: some reading comprehension, some listening bits, and a written portion involving writing letters and/or emails.

To be honest, I'm not especially panicked about this exam.

It's the module 5 exam that's stressing me.

We were given Monday's class to decide on and research the two topics of our choosing for the spoken section of the test, and I found myself sitting at a computer next to our new teacher.  I took the opportunity to grill him on what would be needed to proceed to module 6 after the PD3 exam at the end of module 5.

He explained the grading system, which is on a scale of 12.  To pass the PD3, you only need to score a 2.  In order to get Danish citizenship, you need to pass the test with a score of at least 4.  In order to be allowed to proceed to module 6, which I would need in order to take university courses in Danish...

I'll need to score a 10.

So, the plan is to seriously buckle down.  I've downloaded a couple of language-learning apps onto my iPad (the most useful of which, so far, is called Memrise, and teaches languages and loads of other topics), and plan to jump back into the Rosetta Stone practice as well.  My main problem is, as always, remembering the vocabulary.  I find myself looking up words a dozen times and still not being able to remember them the next time.

My plan, as well, is to try to continue to take Danish classes through the Summer break.  There's only one day class offered at Studieskolen during the break, and my teacher admitted that it's entirely possible that there won't be room for everyone and that there's nothing I can do to ensure a spot, so...

Just gonna cross my fingers and hope that everyone else decides that they need a Summer vacation.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chatting with Children

Here's a conversation that I had today with a little boy who lives in our building (translated from Danish, as he has not yet started to learn English):

Little boy: What have you been doing today?
Me: I had Danish class this morning.
Little boy: I think you speak Danish well.
Me:  Thank you! But there are still a lot of words that I can't understand.
Little boy:  Yeah, me too.

All together now... Awwwwwww!

It has actually been really helpful and confidence-building to speak with the children in the neighborhood lately.  The language is new-ish enough to them that they don't find it strange or frustrating if there are words I don't understand.  In fact, I found myself nervously not unsure about a question that some kids in the dog park asked me a few weeks ago, but they happily obliged me by miming the action of picking up the dog.  They were just asking if they could hold the puppy.

I'm getting to the point where I understand quite a lot of what people are saying around me.  In fact, I tend to understand more than I think I understand.  The trouble comes when someone asks a familiar question in a slightly unfamiliar way, and I completely lose the context and assume they're asking something I won't understand.  For example, I was just in the dog park (again) and a little boy asked me how old my dog was.  Trouble was, he didn't ask it in the way most people ask, which is "How old is he?" or "Hvor gammel er han?" in Danish.  Instead, he asked "How many years is he?" or "Hvor mange år er han?"  I knew the words, but wasn't used to being asked that way, so it took me a moment to wrap my head around the question.

It's all just going to take lots of practice.

And I'm going to need to start stepping up my Danish practice and consumption outside of class if I plan to continue on to module 6.

After class today, I asked my teacher if there was anything special I should do in order to continue on to the 6th module, as most people only go through module 5.  The big Danish fluency exam takes place after module 5, and only those who want to take university courses in Danish continue on to the 6th.  She clarified that I will need to get a very high score on my module 5 exam in order to be allowed to take module 6, so she recommended watching lots of Danish television, reading lots of Danish books and newspapers, and listening to Danish radio.  Apparently, once you take and pass your big module 5 exam (known as Prøve i Dansk 3), you cannot be readmitted into module 5 classes without paying for them yourself.  So, if I pass the Prøve i Dansk 3, but don't have a high enough score to continue to module 6, I'll have to pay to re-take classes and to re-take the exam.

So... you know...

No pressure.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Swedish Sojourn

Yesterday was our first wedding anniversary, so we decided to get away for the weekend.

With Sweden so close, it's felt entirely ridiculous that, after nearly a year, I had still never been.  So, we spent the weekend in Malmö.

Malmö is just a short train ride from where we live here in Copenhagen, but it seems quite different.  Technically, Copenhagen is the older of the two cities, but since much of Copenhagen was burnt down by the Brits in 1807, there isn't much that remains here that is older than that.  Malmö, on the other hand, maintains much of it's old architecture, making it look much more like bits of Germany or Flanders in Belgium.

Those of you who know the infamous Eurovision song competition may be quite familiar with Malmö by now, as it was just held there last weekend.  Luckily, we did not get married a week earlier, or it would have been much more difficult (and much more expensive) to get a hotel room.  As it was, we managed to get a really lovely room right on Malmö's Lilla Torg, or "little square."

We were literally two doors down from a Spanish restaurant that was recommended by a colleague of my husband's, so we went there for dinner on Friday night.  On Saturday, we spent the morning wandering around town, and stumbled upon a really lovely park that was crawling with geese and ducks.  Not only that, but it seemed were just in time to see a bit of the Malmö Garden Show in the very same park.  Dinner was at a little seafood restaurant (which could have been better, to be honest), followed by a surprisingly good and creative dessert in our hotel restaurant.

Malmö really is a lovely town.  There isn't a whole lot to do, but it's got lots of beautiful architecture and a really comfortable vibe.  If I had any reason to, I could see myself living there.  And in fact, there are a lot of people who live there and work in Copenhagen, because the cost of living is so much lower.

Today, it was back to the grind with Danish class.  The first day that we met our new teacher, he said (in regards to how difficult it is to learn Danish), "Det skulle ondt!"

Translated, this means, "It should hurt!"

And boy, does it ever.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 4.2, A New Hope

The new teacher walked confidently into the room wearing jeans and an open button-down gingham shirt over a plain white t-shirt, looking like a mix between Paul Giamatti and Tim Curry.  His hair was wild and curly and his smile was big and full of humor.

I knew immediately that this was going to work out.

From the start it was clear that the new teacher had been teaching Danish longer than our previous teacher.  He was infinitely more sure of himself and of the answers he was giving to our questions.  Not only that, but his Danish was far easier to understand.  Both because his pronunciation was clearer and because he seemed to have a better understanding of which words and phrases we had and had not learned in previous classes.

I already feel more optimistic about the class going forward.  To be honest, I had started to seriously lose hope and motivation, and was beginning to wonder if continuing was a waste of time.

It's clear that he's going to be a tough teacher.  Strict but kind. Insisting that we speak Danish whenever he's in the classroom, even before class starts and during breaks.  But always with a smile on his face.

It's nice to feel a renewed sense of hope.

Monday, May 13, 2013

En Film på Dansk

Strange as it feels to say, this is already the last week of module 4.1, and I'll be heading to module 4.2 next week.

Not only that, but it seems like we're changing horses midstream.

Instead of continuing on with our nice-but-frustrating Monday/Wednesday teacher, Studieskolen has altered the class a bit and we will have a brand new teacher next week.  We'll still have our other teacher one day a week, but our less experienced teacher is being replaced by someone who has, apparently, been working at the school for many years.

I, for one, am relieved.

So, today was our last class with the aforementioned inexperienced teacher.  We spent the first hour of class going over our homework, and took the following two hours to watch a Danish movie.

He asked the class if we would prefer English or Danish subtitles, and I think I was the only one to meekly squeak "...English...!"  That's was my insecurity speaking.  Everyone else enthusiastically voted for Danish.

So, Danish it was.

We watched a film called "Adams Æbler," (which, as you might have guessed, translates to "Adams Apples).  This is a film from 2005 starring famous Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen.  You might know him from the current American TV serious "Hannibal."

I went into it fully expecting to be completely lost, but I surprised myself.  I actually understood most of what was said.  To be fair, I would never have been able to figure it out without the subtitles.  But with the subtitles, I found that I could follow fairly well.

This gives me hope.  And maybe even a tiny bit more confidence.

By the way, speaking of subtitles... It's now a word that I often have difficulty remembering in English. I find myself always wanting to use the danish word (which is "undertekster").

I'm not sure I have room in my brain for both languages, and may eventually forget English completely.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Mixed Bag Round-Up

I've been a bit distracted this month, so it's been a full 2 weeks since my last post.  But with April coming to a close, it seems like a good time for a quick round-up of recent events.

Let's go back to April 16th, which is the Danish queen's birthday.  It's traditional for her to step out onto the balcony at her palace here in Copenhagen on her birthday and wave at the gathered masses.  A girlfriend of mine who I met my first module of Danish classes wanted to go see, so she and I took my puppy, Wooster, and joined the celebration.  It was a perfect day for it:

That's the queen in the red jacket on the balcony.  Wooster was, as you might expect, quite impressed:

As far as Danish class goes, it's been a bit of a mixed bag.  One of the main issues this module is that the "textbook" that they're having us work from is what appears to be a not-yet-published version of a future textbook.  So we've been receiving each chapter as large stapled-together packets.  It's chock-full of errors and missing information and incorrect page numbers, making for a lot of confusion.  Not only that, but the DVD that they handed out to go along with the "textbook" was a burned DVD with a hand-written title, and which we were asked to download onto our computers and then return.  In addition, the track titles on said DVD don't match the names of the assignments in the book, so it's a bit of a guessing game to figure out which video to watch.

Our Monday/Wednesday teacher actually seems to have gotten his act together a bit.  Instead of just assigning a ton of homework and spending class time going over the answers to that homework, he's now having us work on more interesting, varied, helpful assignments during class.  He still hasn't prepared enough to actually know all of the correct answers, but at least he's moving in the right direction.

It seems, however, that we are going to have a mid-module teacher change.  The new course schedule came out this week, and it looks like our Monday/Wednesday guy is going to be replaced by a Monday/Wednesday/Friday guy (with Thursdays remaining with our other teacher) when we move to module 4.2.  We've been told that this new guy has been teaching Danish for a long time and is very good.

And finally, today is my birthday.

The big 3-2.

Happy birthday to me.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Watching Tragedy Unfold on Facebook

Social media is never more powerful than when something horrible happens.  To be able to watch people come together with the common cause of disseminating important information as quickly as possible and to as many people as possible, and to cut through the chaos to try to pass on the facts as they become available... It's heartwarming in the midst of tragedy.

I watched yesterday's news of the explosions at the Boston Marathon break on Facebook as it was happening by friends who live and work in the area, and it was almost impossible to wrap my head around it.

I lived in Boston and Cambridge for the 5 years before moving here to Copenhagen, and was lucky enough to work with some really fantastic radio producers and reporters.  Watching them spring into action from across an ocean to pass on as much information by as many social media networks as possible was truly impressive.

For all the criticism that people have for social media and how it can bring out the worst in people, yesterday was a perfect example of how it can also act as someone's only lifeline when disaster strikes and the phone lines are too jammed to check in on loved ones.

It makes me think about 12 years ago.  At 20-years-old, I was living in New York City and taking night classes.  On 9/11, my mother spent hours trying to call to make sure I was safe, but the phone lines were jammed.  It was after 11am when she was finally able to call.

A little peace of mind in the midst of tragedy can go a long way, and I was relieved to be able to check in on friends in the Boston area all the way from here in Denmark.

Everyone I know in Boston is safe.  I hope the same for you and your friends and family as well.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Results Are In...

You may be asking, "What results?"

If so, you can catch up by reading this post (and the post linked to in said post).

Got the call from Rigshospitalet a little while ago, and...

No terribly, horrible, no good, very bad gene mutation for me!

Not sure how one celebrates news like that, but...


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 4.1, Correcting Teacher

Started module 4 yesterday.

Meet the new teachers, same as the old teachers.

Indeed, I have the same two teachers as I had for module 3, and things with our Monday/Wednesday teacher have begun in style.

And by style, I mean with me having to explain the difference between past tense and present perfect tense to the teacher, after he gave us the wrong answer on an assignment during class.

To be fair (sort of), he seemed to be much more prepared prepared for the start of module 4 than he was for the start of module 3.  Then again, he didn't even know he was teaching on Mondays at the start of module 3, and showed up more than half an hour late.

You can't see it, but I'm rolling my eyes.

We also worked on an assignment in which we had to figure out where the "stød" (or glottal stop) was in each of the seasons and months of the year.  If you've been reading my posts for a while, you know my feelings on "stød."  Now, I've come around a little bit on the idea.  A very little bit.  For example, on words that sound almost exactly the same, sometimes the stød and the context of the surrounding sentence are the only way to know which word is being used.  However, insisting that we listen for something that is both difficult (and often impossible) to hear and usually unnecessary for the sake of being understood... feels like a waste of time.  Time that we could be using to learn useful things like... words and grammar.

Not to mention that stød is generally the least of people's problems when it comes to Danish pronunciation.

The good news is, our Thursday/Friday teacher is also the same as well, and I find her knowledgeable, easy to understand, and downright delightful.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Påskeferie Post

Prepare for a seriously broad generalization in 3...2...1...

The Danes are a bit funny about religion.

We're smack in the middle of "påskeferie," or Easter vacation, so I figured I'd take the time to discuss my impression of the Danish relationship with Christianity.

In the US, various forms of Christians make up the majority of the religions folk.  The same is true here in Denmark, where the state religion is Lutheran.  Nearly 80% of Danes count themselves among the Lutherans in the Church of Denmark.  The Danes themselves, however, are not especially religious.  Those that are will often state proudly how they go to church.  Once a year, for Christmas.

Now, I'm not a religious person.  Once a year is more than I normally go.  Then again, my own religions background is a bit of a hodgepodge including Catholicism, Judaism, Unitarianism, and a stint in high school when I decided I wanted to be a witch.

The Danes get funny about religion when it comes to their perceptions about how the rest of the Christian world handles their religious life.  A month or so ago, we were discussing the Danish tradition of "fastelavn," which is the Danish version of Mardi Gras or Carnivale.  Our teacher discussed how, "back in the olden day," fastelavn was the big party before a (gasp) 40-day period of occasional fasting!  But no one would do something as crazy as that these days, right?  Truly, she didn't seem to associate the holiday with anything that might be going on in other countries today and didn't seem at all aware of Lent.

As I said, I'm not a religious person.  And I have no issues with the level of religious life in Denmark.  I do, however, think that the Danes occasionally have a habit of assuming that the way things are done here are the norm.

As far as I can tell, though, as far as religion goes...

There is no "norm."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 3 Test Prep (and a small update)

Technically, as far at the Studieskolen module calendar is concerned, this module doesn't end for another 2 weeks.  However, since påskeferie (or Easter vacation) is next week, our teachers decided it would be better to have our module test the Friday before the break.  I know I don't expect to speak much Danish during my week off, so I can understand the logic.

One small problem...

My husband and I booked tickets to go see the family in England long before they decided when they were going to have the exam, and I leave on Thursday.

Luckily, the folks at Studieskolen are generally pretty understanding about the fact that their students are adults and have lives outside of Danish class, and are totally accommodating.  What that means, however, is that I'll be taking the test by myself in a different room during class on Thursday morning.

As far as what the test will involve, here's what I know:  There's no spoken section of this exam, and no listening section either.  As far as I know, the test is made up of a few sections that involve reading texts and choosing correct answers based on that test, and then a writing section in which we'll need to write a formal letter and possibly an informal email.

We spent the last class working on informal emails, and we spent one previous class working on understanding the formal and commonly used expressions in formal emails.  However, as I mentioned in a previous post, I feel like this is a skill that would have been helpful MUCH earlier on.  At the very least, earlier on on module 3.  Hell, even closer to the beginning of module 3.2.

But I don't write the curriculum, so...

We'll see how it goes.

And a quick update on this post:  I went to the hospital on Friday, and they took a family history and and gave me some additional information about the implications and preventative measures if I do end up having the gene (all of which was actually more distressing than I'd previously thought), and then sent me downstairs to get blood drawn for the test itself.  And now, I wait.  I wait somewhere between 1 and 2 months...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 3.2, Frustrations

I'm about a week away from my module 3 exam, and there's definitely tension in the air in my class.  It seems that quite a few of my classmates are frustrated with the class for various reasons.

Some feel like they're not learning anything new, or they don't feel like we're focusing on the things they need help with.  Others are simple lost completely.  Still others (myself included) are getting tired of our Monday/Wednesday teacher's teaching methods.

It's been a very different vibe in class during module 3, and not always in a good way.  Especially on Mondays and Wednesdays, when many of us feel that even the teacher doesn't know the correct answers.  And if he doesn't really know what the answers are, then how are we supposed to learn?

Today was especially frustrating.  We spent part of the class working on the "tryk" or stress on words in sentences.  Danish is a sort of musical language, and the inflection has a sort of rhythm to it.  Unfortunately, our teacher doesn't seem to be a terribly rhythmic guy, so even when he's saying a sentence with the stresses clearly on one word, he tells us that the stress is on different words.  It's baffling and frustrating.  It's never been an exercise that I've had problems with until I started taking classes with him.

As far as the module 3 exam, it's entirely made up of reading and writing exercises.  No listening or speaking this time around, which is fine with me.

However, we've just now started learning how to write the more formal letters that we'll have to write for the exam.  Things like job application letters and formal requests for various things.  If it were up to me, that's the kind of thing we would have been working on from the start.  The Danish job application letter is very different from an American cover letter, and I just today found out that I've been writing them incorrectly since I got here.

It's frustrating.

More frustrating still, it looks like I'll have the same teachers for module 4.  I still really like our Thursday/Friday teacher, but Monday/Wednesday-guy needs to get his act together.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Being Wary of the Ides of March

I spent much of today wondering why I was so tense and tired.

I've had a quiet, relaxing weekend.  Spent lots of time with my wonderful husband and adorable dog.  Ate some lovely food.  Watched some television.  Saw a completely stress-free, brain-candy movie.

So, how come my shoulders are tied up in knots?

Oh, right... remember this post?  (Probably not.  I posted it a year and a half ago.)

This Friday, I'll make my way to Rigshospitalet (my local hospital here in Copenhagen) for what might be the first of several meetings regarding getting tested for the gene I discussed in the above post.  My concerns about having the gene were a big part of what discussed with the doctor a few weeks ago.  As with most things when it comes to the Danish healthcare system, you go to your primary care doctor for any and all questions, and then that doctor will either treat you himself or give you a referral.  In this case, the referral was sent to the hospital and they sent me a letter with my appointment date.

That date is March 15th.

Life, your sense of poetry is not amusing.

It means missing a Danish class, and I've had to miss a few this module.  In fact, I'll be away on the day that they've scheduled our module 3 exam, so I will have to schedule to take it on a different day.  Hopefully missing a few classes won't jeopardize my chances of passing.

But let's be honest... getting this genetic test done is more important than whether or not I have to re-take 6 weeks of Danish classes.

In the meantime, I'll just hang out with my husband and my puppy and try not to think too much about it.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hodgepodge for 500, Alex

It's been a bit of a quiet month as far as posts go.  Oddly enough, this is more because there's been too much going on than that I've had nothing to write about.  So here is a brief rundown of this months news:

I'm about a week and a half into module 3.2 now.  It's been a bit of a strange experience, as we had a whole bunch of new students join the class.  So many, in fact, that there are now more new students than people I know.  Stranger still, most of the new students were put into the class directly from module 2.  It seems their teacher thought that they were all so good that they should skip 3.1 completely.  It's entirely possibly that the really are that good, but it does mean that the our teachers in 3.2 are having to repeat a lot of the stuff we learned over the past 6 weeks, and that does slow class down quite a bit.

In other news, I've had my first experience with Denmark's national healthcare system this month, and I have to say... so far, it's a huge improvement from my experience in the US.  I decided it was time to meet my doctor and ask a few medical questions that I've had on my mind for a while, so I called to make an appointment.  They assign a doctor to you when you get your CPR number, and that doctor's name and number are then printed on your "yellow card" (your CPR card).  I was a little worried at first, as the first time I called I got a message saying there were too many people waiting on the line and that I should try back later.  Next time, though, I got through no problem and made my appointment.  Once I got to the office that day, all I had to do was swipe my yellow card in their little machine, and my appointment time popped up on the screen, and I was officially checked in.  The doctor was very nice, and everything seems to have gone just fine.  Even better still, I didn't have to worry about if or when I would get a bill in the mail.  So far, so good.

And finally, my folks have been in town for the last week.  They fly out this morning, but we've spent the past week walking all around the city, seeing the sights.  When learning a new language, it helps to put things in perspective by being visited be people who don't know the language.  I was reassured by how often they would ask what sometime meant and I was able to give them an answer.

Then again, my mother was picking the words up quickly enough that we're fairly certain she'll know Danish before I do.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Off-Topic: "Girls"

Pardon my diversion from the normal update on expat life while I go on a little rant that may only be relevant to Americans.

Folks, I'd like to take a moment to talk about the TV show "Girls."

While my opinion of the show itself isn't actually all that important to what I want to discuss, here it is:  I think the show is okay.  I've been watching it more to see what all the buzz is about than because I particularly care.  It's really not a show that I look forward to each week, but it hasn't turned me off to the point where I won't watch more of it when it's on.

What I'm more interested in talking about is this idea that the show is making some kind of groundbreaking move to show normal, non-Hollywood types naked in order to shift the perception of beauty in the media.

Now, I'll start by saying that I think that's a noble goal.  Most women out there have body issues of some kind, and the media is to blame for a lot of it.

But here's my issue:

I'm just not convinced that the people who enjoy watching the show are the kinds of people whose minds need changing.  I could be wrong, and I haven't seen any breakdowns of the demographics of the shows audience, but it very much seems to be a show aimed at left-wing, hipster-leaning 20-somethings, who are already fairly open-minded about these things in the first place.

What I'm saying is that I think the show is preaching to the choir more than it's breaking any ground.  There's all this media buzz around it, about how Lena Dunham is fearless about showing her normal-girl body without shame, but I do worry that once the buzz dies down (which it will, and quickly), she'll be left with an audience of like-minded people, but without the social change that so many are expecting.

It's a lot to ask of people, to change their perceptions of what's beautiful by watching one TV show.  The media buzz puts a lot of weight on one show in which most, if not all, of the characters are vaguely unlikeable and fairly unrelatable.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled expat blabber.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nemo vs. Copenhagen Snevejr

Snow has been the word of the week for most of the people in my life.  As winter storm "Nemo" buried most of the northeastern United States, we here in Copenhagen have been getting some fairly standard Danish snow.  I took this picture a couple of days ago from the dog park near St. Paul's Church in the city center:

I spent the majority of my life living in the northeastern U.S., where snowstorms that dropped a couple of feet of snow tend to happen at least once a year.  The picture above shows the results of a typical snowfall here in Copenhagen.

I'm gonna have to lean towards Copenhagen as the better option here.

I was at a 7-11 here a week or two ago (they're hilariously common), and the guy at the counter asked me what I preferred about Denmark as compared to the U.S.  He just refused to believe me when I told him that I preferred the weather here in Denmark.

Granted, that day happened to be chilly, rainy, and gray.  Even so, it doesn't get as cold here in the Winter, and it doesn't get as hot in the Summer.

And I'll take a bit of rain, or an inch or two of snow that will melt within a week, over this:

Friday, February 8, 2013

4 Tips to Learn Danish Quickly

Danish is an extremely difficult language to learn.  However, it turns out that there are a few factors that can greatly improve your chances of learning it before other people.  Today, I give you a few of those factors.

1.  Have a Danish boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse.  Your Danish teacher may very well assume that you have one, and therefore some of the homework that you are assigned will involve talking to said significant other.  For those who do not have a Danish significant other, see option number 2.

2.  Regularly go to a job where most of your colleagues are Danish and will happily be patient with you while you struggle to express yourself in Danish without switching to English, despite the fact that speaking English is far easier for both of you than speaking Danish together might be.

3.  Be a highly logical person who already has a fairly firm understanding of grammar rules.  Learning Danish will test the grammar skills of even the most literate of native English speakers.  If you don't already have a basic understanding of grammar, learning Danish will teach you more about the structure of the English language than you ever thought you needed to know.

And finally...

4.  Already speak either German, Dutch, Swedish, or Norwegian.  There are a few classmates of mine who, from early on in our Danish classes, were able to understand most of what the Danes said.  At first, I found this extraordinarily frustrating.  What was I doing wrong that I just didn't know what all of these words meant, even if I could understand what words were being said (which is a challenge unto itself, especially early on)?  Turns out, the only thing I was doing wrong was not knowing one of the aforementioned languages.  Enough of the words in those 4 languages (and possibly a few that I've forgotten) are similar enough to words in Danish that it's entirely possible to understand Danish very quickly.

Those who are lucky enough to fit into 2 or 3 of these factors will find themselves racing ahead of the others in their class.

As for me?  The only category that I even vaguely fit into is #3.  In most cases, I'm able to understand and remember the grammar rules easily enough.  Unfortunately, it's the words that I have a tough time remembering.

There's very little that one can do with even a perfect understanding of Danish grammar if they can't remember any of the words.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 3.1, What's This? Another Test?

There I was, plugging away at my Danish classes, when out of the blue...

An unexpected test.

Okay, it wasn't entirely unexpected.  Our Thursday/Friday warned us last week that we would be having a test to move forward from module 3.1 to module 3.2.  She didn't, however, specify when until earlier this week.  And the test was to be today (Thursday).  She also didn't tell our Monday/Wednesday teacher what kinds of things would be on the test, so that we knew what to study.

So, it was a big giant mystery when we arrived in class today.  I was feeling fairly confident that I understood that grammar that we'd learned so far, until she handed back some recent homework and I realized that I'd gotten about 80% of it wrong.

While some of the previously taught grammatical rules are becoming more and more clear, we've started to learn more that seem to tie my head into knots.

Thursdays are always a little bit tougher than other days, with class the day before followed by a cappella rehearsals at night.  I find myself rushing through the homework without really focusing on what I'm doing.

Something to work on, for sure.

Oh, and have I mentioned that the puppy is going through a phase where he's forgotten how to sleep through the night?

My husband brought home ear plugs today.  Maybe a full night's sleep will help solve the concentration problems I've had in class lately.

When in doubt, blame the dog.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 3.1, Words, Words, Words

I'm a little over two weeks into module 3 now.

So far, so... okay.

I'm still following along well enough, but I still have a tough time deciphering our younger teacher's accent.

The good news is, from what I can tell, we've basically learned all of the major grammatical rules.  It seems that module 3 focuses more on expanding our vocabulary and solidifying the grammar rules that we've learned.  And the latter is certainly working for me.  Rules that I'd learned in module 2 but had always had a tough time remembering seem to be making more sense to me now.  And I'm glad to be finally learning more words.

Danish is a much more compact language than English.  While some sources claim that English has over 1 million words, Danish has 150,000 at the most.  I think one major difference is that English has a lot more words that are obsolete, while Danish uses a far higher percentage of its words on a regular basis.

Pronunciation is still a bit of an issue for all of us in the class.  We can all understand each other fairly well, but Danes (our younger teacher specifically) seems to have a tough time understanding us some of the time.  Danish is not a language spoken by foreigners very often, so Danes often have a hard time understanding the language when it's spoken with any kind of accent, no matter how subtle.

There are some words in Danish, though, that make a lot of sense and should be considered for stealing by the English language.  For example, the Danish word for "mother" is "mor" and the word for "father" is "far."  Simple enough.  And then they take it a step further with grandparents.  Your mother's mother? "Mormor."  Mother's father? "Morfar."  And of course, "farfar" and "farmor."  It makes so much sense, and saves time from having to clarify if you're talking about your "maternal grandmother" or "paternal grandmother."

On an unrelated note, this is the Facebook page for the Copenhagen Rugby League Football Club.  "Like" it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

5 Things I Wish Were Easier to Find in Denmark

So many things that seem commonplace back home home in America seem weirdly and unnecessarily difficult to find here in Denmark.

I've already posted my rant about how difficult it is to get cold medicines that aren't someone's grandmother's home remedy packaged and sold at the local Matas.

But there's more.  Here are a few:

1.  Painkillers:  Sure, you can go to the local apotek and pick up some painkillers there, but they're much milder.  And as I mentioned in my last post, if you don't live near a 24-hour apotek and happen to have a horrible headache or backache or whatever, and it's past 6pm... you're kind of our of luck.  

2.  Office supplies:  I was looking for binders today so that I could organize my music for my a cappella rehearsals, so I hopped onto Google, expecting to find something like a Staples or an OfficeMax like I would find all over the place back home.  No luck.  So, I jumped into the Facebook group dedicated to Americans living in Denmark and asked them.  They suggested a few websites that sell office supplies online only, or suggested I go to a bookstore.  I ended up finding a few flimsy ones at a local Tiger (which is similar to a Dollar Store back home), but I don't think they'll last very long.

3.  All of your groceries in one store:  There are 4 grocery stores near me, all clustered in a two-block area.  Plus several convenience stores.  I find that I go into 3 of them on a regular basis, sometimes in the same shopping run.  There's really no reason why they shouldn't just all combine into one big store and have everything all in one place.  And that right there is me sounding like a spoiled American wishing everything was like Walmart... Oops.  I don't wish they were like Walmart at all, actually.  I wish they were like Wegman's.

4.  Real nachos:  I've mentioned this before, back in this post.  I've been to 3 restaurants in Copenhagen that have served Doritos with cheddar cheese and called them nachos.  This must be stopped.  It's so bad that I don't even want to try the nachos at other restaurants, for fear of losing it and chastising some poor waiter/waitress.  Seriously, though... This is what nachos are supposed to look like.  Work on it, Denmark.

I recognize that some of these things become a bigger issue than they would be otherwise because I don't have a car.  It would, for example, be no big deal to hop in a car and drive the few kilometers to the nearest 24-hour pharmacy, or to head out to Føtex (which is as close to a Walmart-like store that they have here), but a car is out of the picture.  The reason for that is my number 5 on the list:

5.  Reasonably-priced cars:  It's not the cars in Denmark that are expensive.  It's the registration fees.  A car can easily cost you twice the list price or more just because of the fees to put the car legally on the road here in Denmark.  I'm not saying I'm complaining, exactly.  To be honest, not having to buy gas or worry about driving a car in the snow, or if the car will break down... it's a huge relief.  And the public transportation system here is the cream of the crop.  But sometimes... it would just be nice to be able to hop into a car, hit a store a few miles away, and head back home.  All within a span of 10 minutes.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Post in Three Acts

Hold on to your hats, 'cause this is gonna be a long one.  So long that I've split it up into 3 acts (one of which is a fun announcement, so it's worth reading all of them).

Act I - Forced Home Remedies

Having a cold in Denmark is a pain in the ass.  In America, I would head over to the 24-hour convenience store and pick up a bottle of NyQuil and some cough drops, and I'd be good to go.  Unfortunately, they don't sell NyQuil, at your local corner store here.  And while they might have something similar at the local "apotek" or pharmacy, the pharmacies keep hours like most places in Denmark... they close by 6pm.

So last night, when it was 9pm and I was hacking up a lung, I didn't really know how to proceed.  I've had this nagging cold for a few weeks now, but it's gotten worse over the past week, to the point where tea and cough drops aren't cutting it anymore.  Some quick Googling told me that there are a few 24-hour pharmacies in and around Copenhagen, but the closest one is 3 kilometers away.  That wouldn't have seemed like much if I still had a car, but with a bad cough and temps below freezing, riding my bike there struck me as possibly counterproductive.

As luck would have it, my husband happened to be visiting a friend who had some cold medicine in his medicine cabinet that he was willing to part with, so I managed to finally get a bit of sleep last night.

I can't speak to how the prescription meds are here, but I can say that it's not easy to get over-the-counter stuff that isn't basically someone's grandmother's herbal remedy.  Today, when stores opened again, my husband went out and bought some kind of liquid that smells like licorice and is mixed with water, and made me some tea made from thyme.  Will they work?  Unlikely.  Will they taste good?  Nope.

Act II - Studieskolen Redemption

Earlier in the week, I was feeling a bit pessimistic about my new Danish class because of this.  Well, just as I'd hoped, the woman who will be teaching the class on Thursdays and Fridays is absolutely wonderful.  She's been teaching at the school basically her entire career, and really knows what she's doing.

So, I'm still not convinced that I'll learn much on Mondays and Wednesdays, but I'm hoping I can make up for it by learning everything I need to know later in the week.

Act III - The Announcement

I think I neglected to give an update on how my audition went after posting this.

It went poorly.

I was exhausted, nervous, and had just biked to their rehearsal space in the rain.  I had worked really hard to warm my voice up enough, and to try to learn the Swedish for one of the auditions songs, and then promptly forgot everything I'd learned.  They were extraordinarily nice and patient with me, but it really wasn't good.  I knew I could do better, but I knew I was only getting that one shot.  I blew it.


Turns out I didn't actually blow it.  They called me earlier this week and told me they'd chosen me and one other girl.  So... Hey, I'm in an a cappella group now!

We had our first rehearsal on Wednesday, and despite this plague that I'm working through, I think it went pretty well.  I'll try to post in advance when we have shows coming up.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 3.1, First Impression Fail

The good news is that I have two teachers for this module (a guy who is new to Studieskolen on Mondays and Wednesdays, and a woman on Thursdays and Fridays who has been teaching there for many years).

The bad news?

The new guy hasn't started out on good footing as far as first impressions go.

Now, keep in mind that the class schedule has been in writing and available to students since maybe November or December.  And I can only assume that this schedule was agreed upon by both the teachers and the administration...

So, there isn't really any reason why the teacher should have been unclear as to which days of the week he was teaching.  Apparently, he thought he was teaching on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so after we'd sat outside our locked classroom for 15 minutes, and someone finally went down to the office to find out what was up, the teacher rushed into school.  Entirely unprepared to teach.

And maybe it's because he was so unprepared, and was flustered about the confusion and showing up more than half an hour late... But he seemed to be extremely awkward.  He spent the entire class sitting at a table in front of the room, and seemed frustrated when students would ask him to go to the board to spell a word or phrase.

The biggest issue to start, though, is that his Danish is much less clear than our previous teacher.  Now, I think this will be a good thing in the long run.  It sounds like he speaks much more standard Copenhagen Danish, as opposed to the Danish of someone who's been teaching the language to foreigners for 20+ years.  It's harder to understand him, but it will be good to tune my ear to his pronunciation, so that I'll have an easier time understanding people out and about in the city.

So, here's hoping that he's more prepared and less nervous on Wednesday.

And here's hoping that our Thursday/Friday teacher can pick up the slack if he's not.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Studieskolen - Module 3.1, Irrational Incredulity

After a 3-week holiday break, I'm heading back to Danish class later this morning.

As I start module 3, I'll admit that I'm a little bit apprehensive.  For a few reasons:

First, this will be my first class with a different teacher.  The teacher that we had for modules 1 and 2 was really great, and I learned really easily through her teaching style.  I have this (mostly irrational) fear that I was only doing well in Danish before because her style of teaching worked for me.  There's no reason to worry about something like that, and in a few hours I'm sure I will decide that I was being silly.  But the worry is there nonetheless.

It should be noted that all of my apprehension is equally irrational, if not more so.  For example, I worry that I'm not as up-to-speed as I should be, despite easily passing the module 2 exam, and that makes no sense at all.  But we've all had that dream where we show up somewhere and are expected to know something, but don't.  So we're forced to fake it.  I have more experience having that stress dream than I do with being a Danish speaker, so some part of my brain expects that scenario.

See?  Irrational.

And then finally, there's this weird rewiring of my own concept of myself that needs to start happening.  Sure, I took Spanish in middle and high school, but I certainly didn't learn enough to consider myself bilingual.  Some insecure part of me thinks that there's a ceiling to the amount of any foreign language that I can learn and that I'm nearing that ceiling.  To expect myself to be fluent in any language other than English is simply not something I'd ever planned on, so I've never looked at myself as someone who would be able to do so.

Is it possibly to be irrationally incredulous?

Because I am.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Food, Glorious Food...Sometimes

In the spirit of helping you keep your New Years resolutions to lose weight or eat less, or just generally think about food less... Here's a post about food in Denmark.

It may or may not actually help at all.

Since my perspective is that of an American, I can really only compare Danish food to American.  So, don't be surprised if you don't agree with my opinions on some things.

If you've been reading for a while, or if you've managed to scroll all the way back to my first few months of posting, you might remember this post.  Since moving here, I've had plenty of smørrebrød, and I have to admit... I've come around to it.  Not the pickled herring.  I still hate the pickled herring.  But otherwise, I'm a fan.  It's filling, fairly healthy, not too expensive... As far as eating a lunch out in Copenhagen, it's definitely the way to go.

Before we moved here, my husband warned me that he had been pretty disappointed in the food options when he'd lived here before we met.  In America, we've got this culture of eating out a lot, no matter the budget, so you can pretty easily find something decent in whatever price range you want.  Denmark, however, is just starting to have more of a restaurant culture, perhaps thanks in part to Noma (a fancy pants restaurant here in Copenhagen) being called the best restaurant in the world for a few years running.

It's easy enough to get amazing food in Copenhagen if you're willing to spend a lot of money.  Finding a more reasonably priced meal, however (if you're not eating smørrebrød, of course), is tougher.  Possible, but tougher.  There's this idea in restaurants here that as long as you have the recipe, you can make anything amazingly.  It's why you find a lot of mediocre Italian food here.  They know the recipes, but not the long-taught cultural secrets that make food from other countries great.  And it's also why Denmark is so good at smørrebrød - they've been doing it for so long that the little details come as second nature.

One thing that they do love in middle-of-the-road Danish cafes and restaurants is BIG PORTIONS.  Huge.  And they love to pile a plate with a wide variety of different things.  Often, you'll get your plate of food and everything will be lovely, except they'll have added one strange ingredient that just doesn't make sense.

Here's example of the portion sizes:

This brunch plate is found at a local restaurant that claims to be an American style diner.  Having lived there until this past Summer, I can honestly say that I've never seen a plate like that in America.  I don't really know what half of that stuff is.  Not saying this is a bad thing, though.  This particular restaurant (Cafe Luna in Christianshavn) happens to have really good, reasonably priced meals.

One thing that is NOT okay, though, is this monstrosity, which ended up on my husbands plate at a cafe in central Copenhagen earlier this week:

You're looking at Doritos with melted cheddar cheese.  The menu calls them nachos.  This is NOT what nachos are.  This is something you make at home in a microwave when you're in college and it's 4am and there's nothing else in the house.  Not something you go to a restaurant to spend money on.  This particular treat, once it sat on the plate for a few minutes, was so congealed that it could be picked up in one solid mass.  Appetizing...

So, I guess the take-away from all of this is that the food scene in Copenhagen is pricey, but getting better.  But it's still hit-and-miss, so be prepared to either spend a ton of money or take your chances.