torsdag den 12. maj 2011

T-6 days.

Somehow, my time in Denmark is five short days away from being over. Its a sort of phenomenon that I both can and cannot believe.  I'll be quite sad to leave my little brother Lennart, sad to leave my host parents, the really sweet friends I've made, and of course sad to leave the Jack Russell terrier puppy that I get to hang out with all the time.. but I'm excited to go home. I've talked to some people who sound like they would rather die than return home, and especially with the weather being so wonderful these days, I understand where they're coming from. But I guess they don't have as awesome people to get excited about returning home to as I do.

Now, please don't get me wrong. If I could spend a summer in Copenhagen, I would be ecstatic. And talking to my host parents at dinner tonight I said something about how I just don't feel like I'm actually leaving. I feel sort of like I'm finishing up school and now I get to reap the benefits of summer with the friends and people that I've persevered the semester with.  To my comment about feeling like I should be staying all summer, my host mom said, "Well.. you could." I laughed and reminded her of my job up at Eagle Ridge.  She said I could bring the campers down over and sleep out in the neighbors tent that I've slept in before.  I said I'd talk to Kelly about it. But one thing that surprised me about my host dad's response was that.. there was none. Usually when I tease them about how I'm just gonna have to stay forever, he'll have a dramatic and sarcastic comeback about how he "Hopes to God not," to counter. And I suddenly realized.. whoa. They're going to miss me. And I'm going to miss them. I thought about all the car rides home we take from different family outings, and how Lennart will lean his head on my shoulder, nod off, and spent the rest of the car ride snoozing in my lap. Or if he's feeling energetic that night instead, he'll spend a large part of the time trying to lick me. I think I prefer the first occurrence.

And I thought about peeling potatoes with Anne Marie as she told me her opinion about this or that, and challenged me to think for myself about whatever we would discuss.  She is eternally a devil's advocate, and as frustrating as it is sometimes that I can never get her to agree with me, I have benefited greatly from someone challenging my ideas and making me think more deeply about why I have the opinions that I do.  I'll miss Jan's constant sarcastic pokes and prods that at first I had no idea how to handle since they seemed to be never ending and I had no idea if he was really joking or not. But then slowly realizing that the more he made fun of me, the more comfortable he felt with me, and the more comfortable I felt with him. One night this week when I had pulled an all nighter one night and had gotten about an hour of sleep the night before that, I was walking around like a zombie and he asked, "are you ok?" I told him yeah, just really tired. While I half expected a joke about how, "yeah I sure look it," or some other Danish humor nudge, instead he just smiled and winked, and agreed that an early bedtime would be good.

While a big part of me wants to figure out ok.. who am I now? How am I different? How will this experience shape my future? I feel like that might feel good initially for closure and for my own liking to tie a neat little bow around things and say alright well that was that. But I've discovered that if you're doing it right, you should never feel the need to wrap things up in a nice little box and put them on a shelf labeled "life experiences," or something. battery about to die on computer. will finish in a second ;)

søndag den 8. maj 2011

happy mother's day.

Wishing I could update more extensively.. but I am currently in the midst of an insane week. Six page paper due yesterday that I stayed up all night doing, an eight page and a two page paper due tomorrow, twelve page paper due tuesday. Besides this, life is good. I hope I'll find time to write about it before I leave, but until then..
A sunny Sunday afternoon at Tivoli with my host fam.

These last two pictures are what inspired this entry. I couldn't stop myself from snapping away at these "bleeding hearts," which I know mi madre really likes. It got me thinking about her, about home, and about how lucky I am to have both.


Jeg elsker min mor. 
I love my mom. 

Happy Mother's Day :)
Thank you for all you do.

mandag den 25. april 2011

pickled herring and liverpatte..

...are good? What is this world coming to?

I've been able to avoid these two "classic" Danish dishes until very recently. I tried liverpatte a couple of weeks ago, and it was surprisingly not vomit inducing. Tasty, even. After months of eating cucumber sandwiches at lunch with the family, I was feeling brave one day and tried it. Since then, i've moved from spreading about 1/2 a teaspoon on my rogbrod (rye bread, refer to previous entry) and smiling politely, I now take an adult sized serving and smile genuinely. My mind still has to zone out a little bit while its happening, but I've grown to enjoy it. Pickled herring on the other hand.. was something I was not eager to try and ridiculously content with never getting around to.

Until this Sunday, when all the neighbors came over for Easter brunch. For the first course, the two main options that were passed to me were: a dish my host mom made with cut up apples, a creamy sauce, some other crunchy vegetable, and.. pickled herring. The other option was another pickled herring dish made by the neighbor. I gingerly took a spoonful of the first and smoothed it on top of my rogbrod. As I sat there eyeing it, waiting for the cue to start eating, a round of shots (schnapps) was poured for everyone. To this I remember thinking, "Oh sure. I'll be able to handle this.. I've been to college, I know this game." This brunch surprised me in two ways. One, I discovered that pickled herring is, somehow, delicious in all its forms.  Two, damn. These Danes can drink.

We've eaten another half a smorrebrod? (Smorrebrod= The Danish open faced sandwich deal) Alright, time for another shot of schnapps. Oh what's this? My shot glass is empty? And I've eaten the other half of my smorrebrod? Pour another round! Ooh have you tried this one? Straight from Bonholm. And this one? It has a little honey in it. Six, seven.. eight shots in and I'm still thinking, I've got this, things are fine.. they pass me a beer, then an apple cider, we drink some more snapps. "Don't be shy!" They're saying. At this point, everyone is rosy cheeked and smiling big. I'm making little to no attempt to translate what's being said around me, but I'm still laughing on cue and nodding along. I help Anne Marie in the kitchen and she asks me how I liked the herring. I was pretty honest about how gross I thought it was going to be, a topic I've avoided gingerly my entire stay here. She laughed at my admittance of, "Yeah! I thought it was going to be sooo super gross, and was thinking eww why do these Danish people love this stuff so much?! But it wasn't bad!"

We returned to the table and had the next dish, which was frikadeller (Danish meatballs) which, like everything in Denmark, you also eat as an open faced sandwich. It is topped off with a salty red cabbage thing, which makes for an unexpectedly delicious combination. The next smorrebrod is a piece of rogbrod, a peice of slightly fried fish, topped with a yellow sauce (with mystery but tasty yellow chunks), and a lemon squeezed on top. If you're not too full, you can have another smorrebrod with liverpatte topped off with some crispy bacon. All in all, the Danes LOVE their meat. Its been an interesting experience, especially being someone who hasn't eaten meat for eight years until I came here. But its definitely a really important part of the culture, and I don't regret my decision. I haven't decided what will happen when i travel back home, but there are a couple of things I want to eat before I make the final decision. A piece of sausage pizza (and you thought cheese pizza was my favorite? sausage has always secretly been my favorite topping), a bite of a Big Mac, and a piece of chicken from my mom's chicken and dumplings. Just so you know.

Brunch progressed merrily, I chatted up the little girl next to me named Caroline who took a liking to me and made a big fuss about wanting to sit next to me at the beginning of brunch. She's got good taste. When all the courses were eaten, I went outside with the kids and we played around with Zianna (pronounced Sienna to us), my host family's new Jack Russell terrier they got while I was away on break! This dog is seriously one of the cutest things I have ever seen. She is always excited to see you, and scurries and hops happily from here to there.

So the kids and I played outside with Zianna and another dog, and even went to the backyard to play a lawn game for a little bit. When we came back all the adults were sitting outside, and we joined them. I felt like I was toeing the "am I an adult or a kid?" line in a new and bizarre way. My cheeks were red and I was a little bit tipsy, but I was still playing in the grass and the backyard with a puppy and the neighborhood kids, Caroline, her brother Max, and my host brother Lennart. And when I sat down at the table with the adults, Caroline came over and started giving me an unsolicited neck massage. For a ten year old girl, she seriously knows how to knead the dough. As I'm sitting there soaking up the sun and getting this massage, I glance over my shoulder and see my host mom smiling and looking at me in disbelief. "What do you do with the children, Bridget??" she asked. "Det ved jeg ikke.." I responded. "That I do not know." 

So, one thing led to another and my nod smile method of dealing with the Danish language when I'm feeling lazy led me to a sleepover in a tent with Caroline, Max, and their dad. It was surprisingly one of the best nights of sleep I've gotten, out in the fresh air and including a very sweet wake up call from Caroline when I ended up being the last one left in the tent. I ate breakfast with her family, who are all very very sweet, and walked back the lonnggg two doors away. 

And today was a wonderful day as well, its been so beautiful here! The first day when I got back from Barcelona, I was blown away by how gorgeous it was. I was snapping pictures my whole walk back from the train station, and then was met by the adorable puppy, and a grill out by my host parents. Unfortunately, had to spend the bulk of this beautiful day inside working on homework.. orr writing this blog entry. Either or. 

And now is about time I showed you all some pictures of my last two weeks. 
The trip begins in Amsterdam:

Where I think its safe to say they are bike fanatics.

Dinner at the beach.

With Lara, her lovely parents and very tall little brother.

A lunch in Amsterdam. 

A couple of shots from the canal ride we took on one of the last days. Cute hat, right?

And then the adventure continued in Barcelona.
This was taken on top of the mountain that I referred to in my last entry, where I pointed to it and asked what it was, and then Laura Blue nonchalantly responded that we could climb up after coffee.

And this is Gaudi's Park Guell, up on top of the mountain. Soo beautiful.

Taken at the beach in Barcelona. There was literally not a cloud in the sky.

Laura Blue, looking like a diva.

Spanish soccer fans are some of the CRAZIEST fans I've ever encountered. And I really loved their group mentality. If the ref called something against their team, they would all throw up their right hand angrily, and hold their hand straight as a board in disbelief. If their team made a mistake or let a chance at a goal slip away, they would do a collective, "Hooooo...." and put their hands on their head in unison. 

Spaniards chilling. They've got this down pretty good I think.

At one of the markets. Everything was so colorful and beautiful!

torsdag den 21. april 2011

Get ready to get jealous.

Right now, I'm sitting in the back porch of the apartment I've been staying at, with my feet up and my legs soaking up some rays of this beautiful Mediterranean sun.  The tall windows are flung open and the breeze smells crisp and fresh. I've been in Barcelona since Saturday, and this place is seriously unreal.

Yesterday I got to see my friend Alexis, a French student who went to Knox for my freshman year, and it was so wonderful to see him. Being abroad has definitely taught me the absolute joy a familiar face can give you. He is studying in Barcelona right now, and has a suuuper nice place with, his words, "a big ass terrace. no big deal." I got to meet his friend and girlfriend from France, and for the afternoon we sat out on his big ass terrace with a gorgeous view of the city and drank mint mojitos. As I look at that last sentence, it looks too good to be true. As this week has gone on, I've felt on multiple occasions that I need to be pinched because I must be dreaming.

When I first got here on Saturday evening, I walked out of the airport and the sun was setting over the mountains. I took the aerobus to Plaza Catalyuna and walked around a little bit, waiting for a text from my girl Laura Blue, who I would be staying with for the next few days. She is also a Knox student, and has been studying abroad in Barcelona for the winter, and was in Argentina in the fall. I got a text that said, "I'm in the middle of the plaza. Come find me!" I saw her standing in the center of the plaza and we had the classic "run to each other" moment and hugged. And I think its safe to say that is the moment my life became a movie.

Since I'm still here in Barcelona I don't want to spend too much time on the computer,  but I'll leave you with a few highlights of the past two weeks. Two weeks because I just got here on Saturday, and then before that, I was visiting my friend Lara in Amsterdam! She was also a student at Knox for a year, but is from Holland and now goes to school in Amsterdam. It was really nice to see her smiling face as well. I got to see her family as well, they're all such sweet people. They treated me to dinner and wine at a classy restaurant on the beach. "no big deal." We got to stay at her house for a night in a Aerdenhout, a town about a thirty minute train ride outside of Amsterdam, and then took her two adorable dogs for a walk at the dunes the next day. And now for one last highlight. On Sunday, my first full day in Barcelona, Laura Blue and I went walking all over town. Every corner you turn down here is absolutely beautiful. And then after being treated to a delicious homemade lunch (cooked by her boyfriend Roger, a native Spaniard) we went out to get coffee. As we passed a street with a direct view of a nearby mountain, I asked what it was called. "Oh that's just Park Guell. We can climb up there after coffee if you want." - Laura Blue casually responded.

Hopefully I'll be posting some pictures soon to show you all the beautiful sights of Amsterdam and Barcelona, but for now, adios!

søndag den 10. april 2011

mind blown. only a little more than a month left.

I feel like there's still so much I need to do, so much I need to see and experience. Tivoli opens in a week or so, the beautiful harbors are now sunny and cheery more than one day a month, and I feel like I just figured it all out. Yes, everything. And for that matter, I feel like there is an infinite amount of things I still can and should blog about to share with you all. In about two hours I'm leaving for a handball match that a girl next door is playing in, and in about 30 hours I'm leaving for my spring break !

Let's start with something simple. 
A question I get a lot is, what do the Danes eat? And at first I thought, pretty much the same as Americans. An example of a usual dinner would be a fish, carrot, pea, tomato curry with rice and a salad on the side. Except, having made a couple of meals (tuna casserole, chicken and dumplings) for the family, I've realized that the salad "on the side" is something that is nary taken out of the meal plan. "What salad are you going to make with it?" My host parents ask. I'll figure something out, and take note as the whole family seems to take an equal amount of salad as they do of the main course. And another major difference in Denmark is the bread. Rugbrød, which is somewhat equivalent to american rye bread, is a the staple of many Danish meals. "Smorrebrod" is the classic Danish open-faced sandwich, which is the usual lunch. Liverpatte, another classically Danish spread, is something that if you can believe, I eat on my sandwich every lunch with the family.

I took a picture of it yesterday up close and personal, to try and convey the density of this bread. Some Americans come to Denmark and cannot stand this bread. I've become a fan. And though there are a couple white bread alternatives in stores, you will rarely, if ever, see a Dane choose white bread over rugbrød.  

And here is an example of Rugbrød in the breakfast setting. You slice a piece of delicious cheese off from the huge hunk in the fridge, and then can either spread Danish honey on top of that (left) or maybe you'd rather have some homemade jam made from the plum tree in the Koefoed's yard (right). Either way, your taste buds will be pleased. But I remember my first breakfast with the family, where they brought back some fresh baked buns and danishes from the bakery on a Sunday morning, and I saw them put cheese and then honey on top. I was a little bit squeemish of trying it myself, but then once I did, I've never looked back.

And then of course, there are the Danishes.  
There are stores full of delicious pastries on what seems like every street corner. And if its possible, they taste even better than they look. 

Witnessing these savory treats and wonderful cheeses have left me with a few lingering questions. How are all these Danes still in such good shape? The obesity rate in Denmark for adults is around 10%. Now let's compare this to the US, which is at 31%. What causes this huge divide? They eat pastries. They smother their dry rugbrød with butter. I've begun to realize that the answer is so tantilizingly simple, but something that is so essentially not culturally American. Here in Denmark, they savor. They'll eat a pastry once in a while, not every morning for breakfast. In America we are all about what you can grab on the go, what you can scarf down while you're driving from this place to that place. Eating is not its own activity, its combined with something else because that's what's most time efficient. But in Denmark, you sit down for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You eat your sandwich with a knife and fork. And in the instance of one girl on the train the other day, you take THIRTY MINUTES to eat a granola bar. I thought I was going out of my mind. But somehow this girl literally took my half an hour train ride to eat one single meal bar. Haha, but I swear I've been up to more than just observing the eating habits of the Danes.  Just some food for thought. And my advice to you? Try to savor. Once you realize that the slowest you can eat a granola bar is 30 seconds versus 30 minutes, you've made the first step. You start to savor things that aren't even food. For me personally, you start to appreciate moments so much that you don't even want to take pictures, because what ruins a savory moment more effectively than taking out a camera to take a picture that can barely compare?

I'm leaving for my two week spring break tomorrow (!) and will be seeing some really amazing people around Europe. I'll be in Amsterdam visiting Lara for a week and then off to visit Laura Blue, Alexi, Jordan, and various Knoxies in Barcelona, I will sacrifice this savoring to take some good pictures to share with you guys. Hope all is well wherever you are.

søndag den 27. marts 2011

sunny day explorations.

Happy Sunday, everyone!
I hope this entry finds you all doing well. The sun has started to show its face in Copenhagen more and more each day, and I can't even tell you how much everyone's mood changes right along with it. More smiles from people on the street, on the train, and even a fist pump from a guy as he passed the gym window where I was running on the treadmill.  Just a small smile or interchange like that leaves me quite giddy.

And speaking of smiling Danes..
On thursday at my practicum site, we spent most of the day outside. This is Bobby and Anders, cooking the last bit of the meal. First they cooked cut up bits of potatoes, and sausages, and ended with an egg to top it off. It had a Danish name that I asked my host parents about and then promptly forgot again. You can eat it with ketchup, fried onions and slices of beets. The kids all had red rings around their mouths from the beets. It was ten kinds of adorable.

It was so wonderful to be spending all this time outdoors, and I made a new friend named Celia. I try to spread myself around and get to know all the kids equally, but Celia won me over pretty hard. We'd been playing for a while, chasing each other around and counting to ten in each others languages. She went back upstairs to the kindergarden and I was confused about why she left, though she'd tried to tell me something. After asking one of the pedagogs what she'd said, they told me that she was getting a drink. A few seconds later from the balcony, Celia yelled down to the entire playground, "MIN VEN!!!" This means, "my friend!"She threw open her arms and smiled, and then ran back down to me to play. My heart is pretty sufficiently stolen by Cielia.

After a tiring but nonetheless fun day at Saxogarden school, I went back to Copenhagen. I sat on a bench here, looking out on Strøget and enjoyed the sun and peaceful breeze. 

I walked back to the Kobenhavn H station to go home, and passed a church that I see everyday on my way to class. I think it is just beautiful.

Yogurt and Muesli. Nothing more pleasing to the eyes on a sunny Saturday morning. 

With my host family away this weekend, I had the house all to myself.  They are on a trip looking at a puppy they might be getting Easter weekend! I try not to push too hard on the matter, but I would be in HEAVEN if they did get it. I feel like once you see a puppy that could be yours, there's no turning back.

Took this on the trail of Christiana, the little anarchist hippie society within Copenhagen. After a day of trekking around town and showing my favorite parts of Copenhagen to Elliot, Emma, and Sarah, three kids visiting from Germany (the first two are Knoxies), it was so nice to take a load off, enjoy the playful activities of the ducks, and listen to the birds chirping happily.

Emma, Elliot, and Sarah, lookin' good in front of the Christiana sign.

And after we sufficiently froze, as the temperatures dipped once the sun went down, I got to retreat home to my cozy residence in Hedehusene. With the family gone, I made myself a grilled cheese with tomatoes.

The special mustard they've got was the icing on the cake. Had a nice little dinner to myself, and even though I told my family I'd be having a huge raging party while they were gone, I did the next best thing. Fell asleep on the couch and woke up ten hours later.

onsdag den 23. marts 2011

you don't know what you've got 'til its gone.

To this title. 
Of course it applies to the tempurapedic mattress that awaits me in brookfield, illinois, while I sleep on a futon in the meanwhile. Of course it applies to a cup of coffee that costs less than five dollars. Of course it applies to the phone that somehow disappeared this weekend after a visit to the circus with my host family. Of course it applies to the amazing, loving, supportive family and friends that I love dearly and am so incredibly lucky to have in my life.

But at this moment, it applies first and foremost to this.
a beautiful thing.

I'd never realized how utterly wonderful this magical substance was, until I was in no position to eat it anymore.  Hearing about other people's studying abroad experiences I remember thinking something like, 'yeah.. I don't even really care about that stuff. Four months without it? Whatever, I doubt I'll even notice.'

But after my host dad brought home a small jar of organic "peanut butter" from the store a few weeks ago, I eyed it suspiciously but then took one bite of it. 

This is what it tasted like.




Basically, I've decided that peanut butter might just be alright.  I just ate a half of a peanut butter sandwich and after a long day of various pittering around here and there, this beautiful half sandwich erased my tiredness and replaced it with sparkles. But it leaves some lingering questions. Why have the Danes not adapted? Peanut butter, reeses? Its unfathomable to me, but no one seems to be a fan. 

After talking with my host parents about it the other day, their reasons seem to be unfortunately valid. My host mom said that the taste was alright, but it was just too sticky. I told her that's why you need a cold glass of milk to wash it down with! In the same instant, they both stuck out their tongues and looked just the teensiest bit grossed out. 

I'm sorry this blog entry came with no real continuation of what I promised. 
I'm sorry there was no grand life realization included.
But I hope, the next time you eat this delicious meal, smile. And realize just how lucky you are.