A look back at September 4, 2007:
I’ve been in Denmark a full week now, and it’s been great! My host mom, Kirstine (pronounced like Christina), is 74 and has a guide dog named Samba. He’s a black lab and greeted me with a shoe in his mouth. We live in a town called Lyngby and are right around the corner from a grocery store.
I have about a 45-minute commute every day to downtown Copenhagen. I take a bus, train and then walk a little to get there. Luckily, I found another DIS student who lives really close (one bus stop away) the first day I went into Copenhagen.
My home in Lyngby
The house is interesting. It’s set very far back from the street and has a huge back yard with a little guest house. You could fit an American-sized house in the back yard. I enter the house through the kitchen. It’s very small! Especially when you consider that 6 people have to share it. There is no dishwasher or microwave, but there is a toaster. Once you leave the kitchen, you can go upstairs, where there are three bedrooms (one mine) and a small bathroom. It is important to know that the light switch to this bathroom is outside the bathroom. It took me four days to discover this novel concept.
Instead of taking something like eight stairs up, you can also go downstairs, where there are several rooms: a heating room (used to dry clothes in the winter), a bigger and nicer bathroom to shower in (with light switches on the inside), a bedroom and a laundry room.
Spiders and foreign students
One of the first things I noticed in the house was the bug population. I’m not really scared of bugs, but there were more than I was used to … a lot more! Dead ones, live ones, crawling ones and flying ones! I woke up early on the first day and got the pleasure of seeing a spider crawl across the wall next to my bed. Welcome to Denmark!
The house is an international hub and gets more interesting the longer I’m here. In addition to hosting a DIS student, Kirstine rents out rooms to foreign students and professors. At first, there were two Frenchmen and one Norwegian living in the extra rooms. Now, people are moving in and out like crazy! One Frenchman finished his internship and is going home, the Norwegian found another place to live, and an Italian is moving in tomorrow. Then, in a week, a Polish girl will be moving in. That still leaves one room open, so we’ll see who comes in next. It’s quite a mix.
Last night, the French guys asked me if I had ever tried this certain type of food and laughed when I said no. I think that the FDA banned it in the U.S. because of the way it was prepared. They made me try some and then told me what it was: duck liver. Apparently, the French eat it on special occasions and love it. After dinner, they gave me some French music, and we discussed the differences between European countries and the U.S. It was a lot of fun, and I found out that having bugs in the house is normal.
Kirstine and I have dinner every night around 7. She’s so amazing! I can’t believe she cooks and doesn’t burn herself. When things need to be cut, she does let me do that though. She’s very health conscious and makes sure I eat plenty of vegetables. She knows her house very well and has had quite a life.
She was a nurse and lived in Houston for a year and France for a year-and-a-half. This is all I know right now, but she is nice and makes sure I always have nutritious food to eat. Her English is very good, and she tells me about Danish history and tries to teach me Danish. Every night she listens to the news at 8 after dinner, and her favorite show is the Danish version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
The Little Mermaid
Orientation was a little intense. They gave us a walking tour of the area around DIS, a bus/walking tour around Copenhagen, survival Danish classes and info about living with Danes. The bus tour was the best because I had a history teacher as a guide. We went to the Royal Square and saw the Little Mermaid statue. The Little Mermaid isn’t really that great (and apparently the Danes aren’t impressed either), but I’m glad I saw it so I don’t have to worry about it now.
Ever since I’ve been here, whenever I buy something or need to say something to a Dane, I want to speak Spanish since it’s the only foreign language I know. It’s really weird. Just so you know, Danish is sooo hard, or rather, the pronunciation is hard. The pronunciation is not like the word looks at all. We’ll see how much I pick up, but I’m guessing it won’t be a whole lot.
By boat and bike
My first day at the bus stop, an old man walked up and said something to me in Danish. I was so excited. He thought I was Danish! When I told him I didn’t speak Danish, he said to me perfectly, “My English isn’t very good.” Everyone here speaks English. They almost don’t have a choice though. Denmark has a population of 5 million people and is the only country that speaks Danish.
The Danes are also very nice. Whenever I’ve asked for directions or a translation, everyone has been very helpful. I went to the grocery store with Kirstine last Friday and met the manager, Martin. She goes in with a list (written by a helper), and they go get her groceries for her. Martin was very nice and confirmed that the object I picked up was the yogurt I wanted to buy.
Yesterday, I went on a canal tour and a bike tour. Getting to the canal tour was an experience in itself. To begin my day, I discovered that I was looking at the wrong bus schedule when I made my plans so I had to wait 20 minutes for the bus. Then, I got to the S-train station and saw all this Danish on the screens where the schedules normally are. I asked someone what it said and found out that the power was down, so the trains weren’t running. The guy told me that I would have to take a bus or a taxi to town.
I don’t know how I did it, but I looked at the map, figured out which bus to take and made it on the bus in less than 5 minutes. Luckily, the bus was stopping at the station that I always stopped at, but I had to take the Metro to get to the canal. (The Metro is different from the trains. It runs downtown, and the train goes into the suburbs of Copenhagen. Apparently, the Metro was working.) After I found the Metro and figured out which way I needed to go, I made it to the station where I needed to be, but the group had started walking toward the canal.
I got on the phone with my friend and asked her which direction they went, and all I can get out of her is “we crossed a street.” By some miracle, I started walking in the right direction, found the water and ran to the end and was the last person on the boat. It was quite a morning.
The bike tour was just as intense but in a different way. Riding on cobblestones = not fun. Riding downtown with all the bikes, pedestrians and cars = a little nerve-racking. Luckily, if I get a bike, I’ll just ride it from my house to the bus station. It’s not as intense in Lyngby as it is in Copenhagen.
It’s so much fun being here. Everything is an adventure. I know that it’s going to fly by and I feel like I’m leaving next week. They keep us pretty busy between school and our field trips and what-not. Sometimes I’m riding on the bus or the train and I look outside and it doesn’t feel that different from home and then I’ll see something like a million bicycles and I’ll snap back to reality.