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The Last Days

Like I promised, I’ve made the most of these last ten days in Copenhagen. It’s 2:30 AM on my last night, so I couldn’t help but give one last recap, as you know I love to do. Up till now, I’ve been too busy squeezing the worth out of every minute in Copenhagen, so I have barely opened my computer! Here’s the scoop on my last few days in the city I love.

1) The Arts & Culture House Art Show!

We were inspired by the Danish museum called the Louisiana, which has a temporary exhibit called Self Portraits. Like the artists featured there, we each created a self portrait to reflect our “i-DANE-ity” and how it has changed our concept of ourselves since we came to Copenhagen! Mine is called “Place Like Home” and reflects the importance of my family as they accompany me on my yellow brick road of sorts, finding out that maybe Dorothy was wrong…

The Arts & Culture House (left to right) Vince, Emma, Anna, me, Rebecca, Carrie, Adriana, Ariel, Jamie

The Arts & Culture House (left to right) Vince, Emma, Anna, me, Rebecca, Carrie, Adriana, Ariel, Jamie

Me with my project, which I titled "Place Like Home"

Me with my project, which I titled “Place Like Home”

THE CLOSE UP. Just so everyone knows, I made that shoe out of newspaper and tape ONLY. skillz.

THE CLOSE UP. Just so everyone knows, I made that shoe out of newspaper and tape ONLY. skillz.

Vince and his project, made from his favorite foods and their wrappers!

Vince and his project, made from his favorite foods and their wrappers!

2) Tivoli 

Christmas time in Tivoli is so magical! Everything is lit up, and there are Christmas markets and a special water fountain show in the evening. Tivoli is the second-oldest theme park in the world, and was an inspiration to Walt Disney!!

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how they REALLY make aebleskriver (the Danish pancake balls that are traditional Christmas food)

how they REALLY make aebleskriver (the Danish pancake balls that are traditional Christmas food)

3) Christmas in the streets

If you thought Copenhagen was adorable during the summer, the Christmas season has taken it to another level! It’s easier to deal with the lack of sunlight when there are Christmas lights EVERYWHERE!

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4) Christmas at Ravnsborggade

As an honorary housemate at Mia’s house, I was delighted to attend her house Christmas party, which of course turned into the most gigantic festival ever held. My favorite part was the wall papered in gift wrap for a backdrop for pictures! While my freezing cold shower prevented me from creating an acceptable hair style that night, I did enjoy taking silly pictures with my friends.

Dylan, Aimee, me, and Mia attempting to be serious, like in the TV show "Skins"

Dylan, Aimee, me, and Mia attempting to be serious, like in the TV show “Skins”

5) Saying Goodbye to my Visiting Family

My visiting family has been so good to me this semester. Between giving me an extra duvet for when Mia’s and my heat were broken, taking me to the zoo, cooking me Danish food, and showing me how to make Christmas decorations, they did everything they were supposed to and more! Their patience, hospitality, and genuine affection made this semester much more enjoyable. When I went to their house this Saturday to say goodbye (and meet some of their friends), I was heartbroken to leave them behind. Finn, Marie, Siri, and little Vigga, I’ll miss you when I go back to my real family!!

6) Sticks n’ Sushi atop the Tivoli Hotel

Lousie took us out to dinner at Sticks n’ Sushi, a high-end restaurant located at the top of the Tivoli Hotel that serves Asian food. Mostly sticks of meat and sushi rolls, this restaurant also had an extensive bar with swings on one side, that overlooked the canals and a gorgeous skyline. We spent a good portion of the meal taking turns to sit on the swings, gawking at the A-listers that Louise identified for us as Danish celebrities, and thanking God that we’d finally found some edible Asian food. It was devine.

7) Christiania Christmas Markets

The Christiania Christmas Markets take place in the Great Hall in Christiania. Vendors of jewelry, crafts, ornaments, clothing, and other miscellaneous goods all come together to sell their wares among some interesting food selections and even more interesting people. While it was crowded, I was intrigued by the low prices and immense selection of homemade Christmas gifts!

8) Traditional Danish Christmas Dinner

If you thought I was all Christmas-ed out, you were wrong! Yesterday, Louise (my SRA and favorite Danish friend) slaved away in the kitchen to make our house a REAL DANISH CHRISTMAS DINNER! There was roast duck and pork (yummy pork skins, too, Dad), boiled potatoes, caramelized potatoes, cooked pickled purple cabbage, cold purple cabbage salad with oranges and pomegranate, Danish version of Waldorf salad, homemade pickles… so much food! I tried everything, but my favorite was the cold purple cabbage salad. We also drank Exotic Fanta, which everyone jokes should be attached to me in an IV because I absolutely love it! After the meal, we played the rice pudding game, which is actually more like torture. There was a HUGE bowl of Danish rice pudding in the middle of the table. Now, this dish is made with chopped almonds in it. The object of the game is to find the ONE WHOLE ALMOND in the pudding. Everyone has to eat the pudding until someone finds the almond. For each of the twelve people eating, that meant two full bowls of pudding if we were to get to the bottom of the bowl. AND WE ALMOST HAD TO, because MIA found the almond in the first five minutes AND HID IT UNDER HER TONGUE until everyone was literally falling off their chairs with fullness and taking shots of the pudding to try and make it go down easier. CRAZY DANES and their games. For her almond discovery, Mia won a pig made out of marzipan. Dumb prize, serves her right for making us so full!!

 

Other than that, I’ve been spending as much time as I can just talking to my friends and enjoying their company. I cannot express how much I have come to appreciate the people I have met here. We have seen each other through adjustment issues, mood swings, love problems, and all the other drama that inevitably happens within a semester. Although I never could have predicted it, I will come home with even more amazing people in my life. Somehow, I sincerely doubt that there is a luckier person on this planet than me. I’ve experienced so many different cultures, made new friends, and discovered a new home. I’m in love with Copenhagen. My journey is not over, it is just beginning.

Much love.

Visiting Family

As part of the cultural immersion experience, DIS has offered students various opportunities to join Danish sports teams, have an assigned København Universitet (Copenhagen University) buddy, or get a “visiting family.” Since I am so close with the family I have at home, I thought it would be best to get a visiting family here. This could be an opportunity to witness how Danish families are structured, and how they function as a unit and as individuals playing the roles of parents and children. I wanted to see how they work, eat, play, and relate to one another. Most of all, I just wanted something to remind me of the family I so dearly miss. Being in the college bubble at Villanova was one thing, because I could always go home. But here, sometimes it seems that between classes, bars, and DIS activities, we are constantly in a college bubble that encompasses all of Copenhagen–so I wanted a guaranteed bubble-popper if necessary. My visiting family was supposed to give me all those things, and more.

Since the beginning of the semester, I have met my visiting family (or members thereof) three times. They are amazing. Marie is the mother (age 34), Finn is the father (age 30?), Siri (age 4) and Vigga (just turned 2!) are the daughters. They live within one of the neighborhoods that are technically outside of, but actually a part of Copenhagen. It’s called Fredericksberg. When I rode my bike there for the first time, I got so lost that I ended up in Tivoli and had to ask two young-looking guys for directions (who of course turned out to be visiting German students, but luckily had a map). It took me 45 minutes to get there! Sad, since I had spent my run the previous day trying to locate the house on foot. Anyway, after my first night at Finn & Marie’s, I was able to make my way home on my bike in ten minutes!

Back to the actual people, though, I have learned so much from them already. On our first meeting, I discovered heir spacious apartment, filled with books (because Danes value intellect) and plants (to keep them from feeling seasonally depressed). My “sisters”, Siri and Vigga, both play with Legos, is interesting because Americans usually reserve the Legos for boys, but since Denmark is where Legos were invented, girls here like them, too. Siri and Vigga also do not speak English, because lessons don’t start until second or third grade here, so I am stuck going through Finn and Marie to translate. Nobody minds, though. When we played Go Fish with Siri’s animal cards, I was able to catch onto the animal names, the question “do you have ___,” and the word “Fisk!” which means “Go fish!” During that game, without the language barrier, we were able to bond. Then we tried counting the cards, but that was quite difficult for me because Danish requires a throaty kind of annunciation that my voice is not capable of. Regardless, I tried, and we all laughed! They are great fun to hang out with. In the end, I was there from 5 PM until almost 11! Finn and Marie and I talked about family histories, American culture, Danish culture, education… you name it. Valuable resources come from more than travel guides and DIS classrooms, it seems.

This past weekend, the family took me to the zoo! The Copenhagen Zoo is right by their house, so Finn and Marie told me that they bring the girls here often to burn some energy. On the cloudy, grey day that we went, it was not crowded, but I was surprised at how many other parents were there letting their children run around, too. It was almost like a playground, not a public park! In this way, the Danes are more lenient with their children. Marie was telling me that kids have to play, fight, and explore uninhibited by adults, or they will never grow up to be personally responsible for themselves and their actions. Such an interesting concept! Although I didn’t take many pictures, Vigga spontaneously climbed into a tunnel and I thought it was adorable.

In the zoo, they have a butterfly house! I found so many beautiful butterflies and the girls would point them out to me. They also have a hatching box with windows like we do at TLCC, and the girls and I were able to watch a butterfly hatching! It was so exciting for them, and me! The zoo also hangs fruit around for the butterflies to latch onto, which makes for some pretty great pictures.

 

Yesterday, Marie took a long lunch break and we walked around my neighborhood together. Since she works right down the street at the Politiken, we may make this a bi-weekly thing. I took her to the Mega Candy Store in the square, which I call The American Store because it has all these strange American junk foods (since Denmark has hardly any junk food, just candy). When I showed her around, she ended up buying Marshmallow Fluff, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, Snyders honey mustard pretzel nibs, and, of course, Goldfish. I was floored by the prospect of growing up without Goldfish, but Marie didn’t even comprehend what could possibly be so necessary about them. It made me think about the snack culture in America, which is actually much bigger than I originally noticed. So strange! By far the funniest part was when I showed Marie the Fluff, and had to email her a list of ways to eat it because she had no idea what to do with marshmallows in a jar. It was refreshing being able to share something “American” with a Dane, even if it was something I wouldn’t particularly care about at home.

At the end of the day, it seems that I have found a family unit that will suffice until I can return to mine. Marie lent me an extra blanket because it has been freezing in Mia’s house, since the heat was broken all weekend. My mom would love her for that. Finn drives his little Danish car to pick me up when it’s raining so I don’t get wet biking, just like my dad would. The siblings, albeit younger, remind me of Ben and Bitty. Even though I miss them, I know that when I go home, I will be even closer to all of them. For now, my visiting family is a great group of people I can count on!

My Precious Nuggets

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To rattle off my to-do list here would be pointless. Just imagine an absurd accumulation of sticky notes and the feeling of sinking and being unable to stay afloat. I know that the things I have to do will get done (I will find time during business hours to call the bank) but the minutes only seem to last for seconds and the time I have to spend with loved ones is running out!

Speaking of loved ones…

Today, all the parents at the daycare (TLCC, my place of employment) started asking when my last day would be. We are all used to this, as I have spent the last four years, including high school and college breaks, gaining the wisdom that can only come from taking care of children. To hear the parents’ disappointment that I would be leaving their children once more, and their excitement for me in my travels, means so much to me. Knowing that they have accepted me as a caretaker for their child is the most precious feeling in the world. I will miss them all so very much when I am away. When I come back, my nuggets (as I affectionately call my group) will have grown so much, as they are between five and nine months old right now. Brinleigh’s hesitance to crawl may have developed into a walk by the time I get back. Alfred, my most treasured little one, may actually be running in spite of our insistance that he stay contain-able for as long as possible. I have the pictures that we took during our many days of playtime and laughter. I only wish that I could freeze those moments and relive them periodically to remind me of how sweet they were.

Through DIS, I have acquired a Visiting Family, which may soften the sting of missing my nuggets. This family and I will bond over the semester as they show me Copenhagen and Danish culture. Happily, I heard from them today, and learned that they have two- and four-year old daughters! However, I have the highest of standards for how beautiful, affectionate, and absolutely astounding children can be. My only hope is that my Danish Visiting Family can add to my awe at the children I meet.

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