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Small Town Girl Taking on the World

"The world is a book and those who do not travel only read a page." – St. Augustine

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Rotary Youth Exchange

Coming Home

Jeg skriver fra Minnesota, ikke Danmark, og det er så mærkeligt. Der er amerikanske flags i stedet for dannebrogs. Nu jeg må sove med to hunde. Mennesker synes at det er ikke rigtigt når jeg siger “hva”.

On July 6th, I woke up. I ate a small breakfast with the Jørgensens, pet my host kitties for the last time, and said goodbye to them. My dear host brother Simon – who is so great that he actually volunteered to drive me to the airport without me asking – picked me up, and we had our last drive.

Out of all the goodbyes I had to do, saying goodbye to Simon was one of the least fun.  There are many people who have impacted me, but Simon was really a brother to me. There aren’t many people that can be really good at school, work out for a significant portion of each day, know how to relax, and be a genuinely caring person. Somehow, Simon managed to be all of those things. I could always go home and talk to him, and that is something that new dog can replace, and ever since I’ve been back I’ve missed him incredibly.

This particular day, Simon was a comforter of sorts. We talked on the way to the airport, as the car inched towards the place I had been dreading for eleven months. He stayed with me as I struggled to find the place I should go, calmed me when my suitcase was a tiny bit over, and stayed with me until it was time to go for security.

Then it was one last picture, one last long hug, and then it was time to cry in the security line.

After crying in the security line, it was time for actual security, then my last chance to have Lagekagehuset in Denmark. After waiting for a long time, I eventually got on my flight to Amsterdam.

I had just enough time so that I was very comfortable, but not waiting an excessive time, in Amsterdam. This first lead me to speaking a Chinese woman and her toddler son, who were waiting on a flight to Beijing. I heard her son speak Danish, and though he couldn’t speak English, we ended up having a good conversation in Danish. They had lived in Denmark for a couple years, and I didn’t really expect having that chance in Amsterdam.

The craziness continued when I ran into my old piano teacher. She was on the same flight back to Minnesota after being in Sweden, and she noticed me due to my very noticeable jacket. I was starting to feel like I was back in Minnesota already. The chance of us being on the same flight was pretty small, so I was quite surprised.

My jacket also was noticed by a girl returning home to Minnesota as well, from Germany. We automatically bonded over the crazy thing that we were doing.

It was the weirdest thing, getting on a plane for nine hours, and telling the flight attendants that you are going home from being gone for eleven months. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I got off the plane. Exchange puts you through a lot, but I don’t anything really can prepare you for stepping off the plane.

I made it through customs, and was greeted by two very happy parents. There was the happy reunion, the first dinner back, and getting to see my dogs for the first time. However, I would be lying if there is anything easy about being back.

It takes listening to just one song to bring me to tears. When I’m in my room, I feel like I’m trapped inside the room of the person I was before. I miss all of my Danish and exchange student friends that I met in Denmark. Something will happen, and I just want to go home and tell Simon, but I only have my dear dogs for siblings.

However, there are the beautiful moments. Our new dog, Princess, Frieda, does not compare to host siblings in anyway, but she is actually really a sweetheart that happens to be quite adorable and loves snuggling. Meeting people for the first time in eleven months, well, that’s quite the feeling. That will always bring a smile to my face.

There was the chance to talk to the new exchange students at the Central Rotary Student Youth Exchange Student Conference, and tell them all about the challenges they could face, but also the beautiful things. There was going back to the exact same pizza place I was at in Chicago last year, Pizza Due’s, and having the best deep dish pizza. I might insist on going to all the places I haven’t been, and I don’t know how people feel about that, but going to Zorbaz, La Barista, and Long Bridge is quite the feeling. I was be sitting in the coffee shop, and a woman (who presumably reads my columns) that I don’t know will tell me welcome back. When I went to church, there were so many people happy to see me and eager to hear about my experience.

It has been a challenge, but at this two week mark it’s starting to feel a little less painful. I may cry more than one should, be way too emotional, and feel a bit off most of time, but I’m getting there. I have way too many things to do in the time I have here to waste it. I have people that I need to see for the first time in eleven months, presentations to prepare, things to write, a room to paint, dogs to snuggle, and soon to start working. My plans for the future depend on something that I’ll hopefully find out soon, but I’ll keep you updated.

Til Bodil og resten af familie Jørgensen – tak fordi i havde mig, når jeg var syg, for min sidste uge. I betyder så meget til mig, og dit hjem vil altid følge som hjem til mig. Tak til Sara, fordi du vågnede tidlige op, til at se farvel. Du er en fantastisk værtsøster, jeg er så heldig for din støtte. Tak til Bodil, fordi du har gjort så meget for meget for mig, og været med mig gennem alt. Tak til familie Skødt, ved at i er en mega rar, klog familie. Johanne – jeg savner at have en lille søster, og jeg har ikke mødt nogen endu, som er dygtig som dig med geografi. Held og lykke i New York, Emilie, jeg er sikkert at du vil have et uforglemmelig år. Til Simon, det er bare ikke sammen, når jeg kommer hjem, og du er der ikke. Tusind tak for alt, og jeg glæder mig, til når jeg kommer tilbage, og spiser alle af din sild igen. Vi ses, forhåbentlig snart.

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En Sidste Måned

Nu er jeg tilbage i Minnesota, og selv om jeg er ikke glad om det, jeg tror at jeg vil klare det. I mellemtid skal jeg skrive om mit ophold, så værsgo venner –

Things got quite busy in my last month, and I was also quite emotional. However, I’ll do my best to sum up what I did in one post.

I went on Eurotour, and though I will primarily be writing about that in my newspaper column, I have a great video that my friend Emma from California made. We went to seven different countries – Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. I do believe that there were around forty-seven of us exchange students from Midtjylland and Sønderjylland on one bus. We were amazed by Vienna’s atmosphere, taken aback by the concentration camp in Terezín, amazed by the food in Italy, adventurous and roaming the streets and metro of Paris, and I was personally very happy to have my birthday in Amsterdam with my best friend. However, it is much better summed up in this video, so many thanks to Emma.

 

I’ll try to sum up about most everything that went on in the last month here –

 

 

 

My friend Kaitlyn decided to spontaneously visit me from Viborg! Thankfully, I didn’t have anything going on besides my Rotary presentation, and we were able to catch up. Kaitlyn met me last year at the CSRYE convention in Grand Rapids, and we both were amazed by our changes and stories. Kaitlyn might be one of the sweetest people I know, and I hope that our paths can cross again.

I gave my Rotary presentation to my club in Denmark, which went really well! It’s hard to sum up a year, but they were really happy to listen, and my Danish was significantly better than my first week presentation for them.

I visited my dear friends up in Ringkøbing – don’t ask me how two of my best exchange friends live up there – for several days. Well, I visited Tom, Jared, and Tom’s beautiful host kitties. I also got to meet Signe, the girl who will be living with my District Outbound Coordinator for four months next year in Minnesota. It was really hard to say goodbye to these guys, and I can’t wait to see them again.

 

 

 

Right after that, I had to hurry up and make some chocolate chip cookies for my class’s sommerfest. We grilled, went swimming in a cold lake, made snobrød (bread made over a campfire), and had lots of hygge. I unfortunately had to say goodbye to the majority of them there, and that was really hard.

Not long after, graduation week began. This was particularly exciting for me, as I have three host siblings that were in the third year. They all did quite well on their exams, and and had very nice parties. It was pretty great seeing what they experienced in their celebration week, and I was happy to spend more time with them and to get to know Simon’s incredibly sweet class when they visited us.

Tillykke til Simon, Sara, og Iben – I klarede det godt, og jeg er mega stolt af dig. Jeg har meget grund for at være en stolt udvekslingsstudent søster.

 

 

 

I also got the chance to go to Kløften, the local music festival in Haderslev. I got to spend my last time with some of my dear exchange student friends who I had to leave soon. We saw Nik og Jay, Djämes Braun, Carpark North, and the best and last, Rasmus Seebach.

That week, I also got to visit the beautiful island of Årø with Sarah H (Canada), Aneki (Finland), and Laurel (California). Honestly when I suggested that we go there, I had no idea what to expect, I just knew that it was nearby and that we hadn’t visited it. We went to a beautiful cafe, had skildpadder and cheese and crackers on a park bench, and took lots of great pictures.

 

 

 

The next week, my German friend Leo (my English teacher’s son) came up to visit me. I got the brilliant idea to meet up with my German friend Fabian in Aabenraa, which was nice, but they did get into a very intense discussion in German. The next day I took him to Koldinghus (a castle), and I had one last coffee session with my dear Sarah. I ended up saying farewell to her in Meny, our special spot, where I crying after.

As far as the rest, I did go down and visit Germany, but my visit was cut short when I came down with a bad fever. I got to experience the German health system, and picked up the essentials (Haribo + Ritter Sport) before heading back to beat my fever.

I had my farewell dinner with all of my host families on Monday, organized by Bodil. I was feeling mostly better, and it was all very hyggeligt, though sad to say goodbye.

On Tuesday, I headed to København to visit Siri one last time during my exchange. We went on a boat tour, saw Tivoli, ate at PapirØen two times (Moroccan, Italian, and Mexican), and walked a decent amount round København. I couldn’t have ended my exchange better.

I ate dinner with the Jørgensens on Wednesday night, strangely calm for the next day. However, that is a story for another blog, as well as how it’s been being back. I’ll write about that later.

Har det godt danske venner, jeg savner jer virkelig meget. I gav mig en fatastisk sidste måned, og jeg glæder mig, til når vi har mere måneder.

Tur til Købehavn, Verdens Holdet og Køer

Jeg har haft travlt efter påskeferie med at se gymnastik, en tur til København og at se køerne danse. Jeg lærte, at gymnastik og køer er en vigtig del af den danske kultur. Det var også så dejligt at se min yndlingsby og yndlings Detroit Lakes-dansker igen.

I thought that gymnastics was a pretty big thing in Detroit Lakes – and to be fair, it is, as they might be the reigning state champions of three consecutive years. I didn’t really think much about what it would be like in Denmark, but I have learned that gymnastics is a really deep part of a culture. It might just be the people I’ve met, but it seems like a lot of people go to gymnastics efterskoles, and can do flips and that sort of stuff.

I learned that this culture is best represented by Verdens Holdet, otherwise known as the Danish National Performance Team for the rest of the world. Every year, 32 amateur gymnasts are selected to be on it, all of who must be quite skilled and be a nice person to travel with. This group comes up with a spectacular hour and a half performance, which they then travel all around the world with. After this year, they come back to Denmark and travel around here to perform it. I was lucky enough I got the chance to go with my  host family to see them.

It’s safe to say that the performance was very impressive, and it was clear that they had put a lot of work into it. It was also easy to see that everyone out there performing was clearly enjoying it, which made it really fun to see! You can read more about it and see videos here: https://www.dgi.dk/ndpt/world-tour/show-2016-2017

If you read my blog, you might have gotten the impression that I really like Copenhagen (København). I got my first chance to visit København back in February when I visited Siri, my København dweller friend/former Detroit Lakes, MN exchange student.  I was therefore a bit more than happy when Marie, my host mother, said that we would have a little trip to København.

We took the train over to København H, and took our time to walk over to Nørreport. After going into a few stores, we made our way to Rundtårnet, or the round tower. This tower is connected to a church, and was built for the use of astronomy. The weather wasn’t too great, but I still managed to get a few good pictures.

The picture on the top left was taken in the bathroom, and I must say, I didn’t expect such a good view from that particular place.

We then took the bus to Søborg, where my host mother’s gymnasium friend lives. After we got to eat a bunch of delicious hummus, Siri arrived! It was so nice to see Siri again, and also get to know the very welcoming family. We talked for quite a long time, and it was very hyggeligt. It was sad to say goodbye to Siri, but it has only made me more excited for the next time I visit.

The next morning, we took all off into the middle of the city. I haven’t traveled as a family group for a long time, so it was a bit refreshing. They were kind enough to show us a bit around, starting with Vor Frelsers Kirke, known as Our Savior’s Church. It is known for its distinct spiraling steeple, which we unfortunately could not go up due to high winds. We could, however, look around the beautiful church and appreciate the calmness it emanated.

We then walked over into Christiania. To my American friends, you might have heard of Christiania because of Lukas Graham, who does come from there. Christiania is an area in København that is separated from the rest of Denmark, and it was very nice to see the artwork there.

Our next stop was  to Papirøen, København’s street food center. It was too crowded for all of us to find a place to eat, but I still took pictures to capture the craziness.

We continued into Nyhavn, the most recognizable place in Denmark. It was quite the search to find a place to eat, but we ended up at an adorable little coffee shop that wasn’t overpriced and had a table for seven. It was nice to sit down and talk for one last time before departing. Unfortunately after that, Marie, Johanne, and I had to depart and in time to make our train.

After three hours, we arrived back into the Vojens train station. The next day, we got to go on an adventure of another kind.

I’ve never head of anything like this in the US, but there is a special day that the cows are released into the fields after being kept inside the whole year. My host mother and my host sister Emilie drove a little ways to a nearby cow farm. It is there that we got to see some very happy cows run free, accompanied by a band with huge crowds watching them.

I thought that I could post this on my blog, but it turns out that my blog does not support videos. I have uploaded it on youtube instead: https://youtu.be/dzGWiwD1BuU

It’s only twenty one seconds, and the quality isn’t great, but it is much better than a picture for describing the craziness. My phone decided to stop recording right after the first cow made its appearance, so I must apologize for that.

What came the weekend after that was just as exciting, but that’s a story for the next blog. My life is certainly not slowing down until I get back to the US.

Galla var sidste weekend, og weekenden efter skal jeg tage til Tyskland. Jeg glæder mig rigtig meget til, hvad kommer efter det, hvilket er en Eurotour, som ikke ligger langt væk.

Påske Traditioner og Sommerhus Hygge

Nu jeg har oplevet påske i Danmark, og jeg må sige, at den er bare dejlig. Det var hyggeligt med min værtsfamilie på Rømø, hvor vi smagte solæg og marzipanæg og lærte, at det er en tradition at spise en hel masse af mad til påskefrokost. Men først skal jeg lige fortælle jer om påsken i Minnesota.

Recently I got to experience Easter in Denmark, which was a very different experience than Easter in Minnesota for me.

I have now come to realize that I probably don’t have the typical Easter traditions in the United States, but I still had some. When I was little, I would go to Easter Egg hunts with my parents. Easter egg hunts consist of a bunch of kids searching after hidden plastic eggs in a park, with the eggs typically containing chocolate or slips of paper that can lead to bigger prizes, such as stuffed animals. There also was the traditional Easter egg hunt with my home dyed eggs as well.

One big part of Easter for me – as well as a significant portion of Americans – is going to church. My family and I adore going to the Good Friday service, even though it is a very solemn service where everyone wears black. The Easter Sunday service is always packed, and sometimes overflowing to the point where there needs to be an extra room for people to watch on a screen in the church library. Before I could drive myself to the service, I can remember getting the privilege of going to all three services that the church held, due to my very musically involved parents. I love going to church, but I do remember thinking that three services in a row was a bit much.

There are some families that always have been with their relatives for holidays. My parents and I are in the middle of the US, separated from our families on both sides. We usually have our own sort of family thing at the church, but other than that it is just us. My dad and I have a special tradition of having a bike ride around Detroit Lakes (which is 10 miles/16 kilometers), which I am proud to say that he continued on for me this year. There is also an Easter Sunday Lunch/Dinner that has food such as ham, nothing out of the ordinary.

Påske in Denmark definitely goes down a bit differently. This year, I got to go down to my host family’s summer house on Rømø, an island to the west of Sønderjylland. I had had quite the packed schedule before this, so I was quite excited to just relax for a while.

Rømø is quite beautiful, and it was very peaceful being there. I wanted to take a bunch of pictures, but my phone was out of storage and I had three out of the four batteries needed to keep my camera going. I had to settle for taking a few at the end.

The biggest event of Påske in Danish culture,  though, is definitely the Påskefrokost (Easter Lunch). It reminded me a bit of the Julefrokost, though the food was  generally different. I was lucky enough that I got to be with most of the Skødt family, who had come over to my host family’s summer house.

The Påskefrokost starts out with solæg, which is pickled hard boiled egg served in a certain way. The pickled egg is cut in two, and the yolk separated, but put to the side. The egg space is then used to contain vinegar, oil, and some spices.

I wasn’t sure really what to expect, because I usually like eggs in any form, but the anticipation of seeing me try my egg from my host sisters Johanne and Emilie was a bit nerve wracking. When it came time to try my solæg, it actually wasn’t that bad. I probably did not produce the facial reaction that was anticipated.

After the solæg, lots of sild (pickled herring) came out. I have already tried sild two times, and it’s safe to say that it is not something that I wish to try again. I was very happy to have tuna mousse on my rugbrød instead of sild and onion.

I am not sure how much sild was eaten before dinner, but it was certainly a fair amount. I thought that it had been a lot of food, but I had no idea of what was yet to come.

For dinner, there was two types of potatoes, meat, and two types of salad. Everyone ate plenty of the food, which was very well prepared. This was also accompanied by the very Danish tradition of drinking påskebyrg (Easter brew) beer and schnapps. After that, we headed out on a walk, a tradition with this family. I thought that we were eating, but I soon learned that was wrong. Afterwards I got to have my first cheesecake in Denmark, which just like risalamande, was served with cherries. There was also a rhubarb chocolate tart type cake that was also very delicious. Approximately an hour and a half later, we all had soup.

In-between the walk and the cake, we also got to search for our Easter bags. Easter bags in Denmark usually contain some sort of chocolate treats. Ours were hidden in the yard area outside of the summer house, and I was relieved when the first one I found had my name on it. I must say, I was extremely excited over the discovery of marzipan chocolate eggs, and they do put malt chocolate eggs to shame.

My Easter this year consisted of a lot of hygge, getting to know a beautiful and kind family, going for walks on the beautiful Rømø, hunting for marzipan eggs in the yard, trying pickled eggs, and eating a massive amount of food. I might have only biked around three kilometers, but my Dansk Påske certainly did Easter justice for me.

Det har været en oplevelse her i Danmark, og glæder mig til, hvad der sker i de næste to måneder. Siden påske har jeg allerede set Verdensholdet i gymnastik, haft en lille tur til København, og set køer løber fri, efter de havde været indenfor hele vinteren. Jeg glæder mig meget til at fortælle om det i næste blog.

Påskeferie Fester og Haderslev Tur

Måske det er en smule sent, men god påske! Jeg har haft en dejlig ferie med masse af hygge og fester. Senere skal jeg skrive om påsken i Danmark, som er helt anderledes end i USA. Her får I et indblik i min påskeferie, dog uden en fortælling om de danske påsketraditioner.

One thing I have come to notice is that Danes sure have a lot of vacation. I was surprised when we has a whole week for fall break. It was nice getting a really long Christmas/New Years break. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t surprised when we had yet another break in February. These series of week long breaks was finished with a week long break for Easter, known as Påske in Danish.

My class happened to be free after Thursday, so that meant that we had the entire Friday free. This turned out to be very good timing, because I got to meet up with a friend that I hadn’t seen in a long time.

Three years ago, I wanted to be an exchange student, but had no idea how. When we were hosting Saskia from Germany, she got the opportunity to go on a trip to Washington D.C. and New York City, and I had the chance to go with. On that trip I met lots of exchange students, but the only one I consistently stayed in contact with just happened to be Joane, who coincidentally lives in Northern Germany. She also happened to be going to a summer house on the same island – Rømø – that my host family was going to next week, and she and her mother decided to make the drive over from Rømø and visit Haderslev.

We soon realized that it was a bit interesting communication. I could speak Danish and English, Joane was fluent in English and German, and her mother spoke German. Since we had their beautiful young labrador retriever with, we actually ran into some Danes who wanted to say hello. When I talked with Danes, I would tell Joane what I said, who would tell her mother. Joane constantly translated to her mother what I said.

Our first stop was at Damparken, and after making a pit stop at the library to pick up some German brochures, we made our way to the Cathedral that Haderslev is known for,  and around old Haderslev a bit. Afterwards, it was time for a coffee shop break, so we headed over to Cafe Kridt. We feasted on all the classics there – Nachos, coffee, hot chocolate, and french fries – but the real adventure was in seeing how good the gluten free cake was. My Danish came in handy for a little bit when a young boy asked the gender of their adorable dog. It was so cool how we could communicate with ourselves and with Danes that only spoke Danish, despite my lack of German.

We walked up to and visited Kløften tower, and then headed over to Haderslev Katedralskole. My school is a decent school, and they were impressed with the quality. However, the best part of the school tour ended up being the bathrooms. At Haka, the bathroom doors have paintings on them, and the graffiti kind of took off from there. It’s so creative that our school magazine actually has a section about it, and in a strange way it does set our school apart from other schools in Denmark for the bathroom art department.

That night I headed over to my classmate Mette’s birthday party, and had a really hyggeligt time with my fellow classmates. It was a very traditional Danish birthday party and it was quite nice spending time with my classmates outside of school.

I also got to meet up with some fellow exchange students in Vejle up with my friend Grace from Colorado. I got to see the same people I saw at Legoland, plus a few more, most of who will be on the same bus for Eurotour.

After figuring out how to get home – there was a confusing bus stop situation and an adventure finding a bathroom in Kolding – I arrived in Haderslev with minimal confusion and proud of my ability to navigate the local transportation system. I met up with my friend Sarah L for dinner, which was really nice because I haven’t had as much time with her as I would like. We talked for hours, first over food, and then adventuring up to the library to finish our conversation.

The next day, I headed over the rowing club to go to my German friend Benni’s fødselsdag (birthday) party. Benni and I have read children’s books together before, and I might have mentioned his dogs multiple times on this blog. I was really looking forward to his party, and I sure wasn’t disappointed. At this German immigrant’s birthday party, there was the most amazing Italian food and very good American swing music. It was an incredibly hyggeligt party with many wonderful people, and waking up in the morning to Benni’s dogs wasn’t too bad either.

I took the bus over to Rømø, where I would experience hygge and a Danish Påske (Easter) with my host family. However, this blog has bas gotten fairly long, so that will be covered in the next post.

Jeg har haft det travlt på det seneste, og det er ikke en slem ting. Men det betyder, at jeg er glad for at slappe af lige nu. Mange flere ting kommer til at ske i den kommende tid. Jeg vil nyde resten af tiden, som jeg har med min klasse, fordi timeglasset er ved at løbe ud.

Legoland og Vestjylland

Det var ikke så længe siden, at Jared spurgte mig, hvis om jeg ville at tage med til Legoland – med ham og andre udvekslingstudenter. Jeg havde alligevel planlagt at besøge ham, så det var nemt at sige ja. Jeg vidste ikke, hvad weekenden ellers ville bringe, men jeg blev ikke skuffet.

Soon, I will have two posts about what I did about Easter break. However, April had a lot going on before it began, with a weekend visiting Legoland and Jared (Canada) up in Vestjylland.

I have been to Legoland one time before this weekend with some friends, and it was really fun before. However, when Jared asked me if I wanted to go again for half price, I sure did not object. April 1st was opening day for Legoland in Billund, Denmark, and me and some other exchange students decided to meet up, the others for their first time.

Our group included me, a fellow Minnesotan named Liam, Chuckie from Philidelphia (also resident of Billund), Grace from Colorado, and Jared as the sole Canadian, coming from Calgary. Our first task together was making sure that everyone had their tickets, and after a wait, we were inside.

Now, I have already written about Legoland, which in a few words can be described as a place overflowing with masses of intricate lego structures. There is an area dedicated to all things polar, another to Vikings, one to North America and Native Americans, one to firefighting, one to the whole Ninja/Asia culture, and more. We got to witness Jared and Chuckie’s great love (or fear?) of roller coasters in the Polar ride, and our competitiveness was brought out in the firefighting competition, where Chuckie, Jared, and I took a modest second place to Grace and Liam. I excitedly took them on the Viking raft ride, where we didn’t actually get wet, but the fear of getting wet provided great entertainment. We cringed at the Native American theme, but marveled at the intricate details the canoe ride provided. Jared mentioned that it was just as bad for the Ninja section, which we enjoyed while critiquing.

Afterwards, we headed into Billund for a little tour by Chuckie, and got to experience the great pizza and hyggeligt little park. Our time together was very nice, though it was sad to depart. Tired but happy, Jared and I traveled to his home in Barde, a little town in-between Herning and Ringkøbing.

Going to Jared’s house was in a way a bit like visiting rural Minnesota, as his house is out the sticks and on a farm. It was refreshing having dogs in the house and being out in the country.  I got to know Jared’s family, which include three host brothers, and it turns out that that wasn’t too different from my experience with my second host family. Frederik was an exchange student in Thailand last year, Christian is going to Brazil next year, and Johannes is enjoying being a thirteen year old.

The next day the whole family and I went down to the Søby Brunkulsmuseum. In the 1940’s, a lignite mining place opened in Søby. It was a very dangerous place to work, but that brought along a unique culture. I haven’t been to a whole lot of museums in Denmark, but this one really cool to see, as it reminded me a bit of the logging culture that started Frazee.

(I don’t know how visible it is, but if you click on the middle top picture, you can see Johannes’s face as excitedly enjoys the feeling of running over Jared.)

Soon after, Jared, Frederik, Christian, and I headed to the Herning Svømmehal. I have been to one other svømmehal in Denmark, and that has been in Vojens. I was in a for a  treat, as the Herning Svømmehal is nothing short of spectacular.

There is a special area for those who wish to do flips and gymnastics tricks. This is great for Frederik and Christian, as they are very good at gymnastics. Jared isn’t that bad either. I soon became very aware that I might have not gotten over my fear of doing flips and things like that, and though I could not in any way keep up with the boys, it was still a lot of fun.

We also got to experience this room that was like a sauna, but full of steam. I was happy to watch on – but not participate with – the boys blowing hot air on each other. There was also a special place for having hot water feet baths, which was also new to me. It was a lot of fun getting to know Frederik and Christian while spending time with Jared and getting to see a Dansk Svømmehal.

After a really good dinner, I did have to head back to Vojens. I was quite tired, but a part of me knew that the craze of events had just started. I was correct, but that’s a tale for another blog.

Efter jeg ankom til Vojens, fandt jeg hurtigt ud af, at min cykel var væk. Jeg ved nu godt, at man aldrig lader ens cykel overnatte på Vojens Busstation. Det er en anden historie, og jeg har det fint nu. Mine eventyrer i påskeferien var en succes – uden cykelproblemer. Dem hører I om i min næste blog.

 

Dansk og Vinterbåd

Det er ikke så lang tid til, før jeg bliver tager afsted, desværre. Imidlertid har jeg den bedste del af min udveksling tilbage, fordi jeg nu kan sige det meste af, hvad jeg har lyst at sige på dansk.

Soon, it will only be three months I have left in Denmark. That means I have spent eight months here. I guess you could say that my Danish has gotten a lot better.

I now have a much greater ability to understand Danish, and can almost always understand what’s going on. Sometimes I need a bit of help with some words, but there isn’t a language barrier. My work that I put into learning Danish before I came here is paying off.

I now speak nearly all Danish with my Danish friends. Unless it is something that I have trouble even explaining in English, it is all Danish with my host family. I have surprised myself and found out that I can actually talk about politics with Simon (host brother), though the credit should really go to Simon for being very patient and helping me out a lot. Johanne and I don’t have a problem communicating in Danish, though it is quite fun for all of us when she demonstrates to us the English that she does know.

One of the things I have been doing is reading books. I started with books that were a bit easier, but I surprised myself when I checked out a book for 10-13 year old girls and could understand almost everything, and going pages without having to use the dictionary. Of course it does help to use the dictionary, but it is truly amazing thinking about how far I have come since I first came here. Going from two year old reading level to ten year old level within a time period of seven months is a really special experience.

Of course, my Danish is still far from perfect, and that does lead to some entertaining moments. My second day with the Skødts, I asked Simon if he was feeling better, but it sounded a lot like I was asking him to pass me the beets, which were in equal distance of both of us. This is the difference of “Følger du bedre?” (Are you feeling better?) and “Må jeg beder dig for rødbede?” (Can you please pass the red beets?). When we were cleaning up after dinner in the summer house, I asked Torben (host dad) if I should take the rug off the table, when I meant to say tablecloth. There have also been times when I have started speaking Danish or English without thinking which language I am speaking.

Other than speaking a lot of Danish and reading, I have been up to some other stuff.

On Saturday, I got to take my first vinterbåd (winter bath). I’ve already done the Polar Plunge in the United States under extremely cold conditions, so I guess you could say that I have already become a isbjørn (polar bear). However, I hadn’t become a viking yet, so it was time to strip down to the ridiculous swimsuit I used for the polar plunge again and take my vinterbåd.

I had been looking for a chance to take the vinterbåd, and it ended up working out really well when Sarah (Canadian best friend) raised enough money to send a girl in need to school, and was obligated to fulfill her promise of taking a vinterbåd if she raised enough money. Most of her host family and I headed down to the beach together after a dejlig morning brunch.

I confess that I wasn’t too scared after having survived the Polar Plunge. I can’t say the same for Sarah, but that didn’t stop her when we arrived at the beach. She went right in, and soon was joined by her little host brother Emil and her host father Allan.

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I knew that I had to go in not long after. I got the towels set up for afterwards, and ran into the chilly Danish lake.

It was quite cold, but did not really have anything on the Polar Plunge. It took a minute to wipe off, and then I was perfectly content to stand around the beach and laugh a lot with Sarah.

The vinterbåd may not have much of a reason to be feared, but it was still an experience to be had. We concluded that it is actually pretty hyggeligt to do together, and though it’s said to make you healthier, it also just might make you happier.

Besides taking a vinterbåd, I’ve been up to some other stuff as well. I have a fair amount of energy that I am starting to take out at the gym. It feels really good to be going to fitness again, despite getting to bike five kilometers to get home afterwards (it’s not hard to bike, it’s just not the most enjoyable after doing a leg workout and have used up all of your energy).

I’ve also seen a lot of Emilie and Johanne’s gymnastic/dance performances. This weekend was the final performance, and it is safe to say that I am a proud exchange student sister. Here, the performances have many parts, and I am sure that they must put a lot of work into them.

There has been a fair amount of hygge as well, with plenty of tea and sometimes, as I experienced last week, really delicious Minnesota shaped scones. This is how I will finish my blog, but there should be more coming soon.

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Nu tænker jeg på, når jeg skal flyve tilbage, som jeg ikke glæder mig til. Indtil det tidspunkt skal jeg forsætte med at spise en masse mad, løbe udenfor, når det ikke er dårligt vejr, og få mere hjælp med dansk. Glæder mig til tid med min værtsfamilie, mine venner og Europatur. De gode ting er lige om hjørnet.

Flytningen til Skødts

Hejsa venner! Jeg er tilbage, men hos en ny værtsfamilie. Jeg er stadig i Vojens, en by af knallerter, ishockey, og kunstnerisk skimmel i togstationen. Faktisk jer er rigtig glad at være her, og alle af min værtsfamilier er meget sød og hjælpsomme, og det er nogle vigtig ting ligesom en togstation og en bibliotek (Haderslev har ikke en togstation). Det er næsten min sidste flytingen i Danmark; ikke min sidste fordi jeg skal tilbage til min første værtsfamilie min sidste uge i Danmark (Skødts skal rejse til Island).

Exchange unfortunately does fly by really fast, and I have now moved in with my last host family. I’m still in Vojens, a small town outside of Haderslev. I have just now live a bit more further out in Vojens, closer to my first host family. I am now with the Skødts, who include my host mother Marie, host father Torben, Simon (18, Haka), Emilie (15, efterskole and exchange student to US next year), and Johanne (12, middle school).

I moved from the Birk Jensens, my second host family. It’s been quite the experience being an only child and living with quadruplets, and older brother, and four daycare kids. There, I learned (or at least attempted to learn) the language of how so many siblings communicate with each other. I have learned so much with them – from more Danish to making food to learning how to live in a big family – and I am very grateful for their help with it. Mange tak til Anne-Mette, Henning, Iben, Søren, Jesper, Lars, and Morten for a chance to live  with you all. I never thought that I would live with quadruplets – or witness someone eat soy sauce with chicken wild rice soup – but now I have done both, and it’s been an amazing experience. IMG_2970

Featured: Søren, Lars, Me, Jesper, Iben

I had a wonderful goodbye dinner with them on Thursday the 9th, and on Friday a hyggeligt afternoon. The weather was actually good for once, and I headed over to the Skødts. I was welcomed in, and before we knew it I was off to my first gymnastics meet.

We got to watch Emilie’s Efterskole perform their routine, which was very impressive. I also learned that “gymnastik” in Danish typically means both dance and gymnastics. That night we saw everything from intense tumbling to slower dancing. Emilie’s efterskole’s performance was really good, and was fun to see gymnastik in Denmark for the first time!

Since then, I’ve adjusted to going from living with five siblings/four daycare kids to two host siblings that are regularly in the house (though I do see Emilie on the weekends). The Skødts love politics, going to watch Johanne and Emilie perform gymnastik, and trying new food.

Moving to a new host family is always exhausting. It takes energy to adapt to another lifestyle of living. However, it hasn’t been too bad, because there is lots of delicious food here to help with my increased appetite. I have been more tired than usual, but this transition has not been to hard. It was a bit sad saying goodbye to the Birk Jensens, but it’s not too hard considering they are a bike ride away – I even got to stop by this Thursday to greet Anne-Mette on her birthday. I’m closer to my first host family, which will probably result in some highly important host kitty visits.

There’s been a decent amount of events that have happened since I have moved. Here is what else has been going on:

On Wednesday,  I couldn’t bike, but instead was driven into Haderslev and got to go on a little walk to school. It was extremely pretty.

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The reason why I had to be driven to school was because I could not take the bike to the bus station, because I had a Rotary District meeting in Odense that I would get back very late from.

This was the meeting where we would meet our new inbounds from Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. It was a very hyggeligt night, where we made dinner within small groups and have some time before and after to talk. Our dinner consisted of a whole chicken, boiled potatoes, granny salad, root vegetable crisps, cucumber salad, and for dessert the infamous rødgrød med fløde (red berries with creme). I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of the rødgrød med fløde, but here is the main meal we made.

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It was a very nice evening, and I am hoping to see more of my exchange student friends soon, and I really am looking forward to Eurotour with them.

I got to make dinner again the next day, but this time it was for my host family. For my first madlavning aften (food making night) with the Skødts, I made American style burritos. I used lots of spices, and was grateful to learn that they really like to try new foods that have a lot of flavor.

This weekend I got to travel down to Rømø – a little island on the west coast of Denmark – to the Skødt’s sommerhus, after watching Johanne perform at gymnastics and meeting Marie’s parents over saft, chokolade, and kiks.

 

Marie, Torben, Johanne and I had a very hyggeligt evening, complete with a great movie and apparent monster under my bed as a new person (as Johanne explained to me).

It hasn’t been too bad moving at all, and I am looking forward to the adventures that I have coming up.

Tak til alle af mine værtsfamilier; jeg er så taknemlig for jer. Til Skødts, glæder mig til den næste tre og halv måned vi har sammen. Jeg lover at I skal høre meget mere interessent dansk, og måske ser mere med monsteret. 😉

Blåvand Eventyr

Hejsa allesamen, det er nu senere i mit udveksling år, og jeg har kun en værtsfamilie tilbage. Det er ok, fordi jeg har haft en fantastisk sy måned her, med mange eventyrer ligesom den en jeg havde i Blåvand.

It’s been a while since Sarah (Canada), Jared and I heard that we would be going to Blåvand for a weekend with Bodil, my first host mother. We were quite excited, but we didn’t know what this weekend held for us.

Our first adventure was in picking Jared up at the train station. We met him at the Varde train station, but he wasn’t there. We soon learned that the little town of Varde has not one, two, but three train stations. Jared had gotten off at Varde Nord, which we thankfully found.

We had a very nice evening; talking a lot and probably eating way too many licorice vingummi. Next morning, we got up and it was simply stunning outside. Soon we got outside to go on a walk in the beautiful sand dunes.

One of the features of this area is that it has a lot of World War 2 Bunkers. It’s actually really fun to go around and explore them, and there is a lot of history with it.

We had the great idea to up to the top of the WW2 bunker. The view was great up there, and we got a great picture on top of the massive block of cement. However, the next level to jump down was cement, which turned out to be just fine for Jared and Sarah. I was a bit freaked out of the cement – I have no problem with jumping off eighteen foot/six meter cliffs into water, but after seeing Sarah scrape her fingers and thinking about the cement, I wasn’t in a great jumping condition. I tend to just do things like that, so I did it, but I didn’t land well.

I tried to walk it off, but I just couldn’t. I got dizzy, and though it’s a bit embarrassing to admit, it was necessary for the dearest people in my Danish life to carry me through hills of Blåvand. We got back soon, and determined that I would be just fine, I just would be a bit limited in my motion. I was lucky to be with people that were willing to put up with that.

Sadly for us, Jared had to head back up north for an event the next day. On the way back, we stopped to see the horses. I’m sure that Sarah would have been really happy if they were actual horses, but these war bunker horses were still work the stop.

The next day, Sarah went on quite the run and brought lots of treasures back with her. By treasures, I mean dead things that I promptly told her to take out of the house, not dissect and save them like she actually did. We relaxed that afternoon, hyggede os, and had a relaxing evening watching the contest for Eurovision and a movie about a trip around Europe. It’s safe to say that Sarah and I are very close, especially after she has put up with me for an entire long weekend which I was injured for.

I was a bit more motionally functional on Sunday, and together we walked around Blåvand, maybe eating crepes (danske pandekager) with ice cream. We had a very nice ending, but eventually had to go home.

As far as other stuff I’ve been doing, there’s been a fair amount.

I’ve made chocolate chip cookies with Yuna (Japan), and had dinner and masse af hygge as well! Yuna is really fun, and we made the perfect American chocolate chip cookies. The next day, I brought them for my class at lunch, and watched them quickly disappear. I was surprised that my classmates appreciated my preference for chewy cookies, since Danish cookies are typically not chewy. They liked them so much that I hoping to have an American food night, because half a batch of cookies is not enough.

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I went the monthly Sønderjysk KFS (Christian Youth Organization) meet up, which happened to be in Haderslev this month. It’s a lot of fun for me; the people here are really kind and it’s quite interesting to see how Christian youth are involved in Denmark. Denmark as a whole is not a religious country, so I feel very lucky to actually know a few people who go to KFS at the school.

I’ve moving from the Birk Jensens to the Skødts tomorrow, and I have been taking the proper food preparations. I made chicken wild rice soup not long ago, which went well despite Søren putting soy sauce in his portion. This last Sunday I made American pancakes, and that certainly was a success, as no one put ketchup or soy sauce on them and they were well liked! I had my last food making night on Monday, and made a hot dish (casserole for the rest of the US).

I’ve been packing the entire week, and though it is sad that this is my last family, I am excited to spend the last part of my exchange with the Skødts.

My house with the Birk Jensens – the sunset at Damparken the night of KFS – Sarah appreciating a goose in Damparken – my hot dish

Fire måned tilbage, og glæder mig til det hele. Jeg nu kan snakke så meget mere dansk, og det er rigtig sjov. Det er sjov at forstå hvad mans klassekammerater siger. Glæder mig at sige min dansk når jeg er færdig med mit udveksling. Og til min næste værtsfamilie, hvis I læser det, glæder mig meget til at flytte til jeres hus i morgen. I har bare været sød til mig, og jeg er spændt for min ny oplevelse med jer.

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