Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Is Near

Anything for a picture.

I had had a couple of mysterious calls come in during the day on Dec. 3 but I didn't know the number and I could not catch it in time as I was in class.  When I came home later on and was in the middle of doing my homework, my cell phone rang again.  This time I caught it.  It was a person from Haderslev Ugeavisen (Haderslev weekly newspaper).  He asked me about some photos that I had sent in to see if they wanted them for the newspaper.  Then he went on to ask me many many questions about who I was and what I was doing here in Haderslev.  At the end he told me that he was going to write an article about me for the paper which will show up on the 19th or 26th of December.  Holy cow.

I made it up there for my photo!

I have joined our little college choir.  The first practice that I went to was so wonderful.  I walked home on cloud 9.  It was such a wonderful feeling to be back doing something that I loved so much.  I hadn't even realized how much I had missed it.  Then last Thursday we had a little Christmas concert at school.  We sang four songs and it was amazing to be back on stage performing for others.  The folks who put together the decorations for it were just wonderful.  They had put up Christmas lights everywhere and boughs of Nordman fir all over.  There were tables dressed in red tablecloths with a candle and more boughs on them.  They were selling cakes, beer, and tea.

Our International group had a Christmas dinner together.  We all brought a piece of the meal.  I had no idea what was served for a Christmas dinner here.  It is called a julefrokost.  So our organizers made a list of food and we all chose something to bring.  I brought something called leverpostej with bacon and mushrooms.  I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it though and had to ask.  It turns out the you fry the bacon slivers and then cook the mushrooms in the grease left over.  Then when it is served you spread the warmed up leverpostej on bread and top it with the cooked mushrooms and bacon.  Oh my goodness but it was amazing.  I think even those of you that don't like liver, which is the base for leverpostej, would have like this.

salmon, dip sauce (honey mustard, dill sauce) 
shrimp and mayo
karrysild (herring with curry salad) 
eggs (eggcake and hard-boilded eggs)
dark bread and white bread
leverpostej, which is a liver spread (with roasted champignon and bacon)
red cabbage in jars
baked root vegetables (rodfrugter)
cheese plate with grapes and pepper (three different cheeses)
ris a l'amande with cherry sauce 

That was an amazing meal and a huge thanks goes out to the organizers.

I have been watching a number of different Christmas shows.  One is called Julestjerner which means Christmas star or poinsettia.  It is the story of a family that loses their home in town and find out they have a place that they have inherited in the country.  All sorts of strange things happen to them there including things that happen due to Christmas elves called nissemænd.  There is another one called Jule i Kommenen which is more adult oriented.  The mayor is a little nuts and not very mayor like thus causing all sorts of difficulties.  Then there is Jul i Valhal which tells the story of two children who find the ancient Norse god Loke tied up in a cave.  He finds a way to get them to untie him.  He is the trickster god, among other things, so trouble starts and the kids end up going to Valhal in order to find a way to fix what they have done.  Sadly, I don't understand all the words so I am sure that I miss a lot that is going on but it gets a little easier everyday.

Christmas decorations at my school UCSyd Haderslev. 

Christmas is such a huge thing here and it goes on all month long in different ways.  We also had a little Christmas gathering with our class where we brought a candle, treats and a 10 kr. present with us.  We sang a couple of Christmas songs and then we played a game with the presents.  We had to throw a dice and whoever got a six would get to chose a present.  Then when there were no more presents in the middle, you would take one from someone else.  At some points people had nothing while others they had many.  This was a little uncomfortable for those of us who were Internationals as we didn't know what was going to happen at the end.  It could end up with one or a few people having all the presents and then others having none.  That didn't seem very friendly.

It turned out that people who had more than one gave the extras away to those who had none.  That also caused a little difficulty because there were those who felt embarrassed to accept one as their culture had taught them that that was like accepting charity.  I think that it might have helped if we had understood the rules of the ending at first although, I had spoken to someone from one of those cultures and they said that it would still be difficult to accept.  It was that strongly engrained in them.

We have had a couple of parties that are also sad as we have two of our International fellow class members make the decision that this isn't right for them.  So they have gone home.  We will miss them.

Cooking dinner.

Enjoying a hyggelig dinner.

Candles make things hyggelig.

An interesting game building towers until they fell.

It has snowed a few times over the past few weeks and we have built up a pretty decent amount of snow.  As of right now, it is in the process of melting as the temperatures have gone back above zero.  Sadness.  Today has been quite foggy and surrealistic due to the melting snow causing a lot of moisture to be in the air.  A few nights ago it was bitter cold with raging winds and snow falling that was more like mini ice pellets than snow.  I love all of it.

On the way to school in the morning.
Snow on the cafe tables in Torvet Square.
Snow melting and falling off of my roof.

A realistic look at the fog today here in Haderslev.

Coming home and covered in snow.

The nissemand or kvinde struck again at our apartments this morning.  I went outside awhile after I got up to find that there was a Christmas stocking for me at my door.  It brought tears to my eyes.

My stocking from the nissemand.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Officially Christmas time in Denmark

Have you ever had pálinka?  I hadn't until this week.  It was homemade too.  If you want an alcohol with a horse kick, this stuff has it in spades.  I was introduced to it along with homemade hungarian cabbage and meatballs made by grandma.  It was incredibly delicious.  Being a part of the International community, one certainly gets to have a plethora of experiences and I am happy for that.

I guess that it was a week for firsts as I witnessed my first ever epileptic fit too.  While taking a smoke break out on the balcony at language school, I noticed that a man was looking rather odd.  I had been about to go in but I turned around in a heart beat and went over to see if I could help.  As I was going over, he started to look more and more off and it seemed like he was collapsing into a guy who was standing just behind him.  As I arrived, he started to seize and I and the other guy carefully lowered him to the ground.  He was so unbelievable rigid.  As we took him down, my leg ended up being trapped between his legs and I could feel the force of the seizure through my leg.  I managed to extricate myself and continued to stay with the guy.

Someone else came over and was trying to put a cup of water to his mouth.  I forceful said no and pushed the glass away.  Obviously they didn't realize that he couldn't drink and it could even cause a problem.  Then he started frothing at the mouth and I gestured to those around me to turn him on his side so that he wouldn't take it into his lungs.  I don't know how long this went on but it felt like it was a long seizure.   There was a point when I could see his eyes roll up in his head as he went out.  Finally, you could see him slowly start to come back to us but he was just not really with us at all.  He didn't know where he was for a while.  At this point, some of the employees of the school came out as well as the head master and I felt that it was appropriate to leave as they seemed to understand the situation.  I think that it was a little while before I calmed down.

My group wrote our first official assignment this week and it was quite an experience.  Three out of four of us had never had to try to do a written assignment as a group.  It was very frustrating at times but we did get it done and turned it in.  I have no idea whether or not it will be considered okay or not though.  There needs to be training for people that have no experience in it.  And I would even say that it would be important for people who are used to doing it but can't put into words how it works or why.  I also think that there are types of assignments that it is good for and types that it isn't so good for but I haven't enough experience with it to specify what exactly.

We had an assignment this week in Danish class to go out into the community and ask questions and get information on certain places to make a report for the class.  It was a lot of fun.  My group went to the Activity House here in Haderslev.  What an amazing place it was.  There are two floors of workrooms.  One is for metal work and  woodwork and the other is for glasswork and sewing crafts.  There is one official person there to help you and some volunteers.  You pay only 20 kr. for a day plus you pay for any materials that you use.  It is like a candy store when you walk in with all the equipment that you could ever imagine having a need for.  I hope to be able to use this one of these days.
This is the link to their website.
Activity House Haderslev
Picture from Aktivitetshuset webpage. Sewing room.

Picture from Aktivitetshuset webpage.  Metal shop.

The same people that shared their pálinka with me earlier in the week, had me over again on Friday to share in a feast.  It was the naming day for two people.  We don't have this back in America or Canada but I also heard about in when living in France.  It is the day that matches the Saint who also has your name.  We had deer meat that had been brought over from Hungary and cooked into an amazing dinner.  The meat and sauce was served over a cooked potato that was cut up.  It had Juniper berries in the sauce too.  I have not had venison for years and thoroughly enjoyed getting a chance to eat it again.

On Saturday, we went to a second hand market that they have once a month.  It is actually quite close to where I live so it was easy to get to.  They had anything that you could possibly want there.  I bought a book from 1899.  It is a book of the plays of an author called Ludwig Holberg.  I had no idea who that was but my roommate told me that he is actually quite well-known and an important literary figure here.  It took me hours to try to read just the very beginning of it.  It wasn't just that it was a foreign language and that it was an old form of it, but also that the typography was even more unfamiliar to me than just simply that the s was the long version.  You would never imagine what the k looks like.  I had to spend a long time on the internet trying to find the typography so that I could interpret it.  But I found it.

Ludwig Holberg Comædier 1899

Ludwig Holberg Comædier 1899

Gothic Alphabet from 1890 in Denmark

Apparently, we have an official nissemand (elf) here.  On Friday, when we got up in the morning, someone had come by and put some Christmas decorations on four of our apartment doors.  It was the sweetest thing ever.  We have had such fun trying to figure out who it might have been and the mystery of it is quite entrancing.

Christmas decorations left by a mystery nisse. 

Dec. 1 was also the official day for the Danes to put up their Christmas decoration and start the month long festivities.  At the second hand market, I found two classic style nisse to put in my window and I got a Santa hat as well.  I only spent 25 kr. for the book, two elves and hat.  Awesome.

Classic Danish Christmas decorations

This is also when the "Julekalender" starts on TV.  Apparently, this is a tradition and every year whatever happens the day before on the 15 minute program becomes the water cooler conversation for the next day.  I have seen a few of them from the previous years on youtube but I don't get the channel that they are on so that I can watch them each day and be a part of the Danish culture of the season.  Oh well.  Maybe next year.

An example of the Julekalendar shows.

Today, was a free day at the Archeology museum here in town and they had all sorts of fun activities for the kids as well.  They had a game where the kids had to seek out the clues left by the nisse all around the museum.  You would find little tiny elf footprints all over the museum leading to something for the game.  They had singers and glogg.  They had Santa and the night watchmen.  The building was quite impressive especially considering the small size of the town that we are in.  There are a number of medieval buildings dotted around the space with original materials in them set up as they would have been back then.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Arkeologi Museet i Haderslev.

Holiday cheer

Little girl gets to pick a candy from Santa's sack. 

They look so amazed.

A little glogg and some æbleskiver.

Haderslev night watchmen (vægteren)

Oh yeah.  It snowed too!.  It snowed on Dec. 1 in the evening and we all ran out to see it.  Then a bunch of the crowd up here ended up in a snowball fight and sliding.  One of them had never been in the land of snow in her whole life and it was just like watching a kid's first experience with the stuff.  So much fun to see!  It was coming down in those huge fat snowflakes that cover the ground with great haste.  Today, when I got up the snow was still there and plus more that had fallen during the night.  We walked down to the museum in a beautiful white wonderland.  I have missed snow so much.

It is just starting to come down and everyone is so excited.

Me and the snow!

Games in the snow.

What I saw the next morning.

Walking to the museum.  Gorgeous.

Still walking to the museum.  Still gorgeous.

And the sun goes down on a great day!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Teaching Practice and Cold Weather

We had our first week of practice in the schools.  It was a week for observation primarily.  In so many ways, it is just the same but in many others it is so different.  The schools are obviously much smaller than where I taught in Los Angeles.  Instead of having almost 2,000 students we have 600.  That makes a world of difference.  When it is time to change periods, the students stay in their classroom and the teachers do the moving.  There are some good points to this.  It makes the hallways far less crowded and safer.  It also encourages ownership in their classroom so that they have less incentive to destroy things.  The negative for me is that I don't get to have a space that I can decorate.  That has always been a dream of mine.  I know.  Strange dream.  But I would love to be able to create a teaching space that oozes color and pictures and information as well as the concept of "hyggelig" which is a Danish word that means something close to cosy, but not exactly.

I have to go 5 kilometers to school.  That is 3 miles to you Americans out there.  I was using my bike. Half of the trip is not too bad as it is downhill but then the other half goes up the other side and therefore not quite so amusing.  Over the week of doing 10 kilometers a day, I was getting positively worn out.  Half way through the week, I went out to the bike first thing in the morning and found the tire to be flatter than flat.  Yikes.  I didn't have time to walk to school.  It takes 30 minutes by bike and an hour by foot.  I wouldn't make it.  That was not acceptable.  Fortunately for me, my roommate has a bike too and she didn't need it that day and allowed me to borrow it.  I tried to find a new tube for the tire at the Kvickly but they didn't have my size in stock.  That was three weeks ago and they still don't have my size.  It is labelled on the shelf so they do have them sometimes.  Hopefully, I will have one by January when I have to do this again for 4 weeks.

The same week, we also went apartment hunting.  The first place was quite nice with great light but not the best layout in the world.  The price was right so it was doable.  We also had a friend tell us about an apartment in her building and we had an appointment to see it the following day.  We went in and looked around and immediately agreed that it was the one.  It is really quite lovely.  It won't be as lovely when we move in for some time as we have next to nothing in terms of furniture.  But that is okay because slowly but surely we will be able to build up something.  I will post some pictures of it after we move in but that won't be until the weekend of the 19th/20th of January.

Oh, and something you should know about here is that when you rent an apartment, they expect to have a 3 month deposit.  This is the norm and it is very unusual to find anything else.  But that is a huge chunk of money.  You also pay a monthly charge to the landlord for the heat and water.  If you use more, you have to pay the additional amount at the one year mark.  If you have used less than the estimate, then you get a return.  On top of that, you have to pay for electricity as a separate bill.  I don't really understand why heat and electricity are different as they look like they run on hot water.  Usually hot water is heated by electricity.

Fun photoshoot at UCSyd in the old gymnasium

Over the last little while, I have been doing a couple of haircuts to help out.  Payment is chocolate.  Haha.  It is quite interesting to do it.  I wouldn't want it to be my way of making a living but you do what you do when you are a student.  I also did another photo shoot for a group who wanted to make a picture as a gift.  They even went and got some animal costumes to use.  We had an absolute blast.

We found a great deal on meat up here at Kiwi.  It was a special that they had just for the weekdays from 6 PM to 10 PM.  But of course, you had to be there pretty quick or it would be gone for the day.  So I ran over there and got 2 packages of ground beef for only 10kr each.  That is just under $2US.  Oh happy day!  Sometimes it is the little things that make your day.

We had a special field trip in our Danish class this week.  We went to a little town called Hoptrup to a school that was performing a musical called Emma.  They have a type of school here that is called an "efterskole."  Here is how wikipedia explains it.

The Efterskole (directly translated "afterschool") is a unique Danish independent residential school where students from the ages of 14 to 18 can choose to spend one, two or three years to finish their primary education. Presently some 28.500 students attend one of the app. 260 schools throughout Denmark. The schools are open to students from abroad.

The Hoptrup efterskole specializes in music, dance and theater thus this production.  They did a really good job of it for their age.  I just wish that I could have understood more of it.  It was super hard.  I did get some of the words so that made me feel good.  The stage was quite interesting.  It had an elevated walkway running across the back and ramping down to the front.  Underneath one section of it was the orchestra so you could see them there with colored lights on them during the production.  There were elements in the piece that would have been totally surprising if I had been in the USA.  There was an over the top campy gay character with the tightest of tights on.  "Bjernee."  Another scene had a couple of the main girl characters doing a lesbian scene where they were getting partially undressed and then kissing.  It was an odd experience to see from this age group coming from my background.   I was okay with it.  Why not?  They were or they wouldn't have presented it.  Good for them!

The Danish way is to do things in groups so we have study groups and teaching practice groups.  Our class assignments are mostly done with these groups.  It is a very weird experience for me and is taking some getting used to.  We are starting work on our first real group assignment and I feel quite lost within it.  I can't even imagine how you write a paper as a group but we will get it done somehow.  I was told about a cool web application called PiratePad where you can all be on your own computers and writing a paper together at the same time.  So we are going to try it out.  More learning curves.

Yesterday, I went on a little adventure into town and met up with a classmate.  We went to a couple of these little tiny handcraft markets.  They were so adorable with all their handcrafted items, a lot of knitted articles.  Knitting is a big thing here.  I have even started to do it again.  I had to reteach myself by using YouTube videos.  While we wondered around the two markets looking at things, we had a chance to talk to many Danish people and practice the language.  Everyone was so welcoming and curious about us.  I also took my camera and was taking pictures.  They asked me if I was there for the newspaper.  Smile.

All handmade articles at the market

My first taste of Danish æbleskiver.  Yum!

One of the handcrafter Christmas markets with tables full of goodies like knitting. 

This morning, I woke up around 9:30 and when I opened my eyes, I thought that it was still really early in the morning due to how little light there was.  We are back to rain, rain and rain again.  Even the lights on the sides of our building thought that it was still night.  When I looked out at 10:30 AM, they were still on and I believe that they are light sensitive.  I went to the grocery store at about 4 and when I came back out, it was obviously getting dark.  The wind was blowing so hard and so cold that it was difficult walking too.  As of now, the sun comes up at 8:15 AM and goes down at 4:02 PM.  Feels like being back to my childhood.  And according to the forecast, we sill bee possibly seeing -5˚C in a week.  That is 23˚F.