Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Highlights from 2008

Here is just a list of some of the highlights from 2008. Just as a note, they are in no particular order.

  • Spray painting 'B' Mountain from 08 to 09
  • Getting a decent enough grade on my spanish final (dear lord, I still don't know how that happened)
  • Finishing sophmore year of high school
  • Visiting the spectacular city of San Francisco
  • Going on the sunset dinner cruise for my birthday
  • Moving to a new country (of course that has to be on this list)
  • Meeting and making friends from all over the world
  • Living to see the day where an African American will lead my home country
  • Living to see the day where Bush would end his 8 year reign
  • Visiting Copenhagen and various other cities in Denmark
  • Having a danish Christmas (Jul)
  • Experiencing the best New Years ever! (the fireworks put the fourth of july to shame)

2008 has been a great year. Looking back, the last 365 days has just past by. It's hard to believe that earlier in the year I was in the middle of the desert over 10.000 km away from where I am today. Ah, the good times.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


I strongly urge you to start with the Min Første Jul post and work your way up.

Also, there aren't any pictures becuase stupid me forgot my camera (we went to mormor and morfars for Christmas). So you'll have to satisfy your curiousity with questions which I can try to answer.

Happy Christmas to all!
Glædelig Jul til alle!

Nisse --> (No English)

The Nisse is a big Danish 'tradition', 'belief', thing. It comes from Scandinavian folklore (reconized in Norway, Sweden, and Finland also). It is a little creature that protects the farmer and his family especially during the night. A nisse is kinda like a garden gnome in America. In modern Denmark, nisses are often seen as beardless, wearing grey and red woolens with a red cap. Since nisses are thought to be skilled in illusions and sometimes able to make himself invisible, one was unlikely to get more than brief glimpses of him no matter what he looked like.

Today the nisse is more associated with Christmas, sometimes being called Julenisse (Christmas Nisse). He is kinda like Santa's helper. He is said to be the one who delievers the gifts, but he doesn't live in the North Pole. For danes, he lives in Greenland or just in the surounding forest. In is typical to put out a bowl of Risengrød (porridge) for him on Christmas Eve.

The belief of the Nisse is a lot like the belief of Santa. I mentioned earlier (at least I think so) that Santa isn't as heavily pushed as in America. I would say that the Nisse takes his place.

I mentioned before, though, the Julekalender. There is one particular Julekalender, that fetures three nisse. They are searching for a book that has all the instructions on how to destroy Christmas. Their mission is to get it back to santa. One of the songs on the show is 'It's hard to be a Nissemand'. The show is an odd mix of danish and english. It is very common to hear people breaking out into random song, sining that particular one.

The Nisse is very esential to the Christmas traditions and beliefs to Danmark.

Traditions of Jul

Some tradition and ways of doing 'Jul'.

- One of the most important tradition to mention is the actually date of Christmas. In Denmark, Christmas is actually celebrated on the 24. not the 25.. I didn't know this, but apparently Jesus was born during the night on the 24. Noting special is done on the 25.. Some families have the tradition of going to church, but that is an individual like tradition.

- Danes typically sing/dance around the tree before opening gifts. It is traditional to hold hands while singing some carols around the tree. I can't speak for all of Danmark, but my family in particular sang about five or so songs.

- The Christmas meal is very typical of danish food in general. There was turkey (which was jokingly called Timmy, Tommy's brother) and pork. Red meat just isn't eaten here. There was red cabbage and potatoes of course. As much as danes eat potatoes you'd think they have 1001 ways to make them. No such luck. Danes love to eat just plain boiled potatoes and smother it in brown sauce which is coloured a dark brown, mind you. Luckily for me there were Christmas potatoes there also. These are plain small boile potatoes which get pan candied with brown sugar so the outside is slightly sweet. The meal is finished off with risalamande. It is very hard to explain what it is so here is wikipedia's definition:
Cold Risengrød with whipped cream, vanilla, and chopped almonds, often served with hot or chilled cherry (or strawberry) sauce. A particular tradition is often associated with eating Ris á l'amande, where a whole almond is mixed into the pudding, and the person who finds it (typically hiding it inside his/her mouth) wins a prize. Usually served as desert at Julefrokost (Christmas lunch) or on Christmas eve and is very popular. Nine out of ten Danes enjoy it after the main course Christmas eve.

I got the almond and scored some dark chocolate (mørk chokolade på dansk).

Thoes were just some of the basic traditions of Jul that I found most different from American Christmas.

Min Første Jul --> My First 'Jul'

This is, by no strecht of the imagination, my first Christmas. In fact, it is my 17th, but it is my first Jul. Danish and American culture is very similar. So similar in fact that there isn't very much 'culture shock'. Where it makes up at is Christmas. Jul (which is danish for Christmas, if you didn't pick that up) has all of the basic Christmas elements: tree, gifts, Jesus, and cookies. What it seriously lacks is the commericalization of the holiday. Now, usually that would be a good thing, but I find that it leads to a lack of emphasize on the holiday spirit.

It is traditional in an American Christmas to put up all your decorations and holiday spirit after Thanksgiving. Then follows the tree around the second week or so of December. The tree is decorated with lots of colourful lights and manufactured, colourful, ornimates. The stockings are hung by the first place with care and the smell of fresh baked cookies becomes a permanate fixture. Jul isn't quite like that.

The sign of Christmas in Denmark is the Julekalender (Christmas Calender). It is a show on the tele that airs an episode each day until Christmas. There is also the other Julekalender. That is the advent calender which we are all familar with in America.

For all of you who look forward to out doing your neighbors each year in outdoor lighting during the holidays, Danmark is not for you. Danes don't decorate the exterior of their home with lights, santas, or candy canes. In fact many think it is too gaudy.

For thoes of you who spend hours searching for the perfectly full and cemetrical Christmas tree, Danmark is not for you. The danish Christmas tree is the ultimate Charlie Brown Christmas tree. These things are some of the scrawniest things I have ever seen.

For thoes of you who look forward to decorating the tree with the beautiful lights and unique ornimates, Danmark is not for you. Until recently manufactored ornimates where a rarity. Danes prefer to handmake their ornimates. It is typical to see a tree adorned with paper folded stars (which are complicated to make) and pocket like weaved hearts (not as hard to make). It is also common to adorn you tree with mini danish flags and real live burning candels which do get lite.

For thoes of you who look forward to the holidays because it means quality time with friends and family, Danmark is for you. Danes don't emphasize the gift giving. Christmas is a time where you visit your friends and family. OF course every visit involved coffee and cake.

My first Jul, over all, was different. There is an AFS saying that we live by: It's not good; it's not bad; it's just different. It is extremely true and a necessary saying for us. My first Jul wasn't good, wasn't bad, it was just different. Some of the traditions I like, other's I'm not so sure I dig on.

NOTE: I will be making multiple posts on Christmas. I'm sure you'll end up reading thoes before these, but its the thought that counts.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Today was Juleafslutning. It's like Christmas closing. The day began as any other. I suppose this time the temptation to oversleep and avoid the day's activites was a bit stronger though. Upon arrival the school set up morgenmad (breakfast). As like any school activity I ate with my class. The concept of a class is harder to understand from an American point of view because we don't have classes in the same sense. In school you do everything with your class - eat lunch, hang out, make friends, get drunk, etc.

Breakfast consisted of bread with butter and coffee or apple juice. This is a very typical danish breakfast. What distinguishes it from american bread sandwhiches is the fact that danes eat 'real' rolls. Often times there are seeds of some kind of the top and are freshly bought form the bakery or pulled from frozen bags only to be placed in a warm oven. This is very usual. Following the meal a few songs were sung and some students did one or two mini-performances. Once the tables were cleared a mad dash to the assembly hall was made.

3.G (third grade)* was putting on a play of sorts for the school in the assembly hall. There are many times in which not understanding the language becomes very frustrating and this was one of them. Actually though, it was very understandable. 3.G basically made fun of a lot of things with mini-acts and video. 1.Gs(first grade) was made fun of, the other school, and various other things.

Juleferie (Christmas Holiday) offically began after 3.G's show. The halls were littered with circles of 'Glæde Jul's and 'Vi Ses's (Happy Christmases and Goodbyes). Once released from the confines Saai (THA) and I went to the small Thai store by the trainstation. We bought a few things for lunch and headed to my house. I don't think what we made was actually Thai food, but rather some Thai influenced meal. Saai said it would be called Pad Mai. Pad means fried (like in Pad Thai) and mai is like short noodles. The noodles turned out too soft so they broke into small chunks rather than long strands. It was a very basic meal, but still nice. Doing things different every now and then is good. It was a good start to the Juleferie.

Come monday Saai and I are going to København for the day. Look forward to that post!

*In gymnasium we have three grades. They are called first g, second g, and thrid g. In danish instead of adding st, nd, rd, or th to a number all they do is put a point after it. So in English we would say 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th in danish they just say 1., 2., 3., 4.. Much more simple if you ask me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Living in a Musical

So far, I've passed 2½ months in my 'new' home with my 'new' family. 2½ months doesn't sound like a long time, but when you live with people for that long it just seems to become longer. I don't know how that works, but for some strange and odd reason, it does.

Because of thoes 2½ months, I've grown to know my family more and more each day. I've come to the conclusion that I'm living in a musical. It's the best way to describe this "crazy family that I'm forced to live with 6.000 miles away" (running joke). At any conversation, talking about anything, someone or some group will randomly break out into song.

I'm not joking or making this up. The family that I live with and am surrounded by loves to sing. It's like a hobby or something. People have been know to walk around the house singing or just break out into it in the middle of dinner if the right thing is said or done. A personaly favorite of theirs is "Tommy" More (Tell Me More) from Summer Nights (Grease). I don't know if I've told the story behind this, but here it goes anyway. For Thanksgiving I named the turkey Tommy. Well, my hostdad and brother teased me about it by calling it my boyfriend and how we were going to eat him. Now everytime something like that comes up or they want to tease me some more they will start to sing Summer Nights but instead of saying "tell me more" they say "Tommy Moore". It's pretty funny actually.

So, now you know the reason if, when I come home, I break out into random song. It's all becuase I'm living my life in a musical.

Saying Goodbye

Being abroad has made me realize that only having the experience and opprotunity is just half of what it means to be an exchange student. The other half is the friend you make along the way. I can now boast to having friends from all around the world. The hardest part of having friends from all around the world is saying goodbye when the day comes.

Today I had to say goodbye to Alana from Austrailia. It wasn't a tear-jerking farewell, but merely a hug and brief heart-felt words. Being away from home only makes one depend more on their friends. It is essential to have people with which one can communicate with and be undserstood by. It's interesting to see how these bonds are formed. People you only see maybe twice a week become important because you know they are there for support.

It's always easier to say hello than goodbye, but saying goodbye only means there is a hello more to say.

Don't be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again after a moment or lifetime is certain for thoes who are friends.
-Richard David Bach

Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.
-Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Decking the Halls

It is tradition that come the first of december, all of the Christmas decoration come out and go up. For us in America this day happens on Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving, the day were all hell breaks lose in the stores.

Gosh, November just flew by. It really did. I just can't believe there are already Christmas decorations up and three weeks of school left.

In the honor of the tradition, I decorated my room with Christmasy Cheer. Mondays (and Wednesdays for that matter) are language school days. Saai (Thailand), Alana (Aussie), and I decided to have dinner after language school. We choose a Mexican place called Tortilla Flats. Mainly this was becuase Saai had never had Mexican before (it's sad when you have to explain what a taco is) and honestly I was craving food with flavor. Saai's bus only comes once after language school so inorder for her to come to dinner with us she had to spend the night at my house. It was a perfect day to decorate.

Life without Christmas truely seems really foreign. I couldn't image not celebrating this wonderous holiday. After dinner Saai and I stopped by Føtex (super market) to buy some mini Christmas trees, lights, ornimates, and anything else that struck my fancy. I must say that carrying trees on a bus does turn some head.

We did everything they way it should be done. I put some Christmas music on in the background and set out the cookies. We then proceeded to decorate my Christmas trees. Sadly her light-putting-on ability was much better than mine.

It's something special when you can share you holiday with anothe person who knows little about it. It was a giant culture night really. Once we finished doing the decorating we watched a movie from Thailand. Well, it was bought here but it is in Thai with Danish subtitles. It was hard to understand at times, but it was nice.

Christmas truely is a time for caring and sharing. (I know, so cheesy!)