Saturday, June 28, 2008

San Francisco - Day 2

And now... the long awaited update on San Francisco.

Day 2 was a jammed pack day. It was the first full day in San Francisco and we were rearing to go. Little did we know that by the evening we'd be wishing we hadn't done so much. We had heard from a lady we sat next to the day before at a sushi bar that every Saturday there is a big farmer's market down at the Ferry Building. Even though we had no reason to buy any produce or the likes, we all settled on going. The morning was crisp but it soon turned hot. Upon arriving at the ferry building we all just kinda melted. Who would have thought it would be so hot. Besides the heat, the farmer's market was incredible. There were people everywhere selling crafts, produce, food, and everything inbetween. Not only were the people and boths nice to look at but so was the building. The Ferry Building was an old pier or something along thoes lines. The day was clear and the view incredible. The building sported a tower with a clock and uniform wings on either side.

After waiting a long time for the rail car to come and pick us up, we made our way from the Ferry Building to Fisherman's Warf. In my travels I'v been to every tourist play imaginable. It's there and chances are I've been there. But never, and I mean never, have I ever been to a more tourist oriented place as Fisherman's Warf. Peir 39 (Fisherman's Warf) was converted into a shopping center complete with a Merri-Go-Round and more restaurants than City Walk at Universal. On the up side we got a good view of Alcatraz, the south side of the city, and the seals. I'm not sure what the big deal is about the seals, but the guide books thought they were pretty darn important.

We quickly left this tourist attraction after scoring only 4 postcards and ice cream. Venturing off we made our way along a more fishy area of the Warf then a tour of the Boudin Sourbough Bread Factory which was facinating. By this point we had no idea what in the world we wanted to do. That morning all we had planned to do we had just done. Streching our energy out we decided to go see Lombard Street (the zig-zag one for you uncultured people). I don't thing we would have made the venture had we realized how big of a hill Hyde Street (street we took to get to Lombard) was. All in all, Lombard street was pretty cool and I scored an awesome picture of the bridge while walking up Hyde Street. Oh, and did I mention that the Ghiradeli Square was a total bust. I don't recomend it at all. Just ignore what all the travel books say.

By this time we were tired and hungry. On our way to Fisherman's Warf we drove down Columbus Ave which was sprinkled heavily with cute shops, sidewalk cafes, and restraunts. It was also home to the City Lights book store. We settled on this location for the end of the day. I would have to say that if I could afford to live anywhere in San Francisco, this would be the area. Russian Hill, Telgraph Hill, and North Beach has lots to offer. It houses plenty of nice areas to walk around and a few nice parks to lounge in. Apparences are very clean and there are enough buss routes to get you anywhere. We dined at the Rose Pistol that night and I don't think I have had ever had better sea food. It was to die for.

We made it back to our hotel at around 10 I'm sure and crashed hard. Over all, Day 2 was a good day.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Bech Family

I've now moved onto a new stage in the long, drawn out AFS process. A few days ago I recieved my family! Now that I know a bit more about my family it seems more appropriate to write about them. Of course I don't have all the answers to the questions I have, the information that I do have is enough to sedate me for a while.

I will be moving to a family of five plus a dog and two cats. The family memebers are Heidi (mother), Mogens (father), Christoffer (17 year old son), Casper (14 year old son), Camilla (12 year old daughter), Molly (dog), Frida (cat), and Bertha (cat). Heidi wears the pants in the family where as Mogens is the playful father figure. From my understanding if you want something that mom will probably say no to, go to Mogens. Christoffer attends a trade school to be a carpenter. He's not extremely social and doesn't speaks english. Casper is the jokester in the family. He enjoys making people laugh and also speaks some english. Camilla is the girlly-girl. She likes to talk a lot and play around with make-up with her friends. She, to my understanding, speaks just a little english. The family appears to be a very nature-loving, outdoorsie type of family. Their summer holidays are spent canooing and kayaking in addition to cycling. Every few years they take a backpacking/camping trip to Norway and enjoy going to Legoland becuase it is fairly close to home.

The Bech family lives in the rural village of Rugsted where there are only 20 or so houses with lots of fields and farming land in between. Heidi and Mogens run a private kindergarden out of their home. In 2005 and new law was inacted in Denmark which allowed private persons and organizations to run kindergardens the same as municiple kindergardens. In their kindergarden they over see 22 children. There is a separate building for the children in addition to a nice play ground and lots of activities. They have a website for their business which can be viewed here. The site is in Danish, but if you just start clicking around your bound to find some pictures of the area, the children, and some of the adults.

The home in which I am to live in was an old farm but is now just a single family home. In some of the pictures from their business site you can see the house in the background. There is an upstairs and a downstairs. Upstairs is an area just for the children. Each of the three children have their own room and there is an extra room for me. A neat little feature that I think is nice is that there is a small living room upstairs for the children. Like a common room I would guess. Downstairs is the kitchen, two living rooms, the master bedroom, and a bathroom. The family usually spends lots of time downstairs, but when friends come over usually retreat to their rooms.

All in all, what I know of the family so far is wonderful. I found out by reading some of the descriptions of the pictures Heidi sent that they have hosted before. I have yet to ask about this. Now I struggle with the daunting task of attempting to kid myself into believing I'll be able to speak their seemingly impossible language...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

San Francisco - Day 1

I've pretty much grown up in small towns. For thoes of you who beg to differ with this statement, its only because I remember very little of the 'big' towns for them to count. Life pretty much happened in Oak Harbor, WA and Ridgecrest, CA. These towns consist of around 25,000 people and Wal-Mart. Going to a big city is somewhat of a treat. I've been to Seattle, they have a very nice airport. I've been to Los Angles, its a bit to dirty and mexican for me. I've been to San Diego (and am there now), its small and I've done a lot of what there is to do. I've been to New York, their Macy's is huge and they sell scarves in their train station. Never before have I been to such a large city and thoroughly enjoyed it all or remembered it all for that matter. San Francisco has fit the bill. I must say that I love that city. There is so much to do and so much to see. It is fairly clean (Seattle is the cleanest city I've even been to), and the shopping is just short of fabulous. I really liked using public transportation; crazies and all.
Day one was a surprise day. We didn't originally plan to see or do anything. As it turns out not only did we leave San Diego, arrive in San Francisco, and take a tour of our hotel - the Hilton on O'Ferrell - but we also gained our barrings, walked around the Financial distric, and did a walking tour of Union Square. Our first stop was an Irish pub just down the street from the Hilton. It's sign read 'It's Time for a Pint.' After a weary day of travel, that sounded nice. We were hungry. Even though alcohol has some food value, food has no alcohol value. To counter balance this unfortunate tale, we settled on an order of fish and chips, two pints of a local ale, and a Roy Rogers (can't drink just yet).

(sign that entised us to enter the Irish Pub)

Our first real sight to see or rather do was to ride the glass elevators at the Westin St. Francis Hotel. After some very confusing looks and many wrong turns, we finally realized that the actual elevators of the hotel were the glass elevators. Luckily we weren't the only tourists in the hotel seeing as we shared our elevator with a young couple who also came to see the views. The elevator shoots you up like a bat outta hell to the 40-somthing floor where you are given a brief view of the spralling city below. Of course all 5 of us agreed that just one look up wasn't enough. On our third time down a few of the hotel's temperary residents joined us. We decided that the third time was the charm, and proceded to the exit which was a one of the rotating, turny doors.

(view of the city from the glass elevator)

Our stop was Union Square itself. The National Geographic Travelers book of San Francisco describes this site as follows: "Across Powell Street Un9ion Square Park, a central place to rendezvous with friends or just to rest your weary feet and do some people watching. Once a san bank, the 2.6-acre park was set aside as open space in Jasper O'Farrell's 1847 plan of the city. Named when pro-Union rallies were held here just before the Civil War, the park has provided a soapbox for public expression since the 1930's labor demonstration. In 1958 beatniks in sandals and beards paraded here to a bongo-drum beat on the 'Squaresville Tour', designed to express wry annoyance at having become tourist attractions in North Beach. In 1987 a group of gay activist called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence protested Pope John Paul II's visit. The park's Dewey Monument honors Adm. George Dewey for his 1898 vicotry in Manila Bay during the Spanish-American war. Atop its 97-foot Corinthian column stands Robert Aitken's 1903 bronze figure of 'Victory'. Beneath the park is a pioneer underground parking garage built in 1942."
(Union Square Park with monument in center)

Lucky you I won't be writting much out of the book. I just found that interesting. Unfortunately we veared off of the recomended walking tour (not really) after getting a great view of the man on Macy's. Anna doubed this man as David Beckam, this of course, was after a bit of red wine.

(man sporting his underwear on the front of Macy's)

Regaining the trail we viewed the beautiful stain glass dome in the postmodern Neiman Marcus. This 2.600 piece stain glass dome depicts a ship which is the emblem of Paris, France. It was preserved from the 1909 City of Paris store.

(stain glass dome of the Neiman Marcus)

We then continued up Maiden Lane. Though now it is a nice, quiet pedestrian only shopping street, it once was lined with women beckoning from windows, naked from the waist up. They would charge passing men a dime to fondle one breat, or two for fifteen.

(present-day Maiden Lane)

We concluded our day with a nice (and long) evening at the Cityscape restaurant 35 floors north of our 9th floor room. We enjoys drinks all around along with a few bowls of mixed spicy bar nuts, a bowl of lobster bisque, pecan cheese cake, and apple pie crunch.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Melting in Sunny San Diego

As many of you might know, or just might not, I'm on the first leg of my summer holiday. So far, in the short six full days I have been here, many things have occurred. Saturday saw 12 hours of non-stop site-seeing at Seaworld San Diego! Seaworld offers an awesome contribution of the families of the men and women currently serving in our nations military. Any military personal can enter free along with up to 4 or 5 (I think) military dependents. This saves you around 60 big ones per person. It's a small tribute considering your just every other person once your person crosses into the park. A real contribution to the military community would be a discount on all purchasable items in the park. Unfortunately we still have to pay 5 bucks for a bottled water.

Sunday saw a few hours out and about in Balboa Park. Balboa Park is a wonderful area in down-town San Diego. Almost all of the architecture in the park is very Spanish influenced and just stunning. Unfortunately I forget to bring my camera with me and have yet to purchase another one. Pictures will be at a minimum until then. Any who, the park is filled with many museums for all ages along with a Japanese tea garden, the organ pavilion, the International Cottages, a botanical garden, miles of relaxing trails, an archery course, and tons of square lawnage for the ultimate picnic. My mom, Anna-Marie (the crazy roomie), and I took a tour through the International Cottages which was highlighting the Philippines and also viewed an exhibit on Georgia O'Keeffe and other female artists. Anna was telling us that images of both male and female reproductive organs could be found hidden in Mrs. O'Keeffe's art. I, personally, only saw colourful flowers...

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday saw fits of boredom and frustrating attempts at learning a little Danish. So far I can confidently ask any random by passer if they are tired or if they have any luggage. I suppose that might come in handy somewhere along some small, thin line. Wednesday I was able to get out and walk around Coronado for an hour or more. Coronado, for those of you who aren't familiar with San Diego geography, is a very trendy/touristy island right across San Diego Bay. For the small population reading my boring blog you might have heard of the Hotel Del, which is the focal point of Coronado. It's also known as North Island to the military community. Backtracking a little, the crazy roomie and I went to get a spa pedicure Tuesday at Fashion Nails off of Orange Ave on Coronado. Fashion Nails is the typical Vietnamese run hall way packed with people sporting naked feet and hands (I guess typically our hands are always naked....).

For now, I continue to read an extremely condensed concentration of US History, stumble along in my attempt to learn Danish, and lounge around. Tomorrow, I sleep in San Francisco.....

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Goodbye Burroughs High School

Congratulations to me! I am now, officially, over with school. Finals are complete, school is complete, my sophomore year is complete. You are now reading the blog page of a proud junior in High School. I now have, as of today 5 June 2008, only 54 days until I go to Denmark. Unfortunately I must leave my dear friends that I have made here in the desert. I send out my farewell to all of them.

I now have a visa to live in Denmark. I don't have it on my person, but the sticker is stuck to page 8 of my passport, sitting in some foreboding place in New York just waiting to hop into my wallet. And I can't honestly wait for it to do the hopping either.

Oh, and today is Constitution Day and Father's Day in Denmark. On 5 June 1849 the first consitution was inacted in Denmark. Father's Day is actually something that was 'brought over' from America.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Under the Dannebrog They Stand - Part 3

Something a bit more concerning me; the education system. In the states we are accustomed to the pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, and university education scale. In Denmark the scale is very similar starting with pre-school, primary education (Folkeskole), secondary education, higher education, then adult education. Only the Folkeskole (“public school”) is compulsory. Essentially there are only 9 years (7-16) of mandatory schooling before entering the work force. About 82% of young people take further education addition to this. The 82% have the option of attending a number of types of secondary education schools.

The young person has the option of attending Gymnasium, Higher Preparatory Examination, Higher Commercial Examination Programme, Higher Technical Examination Programme, Vocational Education, or Basic Social and Health Education. The Danish Gymnasium offers a 3-year general academically-oriented upper secondary programme which builds on the 9th-10th form of the Folkeskole and leads to the upper secondary school exit examination. This can be equated with high school in the U.S.. The Higher Preparatory Examination is a 2-year general upper secondary programme building on to the 10th form of the Folkeskole and leading to the higher preparatory examination, which qualifies for admission to higher education, subject to the special entrance regulation applying to the individual high education programmes. The Higher Commercial Examination Programme is a business-oriented education in Denmark. In Denmark, the Higher Technical Examination Programme is a 3-year vocationally oriented general upper secondary programme which builds on the 9th-10th form of the Folkeskole. Vocational Secondary Education in Denmark takes place at special state-funded vocational schools, most of which are either technical schools or business colleges.

As it will apply to me, I’ll be attending Secondary Education in Denmark (in Danish: ungdomsuddannelse, “youth education”). This usually takes two to four years and is attended by students between the ages of 15 to 20. I'll most likely be attending a Gymnasium.

UPDATE FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD: Some of the other exchange students going to Denmark have recieved their families which means they are starting to place us. Let's everyone keep our fingers crossed that I get my family soon. Untill then I'm studying my you know what off for finals which are th 3rd, 4th, and 5th and for my SATs on the 7th.