Saturday, August 30, 2008

En Dag, En Uge, og Et År

So for a little update. I have fixed my mp3!! My camera is still gone, but I have been able to barrow one and will get some new pictures up soon.

School has been going good. I have friends and have enjoyed the freedom that comes with being a teenager in Denmark. Everyday after school I walk to shopping street and shopping center. Things are expensive but I try to look for the sales plus I usually see people from my class there. The excersice is great! Come monday I will start language school (sprog skole). From there every monday and wednesday I will attented language school from 14.15 to 16.45. It is exciting to finally get some formal instruction on the language I am surrounded by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will be for 11 months.

I have found that there is a lot of free things offered in Denmark to the people. In fact if you continue past elementary school (grades 1-9) and you are over the age of 18 the government actually gives you money. I recieved a flyer for what they call a Ungdomsskole which is in english a youth school. They offer a long list of activities for people my age. Some of the things are acedemics like math, others are sports, and general interestes like hiking and design. So why should I not do something fun like that, its free after all? Well, I signed up for it and not just for something boring like hiking or camping or photography, but diving! The course doesn't start until 21. of October, but I still can't wait.

It seems like my calender will be filling up soon. I will have language school after gymnasium every monday and wednesday. Come october I will have the diving classes on tuesdays and fridays alternating. So what next? Well I found a riding school in Egtved (7 km from me) that offers jumping and dressage lessons. Compared to the states the prices are pretty cheap as far as lessons. It costs 210 dkk to be a member, and you have to be a member to ride and then only 250 dkk a month for a lesson a week. So if you care to know what that is in USD just divide by 5. They also offer two lessons a week for 460 dkk a month. For now I will do a lesson a week, but maybe do two lessons a week to do both dressage and jumping. I have inquired so far about lessons so that is a maybe. A sure thing is swimming. There is a sports center in Vingsted (about 5km north east of me) that has an olympic size pool. It is a little on the expensive side, but I think I'm going to start swimming once a week. There aren't like gym memberships but punch cards. For now a 10 time punch card will do and thats around 250 dkk I think.

What more else could I do?? Well nothing for now. Actually it's a beautiful day so I think I will go for a bike ride, maybe get some more pictures of Rugsted and actually do a post on the tiny village I live in.

As for point standing the 50 points is awarded to Aunt Donna who knows that Another Brick in the Wall is a song by Pink Floyd. 10 points to the person who tells me what the title of this post says.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Featured Blog

So, I recieved an email a while back commenting on the wonderful blog that I have and whether or not I would mind having it posted on the AFS blog page. Of course I said go for it, and I'm proud to say that my blog is not only listed as a link, but also there is a blog entry on my Jelling Stones article.

If anyone cares to see go here and scroll down the 10. of August and see!!

P.S. Technical difficulties. Not only has my 2 month old camera died, but also my 2.5 year old mp3 has been laid to rest. I guess the only electronic thing to go is my phone and it's just over a year old. Now I'm glad I didn't bring a laptop because that would be an expensive replacement.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Comercials and Taxes

We all know them, and we all hate them - comercials and taxes. They say that there are two things that you have to do in life and that's die and pay your taxes, but I really think that there are actually three; die, pay your taxes, and watch comercials. In fact there is only one time during the entire year that I can think of that includes the word like and comercial; the super bowl!! We've all experienced the hour program that turns out to be 30 minutes worth of program and 30 mintues of repetative comercials telling us to buy their car and visit their store. And no matter how old or young you are chances are damn good that you've paid taxes. So wouldn't it be nice to not have to watch comericals or pay your taxes? I think so. Well, I've found the world of no comericals, but when you find the tax free land you better let me know because I, along with the rest of the world, is still searching for it.

So, what, you may be thinking, does comercials and taxes have anything to do with each other. Well, I'll tell you. If you live in Denmark and pay danish taxes, then you don't have to watch comercials. Think I'm joking, well I'm not. As you have all heard, taxes are very high in Denmark, and other Scandinavian countries in general and that's completely true. Here everything and anything that is taxable is and they aren't just a few percent here and there, they are high. There is a media tax here which allows for one channel, DR1, to be completely commerical free and another channel, TV2, to have all the commercials at the end of the program. It's one of thoes things that I noticed just a few days ago, but am loving it. When there are commericals they are actually pretty funny beer commericals.

So... about that tax free world. I've found where it is not. Here in Denmark their taxes are 60%. I haven't really had to pay taxes besides on the items I purchase so my ability to gage how high or low this is, is non existint. Here, you don't have a subtotal then a tax added total. All the prices is what you pay, but the tax has already been included. This is because different things have a different percent tax. Like, for instance, junk food. There is a higher tax on junk food, like chips and candy, because it isn't healthy for you. Consequently, people here at school eat things like apples and bananas, and peaches rather than bags of chips and cookies. They really don't notice it either, to them it is just a healthy habit to get use to.

I think for now Americans will deal with the comercials because I'm pretty sure that we couldn't handle over 100% taxes on a new car, extra taxes on the unhealthy food, and 100 dollar pairs of pants. I just don't see it happening any time soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Another Brick in the Wall

So many people have been asking about school and now that I've had one week of it, it seems appropriate to write about it. I would have some pictures for you because the school is really nice, big, modernish, and new but my camera broke and I'm not sure what I'm going to do about replacing it yet. I need to replace it soon though. Anyway...

The school system here is a lot like that of Germany and just about as backwards as you can get from that of America. Mandatory school stops at grade 9, but most people go onto a Gymnasium which is like U.S. high school. There are three grades which are like 11, 12, and 13, but here they are called first, second, and third year. Unlike the U.S. system you don't really pick your classes, you pick a line. Different schools offer different lines. There are 9 classes at my school and about 4 different lines. You can have a more math and science related line, a language related line, a social studies related line, or a more mixed related lines. The line you pick determines which subjects you get. With in that you will probably get to choose something like art, drama, or music or spanish, french, or german. I'm in a language line and have chooses art and spanish.

Now for the classes. This is perhaps the most confusing part of it. I have 8 classes - method of naturalscience, danish, english, spanish, math, art, gym, and social studies - but you don't have all the classes everyday. Actually I only have math once a week and social studies once a week because thoes aren't enphazied as much in the language line. I have danish, english, and spanish twice a week and have a lot of my mehtods of natural science. Because I'm a first year some classes, like my methods of natural science class, are only intro courses. The first year is built so that you can have a semester of you choosen line and see if it's the right line for you. If it isn't than you can change classes. Another interestingly difficult to understand aspect of the school system is that your schedual changes from week to week and your classes are almost never in the same class room. To check to see what you have when and where you have to log onto the school webpage to get your schedual. It's recomended that you check it dailly because some times a class will get canceled. It seems that here they don't have substitute teachers. So, if your first modul class is canceled then you don't have to be to school until 9.30!

Now for some of the basics. School starts at 8.00 and ends about 14.00. You get a 15 minute break inbetween each class, which totally rocks, and usually only have 3 to 4 classes a day. We only get a 30 minute lunch, but that's really no big deal. Things here aren't strick in any way shape or form. In America you have to have a hall pass to be out of your classroom, here they don't have people walking around making sure people are where they are suppose to be. If you don't have a class during one of the moduls then you aren't restricted to a certain area, in fact you can leave and come back if you want to.

Some shockers.... Smoking is fine as long as you're outside. Every friday the school holds a little 'cafe' like deal where students and teachers hang out after school in the Cafateria. There is loud playing music, giant pieces of practically cheeseless pizza, and beer. Yes, you read that right, they sell beer and both students and teachers are drinking and the people out side are smoking and yes, this is all in the school. Not everyone drinks and not everyone smokes. In fact I think the system works well because people have the option. In America I'd say that young people abuse alcohol and smoking because it is something that they can't do. Here some people won't have a beer, some will have just one, and others might have two or three, either way whatever you choose is okay. Only the people who want to smoke, smoke and if you don't that's fine too.

For now that is fine. Please leave questions so I know what to write about next time concerning school. Sometimes it's easy to miss things when they become everyday typical things. Oh, and 50 points to the first person who 'gets' the title.

P.S. The school website has been changed from what has been up there.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Jelling Stones

Denmark is proud to say that it is the oldest monarchy in western Europe and to prove it's point it proudly displays they Jelling Stones. Now what, you may be asking, are the Jelling Stones. Well I shall tell you. The Jelling Stones are two stones that are around a thousand years old. Errected in the late 900's by the first king of Denmark, Gorm the Old, they stand as a physical birth certificate of Denmark.

What is most interesting about these stones and just going to visit them in general is that they aren't roped off and nor do they have a gate around them. There isn't a park or staff standing around to tell you about them. You can touch these stones and walk all around them. You can get as close to them as you would like and it's absolutely free to see them. In fact they stand in the middle of a church yard. And one of the most beautiful church yards I have ever seen.

Most other European churchs are dark and ornate. Here though, and in Denmark in general as I am told, the churches are very light and simple. This is the church that stands right by the stones. It is painted white inside and out. There is only one stained glass window and the others are normal to let light in. Walking in doesn't take your breath away and it wouldn't take you more than 20 minutes to see everything there is to see, but it gives you a sense of simplicity and tranquility when you walk in. To me, and I'm not a religious person, this is the right place to seek inner peace and be one with your god or gods.

I was also most taken about by the cemetary. All around you is a grave yard but you never really notice because it is so beautiful. Each plot, usually a family plot, is hedged with a box wood, or something similar to it. In stead of cold, standard, concrete tome stones there are rocks carved with the names. It's a very natural look and very appealing. Often there are sculpted bushes and trees that look as though their branches are laying a protective blanket over their owners. It's the kind of place that makes you want to buy a plot because you know your family wouldn't mind coming to visit you.

Nobody would mind coming to see that. I know I wouldn't. On either side of the church there are two hills. The picture above was taken from one and the other is behind the church. These are the hills where the king and queen are barried. I believe the one were this picture was taken was the queen's hill and the other one was the king's hill. Either way the views each hill provided was wonderful. And the best part about all of this is that Jelling really isn't too far from Rugsted. Then again, for us in America, nothing here in Denmark is too far away.

The Great Copenhagen Adventure

I mentioned in another blog entry or whatever it is you want to call it that upon arrival the AFS DK group took us on an outing to Copenhagen. Well, I told the truth. We arrived in Copenhagen after a long and tiring flight around 8 a.m. and made it to our camp place at probably 8:30ish. By the time we unpacked, got the tour of the place, and had lunch there was about 50 of us and we didn't have much to do while we waited for the other students. It had already been arranged to have the earily arrivals go to Copenhagen, I guess we just got lucky that thoes people were us.

We started off with about a kilometer walk through the town of Kastrup, where we were staying, to the train stations. From there all 50 of us hoped the train for a few stops down to the metro. There we picked up the metro which took us all the way to the heart of Copenhagen. Okay, maybe not quite the heart, but it did take us too a very touristy spot called Nyhavn. The picture above is it. If you ever pick up a book on Denmark or Copenhagen then chances are damn good that you will see this picture or at least something similar.

We got the joy of a canal tour, as they called it. The tour consisted of a lot of people shoved on a very flat boat that took us around the harbor and the surrounding area for about an hour. The sites were wonderful and the city is just gorgeous. The total down fall was that we were dead tired and at some point every one of us dozed off. About the only thing that kept me up was the 208 pictures I took along the way. Notice in the picture the guy in the blue shirt. That's James and he dozed throughout the entire ride. Alison, the girl in the lime green shirt is passed out with her head leaning aganist the bar. And then there's Mark. He's the guy in the green shirt who is down for the count and had been for the passed 20 minutes. Needless to say, the flight was long, the time difference was getting to us, and none of us were ready for a day filled of sights such as Copenhagen. Though I did take tons of pictures, I too dozed off. Because we were a large group we got to get on first. As soon as we were on the entire group got to wait for the boat to fill up with random people. At this time I think everyone of us was asleep, and I include myself in this.

Besides being dead tired, the things we passed by were great. We say the queen's palace and a bunch of monuments. The boat took us down one canal that was lined with beautiful old buildings right there on the water which was lined, of course, with boats and a beer stand. We also passed by an old battle ship that had been truend into a museum and a few other things. It's definitely a trip to do when in Copenhagen.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Arrival Camp

Day one of arrival camp was probably the longest day in history. We arrived on the morning of the first of august very tired. As if that wasn't enough we had to take in a whole new country and embrace a total language barrier. Because we arrived so early the US students along with a bunch other got to go on a little trip to Copenhagen. The trip was great and would have been much, much better had we not been falling asleep where we stood.

I guess before I should address the Copenhagen trip I'll address lunch. Danish lunch is a truely interesting experience. They eat open face sandwhiches which I'm sure most of you have heard of. The idea of Danish meals is to fill up on bread. The tops and other items is just for taste. It is typical to eat a very dark bread. I'm not sure what it is in english and I couldn't tell you what it is in Danish if I tried, but I'd say it is close to what we call pumpernickle bread. At first the bread is dry and not very flavorful. What taste it does have is kind of harsh and nothing compared to what we are use to. By lunch number 3 we are all pretty much use to it and can go as far as to say we like it. Some popular sandwhiches are butter, egg, tomato, and mayo or butter, salami, remoulade (a kind of sweetish mayo/mustard mixure that we don't have in the states), and sometimes fried onions. I personally really like the egg sandwhich and just butter and cheese. Another unique one is Leverpostej and bacon. It is a meat pate made of pork liver. I didn't know that until after I tried it. It's nothing really to be afraid of because it tastes just like ground up meatloaf which is really good and anything with bacon on it is good.

Anyway.... The arrival camp was good. It was great to meet lots of people from all around the world. To entertain us they did an entertainment time. Here each group ( we were split up into about 13 groups or so with 10-15 people in each group) would perform a little skit for the rest of us. It was really fun. For our group (10) we had Kyle (USA) stand with his back turned to the audience with just a towel on so that it looked like he didn't have any clothes on. Then we had a sign on him so that only we could see. It said something about mini hot dogs for sale for 25 kr then we would walk past him like we were on the street and make comments about how small and little and what not it was. Obviously we were talking about the hot dogs but to the audience our comments were kind of suggestive to him. It was hilllarious!

Another interesting thing about the camp was the showers. In Denmark and most of Scandinavia they take showers after gym class. No big deal right??? Yeah well, there is only one shower room with about 9 or so shower heads.... You do the math.

My the end of the camp we were all ready to go home and unpack out suitcases and really start to live. It's great to be around all of thoes interesting people and have a great time but sharing a room with about 20 other girls while sleeping on the floor isn't very much fun after awhile.

And so the camp ends on the 4. We pack our bags, eat breakfast, clean up, and wait for our families to arrive. Some leave early because they have to catch the train, others wait because their families come to get them. Me, I wait, and now I'm home writing to you so I'm here and well.

Gateway Camp

You would figure that of all the flights going to La Guardia and of all the people that will fly there in one given day, the chances of meeting someone you know or could potentially know would be very, very slim. I guess fate played its part and I ended up meeting another AFSer on my flight from Chicago to La Guardia. As if fate hadn't already done it's part we sat in the same row right next to each other. Who would have thought.

The night before I got about 4 to 3½ hours of sleep so I was already tired enough. The AFS USA gateway camp had plenty planned for us. It came complete with a schedual and name tags. Staying at St. John's wasn't really anything special. The dorms wouldn't have been so bad had you time to lay out a rug and bring your own bedding. The food wasn't terrible but the elevators were packed. In fact I think we were able to get a good 12 people or more in one of them.

The most fun we really had was hanging out in the hall way to the lounge. The lady, Janet, who ran the program was kind of boring and too serious. We did some skits, but she would suck all of the fun out of it by talking about 20 minutes on each one.

The camp wasn't anything I expected. They never really tell you the specifics so I went thinking there would be all the Euro students there. In fact only the students going to Denmark and Norway were there. It seem like as soon as everyone got there we all hit it off. It's hard not to when all of us shared a common interest.

The final and really only second day at the camp was spent packing and traveling to Newark. Yes, to all of you who didn't believe, I left from Newark not JFK. The drive to Newark isn't great in distance but you have to drive straight through New York city and the traffic is terrible. You have to been in a good area I think to appreciate New York. What we saw from the bus was dirty and ugly. The most spectacular site was, interestingly enough, a cemetary. Never before had I ever seen such a large expance of tomb stones.

The check in process was fairly easy. On the down side our terminal was very boring though. Only had one store a small little cafe, if it can be called that, and a currency exchange place. We exchanged our money and then proceeded to wait a few hours for our flight which would prove to be very, very long.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Questions

This is just a brief update to let the whole world know that I am alive and well, living in Denmark. Since my last update I have been bunking with students from all over the United States and from all over the world. There was a gateway camp for two days in New York and after flying on an extremely long flight from Newark to Copenhagen there was an arival orientation for about 3 days.

So far I love Denmark. Even though the country is flat and many people have assured me that Danes or coconuts, I really love it here. The views are great and the cities are fabulous. When I first got here AFS DK did a trip to Copenhagen and it was beautiful. The public transportation is wonderful and people really do ride their bikes. In fact in the larger cities there are special lanes just for bikes.

Yes, I have met my family. They are great and I really like the village, Rugsted, even though it is very small and in the middle of no where.

Such a hard question to answer because I've only known them for a day and a half so far. We are all adjusting to each other so once things settle down I'll be able to better articulate what they are like. Christoffer and Casper are just like any boys; playful and antaganizing towards each other. Camilla is playful and can be very talkative. None of the children speak english so right now I'm just the observer. Heidi is very helpful and Morgens is good. For now that's all I can tell, but in reality I could probably have already told you that.

Any more questions so far, just comment and I will answer eventually. As far as contacting goes, I'll get back to y'all on that.