These are so cool! First, a video-yearbook for the spring 2012 semester:
Then a musical flash mob in Copenhagen:
I want to go back! 🙂
Four months ago I moved in with total strangers. Not only had I never met them before, they were of an entirely different cultural background. Their primary language was different, and the kids did not speak any English. Of course they had their own images of the United States, given our immense cultural influence, but I knew very little of Denmark. Other than biking and wind power I did not have a clue, and it’s not exactly like those things give someone an insider view into the average Dane.
I remember I was a little worried during the first week because I met Lauren’s host family before my own and they were very cool. They lived close to the city and had two older brothers, 18 and 23. I had preferenced older siblings and of course would have rather been close to the city where I could quickly bike to school. On the other hand, my family had two young children who spoke no English and they lived about as far away as you could while still being in the Copenhagen region.
It turns out living in Koge was not so bad, and by the time I had spent another couple of hours with Lauren’s parents I knew I was much better off already. Four months have passed now and I no longer consider my host family strangers. Actually, I don’t really even consider them my host family. To me they are simply family. Everyone would get confused if I referred to them as family though, so I think I will just call them my “Danish Family.” I like the sound of that…it is so much more meaningful and personal than “Host Family” and it creates that distinction so people are not confused. And I think it makes me sound classy…I have family across the globe
Living with a host family is truly the way to experience a new country. A whole different side of life lies beyond DIS and the kollegiums. Even a Danish roommate could not fill the void of engagement created by staying with a family. I learned about everything from food and tradition to politics and taxes. Students are never really in the “real world,” and it is such an amazing experience to learn what the real world is like in Denmark compared to the U.S. I saw what worries they had and what things they enjoyed. I learned how families interact and what traditions they celebrate. I spent most of my time in Denmark either with my host family or with a few good friends, and I am so happy with the way I spent my time. By the time I left we were playing “Settler’s” almost every night (I did win eventually), and I was getting along with the kids incredibly well.
I’m not sure what more to say that has not been said in my other posts. The point is that my Danish family was fantastic and they really made my stay a real joy. It’s only been a week since I left and I am already thinking about when I next visit. Of all my time spent in Denmark, my Danish family is without a doubt among the top three best things about my trip. If not for my luck in finding amazing friends my Danish family would take the top spot. I suppose that sometimes, when two parts of a whole are so incredibly important that you cannot imagine the whole without either one of the parts, ties are inevitable. Usually ties are boring, but I think in this case it is the best thing that could have happened to me.
As if being directly referred to as part of the family hadn’t already made my day, my spirits were further lifted when Rasmus and Kit presented me with a present. I had already assumed I would be receiving something from my host family, but from my host-grandparents? The thought had never even crossed my mind. As I unsuccessfully attempted to unwrap my present without ripping the bow I was in a state of elated shock. I guess the thought of receiving a gift hadn’t really sunk in yet, but when I finally removed the book I could feel a huge grin spreading across my face. In my hands were pages upon pages of beautiful aerial photos of Denmark. It was the perfect gift: simple, thoughtful, and forever a reminder of my new home.
If this afternoon was a casual time to bond with Villum then tonight was the same with my host parents. I got a bit of work done after playing with Villum, and after dinner, so by the time Game Night was to begin I had finished drafting my essay for the DIS Intercultural Leadership Award and felt decently productive. Haha, it wasn’t much but at least I can say I did something!
Anyways, we sat down to play Settlers of Catan, an interesting strategy/resource/trading board game I had never heard of. I won’t go into detail, as it would be complicated to explain, but the basic concept is each player tries to build up their settlement by collecting resources and using them to expand the settlement. But other players operate on the same board so spacial strategy and planning play a key role. It’s also possible to form informal alliances, but these only last so long as they are mutually beneficial. In the end it is about screwing your opponent and taking everything for yourself. Hmph, sounds a lot like Wall Street.
Game night was a lot of fun and it reminded me so perfectly of home. There was the initial setup where it looked Trine had a poor position, and of course Andreas played soft on her so as not to ruin her chances entirely. Of course this is often not the case at home, but sometimes we pretend we like each other and act quite selflessly. Competition quickly heated up, and soon all semblance of empathy was lost. It was all about squirming your way past the others. Sheep resources were plentiful, and cries of “Shit, not more sheep!” rang out constantly. Of course, as it would be, Andreas’ soft streak in the beginning came back to bite him in the ass, and Trine won the game with a combination of resource hoarding and slick card play. Sadly, her final two of the ten necessary points came from being awarded a special card for having the longest road. It sucks because I could easily have built the longest road many turns before, well out of the reach of Trine, but I was biding my time as to wait until exposing hidden card and monopolizing the roadway would leave them completely helpless to stop me. Guess that is what happens when you wait too long!
It never ceases to amaze me just how similar our cultures can be despite their many differences. The socio-economic structures are about as different as you can get while still remaining in the developed world. Still, at our core we all revel in the same basic human feelings of love, humor, and closeness that develop in the friendly competition of a good board game. Thanksgiving was much the same way: although Thanksgiving is obviously not celebrated here their Christmas Lunch tradition so perfectly mirrors our own tradition that I almost felt that I had three Thanksgivings this year!
Anyways, I need to get to bed now. I wish I had some photos but these things just happen and you don’t stop to think about capturing them on film. It’s okay though, because no one will ever cherish those images more than the three of us tonight, and we all will lock them in our hearts forever. ❤
I started the morning helping Trine prepare pumpkin pies at our place before heading to Gevninge in the early afternoon to help Ava prepare food. Actually, most of the work was already done, but we hung out and played cards while we waited for the turkey to cook. Kaitlyn and Jessica didn’t arrive until late as they traveled to Sweden that morning. They made up for being late though by entertaining us with a little gangster dancing (that’s what they called it anyway). By the time everyone finally arrived and we sat down to dinner our appetites were alive!
The food was spectacular: turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes covered in a syrup, butter, nut sauce, salad, fried onions, and breads. The drinks were equally luscious: an assortment of champagnes, bodied reds, and a chardonnay. Forks dug and knives scraped, and the sounds of conversation were drowned in the void of silence. Not an awkward silence, but a Thanksgiving silence. The Thanksgiving silence.
Hours later, stomachs expanded beyond normal capacity, we continue feeding, now on the excitement of stories. We exchange tales, finding comfort in our mutual humanity. France, Denmark, the States…all just homes in a global community. Stories span time and space, universal connectors amid a fractured world. This tradition is not Danish, nor is it American. This is tradition of love and connection is a tradition of humanity, bound in the very social fabric of our beings.
And then, of course, there is dessert. Pumpkin pie and rice pudding…Mmmmm delicious! It is Danish tradition: whoever finds the whole almond in the pudding gets a prize. We eat until it is found, or until there is nothing left to eat. The true-hearted never relent, and the wicked hide their treasure. It is a battle of will, digestion, and over-indulgence. May the best man or woman win!
Thursday is normally a slow starting day…we sleep in a while, then throw the turkey in and alternate between cooking, cleaning, and lounging the morning away. By the time dinner is ready we have not really done much but prepare to eat! Sadly Thanksgiving is not a holiday here, so we still had class 😦 But the DIS Thanksgiving dinner was worth the lost day off.
Apparently Kaitlin invited all of DIS, but with Friday off and no family around it seems most students decided to travel. Better for us, because the dinner was a cozy affair with less than 15
people. We alone accounted for almost half, with myself, Kaitlyn, Lauren, Jessica (Kaitlyn’s friend studying in France), Ca, Leonard, and Simon dominating one corner. Joining us were several girls from DIS, Madi, and Kaitlin and her boyfriend. Kaitlin and Madi prepared an enormous amount of food and, together with what the guests brought, we couldn’t finish it all. I ended up with leftovers to bring home to the fam 🙂
The official turkey day was a blast. We ate and drank and laughed for hours. I taught everyone the importance of the ‘nap & lounge’ Thanksgiving technique, and Simon was quick to learn. He kept up his appetite all through dinner and even past dessert!
We went around the room and said our customary thanks, and everyone mentioned family, friends, and the opportunity to be in Copenhagen or host DIS students. I lamented the absence of my family, but I praised the belonging I’ve found with my new family and friends here in Denmark. They have truly made me feel at home!
The Christma slunch was an excellent festivity filled with wondrous food, warm people, and tons of entertainment. We pigged-out on traditional Danish goodness: Frikadeller (Danish meatballs), Risalamande (rice pudding), Flæskesteg (roast pork with crispy skin), Herring, and rye bread, as well as some not-so-traditional dishes like a cheese and spinach casserole(made especially for Lauren, of course). To top it all off we had chewy cookies, delicious brownies, and even some zucchini bread. Mmm good! I definitely ate too much, especially after a weekend of food with Denitsa, but it was so worth it!
We’ve been talking about the Islamic headscarves in my “Muslims in the West” class, and for tomorrow’s class we have to read a short article about the ban. It critically analyzes several of the traditional reasons why the headscarves should be banned, and I found one particular justification of a ban that focused on the headscarf as a symbol of male domination particularly interesting:
“A third argument, very prominent today, is that the burqa is a symbol of male domination that symbolizes the objectification of women (that they are being seen as mere objects). A Catalonian legislator recently called the burqa a “degrading prison.” The first thing we should say about this argument is that the people who make it typically don’t know much about Islam and would have a hard time saying what symbolizes what in that religion. But the more glaring flaw in the argument is that society is suffused with symbols of male supremacy that treat women as objects. Sex magazines, nude photos, tight jeans — all of these products, arguably, treat women as objects, as do so many aspects of our media culture. And what about the “degrading prison” of plastic surgery? Every time I undress in the locker room of my gym, I see women bearing the scars of liposuction, tummy tucks, breast implants. Isn’t much of this done in order to conform to a male norm of female beauty that casts women as sex objects? Proponents of the burqa ban do not propose to ban all these objectifying practices. Indeed, they often participate in them. And banning all such practices on a basis of equality would be an intolerable invasion of liberty…
|I think this ad says it all. Check out the link for similar pictures.|
My immediate reaction is to say yes, I agree with everything and that I am proud not to participate in these activities. I really don’t like make-up, as quite a few people could probably tell you, and I’m not a big fan of high heels and other stupid things which serve no functional purpose other than to make women appear more attractive. However, while these are definitely true it would be naive of me to say that I do not indirectly support some of these things.
How? The answer is simple. I like attractive women. Just like basically every other human being alive I like an attractive person of the sex I am interested in. I might not want to marry an attractive lady, but attraction is undeniably an important aspect of a relationship. That need for attraction is itself okay and undeniably natural. However, it is in defining what is attractive that the problem arises. Attractiveness is a purely cultural creation. After all, many people today might find overweight people unattractive, but in times past when food was scarce a plump man or woman meant a decent diet, something which was understandably attractive in a lover. The same can be said for skin tone: these days everyone wants a nice tan to feel attractive, but years ago pale skin was attractive as it meant you were wealthy enough not to have to work outside!
So my point is this: we are all guilty of objectifying women, even women themselves. We do this by promoting very sexual and “objectified” portrayals of what is an attractive woman. What can we do about it? I don’t have an answer to that question because I too am at the mercy of passion and attraction. But think about this the next time you claim to be outside the objectification of women.
|Objectification of men blog.|
Oh, and just a side note, can’t we equally say we are objectifying men? Just think about it.
For more on headscarves, check out this BBC article from 2010 about headscarf bans in Europe.
Today I experienced my first field study with my Sustainability core class. We cycled around central Copenhagen and looked at a handful of sustainability sites and initiatives. Honestly, it was kind of lame. It also poured on me while I was biking to the meeting place, and then rained on us several times throughout the day. And it was super windy. But it mostly sucked because I can’t think of a single thing I learned 😦 I feel like I heard a lot of people talk but they didn’t say anything I haven’t heard somewhere else before. Maybe it was just me.