Thursday, March 25, 2010

Travel Break and an assortment of other things

Tomorrow is the big day! I leave for my European adventures tomorrow night after classes. My super-awesome host family is taking me to the airport. My first stop is Dublin. We will be there until Tuesday, when we hop over to London. On Saturday I'm taking an overnight plane to Santorini, Greece and I'll be there for a week. I plan on taking copious amounts of pictures!! I am so ready for the warm, beautiful, sandy beaches of Greece! I wish I wasn't traveling during will be weird not going to church. But I am really excited!! A lot of people are going to 5 or 6 different places, but I am glad that we are only going to 3. I don't want to spend a huge portion of my break in an airplane, bus or train.

I've been biking to the train station (instead of taking the bus) for the past couple of weeks and I really like it! I think I am going to try and either bike or ride the bus in San Antonio next year. It won't save time, but it will definitely save me money! Riding the bike makes me feel like such a Dane. They really use bikes here! It is a common sight to see a woman in a skirt and heels riding a bike, smoking a cigarette and talking on her phone. Its crazy, but so is texting and driving and way too many Americans do that!

Right now my host sister, Maria, is unpacking her suitcase. She just got back from being in London for almost 2 weeks. It is really cute to watch her interact with my Lise, my host mom. It's obvious that they missed each other!! Maria just sat down in the middle of the dining room and started unpacking and telling Lise all about her trip. Since most of it was in Danish I have no idea what she did, but its still cute to watch. My host brother, Mikkel, is also in London right now with his school and is getting in tomorrow. Maria goes to a private school, and every year they take the 14 year olds to London to follow around a student so they can work on their English. Mikkel is 17, so he is in high school. But their schooling system here is different than the one back home, so technically Mikkel is done with his basic schooling requirements for Denmark. I believe they are only required to go until the 10th grade.

I had a really interesting conversation with Lise last night. We somehow got to talking about banks in the US and I said something about the drive-thru windows. Apparently they don't have those here in Denmark and she thought it was hilarious! It took about 5 minutes explaining for her and Niels, my host dad, to understand what I was talking about. It's interesting. Then I started realizing that we actually have a lot of services where you don't have to get out of your car- the dry cleaner, pharmacy, donut shop, etc. It's hard at home though, especially living in Texas where public transportation doesn't really exist, because it is really convenient to just have all of these services available to you via your car window. Plus, if I wanted to be like a Dane and ride my bike everywhere it would be almost impossible! Here, the grocery store is only a 10 minute bike ride away and the sun isn't so intense that it would ruin any refrigerated items. But I digress. It is going to be really strange going back to the States and getting in a car to go everywhere. I've only been in a car 4 times since coming here! Once on my way to my first host family's house and another time going to Bilka, basically the Danish Walmart, with my old host family. Then Neils came and got me after work when I moved in with them and on Tuesday Neils, Lise and I went out to dinner. So....yeah. Driving is going to be weird.

Speaking of dinner, it was so good! Last week, when Neils suggested it, Mikkel freaked out because he was going to miss it! The restaurant was about a 15 minute drive from the house, out in the middle of nowhere. They only serve 1 thing each day, so there is no menu to order from. On Tuesdays they cook traditional Danish food. We had this fried pork with potatoes, pickled beets and sauce. OH MAN OH MAN. It was really good. :)

Lets see. What else has happened recently? Last Saturday I made my host family banana bread. They had never had it before!! It turned out pretty good and they really liked it! I think the entire loaf was gone within an hour. And when I made chocolate chip cookies the weekend before last, those weren't around for too long either. Haha. When I come back, I've already told them I'm making them brownies because they can't get them here in Denmark. And I am going to cook biscuits for them and make breakfast sandwiches one morning. And I am going to make calzones. The Danes don't really eat much Italian food. I don't know if it's because they don't like it or if they just haven't really been exposed to it. But we shall see!

Last weekend I watched this horribly scary movie with my host brother and his friend, Paranormal Activity. DON'T WATCH IT. Seriously, it was so creepy! The next day Lise decided she wanted to see it. Her face was hilarious when she got done watching it! Oh goodness. It was so scary!!!

On Monday night I took a tour of the Red Light District of Copenhagen. We saw approximately 13 prostitutes. It was really weird. The strangest experience, by far, was one Danish woman we saw working. She was dressed completely normal. If she hadn't been soliciting every man who walked by her there would be no way of knowing that she was a prostitute. It was very strange. But Denmark has a huge problem with prostitutes now. In 1999 when Denmark legalized prostitution, there were about 900 prostitutes. Now there are over 6000. Many of them are trafficked, but it is nearly impossible to prove.

Luckily my horrible, stupid, waste-of-time 8:30 class tomorrow has been canceled so I don't have to wake up at 6:00. But on Wednesday, I went into Jutland with my Criminology class and we toured an open prison. It was a little boring, not gonna lie. But I think that was just because I've already been to one before. This at least looked like a prison--there were fences. But the gates were all open. Part of the prison is designed to become a closed prison for overflow, so there are a lot of unused security measures in place. One of the prisoners who was on the tour with us was a 22 year old ex-gang member. He was in prison for kidnapping, molesting someone (we weren't told the age), threatening people, and for collecting on debts. He claims to have turned his life around, but I wonder how much of it was just an act for the prison staff on the tour. The other prisoner was in for his 3rd arrest for drunk driving. There is absolutely no excuse for that, but especially in Denmark where there is SO MUCH mass transit! There are night buses that run all during the night, even on weeknights. And the trains run all night too. He apparently has also changed. If these men have, it certainly isn't the prison system that converted them. Honestly, I don't understand how anyone is deterred from crime here.

Tomorrow I am going to try and find the post office so I can mail postcards! I have about 5 that I just keep not mailing. Some are from my trip to Paris and some are just from Copenhagen. But I don't know where the post office is, so I just haven't mailed them still.

I really like being in Denmark, but I know that I will be ready to come home in May. It's hard to believe that I've been here for 2 months already. My time spent at my other host family's apartment feels like a different time...almost a dream. I was so unhappy there and I am so happy here that the 2 are completely incomparable. Is that a word? Well, it describes the total disparity between my 2 Danish residences. Before I just had a room, but I actually feel at home here. It's nice to finally be able to relax.

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