Monday, June 29, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
We began the day at the Sct. Hans Skole (school). Then we met with our host families to spend the afternoon and night in a Danish household. I'll be telling the stories of those two days with pictures:
Here's the principal of the school, Lars Eriksen, as he tells us about programs there. I was surprised to learn that there is no teacher evaluation. He doesn't observe his teachers as we are accustomed to in America. And the students seem to have more freedom than our American kids - there were no hall passes; they just kind of walked around unsupervised much of the time. However, it was their last week of school, and they were turning in books and cleaning up, etc. We know our own schools aren't quite as structured at the end of the year.
Our tour guides were Viola (pronounced VeeOla) and Emma. You can see that Viola has on a scarf, a staple in the wardrobe of European girls.
They called this class "needles class" - they were knitting on some wooden frames.
This is art class. We loved the fat colored pencils in the box. I was amazed that each color was in its place in the box. I pictured American children just throwing them back in there (or throwing them at each other.)
The school has a dentist office in it. All health care and education costs are paid by the government so they have dental care right in the school.
Our tour guides couldn't translate this to English - they just said, "It's something about teeth."
We have these signs in our schools, too. They say "Testing. Do Not Disturb."
We spoke to this class of sixth graders (our equivalent of seventh graders - they start at grade 0). They asked us questions about our school, our students, and our country. I didn't know it at the time, but Anders, from my home stay family, was in this class.
The school treated us to lunch, including several types of Danish beer (right there in the school!)
When we turned the corner, I saw Lise and Anna standing on the porch...more smiles. They were all so excited to see me, but I was the one who was really excited!
Just after I arrived, my host family treated me to Danish pastries - I can tell you that nothing we have in America (that we call "Danish") can compare to these authentic delicacies!
We were greeted at the museum by ducklings...appropriate since one of H.C. Andersen's most popular stories is "The Ugly Duckling."
The museum included a timeline to help us understand the life and times of the author. Here's a familiar person who was a contemporary to the author.
Numerous scultptors have contributed to the immortality of H.C. Andersen.
H.C. Andersen had a difficult childhood, growing up in poverty. He grew up to be a prolific writer and artist, but was aware that he was not very attractive. Anna told me that she learned in school that he favored his right profile - thinking it made him look better. It's reported that his story "The Ugly Duckling" is somewhat autobiographical.
Next we came across a protest in the square where signs read "Demokrat Iran." The protestors were peaceful, chanting in a language that was neither Danish nor English. Lise said, "If they want to get their message across, they should use one of our languages."
I'll miss you, Denmark.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
The first thing I did was stand on the bridge over the moat. I remember learning about moats in third grade so this was an exciting adventure...to actually see one.
I can see how a moat protects a castle.
Kronborg acquired its current name in 1585 when it was rebuilt by Frederick II into a magnificent Renaissance castle unique in its appearance and size throughout Europe. In 1629, a fire swept through the castle and some say it never regained its original splendor.
From 1739 until the 1900's, Kronborg was used as a prison. The inmates were guarded by soldiers in the castle. The convicts had been sentenced to work on the castle's fortifications. They were divided into two categories: those with minor sentences were categorized as "honest" and were allowed to work outside the castle walls; those serving sentences for violence, murder, arson or the like were categorized as "dishonest" and had to serve the full sentence doing hard physical labor inside the castle ramparts. Otherwise, they served their time under the same conditions: they all had to wear chains and spend nights in cold and damp dungeons.
First, the language. I'm big on words. I'm an English teacher. And I'm mesmerized by this consonant-laden cousin of German. When I listen to the television broadcasters (well, I have to have some noise in my hotel room) the intonation sounds very American...not so much English, but American. Their cadence is similar, and they go up and down at all the same places. But the words are unrecognizable. I do know that "tak" means "thanks." I saw it on the trash cans at McDonald's. And I'm still working on understanding that O-with-a-slash-through-it-thingee. That one worries me a little...I can't figure out how to type it!
Next, Denmark is known for being the happiest place on earth. Being a modern welfare state, Denmark offers its citizens free health-care and education, among other benefits, and everyone feels the sense of the community that a country that shares all resources will feel. Only 2% of the budget is used for police, jails, and the court system, for goodness sakes! How much happier can you be?
But since we've been here, two people have jumped in front of moving trains to commit suicide (and we've only been here four days.) You see, Denmark also has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. So how is it that the happiest people are also the UN-happiest?
And next, why is there grafitti everywhere? And I do mean everywhere! If it's not moving chances are it's been spray painted.
Well, on to a recap of the past couple of days...
I took my first European train ride yesterday. What an experience! I love the words here that remind me so much of the British (I've always wanted to visit England but haven't made it yet.) For example, I took a "lift" at the airport instead of an elevator. And when we got to the train station we were told to go to "Platform 5." I was immediately reminded of Harry Potter's Platform nine and three quarters and looked for a similar Danish version to no avail.
Our train platform - to Roskilde...
Harry Potter's platform to Hogwarts.
And here's the Viking ship they can play on.
As we walked back through town, I thought this was a firetruck. On second glance, maybe it's a street cleaner.
By now, I was getting this train thing down, and personally I think they're easier to navigate than the ones in New York City. At least here we're looking for cities, and all we have to do is ask, "Is this train going to Copenhagen?" if we're not sure which one we need. In New York you have to understand the numbered streets, and I don't.
So we settled in on the train headed for Malmo, Sweden (and, yes, I need one of those o's with a slash through it for Malmo!) The view was gorgeous as we traveled over the Oresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden, the world's largest bridge carrying both road and railway traffic. While in Malmo, we explored and shopped a little (the prices were lower than in Copenhagen), and I was a little disappointed in a toy store when I found out that the Swedish word for Cinderella literally translates to "ash pot." Prince Charming and Ash Pot, what a pair!
We came upon a huge square full of music and celebration.
The buildings are beautiful.
Got any money stowed away in a Swedish bank?
Again...there are flowers for sale everywhere in Denmark and Sweden. Each home must have fresh flowers on the table...but I haven't been able to peek in one to see.