Friday, September 30, 2011

The Zoo, Visitors and Swimming

We have had a slew of visitors over the past few months. Most recently, Neil's mom and our friends Michael and Lisa were in town. Riley was thrilled to spend time with his grandma and then the following week with our friends.

When Grandma Terri was here, we took a trip to the zoo - one of many this summer. We found the Chimpanzee house for the first time and saw a very interesting sign that seems to be putting some misinformation about Americans out there. (note the English text on the bottom.)

Chimpanzees as child substitutes? Really? Please, Americans, comment if you know someone with a chimp instead of a child. Also, I think saying that many Americans keep chimpanzees under miserable conditions is a bit unfair. I am not an expert on the subject, but I am pretty sure this sign could use a rewrite.

The zoo is really fantastic and similar to a good zoo in the US - like the Albuquerque Zoo, for example. There is, however, one distinct difference and that is the way they feed the animals. In the US, as a general rule, unless the animal is eating fish or plants, the food they eat in public is unrecognizable. In Denmark, we saw cute little meerkats eating whole bunnies. For Neil and I, former bunny owners, this was more than a little upsetting. In fact, I still see the poor white and black bunny splayed out in the meerkat enclosure very vividly when I think of it.  Meh.

It is funny how at home I can feel here and how sometimes I even forget that I am not in my home country. We're all civilized Westerners after all. But then a big cultural difference jumps out at me... like feeding whole animals to other animals at the zoo. Of course, I realize that it's just a fact of life and by not showing this to zoo-goers in the US, we're perhaps not teaching all that we can about zoo animals and nature and the food chain, but I would like to stay in my little bubble and pretend that all the cute zoo animals get along.


The above photo shows Riley's excitement at having more visitors arrive in Copenhagen. We picked Michael and Lisa up at the airport and got a seat with a view on the Metro on the way home. 

After all our visitors went home, Riley and I decided to try swimming in Denmark for the first time. There are some differences here as well. Water is much less chlorinated in Denmark than it is in the US. Because of the lower level of chlorine, you must shower and wash thoroughly before swimming here. And, because Danes do not seem to have the hangups about their bodies that we Americans do, the showering takes place in one big room without curtains or stall doors. 

It's actually a bit like my all-girl's summer camp in Minnesota and I remember threatening not to shower for the entire month I was there if it meant I didn't have to show the other girls what I looked like naked. And so, here we are, I am 32 years old and apparently I haven't changed much from that girl at summer camp. When I learned about the system at Danish pools my first week in the country, I panicked and managed to put off swimming for 8 months. I am not proud of this. It's absurd. 
Today, with the help of a Danish friend, Riley and I went to the pool, figured out the pre-bathing system, walked around naked in the locker room and did not die of embarrassment, had a baby swimming lesson and actually enjoyed ourselves. Add one more indoor activity to the list for this coming winter. Who knows, maybe I will return home to the US with less body image hang ups? That would be a great souvenir to take home from Denmark.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oh, Denmark!

We went on a big walk today as a family. Sometimes, long rambling walks make the very best days. We stopped for brunch at the Laundromat Cafe where we met some other Americans, walked by the cruise ships, took Riley to his new favorite playground and saw a BMX bike stunt competition. A very successful day in Copenhagen. We only got rained on briefly twice and otherwise enjoyed nice weather. (Imagine!) On our walk we came across a bookstore which had a hilarious sign that you would not see in the US. As best I could tell, this was a normal used bookstore. I do not know why this is the sign they chose... but here it is (see right). 
The bookstore sign and all of it's busty glory reminded me of a restaurant experience we had earlier this summer when Riley looked up at the ceiling at a restaurant during a meal and began saying "Mom, mom mom mom". I was very excited until I looked up a the ceiling and saw what he was referring to as mom. A topless mermaid. Embarrassing! (see left) Denmark does love its topless women. Beaches are top optional all over the country - boobs just aren't taboo at all. 

Also less taboo are things like English bad words and rude gestures. See the Party Now, Apologize Later billboard for a lovely middle finger display. Also interesting about this sign is the roll of American cash as if all we Americans do is carry big wads of money, wear gold bling, drink and flip people off. Hmm.  I am not entirely sure what they are selling here, but I know I don't want my kid seeing imagery like that and thinking it's cool. 
Along those lines, Riley and I have been rocking out to the radio in the mornings. We have a radio in our bedroom and Riley seems to think it is a magical box. The pop station has mostly English language songs and most of them are American, so often I know the songs and Riley and I dance to them while I am getting ready in the morning. A couple weeks ago a song came on with a woman talking and she says something like "When I went to Spain and I saw the people party, I looked at my friend and said, What the fuck?" Then, "What the fuck" repeats many times like a record is skipping. When I heard this broadcast on the radio in the middle of the day, I thought, "What the fuck??!!!" and promptly turned the radio off. Since then I have heard this song at a shopping mall and in the grocery store. Awesome. I hope Riley doesn't notice.
Moving on to random misappropriations of English. The word for lunch in Danish is Frokost. Danes also love brunch (which is something I love about Danes). I recently saw this sign on a downtown restaurant and had to laugh. I think that whoever wrote it didn't realize that Brunch is already a combination of Breakfast and Lunch. Now they have come up with Frunch which is a combo of Lunch (Frokost) and Brunch - which really makes this meal ... this Frunch, two parts lunch and only one part breakfast right?


                                                                                                                                                                  And finally, from a mall food court where we went to seek shelter from another rainy day in Denmark. The coffee shop is called Kong and the quick place to grab pre-made food is Kong Venience. Oy.





Summer - Was it ever here?

It is nearly September and I am pretty sure I missed summer all together. We had a few hot days. In fact, I remember two days when I came home in the afternoon with Riley and put him in a onsie and we both sat by the windows trying to get a breeze. On these two days I wondered why Copenhagen didn't have air conditioning anywhere. But I do not wonder that now as I sit in my apartment shivering in long pants and a longsleeved shirt.

When we moved here in January after our seven hour flight with our seven month old and two dogs, we emerged to go through customs. The Danish customs agent asked why we were in the country and Neil and I both proudly said "We're moving here" practically in unison. The customs agent scoffed, "You're moving here?" he said. "Well, I hope you like our two winters. We have a white winter and a green winter. Most people prefer the white winter because that is when we turn the heat on in our homes and get comfortable."

At the time, I was deliriously tired and didn't really get what he was saying. I was more hung up on why he wouldn't be nicer to people moving to his country than I was on what he was trying to tell us. But now I get it. We did have gloriously long and sunny days which are getting shorter and shorter. And it was beautiful and green all over the city, but brrrrr.

We had all kinds of wonderful visitors this summer including our friend Lia, my parents, our friends Jeff and Shannon, my Aunt and her friend, and my cousin Lisa. (I hope I am not forgetting anyone.) We also went on a fantastic trip to the Baltics (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania). Many blog-worthy things happened, but I didn't get around to blogging about many of them. Hopefully fall and the white winter that's coming up will provide me with a bit more time for introspection. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pippi Longstocking

As some of your may know, I am prone to wearing my hair in two braids a la Heidi or many 10-year-old girls. I realize the style doesn't lend itself to a great deal of sophistication, but I have never been too concerned with making other people believe I am sophisticated based on my appearance. My hair braids easily and when it's humid or windy, two braids are preferable to a head of frizz. So, I have been parading around as a little girl quite a bit this summer.

Recently, Riley and I went to the zoo with some friends. When we arrived, the babies were hungry for lunch so we sat at a cafe on the outdoor patio. When we sat down and parked the strollers, a little girl at the table next to us got very excited and began yammering to her mom in Danish. I thought it was cute that she was so thrilled to be sitting by two babies and moved on with getting settled and giving the boys snacks while my friend Daniella went in to get food. The little girl kept up her frantic chatter and finally her mom looked at me and apologized.

"I'm very sorry," she said. "It's just that she thinks you are Pipi Longstocking."

I looked down and saw now that the little girl was looking at me and my two braids with complete wonder and awe.

"Oh my goodness, I said. That is so funny. I guess not many grown women wear their hair in two braids."

The little girl's mom of course agreed that not many grown women do choose the hairstyle.

I said hi to the little girl and she blushed.

A little later I turned around in my seat to see her peaking over the back of her chair at me and then ducking to hide when I saw her. This caused me to giggle a little and her mom apologized again.

"It's just that she thinks she's just met her idol," she said.

Then they packed up and headed away from the cafe, but not before the girl said "Hi Hi Pipi!" to which I replied, "Hi Hi".

It made my day to be mistaken for Pipi Longstocking. Apparently, she's pretty popular here in Denmark. There is a whole line of Pipi toys at all the toy stores here and I am guessing there is a TV show, but I'm not certain.

Just in case you were wondering, no my braids were not sticking out on the sides, but apparently, just having two braids was enough to let my little fan know I was Pipi.

Death Defying Sunbathing

Dear Neighbor Who Sunbathes On The Top Floor On Top Of Your Window Box With No Balcony Below,

I miss seeing you sunbathe on sunny days. I am very sorry if my entire family photographing you both times you were performing your death defying stunt was a bit of a deterrant from future sunbathing. Should you decide to try your hand at it again, I promise to be more subtle with my photography.

Sincerely,
Jodi






Sunday, July 17, 2011

Movies in Denmark

Neil and I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean the other night and it was our first movie experience in Denmark. In most ways, it's the same as seeing a movie in the US. But there were a few interesting differences. When I went to the ticket counter to purchase my tickets, the man told me I could sit in the fourth row center or further back on the sides.

"Huh," I thought. "I'm not going to a play or a concert, what's with the assigned seats?"

But every seat in the theater had a number on it and entering the theater was much less stressful because we didn't need to race to get good seats. I think US theaters should adopt this right away.

The concessions in Denmark are better than in the US, too. Granted there are a few independent cinemas like the E Street Cinema in DC where they serve alcohol and higher quality snacks which are pretty fantastic. But at the regular run-of-the mill theater in Copenhagen, the concessions were awesome. Denmark has a fondness for Bland Selv (or blend it your self) candy - the kind where you scoop things out of bins and make your own mix. In the US, they may have these at movie theaters, but not near the level they have in Copenhagen, there was literally an entire room with walls filled with candy choices - it was amazing. There were also self-serve slushies, alcoholic drinks, other candy, popcorn, chips, etc. It was like a convenience store in a movie theater with a fantastic selection of blend yourself candy. Mmmm.

Neil and I chose some candy and headed in to the movie which was in the original English with Danish subtitles. I have done an abysmal job learning the language so far, but am trying so I found myself spending the first half of the movie reading the subtitles in an attempt to learn more Danish, but then I realized it was really taking away from my enjoyment of the actual movie and Johnny Depp so I avoided the subtitles from then on.

By far the most hilarious part of the movie experience was the name of the theater itself: Cinemaxx which just makes me think of Cinemax in the US and the shows they have on late at night (perhaps some of you also called it Skinemax?). Apparently Cinemaxx is a European cinema chain and nobody here giggles at the name. Oh, I am so American.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Photo Backlog - Or Proof Jodi is Always Thinking of Blogging, But Rarely Sits Down to Blog

A few weeks back, Neil and I went on a date to Copenhagen's Ice Bar. We'd read about the ice bar well before we considered moving here. Some travel magazine or another had an article about ice bars and ice hotels - there are several around the world - and we decided we must visit one.

So, after three months of living in Copenhagen, we headed to the Ice Bar. When we arrived, we were ushered into a reception area/gift shop and informed that we needed to wait until the next time slot and that the cost was 60 kroner (about $30) per person which included one drink. This seemed a little steep, but we couldn't turn back. We paid the money and waited.

When it was our turn, the Ice Bar hostess placed large blue faux-fur-trimmed parkas over our heads that had gloves attached. The effect was instant ridiculousness.  
 Then we were ushered into the bar. It was much smaller than I expected and yet also felt empty since they only allow something like 10 people in at a time. My best theory for this is that the more people, the more likely the bar is to melt from the body heat. The room was very cold and also pretty amazing. The bar was made of ice, the tables, the chandelier. Everything but the floor was ice. We ordered our drinks and they cam in ice glasses which melted to the shape of our lips as we drank. (one of the coolest features, for sure)

We spent maybe 15 minutes in Copenhagen's Ice Bar before we'd finished our drinks (which were delicious) and felt sufficiently frozen so we headed back out to the street. No need to rush back, but it was fun.
 As you may know, Copenhagen is a bike town. Everyone here bikes and nearly every street has wide raised bike lanes. In rush hour, it is common to see more bikes on the street than cars. Women bike in skirts and men and women bike in their work clothes. It is fascinating to biker watch for the fashions alone. I think the prevalence of bikes has to do with the fact that Denmark is flat, so it's an easy way to get around, cars are expensive and highly taxed and people just grow up biking, so they bike. I have seen lots of  creative uses of bikes since coming here. The other day, I got a crepe from this pancake bike. The lady who makes the crepes and drives the bike said it's not that easy to pedal because it's so heavy.
 At a grocery store called Qvickly, their in-store coffee bar had a hilarious reference to (dated) American pop culture. So random.
This cafe door cracked me up. The misuse of quotes is pretty annoying, but the great use of both sides of the glass is commendable. It's funny how English is used in signage and advertising here. I see English frequently, but usually only a few words are in English, the rest Danish. I think it might be a cool-factor or cuteness-factor to use a bit of English in your signage here. But I am really not sure. I do, however, enjoy being able to read things once in a while.

In our continuing quest to do the touristy things you're supposed to do in our city, we climbed to the top of the Church of Our Savior. It is a very beautiful church both inside and out and the views from the top are fantastic.Inside is a very old, very large organ that was rehearsing a classical music concert the day we visited. As far as tourist attractions go, this was a highlight.
This is a restaurant in our neighborhood. When I first arrived in Copenhagen, I wondered why anyone would go to someplace so rudely named. "Go away? Fine, I will." But one day I walked by and smelled a delicious aroma coming from inside. It has turned out to be one of my favorite places to get food. It's basically a take out place, which might account for the name. They have delicious curries, sushi and other snacks like salads and cold noodle dishes. I am partial to the banana coconut mango chicken curry - delicious.

And finally, some pictures of our neighborhood swans and baby ducklings, still a highlight for me as I continue to enjoy Denmark. More blog posts coming soon. Happy spring.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Clarifications on Happiness

It seems that my post about my theory on Denmark's high happiness rating was taken in the wrong way by some. I would like to clarify my theory by saying that a) I do not think this country is perfect, b) I still love the US and will gladly move back there in a couple of years. But that doesn't mean I don't see some ways my home country could be better. c) I was simply commenting on one of the reasons I think Danes enjoy their country, not making any statements about what it's like for immigrants here.

I am in a privileged position of living outside the Danish system and not trying to stay here permanently. I know that immigrating to Denmark is very difficult, and increasingly so. I also know that a segment of the population would like Denmark to be only for Danes. Just as I do not agree with those in America who want to keep all foreigners out and force everyone to learn English, etc, I do not agree with much of the Danish immigration policy. However, I did not start this blog to discuss Danish politics - it's a blog to document my experience living in Denmark.

I hope to come up with subsequent theories on the happiness of the Danes and I will post them here as well.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Happiness

When we considered moving to Copenhagen last winter, we were often told that it was one of the happiest cities on the planet. This seemed like a compelling reason to move here - happiest place? Sign me up.

When we got here in late January, I really wondered how Danes could be even remotely happy. It was cold and dark. The banks of the canals and river were barren and brown. Everyone traveled around in many many layers of clothing.

Now that it's Spring, the city has come alive, everything is green and I am really falling in love with Copenhagen. I also have more insight into Denmark and I have some ideas for why the Danes are the happiest people. Let's start with socialism.

In Denmark:

Childcare is guaranteed, high quality and extremely affordable.

Healthcare is free.

Moms get a year of maternity leave and get paid part of their salary the entire time.

College students are paid to go to school. (This means no Danish parents are worrying about setting aside money in a college fund)

If your income is too low, you automatically get government subsidies.

If you stay home with your child and care for him or her, you get paid by the government.

Most Danes only work until 4 or 4:30 pm.

etc.

Essentially, the Danes don't have to worry about much. Things that Americans obsess over are all taken care of here. Sure, there's a 25% sales tax on everything to help the government afford to take care of everyone, but if you don't have to worry about paying for healthcare or your child's education, if you don't have your unborn infant waiting on a list for daycare that he or she never stands a chance of getting into, if you get to take a year off with your new baby and still have some income, you can afford the sales tax, no problem.

Sure, there's a cold dark winter, but when the sun comes out in the spring, the carefree Danes have a plethora of parks to enjoy, they're uninhibited enough to take their tops off on the beaches, and they have enough disposable income to purchase stylish swimming suits.

When I tell people here about how I was supposed to return to work when Riley was three months old, how I didn't get paid at all while on maternity leave, how we already started a college fund for him, they look at me in shock. When American politics come up, Danes often say they don't understand what's going on in America.. Why didn't we want universal healthcare? they ask. I don't know what to say. Form where they are coming from, high taxes and lots of services look really good. Heck, from where I'm coming from it's beginning to look really good, too.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Becoming a Bit Danish

I have a new friend from Scotland who moved here about a month after I did. We met for coffee this week and I suggested grabbing a table outside and then heading in to purchase our drinks (and pastries). I parked Riley's stroller at the table and headed into the bakery when I realized my friend was hesitating by the table and, perhaps more accurately, her son. It was at this moment that I realized I have become a little bit Danish.

Three short months ago, I was first horrified at the thought of leaving Riley outside in his stroller and then I was reluctantly dabbling in leaving him outside. Now, I still don't leave him if I can't see him, but I also don't hesitate to park him outdoors and head into a shop or restaurant as long as they have nice big windows and/or an open door so I can hear Riley if he cries. I have learned that if I always take him in with me, he's more likely to wake up. I've also come to realize that the chances of someone taking him away in his stroller are quite low, especially if I have my eye on him. Yet, it's a bit shocking how quickly and completely I have adjusted from being the paranoid American to the trusting expat. Someone please remind me not to leave Riley out in his stroller when I go home for a visit next winter.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Copenhagen in Photos

 I am still finding beauty in this city almost daily, whether it be an old street lined with cobblestone and ancient-looking houses (see left) or watching the flower shop employees set out their sidewalk flower displays in the morning while drinking a latte and breathing the crisp morning air.

I realize that I am very fortunate to have the time to explore Copenhagen and to pause to take in its beauty. There is something special about learning the rhythms of a city and I have the luxury and freedom to really learn Copenhagen's.

Many mornings Riley and I walk Neil to work downtown. On most of these walks Riley falls asleep and I am left with time to walk around on my own. This is how I came to enjoy the morning flower shop setup. I sit at an outdoor cafe (which is usually empty at that hour) and watch the young employees bring out crates of flowers and turn them into a beautiful flower display. Also on these mornings, I like to walk along Copenhagen's walking street and watch as the businesses set up for the day. Hanging flags, putting shoes out on the sidewalk, etc. There's something nice about watching a city wake up and come to life.

***

 Ever since my early posts, I have been trying to photograph Riley's stroller next to a traditional Danish stroller to show the massive size of these Danish strollers. At last, mission accomplished. Perhaps not the best photo, but I think it illustrates the fact that the strollers in Denmark are like little baby houses on wheels. It was a nice day when the photo was taken, so you don't get to see all the crazy bedding and warm layers these strollers have in the winter, but you do get the idea. Danish strollers are huge!


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 Please note two relatively normal looking guys I saw on the metro the other day and then take a close look at the guy in shorts's socks. These brightly colored stripey socks are sold all over the place. It is harder to find a pair of plain black men's socks than it is to find a pair of orange striped socks in this country. Often a man will look completely normal (to this American) until I glance down and see the crazy colorful socks he is wearing. These are worn with suits, jeans, and apparently shorts (if you're that guy in the photo). I don't get it at all, but I do applaud these European men for embracing bright colors.

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 During a rare trip to the mall, I was browsing a new toy shop when I noticed the shopkeeper was wearing a New Mexico t-shirt.

"Hey! That's my home state!" I exclaimed after looking at her. She seemed sightly shocked by my outburst, but I was not dissuaded. I proceeded to pepper her with questions. Had she been there? Where did she get the shirt? etc.

Turns out that among our many exports, we have sent Urban Outfitters to Denmark and that is where this Danish woman who has never been came to be the owner of a New Mexico t-shirt. She was nice enough to allow me to take her photograph.


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Denmark has a thing for vikings. They were part of the country's early history and if you ignore the whole pillaging bit, they're cool. One of the few items of clothing we have purchased Riley since arriving is a viking t-shirt (see photo at left). I couldn't resist, the cotton was too soft and the viking was too unique, you wouldn't come across that shirt in the US! One of my favorite features of the t-shirt is the fact that the Danish flag is actually in the viking's helmet.

Aside from Riley's shirt, if you wander around Copenhagen you will see every manner of viking souvenir and many viking establishments. (see below)

 There is actually a viking ship museum nearby and I can't wait to go when it warms up a little bit more. We definitely do not (did not) have vikings in the US. Score one for Danish history.  Vikings are cool.
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To the left are my neighborhood swans. Riley and I like to visit them as often as we can because they are huge, beautiful and very interesting to both of us. Recently, the swans have been missing from their normal shore where they hang out and get bread scraps from visitors. I was worried at first, but yesterday I located them by a nest with big white eggs in it. I am SO excited to see baby swans. I have said it before, but the swans are definitely one of the coolest things about living in Copenhagen. I feel so fortunate to be able to have them as neighbors.




Ice Hockey - (Not exactly about Denmark)

I am still clinging to Washington, DC. As much as I am enjoying Denmark, I came to love DC during the five years we lived there and I am holding on in many small ways. I still get the breaking news updates from the Washington Post so I know when my friends are going to have a tough commute and I also know when the president announces the death of Osama Bin Laden in the middle of the night. I still get the DC Groupon emails and am often tempted by the deals, only to realize it would be a bit tough to cash them in. And perhaps the largest way in which I am clinging to my old city is my love for the Washington Capitals hockey team.

Last night, the Capitals ended another season once full of promise, promise that was quickly and efficiently squandered. It was another heartbreaking finale and I must say, I am happy I didn't slog through it as a season ticket holder. When we were thinking about moving to Denmark, I worried about leaving my beloved Capitals and felt sad that we might miss their winning of the Stanley Cup. Thank goodness I didn't let that keep me there. Instead of moping around, wondering what to do with all of my red Caps clothing in the off season and worrying about which of my favorite players would be traded, I spent today exploring another part of Copenhagen, enjoying the weather and only occasionally feeling the familiar pain of a sports fan mourning a season. Thank you Copenhagen for being a fantastic distraction from another early playoff exit by my favorite team.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Trashy Americans

The former tenant of our apartment (who happens to be the owner) used a teeny tiny trash can with itty bitty matching trash bags for his main trash can. The whole trash system, shall we call it, was basically what most Americans would have in their home office or spare bathroom.

Shortly after we moved here, we went to IKEA, bought the largest trash can we could find - it's approaching the size of the normal American kitchen trash can, but not quite - and brought it home. Then, it was my task to find large trash bags to fit it. We only brought a few of our normal Glad drawstring trash bags with us. The first few trips to the grocery store, I was unable to locate any trash bags. They do not sell them in boxes here, for starters. They are not branded, there are not a billion choices - vanilla scented, extra strong, extra flexible, etc. etc. When I did finally locate the trash bags, they were in rolls with a slip of paper covering them that indicated how many trash bags there were in the roll and how big they were.

It was probably the third trip to the store when I finally found them. Then I was presented with a new problem. Nearly every trash bag was small or smaller, except for some really big (100ml) bags that happened to be see-through. I bought them. I have looked at other grocery stores and so far, the big bags seem to only come in really big and really see-through. The result of this is that we show everyone our trash when we take it out.

In case they weren't already staring at us thinking, "Foreigner! Foreigner! That huge trash bag is a dead giveaway!" They can now think, "Look at all that wilted lettuce those Americans wasted and threw out! Eeew is that next to a dirty diaper?"

When we take our ginormous trash bags to the dumpsters in the trash area of our building's courtyard, I always look in before throwing our bag in and I have not ever seen a big trash bag. Everyone else uses the tiny ones. I don't know how this is possible. How do Danish people not have trash? We recycle. We try very hard not to waste food and other household items. After giving this issue way too much thought, I have decided that the Danes must take their trash out ALL THE TIME. They clearly have no concern about wasting trash bags and take the trash out almost daily. There is just no other explanation.

Or, maybe...just maybe... we are SO American.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Groceries and Underwear

Two things of completely no relation that I have been thinking about lately.

1.) The first day we were in Denmark, we went to the grocery store so as not to starve in our apartment. The entire shopping trip was pleasant until we checked out. The check out looks the same as it does in the US, but somehow there is something very different about it. The clerks are fast, the conveyor belts move fast, everyone has their own bags out and ready to bag and everyone puts a divider up after they finish placing their groceries on the belt. Neil and I didn't know about the divider, we were slow to get out bags out, took our time packing them, and found other peoples groceries flying down the conveyor belt toward us. We quickly threw our things in bags and got out of the way, but I remember looking at each other and remarking how scary it was. Neil said he thought it was because most people don't buy as much as we just had. But I have since realized that Danes are a bit militant about their grocery checkout process.

It reminds me of DC residents and metro escalators. If you are standing on the left of an escalator in the district, then look out for angry locals.

In Copenhagen, if you forget top put up the divider after your groceries, prepare to have people glare at you.

2. Danes are much more comfortable with lingere than Americans are. There are lingerie stores everywhere and the big department store chooses to greet visitors this month with the image below. This display is right inside the main doors to the store:

I think that in the US, most stores keep the lingerie department upstairs behind women's clothes, athletic clothes and pjs. Not here. Lingerie is front and center. I am not entirely sure why, but I suspect it has something to do with European sexual liberation. I am in Denmark, the country of topless beaches, after all.

Kinder Eggs

One of the great things about living in Europe is that I can buy Kinder Eggs whenever I want.  Yes, it's silly, but I love them. If you haven't heard of kinder eggs, they are chocolate eggs with little plastic capsules inside. In the capsule is a toy. Many times the toys are in little parts and you get to assemble them, but sometimes they are just in one piece. We don't sell these things in the US because someone would choke on the toy and they would then sue - at least, I am pretty sure that is why.

I actually don't really eat the chocolate eggs. I just buy them for the little toys. I have been collecting Kinder Egg toys since college. It is a slow thing to collect because I only get them when in a foreign country. 

Today, I bought myself a three pack in honor of Easter and I opened them at the kitchen table while Riley was eating dinner. Part of me realized that I shouldn't open them in front of him in case he wanted the toys which would be too small for him to play with, but the other part of me was excited to see what the eggs contained. 

I first opened one with a rabbit in it. It came in a few pieces, I assembled it, made it hop by pressing on it's back as the illustration indicated and moved on to the next egg. Riley looke once or twice, but was not interested. The next egg contained a hippie musician dog. Not much assembly required. Riley couldn't care less. The final egg had a strange blue three-eyed monster in it. When it came out of the egg Riley's face lit up and he started yelling. "ooh ooh. oh. ooh. aaah"  which basically means, "Give that to me or I will keep yelling." So, since there were no little parts to this guy, I let him play with it for a while. He happily threw it around and laughed when I made it walk toward him on the table.

But, really? He went for the weird little monster over a dog and a rabbit? Does this reveal something about his personality? 

The three kinder egg toys. Riley's favorite is in the middle.


Passover Brisket

Hello blog readers! I have been a bit silent this month as Neil has been using my computer to edit his movie, but many blog-worthy things have taken place. Let us begin with preparing for Passover, shall we?

Preparing for a Jewish holiday in Copenhagen is not entirely simple. The grocery stores do not all carry matzah. There is no kosher for passover section. There is, however, a kosher store. A two-bus journey from my home, as far as I can tell it is the only kosher store in all of Denmark. I have to remind myself that before living in DC, I hadn't lived in a place with a kosher store, but DC spoiled me. Not only is Kosher Mart a store, it's the size of a regular super market and is filled with kosher food galore. Shopping for Passover there is so simple it's fun. Copenhagen Kosher on the other hand is more like the kosher closet.  It's great that it is here at all, but it's super tiny and has a small and very very expensive inventory.

I ended up with Matzoh from France, matzoh meal from Holland, Gefilte fish from the US, horseradish from Israel, wine from Israel, and the worst Kosher for Passover cookies known to man for about $150. Oy.

Because I went to the Kosher store well before the holiday, I hadn't really planned out my meal yet and wasn't read to buy meat. Also, since we eat non-kosher meat, I thought I would save a little money by purchasing our main dish from the regular grocery store. Oops.

When it came time to cook the Passover meal, I decided that brisket was what we had to cook. After visiting three grocery stores and realizing that I could not recognize any of the cuts of beef in the coolers, I ended up at the neighborhood butcher. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time I'd ever visited a butcher shop and as I set foot in the tiny store, I realized that it's a bit different than the meat counter at the grocery store.

A young butcher shop employee asked if he could help me and I began to try to explain brisket. I was armed with a Danish word that I think meant brisket and a web page showing the cut of meat on a cow diagram. The man looked like he understood what I was asking, turned, walked into a big room full of meat and returned with what looked like half a cow.

"This?" he said, looking like he'd never ever sold anyone that part of the cow before.

"Um, I guess so." I said. How could I tell him that I had only cooked brisket twice before and I didn't really take a close look at the meat because I had gone to the store, asked for brisket and brought it home wrapped up in butcher paper. Nobody had ever presented half a cow to me before.

"How much?" he asked.

"Um, enough to feed five or six people?" I said nervously, while thinking, "What on earth am I going to do with a hunk of that animal?" But my helpful butcher shop employee was already sawing through the half cow on the counter right in front of me. Oh. My. God.

The next thing I knew, he was wrapping my hunk of scary looking meat in white paper and putting it in a bag for me. While doing this, he looked at his coworker with a "should we really sell this to her?" look on his face which did nothing to inspire confidence in me.

As I walked out onto the sidewalk, blinking in the sunlight and toting a heavy bag of cow, I felt a panic wash over me. I placed the chunk of cow in the stroller basket and thought about how I was supposed to be feeding people passover seder that night. How to get from terrifying cow part to brisket?

Thank goodness for my friend Norah who likes cooking and enjoys chopping and slicing. I don't enjoy touching raw chicken, raw meat, etc. so the thought of cutting up the "brisket" (if that is what it really was) was very unappealing to me. Norah on the other hand, was up for the challenge and trimmed the brisket like a pro.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of the whole chunk of meat, but we did photograph the stuff Norah trimmed off and the part we cooked. See below:

Norah is holding the large chunk of bone she trimmed (no wonder butcher shop employee needed a saw!) and below it is all the fat she trimmed off

This is what we cooked. Does that look anything like brisket to those of you who know your cuts of meat?


I am happy to say that the dinner  came out edible. The brisket didn't get to cook for a long slow time and wasn't nearly as tender as I had hoped, but I also wonder if we got the best part or if that was even brisket that we ate. It's really hard to say.

The less-than-awesome brisket was worth my butcher shop story, though. And my homemade matzoh balls were pretty delicious.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Signs

In the past week I have come across some extraordinarily bizarre signage here in Copenhagen. I used my trusty iPhone to take some photos for all of my blog-reading public.

The first sign to strike me as incredibly odd is in the window of my favorite store, Magasin. The flagship Magasin is right downtown Copenhagen in Kongens Nytorv (Kings Square) and they are advertising what looks to be a new fitness club but is actually a clothing brand. Check this out:

Note the arrow that always points right at the "Fitness Girl's" crotch


If you go to the brand's website, you will see some very European advertising. The model has an American accent and the clothes are American style, but the Jack and Jones Fitness Club campaign is definitely not American. It's WAY too sexually liberated and explicit to be. Beware, this link is probably not safe for work. 

Since I am an American, I find it very odd that an add campaign like this is featured in the windows of the equivalent of Macy's or Nordstrom right in the heart of downtown. It also says on the sign at Magasin something like "Jack and Jones Fitness, for all the action you're  going to get." Ha. Ha. 

Moving from porn to poop, please note the billboard below that is all over town:


A friend pointed this out to me and we both stood agape for a couple minutes asking ourselves, "Is that really poop? Right there on that big sign?"

Um, yes. Yes it is. Apparently the sign is about alternative fuel sources, which I support fully, but what I do not support is humongous pictures of poop hanging around. There must be a better way to get this message across. 

Finally, a less extreme sign was spotted in a bus this week. See below:


It's not the best photo, but please note that on this bus, you cannot drink wine, eat hot dogs or consume popsicles. I suppopse all other food and beverage is acceptable? 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Interference

Before we left for Austria, Neil and I received a mailing from Denmark's National IT and Telecom Agency. We couldn't understand a word of it. I thought it might be advertising. Neil wasn't sure and we put it in a stack of papers to be taken into Neil's office and translated by his Danish coworkers.

Flash forward a couple of weeks.

This morning while I was in the shower, the doorbell rang. This set off a series of events which involved dogs barking and then Riley crying and I was seriously annoyed. Twice in the last week, the elevator has been stuck on my floor (once my fault, once not) and a neighbor has mercilessly rung my bell until I answered the phone hooked up to the door bell and agreed to go out and close the elevator door. This morning, I assumed this was happening again and got very frustrated. I was drafting a note to hang in the elevator in my head for the rest of my shower.

About 30 minutes later when Riley and I left the apartment, a business card fluttered to the ground when I opened the door. It said "RING VENLIGST" in bright red and all caps. Turns out this just means ring please, but it certainly looked like an angry "RING PLEASE".


As soon as we were out on the street I called Rene. He answered and said something in Danish and I began to speak in English. I explained that I was in the shower when he rang the bell and asked what I could do for him.

Rene: "Ah, I went to your home because we're receiving some interference and it's coming from your apartment. I sent a letter a few weeks ago."

Me: "Oh, yes, we got your letter but we couldn't read it. My husband planned to take it to work for translation when he returned from his business trip. But, interference?"

Rene: "Yes, something is putting out a signal in your home."

Me: after quickly thinking about all of our electronics "Could it be the baby monitor?"

Rene: "You have a baby alarm? Yes, that's it. Is it from the United States?"

Me: "Yes"

Rene: "Then it's broadcasting on American frequencies and that's causing the interference."

Me: "Oh, I am very sorry. We had no idea."

Rene: "Well of course not, you couldn't have known."

Me: "So what do I need to do, buy a new monitor?"

Rene: "Yes, and please stop using the other one as soon as possible."

I happened to hang up the phone while standing in front of a baby store, so I walked in, found the exact monitor I purchased in the US (only the European version), paid a good $60 more for it than I did in the US and went on with my day.

When I got home, I learned the dissapointing (and rather obvious) news that the European version of the monitor reports the temperature in the baby's room in Celcius. I also revisited the original letter we got from Rene. It came with a lovely brochure, which clearly indicates that we were transmitting a very upsetting signal. Funny that I didn't pick up on that in the first place.


I mean, look at the way he's grasping his head.

I actually have several questions about all this: What was our monitor interfering with? How did they track it right to our apartment? Why didn't they notice sooner? Have you ever heard of a baby monitor drawing the attention of a government agency? No? Well, now you have.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

It's Spring! A Photo Essay of My Saturday.

See above for proof that it is spring. Today was an absolutely beautiful day in Copenhagen. Probably the nicest day here so far and I spent it enjoying the morning with my friend Norah and her son BG and then enjoying the afternoon at the park with Riley. If Neil is going to be out of town, this is the way to spend a Saturday. I had just shed my down jacket and put it in the stroller basket when I came upon this patch of crocuses below a tree. Yay Spring!

On the way to the park I passed a new Halal slaughter house with an unfortunate name. (Yes, I am sometimes a 10 year old in a 32 year old's body.)

 My friend Norah had told me about this hilariousness but it was exciting to see it for myself. Apparently Butt is someone's name in this instance. Thanks Mr. or Ms. Butt for giving me a good laugh.


During today's visit to the library we came across this book which is entitled, "Small Dead Animals" which brings up an interesting thing about Danish culture. The Danes seem to have slightly different ideas about what is appropriate for children. Their children's television programs deal with more weighty topics than most American media for kids. For example, a show aimed at 10-year-olds here in Denmark is about a ten year old girl who kills six adults, one of them by removing a leg. Nope, not kidding.

And so, the above book is about some kids who wander around the forest collecting small dead animals and burying them in an animal cemetery. A tad too morbid for my American sensibilities... but a bit funny. I can't really picture myself reading this one to Riley.

Speaking of children's literature, I have been reading Riley Goodnight Moon every night before bed as sort of a nighttime ritual. The hope is that hearing the book and seeing the illustrations will trigger him to relax and then he'll nod off to sleep once put in his crib. It's been working for the most part. But, now that I am reading the book every single day at least once, I could recite it in my sleep. Of course, I've known it since I was little, but I never really noticed how existential the book is... I mean, "Goodnight nobody" with a blank page. That's kind of awesome - ok, really awesome.

Back to my Saturday - here's a contest. Does anyone know what this is and what you do with it? It was spotted at a local produce stand.



The produce here is looking better and better as are the flowers at the flower shops. I am guessing that there's a big market for fresh cut flowers here based on the number of amazing flower shops you come across in this city. Flowers are also one of the more affordable things to purchase. I think I am talking myself into purchasing some.

I learned something else today that is really surprising about Denmark. You can't just go name your child any old name here in Denmark. It must be on a government approved list of names. If you're like me, you first instinct is to say how terrible this - what a big lack of freedom. But, maybe it makes sense? It would prevent people from naming their kids really unfortunate names. Apparently in Denmark, if you would like to use a name not on the list, you can petition the government. If they approve it, you're allowed to give that name. If a new name is approved 25 times, it's added to the official list. Not such a bad system. I am still up in the air on this. Is it a good idea, or a serious deprivation of freedom? I am guessing the approved list is fairly expansive. But still, what if you want to be a little creative, but not cruel?

Speaking of kids, the sunny Saturday concluded with Riley taking his first swing ride at the park. They have baby swings, but I had to pad Riley's with my coat to make him fit properly. He seemed to enjoy himself. I'm looking forward to many more swinging sessions at the park this spring and summer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Miscellaneous Post

There are some things I have been meaning to blog about. Here goes.

1. I love that there are swans here. I get to walk by swans nearly every day. I am not sure why this thrills me so much, but I suspect it has to do with reading Make Way For Ducklings when I was a little girl and being enthralled by the idea of the swan boats in Boston, which led to being enthralled by the idea of real swans. I have never lived somewhere with swans before and I an enjoying it now. Sometimes it really is the little things that brighten a day or can make you feel happy where you live.


2. Christiania - This probably warrants its own blog post, but I'm clumping it in to the things I have been meaning to blog about post. Within Copenhagen, and very near to our apartment, there is a massive hippie commune called Christiania. It is truly one of the most bizarre places I have ever heard of. Let me try to explain. In 1971 a bunch of hippies squatted in an old military barracks and claimed a big chunk of prime real estate along Copenhagen's coast. At some point Danish law began to recognize the area as a self-governing town. Recently, laws have been passed to try to take some of the power away from the Christiania residents.

It's the place to go to purchase pot and it used to also have a strong hard drug trade, but that's frowned upon now.

Neil, Riley and I have gone for a couple of walks in Christiania. We went early in the morning on a weekend when nothing was open, just to see what the place is about. It's basically a shanty town made up of a bunch of odd hand-made structures that are not built to any building codes and seem to be mostly made of found materials. There are playgrounds and schools and many homes as well as some cafes, shops and a concert venue. It's really a fascinating place, but it still doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Read the Wikipedia article I linked to above and you'll see what I mean. It's totally bizarre. The Christiania residents range from normal looking to hippie-from-the-woods-in-Madrid,-New-Mexico-looking. I am not entirely sure what they stand for. But here's their original mission statement:

The objective of Christiania is to create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the wellbeing of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted.

Hmm. 

Currently, there is a battle for power going on between the Denmark government and the Christiania residents. The Christianians have posted campaign signs around town that give a good picture of what the residents look like.


It baffles me that the government ever let the plot of land be taken over, but it's also fascinating that the little society within a society formed.

In an "I'm so American" side note, whenever I see someone who looks like they are straight off the Santa Fe Plaza of my youth I am always so surprised to hear them speaking languages other than English. Apparently slacker stoner style is universal.

3. News - I saw this window display recently and wanted to share:




Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Aaah Austria

I have never had any desire to visit Austria. I'm not sure why, but it just wasn't on my list of vacation destinations. Perhaps the recent history of World War II had me a bit soured on the country? Who knows. But Neil was traveling there for work and Riley and I tagged along and I am so glad I did. Vienna is a beautiful city with a rich history and cultural scene. Riley and I spent two days just walking around and enjoying the fantastic weather and when Neil was done working for the weekend we had a great day at the zoo.

The weather was amazing, the people were friendly and it was incredibly refreshing to be on vacation for a couple days, especially after being holed up in our home and sick for more than a week.

I expected people to be a bit cold and unfriendly in Vienna, but to my surprise, I met many friendly locals. Several people struck up conversations with me - usually about Riley - and when I told them that I only spoke English, they switched right over. One taxi driver I had was particularly friendly and pointed out sights along our drive, told me about the soccer game he was attending that night, and about several funny cab customers he'd had. He even laughed when Riley giggled. The man working at the desk at our hotel was also quite friendly and when we asked for directions one day he said, "Would you like to go the quick way or the wonderful way?" Who wouldn't want to go the wonderful way right?

A highlight of our time in Vienna was on our second day at the Albertina museum in the Mel Ramos exhibit. The paintings in this exhibit are essentially large oil paintings of playboy centerfolds - lots of naked women. As I walked through the gallery, I felt a little guilty for taking my child to such an inappropriate exhibit when all of a sudden, Riley started waving to the naked women in the paintings. I couldn't stop myself from laughing out loud. I'm sure it was quite a sight for the other museum goers. But, I didn't understand anything they may have said because it was all in German.

I was relieved when Riley also waved at the animals at the zoo the following day.

While in Austria, I had a few realizations about being American and about Europe.

1. I realized that there are a bunch of countries that all speak their own languages and then when people from those countries get together, they communicate in English. But nearly everyone is bilingual.

2. I became even more embarrassed that I only speak one language fluently and sad for our country that we can't get our act together to better educate our children.

3. I realized that playgrounds in Denmark and Austria (and probably other places, too) are MUCH more fun and much less safe because people here clearly don't file law suits at the drop of a hat. A playground I saw in Austria had a zip line! My American- ness saw it and initially thought, "That's just a lawsuit waiting to happen." Later I began thinking, "Cool!"

I hope to return to Vienna, but for now, Riley says, "Bye Vienna."

Friday, March 18, 2011

The One Where We Got a Grown Man to Cluck Like a Chicken in The Freezer Aisle

For the past two weeks, we have been wanting chicken soup. I was too sick to actually figure out how to make it from scratch and Neil had no luck locating it at the grocery store the first couple of times he went searching for it. On Thursday, however, we went to the store in an attempt to get Riley to take a nap and get some much-needed sleep and we stumbled upon a bunch of frozen soup. Neil had looked for canned soup, but hadn't checked the freezer aisle.

We found two soups that looked like they might be chicken and Neil flagged over the nearest Dane to ask what kinds of soup they were. The man he found was a little older, probably in his 70s and we've found that older Danes tend to be less proficient in English.

This man was no exception. He knew we wanted to know what the food item was and first told us that it was soup. "Ah yes," we explained, "We know it's soup but what kind?" So the man pointed to one and put his index fingers up to his head like horns and based on the word on the packaging and his pantomimes we determined it was ox soup. "It's good," he said. Maybe, but not exactly what we were looking for.

I then  asked him about the other soup I was holding and he said, "You know, bock, bock, bock?" Eureka! We thanked him and threw the chicken soup in our cart. Later we reflected on the hilariousness of the fact that we had an older Danish man clucking like a chicken in the freezer aisle. He was very nice to humor us and go out on a limb to try to explain even though we lacked common language. Plus, he gave us something to giggle about.

It turns out that it was to be a day of bountiful chicken soup because our new friend Norah came to visit and brought us a magical box of Manischewitz Matzoball soup mix - something I could not believe I neglected to pack before our move. I am sure it's no coincidence that Thursday marked a major health turnaround for us all. Thank you Norah! Thank you random man in the freezer section. Sipping once, sipping twice, sipping chicken soup (no rice).

"Some Americans, they look nice, they dress up in grown up clothes, but they act like they are five years old."

In the past week we met two Danish doctors as we paraded Riley around the Danish medical system because we are first-time parents and had no clue what to do when our baby got a fever and moaned for four days nonstop.

On Sunday, we got to visit our local hospital and the on-call doctor for the urgent-care type service. The waiting room was sparse with uncomfortable wooden chairs and no paintings on the walls, but it was very clean. After a short wait, we were called into a room that was half doctor's office with desk and half exam table. The doctor was nice, but stern. He made sure to charge us 300 kroner first (about $60) before talking to us about our infant. Hospitals and doctors are not used to billing anyone because the government covers health expenses, but since we have diplomatic status, we have to pay cash for our doctor visits. They aren't equipped to process any other form of payment.

In the US, the first thing they would have done at the doctor's office is take Riley's temperature. Not here. The man took my word for it that Riley had a fever. He looked in his ears, nose and throat, said he thought it was viral and sent us home after examining our infant Tylenol and saying they don't use that here in Denmark, but he had heard of it. At some point during our exchange, he said something about us being first time parents. And there was some Googling of the conversion of Fahrenheit to Celsius.

So off we went with our sick infant. On Wednesday, when the fever came back with a vengeance, I decided it was time to go back to the doctor. This time, we went to the practice in our neighborhood that we'd located the week before. We called in the morning and they gave us a 2:15 appointment - a little late for my liking since I was convinced we had a major medical situation on our hands.

The waiting room at our doctor's office is a little nicer than the one at the hospital. The chairs are still not especially comfortable or welcoming, but there are magazines, toys and even a Lego table. We waited with little Riley, who was burning up and whimpering until it was finally our turn. We saw the male doctor as he seemed to be the only one in that day. The first thing he did after instructing us on where to sit was ask us how the socialism was working for us and whether we were afraid of becoming communists yet. Hmm. It was said in a joking way, but seemed a little odd, perhaps a bit anti-American? We told him we were enjoying his country. He then somehow made reference to Sarah Palin.

This was the second time someone I have met here who is not American has brought up she-who-must-not-be-named in conversation with me. It was the second time American politics came up and our friend from Alaska got top billing both times. To me, this is very alarming because it means that her message is somehow being conveyed to the rest of the world more loudly than other American political messages (granted, my sample size is small). The first person to mention her to me (an Icelandic mother in one of our playgroups) thought our first lady was still Hillary Clinton, but could fairly accurately quote Sarah Palin's recent breastfeeding flub. Now our doctor was bringing her up. I was quick to say that I find her to be non-representative of the US and rather embarrassing, to which the good doctor responded: "Some Americans, they look nice, they dress up in grown up clothes, but they act like they are five years old."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

The doctor was very good with Riley, very kind to us as patients, still didn't check his temperature, but said he could tell he had a fever from his rosy cheeks and that the illness should go away in, "some days". He looked over the infant Tylenol and said, "Oh have you been giving him some icky American medicine? We don't have this here." But then told us to keep giving it to him as indicated. Overall, in spite of the clear mocking of our homeland, we like this doctor. He assured us that in another couple of kids, we wouldn't be bringing them in for fevers, but he was also compassionate about our concern and didn't make me feel like an idiot for bringing him in. Nope, not an idiot as a parent, but because I am American, I could tell that for him, the jury is still out.

Postscript: Riley is improving, the fever has been gone for a couple of days and he even laughed and played today. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sick

Being sick in any country is unpleasant. Having a sick baby is even more unpleasant than being sick myself. Due to illness, there have been fewer posts on this blog than I would like. We're on the mend and I will be leaving the house and experiencing Denmark more soon.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The One You've All Been Waiting For

What question did I get more often than any other once it was announced that we were moving to Denmark?

"Are you going to eat a lot of danishes?" (or some variation of this question)

Honestly, I wasn't even sure if the Danish people were the originators of the danish pastry. When I think of a danish, I think of a round sweet thing with some kind of sugary goo in the center that I don't like.

But according to one definition, a danish pastry is: A sweet buttery pastry made with raised dough.

That leaves things a little more wide open.

Wikipedia tells me that the danish pastry really originated in Austria... This is getting more confusing by the minute.

But who cares about all this history and origins business, the fact is, they have bakeries here. So many bakeries. And the bakeries are important.  So important that there is a symbol for bakeries. The bakery and the post office have symbols in this country. Any business that gets its own symbol is clearly highly valued.


I have come to love the bakery symbol - a little too much.


The bakery symbol

For a brief moment, I entertained the idea of trying a chocolate croissant at every bakery I came across in all of Copenhagen. I made it through two bakeries and realized this was a very foolish thing to do for a couple of reasons. 1) Because each croissant is akin to consuming a pound of butter and 2) because I found the best chocolate croissant ever at Lagkagehuset.  I need not look any further.

Once I established that I lived only a few blocks from the bakery with the best chocolate croissant in the world, I spent one (shameful) week going to said bakery every morning while Riley napped in his stroller and purchasing a latte and a chocolate croissant. This was a lovely routine. I would enjoy my delicious treat while sipping warm milky coffee and looking out the window at one of Copenhagen's frozen canals. Riley would sleep peacefully in his stroller beside me. My arteries would slowly close and my jeans would become a bit tighter. All the while my bank account was shrinking because while pastries are one of the more affordable things here in Copenhagen, the accompanying coffee made my whole "breakfast" a little extravagent.

I knew my Lagkagehuset visits had to stop, or at least taper off. I went cold turkey for an entire week and since then have only been allowing myself a weekly visit.

So the answer is yes. Apparently moving to Denmark means I am eating lots of danishes. I believe Neil is on the quest for the best Kanel Snail (cinnamon roll pastry) in all of Denmark. But you'd have to ask him about that.

Laundry Solved

Thank you Adrienne and Adrienne's Swedish friend Anna for the laundry assistance. I now know how to operate the washer and dryer. I had been putting the detergent in the wrong slot for the last 6 weeks and our clothes weren't quite as clean as normal, but otherwise, no damage was done.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Laundry

Below find the controls on our washer and dryer. If anyone knows how to go about using these, please tell me.

The dryer

The washer



Where you put the detergent - apparently there are different kinds?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hello Doctor

We don't have a doctor yet. I have been trying to get recommendations for a good doctor since arriving and just keep meeting dead ends. Finally, an international parents meet up group member responded to my bulletin board posting (who knew that Meet Up was still alive and kicking? I sort of associated it with the Howard Dean campaign and haven't looked back since). The kind respondent gave me the words "good doctor in Amager" or something close to that in Danish and suggested I put them into Google.

I did it. I Googled. And Google led me to an online forum where people were discussing doctors and  several Danes recommended a doctor a couple blocks from our home. (Thank goodness for Google Translate). This was a major breakthrough. Why I hadn't thought of this particular strategy sooner, I am not sure. I had done plenty of searches in English for "good doctors in Copenhagen" and other things, but not much came up. (Obviously.)

In Denmark, there aren't really pediatricians or other specialists, there are family doctors and the whole family goes to one doctor. There are also very specific hours that doctors' offices can be called and visited, etc. We tried calling our potential new doctor all morning with no luck, so this afternoon, I swung by. The woman at the front desk answered all my questions, told me that the practice was accepting new patients, how to call to book an appointment (and when) and as I was leaving informed me that she was the doctor! Wow, an actual doctor at the front desk of the clinic? Apparently secretaries only work a few hours a day and after that the doctors are left to run the clinics themselves.

It's a huge relief to have found a doctor, and met her. She was very nice and the office was clean and new and it's literally a five minute walk from home. We really miss our pediatrician in Washington, DC. She is amazing. If Dr. Kit Christiansen is even half as amazing, we're in good hands.

Handball: The European Kind

Before arriving in Denmark, we did a little bit of reading about our new home and learned that one of most popular sports here is handball. Not the kind of handball with two people on a racket ball court with a little tiny ball. Team handball. I am not going to go into a major description here because Wikipedia does it better. But, basically it's a team sport played inside on a basketball court (with different lines painted on the floor). There are goalies with nets behind them and a ball that looks like a smaller soccer ball which is passed between players, dribbled and thrown into the back of the net. It's a fast sport, high-scoring, slightly violent and very entertaining. Really, it has all the elements of a sport American fans would love. We aren't sure why it's not more popular in the US.

Apparently the US does have a national men's and women's team and we play in the Olympics. But, who has ever heard of them? Not us. In fact, according to some sketchy Internet research, the US has four summer Olympic events in which it has never medaled and one is handball.

But in Copenhagen, handball is anything but obscure. During our first or second week here, we made our way to a local Team Ajax game (named after the cleaning product but pronounced Ah-yahx). It was past Riley's bedtime, but we all still had a great time.

Neil selected a favorite player and began cheering loudly for him in English, I got a little embarrassed because I didn't want to stand out, but ultimately couldn't help but to laugh along with Neil. Riley watched the action intently, following the ball as it zipped around the court.

The Ajax players had a come-from-behind victory that included lots of goals and lots of rough fouls and physical contact. It was very entertaining - and they even had a snack bar in the little arena. If I don't get to spend 40-some nights a season in Verizon Center cheering for the Washington Capitals anymore, at least I have a little handball to entertain me. Our next goal is to see the more professional team AG Kobenhavn in action.