Food, Friends, and Fairytales

Thanks to a barrage of emails and sentimental messages, I have been reminded a number of times this past week that I am officially a month in to my time in Copenhagen. I’m at this interesting point where I’m able to count to 29 in Danish to a native speaker like it’s nothing, but only a day later, I attempted to pay for a sandwich with what I thought was a 50 kroner coin but (to my embarrassment) was actually only a half kroner coin. It feels like it has been an eternity since I have arrived here, having learned and experienced quite a bit, but I’m also consistently reminded of how much more I have yet to learn and experience (and I have been actively reframing embarrassing encounters like the one above as learning experiences). My friends here have gotten hit with projects and papers, which are just around the corner for me, but I’m also trying to embrace the Danish work-life balance and make a habit of getting to know my classmates, spending time with the host family, and exploring the city since buckling down to do work has been my main priority in past semesters.

The historic section of Odense where Hans Christian Andersen grew up

A highlight of this past week was time spent with my extended host family in Odense, the main city on the island of Fyn which is about a two hour drive east of Copenhagen. We arrived a few hours early to explore the historic city center, which is almost like an adorable shrunken version of the historic Copenhagen rowhouses. This city center where perhaps one of the most well known Danes, Hans Christian Andersen, was born. Interestingly enough, his birthplace was almost lost to history because he was ashamed of growing up in what was considered a slum in his time and only pointed it out a few years before his death. About a half mile away is his childhood home, where he lived until he moved to Copenhagen at the age of 14. The buildings and streetscapes almost look like they were plucked out of a movie, and it’s quite clear to see where H.C. Andersen’s fairytale imagination comes from.

The evening was spending at my host grandma’s house with a lot of extended family, where I had a delicious traditional Danish meal and actually got to use some of the phrases I had been learning in class (since a lot of the older Danes barely spoke English). My host family and I stayed the night and then woke up to a delicious breakfast cake that you generally only find in the Odense area, as well as a fresh layer of powdery snow. Denmark usually doesn’t get too much snow, so I woke up to my host sister begging me to make a snowman with her (and being equally as excited by the snow, I certainly obliged)!

My host siblings and I proud of our creation after 30 minutes of hard work (and a snowball fight or two)

This Wednesday, I had two field studies that I had been thoroughly looking forward to: the first was to visit the Danish parliament (known as Folketinget in Danish) with my welfare states class to speak to an MP from the Red-Green Alliance, which is the main leftist party in parliament to the center-left Social Democrats. After being able to ask him some questions about his party’s platform and the workings of Parliament, he gave us a tour of the parliamentary part of Chrisitansborg Palace including their meeting chamber. It was so interesting to be able to meet with someone without having to go through waiting periods and staffers buzzing around, which I have become accustomed to with the American political process.

That night, I went to the Royal Danish Ballet with my Danish class. There were three pieces, each with an introduction video of dancers speaking about the style they were about to perform (which was purely in Danish and lead to most of the audience laughing at points while my classmates and I were left slightly clueless). The Royal Danish Ballet is one of the oldest and best ballet companies in the world, and it was so cool to see them take on such diverse styles as classic Tchaikovsky and then a mesmerizing modern dance in a fusion of styles found around the world.

Parliament chamber, which is open to visitors even when Parliament is in session

I wrapped up this week with a lovely night of playing cards, dancing, and talking late into the night with my friends who live in host families near me: I have been so lucky to have have lived in the same area as people who are interested in many of the same things as me (and remind me when I’m drifting into the bike lane). Here’s to continuing to embrace the embarrassing moments, opportunities, and late nights with blossoming friendships!

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