Today marks six months that our family has been here in Denmark. Kind of crazy really. As it has often been acknowledged, the older one gets, the faster time seems to go by–now I know this phenomenon to be as true in the Old World as it is in the New.
And so, in honor of this monumental six month milestone, and as a summation of our experiences, I will list some of our best and worst moments from the past half-year.
- Attending the Midsommer “Witch Burning” Festival in Søndervig. Yes, a witch was burned. (Pssst!–it was fake.)
- Attending the Højmark Sommerfest and watching all the usually composed and formal Danes get “turnt up” dancing to the traditional folk songs.
- Trying new foods and learning about the Danish love of cake. One of the most important things that one can learn about Denmark is that there is a cake for every occasion, and every occasion deserves a cake!
- Having four of my siblings come visit back in September. Want your brothers and sisters to come visit you? Simple, just move to a really cool place!
- Taking my kids to birthday parties–I love how they do birthday parties here, more on this later.
- Legoland, because Legoland.
- Enjoying the Nisser, Hygge, and Craft Hysteria that permeates the Danish Christmas season.
- Sitting in the historic local church and watching the St. Lucia celebration shortly before Christmas, complete with girls in long white dresses and wreaths with candles–just as I had seen in pictures! (And in the American Girl catalog for my Swedish “Kirsten” doll).
- Attending church in Denmark–we are attending a church of the same denomination that we attended in Colorado (LDS church). The members here have been kind and wonderful and very accepting of our rowdy children. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that they dote on our rowdy children :). It has been nice to attend the familiar services and to get to meet all the young American missionaries that pass through–they are definitely a nice reminder of home.
- Also potlucks at the church–that’s some good cookin’ right there.
- Cool biking field trips at the kids’ elementary school:
- Seeing how much the kids at Højmark Skole love my almost-2-year-old. I’m not sure exactly why they love him so much, but they shower him with attention, and he obligingly hams it up for them.
- Visiting the local beaches. As a peninsular and island nation, Denmark has a ton of coastline. It’s quite cold and windy, and not great for swimming, but it is ethereally beautiful and shockingly uncrowded.
- Listening to my 7 year old read a grade level appropriate book, in Danish, and understand it :).
- Watching my 9 year old (who has a bit of a hard time making friends) interact and play with his new Danish best friend–J really lucked out to find such a good friend in his class of 12 students. J’s Danish is coming along okay, but his friend’s English has improved dramatically over the past six months. 🙂
- Learning about the small differences in schools, cuisine, culture–this might be my favorite thing, mostly because it’s funny how excited I get about it: You mean you do this (insert mundane daily thing) differently than we do in the U.S?! Why how can that be??? And what difference in history, culture, DNA, or group psychology could cause such a trivial, yet profound difference to exist!?!
- Packing up the house in Colorado–we didn’t know for sure we were going until like a month before we needed to leave, so we were really cutting it short. Packing up, getting rid of stuff, selling our cars, and attempting to get our house ready for renting was a massive and unpleasant job.
- The Journey–just physically traveling from our old home in Colorado to our new home in Denmark with our four children and piles of unwieldy luggage was a traumatic and exhausting experience that I wish never to repeat.
- Getting Settled In–Getting utilities, internet set up. Finding beds, bedding, dishes and basic furniture. Not an easy task in a country where you don’t know your way around, you don’t own your own truck or trailer, and you’re trying to purchase things economically–fortunately we had lots of help from the locals.
- Paperwork–There is a ton of paperwork required to get permanent residence cards for everyone in the family, driver’s licenses, etc. And then there’s figuring out how to pay bills–Bleck. And no, I don’t mean just the part about coming up with the money to pay them, I mean physically figuring out how to send the money to the required parties, and reading and understanding the bills that are, of course, all written completely in Danish.
Lest you forget:
- Holidays without family–we have been very fortunate to live near John’s family in Colorado, so if we weren’t off visiting my family, we were always able to spend the Holidays with them. This was the first year we were on our own and it was a little sad explaining this to the kids when they asked who would be celebrating with us.
- Gaining weight due to the aforementioned cakes (and breads, and “Danishes”, and cheeses, and chocolates…all soooo good)–fortunately I am currently rectifying the situation. #NewYearsResolutions #Europehasthebestchocolate #Denmarkhasthebestpastriesobviously #Itsalifestylenotadiet
- Getting left behind when John goes on business trips–this happened some in Colorado as well, but not as often. I don’t enjoy having to deal with the kids all by myself, and nor do I like the feeling of being left out when John goes somewhere cool, but mostly I think it’s an anxiety about some emergency happening while he’s gone and me not knowing what to do. But traveling around to the different Vestas factories is an important part of John’s new job, so I guess I just gotta suck it up and be a grownup.
- And lastly, there’s the constant nagging worry that I’ve irrevocably damaged my children somehow by uprooting them from the known comfort of their lives in “Mayberry”, Colorado, and bringing them to this unknown land, this strange nation of windmills, bikes, rain, and smørrebrøds, where the children sometimes shout at them (nicely) in a language they can’t understand, and literally almost everything is new. They are expected to make new friends, learn a new language, participate and…adjust. I worry that they will be traumatized for life somehow, or at the very least, that they will suffer similar stress adjusting back to life in Colorado when we return.
I think we can call our experience–our experiment–a success. The near constant sense of adventure as well as the cool high points have been fun, rewarding, and will no doubt create life-long memories. The low points, while difficult in the moment, have thus far been surmountable. And, regarding the struggles inherent to this sort of move, as John put it, “Well, we’re not dead, so I guess we’re stronger.” (He was kidding, we actually haven’t even come close to being dead 🙂 ).
It has been a genuine pleasure experiencing the culture and meeting the people of Denmark. But the language of Denmark, Dansk? Now that’s a horse of a different color :). (Our progress, or lack there of, will be the subject of my next post 🙂 )