Saturday, July 17, 2010

Returning to Alaska again

My last three days in Denmark were wonderful: Monday I bummed around Odense, as planned, and shopped and enjoyed the fabulous weather! Tuesday was my 18th birthday, horray! I went to Rosengaardcentret, the shopping mall, with Bjarke where he discretly bought my birthday present.. haha.. and then we bought a cake with a danish flag on it and shared cake & coffee with Intarsia next doorm, which was really fun! Bjarke Solvej and I went to a Chinese buffet in Ringe for dinner.. yummmmmm! Then at 8 Bjarke took me and my friends from around Ringe to Stinna's new apartment in Odense where we had a party and later hit the town (on a tuesday night)! We had SO much fun and I think it was one of my best birthdays! Thank you Stinna, Astrid, Julia, Katja, and Rikke for a wonderful birthday!

We all slept at Stinnas, because we didn't go to bed until 6 in the morning.. haha.. And Wednesday Bjarke picked us up and delivered all my friends back home. He is definitely the best host dad IN THE WORLD. By far. Then Solvej and I went shopping at Rosengaardcentret and had some girl time! By 5 pm I was half asleep haha.. Lea came over to say goodbye and we had a really nice dinner at home. By 8 pm I was out cold.. and at 2 am on Thursday Bjarke woke me up to drive to Copenhagen for my flight home.

Trust me, I did not want to come home. I shed a few tears when I said bye to Bjarke at the airport.. and then faced my stressful flight home. I had to fly via Frankfurt again, which I hate. Frankfurt simply sucks. It's a HUGE airport with no signs or labels or anything. The people who work there are kind of scary and intimidating because they look pissed if you just ask them for directions. And I don't speak a lick of German except "Ich Bin Snappi" and "Danke". Long story short, after waiting 3 hours on the tarmack in Frankfurt our plane DID take off and instead of landing in Whitehorse and being trapped there for the night (Because the flight attendants can only work 15 hours) we flew straight to Fairbanks. Halleluiah!

It's good to be home with my family and Heather and Mamie again. I've been home a week and we've been doing so much around town! I definitely need to find some less expensive entertainment though.. I'm spending heaps (from a cheap person's perspective), but I'm working a lot too so there's something positive happening around here. Teaching swim lessons and working a few hours at Risse Greenhouse again. Thursday Heather took me and Mamie out to dinner at Wolf Run for my birthday which was yummy! Amazing chocolate cake.. god I am going to get huge again!

Sunday (tomorrow) I am getting my wisdom teeth out.. Yikes. Just want it to get over with.. and I'm trying not to psych myself out by just not thinking about it. I've never been put under, because I've never had surgery before.

Then Wednesday Merryn comes for 6 weeks! I'm really so excited, my whole family is! I've been cleaning out drawers and my closet for her.. haha.. Geez I have so much clothes I never wear. Heather made me get rid of a whole bunch of stuff yesterday.. good thing I have friends who are pushy!

This will be my last post on this blog, until my next visit to Denmark. I have a seperate blog to document my next adventures titled "I'll keep you posted." The link is in my blogger profile for those of you interested.

Thank you for being patient and reading about my experiences in Denmark! And I wish the best of luck to the new batch of exchange students to Denmark '10-'11. Live it up! Francine

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Remembering Ringe

I've felt pretty lazy lately, all the relaxing and visiting! But it's really the perfect holiday.. getting to spend time with Bjarke and Solvej, our family friends, and my friends from my class.. all that's missing is my AFS Fyn family! Sometimes being here reminds me so much of things we did together and it's overwhelming HOW much I miss them: Pablo, Vero, Daiki, Rebeca, Francy, Evelyn, Sara, Kyla, Gammam, Peep.. God I miss them!

I've met so many cool people through my blog.. most of them students who are interested in going on an exchange, or are just getting ready to. I've been talking to an American boy for over a year now who, when we began emaling was about to go to Denmark with AFS, and who just had the farwell camp here in DK and is home now. I'm still in shock that it was 2 years ago I was getting ready to go on my exchange! So now I'm talking to this guy about reverse culture shock and post-exchange difficulties and I feel like it was just yesterday I was going through the same.

Friday I went over to Maria's, my first host mom, and met her new boyfriend Bo who was very nice. It was great to see the boys and hang out for a little while, then we came back to the house because Bjarke and Maria's uncle who lives in Spain was visiting.. so it was cool to meet him and enjoy the gorgeous weather! It was extremely hot for me...
But nothing compared to Saturday, which was 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit).. believe me, I was MELTING! Being from Alaska, I can't remember when I've ever experienced such heat before! In the morning, Solvej and Karen, who works in Intarsia, the wood-working shop connected to our house, and I went up to Fyns Hoved. Literally translated: Funen's head. It's beautiful up there, the nature and ocean everywhere you can see.. it's perfect for practicing photography which both Solvej and Karen are really into! I just soaked up that salty ocean-smell that I love and crave!
When we got home around 13.00 we helped Bjarke, who had been working hard for hours cooking, for a really nice family friend dinner we had for my birthday (which is Tuesday). It was great to be outside, especially when it started to cool off! And my friend Lea came too.. det var en rigtig hyggeligt aften!
Today I woke up really late after crashing on the couch last night.. I was so tired! And today we've just been relaxing and watching movies and relaxing.. it's great! I rode Nikolai's bike down to the house a couple kilometers down the street, to my first house. Riding home, feeling the breeze and the sun starting to go down a little (at 21.00).. I love that it's Sunday night and no one is on the street: no cars, an occasional person walking.. but mostly quiet. I love remembering how all the stores are closed Sundays, except the bakery, and people relax at home. I love "window shopping" in the two walking-streets in Ringe and having the street to myself. I've missed Ringe.
Tomorrow I'm planning on bumming around in Odense.. we'll see! Francine

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Watermelon Seeds & the Month of July

Monday this week I went to a class dinner/picnic/party with 3a. I spent the afternoon with my friend Stinna and her mom making food for the class dinner.. and it was so much fun! Stinna is a great friend and her mom is so welcoming and sweet! We started the night off with a "before party" at Casper's house which was fantastic! I just layed in the grass with a cold beer and the sun up above me. And God knows, when you're from Alaska, you need all the sun you can get! The dinner and party was great - good food, good friends & good music - now that's a party! We all had to bring food too, and I made gravel bars with the ingredients I brought from home - the class loved them AND the skittles I brought for the class! I've been eating SO many danish strawberries here too.. I can't express in words how fantastic these strawberries are! Undescribably delicious! Tuesday Bjarke generously drove me down to Langeland to visit Bente, who is in charge of AFS Fyn, and we visited our family friend Jens, who lives on Taasinge, on the way down. It was great to see him! He's rennovated his house and had adorable kittens right now.. I'm a sucker for cats.. not a great sign in my early age! It was SO nice to see Bente again.. she knows so much, has seen so many places in the world and has great stories to tell.. She has a beautiful house and garden that looks over the ocean and being back at her house with her, her turtle Prince Albert, and her quaint house makes me remember and dream of Vero and my bike trip to visit her last year. Good times that I would die to do-over again... Bente and I had a yummy lunch, with strawberries and asparagus from her garden! in the fantastic sun & heat. Then she drove me back to Svendborg where I met up with Vero's 2nd host family, Sophia and her daughter Victoria.

It was GREAT to see them! I always loved hanging out there with Vero because I feel so comfortable with them and we always had heaps to talk about. It was great to catch up! And hear that Victoria is going to the USA in August for a year-long exchange. Hurray!! Sophia is going to Oxford for a month to take a couple courses, how cool is that? We had yummy watermelon, which is the 3rd time I've ever had watermelon in Denmark, and which made me realize that people here eat the black seeds! Maybe it's just me, but in the US we spit out the black seeds. Here people, Solvej excluded, eat them! But what a perfect day to see so many people I've missed!

Wednesday Bjarke, Solvej and I drove to København/Copenhagen where we looked at a new greenhouse kind of sitting room that Bjarke and Solvej are going to buy for the garden. Then we walked the streets of Copenhagen and did a little shopping! Although I didn't buy anything.. I'm so cheap! We had an interesting lunch right in the famous Nyhavn.. and I just love hearing the different accents and languages in Copenhagen! Great sunny and very hot day walking around with my two favorite host parents! Then I went to my friend Katja's, from my class, graduation party which was really nice.. to see her parents again and her friends from efterskole (boarding school).

Today I woke up around 12:30 pm.. WHOO! And then I went to Svendborg with Lea and Rie to see Eclipse.. hurray! I was so excited to see it, we all were.. It was pretty good, although Kirsten Stewart is the world's dummest and most unbelievable actress, although Robert Pattinson comes pretty close. I did enjoy the movie though! My ticket was my birthday present from Lea, which is a fantastic presen...Thank you Lea! Then I came home and had Bjarke's leftover dinner which was amazing.. B & S are such good cooks! I can only make cakes and cookies... gah... Great night.. good wine.. good family time. A great 1st of July!
5 more days and I'm finally 18! I'll keep you posted. Francine

Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Second Graduation

Since I last wrote I have been EXTREMELY busy! Last thursday, the 24th I finally saw my classmates! It was a Kodak moment if ever there was one.. Bjarke drove me over to where my classmates were decorating our lastbil - the truck we drive around for 2 days after Graduation - and before we even pulled into the lot my friends were running over smiling and shouting my name! And I couldn't get out of the car fast enough - damn seatbelt! To be honest, I was worried and nervous to see them, anxious and excited too! But nervous that things might be different or that I would stick out from the rest of the class... To my huge relief and comfort I slipped right back into the class, with my friends and it was like I never left! It feels unbelievable to be with them again, to see my pals and celebrate finishing school! They are SO relieved to be finished with their extremly stressful oral and written exams.. as I was when I finished in Alaska!

We had a party/dinner at the school Thursday night and I got to catch up with everyone! Then Friday morning at 10 am was dimission where my friends Graduated and Bjarke and I were their personal photographers! We cheered and hooted and then afterwards we went outside and in front of the school took a class picture, where despite a few teachers' protests about my being in the photo, my classmates grabbed me and insisted I was going to be IN the photo because I was IN the class. Horrah!

Then it was straight into the lastbil truck which was pimped out.. And thus we began our 2-day party by hooting and hollering all the way through Ringe! There are 27 students in the class, plus me, and we visited EVERY kid's house where we were greeted by parents and family. Solvej was up all night the night before making pizza rolls for us and setting up! And then when we did get to my house on Saturday I was greeted by my host brother Nikolai who I hadn't seen in a WHOLE year and it was fantastic! I was just hugging him to death... And because we have to go to 27 houses, we only stayed at each house for 25 minutes and then drove to the next.. What a blast! Friday night we slept at Sara's house in the "barn" and woke up Saturday and began to drive at 10 am... God we had SO much fun! I went home from Julia's house, where the party stopped Saturday, and was in bed by 8.30 pm I was so exhausted..

How incredible that I was lucky enough to celebrate my Danish class' graduation with them, and with my own student hat too... Thank you so much 3a fra MFG.. SHA LA LA LA LA! I also learned a great cheer that is now ingrained in my memory.. even when I sleep! "Der er kun en rigtig hue og den er rød! Der er kun en rigtig hue og den er rød! Man kan også få en blå en men det alt for let at få en.. der er kun en rigtig hue og den er RØD!"

Today I woke up pretty early.. we hung out at home and then Solvej's Dad Ove visited us all the way from Pandrup in the north of Jylland. It was so great to see him! Then Solvej, Bjarke and I went to visit Anizette and Florian and it was fantastic to see them too! Pablo lived with them for some time while we were exchangies, so I took some pictures of his old room that's being renovated, the pets and such.. He will be so jealous of me! Right Pablo?? :)

Having a blast and definitely keeping busy!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

BACK in Denmark

I’m sitting here in my old room in Ringe, Denmark and finally sitting down to blog! After nearly a whole year, I’m back visiting my Danish family, friends and class! Honestly, the reality that I am back didn’t strike me until I was in the car driving from the Copenhagen airport with Bjarke back home to Ringe.. and all of a sudden I thought “HOLY MOLY I AM HOME!”

When I left last June I knew I would come back this year. My class invited me to graduate with them from Midtfyns Gymnasium, and actually I will tomorrow! Knowing I would come back made leaving slightly more bearable. I am awestruck to be “home”... to be riding my bike around Ringe and taking the train, speaking Danish which shockingly enough is coming back to me, I do feel like a “retired” exchangie. I feel like I’ve slipped right back into my life in Denmark and I couldn’t have wished for anything more.

Bjarke and Solvej are fantastic, as usual! And taking such good care of me… Bjarke is currently sitting downstairs singing some Danish song with gusto! I’ve seen a few of my classmates (Stinna, Katja, Anders and Nick) but I know they are studying extremely hard this past week for the final exams and I don’t want to be a distraction.. We will celebrate when they’re all done tomorrow and I really can’t wait! The class bought me a Danish student hue/hat and it has all the flags on it, because I am an international student! TUSINDE TAK THANK YOU THANK YOU class for my hat! It is so beautiful.. And I am extremely grateful. More than anything I’m super excited to see everyone hopefully tonight at the school party, or tomorrow at commencement (dimission på dansk). After dimission, the class drives in a big truck honking and screaming and celebrating! They drive to every student’s house from the class where they have about 25 parties! That takes about 2 days! So I really can’t wait to celebrate being done with school, with all my Danish pals J

I have been in Denmark for 6 whole days now and I have been relaxing! I spent a day with Lea, whose family I spent Christmas with while I was on exchange. It was so relaxing to hang out with her and her sister Rie and their family.. They have a gorgeous garden and house and I feel so comfortable with them. Bjarke and I drove to Århus yesterday morning to pick up a cage and a Degu for the two little Degus we bought last Saturday. Degus are a kind of chinchilla, or just in the same family, and we saw them at the pet store and just had to buy them! I was allowed to name them and Solvej and I finally came up with two names for the little critters today : Chester and Iggy ! Here’s a picture of the little dudes..

Yesterday was Sankt Hans in Denmark! For those of you who followed my blog when I was on exchange, you remember that Sankt Hans marks the midsummer and it is celebrated by a huge bonfire and burning a scarecrow witch ( ). I went and spent the day with Gorm and Marianne and their two daughters Helene and Andrea, who remember me from when I babysat as an exchangie. I had a blast with them! Marianne and I picked the girls up from school and they took me around and introduced me to all their friends who gapped at me with open mouths and wide eyes! Probably thinking I’m some kind of foreign alien who speaks another language! Well I guess I am! Haha.. The kids were so cute!

We jumped on the trampoline, me and the girls, and had a picnic and ate dinner.. Marianne and I talked for hours! She went abroad to Indonesia and Australia when she was younger and has really great stories! We just click and never seem to run out of things to talk about.. And Gorm, Marianne and the girls and I went down the harbor a 5-minute walk from their house to watch the witch burn and sing songs and meet all the neighbors. Det var bare hyggeligt! Thank you SO much Gorm & Marianne for having me, and welcoming me to spend Sankt Hans with you! Then I took the train home from Odense, where Gorm works at the hospital, this morning. I missed taking the train and watching the country fly past my window. I did not miss the $8.50 20-minute ride. It’s so expensive without a wild card, which I had as an exchangie and cuts the price in half.

I also met Andrea from Costa Rica who I met through my blog while I was on exchange. She was planning on coming to Denmark and as we talked more we found out she was going to be on Fyn! And she actually ended up having my first host mom, Maria as a contact person. Denmark is SO small! It was fantastic meeting Andrea and spending the day with her, her host family and mom who is visiting from Costa Rica. Thanks for letting me tag along for the day Andrea!

I apologize for not blogging while I was going through culture shock/readjustment at home in Alaska. I guess I’m all talk and no walk! But I will summarize this past year and give some advice to the AFS students from this year in Denmark heading home next week:

Like I’ve said, I’m so extremely lucky to have a supportive family and encouraging and patient friends! Listening to constant stories about “Denmark this.. Denmark that” gets old, but they kept their mouths shut and nodded and smiled and sometimes that’s what I needed most. After the initial excitement from getting home wore off, I swear I cried for two weeks and occasionally still do because I miss my life here in Denmark. I miss my exchange student friends who made my AFS experience as phenomenal as it was! And returning is amazing, but strange without them here. I can’t just pick up the phone and meet them in Odense in 10 minutes. That’s hard to bear.. especially when we are already losing touch after only a year. I HAVE to make time to write to them, even if it’s just a “hey how are you?” every week. Losing touch is so painful.. and I refuse to just let everyone be! I will become the annoying girl from Alaska who needs a weekly update from across the globe!

My advice for those of you going home: Don’t be afraid talk about Denmark! But keep in mind people want the short & sweet of your experience : you had an unforgettable experience, you miss Denmark, but you’re happy to be home. When most peoplet ask how your year was, that’s what they're anxious to hear. Your family, and those friends who really care DO want to hear about it.. and talking through it helps you readjust to life at home.

Gosh I’m sorry for the GINORMOUS blog.. I have a lot to make up!

I’ll keep you posted. Francine

(Just read First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria by Eve Brown-Waite .. by far the best book I’ve read all year!)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dancing Aurora

I was just driving home from work and I saw the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) for the first time in way over a year! I wanted to tell you about it... It was strikingly beautiful - florescent green and dancing in the sky. At one point while I was driving there were 3 different ribbons of it.. flitting around. I'd almost forgotten just HOW beautiful they are... I wish you could see them! and I wish I could take a picture to show you! But unfortunatly only profesional cameras can capture the Northern Lights... but here is a picture similar to what it looked like. (but off of google!) Still no snow up here in North Pole! We've gotten a little bit here and there but it keeps melting. And the temperatures are really warm for the end of October... scary gobal warming!

Take care guys.... Love francine

Monday, October 19, 2009

.. dun dun.. 2 months later!!

I haven't blogged in 2 months! OH MY! My lovely host parents reminded me last week that it is crucial I continue to blog.. thank you Bjarke and Solvej! I have been incredibly busy lately as I know everyone is.. but I must remember to make time to blog and as Bjarke put it, to communicate with my friends.
I haven't been writing to my friends, or calling nearly as much as I should and would like to. But sometimes it's too difficult to think about, and I remember back to when Kyla left Denmark and I always wondered why she didn't write to me and we didn't call each other. I never considered that it was difficult to do, or to even contemplate. I am reminded daily of my Danish family - my AFS family in everything I do or say. I think "What would Vero do? What would Bjarke say to me right now? What would Pablo say to me? What would Evelyn advise me to do?" and at times it guides me and keeps me sane! But sometimes it's too painful to call them or talk to them, because I start to cry. Even blogging about this makes me cry. They never tell you that leaving your exchange is harder than going. When you go on exchange, they never tell you how hard it is to come home, to face your own culture, your own society and find your place in it again.
I am doing my best. I have good friends, Heather and Mamie and Courtney and so many others in my school and my community who support me and take good care of me and for that I am extremely grateful. But there is no one who can empathize with me, who I can exchange opinions and feelings with, who really knows what I'm going through. And that makes it rough.
It's very difficult with my family right now. My Mom is in Iraq with the Air National Guard. She left two months ago and she returns in January. I miss her so much, but my busy schedule keeps me out of the house frequently and prevents me from dwelling on it. My dad takes good care of me and my brother, Elliot, but he can't relate to what I'm going through and the impact my exchange had on me and how it is affecting me.

For the past two months I've worked three days a week at a tea house a 30 minute drive away. I like work there! But I've had to cut back because I'm not getting very much sleep! I sing in my a cappella group called "Hello, Bella!" once a week. And right now I'm taking a course, with Heather, 2 nights a week to become a lifeguard at the pool, which is really fun! I love the people in the class and we do lots of fun activities! And I'm applying for colleges and scholarships which is hectic! I also just took the SATs (a big test whose scores colleges evaluate) last weekend.. thank god that's done!

So I'm making do! Exhausted but pressing on! This past weekend (Thursday through Saturday) I went with my Student Council at my school, North Pole High School, down to Anchorage for this BIG statewide student council meeting called AASG (Alaska Association of Student Governments). It was AMAZING! Kids from ALL OVER Alaska, native villages and "big" cities, congregated in Anchorage where we debated issues from banning styrofoam and trans fat in local restaurants to supporting our governor, Sean Parnell's bill creating scholarships for Alaskan students. It was inspiring and enlightening to hear opinions of such a diverse group, kids from as far north as Barrow to Ketchican, Bethel, Unalaska, Klawock, Valdez, Kodiak, Cordova and Delta. I had such a great time! My school brought 8 delegates, and the AASG president Kari Nore a classmate of mine. We traveled with our region, Region 6 that we sat with during General Assemblies and cheered together. I wish that every kid could have such an experience and I encourage every Alaskan high school student to participate in the Spring Conference at Ben Eielson High School.

But that's my report! I promise I will write again soon - yet every time I say that and how often does it happen, right? :)
Keep in touch min Fyn Familie - my Funen Family. My AFS family... I love you guys. And I will always remember what you gave me. Love from Francine