Monday, June 21, 2010

New Blog!

Are you sick of logging on to Blogger only to see the pages of Gubblebum once again without an update to its name? I know I am--and I'm laboring under the likely mistaken view that you are, too.

If any of you masochists are still there, through the months of sporadic updates, hear me now. I have committed myself--gasp!--to a miniproject called 
Fox News: Week With Real America  that examines the cray cray that is the home of Fair and Balanced through a feminist lens.

Please visit! Oh, and I only have one follower right now, and you know who that is?

My mom.

Please, guys. Step it up!

Friday, January 29, 2010

En Sandwich med Killing? (A kitten sandwich?)

The Danish language, by default, shouldn’t actually exist. It doesn’t sound like anything, for god’s sake. Well, if you really think about it, I guess it sounds like a cat throwing up. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard. It’s kind of difficult to pay too much attention to the sounds of something when your personal happiness depends almost entirely on understanding what someone is saying for just one blasted second. But it’s seriously one of the hardest languages in the world. I’m totally serious. That’s probably why only 5.5 million people speak it.  More people live in New York City than live in all of Denmark. I’ve lived in both places, and now I can say with some certainty, that I may be spending much of my life in the latter place. I don’t know exactly how I feel about that, only that I should feel something. I feel confused. I feel that I should understand, that I should revert to a prelinguistic stage with the ease of a child.
Let me just give you one example. My friend was in Danish class one day, and the professor called on her while she was chewing on something. She answered to the best of her ability with her mouth full. The professor said her pronunciation was quite good. Let me say that again. She sounded better WITH FOOD IN HER MOUTH than she sounded without. That’s fucked up.

 The Danish word for rye bread is rugbrød. You have a better chance of pronouncing it correctly if you say mweorihokjh than if you actually try to say it. Trust me on this. And then there’s the insane specificity. I lived in a town for four months and never really learned how to pronounce it. I mean, you’d think that with a teeny tiny disctinction, say if I said VillOHah instead of VillOAH people would stil understand me. Kind of like people from New York understand people from Jersey. Maybe something like that. But it doesn’t work that way. They will just stare at you until you’re like, okay, I’ll spell it out. And then they get this look on their faces like OH! And they repeat the word and it sounds EXACTLY LIKE HOW YOU SAID IT BEFORE. And they say that they had no idea what you were talking about. Danish confuses me. I have to become friends with it. I have two books and tapes on my shelf, but there’s no one using them. When I try to speak Danish, Thomas just laughs. Kind heartedly, of course, but it’s not exactly encouraging. I need some support here, people. 

Oh, and I didn’t realize that I was saying The English until I went home. As in, you speak the English? Ugh. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yellow Card

I hereby apologize for the ridiculous lack of blogging that has plagued my life the last several weeks. Every time I sat down to write, something else would beg for my attention. I had planned to write about my first experience with the Danish healthcare system, my trip to London and Oxford, how I finally cleaned my room, the field trip to Christiania, and how Troells threw an onion at Fredrik last night and how Thomas ate a pig heart and set his hand on fire.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been time. You've been stuck reading my posts on syndication. I'll start now, begging forgiveness, with Episode 1 of the Second Season of The Kitten Sandwich: The Yellow Card.

Foreigners who stay in Denmark for an extended period of time are highly encouraged (and possibly required by law) to register for a CPR number. Akin to a social security number in the states, your CPR number entitles you to free healthcare and library books! Two of my favorite things, you know. When I arrived at DIS, I filled out a form and lost it somewhere in the abscess of my room before retrieving it a month later and dragging it to the local Kommune.

Don't freak out, that's just what they're called. This isn't Soviet Russia.

The woman at the registration office (that's basically what a kommune is) stamped all over my passport and forms and I got a CPR number. I was told a yellow card would arrive in my mailbox within a few weeks.

And arrive it did, in a non-descript envelope I nearly threw away unopened (note: never, ever do this in Denmark). It's rather aesthetically pleasing, with its yellow center and neat white border. It looks a little like a plastic egg. In card form. My CPR number features prominently in the design, in raised black type, over my Danish address and under the name and number of my primary doctor.

That's another thing to note--when you receive your card, you are automatically assigned a doctor in your area who will refer you to a specialist if necessary.

The sides of my card serve as excellent examples of the Danish adoration of behemoth words: REJSESYGESIKRINGSKORT on one side and SUNDHEDSKORT on the other, the former translating to travel health insurance card and the latter to health card (I actually knew that without looking it up!!)

Within a few days of receiving my card, I made an appointment in order to get a referral about the pesky toe problem that's been bothering me on and off for years. The only problem I've encountered with the Danish healthcare system is this--it takes FOREVER to make an appointment. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that receptionists often only answer the phone between 8 and 9 in the morning (when I'm in class) or even just whenever they feel like it. And that American fear about long waits and lists is partially true; the first surgeon I was told to call told me--and this was in September--"we have an appointment on November 21".

Navigating this sea of red tape, however, isn't that difficult. I made a few phone calls, and got an appointment for the very next day. That's the secret---call every doctor in Copenhagen until you get someone on the phone, and then keep calling until you get an appointment in your desired time frame. They do exist, I promise you.

I arrived at the doctor's office not knowing what to think. Anyone who knows me in real life will likely be aware that I am a supporter of Universal Healthcare in the states, but I'm not afraid to admit that I was a little scared at facing the real thing. Glenn Beck can do that to you.

I needn't have worried. My doctor was the sweetest, kindest surgeon I've ever met. In between shots of anesthesia, he patted me on the arm and got me some water. And let me tell you, Danish anesthesia is strong stuff. I couldn't feel anything in my toe, not even the usual pressure I've felt in former surgeries. He might has well have been operating on the air beside me. After the surgery, he gave me a free supply of gauze and painkillers and swiped my CPR card. I had to stop myself from whipping out my checkbook--there are no co-pays in Denmark. When I realized that I could no longer fit my foot in my shoe due to the gauze, HE DROVE ME HOME.

That would never happen in America. I can tell you that much.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Danish: It is hard.

That, I believe, should be the official state motto of Denmark. Let me set the scene:

I am perched on the edge of a plush bus seat. We are about to stop at the train station, which welcomes an influx of approximately 23479871098709873 people, and I need to get off at the next stop.

"Excuse me," I say, in perfectly-accented Danish. I want to add "can I get by," but as I can't remember which of two phrases I have in mind is actually the proper one, I say nothing. This basically amounts to me shoving my way off the bus. Good thing, though--I checked my phrase book later, and had I followed my instincts, a busfull of Danes would have heard this:

"Excuse me, I'm just looking! I'm just looking, excuse me!"

And then I probably would have gone to a store and assaulted the manager's graceful "can I help you" with a callous, "no, can I get by?"

This kind of reminds me of the time I introduced my godmother to my Spanish class as the mother of God.

Also, one of the guys on my hall is blessed with the last name "sloth". It is quite naturally, however, pronounced 'slut'.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fødselsdag Festen! (Birthday Party)

You haven't lived until you've sung opera to a bar full of Norwegians and heard your own American accent morph into something distinctively drunken and Scandinavian.

Our kollegium has both a cafe AND a bar, because the Danes are just that fun-loving. Before we get there, let's go back a few hours. The beginning of the birthday party.

Two of the Norwegian guys made this:

And yes, it was that delicious. And yes, Scandinavian men can bake.

We then rearranged the kitchen so it looked like this:

See the ceiling light in the left side of the picture? We had to string it up with paperclips because it kept threatening to hit me on the head. Oh, and everyone's toasting. This happened quite a lot. When you make a toast in Denmark, you say 'skål' and look everyone in the eye AT THE SAME TIME without breaking contact. I still don't really know how that works. 

Before we had the cake, we sang Happy Birthday in Danish, which goes like this:

I dag er det Christine's fødselsdag - hurra, hurra, hurraaaa...

I don't know the rest, but you can probably find it on youtube. Or just watch the Dogme film Festen if you REALLY want to have fun*. 

And then we did this:

We're dancing in this picture; it's a little difficult to tell. It was about that time that we decided to move the party to the cafe. And then to the bar. And then we all fell asleep. It was pretty great.

*sarcasm. Great film, but very, very dark.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My lovely, hygge room

That Explains A Lot

Though the world still views Danes as tall, blonde bundles of genetic perfection (their hair doesn't even get messed up when they're biking!), Denmark is developing a more international face. It's impossible to identify Danish speakers just by looking at them.  As you can imagine, my first two weeks here were spent trying to navigate my new Pseudo-Danish identity through interactions with people who expected me to be as Danish as they were. My attempts at dealing ran through several stages, which I will name as follows:

1. Dumb Dane

People talk to me. I say, "huh?" and sound like a prepubescent boy because I have a stuffy nose.

2. Bitchy Dane

This phase lasted for, like, two weeks. I would speak a little Danish to the kool kids (Danish and international) in my kollegium, and then they'd try to talk to me later and I wouldn't respond. Why? Because this is what I heard:

tyg tye hugy grig se aeaea*

I mean, you should only speak like that to someone you know. I thought he was talking to the guy next to me.  He wasn't.

The next week, I dropped a potato on someone's foot (therefore inadvertently marking my territory if we go by the cucumber story). I said, "oh, sorry" and he said, "where are you from?" When I told him New York, he goes, "That explains a lot."

And from then on, everyone was really chummy with me. In fact, I did a shot of whisky with the guys last night. We're developing a ritual that consists of bad 80's movies and alcohol (the latter consumed more by them than by me, I can assure you. Never EVER try to outdrink a Dane). It's kind of nice and reminds me of my guy friends back at home--except these guys are ALL tall, blond, and gorgeous.

This morning, I finally got to know the girls, who are a bit more reserved than the guys (at least on my hall). We made--er, they made and I watched--pancakes with caramel ice cream. They made me eat with them--yes, poor poor me--even though I hadn't helped them in any way because I didn't think I'd be asked to partake. They chatted in Danish for the most part, but occasionally stopped to summarize in English to my great relief. And then I ate lentils.

Tonight, we're all going out to celebrate the birthday of Mari, who's from Norway! I'll keep you posted.

*obviously not real Danish, but seriously, this is what it sounds like. There's a lot of choking sounds involved. I'm afraid someone will cough up a hairball one of these days.