Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Too Darn Hot: DANISH TRIP: Part Three: Days 2-3/24


Perhaps it was an off day or just a regular Sunday but everything seemed to be running late today. Maybe a local could tell me how often the trains from Copenhagen to Helsingør are 20 minutes late, or the buses take an age to arrive. I'm sure that this would not have bothered me quite so much had the combination of heat and large heavy bags made doing anything besides lying on a bed feel exhausting.
This aside, however, the train journey itself was a pleasant one, despite the heat. The train was clean, with comfortable seats, the view from the window switched from trees along the backs of houses to glimpses of the sea. The minute journey ran smoothly after the initial delay and the aforementioned bus similarly so. Maybe a not so off day, then.
My first impressions of the buildings of International People's College (IPC) was that they were clean and well maintained which is impressive when you know most of the general cleaning is done by students rather than a large team of cleaners and maintenance. There's a real atmosphere here that the people care a lot about the school, not only physically looking after the buildings and keeping things clean and tidy but also about the school as an institution and concept.
This care was also demonstrated in the way meal times are treated; we are all asked to stand behind our chairs whilst we are told what we are having to eat. This is to remind us that we should respect that the food was prepared for us and didn't just "come down from the sky to our plates". The food itself is evidence of care for it is delicious fresh and not at all like any kind of mass produced meal I have had before (there are around 100 students on the course plus staff).
The warm weather encouraged a few of us to wander around the lake in the generous and relaxing grounds...Right I'm going to stop before I right an entire estate agents' ad...


Well...what can I say? I mean, I knew this course wasn't going to be easy but I suppose I din't expect it to be quite so challenging on the first day. Following the language tests that we took yesterday, we were allocated into 8 different groups based on different levels. I had assumed (naively I now see) that at my level of Danish at least some of the class would be conducted in English.
I know...I will benefit me for next year and definitely in the long run to be forced to listen to and understand someone speaking Danish at a normal speed. The trouble is, when you don't necessarily understand every word or you it takes you a moment to translate the words in your head, it feels very much as though the person is not speaking Danish at a normal speed at all but actually extremely fast. I suppose I would say I understood maybe 60% of what my teacher was actually saying today...maybe a bit more if I include what I managed to deduce from context, fellow classmates and the books we were given (to keep, yay!)

After that tiring morning, a very ineffectual coffee and a questionable cup of tea, we were given a brief tour of Helsingør (in English, thank goodness). Helsingør's city centre, the old city, is full of beautiful C17th houses some even complete with being set on straight narrow cobbled streets, up which goods were pulled from boats, sailors drunk and found "company" for the evening, in the centuries before land was reclaimed at the shoreline pushed back, towards Sweden.
We had a brief (and then not so brief) look around the library. It was, quite simply, fantastic. Now...I am the first to admit that I am a complete library nerd and this one was ticking all kinds of boxes. There was a large collection of books, including sections on ever possible specialist subject. There was a good foreign language books section, back issues of magazines and papers and films, audiobooks and even PS3 games to borrow. The children's area was generous with an area for reading, with out without help (or thinking or music, as the sign told me). Overall just a pleasant and well stocked library from my outsider's perspective.
Another landmark of note was that of the statue near the cultural institute. It's based on The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, except that the subject is a "effeminate" man. We were told this was supposed to be in contrast the very "masculine" perception of the men who used to work in dockyards in the city. The reflecting surface was designed so that one could literally and metaphorically self-reflect whilst looking at the statue.
and upon some self-reflection I realise I should be doing my homework and sleeping, not watching people play UNO in a depressingly repetitive and inconsistently enthusiastic manner...

[Edit: I did stay up and watch them...glutton for punishment, I tell you...]

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Cakes in Copenhagen: DANISH TRIP: Part Two: Day 1/24


I thought going to Copenhagen would mean some brief relief from the way-too-hot-for-my-liking temperatures witnessed in the south of the UK lately. This comforting thought was based on weather forecasts and average temperatures which assured me that Copenhagen in early July would be in pleasant but not uncomfortable low-mid-20 degrees Celsius. Now, I can't say that I know the temperature it was today [edit: Or today when I actually post this a day late] but it sure as hell didn't feel pleasant but not uncomfortable, certainly not with my recently acquired and overly ambitious "gap year" back pack on.

Despite this, however, and despite an as yet unresolved issue with my phone network (I'll give you feel at bleeding home), my short (and wholly inadequate) wander around central Copenhagen was very enjoyable, especially when minus heavy luggage. There's a Jazz Festival going on at the moment and as I wandered around by myself, eating jordbærkage, drinking any number of local soft
drinks, already buying tourist tat, eating røde pølser and wondering whether or not I could sum up the guts to purchase take away draft beer to drink on the streets (I could not), I got a free listen of a few of the performances. One or two were...well...interesting though perhaps not exactly enjoyable. I'm not sure, for example, about some interpretations of "21st Century Jazz". Others, however, were nicer, especially a group of talented but young men who seemed to be playing every brass instrument imaginable. They were nice to listen to and I watched them for a while, even blushing bought one of their CDs. During their performance I had one of those moments where you just feel happy and grateful and adventurous - I was in a foreign city by myself, listening to a live performance in the glorious sun, in a beautiful part of the city and watching people dancing together and just enjoying themselves.
After that I went back to my hotel and watched tv...I mean...I didn't want to lose the happy feeling but I also didn't want to go drink alone somewhere. one done. Next, the real challenge. I'm heading off by train to Helsingør to begin my summer school. Kinda nervous, not going to lie to you, but also excited that I'll improve and learn more about Danish history and culture whilst I'm here.
Best get to sleep...(or possibly watch another American film with Danish subs...)

Thursday, 2 July 2015

DANISH TRIP: Part One: a very brief introduction

This story really begins the day I decided to apply for the Viking Studies course at UCL - (or rather, the day I decided to accept the place I had been offered on it) - because that day was the day I agreed to learn Danish from scratch to year abroad standard in 2 years.

Thus, as it transpires, I am soon to embark upon a sponsored trip to Denmark to improve my Danish. I'll be attending a summer school during the week and exploring a bit at the weekend.

I don't really have anything else to say at the moment, other than that I'm going to be writing about the trip, partly to document it and partly because I think it may be a beneficial exercise in some way (don't ask me in what way).

So...yeah...better get back to packing before my mum yells at me again...Seeya on Saturday...bright and horribly early (oh the joys of early flights being the cheapest)