“After all those years as a woman hearing ‘not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not this enough, not that enough,’ almost overnight I woke up one morning and thought, ‘I’m enough.’” ~ Anna Quindlen
This world. Every day, I am learning just how much I don’t know and how much I have yet to learn and understand. I am also realizing a little bit more each day that sometimes the unexpected is best. The people that you first met and who you thought were potential friends can turn out to be “fair false friends,” and it is necessary to “let them go.” E. E. Cummings had it right, and I have to remind myself, on a daily basis, to let things go. I had thought that by coming here, I could leave the demons of insecurity, self-doubt, jealousy, bitterness behind; that by starting a new chapter in a new place, moving away from the familiar, I could bury my baggage, replacing it instead with an inner security and satisfaction that is based in remembering how blessed I am in life. But I sometimes feel like those demons are determined to get the best of me.
Walking home the other night from a café where I was studying with a friend, I realize that I have carried my baggage here – it is still present, and it is still heavy. It is hard, sometimes, to hang out with a friend who is so confident in herself and in her identity and who seems to have everything working out in her favor – that those demons of mine start creeping back in. I want to remember how absolutely wonderful to be here, in Denmark, exploring and learning and hopefully, growing into someone just a little bit stronger and kinder. But oh, it is harder to do than I once thought. I know that I won’t be rid of that baggage until I am able to fully let it go, to come to terms with the idea of “being enough” in my own heart. I’m not there yet. I’d like to be.
– Entrance to a Church by DIS, some beautiful, real roses! – a courtyard that I will probably never be able to find again, Nyhavn –
And so I’m learning a lot from the people around me, from the friends that I find in unexpected places – a girl in my Biology class who loves to run and loves the outdoors and can quote Dr. Suess at any turn, the people that show random acts of kindness – like my free membership at the gym close by where I live, and from seeing families and friends and couples in the park – there’s so much love there, simply enjoying the day and each other’s company. And this brings me to the most beautiful word in the entire Danish language*: Kæsterne (pronounced “cast-uh” – this is a very confusing thing in the Danish language. They just drop out a whole entire part of the word sometimes. And then most of the time, the printed word looks absolutely NOTHING like the pronunciation. Also, the fact that when our Danish teacher says first the incorrect way of saying the word and then the correct way, I cannot for the life of me tell the difference between the two. They both sound right! Aaah, what do I do!)
– Lights at Nyhavn, La Glace (a famous and expensive cake shop), a Church with the most romantic restaurant on one side, cakes at La Glace window –
The word Kæsterne means, roughly translated, “my dearest one.” I’ve been searching for a word like that for awhile now. Because I have always felt strange saying “boyfriend” or “significant other” – what if the person was more than a boyfriend or wasn’t quite one yet but meant a lot to you, what if you had been dating for a long time but were not yet engaged and were maybe en route to be, or that special person that will always hold a piece of your heart but the timing wasn’t right or it didn’t work and was complicated, or maybe you were like Brangelina and had kids and were so happy together but didn’t want to get married just yet – “boyfriend” just seems like a funny term then. That’s when Kæsterne fills in the blanks – dearest one. This is my dearest one. How beautiful is that?
– Flowers from the market –
This word exists in the Danish language because many Danish couples are not married, but have lived together for awhile. Many of these couples have kids and are a family, but don’t want to bother with a wedding. Weddings, our Danish teacher explained, are much less of an event than American weddings. Most of the time, couples will just go to a judge and get the marriage license. Maybe there will be a small party afterwards, and maybe not, but it’s not as “romantic,” our teacher noted, as American weddings. But I tend to think that the way the Danes think of marriage and relationships is more romantic in a sense. There seems to be more stability and satisfaction in it, without needing the appearance or presentation of a big engagement and wedding. I think it’s more subtle and more secure somehow.
– A beautiful courtyard somewhere in Copenhagen (I had no idea where I was at the time, and I have no idea now how to get back) –
I am really enjoying the Danish language class so far. We had our first field study tour on Wednesday, and two girls from the class and I met up at Nørreport station to find our way to the National Art Museum. We had a tour led by a staff member of the museum, who spoke about the Romantic art period of Denmark, characteristic of the Golden Age, the period of Realism that followed, and a piece of modern art that juxtaposed a piece in Arabic with a picture common in Danish magazines. In the tour, we talked a lot about the meaning of national identity and culture – how it is defined, how the meaning of national identity can be individualized as well as provide a platform for solidarity. It was interesting to hear from our teacher, who grew up in Denmark and is now teaching both Danish Language and Pop Culture classes at DIS, his view on the idea of national identity, race, and perception.
– Statens Museum for Kunst –
The topic of racism and stereotypes came up, because he, in the past, has dealt with a lot of instances of miscommunication in his classes that were associated with stereotyping – for instance, he would make a remark about race or culture, and to an American of that particular race, it would come across as a racist remark. He remembers one time when he first started teaching that he was speaking of race, stating the terms “black” and “yellow” to mean African-American and Asian-American. As I identify with the latter, when I first heard him say that term, I was surprised (and ok, yeah, I was a little offended). It’s not often a term that I hear in the States, and when I do hear it, it is usually used as a form of insult. However, our teacher explained that he simply didn’t know that at the time. He had said it to acknowledge culture – he had no idea that it was negatively associated.
It was eye-opening for me, because I also often forget to consider the other side of a situation – the idea that perhaps the person making the assumption or stereotype might simply not know or not be aware of it. I also have my own perceptions and judgments by first impressions, and I have to remember that there can be two sides to a story. The world can assume stereotypes that I cannot let dictate my character or the characters of others. I think that each country has the responsibility to learn and to understand other cultures, to be open to new ideas, to not be judgmental, and to work hard for one’s independent goals. Although it is a difficult responsibility to assume, I believe it holds the key to better understanding family, individuality, and identity.
– Exploring the museum with friends! –
Afterwards, some classmates and I wandered around the museum for a bit, taking some silly pictures and some serious ones and some informative ones, and when we were done, we went to the glass market by Nørreport station where my friend Dana and I split a large slice of pistachio nougat and declared that we could eat it every day always and forever after (probably not, but it was so good.) That same night, our Danish class went to a café for dinner. It was such a beautiful restaurant – built like a hotel lobby, with a bar as the “check-in” table, and long, long picnic bench-tables. By this time, we were all getting a little sleepy, but our Danish teacher was just getting started. I’m beginning to realize that Danish people, once they get to know you, like to have deep conservations with people. They like to explore different topics and hear various opinions on controversies and politics. The conversation at the café got very deep, and our Danish teacher was quoting philosophers and bringing up all sorts of books and movies and artists. It was a good night, but my friend Dana and I were having trouble keeping our eyes open!
– From the market, the top right corner is our pistachio nougat! –
It’s been an interesting week. A lot of things to think about, to wonder about, and to hope for. There’s both sadness and happiness – the good and the bad. I guess that’s how it always is – maybe how it is for everyone, more than we perhaps let on. But no experience is lost, and I think it’s important to remember both the good and the bad memories, because I hope I can grow from both.