Thursday, November 27, 2008
I want something red - fits the whole 'danish' theme, and I don't want that skinny little writing space that most of the templates offer, so now I'm streched and modified and we'll see how it goes.
I may change it again - be forewarned!
I'm not actually going to cook the turkey until tomorrow because tonight, I have school. It's okay, this actually gives me an extra day to prepare my feast. Tomorrow evening Ole's parents will join us and stuff themselves silly on foods they only eat once per year.
May the grocery store gods be kind to me today!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
As you know we have two incredibly sweet, innocent dogs who never get into any trouble at all!
And, as you also know, I recently traveled to Las Vegas for a week.
These sweet dogs, therefore, had to spend their first whole day 'home alone'. Zoe had done so before but this was a first for Lexi, and the first time they would spend the day together.. by themselves.
Ole put them in the entry way and guest bathroom area with one of their dog beds, several things to chew on, and their water bowl. Apparently the things that were left to chew on either didn't last long enough, or were simply not exciting enough. The following will give you an indication of what he found when he arrived home that first day...
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Unlike the states, where we have yellow lines that indicate a separation of traffic, all the paint is white here. You would think it wouldn't matter but I have to admit that initially, it was quite disconcerting. I grew up being told that if there was a white line separating your lane from another lane that meant that both lanes were traveling in the same direction. What they do give you are lollipops. No, not that kind of lollipop but a little white thing sticking out of the ground on either side of the road. On one side of the road the pops have yellow reflectors and on the other side, they have white. I can't remember which is which, which probably tells you how helpful they are.
The above refers only to the roads where someone actually bothered to paint lines. There are many, many roads in Jylland where they felt it unnecessary. And, along that same theory, there must have been a pavement shortage at some point because they also felt it unnecessary to make the road wide enough for two vehicles - even though it IS a two-lane road. I hate these roads. Everytime a car approaches from the other direction I want to close my eyes. It's frightening! There actually IS enough space to get past one another, but it definitely doesn't feel that way. It basically feels like you're in someone's driveway.
The roads are dark - VERY dark. While studying for my danish license, the translation referred to the headlights as either in 'dipped' position or in 'main' position. The weird thing about that, to me, was that 'main' position translated to what I had always called my 'high beams'. Now I know why they call them 'main beams' here. Driving in Jylland means you will use your 'high beams' more times in one evening than you would in an entire year in the states. You will have them on ALL the time - you will switch back to 'low beams' only for oncoming traffic - hence the term 'dipped' beams!
Trivia time! What bizarre, outdated driving law still exists on the books here? Get this - by law, when passing other traffic at night, you are to first slow your car to approximately 30 mph and only after you have slowed down, you are to dip your headlights from high beams to low beams. HUH???? In fairness, the law was written back in the days when low beams could only illuminate a short distance - I guess not being able to see far ahead when driving at fast speeds was a more critical issue than blinding the approaching traffic. While this is still law, I highly recommend breaking the law on this one or you'll probably get rear-ended.
For the most part, the Danish roads are designed to keep traffic moving. Perhaps brakes were or are too expensive to fix, and therefore, the laws are designed to never actually apply the brakes. Just a theory.
Traffic lights exist only in the cities, and only because some road engineer hasn't yet figured out how to tear down the surrounding homes and businesses so he can stick a round-about in there instead. Round-abouts are everywhere! Weee... ! When riding in the passenger seat it can feel a bit like you're on an amusement park ride - wooosh to the left... wooosh to the right. Okay, granted, this probably has something to do with the actual driver. ;)
Watch for cyclists in round-abouts. You may think you can just go around in the circle and turn to the right when your street appears. I highly recommend you look over your right shoulder before doing so, as that cycle next to you may need to continue to the next exit of the round-about. Yeah, it's pretty easy to forget they're circling around in the same circle!
In addition to the round-abouts, you will find little patches of pavement on the shoulder wherever there is a place off the main road that someone may wish to turn to the left. This little patch of pavement is there so that you, the driver behind the one turning left, will not be required to slow down or stop because of the one turning - simply swerve your car into the patch and keep going. Remember, whatever you do, do NOT ever stop moving.
Now, in contradiction to the 'keep moving' theory, is probably the most non-sensical thing about the roads here. On the main roads, you are permitted to drive 80kph. However, anyone pulling a trailer or driving a truck may go only 70kph. This is not a road with two lanes of traffic in the same direction; this is a freaking mess! You can just be cruising along and wham, there it is, the long line of cars behind the guy driving to Plant-o-rama with trailer in tow to pick up his 15 bags of sphagnum - everyone stuck behind him until the next really big passing area appears at which point everyone tries really hard to get around him but inevitably, you won't be able to. Why? Because there will always be someone in that line of traffic who just doesn't want to pass, causing logistical issues for everyone else.
And even those who do wish to pass have problems. Cars are small here. Lots and lots of 4-cylinder, 0-60 in 10 min, cars. These are not well designed for passing other cars. These are road cloggers but oooo, they get great gas mileage... grrr.
80kph doesn't really mean 80kph. Ole likes to say that since everything in Denmark is taxed, you can add 25% tax to the speed limit too and as such, you can drive about 100kph in an 80kph zone. Sounds good to me!
The danes like to be prepared and they like to be forewarned. Before a passing section ends, the dotted stripes in the center get longer and longer before becoming a solid white line. Before a traffic light turns green it first goes from red, to a combination of yellow and red - I call it the 'rev your engines' setting. I must admit, however, that I rather like it - quite handy when you're approaching the intersection!
So, there you have it, driving in Denmark. I'm sure there is more, but I'll give you a chance to absorb that first!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
This morning I tried Kelli's sopapilla cheesecake. It's done, but we haven't yet tried it but I have to say it certainly looks good! It just seemed a bit heavy to have immediately after eating our scrambled eggs :)
But, the point of this post is that I wanted to share an extremely helpful site that I found awhile ago. This site is awesome - someone took the time to translate the names of all sorts of ingredients from English to all the Scandinavian languages, and to Russian. So, here's the link:
Multi-lingual Food Glossary
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I am finished with my monologue in Danish. This evening, in language school, I had to do a monologue on a subject of my choice. I would like to say Thank You to Kelli as she inspired me to choose the Danish flag (Dannebrog) as my subject.
Friday, November 7, 2008
I then loaded everything into the car and headed for the moving company's warehouse, where they would then load my car into the remaining space in the container that they had taken from my apartment the day before. The car had to be dropped off early to meet the customs schedule, etc., but I now had nearly 6 hours left before my plane would leave. The woman who was coordinating it all was kind enough to then squeeze me, the suitcases and the cat carriers into her little car and drop us off at Seatac.
When we arrived at the airport, she helped me get everything onto 2 of those smartcarts and I then sat and waited. I was apparently a very entertaining site in the airport as I sat there with my carts full of cats. I had tons of visitors stop by inquiring as to where I was headed and why so much stuff! Following are some photos I snapped at the time:
Oscar and Coal on top, Mr. Pete on the bottom
A closer shot of Mr. Pete, the 20 lb. wonder cat
Oscar, with Coal hiding out behind him
It was about 2 hours into our wait when Oscar just couldn't hold it anymore and proceeded to pee inside their shared carrier. I couldn't bear to leave them like that so I then proceeded to attempt to wheel two smartcarts from the place we had parked ourselves, all the way across the upper level of the ticketing area, to a restroom. Thankfully there was a HUGE handicapped toilet, big enough to wheel both carts into. And then, without actually removing the cats for fear they would dart off into the airport, I did the best that I could to dry out their cage and make their journey as comfortable as possible. Poor, terrified Coal!
Eventually, after several hours, I made my way to the SAS check-in counter and decided I would just park myself at the front of the line and wait for the first agent to appear. At 3pm, SAS opened check-in and thankfully, upon site of me, the agent didn't have a heart attack or run screaming out of the building. She kindly checked me in, took my payment for all the cats, and was very sweet to not charge me extra for my overweight suitcases. I'm pretty sure she felt sorry for me having to pay so much for each cat, and I think she was entertained as well. After we made all the arrangements, she then asked me if I would like the cats to stay with me until it was closer to flight time - call me a bad mommy but I said.. 'nope, they're yours now!'.
Next stop, cat check security! I had given up my bags but I now had to be escorted over to a special security area where they would check to make sure I wasn't smuggling anything with the cats. The officer put on these big rubber gloves, which I told him was probably a good idea, considering the pee and all that. I had to be present in case they needed me to actually remove the cat from the cage while they checked it out. For Oscar and Coal, and for Squirt, he was able to check the cages without their removal. But, for Mr. Pete, on the other hand, well, my big guy had to come out. When I pulled out Mr. Pete he clung to his bed .. so there I was holding him up while he hung onto the bed that had been lining the bottom of his cage, which lead the officer to thank Mr. Pete for making the job easier!
Now the cats were in the hands of the SAS and I was able to get myself to the gate. As I sat at the gate, several people asked me.. "aren't you the one with all the cats?" - I had been at the airport so long, and so noticeably, that I was suddenly some kind of cat lady celebrity. Ahh, my greatest ambition achieved ;).
As I was boarding, I heard the agent on the radio confirming the cats on board, and we were all officially on our way....
Thursday, November 6, 2008
(Notice in the picture above what I insisted would be the LAST thing packed?
(That's my brand new couch all wrapped up in packing paper!)
Somehow they then, magically, took all of the stuff you see above and managed to fit it into one end of a container so that eventually, it looked like this:
And once they drove away, I was left with a vacuum cleaner that I wasn't taking, some cleaning supplies, the 3 very full suitcases that I would take on my flight, 3 cat carriers, and the 4 cats who would occupy said carriers.
I will confess, however, that I left the 4 cats in the apartment and spent the night sleeping at a local motel!
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
First and foremost - getting that Danish driver's license is no easy feat! Especially if you believe, as I did, that you can simply read the Driver's Theory Book and that doing so will sufficiently prepare you to take the theory test. Let me warn you now - it won't! This is the 3rd such theory test I have taken in my driving career and by far, the most obscure and most difficult of the three.
Test 1 - In all honesty, I have no recollection of the first written test I took. All that I do know is that I was 17 at the time, and I passed on the first try.
Test 2 - When I moved from New York to Washington, I waited one day too long to convert my license. My NY license had expired the day before I visited the Washington DMV and because of that one day, I had to take both the written and driving tests in Washington state. To take the written test you must show up, take a number, and wait. Everyone had told me, "just read the book while you're waiting and you'll do fine." They were correct. I mean, really, I already knew how to drive, it was just a matter of reading whatever little weird things Washington had in their law books that perhaps NY did not. Read, passed, done. Took the road test and passed that as well.
Test 3 - Ahh, Denmark. When I arrived here in November 2006 we were told that I simply had to convert my US license over to a Danish license. We went to the proper place, filled out the paperwork, gave them some money and waited. I was given a temporary driving permit to be used while awaiting my 'real' license. Sigh; if only it had been that simple.
Approximately two weeks later, we received a letter in the mail letting us know that whoever let us fill out that form had been wrong. It was no longer possible to convert a US License and that I must undergo the full battery of driving tests if I wished to obtain a Danish license. (Subtext - You people from the US cannot drive, your tests are too easy, and we don't want you on our roads until we take half your pay and subject you to all kinds of strangely worded questions in the hopes that you'll fail and never drive here.)
At this point in my Danish life, my knowledge of the danish language amounted to less than 10 words, which meant that there was no possible way to take the test in Danish. After several phone calls, we were told it was possible to purchase the theory book in the English language. So purchase it we did. And then I read the book - twice. My initial impression of the book was that whoever was paid to translate the book into English did a very poor job of doing so. I have since learned that apparently I'm the moron. I guess in the UK a curb actually is a 'kerb' and a tire actually is a 'tyre'; I just thought the person doing the translation couldn't spell!
All that aside, in order to take the test, we had to hire a police-approved interpreter who would read the test to me in English - at our expense, of course. And, because I would be taking the test in English, I had to reserve a test period for myself rather than joining 10 other people in their test taking time slot. To do so, you have to go look the big book of test taking times, find one that no one is in, take the book to the desk and let them know that you'll be taking the test at that time. But, before you can actually do so, you have to coordinate with your interpreter to be sure that the time also works for them. And, since no sane Danish teenager is going to take the 8 AM time slot - that is pretty much the only free spot you can reserve. We were able to get the logistics all worked out and we scheduled the test.
I re-read everything in the book that I was sure they would quiz me on - legal drinking limits, obscure size and shape rules, weird safety rules like how many meters back on the road you are to set your warning triangle if your car becomes disabled, etc. With the help of my hubby, I did several random practice tests online. They were in danish, so he had to read (translate) quickly so that I could pick an answer quickly, etc. We didn't do so well on these practice tests, but part of that had to do with 'how' to translate certain words and the fact that we were racing against time when attempting this. In hindsight, I was a total fool to think I was prepared for this test. But really, how hard could it be?
Really, really, hard. The way the test works is that you'll be shown pictures, 25 of them. For each picture shown there are 2-4 questions. They are all yes/no questions, however, the tricky part is that 1 question wrong out of 4 means you fail that picture. You're allowed to have 5 of the 25 wrong; get 6 wrong and you have failed.
If you want to see a sample (it's in Danish) you can look at this link (http://www.dku.dk/Teori/B/default.asp). The hardest part of the whole thing is figuring out what they 'mean' and what their tricks are. In each picture, the photo is from the perspective of the driver, as if you're in the car. So, for example, you'll be shown a picture looking through the windshield at the road ahead. It will begin by saying something like..
"You're traveling at 60 kph, what should you be particularly aware of here?"
a. The course of the road
b. The direction of the road
c. The use of the road
d. I will reduce my speed
That's not a great example, but it's an example! It's not multiple choice; for each of those you have to say Yes or No. So, you may say 'a' is yes and 'b' is no and 'c' is yes and 'd' is yes, but if you get 3 right and 1 wrong, you failed that picture. The words they use such as "course", "use" and "direction" are seriously where you will pass or fail this thing. It's all a matter of learning what they mean by those words.
So, on my first try, I got 6 pictures wrong and failed. I figured they would show me where I went wrong so I would know what I needed to study. No such luck. They give you back a piece of paper that says you got picture #5 wrong, but not which part of picture 5 was wrong, nor do you have any memory of what exactly was in picture 5 - you don't get to keep a copy of the picture itself. They do tell you that the subject of picture 5 was, for example, intersections, but that's all the help you'll get.
When you're 'converting' they'll give you the first theory test relatively inexpensively. If you have to take it again, you pay more, and each time you take it, the price goes up, and we're not talking 20 Kr. either. And, if you're doing it in English, you have to pay your interpreter each time as well, obviously.
We scheduled another test taking time, and I went home and studied more. I did everything possible to prepare for the silly thing the 2nd time, and I just KNEW I was ready. Or, so I thought. The result of the 2nd try was that I ended up getting more of them wrong than I did on the first try. It was humiliating and frustrating and caused me to have one of my moments.. the cry my eyes out, swear at my new country, tell my husband to 'fix it' moments.
We were finally referred to a local driving instructor who had apparently spent some time in the US and would be able to help me prepare. My new instructor then managed to hook me up with practice tests that were actually in English - eureka! There were 25 practice tests, each with the full 25 pictures, and I think I took every one of those tests at least 3 times. He also helped me figure out what the heck they meant by things like "the road's equipment" and some of the little tricks they use in the test that I should be prepared for. I felt like I finally knew where I had probably gone wrong on the previous attempts and alas, try #3 was scheduled.
Luckily and most happily, I finally passed it! I whooped and hollared and wanted to give the grumpy old policeman a hug, but thought better of it and gave my husband a hug instead! Then it was on to the road test. Which must be taken in an official driver instructor car and since I had taken the theory test with an interpreter, my interpreter also had to be present for the driving test. She had to sit in the back seat while the policeman sat in the passenger seat.
I spent a few sessions in advance driving around Viborg in the instructor's car so that I could get used to everything and remember how to drive a stick shift! (If you cannot drive a stick-shift car, learn that first as it's the only way to take the test). On the day of the actual driving test, we all met at the police station. The officer who would administer the test turned out to be a nice young guy who had no issue at all speaking to me in English; so my interpreter basically went along for the ride! I must say it's a bit of an odd feeling to drive a car with 2 passengers and yet no one is speaking other than to say 'take the next left'.
Short story long, despite my 3-point turn becoming a 4-point turn, I did successfully pass the test and obtain my danish driver's license. WOOOHOOO.