I can’t believe how fast the time is going. I have been in Denmark for almost four months already. And although I cannot remember my address, phone number, the name of my dog and what the name of my city is, I still can speak English. Hopefully. In July, I stepped into a Danish farm house I had never dreamed of being in a year ago, with a family I had never met. I was to have four families this year, and they were my first. Immediately, I became an observer of another culture, calculating spoken word and table manners, train schedules and milk cartons.
The family was just about as different from mine as it could get. First of all, I had two younger host siblings, who hated each other half the time, and couldn’t get away from each other the other half. They had so many things to amuse themselves. Kitt, my host sister, had three horses. I always wondered why she needed three. When I first got there, she said to me in her precocious English, “We should go on a ride on Twiggy and Rebekka, just you and me.” This made me feel good, that she was expressing interest in doing something with me. By the end, though, my host sister cared less about me. She would hug and kiss and love her parents goodnight, but she would breeze pass my door while yelling in Danish, “Why does Emily not have to go to bed at nine like us?” This was something that my host mother explained to me as jealousy. I was coming in and talking to her father more than she did, taking the role of the oldest daughter with the most freedom. She was also going through a bad stage of puberty, and every time I would hear the mind-halting screams of, “MOAH!!!!” (“Mom”), the whole world would stop until she got what she wanted. Sometimes the screams would go on for minutes at a time, because Moah was outside, and Emily was too tired and brain dead to yell something sassy back to her in Danish. I had come from a family of independent individuals, we did what we wanted and tried to stay out of each other’s way. It was crazy for me to come into a world where the kids didn’t make their own lunches, didn’t know how to wash the dishes, and had to go to bed at 9 p.m.
Yes, Kitt seemed to have a problem with me. She would ask me why I was getting a ride to school on especially windy days instead of riding my bike like the (as she would point out the window) old woman on that bike, with her face contorted and almost crying in the evil Danish wind. She seemed to enjoy when I made mistakes, like leaving a light on, or forgetting to close the bathroom door. She would always tell me her parents were mad at me, and I would look up from my work when they came home, smiles and “Goddags!” all around.
I just wasn’t used to having younger siblings. It was hard to even use the phone without having one of them standing with their back against the doorframe asking me who I was calling and why. When I discussed this with my exchange student friends with younger siblings, they explained that that’s just what kids do, and that I had to get used to it. In the end, I learned to simply smile and do what the oldest always learns to do, ignore. For the first time in all my attempts at getting rid of the trouble, this method worked.
I was glad that I could spend my late summer in a nice place. It also forced me to slow down and take it all in. I would go outside and play my guitar with ten enraged cows in front of me. I would participate in the sometimes fun, sometimes horrible farm work. It was a completely new thing to me to put on a bright green ski suit and bale hay, ride in a tractor, hoist boulders into a cart in the rain. Hoisting boulders in the rain was actually the worst one, because the only reward was pizza, and I had a fever. Two hours of grueling labor on barren fields for pizza. It seemed to satiate the kids, who always did what they were supposed to for food. (Kids are easy to please.)
Now I am at a new host family, which reminds me of my parents from home. Just me, a mom, and a dad. They have a daughter, who is nineteen and married with an adorable baby boy. There are just little “rolling” hills to ride up on my way to school, and there are no evil door knocks at 6 am. The only word to describe it is... peaceful. Yes, Denmark is falling into it’s winter. But your Danish counter part will survive the wind, the sexy boys, the language, and the annoying host siblings like a true Panther.