Saturday, October 01, 2005

I mean, seriously, Ronald Reagan?

Today my Nordic mythology class had a day-long field trip seeing Viking ships and burial mounds and things. You wouldn't have thought burial mounds would be particularly cozy places, but 20 people huddled in a stone chamber holding tea candles for light is surprisingly friendly. Danish families go there on children's birthdays to enjoy the hygge. It was a lovely day despite the rain, and it reinforced my liking of the professor. Morten's a big tall man with a grey beard who's equally likely to quote Old Norse verse or The Far Side, and we all love him. On the bus ride we clustered at the front of the bus to talk to him instead of in the back like in fifth grade, and he brought us Danish licorice and a bottle of mead.

We somehow got to talking about how strange it is that Jørgan likes Ronald Reagan, which led to how strange it is that I feel like a stranger in their house because we talk so little. Morten said the same thing as Sandy, that assumptions about other cultures are fallible and that it was a learning experience. But he also said what perhaps I've been wanting to hear, that it was sad that I'm isolated like that and very strange that Danes would barely talk to a guest at their own dinner table.

He also thought some of my culture shock was from the fact that my family is "a microcosm of Danishness" because we eat dinner and talk together and rarely watch TV and turn out lights when we're not using them. Not so here. It's strange to leave home and find what you think of as unpleasantly American traits in your Danish family.

It's a silly thing to feel sorry for myself about, because some people live their whole lives like this. I am making an effort to meet people and make friends, and I am making an effort to bond with Tina and Jørgen. This weekend (like most weekends) they're out of town, so I'm going to go make pasta and put on my Irish music and read Tolkien's Book of Lost Tales. It's possible to make hygge by yourself.

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