Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Life is good because:

- The sun is shining. The sun is not up when I get up, and it's down by the time I'm out of class, but right now it is 1:10 and sunny.
- Yesterday when I got home (in the dark) Jørgen had left Advent calendars outside my and Tina's doors. The kind with chocolate inside the windows. I haven't had one of those in years, and then I had to share with Allison. Whoah.
- Yesterday Ricky said that my making a chemise by hand for the Elizabethan Rout out of a sheet in 45 minutes was as impressive as him building a house in three days. I disagree, not least because I only wore the chemise twice whereas he still lives in the house, but it was nice to hear.
- I have a roommate with whom I can refer to P&P and know that she will understand what I'm talking about.

Friday, November 25, 2005

A bodkin is some kind of pointy object, apparently

I had never really considered how great English is as a first language. This week in the high school class I volunteer in, the kids were translating Shakespeare from Danish into English. There's nothing like trying to explain the bit about making his quietus with a bare bodkin to a couple of highly suspicious Danish teenagers to make you realize that you have no idea what a quietus or a bodkin is. The Danish translation just rewrote the meaning of any bits that were too hard to understand, which made me appreciate being able to read so much of the world's best literature in the original language just by virtue of speaking English. It also makes me wonder what kind of garbling all the translated texts I read have gone through.

I'm starting to plan next summer. The international internship emails from Bryn Mawr were looking tasty, but I'm thinking no because if I'm going to go to a foreign country for two months, I'll barely have gotten trained and figured out what to do before I'll have to go home.

Option number two is the leadership program at Pendle Hill. I'd be living there (it's a Quaker center near Swarthmore) doing cooking, gardening, manual labor, etc plus 20 hours a week interning in some kind of social service agency in Philadelphia. It sounds just about perfect, and hopefully they won't mind that I'm agnostic. Co-founding a very short-lived Quaker student group last year should count for something, right?

Monday, November 21, 2005

In which I am a nerd

The problem with studying Nordic mythology is that the assumption is that anyone who's studying it at all has devoted their life's work to it and therefore speaks Icelandic, ancient Norse, etc. Half the sources I'm finding for my paper don't even bother translating the things they quote, though I can read a few words. It's just cruel to note that speaking the words ragr, strodinn, and sordinn were punishable by death in Iceland and then not telling you what they mean. Actually, they do translate sordinn, but unfortunately it's not a word I can bring myself to include in a paper, even in quotation.

On the plus side, one Dr. Carol Clover just made my day with her paper on masculinity in ancient Norse society by stating that "When not only one's sword and one's penis go limp but also one's tongue, life is pretty much over." I have never written a fan letter to a professor before, but I think this woman needs to get one as soon as I'm done with this paper.

Also, at my host sister's dinner party Saturday night I tried to explain the Protestant work ethic when one of the other girls asked me why our welfare system was so bad compared to Denmark's. Remind me never to try to explain Weber at a dinner party ever again, especially not with a language barrier and Britney Spears going loudly in the background.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A haiku

Though there's no traffic
I stand, wait for the green man,
and feel so Danish

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Of course, if all the unhappy people kill themselves, your happiness level goes up!

Morton's explanation for why Denmark has such a high happiness index but such a high suicide rate. I think this is his best line since "I advise you to die in childbirth - all the best women do."

Know what made me ridiculously happy? Yesterday over dinner Ricky's host mother asked him what the ASL sign for ketchup is, and I answered first. It's my favorite sign. I had already had a rather somber dinner at my own house, but then I walked to Ricky's and his family was having a very happy noisy one, so I had another dinner. I really ought to have been writing a politics paper, but when you have the chance to go over and play with Legos and and watch a Danish movie while a kitten sits on you instead, are you really going to pass it by? I certainly wasn't.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Changing my tune

Going abroad has truly altered my loyalties. I read an article by a Wellesley professor and my first thought was not the usual "Darn Wellesley, being all snooty and more famous than us" but "Ah, one of the Seven Sisters!" I never thought I´d see the day.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


This morning I saw a middle-aged couple kissing as the woman got onto her train. "That's odd," I thought, "I saw that kind of thing more in France than here." Then they started saying goodbye in French. I really liked that about France - after being so prepared for snootiness, people were more open and friendly than I expected. One afternoon I was sitting on a curb by the Opera Garnier making a sandwich, and a man in a suit walked up to me. I fully expected him to tell me this was a national monument and I couldn't sit on the curb eating a sandwich like some bum, but at the last second he gave me a smile and a "Bon appetit!"

I got the best possible welcome back to Denmark: I went to Ricky's host family's house. He, his host mother, his host sister and I spent a good hour and a half at the dinner table talking and eating, and then there was tea and gingersnaps and a fire in the woodstove and three cats. It was practically hygge incarnate.

Morton is always talking about how being with other people was so important in ancient Nordic society, largely because the world outside was so harsh and dangerous. In Iceland sitting outside by yourself was synonymous with doing magic, because there was no other reason a person would sit outside alone. You could be executed for doing it. On a fieldtrip he took us to a reconstructed Danish dwelling that would have housed 30 people and their animals, everyone cooking, eating, sleeping, procreating, etc in the same space. After two months in a rather cheerless home with Tina, Jørgen and I cloistered in our own rooms with our own books and televisions, that kind of human contact sounded surprisingly good to me. A bit of the attitude seems to have survived in Ricky's host family - even though everyone has their own bedroom, the three children generally end up sleeping in each other's beds or with their mother or Ricky. So after tea and cookies Camilla probably went to sleep in Dorte's room, Ricky and I in his. Human contact = good.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

England, where my heart lies

I had forgotten until I got off the plane how much I love England. Is there a word for this kind of love of a place? It's the same feeling I have for Denmark - last night when I saw a Danish artichoke lamp in a window I felt the same kind of sudden lift you get when you're in love and you see some reminder of whoever it is. Can you call it nationalism when it's not your own nation?

It feels like coming home in a way that I can't attribute to having been here before. Part of it is the folk tradition, the feeling of finally whistling tunes in their native habitat. Another part has to be the literature - in Paris one can hardly help imagining the characters of Victor Hugo and Gaston Leroux and so on as one passes their various locations, but in London it's so much stronger because a disproportionate amount of my reading material has come from this little patch of earth. When I walk down the streets I feel they're peopled with everyone from John Donne to Eleanor Dashwood to Bertie Wooster to Bridget Jones. Since I was little I've been conditioned by C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl respectively to believe that Turkish delight and steak and kidney pie were the two best foods in the world.

The folk pilgrimage is proceeding nicely. Last night I went to a Morris practice and then a folk club (people sitting around drinking and singing.) The guy teaching Morris addressed me as "good lass," and the very cute bespectacled Polish bartender tried to give me more shandies for free after my first half pint but failed and had to ply me with lemonade instead.

Also contributing to my happiness is the fact that I'm undivided for once. There's nothing else I need to be doing, nowhere else I would rather be. After so long of feeling pulled towards Boston or Richmond or Bryn Mawr or wherever I wasn't, I feel completely present here.