Wednesday, November 29, 2006

So Much Depends On...

...which post mistress you get in the post office line.

Why are some so patient and helpful and kind? And others are mean and cranky and impatient and terribly hateful?

When you go into the post office here, you take a number. (They're civilized that way, you know. All orderly-like.) Needless to say, you've got to take whichever frau calls your number, no negotiations here. So, when I get the nice lady, I breathe more deeply and I smile. Cinchy. When the meeeeeeeeean post ladies start shouting my number, I shorten by a good three inches (that's 8 centimeters, Hans) and skulk down the counter slowly. I start to wonder if this really does need to be mailed at all, or maybe I can just keep walking to the number dispenser for a fresh stab at the situation.

The nice ladies talk softly and grin and nod and don't hurry me. They even write down numbers for me and one speaks English. These are fresh and pleasant transactions. I like Denmark very much during and after those meetings.

The mean ladies... Well... THEY MEAN. They take my parcel or letter and weigh it and roll their eyes and shout at me very quickly. I blink, and so they shout again. Am I deaf?

Here is what they are saying to me:


Which translates to:


And it sounds like:


And then, in their infinite helpfulness, all of them try to sell me a phone card or ask me if I need stamps or alert me to the definite possibility of avian flu which may or may not be in Denmark but that I should be very careful anyway when I travel internationally. Or something. And so I blink some more.

One of my favorite episodes of "Absolutely Fabulous" finds Eddy and Patsy taking a trip to Provence, France. Of course, neither of them speak a word of French. After sitting around their tiny pest-ridden dumpy chalet without any alcohol for HOURS, Eddy gets up the nerve (I am cracking up as I type this, BTW) to go out to town in search of booze and food, in that order. While she's out, Patsy, alone, is faced with a pounding at the door. Terrified, she answers it, and a surly old Frenchman talks menacingly at her. She has no idea what she's saying, and her spastic facial expressions are the best filmed examples of COMEDY GOLD EVER. She starts throwing money at him to get him to go away. THIS IS HOW I FEEL WHEN I GET THE MEAN POST OFFICE LADIES.

Go find that episode on YouTube, and welcome yourself to my world.

Bella Report

Oh, licks and kisses to you all, everyone! I absolutely must apologize for the excruciating delay since my last post, I've been simply inundated with the veritable cornucopia of street poo and pee to sniff. My work here is never done. I'm sure you understand, dears.

My adjustment has been going just wonderfully. I get to go on walks -- long walks -- every single day, with our afternoon route looking something like this:

It is just SO precious here. As you can see, we walk along the waterfront every day. There are mussel shells everywhere as the seagulls do enjoy a fresh-cracked meal dropped from on high. They also drop live crabs from the sky onto the concrete -- extraordinary technique! When I'm not being watched by my minder, I've been known to gobble an errant crab shell or leg or two or fifteen. Scrumptious! It's rather like being divebombed by a flurry of steaks! An excellent source of calcium, too. But, sadly, my last crab shell snack resulted in a terrible upset tummy for me for a few days. Good thing Erin knows hows to scrub and scrub and scrub that carpet.

I've also acquired a stunning new coat. Tres chic, no? I actually brought it back from the States for the nippy Danish winter.

It has caused quite a stir here among the locals, and I often have to move quickly to escape the paparazzi:

Country life suits me nicely, I think, and I'm finding all of the little weiner dogs terribly amusing. Farvel!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Lackadaisical Naming

One of the trumpet players in the orchestra here and his wife have recently had a baby. He's awfully cute -- all squeaks and furrowed brows. While we were visiting the little family a few days ago, we were suprised to learn that Danes had a window of six months to name their kiddies. This little guy is still being called "baby" as his "mor" and "far" cannot agree on a name. They've been close, but something always skews the finality of it -- feeding time, laundry, the doorbell, sleep. (Although I think they are secretly enjoying the debate...)

When we told them how in the U.S you couldn't leave the hospital without a name for the birth certificate, they were shocked. "How can people make up their minds with so little time???" they puzzled. For most Americans, we assured them, 9 months was usually sufficient, and by the time the baby was swaddled like a burrito in a hospital receiving blanket, everyone was generally in agreement, happy to slap a name on the kid and go home. They marveled at the militancy of our inflexible system. So bureaucratic.

Then they told us this: "Well, here in Denmark, after six months of no name for a baby, the government gives it a name for you. Girls are named after the queen, and boys are named after the king." Brilliant!!!!!! I guess there must be lots of Margrethes and Fredericks running around.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


On Sunday evening, I drove with Don and Per (principal trumpet) to Flensburg, Germany, about 45 minutes away from where we live. Back in The Olden Days, the Danish-German borders had been pushed and pulled like taffy all over the place, and the goddammit-we're-NOT-changing-it-again-so-GET-IT-RIGHT-THIS-TIME-PEOPLE vote was put to the population after WWII -- where, exactly, should the border be? And so it was decided, although some areas that voted for Danish citizenship wound up German, and some diehard Germans actually had to be Danes. Flensburg, however officially German, has major Danish influence. Most shops take kroner, some signs are in both German and Danish, the Danish bus system can take you there, and Don's orchestra performs there a few times per month.

This was my first view of the town after exiting the car. Not entirely spectacular, and yet enjoyably utilitarian.

As I walked, despite the grayest of half-hearted drizzle, it got better. It's Jule (YOO-luh) time here in northern Europe, and people go batty for it. EVERYTHING is Jule, Jule, Jule: Street decor, shop windows, McDonald's cups, garbage cans, buses, liquor stores...

(I am seriously coveting that giant silver champagne dish, Santa. Work it out.)

It seems that Flensburg, a harbor town, has a history with rum. It took me a while to figure it out, as in Danish, the word "rum" means "room," so I thought all these tiny shops with "rum" on the windows was some kind of trendy way of calling it a little boutique or something.

It's a very fortunate thing that this was a Sunday, and all of the rum rooms were closed (though I could have helped Germany's economy out a bit).

The concert was with the Flensburg Bach Choir, which was celebrating its 100th birthday in 2006. You know, lots of singing, etc. It was quite fantastic. Unbeknownst to us, the concert was sold out, standing room only in the balcony, and somehow a ticket appeared for the American fraulein, specially acquired from the conductor's secret stash of a few extras. (Tysen tak, Per!) But what started to slowly blow my mind into many, many pieces was the venue. The Deutsch Halle was built by the Nazi Party during WWII, a showcase for music in northern Germany. Apparently, this hall has top acoustics, as Hitler's love for music ran deep and he insisted on an excellent auditorium for concerts given for members of the Nazi Party...

As I sat in Row 24, Seat 14, I could not help but turn this place's history over and over in my mind. I was sitting in the same hall which had hosted Hitler many times. He tapped his feet on this very floor. He walked through the same foyer, totally unchanged from the late 1930s, that I did. There were probably microscopic cells that he and other Nazi officials breathed out of their lungs that were still affixed to the ceiling tiles. I noticed a woman sitting in the row ahead of me, a couple of seats over, who was probably in her 80s. She sat there and nodded to the music and clapped for the choir. I watched the wispy white coil of hair on top of her head and I figured she must have been around for everything, she must have seen some wild stuff. She may have even caused some terrible stuff. Who knows. If so, I'm sure she's already confessed on her own blog by now.

The history here... How many times I catch myself saying that.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Movie time...

We have one movie theater -- the Kosmorama -- in our town, but, fortunately, it has TWO screens. Quite exciting!

This week's offerings are "Click" with Adam Sandler (very non-comedic geniusesque) and an animated Disney movie..."On the Fence" or "Over the Zoo" or "Finding the Ice Age" or something like that. Next week brings "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Casino Royale." I'm still holding out for "Borat..." which will probably run for three days at an art house theater in Copenhagen... I love the idea of such beautifully mangled English actually translating to non-native English speakers...

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Laundry Monster

A quiet moment with Bella...

She's been quite worried about the washing machine lately.

But, in truth, aren't we all?


I did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After Don told (and showed) one of his work buddies about my bread efforts (and this guy is a gourmand...GREAT), we were invited over to dinner, whereupon he and his wife kindly and patiently showed me several bags of Danish flour. I have to MIX the flours. They were gracious enough to not say "stupid" and "American" together in any sentence all evening long.

So, tonight, I MIXED the flours. And...success!! I'm now teetering on the edge of a gluten coma as I have almost polished off the little loaf (on the right). I don't recollect ever being so overjoyed by my own pig-faced gluttony, but I will gleefully admit that not once, but twice, melting butter ran down my wrist as I shoved MORE hot bread into my snapping jaws. And honey, too. I'm glad I took photos as now I can share the experience with Don. The EXPERIENCE.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Min Bageri

Though I have yet to see a proper Danish, I have seen lots and lots of other local baked goods around. I usually see them disappearing straight into my mouth, so in an effort to be more healthful, I've started baking. YEAH! Like, with flour! And eggs and spices and stuff! Baking powder is "bagepulver," and baking soda is "natron" -- easy peasy. I've also learned that our main grocery store (kind of like Fred Meyer) sells these really thorough and really expensive Danish-English dictionaries over by the stereos and TVs, so when I can't figure out what buttermilk is, I scoot over to the dictionary section and look it up. I hope no one buys those anytime soon.

I have come to learn the grave importance of CORRECT translations with baking. Bella was helping me bake some whole-grain bread the other night...

The bag said "whole grain wheat flour."

Pouring into the measuring cup, it did appear a touch granular. Heavy. None too floury. But, after checking with my little pocket dictionary AGAIN, it DID say "flour."

Here's how it turned out:

A wheat brick. St. Don gamely tasted it, along with many, many glasses of water. So, I'm pretty sure I got wheat MEAL, not flour. (Although it also could have been concrete.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Mojn in the Morning

My mornings all begin with pulling on sweats and a parka and trotting Bella over to the castle for her first relief of the day. Since we've been back, without fail, it's been very windy, rainy and cold in the early mornings.

Which sucks.

But, our little walks afford us some sense of community, as we always tend to meet up with four or five old Danish men also walking their dogs. All of the dogs here are tiny, usually dacshunds or terrier types, brown or black, so Bella stands out like a Teutonic giant among the floor-skimming sausages.

After packing 300+ poop bags into my suitcase -- to last the next several months -- I have now come to discover that NO ONE picks up after their dog here. So, there are landmines everywhere, even on the sidewalk, but mainly all over the grass. Bella, of course, is in heaven. Sumptuous smells abound. I'm torn between picking up in a plastic bag for the trash can, or leaving it there to melt into the grass eventually. The crusty Danish guys keep walking. After spending far too much time thinking about it, I've decided I'll pick it up if it's within 10-15 ft. of a walkway or bench. I feel a little fussy in the shadow of these stoic loping dog-walking men. They just keep marching along, braving the wind and the rain in silence as I jump around and fret over my dog's poops being too close to the path.

A greeting used in southern Denmark is "mojn," which is pronounced "moin" (like coin). I love hearing these old guys schlep along at daybreak with their dogs, saying hi to one another. The funny thing is that, like many Danish words, the pronunciation tends to be drawn out quite a bit, so it ends up sounding like a fog horn -- "MOOOOOOIIIIINNN" -- deep and long. I love that I've unintentionally joined this club, if even as a spectator, of stone-faced Danish grandpas, lowing and bleating hello as they shuffle around with their tiny dogs in the drizzle.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The weather has been, sorry to say, a bit of a drag as of late. Uncooperative. Self-absorbed and childish, prone to tantrums. Going for walks with Bella has been something less than pleasurable. Pouring rain, crazywindy, cold, angry black skies. Sometimes the sun does shoot through, so I'll grab the leash and throw on my jacket and dash outside, only to be met with horizontal sleet. Lovely.

But, today we had a break, for almost a full hour. Don and I whisked Bella across the bridge to Dybbol, "the other side," for a little walky.

Here's the view of where we live. The throng of stark gray buildings to the left (the only modern architecture in the entire town) is our new hospital, and to the left of that (out of shot) is the brand new symphony hall/university/train station, to officially open in January. Our apartment is over to the right, on the water, just behind the yellow fishing boat. We're the third building from the right, top floor, underneath all that gorgeous red brick rooftop. The castle is to the far right. Note the circular section at the far left corner. That is, I've come to discover, the torture chamber/jail: It's very deep, maybe 3 stories down, and it's basically just a pit where they'd stick prisoners in the olden days. The iron rings for chaining up naughty folks are still affixed to the walls at the bottom. Fantastic.

And here, for those who wonder, is our recycling. This is where you're supposed to bring all your used paper airplanes.

The Walk: The Don and The Bella

And our road. (Still have not figured out that street sign. I think it says, "don't do something," or possibly, "don't do anything up and down.")

Friday, November 10, 2006

Working Limp

I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever thought I'd be saying this, but I miss working. I miss going to work. I miss having my little spot with my little list of things to accomplish that day. I miss having a scotch tape dispenser on my desk. I miss scolding myself for checking my personal email too much on the company clock. I miss going for coffee with coworkers. I miss sick days. I miss coming back to my office after a vacation, dying to catch up on everything huge and tiny that I'd missed. I miss opening a fresh pack of post-its from the supply closet. I miss answering the telephone with a very deliberate, professional tone. I miss the ten-minute period before going home where I'd pack everything up (except not the tape dispenser), make a to-do list for the next morning, turn off my lamp and shut the door behind me. I miss talking to people. I miss meetings. (Seriously, Brenda, I do.) I miss solving tough problems in a really kick-butt way, especially those with highly annoying, difficult or self-righteous people involved. I miss my file cabinets and the shiny rainbow of little plastic tabs that kept everthing so tidy and cheerful.




So, I'm on a quest. Don't know if this quest will last twenty minutes or til the cows come home, but I'm trying to get some editing and/or proofreading work. I've been contacting agencies in Copenhagen and the States, so hopefully something will come through soon. (How about you, eh? I spell AND write good!) Just this afternoon I unpacked a handsome little tome entitled -- Barron's A Pocket Guide to CORRECT GRAMMAR. With this baby in hand, the bids and contracts will start flying in toute suite! But...will Barron fill me on all the gossip after a three-day weekend?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

White Treasure

Now, "frugal" probably isn't the very first word to pop into folks' heads to describe me. Sure, I keep my pennies -- uh, I mean, øres -- but something else had gotten into me lately.

For some reason, while unpacking billions of newly arrived boxes, I've been compelled to unfold, flatten out and stack every single sheet of packing paper. I'm equally embarassed AND fascinated -- WHY am I doing this? I think the answer is two-pronged: First, I fear that when the time comes again to move -- even across the street -- I will not be able to find anything suitable enough in which to wrap my delightful dishes. (Mom: Why did you let me bring EIGHTEEN dinner plates? I don't even have eighteen friends! Or acquaintances!) I can't even find a freaking hardware store, let alone a moving-supply store. Second, I am secretly in love with pristine, sparkling newsprint. It transfixes me. The crisp surface has an oaten sheen that quietly whispers beauty to my fingers. No ink, no dirt, no ads, nothing offensive. Just plain, gorgeous ecru.


I also enjoy a good rubber band ball.

Live Update from Bella Sue

Good evening, everyone, I'm Bella Sue, and welcome to my update.

As many of you out there know, I've just last week relocated my operations to southern Denmark. This decision was a result of months of careful planning, and I am pleased to report that all aspects of the transition have been executed successfully. After receiving a rabies vaccine, one internationally recognized microchip in between my shoulder blades, and the official okay from a veterinarian AND the USDA in Olympia, Washington, I was ready for takeoff.

First, let us begin with the airport. For those of you who have never flown in a cage before, I cannot enthusiastically recommend it. Crates are cozy for dozing on rainy evenings, but for 10-hour flights in a cargo hold with a chatty beagle alongside -- not so much. Here I am in the Seattle airport, blissfully unaware of what was to come. Note that I am tethered to a baggage cart. These carts are quite easily pulled all over the check-in area until loaded with 225 lbs. of luggage; then it is less easily pulled around.

Prior to the flight, I was provided with 2 herbal "calm down" tablets, which I found to be absolutely scrumptious, yet they did nothing if not make me very thirsty. I was quite happy to be carted away by Benny, my friendly cargo transport professional, for boarding, but after that, the loading, the beagle, the chill, the cramped space -- not so much.

Here I am moments after arrival. Suffice to say, I was extremely vexed and downright pissed off at Erin for making me endure such inferior conditions. Don, however, well... he's my number one guy right now. I LOVE HIM. After he valiantly sprung me from my in-flight jail, I allowed him to trot me around the Copenhagen terminal, accepting endless streams of celebration and adoration from warm Danes. THEY LOVE ME HERE.

Rather than take a smaller plane to Sonderborg, Erin was charitable enough to arrange for a car to deliver us to my new village. Don (love that guy!) walked me around the parking lot while Erin sat with the bags and my crate. FINALLY we found our rental car -- a gorgeous charcoal Opel station wagon -- VERY chic and roomy, though ashtray-scented.

We drove much of the next four hours with the windows down, which I found to be EXTREMELY AWESOME.

Now, arriving in Sonderborg -- what can I say? This town is FABULOSO, just what the doctor ordered! Obviously, I was thrilled to get out of that moving cigarette butt and onto terra firma. After a little shake-shake-shake, weewee and walkabout, I was introduced to my new home. Again, fantastic accomodations all around -- lots of stairs (which I particularly enjoy), carpet AND linoleum, new smells in abundance.

A bit messy, yes, as apparently an entire shipment of human stuff had shown up a few days prior to our arrival, but that's for them to deal with. A big liver-flavored plastic chewbone at the end of a long, hard day made it all worth it. (Great stress reliever; highly recommended, by the way.)

And what now, you ask? How will you spend your time, Miss Bella? Fortunately for Don, after much thought, I have decided to resurrect my trombone coaching career.

We've gotten off to an excellent start, and his playing has, if I may say so myself, really begun to take off. That kid's going to be a star someday, I can just smell it.

Payment, however, is still being negotiated. I'm prepared to hold out for the good stuff -- Donna's cousin, Marv, is nothing short of culinary genius.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Incinerate the Mobiles

Walking around Seattle, I'm struck by this insipid cellphone existence. On the UW campus, I counted eleven kids walking ahead of me, each with a mobile glued to his/her head. A couple of times I'd either dawdle or step lively so as to be able to catch one of these students engrossed in conversation, which usually went a little like this:

"Hey, what's up? Nothing... Yeah... Really? Shit. Yeah... Totally. Uh huh. Really? SHUT UP! Uh huh... Uh huh... 'Kay, I'm at Spanish now. Yeah. Later."


"NO WAY. God, that sucks... Yeah... Yeah... Really? I'd be alllll, WHATEVER. Yeah... You should totally dump him. Serious. 'Kay. See you at dinner. Bye."


"Sup. Yeah... Yeah... 'Kay. Nope. Later."

You get the picture. Why the inanity? I've spent a lot of time trying to understand the need to have not only completely unecessary but screamingly DULL chats on a constant basis. WHAT is the point? I suppose some could argue the desire to stay connected in an increasingly disconnected world. It's weird how these persistentbland interactions pacify people -- quantity rather than quality.

I hate cell phones. (That's for you, Nathan.)