Saturday, October 13, 2007

We Won the Waiting Game!!!!!!!!!!!

Seventeen months after we started the process of getting our residency in Denmark, we did it. We’re legal residents! Of course, due to his employment, Don was approved right away, but for this one, Denmark wanted to take a good long look. And so they did. Now that I’ve been rubber-stamped for approval, here is are some things that I can NOW do/have/be that I couldn't before:

• open a bank account
• have my name on our mailbox (no more “c/o”!)
• rent a movie at Blockbuster
• borrow books from the library
• have a real cell phone (not just buying minutes at ridiculous rates)
• attend any Danish university, tuition-free (including graduate programs)
• see a doctor, fee-free
• travel in and out of Denmark (and the EU) without fear of being denied re-entry
• take state-sponsored Danish language courses (almost free)
• work

This past Monday, I went to the police station to apply for something called a re-entry permit (at the suggestion of the immigration ministry). On Wednesday, Don and I went back to collect our passports with our new Schengen visas, allowing us to come back into Denmark even though we’ve overstayed our time here because the Danish government was still ruling on our cases. Thursday morning, Don calls Immigration for what seems like the 45,000th time: We’ve been approved! In fact, our letters should be in our mailbox today! Yay!

Here’s where it gets hairy: I got my letter that day around 1:00pm; Don’s is nowhere to be seen (even though I’m connected to him legally). I phone him, we agree to meet at the police station to get things sorted out. At the police station (where we’re kind of regulars now), they congratulate us and tell us that their sticker machine isn’t working, so we need to go to Aabenraa, a neighboring town about 25 miles away. And they close in two hours. And they’re not open on Fridays. And this MUST be done within two weeks. And I’m leaving on Saturday to be in the states for three weeks. “It is a very short drive.” “We have bicycles.” “Oh. No car?” “No, no car. (Are you not reading my blog? The post office ladies are.)” “Well, you must go today. See you!”

So Don, the fastest phone dialer and most resourceful person I’ve ever met, finagles us a car, but this means I can’t get home afterward, so I’m off to the opera that night! But first, I need my CPR (Danish residency) number. Off to city hall (on bicycles). Tick tock. We wait in line, fill out a form, show them the all-important letter from the government, wave my passport around. “You are married?” “Yes, we are married.” “I see. I need to see a certified copy of your marriage license.” So, Don hops on his bike, pedals like there’s no tomorrow, somehow finds the certificate, pedals back. More stamps, signatures and directions. I have my CPR number!!! I’m REAL!!!

We bike home to meet the generous soul who is lending us his car, drop him off at his house and buzz out to Aabenraa. We have just under and hour. It’s raining. It’s rush hour. Somehow, Don did not pull the steering wheel out of the column, but I’m pretty sure there’s some major timpani banging at full volume in his poor head.

We make it! Clearly our car is magnetized to inchy tractors in the roadway, but we make it! The irony of screaming into a police station in frenzied haste was not entirely wasted on us. But we made it! And the police officers are always SO jolly and SO thrilled that we try to stumble through this all in Danish. “Yes, yes, I see you here in my computer. I have a sticker for you.” THE MAGIC STICKER!!! I’M GOING TO GET A MAGIC STICKER!!! THE ONE WITH RAINBOWS AND SHINY LINES AND BEAUTIFUL STARBURSTS THAT I’VE BEEN SALIVATING FOR FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS!!!! THE STICKER OF MY DREAMS!!!

Stamp, stamp, sign, sign, peel, WHAM. That gorgeous WHAM that means that this thing was NOT coming out of there, no peeling, no ripping, no nothing, IT IS STUCK IN THERE GOOD.


We were practically panting from all the adrenalin. Then we celebrated with pizza. And it was heavenly...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ding Dong

I know that precisely one person out there (and she knows who she is) will find the following videos delightful. There actually is almost nothing to see as I took these at night. But, what's fabulous is the audio: This is my favorite churchbell tune, the 10pm get-down, if you will. I think there are certain hours (9am, 5pm, 10pm, among others) that each have their own accompanying ditty. The Sunday morning at 9am song is all about better-shake-yo-butts-to-church-folks/GET-OUT-OF-BED-DON; very lively and extra loud. Anyway, this 10pm tune is what I often hear with Bella as we take a quick spin around the block. I love it, and it's usually deathly quiet right before the bells start. So beautiful.

Look What I Made!!!

Mmmmm... Cinnamon bread...

And it is not one bit brick-like! But, perhaps the most important discovery at hand is that Baby ADORES cinnamon. S/he demanded it so insistently that, before I knew what had happened, half the loaf was gone. It all happened so fast...

F-Bombs at the Police Station

Ah, linguistics. I could talk about this whole language-learning stuff all day. Not only is Danish incredibly difficult to pronounce, but IT SOUNDS NOTHING LIKE IT LOOKS. Every other syllable sounds like a drunken slur, even when completely sober, and several of the letters are silent, just like in English. If you know what a guttural slur is, try doing that for a few moments, then throw in some glottal stops and swallowed Rs. There! Now you're talkin' Danish!

Despite my pronunciation woes, I find Danish quite interesting. It's a little bit German, a little bit Norwegian, a little bit country, a little bit rock & roll. Very Donny and Marie after countless pints of Carlsberg (which is pronounced "KAAHLZ-bug"). Another thing I've found fascinating is this whole idea of swearing. While a few friends have delighted in teaching us some of Denmark's nastier vocablulary offerings (one of which sounds EXACTLY like "pizza" to me, which can be dangerous in the wrong cafe), it's even more interesting how Danes view English swear words. They hear them all constantly from movies and television, and after any Sean Penn flick, f*** is a completely normal word -- functional yet casual, emotive yet general enough for everyday conversation. Therefore, we hear these sparkling gems absolutely everywhere, lest we forget the finer members of the English lexicon.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, I went to the police station to take care of some business as we await our permanent residency visas. I was at the counter, speaking to the kindest and most helpful officer posted at the "udledningenservis" ("foreigner/new immigrant service"). During our conversation, he asked where I was from, and the discussion went a little like this...

Me: "My husband and I are both from Seattle, but I grew up in Hawaii."

Officer: "Hawaii!! F***! That's a lovely place! Oh, sh**, how I would love to take my wife for our holiday there. Yes! It is f***ing beautiful, I hear!"

Me: "Uh. Yes, it is. Beautiful."

Officer: "Now, let's see... Hawaii is in the Atlantic Ocean, yes?"

Me: "No, the Pacific Ocean."

Officer: "F***!! Yes, of course! The Pacific."

Me (trying very hard not to look completely shocked as he shouts this across the whole police station) (whispering): "Yes, the Pacific."

Officer: "And Seattle is at the Atlantic?"

Me (cringing and whispering): "No. The Pacific, too."

Officer (slapping his forehead): "Ah, F***!!! The f***ing Pacific, as well! I need a map! F***!"

By this point, we're both laughing, but for totally different reasons. Mine was shock, his was geniality. He was so sweet that his peppery shout-outs were bizarre and hilarious at the same time. After our geography lesson, he told me that I must be a very good teacher because he could understand me so easily, and that maybe I ought to go his daughter's school and ask for a job as they need good teachers and I could probably teach the kids very well. I thanked him and thought about how fortunate for everyone that he was a police officer and not an elementary school English teacher.

I saw Officer Pottymouth again today, and I stopped just short of asking him how the f*** he was doing.

Friday, October 05, 2007

It Wasn't Jet Lag

Well, I'm not sure what the exact protocol is for announcing things such as these on the ol' interweb, so maybe I'll just show you a pretty picture:

It's worth well more than a thousand measly words, and I believe this will forever be my very favoritest portrait of all time.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Big Sky, Denmark

It's taken a good deal of self-reminding that not only have we moved to Denmark from the U.S. but we've also moved from a very big city (pop. 3 million) to a pretty small town (pop. 30,000). For so long, I would usually attribute all differences to the transition of nations -- language, social customs/behaviors, economics, attitudes, government -- but over time, I've come to see that a lot of these dissimilarities are actually big city/small town differences. It's not always a Danish/ American thing, but the fact that we now have begun living as semi-countryfolk.

When I take Bella out for our nighttime constitutional, I am always struck by the the gaping vastness of the sky. The darkness is so huge, stretched over me like a giant black bowl dotted with flour stars. I remember, when I thought to look, the Seattle sky as a charcoal haze, faded by the light pollution and traces of smog. Here, it's just pure black. The stars are so bright and shiny -- they act like real stars are supposed to, not just sluggish bulbs. Sometimes I stand in our courtyard and look up for a few minutes before we come inside. I've never been all that interested in the sky before, but now I'm very taken with its clarity. It just seems so incredibly BIG, and I think of Big Sky, Montana, very far away, but tuned into the same channel. Bella must like it, too, as I sometimes see her sitting on the ground next to me, eyes up, sniffing the stars contentedly. I could take a picture of the night sky for you, but it wouldn't fit on your monitor.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Because You Know You've Been Wondering

I'm thinking of surprising Don on his next birthday with his very own personalized version outside on our exterior wall: