Roaring rivers

All the river does is roar

It makes me wonder if the Earth ever stops flowing

I stopped knowing ground years ago when only concrete was beneath my feet

I forgot how grass grows passed that prickly point, poking through your toes

It can brush your knees

This river can squeeze through the cracks on this mountain’s back

Her bones are stacked and packed on top of each other

Only making room for the roar

All this river does is scream

It makes me wonder if the Earth ever stops getting shin splints

 

Last Night in the City

I sit, perched on a window sill, curtain drawn. Chet Faker sings so sweetly to me from my computer screen and I’m typing. Just like Paige is typing outside my navy blue curtained-wall. She’s writing reflections for class. I finished mine not too long ago and am a couple beers deep. It’s the last night it Denmark and it is so incredibly bittersweet.

As I think of boarding a plane tomorrow I can’t help but feel as if my time here is not over. Something about this place feels unexplored. We spent the majority of our time here in Copenhagen, a fairly big city in Denmark terms. The other nights were spent in a smaller city called Aarus. To get to one from the other we had to take a bus onto a ferry and make our way across the water. During this bus ride we drove through green hills, trees, farm lands, animals, and wind turbines. It was a green country like land that I have yet to know. I would love to stay longer and get out of this city. Although it’s not as smog covered as other cities I’ve been too (thank you, bikers) it’s still a city. It has that busy feel.

I don’t really care to be a busy person. Casual is me. Cities tend to move too quickly.

It’s nearly 11pm here and the sun is barely passed the horizon. The sky still glows blue and the clouds only cover the orange-pink sunset glow enough to turn plum. There are few cars driving by below me. Tonight we got lucky enough to be placed on the twelfth floor. It’s nice to be high up, above things, looking down on that busy city without having to be in it. I can appreciate it more when the noise is muffled by distance.

Tivoli is glowing, the amusement park we went to at the beginning of our trip. We wrong on swings that went 800 meters in the air, high enough to see all of Copenhagen. As I look out my window now I can’t help but think we should have spent that 13 dollars for the ride on the ride that mimics the Power Tower and Cedar Point. I can see the people rise and sit for a moment, hanging there above the city long enough to get a good look before the drop back down to solid ground. It’s one my favorite rides at Cedar Point so I could only imagine it would be just as fun in a city like this. I’m not too upset with our choice of swings because we did get to meet Steven Tyler, but nevertheless, the off brand Power Tower would be neat.

Tomorrow I hope on the train and head to the airport. Paige and I have another long flight back to Canada, and then another flight back to Detroit. It’s a long day of travel, but I’ve heard the jet lag doesn’t hit you as hard going to the US from here as it does coming this way. We’ll see, but either way, tonight, I say goodbye to Copenhagen and see you later to Denmark.

This is an opportunity I am truly thankful for.

denmark sun

Sunset from the twelfth floor of Danhostel, Copenhagen, Denmark.

 

Denmark Mind Dump

I’ve realized that the amounts of posts are slim if I compare my Denmark trip to my trip to Africa. I think it’s because this place doesn’t make me feel all that far from home. I’ve carried so much of my surroundings with me. I’m with peers that I’ve done group projects with, had classes with, and people who were already close friends. My professors from CMU are here and I’m studying the same thing here as I do back there. It’s adding a little bit more of that Mt. Pleasant Feel to this trip.

When I went to Kenya, Hannah and I were all alone.

Here, people who look relatively similar to me surround me, signs are commonly written in English, and I can almost guarantee the person I’m going to engage with can speak English pretty well. In fact, I’ve had some locals come up to me and speak in Danish. It makes me think; although I feel like my group of fellow travelers scream “tourists!” we can still blend into the culture.

Through this trip, I’ve learned many things about the people here as a whole. They’re very general, but the first one being they are not afraid of “bad” words. During several lectures, the presenters have had to stop due to the language barrier. They say the word in Danish and stop for a second, fumbling for the word to pop out of their mouth in English. Naturally, this causes them frustration and they are not slow to let out a nice, “Shit!” or “Fuck!” Back home this could be considered unprofessional, but I think it’s absolutely hilarious.

Another thing is they actually follow the pedestrian traffic signs. If that thing ain’t blinking green, those people are not crossing. No matter how clear the street is…they wait. They also rarely cross anywhere but an actual designated cross walk. I find this very inconvenient.

THEY LOVE MAYONNAISE. I don’t know if I can make that any clearer for you. It is what it is. They put it on everything. Fish. Pasta. Sandwiches. French fries. Eggs. Every. Thing. Now, I don’t hate mayonnaise, but there are times where it can be just too much. Here, it is too much.

They speak so softly. Everywhere we go we are the loudest. No matter how loud the surroundings are they continue to speak softly.

We traveled from Copenhagen to Aarhus yesterday. It took us a walk, train ride, bus ride, ferry ride, bus ride, and a walk to get there, but we made it nice and safely. The hostel we stayed in during our time in Copenhagen was grand to say the least. It was definitely a five star hostel. Paige and I had a room with five beds and no other roommates. We had enough room to spread out all of our belongings and still see the floor. The bathroom was spacious and the lights were motion censored.

The hostel in Aarhus is not that luxurious. The bathroom is a toilet, shower, and sink all in one. I could be peeing on the toilet and washing my hair all at once, which is nice…but weird. There are two small beds about two feet away from one another and barely enough room for our suitcases on the floor, however, the space we lost in our rooms we gained in a courtyard. I quickly found myself wrapped in a hammock, slowly swaying back at forth while gazing at some beautiful graffiti, surrounded by hostel walls and other buildings. Within moments of seeing that courtyard, I knew where I would want to spend the majority of my time while staying here. Last night we had a few beers and sat out there, rocking our night away in the hammocks. We were soon scolded for being too loud and we had to disperse into the night.

My roommate and I have caught some sort of head cold, and although it’s mild, it had been making us crave naps. The beginning of this trip had a heavy schedule. We had a lot of travel time, walking and waiting for trains and buses. We bounced from one place in the city to another, visiting the ministry of education, after school clubs, and other lectures. Today we visited a museum after a nice lunch by the water, but then after that our day was free. It was perfect for me because I found my handy dandy hammock and took a nice snooze before dinner.

It’s almost 9:30pm here and it’s still bright outside. I would compare the sun to a 6 o’clock sun back home. It stays light here until almost 11 and the sun starts coming back up around 4am, creating long days and late nights.

This experience has showed me how another society cares for people with special needs. It has showed me another country, another lifestyle: a lifestyle that loves to include bikes and mayonnaise. It’s brought me closer to a group of students I wish I met a whole lot sooner. I’m truly grateful that I am part of the first year Denmark Special Education study abroad program. It feels great to witness everything new and learn right alongside my own professors. It saddens me that I didn’t have this experience before my last year at CMU, but I will forever remember my study abroad travel buddies.

P1014066

Christiania

The weather has been somewhat…meh. It’s rained almost everyday, not constantly, but enough to interfere with outside activities. We took a boat tour right as a rain cloud decided to let loose…that was fun.

Because of this weather, our professor canceled evening activities yesterday. Paige and I took the opportunity to visit a place called Christiania.

Christiania used to be a military base, but since Danes are the nicest people in the world, it was never being used. Eventually squatters took over the area and made their own little city. Christiania has one rule: you cannot do anything that impedes on anyone else doing what they want to do as long as it does no harm. The rate of crime is almost nonexistent.

People settled there in the 70s. There were some huge raids in the 80s, but now, it’s a fairly peaceful place. It takes a lot to get a house there since they are not legally aloud to build any new houses. Christiania is under Denmark rules, but it has it’s own government, so to speak. The 800 residence that do live there had to wait for a house to go vacant and then put their name on the waiting list. There’s town meetings and everyone gets a say, but the ones who are “least bad” get the house. They don’t have to buy the houses, and they don’t sell them either. They range from tiny shakes, to somewhat detailed houses of a decent size. The outsides may not look fancy, but Paige and I window peaked, and the insides are sleek. Residents can build onto their house without permits, so a lot of people expanded in ways that make the houses odd shapes and sizes, building up and out and even on diagonals. If they live there, they are expected to leave their house nicer than it was when they moved in.

There’s an everything used store where they can buy one screw instead of a whole box, there’s live music all the time, bike repair shops, and an all woman run blacksmith that made the majority of the light fixtures in the churches of Copenhagen.

Although it is not the cleanest place I have every visited, the beauty is pronounced. The houses are colorful, the buildings have detailed, immaculate graffiti, and the people are quick to wave and say hello. I bought most of my souvenirs there. People were making jewelry, they had hats, clothes, and candy. It was a lovely day off in a lovely little place called Christiania. I would highly recommend looking into it a little more. The way of life there is fascinating, and the 80 sum acres of land is being put to use in a great way (in my opinion).

Denmark Update

Today I finally got to see inside of the system. For the past few days, I have met with people from the ministry of education, people from the universities here, students who student special education and so forth. But today, today I got to visit a school/club for people ages 12 and up with disabilities. A man explained to us how the place is run and things finally started making sense.

From the day I got here people have been trying to explain this thing called a pedagog. It’s different than a teacher because it’s way more broad. Someone who is a social pedagog here would be compared to social worker, counselor, and paraprofessional all in one if they were back home. They can work with any type of person in any age range they choose.

Yesterday we met with a man from LEV, a really great organization and advocacy group for people with special needs. He has a brother who needed extra assistance growing up and has been a big advocate for people with disabilities since. They building was color coded by section, there were tracks on the floor for people who used a cane and were blind, the railings broke up sound in the lobby and had holes in them so people in wheelchairs could still see through them. I was told it is the most accessible building ever, and I believe it. There are doors that can be opened by someone’s feet, or even through bluetooth on a phone. The building aside, our speaker has such clear passion. His dedication was immense. He definitely held my attention. It was incredible to see someone from across the world talk about this population with the same enthusiasm as we do back home. The only impression of special education outside of North America I have was from Kenya, and if any of you remember that, I was less than pleased with their treatment. After a couple days of somewhat monotonous lectures, this man from LEV gave me a nice energy boost. I felt like I was getting closer to the reason I cam here to study in the first place.

Today, however, it all clicked. I was speaking to people who were not just going over the laws and the history of special needs in Denmark, but they were implementing the ideas and carrying out their hopes for this group of people I am hoping to work with. I watched scooter races, a mean game of fooseball, and I got down on the dance floor with people who were dancing harder than I was. Part of me felt that sense of “camp magic” I get over the summer. It made me feel at home. It made me understand that these people, this organization, is doing what I love to do and I can respect every person I met in that building today. It’s so beautiful to see those interactions again. To toss balloons back and forth, get hugs and kisses on the cheek, and to effortlessly have a smile plastered on my face. Yes, the language barrier is frustrating at times for both myself and the individual trying to communicate with me, but once I got passed that, I couldn’t have been happier.

Today is the reason I am here and it is the reason I love this field.

Denmark So Far

After leaving Detroit at 2:40pm on June 1st with my friend Paige at my side, we arrived in Copenhagen on the 2nd at 10:25am. My professors were at the airport to greet my travel buddies and I. We hung out there for a while, waiting for other students to get in from different flights. It was an easy train ride and walk away to our hostel, Danhostel, in Copenhagen. We’re staying right by the water, close to some street venders with fruit and/or beer, shops, and I’m assuming we’re semi-close to an emergency room because we’ve heard multiple sirens whiz by. 

It doesn’t feel like it was just yesterday that I arrived here, so much as happened since then, but I’ll start with an event that shook me up on our flight. I sat next to a lovely man who was from Denmark. He told me places to go, places to avoid, he laughed as he told me stories, and wished me the best of luck with all my studies and travels. After some conversation, I put my head against the window and fell asleep. Not knowing how much time had passed, I was woken by a lady screaming, “Help! Help!” as she stroked her husband’s head. I was freaking out because I thought the man was dead as she explained he was “having an episode”. After the flight attendants gathered some nurses that were on board, the man rested in the isle way with a cool rag on his head, flat on his back. I’m still not sure what happened to him, but he was up and talking towards the end of the flight, so I’m sure he was fine. I was shaken up nonetheless.

After the crazy flight and travel to our hostel, we walked around by the river, took some pictures, and really got into the tourist spirit. A sac lunch was provided for us by the hostel. We ended with a beer at a local vender just in time to walk to our rooms and change before dinner. The hostel is nice. Wooden floors, comfortable beds, a bar and ping pong table downstairs, and free wifi. The bathroom lights turn on automatically. Paige and I had a fun time trying to turn them off after the first time we used it haha. They also provide breakfast and dinner for us. We ate some sort of meat pie last night with salad and rye bread. Since we had a long day of traveling, we fell asleep shortly after dinner so we could be well rested before our adventures today.

This morning we woke up, ate breakfast with our group, and walked to a bus stop. The bus took us to the local university here (UCC) where we met with more international students to discuss special education. There were students from Ghana, Turkey, Philippines, and also two from Denmark. There was a lecture and group discussion split by a small break for tea and/or coffee. Fresh fruit was also provided. I was intrigued by the fruit because it looked so tiny compared to the fruit I eat in the US. It made me question the grandness of our food. I was also intrigued by the classroom we were in. There were no lights, but sunroofs instead. The room was filled with brightness, yet it wasn’t that same florescent light I’ve bitched about so many times before and I was thinking, “FINALLY, THIS PLACE UNDERSTANDS WHAT A GOOD CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT IS.” It was rather cloudy today but the room still filled with sunlight. After a short group discussion, we got a tour of the building and were told about how their schooling works. It’s a lot different than ours. They don’t necessarily have to go to high school in order to get into the university. Instead, they can do some other sorts of training, but because of the language barrier, I got slightly confused when they were explained that part. It seems people in Denmark also study the arts more than we do back in the US. It costs a lot of money to go to a university back home, but here, they go for free, and sometimes they even get grants for it.

Although the general education is different here in Denmark, I came here to view their opinions on special education. Like us, Denmark is pushing for inclusion. Unlike us, Denmark doesn’t start school until the age of 6 because they hold the belief that “children should play”.  The ladies from Denmark who were talking to us focused on students with special needs who come to UCC, but I cannot wait to find out more about how those students are treated in the younger grades. One lady seemed confused about adaptive skills, like teaching students to go to a store and use real money, or work related skills. She didn’t think that was the teacher’s job, which makes me think that they might not be as advanced as I had thought previous to coming here. In the US, there’s a big push for inclusion, but there’s also a push for teaching adaptive skills so students can thrive once they leave the school setting and live as “normal” of a life as they can. I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings when we head to the Ministry of Education here, which is just a short walk away, next to some outdoor foosball tables (yeah, outdoor foosball tables. Denmark is really cool). 

After leaving UCC, one of our professors took us on a walking tour of some of the city. A few of us had seen it the previous day, but it was cool to take it all in again. We ended at a boat tour of the harbor. It would have been way cooler if it didn’t decide to start pouring rain as soon as we left the dock, but we still got to see the sights (and it’s all about the experience, right?). Wet and cold, we got off the boat and walked around some shops before heading back to our hostel. We got some beers from the bar downstairs and played some mean games of ping pong before dinner. Tonight for our meal, we were given a sausage that was a really soft, mushy texture, purple sauerkraut that was sweet, bread, and salad. Speaking of food, today for breakfast THEY SERVED BRIE. I was in heaven. BRIE FOR BREAKFAST. I could die happy just thinking about it. There was also some meat slices, blue cheese chunks, bread, cereal, and apple juice and fruit.

Once dinner was over and we had a short meeting with our professor, we walked down the street to an amusement park called Tivoli, which was, apparently, Walt Disney’s inspiration for Disney World (or Land, or whatever). At Tivoli there is one of those spinning swing rides that goes 800 meters into the air (that’s a little more than 2,600 feet for those of you who dislike conversions as much as I do), so we were walking towards that after we bought some tickets. As we were walking, one of the guys I was with pointed out to me that Steven Tyler was right behind us. I laughed, thinking he was making a look-alike joke, but sure enough, I turn around and there he was! Steven Tyler and his little entourage, walking behind a security guard. I’m with a few girls who are by no means shy…so they ran up to him and were talking and we all got a picture like the good fans we are. Some of the girls even got kissed on the cheek! He ended up riding the swing ride with us. Eight hundred meters up and I could see all of Denmark. The sun was setting, the water was still, and I was semi-nauseous, but loving life.

It really is beautiful here. It’s colorful, with awesome architecture, and the people are all kind (and gorgeous). To quote one of the girls here, “I fell in love five times on the streets…”

Tomorrow brings another day and more adventures. I am beyond thrilled to explore more with this great group of people.

The Start of Summer

I’ve been done with the Spring semester for quite some time now, however I just now finished four days of 9-5 classes to prepare me for my studying abroad trip. It’s finally starting to feel real. A couple days ago my professor sent me a picture from the hostel I’m going to be staying in once I arrive in Copenhagen, Denmark. It looks beautiful; the sun is setting, the water is calm, the air looks fresh, and I cannot wait to be standing there alongside of him and a group of wonderful students like myself.  Copenhagen, Denmark.

It feels like not too long ago that I was preparing myself for a trip to Kenya. I had never been on a plane ride longer than Michigan to California before and I was going to a country where everything was going to be new. There was a lot of unknowns then. Now, however, my professor has google docs for the itinerary, for the flight information, for the room and board, for extra curriculars. He’s got it all planned out for us, and for that, I am grateful.

The excitement is slowly starting to fill me up as I check over my packing list a final time. Today marks a start of an all new adventure: studying abroad.