11 August, 2014

Denmark-1, Integration-0

After four years of wearing shorts and tank tops every single day, my ability to assess weather and dress accordingly leaves much to be desired. Denmark is especially tricky. It's not out of the question for the weather to change by the hour, or even the minute. Today I decided to give the weather the benefit of the doubt, which I really shouldn't.

After class I did some shopping at Nørreport then left to find black sky and pouring rain. I went back in to kill some time in the book store, then left again five minutes later to find the sun shining. So strange. At least I hadn't wasted more time looking at the selection of English books which consisted of Twilight, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Grey, and the new Dan Brown.

Speaking of class and wasted time... I kind of knew the first day back might be a little chaotic, but that didn't make it any less annoying to me that we did zero studying.

To make up for it, I went down Nørregade to the walk-up grill and made myself order lunch in Danish, a scenario I find absolutely terrifying. First of all, I had to interact with other people in the queue as there was some confusion over who was next. Then after I placed my order, the lady asked me to choose a kind of bread for my sandwich, to which I replied, 'Nej tak (no thank you).' Immediately realizing my mistake and growing more horrified by the second, I chose a bread and moved over to pay. In a final slap to the face, the lady switched to English to ask if I wanted takeaway, leaving me to wonder why I even tried Danish in the first place.

Yes, I want takeaway. And a paper bag for my head, please. 

Yes, I use words like 'queue'. 

When Monkey Baby got home, she ran all the way from the car to the house yelling 'Mama' at top volume.

That right there is worth all the points in the world. 

10 August, 2014

I have holiday and the Potato Parents visit

During holiday time in Denmark, everything stops. There are no more organized play groups, no more swim classes, no school, no daycare, nothing. I haven't been to language school for six weeks. The Monkey and I have spent a lot of time in the sand box.

On a positive note, the weather for the past few weeks was stunning. It was hot and sunny, and I wore my Singapore clothes. Viking Man started to wilt. I started to feel like a normal person.

In 2006, I moved to Korea for one year. My mom said that if I ended up staying another year, she would visit. I stayed another year. And another. I got married. I moved. It took a baby in 2013 for me to get that visit from her. Then again, the Parents are hemmers and hawers by nature. After my dad's plan to come to Singapore with my mom was thwarted by the stem cell transplant, I wasn't sure they would ever be able to make another decision about visiting. But they did! And they both came! And it was so much fun to show them our life in Denmark. We went to Lønstrup and Skagen, Legoland, Spøttrup Borg, and did some general touring in Holstebro and the surrounding area.

Those two weeks raced by, then we had to say farvel. Monkey Baby looked for Grammy and Grumpa the morning they left, waved and said 'hej hej' when we went in the empty guest room. Boo.

Now the fantastic weather has reverted to normal Danish weather, which means I am cold and Viking Man is no longer in crisis. The Monkey is back in the sand box or on her scooter. Language school resumes on Monday.

I'd better dust off my books.

Photos Album Links:

06 July, 2014

We go to Tokyo: Catchup #1

I was going to skip most of 2012 and 2013, but Viking Man complained.


We went to Tokyo in February 2012 for the Tokyo Marathon. Aside from a visa run to Osaka when we lived in Korea, I hadn't been to Japan since I lived there in 2003-2004, and even then, I hadn't spent much time in Tokyo. So I was excited to go.

The marathon was fun. The Japanese, and runners in general, really know how to do a good costume. Viking Man, not wearing a costume, ran well, and I was able to see him at several points along the course. I wanted to see him finish as well, but as it was quite a trek by train for me to get out to the finish line, I wasn't sure if I would make it by the time he did.

I waited and waited and waited until I thought, 'Surely he wasn't that slow,' and then I went to the reunion area where we had agreed to meet afterwards.

I can tell you right now that we didn't think that one through very well.

Take 36,000 runners, multiply by the number of spectators per runner, minus five or six people who had already left, and you have the finish area. It was vast and overwhelming and teeming with everyone but VM. There were large numbered balloons for our meeting convenience, but we hadn't known about the balloons. So I decided to try a 'wait in one spot' approach. Then I tried a 'walk in a systematic grid' approach. My 'slump dejectedly against a wall' approach yielded nothing.

In a final act of desperation, I flagged down a volunteer who helped me navigate a phone book and pay phone, to no success. She eventually took pity on me and called our hotel on her own cell phone. VM answered the phone in our room. I wasn't sure whether to cry in relief or launch into a tirade about being abandoned. VM sounded genuinely sorry for leaving, but it probably had been the best idea under the circumstances.

Later when we compared notes about which costumed runners we had seen (Full Suit and Tie Guy, Hello Kitty Ninja, Tokyo Tower, Barefoot Jesus) and when we had seen them, we came to the conclusion that I probably hadn't made it to the finish line in time. Moral of the story: always choose a numbered balloon.

Some of the highlights:

Our hotel was in this vibrant area, just up the street from the pulsating Shibuya Crossing.

Edo Tokyo Museum
I spent an entire morning in this massive edifice housing the city's history while VM worked in the Tokyo Office.

This was a charming area with traditional shopping streets and a beautiful temple.

Tsukiji Fish Market
One of things on VM's wish list, he convinced me to get up at a ridiculous hour so we could see the market at its freshest. I'll admit that it was worth it. Giant tuna!

Meiji Shrine
The shrine had gorgeous cypress gates, and we saw a wedding procession.

Roppongi Hills/Mori Art Museum/Roof Deck
First we went to Tokyo Tower but changed our minds (possibly because of the price?) and continued walking to Roppongi Hills. Tickets for the roof deck at Mori Tower came with free access to the museum (and vice versa, so win-win for both of us), and we could see Tokyo Tower from there which ended up being better anyway.

26 June, 2014

Mother's Day and Memories of Korea

Jeju, March 2008
In February/March 2008, Viking Man went to Jeju-do, Korea on business and I joined him later in a last minute decision. It was a beautiful and unique trip and a fitting way to say goodbye to Korea (see the original post). Ever since, we have regretted not buying ourselves a souvenir dolharubang, a mushroom-like statue made from the porous volcanic rock of the island.

This Mother's Day, Viking Man announced a cryptic present he said I would never be able to guess. When two large crates showed up in the carport last week, I was still stumped. I have to admit that I was pretty stunned to see a giant dolharubang when we hacked open the first crate! Six years and three countries later, we have our Jeju souvenirs.

The packing slip declared each crate to be 400 kg. With one stacked on the other, it looked like a good chance that we now had a pair of decorative crates for the carport. Even my handy Viking had to think this one through for a couple of days. Today, he was finally able to execute 'Plan D', in which he rented a chain hoist, pried a board out of the carport ceiling, manipulated a couple of straps around the statue, then lifted it like it was nothing. The bottom crate followed easily. A quick jaunt on the dolly, and they are now guarding our house and garden.

Thanks to our friend Ho in Korea for arranging the shipment, and happy Mother's Day to me.