New in Denmark

Just a Touch of H.C. Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen or H.C. Andersen as Danes call him, eventually became Denmark’s most well-known author, with a legacy of wonderful fairy tales. But life in Denmark, for him, was harsh, cold and unstable. In my time in Denmark these 9+ years, I find myself realizing that my life has just a touch of H.C. Andersen…specially as my first children’s book is about to be published.


For those who are not familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s real life, he was born into poverty in Odense on the Danish island of Fyn. He was tortured and bullied by his classmates (they even ripped his bottoms down one day, forcing him to be naked from the waist down in public one day). He was child abused by a headmaster at school. He had no success with any of the women with whom he fell in love. He only found success upon leaving Denmark — people in other countries recognized his great talents and his gift for storytelling.  He had no home of his own. Like modern day people in Copenhagen, he went from place to place in the city and eventually just rented a room — yes a room, not an apartment — along the harbor in Copenhagen.

I have lived in a spectacular 15 different places in Copenhagen in just over 9 years. It is a gross instability but one I have come to associate with this merchant city on the harbor. It is a city where I perch, take in the view, people-watch and absorb experiences. It is a city where I dream.

You know Walt Disney used Tivoli as the inspiration for Disneyland (Disney Resort) and Walk Disney World, right?

I have lived and live my life with passionate desires and dreams to do things with my skills, gifts and talents that will serve people through empowering them, comforting them, educating them and giving them hope. Copenhagen is a city where I have been able to fulfill a dream to write a children’s book. It, my first children’s book in a series, is called “Lori Leak Travels to Paris”.

It stems from aborted trips I, as a little girl, had planned to take with my father. We never took any of those global trips because, tragically, my father died of cancer before I became a teenager.

But today, my birthday, August 26, 2015, my illustrator has completed the images for this gorgeous and adventurous tale of an African-American girl who travels the world. Kristen Palana, another American expatriate like me, is a Cannes award-winning artist and animator. Together we have taken our desire to serve people through out gifts and created this richly illustrated adventure. I am blessed to be given this gift on my birthday by Kristen. Now, posthumously, my father and I can travel the world and go to all the places we dreamed of together.

Unlike Hans Christian Andersen was able to do, Kristen and I have been gathering family and friends in a Facebook group around Lori Leak and her adventure to Paris. If you would like to be a part of this exciting literary adventure, you can join us Lori Leak on Facebook.

There is also a website for Lori Leak, which you can find HERE. Hans Christian Andersen surely would have had a Facebook group and a website for his fairy tales had they existed then. He also would have done something else:

2014FOB_LOGO_bubblesSoon, we are launching an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to take Lori Leak to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April 2016 and to donate copies to public libraries in each of the 50 states of the United States of America. We have been talking about out favorite Parisian foods, museums and other cultural aspects, history etc.

Copenhagen and Denmark in general has both nurtured and provoked this character Lori Leak into being and now she is ready for the world. Sometimes in the last 9+ years I have been greatly grieved by negative, harsh, cold, bitter, discriminatory people and situations in Denmark. Now I feel deep gratitude for the reward I am receiving because of it. I learned to cling to wonderful Danish and other expatriate friends and acquaintances who gave me light in dark moments — light that empowered me to see so I could write the words to Lori Leak and some other texts.

Lori Leak is a brave, bold, adventurous, curious, humorous, highly intelligent, determined young girl. Gee, I wonder who was the inspiration for her? *smile*

I was already a creative writer and a non-fiction writer as a journalist and blogger before I came to Denmark. However, Lori Leak was always there, waiting to be formed and birthed. My time in Copenhagen has gestated Lori Leak and the contractions of birth are beginning. Soon, in October 2015, she will be born.

My life is abundantly blessed in that sense, by Danish Janteloven, Danish culture both old and modern, Danish history and Danish friends and acquaintances. Because of all things Danish, I have achieved a great dream. Thank you Copenhagen, thank you Denmark, thanks you H.C. Andersen.

Be sure to connect with the Lori Leak Travels to Paris story through the Facebook group or website. Her Paris adventure launches in October….and then her next one is already written and will be translated into Danish for children in Denmark by one of my Danish friends: “Lori Leak Travels to Copenhagen”.

That is a story for another day……

Danes abroad love to visit Denmark


My Great Great Uncle Jens Rasmussen Larsen returned often to Denmark after moving to the US in 1882.

My Great Great Uncle Jens Rasmussen Larsen returned often to Denmark after moving to the US in 1882.

Once again, the Danes and Danish Canadians gathered for their annual Danish BBQ in Burnaby, BC, Canada. And once again this reporter overheard person after person say they were going to Denmark for a visit or had just returned earlier this year.

Which got me to wondering: Do Danes who live abroad – some for decades – visit their native land more than, say Swedes, Germans, or any other nationality? I can’t even think how I’d go about finding this out.

Sure, each country records who visits their country and where they are coming from. But does the Denmark know or even keep track of just native-born Danes who return for a visit as a statistic?

When I began tracing my Larsen family genealogy, my Great Great Uncle Jens immigrated to the US n 1882 to the live and farm in South Dakota in the farming community called Daneville (it no longer exists except on old maps). He didn’t need a passport back then and even when he returned to Denmark in 1902 to bring my grandfather back with him to America.

In 1921, times had changed. I found out that Uncle Jens had to apply for a US Passport as a naturalized citizen for an upcoming trip back to the ‘Old Country’.  He applied for and received a passport on 4 April 1921 and received his new passport before sailing on the Oscar II on 12 May 1921 (try applying for a passport and receiving a passport this fast today…).

As an American living in Canada I too return home to visit frequently. But then there is just a border between Canada and the US similar to the border between Denmark and Germany.

So I guess this is nothing new. I hear Australian and Filipino nurses I work with return to their native country numerous times. As well as citizens returning to their birth country of India. It seems even for Danes who live in Canada or elsewhere, the pull of the Land of Hamlet is too strong to stay away too long.

—  30  –

Drop It Like It’s HOT at Tivoli


SNOOP DOGG at Fredagsrock!

One of the West Coast hip hop’s greatest icons is playing Tivoli tonight as part of the Fredagsrock or Friday’s Rock experience. For sure, Snoop Dogg will drop it like its hot on the great stage.

I am EXCITED!!!!!! I intend to get myh groove, my serve and everything else on and drop it for two hours at Tivoli. I tell you, Tivoli has outdone itself this year with Fredagsrock!

American superstar Snoop Dogg has sold over 30 million records, taken first places on the charts all over the world, received numerous awards and worked with artists of all genres. His debut album Doggystyle in 1993 sold an impressive 800,000 copies in the first week and since then he has delivered monster hits like Gin & Juice , What’s my Name , Beautiful, Drop It Like It’s Hot andSigns .

Also outside the music industry, he has made a name as both actor, TV host and fashion designer, and his huge fan base counts both hip hop and R & B lovers as well as a more mainstream-oriented audience. All they can look forward to a great evening in Tivoli, when the king of laid-back West Coast vibes beats wows us with his verbal and musical skill as he sizzles tha wizzle.

Drop everything like its hot and get to Tivoli — the concert is only the cost of admission and it will certainly be a great addition to your Copenhagen experience.

Copenhagen: Served excellent example to make my home town an Eco-friendly place


I have learn a lot of new things during my stay in Denmark. One of the most important was cycling. I was amazed to see that many people use cycle on the daily basis and there are special paths build for them. I thought, something similar can be done my hometown Kota, Rajasthan, India also. When I was taking an online course from University of Pennsylvania as part of my Zero Cost MBA(Envisioning 21st century global manager) project, I have taken Copenhagen cycling as a case study and tried to present an idea of replicating some elements of it in my home town. Recently it has got huge push in local media as well as among the civic authorities. I thought, I could share this with you here.

(The article appeared in the local media is in Hindi. I have translated the article for you in English, which you can read below. You can also read the assignment submitted as part of the online course, which has served an inspiration for this article).

dainik bhaskar

साइकिलिंग के मामले में कोटा देश के लिए नजीर बन सकता है। कोटा के कोचिंग इलाके में ही रोजाना लगभग 50 हजार साइकिल चलती हैं। इससे प्रतिदिन लगभग 7 हजार लीटर पेट्रोल की बचत होती है। इसके बावजूद शहर में कहीं भी साइकिल के लिए डेडिकेटेड ट्रैक नहीं है। पर्यावरण और स्वास्थ्य के लिहाज से देश-दुनिया के कई बड़े शहरों में भी साइकिलिंग के लिए अलग ट्रैक बने हुए हैं। भास्कर ने इस मुद्दे पर एक्सपर्ट्स से बात की तो सामने आया कि कोचिंग एरिया में साइकिल ट्रैक आसानी से बन सकता है।

Kota can become a shining example for the country in terms of cycling. Around 50,000 people commute daily through cycling in the coaching areas of Kota. It saves approximately 7000 liters of daily. Even then also, there is no dedicated track anywhere in the city for cycles. Many cities in country and abroad have separate cycling tracks to keep environment and health in check. Bhaskar has spoken with experts on this issue and got the conclusion that it is very easy to make a cycle track in coaching areas.

केवल अतिक्रमण हटाने भर से निकल सकता है रास्ता
इसके लिए जितनी जगह चाहिए उतनी जगह तो अतिक्रमियों ने ही दबा रखी है। अधिकारी इस पर थोड़ा सा ध्यान दें तो बिना विशेष खर्चे के ही साइकिल ट्रैक बन सकता है। इससे शहर के पर्यावरण में भी सुधार आएगा।

Track can be made just by removing illegal development on the routes

The space required for the track has been already available but encroachment by many people. If authorities (officers) pay attention to it a bit, then cycle track can be made without any expensive budget. It will also improve environment of the city.

इन इलाकों में संभावना
साइकिलिंग के जानकारों के मुताबिक, नए कोटा में आईएल से अनंतपुरा चौराहा, कॉमर्स कॉलेज से केशवपुरा चौराहा, गोबरिया बावड़ी से घटोत्कच सर्किल, तलवंडी से ओपेरा रोड, केशवपुरा चौराहे से सीएडी, मोदी कॉलेज चौराहे से जवाहर नगर एयरपोर्ट की दीवार तक डेडिकेटेड साइकिल ट्रैक बनाए जा सकते हैं। मानकों के अनुसार साइकिल ट्रैक 1.5 से 2 मीटर का होना चाहिए। इन सभी सड़कों पर इतनी जगह है और यही वह इलाका है, जहां कोचिंग छात्रों का आवागमन ज्यादा है। इन सभी सड़कों पर साइकिल ट्रैक जितनी जगह तो दोनों ओर अतिक्रमियों ने ही दबा रखी है। इन्हें हटाकर भी ट्रैक डेवलप किए जा सकते हैं।

Probable areas

According to experts, in new Kota, dedicate cycle track can be made from IL to Anantpura Circle, Commerce college to Keshavpura circle, Gobriya bawari to Ghatokatch circle, talwandi to opera road, Keshavpura cirlce to CAD and from Modi college to Jawahar nagar airport wall. According to standards, cycle track must be 1.5 to 2 meter wide. All the roads have this much space available and these are areas where coaching students are commuting in large numbers. In all those roads, the space equivalent to developing cycling track has already been occupied illegally. Tracks can be developed just by removing those illegal construction.

यूं रोज बचाते हैं पांच लाख रुपए
कोटा शहर में मोटे अनुमान के तौर पर 70 हजार साइकिलें है। प्रत्येक साइकिल का रोज का न्यूनतम 5 किमी भी माना जाए तो 3.5 लाख किमी साइकिल रोजाना चलती हैं। किसी वाहन का 50 किमी प्रति लीटर का भी एवरेज माना जाए तो इस साइकिलिंग से रोजाना 7 हजार लीटर पेट्रोल की बचत हो रही है जिससे लगभग पांच लाख की बचत होती है। शहर की हवा में रोजाना भारी मात्रा में प्रदूषित गैसें घुलने से बच रही हैं। नियमित साइकिलिंग से जुड़े लोग बताते हैं कि इसे प्रमोट किया जाए तो साइकिल चलाने वालों की संख्या और भी बढ़ सकती है।

Daily savings of Rs. 500,000
According to a rough estimate, Kota city has approximately 70 thousands cycle. If it is assumed that every cycle on an average commute 5 km daily, then all the cycles are traveling a distance of around 350,000 km. Assuming 50 km per liter an average for a vehicle, then everyday cycling is saving 7000 liters of petrol, resulting in savings of 500,00 rupees. Lot of polluting gases are avoided being mixed into the air of city. People belonging to regular cycling tells that if promoted, number of bicyclers will increase tremendously.

साइकिलिंग में हम काफी आगे, फिर ट्रैक के मामले में पीछे क्यों?
कोटा शहर में साइकिलिंग को प्रमोट करने के लिए पिछले चार साल से साइक्लोट्रोट्स क्लब बना हुआ है। क्लब से करीब 200 सदस्य जुड़े हुए हैं। अध्यक्ष चंद्रेश शर्मा बताते हैं कि गुड़गांव, नोएडा, दिल्ली, हैदराबाद, बेंगलुरु समेत गुजरात के कई बड़े शहरों में साइकिल ट्रैक बने हुए हैं। जबकि आबादी के अनुपात में इन शहरों में साइकिल चलाने वाले कोटा से कम ही होंगे। मोटे तौर पर कोटा शहर में 10 फीसदी लोग साइकिल चलाते हैं। भले ही इसमें बड़ा हिस्सा कोचिंग छात्रों का है। हम इस मुद्दे पर प्रशासन से बातचीत करने के लिए तथ्यात्मक तैयारी भी कर रहे हैं। प्रयास सिर्फ इतना करना है कि सड़कों के किनारों से अतिक्रमण हट जाए। बस, इतने में साइकिल ट्रैक के लिए जगह निकल आएगी। एक बार ट्रैक शुरू हुए, फिर लोग खुद ही ट्रैक खाली छोड़ देंगे।

Ahead in cycling, then why behind on tracks?

A club has been formed from past 4 years to promote cycling in Kota. Currently, the club has around 200 members. President Chandresh Sharma told that Gurgaon, Noida, Delhi, Hyderbad, Bengaluru and many cities of Gujrat has cycling tracks, that too when they do not fair well in ratio wise for the number of people cycling. Around ten percent of the people are driving cycles in Kota, even if the major portion belongs to the coaching students. We are also trying to speak with administration on this matter. Just needed an effort to remove illegal construction around the roads. Just by doing so, give free space for the tracks. Once the track start, people will automatically leave the track.

कोपनहेगन: वहां 20-25 किमी साइकिल चलाना आम है

साइकिलिंग को लेकर हमने बात की कोटा के रहने वाले अंकित खंडेलवाल से, जो करीब तीन साल तक पढ़ाई के सिलसिले में डेनमार्क की राजधानी कोपनहेगन रहकर आए हैं। यह महानगर साइक्लिंग के लिए मशहूर है और यहां की 35 से 40 प्रतिशत आबादी साइकिल पर ही सफर करती है। अंकित बताते हैं कि वहां 20 से 25 किमी साइकिल चलाना बिल्कुल नहीं अखरता। मैं खुद रोज इतनी साइकिल चला लेता था। कभी थकान नहीं होती थी। क्योंकि साइकिल के लिए वहां हर सड़क के साथ अलग से बेहतरीन ट्रैक बने हुए हैं।

Copenhagen: It is normal to cycle 20-25 km cycle daily

We have spoken to Ankit Khandelwal regarding cycling. He is by native from Kota and stayed in the capital of Denmark for approximately 3 years during his studies. This city is famous for cycling and around 35-40% of city population travel on cycle. Ankit has told, that driving 20-25 km through cycle is not uncomfortable. Even I have used cycle that much on daily basis. Never got tired, because special tracks have been made for cycling alongside roads.

साइकिल पार्किंग के लिए घर, बाजार, रेलवे व मेट्रो स्टेशन पर खास इंतजाम होते हैं। यहां तक कि मेट्रो में भी साइकिल रखने के लिए अलग से डिब्बा होता है। बड़े-बड़े उद्यमी, राजनेता और कई कंपनियों के सीईओ तक को मैंने वहां साइकिलों पर आते-जाते देखा। कोटा में साइकिलिंग को प्रमोट किया जा सकता है, क्योंकि यहां हजारों बच्चे पहले से इसका यूज कर रहे हैं।

Special arrangement has been made at home, market, railway and metro to park cycles. Even metros have separate coaches to park cycles during the travel. Many businesspersons, politicians and other people were seen using cycle very frequently. Cycling can be promoted in Kota, because already thousands of youngsters are using it.

(Appeared in Dainik Bhaskar, Kota edition, 05-07-2015)

Inspiration for this article came from Designing Cities Assignment-3, a MOOC course from University of Pennsylvania. I have taken this course as part of my Zero Cost MBA (Envisioning 21st century global manager project. Check the last 2 pages of this assignment, where I have used Copenhagen as a base city to modify my home town planning

Happy Independence Day!: An American and Danish Tie That Binds



I am writing this on the fly as I enjoy a concert that is part of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival today. This is one of the highlights of the year in Denmark and personally for me! Today is Independence Day in my native land, the United States of America. Denmark and the United States of America traditionally celebrate their friendship at this time of year in Rebild, Denmark. This year is no exception. This is a time of year where I am especially proud of the ideals of my native country and the freedom I have had to be an expatriate in Denmark. It also is an excuse (like I need one!!) to have some great American barbeque!

I have not been able to part of the annual Rebild celebration but perhaps I will next year at my 10th anniversary in Denmark.

Happy Independence Day,

my kindred Americans in Denmark!

The first Rebild celebration was in 1912 in the hills of Jutland. A group of Danish immigrants living in the USA purchased 140 acres of wooded area between Rold and the small Lindenborg stream as a token of gratitude towards the country that greeted more than 300,000 Danish immigrants with open arms.

The land was then donated to the Danish people and since then the 4th of July, the American Independence Day, has been celebrated by thousands of people, both emigrants and Danish citizens — and the U.S. flag is allowed to be flown.

The Anerican “Stars and Stripes” and the Danish flag “Dannebrog” fly side by side i Rebild Bakker (the hills of Rebild). People camp out for a week and there is music, entertainment, community, singing and speeches by prominent Americans and Danes to broadcast the ties between the USA and Denmark.

Things are not perfect as an expatriate in Denmark, and not all American expatriates in Denmark find it to be a welcoming country due to immigration policies as well as practices within the Danish Immigration Service, Folkeregister and sometimes even within a municipality like Copenhagen Commune, but I keep the faith that one day it will be better!