New in Denmark

One month from now…

Today’s date?  24 November.  One month from now – at this very moment (6pm) – we’ll be lighting candles and sitting down to Danish Christmas dinner.  Eeeeek!

Yep, countdown is progressing and you can no longer hide your heads in the sand.  On Saturday afternoon I was at a Christmas craft fair at an OAPs home and enjoyed my very first æbleskiver of the season (Danish Christmas donuts).  And managed to get the flormelis (icing sugar) on my black trousers.  Selvfølgelig!  Goes with the territory! :P

Today, Monday, I’m just back home from an exhibition of Danish Christmas ornaments by Jette Frölich.  A Danish designer who’s been producing Christmas ornaments for nearly 50 (count ‘em!) years…

I won’t be decorating our home just yet – we”ll probably start next Sunday (Adventsøndag).

And the Christmas gift shopping?  I started at the end of October (most things are wrapped and labelled) and hope to be finished by this weekend.  Go me’ *o/*

Have a marvelous Monday!

Diane :)

Remember to take all your belongings with you when you leave…

Whenever my Scottish family or my ‘adopted’ Danish family get together, all the old funny stories come out.  Nothing like a good laugh to get rid of the blahs!  One of my favourite stories involves my DDDMIL (Dearly-Departed-Danish-Mother-in-Law) who – like my DDH (Dear Danish Husband) – could be, let’s say, a trifle ‘distracted’ at times.

One morning, many many moons ago, she walked into Viborg town centre, together with my DDH (who back then was just a babe in arms – or, in this story, was just a babe safely bundled up in his pram).

She did her shopping, chatted to a few friends she met in town (as you do in small towns) and, as lunchtime approached, she headed back home.

Got home, unpacked her shopping and suddenly had a nagging thought that, hmm, she had forgotten something…  What was it?  Yep, you guessed.  She had left my DDH in his pram outside a shop! Of course, she went straight back for him.  He was still there, sound asleep, no harm done.  This is Denmark after all! :P  [You know you're in Denmark when...Baby comes too!]

I thought of my DDDMIL and that story when I spied this ‘Gratis Hundeparkering‘ (‘Free Dog Parking’) box outside a supermarket this morning.

hundeparkering

If you put your dog (or child?!) in it, just remember (as they always say on the underground trains here) to make sure to “take your belongings with you when you leave”…

Have a fabulous Friday and a wonderful weekend!

Diane :)

 

Are budget cuts for universities a good move?

Following a protest by students in University of Copenhagen against the two billion kroner budget cuts, it was the turn of Aarhus University’s students to protest today. While the government may have valid reasons to announce these cuts, many students think otherwise.

I happen to follow a well-known literary writer from India on Facebook, Tabish Khair, who is also an associate professor at Aarhus University (AU). Requested to speak by the organizers, read AU’s students, at their protest meeting today – after a number of ‘sympathetic’ professors reportedly did not come forward – Khair, in his speech, made a case for money not becoming a hurdle in the path to knowledge.

The protest at AU (pic taken from the facebook page)

I decided to share his speech (below) with a larger audience:

“I could start with my sheer astonishment over the under-remarked fact that today, all over the world, the very politicians who plough in billions to bail out banks and corporations that mis-invested and lost your parents’ savings, these very politicians cannot find a few thousands to enable you to study the subjects of your choice. But I will not talk facts or politics today. Instead, I will tell you why I am here with you.

Sometimes I am asked: where do you belong? In places like Denmark, this is supposed to be a difficult question to answer. People like me, who seem out of place in Denmark, and even more so in Aarhus, and entirely so in Hjortshøj where I actually live, are supposed to be torn between nations and places, cultures and languages. Unfortunately, I – and many more like me – have never felt torn. The notion of an identity-conflict is something imposed by others on people like me, and these others are usually people who feel conflict on encountering us! I have always felt that I belong both here and there – not just in India, UK and Denmark, but even in the small Indian town I come from and the small village outside Aarhus where I live now. I do not have to choose between them. There is no reason to do so.

Tabish Khair

 

But if you ask me as an associate professor, where do you belong, I would give you an answer that is similar and different at the same time. Do I belong here as a teacher, or as a researcher, or as a student myself, for no thinking person ever ceases to be a student? Do I belong here as an academic or a writer or a citizen, or a proto-citizen as I do not have a Danish passport? Evidently, I cannot choose between these and other designations; they are all regions where I dwell and have dwelled. But there is one difference, and the difference arises if you put the above question to me in a different manner, if you ask me, for instance: to what do you, as an associate professor, owe allegiance?

My answer would be: I owe my primary allegiance to my field or fields of knowledge. No market statistics, no corporate structure, no political injunction, no administrative compunction, no, not even pedagogic pressures can change that. My first allegiance is to my fields of knowledge. It is this I have committed myself to; it is this I want to be judged by; it is this I intend to hand over to the next generation. Knowledge, and a desire for knowledge, which inevitably involves questioning and re-questioning. Critical thinking. It cannot be reduced to an account sheet or a handy tool. It should not be reduced to an account sheet or a handy tool.

Some people might turn to me and say: well you teach English, there is some need for it, after all it is a global language, we need it to get jobs and make money. What about smaller subjects? Why retain them? There are many answers to this inane question, but I will give only two of them. 1. People who put this question have no idea what knowledge is. Knowledge is not a tool or an account sheet; it is a mesh, with every point relating to more points than we can ever imagine. In this, it is like life. You erase one insignificant point, and you lose out in a hundred places elsewhere: you have got it coming.

Answer #2 is even more obvious: who is to decide the insignificance of a branch of knowledge? On what grounds? Are jobs or salaries – easy economic convenience – the criteria? When did they become the criteria? – Søren Kirkegaard, Karen Blixen, Niels Bohr were not doing a job, when they did what they did. No plumber, no carpenter, no teacher, no writer, no nuclear physicist, no one who has done anything good, ever did it simply as a job for a salary! And moreover, need I say it, if convenience is the criterion, surely there is no difference between eradicating so-called small subjects or economically-weak areas, and getting rid of the diseased, or the handicapped, or … The list is long. We have been through it before, in other terms.

So we need to speak up, not just for our subjects but for knowledge, for what made universities what they almost are when, in the 18th century, the first modern universities arose. As Johann Gottlieb Fichte, one of the earliest thinkers to discuss the modern university put it in 1807, the university exists not to pass on information but to teach the exercise of critical judgement, without which information cannot be evaluated in any case. Critical judgement comes with knowledge, and vice versa.

What this means is that we need to protect the small subjects first, and for exactly the reason given to us in those famous lines by Pastor Niemöller:

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Speak out now. Speak loudly. Make sure you are heard. Speak up for knowledge. Speak up not just for your subjects but also for other subjects.”

If you can’t stand the heat in the Danish kitchen…

Y’all know that I ♥ Denmark and those crazy (but lovable) Danes.  But I can’t help feeling that they got the wrong end of the stick (or should that be hot poker?) when it comes to designing items for removing hot dishes from hot ovens.

I mean, really, why do the Danish public continue to put up with (totally impractical) grydelapper (‘pot holders’)?  And, by the way, our neighbours – those silly (but lovable) Swedes – are just as bad.  Yes, grydelapper come in all forms and materials…cotton, rubber, silicone. All equally useless and dang fiddly to use! :P

And let’s not forget the ‘crocheted-classic-do-it-yourself-Christmas-gift’ version of the grydelappe.  Hiding at the back of the kitchen drawer or the bottom of the Christmas ornaments box…

The only other choice in Denmark is the single, (lonely) unattached grillhandske (oven glove/mitt).  A step up from the grydelappe, but just as awkward to handle.

So where, oh, where is my true love?  There can be only one!  The double oven glove! Please let me know if you find any in Denmark.  My Mum and Dad in Scotland have been bringing double oven gloves over in their suitcase for me, for the past 16 years… ♥

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Diane :)

 

 

Cash ain’t King when you don’t have a Crown!

Picture the scene.  You’re quietly minding your own business, walking along the street, when you see a sign that makes you lækkersulten. [Great Dane-ish Expressions - To 'have a case of the munchies']  I wanna flæskestegssandwich (roast pork sandwich) and I want it NOW!

But, hey, the pølsevogn (sausage wagon) doesn’t take cards.  I don’t have any cash on me (remember, the Danes pay for everything with their trusty Dankort).  And there isn’t a cash dispenser in sight…  Waaaaaaaaaaah!

But hold on a mo’!  All is not lost!  There’s also a sign that says “Mobilpay” together with a telephone number!    Yep, I can play for my flæskestegsandwich (and a cold chocolate milk, Cocio, to go with it, should I so desire…) by simply opening the app on my telephone and transferring the money straight to the sausage seller.  No fees or fuss for either of us. Très smart, non? :)

I’ve also used Mobilepay when transferring money to my kids’ pocket money accounts. For paying our dues to the school slush fund.  When out having lunch with friends: I pay the whole bill, we divided it up ourselves and they send me their share by phone, straight to my account.

Not to mention buying things when out and about at markets and summer festivals (here’s my sweetie friend, Tina, owner of the Pink Flamingo shop in Hellerup at a charity fundraiser).

Just download the app, get your account sent up and keep a look out for a sign that says “Mobilepay” or “Mobilpay”.  And remember not to spend all your money in the one shop! :P

Have a marvelous money, money, Monday!

Diane :)