Friday, September 28, 2012

A Rant in Two Parts... Or Two Rants, Related, For the Price of One

Why is it that every time I say, “I don’t like [insert foodstuff]” someone always says, “That’s because you haven’t had really good [foodstuff],” often going on to cite their mom’s particularly spectacular [foodstuff] as an example?

Look, Pushy Foodie, do you go around telling gay men that they just haven’t put it in the right woman or tell lesbians that they just haven’t found the right man, yet?

If you answered, “yes,” then you are a bigot and an asshole and get the hell off my blog! *Waves shotgun threateningly*

If you answered, “No, of course not, people sure as hell know their own sexuality!” Then I want to know why the hell can you accept that I know with whom I want to have sex, but NOT what foods I like to eat?

Let’s use my old favorite: fish.

The types of fish I will eat are few and select.  I’ll eat tuna.  I’ll eat salmon.  I’ll eat fish that has been breaded, fried in butter, drizzled with lemon and slathered with hollandaise.  I’ll even eat pickled herring (just the white kind, the purple kind is pretty gross and I have to schnapps up a few times before I can eat it). 

Anything else is an effort in controlling my gag reflex.

I cannot eat pickles (leads to projectile vomiting within a few hours of consumption) so on top of not liking curried herring, I can’t eat it and DO NOT GIVE ME REMOULADE OR TARTAR SAUCE UNLESS YOU WANT YOUR BATHROOM REDECORATED LATER!

You can give me steak tartar.  Totally different foodstuff.  Much to my surprise.

Anyway, every time I say, “I don’t like fish,” a chorus of voices begins suggesting that it’s because I haven’t had really fresh fish.


“It stinks,” I say.  They say, “Oh, but then it’s old!  Fresh fish smells like the sea!”

BUT THAT’S JUST IT!  IT STINKS OF THE SEA!  If I wanted to eat the sea, I’d eat the goddamned sea.  If steak smelled like a freshly mowed lawn, I wouldn’t want to eat it either.

By the way, I *love* the smell of raw meat.  Tangy iron, yum! 

Now, I like the sea.  I like to look at it.  I like the way it sounds, waves and such.  I even like the way it smells, provided that I’m nowhere near a harbor or anywhere where a large amount of seaweed washes up.  But I don’t want to eat it.  I don’t want to drink it.  I don’t want it in my mouth AT ALL.  So I certainly don’t want to eat anything that smells like it.

I have the same aversion to shellfish.  This one drives Danes crazy, because they put shrimp IN EVERYTHING.  I will eat it if it’s in something and I can’t get away with picking it out.  I just try not to look at it and I will often hold my breath when I put it in my mouth.   I have half a mind to fake a shellfish allergy.

But what really gets the Danes’ goat is when I dare to say I don’t particularly like the rye bread (rugbrød).  Hysterics follow.  “But you haven’t had really good rye bread, then.  My mom makes this really good type that I know will change your mind.”

If I introduce you to my hot gay friends, will you start batting for the other team?

I have had a lot of homemade rye bread.  It’s what Danes do when they want to appear domestic (or if in fact, they are domestic).  Of all of these, I’ve only had one I actually liked.  And when I watched him make it, I noticed a quite apparent lack of rye flour.  There was some, but only some.  Most of it was whole wheat.  That makes it whole-wheat bread, in my opinion.  And notably, it did NOT taste AT ALL of rye.

‘Cause that’s what it comes down to.  I don’t really like rye.  I don’t like a lot of beers that are dark, especially if they have that heavy rye taste.  I really hate that malt crap; that drink made from the brewing extract.  Liquid Marmite.  *Shudder* 

But my god, you just can’t tell a Dane you don’t like rye.  They get so touchy about it.  Recently, in a over-read (okay, you can overhear something, so what do you call it when you read a conversation between people on a networking site that might rhyme with Mace-hook?) conversation, a Dane, who may have had an convulsive fit when a bunch of foreigners united in their dislike of his nation’s bread, said that the reason he was so touchy about it was that food is culture, and by dissing the food, we were dissing his culture.

Dude, the next time someone says something negative about McDonalds IMMA A GONNA CUT A BITCH!!  THAT’S MY CULTURE YOU’RE MALIGNING!!

Wait a minute, no it isn’t.

And this brings us to the second part of the rant.

Really, your food is so intrinsically tied to your culture that if I happen to say that I don’t like it because it tastes like ass, it’s the same as saying that Denmark is full of nothing but freeloaders; metrosexual mamma’s boys who couldn’t find their manhood with both hands and dead-eyed women who will give you a blowjob at a bus stop just so they can see what time it is?

(BTW, I asked the Danish Boy what the most awful thing I could say about Danish culture would be and he replied, “What culture?  Danes have no culture.  Our culture is those stupid clapping hats at sports matches.”)

My god, the number of disparaging things I’ve had said to me about my country!  Forget the remarks about the food, I’ve been told Americans themselves are fat, lazy, mean, rude, stupid, and loud.  Yes, to my face.  Often over one of those extended meals Danes like to have.  Good lord, no wonder Danes invented aquavit.  And you know what, I don’t get offended (okay, maybe about the fat comment - WHO YOU CALLING FAT, CHUBS??) because it’s an opinion.  It’s not my fault if it’s wrong. 

And so what if people don’t like barbeque or pumpkin pie or McDonalds, no one in the US is going to force you to eat it.  Sure, in the South they may get tetchy about it, but then they still hold a grudge over the War of Northern Aggression (you may know it as the American Civil War).   They get tetchy about a lot of things.

And I can think of plenty of Americans who would like Danish food, including the rye bread, if they weren’t already patriotically bound to eat white bread and nothing but white bread, so help me god.  But while they may love smearing leverpostej (called liverwurst in the US) all over their shiny faces, they’d be appalled by Danish society.  “Socialist SCUM!”

Yes, a good section of the Scandinavian-American population, who keep up with the food and other Scandinavian traditions, are Republicans who think that the Danes are only Communists who depend on western handouts to keep the economies afloat.

So what will it be, Foodie Danes?  Would you rather have someone who likes the culture (and I use the term loosely) and the governing system but not the rye bread or the person who, given the chance, would strip you of your free health care while enjoying your lunch pack?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Little Girl Who Never Lived

*** Warning: This post is a real downer.  I'm not going to apologize for it, but I am going to give you fair warning.  So there, you've been warned. ***

My brother-in-law and his girlfriend lost their unborn baby girl last week. 

She was full-term, 36 weeks, and perfect.  Perfect except for some small thing.  Something so small, that no scan caught it.  So small, that there was no warning.  Just one day she was alive and kicking and her parents were organizing baby clothes, and the next the doctors were giving her mother a pill and their condolences.

The doctors don’t know what happened.  There was no sign.  There are no clues.  Just one perfect, small life, that never lived.

This little girl was wanted, planned, sought after, and loved.  This little girl now waits in a cold room, in a small box, for a ceremony that is supposed to give her family closure.  This little girl who never lived.

Her parents will miss her more than I can even imagine.  I actually cannot imagine, my brain shuts down, the thoughts half formed.  No, it seems to say, you can’t handle that sort of grief. 

I hold my child tighter.  There’s guilt there.  Guilt because I got lucky.  Guilt because my little girl is alive and healthy: Survivor’s guilt by proxy.  It is, of course, irrational.  One little girl lives, another does not; there is no rationality in the matter, no one to complain to.  It’s not that I did something right or someone else did something wrong.  Something just happened.  Something happened to the little girl who never lived.

They are holding tight to each other, my brother-in-law and his wife.  There is grief and there is steely resolve.  They will not let this most horrible of tragedies rip them apart.  They will grow closer together.  They will have more children.  The room in the apartment they bought for their growing family will someday be filled with laughter and tears and midnight feedings and all those things parents love to hate. 

But until then.  A grandmother finishes a blanket that the little girl will take to her forever-bed.  She’ll have a little stuffed monkey to hold on to.  We will have to hold each other, as we say good-bye to the little girl who never lived.

*** Please do not leave any comments telling me that God loved her so much that he took her to heaven.  Any God who loves children so much that he takes them away from their parents is a dick. ***

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Dane and His Daughter

The Danish Boy has had his hands full this week.  As he will for the next 15, provided I keep passing exams.

I get up at 5 am and head for the ferry at 6.  He’s got to catch the bus at a little after 8 am, with the Spawn. 

So Monday was a little rough for them both, but they made it on the bus.  That night, he asked to be woken up at 5:30, so he could take a shower and I would be available if the Spawn woke up and needed whatever it is that my child wants at the ass-crack of dawn. *

Tuesday, I woke him up.  He was a little out of it, so he said “hello” and woke the Spawn.  Bless him, he handled the mess he made while I ate breakfast and caught the ferry.  That night he said, screw it, let ‘em both sleep.

Wednesday I let them be.  They were both sleeping when I left.  Later he got up and showered before she woke up.  He got her dressed; they ate breakfast and were out the door on time.

Thursday.  Same again, only the Spawn woke up a bit earlier than the Danish Boy wanted.  Something I’ve noticed about the Spawn.  After she wakes up, you must hold her until she’s ready to be put down, usually about 5 to 10 minutes, after which she is Happy Baby and ready for anything.  Trying to hurry this process up, however, results in Angry Baby. ** The Danish Boy, fresh out of the shower (so, naked, then), was unaware of this charming side to our child’s nature.  He put her down to get dressed.  He confessed later, “I had to put her in Time Out.”  The Danish Boy never puts the Spawn in Time Out.  He talks to her reasonably until she works herself into a fit and then declares, “she needs her momma” before handing me a hysterical child.  Then I get to put her in Time Out because she promptly begins to hit me and we do not hit momma. *** So this was a big moment for him, he actually had to do the discipline.

Despite this, he says he’s actually quite liked having this extra time with the Spawn.  She’s going through a growth spurt and teething like mad, so she’s been the total Velcro baby recently.  If it ain’t momma, it ain’t happenin’ was the motto around the house.  These mornings (and afternoons, since he’s the one who picks her up from daycare) have refocused her little mind on him.  Daddy also makes food.  Daddy also cuddles.  Daddy is also cool.  They talk together and on the way home, they take a little walk and eat berries.

Of course, as soon as I come home, she lights up and runs to me.  (You want a total ego boost?  Be greeted at the door by an enthusiastic toddler.  It’s all “Oh WOW!  It’s YOU!  How great to see YOU!”)  Then she just wants me and only me from then until bed, but that’s fine.  For me.  The Danish Boy is then stuck doing the cooking, which I used to do, and the washing up, which I also used to do.

Only after Spawn and I have gone to bed does he get to do whatever it is he wanted to do by himself.  He almost complained about this, but then wisely remembered that there were months where I never had any time to myself, any time where I wasn’t cooking, cleaning, or breastfeeding and shut up.

* Usually: a boob.
** Angry Baby hits and kicks and, as of recently, bites.
*** She’s one and a half, so she gets one and a half minutes of Time Out.

Friday, September 07, 2012

My Week in Review

Did you have a good week?  I had a good week.  I had an exhausting week.  I had a week that shows me that the next 15 weeks are going to be boring, exciting, easy, difficult, perplexing, clarifying, exhausting, but probably never ever restful.

On Monday I was thrown into it.  By the end of the day, we’d had a massive amount of information given to us (you know, the normal orientation things, like who wants a meal plan, here’s your pile of books, here’s your password to the internet) and several hours of lecture time.

I don’t think I’ve ever started a school where we began lectures the first DAY let alone the first WEEK.

Then again, most of my educations were going to be a hell of a lot longer than 16 weeks.

Also, none of my previous teachers/professors talked NEARLY as fast.  Swear to god, some of the sentences I heard this week went: brrrrrililililil brrrrrrrrilililil.  Then there will be one word that I understand and all is clear again.

Clear as mud.

Tuesday was more lecture and the Big Misunderstanding, i.e. gym class. 

Wednesday.  I learned to drive a tractor.  And plow a field.  Then I drove a tractor and plowed a bit of field.  Driving a tractor is almost not entirely unlike driving a car.  Double negation would leave you to believe that it is IN FACT just like driving a car.  No, it is unlike driving a car, but not entirely unlike driving a car.  There’s a clutch and a break and a gas pedal and a gearbox, which you use when you are driving on the road.  On the field you use a hand lever to increase gas to the engine and hand paddle to increase speed.  You can give the engine a huge amount of gas and just sit there, burning gas and not moving and you can also try to move and not give it any gas.  This, by the way, doesn’t work.  Trust me.  Then you have to lift and drop your plow, determine how deep you need to set the plow, watch it while you plow because you will need to change the depth the plow is set to based on soil conditions and angle you are driving at.  It’s a bit harder than you’d think, but not in the ways you would normally think.  Steering, for example, is a BREEZE!

Thursday we had 8 hours of health and safety regarding welding.  Eight hours.  HOURS.  EIGHT OF THEM.  I learned the following:
  • Welding causes cancer
  • Gases used in welding are highly flammable so don’t even THINK about kicking that canister

Anyone needing someone to help stage a large industrial “accident” may contact me via email.  Not that I’m saying I would… it’s just, well, I could.

Then we had a test.  I was understandably nervous.  I mean, after 8 hours, my brain is normally fried.  Eight hours of DANISH???  Are you kidding me???  Eight hours of listening to dead boring talk about ventilation, masks, glass, and five minutes of exciting talk about explosive gas… sure, bring it on!

It was open note, open book.  I asked if I could use Google Translate, I was allowed.  I Passed!


Friday was First Aid Day.  Now, if you take a Danish drivers’ license, you have to take a first aid course.  Unless you have another country's drivers’ license and you are taking the class to switch licenses.  Then you can skip that day.  Which I did, because it cost money to take and I was all “screw THAT!”  So today, the teacher was all “do you have a license?” and I was all “Yeah, but it’s been 18 years” and she was confused (maybe she though I said I was 18?) and asked, “when did you get your Danish drivers’ license” and I said “last year” and she was all “okay then.” And I was all “Er….” but in the end it didn’t matter, I think, because we still covered everything anyway.  And yes, first aid has changed in the last 18 years. 

Also, I have the lungs of a horse.  You need air?  I’m a gonna give you air!  In your lungs, bitch!  I may accidently give you a pneumothorax while I’m at it.  One free pneumothorax with every cardiac arrest.  What can I say, I’m just a giver by nature.

I have more first aid next week.  As well as my first “practical” in the cow sheds and another in the pig sty, biology, more health and safety, and something called the “month’s profile” which I’m not going to make any guesses on, because they’ll all be WRONG.  I’ll let you know next week. 

If I survive.  I’m kinda reeling with information here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

If this isn’t integration, I don’t know what is.

So can I just say HOLY COW?!?!

“Holy Cow” is the appropriately bad pun for any and all farming moments.  Just sayin’.

I was really really nervous before starting, mostly because, well, I gotta catch a ferry boat to and from school, I’m easily 15 years older than most, my Danish is shit… you know, the usual reasons kids are nervous about starting a new school.

The Danish Boy got it, sorta.  He decided to take archaeology classes at Hebrew University, in Israel.  He didn’t speak Hebrew and his English was abysmal.  (Obviously, it’s gotten better.)  So when he started classes, he was surrounded by people who didn’t speak his language and who knew how things worked but not always how to explain it all to a tall Dane.  So yeah, he knew why I was nervous.  But his “well, you just go in there and don’t be afraid to ask” approach, which UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES is right up my alley (hello, I’m an extrovert), was not going to work, as I pointed out, because WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW THAT I DON’T KNOW?

Currently, I am playing a game where I give myself points if I understand what’s been said 100% and answer CORRECTLY.  I deduct a point, not when I don’t understand (they don't make negative numbers that big), but when I so completely do not understand that it leads to hilarity.

I was up a point yesterday - I need to get me a pair of rubber boots because tomorrow I handle cows.

I had to take it away today, because “ID” on the lesson plan does NOT mean that you’ll be getting an ID card, it means what we in the USA call P.E. - that is, sports.

I was not the only one who didn’t bring proper clothes to change into, but you know, I’m an idiot for not having the slightest idea what was about to happen.  Minus one point.

But, I’m an idiot who is old enough to get over herself and I had a BLAST in gym class, jeans and t-shirts be DAMNED!

I also got hit by a lot of balls, trying to defend my team’s goal.  I really hope there are bruises.  It’s almost not worth getting hit if it won’t leave a mark.  Although, I’m glad the one I took directly to the face didn’t bust anything.  Pain, you ask?  I’ve birthed a human, my threshold for pain is astronomical.  Just please don’t poke me in the eye.  I hate that.

My classmates are a different bunch.  Most are older, but when I say “older” I mean, 19-22 instead of 16-18.  There’s one 27 year old and she was feeling a bit ancient until I got to whip out the I’ll-be-34-in-6-days card and win the oldest-person-in-class award.  The next eldest is a guy from Holland, who’s 30.  I WIN!!  WINNER!!  I think I’m also the only one who’s married and has a child.  I WIN AGAIN!!  ALL THE POINTS BELONG TO MEEEEEE!!!

Since it’s the “student track” we’ve all had a high school education, most of them did a biology/science track.  Two wanted to become nurses, but when that didn’t work out (no room in the nursing programs), they were at a loss as to what to do with themselves.  A few wanted to be veterinarians, but since EVERYONE and their SISTER wants to be a vet, you have to have the top grades to get in. 

A word on education here in DK - there are only so many spots in various educational programs and at university.  The more desirable the education, the more that apply, the higher your grades need to be to beat out the competition.  You apply for a whole lot and when you don’t get in, you flail around madly for a while and then often try something completely different.  We spent some time during break making fun of the kids who got into vet school who are completely unsuited to it, i.e. scared of blood, cats, etc.

Only one girl has a horse.  One girl has never seen a horse (in real life) before.  We’re pretty split, gender wise.  Almost as many girls as boys.  Not everyone grew up on a farm, many have no experience with animals.  Thus we all have our strengths and weaknesses. 

This last bit of knowledge is what makes the difference to me.  I was worried that I was going to be surrounded with people who had at least 6 months of experience under their belts, grew up on farms, and/or had this as their life’s main plan.  But we’re all in this together.  We're all missing something and better at something else.  Those with the experience are great at explaining and I believe my job is to keep asking “what?  Can you say that again?” for myself and the other’s who might be scared to admit that they don’t know.  This has already led to more and more of them admitting they don’t know something.  United in ignorance!

That tree?  Yeah, I have no idea what species of tree that is.  It’s what?  Never heard of it.  Can I eat that berry?  No?  Good to know.

Our first class was on landscapes.  Ummm, not how you would think.  It was about how you develop natural areas around your fields or in areas of your field where you cannot or should not cultivate and why this is a good idea.  Since there was a time in the recent past where this was not done and fields were plowed right up to the edges, it’s now important for our generation to replant and recreate these natural areas.

We went on a walk, which included a lot of “name this plant,” and you would not believe the vocabulary list I’ve got for myself.  Not including species of tree and grass.  That’s for next week. 

Tomorrow we suit up for practical training.  Cows, pigs, and “technical” - I’m hoping that means tractors.  Or welding.  Ooooooh, let me weld!!!  Fire!!  Steel!!  Awesome helmets!!