Sunday, January 30, 2011

Holly's Bucket List includes this...

You're looking at a spiral staircase wrapped around the steeple of a church in the middle of Copenhagen. My stomach lurches even looking at this picture. I can't decide if I would be proud after accomplishing something like this, or just scarred. Seeing that I have trouble walking up a plain-ol' flight of stairs like a normal human being (anyone from my college ever see the trembling girl gripping onto the banister while walking up the glass stairs in the science center? That's me!), I have a feeling that it might be on the more scarring side.
(photo found online).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Children Chillin'

Every Thursday from now on I will be visiting a Vuggestue in Copenhagen, or a day care center for infants-3 year olds. Did you know I’m studying child development here in Denmark? Well now you do!

Day care centers are so different here. In fact, the way the child is viewed here is so different. This is what I grew up around:

Picture Mother and her one year old boy Charlie walking down the shore of some lovely beach. Charlie picks up a rock.

Mother: What is it, Charlie? What did you find? Did Charlie find a rock? Is that a rock, Charlie?

Charlie: Wock.

Mother: Yes! A ROCK, Charlie! Is it gray? Is it a gray rock?

Charlie: Wock.

Mother: Honey! You’re so smart. Are you hungry, honey? Oh, be careful, Charlie! Don’t get too close or you might fall in! But don’t worry too much, because Mommy will catch you!

Charlie: Wock.

End scene. So, growing up with that around me, it has been somewhat of a shock learning about the ways children are treated and viewed here. You mean one year olds can actually drink out of a glass without a sippy cup or top? And two year olds can put on and zipper up their cute winter coats by themselves? Can’t I just do it for them? No, I’ve learned, I shouldn’t. Instead, I should step back and let them accomplish it on their own, even if it takes 10 minutes. Because here in Denmark they believe in the competent child. And guess what? Surprise! Children are so competent!

When I got to my Vuggestue, it was nap time. Nap time is from noon until whenever they want to wake up. One small girl in a flowery jumper was already awake, and over the period of the next two hours, little blond, blue eyed children emerged from the napping area, wide eyed and sleepy, ready for their buttered Smørrebrød and apple slices. They could sleep for four hours if they wanted to. It was up to them! Snack time involved real glass cups, and the kids (and we’re talking kids who just learned how to walk), were pouring themselves milk.

The women who run the day care center are there to provide support and affection. They don’t hover or micromanage anything. They sit back and watch the children play, and they read to them, rub their backs, and sing songs. After being there for two hours I felt like splaying out on the comfy rug and making baby noises. Everything is so laid back and comfortable, and it makes so much sense! There is no stress surrounding the child, no huge clouds of anxiety hovering over them. No sleep or poop or eating or burping schedules. They are just kids, growing up and learning.

So I’ve decided, I’ll have my kids here. Or I’ll start a Danish inspired Vuggestue in New York City. Would you guys enroll your children there?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Friday Night Adventures

On Friday was the welcome party for my program's students. And by welcome party I don’t mean a gathering of students standing in little circles shifting their feet, eating Pigs in A Blanket out of napkins. I mean, Welcomeeee Partyyyyy!!!!! Free shots!!

I told myself to go. I said, “Joy, no choice. Go.” I only whined a little:

“But can’t I just stay home and watch the Bachelor…?”


“But if I go that means I have to take the train for an hour into the city, and then an hour back. And I already did that today.”

“No choice.”

Disclaimer: It’s not that I’m antisocial or against partying. I love a good party, especially when it’s at college, and I have to walk 50 feet down College Street, and I don’t feel weird doing weird stuff because everyone already knows I’m weird.

I convinced myself to go. On the way to the train, I said to myself, “Stop thinking. Just go.” Why was I thinking so much anyway? My theory is that I was at my limit of uncomfortable-ness. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most stressed and 1 being at incredible ease, navigating the train system was about a 6, finding my classrooms and going to class was also about a 6, the fear of getting lost and losing my passport and my shoes and my head was about an 8. So going to this party and having all those things in addition was pushing me to a 9.

Once I got on the train I called a few new friends. They all said the same thing, “We will be at the party around 9 ish, we are going to pre-game first.” Fun! Only problem was, these people lived about thirty minutes in the opposite direction of where I was heading, 2 buses, one train, and a fifteen minute walk away. Fine. Except I had forgotten my glasses, which meant I was blind to street signs and oncoming bikers, and it was getting dark out, which meant I was blind to everything except Time Square sized signs. And then: beep beep. My phone—low battery.

“Don’t give up.” I told myself. “I’ll just go to the party by myself. Two hours early. No big deal.” And then an image of me wandering into a club, squinting at fellow students and passing time reading the graffiti on the bathroom stall doors popped into my head.

I sunk into my seat and wallowed in self-pity. I got to the city at about 7:15 and sat on a bench to contemplate what to do. I tried listening to Rihanna to pump myself up,

but I kept picturing my host family, cuddled together in a candle lit room, drinking tea and watching a Danish movie. I looked at my train schedule. 1 hour until the next train going back into my town.

10, 20, 30 minutes passed. I counted 23 women with Hunter rain boots. I counted 37 bikes, 11 babies.

40 minutes, 50 minutes, 1 hour. Train! But this train looked different, was called something different, and therefore, I watched it pull out of the station. Then I looked at the screen, and realized it was an express version of the train I usually take. Express? I didn’t even know that existed. Next train: 57 minutes.

Enter: strange man with pointy black shoes. He sat down next to me on the bench and started speaking to me in Italian, and then Danish, and then French.

I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, but he kept talking.

And talking.

I tried having an imaginary prolonged phone conversation so that he would leave me alone.

But you know what showed up then?

Finally. I came home, and the family was still on the couch, and the tea was still hot. And at least I got some fresh air.

The end.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Typical (Overcast) Day:

Waiting for the train...
Strolling down a cobblestone street...

Visiting an ancient church...

Grabbing a "light snack" with host mom..

Stopping by to say hi to the ducks...

And then coming home to play with the Japan, the giant rabbit,

and her babies!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Happy Birthday to..

My MOM!!!!!!
I can't believe you're 41 already! Wow! :)
Sending love from Denmark xoxoxox

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


As some of you know, it is extremely difficult for me to stay in the present moment. Planning ahead-scheduling-more planning is as satisfying to me as a piece of rich cheesecake or a hot bath. It's like scratching a terrible itch on your back you can't quite reach. I loveee it. Ever since I could write I discovered the wonders of to-do lists and wrote ones such as:
***Wake up
***Eat breakfast. Either pancakes if Dad will make them or maybe toast?
***brush teeth
***Narrow down my top choices of wedding dress design. Strapless or lacy short sleeves?
***Find Aaron Carter's agent/publicist's number so I can arrange a date with him?

As the years progressed, so did my compulsive planning, so you can imagine how ridiculous the To-Do lists I have accumulated in my journals are. And because the future equaled a beautifully vast and clean slate on which I could accomplish everything and anything, planning my life minute by minute became an excuse to escape the present moment and slip into control mode, where the future was mine. All mine. Well, last year, a good friend who noticed this absurdity recommended I read one of Thich Nhat Hanh's books, the wonderful buddhist monk, teacher, and poet. All you have to do is open one of his books and you are slammed with a wonderful slap of tranquility. I have his book called "You Are Here," and last semester at school, I wrote the phrase in huge blue paper letters on my wall to remind myself to, well, be there. It worked, kinda.
Anyway. I found something I like about traveling. When you leave your comfort zone to go to the uncomfortable, you are forced to be wherever you are, and only there, in that moment. Your brain simply doesn't have room to include your issues, whatever they may be. In the few days that I was traveling and trying to adjust to my new home, I forgot about facebook, gmail,, tetris (well ok, maybe not on the plane). And although I may have been ripping off my cuticles to cope with anxiety, I was also extremely present, in a very focused, clear way. And there is something so nice about listening and hearing yourself, when all you have is yourself. It makes me sad, very, very, very, very sad, to think about how far away we are from ourselves these days with the Apple store taking over our lives. And I bet Thich gets sad thinking about it too :-(
Sorry for the cheese-ball post. On a more relevant note, here's my Dish of Danish for the night:

Behold. That right there is where the Danish Royal family resides. "Amalienborg Palace" its called, or Queen's Palace. The crazy thing about it is that I basically walked up to the steps, and was greeted by these charming toys I mean boys I mean guards:

Imagine if Obama lived in a nice apartment somewhere in DC and had Bo the portuguese water dog and maybe a doorman as his security? Well, the Danes would be down! They have trust down pat here. The Crown Prince of Denmark rolled up in a nice tinted Volvo and that was that. The toys marched over and watched him enter his home, and then marched back to their spot and made a little "YA!" noise, which apparently means someone royal came home. Trust, yes. You see carriages with the babies intact outside of stores while the Mom is inside, examining a nice blouse or buying a kop kaffe (say that out loud if you're having trouble figuring out what it is). Bikes aren't locked half the time. I like-y but it sho is different!

Monday, January 17, 2011


FINALLY. I have a couple minutes where I feel like I won't either hyperventilate with overstimulation and jet-lag or pass out from overstimulation and jet-lag. Right now, I am just kind of...jet-lagged. Sorry in advance if this blog ends up making very little sense. :)
Saturday night feels feels like 28 days ago. I waved goodbye to my parents, who looked like two little hobbits parting ways with the shire(not to say that I can even compare to Middle Earth--just saying they looked super small and especially sad since small people like hobbits look so sad when they're sad). The plane ride was smooth for the first 5 hours, so I passed time by watching Avatar, beating my best score in Tetris, and seeing how long I can chew on a cube of Monterey Jack (about six minutes, unimpressive). Then I fell asleep for about fifteen minutes, dreamt that I was an Avatar connecting my little hair follicles/tentacles/connecting things with Brad Pitt, and woke up with my right arm in a crippling state of pins and needles and the plane going through the permanent press/hot water cycle in the most vicious laundry machine I've ever been in. I dealt with it by ripping off my cuticles and keeping an eye on the sleeping bald man two rows across from me. That's the best trick for those afraid of flying: as long as the deep sleeper remains sleeping, all is okay! (I also recommend locating the exit rows, one is usually around aisle 17, and planning an escape. If it's a water landing, think about taking your shoes off while the plane is in its rapid descent....). Anyway, bald man ended up sleeping through the whole flight, so it couldn't have been that bad, right?
The town I'm staying in is about 50 minutes away from the center of Copenhagen and smells like wood burning fires and fresh rain. It's flat and open, and there are large fields that are a deep, dark green. It becomes light out at about 8 and dark out promptly at 5. The metro/train is always silent, and people wait patiently at street curbs when the walking sign isn't on, even if a car or bike is no where in sight. People even smell slightly different-- some kind of soap or shampoo that isn't Dove or Pantene.
More later--but right now, I'm going to bed. bed bed bed bed.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


One night years ago when I was especially bored, I opened my journal and decided to create an “Opposite Joy” character sketch. Since naming her Miserable or Depressed wasn’t an option, I chose Holly, a name I had always liked. Holly is fair, with blond, curly hair and blue eyes. She’s extraordinarily timid and submissive. She loves asparagus and smelly sponges, as well as six mile runs and roller coasters …you get the point.

Holly is also adventurous. She lives for plane rides, the thrill of lifting off the ground and the rush of clouds around her. She dreams of month long trips around the world in ships and trains and boats and colorfully painted vans. Since Holly happens to live inside me (exact location is not specified in journal), you can imagine she is somewhat sick of my opposite-ness of her. She especially has a problem with my fear of anything that isn’t my room-my-bed-my-same-exact-pillow-and-sheets-I’ve-had-since-I-was-six-attitude. These are just a few fears of mine that she deals with on the regular:

1. Anything that lifts off the ground and remains off the ground. Roller coasters, airplanes, elevators, cranes…GET OUT OF HERE. I’d rather eat a live worm. I’d rather hug a cactus.

2. Traveling away from home aka safe place to be not at home aka not safe place.

3. Having to sleep in a sleeping bag. With a bunched up sweatshirt as a pillow.

4. Unpredictable toilets.

You definitely get the point. I am the least adventurous person ever. But since Holly doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon and has even convinced me that asparagus (plus butter&lemon&salt) is not all that bad, I decided to amuse her just a little as well. By going to Denmark. For four months. On Saturday night. I have 14 some hours of off-the-ground loveliness ahead of me. Yikes! Wish me luck, and see you in Copenhagen!