Category Archives: Frankly Foreign Friday

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are found all over Europe, Asia, and Africa, and are an introduced species in New Zealand. There are no native hedgehogs in North America, so the readers from my homeland probably know vey little about them other than they look kinda like tiny porcupines, and there was a video game featuring a blue one that rolled around a lot.

They’re very common in Denmark, so I’m told. They are nocturnal, though, so I don’t stumble across them all the time or anything, and have never actually seen one in person in this country. I know they’re vey cute, but aren’t particularly exciting pets. Some people care quite a bit about animals, even ones that don’t make good pets.

Kirstin Fournais is one such person. After a successful career designing jewelry for the famous Danish designer, Georg Jensen, she retired to devote her life to animals full-time. She runs Pindsvinevennerne (Friends of Hedgehogs). The site is in Danish, but if you can’t read it, it’s still worth clicking “Galleri” and checking out the cute pics and video. They really are quite cute. She has 92 hedgehogs in her home. Yes, really. And another couple hundred people working for her also caring for more hedgehogs in need. She has learned enough about hedgehogs through her rescue efforts that she can educate her own vet on how to care for them. In addition to her many hedgehogs, she’ll also take in other animals who need some extra TLC, or even who just need a new home.

Such as my Lidja. As luck would have it, she had recently told her vet she had space for an elderly cat if anyone came in looking to put one down. A friend of hers, who found out about Lidja via my email plea to LINK members, approached her asking if she knew anyone who would take an older cat. Not only did she know someone, but she was that someone! Tomorrow, Lidja will be moved to her new home with a kind, loving woman who lives for animals. I can’t imagine a better place for her.

My Danish readers can support Pindsvinevennerne by becoming a member for only 80 DKK a year. There is also a nice selection of postcards with cute pictures, should any of you be of the Postcrossing persuasion. I will definitely be lending my support to the woman who is taking on the cat who has been such a good friend and companion to me for these past nearly 10 years.

Enjoy your new life, Lidja Fach-Pedersen!

when to wean

This isn’t about what’s best, what’s right, or what’s wrong. This is just about what I find confusing. It’s not about thinking people are bad or stupid or whatever. People I love and respect sometimes confuse me too. So please don’t think any of this is a personal attack. I know it can be a sensitive topic, but I’m really, really not mad at anyone or judging anyone. I’m just thinking out loud.

There are lots of different decisions people make when it comes to feeding their children, and whether or not I agree that those choices are always the best thing to do, I usually understand them. I understand not wanting to breastfeed. I understand wanting to breastfeed. I understand being frustrated with it, but trudging forward. I understand being frustrated and giving up. I understand weaning at whatever milestone the mother feels is appropriate to do so. I understand letting the child wean himself.

I don’t understand some of the reasons people give for why they weaned, or why they think other people should wean. Especially the latter. Why people care when other people wean is really beyond me.

Someone once said the most logical time to wean is when solids are introduced. That makes no sense at all. Solids are such a small part of the diet when you first introduce them, that you’d have to switch to formula. If you want to do that, fine, but I certainly wouldn’t say it the most logical thing to do. Logically, doesn’t it make more sense to breastfeed until such time as formula wouldn’t be necessary? Formula was invented specifically to replace breast milk, so if you don’t need or want to stop breastfeeding, LOGICALLY, you would never need any.

Some people make comments like, “if they’re old enough to ask for it, they’re too old to nurse.” Exclusively breast-fed infants ask for it by crying, rooting, seeking the nipple, etc. but they’re obviously not too old. Oh yes, I *know* they mean with spoken words when they say “ask for it,” but that’s not any more logical. First of all, what exactly counts as “asking”? Grunting and pointing? Sign language? Any sound that might be an attempt at a word? A full sentence? There’s nothing about speech development (which happens over a VERY wide age spectrum, btw) that has anything to do with breast milk. And I can’t think of any reason that becoming more and more clear and accurate in the way you ask for it should mean you deserve it less than before.

If it makes YOU uncomfortable to nurse your child after a certain point, then fair enough. If YOU never want to breastfeed at all, or only want to for X months, or whatever, I really don’t care. I just don’t see why that should be a universal rule. Can there be a universal rule? What do you think? If breastfeeding is going fine, if the mother is happy and healthy, if the child is happy and healthy, if both the mother and the child wish to continue, at what point is the child “too old” purely by virtue of their age? And why? I do NOT mean, what did you choose to do, what would you choose to do, or what do you plan to do. I mean, in a totally ideal breastfeeding mom-child pair, is there such a thing as “too old”? Is there a point when what the mother and child want for themselves stops being relevant, and if so, why? And I mean REAL reasons. “I’m not used to seeing children that age nurse” is not a reason.

the entire Danish school saga

I’ve complained about it a lot, but I can’t blame you if you haven’t been able to keep up. All my complaints are spread out all over the place. So I’ve decided to compile it into one big blog post, just… because.

I have to pass five modules of Danish language in order to stay in the country, which is fine. I went to the language school near me for a laughably short interview during which the school director determined I should be placed in the lowest level. I really felt like she had decided on my level before the interview even began, because I asked her something about how the school works in English, because I wanted to make sure I really, really understood this point. I think she just assumed at that point that my Danish must suck, and she seemed really dismissive after that.

I started module 1, and the way it works is you’re in a module 1 class until you can pass it, and the students start and stop at different times. So the teacher pulled me to the side since it was my first day (and not anyone else’s) to give me books and stuff. Remember this class is for people who don’t speak ANY Danish, but it’s basically immersion-style. He explained the course structure and what the books were for and everything in Danish and asked if I understood. I said, “ja” and he was like, wait… really?! After a bit of talking, he said I should be in at least module 3, but unfortunately he couldn’t change what the director did. He did say I could take the test the next time it was offered instead of after 3 months, which is the usual time. To pass the test, amongst other things, you have to have read three books (the length and difficulty of which depends on the module, so for module 1, I use the term “book” kinda loosely), so even if you’re a star at the language, you need some time to prepare for the test.

I passed modules 1, 2, and 3 in a about month each (though with sick days and vacations and such, it took longer than 3 calendar months). My module 3 teacher recommended me for the module 5 class, because she figured I’d fly through module 4 as well and could just take the test in my own time while studying with the module 5 class, but I requested to be put in a proper module 4 class anyway since I wasn’t in a hurry and module 4 actually has some new-to-me material. I had been in module 4 for about three weeks when I had to stop because my morning sickness was out of hand.

I contacted the school at the beginning of January and asked to restart, and they send me a letter that very day with the details of my new class. I was all set to start right away. When I arrived, I discovered all the other students in the class were in module 2. I wanted to talk to the teacher and find out if there was a particular reason for this placement, but unfortunately she had a sub for the day, and of course the sub didn’t know diddly. I thought I’d stick it out for the day anyway because at least I’d be using Danish and practicing a bit, but once we headed to the computer lab and our assignment was given, I realized I wouldn’t actually be speaking to anyone, and what we were asked to write was so far below my level as to not be helpful at all. Like “See Spot run.” stuff, when I’m supposed to be able to do past, future, conditionals, and subjunctives by now. The guy next to me was looking up every single word in the assignment in a dictionary. I got up and walked out.

I emailed the school and said they had mistakenly placed me in module 2 but I’m actually in module 4. I got a reply just now that my class is for module 3 (not sure why everyone thinks they’re in 2, then, but whatever) and since I haven’t passed module 3 yet, I’m in the right class. BUT I HAVE PASSED MODULE 3. I know I did. I remember it very well. And I remember sitting in a module 4 class and doing module 4 assignments, and I remember turning in all my module 3 books and getting module 4 books.

So, the secretary said she would check with the woman who administers the test to check and see if I passed or not, but test woman was out sick. For some reason, no one else can look. Whatever. After a few days, secretary gets back to me to tell me test woman says I failed. So I asked how it’s possible for me to have failed but then have this very same woman tell me to my face that I passed with high marks, and then to be placed in an advanced class, and for me to have in my possession the books and homework assignments for the next module. I dug up the name of my previous teacher in the hopes they could find out if she remembers me or anything, and I even found the date of the text I sent home saying I passed. (I would not have sent such a text just because I *felt* I passed, kwim? Someone had to have TOLD ME that I passed.)

The secretary didn’t bother trying to explain how this all happened. She just came out with: “Well, we were supposed to do another placement interview anyway since it’s been so long. I didn’t think you needed one, but obviously you do now.” I felt like there’s nothing I could do about this, because it’s what’s “supposed” to happen anyway, so even if I can prove that I passed and was in the middle of module 4, they’re were going to reinterview me to make sure I didn’t forget everything. That shouldn’t be a big deal, but all I could think about was how my first interview had gone. Uuuuugh. I got scheduled for an interview a couple days later.

The interview guy (someone I’d never met before) started out with “do you speak Danish?” I said yes, and he asked, “did you go here?” I said, yeah and actually…. I explained the whole mess, and he volunteered to go get the test for me so we could figure it out. He came back and said there was no test. It was as if I never took it at all. I said I knew I took it and I passed, and he said, how about you take it now? (Just the written part… I think having explained the clusterfudge in Danish was good enough for him.) It’s a two-hour test, I did it in 20 minutes, and he said there were no mistakes, and obviously I should be in module 4! I went in all angry about it but left happy. He was very understanding about the whole thing.

The interview was on a Thursday, so I was expecting to start on the following Tuesday, but I need to get a letter from the school telling me the details and confirming my spot. When I didn’t get my letter by Tuesday afternoon, I asked what was up, and the secretary said that she needed a referral from the municipality. She wrote to them asking for it on Monday, and as soon as they get it, they’ll send me my letter. Don’t ask me why I didn’t need one before. I don’t know.

Yesterday, the secretary emailed me to say she was sending my letter right away, my referral finally came through, and I would start classes on Tuesday. Please let this be the end of the saga. Assuming there are no more glitches, that’s still a whole month wasted when I could have been learning Danish and making progress towards the test I need to pass to stay in the country!

the sunrise disproves you

Frankly Foreign Friday

Some people have this belief that, because science hasn’t yet explained absolutely everything, then anything is possible.

No.

Sometimes you have some information, and not all of it, but enough that you can eliminate some of the possibilities. Let’s say you look at something in the dark. You might be able to tell, for instance, that the right side is lighter than the left side, but you can’t really tell what colors it is. This is enough information that if someone said to you, “the right side is black and the left side is white,” that you could say, “that’s not true.” Black is not lighter than white. That possibility has been eliminated, and “but you don’t know what colors it is,” isn’t a very good come back, is it?

This is kinda like science. We don’t know everything, but we do know a lot of stuff, and some of what we know means that your crazy idea is not possible. “A-ha!” you say, “but science has been wrong before!” Yes, that’s true. It still doesn’t mean anything is possible.

People used to think that the sun revolved around the earth, and now we know that the earth revolves around the sun. With the information that we used to have… sunrises, sunsets, and so on… both of these scenarios could account for our observations. If someone suggested that, actually, neither the sun nor the earth move at all, that would not account for our observations. It doesn’t make sense, and it was never possible, because we can see movement. So while science was indeed wrong about which body was revolving around which, the field was never completely open for any and all suggestions about the relationship between the sun and the moon.

The next time someone snorts and says science hasn’t yet explained homeopathy or acupuncture or the Virgin Mary in your French toast, but that’s only because science hasn’t caught up to their awesomeness yet, remember this. Science is never going to explain homeopathy, because it’s not possible. We don’t know everything, but we do know enough to say that the proposed mechanism for homeopathy is nonsense, and we have observed time and time again that it is not efficacious. It isn’t that science hasn’t figured it out yet; it’s that homeopathy is crap. And actually, science has explained your toast’s Virgin Mary. It isn’t my fault if you don’t like the explanation.

There are plenty of things that truly are still possible, and that’s what makes science so cool. There’s always more to be learned! Just be careful to recognize there are still limits, and some of what people are claiming is like saying the sun and moon don’t move at all.

I’m offended!

Frankly Foreign FridayWhat does it take to get you offended? What about deeply offended?

In the United States, there has been a growing number of billboards going up in various cities over the past year or so. They feature a blue sky with clouds in the background, and the words, “Are you good without God? Millions are.” Typically there is also a URL for the sponsoring group, which usually has a name like {City or State name} Coalition of Reason or {City or State name} Atheists.

Inevitably, the billboard goes up, and then the local news station does a story about the new controversial billboard. They interview concerned citizens who say they are offended at the existence of this billboard.

I just. Don’t. Get it.

At all.

One man even said it was a slur to Christians. Funny how Christians aren’t even mentioned on the billboard. All it says is that some people exist who are good people and also happen not to believe in God. Perhaps you disagree with that statement. Perhaps your definition of “good” requires a God belief. I still don’t see how it’s offensive.

This is something that has puzzled me for a while now, and I often thought to myself that there are so many billboards, signs, buildings, etc. that effectively say “Christians exist” and “Muslims exist” and “Jews exist” and I don’t find that offensive at all. I also thought to myself that if there were a billboard with the Bible verse about how the fool says in his heart there is no God, and someone said they were offended, I bet Christians would come out of the woodwork to cry intolerance. Probably the same ones who are offended by the atheist billboard.

Anyway, yesterday, I’m sad to say, I came across another stupid “I’m offended” comment, this time from an atheist who is effectively offended by the fact that Christians dare to say aloud that they exist. There was a discussion about how the box the Bumbo seat comes in has a “Jesus fish” on it, and, at least in more recent productions of it, the Bumbo itself has one on the bottom as well. (For my non-spawning audience, the Bumbo is a stupid foam chair you can put infants into to force them to sit up before they can physically do so on their own. For some reason, it’s popular.) Several people expressed surprise at the overt religious symbols, and some said they wouldn’t buy one, or wished they hadn’t bought one, because of it. I guess that’s your prerogative. If you don’t want to buy products from people who are open about their religion, no one’s going to force you to. Personally, if I wanted a Bumbo, I’d still buy one regardless of the fish on the box. I don’t want one, because I think they are stupid, but I thought they were stupid long before I knew about their packaging. (Others find them stupid too, by the way.)

Then yesterday, someone posted that they were deeply offended about the Bumbo packaging. Really? Why?

I just. Don’t. Get it.

Chic-fil-A is another company that is open about their Christian ties. They’re closed on Sundays, and don’t make any bones about WHY they’re closed on Sundays. It’s a slight bummer if you’re craving a chicken biscuit early on Sunday morning, but otherwise I can’t find it in myself to give a rip. I like the food, and I’ll eat there. If I didn’t like the food, I wouldn’t, even if I were Christian. Their business is selling food, so that’s what I base my decision on. I don’t understand why someone would be offended that the owner of a fast food chain fails to kowtow to “the norm” in favor of standing up for his own beliefs. He thinks they should be closed on Sundays, so he decided to make it so. Good for him. Why would I be offended? And why is that different that putting a fish on a box? Who cares?

About Girl Parts

Frankly Foreign FridayI’ve heard this kind of thing before, a lot. Someone explain it.

“I’m a week late every month!”

What does that mean? Seriously. If it happens every month, then that’s just… how it is. It can’t be late. It’s normal. Perhaps you mean to say “my cycle is a week longer than I want it to be” or “my cycle is a week longer than it was at some other point in my life.” But to say you’re late by the same amount of time every single time your period comes is kinda like saying “I’m 5’3, but when I get measured with an accurate yardstick, it always says 5’2.” Well then, honey, you’re 5’2.

Unless I’m missing something. What else could it mean?

Santa

Frankly Foreign Friday

I know I said I was over Christmas, but now that Christmas is actually long over, I’m ready to think about it again.

Let’s talk Santa.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that you have at least one child old enough to have conversations with, you celebrate Christmas, you’re living in a culture where Santa-belief is normal in children, and you don’t feel the need to explicitly tell your child that Santa isn’t real. I realize that not all my readers fall into those categories, but it’s not the first time I’ve asked you to pretend, right? So we’re pretending.

These are all things that I can understand, and my point is not to debate them. What I want to know, is if you’ll go that step further to actively and explicitly lie about the existence of Santa, and if so, why? Why is there this whole battery of tools designed with no other purpose but to convince children that Santa is real? And I don’t mean vague junk like the “Yes, Virginia” letter. I mean things like NORAD Santa and paying money for fake pictures of Santa in your living room. I get going along with it when your kid declares there’s a Santa. But I don’t get spending an hour putting “reindeer prints” on the roof so you can point to them the next morning and say, “Look! Reindeers really were here!”

So, I just want to know, what’s the point? Anyone?

this post may make your young children ask questions you don’t want to answer

Frankly Foreign Friday

One of the things that has been going around the internet, apparently, is some junk to do with Jennifer Love Hewitt and vajazzling. If you haven’t heard about this yet, it’s probably highly googlable. Anyway, it bothers me, but probably not for the reason you think.

I don’t care what Jennifer Love Hewitt or anyone else does to make themselves feel better or happier, as long as it doesn’t affect me. Few things could possibly affect me less than the nether regions of a celebrity I have never met, will never meet, and isn’t even associated with any TV shows or movies that I enjoy watching. So, whatever.

I also hate the miserable excuse for a word vajayjay, and I’m not even sure if that’s better or worse than calling it her “precious lady.” But that’s not what I’m ranting about either.

The first syllable in vajazzling, and the entirety of vajayjay refer specifically to the vagina, and she’s not bedazzling her vagina. I know it’s a stretch, but let’s just assume, for the sake of argument, that genital bling, in general, is not pointless. I’ll pause while you attempt to wrap your head around that.

*elevator music*

With me yet? Oh, all right. I’ll give you some more time.

*soft jazz*

OK, so we’re pretending it’s not pointless, right? Well, if it’s in your vagina, it would be. The vagina is inside. No one can see your bling there. I realize we’re not talking about something with a large audience in the first place, but when I say “no one” here, I really do mean “no one.” There would be too much work involved and not enough reward for your sig other to go hunting for your vaginal rhinestones.

If you’re doing something to the bits that are actually visible without a flashlight and spelunking expedition, you’re doing it to your vulva. Saying vagina when you mean vulva is like saying mouth when you mean face. I know they both start with the same letter, but they’re not the same thing. Really, it shouldn’t be that hard, and we don’t need people like Jennifer Love Hewitt trying to blur the lines and make it even more difficult to accurately describe one’s anatomy.

It should be vuljazzling. Or nonexistent. One of the two.

More on Danish

Frankly Foreign Friday

Tuesday was my first day back in Danish classes after Christmas break. The way my language school does things is every student gets a letter in the mail telling them what room to go to on what day and who your teacher is. That’s pretty much it for communication.

Several months ago, I asked my teacher if I could switched to online courses. He said he’d look into it, and then a couple days later, I got a letter in the mail.

When I realized the “online courses” actually have absolutely nothing to do with online learning at all, I emailed the school asking if it was possible to switch back. They didn’t reply to my email, but a couple days later, I got a letter in the mail with a room number.

You might be wondering what other communication I might want. Isn’t that enough? Well, imagine my surprise when I show up to my first day of evening courses again after that letter and realize I’m in module 3 instead of module 2. I would have liked to have known that, for example.

Well, it happened again.

I passed the module 3 test with flying colors in the beginning of November. The module 4 class didn’t meet for the next two weeks, for reasons that were never explained to me at all. My first module 4 class wasn’t scheduled until the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I remember, because I was debating whether I should plan to be absent on Thanksgiving, but then on Tuesday I got an email that class was cancelled. I decided I should probably go to my first day, especially since we weren’t actually planning to do anything on Thanksgiving Day anyway, so that was my first day. When I show up, I’m informed that I’m one of about 4 people in the class that AREN’T taking the module 4 test the next week, so we’re going to spend all our time preparing for the test. You know, the one that’s a full module ahead of the one I just took. The one I’m not expected to take for another six months. This is not the best use of time for me. I understand why it happened, but I’d just as soon have stayed home.

The next week, my teacher had to administer the text to most of the class, so we had a substitute those two days. I can’t say I didn’t learn anything, but again, it wasn’t the best use of my time. The week after that, we actually had one day of normal class on Tuesday, and Thursday was a Christmas party. So I’ve had two weeks of module 4, and 75% of that barely counts.

The teacher said everyone would be getting a new teacher after the break, so when I got my letter in the mail, I wasn’t surprised. What surprised was showing up on Tuesday and finding out I’m in a module 5 class.

Before I could protest this, the teacher said we would be talking soon about my situation. OK, fine. I’ll wait. We didn’t get a chance to talk that day, but we talked yesterday. I asked why I was in the class, and he said he thought it was strange too, but it must be because I’m taking the final test in June. I said I didn’t want to take it in June, and he said, well, then you shouldn’t be in this class. It was that simple. I was relieved I didn’t have to explain myself or argue about it, but I’m still a bit confused as to why I had to say it at all after the conversation I had with my previous teacher just a few weeks ago. Whatever.

So I grabbed my bag and my coat and went straight to another classroom. Now I’m in a module 4 class with module 4 people.

I liked the module 5 teacher. I had him for module 1, and I think he’s a really good teacher, and a nice person, and I’m a bit sad I left his class because of that. Also, I understand him really well. I don’t know what it is, but some Danes are just easier for me to understand than others. He doesn’t talk slowly or annunciate like mad or anything obvious like that, but I never have any problems understanding him. My new teacher, on the other hand, drives me crazy because I never have any idea what she’s saying even though I’m sure I know every word. So on the one hand, it’s frustrating to have her, and on the other hand, I need to be able to understand whatever Dane I encounter, so it’s probably best that I have the more difficult one.

I also liked the module 5 students. They were more confident and had fewer mistakes. I felt like I was more on par with their proficiency in Danish. The module 4 students don’t like answering questions in class, and when they do, I often have a hard time understanding through their thick accents and problems with grammar and usage. On a long-term, practical level, it’s less useful to be able to understand them. It might help me learn to be patient though.

I still think I made the right decision. I want to really learn this stuff, and really know it. I want it to be second nature. I want to be able to think in Danish. If I rush it and do just enough to get through the tests, that won’t happen. I know I could pass module 4 now, but then I’d miss out on all the lessons that go with that, and if I want lessons later, they cost me money.

So here’s to module 4. May I begin to understand raspy, mumbly Danish women more easily, and to put my adverbs before my verbs in subordinate clauses without thinking about it. Skål!