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Amongst other things, this is a love story.... the theme changes occasionally... this year it is fitness and learning to love yourself.

25 June 2013

Personality versus Skills

How many times have you worked somewhere and thought you could do better than your bosses?  Maybe you watched people with less experience beat you into positions you deserved, or maybe you just felt you missed out because you didn't look the part, too short, too fat, too sexy, too *insert nationality or colour of skin here.*  Or maybe the opposite is true, have you ever scored a job because you charmed your way through the interview?

Yesterday I scored 100% for my Danish oral exam.  I usually do well in exams. Í am accustomed to distinctions, high distinctions and have even won a few achievements and memorial awards. I know how to give the assessors what they want, but this perfect score came as a surprise to me.

It certainly comes as no surprise, to anybody that knows me, that I did particularly well on an oral exam... "She can talk with a mouth full of marbles under water, talkative, have a chat  and, does she ever take a breath" are sentences I have heard often...at least until I moved to country where I needed to learn a new language and listening became more important than talking.  I still share my views but with far fewer words, because I'm really not that good at Danish yet.

I have trouble pronouncing the difference between U and Y (a vowel in Danish) which to an untrained ear sound exactly the same. Then there is there 3 extra vowels, Å. which sounds (to me) like O, Æ which sounds like the A in way, and Ø which should be classified as Denmark's biggest natural disaster...and the source of many 'rød grød med fløde' jokes...

 It's not easy.

They Danes swallow their d's, g's and v's and r's which makes it impossible to hear the difference between syv, (seven) syg (sick), syd (south), or sy (sew)...because they all sound like soo.

I know I made the assessor laugh a few times, I used all my acting abilities to act natural, and like many danes, I uuummed and aaahed a lot between words and sentences, a tactic to try and stretch the time and find forgotten words. I chose a subject I am familiar with and had memorized my talk, but there were questions and diagrams I hadn't seen that I had to describe and discuss... and I know there were grammatical errors.  At one point I completely forgot the words for advantage and disadvantage, so I talked about both the the positives and negatives of the advantages and disadvantages...and talked and talked and talked. The only question the assessor asked me was if I was a Doctor or medically trained?

I would have been proud if I scored a pass, and impressed if I scored anything above 60%, my accent is thick, my grammar is atrocious.  I put adverbs in the wrong place and mess up tenses all the time. I forget words and just can't get my mouth around some of the really long words... 100% feels like I cheated, that I fooled the assessor into believing something that I'm not, and now my Danish friends and family think my perfect score means I can speak and understand perfect Danish. I'm afraid Danglish will have to suffice for a while longer. 100% is not a true reflection of my language skills, but perhaps it's a true reflection of two of my other favourite skills, the arts of acting and communication...and of course I have to give some credit to my fabulous teachers.

I am truly baffled by the results, getting more than I deserved, the opposite of being cheated but the feeling is very similar. The relief that it is all over and knowing I can go forth and enjoy a stress free Summer makes it easy to move on and just be grateful.

8 June 2013

Exams, endings and where's my birthday?

Apart from stress and judgment, exams are symbolic of change. They represent endings, new beginnings, uncertainty.  It's no wonder we had a couple of classroom battles in the last month. I have one more Danish exam on the 24th of June (happy birthday Sis) and so far I've passed the reading and writing.  I can watch and read news in Danish, have conversations with my bonus kids and the Captains family, and even manage a joke or two at the local bar now, but I still don't consider myself fluent. When I have a client sitting in the chair, I still have to point to parts of the body, or struggle with metaphors because we're not taught the names of internal organs, foot bones or complex emotional reactions in danish classes.

I've decided to keep learning Danish by studying 10th grade Biology and Psychology. The local school is a wonderful modern building with a great atmosphere and plenty of teachers I'll enjoy keeping in contact with. This decision is both a learning and networking opportunity and being close to home, it's a great excuse for a walk through the forest two days a week.  Ironically, even though I have studied both subjects at more advanced levels, I never studied them in high school - what you resist persists.

The classes will provide me with more words, more language, more inspiration. Do you think the kids will benefit from learning about nature and the mind with a therapist and ex-nurse in their class? Learning a new language has made me wish I studied so many more things. How cool would it be to know everything a linguist or anthropologist knows. My WIP has an anthropologist in it. My next book, perhaps a linguist, I can learn through my characters, what fun.

I am no stranger to exams in the heat of Summer, but I am a stranger to the end of the year being in June.  In Australia we grow up knowing about school years ending mid year in America and Europe, and it's a strange concept. The end of the year for us meant the start of Summer holidays, as well as preparing for Christmas, celebrating the new year, advancing a level in school and for me, born in January, I also turned another year older, that's a lot of new beginnings neatly packed together.

3am, sky doesn't get fully dark in summer
Sunrise at 4.30am
Summer in June and Christmas in Winter is wonderful, but I don't think I'll ever get used to my birthday being in Winter and the year not starting with a long holiday.  A break in the middle of the year, in summer, is perfect though. People can afford, or have time to go on holidays because it's not Christmas. The best of both worlds would be Summer at the end of the year and Christmas in the middle, or the other way around, just not together.

After 3 years I have acclimatised to the Scandinavian heat and can feel 'warmth' in the cold night breezes. Midsummer is celebrated on the 23rd of June, Sankt-hans-aften (St Johns Eve), the equinox or summer solstice, some say it is the official start of summer. Bonfires with witches on top are burned along coasts and waterways, all over Scandinavia. The days feel like they are getting longer but in reality they start to get shorter, the golden fields of canola are ready to be harvested, the blossoms have been replaced, and the vibrant greens that seemed to arrive so late will soon change to brown again. Queen Bernadotte of Sweden once said that there are only two seasons in Scandinavia, a white winter and a green winter.

sunset on Mariager Fjord
Despite the icy cold waters and chilly nights, I think my missing birthday is the main reason it never really feels like summer here. This year, some of my friend's are visiting  from Australia, (I've told them to pack some warm clothes). I'm starting a 'non' birthday barbecue tradition. Everyone should have a Summer birthday at least once in their lives, or celebrate festivals outside of their normal timezone, pretending works too.

The final photos for the day are some funny business the locals pointed out to me yesterday, quite literally in the center of town.  Here's the plant box.

Does anyone recognise the plant in the middle?

Did you know there is a Freetown in Copenhagen called Christania?  It's like a permanent hippie festival in the middle of the city, and it's main street is called Pusher Street, no need to guess why.