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Denmark Three!

This is the third in a series of blog posts from Whitties studying on Whitman’s Crossroads: Denmark program this summer with Professor Michelle Janning. This blog post is by Kyle.

Hello fellow readers! I am sorry for the lack of updates, but the class has started to pick up. I will try to recap as best I can, but the days have been zooming by so fast.

Nancy left off at our day to the castle…..

We woke up bright and early to head to the LEGO house in Billund. A quick 45-minute bus ride and boom, we were there. I instantly jumped off the bus and ran toward the giant yellow staircase that descends from the second story of the building. (I, later, found out that the area was closed… oops!) We received a wonderful tour from a LEGO representative and learned about all the fantastic things you could do there. The entire house is constructed around the idea of learning through play. Therefore, each of the different sections of the house targeted vital skills that the LEGO family wants children to develop when they go to the LEGO house.  

The red room was all about creativity; there were boxes and boxes of Legos that you could build whatever you wanted with. The blue room is concerned with problem-solving. You could create a race car and see how fast you could make it go. Or play an interactive game where you moved buildings around to satisfy digital Lego figures. And there was another section where you could make a fish out of legos and have a program digitize your fish and put it in an aquarium. The yellow room dealt with emotions; you could make a flower (which was actually super tricky, and I could imagine getting very frustrated) or a bug that would “come to life.” Finally, the green room was about social interaction. In this room, you could create mini figures with a billion different combinations of heads, hats, accessories, bodies, and hairstyles. You could make a motion stop film with your figurines. You could also spend hours observing the world that professional LEGO builders made that told hundreds of different stories.  All in all… it was an experience never to forget.

On Friday, we debriefed about some of the things we had learned so far and connected what we were observing and experiencing with the literature we had been reading during the trip. A theme that came up a few times was how many of the different institutions we looked at had a similar approach to how children learn and play. There has been an emphasis thus far toward giving children the tools to build and create without a template, without the expectations of a particular something they should be learning or building. This can be seen clearly from our trip to the culture house where there was a workshop full of tools and recyclable materials where children could imagine and create. A similar space was the Lego design studio, in which children are given a general task to create a mechanism that. For example, noise, except there are hundreds of different ways to meet that criteria and not a single “correct answer.”

Monday, we visited a refugee and deportation center called Sjaelsmark Deportation Center. Many students had different experiences and reactions to being here, so I do not wish to speak on behalf of the class because my emotions and experience could have differed widely from another student’s. When we came back to the classroom Deewa, a guest speaker, told us about her experience of being a refugee and contextualize some of the things we saw at Sjaelsmark. She emphasized how the media shapes our views regarding refugees and one of the main takeaways from Deewa’s story is to not see refugees as being hopeless or weak (like the media portrays) and seeing refugees as strong and just people who want to live.  

That’s all from me, folks. Look forward to Nancy’s blog post, where she is featuring each student about something they learned in Denmark.

Denmark Two!

This is the second in a series of blog posts from Whitties studying on Whitman’s Crossroads: Denmark program this summer with Professor Michelle Janning. This blog post is by Nancy.

I haven’t done too many bold things in life but writing (or typing for specificity sake) this blog post while on a moving charter bus is really something. This is me defying my motion sickness tendencies to deliver the content you are hopefully here for.

After already being in Denmark for an entire week we have *mostly* settled in. A few people are currently sleeping on the charter bus and I want to say it is due to the three-hour trip we are making to a town called Kolding (pronounced “cawl-din”) in central Denmark as opposed to jet lag. For the next three days, we will be meeting some Danish people such as Anna, a current high school student, and visiting several locations like a design kindergarten (still don’t know what this means) and the LEGO House! Kyle is super stoked for the latter location…

Not free water.

The first week at Denmark has been quite an interesting experience to say the least. For instance, I’ve learned that public transportation is so much more reliable than it is in America, particularly in Los Angeles. Last summer, I had an intern friend joke that nobody walked in Los Angeles out of choice and I can’t say she was completely wrong. Danes get around in a manner that significantly differs from the way Americans do. It’s a fair portion of walking and using public transportation— bus, metro, and the S Tog (train)— but an astounding amount is biking. I wonder if people ever forget where they parked their bike or if there is a speed limit for how fast one can cycle down the road. One of my biggest pet peeves are slow walkers so I’ve found myself frustrated a few times within this past week with fellow pedestrians. There really is no in between in Denmark, people either walk slow or bike as if they were competing in the cycling marathon that happens every so often in Walla Walla. It surely doesn’t help that the streets are extremely narrow; granted, the bikes parked on the sidewalk are ridiculously space-consuming.

Too. Many. Bikes!

An overabundance of bikes is made possible given the type of road infrastructure. Picture a standard street in America, sidewalk for pedestrians and a lane for normal vehicles. Now add another street-like path to this visual. That path, typically wider than the actual sidewalk, is around the entire city; people like myself could forget about this feature, though. Funny story, on Saturday my roommate Kaima and I were in route to meet up with fellow classmates at the Church of Our Saviour in Christianshavn to make a trek to the top of the tower. I had hopped off the bus and waited for Kaima to also follow suit. However, she didn’t budge from her seat so I tapped on the glass window (very antithetical to the Danish logic of not calling attention to oneself) yet that was a futile attempt because everybody but her turned my way. Mind you, the entire time I had been standing in the bike lane, a sure way to ask for a deadly sentence. I’m still here typing so I’m obviously not dead; I simply learned that standing there for a second or two minutes too long prompts to getting scolded in Danish by cyclists. I used my non-existent language skills to brush off the comments (or insults). Swerving skills were on point!

We climbed the top of the church tower for 40DKK.

Front view of the church building featuring unbothered Danes.

The trek up to the tower delivered a spectacular view.

When Kaima (’22) and I aren’t stuck together in the room, we take a breather at a bus stop hopefully headed in the right direction.

I’ve been eating a ton of bread and cheese… and ice cream. This is definitely not a complaint, quite the contrary. I’ve never enjoyed bread and cheese this much; super glad that I’m neither lactose or gluten intolerant in times like these! My parents don’t need to know that I’ll have to recuperate my bank account’s balance this summer due to the ice cream I’ve been consuming since being here. On a completely different note, if you ever happen to be in Denmark and need to go work out don’t go to the “gymnasium”, that’s actually not a gym by American standards but an educational facility. Tina, my host mom, looked very befuddled when I inquired whether she attended her dance class at the gymnasium located a few minutes from the house. In retrospect, I can now chuckle at that conversation.

Indulge in all the lactose if you’re not intolerant. Left to right: Kyle (’20), Nancy (’21), Rajul (’20)

Hydrate or die-drate. Here’s a dilemma: you can only choose one free service, is it water or is it health care?

Denmark One!

This is the first in a series of blog posts from Whitties studying on Whitman’s Crossroads: Denmark program this summer with Professor Michelle Janning. This blog post is by Kyle.

Wow, am I tired! Depending on where people started, many of us began our days at 3 am. We flew out of Walla Walla at 5 am. 

Over 24 hours of travel, and we are finally in Denmark! The students were immediately picked up by their host families. Funny story… I looked up my host dad on LinkedIn and thought I had found the correct man, but when my host dad came to pick me up, I realized I had looked up the wrong person. I think he could tell I was shocked, which made things a bit awkward in the car. But he is a great man and makes some funny jokes which eased the tension.

After a much-needed shower and collapsing onto our beds, we were expected at the Circus at 8:30 am sharp! (No rest for the weary travelers).  The Circus is a beautiful building that had actually been a circus in the 19th century but is now used for events such as DIS orientation or music awards etc.

We were treated to a performance by an up and coming musician named Drew, and also received anecdotal stories about past students getting lost in the city. Once that had concluded, Professor Janning gave a walking tour around DIS. We saw our classroom, that famous street with all the colored buildings (Nørrebro) and the walking street.   Then we were given three hours for lunch. 

After we were sent on our way home. I had a difficult time navigating the public transportation system, but after a good hour, I had finally made it home only to find that the key access to the house was having some difficulties. But I managed to get in, and then I was lucky enough to see my host sister’s soccer game! Her team won two to zero, which was quite the upset against the other team. It is funny and reassuring to know that Denmark parents act just the same as American parents when their children are in sports.

At dinner, my host sister asked me the dreaded question of if I could say “Rødgrød med Fløde” which is a Danish tongue twister because it has a lot of difficult sounds for non-Danish speakers to pronounce. Here is a video of people pronouncing it. Give it a try! Kyle is signing off and going to bed, good night!