Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Danish Christmas Traditions

A group of us were sitting around last night and had an interesting conversation about Danish Christmas traditions. Here are a few of things that were mentioned.

-The big day for celebrating is Christmas eve.
-Christmas day is mostly for visiting and playing with presents.
-Boxing day is known as second Christmas day and the 23rd is sometimes reffered to as little Christmas.
-One person remembered that one Christmas eve morning his mother would serve hot chocolate and æblesivers (little apple dounuts that look like Timbits) for breaakfast. Most of the others thought that much sugar for breakfast sounded terrible but the man pointed out that it was no worse than North Americans eating pancakes for breakfast.
-Turkey is not big thing here. It tends to be a certain kind of roasted pork or, if you want to get very traditional, goose.
-Desert, aside from æbleskivers, is traditionally rice pudding with an almond in it. Whoever finds the almond, gets a prize.
-Presents are opened on Christmas eve.
-Candles are lit on the Christmas tree. Yes, with real fire. My Danish family in Canada do this too.
-Santa Clause is called Julemand. I asked what he does over here and was told he delivers the gifts in person on Christmas eve. I guess there's no need for milk and cookies then.
-Apparently many people here feel that believing in Julemand is healthy for children. Teaching them about God, however, is indoctrinating them with superstition.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I just booked my ticket out of here. It feels kind of weird to think that I've been here almost a year and it feels just as weird to think I'll be leaving so soon. But I won't be going straight home to Canada. The month of February is going to be spent in Ireland doing a bit of extra Baha'i service and seeing the family again. In the mean time there are still about six weeks left to go in Denmark, including the Christmas holiday. The weather has stayed pretty warm here and we still don't have snow yet but there's been pleanty of rain and almost no sunlight. I've been told that I've been very lucky when it comes to the weather, that's it's usually much worse, but that doesn't really help.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

God Jul

Even with everybody over here trying to abandon religion Christmas is still a big deal and now that winter is here I can see why. It's dark. The days are getting very, very short and the few hours of daylight we get are usually full of thick, grey clouds. It's not that cold though so we aren't getting snow and that makes it even worse. At least when there's snow it reflects the light. We are very much in need of a cheerful hoilday at this point so people cling with all their might to those strings of Christmas lights.

There are a few differences I've noticed. One is that the decorations tend to be more old-fashioned. Lots of evergreen branches and candles. The lights are mostly white, not the mulit-coloured ones we put up. I think there are also a lot of people who tend to feel they need a little extra something to get them through the dark time because there's a special juleøl ...Christmas beer with double the alcohol.

God Jul

Even with everybody over here trying to abandon religion Christmas is still a big deal and now that winter is here I can see why. It's dark. The days are getting very, very short and the few hours of daylight we get are usually full of thick, grey clouds. It's not that cold though so we aren't getting snow and that makes it even worse. At least when there's snow it reflects the light. We are very much in need of a cheerful hoilday at this point so people cling with all their might to those strings of Christmas lights.

There are a few differences I've noticed. One is that the decorations tend to be more old-fashioned. Lots of evergreen branches and candles. The lights are mostly white, not the mulit-coloured ones we put up. I think there are also a lot of people who tend to feel they need a little extra something to get them through the dark time because there's a special juleøl ...Christmas beer with double the alcohol.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Halloween is a fairly new holiday in this part of the world and seems to only be celebrated due to North American influence. I was out that night and saw no sign of trick or treaters anywhere. When I tried to tell friends about Halloween costumes from my past I was met with blank stares. The only way I know it was even celebrated at all is that an old woman was telling me that she had a group of kids come to her door looking for candy. She didn't have any candy so the kids told her money would do just fine. I personally don't remember getting money for Halloween so we're wondering if some details were lost in translation.

The really big dress-up holiday over here is Festelavn in February when it used to be tradition to beat up cats.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Larissa's European Adventures

Since I've been away for 4 weeks out of the past 5 a breif review is probably in order.

Last Two Weeks of September
  • Went to Northern Ireland via Dublin. The round trip flight plus a train ticket to Belfast cost me about 200 Canadian dollars.
  • Sights seen included Giant's Causeway, Ards Peninsula, Anitrim Coast and Mourne Mountains.
  • Spent time getting to know many relatives, many of whom I'd never met before.
  • Saw the old family home.
  • Learned a lot about Irish culture. They are very lively and outgoing over there and that was a bit of a shock after being in reserved Denmark for so long. It also turns out that they are very romantic people who like to flirt.
  • The flight back was full of football fans flying over for the big match metween Ulster and Copenhagen. The city was taken over by drunken Irish men for the following few days. It was a nice change from the usual drunken Danes and I felt like my holiday was extended a few days.

One Week Back

After Ireland I was back in Copenhagen for one week during which time I had a three day workshop to attend as well as my usual study groups, meetings and social activities.

Junior Youth Training

The next week I was away in a town called Vinkel outside of Viborg. We had a guest trainer coming from Austria to teach us about a new program for starting junior youth groups. The whole thing was amazing and I can't wait to actually get a group going.


  • Last week I was in Italy with my roommate.
  • Sights seen included the Vatican, Colesseum, Pompei and the island of Ischia.
  • Got lost as soon as I got there, bank cards didn't work and trains were never on time.
  • Never go to that country if you're on a gluten-free diet.
  • I prefer the Irish men.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Off to Ireland

It's amazing how much you notice the difference in sunlight here as the seasons change. I was getting used to still having light at 10pm but now the days are several hours shorter and it gets dark before 9. In a couple of months I might start to have regrets about deciding to stay here till January but hey, that's life. At least we are having fairly good luck with the weather and not getting too much rain.

Ireland, on the other hand, has been having some nasty weather lately and it has me a little bit worried because I'm supposed to go there in a few days. At least my main reason for going is to visit family not sight-see but a little sun would be nice.

I should be there for the rest of the month. Thought I'd give myself a break from these crazy Danish people who, by the way, are trying to talk me into living here permanently. I've tried to tell them that my visa expires at the end of January and that staying longer would be less than legal but the line I keep getting is, "Well, if that wasn't an issue, what would it take to make you stay?"

I'm think that I should make a list of demands and hold myself hostage. What all could I possibly want? A nice house. A car. A good job and/or money. Maybe a nice young man. Since this is Denmark I should probably ask for a good bicycle and a lifetime suply of Lego.

Now, of course, anyone who is thinking straight would take a look at that list, say "I thought you came here for religious reasons" and send me home in January but you never know.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Blessed Is The Spot In Danish

Velsignet er den plet, og det hus,
or det sted, og den by,
og det hjerte, og det bjerg, og det ly,
og den hule, og den dal, og det land,
og det hav, og den ø, og den eng,
hvor Guds navn bliver nævnt
of Hans pris sunget.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Summer Travels

Well, I'm a little cheesed since the pictures I wanted to post on here from my travels this summer won't cooperate. I've tried several times but they just won't load. Some were from the island of Mandø, off the west coast of Jutland. It's an interesting little place with about 54 permanent residents. (Or was that 53? One died this summer.) If you don't have your own boat there are two ways of getting out there: the first is to take "the bus" which is like a big wagon that gets pulled through the shallow water by a giant tractor and the second is to wait for low tide when the water goes down far enough to reveal a road. We took option number two and drove for six kilometers on soggy gravel, trying to avoid potholes filled with salty sea water.

The other pictures were from other places in Jutland but mostly around the city of Vejle. I spent about tree weeks of July in different places around Denmark including Baha'i summer school up in the north and a performance with the dance group at Kronborg castle where Shakespeare set Hamlet. That was an experience I never thought I'd have!

For now I'm back home in Lyngby (north of Copenhagen) but trying to make plans to get around some more over the next few months. Besides Denmark I would like to get over to Sweden at some point and I am very determind to make it down to Germany. Ireland is also a must!

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Beach

Well, we've all heard talk of European beaches but I don't think it every really sinks in until you see it for yourself. We are in the middle of a heat wave at the moment so I thought a quick dip in the sea might not be a bad idea. The last time I was at the beach it was before the summer holiday started, not as hot and not as crowded. When I got down there this time the place was packed and as I was trying to find a place to mark as my territory I was caught off guard by what I was seeing. There was a moment when I asked myself why all these skinny men had grown breast before I remembered that this is Scandinavia and what I was looking at were women. Topless women.

There were others there who were more modest, but that only means that they were wearing the other half of their bikinis and those of us with one-piece swimsuits were obviously in the minority. I think the strangest part of it was how normal it felt. Because everybody was mostly naked nobody paid any attention ...except me, that is.

So here's another experience to add to my life. Sorry guys, no pictures.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Lates News

I've been quite busy lately with lot's of interesting things. We had another holiday on June 23 called Sankt Hansdag (Sankt Hans being the Danish name for Saint John the Baptist.) At least this holiday didn't require everything shutting down. It was a celebration of Midsummer, a bit on the pagan side and had very little to do with John the Baptist. In the evening people go outside and light huge bonfires that have a doll sitting on top that's made to look like a whitch. In the old days that used to be a real person sitting up there. These bonfires are big community events a bit like we have for Canada day, with the early evening being fun for families with kids and then beer, beer and more beer. I was over on Jylland that day in a city called Vejle which is right on a fjord so we could look across the water and see all the other fires burning along the shore. The thing that really has me in awe, not just that day but all summer, is the amount of daylight there is. I didn't get there till almost 10pm and it wasn't anywhere near dark. Even last night I was walking home at 11:30 and there was still a sliver orange in the sky.

The dance group was in Vejle that weekend and the next day was spent doing a lot of consultation. Many of the members are getting older and over the past year it has been hard to get people to stay committed. We have also been very aware that the Danish Baha'i youth in general are growing and we really wanted to take a look at where things are going in the future. After a long time the dancers decided that this would be the last year and that after the summer holiday -and one last performance- the dance group will end.

Now, everyone back home knows that this was my original reason for coming to Denmark but I am actually quite happy to see the way things are turning out. It is refreshing to see the mature way these youth are handling a difficult decission making process instead of just letting things drag on and peter out. I will still stay here to finish my year of service but my energy will be spent on helping to set up other youth activities. The Danish community is in the middle of many changes right now and it is a very exciting time to be here.

End of Danish classes

This picture was taken at the end of year party for the Danish school. The two women on each side are my class mates and the blonde one in the middle next to me is our teacher. She will not be returning to her job next year because she got a grant from the government for a reseach project on imigration. The two girls with me that day were from a Baha'i family who asked me to babysit. There were about seven other students in our class who didn't make it that day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions From Danes

  • Why on Earth did you choose Denmark?
  • No really, why?
  • You are going to be here such a short time, why are you bothering to learn Danish?
  • You don't drink???????
  • What's a Baha'i?
  • Are you some kind of Muslim?
  • You're from Canada so you must be used to this weather, right?
  • Hey, do you know my cousin so-and-so in Vancouver?
  • How's it going with your new prime minister?
  • Why don't you speak French?
  • How do Canadians feel about Americans?
  • Do you remember that TV show about the Canadian ranger in America?
  • Can you say "aboot" for us?
  • You have to pay for university?
  • How did you end up with five different cultures in your blood?
  • How much tax do you have to pay in Canada?
  • Are you bored with Denmark?
  • How old are you?
  • When are you going home?
  • Would you like to stay here permanently?
  • Why not?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Few Interesting Things About Denmark

  • We are further North here so the days are longer in the summer. Right now the sun sets at about 10pm and there are still traces of blue in the sky at 11. Of course this also means that six months from now there will only be a few hours of daylight so the idea of staying for the winter isn't too exciting.
  • Danish people love flowers. There are flower shops all over the place and when you go into people's home there are usually fresh flowers on the table. There are also flowers growing all over the place...imagine daffodils growing in the ditch.
  • There are certain words that look a bit funny to English speakers. For example, on my first day here I was surprised to see "slutspurt" plastered all over store windows. (It means clearance.) Other words include afslut, bådfarten, fartplan and a town call Middlefart.
  • I was at one point offered candy and told that if I didn't like it I was allowed to spit it out. It was VERY salty and basically one of the worst things I've ever tasted. Danes love it.
  • Gluten-free diets are very common here. Every time I tell someone why I can't eat bread -which is even more common here- they always say, "Hey, I have a friend who can't eat gluten..."
  • There is no tipping waiters here. Service charges are included with the price of the meal and so it the 25% tax. The food is usually expensive to start with so by the time you have paid most people are swearing they'll never eat out again.
  • Denmark is one of the few countries in the EU not to switch to the euro. We have the good old krone. 1 Candian dollar = about 5 Danish kroner. It's neat when you get 100s from the bank machine and upsetting when you spend 15 on a cup of tea.
  • Gas for the car is about 10 kr/liter.
  • A Danish parking lot is a place to park your bicycle.
  • Over here peanut butter is viewed as a specialty food and only sold in little glass jars.
  • Even in the big city of Copenhagen most buildings are no more than 5 or 6 stories high. It makes things feel very hygge (cozy).
  • On a good day you can see over to Sweden.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Zoo

Danish people love dogs. Not everyone, of course, but the affection is widespread enough that nobody has ever bothered to create a pooper-scooper law.

At my house we have now taken the love of animals beyond the usual. Last week there was a dog and a few fish in a tank. When I got back from Fyn at the end of the weekend we had added three rabbits to the back yard and the population of the aquarium had more than doubled because the fish had had babies. The next three days I was left alone with all of them because the woman I live with was going out of town for work.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Kristi Himmelfarts

It's another long weekend for us here as the country celebrates Kristi Himmelfarts day. This one is in honor of the day when Jesus flew up to Heaven and once again very few prayers are being said.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Another Holiday

Denmark is a place that always seems to be on holiday. There was whatever happened around Christmas, then the kids got a week off school in February, then there was a week off for Easter and depending on where you live you may or may not get May 1st off as some kind of workers protest day.

Last Friday was another one of the these special days. St. Bededag to be exact. I have heard a few different explanations for this but basically what it boils down to is an old king taking all the saint's days and combining them into one big prayer day. (This means that they used to have even more holidays!) I'm told that his idea was to save money. It felt a little strange to be in this super materialistic part of the world and hear everyone talking about the upcoming holy day but true to Danish culture there was very little praying done.

There were, however, many fine picnics to be enjoyed and my household spent the afternoon by the sea at Charlottenlund. It was a pretty big shindig that was organized to celebrate the end of term for my roomate's school. They had the usual barbque but they also invited people from one of the local museums to teach us some traditional games. This museum is all about toys and games and it turns out that the really old ones that they are trying to save from extinction are what we now call cooperative games.

So the next time you play a cooperative game remember that you are saving Danish culture.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Danish Birthday Song

I dag er det Larissas fødselsdag
Hun sikrer sig en gave for
Som hun har ønsket sig i år
Med dejlig chokolade og
kager til

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Happy Ridvan

For the past 12 days we in Denmark have been celebrating the holiday of Ridvan along with the rest of the Baha'i world. Ridvan marks the time when it was revealed that Baha'u'llah was a messenger of God and it is also the time when we elect the Spiritual Assemblies.

In Denmark every holiday or special event seems to be an excuse for cake and this was no exception. On Saturday we had a big celebration that included a performance by the dance group and was followed by many cakes.

Chocolate is also very important here but that is more of an everyday thing.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I'm recovering today from the annual Scandinavian Baha'i youth gathering known as the Vikings Confrence. It's held in a different country every year and this just happens to be Denmark's turn to host. It wasn't just for youth it was also organized by youth but luckily those who were in charge were very mature, responsible people.

This confrence is a pretty major event here and it atracts people from beyond Scandinavia. England for example. There were three brits who showed up a few days early to see the sights and since everyone else was busy getting ready they took their video camera and ventured into downtown Copenhagen.

Now, as you may or may not know, three young men with a video camera can manage to get themselves into some very unusual situation. One of the confrence organizers was quite surprised when in the middle of all the last minute preperation she recived a phone call from the police asking if she knew these guys. When she said she did and asked what it was about (she was starting to wonder if they had been hurt) the policeman didn't answer but kept asking questions. Where are they from...what are they doing here...etc. Eventually she insisted on being told what was going on.

As it turned out they had been found video taping in front of the American embassy. Two of them are from Persian families so there was some concern about terrorism and the fact that they told the police that they were in Denmark for a religious event did not help. The police insisted on watching the whole tape but eventually let them go.

That was the way things started out.

The rest of the confrence was basically a success. The workshop I was supposed to teach ended up getting cancelled after one day due to lack of participation ("fodball" and music atracted most people) but I did have that one day with the few people who showed up. The owner of the video camera even gave it a shot. There was also a fire alarm at one point but no fire. Otherwise everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and we were all very lucky to have Ian Semple there as the main speaker.

Now it's back to the real world. It's Norway's turn next year if anyone wants to go. Don't forget your video cameras.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Danish lessons

I finally started Danish lessons this week so soon I will have a better idea of what's going on without depending on others to stop and explain everything to me. I am actually getting a lot better at recognizing written words because there are a lot of English TV shows that have Danish subtitles but the way words are spelled and the way they sound are very, very different.

Lucky for me everyone here learns to speak English in school. I'm actually feeling a bit spoiled because there aren't really any situations that force me to use Danish so it would be very easy to get away with not learning it at all. There are even a few people who are surprised that I would "bother" to learn. But if you can manage to make some unusual sounds it's not really that hard and when would I have the chance to to learn this at home?

The other nice thing about taking classes is that you get to meet other people who are new here. My class has about 8 people in it from places like Holland, Germany, England, Romainia and China. We all speak English but there are other classes with people who don't and we can all mix in the school's resourse centre where they have computers for keeping in touch with our homelands. Well, we can use them for extra Danish exercises too but there's a lot of emailing going on. We spend a lot of our breaks comparing notes on weird things we've noticed here. The biggest thing - and I was warned about this as soon as I got here - is that people here are not very outgoing. Once you get to know someone they will be friendly but when you meet someone new or deal with people in stores or offices they say the bare minimum to be polite and that's it. They also tend to be very blunt about how they say things. For the people who come from very friendly cultures this can be upsetting.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Still alive

Well, I finally have a bit of time with a computer to send some news home. I don't think this will be very long since I'm stuck with library computers these days but I'd like to make sure my friends know I'm still alive.

Denmark has been slightly harder to get used to than I first though although I am starting to find my way around. Things like the confusing public transit, strange money and the total non-existence of household recycling keep catching me off guard. They also insist that everyone have a personal registration number and that half the things you do be registered with the "kommune" (local government). For exapmple I am waiting for "permission from the kommune" to take Danish lessons. I have decided it would be best not to risk making any jokes about Big Brother.

The good news is I have started working with the dancers and also had the chance to spend a week working with some students at a private school. They were having a singing contest and I was asked to teach them some dance to go with it. It was very interesting to try communicating since they were at all different levels and some spoke English and others didn't. With older teenagers and adults this has not been a problem since English is taught to everyone from around the age of 8 or 9 on.

Time's almost up. Gotta go.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Happy Ayyam-i-Ha

I haven't been able to get to a computer much lately because I have moved and we are waiting for the internet to be hooked up in the new house. We are told it will be a few more weeks. Anyway, I just wanted to say a quick happy Ayyam-i-Ha to those who are celebrating. (Ayyam-i-Ha is the Baha'i gift-giving holiday.)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Baha'i Basics

I thought that since I will be working it the Baha'i community here it might be a good idea to post a few basic things about what Baha'is believe for the benefit of my non-Baha'i friends. Here is a very brief list.

Baha'is believe in...

*The independent investigation of truth. (In other words, not forcing your beliefs on others and not believing things just because everyone else does.)
*The oneness of God. (Baha'is are monotheistic.)
*The oneness of religion. (This means that the basic teachings of all the major religions are in harmony with each other. We also believe that these religions all come from the same God.)
*The oneness of humanity.
*Equality of men and women. (The first major religion to specifically state this.)
*Science and religion must go hand in hand.
*Universal education.
*Elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty.
*The need for a universal auxiliary language. (To be learned in addition to local languages. It's easier to get along with people if you can talk to them.)
*Abolition of prejudice.
*Work, performed in a spirit of service, is considered a form of worship.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Safe and sound

I have been told that there are a few people who have been worried about my safety due to the latest news reports. The answer is yes, I am fine. I made it to Denmark without any trouble last week and have been trying to settle in. (The rest of my stay in Spain was great, by the way. My friends did a great job of making me feel at home.)

I have a few weeks before I begin working with the dancers so there is time to take things slow. The people I am living with are very nice and we are out in the suburbs so the is very little chance of danger. I have been meeting some of the Baha'is over the past couple of days and should be meeting more over the next week.

When I do something more exciting I will let you know but I thought I should say that everything is well and good.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


The first two pictures are of a parade that came through the neighbourhood last Sunday. We aren't sure what the occation was but there were lots and lots of horses.

The big building on a mountain is the monestary of Sant Pere de Rodes.

The other two were taken at the ruins of the Iberian town of Ullastret. The rououd pits you can see in the one were for fire, they figure that was a community building of some sort.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Yesterday, Sandra showed me how to make these cookies which are traditionally made in Catalonia around Halloween time. The exciting thing for me is they are gluten-free. They can be made with either sweet potato or regular potato but here you can only get the sweet potato around Halloween.

Big Batch/ Small Batch
(About 4 dozen) /(About 2 dozen)

1 kg. ground almonds /250g ground almonds (2 cups?)
800 g - 1 kg. sugar /200 - 250g sugar (1 - 1 1/3 cup?)
200g potato /50g potato
1/4 L water /62 ml water
grated rind of 1 lemon/ grated rind of 1/4 lemon
4 eggs separated /1 or 2 eggs separated
Your choice of pine nuts, coconut, sliced almonds, cocoa, dried fruit, etc...

1. Boil potatoes in their skins and let them cool. Peel and mash.

2. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl except the eggs. We found it was easiest to use our hands and add the water a little at a time (it might not need that much.) Keep mixing till a smooth, soft dough is formed.

3. The recipe say to form the dough into egg-sized balls but I don't know what size of eggs they are thinking of. They should be more like golf balls, if that.

4. Lightly beat the egg white and dip balls in it.

5. Roll balls in either pine nuts, sliced almonds, coconut, cocoa, or anything else that tastes yummy.

6. Place balls on a greased cookie sheet and brush with slightly beaten egg yoke.

7. Bake in a 180 - 200 C oven (375F?) for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

*Please note: Everything in our recipe is measured in weight so when I say "cups" it's a rough guess. I made the small batch and it was pleanty.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A few interesting things about Spain

1. The area around Barcelona is called Catalonia and is a distinct society with its own language and culture, much like Quebec.

2. You can get a bottle of wine here for 1 euro. Too bad I don't drink.

3. The Christmas nativity scenes here include a figure of a little boy with his pants down going poop. For some reason this is a symbol of prosperity.

4. Meal times are later here. Lunch does not start till around 2pm when most businesses close down for several hours while people go to eat. They will open again around 5 for several more hours before dinner.

5. If you eat out at an off time the locals might make rude comments about tourists.

6. The temperature at this time of year is about 11 - 15 C in the day and 4 - 6 C at night.

7. People seem to think this is cold and walk around with fur coats on at noon.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Things were much better the rest of this week. Once I rested up my friends started taking me beyond the apartment to see some sights. Thursday we started with downtown Barcelona which is very much set up for pedestrians. A train will take you into the city from nearby towns like Sant Cougat where Philippe and Sandra live but it is always crowded so we don't expect to get seats. Once in the city I was very glad to have Sandra with me because she has learned quite a bit about the history so it was like having my own personal your guide. I was overloaded that day with historic building after historic building as well as all the shops, the market, the people, the language (Catalan not Spanish) and all the tiny little things that were pointed out to me like the gargoyles on the walls and the remains of an old Roman aqueduct.

Friday was the Catalan art gallery which is in a building that was built for the 1929 worlds fair. It is also the same area where they had the Olympic games. Near by is a little village that was also put together for the worlds fair. It was built to show all kinds of buildings from around Spain and now is used for artists shops and restaurants.

Yesterday we took a drive north into the mountains. The first stop was the ruins of an Iberian town that was dug up by archaeologists over the last few decades. They figure it was built around 500 BC. I really enjoyed it but I have noticed that almost none of the signs here are in English so I need a lot of translation.

After that we drove to a little town by the sea just below the French border where we had lunch. I am trying to be adventurous and eating new things and it was in this town that I was introduced to a dish called paella (I think). It is rice cooked with meat and seafood so I tried muscle, squid and crayfish for the first time. It's a good thing I am no longer a vegetarian.

Above that town is a mountain with a little road winding up to the top. When the Christians were hiding from the Arabs back in the 900's the built a monastery up there called Sant Pere de Rodes. It is no longer in use but they have restored it for the public to visit so we spent the rest of the day there. This was definitely not the sort of thing I would see back home! It was huge and may as well have been a fortress with the thick stone walls. The inside of the church walls used to be painted with pictures of saints and Bible figures but they were getting ruined there so they have been removed but I had already seen what was left of them when I went to the art gallery.

This, being Sunday in a good Catholic country, was a day of rest. I think it would have been anyway. We needed a break.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

36 hours later...

The good news is I made it to Spain safe and sound.

Monday was the day I was set to leave home and things had pretty much fallen into place. My visa had come in just in time, paper work was taken care of, I had said goodbye to friends and it looked like everything was going to fit into my suitcase. (By the way it is really something to figure out what you will need for a year and try to fit it into a suitcase and two carry-on bags.)

I think I woke up around 7:00 - please remember that number- and spent the morning doing some last minute things. I had about an hour of pre-trip anxiety but everything was fine and my family took me to the bus where we said goodbye. Once I was on my way the excitement really started to kick in.

At the airport I was told that the suitcase that I had stuffed as full as possible was 18 lbs over the limit. "Well, you have two choices," said the lady. "You can either buy yourself another suitcase or pay $35."

I paid the $35, sent the suitcase on its way and headed off for the security check.

Other than that everything was smooth. There was a couple of hours to wait at the airport but the passed quickly and in no time I was in the air watching movies and being served dinner. I had a window seat and the seat next to me was empty so I was able to take off my shoes and stretch out most of the way there. It would have been great for sleeping except that I love flying so much and was so excited to finally be on my way Europe. I tried to sleep but gave up thinking it wouldn't be that bad. Maybe I could doze on the next flight.

There was a lot of cloud over Munich and as we got closer to the ground we got snow. All I could see as we landed was farmland covered in snow. It actually looked very much like home. From the way things looked the runway could have been the Deseronto Road.

I was a little nervous because I had never had to catch a connecting flight before but I got checked through just fine. There were two big differences between the airport there and in Canada. One is that the shops look very fancy there and included expensive looking jewelry stores and a lingerie shop. The other difference was the booze. I got there at 9am and there were men sitting around having big glasses of beer with their breakfast.

There was a couple of hours wait for the flight but we were told there would be a delay because of the snow. Annoying but not that bad. When they did board us we were put on a bus and driven out to the runway. I couldn't believe it. This was a little plane and we had to get on it from a little set of stairs on the outside like in the old movies. Once again I had a seat to myself.

There was quite a bit of snow by this point so we had to wait. And wait, and wait. And then, "I'm sorry ladies and gentlemen. I have just been told that due to the snow there will be a delay of at least 3 -4 hours. This flight has been cancelled. "

Back we went on the bus to stand in line to get new flights. The line was long. I think I was standing in it for about an hour. When I finally got to the desk the lady found my another flight but said, "I can't book this, we have to go see my colleague."

Okay, over we go and this lady starts asking me if I speak German. No! Okay. I got booked onto another flight but didn't make it to the gate in time. So back I had to go to get a third flight booked. Now, by this point I was very aware of the fact that I had been awake for about 22 hours and was trying very hard not to cry as I waited in line again. It was okay, there was another flight but not until 7:30. I found my gate, sat down and figure out how to tell people where I was.

I got a calling card but had to get a stranger to explain how to use it because I didn't know how to dial within Europe and kept getting a German recording telling me I was doing it wrong. When I finally got it right the number I had for my friends was busy. I called and called and called but couldn't get through. I finally realized that I could use the card to call home but Mom could hardly hear me when I got her. At least I was able to tell her sort of what was going on and she said she would try to get in touch with our friends for me.

The plane finally left for Spain but not without about an hour delay. I got to sleep for about 10 minutes but was pretty revved up from dealing with everything. When we landed guess who's bag was missing.

I was never so happy to see friends in my life. It turned out their phone was not working but Dad had sent an email that got through and they were there to get me. Everything has been fine since.

The suitcase was brought over this evening.

Not counting the 10 minute nap I was up for a total of 36 hours so needless to say I am still a bit tired. I think I am going to go rest some more.