So I had my first experience with culture shock last night. Bea was not going to sleep, so I was taking a 9PM walk with her. The sun isn’t setting until almost 10 PM, so it’s quite light and safe. I’ve done the walking path, a converted train track, enough times that it’s become boring by myself, so I’ve started exploring the side paths. I found a school with a huge playground, a short cut to the Lidl grocery store, another playground (well, Walt had found it on a weekend) and a four story tower that looked very cool to live in. I’ve seen snails, some so big if I was into escargot I would have taken them home for dinner and I had a close encounter with hedgehog, not much smaller than Beatrix. Anyway, so I was exploring a desire path that spit me out into a garden apartment complex’ backyard. There were some people eating dinner and they turned to me, looking concerned, so I assumed I was trespassing and quickly popped back into the verdant tunnel of another path. Fast forward to 40 minutes later, I’m standing in the living room turning on the TV, because BB is still not going down and I see some random people walking down our private way. Next thing I know, one of them is knocking on the door. I cautiously open it, he seems harmless, in his 20’s, close cropped hair and some viking tattoos, but I can’t think what he would want.
It turns out what he wanted was to make sure I was OK. He was one of the diners. From their perspective, an extremely underdressed woman (I was wearing the Mainer summer uniform of T-shirt and shorts) and a baby had popped out of the woods, all red (I had thrown a Japanese housecoat over my T-shirt to ward off the evening cool) and then disappeared again. There had been some debate about if I was a ghost or a damsel in distress. The prevailing opinion was ghost, but this fellow wasn’t so sure and had been walking up and down all the streets near his apartment looking for the injured woman with a baby. I assured him it was a red coat and that I just come from somewhere very cold, so to me this was summer weather and that I was just exploring. Seriously, what is with Danes wearing so much clothes?! Anyway, he gave me some recommendations of good places to explore via cutting through his backyard and then went on his way with his female companion, whom I assume was there to keep him company or maybe say “Ha! She was a ghost.” Never introduced themselves or anything, just took care of business and were off. I don’t know what amazes me the most, that they could think my bright red coat was blood, that they took off after sunset to look for a ghost/injured stranger, or that they weren’t the least phased by me tramping through their back yard. At any rate next time I go out, I’m turning the coat to black side out instead of red.
Walter started børnehave with me this week. I’ve gone with him every day, which may be more exhausting for me than him. He’s doing OK. He comes off as very feral. He’s one of two non-Danish kids. Well, there’s Alexander who had a Philippino mother from whom he inherited dark coloring, but takes a Danish lunch and acts very Danish. I’m assured that Ariam, the refugee from Eritrea, was as wild when she started and clearly has adjusted beautifully. The day is mostly play, which can be free form or they can choose to participate in themed activities. This week’s theme is buses. It feels very weird to me. They’re singing a translated version of Wheels on the Bus, which is catchier, albeit feels a little awkward. They’ve got bus pictures all over. It fascinates me that a lot of the images are of North American school buses, which don’t exist here, but since they’re yellow like all the public buses here, no one thinks twice about it. I expect they think the stop signs on them are decorative. At 11:00 they have diaper changes/toilet breaks, circle time and lunch. This is the hardest part for Walter. I think it’s good for him to watch all the kids peeing and to see female genitals as well as male, but I feel bad for the teachers having to chase him down and convince him to do the potty sit, fresh diaper pulling up and hand washing in the right order. Plus the waiting in a group afterwards. He hasn’t figured out the attendance thing at story time yet and he has never ever been a sit around and sing kid. I’m writing this at 9 AM on Friday, which is bring a toy to school day, Walter has a monster truck school bus and at circle time they will introduce their toys. Interested to see how that goes…But I digress. Lunch is extremely tough, partially because I have trouble finding food for Walt. I can’t give him the same thing two days in a row and if he doesn’t like his lunch, he gets up and tries to leave. Moreover when he finishes eating his lunch he wants to get up and leave. Lunch is long. The kids have these massive repasts of meat on buttered bread, fruit and vegetables.They eat like adult portions for lunch. Well, except Ariam who has spongy homemade bread and bowls of what looks like lentil soup with veggies heated up for her by the teachers. So far for Walter I’ve tried pasta and vegetables, rice and vegetables, crackers and vegetables (success the first day, rejected the second) and today I’m giving him a selection of bread with butter and hummus on different squares. The day I brought him rice, the other children asked why he was having breakfast for lunch, which is kind of ironic considering I’ve seen cold pancakes in a couple boxes. He’s drank milk from a glass 3 of the 4 days and just spilt it all over the table on the 4th. We were going from 9-1:30 originally, but I’ve changed it from 8-12, which seems to work better. Leaving after the most trying part keeps him in a better mood.
There seems to be some confusion in that the teachers think Walter misses Mommy and I need to stick around, whereas I’m pretty sure Walter gets bored, wants to go home and he knows Mama is his ticket out of school. Thus I’m hiding upstairs for if there’s a crisis, but keeping myself scarce so that he doesn’t think he can just leave. I’ll probably be circle time and lunch support as often as I can for another couple weeks. Although next Tuesday I have a doctor’s appointment and next Friday a mommy-baby gathering at the library.
The other kids are really great and helping me with my Danish. It’s taking me some time to tell them apart. That old stereotype about a person being racist if they think everyone of an ethnicity looks the same holds true, I’m having trouble adjusting to telling everyone apart as one super blonde, blue eyed small child looks much to me like another, but I’m getting the hang of it. Amelia, has curly hair and extra pale skin. She is big on correcting my pronunciation and quizzing me. I’m embarrassed to say I mixed up the word for “her” and “dog” and when she asked me Bea’s name, I told her “beagle”, because I thought she was referring to little Bee’s jammies and was vehemently corrected that, no, the baby’s name was Beatrix. I’m sad that Simon will be leaving for first grade at the end of the summer. He really tries to engage Walter and makes him laugh. He is the tallest of about four little blonde, blue eyed boys with short hair. Willas keeps his blonde hair the longest and likes to get me to play tag with him. Bertram has some red in his hair and is surprisingly chubby, or rather he looks chubby, but wears surprisingly tight clothes, so could just be a fashion issue. Marvi (I had no idea there was a female version of Marvin!), Tricia and Abigail all kind of blend together. They each have light brown eyes and long hair kept long, but Marvi always looks the most serious and Tricia has a longer face. Ariam is easy to spot, because she has very short micro curls, cocoa powder colored skin, extremely curly eye lashes and an intense stare.