Monday, October 31, 2005

The pull-out couch passes the test!

Two weekends ago, Maral (a friend from Queen's) visited us! She's doing her masters at KTH in Stockholm so she thought she'd come to visit and see København. Anthony and I had done some sightseeing and exploring in København in the last two months but we definitely saw a lot of new things with Maral.

We spent about 6 hours doing a walking tour of København on the Saturday, starting off at the little mermaid statue and ending up in Christiania. In Christiania we saw a lot of things that we hadn't seen before. We went in to an art gallery, saw a few shops we'd never seen and walked around a residential area that had really unique architecture. At the end of our tour (after we ate our what we considered obligatory Christiania falafels and 'dromkager'/'chokoladekager' we ended up sitting around a bonfire talking to a very friendly, drunk Christianite. We then headed to Nørreport station to meet up with a bunch of RUC friends. We ended up going to this quaint pub called The Elephant and the Mouse, but the three of us were exhausted after a long day of walking and left before 11.

The next day we decided to tour the Carlsberg brewery. Since Maral didn't have her bike with her our trip involved some sketchy doubling up on bikes (which is a 500 kr fine if you're caught). This was especially interesting since we only ended up getting to the end-of-tour bar at 3:30 (they close at 4:00). With two drinks each and annoyed bartenders demanding that we leave we ended polishing off our drinks in about 10 minutes (we spent some time taking pictures of the beer). I think we were actually the very last patrons to leave. The bike ride back downtown was interesting nonetheless (try chugging beer on a Sunday afternoon and then riding double on a bike). At least we didn't have to cycle all the way uphill back to Gentofte (I had my monthly train pass so Anthony and Maral cycled home).

I definitely a fun weekend! On Monday and Tuesday and Anthony and I had school so Maral did some touring around on her own. Tuesday evening Maral left to go back to Stockholm.

So...ya...the couch works so if any of you are in the area you have a place to sleep. (There are new photos of Christiania and Copenhagen).

Marieke's school

So...This is my first entry. A combination of our lack of internet connection at home and the poorly maintained computers at RUC (and I use to complain about the Dupuis cluster computers!) have sort of made it difficult to find time to sit down and write blogs. Usually when I'm at a computer, I'm in a hurry and I only have time to check email.

Anyway, right...I don't think that we any entries about my program (Teksam - stands for Institut for Miljø, Teknologi og Samfund). Just to give you a bit of a background, my school, RUC (Roskilde Universitetscenter), was built in the early 70's. Oddly enough when the land was sold to build the university, it belonged to my neighbour's daughter's fiancé's family (and by neighbour I mean my neighbour of 15+ years back in Ancaster). Small world? RUC is a different kind of univerisity, in that it was founded by the free-spirited hippies of the era who were tired of traditional lecture-style learning.

The department supports bachelor, masters and doctoral levels and offeres programs in both English (through the International program) and Danish. For the most part the Danes and the international students takes classes separately but they've been attempting to integrate the groups in the elective courses. So...My program is so incredibly different than Queen's engineering. First off....I have NO written exam!!! As for the structure, the first two months I
pretty much had class 5 days a week. I had a main course (which unorginally enough is called Main Course I), an environmental social science course, a problem based learning course and an environmental management field course. These serve to give you the tools to be able to work on your year-long project, so three quarters of them are pass/fail. The biggest differences for me have been having to do readings, having classes where participation is expected and having classes where attendance is taken (I guess they need an incentive for people to attend the lectures since the evaluation for some of the courses is so wishy-washy). For the rest of the year I had to choose some electives. So next month I'm taking a weekly course on transportation planning and in January/February I'm taking a weekly course on globalization. The rest of my time is devoted for working on my project.

For my first year project we've chosen to look at the sustainability of computers in terms of life cycle assessment. I'm working with two other people, a girl from China who has a law degree and a guy from Iceland who has a sociology degree. It's going to be really interesting working on a project like this with group members who have completedly different perspectives.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Kultur Natten

Kultur Natten (Culture Night) is an annual event in Copenhagen. With the purchase of a pass, you get free entry to museums, palaces and many other buildings. There is a huge variety of things to do, all over the city. There are special exhibits, shows, tours, performances and access to some areas that are usually not open.

We visited:
  • a submarine - it looked huge from the outside, but was so cramped inside (how surprising)
  • a frigate - Marieke loved the industrial-sized kitchen
  • the parliament buildings - where we had a very entertaining explanation of Danish politics: "We are all Vikings, you know." Our guide explained why they don't have a senate, "since two chambers are less efficient" and apologized for only having 30% women in parliament.
  • ruins beneath the King's palace - lit with small candles everywhere, and narrated in completely-incoherent Danish (for us at least)
  • a Swing Dancing performance
  • a sculptures museum, with all interior lights off, lit entirely by spotlights from outside
  • a "recycled" art exhibit

It was all very interesting, and it seemed like everyone in Denmark comes to Copenhagen for this one night. Click here to see our pictures.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Danish classes

Marieke and I have been taking Danish language classes for about a month now, and it's starting to feel like this is all part of a huge practical joke aimed at foreigners.

The first day, they showed us that Danish has three extra vowels: æ, ø, å. They are stuck on the end of the regular English alphabet (so it goes a-å). Now, we're learning that there are additional "vowel sounds:" α, ö, and two others which cannot be typed. Last week, an exercise in class was to spell our names. The consonants are easy, but the vowels get really tricky. It’s almost impossible to hear the difference between i/e, æ/a, o/å or u/y.

Also, to add to the confusion, vowels are often not pronounced as they are written (for instance, i can be pronounced as e, æ, a or α). As well, parts of most words are “assimilated,” which means that they are not said. For example, the word selvfølgelig (“of course”) is pronounced seføli.

If you would like to try to learn a bit of Danish, look at The website claims to be able to teach you to speak Danish in ten days. It has hundreds of audio clips with text in English and Danish. Just try the introductory lesson...