Monday, December 19, 2005

Off to Holland

We're spending Christmas in Holland, with Marieke's Oma (a.k.a. grandmother). So, there won't be any new postings for two weeks. You'll just have to find some other way to enjoy your holidays. I'll be back at school for January 2 though.

Exams at DTU

There are no weekly assignments or midterms in any class at DTU. Apart from leaving me with lots of free time, it also means that several of my marks are based 100% on my final exam. To make them even more daunting, they're four hours long. Still, I had looked over some old exams and they seemed very similar to Queen's.
I was in for quite a surprise when I headed for the gym for my first exam. The desks were abour four times bigger than the ones I was used to. Why would you need such a big desk? Because the exams were open to "all aids." That means you could bring all your notes, and the textbook. It also means you could bring your laptop (there was an electrical outlet at each desk). Or anything else you wanted (people wrote their exams while listening to music on their cd players). As well, they let you eat and drink whatever you want (unlike Queen's rules that even prevented Nalgene bottles).
And, I later learned, the professors are instructed to write exams that can be completed in three hours, so the fourth hour is to allow you to verify all your work.
It was the most comfortable exam I have ever written.

I wouldn't study in Padova, Italy

Last week, we attended an Italian dinner. It was a very international group, and we all told stories from our universities back home. Most people had a few (drunken) stories, but everyone seemed shocked by our descriptions of Queen’s Engineering Frosh Week.

That is, until we heard about what happens at the University of Padova. They do not face hazing as they enter university, but rather as they’re leaving, about to enter the real world. Each student spends their last six months working on a large thesis project, which they must then present and defend before a group of professors. That’s the easy part.

Immediately upon leaving the presentation, your friends greet you outside the university buildings. You are stripped naked and marched through town to a huge dinner. During the meal, you are fed copious amounts of alcohol. After dinner, your friends and family form a “human tunnel” (two people hold hands, forming an arch) and you must crawl through three times, as your friends beat him.

Still naked, and now quite drunk and bruised, you are marched to the town square. You are given a large sheet of parchment, and must read it aloud to the crowd. On the sheet, friends have recalled every embarrassing story from your university career. As you read, if you make any mistakes, you must drink more. Obviously, this leads to more mistakes… Oh, and your family is all there watching you, and finally finding out what you really did at university.

Finally, you are ready for the real world, and everyone gives you a “friendly” smack on the back.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


A 'JuleFrokost' is literally a 'Christmas Lunch.' However, it is often held in the evening, so it would more appropriately called a 'Christmas Dinner.' Or, more appropriately still, a 'Chance to get drunk at your company's expense.' People get very drunk.
To avoid having drunks driving home, the train service is extended until 4am. Below is an advertisement for the service extension. The purple characters are the mascots for the public transit system, and some of them obviously enjoyed themselves too much at their 'JuleFrokost.'

Christmas is a very big deal here, and there are JuleMarkeds (Craft Bazaars) everywhere, even in Christiania. Continuing our tradition of weekend visits to Christiania, yesterday we went Christmas shopping. The market was full of hippies selling their wares. There were interesting recycled decorations, 'Free Tibet' books, and warm beer. Rather surprisingly, the quality of these items was very good and there were many stalls with regular goods - hats, jackets, shirts, furs, etc.
We are going to spend Christmas with Marieke's relatives in Holland, but we have decorated our apartment a bit. We bought a small Christmas tree (fern) and made traditional Danish decorations. We even have Christmas stockings and some presents. We've posted some Christmas Photos.
Glædelig Jul og Godt Nytår.

Jeg kan tale lidt dansk

We passed our first (of five) Danish language tests!
We are now officially DAS students (Dansk er en Anden Sprog, or Danish as a Second Language). I now feel comfortable telling Danes: "Jeg kan ikke tale dansk. Kan du tale engelsk?"
In theory, we can carry on more complicated conversations, but all attempts so far have been disastrous. We walked into our local pizza place, and asked the man behind the counter, in Danish, for "a Number 9 and a Number 35." The man walked off, and came back looking confused and speaking in rapid Danish. He didn't speak English, so we just stared helplessly. Eventually, another man in the restaurant explained that you should normally call with your order before walking in to pick it up.
We have had similar experiences in grocery stores, bakeries and the library. As pathetic as it is, it seems the best option is just to answer questions with "Sorry, I don't speak Danish." Hopefully, the situation will improve as we plan to continue taking Danish classes for the rest of the time we're here.


I received this photo from Sharone, and thought that everyone should see it. They are both proudly wearing their new Shabadoo t-shirts we made this summer. Well, Sharone looks proud. Zab seems to be trying to cover it up for some reason - especially the offensive comment on the back (think Family Guy).
If anyone else back home has pictures, we'd love to see them.