The Perils of Foreign Language

Years ago, I convinced myself that I would never learn a foreign language.

It started in Los Angeles in the 70s, when I in Junior High School, finally got a course in Spanish. It was a required subject, and we all jumped into it, waiting to learn, as it were. The down side of learning something so foreign as language, relies a lot on the subject matter, and how the teacher presents it. Her expectations as to pronunciation, were on the extreme side, at least that’s what I thought, and not very conducive to encouragement and praise.

Suffice to say, my first attempt at language was a dismal failure, which led me to believe that I would be unable to learn another language, ever! Those thoughts affected my choice of courses later on through my University years. I always steered away from that line of thinking, choosing other subjects to fulfill the amount of credits needed to move on.

Later on in the 70s I developed an interest in Botany. I set out to learn as many plant names as possible, but as it resembled learning a language, I took no precautions. I used a bit of time making flash cards with the name on one side, and the picture on the other. I had seen this technique used with students who were trying to remember the name of shrubs and trees while studying to be Landscapers. I’m afraid to say that my efforts in making those cards proved to be a waste of time, as I was able to remember both names, pictures and other related facts without really trying.

As with so many other hobbies, Botany soon became an obsession with me. I purchased countless books on the subject and delved into the Botanical naming process, its history and references to historical discovery in its relation to California. You see, I was surrounded by the Botany of California, which gave me ample possibilities to practice and learn.

My obsessions were not lost only on me, as I took a number of apprentices along the way. My sister and her daughters were the obvious choices, and later my now Wife fell into my learning whirlwind. It still hadn’t occurred to me that memory and learning were a strong side of my personality, which means that if I believed in myself back then, then learning foreign language would have found its true place in my life.

It finally came to a head, when my now Wife appeared on the scene being a nanny from Denmark. The thought of learning a foreign language finally appealed to me so much that I threw myself into it, like my other obsessions throughout time.

Learning you see has no limits especially when the time and other conditions are right.

I learned Danish within a year, with the main difference being that I had moved to Denmark and was surrounded by the language. My teachers and the people around me provided the necessary positive input that probably would have made all the difference, way back when in that Spanish Class in Los Angeles.

I didn’t stop with Danish, having to learn Spanish and German while at Business College. I also dabbled in Russian for a while, and am now toying  with the idea of speaking French.

I know that my age now plays a part in learning new things, as does the fact that I live in Denmark and not France. Enthusiasm and curiosity are the two driving factors that draw me into new subjects, and are the things that keep me coming back for more.

In 2014 I decided to re-learn German which made German my main topic during that year. I even have read all of the Harry Potter books in German, ending up having to order the last 3 books from Germany to complete this task. I use some of my leisure time watching German TV shows on the Internet, using German subtitles to help me with my understanding.

The perils, you see, are out there just waiting for us, when we finally take the plunge. I am still open to new ideas, but only accept them in regards to my age and life experience, which some might consider to be limiting in itself.

My goals are to continue learning, as long as I can. “What are your reasons for learning: German, French,…..?” are what others ask me from time to time. Do I really have to justify that with an answer?

I think not…..

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Through my Dog

You are trying to get to me through my dog, aren’t you?”

Some people are so obvious. I should know, I’ve been there myself.

When my daughter was young, I used to take her for a walk to the nearby mall.  I knew that when I took her into a few of the shops frequented especially by women, there was always a comment or a smile at hand. “Oh, isn’t she so cute!”

You know the way that they look at you? All smiling and beaming, as if I had suddenly become their one and only. I wouldn’t say that I did that on a regular basis, but I should have done so, in retrospect!

Young dogs have the same effect on people. I guess, it’s a baby thing. If there is a baby present in a room filled with women, then the ritual, “passing the baby from person to person” usually occurs. It isn’t even restricted to a particular age, and I’ve seen it happen with human babies, but some of the same characteristics are transferred to puppies and kittens.

Suddenly everyone wants to be his nanny, when we are out traveling. Yesterday, we entrusted Coco to a neighbor, who also has a poodle. We received 2 text messages about what had been done, who was present, and how wonderful it was to do those things for “us”. It was just another example of “Through my Dog”, which is not always a bad thing! I appreciated the fact that someone could take care of my young dog, remembering to activate him and allowing him to run about the backyard.

Having recently lost our other dog of 8 years, I felt it necessary to pay a visit to a number of our neighbors to show them our newest addition. More oohs, and aahs were present, with the classic “lifting up and cuddling of the baby” by the female neighbors. The male neighbors took the usual male perspective of saying, “he’s OK, he is” then kicking a nearby automobile tire, or spitting on the road. That whole thing about emotional response by men is a harder thing to come by, and not at all expected when a puppy is present.

Babies and puppies being all warm and smiling is one of the most potent drugs around us today. The lure of such things has no equal, but is not to be feared as addiction and withdrawal would be in the other case. It’s also not something that can be expected at any given time or place, but comes spontaneously invoking emotions and reactions, we are not any master of, no matter how we try to explain it away after it has occurred.

I wouldn’t want to accuse anyone of trying to get to me through my dog, but again I’ve been there and done that. I know how potent the allure of a soft and warm puppy can be, but not just how far it can go, or where it can take me?

I hope Coco is strong enough to keep me on the straight and narrow!

Coco head

Dreaming Awake

I took a trip to Germany today. A 3-hour drive to Germany from Denmark.

For the most of those 3 hours, I was on my own, thought-wise. I could let my mind wander while the kilometers flew on by. The heavy frost from the previous night affected my ride by the salt slurry that was applied to the asphalt of Europe Highway 45 (E45), which was then thrown up onto my windshield by the cars in front of me. My time was well spent between cleaning the windshield, and dodging the many trucks and cars on the 2-lane Motorway.

I started to think of someone, who I have never met. Never really seen and never having spoken to. She occupied my thoughts throughout the day, but mostly in those first 2½ hours before reaching the Danish-German border.

The others in the car slept, or spoke occasionally, and finally I needed another distraction, that being the CD-player. Coldplay’s X&Y took me to the border and a bit beyond, right up to the entry into Germany.

Driving southwards into Germany there was no problem crossing the border, but we expected border control when we would return northwards this evening. Both borders, this one with Germany and the other one with Sweden, have been controlled since the Danish and Swedish Governments decided to restrict the influx of travelers, be they migrants or, asylum seekers. Everyone is encouraged to take their passport along when exiting the country, to make sure that re-entry is possible again.

My thoughts became more cluttered as we entered Germany. Which Ausfahrt (exit), and which way to turn and …..

I began to develop a splitting headache after my 3 hour trip into Germany. The ensuing 6 hours of shopping didn’t help the situation at all, but we needed to shop for various things, before a big party coming in April.

At 5:45 pm we were on our way northwards again. The border crossing that we took was a smaller one than on E45 which meant that the police officers present, chose to wave us through the crossing, without ever having to show our passports.

The drive northwards began in the fading sunlight, which quickly turned to nighttime blackness. The traffic northbound was not as intense as it was going south, but the combination of darkness, tiredness ,and not having driven in the darkness for quite some time, reduced my appreciation for the homeward trip greatly.

My thoughts became my own once again, as the kilometers rolled on. An hour into the trip found me filling up gasoline while back in Denmark once again. I still had 2 hours to go, but the diversion helped my blurring eyesight back to the straight and narrow once again. I found my thoughts wandering once again, without being able to say exactly why.

The silence in the car was only broken by the winter tires rolling noisily along the Motorway, demanding another distraction in the form of FM radio, helping me along in the darkness.

Why do our thoughts take us to places we’ve never seen, to meet people we’ve never really known? I allowed myself the luxury of letting my thoughts wander to those places, even though they were thousands of kilometers away from me. I could’ve imagined that I was dreaming a dream. A realistic one to be sure, but a dream all the same. Luckily, I knew that the dream was but a daydream, but not too intense as to divert my attention from the other cars, traveling at equally, or greater speeds, chancing a fiery crash thus ending my life and the lives of my passengers.

I returned to my house unscathed, but rather tired, finally allowing my mind to rest at last.

Dreaming awake were my thoughts which wandered out of Denmark only to travel to other faraway places. I was though in Germany surrounded by the language and the culture, for the shortness of ½ day, without being the worse for wear.

citti flag velkommen citti

1st photo: flags at Citti Shopping Center

2nd photo: Warmest Welcome, in Danish.

3rd photo: “It is nice that you are here”, first in German, then in Danish.

grænsebutikker

I managed to visit all of the marked shops on the left side of this screen shot, borrowed from Google Maps with thanks.

Meet Me in the Darkness

I’m one of those dark type of people. Some like to do things in the light, but others like me, prefer the dark.

I think that the glaring light of reality is way too bright for the likes of me. I would rather reside in the shadows, or perhaps in the darkened areas of my imagination. I do, however, enjoy the sunlight on a warm summer day, but it is always the darkness that draws me home.

Doing things in the middle of the day takes away the mystery of the darkness. Things lose their charm and fascination, being able to see each and every detail in crystal sharpness. There is no place for shadows in the middle of the day. No room to hide, and no way to escape without detection.

The darkness is easily obtained at night. Turn off any light, and the darkness creeps in and around the corners of the imagination. A single light in the distance throws shadows, stronger when closer, but more diffuse when farther away. The lights seem to dim as the night grows older. You’d think that dark was dark, but when the final shadows blend into the night, there is no hope left in sight, with even the shadows fusing into the darkness.

One is never entirely sure, what lies in the darkness. Familiar objects and known distances seem to blur in one’s memory, as if they become fluid in the ensuing nothingness.

The Winter months possess the richest darkness. The Summer months shoulder the last rays of Nordic Sunlight, making Summer nights never as dark as those in the Winter. Summer months tend to draw people out to enjoy the lightness of the evenings. They stretch over 11pm in late June through July, when the Scandinavian sun never is far below the Western horizon.

The Winter months are diametrically opposed to each other. The Winter months draw one indoors, seeking the lighter places and warmer impulses. The outside darkness is left to itself, shivering without its woolen blankets, even hiding the fact that snow might be on the way, making things yet even colder again. The stars shine brightly in the heavens. Orion the Hunter and his Big Dog inhabit the Southern Skies throughout the Winter months, marking their way in the darkness.

I am attracted to the Winter Months as well. No time is the Milky Way brighter, nor are the evening planets more inviting, than when they are greeted in the cold evenings of the Danish Winter. The nights are long and the days are short, evoking memories of the warmer, brighter Summer, seemingly light years away. No one seems to hail the advent of Winter. Most would rather send it on its way, wishing never to experience it again. If only the Summer would gain more power, if only the Winter would diminish in strength. if only….

Wishful thinking is just that, wishful. We all know what the reality of the situation is, and accept it for that. If we wanted to attain more Summer and less Winter, than we should move ourselves southwards, which of course denies our identities of who we are, and where we come from.

I am only speaking for myself, not being a native of this latitude. My coordinates lie farther to the South, approximating the countries of the Mediterranean. My Nordic roots are non-existent, though my ancestors did come from Russia once upon a time. My dark ways appeared when I moved to Denmark, having left the lighter climes of California for only my memory to reside in. It might remember the  California Summers, being long, hot and rain-less, but the newer memories tend to erase the older ones. My newer reality tends to the darker side of life, the darker climes of Scandinavia.

In the Winter, I am of the darkness, as it is harder to come by in the Summer months. I can surround myself completely in the darkened rooms, and move about in the coldest Winter winds. Although I shiver and abhor the extreme cold, it is still another characteristic of the wondrous dark, Winter months.

Taking the bitter with the sweet, and the darkness with the light.

The darkness is that which calls out to me.

Meet me in the darkness…

 

 

The Woman Who Never Sleeps

I like my night’s sleep. I wouldn’t be without it. When the time starts looking like 1 am, then I know I’ll be sleeping late.

It is said that as we grow older, we need less sleep. How old is old? Are we talking 70, or 80? It still seems like I need the same amount, as I did 20 years ago?

When I worked as a Newspaper Delivery Driver, I started work around Midnight, ending my “day” at 6 am. During the day I worked a number of odd jobs, or went to the University. I never seemed to get enough sleep, not at the proper times, that is. If I overslept in the evening, I would end up  at the end of the line, waiting to receive my 50 or so bundles of newspapers, thus making my morning sleep all the less before school.

My lab partner in Physics doubted that this lifestyle could lead to anything productive. We needed to perform experiments, which required concentration and precision, which of course corresponded to having had a good night’s sleep. I did need the money though, and he was being subsidized by his father, while he attended school.

I then got a new job working from the late afternoon to 10pm. I hardly had time to be awake, let alone sleep with my busy schedule. I once awoke thinking that I was late for my afternoon job, only to discover it to be 5 am and not 5 pm. Lucky for me, I made the decision to stop my all-night job being satisfied with my evening job.

What does all this have to do with a woman who never sleeps? It seems that she is always at work, hopefully awake, or at home, awake again, but never seeming to sleep. I realize that we are separated by 6 Time Zones, but there must be a few moments in every day in which she closes her eyes, away from Facebook, G-mail and WordPress, and has a good snorker!?

It’s all just speculation, you see. It could be that she is in reality triplets, and I only am communicating with one of the 3 at any given time? It would also explain a lot of other things about her, which has troubled me over time. I do wish they had some sort of numbering system, in order for me to find out, just who I was addressing at the time.

Perhaps some sort of electronic switchboard with 3 colors. When the color was lit, then that person was: sleeping, working or enjoying some leisure time. I might just start to refer to her/them as colors. “I was blue today” she would tell me. Hmm. Was she down in the dumps, or was that her daily color? “I saw red today”, which could be her as red, or was she red due to being green with envy?

It’s kind of like buying flowers with the correct colors. Red, yellow and white are not just colors, but moods and states of being. I’m sure I’ve sent the wrong message to the recipients of my flowers throughout time, which might just explain why I’ve had varying luck with members of the opposite sex!

It doesn’t really matter, I guess. It’s hard for an old dog to learn new tricks, and adding or subtracting to my sleep account is just as difficult to comprehend. Before turning in, I like to end each day emptying the blog that I have left in my head. I might just doze a bit at my computer, perhaps gathering my thoughts, in preparation for my upcoming blog, but more likely just being tired after a long day at work.

The only thing that I really know for certain, is that I only write blogs while I am awake, and not like others (that woman again) who decide to post blogs using symbols without any meaning. I am awake now, but I am at a loss, if she is one, two or three people; if they are awake or asleep; or if they are aware that I’ve uncovered their secret?

Awake or asleep at least I don’t have to deliver newspapers anymore in the darkness of the Sacramento night, never knowing if I was going to get a free Bear claw (a pastry) at the bakery, or if I had to pay for it. I must have dreamed that they were free!

Those are the best kinds of dreams to wake up to…..

 

Inside a Danish Shopping Center in Aalborg

Here is a look inside a local Shopping Mall nearby my house. Aalborg Storcenter (stor = large)

http://www.astc.dk/google-in-view.aspx

June 2014.

 

If you get lost while wandering about, I’ve got a map to help you out:

oversigtskort_2015

If you haven’t used all of your vacation money before you arrived in Aalborg, there is still a chance to visit this center with over 100 shops.

That was for all of you Shop-til-You-Droppers!

 

 

Money without Staples

Ever been to India? I have. Twice. When you exchange money, they staple it together in a large bundle, making you feel like Donald T. Rump, or Bill Fences.

Danish money is way different. It has different sizes? Why would they do that? My wife highlighted my ignorance. “What about the blind? How are they to tell the difference between 100 kroner or 50?” By the size of course. The coins are also different sizes, some with holes in them.

Along the way certain coins have gone out of vogue. The 25 øre coin only exists in the History Books, having outlived its usefulness.

Since I moved to Denmark, the US Currency has also changed in character. I wouldn’t recognize American Moola today, unless I’d seen some of it in the movies.

I remember, how my Real Sister used to work at the University of Los Angeles where she dealt with coins. The American quarter was still to be found in its silver form, which made her trade in the newer model silver+copper quarters for the more valuable pure silver sorts.

I still possess a few Deutsche Marks, and Pesetas, which otherwise disappeared with the advent of the Euro. My in-laws who traveled quite extensively once, enjoyed being millionaires while traveling in Poland back in the 90s.

Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Great Britain have decided to keep their time-honored currencies. Danes like their Krone, and have no intention of having it blend into the Euro, no matter what their Politicians would like them to think.

We still need to convert to those other rebel currencies, as well as the Euro, when traveling outside of Denmark. We need to make the necessary conversions while trying to calculate the cheapness, or expensiveness of the item at hand. Things seem to be cheaper, but then the taxation systems in other Countries are also different.

I do miss my Indian currency with its Elephants and pictures of Gandhi, all stapled together so tightly that it is almost impossible to remove them without damaging those nice pictures.

I leave this blog with a few shots of Indian Currency. If you look closely, you might just see where the staples had penetrated the paper, making the memory all the stronger.

and if that was too far away for your thinking, then perhaps this other form of currency better suits your taste:

In Disney We Trust!!!

You can’t trust anyone

I recently wrote about my Real Sister and her Husband discussing my blogs.

It now turns out that she didn’t tell me the whole truth, when relating their conversation concerning my blogs!

She decided to fictionalize parts of the story, which I in turn fictionalized into my story of my fictional self.

I would be upset, but first, I needed to re-read my last sentence to be sure that I understood what I meant.

It really takes the cake, when my Real Family turns on me, and begin to write blogs of a less than non-fictional character. I would protest of course, but if you knew how much I’ve toyed around with my family, then you’d probably need to have put a GPS-tracking device on my train of thought in order to figure out where we are today.

I really thought that my Real Sister, knowing that she was my Real Sister, and not one of my Fantasy Wanna-Be Sisters, would have caught onto the madness long before now, and just accepted it as a part of life. OK. Not a Real Life, but a Fantasy Blog kind of Life.

I thought that she would be the best one to trust, when writing about my Real, Fantasy and Adoptive Sisters, as she would be able to cut through the Baloney and know, in her heart, that she was my one and only, true Sister, and not one of the many facsimiles that seem to run loose in my blogs.

I was certain that our relationship of being Real Brother and Sister, not the Fantasy, or Adopted, or Traveling Circus Type of Trapeze Artist type of Wandering Gypsy Sister and Brother, who would have confused this blog to the limit, and not how it really is now!

I’m happy to have cleared up the confusion caused by my sometimes non-fictional Sister who purports to have written, or have re-told me that in essence that her descriptions of a non-fictional scene, was in reality a non, non-fictional retelling of the same event.

Having gotten that off my chest, I am willing to forgive and forget, and look forward to my Autumn visit to the United States where all of my Sisters, Fantasy or not, will be getting together in an all-time Family Reunion!

That would have warmed the cockles of my Real, but sadly deceased Father, and his wish for the Family, although terribly dysfunctional at best, to do their utmost to keep the Family together at all costs.

And nobody is better at being normal than our Family…..

 

Fiction is my Middle Name

But what is your first name?

Some people are never satisfied. My own family in the States can’t seem to decide just who I am.

Fiction, is he writing fiction?

  • No, it is really reality cloaked in fiction. You see, I take real situations and fictionalize them to protect the innocent. No, not really, but there is always a grain of reality in what I write.

Did those things really happen? Did you really say that to him?

  • My family is discussing one of my many blogs telling a story of who we are.

He is not writing about me. He is writing about his imaginary sister.

  • My Brother in-law is confused.

My sister tries to explain. Just imagine that it is not me, but his imaginary sister. You see?

No, I don’t. It almost sounds right, but who is he really talking about?

Our deceased sister. The Black Sheep of the Family. The troublemaker.

  • Good word, Troublemaker. I wish, I’d thought of that one, when writing about my family. I might just have to use that in a future blog.
  • Listening to them discuss my blogs, even I could get confused. I’ve tried to help everyone to understand, how my family is structured, but there still is some confusion.

He used to live with us, you know? My Brother in-law starts to remember the good times that we had together. Remember how he dragged the Christmas tree through the length of the house, when the front door was only 3 feet away?

  • OK. It was, but that was just a moment of inattentiveness. I was thinking of something else, while I did that.

And he used to sit in the chicken coop, and cluck like a chicken! That was also not normal, even for your family!

  • Well, they did seem to understand. That was way back when, before I wrote blogs.

And he was crazy about plants and drove everywhere to see them “Greening Up”. And he went hiking in the mountains. Every week. And….

  • You see, why fiction is better than reality. Reality only frustrates us, but fiction is there to entice, to delight and to cause wonder.

And he lived with your Imaginary sister in San Francisco. The Black Sheep. And it was probably there in that God Forsaken City that he began to get his crazy ideas.

  • This is the point in the story where my Sister, my Real Sister should come to my defense. Telling about my good points. Remembering what we really meant to each other in our family….

You are right of course. He’s crazy as a loon. Fiction might be the only thing holding what is left of his sanity together. Let’s just humor him, and hope that he returns to reality some day. Then we’d be his real Sister and Brother in -law once again!

I think, I might just change my first name to Fiction as well. It sounds a lot better than Non…….