Friday, April 30, 2010

Spring and Language Tests

Spring has officially arrived in Copenhagen! The trees are finally blooming and the city has come alive with outdoor cafés and park picnics. These cherry trees, which are near Amalienborg (the Royal family's residence), have blossomed.

One of my American flute friends, Tim, was stranded in Scandinavia last week due to the Icelandic volcano. He stayed with us for a week, during which time we took a walk to the beautiful park Kastellet. Started in 1626, the pentagonal park has some of the best preserved fortifications in Northern Europe. There are some beautiful buildings, lakes, and walks inside the park, including this cool fountain and the beautiful Anglican church. I look forward to having many picnics in this park over the summer.

I had my Danish language test last week! I had to prepare five different two-minute monologues: three monologues were about three little Danish books I've read, one monologue was on my new life in Denmark, and the final monologue was on my lifestyle. I randomly selected the lifestyle monologue, so I spoke for two minutes about what kind of foods I eat, what I drink, if and what type of exercise I do, and how my lifestyle in Denmark is different from the way I lived in the US. After I spoke, the proctor presented a photo. I had to ask 15 questions about the photo. Then I was done! I passed the test, so now I start the second (of five) semesters on Monday. The proctor told me my sentence structure was good, but I need more work on pronunciation. Almost everyone in my class (pictured here) passed, though a few did not. To celebrate, our teacher took us on a field trip to the Amalienborg castle. It was a very nice treat (the school paid for our entrance fees!) and it was a lot of fun to hang out with my teacher and classmates outside of school.

This past Wednesday was the final Connecting Friends dinner club. The dinner was a pot-luck, which was really fun because most people brought foods native to their home country. There was yummy chicken and curry, chili con carne, doro wat and injera (Ethiopian chicken stew and bread, one of our favorite dishes!), chips and salsa and brownies (prepared by Bobby and me). We both really enjoyed the Connecting Friends program and will stay in contact with many of the people we've met.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Queen's Birthday

On April 16, we joined many other Danes and confused foreigners in celebrating Queen Margrethe's birthday. She turned 70 years old this year! Due to the Icelandic volcano, several dignitaries invited were unable to show; but the royalty local to Scandinavia came by train.

The queen was traveling to the City Hall from the royal castle by carriage, and so we lined up with with many others along part of the route, and waited with flag in hand.

Soon the queen (seen in blue) and crown prince (seen next to the blue) rolled on by, but not before several intimidating calvary armed with swords. From where we stood, the queen passed not more than 9 feet from us.

Once the queen and crown prince reached the door of City Hall, they turned and waved at the flags that did wave. Was that it?

No! There was a very long line of maybe 70 strudels or cakes, topped with a flattering likeness of the queen wearing a dress emblazoned with a "70", and on each cut piece were several pieces of gummy candy and/or licorice.

The Danish are crazy about their gummies and licorice. Here Carla stands before the Haribo bear who itself stands before sugar-crazed children with a box-full of gummies.

Eventually the queen gave a short broadcast speech from within City Hall, and then came out onto the balcony and waved some more. Right after this moment, the whole crowd rushed to get a piece of cake. We survived the initial crush with our two pieces intact; but we certainly had the feeling that if this country was 10 times larger, there would have been some casualties.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cock of the North

Carla is practicing piccolo, so I had her join me on this here Scottish tune: Cock of the North. Enjoy!

Cooking for Twenty-One from Ten Nations

On Wednesday, Carla and I helped cook dinner for a group of twenty-one foreigners and Danes. This is a group of people from various Danish language classes interested in meeting other foreigners and Danes. Carla made about 15 pounds of her wowatouille (ratatouille with some spice). Vahid from Iran made lamb kebabs, and Muhammed from Pakistan made five-alarm chicken biryani. It was all so delicious!

By 19h30, everyone had arrived and we began to chow down and have great conversations. The ten nationalities represented here are: Uzbekistan, Slovakia, Pakistan, Iran, India, Denmark, France, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, and the USA. It was like the United Nations; the Coalition of the Willing to eat wowatouillie and incredibly spicy biryani.

Carla and I gave a small concert before dessert, playing our version of L'inconnu de Limoise.

Carla also made some excellent chocolate cake, which we served with ice cream. It was a great way to finish the evening!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

We are Privy to Beautiful Views

Last weekend, with the warmer weather, Carla and I did some exploring in Copenhagen. We visited the Round Tower, which at top houses Europe's oldest and still functioning astronomical observatory. Construction of the Round Tower was finished in 1642, and for a long time was the tallest building in Copenhagen. We climbed the spiral ramp all the way to the top.

On the way to the top we passed the "library privy," where we know many famous scholars and authors from centuries past passed gas.

In 1807 Great Britain bombarded Copenhagen, but the Round Tower was thankfully not destroyed. However, a few bombs landed in the attached library (next to the privy), and one of the bombs broke apart an old book (appearing in 1324) titled Defender of the Peace, which is not so much about war and peace, but about the duties of the State separated from the influence of the Church. This artifact is preserved in the floorboards of the old library.

Along the spiral walk, we encountered a strange organism that surrounded people and starting to sing, chant, and dance. It was a lively and fun display.

From the top of the Round Tower we can see all of Copenhagen, and Sweden as well. We saw the large dome of a church and so we decided to walk that way to see what it was.

On the way we pass many buildings that typify Scandinavia: bold and individual colors.

On the way, we passed through the King's Park where many flowers are blooming. Note too Carla is not wearing her subzero sushi roll coat.

Here is the dome (the largest in Scandinavia) that we saw from the Round Tower: the Marble Church, or Marmorkirken. This picture is taken within the court of the winter royal residence, Amalienborg Palace.

Being the royal home, there must be some soldiers with royally funny hats.

We discovered a wonderful row of restaurants along a canal.

And ate some standard fare. Hotdogs are a staple here.

But also, shawerma. We have found an excellent shawerma restaurant that really lives up to its claim of being the best in Copenhagen. And finally we have found some spicy sauce that makes for some regretfully vehement intestinal distress.

On a more soothing note, Carla has nearly perfected her skills in making wonderful meringues. She only needs to figure out how to make it so they can be easily separated from the cooking sheet. Anyhow, my colleagues at the lab are extremely impressed when I pull these out at lunch.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Easter in Paris avec Tartes

So back to Easter in Paris, here is bébé Iris celebrating her first Easter with a big egg of chocolates that she kindly let the adults consume, i.e., those with big people stomachs.

We took a lovely walk to a nearby park, where Sacha (lower left corner, white, with beady eyes) nearly consumed a curious human toddler who quickly learned to run/dance and scream/sing.
Once we returned, we had an excellent dinner of cheese, sauccison, bread, wine, and a dramatic reading of two very recent journal issues in which my PhD work is published. Naps all around.

Our time in Paris would not be complete without a visit with Guillaume and Isabelle. After a wonderful lunch of crêpes, we took a walk to the blooming Parc Montsouris, which is very close to the apartment in which we lived summer 2007. Spring in Paris is so wonderful. Just look at that tree. And look at the white in my hair! Oh noes -- I am entering the Winter of my life.

And finally, Carla and I enjoyed two of the best tartes framboises (raspberry tarts) in Paris. If you are not prepared, this tarte will make you fall if you aren't already seated, and melt to the floor if you are already seated. Either way, you must be prepared. Or not.

No Internet = No Posts!

We finally have reliable Internet access restored at our apartment, so our fun can begin again. To start things off, here is the tune of the month: Battle of the Somme.

Soon we will put up some pictures of Easter in Paris, our recent dinner where we helped cook for 21 people and entertained with music, and the Danish Queen's birthday celebration.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bébé Iris Mulliez

We have arrived to Paris for this Easter holiday to greet our newest BFF: Iris Elena Kimberly Amour Mulliez (pictured, credits to Carla), whom we just call Iris because by the time you finish saying her whole name she is asleep. Katie and Olivier are of course the proud new parents, and are incredibly gracious in opening their home to us. We have been doing our best to help them out in their first week home with their daughter --- like we know what we are doing.

Here I show Olivier how to do some work while helping the baby. The baby takes one look at MATLAB and dozes off, kind of like Carla.

We are so happy to be in Paris, where the clothes are cheap(er than in Copenhagen). I finally bought some très chic black dress shoes, some shirts with white collars, and one pair of incredibly tight pants. Carla bought some cool shirts, and a few tank tops, which she can wear in Denmark come June. Here's staying positive. Our French is returning a bit, though Carla and I find ourselves saying "tak for i dag" instead of "merci beaucoup", and "undskyld" instead of "pardon." Before we went shopping for clothes, we stole ourselves to one of the eight local boulangeries in a two block radius, and had ourselves two tartes: rhubarb, and payssane (apples and cream). It was blissful eating them under the awning protected from the rain. Tomorrow we will head off to our old neighborhood to buy some tea, have two 1.60 Euro cafés cremes, buy some wonderful chocolates, and get me a 7 Euro hair cut.