Sunday, September 11, 2011

Danish Politics (be prepared to be confused)

This coming Thursday, 80-90% of Denmark will vote for a new parliament. Can you believe how high the voter turnout is?! The streets are covered with posters featuring a photo of the political hopefuls, their name, and the name of the party under which they are running. I've noticed a large number of political parties represented, so I asked a few of our Danish friends about the different parties and where they stand on the political landscape.

Here is a little cheat-sheet I created to help me remember where all the parties lie. This list doesn't cover every party, but only the major parties. As you can see, the most liberal of the parties is called Enhedslisten, which means the unity party. The most conservative of the parties is called the Dansk Folkeparti, or the Danish People's Party (think Danish tea party, yet not quite that conservative). However, unlike American politics, there are a lot of political parties that fall between these two extremes, and it's actually these 'middle of the road' parties that hold the majority of power. Let's start from the left (which, confusingly enough, is represented by the color red in Denmark, while the conservative parties are represented by the color blue). Next to the Enhedslisten is the Socialistisk Folkeparti, or the Socialist People's Party. Next comes the Socialdemokraterne, or the Social Democrats. Of the liberal parties, the Social Democrats have the most power, followed by the Socialists.
Now here is where things start to get funny... there is a party called Radikale, or the Radicals. When I first heard of this group, I assumed they were either very liberal or very conservative, hence 'radical'. However, this party isn't in a fixed location on the political map. Their allegiance is flexible. Strange, huh?
And yet most confusing fun: the least conservative of the conservative parties is called (wait for it...) Venstre, or the Left (they are also known as The Liberals... hahaha!)! Yep, a conservative party called Left. That's pretty funny if you ask me. This is the party that is currently in power; the current prime minister (who isn't voted for, but is rather chosen by the party with the most seats in Parliament) is in the Left party. One of my friends explained the name: the Left used to sit on the left side of Parliament, hence the name. Next comes the Konservative Folkeparti, or the Conservatives. As mentioned above, the most conservative of the political parties is the Dansk Folkeparti, or the Danish People's Party.
Bobby and I won't have the opportunity to vote for at least 7 more years (it takes a minimum of 9 years to gain Danish citizenship), but we've enjoyed learning about the political process in our new home country. We are pleasantly surprised by the relative liberalism of almost all of the parties; no one is trying to get rid of same-sex civil unions (which were legalized in 1989, making Denmark the first country to legalize same-sex civil unions) or abortion rights. Of course, there are the familiar arguments of lowering taxes, reducing unemployment benefits, tightening immigration, and other bs things... I guess no where is perfect. Happy voting!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Visit from Mom, Cooking, and Apartment Hunting

Since returning from our awesome trip to Hawai'i and Pennsylvania, Bobby and I have tried to get back into our daily routines, but it's been tough. The weather has been mostly crappy (cool, rainy, and windy... Denmark in a nutshell); in fact, this has been the wettest summer since the 1840s! It's been hard waking up early to get to work, though it has been nice biking around. It's especially hard not coming home to my Dad's good cooking and great wine! But last week we had a treat, which helped us feel like we were back on vacation mode: a visit from Mom!

And no visit from Mom is complete without a suitcase full of gifts! Mom brought us about 10 bottles of hot sauce (we just can't get Cholula here), 4 amazing bottles of red wine, a Bodum French press for coffee (because Mom was dreading the idea of our instant coffee), and many other goodies. Thanks, Mom! Our food is much spicier and tastier now :)

We tricked Mom into a 22 mile tandem bike ride! We took a tandem picnic to Dyrehaven (the beautiful park we visited in May) and we initially told Mom is was only a 6 mile ride. Well, it was 6 miles one way. Except it was actually 11 miles one way! But Mom was a trooper and survived the ride. I think she even enjoyed parts of the tandem ride!

In addition to sneaky tandem rides, we did a lot of fun things with Mom. We took a trip to Malmö, Sweden, where we walked about a city-wide international festival. During the week, Mom cooked dinner for us, which was a real treat. Once night, Mom and I went to Tivoli, where we heard a nice brass band. We took Mom to the University one day so she could see where we work and meet our colleagues. We had a really great time with Mom and already miss her. It sucks not having a personal chef at home anymore!

Part of the process of getting back into our daily routines includes, of course, cooking experiments for me. When Mom visited, I showed her how to make mayonnaise and macarons (not to be consumed together, though). On my own, I tried to make ricotta cheese. Yes, I made cheese. It was ok, though having proper cheese cloth would have made it better. It was a fun experiment. I'm currently making a nice large batch of chili to hold us over for the weekend (you can see my recipe here).

The thing that has taken up the majority of our time since returning from the States is the hunt for an apartment or row house. We are in the market to buy our very first place! The photo shows how we spend most of our nights now: wine and real estate listings. We've looked at hundreds of places online, have seen at least 10 places in person, and came pretty darn close to buying a place. Thank the gods we have a good lawyer who got us out of a bad deal! But that's another story. In the meantime, we continue looking at places and comparing bank loans. Wish us luck!