Retail therapy on a budget doesn’t get any better than a day trip to Germany. I have journeyed through Germany numerous times over the years both for shopping and holidays. Dinning too, is a pleasurable experience, as the German people are friendly and welcoming in their restaurants.
This time we spent the day together with good friends in the charming city of Flensburg, close to the border between Germany and Denmark. The border has moved considerably back and forth over time, so the city is an interesting mix of both German and Danish cultures. We had lunch at Hansen’s Brewery by the harbor, where we consumed a feast of meat, meat, and more meat! The restaurant was a combination of Danish coziness ‘hygge’ and October fest, clearly appealing to Danes looking to expand their waistlines without dramatically reducing their funds.
The rest of the day was spent shopping. We let the kids loose with a few Euros. However, the majority of purchases were reserved for moi. A very rare selfish experience, which felt strangely enjoyable!
A bag with personality! I found this bag screaming ‘look at me’ in a little boutique in the Galerie centre for just 19 EUR.
Here I am (well at least my legs), sporting a pair of new gym pants and groovy shoes. Although I don’t intend to combine the two, I thought this pic might serve as a warning to the kids; misbehaving could result in their mother picking them up in this outfit. Team it with the previous bag and imagine the embarrassment!
Living in Denmark during the winter months has given me a pretty good idea what it is like to be a bear. The days get colder and shorter. Sleep becomes more attractive. When it starts to get dark around 3pm, I’m ready to hit the sack around 6-7pm. This evening I fell asleep on the sofa after dinner. I awoke to my soon to be three-year-old drawing on the walls! Yep that is winter for you. I would hibernate like a bear if it wasn’t because I’m a grown-up with responsibilities. Here is what we’ve been up to lately.
Bowling is a great activity on a rainy day, especially while wearing 3D glasses!
Find a bowling alley where there are tasty lunch specials and you can keep the kids amused for an entire afternoon.
Here in Odense we went for walk around Munkemose and checked out one of the kids favourite playgrounds.
Finally a gym that is not only for the beautiful people! I’m a member (and actually use) a gym here in Odense where anyone is welcome, it is low-priced and no fuss. Sure you might see the odd muscle-bound body builder type or a few gorgeous hotties checking each other out, but you see plenty of average looking people here too. Upon arriving at Fresh fitness one can relax in the comfort that being a size L or XL does not mean that it is against the laws of fashion to wear a pair of leggings. My work-out pants would, in other situations be a fashion sin, but here I could relish the fact that my leggings were at least the right size. I have been witness to, on occasion, that a few of my fellow gym members wore sweat drenched tank tops and leggings that were a couple of sizes too small. Strangely enough it was not as horrifying as I could have imagined. Perhaps my recent holiday in Germany where obese topless sunbathing was the norm had hardened me up.
I reflected over how this gym compared to others I had been a member of. In most gyms being beautiful is the norm, the average slob, who needs to shed a few pounds could just as well be the Hunchback of Notre Dame compared to the beauties that normally prance around. I found at my new gym, that I could reassure myself that no matter how much work I needed to do, there were others who were worse off.
This chain of gyms just opened a new one here in Odense. I went and checked it out. I enjoyed the extra space in the new gym, the additional machines and of course the reduced smell of sweat, probably due to fewer sweaty bodies per m2. What really caught my eye was the hotdog stand next-door to the fitness centre. In fairness the hotdog stand was most likely there first, but I can’t help thinking about how it is a bit like watching a slimmer’s program on TV. You know the ones where there get morbidly obese people to bare their soul and gut, for the camera in their weight loss journey. Then in the commercial break there is an advertisement for mouth-watering chocolate ice-cream. The hotdog stand beckoned me to come over with the delicious smell of hotdogs. I came out from my work-out and went directly to the car. I felt the eyes of the hotdog lady burning into the back of my neck. I jumped into the car and sped off before the hotdog lady could come at me with a sausage.
A valuable lesson learnt. Stick to the old gym. The stench of sweat will ruin my appetite for several hours after the work-out and there is no hotdog stand.
Today, I’m starting a 5 week stint of learning, laughter, stress and coffee. I’m going out into a local Odense school as a student teacher. My anticipation, expectation and stress are huge. Coffee will be my companion throughout the following weeks, as I get to know my pupils and prepare the daily lessons. I will be teaching English, History and Home Economics. If I’m absent from my blog it is not because I’ve fallen down a hole, I will be teaching. In a couple of hours I will be standing before a 5th grade dressed as a Cowboy going through a name game, where if I don’t remember their names, and this possibility is very likely, they get the pleasure of shooting me with a water pistol. Ah! The life of the student teacher…
I headed over to the frozen food section and grabbed a couple of carb enriched, ready-made pizzas. The only preparation needed was the opening of the cardboard box and pre-heating the oven. Give me a coffee and I could manage that. I filled my basket up with several items with no real nutritional value, but with the purpose of helping me get though the sleepless nights and having the kidlets home over Chrissy.
As I emptied my basket at the check- out, I saw a woman standing in the queue behind me smiling. I smiled back. She smiled again and then said “Hi”. I had no clue as to who she was, but as I’m a regular customer in Aldi, I figured that she probably was too, so I politely returned her “Hi”.
She kept looking at me and I was starting to get nervous, because if she did know me from somewhere, then she would know that I have a tendency to tell my life story in a nanosecond. This trait whether I like it or not, is inherited from the Kelly family on my mother’s side (that’s right blame the Irish). I try to keep my blubbering under control , (not that I’m OCD or anything), but when you are first known as one who can talk the hind leg off a dog, there are certain expectations placed upon one. Even someone who is conversationally gifted as ‘moi’ is left speechless after a sleepless night with the two-year-old terrier.
Finally she said something along the lines of “You don’t know who I am, do you?”. I had to admit that I didn’t have the foggiest. It turns out that her daughter goes to pre-school with my son. I looked at her again and tried to picture an ankle bitter attached to her. “Yeah, sorry,” I said. “I didn’t recognize you without your kid.”
Suddenly, when I knew I was in the company of a fellow mother who I was bound to run into again, ‘exhausted mum’ metamorphosed to ‘super mum’. All thoughts of the sleepless nights and lack of energy to keep up with the kidlets vanished when she asked me if we had a good Christmas. “Great,” was of course my response. I even found myself spouting off about how wonderful it was having the kids home and how much quality time we were having together. I never said a word to her about how, after listening to a whining 5-year-old earlier that day, I toyed with the idea of ringing the local authorities and inquiring about the possibilities of ‘Christmas kinder’, to give beaten down parents a break.
Honestly, I don’t feel too bad not recognizing a fellow kinder mum. My husband and I were recently on a rare dinner date without our children. We were at a Chinese restaurant where we have dined several times before. It was a pleasure to enjoy our meal without running after a vagrant tot or tell them for the tenth time to sit down and then leave early before the little buggers get a chance to climb the walls, fall down the stairs or just get hysterical.
The waitress who had served us on our previous visits asked if it was our first time at the restaurant. She didn’t recognize us without the kids. Just as I didn’t recognize that mum in Aldi. Many mothers say they feel invisible after having children, but the perhaps it is more than a feeling. To many I’m not known by my first name but as ‘Patrick’s mum’ or ‘Amanda’s mum’. When ringing the preschool, daycare or Doctor, I usually introduce myself as the respective child’s mum so they know who I am. Even I get confused as to my true identity. Once, I rang Patrick’s preschool and said ‘’Good morning, this is Liz, Amanda’s mum’’ where the person answering my call wondered who the bloody hell Amanda was.
Denmark is without a doubt the leading nation in equality, well at least it appears to be. Conflict is to be avoided at all costs and coming to a consensus is paramount.
Danes go to great lengths to avoid conflict. Even couples who have been living together all their adult lives have separate bed spreads. Once I asked a colleague, why couples in this country usually have two single bed covers on a double bed, instead of one large bedspread. She said that it was so there was nothing to argue about! My colleague was shocked that I said that it sounded pretty boring if one didn’t have anything to argue about with one’s mate.
Gift giving is just the same. The gift giver is to purchase exactly according to the receiver’s wishes. Especially when giving presents to kids. It is a rare event that someone gives a birthday or Christmas present without asking for a wish list. Roaming around endlessly in a shop wondering what to buy is considered a waste of time. You can really upset some people’s psychological well-being by telling them that it is up to them as to which gift they can give you. Families here often agree in advance as to fixed amount the gifts they give each other should cost, so no one is left feeling cheated. This is an important rule if you’re a foreigner here to adhere to. Spending more or less than the fixed amount can create a conflict as you upset the order of things, no matter how much you think spending 50 Danish crowns more or less should be of no consequence. If this isn’t bad enough people often attach the receipt to the gift so it can be easily exchanged. If I’m fair to the gift givers, there is a lot of exchanging of gifts here and it is getting worse. People seem more ungrateful than ever. Just after Christmas there was a news story on the telly about how Danes are going online to find out how much the gifts they have received have cost.
Just as the Christmas season draws to a close and as we approach the New Year, hoards of shoppers are queuing in all the major stores armed with their unwanted gifts and the attached receipts on the look-out for a replacement. I’m driven mad as I can’t find a park in the gigantic car parks. I reason that my grocery shopping must be more crucial than their returning of gifts. I even found myself saying to the kids, ‘Don’t they have anything better to?’ as I drove around one car park. Then it hit me just how much like my own mum I sounded. Why do they do it, one might ask? Sometimes it because they have the item already or it is the wrong size but more often than not it is because they don’t like it. This seems to rub off on their offspring who seem to be increasingly spoilt. Some kids don’t even say thank you anymore if the pressie you come with doesn’t meet their high standards. ‘Back in my day’ the parents would remind the little brats to say thanks. These days the parents just come with more extravagate wish lists, one parent even telling me that the kids didn’t appreciate small presents, if we could instead be contribute to a larger one. There was a voice in my head thinking ‘Hey what about no gifts at all, see how they like that!’
I’m looking forward to the end of this consumer frenzy, now the holidays are about to end here and everyone is returning to work and school. Perhaps now I can find a park when I’m out shopping. Happy New Year!