Bright and early Thursday morning I was up and out to catch the bus with my Children in a Multicultural Context class for a three day study tour adventure to Western Denmark. We spent most of our time on Funen and in the city/town/area of Odense.
The first stop of MANY was at a school called the Hans Christian Andersen school; an extremely diverse school of 400 students from grade 0-9 (or kindergarten to 9). Here they work hard to make the diversity in their group and asset. Giving attention to each individual childs needs and having a system based on flexibility and self-reflection helps to keep the school a happy and successful program for children from a big mix of backgrounds. The Socratic discussion method is a big technique used to help the kids learn to think critically about themselves and the world around them. The building was only built in 2000 and the design was great. In the few schools I’ve been to so far over here, I’ve noticed that they make their schools open and full of space and light and decorate not only to be functional, but to be inviting.
NEXT STOP! (half of the group went to Yggdrasil, a center for minority mothers to come with their children to learn how to best take care of them and to make friends in the community) while the rest of us when to Børnebyen aka the children’s city, a giant supervised playground in the Vollsmose area. (Vollsmose is a suburb of Odense that is sort of referred to as a ghetto, only that isn’t the word Danes use.) the playground was an awesome array of small houses, slides, swings, climbing towers, animals (goats chickens and bunnies), and SO MUCH GREENERY!! It was designed with a pedagogical perspective in mind and the space is fluidly structured to have area for kids of all ages. Getting shown around and talking about the who, how , why and what of the place, we enjoyed playing around in the rain for a bit.
Lets keep moving!
After that we went to the university in Vollsmose/Odense to see and interact with a theater group called Act Now. It was comprised of 5 Muslim women/girls and 1 Muslim man. They do a sort of theater called forum theater, in which the actors gain insight and the answers to the conflict in the play from their audience. After they put on a short show of us, the two groups mixed and we did some forum theater exercises that had us making frozen tableaus, making up storylines and talking about different slices of life that we have seen, heard or experienced for ourselves.
This was an awesome culturally eye opening experience. By the end of the activities, I had been given a chance to see past the headscarves and any preconceived notions of what it is to be a Muslim woman, and was struck by how easy it was for all of us to just come to together and enjoy each others company. In the greater scheme of things, we really are very similar in our wants and needs, and everyone has hopes and dreams for their futures and thoughts and opinions about the world we live in. This was a perfect example of the reality of the idea that everybody has something in common, and a lot of the time, we have more things than we think.
After checking into our hostel, we headed out to dinner. We ate at a Danish buffet called the Ugly Duckling. Lots of great meat and gravy and potatoes cooked a bunch of different ways.
my first hostel bed
the Ugly Duckling
After we stuffed ourselves full, we were free for the night to explore. Some of found a café with tables and giant umbrellas outside where we enjoyed some wine dessert. I stuck with cake and milk because of prices, but WOW was it a good choice. The Cognac cake was Amazing and the milk a perfect partner.
Can you believe all this was JUST THE FIRST DAY????
Bright and early (again) the next morning we grabbed a great breakfast at the hostel then headed out to the Vollsmose Kulturhus, a community center that offers help finding a job, community activities, computer classes, a recording studio, and a venue where cultural activities can be held. We had a few tours and learned about some of the efforts being made to help the youth of the area find things good things they are interested in and change their lives for the better.
Then we went to a bazaar for lunch and shopping, though it was mostly empty due to Ramadan. We found REAL NACHOS that didn’t coat and arm and a leg and also tried some delicious pineapple cream cake. (I love food WAY to much sometimes! :) )
Moving on again! The next stop was a place called Fyrtøjet, or the Tinder Box, a children's culture center next to Hans Christian Andersen's home.
Here, we heard the story of Clumsyhands,
painted a picture from the story,
played dress up and got our faces painted,
and got to play on the giant story sets
The point of this place is to have the children experience Hans Christen Andersen’s fairytales in a hands-on, put yourself in the story kind of way. The place was seriously amazing.
After that we went next door to the Hans Christen Andersen Museum and learned more about the man who seems to be EVERYWHERE over here.
After an hour or two on our own in the town, (mosty spent shopping) we all met for dinner at a Turkish buffet.
We ended the night by going back to the Kulturhus to see a musical/dance show called “Drums of Joy” by a group from Uganda. It’s the first time this show has ever been performed outside of Uganda and it was absolutely incredible!
I already knew I love African music, but this reinforced that sentiment x100! I love the community in the music they shared with us. The performers’ voices blended with the drums to create a palpable feeling in the room that I wish I could explain better.
And they danced! It was movement filled with the joy of moving, not caring what it looked like but enjoying using the body and being with the group in the music. The beats and claps and pure notes added by soloists made the show a hit and makes me want to find for music just like it really soon!!
Saturday, after another lovely hostel breakfast, we loaded everything back on the bus and set off for Gavnø Castle. The castle dates back to 1402 but is furnished in the Rococo style and is home to the largest privately-owned collection of paintings in Europe. The bus ride was long but we watched the movie “Bend it Like Beckham” (talk about the perfect cultural conflicts film to keep with the theme of the trip) and it was still fun. At the castle, we got yet another tour, got lunch and then had time to explore the extensive gardens. Since it was raining (AGAIN) we weren’t all thrilled to be outside, but the place was beautiful so misery wasn’t the feel of the walk either.
the cafe we had lunch at was a great spot for a rainy day- dark and warm with lots of windows and candles
We went beer tasting at the castle’s micro brewery. Yum :)
We tried 5 beers, an experimental Valentines Day Beer that was 80% beer and 20% cherry syrup/juice (not at sweet as I thought it would be, it was definitely still beer), a remake of an old Viking beer recipe, a traditional lager, anEPA (this one tasted the most like the Sierra Nevada I drink with Dad), and an imperial style stout that was almost black (it almost tasted like coffee it was so full flavored).
In honor of the 9th anniversary of September 11th, our group found a nice spot in the gardens, and had a long moment of silence in remembrance and respect for those who lost their lives that day. For those who have lost their lives in the fighting since then. For those whose lives were changed forever. And for the hope that the future will be different. My wish is that, without forgetting, we as a world can move on from this event and try to undo so much of the anger, hate and misunderstanding that has exploded in the past 9 years. Coming together and pausing to reflect like that was a very special moment of the trip.
These three days we full of interesting, eye-opening, fun, and delicious moments, but one of the best parts was how quickly and easily the 18 of us in the group came together. The first day, we didn’t even know each other’s names, but that soon changed. We aren’t all alike, but we get along well and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the semester with them and to taking on London for a week in the beginning of October.