Fucking Flink Live

The Flink movement is something I have banged on about covered here a few times. I guess it steams my milk because it is something I desire for Denmark but feel like a terrible imperialist by trying to be the change I want to see in the world.

I have previous, London has a rep for being cold and rude so as soon as I moved there, I was double polite and friendly to try to tip the balance. What helped was that I called myself a Londoner within about 10 months of living there. I have lived in Denmark for 18 months longer than in London and I still call myself a Londoner and not a Dane. (I lived in Cardiff and Stafford for six years each and I never said I was from there so maybe it’s because Londoners can be outsiders to London)

I digress. The Fucking Flink movement, is to try to introduce a bit of kindness and consideration between strangers in public in Denmark.

Political considerations aside, it is this unkindness and lack of consideration that I like least about living here. When people are kind or considerate here, I think about it all day. All day.

Lars AP was persuaded to come to Fredericia by the library. What a treat! Another digression: when I tell people that I don’t get on with Danish culture, if they come from somewhere else they blame F town. Outrageous. There’s loads going for my town.

He started by talking about how Danes are the happiest. He seemed convinced by the studies (I am unconvinced by that’s by the by) but he brought up the paradox: If Danes are so happy, why don’t they have the energy to spread the joy?

If it were my talk, my question would be “studies show that if strangers smile at you, you feel much happier than if they scowl or ignore you in a walking down the street situation. How on EARTH are Danes happy?” But it wasn’t so there we are.

He also revealed that as a bilingual child, he was aware that in English he was more outgoing, curious, kind and friendly than in Danish. He also used the dirty word for bilingual to describe himself, several times, so I am in love.

With that set up, he talked about how “Flink” isn’t a sexy word and not something people aspire to. I didn’t know that. In English “nice” is unsexy (friend zone) but “considerate”, “curious”, “friendly” and “kind” are neutral. Maybe a bit sexy depending on the context.

Then he gave five ways of increasing Flink interactions. His main thrust was it starts with the individual, it is nice to be nice and so on.

When he asked the audience (80% pensioners), what they could do to make Fredericia famous for flinkhed, the discussion was limited by imagination. Not that they were bad ideas. Just limited. They need more coaching.

For example, the first few things were about how to persuade others to be more Flink in the dog poo situation. Irresponsible dog owners leave dog poo on the streets. The majority of the discussion was about how to get them to pick it up. Poking Danish flags in the turds was suggested. But I had always taken that to be more passive aggressive than Flink. I’m not knocking it, it works!

Then there was talk about getting the borough to introduce a Flink initiative. Another guy blamed the press for focusing on “negative” stories. Lars put both of these back on the individual. “Make the positive news more newsworthy and the media will run with it.” for example.

It seems to me that the ones willing to share with the group had missed the point. This journey starts beneath our feet. We need to be kinder and funnier with strangers. How can WE do that? What behaviours of ours are the equivalent of leaving poop in the street? What can we do ourselves to make things better for everyone? There’s no point waiting on the borough to do something and it’s not especially Flink to try to modify the poor behaviour of others with passive aggression.

I am excited because maybe the movement will strike a chord and things will change but I’m also nervous because it looks like I’ll need to roll up my own sleeves.

A lack of familiarity with flinkhed has led to a lack of facility with it. The people of my town need to be shown and not told. Over and over. But I am hopeful even though I am over faced by the challenge.

Zealotry and Real Life

Mary Elizabeth Williams said that there is a saying

Zealotry springs from doubt, not faith.

But I could not find that saying anywhere else so I am going to go ahead and say she coined it. Good old, Mary Elizabeth Williams!

When I came to Denmark, I would not say I was a zealot but I was certainly an enthusiast. It seems completely incredible (if not batshit crazy), to me now but I did not even try to look at the experiences of others living here. I read a book called Culture Shock, started learning Danish (but half heartedly because I reckoned 3 months immersion would get me fluent), and that is as far as I went with preparation.

I was not ready to hear what people actually living in Denmark had to say, in any case. I had no illusions: moving countries was going to be hard, culture shock was going to be hard, a new language was going to be hard. So, if I read anything about how hard things were going to be, well, I already knew that. None so blind as those who will not see.

My first exposure to other foreigners (apart from a handful of Brits in my town), was online. There was an excellent blog called “It seemed like a good idea at the time” and the title itself was what I needed. There were a group of foreign bloggers at the time, this also seems incredible to me, who talked about what life in Denmark was like. Some of them talked about the nice things, some talked about their day-to-day lives and some talked about frustrations. As I got to know these people, I became disillusioned with the hype about Denmark and had to adapt dramatically to make a life here (and not in the place, I hoped I was moving to).

Of course, winter came, as it is wont to do, and there was a massive falling out.

This was my first winter in Denmark so I had no idea that falling out with foreigners is a seasonal sport here. Most of the blogs went private or closed completely.

As people follow the most common advice given to foreigners, and leave, the blogs shut down. There are only two from that time that remain. The rest of the blogs are by “newbies” (some of the newbies have been here three years).

I saw a question posed, in that way questions are posed when you do not give a shit about the answer but do not want to make a statement, why aren’t there publications and blogs devoted to a “balanced” and “non-confrontational” treatment of integration into Denmark?

One of the practical considerations of writing one of those sort of websites is that when you are dealing with getting a CPR number or getting a place, you are too busy actually doing that to write about it for an audience. And once you have done it, the rules change. You would have to find out from someone else how to do it and they cannot tell you because they are too busy doing it.

Thing is, despite all this, there are. There are loads. No one reads them for the same reason that the Daily Mail Online is doing so well.

Besides, I would not write about integration anymore, would I? I am integrated. I am six months off permanent residence. I pay tax on three jobs. (My boyfriend says I have ONE job, one freelance gig and one part time thing. What does he know? He has one job.) I volunteer. I speak Danish, I was helping kids with their Danish at work the other day and thinking “Oh wow, I really do speak Danish”.

Good luck with your integration journey but I cannot help you, just as a Dane cannot help you. Your experiences are completely alien to me!

What I can talk about is what it is like to live in Denmark and this is where disagreements with zealots comes in.

I know plenty of people who have made new lives in Denmark and are perfectly happy (within normal tolerance ranges for happiness). They are also very personable people. They have their stuff going on, they find joy and frustration, they can talk to me about what is going on with me. There is no need for zealotry because they have worked out how to live in this country. There is no need for self righteousness, telling people off or unkind words. They just get on with it.

Zealots come in two flavours. One, is the person who intends to move to Denmark and needs Scandinavia to be better than home. Their own country has its problems and they need a place to exist where those problems are not an issue. They know that there are drawbacks to Denmark but they are making a deal with themselves that those things WILL NOT BOTHER THEM when they move.

The second, is the person who has moved to Denmark, cannot move back and has problems. They have no choice about where they live (for whatever reason), but they can choose how they react to their problems. Either they react to things that upset them or they shut that shit down.

Shutting down that sort of shit, requires that you make a decision never to process the feelings brought up when you have a bad day. If you have a bad day, you must make a decision to call yourself a bad person for feeling bad about it. That is what “choosing happiness” entails, if you feel a “negative” emotion, you must squash it down and keep it in check. If you are going to these lengths, you do not hear about it from anyone else. If you persuade yourself that you need to believe you are a bad person if you feel sad when someone is rude to you, then it is a short jump to calling everyone bad people for expressing that emotion.

The NUMBER of people who get in my face and tell me that I am not balanced because I do not talk about the good stuff! That I must have half my posts devoted to the good things about life in Denmark. I am sorry, but it’s not 50:50 here.

Racial discrimination, borough councils forcing people to have ECT against medical advice, children being deported, medical incompetence… these things are not reset by a decent bicycle infrastructure. With the best will in the world.

And with the personal: being belittled for trying to speak Danish, being shoved regularly, being ignored in social situations… this is more interesting to write about because it differs from my life in the UK. Back home, I had good friends, I had romantic interests, I had a nice place to live, I had a good job. I have that here too. What is different now is that I am an outsider and am subject to random unpleasantness because of that, from time to time.  There are hundreds of blogs about what it is like to work as a teacher and have a boyfriend. There are dozens of blogs about the interesting and quaint things of living in Denmark. There is one blog about working as a teacher in Denmark and having a Danish boyfriend. Difference is interesting to write and read about.

To those considering a move: Denmark is ok but it is not a place you should enter into lightly. You are going to find it hard to integrate here. You are going to have difficulties. The good news is, you are not alone. We are all finding it difficult. With luck, your difficulties will be minor and trivial but you must prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. We all find nice things in our lives that keep us going and moving to Denmark could be the best decision you ever make.

To the zealots: you need to lose your self righteousness and stop trying to pull me down for saying what you dare not. You are only a zealot because you are having the same doubts and problems as I am, you are just dealing with it in a hypocritical and disingenuous way. You do have a choice and its not to “choose happiness”, your options are

  • be in the moment you are in with patience, simplicity and compassion
  • carry on hating on me in your proxy war for self loathing.

Are the Danes racist?

A book has been written to tackle the thorny issue of racism in modern Danish society. I am given to understand that publishing a book, as opposed to publishing in a peer reviewed journal, shows the work is weak. How would I know? I have not read it. I just read the promotional material which generated the headlines “You’re not racist, after all” . I wrote this in response as part of my freelancing gig with Copenhagen Post. I only get 700 words, so I did not touch the question itself.

Obviously, and I should not have to say this but I will anyway, you cannot say “the Danes are” most anything and have a 100% hit rate. Even in a small population who puts great stock in conformity, you are not able to stereotype an entire country. Not with high confidence levels.

So, no, “the Danes” are not racist. However. There is a problem in Denmark because so much racist behaviour is condoned, institutionalised and accepted.

Not that Denmark differs from most of the rest of the world in that. As climate change and capitalist imperialism causes conflict and displacement, rich countries are finding more and more reasons to batten down the hatches. It’s because “their” culture is barbaric, it’s because “they” are like that, it’s because blah blah. People do not like to share and they fear change.

Where Denmark differs, is that people outside of Denmark think Danes are tolerant and groovy. Individual Danes tend to have that same self-image.

Then the foreigners come and say “Oh wow, that’s racist.” and all hell breaks loose.

How can that be racist, if I am not racist?

Here are some stats that prove nothing but I find interesting, nevertheless. WordPress log the search terms you use to find me. The most popular search terms are variants on “adventures and japes”, that is, most people search directly to find this website. The second most popular is any variant on “Danes are rude”. The third most popular is “Danes are racist”.

People are entering “why are Danes racist?” into google. In extraordinary numbers, considering how many come to me to find out why. (I don’t know! Are they?)

So, what? Why are people searching the internet for websites that tackle Danish racism? If you write “are — ” where — is a name of a European people, the next word that comes up in the auto-complete is usually “racist”. There is a big problem in Europe.

In Denmark, where I live and am talking about, the racism is unapologetic, unguarded, unpolished. Back home, racism is usually more sneaky and careful. In Denmark, it’s like dealing with an adolescent who has met their first black person. The sheer amount of blackface I have to deal with here is unprecedented.

Not only that but much of the racism is built into public discourse. The media, the state, a lot of what they do and say with regards to non-whites/non-danes is based on prejudice. Most of the problem stems from not realising that people with a different culture/skin tone/whathaveyou are just folks. Just not appreciating that we are real human beings too. We get put into blocs and dehumanised. From this, comes discriminatory actions. Look at DR and some of the tabloids. News stories about “foreigners” are almost always negative, stories about negative things are regularly traced back to foreigners. And thusly, the connection is secured. Not that the news is trying to brainwash the populace, brainwashed people write the news.

My favourite episode of Borgen season 3 so far was (if you absolutely must not know what happens, then see you next time, that is all I am going to talk about from now on), when a group of politicos are trying to choose a spokesperson for immigration issues.

They ask a white guy with a black wife but he says he would rather not. They decide they need an immigrant and so someone suggests a Greenlander. Then they say, no not that sort of foreigner, we need a Muslim, so an Indonesian is suggested because it is the country with the most Muslims. No, not Indonesians, they’re too close to Japanese and Chinese and the associations are “business”. Africans are dismissed out of hand. They want an “Arab”. They reject a Muslim for wearing a headscarf. Then they reject someone with a Persian neck tattoo and then they get a nice Muslim lady with hair and she turns out to be a raging racist, so they roll up their sleeves and give the job to a ginger. These guys do not get in trouble for their recruitment process but later an employer gets into real deep shit for saying someone was like a “Pakistani doomsday prophet”.

The writing is wonderful, in that they were able to capture exactly what the problem is in Denmark with some cheeky and knowing dialogue. “How about my friend from Greenland…” is very very clever, as is the reaction to the neck tattoo. And the way their preferred nice well educated “liberated” Muslim woman is not interested in immigration issues beyond “keep ’em OUT!” that was sublime!

Well-meaning people in politics do racism because “the people” are not ready for them to do any different. People in politics are incapable of giving someone a job on their own merits. They must fit a good immigrant image exactly or be white. People do not get in trouble if they cover their tracks when they discriminate but they get in real trouble for saying the wrong words. “Real” immigrants are Muslim Arabs. Headscarves are a make-or-break issue.

Though, I worry that the people watching Borgen will not get it was a clever satire on the state of race relations in Denmark. And then I worry the writers were not writing a satire, they just wrote what actually happens without trying to point out the ridiculousness of it because they do not realise it is ridiculous. (But then, the writing would not have been so good. I am just so used to the media dumbing everything down for consumption. I do not know what to think anymore.)

My take is that the politicians and media could treat the Danes with a lot more respect. They could trust them to see a woman in a headscarf and not lose their shit, they could trust them to understand complex issues, they could trust them to vote for them without whipping up fear about immigration.

I think the media of Denmark underestimate the Danish people far too much. They may have weird ideas about race and culture but they are not beyond help! Much like everywhere else in the world, as we become more globalised, we need to work on our natural tendency to be racist. And our media and our politicians are critical to this process. It is make or break.

So, my answer, is “no, the Danes are not racist”.

But (you knew a “but” was coming, right?)

But, a lot of what passes for common knowledge and common sense is racist and it would be a great opportunity to examine that so we can move forward together as a nation.

Plato’s Cave and Complacency

One argument I regularly have to field is

“Sure Denmark isn’t perfect. Nowhere is.”

This comes in variants, depending on how shitty the other person is feeling about what I just said.

“Your country isn’t perfect, either. HA!”

and

“SURE I HOPE YOU CAN FIND A PERFECT COUNTRY. AND THEN MOVE THERE. TO THAT PERFECT COUNTRY.”

Don’t you think I know nowhere is perfect? Oh, honestly! But for as long as we are living in Plato’s cave, I can see the perfect country projected on the wall.  I can see how it would look, what would happen there and how it would make me feel.

My country used to upset me a lot because it fell short of its potential in several areas. Denmark upsets me for the same reason in different areas.

Everyone everyone! It’s okay to talk about how a country isn’t perfect! I appreciate the good bits but I reserve the right to talk about the rubbish bits, too.

Please, if you are an immigrant to any country, do not feel like you are a “guest” and may not talk freely. (Exception: if you live in a country which enforces your silence with threats or actual violence). Last weekend, an immigrant of 14 years told me that “weather” transformed my country into a 3rd world nation. If he felt like a “guest”, I never would have had that refreshing perspective. I never would have laughed and said “You’ve got that right!” Who knows, sharing that perspective with the right person, would lead to the UK getting better at weather. Stranger things have happened.

Stop enforcing complacency, everyone! The only way anything every gets done or improves, is if people can look at things from all angles.

No, nowhere is perfect. Let’s embrace that and make the place we are living in as good as it can be.

Anti-Blog Indeed

I just had a weekend in London. Yes, I know, hark at her.

I got back Sunday night when I should have got back Sunday evening and the stress of it all, knocked me for six and I was really unwell all Monday. But I am back, fit for fight as the Danes say, and ready to analyse my experiences for your entertainment.

My weekend started halfway through Friday. Work time agreements in Denmark are sweet. They are really sweet. As long as I get all my teaching work done, I can leave after my lessons and not have to wait until 4pm like in the old country. I finished at 10am and stuck around, doing my marking and planning until after lunch.

I got a train, in the thick snow which fell on Wednesday, down to the airport. There were no delays. The snow had been ploughed and the roads gritted. The train was really cold because it was one of those nice new ones that don’t work, so the heating was out. (This probably accounts for the lurgee I went down with). I got to the airport very on time. The checking in lady was AWESOME, really nice and perfect English. I had a laugh with her.

Security were great. The lady in the café was bored and a bit diffident but she didn’t spit in my food or anything.

As I got on the plane, the (Welsh), flight attendant informed us that we were being diverted through Southend. No one was a dick, we just went “oh what. ok.”

He then worked his butt off arranging onward flights for two passengers who needed to get to other places after London. He sorted it out and was a thoroughly nice chap. I heart British Airways.

We landed in Southend. We were then left on the runway, freezing our butts off while we waited for the miniature border control to finish checking the passports of another flight.

A passenger did a REALLY British whinge to the runway steward and I said

“That’s so BRITISH, man,” to another man who looked kinda British. And then almost cried the homesickness was so savage.

The border control guy teased me about my passport. (It is battered to hell now)

I went to the loo and left my hat in there. I rejoined the queue to grab it and had a lovely banterous chat with two guys waiting. It was so lovely to have a joke with strangers. It was sooooo lovely!

Then I asked a steward, in terms of time, would he recommend the bus or the train?

THE TRAIN, he said with zero hesitation.

I got to the theatre bang on at half time which was so fucking lucky because otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to go to the show at all. I almost slipped on the pavement about five times, even though there was only a tiny bit of slush. There was about one centimeter of snow. About a fifth of what I left in Denmark.

The show was a sexual health charity benefit organised by the fiancée of a dear friend. I had arranged to buy a ticket off of one of his friends. I sat with three strangers and within the short time before the show started again, we had become firm friends. We continued chatting afterwards, even as it was clear the group were going home.

I met my friend and some of his other friends, and again, chatted with them about allsorts of things. I hung out with his friends in the bar, having a laugh. These people were all strangers to me and they accepted me with open arms.

Then I hung out with my friend and his fiancée and her friends and ended up sharing a taxi with a colleague of hers, who also chatted freely and happily with me about all sorts of things.

Next day, the reason I was going, I had a lunch with a friend and her friends. I did some shopping before lunch, to get some new jeans. Every single sales assistant was extra nice, extra smiley. I wondered if I was ovulating and sending out “be lovely to me” hormones.

At lunch, I had a chat with almost everyone. I knew only one other person. The chats were not superficial. They were funny. They were interesting. They were varied. No one played with their phones.

After this, I went by train to another dear friend and her family. We chatted until what would have been dawn if the sun would have come up.

I caught a train back into central London and was let off by a nice ticket inspector because I’d stupidly bought a day return the day before and not a return return. I got to the airport and then we had to be diverted through Southend because of the snow.

At the sandwich shop, the man said “I’ve been in this country for fourteen years and come to the conclusion that it’s a developed country that transforms into a third world nation at the first sight of “weather,” after we had a long chat.

Then we got a taxi to Southend. A taxi, not a mini bus, not a coach. A taxi. And we all arrived at different times and so the plane was crazy delayed.

Then we all started making friends, Dane and non-Dane alike. Then on the plane, it was the same steward and he recognised me and when we got home, we were pretty late at around 8pm. I helped a Canadian visitor to Aarhus not get stuck in Billund until 10pm by advising him of other options and we chatted in the bus the whole way to Vejle.

And I have a few conclusions I would like to come to.

The first is that you find friendly people everywhere. But. You find more of them in the UK than in Denmark. They’re not necessarily British, they come from everywhere. But they know how to chat and have a laugh with a stranger in a queue. They know how to take a fucking interest even though they know they will never see that person again. They know how to chat about a variety of things, to get the best out of the conversation.

They know how to make a human connection, no matter how fleeting.

Customer service in the UK is better. That is not to say that Danish customer service is 100% total crap but rather that in the UK, it is consistently better, friendly and faster. In Denmark, you really are flipping a coin every time you want to buy something.

On the other hand, Denmark can handle weather without turning into a third world country. They grit the roads, shovel the snow and just go the fuck to work.

What I came away with was that I really wished I lived in another country. It doesn’t have to be the UK, though that is home and I feel welcome there in a way I might not in another country. But even though Denmark has great infrastructure and working agreements, I miss the human factor SO MUCH.

I miss talking to strangers, I miss having a laugh in queues, I miss making new friends every time I meet old ones, I miss having interesting conversations with new people (and not the same one on repeat every time). I miss vibrancy. I miss home.

The taxi driver, on the Friday night, was really nice too and we had a chat about missing home and he said that I would probably be aggravated by the little things if I came back. That visiting is always better than living. And he was absolutely right.

But it’s either move to a country where people have decent social skills or be part of the movement that introduces them here. Otherwise, I will wither and die.

I get called “negative” and “anti” and all sorts of things by shit-for-brains. There is a class of person who thinks you should only look on the bright side and not try to see what you could improve or what you could change. This class of person is a nincompoop. And in calling me mean names, has shown themselves to be an unkind nincompoop. And in warning others not to read what I write, in case they become spoiled and unable to integrate into Denmark, a small minded, unkind nincompoop. Walk your own path, you small minded, unkind nincompoop!

I’m sorry, but if you refuse to address “the negative”, as it is so facilely put, then if your sewer pipes burst, you’re saying “well at least we can ‘go’ wherever we want now, don’t have the tyranny of the porcelain throne anymore,” and not “I better clean up this shit and call a plumber.” Saying “Don’t listen to the ‘clean the shit up’ message, it’s just negativity, you get used to it. It’s what it is LIKE if you live next to a burst sewer main!” is really wankerific.

Grow the fuck up, people that call me negative.

There is nothing negative that does not contain a positive, nothing positive that does not contain a negative. Everything is a combination of the two, the only constant thing is change. There is nothing negative or positive about Denmark, Denmark just is.

I look at things that could be better. And friendliness, politeness and social skills could definitely do with a polish here. I don’t talk about how they deal with snow and how I have a great work life balance because it’s boring and THE LEAST THEY COULD DO, ok?

If that means new people to Denmark should not read what I write, in case they become bitter and jaded overnight, then that is a pretty bad indictment of the state of this country. Surely they can see that the snow is dealt with really well and they have good working hours all by themselves? These things do not stop existing just because I write about how boring queues are here.

And yes, I would like to leave, (if the Fucking Flink thing doesn’t work and Denmark becomes a much nicer place to live). But it’s not as simple as that, is it?

Consequences of Brain Farts

Sometimes I have “no Danish” days where my brain just cannot get with the Danish programme. What happens is that I understand about 3/4 of what I usually can and I can express myself about one half of my potential ability.

These days happen when I’m tired, sick or out of practice. They are not a big deal really and they happen less frequently than they used to. 

I was having once such day today and it’s frustrating because it coincided with meeting someone with no understanding of how languages are learned.

My working week is such that I have Thursdays off to run errands and do boring teacher stuff. One errand was to get my blood taken, so I went there first.

As I was saying my person number to the phlebotomist, my brain farted and I couldn’t remember the Danish word for 80. This is because the Danish word for 80 is almost identical to the Danish word for 70. And the Danish word for 70 is almost identical to the Danish words for 50 and 90 and so, yeah, brain fart.

So, being the Language Thinker Around Cornerser that I am, I just switched to single digits. And she reminded me the word for eighty and I went on with the rest of my code.

The phlebotomist corrected it into two digit pieces as in “twenty”, “ninety-four”, and not two zero nine four*, why not correct it into two-thousand-and-ninety-four? And then she said “But it’s right”. Yes. It was right. It is a number I have memorised and read back in single digits because that is how I learned it.

Then she said “Don’t worry, it’s not just foreigners who struggle with the numbers. Children do too.” and I thought “Sucks to be her, she has no social skills and cannot hear in her head how condescending it is to compare someone you just found out** is nearly 32 with a child

And as I had not been stuck with the needle yet and was also feeling a bit tired and sick (new job, new commute), I just smiled like an idiot and said something like yep, poor kids.

Then she asked me what I was doing in Denmark, was I here to study? And I said, no, I was a teacher and she could not keep the surprise and dismay out of her facial expression. She recovered and said “Oh, of ENGLISH though, right?”

And I told her no, I was teaching maths and science but IN ENGLISH. And then she asked me where and I told her and explained I was living in Fredericia still and she answered “You work at Købmagergades Skole?” and I said “No, I used to teach there but I quit.” and she asked if there were other schools with international lines and I named as many as I can remember and she asked if I worked in one of those and I repeated, I work in Aarhus and she said “Oh, in Aarhus. Ok. That’s a long commute.” 

So I thought, hey, maybe she cannot hear me. That’s maybe why she keeps echoing what I’m saying, to check she heard me right.

Then I figured, hey, I never get to chit chat in these sorts of situations, so to keep it going I told her I didn’t work on Thursdays. In case she was all like “Why is this chick getting a blood test on a Thursday?” But I couldn’t remember if it was “I have free on Thursdays” or “I am free on Thursdays” and I didn’t feel like getting corrected so I said “I don’t work on Thursdays” And she said “You ONLY work on Thursdays?” which doesn’t make any sense considering what day it is so I think maybe she did have a hearing problem. So I repeated myself in a different way, language learning skills ho! and she said “Oh you’re FREE on Thursdays.” Yep yep. But she said “Du’r FRI om torsdagen” so I am none the fucking wiser if it is “er” or “har” but learned to say “Jeg’r fri om torsdagen” so it wasn’t a total bust.

Then she said, (and thanks VERY FUCKING MUCH THE GOVERNMENT OF DENMARK), “but you don’t work 8 hour days, do you?” and did the lemon face.  And I said “I do, when you take into account” and then I was like fuck it, I’m not going to say “crime” by accident and said “preparation” in English. (forbrydelse/forberedelse FORbru∂elsa/FORbehre∂lsa)

And she told me the Danish word for preparation and then continued to make the lemon face. Like, I was lying about how much I work as a teacher! It was like living in England again. 

The Danish government has turned its people against its teachers in order to force through working time agreements. The Danish teachers are trying to fight back but because the government has touched on the “teachers don’t work the same hours as phlebotomists” nerve (last time I checked, the clinic is open from 7am to 1pm, so actually if you only count taking blood as “working”, then we have the same “working hours” but I’m sure she sees the other things she does as a phlebotomist as “working”, just as I see my other important duties as “working” but the government hasn’t tried to turn the people of Denmark against phlebotomists so she has no idea). In about 15 years time, Danish children will be completely unteachable as the attitudes being made mainstream about how awful teachers are filter down through the generations. And all to save a bit of money.

Then I thought, she has corrected my Danish about fifteen times in the five minutes of taking my blood but at least she doesn’t know how long I’ve been here. For all she knows, I’m fresh off the boat.

“How long have you been here?”

“Four and a half years.”

“Four and a half years.”

“Yep.”

“Wow. Doesn’t time fly?”

And I thought, she’s going to go home and tell her foreign daughter in law or foreign friends who are fresh off the boat “Don’t worry! Your Danish is SO MUCH BETTER than the foreigners I work with who have been in the country FOUR AND A HALF years and still don’t know the word for preparation and say their person number in single digits!” 

Because if you’re not an expert in language acquisition, you think that being able to speak like a native is the only marker of success. Not the fact that I understood everything she was saying. Not that I found other ways of expressing the same thought so she understood.

Non experts also think that correcting every single mistake will help learning. In fact, it does nothing and can actually do harm. What language learners need is to hear the correct way something like 15 times before it goes in. Just correcting someone whilst having a conversation (unless they ask “hey did I say that right?”), kills it. (Exception: when what they said made you have NO FUCKING IDEA what they meant or what they said was rude)

It makes them focus on what they got wrong and not on what they are getting right. It also casts you in the role of MASTER OF LANGUAGE and the person you are talking to as THE LOWLY LANGUAGE LEARNER. And how did you get your crown, again? Just by learning the language as an infant? Well, whoopty fucking doo for you!

Also, she will not think “I didn’t speak as good English at 14 and a half after starting to learn at 10” or “It must be quite difficult to acquire a foreign language if your working language is your native one,” or “I wonder where people get to practise Danish, we sure are a quiet bunch,” or even the good old “Danish is a VERY HARD language, good for her for giving it a go!” or “I guess it IS harder to learn a foreign language as an adult. I don’t suppose I’d do any better if I had to move to France or China or something” or “I wonder if having blood taken is stressful enough for someone to forget vocabulary in a language they are learning” or “I wonder if the reasons she is having her blood taken are anything to do with being forgetful and making minor mistakes.”

And I KNOW, omg, I KNOW, there are people like this everywhere. I KNOW that other countries do this and it happens even in my country. But I don’t have to deal with it in my country, duh. Or quite a number of countries, actually. And you know what, it’s not the point. I’m not comparing. It is a thing that happened and I didn’t enjoy it. And I would have not enjoyed it in French too!

The thing I did not enjoy the most was the “teachers are lazy” theme, I actually didn’t mind the rest of it that much. I have got to the stage where I know my accent isn’t going to be much better than it is and I’m doomed to be more of a Prince Henrik than a Princess Mary (or Marie for that matter), and I am okay with that. I actually could not give a fuck less. I know from my four and a half years experience, that I can survive and succeed in this country. I know I can make myself understood and follow the majority of what happens around me. So, it’s cool. It’s cool.

But if I’d remembered the word for eighty, none of this shit would have happened. 

* This is a made up four digit number. OR IS IT?!

** The person number contains your birth date.

Inordinate Stress

A Danish soldier died. Now the news is interested in Afghanistan. Now they are talking about Afghanistan. Like children who think something disappears if they cannot see it.

My boyfriend is still in Afghanistan. Just over a month to go. And instead of relaxing by the pool for the last month, as one might hope, he is still doing his job out there. It doesn’t get more safe just because his plane ticket home has been booked.

The family of the killed soldier are on a different schedule to ordinary soldiers so I have no idea if he was supposed to be home soon, if he had been out for more than three months, if he had been back for Christmas. I don’t suppose any of it matters. Any of it.

And then I feel racist because loads of Afghans get killed in the same way all the time and it doesn’t make me feel unsafe. So, I try to lock off that part of myself. My only other option is to care about the civilians in every conflict across the world. And I just cannot. I just cannot.

It turns out I have chosen the worst time in history to go public with “I am trying to be more gracious on the internet” because as I am feeling the stress, there are more people getting on my nerves. I am still trying though. It might not be as successful as I hoped but I am trying.

My job starts tomorrow and I am very excited. Though it is going to be “stressful”, in that good way. A new commute (getting up at 4.45 thank you very much), a new workplace, new standards, new students. It will take a few months to lose the stress. And half way through that process, my boyfriend will return. Luckily for us, I can take a holiday when he gets back. Apparently, the problems start after the first 36 hours and can continue for six months. A big bust up. The advice is to just wait it out. Just wait for them to come back into themselves. As long as six months. Just be patient. Just wait.

But I have been waiting. I have been waiting six months, worried sick and struggling with my pre-existing problems by myself. It feels like another defence ministry trick, like the hundreds of exercises away from home they had to go on as soon as it was confirmed they were going. He will be back but he won’t be. I am not supposed to lean on him. I am supposed to be patient and wait for him to come back.

All the while, commuting all that way and getting up in the middle of the night.

And when he’s ready, we will move home.

Many relationships don’t make it past a year after deployment.

I need to keep looking at my feet because when I look up, I get dizzy.

Too much too much.

 

Danish News: 2012 was the year where Nato’s Afghanistan strategy completely collapsed

Opinion Piece in Politiken newspaper

Carsten Jensen is an author and debater.

Whenever I think about Afghanistan, I think about Tølløse.

I think about it because in the summer I read in an article in Information with the headline “The War with the Taliban is Over“, that the enemy who the Danish soldiers in Afghan Helmand province had been fighting for many years, the Afghan Taliban warriors, according to the operation commander, Major Rune Pedersen, were now reduced to a little ludicrous “motorcycle gang from Tølløse“.

I don’t know if there is actually a motorcycle gang in Tølløse. But if there is one, is the police station in Tølløse surrounded by sandbags and guarded with machine guns? Do the local officers only patrol the surrounding countryside in armoured personnel carriers wearing helmets and bullet proof jackets, all the while keeping a nervous eye out behind them and for roadside bombs? Are automatic pistols counted in their standard equipment when they patrol in groups of 24 down Tølløse’s high street?

That’s how Danish soldiers live in their area of responsibility around Gereshk in the Afghan Helmand province.

And it is all because of a local motorcycle gang. If I were a journalist on a visit in the Danish Camp Price and heard Rune Pedersen say that, I would never have guessed that I was listening to a man who knew what he was talking about and therefore someone I needed to take seriously. I would have guessed instead that it was an audition for a standup show and I would have agreed that the major had a sense of humour.

So called war correspondents might object that it is the military that have a better understanding of the war and not us journalists. Imagine a man whose entire raison d’être is to wage war trying to enlighten us… should we just burst out in laughter? No, I wouldn’t say that you need to laugh. You could instead look around and try to see past the limited horizon of Danish responsibility of only 250 square km to the 650 000 square kilometer country.

So, for instance, you would know that the leading military people in Nato at the beginning of the year in a leaked report expressed the belief that the Taliban would come back to power in 2014 when Nato retreat. The American commander General John Allen counted the Taliban as high as 35 000 in May. That’s 10 000 more than three years ago, when the so called surge began.

150 000 Nato-soldiers have been fighting a handful of rebels and the media has repeated the victory messages when one province after another was cleared and the entire middle layer of local Taliban leaders were taken out in so called kill or capture operations. And even so, the Taliban is stronger than over, says the man whose responsibility it is to destroy them.

A motorcycle gang from Tølløse?

In the Danish papers you can also read that the training of the Afghan army is all going to plan and that the 195 000 strong army is fully ready to take over the security of the country when Nato leaves in two years. That was the Danish officer’s optimistic message which journalists willingly repeated.

What you don’t read is that the Afghan army loses a third of its soldiers every year. An astronomical number of over 60 000 men who leave the service either because they do not renew their contract or because they just desert. So, they must train up fresh recruits the whole time. A huge fraction of the soldiers who are sent to battle against the world’s most persevering motorcycle gang are therefore the world’s least experienced.

A few weeks before the Danish journalists arrived on what they ironically call “a rodeo”, the British troops who operate in the same area as the Danes, received orders to sleep with their weapons ready. The danger of attack from soldiers amongst our nearest allies in the Afghan army was judged as imminent.

This was the type of attack that the British and American press dubbed “insider attacks” or “green on blue” (with respect to the colours of the different army’s uniforms) In the Danish press, the attacks were not called anything in the first few months. Here, the new attacks were scarcely referred to before the point when so many Nato soldiers had been killed that even President Obama needed to include the motorcycle gang from Tølløse in one of his speeches.

It is the Danish perspective of the war in Afghanistan. That it is happening in Tølløse.

The politicians here have learned from the military. They don’t think that there is a world outside the 250 square kilometers where the Danish military appears to have control. Two years ago, TV2 had a theme evening about Afghanistan where I had the opportunity to debate with the then foreign minister Lene Espersen. Confronted with the still worsening situation in Afghanistan, the foreign minister appealed with her arms open wide.

How could anyone expect that she should have an overview of so many square kilometers. “Afghanistan is just as big as France,” she said in an educational tone, as if the debate about the war had changed into a geography lesson. I realised that Lene Espersen was not the foreign minister of Denmark, she was the foreign minister of Tølløse.

In the summer of 2011, a previous officer of the British army’s intelligence service Frank Ledwidge, gave a devastating analysis of the British war effort in Helmand in a book called “Losing Small Wars”. He described the war, which Danes had also been a part of, as nothing short of “a catastrophe of incompetence, a violent tragedy” where entire city centres were bombed out, thousands made refugees and uncounted others were killed or wounded.

The situation in Helmand is today worse for the residents of the province than when Nato troops arrived with regards to development and economy. And the Brits don’t even control anything more than a small strip of land that they can guard from their own fortified camps. The British government’s reason for the continuing presence of the troops changes from month to month and surveys have shown that a worryingly high number of officers have no idea why their country is fighting in Afghanistan.

Ledwidge’s book was received with receptive respect and also from unexpected areas, not just the conservative press but even the British military. “They completely agree with my analysis” he explained in an interview in London, “their problem is just finding a way of retelling it so it gets them out of hot water and justifies their failed actions.”

The award winning American journalist Rajic Chandrasekaran published a book this summer about the American war effort with special focus on the last three years’ surge where 33 000 extra solders were sent into the war. Five years ago, Rajiv Chandrasekaran published a gut wrenching, tragi-comic account of American incompetence in Iraq, entitled “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.”

He saw the American fiasco there up close but when it came to Afghanistan, he was still optimistic on his country’s behalf, he wrote in his book. The war in Afghanistan was a just war. At the end of his three year long journalistic journey, he reached the same conclusion as in Iraq: America lost not because the Taliban won but because American incompetence apparently became an insurmountable hindrance to any victory.

“Ambitious and arrogant generals refused to realise that more troops will have the opposite of the desired effect,” he wrote. “The presence of even more foreign troops in the Pashtun heartland will only help the Taliban recruit even more followers.”

All too few soldiers left their bases to live with the Afghans in their villages. All too few diplomats could be bothered to understand the language and culture. All too few development experts were interested in anything other than a quick profit. All too few politicians had been brave enough to try to create a lasting peace. And no one was interested in cooperating with anyone else.

Chandrasekaran gives the surge in Helmand as an example. The defeat of the insurgency in Helmand became a prestigious project for the marine corps who planted themselves so heavily in the province that Helmand was internally known in the American army as “Marineistan”. That meant that the strategically much more important Kandahar province had to be downgraded in priority and that is where the Taliban were able to take hold.

The sharpest, most angry protest against the way the war is fought has come from the American military itself. Lieutenant colonel Daniel L Davis was on a 14 000 km, 12 month long inspection tour of Afghanistan in 2011.

He had, in contrast to the Danish Major Rune Pedersen, seen a little more Tølløse, when he came out as a scathing critic of the war which was, in his opinion, lost long ago but continued to suck young people down into death and permanent disability.

“I was witness to a complete absence of success on all levels.”

Our military leaders are lying to us and they are lying to the nation, writes an angry Daniel L Davis, who isn’t your average lefty whistle-blower or Wikileaks II, as he calls it. He is a born again Christian from Virginia who went to a local pastor for advice before he came out with his critique.

From the USA’s celebrated General David Patraeus, the architect behind the so called surge in Iraq and all the way down the military hierarchy, he exposes the lies and hypocrisy in all the optimistic speeches about progress for Nato and Karzai’s government’s increasing support in the population. It is the complete reverse, wrote Davis.

Everywhere the American soldiers are besieged and pushed without credible support amongst their Afghan allies, who almost all make deals behind the Americans’ backs with the Taliban as if they were already preparing for the insurgents’ takeover of power. Of the population’s support of the Afghan government, he can see no evidence and nor does he see any sign that the government are in the least bit worried about their population’s needs.

The most disturbing discovery that Davis makes on his long inspection tour is that it is the mere presence of American troops that is creating rebellion. A province can be neutral in relation to the government, or in any case passive. The moment American soldiers show up, out come the weapons. With the use of enormous firepower, it is possible to crush rebellion in the district but only to see it flare up in a neighbouring district. It is never possible to hold an area for a long time.

As soon as the American troops retreat, the territory falls once more into the Taliban’s hands while the Afghan army watched passively on or flees.

It is the same Afghan soldiers who, again and again, are praised by the American generals and Nato officers for their courage and professionalism. In an ironic quote mosaic, Davis shows how this hypocritical praise has been made in almost identical terms for nearly eight years. The Afghan army is always nearly ready. In a minute. Tomorrow. And yet, never.

A report from the Pentagon published in the beginning of December 2012, confirms Davis’ desperate sarcasm. Only one out of the Afghan army’s 23 brigades is ready to operate independently.

At the end of September, nearly one year after Davis published his report, Nato had to suspend training of the Afghan army indefinitely. The number of Afghan soldiers, who in the middle of exercises, would turn against their western allies and brutally murder them has now reached an alarmingly high level and Nato were forced to admit that the army was infiltrated by the Taliban.

It is said that “a drowning man is ready to clutch at straws”.

The training of the Afghan security forces were the failing Nato-strategy’s final straw in Afghanistan.

Insider attacks got the French president François Holland to announce an early withdrawal of French troops. In the British parliament, there was a passionate debate where demands for troop withdrawal were made, also from the conservative side. In Denmark, the defence minister Nick Hækkerup announced a “conference” on the problem. But the conference still hasn’t happened. If you ring the Defence Ministry, you find out that it is scheduled for some time in late January.

If you want to know what Danish soldiers think while their defence minister hesitates, you should turn on the tv station Al-Jazeera where a Danish officer Klaus Augostinus, in a programme from 13th December says that an insider attack on a British colleague has made “an enormous impression on me. I would really like to see my family again. I like to get to know people and bond with them but I can’t do that any more. Every time I get close to someone, I ask myself “will it be him that gets me?”.

The defeat in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to interest the population, press or politicians. We have instead our own self-satisfied Danish mini-version of world history, where the stand up show that ritually happens on the bi-annual press junket to Camp Price in Helmand province becomes the official truth:

We won in Tølløse.

Discourtesy and Unfriendliness

Before we start, for the speed readers, from the top, for those who cannot exercise reading comprehension skills in their second language, just in case I have not made that clear in everything I have ever written.

I DO NOT MEAN ALL DANES.

WWTFD?
Oh brother

What exciting times for courtesy-lovin’ and friendly people to live in Denmark! There is a perfect storm right now to bring the “flink” back.

First up, Lars AP, half-American/half-Danish, wants the world’s “happiest” people to also be the “nicest”. (I genuinely cannot tell if he believes Danes are actually that happy or he is blowing smoke up their arse so they get with the programme. And at this stage, I do not care). His book “Fucking Flink“, which I must remember to get out again from the library before he comes in the spring, is a small handbook of Random Acts of Kindness and also a manifesto for the Danes. The sort of suggestions he makes are pretty standard. From the basic: let people with one item go first at the supermarket. To the medium: strike up conversations in places you wouldn’t ordinarily. To the hard: throw street parties. To the … no… don’t do that: give hugs to people in the street.

If I recall my friendliness history, and I think I do, the Random Acts of Kindness movement was started in California over twenty years ago. As I understand it, it came as a reaction to the casual violence and unfriendliness of the 1990s. Ghostbusters II was released in 1989, coincidence? There was a problem and ordinary people moved together to try to solve it.

Lars AP says that he finds himself, through shyness, being less open in Danish than when he speaks English. Less interested in strangers, less friendly to people at social situations and less helpful. This construction of a bubble is often cast as “politeness” but I get the impression he is not so sure. And he is on a mission to make Danish people kinder and more interactive.

Second up, Thomas Skov Gaardsvig took it upon himself to bring courtesy back to Denmark in 100 days. The way he tells it, there are far too many people who practise terribly rude habits. The ones he names in his show are showing up late to parties, swearing at other road users, rudeness to people in uniforms, treating cashiers like machines, playing with phones at parties, not speaking to people sat next to you at parties, leaving dog shit everywhere, pissing everywhere…

Now, excuse me for a minute because I need a rant. How come Thomas Skov Gaardsvig can make a six episode series about these basic acts of discourtesy done in Denmark and say “The Danes need to be more polite”, “We need to bring politeness back to Denmark” and list things like “not talking to people at parties” and no one says

“THOMAS, I think you are very racist. There are rude people everywhere. You are making a crass generalisation. Not all Danes are rude. How insulting that you are talking about this at all. Why can’t you talk about the WORLD FAMOUS lamps? I hope you find a country where there are NO RUDE PEOPLE and good luck because EVERY COUNTRY has rude people! I have been to fifteen different countries and there were rude people in EVERY SINGLE ONE. Not just Denmark!!!!!! Anyway, the people not talking to you at parties were doing that because you are a total penis. IT IS JUST YOU parp”

Could it be… and I’m going out on a limb here… that Thomas has “freedom of speech” to talk about the culture of Denmark and I actually don’t “for some reason”?

What strikes me about Thomas’ shows are how basic the things are he is suggesting. “Say ‘Hi’ to the lady scanning your barcodes.” “Don’t leave your dog shit everywhere” and “Don’t attack people in authority while they go about their business.”

And you can “It’s only a few rotten apples” me all you like but this guy was going out with cameras to film the rotten apples and given he only had 100 days to film, he seemed to be VERY LUCKY at finding this vanishing minority of rude people. He even tested his friends by inviting them to a party by post to see who replied, who turned up late, who told off his planted “rude” guest, who talked to strangers. (If I recall correctly, most of his friends were very polite but the point is, he had no idea how many of them were the “rotten apples”)

He makes the point that if you ask someone “Are you polite?” they will never answer “No,” because they have no idea about themselves. They remember the times they were polite and forget the times they were rude (because it was a one-off).

What is happening isn’t that we have 90% rude people in Denmark, or even 15% or 5%, we have 100% people who are capable of being rude and are choosing to be more and more often. God knows why, possibly because “everyone else is doing it”. He is trying to exert social pressure to get people to choose to be polite most of the time. YAY!

What always strikes me when I go to France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK… is that YES there are rude people there but holy jesusfuck, there are sooooooo many polite people. Many many times more polite people  and the extra polite ones are more polite than the most polite in Denmark. Of course, they could make the same show for Brits. But “stand in line” is something almost everyone does, as is “pick up your dog’s crap”, as is “talk to strangers at parties”, as is “reply to invites”. The stuff Brits need particular help with is “don’t shout at authority figures” and all the stuff about road rage.

Yes. There are rude people everywhere. There are rude people in Denmark. It is enough of a problem in Denmark that a tv show was commissioned and a book written. Can we stop attacking the messenger (me, that is), and start thinking of solutions?

You are not a rude Dane and are VERY INSULTED, here’s a motherfucking gold star for behaviour, let’s work on getting everyone on board.

Lastly, and the person least likely to receive a backlash for her views on rude Danes, the Queen of Denmark suggested in her New Year’s speech that people should try to be nice to each other for a change.

Ok, so can we just accept that 1) I am not saying all Danes are rude 2) Enough Danes are rude for the GODDAMN QUEEN to mention it and 3) We should probably do something about it before it gets any worse?

Anyway, it’s exciting times for nice people. Let’s get our flink on!

2012 in Review

January

Living above a drug dealing scumbag loser who plays music way too loud got too much for me and I made plans to move in with my boyfriend in a flat above a shop. Meanwhile, my local council was in the middle of a “hearing” process about which schools to close in my town. The process was incredibly corrupt/incompetent/both. Which all now makes sense in the light of the evidence that they were covering for a mayor with drug addiction problems at the time. If you can cover for a mayor who is showing up high, when he is showing up at all, then you can also decide not to close schools which “coincidentally” your child attends or send people to measure buildings up for sale before the vote to close them or fudge the figures about how much money could be saved or blah blah blah. (The list goes on but those are the only things I’m rock solid on.)

Denmark has not got the lowest corruption in the world, it has the lowest perceived corruption in the world. It’s a shared hallucination. Denmark’s levels of corruption are the same as everywhere. Not as bad as North Korea but still.

Meanwhile, I failed my driving test for not being able to get into fifth gear (fair deuce, eh?)

Meanwhile, I got a positive result on the test taken to see if the treatment for pre-cancerous cells had been successful the year before. Pro Tip: positive in this context means “NO, the operation was NOT successful, you need another operation.”

It was about this time that I shut down this blog, intending it to be permanent.

I had read something on the internet that did not agree with me. Basically, a bunch of people I know well and people I do not know very well, discussing *me* based on what I write here. Now, some people are not into my blog. They were dissing *me* based on what they had gleaned from my writing. And my friends, though I use the term loosely, were not really going to bat for me. They were being very diplomatic, there was no bad mouthing from them. But their reactions made me think “Well, FUCK YOU very much!” all the same.

I was used to fuckwits taking me the wrong way but people who claimed to be my friends? I did NOT need the stress.

February: 

I moved house and turned 31. Meanwhile, I started to get anxiety attack symptoms. I remember leaving the house, with a numb left hand side of my face and pins and needles down my left arm, to go have a painful test done at the doctor’s. And I thought “Ok, so once the test is over, then I only have to worry about my job situation and my driving test.”

After the doctors (which was not painful at all, the doctor refused to run it because the positive result had been a false positive), walking back to the train station to go home, my boyfriend rang. He was away with work, on exercise for the week, and he said “I might have to go to war in August.”

March

I reopened the blog because of the abuse of Amy Rebecca Steen. I could see that Denmark was going to get away with its shit YET AGAIN because of the Danish language.

The council voted to close the school I was working at.

April

My boyfriend was confirmed as being deployed in the summer. He went on a lot of training missions starting from then.

I decided that whatever happened, I was not going to work at the new school being opened to replace my old school. The main problem, as I saw it, was that I was opening myself to another couple of years of xenophobic/racist treatment. The children in the groups I do not personally teach typically gave me a hard time until about Christmas (by which time, I had usually done a substitute teacher lesson and they realised they were pissing into the wind by mistreating me). In a school with seven or eight classes of three year groups, chances are some children would never wake up to the error of their ways.

Also, some of the adults at my school had also displayed similar patterns of behaviour until about two years in. A few of them continued to do so after four and a half years. Who has the energy to deal with that shit if there is a choice? (and obviously, a few of those interactions were not xenophobia/racism but adults with issues acting like vinegar-dicks. But again, who has the energy to work with unprofessional cock-knockers whom you mistake for racists?)

I applied for a job that was not in teaching (but related to it) and I was almost certain I was going to get it and then I didn’t and I was a bit miffed about it.

May

I can’t remember much about May. It was probably fine.

June

Again. Can’t remember. It was probably fine.

July

Went on holiday with my boyfriend, we had a great time. He left to go to war at the end of the month.

August

Was very sad when he left.

September

Had an ectopic pregnancy. Got shouted at by a shit doctor. My boyfriend was flown out to me, to look after me, so he was there. Went to pieces.

Work were not very supportive and that is putting it mildly. Management were of the “do something so we can say we did it” school of leadership and despite a lot of people having absences for miscarriages like me, emergency health problems like me, long standing health problems like me, their children being sick not like me etc etc, they made a point of going after my absences because a couple of the kids/parents had basically said “If you know a member of staff is ill a lot, you really ought to make sure you cover her lessons properly” and they interpreted that as free rein to say in a meeting “since you cannot promise us you won’t be ill, we have to take your ninth class away from you” and then “We don’t care that you are coming to work sick, as long as you come to work” in another meeting. These were meetings that were to “help” me. They also employed some outside consultant to say that it “couldn’t be” dusty classrooms that was making my immune system flare up because there were no spiders’ webs and dust makes your face swell up if you are allergic. (Something my doctor laughed out loud about when he suggested that environmental pollution may be worsening my asthma, leading to repeated respiratory infections)

Saw a counsellor on the advice of the “prevention consultant”. She said that she thought my boss was disrespectful of me. I did not agree with her because it takes malice of forethought to be disrespectful, doesn’t it? Still. It was nice to have an outside opinion about how I was being treated.

October

Got used to my boyfriend being deployed.

November

Called to interview at another school. Did not want to leave because I love my kids. But they will be fine. They will be so fine. They are excellent students and they will just grow and grow. I felt guilty because I had become so attached to them and I wanted to see them through the year.

But I wanted to take the job because it solves a lot of my long standing problems. Not least, sorting out a job long term. I am super excited about it, it is going to be amazing.

My boyfriend came back for leave and left towards the end of the month.

December

Diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Treated for insulin resistance (caused by/causing PCOS). Treated for asthma.

Had a lovely Christmas with my Mum in Fredericia.

So, hopefully, you can all see why I have not been blogging so much recently. There really is only so much cortisone to go around and if I am busy worrying that my boyfriend might die, that I might have to leave the country or being sad that I lost a baby; then I do not have enough for the “you’re generalising” “it IS you” “North Korea is worse” “why don’t you leave” schtick.

I am not a super villain (or hero for that matter), and if, as a general rule, my face is going numb and I cannot sometimes get on a train or a plane to visit friends because I am wigging out so hard (hyperthyroid symptoms??), then I do not particularly want to write a post and open myself up.

So, there you go.

I hope 2013 is a bit quieter. Though, what with my new job, commute, boyfriend coming back from war, moving house, new medical treatments and all that, I’m really not sure how it can be. Ahh well. Maybe 2014 will be quieter.