Asthma Diagnosis

I think I developed asthma at the age of 12. I think it was then because I stopped liking running suddenly and was complaining of chest problems. But I interpreted those problems first as my heart going nuts and then as psychological issues. It wasn’t until about ten years later that I got an asthma diagnosis after a really bad chest infection.

This is how I was diagnosed: the nurse measured my peak flow (you blow into a tube really hard to see how much you can puff), gave me medicine, measured it again. My lungs were stronger after the medicine, so I had asthma.

I was given a drug to help control my asthma but told that if I was having a good week, I could reduce the dosage myself. Then I changed doctors and I had to have an asthma review. I got a really weird doctor who gave me a different steroid and then when it didn’t help, said “That was a child’s dosage really” and then wanted to experiment with higher dosages. When I came to Denmark, I just told my doc I needed the old inhaler.

About six months ago, I finally got the courage to say to my doc that I was getting colds every six weeks and could someone please help me with that. (I had been scared that I’d just get given anti-depressants and a pat on the head). He said maybe it was my asthma playing me up, which I had not even considered.

I did a few lung function tests in his office, tried a new steroid and it didn’t really help so he sent me to the hospital. The hospital sent me three appointments. Three. One a week. When I got the letter, I was pretty cross. Three days off work, why couldn’t they put the appointments together or SOMETHING. My boyfriend rang them to re-arrange and they said they absolutely needed to run things like that, so we set them for July when I would be on holiday.

The first appointment was with a nurse, she measured my lung function with a spirometer which I hadn’t tried before. She gave me a REALLY GOOD drug and measured my lungs again. Then she tested my skin for allergies. Then I had a lung X-ray. And I had to measure my peak flow three times a day for two weeks.

The second appointment was also with a nurse. I knew this nurse already because I taught her kids and we chatted in English but did the nursing part in Danish. She irritated my lungs until they were 20% worse than they were before and then gave me the really good drug from the week before to put me back to normal. She said “You definitely have asthma but you need to see the doctor next week to have it confirmed” and we had a laugh about how doctors like to be gatekeepers to medicine. 

I had the appointment with the doctor today. She was really nice. She went through my results with me. I was “one million percent” definitely suffering with asthma. I have allergies to dust, grass and cats. My lungs are “lovely” according to the X-ray. 

And then she put me on the drug I started with. Apologised for how expensive it is ($106 US per inhaler). I asked about the allergies. She said if I had hayfever, there was a nasal spray. Told me about controlling levels of house dust (which I’m already on because I am allergic to house dust) and said to get rid of my cat if I had one. 

It seems to me, the UK approach, while perhaps not very thorough, was a lot cheaper. That was a lot of tests just to find out the things I already knew and go back on the drug I was already on. Why test my allergies if they weren’t going to do anything about them? I am so glad I didn’t have any days off for this but I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t get to go on holiday because I was waiting around for the appointments. 

And by the by, the colds-every-six-weeks thing just stopped. In April or so. I have had a cold since then but it was very mild. Maybe two days of feeling like I was going to get sick and then that was it. So maybe it had nothing to do with asthma after all.

Learning Danish

 

I have been thinking about taking the “studieprøve” which is the Danish exam at the C1 “Proficient user” level. To be able to do this, I need to become a “Proficient user”, so I have been doing a lot of Danish writing.

 

To get better, I have been making myself flashcards on memrise, maybe someone else would find them useful too?

 

I bought two (very reasonably priced) books for students at my level. There are not many available. There are more than a handful of beginner’s books but there are only a smattering of upper-intermediate books. Add to that how picky I am about Danish language textbooks, I don’t have much choice. I reserved two books from the library that are at my current level. They are both called, I am not lying, “Danish is hard”. One is about pronunciation, the other is grammar drills. Who are they trying to kid? It’s no Mandarin, this one.

 

Skriv på dansk! has some resources and workshops to help me improve my writing. Unfortunately, there is a stench of patronisation on all the pages. In the preface addressed to my teacher “The texts are taken directly from the second-language context the students live in and can therefore be used as a launchpad for discussions with a view to expanding the students’ cultural competence.” What are the texts about, you ask? The environment, men and women’s roles, children, integration, health, the usual. Goodness me, if they had a text about anything that I choose to read every day on my favourite websites, I’d explode with joy. But it’s fine. IT’S FINE. It’s not like the test will be on things I’m actually interested in or anything, it’ll be about this “second-language context” guff I am supposed to be so interested in.

 

*And* in line with what the government seems to think I require from a language course, they go into great detail about “types of non-fiction” and “constructing an argument”, the skills taught in Year Six back in the old country. Considering you cannot even get on this course unless you have been in formal education (in a country Denmark respects), for more than 15 years (or however long), this is a damned cheek. I already know how to structure a bloody opinion piece, I just don’t know the vocab for it in THIS language.

 

The book’s not a total bust, the example sentences at the back are ALL about how cheap and healthy potatoes are. Which is either an act of extreme Danish irony genius or an earnest stab at saying something that is uncontroversial (hilariously.. and also kinda ironically). Either way, lols all around.

 

My other book is about getting the endings right on words. This is something I need to the very MAX.

 

So, that’s good.

 

I’m on goodreads and I joined a Danish book group. They have a challenge part of the group and I signed up to read ten novels by Danish-authors in ten months (starting from next month). There are ten different categories:- modern, short story collection, poetry anthology, novel from before 1960, male author, female author, an author I haven’t read before, a novel set in the Danish provinces, a crime novel and a debut novel.

 

Sounds like fun but we’ll see how long I can keep it up.

 

Anything to avoid editing my own novel into a second draft.

 

Crowdsourcing

Now we have the internet, it is easier to bring people together. Traditionally, movie goers would fund movies by buying tickets to things that were already made. This meant that funding councils and studios had to predict what people might like to see.

Now that movies cost so much to make, studios are very cautious and make the same movie over and over. But every now and again, studios go with something that they have not tried before and it is a breakaway success… and then that becomes the formula.

Making movies in Denmark is a bit different, funding often comes from the Danish film board and they have made some dodgy decisions in the past. Memorably, they refused to fund a film because they thought people outside of Copenhagen were too racist to deal with non-white protagonists.

Seems to me that crowdsourcing is the way to go. How it works is: you put in some money to have the movie made (like you’re a big shot movie producer or something), and then when the film is made you already know you want to see it.

If you would like to get involved, there is a project that looks to be the first crowdsourced movie in Danish history. It is going to be directed by David Noel Bourke. It’s about a racist murderous man called Jens and the stuff that happens to him while he is being hunted by frustrated but passionate police officer Mia.

Intrigued? Check out the funding pitch webpage.

Race Relations

So, okay, it’s summer and I want to go do fun stuff but I am just dropping by to let you know that the state of race relations in Denmark is totally fucked up and it has been for hundreds of years.

The book I told you about, with the essays about Foreigners in Denmark, has the account of a nine-year old Swedish orphan being thrown out of Denmark because her mother had the residency permit. This was in the 1800s but thankfully the government put a stop to the practice in 2011, and you have to be at least 12 years old to be deported.

So, the next time someone tells me that Denmark changed for the worse in the 90s, I can think “wrong”, quietly to myself. It has always been like this, it just stopped doing a good job of covering it up from the 90s.

Meanwhile. Some daycare facilities decided to stop serving pork products. The reasons they gave were as follows:-

  • They wanted to broaden the children’s horizons
  • Some of the children come from international backgrounds
  • Some of the families have religious objections to pork
  • They wanted to serve the children the same meal, to avoid problems

Golly gosh shariageddon is upon us! So, the little kids don’t get shitty cuts of lips and assholes in their sandwiches for lunch? Anyone would think that the pedagogs were following all the kids home and snatching meatballs out of their mouths. And it’s not as if anyone has complained, the parents do not appear to care. It is a non-event.

A few weeks before, it came out that a Muslim kid in foster care was being fed pork and the municipality was fine with that. And the media was also fine with that.  I am so glad that a higher authority was able to overturn the borough’s ruling, it’s not often that happens.

And yet, the Danish media focus on one story and not the other after our friend in the Venstre party gave the all-clear that Muslim bashing was back on the menu.

 

Christian Glücklich Bang

One of the myths that people keep spreading about Denmark is that Denmark was ethnically, religiously and culturally homogenous from Viking times until the 1960s when gæstearbejdere and refugees showed up from other countries.

I am reading a book called Fremmede i Danmark (400 års fremmedpolitik): Foreigners in Denmark (400 years of foreigner policy) (ISBN: 87 7492 631 4) published in 1984 which is an academic takedown of this enduring fairy story.  Not that anyone listens.

From the 1600s, while the slave trade was going strong, there were several African slaves in Denmark. The ban on slave trade in Denmark came in 1802, by which time, there were at least 50 black people living in Copenhagen.

You might think “ahh, well, the capital city of a country that has done particularly well out of the slave trade will have a few dozen black people, that’s sort of a given. But there weren’t any people of colour out in the provinces, that’s just silly.”

Fredericia 2013

In Fredericia, where I live, the book gives an account of a man. I’ll type it out here. This extract is from “These wild fellows: Negros in Denmark until 1848” by Poul E. Olsen.

“Baptism of black pagans was often a festive occasion. On the 1st May 1767, a negro was baptised in Fredericia’s Michaelis church. The negro was bought in St. Croix by a Enevold Bang, who died on the return journey and left the negro to his brother, Lars Bang from Fredericia. The negro was, for preparation to the baptism, taught for two years partly at the school and partly by the parish priest. The week before the baptism, he was overheard by the dean of the city in the presence of all the city’s priests.

On the day of the baptism, he was led to the church by the parish priest and after more speeches and hymns than usual at a baptism, the negro, who had recanted his pagan faith, was named Christian Glücklich. For this special occasion, the Jyske Dragoon regiment oboists played in the church.

Christian Glücklich Bang later became a regimental timpanist for the Jyske Dragoon Recruited Regiment. In 1770, he married Apelone Corneliusdatter, with whom he had a couple of children who died in infancy. In 1772, the Jyske Dragoon Regiment moved from Fredericia to Randers and from then on there is no trace of Christian Glücklich.”

There’s some more detail from a magazine write up of a talk given in the 80s by Erik Housted. For example, he married Apelone after she became pregnant with their first son. And Lars Hansen Bang was in the Jyske Dragoon Regiment as quartermaster.

But I have so many questions about this man. Was he born on St. Croix? Was he a freedman when Lars Hansen Bang “received” him in his brother’s will? What was Apelone like? Was he treated like a normal person or an exotic curiosity by the people he knew the best? What happened to him in Randers? Did he feel bad about renouncing his faith or did he truly believe in Christianity? Did he have any more children? Was he happy?

I can’t find anything on him. Except this:-

Bang, Christian Glücklich 1769 regiment timpanist Negro
Bang, Christian Glücklich 1769 regiment timpanist Negro

Translation: Go home

Taken from Politiken opinion piece (8th July 2013 by Inger Støjberg (V))

A little bit of context for all those unfamiliar with Denmark. Inger Støjberg is the Integration Minister for Venstre. Venstre is no longer in a ruling coalition, so she is an opposition minister. Her party is a centre-right group, if you were watching Borgen, Liberale, the party of the outgoing prime minister.

The far-right DF get a lot of the blame for anti-foreigner and islamophobic sentiment in Denmark. As you will see, they should not take all the blame for lumping groups together, sensationalising, conflating major human rights issues and minor cultural clashes and misunderstanding completely what “freedom of speech” means in a democracy.

I should be allowed to paint the prophet on my house walls

When I was a child in first grade, I drew both our Lord and Jesus.

That’s what happened in the Christianity lessons in the primary school I went to.

Had I at that time known about Islam, I definitely would have had a go at drawing the prophet Mohammed without shame, without any idea of the fuss it could have caused.

Earlier in the year, I visited Dorthea Road in Copenhagen’s northwest region with three Venstre colleagues by the invitation of the Islamic Faith Community. We were offered both food and drink in the faith community’s large community hall which was richly decorated with Middle Eastern ornaments. A meticulously carved bookcase ran all the way around the room.

It was filled with books whose spines were decorated with Arabic golden symbols. Not one single book in either Danish, English or French could I find. At the end of a large meeting table, there were five women. All Danish converts. Two of them avoided shaking hands with the male guests who accompanied me.

Passions ran high that evening. We got into a frank discussion about Islam’s role and about religion in everyday Denmark. Unsurprisingly the conclusion was that the connection between the everyday and relationship with God amongst faithful Muslims was greater than it was for me.

As a member of the Danish state church, I am a Christian in the same way as most Danes are. I take part in Church activities at Christmas and if there are happy or unhappy events, and it is a long time since I made up my mind that my loyalty and my conscience towards my faith completely is a part of the relationship between God and myself.

However, it’s not about how religious authorities translate and interpret the Bible. It’s in no way a controversial message for Christians but it is apparently for some Muslims in Denmark.

The open discussion on Dorthea Road was immediately rewarding for all parties but a number of opinions have left deep impressions on me. Like, for instance, when the debate came to stoning, the answer shocked me, that someone from the Islamic Faith Community’s side only broadly condemns stoning. Their grounds for not completely condemning this vile form of execution was that stoning is described in two places in the Koran and those being stoned expressly wanted it to happen.

For me, it is a completely hopeless approach to life in a modern Denmark, to argue for or against such a barbaric Dark Ages action based on a religious text written many hundreds of years ago. There’s simply no place for it in Denmark in 2013.

Even though I describe myself as Christian, it means in no way that I think that women should be silent in assemblies, just as I have never heard Danish Jews who think that someone should die if they don’t hold the Sabbath – even though that’s written in Exodus.

My point is that a group of outstanding, well educated and on the surface well integrated resident Muslims practise a foolish and outdated interpretation of a holy text and I find that quite unsettling.

Later that same evening on Dorthea Road, an opinion came out that homosexuals just run around freely in Denmark, as arranged marriages are met with a shrug. It ought to be said that the participants from the Islamic Faith Community condemned forced marriages entirely although they had to explain to me and my companions what the exact difference was between those things. (emphasis mine)

Peculiar were the arguments for why Muslims don’t participate in sporting activities on equal footing with all the other Danes. The debate is often about how Muslim women who wish special teams to be set up with regards to religious modesty which separates them from all the other Danes. But that evening is also became clear that the men preferred only to swim or do weights training with other Muslim men and not in teams where all the others also had access.

Since we know there is no special type of Islamic fitness, it can only be from a wish to preserve a religious parallel community that lies behind this.

After the debate with the Islamic Faith Community, I cannot stop thinking I met a couple of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

And their statements are far from unique. There is unfortunately nothing to suggest that the opinions were expressed in the heat of the moment. For many years, there have been large studies of Danish Muslim’s opinions about everything from forced marriage to freedom of speech.

The results were shocking: 55% of the Danish Muslims interviewed believed that it should be forbidden to criticise religion and 64% believed that freedom of speech in certain circumstances should be curtailed. There is unfortunately not much that suggests these opinions have changed.

Another survey showed that 24% of young ‘non-western’ (translator’s note: in Danish this means Asian, African, South American, Caribbean, Polynesian but not European, North American, Australasian. It is certainly not a synonym for Muslim), immigrants and their descendants experience limits on their freedom and self determination by their family with regards to choice of romantic partner or spouse. In ghetto areas in Denmark, we see Sharia zones being set up where fundamentalist Muslims try to force residents to follow the laws from the Koran.

Far too many Muslims in Denmark live by an interpretation of the Koran that can be compared with the Dark Ages, where a few scholars explained the Bible. The representatives from the Islamic Faith Community is exactly that type – and does it well – but it is unfortunately unrealistic to imagine – if the Muslim community in Denmark started a reformation, and let go of dated interpretations of the Koran from self-appointed religious authorities.

There has been a tendency in the Danish integration debate, that we find it very hard to start meaningful debates and discussions about what we call worthy integration. The debate has been reduced to an exchange of puffed up view points about symbols or the opinions of one person.

For example, when an examiner doesn’t want to shake a student’s hand, when a school wants to have a gender segregated meeting or a young Muslim woman insists on wearing a headscarf on the till at Netto.

Every time, the debate splits into two camps, who either demand a new law that forbids that which we do not think is Danish or almost celebrate the delivery of Islamic customs in Denmark as the true manifestation of freedom. I cannot agree with either side of this debate. 

My liberal membership means that I recognise that freedom has the consequence that people have the right to live their lives in a way that I don’t understand or maybe personally do not approve of. On the other hand, I find it hard to understand how someone can celebrate, shrug or show indifference when the values we have taken for granted in Denmark for generations are being put under pressure.

For the case is not just that a man has a problem with shaking hands with a female students, when he is an examiner at the VUC in Herning. The problem is view of women that is represented.

It’s that the debate should be about. We must never mistakenly tolerate  opinions, values and views of humanity just because the person with those views are in a minority.

Whether you like it or not, Islamism in Denmark represents the biggest threat to worthy integration. No other way of thinking challenged so many areas that we normally consider hallmarks of Danish values.

For me, it is completely fundamental that we have religious freedom in this country. It is our constitutionally assured right to practise our religion as we want, without interference from the state or all other possible others. It is a freedom that has deep historical roots and it is freedom we should protect.

This means naturally that someone may believe in whatever God they want and practice their faith in the way they want, within the bounds of the law. But. And there is a but. Religious freedom is also the right to be free from religion. It is the right not to believe in anything and live your life accordingly. And it is in just as high degree, the right to be free from the dogma of other religious people being forced on you.

Naturally, religion plays an important role in our relations with each other. And we should show respect to each other. But respect goes both ways. My religious norms should not limit the freedom of others. And other’s religious norms should not limit my freedom. It is a balance, I feel has been under pressure these past few years. There is a conflict between those who understand that true religious freedom follows secularism and those who do not understand the connection.

It is a conflict between those who understand that one never may force their own religious beliefs onto others via social control or even legislation. This crucial distinction – the absolutely essential distinction basis for a free Western society – the representatives of the Islamic Faith Community do not agree with. Unfortunately, this is a wide problem amongst Muslims in Denmark and the rest of Europe.

This is why we need a debate on the role of Islam in the Danish society. Basically, it should be that when you come to a new country, you need to fit in with the culture and line up as much as possible with the norms and values important to the society you are a part of. I’m not suggesting that Muslims in Denmark have to take all our traditions, along with good and bad habits, but they should show respect for – and a wish to be involved in – our way of life.

Denmark is belongs to the Danes and you are very welcome to become Danish and take part in work and community.

But to the Muslims, who constantly work against us, constantly ask questions, are unsatisfied, go to Holy War in Syria, commit honour violence or killings, belittle our values, flag, and way of life. To all of you: find another place to live. No one is keeping you here or forcing you to stay. We have been welcoming and now it is up to you to show the required respect for our society and values we have built upon.

I think that the time has come to make a stand about who wants to be in Denmark and who doesn’t want to be in Denmark.

Here in this country, you can believe, think and speak about everything you want. I am allowed to criticise and discuss the prophet all I want.

Just as Muslims are allowed to laugh at Our Lord, Christians and all ordinary people just as much as they want. In our society, it your own morality that sets the limit.

Just as it is in free societies as it is in Danish and in other Western cultures – and that’s the way it should stay. It is proven that societies where opinions are shared, elites are challenged and where the degree of freedom is largest, have the greatest growth and wealth.

Just as clear is it that you can put an equals sign between denied equality, freedom of speech and very strict and sick interpretation of the Koran, and so the society falls apart or goes backwards. A look  over the UN’s list of Failed States supports my claim.  (Translator’s Note: No it doesn’t. A look over the UN’s list of Failed States highlights the mess imperialism and colonialism can make, not faulty interpretations of holy books but that’s another story)

Religions should continue to live side by side in Denmark. We have religious freedom and this freedom should be upheld.

But it demands that all Muslims in Denmark realise that it should be possible to have a skullcap on in Nørrebrogade without having your life threatened (as happened to journalist Martin Krasnik). It also requires that Muslim children don’t bring the war and the hate that their parents have brought from the Middle East and bully Jewish children in school and that examiners must shake hands with both female and male students at exams.

Just as the demands that Dark Ages opinions about arranged marriages, equality and freedom to decide about your own life without the prophet’s incessant interference can be shelved, just as the demands that someone accepts living in a country where the prophet Mohammed can be painted on my house walls with a skullcap, if that’s what suits me.

To the Muslims that live in Denmark must take the whole package. On the other hand, you have the right to practise your religion all you want and have Eid parties, pray on Fridays and all the other holidays you wish.

It’s freedom- and it’s exactly the freedom Denmark is built upon. It needs to be respected.

—–

Dear Inger,

How interesting that you had never heard of Islam when you were seven or eight years old and that your meeting of five Muslims earlier this year made such an impression upon you. I take it these are the first Muslims you ever really talked with, given your excitement to share that you finally learned at the age of 40 what the difference between arranged and forced marriage was.

Now, you say that these representatives were Danish converts. I don’t know if you have ever met Christian converts before? They sometimes say whacky things too about all sorts of topics. But anyway. How can you go from talking about the things that irritated you in a conversation with five Danish converts to Islam to “muzlimz go home”? (even if it did take you all those redundant paragraphs about what freedom of religion is). Where are Danish converts that you do not agree with supposed to go? Indeed, where are “descendants” you do not agree with supposed to go? They are Danish, they’re sort of your country’s responsibility.

I also think it is time to help you with your formulation of arguments. Translating all your thunks into English gave me a profound insight into what your problem is:- you don’t understand what you are talking about. In order to make your position seem more reasonable, you make up viewpoint “camps” you do not agree with. That no one could agree with. Because you pulled them out of your arse.

But never mind. Let’s talk about Islam. Some things you found problematic in your meeting were

  • Even though they said they didn’t believe in stoning as a form of execution, they told you that it was okay when written about in the Koran because of reasons (Let’s just take the “I don’t believe in stoning as a form of execution” and ignore the rest because it is completely irrelevant)
  • Muslim men and women prefer to work out with others of their religion and gender. (Now, in a country that only just said that cafés could ban nursing mothers because it was immodest, you are on the shakiest of shaky ground criticising others for not wanting jiggle their bits/have bits jiggled at them for modesty reasons. Also, the reasons why Muslims might want the company of other Muslims during work outs might be less to do with “the only reason” you could think of (Desire for a parallel society) and more to do with not wanting to be stared at, patronised, attacked or otherwise treated badly by Danish people. You’ll never know because you never asked, you just assumed it was your (stupid), reason.
  • Homophobia (yeah, it’s distasteful. But Danish people do homophobia all the time, Birthe Rønne did some the other year, so don’t even pretend like it’s a Muslim thing.)
  • The spines of the books you looked at were in Arabic.

And NOTHING else. So, to justify this rant, you came up with a couple of other concerns. Like that guy who didn’t shake hands. For heaven’s sake, Inger, it’s just a taboo about touching. It’s weird and whacky (I guess), but let’s not get it twisted. Remember when it was swine flu times and no one shook hands for about a week? Sure, he could have avoided this sitch by not shaking anyone’s hand but it seriously isn’t a big deal. When people defended him it wasn’t “because” he was a minority. It was because WHO GIVES A FUCK ABOUT HANDSHAKING?

One school, ages ago, suggested that they could have a gender segregated meeting so that more mothers would show up. This wasn’t because Da Muzlimz made any demands or said they weren’t coming because “Argh men!” but because the teachers at the school, in their “adorable” white person way of thinking they know what’s good for Muslims without asking, arranged these meetings. If they had have asked, maybe the parents involved would have said “Dude, these meetings are total bullshit, what is WITH them, anyway? What are they for?” or “Well, Danish class has left me completely unprepared for the topics covered” or “I have my gender segregated badminton club in the parallel society club house that night”. WHO KNOWS.

And, Inger, you cannot bleat on for 14 hundred long paragraphs about how welcome you are to have a religion in Denmark as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else and then say women are insisting on wearing headscarfs at work, rather than the converse “work was insisting that they take them off”. You. Don’t. Get. It.

A lot of people might have felt embarrassment at telling Muslims what they really really need to do. Especially if they only just recently heard of the religion, have only met five people who practice it earlier this year and haven’t even got to the stage where they realise that “Our Lord” is also “Their Lord” in their awareness of Islamic thought. A lot of people might have thought to themselves, you know what, I should do some more listening. I should ask more questions. I should go to more meetings, maybe meet some other groups. I should ask why all these books are in Arabic and not French or English or Danish. Maybe I have it twisted, I should keep talking until I get it. I should ask those groups what THEY want. Not you though, Ing. Not you. You just went for it.

“This part of the Quran is wrong, this part is outdated, this part is stupid, this part should be dropped, this part is Dark Ages.” I expect the Islamic community will send a letter of gratitude round to your office after the reformation you so kindly started for them. They may even name the new religion after you. Ingerslam has a nice ring to it, I think.

So you did a “clever” thing rhetorically. You put a bunch of indefensible shit alongside stuff that people should be allowed to do in a democracy, in the hope that if someone came to tell you off, they might try to defend the indefensible and thereby lose before they start.

I am not falling in your clever trap, Inger. I am not going to defend attacking or bullying Jews. I am not going to say that honour violence or killings are good. (I am a bit confused about why it’s not okay for people to go fight against Assad in Syria. Aren’t the Danish government thinking about sending Danish soldiers to go fight him? Anyway. Whatever)

But.

64% of Muslims believe that freedom of speech should be curtailed in certain circumstances but 100% of people that are you believe that freedom of speech should be curtailed in certain circumstances.

You believe that Muslims who constantly question, express dissatisfaction or belittle the values, flag and way of life in Denmark should shut the fuck up or get the fuck out.

Constantly question? Express dissatisfaction? Honestly, mate, that is some weak shit to be putting beside “killing women for sleeping with the wrong guy”. Danish Muslims are Danish and as such have the constitutionally given right to ask questions (even if it is constantly) and be dissatisfied. Even the most recent immigrants are entitled to do both of those things up one side of Strøget and down the other. It’s sort of the deal with freedom of speech. You don’t like it? Then move to another country where they ban that sort of thing. No one is keeping you here, etc etc parp.

And then we come to the question of belittling something. Apparently, it’s okay for you to make fun of Mohammed or paint him or paint him with Jewish headgear (or whatever it was you thought you were saying). But if any Muslim is thinking about belittling the Dannebrog! They should buy a plane ticket immediately and never return.

Well, are you ready Inger? I think the Dannebrog is stupid. I think using only two colours is boring and the pattern is too derivative. I think it flaps about too much and I am going to paint it on the side of my house with a burqa on. Nur nur! Stupid flag! YOU STUPID FLAG! I BELITTLE YOU!

I am not sure what constitutes Danish values or way of life (as opposed to living anywhere else) but some of the shit I have had to put up with in your country is weak-ass. I don’t like the air of smug superiority. I don’t like being shoved by peasants. I don’t enjoy how ignorance is celebrated as anti-elitism. I don’t like the way you charge full price for second hand items but haggle over event tickets being sold at face-value. I hate the us-and-them mentality. I think you could do with putting your sinks lower down in the counter so water doesn’t go everywhere.

And see. Even though I belittled your three holy pillars of Danishness, I remain undeported. Because it is completely irrelevant what I think about your pigging flag or your cultural mores. I pay my taxes, I obey the law, I volunteer, I hold doors open. For heaven’s sakes, that’s why we HAVE freedom of speech, so that obnoxious but otherwise law abiding people like me who are constantly questioning and never satisfied are not criminalised or subject to any penalties. It’s not just so you can draw a person that there is a current taboo about drawing or taking the piss out of people.

You don’t mind the belittling of values that aren’t your values. You don’t feel particularly religious, so you don’t see the problem with upsetting religious people. But you do feel particularly Danish, so you see the immediate problem with having that attacked. This is rank hypocrisy but it is so mainstream in your country, it has gone unnoticed.

You don’t know much about Islam or its history or philosophy or its modern applications but instead of educating yourself, you take a couple of headlines and a chat with committee and then glory in your ignorance in public. And you think Islamism is a major threat to your country and not, as I do, simplistic politicians cynically polemicising to whip up religious hatred and xenophobic suspicion.

Shit advice

I have been feeling pretty zen about Denmark recently and have also not been reading the news (coincidence?), so I wasn’t sure what I could talk about.

Some of my hate-readers hate that I talk about my health problems. HEALTH PROBLEMS ON A BLOG? It almost boggles the mind. Well, prepare to be bamboozled.

My immune system is all like Clive Dunn in Dad’s Army, flapping around, telling everyone not to panic. There are few systems in my body that L Cpl Jones the Immune System has not whipped up into a state of frenzy. I am being treated for hypothyroidism, polycystic ovaries, insulin resistance and asthma. (Yesterday, I had a prick test, where they rubbed cat hair and mould into tiny cuts in my body to see if it got itchy. It turns out I am allergic to all of the things. They also gave me some drug which increased my lung function by 95% or something. Shit the bed)

Anyway, while I was at the thyroid appointment, I mentioned that I had put on a tonne of weight very suddenly and waah waah. The doctor (who I love), referred me to a dietician. And I went because although I know what I am supposed to eat, I am not really eating it because it’s really hard to avoid bread and potatoes in Denmark. Plus, sugar is NICE and if I gave up sugar fulltime, then what would the point even be? And I know I am supposed to balance my shit out with protein but how much nuts is that really supposed to mean because I am so over nuts.

The dietician was a disappointment, instead of finding out what I knew just questioned me on different headings.

“So, how much dairy do you eat?”

“I like Greek yoghurt and skyr, I guess?”

“OK, so try putting oat flakes on top of that to slow down the absorption. Only drink a small amount of milk, it contains sugar. What about potatoes?”

“I only eat a small amount of potatoes.”

“Only have three small ones unless you are active, then you can have four”

and instead of saying “You know what, you need to be eating like all of the vegetables and exercising a metric fucktonne because this insulin resistance is not going to go away without those changes,” she said

“So, you’re English, right? That must mean you eat a lot of white bread. Have you learned to eat dark ryebread yet?”

I said I didn’t like it but I only ate wholemeal bread and didn’t recognise the stereotype, actually. She was like “Woah, ok, mind blown”

I got out a book about insulin resistance and showed it to her, saying I had read it and understood the advice in it. She said her student had read it and she gave me a pamphlet about PCO and how insulin levels vary depending on what you eat.

Then she handed me this:-

Good LUCK, vegetarians
Good LUCK, vegetarians

For those who cannot read Danish, it suggests six slices of bread a day to someone with insulin resistance. And artificial sweetener in drinks. And slimming bars. You’re supposed to have 300g vegetables and can choose between processed meat, jam and cheese as toppings for the bread. Less a “healthy eating plan”, more a “eating disorder”.

I entered it in to one of those food diary websites to find out if it was nutritionally balanced.

Even though the plan was supposed to bring me below 1200 calories, if I followed the advice I would be eating 1400 calories. I would be getting 19g too much sugar, 49g too much protein and 754mg too much sodium. I would be getting 4g too little fat on this plan. As if dietary fat were the enemy in insulin resistance.

And I don’t even LIKE all those guidance numbers, they are a snapshot of the prejudices of the nutritionist that wrote them rather than any hard and fast rule about what you need to stay healthy.

The thing that gets me about this plan is how artificial sweeteners are so glibly promoted. When even in people without insulin resistance, these additives make people’s insulin spike (the body goes “OH BOY OH BOY, SUGAR! Better call Mr Pancreas!” and then out comes Ms Insulin who knocks on all the cell doors and says “Open up for some yum-yums!” and also “Let’s put this sugar away for later!” and so if you have artificial sweeteners, your cells are like “Where’s the party?” and then “OMG I AM SO HUNGRY” and then you eat actual sugar which is then helpfully deposited in your liver to be transformed into fat and stored if you do not exert yourself in the next few hours/day. And if you tease the cells too much with this, they start to tell Ms Insulin to shut up which leaves more for transformation into fat for storage)

NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS.

Also, what the actual fuck is going on with all that bread, cheese and ham? What I really need is a way of getting decent sources of non-animal fat and protein into my body without taking in too much salt at the same time. The way you do this is: vegetables. (And seafood, I guess because although they are animals, they have unsaturated fat which is the best sort.)

Whatever. I had a week off of school (and commuting), and lost the weight pretty much. It was stress everyone! I am not making particularly bad choices when I eat usually, it’s just that I am more likely to pick something that is not great because I am feeling down or stressed. Plus, being hungry in downtown Aarhus means that I either get an unhealthy snack because that is all that is available or I wait over an hour to get home (which is bad for my hormones for other reasons).

The constant stress hormones mean that whatever I eat, I am more likely to store fat because my body believes I was in a marathon or a war or something.

Now, I didn’t expect Denmark to be ahead of the curve with the thinking around nutrition but I also did not expect a dietician whose ONLY JOB it is, is to know what sort of foods are healthy for particular groups to recommend a diet that would make me fatter, mess with my insulin and raise my blood pressure.

The science isn’t secret, the discussion isn’t new. She has even read the same books I have, in Danish (we exchanged notes), but she has been completely blinded to what constitutes a healthy diet by her culture.

Now, here’s the dilemma. Do I go back to the appointment and tell her off or just cancel it quietly? I mean, the first possibility will make for one hell of a blog post but what it will do for my stress hormone levels, I am not sure.

Femte juli

I must have blogged about the 6th July parades in Fredericia before. That sounds like something I would have definitely done. (Oh look, two years ago)

Less well documented by me is the 5th July celebrations. This is because I have never observed them before although I have heard the canon fire from my house.

 

The statue Landsoldaten (
The statue Landsoldaten (“The Foot Soldier”) in Fredericia, Denmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

This time I managed to see the whole thing. I had the least honourable of intentions. My boyfriend is serving in the military and they make him march around sometimes and this was one of those times and I hoped to put him off like if he was a ceremonial guard of a queen or someone, I would definitely come see him at work and make faces at him.

I woke up this morning thinking “I can smell flags!” (smells like tents), and when I looked out of my window, there were flags as far as the eye can see. Which is remarkably less magical than waking up to blankets of snow, I can exclusively reveal.

So, what happened was this:- when the sun went down, a bunch of people brought down some flags (one on the ramparts, a few around the statue of the unknown soldier and one of each of the Nordic nations), simultaneously. This seemed historically inaccurate to me, Sweden and Denmark might be buds now but back then not so much.

I was stood next to three soldiers who seemed to be the only people in the town square who were saluting the flag as it went down, which is pretty much every Dane’s duty or something (NB: not an actual Danish duty).

Then a bunch of people walked past with burning torches. These people included:- a marching band, a bunch of actual war veterans (and some other soldiers), a dressing-up group of old-timey people, everyone else who likes holding torches but not pitchforks.

I raced the parade down to the beach and got some good shots of my boyfriend looking miserable and then I raced him around town until the procession ended. Some thoughts occurred (and it is probably just as well I deleted twitter in a fit of ‘but I’m not SAYING anything on there’ because I would have tweeted the shit out of this), the most pressing was “gee, I am glad I am not in the military”.

I am a teacher. My job has existed for a long time. Yet, I am not required to know how to teach children like it’s 1799. I do not have to, on ceremonial occasions, hit children for misbehaviour.

And yet, the military, who ride around in tricked out vans and walk around like normal people while fighting actual wars are expected to know how to do a thing that has not been relevant in battle since (not a military historian, so guessing), relying on sharp objects was replaced with more explodey and projectilish ways of murdering others.

Why march? It isn’t an efficient way to travel, it isn’t comfortable (if something chafes you, you’re not going to get to move it until the march is over which results in very real consequences involving blood), it is dangerous on bridges. No modern soldier needs to know how to march for any professional reason.

Plus, and I proved this multiple times, it is not very fast and someone with a camera phone and the will to take as many distracting photos as possible, can outwalk a marching army. Take that, military history.

Then we arrived at the old town hall. Something you need to know about Fredericia is that there are loads of old people’s homes. Whenever a public building closes (which is often), they suggest opening another home. Now, almost every building in Fredericia is opposite an old people’s home. You should not be shocked to hear that there is an old people’s home directly opposite the old town hall. The old people were watching on, there appeared to be an old people’s home party on one of the terraces. One of my prayers is “Don’t let me grow old in Denmark” and it is partly the fear of being invited to a 5. juli speech terrace party that lights a fire beneath my behind.

Loads of the soldiers who stood there recently returned from a war zone. There will be no commemorative marches or special parades more than a hundred years later to any of the things they did. This is because everything they did was in someone else’s country. They really should think about having a civil war every now and then, just to keep the historical marches relevant. Maybe they could ask someone to invade.

I am not sure how much time is spent on marching around to get this duty right and I am torn between thinking “Good, keep them busy, it’ll stop them going off and bombing something” and “For heaven’s sakes, my taxes are paying for defence and security, this is an unacceptable waste of their time.”

They asked a police commissioner to make a speech and god knows what he said because he was a mumbler. No one was listening to him, not the old people, not the children (out at 11pm! Scandal!), not the soldiers, not the marching band. It was not about the war with the a-little-bit-more-German-Danes but rather something about him being a police commissioner.

(On the actual 6th July, we will be getting Prince Henrik (the French one, married to the Queen), which should be good for a laugh. )

Then a band played everyone out and that was that.

Welcome to Denmark!

Summer is peak time for the arrival of new immigrants to Denmark. Most of you will be students and only intend to stay for the length of your course. Maybe for work afterwards, if Denmark works out. Some of you will be “expats”, as in, you do not intend to stay longer than five years and you have come for a specific job. Others have come here for a Danish romantic partner.
Welcome!
I am sure you are more than overwhelmed with advice about how to navigate the system and to a large extent, I cannot help you. I got here five years ago, everything I had to do is different. Plus, the things that people from Europe have to do differ wildly from people from the rest of the world. I have no idea what you have to do.
However, here is a checklist to help you settle in:-

  • Join the library
  • Once you have a CPR card, you go to the library and say you want to join. I was worried about doing that in case they were mean because I could only ask in English but they were NOT mean. In the library, there are lots of books to help people learn Danish. Getting you signed up for Danish classes is going to take forever and they aren’t all that anyway. You can use the library without being a member, so if you are waiting on your CPR card, you can just drop in and use the books and then go home.

  • Get apps to learn Danish vocab
  • I used Before You Know It but I wish I had had Memrise back in the day. Vocabulary is the way in to this language.

  • Don’t worry about learning Danish
  • What’s that? Contradictory advice? Didn’t I JUST tell you to learn Danish? Yes. And no. Learn Danish on your own terms. Do not ever get on your own case for being lazy about learning Danish. Learn Danish because it delights you to do so. Learn Danish because it fascinates you. Learn Danish because it makes you happy. Do not learn Danish as penance for being foreign in Denmark.

  • Walk your own path
  • You may be excited to see that there are blogs about living in Denmark from the point of view of an immigrant. You may feel impatient with people (like me), who point out things that are less good about Denmark. I know. I know. But. Just walk your own path. Some of my best friends are Danes, people who like living in Denmark despite living here for AGES and people who like living in Denmark but haven’t been here all that long. I am not saying YOU have to feel a certain way, I have merely expressed my brain juices towards your eyes. We can agree to disagree. You do not need to try to set me straight or school me on proper guest etiquette. If you can ‘Noble Savage’ the Danes, you can extend the courtesy to me. It is my path, let me walk it.

  • Get ready for winter now
  • Like the Starks of Winterfell say, winter is coming. Winter lasts for approximately seven months. The main problem is not the snow or cold or ice. The main problem is the lack of sunlight. People get really weird. Social isolation becomes a huge issue as people “act lonely”. Make plans to do awesome things, they can be in countries you can reach by rail or air. Buy boxed sets or sign up for Netflix. Take an interest in crafts or reading. Look into gym or pool membership, you are not going to want to run in the conditions in February. Find out where you can get vitamin D and calcium from. Make your place as warm and cozy as possible, you are going to be semi-hibernating from September until March.

  • Find out the names of the pastries
  • Copenhagen Cast has a delightful podcast about the names of Danish pastries. You will really feel like you live in Denmark if you can use the bakery even if you do not learn any more Danish than that.

  • Join the union (and the A-kasse)
  • If you have a job, join the union. Unions are very helpful and strong in Denmark. A-kasse is unemployment insurance. (Check if you will be able to claim it if you lose your job) The reason Denmark has good working time agreements is it has the unions, join the union.

  • Get a notebook
  • Make a note of your questions about Danish culture, combine with photos and when you have worked out ‘what’s with the flags on buses?’ then open a blog for business.