On Thursday, I woke up at 5am, because we had to meet at Frue Plads at 7 to leave for the study tour. Before the trip, no one knew what was on our agenda, so we were all a little nervous—especially since the days were obviously going to be so long. The bus ride was a little over two hours, and we arrived in Odense.
Our first stop was the H.C. Anderson Skolen, a multicultural school with many non-ethnic Danes. We were given a tour (and lots of coffee and candy!), and we learned a lot about the school’s mission. It is filled with passionate teachers who support and encourage their students, while giving them the structure that that they often lack in their home environments. Many of the children come from immigrant or refugee families, with parents inflicted with PTSD.
Next, we spent a bit of time eating lunch at “Volmuse Kulturehus”, a community center in a so-called ghetto of Denmark. The “ghetto” actually reminded me of a college campus. After lunch, we were given a tour of the Volmuse area by volunteers from Unge 2 Unge, an organization formed to make a positive difference to kids in the area, providing them with activities and other ways to keep them out of trouble, as well as strong positive role models.
Then, we participated in a workshop run by the Act Now Theater group, which is typically for ethnic minority youth. The workshop was interesting but didn’t really have much to do with our class, so we were a bit confused. Later, Maja explained that her reasoning for choosing the workshop was to take us out of our comfort zones and experience something new—something that teachers should be able to handle.
After that, we rode the bus to the hostel. This was my first hostel experience, and I was actually a little nervous. The hostel ended up being more like a hotel, and everyone said that that was because hostels in Denmark are typically a lot nicer than many other places in Europe. For dinner, we walked to a Turkish buffet, which was DELICIOUS!!! For dessert, they served us something that tasted like liquid cake, which sounds weird but I loved it.
On Friday, we woke up at 8 and left for the Rosengårdenskolen, one of the largest public schools in Denmark. The school was very large and modern. What stood out to me the most were their playgrounds. They were electronic, and they were called “Education in motion”, with the capability to compete with children in playgrounds in other countries on academic and physical activities. What also stood out were the facilities available for handicapped children, such as a large heated exercise pool.
We were given a couple hours to explore Odense and have lunch. Ironically, I ended up eating at a pizza place.
After a little eating and exploring, we made our way to the Frytøjet, or “The Tinderbox”, named after one of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytales. He was the original writer of The Little Mermaid and tons of other famous stories, and he is one of the most well-known Danes. The Tinderbox is a cultural activity center geared toward children, which incorporates drama, theater, music, and storytelling. There, we got to dress up, paint, and hear the true story of the Little Mermaid, which is a lot different from Disney’s version.
This is the plot of the H.C. Anderson version (it’s actually really interesting and worth reading):
“The Little Mermaid lives in an underwater kingdom with her father the sea king; her grandmother; and her six elder sisters, each born one year apart. When a mermaid turns 15, she is allowed to swim to the surface to watch the world above, and as the sisters become old enough, one of them visits the surface every year. As each of them returns, the Little Mermaid listens longingly to their various descriptions of the surface and of human beings.
When the Little Mermaid’s turn comes, she ventures to the surface, sees a ship with a handsome prince, and falls in love with him from a distance. A great storm hits, and the Little Mermaid saves the prince from a near-drowning. She delivers him unconscious to the shore near a temple. Here she waits until a young girl from the temple finds him. The prince never sees the Little Mermaid.
The Little Mermaid asks her grandmother whether humans can live forever if they do not drown. The grandmother explains that humans have a much shorter lifespan than merfolk’s 300 years, but that when mermaids die they turn to sea foam and cease to exist, while humans have an eternal soul that lives on in Heaven. The Little Mermaid, longing for the prince and an eternal soul, eventually visits the Sea Witch, who sells her a potion that gives her legs, in exchange for her tongue (as the Little Mermaid has the most intoxicating voice in the world). The Sea Witch warns, however, that once she becomes a human, she will never be able to return to the sea. Drinking the potion will make her feel as if a sword is being passed through her, yet when she recovers she will have two beautiful legs, and will be able to dance like no human has ever danced before. However, it will constantly feel like she is walking on sharp swords, and her feet will bleed most terribly. In addition, she will only get a soul if the prince loves her and marries her, for then a part of his soul will flow into her. Otherwise, at dawn on the first day after he marries another woman, the Little Mermaid will die brokenhearted and disintegrate into sea foam.
The Little Mermaid drinks the potion and meets the prince, who is attracted to her beauty and grace even though she is mute. Most of all he likes to see her dance, and she dances for him despite her excruciating pain. When the prince’s father orders his son to marry the neighboring king’s daughter, the prince tells the Little Mermaid he will not, because he does not love the princess. He goes on to say he can only love the young woman from the temple, who he believes rescued him, but adds that the Little Mermaid is beginning to take the temple girl’s place in his heart. It turns out that the princess is the temple girl, who had been sent to the temple to be educated. The prince loves her and the wedding is announced.
The prince and princess marry, and the Little Mermaid’s heart breaks. She thinks of all that she has given up and of all the pain she has suffered. She despairs, thinking of the death that awaits her, but before dawn, her sisters bring her a knife that the Sea Witch has given them in exchange for their long hair. If the Little Mermaid slays the prince with the knife and lets his blood drip on her feet, she will become a mermaid again, all her suffering will end and she will live out her full life.
The Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to kill the sleeping prince lying with his bride and, as dawn breaks, throws herself into the sea. Her body dissolves into foam, but instead of ceasing to exist, she feels the warmth of the sun; she has turned into a spirit, a daughter of the air. The other daughters of the air tell her she has become like them because she strove with all her heart to gain an eternal soul. She will earn her own soul by doing good deeds, and she will eventually rise up into the kingdom of God.”
After the Tinderbox, we saw the H.C. Anderson museum which was built off the actual house he lived in.
Finally on Friday we went bowling as a class, which was really fun, even though I’m awful.
By Saturday we were all exhausted, so luckily the day was shorter.
We took the bus to a different city, Næstved.
There, we went to a museum which explained the history of the town, and after we traveled to a nearby “castle” (which was more like castle ruins where the Vordingborg castle used to be. The only part still standing was the goose tower, which we got to climb to the top of.
The tour was interesting, and view was really cool, but it was absolutely freezing inside and outside the tower, so I was glad when it was over, and it was time to go back to Copenhagen. Overall the tour was a lot of fun, and we learned a lot about Danish culture—especially different types of schools. The next study tour is March 5th, and we will be spending a week in London!