Header from Fyr til Fyr 60k. Photo by Moses Løvstad

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

Thursday, 3 December 2009

And so this is Denmark

Sometimes I feel like I am stranded on a cold, gray island at the top of the world. I then I realize I am.

At 1:45 pm today I looked out the window and saw I had better start my run because it was getting dark. Yes, that what happens at 55 degrees latitude.

My run was rainy, cold, windy and muddy like usual. But... it was great.

Here are my times over the last three weeks on what I call the muddy 8 miles to Ladby. It is quite the challenging course.

2 weeks ago: 67:00
1 week ago: 62:33
today: 59:53

(This is the one store in Ladby and then there are a few farms. The store is always very busy.)


Yes, exact same path and with a garmin on. Exactly 8 miles. I know I'm European now since I had to look up how many km that is (12.9) to make sense of it. I have to conclude all of the interval and tempo training I have been doing is paying off.

This morning, The Lorax and I took the train to Copenhagen because the lady who watches him has a 2 day vacation. SR's mom kindly offered to take care him while I work. You know how dark it has been here by how The Lorax looked at the sun coming up with amazement and said "The moon!" (in Danish månen).

The return of dark times marks the 1 year anniversary of our move to Denmark. I ask myself daily "are we doing the right thing living here?" but now that it has officially been a year, the question is more poignant in some way. There are so many ways to look at our experience and, in all honesty, we are quite happy here, especially because step-daughter and The Lorax seem to be doing so well.

But there are some things that make me wonder.

So I work in ophthalmology. And that in itself is great. I love using lenses and fun equipment and I love having patients I care about. But having to use loads of extra hand sanitizer because a patient is afraid I am from the Faroe Islands can get to me. Or when patients refuse to be treated by a doctor who might be from Poland, I get sad. They rarely ask me where I am actually from. If I had a American accent, I doubt this would be a problem. At least that is what everyone tells me. But why would should I be glad I am not from Poland or, God forbid, the Faroe Islands? Of course if my skin or hair were any darker, I'd be dealing with a whole other set of problems. Call it xenophobia or nationalism, it is rampant here. If your children are not named Predbjørn, Solveig, Rigmor or Nikolaj, you had better think twice about moving here.

One man told step-daughter and I that he thought people from Asia and the Middle East should be allowed to visit, but shouldn't live here because they don't share his understanding of life. And he wouldn't want to grow old with them. He said he was so proud that he was born in the best country in the world with the best education and the best social system. When we got into the car, I wasn't sure if I should laugh or hang my head in foreign shame. And then step-daughter piped up, "Boy, I'm glad I was born in Denmark."

Perhaps I am just bitter because I just found out I have to take 3 huge tests to get permanent authorisation to work as a doctor. Doctors from Europe are of course exempt from these tests; they are really meant to weed out the unwanted foreign doctors. I am reading this enormous book tonight about the Danish Social System for a test on Wednesday.

But we've two exciting races coming up this weekend. An 8.4 k on Saturday and a 10 k on Sunday.

Thanks if you actually read that whole post, or even if you just read this sentence.

Running Song of the Day: Portions for Foxes by Rilo Kiley (thanks, Kathleen!!)

9 comments:

Emily Pease said...

It's so strange to hear about xenophobia, when the world seems so small to me! I'm sorry you have to deal with it, but I think you could certainly be an excellent ambassador and model for World Citizenry!

Are you going to visit your folks around Christmastime? I'll be in the area and would be delighted to meet for tea or a walk if you're around!

olga said...

One whole year, my, time flies...

You know, I am glad you've written about this "doctor in another country" cry out. It would be wrong to say "happy", but to some extent (not to you, but in general), may be some would understand how Americans treat foreign doctors in this country? Or any foreigh specialists for that matter? With tests, looking down for a slight accent and getting a degree elsewhere - even if it's been proven that "elsewhere" is much much better than Amrecian education can even dream of? And then, after finally passing tests, you can't a job in a private office - only in a huge hospital adjusent to an university. And then your patients keep asking, until you die, "Where are you from? Oh...and did you go to Medical School there too?" C'mon, may be I speak with an accent, but how many languages you speak? (not you, dear, a regular American person).

Anyhow, just spurred, too many friends have gone and are going through this, and this was one (of many, indeed) reasons I decided not to. Even though I pretty much despise my job - not the job itself, that is ok, may be not very exciting for me, but not hateful. Just not what I want to do and where I want to be, and not the "making a difference" I imagined, and not with whom around. But I surely make my own choices, not like I am whining.

One year, huh? Man, time flies...I think I am getting old:)

Mr.Manky said...

What you describe about the xenophobia and the haughty nationalism, you're not alone in thinking that. Surprisingly and sadly, most of the expats I know who live here feel the same way. Thankfully, more of us are talking about it. I'm not sure if it can actually change the Denmark attitude, but it sure beats bottling it up.

Abbie said...

LOL. I read the whole thing! :) I really can't believe that you've been there for a year. That's crazy to think about. And I love your musings, insights, etc., about life. I love hearing things from others perspective (should there be an apostrophe on others? I think so but spell check tells me otherwise). Thanks for sharing!

Abbie said...

Oh and I was laughing out loud about your last sentence. :)

SteveQ said...

For the record, you do have an American accent - at least when speaking English. Your husband, OTOH, couldn't pass for anything except Scandinavian (and not all of there. Finland's out).

Runningdoctor said...

I think it's important to note that this ugly movement sweeping across Europe is noticed because of it's political voice. The Swiss vote to ban minarets got a lot of press this week in Europe - but only because there was a vote.

If America had a multi-party democracy, we would quite likely see the 15-20% of senate seats going to far-right anti-immigration or religious parties, as seen in Europe.

Ask yourselves what would happen if Lou Dobbs - in a multi-party America - ran solely on anti-immigration. How many percent of the congressional seats would the Dobbs party get?

How many would a Palin party, running on religious extremism and us-versus-them sentiments, get? Who do you think Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh would support? Yep, those same ugly far-right anti-immigration parties.

The only thing saving us from this is that the mainstream Republicans are so uncomfortable with this far-right group that everything is toned down.

There is no political voice for this movement in the US, but make no mistake. The "European ugliness" is present in America, too. Honestly, what would a referendum to ban minarets in America show? Probably the same as in Switzerland...

Again, the difference is the political voice given to the movement in Europe. Whether giving ugly human nature a political voice is right, I will let others decide.

sea legs girl said...

Emily, Thanks for the ambassador nomination. Sadly, I won't be around for Christmas. Tea would have been so nice. Thanks for the invitation!!

Olga, I thought about you when I wrote this and figured your experience had actually been better than mine. Thanks for that response. And it would be a shame to give up on that dream of "making a difference", though. I of course share that. And, no, you are NOT old.

Mr. Manky, welcome to the blog and I am happy to learn about your's as well! How on earth did you come across mine, by the way. Yeah, being honest about these things is the first step towards improvement.

Abbie, always glad to hear I can make someone laugh. Even if you wrote that out of pity for me. And I also would put an apostrophe in others'. Hmmmm

Steve, Yeah I figured at DID have an American accent when speaking Enlgish. But here, I don't know. Some people say I have a French accent, which I could understand, but everyone agrees it's not American. Who knows. Probably because I learned by hearing it and not by reading it.

SR, of course there is racism and xenophobia in the US. Good point about political parties. But when a person suddenly is the object of the sentiment, it becomes more apparent, and one understands how the Holocaust could have happened a short 60 years ago in the country just to our south.

sea legs girl said...

Okay, but then again I can't compare my experience to Nazi Germany one bit. But one can't help but sensing the sentiment of fear here.