KEEP UP GOOD SPIRIT

12/02/2012

A piece of good advice hanging above Amagerbrogade, one of the streets at the island of Amager in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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IT’S SUMMER FESTIVALS TIME!

23/06/2011

The three warm and sunny days of June and of the Whitsun Holiday are the days of the Copenhagen Carnival. The main shopping and touristic street of Copenhagen, Strøget, as well as the park to the north called Fælledparken, become filled with music of various genres, colourful parades, half-naked girls dancing samba and other energetic and exciting dances, photographers scurrying among the crowd to take good shots of the girls’ uncovered body parts, and just citizens enjoying the event. Of course, it is not the mega-grand and mega-shiny Brazilian Carnival, but still is quite fun and entertaining.

Here is a glimpse of the Copenhagen Carnival that took place this year (2011) for you to see for yourself:

The Copenhagen Carnival’s history stretches back to 1982, when it was organized for the first time under the topic “The street is the stage, and you are the entertainer”. The idea to organize this event belongs to the artist John Little, who was inspired by the marvellous carnivals in the Caribbean region. You can read more about its history and development into a yearly festival of world music HERE.But the Carnival is not a single opportunity to have lots of fun in Denmark this summer. Therefore, if you have missed it, do not worry. This is just the beginning of the summer festivals time! Check out the agenda full of various music, fashion shows, tasty delicacies, and lots of partying below.

Roskilde Festival: 26th of June – 4th of July

World music is coming to the Roskilde city once again. One of the six largest annual music festivals in Europe invites you for the 8 days of fun and entertainment. Read more about it HERE and HERE.

Copenhagen Jazz Festival: 1st – 10th of July

Crazy about jazz in particular? Then this music event organized since 1979 is the best place for you this summer. The stars of this year’s festival include Sonny Rollins, Bobby McFerrin, and Keith Jarrett. Get to know more about it HERE.

Copenhagen Fashion Week / Festival: 3rd – 7th of August

This is truly a marvellous gift to all ladies! While your boyfriend or husband revives slowly after unlimited beer-drinking and partying during the previous festivals, you can check out what the designers from all over the world have prepared for you this year. The Copenhagen Fashion Festival starts HERE.

Cultural Harbour: 5th – 7th of August

If your get overexcited from all those trendy and astronomically expensive models, then you can chill out at the annual harbour festival at Havneparken located at the Islands Brygge. Read some more details about it HERE.

SmukFest: 10th – 14th of August

Danes claim that this is the most beautiful festival of the year. They even did not put much creativity into its name and just called it “Beautiful Festival”. You can see if it is really true HERE.

Strøm: 15th – 20th of August

Now it is time for the fans of electronic music to invade the streets of Copenhagen. The one week festival called Strøm is dedicated to this music genre. More information can be found HERE.

Copenhagen Cooking: 19th – 28th of August

After all those festivals you would probably get very hungry. So, why not take “the cherry from the pie” during the last days of summer and visit this food festival with lots of cooking and tasting opportunities spread all over the Denmark’s capital city. See what is on the menu HERE.

And there are many more interesting and exciting opportunities offered by Denmark in summer. Just go and explore the country, and you will surely find them!

So, prepare for much movin’ and groovin’! Show the world your partying might under the silver moonlight! And to end this silly rhyme:

IT’S SUMMER FESTIVALS TIME!


DAILY FAIRYTALE

16/01/2011

Waking up, quick breakfast, school / university / work, home sweet home, dinner, TV, Internet, sleep. And the same schedule tomorrow… and the day after tomorrow… and so on… Weekends might be coloured a bit with a short walk in the nearby park, visit to a concert, meeting with friends, or more TV / Internet.

It is quite familiar to you, isn’t it?

Well, this is the standard interest-and-passion-killing creativity-destroying freedom- eliminating everyday life. It is easy to plan and predict it, however it lacks of surprises, mysteries, and magic.

But if we do not want to make our life “standardized”, if we desire some pleasant surprises and real magic in it, if we want to add a lot more colours here, where should we look for them? Yes, in fairytales.

Do you remember all those thrilling stories and legends full of rich castles, brave knights, beautiful princesses, and romantic happy-endings with the enchanting Magic of Love? What was your favourite one? “Beauty and the Beast”? “Cinderella”? Or perhaps “Father Frost”?

In your childhood you most probably dreamed about being inside this fairytale and saving the beautiful princess trapped in a high tower from the ferocious fire-spitting dragon. Of course, you have always been victorious and deserved a sweet and tender kiss.

Or maybe you dreamed of being a princess yourself awaiting the handsome prince on his snow-white mighty stallion. And certainly he had always come only for you.

Do you want to get back these magical feelings? Do you wish to enjoy your life like a child? Do you desire to turn your every day into an enchanting fairytale? Yes?

Then DO IT!

Well, I should make myself clear here. Surely I do not motivate you, for instance, to steal a sword at the local museum and charge the nearby tax collector’s office with a shout: “Die, you blood-sucking dragon!”. In this case you might really end up in a “castle” (asylum, that is), but without any beautiful princesses… well, there might be some… those, who also took my advice very literally.

What I want to point out here is to make your own daily life and the lives of your dearest ones as wonderful and enchanting as in a fairytale.

Take a look around. There is always something from a fairytale in the environment. For example, Denmark, the country I currently study in, is quite rich in this aspect: they have the queen with her royal family; plentiful of beautiful castles and palaces; the magical amusement park “Tivoli” with sultan’s palace, pirate ship, Chinatown, etc.; den Lille Havfrue (the Little Mermaid), and many more things and places of this kind. Sometimes one can see royal coaches with graceful horses on the streets. No wonder one of the most famous personalities (if not the most famous one) in this country is Hans Christian Andersen – the poet and storyteller, author of such well-known fairytales as “The Snow Queen”, “The Little Mermaid”, and “The Wild Swans”.

So, why not to use this magical environment?

Take your boy/girlfriend on a visit to the Rosenborg Castle, for instance. Have a walk along the alleys of the King’s Garden, where the Castle is situated. Show him/her the beauty of the Mother Nature around. Plant two rose seeds there in order to come back to the Garden some day, see them blossom and recall that romantic day. Then enter the Castle and discover many elegant royal rooms and astonishing treasury in the cellars. Feel yourselves as true prince and princess there. Don’t forget to go upstairs to the Throne Room. And there, among the beauty and majesty, recite a romantic poem / fairytale / legend of your own dedicated to your beloved one (here and here are two examples in Russian).

The next day you can go to other places and / or come up with new interesting things and activities. Thus you keep your creativity and innovation working and love and interest to life glowing.

Do not have a beloved one yet? Well, if you spice up your daily life with fairytale magic, some day your prince / princess will find you. Because in this way your living becomes a fairytale, and in all fairytales prince and princess are meant to be together in order to “live happily ever after”.

And you do not necessarily need to come to Denmark to experience all this. It is not the place that makes a fairytale so interesting and inspiring – it is the characters. You are able to create your own wonderful story in every country of the World. For it is YOU who are the storyteller, the wizard who makes all the magic.

So, let’s start making it and creating your fairytale today:

Once upon a time…


SELF-EDUCATION: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND YOU

21/11/2010

While studying for my Masters degree at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, I have noticed significant differences between the general approach to graduate and postgraduate education in my home country Moldova and here.

Back home the focus is on theoretical side of knowledge, with this knowledge being “fed” to students. Thorough control of each student’s performance is done by teachers throughout the whole study period. Students are required to strictly “obey” the established curriculum, the teachers, and the university staff. Everything is quite formal and official.

This is a more or less opposite case in Denmark and other European countries. The stress here is made on self-education (autodidacticism); that is, every student “knits” his / her own study process.

Firstly, it is you who chooses what courses to take in each block and semester. Of course, there are some core and compulsory subjects you are required to have, but regarding their allocation and choice of elective ones – this is entirely up to you. Selection and allocation is performed by using the virtual system you gain access to before the start of the study period.

Secondly, the education process is constructed in a way to give you more applied side of knowledge and to help you develop corresponding competences and skills. It is not enough to just know how things work, you are required to understand the logic behind it and implement the obtained information and skills in the real world situations. In addition, learning everything by heart is not demanded here; on the contrary, you are expected to develop critical thinking by challenging the truth of theories and applicability of methods and instruments.

Thirdly, students are not obliged to attend any lecture or seminar. You are not checked for attendance and in most cases you do not get marks during the study period; you receive only the final grade based on your exam performance. However, it means that much of the studying is done through individual and group work outside lectures. So, your study and performance are your own business, but this “business” requires much time and hard work from you.

It seems that the self-education approach practiced in many European countries is the best one possible. Still, let us look at it through the “critical eye” and see what are the advantages (the “goods”) and disadvantages (the “bads”) of it.

The “goods” are the following:

– Opportunity to construct your own curriculum and study process – You know better than anyone else what you want to take from your education, so this allows you to align personal expectations and schedule with your studying;

– Focus on every student – This makes students feel themselves important and thus show more dedication to and involvement in the study process (it is like firms’ focus on consumer in a market);

– Informal environment – Students do not have “formality and hierarchy obstacles” to approach teachers with questions, proposals, feedback, etc.;

– Alignment with the real world – Accent on the applied side of knowledge makes it easier for students to understand and transfer it “beyond auditoriums”;

– Opportunity to make and correct mistakes – When you do not get marks, but receive constructive feedback from your teacher, you are not afraid to make mistakes and, most importantly, learn how to correct and prevent them in the future;

– Development of innovation and critical thinking – No doubt that these competences are very demanded on the global labour market, so their development brings significant added value to an individual;

– Team work and leadership experience – Studying and working on a common project together with other students helps you develop these two no less important competences and skills.

However, there are some “bads” here also:

– Somewhat complicated study self-service you need to understand and learn to use – It might be difficult to master the usage of the course selection, internal communication and other virtual systems, especially for the first time;

– Dependence on information technologies – Various system upgrade periods, bugs, viruses and other IT-related issues can pose certain challenges in registering for a course or receiving the necessary material on time, for example;

– Time-consuming – Self-education suggests there is a lot of reading, work on assignments and projects to do outside lectures and seminars. This fact makes it very challenging to get a job or to do something else (of course, if you really want to benefit from your education). And if you have no grant or scholarship to cover tuition fees and maintenance, then it becomes a very serious drawback.

So, as you see, there is no “perfect” approach to education (though many people equal the words “abroad” and “the best”) – each has both its strong and weak points. It is mostly up to YOU how the proportion of “goods” and “bads” will be managed. If you are of the “lazy and not interested” kind, then you will surely find dozens of arguments why current education does not satisfy your needs. But with proper interest and passion in the study programme, you will manage to get the most out of and beyond it despite the overall level of its development.

Certainly, the quality of education also depends on the state’s attention and care for it. If the state wants to have a well-developed internal labour market with high quality and globally demanded local specialists and wishes to prevent the so-called “brain-drain” phenomenon, then it should invest in the development of education and really “think out of the box” to maximize the synergy of the “goods” from various approaches and minimize the “bads” of each of them. Still, in some way it also depends upon you. If you just sit and complain, but continue to follow the established regime, then the state has no incentive to spend precious budget money for improving something where change is not demanded. On the contrary, if you take proactive role in addressing the education issue, then your voice has higher chance of being heard at the “tops”. Even if you cannot reach sanity and rational thinking of high officials, then at least you will be able to improve education quality for yourself and probably surrounding people.

Thus, perhaps we better stop whining and waiting for some imaginary “good and wise fellow politician” to come to power and change the education system for the better with a mere wave of his hand… and perhaps we should get our own minds and hands into it if we really desire an effective and efficient education for ourselves and our children.

As an American actor Jonathan Winters pointed out:

If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it”.


“STUPID” DECISIONS

11/10/2010

This is an abstract from “The Indigo Stories” by Alexander Iscenco.

I tend to make “stupid” decisions. These decisions are illogical, unwise, and, most importantly, unprofitable. They lead me to loosing wonderful opportunities that are almost “served” to me like a delicious dish.

Today (October 11th, 2010) has been marked by another decision-making of this kind. During my Master studies in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, I rent an apartment in a student dormitory. It is very expensive – I pay around 6000 Danish kroner (DKK) each month – but it provides good and quiet study conditions.

This afternoon I have paid a visit to a bank to transfer another monthly rent and get some money in cash for food. I asked a man at the service desk to do the transfer from my account to the one of the University of Copenhagen (the Housing Department to be more precise) and to withdraw one thousand DKK from my account. The man did everything and gave me the amount of money requested and two receipts for the two operations performed. I noticed something incorrect in the receipts, but decided to examine them carefully later.

When I returned to the University library, finished my study tasks, and looked through the receipts, I was very surprised to notice that 1000 DKK I had received were deducted NOT from my account. The bank officer must have used the first receipt (the one for the rent transfer) for performing the second operation (debiting the amount requested) and incidentally mixed up the account numbers there. So, it seemed I had ended up with an extra 1000 DKK in my pocket, which was equal to my monthly food budget.

The temptation had lasted for several minutes. I could have kept the money and for some period of time no one might found out the truth. Even if they did, it was all bank’s fault, and that fact was supported by documentary evidence. It looked like as this money had just been given to me.

However, I went back to the bank and showed the officer the mistake. After some minutes of understanding what had been wrong, the officer got the point and corrected the mistake immediately by crediting 1000 DKK back to the University account and debiting the same amount from my own.

I left them with a happy and proud smile on my face.

But what was there to be happy and proud about? I have lost quite large amount of money that was given to me for nothing. For that I have spent some of my time and efforts. In addition, there has not been any “whisper of conscience” or anything like that – just my own “stupid” decision.

And this has not been a single case. Take the last month situation, for example.

I was riding a bike along with other cyclists on the busy roads of central Copenhagen. Suddenly a mobile phone dropped out of the back pocket of one of the cyclists in front of me. The guy did not notice anything and continued his way along one of the canals.

I stopped and picked up the phone – it was a shiny modern and quite expensive model. It could have been mine…

But, no, I had to run after the guy across the street on a red light, shouting all the way in order to attract his attention. Finally, he noticed me and recognized his mobile phone. Upon receiving the missing item the guy said something in Danish, probably about the foolish idea of keeping a phone in a back pocket, thanked me, and rode away.

So, what did I get from this action? Some Danish sentence and a short “Tak!” (“Thank you!” in Danish) in exchange for a good-looking mobile phone. Therefore, what was the point of such behaviour, especially when considering that all other cyclists and pedestrians had shown total ignorance?

Truly, I tend to make such unreasonable decisions. From the economic point of view they are extremely senseless and stupid. They do not bring any profit; moreover such decision-making gets me to lose some time and look “different” in the eyes of other people. There is nothing to gain here.

Or is there?

 

Probably you expect some nicely looking learning point from these examples as a conclusion. Something like “Be stupid”, “Listen to your brain, but trust your heart”, “Follow the ethical way”, and so on. But I prefer to leave this part for you.

 

On the other hand, perhaps we do not need a conclusion. Maybe there is nothing to conclude here.

Certainly you do not want to be treated as “stupid” and “different”, do you? Especially if it does not bring any profit or other tangible benefit. So, why bother about it? Development and growth of the Human World are based upon rational, carefully thought decisions, both individual and common. There is no place for “stupidity”.

Is there?


JEG KOMMER FRA MOLDOVA

04/10/2010

This post marks the beginning of the “Denmark: Behind the Curtain” category – the series of short stories with personal experience and reflections during my stay in Denmark, a relatively small Scandinavian country in the northern part of Europe. In these stories the usual “chic & sparkle” available for every tourist is combined with some “backstage peeping” possible only for residents of this interesting and colourful country.

I arrived to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, on the sixth of August, 2010 to pursue my two-years Masters programme in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the University of Copenhagen (Københavns Universitet – KU), Faculty of Life Sciences (LIFE). This has been possible mostly due to obtaining of one of the Danish Government Scholarships this year.

The LIFE representatives state that I am the first student from the Republic of Moldova admitted to the faculty (or perhaps even the entire KU). There are some other pioneers, for example, my friend from Honduras.

Well, the above-mentioned statement seems to be quite realistic, because the overwhelming majority of Danes do not really know where Moldova is or even that there is such a country.

For instance, here is a dialogue between an owner of a bicycle shop and me:

– Hvor kommer du fra? (“Where do you come from?” in Danish)

Moldova (at that time I already knew some Danish words and phrases, thanks to the International Graduate Orientation Programme)

The guy thought I had not heard the question, so he repeated it:

– Hvor kommer du fra?

Moldova!

My companion looked annoyed. He gathered all his knowledge in the English language and asked me for the third time:

– Where are you from?

Moldova. Jeg kommer fra Moldova (“I come from Moldova”), – I tried to explain, – It’s a country in Eastern Europe.

– Hm-m… Molidova-a… – He murmured wistfully, trying to memorize the new location on the World map. I left him with his thoughts.

Usually you can easily explain a Dane the location of the Republic of Moldova by mentioning the Black Sea or by pointing out at the two bordering countries: “So, do you know Romania? Yes, good. And have you heard of Ukraine? Very nice! Now, imagine Romania, Ukraine, and in between there is a small but very beautiful and cosy piece of land called Moldova”. As a result, your companion nods with a smile, happy that he / she learned a new country today.

Still, there are people here, who have already heard about Moldova. As LIFE is a former agricultural university (and still maintains its specifics), some of its students know about our fertile black soil and the wine-making orientation of the Moldovan industry. In Danish the country is pronounced as Moldavia, which is a former name of this and the surrounding land.

Thus, raising awareness about the Republic of Moldova here should be a good thing to do. I have already demonstrated a small part of our traditional cuisine by preparing the salad “Moldova” for the International Dinner in August. And I have sung the national anthem of the country “Limba noastra” at the beginning of one of the lectures (it was our teacher’s initiative to present every country’s anthem).

So, there is a start. Now I have two years for continuation in introducing Moldova to Denmark. This should be a nice learning experience for both sides.