Friday, August 21, 2009


I am writing this from Denmark. I arrived back in Silver Spring from California on Monday and left for Denmark on Wednesday. This may seem crazy, but I had a travel opportunity I just couldn't pass up. My husband, Joe, and I are house-sitting for a very kind friend in Ullerslev, which is a quiet village on the great island of Fyn. The house, which was her childhood home, is filled with old photos, and family mementos. It is comfortable, quiet and relaxing. The air is clean and smells of the sea. It has a large yard with green grass and an apple tree which is dropping fruit. We are enjoying our stay. It is a great break from our hectic life at home, with all the anxiety and excitement that come with having a big familiy and living near an urban area. Life here seems to be without angst, perhaps because of the wonderful Danish social safety net or perhaps because the Danes seem to be a naturally happy and guileless lot.

One thing they are not is totally skinny. Before we left, Joe, who is of normal U.S. size, told me he was worried he would feel fat here, because he imagined all the Danes to be tall and thin. The young are, but folks our age have generally added some girth. I have not seen anyone who is morbidly obese, but I have seen plenty of prosperous, chubby, and content looking folks in their fifties or sixties. Regardless of their size, people seem to be in good health and reasonably fit. People of all ages ride bicycles everywhere. I am impressed by middle-aged folks who easily swing their legs over the seat to mount their bikes, or coast with one leg on the peddle but with their entire body on one side of the bike as they slow to park in one of the thousands of public bicycle racks. Because I lived in the country as a child, I could ride a horse well at five, but didn't learn to ride a bike until age ten. I have never felt comfortable on one, which is too bad because it would be a great way to get in my exercise blocks here.

Instead I am stretching and walking and trying to locate the municipal swimming pool. I stretched this morning for the first time since stretching on the Berkeley High infield two weeks ago. I am totally stiff and my back is sore from the airplane and all the driving. For me, the sitting postion is a killer. The good news is that on the plane I didn't have to ask for a seat belt extender and I could gyrate holding my body at a 30 degree angle to extricate myself from the window seat to go to the batthroom without too much difficulty.

After I stretched, Joe and I walked together around the field at the local school and watched the kids at play. The young ones had the most beautiful wooden tricycles and scooters to ride and a great wooden fort on stilts to play in. There were several soccer fields, tennis courts and large grassy fields so they could exercise. All the kids seemed to be of healthy body size. I fear US policies are forcing our schools to be so preoccupied with academics (to make sure we are keeping pace with the Japaneese) that we are cheating our kids out of the health and pleasure which come from playing outdoors during the school day.

Now we are in an internet cafe in Odense, a larger city 20 km from our village, and I just completed another block of urban walking. So far I must admit that all the excersie is difficult. I don't feel motivated. Perhpas it is jet lag, exhaustion from my previous travel with my grandchildren, or the relaxed civility of this place, but all I want to do is sleep. I will now go home and take a nap.

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