The Happiness Inquiry

A teacher's quest to cultivate happy habits in her students


6 Comments

10: The Good Kind of Tired

We enjoyed probably our last long bike ride for the trip today (bike rental goes back tomorrow), and it was perfect weather for it! We headed 29 or so miles out to Silkeborg and had some memorable experiences to be sure, only to come home and boil a lobster, which may have been the most daring adventure of them all. In case anyone is concerned, I’m still an omnivore, but I can’t say I loved doing that to the poor girl (even if she did end up tasting delicious).

Before I sleep like the dead as one does after such a ride, I thought it’d be easy enough to post a few pictures from today.

Panorama from an observation tower

Panorama from an observation tower

Pretty cows!

Pretty cows, but watch out for that fence! Oww…Just kidding. 😉

Standing above a beautiful forest path, which just moments later a thoughtful woman passing by suggested we reroute onto for the rest of the way into Silkeborg. Great tip!

Standing above a beautiful forest path, which just moments later a thoughtful woman passing by suggested we reroute onto for the rest of the way into Silkeborg. Great tip!

We came upon these hills covered in wild flowers--pretty neat!

We came upon these hills covered in wild flowers–pretty neat!

The sunset on the way back was killer but unfortunately, inadequately photographed.

The sunset on the way back was killer but unfortunately, inadequately photographed.

So what do we DO with this thing? And is it still alive by any chance (my irrational fear, not Greg's).

So what do we DO with this thing? And is it still alive by any chance (my irrational fear, not Greg’s)?


6 Comments

9: Finding Your Element

On Sunday night, Greg and I had by far our most delicious meal out since arriving to Denmark (two weeks as of tomorrow, btw!). 

We ate at L’Estragon, which a local recently told us meant snails, but according to the online dictionary means tarragon. In any case, we ate neither that night, but we did have the following:

-an opening course of raw whitefish caught locally with sweet peas and seared apples. Man, was it refreshing!

-a second course of pureed carrots with shaved carrot on top, as well as currants, cottage cheese, rhubarb and other delicious items I can’t recall

IMG_6711

-my favorite: a generously-seasoned roasted tomato-chili soup garnished with mussels…mmm…I want to try and recreate this one at home. It was so delicious I forgot to photograph it, but no regrets.

-the tenderest steak with braised mushrooms and buttered new potatoes

IMG_6715

-dessert: panna cotta with fresh berries

I actually never saw a menu, since we signed up for the special Sunday night 5 course menu and no decisions needed making. I admit, it’s times like these I’m so grateful neither of us have a single known food allergy or dietary restriction. Beyond that, we’ll eat just about anything the Western world will offer us (I don’t claim to be adventurous when it comes to trying insects, organs, and other foods you might find on a reality tv show).

The part that really stunned us at the end of our delicious meal? The realization that this entire culinary affair was conducted by merely two individuals; Vibeke on food and Janek on service, though were was some degree of role-reversal, which was even more impressive. They must have an amazing system down, because they didn’t miss a beat and everyone around us seemed quite pleased with the extensive sequence of plates. So today I dedicate my post and my gratitude to them, Vibeke and Janek, supreme examples of two human beings who seem to have found their element or who in any case, possess a true talent for their work. It is such a gift to be amongst real pros, you know? 

At the very end of the evening, when our excellent hosts bask in the fruits of their labor on the patio each with a plate. I love the lack of pretension or concern with appearances.

At the very end of the evening, our excellent hosts basked in the fruits of their labor on the patio each with a plate. I love the lack of pretension and the willingness to relax publicly after a job well done. We should all be so down to earth. 


5 Comments

8: Way Back When

On Sunday, we finally visited Aarhus’ most popular tourist attraction, Den Gamle By, an outdoor museum that features many original renaissance-era buildings reconstructed on site. There’s plenty of historical information, plus re-enactors and of course, my personal favorite, cute little shops!

Since I wrote a lot yesterday, today I’ll go easy on you guys and mostly use a few photos to share the experience. The only thing I’ll say is this: when you look through the photos, maybe imagine what your life would have been like back then. Let’s for fun assume you had some choice, some agency. How would you have spent your days? What sort of work would you have done? Would you have been a painter? Or a candlestick maker? Whatever it was, you would have had to be not only good at it, but anything related to it. Back then, everyone was a jack of all trades. It’s fun to think about (I think)! This all came up when I looked over at Greg, a software developer, and it struck me that his work is so tied to today’s computer technology–he would have had to do something totally different! I guess I don’t have to think too hard on it–one room schoolhouse for me, all the way! 😉

 

350 year-old stove!

350 year-old stove!

Assembling little herb sachets?

Assembling little herb sachets?

I want this on top of my house, people..

I want this on top of my house, people..Greenhouses are huge in Denmark and have been for a long time, apparently. Since the country is so far North, they get precious little sun much of the year (less than 6 hours in the Winter!).

Candlemaker!

Candlemaker! Those are trays of long skinny candles he has, which are hanging by the wicks.

Depressed child working while her father sleeps in a pull-out VERY narrow bed. Eek!

Child working while her father sleeps in a VERY narrow pull-out bed. Back then, only the upper class could afford to send their children to school; all the other kids had to help raise money.

Rooftops of half-timber houses.

Rooftops of half-timber houses.

Components of a man's dress shoe, which seem not have changed much in the past 300 years!

Components of a man’s dress shoe, which seem not have changed much in the past 300 years!

Paint maker, who also had to play the role of the house painter and interior decorater--you needed creative vision AND hard skills!

The local paint maker, who also had to play the role of the house painter and interior decorater–you needed creative vision AND hard skills!

IMG_6660

Old kitchens have to be my favorite--look at the hearth!

Old kitchens have to be my favorite–look at the hearth!


2 Comments

7: Hidden Treasures

On Saturday, Greg and I took our first long bike ride since arriving to Denmark. Cycling is my primary means of transit back in Chicago, but I admit I haven’t missed it much since arriving here.  I’ve been enjoying the slower pace of walking everywhere, especially since there’s novelty everywhere you look! That, and I don’t really know my way around, so walking makes it easier to figure out your way as you go, versus having to pull over on the bike constantly and consult with street signs and google maps. 😉 Anyway, back to biking! So yesterday we set off for the Mols Bjerge National Park, about 18 miles away from Aarhus, which has the cutest insignia posted everywhere, btw:

IMG_6586

The ride was very intense for my Illinois riding standards, aka: there were HILLS, which is actually what the word “mols” means. My legs are definitely feeling it today, but we survived and had a pretty cool experience, and I took some video going up and down the hills and through the woods for the documentary. We planned on exploring many areas of the park, but in the end we spent a couple of hours at a 14th century castle and then it was time to head on home!

The castle ruins were awesome, and you access them by walking for 30 minutes down the longest (rockiest) medieval road in Denmark. The structure served multiple different purposes throughout history. It was originally built by King Erik Menved in the early 1300s after a peasants’ revolt, presumably to show everyone who was boss. Thanks to it’s huge size and easily-defensible road and bridge leading up to it, it was very difficult to attack—or escape from. He ended up using it more as a prison, where he would lock up anyone who said anything negative about his rule. He even locked a man up once who later became King of Sweden! Oops… Here are some pictures of the road, the ruins in the background, and then up close. Pretty neat!

ruins from afar

ruins from afar

a closer look at the road

a closer look at the road

IMG_6617

panorama of the castle grounds

IMG_6563

A step inside through a tiny doorway–it was so hard to capture how totally awesome this was in a photo, unfortunately

IMG_6577

the North Sea

Greg atop the wall

Greg atop the wall

The truth is, though, that after all that awesome exploring and all the beautiful views, my favorite part of the ruins had little to do with the actual landscape or architecture. No, my favorite part was the walk to the bathroom. As I neared the little outhouse back on the mainland, I was suddenly bombarded by a dozen or so swallows, swooping overhead and even in front of my path. I’d never seen them so close! They were catching insects and calling out to each other as they did so. I was utterly mesmerized by their agility and their beautiful colors. Here’s a video, which barely captures it but gives some idea of what it was like.

After standing there for a few minutes (Greg wandered off in search of an ice cream), I noticed that they seemed to be occasionally returning to the very bathroom building I was headed towards. Upon closer inspection, I discovered several nests under the gables of the roof and lo and behold—one was occupied by three ADORABLE baby swallows!

Photo or I’m making this up:

baby swallows--look at those eyes!

baby swallows–look at those eyes!

So today I am grateful for hidden treasures; the kinds you would never discover if you didn’t stand still for a few moments and let nature show you something truly special.


6 Comments

6: Long Walks

Today I give gratitude for nice, long, relaxing walks. It seems like I never allow myself the time for it back at home and it’s become a luxury I am very appreciative of here in Aarhus. I think I should do more walking when I get back home instead of always biking everywhere to save time.

Below are some pretty random photos of what I’ve seen while walking. For an added twist, see you if you can guess which one in the bunch was NOT taken in Aarhus, rather in sweet home, Chicago. Enjoy and happy guessing! 🙂

 

The Aarhus River

The Aarhus River

My interpretation of this statue? The thinking man is now deriving his ideas from the media. what do YOU think?

My interpretation of this statue? The thinking man is now deriving his ideas from the media. what do YOU think?

A fine day at the beach!

A fine day at the beach!

I just like this building.

I just like this building.

Talk to each other and put the phone away! I love it.

Talk to each other and put the phone away! I love it.

Kinda gross statue, really.

Kinda gross statue, really.

A mosaic I found tucked back between two residential buildings.

A mosaic I found tucked back between two residential buildings.

They are a bit hedge-trimmer crazy here--they've even taken it to the trees!

They are a bit hedge-trimmer crazy here–they’ve even taken it to the trees!

The North Sea

The North Sea


Leave a comment

5: Choice

Inspiration for the grant proposal that brought me to Denmark began with a Guardian article (since taken down) called “Secrets of the World’s Happiest Cities.” Using a few international capitals as examples, the article revealed to me that a sense of well being amongst urban citizens has become a point of real concern for those in “people” fields: political leaders and decision-makers,  economists, educationalists, psychologists, sociologists, etc. From there, I quickly found that there was a very rich and involved conversation taking place in academia and beyond about just what it takes to be happy. When you think “happy”, imagine words like content, satisfied, and fulfilled, not be confused with the fleeting emotion that we all experience for short bursts of time. 🙂

One piece of information I’m eager to share? Our life circumstances, such as our age, income range, where we live, etc., accounts for only 10% of what makes us happy. The greatest factor is, you guessed it, our genetics. BUT, that leaves 40%, which is our intentional behaviors. This tidbit I learned from the film Happy, which I finally watched the night before we flew in here. Here’s a copy of the graphic from the film:

I invite you to join me as I delve deeper into the concept of happiness. I’ve posted below some links that I think should prove to be informative and interesting. Please comment and let me know what you think! Kids especially! 😉

Links to Learn About Happiness:

The World Happiness Report 2013: this is VERY long, but the first few pages alone give you a sense of what folks are studying out there. Cool stuff!

This 20 minute TED talk on the shift in the field of Psychology from treating misery to cultivating happiness. The first few minutes are a bit dry, but it gets really interesting, I promise!

The Guardian: Cities: This was linked to the original article I read about happiness. This one focuses on trends in various cities, and has some grim aspects, but it’s nonetheless interesting to investigate.

 


4 Comments

4: The Kindness of Strangers

Hej alle! Sorry this post is coming about 12 hours late, but I have a good excuse! Last night, Greg and I ventured out to watch the US vs. Belgium soccer match, and we made some new friends along the way. They were extremely friendly and inviting, and even invited us to go along with them some evening for a swim in the North Sea and a beach bonfire, which I expect is going to be super fun. 🙂 Hanging out with them gave me my first taste of “hygge”, which literally means coziness but also in my opinion, togetherness. As newcomers entered the room, our new friends welcomed them to join us, and there was an ease of communication and camaraderie that I found very refreshing. By the end of the evening, I was so glad we’d stuck around rather than returned directly home after the disappointing game. 😛

Yesterday was also a bit of landmark–I recorded the first interview for the Happiness Inquiry documentary! The participant’s name is Kristine, and I met her while having lunch at the restaurant where she works, Kähler Spisesalon. She is a 21 year-old Denmark native, and was incredibly open and honest in her interview. She talked about the value of doing something that really matters for a career, which was echoed by one of the fellas we met later that night. She said she’d rather plan her profession around something that she finds deeply interesting, and then find a way to make it pay the bills, rather than think the other way around. I know in the U.S. many of us feel the same way, but perhaps this approach is not as feasible? They both cited the supportive government and infrastructure here in Denmark as allowing for this self exploration.

Momentarily, I am headed to another yoga studio, Hamsa, for a vinyasa class, and more importantly, for interviews with two young women who work there and have offered to be a part of the film. I am so grateful that those who I’ve met who have been willing to share and participate in this project–yay for the kindness of strangers!

And since I can’t make a post without at least one photo, here’s one I took yesterday of my all-time favorite comic characters, Calvin and Hobbes, or as they are called here for some odd reason, Steen & Stoffer. Our airbnb host has one of the collections and it’s been fun stumbling through the strips to try and infer some new Danish words.

Image