From Exchange Student to Family Member

When I was 16, I traveled to Denmark to become an exchange student for one year.  To do this, you complete an application where you can select 3 countries of choice, but ultimately you are placed where there's a willing host family.  I went to a family in Vejle, Denmark who lived on several acres of what had been a working farm at one time.  Now it was a house with a big yard, garden, and 3 buildings for storage.

There was a mom, dad, and sons aged 8 and 16.  The 16 year old was on his way to spending a year in Michigan while I took up residency in his bedroom. The younger son would become my teacher, playmate, and friend.  It was a fantastic experience and I grew to love that family very much.  Over the years we've visited each other many times.  Much has changed with our living situations- marriages, divorces, children added, different homes...but our bond with each other remains strong.

At my school 10th grade graduation with my Danish dad, Henry and little brother Jacob

An article the Vejle paper did about me coming to Denmark while my older Danish brother, Michael (right) and his friend Joergen (left) went to America.

A few weeks ago, my Danish mom celebrated her 80th birthday and I went over to join the family for a weekend at a Helsingoer hotel called Marienlyst.  This is a city about one hour by train from Copenhagen, and it's quite famous for its castle, Kronborg, made famous by the Shakespeare story of Hamlet.  Remember, "To be or not to be"?  My older Danish brother wanted it to be a surprise for the whole family, and to his credit, no one knew!  I showed up at dinner and there were smiles and hugs all around.  It was a fabulous event.  What made this a really fabulous weekend was that no one had to prepare meals or do any cleaning.  The hotel had a package that included 2 large meals and midday coffee and cake.  How often do you really get to enjoy your family without someone bearing the burden?  We even stayed up late playing cards.

We walked along the sea, where you can see Sweden just across the water.  At night it's glorious to see all the lights.  The castle was a must see.  They hosted an annual holiday market for vendors with a variety of home made goods.  Santa made an appearance. There was even singing around the enormous Christmas tree inside the castle.  What a memory!  It was a great weekend- one that I will never forget.  I'm so lucky to have this other family to call mine across the ocean!
You could travel by horse carriage from the city to the castle

Kronborg Castle
Some of the performers dressed for Christmas

Santa and his helpers.  He's sitting on a deer skin and the helpers pass out small gingerbread cookies

These hand made bags were very colorful on display at the holiday market

Christmas is celebrated by using lots of elves.  These had potato heads.
A family photo taken while we were all together


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