Friday, December 30, 2011


My how time flies! As we have gone through all the preparations these past few months, moving to Denmark never seemed all that real. At least for me. And now, we are moving out of our house here in Hyrum tomorrow, and there are only 19 days left until we fly to Denmark. Scary! The whole process to get to this point has had so many ups and downs, but I finally am starting to feel very excited about the move and I think we all just feel anxious to get there. Lexi asks almost every day, "Are we moving to Denmark today?"
I haven't been very good about writing in here about our preparations, so I'll try to do a little update. In our last post, Chad started writing about his trip to Denmark. He never wrote part 2, so I'll sum it up a little. One of his main objectives over there was to find a place for us to live. This is something we have been very worried about, but Chad was able to find a place that we think will work for us. A couple of things about housing in Denmark. First, it is very small. I think all of Europe lives this way, on a smaller scale. The house we will be moving into is about 900 sq. ft. It has 3 bedrooms and 1 bath. We were actually very surprised we were able to find a place with 3 bedrooms, although 2 of them are very tiny, it will be nice to have the extra bedroom. To put this in perspective, our Condo in Logan was 954 sq. ft. and it had only 2 bedrooms. There are no closets in the house and all of the appliances are about half the size of what we are use to here. Luckily though, it does come with a washer and dryer! The second thing about housing in Denmark, is that it's VERY expensive. This little tiny apartment we will be living in cost twice as much per month has the 2000 sq. ft., 4 bedroom house we are living in right now. All of the utilities are included in the rent though, so that is one nice thing. But the biggest thing is actually getting into the apartment. The country has set standards on housing deposits and they are very high. Our deposit was equivalent to 3 months of rent, PLUS we had to pay the last 3 months of rent up front. It felt like we were making a down payment on a house! It should all even itself out in the end, but it was a lot of money to come up with in the first place.
Speaking of money, it is expensive to move out of the country. Not only was there the issue of housing, but we also had to pay for our residency permits. These are the equivalent of Visas. This cost us around $3000 and then tickets to fly over to Denmark with 5 people are a little pricey as well. Luckily they weren't round-trip tickets. =) Not to mention a lot of little things as well. After all of this, we are just grateful that Chad has a job over there and his schooling is free.
So, now we've made it past all of my craft shows, Thanksgiving, me getting a kidney stone and needing surgery, Jordyn's wedding and Christmas. All we have left is to finish packing, then we get to spend a few days with my parents and a few days with Chad's parents before we are off on this great adventure!
Packing has been a challenge. We've moved plenty of times before, but it is so different knowing you are packing things up for 3 years. Luckily, Chad's brother, Blake was able to come and help us out for a few days and that helped out so much. We have decided to not ship ANYTHING over. All we will be taking is what will fit in 5 large suitcases and a few carry-ons. The kids have been great about not getting too upset about leaving things behind and I really think they will enjoy this great adventure.
So for now, I need to get back to packing. The end is always the hardest. And then we have all of our good-byes. It seems like everyone we see now, we are saying good-bye too. None of them have been easy. And some of the worst are yet to come. And then, we'll get to say hello to all the new people we'll meet in Denmark. 19 more days and counting....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Initial impressions: Part 1

Spending six days in Denmark was really great. One of my big concerns was showing up for the first time laden with luggage and three kids in tow to a completely unfamiliar country where I had no idea where to go or who to talk to. I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to visit by myself (although it would have been really nice to have Shannon with me) and get a little bit more familiar with the city and people.
Outside the first build built at the campus I'll be working. est. 1855.

The Lab where I’ll be working invited me and paid for my visit, so the main purpose was to meet them, discuses my research project, and become acquainted with the lab; so I did not have a lot of time to be a tourist while I was there. However, the trip was eye opening to how different a lot of the aspects of living in Denmark are going to be and how similar others will be. I thought I'd just share a few of my observations:
Downtown Copenhagen
The day I arrived it was cool but the sun was out for a short part of the morning. Nicolai, the professor that I will be working most closely with and who picked me up from the airport, kept saying how great it was that the I arrived on a day when the weather was so nice. I did not think it was really that nice it just seemed normal to me (since it was my first day it was the only weather I knew), that was the last time I saw the sun during my visit. I guess for some reason, probably something to do with how much water Denmark is surrounded by, most days in the winter are overcast (perhaps the name of this blog is not that accurate). The temperature was about the same as in Northern Utah right now, but I was glad I had brought my winter coat and hat because it felt much colder; I think it is because the humidity conducts the cold more easily.

Another somewhat unusual aspect was how early it got dark, by four in the afternoon the un-visible sun was setting and by five it was dark. I have been told it will only get worse for the next few months. This was somewhat challenging since it was always dark when I was trying to find my way around in the evening when I had any time to myself.

The Danish money is called a Krone (crown in English), one Krone is about 18 cents, but that means very little. I found very quickly that thinking in Dollars was going to get me nowhere, even if I was able to do the math in my head, things are so much more expensive in Copenhagen (one of, if not the most expensive city in Europe) the value of everything can’t be compared to what it would cost in the US. I think once we move over the it will take us a while before we can spot a good deal or are able to really know what things should cost.
50 Kroner is the smallest paper note they have, everything smaller are coins
 I have known and been prepared for all the unit changes that we are going to have to deal with. Europe uses the metric system (which by the way the US should us too); I am pretty comfortable using it for distances and area but less so with volume, so that will be one more thing to get accustom to.  They also measure temperature in Celsius, which I have to use with my work, so that’s not a problem (although my brother Blake can make some pretty compelling arguments as to why the Fahrenheit system is better, however, there are no arguments for not using the metric system). I have to be careful when writing the date because they write day/month/year instead of month/day/year (it is only confusing for the first 12 days of the month). And they don’t use pm, everything is in military time.
The red line on the corner of the building is a thermometer, it is 10ºC (50F)

The food was not as different as I had expected (maybe even hoped). In fact I don’t know if I really even had an authentic Danish dish (Shannon can’t believe that I didn’t even buy a danish); I think, like America their cuisine has been greatly influenced by the rest of the world and it is hard to say what is Danish and what is not. Breakfast was probably the most unusual, I ate at the hotel and had bread with sandwich meat and cheese on it and yogurt with granola mix in, it was actually pretty good and kept me full better then cereal does at home (this meal is not so much unusual as it just seem more like lunch than breakfast).

Breakfast line - breads and yogurt.
Breakfast line - meat and cheese
I ate a lot of sandwiches for lunch and dinner, but I also had Chinese and Thai food. One night I bought a hotdog from a street vender and while the food was normal they served the bun and meat separate (I dipped the hot dog in a pile of ketchup and ate the bun like a roll).
Club sandwich I ordered, so good!
The salad the professor I was eating with ordered.

 Probably the most unusual part of eating was watch how they used there silverware. From what I observed, Danish people hold their fork in there left hand and a knife in there right, and they using them together with extreme dexterity that is hard to describe. Everything is cut in to neat little bites, no stabbing was necessary. This probably sounds like something silly to notice but it intrigued me to watch. I tried to imitate it but found it be more difficult than using chopsticks (although I have never really seen those used authentically and would probably be equally amazed); I would quickly become frustrated with my lack of coordination, put down my silverware, pick up my sandwich and take huge messy bites like any true American.
The grocery stores seem to everywhere. Not as big as in Utah, but bigger then I would have expected with the frequency I found them. I guess shopping for a several weeks at one time is not custom, rather going each day to the store is more common. One more change for us to adapt to.

One of the major grocery chains

Inside the produce department

Well I see that this is not going to be a short blog, so I thought I would post this much and do a second part later.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Short Vist: Day 1

I have always thought that jet lag was something beneath me, or at least I could beat it. My plan was to fly exhausted so that I would have no choice but to sleep on the long flight East and arrive as the sun came up in Denmark refreshed. Part 1 of the plan went well; I complettly exhusted myself by sleeping only 4 hours the night before my trip, and not napping during the day I was traveling. Despite how tired I was I could not fall asleep on long flight. Luckily, I was able to enjoy the 9 hour flight in business class, having been upgraded so a family could sit together in economy (it is going to be hard to give up the leg room on the flight back).  Needless to say, I spent my first day in Denmark in a sort of fog, wondering around with my mind moving in slow motion. 

Sun rise in Frankfurt

The flight took me though Frankfurt Germany and then to Copenhagen, so the stamp in my passport is German, not Danish. Nicolai, the Major Professor that I’ll be working with picked me up at the airport, helped me get some Danish money and showed me how to use the public transportation. I could not check in to my hotel until 3 so, Nicolai and I wonder around the city all morning. 
View coming up from the Metro

It was really nice to have someone that knew what was going on to guide me, I would have been completely lost without his help. 

We had brunch, which was pretty good and not that unusual as far as foreign food goes, and then visited the University where I’ll be working. The labs are really nice, lots of room and good equipment. 
University part across the street from my new lab

Nicolai left me about 2 (after I was able to check into my room a little early) and I called and arranged to make a trip east of the city to view an apartment. I was surprised that I did not have too much trouble figuring out how to negotiate the metro and trains to get to where I need to (although I think I did overpay). They guy picked me up at the train station and took me to his apartment. It was nice but small (which is the best we can hope for in Copenhagen).

I made it back to my room around 5pm (it was already dark outside) and called my wife on skype. I wanted to go to bed at this time, but figured I should probably try to stay up at least until 8 or 9. So I went and wondered around the city for a while. 

It was fun, I like that where I am staying is not a tourist area so I really get to experience the real Copenhagen (at least I think so).  I found a grocery store and wondered around trying to find food I recognized (most the food is the same as we are used to just the packaging and foreign words are unfamiliar) until they kicked me out so they could close (a lot of stores close early and open late). I purchased a Rümün off a street vender, which seemed a lot like a gyro, before heading back to my room. I managed to stay up until 9, keeping myself busy by ironing my closes and sending pictures of the apartment I looked at to Shannon.  I fell asleep almost immediately and slept until 1am (GRRR), I dozed off and on after that until 4, when I finally couldn’t stay in bed, and got up and wrote this. Over all I would say the first day was a success.
These guys helped me find my Hotel

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Selling Subi

So, for a little update. Our preparations are moving along very slowly. We have so much to do, but it's really hard to figure out what to do first and honestly, Chad and I are such bad procrastinators, it makes something like this move very difficult. So, here are a few things we've been doing the past couple of weeks. We've been looking for places to live. This is very difficult since most rental sites are in Danish! We've got google translate bookmarked! Another strange thing about looking for rentals in Denmark is to be able to contact anyone about the listings, you have to pay to use the rentals sites, which run up to $110! Wow! We are really hoping that when Chad goes over in 2 weeks that they'll be able to assist him in finding a place for us to live. I think it'll be such a relief to us once we have that obstacle out of the way. Chad is excited about going to Denmark next month, but nervous too. I'm sure his trip will go just fine.
With us leaving for 3 years, we've decided to sell both our vehicles. Our plan had been to sell the van the beginning of December and use "Subi" until we move. We'd then try to sell it or just donate it. Well, things never go as planned, right? Subi started having problems, so we took it in to see what was going on and the work was going to cost $350-$700! More than the car was worth! The car guy told us he might have someone that would want to buy it, so he gave them our info and we got a car that night. The next day, they came and bought it! We were really torn if this would be the best thing to do since we would be down to just one car. So far so good though. Chad has been able to ride the bus into work and home again with nothing more than a little longer commute and better planning. It was kind of sad to sell Subi though, I've had her for over 10 years now, but she was really falling apart. So, that's one more thing checked off our list.
We also got the kids passports this week. We weren't expecting them back this soon, so it was a pleasant surprise. The problem now is, we need to apply for our visas, but we can't do it until Chad gets back from Denmark, because he needs his passport for the trip. We are worried that we'll be really cutting it close, if the visas take a while. We've been told they should take about 3 weeks, if all goes well, but that doesn't give us a lot of time if things don't go smoothly. Anyway, I'm sure it'll work out alright. Here is a picture of the kids passport pictures. Chad thinks Noah looks like a little terrorist. They had a fun time getting them taken.
So, for now, we are working on making lists of things we are taking with us and we'll probably get a storage unit at the beginning of November to start taking a few things over. So much to do!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My thoughts on Denmark

I thought I should write a little bit about my feelings over this move. Be prepared, this will be long. First of all, I admit that I'm surprised it's taking place. For almost 2 years now, Chad has been looking for a new job. He's been working for the past 6 years at USU as a lab technician. We always figured it would be easy for him to find a job once he finished his Master's degree, but that didn't exactly pan out. Chad applied for so many jobs and time and time again he was rejected. It's been a tough time to find a job the past few years. Many entry level positions were going to PhD graduates, so how do you compete with that? We first heard about the Denmark scholarship last year. I don't think Chad even seriously considered applying for it because he was still hopeful that he'd find a job. Well, after another year passed by with almost nothing coming up, except a very disappointing experience with a job possibility in California, it was suggested to him that he'd make a great candidate for the Denmark position and so with really no other options, he applied. We didn't think there would be any chance that he would get it. After all, the University of Copenhagen is a really good school and to get a scholarship like this is practically unheard of. Especially with a lot of really great applicants from all over the world applying to the position. So, we were mildly surprised when they asked Chad for an interview. It went well, but it would be around 5 weeks before we even heard back from it. During that time we thought for sure nothing would come from it. Then we were told he was still in the running, several more weeks went by and we thought for sure this time that there was no way he was going to get the offer. We felt a little desperate to find work for Chad since the funding at his lab wasn't going to be renewed for next year and he would be out of a job at the end of December. And then the email came, congratulating Chad on his acceptance to the program. Wow, I tell you, I spent that day in major turmoil. It's one thing to think it'll be neat to go and live in another country, but to actually have that option before you is something completely different! Suddenly, the excitement of this hypothetical adventure starts to mingle with reality. We would be gone for 3 years! I wouldn't see most of my family and friends during that time, how can we afford the move, how will this affect the kids, we can't take our dog with us, what will we do with all of our stuff, how can we find adequate housing, we don't speak the language, what will I cook and believe me this list goes on and on and on! After this initial email, several more weeks passed by before Chad received the actual contract. During this time, we talked and prayed over what we should do. We have felt good all along about the decision to go, even though it's been one of the hardest decisions we've ever had to make. I have always harbored a desire to live in Europe for a while. (I had always pictured 6 months or a year, not quite this long.) England was always my preferential location, but I just love the idea of Europe! And now it's hard to believe that this dream is coming true. The hardest part of this entire venture is what we have to give up. We will literally pack up and leave everything behind. Not only our physical belongings, but it's very hard thinking that we will not see many of our friends and family for such a long time. That has been the most painful part of this. We will also have to leave our sweet dog, Nena, behind. I don't think Chad's too sad about this, but I'm pretty sad about it. We got her just after Chad and I got married. I think it'll be hard on her too, she's always been my little shadow. Luckily, my parents have offered to take her for us while we are gone. We will also take very few of our belongings, just some clothing mostly. I will also be closing up my Etsy businesses. I've worked hard the past few years to build them up, so it'll be hard to close them up. The next biggest thing I worry about is how this will affect our kids. I feel so bad about taking our kids away from their grandparents, other family and friends. They will change so much during those 3 years. I will be home-schooling Myra at least for the first little while. International schools are very expensive, so not an option, and public schooling is taught in Danish, so I don't really have any other options right now. I worry about the kids not being able to make friends and having those type of relationships that are so important during these early years. They will have to leave most of their toys behind, which both girls are pretty sad about. I also worry about them missing out on things that typically young American kids do. Another big worry I have is just the logistics of this type of move. Because we are going over for schooling, we have to make our own way there. Money is a big issue as we start to add up all the expenses, such as plane tickets, housing deposit, Visa (wow, had no idea these would be so expensive), shipping costs, etc. We worry about finding housing, surviving on public transportation for 3 years, selling our cars here, renting out our condo here (we have no plans to sell), etc. And then we worry about costs there. Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, the taxes are really high, along with everything else. If you buy a car there, the tax is 125%!!!!
So, as I look back through this post, it seems really negative. There are a lot of negatives about this venture, a lot of things that I am trying to work through. I keep having days where I'm so excited about going and then days that I am extremely depressed. But with all that said, we do feel like we are making the right choice. This is such an amazing opportunity for Chad to get invaluable experience in his field AND get a "free" PhD! I do think that the experiences of living in a foreign country will be absolutely priceless! I'm sure that we will get to meet some amazing people and have some wonderful experiences over the next 3 years. I'm getting to live my dream of living in Europe and we hope to be able to travel a lot and explore as many places as possible. Although I'm not thrilled about homeschooling, I think that it will be so fun to have my kids with me as I live my days exploring this new country. As this whole opportunity has come about, it's as if "all roads point to Denmark." We have come across Denmark in so many ways, meeting people that grew up there, are going there to serve missions, have returned from serving missions. Maybe we are just looking harder, but references to Denmark keep popping up in news articles, church talks and I've even had several sales from my shops to Denmark. And although we know this will be one of the hardest things we've ever had to do, we are certain that it will be one of the best things we've ever done. The poem by Robert Frost keeps coming to mind. Because we are "taking the road less traveled."

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Vi er ved at flytte til Danmark!!!

My wife and I are taking our 3 young children from a small country town in northern Utah where we currently live, and moving to Copenhagen, Denmark, a large metropolis on the other side of the world. While there, I will be pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Copenhagen, while the rest of my family explores Danish (as well as European) culture. This blog is intended to chronicle our adventures living outside the United States. We hope to include: what captivates us and baffles us as foreigners, as well as our triumphs and failures; mostly for our own remembrance, but also for others to keep track of what we are up to. I start my research February 1, 2012, we’ll move sometime in January; so the first few month of this blog will mostly be preparation updates (Warning: it may seem boring at first, stick with us, we hope it will get more interesting once we get there). We intend to post often so we hope you'll add us to your reader, and we look forward to your comments of advice or encouragement.

A little background

So how this all came about, in brief. I finished my Master of Science in May of 2010.  Leading up to this we thought finding a job after graduation would be easy; I felt like I had good experience and a good education; however, things did not go quite a smoothly as we would have hoped. I applied for a lot of jobs which resulted in a few interviews, but with the market the way it is the competition for each job was pretty intense (I know for some basic-entry level jobs I applied for, I was competing with PhD graduates and researchers with many year experience). Also I found my education was fairly specific, which limited the number of good jobs I was qualified for. On May 10th a USDA scientist, with whom I collaborate with on several projects, forwarded a notification about possible PhD scholarships at the University of Copenhagen (KU). At first I was not really interested, I had a few other job leads I was hoping would work out and had never really considered moving to Denmark. As time went on, and the other jobs I was hoping for did not really pan-out I started reconsidering applying for the scholarship. I hadn’t really ever seriously considered doing a PhD, not because I was tired of school, but more I was tired of trying to support my family of 5 on a student’s income. However, a year after graduation I was beginning to realize that a Master degree in Biology was not as useful as I’d hoped; it was not enough education to lead a research project, but it meant that a company would be expected to pay me more to do a job that they could probably train someone with less educations to do; I felt stuck in the middle. I was confident that if I was given a chance, even as a lab technician, that I would be able to prove my worth and move up in a company; getting the chance was the hard part.
I decide to go ahead and apply for the PhD position at KU. This position was open to anyone in the world and at KU they view PhD students as faculty, they are given a good salary, and research funding; so I figured that I did not have much of a chance but it couldn’t hurt to apply. While visiting my parents in Florida at the beginning of July, I was surprised to receive an email requesting an interview via Skype at the end of July. The interview was to take place at 9am my time (5pm Danish time) on a Tuesday. I did the best I could to prepare for the interview, arrived early to work, logged on to Skype and made sure the camera and audio worked. At 9am the interview started with 3 professors at KU, I had previously met 2 of them at scientific meeting and they remembered me a little.  About 3 minutes into the interview the video froze on my screen and I could do nothing to get it working again. They said that their feed of me was still working so we just continued the interview; it was somewhat disconcerting to know that they could see me but not to be able to see them or even really know which of the 3 was talking.  The interview lasted about 30min, I felt kind of meh about how it went, I could have probably done better.  A few weeks later my boss, Don, received a request for a “letter of recommendation”, he wrote a really nice letter, commenting to me after he sent it (jokingly) that he had not realized I walked on water until he reread what he’d wrote (as my major professor he was interested in my success and liked the idea of me doing a PhD). Three or four weeks afterwards, Don went to a Scientific meeting in Canada and was able to talk with them, they thanked him for the letter and said that I had interviewed well, but so had many of the candidates for the position and that they did not make the final decision, but that it was up to the Dean of the College. A few more weeks passed and I had not heard anything (this was beyond when I thought they had said that they would have informed me of their decision). I wasn’t too hopeful at this point, and was applying for every science job I could find.
On August 31 I received an informal email stating that I had been select for this position and that I should expect a formal letter within a few days.  This was a pretty big shock; I had a lot of mixed feelings. First of all I was excited and honored to have been selected, but at the same time moving to Denmark was is a little bit scary. It would mean taking my wife and kids away from everyone and everything they know, and moving to a big expensive city on the other side of the world. Everything would be different, the people, the language, the food, the customs. The program lasts for 3 years, so not super long, but still long enough for a lot of growing up to happen.  My wife had the same mixed feelings, scared and excited. We spent several days talking about it, looking in to different questions we had, praying and fasting about what we should do. In the end we really feel good about going. We realize that it is going to be hard to leave our family and friends behind. We know that there is chance we may end up regretting our decision to go (I doubt it though, my wife and I generally make the best of what every situation we’re in), it is almost for sure that if we didn’t go we would regret it. The job I currently have ends at the end of this year, so I would have to find some other form of income (is McDonalds hiring?), and I don’t think I could find another opportunity to get a PhD and have a decent income while I did it. In three years I will possibly be in the same situation that I am and now, looking for an industry job in the USA; but hopefully my increased experience, education and network (I plan to focus on this a lot) will provide a few more opportunities. Not to mention what a great opportunity it will be for our family to have the experience of living in a foreign country and traveling Europe.