Denmark


I’ve been following the blogs of some KaosPilots, particularly those that are on OutPosts overseas (that tends to be the main reason for their blogging). Quite honestly, I haven’t seen much in the way of cultural awareness – or even an attempt to understand and appreciate their host societies.

Most of the OutPost blogs tend to feature parties and gatherings – photos after photos of blonde blue-eyed Scandinavians drinking the night away while they party in an exotic country. There’s very little in the way of actually examining the culture, exploring their location, or even the work they’re doing. The work in their OutPosts are usually relegated to one or two posts – “this is our project, tada!”. Otherwise? Party party party.

The team in Mumbai right now are tasked with answering questions about India, sent in by the KP board members. One student is taking in questions from the Web – and, quite frankly, his response to the latest two questions shows a deep level of ignorance:

Implying that the West has made mistakes is apparently biased!
Cellphones and Internet in India is rare, people marry young, and Indians must be liberal with porn because men like to share porn on phones!

Complete headdesk-worthy. (Read my comments on the above posts for my responses.)

Two KaosPilots blogs that I find to be very thoughtful and reflective about the educational processes are Henrique‘s and Zulma‘s (Zulma’s website also rocks hardcore). Henrique is in China and his blog has plenty of thoughtful and interesting entries on China and Chinese culture, including the conflicts with Tibet. He really shows his effort at understanding his host country. Zulma’s is more personal, but she talks a lot about her projects, and the processes she goes through in completing them. She also talks about her budding life in Denmark – including a new baby! (aww).

It’s really interesting that the two blogs I featured above are both from international students – Henrique is from Brazil and I believe Zulma is from Colombia. They have had to face the challenges of being outsiders, of being foreigners, from Day One – while most of their classmates would have been right at home in similar cultures. Now these students are overseas too, sent by their outposts – and they haven’t quite picked up the skills of cultural awareness, of just being curious about where they are. They’ve instead become insular, clinging on to old patterns while dismissing their host culture’s patterns as just oddities.

I’m rather glad that the KaosPilots Netherlands have announced that they’re received expressions of interest from all over – Russia, India, Nepal, a few other places (including multi-country me). This would lead to a much richer pool of applicants, and hopefully this batch would be much more culturally aware than the others. I’ve checked out the Facebook group for the latest Aarhus school, Team 15, and there doesn’t seem to be any indication of non-Europeans in their team (and apparently Macs are MANDATORY! What?!).

It does make me wonder, though – why are the students of the “best school for the world” seemingly unaware of the world they’re in?

(I have a feeling I may have already written about this, but no matter.)

I’ve just been browsing through the Denmark community on Livejournal and there have been a few posts alluding to Denmark’s prejudice against Muslims and Middle-Easterns. Apparently the current government wanted to block them from coming into the country through their open-door policy, but because they’ve signed treaties that say “don’t discriminate”, they’ve had to apply the policy to everyone. So now all the first-worlders (i.e. US, Canada, Australia) are crying foul because they’re finding it hard to migrate.

As much as I empathise with their struggle, because immigration  is a right pain in the arse, I can’t help but be amused at how naive they are. “I’ve stayed in Denmark for a year! That should count, right?” “I have British permanent residency! Why wouldn’t they consider that?”

Dude, immigration anywhere is hard. You don’t necessarily get special privileges based on your past experience. Just because you went there on exchange, you think you should get a free pass at migrating? Ha! I was born in Malaysia, raised in Malaysia, educated from kindergarden to pre-tertiary in Malaysia, represented Malaysia everywhere…and I am still not a citizen. So what hope would a really short-term stay be? As for permanent residency – being a permanent resident myself, it’s pretty much like being in a perpetual in-between state. No one really knows what to do with you. There’s clear rules for foreigners, clear rules for citizens…but PR? You might as well be dealing with space aliens.

Immigration isn’t really the crux of my concerns, though – I’m not looking to migrate permanently to Denmark, and they’ve changed the system so that it’s the school that makes the first move anyway, so it’s a little less hassle visa-wise. What I am concerned about, though, is the Danes’ perception of “brown people” – anyone that looks vaguely Muslim.

It seems the main issue Denmark has with Middle-Easterns is that they don’t want to integrate with the local culture. They won’t learn the language, they won’t take a job, and they’d rather stay in their own communities. That is not the Danish Way, and so we must limit immigration.

Well, from my experience, it’s pretty hard to integrate when your culture is looked down upon and everyone thinks you’re up to no good. I remember being bullied by both teachers and students alike (more the teachers, really) in primary school just for being Bangladeshi. Hardly anyone wanted to be friends with me genuinely because I was this “other”; particularly an “other” that was getting press for “robbing our houses and stealing our women”. I could speak Malay better than many Malay people, but that just made me even more a target for ostracization – “how dare you be better than me in my mother tongue?”. (and yet, when you speak in your own tongue or some other language, they get upset because you’re “not embracing the national language”. Go figure.)

Learning languages is a hard skill as it is, anyway. I’m on my 4th week of learning Danish and so far I can tell you what goes in a house, who some of your family members are, what sounds animals make, and what I think about things (either “smuk” or “grim”), and maybe count to a thousand. But I still have to refer to my homework (hjammelbaejder!), and my accent (which is either Indian, British, American, or Weird depending on who you ask) will still be obvious. Try having to pick up enough to survive a week the first day you arrive in the country! I didn’t even get to practice my Swedish when I went to Stockholm because everyone just responded in English anyway. What if they just never found anyone to practice with? What if no one wants to communicate with them in the first place? I admire anyone that is able to pick up a strange second language, particularly one so different from their own, especially if they had to learn a whole new writing system together with that. It’s damn difficult.

So now you’re in a weird land, you’re experiencing massive culture shock, you can’t talk to anyone and no one wants to talk to you anyway because they think you look funny. Who would you turn to? The ones who’ve done it before you – the other people who moved from your country to here. They understand you best. They can help you through it. They can help you get used to the local culture, while keeping your roots. They’ve been there, done that, started T-shirt factories. Instant community. Instant knowledge. Massive support. It’s not surprising, then, that you’d spend more time with the people that understand you best – and who just happen to come from your same neighbourhood back home.

As it is, Danes (and oddly enough, Brisbanites) have this reputation of being insular – they hardly become close to anyone they haven’t known for ages. And they think the migrants aren’t integrating enough?

I’m all for integration; I love diversity and feel that multicultural societies are a great thing. However, there is a difference between integration and assimilation. Integration allows people to be themselves; they are accepted for who they are and yet still allowed to participate fully in the community. Assimilation, on the other hand, demands that participants conform to a certain expectation and that they leave their own cultural values behind, because it is “irrelevant” or “inferior”. Many of the people who complain about immigrants’ non-intergratedness are really calling for assimilation – “our culture is so much better than theirs anyway, why won’t they change? Oh, they just aren’t compatible”.

If you want people to integrate into your society, accept them as they are. Don’t make them give up their core selves just so they can fit in.

Hmm, I’m learning Danish, I’m learning how to cycle, and my values are pretty similar to the Danes. However, I still have some Asian values I hold on to. Do I have to get rid of them to be “integrated”? Or will I never be integrated into Danish society anyway because my skin is brown and my last name is Arabic?

a.k.a. Malaysian Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines, the two airlines I thought would be the biggest help with getting me to Aarhus next month.

If they can’t even help me, who can? How am I supposed to scrounge up $2300 in less than a month? I can’t even get a decent job (decent as in non-dodgy).

😦

I just got a letter from the Danish Ministry of Refugees, Immigration, and Integration telling me that funding wasn’t really in their jurisdiction – but that they have forwarded my letter to the Ministry of Education for further action.

The same Ministry of Education that told me off for contacting them every way I could. Hmm.

Dear CIRIUS: NOT MY FAULT.

It’s just like how half of the KP board members I contacted, including Uffe Elbæk, kept forwarding my plea onto the KP management. I think they’ve received at least 5 emails all saying the same thing – and that’s not counting the emails I sent them myself. Ha!

I sent off my application for the Australia Culture Fund; I wrote a new proposal because there was some criteria I had to respond to, and if I could make it shorter it could be my new proposal, because it mentions my aims as well as my fundraising strategy. Feel free to contact me if you want to take a look at it and help rework it. The main thing missing from that proposal is what the recipient stands to gain from it, but that wasn’t what AbaF was after so I didn’t include it. I do have a paragraph along those lines in my other proposal though.

I’d like to rework both proposals and come up with something that could fit in one A4-sized flyer. It’d have to be very punchy and succinct – two things I’m not, unfortunately. Since it’s more a promotional thing, I don’t have to be quite as detailed, though I have to work out a way for people to see all the details once they come here.

Is there such a thing as a Corporate Sponsorships Directory? One that lists companies’ CSR policies, what they fund, and how to apply? If not, I could start such a thing, based on the information I’ve gathered. It’d be a BIG undertaking, but it’d be useful. Heck, a Fundraising & Sponsorship Wiki wouldn’t be such a bad idea…

The Naked Lady Party now has a date – 13th of April. It’ll be at Ivor Cribb in International House, St Lucia. We might make this a slightly bigger event than just a clothes swap, thanks to Chakae’s magical ability to get support out of the most random places. My request for a fundraising houseparty from someone else got turned down, but holding it at IH after the NLP would be a good plan.

It’s funny how one of my biggest supporters is known for snippets of erotica (hello Twittilate!), while the people I thought would be my biggest shoo-ins for support have turned out to be rather exasperating and unreliable. That adage fundraising organizations like to use about how you should go to friends and family first for support is really, really broken. From my experience, and those of others, they would most often be the absolute WORST at supporting you. According to this AskMefi thread, they feel obligated and exploited, and then never get back to you. It’s the acquaintances, the folk that know you but not too well, that usually end up being your biggest assets. As said here:

Also, from the many fundraising events I’ve done in the past and the causes I’ve swam, run and partied for, I’ve learned one majorly disappointing truth: the closer people are to you, the less they will donate. It’s just the way it is. Family and friends always feel obligated, and they rarely come through. Strangers will write the big checks. I would hear all the excuses from my close friends and family members (money is tight, you know I just bought x,y,z, etc.), but I would receive heartwarming letters and big donations and support cheers from people I barely knew. It really blew me away.

The trick is, then, to reach out to those “strangers” and get them on your side.

Would anyone like to sponsor a return flight from Brisbane to Copenhagen?

Preferably 21-27 April; arrival and departure dates flexible, but I need to be in Aarhus on the 24th and 25th of April. So at least 1 day before and 1 day after.

The reason I’m asking now is because I need to have proof of flights when I apply for my visa, and I want to apply for my visa as soon as I hear of my acceptance for the admissions workshop. If I absolutely have to, I’ll buy the tickets myself, but I’ll then solicit donations to make up for the cost. I’m currently asking for corporate sponsorship from a few airlines, but it’ll take a while before I hear from them.

I can negotiate acknowledgement with you – just contact me.

Thanks!!!

After what seems like a long while (really a couple of months), I’m getting back to writing my fundraising letters and emails.

Among the companies/organizations I’ve contacted: Virgin Atlantic (flights between Sydney and London – big savings for me if I get this), Soroptimist Malaysia, Mensa Malaysia and Australia, Malaysian Young Entrepreneurs Association, Perdana Leadership Foundation, National Association for Women Entrepreneurs Malaysia, Australia Business Arts Foundation, Foundation for Young Australians…there’s possibly more I’m missing in here somewhere.

It’s so hard to find grants that apply. Either they don’t cover education costs, or I don’t have the right residency, or they don’t cover individuals. Feh. The Ian Potter foundations look promising though.

I’ve also sent a proposal by post to Virgin, which is apparently really good for this sort of thing. I also sent a letter to Darren Hayes, whom I adore – chances of getting a reply (let alone help) are pretty slim, but he’s been such a big influence in my life that it doesn’t hurt to ask!!

I got my bike, and will start lessons (with Mark) soon. Going for my second set of Danish lessons tonight. Here’s what I learnt last week (minus the funky characters):

Hej! Jeg hedder Tiara.
Jeg kommer fra Malaysia. (I know there’s a Danish word for this but I can’t spell it.)
Jeg taler du engelsk, og malaysisk, og lidt bengali.
Jeg er ellev. Jeg laeer Creative Industries paa QUT, og lidt dansk paa Mdm Andersen’s.
Hvordan gaar det? Jeg meget fint!

There’s also the numbers, which I can pronounce but not spell. haha.

OK, I was trying to edit this post on Deepest Sender, but instead of saving it, it decided to DELETE the post. Argh. Thankfully there was a version saved in my history, so I’ll use that instead.

Danish

Jeg læer dansk! Dav! Hvordan går det? Jeg er godt. 🙂
(translation: I’m learning Danish! Hello! How are you? I’m good.)

Weekly lessons at Manly, half-an-hour away by train. Am learning it with a lady who was in Denmark for four years and met her husband there, so my Danish is a little Aussie-accented (though with my weird combination of accents it could be anything, really). It wasn’t too hard, though some words are tricky because native Danish speakers say them really quickly, so words like “hedder” (name) sounds like “er” (is).

Cycling

I’m considering getting a second-hand bicycle to learn cycling on. I never got past training wheels as a child, but in Denmark everyone cycles so I should at least catch up. It helps that I have a cycling nut for a boyfriend (who incidentally also speaks Danish!). There is someone at UQ who’s selling his/her bike for $80, which is really cheap as far as bikes go. Assuming it doesn’t get sold off beforehand, Mark and I will give it a test run on Sunday. woo!

Edgeware

The Edgeware conference went great! I did a short talk on managing to get to Stockholm despite all the possible obstacles, and people were entertained and inspired. Too bad Frank isn’t hiring for speakers in Brisbane – I would have rocked! (If you are a speaker’s agency in Brisbane, please get in touch!) One of the people I brought in for my group discount, Chakae, turns out to be an awesomely talented fundraiser. She organized a please-help-us-pay-the-rent party for a designer friend in 2 weeks, and was pretty successful. She’s such a colourful character (literally and figuratively) and I am SO glad that we met! I’d say she was one of the biggest gifts I got from the Edgeware experience.

Naked Lady Party

Speaking of Chakae and fundraising: Myself, Chakae, and Nikki (hello :D) are co-organizing a Naked Lady clothes swap, partly to raise funds and partly because I need to get rid of a LOT of clothes and accessories. The idea is to have the swap one evening, then sell the rest at a market stall the next day. We were going to get $20 for the stall in return for volunteering at an event tonight, but the event’s already got enough volunteers…oh well. We just got free space for the venue (yay Carla and International House!!) so all that’s left is to organize (pretty simple – get food, get space, get stuff) and advertise. Nikki and I have classes and Chakae’s busy with organizing the Virtual Everest fundraising team for the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation (sponsor Nikki, Chakae, and the Brisneyland community here!) so we probably won’t work on this fully till a fortnight or so. that’s fine; the hardest part was the venue, and we’ve got that down!

Course credit woes

I went to talk to my course coordinator, Adrian Thomas, this morning about getting my final elective-filled semester credited so that I could go to the KaosPilots while still having my QUT degree (otherwise I’d end up with a perpetually unfinished degree). The only way I could claim credit that way is to put in an application with detailed reference letters about all the work I did, but he’s skeptical that I’d get even one subject credited for that. He suggested that I go to Denmark anyway, and then write back to QUT after a semester with my progress report to get my credit, but visa issues may get in the way.

Honestly, I’ve more than proven my mettle in the subject matter, and I was way ahead of them with the workplace/service learning thing before they decided to implement it officially. Right now it’s a matter of bureaucratic paperwork more than anything else. I’m more than prepared to go to the KaosPilots without an official QUT degree; I’m not going to let a piece of paper stop me (heck, I don’t actually care; I’m not hung up on qualifications). However, it would be nice if I did manage to get that certificate so that my two years here isn’t completely wasted (not that I think it’s a waste; I did get some good things regardless of qualification, but at the same time learning for its own sake isn’t well-regarded in my culture. Feh.). I’ve emailed everyone I could think of whose reference letters aren’t so complete (and Bob, whose reference letter is PERFECT but has old contact details) and I’m getting that application for credit in!

House parties

I just finished Morrie Warshawski‘s book The Fundraising Houseparty, which is basically all about hosting a small party where you make a pitch for your venture and get people to support you. It’s simple, but quite effective if done right. To accomplish this, I need a good Host (someone whose house I can ninja) and I already have someone in mind; however, if anyone in Brisbane would like to host me, feel free to contact me!

Mental Health

I’m getting my mental health taken care of – I’ve sorted a Disability plan with the QUT Disability services that allows me to get extensions on my assignments if they start to pile up and I get anxious and stressed over them. I’m also going back on the Brisbane Mind program, which allows me 6 sessions with a psychologist for low prices. It was really helpful for me last year and this year I want to get preventative care – learning how to cope before the stress eats me. My year was ruined by my inability to get a grip on stress last year – things seriously fell apart. I don’t want that to happen again. I still need to find motivation to do uni work though.

Milestones

Geez, nearly a 1000 words for this update, and this might be post #100 according to WordPress. Yay milestones!

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