Socialt, historisk, lokalt, globalt, politisk, kulturelt, familiært og personligt

Sometimes I tell the students at work

(Skrevet under mit genbesøg i Minnesota 2004:)

Sometimes I tell the students at work, that they are going to experience much more chance in their lives that people in my generation, and yet that isn’t quit easy to understand.

This year have been very special to me, by somehow being an in between lives experience pointing backward and forward at the same time.

As a kid, I was raised on a very small scale farm in the countryside in Denmark, doing my early childhood I experienced farming by horse, the water being carried into the house from the pump outside, having our first TV-set when I was 13 years old in 1968 and the first car two year later.

Doing the same years I wasn’t very outgoing, staying home at my mum and dad, mostly talking with my mum, my two younger sisters and one boy that spend a lot of time at our place cause his parents was to busy to care to much. In the first 7 years of school I wasn’t doing very well, I was outside the crowd from the small town, didn’t talk very much, and did not do very god in stuff like spelling and language. In 7th Grade I was cut of form taking part in German class because the school didn’t think I was god enough.

When I shifted school to attend 8th, 9th and 10th Grade the first very important changes happened. We were very fortunate to get young idealistic teachers who didn’t care who your parents where – so where not automatically considered to be a nobody cause you came from a quite poor background.

The work of these teachers is properly the reason I became a teacher myself.

As I later have seen happened with students wanting to rib the boundaries around the hometown stigma, in many ways I was a dreamer, wanting to understand the world, saving it and wanting to get far away on my own. So even just being this countryside boy without being very familiarly even with Skive, the close by city with around 25.000 inhabitant, where I’m living today, I picked up the dream of going to the US as an exchange student.

I’ve newer been rebellious at home toward my parents. That’s might one of the reason, that they went along with the idea without quit understanding. I applied, was accepted, and got a scholarship supplied for exchange students from low income family that cowered half of the expenses. My parents gave me some, and I got the rest of the money as a field hand on a farm.

After I had joined the exchange program my parents where encouraged to be a host family for an American exchange student. And to please my sisters it had to be a girl. The most American exchange student at that time was just being exchange students for two months in the summer, that’s the way my American sister Jeanette and the Woelfels became a part of my life.

Jeanette stayed at my family in the summer of 1972. I wasn’t used to having a sister at my own age, and my real sisters Kirsten and Hanne wasn’t used to have an older sister who could introduce them to girl talk about boys and romance. Kirsten is the oldest, at that time 14 years of age, so it influenced her the most.

For my self I was having my first close inside look at new areas of teenage life.

Then I took of for the US, for the first time in my lift I was outside Denmark. I hadn’t been in Germany, Sweden, Norway or any other close by nation. The US was my first foreign country, – and the trip was my first plane ride ever.

I was placed on a farm 10 miles west of New Rockford a very small town out in the emptiness in North Dakota. Is was a very conservative catholic family, only having four daughters, but only one son and wanting a helping hand to farm work because that wasn’t girls work, just boys work.

Besides that there was school and church, but nothing else. In school I joined the student council to get a little more freedom, my later friends in Redwood Falls properly doesn’t se me as interested in student politics, but in North Dakota I was as a small opportunity to get some connection to teenage life outside family control. And I got the opportunity to be together with the only 3 students at the high school who companied for McGovern and not Nixon in the presidential election in November 1972.

I newer got emotional connected with the family; accept being a good big brother to Sarah who was 12 years old. But when I helped her build a snowman my host parents told me that it was childish me being a 16 year young man.

By newer being rebellious at home in Denmark and being coming for a rural area in Denmark it took me long to get the courage to complain about the family – and really I was afraid, afraid to disappoint my parent home in Denmark by falling to get by, afraid to be send home to Denmark as one who couldn’t make it as an exchange student. And the first time I complained it only got worse, when the representative from Youth for Understanding (YFU) told me to behave and be satisfied with such a good family.

At that time my mom and dad somehow had the feeling, that it wasn’t all good – and by luck – not from heaven – that’s not my believe – but by the luck that Jeanette had been an exchange student at my family home in Denmark, and her and her family living in Minnesota just east of North Dakota, my parents and the Woelfels organised, first that I visited the Woelfels at new year and later that I moved to their farm close to Redwood Falls in February 1973. So really I wasn’t in Redwood Falls for much more than 5 months before I had to return to Denmark at the end of July 1973.

I don’t think, that seen from a local Redwood Falls perspective, it would be possible to understand how important these 5 months was for me, – or it might be possible anyway, if another person looks back on his or hers teenage years to find the most intense period in the fundamental changes going on in a teenage life.

What Redwood Falls offered me was me just being one of the guys as one of my former classmates expressed it this summer, but for me it was just being one of the guys in all levels of the teenage community – so I was participating in the keg-parties, but I also tried out the golf cause and was even going to try water-skiing once.

And by being the brother of Jeanette, and by being this foreign exchange student, I got in social contact with girls – I wasn’t very experienced – I to talk, and as one female class friend told me at my stay in Redwood this summer – I was an non treating and a little naive guy, who it was interesting to talk to.

At the same time I saw the Woelfels as a dream of a family after my experience in North Dakota, – for me they seemed very “dane-like” by not saying no and being trusting me and Jeanette even though we properly caused them worries.

So what I experienced in Redwood Falls wasn’t not only being an exchange student in another country. It was recovering from the depression after the lack of self-confidence that the North Dakota stay had given me. It was a young guy being inexperience with social contact with girls really learning a lot by always being participating in talks and discussions on girl issues by having Jeanette as my sister and by being a discussion partner with a lot on my mind, but always pretty open minded and easy to go along with – and surly not being as sure of what to believe in as I se myself today.

And then it was a very important experience of crossing the boundaries around the social position I saw myself within back in Denmark. This summer I had great talks with a former Classmate Terri around this issue, – and even this summer I was enlightened further into issues of crossing these boundaries. In some way we’re all kind of stuck to where we come from – but for me Redwood Falls helped me to reach across. And even though you don’t always think enough of it, the most important knowledge from that are, that you are fooling yourself, if you think, that life gets much easier by being raised up in what others saw as an uptown family.

Gemt Under Dyrholm, USA // Kommentarer lukket til Sometimes I tell the students at work

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