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Being a comedian within two alternative weeks in IPC

After a few months of classes at IPC, it was time for students to take a little break from the routine and either have some creative intensive classes or trips. This was what we called “Alternative Weeks”, which lasted for two weeks from October 21st to November 4th. There were choices for what each student could do in these two weeks; take a European or Nordic study trip, or alternatively one of three intensive courses on Danish Language, Arts and Culture, and The Power of Stand-up Comedy.

About thirty students were in the Europe Trip and twenty students in the Nordic Trip, the rest decided to stay at school and picked one of the three intensive courses. Students who chose the Europe Trip began their study expedition on October 21, while Students in the Nordic trip were busy in the first alternative week preparing for the trip.

I decided to opt for the Stand-up Comedy despite having no clue what it was about. I was the only Asian student out of the fourteen students in this class. The intensive classes started at 8:30 in the morning and ran til 12:00 in the afternoon. The first class challenged me with two questions: 1) What do I find funny about myself? 2) What do my friends make fun of me?

To answer the first question, I don’t find myself funny. Besides, I never heard my friends saying that I am funny. I don’t even identify myself as a funny person. But, I was in the Stand-up Comedy class, which I found in its self peculiar. Howbeit, I made an endeavor to evoke the past that could have something funny about me. Luckily, I remembered some stories from my childhood that are funny to me and some of my Myanmar friends. Fortunately, I got the chance to test whether or not my stories are funny because Jo and Solvei were, at that time, in a program which is called “Making someone laugh”. They asked me to tell jokes and make them laugh. So, I told them my first story. Actually, they both were laughing while I told the story. But, at the end, they both said,

“This is not funny. It’s embarrassing.”

I said, “What? Alright, I have another story”.

They let me tell my second story. But, they responded the same way, “This is not funny.” I didn’t want to give up although I was already stressed out. So, I said “I have another story. When I was….”. They rapidly replied me “No…stop stop.” This time they didn’t let me make them laugh with my funny stories. No problem! I have got another chance to test my stories with Marie and Gorka (former students) as they were having Alumni Board Meeting at IPC. Marie said “This is not funny”. Gorka said “I don’t understand”. Now then, it was time for me to realize that I should seek something else instead.

Basically, we watched some comedians’ shows and analyzed them in the first half of alternative weeks. As I remember, we focused on Ismo Leikolo, Rowan Atkinson (Mr.Bean), Flight of the Conchords, Chris Rock, Iliza, Bo Burnham and many others. To be frank, I didn’t find most of them funny. It’s not because they are not funny, just because humors are very much  based on the social context, country, cultural backgrounds etc. Of course, it is based on my English level as well. But, Flight of the Conchords and Bo Burnham were out of them my favorites because their genres are, quite similar to one another, musical comedy.

There were other kind of humors that we learned in the class such as Self-deprecating humors, Dark humors, Insult/bullying humors, observational humors, Slapstick/physical humors, Anecdotal humors and so on. In the second week of the class, we learned about writing bits and wrote our own bits for the stand-up comedy show which would take place at the end of the alternative weeks. I remembered another two stories from my village and write a comedy sketch which sounded funny to me. Fortunately, it worked well, we practiced in the class and gave feedback to each other.

Meanwhile, students in the Arts and Culture class and Danish Language Class were also enjoying with their own projects. There were also other activities running in the afternoon, such as fixing the library, yoga, a sauna trip, a climate change stimulation, a trip to Louisiana, an excursion to Arken Museum and to Copenhagen, music appreciation, stitch and b*tch, conversation cafe and many other activities. Twenty students started their Nordic trip on October 28. So, around fifty students were away from school for the alternative weeks. The dining hall looked almost empty which reminded me of the summer course. Silence covered the common room after 9 pm.

Speaking of the additional activities in the alternative weeks, the sauna was my favourite. This was my first experience of this in life; being naked in front of people, jumped into probably the -1 degree Celsius cold sea and back into the 80 degrees hot Sauna. It was amazingly enjoyable. Students traveling around Europe were back to school on October 31, around 9:30 pm, which made the school more animated, we welcomed them with a bunch of cuddles as if they were long lost family members.

It was coming to the end of the alternative weeks, and I was struggling with my preparation for the comedy show. The show happened on the 2nd November, the end of the alternative weeks. We prepared seats in the Lecture Hall for about fifty people and set some spot lights to make the show thrilling. All the comedians rehearsed once before the performance. Frankly, I wasn’t up for the show even though I did the rehearsal.

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The room was full of my fellow students, to cheer us on. There were 10 comedians ahead of me having being applauded. One beautiful thing that happened on this night was that comedians themselves cheered to one another so they wouldn’t be frightened. I prepared two stories from my village, which were about the people who saw the helicopter for the first time in their life in 2008, and a women who had never experienced talking on the phone picking up it upside down. More than two bits were, of course, included in the stories. I picked up a paragraph of Martin Luther King’s popular speech called “I Have a Dream” to open my show and sang the first verse of Abba’s “I have a dream”.

The thing was that I didn’t memorize the last sentence of the paragraph I picked from Martin Luther King’s speech, while I was opening my show. So, I looked at my notes and finished it. Thank God! People also laughed with that part, even though it was a mistake! I couldn’t see the audience from the stage as I was looking into the lights, making me less stressed out. However, my lack of knowledge of English vocabulary caused making my punchlines more difficult. I actually cannot recall which parts people laughed with me or at me because I was always concentrating on what to say next. At last, I overcame this 10-minute stand-up comedy challenge, and my two weeks of preparation had paid off!

Making people happy always returns its happiness to me. Besides, I realized that challenges I face are not so challenging to me when I face them head on!

 

 

 

 

 

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Holiness of a Pig

The day was dawning, hens had started crowing and birds were singing. It was the middle of June, and I, as the last one in the family, woke up at around 6 a.m. My mom was sitting beside the open-fire and boiling the water, the last task before our breakfast was ready.

 “Son, go bring some fire-wood! It is almost running out here,” said my Mom.

I then looked for some dry and broken tree branches in the fence and went back to her with some so-called fire-wood.

“There is no more salt. Go ask for some salt from your aunt,” said my Mom again.

“Ahh….” I whispered disappointingly.

I did hate to ask something from someone, especially from my relatives. However, I still went to my aunt’s house, which was just next to mine.

“Aunt, can I get some salt?”

“I don’t have that much salt left, but go get some from the kitchen,” replied my aunt uncomfortably.

After I borrowed some salt and went back to my home, I saw my father with butchers and some other old men coming back to our home. The butchers looked a bit drunk and definitely hideous in my eyes. After a while, when I was brushing my teeth with the salt I got from my aunt, a lot of people from the village were coming to our house.

“Mom, what are they doing here?”

“We have the Kayin Spiritual Worship event tomorrow,” replied my mom.

I didn’t understand what she said, so I finished brushing my teeth and watching my face. Meanwhile, my father and the butchers went out of the house and headed to the pig behind the house. Many people were following them, so I followed as well.

While my father was preparing food for the pig, that was almost as old as my younger sister, the butchers were honing their spears. People gathered to look at the pig eating her last breakfast.

I stared at the pig thinking of her death, but she seemed neither to notice nor worry about this. She was just desperately trying to finish her food, which gradually made me angry.

“Why?”

“Why are you just eating your food?” “You should run away immediately!” I said mutely to the pig.

“Hey, children, children, go away. You are not supposed to be here.”

“Go play somewhere far from here” shouted my uncle.

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It was about 5 am, when the sunshine had yet to reach the earth. I was sitting between my younger sister and father, and my mom was between my father and my elder sister-who was beside my younger sister. My eldest sister and brother were both away from home studying at their schools. There was a round table in front of us; full of spicy sour chicken soup and rice in one platter altogether.

My father then started whispering something that nobody could hear; for about two minutes he seemed to be saying something to our Kayin Spirit. While all the people in the village were staying quietly and looking at us, my father started eating a bit and then my Mom, followed by my elder sister, me and my younger sister.

After all ate a bit of chicken and rice, “You all can eat now” said my father. So everyone started to eat in one platter altogether by our hands. The chicken tasted sweet, sour and spicy. My younger sister and I wanted to taste the soup. But we dared not to taste the soup as children were not usually allowed to drink soup at the dining table. I didn’t understand that, while they were having the taste of chicken soup, why I wasn’t allowed to have it. That was unfair and I was mutely furious at them.

After we finished eating, people waiting in and outside of my house had already taken their places and were ready to eat at each circular table; with their children and basically all their family members. They had rice and pork curry at their tables. They were desperately enjoying their breakfast of pork, which used to be my beloved pig.

“Can I have more meat?” “Oh…what an oily pig.”

Everyone had their own excuses, but they liked it. Yes, they obviously liked my pig just because I could see their oily lips.

The sun light was starting to touch the floor of the house, by passing through the holes in the roof; when people were engrossed in the taste of the pork. But I couldn’t stand watching people eating my beloved pig anymore. So I left them all to play with my cousins, who were about 100 meters away from them.

We climbed up the guava trees as we did the day before this day, and played. But this time we didn’t hear any screaming of the pig, as we had the other day – because the pig was already in our stomach.

On the day before this day, I was playing on the guava tree with my cousins after our uncle shouted us to leave the pig killing area. At that time of playing, I almost forgot about the pig. But suddenly, we heard the screaming of the pig, which was so loud that we immediately stopped playing. She screamed and screamed until her voice was gradually cracking. The sound made me ache, as though someone had squeezed my heart. I closed my ears with my fingers and couldn’t stop imaging of the appearances of the pig. I then felt warmth on my cheeks, which people call tears – were falling down to the ground after rolling off my cheeks.

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I was playing with my cousins on the guava trees, whilst people in the village were  finishing up their breakfast – some had already gone. One of my cousins suddenly made a long hiccup, pulling me from my thoughts. It smelled like pork.

As a seven-year-old boy, I thought, “Oh…the pig is still screaming.”

 

Dining with a Dane and Networking Dinner at IPC

Of the many programs initiated by IPC, Dining with a Dane, which occurred on the 20th September 2018, was an initiative that the school had never done before. The school launched this event on Facebook and perhaps among other networks as well. Thirty two local families from in and out of the town signed up to host IPC students for dinner. Around 10 students also signed up to help organize this amazing event. They managed to divide the students into groups based on countries, cultures, levels of English and the request of foods such as vegetarian and meat lover.

The families had to host 2-3 students at their homes. With Ann-Katrin from Germany, we visited Marianne and Jorgen. It was only about a 10 minute walk from IPC to get to them. Ann-Katrin and I have been making a wild guess about the ages of our host family: “They might be around 40 years old,” guessed Ann-Katrin, while I thought,  “They might also be around 60 years old.” We then kept on guessing about our host family, on the route to their home.

As it turned out, they were around 70 years old, and welcomed us with sweet smiles. They prepared chicken, potatoes and salad for us. I wore my traditional outfit to reveal them that Myanmar exists on the earth. Luckily, they already knew that Myanmar exists. However, some students have actually asked me whether or not Myanmar is really a country. Most people I have met know Myanmar because of the conflict in Rakhine State.

It was always hard to answer when someone asked me about the conflict in Rakhine State. I shared my opinions with Jorgen on that conflict, and he also shared his experience about drinking alcohol from Myanmar while he was in Bangladesh. At this time, Ann- Katrin helped Marianne to get the dinner ready.

At some point in the conversation, Marianne noticed that I was missing rice and she immediately cooked rice for me. When Ann-Katrin mentioned during the conversation, that she likes apples, they packed a lot of apples for her to take back to IPC. We were really grateful for their hospitality and kindness. We shared each of our life stories during the dinner. We were also served dessert and beers. We spent about 4 hours with them. It was a great chance for us to experience a real Dane’s dinner. The students I have talked with were also happy about their Dining with a Dane evening. We also invited the host families to IPC to participate in a Networking Dinner organised by the school.

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Katrin, Marianne, Jorgen and Me

Two weeks later on the 3rd October 2018, IPC hosted a Networking dinner with about 180 participants; students, teachers, host families from Dining with a Dane event, and other guests. Students in their own contact groups undertook different responsibilities to prepare for the Networking Dinner. For instance, one contact group was going to serve the first course, another the main course, another dessert, and another the washing and cleaning up.

Guests arrived to IPC at around 5:30 pm and the common room was crowded with students busy with their duties and guests chatting with one another. Returning the favour of being hosts to our Danish families back at IPC was plenty of exhilaration. Soren, the Principle of IPC, gave a welcome speech in the common room whilst everyone was enjoying the apple juice or wine which I couldn’t make clear of.

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Soren, giving welcome speech in the common room (Photo Crd; Themis)

After that, we moved to the big hall where we had dinner. Students sat in their contact groups together with some guests. Soren played the piano and everyone sang a song called “Imagine” before we had our first course of dinner. Imagine that how it could be nice when 180 people sang a song together and it made everyone more comfortable and worn smiles. It was also nice to talk with other students’ host families. Japanese students performed with their traditional dance called “Sorambushi” in Japanese and “Fisherman Dance” if it is translated into English, right after we finished the first course of dinner.

After the performance of Japanese students, Soren explained briefly about the dance and then invited the IPC Choir to perform. As I am in Choir class, it was my first experience singing in Choir on the stage. It was different experience of singing in the normal class room and in the big hall with audiences. I couldn’t hear my voice and I felt that I was out of tune sometimes. My throat was getting dry and I needed to swallow spit often. We performed Circle of Life, Africa, and Shosholoza. Students who were responsible for serving the main course then started setting the food on the tables. The main course included fish, potatoes and salad. I had a guest on my table who didn’t know about Myanmar, and I didn’t know about fishing in Denmark. So we shared knowledge about these things in return.

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After the main course of dinner, Soren shared with guests the history of IPC, how IPC is going on and the life of students at IPC. IPC Choir then performed another two songs again on the stage; “She is leaving home” and “The day after tomorrow”. I originally do love to sing and had to perform on the stage. It was one of my best nights in IPC.

At last, we had time to chat with our host families. Marianne and Jorgen also came to the Networking Dinner so that Ann-Katrin and I could have a nice chat with them. We could make the Dining with a Dane event successful, and also the Networking Dinner as well. So everyone was happy, but some students were overly happy. Anyway, I would say that all the happiness in IPC that night, may make it become one of the best memories of my life.