Janice's journey

This biography is made based on the diary of a young woman who lived in many years in Denmark before she went on a holiday at her birthmother’s county. Her values and morale is based on her upbringing in Denmark which some might consider offending. However in order to truly understand how she experienced her stay in the United States the cultural influences has to be considered a major contributor to her choices both before, under and after her stay.

Second the names of individual youth transport firms, wilderness programs and boarding schools are not mentioned. It is not a question about being for or against various companies offering emotional growth. It is strictly a story about how Janice as she has chosen to call herself experienced a number of incidents which left life changing marks on her adult life.

This biography is co-authored because Janice wanted to have her story published in both Danish and English.


21. Family therapy and clarification

The name of my new next level was "student". With the level I also got a new uniform which was a brown skirt and a T-shirt with the name of my dormitory.


Our dormitory was still one of the sheds. In each shed there were two rooms where there were 4 beds. There was a toilet and a kitchen. An adult took care of each house. Alice was our caretaker. She called herself "dorm mother" which was kind of because she was not my mother. Where the idea for the title came from I don’t know.


I had to go to school. When I enter to the class room which was in one of the main buildings I saw that my workplace included a computer only and each workplace was shielded from other students by a partition made of wood. The student should not talk with each other or even look at each other. All assignments were made on the computer. You got a login. You got some texts or math homework. When, for example you had read a chapter in a book on the computer you applied for an on-screen test. The computer gave you questions based on the chapter. I found out that if you answered incorrectly, the program asked more questions and had one too many questions incorrect the program sent a mail to the teacher who then gave a consequence you had do before you were allowed to retake the test. When you had completed the consequences you could choose whether you would try to pass the test immediately or read the chapter again.


It was allowed to raise your hand and ask the teacher for help and in theory the teacher would help you, but mostly the teacher was a young person who had just passed his exam with little actual teaching experience. Sometimes if there were illness among the teachers the substitute teacher was actually a student from one of the higher levels. Basically the system was also more based on self-tutoring rather than analysis and debate in collaboration with the teacher group. It was a whole different way to be taught compared to what I had known in Denmark.


On Wednesday was therapy day. We started with individual therapy and in the afternoon there was dormitory meeting who could develop into a game of psychodrama. It was here that I met Albert the Shrink who would have a huge impact during my stay in the United States.


He saw it as his job to get me to get a good relationship with my mother again. We talked about the confessions which I had given in order to graduate to the “Student” level. He told me that my mom was happy that I had made a clean sweep because my confessions told her that her feelings were correct from the very start. I had lived a dissolute life in Denmark which could only lead me to my death or to be a wife somewhere in the Middle East confined a prison of a Burka being the a wife with no rights of my own.


The psychologist asked about my life in Denmark and my life with John. He had a hard time understanding that alcohol could only be purchased freely by a girl like me. He did not understand that my father had allowed the relationship to John. I had long conversations with Albert and after some weeks also telephone therapy with my mother. Before each phone-call I was told that I would be demoted to the level Zero if I said anything negative about the school. How I lived at the school and how I was taught in classes was not something my mother should think about. The subject of these phone-calls was only about her relationship with me.


There was one thing that nagged at me. I had been told that my father had given permission that I was sent to the wilderness program and later to this school. I would simply not believe. It cost me 3 hours at the handcart at level Zero because one of our therapy sessions ended with me and my mother yelling at each another on the phone. I could not believe her words. I called her a liar.


At the next consultation had Albert evidence provided by my mother. He had sent mail correspondence between my mother and my father. I could not believe it. My flight in Minnesota: My father had written that I was in Minneapolis. The wilderness program: My father had given my mother right in that I was out of control and needed an intervention. My flight to California: My father had written that I would probably try to find a Danish consulate or Danish embassy. He had helped my mother all the way. Here I had thought that I at least he had an ally who could save me if he only knew that I was trapped over here.


I broke down. I felt that my life was finished. I could not imagine how I could make it through the curriculum the school offered. It was not that the curriculum in any way was difficult. Despite the fact that I had been truant for almost a full year in Denmark, the assignments in school were easy. I have been talking to regular exchange student. The education is simply not at the same high as back in Denmark. However it was all therapy and mental changes I had to make which I couldn’t cope. I only John left in my old life. I could not get hold of him. Even if I could, so I failed to see how he could help me.


Albert comforted me. He said that he knew what was wrong. My past weighed me down. I had been unable to reach for great things in my life because I had locked myself stuck in a role as John's partner in a socially deprived neighborhood. He had the cure.


I had probably been at the school for a month when one day Albert took me and some other students out on a little walk some kilometers from school. When we came to a pile of rocks, he announced that we had to write what we wanted to dispose of in our lives on the large stones that lay before us. The stones must have weighed 20 to 30 pounds. I had, after further therapy by Albert found out that it was lack of self-confidence that was my problem.


Albert asked us to lift the stones and hold them in your arms. Then he asked us to wear them on top of a hill. I believe that the distance might have been 2 or 3 kilometers uphill. Try the lifting of 20 to 30 pounds for half an hour or more. The path to the top of the hill consisted of gravel and it was constantly afraid of falling. The stones felt heavier and heavier after each step we took. We could not stop and drink as the path was narrow and stones too heavy to carry in one hand. I was almost about to throw up when we reached the top. A few of the other students wept outright along the way.


On top bath Albert us to keep the stones at arm's length as long as we possibly could and then throw them down the hill so they basically ended up where we had picked them up. When we threw them we should yell what we had written on the stones as loud that we could. I threw my stone and sat down on the ground with sore muscles. I was such in pain. When everyone had thrown their stones Albert said that we could feel how relieved we were. It would be the same relief we would feel in our lives when relieved us from the burden of our past we carried on our backs. We limped sore and tired back to the school.


The weeks passed slowly mixed of school work on the computer and therapy sessions with Albert. I asked to write to my father so I could ask why he thought that I should go to a boarding school. After talking with my mother Albert felt that it was okay but the letter was to be in English and it should be sent by mail so they could browse the content first for any critical comments about the school before it was sent. I described what I had experienced on wilderness program and how I was looking forward to return home to Denmark. I also asked why he felt that I needed to go to school in the United States when I wanted to go to school in Denmark.


The letter was posted and I was waiting for an answer. Meanwhile they found out that I had played football as they know that soccer over there in Denmark. Because there were plans of the school may one day being able to play games with other schools in the area so I was free to do participate in soccer practice. It was better than running around the school area 4 times as was the exercise otherwise I graciously received and it was a thousand times better than pulling the handcart.


Looking back at that time I must say that I had resigned myself to my fate. They had broken me. Denmark was far away. My mind had adjusted to be in survival mode all the time.



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