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I am the girl who reads

I found this piece today and instead of sharing my thoughts on it, I’m just gonna share it.

 

Charles Warnke wrote:

Date a girl who doesn’t read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly.
Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you’ve seen it in film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. Fuck her.
Let the anxious contract you’ve unwittingly written evolve slowly and uncomfortably into a relationship. Find shared interests and common ground like sushi, and folk music. Build an impenetrable bastion upon that ground. Make it sacred. Retreat into it every time the air gets stale, or the evenings get long. Talk about nothing of significance. Do little thinking. Let the months pass unnoticed. Ask her to move in. Let her decorate. Get into fights about inconsequential things like how the fucking shower curtain needs to be closed so that it doesn’t fucking collect mold. Let a year pass unnoticed. Begin to notice.
Figure that you should probably get married because you will have wasted a lot of time otherwise. Take her to dinner on the forty-fifth floor at a restaurant far beyond your means. Make sure there is a beautiful view of the city. Sheepishly ask a waiter to bring her a glass of champagne with a modest ring in it. When she notices, propose to her with all of the enthusiasm and sincerity you can muster. Do not be overly concerned if you feel your heart leap through a pane of sheet glass. For that matter, do not be overly concerned if you cannot feel it at all. If there is applause, let it stagnate. If she cries, smile as if you’ve never been happier. If she doesn’t, smile all the same.
Let the years pass unnoticed. Get a career, not a job. Buy a house. Have two striking children. Try to raise them well. Fail, frequently. Lapse into a bored indifference. Lapse into an indifferent sadness. Have a mid-life crisis. Grow old. Wonder at your lack of achievement. Feel sometimes contented, but mostly vacant and ethereal. Feel, during walks, as if you might never return, or as if you might blow away on the wind. Contract a terminal illness. Die, but only after you observe that the girl who didn’t read never made your heart oscillate with any significant passion, that no one will write the story of your lives, and that she will die, too, with only a mild and tempered regret that nothing ever came of her capacity to love.
Do those things, because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell. Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent as a life unfulfilled—a vocabulary that parses the innate beauty of the world and makes it an accessible necessity instead of an alien wonder. A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much. A vocabulary, god damnit, that makes my vacuous sophistry a cheap trick.
Do it, because a girl who reads understands syntax. Literature has taught her that moments of tenderness come in sporadic but knowable intervals. A girl who reads knows that life is not planar; she knows, and rightly demands, that the ebb comes along with the flow of disappointment. A girl who has read up on her syntax senses the irregular pauses—the hesitation of breath—endemic to a lie. A girl who reads perceives the difference between a parenthetical moment of anger and the entrenched habits of someone whose bitter cynicism will run on, run on well past any point of reason, or purpose, run on far after she has packed a suitcase and said a reluctant goodbye and she has decided that I am an ellipsis and not a period and run on and run on. Syntax that knows the rhythm and cadence of a life well lived.
Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.
Don’t date a girl who reads because girls who read are the storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so god damned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life that I told of at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you. I hate you. I really, really, really hate you.

Shared Moroccan bath

Well, adventure has many definitions, but this is a new one: I went to a beauty salon.

RAK has many salons, which operate in Arabic, so I don’t even find them on Google. While waiting for my driving license class to start I got to talking with a  French speaking lady from Morocco who finally understood my french and gave me the number of a salon.

I booked an appointment rather clumsily, my Arabic being non-existent and the person on the other side of the phone having almost no English.

Yesterday I arrived at the salon, which was unlike any other I’ve ever been in. The sheer size surprised me. Half the salon seemed to be for hairdressing, an entire room was dedicated to henna tattoos, next to it was a room filled with nail polish and pedicure chairs. Next to that was a room with a massage table. I arrived 10min early for my appointment and was “signaled” to wait. An Arabic speaking lady just kept patting the chair next to her telling me to wait.

My appointment started on time, which was surprising, because I have experienced that the mid-eastern definition of time may be very different from my own ideas. I was lead into a steam room and was soon accompanied by another young lady from the mid-east, apparently this was a shared Moroccan bath. Right then.

The therapist covered both of us with a funky colored herbal mask which contained cinnamon, ginger and cardamom The other ingredients I couldn’t even guess. The smell told me that it was herbs, but the brownish yellow color reminded me horribly of the feces covered torture victim whose picture I had studied last semester.

We were left to sit in the steam on small plastic chairs for about 10minutes. I had never hung out with any of my friends wearing no clothes and covered in herbs. Then 2 therapists came in and started scrubbing both of us. I noticed the bodies, in an odly objective way, I have been holding myself to American actress and model standards even though I know it’s wrong. Here is was with 3 other women and we all had rolls and thighs and were human.

My therapist spoke no English, but wanted to know what my tattoo meant. It’s jus thte word “LOVE”, so I used my hands to make a heart and she understood. A universal symbol for love, and so many other things are so culturally bound…

The second body mask intrigued me, it smelled edible, it was pink I liked it. I kept sniffing my hand trying to discern the smell until the other lady’s therapist said “chocolate”. It was cocoa, that was the smell! My hair was covered in the most moisturizing mask and then I was done.

I had my nails painted by a black women from West Africa and my newly scrubbed skin seemed to radiate it’s whiteness after all the course skin had been removed. I think I was the only “white” person in that whole place. The lady who had shared the Moroccan bath with me had said she had never seen a Western person in a Moroccan bath.

I’ve only heard stories of communal beauty treatments, living it was different, but nice.

A shared bath – an adventure.

Adaptation

Dubai was on a different continent, I had to adapt, there was no way of kind of living in South Africa and kind of living in Dubai. Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) is different, Dubai is a bus ride away. It takes time to get there but I don’t have to fully live in RAK even though I don’t really live in Dubai anymore. The thing is, I want to adapt, I want to live in RAK. It’s cool if I have to go to Dubai, but that should be for “Dubai-specific” things. Adapting to Dubai, finding new food, new wash cloths, new coffee, it all added and I ended up learning a lot, meeting people and building a life there. I want to do that here was well.

Denmark

*No original names were used.

Currently writing from a small Danish village just outside of Aarhus where I’m visiting some of my oldest friends. I met up with Anna, my best friend from South Africa, in Copenhagen and we took a bus to her hometown where I will be spending the next 6 weeks with her parents.

I enjoyed spending time with her and her boyfriend. They are an easy couple to hang out with. I planned on studying the first day, but having them watch a movie and the cat relaxing in the sun mixed with my holiday mood and sleepiness didn’t put me in a very productive work mood. Watching Shrek on the couch seemed much better. I tried diligently to focus on my studies, though. Anna and her bf left late that afternoon and it was only me and Lena, Anna’s mum, at home that evening.

It was a nice quiet evening with the fire crackling merely in the corner. Their home is a cozy place with a fire on the one side and a piano in the corner. Today the home was filled with lovely classical music, because Paul, Lena’s husband, was home.

The sun only rises at 8:30, long after Lena leaves for work. The sunrise creates pink clouds allow the dark pine trees to create dark silhouettes against the early morning sky. I worked for a while in the silent house and then decided to cycle to the store. I was lucky, just as I attempted and failed to mount the bicycle (for 5 or 10 whole minutes!) Paul came home and adjusted the seat for my height. I hadn’t been on a bicycle in 4 years and couldn’t believe that I was now riding one in the Scandinavian winter!

Today would be day 3. I have my studies here, so I am working, got some momentum going while also experiencing a new culture and exploring the tiny harbor town in which they live along with the forest next to their home. Just before lunch I looked up and spotted an animal in the garden. At first I thought it might be a dog, but then I realized it might be something else. I walked to the study and asked Paul about it. It was a deer, the first ever deer I’d seen! He came to the living area where there were big windows and explained to me which kind of deer it was pointing out the fur on the horns.

That afternoon Paul and I walked to the store in town and home again. It took almost 2hours, but I enjoyed it. He gave me some pointers, showing me the way to the store, explaining where I could find different stuff in town. The scenery was lovely, I am not use to pine trees, wooden homes or any of it, really. So, for me just going to the store is an experience and everything made an impact.

I’m currently listening to some Laurika Rauch music from South Africa. Such a weird combination, but seeing as I met my Danish friends in South Africa the two cultures seem to go together in my mind. Kurt Darren makes me giggle now, I grew up on his music in a way and listening to it now, it seems so South African. Some of the songs take me back, back to dancing in South Africa or days spent in the kitchen in Bloemfontein.

My 30min muffin recipe took almost 5 hours today. I struggled to get on the bicycle again today (second time cycling). I rode the bike into a bush and then into tree – thankfully not breaking it but laughing myself silly. The phrase “it’s just like riding a bike” got a new perspective, because cycling isn’t all that easy! Once I was on I was fine, it’s the starting that I struggle with. I went to the store, found an English speaking lady, bought everything I needed for the muffins and I’m cooking dinner tomorrow evening, so I bought everything I needed for that as well.

Got home and started on the muffins, realized i needed cream, but decided to mix the rest of the ingredients to make sure i had everything, which turned to be a good idea. I had purchased gluten free oats, not gluten-free flour that morning. Somehow, I went to the store 3 times today! but I now have muffins and dinner and next time it will go much quicker, cause I’m also learning to navigate the new store.

After leaving the store I thought I’d take a quick exploratory cycle. It was beautiful, I didn’t go all the way to the next village, but I could see it lying next to the bay in the distance. After a while I came back home and finally got the muffins in the oven!

The house feels strangely quiet tonight, I’m home alone. Paul headed North this morning and Lena is working late, so I’m all home alone, except that I’m not “home”, this is still only a house to me. I know it’ll change soon enough though. The cat kept me company tonight, purring while I read Wild.

It’s Friday today and this evening I cooked traditional South African meal, Bobotie, using my mum’s old Kook en Geniet recipe book that I have here with me. It took longer than anticipated, but it came out delicious. I had a headache most of the day, though. The Kook en Geniet had been in our old home in South Africa, a friend of mine in Bloemfontein, Jade, went to pick it up and gave it to Lena who packed it in while they were visiting South Africa and then I finally got it when I arrived in Denmark…

The weekend passed quietly and quickly, it’s a new week today, feels odd starting a week on Monday again. I’ve been adjusted to the mid-eastern culture of having my week Sunday to Thursday. I got through more work than I anticipated this morning, so I took the bicycle to town to explore. It was a nice afternoon in the tiny town. I wasn’t sure of my way, so pushed the bicycle along, leaving it in front of the various shops I went into.

Every shop had a little bell that tinkled when I went in and out. I bought some souvenirs, but not much. I also found boots at the vintage clothing store. This would be the first time I bought something from a vintage store.

I’m rather tired tonight, everything around me provides such a great impact. Going to town is an experience, everything takes more than I expect it to. Lena is cooking dinner tonight, soup I think. I made chicken last night and the left overs will last me through out this week for lunches. Really convenient in my mind.

Every evening I help lay the table, we have a family style meal together and then Paul and Lena would watch handball, . I didn’t really get into the game while I was here, but they seem to enjoy it. I have tried to watch it, sitting on the couch with them and the cat. The match in which Qatar won against Germany was the only one I truly watched and followed.

The weather is great, I am told. The wind is quiet and the temperature is around 6C, today there was actually sunlight, not just daylight. It was dry outside so Paul suggested I open my bedroom windows to allow some fresh air to come in. Other days it’s damp and an open window wouldn’t be the best idea.

Yesterday was Wednesday, 25 January, exactly 2 weeks since I got on the plane to Denmark. Anna came to visit and we went cycling together. I fell behind pretty quickly, but I was doing it (reminding myself of Monica in FRIENDS). We went for some Irish coffee and then returned home to study.

That evening Lena and I went to this informal choir singing at Sostrup Slot, an old castle. It reminded me very much of some scenes from the film As It Is In Heaven. You don’t have to be good at singing, but you can go and sing just for the fun of it. I haven’t sung in years, although in high school I was in the choir. The songs were beautiful and I had fun singing them.

Studying is a big part of my days. I am working on 3 major assignments while I’m here, the first one is about controversial adverts. The sunset is 16:30 at the moment, so I try to go out before sunset, not wanting to get lost without light. Today I went cycling through the forest and without realizing it I went much further than intended.

I enjoyed the scenery cycling still further away from home, suddenly my phone rang. It was Hano, Anna’s brother, calling about something he needed from home. It was really good he called, it made me turn around sooner then I intended and only then did I realize how far I had come and also that I wasn’t entirely sure which road would take me home. I ended up cycling passed the shortcut home and found Netto, the supermarket. Once I found Netto I knew how to get home the long way, though. I followed the tar road and was really glad to find my way on it. My little exploration was almost 90min maybe 2hours. It was beautiful though and my legs are getting stronger.

I took the bus to Aarhus on Friday afternoon, Anna picked me up and we went to get some Arabic food for dinner. The decent kind, better than those I’ve found in Dubai until now, ironically! Saturday morning Anna was working, so I explored Aarhus, saw almost everything the city had to offer. The city center is a small area, but nice there. I enjoyed walking around Stroget and the Latin quarter along with the other major tourist attractions.

Anna and I had arranged to meet up later for dinner. It had started getting rather cold and dark, so I had taken refuge in a pizza place waiting for her to finish her shift. I sat there reading Wild until the manager came to ask me to just move to the bar, seeing as the place was getting busy and I was only having a drink at a table for four… Soon after that I got a text and we went for dinner having traditional Danish food at a street food market which offered almost anything, including a booth for Grilled Cheese, which puzzled both of us, because it wasn’t connected to a country in anyway.

Anna and I walked around town Sunday morning after a late breakfast, but almost everything was closed. She showed me the campus and the harbor along with other parts of the city I hadn’t gone to the previous day. I took a bus back to Lena and Paul’s place early in the afternoon. It had been a good weekend, watching FRIENDS with Anna, hanging out and exploring the city alone and together.

I got home to find Lena had done laundry and sorted through all my socks, so nice. She thanked me for vacuuming before leaving. I had thought about studying in a different country, perhaps Thailand, but I don’t know how it would be without knowing people and being unable to speak the language. It’s nice, studying abroad in a way, but also having people I know here… Waiting for Anna, talking to Lena, walking with Paul – it all adds and you have somebody to help you navigate the new place.

This morning, 31 Jan, I read something about which character is the worst FRIENDS character. You could find something wrong with all of them if you wanted, but I guess that that’s the reason why the show is loved. People love the idea that they can be loved and have friends, despite being imperfect.

Walking around the tiny town yesterday I found my way around very easily. I have been to town quite a few times, but yesterday I took a left turn and found some connecting streets. I could hear Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls saying “you take 3 left turns and you’re back in the center of town!” It’s almost impossible to get lost here, though I have.

Despite the friendliness of everybody around me, I felt a little home sick the other evening. I had just returned from Aarhus, but I hadn’t come “home” I had come to Lena and Paul’s home. I missed my home somehow, but then again this place does feel like home in a way. I have been so welcome here.

I cooked dinner last night, chicken stew, Hano and a friend joined me and Lena. Today I studied pages of history, war atrocities and hatred, xenophobia. The whole day I was thinking about President Trump and the history of sovereign leaders. I decided to have lunch in town far away from my books to give my mind a break. So I took the bicycle (which I can now ride with confidence!) and went to a cafe for lunch. The waiter spoke English and I enjoyed myself my listening to an audio book which snacking on some nachos. After coming home I turned on the dishwasher and the laundry machine.

The town is a beautiful place, little shops line the cobblestone streets, wood and white paint make up many of the places, the church is tiny, but picturesque. The bell tower rising high into the grey sky with a large tree on the right hand side. I approached the front door, but found it shut. A side door was open and I entered. The place was very quiet, and I wondered if it was still in use. I knelt down and prayed. Cycling back was freezing, but beautiful.

On the way home I pass tall pine trees just like in the postcard pictures. There are no streetlights here, so when I went to put out the trash, the whole world was dark and completely silent. I’ve become so use to lights and distant sounds, it seemed odd to walk outside and find myself in pitch black. I liked it though.

I was surprised on Friday to realize that it an entire week had passed since I’d taken the buss to visit Anna. Lena and I drove to Aarhus on Saturday morning to visit Hano for brunch and Anna joined us.

Lena, Anna and I spent the day in Aarhus. We walked passed the music hall and they decided to pass through it so I could see the very nice building. Upon arriving we found that a free flute concert would be taking place and decided to stay. The music, felt a little chaotic with most pieces seeming un-harmonic, but I would see that it was good and beautiful even if it wasn’t my taste or beyond my current comprehension.

Our late lunch or very early dinner comprised yet again of street food. According to Anna these street food markets are rather popular in Denmark. I was rather happy when we walked passed a building which I recognized as the main train station and I suddenly recognized where I was. I knew if we turned left we would find Stroget and the churches. Having a sense of direction was great.

It was a misty day, Lena and I drove home in dense mist. The street lamps and traffic lights all creating weird shadowy effects. Creating halos and shimmering strangely in the cold night. I was happy to reach home, the road had been odd, unable to see more than a few meters ahead.

Weekend mornings we have breakfast together around 9am. The table is laid with jam and cheese and bread and butter and juice and coffee and boiled eggs and salt and pepper and salami and fig roll and milk. It’s nice to have a family style breakfast with them, it’s lovely to be this included.

Yesterday, Sunday 5 February, I went cycling after breakfast and saw a group of deer. I made such a racket when getting off the bicycle to take a picture that when I looked up they vanished in the few seconds I located my phone’s camera. Being in a place with deer along the way is something though.

It started snowing and I went for a walk in the flurry this afternoon, I felt like I was walking in a snow globe, the white snow falling against the towering pine trees. I was so fascinated by the snow I took extra long walking to town. It was the first time I actually focused on a snow flake, I’d never before realized they actually do make those spiky beautiful patterns, it’s not just Disney’s idea of how a snow flake looks.

This morning the air looked restless, snow swirling around everywhere. Dusting the un-moving pine trees temporarily. Lena had told me to keep the fire going it was -1 outside with the added chill factor of the wind which Paul said could make it feel like -15!

I’m having left over mac and cheese for lunch, made it for dinner last night. Lena had never had it before and I made the Jamie Oliver version of it. I Skyped with a South African friend last night while cooking. It was nice to catch up. I also Skyped with Jade which was fun, Paul knows her and the three of us spent a few minutes on Skype together. I am not addicted to social media, but it is so relevant for my current lifestyle. Without it I would have very little contact with many of the people in my life.

The ground is just dusted with a thin layer of snow at the moment, the wind making a soft sound as it moves through the trees and my study books are looking accusingly at me while I watch FRIENDS and ignore my assignment.

The snow has persisted and now a thin layer has formed on the ground. The whole world has turned white around me. I keep staring at the flakes on my sleeves, they all seem so beautiful. Today I had to force myself to actually keep walking to the store, not just stand around and look at the flakes. I had to keep walking so I would not freeze and make it home before sunset when the temperature would drop and the light would fade. The daylight hours have now increased by almost 2 hours in the past month. Yes, I have been here an entire month!

I completed Wild and now I am in need of a new book. I really enjoyed the book, but while reading it I started having some serious doubts about hiking the PCT or the Camino de Santiago. The idea of hiking a serious distance has intrigued me for quite some time. The book just shone some light on the reality of the pain.

Thursday, 9 February, the snow had made a nice white layer covering everything. Paul suggested some preventative snow shoveling. This was something I’ve never done before, neither had I ever seen it. I put on my snow boots, Paul handed me some gloves and a broom, he took the shovel. After a while we switched, clearing the driveway so Lena could get home later. I fell in the snow and later slipped on the ice, thus achieving two cold weather blunders in the same day. Good plan.

My studies aren’t going as well as I hoped. I am working everyday, but my current business assignment is some of the hardest stuff I’ve yet to do. Part of the problem is that my textbook was more than a month late, so I haven’t covered all the work. This meant that I was rather pleased when it was weekend.

Currently sitting on the back porch at home, the sky is a clear blue, the wind rather chilly and the snow is covering most of the grass leaving patches of green. The sun coming through while there is still snow creates a beautiful light.

I spent the weekend in Aarhus with Anna. We had a good time and I replaced my lost gloves with lovely new red leather gloves. This would be the last weekend I would be visiting her. My time here is running out and seeming to not move at the same time.

I was sitting outside writing this and my hands became so cold that the laptop’s touchpad couldn’t register my touch! Have now relocated and am sitting inside with the cat and the fire, much better.

Today, Sunday, I spent some time in Aarhus. I really wanted to visit Marselisborg, but couldn’t manage it. Firstly it was so cold I wasn’t sure if it would be wise to go to a park, then I got lost, after that I couldn’t find the bus stop which would take me to Marselisborg. Finally I got Chinese take-out and hopped on the bus home, Lena picked me up at the bus station. She had also dropped me off there the previous day. I really appreciate their kindness.

Before taking me to the bus stop Saturday morning Lena took some pictures of me in the snow. We had our leisurely breakfast at the table, the cat seemed unable to decide whether it wanted to be inside or outside or if it might just be hungry. Lena took her phone and we went into the backyard so I could have some snow photos. She was right, when I returned the next day much of it had vanished.

I got back to Lena and Paul’s home this afternoon and went for a walk to the store. I walk this path almost daily, some times cycling it. It’s a small, but level, dirt track that runs through the forest to the one direction and through trees and past homes in the direction of the Netto store. I love walking to the store. You can hear the wind rustling through the trees and the birds singing. I haven’t been on the bicycle since the snow, I’m shaky enough walking on snow and driving a cycle on dry ground, but I didn’t want to combine ice and cycling just yet.

As I was walking to Netto I passed a dad and his two young sons. The one son, probably 9years old, was holding an axe and chopping wood. I can’t remember ever seeing somebody chop something, I have no memories of people holding axes and here was this little boy learning to chop fire wood.

This morning I woke to find the whole world white. Everything was covered with frost. The birds were singing. Paul and I walked to the store yesterday afternoon and I picked up some stuff for dinner. He pointed out some of the birds to me, with the temperatures rising the birds are coming back.

I made a Jamie Oliver salad for dinner and started on my new book, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. I’ve never even heard of this author, but the girl at the store loves Lord of the Rings and she recommended this… So, I’m hoping to fall in love with the new story and new characters.

2 weeks ago as Lena and I were driving to have brunch at Hano’s she mentioned something about having a dinner on Saturday, the 18th. It took me over a week to realize that it was in fact a dinner to celebrate my birthday! Every body would be coming home, cause I was here.

Anna arrived Friday afternoon and on Saturday everybody else was here. Lena baked me a traditional Danish birthday “Troll” made from cinnamon rolls. I’d seen her serve it many times in South Africa whenever there was a birthday. I received my first batch of birthday presents in the form of Licorice and chocolate for bread that afternoon.

Paul cooked delicious lamb for dinner and they sang the Danish version of happy birthday for me. I received my second batch of presents which included some nice socks, marzipan chocolate and a cute sign. I felt rather silly when my “melk tert” (milk tart), a traditional South African dessert, ended up with most of the filling on the floor. Luckily the rest was still relatively edible. It was one of my favorite birthdays, having the whole family here was so nice. I also got a chance to meet Hano’s girlfriend.

My time is suddenly running out very quickly, it’s Sunday evening as I’m writing this and next Saturday I will be on a plane leaving all this behind me. I was thinking back over the past year earlier. I spent Summer in New York, the fall in London and winter in Denmark. Quite curious about where I will be in Spring! Although I do have a rather nice home in Ras Al Khaimah as well.

I’m not sure how much I’m going to see of the town this week, my last week. I have to catch up with my studies. Due to many things, I’m behind on my reading, so hoping that once I catch up with that my assignment will automatically become easier. I’d rather miss out on a few days in Denmark than have to repeat this subject later this year. Really hoping to see Anna one last time this week.

The sunset rise and sunset times have changed drastically since I’ve arrived. The temperature is now in the plus degrees sometimes. The sunset use to be around 16pm and today it will be 17:26, which means I can go for a walk much later. I use to be uncertain about the time when I woke up not sure if it was still midnight or if it was morning and only dark outside. Now around 7am there’s a faint light when I look out the window.

As an aside, on the way to Aarhus, there is a field of Christmas trees. They have been chopped down, but the bottom parts are still there.

Wednesday evening me and Lena went to sing in the choir again, she even tipped off the director that it was my official birthday and the whole choir sang for me! I saw Anna for the last time Thursday, 23 Feb. It was sad in a non-tearful way to say bye. We went to a bookstore and I finally found The Perks of Being a Wallflower (incredible book btw). I got onto the bus and Anna stood next to my window in the snow waving at me till the bus left – one of my favorite memories.

Friday morning I packed my bags and that afternoon Paul and I walked to the village again, I decided to take one last stroll through the town, bought one last souvenir in the form of a powder blue thin sweater which I can also wear at home. I gave them a small farewell gift and thanked them for everything.

Suddenly it was Saturday 25 February, a day that had seemed so far away when I started planning this trip and it had seemed like a decent amount of time when I bought the plane tickets, but now I was sorry to leave, ready, but sorry. I went for a final walk through the forest, remembering it in the snow and re-seeing it in the morning light and enjoying it for a last time.

Lena and Paul drove me to the bus, I opened my book and started reading. I had said goodbye to Denmark that morning and was ready to fall into a fictional world until I reached home. I finished the book in the taxi on my way home. “Well, I’m back” [Sam] said – Lord of the Rings.

Copenhagen 2017

11 Jan – Arrival

Got into Copenhagen tonight. By 22h I was at the hostel and in bed. The only other occupant of the room was an elderly man who just kept staring at me. I unpacked my whistle and put it under my pillow, while a new girl entered the room. Later that evening 3 Irish girls came in to get ready for a night out clubbing. I finally fell asleep, but by 4:30 that morning the Irish girls returned. They came back waking up the entire dorm, not bothering to try and keep it down. One of them got into bed with her boyfriend in the bed just under mine. She was so stoned (to use her own words) that she just kept laughing and talking for quite a long time. The next morning I thought I’d handle it, ask them to keep it down and learn to cope. But as I sat on my bunk bed that evening hearing them plan their next excursion even after promising to keep it down I could hear that they didn’t comprehend or remember the racket they had made. I quite reluctantly went down to the reception and asked for a different room. This one was miraculously quiet, I got an entire night of really good sleep there.

The first day I had been so tired due to jetlag and the interrupted night so I wasn’t sure it really counted. I started my first day with buying a Danish sim card before going to find Rosenborg Castel, but I got there too early. Deciding that walking around would be nice I found an almost deserted café. Two really friendly Danish guys were working there and I chatted with them about the city, about what to do. They mentioned the same neighborhoods as my Danish friends had, but I was still interesting to talk to them and get their take on the city.

Rosenborg Castle was nice, but small. The whole city was smaller than I had anticipated actually. I walked from Rosenborg to Nyhavn. On my way I passed a department store, Magasin du Nord, which I had planned to find the next day. I also walked through/ passed some of the other stuff I had planned and thought would take much more time. It was nice to glimpse inside, but I didn’t spend much time there.

Nyhavn was pretty with all the different colored buildings, but it was so cold I didn’t spend much time outside. I ducked into a little café/ bar and ordered a drink just hiding from the cold for a little while. I liked the music they played.

I was fascinated by everybody on bicycles, and I do mean everybody. The other thing that I enjoyed was how friendly everybody was I don’t think even one person was even a little rude to me. The Danish accent pronounces things very differently so I had so trouble pronouncing the names of the places I wanted to see. Once people knew where I was headed they would always help me.

One morning I had butter chicken for breakfast. This was kind of accidentally, I had purchased food and I just picked up the top box and heated it. I found it rather weird to eat spicy food that early in the morning though, but at least I was full for the day. A few years ago I wouldn’t have understood the idea of a kitchen while travelling, why eat what your use to if you travel? Now I get it, it simplifies things, it helps you, having even one part of your life feel a little stable helps when you travel. Finding that cute non-touristed café takes time and the food might not be to your liking.

This day I also went to the Little Mermaid statue. Having heard that she was small I wasn’t disappointed, but it’s a pity there’s nothing else near her. It takes almost 30min to reach the statue and then you have to get back to the city center. She is pretty though, sitting there on her rock in the ocean with the boats in the background.

After seeing the little mermaid I decided to go and climb a tower, as I have done in every European city I have visited till now. I arrived too early for the tower at Christiansborg along with some other early tourists. A girl from Holland, Eva, asked me to take her picture and we ended up hanging out that morning. We climbed the tower together and were then heading in the same direction. After walking up the spiral tower together we spit up and I went to have lunch somewhere.

I was so cold and so tired that I went back to the hostel by 14h. It’s a nice place to just hang out in. I did my laundry, Skyped with Mum, met a guy from London, washed my hair and read my book until it was finally time for dinner. The sunsets at 4pm, which is so deceptive to my perception of time, to me sunset means it’s almost dinner time…

That evening I remembered watching What a Girl Wants years back and asking Mum what “jetlag” means. We had never travelled and I didn’t know the concept at all. Mum tried to explain it, but didn’t really know it either. Now I am very familiar with jetlag and the idea of eating “normal” food.

Cheese and change

Cheeses, still eating many different types.

I’ve learned that soft goat cheese goes really well with spinach.

I love mozzarella and tomato salad, adding some basil makes it perfect.

I learned that taking the cheese out of the fridge 30 minutes before eating will improve the taste tremendously.

I’ve learned…
I’ve changed…

A few years ago I blogged that I would not return to Dubai Mall, that I did not like Moroccan baths. I did not like fish, I’d never eaten duck. Because I had never done it I didn’t like it, but I also didn’t know it.

Now I shop at the mall weekly, I love being scrubbed by a Moroccan lady in a steam filled room and I argue with fish sellers about the freshness of the fish based on the color or the eyes and gills. I’ve ordered duck at a Chinese restaurant and will be cooking one for the first time this weekend.

Many things I use to think are weird or unapproachable are now part of my norm.

Never say never.

Moving

After a lot of searching we found a lovely, though very large, apartment 40minutes outside Dubai in a place called Ras Al Khaimah (RAK). We’ve only been here once and it’s more of a village than a city, much more traditional. The place is smaller, the prices are lower and the culture is stronger.

It was sad to leave Dubai in a way, but I guess that’s good. How horrid would it be to leave a place after living there for four years and not feel sad? I packed for Denmark, while I was still able to locate all my clothes, put most of my cupboards contents into 2 suitcases and left the rest for the movers.

The day of the move was as my one Indian friend put it “tedious”, but by 8pm on 26 December we were in the new apartment, almost forgetting about holidays and Christmas and all of it. 27 December I was up by 5am and unpacking like craze, 8 hours later I had a room well, something resembling a room and the bathroom boxes had been located. Score!

I had been pleasantly surprised the previous evening when one of the movers called me to the front door, the neighbors had come to say hi and introduce themselves. This was a very different building culture than the one we had lived in in Dubai, there I knew of the neighbors, but we never truly spoke…

Packing up in South Africa had been a mission, going through the accumulated things of 20years in a large house had taken so much time. Our Dubai home had been rather small, in a cozy way, there just wasn’t space (or time) to hoard up that much stuff. I threw out some obsolete things, but most of my belongings came with me.

Yesterday was New Year’s Eve. The strange things was that the whole country around me was still working and shopping and moving on, even on Christmas day everything kept going. I’m living in a Muslim country… Anyway, we bought a stove and I was waiting for it to be delivered, so when I opened the door to find a man with a strong Scottish accent standing there I was rather surprised. He was inviting me and Mum to an open house to celebrate the New Year. He was our downstairs neighbor (p.s. the stove has not arrived yet).

We arrived at their apartment and the door was opened by the same man, now wearing a kilt, accompanied by his wife wearing a tinsel Alice band saying Happy New Year on it. Later all the guests were given some of these. It was a nice evening.

Our Dubai apartment had provided the laundry machine, the dishwasher and the stove. These at least the laundry machine and the stove were priorities in the new apartment. I had prepared food, bought some microwavable boxes and packed to frozen take-aways to take us through the first week, which turned out to be a brilliant idea. I forgot how tired moving makes me.

Yesterday for lunch we finished the last of this food and the kitchen was now ready to be used, I made a lovely roast chicken for dinner. The kitchen’s windows, along with all the other windows, looks out over the sea. You can hear the waves crashing down on the sand if you open the windows.

I had unpacked the kitchen almost by accident. I had heard this thing that you should unpack at least one box every day. So by moving an old study desk into the kitchen to create some more space I had thought I’d just see how much of one the box’s contents I could pack into the seemingly small kitchen. To my total surprise I suddenly found a place for everything, all the boxes were unpacked within a few hours. I felt like Billy Crystal in City Slickers, “look what I made! I made a [kitchen]!” I baked some muffins and this gave me a really good feeling of where everything was.

change

Moving. We are moving to a new apartment 40min from Dubai in a “village” called Ras al Khaimah. I’m all packed and ready to go, but the move got delayed. Feels rather strange living out of a suitcase in my own room. I demolished my shower yesterday and I have no idea where my pens are. Busy working on an assignment in communication studies, hoping the fact that my “group members” are fictional is not that obvious!

Moving to a new city reminded me of when I moved to Dubai, I was so determined to go back to South Africa right after Dubai I didn’t give any thought to the idea that living leads to change. Now I don’t really want to go back, but I also don’t want to rule it out. I guess we should never make harsh statements. Moving to Dubai changed my perspective and what once seemed logical now seems like one of many possibilities.

I’m visiting Denmark in January and it’s getting really exciting. I’ve packed for Denmark while I was able to locate all my clothes, so that’s ready at least. Meeting up with one of my oldest and closest friends in Copenhagen, like we always said we would when we were kids. Old dreams turning into realities.

Exhausted. Working the entire weekend. Skipping Christmas till I have time for it.

Life-changing London

Taking the Piccadilly line from Heathrow to Gloucester road I found my way without trouble. I stashed my bag in the luggage room and then went on to explore the city. Kensington Gardens were nearby so I went there. It was Halloween and the city had a strange feeling, as it does every year. I had never seen Kensington when it wasn’t raining or wet or grey cloudy skies. Today the sky was blue and there were people sitting on the grass as they had done in the summer in Central Park, New York.

Back at the hostel I was just organizing my stuff while the eastern lady skyped when a young man entered. He had a strong accent which I couldn’t place. By 7pm that evening the 3 of us turned off the lights and just collapsed. I was unaware of the rest of the occupants entering, but I woke to find a European girl in the bed above mine and two teen agers in the beds at my feet. I had slept for 11 hours straight.

I left early to go and see the Peter Pan statue in the early morning light. The park was beautiful, soft and fair. In front of Peter there is a small river, the ducks were sitting on the wooden poles trying to warm up by the feeble light of the sun.

By 10am I was in front of the Harry Potter theatre. I stumbled upon it accidentally and then rather to my own surprise was able to purchase tickets to the Cursed Child’s play for the following day. I also went to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant across from St. Paul’s. The food was delicious, but overpriced. The pricing seems schematic though, the place was filled with business reps and CEO’s, and it was stylish and edgy. I also visited Borough Market. A favorite for food lovers, where I purchased cheese for a Jamie recipe and some pies for dinner. At the cheese sellers the gentleman offered me two kinds of parmesan to taste and I took the one with the stronger taste. There was an entire stall selling only olive oil. I never imagined that so many kinds of olive oils existed.

That evening I hung out in the room and got acquainted with Raul, the young man from the previous night. He was apparently Spanish, I’d never met anybody from Spain, but I liked the music he played and he was surprised at my superpower of listening to music in a foreign language and knowing almost instantly what the song spoke about. Sometimes I wonder why God gave me this gift.

The second morning my jetlag had me up nice and early. I went down put on the laundry got back in bed, an hour later I got up again and moved the clothes to the dryer. My right arm was really cold. The lady sleeping above me had opened the window and I had fallen asleep under the draft. The fresh air was really necessary though, in a room with 6 people.

While the clothes were drying I went for breakfast and Skyped with Mum. Today was the Harry Potter day. I would see Part 1 at 14:00 and part 2 at 19:30. In between there was a little gap, I spent quite some time calculating the amount of time I would have, trying to work out if there would be time to go back to the hostel and have dinner. Perhaps I should just hang out near the theater and have dinner there? My mind spun aimlessly. The show began and I focused. It ended with the dementors swooping over the entire audience and had me leaving the theatre feeling elated, but rather ominous. I took the tube to the hostel, I had time to shower and nap before going to get dinner. Raul had been in the room and he joined me for dinner.

I still can’t believe I got to see that play on stage. I had thought it would close down before I got to London and then when I realized it was still on I checked the ticket prices online and read about one person who had spent $10,000 on a ticket. This just made it seem like I wouldn’t be able to see it, then I accidentally found the theatre and almost instantly purchased ticket for 40 pounds in total!

Now I can’t remember everything chronologically, so this is more like tit-bits or things that happened.

I had to move to a new hostel for one night. I can say that in comparison to the first this one was not that nice. The mattress was rather lumpy and in a room with 12 beds there was only one shower.

It felt a little like a movie walking over the Westminster Bridge with St. Paul’s to the left and Big Ben right in front of me accompanied by the Spanish guy. Completely blank on what I did today. Think I went to Piccadilly yeah, wait no, first Leicester square, but the cheap Les Miserable tickets were sold out. Yeah, then Piccadilly and then I’m blank.

I have read Sherlock Holmes now and I love the series with Cumberbatch. Actually knowing the story made me want to visit 221B Baker Street and see the museum there. I rather enjoyed it here. But I don’t think I’ll ever want to visit a wax museum. They have a collection on the third floor of the apartment, famous scenes from the books. It’s a tad creepy having something look so alive without being alive.

That afternoon I was frozen. It was raining in London and icy cold. I didn’t have a room yet, check in time was later. I ended up going to the movies. I went to see A Street Cat Named Bob even though I had never heard of it. I loved it, the whole movie was sweet, but gripping, nothing silly or pink about it. A strong story.

The following morning I walked down the South Bank. There was a skate park with great street art. Some guy was playing Amazing Grace on bagpipes. A little distance away someone was playing Hallelujah on a violin. It was really pretty just walking there.

One day in the tube station I found a man with a Yamaha keyboard singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” a favorite of mine. As his voice echoes in the long hallway I vividly remembered the last time I had heard the song. A small clearing in a group of green trees in New York City came to my mind. Strawberry Fields in Central Park where Beatles music is played almost continually.

Here’s where I met Mo. I walked to the train and met an Algerian guy who offered to take me to Kingston, he showed me a picture I thought it looked cool and so somehow I ended up on a train with him. It was gorgeous. My South African mind kept an eye out, there were people around the whole time, he never touched my drink, I opened my own drink, and we weren’t going into a quiet place. The other part of my mind was fascinated by the beauty of the place. After a late lunch of spicy chicken I took the train back. I rather enjoyed this afternoon, but I still can’t see why it happened. We spoke of nothing of great importance, we didn’t do anything big, except that I saw something beautiful.

On my way home I really wanted to use the restroom. I had no cash, I do have a credit card, I mean no cash and to use the restroom you have to pay 20pennies… As I walked by the change machine 20p suddenly fell out of the slot and nobody was there to claim it, so I got it…

Columbia Road Flower Market is one of my favorite spots in London. It only opens on Sundays, stalls appear and people bring and buy flowers, and bulbs and plans. Loud voices fill the air and Cockney accents call out as the vendors advertise their products. Me and Mum came early and enjoyed the atmosphere.

I had read about another market, Brick Lane Market. After the flower market I thought I would go there, trouble was I had no idea where it was. At the bus stop I had a strong feeling I might be very near it, so I started asking around. Yes, say an Asian girl, it’s only 10min from here. I greeted mum and went to the market.

It was fascinating. I found a vintage stall selling real 1918 cups and saucers, there was vintage clothes and fake art and jewelry. Leather jackets and silver along with junk. All these stalls filled up this little old street. I liked walking up this street, buying a little silver ring and then I walked down an alley into a small parking lot and found street art more beautiful then I’d seen before. Faces were painted on garage doors. The size helped to show the beauty.

Different artists had worked together in this small space, you could see them answering each other’s work. The artists had enormous talent, but their work wasn’t paid or seen, it was hidden away in a place where the homeless sleep at night. I asked directions to the tube station or bus stop, any way to get home. This was when somebody told me that Jack the Ripper had lived in Brick Lane!

I met Mum at Trafalgar Square and we went to have lunch at a pub type place before going back to the hotel. I had some kind of salad and still wanted to review the place, but of course, the next day I couldn’t remember the name.

Oh, sometime in the past few days I went to see The Lion King on stage. Our hotel was 5min from the theater and it seemed silly to watch it another night, when I was so close now. I liked the addition of “He Lives in You” which was in the second movie, but I liked hearing it on stage.

Raul had never been to the theater, I loved going to Les Miserable. I invited him and so today I set out to buy the cheap seats before they sold out. These tickets can only be bought on the day and there’s a limited amount of cheap seats so it’s good to get there when they unlock the doors. These aren’t bad seats either, they’re just higher up, but still have a good view of the stage.

One afternoon on my way home I got off the tube and was trying to transfer to another train to get home. A station official was telling everybody to get out. The train wasn’t working, as I left the station a police officer came running in. I started jogging feeling unsure, suddenly I heard a helicopter approaching the station and 2 police vans passed me. A bomb? A terrorist? A gunman? Theories chased themselves through my mind and I tried to get my way home.

Later on mum told me that it had been somebody who was injured. The helicopter had been an ambulance and the train service was stopped until they had rescued the person. No attackers, but an injured human. How horrid it is to live in a world where bombs are the first thing to come to mind.

A mentally disabled man told me which bus to take and I found my way home very easily. When I got off the bus I went into a tiny, very quiet pub. There was only one other occupied table, a young man with orange hair and his boyfriend who had bleached blond hair and great make-up, were having lunch with an elderly gentleman who was wearing a button-up shirt. The elderly gentleman was the father of the orange-headed young man. I found it really beautiful that all three of them wanted to have lunch together.

On one of my days in London I met Mum at Harrods for tea and scones with clotted cream. Quite an interesting store. The British version of what Macy’s use to be in New York. The scones with cream were really good and I understood why it was a famous British thing to have this with tea.

I really wanted to go to a viewpoint I had heard about, I told Raul and he said he knew the way. I met him in Camden and we walked up to Primrose hill, the entire London stretched out in front of me. St. Paul’s, the London Eye, you could see everything from that hill. It was beautiful.

I had managed to get a ticket to Ian McKellen’s version of No Man’s Land. If you had told me back in South Africa that I would be seeing the actor who played Gandalf on stage so close to me I could probably have touched him if I tried, I would have said its craze. The play itself was strange, it’s an absurdist piece, but I felt I could understand parts of it.

I read about Brixton market, and so I set off to find it one mid-morning. Found the best spicy chicken there. It’s influenced strongly by Afro-Caribbean culture. It’s got a great food selection, fresh fish and veggies. I passed butcher stands with heaps of tongues and calves feet. You could buy almost part of an animal there. Chickens hung from hooks still with their paws and heads. You could buy small buckets of chilies.

Me and Mum went to see a stage play and then got on the train home with a group of really drunk Scottish high school boys. I had spotted many Scottish men in the streets today wearing kilts. I went to ask one of the boys why there were so many Scottish people in London today. It’s because of the football he told me. Right, sport, ok. One of them was holding a glass of bear on the tube. How he had walked away from the pub and onto the train while holding a glass I have no idea.

A man who seemed to be the father of at least one of the boys was treating the compartment like a pub, talking to everybody. By the time they had to get off the train he greeted everybody. I enjoyed them, drunk and silly, but happy.

Mum took me for a walk down Fleet Street. There was a store called the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I remembered the cover of the Johnny Depp movie. Never had I thought that it was a real street, but I ahd also never watched the film. We passed many fascinating building and went into the Royal Courts of Justice for a moment. Mum also took me to see the Knights Temple Church. Incredible that it exists and is still standing.

On my last day the weather was beautiful and dry. I met Raul and we bought some food from Tesco and went to have a picnic in Kensington Gardens. The next morning I was on a plane to Dubai. While I was in London my life in Dubai seemed surreal, and when I got back home London felt like a dream.

 

Social media

A while back I saw a picture on Facebook of a really lovely home with the caption “would you give up social media if you could live here?” I scrutinized the house. It was a lovely family place, the kind of home which deserves people enjoying it. I’m not addicted to social media, but giving up social media would be almost impossible unless I wanted to give up many of my friends.

My people are scattered across the globe. My people, not family or friends, but the collection of humans I care about don’t fit into that lovely family home, they are scattered. They exist in different cultures and languages, crossing time zones and oceans.

Most of my family is in South Africa, my American friends just relocated from Dubai to Mississippi. I have people in New York and India, some of my favorite people live in Denmark and the Philippines. The beautiful home in the picture on Facebook was meant for those who have most of their people near them. Must say I do love having such a diverse group of people in my life.