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Month: February, 2017

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.

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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.