Te Med Min Værtsmormor [Long Post]

I wrote this piece for my Travel Writing class and thought it had to be shared. I adored my time talking with my host Gramgram and I am certainly going to miss her as well as all of the wonderful friends and family I have met here.

A figurine of a woman wearing red boots and holding the hand of a young child sat in the window. According to Lisbeth, the woman in the sculpture represented herself, and the child could be interpreted as any of her grandchildren. Sometimes, it is hard for her to spend time with her little ones due to soreness or anything along those lines, however, she dons her metaphorical red boots and seizes the day.

The first time I met Lisbeth, we both kept our distance. My host mother, Marie, had invited her and her husband, Ole, to dinner and since the weather was nice, we all sat outside. Given that I had just come out of quarantine only two days prior, she wore her mask when she wasn’t eating, and Marie sat between us. However, we still exchanged polite conversations about my first impressions of Denmark and, of course, how lovely the weather was this time of year. Her voice was soft spoken and her words were carefully chosen when she spoke in English, but in Danish, her face lit up as she expressed her sentiments. Though their meanings were lost to me, her excitement and gentleness transcended our language barrier, and I admired her.

About two weeks later, Lisbeth and Ole invited the family to a dinner at their residence near the harbor. From their living room, I could watch the sea glisten in the sunlight. In little baskets around the room, unfinished knitting projects awaited completion. Olivia, my young host sister, insisted on giving me a tour of the place, from the upstairs where my host mother used to sleep, to where my host sister sleeps now, an attic turned into a nook in the highest point of the ceiling. My favorite room, however, was the sun room next to the yard where Lisbeth kept her projects. The hanging lights were cased with decorations woven from willow, and miniature projects lined the windowsill. In one corner of the room, a woven birdcage sat with a lonely, knitted bird inside. The goal, Lisbeth later informed me, was to fill the cage with knitted birds inspired from a photo book containing various species of birds. The room was filled with art, a handicrafter’s dream.

When I arrived at Lisbeth’s home for a chat, our first time meeting without the rest of the family, she greeted me with open arms and pulled me into a hug. Gesturing to the hooks, she helped me hang up my coat on wire hangers from the dry cleaners, which she decorated by sewing old embroidered pillowcases around them as covers, and offered me a pair of brownish-beige slippers from a basket by the door, which she knitted of course, to protect my stockings from snags. Unsure of the Danish custom for visiting someone’s home, I brought a mocha cake which she displayed on a porcelain cake dish next to a pot of mint tea brewed from herbs in her garden. In her dining room where we settled, the dining table was off-white with bright sky blue legs and chairs to match, and the windows facing the harbor flooded the room with light. Above the table hung a beautiful chandelier with elaborate designs and holders for candles, now replaced with led lights. 

We sipped our tea and chatted about our days and our weeks. She wore a teal dress with a green jacket and black nylons, which matched the leather accents of her jacket. An iridescent gem barrette held her hair in place. Every so often we sank into a silent lull as we processed our thoughts; I soaked in the room, from the flickering light from the tapers situated in the middle of the table and the delightful taste of the mocha cake to Lisbeth, who reminded me of my own late maternal grandmother whom I missed dearly.

At times, I stole glances at Lisbeth, and watched her as she sipped her tea, or sliced the cake, offering me a piece each time. We followed this ritual as I pieced together her story:

Born near Helsingør in 1951, Lisbeth’s parents, Holger and Ingrid, did not have much, but they at least had enough to get by. Her father worked as a gardener, sometimes in the cemetery and other times at the church to clean. Although her mother did not work outside the home, she assisted Lisbeth’s father whenever she could. 

At around age 16 or 17, Lisbeth worked as an assisting hand in a home for children who needed time away from their parents, and at age 18, she began her training to be a nurse at folk high school where she met her husband-to-be, Ole. When prompted to recount how they met, she gave a gentle smile. At the time, Ole had been studying to be an engineer and he was renting out a room at the folk high school and eventually they ran into one another and began going together. At age 21, Lisbeth finished her certification for nursing. Now, there was a Danish law which required all male citizens to perform civil service by either joining the military or serving in the Danish peace corps. Ole did not have any particular interest in serving in the military so he chose the peace corps instead. However, he could not bring Lisbeth along unless she was his spouse—thus, in December 1972. Or was it 1973? Lisbeth called to Ole who sat in the sunroom and the two worked out the years together. It was 1973, they confirmed, when the wedding bells rang for the young couple, and they left for Kenya in April 1974.

They spent two years in Kenya where they welcomed their first child, a bouncing baby girl who they named Marie, about a year before they returned to Denmark. Once Ole’s civil service was complete, he found a job in Viborg (at this moment, Lisbeth rose from the table to fetch a book of maps and pointed out Viborg to me), where the family settled down and had two more daughters named Christine and Lise in 1977 and 1980 respectively. During their time in Viborg, they lived in a farmhouse where they kept sheep, rabbits, and a dog. Lisbeth began working as a children’s nurse for the next twenty years, even after the family moved away from Viborg to Roskilde. 

Around the time she reached age 50, Lisbeth opted to become a community nurse, which she preferred the most since she no longer was required to work the night shift. As a community nurse, Lisbeth assisted new mothers with tasks such as breastfeeding, as well as visited a kindergarten about two to three times a week to teach the children about health and to make sure they were developing properly. Typically, the hospital would inform Lisbeth of a new mother in the area, and if the mother requested to receive the assistance, Lisbeth would bike to her home to meet her. In the kindergarten, in addition to monitoring the children’s growth, she would also check for signs of any mistreatment to ensure every child is safe, check in with parents whose child is overweight, and speak to children about drinking and smoking habits. However, she reflected, she found little success in the latter two tasks.

The crafting bug did not bite Lisbeth until after she retired from her nursing duties. At this point, her days were freed and open to new projects. One weekend, Lisbeth attended a course on basket weaving where she made her first basket and fell in love with the craft. From hobby to lifestyle, Lisbeth planted willows at her summerhouse in Langø, just outside of Nakskov, and with a little help from Ole, harvested them in the winter. Once they were nice and dry, after about nine months, they were soaked for a week and then ready for weaving. In order to further improve her craft, she set forth from her tutorial lessons to seek an instructor, and she discovered Ane Lyngsgaard. Insisting that I sit tight, one by one she brought her baskets into the reading room. Some were inspired by Ane Lyngsgaard, and others were a result of Ane’s advice for Lisbeth to find her own special style of weaving. Soon the reading room was full of baskets on the table, Lisbeth’s seat, and the floor. A few had handles and others sported lids, but each and every one was unique in its own way.

Lisbeth’s basket collection. And this isn’t even all of them!

Lisbeth’s talents do not stop at basket weaving. In a similar vein, Lisbeth learned to sew one weekend because a friend of a friend began to teach the craft. During those few days, Lisbeth made a dress from silk she bought while visiting Cambodia. From then on, she made her own skirts, blouses, and trousers. As she closed her list, she exclaimed, “Now, I am addicted!” 

When she begins a new garment, she makes an example of it and shows it to her friend, who then points out any flaws in the design. From there, she makes a paper pattern for the garment so that it fits her. Once she began making her own clothes, Lisbeth discovered how difficult it is for a person to try to label themselves as small, medium, or large, since each body is very unique. Although the process could be a bit arduous, she loved every minute of it. Despite her newfound passion, she sometimes ran into roadblocks. Once, she recalled, she wanted to make a jacket from some expensive fabric made of wool and silk, however the garment turned out to be too small, and thus ill-fitting, much to her disappointment. From then on, Lisbeth decided to use only cloth from old clothes found and second hand stores. 

As for her boutique, it was more of a collaborative project than a full on store. Down in Langø, near the harbor, a bricklayer and his wife, a social worker, decided to expand their miniature house where they made honey into a local shop, or “exhibition”, for local “hand workers” living in the area. Although her permanent residence was in Roskilde, they still asked if she would join, and she agreed. At the time of the idea’s conception, the COVID-19 pandemic had yet to rock the globe, however, they still set up shop, hoping that the Germans who usually sailed to the harbor would visit despite the virus. Much to their surprise as well as relief, a number of Germans did visit and the shop fared quite well.

Lisbeth rose from the table and knelt near the bookshelves which lined the walls. This time, we sat in the breakfast nook, which also doubled as a reading room, situated between the kitchen and mudroom. The walls were lined with bookshelves and filled with books, photo albums, and various pieces of memorabilia. Crouched in the corner where the photo albums were organized, she fingered through different years and locations seizing the one she wanted. We made room for the album on the table and she whisked me away from Roskilde to Langø. Before they acquired the summerhouse, it was actually a farmhouse with an attachment for the animals. At first it belonged to Ole’s uncle, and it was the last farmhouse on its street near Langøkirke. However, once they bought it from Ole’s cousin, they revamped it. 

About two weeks after Lisbeth shared her Langø photo album with me, I visited Langø for myself with my host family. The images from the eighties and nineties, where I also saw my host mother in her youth, did the area little justice. Although it wasn’t the wealthiest area in Denmark, its serene stillness was unmatched for me. During a walk around the village, guided by my host father, Henrik, I saw the bay and fjord which surround the peninsula. At harbor, I found a little black hut with a bird bath in which rubber ducks swam. A case full of honey invited one and all to take what they needed as well as a MobilePay number in order to pay for the purchase. I thought the shop was rather lovely, especially once Henrik informed me that the quaint little hut was where Lisbeth sold her wares! Overcome with awe, I snapped a few photos and peeked through the windows, though I couldn’t see much. It was one thing to hear Lisbeth talk about the shop, but it was another to see it with my own eyes. In that moment, I felt like I saw Lisbeth a little more, and her story came alive right before me.

Overall, the trip was refreshing. The sunlight lifted all of our spirits, since the week before in Copenhagen was dark and rainy. But in Lolland, the municipality in which Langø and Nakskov lie, I indulged in all of my favorite activities, from browsing second hand stores and eating delicious dinners to journaling, going on walks, crocheting, and playing with my host siblings. Dare I say, the entire experience was hyggeligt.

“What is hygge for you?” I asked Lisbeth. She paused, pensively collecting her thoughts. We sat in silence before she responded:

“Hygge is the opposite of busy life. You have time enough…” She trailed off, gesturing towards the spread of drinks and dessert.

 “This is hygge. A cup of coffee, cake, and if you have eye contact and you want to talk like you want to listen, then that for me is hygge. When I’m weaving with the willows, that is hygge. ‘Cause hygge, it is for me; hygge for me is time but you are not producing new thoughts, but you can also reflect, think.”

She stopped for a moment and continued, “I saw yesterday, or the day before, I saw a book about hygge. I don’t know what they have been writing but I saw hygge…hm!” She scoffed playfully as if to ask, “what does a book know about hygge?” After all, she noted that hygge for her was different from hygge for her husband, Ole. Similar to the love languages phenomenon overtaking relationship counselling sessions in the United States, in order for couples to share in hygge, they must understand what hygge is for their partner as well as themselves. Lisbeth remembered how she preferred quiet activities, such as knitting and reading, while Ole liked to travel. Yet, only by acknowledging this difference could they find a happy medium.

In addition to dialogue and taking tea, Lisbeth also classified spending time with her grandchildren as hygge, just as her figurine in the windowsill suggested. Further reflecting, Lisbeth recalled a moment where Konrad, the eldest son of her third-born daughter asked her, “Why are you so nice to us?”

To which Lisbeth replied, “It is because I enjoy seeing you and stay together with you.” At this moment, she reflected that both children and adults are so busy these days, but for that week, since it had been fall break for the schoolchildren, Lisbeth and her grandbabies were able to spend their time together however they wished. 

“Hygge is needed both for children and grown up people,” she concluded. “I am also happy about—that I like to read.” She started, breaking our reflective pause.

Twenty-five years ago, Lisbeth, along with some friends, created a book club which lasted the test of time. Although the members would change, some would come and others would go, the group still met once a month to discuss the book that they had decided to read together. Though there were times she did not care for the reading of the month, she noted, “even if you read a book which you do not like so much, when you hear the other people telling what they learned from the book, often you change your mind and think, ‘Oh, maybe I can also learn something about this and that.’” 

She continued, “you kind of travel into others’ life—and because if you only have your own life, you are so limited. If you are not very, very bright, you only have yourself and your own ideas.”

During a time like this, when travel is very limited and social interaction is limited even more, stories from books, magazines, and oral tradition act as the plane which flies its listeners to a new land with a unique culture and special inhabitants. Despite the restrictions, it is through stories that we meet new friends, both those that are written and those that are spoken. I knew I wanted to learn more about Lisbeth during a family dinner at Marie’s when she pointed out a sculpture on the freestanding cabinet depicting a woman holding a child, which is supposed to represent Marie and her four children. I was in shock, for I had seen the sculpture each day during my stay, but I never thought much about it, let alone whether it even had a story as to its meaning. I imagine sometime in the far future, long after we have all returned to dust, that these sculptures and baskets and trinkets will be unearthed and the historians of the future, whose life’s call it is to piece together such stories, will discover Lisbeth, the nurturer and the creator.

Brief Update 11/25

For the past couple of weeks, the change in time and amount of sunlight has truly affect my mood and energy levels. In the mornings, I am up and ready to go but by afternoon time, I start to feel myself slowing down and by the time I finish the commute home, I’m ready to hang it up for the day and go to bed.

This feelings has simply become a part of the experience, considering that the sunset begins just before the 4 o’clock hour (today the sunset was at 3:50PM!) and by 4:30PM or so, it is as dark as midnight.

Folks have suggested that I take vitamin D supplements or even iron tablets, but the truth is that I would rather not constantly take supplements to get through my day. And so, I have learned how to live with these new mood shifts.

Part of the problem is drowsiness, and I have learned that if I can fight off the feeling for at least ten minutes, I am able to stay awake for a little longer. However, on those days where it has been simply exhausting and my body doesn’t have the strength to ward off the sleep, sometimes a nap is in order—if that’s what it takes to stay on the ball.

I also believe that there is a bit of build up of emotions considering that today marks exactly two weeks away from my departure date. That’s so crazy! I have come to love my host family as my own, learned so much from my amazing professors, and soon, I am going to have to return to a country who is on the brink of a second lockdown? I mean, who wouldn’t feel a certain way!

Yet, even as these feelings are building up, in the mornings as I emerge from the metro station at Rådhuspladsen, I take my time and absorb the atmosphere as though I was seeing the plaza for the first time all over again. I watch the scenery outside my train, etching Denmark’s terrain into my memory.

Time is running out, and my energy is following close behind, but despite it all, I am going to cherish my last two weeks!

A Special Spot: Langø & Nakskov [Special Edition Post!]

October 30 – November 1

The week was brutal. The weather switched from sunny and mild to cool and rainy. In addition to the dreary weather, I had so many big assignments to complete that week, including planning for my final project at my home institution. Between DIS homework and homework from my home institution, by the end of the week, I was completely worn out! So, for Halloween weekend, my hfamily and I escaped to Langø for some fresh air and sunshine.

October 30

At around dinner time, we arrived in Langø and had dinner with family friends of my hfamily. By this time, it was pitch black outside and I could barely see beyond a few yards ahead of me outside. But the next morning, the scenery hit me…

October 31 — Happy Halloween!

Although the day was cloudy, the bay was beautiful. From the windows of the kitchen, about a couple hundred feet from the boundary of the backyard, the bay shined. What a way to start the day!

Since I woke up a bit late, I hurried to take my breakfast and join everyone on an excursion to Nakskov. My hmom had told me earlier in the week about the secondhand stores there, so we stopped in those stores first. At the time, I was finishing up a crochet shawl for my little hsister, [view that post here!] so I stopped in a lovely yarn store for a yarn needle and a sewing needle.

We walked around the main square for a bit to look around and check out more stores. Unfortunately, I had a tension headache that morning, so once we returned home, I took a nice long nap to rest my eyes.

When I woke up, my hfamily was preparing for another excursion, so I quickly made a lunch to go and I joined them in the car. This time, we set our course for Albuen Strand. As we walked along the beach, little bugs popped out from the sand and scurried to safety, which made it feel like the ground was moving. (I didn’t look at the ground much after that.)

I could try to explain the scenery, but I believe the images speak for themselves…

As for the highlight of my evening, my littlest hbrother of only two years called my name! Slowly, he uttered the two sounds without any prompting, and I answered him with a Danish “yes” to acknowledge him. His face lit up and he giggled, and I played a quick game of Peek-a-Boo with him until the rest of the family joined us in the car.

November 1

Contrary to the weather report which predicted a rainy day, the sun shone with all its might, and the bay glistened. Since there wasn’t much planned for the day, we all took it easy.

Later that morning, I joined my hdad for a walk around the peninsula. The goal was to walk my littlest hbrother to sleep, however, he was kept awake by his awe of the shining harbor. We passed through the the neighborhood, around to the other end, then we entered the harbor and walked to the very end of the dock. The water was so clear, in fact, it was probably the clearest water I have seen in Europe since my visits to the Caribbean. If there were a bench, I would have sat there all day! On the way home, we cut across the peninsula, through a little playground with a red playhouse and outdoor exercise equipment for adults.

Soon we arrived home, and my hdad continued his walk since my hbrother had not quite fallen asleep. When I found my hmom inside, she asked if I would like to take my little hsister to the playground and I told her, “I’d love to!”

Once her hair was done, and her rain boots were on, we started off to the park. Once there, I watched her climb the jungle gym rope wall and even climbed with her. When she attempted to scale the rock climbing wall, I helped her down. We even had a little tea party at the red playhouse and afterwards we swung on the swings. Even though I spoke little to no Danish, and half the time had no idea what my hsister was saying, we still laughed and played, and our actions were a universal language. Eventually, it was time to go, and we walked, skipped, and wandered our way home.

That afternoon, I updated my log [blog post to come about this] and my hsister colored next to me as we shared a bowl of blackberries picked from the garden and soaked up the sun.

Later that day, once we returned home to Roskilde, my hmom informed me that my dear hsister had a wonderful time at the park, which warmed my heart. All in all, I had a magnificent time away from the city and I can’t wait to visit Langø again someday!

Study Tour Week: Overview & Pre-Departure

October 18, 2020

As a part of the Core Course, which each student chooses during registration, we are going to spend a week in Århus to put to practice concepts we have discussed in class while learning new ones. My Core Course, Modern Frames: European Art and Cinema, focused on art in its many forms in addition to various degrees of art house characteristics in films.

Being that this trip lasted one work week, or five days, I took my carry-on luggage as well as a backpack. Since I wear hijab, packing was rather simple: two long-sleeved maxi dresses, an open abaya, a closed abaya (pictured here. I will certainly address this photo later!), a tee shirt, a part of jeans, a hoodie, a rain jacket, four scarves with three under caps, three pairs of shoes (including the ones I wore) and of course, my unmentionables. For layering as needed, I packed a long-sleeve shirt, a satin slip, satin underpants (like, literal pants), and leggings.

In my backpack, I stored my studying gear (laptop and notebooks) along with my toiletries and various other comfort items such as my Louisiana hot sauce and my homemade lavender room spray in case I found it difficult to sleep. (Which I did not, at all. At the end of each day I fell out cold.)

Come Monday morning, I departed my home at 6:50AM sharp to catch the bus to Roskilde Station and on my way to our meeting spot for the excursion.

A Special Spot: Asylgade

September 27, 2020

For one of my Travel Writing assignments, I was prompted to recall a “Danish Encounter” that I have had had since arriving to Denmark. I figured this encounter was worth sharing, for it highlighted the general kindness I have experienced since I arrived.

Upon my arrival to Copenhagen, during one of the many orientations held in preparation for the cultural shift, I learned that “silence is fun” and to not disturb it unnecessarily. According to the presenter who introduced this idea, the obligation to speak to others stemmed from an innate need to make sure that one’s environment is safe, which often includes investigating other humans who also share this same space. 

An older man of around fifty to sixty years, sat with his drink on a stool facing the window of Teatercaféen resting across the street from the Asylgade bus stop. He isn’t too involved with his drink, in fact, it sits on the counter as an afterthought. His gaze is on the window, or rather, the movement on the other side of it. The television set behind him doesn’t compare to the live action rolling and walking up and down Sankt Hans Gade. Haphazard grey locks cloth his skull and his dark eyes focused beyond the glass and over the miniature, white lace curtain which lines the counter, against the window. Whether he sported a mustache or had hairs in his nose, I could not tell, for a robin-egg blue medical mask veiled the rest of his face from me.

At first, when I stopped at the bus stop, I did not take notice of him. I scanned the bus schedule posted, in conjunction with the schedule on my phone, to make sure that I was on time and that the bus would arrive soon. I turned my back to him, and fastened my own taffy pink mask in preparation for the bus’ arrival. The moment I look up, our eyes connect and out of habit, I wave. During the orientation, there was never any mention of nonverbal forms of communication and to my surprise, the older man ever-so-slightly acknowledged me with a simple nod as he squinted his eyes and his brows crinkled in the middle. I didn’t want to appear as though I were staring into his soul, so I broke his gaze and watched for the bus. Seconds and minutes ticked by until a bright yellow vehicle with a display reading “207 Roskilde St”.

Quickly, I found my commuter pass in my DSB app on my phone and I prepared to board. Once I found my seat, one closest to the window facing my silent acquaintance, I squinted my eyes and crinkled my brow behind my mask and bid him farewell. This time, he waved back at me and his brow furrowed, wrinkling his forehead—it was a smile.

Nyhavn in Copenhagen

October 18, 2020

One perk that I did not expect from living with a host family is that they also host Workaway volunteers, which puts me in contact with all types of people from around the world. When I first arrived, I met Nicholas who was from Argentina. After him, I met John and Sophia, a couple from Argentina as well, and though their stay was short, we became pretty good friends. Once they departed, Marion and Steven, a couple from France, took up residence. Upon learning of their scheduled arrival, I was very excited since they provided a chance for me to practice my French in exchange for aiding them with their English.

Sadly, their visit was cut short due to medical reasons, so we were all determined to spend their last days together before I left for Århus. (Check out that post here!) Earlier that week, they had settled on visiting Nyhavn for the beautiful harbor, and so I tagged along.

Steven, Marion, and me at Nyhavn

The fun thing about visiting new places is the prospect of getting lost, which we did. It was not a big deal, though, for the day was bright and the air was fresh. We walked about chatting between English and French until we realized that we had no idea where we were going. After a little reconfiguration, we were back on our way.

Let me begin by stating that the photos on Google do no justice to the true beauty of Nyhavn…

Taken as soon as we passed the sign. How beautful!

The harbor did not appear to be very deep, but we did spot many little jellyfish floating along their way.

Can you spot the jelly? Hint: He’s transparent and near the mask.

In the end, it was worth the excursion, and it wasn’t far out of the way at all. I learned that there is still so much for me to discover in Copenhagen. My only fear is that I missed the lovely weather to do so. (The current forecast as of Oct 25 is rain all week!)

Below are some photos from the trip!

Flowers I have bought for my room

Here’s a collection of the flowers I have bought for my room. Usually, they last for about a week, so I replace them each Friday. I started this mini-tradition about two weeks ago, but since I will be away on a study tour next week (October 19-23), I will skip buying flowers the week before.

Since I celebrated my (*golden*) birthday on the 22nd of October, my husband sent flowers, which takes care of this week!

October 22

Falling in Love with Denmark

October 11, 2020

If someone told me that I would enjoy biking alongside traffic about a month ago, I would have scoffed at them. In fact, I did—during the numerous orientations I attended before landing on Danish soil, I was told time and time again, how much I would come to love biking around the city…

My history with biking is a bit of a complicated one. I learned to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels rather late in life, and kind of by accident. My home in Denver sat on a slight hill that appeared flat to the naked eye, but to a pair of wheels, it’s downhill from there. At first, I would walk my bike to the end of the street, also the top of the incline, and ride down with my feet on the pedals. Eventually, I became confident enough to pedal downhill until I began to try pedaling uphill. Since the incline wasn’t too steep, I didn’t have many troubles. Thus, my biking career began at age 10.

I didn’t bike much after elementary school, and not actively again until I began college. According to my social circles, everyone biked around campus. So, I saved up a bike fund from my waitressing job and purchased a beautiful red bike, who I loving called Rouge, as soon as I arrived on campus. My father taught me, briefly, how to ride again in a parking lot nearby, and soon enough I was zooming around campus.

Me and Rouge ❤

Sadly, after sophomore year, I sold her off since I did not bike around as much due to living in a dorm/house closer to the main campus. Sometimes, I would spot her locked up around campus, so I am glad someone else is getting some use out of her.

By the time I arrived in Denmark, I was not so keen on riding a bike and I put off renting my bike (included along with my Commuter Card) for over a week until I went riding with my hmom and little brother.

I had expressed to my hmom that I would like some gouda cheese (I mean, who wouldn’t?) and she told me we could bike to the Fakta just around the way. At first I was skeptical. Bike? Me? In the street with other cars? Uh, no thanks.

But I sucked up my fear and borrowed one of their bikes and followed behind. At first, I was terribly nervous when a car would pass since I was rather wobbly and I feared that I would veer a tad too close to a passing vehicle. Having just arrived to Denmark at the time, I wasn’t really keen on trying out my health insurance so early. However, I somehow managed to not only keep up with my hmom but to make it to Fakta and back in one windblown piece. From then on, I just knew I had to rent my bike out.

Despite riding my bike off and on since I brought it home, I did not use it to ride to the station, or for any real utility besides going for a ride or a quick run to the store. Today, I decided that I wanted to visit Føtex for some kalkunbacon and figured this would be a great time to see how well I know the way by road (rather than cutting through the cathedral courtyard). All was going well until I hit a hill. I tried so hard to pedal up that hill, while trying to not look winded and out of shape, but eventually the hill got the best of me and I hopped off. As I walked my bike up the hill, I watched a much older man take on the hill with ease, as if it were any other flat surface. I felt terribly embarrassed.

After a bit of research, and fiddling with my bike, I discovered that my bicycle had three gears! I hopped on again, still on the incline but much less steep and tried out a different gear—Oh! The newfound ease was a relief! Now, I sped about, not fearing the traffic on my right or ups and downs of the road. I felt like a true biker, much more confident in my riding skills.

Once I finished up at Føtex and started for home, I encountered a technical difficulty. My favorite black maxi skirt, the one my mother bought for me during her visit in Dallas some years ago, got caught in the gear! I could brake just fine, but I couldn’t pedal forward since it had lodged the gear so badly. In the end, much to my dismay, I had to cut the dress. A lovely lady came to my aid and tried her hardest to dislodge my skirt without cutting it but soon the reality was clear: the skirt had to go if I wanted to be free.

Snip Snip! And it was gone.

I slipped into the skirt I just so happened to buy while at Føtex and thanked the kind lady profusely as she handed me my freed piece of fabric and went along her way. And I went along mine.

***

Even as I continued on with my day, I kept thinking about how fun it was to ride my bike, now that I could ride anywhere. If anything, I wanted to test just how much better my riding was. Eventually, I gave in to myself and set out again, without much direction. I rode the roudabout way to Fakta (rather than cutting through the neighborhood) and continued down along Møllehusvej following my bus route. At Vestergade, or at least I though it was Vestergade, I cut a left and rode through the neighborhood. Soon, I came upon the main street and I saw a sign for the havn and decided to direct my course in that direction.

Even though I thought I was following a sign, I believe I must have misread it, for I found myself closer to the cathedral than the havn. I did not mind it, for it was tolling to signify evening services.

I returned from the way I came and eventually found the roundabout which led to the havn. Rather than riding through the crowds, I hopped off my bike once I arrived and walked it into the havn. I found a comfy bench to rest on, overlooking the fjord, and watched the birds and ducks.

Watching the birds and the boats.

By this time, the day was beginning to end, and the light just barely peaked above the clouds. In fact, it was at this moment, gazing at the clouds, that I realized that I had fallen in love. Where I am from in the States, there is no body of water near me, let alone of this magnitude. I’d have to visit a whole different state to find an harbor, and now I am living lest than 7 minutes on pedals away from one. Truly I am grateful.

Listening to the Beatles, I soaked in the setting sun, and reflected.

Certainly, I will have to visit this place again. And next time, I will bring a pen and some paper. In this place, the poetry writes itself.

Harbors and bikes, that’s what Denmark means to me.

From Roskilde to Gevninge

September 19, 2020

One Saturday afternoon, my host mother invited me to join her as she voyaged to Gevninge to pick up some items she had bought from a resident online. She told me that the countryside scenery was beautiful along the way, so I decided to tag along.

She certainly wasn’t wrong.

The vast countryside between Roskilde and Gevninge.

We passed many small farms similar to the one on the right as we avoided the highway for a voyage less polluted by infrastructure.

As we went along, I distinctly remember the blueness of the sky. There were two types of blue depended on where we were in the voyage. When we crossed the countryside, further from the fjord and more inland, the sky was a soft blue, touched only by the cotton candy clouds stretching as far as the eye could see. This blue was pretty, but the sky along the fjord took my breath away—from the azure blue of the sea to the soft blue of the sky, and even the cornflower blue outline of the terrain along the horizon, bordered by the sandy grey of the beach, contrasted by the green-as-pine trees on the other side of the road.

Lammefjorden sits to the left and the rest of Zealand sits to the right. My host mother waited in the silver van while I took photos.

Taking these photos weren’t easy though. Once my hmom (host mom) parked the car, I proceeded to scale the steep hill with my phone in one hand and my Instax Mini in the other. At first glance, it appeared that I couldn’t get my footing, but the truth was that the hill became too steep, and gravity took its toll. I slid right on back down to the van. Imagine my confusion, and I was sure that I saw people peppered along the path above. But how did they get there? About as soon as I asked, I saw a sign pointed towards a set of stairs with a graphic forbidding people like me from climbing the slope. Oops.

Soon, we arrived at a residence in the middle of a little forest. My hmom attended to her affairs and I played with the little dogs on the property. Eventually, we were back on the road.

On our way to the residence, I noticed a group of rocks at the mouth of the neighborhood, so as we were heading back, I pointed them out to my hmom and she pulled over for us to examine them. She confirmed my suspicions, it was an ancient graveyard! According to my hmom, the countryside used to be filled with them, but as the land was needed for farming, they were taken down. Luckily, this one managed to survive the purge and it stands as a memorial to all those who once roamed the area.

A burial mound near Gevninge.

All in all, it was a lovely trip, and a nice retreat from dense civilization.