The here and now

Excuse me– who can tell me where the entire month of May went? anyone?

Somehow, it’s already summer in Copenhagen. Cafés have all set up tables and chairs outside where people sit in the sun, shrugging off their big gray scarves and spring coats, chatting and drinking and turning their faces to the sun.

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The entire city smells like cherry blossoms and lilacs. No, I am not making this up. I biked in a sleeveless top and sandals on Friday without feeling cold, taking big gulps of flower-air and letting my hair dry in the wind. There’s a little countdown clock in my head (and another one in an app, on my phone) reminding me that there is now a definitive deadline on my time in Copenhagen: I decided to leave my current master’s programme  in Copenhagen after a good look at my heart and my mind, and you can read about it here.

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BY THE WAY: You (yes you!!) showered me with such unexpected acceptance, such genuine kindness and such true support for my decision. Some of you are constants in my life, some of you are new friends, and some of you are going through something similar and just reached out to share that. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I won’t ever be able to write well enough to express how you made me feel.

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I feel kinda like this

Having said that: I have accepted an offer of admission from the University of Sussex, where I will be starting (and completing!) an M.A. in Conflict, Security and Development. I’ll live in Brighton and as far as I know it’s a really good place to be: liberal, student-friendly, by the sea, just an hour from London. If anyone wants to confirm, or if anyone has lived in or visited Brighton, drop a comment below or write me a message!

I’ll be moving to Brighton this fall, but first I’ll be:

  1. Showing off Copenhagen to Hannah and Rick, the graduates;
  2. Interrailing through Italy with Mary. (Watch out Italy.) Follow her wild trip, of which our frolic through Italy is just a fraction, here;
  3. Working at the tourist office in Raseborg, Finland, and spending days off at our paradise island cabin with my family; and
  4. Taking a one-week extended family trip to the Austrian Alps. Yes, we will take up half of the plane. Yes, we will (probably) reenact Sound of Music. No, we will not be skiing.

Before seven in the morning, I had already been across the city and back, the sun was high in a classic Copenhagen sheer-blue sky where a big crescent moon shadow was fading fast, and someone very important to me was somewhere in that sky, on a flight en route to Munich. Faris and I are both smitten with Copenhagen: with biking, with the smoothest cappuccinos on earth and the flakiest pastries, with the canals and the boardwalks and the relaxed vibe. To spend almost two weeks here together was a cure to the months we’ve spent apart, and an antidote to the months apart that lie ahead.

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When your boyfriend takes you to the FCK-Brondby derby 😉

 

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Meanwhile on the opposite end of the pitch…

We each have our own “version” of Copenhagen, and this time we got to fuse the two and then go exploring in totally new areas of the city. Fueled by ice cream and coffee and risotto balls and mussels, we must have biked close to 20 miles a day. This won’t be our last time in Copenhagen–we like it too much!

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Bike hair don’t care!!!

If you made it this far, thank you! No, really, thank you! I hope you have a really good week ahead of you. If you’re in Copenhagen, I hope we can have an Aperol spritz on a rooftop, or an iced coffee at some cobblestoned corner, or both, like this:

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So, just call me! And if you’re in North Carolina, or in Finland: I really miss you. If you are somewhere else, or if you’re not even sure where you are, I hear you, and I see you, and I am there with you too.

Love,

A

 

 

 

It’s not you, it’s me

Wait–this is a bombshell. Or, it feels that way to me–but maybe you already knew? I think I’m good at keeping a neutral tone, an easy smile and a semblance of inner calm and direction, but maybe I’m an open book (and you know exactly what I’m going to say next), or maybe I’ve called you more than once, frustrated to tears and questioning everything I’ve ever learned and everything I’ve ever decided for myself:

I’ve decided to leave my Master’s programme in Security Risk Management.

“But—!”

Yes, the program of my dreams.

“But Copen—!”

Yes, the coolest city in the world. And the happiest. And bike lanes everywhere and Stan Smiths on all feet and cool, black coats and topknots and huge scarves and beautiful sunsets and rainbow buildings and impossibly delicious caffe lattes in the coziest cafes and the freaking. amazing. pastries. Yes.

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Ah, silky cappuccinos. I could write a book on these silky cappuccinos.

It sure has thrown me for a loop. A year ago this was all I ever wanted. I saw this as the straightest path forward and the best path forward. I chose this!!! Maybe that was why I ignored the creeping feeling in mid-November that I’m not really interested in what I am learning and then also the feeling in mid-January when I was packing my suitcase to go back that I am not excited to go back to school at all.

For a few weeks after I came back to Copenhagen I felt more stuck, and more lonely, than I have ever felt in my life. I can’t remember anything, because I did the same things every day, like a sad robot. It rained and it was cold and dark, and I was tired all the time, even when I slept eight hours a night and two, sometimes three hours after class. Almost every evening, when it got dark, I put on my winter running tights, double-layer socks, a thick fleece and my raincoat and ran the same five mile loop through the city.

Though the haze, I recognized that I felt trapped, and I also recognized that the feeling was definitely connected to my studies. I began looking for a way out. I went back to the drawing board, back to the very first time I typed “master’s degree Europe” into Google and I started over again. First I told myself I would probably just re-arrive here, in Copenhagen, because this was truly the best decision. And then I told myself I was just proving that I had truly made the best decision. And then I told myself I would just see if I could switch to another programme in the same department.

Well, I ended up applying to six other graduate programmes. Only one of them is here in Copenhagen. I’m waiting to hear back from two more, and then I should be able to plan my next move.

Lest there be any misconceptions: the SRM Programme at KU is new, and it is still “under construction”, but it is of a very, very high caliber. The professors are visionaries. The courses are complex and there is a common thread: the “Copenhagen School” of security studies and risk management. It’s undoubtedly exciting and it’s definitely “the future”. I have learned about things I’ve never even heard of before. Learning is humbling, and it is never time wasted. This has become my motto.

Quite simply: Dear SRM, it’s not you, it’s me.

To my colleagues and my new friends: you are undoubtedly the most motivated, the most intelligent, the most dynamic people I have ever met. I remember being absolutely floored (and intimidated) on the first day of orientation, by every single one of you. You are so interesting! You have worked in the coolest places! You are so driven! And you are also kind, and hilarious, and smart! I can’t wait to work with you, to read about you, to tell people that know you!!

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Probably some of the smartest people in the world. And nicest.

Here I am, admitting to myself, as much as to you, that this was not the programme for me. I don’t intend to justify my decision here. I feel like I’ve unraveled some impossible tangle of threads in my mind just to arrive at this point. I sound like an idiot when I try to explain why. If you ask me privately, I will try again.

On the phone a few weeks ago, my mom said something along the lines of: “You can be a teacher! Or a painter! you can be anything you want.” Yes, moms say these things, but bear with me: I know people who are brilliant educators, or on their way there. I know people who make the most beautiful, simple, complicated, powerful art on canvas or on a stage or with instruments. I know people who are going to be singers, doctors, programmers, engineers, dentists, human rights lawyers.

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Listen to your mom. She’s probably right about everything.

I don’t know what I’m going to be, but to hear my mom say that on the phone snapped me out of whatever rut I was in. She wasn’t saying that I can literally “be anything I want”. She was saying: “Nothing is set in stone.” “You’re allowed to change your mind.” “You’re allowed to switch to plan B.” “You’re allowed to miscalculate along the way.”

What’s more freeing than that?

With love,

A

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Not the only path in the world, but probably one of the prettiest.

 

Husbilsresan: 20-27.8.2016

20.8.2016: Stocksudden–Stockholm

Vi startar från Stocksudden lite efter klockan fyra på eftermiddagen, men inser snabbt att vi kommer att vara i Åbo alldeles för tidigt för att gå ombord båten. Vi stannar vid en bensinstation och njuter hett kaffe med bulla från Fabbes Café. Famo fick en sats som bagaren hade ersatt kanel med kummin, men det gjorde ingenting. Det var faktiskt en intressant smakupplevelse!

På förmiddagen hann jag springa en sista länk i Stockudds-skogarna. Fafa eldade en bastu, i havet var det 20 grader och vattnet kändes mjukt och svalt. Det blev också en tur till Ekenäs, för vi jag hade glömt en adapter till datorn…

Ombord på båten äter vi på “Franks”. Jag och famo får varsin cesar-sallad och ett glas vin. Fafa får en Skagentoast och en kall öl. Jag har av nån anledning så ont i magen. Kanske jag är nervös? Resultatet är att jag blir alldeles onykter av ett enda glass vin och snubblar efter famo och fafa på Tax Free, det inhandlas cognac (samt choklad, vin och lakrids) för att bota mig. Det gör susen. Vi lägger oss för att sova några timmar.

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Start från Stocksudden

21.8.2016: Stockholm–Askersund–Hjo–Hestra

Det regnar klockan 5:30 lokaltid när vi anländer till Stockholm. Vi äter en snabb frukost: croissant, smoothie, banan, smörgås och mycket svagt kaffe… och sen kör vi västerut och stannar först när vi kommer till Askersund. Vi är trötta, men kaffe på ett kafé i byns äldsta byggnad piggar upp. Det finns en liten fransk deli i Askersund, och det ser stängt ut när vi kör förbi första gången. Men på promenaden tillbaka till husbilen står dörren öppen!

Vi shoppar loss på Délices de France: comté, gruyère, St.Agur, kex, choklad, marmelad. Lyckan är nog mat… och god ost.

Nöjda kör vi vidare till Hjo (jo, nej…) och går bland fina trähus ner till Vätterns strand. Där finns fiskebodar och mysiga caféen. Vi köper en rökt lax och räksallad till middagen och fortsätter.

På dagens sista sträcka till Hestra sover famo redan sin fjärde tupplur. Hon har inte sovit en blund på båten! Vi kommer äntligen till Isaberg Fritidsby, en fräsch och sportig camping plats, och sätter igång med maten: laxen och räkorna med sallad, baguette, ost och vin. Camping deluxe. Vi tar en promenad till sjön men konstaterar att vi inte vill doppa oss. Hela kvällen dricker vi te, läser, skriver dagbok och planerar rutten vidare.

Såhär såg middag ut…

22.8.2016: Hestra–Halmstad–Torekov–Ängelholm

Vi sover nästan hela dygnet runt. Det är en tyst och kylig natt, och när vi vaknar är vi utvilade. Vi dricker gott kaffe, rostar bröd (jag har insisterat på att famo ska ta med sig brödrosten som man placerar rakt på gaslågan, och hittills har jag inte bränt en enda brödbit), och tar sedan god tid på oss att starta. 11-tiden börjar vi köra mot Halmstad.

När vi kommit till Halmstad stannar vi vid en lummig park och promenerar till stadskärnan. Vi går över bron till en mysig gågata och fastnar snabbt för Restaurang Hummër. Dagens lunch är en fiskgryta: lax, sej och torsk med saffran och vitt vin, små potatisar och spröda morötter, rädisor och en klick aioli. Betyget är 10 poäng. Det är i topp 5 bästa restaurang rätterna jag nånsin har ätit!

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Vi njuuuuuter på den solvarma terrassen. Efter sin hummer-sallad går fafa “hem” till husbilen (för att sova en tupplur såklart) och famo och jag shoppar på gågatan. Det är en strålande sensommardag. Vi återvänder till husbilen, väcker fafa och dricker eftermiddagskaffe tillsammans.

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Promenad i Halmstad.

Resan fortsätter via Båstad till Torekov. Torekov är en idyllisk men lite sensommar-sömnig fiskeby. Vi går längs med hamnen, tittar ut över Kattegatt och köper en bit lax före vi kör vidare. Småland bjuder på de vackraste landskap, så annorlunda från Finland. Det är tydligt att bonden behövs här. Havet är hela tiden i sikt på högra sidan, när vi kör söderut. Vi stannar i Ängelholm och slipper nästan inte in på campingen Råbocka, som är stängd(?) men en annan halv-sur campare öppnar bommen och räddar kvällen. Det regnar sakta på taket… Imorgon till Mölle och Höganäs.

23.8.2016: Ängelholm–Arlid–Mölle–Höganäs–Malmö–Københamn–Nivå

Vi startar från Ängelholms camping efter en god frukost och en dusch–det är skönt att tvätta sig (ibland). Fafa servar husbilen och sedan kör vi till Mölle via Arlid. Genom fiskeby efter fiskeby med suveräna utsikter över Kattegatt, och vi ser Danmark! Det regnar i Mölle men stället är bekant. Jag och min barndomsvän Sandra tillbringade en dag här många somrar sen. (Det starkaste minnet är lyxbrunchen som vi åt på Grand Hôtel.)

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Ååååh… Svensk idyll

Vi fortsätter till Höganäs, där outlet-shopping är ett måste. Vi börjar med Mölle fiskrökeri & butik. Det är fisk-och skaldjur-älskarens dröm. Det finns även en Iittala-outlet där det blir några knivar och en Hackmann stekpanna som expediten tycker att vi absolut ska ha, även efter att jag antyder att jag är för tillfället “hemlös”… Efter en yoghurt på parkeringen kör vi till Malmö. Vi skippar Helsingborg, och kör istället till Malmö, där jag avlämnar min kappsäck hos Sandra och får en snabb överblick av mitt blivande tillfälliga hem–tack, Sandra!

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Med Brobitz åker vi över Öresundsbron. Känslan att köra in i Köpenhamn är oslagbar. Jag är inte nervös, men jag är förväntansfull. Hur ofta får man välja sin nya hemstad? Vi stannar inte, men fortsätter norrut mot Helsingör. Rad efter rad med idylliska villor, havet hela tiden intill, och segelbåtar i solen… Vi stannar i Nivå på campingen. En fiskmiddag följes som vanligt av en promenad till hamnen. Solen går ner i rosa.

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Jag tänker: Jag saknar ingenstans just nu.

24.8.2016 Nivå–Helsingør–Gilleleje–Sølager

Efter morgonrutinerna–duschtur och diskning på campingen–kör vi på en kort tid till Helsingør. Vi parkerar på en mycket trång tvärgata och promenerar till gågatan i centrum. Vi köper ost, sex flaskor vin, och en baguette (vad annat behöver man egentligen?) och “tebirkes” till vårt eftermiddagskaffe.

Jag lyckas äta nästan 1/4 av baguetten före vi har gått tillbaka till husbilen…

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Lunch i Gilleleje!

Vi kör till Gilleleje (gilla läget!!!) där vi äter stjerneskud, en ordentlig och fräsch dansk fisklunch. Det är nog fafas favorit 🙂 Vi strosar omkring i stan och shoppar lite: famo får en ny plånbok i läder och en blus, och jag får välja två glittriga armband (är jag fem år gammal? kanske…) fast jag redan har söndrat ett i butiken. “Antonio” (som fafa kallade honom) är den italienska butiksägaren som är mycket charmig och nöjd att ha kunder. Framåt!

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Jag och famo doppar oss i Kattegatt vid Hald Strand. Det är långgrunt, vackert och iskallt. Vi tar vårt eftermiddagskaffe där, vid ett picnicbord. Vi packar ihop och glömmer en älskad handduk på en sten, där den skulle torka i solen… vi märker detta först i Hundested på Sølager camping, när vi har checkat in. Värre saker har hänt… Vår middag på “rester” är ändå lyxig så det förslår… Inte illa. Det blir varmare hela tiden.

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Slit ögonen från kaffebrödet så får ni se den glömda handduken t.v.

25.8.2016 Sølager–Hundested–Rørvig–Griben–Holbæk–Ringsted–Næstved

Vi körde mycket idag, men i korta etapper.Vi tar en färja från Hundested till Rørvig och fafa sätter gasen i botten till Griben, en udde i nordvästra Sjælland. Spetsen är inte karg och tom, det är en hamn och terminal för färjor. Ett stycke längre ner stannar vi och går på stranden, plockar stenar och gör en “Lilleman”. Man måste ju markera sitt revir.

Vi äter stekt röding på en restaurang som vi valde för blåmusslornas skull–men dom var slut. Sen går vi i ett litet “TUN” museum. Tun betyder tonfisk på danska. En kort period på 40-talet fångades det några tonfiskar här! Tonfisken är numera utrotningshotad här och den kommer nog aldrig att återkomma till dessa vatten.

Vi kör i ett streck vidare och tar en sen kaffe-och glasspinne paus vid en kyrka. Vet inte var exakt det var.

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Fusk!! Denna är från 2015.

Lite efter 17:00 kommer vi till Den Hvide Svan Camping. Vi checkar in, mn kör till Næstved för att äta middag på “Peperoncino”, en liten siciliansk restaurang. Jag får äntligen musslor.

Efter lite kvällsläsning märker jag att det har kommit in MILJARDER med knott i husbilen. Dom sitter alla i husbilstaket… i äcklad panik slutar det med att jag gapskrattande dammsuger dom från taket. Vi lägger oss. Det känns som att det fortfarande kryper lite knott i hårbottnet…

26.8.2016: Næstved–Stege–Møn–Fakse

Idag är vårt mål att komma till Møns klint. Vi startar lite tidigare än vanligt och spenderar lite tid på förmiddagen i en by på vägen. Det är ganska sömnig stämning men vi går in i några kläd- sko- och inredningsaffärer.

Vi kör till Møn via en SuperBrugsen, där vi inhandlar lite mat och några lådor vin. En sedvanlig  yoghurt på parkeringsplatsen och vi orkar köra vidare.

Vi gör en vandringstur på Møns Klint! Vi ser fina kalkstensklippor, branta och vita, 100 meter ovanför havet. Det är hett. Där havet skvalpar mot klipporna färgas vattnet vitt. Det ser ut som mjölk… vackert, men man vill inte gärna simma.

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Vi kommer till Fakse ladeplads– kvällens camping. Vi bär ett picnicbord under husbilens skugga och äter utomhus: sill och potatis, sallad och bröd med ost. Det är en lycklig sista kväll med famo och fafa. Imorgon ska vi köra via Köpenhamn till Malmö, där nästa kapitel börjar för mig.

27.8.2016: Fakse Ladeplads–Malmö

Det är en stillsam dag. Vi väljer några vinlådor till och tar en kaffestund med florentiner. Vi pratar om resan och alla bästa minnen. Famo och fafa lämnar mig på Södervärnsgatan efter att ha sagt adjö. Det är ensamt eftersom Sandra inte är hemma, och med en gång så är semestern slut.


Jag är så otroligt tacksam att ha fått resa med min farmor och farfar i husbil inte en, men två gånger! Den första gången var när jag studerade i Lausanne i Schweitz våren 2015. Båda gånger har vi skrattat så vi har fått ont i magen, ätit hela stycken comté på en gång, och turvis läst kartan för fafa. Jag har sett byar och vägar som jag aldrig skulle ha upplevt ensam eller med nån annan. Tack famo och fafa för att ni har tagit med mig–jag kommer att minnas våra gemensamma resor hela resten av livet, och nån dag hoppas jag ta mina barnbarn på liknande resor.

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The theme is spring

Good morning! This Monday doesn’t feel so difficult, since the past weekend was spring-like and sunny. I left my heavy coat at home, biked into the city and took a walk around the “Lakes” in Copenhagen with hundreds of other happy people: couples holding hands, baby-stroller gangs, groups of joggers weaving in between the slower walkers, people lying on the grass tanning (please note that it was only 46 degrees outside… crazy, sun-starved Danes…)

Not long now...

Spring in Alsace, 2015

A neighbor from home mailed me the sweetest note last week. She’s someone who has watched me and my sisters grow up on Annry Drive. The middle school bus stop was at the corner of her front yard. On any given day, she’s taking a brisk walk through the neighborhood, with her silky-haired golden retriever and dainty Afghan hound, who know where we live, and stop mid-walk at our driveway to see if we’re outside, ready to play. She has been like our “cool aunt” and I’ve always had a sense that I can tell her about anything that scares or worries me. Her delicate southern drawl, the herbs in the wooden planter on her back porch, and the crisp American flag gracing the front porch–these things say “home” to me.

Who's who??

“Baby sisters”, grown up.

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After school

On bare skinny legs

On the hottest days of late spring

We would bound off the roaring schoolbus, (spitting out hot, noxious clouds of fumes that mingled with the last of the dogwood and freshly mowed lawns)

We would skip straight into your backyard, stand at your back door, with a question in our eyes–and smiling, you always indulged us!

Our favorite playmates, leaping from the cool shades of the house, greeted us as if they had been waiting all day:

Warm animal-licks on our faces and knees,

followed by frantic chases after neon-green tennis balls…

Collapsing onto scratchy grass in heaps, sweet-smelling, sweaty tangles of fur in which we buried our noses, laughing and breathless

Under a white-blue sky, which gave way to folds of deep blue velvet where lightning bugs played tag, we did too,

Until the predictable, six-o-clock dinner-call rang out from another front door

a grill somewhere–sweet corn, and chicken?

and the promise of a weekend ahead.

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That smell from the grill…

Rocky beginnings

Around this time last year, I submitted my graduate school applications and hoped for the best. In May, I was accepted to the M.Sc. in Security Risk Management in Copenhagen and the M.Sc. in European Governance in Luxembourg. I chose Copenhagen for reasons I knew in my gut, but which I couldn’t disentangle from my mind.

Many of you know how I squandered roughly $300 on the Copenhagen housing market before finding a place to live (and if you didn’t know, there, I’m not proud of it). Student housing is reserved for a select few, and the private housing market is flooded. It is the closest thing I can imagine to the Hunger Games. When it became obvious that I wouldn’t find a place to live before the beginning of the semester, I reached out to one of my childhood friends who lives in Malmö. Malmö is really charming (and so is Sandra, and her cute studio apartment) and I am endlessly grateful to Sandra for putting a roof over my head, but it was in the wrong country…

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Sandra’s living room, and my couch-bed. Classic scandinavian decorating, refined, minimalist and airy. BY THE WAY, she *made* that lamp. Out of coffee filters. Someone top that.

My commute was over an hour long and involved passports. I was also late to the first day of orientation. I don’t think I have ever been that stressed, before or after. The train was late- that was not how I pictured my first day!

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Matriculation ceremony with new friends.

 

After 20 days, I found a home in the villa of a couple with grown children, empty-nesters with eclectic taste in art and warm hearts. Robert is Danish and Pia is Finnish-Danish. This was a “friend of a friend” connection only possible because the social circles of the Finnish-swedes are tight knit. I live in the lower level of the house, and I have my own entrance next to the garage. (There are no cars in the garage, just bikes.)

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Sunset over “Flintholm” metro station, a short walk away from where I live.

Despite the initial crisis, I settled in. I made the requisite trip to Ikea, taking my Italian friend Denise along (on this trip, she called bubble bath “sprinkle soap” and I decided I needed her in my life). I bought a bike and began joining the silent, athletic commute into the city in the chilly, misty mornings that got a little darker every day.

September was a blur of adjustment. I visited Finland in October, and my dear friend Simone, who lives and works in Brussels, visited me in November.

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Going in for the kiss 😉

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The Royal Palace, with “Marmorkirken” (Frederik’s Church) in the left background.

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The iconic Copenhagen skyline, captured from the Round Tower.

The first semester, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was just “studying abroad” again, even though I had effectively moved here. I know exactly how dreamy it sounds to live in Copenhagen, and it is- but as a graduate student, the city is just a beautiful backdrop to the reading and the research and weekday routines.

Mid-December found me on a plane, on my way to Summerfield/Greensboro. Amid Christmas festivities, kitchen renovations, snowstorms and trail runs in Bur-Mil park, I didn’t miss Copenhagen once. I don’t know if I should be ashamed of it- it’s not a matter of comparison, really, it’s a matter of roots. I’m still working on this feeling.

…………………………………………………………………………………

It’s been over a month since I returned for the second semester. I’m looking forward to the days getting longer again, to biking across The Lakes without feeling like the wind is going to sweep me into the water, and to Friday afternoons spent at museums and new nooks of the city. I’m expecting some visitors this spring too, and I couldn’t be happier for the company.

I hope you enjoy your weekend!

—Amanda

Rhodanie

At the bus stop on Avenue de Figuiers, two years ago, I felt independent and lonely and desperate for company. I reverted to  a mode of friend-making  taught to five-year olds, which over time becomes a lame last resort for adults, who are supposed to meet over cocktails, at work socials, somewhere posh and cool:

“Hi, what’s your name?”

I arrived in Lausanne on February 11, 2015, and moved into one of two twin buildings, bright yellow, boxy, and halfway-inviting. I lived on the second floor, which for Americans is the third because the ground floor is NOT the first floor. (This is remarkably logical, the more I think about it.)

Classes were already a chaos of transfer credits and my ideal schedule had failed twice, and poor Olivier, who was in charge of all étudiants mobilité at UNIL, had probably added my email to the spam list. I ate endives and and tuna and walnuts and Gruyère for the first week because that’s what Swiss people eat (?) and my mouth was getting kind of dry from not talking to anyone except for my parents and my boyfriend on the phone.

So, I decided, inorganically, that I have to make a friend, and a logical place to start was at the bus stop. The unoriginal “Hi what’s your name, do you live in Maison Rhodanie (fancy name for yellow boxes) too?!” totally worked.

From there on out, Jackie became my Swiss lifeline. She always carried a beautiful bright red tote that was SO HEAVY (what was in that tote, Jackie??) and she had a lovely, girlish laugh, and she was so smart. Jackie lived in the yellow box across from mine, and I wracked my brain for ideas on How to Keep a Friend, and resorted to cooking: Jackie and Jo (a Danish girl, working on her master’s degree) willingly ate crêpes with brie and arugula one week, saffron risotto the next, ratatouille the following, always with wine.

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Telling secrets over saffron risotto…

 

Jackie had a “wine mug” and I’m sure she still does. I insisted on a stemmed wine glass and I still do. I can’t get over the taste of wine from a regular flat glass, or a mug, or from a Solo cup (or straight from the bottle), but Jackie’s huge wine mug was a staple. It was practical and opaque but it contained a party (in the form of French wine), which is kind of how Jackie is.

We went to pay our respects to Audrey Hepburn in Tolochenaz, we went to the Saturday markets in the city and to the fancy grocery store at Manor (but mostly we shopped at the Lidl) , we began walking along Lac Léman to school when the air got mild again, and we quickly drew out the parallels that people find easily when they decide to become friends.

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We became real friends the time I cried from laughter as Jackie lay on her back in Verbier, “skiing” for the first time. We sat together like schoolgirls on the train to the Cailler chocolate factory, on the trip that ended in a sugar coma. We felt we would keep in touch even after going home when we climbed out of the first floor (remember, not the ground floor) kitchen window with our hallmates, onto the low roof that connected our two yellow boxes, chilly, tipsy and looking out at the dark lake.

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She’s the friend who understands my ambitions and fears instinctively, and I don’t have to ask “Do you know what I mean?” because she has the same back-of-the-mind thoughts. We read between each other’s lines, and they are the same:

“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.” -Toni Morrison, Beloved

The last time she called me, a couple of weeks ago, she told me that she occasionally makes stuffed eggplant, or risotto for her flatmates. This past week I made stuffed eggplant twice, just like in Lausanne, trying to evoke the best spring in my memory.

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Rivella cover girl, Jackie Sirc, circa 2015