This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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On a random day in Skanör

skanor-3During the coronavirus lockdown I had some urgent private matters to attend to in Sweden. And somehow I ended up having a fabulous lunch with a fabulous friend, in Skanör of all places. You know, the curly southernmost tip of Sweden – the one with the famous seals. skanor-2It was windy and not too warm – it was only May, after all. But the restaurant had a shielded terrace, and gas heaters and blankets. There were huge pots of fresh blue mussels, and crisp white wine. And lots of good girl-talk. It felt good to break out of the daily hunkering-down in my apartment: the home-office, the daily runs and walks in the parks to keep my sanity. Yes, it felt good to simply sit down and share a meal with a friend. Face-to-face meetings are a rare luxury this year.
skanor-1(Skanör, Sweden; May 2020)

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Crossing borders during lockdown

flightsProbably a once-in-a-lifetime: 48 hours of departures on one screen, at Copenhagen airport in May. The direct international connections seem very random: Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Doha, Tallinn, Oslo, Stockholm, and Sofia.

Faroe Islands and Bornholm belong to Denmark – and so does Greenland, which seems to have been completely isolated. No flights at all to Kangerlussuaq. Or Helsinki, for that matter (the other Nordic capitals were open while Finland shut itself as well as Denmark did).

I only swung by Copenhagen airport to switch from metro to the Öresundståget train which took me to Sweden, over the bridge. I had private matters to attend to in Malmö, and as a non-Dane returning to well-isolated Denmark I was equipped to the teeth with paperwork and health insurance cards and rental agreements and work contracts. I had heard stories of returning expats detained at the border because following the rules and simply showing the yellow health insurance card was not enough. Fortunately, a show of the yellow card and a smile was sufficient to let me pass back into Denmark.

Technically, I was now required to spend two weeks in quarantine after spending just 4 hours in Sweden – in an area with less coronavirus than Copenhagen. I thought of my only obvious possible Swedish source of contagion: a lady speaking loudly on the phone behind me in the escalator, stepping up right behind me every time I moved a step onward to make more distance between us.

When I entered the chock-full metro train back into city center, I discovered that my best bet for getting sick that day was in the Copenhagen subway. Fortunately, I managed to stay healthy while probably some less lucky people did not.kastrupborder(Copenhagen, Denmark; May 2020)

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Stilleben with a lamp

apt-2A still life with my landlady’s lamp, a meditation pouf, and a new book case from Ikea. Save for a few pieces lent by my landlady, this case, a new couch, and my Double Bubble lamp, I am living out of a suitcase and a few boxes. Here’s to hoping I will finally get my belongings out of storage in Finland and over to Denmark, after two years of gathering dust.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; May 2020)

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Something Finnish in Copenhagen

helsinkisignSurprise: there is a Helsinkigade in Copenhagen! It is in Nordhavn, the urban swanky neighborhood built on a landfill island and housing among other the regional UN/WHO headquarters.

Also, there is a Suomisvej in Copenhagen, in Frederiksberg on the side of one of the lakes. Suomi is Finland in Finnish – wonder what its history is?

(Copenhagen, Denmark; May 2020)

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Shopping in 2020

ikeaShopping in 2020 means longer lines to any shop on Saturday mornings than to a night club on Saturday night (and night clubs are all closed anyway). It means disinfecting one’s hands several times a day, and wiping off the smartphone screen when arriving at home. Washing hands before putting food away, and washing hands once done.

Mostly, it means being suspicious of every person one meets – at a time when solidarity is needed more than ever. And it means intentional shopping, for once: carefully weighing whether my need for a couch is worth risking my health. (Yup, you guessed it. I am not one of Darwin’s chosen ones: I went for the couch…)apt-1(Copenhagen, Denmark; May 2020)

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New views

brumleby-3Another month, another move. The third one this year, and by this time it was only May – and the magnolias were barely in bloom.

Disregarding covid-19, it has been a tough spring. And thanks to covid-19 I have spent it mostly alone. The person I had hoped would surprise me on my 40th birthday did not show up. Fortunately that was well made up by a good friend showing up for a walk and cakes on a park bench. I made it a rule to meet with someone face-to-face at least once a week, although sometimes, three weeks passed between such meetings. brumleby-2When I feel rootless, I can only root in myself. And try to list at least three things that have inspired me, each day. Like magnolias. Discovering I can remedy the badly worn wooden plank floor of my new apartment. And spring sunshine, every day.brumleby-1(Copenhagen, Denmark; May 2020)


Loosening up

yarn”Pay attention to when it falls off,” the retreat lead told me last fall when she gave me this yarn bracelet. It would serve as a reminder of getting used to living with uncertainty – a topic I gave much attention during that weekend and afterward.

Well, on the last day in April the bracelet fell off. As I was holding my iPhone to photograph it, the phone rang – with a job offer in another company. I took it. And I finally quit my first real industry job, and a journey that started nine years ago, after I left academic research. It is time for another turning point in life, and a new direction.

Seems my Copenhagen slow life is going to be short-lived. After the summer, I will finally need to show up at a local office, most week days. For the first time in nine years, my team and manager will work in the same country and office as I. And I have yet another reason to update my life plan. More on that soon.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)


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Travel journals

notebooksAfrica, Bali, Bali & Malaysia, Singapore & Bali, Spain. Wish I had written travel journals also from the Brazilian Amazon, Kenya, Nepal, and Crete. And even way before, during my previous life, from Thailand, the USA, and elsewhere. But I am glad I corrected my mistake and began to write. These journals have always served as raw material for my blog posts – and the blog posts may serve as raw material for something else I’m working on.

If you’re curious what journals I use: the two Soumkines on the right hold up well and the paper is sturdy and lovely, but they get quite blotchy in use.

The dark and medium blues are Moleskine Volants. Even those covers get worn out around the edges, but the book holds together well. I love the detachable sheets and always keep a Volant in reserve, in case I run out of pages but don’t need another entire notebook to complete the trip journal. I just tear out the pages I used, staple them together, and paste them to the back with a paperclip. The downside with Moleskine paper is that it bleeds through if you use liquid ink or more wet rollerball pens.

For trips where I know I will write a lot, the Daycraft journal is a winner. It is thicker, the paper is amazing, and the cover is a thick, bouncy soft material that stays neat. The burgundy journal went with me around Namibia and Zanzibar for two months and does not look any worse than it did when we set off.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)

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New space

strandBeach, book, bike ride, and ice cream. All I need on a day off.

I lay down behind the tufts of grass, sheltered by the freezing spring wind blowing from the sea, and savored reading a book about journeys and being in constant motion by Olga Tokarczuk. This spring I have been more still than any other time the past twenty years – geographically. The constant motion within my head has been relentless, bubbling and prattling on like water in a brook. It has been a balance of raging frustrations and inspiring whispers.

And yet it has not been chaos, but the creation of something new. I belong to that half of people who discovered in the pandemic a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fill the time saved from no commutes and work trips with life planning, learning something new, and working on a creative project. Once social media filled up with protests of people who, instead of discovering the same as I ran into chaos, fear, and despair, I stopped gushing to people about all the things I could now fit into my day. But I made a daily schedule, and stuck to it – most days. The remaining few ones were reserved for beaches, books, bike rides, and ice creams.

(Amager strand, Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)