Got my passport, my Danish proof-of-address, my negative COVID test, and my ticket. I have now dropped bringing my rental agreement and employment contract, which I traveled with most of 2020 after hearing rumors of expats having trouble re-entering Denmark. Even in 2021 it is not easy to enter a country without a valid reason, and a lot of paperwork and planning. Looking back at over 50 years of borderless travel between the Nordics, it is quite the unimaginable future we live in today.
Flying in 2021 requires both a passport and a negative coronavirus test. Obtaining a certificate with a negative result with sampling no more than 24 hours before boarding turned out to be a challenge. Finland does not test asymptomatic people through its public healthcare system, and has not scaled up the antigen test alternative. And because the results are not entirely reliable, most private clinics who do offer antigen tests for a fee refuse to write a travel certificate.
Thus, my only bet was an expensive, express overnight PCR test in Helsinki, requiring me to leave Loviisa the day before departure and staying with my sister. With resistance, I forked out for yet another test, in addition to the 72 h post-entry test I paid for in another private clinic before christmas, after being turned away from the public clinics because I lacked symptoms,
Oh well, my holiday visit could have been worse: a family of four would have paid 2,000 EUR just for the tests (and then some for the flights). In the end, I was fortunate enough to find the choice between the money and investing in quality time with dear ones an easy one.
For at least a year I have thought about writing, or rather not writing, this post. I am so far behind many of you when it comes to podcasts. Because, not only do I stick to my habits, but I have an obsession for completion and lists. I go through much pain and boredom before I give up on a book or a movie mid-way. I love finishing off to-do lists. And to me, podcasts episodes look like… well, to-do lists. And they are a significant time investment. When I choose to get deeper into a podcast series, listening a couple episodes per week, it takes me months to decide whether I should keep listening or delete it from my list.
It hurts my head to think of the universe of amazing podcasts all around the world, available with just a few taps. Smart shows like Dear Sugar, Serial, and Stuff You Should Know are famous – and I shyly confess that they are not in my podcast list at all. Why? Because I can only keep track of about three podcasts at once, and once I get into them I need to go through the list, often several years and hundreds of episodes worth, to complete the series. Only when I get up to date with a podcast I like, do I have bandwidth to tackle another…. neurotic? Perhaps. Focused? For sure.
Here are the three ones that keep me busy (in no particular order of priority):
The Ground Up Show, by Matt D’Avella These days, Matt D’Avella is equally well known for directing the documentary Minimalism, as well as his Youtube channel amassing millions of subscribers. The podcast is inactive since quite a while, but he managed to record 100+ interviews about starting from the ground up as a creative entrepreneur. In later episodes he moved towards topics like minimalism and health, and his experience as a stand-up comedian and conversational skills makes the episodes seem shorter than they are. This is my go-to for cleaning and other random household chores.
The Goop Podcast Yes, I am a scientist by training and I love the Goop Podcast. I listen to it every night as I get ready for bed, and most nights even in bed, if I cannot sleep right away. The breadth of topics, from psychology and longevity to social issues and business, means I always learn and am never bored.
Pörssipäivä The long-standing Finnish radio show on investing and money markets. I have several investing and personal finance podcasts on my list, but I am still stuck on this one, also because I still have some stock market investments in Finland. I usually pull up an episode in the evenings while making dinner or ironing clothes.
Soon I will be up-to-date with both Goop and Pörssipäivä. Can you recommed me a new favorite?
“It says we can see this island at sixty degrees starboard, so have to be here, just off that rock.” “No way, sixty degrees starboard means we’re already way past that island, so we must be right here… wait, that looks like dry land?!”
And on and on, for another two hours it went, before we solved our position and direction, using some very unorthodox methods of projecting off the map. Reading a map is relatively easy when you know where you are. But how about when you are out at sea, need to broadcast your position to ask for help, and you think you recognize a landmark off the map but have no idea exactly where you are? For very obvious reasons, this type of problem was the main one, repeated throughout my sister’s navigation course book.
In the end, navigation with a map is all very simple logic and trigonometry, but boy did it take me hours and a quite some googling to swipe away the dust and cobwebs over the section in my brain that stored the crumbled remains of a navigation course I attended some fifteen years ago. My sister pushed on with admirable resilience, after realizing that the classes she invested in all fall would not guarantee a passed exam. Two days later and with the help of Youtube tutorials (in Danish!) we were finally able to find ourselves, on demand.
(My sister’s exam was canceled due to COVID, of course. But hopefully this time around the skill is not lost).
In mid-December, I dug out my suitcases. A dusty one from the walk-in closet, stuffed behind the clothes rack, and the other from the attic, where rust-water from the leaking roof had dripped all over it, leaving a red puddle mark on its side.
I had intended to replace my trusty old Rimowa with its twice-repaired zipper and torn interior lining before my first business trip in my new job, but such an occasion has not yet arisen. I guess luggage companies are struggling through these COVID-times as well.
As I dragged both bags behind me on my way to the metro which would take me to Copenhagen airport, I felt the long looks of passers-by. They were certainly no looks of envy, longing, and a shared passion of exploring new places. Most likely they were intentionally cast, so I would feel ashamed for intending to contribute to the spread of the virus. 2020, please be gone soon.
It was a windy, gray, chilling evening in early December. I had spent all day reviewing 2020 and playing strategy games with my new colleagues. My head was beginning to feel soft, but the time to relax had not yet come. First, I had to endure the test every new team mate goes through: opening a bottle of champagne with a saber. And I can tell you, while it looks fancy and impossible, it is way easier than tinkering with removing the wire net while pressing a thumb over the cork so it does not fly into the ceiling. All it requires is confidence, and a good determined swing from the shoulder, as the saber runs down along the neck of the bottle and sends the entire glass tip flying across the room.
And really, it was not I who broke the bottle; I merely supported the champagne in its desire to escape.
It must be winter soon, because my poor radish microgreens stretch towards the window with all their might. Interestingly, they rotate towards the kitchen light, in the opposite direction, every night. I try to keep their suffering brief.
No travel means lots of opportunities to experiment at home. I tried growing microgreens in a compostable paper wool. It looks hassle-free, but begins to smell before slow-growing sunflower microgreens are ready. I am also not convinced I get good quality nutrition and may just end up making these superfoods less super. So I went back to potting soil. Perhaps coconut husk would be another less messy option?
It has been a silent week. Unlike Belgium, France, and Spain, Denmark is not yet in lockdown, but we have been given further restrictions, and my employer issued a stricter recommendation to work from home.
With the clocks turned back, running in a Danish park after dark resembles moving around an African village: little streams of light from lanterns barely light up the path in front of my feet between pools of darkness, while my head is constantly enveloped in the black night. All around me I hear talk and human noises. And as I cannot see around me, walking or jogging after dark is a strange meditation on the importance of light and sight.
Low lighting of parks must be some kind of climate action, but it surprises me that even here in the capital people are not encouraged to stay active after dark. Forget about footpaths and bike paths in Brande or Vejle after dark – they are not lit at all. After-work joggers pound the pavement for four months each year. In Finland this would be unthinkable, both because people are encouraged to go out even in the darkest time of the year, as well as for personal security after dark.
Under the lamp, after dinner, I have been busy bringing order back to the life of my weeping fig bonsai, which I brought over this summer. It looked like a big green wig after growing untouched for the most of 3 years. Lacking sufficiently thick wire for the thickest unruly branches, I tied them to a trunk until I could find the supplies I need. According to the rules of grooming I should probably have cut off the low branch crossing the trunk, but given how bare the tree is now, I left it for the time being. We all need a break in this strange new world order.
Who knew? All that is required to grow mushrooms at home is some cooked, wet hay, mushroom mycelium, and alternating dark and light. And if one is even more lazy, a do-it-at-home kit involving a dressed-up milk carton filled with wet hay and mycelium. Cut a little window in it, leave it somewhere not too hot and dark, and out sprout oyster mushrooms, within two weeks.
When these mushrooms ended up in my wok, I simply poured a bit of water into the carton, closed the window with tape, and returned it to the sill. In two weeks’ time I will cut another window and watch the magic unfold, once again.