This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Shinrin-yoku, every day

shinrin-yoku-3Shinrin-yoku, or forest-bathing, every day. The Japanese prefer slow mindful sauntering instead of aerobic hiking. As a form of nature therapy, shinrin-yoku means not only crossing through a wood, but bathing in it: letting it fill one’s lungs, ears, nose, and eyes. It means not talking or listening to music, but listening to the birds, the grasshoppers, and the wind in the trees. And it means wandering off the path to caress the warm, dry bark of a tree, just because it feels like the best thing to do at the moment.shinrin-yoku-1That is why forest-bathing is best done alone. And while I like to alternate between running and walking through the forests in Loviisa, I still do it every day. And I come out from the forest feeling very centered and alive.
shinrin-yoku-2(Loviisa and Kotka, Finland; June 2020)

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WFH, the rural alternative

june-1My home office for the rest of June. Hot, humid, and a bit overgrown. Emails and surfing are to be managed on a cellphone hotspot, and video conferences to be taken from the porch of my parents’ house, in self-isolation from them for the first 2 weeks.

My father had ordered wifi in late May, and they dug the cable up to the house within a week. Connecting it had a two-month backlog, as every house and summer house now suddenly requires wifi, thanks to the Working From Home -culture of 2020. (Now the wifi is finally being connected as I am writing this, in early August…)june-2(Loviisa, Finland; June 2020)


COVID-free and flying home

cphI have not been grounded for as long as 3 months in over 10 years. And because in Copenhagen I was unable to fly to see my colleagues AND to spend time with my family, in mid-June I challenged the lockdown and flew home to Finland for the summer.

In Denmark, anyone could sign up to be tested (or just walk/drive in these days) at any time, so I went for a test which delivered the results just in time for my flight. Over the summer, Denmark further implemented a COVID-19 negative -pass, downloadable and valid for 7 days after a PCR test.

Then I gathered the paperwork needed to back up my re-entry to Denmark: employment contract, rental agreement, and the yellow health insurance card. I packed for a month’s worth of varying Finnish summer weather (I ended up staying longer) and exchanged my previous Finnair cancellation voucher for a one-way ticket to Helsinki.

The airport was nearly shut down, including the lounges. We early morning birds had to choose from 7-Eleven or Joe & the Juice – you guessed it: the latter was where the crowd stood, trying to socially distance while waiting for breakfast. As there was no cabin service on the flight (face masks on during the entire flight), breakfast seemed like a good idea.flightBoarding with a Finnish passport was no trouble, although several other passengers were taken aside to get their paperwork in order. Crossing the border in Finland with a passport issued by the Copenhagen embassy was no issue, either, although on my both sides, foreign passport holders were digging up marriage certificates and work permits and quarantine addresses from their bags. I did not even need to give an address for quarantine nor sign a document where I vouched I would stay there for the first 14 days – such was still required some weeks previously.

Right now, in early August, several European borders are shutting up again after allowing holiday travelers in and out for roughly a month. This is the new normal – at least for another 1-2 years to come, depending on the efficiency and speed of the vaccine efforts. With some planning and luck, travel is still possible in 2020. covid(Copenhagen, Denmark; June 2020)

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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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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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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)

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Hanami far from Japan

cph-april-2This year was going to be the year I finally would experience a real Japanese hanami. I would look at the cherry blossom (or sakura) forecast, and book a trip to Kyoto to view them at their finest. I would buy a delicious bento boxful of food, a bottle of sparkling wine, and sit under the cherry trees, letting the petals slowly cover me in rosy white fluffy joy.cph-april-5That dream remains a dream, thanks to the covid-19 outbreak. Next year I will not have the flexibility to just up and go at a moment’s notice – but I plan to plan ahead. Apparently, even if it sweeps through Kyoto in just one week, sakura season in Japan lasts for an entire month. One just needs to catch it where it is at its best.cph-april-7Thankfully, Copenhagen also has two cherry tree parks, at Bispebjerg cemetery and Langelinie, that give acute relief to the longing for spring in Japan.brumleby-4(Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)

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Two little mermaids

cph-april-1Did you know there are two little mermaids in Copenhagen? One is the much-beloved statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale heroine, the little mermaid who fell in love and chose to go through much pain to attain a human soul, just to be with a prince who barely even noticed or cared about her as a person. (If you’re only aware of Walt Disney’s Little Mermaid, please do yourself a favor and read the much more layered original story!)

The second one is part of a larger installation called the Genetically Modified Paradise. This mermaid is also called The Genetically Modified Mermaid and she was placed on the other side of the quay, further down in a residential area, in 2006. It is supposed to be  humorous, although I have not quite understood whether the artist intended to show humor, sarcasm, or grief.

But I like the genetically modified mermaid. Especially her droopy breasts and big feet. Compared to the strict beauty norms of today, such “imperfections” seem friendly.cph-april-8(Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)