22 December 2009

Reflections on Departure and Return

Previously written:
So here I am, 1:15 pm EST, just flying past Reykjavik on my way to Chicago (arrival sometime between 7 and 8 pm EST):  almost home(-ish).  The air temperature outside is -84 degrees F, and after a post-sundown take-off on the shortest day of the year (around 4:30 pm, CPH time), I could just barely glimpse the gradation of colors in the sunset as I head into younger hours for the longest day of my life thus far.  I just finished watching Julie & Julia and enjoying my last chance to pretend that I speak Danish whenever I inform the "air host" which drink I'd like. And maybe it's the hvid vin talking (so little does so much when you're at 34,000 ft.), or perhaps the fact that I had been eagerly eyeing the concoctions in the film, but the airline food did me right this evening.  Of course, this is only my second trans-Atlantic flight, and I was not all that impressed back in August.  But man, that chicken with a mushroom sauce (really rice and broccoli?) was just what I needed, and I told myself mentally that the chocolate mousse was divine.

But enough about food and airplane statistics.  I'm gone; finished with the physical, tangible piece of this adventure.  Teary eyed as I left  René, Kirsten, Nanna, and Jonas who had been kind enough to leave work early and drive me to the airport, I travelled down the corridor to security, worrying someone would eventually stop me from taking a carry-on bag AND claiming my full backpack as a "personal item."  I got on alright, but perhaps it's just bad karma that I was assigned a seat without room for my backpack underneath, and the poor guy next to me offered to bear that burden.  My next step is to brave US customs for my first time, but I don't expect that to be too big of a deal.

It was my plan all along to write as soon as the film was over, but now that I've watched Julie blog for two hours, I'm even more in the mood.  I felt a kind of ridiculous connection to Julie, who also blogged on a definite time frame (365 days, 524 recipes).  I don't really want to be done with my writing; I've enjoyed it too much for the past 4 months.  It wasn't an escape from reality, like Julie used, but a constant support, assurance that my reflections and memories won't die.  I've been much more diligent with my blog than my gratitude journal (assigned for Psychology of Happiness) or my notebook of clippings (which, trust me, I have a pile to tackle and glue down once I'm home).

At any rate, while I still have a few more entries up my sleeve, I wanted to take this opportunity to write a few remarks that bare some semblance to a conclusion.  So without further ado . . .

What I Didn't Expect to Find in Denmark:
  • A bizarre  sense of pride for the E-line to Køge
  • Two words:  flat farmlands (but this was my own lack of preparation)
  • Learning that 60's movies are more risqué than I had thought (thanks to TCM on the tv in my room)
  • Gratitude
  • While I expected some sense of humility as an American in another culture, I did not expect to find a greater sense of pride with my own nationality and to occasionally have a distaste for Danish culture.
  • To like leverpostej (liver paté), and more food that I won't soon forget
  • Different educational expectations
  • Awesome public restrooms
  • A greater appreciation for art
  • A sense of the character of an entire city and its different components
  • The wish to be farther away from a city
  • So many 7-Elevens
  • My American consuming habits dying hard
  • A failed COP15
  • The meaning of coming home for Christmas
  • An experience not yet defined
What I Expected and Did Not Find:
  • A third home (Bloomington being my first, DePauw my second); this is not a discredit to my host-family, but rather, a cultural disconnect I never remedied
  • Not being so broke at the present moment.
  • Somewhat of a utopia
  • A similar sense of pride/connection for/with my study program and its student body that I have to my own home university
  • More Danish Butter Cookies (though the ones Nanna made were EXCELLENT)
  • A routine more like at home (e.g. in regards to cycling, homework, etc.)
I like that the first list is longer and also that some of these are important, while others are a little mundane.  But still, where does this leave me now?  As I mentioned above, there is still a less tangible piece of my experience to complete.  I don't know how much re-entry shock will affect me or how I'll look back on everything after a month or four (my perspective certainly changed even within my 4-month journey), but I do  know that I still have challenges ahead of me.  In the short term, I'm faced with helping my family re-create a Danish Christmas back in the states.  In the long term, I must rise to the fact that I can't let all that I've seen, heard, tasted, or felt die.  These four months were too big of an opportunity to not let it consciously shape the future of my life experience.  I'm still 'iffy' on the details, but I accept.


  1. I understand about missing some parts of your own culture...also, liver pate is delicious!

    What do you mean by your consuming habits dying hard? Have you seen that survive the trip home?

  2. Well done, you made it.

    Plus you spoke eloquently about it.