Growing your own Happy as an Expat

For Today’s Wednesday Wanderings – or Onsdag Wanderlust as I like to call them – I’m taking you local. A simple outing to a beautiful place right here in Copenhagen. The Botanical Garden in the middle of the city. Botanisk Have in Danish. If you are interested in going further afield on this hump day – see my last post about charming Torekov, Sweden.

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The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

When I started this blog, oh so many months ago ;), it was really just a cathartic way for me to be able to communicate as a newly expatriated American living in Denmark. A way to absolve a wee bit of the isolation I was feeling not speaking the language, nor really getting the local customs and not knowing anyone yet. I thought it could be a place to share my new experiences with friends and family from my “from.” And it has been. What I didn’t realize was that it would open up another new community and a different sense of belonging and sharing. There is a whole community out there who are doing THE EXACT SAME THING as me. Well, ok, maybe not the EXACT same thing – we all like to think that we are unique and different and special (unless you live in Denmark, because here we’re all part of the unique and different and special WHOLE.)

But honestly, I wish I had started writing long before actually expatriating. It would have been a cathartic part of the process. I believe it would have eased some of the initial frustrations knowing that many, many, many others had gone through or were going through similar scenarios. Just trying their hardest to create a new normal, fit in, connect, learn and explore in their new news. And if you have found your way here to this post because you are the one embarking on this road of expatriation as the “trailing spouse” or “expat partner” –  I can’t recommend highly enough reading The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide by Clara Wiggins. You are NOT alone! I am helping road test the new book – a few more insider bits about Oregon Girl (see our link here!). Expat Partner's Survival Guide

But Clara is just one of the many expats I have met recently. Some near and some far, we share similar experiences that connect us – whether here in Denmark, or further afield. I have truly enjoyed participating in the newly establishing My Expat Family twitter chats (#myexpatfamily) and connecting about common experiences, even gleaning some advice to enhance life here in my evolving new. Come join us – read more about how to link up and join in the fun over at Seychelles mama.

Relatively new to the blogosphere, I am not new to exploring social media. 4 years ago, I downloaded this little app called “Instagram” (you might know it). Instagram now isn’t the same experience as when I first joined, but I really don’t mind the evolution. There is space for us all on Instagram. (Find me here on IG.) I will admit that instantly while using the app and meeting a new virtual community, I knew that I wanted a little more – I wanted to interact face to face with this new community. Lucky for me – in Portland, Oregon – one of the very first regularly meeting Instagroups had already started monthly meetups. Many around me didn’t really get why I would was interested in getting to know “strangers” I met online (or on my iPhone.) On one level, it was me pushing myself outside of my comfort zone – meeting new people I would not normally have had exposure to. On another level, it was a place to meet like-minded individuals doing the same thing – interested in exploring the visual spaces around them. (Sensing a pattern here?) Some of my very good friends that I was very sad to leave were connected through the Portland Instagram Group.

One of my new blogging friends – Angie Americana (check out her expat experiences over at The Stereotypical American) recently nominated me for a blogging award. What?! An award? In my head, I envision a huge box with “FRAGILE” written on it being delivered to my door (“It must be Italian!”) and I like to tell my family that I won a “…major award!” Maybe I shouldn’t liken this blog love to fish-netted plastic leg lamp, because in all sincerity, I DO appreciate the blog love. And the fact that I have garnered readers outside my wee circle back in my “from,” is something right? Worth an award, I’d say. So thank you Angie! Now I really think we must meet in person as we’re both American Expats in Denmark and I really want to learn how to make homemade tortillas. (And she’s an EAGLES fan! I’m already planning communal cheesesteaks in the dark winter months and streaming NFL! Ok – I may have gotten ahead of myself.)

So no traveling pants, but I was nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!

Here are the guidelines:

1)Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and link them in your post.
2) Answer the ten questions you have been sent.
3) Come up with 10 questions of your own.
4) Spread the love and nominate up to 10 bloggers!

Ok. So here it goes! THANK YOU ANGIE!

Angie’s Questions for Me:

1) What was the best gift you have ever received?

Quick qualifier – all of the brilliant questions put out by Angie were very thought-provoking and not simple to answer, so I’m going with first responses – top of mind – what jumped in first. I have received many, many awesome and amazing gifts over my life – but first to pop in when responding to this question was my 40th birthday trip to Paris with my husband. It took some secrecy, some communal accommodation (thank you mom for agreeing to watch my three kids!) and clearly expressed wish lists! I used to say that my “dream trip” (we didn’t call it a bucket list) would be to fly on the Concord to Paris and see the Kirov Ballet perform Swan Lake at the Paris Opera House. Turns out the Concord no longer exists and Paris Ballet is equally as excellent. For my 40th birthday, I got to see Swan Lake in PARIS. Sigh. Tears. Champagne. Dream lived. Sigh. Ahhh.

2) If you could steal anybody’s closet (celebrity, tv/movie character, blogger, etc), whose would you want and why?

This one is tough for me as I am not one to covet famous peoples’ anything. I appreciate a well-heeled celeb (as long as she isn’t creating a name for herself for the wrong reasons) and look to fashion magazines more for the inspiring photography than what designer to buy next. I do appreciate Danish design and fashion, but also appreciate the high value placed on thrifted and repurposed “vintage” finds here. I don’t think I can point to a specific one closet here for this answer. I’m a dabbler, call me a chameleon, the world is a stage and I like finding the next costume to “perform” in.

3) If you were an actor, would you rather be cast as the hero or the villain and why?

I was never an “actor,” but I did grow up performing. Many many years in the ballet (does the wish list make more sense now?) and symphony, I loved being on stage – just not speaking on stage. So I would never choose to be the hero or the villain as defined by those would be “Best Actor” nominated roles. My gut response is – I wouldn’t mind receiving “a major award” for the Best Supporting Actress in a role that was surrounded in mystery, shrouded in ambiguity – is she good or is she bad? We can’t tell… YET. Snarky and surreptitious potentially, the quirky one, the colorful one. Starts off as an unknown and in her little way somehow helps the hero win the day in a subtle and did that just happen kind of way?

4) If you were a singer, what would your debut album by called?

Oregon Girl – duh.

5) What was your favorite childhood cartoon?

This is going to date me. But “Super Friends.” It was on ABC Saturday morning cartoons in the 80’s. “Super Twins to the rescue” anyone? “Form of?” “An eagle!” “A bucket of water!”  I told you it would date me.

6) What company(ies) would you love to be a brand representative for?

Anthropologie. I love that store. Or Swedish Hasbeens. I love those.

7) What is your favorite food to cook?

Anything. I love cooking. I’m an excellent baker – my specialty is German Chocolate Cake or a Double Chocolate Ganache cake made with either stout or strong coffee. Yum. But seriously I love making risotto. Something about the slow, slow process (if you have the time) is so soothing and calming and slow and lovely. I put on good music, pour a glass of wine and stir, stir, stir. (Carmelizing onions has the same effect.)

8) What is your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas. For sure. I love the decorations. I love the food. I love the community. Danes call it hygge. It’s cozy and warm and full of friends and family. I can’t wait to celebrate it here this year. Last December was a little harried and discombobulated as we’d only been in Denmark for a couple weeks and in our flat for 10 days. This year – our community extended, we will celebrate our American Christmas love Danish style.

9) What is your biggest pet peeve?

Listening to people eat. I heard though, that is a sign of being creative. Right? It is right?

10) What are your blogging goals for 2015?

More connections and more growing and more exploring and more learning. Above all – keep it fun!

SO – here are my 10 questions for bloggers that I nominate for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award:

I would love to hear from everyone, not just those nominated (seriously if you have it in you to respond – please do! You can just leave your 10 answers in the responses below.) But officially, I nominate the following blogs (in no particular order) – share the love and go check them out!

Seychelles Mama
Life Love and Sausages
Amanda Afield
A Dusty Olive Green
The Copenhagen Tales
Misplaced Brit
Mad About Copenhagen
Eat Sleep Love Travel
Danish Exchange
The Gracious Girl
Delige Days

1. Where are you “from” and how does it color WHERE you are living now?

2. Please share one favorite book and why?

3. Who inspires you creatively?

4. Do you have a favorite place for breakfast? (I love breakfast!)

5. If you could have a second home – where would it be and why?

6. Please describe a pair of shoes that made you feel special!

7. What is your favorite season?

8. Have you had an interaction with a stranger who left an imprint on you?

9. Who is your favorite artist?

10. What are you listening to on repeat lately? (I need new music!)

Thank you Angie for nominating me! And thank you to all the nominees for playing along – can’t wait to see your responses! Cheers from Denmark! Erin

Six months an expat

Half a year. Expatriates for half a year. It has been six months since we stepped away from my mom’s driveway, kissing our family and dog goodbye. Handed over the keys of our home to renters the day before, after countless days culling and packing and separating and storing all our earthly belongings. Much of sold in an epic yard sale. Much of it in my mother’s attic. Some more of it cordoned off in our own garage. Boats sold, cars sold or given away or stored. Goodbye parties with friends for both the littles and the adults. All behind us. Getting on that plane, there was a collective familial exhale. The months and months of preparing, planning and processing before that moment now complete. Yes, it was bittersweet. Tears were shed. Hugs held longer than normal. But the anticipation and excitement and sheer utter exhaustion took over and flying around the world became surreal. Not on vacation. But flying 30 hours around the world to our new home. To Denmark.

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Maj Dag – May Day!

May 1st or May Day, the world around, conjures images of flowers born from April showers. Placing cones bursting full of blossoms upon the front doors of unsuspecting loved ones and neighbors. May poles with colorful ribbons being woven round by dancing happy young girls in layered dresses skipping to live music being played and happy standersby clapping and welcoming sunny days and new green leaves on the trees. Is it just me? This version of May Day has roots in many cultures extending as far back as Ancient Rome. This was not exactly the 1st of May picture we encountered in our corner of Copenhagen this past Fredag.

May 1st is also – you may or may not know – known as Labor Day or International Worker’s Day in many parts of the world. Adopted in 1889 by socialized countries to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution as well as American labor union strikes of the late 19th century pushing for fairer working conditions, including the 8-hour work day. We now live in the socialized country of Denmark who takes their May 1st celebrating very seriously. It is somewhat of a sacred institution here. At least for some. Every year the large Fælledparken – in our neighborhood – turns into a enormous union rally and party on the lawn. Booths set up for each labor union. There are speeches by local illuminati including the Prime Minister and others, followed by live music, DJ’s, food, carnival rides, cheap white wine and Tuborg beer – all to celebrate the day of the worker. And no one works. Well – most people aren’t working. It is a school holiday and bank holiday, so we all had a free day off. And to celebrate – almost everyone drinks. A lot. Skål to the working man!

To be fair, maybe we did not truly celebrate May 1st as a festive Dane. I feel fairly confident that if I had two able feet to walk with and wasn’t concerned about the escalating level of intoxication coming to and fro the park out on our neighborhood streets, we would have cruised through Fælledparken and checked it out. When in Copenhagen, right? But having experienced just a fragment of its celebrants on their way to the celebration made me a wee bit wary in my crutching for my life current condition. Open containers? Underage drinking? Check and check. Oh – that’s right. Did you know that you can legally buy alcohol here at 16. Yes. 16. So maybe they weren’t actually underage. But alcohol was everywhere. And the cans, bottles, cheap white wine and emptied bubbly all left exactly where it was finished. On the sidewalk. On the corner. By the cafe door. By our door. I am not intending to lay judgement. To each his own I usually say. And to be honest not one of these boisterous young attendees was really doing anything inappropriate that I witnessed – just celebrating a free day communally. And festively. And drunkly. Unlike other Danish holidays that we have experienced when the city shuts down and feels cavernous and echo-ey – leaving us to wonder where have all the people gone? (And where are we supposed to get groceries?) In contrast, May 1st was PACKED. To the brim. At least in our neighborhood. We waited alongside the throngs and masses for the bus that was late due to being over capacity – so packed, and filling more at each stop, that our children were worried that they were to be boxed in at the back of the bus and would be unable to get off at the requisite stop. Fear not, dear reader, as all of us – even I with my crutches – were able to maneuver the burgeoning bus crowd and make it to our destination.

So what did we do on this 1st of May? We celebrated this most Danish of holidays with an invitation to join some Danish and American friends at the opening of an outdoor seating patio for two little cafes in our neighboring neighborhood, Nørrebro. Lækkerier på Nørrebro is known for its fabulous cakes, Danish rugbrød sandwiches and latina Pisco Sours. Next door is the Green Buddha offering delicious thai fare and Singha beer. Order up, bundle up (it was cold) and listen to the festive South American rhythms  of Trypical Cumbia – band members hailing from Chile, Columbia, England and Ecaudor singing in Spanish. Ai! Ai! Ai! All of this painted against the graffiti’d backdrop of Vedbæksgade (remember gade means street) made it a very colorful outing. How does this all fit together? Did it make sense? Not in a traditional sense. But as newly minted citizens of the world, sharing it with our new friends, throwing around an American football, it felt like a celebration indeed. We sat outside and enjoyed the music on this abnormally chilly May 1st (so I’m told by two Danes who would know) wrapped up in the cafe’s fleece blankets, and shared stories and talked of new plans and enjoyed excellent cake and a new sense of growing community. For this I will happily celebrate in solidarity.

Happy Maj to you and yours!

Show me my Silver Lining

Lemonade from lemons. In theory, motivating. In theory, inspiring. In theory, possible. When life serves you lemons, make lemonade. Make something good out of the bad. Right? In theory. Call me a sour puss, but sometimes the lemons just sit there. All cheerful and happy in their sunny yellow-ness all the while mocking you. Pucker up sucker. Do you know what I mean? Turning around the hand you’ve been dealt takes moxy. It takes effort. Bluffing works. Sometimes. Sometimes it is easier said than done, making that god damn hypothetical lemonade.

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