Tag Archives: home

A tale from the road

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My apologies for leaving you all post-less last weekend, but I wasn’t exactly in the mood for blogging due to the circumstances that sent me home unexpectedly, and neither did I have time to prepare some scheduled posts – but for now regular posting is back! (well, at least until the end of the month)

As I said, I had to return home unexpectedly last weekend. And I took the train. From Lund. To Ghent.

A 17 hour journey*.

To this moment I have no idea why exactly I chose the train. It wasn’t that much cheaper (although, to say it with Tesco: every little helps!). Or actually… T told me to take the train. So I did.

And it started out great – the first train was 15 minutes late. Not when I got on, but for some reason or another, it stopped every 10 minutes. Without there being a train station. We stopped on the øresund-bridge, we stopped before getting into the tunnel, we stopped when we got out, … honestly, this train had issues. I was starting to fear I’d miss my connection and wasn’t exactly thrilled by the idea of missing my grandfather’s funeral because of a train with issues. So once in Copenhagen I started to run – well, you know, the kind of run-hop-walking you generally do when you’re in a hurry but got a big backpack on your back and a full handbag on your front which bounces along happily. The platform was found easily enough, but this was the longest train I ever saw (not really… I saw a Guinness Book attempt for the longest train of over 70 wagons… but for the sake of this post: it was loooooong) and my coach was the very last one. And when I finally got there, I wish I hadn’t.

The wailing which greeted me coming from the train was just… mind-blowing. Think a 2-year-old which has been taken its lollipop, only this was an adult. And I’m pretty sure she wasn’t going to stop even if you gave her 10 lollipops. She was sitting in a couchette with her husband and 3 children, and was completely freaking out. The conductor was in there with them, trying to calm her (and her kids, which were getting really upset because, well, their mother was upset), so I wiggled my way past to try and find my couchette, hoping it would be as far away as possible from noise. It wasn’t. In fact, in passing the conductor I had already passed my spot.

It was there.

The one remaining seat in the couchette occupied by HER.

Please, no, please don’t tell me I have to spend 12 hours in a tiny couchette with a freaked out woman and her 3 kids. She has probably a very good reason to be upset and I’m a kind, tolerant person but please…

And then they got out. For whatever reason the lady had decided she would not continue her journey and she got out, her 3 kids and husband following her silently. I couldn’t believe it – not only did I not have to share a couchette with Mrs. Wail, I GOT A WHOLE COUCHETTE FOR MYSELF! Ah, bliss … .

And then they got back in. Apparently 3 ticket guys combined had been able to convince her to still take the train (strangely, her husband did not say a singly soothing word to his wife, let alone give her a hug or a kiss, rather he seemed embarrassed by the whole situation).

No… please… no… .

Fortunately, both the lady and the conductor had the same idea – it wouldn’t be healthy for me to spend the night in her company. Pfieuw…. for a second, I thought I would be assigned a private bed, since the couchettes seemed pretty much full, but I ended up sharing with two Croation women which fell asleep as soon as they found their seats.

The Thalys was late. And the train to Ghent was late. But I was home. And sometimes, that’s enough.

* For the sake of comparison, Copenhagen-Brussels takes 1h20 with the plane – 6 hours door-to-door.

I hate coming back

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I hate coming back to Sweden.
Contrarily to what you might think it has nothing (or little) to do with the loneliness I sometimes (often…) suffer from here, as I do feel I’m slowly starting up bonds, connections, … some of which I hope will grow into friendships. It is a challenge for me, but one I feel I’m up to (at the moment, at least).

No, what I hate about arriving in Sweden is the unpacking.

This is my 3rd arrival in about a month, so you’d think I’d have it all together by now. Turns out there is so much more to be brought back here every time I board that plane. Chocolates, I had to bring this time, and my calculator. A multi plug, my kitchen herbs, and some more t-shirts. A sowing kit, and my winter duvet. My winter coat. Some Tupperware, my oil-and-vinegar flasks, my perfume. More kitchen towels. And my accordion.

MY accordion.

I haven’t played in over a year – ever since I quit music school (there was no way in combining the tough third year with finishing my PhD) my dear instrument has been sitting in its case, gathering dust. Which is a pity, because I genuinely liked to play – although I’m not particularly good at it – I love music and being a musician has been a long lived dream. I distinctively remember the frustration of not being able to convince my parents to let me learn to play the clarinet – I still hold it against them at times.

So when I finally had the time (and the money… and the courage…) to get myself together and inscribe for music school, I had only one problem left. Which instrument to pick?

The clarinet was quickly ruled out – not only does it take ages before anyone can get a decent note out of that straw (and contrarily to wide-held beliefs I am not the most patient person…), you can also not sing along. (NOTE: I cannot distinguish a re from a fa#. I cannot keep tune. In short: I cannot sing.) The violin was discarded for similar reasons, and in one go I decided to dismiss with all string instruments – given that I simply do not hear whether a sound is in or out of tune, I thought it unwise to start any instrument which needed to be tuned: so long guitar. I considered piano (it doesn’t need to be tuned every time you want to play… and you can pay people to do it for you), but then I wanted to be able to take the instrument with me. And thus the only viable option turned out to be… accordion. I haven’t regretted it for a moment (although a diatonic accordion might have been a better choice, since my chromatic may be portable, but only just).

I hesitated for long whether or not to bring it here – not in the least because I was very weary whether it would survive transport (I’m pretty sure I well exceeded the 8kgs hand luggage quote but there was no way in giving it into cargo), but also because the apartment walls aren’t exactly made of rocks – and I fully realize how annoying it is for neighbors having to listen to someone just learning to play… but I’ll play quietly, I promise. If necessary, I can offer Belgian chocolates as compensation.

Alone in a crowd

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So, I’m back! I went home for the weekend, or at least, back to Belgium. We have this circle of friends with which we get out for the weekend twice a year, and it seemed fun to go back especially for the occasion, even though I had only been away for 3 weeks. In addition, it gave me the chance to pick up some much-missed stuff I hadn’t been able to bring on first arriving (my cycle bags! my thick pillow!!). So it should’ve been an all happy so-glad-to-see-you-all-again kind of weekend.

It wasn’t.

I have no idea what went wrong exactly, and where, but I felt so much out of place.
Who were these people?
What was I supposed to do?
What was I supposed to say to them, anyway?

I have known most of them for 10 years or more, they are some of my longest lasting friends. If I can’t be at ease around them, when can I?

Maybe I set my expectations too high. Maybe I was actually having fun and it was the thought of having to return to my solitary confinement that brought me down. Maybe it was weird being surrounded by people again after almost 3 weeks of isolation. Granted, I’ve been out with my colleagues once, I’ve had the dance course and stuff, but still, I’m alone most of the time. Maybe it was just hormones. Maybe it was a combination of all of these things. Whichever it was, I felt flooded by a ton of emotions, but happiness wasn’t one of them. Which only resulted in feeling guilty for not feeling happy and I cried my eyes out with T about it. It’s a horrible feeling not to be at ease around your friends.

It got better later on the weekend – we did this high rope course (which I LOVE to do) on Saturday and the whole team building experience made me feel more at home – but as I had to leave early on Sunday I couldn’t really enjoy it much, and the coming home alone didn’t exactly help to lift my spirits again.

I expected this to be a life-changing experience. In fact, I counted on it being a life-changing experience. But somehow I assumed it would be the kind of experience you look back onto and say: now thàt changed me.
I didn’t expect to feel it so soon, so physically, so PRESENT in my daily life.

I guess lesson 1 has been taught.