The day went on as planned; no more accidents or falling objects. Just the banalities of arriving in any new city: settling into a new apartment, unpacking the few items I carried. After the kids had settled down for their afternoon naps I went out for groceries. Stepping outside in a strange city alone for the first time after saying good bye to a city and a family who I came to love and feel attached to is no easy feat. Although I have arrived to a warm and sunny day in Copenhagen, there was a chill that seemed to follow me at every turn. The streets were full of activities and pedestrians, yet I felt like a falling leaf in autumn, floating aimlessly in the wind.
The grocery store feels more foreign to me than I thought it would. After nearly a month of reading (or trying to read) labels in Dutch and French, seeing Danish on everything somehow caught me off guard. I began sobbing softly at first while still struggling to figure out whether the carton I was holding in my hand was indeed milk. Suddenly all reason and sanity eluded me. I burst into tears in the dairy isle, unaware and uncaring who would see me. A concerned store clerk came over to check on me.
"Can I help you?" The store clerk asked while afraid of getting too close to me.
"I...I..don't know..what...this...says!" I managed to let out in between sobs and pointed at the carton I was holding in my hand.
"Sorry? I don't understand." The store clerk said meekly as if careful not to provoke me further.
At my own incapability of further communication, I sat on the floor and cried my heart out, all the while mumbling:
"Je veux du chocolat! Beaucoup de chocolat!"
why in French? I have no clue! I don't even speak French! Why I asked for chocolate? No clue about that either!
Sensing defeat, the store clerk quietly slipped away to leave me to wallow and sulk at my own pity. Some minutes later I walked myself out of the grocery store still sobbing and pouting. At a lost of where to go or what to do, I sat on a side walk like a wondering gypsy and watched cars go by.
For some of you who do not know me personally may think that I am either an amateur traveler or plain crazy. But I'm neither. In fact, I'm quite a seasoned traveler. I have encountered the bombing in London some years ago, countless bomb threats, floods, shootings, and even interrogation by the military junta (in a country that shall remain unnamed). But never have I had a melt down of this scale anytime in my 30 years of life.
I waited until my sobbing became more and more infrequent. I dried my tears and smoothed my hair. I looked back at the grocery store defiantly as I remembered a Chinese maxim: get up from where you have fallen. I took a deep breath and gathered up all the strength and courage I had in me, then walked back into the store and went about my shopping with not a care in the world how long it took for me to decipher the labels. Nor did I avoid the same store clerk that tried to help me earlier. Instead I walked past her and whispered "thank you".
On the way home, holding a bag of groceries in hand I smiled out of content for the first time since leaving Belgium, finally feeling the warmth of the Scandinavian sun slowly coursing through my body.