The Day Started With a Bang

Dawn appeared as a sliver of light sliced through the curtains. It was quiet inside the train as passengers have not yet woken from their slumber. The rhythmic whistling and clanking of the train provided a stable, soothing lullaby. I stirred as I heard creaking and swishing from the bunk above me. Suddenly there was a big thud followed by another bang against the cabin door. I jerked up suddenly from fright and scanned the cabin. Sitting on the floor is my mother-in-law staring wide eyed from her unexpected tumble. Getting out of bed as soon as my mind can register what had happened, I went to help her stand up. It turns out the ladder between the bunk bed had came off while she was trying to climb down. Fortunately, the ladder had not detach from the rail until she was nearly inches from the floor and she was not hurt. As soon as I breathed a sigh of relieve, I felt a dull ache on the side of my head every time I blinked. when I saw the ladder lying next to my bed I realized that the steel ladder had hit my head on its way down. It's just my luck that a heavy steel object should fall out of nowhere and bonk me on the head while I was sound asleep. I chuckled at my own "unluckiness" while my mother-in-law looked at me with concern; wondering how hard the ladder had made its landing on my head. I assured her I was fine. For those who know me may recall: while clumsy is my middle name, jinx should really be my first, as I always have a way to jinx myself into unfortunate situations.

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.

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