After four grueling plane rides, from Manila to Singapore, to Paris, to Copenhagen and finally to Billund, I found myself nibbling on some mushroom and blue cheese pizza in the garden of my dear Auntie Linda’s home in Kolding, Denmark, chatting with my family and playing with their dainty English Spaniel Bella, as if seven years didn’t pass since I last went here. It felt like walking – no, gliding – through a good dream. The backyard overlooking a serene lake where sailboats glide gracefully was just as lovely as ever, exactly as how I remember it when I spent my summer there in 2007.
Denmark feels like a novel I read in childhood, where now I am seeing it with fresh eyes and I can understand it better. Do you sometimes feel that way about the books you read, over and over again? The pages may be wrinkled yet the words remain the same – why is it then so different from when you read it before? It seems that the beauty of life is found in our inevitable transformation. It is us who change through the years, who learn more words and relate to more experiences, of horrible chapters and happy endings.
But of course, life takes its course and even the seasons change, and more so our loved ones. Bella is now about 70 years old in human years, and must be more careful when playing, lest she collapses again from over fatigue. My dear Auntie Linda has a crown of white hair, which suits her perfectly. She is still as sweet and hospitable as ever, letting me stay in her pretty summerhouse during my visit.
As for Uncle Thomas, I doubt he could still carry me in jest as he did when I was 15, now that he is battling the severe effects of his Parkinson’s disease. It didn’t stop him though from mumbling in Danish that I looked exactly like my Auntie Linda when he first met her. Their first meeting seemed to come out straight from a movie: he saw her in the airport on a visit to the Philippines and, enchanted by her beauty, asked if he could take her photograph.
My beautiful Tita Melissa, Auntie Linda’s daughter, is now a published author and illustrator of a charming children’s book, written in Danish, “My Mom, the Snake and Me”, for kids who have parents who are battling depression. I look forward to reading a translated version in English. I am also happy to see Uncle Søren again, as well as and to have finally met little Augusta, with her curly hair and golden glow. She is such a sweet doll. I have yet to meet her sister Isabela, who was still so small on my last visit.
Uncle Jens is just as hilarious as ever, while Tita Melanie, the eldest daughter of Auntie Linda, welcomed me to her home and showed me the newest addition to her backyard – a quaint and quirky garden house built by none other than Uncle Jens himself. The garden is still a work in progress with many more projects to come. And of course, it was so nice to see their son Alexander, who has grown up to be such a fine young man. He has just graduated and will be entering university soon to take up medicine. Meanwhile, his sister Natacha now has her own place in Odense where she pursues a degree in history.
And lastly, there’s Tito Michael with his swanky flat in the vibrant neighborhood of Arhus. After a recent visit to the Philippines, where we loaded him with so much sugar, a distinct characteristic of Filipino cuisine, he has now taken fitness to the next level and has a strict workout regimen and a very balanced diet. I now officially consider him my health guru.
It’s good to be back.
I can’t help but feel like I ran away from the wrath of typhoon Glenda in the Philippines and chased the sun here in Europe. The weather is just divine. I could actually frolic about in my summer dresses and stay under the sun for hours while enjoying the soft breeze. The sun sets around 10pm here, and the nights are rather short. On my first day, I drove Uncle Thomas’ huge Toyota Verso to the summerhouse with my cousin Natacha, who has recently been on a visit to the Philippines. We now have reversed roles, where she is the one handling our itinerary, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Auntie Linda’s summerhouse will be our home in Denmark in the coming days before we embark on an adventure to Berlin and Prague.
My first few days in Denmark has been nothing short of captivating: from exploring Djurs, Scandinavia’s biggest summerland, home to the most extreme rides including The Pirate, the fifth best roller coaster in the world, to walking around the artsy streets of Aarhus and enjoying the jazz festival, every second has been filled with new wonders and fancy delights. Stay tuned for more in-depth blog entries about Djurs Sommerland and the Latin Quarter of Arhus (plus, a lovely seafood restaurant and the best pubs around). Till next time!