Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekend trip to Århus

Two weekends ago, Bobby and I got to visit our friends Leah and Flemming in the Danish city Århus. Leah and I went to USC together. She plays clarinet and is currently playing with the Århus Symphony. Her husband Flemming (they just got married a few days ago, congrats Leah and Flemming!!) is a French horn player in the symphony. We've seen them many times in Copenhagen, so it was finally our turn to visit them in Århus. Århus is the second largest city in Copenhagen (Odense is third, and Aalborg is 4th), with just over 300,000 people living there. We took a lovely 2 hour bus ride through the Sjælland (the name of island on which Copenhagen sits) countryside and a 75 minute ferry ride to Jutland (the name of the peninsula which connects to continental Europe) and landed in Århus.

While Leah attended a rehearsal and Flemming practiced, Bobby and I visited the new ARoS Museum, which has a large collection of modern art. The rainbow panorama at the top of the building offered a spectacular, multi-hued view of the city.

When you're inside the panorama and looking inwards, you look through clear glass.

But when you turn around and face outwards, your view of the city changes in color. It was a really beautiful affect.

Aside from the panorama, the museum had a fantastic collection of art. In the basement is this large sculpture of a boy. I like to call this photo 'Bob's Big Boy'.

We were lucky enough to see Leah perform with the symphony. She player Mozart's Requiem, which was accompanied by a very large, yet surprisingly good, volunteer choir. The 200 plus singers filled the hall with a beautiful sound. It was a really fun concert to attend and it was great seeing Leah in action!

We also got to see Flemming perform, though the setting was quite... different. Flemming had a gig at the local university playing for an 18th century masquerade ball! Though the orchestra didn't have to dress in period pieces, most of the guests did!

I never knew I could feel so out place by not wearing a wig...

On Sunday, we took a nice stroll through different parts of Århus. In this area, near to where Leah and Flemming live, there were many old little brick houses, each painted a different color. It was very quaint.

We also got to see a few hints that spring is, indeed, on its way. Our weather was a bit spotty over the weekend, but at least the temperatures were above freezing and it didn't rain on us. For Denmark, that's nearly a miracle!

On the last stretch of our walk, along the harbor, we came upon this bizarre sight. This is a tree where children come to give up there old pacifiers. It must be a right of passage for growing Danish children, and Bobby and I have seen the same thing in Copenhagen.

The tree looks a bit odd from a distance, but I think it's actually quite charming up close. Many of the bags of pacifiers had little notes, written by children, thanking the pacifiers for their help, but stating that the child no longer has need of it. All in all, we had a lovely time in Århus visiting our lovely friends Leah and Flemming. We can't wait to see them again!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


My family suffered a loss this weekend. My beloved Great Uncle Ron passed away quite unexpectedly on Saturday. Uncle Ron was my favorite uncle: always smiling and friendly, he taught me how to play Mario and Duck Hunt and would turn a blind eye to my cheating in Duck Hunt (I would stand at the screen and get a nice direct hit on the ducks). He was a quiet man and I never once saw him angry. A veteren of the Korean War, he would tell hilarious stories about his time serving in the Navy. Uncle Ron was married to my Great Aunt Gwen, who is one of four daughters to my still-living Great Grandmother (G.G., as I grew up calling her) Hazel Armstrong (she'll turn 100 in the fall!). Let me tell you something about Armstrong women: as the name implies, we're a bunch of firecrackers. Hard-headed, loud, and vocal about our opinions, we probably aren't the easier people to live with, let alone be married to! Bobby reminds me a lot of Uncle Ron; the qualities required in a man to successfully marry an Armstrong woman are shared amongst those who are our life partners. These men, including Uncle Ron, are good, solid men who don't always voice their opinions but are heard when they do. These men deserve a medal.

As I have been grieving for the loss of Uncle Ron, I've come to realize that I am also grieving the reality of life in a different country/continent, where you are far away from your family. I grew up with a large and very close family from both of my parents: my paternal grandmother was one of twelve children and the ENTIRE family (many of whom have remained in the Los Angeles area for generations) continues to gather for Christmas parties every year. I was on a first-name basis with a large number of 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th cousins. As I mentioned above, my maternal grandmother is one of four daughters to a very strong woman, G.G. On this side of my family, I was also on a first-name basis with many 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins. I saw various members of this large, extended family at least once a week as a child. Friday nights were always spent at Uncle Ron and Aunt Gwen's home; many weekends were spent staying with either G.G. or my paternal grandparents; and we took multiple holidays with my different grandparents. I am so incredibly thankful to have grown up so close to both sides of my family.

Now, however, I live far, far away. I won't be able to attend Uncle Ron's funeral on Wednesday. I won't be around to celebrate my Dad's 70th birthday in April. In the fall, I won't be able to attend G.G.'s 100th birthday. We miss Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays, and anniversary celebrations because of the thousands of miles that separate us from our family. Bobby and I have chosen to live in Europe for a number of reasons, one of which is that we believe we will be able to provide a better life for our own children by living here. One thing that we won't be able to provide for them, though, is the incredible family structure that was such an important and daily part of my own upbringing. I am grieving this loss, in addition to the loss of Uncle Ron. I miss the random family dinners my Mom organized with various members of the Thornton/Armstrong clan. I miss seeing my Townsend/Taylor cousins at Easter, 4th of July, and Christmas. I miss seeing my Mom and Dad and brother on a weekly basis.

Our last blog post celebrated our three years of living abroad. But this blog posts mourns the sacrifice of family that Bobby and I have made, and that we have forced our family to make, in order to make our dream of living abroad a reality. So thank you for letting us leave, Mom and Dad, and for understanding our reasons, and please know that it's not without a great deal of sadness on our part. And thank you Uncle Ron for being such a great Uncle and for sharing a part of your life with me. I already miss you.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

An anniversary and a new toy

March 1st marked the 3 year anniversary of Bobby and I living abroad. We've had some amazing experiences over the last three years: we've lived in 5 different apartments in two different countries; we've become 'home' owners; Bobby has gone from post-doctorate to assistant professor; we've conversed in (very basic) French and (slightly more complex) Danish; we've traveled to Scotland, England, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy; we picked up and quickly fell in love with tandem bicycle riding; and have had many culinary adventures. Cheers to the last three years and hurrah to the next three!

We have finally purchased a decent TV for our lovely apartment. We purchased this 46" flat screen and 'walked' it home on our tandem. It was a bit awkward walking it the 1 kilometer home, but we made it in one piece and feel it was worth the effort. Our old TV wasn't digital and therefore only received about 10 channels. Our new one gets over 30 channels, including 4 different Discovery and National Geographic channels. This will make my time alone in Copenhagen when Bobby is in London that much easier.

Next weekend we are off to Århus for a weekend with friends. We can't wait to visit a new place in Denmark and see our friends!