Saturday, October 29, 2016

Another Saturday morning

I ordered my almond flat white and sat down to write on a paper. The guy next to me smiled as I sat down and I smiled back, thinking nothing of it until 20 minutes later where I concluded that he had to be American. He certainly couldn't be Danish since they don't look at you and definitely don't smile. He smiled that kind friendly "you are welcome to sit here next to me" smile that means exactly nothing more than that. On the other hand, if you smile or say hello to a Dane, they will immediately worry that you want to be their best friend. But it is possible to have casual conversation and even casual dinner, without pretending it was anything more. Like I had the previous evening with a fellow academic nomad who had a plane to catch later in the evening and I had nothing better to do than to stay late in my office to continue paper editing and figuring out what to do with my computer. We caught a pizza at a local joint where we could sit in faux leather booths and talk for a couple of hours. It was really nice to have an academic- turned private conversation with someone I always admired but never overlapped much with in terms of area. He was a nomad like me, working 25% here and 75% an hours flight away. I worked 100% here but had a 6 year old daughter in school an hours flight away. We bonded immediately.

Flybaby is with her dad for the next week until we fly to New York for two weeks. Her and I are both ecstatic, I have booked three play-dates, an off Broadway show and a tour of a chocolate factory in Red Hook. We are staying for one last time in our old apartment with the view to the Empire State building and I hope to catch up with colleagues and friends, Zoe's old babysitter already booked. We will round of the trip with my conference in Florida and to Zoe the most exciting thing ever: One day in Disney World (Magic Kingdom of course). I'm only sad that we don't have time to more than one day there, but I'll probably take her back another time.

But until then, a drat everyday of weekends blending into weekdays with work and paper writing and occasional academic dates.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday afternoon

"Sorry, we have to end here, I have a flight to catch", was the now common phrase I used to end a meeting. I had specifically volunteered to take on the ground work for our presentation at the research day so we could get out of there on time. A babysitter was picking up Zoe from school as I changed my shoes, grabbed my white coat and pink scarf, and headed towards the airport. I was just one hop away from seeing my little girl who had called me the previous morning to show me she had lost her second tooth. "Mommy, I'm so sorry, so so sorry, I didn't call you right when it happened", she started and we looked at the big vacancy in her lower mouth. I told her that we would see each other the next day and we said goodbye.

Peaking from my window seat, the full moon looked like a man with a big nose, just swaying there in the background with transparent clouds in front of it. My plane was fifteen minuted delayed, fifteen minutes that I would miss with Zoe. But we would be together for the next nine days, weekdays, weekend and another few weekdays. We had plans every single day, almost too many to have just an everyday life, but I wanted to make the most of it. We were going to the theater over the weekend, we had a birthday for my nephew, Zoe's Danish cousin who she loved playing with. We had dinner plans with a colleague/friend who I always wanted to hang out with more. We had a full day of me working and her hanging out with my mom. Then we were taking the plane to school Tuesday morning because I just felt to bad about Zoe missing yet another school day, but my work obligations went into the previous evening. And I will not ever give up seeing Zoe at least half the time, the time I can get allotted for me. I landed safely an hour later and catching the Arlanda express I found myself hugging a little girl in less than one forty minutes later.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Time to board

My office neighbor had wished me a good trip three times before I almost snapped. "It's not a big deal, I'm just going to see my daughter, then I'm back Friday for the meetings. It's like you working from home for one day!" It wasn't even like working from home because I had a three hour meeting with one of my closest colleagues where we managed to write a workshop proposal and discuss a couple of papers that each of us had read recently. But yes, I did have a four hour commute 'home' to Stockholm Wednesday afternoon, just in time to pick up Zoe from school on the later side of 5pm and I did not work on the plane but instead took a nap because I was exhausted from a week-long cold on top of regular work. After a day in school for Zoe, me working 'from home', I picked her up at a regular hour and we headed to the airport. We ate a bit of dinner in the lounge while watching Dumbo together, Zoe crying her eyes out at always, during the scene where the mother is locked up but still manages to sing a lullaby for her cub, rocking the little elephant with her trunk. I comforted Zoe, well-knowing that this scene perfectly illustrates our life and that this is why we watch it and this is why we cry. We arrived at my parents' house past 9pm where my mother was waiting with tea and cookies, but Zoe fell asleep on the couch.

Zoe eating chocolate strawberries in Copenhagen
It is not the actual flying, I explained to my friend, it is the shifting of context that I have to do constantly. I wake up and for a couple of seconds I have to try to figure out where I am. I have to remind myself where I have my things. I have double of everything (well triple if counting my parents' place) but there are just some tings you can't have double of. And shifting context in terms of language and places, makes it hard shifting context when it comes to work. My type of work is already very diverse, I spend one hour preparing teaching, then another writing on a paper and a third in a meeting with colleagues in relation to a new research collaboration, not to mention the hour working on travel claims and planning. This is standard work structure for my kind of position, nothing new there, nothing special about that. But combined with me shifting between three different apartments, two lounges, airplanes and my office actually being the place I spend the most time in total, it is difficult to focus. To retain some sort of structure I go to the same coffee shop in Stockholm every morning after dropping Zoe off, sitting at the very same table, drinking the same type of coffee. It helps a bit. But then I get a notification from my SAS app telling me that I can now check in and I realize that in 24 hours it is time to board again.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Puzzle

Walking towards the subway station, messaging an old friend of mine to plan a tea/dinner thing, he pointed out what I already knew through a rhetorical question: "So you live in Copenhagen, but your daughter goes to school in Stockholm and your boyfriend is in New York? That's gotta be a puzzle!" It stung a bit and I didn't confirm, I just told him that we could meet up next Tuesday after my faculty meeting. I looked forward to seeing him after so many years.

They always say it is much harder returning than to actually leave your 'home country' and I have felt that again and again, each time I have had to spend more than a couple of days here. This time is the most extreme, I have not lived in Denmark for fourteen years, not since my mid-twenties when I started my PhD (apart from four months of thesis writeup spent in an office). It is incredibly lonely in the middle of a lot of people because not only am I used to having a packed program when I'm in Copenhagen (you got 5 days to see friends, parents, brothers, cousins), I also don't actually have that many friends here anymore. So I have to rekindle old acquaintances, some whom I have followed on Facebook, others who I never thought I would have conversations with outside work. The former turning out to have changed personality and values, the latter turning out to be worth the non-work conversations anyway.

But yes, I try to work in Copenhagen, have a daughter in Stockholm and a date someone in New York. Tomorrow I get to see the former for a couple of days, in November the latter. At least I get to spend plenty of time in my office messaging people around the world.