By Caroline Berger
PhD student at the Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University.

Photo by Caroline Berger.

Although I am not integrated, I am integrating, not into the blue-eyed blonde-haired Denmark, but into a future Danish society, a quilt with new designs.

This morning, I took a walk along the sea. 7 hours earlier, I assumed the Asian smoking position. With a blank expression, I inhaled the nicotine. Low, close to the cement, my squat reflected my mood.

I should be happy. I have a wonderful job that is stimulating and rewarding. Socially, I struggle. At the club, seeing matching t-shirts, I ask, “oh, are you here for a student event?” I get a blank stare back.

I can’t help to notice the sameness of the members of the clusters of dancers. The distance between the ones who look different. I find myself naturally gravitating to the others out of intrigue, or it’s a reflex from the series of returned blank stares.

I snap a selfie with exchange students from Hong Kong and China. On the edge of the dance floor I talk geophysics with a Kenyan master’s student. My Turkish colleague, a fellow PhD, reminds me of my college friend, the traditional dancing coming out even to the most modern music.

Approaching me, a friend of a friend asks if I’m okay. Wanting to smoke my cigarette in peace, I put up a thumbs up, and he wanders off. I can’t smile. It’s too forced.

I wake up hollow and hung over. I remember my Italian friend who studies psychology telling me 40 minutes of cardio and vitamin D. I have a plan. Organizing my bag, I bring a copy of one of Tove Ditlevsen translated works, my knitting project, and my American flag swimsuit. After rowing and punching away my depression at the gym, I sauna in silence, and lower my body inch-by-inch into the ice water. Hyperventilating, I come back to the dock, and lay myself out— a seal in the sun— I am reborn.

Photo by Caroline Berger.

I pass a cafe for a hangover cure of pork rinds. The sun bakes me. “Vitamin D” I hear in my head. I alternate between knitting, reading, and writing. After my phone dies, I walk out of the cafe. To my surprise, the Italian psychology student is walking his dog. We proceed to sunbathe, talk endlessly, pausing as we meet his friends that pass by, the strong Italian community.

On our way back to the downtown core, we stopped to get a gelato which he graciously offered me. La passeggiata di domenica. Without fixed plans, plans arrive, and are finished when the want to be there passes. Finding the cafe closed, I invite my friend to come up, and another comes on his way. Pulling out the moka, I prepare the cafe, enacting a ritual modeled by the many Italians with whom I sipped coffee from their home moka pot. We relax and snack. My friend’s dog soothes me, and I feel better. I thank my grandfather for all he did for the Italian community in Boston. His investment grew, and generations later, I am a benefactor of the dividends of the Italian community he worked so hard to bolster. Now, it’s the Italian community saving me.

Although I am not integrated, I am integrating, not into the blue-eyed blonde-haired Denmark, but into a future Danish society, a quilt with new designs. Tove Ditlevsen, my knitting, and winter baths to bring me on my way.

Photos by Caroline Berger.

Author Bio
Caroline Berger: wandering through the world, coasting on a dream. Current: Aarhus, Denmark, Past: Washington, DC, USA, Montreal, Canada, and Lexington, Massachusetts, USA. Interested in spinning, language learning, and manga.