A Danish (Scottish-Japanese) Love Party 

So it has been a quiet period on the blog because I’ve been on holiday in England and Denmark but while I have been away, a couple of independent sources have found my blog and mentioned to me that it has been useful and interesting, especially for those living in or planning to move to Songdo. Accordingly, I thought it worth noting here that if anyone has anything in particular that they would like to know about leave a comment and I’ll do my best to find out about it! Whilst a post about the oddness of being on holiday in the place I called home, where working long hours and a hectic social life were very much the norm, is certainly called for, that’s not where I want to go today.

We originally planned to go to England this Summer because we had been invited to one of Raj’s very-good-friend-from-uni’s wedding in Denmark and going to Europe without making a stop in London would not have gone down well. K is a half-Scottish-half-Japanese girl who met Danish P in Tokyo many years ago. They dotted the t’s and crossed the i’s in London (i.e. legally wed), where they live (ironically formalising their personal European Union on the very day Brexit was announced), but for the big celebration went to P’s family home in what has been regularly described as “the middle of nowhere” in Northern Denmark. Dubbed “The Danish Love Party” it was arguably the most inclusive, warm and, well, loving wedding that I have been to in recent years.

The fun in Northern Jutland began with the welcome – being a farm, there were horses and very enthusiastic family and friends of the couple. Being the awkward English Folk that we were (there were 5 in our little party) we very much stood aside until it was time for official proceedings to unfold and for the merriment to begin, but it would appear that we unwittingly formed a receiving line of sorts. 5 of us, stood on the corner of the patio and every Dane came up to us to introduce themselves by name and relation to the couple. One chap was so focused on the task of introducing himself to us that he didn’t notice the groom patiently following him down the line trying to attract his attention! This was our first clue that the Danes are a super friendly bunch but little did we know quite how much..

Now the ceremony itself was taking place in the woods so it was off with the heels and on with the flats for a little wander through actual woodlands to come to a pretty little clearing where we would wait for the Bridal Party, and what an arrival. The Bride, dressed in white-gold with a brightly coloured Kimono, arrived on the back of a tractor driven by her father-in-law, where her groom awaited looking SO happy and SO proud that you couldn’t help but be swept up in his cloud of excitement. They were preceded down the aisle by nephews and nieces and the ceremony was officiated by close friends (a couple) who prepared a service that was utterly unique to K&P.

One of the first things that they did was to acknowledge all the friends and family present, saying that it takes a community to make a marriage work and every guest was asked to affirm their commitment to the marriage we were witnessing. Clue 2 to the inclusiveness of the Danish Love Party. It’s pretty safe to say tears were flowing from the moment the Bride made her entrance, through the service, readings and group-sing-a-long too.

Following the Bridge & Groom’s tractor-departure, we all pottered back to the main house, where several hours of drinking and getting to know everyone ensued. It had the relaxed feel of summers idly spent in the park, except with a group of people who were all there for the same reason. There was none of the time sensitive rushing commonly associated with weddings (I am sure that the wedding party felt differently) and a most enjoyable afternoon was spent in the grounds of a farm in the middle of nowhere..

Then we had the reception. The reception where every bit of decoration and food was hand-made, hand-picked, home-grown and then some. Dinner was held in a marquee set next to acres of farmland and a number of Danish traditions were followed, including:

(1) When all the guests clink their cutlery on their plates, the bride and groom had to get up on their chairs and kiss

(2) When all the guests stamped their feet, the bride and groom had to crawl under the table and kiss

(3) If the bride/groom left the room (marquee) then all the men/women respectively would line up to kiss the person left in the tent (they like the kissing these folk).

(4) The Speeches. Oh the speeches. Tradition has it that anyone who wants can get up to give their words of love to the couple and without fail, I cried at EVERY SINGLE SPEECH. Not only are the Danes super-friendly, inclusive and full of love, they aren’t afraid to show it or talk about it either. We had speeches from the bride, groom, groom’s father, best man (groom’s brother) and several other friends who had stepped up to have their say. If you were in that tent, you couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of love that was causing that tent to rip open at the seams. And that is just how I felt as a guest-once-removed. The outpouring of love didn’t stop at the couple – friends and family were thanked time and again for their presence (and it’s the only time I’ve ever been furthest-travelled to a wedding!) to such an extent that I am pretty sure everyone in that wedding felt as though they had personally played a part in the union before us. Thankfully the next tradition helped to subdue tears…

(5) Songs. It’s traditional to take a well-known song and change the words to suit the couple… this was a fabulous warm up for the Karaoke to follow

In between the various speeches and songs and general fun, there were stunning sunsets and views over the field to take in. It was another world and the fact that it was still bright bright bright at 2230 was rather disorienting, not least because you couldn’t begin to explain where the day had gone!

Tradition (6) was the first dance.. as the couple danced, everyone claps and steps closer and closer to the bride and groom to enclose them in a circle and a big-bundle-type-hug on the dance floor. So amidst all the love there remains a sense of fun and togetherness always.

The evening rounded out with more drinks than could be drunk, Karaoke (to remind everyone where the couple met) dancing and a sausage-grilling-Campfire in the fields.

Raj & I had to hot foot it to another wedding in London the next day, so it was an early end for us (1am – still a respectable 12 hours spent celebrating!)but overall such a privilege to be a part of the day and easily the best wedding I’ve been to yet.

6 Months In…

Well, the first 6 months have flown past and I can confidently say that Songdo feels like home to me. I’ve discovered parts of myself that wouldn’t have been recognisable in my London life – as I write, the apartment is filling with the smell of roasting vegetables, in preparation for a week’s worth of healthy lunches and dinners –  and also that some parts of my character are so fixed that no matter the circumstance, I won’t be any different.  My priorities are entirely changed, as are the daily tasks that keep me “busy” but busy I am, and my lazy days are still thoroughly enjoyed, and most importantly, follow my own schedule.

So the biggest change is that I now cook daily – between 1-3 meals a day in fact – and although the cooking itself doesn’t take long – let’s face it, cooking is tedious and necessity is the only reason I cook now – I do spend a lot of my time finding recipes/meal ideas that will give us a balanced and nutritious diet and also sourcing the ingredients or, more likely, substituting ingredients from the English and American recipes for what I can find here. Then added to that is making sure we also have a variety of meals, as Raj gets bored eating the same thing too often and trying to make sure that any cravings he particularly has are met (near impossible, as he usually doesn’t offer an opinion until forced and for the avoidance of doubt I should add that my cravings are met at lunchtime where the carnivorous side of me has free rein). Essentially though, when I think about my day it breaks down around meals to be prepared. Now that it is summer, Raj finds that there isn’t a lot of food that he can eat that suits the hot hot hot temperatures that the season brings, I find myself making him lunch – either the night before or he comes home at lunch time – as well, which sometimes means I’m making breakfast, 2 different lunches and a dinner – which sometimes has 2 variations… Veg/Non-Veg, South Indian/Gujarati etc. It is what I call the original ‘fusion food.’

Cooking and food shopping aside, I also indulge my hobbies more…I read more (when I can find English books in the stores) I picked up my knitting again, although that feels like a decidely winter hobby and I am desperately seeking adult colouring books. Adult as in, as in with pictures that aren’t princesses, although I do love princesses, not adult-as-a-synonym-for-porn, just to clarify. I’ve given myself little projects that I have actually had the time to carry out and complete which has been a dream. I have learnt to look after myself more, and not just from a beauty perspective as the manicure/pedicure has always been a part of my life: I go to Yoga twice weekly and I have registered my interest in Zumba classes. I’ve started riding a bicycle largely because it helps me in my daily errands, but I’ve also realised that it is fun!** Sometimes, on rare occasions that he is feeling extra indulgent, Raj will even meditate with me – I am convinced that it will be good for his general well-being and stress levels but its taking a bit of time to convince him.

I’ve also always been prone to a ‘flavour of the month’ – whether it is food that I want to eat every day, or interest in a new hobby that I swear will change my life. Previously, the ideas never became more than a thought, sometime voiced but all that has changed in Songdo. For July, I have decided that I am going to start making home-made body scrubs (largely because I have a 3 kilo bag of Rock Salt that is too large for my grinder) so I’ve signed up to an online school to learn more about using essential oils safely in preparation. I’ve done a couple of the classes so far, and although I know that my dedication to the hobby will wane whilst on holiday, I’ve planned which essential oils to buy (Basil is good for the gut and digestion.. tick!) to start my new hobby upon my return. Raj is, as usual, unendingly patient as I babble on about my new-found hobby and how it is going to chance his life and encourages me until it is time to put all my accumulated paraphernalia away in some corner never to be seen again.

And how I really haven’t changed – the ‘to-do’ list is still an integral part of my life. Instead of Monday-morning-at-my-desk-coffee-in-hand, it is Sunday-evening-wine-in-hand that I plan the week’s meals and also all the different errands and things that I need to get done. I even include the mundane cleaning/ironing etc tasks, because nothing spurs me on more than the thought of being able to cross something off my list.

We’ve slowly gotten used to the pace of life in Songdo, and have friends that we will hang out with – a little Songdo-family as it were. We plan ahead more – checking out what is happening in Seoul and planning our time to go there, thinking about holidays we want to go on and, more to the point… actually going on them. There are of course things on the to-do list that still haven’t been done (wedding photos and video editing.. it has only been 2 years..) and of course Raj is still in 2011 with his own photo editing, but the point is, time is our own and we spend it doing precisely what we want.

As Raj will be travelling more come September, I am looking into new ways to fill my time (winter is a lonely time to be by yourself) and so planning more trips to visit friends in the region and as of this morning (thank you instagram) considering doing an online education course (something more serious than the essential oils) and am perusing online course catalogues as we speak.

All in all, we’ve settled in quite nicely here and I’m very much looking forward to the rest of our time here.

** Sadly, my yoga/Zumba/bike riding days are temporarily on hold due to the slipped disc mentioned in the previous post.

PS. There are too many photos of the last 6 months to share here, so check out my instagram @ishwarya instead.