The way I see the ampersand, its an auspicious symbol. It means that there’s always something else, something more. And there’s a 50-50 chance that the “more” is good. All things considered, those odds are not bad.
It took me a full two weeks to feel like I’m back (from the honeymoon). Like, really back.
Before that, my mind was always somewhere in the near-past, wistfully reliving favourite moments – there were a lot of flashbacks of cool Nordic sunlight, that lovely, shiny thing that I wish to bottle.
This always happens with great vacations, I think. The “blues”. But truth be told, I am rather glad to be home too.
So, we met a guy who looks and talks uncannily like Bradley Cooper in sleepy little Kalmar. Let’s call him “Bradley Cooper Kalmar”.
Bradley Cooper Kalmar is training for the Iron Man competition, and sometimes cycles 10 kilometers to work.
All these little details about the people we would probably never meet again in our lives.
For two days after we went for the glacier hike in Jostedalsbreen National Park (Norway), I felt this irrational anxiety about how we had almost missed out on it (we didn’t make it for the pick-up and the guide very nearly left us behind). What if we have never paddled in that pristine lake? Or drank hot chocolate on that intoxicatingly blue ice? Or watched our guide retrieved an almost-lost axe (all the while in awe of his Bear Grylls-like abilities)? What if we have never felt our smallness out in all that raw, stark beauty that just goes on and on?
What if, what if.
I always play this game of “sliding doors” with myself – what if all these awesome things (that probably led to more awesome things) never happened? There’s an addictive thrill and comfort in remembering that sometimes, we get lucky.
Near-misses like this get me all excited and emotional and happy and grateful.
What are the chances of getting authentic Indian food in chilly Copenhagen? And yet, there it is, a steaming pile of fragrant rice and skewered meat, with milky tea (how glorious!) on the side.
Definitely one of the best meals of the entire trip.
While we were in the car, right at the start of the “light chase”, the guy next to us told us that it was his third night in a row going on one of these trips – he didn’t see anything the last two nights. I felt a little jittery at that. We only have that one night.
20 kilometres outside of Tromso, our guide spotted that enthralling green swirls in the sky. Faint, but there. We got out of the car, and a few minutes later, something the guide called a “corona borealis” burst over our heads. It looked like a light shower that seems to rain right down.
I remembered thinking that even if we see nothing else tonight, it wouldn’t be that bad.
Later in the night, we were sitting on a road shoulder, staring up in absolute awe at a sheet of moving illuminated gauze, flashing violet, green, red and blue as it folds in on itself over and over, a kind of celestial origami that is simply breath-taking to watch. It is kind of hard to describe, that thing in the sky that night.
But you have to see it, this wonderful thing in the sky.
Ideally, you should see it while sitting around a crackling fire, drinking hot sweet tea and eating sandwiches. It would probably be too cold, and you will grumble about it, but you won’t mind, at least not too much.
We were all packed up.
Our time in Stockholm felt hurried – apparently, we have accidentally booked one less day in the Swedish capital. This is one of those places that feels full, a compact metropolis with its fast-walking people and charming (sometimes bloody) history, and bright lights and intriguing shops and lovely museums. One day less = too many things to do, too little time to do them.
We got back to the hotel, a little wet from the rain. They pulled out our bags and we are just catching our breath – a few minutes more and we were going to leave for the airport.
Right then, a puzzled concierge came over to let us know that his system reflects that we have one more night at the hotel. And we do!
One more night in Stockholm. It was such great news. We celebrated with beef tartar and snaps and meatballs at a supposedly authentic Swedish beer hall.
It was really nice.
I wanted to see the “bog bodies“. 2,000-year-old human remains, perfectly preserved by chance. They show that perhaps, not all thing pass – or just that some things stay for a longer than expected amount of time.
We drove to the small Danish town with the small museum where the Tollund Man (made famous by National Geographic) is. But the front door is locked and the sign on it said that it is only opened on weekends. It was a Wednesday – by the time the weekends rolls around, we would be on a plane, flying back home to Singapore.
The disappointment! All this way for naught.
Then something very awesome, and near-miraculous, happened. An elderly man walked by with a box, on the way to his car. We stopped him to asked about the museum, hoping that we have read the sign wrongly, that we may somehow still be able to get in.
We didn’t read the sign wrongly, but this man turned out to be the director of the museum. With typical Danish kindness, he decided that it would be much too much a pity to come all the way without see Mr Tollund. He let us in through a side door into an empty museum and into the little room where the dark-skinned wonder rests, complete with stubble on his chin, looking just like he is sleeping.
A private tour, on a Wednesday, in a museum that is only opened on the weekends, to meet someone who lived two millennia ago.
That is luck.
The very last piece of luck struck on the very last night of the trip.
We got a parking ticket the day before for a mysterious offence and we did not want to risk another one. Yet, there is no legal parking spaces to be found, at least not one that does not cost too much.
Almost an hour of circling later, we are more or less resigned to dishing out the money for a space at the hotel’s over-priced car park, but the husband decided that we will do one last trawl of the free-parking street in front of it that we have already drove through half a dozen time in the last half hour.
And there it is – a slot. Where did it come from? But who cares, it is there.
That wrapped everything up really nicely.