I grew up watching my babas bake pierogies and roll holobsti on the kitchen table. Even today they still do it – but I’m not always there to see them. Being away at college means I miss out on all of these little things that I usually take for granted. Part of it is those delicious home-cooked meals, my dad’s grilled steaks that we eat every Saturday, the Sunday night snacks and the deep velvet-colored borscht. But there’s another part that you can’t eat or touch or see. You can feel it, but not in a physical way.
Being abroad accentuates these emotions. It’s not home-sickness – it’s just called “missing home.” (see another blogger’s wise words of advice here.) As I’m walking around Europe, I can’t help but compare everything I experience with the grand ‘ole USA. What would I be doing at this exact moment if I were in D.C. or Rochester? It feels so strange to see all of your friends’ pictures on Facebook, hosting parties and going crazy at basketball games. It feels so strange to celebrate Easter in Vienna with a friend from Jersey, eating brunch at a cellar bar instead of sitting around the dining room table with my parents, grandparents, and cousins. It feels so strange celebrating my 21st at an Alphabeats concert in Aarhus, instead of getting my forehead stamped at the Tombs. There’s plenty of things to remind me of life across the pond – Facebook stalking, Skype conversations, my “I Bleed Hoya Blue” t-shirt that I wear to the gym, and my country music playlist on Spotify that gives me visions of burgers, Samuel Adams, and my giant gas-guzzling SUV in my Rochester garage.
Sometimes I wonder if being here for only one short semester makes it more difficult to attain full cultural immersion. Even after living here for 4 months, I still feel more like a visitor than a Dane. I have my peculiarities that set me apart from the Scandanavians – walking fast in between classes, my long black Nike socks, going to Church when I can, constantly overeating, often smiling and talking loudly on the bus.
At the same time, being “un-Danish” makes me cherish all the things that I have back home. You only know what you got when it’s gone. Truer words have never been spoken. I have a lot of amazing things here in Europe that I will sorely miss – just flip through my pictures and you’ll get a taste of what I’m talking about. But there’s also things that I don’t have here – my family, my Hoyas, and my country that I feel so lucky to return to in one week’s time. It’s a marvelous life on both sides of the Atlantic.
Somehow I’ve got to tie this whole thing back to holobsti – after all, my babas will probably cry tears of joy to hear that their Ukrainian culinary skills are in my blood, too. (thanks to Olga from Moscow for sharing the recipe – don’t worry Baba, she’s half Ukrainian!) I think those delicious little cabbage rolls symbolize the wonder of multiculturalism. I’m from America, living in Denmark, and cooking Ukrainian.
I’m hundreds of miles away, but I think I’ve taken a little bit of my family and friends here with me. It’s not easy practicing Ukrainian, finding time to Skype, or blogging about my reflections and emotions with all of the commotion going on. But whether it’s in the kitchen, in church, or riding on the bus to class, I miraculously found a way to tie it all together.
No, it doesn’t always come out Danish. But with a few different competing identities, it’s all about compromise.
Who knew traveling could be such hard work? I quickly found that out yesterday, as I arrived back in Copenhagen after 9 days in Sarajevo and Vienna. When there is so much to do, you want to do it all!
It would be remiss not to start where my trip ended: Easter. It was unlike any I’ve ever experienced. I went to two services on Sunday – first, in my Ukrainian Catholic style (this is filmed at the end of the liturgy, when the priest sings Христос Воскрес!…meaning “Christ is Risen”):
After this was over, we walked over to the University Church (Jesuit!) a few minutes away. It was probably the most beautiful church I have ever seen, filled with the most beautiful music I have ever heard. The pews were so packed that I had to stand in the aisle. It felt like I was no longer on earth, caught in a sort of other-worldy limbo. It was so spectacular that I had to fight back tears.
Here is the closing song; maybe you’ll get a sense of what I mean:
Special thanks to Daniel (who woke up early to come with me to Mass) and Fr. Fields at Georgetown (who recommended the Jesuit church)!