An afternoon of perfection, I’d say … the cool air sways the boat gently in the Roskilde harbour. The three of us — me, Kirsten and Jens — sit peacefully together. We drink instant coffee out of red, white and yellow mugs. I’m not usually a coffee drinker, definitely not a black coffee drinker, but I make an exception for Jens and Kirsten. The sun heats up my jacket. It is the warmest day I’ve had all semester — the sign of spring reminds me that my time in Denmark is almost reaching an end — and I’ve spent it in the most wonderful way.
Kirsten and Jens are my “visiting host family.” At the beginning of the semester, I opted into the DIS Visiting Host program which paired me with a family to help me discover Copenhagen during my few months here. Because I live in an LLC, I don’t get the same cultural immersion that those living with host families gain. But the visiting host program is a good middle ground. I was paired with a different family at the beginning of the semester. Honestly, it wasn’t the best fit and I requested a switch. DIS then paired me with Kirsten and Jens and wow, I had no idea I’d get so lucky with these two.
Kirsten and Jens have been involved in the DIS hosting program for 20 years. They rotate between housing students, visiting students and travelling the world (seriously, these two have travelled everywhere). They live with their sleepy, lazy black and white cat in Roskilde, the viking town with breathtaking views just a 20 minute train ride from Copenhagen. Yesterday, I spent my second afternoon with the couple and I can say that they are the kindest, gentlest people I have met.
They picked me up from the train station and the three of us went to explore the mountains of Denmark … I say mountains lightly, as I’d explain these mountains as more of grass-covered plateaus. They were beautiful all the same. We stumbled over golf-ball sized rocks looking for flat stones to skip in the fjord. I’m convinced Jens was a pro-rock skipper back in the day. He could throw stones the size of a shot put into the water and they’d dance along the surface as easily as the pebbles I’d throw … correction, my pebbles would drop in the water with an audible “thunk” the way his stones should have. Then we watched the swans and climbed the “mountain.”
Fun fact: A few years ago, swans would only collect in bodies of water 2 at a time. But now, you can easily see a dozen swans in a lake or fjord. Swans are also the national bird of Denmark and the inspiration for The Ugly Duckling story by Hans Christian Andersen. They really are ugly little furballs when they’re young.
After our fjord adventure, we sat on their boat in the harbour. The boat was white and wooded, cozy in both its open deck and covered library/bar and one of the “most unique boats in Denmark” according to Jens. The two of them often enjoy the sunshine atop this boat, drinking their coffee after work or enjoying breakfast out on the water. The three of us ate chocolate and drank coffee and chatted about Danish holidays. They even made sure to post the Danish flag off the edge of the boat.
Then, we went back to their house — a Danish style home with wooden floors, large windows, knitted blankets, a colorful, blooming garden and a sun room — for dinner. I worked on what seemed to me a never-ending puzzle while they prepared our meal. Then we ate a homey pork tenderloin meal and apple cakes for dessert. They were like fluffy pancake balls — like the baked pancakes my mom always made on special occasions — and, despite being called apple cakes (Aebleskiver), they didn’t have any apples in them. We coated them in powdered sugar and raspberry jam and ate them like New Orleans Beignets.
After we ate, we chatted until the sun went down (which, in Denmark is pretty late in the spring). I couldn’t help but feeling overjoyed with the sense of family and the feeling of home that I felt visiting Kirsten and Jens.