Roskilde

[Published in Youngblood, page A11, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5 July 2008]

Studying in two countries where it often rained made me imagine the Philippines as eternally sunny. Now that I am home, I realize how silly that notion was. As the monsoon showers fall on Manila, the sound of the rain takes me back to my last days in Denmark, where I found out that, at 25, I still had a lot of growing up to do.

Perhaps we were spoiled at the student residence in London, where our rooms were cleaned every morning and we had scrumptious desserts served with our meals. Arriving in Roskilde, Denmark, for a semester as an exchange student, I was stunned to find that the room for which I was charged a P100,000 deposit was empty. I survived my first week through the kindness of strangers: a student who loaned me an extra mattress and a sleeping bag, a secretary at the university who sneaked out plates and utensils from the cafeteria for me, and others who will never know how grateful I am that they disposed of their furniture at the dumping shed where I found a bed and two chairs.

Raised in a two-income household in the Philippines, I relied on the house help for every domestic chore. Forced to do the same chores in a foreign land, I took the challenge rather seriously. Simple tasks like cleaning the room and the toilet gave me a sense of responsibility. I cooked for myself but spared my new friends the torment of eating my embarrassing kitchen experiments. And though I ended up washing my clothes in the bathroom sink, I enjoyed doing the laundry because it gave me a break from reading and writing.

As the Danish students were reclusive and other Asians were more so, I found myself in the company of European students who were also trapped in that quiet hamlet without commercial establishments. We weathered the winter by singing on the karaoke and dancing, and enjoyed the 18-hour days when the sun was out. Life there was vastly different from London and Manila. That was until the festival came.

[continue reading here]

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