Lost in the Wild

IMG_4851We are not the Robinson family, although we do like to explore. We try to experience something new on our new country, when we leave the house, ever since we moved here.  It has been an absolutely fantastic adventure, despite some minor less fantastic moments – but let’s not dwelve on the darker times.

In recent months, we have talked a lot about getting more familiar with the great outdoors.  We live in the mountains, next to a huge state park, and pride ourselves of having joined the great scouts organisations for both girls and boys.  As such, we must learn and explore!

Last week we finally build up the courage to face nature head on, and go into the great wilderness – well armed with bug sprays, water, pocket knife and of course iPhone.

We found what we thought would be a good beginner and family trail, in the majestic Bear Mountains which is over 5000 acres of trees, lakes, rivers, wild life that will kill you and of course animals.

For this virgin trek, we even brought our loco brown 2 year old Labrador.  She hates other dogs, gets extremely hyper when she meets people and pulls like a bull.  It would be good for her to burn some energy and at the same time train walking on a leash like a normal dog.

The family SUV took us to the starting point and we prepared ourselves for a “short” trek around in the woods.  My dear wife sprayed all of us with insect repellent.  With the amount she used, mosquitos quickly became an endangered species in a 5 mile radius.

Hi Ho Hi Ho – off we go … we are family … we will survive” were tunes that we spontaneously started singing while climbing our first little ledge.  I personally prefer the soundtrack from “Sound of Music” but perhaps not relevant at that very moment.

The girls climbed large rocks, ran into the wilderness, looked at all insects and screamed by the sight of most insects.  It was a true family bonding moment.  Our son was less impressed as her prefers so watch movies about outdoors, and not being inside it.

Marking a tree in case we don't make it back!
Marking a tree in case we don’t make it back!

I felt awesome.  Putting my scouting experience to use and explained random things to the girls, hoping they would pay somewhat attention.  I showed them the markers on the trees, showing the trail we were on (little did I know that these would become essential for our survival 2 hours later) and was skipping along the path in my trekking sandals.

In hindside, none of us had selected the best footwear for this outing, but we still managed and took our time as we scaled various cliffs and streams.  We had fun and that was important.

As we got deeper and deeper into the wilderness, we encountered less and less people.  They obviously knew something we didn’t or had better trial maps.

2 hours in we finally met another family.  They asked us for direction and we joked that we were heading back to the car and pointed towards a wider trial.  It was only when their lead scout shared his map that I realised that we were slightly of course.  In fact, had we stayed on the trail, we would’ve ended up 10 miles from our starting point and car.

somewhere here
somewhere here

I tried not to panic in the presence of our kids, who all looked at me for guidance.  A nervous giggle emerged from my throat and I proudly pointed towards the path we just came from and exclaimed with a trembling voice “we are going back on the trial we just came from“.  Inside my head I as screaming “we are lost and will die!

Thankfully the kids did not argue and simply turned around.  They just turned, faced the path and started walking while humming.

The good thing was, we knew the path challenges already, and we could easily find our way back to the car as we followed the trial markers. I told you they were important!

Soon we could hear cars again and suddenly I spotted our car in the parking lot, and we had one bar coverage on cell network. It was a joyous and emotional moment being back in civilisation.

Part of me doubted my tracking skills, but my fatherly GPS senses kicked in and navigated us back to safety.  My wife actually kissed the car and hugged all of us with tears rolling down her face.

What did we learn from this family bonding adventure?

  • My youngest daughter knows how to pee in the wild
  • We need to wear better shoes
  • Would be ideal to have a trial map and compass
  • Bring more water and perhaps snacks
  • Prepare to be lost better!
  • Bring pen and paper to write letters home
  • The loco Labrador can actually work nicely (probably exhausted too)

All in all, it was a great afternoon spent with the family and we are absolutely returning to the wild in the near future.

Thank you America!

thanksIt is the time of the year where millions of Americans travel across the country to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It is probably the only holiday they can agree to celebrate, no matter which religious belief you might have.  These mass migrations take place leading up to the last Thursday in November, and the entire road, rail and air systems are gridlocked.  They want to spend time with their families, and eat an innocent turkey.

It is a sense of belonging and greatfullness that started back in the day, when the firtst settlers sat down with the native indians to eat food.  And, just because of that gesture by the native indians, the settlers survvied and learned to integrate into the American ecosystem.

The actual meal in itself is ‘just’ another excuse to eat excessively.  There is a large selection of scrumptious pies, multitude of sides, sweet potato mash with marshmallows, and of course the main star of the dinner – the turkey.

The turkey itself is most times larger than the oven.  It is actual difficult finding a turkey less than 18lbs, and I often wonder what they feed these suckers since they are that large.  They are not obese, but nice and firm.

We moved here 5+ years ago, and the US has taken us in and made us feel very welcome.  99% of the people we’ve met are super friendly, and they never question why we are here.

One of the key things my wife and I have agreed upon, is that no-matter which country we live in, we have to integrate.  This integration starts with adoption and celebrating the holidays and key events.  You need to know these and show appreciation of the events.

We love thanksgiving.  We understand why it is celebrated and love the fact that this day is a very important family day.  It makes us feel part of the country and culture, especially when colleagues and friends invite us to their special days.

The other side which we we love is the food. OMG!

The food for thanksgiving is absolutely amazing.  No wonder I have gained 20lbs.  It’s another blog just to talk about food, but it is fantastic.  Many Europeans don’t really understand the excessive eating, but we have fully embraced it.

You will never integrate if you do not participate.  That’s what many foreigners don’t get.  It does not mean you have to give up your national identify and heritage, but merely that you respect the country you live in.  The country that has adopted you and given you opportunities to grow.  That is how you respect and thank it.

But why do we celebrate Thanksgiving in our family, since we weren’t here hundreds of years ago and have limited connection to the history of Thanksgiving?

We are proud to live here.  America has given us opportunities we didn’t have elsewhere.  We are thankful for being allowed to participate, and we are even more thankful for being included in their culture.  Our kids are flourishing.  We have met new friends.  We have a wonderful life.  We love life!

It is not easy to explain, but we feel at home here.  That is why we are thankful.  We thank the American people for welcoming us with open arms.

Thank you ‘Merica!

godblessus

I Helped Save a Man

For the past year or two, I’ve found myself being even more focused on helping others.  It has been a new purpose since trying to become a better man, which have something to do with me joining the Free Masons.

I know I know – free masons = gold, conspiracies and world domination.  In reality, it is not like that.  We don’t have much gold left 🙂

Anyway, one late afternoon while driving the usual route home.  It had just started to rain – a light drizzle from the summer sky.  Nothing heavy like the Great Flood, but still enough to make the roads wet and the air small fresh of water.

Further ahead, I noticed smoke from the trees, and the easy recognisable blinks from a police car.  In fact, it was an unmarked police car, who had just stopped by the smoke.  I slowed down and noticed a car in the ditch.

There were absolutely no evidence on the road what caused this accident, but the front of the car was angrily hugging the tree, and the driver was most likely stuck.  This was a “fresh” accident, and I decided to help.

crashLike an action man, I jumped into ditch and started to calm the man down.  The police officer was on the radio with emergency team, and we both started to assess the scene.  I ran to the passenger side of the car, and noticed that the smoke was getting darker, and to my horror discovered that flames were visible.

I ran to the police car, took the extinguisher and started to kill the flames methodically.  Thankfully I was able to put it out and we could concentrate on the trapped driver.  He was in a lot of pain, as his legs were stuck.  As a result, the police officer ordered me to force open the back door, behind the driver, and clear the seat so medical team could get him out.  The door was bent shut, but I had my orders.

A surge of hulk power came over me and I ripped the door open.  Just in time for the arrival of the first ambulance, who thanked me.

A few minutes later, EMT, police and fire teams arrived. It was time for me to hand it over to the professionals, the awesome first responders, and they kicked into routine mode.  At that point, I decided to leave it to the pros, and I checked out.

As I sat in my car, I felt a sense of pride.  I helped save a man’s life.  I faced danger and didn’t mind.  I helped strangers.  It felt damn good.

Gentle reminder to all drivers – drive carefully and pay attention. Get off your phones, no texting and help save lives.

The Carmine Code

carminesFor those not familiar with Carmine’s, it’s an amazing Italian family restaurant.  It opened its doors back in 1990, and pride itself to for making any meal feel like an Italian American wedding feast.

Many of my colleagues had spoken about Carmine’s, and I have heard reference to it on the radio and even in a few movies

… I think!

It was one of those places we simply had to visit, but we rarely went into the City.  If we did, it was mostly my wife and I, or perhaps just for a few business meetings.

A few days ago, the opportunity came knocking.  We had planned a visit to Broadway to see the “King and I” musical, as part of a fantastic offer with TDF who organises autism friendly performances.

After the amazing performance, it was late in the afternoon and we needed to refuel our bodies with some lovely food.  I unlocked my iPhone, opened the OpenTable app and made a reservation at Carmine’s.  It was like a new adventure was about to start.  Something mystical and mesmerising.

It was a journey to Shangri-La of food happy utopia, where we would sample wonderful dishes in a great atmosphere and among likeminded food loving people.

cloudyThe place itself wasn’t something amazing on the outside.  It was merely a small shop front, which led into a small bar area, full of people.  Then a dark magical staircase to the other side – to the promised land.

As we ascended the stairs, we were greeted by numerous scents and flavours.  It was in reality a smack to the face of gourmet food, and I was almost knocked off my feet by the sheer vapour bomb of food smells …. lovely food smell.

The waiter placed us at a family sized table, comfortable seating all five of us.  I glanced around the room and was pleasant surprised that this was in fact only large families.  People were happy, smiling, laughing and eating.  My kind of place!

We were Carmine virgins.  At least that’s what I told the very friendly waiter, and he was enthusiastic about explaining us the Carmine Code.  It was simple actually.

"This is a family restaurant
We serve family sized portions
The table share the food."

We ordered a salad, veal steak w/ mash and mixed plate of pasta.  According to the waiter, this should feed our hungry family.

Half way through the salad, which made Olive Garden’s salad tray look like a starter, I realized that we might have ordered a bit too much.

Then the two main courses arrived and I must’ve arrived in heaven.  In front of us were two large sized trays, filled with food.  Enough food to feed our family for a week.

I had to sample every piece, and it was fantastic.  Not Michelin star food, but real Italian style food, almost as mama would make it.  And, that was despite the amount of people who were eating with us, how many had been before us, and how many were coming after us.

I hit the food brickwall hard.  It was not unpleasant, but I was disappointed with my own performance.  We had barely made a dent in the past samples, and still half veal dish left.

heart-cloudsThankfully they have an excellent doggie bag attitude, and placed all the left-overs in tinfoil trays and a large shopping bag.

It was heaven.  We had just witnessed a food revelation and had in an instant become Carmine followers.  This was an amazing experience, and thank you food God for letting us experience utter stuffedness.

The Rock

Once upon a time, while enjoying my childhood summer, I got trapped on a rock for what felt hours or even days.  It was actually rather traumatic experience, and I’ve been afraid of rocks ever since 🙂

Setting the scene

cottageMany years ago, during the amazing 70s, my parents bought a small summer house cottage on a small idyllic island called Strynø. It was like taken from one of HC Andersen’s fairy tales. Small cottages with thatched roofs, cobblestone roads, wonderful fields and small village.  The village centre had a super market, school, municipal building, and supermarket-icecream parlour-post office (all in one building).  You could only get there by ferry and it only sailed a few times a day.  If you ran out of groceries, you had to live of berries 🙂

We normally went during late spring and most of the summer.  The family Renault 16 (yellow of course) was packed to the brim with supplies and clothes.  In Denmark, you can’t be too sure you get hot weather during the summer, so had to be prepared for anything possible.

While visiting the summer house, we kids spent 98% of the day outside.  Danish parenting is somewhat different, as we (kids) are left to fend for ourselves and learn as we go.  Meals are served during the day, and my parents would open the door, tell us not to come back until dinner time.  We had time to explore, climb, play ball, eat berries and just be kids … without too much adult supervision.  IT WAS AWESOME 🙂

Anyway, during one of these wonderful hot summer days, us kids went on a stroll and ended up by a huge field at the end of a dusty dirt road.  There was a big fence with a gate around the field, but that only means kids are allowed, or it meant something was so big and scary that it had to be locked away.

… but who cares about a gate when we can crawl over it and run in the field.  And so I did!

I was the first one not over, but through the fence, and ran laughing across the field with the sun baking down on me.  I turned around to shout for my sister and friends, only to discover that they were still by the fence/gate.  They had a strange look of fear and I could vaguely hear them shout “RUUUUUUUUUUNNNNN” (in Danish of course) and pointing at something.

My eyes followed their frantic pointing and suddenly I saw this beast with horns come galloping towards me.  I let out a loud yelp, turned and legged it towards a giant rock in the middle of the field.  The beast was gaining on me and I could hear it’s heavy breathing and hoofs hitting the ground hard.

ramboramI jumped the last few yards onto the rock – to safety – and turned around to stare right into the angry eyes of a ram.  He was not a happy camper.

Perhaps he thought I was trying to hook up with his lady sheep or just didn’t like intruders.

I shouted to my sister for help, only to be greeted by hysterical laughter and them pointing at me sitting on a rock, pinned down by an angry beast protecting his turf.

After what felt like hours, probably only a few minutes, my sister finally went for help. Another “hour” went by and I heard the wonderful voice of my dad.

My hero, my saviour had arrived.  My dad can beat and scare off any monstrous ram, or other vile creature of the devil.  Or so I thought.  He was muttering some elaborate escape plan with another dad who had come to help, but I wasn’t seeing any progress in getting me off the bloody rock.

Without water for several “hours” my body was getting weaker and I was not sure I would survive this.  In a panic moment, I attempted to crawl down from the rock, only to be greeted by the ram.  He had absolutely no intentions of letting me survive this.

Suddenly I saw the other dad at the other end of the field, shouting for the ram.  It worked and it started to run towards him.  A few seconds later, my dad was next to.  As he reached for me, the ram suddenly turned and starred a us.  No time to waste, my dad yanked me off the rock and started to run with me on his back.

gimliMy dad was not built for running, a bit like Gimli with short legs, but he was going so fast that his legs were a blur to me.  I could see the ram running after us, and gaining valuable ground.

As we finally reached the gate, my dad threw me over it and jumped up to climb over.  The ram hit the gate and then started to eat the grass my sister was feeding the sheep.  So much for a vicious smoke breathing beast!

So, I learned my lesson.  Never jump a gate to a fenced off field.  If you do, be sure to wear runners and large bunch of grass.