On paper it sounds sublime: travelled to Norway in the summer, and then the Denmark experience came in the autumn and winter. What a life! But you couldn’t be more wrong about it.
Did you know I worked in a salmon factory for two months? This is what my Denmark story is about. Actually, it starts with an amazing friend who helped me in one of my roughest times. If you read the Norway trip completely, you know by the end of the summer of 2009, I was without a job and devastated for another dream to be crashed.
The whole month of September, I will share 30 stories with you. One story each day. You will find out how I travelled, what countries I called home and how many times I repeated a travel in the same place. But most importantly, you will get to know my comfort zone stories. Would you share yours?
My immigrant or if you want, expat life story is on Travelling Inside Out, episode 23. Have a listen and remember to subscribe to wherever you get your podcast from.
After three months of trying my best to find another job, I couldn’t afford rent anymore. So in October 2009, I moved in with my grandparents, in another town. I just got accepted to the master’s and I had one problem: I couldn’t afford it. My parents could only help with the first payment – needed to be able to enrol. But for the rest of the two years of studying it should be my responsibility. And that seemed fair to me since they did put me through 3 years of university already.
So I really had to find a job. Any job! But I had no luck. On a random Tuesday, I got a call from a friend that was living in Denmark. She used to be my flatmate one year prior, so I trusted her. She asked me if I am willing to work whatever. I said yes. She said she will call me back with more information. On Thursday she told me there is an opening at a salmon factory. But they start on Monday, so I had to move quickly. Talking about my comfort zone for the Denmark experience!
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She actually paid for my bus ticket Yes, I took a bus that very Saturday from Dej to Sebeș in Romania. And then to Hamburg in Germany. The trip was probably 36 hours, give or take. My memory of those hours it’s only of highways, sleep, autumn, gas and bus stations. Oh, we did one stop in Austria. And then my friend and her partner waited for me and drove me all the way to Kolding, where they used to live.
To tell you I was scared shitless on the first day in the factory is an understatement. This was the first time I was so out of my comfort zone I didn’t even remember the meaning of comfort. But I did know about zone because we all worked in zones. Mine was to spice up the salmon in a very constrained space. On Thursday I had muscle pain in parts of my body I didn’t even know it was possible. They moved me around quite a bit, yet I was not fast enough. Most of the Polish women would yell at me because of it. I remember a lot of days biting my tongue so that I won’t cry. I was miserable, but I knew I needed to survive this. Because at the same time, I was studying for my master’s. Remember that?
My Denmark experience can be described as follows. Starting work at 3 pm. Finish work by 11 pm. Help my host clean the factory. Get back home at around 4-5 am. By that time I was so tired that I usually had to choose: eat or take a shower. Didn’t have the strength to do both. Sleep until 12 pm. Shower and eat. Go online and study for the master’s. And then repeat. And so I lived like that up until one week before Christmas. My broken heart and spirit needed this more than I knew.
That experience changed my life for the better because it showed me the strength I am capable of. My host was teaching me valuable life lessons. To be honest, I was still a brat. Didn’t see myself as one back then. But I was. And at the end of the Denmark experience, they didn’t accept any money from me. He only asked me to pay it forward. I won’t ever be grateful enough for the way they helped me. Financially, yes. But also, by believing in me and showing me kindness when I needed the most.
I haven’t done much travelling within Denmark, as you can imagine. We did visit a castle and one afternoon we actually travelled to Germany for shopping and lunch. But not much more. I didn’t have a camera back then, nor did I have a smartphone. So I took very few pictures with my friend’s phone.
The last evening when I finally left the factory, it was a snowy dark night. I looked at the building one more time and told myself I can’t look at a salmon for at least one year. I had a small mp3 player, haha, remember those? One song was on repeat. And the lyrics stuck with me for years to come. This song will always remind me of the biggest challenge of my life. You can read what I wrote about breaking up with my comfort zone then, in Romanian.
I went back home, to Romania, this time by plane. I flew to Sibiu with Tarom, via Munich. And what food is it being served to me on the plane? Salmon! The irony was not lost on me. I had the best winter holidays with my family, and then I bought myself a Nikon camera. And soon after an invitation got me to Finland. But more of that, in tomorrow’s article.
Have you ever worked a seasonal job? What is the biggest challenge you had to encounter in your working experience? Let me know in the comments below.
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