Sunday, November 30, 2008

To The Wedding, by John Berger

I love books.
I've loved them since I was small.
They allowed me to wander no matter how young or poor or busy I was...

Last week, I finally had time to visit De Sleght, my favourite second-hand bookshop here in Antwerpen city.

The more time that passes between these visits of mine, the more truly superb books in English I have to choose from. This time I bought a beautiful book called The Rare and the Beautiful by Cressida Connolly, finished as I rode towards Amsterdam last week.

And then I couldn't resist a book titled To the Wedding by John Berger because ... Michael Ondaatje, a much-loved favourite author of mine had written the following on the back of the book:A great, sad, and tender lyric, a novel that is a vortex of community and compassion that somehow overcomes fate and death. Wherever I live in the world, I know I will have this book with me.

It has been a 32 page free-fall into the story so far and I love it.

It opens with this:
Wonderful a fistful of snow in the mouths
of men suffering summer heat
Wonderful the spring winds
for mariners who long to set sail
And more wonderful still the single sheet
over two lovers on a bed.

A quiet day here in the land of low temperatures and grey winter skies, sneezes and sniffles as I sit here tonight. I hope your weekend was a good one and the week ahead is all that you need to be.

The Piano, a movie

I was looking for something else and found this and noted it here for me ...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Madness and Mayhem Reign Here ... at my place

Lut and her man are coming to dinner tonight so we're talking roast New Zealand lamb, Australian red and white wines, roast kumara, potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic, gravy and beans I think.

And then there's this Belgian dessert, a custard and cherry concoction that slips down rather nicely with a daub of whipped cream afterwards ... oh, and Di's Pumpkin soup as a starter.

The madness and mayhem that has gone into this dinner prep, the jobs left undone so long that have finally been done ... here's to a good night in the apartment where the kiwi and the Belgian have made their home.

Have a lovely Saturday night, World.

Suketu Mehta and his idea about dealing with terrorism.

I admired the words of this man, as they appeared in the NY Times ...

But the best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever...

If the rest of the world wants to help, it should run toward the explosion. It should fly to Mumbai, and spend money. Where else are you going to be safe? New York? London? Madrid?

So I’m booking flights to Mumbai. I’m going to go get a beer at the Leopold, stroll over to the Taj for samosas at the Sea Lounge, and watch a Bollywood movie at the Metro. Stimulus doesn’t have to be just economic.
Suketu Mehta, Op-Ed contributor, New York Times.

My mother always dreamed of a house by the sea when she retired.

My mother never lived by the sea, she died before she retired.

While I don't have a death wish, neither do I wish to be a victim of fear or buy into the idea that I'm going to live until I am an old woman. I remember reading that hijackers would now have a problem taking over an airplane ... since those passengers who fought back on that final plane in 9/11, managed to avert a greater tragedy than the one that they suffered.

Here's to the courage of Suketu Mehta in speaking out.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Today in Amsterdam ...

Gaudi, Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, originally uploaded by - di.

A truly stunning day where the mysterious project that involves travel, photography and me working as a documentary and art photographer was discussed over Mexican food at a restaurant in Amsterdam.

Then, as always happens whenever I'm on any kind of gig with this remarkable woman, I was swept off on her magical carpet to the city centre where we met with a hugely talented and interesting man and I almost wept because I wasn't carrying my camera however the conversations between academic and artist, between philosphers, between visionaries ... that was quite possibly as much 'powerful' as I could stand in these early stages.

It looks like Cairo for 5 days just before Christmas and from there ... well let's just see how it unfolds because at the moment I'm learning, just about anything is possible.

Note: the photograph is a little more of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The windows astounded me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

If you are going to get sick ...

Or mess around with something that felt a lot like exhaustion, in retrospect, then it's best not to do it when you have to put together an email version of the newsletter and then take it on over and html it into the work website.

The last 48 hours have been a bit of a nightmare, with sleep being the thing I most wanted to do, while fighting for normal left me exhausted and basic html coding knowledge was all but forgotten.

Here's to tomorrow being a better day ...
Thankfully I'm finally feeling okay as I sit here typing this out.

Tot straks from this tired kiwi creature.

Amsterdam Tomorrow

The call came and I'm off to learn all about the photography project that will take me through the Middle East in the months ahead.

I'll be visiting places I've read about ... Beirut, Tehran, East Jerusalem and Cairo, a place I have passed through on my way home ... Dubai and that place where I lived for a while ... Istanbul.

To see them from the angle I'll be working from will be truly superb and to be creating the record of a journey towards a spectacular exhibition in Berlin is a little bit of a dream come true ... if I had known to dream that particular dream.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Memories of Other Days

I've spent most of the last 12 hours in bed. I disappeared to read just after 10pm last night and woke at 7.30am having not read a word. I had breakfast, said bye to everyone and fell into bed again until 10.30am.

I rarely sleep more than 6 or 7 hours so this was huge for me and while I feel beautifully rested, the impulse to begin work today has been a bit of an impulse missing in action..

I was in Brussels at the office yesterday and came home with the newsletter almost ready to publish, so that is my goal ... to wrap it up and get it out to our 1000+ subscribers.

Amsterdam didn't happen today so I'm just waiting to see how this Middle East project pans out. A photographer's life tends to lack certainties and is full of surprises. Best enjoyed when it's on and keep that second job for the certainties.

Sagrada Familia's Passion Facade, Barcelona.

Longinus, Barcelona, originally uploaded by - di.

I loved this sculpture and photographed it in different light while I was in Barcelona.

I read what Josep Maria Subirachs had to say of it in his book and found this: Longinus, a Christian martyr from the 1st origin and of Isaurian origin, is identified as the soldier who plunged his spear into Jesus'side and later converted to Christianity.

We see him on horseback, plunging his spear into the right side of the Temple's façade, which Jesus is identified with (John 19,34).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I know what she means ...

I think housework is far more tiring and frightening than hunting is, no comparison, and yet after hunting we had eggs for tea and were made to rest for hours, but after housework people expected one to go on just as if nothing special had happened.
Nancy Mitford, from The Pursuit of Love

A little youtube about love

Thanks Robin.

Monday, November 24, 2008

There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because when you are neutral you are an accomplice. Objectivity doesn't mean treating all sides equally. It means giving each side a hearing.
Christiane Amanpour, journalist.

A glimpse of a Gaudi, Barcelona

A glimpse of a Gaudi, Barcelona, originally uploaded by - di.

I wonder which is worse - the longing to travel or the return?

The new and the exotic break me out of my routine, the possibility of being lost or not understood changes my psychology.

And then there is the return to all that is known and while it is good, there is this process of return that I haven't quite mastered ... or perhaps it's not something we master ... perhaps it's something we survive, a corner we turn, a state of mind we need to re-enter.

So today, instead of launching myself out into a new and unknown world I am contemplating the debris of our breakfast, my disastrous desk ... and my luggage over there by the couch while playing that new song, hearing its question ... am I who I want to be?

I have an EU affairs manager phoning me up about the details of a job for December today, and I hope to hear more about the Middle East project this week.

Now I've put the word out that I'm willing to travel to work, I'm never quite sure where I might wander next and yes, to answer the song's question, that is who I want to be.

I am a creature who has always struggled with routine, since the time when I was so small that my mode of escape could only be my little 3 or 4 year old legs or the red and white plastic tricycle and my mother would be phoned to come pick me up from the school next to our house. And if a locked gate was involved, I could climb too.

I have always struggled with routine even while finding it comforting ... like the huge cosy blanket on a couch near a wood-burning fire with a good book and a labrador for company on a stormy day.

It's a love/hate thing, as I launch myself into the unknown I wonder why and what what drives me? but it has always been that way with me.

So, to work.
I have started on the new to-do list which is, of course, an old one reworked ... Diede & Francien, Hunter, Newsletter are there at the top of the list today, sharing the space with dishes, washing, and unpacking..

I hope your day is a good one.
Tot straks.

I think I'm becoming who I want to be ...

Wise Mark ... I've just come from a conversation that started the process of lifting me out of my post-wandering blues. Mark sometimes gives 'homework', often it's just a song and this is today's song.

It's something to think about.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Somebody's boot imprint, Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

I noticed these in the concrete, somewhere close to the gift shop at Sagrada Familia and they made me smile ... a small fossil for some archaeologist to find in a few hundred years maybe.

Sagrada Familia magic, Barcelona

Sagrada Familia magic, Barcelona, originally uploaded by - di.

I think this is what most fascinated me ... walking around a curve or being in that place in that point in time so that the light did this.

I found it staggeringly beautiful and now here I am, like a child playing with pretty stones found on a beach, as I work through the photographs, feeling the magic again and again.

What did he see ...?

What did he see ...? Barcelona, originally uploaded by - di.

I couldn't resist this one ... I hope he doesn't mind.

The image of Jesus, Façade of the Passion, Salgrada Familia, Barcelona

For some reason, I find sculpture almost as beautiful to photograph as people ... I have no idea why. I guess it is about light and transformations.

People are a little more self-conscious and I try to respect them in ways sculpture neither needs nor asks for ... so, I sat a while and studied this image of Jesus, examining the light some.

Later I read that this particular image sustains the optical illusion of always looking in the direction of those observing it.

I thought the work stunning.

From, The Guide to the Passion Facades, Salgrada Familia

I bought 2 books by artists involved in work on the Church of the Sagrada Familia. I loved this door with its words and went back to the books to see how the door had been written up.

Josep Maria Subirachs wrote of his work: I have always believed that the central double door should synthesize the entire work of the façade . I finally found the theme that I think is suitable: I reproduce the texts of the Gospel illustrated by the sculptural groups. The two massive doors separated by the mullion, will be like two immense open books; yet the background texture, with over 8,000 letters melted in bronze, will not distract attention from the figure of the flagellation, which is located in front.

2 kinds of memories on leaving Barcelona ....

I almost didn't publish the bad experiences I had in Barcelona and in fact, I haven't touched on all of them. I don't like doing it about any place but my time in Barcelona as a tourist was both good and bad, in ways that I hadn't experienced while traveling lately.

The tiredness of those I met in the tourist industry was noticeably different to any place else I had been and in some instances I wondered about the burden of tourists on locals in Barcelona.

So if you want to only read of the good, then choose the appropriately titled post ...

Hasta la vista.

Good Memories on Leaving Barcelona ...

Perhaps the best thing about this trip, besides seeing Mary Lou and meeting Salgrada Familia for the first time, was I finally understood that for me, travel is all about the people I meet on the way ... like the lovely New Jersey family I shared breakfast with before leaving or the Finns who shared breakfast conversations with me on the previous days. It was about talking with the lovely young men on reception duty at AC Marie Hotel while we waited for my taxi, the hotel where Mary Lou stayed with Al, a hotel I would recommend if you're looking for some place easy to stay in Barcelona.

It's about kind taxi drivers and interesting travelers, it's about finding a really excellent book I've wanted forever written in English in a city where English is the language of the foreigner. It's about cafes and restaurants with staff who are friendly and who make a space for the stranger in their world for a while.

It is about photography and the buildings that invite you to fall truly madly deeply in love with them, and it's about having the chance to observe other cultures while recognising that you too are another.

It's apologising for my New Zealand English while being happy that I am from New Zealand, and it's about bringing back stories that make other people want to travel ... or sharing with those who can't, won't or no longer travel.

Sitting here in an airport cafe, having arrived far too early but prepared for it with my huge book, my laptop and a head full of words ... these are my thoughts on leaving Barcelona.

Bad Memories on Leaving Barcelona ...

I left Barcelona feeling that it was a city that was tired of tourists ...

In fairness, I was looking for the cheapest possible trip. I was there to spend 12 hours of two and half days in the city with Mary Lou. I didn't research Barcelona in the way that I normally would. I had just returned from my 17 days in Genova, that city I fell so deeply in love with, and had fitted in that 3-day work trip to Berlin to came back, repack and fly out to Barcelona.

RyanAir did a great job and Barcelona Bus, on the ride from airport to city gave me no clue that my camera gear and laptop wouldn't be welcome on-board the bus when departing the city. But in fact, it wasn't and that last 24 hours in the city was a mix of good news and bad.

I am tempted to title this post, 'The Grumpy Old Men of Barcelona Estacio Nord' but perhaps that's a little too mean when it only involved the fierce and angry overseer, and the mean bus driver, both of whom have clearly been dealing with tourists forever. I was stunned when he tried to snatch my bag out of my hand and when I protested, he snarled at me that I should catch a taxi to Girona – some 100kms out of the city. His fury was impressive and intimidating ... as I tried unknowingly breaking the rules of the kingdom of this particular bus, trying to explain that my carry-on bag had my photography equipment and laptop and that the same bus company hadn't had a problem with it when I arrived in the city. We were all allowed our bags on-board the bus and my bag wasn't that much bigger than a small full backpack which were allowed on-board.

In Italy, I'm almost sure that, had they imposed the same rule, they would have put my bag in the hold with charm and exaggerated gentleness, promising to guard its precious cargo ... mocking perhaps but so much gentler than the rage of the Barcelona Bus men ... whose colleagues were, as I said, so much nicer on my arrival.

Perhaps it was seeing the pickpockets at work that left me uneasy about life in the city but on leaving, the only nice thing that happened was the taxi driver who drove me back to the bus station, delighting me when he charged half the fee of his colleague who made the same trip with me on my arrival. My heartfelt 'Gracias!'surprised him, making him smile too.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Home Again ... to snow!

We flew out through some bumpy turbulence, and crossing the Pyrenees caused the plane to lurch about that bumpity way I can stand on a bus but which creates a huge tension in me when I'm that high in the sky in a flimsy metal construction. Then came the landing ... zero celsius, snow!

I'm crawling off to my bed, trying to forget that this morning I was in my Barcelona bedroom, windows open, blue sky, warm air ...

Fortunately Gert met me at the airport tonight, with my warm winter coat and my special hat. It's good to be home.

Oost, west, thuis best ;)
(A whisper, that was for Gert because he travelled 2 hours by train and another 15 minutes on a cold bus to come meet me at Charleroi Airport - 70kms south of Brussels.)

PickPockets, Barcelona

It may be that I expressed doubts about whether the pickpockets of Barcelona were actually worse than those I had heard about in Istanbul or Rome however ... today I had to change my ideas as I watched one in action here in the city.

I met up with friends this morning and we were on the underground metro, returning from Salgada Familia. One of our group was ahead of me and there was a woman next to him, shadowing him as we all surged onto the tram. I could see she was searching his pockets but so brilliantly that he wasn't feeling a thing.

The few seconds I had watching this woman work, even as I called out a warning, were a little like watching an animal in some place where I didn't expect to see one, and doing something I had never observed before. Somehow she didn't seem human - it was one of those really odd and surreal moments in life.

I called out to warn him again but he's deaf. Fortunately, a lovely guy on the metro spotted her and her gang. He pulled her off my friend and pushed her out the train, shouting at her even as she was jammed in the doors and staring at him uncomprehendingly. Her behaviour was so odd that it still makes me frown in concentration as I try to write of it here.

We thanked him not only for that but because his intervention helped another traveling companion pull her handbag away from one of the other thieves.

You know, it was almost as if there was some psychological or physical transformation that occurred in these thieves and it moved them beyond normal everyday behaviour and into a body language that separated them from everyone else, making their actions all but invisible.

Puzzling but anyway ... it's true, watch out for the pickpockets of Barcelona.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Barcelona street scene

Barcelona street scene, originally uploaded by - di.

I couldn't resist.

I love these mirrors ...

Construction in Sagrada Familia

If it wasn't 10euro to enter Sagrada Familia, I think I would like to visit each day to try and photograph what the light does with the material it is given to work with ...

Then again, I guess commuting from Belgium would be silly.

Robert Fisk and BCN Books, Barcelona

Actually, all this blogging is what happens when a woman who enjoys listening to, finding and telling stories, is left alone in a new city with no one to talk to but wifi and a laptop in her room ...

Well there is the waitress who lived in New Zealand but that tapas bar is a busy one so we just talk a little each time.

Today I set out with a guide for the city but foolishly wandered into a bookshop I happened upon by chance. Due to recent experiences, most particularly in France, I decided to immediately ask where the English books were ... hoping there were some.

The lovely man looked surprised and said, 'They're all English'.
I replied, I'm sorry, I'm a tourist.'

I just did the same downstairs before leaving for tapas, the I'm a tourist thing ... 2 women leaving the building at the same time thought I was trying to lock the door as I was leaving but somehow I managed to explain that no, I only wanted to be sure I knew how to get back in. They were kind, they took me through the procedure and voila, I'm back in after a dinner of tapas and with a little Mr Robert Fisk on the side.

BCN Books, Barcelona ... you must visit if you're a lover of English books because it sells itself as Your English Bookshop - something I'm wishing I had noted as I wandered in. You can find this store at Roger de Llúria, 118, 08037 Barcelona and if I have written that out incorrectly, then you can email them for directions at or phone them on 934 577 692.

There is a website but I think he said it's not quite there but then again, it depends when you read this, doesn't it.

Really ... I looked over the shelves, pre-the almost-fainting-over-the-light at Salgrada Familia and almost fainted over the selection of books that BCN Books have on their shelves. And truly, I'm not a fainter.

They're so intelligent, tempting, diverse!
I have been trying to force myself to buy books that are about entertaining me and losing-myself-in-them simple because I would like some of that sometimes, but I just can't pay money for them however this bookshop satisfied all my other bookish desires.

I once heard Robert Fisk speak in Ghent university and I loved what he was saying and the passion and the other times, cold calm, with which he spoke. Some say he is too emotional, too personal but I'm not sure I agree that that is possible, especially when you've spent most of your journalistic life in the Middle East.

So I knew I had to buy his massive tome of a book - The Great War for Civilisation. The Conquest of the Middle East as soon as I saw it there.

1286 pages ...

And sometimes, in the church of the Sagrada Familia

Sometimes you wander into the church just as the light is at a particular angle and slices up the smoke from the workmens fire.

It was heavenly in there today ...

Gaudi's Paint ...

I bought 2 small booklets today, both written by artists working on Sagrada Familia.

Josep Maria Subirachs Guide to the Passion Facade and Joan Vila-Grau on The Stained-Glass Windows.

It was in the book by Josep that I found this beautiful description of the light I found inside the Sagrada Familia this morning.

In a piece titled, The Sun, The Best Painter he wrote: Gaudi is a master of light who knows all the resources needed to create heart-captivating atmosphere, and knows how to cover the windows, if need be, with colour, or how to simply guide the light over pure architectural surfaces.

He ends with a quote from Ignasi Puig Boada: The elements of the windows transform the Church walls with a palpitating light, as if the light, working like water flowing over stone, had dug into the thickness of the walls in a process of slow and polyform erosion.

The Light, Sagrada Familia

This is to give you an idea of the source of the beautiful colours I discovered on the pillar inside the church ...

I'm not using a flash and enjoyed the challenge of capturing all that I could.

That's me ...

Barcelona, originally uploaded by - di.

I am the crazy lady wandering Barcelona with her camera, muttering about the light and the colour here ... another city, like Rome, where you should get up early to follow the light changes and then, wait until the sun is going to bed and watch as the city transforms back into a city of golden light.

I was over by Sagrada Familia by chance this afternoon and almost fainted from sheer pleasure as I glanced over at the temple ... I was cold and needed a coffee more than anything else in the world but couldn't resist one or two more photographs of the temple bathed in the late afternoon light.

That said ... this photograph is of something else entirely.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Detail, Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, originally uploaded by - di.

And so it seems that I am one of the few people in the world who didn't know the genius of Antoni Gaudi, his ideas about Nature and how he incorporated them in the famous Temple Expiatori Sagrada Familia.

I wandered there this morning and stayed the entire morning, watching the light change ... watching it stream through the stain-glass windows by Joan Vila-Grau and play on Gaudi's tree-like pillars.

It was truly stunning but knowing I had to locate a supermarket - shampoo, conditioner and deoderant were left out of my hand luggage - I finally found the strength to walk away from the surreal and stunning landscape of Gaudi and re-entered the world.

A small taste for you ...

The Charm of an Inexpensive Guesthouse ...

4am and I find myself awake ...

Reasonably priced rooms in the centre of Barcelona may have one or two drawbacks.

I didn't know that there was flooring that could radiate a million creaks from every footstep taken but it's true, there is flooring like that and so when the first person creaked out to the bathroom just before 4am, I woke.

I believe everyone may have woken because in the course of the next 15 minutes, everyone here seems to have creaked their way to the bathroom. I had only heard footstep volume like that on Mr Bean or perhaps in a Monty Python show.

The couple next door appear to have begun packing and I think one of them is showering as I write. I guess they have an early flight ...

Good morning world, from Barcelona.

Update: 4.42am: long shower over, room neighbour has just blow-dried her hair as she and her partner talked.

Another guest just creaked into the bathroom.

Coffee is still 4 hours away.

I do hope this post has helped anyone out there suffering from Barcelona-envy.

Oh the quaint charms of 19th century buildings and guests who have no qualms about how much noise they make at 4am.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why Di Shouldn't Have Explored Barcelona Alone on Her First Night ... (the uncut version)

I'm still giggling as I make myself comfortable here on the bed, ready to confess how inept I am when I wander in cities and countries not my own.

If ... let's say hypothetically so I can tell you without entirely losing face, I once worked for a Dunedin city photographer who found it fall-on-the-floor-laughing funny that I would become disorientated on the spiral staircase to the basement in his office area (I was very young at the time), obviously giving him the impression that I am geographically inept, to the point where it's probably some kind of syndrome ... well then, I shouldn't go out with a key ring of 5 keys, some of which are just for show and some of which are for real, to be used in a complicated system of unlocking doors to get back into the guest house where I'm staying.

Just for show ... I didn't get what she meant about that.
Tomorrow's big question over breakfast perhaps.

2. If I know I am geographically inept and I had already noted that the guest house owner appears to have given me the wrong street address by one number ... truly, she has, then I shouldn't go out into the night because ... I will press the button of my floor on the WRONG building.

Sigh, he sounded lovely and did want to help.

3. So I was correct to hang my head in shame when I finally identified my building but couldn't make the keys work ... not one of the 5 keys actually, (although they were spectacularly less successful in the wrong building). I was correct to hang my head in shame when my real Spanish neighbours had to let me in and showed me, (and I could tell this was a regular thing with silly guest house tourists, despite their very gracious manner), showed me how to work the complicated key system and which key holes were fake.

I can only hope they appreciated me sending the elevator back down to them. I didn't call them down, I was just lucky they were coming in.

But now to the good news ...
On my way to the supermarket (because one does get terribly hungry at 4am, when they're done with sleeping from that early night they took to avoid going out in search of food for fear of getting lost or locked out) ... on my way to the supermarket I accidentally wandered into a rather excellent tapas bar, as one does in Spain.

I ate at de Tapa Madre and the food was stunning, the wine was excellent, the price was superb and ... the waitress had lived in New Zealand last year and loved it of course!

Unfortunately she wasn't given approval to live there, for which I apologised ... my people are rotten about foreigners which is terribly hypocritical when you consider that some of the New Zealanders came by their land by foul means, as in land theft and colonisation.

My waitress's English was perfect and even better, she understood mine ... but seriously, if you're in Barcelona and you want good food and a nice atmosphere, then I would really recommend de Tapa Madre

Oh, and the complicated system of keys and locks ... further complicated by the fact that my guest house host rarely picks up the phone so when I arrived earlier than expected from the airport, I ended up being let in by other guests who happened along.

So far I have been twice-saved from a night spent sleeping rough on Barcelona streets ... I think I'll just curl up and sleep now.

What is it Scarlett O'Hara said?
After all... tomorrow is another day. ;)

Barcelona ...

Preparing to leave on a journey, I always wonder why I do it ... I have last minute doubts, lose my courage some and remember that I don't have a passion for flying.

Then I sit down on the train and for whatever reason, my worries begin melting away. Later, the plane lands in a new country and voila, it's okay.

Tonight I'm in the middle of Barcelona city, close to Temple de La Sagrada Familia and it's all a little bit daunting at the moment, as I arrived in the dark and have been warned at least 16,000 times about pick-pockets. I have to smile, as usually my pockets have nothing but used tissues in them but we'll see ... I left my new lens at home in recognition of the fact that the pickpockets here seem to be more famous and more feared than pickpockets in Istanbul and Rome.

I might have fallen a little in love with the mountains and hills I could see from the bus that brought me to the city from Girona Airport. I noticed the light out there (more than an hour from the city) was special too.

And it was noticeably warmer than the grey bone-chilling drizzle I left as I stepped on the plane back in Brussels. They're talking about 16-17 celsius with clear skies in the morning so I might take my camera out for a stroll after breakfast.

Oh, and I've changed my weather underground badge to Barcelona weather reporting while I'm here.

Living in countries not my own has made the internet an important part of my life. It's where family and friends know they can find me and of course, I can find them. It's been nice tonight, realising that I could open my laptop here in my bedroom and enter that other 'home' that I have while trying to decide whether to wrestle with the interesting set of locks and keys on the guesthouse ... all the way from the street to my room, or simply go to bed without any dinner and try to catch up on the sleep that I so desperately need.

Anyway, the plan is to be far more interesting tomorrow. That would be interesting in a good way and not in that other way ... I'll let you know.

Hasta la vista.

Regione Liguria ...

Flight, originally uploaded by - di.

Just in case you miss this ...

I was reading a post over on mudflats just now and she had written of a 16 year old Alaskan who spoke up about her experience of the hatred her peers were expressing about President Elect, Barack Obama.

If the words of a 16 year old wishing for a more equal world interest you, then you can read Waverli Rainey over here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wandering tomorrow

So I've packed my little cabin bag-ette on wheels with everything because its 'the' bag for Barcelona.

That would be the little bag that usually just carries my camera gear, laptop and equipment ... and yes, they are still going with me.

It's littler than 55 by 40 by 20cms and it slips in under the limit for RyanAir's cabin baggage requirements.

So Barcelona will see 2 pair of Di's black jeans, her red shirt, the green shirt. I'll wear the jacket, the scarf, the 1 pair of shoes ... it should be fine. I'm a New Zealander and therefore I am quite unwilling to write of my undergarments, although getting through customs is best done when wearing the white bra (under everything of course). The black one always sets off alarms, in much the same way that the safety pin that held up my favourite black jeans as they were coming to the end of their natural life, set off the alarms.

I hope to do postcards but I am collecting an unfortunate series of international Post Office experiences ... if you get one well, it's more about bizarre luck than anything else in these days of wandering in countries where I don't speak the language.

Hasta la vista!

Dunedin - a life slice

For anyone who might be curious, a slice of cultural life from my home city, Dunedin.

Thanks Kay.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A small update from my world.

Shanti strolled back into our world yesterday from her new place in Holland, just an hour and a half away by train. It is so good to see her again and we stayed up far too late talking.

An email came in in the afternoon and funding has been approved for the project in the Middle East. I have a meeting in Amsterdam on November 26 to find out what my role will be.

I'm working in Brussels tomorrow and fly out to Barcelona on Wednesday.

Ummm yes, that would be my head that's spinning.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

In Bruges, a movie

I just finished watching the movie In Bruges , amidst many head-shaking 'did they really just say that?' moments and guilty little episodes of laughter.

Van, I think you need to see this movie.
I think you will like it. You too, Mark. Actually, maybe you should wait till you come over in 2009, I'll get some Australian red and we can kick back and watch it.

I'm not sure what Gert will think of it ... but me, well I'm still giggling trying to write something serious and completely failing to do more than smile.

If you liked Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels well, you'll like this.

If you have a wee bit of a thing about Bruges, as in you love it ... I'm not so sure this is for you however ... in the movies defense, the mayor of Bruges did have a part in it so it's not really that bad.

Oh, and there's more bad language than I've ever heard seen in a movie, although that could be more about the kind of movies I normally watch.

I think that's all I have to say.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The doorway ... Genova

Where ever I wandered there was always some other new or beautiful thing. I was lost when I found this but it didn't feel like 'seriously lost', more like a game of explore and discover.

So this is what I found that day.

Basilica e Convento di S. Maria di Castello

inside Basilica e Convento di S, originally uploaded by - di.

A long story, a beautiful relic.

Taken without flash, somewhere in the back of this ancient building on an impromptu tour with an Italian-speaking guide who invited me to join his tour group when he found me exploring the church.

Padlocked Love, Boccadasse

Love, Boccadasse, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

I had read of these padlocks elsewhere and I presume these are more of the same ... couples padlocking and stating their love for each other.

Update, to explain: In 2006, a romance movie based upon the novel "Ho Voglia di Te" was released in Italy and it started a ritual with young Italian couples. In the movie, a teenage couple is seen writing their names on an ordinary padlock and locking it with a chain around a lamp post. Both the novel (a sequel to "Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo") and the movie were hugely popular and people began to imitate the practice, throwing the keys into the water in a gesture of undying love.

My favourite place to sit awhile ...Boccadasse

The lookout, boccadasse, genova, originally uploaded by - di.

I guess this photograph means far more to me than to anyone who just sees this ... there are 3 seats behind this wall and the sea directly below.

It's a beautiful place to sit awhile, to soak up the sun and blue skies, or to enjoy the warm breeze pushed ahead of a storm while the god rays beam down from a wind-blown cloud-filled sky.

I loved the graffiti too ... the plaque, the graffiti and the padlocks image to follow seem like conversations to me. Real people live here.

Italian Chocolate

Chocolate-making, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

Or is that Italian chocolate made the old-fashioned way ...

I interviewed the man who makes chocolates while I was in the city. The machinery he uses is from the 19th century and the processes are still the old processes where ever possible.

Stunning chocolate!

Genova, a beautiful city.

Genova from Porto Antico, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

I loved this contrast of glass and houses.

I was wandering the area known as Porto Antico, the revamped old wharf that mixes the old and the new, harbour and city.

Slice of Life, Genova., originally uploaded by - di.

I loved this shop, near the end of Via di Porta Soprana and the beginning of the plunge into the long narrow street called Via Canneto il Lungo, a favourite place in the city.

I tried to write of this shop ... it was quite fanciful in one sense but in another, it's what came to mind whenever I passed by or entered it to by soap and wonder about everything else.

That man whose shop seemed jammed full of things from Genova and other faraway places. The kind of merchandise that could only arrive in a ship with rigging and sails, a ship that belonged to an old Genovese trader who discovered islands by chance while wandering the oceans looking for soaps and ropes for this shopkeeper waiting back home in his tiny store in this narrow Genovese street.

Chasing the morning light, Genova

View from Piazza Corvetto, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

We woke early one morning after Gert arrived and thought that we could chase the light as it touched the city into life ... but the sun doesn't reach many of the beautiful alleyways and streets until later in the day.

No matter, we found this while wandering in beautiful Piazza Corvetto. It will make me heartsick for Genova posting these ... I just know it.

Some of my 'to-do' list ...

I have just come from a tough round of negotiations, I could work for the UN in averting international crises ... such is negotiating with Miss Four, an excellent practice exercise.

Later I'll have to go clean up collateral damage in the kitchen ... there are 6 of us here at the moment. It's not pretty.

I'm confirming my accommodation in Barcelona and then there's the 'archival' work ... those emails marked as unread until I could get time to answer them.

I have some IT work to do. Everything has to be moved from the new laptop back to my HP Pavilion because it's simpler to travel with, smaller and anyway, I was quite attached to it. I might contract that out to Gert though.

There's a chat forum area to organise for the NGO, although that work has already begun and I'm loading my new website, quite delighted with the shape it is taking ... now to find time to process the material I've spent these last few months gathering.

I need to write an 'About me' for it and I'm shockingly bad at them, invoice Berlin, mail a cd of photographs to the NZ Defence Forces in London, find the photographs for the Flanders 1917 website, finish Diede and Francien's photo processing, start putting together the newsletter for the NGO and send a lovely Genovese man some of my photographs from my time there for a website he runs over there.

Oh ... and iron the new duvet set I finally bought last week, after more than 3 years of wanting it. It's telling that I haven't had time to do that simple thing since I bought it more than a few days ago.

I should probably unpack from Berlin and wash and prepare for Barcelona.

How are things looking in your world?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The chaos ...

My desktop finally reflects my mind ... it's a mess of information, photographs, things that need doing and shining out underneath it all is my desktop image ... Boccadasse and that house in the middle of the storm I photographed in Italy.

My desk is also a disaster really.
I moved the empty ice cream container but the bottle of sparkling water and glass are still competing for space with so many things that it would be silly to list them. I'm printing a 13 page interview I did with a New Zealander whose best rescue happened way back in 1927 and Raf's interview is almost ready to send.

You see, I'm scrambling to put together the interviews, photographs and blog posts so the web designer can finish the new website this weekend ... at least, the functioning side of it. It's not ready to be launched but I'm getting there ... just needing to grow a few extra arms and develop an organised mind.

I'm also waiting to hear if funding has been approved for a job that would take me into the Middle East. It would be Cairo in December, then East Jerusalem and on through the other places I've mentioned previously - Beirut, Tehran, Istanbul and Dubai.

Okay ... back to the mess that is me being organised.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Today ... in Berlin

The huge door opened and let us in ... and there I was, in the back hallways of Berlin's famous Martin Gropius Bau Museum.

Last night I worked on providing photographic coverage of a symposium held at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences. Today was about completing the processing in an office that I would never find again on my own, inside the museum. I feel like I'm seeing Berlin via some of its most fabulous buildings.

Then again, this work in Berlin is definitely work that I love ... but read for yourself:

I work for a platform for philosophy and art that initiates projects within the disciplines of arts and sciences on an international podium, and combines in a unique manner academy and performance, philosophy and art, text and image, literary and artistic tradition.

It also promotes the renaissance of Jewish and Islamic cosmopolitan traditions worldwide and cooperates with existing academic and artistic platforms and public institutions around the globe.

This time it was also about seeing people met on my last two work gigs in Berlin and it was truly delicious to find they remembered me.

It seems that la vita e bella can easily be applied to this Berlin life of mine too.

Meanwhile, as I write this, my photographs are wandering out to be published with articles and reports on last night.

You know, it's been a really excellent couple of days.
Nice to be home ... until next week and Barcelona ;)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And Camogli

Camogli, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

I think it's so easy to love Italy because of things like this ... it seemed to me that the house and the trees shared a shape, an outline.

I saw the same curves in the house that I could see above and beyond in the trees.

Meanwhile we leave for the symposium in an hour. My task is to document an evening with artists, poets and academics. I'll let you know how it goes ...

A slice of Camogli, Genova

late summer sale, camogli, genova, originally uploaded by - di.

The day after the big storm and there were still puddles and reflections despite the heat and blue skies ... and this photograph leapt out at me. Mostly it was about the tiny orange reflection in the puddle below the swimsuits.

from Berlin

Green on Gold, Boccadasse, originally uploaded by - di.

I've spent most of the day so far, working on my Italian selection of images, as the new website is being loaded, as quickly as I can get my work ready.

Revisiting Italy via my photographs is an entirely pleasurable thing to do with a day.

I begin work here at 5pm.
Wish me luck, there is talk of limited edition print runs of my work and Cairo was mentioned.

Yours sincerely
Di (aka Alice in Wonderland)

Monday, November 10, 2008

A small midnight news flash from Di in Berlin

Tonight I met Alex from Heidelberg and he just wanted to chat as we sped through the dark Berlin night on the Sbahn here in the city of Berlin - past things I had no idea about to a destination I was completely unfamiliar with ...

One of the things about traveling like this is that you need to correctly fit the mask of pretense, the one that warded off those guys who were trying to sell dodgy tickets to lost tourists at the ticket vending machines in the metro. The mask that makes it appear that you know where you're heading and what you're doing. But Alex seemed to see past it and gave me his copy of the 2008 tram network map for Berlin, counting off how many stops till mine and generally submitting to the Curiousity of Di about his German life.

His wife's grandfather was a most interesting man and we agreed that Heidelberg is a beautiful city. It was a good way to arrive in Berlin.

And it's excellent to be back. This time I'm staying in the home of a friend and have already spent a couple of incredibly interesting hours talking with a Palestinian professor of literature from Ramallah, and before that, with another lovely man I first met as the groom at the Berlin wedding shoot. But the story of this piece of my life is so much bigger than I am up to telling at midnight and perhaps I should ask permissions.

You know when you find some place you enjoy being, that you relax into?
For me I know it by the feeling of the air or the atmosphere. I'm not sure how to define this softness I feel in the air of a place where it feels good to be but I am staying in a beautiful, rambling, white wooden-interior apartment, full of life and colour, excellent books and interesting people. The air is soft in that way that makes me know it's a good place to be.

Anyway, gute nacht from this wandering creature.

The best thing about re-packing ...

Is locating my glasses and voice recorder, in that safe place I had put them to get them home from Italy ...

I wasn't too worried, I knew they were somewhere safe but time was passing and people were suspicious of precisely where my famous 'safe place' actually was this time.

'Some place safe' is how I talk of things lost, you see.

Okay, I think everything is packed, more equipment than clothes as usual.

One day, when I grow up, I'll be a proper girl ... maybe.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Off to Berlin tomorrow ...

I just took one of those delicious phone calls, asking if I would consider flying in for a photography shoot in Berlin on Tuesday ...

After a truly excellent Sunday spent with Simon, Paola and their children, the phone call came from Berlin, inviting me to attend and photograph a symposium that I been curious about from the first moment I read of it a month or so ago.

To attend and photograph something like this, that mixes the academic with the arts always fills me with a huge joyful energy so yes ... I'm just trying to calm down as I write of it here.

The flight is booked, now to re-organise from the crazy week just been and repack for 2 nights in Berlin, flying tomorrow.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mary Lou and Me

ML and I have been friends since we met in a travel chatroom back around the year 2000.

She first flew to visit with me when I was married and we went for a big drive through my South Island of New Zealand leaving from my home-base in Dunedin.

The second time, I think I was divorced but it seems like so long ago now and anyway, we drove the rest of the South Island, laughing often, as was our way.

I moved to Istanbul in 2003 and Mary Lou flew in as bombs were literally going off in the city. Passengers on her flight were given the option of turning back but not Mary Lou, she just kept on flying into a new and uncertain destination.

We took off to Gallipoli that time and generally had an excellent rest of the time wandering my beloved Istanbul city. We still laugh about the time she disappeared into the darkness of an Istanbul night with the carpet-selling guys who had taken us to a nargile cafe in an ancient cemetery. They were good people who looked after us so well but telling the story of it all still amuses us.

I moved to Belgium and she flew in, bringing her new partner to meet me while I introduced my Belgian to her and road trips through Europe followed over the next two years.

Today I finally made the decision to search out a cheap flight to Barcelona and an affordable guesthouse and voila, I'm flying off and again in 10 days.

Mary Lou and Al leave their cruise on November 21 and I'm flying in to Barcelona to meet with them. It seems crazy but true. Crazy because, if you're a kiwi then any place like Barcelona, Rome or Genova means at least 23 hours in the air and more than a 1000euro. Here I am, for the price of a taxi fare really, flying across Europe to destinations I never imagined reaching so easily.

It turns out that, like Rome and Genova, Barcelona is less than 2 hours by plane and the return trip will cost me under 60euro. Sure, I'm flying a cheap carrier and there will be trains and buses but it stuns me that I can fly to these amazing places so quickly and so cheaply ... stuns and delights me.

So now to revamp a section of website for work, write out my Genova stories, dance a small dance of delight over the idea that my new website is being uploaded as I type, prepare for Simon, Paola and family coming for lunch tomorrow and write to the people I met in France and wanted to interview ... and then there's the planning for 3 days and night in Barcelona.

All tips and any advice on Barcelona is so welcome.

Hasta la vista!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Morning, Genova

And sometimes it's just about the light and the stones ...

A via Garibaldi scene, Genova

A via Garibaldi scene, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

Via Garibaldi - Genova, is famous for it's beautiful homes which exist as museums that speak of a bygone age these days. I never actually made it inside any of them this time, I was too busy exploring the present but during one early morning wander, I saw this scene.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

One of those beaches that own some of my soul.

My friend Pippa used to laugh when telling me the beaches that owned my soul usually reflected my moods, or so it seemed to her whenever we arrived at Long Beach over hills out the back of Dunedin.

Now I'm wondering if the big storm I photographed in Italy was more about the days after I left Italy than my mood on the day ... because Boccadasse has surely became one of the very few beaches that have a small piece of my soul.

You see, this morning began at 6.06am but I fell asleep again and dreamed intensively until 7.07am which is a terrible way to begin, as today I was heading to Brussels and work. I showered fast and was back on track for my 8am departure then remembered to check how Jessie was feeling.

She was still in horrible pain so I realised I had to work from home and that she needed a doctor's appointment. And so it is that my day, so far, has gone something like this ... she writes at 11.46am.

Wake, shower, make breakfast for 6 people, race out the door to kindergarten with little Miss Four - take Mr 11's lunchbox by mistake, race back, realise and Mr 11 has opted not to take Miss 4's pink Mega Mindy lunchbox so he is lunchbox-less. Then the police woman start ringing the doorbell but her English isn't so good and she's talking to someone else as well as me on the intercom. She must have imagined me gone and rang the doorbell again. She was insistent but neither of us understood each other fully. I caught the elevator down and let her in after a conversation and she went where she was trying to go, which wasn't my apartment.

Meanwhile, Jessie can't walk to the tram so I phone a taxi because the doctor's list is full today and we can't really cancel and expect her to do a house call and anyway, her phone has an out-of-service message so I order a taxi ... the one that simply never turned up for Tara and I. I told him it was an urgent doctor's appointment and he got one to me in 20 minutes. Jessie left, I had by now written more than a few emails to work, received some and sent in a brochure sample but had to race out and get the right lunchboxes to everyone which I did with more complications than I can be bothered writing here. Home via a little shop for cola for instant energy, only to learn Jessie's stomach problem will take a month to heal and is painful ...

So here I am, settling down in the ruins of the apartment which looks like the police came in and searched it rather than the shambles left by this extended family of mine as they raced off to their clean offices and classrooms.

Polar Bears and Huskies at play ...

I didn't realise this happened but Rob, over at windrose hotel, blogged about it a while back ...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
Barack Obama

I have these friends ...

V's gift, originally uploaded by - di.

I have these friends who helped celebrate my birthday in the most delicious ways ...

You see, today the postman asked to be buzzed up with a parcel.

He had a gift from Veronica and somehow, that woman always manages to find gifts that both delight me with their aesthetic beauty while encouraging me to go on with the life I seem intent on choosing and sometimes suffer massive doubts about ...

The gift's arrival was timely because ... there are 6 of us in the apartment today. Jessie is ill and 'we' together generate endless dishes that require washing and drying, messes that need vacuumed, bellies that need filled meanwhile I'm working on NGO work as well as trying to file the Italian series of interviews and photographs so that I can pick them up and go on with them ... as soon as I have created that new office space in my bedroom.

This gift will sit someplace on my desk I imagine, to remind me of journeys yet to be made.

And then there is Paola, who took me out for the most delicious birthday dinner before she left Genova. We went to Ristorante da Rina, a lovely experience from beginning to end.

We walked through narrow streets that were new to me back then, until we found the restaurant perched on the side of a hill above Genova's port area.

Paola translated, advising me on on this dish and that and the white wine accompaniment was delicious. It was a lovely night out which ended with laughter, as we wandered lost for a while in the complicated alleyways that make up the heart of the old city in Genova.

Thank you to both of you. You made this older woman's birthday really special.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

a visual life ...

Genova city scene II, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable. I've only touched it, just touched it.
Dorothea Lange 1895-1965.

Grazie, Tara.

Italy ...

Gevona city scene, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

I was standing in the piazza, looking around after a satisfying early morning wander and I noticed this scene ...

La vita e bella.

Boccadasse Storm, Italy

Boccadasse Storm, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

I loved this series ...

I was out at Boccadasse 4 or 5 times and each time the mood and the sea offered me something different.

The Coast, Genova

Boccadasse Storm III, originally uploaded by - di.

Later, I heard that this storm was the worst in 8 years and I saw evidence of it where ever I went, from broken boats through to jetsam and flotsam littering beaches and rocky shores where ever I went.

Boccadasse Storm II, Italy

Boccadasse Storm II, originally uploaded by - di.

The wind was pummeling me during these shots but I couldn't walk away ...

Paolo Nutini - Autumn Leaves

Look what Mark found ...

You can read more of Paolo here.
Thanks Mark.

Just this...

Fishing Nets, Camogli, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

These fishing nets caught my eye while I was wandering the streets and alleyways of Camogli.

For some reason, I found them aesthetically pleasing ...

I loved the way ...

Early morning light, Genova, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

I loved the way the light slowly revealed the beautiful buildings of Genova.

The way that I would wake in the mornings... with people calling out and greeting each other in the street where I was living.

I loved the way that I woke not only needing a cappuchino for my breakfast but knowing that I could go find the best cappuccino I have tasted, just a few hundred metres down the road.

I loved the way the focaccia was soaked in just the right amount of oil and salt.

I loved choosing my fresh pasta and sauce and unwrapping the gift-wrapped package when it came time to cook it.

I loved walking lost in the alleyways of the old city, aperitivo, Italian wine, the chocolates, the architecture, the sea, the bookshops, the language and the Genovese.

Yes, that was me ...

I was that woman who apparently screamed as she fell yesterday on Via XX Settembre, bending my knee in a way that it hasn't bent in quite a few months. I was so sure I had either cracked something inside the knee or my achilles tendon had finally snapped.

I lay back on the rain-soaked pavement and waited for the agony to arrive however a lovely Genovese man came along, spoke to me and started helping me up. I was stunned, it hurt, I was shaking but it wasn't bone-shattering pain.

Once he had made sure I was okay and Gert had taken over, we walked on to the railway station. Me drenched from head to toe and limping ...

And so it was that I returned home from Italy.
My Belgian had come to bring me back after 17 days in Genova.
It was 2 hours to Milano by train, then an hour through Milano to the airport by bus, then a 1 hour and 10 minute flight to Brussels and a final 35 minute bus ride home to Antwerpen city and voila, here I am, freezing in the fog, surrounded by the mess of semi-unpacked bags, working out the when and the how and the why of the days ahead.

Full of stories, a few 1000 photographs and some really excellent memories.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Camogli - after the worst storm in 8 years

November in Camogli, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

We wandered out, via an 3.80euro return train fare, to Camogli - about half an hour from the city.

Everything here is just so very beautiful, although Boccadasse remains my favourite section of coastline here, this was unbearably stunning too.

Off to take photographs on my last full day in Genova.

Ciao from this kiwi in love with Genova!

Oh and yes, those were people swimming, it was that warm.