Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bloggers in Iran and Iraq Write Their Realities

I wanted to write on the bloggers posting out of Iraq and Iran.
Reading through them I realised that their everyday reality includes a deep sadness, frustration and anger. Sure, there's joy and humour and all kinds of other things ... but the overall feeling left me quite sad. Iran has a dark shadow of war threatening it and Iraq ... well, who can imagine, but tragedies are an everyday occurence there.

One of things I love about blogs is the unfiltered nature of them ... you get the feeling, the emotion, the individual's truth ...

Baghdad Burning recently wrote a post titled 'Thank you for the Music' It was about the life of one man, his impact on others ... his recent death in Iraq. It gives a name and a history to the interpreter who was shot and killed when journalist Jill Carroll was abducted earlier this month. It's tragic.

Then there is Raed's Blog and he recently wrote 'Can you believe that Noam Chomsky, yes the Noam Chomsky, said he is “most interested -- and impressed” to learn about my work for Iraq! He said this in an email giving me his feedback about the “Compensation for Iraq” project I’m planning to launch soon. This Compensation project is a part of the “Iraqi Road-Map” I’ve been promoting for the last couple of years

Another Irani Online and Iranians for Peace give a range of comments and perspectives on news and events concerning them.

You know, reading these blogs and others I realised it's all too easy to turn off the news that makes us sad, uncomfortable or unhappy. It's easy to avoid knowing the world that exists outside of our everyday reality. And I realised it's simple to have opinions on 'the war in Iraq' or 'sanctions on Iran' based on our experience or understanding of those worlds ...

Kevin Sites wrote something I liked in one of his reports 'from the Hot Zone. 'The world becomes countries, the countries become people, the people become stories, the stories become understanding..

I read it a few months ago and borrowed a part of it for my blog title. I think he's right.

That's all.

The View From Fez

I found a very cool blogsite while webwandering last night. Since moving to Belgie I've come to know people from Morocco and become curious about their country and culture ... as I knew so very little before. Anyway, I found this site The View From Fez It's a site with a wee twist that fooled me ... ;)

Monday, January 30, 2006

When I Lived In One Place, I Had Pets

There was Sandie, a white Labrador and quite possibly the most intelligent dog on the planet and Lucia, the most machevillian Istanbul kitten ...a demon despite appearances. Hmmmm, perhaps Gert might like a puppy as a birthday surprise...


Doberman in Helsinki posted photographs of his dogs, reminding me of the dogs I had back in New Zealand. In reply to his Klementina yawning, I offer Ellie dog ... well, who knows what was on her mind.

My Personal Wine Waiter

Saturday night in Antwerpen, and I was out at a Nieuw Jaarsreceptie. The wine flowed freely and I met some really interesting people.

But my question is: Who is to blame ... the head waiter who refilled my glass with red wine each time he deemed it necessary, or me who allowed it?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

And So It Goes ...

I have to smile when people assume that all divorced women come out of a long marriage set up for life. My experience was that 16 years of marriage left me halfway through a university degree, with the earning power of a 2nd year university student. No career and no assets ... an interesting situation to find oneself in.

Obviously I finished my degree and wandered off to Turkey but so many aren't so fortunate. I was reading of some in the Guardian newspaper.

Terry Hekker wrote a book back in 1980; a passionate defence of her decision to give up a career and spend her life as a wife and a mother. However she is now writing a new book titled 'Disregard First Book'. Life didn't turn out as she planned, and she now believes her decision to become a housewife and homemaker should serve as a warning for young American women.

In a display of spectacular bad taste, Hekker's husband presented her with divorce papers on their 40th wedding anniversary and left her for a younger woman. The divorce left her facing an uncertain financial future, bereft of income and - after spending her adult life bringing up five children - lacking skills to make her attractive in the job market. Despite that, the judge in her divorce case suggested that - at 67 - she go for job training. And it's as I expected, and her story isn't uncommon.

Anyway, this isn't a posting to everyone's taste, so I'll leave the rest as a link you can click into yourself. Article

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Drinking Etiquette in Antwerpenese

'Da we ze nog laank meuge meuge' is Antwerpen for Cheers, kind of... It's head-spinning stuff.

It translates roughly as 'That we may like them [the drinks] for a long time to come'.

My Antwerpen warmed to my look of stunned amazement and continued with, 'Oep de gezondhe't van Meneer Gevers!'

'To the health of Mr Gevers!'

Gevers is Dutch for giver but pronounced with that slightly throaty 'hee' sound (according to Di) ... the one who gives something ... Meneer is Mr ... the person buying the drink.

Listening to his tongue twist and turn as he spoke, I foresaw Nederlands 24.7 as being the point where I might be sufficiently linguistically rearranged for the attempt.

Myths About Immigrants?

I was intrigued by an article Erkan posted today. Intrigued because it relates to a discussion I had previously had with Gert ... questioning the truth about the so-called burden that immigrants place on the country they come to.

My idea was that any country has a place for the so-called black market labourer, who works for cash in the hand and requires no maintainence in terms of receiving social welfare or pension plans ...

It seemed to make sense that a person who has had the courage to take the sometimes incredible risks required to improve or save their own lives would be a winner in Darwin's Theory of Evolution and therefore, for the most part, a useful addition to the society they move to.

Anyway, I'll post a link to the article. It seemed thought-provoking. Immigrant Article

On my web-journey to the article, I passed through a site that seemed interesting. The article there was about globalisation and the fact that it has been happening forever, and the way that it often effected positive change YaleGlobal Online Magazine

Friday, January 27, 2006

My Little Sister

My little sister is one very cool chick.

She works a couple of shifts as a RN in a Hospice and is an office chick the rest of the time. She raises my wicked hilarious nieces, Georgia and Katie, and looks after her husband, Tim. She does things like adopting the cat that belonged to the niece who moved to Moscow to nanny, and she looks out for my daughter; she organises when things need to be organised and generally saves people like me when 'life' threatens to overwhelm and I have no place to live because I accidently moved overseas. (And she will hate reading this with a passion however, it's all true). She's one of those people who just keep on keeping on and has to be sent home with Pneumonia when she's too busy to wonder why she's feeling so impossibly bad.

My little sister ran her first triathlon last Sunday and came in with a time of 1 hour and 4 minutes. She swam in Otago Harbour - something we were always sure we would never do, she ran and she biked, despite rain and a 5.30am wake-up call.

I'm so proud of her that surely she'll feel it and forgive me for blogging her ...

Today, And A Little on the Environmental Performance Index

Belgians call days like today 'ice days' or so I was informed.

I find this believable because at 2pm the temperature still reads as -2 degrees C. I walked home, fearful that exposed body parts might freeze and shatter. There was a wind, it was miserably bitingly cold.

Anyway, I got home and checked through the blogworld while eating my lunch. Erkan had mentioned Yale's Environmental Performance Index.

Sure it's interesting ... New Zealand was ranked number one ... I have to write of it.

I wandered through the pdf file EPI Report and discovered that New Zealand was first with an EPI of 88.0, Belgie was 39th with 75.9 and Turkey was 49th with 72.8. 133 countries were listed.

What is EPI?
It's the environmental performance index and things like air quality, water resources, biodiversity and habitat, sustainable energy, and productive natural resources are all measured.

The top 10 were NZ, Sweden, Finland, Czech Rep., U.K, Austria, Denmark, Canada, Malaysia and Ireland with Australia down at 20th on the list.

New Zealand is a small country ... with just 268,021 sqkm of land (about the size of Italy I think, or Colorado). We have 15,134 kms of coastline. The highest point is Mount Cook at 3,754metres. As well as claiming to be the Adventure Capital of the world, we enhance man-made adventure with earthquake and volcanic activity, and 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Narnia' were filmed on our fair shores. There are just over 4 million of us and we make some of the best wine in the world.

Ahhh New Zealand ...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Steven Spielberg on "Munich"

An interesting article with Steven Spielberg Der Spiegel Interview

The Real World I Guess ...

I was published in an online magazine yesterday. An intriguing process, one that leaves me curious about how much editorial change can occur before you no longer feel comfortable with what you wrote.

I wanted to edit the editing ... I guess I've become used to the luxury of writing my blog in my own voice, unfiltered by the need of an overall 'umbrella voice' for a publication containing many voices.

Anyway, if you want to read something where I use words like 'tenacious' and say things like 'just my luck', you can have a look here Expatica Article and yes, I risk the fact that you may prefer 'my' writing in its edited form.

How Much Red Wine Per Day?

I think 'a glass of wine per day' needs to be more clearly defined ... or so went last night's conversation with my running coach.

He feels sure glass refers to a normal wine glass ... me, I'm not so sure. I feel there is room for interpretation and as wine comes in a glass bottle and, if it's red wine, who is to say that more isn't better and glass isn't referring to a glass bottle of wine per day?

It was a conversation that got me through 1x1 minute, 1x2 and 3x3 minutes of running ... and it has to said, conversation while running is a milestone for this reading/writing sedentary chick.

An old friend wrote to me after reading my blog about running. 'Am most concerned about your mental state………………taken up running?????' And that's how shockingly surreal my decision to run is. Fiona and I have been friends since we were 13 so she knows me.

I experienced a small cultural dilemma this morning. Gert and I were riding the tram to the city and it became clear that one of us had stepped in a dog poo... the scent would waft up every now and again. So I asked what a Belgian would do, as my Kiwi-self would have been mortified and cleaned my boots at the next stop. My business-suited man looked over and said, 'They'd sit here', so we did.

He continued a short while later, laughing quietly as he said, 'And in this instance, no matter how much you love someone, you hope it is them with the problem'.

I saw my chance and told him that if it was my shoe that smelled so bad, I was going to stay on the tram and go home ... 'how could I even contemplate going to class with shoes that smelt so bad?' He looked pained, he knew I would do it. Sigh, in the city we discovered there was a little poo on his shoe, so I had 3 hours of clothing and apartment talk in Nederlands.

On the upside, one of my Moroccan classmates took me over to a superb cafe for coffee in the break ... the break? Perhaps I forgot to mention 'the break' in my war stories of Nederlands class. We get half an hour ... it makes immersion bearable and takes nothing from the my truth of '3 hours of Nederlands' ... it's a mere technicality.

I'm reading 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' on the tram these days ... better to wander in Greece as it's been trying to snow here today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tales of a Female Nomad

A few years ago, while still living in New Zealand, I read a rather good book titled 'Tales of a A Female Nomad' by Rita Golden Gelman. A Female Nomad

I was cleaning out my email account when I found a message I'd been saving for a day when I had time. It was from e-Marginalia , a website that is a forum for travelers to annotate, expound, reference and illustrate, to contribute and share the artifacts of their travels. We believe passionately in "traveling beyond the margins", breaking out of hum-drum tourist ruts, and probing beyond ersatz postcard trips. e-Marginalia is fast becoming the proverbial campfire where adventurous, curious travelers collect to share the artifacts of their voyages..

This particular issue had an interview with Rita ... Interview

And here's a review of the book I was so taken with: 'When Rita Golden Gelman traveled to Mexico during a two-month separation from her husband, she hoped to satisfy an old craving for adventure and, in the process, rejuvenate herself and her marriage. Little did she know it was the beginning of a new life, not just as a divorcée, but as a nomad of the world. Since 1986, Gelman has had no permanent address and no possessions except those she can carry. She travels without a plan, guided by instinct, serendipitous opportunities, and a remarkable ability to connect with people. At first her family and friends accused her of running away, but Gelman knew she had embarked on a journey of self-discovery and a way of life that is inspiring and enviable.
We know Gelman is not your typical middle-aged housewife from LA when, on that first trip to Mexico, she randomly picks a Zapotec village and decides to live there for a month, knowing nothing about the culture or the language. When she arrives, the villagers run away from her, terrified. By the time she leaves, there are hugs and tears. From there she travels to Guatemala and Nicaragua, Israel and the Galapagos Islands. But the heart of the book--and her 15-year journey--is Indonesia, where she lives for eight years. It is Bali that forever changes how she looks at the world, facilitated by her friendship with an aging prince. Tu Aji not only invites her to live with his family but decides that the education of Rita will be his final duty in life. Wherever she goes, Gelman has an uncanny ability to slip into other ways of life and become part of a community. And she is a person for whom doors open widely--her seatmate on the plane to Bali scrawls the prince's name on a piece of paper, she talks her way into a sojourn at Camp Leakey in Borneo where orangutans are studied, and an entire village in a remote part of Irian Jaya prays for the clouds to clear so her plane can land--and they do! Gelmen's secret is her passion for people. That being the case, the book is short on descriptions of place, but long on the rarer inside view of the peoples and customs of those places. This in itself is treat enough, but Gelman's animated and intimate story comes with a kicker--it's never too late to fulfill those dreams
. --Lesley Reed, Amazon.com review.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Language Immersion

Today the teacher got ahead of the ability of most of the class ... more despondency.
We're doing a lot of worksheets, learning grammar by doing grammar.
It hurts sometimes.

Those who are fluent in Nederlands can't begin to understand how a monolingual Kiwi might feel when she begins on her worksheet. The instructions were:
Noteer de juiste tegenstelling.
1. Als kind ben je van je ouders afhankelijk, als volwassene ben je________
I quietly sighed. I had no idea what afhankelijk or volwassene meant, and this seemed important.
I moved on.
2. Hoofsdstuk een en drie van dit boek zijn heel belangrijk, maar hoofdstruk twee is _________________

It was a long day this morning, and minus 4 degree celsius when I left home ... although I have to admit, the temp did rise to the giddy height of +2 by lunchtime.
I came home, ate and pondered my linguistic failures before climbing back into bed with a book and accidently falling asleep in the sun. Sun through glass is a beautiful thing here in Antwerpen, it works just like the real thing ...

Tot straks.

Orhan Pamuk

I really enjoyed Der Speigel's interview with Orhan Pamuk Orhan Interview

Who can resist a man who knows himself and his beliefs and can state them more clearly than most of us could. "I consider myself a person who comes from a Muslim culture. In any case, I would not say that I'm an atheist. So I'm a Muslim who associates historical and cultural identification with this religion. I do not believe in a personal connection to God; that's where it gets transcendental. I identify with my culture, but I am happy to be living on a tolerant, intellectual island where I can deal with Dostoyevsky and Sartre, both great influences for me".

Anyway, this interview was connected to an article with great news from Istanbul ... A Turkish court has dropped charges against Orhan Pamuk, the author accused of insulting his country by referring to the mass killings of Armenians and Kurds.

A Turkish politician had predicted that the charges would be dropped on BBC's Hardtalk a while ago. I'm glad he proved true.

Erkan posted a link to an interesting article about the situation at < Slate.com

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Poem About Being A Foreigner in New Zealand

I was wandering in Harvey's site just now and checked out a poem he had written of reading in Turbine Magazine . I loved it and lifted it ... ahhhh, the anarchic world of the blogger.

Before and After

Before New Zealand
I did not know:
— that pigs have teeth
— that abalone has another name
— that there is a gumboot capital of the world
— that distance is a cruel deception

After New Zealand
I know:
— how to return a stranger's smile
— how to wrap my tongue around every syllable
— how to not be anonymous
— how to be a foreigner

Margaret Vos

De And Het

Did you know ... 'de' and 'het' both mean 'the' in Nederlands.

And you can't just use them as you please, you have to know which one to put before nouns when constructing sentences ... so what rule do you apply?


You have to memorise the noun and its accompanying article.
Every noun...

We were so despondent in class today.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

My Turkish Scarves

I have named so many of the things that I loved about Istanbul but here are the scarves ... there is nothing quite like the scarves I buy there.
The other day, while Alison was trying to capture the scarves in a professionally enticing way, I fooled around with the digital camera and the scarves that she wasn't using.


What then, is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks me, I do not know what it is.
St. Augustine
5th century Christian saint

Saturday, January 21, 2006

To Explain the Statue of the Little Boy

I thought it might be an idea to explain the statue of the little boy peeing on the previous post ... it's a Belgian thing and I remember being stunned into silence the first time I saw it.

I struggled to write of it so went searching on google and found rather nice site with an explanation that went like this: This famous statue of a little boy peeing in a fountain is a perfect representative of the irreverent Belgian humor. The unique Brussels icon has been amusing visitors on the corner of Stoofstraat since 1619. Over time it has become a tradition for visiting heads of state to donate miniature versions of their national costume for the little naked boy. The wardrobe of Manneke Pis can be seen at the Brussels museum and includes over 800 outfits from all corners of the world – even an authentic Elvis jumpsuit. Visit Belgium

What can I say ... bemused is the best way to describe the effect of the fountain but it had as much to do with the crowds I saw paying homage as with the remarkable act he was frozen in. Needless to say, Manneke Pis translates to Little Man Peeing.

A Kitchen Conversation

He said, 'Chips and bread together ... Belgians would find that quite strange'.

'Bread and marzipan is odd beyond words', I replied.

He said, 'I could say the same about peanut butter and banana sandwiches ...'

'That's not strictly Kiwi, it might just be a Diane thing. Anyway, Hutsepot'.


'Potato and carrots mashed together.'

Tomato sauce on everything.'


'I don't buy it'.

'Mmmmmm, but it's a Belgian thing.'


A Little Slice of New Zealand

I found this site while searching for the call of the Bellbird, as the sound of it is just a little bit stunning and I was a little bit homesick. If you have the sound on while you view the site you get a small taste of the New Zealand bush and a Bellbird. Badassbees Roadtrip And I loved the photographic roadtrip from the Christchurch, on the East Coast of the South Island, through the middle and almost all the way to the West Coast. Then ... in this section Kiwi rant you can read about Kiwis ... the bird as opposed to the Kiwifruit.

Thanks Pav.

Friday, January 20, 2006

An Immigrant Accounting

I've been devouring Isabelle Allende's 'Paula' on the tram in these days. It's a book I have back in New Zealand but one I had to replace over here. She writes in the most beautiful poetic prose and it makes me want to take notes so I don't forget what she says.

I was reading today and noted a passage that went like this: There comes a moment when the journey begun cannot be halted; we roll toward a frontier, pass through a mysterious door, and wake on the other side in a different life.

And that's how it has been for me. I was married, have a daughter, went to university so late, got a divorce, moved to Turkey and now, here I am making another life over in Belgium ... and if I had to pinpoint a moment when the irreversible journey began I would choose 1998 because before that moment in time I might have been living something that looked like a normal life.

Allende did an accounting of what she had lost after leaving her native country of Chile. It made me think a little, about what I have lost by beginning a journey that almost reverses the one made by my great great grandfather so many years ago, when he fled Scotland and everyday church services on the Isle of Lewis.

I have lost 'the ease of knowledge'. This ease covers societal rules; that manoeuvrability that allows you to have things repaired, locate offices for payment and then methods of payment, and how to make your way through something as simple as the medical or dental procedures. And language is a part of that ... you lose the simplest things, from being able to read the instructions on the washing powder through to the best flour to buy ... even the word 'flour' has to be located and learned in the new language; you have to search out the words for beef, for hair conditioner, for any small thing that you need ... you have to rename and relocate it in whichever new world you're in.

You lose who you were and who you were known to be. And with the loss of language you become like a baby in that new world ... reliant on the gentle intelligence of the people around you. You can't bring any mana in from your old life, you have to find a new place for yourself and learn all that you knew all over again.

You lose the familiarity of family and friends, and then there is the loss of familiar geographies. In Turkey, I remember my first weeks in a city where I lost my apartment whenever I went out ... but I had made the move wanting to find my own way in the world, so I did it.

You lose landscapes and I loved my New Zealand landscapes. I could talk forever about every region in the South Island, with lists of what I love about each of them. You lose the scent of your country, an instinctive knowledge of the weather, and in my case, seasons you recognise at particular times of the year.

And so there are losses.

But there are gains. If you succeed in this you begin to believe you can do anything ... learn Nederlands, start running, haggle in the Grand Bazaar, teach 165 students in a private school, and find your way through all the airports on the long journey home.

People took me into their worlds of tradition, celebration and feasts. There are people who open their doors, their lives and their hearts to this woman who wandered away from her home.

There are the experiences; walking through Istanbul for the first time, or later when the city is beginning to let you know some of her secrets and you walk as if you are home. I have accidently wandered in the places my grandfather fought in WWI ... Gallipoli where he survived and Flanders where he was injured.

I've spent Christmas Day with a Belgian family, Sweet Bayram with a Kurdish family, another Christmas Eve with a Turkish family, a Roman feast with friends in Roma, and had so many meals with the Chechens ... dinner at the tables of strangers who became friends.

There are the pieces of language learnt, even by the monolingual Kiwi. 'Seni seviyorum, ik hou van jou ... 'I love you' was relearned in new countries.

I have learned things that have made New Zealand simpler to negotiate; made me appreciate the natural beauty of home but at the same time, I've seen things that make me think the whole world is my home ...

So when the accounting is done, it works out okay, I'm more in the black than the red and I like how the journey is going.

Hone Tuwhare - New Zealand Poet

Just home from Nederlands class and in a dark mood, wondering if I didn't enjoy class today simply because yesterday I had said I was glad I was doing it. I made myself a pot of tea and began wandering through some of the blogsites I enjoy visiting.
First stop, Harvey Molloy and he mentioned the fact that my favourite New Zealand poet has his own website. I have searched for Hone Tuwhare's poetry online so many times .... I left 300 books in various hands when I flew out for Istanbul, never dreaming I would have so much trouble finding a favourite poem like 'Rain' online. And there it was an extract on Hone's front page Hone Tuwhare

News that can surely turn a grouchy woman's day around. Thanks Harvey.
Here's the entire poem:

I can hear you
making small holes
in the silence

If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
and shut

And I
should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind

the something
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
the ground

the steady
drum-roll sound
you make
when the wind drops

But if I
should not hear
smell or feel or see

you would still
define me
disperse me
wash over me

Hone Tuwhare

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What I Learned Today

Today I discovered that it's just as much fun to watch a friend spend money on superb secondhand books as it is to do it myself ...

Does this make me a bad person?

Gert says this makes me a good person, I suspect that he's lying.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tagged ... ??

Alison ... she tagged me, and I had no idea what this meant, having not been out in the blog world for long so I went looking and found 4X Meme What Alison did

I thought 'Why not ...' and so here's my 4xMeme.

Four Jobs You've Had in Your Life
Photographer's Office Assistant
Data Input Chick
Photography Shop Salesperson
Teacher of English in Turkey

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over
The English Patient
Whale Rider
Touching the Void
Shirley Valentine

Four Places You've Lived
Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand
Istanbul, Turkey
Antwerpen, Flanders, Belgie

Four Websites You Visit Daily

Four TV Shows You Love To Watch
BBC News
Spooks MI5
Anything with Robson Green in it, actually.

Four of Your Favourite Foods
Raf's Quail
Gert's Quiche
Gert's Prawn Risotto
I think wine is food, as queried by Alison ... red thank you.

Four Albums You Can't Live Without
James Blunt, Back to Bedlam
Sarah McLaughlan, almost all of her music
Paul Kelly, almost all of his music
Pavarotti, Live Recital

Four Places You'd Rather Be
Disclaimer: I like where I am however if I could choose 4 other places to be I would choose ...
Istanbul, Turkey (I love it)
Roma, Italy (I adored it)
Long Beach, Dunedin, New Zealand
Driving up the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, anywhere between the Haast Pass and Nelson.

As for tagging the 4 other people I'm meant to tag ... do I dare?
You know, this blog is all about me and I'm so curious about the people I don't know yet ... the ones who pass by, or who get notified when I add a new post (and I really really want to apologise for the fact that I edit after posting ... my editing needs work, I read over and over it until I think I've found all the mistakes but there's always one more. I'm sorry). Anyway, if anyone wants to write of themselves, I'd love it.

A Few Words From Me About Grammar

The Extreme Right sent out another of their annoying magazines today.
I find it remarkable that I don't simply dissolve in a puff of green smoke - the colour of my outrage. I have no idea what I'll do when I'm fluent in Nederlands and can read their articles ... I noticed the burning car photograph was in this version as well, smaller, no longer the 'inflammatory' cover page.

I've just spent the last hour studying grammar in Nederlands. It feels like an activity that just might just slip into the UN Convention Against Torture. Article 1 reads like this: 'For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed (not learning grammar as a child) or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions'.

So I worked on infinitives, then practiced using them in singular and plural in first, second and third person. Why is this remarkable? Well I come from a country that saw fit to ban the teaching of grammar in schools for more than 25 years. We were raised in an era when the fashionable view was that a knowledge of how the parts of speech work was unnecessary and the acquisition of language skills happened naturally.

So while I could pick up an A+ for an essay at university, discussing the actualities of grammar isn't a conversation I like to find myself having with anyone. Along came Gert, fluent in 4 languages and having studied Latin ... he'd fallen in love with a theoretical grammar virgin ... sigh, the humiliation.

Never-the-mind, here I am learning a completely new language ... what better way is there to develop a knowledge of grammar.

So now I'm learning the exceptions, adaptions, and listening to explanations that go something like 'mogen' becomes 'mag' because that's how it is, but 'willen' only has exceptions in 2nd and 3rd person.

Running tonight.

Happiness-filled on a Cold Day in Belgie

I finally found the perfect Turkish blog .... perfect for me anyway.

Erkan is a graduate student of the Anthropology Department at Rice University and he is writing his dissertation thesis on MEDIATING THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU): MAKING THE EU NEWS IN TURKEY. Erkan is planning to gradually begin an ethnographic study on the role of Turkish journalists both as the receivers and the producers of the European Union (EU) discourses in Turkey.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I read that his intention was to blend his field life with news on Turkish and EU relations, making his blog a delicious mix of news and daily life. You can find his blog here: Erkan's field diary and I've added it to my links list.

I was reading a little more on his site this morning and noticed a comment from Lorenz, quoting Cicilie Fagerlid's explanation on why she began blogging her anthropological fieldwork in Paris:
After I started I have noticed that blogging sharpens the attention, just like taking a lot of photos (and probably painting) does; One starts to see motifs everywhere, and then one has to reflect on how to make the motif into a story so other people can understand what you want to tell them. Cicilie Fagerlid It's so true.

My excitement?
Back in early 2000, I was a university student and although a BA in Literature was the degree I came out with, I discovered Anthropology towards the end of my studies and fell in love with this discipline that (to me) seemed to incorporate a mixture of all I loved best in life ... people telling their stories, with an immersion in different lives and cultures. I was fortunate enough to have Professor Douglas Holmes for my political anthro papers, and to be exposed to his research which focused on the social and cultural dynamics of advanced European integration. He has been concerned with how integration has provoked the re-emergence of extreme right-wing political movements across Europe. He was a thought-provoking inspiring lecturer who challenged his students about the historical past and the future possibilities of European integration. You can read a sample chapter of his book here: Integral Europe

And so it is ... perhaps now you can understand a little more on why finding someone studying the EU from a Turkish perspective might make me happiness-filled.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's Going Around ...

It's official, this week is International Delurker Week, and rude as it may seem, it's time for you to out yourself about reading my blog. Why would I post this, well ... emails have all but dried up. Remember when I was working 4000 hours per week, with a student loading of 165 ... and you guys would send emails into the Turkish wilderness that was Di World, asking if my fingers had healed, could I type yet, and was I still alive somewhere out there ...?

Well, I started this blogsite to guard against future tardiness when that heady state of legal and working again finally occurs, and now ... sigh, so few emails, and so few comments ...

Anyway, it's official, you're among friends and everyone's doing it ... go on. ;)

Milk Expiration Dates, and Other Things

Did you know ... running empties your mind?

I had heard stressed people talk of it as a way of dealing with workload and rotten bosses but never understood precisely what they meant. I got into bed last night and had a panic attack. My mind was a large empty warehouse for a few hours, unprecedented and most uncomfortable ... I dream and there are rumours that I talk in my sleep ... that's how things are for me, and I like it.

Day two of Nederlands class and my international group is more international than I had imagined. There are 23 countries represented by the 33 of us, with 21 mother tongues in the classroom. Most people speak more than one language, with the top 'fluent in' count being 7, followed by a couple of 6's and many many people who are fluent in 3 or 4 languages.

Dorothy realises she isn't in Kansas ... yet again.

And already I've heard some of the stories ... the Iranian political refugee who seems like the type of guy you'd be happy to take home to your parents. The beautiful Bulgarian blonde who was lured in by her Belgian, and after giving up her glamorous traveling life she was asked if she 'ironed' by a well-intentioned woman who was thinking about giving her work. We both roared with laughter over the story, dark laughter ... like me, she prefers not to iron.

My muscles don't ache, and my ankle is only a little fragile today ... I guess my running coach knows what he's doing. And did I mention that, like so many Belgians he finds it simple to slip into fluent English. My accent ... well it might be complicated by me trying to breathe while we run but on the few occasions we spoke I had to repeat myself, just-to-be-clear ... he'll get used to it, as long as his name isn't something like Ben. Ben did go on about the way that I said his name however, as there are probably less than 4 million people who can say 'Bin' in that sweet Kiwi way ... i think his complaints were merely mean-spirited.

Today has been the day I explored the theory of milk expiration dates... do they mean what they say? I've been too busy to organise fresh milk and as a result I had to make a cup of tea with the bottle date stamped 14 January ... it was okay. It didn't smell or curdle ... what more can a disorganised chick ask for on a grey, cold, rainy winter day in Belgie.

Tot ziens ...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Day One ...

Well, I was on the tram going to Nederlands class by 8am ... just like a real person travelling to work, an idea given credence by the fact that most of Antwerpen's workforce seemed to be on my tram. But I had my seat and my book, and pretended I didn't mind the little woman leaning on me and later, when she sneezed on my head, I read on, seemingly unperturbed. The reality was that no one could move, not even me, and her hands were probably trapped by her side, but still when I got off the tram one stop too early it seemed like I was walking into a really bad day.

Netherlands 1.2 is more difficult that 1.1 ... although it seemed a little less difficult, in that I recognised enough words to follow instructions but my goodness ... first, second and third person in Dutch!

The first exercise (oefening) went like this: 'Schrijf de juiste vorm van hebben of zijn en combineer met een zin uit de tweede kolom'.

1. ........ je soms te laat op school?
So I filled in the blank with a Ben, and matched it to number 13. Nee, ik ben nooit te laat.

There were more than 30 questions and I got some of them wrong ... sigh.

The class make-up is another interesting international mix ... there were people from Iran, Turkey, Morocco, the Congo, Bhutan, Tibet, Russia, Romania, Serbia-Monte Negro, Poland, and Spain ... maybe some more, but there are 33 in the class and I didn't quite catch the complete roll call. Possibly due to mortification, as the teacher gave an impromptu lecture on where New Zealand was ... so much for low profile.

Anyway, I have the new exercise book and the examination is in 7 weeks.

Then we arrive in Di's evening ... running class.

Gert's ex-wife is actually the friend who asked me to join running classes with her. I met her at the track ... oh yes, an athletics track no less ... rugged up for zero degrees, full of doubts.

We're a small group and the coach is an angel. I really wasn't sure about being there but he got us all through it ... 3 times one minute of jogging, with one minute of walking in between each. Then 3 times 2 minutes of running, with 2 minutes of walking between, and then yes ... I know you're all riveted ... 3 times 3 minutes of running, with 3 minutes of walking in between.

And then it was over but for the stretching, and that was where I hurt my ankle, actually. I was very brave and told no one.

But oddly enough, once I worked out I could do it, I loved it.

So... let's how it goes.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

However ...

Instead of Istanbul ... well, the girl from Mosgiel was wandering about in another country that didn't really exist until she arrived ... simple geographically-inept creature that she be. We were bound for Zeeland.

After the traditional Belgian Sunday morning breakfast that I've come to love ... the same one that caused me to say yes to my friend's invitation to run if you must know ... there's only so many pistolets and chocolade koeken a girl can eat before she has to take up running ... Gert and I headed off to another political reception. This time he was a prize winner, knowing more than anyone else in a quiz about his party. I do like to be the chick with the man who is handed the champagne ;-)

Duty done, we raced off to the Netherlands. There was a beach he wanted to take me to, a deserted one he said, raising an eyebrow when I snorted with laughter.

'Apartment buildings that reach the sand?'
I too can raise an eyebrow.

He raised his again and said, 'No'.

It was a good day for a drive ... sunshine, oodles of it but don't ask for the temperature. Those in the Southern Hemisphere will get unbearably smug.
Just over 100kms later, we pulled into a carpark with about 15 other cars ... not bad I thought. The sand dunes looked hopeful ... just like the real thing even ... you can see why he sometimes raises his eyebrow at me.

We climbed up the hill, causing me to pause while I caught my breath and wonder aloud if running lessons were a feasible thing ... I may have said something like 'I could die you know ... learning to run'.

Okay, so you can imagine ... Gert raised an eyebrow.
The beach was a real one ... no apartment buildings, just sand dunes and so very few people ... although that may have been the windchill factor.

We walked, I collected shells ... beautiful ones for my desk collection, we talked, our teeth almost chattered a little at times, however our ears didn't freeze dry and snap off. There are always things to be grateful for if you search ... no really, it was fantastic out there. There was even a surfer ... his friend was videoing him ... Gert and I were bemused. Gert because of the cold sea, me because I couldn't imagine dipping my toe in the North Sea, much less my whole body.

It was beautiful. Dogs and horses passed us by, we captured one with the digital, and we got back to the car after an hour and a half, completely intact, without frostbite.

On our way home, he made a point of showing me where my next set of Nederlands classes begin tomorrow ... realising I am the type of troublesome creature who might come home and tell him 'well, I couldn't find the school, how could I go?

If I had been in Istanbul today ...

I looked up today and realised that as long as the sky is blue I'll never forget living in Istanbul and how the Bosphorous looked ... there were jet vapor trails everywhere, going in every direction ... just like the tankers, container ships, ferries and fishing boats in motion, jostling for space on the Bosphorus. It made me think about what I would do if today was a day back in Istanbul ... Taksim for sure. I would have begun at Taksim Square and wandered up Istiklal Caddesi, remembering to listen for the tram that ran up and down the centre of the walking street. I would have popped into Cicek Pasaji (Flower Passage), a shortcut into the Fish Bazaar, enjoying the architecture, smiling but ignoring the waiters who beckon and invite me to eat.
Once in the passages that make up the Fish Bazaar, I would ignore all the fish and turn left to check out a scarf shop where I used to sit chatting with a Turkish guy about how it was for him in the city. I'd come back onto Istiklal eventually and walk on until I reached Robinson Crusoe - my beloved Istanbul bookshop. I would linger ... walking out after an hour with just the one book I couldn't resist. I would ignore Pasabahce, not wanting to carry beautiful Turkish glassware as I wandered.
I'd come to the end of Istiklal Caddesi and try to decide whether to follow the winding road down the hill or catch the underground cable car at Tunel. I would opt for the walk, passing by the Mevlevi Monastery where the dervishes whirl and mesmorise me whenever I watch them. And on down the hill, past small shops selling all kinds of things ... past the blue window, and then unable to stop myself, I'd take a right and head over to Galata Tower ... one more time.
I would pay my 7tl, climb the stairs to the balcony and stare out over the city that I came to love. A girl from Mosgiel looking out over the Bosphorus ... who could have imagined it? Looking left I would see the massive bridge that links the continents of Europe and Asia, then straight ahead out over to the ancient Topkapi Palace where, for 400 years, the Ottoman sultans ruled their empire ... built 1465. I would see Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya), one of the world's greatest architectural achievements, built about 1,400 years ago, and wish I was already wandering inside her walls ... one of my favourite Istanbul places.
I would look out over the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea ... all mysterious names that meant nothing real until I moved there... and then walking round the tower balcony, looking down at the Italian architecture of the area, or over to Levent and it's post-modern skyscrapers ... happy to be back in this city that I love.
From there, I would walk down the hill until I reached Galata Bridge. I would peek into the buckets filled with water and fish caught as I walked by, happy to be in amongst the noise of the city ... with the simit, the bait, and water sellers shouting their sales cries all around me.
I would reach Eminonu and descend down into the Pazaar, wander a while in the place where the smell of fish cooking fills the air. I'd pass by the doner seller, watch people arranging themselves on the old ferry to Kadikoy, and then walk through the tunnel to the Egyptian Bazaar. The Spice Bazaar ... I was never clever enough to have a need for the spices but I would wander there anyway ... examining the cheeses and olive selections outside, peeking in at the leeches for sale, watching the birdseed sellers, the people ... always watching the people, who often watched me.
But I'd move on, not quite where I wanted to be. On up the hill and into Sultanahmet, the place where so many of my favourite things are found ... Haghia Sophia is there, Yerebatan Sarayi (the Underground Cistern) a place of incredible beauty, and the Blue Mosque. Having sated myself some, I'd walk back along the road to Cemberlitas and my favourite cafe. The waiter and I would catch up on our news, he might ask me about the friend I brought last time, and I'd ask about how busy they were. Time would pass, I would have a potato gozleme and two cay before moving on ... wanting to spend a little time in the halls of the Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi) finding new scarves ... always the scarves but enjoyng the banter with salesman in this labyrinth of 4,000 shops. Once, I met a guy from Afghanistan there. He had just finished his first year of training to be a doctor when the Taliban forced him and his family to flee. They moved through many countries until they made their home Istanbul ... they were fluent in at least 7 languages. His younger brother had just done some translation work for a visiting American radio station, stunning them with his linguistic ability. He was a nice man and their store was like an Aladdin's cave full of lapis lazuli and things that I can't begin to describe ... a surprise tucked down a small corridor that I have trouble finding each time I return.
And perhaps that would be enough. I might stop in at Ayala Travel on my way home, say hi to Hayden - the Kiwi who arrived and stayed a few years ago, he's an Istanbul travel agent now. Backpackers and travelers would come and go, booking their trips with him, so perhaps I'd head up to the rooftop bar ... drinking a cold Efes as I watched the ships queuing for entry out on the Marmara Sea ... hear a call to prayer, realise it's time to move on.

Going home was always simpler, less walking ... I would catch the metro at Sultanahment, jump off at Karakoy, walk up to the Tunel underground cable car and sit as the cable pulled the passengers up on one of the oldest cable cars in the world (or so it is rumored), I'd stroll back along Istiklal Caddesi, amongst all the Turks who are just arriving as this yabanci heads home.
I'd head down into the underground Metro, two stops to Mecidiyekoy ... and up into the craziness of shoeshine men and flowersellers, traffic and smog. I would cut across the main road, then wend my way down into the place where I lived ... a little village-like suburb in Istanbul.

If I had been in Istanbul today ...

Book Extracts from the Guardian

I am sitting bathed in sunshine as I work here at my desk this morning. A rare and beautiful thing in these days when the temperature rarely climbs above 5 degrees celsius ... okay, so it's still -1 but the sun is exquisite when shining through the window.

I came online looking for an extract from Michael Ondaatje's 'Running in the Family', the opening chapter is one of my favourite pieces of writing and I had wanted to send it to a friend ... I couldn't find it but found this useful Guardian page ... 'useful'? Well, if you are a lover of books it's a nice little wander.

It's here The Guardian

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Kiwi and the Belgian

I was thinking about the ways in which I have changed since moving to Belgium.

When I mentioned the 'learn how to run' course, Gert said 'Okay, we'll find running shoes on Saturday'. Me ... I might have once said, 'Running shoes, I don't have any ... what a pity, I can't do the course'.

So ... today we went out and found me some running shoes courtesy of the big winter sale at decathlon My goodness, the sales in Belgium are truly superb.

And I realised that now, I too always have a packet of tissues in my coat pocket, a habit of Gert's that I've absorbed. I put the butter into the butter container, and follow instructions regarding the use of the washing machine ... 3 different detergents and varying temps for varying loads.

My research work goes into big files with named dividers that Gert gave to me, and my hard drive has finally been backed up on disk ... to all those who lectured me over the years, fear not, it is done.

In Turkey, he liked to hold hands in public ... in outraged tones I had to explain I was a Kiwi and we didn't do Public Displays of Affection... he had changed that before he went home.

And food ... there are some odd customs in his world, but I now eat chicken with applesauce, no longer complain about mashed potato and spinach, or mashed potatoes and carrot ... yes, both together, in the same dish, and I drink tonic water as a refreshing drink.

I have a diary with appointment pages ... in German, but it works after all I'm becoming multi-lingual these days. ;)

As for Gert ... ahhh well, I am the complete ruination of him. He now has tomato sauce (ketchup) with his sausages, he enjoys my herb-stuffed roast chicken and thick gravy, and drinks more red wine than he used to.

He has to defend his beliefs and the ideas of his political party, and I have to study this European history of politics however this never stops me from being completely outrageous in argument.

He doesn't want a dog, and okay ... I don't want the ties but it is fun to tease him about needing one. I introduced him to Eastenders, oddly enough it's an addiction I developed while living in Istanbul, and now we sit down together when we can, watching as D... well, we're up with England, I better not ruin it all for the Kiwis, only to say that it's been fraught in recent weeks.

He's curious about rugby, but not yet convinced that it's better than football; he understands nothing of cricket, and I think his road rules lack credibility. He won't touch Vegemite, despite me eating Hutsepot ... hmmm, that needs addressed.

He's a proper grown-up, and I'm still 'in process', but do you know, it's working despite spending most of our lives 20,000 kilometres apart.

Anyway, barring illness, it's all happening Monday ...

Friday, January 13, 2006

20 euro in Belgium

Last night, a friend popped over and invited me to join her on a 'learn to run again' course.

Oddly enough, running wasn't high on my list of 'Things I want to do' however, dieting is top on my list of 'Things I don't want to do' and so I asked questions, as if interested.

It's a 10 week journey, 3 nights per week, and she offered to pick me up and drop me off ... like my Nederlands classes, it's 20euro for the whole thing ... who can beat that?

But running!!!?

I love books and writing and research ... I'm not a runner.

Hmmm, but the dangers inherent in my fields of interest clearly need addressed at some point if my journey in this life is to continue.

She sensed my interest, and reassured me that the coach is her son's athletics coach and he's good.

I weakened, wondering if he knew CPR ...

She promised to run with me, pointing out we could support one another. I don't think she meant carrying me when I got too tired out there on the track though.

Then I remembered and said, 'But I start a really difficult Nederlands class Monday ...' (really difficult is any Nederlands course for this monolingual Kiwi).

I paused and imagined the hell of it ... full immersion Nederlands class from 8.45am, 4 days per week, then learning to run from 8pm 3 evenings a week ... this is a Di that I and others who know me, won't recognise.

But I'd love to run again ... again, well I had a runners high once, it was grand. I think I was about 14 years old at the time.

I mean, clearly there's room for improvement but running AND Nederlands. I thought for quite some time ... I'd like to be skinny and would prefer not to resort to bulimia ... (as if I've ever been able to commit to developing any kind of dieting disease).

I have more than a few personality defects, running could be so good for me , I reasoned ... but it will hurt, you know it Di.

20 euro ... for a good coach ... and a buddy to run with, to notice if I stop breathing and fall to the ground ... "OKAY, I'll do it!" And Nederlands, and perhaps sometime in the near future, I'll adopt disadvantaged children, do charity work and give up wine ...

I do hope anyone who believes anything after me learning Nederlands (which I'm not yet convinced about) understands when I tell them that I am lying.

It took me years to develop this personality, and like my odd little New Zealand accent, I kind of like how it is ... but running, I'll try it. I'd quite like to do it, but have very grave doubts about achieving it.

The final push over into the 'yes' was the thought of the doctor ... I can't go back to her until my blood pressure is down. She's one of those sensible, sweet, stern ones, and she'll tell me off, and won't accept any of my imaginatively entertaining excuses ... I'll run, but I won't diet, so don't mention it.

And no comments about diets that worked for you because they don't work for me, I'm not a good person like you, I lack self-discipline. I can't grow it now, it's too late. That part of my personal development is over, the window is closed.

Sigh ... so Monday, I start Nederlands 1.2 and running for those who have preferred not to until now.

Although ... I still have to find running shoes.

Red Wine and Books in Antwerpen

The 3 days of blue funk ended today ... I woke and was ready for whatever the world had on offer, and in retrospect, the Liberal Democrats reception and nice wine on Tuesday night may have had a small role to play in yesterday's blue day.

Tsk tsk tsk Di, was it necessary to have 4 glasses of red?

Well yes actually, to wash down the prawns that they kept forcing on me.

My Belgian takes me to nice places sometimes.

Anyway, back to today.
My reward for waking perky and ready for anything was an interesting email from a fellow Kiwi expat ... but more on that another day ... however, there might be interviews and writing involved, so I'm happy.

I read through old journals, looking at quotes I'd collected back in 2000 however, I couldn't use any as a blog beginning as they mostly suggested that to stop traveling was death ... Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death etc ...

Okay, so I'm not traveling in these days, and Antwerpen is definately not Istanbul; that beautiful crazy city where you could walk for 2 hours and pass through so many centuries ... from Roman and Ottoman right into this post modern age we find ourselves in.

And while women no longer fall past my 5th floor balcony, and salesmen don't offer to haggle over cups of their sweet cay ... things still happen to me here in this slightly quieter, more sedate Belgian world.

Today Gert laughed over an sms I sent to his office in a moment of quiet despair ... 'As long as I don't panic, I can find my way out of this very big bookshop'.

And Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kathedraal's spire almost seemed to shimmer when I was walking towards it late afternoon ... mental note to myself: it could be a fog haze, it might be the early evening light, or I have hypothermia ... who knew.

And then there's the tram. My new favourite winter reading place has become Tram 11. I have a seat I prefer, the single one with the metal box near my feet, I can curl up with my book and only need check occasionally on location out in the real world during the 20 minute ride to the city, although there was the night that I looked out into the darkness and recognised nothing ... even after looking for 5 minutes ... the wrong tram? But no, things just look different at night and Nederlands class had been particularly draining that day.

Feeding this habit of books on trams is my favourite secondhand bookshop .. de Slegte, responsible for many hair-raising, guilt-ridden purchases, of the oh my god, I really can't afford this but I must have it type.

Another note to self: must get legal soon so I can work and buy more books. Actually, speaking of books ... Alison irresponsibly mentioned a new bookshop, as in one I hadn't registered on my list of 'holy places around Antwerpen' and now I can wistfully wander in FNAC, sigh. Gert was surprised I hadn't hunted it out on my own and took me in a few days ago ... he led me into the Engels section quite proudly ... I almost died, they have a superb selection. I'm not sure he quite understands the risk ... it's probably comparable to taking an alcoholic into that really good wine shop down near Grote Markt, I guess.

Life is good here most of the time, and Antwerpen isn't Istanbul but it's its own place, and I am coming to love it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Should we question things?

I woke in the biggest, bluest, deepest funk this morning ... 'escalation day 3', I thought to myself.

So I went back to bed ... as has become my habit during this period of ... of what ... purposeless as I wait to be legal and work again?

Well, that was the question.
Clearly I have problems with being 'in process', but 'get on with it Di', I thought to myself.

I couldn't.

It was only when I went web-wandering and popped in at a new website I've been visiting, that any sense of intellectual stimulation occured. Harvey Molloy writes a superb site on NZ writing and writers Harvey Molloy>

Today's blog mentioned Ahmed Zaoui, an Algerian who sought political asylum in New Zealand back in 2002. In that friendly welcoming way we Kiwis have, our government promptly threw him in jail, and there he stayed for 24 months.

Harvey wrote that Ahmed had just published a book titled Migrant Birds. I went searching and found this description: Ahmed Zaoui is an Algerian refugee, who spent two years in a New Zealand prison after seeking asylum there in late 2002. His imprisonment is widely seen as an abuse of justice, the result of a secret 'Security Risk Certificate' issued by the SIS, which the Government continues to uphold, despite the findings of the internationally respected New Zealand Refugee Status Appeals Authority, who concluded that he was a genuine refugee and a passionate advocate of peace and democracy.

The 24 contemplations in Migrant Birds are Ahmed Zaoui's response to his two years in prison, one for each month he was locked up. These poems provide a moving insight into his plight, as he reflects on suffering and the universal struggle to find meaning from it. Ultimately they reveal Ahmed Zaoui to be a man of great faith, humanity and compassion.

Immigration is a sensitive topic for me ... and has very little to do with the fact that I might be considered an immigrant. In 'Di World' life is quite simple, I merely wish to move countries because of the Belgian ...

My interest in immigration stems from another source, and that is recognition of the growing fear and intolerance I see developing in the world. Recently, a very dear friend of mine, someone I respect immensely, tried to come over and visit Gert and I here.

She is fluent in three languages ... English, Italian and yes ... Turkish, has a university degree, dresses like a beautiful Italian and has one of the warmest hearts I know. However, once you've lived in Turkey a while, or if you become friends with a Turk, you quickly discover that they are unable to travel freely in this world, and the process of visa application is demeaning to all.

Her and her American husband wrote ... they were terribly embarassed but 'was it possible, Gert needed to send her a letter of invitation to his country, as well as details of his income' ... she had to take this information to the Belgian Consulate, along with her visa application, just to prove ... well, I don't know, I didn't have to do it.

He did it immediately. She went to the Consulate, they were open for visa applications between 9 and 11.30am on particular days of the week. There was a queue, but no, not inside the gates ... no one could enter, people had to wait out on the street until their number was called.

My friend walked away after a while, she learned you could wait the entire time and still not get in the gates.

Wouldn't you...?

We know so little about how countries treat each other, and I suspect people would be ashamed if they met my friend and then learned what their Consulate was doing in their name. In Turkey, my friend had opened her home to me, and later to Gert, as well as my American and Dutch guests on previous occasions. Her parents had fed me and had to me stay, and perhaps most touchingly, they approved of Gert, in lieu of my parents being able to meet him. They were my family there.

Another highly-educated, multi-lingual, exquisitely-dressed Turkish friend, had to be signed for at the local district house (council office I guess)when she visited the Netherlands. Her host had to agree to be responsible if she disappeared while under his .. what do I write here ... supervision?

Reading of Ahmed Zaoui again, reminded me of how fortunate I am ... but so many countries are pursuing these policies against certain countries for reasons that really need to be publicly scrutinised ... how many of those trying to enter our countries truly have sinister purposes? And how is it, we forget that our great great grandparents ... came from the other side of world and moved in. I have to smile as I write that, just think what they did to the natives ... perhaps in our hypocrisy, memory of times of past is at play.

I don't know much ... but to me, it feels wrong to treat individuals as a mass, and to pass judgement based on race, religion or country of origin when each person is an individual.

Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself ...
It seems not.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I might have had a wee sleeping incident yesterday morning ... one of those climbing-back-into-bed-and-sleeping-until-12.30pm ones. I should be ashamed, but I can't be ... it was good, and I needed it .. and it was probably a growth spurt anyway ...

So here I am, paying for laziness and I have to be up and functioning at 6am ... 4 hours from now.

But worse ... you know those nights when you can't sleep, time passes, you read a few more blogs belonging to strangers then decide to make toast ...well I went out to the kitchen to make the toast, and the noise was incredible. My elbow banged the door, my knife fell on the plate, my plate kept tapping against the jam jar as I spread the hard butter ... sigh, it was a cacophony out there ... all mine.

On the bright side, I didn't drop my toast butter-side down, and I didn't choke during the consumption of said toast. I'd had this idea that if I tricked my belly with a meal, I might be overcome by tiredness... it seems not.

The diet I wrote of a few blogs ago?
I started it ... well actually, I thought about starting it and became incredibly irritated at the thought of doing mean things to my self while I am waiting to be legal enough to work again ... food is about all I have left when it comes to using those vital decision-making skills.

And ... my second series of Nederlands begins next week. They are going to hurt so much more than the first series ... I'm learning past tense so that I don't sound 2 years old when speaking Dutch. I'll be able to have long complicated conversations ... quite frankly, I can't imagine it.

So, in the interests of fitness and things (without dieting) I have been thinking about how to get my bicycle out of the scary underground basement and keeping it somewhere more 'Di friendly' ... perhaps in with the car, or whipping it up in the tiny elevator, using ropes and kiwi ingenuity on the spiral staircase, hmmmmm then storing it in the hall.

Gert has quietly raised an eyebrow over all of my plans ...

Tot ziens.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A New Toy

I was web-wandering, as I sometimes do, and found this toy ... simple fun. Digtotheotherside

Verloren Maandag

On the first Monday after the first Sunday after Epiphany ... Antwerpens celebrate Verloren Maandag, otherwise known as Lost Monday.

Lost Monday is an ancient tradition here in Antwerpen, and you can follow two storylines when explaining its origins. Firstly, there were the Guilds - a Guild was the official group of any profession, for example there would have been a Butchers Guild, a Bakers Guild etc ...

Lost Monday was the day when the Guild leaders officially informed members of their rights and obligations, provided drinks, and then sent their members out into the city, meeting and greeting the general public on behalf of their Guild.

The cafe owners decided to give something to the Guild members, and whipped up a cheapie meal in the form of a poor quality sausage wrapped in pastry that absorbed the grease. And so Worstenbrood was born.

But in the Middle Ages Lost Monday was also the day when civil servants took an oath to be faithful to the city. The celebratory alcohol after this occasion resulted in no work being done ... hence the name, Verloren Maandag.

In 1880, the sausage bread improved in quality, and then after the Second World War the celebration itself moved into the home. Tonight, in homes all over Antwerpen, people will have sat down to Worstenbrood and Appelbollen, in recognition of a tradition that was begun way back in the 1400's.

Did we ...?

Well no, it was Nasi Goreng with stir-fried vegetables ... what can I say, he didn't tell me until after dinner.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Cookbooks and Immigrants.

It happens sometimes, where life is good for an extended period of time; that's not to say the other times aren't good ... these times are just better.

For reasons I don't understand, I occasionally crave deep-fried battered fish, like the ones we found in our fish and chip parcels back home. Neither Belgie or Turkey had fish and chip shops, so it's always been a craving left unsatisfied out here in the world, and anyway, I knew it was ridiculous.

Last night, Gert finally got tired of my random, but becoming disturbingly regular, 'Do you know what ... I'd really love a piece of deep-fried battered fish', and he bought some Icelandic Cod, studied the New Zealand Edmunds cookbook, and whipped up a lovely beer batter, making me the fish that I've been craving since he first knew me.

Oddly enough, the mess in the kitchen may have cured us both ... despite loving it.

But we were rushing, last night was the party at Ria's place. Ria was my Nederlands teacher ... 5foot of nothing, with a heart big enough to invite the whole world into her home ... the new year party where all her students of Nederlands are made welcome.

It was a little bit like an Olympic Games opening ceremony ... Morocco, Iran, Iraq, India, China, Mexico, Mauritania, Peru, a couple I didn't remember, and this New Zealander. And it worked, despite the fact some of us were meeting there for the first time.

There is this delicious thing about expatriates, political refugees and travellers ... the constraints that confined us in our everyday life, or confine most of us, are gone. We are all swimming a little out of our depth ... the man who could never visit with his girlfriend back home, is suddenly shoved out of his country and into this one, completely alone with no rules ... our boundaries have to become permeable and this seems to create a warmth that I haven't felt in those regular everyday social gatherings that we all do in life.

You know, in these days I am struggling to understand peoples fear of the immigrant. The extreme right is growing in political power and yet, if people could only get over their fear of the other, and meet some of these people they might be stunned and warmed by the moral codes and the generosity of spirit they would find in them, and by their determination to turn the other cheek and fight to create a better life for themselves.

Sometimes I think that Turkey has a lot to offer the world ... they have been a globalised country for centuries... old Constantinople was a melting pot of so many countries of traders. The Italians built some beautiful buildings there; the Jews had a safe haven, and while living there, I was taken in and made to feel like family by Chechen and Kurdish Turks ... I walked home alone through city streets at night and felt safer than I've felt in any city.

Europe feels closed in a way ... there are more rules here, I'm learning them, I'm not saying it's bad, but the people I meet feel lonely sometimes, isolated from each other. I always used to smile at foreign guests who loved the Kiwi friendliness they found in my world; smiled because I knew it was true ... but understanding that we have no shared borders... we have the luxury of space; there has only been the one occupying force who treated the inhabitants badly ... and hopefully that part of our history is over with.

I see that Europe and Turkey both have reason to fear the other ... innumberable wars, shared borders, and different occupying powers ... but Turkey still throws open her door to strangers ... admittedly because they have huge logistical problems when it comes to closing them ... but so many countries seem to lock theirs down with regulations, rules and waiting lists that can break a person. Surely there's a point, somewhere between both, where it is possible to deal with people who are trying for a better life ... often in the same way that our ancestors did, with mine fleeing Scotland and Ireland more than 6 generations ago.

I understand the practicalities and rationale but not when I put it into terms of the individual ... and when we die, we all become the same set of bones ...

It is natural and healthy to allow change ... why are we being taught to fear it? Sometimes I look at one of my 'in asylum process' friends and I wonder how he can stand what he has gone through to try and find a country that wants him. He was forced to flee his government, and has spent the last 5 years proving this ... it would have destroyed me.

I remember reading an article in the Guardian Weekly back in 2001, and perhaps this sums up what I am trying to say in my rather disjointed, and seemingly naive fashion. Sadiq Hanafi fled Afghanistan when he was 26 years old. His father had been put in prison by the Taliban and died there after two years. Sadiq and his family crossed over to Pakistan with 2 million others, and waited for it to be safe to return ... but there was no going back. His family decided he should go to London, it was a journey that took him 7 months and almost killed him twice.

Before I go further, in Kabul he had planned to become a paediatrician ... his first stop was Peshawar in Pakistan, there he hooked up with a people smuggler, who was once a fighter pilot with the Afghan military ... imagine the paediatricians and pilots you know, and hold them in your mind as you read on.

His family sold land and got the 9,000usd the smuggler demanded. The smuggler took Sadiq's group through Iran without too much trouble, then they had to cross the mountains into Turkey, it was snowing and cold, and they were attacked by wolves. Shepherds traveling with them beat the wolves off with sticks, then Turkish soldiers fired on them and their smugglers ran off, leaving them alone without food.

After 2 months in Istanbul, he was put on a boat with 300 others, only to be rescued by a Greek military boat when the water began rising up past the portholes. He made it to Greece, took a train into Rome, and then he was placed on a truck leaving for Britain.

Seven months after setting out, suffering hardships that I can't begin to imagine, this man who had planned on becoming a paediatrician arrived in England and began the process of asylum seeking ... which is long and difficult, to discourage others and stop England from becoming overburdened with people like Sadiq ... I understand that but ...

Can you imagine, after all of that, it is the hatred around him in England that most bewilders him. 'At a supermarket checkout he was buying food with his $37 worth of weekly grocery vouchers when a voice behind him said, "Look at you, eating our taxes." He said, "I felt so embarassed at the way she spoke to me, but how could I explain?"

I guess some would prefer that they can choose when to give charitable donations, and perhaps unconsciously prefer that those in receipt of donations stay in their world; that people retain the right to be able to turn them off with a flick of the television remote ... I don't know, but it seems like a mess out here in these days.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

My Life With Cars

I was thinking of cars and car parts I have broken over my years as a driver ...

- starter motor (I thought if I turned the screw one more time I would fix it)
- clutches (old cars, naturally occuring wear and tear ... surely)
- cam shaft x2 (clearly this wasn't my fault, the mechanic told me to look closely at the first one, as most people never got to see one AND, in my defence it was a problem that resoved itself after the engine rings cracked while I was driving one day ... the secondhand replacement engine ensured that no more camshafts were broken ...)
brakepads (I lived in Dunedin, it's a hilly wee San Francisco)
accelerator cable (it used to fall off in the Austin 1300)

I learned that you must keep water in the battery
that air filters need cleaned
spark plugs too;
that the timing needs to be adjusted sometimes
and the winter/summer switch needs to be adjusted according to seasonal variations, or if it snows and you're in the New Zealand mountains in summertime.

I learned not to put the wrong type of petrol in a nervous car,
that anti-freeze is a good idea in winter frosts
and, that even if the mechanic pats you on the head and calls your adult-self 'girlie', he's actually wrong and the fact that your radiator is losing water indicates something is wrong ... I don't think I cracked the engine head that time. Well actually, I might have but it wasn't my fault ... but I was a 30+ literature student, I did my best.

The driveshaft ... well I was lucky with this one, the mechanic realised it was going to fall off, and I only needed it to last a little longer ... poverty-stricken students need things to last, so I wasn't driving so fast when it finally fell off, which is a good thing because apparently ... they can dig into the surface of the road and flip the car. Sigh, I loved that Toyota wagon for so many kilometres and so many years ...

Most valuably perhaps, I learned not to try and hold a car exhaust system on with a wire coathanger ... because it risks falling off despite the coathanger, but also because it's very dangerous. I had taken the precaution of opening the two front windows to deal with the exhaust fumes inside the car however, I created some kind of vacuum that kept the fumes in ... I felt quite odd by the time I reached home.

And I retrospectively learned not to go off with busdrivers and buy their decrepit vehicles. I was feeling sad and carless, post-driveshaft death of my beloved Toyota and was catching the bus one day well ... the busdriver asked how I was, and I said, a bit sad, due to losing my car. He asked if I wanted to buy one, I said how much, he told me, I said I'd need to see it. He looked at his watch ... it was a city busrun, and said we had time, then took off with me on the bus.

We went down to the docks ... which I don't think I'd allow anyplace except home, and into a big dark empty warehouse ... which yes, was stupid in retrospect however, his daughter worked for the UN, how bad could he be ...

The car ... I was newly divorced, and confident about not needing men, so I decided to make this purchase alone. I took it out for a testdrive and managed to play the accelator, clutch and choke in such a way as to keep moving forward ... oddly, but forward.

I bought it ... and was roundly condemned by all men who cared about me, and rightly so but I didn't care, it was a car, I could afford it and I did it alone.

After various hair-raising incidents, Fiona and Barry could bear it no longer and I borrowed money from Dad, based on a small divorce settlement coming my way ... they found me a stunning new, incredibly safe and very grown-up car.

I only drove it a few months before leaving for Turkey and my new non-driving life in the Northern Hemisphere ... but it was a good car, the best I have ever owned and there were no problems, or nothing outstanding that hadn't been done in the past.

I miss driving.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

New Zealand Movies ... according to Di

If I had to name the three New Zealand movies I most love, it would be simple to list 'The Piano' by Jane Campion, and 'Whalerider' by Niki Caro ... with 'In My Father's Den' by Brad McGann.

Today we went out into the urban wilderness that is the 'January sales', (and yes, stood all but alone, as other fearless pedestrians crossed without waiting for the green light of permission. That traffic policeman has seriously compromised my road crossing freedom). The goal was the dvd sale at Media Mart, a German chain that was offering movies at a rather nice price.

'The Piano' was there, for a mere 8.90euro, and Gert was convinced, probably by my exceptionally engaging and ernest conviction that this was a movie that he MUST see. I hope its sumptuous cinematography is as superb on our tv screen as it was at the movies.

So guess what we're doing tonight ... well, we're avoiding anymore of the 'hovering around zero degree celsius' outdoor stuff, he's cooking pasta, I've opened the wine ... (and it's okay, writes the official taster of wines) and we're movie-watching.

We bought 5 'on sale' dvds, so there's serious work to be done. Hmmm, I might load some of my favourite movies onto my 'library thing' list.

Goedenacht from the Antwerpen kiwi.

Ook Om Mee Te Nemen ...

I was curious about this ... having seen it from my tram any number of times, extra words (as is the habit of Dutch speaking peoples) on a sign over what was obviously a Chinese Restaurant.

Today I had my translator with me, and put the question to him ... I loved the way his explanation began, 'We have words you need a whole sentence for in English'.

They do ... it's quite disturbing for this monolingual kiwi chick. I felt cheated when some were explained ... I'm regressing to the childhood I've spent my whole life trying to flee with my, 'But why?'

Ook om mee te nemen simply means 'also takeaway'. So the restaurant has its own name, which I forgot to note down, and is followed by the news that it also does takeaways.

Overmorgen means 'the day after tomorrow' ... now he claims that this is logical and simpler than English, but 'over tomorrow' is the literal translation, and it's mindbending for me.

Perhaps, over time, with lots of patience from the man who lured me into this Dutch speaking world, my mind will be sufficiently bent to speak fluently ...however, I foresee many more 'but whys?' on the fluency road; a journey that will probably be littered with cries of 'but you know I can't make that sound yet'.

Sigh ...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Charles Delporte

I took this photograph at Damme, near Bruges, in Belgium ... I loved it. It's a sculpture by Charles Delporte, and I can find nothing about him, probably complicated by the fact that my ability to read Nederlands is still stuck at Level One ... I can shop in the supermarket ... read shop opening and closing times ... appear to understand or actually understand basic conversation... I can count, and won Bingo on Christmas Day ... I can fill out forms, read junk mail, hmmm and a few other things, but websites in Nederlands are just a little too much. I'm sorry, but here is the sculpture.

Just something I liked ...

Rodin himself wrote about his intention:
The Thinker has a story. In the days long gone by I conceived the idea of the Gates of Hell. Before the door, seated on the rock, Dante thinking of the plan of the poem behind him... all the characters from the Divine Comedy. This project was not realized. Thin ascetic Dante in his straight robe separated from all the rest would have been without meaning. Guided by my first inspiration I conceived another thinker, a naked man, seated on a rock, his fist against his teeth, he dreams. The fertile thought slowly elaborates itself within his brain. He is no longer a dreamer, he is a creator.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Peter Moore ...

Peter's an Australian author I discovered while trawling the shelves of bookshops here in Antwerpen. The first book I found was 'The Wrong Way Home', and his downunder humour had me giggling as he wrote of his attempt to travel home from London to Sydney, without using planes.

I was hungry for more, and managed to purchase his 'Vroom with a View - In search of Italy's Dolce Vita on a '61 Vespa'. He's an Australian, stuff happens to him ... it's also a superb read, and he offers his love story in and around the romance of Milan to Roma on a Vespa - Australian-style, but of course. Finding the Dutch version of 'Vroom' today ... unrecognisable as 'Een vespa met uitzicht', reminded me that I wanted to mention him here.

He has a number of other titles ... 'The Full Montezuma' and 'Swahili For The Broken-Hearted', to name two that won't get me into trouble for using bad words on my blogsite, and his latest book, 'Crikey' is coming out this year however ... he has a website, complete with blog and photographs he's taken while traveling and writing the books.

See what you think ... Peter Moore>

Feeling Like An Idiot In Antwerp

Ever since the traffic policeman threatened me with a 50euro fine for crossing a road while the pedestrian light was red, and followed that up with an outraged yet long suffering threat to involve the police and impose 12 hours of jail time because I had no identity papers, I have a deep-seated aversion to breaking any kind of law here.
Today ... January sales madness hit Antwerpen streets ... there were people everywhere. So there I was, standing on the curb, obediently waiting for green lit permission to cross a particular road, and I felt like the village idiot as people looked left and right, and without breaking their stride, crossed that damn road, leaving me alone on the other side.

Willing To Eat Hutsepot ...

You know, it's all very well to fall in love with a gorgeous,intelligent man from another country but there can be complications.

In Turkey, illegality and permission to reside wasn't so much of an issue ... there were 'border runs' to renew tourist visas, and a general desire to aide and abet the wandering ones of the world, particularly useful ones like teachers of English.

However, Belgium takes a very dim view of those who wish to wander at will in the world ... well, that's not quite true, you can wander in and stay for 3 months but you must wander out again at the end of that time, for a 3 solid months.

I moved here back in July 2005. My man and I both considered ourselves old and wise, and we knew we had to make sure that we were as compatible in Belgium as we had been in Istanbul. After two months of dating and stuff, rather than fly home and apply for the long-stay visa, we discovered I could save 1000euro by making my application to stay at the local council offices.

Oddly enough, before leaving Istanbul, I had discovered the Belgian consulate wanted nothing to do with a Kiwi who had been resident in Turkey for two years and wanted papers to live in Belgium ... 'Get thee home and apply there' was their rather coldly delivered message. I was stunned, there are only 4 million Kiwis ... what country wouldn't one.

Going home to apply to come back to Europe had epic potential ... I would fly home, apply to the NZ Belgian Consulate over in Sydney, Australia and pick up the papers when they were ready (but of course, I muttered under my breath, as I added some more hundreds to my airfare to and from the two big lands downunder).

1. Find flight home on airline I trust and can stand to make more than 12 take-off and landings with ... did I mention that I really don't enjoy flying.

2. Make plans to find somewhere to live while in New Zealand; the consulate people seem vague about how long the application process might be.

3. Find a job, as my holiday pay from the teaching back in Istanbul will run out.

4. What kind of job can I get in New Zealand ... sigh, I hate office work with a passion, that's one of the reasons I flew out.

So ... my Belgian did a last minute inspired trawl of the internet and discovered something that no consulate person had mentioned ... I COULD APPLY FOR MY LONG STAY VISA HERE IN BELGIUM.

So I did, after they told me 6-8 weeks ...

It seemed that my file would pop off to Brussels, a mere 50kms away, and sooner or later I would be legal however ... for reasons only known to those who pull the strings of my life, my file didn't just pop off to Brussels, it holidayed in the local office here for a couple of months.

I wrote previously of visiting said office to query the ongoing silence regarding my legal status in Belgium and being told, with a grimace, that it should take '2 more months'.

I don't think I believe them anymore. Today was one of those days when I was a sad little kiwi, thinking dark little thoughts about losing my identity and my freedom as my finances shrink to nothing and less...

A growling rebellion set in, and I questioned whether I should endure the mental anguish of learning to say those 5 unpronounceable Dutch sounds I can't make, if the paperwork people don't want to shuffle me.

It's 3am now, and I'm still thinking about all of it, trying to forget the guy from Guinea who told me it took 1 year to get in, despite starting from home; and trying to forget the lovely Iranian man who waited 4 years ...

I want to howl like a child and say, 'but I'm a Kiwi, and every country needs a Kiwi or ten ... let me in, let me work ... I'll eat Hutsepot everyday'.