Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My Left Knee (not starring Daniel Day-Lewis)

Sigh ... I have come to love running ... okay, perhaps not always 'in the moment' but I am most definately loving that post-running sensation.

Last night I went out, not sure of my left knee but wanting to try it. Six generations ago, my ancestors sailed from Scotland to New Zealand (okay, they were on the run from daily church services on the Isle of Lewis however this takes nothing away from their courage in ocean crossings and new beginnings ... although everyday church might inspire many to flee ...) anyway, my point, I am tough (except when being a baby).

So I ran the first 5 minutes and enjoyed it but my knee hurt. By then I had mentioned my knee to my coach a number of times ... he gave me advice and then we talked of wine and running ... a subject I much prefer since he is also privvy to more than a few sheep jokes which, much to my surprise, have been pinned on the Kiwi over here in Europe. Back home we all know the truth about Australians ... but I digress.

The 6 minute run went well too but for my aching left knee. The coach sent me off to warm down, Heidi promised to continue without me ... I warmed down and scuttled off to wait inside ... pretending to play games on my cellphone, pretending because it's a thing I can't do at all.

End of class and I exchanged dvds with Christine; so excited I am, I have 'la stanza del figlio' by Nanni Moretti. Excited as much by having the chance to watch it again, as by finally having the opportunity to listen to the soundtrack. I've been searching for the cd since first viewing the movie ...

Then home ... sigh, up the stairs since Gert had broken the elevator that morning. 15 flights of steps with my knee ... any damage I didn't do on the track, I did on the stairs dammit.

It looks like I'm going to have to rest for a few days. I can run through it but it gets a little worse each time I do something foolish with it. Getting out of the car is high on the 'dumb things to do with my left knee' list at the moment; clearly running is way up there too. Walking down the 15 short flights followed by the return is plain senseless ... prepare thyselves for an onslaught of posts.

Di Got Mail

And it was good news ...

The Flemish Ministry of Education have confirmed that my university degree is a valid Bachelor's degree here in Belgie. This is a very useful document ... well, once I reach the other side journey that is 'in-process and waiting'.

It didn't take them their estimated 4 months to process, instead it was a mere 15 days and even more stunningly, it arrived on the second day of the spring school holidays ... after they had included the information that it might take longer to process my application if it arrived during the school holidays.

Ik hou van Ministerie Van De Vlaamse Gemeenschap!

Moroccan Storytellers

The View from Fez blog has been singing a siren's song about Morocco ever since I first discovered their site. The post titled 'The storytellers of Marrakesh' is no exception.

In it, Samir links to an article by Marlise Simons.

She begins: It's time for work and Mohammad Jabiri heads for Jemaa el Fna, the main square of Marrakesh, often called the cultural crossroads for all Morocco.

Stooping a little, he weaves through the crowds, past the snake charmers and their flutes, the racket of drummers and cymbalists, the cheers for the acrobats and the shouting of the kebab vendors, until he stakes out a quiet spot for himself.

Jabiri is a storyteller, a profession he has practiced for more than 40 years. Every day, he conjures up a real or imagined past that is filled with ancient battles and populated with sinners and prophets, wise sultans and tricky thieves.

Brain Dominance Testing and Other Delights

Scene: A rainy trying-to-snow day in Belgie.

Question: Do you want to determine which side of your brain left or right is dominant ...?

Answer: But of course!

Here's the site if your curious about the Brain Dominance Test

Ludovic Hubler

On January 1, 2003 Ludovic Hubler stuck out his thumb in Strasbourg, France, and he's been hitchhiking around the world ever since. He intends to tour the continents without spending a single penny on transportation, and after more than three years he's remarkably close to achieving his goal.

There's an interesting interview with him here e-Marginalia

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Elevator

You know how it is when something bad is happening to someone else ... but it's kind of ironic and darkly amusing, so there is laughter mixed in with any serious conversations you might try and have during 'the time of difficulty?

Well ... I was talking with my father this morning when Gert called on the cell phone to tell me, in subdued tones, that he was stuck in the elevator just below our floor. I went out and tried pressing the button then listened while he phoned the elevator people, the landlord, and his work ... A guy from the floor below started pressing the elevator button, so I called out that it was broken and of course, being a Belgian he switched to fluent English and we discussed the problem.

It turned out he'd been trapped in the same elevator for an hour recently, and holding back giggles that had nothing to do with malicious humour, I relayed the message to Gert. Then the guy added 'And it's rush hour now ...'

The neighbour said that the cleaning lady had a elevator key but that she lived in the next building and no one was sure where. Then he thought about it some more, asking where the elevator was stuck ... I told him. He said, 'Mmmmm better not to have her unlock it, as it would be very bad for him if the elevator started moving while he was climbing out.'

I think it was the classic European understatedness of the whole situation that was making me want to laugh. Everyone was very serious.

Ironically, in the past, Gert had been the one who had phoned the landlord to inform him whenever the elevator was broken, whenever the elevator was making an incredible amount of noise, and to relay what the elevator inspector had recently told me ... that the elevator ventilator was broken and that there was a risk of it overheating which would cause ... yes, the elevator to breakdown between floors.

Before I go on, we do live in a nice middleclass neighbourhood and the building has more than a few elderly residents in it. There's no hint that the landlord or the elevator might be unreliable. The elevator inspector had actually started the conversation with me a couple of weeks ago, asking how I stood the noise caused by the malfunctioning elevator. I had rolled my eyes and said, 'Well we've made phone calls but it only stays repaired for a few days'. When he explained the problem, I had been more than slightly horrified and asked about the risk of the elevator cable snapping, causing things to plunge to the basement. No no no, he had said reassuringly, it's a vertical car, this can't happen. I chose to believe him although this may have been a mistake, as the District House people were also lovely and reassuring, both saying that I would only be 'in process' for 6-8 weeks. Hmmm that was 23 weeks ago ... it seems that lovely, seemingly professional people can tell very credible lies.

Anyway, after 25 minutes of standing in the small dark elevator, Gert was released. The power had been completely out and the technician seemed very concerned that the emergency light hadn't come on ...

You know, it couldn't have happened to a better person, they would have had to peel me off the ceiling or revived me after I'd used ALL the oxygen ...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Another 24 Hours in Di World

Last night we watched the Antwerpen football team beat Tubize 3-1.
Unfortunately it was an away game. They scored, I clapped briefly ... one clap to be precise, then realised that the members box in Tubize was eerily silent. Mmmm yes, we had been wined and dined as guests of Tubize members ... therefore my jubilation was a little impolite. I sat on my enthusiasm and tried to look suitably serious during the next two goals focusing instead on the superbly tight refereeing.

My European life is one of extremes ... from in-process poverty to champagne-swilling with interesting people ... ahhh but those very extremes will surely make me a better person.

Today was a quieter day ... an extended family birthday meant that we gathered to celebrate 3 birthdays over in Lier. This time there was a delicious little Italian sparkling wine and later, a nice Chilean red to go with the verjaardagsfeest

It was 24 hours of rather extraordinary food too. There was the prawn and vegetable-filled pastry, the rabbit meat wrapped up in bacon, an elegant chocolate-covered ice cream concoction that had been drizzled with caramel, ending with a lovely cheese plate ... a meal that stretched out over the pre-and-post-match hours. Our host for the evening knew wine, chose well and as he had fly-fished in New Zealand we had things to talk about.

It's an odd little extreme life I am living in these days ...

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Edouard Boubat

I was web wandering through ms baker's reflections this afternoon, in a moment of peace before rushing out for the rest of the day, and while wandering I discovered Edouard Boubat, a French photographer who started work after World War 2 saying, 'After the war, we felt the need to celebrate life, and for me photography was the means to achieve this...'

There's a rather good interview with him here.

He said, "I think that the photos that we like were made when the photographer knew how to disappear. If there were a secret, certainly that would be it."

A Little of Me

I'm aching this morning. The pace is stepping up at running class and it seems that I am not quite ready to be the athlete I wanted to be by now ... in fact, it seems these things might take time and may involve some pain.

Last night was simple ... enough layers for the zero celsius cold, with accompanying biting wind, and the right mindset. The 2 and 3 minute runs hurt ... I never enjoy the warmup runs. 5 minutes and 6 minutes went well ... 7 minutes was an eternity. Sigh ... I would like to be fluent in running-ese now.

I run with a nice group though ... and we're bonding a little, talking of our interests and getting to know each other, probably due to the mild trauma of it all. One woman gave me a list of her Italian dvds last night, marking those that have English subtitles (as opposed to Nederlands) and another had brought me a catalogue from the cultural center she works in ... offering 2 free tickets to any movie that interested me. They are kind.

Life here has been different to any life I've known before. The Belgians don't seem to offer their friendship as quickly as has been the case in other places I've lived ... so it has been a little bit lonely at times ... not helped by receiving Extreme Right newsletters in the mail and realising that 'Stop Immigratie!' is directed at people like me ... that I'm one of those who are sometimes so negatively viewed in the world in these times. In Istanbul, I was sure of my reasons for being there ... a teacher of English is useful in a country with EU membership interests ... here in Europe, it's less certain.

One of the most amusing things about my 'immigrant in process' situation is that, back in New Zealand when we fill out official forms ... we have the option of 'European' when describing our ethnicity ... what delusions of grandeur I had when ticking that box. I have laugh at my outrage over 23 weeks in process for this long-term stay visa ... I'm just Kiwi, nothing more, nothing less, and much to my surprise it counts for absolutely nothing when entering Europe. Someone should update the official form writers back in the land of the long white cloud ...

Tot ziens from Di.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A little thing

On Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:16 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the population on Earth is projected to hit 6.5 billion .

Der Speigel

Anyone interested in spending a few months working for SPIEGEL's influential and growing English site? Are you a native English speaker, a gifted writer with some journalism experience and extensive knowledge of international politics and cultural trends? They're looking for spring and summer interns. Check it out here


Jeyavel, a doctor in Bangalore, India has a dynamic website of his own but today he sent me a fascinating web address to wander through. The collection can be found here. Click on any link of interest and a whole world unfolds. Try this anthropology and then A Box In My Mind - Deciphering the Enigma of Peru.

What is ibiblio?
ibibliois the public's library and digital archive It is home to one of the largest "collections of collections" on the Internet. It is a conservancy of freely available information, including software, music, literature, art, history, science, politics, and cultural studies. ibiblio.org is a collaboration of the Center for the Public Domain and The University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.
It's Not Your Average Library
The evolving Internet has created new opportunities to share knowledge. Imagine being able to walk into your local library and view, on demand, and without charge, not only every imaginable written text, but also music and poetry archives, African American authors, American history, sports statistics, philosophy of religion, Italian literature, large text database projects, software archives, and more.
Then imagine, in addition to being able to view the collection, you have the opportunity to critique it, expand it, or to create and manage a new collection in your own area of interest. While such a feat is physically and fiscally beyond the scope of even the largest and most extraordinary physical library, ibiblio.org achieves just such breadth and depth on the Internet ...

Thanks Jeyavel!

Bad Karma

I was coming home on the tram, released early from Nederlands class with a ton of 'this is a sample of your next examination' -type papers in my bag. Study over the holiday break and prepare for your Nederlands 1.2 examination ...
However, forgetting my studious and obedient side, I continued on with the latest book... 'Bad Karma - Confessions of a Reckless traveller in South-east Asia' by Tamara Sheward. It's amusing and involves horrendous heart-stopping experiences that surely only an Australian backpacker can have.
And what Aussie book would be complete without mocking their sweeter cousin, the Kiwi. I had been happily engrossed, laughing along then I came to this passage: 'Back in Australia, where we spend so much time poking fun at the flat whines of the Yanks and the bizarre vowels of the Kiwis, it's easy to forget we have an accent at all.'
Okay, so Tamara redeems herself with 'We [the Australians] sound like freaks. Even in their rare moments of calm, Australian women sound constantly hysterical, and the men manage to give the impression that their words are suffocating somewhere between the glottis and their last meat pie. All this while hardly moving our lips at all.

I would never have said that ... ever.

My brothers have lived in Australia for years, they're bigger than me and may not take kindly to this fluent description of the accent they seem to have embraced as part of their Kiwi-turned-Aussie experience.

Anyway, it's a good book if you're looking for something that takes you to Laos on a 'malfunctioning ex-Soviet bomber plane' At the end of that chapter, Tamara muses over her refusal to pop the 3 expired Valium her friend had taken as a precautionary cure for air-fear ... 'But I decided to stay awake. It was a lucky thing I did. Otherwise, I never would have seen the cabin fill up with smoke ten minutes out of Vientiane. Or felt the grating of the plane's wheels as they came down mid-flight. Or watched the dying man get beaned by falling hand luggage as we banged down in Luang Prabang. No, if I'd taken Valium that day, I wouldn't ever have become the neurotic freak that I am today. And what a shame that would have been.'

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Het is zo slecht nog niet

It's been an odd kind of week ... I missed Nederlands class Monday and Tuesday and felt better for it. Sometimes it's nice to exercise choice in life and quite frankly, hanging out with fellow expats drinking wine held an irresistable lure.
And some of the down feeling is easily explained by Alison's quote from Expatica ... February is expected to enter the record books as the gloomiest ever. Up until 20 February, meteorology bureau RMI had recorded just 12 hours and 48 minutes of sun. The rest can mostly be put down to the 'in process blues' ... experienced by those foolish enough to try to enter a country not their own in these crazy days.

But I am complaining ... okay, a little but along the way, I am discovering beautiful things, meeting new people and learning new stuff ... het is zo slecht nog niet.

The Carnival of Feminists

I thought this might be of interest to some people ... Feminist Carnival Blogspot

About the carnival: The Carnival of Feminists is held (usually) on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Hosted by a different blogger for each edition, it aims to showcase the finest feminist posts from around the blogsphere. Posts will usually have been made in the period since the last carnival. (Only one nomination per blog please.)

The tenth and next edition will be on Indianwriting on March 8. Please send nominations to indianwriting AT gmail DOT com by March 5. (Or at any time you can use the submission form.)

The Carnival hopes to build the profile of feminist blogging, to direct extra traffic to all participating bloggers, but particularly newer bloggers, and to build networks among feminist bloggers.

Natalie at Philobiblon wrote: ...one of the main reasons why I started the Carnival of Feminists was to try to get different groups and networks in touch with each other, and I hope it is achieving that.

Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma

I came across this site by accident one day ... I'd never heard of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma before.

Their Mission Statement is as follows:

What is the Dart Center?
The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma is a global network of journalists, journalism educators and health professionals dedicated to improving media coverage of trauma, conflict and tragedy. The Center also addresses the consequences of such coverage for those working in journalism. To these ends, the Dart Center:

— Advocates ethical and thorough reporting of trauma; sensitive, professional treatment of victims and survivors by journalists, and greater awareness by media organizations of the impact of trauma coverage on both news professionals and news consumers.

— Educates working journalists about the science and psychology of trauma and the implications for news coverage through this website, academic research, seminars, workshops and training.

— Serves as a forum for print, broadcast and Internet journalists to analyze issues, exchange ideas and advance strategies related to reporting on violence and catastrophic stress. We also create and sustain partnerships among media professionals, therapists and others concerned with trauma, and nurture peer-support among working journalists.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Fatema Mernissi

Pessimism is a routine
Hope is a creation
Celebrations of the things which are mysterious

al-ya's 'ada
al-amal ibticar
'ihtifa' bi-l-ashya' al ghamida'
Dar al Adab, Beruit 1988, p. 36

Wandering through Fatema Mernissi's website revealed a woman substance. I enjoyed the taste of what I found here; in an extract from Fatema's Erasmus Prize speech, 4 November 2004 - Is the Satellite Reawakening Sindbad? Adab or Allying with the Stranger as the Strategy to Win the Globalized Planet.

I have used an extract I loved but it's out of context ... I'll leave you to explore the rest on your own if you're curious.

Safar (travel) as Self-discovery
'For Jahiz, the Adab strategy to empower oneself by adding the stranger's brain to one's own, implies that you avoid getting stuck in your hometown and force yourself to travel: "Staying too long at home is one of poverty's causes. Movement creates prosperity." (Book of Metropolises and Wonders of the World, Kitab al Amsar wa 'ajaib al buldan.)

It is the key idea of Jahiz's Adab strategy, to travel far to communicate with the stranger and make yourself useful to him by exchanging goods, that was celebrated by poets of the Abbasid court like Abu Tammam (born in Syria, ninth century): "Travel! It is the only way to renew yourself," he chanted in Baghdad streets.

This idea of traveling as a quasi biological need to regenerate oneself was expanded in later centuries to its cosmic dimension by the Sufis (mystics of Islam) who identified movement (haraka) with life (hayat) and inertia (sukun) with death. The poet At-Tinnisi (born in Egypt, eleventh century) entranced his audience by reminding them what they gain from going to strange lands: "Travel! Trips provide you with five advantages: entertainment, earning one's living, self-discipline, knowledge and the opportunity to be in the company of splendid creatures." It is from the adventures of real Arab travelers, who described their trips to China and India, Africa and Europe once back in Baghdad, that the story-teller, who invented the "1001 Night Tales", found inspiration when crafting the figure of Sindbad'.

Needless to say, 'the Adab strategy of empowering oneself by adding the stranger's brain to one's own' and the concept of 'traveling far to communicate with the stranger and make yourself useful to him by exchanging goods' made me think of the experiences I've been having here in the blogging world ...

Another Interesting Website

Another voice

Hi there! Thanks for stopping in. I'm Christopher Allbritton, former AP and New York Daily News reporter. In 2002, I went stumbling around Iraqi Kurdistan, the northern part of Iraq outside Saddam's direct control, looking for stories. (Some might call it "looking for trouble.") In March 2003, I made it back in time for the war, becoming the Web's first fully reader-funded journalist-blogger. With the support of thousands of readers, we raised almost $15,000. You can read my dispatches here. It was one of the moments in journalism when everything worked. It was a grand -- and successful -- experiment in independent journalism.
Now I'm back in Iraq for the third time, and this time, I've effectively moved to Baghdad. It's a raucous, scary and exciting place with a lot of news going on. I now report for a variety of outlets including TIME Magazine and others.

And then there's another type of movie ...

This movie is incredible ... it's a documentary-type recreation of an actual incident ... narrated by the climbers themselves some years later.

I read Joe Simpson's 'Touching the Void' years ago and was absolutely gripped by his story. I went on and read every other book he wrote over time and shared them when anyone asked if I had a good book they could borrow. It was story that no one could put down, it didn't require an interest in mountaineering ... it was the human story that held you.

In it, Joe quite matter-of-factly wrote of his extraordinary lone descent down the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes back in 1985; extraordinary because he did it with a shattered knee joint. The thing I loved best about this story was the frank honesty ... it's incredible, and even more so in the movie where Simon Yates shows why he finally cut the rope.

It's a bit of a 'must-see' if you have the time and inclination.

A Movie

'I used to be the mother.
I used to be the wife.
But now I'm Shirley Valentine again ...'

I love this movie. For those of you who have never heard of it, it's about a 42 year old British wife and mother who has lost her self somewhere along the way while caught up in raising her children and meeting the needs of those she loves best. It's a common enough story and perhaps a self-effacing act that was and still can be considered normal enough.

The movie tells the story of this particular woman's journey from her kitchen; the place where she talked with her friend 'the wall' to Greece, where she met and rediscovered the girl that used to be her.

It's delicious, and although a gentle humour is woven throughout this slightly dated movie, it's popularity, awards and revues reveal that many can relate to the storyline.

I haven't fallen in love with him. I've fallen in love with the idea of living. Shirley Valentine.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Alison's Birthday - Di's Surprise

Alison has asked that I tow the party line with regard to her age so okay, yesterday I popped over to Brussels and on out into the countryside to help Alison celebrate her '24th' birthday...

Gert was the ride that I 'hitched' over to Brussels with, and there I met up with Shannon the American expat and third member of our gang of three. Meeting her at Brussel Noord Station turned out to be a bit of a tourist surprise as we were caught in a traffic jam at the back entrance of the station ... slap bang in the red light district. Shannon eventually noticed, hilariously going through the 'that woman in the window is wearing underwear' realisation out loud.

Alison was concerned about us finding the bus out to her place and we may have misled her about our precise location, smsing from the blue car about being lost, wet and next to an unnamed canal. Just as she was giving up all hope of us finding our way to her place, we knocked on the door ... so very proud of our small surprise.

Hah ... if only I'd known that I too had surprises ahead of me. We anthropologically experimented with a local spirit called Genever ... the Apple Pie flavour went down just as simply as pie. Then we moved on to the Spanish red wine, talking and catching up on each others news ... eating delicious foods and relaxing as expats, as opposed to socialising as foreigners who don't quite speak local languages.

After two bottles of wine, eyebrows were reshaped ... absolute luxury in these days of in-process poverty. Shannon's a goddess, it has to be said ... I've paid a lot for less exquisite eyebrows in the past ... (boys, cover your eyes, I'm sorry. I forgot to warn you).

A little more wine and somehow the discussion turned to my long hair, uncut since my days of employment back in Turkey. It's odd how okay it can seem to let two friends cut your hair under certain circumstances. Part of me knew it was risky, the other part desperately wanted to believe them when they said they could get a little shape back into my long straight hair ... so okay, what did I have to lose?

They took off 2 inches however, suitably relaxed, we all agreed this was necessary due to damaged ends. They shaped it and then finally I was released and wandered through to the bathroom, for some reason thinking of all those bald little childhoood dolls whose hair I hadn't quite stopped 'trimming' in time.

And lo ... it was lovely, confirmed in the mirror this morning (as we all know, harsh light of day is the big test).

Today we walked a few million miles to Stone Manor - the British Store. I was ... I'm searching for the word ... I was stunned. Everything English, and by virtue of the previous colonial status of New Zealand ... everything Kiwi, almost appeared to be there on the shelves of this incredible shop.

There was Vegemite, Crab Apple Jelly jam, Cadburys chocolates, tomato relish and pickles, and a million other things that just stunned me.

So while Alison got to age, was given gifts and had a birthday 'cake' for breakfast this morning (we were fine, we really didn't drink so much), I also had one or two lovely surprises.

Thanks guys, I had a ball!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Another Special Blog

This blogsite is special for so many reasons but I had to link to today's 'How to help a Blogger' post from misguided.

He and msbaker introduce themselves in this way: DW is a collection of its Kuwaiti author’s reveries, rants, and mental meanderings. Thrown in for good measure in between their stories and experiences, is a hodgepodge of interesting links, literature, poetry, food and music. DW is in essence, a haven for the thoughts of wandering daydreamers and thoughtful thinkers both great and small.

It's really rather delicious and nice place to visit.

A Rainy Day in Belgie, and A Little About Shashikiran

Another rainy day, a better state of mind and I'm back, preferring the act of blogging over intensely disliking my name being misused in the blogsphere. But really, thank you to those who wrote to convince me of this. I appreciated it.

It's Alison's birthday today ... so the international gathering will consist of a Canadian, an American and a Kiwi ... and we all agreed that a nice bottle of red was the only appropriate multi-national cross-cultural type celebratory act worthy of such an occasion ... and so I am Brussel-bound later today.

My daughter is in the process of moving north and at last count, I had about 47,000 new grey hairs, from following her up the South Island in my mind. The bank is curious about my financial situation, eager to know when I'll be sending money their way, meanwhile Belgium is quietly insisting that I don't leave the country while I'm an 'in process'immigrant ... as they won't let me come back in for 3 months. Ahhh, the exciting life of a wandering one ... clearly the point is not to actually stop wandering, although Gert has one or two ideas about that.

Meanwhile, I can blog-wander and so, before starting my day, there's a few blogs that I enjoy more than a morning newspaper ... it's their writing voice, their stories, and the snapshot of life that they gift to their readers.

Shashikiran writes as his introduction: There is much I could have done. Realization comes in the forties. But I can start afresh. If I did not learn much before, I now can; if I did not play well, I can start now; if I wasted time on vain pursuits, I can change that now. I can do anything I want starting now. I can be happy now.

I started visiting his blog awhile ago, immediately enjoying his lyrical descriptive prose pieces about his everyday life in Bangalore, India; a place I know so little about. He also writes of his business and his preparation for a marathon in Phuket.

He wrote this recently: The Space Between Us Sometimes when I try to snooze longer, the old lady and her old maid in the house behind ours prevent it. Standing in their backyard, they trade news, argue over how clothes should be washed and utensils cleaned and the order in which to do them; the mistress tries to be imposing, but her voice is weak and the maid is stubborn. Today, the news is that the maid has a week’s leave from the other house where she works. They have gone to America for a week, she told her mistress. I have not seen these women, but their voices come up through the mango leaves, through my pigeon-ridden windows, into my bedroom, crisp and clear as the morning.

It's a lovely site and a place to wander while standing still.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Someone in Australia has gone to the trouble of creating a false hotmail account using my name and in a moment of inspired nastiness, has begun posting messages supposedly 'from me' on the blogsites of people I respect and admire.

The IP address gives away their location and I hope that anyone who received a nasty message from me, realised it wasn't in keeping with the way that I treat people.

I started my blog as a way of staying in touch with family and friends back in New Zealand and Turkey with news and photographs ... instead of writing to everyone, they could come read when they felt like it.

Over time, my blog evolved to what you find here today. I have a Favourites list that is hopelessly overloaded and so I began exploring it and posting small items about people like the photographers and other items I'd collected.

I tried deleting those sites on my links list that I couldn't contact by email because whoever was doing this was using that list however ...

I don't feel comfortable with continuing to blog at the moment ... I have enough in my 'real life' in these days without worrying about why someone would want to waste time with this type of campaign.

Anonymous in Australia, I imagine this makes you feel proud...

Sebastião Salgado

Sebastião Salgado is an incredible photographer, who has been creating powerful breath-taking images for years.
His photographic essays cover subjects like famine, migration and workers. I used a photo from his worker series. Salgado writes, "These photographs tell the story of an era. The images offer a visual archaeology of a time that history knows as the Industrial Revolution, a time when men and women at work with their hands provided the central axis of the world.Concepts of production and efficiency are changing, and, with them, the nature of work. The highly industrialized world is racing ahead and stumbling over the future. So the planet remains divided, the first world in a crisis of excess, the third world in a crisis of need, and, at the end of the century, the second world--that built on socialism--in ruins."

On a subject close to my heart, and one that I don't quite understand from the perspective of rejection by wealthier societies, he writes of refugees and immgrants:
Wars have increasingly targeted civilians as terror has become a weapon of first resort. Millions of people have had to uproot themselves setting off on foot, in trucks, aboard overcrowded boats or trains to seek refuge. Those who survive often end up in sprawling refugee camps where existence continues to be precarious. Similarly, when poverty becomes intolerable many seek to move on, either for large cities or, if they are more adventurous, towards far-off prosperous nations. Sometimes it is the men alone who leave. Other times it is whole families risking their lives for the unfamiliarity of new surroundings. In the process they bring deep transformations to the social fabric where they settle as well as to themselves.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Puerta del Sol

Three Canadians, a New Zealander and a Belgian ... so often my life has an international flavour these days ...

And a Cypriot meal called Tavas.
Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF
Place all the ingredients in a large roasting dish and mix well
1 kg rump or brisket (beef) cubed
500g onions, sliced finely
1kg potatoes peeled and sliced thinly
150ml groundnut oil
250g tomatoes, chopped or 250g can chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
200ml hot water
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
salt and black pepper
Serves 4 people.

Cover with tin foil and cook for 2 hours without stirring. Serve with a green salad.

So nice with the red wine ... most particularly, Monte Ducay, Gran Reserva 1998, Product of Spain.

Alison, Andrew, James, Gert and I had been to a wine tasting at Puerta del Sol and came away having tasted and purchased some very very nice Spanish wines.

Ivan, from Bodegas Castelo de Medina, introduced us to some delicious white wines, most particularly the Castelo de Medina Verdejo which is a very tasty white wine.

Guy, at Puerta del Sol, hosts a wine tasting of his Spanish wines every few months ... if you're living in Belgium, I truly recommend signing into his website so that you know about his next tasting session. He has 6 every year and they are superb.

And then Alison provided dessert ... note that you could eat the plate that this incredible mousse came in ... !

An Interesting Blog

3 Quarks Daily is a site where you can find interesting items from around the web on a daily basis, in the areas of science, design, literature, current affairs, art, and anything else they deem inherently fascinating. The authors try to provide a one-stop intellectual surfing experience by culling good stuff from all over and putting it in one place. In other words, we are what has come to be known as a "filter blog".

Friday, February 17, 2006

James Nachtwey

James Nachtwey is an incredible photographer, one who seems to be driven by his desire to witness and record reality. He wrote, "I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

Further researching led me to a photo agency he and six others began back in September 2001, called VII Photo Agency. If you are interested in the world and its news, if you love photography and are curious about people, then this site is worth wandering through.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I think I want a Dog Again

They make sense when the whole world seems crazy.

As I was walking to the car this morning I opened Gert's newspaper and there were the 2 year old photographs from Abu Ghraib... and I thought 'Why??!'

And without a word of a lie, just at that moment, feeling outraged and mortified that I might be described as a westerner and therefore tarred with the same brush as our ridiculous nose-thumbing, freedom of speech mainstream media, I looked up and straight into the eyes of a man who could have been of Middle Eastern descent and he was looking at me as I looked at him, walking his 3 children to school ... I was mortified.

I wanted to say 'I believe that countries need to become people and people all have their own stories'.

The newspapers are beginning to have blood on their hands.
What part of 'irresponsible' don't they understand.

A dog?
A dog makes sense when nothing else does.
They're loyal and I've never had one that was racist or bigoted or unintelligent. They're usually kind, non-judgemental, and oddly enough, I take their silence as agreement with any ideas I care to share with them.
What girl can resist that?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Zen of Running

Equilibrium has been restored ...
Running training turned out to be the great restorer of calm.
We ran 1x2 minutes, 1x3 min, 2x 6 minutes and 1x 7 minutes.

I am purified and well ... a little bit sore actually however it was done without too much trouble so there's hope for me and my plans to do the Champagne Half-Marathon next year ... silly to try and run and drink this year, it might put me off forever.

Gert is thinking about not translating any future official letters I receive. It might be kinder. After all, if a tree falls in a forest with no one to hear it, does it make any sound?

So ... if it takes 1 or 2 years for me to get legal permission to work but they don't tell me it will take two years ... will I be happier than if they write to me and explain that it will take two years to be processed, with time being added for each school vacation during the processing?

Who knows ... but there's a possibility that this topic will be the subject of the occasional posting here. It also occured to me that if running works as a soul restorer then it seems possible that, by the time I am legal and working, I'll be a rather successful marathon runner.

Literary Cow?

What constitutes work if you are a writer or an artist ... how do you justify 'dreamtime'?

For me, my blogsite has morphed from 'letters home' into an electronic journal where I make notes to myself. Rather than maintaining a Favourites List with its previously disordered impossible cast of hundreds ... I can now wander through my blogsite looking for that person, that quote, that idea noted down at some point in time.

I was trying to understand the process that looks so like laziness and it's this ... when I read I'm absorbing new tastes and nuances, learning new people, reading new ideas and so I'm preparing to write.

When I read I'm learning to write by reading the writing of others.

And when I write, ahhhh well that's the culmination of rumination ... the process that surely earns me the title of Aspiring L.C.

The Mad Photographer

I was intrigued to read about James Hurley. In 1917 James Francis Hurley (1885-1962) became the first offical photographer to the Australian Imperial Forces. When he arrived at the Western Front his rank was honorary captain but when the troops saw the risks he took to get his photographs, they dubbed him “the mad photographer”.

"To get war pictures of striking interest and sensation is like attempting the impossible," Hurley wrote in September 1917. The battlefront was too large, the cameras were too big and the shells did not land where and when Hurley needed them. He and Hubert Wilkins, the second Australian official photographer, tried to capture the reality of battle close-up however they needed light to make pictures and anyone standing on the parapet of a frontline trench in daylight was likely to be shot by a sniper within seconds.

Hurley was a strong defender of pictorialism – the idea that photographs should express ideas, tell stories and excite emotions in much the same way as paintings – and finally he began to manipulate war pictures. Some of his most famous battle scenes are in fact composites of several negatives, although not many people realise this. Some critics say that Hurley was more an artist than a reporter.

Laila Lalami

I was web wandering before starting work on my day off from Nederlands class. I noticed Samir at The view from Fez had written of a blog site called Moorish Girl.

Moorish Girl is otherwise known as Laila Lalami and has written a rather intriguing book called Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits. The publisher wrote: Laila Lalami evokes the grit and enduring grace that is modern Morocco. The book begins as four Moroccans illegally cross the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat headed for Spain. What has driven them to risk their lives? And will the rewards prove to be worth the danger?

Laila was born and raised in Morocco. She earned her B.A. in English from Universite Mohammed V in Rabat, her M.A. from University College, London, and her Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Southern California. Her work has appeared in Mizna, The Baltimore Review, First Intensity, The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Review, The Oregonian, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The Nation. Her debut book of fiction, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, was published by Algonquin Books in October 2005. She is also the editor of the literary blog Moorishgirl.com She lives in Portland, Oregon.


Sometimes, when you wake and find the world outside is grey and there is rain sliding down the windows, you might just want to remember happier times.

I was in Roma back in 2003 and fell completely in love. I sent a 7 page email home after returning to Istanbul and someone said that it was as if I was writing of a new lover. Perhaps she was right in a way.

I had gone to Roma never expecting the myth of it to stand up to my 21st century examination of it ... and left reluctantly. I stayed in a small hotel on Campo de' Fiori; spent hours wandering through Castel Sant'Angelo pictured here; I climbed the million stairs to the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica and looked out over a city I possibly love more than any other.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Taste of Turkey

A Turkish friend introduced me to the work of Ara Guler, a famous Turkish photographer. And when I was searching for him, I found this rather superb site for web-wandering through people and places in Turkey.

Love and Immigrants

I was thinking today ... if countries continue to tighten their immigration rules then it would be wise to also restrict unchaperoned international travel for residents of 'difficult to enter' countries, in the interests of cutting back on the number of permanent residents wanting to bring a foreigner home.

I'm slowly interviewing my way through my Nederlands class and discovering that women have given up incredible jobs, their own homes and the relevance of their university degree ... all for love. It's an interesting phenomena and surely one to be noted on Valentine's Day.

This year is the year of municipal, district and provincial elections in Belgium and although it's irrelevant at this level, i'm betting that 'the immigrant issue' will come up. I've already noticed that even during political 'down time', the Extreme Right send their exquisite pamphlets of poison with 'Stop Immigratie' on the front, next to ye olde burning car.

I can't remember the last time I burnt a car but being an immigrant ... well who can tell what dangerous potential lurks beneath the surface of this wandering woman.

I swear, I've only ever used the matches to light the gas cooker!

Anyway, needless to say I'm hoping for 100% fluency in Nederlands and the ability to launch my own counter-campaign in time to reply ... something along the lines of 'Keep your boys and girls at home if you don't want them bringing home stunning foreigners'.

It makes me smile to imagine the response this opposing campaign might elicit. We might even get five minutes peace from the shrill but vote-winning 'anti-immigrant'message.

Happy Valentine's Day ;)

A Story of Love ... or something

I was web wandering just now and found Desperately Wandering's site after reading through Mozza's blog.

DW had posted a NY Times IPod story that amused me.

Monday, February 13, 2006

World Press Photo Winners 2006

The photographs are stunning; sometimes shocking.
World Press began with a competition, and the competition is still at the core of the foundation's activities. Held annually, it creates an overview of how press photographers tackle their work worldwide. It is the only international event of this stature, not simply bringing together pictures from all parts of the globe but also reflecting trends and developments in photojournalism, and revealing how the press gives us the news.

A Moment in Nederlands Class

'Hush', I whispered to Emilia, the Romanian hairdresser I sit with in class.
She was torturing Kasia and I, counting down until class ended ... 60 minutes to go. They were ill with a cold and I was trying to function on the 3 hours sleep of last night.

When she recovered from laughing she explained.
'We hear only on film the way that you speak.'

On the bright side, she laughed less hysterically than when I mentioned Brad Pitt ... that time she made me repeat myself to Kasia, the Polish economist.

Ahhh there's nothing quite like having a Kiwi accent out here in the world.
Today Emilia consoled me through laughter, assuring me that Jose the Spaniard was so much worse with speaking ... so much worse.

Perhaps my visa application folder actually has 'speech impediment??!' stamped on the cover.

George Gideon ....

George Gideon ... was my grandfather.
He came to mind as I lay awake thinking about my 5 month wait for a long-stay residency permit in Belgium ... 5 months and still waiting for word from anyone. Yeah, it's on my mind in these days, it's 2am ... clearly it's on my mind. I'm not really a calvanist by inclination, I do miss having freedom of travel and the dignity of being able to earn my own money.

But why was I thinking of Grandad ?
Well when Grandad was 18 years old he joined the Otago Mounted Rifles back in New Zealand. He died at the age of 94 and I believe he was one of the last three Gallipoli veterans to die in New Zealand.

His regiment was involved in the August attacks on Sair Bair and Chunuk Bair but until I visited Gallipoli I had no idea about what that had involved.

As children we were told not to bother him with questions, that he had seen things that he had no desire to speak of ... and so we didn't ask because we couldn't imagine what he had done. Later, Dad said that Grandad had emphasised his desire to be cremated when he died. He had seen things that no one should see on those World War One battlefields.

Battlefields ... after the survivors were taken off Gallipoli, my Grandad's battalion were reunited with horses and shipped over to French Flanders to fight more bloody European battles so many thousands of miles from home.

Grandad loved horses and it must have been hard when the shell that injured him killed his horse but he was one of the lucky ones who came home at the end of the war ... deaf of course. Exploding shells and things.

Approximately 18,000 New Zealanders were killed in World War One when the population of the entire country was barely one million. Another 17,000 died in World War Two ... 35,000 killed and so many more wounded.

I wonder if Grandad would be surprised if I told him that I've been waiting 5 months for permission to reside in Europe. Mmmm, but perhaps not. He'd probably remember the English Generals back in Gallipoli. It was the one thing he did tell my brother ... he said, 'It was terrible, we fought for a hill and then the English Generals called us down saying that the hill didn’t matter anymore, that we should retreat.'

'The hill' ... Grandad was a great one for understating things.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Champagne and Snow

As I write this, the world outside my window is turning white however I am full of all the good things one finds at a Belgian brunch meeting ... pistolets, bacon, eggs, koffie koeken, champagne and coffee.

But besides the food, I met a freelance writer who had lived in San Francisco and traveled throughout South America. We talked of anthropology, politics and immigrants ...

But the big moment was a language moment. One of the odd things about learning the language of the world you're immersed in is that you are not so conscious of progress. At first all I knew was 'Ik hou van jou'. The translation - I love you - means that this phrase is of no use in my everyday life when I'm dealing with Dutch-speaking tram drivers and bookshop staff (although ... if did use it I'd be expecting free stuff).

Soon I had 'Dag' and 'Hoe gaat het?' in my vocabulary which took care of 'hello' and 'goodbye' and 'how are you?'

Slowly I surged on at the pace of a snail or so it seemed. Soon I could understand maybe 3 words per 100, so speeches and conversations remained fairly mysterious.

Today was a great moment in Di World ... I understood more than half of Gert's public presentation. For me, immersion language learning seems like being left at sea by my dive boat ... I tread water and hope I will float but more often than not there's only been this feeling of deep water and an empty horizon.

Today was a good day ... over 50% understanding.

People become stories and stories become understanding

Perhaps we are losing the ability to make things personal.

And perhaps the recent cartoon debacle was able to spiral out of control for this reason ... instead of being about an editor, a few cartoonists and individuals whose personal beliefs were injured by a thoughtless few - it has become about countries, about race and about religion ... the great depersonalizers, the place where the voice of the individual is lost in amongst the masses.

Kevin Sites made sense when he wrote 'The world becomes countries, the countries become people, the people become stories, the stories become understanding ... the world of stories becomes manageable.'

If we personalise things ... if we know the country (not what it did in the past or what it's rumoured to be), the people (not the stereotypes), their stories (not spin-doctoring) and if we try to understand it from our point of view (not the point of view we are driven towards) ... perhaps the direction the world is running in would be less about ego-driven, powerfully corrupt people guiding how we think and what we believe, and more about each individuals reality.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Day

We have Gert's children for a few days and so it goes that life slips gears as we adjust to living our lives around an 8 and a 10 year old. Breakfast is accompanied by television cartoons, dishes are done and the apartment is cleaned much more seriously somehow ...

There was the shopping and lunch with the incredibly grouchy 10 year old girl.

I put a new colour through my hair ... 'a change is as good as a holiday'. A lie, I would have preferred the holiday ... somewhere warm, with a sea and a mountain hmmm good air, a pile of books, some music and a comfortable bed.

I roasted a chicken stuffed full of herb bread without burning my hand ... put washing out on the new washing line, and avoided the study of Nederlands - arguing that my fluency could create more problems than Gert thinks it will solve.

And I read and I wrote in the spaces between everything.

Not such a bad day...

Bart Moeyaert, Antwerpen's Official City Poet

One of the things that I love about Antwerpen is the linguistic abilities of the majority of its inhabitants and when you add that together with the 165 nationalities found here, you have a melting pot of peoples and language.

The city had the first poem from Antwerpen's new city poet printed as a door-hanging pamphlet in six languages ... Nederlands, French, Arabic, Yiddish, Polish and English.

Nieuwstad 14

I was a guest who stayed too long and sounded different,
but went quite nicely with the room. Not unlike
a floor lamp that eventually received the key.
I was not unsociable, and surrounding me
the table was less empty. But still no one refrained
from sometimes pointing to my tongue, my ground.
Then unexpectedly they called me other,
sent me packing, when I'd just begun
to grow accustomed to the air and thinking
that I'd won a heart as well. But nothing could be
further from the truth. From time to time
my chair was looked at, sounding out if I
had started to take root. I didn't speak and thought
the screeching of the gulls an ill portent. What was it
that I sat inside and yet still stood outside.

Bart Moeyaert, 2006

Bart's website offers a four language choice and is worth visiting.

BBC on Bloggers

The Blogging Journalist posted a link to an interesting article written by Paul Reynolds, the World Affairs Correspondent for the BBC, about the role of bloggers and their challenges to news presented by the mainstream media.

Life in Baghdad

Riverbend doesn't publish so often these days but I just sat reading her latest posting on life in Baghdad ... The Raid

Friday, February 10, 2006


I love reading and have done for as long as I can remember. And so it goes that I enjoy reading blogs and when there's time I go web wandering, looking for authors telling their stories out in the world.

Today I found a series of blogs written by people like the pilot in Kinshasa, a woman also working in Kinshasa and another in Afghanistan.

And then there was this blogger, writing out of Afghanistan and she has a good selection of blog links near the bottom of her page taking you to people working in countries like Central Asia, the Caucases, the NIS and the CIS, South Asia, East Asia and the Americas.

It was another world ... an interesting world really.

Today ...

Today is has been approximately 22 weeks since I filed my application for a long stay visa in Belgium.

I applied here because it saved me an unbelievable amount of money and because the lovely woman at the District House told me it would only take 6-8 weeks to process. Unfortunately, my file sat there for one month before winging its way to Brussels for processing.

Meanwhile I cancelled my flight home for the moment, knowing I would be legal and working and able to go in the mid-2006.

13 weeks later I trotted back into the District House and talked to a lovely man about my application papers. He discovered that my file hadn't been sent off to Brussels until 11 November and said, with a grimace that made his statement less believable, 6-8 weeks should see me processed.

Today it's 9 weeks since I saw him (22 weeks in total since it all began)
All remains silent.
So here I am, in-process ... unable to earn money or leave the country.

Somehow it doesn't really seem like a champagne moment to me.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Haggis Bashing Update ...

I am immodestly posting to let you know that I hit a 917 and registered as 5th on the Haggis Bashing board.

Thus satisfied, I popped a plastic glove over my little burned fingers and went off and did all the dishes (possibly because Gert told me I didn't need to - how disturbingly stubborn is that) ... I do believe, that I might just be owed a big bottle of wine

Oh ... you want an update on my burned fingers?
Okay, well there are gazillions of little pinprick-like blisters under the skin. Sometimes they sting however I can still type, and play Bash the Haggis. They fascinate me, they're something to study if Nederlands class becomes difficult, I've never seen anything like them ... then again, I've never been quite so stupid with steam before.

Two hours of Nederlands study has been promised to me tonight ... ahhh, nothing like living with a 'native'. Dammit!

What is a Chapati Mystery ...?

I've been blog wandering a little and I'm quite delighted with what I found.

Chapati Mystery is a blog written by Manan Ahmed, who is writing his dissertation in the history of South Asia and Islam at the University of Chicago and blogs under the sobriquet Sepoy.

He writes, none of the views expressed on this blog can be ascribed to his employer, his university, his landlord, the teenage mutant ninja turtles or leo strauss.

He has always had the tendency to poke authority in the eye and run like hell. While not the bravest of tactics, this has ensured his absence from Gitmo. He loves history, sometimes in a creepy way. His posts are often smug and superior in tone but you should forgive him. He is just an academic, after all.

Di's Antwerpen Life ... a sampling

It felt a little like starring in one of those 'Did you hear the joke about the Irish man, the English man and the Scot' jokes ... however we were 'the Greek, the Pole, the Romanian and the Kiwi.

I had Nederlands class this morning and we were given instructions to 'talk' in groups of four. So we did, although when the subject got too interesting we'd quietly slip back into English ... It's not that we're bad but there are many many things that can't be discussed in Nederlands when you are only halfway through 1.2.

Last night was running class ... I'm still loving it and found myself running in the middle of the pack (which means very little in terms of real runners, as we're all beginners) however it was an improvement for me.

The weather of the last 24 hours is worth mentioning ... we've had a revolving menu of wind, rain, snow, sunshine, wind, grey clouds, blue skies, rain ... oh, and did I mention the wind?

Yesterday I spent the day emailing people for information and typing up the NZIB Newsletter for Kiwi Expats. I met some really interesting people along the way and found this rather superb career service over in Brussels. It's called Focus and they offer a variety of services to the international community in Belgium. They describe themselves as being a not-for-profit membership-based career resource centre in Belgium open to all nationalities. The Focus mission is to promote individual success by providing resources and support for personal and professional development. It's well worth exploring.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Haggis Bashing

I'm going to blame Sal for this one ...

I resisted for days, ignoring while people talked of high scores and haggis bashing.

Finally, one day, it just got too much, I had to go look.

I'm sorry.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Di On Destruction

Things are hotting up in my domestic life ... literally.

It seems I have moved on from peanut butter jars (although that's probably guilt about the wholesale destruction of a product that Sal gets from missionaries, on a good day). But on escalating destruction ... perhaps it's more about scale, there's not enough glass.

Tonight I was removing the lid of the big brand-new glass roasting dish, wanting to take the roast potatoes and sweet potatoes to the table ... and out came the steam ... so much steam. Not wanting to add the brand new glass roasting dish lid to the list of things that I have broken, I held on.

Steam burns are so nasty. I thought it wasn't so bad, I thought cold water would fix everything ... I even entertained the thought I could tough it out however I was so wrong! Four burnt fingers on my right hand just isn't funny, and the cream Gert insisted on going out to get is burning like acid.

Sigh, I'm a big baby.

Did I break the big roasting dish lid?
Of course not, that pile of shattered glass in the kitchen was only the much smaller lid on the carrots and peas ...

Of course, typing with one's right thumb and left hand is kind of interesting but it distracts me from the stinging ouchiness. Gert had a meeting so he's not available to minister to me.

Poor me.

Global Voices

The View From Fez site had a link to an interesting site called Global Voices. They describe their goal as seeking to amplify, curate and aggregate the global conversation online - with a focus on countries and communities outside the U.S. and Western Europe. We are committed to developing tools, institutions and relationships that will help all voices everywhere to be heard.


I gave up and climbed out of bed at 2.35a.m., curled up on the couch in the lounge and read the last pages of'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'. I enjoyed it, as did Joseph Heller who wrote, 'A wonderful, hypnotic novel of fabulous scope and tremendous iridescent charm'. Louis de Bernieres not only wove a story about the inhabitants of the small Greek Island of Cephallonia during world war 2, he also created one of the most powerful images of starving, stinking, rotting, freezing, terrified, shell-shocked soldiers I've ever read.

Robert Fisk wrote of the sanitised edited images we see. 'American television, meanwhile, continues to present war as a bloodless sandpit in which the horrors of conflict — the mutilated bodies of the victims of aerial bombing, torn apart in the desert by wild dogs — are kept off the screen. Editors in New York and London make sure that viewers' "sensitivities" don't suffer, that we don't indulge in the "pornography" of death (which is exactly what war is) or "dishonor" the dead whom we have just killed.
Our prudish video coverage makes war easier to support, and journalists long ago became complicit with governments in making conflict and death more acceptable to viewers. Television journalism has thus become a lethal adjunct to war

Writing this made me go searching for the words I grew up with back home in New Zealand ... 'Lest We Forget' and every Anzac Day we'd remember.

Lest we forget ...
I had always thought it was about not forgetting the soldiers who died but perhaps these are what we should never forget.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Kiwi Speak, with Definitions

I tested Gert on some of these ... much laughter ensued as he failed to guess the meaning of a large majority of these special 'made in New Zealand' words and phrases. You can find out more than you possibly want to know here.

A sample ...?
bloke: usually a man, and often used when referring to a stranger as in, "That bloke, Joe Blow, is a really nice guy once you get to know him".
blow me down: expression of surprise, as in; "Well! Blow me down, I didn't know that."
Bob's your Uncle: roughly translates to 'there ya go - that's all there is to it!' Just press this big red button that says 'Launch Missile', and "Bob's your uncle".
bonk: to have sex with
lift: elevator
lolly: candy
loo: bathroom
plod: friendly term for local policeman
pong: bad smell
rark up: give somebody a good telling off
rattle your dags: hurry up; get a move on. And from Jeff Law...The expression 'Rattle your dags' reputedly refers to a somewhat mucky sheep 'rattling it's dags (dried excretia hanging from the wool)' when running!
vegemite: spread for toast or bread. Indescribable, but missed by many expat Kiwi's. Bill Tabb describes it as... "A spread the color of dark molasses, the consistency of cold honey and the flavor of yeasty soy sauce. A flavor that is acquired, and quite good on warm soft pretzels here in California."
wet blanket: Someone who spoils the fun of others; someone who doesn't get into the "swing" of things, particularly at a social occasion.
hard case: joker; comedian.
hard yakka: hard work, associated with labouring.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Robert Fisk

Okay I confess, today was a terribly cold rainy day here in Belgium.
I stayed home and read a lot hence the record number of postings ...

Just one more ...Robert Fisk was interviewed on television tonight ... Gert spotted the interview just after I confessed to picking up (sigh, and putting down) two of Fisk's books ... 'Pity the Nation - Lebanon at War' and 'The Great War for Civilisation - The Conquest of the Middle East'.

That day I noted their details, knowing I'll go back to get them when I'm legal and working again ... the usual.

The interview was interesting, revealing a man who seemed sure of himself and yet a man who was visibly affected when talking about whether he had made any difference with his years of war reporting. He had a way of making things clear ...

I went searching online, as is my habit and found a site that is useful if you're curious about him and his truth and reality. Robert Fisk

Tonight he talked of everything from the way dialogue has been designed for discussing September 11 to the everyday reality of Iraqi deaths and the fact that the American and British military personnel forbade journalists access to information like that found at the Iraqi Body Count site

I found the bodycount site due to discovering the life and death of a rather interesting woman named Marla Ruzicka

Mmmmm, and so one things leads to another ... the world becomes countries, the countries become people, the people become stories, and stories become understanding to quote Kevin Sites

Paris, A Photo a Day

I discovered a delicious blog if you like Paris, photography, and enjoy reading of an interesting life ... It's called Paris Daily. Eric introduces himself as a friendly Parisian who posts a new photo of Paris each day.

Vive Eric!


Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
Jean-Paul Sartre
French author & existentialist philosopher (1905 - 1980)

The Journey is the Destination

So goes the defining quote associated with Dan Eldon: a photo journalist who was stoned to death by a mob reacting to the United Nations bombing raid on the suspected headquarters of General Mohammed Farah Aidid in Somalia, July 1993.

He was only twenty-two when he died but already he had quite a body of work behind him, both as a war photographer and as someone who had kept increasingly complex series of journals from a very young age.
After his death, his mother chose to publish a selection from his journals in a hardcover book titled 'The Journals of Dan Eldon'. I came across it years ago and have carried it with me where ever I've lived, finding it inspiring both for myself and for young people who need to see what is possible, in terms of narrating and/or living their own lives. Dan's life and ideas continue to inspire an international audience due to the efforts of those running the website dedicated to him.

An interesting man; an interesting life.

Southern Man

I've spent most of the morning listening to Turkish music ... needing respite, or perhaps a simple return to my roots, I put my version of New Zealand's National 'Anthem' on the stereo ... 'anthem' because New Zealanders sing along so very enthusiastically. Okay, so they sing along at rugby matches, specially Otagggoooooooooooooooo matches, but it's delicious and very Kiwi.
You want the lyrics ... okay, sure.

Some of the boys
Got it into their heads
About moving up North
To follow the bread
That ain't for me
That kind of thing just don't rate
This is one southern boy
Who ain't crossin' the Strait.

Now I might not be rich
But I like things down here
We got the best looking girls
And the best damn beer
So you can keep your Queen City
With your cocktails and cool
Given me a beer in a seven
With the boys shooting pool

I'm a Southern Man
Well I'm Southern bred
I got the South in my blood
And I'll be here till I'm damn well dead

'Cos here we just know
What makes a Southern boy tick
And it ain't margaritas
With some fruit on a stick
Well it might not be fancy
But when you come from down here
You know you got the best girl
And you got the best beer.

(Produced and sung by Murray Grindlay)

New Zealand's South Islanders like to think they're a special bunch - and we are really. Some might say parochial after reading the lyrics, with translations surely required for those outside the bubble that it my little native island.

'Up North' is reference to the North Island of NZ, where the vast majority of the population live. However, 'down South' is Lord of the Rings territory... mostly, and so very very beautiful.
'the Strait' is Cook Strait ... the body of water between the North and South Islands. It's a stunning stretch of water to travel if you're ever down that way.
'the best looking girls' ... well, that goes without saying, she writes modestly.
'the best damn beer' is a reference to Speights beer ... pride of the South since 19..' Wow, that just slipped out as if I was channeling some Crocodile Dundee-sounding Kiwi bloke (I know he's an Australian but these guys sounded 'that rough'). There was an extensive advertising campaign, as evidenced by the photographs here. They seem to have moved on as I couldn't find a link to it on the Speights website.
'Queen City' ... is almost undoubtedly a play on words but 'the Queen City' is Auckland, viewed with suspicion by those in the South. The often-made comment being that nothing exists for Aucklanders beyond their Bombay Hills.
'Give me a beer in a seven' ... a seven ounce glass (I didn't know I knew that).

Anyway, a small, slightly mad glimpse of what made me the charming creature I am today ... ;)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Crossing the Bridge - Istanbul

We went to the movies tonight ...it was bliss.
The Turkish Art Film Festival has come to Antwerpen. Gert came home with exciting news on Thursday ... I thought 'I'm legal!' But no, the Turkish movies had come to town and we were going to them and it was almost as good.

Anyway, tonight's movie was Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul" is a fascinating trip through the music scene of Istanbul, where east meets west and past and present come together. Our guide was Alexander Hacke (bass player with Einstürzende Neubauten). Hacke owns a mobile recording studio where he composes all varieties of music, from classical Arabesque to Indie rock and rap. Among the performers seen in the film are the popular Sezen Aku and Orhan Genebay, Maverick rocker Erkin Koray and the Kurdish singer Aynur. In addition to these talented artists, we also meet a new generation of musicians such as fusion DJ Orient Express, digital maestro Mercan Dede and groups like Baba Zula, Duman and Replikas. "Crossing the Bridge" is not simply a music documentary: the camera moves through the streets and along the river of Istanbul, peeks into buildings and alleyways and around corners. "Crossing the Bridge" is a beautiful portrait of the bubbling cultural life of this metropolis. From the director of "Gegen die Wand".

I miss that city so much sometimes.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Kitchen Appliances

Odd things are happening in my blog comment box ... kitchen appliances seem to be making a general application to have their names recognised and respected ... or at least I think that's the idea behind Ralf the dishwasher and Steve the tumble-dryer's appearances.

Mmmmmm, I had to examine my conscience and there I discovered that I've been predisposed to discriminate against all appliances dedicated to the long dark night of my soul ... as in when I was a proper housewife.

My confession goes further ... I have never cared enough about any 'appliance' to name it. Clearly Steve and Ralf may find this emotionally damaging however that was my truth and having evolved over time, I think I can offer them my sincere apologies for being careless in implying madness on the part of their owner/operator and offer them full partcipation rights in Comment.

Appliances have rights too ...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Peanut Butter and Me ...

I've got something going with Belgian peanut butter ... I just broke my 3rd jar in 4 months.

I've never had any problems with peanut butter before; not in New Zealand, not in Turkey but here it's become a bit of a joke, kind of ...

It comes in a short squat glass jar and usually, having tested this somewhat extensively, when it's dropped on the floor the glass shatters. Today, as a variation, it landed on its plastic lid ... which shattered.

Actually, there was a 4th jar, dropped as I was lifting it off the table. It survived intact but landed on the side of a plate and took a big piece out of that.

"Hey Gert, guess what I did today ..."

Hmmmmm, and then there's the dinner set. I've pretty much chipped every plate in the 'made in Portugal' set. Not deliberately. I suggested that perhaps I am suffering from princess syndrome; a rare condition contracted by those who were princesses in a previous life and came through to this one without servants.

Or perhaps my clumsy bear paws don't work so well ...

Human Trafficking

I was wandering through Erkan's blog today when my attention was caught by this sex trafficking article.

I remember reading a whisper of an advertising campaign that wanted to educate people that sex with trafficked women was rape ... oddly enough, it's not a message I've seen developed ...

Anyway, I went searching for the author of the official information in the article ... and what I found was incredibly disturbing. If you go to this site and select the Second Anual Report on Victims of Trafficking in South-Eastern Europe 2005. It's a PDF file. Third down, the Trafficking Victim Profile also makes sobering reading.

Although the article talks of Turkey, human trafficking is also a massive problem in EU countries and unlike Turkey, European clients of brothels are doing nothing to stop the process. This report talks of the Unlikely Heroes in Turkey. Marielle Lindstrom, Head of the UN's International Organization for Migration in Turkey said, "I've been very surprised, we haven't noticed this anywhere in Europe". Since the hotline started, 74 per cent of tip-offs have come from men: customers who have learned to spot the difference between a professional prostitute and someone who's been forced into it.

It Could Have Been A Mocking

Sometimes things inexplicably go wrong for me ... and having a large number of friends who enjoy mocking, I find it wise to apply caution to which of my stories get out. Yesterday had the makings of one of those stories ...

Life has been reasonably serious and straight-forward here in Antwerpen. No one has fallen past my balcony screaming yet, as happened in Istanbul. I haven't had any problems with exploding light switches and issues with communciating my dilemna to elderly non-English speaking neighbours ... I haven't had to find a fusebox down in a basement in this organised Belgian world.

No wheels have fallen off taxis between the airport and home, and as yet I haven't ridden in a bus chasing another bus in an effort to engage in furious argument with that other bus each time they stop at lights.

In fact, it could be said that life here is just about learning Nederlands, learning how to run and wondering if the Immigration Department will ever process me (5 months in process next week) - it would appear that New Zealand has moved to a high point on the spawning of terrorists threat list.

Mmmm, or that's how it feels on the -4 degree celsius foggy days in the middle of winter. However would I complain ...?
No no no .... being unable to work for so long can surely only strengthen my character and that of my Belgian man. And who needs hair salons, new clothes and the freedom to travel ... hah to all that, my ancestors were rumoured to be calvanistic in outlook ... I too can step up and be tested.

But back to yesterday ... I caught all my connections to Brussel. The tram, the train to Brussel Nord, and the airport however ... Alison smsed me en route from Antwerpen, asking where I was. I smsed back that I had been wondering, as we were stopped at an unscheduled station. I carefully typed in the name Schaarbeck.

The Canucks left for the airport, a pick-up point that is close to their home. I caught the next train effortlessly ... and that's not always a given, I have been known to occasionally reveal a geographical ineptitude that leaves me breathless and quite quite lost.

But it was that final train, the Airport Express, that behaved very badly ... it was slow, stopping here and there and generally not living up to its name. But that was okay, I had a book, I could sit there all day. Alison smsed, 'Where are you, Andrew is parked in a no parking zone' I looked around while writing that my 'Express wasn't expressing' and what did I see out the window but SCHAARBECK again.

Dammit, accidently catching a train back to Antwerpen was going to take some living down and Alison mocks, as does Andrew ... I looked around the carriage, saw a woman with a suitcase and smsed back that I thought I was close but the train was so slow ...

Okay, so it turns out that the train does travel back through Schaarbeck, I just hadn't noticed before, and why would I really.

I had a lovely day with the Canucks. Alison is a superb photographer and we spent quite some time selecting the best of her work, and drinking a little French wine as the day wore on.

I missed running last night but have an appointment with a running friend at 1.30pm. I'm not sure what I was thinking with that, as it's unbelievably cold out there ... so foggy, with thick white ice all over the ground.

Tot ziens.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Off to Brussels Today ...

Brussels ...? A small village nearby really.
To a house with 3 cats upstairs, a St Bernard downstairs and a donkey in the field behind the house. I have an appointment with the Canuck

The world outside the big windows here in Antwerpen is blanketed by fog and it's -4 degrees C as I write, so you can imagine that I'm fairly excited about heading out into it.

Mmmmm, and traditionally one or two things usually go a little bit wrong on this journey ... ahhh the excitement of being myself in the world. Here's to not ending up in Amsterdam.

Tot straks.