Friday, June 30, 2006

An Author Thing

An interesting thing .

Actually no, having played with it a few times, I find it sublime.

Thanks to Sunset Shazz .

What Shannon and Di did ...

Yesterday was one of 'those' days ...

Shannon wandered in from Brussels, making me laugh even as I was on the tram going to meet her train. She smsed me, something like 'Is Malines Mechelen in French?'

I laughed outloud on the tram, wondering where she might be and had to write back 'I've got no idea but don't get off there', highlighting the problem of a country where every town has two names.

She smsed a few minutes later, the ticket inspector had clicked her ticket, she was on the right train ... and so, in just two sms messages, you have the constant dilemma of the expatriate-type.

Where am I?
Am I on the right train?

So we arrived in the same place as per plan and came home on the tram. We hadn't seen each other in a while, so we caught up on news, talking of her studies and my plans for the future ... that kind of stuff.

After lunch, I have no real idea of why we decided we might move the 2 couches here in the lounge but we did. It wasn't straight-forward but it was done and seemed like the new arrangement might work.

Looking around we realised that moving the couches meant moving the dining table ... and so we did, taking off the blue tablecloth revealing the woodfinish.

But moving the table meant moving the computer desks ... and the file cupboard and that large plant on the hearth.

And it was all looking rather nice when Shannon the decorator noticed the lavender plants on the balcony. We wandered out, she had a few ideas as we put up the table and chairs then dug out the large sun umbrella.

Inspired by her vision we went to the plant shop and chose a few 1 euro plants, in flower, and carried them home ... repotting immediately. She loaded some onto a ricketty wooden set of steps and voila, the balcony was transformed in ways I hadn't envisaged.

Needless to say, I was easily convinced when she suggested we lift the small fridge up onto the freezer, freeing up space. It looked good too.

So ... Gert had left his apartment at 8am with no idea of my plans, since there weren't any ... and his face was a delight when he walked in.
He loves it all.

Shannon and Gabe stayed for one of those lovely hot summer evening dinners, where you eat out on the balcony, drinking that last bottle of Spanish white wine and telling stories of times past, laughing like children sometimes ... Shannon is master of a certain storytelling genre.

A friend back in New Zealand once told me that she changed her house almost weekly as a way to stand being stuck in one place ... as I look out over the lounge this morning, I can see what she means ... and so it is that we travelled yesterday, changing place.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Poetry Thursday

This week's Poetry Thursday idea was that there are phrases we say over and over. Each day brings its own comfortable (and not-so-comfortable) routine. This week's (completely and totally optional) idea is to bring poetry into the everyday.

Think about the roles you play in your life and the phrases you use in these roles. Are there certain sentences you find yourself saying over and over? Phrases that tumble out of your mouth frequently? Use one (or more) of these phrases as a starting point for a poem. You could incorporate them into your poem or use them as a prompt to start writing.

a poem from a bad day in a country not my own

i have become an ‘in-process immigrant’
a life different to all i have known before.
i’m an undesirable now
a 'stay-at-home huisvrouw' too.

i have become the 'i'm sorry' mother daughter sister friend
the one who says, ‘i’m sorry, i’ll be home as soon as they allow me to work,
i often add, ‘but they told me something different when i applied for visas …
i expected to be home in january.

sometimes i whine now,
gnashing my teeth on occasion.
and yes, perhaps i am becoming less.
we shall see…

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Come Dance All Around the World...

I found this youtube over at Andrea's site and watched Matt dance his way round the world.

Quirky amusing ...

Not only that, I worked out the technology for loading it onto my blog ... it's simpler than I imagined (just before you imagine me clever).

Kevin Sites: The Soccer War

Kevin Sites writes an interesting diary entry on the problems of being a war journalist.

An extract: I know what a body looks like after it's been hit with mortar fragments, improvised bombs, 7.62 rounds from an AK-47 and 5.56 rounds from an M16 or an M4. I know what a human head looks like after it's exploded from a sniper shot. I've seen bodies burned, blown apart, submerged in cars and wrapped around tall trees from the force of a tsunami.

Here's the problem, as any soldier, police homicide detective, doctor or coroner will tell you: after a while that pit in your stomach you first feel when you confront the aftermath of violent death goes away. The flood of emotions, the pondering, "what if it were my child, parent, friend, me?" stops. Soon you feel nothing at all.

When the security guard pulled out the stainless steel tables from the morgue vault holding the bodies of the children, I felt nothing. Well, not exactly. I felt bad, and correctly so, that I was part of a media horde descending on people during their most intimate moments of grief. I justified it, as I have had to in the past, with the belief that the world needs to understand the victimizations of war.

During a discussion about this occupational hazard, a close friend told me that the numbness was the survival instinct needed to do the job at the moment that counts, the strength necessary to hold it together to complete the task.

And while that may be true, there are times, like when my camera flash is going off within the grimy, white tile room of that Kashmir morgue, that I wish I felt something — something for those children still dressed like children, in T-shirts, jeans and sneakers despite their shredded bodies and burnt faces.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Wandering in Flanders Field

I spent the day wandering over farmland exploring WWI battlefields in Mesen, buying farm fresh eggs and strawberries.

I accepted an invitation to coffee in the farmhouse kitchen, adding fresh cow milk to that coffee and listening while the Mesen dialect Dutch flowed round me ...

It was a good day.

Monday, June 26, 2006

In Flanders Fields

Tuesday I'm off to Flanders Fields and will wander the old battlefields where the Kiwis fought during World War One.

I'm involved in a rather delicious project that comes together in time for the 90th commemorations of the Battle of Passendaele and Mesen next year.

We will be walking over a landscape that contains an unimaginable tonnage of unexploded shells ... oddly enough, I find this thought rather sobering.

A late summer might mean the Flanders Fields poppies are still out ...

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Prospect Magazine

Erkan linked to an interesting article in a magazine I hadn't heard of ...
Prospect magazine was launched in October 1995 by its present editor David Goodhart, a senior correspondent for the Financial Times, and chairman Derek Coombs. The aim was to launch a monthly that was "more readable than the Economist, more relevant than the Spectator, more romantic than the New Statesman," as Sir Jeremy Isaacs subsequently described Prospect.

Prospect has acquired a reputation as the most intelligent magazine of current affairs and cultural debate in Britain. Both challenging and entertaining, the magazine seeks to make complex ideas accessible and enjoyable by commissioning the best writers, editing them vigorously and packaging their work in a well designed and illustrated monthly.

Sabrina Ward Harrison, Artist

I discovered the website of the woman who wrote Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself. The book is a multimedia journal that captures and records the life of a young woman and artist. The text from the book is intended to be experienced with the art.


The great American poet Walt Whitman said that there is a time we must "wash the gum from our eyes and dress ourselves for the dazzle of the light." He looked at men and women struggling with their lives and said, "Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore, now I will you to be a bold swimmer, to jump off into the midst of the sea, rise again, not to me, shout! and laughingly dash with your hair."

I'm feeling rather disheveled and crooked (I seem to be seeping out at the edges). I am Sabrina Ward Harrison. I am twenty-one. This is my book. I often feel an overwhelming pressure to "have it all together." What is "it"? I feel young. I am young.

Childrens book artist and author Maurice Sendak described his creative process as a "descent into limbo." This describes my entire life lately. The more I look around and listen I realize that I'm not alone. We are all facing choices that define us. No choice. However messy is without importance in the overall picture of our lives. We all at our own age have to claim something, even if it's only our own confusion. I am in the middle of growing up and into myself.

This book is my life in progress. A growing expedition through the tangled and unfilled-in parts of understanding my life, my truth and myself.

I want to share it.

Welcome inside.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Gnawa Diffusion, Musicians

Identity cannot be determined by decree. It comes from the very soul of the population.
Amezigh Kateb

Samir, over at The View from Fez wrote up one of Morocco's top groups, Gnawa Diffusion.

I was curious and went searching for what I could find in English and listened to a little of the music ... loved it. There was this interview but Samir has written them up well, why not give you a taste of what made me curious to know more.

The story of Gnawa Diffusion goes back to 1992 when eight talented musicians, mastering different music styles, toured France and neighbouring countries and performed in bars and streets.

Headed by Amezigh Kateb, son of the famous Algerian writer Kateb Yacine, Gnawa Diffusion have acquired fame in France, the country which has had a long tradition of producing bands specialised in ‘métissage' (musical fusion).

The members of the band have succeeded in fusing their individual influences into a collective sound. They mixed the traditional music of Gnawa with different styles, including rap, raggae, jazz and rai.

Amazigh Kateb seems like an interesting man who is making a difference with the group Gnawa Diffusion. Samir wrote: Amezigh, the leader of the group, arrived in France in 1988 at the age of 16. He has been closely involved with the struggle to defend immigrants' rights and eradicate racial prejudice.

There was another interview here and in it he explains: The problematics of language have been an issue since the birth of the Ghanawa Diffusion. This brings me back to an incident that took place in the French city of Lyon during a celebration of Eid al-Fitr (Lesser Bairam).

After the concert, a young man came to me and said that he did not remember a better conversation or happier moment with his mother than during the concert, when she kept calling upon him to translate sections of my music into French or English. This is what we hope for: forcing our Arab and French audiences to interact.

My writing in colloquial Arabic, the language of my childhood, started during my secondary school days when I defied the teachers. When I started singing here in France, a French musical producer asked me to write in French because of market demands, a request that I turned down despite the difficulties that faced our first album, “ Algeria,” in 1996.

I found this quote elsewhere and it seemed a good note to end on ... a hopeful note.

I sincerely believe that culture in general, and music in particular, are our weapons for a better future.
Amazigh Kateb.

Teaching Resources

I receive a weekly 'Quick Resource' email from - a stunning resource for teachers of English. The worksheets cover diverse topics ... using the newspaper, human rights in language teaching, blogging, poetry and language teaching, the communicative approach, idioms and Earth Day to name just a few.

This week, I followed his resource link home to Global Dimension , a unique website for teachers. A helpful guide to books, videos, posters and websites which bring a global dimension to teaching. From climate change to poverty, water to fair trade, you can find resources for all age groups and subject areas. The site also includes other features which will help you develop a global dimension within your school curriculum, such as teaching ideas, curriculum information and contact details for local centres and school speaker services.

Another Quick Resource sheet offered up Icebreakers , games that get your class ready to learn.

A useful resource ...

Poynter Online

Poynter Online regularly email interesting articles.

The latest interesting thing is this article titled 'Fifty Writing Tools: What's in Store'.

They explain. For the last two years, these 50 essays describing writing strategies have lived on the Poynter Web site, helping journalists improve their craft. Your support for these writing tools has led to two exciting developments.

The publisher Little, Brown plans a Sept. 1, 2006 launch for the book version: Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. At the request of the publisher, we'll soon be taking these 50 essays down from the Poynter site.

They are yours to peruse until July 1. In their place will appear something now: Writing Tools -- The Blog. I'll use the blog to discuss examples of the writing tools, both old and new, and to create new ways to guide and inspire writers.

5.30am and ...

It all begins around 5.30am here in Antwerp.

I'm not sure what wakes me first ... the Turtle Doves or Pigeons cooing on the balcony where I feed them during the day, or the mosquito. There's usually just one mosquito but surely that's all it takes to wake a village.

Instruments of torture, with their distinctive whine ... too small to focus on with eyes still needing sleep. And then, on these hot summer mornings, you become aware of the fact that even a sheet is too warm ...

You're beyond ignoring the mosquito but you can't deal with it without getting up and now you're awake you realise the bite on your left hand is already throbbing and there may be a bite on your right foot too.

5.30am and the birds are out there doing their thing. The Turtle Doves, along with a Magpie, a Pigeon and 2 Jackdaws are drawing up ownership lines. The sun is just rising and the little forest below your window is alive with birdsong ... you can already hear the motorway hum a few kilometres away.

A coffee with toast may repair things, you doubt it but at 5.46am you really have nothing to lose ...

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Fun Never ends in the 21st century ....

Der Spiegel writes about the fact that: Russia is constructing a floating nuclear power plant for remote regions that could provide energy for coastal cities. Environmentalists warn of a catastrophe at sea. And nuclear proliferation experts point out that the ship would use weapons-grade uranium to generate electricity.

Elif Shafak, Writer

Gert's Belgian newspaper had an interview with Elif Shafak , a Turkish writer who was born in France and spent her teenage years in Spain before returning to Turkey. She's an interesting woman, with five novels, the most recent written in English.

I went searching for more on her and discovered this essay which gives you a taste of her mind.

One image that is utterly difficult to put into words when writing in Turkey and in Turkish is the image of the threshold. A zone that belongs to neither "here" nor "there", neither "inside" nor "outside", neither "East" nor "West"… a space of ambiguity and in-betweendom is the most difficult to describe for a writer.

She ends her essay with something that I found quite beautiful ...
One can be multicultural, multilingual and yes, multifaith.
Writing fiction necessitates thresholds. Literature thrives upon the desire to transcend, to move far beyond our boundaries – be it in terms of national, ethnic, religious or gender identities. The ability to transform, to be as flexible and fluid as water, to step onto the thresholds…

People Series, 5 New Zealand

New Zealand Wine

You've got to love the people from the land downunder ...

Imagine a "wine with a whiff of "cat's pee on a gooseberry bush".

And quickly, I paste another section of text from the article Sal sent me, For the record, the "cat's pee on a gooseberry bush" description -- usually attributed to British wine critic Oz Clarke -- was a compliment.

Sal said he would be sticking to Spanish wines but I lived in Marlborough a while, the Cloudy Bay winery was a short bike ride away and I remember falling in love with one of their white wines ... Pelorus, the premium sparkling wine there.

The pale straw colour and aromas of ripe citrus fruits indicate the chardonnay origins of Pelorus nv. A bouquet of apple and lemon complements fresh bready notes derived from two years bottle ageing on lees. The deliciously crisp palate displays toasty, creamy complexity, enhanced by a lingering nutty finish.

Winemaker, Alan Scott said, Demand for sauvignon blanc wines in New Zealand appears to be flattening off but foreign markets -- which in the year to June 2005 took 50 million litres of New Zealand wine or over half of total production -- still cannot get enough.

"The US is desperate to get sauvignon blanc, it's just scary stuff".

I rest my case Mr DeTraglia ;)

The photo ... taken when I lived in Marlborough, surrounded by Montana, Cloudy Bay, Allan Scott and many other delicious wineries. It was stunning country.

Dinner in Brussels

Last night we drove over to Brussels to have dinner with two kiwis and their Belgian and French partners.

It was a lovely evening of memory and connections ... New Zealanders do that, we're kind of cute actually. There may some truth in the rumour that we all know each other ... there's surely less than 6 degrees of seperation.

It turned out that the woman from Greymouth had a cousin who had married into the same family as my cousin and that her parents had retired to the same tiny village in Canterbury as my uncle and aunt. But of course ... there's only 3/4's of a million of us in the South Island of New Zealand.

I love the connections, and the familiarity that you find in your own people while you're travelling. Both women have lived in Belgium forever.

Those Belgians are tricky, they pick up New Zealanders in places like Istanbul, Saudi Arabia and on overland trips that begin in Nepal then bring us all home to the wee country in the heart of Europe.

We drank Belgian beer with our roast lamb and potatoes, mashed carrots and parsnips. There was pavlova and whipped cream with oodles of fruit, a cheese board and French wine, conversation flowed easily and I was home again for a while.

I love finding these little pockets of home ...

Toots Thielemans, Musician

I'm listening to one more for the road as I work here today. Gert brought it home last night and I was curious.

The sun is shining again and the temperature is rising and this music suits the day perfectly.

Needing to know more about the harmonica playing Toots Thielemans who features on every track I went web-wandering and learned that Toots is Belgian, born in Brussels back in 1922. In 1952 he immigrated to the States and it seems the rest is history.

Quincy Jones said: 'I can say without hesitation that Toots is one of the greatest musicians of our time. On his instrument he ranks with the best that jazz has ever produced. He goes for the heart and makes you cry. We have worked together more times than I can count and he always keeps me coming back for more ...'

There were a few samples from the American press ... just to give you an idea.

SF ChronicleAn extraordinary improviser who can make the harmonica sing like Bird” “Nobody in Jazz plays melody with more grace and feeling than Toots Thielemans"

Washington Post
“This unassuming Belgian harmonica master “has wooed the world with a small instrument that, in his cupped hands at least, produces a hugely seductive sound”

Boston Globe
Jean Baptiste “ Toots” Thielemans is the “fountainhead of the modern jazz harmonica”

And so now you know ...

People Series, 4 New Zealand

People Series, 3 New Zealand

Shashi Tharoor, Writer and ...

I never thought of it but who will replace United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan when he retires in December?

Der Spiegel interviewed one possible contender for the crown. Intriguingly enough, Shashi Tharoor is a critically acclaimed author and the present head of public relations for the UN.

I liked his reply to this question:
SPIEGEL: You're a fulltime diplomat but also a celebrated writer. Are you still able to balance the two roles?

Tharoor: I find it increasingly hard to juggle the two. First the evenings vanished, then the weekends. I began a novel three Christmases ago, but I haven't touched it since. It's not just time that you need, but also a space inside your head to create an alternative universe -- one populated with characters and issues and situations that are as real to you as the ones you encounter in real life. If I win, I will have to stop all personal writing for the duration of my tenure. If I lose, I will have all the time in the world to write.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Poetry Thursday

This week's Poetry Thursday option was to write a poem “based around words we love or hate or both.”

Immigrant Expat Traveller … Me

Immigrant:a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign county.
A word that I hate for all that it doesn’t say.
For what it implies.
Human as a series of papers and fees.

Expat: a person who lives outside their native country.
A word I prefer for its lack of commitment.
Almost a traveller.
But expat’s okay.

Traveller: a person who is travelling or who often travels.
A word that I love for all of its promise.
The flip side of immigrant.
But beware.

Travel too far , fall in love and arrive
... another immigrant.

People Series, 2 Istanbul

People Series: 1, Istanbul

This says it all really ...

"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again."

Oscar Wilde

Cindy and how it is to try to officially live in Belgium

I have to link to Cindy's latest post on the bureaucractic nightmare that seems to be 'moving to Belgium'.

She very kindly wrote: To recap, my tourist visa expired while my inscription for a visa was pending. The computer automatically generated a Ordre de Quitter la Territoire upon expiration of the tourist visa. The OQT was served without anyone checking to see if I had a pending inscription process. Efforts to revoke the OQT were hampered by the loss of my entire file. Another copy of the file was submitted in Brussels. The Belgian Consulate then informed me that service of the OQT automatically cancelled my pending application and that I would have to re-re-resubmit an application!

Her story isn't unusual here, almost everyone seems to have one but they're too complicated to write up ... complicated and unbelievable.

My papers weren't sent on to Brussels until someone found them again, I lost 2 months while they sat at the District House. The police visit didn't happen fast because I was out the first time he came ... yes, at Nederlands class but it took another visit to the District House to get him to come back.

I've had to buy two birth certificates ... I didn't require an Apostille for the residency visa ... second time round and I do. Let's not forget that all papers needed translated into English by an official translator.

My passport wasn't considered proof of ID, so I travelled to Brussels where my Embassy copied the details from my passport into letter form, signed and stamped it ... which I paid for. Then I had to go to another office in Brussels and have something else stamped ... and pay for it.

Now, we're preparing for the 200euro+ visit to the lawyer who writes up a contract stating I'm living with Gert, which will take quite some time to put together apparently ... why they don't have a 'form' contract is beyond me.

Starving your way into Belgium is surely a viable alternative, especially if you don't have a partner and home here because, quite frankly, you probably would starve. And in taking that road, you might possibly end up with less anger issues because I certainly have some about losing the ability to earn an income for almost a year.

Mmmmmm... so who knows, will Cindy, the American lawyer, be allowed back into Belgium to live with her partner or will she be kept out?

Bread and Tulips

Italy's magical fantasy of midlife crisis and rebirth in Venice, the city of lovers, swept the Italian film awards and charmed all of Europe.

Director Silvio Soldini turns the tourist mecca of piazzas, canals, and stone bridges into a quaint little village out of time and fills the film with the charm of the city and the gentle quirks of his delightful cast.

Licia Maglietta is winning as Rosalba, the frustrated and ignored middle-aged mom who impulsively takes a vacation from her family. She hitchhikes to Venice and falls for lonely, suicidal Icelandic waiter-poet Bruno Ganz (whose soulful, sad eyes recall his fallen angel from Wings of Desire), blossoming as she rediscovers her smile and joy for life.

Sweetly sexy and beautifully shot, this story of second chances may not be original or surprising (think Shirley Valentine), but it's no less lovely or enchanting for it. --Sean Axmaker

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Al Thompkins, Journalist

I love Al's Morning Meeting daily emails.

Wednesday's topic was 'Interactive Storytelling' and he writes: Occasionally, people ask me for examples of great online storytelling. Here are some of my current favorites, which might make for an interesting brown-bag lunch discussion in any newsroom.

He goes on to list all kinds of interesting sites, it's worth checking out if you have a little spare time.

It's worth reading Ricardo Pimentel's article titled, 'A Matter of Grammar and Law'. It's about immigration and the nuances he thinks journalists should not ignore.

A taste: Yes, we're talking about illegal immigration. But illegal is a modifier, not generally a noun. And presence without the required papers, under current law, is a civil violation, not a criminal one.

A boat on Hellespont (the ancient name for the Dardanelles)

The things that I didn't know before travelling ...

For a millennium the Dardenelles have been the key to Istanbul or so writes the book. The navy that could capture the Dardenelles had a good chance of conquering Istanbul and so it was for this that so many ANZACS died at Gallipoli.

I've stayed on both sides of this body of water where Lord Byron came in 1807, to prove possible the myth of Hero and Leander. He did it by swimming from Cannakkale over to where Hero used to wait in Kilitbahir.

TJ's Backpackers in Eceabat is my favourite place to stay and he's is the best battlefield guide you could wish for.

Alone In Roma

I loved Rome ... walking all day, exploring the streets and the sights, meeting people like the artist, the guide and the Greenpeace guy from Milan; riding on the back of a scooter with a Roman friend, meeting and eating with his family; spending hours wandering Castel Sant'Angelo, sometimes just sitting and watching as life passed me by; receiving excessive amounts of hand-kissing attention from Enzo, the waiter who decided I might be a waif, and then this evening alone to drink Chianti and read ...

Nargile Smoker, Istanbul

You don't just buy the carpet, you drink some cay and if you're curious, you ask questions, learning a little of somebody else's life.

Carpet chosen, Ali and his friend led us through dark Istanbul streets to this nargile cafe tucked away in the back of an ancient Ottoman cemetery. It was incredible ... my American friend was visiting and discovering Turkey wasn't the big bad wolf she'd seen on tv back home in States, my American colleague and his Turkish wife were there too.

It's taking the time and talking to people that makes travel magic ...
omne ignotum pro magnifico

whatever is unknown is held to be magnificent...

And the angels laughed ...

Life has been a bit of a challenge lately ...

I posted about using Clare's Canon EOS 350D and that because of this I had discovered I wanted one more than I've ever wanted anything in my life.

Since then I have discovered that almost everyone in the world has one already. I know children exaggerate and tell their parents 'but everyone else has one' however I am adult and it's simply true ... so many people I know and people I don't know, have Canon EOS 350D digital cameras. If they don't, they tell me that they're thinking of buying one. See!

Not only that but they want to tell me about them. For example, I would happily settle for a Canon EOS 300D, an earlier model. I was chatting with Peter on Skype yesterday and we've talked of photography over the years, he had no reason to suspect that now wasn't a good time to tell me that he had given his daughter his Canon EOS 300D and he was really loving his fantastic new Nikon digital ...

And so it goes ... the still-in-process (now for-a-work-visa) immigrant is having delusions of digital cameras after ONE YEAR of not working.

I shall go crazy.

The Queen came to Antwerp ...

I saw the jet fighter plane appear to escort a plane landing at the local airport here in Antwerp and I was surprised that immediately after the delight in seeing 'A jetfighter!' I was worried.

Times have changed ... the excitement of having a NZ Airforce Skyhawk or Macchi jet fly overhead back in New Zealand has been replaced with a new awareness of possibilities when a domestic jet is escorted in in Europe.

I wondered what was happening, isolated in my little 'I'm not learning anymore Dutch until I'm allowed to work here' bubble. (And yes, my dad might have chuckled and said, 'It serves you right Di'.)

Gert was having one of those days where he was constantly running to the next thing and didn't quite get the urgency in my email asking why the jetfighter was escorting domestic planes in to land.

Finally the Belgian online newspaper posted something about Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in Antwerp.

So yes, this happened: Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands begins her second state visit to Belgium on Tuesday.

The first visit took place in 1981 when King Baudouin I (Boudewijn in Dutch) was on the Belgian throne. Twenty five years on, Beatrix is visiting the land of Baudouin's brother and successor, King Albert II.

This visit begins at Deurne Airport near Antwerp where Queen Beatrix, Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima will be received by King Albert and Queen Paola. Their son, Prince Filip, and his wife Mathilde will also greet the Dutch royals.

And I missed it all ...

An Iraqi called Alan.

When Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor journalist, was taken hostage in Iraq one of the things that affected me deeply was the fact that the world's press appeared to overlook the tragic murder of her translator, killed when she was taken. An Iraqi man called Alan.

Riverbend introduced me to Alan in her tribute to him, revealing him as a man very much like you or I. Bloodless reports of 10 Iraqis killed in Baghdad today leave out the details that make these individuals unique and human ... Riverbend let us know a little of the 'Iraqi translator' left for dead in a street.

I was reading the Christian Science Monitor and discovered the Allan Enwiya Fund . They write: Nearly 1,000 readers have generously contributed to the Allan Enwiya Fund. Allan, Jill's interpreter in Iraq for two years, was killed in her abduction. He is survived by his wife and two small children.

Members of his family, at risk in Iraq as Christians, have been moved by the Monitor out of the country. They are applying for US government permission to join their extended family in the US. The fund, including a contribution from the Monitor, will help Allan's family start a new life.

The fund address:
The Allan Enwiya Fund
C/O The Christian Science Monitor
One Norway Street
Boston, MA 02115

A post about women

Women are at once the boldest and most unmanageable revolutionaries.
Eamon De Valera.

Amy Gahran over at Poynter Online posted news of an interesting story titled 'Saudi Women Bloggers Push Limits'.

Her post directed me to a Christian Science Monitor article about various Saudi women bloggers, like Saudi Eve, and the problems they're having with a group of conservative Saudi males who are policing the Net.

The thing that most amused me was that a woman can stand many things ... for years if she must ... but once you've turned her into a revolutionary who knows what remarkable things she will accomplish.

One female blogger said that she was stopped from using the Internet at home for several months after her conservative brothers grew suspicious about why she was spending so much time online.

"I've been blogging since April 2005. It's a way to vent out my frustrations and to write," said Jo, who asked only that her first name be used. "My family knows that I have a site, but they don't have a concept of what blogging is."

These women were bloggers, doing their thing, living their lives within the confines of normal for them and now they have the world's attention ... all because of some men who wanted to curtail one more female freedom.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What Europe did ...

It introduced me to rollmops ...

I swore I'd never eat Northern Hemisphere fish, there's too many people up here, too much pollution, writes the princess from the South Pacific.

Yes, yes, the French did spend years doing their nuclear testing in the South Pacific, and yes, there are rumours that some of the bigger countries might have dumped nuclear-type waste in the South Pacific however, the sea looks pristine down there and I'm hoping currents took care of the rest.

Not only are rollmops Northern Hemisphere fish, like the anchovies and herring I've come to love too, they're eaten raw, pickled ... I'll glow in the dark, it's a certainty now.

Once considered an everyday staple, pickled fish today is ranked high on the list of gourmet delights. The zesty creations called rollmops have deep European roots, but there’s a lot more to pickled fish than just herring.

Traditional rollmops, herring fillets wrapped around a small sour pickle and cured in brine, are as old as history dates. The term comes from rollen, meaning “to roll up” in German, and moppen, meaning “sour face” in Dutch.

They are so unbelievably good ...

EU threatens sanctions over US visa issue writes that the EU is set to urge the US to allow visa free travel to citizens from new member states and Greece or face similar restrictions from the European side.

A row over the US two-tier visa system for Europeans will feature at the forthcoming EU-US summit, starting on Wednesday (21 June) in Vienna.

EU Observer is an independent website published by ASBL, a non-profit association registered under Belgian law.

My Purple Long Johns

long johns: underpants with closely fitted legs extending to the wearer's ankles.

purple: colour intermediate between red and blue.
(also Tyrian purple)a crimson dye obtained from some molluscs, formerly used for fabric worn by emperor or senior magistrate in ancient Rome or Byzantium.
(the purple - the ancient Rome) a position of rank, authority or privilege.

I think I might be the only person in Belgium who sunbathes in purple long johns ... legs rolled up of course.

I had a small smile when I thought about the history of my purple Thermatech long johns, they've seen some sights and possibly created some too.

I bought them when I was living in Marlborough, New Zealand back in the 90s. They were for tramping way back then in the days when Nature was everywhere in that country of mine.

But over time, they've doubled as or become lounge-about-the-house-writer's-pants. Today it occured to me that I could sunbathe in them, at a pinch ...

I've spent the last 24 hours creating mock-up brochures and advertisements for my business when I'm legal ... poring over, creating, rewriting, agonising, harassing friends for opinions and generally trying to forget about how long the 'in process' process is taking ... wanting to concentrate on the fact that this time in limbo has opened my world to various projects, people and opportunities.

My long johns help ... they create a persona who laughs more easily and can contort herself on chairs, at tables and on floors as she works and reworks her enthusiasm until becomes something financially viable.

They make me brave enough to jump off the cliff of doubt and into the ocean of the attempt.

I have memories of smiling because of them ... laughing apologies when Wal, the Fiordland artist, popped in for a surprise visit and found me lounging about in my house on the Peninsula; of acting casual when the postman delivered a parcel to my door while I was wearing them; of friends who have lounged in similar costume ... the costume of comfort and warmth, of purpleness.

Gert raised an eyebrow the first time I lounged in my purple long johns at his place but he's adjusted, everyone does if they hang round long enough.

Monday, June 19, 2006

"Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe."
Anatole France

Political Polls in Belgium

In the news today ...

The extreme-right Flemish Interest continues to rise in popularity and is now almost the biggest party in Flanders behind the traditional heavyweight Christian Democrat CD&V.

A Few Amazing Women

There are some stunning bloggers out there and lately I've stumbled upon more than a few of them ...

There's Sabrina Ward Harrison with her beautiful blog opening on a poem that brought back childhood smiles.

She writes books and runs workshops on " The Art of Becoming Yourself". Sabrina began them 10 years ago, posting handmade fliers around her neighborhood in Berkeley, California. Over the years she has enjoyed traveling the world to facilitate her workshops with women and men who desire to create the life they most want to live. Her story is here .

Tara Witney is a photographer and brought back memories of a field I was getting into back in New Zealand ... photographing families. Her work is stunning and her blog is a lovely place to wander.

Liz Acton has just announced 'The Anywhere Studio' ... a website for online classes & kit project classes. a community for interaction with others & their work. a place to create. a place to meet & talk to new people. a place for personal growth.

Musetomuse by Frida and Georgia is a delicious place to visit and Andrea's Superhero Journal is also superb.

I have rough days out here in immigrant land and reading these guys gives me something to smile over and aspire to ...

An Off-Day in Di World

I wonder who makes these rules about moving countries ... I imagine a little man, someone who goes to his windowless office in a suit everyday, talks to no one and goes home to an empty house. A man who never travels and who accidently found himself the maker of rules about residency and work permits ... a mistake made when his tea-making certificate was seen as an application for the job of rule-maker to the immigrants ... a race he's never met but he fears because he receives the extreme right's newsletter in his mailbox.

And I don't think my grandfather and all those other New Zealanders had to wait almost a year to be processed and enter Belgium when they came here to fight and die during the First World War ... how times change, how we evolve.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Anil in India

Anil left a comment that made me curious about the person who saw a truth so clearly in a photograph ...

The site is superb, beautiful photographs and stories of things seen and people spoken to.

By way of introduction, Anil writes: Give me a hill and let me slide down its slopes, and a lake where I can stand on its banks and look out into the distance, and windy blue skies I can look at and search for familiar shapes in the clouds that wind across, and I'll be happy. In 2003, I returned to Bombay from Goa, not an easy decision to make. A software company let me in, then another, then yet another. Time ran past. This time around I was wise enough not to give chase. So occasionally I take my camera along, searching for corners, finding them where none exist. And some of them are painted blue.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

"We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us."

Joseph Campbell

Friday, June 16, 2006

Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.

Elizabeth Stone.

Pigeons perched on the side of a Mosque, Istanbul.

One of my favourite photos ... I loved wandering with my camera in Istanbul.
Now that I know this one place a little, I read with doubled perception. The guide directs me to the acacia-shaded lane along the inside wall of the town, and I immediately remember the modest stone houses on one side, the view over the Val di Chiana on the other.

I see, too, the three-legged dog I know lives in the house that always has the enormous underpants drying on a line. I see the cane-bottomed chairs all the people who live along that glorious stretch of wall pull out at evening when they view the sunset and check in with the stars.

Yesterday, walking there, I almost stepped on a still soft dead rat. Inside one of the doorways that opens right out onto the narrow street, I glimpsed a woman holding her head in her hands at the kitchen table. Whether she was weeping or catching a catnap, I don't know.

Frances Mayes
from, Under the Tuscan Sun

100 photographs that changed the world

Ms Baker recently posted on 100 photos that changed the world, from LIFE magazine

Tiananmen Square 1989
A hunger strike by 3,000 students in Beijing had grown to a protest of more than a million as the injustices of a nation cried for reform. For seven weeks the people and the People’s Republic, in the person of soldiers dispatched by a riven Communist Party, warily eyed each other as the world waited. When this young man simply would not move, standing with his meager bags before a line of tanks, a hero was born. A second hero emerged as the tank driver refused to crush the man, and instead drove his killing machine around him. Soon this dream would end, and blood would fill Tiananmen. But this picture had shown a billion Chinese that there is hope.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"I think the best pictures are often on the edges of any situation, I don't find photographing the situation nearly as interesting as photographing the edges."

William Albert Allard

A lovely quote I lifted from Tara's site.

One should be so careful opening emails that come from photographer friends back home in New Zealand ....

Dave had included an update of latest work in his online photo library in the email.

I spent 2 years living in Te Anau ... Fiordland, New Zealand ... it was my place.

Oh yes, I can just wander over to Dave's place any time I want a good dose of homesickness ...

Poetry Thursday

Wednesday afternoon

my father is “having fun”
cleaning the floor
he uses the plugged in sink as a bucket
wears rags on his feet
and shimmies to a cleaning beat
he asks me to read the label
on the bottle for him
he wants our floor to shine
and laughs when (surprise)
it does
this is how I will remember him
moonwalking across our kitchen floor
rags under his feet
“that’s how my mother taught me”
he says
“but I never take any note
it takes me forty years to do what she say”

I loved the imagery in this poem. It takes me home, even if my New Zealand experience was something else.

KARLO MILA was born in Rotorua in 1974 to a Tongan father and a Pakeha mother. Karlo is an emerging poet and her poetry has been published in a small number of anthologies including Whetu Moana, Short Fuse: The Global Anthology of Fusion Poetry and Coffee and Coconuts. Karlo performs live poetry regularly in Auckland and is working on her first collection of poems. A lot of her work focuses on identity and the various negotiations of what it means to be Pacific in New Zealand.

Snow and STUFF

A phonecall from home and I became aware of the snow ...

I went searching and came across this story ... in STUFF, an interesting site for those wanting news of New Zealand.

The past three days have been hard slog ('hard work', for non-Kiwi readers) on Hugh and Diane Taylor's View Hill property.

And there is no rest in sight as the thick blanket of snow over their Raineys Road farm, west of Oxford, retreats painfully slowly.

It was only knee-deep yesterday – an improvement on the previous two days when it reached up their thighs. But the depth is of little consequence. It is still taking eight hours to feed just over 1000 cattle and 2500 breeding ewes, a task that normally takes an hour and a half.

Down on their feedlot they had to shovel snow out of the troughs for the grain-fed cattle whose meat is destined for Belgium and Spain. It was a gut-wrenching task digging, but the only way to ensure the penned cattle got a good belly full of food.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Cautionary Tale

I was telling my learned friend, Martin, that I had consumed vast quantities of M&Ms this morning and as a result of the energy surge I had cleaned the apartment however I was now suffering from a horrible M&M downer.

Martin informed me that tartrazine can do that ... just reading the word tartrazine made me feel ill and so, in order to regain my health, I opted for the 'red wine cure' and explained my rationale to Gert, issuing my very own medical dispensation at the same time.

I thought he already knew I could do this thing with my eyes and I leaned into him, asking if my eyes looked okay after eating the tartrazine.

I wiggled my eyeballs rapidly ... Gert leapt back, shouting a very bad word and was still clutching his chest sometime later.

I almost fell over laughing.

You see, I can move my eyes rapidly ... kind of wiggle them, and clearly it's rather disturbing up close.

Gert's recovering slowly and I do believe the wine will cure me.

A Game for the cinema

I have to confess, I'm tempted to try the da vinci code: the drinking game as per Heather's post at This Fish Needs a Bicycle.

Scissors, Dendermonde and catching those trains

I'm never quite sure about life and of course, at the moment I'm in the unusual position of not having to plan for it. And so it goes that life sometimes gifts me interesting people and unusual events.

I had biked to Rivierenhof Park to meet a friend on Monday and ended up getting my hair cut, as one does ... or not.

Ahhh memories of my previous haircut: Alison's birthday, a little Dutch gin, some red wine, an American with scissors and a Canadian acting in an advisory capacity ... voila, my hair was cut. This time it was Heidi wielding the scissors.

Tuesday, after my cycling adventures, was all about making my train connections and spending time with an interesting writer I had met at the ANZAC Day ceremony in Ieper.

Sometimes it occurs to me to be glad that there's no video of my life, as an audience might find it amusing ... there's me biking through the red light, having my haircut by friends who aren't hairdressers, and racing down stairways in railway stations completely focused on that 4 minute window of time in which I have to find my connecting train and the new platform.

It's not only that, it's that these events usually involve strangers, be it the old man who rescued the bike I almost knocked over at the bakery yesterday or the innocent Belgians waiting for trains ... I'm the one that pops up beside them with my 'Excuse me, where's this train going?' It's always an adventure out there.

I made my connections, arrived in Dendermonde and wandered round town with the writer. We spent a long time sitting in the tranquil grounds of the Dendermonde Beguinage, talking of life and all kinds of important things as we sat on a bench in the sun. Beguinages ... I wrote a little about them here.

We had dinner, talked without watching the time and I missed all the trains before 10pm. Suddenly I was faced with train connections that put me in Antwerp at 11pm ... now it's not that I'm a chicken but I do have an aversion to being stranded in small Belgian towns close to midnight. The pressure was on and despite some 'interesting' moments, like the train being disturbingly empty and the timetable screen moving 20 minutes ahead of the trains at Sint Niklaas, making it look like I'd missed my connection... I was home by 11.30pm.

The map shows my travels, highlighting the fact that Dendermonde is a difficult destination ... it's there in the middle, between Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent.

Sirpa Alalääkkölä, Artist

I met Sirpa Alalääkkölä when I was living in Marlborough, New Zealand. We bought one of her massive paintings, having completely fallen in love with her style.

She was born in Alatornio, Finland in 1964, studied in the Art School of Lapland in Tornio (1984-1990), Academy of Fine Arts (1985-1990) and at the University of Arts and Design in Helsinki.

I spent ages trying to choose a favourite painting just now ... they are massive and always tug at my heartstrings with what they capture of Kiwis and their way of life.

I lost my painting to the divorce, and perhaps rightly so in the end, it wasn't of a size that could have travelled with me but looking through them today made me think of all that I miss back home in that place called New Zealand.

Thanks for sending news of the site Chris.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Topkapi Palace Tour

Istanbul Metblogs has offered new forms of nostalgia for this kiwi who misses their city.

Have a look here. It's the Topkapi Palace Tour and well worth a look.

Thanks Seyda.

Day One: Di's Biking Report

As I rode through the red light on my Belgian bicycle, I noticed the ambulance guys on the other side of the lights watching my flamboyant self fly by, and I had this feeling that they were probably discussing the fact that I would be one of their jobs in the near future.

The red light ... well, I didn't see it, I was too busy thinking about how masterfully well I was doing on my first outing alone on my bike.

Previous to that incident there had only been one other moment; the one where I was forced to attempt my best impression of innocent kiwi abroad, as I cycled past the police van while on the wrong side of the road. Although on the bikepath, I wasn't sure if there was a fine involved in this act of ignorance.

So I managed to do my first errand without police intervention, the supermarket went well and afterwards, I found the cycle lane through to a road that I recognised (not to be sneezed at when you're in a new country).

And I smiled as I peeped in at the pub on the corner and noticed that the first beers of the day had been poured ... before 9am. How my Scottish forefathers would have tut-tutted. In New Zealand it's considered wise not to drink before 5pm regularly, any earlier could indicate problems ... 9am would indicate massive problems. Not here ... they were all lined up at the bar, old blokes just hanging out.

The worst thing about biking alone has to be the almost constant 'Oh my god, am I on the right side of the road???'

A quick glance ahead and my poor addled Southern Hemisphere brain takes note of the parked cars ... I relax, only to think 'ohmygod ...' a few minutes later.

I messed up my money when I called in at the bakers and I almost knocked someone else's bike over as I removed mine ... thanks to the old man who saved the day, riding off afterwards without saying a word. He was behind me in the bakery, waiting as the baker counted out the correct money because I had misheard the total... you can't do anything right for some people, and he was clearly my man today.

So I'm home without injurious incident, my pride only slightly dented.

As long as I live, I can only improve ...

5 a.m

A combination of the heat from so many days of 30+o C and multiple mosquito attacks in the night finds me too itchy and too hot to sleep anymore.

We have a small forest of silver birches and other trees just out the window next to my desk, it can't help thinking that it was almost worth getting up now to hear how it simply explodes with the sound of the birdlife living there.

The people who talk about weather have promised thunderstorms later today and there are rumours of dropping down to a 21 degree day around about Thursday. I can't believe this sounds good after the long cold bleak winter we've just come through ... but it does.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Erkan made me do it.

You Should Spend Your Summer at the Beach

You're a free spirit who is always thinking of new ways to have fun.
And you don't just love summer... you live for it.
So, you really should blow off your responsibilities and head to the beach!


I've named my Belgian bicycle ... meet Abigail.

She's tall and makes me feel both serious and silly, I can't believe I neglected her through the winter although that's probably more to do with bikes having seriously stunning right-of-way and the fact that they use the wrong side of the road over here.

We're still sitting on 30+ degrees celsius and have been since Friday, it's stunning. The temperature went from 15 to 30 in a couple of days.

It's time for my bicycle.

"If you hear a voice within you saying, 'You are not a painter', then by all means paint...and that voice will be silenced."

Vincent Van Gogh

A funny little cottage with a really nice view ...

Homesickness ...

I spent some time living in a funny little cottage on the edge of the harbour. Looking through photographs and I remembered this 'dinner party' and wondered ... can it really be a dinner party if the surroundings are humble?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Old Friends, New Zealand

An ABC Of Me

accent: I have a New Zealand accent, there are only 4 million of us, so it's a bit special and if I relax I'm rumoured to pronounce 'pen' as 'pin' and so on.

booze: red wine, red wine and more red wine.

chore I hate: one chore? But I hate ironing, washing dishes, cleaning windows (unless I'm in the mood) and cleaning toilets. Unforuntately I don't like a mess and as I'm the at-home-in-process-immigrant, I'm the manual labourer by default.

dogs/cats: none ... just now.

essential electronics: laptop and camera, incredibly essential.

favorite perfume: 212 Carolina Herrera

gold/silver: I wear a small silver St Christopher medal (patron saint of travellers - thanks Sandra) and I was gifted an unusually shaped piece of greenstone/jade from New Zealand (thanks Julie) on leather.

hometown: born and raised in Mosgiel, New Zealand. Present 'hometown' Belgium, last 'hometown' Istanbul, wished for 'hometown' Rome.

insomnia: only an occasional night at the moment, after a lifetime of reading incredibly late.

job title: ahhhhhhhhh a mystery to be solved before Christmas, all going well with my paperwork.

kids: one magnificent daughter.

living arrangements: living with my Belgian guy.

most admired trait: people tell me I'm empathetic, even strangers ...

number of sexual partners: a little personal.

overnight hospital stays: a couple of days when I was 2 (tonsils), a couple of weeks when I gave birth to my daughter.

phobia: nothing much.

quotes:'If Cinderella's mother had been around, she might have reminded her daughter that just because the glass slipper fit, she should not have felt obligated to wear it.' It's brilliant.

religion: I just believe what I believe.

siblings: one sister, 2 brothers and a half-brother.

time I usually wake up: the alarm goes at 6.30am through the week, no alarm and 9am-ish weekends.

unusual talent: I can make my pupils wiggle, best not shared really.

vegetables I refuse to eat: I used to despise brussel sprouts but can be convinced by a good chef.

worst habit: it might be biting my fingernails, if I cared to admit to it.

x-rays: hmmm broken navicular bone, and then x-rayed after the motorbike accident, ankles, spine ... stuff, dental ... now I'm eating Northern Hemisphere fish ... I'll surely glow-in-the-dark.

yummy foods I make: venison steaks, peach muffins, chocolate cake, sultana cake, cheese rolls and sundry boring domestic-type stuff ... I prefer to let the culinary abilities of others shine (and then eat the results).

zodiac sign: in the cusp of Libra/Scorpio ... imagine! And was impressed by a Vedic reading that made me an Aries.

I found this over on Susannah's , ink on my fingers blog.

Misguided's Musings

I loved misguided's post on Estienne de La Boetie's essay, “Slaves By Choice”.

Written around 1548, La Boetie begins with: “My sole aim on this occasion is to discover how it can happen that a vast number of individuals, of towns, cities and nations can allow one man to tyrannize them, a man who has no power except what they themselves give him, who could do them no harm were they not willing to suffer harm, and who could never wrong them were they not more ready to endure it than to stand in his way. It is a grievous matter — and yet so commonplace that our sorrow is the greater and our surprise the less — to see a million men in abject servitude, their necks bound to the yoke, and in that state not because they have had to yield to some greater force but, it seems, because they have been mesmerized by the mere name of a single man, a man they ought neither to fear (for he is just one man) nor love (as he is inhuman and barbaric towards them).”

Misguided writes: … So begins one of my favorite essays. Written around 1548 by Estienne de La Boetie, “Slaves By Choice” reveals the intricate way in which tyranny takes hold of a nation, and citizens give up their freedoms. Like the writer, I am amazed at how an entire nation can be held in abject servitude to one man… I am puzzled as to why any man would wish such an existence upon himself or his human brethren.

The View from Fez

Samir has written a delicious post about life in Fez ...

Note to self: Must get permission to work, must get an income, MUST travel.

A Kiwi's Day Out in Brussels.

Brussels ... 30 C, nothing prepared me for this.

One moment I'm complaining about grey skies and an absentee summer, next moment I'm realising that my wardrobe has suffered some during this period of arriving-in-Belgium and that I'm down to black clothing ... supremely useless clothing on a hot day.

To Brussels went well, all connections caught and a laugh with the bus driver. He didn't quite roll his eyes when I asked for a ticket to my destination in my 'special' accented Nederlands so I flashed him the paper with the address and said, 'Foreigners eh'.

We both laughed, I guess he gets a few of us on his bus every day.

A lovely lunch with two Kiwis, good conversation, a farewell, then a brisk walk back to Centraal Station and onto the slowest of slow rattly old un-airconditioned trains home. Seventy-nine stops and I arrived ... okay, perhaps it was 8 or 9 stops but it was hot and we stopped in places I'd never heard of.

And then ... this princess from the South Pacific decided not to get on the over-crowded tram home and thought those boarding were idiots, until she studied the tram route again and realised that the lit lights signaling tram location were all a long way away from her stop.

Twenty minutes later, another crowded tram pulled up, I got on.

I left Brussels at 3.15 and walked in the door around 5pm ... a hot little bunny.

So ... the news, summer seems to be here, we've been told to expect 30 C on Sunday, clearly someone forgot to let Mother Nature know because she turned it all on today.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I found this quote over on Jen's blog

"If Cinderella's mother had been around, she might have reminded her daughter that just because the glass slipper fit, she should not have felt obligated to wear it."

Jen has two sites, the other is A Garden Carried in the Pocket .

Freedom of the Press and Right of Reply in the NYT's

Over at FYI blog, the author writes I’ve spent much of the past week trying to get a letter to the editor published in The New York Times in response to the recent Tom Friedman rant (subscription required) against GM (see “Hyperbole and Defamation at The New York Times,” June 1).

I failed. This is my story.'

Riverbend writes

An extract from Riverbend's June 26th post : 'There’s an ethnic cleansing in progress and it’s impossible to deny. People are being killed according to their ID card. Extremists on both sides are making life impossible. Some of them work for ‘Zarqawi’, and the others work for the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. We hear about Shia being killed in the ‘Sunni triangle’ and corpses of Sunnis named ‘Omar’ (a Sunni name) arriving by the dozen at the Baghdad morgue. I never thought I’d actually miss the car bombs. At least a car bomb is indiscriminate. It doesn’t seek you out because you’re Sunni or Shia.'

She ends this post: Emily Dickinson wrote, “hope is a thing with feathers”. If what she wrote is true, then hope has flown far- very far- from Iraq…
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

—Henry David Thoreau


I'm off to Brussels today ... sunshine, blue skies and some pollution.

When I first arrived here, I asked Gert about pollution ... having just left Istanbul, where pollution was as stunning as big city pollution anywhere and then some.

He assured me that Belgium had done all that she could to lower pollution levels and meet greenhouse gas emission cutback requirements.

I was impressed however he did fail to mention that we are situated on the crossroads of Europe ... that one of the busiest sections of road over here has 120,000 vehicles pass through it daily.

Sitting here now, windows open, I can hear what would be the sound of the sea back home in New Zealand ... in actuality it's one of the motorways away in the distance.

It's a different life but not such a bad life really.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Antwerp Calling

I wandered over to Peter's Antwerp Calling blog and read an interesting post about the recent racially motivated murders here.

Peter introduces himself as 'a Belgian, native Dutch speaking gay author, living on the Antwerp City (Belgium, Europe) riverbanks. Well known for my risque comments on the everyday lives of not so everyday people on several local blogs. I Majored in Dutch literature, speak 4 languages and I'm a strong believer in the "forever 30" concept.'

Fascists and Football Hit the Stage

Der Spiegel writes of a new stage play ...

His secret weapon never materialized, but would Hitler have won World War II if he had staged a World Cup? That's the premise of a new comedy now playing in a Hamburg theater. The play breaks through taboos, but it has a serious side as well.

...Indeed, the play, called "Mein Ball: A German Dream," has stirred up a measure of controversy. Some theatergoers have stomped out of Hamburg's Schauspielhaus, where it is playing through the end of June. Others have booed throughout the production. Hardly surprising perhaps. After all, "Mein Ball" tramples on some big taboos. Not only is it among the first German theater productions to turn Hitler into comedy, something that would have been unthinkable until a few years ago. But it also pokes fun at football, a sport that enjoys near-sacred status in Germany. The play's very plot -- Hitler planning a World Cup tournament to salvage his empire -- is a dig at the hopes Germans have pinned on this year's World Cup tournament, which kicks off on Friday.

Poetry Thursday

Michael Ondaatje is one of my favourite poets ...

This week's Poetry Thursday suggestion was a challenge to go out into the world and listen to what people are saying and I remembered this poem ... it seems like something overheard.


Griffin calls to come and kiss him goodnight
I yell ok. Finish something I'm doing,
then something else, walk slowly round
the corner to my son's room.
He is standing arms outstretched
waiting for a bearhug. Grinning.

Why do I give my emotion an animal's name,
give it that dark squeeze of death?
This is the hug which collects
all his small bones and his warm neck against me.
The thin tough body under the pyjamas
locks to me like a magnet of blood.

How long was he standing there
like that, before I came?

Michael Ondaatje

Some friendly Belgian cows

A Journey

If you catch the tram after the workers have left for the day then you might glimpse another side of the city ...

Pre-departure you watch, holding your breath, as an old man with crutches scales the steps of the tram as if they are Everest, his hand on the arm of the man standing below.

You might wonder what drives him to get out of bed and dress in his suit and the tie ... where he is going and will someone else help him off when he reaches 'there', if you leave before him.

Two stops on you see a man pushing two bikes and wonder why.

There's the old woman at the top of the stairs to her house, framed in her doorway wearing an apron, she carries a metal kettle in her right hand ... she watches the man pushing the bicycles pass by. I don't know if they greeted each other ...

Further on there was a younger woman scrubbing her doorstep.

A young mother wearing a headscarf is helped by a blonde wearing jeans, who reaches down with a smile and lifts the baby's pushchair up the steps of the tram.

What defines them, who are they to themselves ...

I'm curious because I have been in this strange limbo land for almost a year, not quite arriving ... having left other places.

Perhaps it's like cleansing your palate; a break between countries, between times, between selves ... and then you begin again.

Centraal Station, Antwerpen

The 'railway cathedral' is the name given to Antwerpen's central train station in my '12 Adventures in Antwerp' guidebook ...

In the book it is described as one of the city's major landmarks ... true enough, I can see its rooftop dome from my desk, across the city and through the heat haze of today.

It was built at the turn of the century, showcasing both Belgian architecture and building materials. Today commuters and tourists still arrive and depart beneath this 'masterpiece of steel and glass'.