Saturday, September 30, 2006

City Quizzers

Last night was Quiz Night here in Antwerpen ... open to personnel from the City of Antwerpen, the quiz is organised by the previous year's winners.

Last night there were 22 teams of 8 ... 8 rounds of 12 questions, 4 rounds of table questions and 1 music round.

I was outside the loop at the table and of little use, although I was pleased to realise that understood most of the questions. Unfortunately it was difficult to get the finer points of questions meant to test the locals ... the skill level wasn't exactly Nederlands 1.2.

On the bright side, there was a question about Peter Snell, the New Zealand runner who passed the Belgian waving at the crowd, celebrating his victory before crossing the line ... one should never under-estimate a Kiwi ;)

And New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hilary - first man on Everest, was another answer. It's good to see 'us' out there as a nation.

I was hanging out on the fringes of De Dockers team and they were happy enough with their second, just 4 points behind the winners.

There's another round next week then totals are added together and winners announced however Friday is also the eve of the local, city and province elections here and I do believe Gert will be otherwise involved ...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Belgium's Postal System ... from my perspective

I've been meaning to post about sending me parcels here in Belgium ... it's risky.

Two years in Turkey and every parcel arrived.
One year in Belgium and the success rate is so much lower.

The first parcel to Belgium went missing back in the winter. It contained cards that confirmed that I was a journalist working for an online travel magazine ... while working gratis due to my 'in process' status, these cards promised creditability and reassurance for those I wanted to interview.

The most recent parcel was making a short trip from France. The pickings were richer for those who imagine parcels from other places are charity parcels for themselves ... some dvds and good books were 'misappropriated' in this instance.

Snarky tone ... oh yes.

The French Post traced the French parcel to Belgium ... I believed them and began to wonder if anyone sent wedding gifts from home. If I haven't thanked you, they didn't arrive. A difficult to deal with subject ... the sender doesn't bring it up because it seems rude and the receiver doesn't bring it up because maybe they didn't send anything after taking a postal address.

Meanwhile, someone somewhere is having a hell of a good time with things intended for me.

The local Post Office was initially unhelpful.
I asked 'Can you do something? It seems that my parcels are being stolen enroute.'
She said 'No'.

I walked away but later, talking with a Belgian friend, I was told there's a form I could fill out.
I went back ... 'Yes there's a form' but they'd run out.
I asked them to get me one, please.

I'm just back from the Post Office.
Apparently there's no longer a complaints form for 'lost' international packages.
I have to make a written complaint listing:
-the home address of the person who sent me the package.
-the contents
-details of how it was wrapped
-its weight
-the precise address it was sent to (she said with a shrug, 'It may have been wrongly addressed')

'Yes', I agreed, 'probably they were both identically wrongly addressed' ... and I explained that I had very carefully copied the address from Gert's correspondence ... the stuff that regularly arrives in our mailbox.

Oh yes, another joyous moment ...

Anthropology Matters Journal

Erkan is a treasure trove of interesting information today ...

He also posted news of the Anthropology Matters journal.

This one caught my eye: Making mountains, producing narratives , or: 'One day some poor sod will write their Ph.D. on this'
By Katrín Lund (University of Iceland)

This paper looks at ways of narrating mountaineering experiences in Scotland. I shall examine how mountaineers organise and abstract their experiences in the form of lists, logbooks, photographs and drawings, and compare to the official listing of Scotland's topography.

My argument is that when storing experiences in various material forms, mountaineers are creating their own personal topographies. These entail narratives invested through the bodily act of moving over the ground on foot. Not only are these narratives a form of play, through which mountaineers reanimate their experiences, but they are also often transformed into documents, such as logbooks, diaries, or collections of photographs and drawings.

Although the topographies as created in these documents may appear to be frozen in time, I suggest that they continue to generate the movements in which they are grounded. As such they are part of an unfinished and ultimately unfinishable jigsaw puzzle. This will lead me to consider what anthropologists can learn about their own ways of organising and abstracting their experiences from examining the material culture of mountaineers.

Orhan Pamuk on the East's need for freedom

Erkan posted news of an interesting interview with Orham Pamuk ...

El Pais writes:The Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk, examines the rift between western and eastern societies in an interview with the journalist and writer Rosa Montero. "My idea of the West is freedom, democracy, women's rights, three things that the East does not have. We have other things. Fraternity, for example! We are absolutely formidable in terms of fraternity! This pillar of the French Revolution suits us perfectly. As far as equality is concerned, that too is passable and there are notably some Islamic philosophers who speak of equality. But what we do not have is freedom, democracy and women's rights. I don't care about the rest. You can dress in eastern or western clothes, live in traditional houses or not. ... What really counts is that people may do what they want".

Sounds interesting but I'll need Erin to translate :) The full article seems to be in Spanish ... El Pais being a Spanish newspaper and all.

Anyway, it was located on an interesting site ... called euro topics .

euro|topics aims to contribute to the development of a European public sphere. In a daily press review and selected articles, the most important political, cultural and social debates are to be followed.

The objective of euro|topics is to make those debates, which up to now had almost exclusively been conducted at national level, accessible Europe-wide. In this way, trans-European discussions, as well as the development of new networks of media, cultural and political exchange, are to be encouraged and supported.

Calcium in the water ...

Something that has stunned me about Antwerp is the water quality ... it's responsible for the dry tangled hair and dry skin.

I've always been someone who has avoided beauty regimes that involve more than a little moisturiser on the face but here you have to do so much more because it has become a matter of saving hair and skin quality.

I knew it was the water but not the why of it.

I met javacurls at Cindy's party last night and while reading her blog this morning, I found this ... all is explained.

The calcium build up is just insane! I never knew Calcium could be so damaging to a home. I googled "Calcium" and read this information from Wikipedia...

"Using soap on the body in hard water can cause the formation of a scum often referred to as “curd.” The formation of scum and curd is caused when calcium and magnesium form insoluble salts with anions (usually the stearates and other higher carboxylates found in soaps. This curd remains on the skin even after rinsing, clogging pores and coating body hair. This can serve as a medium for bacterial growth, causing nappy rash, minor skin irritation and skin that looks dry and continually itches. Similarly, the insoluble salts that get left behind from using regular shampoo in hard water tend to leave hair rougher and harder to detangle."
The other nice thing that occured in my 'delicious' 12 hour timeframe happened while the kettle was boiling this morning.

I was through here opening my email and I discovered that Michelle had written.

Simply put ... Michelle is marvellous. She is pregnant with her third child and busying herself with her PhD in New Zealand literature. She's a clever wee bunny, a gorgeous mix of academic and stunningly funny. I always (rightly or wrongly) attribute my colourful 'bloody buggary bollocks' exclaimation of extreme frustration to her.

Anyway, after almost making me fall out of my chair laughing with stories of her boys and their various wicked talents, I discovered she had finally emailed me her other thesis ... her Masters.

How nice it will be to lose myself in it ... 121 pages of 'compare and contrast'.

I miss that academic world. I loved studying and starting university at the age of 34, I found myself enjoying it in a way I probably wouldn't have back when I was 18.

I made incredible friends ... there was Abe, discovered in my political anthropology class and almost 80 years old way back then. Lizzie, with the face of an angel and the most startlingly naughty mind.

And professors ... I had some magnificent ones. I remember panicking at the end of a semester with Professor Ackerley, wondering how I would read and interpret Modernist novels without him, or being sad when Professor Holmes was lured home as his ground-breaking multi-sited ethnography on the European Union created huge ripples of interest back in the States.

So, although I complain about this immigrant life, and complain I occasionally must because it is such a departure from reality ... much as I complain, today I love that I can sit down and read until something or someone else comes along.

Let's see what the day brings ...

Tot ziens.

A little of this, a little of that

I've had a delicious 12 hours ...

Last night, Gert and I wandered over to Cindy's place in Brussels. She was cooking Tex-Mex and had promised margaritas at the party she was having before flying out to a warm place for the winter ... wise woman.

Meanwhile I'm staying put and hoping my first bone-chilling winter in Belgium was extraordinary ... the winter of 2005, the one where I learned to quiver in my boots when I saw a weather mass coming down from Russia.

But back to last night ... we were fed stunning Tex-Mex food and drank rather superb margaritas while meeting new people ... it wasn't a bad end to a day where I had been struggling with the idea of all that had happened while journeying towards my immigrant yellow card status.

Losses and gains ... if I were an accountant how would I balance the sheet of my life as an immigrant. I asked myself yesterday if I would do it again ... knowing all that I know now about moving countries in the 21st century.

My conclusion was 'possibly not'. Turkey was far more civilised and humane in its expat/immigrant policies and much as I love my European man, I had no real need of this Fortress Europe I have been granted special status keys to.

One of the oddest things about my new life has been a complete loss of control of my Self. I was reduced to pieces of paper as a form of interim existence while 'in process'.

I was forbidden the most basic of things ... things that we in the 'west' grew up taking completely forgranted ... the right work, to drive, and the freedom to travel in and out of this country I was 'in process' in. It's a catastrophic loss of independence that you really must prepare for if you're ever considering moving countries in the way that I did.

I was unfortunate ... I fell in love with a Belgian after two years of living and working in Turkey. I had no country to reside in while applying for residency here, and the Belgian Embassy in Istanbul wanted nothing to do with me ... they said I should go home.

Back in New Zealand my home had been lost to the marriage and anyway, I had enough money for 3 months in process ... one year later and I dream of all the things I will do now that I'm almost in business.

It's the little things that sometimes bring me to my knees for a few hours ... yesterday one of Gert's colleagues was frustrated with me mocking my appearance . She said, 'Do something about her self-esteem' in Dutch to Gert.

I raised an eyebrow later and said, 'Tomorrow, please explain that pre-Belgium, I was used to a certain quality of life ... I worked, could buy clothes, streak my hair, have my eyebrows shaped, but most importantly, I was free and independent.

My comment about my appearance today wasn't about self-esteem ... anyone who moves amongst the groups I mix with as easily as I do doesn't have self-esteem issues, it's only that I know what is possible and what I lack in these days as an immigrant.'

So yeah ... that's me. A mixture of the highs and the lows that have been difficult to control over this year as an 'in process' immigrant. Sometimes I see myself as a fluffball of angry kitten and Gert feels my scratches ... other times, I'm a bundle of fun, absorbing all that is new and exciting about this strange European-based life of mine.

No matter ... I have so many good times, superb times really and Cindy was the latest in a long list of good people I've met out here in the world.

Thanks for inviting us Cindy. It was lovely to meet you.
The knowledge we get from literature is unique to art, but it is at the same time a knowledge of life.
Norman Friedman, Form and Meaning in Fiction

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Book meme

I found this meme on paris parfait's blog .

The "rules" are to open the book nearest you to page 123, go to the fifth sentence and post the text of the next three sentences.

The book is 'A Fortune-Teller Told Me' by Tiziano Terzani ... I'm rereading an old favourite after Rob wrote of him recently.

The book opened immediately on page 123 which sent a small delighted shiver down my spine ...

Which is why that particular god of the Taoist Olympus is called Iron Leg Li.

From Penang I had to go to Kuala Lumpur. I could have taken the express train from Butterworth, but that seemed too precipitate, so I decided to work my way slowly down the peninsula.

I'm not sure this gives you more than a small taste of this favourite book of mine but let me copy a little from the back cover: 'Terzani is already something of legend. He is a wonderful journalist. His book is not the self-important tale of a journalist but the progress of a modern, sceptical and emotional pilgrim - and wilful showman ... part autobiography, part journey through the comforting past, the unbearable present and the unwelcoming future, and part prophecy ... He has written magnificently all his life. Never better than now.'
William Shawcross, Literary Review 1998.

The Yellow Card ,,,

I'm sitting here surrounded by papers from the various 'projects' I'm working on.

'Projects' translates into 'free stuff I do to remain useful as a world citizen and pretend that there is a reason for me to exist here in Belgium' ... the emphasis being on 'free' ... and that's me hoping that if I do these projects pure of heart and with good intention then karma will find its own way into my life.

Anyway I can't resist an interesting project and I'm meeting so many people as a result.

Complaining ...?
Not really, just slightly rueful about money. It happens sometimes, I've twice dreamed about having my hair returned to the delicious state that my Turkish hairdressers kept it in, although the first dream was one where Audrey, the Coronation Street hairdresser, offered ...

Big news (in Di World anyway) yesterday I learned that I have my Yellow Card ... this allows me 5 years in Belgium and makes me legal to work here.

Of course there's always a catch ... it's another 5euro for paperwork, and just one more passport photograph. They forgot to mention these things on my previous almost informative District Huis visit ... I think they realise they're going to miss my New Zealand accent and wanted to draw out the last of my regular visits.

Next week I move 70euro of Gert's money towards the people who give out VAT numbers and voila, there's a rumour that I'm then ready for business.

Okay, so there are the small things like finding a really good accountant because, here in Belgium, succeeding in a small business apparently means having a truly talented accountant. And I have to work out social security payments and business cards ... publicity and ecetera but a yellow card ... I have a yellow card therefore I exist.

De Red Star Line - Evocatie van een merkwaardig tijdperk

I was at Theater Zeemanshuis tonight ... attending one of the avant-premiere performances of De Red Star Line by Alex Van Haecke .

It was stunning!!

If you live in Belgium and you have any curiousity about those generations who left for America between the 1870s and up until the 1930s then I absolutely recommend this play.

If you love powerful theatre, the kind that contains that perfect blend of sadness and humour then this play is also for you ... and if you only speak English, the narrator speaks in a seamless mix of Engels and Nederlands ... telling the story of 'his' father, grandfather and grandmother making the journey.

Should I translate a little ...?

The play was called The Red Star Line - an evocation of a remarkable era and we attended one of the pre-official opening night performances.

And if you had no idea that the Red Star left from Antwerpen you can read more at The Red Star Line Memorial site here .

Theater Zeemanshuis
Falconrui 21
2000 Antwerpen
Tel: 03/225.07.53
bank: 979-2845553-63

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Major General John R.S. Batiste speaks out against the American government

He does not comprehend the human dimension of warfare.

Major General John R.S. Batiste
- describing Rumsfield's mismanagement of the war at the DPC Hearing.

It's serious when a high-ranking Major General, long-time republican leaves a highly successful career to fight for his troops and their families in the only way left - at home, fighting his government.

This 10 minute youtube is informative and to the point.

Thanks for the link Twitches . You can select video from today's Democratic national security hearing here .

And you can read more about 'the unusual spectre of five retired generals calling for Rumsfeld to step down.' It 'speaks volumes ... about the leadership climate in the Department of Defence,' Batiste said.' The article is here .
Rob, at Wind Rose Hotel , linked to this article on one of my favourite Italian authors ... Tiziano Terzani.

Life is what we make of it. Explore and appreciate life to the fullest as I did, he said, even in the worst moments, we have the ability to reach within ourselves and find meaning in adversity.

"The only real teacher is not in a forest, or a hut or an ice cave in the Himalayas," Terzani once said in an interview. "It is within us."

Tiziano Terzani.

If you're looking for my favourite book by him, I'd recommend (yes, again) A Fortune Teller Told Me .

Paulo Coelho

I often just link to any post that I like well enough to mention here however I really loved paris parfait's quote from Paulo Coelho.

You see, I loved living in Turkey and only left because of the Belgian. The Paulo Coelho quote mentions the Muslim time of fasting ... Ramazan; a special time to Muslims around the world, often misunderstood by those who have no experience of it. For me it was a time when Turkish friends and strangers were kinder and more welcoming than usual.

Traders would often invite me to join them in breaking their daily fast, not for sales - just for food; friends often took me home to their families ... extended family really.

I miss those people, their traditions and their warm open-heartedness.

But the quote:
In his book Like the Flowing River, Paulo Coelho talks about "The Catholic and the Muslim."

I was talking to a Catholic priest and a young Muslim man over lunch. When the waiter came by with a tray, we all helped ourselves, except the Muslim, who was keeping the annual fast prescribed by the Koran.
When lunch was over and people were leaving, one of the other guests couldn't resist saying: "You see how fanatical these Muslims are! I'm glad to see you Catholics aren't like them."

"But we are," said the priest. "He is trying to serve God just as I am. We merely follow different laws." And he concluded: "It's a shame that people see only the differences that separate them. If you were to look with more love, you would mainly see what we have in common, then half the world's problems would be solved."

The Dump Brothers, Antwerpen

Remember I wrote about photographing a local band during one of their street performances ...?

Well their website is up and running.
Not only that, you can listen to 4 of their demos ... maybe you'll see why they so appealed to me.

You can check them out here ... The Dump Brothers .

Next performances:
September 29 2006: The Meeting Point
Groenplaats 10, Antwerp, 2000
Cost: 0
Their regular Friday night gig, if not otherwise stated.

September 30 2006 at The Dubliner
Grote Markt, Antwerp, 2000
Cost: 0
Live on the terras

Monday, September 25, 2006

Twitches put me onto an interesting music video .. it's surely a cure for the sadness and intensity.

The bizarre thing was, as I watched it, I could imagine Diede on one of the machines, and then there was Sal , his video message still fresh in my head.

There were others but they might be surprised by their inclusion, since they're not actually known to me in my real life ... i'll leave it for now.
The biggest problem confronting the world today is "the illusion that our differences matter more than our common humanity."

Bill Clinton
NBC's "Meet the Press.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

This is your captain screaming ...

I don't like flying.

I had imagined that I was the queen of the 'What if ...' scenario.

Lisa posted a new and terrifying 'what if'; one that I had never considered.

Thank you Lisa, I have at least 23 hours flying time when I fly back to New Zealand ... the story is titled This is your captain screaming .


Mark just put me onto this song he'd posted over on his blog.

It's 'Five for Fighting'
the song: '100 Years'
and it's from their album: 'The Battle for Everything'.

International fireworks festival, Deurne

The district of Deurne and Hendrickx & Lefeber fireworks company got together and organised an international fireworks competition in Rivierenhof Park this month and we were invited along to the associated receptions, with last night being the grand finale.

The international fireworks competition began on Spetember 8th, with the Belgians displaying their pyrotechnic talents as part of the Liberation Day festivities. We were lucky enough to be at that reception and thought those fireworks good but last night's display by the English was stunning and I'm not a huge fan of fireworks.

I almost died laughing as the British National Anthem played, imaginging the Flemish Nationalists and Extreme Right neo nazis foaming at the mouth, so perhaps that added to my enjoyment of the night ... but the fireworks won strong applause in each song break.

A professional jury had been brought in to evaluate the fireworks each week and last night's winners took away an Antwerpen Trophy - that would be a trophy in the shape of an 'A', with diamonds attached.

The results were announced, with England taking first for technical expertise however it was the Austrian display that had everyone talking ... yes, that would be the one that we missed. The Austrians took out first overall and won the best music award.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday evening ...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Ik heb haarpijn

Last night I learned an invaluable lesson ...

We were attending an Alderman's Ball here in the city. There was a bar-be-que, alcohol and many interesting people.

How does one dress for a 'ball' here in Antwerpen?
Back home in New Zealand dress would have been very formal but here you go as you please ... jeans through the range to evening wear.

What began as a night out sitting with a few people I'm slowly begin to know as friends turned into a 'we need a few photographs' kind of night and so it was that Gert went home for the camera and I slowly but surely transformed into the woman I become when I take photographs.

It makes me fearless and curious and so very very happy.

I spent some time in conversation with a political news programme director who was there filming the Alderman during this final 2 week run up to the October district, city and province elections. He has 2 other cameramen working on the story - one following the Mayor and the other a city councillor - obviously politicians from 3 different parties

He and I talked a little about media here - television as opposed to newspaper; we talked of a couple of his previous stories and he tried to answer my questions about Belgian society as we compared notes on what I knew from New Zealand and had found over in Turkey.

And I met the son of a man who owned a large company here ... they didn't fear my direct and curious questioning, once again about who Belgians are and what motivates some of the behaviour I still don't quite understand.

It was a good night ... one where I combined all that I love in terms of photography and the casual interview.

However I really should have factored in the red wine at a conscious level because every time I returned to my table from yet another foray out in to the world of photographing and interacting with people ... I would drink another full glass of wine as I looked through the images or talked or simply sat back and marvelled over the way that people are stories and how interesting those stories often are.

One should never drink wine while indulging a passion.
That was my lesson.

Antwerpenaars have some delightful sayings and I used one for my title.
Gert taught me it a while ago and this morning I woke and it was my first thought ... 'ik heb haarpijn' translates as 'I have hair ache'.

Photography gives me this feeling of elation that translated into drinking the wine because it was there, barely conscious of what it was ... never thinking for a moment about morning.

And what a morning ... we left the ball around 4am, still talking, still lucid (I promise I was) and with no hint of what was ahead for me.

10am found Gert gently laughing as he assured me that the pain and the nausea was merely a hangover. I didn't believe him as I lay there preparing for death by some mysterious poisoning, feebly asking if the ambulance might have something for me as it passed by our apartment.

It's been a long day ... 6pm I'm finally feeling something like human again, and maybe I can make it to the firework festival tonight and perhaps it was the alcohol and if so, then it will be a very long time before I drink anything containing that stuff again.

Een kater van hier tot in Tokyo Gert told his friend Freddy, changing the country from Tokyo, which was far too close in terms measuring my hangover ... in English it would have been 'Di has a hangover from here till in Auckland'.

I'm looking forward to orange juice and fireworks tonight ... tot ziens.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Dear Mr President ...

Neo-nazis enter state assembly, Germany

Der Spiegel is writing about it ...

While it's common knowledge that the neo-nazis are gaining ground in many countries throughout Europe, the extreme right have now entered the German state assembly, with far-right parties now represented in three of eastern Germany's five state parliaments.

Some of their stated intentions include trying to and repatriate foreigners and a desire that Germany should stop atoning for the Holocaust

Oddly enough, the nazis they model themselves might wince and look at the ground over this news ...

It made me think of an extract I found in The Women Who Wrote the War - where the journalists talk about how they found Germany at the end of World War II.

Sigrid Schultz 'had left a German of prideful Nazis; she returned to find people denying their affiliation, soft-pedaling their allegiance. Even in Nuremberg, once home to the Nazi Party congresses, this was so ...

But there as in all the once important Nazi towns she visited, Schultz heard the same refrain: "We are the little people. We had nothing to say in Germany."

Virtually all the correspondents following the victorious Allied troops encountered the same national denial. "No one is a Nazi. No one ever was."

Martha Gellhorn, travelling with a regiment of the 82nd Airborne, wrote in prose laced with sarcasm. "To see a whole nation passing the buck is not an enlightening spectacle ..."

How times have changed. The extreme right neo nazi is loud, proud and gaining votes.

On insincerity and other political attributes

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.

When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer...

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient.

- George Orwell.

Taken from a site found via Fisking Central .

Andrew Sullivan is listed there as the original Fisk and the above quote makes up his September 22 post.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

foto for sidebar

Kevin Sites, Journalist

Kevin writes, Justice, grace and defiance: What I learned from a pregnant 15-year-old Ugandan girl

An extract : It's only later that I will realize Anne's story has helped me find a solution to a dilemma that I've been struggling with since coming to Africa.

For weeks I have been reporting on the tragedies and misfortunes of people trapped in the consequences of armed conflict in Africa.

Each story is important, I believe, and resonates with the common denominator of our human experience: the desire for a peaceful life and to have enough resources to take care of ourselves and our families.

But I became concerned, especially after reading some of the reader postings, that our reporting efforts* -- while certainly educating people -- could also be overwhelming them.**

"What can I do?"

"How can I help?"

"This story is so horribly sad, I just want to cry."

All valid responses, but they made me wonder if the information we were providing through story after story would eventually sap hope, rather than build it.

Part of the obvious answer for me as a reporter is to try to show the full dimension of these people's lives -- not just their suffering -- but also their silliness, their laughter, their humility, their grace.

And thinking about Anne's story, I also realized that, while it is important to take action, to be a part of the solution, a story is empowering in its own right.

Just by knowing something, being aware, maybe we become better people. Knowledge can help us to build greater empathy for everyone in our lives, not just people in Africa.

Through hearing someone's story, in all its complexities, we gain the potential to grow in kindness or generosity toward those closest to us, as well as those far away.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.

~ Mark Twain (Innocents Abroad)

Thanks Française .
Arrghh forgive me my sad day and blame Mark for the fact that I blogged throughout it.

Sad days never last so long, tomorrow normal services should be resumed ...

The fact that I'm a prolific blogger really means I should disappear with my camera on the days when the weight of the world makes me feel about as big as a pocketmouse.

I'll finish for the day and leave you with a photograph that made me smile ... having deleted two of the posts where I complained or was too grouchy which also made me smile.

Tot ziens.

Scarlet, a Belgian internet provider

I recently made up an interim business card.

Although working for free, I wanted my name out there with the photography work that I've done.

I chose to use Scarlet, a Belgian internet provider for my business email address ... knowing that yahoo and hotmail both lose email occasionally, acknowledging that they don't offer the most business-like email address I could have.

I sent out some photography samples.
No replies from anyone.

I wrote to friends here in Belgium.

Finally Gert phoned up the support services last Friday.
Welllll ... they told him, it seems that one of their mail servers fails to allow incoming email ... they would get back to him.

Today it is Thursday, still nothing.

This problem is complicated by the fact that the two language options for negotiating your way into Scarlet support service are French and Dutch and is then further complicated by the fact that you have to wait a sometimes considerable amount of time for an answer.

Fine in New Zealand where calls of this kind are free ... deadly where you pay by the minute in Belgium.

Round one of setting myself up as a business in Belgium has run into problems.

Tomorrow is a new day ...

Human Rights Watch

WHO More than 150 dedicated professionals work for Human Rights Watch around the world. We are lawyers, journalists, academics, and country experts of many nationalities and diverse backgrounds. We often join forces with human rights groups from other countries to further our common goals. A growing cadre of volunteers supports us.

WHAT - Human Rights Watch is the largest human rights organization based in the United States. Human Rights Watch researchers conduct fact-finding investigations into human rights abuses in all regions of the world. Human Rights Watch then publishes those findings in dozens of books and reports every year, generating extensive coverage in local and international media.

This publicity helps to embarrass abusive governments in the eyes of their citizens and the world. Human Rights Watch then meets with government officials to urge changes in policy and practice -- at the United Nations, the European Union, in Washington and in capitals around the world.

In extreme circumstances, Human Rights Watch presses for the withdrawal of military and economic support from governments that egregiously violate the rights of their people. In moments of crisis, Human Rights Watch provides up-to-the-minute information about conflicts while they are underway. Refugee accounts, which were collected, synthesized and cross-corroborated by our researchers, helped shape the response of the international community to recent wars in Kosovo and Chechnya.

Their About section makes interesting reading.

Thanks Cindy .

Hotel staff in Spain take a discreet action against the CIA

Imagine if the CIA were actually held accountable for their mistakes ...

Der Spiegel reports: The US intelligence agents involved in wrongly kidnapping a German citizen of Arab descent could soon face warrants for their arrest. Clues to their identity have turned up from Spanish authorities and German TV journalists.

Al-Masri says he was wrongly abducted on New Year's Eve 2003 in Macedonia and detained in various secret overseas prisons often referred to as "black sites." His five month ordeal finally ended when he was dumped on an abandoned road in Albania.

I never realised but Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that prosecutors had received a list of names of suspected US kidnappers from Spanish officials. "We now have very specific questions for the Spanish authorities," state prosecutor August Stern told the paper.

They have this list because hotel staff took an action that stunned and delighted me. The list from Spain is key to pursuing al-Masri's abductors since many of the secret CIA flights stopped on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Majorca. Several US intelligence employees were there the day before al-Masri's kidnapping and were booked into a luxury hotel -- albeit under fake names. However, Süddeutsche reported that the hotel's staff made copies of their passport photos, enabling them to be identified.

A little more on Oriana Fallaci

I have discovered that Andrea Bocelli's music is something like a cure for sadness if played loudly enough and to the exclusion of everything.

I was reading a website about Oriana Fallici , the Italian journalist who recently died.

She amuses me, although I wouldn't have contemplated laughing in front of her. Amuses me and yet, in this funny politically correct world we're sometimes caught up in, I also find I want to shout 'Bravo'.

She wrote: "I do not feel myself to be, nor will I ever succeed in feeling like, a cold recorder of what I see and hear. On every professional experience I leave shreds of my heart and soul; and I participate in what I see or hear as though the matter concerned me personally and were one on which I ought to take a stand (in fact I always take one, based on a specific moral choice)."
from, the preface to Interview with History

And I find that I have to admire a woman who believes the following in a world where ineffectual idiots can often rise to the top and lead a nation:

Fallaci defends her unique approach on the grounds that she is not simply a journalist but a historian as well. She told Bonfante: "A journalist lives history in the best of ways, that is in the moment that history takes place. He lives history, he touches history with his hands, looks at it with his eyes, he listens to it with his ears."

To Jonathan Cott in a Rolling Stone interview, she explained:
"I am the judge. I am the one who decides.
Listen: if I am a painter and I do your portrait, have I or haven't I the right to paint you as I want?"

Thanks for the link Rob .
Erkan's post on the article titled Turkey in Transition was interesting.

Surrounded by 13 of the 18 conflict zones in the world, located at the junction of Europe and Asia, centrally placed on the energy route to Europe, the future of Turkey is bound to impact the future of the world.

Strategic Foresight Group was invited to Turkey in February 2005 for consultations with the government for our Sustainable Global Security Initiative. We were fortunate to meet a wide range of leaders and scholars, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was one of the first leaders we met.

While the extreme right neo-nazis of Europe and other political beings often have educations, they don't seem to be able to think through the ramifications of excluding Turkey from European politics.

The article ends with this: Turkey is facing an uncertain future on a number of counts. Will terror attacks increase? Or will it be able to bring development to its Eastern region in a manner that reduces the present inequalities? Will it be able to join the EU and become the bridge between the Islamic world and Europe?

Turkey is truly in transition. And the manner of its transition will determine the future of a vast part of the world.

Ilmas Futehally is Executive Director and Vice President of the Strategic Foresight Group , a think tank that helps policy makers to anticipate and shape, the future in uncertain times.

It produces fresh perspectives, by combining research with policy change and conflict-resolution initiatives. SFG brings out confidential and public research reports. Its in-depth scenarios in the context of the war in Iraq, instability in Central Asia, religious extremism in Pakistan and India’s economy has earned SFG, a reputation for correct projections.

Baby Elephant Roll, Artis Zoo, Amsterdam

Welcome to a 'feeling sorry for myself' kind of day in the life of an immigrant to Belgium

I think part of my distaste for blogging the highs and lows of my life is that the lows embarass me.

There is this anger that engulfs me when 'yet another' bureaucratic bungle affects my life in ways that those bungling can't imagine and I don't like wasting my time with the anger.

I love people and travelling, photography, good books, nice wine, music and working. Yes really, I love working, and earning money is of great interest to me.

Meeting and falling in love with a Belgian has adversely many aspects of my life ...

So this morning is an incredibly low day which may improve as the hours pass.

I didn't come to Belgium to find a way enter Europe.
Europe wasn't a dream of mine.
I simply met this guy who lives here and has kids we can't take away from their mother ... why Belgium would make things so impossible ... some days completely untenable, for a New Zealander who clearly has other places to be, is beyond me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Trafigura, a Dutch oil trading company

Who wants to live in Africa ...?

Der Spiegel has an interesting article on European companies using Africa as a dump for toxic materials.

Some experts see Abidjan's toxic cocktail as Africa's biggest environmental scandal yet. But the odyssey of the Probo Koala reveals the scandal as a sordid story that unfolded in the heart of Europe.

It began on the afternoon of July 2. As the ship was unloaded in Amsterdam's petroleum port, a west wind carried its sharp stench into nearby residential neighborhoods, where residents notified the police. "This is the worst stench we have ever experienced here," said an employee of Amsterdam Port Services (APS), a waste disposal company.

APS took a sample of the black substance from one of the ship's tanks. Though declared as "waste water" used to clean gasoline shipping tanks, chemical analysis told a different story. The hydrocarbons in the material contained high concentrations of a substance known as mercaptan -- a substance which is found in some crude oils and is produced by decaying vegetable matter, which is highly toxic -- and smelly -- in high concentrations.

Authorities halted the unloading of the waste. The captain of the ship, which was Greek-owned and registered in Panama, angrily turned down a proposal by APS officials to dispose of the waste properly at special facilities in Rotterdam. The cost would have been about $250,000, plus another $250,000 in contractual penalties for the ship's likely delayed arrival at its next port of call in Estonia.

For executives at Trafigura, a Dutch oil trading company with annual sales of $28 billion, that cost was too high. Management decided to send the ship on its way.

Three days later, the Probo Koala set sail again, now bound for Estonia. Under international regulations governing the cross-border shipping of hazardous waste, German authorities should have been notified of the ship's passage to German and Danish waters. Amsterdam port officials did send an urgent message to their counterparts in Paldiski, an Estonian port, informing them that a ship with a "suspicious cargo" was headed their way.

The Probo Koala was also unable to get rid of its chemical soup in Paldiski, where it took on a shipment of gasoline bound for Africa. After unloading the gasoline in Nigeria, the Trafigura-chartered vessel arrived in the Ivory Coast in August. A company called Tommy, which had just been established in July, took delivery of the sludge which the European ports had turned away.

Read on if curious ...

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous, unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.

Henry Miller

Los Pilones, Amsterdam

Alison took me to this superb Mexican restuarant the first time we were in Amsterdam together.

One mouthful of Alambres con Pollo at Los Pilones and I was a convert to Mexican food. The mojitoes are lovely too and the ambience ... well, if possible, reserve a table as the restaurant tiny and its reputation is big.

You can find them at Kerkstraat 63, 1017 GC, Amsterdam. And reservations can be made on 0203204651.

That's Alison on the left and me on the right ...

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Flame, originally uploaded by - di.

It was just me and the mosquito candle out on the balcony last night.

I've never tried nightime photography but I kind of liked this ...


I just took a phone call and was invited to spend a couple of days wandering in Amsterdam ...

Did I want to come?
Well you know what ... I most certainly did!
Huge smiles as I write 'bye for a couple of days'.

Ms Baker writes ...

I hadn't been over to the Desperately Wandering blog in a while and it was time to catch up with what was happening to my two favourite Kuwaitis ...

I wanted to link to this post by Ms Baker.

The way that she ends this post is important.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I definately need to go home and see the people who have known me forever ...

I just watched 'Love Actually' and teared up at the end, when everyone meets everyone at the airport ... it's been 2 years+ since I was last home.

Let's just hope that I can start my business easily now and that tons of people love my work because I need to earn that airfare back to New Zealand.
I was talking with Mark on skype and he dared me to reveal more of who I am on my blog. He's known me since he was maybe 10 years old.

I pointed out that I have 47.5 moods per day which would ever bore people ... or else cause them to send me free medication.

Mmmm, so I'm thinking on that one.

Paul, my friend for the last 27 years, called me out on my politics today, mocking me for my stance on a particular post.

Paul was the one who identified me as a leftie, after hours of arguing with me from his right-leaning perspective ...

Leftie ... ?
My politics are simple, it's how I live:
1. Do I want it to happen to me?
2. Would I do it to someone else?

It would be simpler for both Anonymous in Australia (Paul) and I, if he accepted I won't change my belief system and moved on however we've been arguing for years, I can't see it changing.

I wondered about what Mark meant when he suggested 'more of my self' and considered the implications if I talked of my recent fears about visiting Gert's doctor - as the wife of a Belgian I now have rights to health care ...

This doctor is the one who told me to get my blood pressure under control last October when she returned my lost hearing. I was 98.9% deaf when I arrived here in Belgium, she cured me after assuring me she didn't believe I could hear anything.

My winter spent as an 'accidental' in-process immigrant to Belgium played havoc with me and my self. I ran out of money 3 months into the '6 week immigrant process' that District House had assured me about and so it was that I have used Gert's money for the necessary and forgotten luxuries because I didn't come here to live off someone else.

One year of refusing the luxuries took a toll on my happiness ... I actually gained weight, mortifyingly enough. The doctor is not going to be sympathetic. Who understands the creation of 'pretend routines and work' ... as in sitting down blogging while caught between countries?

I spent that year living on travel insurance as an 'in-process immigrant'. I was mindful of the small print that said any serious illness would see me sent home for treatment (meaning I would have to begin my farcical process of application to live in Belgium again) and so being the wise woman I am, I decided to postpone anything serious like cancer and it's now with some trepidation and a huge imagination, that I'm preparing myself to go and see this matter-of-fact 'your health is your choice' doctor.

So I told Mark that sadness and imagination doesn't make interesting reading.

And okay, perhaps I could write about my political 'discussions' with Gert but I suspect he might dooce me and rightly so.

He's a liberal democrat and I sometimes spend hours questioning the ideology of his political party or wanting to discuss the way racism appears to have permeated the fabric of Belgium society. He sometimes wakes to a question, finding he has to defend all he believes in in English because I'm so bad at Nederlands.

And it has to be said that he would be right to dooce me if I wrote of those discussions and/or of course, people might send me medication ;)

I already know that had Paul in Australia spent more than a few hours in political 'discussion' with me about his ideology, I would have been fed to the crocodiles, then again I've know Paul since we were 14 and therefore he's probably entirely comfortable feeding old friends to the reptiles.

I don't know ... is Mark right, or am I?
More of my self, or more of what I am reading about ...?

Are we being blind, unbelieving and slow ... ?

"For surely the war was made to abolish Dachau and all the other places like Dachau and everything that Dachau stands for. We are not entirely guiltless, we the Allies, because it took us twelve years to open the gates of Dachau.

We were blind and unbelieving and slow, and that we can never be again."

Martha Gellhorn
American war correspondant during World War II
present at Dachau when the Nazis surrendered.

Josh Wolf, American Blogger Jailed in America for ...

Poynter Online is an interesting source for news stories being discussed by journalists. The latest headline to catch my eye was Jailed Video Blogger Loses Appeal .

Yesterday, Red Herring reported that freelance journalist Josh Wolf's appeal was rejected by a three-member federal court panel on Friday. Wolf was jailed for refusing to release video he shot of a violent protest last summer.

Because the protest turned violent — a police officer suffered a fractured skull and a small explosive device was put under a police car—San Francisco’s chief of police called in the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate.

Government officials disagree with Wolf regarding his right as a freelance journalist to choose not to allow a 15-minute chunk of footage from the protest to be used as evidence.

California’s shield law protects journalists from being forced by subpoena to reveal sources. But questions have been raised over Wolf’s journalist status.

In post 9/11 America, even journalists with mainstream news publications are facing increasing scrutiny, such as The New York Times’ Judith Miller, who spent time behind bars for an alleged CIA leak in 2005.

You can keep up with the news here on Josh's Blog.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Brussels bound today ...

I was making excuses not to travel to Brussels today however Joyce convinced me to go ...

I was showered, dressed and on the train 30 minutes after being convinced, arriving a staggering 5 minutes early at the meeting place I wasn't sure I would find or arrive at in time in Brussels Central Station.

Sarina arrived just after us and we set out on foot for the lovely Le Pain Quotidien at Rue des Sablons 11.

Despite being an advertised New Zealand expats lunch, we were the only three there ... at the very big table. No matter, we quickly adjusted and each ordered one of their stunning open sandwiches.

Mine was tuna, fried courgette with olive paste on a thin slices of brown bread.

Conversation was easy and, as is usual for me on these outings, time flew ...

Joyce jogs and walks, Sarina plays sport ... I blog. I regretted my blogging as they showed me the city on foot. There was a beautiful park whose name escapes me tonight (tiredness), and then an informative stop at the New Zealand Embassy ... Yes, you really can trade your New Zealand drivers Licence for a Belgian one, no exam.

Then there was what seemed like a mad dash to me - probably a stroll for the other two - across the city to where we said goodbye to Sarina before heading into The Royal War and Military History Museum at parc du Cinquantenaire 3.

The entry is free and the old war planes inside took my breath away. In another life I spent 4 years as a New Zealand Airforce Officer's wife. He was a teacher there for a time, so we did Base life and, much as I despise war, I fell in love with the planes.

Wandering amongst the planes today was a little piece of heaven for me. I'll have to go back when I don't have closing time hanging over my head ... Belgians take 'closing time' very seriously and so it was that we were politely but firmly shepherded out around 4.30pm.

A metro ride under the city and most of my body surface played host to a series of waterfalls brought on by the staggering humidity in the underground today. I was mortified but wiping it away only encouraged more and so I stood very still occasionally asking the adult and polite equivalent of 'Are we there yet?'

We wandered the restaurant-filled streets behind Grand Place, popped into the Tourism Office and then parted ways in Central Station ... that was me, sprinting off to catch the 5.25pm IR train back to Antwerpen.

I missed it by a fraction of a second and foolishly climbed onto the next Antwerpen train because I was hot and tired and liked the idea of sitting down.

It was an L train - as in Local ... a train to be avoided because it stops at EVERY station between here in Antwerpen. It took one hour and approximately 14 stops to get home.

It didn't help to know that had I waited 8 minutes longer in Brussels, I could have caught an IR train - as in Inter Regional ... which stops maybe 5 times, and would have had me in Antwerpen 30 minutes before the one that left 8 minutes earlier.

I guess I'll never forget what I learned about trains today and that's a useful piece of knowledge really ... if I want to look at the bright side.

Anyway it was a grand day out, I'm glad that I went.
Thanks for convincing me Joyce.

Sometimes there's nothing left to say ...

The United States -- and Germany -- discovered quite quickly that the accusations against Kurnaz were groundless. And yet he was not released.

Der Spiegel published Cem Özdemir's story of meeting Murat Kurnaz after his release from Guantanamo. Cem is the vice chairman of the special investigative commission formed to clarify the extent of the German government's complicity with illegal CIA activities in Europe.

Twenty-four-year-old Murat Kurnaz spent five years as a detainee in the US military camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was wrongly identified as an accomplice of the Taliban and recently released.

How does one express one's sense of what that person must have experienced? The man in question is now 24 years old. During a period of almost five years -- a period during which I married, became a father and was elected into the European Parliament -- this man was effectively stripped of his rights and had to live in complete isolation, in conditions that have driven other detainees to commit suicide.

Murat Kurnaz once had a "normal" life too. He wanted to start a family in Germany, along with his Turkish fiancé. He had completed his apprenticeship as a shipbuilder. He played guitar in his free time and liked sports -- like many other people his age.

He was "in the wrong place at the wrong time," is what insiders in Washington say -- sometimes cynically, sometimes laconically. They know Kurnaz was innocent when he was apprehended and detained.

But wait, there's more to Murat's story: Just a few days after his release and return to his German hometown of Bremen, the Turkish general consulate in nearby Hanover got in touch with Kurnaz -- but not in order to join me in wishing him and his mother "gecmis olsun." (may it be over) Instead, the consulate reminded Kurnaz of his duty as a Turkish citizen -- that of doing his military service in Turkey.

The Germans, eager to add to their crime of leaving an innocent civilian in Guantanamo Bay then did this: He still has to visit several government offices in Bremen in order to secure his permanent German residency permit.

It's only following a November 2005 decision by Germany's constitutional court -- the highest legal instance in the country -- that Kurnaz can even be certain he hasn't already forfeited his residency permit. Because that's exactly what Bremen Interior Minister Thomas Röwekamp of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party claimed he had done.

Röwekamp added the incredible explanation that Kurnaz had missed the deadline for making a formal request for the extension of his permit, as required by law -- as if Bremen's alien registration office had a branch office at Guantánamo
“Significant social change comes from the bottom up, from an aroused opinion that forces our ruling institutions to do the right thing.”

Senator Paul Wellstone

Kiwis have their say about Vegemite versus Marmite

Martin, a Kiwi friend here in Belgium, sent me an email on the subject of Vegemite.

I had to post his response, it made me laugh when I opened it.

I like Marmite. Vegemite is soft stuff. Marmite hurts!

Marmite is introduced to everyone who visits our house.

My Mum loves Marmite. So do I.

I reckon Vegemite is for softies.

Chiefbiscuit a kiwi back home also offered up a response. She said, 'However I hate to say this as a kiwi - but I prefer marmite ...'

So clearly, Marmite is another spread that Kiwis eat.
What is Marmite ...?

Basically, used brewer's yeast is broken down to release soluble amino acids and proteins. This soluble material is then concentrated and filtered a few times before going through a unique (and top secret) process for flavour development.

At the end of all this, we end up with yeast extract paste - nearly Marmite but not quite. The finishing touches make all the difference. We add an extra blend of vitamins, vegetable and spice extracts to create the taste your mouth adores!

It seems that whether you love or hate it could all rest on your tastebuds though ... Marmite leaves little room for a middle ground - you either love it or you hate it. The story goes that two people who were working on an advertising campaign for Marmite found themselves divided by their tastebuds: one of them adored it and the other didn't.

And that's how it is ...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Scott Stulberg, Photographer

The real journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

I love that quote, found on Scott Stulberg's 'About' page.

Manic sent me an email telling me about a photographer called Scott Stulberg . His website is quite quite stunning.

Thanks manic.

A lovely day out in Antwerpen

I wandered off to meet old and new friends in the city this morning and without intending to we ended up lounging around for most of the day ... networking really ... drinking coffee in a lovely outdoor cafe in an old part of the city.

Note to self: I love that cafe, I must do a write-up on it ... excellent coffee, lovely food and good service.

After an hour or so, there was a short discussion with regards to lunch venue, short because every newcomer to Antwerpen has to visit Het Elfde Gebod and that's where I took this photograph.

Subject: Onze Lieve Vrouew Kathedral spire (Cathedral of Our Lady)
Location: table outside at Het Elfde Gebod
Company: Kathryn (USA), Alison (Canada)

Two glasses of chilled white wine, some bread and a large slice of brie ... time flew.

I had an appointment at 4.30pm ... and for a rather stunning example of the multi-lingual abilities of Antwerpens click here and choose your language.

PINA are the people who assist immigrants with integration here in the city and I had had an idea for a project. I went back to take photographs today. Just by the way, they need volunteers ... I imagine it's a service run all over the world and they always need volunteers.

My idea wasn't one they had running and they're going to try implementing it. Let's see what happens but suffice to say, it's to do with me using my camera and this poem I can't link to on my own blog. You'll find it posted on 24 August - Poetry Thursday. Written by Mourid Barghouti, an extract ...

Can the earth contain
The cruelty of a mother making her coffee alone
On a Diaspora morning?
She wants to go to a planet away from the earth
Where all directions lead to the harbour of the bosom,
The gulf of two arms
That receive and know no farewells.
She wants airplanes to come back only.
Airports to be for those returning,
The planes to land and never leave again.
Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

Douglas Adams,
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

For dobermann .

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A little more on Vegemite

Lisa asked what Vegemite tasted like and I thought a while and came up with savoury, salty and yeasty ...

It's difficult to actually pull it out of my childhood and try and describe something that's been a part of my life forever.

I picked up my jar and read the label, then recalled Gert, Diede, Jason, Kagan and many other foreigners recoiling in horror after reading the ingredients list.

Yes ... so anyway, Vegemite contains:
yeast extract
malt extract
colour (E150d)
Also contains: preservatives (sulphur dioxide), vegetable extract (onion), niacin, thiamine, riboglavin and folic acid.

You're so tempted, aren't you ...

You can read all about it here , and I mean ALL.
The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.

Douglas Adams,
Mostly Harmless

THE Vegemite Post

Sal , it's not an easy task ... photographing the creation of a Vegemite sandwich.

There are those who will say I've sold out our Vegemite secrets for 5 minutes of fame and maybe they're right but I see it as a little evangelizing about Vegemite...

I would like to pretend that I eat Vegemite on a hearty brown grainy loaf of uncut bread but that would be a lie and anyway, it's easier to follow the application procedure on the white bread.

Application instructions are vital. Gert's parents would agree, having believed Raf when he told them they could eat it from a spoon one can eat Vegemite from a spoon - not even Crocodile Dundee. It's so wrong that it should be written on the Vegemite label as a health warning.

No ... here's how it's done.

One selects the bread or toast.
Note: if choosing toast, a whole new field in the decision-making process opens up ...
- hot or cold toast
- butter heavily applied to hot toast and melted
- butter heavily applied to cold toast and solid.
This is important and does alter the entire taste experience.

In the photographs, you will see that I chose white bread and a hearty application of butter (margarine will not suffice as it's one chemical step away from plastic and isn't a strong enough compliment the Vegemite - people who say 'overpower the Vegemite' should be ignored, they are exaggerating ... just in case Jason the American reads this).

After evenly applying the butter, you scoop out your first knife stroke of Vegemite. At no point should you apply Vegemite directly onto the bread. It tastes nasty without butter ... for me the butter is key to the experience.

People vary in Vegemite application ... as you will see, I took the light to medium approach on bread. This varies depending on a number of factors:
- freshness of bread
- white or brown bread
- toast
- white or brown toast
- hot or cold toast.

Shamefully, in a moment of greed and nostalgia, I also applied a single layer of potato chips to my bread ... a favourite lunchtime filling from the days of my childhood.

A Vegemite sandwich can also be loaded with cheese and/or lettuce. The sky is the limit, it's really what you can digest at the end of day.

Bon appetite!

Vegemite, food of Kiwis (and Kings if only they knew about it)

Vegemite, the food of Kiwis, originally uploaded by - di.

For Sal , who has kept me on task with regard to posting on how to eat Vegemite.

Homesick for New Zealand

I was just lying on the bed daydreaming about being back in New Zealand ...

For those who don't know, Belgium is pretty much the crossroads of Europe. When you're out on the motorways vehicles carry a country of origin tag and reading them is a novelty when you come from a smallish island nation at the bottom of the world.

There are Polish trucks, German, Dutch, Spanish, English Irish ... I've even seen Turkish trucks. European children can play registration plate games that New Zealand children can't even imagine while travelling the highways of home.

But homesickness ... I was lying on the bed with the sliding door open, enjoying the slight chill in the air, identifying the temperature as 'Dunedin around Easter time' ... such is the crazy upside-down life of a kiwi transpanted to the Northern Hemisphere. I experience the seasons in a complete reversal that is occasionally mind-boggling.

But it wasn't only the chill in air that was taking me home, it was the roar of the traffic on motorways leading into and around Antwerpen at 8.30am.

Morning rush hour and the roar of it took me back to Tautuku Beach on those nights when the surf became a constant roar as opposed to a pounding surf ... and the longer I listened, the more I could move round the South Island of my country ... to my sister's house on top of the hill in Andersons Bay; Long Beach during a spring tide and so many other beaches I love and can hear in the noise of the traffic this morning.

Sometimes I wonder about who I am now ...a woman who can live near the beach in one country without borders, or a woman who loves living somewhere close to the centre of Europe in terms of wandering through three different countries in a matter of hours.

Today I'm missing the beaches of home, the air and the people ...

And the photographs...?
The first is the beach behind Hokitika township, then Tomahawk Beach in Dunedin and finally the beach down at Taieri Mouth in Otago.

Immigrants to Belgium versus Belgian emigrants

Emigration rate up by 15pc in four years
The number of Belgians emigrating abroad has increased by 15 percent in the past four years, OECD figures have revealed. The OECD study found that 20,000 Belgians are leaving the country every year. In total, about 500,000 Belgians are believed to have moved abroad. A Leuven Catholic University academic said most people decide to leave for economic reasons. Despite the rising rate of emigration, however, many more Belgians stay at home in comparison with other nations.

I don't see the neo-nazi extreme right party publishing this when they write up: 1,000 new Polish workers every month
About 1,000 (temporary) jobs at Flemish companies are being taken up every month by expat Polish workers, government figures indicate. Since 1 June, the procedure for recruiting foreign workers from the new 10 EU member states have been simplified. Between 1 May and 31 July, a total of 3,086 work permits were issued in Flanders to nationals from the 10 new EU states. That is almost triple the amount in the same period last year (1,123).

Expatica .

Citizenship delays despite 'quicker' process

Expatica rounds up the news and writes it up in English.

An application for Belgian citizenship currently takes 18 months to be processed compared with six to nine months prior to the passing of the accelerated Belgian nationality law in March 2000.

The Dump Brothers, Violin Player, Antwerpen

Far-right suspects planned chaos, political murders in Belgium

It's the big story of the moment.

A total of 12 suspects are still being remanded in custody in a large-scale police investigation into planned attacks from the extreme-right in Belgium.

Ten of the initial 17 suspects were refused bail on Friday and police arrested another two suspects on Friday, both of whom were remanded in custody on Saturday.

The suspects were arrested on allegations they formed a neo-Nazi group which was planning to carry out violent attacks in Belgium to destabilise the nation.

The group of skinheads around the main suspect, Thomas B., a Belgian soldier from Buggenhout, was planning to plunge Belgium into chaos, by murdering various politicians.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Peter Moore,Writer

I've written about Peter more than once here, just because I'm a big fan of his travel books and I think that everyone should read his book 'The Wrong Way Home' and that's just to start with ...

I just wandered over to catch up on his blog and discovered he had written a really nice post about Steve Irwin .

Nice because he talks of how Steve was viewed by those people who worked with him ... My dad is not an emotional man but he is devastated. He said it was like a terrorist bomb had gone off at the zoo. Everyone is crying and the media are camped out front getting ‘reaction’ from staff as they leave.

Dad liked Steve Irwin. He doesn’t like poseurs but with Steve he said that what you saw was what you got. He was exactly the same in real life as he was on television.

Paul Salopek, Journalist

Spain's womanwandering wrote with the news that Paul Salopek is out of prison.

The Editor and Publisher Journal wrote: U.S. journalist Paul Salopek was released Saturday from a prison in the war-torn Darfur region where he was held for more than a month on espionage charges, the Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site.

A judge in the North Darfur capital of el-Fasher released the Chicago Tribune journalist and his Chadian driver and interpreter after a 13-minute hearing.

"We are stopping the case and we are releasing you right now. And that is all," the judge said in English, the Tribune reported.

Bill Richardson, the governor of the U.S. state of New Mexico, had traveled to Sudan on Friday to meet with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and secure their release on humanitarian grounds.

You can read more about Paul here ... in a previous post.

Boris Johnson, Bounder?

Martin told me about a Boris Johnson Times Online article ... titled Bozzer the Bounder it's a small taste of Andrew Gimson's highly revealing biography about Boris' life, loves and disasters

Grimson writes, When I asked Boris Johnson if I could write his biography, he laughed for a long time before saying: “Such is my colossal vanity that I have no intention of trying to forbid you.”

At the time, in the summer of 2004, Boris’s star shone with amazing brightness. Reputable judges predicted he would be the next Conservative prime minister.

Later ... Boris had moved from complete agreement with the book to total disagreement. He began by sounding utterly confident and ended by sounding strangely vulnerable. It was a curious transformation but also, as I was to discover, a rather characteristic one.

Sony's General Manager ...'Turkish economy just like a rodeo'

Erkan had a link to an article and I loved how it described Turkey ...

Sony's Eurasia General Manager Mohsen Noohi has commented on wavering of the Turkish economy lately, saying "Turkey is just like a rodeo; it is a beautiful, exciting, and wonderful country, but every now and then, you fall. If you can't get up after falling, you'll have a hard time succeeding here."

Noohi went on to note that Sony saw the future in Turkey in promising, which is why the company wants to make long term investment in the country. Noohi also noted that new products and product categories would be introduced by Sony to the Turkish market in the near future, and that a "Vaio" brand of laptop, produced especially with the Turkish market in mind, would be introduced in November of this year.

The Tram, Antwerpen

An Antwerpen Tram

I was catching the tram into the city this morning and decided to photograph it while I waited ...

Along came Guy, the tram driver who posed next to it for me.

I had never ridden the trams before moving to Antwerpen but they're a great way to get round the city, most particularly if you come from a part of the world where the traffic drives on the opposite side of the road.

Add to that the fact that Antwerpens have this 'certainty' about right of way when they're out there and I think it will take me some time to give up the trams and become a driver again.

So for 25euro per month, I have this pass that takes me all over the city riding the trams, buses and metro ...

Meanwhile it's a beautiful day here in Antwerpen, not too hot but a day full of sunshine.

Alles goed.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A grand day out ...

I don't want to bore you but ... you know those sublime days when you're just deeply happy about being alive?

I just had one of those days ... yes another sublime day but really, it was so much better than I could have imagined it might be when I got up this morning.

I went through my beach photographs from yesterday and simply LOVED some of them and then put away 'happy things' and went off to take some photographs of Belgian politicians as a favour.

I had to catch the tram that goes under the river ...

Going under the river is something I've avoided since coming here. Maybe it's a throwover from growing up in a land where earthquakes are common, maybe I'm claustrophobic but catching a tram under a river that is deep enough to have a big cruise liner dock in the city, isn't my idea of a good time.

But the trip was fine and nothing catastrophic happened (imagine that). I found our meeting place easily. Gert has worked out how to direct me so that I arrive in these new places I've never been before.

Another day of bright sunshine meant that lining up 9 politicians, the Kathedral and a church way off to the left wasn't simple however I think it is done.

Amongst the group of bystanders was an interesting woman who had made many visits to Australia. She felt that I should use the foot tunnel under the river ... I wasn't convinced but I knew I wouldn't respect myself if I avoided it.

Well ... it was really quite marvellous. I took photographs too. I'll research it and post them because it opened around 1932, making it interesting in terms of world war two.

I came above ground at the Sunday antiques market and took photographs of interesting people and then strolled over to Het Elfde Gebod, my favourite pub here. I ordered a red wine, pulled out my book and read in the sun for a while.

THEN, as if all the rest wasn't enough, I walked to the tram via Conscience Plein and heard a band. A wonderful band and they sounded like New Zealanders or Australians while singing however 100 photographs later, when I asked if they'd like copies I learned that they are an Antwerpen group ... with one Finn and a dog.

They were delicious and I'll post some of the photographs with news of their next gig here in Antwerpen.

It was a grand day out ...

Free things to do in Brussels

Over at the other blog I'm maintaining for New Zealand expats in Belgium I just wrote up some news from one of our members ...

Joyce had stumbled across an interesting link that lists all you can do in Brussels for free.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A great many people think they are thinking, when they a merely rearranging their prejudices.

William James.

I love New Zealand ...

I'm sitting here in the sun, at Gert's relatively tidy desk ... the surface papers will be easy to pick up and put away.

Andrea Bocelli is singing to me (sshhhh, that's how it seems as his voice surrounds me via the computer speakers) and I'm working on research for a delicious project that I'll tell you about next year when it all happens.

Anyway why do I love New Zealand today ...?
Well in the course of my research I ended up in the New Zealand Sheepdog Trial Association and it's superb. It explains all that they do, and for reasons that I probably can't explain I love that.

Sundays, I think it was Sundays, we couldn't help ourselves ... us townies would gather round the tv screen to listen as Jim Moira took us through the dog trials. There were some very naughty sheep involved at times and the dogs could be anything from superb through to useless. Jim described it all and we hung off his every word.

It's a nice memory and it's why I'm smiling about New Zealand at this moment in time.

(Note: the photograph was taken one day while I was sitting on Hunter's verandah down in Fiordland, New Zealand. I don't have a sheepdog photograph but it seemed like a post that required a dog photo ... these two were friends and delighted me as they shared the space with us.)

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I've been working at my desk for days and not really taking the time to tidy up afterwards.

The solution ... well I moved over to Gert's desk and took over, again.

Shamed after viewing this photo which confirmed all I suspected ... So Many wrongs committed while colonising his space, I'm writing this from a pristine work space ...

All paper is gone, the surface is polished, there's now room to move and I'm resting mid-way through a similar treatment on my desk. Photographs won't be forthcoming because pre-cleaning my desk was too shameful. Who knew I'd collected that much paper and so much important-I-must-keep-that-in-view stuff.

Tot ziens until later.

Andrew Grice and Narcosphere

I was searching for a way to access Andrew Grice's articles without subscribing and found this project he's involved in called The Narcosphere

It's an interesting project. In the about section I read:
Veteran journalist Chris Lydon has a name for it: "the transformation."

A fundamental shift is underway in how politics and fundraising are practiced: from dependence on the financiers at the top levels of the economy to a more authentically democratic model of a wide base of support from below.

But the transformation is, still, too often blocked, or co-opted, by the dominant forces of the Commercial Media and the powerful interests they serve. The Commercial Media remains dependent on a single, top-down, and decaying, model of "advertising dollars" (and the corresponding targeting of upscale consumers), investors, and corporate ownership to survive. The resulting damage to democracy is evident to most people on earth.

... The Narcosphere - it appears online here is a participatory, online, forum, where readers and journalists come together to discuss, correct, add new information and relevant links, and debate the work of the journalists who publish on

The Narcosphere is similar to other forums on the Internet that utilize a software named Scoop (Kuro5hin and The Daily Kos) are two of the more popular examples), but with some new twists.

They promise some interesting changes ... it's worth reading about if you're curious.