Sunday, December 31, 2006

All the best in 2007

Hey there, writes the woman who sounds like a 100-year-old woman who has spent her entire life chainsmoking when she coughs.

The flu seems to be almost done with me, I took less painkillers, cough mixture and slept less today ... a good day in retrospect, or as compared to the last few days.

Anyway, and more importantly ... HAPPY NEW YEAR and all the best to everyone in 2007.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Today was the day I had been looking forward to for a long time ... I was meant to photograph the Antwerpen offerfeest, otherwise known as Aid Al-Adha.

Sadly my Spanish cold is a nasty one and all I've done for the last two days is sleep, cough, take painkillers and cough syrup (too late to avoid coughing my throat raw) and sleep somemore.

The worst thing about getting sick in a country that's not your own is that all the remedies and comforts passed down to you by your mother and nana are gone.

I need ice blocks for my throat ... back in New Zealand I would have bought Popsicles or Fru-Jus but they're not available here.

I would have squeezed lemons, added honey and disprin for a hot drink ...
No way.

We have our New Year's Day feast at een uur on Mandag. Fingers crossed that I can beat back this flu cold by then.

Tot ziens from the miserable one.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The good news is that the sun is out in Belgium ... the less good news is that I'm feeling terrible.

I have a cold - with throat, head and body aches, accompanied by an unattractive cough. My bed is my constant companion ...

Last time I was this sick I was teaching in Istanbul. I'm not happy to find my old foe has followed me here.

Will get back to you when feeling better.

Tot ziens.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”Douglas H. Everett

Ascender Rises Above is a blog that often has stunning art work for sale, combined with poetry and extracts like the above.

I loved this quote, with its associated painting and poem .

Meet my granddaughter ...

One of the most frustrating things about immigrating to Europe has been the time it has taken ...

I was an accidental immigrant - in that I did it without thinking, never imagining that falling in love with a European might be an offence punishable by paperwork.

Along the way I lost things but the worst of it has been the longer than normal seperation from my daughter ... and granddaughter.

On the bright side, and there almost always has to be one ... my daughter is a stunning photographer and she sent me a new batch of photographs for Christmas ... so, meet my beautiful granddaughter.

So ...

It's been a bumpy landing, this homecoming ...

Everyday we spent in Spain gifted us skies like those in the first photograph here.

With last winter as my guide I can tell you that we had skies like those in the second photograph, taken today, for more than 2 winter months and so it will be again, if the gods of the weather map decide that is how it is to be.

The other cause of this low mood today is about the fact that I sympathised with Erin when she woke 2 mornings ago with a cold that had gone straight to her chest. Today the sympathy has turned to heartfelt empathy ... it seems that the sibling of her cold is a traveller and decided on a quick trip to Belgium so here I am - unwilling host of the moment.

I know, I know ... it's post-travel settling back in, normal in fact.
And I'll gamely reply ... 'No wurries mate', hoping to impress all with the casual downunder way of dealing with life.

Meanwhile, I need to go find some chorizo and cook down some wine for the sauce ... am fighting an almost overwhelming desire for a nice tapas lunch.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas !!!

Forgive me for not replying to comments for now ... I´m reading and smiling then releasing them but that´s all I have time for in these days ... snatched moments at the internet cafe as Erin´s connection is down for the duration ... and who has time to blog anyway ;)

Erin´s Spain is a truly incredible place.

Yesterday we drove 60 kilometres to Toro where we wandered, tasted wine and ate a lunch that left us no desire for more food until breakfast this morning.

Today we drove 75kms to a small mountain village in the Sierrra ... a stunning ancient village whose name escapes me for now, and even if I did remember it, my spelling would make ´place´a wild guess for any reader.

We were shown around the pueblo, located above 1000metres, fed a lunch that, once again won´t see us needing to eat until the morning.

Tradition is alive and well up in La Alberca (yes, I leaned over and harassed Erin for location and spelling).

But enough, photographs to follow when we are home again.
Words won´t capture a quarter of what we are seeing.

All the best to everyone reading here ... have the happiest Christmas with family and friends, be safe, be happy.

All the best

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Salamanca ...

is stunning ...!

We´ve been here 24 hours and already there are 400 photographs needing checked.

Erin has given us an evening in tapas bars ... red wine and food to quietly die for ... walked us through the old city, golden sandstone that turns pink as the light changes, deep blue sky that almost makes you forget the occasionally cutting wind.

We´ve heard legends, explored ancient buildings and met some very nice people.

This is only a quick report on my way to other work here at the computer but just so you know, alles goed here in Spain.

Tot ziens.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Woman Wandering ...

Almost all is done ... clothes washed, gifts bought and wrapped, passport found, camera bag packed; most of the long 'to-do' list is done.

Glasses picked up from where they were left yesterday, wine and a lovely afternoon spent with a friend,eyebrows reshaped ... hmmmm, must phone home before I fly out.

We're wandering - heading for Spain, guests of that other wanderingwoman .

So that's us, the crowd of three, celebrating a multi-national Christmas ... an American, a Belgian and the New Zealander in Spain.

I can't imagine not blogging, so I'll hold back on the Merry Christmas for now.

Take care and tot binnenkort ...

Monday, December 18, 2006

I've just come in from a most interesting day ...

I was filmed reading an ee cummings poem ... but of course.

Andy Fierens phoned recently, a lovely surprise on my cellphone. He had been given my name and told I was a native English speaker living in Antwerpen. He needed one for an exhibition about poetry and people here in the city, opening January 2007.

Andy's a whole other story it seems ... or series of interesting stories if google has served me well but more than that, he and Mario, the cameraman, made the experience of reading 'the' poem so much more fun than I could have imagined.

Anyway, for those curious here is the poem Di read ...

i like my body when it is with your

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric furr, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh....And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A thought-provoking BBC drama

Something that hits me again and again here in Europe, is the plight of the immigrant ... most particularly the ones who aren't wanted ... wrong colour, wrong race, wrong religion, illegal or political refugees. And while everyone is busy with learning why they should hate and fear them, often they're people just like you and me, people who are just trying to live.

I was watching a BBC drama tonight and was impressed by the 'reality' aspect of it. I went web-wandering and found the write up... Born Equal started life as a film about homelessness but, as the director Dominic Savage embarked upon his research, a markedly different film began to take shape.

"I knew then that one of the issues I really wanted to deal with was the extremes of difference in people's lives - and, in a place like London, those extremes can be experienced within just a few streets. People can be in hugely different worlds but sharing the same space.

"The film shows huge contrasts between people and how they live, their ideas, what they've got and what they haven't got," says Savage, who points out that although the film is set in London, the same contrasts can be seen all over Britain.

"In the end, what the film aspires to achieve is to encourage people to think more about others, care about the less fortunate and be more aware of what's going on around them."

It's worth seeing.

Peter Lik, Photographer

Gert's brother just sent us a link to a rather stunning photography website.

If you feel like wandering through Australia or America then you might quite enjoy looking through Peter Lik's photography website .

Peter Lik is the world’s most innovative and prolific landscape photographers.
His passion and dedication to his craft are unsurpassed, and Peter is recognized as the leaders in his field.
He was born in Melbourne Australia and is the only son of Czech immigrant parents. Completely self taught, Peter’s talent for photography was evident from an early age.

He first picked up a camera at the age of eight, and has retained a spirit and enthusiasm for his work that is equaled only by his unbounded energy and deep affinity for the land.

It was while travelling in Alaska in 1994 that Peter’s fascination with photography took a dramatic turn. Previously only working with 35mm cameras, he discovered the encompassing view of the panoramic camera and he was converted. It opened up a whole new world of creative possibilities and took him to another level in his photography.

Out and About in December

For the second year in a row, I found myself standing in a square here in the city, taking in the sights and the sounds and the smells of Antwerpen's Christmas Market.

It's warmer this year but the ice rink is up and operational over in Grote Markt and I felt something like nostalgia when the big red A's lit up the buildings surrounding the square as the afternoon darkened.

We had paused for a lunch of super-large bratworst in a bread roll, with that odd tasting, almost cinnamon tomato ketchup they've been serving up lately.

We found me a warm jersey and wandered back to the square ... smoutebollen were next on the list of things that must be eaten. We shared a paper cone filled with 7 icing sugar-covered piping hot smoutebollen. Gert claimed they weren't hot, I say they were.

He devoured 4 in the time it took me to gingerly nibble my way through two. He waited a while after his first two but I told him to chomp on ... clearly this is some kind of natural talent.

He then horrified me by putting an entire smoutebol in his mouth ... I continued to knaw away at mine.

The day had begun with a jaunt to the Rosada factory outlet in the Netherlands. It's about 45kms from Antwerpen and it's a little collection of shops that sell Levis, Nike and etc.

Gert found some shoes, I resisted all, finding nothing that tempted me. I have a tendency to fall in love with my clothing and avoid settling for less than that love-thing unless I'm caught in an in-process immigrant kind of experience where money and the life you knew before aren't really options.

no matter ... Rosada Factory Outlet can be found here .

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I gave up reading the news for a week, more or less ... I didn't feel like it.

Yesterday woke me again. I was reading Der Spiegel's article about tax evading prostitutes in Cologne, stunned by the gap in the article that concludes that there appears to be a significant number of tax evaders.

How did they deduce this ... well they worked out how many prostitutes there were in Germany and did the math.

But ... they only needed to research a little further and discover the reality of prostitution in Europe ... that human traffiking is alive and well.

In an article about taxing prostitutues in Antwerp - referring to the 'tax' as a tax on 'the windows they or their owners hire' you quickly discover what the German tax inspectors are overlooking:

You can read: But even here (in Antwerp), human trafficking endures just outside the zone. Police say illegal prostitutes still outnumber legal ones and about a quarter of the total are the victims of human trafficking or work for pimps. In Germany, aid groups say there are three times as many illegal prostitutes as legally registered ones. In the Netherlands, only 5 percent to 10 percent of the nearly 20,000 prostitutes pay taxes, according to the Prostitution Information Center in Amsterdam.

Dated May 2005 you can read the rest of that article here .

Sometimes the big papers don't tell it like it is and so perhaps I need to keep reading the news because the gaps frighten me.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I haven't blogged much this week, I've felt like rubbish since Sunday morning ... it comes and it goes, I've had busy moments in between. No matter, I plan on curing myself at the weekend.

And there's talk of finding me a warm winter coat in the Netherlands tomorrow and then there's our preparations for a Christmas in Spain ... did I mention that yet?

I guess that's one of the oddest things about being a New Zealander on this side of the world ... places like Spain are so much closer than they ever were back home on the wee island-continent.

Belgium Split ...

I've been busy this last 36 hours and completely missed the latest uproar in Belgium.

Note: Peter did a much more well-informed and interesting post on it over here .

Erin wrote asking about 'it' and I took advice from my Belgian on what she was talking about.'

He was smiling when told me of this (yes, he's Flemish): RTBF's CEO, Jean-Paul Philippot, takes full responsibility for a fake news bulletin that portrayed the splitting of Flanders from the rest of Belgium in real time.

It's certainly the craziest idea and best kept secret ever to take shape in the hallways of the headquarters of radio and television company for Belgian Francophones RTBF, on Reyers' Boulevard, reports Le Soir newspaper.

A team of journalists from the RTBF shocked the nation as they broadcast this fictional news bulletin portraying the scission of Flanders live from outside the Flemish Parliament; discussing these unlikely events with journalist, politicians and celebrities.

Several prominent Flemish politicians took part in the broadcast including the speaker of the chamber of representatives, Flemish Liberal Herman Decroo.

The concept had been kept secret for several months and all the interviewees were well-versed in their roles.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Still slightly seedy this morning but the nausea is definately easing.

I had to laugh when I saw the difference in the way that I treat myself if I think the illness is self-induced and when it's a flu.

I suffered with the hangover, I even confessed here just because blogging was the very last thing that I felt like but then, as the days went on and the blogging fairy stayed quiet, I began to question the hangover theory.

Of course, I always start with the worst-case scenario. My mother and nana both died very soon after diagnosis a few years ago and some events scar a person some, whether they're conscious or not.

Yesterday, Gert filled my little worried heart with joy as he confessed to feeling quite ill.

It's a flu!
This woman who hasn't had a flu for years is just coming out the other side of her first Belgian flu.
Life is good.

Yesterday I received the poem I'm reading for the camera on Monday.
I'll post after the event. That's a retrospective story methinks ...

Off to the city today.

Tot ziens.
-Your life is up to you.
Life provides the canvas; you do the painting.

Borrowed from Erin

Thanks :)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Okay, the sickness continues ... I blogged incorrectly, that was no hangover or perhaps a little one but it's Wednesday and I'm still a bit crook, as we say back in New Zealand (sick, ill ... )

No matter, last night was a good night here in Belgie. The NZIB (New Zealanders in Belgium) had their annual Christmas party, made all the better because it was hosted by and included some Australians.

For all the mocking that goes on between Australia and New Zealand, we do enjoy catching up with each other. I realised the game of it when both my brothers married Australians and so many friends made good lives for themselves over in Australia.

We just prefer to win when competing against them and happily, I could mention the All Blacks with pride ;)

Life is speeding along here.

My photography website is soon to go live, largely thanks to the people I find around me in these days. It's one thing to be able to take the photographs but quite another to have experts in PR, website development, photographers and creative types working with me.

Slowly but surely ...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Saturday night in Antwerpen

Responding to Meneer Manic's nagging I'm finally updating my blog, although his comment did correspond with an improvement in my health and I just want to say, 'that'was more than a hangover. I didn't drink enough to stay ill for 2 days ... really, I didn't.

So I slept until lunchtime today and now I'm slowly but surely rebooting life as normal.
It's good to be back actually.

The party on Saturday ... well I looked round the room at one point and thought 'What really nice people.'

Numbers were down due to various friends and acquaintences flying home for their Christmas celebrations or they had been pre-booked, which is common enough at this time of year but still, our lounge ended up with a few small groups of interesting people chatting about all manner of things.

There's a moment I look for when partying ... it's like a small 'ting'; that moment when you realise it's going to be okay, people are talking, mingling ... alles goed.

Shannon, Alison and I started up this party tradition where we keep opening the circle. So each party, we invite folk we've met along the way. Shannon and Gabe's first party like this was spectacular as Shannon invited her entire French class ...

Out here in the world, I meet the most incredible people and it's a real pleasure to bring everyone together; a privilege to be allowed to know them really.

So yes, Saturday night was a good night, according to me.

Jahangir Razmi, Pulitzer Prize winner

I found this fascinating story in The Wall Street Journal.

Here are some extracts but the entire story is interesting ...

TEHRAN - On Aug. 27, 1979, two parallel lines of 11 men formed on a field of dry dirt in Sanandaj, Iran. One group wore blindfolds. The other held rifles. The command came in Farsi to fire: "Atesh!" Behind the soldier farthest to the right, a 12th man also shot, his Nikon camera and Kodak film preserving in black and white a mass execution.

Within hours, the photo ran across six columns in Ettela'at, the oldest newspaper in Iran. Within days, it appeared on front pages around the world. Within weeks, the new Iranian government annexed the offending paper. Within months, the photo won the Pulitzer Prize.

Ettela'at, however, didn't print the photographer's name, fearing his safety. The Pulitzer was officially awarded to "an unnamed photographer of United Press International," the news service that distributed the photo in the U.S. It remains the only time the award has ever been given to an anonymous recipient.

In fact, nearly three decades after the epochal photograph first appeared, almost no one knows who took it.

But Mr. Razmi, who is now 58, said part of him always wanted to step forward. He was disappointed when he first saw that his photo didn't carry his name. He was irked when others took credit, people who "never feel the danger," he said. And all the time, he was weighted by his secret, that of an ordinary man witness to extraordinary events. "Without this picture," he said, "I wouldn't be anything."

Emboldened by time and dismayed by the opportunism of his fellow photographers, Mr. Razmi decided the moment was right to tell his tale after this newspaper approached him. "My name should be there," he said.

Says Mr. Razmi: "There's no more reason to hide."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A slow day today

I really hate the fact that being sorry for drinking a little too much doesn't fix anything ... one still has to suffer the consequences.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My lovely blog writing anthropologist friend Erkan wrote about me ...
Tesekkür Erkan Bey:)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Another good day ...

Sometimes my days are sublime ...

I started out sluggish, there was no other word for it. I was tired after Germany and I had to clean up breakfast before my 'office-space' was pleasing to me. Sometimes I mumble about that. Gert has a cleaning lady who cleans up his office as he sleeps ... I want one too.

I had some 40x60cm enlargements waiting for me in the city.
Seeing them would give me some idea of print enlargement quality on images from my little EOS Canon 350D. I was scared I might be left wanting more ... a bigger digital, more pixels 'n stuff.

I dragged myself out of the house wishing my umbrella was bigger ... rain.

At the shop and I loved the results!

Later, as I was about to climb on the tram, I missed a call on my cellphone. Digging around in my bag, I pressed redial and greeted the caller warmly, assuming I knew them.

He hastily said, 'You don't know me' and was quietly worried Just how friendly was I ...?

He needed my help, he told me.
Curious I listened as I boarded the tram ... no mean feat with a full bag of groceries, a flimsy plastic bag of fragile photographs and a handbag.

He needed a native English speaker for an exposition in the city next year.
He talked some more, describing a rather delicious sounding project where I will be filmed reading a poem and that's all I'm telling for now. I need to know a little more before attempting to explain.

I said yes because out in the world, I promised myself I would say yes to as many new adventures as I had the courage for ... this seemed like a good one.

Then ... as if my cup hadn't already runneth over ... I received an email about photographing the Offerfeest here in the city at the end of December.

Stunned and delighted I am.

In 2001 I discovered anthropology while studying literature and I took as many classes in anth as was possible.

These days I'm living a dream I didn't have the imagination to dream.

It was a good day ...

Who knew ...

Joe Sharkey at The New York Times wrote an article that sent chills through me ...

Because it's yet another sign that America is no longer the land of the free.

A lot of business travelers are walking around with laptops that contain private corporate information that their employers really do not want outsiders to see.

Until recently, their biggest concern was that someone might steal the laptop. But now there's a new worry - that the laptop will be seized or its contents scrutinized at U.S. customs and immigration checkpoints upon entering the United States from abroad.

Although much of the evidence for the confiscations remains anecdotal, it's a hot topic this week among more than a thousand corporate travel managers and travel industry officials meeting in Barcelona at a conference of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.

Last week, an informal survey by the association, which has about 2,500 members worldwide, indicated that almost 90 percent of its members were not aware that customs officials have the authority to scrutinize the contents of travelers' laptops and even confiscate laptops for a period of time, without giving a reason.

"One member who responded to our survey said she has been waiting for a year to get her laptop and its contents back," said Susan Gurley, the group's executive director. "She said it was randomly seized. And since she hasn't been arrested, I assume she was just a regular business traveler, not a criminal."

... Appeals are under way in some cases, but the law is clear. "They don't need probable cause to perform these searches under the current law," said Tim Kane, a Washington lawyer who is researching the matter for corporate clients. "They can do it without suspicion or without really revealing their motivations."

Oddly enough, it becomes another reason not to fly to the US ... love the people, can't deal with the politics and paranoia of the president and those who make his policies.

Thanks for passing it on Erin ...

Christmas Markets In Germany

Der Spiegel is running a story about Germany's Christmas markets ...

Antwerpen's Christmas Market opens tonight. This article gives you a taste of the winter Christmas tradition that is everywhere here.

For hundreds of years, merchants have erected small wooden huts in the ancient centers of cities and towns all across Germany at Christmas, where artisans peddle handicrafts, baked goods, regional cuisine and millions of liters of Glühwein (mulled wine) to help keep Jack Frost away. For the month of December, right up to the 24th, and in some cases until New Year's, the country's world-famous Christmas markets offer a sort of mini Oktoberfest all across the country, where dirndl-clad Bavarian bar wenches, beer and pretzels are replaced with Saint Nicholas, Glühwein, gingerbread, fruitcake, speculatius and other holiday delights.

"Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck."

-Iris Murdoch, 1973

Sample questions on your test for entry to Britain ...

I can only hope that I'm not faced with this line of questioning on re-entering New Zealand because after spending most of my life there ... well, let's just say I'm clearly not worthy of inclusion in the society there ;)

Migration to Britain: Where have migrants come from in the past and why? What sort of work have they done?

The changing role of women: Do women have equal rights and has this always been the case? Are there as many women in education or work as men? Do women get the same pay as men? Do women with children work?

Children, family and young people: How many young people are there in the UK? Do many children live in single parent families or step-families? When do children leave home? What sort of work do children do? When do children take tests at school? How many go on to higher education? What are the minimum ages for buying alcohol and tobacco? What drugs are illegal? How interested are young people in politics? What do they see as the main issues today?

Population: How many people live in the countries of the UK? What is the census and how is census data collected and used? How many people belong to an ethnic minority and which are the largest minority groups? Where are there large ethnic communities?

Religion and tolerance: How many people say they have a religion and how many attend religious services? What are the largest religious groups? What is the Church of England and who is its head? What are the main Christian groups?

The regions of Britain: Where are Geordie, Cockney and Scouse dialects spoken?

Customs and traditions: Do people tend to live in the cities or in the country? What and when are the national days of the four countries of the UK? What are bank holidays? What and when are the main Christian festivals? What other traditional days are celebrated?

The working system of government: What are MPs? How often are elections held and who forms the government? What is the role of the Prime Minister? Who advises them and what are the main roles in the Cabinet? What type of constitution does the UK have? What is Her Majesty's Opposition and what is the role of the Leader of the Opposition? How is political debate reported? Are newspapers free to publish opinions or do they have to remain impartial?

The formal institutions – 1: What is the Queen's official role and what ceremonial duties does she have? How do elections for the House of Commons work? How are candidates selected? What do the Speaker and Whips do? What is the House of Lords and who are its members? How can you visit Parliament?

The formal institutions – 2: How are judges appointed and how do they apply the law? How are the police organised and who controls their administration? What is the civil service and how do civil servants work with government? How are local services managed, governed and paid for?

Devolved administration: What is proportional representation and where is it used? What are the powers of the devolved administrations? Which areas of policy remain under the control of the UK government? What are quangos and non-departmental public bodies?

Britain in Europe and the world: What are the roles and powers of the main institutions of Europe? How is European law organised? What rights do citizens of European Union states have to travel and work? What is the Commonwealth? What is the United Nations and what is Britain's role within it?

The ordinary citizen: What rights and duties do UK citizens have? Who has the right to vote and at what age? How and when do you register to vote? Who can stand for public office? How do you contact an elected representative?

Sourced from Telegraph News .

Erkan Saka, Anthropologist and Blogger

Watching the headlines spin by over here in Europe or is that 'headlines spun about Turkey here in Europe', I can begin to imagine how Turks might feel about their 'path' to the EU.

I found the cartoon over on Erkan's website .

I often source information from Erkan's site but I haven't written about who he is for quite some time. Erkan Saka is a Ph.D candidate in the Anthropology Department of Rice University and a teaching assistant at the Media and Communication Systems Department of Istanbul Bilgi University.

He uses his blog to register his fieldwork for his dissertation thesis project on Turkish journalism and the European Union (EU).

His blog is an interesting source of news, commentaries, casual analyses, documents, fieldnotes etc related to Turkey, the EU and his research as well as his posts on anthropology, journalism, cyberculture, football (soccer), reading notes and other field attractions ...

As usual ... thanks Erkan :)

Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Lecture, 2006

Erkan posted an extract from Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Lecture this year ... a speech that you probably won't find mentioned on mainstream television channels however, no matter, it is their loss.

He also posted a link to Orhan's moving Nobel lecture ... .

Some extracts: A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words.

He can write poems, plays, or novels, as I do. All these differences come after the crucial task of sitting down at the table and patiently turning inwards. To write is to turn this inward gaze into words, to study the world into which that person passes when he retires into himself, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy.

As I sit at my table, for days, months, years, slowly adding new words to the empty page, I feel as if I am creating a new world, as if I am bringing into being that other person inside me, in the same way someone might build a bridge or a dome, stone by stone.

The stones we writers use are words. As we hold them in our hands, sensing the ways in which each of them is connected to the others, looking at them sometimes from afar, sometimes almost caressing them with our fingers and the tips of our pens, weighing them, moving them around, year in and year out, patiently and hopefully, we create new worlds.

The writer's secret is not inspiration – for it is never clear where it comes from – it is his stubbornness, his patience. That lovely Turkish saying – to dig a well with a needle – seems to me to have been said with writers in mind.

...I believe literature to be the most valuable hoard that humanity has gathered in its quest to understand itself. Societies, tribes, and peoples grow more intelligent, richer, and more advanced as they pay attention to the troubled words of their authors, and, as we all know, the burning of books and the denigration of writers are both signals that dark and improvident times are upon us.

But literature is never just a national concern. The writer who shuts himself up in a room and first goes on a journey inside himself will, over the years, discover literature's eternal rule: he must have the artistry to tell his own stories as if they are other people's stories, and to tell other people's stories as if they were his own, for this is what literature is. But we must first travel through other peoples' stories and books.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Off to Germany for the day ...

The Canucks have invited this Kiwi to travel with them to Koeln (Cologne) ... curious I am to see what is there.

Weather Underground reports 8 celsius and cloudy.
No mention of the horrendous rain expected in Belgie today ...

Tot ziens.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A couple of memorable quotes from Der Spiegel ...

Wolfowitz is the textbook example of the coexistence of cleverness and stupidity or, to put it more politely, for the coexistence of intellectualism and naiveté in a single person.

They go on through the list of those serving America ... Yet another irony of fate: Bolton, the blockhead and America First type, as UN ambassador. As a diplomat.

But the article is there for all to read.
Gerhard Spörl titled his piece Bye Bye Blockheads ...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It's been a day ...

I'm writing this post from Gert's office in the city ...

He foresaw problems with me hanging out here for a couple of hours on this wet, dark, rainy, windy day and offered me a colleague's computer. Or he may have been compelled by pity as he watched me struggling to handwrite a letter to an old friend. I seem to have lost the power of writing.

It's been one of those days ...

I had my 4th dental appointment this morning and like a boxer going into the ring, I have my preparation time beforehand.
I was alone and contemplative.

I left in time to be 5 minutes early, my dentist was running at least 30 minutes behind however it was okay, I chatted with the policewoman who had travelled 2 hours on the train simply because she had heard my dentist was so good.
I confirmed both dentists in the practice were superb.

We exchanged phone numbers and will have coffee next time she's in the city.

Then, having had a filling removed from the very back of my mouth ... my very small mouth ... I wasn't quite feeling myself and blocked Gert's money card with too many attempts.

And so here I am, having met Gert who unblocked the money card, waiting for my 6.30pm photography appointment with interesting people in the city.

Last time I tried meeting a similar group, I was running late due to babysitting Gert's son, although I would have made it on time ... until my tramline was blocked by a bus crash.

The Chinese Englishman, a Nigerian guy from Brussels, a silent Chinese woman and I made our way through the rain darkened streets in search of a bus on the other side of the accident.
Really, we did.

We talked as we walked ... the English guy had recently been bankrupted and was having trouble with baliffs but he was a friendly soul.

The Nigerian was married but couldn't get his wife into Belgium.
The Chinese woman smiled and said nothing.

We parted ways when my destination came in to view.

Once there, I was told by a woman that I was in the wrong place. She gave me a map, telling me that if I walked back a few blocks I would arrive where I was meant to be. Gert had another meeting and I was only free for a short time ... I went home.

It turned out she was wrong. I'm going back there today, let's see how it goes.

Sometimes, I feel just like Alice must have felt when she found herself down the rabbit hole ... hmmm, and I do believe I've found a nice place to hang out on the cold rainy days. Now to tell Gert ...
Erin posted and it's too delicious not to pass on ...

And travelling is also a way of creating, because you retain all that you see and all that you hear, in the memory and in the retina, in order to later try to interpret it, as if you were an artist, a painter facing the palette, facing the faces and the shapes, a musician open to sound, to voices and rhythms, and perhaps in the end, a poet. Travel converts us into free beings; allows us to see ourselves paused in time while the world runs along beside us.
Javier Reverte

Gracias Erin.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Persian Chicken

Carolien commented on the Persian Chicken recipe, here it is:

2 large onions, 1 cup water, 1cup red wine, 2 teaspoons chicken stock powder, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1 tablespoon tomato puree, 1 kg cooked chicken meat, 250g small button mushrooms, 3 spring onions, 1 cup green or black grapes, 400g can apricots drained and sliced (optional), 1/2cup coarsely chopped parsley, 1/2cup prepared mayonnaise, 1 cup lightly whipped cream.

Still with me ...?

You roughly chop the onions and place them in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or fry pan.
Add the water, wine, chicken stock powder, curry powder and tomato puree.
Simmer for 30 minutes until liquid has been reduced and the mixture has a chutney-like appearance. Stir frequently during cooking time.

Add the diced chicken, the washed whole mushrooms (I slice and lightly pre-cook the mushrooms), spring onions, grapes and apricots.
Cook for about 5 minutes to warm the chicken through and then fold in the parsley, mayonnaise and cream.

Serve immediately with something like rice, noodles or a crispy salad.

Shannon, it's for you too.

Excellent news ... John Bolton Resigns from the UN

The Washington Post is running the story that John Bolton has resigned from his temporary UN appointment.

Unable to win Senate confirmation, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will step down when his temporary appointment expires within weeks, the White House said Monday.

Bolton's nomination has languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than a year, blocked by Democrats and several Republicans. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a moderate Republican who lost in the midterm elections Nov. 7 that swept Democrats to power in both houses of Congress, was adamantly opposed to Bolton.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Saturday Night surprise ...

Gert and I were watching a BBC drama last night when my phone rang ... a lovely friend, who shall remain anonymous, was calling.

She said, 'What number are you?'
I told her.
I see it, she said.
Laughing I said, 'Are you here for the party?'

Yes, we are.
Giggling I had to tell her, 'That would be the party that's next week ...?'

She said something along the lines of 'Noooooooooo!'
Still laughing I told her to come up, leaving Gert to open the doors while I ran to change out of my 'around-home-only-trousers'.

And so it was that our lovely New Zealand-friend-living-in-Brussels arrived, Australian sparkling wine in hand and her delightful English friend in tow.

Greetings and laughter exchanged, the wine was opened and we had a little Saturday company.

It turned out we were lucky she made the mistake ... she flies out to New Zealand next week, one day before the party. Meanwhile she has offered to bring me something from home and like a kid in a sweet shop, I've been thinking and thinking about what I would most love ... it will come to me.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Last night's Persian Chicken was one of the best that I've ever cooked ... as a follow-up to my post about cooking last night.

This morning was all about photography and lovely people. Afterwards Gert and I drove over to Antwerpen's Ikea. We were looking for all kinds of things.

Sinterklaas comes to the children of Belgie on 6 December but tomorrow we're all off to Gert's parents so the kids can pick up their gifts from bomma and bompi (nana and grandad back in my world) and Gert has decided to give his kids their Sinterklaas gifts in the morning.

We were searching for zitzakken ... beanbags of course. Ikea had none but they had other things that we 'needed' and we walked away smiling, having finally bought frames so we can enlarge and hang some of my photography up on our walls.

We drove all over the city, locating the zitzakken at 4pm and they're here in the lounge waiting for morning.

It's so strange for me to be celebrating Christmas as we descend into winter ... it's not really real to me. Let's see how we do, as we have magnificent plans for our Christmas period.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Persian Chicken in Antwerp tonight ...

Those who knew me in Istanbul will know what I'm talking about when I write that I'm whipping up Persian Chicken tonight ...

It was a meal, a stunning meal, that could be cooked on the stovetop. I had two homes in Istanbul, and the neither had ovens that worked ... and so it was that I became a stovetop and toaster chick ... oh, and take-out borek with red wine after the particularly bad day with 7F.

I haven't made Persian Chicken here yet ... Gert cooks.
He claims that he de-stresses from work during the process of cooking.
I can only respect this kind of claim, being the polite kiwi creature I am and being lazier than a lazy thing on occasions.

So it's good night from me as I disappear into the kitchen again ... I hope your week was a good one.

Tot ziens.