Monday, December 31, 2007

I phoned home to my Dad a happy new year ...

Talked to my dad and my stepmother ... we discussed how tall the rhubarb has grown and that there's no one there to eat it presently.

Ummm that would be the presently absent Di.

And his new potatoes are being eaten, Jersey Bennies this year and that they're stunning.

His new potatoes have been stunning every Christmas since I was the smallest thing.

The weather is good and the lovely adorable Bertie Paul just turned 84, sharing his birthday with Gert ... both January 1st babies, both lovely. I asked Dad to give Bertie a hug from me.

He declined telling him he'd shake his hand and pass on news of a hug sent by Di.

Antwerpen is set to let off 100s of thousands of euros worth of fireworks in 35 minutes. We have this rooftop view that means we'll see the city panorama of non-p.c madness in all its technicolour glory.

Photos to follow I imagine.

Happy New Year
Gelukkig nieuwjaar
Yeniyılınız kutlu olsun

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saint-Hadelin church, Celles

Saint-Hadelin church, Celles, originally uploaded by - di.

I took this photograph inside Saint-Hadelin church, Celles.

This particular Romanesque church was consecrated in 1047 by Bishop Wazon of Liège ...

The place was so cold and silent, you could almost feel the presence of past parishioners. Then Lut discovered a door to the right of this area I photographed and she said 'Di let's have a look, this probably leads to the crypt'.

Call me a chicken if you like but heading down a stone staircase to the crypt in an ancient empty church isn't really my thing. And I can be quite stubborn once I've made a decision about what I won't do.

Lut disappeared on her own. I wandered around the church.
Suddenly there was a sound, not unlike a heavy coffin lid being lifted (or a squeaky wooden door being pushed for those less imaginative). I heard myself laugh nervously and wondered how brave I would be if she ran out, pursued by the ghosts of angry Templar Knights ...

Eventually she emerged on the other side of the building, the stone tunnel had taken her under the church, leaving her more convinced that I should come take a look.

Research this morning makes me happy I didn't ...

Below the tower remains a 9th century crypt. In this crypt the relics of Saint Hadelinus are kept in a niche. A second crypt can be found underneath the choir.

On a brighter note, the choir stalls date from the 13th century, making them the oldest of their kind in Belgium.

Givet, France

Givet, France, originally uploaded by - di.

Lut took me over the border and into France. I saw this photo and can't tell you why, but for some unknown reason, I like its composition.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Why you should try never to fly into Wellington, New Zealand on a windy day

The sights seen in this collection are all common in windy Wellington ... Martin reminded me when he sent me a link to what makes him homesick for New Zealand.


Huy, originally uploaded by - di.

A charming little town at the confluence of the Meuse, Mehaigne and Hoyoux Rivers, about halway between Namur and Liege.

And it was ...

A huge thank you to Lut, who kidnapped me yesterday and spent 36 hours introducing me to some of Belgium's beautiful places.

Been wandering ...

So did you know ... Huy is one of Belgium's oldest town.

The Romans built a castle there in the 2nd century and the name "Huy" started appearing in official documents back 6th and 7th century.

I found this shell on the cobblestones there and read that one of the hotels in Huy, the Château de Bonne-Espérance, used to belong to the Order of the Templars seven hundred years ago ... as a New Zealander, it was all just a little bit astounding.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

C.V prepared, Cover Letter written, Job applied for ...

Wish me luck :)

It's an exciting opportunity and that's all I'll say for now.

My tongue almost rolled out of my mouth ...

the drummer's hands, originally uploaded by - di.

Greet called over today.

She popped in to pick up the Gnauoua Family photographs and we were having a lovely visit when Gert walked in.

Those of you unaccustomed to Dutch probably pronounce his name with a hard 'g' sound, as in gherkin and that's not quite how it goes.

Phonetically his name is more like ... 'Hierrrrrrt'.
It's said with a bit of a growl really. To pronounce it correctly, I have to sound a little bit cross with him so ... it's all a bit fraught when I'm introducing him to others.

He had never met Greet.

Sigh, so there was me, the New Zealander who struggles with 'r' rolling and G sounds as the person who had to introduce them to each other.

Yes yes, Manic, it was that amusing.

On the bright side, I've got a Gnauoua Family rehearsal to attend in the near future and one of the members has played all over the Sahara Desert and is rumoured to be a man full of stories ...

Fingers crossed that he wants to tell some to me.

The Gnauoua Family ii

the gnauoua family ii, originally uploaded by - di.

Today is about work ...

the gnauoua family, originally uploaded by - di.

I worked on and burned a cd of images for The Gnauoua Family today, enjoying a slow cruise through old work, fascinated once again by their instruments (note the piece of tin on this one). There's talk of me photographing a rehearsal ...

Next I have to write up a C.V. for an interesting job with an NGO. Let's see what happens there ... money would be a welcome thing in my life, that I am sure of.

And then there's a book that acts as a brilliant measurement of how I am doing with my life ... that one that I've failed to finish over months now ... David Allen's, Getting Things Done. Let's try it again, I said to myself ... it's time Di.

Tomorrow Lut and I are heading away for a 24 hours, destination known only to Lut so I'll get back to you about that one but I'm looking forward to it.

Tot straks from the kiwi in Belgie.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The teenager who funded a school in Cambodia

I loved this story of a teenager who dared to think outside the square and bought a school for the village of Srah Khvav in Cambodia.

It made me think that any one of us could make a difference ... if we really wanted to.

To raise money, Rosenfeld sent out hundreds of fundraising letters, sold T-shirts and offered naming rights for several structures in the school, a statement said. The $52,000 she raised was supplemented by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which contributed $10,000 and $13,000, respectively, said her mother, Lisa Rosenfeld.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

John McCutcheon, Christmas in the Trenches

Thanks Erin .

A Kiwi Christmas Dinner in Belgium

So it happened and everyone seems to have enjoyed it ... I got a heel lekker! or two, Inge ;)

We started everyone with wine and little snacky things while Jessie and I worked on the main course's final touches in the kitchen.

The gravy was stunning, she writes modestly, and tasted so good with the roast lamb, roast potatoes, kumara (sweet potato), parsnip, carrots, tiny onions and garlic, (unroasted) green beans. For those not partial to lamb, there was persian chicken and rice.

Huge inroads were made into every dish and many helpings were taken.

We rested a while, opened gifts and then Jessie's pavlova's was served, with hot coffee and more of whatever drink was required. Maybe we should have made 3 pavs for the 10 of us ... they disappeared in a flash, covered in whipped cream and a served with a little vanilla ice cream.

As kiwi christmases go ... it wasn't a bad one.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Seasons Greetings

Flight of the Conchords, musicians

Thanks for catching me up on New Zealand music, furiousball.

An adoption story, out of Iraq

I found this story while web-wandering after inhaling over a bowl of steaming eucalyptus ...

I needed this.
I lose hope when I see the reality of the fence going up between Israel and Palestine, seeing the prison being built around a country with inmates trapped inside and so few standing up to stop the 21st century's equivalent, or worse, of the Berlin Wall.

Or when I read of the FBI's ongoing attempts to alienate their country from ordinary travelers like me who have no desire to have their body searched for scars that will be photographed ... sure, go ahead and photograph my ass Mr Government Official.

How do people imagine scars are going to be searched for, found and photographed on entering the States? Think about where your identifying scars are ...

And then along comes Capt. Scott Southworth of the American military, and he adopts an Iraqi orphan with cerebal palsy ... Southworth's decision was cemented in spring 2004, while he and his comrades watched Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ."

Jesus Christ's sacrifice moved him. He imagined meeting Christ and Ala'a in heaven, where Ala'a asked: "Baba, why didn't you ever come back to get me?"

"Everything that I came up with as a response I felt ashamed. I wouldn't want to stand in the presence of Jesus and Ala'a and say those things to him."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

a city shot

a city shot, originally uploaded by - di.

this is how it was when i photographed it ...

any guesses as to what it is?

New Zealanders earlobes and scar details required by the FBI

New Zealand visitors to the United States will have details about scars and the size and shape of their earlobes added to a new FBI database.
New Zealand Herald

You know, I really don't want to go to the States THAT MUCH, despite having friends I love dearly there and finding the Grand Canyon to be one of the more spectacular things I've experienced.

What on earth do they imagine we're going to do once we get there??????

Oh but wait, read on ... It will allow the FBI to check the information against the faces, earlobes and irises of known terrorists and wanted criminals.

Even worse, Mr Locke said an independent audit of the US Homeland Security biometric database had found 38 per cent of entries sampled had factual errors. That left New Zealanders open to being wrongly detained, he said.

Ummm no thank you.

The days before Christmas ...

I spent the day recovering from yesterday ...

We ran errands all day: supplies for Christmas Day hosting Gert's family, a Christmas tree that will live on the balcony once its work is done and the presents.

The problem with this all day schedule was that I have a cold, a dirty rotten one and we were in heated shops then back out in the -2celsius temps constantly. I had planned on spending today curled up and cosy in bed but there's just this thing about Tuesday ... the thing where I'll be hosting both Gert's mum and his ex-wife, along with everyone else for that Christmas lunch I wanted to host. So ummm yeah, I want the place looking nice.

So today was about cleaning and coughing and blowing my nose and cleaning some more. The tree is decorated, the presents are wrapped, my desk looks almost pretty and the washing is all but up-to-date after days of -0 temperatures and no clothes dryer.

The sad news from my evening is that whenever I have a small sip of wine, I almost cough up my lungs. It seems the red wine cure isn't going to work out this time.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sadly ...

Pollution, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

A photograph of the city side of Antwerpen shows the pollution we're living with at the moment.

Each day, at least 120,000 vehicles use the ring road around our city, add the industrial pollution created here and the mess that was blown over from Germany and this was our today.

View from my window

view from my window, originally uploaded by - di.

It's really really cold here but beautiful too ... we've been sitting at around -3 celsius for a few days. Of course, I'm full of the flu and today is the day when we do every last minute thing ... the Christmas tree, the gifts, the food for the big day.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Arnel Pineda, singer

Mark sent me a link to this youtube with Arnel Pineda singing and I wandered into it never expecting the voice that I heard ... stunning voice.

Man Cold ...

I almost died from the smile that came when I saw that someone had actually captured the reality of some mens 'man colds'.

Thanks Jeff.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

My little red couch

the little red couch, originally uploaded by - di.

I didn't want to take a standard record shot of the couch ... I hope you survive this angle.

Imagine the dimensions of our elevator, the one that takes 4 people or 300kg ... whichever comes first. It's 1 metre wide, 75cm deep and just over 2 metres high.

The spiral staircase is something else entirely but we did it and the red marks will come off the cream wall ...

Anyway, this is the comfiest couch I've had anything to do with in a long while ...

Dutch street scene, 2007, originally uploaded by - di.

It will be strange when I finally get back to New Zealand and these people on bikes are missing ... the ancient archways and stones too.

Depressing news from Belgie

It wasn't snow ...

Peter left the following comment: VTM-tv ( just confirmed that we're not experiencing 'virgin snow' in Belgium, but a sticky mess resulting from frozen fog fallout.

Yes, these nice white flakes are in reality filthy, frozen fog particles.

I grew suspicious as there was no snow predicted, nor visible on any radar…

Living near the Antwerp harbor would have intensified the experience - and that's exactly what's happening.

Air-pollution turned into snow, this really is a first time experience.

The Toottie Fairy

The Toottie Fairy, originally uploaded by - di.

'I want tootties, mama' ...
Closer to my ear came a more urgent whisper, 'I want tootties!'

Try replacing the 'c' and the 'k' of 'cookies' with 't's and tootties is pretty much what you get and that was what was whispered in my ear a few moments ago.

She was trying to find the balance between whispering so that her mum couldn't hear and being heard by me.

I delved deeper into what I had already suspected.
I asked, 'What do you call her?' pointing to little Miss Three's Mum and she replied 'Mama.'

'What do you call me?'

'The same for both of us?'
Looking a little bit surprised I could be so foolish she told me yes, all but arching an eyebrow.

Crazy times here ...


Life inside the fridge ...

Snow, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

or, the view from the window next to my desk.

It's a wee bit cold here today.

An earthquake back home in New Zealand

I had just received a parcel from the postman downstairs ... a Christmas parcel from truly lovely people back home in New Zealand, when a kiwi friend living here in Belgium phoned me.

He was calling with news of a big earthquake back home, one that would have shaken the lives of our gift-giving friends, although it seems they are probably far enough from the epicenter to have only been shaken.

The quake appears to have done more damage than I've seen in a while but listening to the news story, you might see why this kiwi is a little edgy about things like elevators and tunnels ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Day ...

Wandering in Rome, 2003, originally uploaded by - di.

I'm heading off in multiple directions, questioning old directions, exploring new ones. This afternoon I sat down and worked on two articles for the new website, this morning I spent time with Peter and Veronica in this cold cold zero celsius city near the ice skating rink in Grote Markt.

It was lovely to hang out with the two blogging creatures who occasionally try for a blush from me and it made winter seem not quite so ... wintery, despite it being so cold.

Tonight I'm awash with memories of Rome after spending the last few hours writing of it ... I had flown into Rome expecting to find that the city of myth and legend had become a hollowed-out shell over-run by tourists - instead I stepped into a city where the past and present co-exist; a city where you could cross rivers on works of art like the exquisite Saint Angelo Bridge, adorned as it is with angelic sculptures created by Bernini and his students in the 17th century.

And I learned that time and light were different creatures there.
That light was golden and time seemed to bend across centuries ... cars and asphalt roads curving round the ancient Colosseum; trendy cafes next to the crouching presence that is the Pantheon.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Santa's Reindeer meets V-grrrl

What can I say ...

I'm sorry, I missed their actual kiss.

LES = Lesson, as in Learning to Drive, Valkenburg

So this passed by us, on the small road leading up to the Christmas Market in Valkenburg ... the driver waved.

Velvet Cave, Valkenburg

Love in Sandstone, Valkenburg, originally uploaded by - di.

This particular photograph was taken outside the caves, up by the castle on top of the hill.

About the caves ... Gert mentioned them yesterday and I asked if they were manmade.
He said they were.

I looked at a few photographs online and thought they were concrete, imagining them ugly however ... it turns out 'manmade' meant Roman and the caves began being 'manmade' back in 1050, when the sandstone or marl was being excavated. Mining went on between 1050 and 1886 and the result is at least 3 miles of passageway under the ruined castle.

Walking through the different market stalls was kind of like being back in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar - the same but oh so different.

Volkenburg is about 12-15kms east of Maastricht, if you were wondering.

Santa's Elves, returning to the caves after a night on the town

We spotted these guys returning to the caves after a night on the town ...

Clogs, Valkenburg

Clogs, Valkenburg, Holland, originally uploaded by - di.

We had a lovely time over in Valkenburg.

The Kerstmarkt, or Christmas Market in the caves is surely one of the most interesting markets I've visited.

The merchandise isn't your run-of-the-mill market stuff, it's really quite stunning and had I had money for 'stuff', there were a few bits and pieces I would have bought.

The village itself is quite lovely, full of buildings made of that pale gold sandstone I like so well and at this time year, Christmas music is playing out on the streets.

It was 1 degree celsius and cold but we stopped for coffee, we stopped for wine and we stopped for tea ... we got by.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December in Europe

We're off to explore a Christmas Market located in caves over in Holland tomorrow ...

The most fascinating feature of this pretty town is the maze of underground corridors both under the town itself and the surrounding area. From Roman times, the soft yellow marlstone has been mined resulting in over 250km of passageways and caves. During World War Two, the caves sheltered such Dutch masterpieces as Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and other treasures that were hidden away from the Nazis.

More when we return.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

And so then ...

I noticed a strange burning smell not long after Jessie put the eggs on to boil while we finished putting the bookcase back together and just getting that end of the lounge clean.

I finished writing a sentence and looked round ... ahhh, the oven-glove and the tea towel were burning but of course.

The longest day ...

You know when you move the 3 HUGE bookcases, repack them then sit down to see how it looks ... and it looks terrible?

We just did that.

We're about done with our second reorganisation of the shelves having moved EVERYTHING again.

The Little Red Couch and the-Kiwi-who-couldn't-quite ...

You know those days where the new secondhand couch and table arrive while your bloke is at a meeting and that's okay because back home in New Zealand you would have coped but ... living on the top floor with a door that you reach via that pretty little spiral staircase makes unsupported deliveries all but impossible.

The guys were kind enough to throw the couch into the teensy weensy elevator and get it upstairs but it was there, on the spiral staircase, that it got stuck ... really stuck, and it was about there that I realised Gert had the little purse with my 10euro in it too. And it was there that the couch had to stay until my Belgian came home ... pulled out of a meeting by his quietly panicked kiwi because letting go of the couch could mean death and destruction for unsuspecting neighbours below.

It's rarely dull here and when it is I complain.
I guess today was my punishment.

He came home and found me resting, having run up the 100+ stairs because the elevator was full; having shown the guys were the garage was for the table; having done all I could to help move it.

There was me, the forlorn creature sitting on the spiral staircase, holding the couch so he could exit the elevator.

We lifted and shifted and twisted the thing but there was nothing happening.

I had removed two couch legs earlier, we pulled out the tool kit and contorted ourselves, removing the 3 screws holding the difficult-to-clear back leg and by something akin to a miracle, we twisted and lifted the couch up the stairs.

I may be booking a hip replacement next week though ...

So I put the couch back together while he raced back to his meeting.
Photographs to follow once the room has been suitably adjusted.

Shanti, we need you!!!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Jessie discovered I had posted her photograph ...

And I had to take it down ...

And then there are the beer ads in New Zealand ...

The NY Times is running an interesting story titled Exiled to a War Zone, for his Safety.

A Kiwi Christmas in Belgium

So this morning my lovely Belgian bloke asked his family if we might host the Christmas Day celebrations this year ... responding to an impulse I had while taking little Miss 3 to Kindy.

When you begin to accept that maybe you're going to spend the next few years living in a country not your own, there are certain psychological hurdles to leap across. Don't even ask to me to explain why it's taken me two and a half years to reach this point of recognition, I have no idea but I've been feeling the overpowering need to stop giving away all of my traditions and celebrations, along with everything else that I've sat back and let slide or stand - like Gert's blue Ikea furniture and learning to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Christmas Day in New Zealand is a huge day and it's been a little bit of a non-event since I started wandering. In Istanbul, we were given the day off work but Muslim countries tend not to celebrate the birth of Jesus ... and in Belgium, well Sinterklaus comes on 6 December and the 25th seems more like a lesser feast day between 6 December and 1 January.

I'm looking forward to food not tasted since Christmas 2002 - they don't do Christmas cake as we know it back home, I'm not sure that Fruit Mince Pies have made it here either. The pavlova is becoming known to almost everyone within the extended family but I'm not so sure about trifle.

I think we'll have to go with roast lamb, although the New Zealand cuts of lamb sold in the supermarkets here are a strange shape and very small as compared to back home. I'd like to roast all the vegetables but maybe we'll see what we have space for in the teensy weensy oven.

Even just writing of it here takes me back to the last Christmas I spent in my childhood home; memories of a summery Christmas afternoon sprawled on a couch outside in the backyard, too full to move, too content to do anything more than exchange mild mocking with the people who have known me forever.

Let's see what we can do over here, now that I finally have some kiwis here with me in this Belgian life ...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

So this is what we, the kiwi women of this Belgian household, are dancing to before the Belgian bloke arrives home for his dinner of Persian Chicken with rice.

The women ... 3 generations, the 3 year old, the 21 year old and me ... she whose age might not be admitted to, despite her relief at getting this far.

for the homesick dunedin-ite

Mark Moxon, a travel writer, explores my country and makes me homesick ... then again, what doesn't add to this general malaise these days.

It's the whole Christmas and summer holiday thing at the moment. How do European folk stand the cold at such a happy time of the year; one that should be all about new potatoes and strawberries, the first cherries and the great outdoors ...?

He writes Yes, I had a delightful time in Dunedin, with its odd architecture and steep, hilly streets. I had an even more delightful time in Owaka, staying in the country, and by the time I left Owaka on Saturday afternoon, after exploring most of Central Otago in wonderful company, I drove off down the coastal road, heading west along the south coast of the South Island, with not a cloud in the sky. It felt good to be alive.

The story of L&P, for those curious ...

L&P Series

I remember the Stubbies ...
Oh New Zealand, so cute, so very very cute.

L&P - a drink the rest of the world probably doesn't know anything about

Thanks Mark ... and Mum had a key.
Midnight swims were the best.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.
Elizabeth Gilbert

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A little of this and a little of that ....

Last night, with a new project in mind and a need for wise counsel, I had dinner with a lovely couple here in the city and you know how it is when you get to spend time with people you like and respect, discussing an idea you are quite passionate about ... it was a really good evening for me.

I came away with a belly full of lovely food and that buzz of energy and anticipation not felt in a while.

Of course, today I have to smile at the potential for book and paper avalanches here on my desk. I'm still working on the photographs from Saturday's concert and 'the' website-in-development-forever is about to go live and just needs loaded. Somehow all the recipes that don't fit in the book have found their way onto my desk and there's an ever-growing pile of tissues here too. I have been sitting so quietly, hoping my immunity was up to scratch while I shared my space with all these sick people ... let's see how that pans out in the days ahead.

I had an odd craving for chocolate and a drink full of fizz ... but it didn't help, just for a moment maybe, meanwhile there's this huge pot of cleansing-type soup sitting on my stove, demanding my attention, and my body's not too happy with my apparent disregard for it in recent months.

My knee, despite ignoring it since Flanders Fields, is having some kind of tantrum, so yes ... the net is about to be cast both far and wide as I head into winter and projects.

The photograph was taken at the beginning of the Gnauoua Family concert, they came on stage and danced around this while playing their music. It was a little bit of magic ...

Monday, December 10, 2007

All you never needed or wanted to know about me ...

It's been a rough couple of weeks and it was time to make some changes or risk having an entirely sad Belgian winter ...

And so, having earned a few euro working as a volunteer photographer for the integration office here in the city I went out and bought the happiest little red couch you've ever seen.

It started out as a joke, as we have a blue Ikea lounge suite, nice lines but not a cosy curl-up-and-read kind of suite. On Saturday while visiting the local secondhand shop, I spotted a little red couch and joked about buying it.

Sunday, still reading Eat Pray Love I realised that I needed to accept that I'm here in Belgium for a few years, or at least until Gert's kids are older and so ... I've set about making my mark on his apartment, furnished man-style before I moved in.

And in the interest's of having something resembling a real office, I've decided to break all the rules about why you should never set up office in your bedroom (because that's only place we have space)and I picked up an extraordinarily nice, very reasonably priced oak table for dinner parties - freeing up an Ikea table as that extra desk now required. Old and battered oak tables are much more me and it expands to more than 2m ... it may be we'll have that Italian dinner party out on the balcony in the summer now.

I've always lived lightly here, not expecting to stay and not in the habit of living in the same house for more than a year or two but now I need to make a strong base, with the hope I can wander and come home to a place that I know is mine too.

Photographs to follow on arrival of little red couch.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

On learning the language of your partner ...

For those of you wondering why Gert doesn't just knuckle down and immerse me in Nederlands ... here's a quote from Eat Pray Love by Elizabether Gilbert.

Quoted because it is so true in many cases. She's talking of an Italian/American couple:

In case you're wondering why he couldn't just study English with his American-born wife, it's because they're married and they fight too much whenever one tries to teach anything to the other one.

Gert corrects about 80% of anything I attempt to say in Nederlands.
I 'love' being corrected like a 3 year old, which granted, is often about where my pronunciation level is located. One has to be fairly correct with pronunciation, unlike in English. Terrible mistakes can be spoken in Nederlands ... Turkish too actually. I'm a creature of terrible linguistic mistakes.

Sometimes, just to watch his hackles go up, I correct his English - it's rare that it's required, and when it is, it isn't appreciated ... unappreciated to the point where I fall about laughing over his reaction.

Belgians are probably the proudest mult-lingual people I've met but yes, they usually have reason to be.

Actually we've argued about my English a couple of times ... his pride knows no bounds. He was correct once. It was terrible.
Picaresque versus picturesque dammit.

The Gnauoua Family IV

The Gnauoua Family IV, originally uploaded by - di.

If you read Dutch, here's the information from the flyer: 'De Gnauoua Family op met traditionele Algerijnse muziek. De Gnawa, Sufi uit het zuiden van de Maghreb, bieden een rijke fusie van Maghrebijnse en Afrikaanse ritmes.'

You can probably work out most of it, I'll leave a direct translation for a morning, when my translator is available again.

I can still hear their last song in my head ... sleep could be a long time coming.

The Gnauoua Family III

The Gnauoua Family III, originally uploaded by - di.

As usual, hands were a feature ...

The Gnauoua Family II

The Gnauoua Family II, originally uploaded by - di.

The instruments were a delight to try and photograph and I'm hoping to follow-up with a rehearsal photo-shoot sometime soon.

The Gnauoua Family in Concert

The Gnauoua Family in Concert, originally uploaded by - di.

An evening of stunning music ... I could have stayed listening all night!

The Gnauoua Family play traditional Algerian music and I was there playing photographer tonight. I can still hear the music, she writes, smiling at 1.16am.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

eat pray love, elizabeth gilbert

I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's eat pray love because I needed to and while reading tonight I happened upon this lovely thing said to her by a language exchange friend in Rome:

Liz, you must be very polite with yourself when you are learning something new.

And I thought it was something I should remember, since I'm my worst and most evil critic.

The odd thing about this book was that I've wanted it a while.
I waited for money.

Earlier this week I thought to myself 'I should go to De Slegte and see if it's there'.
Then throught 'No, it's newish and it's popular. There's no way it will be'.

So some money came in and I ordered it online.
Yesterday I was visiting De Slegte, my favourite secondhand bookshop here in Antwerp and voila, the book really was there.

I smiled about the universe, was a little cross with myself for ignoring the whole 'feeling' I'd had about it maybe being there and put it back on the shelf.

This morning Gert announced that the online shop couldn't ship it, and suggested I go back into the city and see if the secondhand one was still there.

So I did and it was ...

I'm off into the dark and wet Antwerpen night to photograph a band soon ...

a small glimpse of my world this Saturday morning

An older sister using a giggling younger brother as her beanbag or zitzak; a granddaughter sprinting off up the hall, not noticing her closed bedroom door because she's looking over her shoulder ... and running into it; a kitchen all steamy and smelling of freshly-baked cookies, coloured icing and icing implements spread over every surface; the brother and sister fight escalating to a rolling across the floor lion cub fight; a man with stuffed sinuses and a headache; Belgian kids tv floating out across all.

I came to my desk to work, situated in lounge-central ... it's not really working out.

Friday, December 07, 2007


play-fighting, originally uploaded by - di.

I've been using this as my desktop image lately.

The Magazines ...

Hmmm, a request from Claudia regarding the photographic results of the magazine work ...

I blogged about the first one here and discovered that the link changes each month so ... it was there, now it's not but you can read of it on my blog if you follow the link.

(Note: this isn't the photograph that Soldier Magazine used but it's the one I prefer from the interview session.)

I can however, tell you that anything journalist Karen Thomas writes for Soldier magazine is well worth reading, as per December's music review.

The magazine version is someplace here in the house, I didn't realise I didn't know where. It will be somewhere safe, I just need to remember where 'safe' might be ...

The magazine that arrived today was Practical Family History and they used my photographs in an interesting article titled 'ANZACS identified - and descendants traced!' as per photo.

Some results in the mail ...

Another magazine with my photography published in it arrived today ... it's kind of delicious to have that confirmation in hand.

Images for newspapers or media chains tend to disappear into the ether and you're never sure what appeared where, and websites are lovely but they don't always present your work in quite the same way that you would.

Anyway, quietly happy about publication.

Nordics (and New Zealand) receive top-ranking of gender-equal countries

Reuters is running a story about the fact that Nordic countries again dominated the World Economic Forum's ranking of gender-equal countries, while New Zealand squeezed into the top five and the United States fell to 31st place.

I might have said to Gert, 'Oops, where's Belgium?' ... innocently and inoffensively.
We're a little competitive on whose country is better sometimes.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A day out in the big city with my camera gear

Last week I was over in Brussels working to capture the launch of the European Platform for Jewish Muslim Co-operation.

It was held at the European Parliament in Brussels and 85 people attended, including MEPs Paolo Casaca (Portugal), Richard Howitt (UK), Gay Mitchell (Ireland) and Jean Lambert (UK); Vladimir Sucha, Head of the Culture Unit of the European Commission; and the Director of the European Network Against Racism, Pascale Charhon.

The launch brought some interesting groups together and having the freedom to work with my camera without restrictions reminded me, yet again, of why I love working as a photographer.

If curious, you can read about the launch here and view a slideshow of my images here.

And yes, the bus is the bus I wrote about here.

I find myself more and more attracted towards ngo work and have been researching various projects in a field I didn't know much about until recently.

Let's see where it leads ...

A few pages from a life ...

It's been a quiet couple of days in here in the flatlands.

The weather has been borderline appalling and I have sick people in my house. A few things went wrong yesterday and made the day fairly miserable however ... there's always tomorrow and it has definately been a better day.

I've been digging through an old journal that has been traveling with me ...
I began it back in June 2000, when my life was quite different and I had no inkling that by June 2007 I would have spent two years living in Turkey, married again and moved on into Belgium to live with a multi-lingual guy who speaks a language that often makes me feel like I'm mocking when I attempt it.

Just hear me say 'sneeuw'.
It's not deliberate,I hasten to add.

Back then though ...I had been missing lectures because my daughter was ill but I was going into my political anthropology exam with 22.8 out of 30, I was waiting for essay results in Modernism and Literary Research, was studying James Joyce's 'Portrait of the Artist' and had picked up an A+ and 94% on a webpage I had designed in Literary Research(oddly enough).

I had two Golden Labradors back then, Sandy my ancient soulmate was 15 and I was carrying her on and off the beaches we were wandering, and I had inherited Ellie, a companion pup gifted to my father.

I was deeply concerned about the fact that books would never be the same if I didn't have the superb Prof Ackerley to reveal all those things we miss when we read alone and I was thinking about working on a Masters thesis about Michael Ondaatje whose work I still love.

A quote found in amongst the mess of writing and photographs on the worn out pages ... The first moral is that human life is 'metamorphic'. Metamorphic here is a term of art meant to capture the incessant mutability of human experience, the temporality woven into all human institutions and relationships.
Carrithers, from The Great Arc

The World Spins Madly On, The Weepies

If you're having a wee bit of a blah day and you smile when you see blue plasticine people singing of love and hangovers well ... this youtube is just for you.

Thanks Dona for a starting the trail that led to the little blue man :) and the weepies.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mourid Barghouti, poet and writer

I read Mourid Barghouti's book titled I Saw Ramallah and have been following his work ever since. He's a stunning poet.


It’s also fine to die in our beds
on a clean pillow
and among our friends.

It’s fine to die, once,
our hands crossed on our chests
empty and pale
with no scratches, no chains, no banners,
and no petitions.

It’s fine to have an undustful death,
no holes in our shirts,
and no evidence in our ribs.

It’s fine to die
with a white pillow, not the pavement, under our cheeks,
our hands resting in those of our loved ones
surrounded by desperate doctors and nurses,
with nothing left but a graceful farewell,
paying no attention to history,
leaving this world as it is,
hoping that, someday, someone else
will change it.

Mourid Barghouti (translated by Mourid Barghouti & Radwa Ashour)
A Small Sun (2003)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

a favourite song

Amnesty International, (paying it forward)

Thanks for posting Renkat. I needed a reminder.

Instead of Amsterdam and fabulous Mexican food ...

I'm cooking a New Zealand leg of lamb with roast potatoes, onion and garlic, aided and abetted by a bottle of Australian red wine.

This creates a need to find that fine balance between the intake of red wine and the output of perfectly cooked roasted food.

I'll let you know.

The Perfectionist

An interesting post on perfectionism in the NY Times.

Lake Wanaka, courtesy of Peter

I camped in-between the poplar trees here ... Pippa and I escaped from university life, filling my funny little car with the important things like the tent, the coffee maker, sleeping bags, warm pyjamas, freshly ground-coffee and the wine before starting out on the 2-3 hour drive from Dunedin.

It was grand.

See the lake edge ... and straight ahead, the view was of stunning mountains.

Mmmm, so this wasn't the wisest post when prone to ahomesickness but it was a truly grand memory.

Lake Wanaka, New Zealand

One of my favourite places in New Zealand described, I spent a couple of nights on the shores of Lake Wanaka, some of the most scenic without-being-touristy nights I have had ...

To get some idea of the place, take the English Lake District, heighten the mountains, file their edges, fold them more tightly, cover most of them with snow, iron that snow, enlarge the lakes, intensify the brightness of the light by a factor of ten, banish all drizzle and shoot fourteen out of every fifteen people.

Joe Bennett, from A Land of Two Halves.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Thomas Friedman, NY Times OpEd

We are the people we have been waiting for.

An interesting article over at the New York Times.
It was meant to be a day of fun and frivolity, pre-a day spent in Amsterdam but I woke to a houseful of sick people.

Our little petrie dish formerly known as Little Miss Three seems to be couriering kindergarten germs home in her pure little southern hemisphere body as it adjusts to life in the northern hemisphere.

So Gert is coughing, as is mother of the petrie dish - our place sounds like an emphysema ward and me, well slightly more healthy, it seems I have been assigned the role of the cleaning/cooking house-slave.

Fortunately I am a woman and therefore, immensely satisfied by the above role, born catholic, I also do a nice line in martyr.

So Amsterdam will have to wait for another healthier day.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sigh ... Top Gear

I seem to be completely addicted to the BBC show Top Gear.

I sit on the couch, laughing sometimes, more often than not saying 'Grief! I can't believe they just said (or did) that.'

It's followed by Long Way Down and I'm completely into that, writes the woman who rarely watches tv.

Okay ...

A thank you, with music ...

So Jessie and I made a CafePress store and loaded our photographs and it was looking okay but just 'okay'.

In strolls Jon the Computer Guru and he worked with Jessie from his place back home in New Zealand and lifted our store out of 'okay' and into something a little bit special.

A huge thank you to you Jon ... and that song you're rumoured to like.

Actually, that reminded me of how much I love Old Schoolyard

People to People International

I have long believed, as have many before me, that peaceful relations between nations requires understanding and mutual respect between individuals.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower,
Founder of People to People International
Ufff ... Mark told me not to watch this if there was a chance I'd feel homesick.

It's 2.37am and I couldn't resist something from home, writes the sad kiwi who should have listened to Mark.

Thanks Mark.

Friday, November 30, 2007

My CafePress Store is open and you're more than welcome to call by.

If there are photographs you have viewed on my blog and you are interested in purchasing them, or I haven't turned a photograph into a product you would really like to buy, then write to me at and I'll add them to the store.

I hope you enjoy your visit and thanks to the man who inspired all the artists he knows. You can view more art works over at Neil's First Ever Blogger Holiday Online Arts and Crafts Fair.

Kindest regards

A better day today

for Shanti, originally uploaded by - di.

Photographs done ... just need burned to cd and mailed.

Good day wishes to everyone else :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On neediness ...

It's been one of those day where I just wanted email ...

Newsy email, intelligent email; email to take my mind off the task in front of me.
Well yes, I did get some but I think I may have wanted a lot.

Actually a long newsy email from Shannon would have been perfect ;)

I have become accustomed to interesting photography gigs and these 'other' days spent sorting and organising work are just that much less interesting.

That's not to say it was even a dull day really.
We caught the tram to the city, picked up what we needed there, cruised out to District huis only to learn that we have to go back on 2nd December ... 'the' day the paperwork actually runs out.

And our day out in Amsterdam??? we asked.
No worries, we'll give you some papers that will explain your existence.

Jessie and I found this quirky little cafe out by the tram stop and sat down to vegetable soup and crusty pieces of white bread, served by an African woman while a lovely elderly Belgian woman chatted with us.

A map was pulled out, New Zealand was located.
I apologised for my Dutch, they encouraged me, saying I was doing just fine.

So now it's back to the salt mines.
200 photographs to turn and check, with or without an inbox overflowing with email.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This ...

website is really very cool but I haven't delved deeply yet, just needed to make a wee note about gaping void .

Check out the 'more's'.

boss puppy, originally uploaded by - di.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

Loved this!!!

That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of our time.
John Stuart Mill

Thanks to the brilliantly wise Laura.


I had to write of ha'atelier, a stunning transnational, non-territorial platform for philosophy and art.

Last night, I met the initiator and director of ha'atelier, Almut Sh. Bruckstein .

A little about their vision: ha’atelier embodies the vision of a new "academy" of the arts and sciences free of territorial and facultative limitations and guided by the creativity of the visual and performing arts.

We design our projects in co-operation with an international "nomadic" faculty of scholars, writers, and artists. The structure of ha’atelier takes on the form of a kaleidoscopic topography of encyclopedic themes. Its faculty embodies and disembodies itself project-related in various places in the world.

A special focus of our work lies in the renaissance of Jewish and Islamic cosmopolitan traditions inside and outside Europe. In staging a joined Judeo-Islamic cosmopolitan program for the arts and sciences in the heart of Europe, we launch an exceptional cultural and political program, envisioning an end to violence in dealing with religious and cultural sources.

ha’atelier advances alternatives to the political exploitation of cultural and religious sources increasingly defined by a large-scale military conflict between "the West" and countries of the "Islamic World".

With its transnational and non-territorial program, emphasizing cosmopolitan ventures rooted in Jewish and Islamic sources, ha’atelier blazes new trails in Europe’s cultural and academic landscape.

Building upon the connecting powers of human creativity and imagination, ha’atelier represents more than a forum for the "dialogue" of cultures. Its non-polarizing venues to a variety of sources in philosophy, art and science extends an invitation to civil society to join forces with an international avantgarde of artists and scholars who are engaged in a critical re-approach of their own respective collective sources.

A day's work

Yesterday was all about capturing the launch of CEJI's European Platform for Co-Operation, sponsored by Richard Howitt MEP and held in the European Parliament.

CEJI wrote, Driven by the desire to go beyond dialogue to confront prejudice and hatred within and towards their communities, European Jewish and Muslim grassroots organisations have joined to create a European Platform for Jewish Muslim Cooperation.

Later, after the event, a few of us headed out to dinner at a Tunisian restaurant called Le Vent du Sud, and sat talking of our lives and work. The 'nationalities' were perhaps a little more extraordinary than is usual here - the conversations superb, as was the food.

It was an good day.


AJMF, originally uploaded by - di.

The Muslim Jewish Friendship Bus

the bus, originally uploaded by - di.

Yesterday, I had to smile at Gert as we rode through Brussels, with a bus load of the loveliest French Muslim youths, interviewing them some, laughing a lot and taking the photographs I was tasked to take.

They were on tour and came from the organisation known as the Amitie Judeo-Musulmane de France , a group organised by Rabbi Serfaty of Ris-Orangis.

He brought together Jews, Muslims, teachers and youth on a Friendship Bus and made a tour of over 40 French cities. A project raised awareness of both cultures and created bridges by emphasising commonalities.

We were there taking photographs for the CEJI .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

About today ...

Off to the European Union Parliament today to take photographs ...

Gear packed, batteries all charged, cards emptied, sun shining - here's to everything coming together over in Brussels.

Many interesting people to photograph, or so I am told.

I'll let you know.

Tot straks, from the kiwi wandering in Belgium.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Monday dedicated to ...

Projects are never simply over ... I'm learning that cleaning up orders and requests can go on over months, and so it is that today is dedicated to going through my email inbox and hunting down those requests for that photograph for this person or that.

Free stuff ... but it's nice to do free stuff when I can.

I had this system, she writes, trailing off...
Sometimes I would mark my emails as unread, so they'd stand out as work or people to get back to when I had time.

Time has become a little scarce in those days since that wedding back in September and today I've written more than a few emails that begin with 'Sorry I've taken so long to get back to you but ... '

I guess, if I had to hunt out a bright side, it would surely be revisiting old work and finding things overlooked or forgotten.

Tot straks.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Castel Sant' Angelo, Roma II

Castel Sant' Angelo, Roma II, originally uploaded by - di.

And then I played with 'rough pastel' in CS2, and thought it the perfect medium for the photographs I took in my beloved Castel Sant' Angelo in Rome.

Flower, Amsterdam

Flower, Amsterdam, originally uploaded by - di.

One of the things that have amazed me lately, and things regularly do, is the way that applying 'dry brush' in Photoshop CS2 adds a delicious depth to a photograph like this one ...

Baby Seal with mother, originally uploaded by - di.

I didn't think too much about seals and their babies ... until loud and cute slurping noises alerted me to the fact that the baby seals drink milk from their mothers.

A fact discovered one hot day while wandering in Amsterdam's lovely zoo.

Rainy Day Play

Art, originally uploaded by - di.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden, originally uploaded by - di.

I've been going through all of my photographs, putting together a collection for Neil's First Annual Blogger Holiday Online Arts and Crafts Fair and I'm rediscovering photographs I had forgotten about.

I have a tendency to select the best and then move on to the next gig, meanwhile I have images languishing here.

Thanks Neil, I needed to take stock of my stock and get my work out onto a Cafe Press store again.

Joshua Kadison, musician

I've been youtube-wandering, unable to sleep despite the fact that it's already 2.44am ... Looking up old favourites and I found Joshua.
His muse was apparently Sarah Jessica Parker ... or so wikipedia says.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Rainbow Series III

It could be Tuscany ...

but it's not.

Rainbow Series I

Rainbow Series., originally uploaded by - di.

This just appeared outside my window and Little Miss Three called to the rainbow to 'Wait, while Granma gets her camera ... wait!!!'

Then the pigeons all flew in to nest in their trees in the forest earmarked for destruction down below the apartment.

For a moment there, it was just all too exciting.

Lamp, St Carolus Borromeus Church II

Lamp, St Carolus Borromeus Church II, originally uploaded by - di.

St Carolus Borromeus Church

St Carolus Borromeus Church, originally uploaded by - di.

I love this hand, tightly holding the stone key ... bird poo and all.

It's from a church in one of my favourite squares here in the city ... Hendrik Conscienceplein.

The church is apparently typical baroque (you'll have to take my word on that for the moment) and it was built by the Jesuits between 1615 and 1621, following a design drawn by their rector, Francois Aguillon and brother, Peter Huyssens.

Anyway, Conscienceplein is a lovely square to visit if you find yourself in the old part of Antwerpen city with time to wander.

Red Poppy and Pablo Neruda: The Poet’s Calling

Are you interested in assisting the people over at Red Poppy in the making of a movie about Pablo Neruda?

They write: Red Poppy is creating a vivid documentary, Pablo Neruda: The Poet’s Calling. The dynamic film features rare archival footage; incredible shots of hs native land, captivating artistic poetic sequences, often with Neruda’s own voice, and compelling interviews with intimate friends and notable poets like Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

This first ever English-language feature-length documentary will introduce so many to one of Latin America’s most colorful characters, and to the power of Pablo Neruda’s poetry. There will also be a version in Spanish, and we are hoping for global distribution, on screens in theaters, homes, schools, libraries, and cultural centers around the world.

We need your support to help complete this grassroots, not-for-profit film.
It's not about making art, it's about living a life that makes art inevitable.
Robert Henri, from The Art Spirit

Thanks to Andrea.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Kapka Kassabova, Poet

Can you tell I'm between projects ... and I have all this energy.

So I was over reading Harvey's blog and discovered a favourite poet's poem posted there.

Kapka Kassabova has been a favourite ever since she introduced me to the concept that New Zealand wasn't some continent down at the bottom the world, with her book 'All Roads Lead to the Sea'.

I thought on it some and realised this immigrant chick was entirely right and most roads in New Zealand, sooner or later, lead to the sea. My island, the South Island is about 600kms long and 200kms across approximately.

My island.

So yes ...

Anyway, Harvey had posted a poem which led me back to Kapka's website ... she's a writer now, pursuing her passion and talks of being 'professionally poor', I recognise the job description.

Here is one of her poems:


Look: the poverty of rain
Let's gather it in thimbles of patience
Then pour it out in the mud

We'll count all the worlds
to which we'll never go

We must remember memory is hope.
But quietly, for words can cut out gaps in us
so wide, we'd find
too many bodies lying there

Forget, we must forget
the memories they open up and blossom
like switch-blades in the guts

Look: this is the world we have
Too poor to hide in
Too dark to cross, too single to forget


Maybe it was a mood thing but ...

I loved this window display in the older streets of the inner city.

And then there's the fact that ...

de lijn advertising, originally uploaded by - di.

You can buy your de Lijn tickets via your phone ...

The city's public transport company.