Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A poem from Frida's Notebook

Frida's Notebook is a rather delicious blog written by a New Zealand woman who is living and working in Afghanistan.

She posted this poem and I borrowed it:

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice -
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations -
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do -
determined to save
the only life you could save.

from, Mary Oliver's collection of poems "Dream Work"

The piece of my life (and how good it seems today)

One of the things I've learned to do, in this odd and unplanned life of mine, is to go with the flow.

If it can't be changed, then make the best of it ... although there have been one or two challenges to this claim of mine.

I haven't been able to get back to New Zealand.
I lost my free flight home while caught up 'in process' in this crazy country that is so in love with paperwork.

I lost my flight home and I couldn't work for the 1000euro airfare until I was legal. Finally married and legal, I had to refinance my life, slowly building a foundation for the business of photography and teaching ... getting cards printed, buying the photography website template, paying someone to code it, etc...

Gert had experienced a quietly spectacular asset-stripping divorce before meeting me, so if anything, I've been a burden to him as he continues to hand over income for his children and pay off debts from his previous marriage.

We've cautiously done stuff anyway... travelled to Spain but paying Ryan Air's unbelievably low fares and staying with Erin who had been our guest earlier in the year. We came home and held our breath till the following month ... not regretting a moment of it.

It's been difficult because people have seen the action and not realised the reality.
It's made some people who saw without knowing the truth of it all rather mean.

It's been a shitty year in so many ways.
I'm looking forward to the day when I take my income and go get my hair coloured again, or buy shoes simply because I like how they look.

It hasn't been all bad because it's been character building (even if I did whine sometimes) and I discovered photography and had time to blog and I have met so many interesting and good people.

Yesterday, after two hellishly horrible days, I finally got confirmation that my daughter and her daughter are flying into my world in April - thanks to those involved in organising it. Even writing this makes me want to cry. I could barely sleep for 'planning' last night.

Jessie and I were close from the moment she was born. I simply fell in love with her, something I didn't expect because I had always preferred dogs and horses over dolls and girly things.

She's a remarkable young woman who has probably given me most of my grey hairs ... and I love her.

When I flew out of New Zealand back in 2003, I was trying to climb out of the pit of my life post-divorce. I completed my university degree and discovered a degree majoring in literature, with a minor in anthropology isn't the most useful degree.

It came down to a choice, I was working two jobs at the time ... as an office clerk in an agricultural company and for a photographer friend who, with his wife Jude, gifted me a lovely working environment that kept me sane.

The choice was to spend another year studying, heading over to Teacher's College and a bigger student debt, or to accept a friend's offer to work as a private school English teacher in Istanbul. I said no to my Turkish friend twice, then flew out into a new and scary life alone in the big city of Istanbul.

My daughter was 16 at the time and not very interested in listening to me ... as is often traditional at that age. I left her with her dad and extended family around her and flew out.

A long story followed and new characters appeared in the 'theatre' of my life ... enter stage left, a granddaughter, oh and stage right, there's this Belgian guy.

If a psychic had ever predicted my future pre-2000 I would have known that she was a fraud ...

In the 90s my life was so different ... I was driving a station wagon with a small child and a golden labrador in the back. I was married to a teacher who, in a moment of mid-life angst, signed up and spent 4 years as an education officer in the NZ Airforce ... we were a respectable family unit. I wrote, I played with photography, I worked whenever it was possible but we lived in a few small towns over the years.

Fastforward 10 years and here I am, beside myself with joy that my '10 year old' daughter flies in in April; that I'll meet my grandchild again - I was there for her birth, and that my Belgian husband will get to meet my lion-hearted daughter who is actually 20 years old.

I was talking on the phone with her last week and we were remembering when we were living together after the divorce, she was a teenager and she moved between my ex and I ...

She said, You know mum, I've lived with a few people since you and you were so easy to live with...

We both laughed because there is no way that my teenage daughter could have said those words back then.

So, I'm back blogging and smiling like an idiot as I type ... life is good.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Dump Brothers ... you wanted to see them perform?

I love this India Arie song ...!!

India Arie's website is here.

Iraq has changed him ... Richard Engel, journalist.

There's a rather interesting interview with Richard Engel in the Washington Post.

Thanks Misguided.

Martin Strel ... swimming the Amazon

Martin Strel, a legendary Guinness record marathon swimmer, has always been looking for the challenges of impossible and the Amazon is going to be the next one. On Feb 1st 2007 Martin Strel is going to start swimming all the way from Atalaya (Peru) to the Atlantic Ocean at Belém (Brazil). He is planning to reach 3,375 mile (5,430 kms) long ultimate challenge in 70 days.

BBC is also running an online diary about the swimmer ...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

2 Cent's Worth: Creative stalling, Roxana Popescu

"Laziness is when you don't want to do anything, and procrastination is when you don't want to do it now."
Jorge Cham, an authority on procrastination.

Roxana Popescu writes for the International Herald Tribune and while webwandering, I discovered an article that spoke to me ... and others, if all I've read of friends blogs is true. The article is titled 2 Cent's Worth: Creative stalling .

She offers up a solution in Mark Ellwood's website. He's the president of Pace Productivity and his site is worth checking out too ...

An extract: According to one study, procrastination afflicts 15 percent to 25 percent of the adult population and is more common in men. Graduate students and people with unstructured jobs seem to be most easily affected, finding time to write novels, study dead languages, start families, found companies or work second careers as journalists before getting around to that dissertation. I should know. One reason I'm writing this article is that I have several other deadlines looming for my doctoral work at Harvard University.

Saturday in Brussels ...

10am and I was on the Amsterdam train heading for Brussels ...

Shannon and I met at North Station and made a beeline for Eski, the place of latte and warmth. We were filling in time until we could hook up with our 12 oclock appointment at Waterstones ... a place of worship for English book lovers in Brussels.

Sunday and I'm photographing a guy from Rwanda.
Let's see how it goes ...

Friday, February 23, 2007

The direction is changing, but migration will always exist," says Pater Andres, "after all, migrating in times of need is a fundamental right of free human beings."

Der Spiegel, an extract from an article written by Klaus Brinkbäumer
We do not arrive willy-nilly at point zero. We arrive there a choice at a time, a degree at a time, as we make little or less than we should of a growing discomfort. We get along without what we love the way camels get along without water-not forever, but for a very long time.

And then, one day, we are thirsty and what we crave is water, real water, a pure infusion of something that matches what our body and soul are authentically craving
Julia Cameron, The Sound of Paper.

Thanks Margaret .

Fiji Baby, by Goodshirt

Kiwi nostalgia for Dummies
... remember those hotels back in the 70's.
Thanks Mark.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Curious I am ...

Do the Democrats really have a choice ...

According to today's Huffington Post, it seems possible.
When I moved to Spain, I bought myself a life of well-lived minutes.
a wandering woman

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oh oh oh, remember?

For those who don't remember .. excuse me.
I had to smile over this article in

It prepares expats for the working environment they'll find when moving to New Zealand and/or Australia.

You want insight, then read on ...

In general, New Zealanders disregard hierarchy. They avoid displays of special respect towards senior people. It's all straight away on first-name basis. Colleagues socialise at all levels. Outside office hours, the hierarchy is even flatter: no differences of behaviour and address may be apparent.
Egalitarianism is a cherished idea and organisations have flat management structures.

New Zealanders typically operate on the principle of "if it’s taller than you, chop it down", a reflex which they share with the Australians. They are convinced that those who think highly of themselves should be brought down. It is especially true when someone, including repatriating New Zealanders, arrives from overseas, claiming to know better!this Expatica post about doing business in New Zealand and Australia ...

Best I don't go home thinking I know more ...

Andrea, Superhero Journal

I love popping over to read Andrea's Superhero Journal . Today was no exception but the post that I found there made me want to post what she had learned on ... it's surely useful information we could all apply to our own lives.

Thanks Andrea .

The Immigrant Fears of Europe ... are they real? is echoing recent findings in Britain and American, regarding the positive effects immigrants can have on an economy.

In an article titled Migrants help tolerant Spain boom .

Spain's ability to absorb Europe's fastest-rising immigrant population without falling prey to the social tensions that have plagued France's poor suburbs or Britain's inner cities comes down to a combination of economics, demographics and national temperament, say immigration experts.

The Spanish economy has grown every year for the past decade and is expected to grow 3.7 per cent this year, according to European Union estimates. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 27 years, while an explosion in the construction industry has created hundreds of thousands of low-paid jobs.

Thanks Erkan .

I was surprised by the immigrant statistics at the end of this article:

Spain - population 44.4m - has 4.6m immigrants

The main countries of origin as at January 2006 are:
Morocco 580,000
Ecuador 396,00
Romania 373,000
United Kingdom 283,700*
Colombia 260,000
Germany 208,000

* The total number of Britons living in Spain including those not registered is estimated to be about 700,000

Superb music video ... watch it through if you have time

In the previous post, Paris Parfait kindly provided us with World On Fire soundtrack, sung Sarah McLachlan as the soundtrack her saber rattling' post .

I went searching for a youtube of the song and found this rather remarkable music video ...

Hearts are worn in these dark ages
You're not alone in this story's pages
Night has fallen amongst the living and the dying
And I try to hold it in, yeah I try to hold it in

The world's on fire and
It's more than I can handle
I dive into the water
[I try to pull my ship]
I try to bring more
More than I can handle
[Bring it to the table]
Bring what I am able

I watch the heavens and I find a calling
Something I can do to change this moment
Stay close to me while the sky is falling
Don't wanna be left alone, don't wanna be alone

Hearts break, hearts mend
Love still hurts
Visions clash, planes crash
Still there's talk of
Saving souls, still the cold
Is closing in on us

We part the veil on Archille's sun
Stray from the straight line on this short run
The more we take, the less we become
A fortune of one that means less for some

My 5 reasons for blogging

Laura tagged me ...
The tag?
A post on my 5 reasons for blogging.

The second big question in 24 hours ... why do I blog?

Well, my first reason is the one that satisfies most people, including myself ... it's my pretend work.

Belgium took so long to process me into a position where I could work that I had to find my own sources of entertainment; my own way of feeling like I was contributing, useful, alive ... I read widely and sharing the treasure found, the outrage, the delight ... all gave me a satisfying sense of self-employment (even if the 'work' was poorly paid).

The second reason (initially the motivating reason) was so that family and friends would stop harassing me to write to all of them individually ... generic mails to everyone were completely unacceptable and so the blog was born. Of course, almost none of them read it now which is amusing in a sad way.

Hmmmm the third reason well ... family and friends again really. I realised that I could share photographs of my life now on the blog. It was the simplest way to let them see what I was up to ...

Photography has been a forever passion with me ... we're onto my fourth reason now, I use my blog to put my photography out there in the world. I have come to know some truly amazing people via the blog and they give me feedback on my photographs, encourage me in my business and perhaps I wouldn't be about to start my own photography business if it hadn't been for them.

The 5th reason is all about the people ... the people, the people, and the people!

You can meet some of them in my comments sections, others you'll find on my links list ... there are some truly remarkable, talented, interesting and kind-hearted people out there in the world. Blogging opens doors in their worlds.

Hmmmmm, and who shall I tag?
Anyway who reads this and feels so inclined ... let me know if you do, leave a comment so I can link to you in a postscript :)

Tot ziens.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Time and Place in Another Place

I was interviewed by a lovely journalist tonight and her questions made me realise that I really don't do 'time and place'. Maybe I never have really but all sense of seasonal time has surely been destroyed here in the northern hemisphere.

Christmas in winter is wrong beyond words ... I understand cherries, strawberries, new potatoes and a long summer holiday as Christmastime. The first frost often sets during Easter, hinting at the winter ahead ... June and July are very cold months, snow sometimes surprises in August, just as the new lambs are arriving.

As for place ... back home in New Zealand there are landmarks in the shape of hills, mountains, rivers or coastline; there are definate landmarks.

Belgium lacks anything resembing a useful landmark once I leave the old city centre. The ring road leaves me disorientated beyond words and I'm still not sure which way the Netherlands or Brussels is ...

The sun rises 'over there' ... I had a laughing Matthew assure me it still rose in the east, even here in the northern hemisphere today and it sets behind the nuclear power plant which must be west...

As for place ... BBC was beamed into Istanbul and it's here in Belgium too. I follow an Australian series and have a few of my favourite New Zealand dvds here with me. Gert's English is fluent and talking with him is like talking to someone from home.

Although, while considering things, it comes back to me suddenly ... Belgian drivers regularly provide me with reality checks, those wrong-side-of-the-road rather-fast-drivers who work on a system of voorrang van rechts that truly terrifies me into a sense of living in 'some other place'.

It was a delight to chat with Roxana, to consciously work through her questions and to 'realise' things I've never quite pulled into consciousness. I'm grateful for that.

And the result?
New Zealand Christmas party at our place ... June 2007!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sometimes the world asks us to fight for things we do not understand and whose significance we will never discover.
Paulo Coelho
from, Like the Flowing River

Thanks Paris Parfait .

Life ... it's a funny old thing

In keeping with my topsy-turvy northern hemisphere-based life as an immigrant, I've spent most of this weekend working ... something I largely avoided in my other, more normal life, back home in New Zealand, a long time ago.

My English teaching notes are back in order, enriched by hours spent revisiting websites discovered back in my Istanbul days.

My photography website, advertising and business cards are all poised and ready to perform but it's winter and who thinks of photography then ...

The time of quiet has made me realise that most of my photography work will happen at weekends and genuinely wishing to become someone who earns money again, I posted my first 'Teacher of English' advertisement yesterday ... I have entire weeks free, why not teach ... I love it.

I feel like this is 'the' year ... the one where all that I've waited on and worked towards comes to fruition.

Friends have put up their hand and suggested various business ventures ... friends I respect and trust, so let's see what happens with them, and then there's the truly exiting World War One project ... 90th commemorations of the battles of Mesen and Passendaele are happening this year and I shall be at the heart of the New Zealand effort if Martin hasn't given up all hope of me coming through with the various slices of information I'm gathering.

PINA and ATLAS continue to include me in their exciting projects and this week my camera and I will be touring the various religious sites here in this vibrant city of 165 different nationalities. A mosque, a synagogue, a Hindu temple and etc ... I'll let you know.

Sometimes I worry I've become used to the excitement ... friends flying in from Turkey, filmed poetry readings, unique photographic opportunities, interesting people ... because sometimes I still get so sad and so homesick, so lost in the mess of my life but perhaps that's simply my nature.

Anyway, tonight I'm sitting here writing, drinking a glass of Spanish wine while Gert cooks up a pizza from scratch ... cheese, tuna, capers, onion and anchovies with a light tomato and pecorina sauce base.

Today was a good day in the flat land.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Wandermuse, a blog

Who can resist reading on when a blog post begins with this quote:

In his 1967 essay "Breathing the Future and the Past", astronomer Harlow Shapley wrote:

"argon atoms associate us, by an airy bond, with the past and the future...
"Your next breath will contain more than 400,000 of the argon atoms that Gandhi breathed in his long life. Argon atoms are here from the conversations at the Last Supper, from the arguments of diplomats at Yalta, and from the recitations of the classic poets. We have argon from the sighs and pledges of ancient lovers, from the battle cries at Waterloo...

"Our next breaths, yours and mine, will sample the snorts, sighs, bellows, shrieks, cheers, and spoken prayers of the prehistoric and historic past.."

I found Wandermuse quite some time ago and followed her blog for a while ... she is a stunningly talented painter, photographer and observer of life.

I'm glad that I found her again.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Why New Zealanders are very cool people ...

Alison emailed , a message that made me laugh aloud as I followed her link.

Her message read: Your people are funny :) and giggling, I wanted to reply after reading the link, Yes, but oh so cool.

Enjoy the story of Rob Moodie , a 68-year-old, balding lawyer who appeared in court in dresses and toting a handbag ... the man who officially changed his name to "Miss Alice" as part of his protest against the "old boys network" that he said runs the nation's judiciary.

What do I think?
I think he's marvellous.

Thanks Mark .

Royal Albatross Colony, Dunedin New Zealand

I used to live about 10kms from this back home in New Zealand.

The Royal Albatross Colony at Taiaroa Head, on the tip of the Otago Peninsula, New Zealand, is the only mainland breeding colony for any albatross species found in the southern hemisphere. The first Taiaroa-reared albatross chick flew in 1938 and this now protected nature reserve has grown into an established colony with a population of around 140 birds.

The sight of a soaring albatross is unforgettable - held aloft on slim wings up to 3 metres (9'6") across, the great Albatross is capable of swooping speeds of more than 115kph. Viewing these majestic seabirds in their natural environment is not to be missed.

Thanks Chiefbiscuit .

Erri de Luca, an interesting interview

Cafe Babel provides me with some of the best interviews and most interesting people ...

I wandered over and read Brunch with Erri de Luca and wasn't disappointed.

He is the Winner of the 2002 Prix Fémina for Foreign Writers for his splendid Montedidio – written in 'very Neapolitan Italian' – Erri de Luca reflects on Europe, the Mediterranean and the passing of generations.

A taste ... In his checked lumberjack shirt and alpine boots, it’s clear that in the Paris office of the publishers Gallimard, Erri De Luca is a fish out of water. Amongst circling gaggles of journalists and wafts of Chanel perfume, this 'writer in Italian' as he prefers to be known, albeit of very Neapolitan background and character, shows his true colours: a man of the mountains, an outsider – aloof perhaps, or shy? But a man apart certainly.

In the footsteps of Nives, ('Sulla traccia di Nives', 2005), he relates his Himalayan experience in the company of the famed Italian female mountaineer Nives Meroi. De Luca retains the air of the countryside about him, despite having lived in the outskirts of Rome for some time.

PDN's World in Focus Contest 2007 Gallery

I was reading my copy of PDN Online and thought this seemed like an interesting photo gallery to wander through:

They wrote: For the first time ever, PDN has teamed up with National Geographic Traveler in order to unearth the most unique and unseen imagery from photographers around the world. Traveling to locations as varied as Costa Rica and Shanghai, PDN’s winners managed to capture everything from the quiet, pre-eruption of the Arenal Volcano (“Arenal” by Federico Chavarria-Kopper) to the ever-changing infrastructure of one of China’s most vibrant cities (“Shanghai Cloverleaf” by Michael Prince). By viewing these winning images, each photographer’s distinct interpretation of travel photography becomes completely clear.
If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
-Noam Chomsky

Thursday, February 15, 2007

'Unembedded', a photography exhibition, website and book

I discovered a website called "Unembedded" today.

Tai Moses described "Unembedded" as the visual chronicle of wartime Iraq. There are photos of a father holding the hand of his dying child, bereaved women praying at a mosque, children playing in the street in front of an American tank. There are also scenes of people sharing a meal, dancing at a wedding, swimming in the Euphrates river. Even in a ruined country, people get on with their lives.

And there's an interesting interview with one of the "Unembedded" photographers, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad .

When asked what motivates him, he replies: I'm really curious about those people. Why are they doing these things? ... As a journalist, you are sitting there in your hotel room, and you're always talking about those people who are insurgents. You see the destruction; you see the car bombing; you see the assassinations; you see the fighting. You see all these things, and you don't know those people.

Who are the Sunni insurgents of Iraq? Are they nationalist? Are they religious? Why are they doing these things? What [is] their justification? And you really want to out of curiosity go, and you see those people and talk to those people. ...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.
Winnie the Pooh.

Borrowed from Ascender Rises Above .

Poets Against War

Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
Shelley, The Defence of Poetry, 1821

Poets Against War have an interesting newsletter ... interesting and heartbreaking. I discovered more of Mahmoud Darwish's poetry there.

A Poem by Mahmoud Darwish


Today, the twenty sixth of July, twenty one murdered/martyred in Gaza, among them two newborns, were able to bypass the military checkpoints and the barbed wires . . . and they snuck into the news hour. They did not make a comment, because pain fell from them before they could reach the word. And they did not state their names that are so poor and ordinary. And they did not raise their arms in victory sign to the camera, since the camera was crammed with more thrilling images. War is excitement, a series where the new episode obliterates the previous one, a massacre copying another. And when death becomes daily it becomes ordinary and the murdered become numbers, and death routine, the temperature not higher than thirty degrees Celsius. Routine causes boredom. And boredom distances the viewer from the screen, and prohibits the correspondent from doing his work. And when the viewers become fewer, the commercials dry up and the image industry goes bust. Not to mention the sites in Gaza have become familiar, their connotation weakened: a leaden sky over narrow alleys in camps that don't overlook the sea. No hill there, no natural scenes to please the viewer. Everything is ordinary. Murder is ordinary and the funeral is ordinary and the streets are ashen. But what is extraordinary today: twenty one murdered/martyred were able to courageously infiltrate, without the help of informants, the evening news.

Mahmoud Darwish .

I was webwandering and found this over on Margaret's Wanderings blog.

Thanks Margaret.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Food for thought ...

Laura, over at The Dragon Slayer's Guide to Life wrote a post that intrigued me some, challenging me to think on the subject of inner values.

She had linked to an interview between Deepak Chopra and Motto magazine. In it, Deepak talks about how he asks people to work at understanding their inner values by asking them questions like:

* What’s your purpose?
* What kind of contribution do you make to the world?
* What’s your passion?
* What are your peak experiences?
* What are the top qualities you look for in a good friend?
* Who are your heroes and heroines from mythology and legend, and from history and religion?
* What are your unique talents and how do you like to express them?
* What are the best qualities you express in your relationships? (Those are the qualities that allow soul to manifest in the world and in the work place.)

Thanks Laura .

And then ...

Yakup and Lisen making hummus, originally uploaded by - di.

Last night, Lisen took a break from packing for their 10.30am Sunday flight and worked on the Hummus and Guacamole with Yakup... the kitchen was a pleasure to be in with the camera last night.

Even better, Gert and I returned from the mad dash and sad goodbyes at Brussels Airport this morning and I learned that a little guacamole on pita bread is very good morning after food. Quite some wine had been consumed during the evening.

We had set our alarm clocks for 6.30 this morning and managed to leave the building just after 7.30am ... it will be a slow day today I think.

A huge teşekkürler to Lisen and Yakup for being such lovely guests.

Güle güle and see you in Istanbul ...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Third Culture

I woke at 4.30am, my nose in full flood and so I came here to webwander a while.

I started with Alison's blog and I came to an interesting article she had linked to.

I had posted a little about the 'third culture concept' recently but this article, titled Defining Expat Culture Today took the concept further and made the theory more personal to me.

Sarah Steegar wrote: While the subject is certainly too rich for just one study, or one article, this much was obvious: even though expats come from a million different directions (both figuratively and literally), our lives are remarkably similar in the most personal of ways.

Along with obvious answer patterns over 27 subjective questions, the results even went so far as to profile an expat 'life cycle' that seemed to emerge from their stories.

It intrigued me to read that 'Most significantly, the concept of 'home' blurs; it and identity are perhaps even realised as somewhat of a choice. This is a very special kind of freedom.

I could relate to it, knowing how Istanbul became a 'home' that I miss and how 'at home' I felt in Rome, knowing I could have lived there ... the more recently being tempted by Spain, a culture I wanted to slip into immediately, enjoying the taste of all I experienced there ... the people, the food, the architecture and landscapes.

There is no doubt that my roots go deep into the New Zealand landscape - my love for my first home is unquestionable but something made me fly, and sometimes I wonder if it was an unconscious desire to find like-minded souls, the people I had named 'internationals', with my personal definition being those who could live anywhere in the world and who were open.

Sarah wrote: Toss me in a room full of expats and I am just as sure, if not more so, to find things in common with them than if I were in a room full of random people from my home country.

For example, choosing an international life requires not only an active tolerance of human difference, but a certain affinity for it. A majority of us also hold similar political leanings - to a greater extent perhaps than we can say for our home cultures.

In the past, it has occured to me that if people like politicians came from this so-called third culture grouping then nationalism and small world views might disappear, countries could be 'guided' by people who have an international awareness and a tolerance for difference, who share an excitement about the evolution of human development and the possibilities of change.

My recent exposure to European politics, my observations of American, Iranian and Israeli/Palestinian politics and of the developing fear and hatred for the 'immigrant' has only confirmed that things need to change in the world.

It was a good article that took me further down this path I began to explore way back when I picked up and devoured my first really good travel book and recognised a 'type' that I could relate to and wanted to be.

I'll leave you with a song Alison posted. I liked her explanation of why she likes it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Today ...

Winter this season seems intent on extremes ... yesterday we were engulfed by a small snowstorm, today we have sunlight streaming in the huge windows near my desk.

Yakup came in and commented, having almost frozen while he and Lisen wandered in an incredibly cold and snowy Amsterdam.

The children went back to their mother's this morning, signalling their reluctance to go to school by sounding like baby elephants being pursued by lions ... so noisy.

Today is the beginning of our guests preparing to leave ... it's kind of sad as we've had so much fun, seen and done so many things. We'll wander the city some, visiting the Turkish shopping street so they can educate me about which food and tea labels are good and which to avoid. Maybe we'll fit in one or two more Antwerpen places ... Ruben's tomb or the old walking tunnel under the river, used as a bomb shelter during the war.

Tonight, they're catching the train to spend just a little more time at Spa - they loved the experience that much! They come back for the farewell party at our place tomorrow night ... one of those United Nations type parties, with kiwis and Americans, Canadians as known guests.

Airport in Brussels on Sunday and it's over ...

A good day to you, whereever you are :)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

How I know I'm not a child anymore ...

I can no longer eat Pineapple Lumps until the bag is empty, that's how I know.

What, you ask?
Pineapple Lumps have been available since 1935. They are unique to New Zealand ... like jandals , Pavlova and the Haka .

I checked out the ingredients: sugar, glucose syrup, vegetable oil, water, cocoa powder, gelatine, skim milk powder, maltodextrin, pineapple juice concentrate (equivalent 4.5% juice), flavours, emulsifiers (soya lecithin, 492), colour (102). May contain traces of nuts and put the rest of them back in the cupboard.

Au Gite du Bal Paysan, in the Alsace

I wanted to write a seperate post about the place where we stayed in the Alsace, simply because it was so lovely and if anyone else is heading that way, I wouldn't hesitate in recommending it. You do need to book as long as 6 months in advance for high summer and December.

Our hosts were Jean-Daniel and Doris Freysz who, until recently, had spent a lifetime as dairy farmers. The name of their place is Au Gite du Bal Paysan and it's located at 1, rue d'Oluisheim, 67370 Berstett.

They were a delicious couple who had travelled to all kinds of interesting places. Each morning they prepared us for our day with a hearty Alsace breakfast and good conversations, carried out in a mixture of English, French, and German, with Doris and Jean-Daniel talking to each other in the language of the Alsace while Lisen and Yakup spoke Turkish occasionally, and then there was Gert with his Dutch and me curious about the similarities between the German and Dutch words ... we were a truly international table.

Yakup captured Jean-Daniel reading the newspaper, a photo I loved too much not to use here.

The rooms are lovely and you can choose from those with 1 to 2 bedrooms, including kitchen and bathroom facilities, right on down to something small like our Scottish room, with its bathroom and small kitchen.

We were impressed by the cosy warmth of the gite and finding no obvious heating we asked Jean-Daniel as we were leaving ... the entire house is centrally heated. The coldness outside simply wasn't an issue.

The restaurants close by were superb and affordable. We ate out, experimenting with and enjoying the Alsace cruisine. The wines ... oh the wines. I thought I was a dedicated, loving-red-wine kind of woman however the Alsace Reislings and Pinot Blancs turned my head.

Doris and Jean-Daniel had welcomed us when we arrived, constantly refilling our glasses with a delicious white wine. There's an 80km wine route nearby and we asked for the name of the winery of said delicious wine. They directed us to Alexandre Arbogast's winery at 57, rue Principale - 67310 Dahlenheim. We tasted and bought a couple of Pinot Blancs for the road, making a note to return one day.

It's only a short drive to the edge of Strasbourg, where you can leave your car at a tram carparking area for the day. It's a very small fee. Strasbourg is close and there's plenty to see and do there ... it's a beautiful city. Then there's the wine route and the fabulous castle - Haut Konenigsbourg .

Okay, enough about that ... tot straks.

A Blur in the Alsace

You know when you're traveling and you see that sunset ... the one that turns the horizon a pretty shade of orange against the deep blue/black sky?

It happened on Sunday night, as we sped towards Berstett and I put my camera up to the window, playing a little, to see what I could capture ... I loved what I caught on my beautiful Canon EOS.

Right here, Right now in Antwerpen - 8 Feb, 2007

It's cold this morning, they're telling us to expect 3-4cms of snow ...

It's meant to disappear in the afternoon because of rain but this is just over an hour's worth of snow.

Thank you Mark for patiently putting up with me taking the photograph while talking with you on skype ... putting up with my discovery the memory card wasn't in the camera, putting up with my realisation that I had bumped the camera onto timer, putting up with my cellphone ringing ...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Cat in Rabat

I've been reading Cat for a while and giggling is often the norm however ... I was catching up on her tonight and it has to be shared. It's more like a belly laugh.

She was writing of her lifelong affection for slippers but nothing prepared me for her quote directly from Journey Woman :

You need four maxipads to make a pair of slippers. Two of them get laid out flat, one for the right foot, the other for the left. Then the other two pads wrap around the toe area to form the tops. Tape or glue each side of the top pieces to the bottom of each of the foot parts. Decorate the tops with whatever you desire.

P.S. These slippers are not only soft and hygenic (sic), they have non-slip grip strips on the soles.

She responds to this with: Now why the hell didn't I think of that? - hygienic and non-grip! Always looking for a supplementary source of income and wanting nothing more than world peace and to become a business tycoon, I'm going to design a couple of prototypes but with a marked Moroccan flair: perhaps sew on a few beads & sequins, add a jaunty tassel or two, stencil on a couple of Moroccan arches, maybe even henna on a khamsa hand. This is definitely going to make me rich.

But really, these are just snippets from Cat World - you really should pop over and read her yourself.

The Canadian living in Morocco is a good cure for dull days in this European winter ...

Correction: Morning brings clarity and the realisation that I hadn't made a link to Cat in Rabat's website ...

Margaret's Wanderings, a blog

The only dream worth having... is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead... To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.
- Arundhati Roy

I found this quote over on Margaret's blog ... this quote and many others.

She is another of that new group of bloggers I found when I fell through the crack into this new section of the blogosphere ... people who are linked to each other, even if they're not aware of the connections that led me to them.

The Monks

All right, my name's Gary .
Let's go, it's beat time, it's hop time, it's monk time now!
You know we don't like the army.
What army?
Who cares what army?
Why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam ?

- "Monk Time" by the Monks

Think the Velvet Underground meets Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose" and apparently you're on your way to imagining The Monks, according to Der Spiegel today .

The band was made up of five American ex-GI's in Germany who sang anti-war songs back in the 60's, creating a certain novelty factor ... they had been in their tanks, engines running, during the Cuban missile crisis.

Anyway, there's a new documentary movie out about them ... it's called The Transatlantic Feedback .

Anti-war ... seems there might be a space for this kind of band today, then again, there's always Pink to be going on with ...

Frida's World, a blog

Just lately, the blogging world opened a crack and I fell through ... discovering a stunning new series of people, all inter-connected in this 'other' world.

Frida's Notebook was one of those new blogs that leapt out at me ... she's a New Zealander who wanders the world, working and making a difference in places like Palestine and Afghanistan.

It was her recent Sunday Scibbling post that convinced me she was someone just a little bit special. I printed it off to take it traveling with me and ended up reading it in a small bedroom in Alsace. It made the trip in my camera bag, and I read a little on a sunny bench while in Luxembourgh too.

I'll give you a taste of what I found so special in what she wrote ... in so many ways she could have been speaking for me. It was titled 1996 Goodbye New Zealand

Goodbye my homeland. Goodbye my turangawaewae, my place to stand. As long as I know you are here, I will never be lost. But now I need to leave. I need to be away from here. Suddenly you seem too small to contain the pain that is burning within me and the desire that is bursting out of me. I could drive through one day and a night and come to the edge of your beautiful shoulders. I need to go further. I need to spread out my arms and not touch the edges. I need to get lost in a sea of strangers. I need to stand in the middle of a desert so vast I can sense the majesty of the universe and imagine being lost in it myself. I need to cast myself into the world with no one beside me. I need to discover again what I can do alone. Though I will always return to you, though I belong to you, goodbye Aotearoa.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Taking a wee break from blogging ...

Back in a couple of days, with photos and stories.

Het beste

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Amanda, over at Vingt Trois blog, posted this youtube by New Zealand band Duchess, called 'Raglan City'.

She's just back from New Zealand and has a new blog spot - I need to check it's open to the general public before linking back to her. Anyway, a New Zealand life ...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Continuum Jewellery

It occured to me that I should share 'New Zealand' whenever I find something new ...

My sister, Sand's, sent me to check out the necklaces pictured ... a gift from her to me.

I loved what I found but you can check it out for yourself if you're curious ... Continuum Jewellery .

They write of the stone used in the pendants: GREYWACKE

Intrinsic, enduring and familiar.

To many New Zealanders, it remains a constant connection to
mountain, river and sea. A primary substrate of New Zealands landscape,
Greywacke naturally forms the cornerstone of the CONTINUUM range...

A day ...

I woke buzzing with creativity, wanting to use my day wisely.
Lisen and Yakup were in Brugge for the day but I had forgotten, anything resembling creativity is often so impolite and kind of wild. I feel like I've spent the day trying to tame wild horses.

I have an idea of how I want to present my photographs on advertising flyers but the font is eluding me, or perhaps it is found ... I need to study some more. There are at least 8 options, printed and lying here next to me.
Speak to me fonts.

An A4 poster for hanging ... ? Or perhaps a 3 fold flyer with 6 sides for photographs and information ... or maybe a simple electronic mail-out creation.

All require different design layout.
I'm reliably informed on this.

So many good people around me but no one help when it comes to finding a font that reflects who I am ... my image, the image I'm selling; a font that makes my heart sing simply by virtue of 'fitting'.

I've had good music for company ... Katherine Williams, Bright Eyes and Badly Drawn Boy to name just a few ... a cd compilation, 33 tracks that open with a few seconds of the New Zealand birdsong that I miss..
Thanks Matthew, it helps.

And my lovely sister phoned me this morning, curious to know what I thought of a gift she had bought - one for each of us. I wandered over to the site that she read out ... I love her for thinking of me, it's perfect of course.

I love stones and shells and birdsongs ... I miss my old connection to New Zealand landscapes; that feeling of having roots that go deep into the earth. I was lucky, I lived in beautiful landscapes for almost all of my life before flying out.

Perhaps I should give up on creativity for now ... let the 'horses' rest in the field maybe.

A long day but a good day, just a little bit tired.

Tot straks.

Thanks Matthew, your cd has opened a whole new music world to me, as well as reminding me of Jack Johnson, an old favourite ...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Imagine ...

You discretely walk over to the showroom window somewhere in Brussels, intending to snap a photograph of a car that might make some people drool.

Yakup drooled, discrete but drooling.

Just as you start to line things up in your camera, the glass window in front of you slides open and startled, you yelp but feel compelled to do what you came to do ...

Feeling a little foolish and exposed, there's you ... the woman standing in front of the huge (now) open glass door, taking a photograph of a car you will never afford and you know the staff know it.

Did I write 'you' ... I meant 'me'.

A little whimsy

Flag, Belgie, originally uploaded by - di.

I was standing under the triumphal arch in Cinquantenaire Park and could have stayed there watching the way the wind shaped and reshaped the massive flag that hangs down from the centre of the central arch.

Brussel ... Bruxelles

I've had a stunning few days ... beginning with Mike and Sue on Saturday, continuing on through the week as I've wandered with Lisen and Yakup and then this morning, waking to a small package in the mail, and finding that Matthew had sent a music compilation that is truly delicious if what I've heard so far is anything to go by.

Yesterday was a day spent in Brussels, a day when my deep affection for a Latin American cafe called El Vergel was confirmed. It's up near the New Zealand Embassy, in Square de Meeus, the cafe itself is on Trone straat... I can't find a Brussels website, only their London one.

But Brussels ... the sun shone, stunning Gert and I and the cutting wind disappeared as soon as we descended into the city.

Hmmmm to start at the start ... we parked the car out at the Atomium and caught a tram into the city.

We emerged near the European Parliament buildings and walked ... through parks, past the national parliament, crossing over to the Palace where the King works (his home is elsewhere in the city) and made our way to my beloved El Vergel.

Full of good food and only just walking away from ordering more, we bussed down into the city to explore Grote Markt on our way to our favourite Lambic pub ... A la Becasse.

The light was slowly but surely becoming delicious by 5pm and we were walking back up the hill past the museum of musical instruments, the rather stunning building pictured here. It was about then that I began my search for a cafe named Le Pain Quotidien. A phone call to Alison and I realised that she wasn't the person who introduced me to the coffee there ... we wandered on.

Gert said something about walking to a basillica in the distance and mentioned a street of antique stores. I said 'YES!', remembering that Le Pain was located in just such a place ...

The gods of happy tourists ... or happy tour guides, were smiling down upon me and we arrived. Le Pain Quotidien has a lovely atmosphere, another huge 'communal table' option, just like El Vergel ... good food and superb coffees.

It was a good day in the city known as Brussel by the Flemish and Bruxelles by its French inhabitants ... a city that straddles the Flemish/Wallonian divide; that hosts a tri-national government, multi-national corporations and EU politics; where old, new and oftentimes stunning architecture sits side by side, with more superb cafes and restaurants than I'll ever have the time or money to explore.

The Atomium was lit up when we arrived back at the car and this hand-held photograph surprised me by being good enough to see details ...

It was a good day.