Saturday, March 31, 2007

Loved this ...

"This historic occasion has less to do with finally being embraced by the fine-art establishment and is more about the judicious use of a fake beard and some high-strength glue."
- Banksy

The New York Times was running an article on Banksy ...

It was not nearly as dangerous as the time he sneaked into the elephant pen at the London Zoo and scrawled a graffiti message from the point of view of an elephant: "I want out. This place is too cold. Keeper smells. Boring, boring, boring."

And it was not quite as elaborate as the stunt last year in which he spirited a stuffed rat wearing wraparound sunglasses into the Natural History Museum in London and mounted it on a wall.

But over the last two weeks, a shadowy British graffiti artist who calls himself Banksy has carried his own humorous artworks into four New York institutions - the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum and the American Museum of Natural History - and attached them with some sort of adhesive to the walls, alongside other paintings and exhibits. Similar stunts at the Louvre and the Tate museum have earned the artist - who will not reveal his real name - a following in Europe, where he has had successful gallery shows and sold thousands of books of his artwork. But his graffiti has also landed him in legal trouble.

The Best of Photojournalism (BOP) - an NNPA Project

The Best of Photojournalism 2007 - the contest designed by photojournalists for photojournalists.

I was wandering through some of the 2007 shots and thought I would share.

Thanks to The Travel Photographer
To whom do we tell what happened on the Earth,
for whom do we place everywhere huge
Mirrors in the hope they will be filled up
And will stay so?

Czeslaw Milosz, from Annalena.

Saturday morning and ...

It's been nice for me, traveling between Antwerpen and Brussels ... 40 minutes of peace on the train, a time for me to pick up reading again however if you add the tram ride from home to the train station, plus the 40 minutes on the train, with another 15-20 minutes on the bus through Brussels then suddenly the idea of teaching 90 minute long English classes in Brussels for 20 euro plus transport costs seems like a really bad business decision.

I lose a minimum of 6 hours making the journey and even more hours creating materials for my two very different groups of students.

Today I ran late at the train station, sprinted onto the platform, paid extra for the ticket bought on the train, waited 20 minutes in a cold wet Brussels, without scarf, coat or umbrella only to find that my boss hadn't been able to clear her email since 28 March and that the student cancellations for Easter were probably part of that lost cache of email. Easter holidays ...

Mmmm so it was that I walked back out to the bus stop, waited 20 minutes after just missing my bus, crossed the city, waited another 30 minutes for a train back to Antwerpen, 5 minutes waiting for the tram home, then a frozen walk along the street leading to home.

A Saturday morning best forgotten but for the fact that it did hammer home the importance of me valuing my time. I knew Brussels was a lousy business decision but I loved the bookshop I was working out of and enjoyed my students ... and although I have more work over in the city if I want it, I have to factor in all the travel and the fact that there are probably more than one or two students here in Antwerpen.

Photography this afternoon ...

I hope your Saturday morning was a better morning than mine.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Crazy busy life ...

Today was one of those days where there was a huge list of things to be done; a day where the list would be picked up, chewed over and spat out ... a day that finds us slowly slipping towards sleep early, slightly broken.

We ticked off everything on the list, laughing as we pushed the new pushchair for 2 year old Sahara into the elevator, complaining about how easy it was to spend money in Makro, rapt with the secondhand computer desk chair we found for the new desk that Gert will spend the weekend putting together for Jessie ... to name but a few small domestic excitements.

IKEA ...
Did I ever tell you how intensely I dislike helping Gert carry 32kg packets of kitset furniture up the spiral staircase that leads to our apartment after leaving the elevator?

I dislike it intensely.

I had to race off and meet with Katherine and Ahmed at 2pm.
I have until Monday to organise the last of the photographic images for the exhibition on language.

I'm loving the project ... permission to approach total strangers, talk with them some and then photograph them.

So today I made appointments to photograph the family from Bangalore, the man from Egypt and another from Poland ... photography all weekend and through into Monday, beginning after my English class over in Brussels which starts at what can only be described as an ungodly Saturday morning hour.

Truly exhausted at 7pm, we ended the day at our favourite Turkish cafe round the corner. It delights me to walk in and greet someone with a great big smiling 'Merhaba!' The very act of shaping the word in my mouth makes me smile.

We were admiring the newly renovated restaurant and I revealed my deep love for all Turkish food, telling him of Lisen and Yakup and how they had filled their suitcase with things Turkish for me when there were over in February.

He laughed, telling me his wife makes all my of favourite foods ... the borek and the dolma to name but a few. I talked of me being willing to buy some of those foods if I were to find them in his cafe. I gave him my English teaching business card, with my phone number and email should this happy thing happen.

He said 'English teacher?'
I said 'Evet'.
He has two daughters having trouble with English at school.
This was music to my greedy little yabanci ears. I smelt borek ...

I might just have to write a new English teaching advertising campaign based around the 'will work for food' concept ...

İyi akşamlar.
Margaret often posts quotes that I want to note down someplace.

I am proposing that we reconceive the dream. That we consider what would happen if security were not the point of our existence. That we find freedom, aliveness, and power not from what contains, locates or protects us but from what, dissolves, reveals, and expands us.
- Eve Ensler

Thursday, March 29, 2007

New Friends ...

How odd it is to wake to the sounds of a living breathing city this morning ...

Last night a group of us had dinner at Shannon's place, here in the middle of Brussels, talking the night away over pasta, red wine and all kinds of other delicious food.

As is usual in this Belgian life of mine we were a multi-national group ... the 3 Americans, the Canadian, the Pole and this New Zealander, with a Belgian calling by later.

Conversation was varied ... I talked with a European about attitudes towards immigrants, to an American about the guy from the Bronx who generously shared his haul of bagels with her on a flight home after she had spent months here in Belgium starved of them, to the Pole about her hometown and then globialisation and its effect on countries flew round the room.

At one point, laptops were opened as we priced traveling to Italy, Spain or Poland together ... Florence may have emerged as a winner. Over here, Ryan Air flies people to places for the price of a taxi fare back home in New Zealand.

Yesterday I wrote of my old friends, today it's more about the possibility of new friends who make me wonder if one day we'll spend time together and talk of those days when we lived in Belgium ...

And so it is that this morning I woke slowly, savouring the sounds of the city as it came to life. Back in my Istanbul life I lived in Mecidiyekoy. It was Istanbul central, with a heartbeat all of its own. I heard life as one kind of Turkish when I lived in my small apartment above main street.

I missed the noise of it when I first moved to Belgium. I missed the sound of people talking to each other across balconys, kid's playing outside, the calls to prayer, the fighting cats, the car alarms ... noises that simply don't happen in my everyday double-glazed Belgian life.

So I was delighted this morning, as I lay there listening to the trams rumble by, to the lighter sound of the cars speeding over cobblestones, to the sound of the street being swept, of people talking and shouting to each other ... I was listening to life outside the windows again.

Looking out from the window alcove I can see it's another blue sky day ... the florist is open and there's a woman standing at the tram stop with a huge bunch of flowers; there's a street sweeper already working and the cafe has its tables and chairs out on the sidewalk. I can see buildings that are so obviously old European, with the neighbours living their lives through uncurtained windows across the road.

I'm loving the heartbeat of this corner of Brussels city this morning ...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Friends ... the really old ones

I was lucky when I was a teenager, I had some incredible friends and this morning two of them wrote ... from very different places.

Paul is on a ship 4 days out from Hobart, returning from time spent down on the ice at the South Pole, and Fiona was writing from back home in New Zealand. I love hearing from them and it's pure chance that they both wrote at the same time.

They are stunningly modest people who live interesting lives. Fiona married way back when ... as we say in Kiwi-speak, and lives on a farm on top of a hill that looks out over both the town I grew up in and the city I later lived in and then there's the Pacific Ocean and Otago Harbour completing the scenes that she lives with each day. She owns a business with her husband and is still riding horses, just as she was back when we met at 13.

Paul turned Aussie on us after departing for other worlds back in the 80s. He's been all kinds of things but these days he's mostly a helicopter pilot, with a seperate business he has also built over time. That is, when he's not swanning off to the South Pole.

Antartica ... well think that was a bit of a mid-life crisis. I can't be sure, having never experienced one ... he's a huge number of days older than me.

David, another of that way back then crowd, emailed a few days ago ... questioning my claim not to have owned leather boots since I was 11 years old.

David's the photographer, the rather superb and dedicated photographer, who is building a most delightful life with his family after a life lived in Africa and ecetera. Anyway, a flurry of 'boot mails' were exchanged over a couple of days, as I tried to explain that I haven't owned 'knee-high' leather boots since I was small. I was seriously mocked and I do believe he may have had the last word on that one.

But mocking aside, this old friend was writing to advise me on setting my camera to'raw', making my images big enough for the 'next time' some advertising agency wants to buy one of my photographs.

I seem to be the wastrel and the wanderer. I have my family, my stories, my photography and my friends but no assets or money beyond my beloved camera and Flintstone-era laptop ... the one that I pedal, it really is a kind of booting up in the mornings.

This morning I realised again how lucky I was to know these guys when I was young, and how lucky I am to still know them ... even if Paul's political views have become so different to mine. There have been a couple of fierce disputes that we've survived, testament to a friendship that grew a long time ago and the fact our friendship is based on more than our political beliefs.

So hey guys, a coffee toast to the people we were and the people you are now.
And thanks for your friendship.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nicolas Sarkozy's Police State

At the crossroads equi-distant from these three infant and junior schools police arrested an elderly Chinese man on Tuesday evening. On his way to collect his grandchildren from another school in the neighbourhood, he was handcuffed and bundled violently into a car when a spot check revealed he didn’t have residence papers.

It caught my eye but then there was this “After 7 hours of police questioning, the headmistress was freed on Friday afternoon!”

Petite has written an interesting post on recent shameful events surrounding immigrants and the police in Paris. It seems like another country where the freedom that was once so highly valued, is being damaged by a politician with his own particular plans for 'the people'.

She writes: On Friday, shortly after a peaceful protest outside the local police station which at a guess, was attended by 200 people (including me), Tadpole’s directrice was carted off for questioning. It is alleged (although she denies it) that when trying to intercede on behalf of parents and children on Tuesday, she called one of the police officers a “connard“.

One suspects the police were more piqued that she reopened the school after hours to give shelter and assistance to those overcome by tear gas. The 58 year old man, on the other hand, has been released by the police and a memo has been circulated reminding police officers not to carry out arrests in close proximity to schools.

I hope France knows what it's doing, allowing Sarkozy to pass laws like the one he passed at the beginning of March ... where bystanders are no longer allowed to broadcast films showing acts of violence (including police violence) on the internet according to a law passed by Nicolas Sarkozy. The offence is punishable by up to 5 years in prison..

Her post ends with Videos of these events can be seen here .
Good luck policing the internet Nicolas, I suspect it might be harder than you think.

A philosophical post about painting, or the attempt, or about not inheriting my father's talents

If there's a really big daub of cayenne paint on the white ceiling and nobody saw me do it, did it really happen?

It doesn't matter so much on the skirting boards, the paint is supposedly water-based and I can scrub it off later when I recover my dishevelled self.

It's hot here already today.

I'm not a painter ... I think I might actually just be a photographer and blogger, with an English teaching thing going on on the side.

And I'm thinking we might just have one feature wall of cayenne if I'm left alone with this painting thing ...

Why did I ever imagine painting a wall with a roller looked like fun???
Clearly it's more than time to put aside such childish thoughts.

The first coat of cayenne is drying ... on the wall. Unfortunately it's also drying on those other places too. I should have covered things with tape then peeled it off afterwards ... I think that's what Dad did.

Then again, I did point out to Gert that Dad was a craftsman and this craftswoman is only as good as her paint, brushes and roller ... equipment that would have caused Dad to say, 'I may as well use my bloody hand to paint because that's about how useful this stuff is!' or something like that.

He might have said it more colourfully, definately imagine explosively.
Dad has a way of leaving one without doubt when he is expressing his disgust about something.

I think Dad and Gert would fall out over the brushes and rollers being used on this job actually.

There ... I am vindicated. It's not my lack of fine motor skills nor my ineptness as a painter of walls ... it's the equipment ;)

Tot straks.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Flanders Fields, a Project.

This old black and white photograph shows a kit inspection at Featherston Camp back in New Zealand and comes from the Wairarapa Archives.

Sadly, those pictured suffered a more than one in six death rate as a result of world war one. A total of 57% of them became casualties.

I've been working with and around a 1917 Flanders Field project since last year. And while I had nothing to do with creating this rather superb website beyond giving them some of my photographs to use, it does round up all that we're doing and planning to do this year, with one or two surprises still in store.

Anyway if you're curious about world war one, about the role New Zealanders played here in Belgium 90 years ago, about the battles of Messines and Passchendaele then Flanders 1917 is worth checking out.
The 2007 programme is here ... and I imagine I'll be blogging more than a few interesting events from June through into November.

Our Natural Light Blog

So this is one of the reasons I admire Alison's photography ...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Erin often talks of it, Mark reminded me of it with his post ... it's about the contribution one person can make.

I don't want to forget the guy who stood in front of the tanks and made them stop for a while ...
The following exerpts startled me as I rode the train home from Brussels on Saturday. Startled because of how close they came to capturing something of the feeling of a person caught between countries ... whether as a trailing spouse, partner or as an immigrant in process and unable to work.

Something I struggled with as I went through the process of being allowed to live and work here in Belgium, was this loss of relevance, loss of place, loss of money and the associated freedoms that money and career give a person.

And that is so difficult to talk of when living in Europe ... people who can't imagine it were surprised by the lack of gratitude and appreciation for the place I was in. And I've noticed the way it becomes something of a shameful secret you keep, whispering of it only to others in the same situation.

I look around and see so many talented people, hamstrung by the laws that apply to people traveling with their life partner - they're making the best of it ... it's the oddest feeling and so difficult to describe.

It's not a precise rendering of the condition of a non-working expat/immigrant by any means, this was written by an Iranian English professor who was expelled from the University of Tehran for refusing to wear the veil back in the 80s. But it was enough to surprise me into noting sections of it here.

This was when I went around repeating to myself, and to anyone who cared to listen, that people like myself had become irrelevant. This pathological disorder was not limited to me; many others felt they had lost their place in the world.

What do people who are made irrelevant do? They will sometimes escape, I mean physically, and if that is not possible, they will try to make a comeback, to become part of the game by assimilating the characteristics of their conquerors. Or they will escape inwardly and, like Claire in The American, turn their small corner into a sanctuary: the essential part of their life goes underground.

My growing irrelevance, this void I felt within me, made me resent my husband's peace and happiness, his apparent disregard for what I, as a woman and an academic, was going through. At the same time, I depended on him for the sense of security he created for all of us ...

He felt creative, he felt wanted, and, in the very best sense of the term, he felt he was of some service to his country. He was of the opinion that we had to serve our country, regardless of who ruled it. The problem for me was that I had lost all concept in terms such as home, service and country.

Azar Nafisi,
from Reading Lolita in Tehran

Painting today ...

I slipped away to avoid trouble ... we're painting the bedrooms and my amusing backchat isn't finding an appreciative audience. In the interests of not upsetting the paint maestro, who admittedly is trying to paint that fine line between the ceiling and top of the wall, I have come to the computer with my little paint-covered fingers, to give him a break from me.

We have so much to do before the next wave of Kiwis arrive ... and it has to be done before there is a 2 year old here helping us. I do believe her and I would be sent on imaginary errands, just to get us out of the house.

Backchat, while oftentimes clever and amusing, is rarely appreciated by the person experiencing it ... such much talent, so little in the way of appreciative audience.

Spring has sprung ... again. It's rather superb here today and I have 4 loads of washing destined for my little balcony clothesline. I'm not sure if the neighbours mind but few can see it and I grew up with washing fresh and soft from an outdoor washing line.

Today is about the apartment I guess. Gert has plans for a desk for his kids, bookshelves too. I have to springclean and paint the big wall ... confessing that this is my first time loose with a paint roller. Dad was a painter/plasterer/paper hanger by trade and although he spent many years working for Air New Zealand, he was a perfectionist and there was never going to be any chance of me learning his trade. He wasn't famous for his patience with idiocy and I mess around with idiocy on a regular basis ...

I'm not sure that being conscious makes this knowledge of self any easier to live with actually. There's only the retrospective entertainment value and a constant supply of party-type stories.

We have this massive list of things to-do, on top of our own work lists. Thank goodness it's Spring ... the sunshine has injected us with a newfound energy and allows some of us to find humour in everything (although others are cursed with living with the humour-finding one. Gert would probably appreciate all sympathetic thoughts sent his way.)

I should go back and see if the man on the ladder requires anything this trusty sidekick can fetch for him ...

Tot straks.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

24 hours in Belgie

I've had an odd 24 hours ... everything from Swiss advertising agencies through to the Japanese train commentary on stops between Antwerpen and Brussels this morning.

I'm not sure where to begin.

A Swiss advertising agency emailed to ask if they might use one of my photographs found on the web for a billboard campaign. Unfortunately my Canon EOS only produces a 2-3MB image, maybe reaching 8MB if I do this thing and that.

I had to write back and say much as I would love that, my image didn't fulfil the required 11-20MB requirement. They phoned yesterday, it was all very delicious so yes, I had to write of it here.

Then yesterday was a blur of things to be organised before a 1pm appointment with Ahmed, the guy I am working with as photographer on the Language exhibition opening in June here in the city.

I felt very privileged to wander with Ahmed, who knows Antwerpen inside out. He worked on the interviews ... in whichever language - some English, some Dutch, some French and some Arabic while I took the photographs, occasionally delighting about the prevalence of English.

We met some truly lovely people, drank that marvellously sweet Moroccan mint tea, ate a pastry or two and shared stories and laughter with people from Nepal Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco and Poland ... so far. More to follow in the days ahead.

I arrived home, downloaded images from the day while cooking dinner. I posted here briefly then raced out the door to a political reception, where I spent the evening with a different crowd of interesting people ... people who were political but came from all walks of life, the painter/writer whose father was a famous photographer here, the Flemish parliamentarian who has a camera like mine and was willing to talk politics to this 'yabanci' ... the Romanian who moved here as a child and is now studying law.

I delighted in watching the social ebb and flow of people I've been getting to know since first moving into Gert's life on that 'holiday' back in 2005.

Home again close to midnight, I slept until the alarm woke me at 6.45am.
Saturday is another teaching day in Brussels.

So I chose the earlier train which felt so wrong ... train station at 7.35, only to learn that that particular train had been cancelled and I had to wait 30 minutes for the next train.

Devastating news ... that much extra sleep would have made a massive difference, truly.

On the train, feeling a little jaded by now when a Japanese voice floated over the train's intercom. It seemed like she might be informing the passengers of stops along the way but who knew ...

Looking around, I was happy to see everyone was holding back nervous laughter, relieved like me that we were all hearing the same thing.

French, Dutch and English is common enough as a commentary language on the trains but Japanese is a serious hallucination early on a Saturday morning.

I think the rest of the trip was made without incident. I had bought some fun English kids books secondhand on Friday and was relieved when my students loved them and okay, we were noisy today but a lot of it was laughter and feedback.

Home again by 3pm, shopping for paint and balcony plant pots ... ended up with all kinds of other things, so necessary as we revamp the apartment for the kiwis moving in with us next month.

I was laughing when I told Gert that he might just about have a small New Zealand village in his apartment with my daughter and granddaughter moving in ... we might just have to fly the New Zealand flag from the balcony.

A bottle of red wine found it's way home with me and finally I'm curled up and comfortable as I type this ... feet aching but happy to be still.

An interesting 24 hours really.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Who made the "Vote Different" Ad

There was me suspecting the Republican camp of pulling yet another a dirty dirty trick but no ... Phil de Vellis did it.

He writes:
Hi. I'm Phil. I did it. And I'm proud of it.

I was intrigued as I read on ... I made the "Vote Different" ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary, and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process. There are thousands of other people who could have made this ad, and I guarantee that more ads like it--by people of all political persuasions--will follow.

This shows that the future of American politics rests in the hands of ordinary citizens.

He ends with ... This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last. The game has changed.

Huffington and Jenkins on Halliburton Polls

On Scarborough last night I was asked repeatedly about a new poll by a British polling company, Opinion Research Business, that showed "an unexpected level of optimism" among the 5,019 Iraqis interviewed. It sounded even more preposterous than the usual polling results, and was contradicted by multiple other polls. So I sent an email to my good friend and HuffPost blogger Simon Jenkins, who had been the editor of the Evening Standard and The Times of London, and who I assumed would know something about the polling firm.

Here is his response:

These polls are meaningless, done only because polling organizations have squeezed large sums out of the media. I call them Halliburton polls. The assumption, common in Britain and America, that a Baghdad street is like Fifth Avenue or Bond Street goes straight to the heart of the west's misunderstanding of Iraq. Iraqis are not used to being asked political questions by strangers in the street. Any answer risks a bullet. It is plain stupid. The polls are utterly unreliable (whether or not we support their outcome). The methodology is shocking, since there is no demographic control group to balance the 5,019 respondents or give a reliable trend line.

The translations are unreliable and the words they use convey different meanings. In addition, Iraqis are delightfully optimistic about themselves and about times always getting better. They are charming in this respect. Their response to questions about foreign troops or their personal circumstances will be determined by what happened a few hours or days before. Perhaps they are less interested in democracy, more in a strong leader, less safe and more keen on troops out than three years ago, but I do not know. While I could generalize about the collapse in optimism after four years of occupation, I would not dream of relating it to a trend.

The only good news out of Baghdad is that Petraeus has discovered that if you flood a neighborhood with heavily armed troops, stay there, give people money and protect them from the Iraqi police and army murder squads you will be very popular: as long as you stay. It might even have been a policy worth trying four years ago. But now he will leave. And then what?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hometown Baghdad, vignette videos out of Iraq

The videos you find over on Hometown Baghdad speak for themself and make interesting viewing ... thanks Erin.

Salon writes What we immediately found absorbing in "Hometown Baghdad" is not the fear, confusion or carnage we've grown to expect from documentary reports out of Iraq. It's the three men central to this series -- Adel , Ausama and Saif -- whose lives we see unfold in short, telling vignettes. We see them eat dinner and go to school, watch them go swimming and practice in their rock band. But in a war-torn, religiously divided city, even these simple actions are fraught.

On the fourth anniversary of our invasion of Iraq, when many of us have become hopelessly inured to reports of yet another bombing, the simple struggles of regular people take on a greater, more chilling power; we watch a way of life deteriorate before our eyes, and come to recognize the horrors of war in a way that the bold headlines or CNN news alerts no longer convey.

Wednesday is Brussels Day ...

Wednesdays I'm teaching in Brussels ... and it's okay.

I like conquering a city.
Really, it feels like that sometimes.
One day I realised I knew Istanbul and I liked how it felt.

It's not that I need to know every street and monument but these days there's something delicious about knowing which trains to avoid between Antwerpen and Brussels, how to move through North, South and Central stations .. and learning one or two bus routes has given me that feeling of having conquered a small part of big city Brussels.

Monday was a good day too.
I was invited to work as a photographer on an exhibition on Language here in the city. It's an exciting project, really exciting actually ... I'll let you know more as things progress.

Someone else phoned me about photographing their wedding, there's a child's confirmation in May, and maybe it's about time I got my advertising out in the world.

Two parents in Brussels have enquired about me working extra hours teaching their children more English and the bookshop I'm based at seems like a great place to pick up new students.

Slowly but surely, it's coming together ...
When you live for a long time in one place you begin to confuse your life with the city; its avenues and landmarks come to stand for your memories until you become the tourist of your own past, viewing a younger self with the fascination of someone just passing through.

For so many, the past has gone soft with distance, so that when they talk of a building that used to be beautiful or an avenue that once burst with yellow flowers in March, they are really talking about a self they wish to have been.

I am afraid, if I tell the story now after all these years of silence, that I will be confused for one of those dreaming tourists who point out only the graceful and vital, who are happy to deal with the surface of things.

Ana Menendez, from Loving Che

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

An Important Article for Bloggers - How to Avoid Repetitive Strain Injury

How to avoid repetitive strain injury is a subject dear to my heart as my body has finally begun to protest the hours that have gone into my 2000 post blogging career.

My left arm/elbow is a wee bit of a disaster although I'm working on a cure passed down to me by my mother, my grandmother and all those who went before ... that being, give it a while and see if it goes away on its own.

My work station lacks credibility in terms of ergonomic safety. I know it but you know how it is ... one day I'll organise myself.

I type on a laptop whose keyboard had a little too much red wine one particularly dark and stormy night in Istanbul.

Oh the panic ... I turned the laptop upside down immediately, tears at the ready if required, wondering all the while if one should turn laptops upside down.

The dangers of demon drink, the wine fused the right-hand side of the keyboard and so it is that I work between an external keyboard typing and a laptop touchpad mouse these days ... One arm is probably longer than the other, I'm not sure that I'm kidding.

And I like to sit with my left leg hooked under me on the office chair; the office chair that I leaned back in while talking on skype ... the back of it broke some. If I don't slouch in a particular way then the metal rod on the back support pokes into my back.

Disturbingly enough, the author of the article has as point number 5. Don't' ignore the pain. If parts of your body are causing you discomfort, visit your doctor immediately.

Then again, she's thinking about buying a $1,800 ergonomically designed chair ...

Sayings in Antwerp Dialect ...

Uit gouden korenaren schiep God de Antwerpenaren;
uit het restant de rest van 't land.

Sorry Manic, writes the laughing woman.

2000 posts ...

I went searching, I wanted to post something a little bit special this time.

Paul Kelly is probably my favourite singer and Midnight Rain is a much-loved song... but it hasn't been Youtubed.

Anyway, searching I came across this Kelly song and felt it was entirely appropriate for my 2000th post ...

This Land is Mine ... simple worlds that fuel so much of the stupidity that we see in the world today.

The mess in my lounge

I was about to begin filing the new work I had prepared for teaching when I saw how it looked like a small nest of creativity ... to me anyway, probably because I've spent all my spare time sitting in the space there, making 'stuff'.

I have folders full of lesson plans, from adult conversation classes through to activities for children ... there is the packet of 'coloured' balloons, the plastic files full of weather symbols and clothing mounted on cardboard. There are the cardboard backed Mr Men door hangers with student names on them and the Mr Men birthday cards for the little ones to colour as a break from the talking.

Now to advertise, writes the woman who is dreaming about walking into someplace like basecamp K2 . You see, I have a need to rebalance my poor body and stretch in a big way ... but cancelling that need is this unbalancing desire to earn money.

Must advertise here in the city ...

Note: The K2 photograph came from Jagged Globe .

Antwerpen last night

In New Zealand, I usually found beauty in Nature ... whether it was in the mountains, rivers, lakes or sea.
Belgium is something else.

Last night I photographed the Fina Antwerp Olefins 'display'. Stunning and yet disturbing when you realise I was kilometres away from their processing plant.

A lightning strike had reportedly shut down their plant. I was curious and googled them: Fina Antwerp Olefins
is in a joint venture with ExxonMobil Chemical and processes naphtha, butane and propane from the Total refinery into base chemicals: ethylene, propylene, butadiene and benzene. These monomers are used either in the Antwerp and Feluy plants for polymer production, or sold to the chemical industry, which converts them into a variety of everyday products.

Apparently the display I saw and photographed in our night sky was created by a need to burn off everything caught in the system at the point of shutdown to prevent the risk of explosions on restarting the processing.

I don't know ... watching the moon light up Mount Cook or Mount Tasman seems preferable somehow.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Little People, a tiny street art project

Matthew emailed about a site called Little People ...

I couldn't resist posting it on.
Thanks Matthew :)

The Press Institute for Women in the Developing World

"There are so many things that the world should know," she says.
"As long as no one knows, nothing will change."

Maria Antonieta Gomez Alvarez

There's an interesting article over at Poynter Online ... Empowering Women, One Journalist at a Time .

The Press Institute for Women in the Developing World is an international nonprofit organization and citizen journalism initiative. The Institute was founded on the belief that journalism is an empowering tool that can bring voice, strength and light to issues that are hidden and people who are oppressed. It is in this vein that the Institute trains women in developing countries to serve as reporters in their own communities. PI journalists are dedicated to telling untold stories and empowering themselves and others through education and journalism. The Press Institute emphasizes reporting on six core issues that most affect women in their communities: HIV/AIDS, violence against women, poverty, reproductive rights, political oppression, and community development. The Press Institute currently operates two Global Training Sites: Chiapas, Mexico and Kathmandu, Nepal.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


- business cards printed and cut (note to pay Alison for printing them).
- new business card made for teaching English/proofreading and editing work.
(Advert to be written tonight for newspaper)
- photography website linked up to photography blog and to Alison's website.
- a gazillion lesson plans and activities filed and organised.

Did I write of accidentally purchasing new leather boots yesterday?

I haven't owned leather boots since I was 11 years old, memories of them made me certain they weren't something I needed however ... we were wandering in Dod yesterday and found this tan pair that quite inexplicably stole my heart.

It helped that they were just 30euro.

I wore them when we walked to the bakery this morning ... rain, hail and strong winds. They proved themselves out there in the elements.

Meanwhile Gert is bemused.
Think 'kid at Christmas, delighted with Christmas gift' and you have Di with her new leather boots.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Writer

I’ve come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call “The Physics of The Quest” – a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws gravity or momentum.

And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself….then truth will not be withheld from you.”

Or so I’ve come to believe. I can’t help but believe it, given my experience.

Elizabeth Gilbert ,
Author Eat, Pray, Love.

Thanks Boho Girl.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Yale, originally uploaded by - di.

A Saturday in Belgie

8.15am and I had convinced Gert to act as my driver, and so I was driven to class over in Brussels as opposed to catching the tram, then the train and the bus.
Bliss ...

Three of my pupils were ill this morning but Hugo and Sidney were there. We had a marvellous time with lots of laughter and English.

And afterwards, well Gert and I had time to go city-wandering.

The big find was the discovery of a clothing outlet store over in Brussels. Gert knew of it and introduced me to the delights of a series of Dod shops. He needed a new suit for work and found a lovely black one.

We stopped to lunch at a boulangerie called Village du Pain before heading on out to Stone Manor for some of the casserole mixes I used to use back in New Zealand.

Somehow a frozen packet of sausage rolls found its way into our purchases, as did one small block of Cadbury's Turkish Delight chocolate.

It was a good day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sharing Germany's Skepticism

Rightful justice cannot be obtained under the wrong conditions.
Die Tageszeitung

Der Speigel are running an article titled Confessions of a Terrorist Mastermind .

The sweeping confession of alleged al-Qaida mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has claimed involvement in 31 terror plots, has been met with skepticism from German commentators. Some editorialists have stronger feelings about the "show" trial against Mohammed than whether or not he is telling the truth.

They go on with what is surely on the minds of so many ... German commentators criticize the conditions under which the confession was obtained, noting that Mohammed had been subjected to years of "rough" interrogations at the hands of the CIA. Apart from condemning a hearing that did not adhere to the laws laid out in the United States constitution, along with a transcript that was heavily edited, German papers also cite allegations that Mohammed was tortured during his four years at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility for suspected terrorists. Can his testimony be trusted or was he coerced into giving it?

Book Sale in Antwerpen (100s of English books too)

My intention was virtuous ... I was going to my favourite secondhand bookstore here in the city to simply buy childrens books for class tomorrow.

So virtuous in intent, so wicked in actuality.

You see, it turns out the De Slegte, with its oftentimes staggeringly good selection of secondhand English books is having a massive 50% off all novels.

I might have been lost in the book aisles for more than 2 hours, I have no idea but I came out triumphant.

Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost (3 euro), Kate Moses Wintering (3.50euro), Ann Pachett's Bel Canto 3euro and one simple novel (2.50 euro) to lose myself in for an hour or two.

So, what stories for the children at 9.30 tomorrow ... well there's Mr Jelly from the Mr Men series and associated birthday-card-colouring-and-making session, the eating of red jelly from New Zealand and so much more.

The fun never stops ...

A Goal ...

Salamanca Stork, originally uploaded by - di.

I am a nomad at heart. Photography fits that feeling of restlessness for me, enables me to be a nomad, choose my projects, my destinations.
Hans Kemp

Today in Antwerpen ...

If I don't go out with the camera, the world is always around somewhere.

The new building nearby is coming along and I think they were pouring concrete however ... as they can see me as clearly as I can see them, I tend not to loiter and stare.

A grey hazy day today and a promised return to winter next Monday ... snow they say, let's see it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Did you know ...

My daughter and I were once on one of our big road trips between the place we were living and 'back home' and she lay down in her seat to sleep a little.

Suddenly she sat bolt upright and looked over at me in the driver's seat.

She said, 'You won't spit in my ear while I sleep, will you?'

She was perhaps 8 years old and up until that point in her life, I had never talked of, nor had I attempted to spit in her ears.

It had simply never occured to me.

I promised I wouldn't.

She slept.

Truth ...

I was sad when I realised that I don't place much value in a confession that comes out of Guantanamo Bay.

The Yahoo News article titled 9/11 mastermind admits killing reporter only earned a raised eyebrow about what the truth might possibly be and whether we'll ever really know it.

A Belgian Brady Bunch ...

I find myself overwhelmed by a desire to spring clean this morning ...

Spring has sprung however the bad news is that with the blue skies and warmth comes smog alerts. The blue skies are lost to a terrible smog haze as the gazillion cars and trucks pass over the Antwerpen ring road to and from destinations all over Europe.

So ... there are major upheavals planned in the apartment over the next few weeks as we work out how to fit two more people into it.

Gert's children come and go, spending about 10 nights per month with us and now my daughter and granddaughter are moving in ... there's a Brady Bunch feeling to life.

We think we might have found the sweetest wee bed for Sahara the 2 year old, and we feel relatively confident we have the correct tools of negotiation for everything and everyone to give up or make-do with. We think our plans for utilising space won't compromise anyone's space too badly, in fact things might be nicer for everyone.

It's a big apartment really, 3 bedrooms with a toilet and another bath room with toilet and we're blessed with a huge balcony ... we can even envisage a small paddling pool and a room for a tricycle so yes, it's the whole swings and roundabout cycle of life really.

When guests come, it will be a little more about the New Zealand way ... someone will end up in the lounge on the couches is my guess ... depending on various factors it will occasionally be Gert and I. (Don't worry Marylou ;))

Okay, so perhaps I'll start with the windows ... partially blaming Mathieu's
Exercise Your Brain on the Treadmill, or Have a Stroke at the Keyboard?
post for this desire for movement.

(Note: the photograph came from yesterday's De Standaard Online ... it's the real deal.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Natural Light, the Blog

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
Virginia Woolf,
from A Room of One's Own

Perhaps, had Virginia been alive today, she would have added 'and a blog' to her list of things required by those who create.

Alison and I have been working on a new project and decided it required a blog of its own. It's fairly self explanatory once you arrive over there ...

So I hope you enjoy Natural Light, the blog that connects our photography websites and provides a place for us both to post daily on things photographic ... quotes, extracts and interviews, as well as our seperate photography and the works we collaborate on.

Tot ziens.

Tewfic El-Sawy, Travel Photographer

Pam found photographic treasure and wrote of it ...

Tewfic El-Sawy has a truly superb and interesting photography website over here, with hours of viewing and plenty to read.

Thanks Pam.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Thanks Frida.

First Photoshop Lesson

Alison came over today and I had my first lesson in navigating Photoshop. I was delighted!

I can apply a copyright layer to my photographs, writing too.
And so it begins.

She also brought my first set of business cards with her, printed on semi-gloss photographic paper and we talked over launching things like our photography blog.

And then there was the photo shoot ...

Results to follow sometime soon.

Spring and Things

What is it about sunshine that makes life seem so good?

Spring has arrived and 17 celsius with blue skies is absolutely stunning after a long grey winter.

There's a new blogsite almost ready to launch, linking my photography website to Alison's ... we expect to be posting things photographic any day soon.

Business cards, an advertising campaign and photography all ready to launch.

Grinch masks, Mr Men height charts and teaching English ...

Preparing for the arrival of my daughter and granddaughter in a few weeks ...

I might be posting a little less in the days ahead but we'll see.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Teaching the Little Ones ...

Who knew that I could so delighted about finding the Sesame Street website at my age ... but delighted I am.

My Saturday students are mostly 4 years old and have the attention spans of 4 year olds. I had to rethink all my class preparations, adjusting them to this attention span limit.

Enter stage right ... the Mr Men site, Dr Suess and Sesame Street.

I'm ready.

There will Dr Suess stories, with associated Grinch masks being made.
There will be Mr Men stories with associated bedroom door handle signs, and there will be Sesame Street counting activities with 'The Count'.

Alles goede.

On Creativity

Creativity is “the ability to be productive, characterized by originality, expressiveness and imagination.” Traditionally, the definition was confined to an overall set of practices called “the arts”, when in reality, humans are creative beings... and “being creative” is a most challenging occupation.
Cheryl L. Swanson
Principal of Toniq

Creatively Self-Employed

I was web-wandering while sitting here with the sun pouring in through the big window next to me, talking with Shannon as she works through lesson preparation for her students back in the big city, and I happened upon this interesting site called Creatively Self-Employed .

Of course it's just what I need but I thought I would share, just in case there are others who have a use for this kind of list. She found it over at Calvin Lee, A Method to the Mayhem .

An excerpt:
Here are are few tips to let people know who you are, what you do and finding potenial clients.

Press Releases/E-Newsletter - Have some exciting news or completed a successful project? That's a good reason to send out a Press Release or E-Newsletter. Send the E-Newsletters to current and potenital clients. Send press releases to media outlets (on-line, local and industry related papers/magazines).

A few on-line resources to post your Press Releases.
PR Log - free
PR Leap - free
PR Web - a fee
Free Press Release - free

Blog - Start a blog, write articles. Makes you an expert in your field. Potential clients will see, you know your stuff and trust to hire you. It's all about building trust and relations.Design

Let Friends and Family Know What You Do - Potenial referrals from friends and family.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Shannon's Bike Shoes

Today Shannon and I led the old black bicycles into the light ... Antwerpen was doing blue sky AND sunshine however it seems that the bikes were less than amused about spending winter locked up and indoors.

They presented with flat tryes that were unpumpable.

I loved this photograph anyway ...

A slow day today ...

I was checking out my Site Meter, curious to know what I've done since beginning to blog here back in November 2005.

Apparently I have written 1,964 posts ...

I'm not sure when I switched Sitemeter on but there have been 27,474 visitors since then.

Who knew :)

- a cute story out of new zealand

Loved this ... thanks Alison .

WELLINGTON, N.Z. (AP) - A middle-aged New Zealand woman rang police to report a theft of cannabis plants she had been growing in buckets at her home, news media reported today.

The crying woman told a constable at the police station in Napier the plant theft was the fourth from her property in four years. The woman, 45, lamented someone had again sneaked onto her property at night to steal her three carefully nurtured marijuana plants.

"I am a good person. I am sick of these low-lifes stealing my things," the unnamed woman told a police communications officer.

Senior Sgt. Mal Lochrie told news media late Friday the officer found it hard to stop smiling as the women gave details of the theft over the phone.

A community constable who visited her to take details of the theft also warned her horticultural pursuits could have legal consequences, Lochrie said.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


We found some 3euro Australian red and I'm happiness-filled.

A mouthful of Lindemans Cawarra and I was transported back to Bannockburn and to other dinners with Dave and Jude, a long time ago when I was last in New Zealand or those times before I flew out for the first time ... after the divorce while they were introducing me to the new love of my life; a little red wine to be shared with friends and good food.

This morning, standing waiting for the train to Brussels at 7.30am on a frosty spring platform, I questioned the sanity of taking teaching work over in the bigger city however the sun was out in a blue sky ... everywhere I travelled on that 90 minute journey looked simply stunning.

Working with 6 four year old children was challenging but fun and already I have a couple of favourites ... the twins, Sidney and Hugo would win anyones heart.

On my way home this afternoon, under the city on the train and my phone buzzed with a message. The Canucks were asking if they might join Shannon for dinner at our place tonight ... could we stretch to 5?

A quick consult with Gert and no worries, there are Stofvlees for everyone and we were delighted. Alcohol was offered up by way of negotiating a place at the table ... offerings gladly accepted but negotiation unnecessary.

Shannon's bringing a guest of her own and so we are 6 ... and suddenly it's all about good friends, wine and nice food again.

Gert sliced up some pita bread, covered the triangles in oil, salt and cayenne before baking them and I whipped up some of my beloved guacamole ... we're still working our way through the avocados and limes from the Market last week.

We're all but ready as I type this, so here I am, enjoying a small glass of Lindemans, remembering old friends and good times.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Cardboard and Olive Stones

Home ... after a few hours battling with huge pieces of cardboard out in the rain.

Imagine a paper supply shop that sells big sheets of cardboard but has nothing to wrap them in if it rains ...

Imagine ... sigh. Clearly I'm the only customer who has ever asked for scissors, tape and some of their biggest plastic carrier bags.

Clearly I am the only customer who has ever set up a craft show at the counter, cutting and taping those bags together to protect my precious cardboard from the rain.

And obviously I was going to forget the Dutch for 'Please may I have some scissors, a large roll of tape and some of those bags' ... because I like to make things THAT complicated.

I hadn't imagined things could become more challenging.
AVA was after the olive stone incident ...

I had taken Lisen and Yakup to a superb Turkish supply store here in the city and they had introduced me to the important things ... the best and most reliable food labels and which olives to buy.

Today the shop assistant remembered me and we exchanged news in a mix of Dutch, Turkish and English ... sometimes failing to understand, more often understanding as he insisted I try all of the olives to find which I liked best.

Suddenly I had 3 olives stones in my mouth and the 4th one was being offered.
No thank you wasn't an option.

Stones accounted for, I discretely slipped them into my bag, belatedly remembering the letters I had offered to deliver for Gert.

Anyway, every thing is home and I have dealt with my tragically low sugar level - now for the beanstalk, all the while praying for a dry day tomorrow. I'll be carrying a lot of cardboard with me, it's one of those situations that could get ugly fast.

A Friday begins ...

Today ... it's all about Jack and the Beanstalk, again

I have to go to the city, find more massive pieces of cardboard and build me a beanstalk!

I think magic beans were probably a simpler option however having found none, I'm reduced to building my own.

Traveling to Brussels tomorrow on the train with all my cardboard ... weatherchart too, is going to be so much fun. Oh, and then there's the bus. Sometimes I feel like Mr Bean out in the world ... already I see the potential for Bean-like behaviour as I wend my way towards work.

This morning, yesterday's blue skies are memory as the standard grey covering is skyward and the trees seems terribly winter-naked again. Perhaps I'll find spring back on the boulevards of Brussels.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"Before any garden can be seeded, the ground has to be prepared. The rocks and weeds need clearing, the earth has to be turned and the nutrients introduced.
Starting a business is the same way. You have to clear the clutter from your life, internally and externally. You have to create the right environment to be able to grow your vision."

~ Lynne Franks, The Seed Handbook. The Feminine Way to Create Business

Thanks to Boho Girl.

Yesterday in Brussels

I was on the train traveling to Brussels Zuid yesterday, watching the Belgian countryside pass me by and realised that I'm learning another country, another city, another way of being ... that I'm becoming comfortable within the new bubble of life I find myself living in.

I liked the feeling of it.

These days I understand some Dutch, a little Turkish, a little Italian, a little German and my mouth is now tasting the new taste of French ... with laughter of course. I am the woman who once was a girl in a class full of teenagers who knew more than me about French. I had to report on the Grand Prix for some reason ... I said it as I thought it read ... the whole class AND the teacher exploded with laughter.

Trauma is another way of improving your knowledge of other languages ... simply teaching you that all is not as it seems at first glance.

So I'm learning my way around Brussels and having fun doing it.
And the blossom was out on the tree-lined avenue yesterday ... so good to see blossom.

Coming home just before 10pm, I was carrying a massive sheet of solid cardboard and had a bag full of paper supplies ... needed to make suns and clouds, weather charts and beanstalks but of course.

Train traveling with large sheets of cardboard is a way of breaking the conversational ice of those who come into contact with you ... contact when the sheet of cardboard falls or blocks them into or out of a seat on the rather full train.

Oh yes ... I spoke to all kinds of people, even the small group of traveling American guys.

Meanwhile, this morning was a magical slightly misty morning, and the pigeon (bottom left corner of the photograph) was my sunrise companion.
And at times, during precarious and wild moments, I also knew a little about giving up all attachments to achieve a goal so absurd it might almost be sacred.
Mick Fowler, Climber
-reflecting on difficult moments while mountaineering.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sometimes ...

I play this game.

How many minutes do I really need to clean the entire house before Gert walks in the door.

What is the absolute minimum?

It's an interesting game, I've only been caught out once or twice in all the time that I've been here ... either I'm fast and good at guessing or I'm an exceptionally gifted housewife and really, anyone who knows me would choke with laughter over that second possibility.

I'm not the type of woman who cleans all day, I'm not even the kind of woman who makes the bed first thing in the morning (unless guests are calling by).

My rationale?
Who knows when a life-saving afternoon nap might be required.
Seriously, I read it the other day, afternoon naps lengthen one's life and I'm feeling in need of some life lengthening since I need more exercise and a good diet ... well, a personal trainer and a cook really.

So Gert is on his way home.
He phoned.

I have about 30 minutes to whip through the dishes, make the bed, clean all my lesson plan paper from the lounge floor, excavate all my 'stuff' from his desk and peel the potatoes ... hmmm, or would rice be quicker and simpler ...

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Day in the Life ...

Ask me for ideas about teaching Jack and the Beanstalk or Incy Wincy Spider to 4-6 year olds and I could talk at length.

Want to brainstorm teaching Flat Stanley or the weather ... then I'm your woman.

That was today ... although in the land of grown-ups, Alison worked magic on the advertising flyer Gert began for Di Mackey Photography and the end result is stunning ... to be posted sometime soon, as we work towards launching all things photographic.

The business cards are queued and ready to pass through her printer onto semi-gloss photographic paper.

We have launched our individual photography websites ...

My photography can be found at Di Mackey Photography and Alison's images are over at her beautiful new site ... Alison Cornford Matheson Photography .

We're working on a shared blog space, wanting to create a non-static place to publish our latest work, quotes and other things on a daily basis.

I have to dream up an Easter photography special in time for the launch of an advertising campaign ... while continuing to prepare those lessons for my first 8 students.

That's right, I begin a weekly routine of Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons this weekend.

So if you pass by a woman carrying a camera and singing We're Going on a Bear Hunt (badly) in New Zealand English while you are out wandering the streets of Antwerpen ... well, that will be me.

Don't say I didn't warn you Peter ;)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Elizabeth House, a small website world

Kim, from over at Stepping Stones , left a comment about Elizabeth House photography ...

I went wandering and the site is lovely, I thought I would share Elizabeth House with you.

Thanks Kim :)

Alison's 30th Birthday ...

I can't resist titling this post that way ... sorry Al.

I had a cup runneth over kind of day yesterday and realised that shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables at the 'foreigner's market' in the city, might just a cure for all kinds of things.

There's nothing quite like strolling between stalls, finding the best produce for the best prices, poring over the huge range of cheeses, and then picking out the crunchiest looking baguette at one of the bread stands as we leave.

But yesterday promised so much more for this New Zealander living in Belgie.

We were planning on calling in at Stone Manor, Belgium's Largest British Supermarket with more than 18000 different British products.

When you read British products ... read things I grew up with back home in New Zealand.

I was a-quiver and Gert was bemused as he watched me look round, quite unsure of where to begin. I found crab apple jelly jam, cheesecake ... cheesecake that I've never ever seen anyplace in Belgium, and Vegemite! Kiwis and Aussies, be sitting down when you read that 235grams of Vegemite costs 6.35euro here in the flat country. Yes, that would be just over $10nz ... I will treasure it.

Once the giddy delight of recognition was over, I exercised caution purchasing two steak and kidney pies (so Gert could know something of what I miss about home), a Cadbury's Flake and a small Cadbury's Turkish Delight, a couple of casserole mixes I wanted to show him, a packet of Gingernut biscuits, hotcross buns (Gert had no idea what they were), Crumpets (also unknown to my Belgian bloke) and that small jar of Vegemite.

We'll wait another year and pop back for that cheesecake and crab apple jelly jam when I'm a successful business woman with money for frivolous and unnecessary things.

And then to Alison's 30th birthday.

I have photographs however promises were extracted from me about publication so I can only publish those that don't infringe upon what I promised.

It was a grand night. Alison has slowly adjusted to turning 30 ... nothing I said made it easier and I hope she is gentle with me when I'm older later this year.

I'm not sure I've laughed so much in a long time, I stuck with red wine and while moving slowly today, I wasn't Mojito-ed and for that I am truly grateful.

We left the party after 2am and drove through Brussels city, delivering various friends to their homes ... it was kind of magical, especially knowing that Gert was driving new roads and was therefore completely reliant on others to get us out onto the road back to Antwerpen. It's a big city.

We pulled into our garage at 4.02am ... a slow and gentle day today, with me rescued by Veronica's superb soup just now.

Happy Birthday Alison!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Market Day, Antwerpen ...

Or perhaps 'the day some tents at the Market blew down, leaving fresh pasta all over the ground'.

It was stunningly windy and wet outside in Antwerpen this morning ... but we had our mission, we had been sent forth to find limes and mint, ingredients for 'many' mojitos, not forgetting the avocados for the guacamole at a friend's 30th.

We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, coming home with a 5euro box of avocados AND a 6euro box of limes. Even better, we avoided wearing the pasta shop tent which collapsed in front of us as a huge gust of wind blew through. The Moroccan nut and olive guys managed to hold onto their tents but began packing up early. It was rough out there today.

Yesterday, Alison came bearing gifts on her USB stick ... as I write this, I'm listening to a stunning selection of some of her favourite music, fast becoming some of my favourite music.

Matthew had already introduced me to Sarah Harmer, Alison had more of her music ... stunning music. Thank you to both of you.

There are old favourites like Sarah McLachlan, together with 'new-to-me' Damhnait Doyle. I'm test-driving everything altogether, so every now and again, Gnawa Diffusion pops up, as does India Arie, Crowded House and Shaye.

The photographs are from Lisen and Yakup's visit, explaining the slightly different price on the limes.

Tot ziens.

Tanya Ruka and Artist Space 2007

I love when Tanya calls by from her blog, Artist Space 07 because it reminds me to go over and see if she's posted, sometimes there's treasure.

I loved this quote that she posted:

We give to all of life as life has given to us.
We honor all relationships.
Trust and stewardship are integral to fulfilling dreams.
Collaboration is essential to create miracles.
Creativity and aesthetics nourish the soul.
Unlimited thinking is fundamental.
Living your passion is vital.
Joy and humour open our hearts to growth.
It is important to remind ourselves of love.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Brian Freeman and the Gift of Life International

Hours before getting killed the way he feared most, Capt. Brian S. Freeman looked up and smiled when Abu Ali dropped by his office.

After nearly six months of overcoming financial and bureaucratic hurdles in a war zone, Freeman told the Iraqi man, there were promising signs that a pair of U.S. visas -- the last big step in getting Abu Ali's 11-year-old son to the United States for lifesaving heart surgery -- would be issued soon.

The Iraqi was speechless. He asked an interpreter to express his gratitude to the tall American soldier who had made saving the child's life an unofficial mission. Then he pulled out his camera, swung his arm around Freeman's broad shoulders and posed for three photographs.

After news of Brian's murder, someone asked, Why did they have to kill one of the good guys?

It occured to me that the good guys are who 'they' have to target because if there was enough good guys speaking out and trying to make a difference ... well, how could the mess continue.

I found the story via the Gift of Life International website.

Marla Ruzicka was another person making a huge difference out in the world - she was killed by a suicide bomber ... fortunately the work she began is being continued by the people at CIVIC .

I am Not my Hair ... India Arie

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Wee Adventure ...

9am and I was running out the door, off to meet Shannon and her friend, the owner of a pretty little childrens bookstore over in Brussels.

I made every tram, train and metro connection ... always a relief when you're me and found my way to the house of Shannon.

I realised that I'm developing a new appreciation of Brussels. Since arriving in Belgie, I've been happy with Antwerpen but just lately ... through winter really, I've found myself wanting more from the city.

As I wended my way through city streets today, I realised that I have this whole new city to explore and it's only a 6euro train ride away.

So ... today's meeting. Well I now have a small job starting Saturday week ... I'm running childrens activity sessions in the bookshop, teaching both English speaking children and non-English speakers... from ages 4 to 8, four classes per week.

To get out and on with the photography, I need cash for the start up costs ... I don't really want to go into debt to begin working. As it is, I have to be sure of clearing 200euro per month as soon I begin with the photography - to pay my taxes, social security and accountancy fees so ... bring on the the English students.

This job was unexpected and came courtesy of Shannon, who knows some people.

I've decided to look for more English students in Brussels, as the train trip is no hassle and there's more call for teachers over there.

Tomorrow Alison is wandering over from her world. We're in the final stages of launching the photography on an unsuspecting world ... the advertising campaign should begin next week.

Okay, I hope your day was a good one.