Friday, November 30, 2007

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

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

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

Kindest regards

A better day today

for Shanti, originally uploaded by - di.

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

Good day wishes to everyone else :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On neediness ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This ...

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

Check out the 'more's'.

boss puppy, originally uploaded by - di.

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

Marianne Williamson

Loved this!!!

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

Thanks to the brilliantly wise Laura.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A day's work

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

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

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

It was an good day.


AJMF, originally uploaded by - di.

The Muslim Jewish Friendship Bus

the bus, originally uploaded by - di.

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

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

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

We were there taking photographs for the CEJI .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

About today ...

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

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

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

I'll let you know.

Tot straks, from the kiwi wandering in Belgium.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Monday dedicated to ...

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

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

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

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

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

Tot straks.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Castel Sant' Angelo, Roma II

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

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

Flower, Amsterdam

Flower, Amsterdam, originally uploaded by - di.

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

Baby Seal with mother, originally uploaded by - di.

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

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

Rainy Day Play

Art, originally uploaded by - di.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Monet's Garden

Monet's Garden, originally uploaded by - di.

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

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

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

Joshua Kadison, musician

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

Friday, November 23, 2007

Rainbow Series III

It could be Tuscany ...

but it's not.

Rainbow Series I

Rainbow Series., originally uploaded by - di.

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

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

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

Lamp, St Carolus Borromeus Church II

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

St Carolus Borromeus Church

St Carolus Borromeus Church, originally uploaded by - di.

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

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

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

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

Red Poppy and Pablo Neruda: The Poet’s Calling

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Andrea.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Kapka Kassabova, Poet

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

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

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

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

My island.

So yes ...

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

Here is one of her poems:


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

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

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

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

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


Maybe it was a mood thing but ...

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

And then there's the fact that ...

de lijn advertising, originally uploaded by - di.

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

The city's public transport company.

Standing at a tram stop and ...

a flag, originally uploaded by - di.

I noticed this flag on top of a building across the road and this is exactly how it looked ... I haven't touched it with photoshop.

I found it kind of stunning.

on Grote Markt, Antwerpen

on Grote Markt, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

Friends, Dave and Jude Wall have their own photo library back home in New Zealand and they've just revamped the website. I love what they've done.

So if you need stock photographs or simply feel like wandering through New Zealand via Dave's beautiful images, then pop over and visit .

Stone Man, Antwerpen III

Stone Man, Antwerpen III, originally uploaded by - di.

Sorry, I was compelled to share this series ...

Stone Man, Antwerpen II

Stone Man, Antwerpen II, originally uploaded by - di.

Stone Men, Antwerpen

Stone Men, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

I met these guys while wandering, a little lost, in the back streets of Antwerpen.

I fell in love with them all ...

Luc Philips, Actor

Luc Philips, Actor, originally uploaded by - di.

I've been admiring this sculpture ever since first arriving in Belgie.

Silvius Brabo, Antwerpen

Silvius Brabo, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

Up until the 17th century, Antwerp was known by the name of 'Hantwerpen'.

Legend goes that there was a giant called Antigoon who controlled the bend in the River Scheldt . He demanded a heavy toll from each passing shipmaster and those who refused to pay had a hand chopped off.

Finally, a Roman soldier, Silvius Brabo, brought an end to this by killing the giant, cutting off his hand and throwing it into the river and that's where the city's name comes from ... 'Hantwerpen' or 'hand throwing'.

Antwerp sculptor Jef Lambeaux, 1887.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Clare and I wandered all over the city

A little of this and a little of that

The day started grey in so many ways and I've been dragging myself through it ... tidying up the old projects, casting my mind about for an exciting new one, ignoring the ones I have ticking away here just for today.

I couldn't think, sorting paperwork does that to me but then two emails arrived one after the other.

One was inviting me to join as a Belgian-based blogger.

I read around a little and thought 'Why not' and signed in.

The other was an invitation to a Sahara Night next month. There's a movie with tales from the Sahara, a Maghrebijns Dinner, then the moment that truly delights me ... photographing the performance of a traditional Algerian Gnawa band.

I have enjoyed the small taste I've already had of Gnawa music, courtesy of Sandy, over at The View from Fez .

By the time I looked up from working on replies and etc, the clouds had cleared and I do believe there's a little sunshine and blue sky outside my window again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I've been missing Istanbul lately and found this youtube a lovely ex-colleague of mine had posted ...

Thanks Evren, although you've left me more than a little bit homesick for Istanbul tonight.

Rose, Rivierenhof

Rose, Rivierenhof, originally uploaded by - di.

Social Orientation in Antwerp

So ... it turns out that I was placed in the wrong Social Orientation class despite my record having my university education on it.

Today I finally decided to go back to PINA, simply to say I couldn't continue with this whole 'the doctor lives in a normal house' thing.

They were great but it seems I should have been put in a university graduate business class from the beginning.

It has to be said that while I truly admire the role PINA plays in the immigrant community, having this social orientation imposed on me has really made me wonder what in the hell I'm doing in Belgium.

It's only now, more than 2 years after picking up the tag titled 'immigrant in process' that I'm beginning to establish a life here, trying to play catch-up on all that I put to one side ... silly things I never imagined putting aside when I rocked up to immigration control at Brussels Airport.

But musing aside ... the result of today's meeting is that I've been excused from my current class for people who are not native English speakers and I have to start over in January. This time it's once a week for 5 weeks, with homework but at least it's a level of English that takes the sting out of anyone thinking that I know so very little about Belgium ...

A story about post traumatic stress

Luis Sinco has written a stunning article for The Guardian.

In it, he describes the reality of one American soldier's life after Iraq; one out of an estimated 30% suffering from PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

You know, we're honouring the soldiers who were sent out by past governments to die on their behalf 90 years ago and yet it seems that todays soldiers are being left to rot in the reality of life after war.

Thanks for posting it Paris Parfait.

Clare's visit

Rose garden, Rivierenhof, originally uploaded by - di.

We were wandering through the rose garden in Rivierenhof and I was fooling around with my big telephoto lens, knowing I shouldn't be using it to photograph flowers but still ...

Middelheim Model, Antwerpen

Middelheim Model, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

poster on a city wall

poster on a city wall, originally uploaded by - di.

Monday, November 19, 2007

And then there's the informal Social Orientation of Di in Belgie

Oh yes, it's not just about formal classes ... no no no.

Tonight, as I was running out the door, the elderly neighbour opened his door and looked out.

'You're noisy', he said.
I said, 'Oh sorry, is it the children?'
He said, 'No, it's you, with your door'.
I was startled.
He continued. 'I close mine like this', and demonstrated the closing and opening.
I was mortified. I thought I closed mine like that too. I've been doing doors for a number of years and no one has ever complained.

I apologised profusely because I was so mortified.
He seemed mollified.

I phoned Gert from the elevator and confessed that I had just been reprimanded about the way I dealt with our door.

He said, 'Oh, it's broken. I need to fix it.'
There was me thinking it was just a standard rubbish apartment building door ...

I asked him to go explain to the neighbour.
He said he would.

He didn't.
He fixed it instead, so now the neighbour is going to think that I really was rubbish at opening and closing doors ... sigh, another vote to the extreme right next elections, all because of that immigrant door failure upstairs.

On the bright side ... he didn't, as per the style of my orientation textbook, say: 'This is a door. In Belgium we use them to enter and leave buildings.'

Gert did play with fire though.
He did ask me to lock the door a little more quietly in future.
I'll guess we'll all be speaking in whispers soon.

Ranier Maria Rilke, a translation

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work.

Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one.

There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.

This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your while life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

Thanks Laura for pointing the way here.

Equal Opportunity

New Zealand has been ranked fifth in the world for gender equality by the World Economic Forum.

NZ is the only non-Nordic country to make the list's top five, which is led by Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland.

The annual survey scored 128 countries on four key areas: differences between men's and women's salaries, access to education, political representation and health.

According to the World Economic Forum, Nordic countries were "strong performers" in all four areas, but "no country has yet achieved gender equality". Yemen, Chad, Pakistan, Nepal and Saudi Arabia received the lowest marks.

You can read more news pieces at NZ

The Dilemma ...

I've been asked to photograph the launch of a new European Platform group at the European Parliament soon.

It coincides with my social orientation class.

The expectation from the Flemish government is that I will hand over my little note from my teacher, explaining that social orientation takes precedence over any other thing in my life, barring proven ill health.

Gert assures me a Belgian would suck it up and do the 10 weeks because that's how it is.

I've assured him that it takes a lot to annoy a New Zealander into rebellion but once there, it's never good. My ancestors moved countries to get away from this kind of nonsense.

Hmmmm, what to do ...?

Attend the European Parliament as a photographer or obediently turn up for 3 hours of studying the rules of living in Antwerpen ...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A favourite poem ... reposted


I can hear you
making small holes
in the silence

If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
and shut

And I
should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind

the something
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
the ground

the steady
drum-roll sound
you make
when the wind drops

But if I
should not hear
smell or feel or see

you would still
define me
disperse me
wash over me

Hone Tuwhare

Migrants taking care of the people back home ...

The NY Times is running an interesting article on why the more successful countries need to keep an open minds and hearts about foreign migrants and what they are about ... THE money flows in dribs and drabs, crossing borders $200 or $300 at a time. It buys cornmeal and rice and plaid private school skirts and keeps the landlord at bay.

Globally, the tally is huge: migrants from poor countries send home about $300 billion a year.

That is more than three times the global total in foreign aid, making “remittances” the main source of outside money flowing to the developing world.

Not only that, Surveys show that 80 percent of the money or more is immediately spent, on food, clothing, housing, education or the occasional beer party or television set. Still, there are tens of billions available for savings or investment, in places where capital is scarce. While remittances have been shown to reduce household poverty, policymakers are looking to increase the effect on economic growth.

Some migrants, for instance, send home money to savings accounts at small bank-like microfinance institutions, which use the resulting capital pool to lend to local entrepreneurs.

About yesterday ...

Yesterday was the day set aside for dinner with the in-laws.

A day because one wants everything nice when ones in-laws are visiting, so we shopped and we cleaned and I cooked.

I'm not sure how that happened. In the past, in stunning sleights of hand, I have managed to so stroke my Belgian man's ego that he takes over the cooking, imagining it was his idea ... or maybe he's just kind enough to allow himself to be so maneuvered.

Anyway, last night was all about Persian Chicken and rice, with Pavlova and cream to follow but only just. We were making our way through the second supermarket, the final one and queue-standing when I asked if we had chicken at home.

Gert said no.
I said Hmmmm, what about parsley, spring onions and mushrooms? He gave me that look, the raised eyebrow one reserved for times when I've said something just a little bit simple or wicked.

So ... there we were, just about to pay and go home when I realised that I had forgotten to put anything more than the red wine and cream ingredients onto the shopping list for the Persian Chicken.

It's never dull in Di World ... and I always try to say that to Gert in a good way.

I sprinted through Makro ...

Friday, November 16, 2007

A slice of my attic room at v-grrrl's

v's attic room, originally uploaded by - di.

A slice because it was difficult to photograph my lovely little borrowed attic room. Did I want the window/skylight in or did I want the red couch and stuff?

I went for this slice.
Much work was achieved here. Thank you for the loveliest time, Ms V ... for the wine and the food, and time that was simply divine.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Just over a thousand words of interview ...

It's been an odd day, working at transcribing then writing up the interview ... focused in ways that I haven't been in a long time.

I think I like the end result, although it needs a final paragraph.
And I think I can repeat this exercise at will ... hope so, since I have more than a few interviews to work my way through in the weeks ahead.

Tonight it's Tex-Mex and this new cake that V wants to try.

Tonight I should do some more work before sleeping, creating a habit to take back home with me when I go.

They're talking snow at the weekend ...

A morning spent on task and working ....

I've spent the morning up in that cosy little attic room working ... marvelling over how much simpler it is to work when I'm not connected to the internet.

To connect I have to stop working and come down 3 flights of stairs.
So I think about why I want to wander downstairs and mostly I simply can't justify it.

However I'm not sure I'll move out ... I don't know how to break this to everyone involved but it's lovely here. Last night, after long and interesting conversations there may have been a bit of an impromptu midnight feast involving snack food and a delicious Californian red wine, and then this morning began with bacon, eggs, toast and a huge cup of tea.

Alles goed in this American-held territory here in Belgium.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blogging from the Land of V

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
Virginia Woolf

So I packed a little money and I've been loaned a room of my own ... a cosy little attic room in the home of the v-grrrl

Today, after a journey made in the spirit of comedian Mr Bean, I arrived safely only to be party to the temporary loss of her internet connection as we checked out the possibility of adding my little HP Pavilion to the internet.

The plan is that I'll be posting from my cosy little room in the attic for the next couple of days while working my way through a backlog of interviews that need written up before the launch of the new website.

Tot ziens.

Welcome to the New Zealand sense of Humour

Generally, New Zealanders find humour in most situations and one of the more common ways to do this is to tell an immensely good lie when someone asks a stupid question.

I once made a couple of visiting Australian rugby players believe that my small hometown was under police curfew after 10pm. We were walking home after a party and they ended up hiding in someone's garden with me as a police car went slowly past.

I may have also mentioned our police were armed with machine guns.

The problem is that if people believe that particular part of our population who tell tall tales for amusement, we tend to take that as encouragement to continue, until the story becomes so outrageous that laughter takes over.

Belgians don't take to these 'stories' well. I discovered it on entering the country at immigration. The man there was very stern with my flippant reply as to why I was visiting and I was quick enough to realise that my kiwi habit of answering a stupid question with an outrageous reply might land me in more trouble than I cared to be in.

When the policeman was intent on putting me in jail for not carrying my passport or any form of ID here in Antwerp, I had this little voice in my head repeating over and over ... 'Don't laugh Di, it's not funny'. 'Don't joke Di, he's serious'. Don't laugh Di, it's not funny'.

It got me through something that I would have normally mocked my way through ...

So, find below the sort of thing a New Zealander might say when free to be amusing and downright mockingly rude ...

These replies were posted on an NZ Tourism Website and the answers are the actual responses by the website officials, who obviously have a sense of humor.

Q: Does it ever get windy in NZ? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK ).

A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q: Will I be able to see kiwi birds in the street? (USA)
A: Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q: Are there any ATMs(cash machines)in NZ? Can you send me a list of them in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown ? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in NZ ? (USA)
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe ..
New - Zea -l and is that island in the middle of the Pacific which does not ... oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Auckland city . Come naked.

Q: Which direction is North in NZ? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into NZ ? (UK)

A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: - New-zea - l a is that quaint little country , which is ...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Auckland city , straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Can I wear high heels in NZ? (UK)
A: You are a British politician, right?

Q: Are there supermarkets in Auckland and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers.
Milk is illegal.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in NZ , but I forget its name. It's a kind animal and lives in trees. (USA)

A: It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in NZ ? (France)
A: Only at Christmas.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first.

Thanks for reminding me Sands.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wandering in Rome, 2003

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

Rivierenhof, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

I miss New Zealand.

I miss the easy access to clean rivers, beaches, mountains and lakes, I miss the long road trips which were always entirely possible.

And I miss Istanbul, with its magnificent Haghia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Yerebatan Sarayi, Grand Bazaar and Galata Tower.

But sometimes, biking here in Rivierhof makes it okay.

Art in the Park, Middelheim

Art in the Park, Middelheim, originally uploaded by - di.

My 'get out of jail free' note or the letter that explains I can't do anything on the nights I have social orientation classes

Geachte Heer of Mevrouw,

Mevrouw/Mijnheer ............................ volgt van 05/11/2007 t.e.m. 04/12/2007 een cursus Maatschappelijke Orientatie op het Stedelijk Onthaalbureau voor Nieuwkomers PINA.
Deze cursus vindt plaats op maandag-en dinsdagvond van 18u30 tot 21u30.
Gelieve hiermee rekening te houden bij het maken van afspaken.

Met vriendelijke groeten,

a curious pigeon, originally uploaded by - di.

found on a peeling wall, antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

A Ghostly Aussie, Middleheim, originally uploaded by - di.

A soldier

A soldier, originally uploaded by - di.

I found this guy in the dark.

The Canadians held their 90th commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele on Saturday. One of the startling things was the lack of light at the ceremony and so I experimented.

Looking through my photographs afterwards, I loved the way this soldier's head kind of appears out of the darkness, slightly lit by the burning torches nearby.

Mystery of the patronising and simplistic English used in my English Social Orientation Class Solved

I was led to believe I was attending the English version of Antwerpen's Social Orientation classes however I am actually the only native English speaker in class because .... 'ta dah!' it's an English class for people who speak English as a second or third language.

Complicating it all is the fact the English in the textbook was written by a person who speaks or writes English as a second or third language.

It's a 5000euro fine if I don't attend ...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Spot the Photographer, Middelheim

Spot the Photographer, Middelheim, originally uploaded by - di.

Your child has rights, Social Orientation Guidebook, page 260, 261

I have to confess, I'm really struggling to find the right attitude about my social orientation course tonight ... I'm torn between feeling completely patronised and furious about the wasting of my time.

I've been busy all weekend, in Passchendaele, then with working on photographs until a few minutes ago. The deadline for the cultural guidebook for the city is today so I'm racing out the door soon to deliver the last of the images.

The more I looked through my copy of the social orientation text for something to blog, the more depressed I became ...

Today's gem. Did you know this about Belgium:


There is a text of law on the Rights of the Child. It applies for many countries.

In Belgium there is a Commissioner for Children's Rights. This organizations examines if the Belgian laws do not go against the rights of the child. (Yes, this sentence is copied precisely as it is in the book.)

A child (from the age of 0 to 18) has the right to:
- play
- participation = take the opinion of the child into account
- education and raising
- protection against beating, maltreatment or abuse
- religion: children mostly follow the religion of their parents; they may think differently or ask questions.
- health care
- information (for example): what are the rules at school? what is going on in the world? what happens when parents divorce?
- labour: children are allowed to earn a little bit of pocket money. They can help the parents in the household. They are allowed to sing, act or participate in sporting competitions. The children have to want to do it themselves. They have to continue to go to school. Real child labour is forbidden.
- clubs: children have the right to meet with friends. They are allowed to join in a sporting club, a youth movement ....
- privacy: children have the right to an own spot in the house, keeping a diary, letters of friends ...
- healthy food
Each of us has that right, that possibility, to invent ourselves daily. If a person does not invent herself, she will be invented. So, to be bodacious enough to invent ourselves is wise.
Maya Angelou

Borrowed from Meg's blog.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hayley, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium

Hayley, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium, originally uploaded by - di.

Hayley Westenra and Soldier Magazine

Soldier Magazine is the official magazine of the British Army, and I recently had the pleasure of working as freelance photographer with journalist Karen Thomas when she interviewed New Zealand singer, Hayley Westenra.

A couple of days ago I was able to read the results of that day back in October ... The interview is well worth reading.

It begins: THE vibrant voice of Hayley Westenra floated across the Tyne Cot cemetery headstones and briefly haunted the soldiers sleeping an eternal slumber in the mass grave of Passchendaele.

As the celebrated soprano sang Abide With Me, sighs from the hundreds of thousands of men swallowed by the bloody campaign waged in a cramped corner of the Western Front were almost audible. Marking the 90th anniversary of the Third battle of Ypres, the New Zealand star sang in tribute to her fellow countrymen who fought valiantly alongside their British comrades.

The Canadian Commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele

So ... ummm, yes

Franky was on the other side of the grounds at the Canadian Memorial and I had my big telephoto lens on.

I wrongly assumed that the cameraman had Franky full-frame.

Peter alerted me to my wrong assumption when he said he thought he had noticed me on television that evening. I still didn't register as there are always tv cameras around when I photograph events on Flanders Fields.

Gert found the VTM piece last night ... oh yes, that surely was me wandering round in the background. We were on the press bus tour and Franky was our guide.

Note to self: never assume anything about television cameras. They're clearly dangerous beasts.

Paul Gross, an interview

For v-grrrl
And here's Paul singing 32 Down on the Robert MacKenzie, mentioned in the interview.

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium.

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium., originally uploaded by - di.

We wandered here yesterday ...

I borrowed this from the Flanders 1917 website . Tyne Cot is the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world. It is also New Zealand's largest cemetery beyond New Zealand's shores.

Within its flint walls are the graves of almost 12,000 casualties from World War One, 8,300 of them unidentified. The entire rear of the cemetery is occupied by a curved Memorial, commemorating a further 35,000 soldiers who have no known graves. In total the cemetery covers an area of 34,941 square metres.

Canadian Commemorations, Passchendaele

Paul, Tyne Cot Cemetery, originally uploaded by - di.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Blogging from the press center

Where things have been more than a little interesting.

Apparently that really was Canada's version of Brad Pitt I was photographing:
A truly lovely man.

Heading home from a long day full of amazing people.

Tot ziens from Passchendaele.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The extremes of my immigrant life ...

Tuesday night found me seething my way through an evening class called social orientation ... the course that all immigrants to Belgium must attend or risk a huge fine.

I've been posting gems from the textbook since ...

Tonight I attended a reception here in the city, an occurrence that has become somewhat commonplace, in the way I've taken photographs of politicians for election billboards and pamphlets and attended various political events, photographing and/or interviewing Belgians from most levels of society and wandering all over Belgium, if I check off the places I've visited here in Belgium ... introducing my Belgian to people, places and events new to him.

Tonight, as we were leaving the party for 10 jaar gemeentelijk havenbedrijf Antwerpen carrying a copy of the fabulous brand new 'Port of Antwerp' photo book gifted to all employees, I asked Gert if I hadn't jumped ahead of my social orientation experience by continuing to attend this kind of reception.

He raised an eyebrow, as he does sometimes ...
I have perfected my innocent 'Wablief?', or 'what?'.

And that's how it is, one moment I'm being taught about life in this new country and the fact that I can 'send letters, registered items and parcels' as well as buying several things there like 'stamps, post cards, airmail paper, postograms, (birthday cards, congratulation cards, mourning cards) and etc ... at the Post Office and then in the next moment I'm talking to politicians about photography, drinking wine while the Belgian group Voice Male perform live in the background.

Off to Passchendaele in the morning, the Canadians asked me to go take some photographs of their 90th commemorations and I thought that sounded like a delightful idea.

Tot ziens from the socially orientating kiwi.

From the Social Integration Textbook, page 23 and 24

Did I mention that this course is for people who either work or own their own business here in Belgium ... and that this is the English speakers course.

Today's gem is as follows and people are welcome to make the necessary corrections. The Spanish are missing from the history and I'm looking forward to reading this aloud to Gert.

Short history of Belgium

The territory that is now Belgium, has always been part of other countries in the past.

In 1830, Belgium became an independent country.
Flanders has never been independent.

- Around 2000 years ago, the Romans were here (a race in Italy).
- The Romans called the local residents "Belgians".
- After the year 300, most of the people became Christians.
- A part of the people spoke the language of another race, the Germans (later Dutch). These are the origins of the linguistic frontier.

- After the Romans came the Franks (a race of France).
On 11th July 1302, the Flemish people won a battle with the king of France. This battle is called "the Battle of the Spurs". Therefore, 11th July is the Holiday of the Flemish Community.

- Around 600 years ago, the Burgundians came (Burgundy is now part of France).
We still say that Belgians are "Burgundians". This means that they love to eat and drink exuberantly, that they enjoy life.

- Emperor Charles the Fifth (1500) was an important emperor of Spain and Austria.
Flanders was a part of his empire.
In that period there was a war going on between the Catholics and the Protestants (both Christians).
Afterwards, Belgium only belonged to the Austrian empire. It was a calm period.

-Under emperor Napoleon, Belgium was a part of the French empire.
The French lost the battle of Waterloo near Brussels in the year 1815.
French then did become the most important language.

-After the French domination, Belgium became a part of the Netherlands.
They wanted Dutch to be the official language. They were Protestants.
The Catholic Church and French-speaking upper class protested.
There was a revolution.

In the year 1830, Belgium became an independent kingdom.

I'll save the rest of the history for another post, allowing you to digest the complexities of this particular lesson.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Graffiti Park Camera, Antwerpen

Graffiti Park Camera, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

Graffiti Park, Antwerpen

Graffiti Park, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

So this is actually a sampling of the truly superb artworks I sometimes find at the city's graffiti park. I once tried to interview one of the artists but ended up leaving them in peace ...

The graffiti park, antwerpen

the graffiti park, antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

This little man and I had a long conversation about my attitude to integration ... he felt I was doing just fine and said he hadn't seen many Belgians at this graffiti park in the city.

He found my attitude refreshing and loved the fact that I was forever turning up with guests from other countries, showing them the work of Antwerpen's graffiti artists ... taking the time to 'chat' with his crowd.

Not really ... but he did love to pose.

Sterckshof Silver Museum, Antwerpen

Sterckshof Silver Museum, Antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

This little ruin is the back garden of the museum. Entry is free and it is fast becoming one of my favourite places to wander.

It used to be that there was a moated, fortified farmstead on the site of the castle back in the 13th century. It was called Hootvonder or Hooftvunder and probably defended a wooden bridge on Grote Schijn.

In 1524 Gerard Sterck, a merchant, banker and secret counsellor of Emperor Charles V, bought it and built the castle Hooftvunder on the site of the farmhouse. The name later changed to Sterckshof to honour him.

Antwerpen fell to the Catholic Spanish in 16th century and although the castle suffered, it was never completely destroyed. Sterckshof's next owner was City Penionary, Jacob Edelheer and he used it as his city residence, filling it with art and scientific collections. It was inherited by his nephew who died childless and the castle was neglected as heirs fought over possession.

In 1693, the Lier Jesuits were the owners until they disbanded and the castle was auctioned off to Jan Baptist Cogels, a banker, who added the property to the Ter Rivieren Estate.The Province of Antwerpen bought Rivierenhof Park in 1921, with Sterckshof and nearby farmstead Sterckshoeve. By then, all that was left was a front extension of one floor with a turret, the entry gate and some rickety old buildings in the back (as per my photograph).

In 1922 architect J. A. Van der Gucht drew up the plans for a reconstruction, and in 1938, Sterckshof was opened to the public.

Sterckshof Silver Museum has taken on various guises over time until today when it is simply the Sterckshof Silver museum.