Saturday, May 31, 2008

Notes from Berlin

I did the tram, train, plane and taxi thing today ... arriving to 31 celsius here in Berlin.

Since asking myself the 'what would I rather be doing?' question - comparing root canal fillings to flying, I've begun to enjoy flying immensely which is fortunate, since I'm flying a lot at the moment.

It has to be noted that this belief was the tiniest bit shaken today ...
1. The airport express went past a large cargo plane that had apparently broken in half at Brussels Airport last week. It was lying there like a large whale carcass and definately made me run the root canal or flight question through my mind again.

2. I checked in my luggage without queuing, being in possession of an electronic ticket printed at home. I love the speed of it all BUT the woman who had checked my baggage for Rome recognised me and we were talking when she realised that my flight had closed.

Gert is a bit of a phenomena when it comes to organising things and so it was that I was stunned when she started to work out what I could do. It turned out that she had misread my ticket ... the wrong was quickly righted however this second incident had left me fairly interested in having a third 'experience' before boarding the flight.

I didn't quite shout 'Praise the Lord!!!' when my bra set off the metal detector at the security check but it was a close thing. I was calm, knowing it wasn't anything I had hidden and made a mental note to pack the black bra and only wear the white one.

Anyway, today was the the Brussels to Templehof Airport day, traveling on a wee SN Brussels plane ... it's a flight everyone should do, just to experience something outside of the huge busy airport and baggage lines.

Almost no flights land at Templehof anymore and it's scheduled to close in October. I'm sad, as the experience is both unique and entirely excellent.

To give you a taste of what makes it special ... The site of the airport was originally Knights Templar land in medieval Berlin, and from this beginning came the name Tempelhof.

The airport halls and the neighboring buildings, intended to become the gateway to Europe and a symbol of Hitler's "world capital" Germania, are still known as the largest built entities worldwide, and have been described by British architect Sir Norman Foster as "the mother of all airports".

With its façades of shell limestone, the terminal building, built between 1936 and 1941, forms a massive 1.2-kilometre long quadrant yet has a charmingly intimate feel; planes can taxi right up to the building and unload, sheltered from the weather by its enormous overhanging canopy. Passengers walk through customs controls and find themselves in a dazzlingly simple and luminous reception hall.

Tonight, after finishing work on the very last of 'the wedding' photographs and burning them all to dvd, I wandered out in search of food.

Restaurant Zum (Sum) Ulten Tor?
Hmmm okay, I have no idea but you can find it at Torstrasse 221, 10115 Berlin - Mitte serves the loveliest home-style German food I've ever tasted and it all happened out on their street veranda, with a little Chianti in honour of Rome.

There were the little tender roasted pork medallions with a rich and intense gravy.
The mushrooms in a creamy sauce with delicious other stuff, and potato croquettes.

It may be that I expressed an interest in the Berliner strudel with cream. I almost died quietly there on the street.

Tonight is the night where I finish up the last of my portrait work and get them posted. Yes Paola and Simon, I mean you. Rome was hugely distracting (and deeply exhausting and sublime, superb and divine) but this woman has both income and a room of her own for the next few days. I plan to work hard in-between the work gig that starts early tomorrow morning.

31 celsius expected ... and reading ahead, Gert almost died laughing when he discovered that yes, the Istanbul I fly into on Wednesday is also expecting 30+ degrees.

It's not that I'm complaining but 30+ after a longgggggg Belgian winter isn't the easiest thing. I'll tan for all of you back home in New Zealand ... okay?

Auf Wiedersehen.

Friday, May 30, 2008

One day back home ...

So today has been about unpacking, washing, ironing and repacking ...

It's been about buying the stunning new flash needed for the Berlin job.

It's been about being home, being present and preparing to leave before midday tomorrow.

This really tight schedule is new to me but I like it.

There's the good and the bad of it.

The bad is that I'm so tired that I could probably curl up on the floor here and sleep but the good is that I'm traveling again.

The bad is leaving everybody at home but the good is that there are very few dishes out there on the road.

The bad is also the fact that my previous jobs haven't processed themselves in my absence and so I'll be working past midnight to get them all done, having worked with them most of the day. And I'll probably work on the plane and in the Berlin hotel tomorrow too.

I hand over the 1000+ wedding dvd tomorrow. Gert and I are both pleased with the results, now to see if those photographed agree with us, and to see if I might have permission to publish some here in the weeks ahead.

Today has been a grey-low-cloud kind of day but it suited my need for something cooler than 30+ degrees celsius.

Okay, back to the photographs.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Di in Roma

di in roma, originally uploaded by - di.

My cousin photographed me at work in Rome - I had no idea this had happened until I found this tonight.

Thanks Julie.

My last night in Roma

one night out walking in rome, originally uploaded by - di.

I love this city absolutely and last night, a little lost, we found ourselves on a bridge across the Tiber and there, in the distance, was St Pietro's sparkling.

I was so incredibly tired after days of heat and wandering, negotiating with my knee and blisters, losing 3 kgs in the process and I had become disorientated. I was sad to have that memory of my last night but looking up, I discovered this gift.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Antwerpen to Rome

My cousin has just come from Qatar where the average temperature was around 40 degrees celsius ...

I came from Antwerpen where the average temperature was getting respectable and up around 20, maybe a little more.

We met in Rome where the temperature has continued to climb everyday since we arrived.

At first she was wrapping her Pashmina scarf round her shoulders and talked of the cool air ... while I was discarding as many clothing layers as was possible.

I spent 16euro and bought a lovely light pair of trousers and a light knit top to survive what I judged to be considerable heat.

But today was a day of reckoning.

It could be that we were lost while following Julie and the map, the map that has failed us each time we tried using it but that's not the news. The news was that she actually complained of the heat while I concentrated on breathing in a temperature I haven't experienced in a long time.

On the bright side ... we did have the chance to take some photographs of a movie being filmed. And we did wander the beautiful streets of Travestere, and we did eat at a cafe that stated something along the lines of 'We are against the war and tourist menus!'

Our habit has been to explore the city until the heat or my knee gets us, then we either seperate or take the siesta option until some of the heat goes out of the day.

Today we were the weary travelers, fresh from our Death Valley experience, with only the strength to take a cold shower before falling into bed to recover.

Needless to say, the revival process involved a little chianti for me and a little white wine for Julie out under the huge canvas umbrella in the garden on the side of the hill just above Vatican city. Some postcards were written while many photographs were downloaded and here we are - Julie with her new blog toy to fill out and me, happy to hang out in an internet cafe with a fan spinning nearby.

Night tour repeat tonight, perhaps some gnocchi in a pizza somewhere then back to cooler climes later tomorrow.

Tot ziens from the kiwi in Rome.

From Travestere ...

This woman from the land downunder has discovered that she is not one of the mad dogs and Englishmen rumoured to enjoy the midday sun and that internet cafes are sometimes air-conditioned when no more coffee or sparkling water can be consumed.

After a few hours of wandering on the other side of the river in Travestere, it was time to rest and so it is that my cousin and I popped into this cafe. Last night, after a little wine and salad in the garden, we wandered down to the store that sells sublime gelato and then on over to the internet cafe to phone her husband back home.

Somehow ... well, she has a blog of her own now. Perhaps it was inevitable, as inevitable as standing still for 3 seconds when you're with me means that you will be photographed.

This afternoon is some more of this area, although we're so very very hot here again, a rest, a little wine and then back out into the night for my last dinner in Rome (this time) and on into the city wandering ... to re-take all the night shots I accidentally deleted this morning. I've never done that before but I guess it was going to happen some time.

We arrived 'home' around midnight last night and fell into bed. You see this morning, in a fit of organising things, I cleaned my memory card thinking I had all of the photographs there loaded onto my laptop.

I didn't.
Never mind, it's a beautiful city to night-wander in ...

Ciao for now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

33 oC in Roma today

I woke later than normal, a slightly more civilised 6am but it put us behind with our plans for another sunrise tour of the city.

Instead we moved to Plan B and wandered down to our favourite barrista on the other side of Berlini's Sant' Angelo bridge. The cafe is run-down from the outside but I suspect it's a disguise to avoid the popularity that would come if he made the perfect coffee and had a stunning large and beautiful place.

Sitting at a small round pavement table, we wrote postcards and sighed over how good the coffee and cornetto were and how lucky we were to have discovered him. Julie asked if she might take his photograph (I couldn't because I've been the tourist ordering caffe lait while she's the impressive expresso-ordering chick) but he was lovely and told me I should take off my straw sunhat as he posed with me however ... not understanding much Italiano, I didn't get it in time. The photo was taken, with the hat firmly in place.

Castel Sant 'Angelo was my big plan for today. I came back to get digital images of a particular statue and there was curve and a doorway in this castel begun back in about AD123 by Hadrian. It's the place I love best in Rome although ... Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Navona and walking the streets between Vatican city and the Colosseum are surely second equal to the castel.

It was so hot at 8am that I feared the worst. My Belgian weather-soul was posting strong warnings about the heat as my back began to create its own little riverflow.

More than 20 celsius at 8am!!!

Water is the drink of the moment, and there was me planning to be the queen of red wine during my time here. Sparkling water, Italian sparkling water ... is there any water as good or does it simply taste good because I love this place so well?

The jasmine is in flower here, can you imagine the scent of it in the heat?

Somehow the Romans have managed to maintain Nature within in the city; to maintain civility with the constant stream of wide-eyed tourists; to maintain a quality of life that impresses me.

I need a usb stick to move my photographs, although Erin did suggest that I take my laptop to the internet cafe ... a fact not remembered until this very second. It's the heat ...

Tonight we're hoping for a night tour of the city. We walk almost everywhere, using metro where possible, trying to avoid losing my knee to the dark place. A night tour tonight, using bridges and monuments as the heavy tripod I chose not to pack.

In the morning, an early start and a metro to Travestere. My 5am awakenings have been useful here, the light is truly astounding as the sun rises and I suspect the ancient architects added something to their buildings so as to create the pink through to golden glow as the sun moves through the day.

I guess that's more than enough from this woman wandering in Rome. I hope alles goed where ever you are.

Take care,

Monday, May 26, 2008

32.4°C in Roma today

I knew it was hot outside ... knew it as the sweat formed a Ganges equivalent down my spine.

We tried the gelata, we tried walking in the shade but finally, these chicks from the downunder gave up and headed back to the hotel to wait it out before heading for dinner in Travestere tonight.

It's 90.3°F / 32.4°C

It's hot, so unbelievably hot here in the beautiful city.

Off to find water before climbing the hill to the room with a view.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Note from Rome

I viewed flying in a whole new way after the root canal filling ...

Sitting in waiting room of the dental surgery, it occured to me that I would choose flight over dental work. The next day the often anxiety-inducing sensation of the front wheels leaving the runaway felt really good. I was truly glad to be flying for the first time since I was a child.

But to more important things. The room where I'm staying has french doors that open out onto a private garden with a palm tree and outdoor furniture, a huge umbrella and best of all, an incredibly friendly labrador dog known as Cici (sounds like Cheechee).

Rome introduced me to a dish that contained pig jowls on that first night and I learned jowl is better than bacon. Who would have thought ...

The Chianti was lovely and the restuarant a cheeky find after stopping in at Best Western Hotel to see what they would recommend to wanderers. He said to say we were guests and the restaurant would have something a little bit special however his recommendation was enough of a gift and I didn't mention it.

Returning to favourite castels and piazzas has been grand, the weather is perfect and the people so kind, except for the sometimes stern barristas who express their contempt for my early morning milky coffee order with a wince or a sigh ... or is that me and my imagination and knowledge accrued while reading a book about Rome and her chefs. But anyway, I'm realising how much I've missed this warmth and the noise of peoples lives lived large.

Yesterday, awake at 5am, out the door before 6 - the city revealed herself in shades that began with a rose pink and moved through to golden. St Pieter's was exquisite in morning light, although the gates were still closed from the night.

Castel Sant'Angelo is on the still-to-be-explored list but Campo dei Fiori already had its everyday fruit and vegetable market underway at 7am.

One of the more amusing things about the trip so far is the fact that Rome and I have this 'thing' going ... it defies logic and understanding. I never follow a map, mostly because I'm map-illiterate. They don't work for me, I need to turn street plans into sentences and wander that way.

In Rome, traveling with my map-savvy cousin, I'm the one who is navigating this beautiful city. Maps continue to fail for her, filling her with a frustrated disbelief that makes me both laugh and feel sympathy. She has never experienced this loss of orientation and we have no idea why but wandering and weaving Di-style we found ourselves facing the Pantheon as planned that morning and later, just as she was convincing me that I had wandered wrong we found ourselves there ... in Navona's piazza.

Lunch in the Roman equivalent of Montemarte was a little more expensive but well-worth front row seats on the piazza.

Dinner was meant to be food from the supermarket however ... we had the wine and the cheese, the bread and the olives outside the room under the huge canvas umbrella then arrived at Castel Sant'Angelo too early for the fireworks and so we found ourselves sitting down for a nice glass of red that somehow became a bottle of red with a plate of the very best gnocchi.

Fireworks over, we strolled to Campo dei Fiori which becomes a place of magic at night. Jewellery and all kinds of other little stalls are set up, so that wandering there seems somehow other-worldly and magical.

Yesterday there was the riding the city bus for free incident ... a long story but we have discovered the Metro and will switch over that, having used a few too many taxis to get my knee and I back up the hill to the house we call 'home' at the moment.

But there's something about Rome that makes being here simply enough ... I don't so much need to see famous sites as absorb the feeling and the food. It's the most beautiful city I know.

Photos to follow, I just need a usb stick to make the transfer here at the internet cafe one day if there is time. I searched for a wifi hotspot up at the house but Rome laughed at me and this message came back - something like: no wifi connections available.

Anyway, all this to say yes, alles goed in this Roman world.

Take care,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Dentist and Di and, as always, other things

My 'to-do' list now fits on a small piece of notepaper.

My root canal filling was finished today.

My suitcase is mostly packed - mortifyingly enough, repacked by Gert who knew he could do it better. I was appropriating his suit suitcase and it's so different to packing my backpack or that other small bag I use for short stays. It's beautiful now ... I'll have to sneak home and unpack it while he is working so that he doesn't see my mess after Rome.

I fly tomorrow.
And so it begins ...
6 nights in Rome.
2 days home, 4 days in Berlin.
5 hours on Belgian soil then 10 days in Istanbul.

And then, in a moment of recklessness, I booked my next dental appointment for mid-June.
The dentist wants to x-ray all my teeth.
I agreed as long as she promised not to exclaim 'OHMY!' when she saw the results.
She promised.

She then asked me whether I had thought of having all my dental work done under general anesthetic.

I replied that it had occured to me to get a medic alert bracelet that invited surgeons operating on me in an emergency to also call in a dentist to do any undone dental work.

This amused her.
I'm not sure she had known anyone with a plan like that.
I confessed that I found the root canal work okay with her and that we could try to continue one tooth at a time.

So we will.

I've been a little distressed about wear and tear on my body this year and so I've decided to face all my fears this year and undergo the battery of tests that I might have been avoiding for some years ...

Avoiding to the point where I haven't actually sent for my doctor's notes from New Zealand. I hope to avoid becoming a morality tale and may not tell all on the blog. Sigh.

Anyway, I have all I need to blog from the road, just need to see what is possible in terms of internet connections and time.

Take care and if you would like a postcard from someplace, email me and I'll send one from somewhere.

Tot ziens from this kiwi that defied its flightless bird status and flew.

This truly delicious invitation arrived ...

In a three-day workshop philosophers, art theoreticians, poets, the artist and the dancer investigate the significance of the image, the letter, semiotic textures and body movement within the contexts of classical and contemporary Islamic and European philosophy, image theory, performance studies and choreography. Participants focus upon the critique and appreciation of divine representation emerging from Jewish and Islamic philosophical and mystical sources and upon calligraphy as a most eminent of the Islamic arts.

I had to reorganise my travels (willingly reorganise my travels) to incorporate this Berlin photo-shoot in-between Italy and Istanbul.

The last 2 days were days of craziness where I worked out how to fit everything in - in-between x-rays, wedding photo work, a full day working in Brussels yesterday and everything else in my life.

It occured to me that it's the multi-tasking that is waking me 5am.

I wake with long 'to-do' lists scrolling through my mind, having dreamed incredible dreams about what is ahead.

In other news, this morning I learned that my favourite castel in Rome has a fireworks display this Saturday - celebrating the beginning of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s work in the Sistine Chapel. Hmmm, so just how much weight does the tripod add to my luggage.

The good news is that my wheeled-suitcase seems close to heaven-sent. I was at work yesterday specifically to photograph a Jewish Muslim workshop they were running. Normally I would load myself with camera gear and laptop and come home a wreck. This time I loaded the little wheeled suitcase and la vita e bella.

We went over what I'll be photographing in Istanbul, despite my late arrival fresh from Berlin.

And to think this began as a simple flight to Rome ...

Tot straks from the kiwi.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Riding the wild horse called Life ...

It's been a day ...

5am and started work on the wedding photographs.

There's just 800 more to sort through and it calmed my mind before I left for the hospital. Then that appointment left me in pieces, as written below.

I had another appointment at 2pm, and in-between there was housework and an urgent call from the Brussels office - a set of important workshop photographs had been left in France.

I was sure I could put something together, and then finished up work on the exhibition collection of the NGO's work for Thursday.

Out for 'things needed for Rome' and back to the most incredible photographic job offer I've had yet.

I should be back in Berlin early June, just before Istanbul, all going well and it's SO EXCITING that lucid explanation is quite beyond me at the moment but news will follow once I've worked out what is possible and I calm down a little.

I hope your day was a good one.
Tot ziens.

2 things I didn't want to hear at my radiology appointment

So the radiologist took me into the small changing cubicle and looked at me. 'Okay, take off your trousers and shoes and follow me.'

Wanting to seem mature and Europeanised, as opposed to shy and Kiwi, I didn't squeak 'but where's my little white gown?'

He left me alone for a while. I checked the four walls of that small room in vain, there was no hook ... no gown.

After the x-ray he asked me to follow him with my stuff, so yeah ... that was me, the woman in her underpants, pretty shirt and socks, wandering around the radiology department in Antwerp. I guess I wasn't the first but ufff, I could have blushed if pressed.

Sitting on the ultra-sound bed, I picked up my book and read until the ultra-sound guy came.

Second thing I didn't want to hear after the new guy had checked out my leg extensively: Does your other knee hurt too?

I flexed it, thought about it some and said 'No' but wondered why on earth he would ask. We talked about aging. He didn't enjoy that as he was definitely older but I was excusing the possible worn and torn knee he had on his screen.

We parted laughing.

In the grip of whatever foolishness is required to open your radiology results in a foreign language, I almost died of a heart attack on reading a word that means something else entirely in English.

I suffered part time until 7pm when my vivid imaginings were shutdown.

It seems that I have tendinitis in my achilles tendon because I limped on it for so long ... and then there's this rather uncomfortable knee condition that is very common.

So ummm yes, it was a memorable visit. Next time I'm wearing a skirt and underpants that cover more than a bathing suit covers.

5am ... dramatic sigh!

Every morning just lately, I'm awake at 5am ... realising my knee is too sore to drift back to sleep, I get up.

It's unpleasant more than once.

First morning and the birdsong was lovely, the sunrise a new beginning around 5.30am, breakfast alone but if this continues, I'll have jetlag even before I fly the 2 hours to Rome on Friday.

Templehof, Berlin

The symmetrical complex, with its seemingly endless terminal, was constructed in record time, only two years, under the direction of Ernst Sagebiel, nicknamed the "Reich's Speedy Master Builder." When it was finished, the complex included 285,000 square meters (3,067,000 square feet) of space, divided among 49 buildings, 7 hangars and 9,000 offices. The results were impressive: surprisingly clean lines, with the narrow windows in the façade of the main building creating a rhythmic, cascade-like effect, combined with a touch of southern flair resulting from the generous use of shell limestone. It was a Teutonic bastion with Art Deco elements.
Templehof Airport, Berlin

I don't think I wrote up the Berlin trip as facts ... it was more of a incohorent rave really.

The thing was that we were fortunate and managed to find a flight landing at Templehof, Berlin's famous centre-city airport.

We had a short walk to the metro and voila, we were at our Pension in a few stops.

Unbelievably, it looks like Berlin is surrendering its fabulous old airport, as the recent referendum failed to halt plans to close it completely.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Meet Simon

meet the simon, originally uploaded by - di.

You can read his blog over here.

A little about books and related things.

I woke at 5am, feeling terribly seedy and not sure what to blame.

I had to cancel my Dendermonde trip and work out how to negotiate my day. It worked out with a little more sleeping and a lot of wedding photography work.

Tomorrow is the day of the x-ray and ultrasound - tonight I turned in the bathroom and twisted my knee in a really special way. I'm moving slowly, hoping I managed to get away with no further injury.

Train strike tomorrow - should be a nightmare as 10s of 1000s come to Antwerp on the train every day and probably more than 100,000 head over to Brussels. The roads will undoubtedly be a disaster as well.

Finished Isabel Allende's The Sum of Our Days . If you're curious about her, I recommend you start out with Paula, which is stunning in another way then head straight in The Sum of ...

I've just started in on a rather interesting book about Naguib Mahfouz.

Reading it is akin to attending a lecture by one of my favourite professor's of literature back home in New Zealand. This man gives sublime lectures ... truly, even if the subject matter doesn't seem interesting.

It was a dark day when I was sent out into the world, degree in hand, to read difficult books alone, without his notes.

a little one

a little one, originally uploaded by - di.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A truly lovely day ...

You know when you get to spend the day with lovely people, photographing them and their families ... well that was my today.

It began with me realising that the Sunday train timetable to Brussels is different to the week day timetable and so I was late. However, from that point on all was delicious and I have over 400 beautiful photographs as proof.

I don't know that I've ever attempted 2 family photo sessions back-to-back but there is a baby boy due in 3 weeks and I'll still be in Istanbul so ... I was eager to see if I could capture this 'before and after' baby moment.

After photographing Paola and Simon, they very kindly fed me and shared their Japan wanderings(recorded by their Canon EOS 40D, she writes enviously) until Richard arrived. We were introduced and he drove me over to his beautiful family in Wallonia.

One of the things I love about family photography is the unpredictability of it all - each group has their own dynamic. I just have to wait and to let it emerge.

Both sessions had moments when capturing the moment was something close to sublime and working quickly through the first selection just now, I found I had caught something of what I 'felt' working out there.

Perhaps it's not clear but if I get permission to post, I'll let you see what I mean.

Today I photographed 2 Brits, an Italian, and a handful of Belgians and a South African. Traveling back to the city, Gert called to see where I was and I told him the truth, that I was in a van full of South Africans ...

He's getting used to my life and he laughed.

I traveled home with a lovely Belgian woman I met on the train but she's a story for another time I suspect.

Tot straks from this kiwi in Belgie.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

And so they danced, on the cobblestones outside after the wedding ceremony in Berlin

the bride and groom, originally uploaded by - di.

The musician

the musician, originally uploaded by - di.

There was this band performing outside the marriage house in Berlin.

They played for everyone apparently but my bride and groom danced liked angels to the music this musician's band played.

My 'squito bites are drivin me crazy ...

Miss 3, as she writhed about on the floor in a very bad mood.

Friday, May 16, 2008

To- Do List before Rome

*Find wheeled suitcase with towing handle (hand-luggage size) check!
*Sort and process the 1000 wedding photographs ...
*Doctor's (check)
*Organise time for an ultra-sound and x-rays
*2 family photo sittings in Brussels on Sunday
*Photographs selected and downsized to Maleika for website
*Re-design work website pages following specific instructions from Ruth
*See Dominique in Dendermonde on Monday to catch up on 6 months of her in NZ
*See Lut and hear about her Turkish journey Saturday
*Research Rome for photographs and interviews (half-checked)
*Watch Gert do a 5km race on Saturday
*Work Tuesday - photograph a training day and make sure I have all my work ready to travel with me.
*Make sure everything is washed, charged and packed for Thursday's flight.
*Record and burn stories to cd for Miss 3.
*Leave the apartment really clean (an unexplained desire pre-traveling, possibily to do with a kind-of Catholic childhood and associated guilt.)

Sometimes I'm a wee bit of a plonker ...

So I found the suitcase with wheels today - hand-luggage for the laptop and camera gear. I've been suffering acute wheeled-suitcase-envy of late. My shoulders will love me for this.

The curly-grrrl, (aka Miss Three) and I spent the morning in the city - she had a day off from kindy and so it was that I discovered she's a wee shopper. She was hilarious, gently dragging me into the Body Shop to ooh and ahhh over lip gloss, solemnly promising not to put it all over the mouths and eyes of her toys this time. Pink shoes were high on her list of must-haves and then we spent some time in my favourite secondhand bookshop. I had to leave sooner than anticipated because she plonked herself down and began reading out loud (really loud) from the 2 books I found for her.

I asked if she could read to herself.
She replied,'No I can't!' Seeming miffed that I would even ask it of her.

Finally it was time for a waffle from the best waffle cafe in the city ... she had cleaned her bedroom for me.

She chose the Dame Blanche ... a light and fluffy Brussels waffle with whipped cream, ice cream and chocolate sauce. She endeavored to eat faster than me so as to get more than half.

We met the curly grrl's mother for (another more serious) lunch then took ourselves home.

Time for the doctor...
She was lovely but almost gave me a heart attack when she first talked of her idea of what was going on with my knee and achilles tendon.

It seems I might have left my knee just a little too long and I'm off for ultra-sounds and x-rays on both my knee and my tendon.

It really was 'that' sore.
We have this bizarre thing about pain in New Zealand, or perhaps it's merely my family but the leg can be hanging on by a thread and we'll attempt to deny there's any real problem.

My sister is quite stunning with her stuff and was sent home from work after coming in with terrible pneumonia. That would be Sand's - the Registered Nurse with years of experience in other peoples health issues.

I suspect it has something to do with Dad's standard cure for all that ailed us as children, as in 'Bring me the axe, I'll chop it off.'

I had assumed soft-tissue injury back in October but lately had started to wonder if it needed some help in repairing itself.

Seems it does, although there's no time for anything more than the x-ray stuff before I go wandering. So yes, I'll be the chick limping but smiling as she strolls through Rome and Istanbul with her camera.

5am ... birdsong and photoshop

I woke early this morning ... first in the grip of the exploding muscle pain that is cramp, then later my knee sang me into consciousness.

Yesterday I tried taking just one inflammatory instead of the 3 sachets I had been taking ... it didn't work out so well, complicated by train and tram issues.

A fire in Brussels North station had thrown the whole train schedule out of order, so my train to work yesterday ran 20 minutes late and abandoned us 2 stops from South Station. Then, unrelated to the fire but annoying, my tram broke down just 2 stops from work ... I arrived anyway.

It was a day of good conversations about all kinds of things, a day where I sent out my first press release to a huge range of media.

Going home, my knee and I were jammed onto a second train after it was revealed that Dutch trains were having problems too ... mostly in Holland but my Amsterdam-bound train (via Antwerp) wasn't going anywhere and so 2 train-loads of passengers piled onto another train.

A lovely guy gave me one of the last seats and stood - delicious for devouring my Isabel Allende book The Sum of Our Days but completely terrible for my knee which protests being stuck in a bent position.

So here I am, 5am ... coffee pot gurgling away in the background, birdsong filling the rest of the space and I've opened the huge wedding folder file to begin some hours of processing those photographs.

Tot ziens from the kiwi.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A little of this and a little of that

I was sad when I headed out this morning, after reading all the bad and sad news but then the morning became a little sublime, everything was kind of sparkly.

I was offered a place on a Barista course (with a real Italian barista) being held here in Antwerpen after a lovely conversation with the cafe owner ... a woman who makes the best coffee I've had here in the city so far.

Then I accidentally found 2 books, hoping I'm still on the 'fabulous book roll' I've been on of late. Mansfield was adored and devoured, now I have a book by Rasheed El-Enany titled Naguib Mahfouz. This book was the first to be published after the death of Naguib, Egypt's Novel Laureate. A comment on the back reads: He was not only a Hugo and a Dickens, but also a Galsworthy, a Mann, a Zola, and a Jules Romain.
London Review of Books.

And then, writes she who was recently paid, I couldn't resist Isabel Allende's The Sum of Our Days.

One of the best things about working again has to be the freedom to buy books whenever I want them ... and to travel again ... and to dress in a style I like rather in the style of what I can afford.

It's not that there is a lot of money, it's that I have money again. It's been a long two years in that respect but perhaps it was like having my palate cleansed between courses. I'm more thought-filled about spending, more appreciative of the freedom of it.

And now I'm home to hide from the midday heat and pick up all the children I've acquired over the last 21 years ... I was laughing with the cafe-owner that, although I never got round to dreaming of being a mother, I have surely ended up embracing it in all its forms.

I'm a mother, a stepmother and a grandmother ... and we're off to the library today once some of the heat goes out of this 24 degree celsius day (That's 75 degrees farenheit to you Mary Lou).

Photos ... next task tonight has to be photographs. First the exhibition opening in Zonnebeke needs to go out to all kinds of interesting people, then tomorrow the wedding photographs. I remembered to take a little time off from the constancy of work here.

I'm thinking I might stun everyone and go to the doctor about my knee on Friday. I can't stay on anti-inflammatories forever but I'm surely a believer in their magical powers in these days.

Tot straks from this kiwi.

What do we do??

Do we avert our eyes?

Do we stay silent because it's simpler that way?

Do we speak out and find ways to protest?

I wonder if these are some of the questions asked in Germany during the second world war?

I've been reading some news ... The New York Times, then this, and now The Independent with this and this and this .

I'm deeply sad as I sit here wondering but free, with choices.

The Flemish Wallonian Divide - from the outside looking in

The New York Times appears to have made a poor job of reporting on the situation in Belgium.

Having interviewed the equivalent of America's KKK and a few Flemish nationalists, they failed in giving a balanced view of the Flanders/Wallonia divide here. It's the second time I've read an imbalanced report on the situation. For some reason, foreign journalists are drawn over to the French-speaking side of the argument. I guess it makes a good story but I prefer to read something balanced and work things out for myself.

Gert left the house muttering that he would be writing a letter explaining the situation to the paper.

It's difficult to have outsiders come in and attempt to comprehend the problems when Belgians themselves struggle to explain.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sunshine, blue skies and a little musing

I find my life bewildering sometimes ...

Today as I dropped Miss 3 off at Kindy, shopped for milk, cheese - accidentally discovering a lovely Australian wine on special - then waiting forever for a tram, I realised that I swing between the sublime and the everyday - the challenging and the dull and I'm never sure what will be next.

On Friday, I woke in Berlin, too edgy to enjoy breakfast, not really quite on the planet as I thought through the day ahead ... following the bride, documenting her day, the wedding, the family, the musicians, the unexpected ... generally charged with capturing everything, not by her but by my own internal manager.

Gert has stepped up into the space of second photographer and has started putting his soul into his work. I saw it this time. Before he had been 'the technical guy' - these days he's becoming something else when he works with his camera.

Walking back to the Pension through a warm Berlin night around midnight, he teased me about how nervous I had been at the start of the day ... laughing when I asked 'Was I?' but yes, too nervous to eat well, unable to answer the simplest of questions ...

To capture the moment, sometimes I need to find my way into the soul or the heart of a family or group or subject. This family hadn't been all together for years and the children live between 2 countries - I wanted to gift a series of portraits as well as the days and ceremonies.

I did it.

This week is all about working my way through the 1000 images that have survived the first two cuts. It's about creating an order of events, merging Gert's work and mine, sending the best back to Berlin and over to Israel.

I have never had the experience of photographing so much exuberant and deeply felt love. I need to ask permission but I'm hoping to post some of the photographs in the weeks ahead ... just waiting until the bride and groom return from Venice.

Sunshine and blue skies, 28 degrees celsius expected.
Have a lovely day where ever you are.

Gipsstrasse, Berlin

Gipsstrasse, Berlin, originally uploaded by - di.

I love the fact that the street signs are there in the background ... probably because it was a fabulous night in a beautiful city.

Monday, May 12, 2008

An extract from Katherine Mansfield's 'At The Bay'

Very early morning. The sun was not yet risen, and the whole of Crescent Bay was hidden under a white sea-mist. The big bush-covered hills at the back were smothered. You could not see where they ended and the paddocks and bungalows began. The sandy road was gone and the paddocks and bungalows the other side of it; there were no white dunes covered with reddish grass beyond them; there was nothing to mark which was beach and where was the sea. A heavy dew had fallen. The grass was blue. Big drops hung on the bushes and just did not fall; the silvery, fluffy toi-toi was limp on its long stalks, and all the marigolds and the pinks in the bungalow gardens were bowed to the earth with wetness. Drenched were the cold fuchsias, round pearls of dew lay on the flat nasturtium leaves. It looked as though the sea had beaten up softly in the darkness, as though one immense wave had come rippling, rippling—how far? Perhaps if you had waked up in the middle of the night you might have seen a big fish flicking in at the window and gone again...

If curious, you can read more here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Katherine Mansfield, Author

I went all the way to Berlin to discover the book that is presently feeding my New Zealand soul. There is a truly superb bookshop on Knesebeckstrasse 23 called Marga Schoeller Bucherstube and its English section created something like a small death in this lover of books.

Simply titled Mansfield, the book was written by C K Stead, another famous kiwi writer who confesses to using what is known about one of New Zealand's most famous writers and then creating the missing unknowable pieces based on his research and letters and other material links to her friends - people like DH and Frieda Lawrence, Bertrand Russell, Lutton Strachey, Aldous Huxley, TS Eliot, Viginia Woolf and more of the extraordinary figures from that time during World War One.

Stead writes, This is a work of fiction, therefore employs imagination, guesswork and contrivance. Like every historical novel, it fills as best it can - and sometimes also is glad to exploit - gaps in the record.

Virginia Woolf once famously admitted that Katherine Mansfield had produced ‘the only writing I have ever been jealous of.’.

To explain a little:Katherine's stories were the first of significance in English to be written without a conventional plot. Supplanting the strictly structured plots of her predecessors in the genre (Edgar Allen Poe, Rudyard Kipling, H G Wells), KM concentrated on one moment, a crisis or a turning point, rather than on a sequence of events. The plot is secondary to mood and characters. The stories are innovative in many other ways. They feature simple things - a doll's house or a charwoman. Her imagery, frequently from nature, flowers, wind and colours, set the scene with which readers can identify easily.

Gert was reading over my shoulder on the train back to Antwerpen, only stopping when he realised it was very much a book he wants to read after me.


trumpet, berlin, originally uploaded by - di.

Just in from Berlin ...

I was 3 days without the internet however 2000+ photographs were taken and so many beautiful things were experienced.

A wedding in Berlin, a Jewish/Muslim wedding, with a Balkan band playing through the second night of ceremony and festivities ... a German pension where the landlady came through with our fabulous German breakfast every morning.

Our room with the enormous windows in the historically-protected building in a lovely section of the city.

And then there was the family of the bride and groom, their open-hearted generosity with the photographer and the love between all of them that invited capture.

So much was beautiful that I was moved to tears 3 times and even more delightfully, my photographs moved people to tears on their first viewing. Weddings are always quite the stressful thing, specially for the photographer charged with capturing everything about that special day. Gert has moved from 'photography assistant' to 'photography partner' and with two cameras we covered every event over the two days, pleased to discover we work well as a team.

There was a huge pool of musical talent wandering through the white rooms in the huge rambling family home and everyone took turns to play and entertain. So many talented people played for us all.

The bride's siblings played beautiful music too and then there were the friends from the music academies and etc ...

And then there was Shabbat for family and close friends on Friday evening ... it felt like a privilege to be there and witness the ceremony.

I have never seen so much love in a family.
It was stunning to be pulled in and included.

In other news there is a whisper of a project that would involve me flying into Cairo, Istanbul, Dubai, Tehran, Beirut and East Jerusalem but I'll write of it if it happens. I'm still getting my head around it all but have said yes to being interested.

Tot straks from the tired happy kiwi chick ... photographs from Berlin to follow in the days ahead.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The New Zealand was running this story today ...

Together in Life and in Death.

This & That

So I was taking the anti-inflammatories for my root-canal and my knee is rapidly improving ... it's grand. Peter will be pleased, having elicited a promise from me about seeing a doctor one day soon.

It was good to walk without a limp today ... that limp I had been rather successfully ignoring until I tried keeping up with Shannon in the city. She's one of those gorgeous long-legged creatures who stride everywhere. I was the limpy creature.

Work today but I had to race away from the office early.
I have this 'situation' going on there.

Last week I took my laptop with Photoshop CS2 and opened it just once and briefly.
This week I opted out of making my bag 'that' heavy and so of course, I had to go home to work on some photographs for an exhibition not-my-own, needed within a couple of hours.

2 hours of hard labour and that was done.

Did I mention the weather ... 24 degrees celsius today.
It was grand, even if I was the chick falling asleep over a book on the train between Brussels and Antwerp.

Hope alles goed over in your world.

Tot straks from the kiwi in Belgie.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

New Zealand Humour.

Mark reminded me of a New Zealand advert that delighted us all when it first appeared.

It went like this ...

Yesterday, after the lovely lunch in the sun with Shannon, I realised that my temporary filling had fallen out.

I was quietly distraught, knowing I would have to wait to be seen this time.

I went in today, quite happy really, knowing I could deal with another patch-up relatively easily but HAH, everything had changed and we had reached root-canal status.

Mmmmm, so I'm home with stage 1 of the root canal. Back for the final repair the day before I fly out to Italy.

Children and child-like ones - do not neglect your teeth because the problem doesn't go away, it simply gets worse.

But the day started nicely.
A visit with the lovely Peter. We were out on his balcony, enjoying the sun as we caught up on each others news. It was difficult to drag myself away in the end but I did.

After much dithering I walked over to the port buildings and picked up an extra flash we need for the wedding in Germany. I couldn't be bothered but mmmm, maybe it was best and I'll just laze about for the rest of the day now. Psychologically limping after visiting the tandarts and despite the fact she's quite adorable.

Tot straks.
Peter amused me with this Facebook youtube.

A friend had a recent experience with a work-orientated Facebook account showing an explicit dating advertisement on her page, simply because a 'friend' had added himself to the raunchy dating site.

We were discussing the work-related stuff she wanted to show me and all I could see was this horrendously explicit photograph. She was mortified when I finally asked if it was ummmm appropriate to have that kind of image there.

She hadn't noticed it because it's not what she expected to find there on here account ...

Monday, May 05, 2008

A lovely 24 hours ...

Yesterday and Ruth arrived bearing wine, then Shannon rolled in fresh from Holland and we all just kind of hung out for the afternoon. I cooked a piece of roast lamb from New Zealand, with potatoes, kumaras (sweet potatoes), carrots, onion and garlic finding their way into the big roasting dish too.

In a moment of inspiration and realising that summer has begun, we moved the old oak dining table and ecetera out onto the balcony and ate dinner as the sun was going down.

It was a dinner with much laughter and conversation, one that ended with apple crumble and whipped cream, coffee and as many Oreos as were required to tame the tummy.

This morning my eyebrows were transformed into something stunning by Shannon, my delight with them amusing her endlessly. We wandered into the city to find her some European glasses before making our way to a cute little restaurant on Hendrick Conscienceplein for her birthday lunch.

Wandering minstrels serenaded us and we ate next to the St Carolus Borromeus Church - the baroque church built by the Jesuits around 1620. I love that area.

Tonight Shannon's back in Holland, flying out Wednesday ...
By crikey, it was a lovely 24 hours.

(Author's note: Shannon's first words to me on meeting were 'Do you say 'by crikey' in New Zealand?' Taken aback, I wasn't sure and told her I thought it was an Aussie thing however ... it turns out I do, most specifically when someone's in trouble but it's a little amusing.)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Sunday someplace in Belgie

A sunny summery Sunday and we're tidying for guests ... special guests.

Shannon's on a flying visit from the States and Ruth, friend to us both and colleague to me, is driving over from Brussels.

We're being buzzed by bi-planes as I write this and the grey polluted horizon seems familiar as opposed to a toxic downer.
It's a summer thing I think, happy with whatever's out there.

Gert's hosing down the balcony, preparing for a summer of evenings lounging out there with red wine ... and mosquitoes, and our balcony garden is becoming a place to be proud of ... almost, with lots of work to be done still.

It may be that I'm still at the singlet and pyjama pants stage but I have enough time to change once the doorbell rings.

I'm photographing that wedding in Berlin next week and preparing for that while tidying up loose photographic ends will be my priority as of tomorrow and then there follows this freefall into Rome and Istanbul in the weeks ahead.

I think I have to give in and take my constantly painful and swelling knee to the doctor's - I've given the injury since the October on Flanders Fields incident to heal on its own but it seems to be going downhill. I suspect arthritis and ... but I don't know what the injury was. I thought soft tissue so mmmmm, maybe it's time.

I hope your Sunday is sweet whereever you are.
Tot straks.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Imagine if there was more of this in the world of politics and business ...

I read this story and had to put it out there, just in case some people missed it ...

The 3 year old gargles sparkling water ...

Jessie has a throat gargle for the throat infection ...

It's normal enough.

What's not normal is the 3 year old creature gargling a sparkling water and blackcurrant juice mixture here in the lounge - giggling over Granma's horrified 'Don't do that with your drink!!'

Friday, May 02, 2008

"I know people losing their jobs is difficult, but it's not the company that's making these decisions, it's the consumer that goes into the store".
Keith Patridge, CEO of McAllen Economic Development Corporation talking to the Sunday Star Times, New Zealand.

There were a couple of interesting articles in a New Zealand paper. One that continues on with the story of one of our home-grown companies moving out of New Zealand to cheaper labour pastures in Mexico.

Faced with competing products with similar features, consumers will choose the cheapest, so companies manufacturing in places with low wages will have a market advantage.

So I'm partially responsible for companies moving to places like Mexico where they find workers to work for around $US3 an hour.

I guess it leaves consumers wide open to risks like this: Poison in children's clothing is emerging as the latest health risk from China.

TV3's Target programme will this week detail how scientists found formaldehyde in woollen and cotton clothes at levels 500 times higher than is safe.

It questions why there are no New Zealand safety standards for clothes.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Facebook ...

Has anyone else tried to remove their information from Facebook?

They will only de-activate it.
They tell you that this is so that you can go back live on Facebook anytime you want ...

I changed as much of my information as I could, removing what was possible but it's like pulling your leg out of a bear-trap.

I'm really annoyed.

Hours and hours and hours ...

When I was first married, a few hundred years ago, we moved house regularly ... more than most and the thing I liked about it was that moving house was like spring-cleaning, I was always inspired to stream-line.

The divorce stream-lined life further as I couldn't afford much and then there was the 25kg luggage limit when moving to Turkey. I was down to what would fit in my backpack and hand-luggage, with a big bottle of favourite perfume stuffed in my coat pocket.

The Belgium move saw me paying 200euro to move some of my books with me and I carried the 3.5kg Magnum book as hand luggage, along with the laptop and camera-gear - remarkable in light of the hangover friends gave me that last night in the city.

Still, almost 3 years later and I just spent hours going through all my papers and folders and boxes and stream-lining again.

Exhausting but satisfying.

I'm heading back to Istanbul early in June and will pick up the last of my Istanbul life while I'm there then New Zealand sometime soon maybe too ... 400 books in 3 different houses, a lifetime of (stream-lined) STUFF and a 25kg luggage limit on the way home.

Maybe I'll explore the 800euro sea-crate again but maybe it's going to be nice to fit my life back together.

Ik ben ...

While I was asleep my toff went away.
Myyyyyyyyyy throat got better and the germs stopped!
I'm better now.

See, my toff is away ... I not toffing.
Ik ben better!

toff = cough.

An attempt to convince me all is good in the land of miss 3.

An interesting story about Ouds and Iraqi Musicians

Reading this in the New York Times sent me searching youtube for Rahim Alhaj playing the Oud.

Health Update at our place ...

So, not only has Jessie captured herself a real-life rather impressive throat infection, she took little Miss 3 to the doctor yesterday and voila, we have a little person with a lung infection in house too.

My immediate response is to want to blame the unbelievably high levels of air pollution here but then again, there's kindergarten and the constant cough that has hung around in the little people in attendance. And finally, there's the southern to northern hemisphere move that exposes everyone to new strains of bugs and disease.

I was AWOL from home yesterday though. I spent the day working in the big city of Brussels, sharing a couple of glasses of red with Ruth after work in Sint-Gillis Voorplein, celebrating a day full of small work triumphs and laughter.

A good day.