Friday, October 31, 2008

The weather changed here in Genova ...

Gert flew in yesterday afternoon, via Milano and a train so I had some time in the morning and caught a bus back out to Boccadasse because ... huge winds were blowing and the sea was storming the beautiful little fishing village first seen on a stunningly sunny and calm autumn day.

Once again I took over 100 photographs however this time I was covered in sea spray and so battered by the winds that I came home exhausted and chilled. The camera fared far better, as I cleaned it continuously with a special damp cloth and kept it under my coat.

I wasn't the only one taking photographs out there and when I'm back in Belgium, you'll probably see more of this superbly wild day on the coast of Genova.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Boccadasse, Genova

Boccadasse StormingII, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

I valued my camera too much to get this close but appreciated this guy and his red jacket standing so close to the wild sea ...

Boccadasse, Genova

Boccadasse Storming, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

I was back at Boccadasse in different weather.
It was still stunning to this kiwi too long away from the beaches of home.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Richard Wagner writes about Genova

For various days I lived in real ecstasy. Unable to follow a set plan to visit the masterpieces in town, I gave myself up to the enjoyment of that new environment in what might be called a musical guise. I have never seen anything like this Genoa! It is something indescribably beautiful, grandiose, characteristic … I really would not know how to start explaining the impression that all this has had and is continuing to have on me …
Richard Wagner in a letter to Minna Wagner, 1853.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Genovese Rain in late-October

So I photographed the rain as it came down from the hills this morning. I experienced a couple of small downpours on my return to the city. I was busy all day. I had wanted to do some work for the NGO, then there was the big walk looking for a money machine I had misplaced in my memory which is kind of fun when it involves fabulous streets like Via Garibaldi. I bought some supplies and chose tonight's fresh ravioli and there was a mad last minute dash for a new book.

And then came the rain ...

I have lived all over the South Island of New Zealand ... Dunedin, Cromwell, Blenheim and Te Anau ... such was that life as a teacher's wife.

Te Anau is located in the mountains, in the south-west of the lower South Island and it is torrential rain country. Lots of millimetres in a very short time.

Istanbul didn't offer me that so often and I was living a 5th and a 2nd floor life. There was no thunderous drumming of rain on the roof. It was different there. 14-million-people-in-a-crowded-city different perhaps.

Belgium doesn't often specialise in the tin-thrumming downpours that I loved back home in New Zealand however ... it seems that Genova does.

So tonight I ran out the door to pick up some work from the internet cafe. It wasn't raining, I forgot my umbrella and then, almost here, the heavens opened.

I'm trapped at the moment, only until I embrace the idea of being soaked in 3 seconds on the way home ... despite being saved by one of the umbrella-selling guys with a mini-5euro umbrella. I think this rain will destroy it in seconds.

I love it though ;)

That house in Boccadasse, Italy

I guess I'm counting on the owners of this house not reading my blog, or if they do, that they forgive me for wanting to live there.

It's perfect and I can only imagine how superb a spring tide or a storm might be. It's out on the point, back behind it is the beautiful curve of the bay at Boccadasse, complete with all kinds of good restaurants and gelato shops.

So yes, this is the place I would like to live ...

God Rays, Genova

Boccadasse III, Genova, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

I heard that god rays was the name given to these stunning beams of light ...

It was like watching a symphony as this storm came slowly down from the hills and rolled over the sea, with the clouds breaking open and roiling around.

It was truly stunning.

A storm at sea, Genova

Boccadasse II, Genova, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

So if you leave the beach at Boccadasse and follow the narrow path up the hill, you come to this lookout that gifts you this view.

Then depending on the mood of Nature that day well, anything is possible.

Boccadasse, Genova, Italy

Boccadasse, Genova, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

I began today processing people photographs, working at the kitchen table until it was time to set out in search of my morning cappuchino and the bus to Boccadesse … that old fishing village I walked to on Sunday.

Do you know ... there’s this bus that leaves from just below me here at Porta Soprana and stops near the top of the stairs that lead down to the beach at Boccadasse … so much simpler than walking and being lost in the heat of a Genovese autumn day.

I would write ’but the bus is less interesting’ except for the fact that I met the most interesting woman as I returned via the bus and we talked all the way back to the city, saying goodbye in the Italian way. So even the buses are interesting here.

I arrived at the beach in time to watch a rain storm making its way down from the hills. I was up at the lookout for maybe an hour and it was stunning. I really don’t know how I will leave this beautiful city.

So there are photographs from today … as a creature who adores Nature I found it simple to take more than 100 images of light changes playing over the sea and then one or two other subjects I am passionate about. You see, I found the house I would like to live in …

Ciao from Genova in Italy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The new neighbourhood... Genova, Italy

My neighbour there in the distance, more or less, is an ancient city gate built in 1150 or thereabouts (she writes without reference notes) and this is the street leading 'home' ... past the cafe with the stunning capucchino (interview today) and on past the other cafe with apertivo in such quantities that one really can't indulge in more than 2 glasses of red.

From the caruggi of Genova

From the caruggi of Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

I looked up while I was wandering the alleyways of Genova's old city today and was stunned by the light ... again.

The light here is beautiful, just in case you didn't know for sure. It's a gift as opposed to being a given.

See how close the ancient buildings are ... they almost close over top of you. Neighbours really are neighbours and yes, I was lost for a while but as is often the case, it was the best way to wander.

My gnocchi and pesto, Genova.

This was my second batch of gnocchi, and I'm pleased to announce it all worked out well enough ... for a foreigner.

The pesto from here is divine, truly divine ... as it should be in the city who invented it.

The pasta is packaged like so ..

The pasta is packaged like so .., originally uploaded by - di.

So once you have chosen your pasta and the accompanying sauce to take home and cook, they do this to it at Pasta Fresca Alessia at Via Canneto Il Lungo 26, Genova.

Eating Pizza in Genova ...

As those who know me will confirm, I have moments of social brilliance and ease and then there are those other moments, when Mr Bean looks like the twin I was seperated from at birth. And he's just an actor …

So last night I decided I would brave the pizzeria across the alleyway, without Paola's mum there with her Italiano. I started confidently, having woken from a nap imagining I could do anything, even without language …

Well, ordering the Napoli pizza went just fine but the red wine was where I went so wrong. There is a pizza called rosso-something and so began the undoing of Di as a relatively intelligent adult.

The motherly pizza-chef I like came over and we pointed at the menu, as per Simon's book of how to point in any language. Then the lovely old man, another customer, opened the fridge for me … the wine, beer and etc are stored in it and most adult customers are deemed intelligent enough to get their own drink … dear God!

I knew their music had woken me from my nap, their opening music, and I know this pizzaria rocks through the night with its own in-crowd. I knew I had to hurry, feeling as linguistically deficient as I do in these days..

I chose a table where I could look out into the alleyway, a mistake because it also put me in prime position in the dining room … I didn't realise until the place started filling and then … they gave me a plastic knife and fork, which makes sense because of the thin pizza crust but did real Genovese use them?

Pizza etiquette...
I smsed Gert holding in that nervous, oh-my-god-I-don't-have-any-idea laughter. I opted to switch between the plastic utensils and my hands, being the first one served as luck would have it I couldn't check out what anyone else was doing. There was me, the lone foreigner quite possibly breaking 50 of the 99 how-to-eat-pizza-with-dignity rules.

The pizza … oh the Napoli pizza is so good here. Not too many anchovies, just right amount of cheese and tomato. The red wine is fine chilled, the music is good and loud and the surroundings are purely delicious.

It's just me, feeling very much like a child of the South Pacific in this ancient city.

The good news … well, when I bit into that terrifyingly hard piece of pizza topping, I was A. able to remove it from my mouth relatively discretely and B. later identify the crunch on discovering that, just like last time, the end of that plastic fork prong had snapped off.

Oh, and my leftovers fitted into the rubbish bag without incident. If you knew the amount of worry I had invested in whether or not I could smoothly drop my leftovers and their cardboard base into that bag, I do believe you would applaud about now.

And the clown bows …

Sunday, October 26, 2008

And then I arrived ... Boccadasse, Italy

View from Boccadasse, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

The reality was even better than the photographs that lured me here, although it was too full of people for this woman more used to empty New Zealand beaches.

So that was my Sunday.
I hope yours was a good one too.


A sparkling day, Genova, Italy

A sparkling day, Genova, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

The sea was sparkling as I walked along Corso Italia ...
I was too actually.

It was an incredibly warm 20 celsius and the coast here was outrageously beautiful.

Today in Genova, Italy

Via XX Settembre, Genova, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

This morning, I set out on a 6km walk to Boccadasse and like the adventurers of old, I was working without a map. Unfortunately navigation isn't a natural talent of mine...

To avoid mocking by any Genovese reading this, I won't write of the route I took but I was lost for quite sometime however ... the journey was surely as much a part of the destination.

You see, I found this as I was wandering along Via XX Settembre. The light was just so and this photograph was the result.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Just another day in Genova.

I'm not sure I have been in a city that satisfied so many of my senses before ... and photographically, Genova is quietly but assuredly sublime.

I am also privileged in terms of the people I know and in turn, sometimes I meet friends of friends. Today was one of those days and I've just come from spending some time photographing a beautiful family up on the hills above the city.

While there I was fed homemade pesto with pasta and all kinds of other delights, ending with gelato and expresso ... my cup runneth over today.

We have blue skies and sunshine here and even better, I slept deeply almost all night ... partially aided by a magically medicinal Chianti ... or perhaps it was the satisfaction of almost succeeding with the gnocchi. The words 'green and slimy' did cross my mind after realising that I might have over-cooked the gnocchi a little, that you really do just bring the water back to the boil to cook it.

I have photographs of the parcel the pasta came home in but that is a whole other story to be told when I'm organised and have small images here on my usb stick.

And last night I wrote 4 pages into what might just be a passable start at fiction. Writing is a habit I put aside a few years ago when my life changed and became more about adaption and survival than dreaming and writing.

It always takes time for me to make a psychological entry into any new life and perhaps the threshold has been crossed finally. The days ahead are going to be about exploring this city's history and natural beauty ... there are hills but my fitness is returning and the kilos are dropping again.

Did I ever tell you, I love wandering. Really love it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A little news from the streets of Genova

There was the old man who wandered along behind me for a time, whispering 'Bella' and making me smile. I wasn't sure he was talking of me until I stopped to buy something and came out to find he had caught up and there was the whisper again, 'Bella ...'

Having just become one year older, I feel of an age to appreciate all compliments that drift my way, no matter how ancient the man or how infirm the mind ;)

Then I looked up as I strolled through a Genovese streets two nights ago and saw 'I heart' and then 'Genova' and the lights exploded into a cascade of colours on a huge illuminated sign that captured my feelings about this city precisely.

I love Genova, she writes quietly, hoping nobody minds this excess.

There are so many small things that make me smile as I wander these streets without language ...

Meanwhile this internet cafe has become something of a second home, as I check here for emails I'm sometimes urgently requiring to plan my life here.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

A confession ...

Squirrel, Nervi Italy., originally uploaded by - di.

Until Nervi, I had done no more than glimpse a squirrel 2 or 3 times in my life ... they're not a kiwi creature.

In the park in Nervi on the weekdays, they come if walnuts are knocked together. The family I was wandering with had the walnuts.

Nervi, Genova, Italy

Nervi, Genova, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

And then there was this view from the public walkway out at Nervi.

It was so very good to see this kind of sea again. It reminded me of the New Zealand coastline near Nelson ... enough to tear up but whether that was homesickness or the pure joy of being next to the sea, who knows.

There's something about good public seats

Nevri, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

The benches in Rome and Salmanca begged me to photograph them too. I don't know what this thing is that I have for them but I found these ones quite pretty ... never mind that they looked out over the sea.

Out and About in Genova

a yertle the turtle moment, italy, originally uploaded by - di.

I was at the truly beautiful park at Nervi 2 days ago and was distracted by these turtle creatures in the pond. I had never seen them in the 'wild' before ...

The Italians think of everything ...

The Italians think of everything ..., originally uploaded by - di.

Maybe I'm the only person in the world who hates Nutella but I knew there would be people who would appreciate this photograph, spotted in the window of one of the many fabulous bakeries around me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A birthday dinner in Genova

A taste for now, simply because I came here to look for an email about photography and tomorrow ... but imagine meeting a truly lovely woman for dinner, enjoying Italian pizza with red wine at that little place across from where you live, then finding yourself being whisked away on a bus to a beach you've been reading about forever.

That was my birthday evening ... the pizza and wine, the bus ride to Boccadasse, a walk around the waters edge with the sea making all those delicous sounds I've been missing, the most fabulous cherry gelato and good conversations.

As birthdays go ... it was one of the best, and Raf, tomorrow. I'll get to that itinery tomorrow. I promise ;)

The Blogging Life ...

I just finished talking on the phone with Alex, someone who felt like an old friend after more than a few months spent checking in over at his blog titled: Blog from Italy, a truly interesting read if you're curious about an expat life here in Italy.

My blogging location is interesting ... I have an English-speaking tour guide doing her thing over to my right and workmen setting up for a big science expo here in Palazzo Ducale. I discovered a free wifi hotspot at Mentelocale Cafe & Restaurant inside the palazzo but I'm not sure how I feel about being in such a grand public space ... kind of small actually, in this huge reception area with arched ceilings and marble pillars.

Today needs to be about organising and creating a life here. I have photographs to work on and food to buy for the cupboards. You see, I have been perched like the worst kind of cliche bachelor here in this new world, so busy taking everything in that I completely forgot about life inside, beyond the kitchen/work table and the bed ... the bed that is covered in books, notebooks, with a space for the laptop and a huge box of tissues, cough lollies, the sparkling water and my mp3 player.

If, even last year, anyone had predicted that I would spend this birthday alone in Genova, wandering the city and working on interviews, I would have known that they were insane ... which just goes to show, you can never predict how your life will turn out unless of course, you're incredibly self-disciplined and very grown-up about career choices ... and perhaps not even then.

Ciao from one of the most beautiful cities in Italy.

I took today's photograph yesterday, from a coastal path in a place called Nervi. I almost cried when I saw the sea again ... it's been far too long.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The time in-between ...

Traveling, I often have this feeling of spending time in-between worlds ... whether it's that point where I walk through customs and into the journey or that time spent falling into and learning how to live in a new city or country.

It's been like that here.
For 4 nights I slept badly, rushed about madly, met incredible people, saw beautiful things and heard interesting stories.

Last night I learned how to sleep in this new life; a life without language and without the life-support of an internet connection at the apartment. The internet element is more important than I realised. I have become accustomed to the ease with which I can read my way around the world, do research and talk to people ... and it's simple to stay up until I am tired.

Here in Genova, there is only the book research, the project and books bought for pleasure.

Last night I was asleep by 11pm, only to wake - ready for the new day, at 3.30am. I decided to accept my fate. I picked up my books on Genova and began taking notes. I stopped about 5am and slept until the phone woke me at 9.35am.

This morning I realised the headache of these last few days is finally gone.
I knew where I would have my breakfast cappuchino.
I know the way home.

Such small things that create a big shift when you're traveling in a country not your own.

Yesterday I bought a huge bunch of yellow daisies at the vibrant covered market, then blank cds in FNAC, books someplace else and last night I stopped at the supermarket on the way home.

I am learning the ways of a new land and I'm loving it.

The photograph: taken from the hills above Genova on Sunday. A place where I finally saw olive nets tied under trees, where the flowers created one of my most beautiful photography sessions ever. Thanks Paola.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Something about Genova

Today, I tried to be like the locals ...

I wore my light coat, I started out with a scarf on and generally tried to wrap up well against the cold ... the skies were grey and everyone else was warmly-dressed after all. A ski-jacket was even spotted at one stage.

But I was sweating most of the day. I removed the scarf early on but feared removing my coat as I have been fighting a headache for a few days and I have a sore throat ... and then after sweating, I knew I would only get sicker if I let myself become chilled.

I had no idea of the temperature but tonight, popping in at the internet cafe, I just noted it's still 17 celsius and that is really quite quite warm to this kiwi chick and, even worse, I imagine it was warmer throughout the day.

It seems like perhaps I just learned a lesson about wrapping up like the locals when I'm not local and perhaps I was simply sweating from too many clothes and not from fever, she writes hopefully.

Another good day in the city now to find food for the evening.

Sweets, Genova

Italian Sweets, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

One of the many interviews we managed to put together before Paola flew home yesterday was with an interesting chocolate and sweet-maker, located down an alleyway off this street and that street.

And while his chocolates were delicately delicious I did love this photograph ... the spoon that he measures out orders of this particular sweet with.

I'm going back sometime this week and will photograph the making of chocolates.

Mille grazie Paola!

Fruit and Vegetable shop, Genova

Fruit and Vegetable shop, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

There was something almost sensuous about this vegetable.

Paola told me its name but it slipped through this mind lost in absorbing all. I need to give you more details but I traveled light to the internet shop and don't have the correct spelling for things however ... this photograph was taken while wandering down narrow alleyways past tiny shops filled with both the surprising and the exquisite.

Did you pick up that I'm in love with this city then?
I'm subtle but I think that it's there for you to see ;)

Gnocchi, Genova

Gnocchi, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

Paola introduced me to this beautiful fresh pasta shop and I do believe I'll be back there to buy tonight's dinner.

Needless to say, the fresh sauce comes in all flavours too.

It's heavenly here, truly heavenly.

The Focaccia, Genova

The Focaccia, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

It really is 'the' focaccia.

I don't imagine I'll ever taste anything quite this good again after I leave here. The one in the back has onion all over it and is even saltier than the plain oil-filled stunningly sumptuous focaccia.

Bread, Genova Italy

Bread, Genova Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

I had an impromptu interview with the owner/baker just along the road ... the place where Simon and Paola warned me I could buy the best focaccia in the world.

They were so right, photographs of it to follow. Meanwhile here are some more of his wares.

The Little Fiat's Dashboard, Genova

The Little Fiat's Dashboard, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

I couldn't resist the dashboard.

I wanted one just because of this ... never mind that I still haven't drive wrong-side-of-the-road here in Europe.

The Little Fiat, Genova

The Little Fiat, Genova, originally uploaded by - di.

I uploaded some photographs and had no idea which order to blog them in but here goes ... let's begin with the cute little Fiat that we rented from Hertz.

Paola drove us from our Milano landing into Genova, passing through some beautiful hills as we approached our destination, making me feel a little nostalgic for New Zealand.

But the car ... cute, isn't it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day 2 in Genova, Italy

Today has been a mad crazy freefall into narrow streets in the old city, into interviews, into the kindness and generosity of a friend and many strangers.

Without Paola there wouldn't have been the magical introduction to her hometown. I might have found these places but over time and without my translator.

This morning was meant to begin with a slice of the best foccaccia in the world and it did but that led to an interview and photographs an hour later. Not only that but we were sent on our way laden down with more of the best-ever foccaccia in the world. Photos to follow when my internet issues are resolved.

We discovered a cafe called Cafe Boomerang where the cappucchino was so creamy and light it had to be marked it down as a favourite.

We wandered the alleyways visiting a soap and ecetera place, an exotic old shop full of mysterious things and ended up conducting an impromptu interview with the owner.

Shoeshops, bookshops and then there was the fresh pasta shop with the cafe through in the other half - better I photograph it than explain, as words fail me here. On to the chocolate shop and we have an interview booked for 2.30pm and the shops ... did I mention how quaint they are, and I use 'quaint' because I'm not sure how else to describe the olde world charm of something that is real and apparently unchanged over decades.

Then there is the habit of aperitif here.
You order a drink at a bar and voila, a huge plate of food appears with it. It might be that I enjoy more than one glass of wine but I'm becoming quite traumatised by the quantity of food that comes with each glass. The waiter understood my 'Dear God!' last night and we all laughed.

So we stopped for a non-alcoholic Shirley Temple drink before lunch and out came the plate of food ... the peanuts, the pistachio, the chips, the salami, the cheese and the foccaccio.

It was only that I was needing to rest my achilles some before lunch.

Lunch was at Da Maria's - interview later this afternoon but it is known as being an authentic and affordable Italian kitchen-type restuarant. Paola chose wild boar while I caught up with an old love ... ravioli.

And somewhere in-between the breakfast foccaccia and the lunch there was also the very special and wildly extragavent expresso with bananas and whipped cream. We went to the original shop and not one of the copycat shops that have appeared since.

Genova is beautiful and warm and welcoming.
It has raced to the top of my favourite places in the world list ... let's see how it goes in the days ahead.

I hope alles goed where ever you are.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Italy is everything and more ...

Paola woke me at 4.45am Brussels-time I think ... the memory is vague at this other end of the day.

The taxi took us to the airport and the plane had us in Milan by 8.30am - a fast flight. Paola explained it, suggesting that 'traffic' was lighter at that time of the day, making us both laugh some.

She's driving our little bright bright yellow Fiat, the one that Hertz gave us. It's the latest model and you can't help but smile when you see it.

Genova is stunning ... better than every place so far maybe.
We have wandered, bookshopped, eaten lunch ... and dinner tonight was the aperitif - so much more food than a tapas snack.

I've been out roaming just now, looking for a corkscrew for that wine that found its way into the apartment while Paola catches up with a friend who just had a baby.

I don't think I'm lost ... I know the internet shop is on a square close to the apartment, it's just a matter of leaving and setting off in the right direction ...

Well yes, it could be that the map is back 'home' on my bed.

It's been a good day so far, just in case you were wondering. I hope yours was too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

You know when ...

You know when the whole family is in the building and breakfast is chaos, the doorbell rings just as you are on the phone organising a meeting with last weekend's client ... the doorbell is rung by the man delivering the antique dress-making mannequins for a lovely Parisian-based friend and it turns out that he had spent his honeymoon traveling New Zealand so you talk for a while then go back upstairs, carrying the manneqins, and call back Saturday's client explaining why it would be better if she met you in Brussels after work on the morrow rather than you rushing through post-processing so she can pick up the photo-shoot results today.

Why the rush?
Well this gorgeously 6-month pregnant Australian is flying back to Australia on Friday with her lovely Australian man to quietly marry during the week they are home before relocating someplace over in Japan.

Therefore, it is simpler to try for the rushed post-processing and handover as opposed to chasing them round the world as they wander at speed.

Then there's the beautician's appointment, the waxing into shape of my eyebrows which for some unlucky reason was terribly painful today ... but I didn't cry. She said men do. But just as I was out on the spiral staircase, Jess called me back for the phone and voila, HP Europe was calling.

I didn't believe him for the longest time. I was so sure he was making a mistake. He laughed a lot during our call ... perhaps I won the most amusing customer award, hence the decision to service my broken computer. I do believe every HP phone guy I had a long conversation with yesterday broke into laughter more than once.

And yes, if you work there and they talked about the crazy lady with an accent that wasn't Belgian despite her claiming she lived there well, that was me. I was giddy and shaken by the time he had talked me through the fact that HP would pick up my laptop sometime tomorrow.

Beautician survived and it was off to the supermarket via the sandwich shop organising kids, stepkids and grandkids as I went ... feeling slightly crazed. You know that look a cat gets when it's just seen the pack of dogs heading its way but it still thinks there's a chance to outrun them? It was a quietly determined slightly deranged look I suspect.

Or maybe those Disney birds were circling my head.

Supermarket list mostly ticked ... shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, chewing gum and then a whispered threat in a Belgian friend's ear that I would have pinched his bum as I strolled up behind him in the queue but I wasn't quite sure that it was him.

His English is more BBC than mine could ever be and he was just back from 2 weeks of shell-searching in Egypt. He's also a magical panoramic photographer and he had fabulous stories to tell. He and his friend dropped me off at home in their car and we made plans to talk one day soon.

And then ... well the air kind of leaked out of me.
I sent off a cd of war memorial images I promised two lovely New Zealand men a long time ago ... it's in the post Gary and Carrick, if you happen to read this. Your photographs too, Sue.

So I'm kind of packed for Italy and for that day at work tomorrow.
The new laptop is loaded with all that I need, including photographs and documents from the external hard drives. I remembered my passport and e-ticket for the flight.

I feel slightly deranged but I'm getting there.
How's things in your world?

Viva HP Europe!!!!

HP Europe phoned me this morning, completely stunning me with the news that they will replace the faulty motherboard in my HP Pavilion dv2000!

I'm rapt, needless to say because I do love my little Pavilion and it pained me not to be able to replace it with another Pavilion and worse, to lose it over a fault.

Ask me if I am hooked on HP and I'll tell you yes.
Would I buy HP again?
Yes to that too.

Today seems like a very good day right now.

Just so you know ...

I love my new laptop ...

Just love it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thanks Mark.

Mark is my music guru. He finds the best stuff sometimes.

Tabsir, Insight on Islam and the Middle East.

Erkan, a scholar, blogger and much-admired Turkish friend of mine, linked to this website.

You can read: a statement of Concerned Scholars about Islamophobia in the 2008 U. S. Election Campaign and find resources about the False Claim that Senator Obama is a Muslim.

In their About, Tabsir writes:
• We are scholars concerned about stereotypes, misinformation and propaganda spread in the media and academic forums on Islam and the Middle East.

• We are committed to fair, open-ended scholarly assessment of the current political issues of terrorism, gender inequality and intolerance.

• We encourage informed debate rather than partisan posturing on all issues.

• We believe in active involvement as public intellectuals communicating the best of available research.

A dangerous game played by foolish people.

The Saga of the HP Pavilion Laptop. Part 7039

So you know the story, my laptop is part of an American extended warranty return for repair due to a fault on the motherboard ...

They won't pay for shipping but will completely refit my laptop if I can get it back to the States, acknowledging that a black screen and no wifi equals no laptop.

Shipping looks like costing a minimum of 200euro and the laptop will be gone about a month.

The PC repair shop here said a new motherboard was way too expensive for them to repair.

I'm leaving on a 17 day working and wandering trip to Italy on Friday and my laptop is vital - photographs, writing and launching the new website.

Dell couldn't get a new laptop to me any faster than 10 working days.

So ... today I took my note and headed off to Makro, a wholesale shop here for business owners and etc.

I came home with a new Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Li 2735 for 499euro.
It has an Intel graphics media accelerator X3100, a dual core processor T2390 and 3GB and 250 GB of hard drive. (If you know anything bad about this model, please don't tell me, I prefer blissful ignorance for now.)

Most importantly, in light of the recent tragedy ... it has a 2 year guarantee, with a phone number you call when things go wrong. The phone number is the pick up and delivery service.

Anyone heading to the States from Belgium or Holland anytime soon?
I have a laptop that would surely love a ride back to the mother-ship.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Viva HP Computers in America !!!

After a long and difficult morning struggling through HP's customer services here in Europe, I went to the city to buy a cheap laptop for the Italy trip.

HP Europe had called back and told me there was no way they could help me as my laptop was bought in the States and HP Europe doesn't talk with HP America.

Okay ... makes no sense but okay.

I was almost in the city when Gert phoned suggesting I go to his computer guy and see if he would replace the faulty motherboard.

I catch the next tram heading home and take my laptop to PC House here in the suburbs.

The guy was laidback and lovely but no, replacing the motherboard would be horrendously expensive however he sold me a powerful usb wifi stick so I at least had wifi again and I did get to talk with his Bandidos motorbike friend for quite some time.

So the screen has returned for the moment but there's still no wifi and quite some heat from the harddrive under my hand.

Home and I suddenly thought maybe I would try phoning the States, the point of origin for my much-loved little Pavilion HP dv2000.

Even the robotic voice that led me through the required services was lovely ... warm ... inviting ... encouraging even. Really, you should phone them and see for yourself. Who knew a computer-generated creature could do that ...?

I was still laughing quietly when the real person answered the phone.
It was like phoning home ... HE. WAS. SO. NICE. AND. POLITE! He was nicer than phoning home actually, as they do mock a bit back there in the home country.

We worked through my laptop issues.
He was happy to help ... I was stunned.

I was then passed onto David who again, was just stunning.

Customer service ... dear lord, I had forgotten how good it could be.

Okay, so there is a problem, they will replace all, I just need to get it back to the States and at the end of the day, I will do it ... it's just shipping which is horrendously expensive (think more than a new cheap laptop) and a month without it but the customer services people were so very good that the experience is almost worth selling that other kidney of mine.

Oh, and Dell can't promise me a laptop in time. There is no way to get them to say anything other than 10 working days. I'm not even allowed to pay my own shipping and have it mailed out fast. There's no point in buying something I can't take with me on Friday ... Italy is all about laptop accessibility and if something goes wrong and my Dell doesn't arrive well, it doesn't bear thinking about. Anyway, I haven't received my order details from them via email to confirm so I guess that is that ...although who knows what will happen tomorrow.

11am and my fingernails are almost gone ...

I've spent the entire morning roaming the phone halls of HP and Dell computers.

My HP laptop needs repaired because of a known design fault but they can't promise to return it before I fly out on Friday and by crikey, to get that far took quite some doing at .74euro cents per minute and a revolving linguistic greeting each time I had to call.

I'm okay in Dutch but getting enough of the German and French instruction was like trying to catch $100 bills in a tornado. My head almost broke.

Needing a replacement, and fast, I returned Martin's call and it turned out he only had good things to say about his new Dell laptop and I have to say, the price impressed me.

I phoned them.
They could only promise me I would have the new laptop within 10 days ... 10 working days actually, so that's 2 weeks.

Tearing out my hair, I phoned Martin to tell him the bad news but he pointed out that they have to cover themselves, hence the 2 weeks and his arrived within 4 or 5 days of ordering so ... I rang them back.

In the middle of all this, I received a lovely mail enquiring about me being available for a photography gig here in Belgium and was supplying the information and photographs required.

So far, nothing has borne fruit.
The HP people said someone would phone me a couple of hours ago about picking up my laptop tomorrow. I even took the phone to the bathroom, just in case they called in that minute.

The Dell guy said he would email me my order, just to check it's correct ... but okay, that was only about 15 minutes ago. I'm just praying that he got everything right, including my email address via my delicious New Zealand accent.

So yes ... that's how it is at my place this morning.
How is your day looking?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My HP Pavilion laptop and Me ...

My laptop is working ... intermittently.

Sadly, a successful start-up seems more related to how I'm holding my tongue and which way the wind's blowing as opposed to that previously unappreciated simple action of pressing the on button.

It's an HP Pavilion dv2000 series.
Some of the HP Pavilion 2000 series have been recalled under an extended warranty for a problem that sounds remarkably like mine ... the black screen on start-up, the issues with wifi but you have to call and they let you know if you get free repairs. Wish me luck.

Note I: Gert didn't find that information until after he'd spent 3 days working on it. He shall forthwith be known as Saint Gert of the Laptop.

So, the next big question is answered tomorrow I'm hoping - will HP in Belgie repair it and will they get it back to me before I fly out.

If there's any risk of having no laptop in Italy, I have to go out and buy a replacement because Italy is all about the launch of a new website under construction.

It stuns me that for the first time in a long time I could actually do that ... if I really had to, replace my laptop that is.

A teensy weensy gratefully received inheritance has allowed me to replace my favourite failing lens and upgrade Gert and Jessie's computer-innards. I'm even planning on finally splashing out on my first professional haircut since leaving Turkey more than 3 years ago.

But seriously, the plan is to go to Italy and work - space in a place where I can live on wine and toast and think when thinking is needed.
Hmmm paper plates maybe.
No dishes, a heady heady thought.

I hope to collect interviews and take a few thousand photographs while I'm in the beautiful city ... let's see how it goes.

Note II: I wouldn't really live on wine and toast. Seriously. ;)

Backing away from politics ...

the dancer, originally uploaded by - di.

The last few weeks have been about me trying to control a Tourette-like impulse to blog about the American elections ... and completely failing anything resembling control.

So there have been deletions, as is my way when I have post-posting regrets. I'm sorry.

I've decided to go back to my passion and present the photography here.

Let's see how it goes ...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Bear in Hiding

bear in hiding, originally uploaded by - di.

Sue gave me my bear a few years ago and he's one of the reasons I love her but there are a few hundred other reasons too. We're shocking correspondents but she's one of those people who can walk back into my life any old time ... although these days it's a case of 23 hours in the air and goodness knows how long in transit.

Miss Four got her hands on my bear one terrible night and used her lip-balm freely ... leading to bear rescue time here at our place.

I slipped him into the Maori kit Dominque gifted me - something to treasure from home. He and the kit have pride of place these days, high up and out of reach of those naughty little 4 year old hands.

This and That ...

just this, originally uploaded by - di.

So my laptop exploded ...

It was quieter than that actually - the screen kind of died. Gert's been working on it for a couple of days now. Apparently it's a problem with the harddrive or so my informed source tells me.

Obviously this is devastating news and punishment for buying the lens that I lusted after for so long ... (note to reader: I was catholic during a formative part of my childhood, I understand sinning and penance.)

The photograph you know what it is, she writes from his computer while he fixes hers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

These days ...

Yesterday was a satisfying day.
One where I spent an hour interviewing a city tourism marketing executive about Antwerpen and was delighted to discover that there are yet are more secret things I haven't quite discovered.

One week from today and I will have touched down in Italy, all going well but this morning it's about negotiating with my body regarding the bone-aching nose-sniffing cold that could be arriving.

And tomorrow ... tomorrow I finally have the money to purchase the beautiful, rather sexy lens I fell in love with so long ago. I go on from the purchasing moment to photographing a couple who won a photo session with me in a raffle.

The last few weeks have been difficult.
I have been questioning all I am doing, whether I was good enough to continue while wondering if I had the strength to push on down this totally wild path that I had decided to travel alone.

My new website is more than halfway completed ... the website I'm hoping to launch from the quiet of Italy.

Italy, that country I love so very very much.

You see, I have these friends I might just adore (if they allowed adoration and I can already see them sweeping away this crazy talk - her with a wave of her hand and a laugh and he, with a few practical words that make sense) who offered me space in an apartment in Italy; much-needed time and space from the crazy insane life I have here in Belgium.

I'm going there to explore the city I've read about forever, to use my camera extensively, to load and launch this new website, to write ...

Gert has great faith in my writing and believes a book might even begin over there, in that place where there is the possibility of silent times if I choose them.

I'll be on a coast and my soul is so hungry for the seascapes I took forgranted back home in New Zealand.
Took forgranted?
Maybe not. Where ever I lived back there, I always had a river, lake or beach that my dog and I owned ... there were the Clutha and Arrow Rivers in Central Otago, then Anakiwa up in the Marlborough Sounds. There was the two massive bodies of water called Lake Te Anau and Manapouri while I lived in Te Anau and finally a return to the beaches of my childhood, with a new soul beach called Long Beach.

Let's see what I find in this Italian city that is so steeped in history while maintaining something of its connection with Nature.

So the next week is about filing and packing, about backing up and finding that perfect suitcase on wheels for all of my equipment but with a pouch on the front for cabin baggage necessities like that book, this passport, that ticket.

Italy is calling ...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Have you ever ...?

I suspect that Peter is far too much of a gentleman to blog about my extraordinarily silly moment today ...

I love moleskin journals and I was excited when I recently realised that there was a new black moleskin in town ... a weekly diary and notebook no less.

Today was the day I went to the city to buy my very own new bigger better moleskin journal to begin while I was in Italy.

I met Peter for coffee at our cafe afterwards and couldn't resist unwrapping the moleskin, you know, just to check all was as it should be, well ... it turns out I had overlooked the whole 2000 and 9 thing.

The book started January 1 2009 which didn't suit me at all.

Jessie and Gert were laughing at me tonight and they asked when I thought my new moleskin would date from and I confessed that I hadn't thought about that at all but potentially the child in me imagined a magical start, you know, on the day that I needed it to begin ...

Tonight, a little bit of kiwi ingenuity (or idiocy. I guess I should let you choose your own word), lots of glue and some patience and I've re-dated from 17 October 2009 forward, creating my very own, starting-on-the-17th-2008/2009-moleskin-journal.

Oh and, as before, if you would like a postcard while I'm in Italy, let me know. I still have your addresses from last time but if you are new and need a postcard from Italy, let me know your address via email and I'll send at least one from some other place.

Tot straks from me.
A youtube I found incredibly difficult to watch. A dying man talks about his regrets and the role he played in a previous dirty election campaign.

Found on an article by David Quigg at the Huffington Post.

On discrimination

I want to repeat, I have told this because I want to make it very clear to a large number of people that all discrimination - whatever form it takes - is evil and the world can go to pieces because of it. Actually, literally, go to pieces. Discrimination against someone because of his skin color or his ears or his hair, or God knows what - we can all die from that. It only takes one person to say, “He isn’t as good as I am, because he has…” You can fill in the rest.
Janny Bradnes-Brilleslijper, extract from The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank
Thanks to Lydia over at Twice Mice blog.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Keith Olbermann asks Sarah Palin some serious questions

10 minutes of serious questions and comparisons for Sarah Palin.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice and narrow-mindedness. Broad wholesomeness and charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one tiny corner of the globe.
Mark Twain.

Borrowed from Rolf Potts.

Change in the world, originally uploaded by - di.

John McCain and his involvement in the financial crisis known as The Keating Scandal

Keating is running a documentary on the financial scandal John McCain was heavily involved in back in the 80s; a financial scandal that bears an eerie resemblance to today's financial crisis.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

It might be 'Monday' when you see this but I bet it makes you smile ....

Borrowed from Odessa. Thank you.

Bruce Springsteen talks about Barack Obama

A Party ...

Last night was the night of the party I wanted to have before flying out to wander in Italy and as the big night came closer, I belatedly realised that so many friends were traveling to places like Thailand, Tunisia, Italy, Poland or were otherwise booked by a concert performance or a busy week in Rome ... we went ahead anyway and do you know, it was grand.

I love the parties we have here but frenetic would be a word when trying to describe my experience of them because I always want to see everyone, hear their news, keep their glass full and do everything else too.

This time we were 8 and we were able to sit down in the lounge, chat and listen while consuming Genovese tidbits, New Zealand pavlova and the rest, washing it all down with the wine, the water and cider.

It was an entirely different kind of party but the same good people were there and it was a night I won't forget in a hurry.

Thanks guys.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Paris Parfait in Antwerpen

Tara's visit was the best of times, the worst of times ...

After the taxi debacle on Thursday,we decided not to order a taxi from home and having discovered that Axel Vervoordt's shop was open from 2pm Friday's as well, we headed into the city on the tram knowing there was at least 2 taxi stands there.

But to begin at the beginning, we trammed into the city and began wandering towards the famous antique section in Oever at the end of Hoogstraat, where I was curious see what Tara made of Belgie's antique selection.

It turns out she found it relatively impressive, meanwhile I felt a frisson of fear about being introduced to this world of delicious 'stuff' but then it came to pay and voila, the shop's money machine didn't work. Much to my shame we learned that the city only has 3 automatic money machines in the area and they were all a few blocks from where we were ...

We set off in search of, only to be distracted by a cute little hat shop. The terrible perils of wandering in the city here ...

Lunch was a light affair with much conversation at Het Elfde Gebod and later, Axel's place was reached by a city taxi, the last one left at the taxi stand near the Hilton Hotel.

The madness and mayhem reached a crescendo at my place late afternoon ... little Miss Four danced for us and Jessie cooked one of her exotic chicken dishes. Seeking some peace, Tara and I fled heading for Central Station and the Thalys.

It was truly delicious to spend time with Paris Parfait , to talk American elections, life and art. Thank you so much for taking the time Tara and see you with that van one day soon. xo

Friday, October 03, 2008

John McCain and The Emperor's New Clothes

I was reading the NY Times just now, another top columnist is writing on Sarah Palin's terrifying incompetence and I started thinking about John McCain, his Republican party and their wilful comtempt for that country they claim to love This fable has been on my mind for days now ... I have to outline it for comparison.

The summary comes from wikipedia. An emperor who cares too much about clothes hires two swindlers who promise him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth. This cloth, they tell him, is invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his position. The Emperor cannot see the (non-existent) cloth, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing stupid; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they dress him in mime. The Emperor then goes on a procession through the capital showing off his new "clothes". During the course of the procession, a small child cries out, "But he has nothing on!" The crowd realizes the child is telling the truth. The Emperor, however, holds his head high and continues the procession.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Day spent with Tara

It was one of 'those' days but full of laughter which is surely the only way to survive when a particular taxi company spends almost an hour assuring you that a taxi is on the way, only to confess to your angry Flemish man when he finally phones them on your behalf, that they have messed up.

They never quite reached that confessional point during my two phone calls to them.

After talking with Gert, I phoned them back just one more time with a considered opinion on how much I 'appreciated' them making sure that Tara (aka Paris Parfait) and I missed out on our planned visit to a rather special antique shop here in the city.

The best of the day was surely our lunch at my favourite restaurant here in the city ... de Manie is a lovely place to sit down and catch up on news of the crazy busy-ness that is both of our lives.

Tomorrow is exploring Antwerpen ... I'll let you know how that goes.

Meanwhile Tara has put together a rather interesting post on Republican voter suppression.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Simon Hantaï, Painter

“I felt that the art world was going wrong. I was starting to receive commissions. I was being asked to paint the ceiling of the Paris Opera House. Society seemed to be preparing to paint my work for me. I could have obeyed; many, perhaps most, painters do. The prospect did not coincide with my desire.”
Simon Hantaï, Painter - explaining the reason for his long isolation.

You can read his obituary here.

Original article here at the NY Times.

He seems like a truly interesting man. Tom McDonough wrote about him here.

Maureen Dowd, NY Times

NY Times Op-Ed columnist Maureen Dowd might have been barred from traveling on the McCain campaign plane by McCain's aides but she has surely written a lovely article on Paul Newman.

A Colin Hay Song

I have a friend who is my very own special music guru and sometimes he introduces me to wee gems.
Thanks for this one.