I spy with my public eye

Standard

Back home, I’m very protective about this blog – there is only a handful of people that know about it, generally because they stumbled upon it by accident, and I have literally asked them not to read (I can only hope they actually complied…). Here, however, I tend to be more sloppy, although most times I can deflect questions “oh, but that’s my Dutch blog, you wouldn’t understand it anyway”.

Right before summer, however, we were having a bbq with some friends. It was just a cosy, comfy afternoon, and as we were talking, something slipped – I’m not even sure what it was anymore, but it was clear to everyone that I’d written and published a non-fictional text in English.

You have to give us the link!

Ehm… how about no?

Needless to say, a lively discussion ensued. Why would I refuse to give the link? Why couldn’t they read something that was already out there anyways, open for everyone to read? How could I expect something that I posted on the Internet to remain private anyway?

They have a point, of course. It’s not like I break taboos here – I don’t talk about my sex life, I rarely discuss very personal things, I don’t bash my friends/coworkers, … in fact, I think there is little to no content to be found on this blog that I haven’t told anyone before, that I would get into trouble for or that I would be ashamed to admit that I wrote. There is nothing to hide here – so why do I insist on doing just that?

Because they might not like what they see – and it scares me shitless.

I can go to a public sauna, and I won’t even bother to wrap a towel around me when I leave the cabin to go shower. I will be surrounded by hundreds of strangers, men and women, and I won’t care in the least. Like what you see? Nice, thank you. Don’t like it? There’s a skinnier/rounder/bigger-breasted/better-whatever-you-want girl right over there, kindly re-direct your attention.
But now if I would go to the sauna with, let’s say, my dad, now that would be… awkward (and yes, that happened.).

And that’s how it goes in the blogosphere. There’s a whole lot of strangers passing by your writing, most of whom just glance and move on, while others actually like what they see and strike up a conversation, i.e. they comment or subscribe. You get the occasional side eye or disrespectful look, but there is always the excuse: they don’t even know me, what do they care, and what right do they have to judge me anyways?

That changes when people you actually know are added to the equation.

Because at the end of the day, I’m proud of my writing, I’m proud of what I’ve put out there – if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have published it in the first place. And while obviously I don’t want to obligate my friends/family to read my blog, if I give them the link I will expect them to read it. And I will expect feedback. So imagine -just imagine- that they don’t like it. That they find my writing boring, or pompous, or just completely pointless. Imagine they just don’t care. Either of two options will then happen: 1. they will lie to me or 2. they will tell me straight up my writing sucks. And that I won’t be able to brush that off the way I could with the (fairly) anonymous comments before.

I’m not sure I’m willing to take that risk (yet).

Quote on a Sungday

Standard

If a trainstation is where the train stops, what’s a workstation?

— ~Author Unknown

Read the rest of this entry

Locking love

Standard

There is something about traveling by train that I find very relaxing – I can spend hours just looking out of the window, watching the landscapes change, getting little glimpses of the lives of people living close to the railway. And while I often say I take the plane as easily as I take a train (making a habit of long-distance relationships tends to have that effect), I still find flying much more stressful. Getting to the airport, checking in, security, boarding, getting out, hoping your luggage comes through, … I am never completely at ease until my bags and I have arrived at my destination. Obviously, taking the train can also cause stress, especially when you accidentally take a regional train instead of the direct train, reducing the transfer time from 32 minutes to… well, zero, but since that has never happened to me (eh…), and since I am pretty sure I would be lucky enough for the connection to be delayed by a minute allowing me to still catch it (I was born lucky, I swear), I would argue that is totally beside the point here.

When traveling by train you generally don’t get the nicest impression of the cities and towns you go through: back alley’s, abandoned cars and fridges and a lot of graffiti are most often among the highlights. Not so in Cologne, where you get a beautiful view of the Cathedral when you enter the train station, and you get to cross the Hohenzollern Bridge.

The Hohenzollernbrücke crossing the Rhein rive...

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t get easily impressed by bridges: Sweden is connected to Denmark by the Øresundsbron, a combined twin-track railway and dual carriageway bridge-tunnel almost 8 kms in length, and Cologne’s simple river-crossing construction almost appears plain and bland in comparison. There is however, something that the Hohenzollern bridge can boast, that only few other bridges can.

Padlocks.

More specifically, love padlocks.

Love padlocks at the Hohenzollernbrücke in Cologne

Image via Wikipedia

In the summer of 2008, these love locks have started to appear on the pedestrian bridge. Lovers, friends and families alike, affix locks to the metal grid of the bridge to symbolize their love for each other. I’ve only been able to see the multitude of locks from behind a train window, but here you can find several close-up pictures of individual locks, some of which have been engraved with the names of the lovers or were decorated by hand.

The phenomenon is not new, but has had a boost a few years back after the best-selling novel “I want you” by Federico Moccia (anyone read it? or even heard of it?) featured a couple young lovers doing just that at the Ponte Milvia in Rome. The craze spread quickly, and love locks now hang from bridges in Paris, Seoul, Moscow, and many other cities. They are not without controversy, however, since they are considered an ‘eyesore’ by many city officials. Only last week, the city of Venice decided on a massive clean-up campaign of the city’s bridges, including the Ponte dell’Accademia and the Ponte Rialto, because the rusting locks were damaging the age-old stones of the bridge.

To be fair, I think it’s cute – I’m a hopeless romantic and although I would never do it myself, there is something endearing about the idea of ‘locking your love’, on a bridge in particular, which by definition connects two places that were separated before. And while I understand the locks may actually damage the bridge and can thus be regarded as vandalism, there is always a middle way : in Rome special railings were erected when the lamp posts on the Ponte Milvia threatened to collapse under the weight of the padlocks. No doubt the street vendors selling padlocks and the many café’s that have recently opened in the neighborhood preferred this to a padlock-ban…

The art of queuing

Standard

When I arrived here in Sweden, I was warned about a number of things. To be punctual, for example (which, for me, is a total nightmare). To take off my shoes whenever I was visiting someone at their home. To be “lagom”, i.e. not to try to be better than anybody else. Last February, The Local, a Swedish news site in English, published a list of 20 things any foreigner should know before moving to Sweden, and I found myself smiling and nodding over more than one thing.

There was one phenomenon, however, I hadn’t really experienced: the Swedish art of queuing.

I was told the Swedes are patient, and usually await their turn calmly, in a queue. To get on the bus, for example, they form a queue along the bus, waiting to get on. Anywhere else, however, there were only very little queues to be spotted. The reason is very simple: there are numbers everywhere.

You go to the bank? You take a number. You want to buy a train ticket? You take a number. You go to the butcher’s? You take a number. You call a help line? You get a number!

But last Saturday, I was finally able to witness the queuing in its glorious perfection.

Picknick tables on the street at Malmöfestivalen.

Currently, in Malmö, there is the Malmöfestivalen, a free open-air music festival. Apart from the big stages on almost every square, lining the streets are of course stalls with jewelry, clothes, and naturally – food. Now it happens, especially around dinner time, there’s a lot of people wanting to take something out at the same time. We have a similar (although obviously bigger and better) festival in my home town each summer, and it is always a challenge to get the attention of whoever is running the food stall and actually get your food.

Not in Sweden.

In Sweden, people queue.

There’s a gazillion people on the street, pushing to get through, but when it comes to getting the food, they all queue.

And they don’t just queue. Oh no. They queue parallel. Like such:

(Forgive my drawing skills – they have not yet reached the costume making-level…)

I tried to take a pretty picture of it, but it didn’t work out on camera at all, so you’ll have to do with the drawing. Believe me when I say it looked amazingly funny.

I later mentioned this to some Swedes at work, and they nodded seriously in response: “It is sometimes hard, though, when there are only 3 or 4 people, do you already start a queue, or not? And which direction? But there seems to be a common intelligence, and fortunately, it always works out.”

Most fortunately, indeed. Because what on earth would they do if no queue were formed, right?

Let’s get packing!

Standard

In a recent comment on one of Lin’s posts over at the Absence of Alternatives, I let out that I would probably never visit the States. I realize this might sound a bit rash for someone who hasn’t even turned 30 (please let me enjoy being able to say this for just one more year), and truth be told, if it hadn’t been for a since deceased bearded Saudi, I already would have. And it’s not like I don’t want to. For one thing, I dream of seeing every show on Broadway (and you may take this quite literally). My parents have spent their two most recent summer holidays traveling around Arizona/Nevada/Wyoming/Utah/… visiting National Parks and cities whose names I forgot but whose pictures filled me with longing and jealousy. Unfortunately (for myself), I am the lucky owner of a number of obsessionspassions, and one of those evolves around carbon footprinting.

Antelope Canyon, Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona, USA.

Antelope Canyon, AZ. They don't have this in Europe, that's for sure. (Image via Wikipedia)

I have always been very concerned with nature conservation and the like. I remember, even as a kid, telling my mother about recycling, and that she had to separate waste streams of plastic and metal. The poor woman was only barely able to explain to me that it didn’t make much sense to throw them away separately if they weren’t picked up separately (that has fortunately changed). Even to this day I get so obsessed about recycling that I throw my bottles and cans in the trash of the apartment block around the corner (usually under the cover of darkness) because it has separate containers for glass/plastic/metal/… and mine doesn’t. I’ve always used public transportation, and only got my driving license at 25, mostly because my parents kept insisting I get it. Needless to say, I never owned a car. I rarely drink anything but plain tap water, and I’ve been known to come close to dehydration when I forgot my water bottle out or pure stubbornness not to buy bottled water. I travel between Belgium and Sweden by a long, expensive train ride (17hrs, about €170) instead of a quick, cheap flight (6hrs, about €110). And so, I’m sure you understand, even with a GreenSeat certificate my conscience would never survive the torture of my feelings of guilt about throwing 2,46 tons of CO2 in the air. I have, however, found a solution to this problem that doesn’t involve an $800 7-day crossing with the Queen Mary 2

Although... this doesn't look that bad...

I’m just gonna travel through the States via the World Wide Web! Indeed: if an Idiot can cycle coast to coast and Thypolar can shop at WalMart in whichever state she chooses, I sure as hell can visit the States through the interwebz, right? For each state, I will give myself a week of traveling time, so that I would be able to do the whole trip in a year. I’ll research the top sights and must-have-done’s, trying to get a sniff of American history, and alternate with breathtaking hikes and cycling tours. I might even do some culture here and there (although the stars know I was never one for museums). I will then tell you all about what I’ve seen, done, and learned!
Because Lin instigated the idea, I will start my exploration in the state of Illinois and its largest city, Chicago – which, remarkably, is not the capital. I truly thought Springfield was a fictional village inhabited by yellow creatures, but that is obviously my mistake. See, I haven’t even started and I’ve learned something already! If you have any trips for state-seeing, please let me know, and if you’re residing in the US of A: see you soon!

Dress-up party, you say?

Standard

I’ve discovered something about myself, lately. I love doing crafts. Or rather: I would love to love doing crafts.

Let me explain.

See, I have this tendency to get jealous of certain types of people. That type of people that gets up at 5 or 6 am to work out before work, for example. I would love to be one of those people. That would be so cool, to be able to say “Oh, yeah, got up at 5, did 40 laps in the swimming pool, still had some time before work so I went for a short jog. Like, only an hour or so.”

Alas, while I have been able to keep up a three-times-a-week running schedule for the past month or so (and am pretty proud of that monumental achievement), I am not a morning person, let alone a morning athlete.

Or religious people. I get jealous of religious people. You know, the zen type, that has this quiet conviction that they have found their own ‘right path’. The type that puts the whole “love thy neighbor” into practice in this sickeningly good kind of way that it makes you feel bad for even existing. It seems so easy, to just have this book full of rules and you follow it and then you’re happy.

Only, I’m a scientist. (yes, I feel religion and science are largely mutually exclusive. but let’s keep that discussion for another time.)

And then, there’s those crafty people. Whenever I see people doing crafts -and it could be anything really, from making their own Christmas cards to making their own clothes- I can’t help but stare. Because it looks so cool. It looks so cool to be able to do that, to take something and just… make it into something else.

No need to clarify: I suck at it. I mean – I got the techniques: I can sow, I can knit, I can follow complicated origami protocols all you want. But let’s be honest here, that’s not being crafty. That’s not what I’m jealous of. What makes me look at all those crafty projects with sad, longing eyes, is the creativity. They take a flower pot and some paint and they make the perfect addition for their garden. I can copy-paste the process, but I can assure you it won’t look as good in MY garden (although that might be related to the fact I don’t actually have a garden. this, however, is besides the point).

But now, I’ve found something. A crafty thing in which I actually manage to be creative.

Dress-up parties.

Dress-up parties?

Glad you ask!

It started last year with Halloween, when I and some friends went to a Halloween party. It was only the second time I actually celebrated Halloween and deciding on a costume was a downright nightmare, but I finally settled on Pippi Longstocking. For those who missed the post back then, this is how it looked like:


I later heard I won the prize for best costume, but unfortunately never got it since I left early due to public transport dependency… .

Then, for an I-cannot-for-the-life-of-me-remember-which reason, our dearest and nearest friend Kim decided to give a “Pink Party”. While most people went pink wigs, pink dresses, pink nails, and even pink eye lashes (which, especially on the guys, was particularly interesting to view), I thought of P!nk, the singer, and with a fine black marker scribbled fake tattoos all over my body. It looked more or less like such:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left the full costume (P!nk wears something vaguely similar in the Family Portrait video) spiced up with a boa, headband and sunglasses for my unforgettable karaoke rendition of Katy Perry‘s “I kissed a girl”, on the right the only picture I have of 2 of my ‘tattoos’, my pink polished fingernails, and the lipstick I won for “Most original interpretation of the theme”. ‘T is my first lipstick, ever, I might add, so it was a very good prize.

The Pink Party was such a success that it was followed last week by a “Disco is not dead” housecooling party (or whatever the antonym for housewarming party is). The idea started with a cut-off pair of jeans, got fueled by a Google Image search and finally fired by the trash talk between all attendees of the party about their planned costumes and acts. So after 10 hours of searching, measuring, and sewing (by hand! I have missed Ts sewing machine terribly…), I arrived 1,5 hours late to the party looking like this:

And although you can see the boys made for some stiff (and colorful) competition, I received another costume prize (a gold wig. first ever, too. how they knew this, I’ll never figure it out).

I really feel like I’m on a roll here, so obviously, you can all guess what is on my mind these days…

… and for that matter, what will I?

Drop-in

Standard

I just wanted to quickly drop in and leave you all a hug. I know I haven’t been around much, and I’m sorry to say it’s not likely to change soon.

Basically, my GP has put me on sick leave until mid August and referred me to a therapist. It feels ridiculous, since I’m a 29-year old with a house, in a steady relationship, with a good degree and a wide circle of friends, and I should therefore by all accounts be content, if not happy. Truth is, I haven’t been handling things very well lately, and if you get to the point where you ignore e-mails, texts, and any other contact attempts from friends, you know something needs to be done. So that’s what I’m doing. Something. To get back there, and get back here. Get back to myself.

Love,
Lies

Quote on a Sungday

Standard

People who throw kisses are hopelessly lazy.

— Bob Hope

Read the rest of this entry

My week

Standard

Monday
Experienced true friendship firsthand when a couple of Spaniards threw me in the Baltic Sea. One gave me his dry clothes (I didn’t have spare ones), the other drove me home, so we’re all good.

Tuesday
I discovered the Draco Trilogy, a 2000-page Harry Potter fanfiction. Draco Dormiens and Draco Sinister are right up there with the canon works, that’s for sure. It leads to a strange fascination with Tom Felton and Draco Malfoy.

Draco Malfoy in A Very Potter Sequel. I'd say (s)he's cuter than the original one, what you?

Wednesday
My EMBO-scholarship application (the one with the interview with the scary professor in England) is denied. My funds run out in August and because I’m not entitled to unemployment benefits going back to Belgium will mean moving back in with my parents.

Thursday
The lack of sleep (see Tuesday) hits me during the wrong time of the month, and an early-morning meeting with my PI ends up in me running out of the building, crying. Tip for those who make a runner in the rain: take either your mobile phone, your key card, your house keys or an umbrella with you, otherwise your options are extremely limited.

Friday
I get been awarded the Lawrkis scholarship I applied for 3 weeks ago. I get to stay another year in Sweden and don’t have to move in with my parents come September. On top of that, the repeat-meeting goes (more or less) smoothly, and my PI is happy with me.

Didn't have the top. Or the blonde hair. Or the body. But I got the tattoos! (via Flickr, kyleburning)

Saturday
An American friend organizes a “Think Pink!” party. I buy the first bottle of nail polish I have ever owned in a bright, shiny pink, and use a permanent black marker to draw P!nk’s tattoos on my ankles, arms, and neck. My brilliant impersonation of P!nk gives me the prize for most original interpretation of the theme: pink lipstick. Yes, first lipstick I have ever owned.

Sunday
I haven’t practiced accordeon, I haven’t cleaned up the apartment, I haven’t cooked, and I haven’t caught up on my Reader and the e-mails I am to reply to. But I wrote another story and spent a Lazy Sunday once more.

 
Yes, I’d say, overall it has been a good week.

Quote on a Sungday

Standard

Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

— Susan Ertz

Read the rest of this entry