Sunday, December 22, 2013

This year...

was amazing and tough at the same time. It toughed me that the best thing to do when you feel you're loosing control is to let go. It hurts less than trying to stay in control.

2013 was also insightful. I learned that home is truly where your heart is and that sometimes embracing circumstances benefits you more than trying to fight them.

It was my year of closures, personal and professional. Having more time to do what you love and be with who you love matters. It means cutting time when you're doing stuff that isn't so important and letting go of relationships that don't share deeper connection, letting go of people  that only see you as a resource. So this year I closed some big chapters to make space for the new. And the new came in many different and wonderful forms.

So overall 2013 was a great year but I won't hang on to it. For it is only a pebble in the way I choose to take.

As it is for new year's resolutions, I stopped making them some time ago. For what really matters is not the decisions will take but those I already took.

Happy 2014!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Buying new pants or: What's wrong with the world today?

This is a confession, OK? If there's something I hate is buying new pants. On my list of things it's somewhere between getting vegetarian dish with chicken and sticking a fork into your eye. It's hard to say what is so strenuous and awful about going shopping for new pair of pants, but the more I think about it, the more I think absolutely everything. Actually, even just thinking about it makes me nervous.

The thing is, I know now for a while that this day way coming. And I was prepared too. I decided to solve the problem once and for all (or at least for another 5 years or so) and buy 2 or 3 pairs of Lewis jeans, the ones that were proven to fit well and last long. After all, I don't want another Jack & Jones experience.

I even waited for the new Lewis store to open, picked a nice day and walked in the store confidently. Sure, I forgot the model and the size I used to wear, but surely that nice young lady there is going to hell me, right? Well, at least that last part turned out to be right.

When I tried to navigate through different models and asked for the "old ones" the nice lady kindly explained they don't make those anymore. To my surprise they also don't make any jeans that isn't elastic. And all models are "slim"now. Tighten up and expose your kidneys.

I couldn't hide my disappointment and she was probably wondering why I act like I'm 90. As my last hope to buy normal pair of trousers went down the drain and I quietly accepted my defeat, looked away and bought a pair of semi-elastic jeans, I remembered what Douglas Adams said about technology.
“1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. 2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. 3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”
It's true for clothes too.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Brussels, the terrible child of Europe

Brussels is a complex city. It's too easy to see only the bad sides. Unlike other cities I've lived in, Brussels isn't kind. It's brutally honest. It doesn't take you by the hand to show you the brightest jewels. It rather throws you deep into the water without as much as asking if you know how to swim. You're on your own, you have to find your way. It's dark and cold and distant.

"Decipher me or I will devour you" is how Brussels spoke to Brazilian photographer Vincente de Mello and how it speaks to many others. It leaves you alone and confused but with a choice. Are you going to dive in and discover or merely try to swim your way out?

It's been two years since I moved to Brussels and after being lost in deep waters for a while, I've come to realize it got under my skin. I love this city. It's loud, chaotic, sometimes dirty but so alive and colorful. And always full of surprises.

It's easy to stumble upon a concert or exhibition in a park, enjoy all those cute hidden pubs that serve really great non-industrial beer and amazing cheese. I love walking through metro stations that smell like fresh waffles and observe all the bureaucratic chaos. And then there's free jazz festivals, old cinemas that play silent films and oh my Marx, there is food. Honestly, I've never eaten so well in my whole life.

I took my time to get to know Brussels and we share our secret moments, whether enjoying the magnificent view of the city from Kunstberg and Justitiepaleiswhere you can breathe in the city and feel its' pulse, or trying to understand how the public transport works. The city has so much to offer and give and it won't disappoint those, who are wiling to engage with it and give it a fair chance. And you know what? It deserves it.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

About vegans...

I have a problem with some of them. I truly do. Not because of their philosophy but because of their attitude. Being vegetarian myself for 18 years and pesceterian for the last few I know it alignes you with a certain stereotype, even if I don't eat meat simply because I don't like it. During this years I've gotten a lot of sh*t, mostly from meat eaters, trying to question my lifestyle even if my lifestyle is simple: eat what you like. I don't think my lifestyle is the best one and I don't try to promote it by convincing others to follow it.

Lemon Herb Tofu, Sesame Tofu Sticks, Emerald K...
Lemon Herb Tofu, Sesame Tofu Sticks, Emerald Kale, Gardein Chicken Salad, Gardein Curry Chicken Salad, Gardein Sonoma Chicken Salad, Golden Sesame Tofu, Grilled Sweet Chili Tofu, and Pumpkin Wheatberry Pilaf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It became even worse when I was eating fish, because then also some vegetarians joined the grilling. I understand, it's not just a choice, it's an identity and it needs to be protected. But does it have to be imposed? After all, it's not a sect. I think everyone knows best what's good for them. Sure, some people don't live very healthy but in this day and age of information, one cannot assume this is so due to lack of information. I'd guess it's mostly because of insufficient financial conditions but can be also many other reasons. The bottom line is, there's a big difference between sharing information about health/food and stuffing that information down someone's throat.

Now to be fair, I have met vegans that are happy with their lifestyle and aren't trying to "educate" you or show you the right way.  But most of others has tred to teach everyone else by using rather agressive means of persuasion and almost implying every not-vegan person is nothing but a plain animal killer/hater or at least someone that doesn't care about their health. It's either by making 'casual' half-accusing righteous comments when non-vegan things are mentioned or engaging in a ferocious discussion about veganism, onine and offline, with friends and strangers. And I don't mean argument based dialogue, but rather angry convincing escapade, disguised in education. It's all about taking responsibility and saving animals.

I understand all the problems with mass production of meat, how it effects environment and people's health. But there are many ways on how to tackle with this and veganism is only one of them and in my opinion also not the best one. To be fair- veganism is middle class/bourgeois life style because it's expensive. Working class and poor people can't afford to buy expensive supplements, they can mostly afford industrial meat and occasionally meat from organic farms. Some people, who can afford to take a stand on this, choose to eat only meat from small farmers and food is bio, eco, organic etc. But not everyone can afford this. Hoewever everyone should be able to decide for themselves what is the best way for him/her.

Besides this there are also consequences of increasing popularity of veganism: prices of basic foods, rich in protein (e.g- quinoa) are rising in their countries of origin (e.g.Bolivia), causing the poor people like farmers (who lived on it for centuries) to starve, because they can't afford it anymore. So basically the healthy lifestyle of the West has consequences for poorest people in developing countries. But Veganism isn't primarily concerned with people, it's concerned with animals.

Now I have vegan friends of both types (maybe after they read this I will have to use past tense). Some are really sweet and don't bring veganism up every time you eat or mention food but some are just as eager about educating me as they are about veganism. And unfortunately the stupid veganism is affecting our friendship. Of course I'm not against veganism, I like some of vegan food, just not enough to live on it. I choose not to be vegan and want others to respect that choice and give me enough credit to be able make it. After all, I will be the one responsible for its consequences and if I can live with it, the others will have to too.
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cat football

It's been a while, I know and many things have happened on many levels. But I won't bother you with the details for only one among them is really shocking. And that's the discovery that I play football. More precisely cat football.

Now before you go jumping to any conclusions, let me explain how it works: unlike with classic football, there is no ball but a toy mouse, preferably one filled with catnip. As you've probably guessed you will need one cat to play with and to set the rule of the game. Most of the time she'd play the role of a goal keeper (the position of goal of course changes according to her preferences) unless she assumes roles from other ball related sports such as tennis, baseball, volleyball etc.

While the cat is chasing the mouse around the flat, you role is mainly to find a terrain interesting enough (e.g. stairs) for her majesty to chase after the mouse and bring it back to you. Don't be fooled, it is a sport and you will sweat and she will win. Cats always do.

The reason why I was so shocked to discover I'm playing cat football is because I really don't like football (or any ball/group sport for that matter). I find it dull and completely uninteresting. And yes there have been many people who tried to enlighten me with their wisdom, convinced it's just a matter of explaining. Well, it's not. I tried to watch it many times with different people (playing was never really an option) and I'm not convinced. Accepting I don't like it was more difficult for other than me (no more explanations, please!).

But cat football, well, that's something completely else. Come to think of it, I think her majesty the cat is ready for another game.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Belgium - the red tape paradise

Belgium is a funny country. What was it running on all that time without the government? Paper. If red tape wasn't invented in Belgium, it was for sure perfected here- an ultimate depiction of Kafka's Process.

Level 1: Language. You should consider yourself being very lucky if you find an official who knows and wants to speak English. You might live in the capital of Europe, but expect to be treated like a Belgian.

Level 2: Simple registration procedures for EU citizens which takes up to 30 minutes in Germany  takes up to 6 months in Belgium. In this time the Ministry is involved to decide upon a matter that is in fact already decided upon by international and national legislation. If you dare to call them a week before to kindly remind them that 6 months expires soon, you will hear it for disturbing them without reason. If you cal them a week after the deadline has passed, they will explain they sent you a letter and it isn't their problem if you didn't get it. Granting citizenship is of course a task for the parliament that is to decide upon each individual application. Priorities first.

Level 3: Papers. Belgium wants to keep its' citizens healthy and the paper industry happy. This is why you need to fill in or bring papers almost everywhere you go. Be sure though that after you've collected and brought the papers you were asked to, they won't be needed and you will get new papers to fill in and bring instead. To make things more fun: no one will know what is it you really need.

After a year here, I've completed the first 3 levels but I'm sure there's more to be discovered.

To be continued....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Brussels - ugly in a cute way

It's been almost a year since I've moved to Brussels. I still find it hard to believe I'm here for so long already and even harder how easy it was for me to get used to the Brussels kind of life. After getting over the initial schock of total bureaucratic chaos  and lousy public transport services I could focus on nicer things the city has to offer. I mean why bother with small details when you've got fries, chocolade, beer and waffles, right?

For quite some time, I really disliked Brussels and its Eurocrat structures, pricy shopping facilities and endless numbers of people in suits, that seem like faceless clones. It was nothing like Berlin at all, it felt cold and alien. Not knowing any French doesn't help either.

But then one day I was walking past the Palace of Justice, having a nice overview of the city center, with all of the 100 architectural styles squashed in a tiny area. Traditional buildings, gothic style buildings, ugly buildings, glass building, socialist style buildings, everything seems just thrown in as if photshoped in some kind of tetris game.

All of those buildings didn't really fit together, but there they were, proudly shining in all their ugliness. And then it struck me that this is exactly as my life: chaos of bits and pieces, puzzles connected together by some invisible string even I don't always understand. They don't look like they fit together, still here they are. It was then when I decided to give Brussels another chance. Sure, it's ugly and chaotic, but at least it's honest.

Since then I've discovered many hidden treasures of the city: great parks, amazing cultural happening, libraries and archives that I've always wished they existed, cool cinema that plays silent movies with live piano, cool traditional pubs with most obscure non industrial beers you can drink while nibbling on cheese dipped in mustard and celery salt (the Belgian way) Besides this Brussels has really strong multi-cultural vibe and cousine that never seizes to surprise.

After a while I discovered I actually like Brussels. Sure it's different from what I was used to, but at the same time it has a lot to offer. And for the time living here, I'll sure try to discover as much as possible.

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

CSI: Brussels

It was a just a bit after lunch when Luke, the guardian of law and order, was checking upon the streets of Brussels. Little did he know he was about to discover a crime that would keep him busy much longer than expected.

Around 2 p.m. when he was making his standard check his footsteps suddenly stopped. Just outside the building there were about 10 garbage bags that had no business being there. Although it was the right day and they were going to collect them next morning, Luke immediately knew something was wrong. It was not 6 p.m. yet and those bags had no business laying on the street at this time of the day. It looked bad and it smelled like breaking the law.

Luke was puzzled by many questions. Who put those bags there? Did they all belong to the same person? Will he have to go through tones of trash to find out the owner? Even though the building at the corner wasn't big, bags could have been put there by more or less anyone. 

With this amount of bags the crime could have been easily committed by someone's enemy. And clever crime that would be indeed, making your enemy pay the fine. He knew he's going to have to do the dirty job while the evidence was still fresh. He took out the gloves and dug into one of the slightly open bags filled with papers. "At least they recycle" he thought. This made his job much easier. 

Success was almost immediate and he was very happy he won't need to call the lab on their afternoon off. Amongst papers there were several ones with names on them and seems and one of the names matched the name on a doorbell. This was still not complete proof, but later on Luke would also check fingerprints on the papers.

It would take a bit more effort to figure out if the hideous crime of the early bag disposal was committed by the same person, but he already identified some similarities between the bags. Not only were they all equally heavy, they were all also closed in the same nonchalant manner - using duck tape. These days people really have got no manners anymore.

Luke made sure he marked each and every bag with a big red note. Sure, some might say it's only garbage and all there was to crime is making streets look uglier couple of hours earlier. Besides, there might have been heavier crime happening around the block. But Luke knew better how things go: it starts with wrongly disposed garbage and ends with murders and he wouldn't have any of it. It needs to be stopped at the very beginning.

About a week later, when fingerprints confirmed Luke's theory, the perpetrators would got official report that made it clear their crime didn't go unnoticed. Copies of incriminated papers would be included as indisputable evidence. This time it was only a warning, but next time they wouldn't get away with it.

Another day was saved by Luke and streets of Brussels were safe and clean again - well, at least the next morning when they collected the garbage. But the most important thing is that people of Brussels could go to sleep knowing that there was always someone out there making sure everything in order.
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Family code fiasco in Slovenia

Even though polls before the referendum were leaning more in favor of the Family code*, thus falsely raising my hopes high, I knew I shouldn't hold my breath. After all, some things should never be underestimated in Slovenia: conservativism, envy and urge to stick your nose in someone else's business.

I admit that towards the end I was already a bit tired of all the arguments. Nevertheless it was extremely important to have them. Only public discussions of such topics can slowly change people's perception and challenge their embedded stereotypes.

I am not surprised by people's fear of challenging their own beliefs and opening up their minds to thinking that maybe they are not the ones to tell others how to live. I am also not surprised of people being homophobic and thinking that gays will start buying off children or massively adopting children of others. Or that majority closed their ears with both hands not to hear the arguments that same sex families already exist and this affects legal rights of their actual children, not some imaginary "future to be"children. Nor that this law doesn't take anything away from existing families, but gives rights to families that exist but don't have them yet.

Peoples screams of "endangering" the institution of nuclear family (which is anyway invention of capitalism), homosexuality being unnatural and similar were being heard loudly everywhere. People's mouths were all of the certain full of arguments what is best for children and how to protect them. Silly? Yes. Sad? Definitely. Surprising? No.

But what really pissed me off is the high moral attitude of people voting against it, saying they mind the "aggressive campaign" of those, arguing for the family code. Come again? You think pro human rights is more aggressive than spreading homophobic nationalist beliefs?

So maybe if gay people and their supporters would behave the way others wanted and expected them to, like quiet little mouses, slaving away their lives, trying hard not to bother anyone while pleasing everyone, then it would all be OK?

Well fuck you too! If some managed to get out of their closets, then maybe some can think about getting their minds out of the boxes. Enough is enough!

* Family code was progressive law cluster accepted in Slovenian Parliament on 16th June 2011 and was introducing serious improvement of children's rights protection and amongst other things also giving right to same sex families to form legal communion (not marriage) and adopt children. Group of right wingers, nationalist and some religious people called ironically Civili initiative forced a referendum on abolishing the law.  On 27th December 2011 Constitutional Court of Slovenia gave Ok to the referendum, which happened on 25th March 2012. Even though only 30% of all voters voted, a bit over 54% was for abolishing the Family Code.
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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Life in a suitcase

My belongings are stored in three different European cities while I'm travelling back and forth, it's not unusual to loose a sense of home. Is it in the country where you are born and your parents live, in a city which feels like home or where your love is? In the last year my home was mostly where my suitcase was. And again it's time for change.

After a bit over 2 wonderful years in Berlin I am packing up my stuff again and finding myself in Brussels. Because I would rather miss the city of my dreams than be away from the person I love.

Life is an adventure and this one has only started. So bring it on!