Dislike on Facebook (For Steven P.)

It seems that there rarely has been an invention that impacted young lives as much as did this “social medium” referred to as Facebook.

I’ve deleted  my account, for multiple reasons. Instead, I will create an account for work related purposes, just because I find it a useful means of communication, that is, if you want to quickly reach a young audience.My students ask me so often when and where there are interesting events or apps or websites or even movies which can help them practice their Dutch. I find that valuable, and I want to spend time on helping them in their endeavour.

Few things are as shallow as Facebook. When a dear friend of mine (= a friend who texts me once in a while to meet up) was hospitalised for a whole week, I wasn’t even informed about his illness. If I had known, I would have rushed to check upon him (and brought him flowers).

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A popularity contest, or so it seems, based on Filthstagram pictures, a planet in which everyone is happy-go-lucky and with an eternal pretty face, no rosacea or wrinkles to be spotted; it makes me sad to see to which we have come.Especially because my mirror doesn’t do Instagram effects, and also because natural beauty seems to have become inexistent or at least very, very rare. I’d like to quote Marc Jacobs here: “I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect – they are much more interesting.”
I just want to go back to the pre social media world, peopled with friends who have flaws, just as I have flaws, so we can laugh at them. Humour still is the best medicine.

And believe me, my life isn’t a bed of roses. I’ve had it with the way people never meet up anymore just because it’s fun and because they want to go and do stuff. No, after 6 years in the city it strikes me more and more how things are ever that shallow. People calling themselves friends, just because they happen to hang in the same bar (taking selfies, of course). I call that alcoholism. Drinking buddies. Would they still go these places if there was no alcohol available? I doubt it.

Social media, with Instagram, Foursquare,  Yelp (okay, useful from time to time, and I contribute, I admit), Facebook and the like, should multiply connections between people. Instead, I see a poorer world. I think I’d rather live with a lot less than with too many, preferring the few ones I can call when I’m feeling a bit under the weather. We live in a day and age dictated by images, yet they are not always what they seem.

Think of this what you may, I’m not collecting”likes” here.

Happy New Year!

Explosions of colour, reflected in the water
Explosions of colour, reflected in the water

This afternoon, I had my first Kulfi of the year. No, that is a lie. I had my first kulfi in my entire life. Thing is, I always skip desert, simply because I never have enough room for it.

A new Indian restaurant opened about a month ago in the center of Brussels (Jai Ho), and today I ate there for the second time. As I entered the restaurant, I greeted the only guest present, an elderly gentleman. We started chatting about travel. He had just flown back in from Hong Kong, where he celebrated New Year’s Eve. Apparently, the fireworks are quite impressive there.  Lucky him, in Brussels everything was cancelled due to an ongoing risk of terrorist attacks.

He appeared to be an avid traveller, and had been to India on several occasions. We chatted about Indian culture, world heritage, food, … and as the conversation continued, he brought up kulfi. The staff being so charming and fun to talk to (the gent was joking with them all the time), they allowed me to eat only bits of my different dishes. Result: I have enough Indian food in the fridge to last me at least 2 days, and I finally got to taste this rich, delicious desert.

This is exactly what I love about Brussels. You can enter a place, and start a conversation with a perfect stranger. Most of the time they are even happy to do so. A very open minded, multi cultural city, I can only hope this will never cease to exist. The kindness of strangers. Stranger than kindness. I can not imagine living anywhere else in this country.

Where else in this country can you have your eyebrows done by threading, for only a few euros? I first got to know this technique in my student years, must have been 1994, on a 6 week trip through Egypt. Waxing your eyebrows can lead to nasty accidents, and don’t even start about tweezers! The address? Oria is located in the centre of Brussels, not far from La Bourse. They do good haircuts too, for half the price you pay elsewhere. The place is divided into two different salons, one for men, and one for women. The atmosphere is warm and amicable; I recommend Saturday afternoon, if you like to see a bunch of beautiful young Arab women getting ready for an evening out. Coming to think of it, I never saw another “real Belgian” woman there. Inexplicable.

So why all this fuss about eyebrows and hairdos and Brussels? Well, tomorrow, I’m starting a new job, as a language trainer, right here in my city. Done with the daily 3 (or more) hour commute to some place in the Walloon Region. I’ll finally be a true “Bruxelesse”, and I’m looking forward to exploring my city, something I never had the time to do before. When you arrive home at 18:15 every day of the week, there is no time to volunteer in a school, or to engage in other activities that can help you truly understand our capital city.

I get a great start in this New Year. I wish you all a joyful, healthy and peaceful 2016. Some words of advice here:

  • be nice, everybody is fighting a fight you know nothing about
  • stay away from toxic people, toxic relationships, toxic places
  • there are a few tricks to slow down time, try them (safety first, of course)

I wish you all the best for 2016. Take good care.

 

 

 

 

On being on the road

Current position: Bitola. Booked three nights here, because I would like to go hiking in Macedonia’s second highest mountain; 2.600 metres altitude, located in natural park Pelister.

As foreseen, nothing went as foreseen to get here from Ohrid. The taxi that should have taken us to the bus stop before 10.10 never showed up. We were three waiting in vain for the car, I even asked the hostel to call for another one, still nothing, so we decided to go on foot. A forty five minutes brisk walk with a Londoner an a Frenchman from Valenciennes: money we did not spend on transport, a cool conversation on travel, and a nice workout. We arrived at 11.00, the next bus would be at 12.20.

My options were either going for a drink and blog, or ask around to share a taxi. Lucky as one sometimes can be, a woman named Vesna who works in the tourist industry offered us to join her on her trip back home, Bitola, my next destination. I didn’t really understand what kind of transport company it was, but the ride in a decent car with air-conditioning was a lot nicer than the overcrowded, slow bus I remembered from Skopje to Orhid. And all this for exactly the same price. I’m definitely going to meet up with Vesna in the next days, she lives 3 minutes away from my hostel.

There is a lot of charm in being a solo traveller. When you stay in hostels and not in hotels, you get to meet a whole different crowd, always resourceful and with lots of wanderlust. People from all over the planet, who hang out and exchange information on their country or places they’ve visited, it can be very refreshing. There is no age limit for staying in what we used to call a “Youth Hostel”. The oldest person I ever met in a backpackers place, was this spring at Cuba Hostel in St. Peterburg.  It was an 80 year old man traveling with his son.

I like the laid back vibe, and sometimes you get to see the kindness of strangers.

When I came back from my paragliding flight yesterday, I stopped by at a shop where I saw these tomatoes fresh from the countryside, and they looked so great that I just had to try making one of my favourite recipes with them.

Here’ a picture of the ingredients:

  
The garlic and onions were already frying. Usually one uses Boursin for this pasta sauce, but any cheese spread with herbes de Provence will do the trick. Add chili peppers as well, or use chili flakes. It’s a weight watchers recipe that I got from my youngest sister, who made it her own by adding cooking cream to it 😊

As usual, I made way too much food, so we ended up with five finishing it. A German guy did the dishes, and what was more, when I got back from a visit around the lake, I found a delicious oven dish on the table, still hot.

  
The same young man had grilled a few eggplants, with some spicy meat and tasty local cheese on top. Heaven! Much better and healthier than restaurant food, which, to be honest, gets boring after a while. Thank you once more, it was fantastic.

More travel luck I had: there was a free folklore festival on at the amphitheatre, a perfect closure of a good day.

Some pictures to give you a taste of my last day in Ohrid:

  
   

    
    

   

Ce vol d’enfer entre Gosselies et Skopje

Quelle chance que je pense toujours a avoir sur moi deux petits pots quand je dois prendre l’avion; une crème hydratante (car l’air est fort sec en avion), et des boules Quies. Et oui, cette fois-ci j’en ai vraiment eu besoin! Un enfant de même pas 2 ans a eu si peur qu’elle a hurlé pendant les 3 heures de vol. Le vol était complet et la plupart des passagers etaient visiblement épuisés apres ces 3 heures de concert gratuit.

Ah, ces petites boules Quies sont magiques…Elles sont très utiles. Connaissez-vous ces vols Ryanair, avec leurs publicités toutes les 10 minutes? Moi…J’apprecie le calme et la sérénité!

Jamais j’ai vu un vol aussi chaotique. Les passagers qui ne respectent pas leurs places attribuées, peu de considération pour le personnel de bord et les autres passagers. C’est le prix que l’on paye quand on voyage en haute saison. Tout est plus cher, et il y vraiment beaucoup de gens en vadrouille. Mais cette annee-ci, je n’avais pas le choix. Enfin, j’estime que le pire est deriere moi.

Je viens de terminer mon premier repas ici, une salade Shopska, avec des tomates, concombres, olives et un excellent fromage qui ressemble le fromage de chèvre.

Maintenant le bus vers la ville (3€ le trajet simple, 20€ pour un taxi)> Comme je voyage seule, je prefere largement le bus, comme ca pendant mon temps d’attente (1 heure), j’ai déjà goûté à ce qu’ offre la cuisine locale. J’espère arriver a Unity Hostel vers 2 heures du matin!. L’hôtel est situé en plein centre, en face du Gouvernement.

Vol Gosselies-Skopje avec WIZZAIR, tous les vendredis, depart a 21.00 heures, arrivee vers minuit. ( Et oui, pendant la haute saison, les gens applaudissent quand l’avion atterit. Et quand le bébé arrête sa sérénade)

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Holidays – the joys of it

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This photo was taken by yours truly, and I posted it because I was too lazy to find a better one, and – most of all- because I thought it was too funny.
Two Birman (Myanmarese?) Catholic nuns (yes, the do exist), posing for a photographer who poses for another photographer, and then there was me, right behind them.
The men were completely unaware of my presence. The ladies, they were most kind. Catholic, but hey, you can’t have it all,  now can you?

First things first: my tax file. Tomorrow morning.
All the stuff on my list: transfer photography discs and make sure nothing goes lost, fill up my suitcases (but very light, cheap carriers = max 10 kilo and the nikon alone is already 2 kilo, forget about the tripod, even if it’s carbon), go to the library to avoid fines, see the documentary on Amy Winehouse (take plenty of tissue paper, because you will cry), empty the fridge so nothing goes to waste (money doesn’t grow on my back now, does it), order a new smartphone (android) and hope it will arrive on time…. Reason? Prince removed his music from Spotify (compatible with Windows Phone) to Tidal (only apple and android.) Can’t survive without my weekly dose of Prince music. Oh yes, and then I haven’t talked about all the reservations one has to make, documents to print, and all that. Right now I’m updating my Garmin device. Another 89 euros, please tell me why, because I paid for the cards last year. Oh, the joys of travel.

Oh yeah, and there was that guide book that I ordered, not available in the library (would have cost me nothing), which never arrived  on time. I ordered it 5 weeks ago, delivery time to Belgium is supposed to be 3 weeks. Good news: I got a complete refund. Thank you, bookdepository.com. They are so much cheaper than other sellers. Here’s the link, should you be interested:

http://www.bookdepository.com/

 

Summer Solstice

Every year, on the longest day of the year (or near), a good friend of mine holds what we call in Dutch “een pietjesverbranding” (a peepee-burn). A bunch of friends gathers in her Antwerp urban farm, and builds a wood man with a balloon representing his little Elvis. The balloon is then heated up until it disappears with a bang, and afterwards we hold a traditional man burn, as they do every year in the American desert http://burningman.org/

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Brussels June Solstice is tomorrow really, but we girls have a job to take care of, so we have to be in the best of shape on Monday morning.

In my humble opinion, feminism is very much about money. Breakups are so much easier when neither partner is financially needy. Alas, as we all know, there still is a long road ahead before we reach true equality. Anyways, our little man is tied to the ground with very long nails to prevent him from running off, for what it’s worth.

For my female friends who bring in the bacon: you don’t have to care about his Hoochie Woman. Here is a song for you: Tori Amos – Hoochie Woman

I really have to leave for Antwerp now.

Take good care, enjoy the weekend!

TTFN,

Belgian City Slicker

 

 

 

MORE PICTURES HERE: Notice the elderly man who dosn’t seem to notice the biggest balloon I could find.  ==> https://www.flickr.com/photos/belgiancityslicker/sets/72157652865831133

Ah yes, and there were giants in Antwerp, too. 100.000 visitors.  ==> http://www.royal-de-luxe.com/en/

 

June Solstice in Brussels, Belgium is on
zondag, 21 juni 2015, 18:39 CEST

PS: I prefer the terms Joystick, lap rocket, love muscle or even purple-helmeted warrior of love!