08 November, 2016

Dear American voters...

All the people in the world are sitting at the edge of our seats, hoping beyond home you make a momentous decision to elect the best qualified, highly dedicated, candidate out there. Please think about it...

03 November, 2016

A rogue ripple turned tidal wave...

We are all waiting on bated breath for the US to make a sensible decision. All of us living outside of the States, are sitting here helplessly and hoping beyond hope...

I have not wanted to post too many posts during this election. There has been such a glut of impassioned, hateful, hilarious reportage to choose from, but their message appeals to the more base side of my nature. So, I chose to watch passively for the tidal wave to pass over our heads.

Then I listened to this beautiful song written by Sara Bareilles and realised how important it is for us to get her message out there. She writes a story, as President Obama, about this historical moment in time. What an amazing storyteller she is. Please listen closely to the words she weaves so eloquently and Leslie Odom, Jr. sings as magic. 

We all, whether American or not, need to ask ourselves the question, "Is this the best we can be?". 

02 November, 2016

It's exciting to have the first mother in the White House

If you vote for Hilary you are ...

If you vote for Trump you are ...

If you don't vote for anybody, you are ...

14 October, 2016

A slow study of elegance

I don't often publish speeches from politicians or political figures on this blog. But, I enthusiastically do so this morning.

These last weeks and months have been scary ones. We are all waiting with trepidation for Americans to end this electoral escapade. We are hoping they will out-trump Trump, by voting Ms. Clinton into the presidency.

I don't believe the hate-mongering, misogyny, xenophobia, will then come to an end. Rather, the new government will have to face these forces face on. Every single day from now on.

Michelle Obama manages to appeal to our common need for decency and tell us that we need to refocus our efforts. I can not say how touched I was listening to her words. Her speech is not a confabulation of 140-characters of sound bites, but a slow study of elegance.

11 October, 2016

Dear Mister Shakespeare

"Phoebe Boswell riffs on her conflicted attitudes towards Othello in Dear MrShakespeare, which co-stars Ashley Thomas aka Bashy."

Do watch the other seven films in the British Council’s series Shakespeare Lives 2016. All are highly entertaining.

10 October, 2016

There is no single solution

Prince Ea combines history, science, and personal opinion to talk (rant) about our the short-comings of our educational system. Please watch. It is really a really satisfying rant and one that hopefully inspires you towards discourse.

09 October, 2016

I continued to fight...

"I continued to fight. That is what saved me."
Adolfo Kaminksy

This touching video is an adaptation from the book, Adolfo Kaminsky: A Forger's Life It is written by Mr. Kaminsky's daughter Susan, who is also in the film. You can find out more The Times.

There is such a need at the moment for all of us, in whatever way possible, to fight for the refugees needing a safe haven. It is inspiring to know Mr. Kaminsky never stopped fighting to make sure the words, "all humans are created equal", are not empty words.  

03 October, 2016

Mother to her daughter

It saddens me greatly to see what an impossibly hard time Ms. Clinton has had during this campaign to be recognised as a strong candidate for president. As far as my memory goes, there has never been a presidential candidate in the last 30 years who has as much political experience and insight as she does. Not only does she understand what true challenges lie ahead of her as president, she has the connections and relationships to world leaders, and their respect, to handle the difficult years ahead.

It saddens me further to know how difficult it is for her and other women of power to make their true selves be known.

26 September, 2016

One more time

Clinton = Aspects were complicated, but not illegal
Trump = Unethically unprecedentedly compromised

May Americans please stop for one moment and listen one more time about the scandals following Clinton and those that should leave massive holes of doubt about Trump.

25 September, 2016

Late autumn sunshine

Precious, precious days of
Beauty and magnificence.
Late autumn sunshine,
Brings both sweet yearning
And tender melancholy
For all those moments gone.

21 September, 2016

Just think twice about the logic

Would it be possible for the US government to just think twice about what is wrong with their logic for refusing refugees entry into the US? You are talking about people whose lives have been devastated. People who have lost everything.

It is as if the US had said after WWII, they would not accept any survivors of German concentration camps because maybe some Nazis could slip in as well.

Sorry, I usually don't react so impulsively, but after listing to John Oliver's critique, I couldn't resist.

16 September, 2016

Making a proper cup of tea

“Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea.”
― Chögyam Trungpa

I just finished having a lovely conversation with a dear friend who lives in the Philippines. We "meet" every Thursday early in the morning (my time) for a cup of tea and philosophy.

This morning's conversation was about finding ways to wrestle with our internal struggles and how to face external demands. This year has been full of difficulties / changes / challenges for both of us and so we try to figure out where we are at the moment. This often leads to insightful discourse. Sometimes though our conversations just lead to a useful quote that acts as a salve.

11 September, 2016

This common and shared plight

My forefathers left Their Ireland
In dire times, surviving the long
Arduous journey in hope
Of fertile farm land
And freedom from poverty
The Canadian government made promises.
Falsely. They found only stones and stumps
Left behind by other poor immigrants
Who gave up the struggle and left for the cities,
In hope of jobs. In vain. In deep poverty.
What little one person earned
Was shared by all. There was never just
One day of fasting a week. Daily mass
Was part redemption, part plea bargaining.

The misery, the misery, seeped into their bones
And was passed on to the following generations
The misery sits deep in our morrow even today.

We are all survivors, witnesses, culprits
To those drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.
How is it we do not offer them consolation
And comfort? How is it possible that
A hundred-years goes by without human beings
Becoming more human, more understanding
Of this common and shared plight?

03 September, 2016

We dehumanize people when we reduce them to a single thing.

You, everyone, reallyreally must watch Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie giving her speech on World Humanitarian Day 2016 at the United Nations. This speech should be listened to, studied, and discussed vigorously. It is a marvelous feast for thought.

Ngozi Adichie says, “We dehumanize people when we reduce them to a single thing.” She persuasively talks about how insidious and unconscious this systemic process is. Living in our world today, and particularly in Germany, the practice of media and people to refer to those in great tragic need for shelter only as refugees is systemic. We do them a disservice by reducing them to this label. They have so much to say. We should be listening to their stories. We should be opening our minds and borders to their dilemma.

Shamefully, I have heard heated discussion among friends and acquaintances about the refugee situation, questioning whether those who have been admitted entry into this country are “real” refugees and “not real” refugees. The media and people insist on differentiating between war refugees and those how have flown their countries out of dire situations caused by sociopolitical, economic or climate change disasters.

Even though this is only anecdotal, all those I have met who have flown from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, or Eritrea have done so at great risk to their lives. They have suffered beyond belief. Not one did so out of self-service or a wish to profit from our social services. Not one hasn’t suffered or lost dear ones to hunger, in disease-ridden camps, through corporal punishment inflicted by police or government officials, in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, or under unbearable conditions of overland transport. They have lost everything.

In my opinion, future generations will look back at this point in history and judge us according to how we have acted during this great humanitarian crisis and not whether some hatemonger gets elected as President of the United States. Shouldn’t we all, including the media, concentrate our focus on this ongoing disaster? As Ngozi Adichie says, “We cannot measure our humanity, but can act upon it.”

02 September, 2016

Nomad office and working holidays

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I have been experimenting with different work models over the last six years of being self-employed. I started working at home, which proved a bit difficult since the children were still living with us.

Then I tried a marvelous co-working space in the middle of the city and not far from where we lived. This worked very well for a few years. It is a good community of people and the work environment inspired me. Over time though, for whatever reason, my interest to participate waned.

I am not sure it had anything to do with the community, but rather to do with the changing circumstances of the work I was doing and the children leaving home to go off to university. I was doing a lot of in-house training and coaching and felt that I was having to interact with enough people on a day-to-day basis. When I was not doing training, I was creating e-learning and blended-learning material for companies. This required a lot of peace and quiet and that is not always available in the co-working office.

For the last two years I have, what I call, a nomad office. All the materials I need to work are in a small roller suitcase. I go off in the morning into town and spend the day going from one place to another and working. I have a long list of cafés, public sitting areas, libraries, and park benches (if the weather is good) where I while away my time.

I love working this way. It is easy to work with concentration for about an hour or two and then I leave, go for a walk and then change locations and continue working on a task. If the task needs extreme focus or concentration, I do it at home in my living room.

Alternatively, I have been taking working holidays. Visiting friends and asking them whether I can work at their places during the day when they are at work. The photo above was my office space this week. Amazing, isn't it!

So far this year, I have taken working holidays in Amsterdam, Montreal, and now, Wischhafen (a small village on the North Sea). If all goes well, I will also be in Heidelberg later in the year.  

07 August, 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke and Street Art

I went and talked to Joan in the studio he was working in today. The one portrait is nearly finished of a school child (my daughter) on her first day of school. 

The words above her silhouette are taken from my favourite poem from Rainer Maria Rilke, Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen. Here is a pretty good translation of the poem:

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

~ Ranier Maria Rilke ~

The reason I chose those words is because I believe that all children and particularly my children have been the greatest blessing I have received in my life. So the answer to the question is "a great song" when it comes to what their presence means in my life.

06 August, 2016

Early morning battle

I have been participating in a wonderful street art project. The street artist, Joan Aguiló from Mallorca, is in Lübeck for two weeks trying to portrait the essence of this beautiful city by creating portraits of the local residents on walls throughout the city.

In the photo above he is making up a drawing of my daughter on her first day of school. His street art is often on paper, which he glues on walls. Weather and vandals influence the condition and length of stay of his street art.

This is the story behind the story of this photo.

Early morning battle

When I was a child, my sisters and I wore the clothes our mother chose for us to wear, especially when it came to special occasions. To my chagrin, my daughter had a different idea from the moment she was old enough to stand on her own feet and open up her cupboard door. She was the master of her wardrobe and the decider of her fashion statement. Every morning she and I entered into a battle over what she would wear that day. Her fashion choice was one of serendipity and did not take into account weather or practicality. It was a battle I nearly always lost because of her tenaciousness and our immediate need to get her dressed and out the door to her kindergarten. On the morning of her first school day ceremony, we had a battle of monumental proportions.

The evening before, we hung out two beautiful dresses she could choose from to wear on this special occasion. One dress was a red velvet sparkled with stars. The other one was a blue-and-white striped navy theme. You might be wondering, why two dresses?

This is because it was the only solution for getting my daughter and I out of the department store’s changing room without tears. My tears, not hers. She had been trying on dresses for two hours and her wide selection of possible dress choices had been painstakingly reduced to two, which was when the standstill occurred, thus leading to my buying both.

Dawn comes and we are all running around getting showered and shaved (my husband) and breakfast on the table. I call everyone to the table. Our son, my husband, and I sit down in our dazzling festive outfits and then my daughter comes into the room wearing her favorite old-and-should-have-been-long-ago-put-in-a-garbage-bin cotton leggings and t-shirt. I innocently tell her, she doesn’t have time to play, since we are due at the school in 45 minutes. I ask her to go and get her dress on. She says she wants to wear her leggings and not her dress.

What ensued was not a pretty scene. Lots of arguing back-and-forth. Lots of tears were shed. (My tears.) Lots of exasperation felt towards the other party not seeing reason. (Her exasperation towards me.) No willingness on either side to back down.

As the minutes ticked away and the point-of-no return was rapidly approaching, I made an executive decision and give her an ultimatum. Brandishing a large pair of scissors, I said she could wear her leggings, but if she did, I would cut through her dresses.

I know, not a proud moment. Pedagogically wrong. Complete loss of dignity. Relinquishment of all parental control.

She looked at my face, saw the resolve, turned around and went back to her bedroom.

Five minutes later she came back in the room wearing her beautiful red velvet dress sparkled with stars and walked to her new school with a happy skip in her step.

16 July, 2016

10 things I like to do when I am on my own...

  1. Read, currently:
    A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson), Was ich noch sagen wollte (Helmut Schmidt), Third Culture Kids (David C. Pollock), The Heart of Buddha's Teaching (Thich Nhat Hanh), Flying Solo: How To Go It Alone In Business (Rober Gerrish, Same Leader and Peter Crocker), Mistborn Trilogy (Brandon Sanderson), The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World (Daniel Yergin)
  2. Sit in a café, current local favourites:
    Vai Bistro, Kaffeewerk, KaffeehausQuartier, and actually a few more. Lübeck is a city filled with wonderful cafés. 
  3. Look at people:
    Best done while sitting in a café.
  4. Go to my strandkorb:Weather hasn't been so good this year to do this. Hopefully, things will change soon!
  5. Go for a long walk
  6. Work on the computer:
    Except I have been doing too much of this over the last months.
  7. Listen to podcasts, current favourites:
    Cortex, Hello Internet, Long Form, On Being, Invisibilia, La nature selon Boucar, Dharmaseed, Soundscapes with Stephen McCauley, Still Untitled, Writers and Company
  8. Travel
    As written last week, this has been a wirlwind time for travel, next I am off to sail with friends in the southern Danish islands.
  9. Go to see a movie:
    No time for that!
  10. Eat at a restaurant:
    Montreal, Amsterdam, and Addis were amazing places to wine and dine in.  

10 July, 2016

Culture shock

culture shock (noun)

the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

DEFINITION of 'Culture Shock'

A feeling of uncertainty, confusion or anxiety that people experience when visiting, doing business in or living in a society that is different from their own. Culture shock can arise from a person's unfamiliarity with local customs, language and acceptable behavior, since norms can vary significantly across cultures.

Recently I did an amazing amount of travelling in (for me) a very short period of time. In seven weeks, I traveled to Amsterdam, Montreal (also Ste. Lucie and Warkworth), Addis Ababa, and Bielefeld and Kiel in Germany. The trips to Amsterdam and Montreal were working holidays. The trips to Addis, Bielefeld, and Kiel were work.

My travels took me from the idyllic surroundings of Ste. Lucie in the Laurentiens mountains north of Montreal. A week spent in nature. A week when I could mix working on my laptop with the pleasure of kayaking every day with the loons swimming right next to me; sitting still and listening to a symphony of frogs. A place where there was no human-made sounds to be heard.

And then in contrast, Addis Ababa… a city steeped in noise and busy-ness and chaos, like I have never experienced before. Admittedly, in the last 20 years or so, I have been mostly travelling in Europe and North America and the Caribbean. Working in Addis allowed me to meet some wonderful people and a new culture that was intensely interesting. (The first visit of many, hopefully.)

Amsterdam was visiting old friends in my most favourite city in the world. Warkworth was meeting new friends in, what seemed to me, a beautiful small town (village) setting from the past.

Even though all the trips went well and I had a fun time, I did experience what I can only describe as culture shock of sorts each time. I say culture shock of sorts because what I experienced was very different to that described in dictionaries. Mine appears on a physiological and sensory level.

My brain goes on overload trying to process the signals my senses are sending it. What is it that I am tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing and feeling (e.g. feeling cold the whole time in Addis because I didn’t bring enough warm clothing). There were numerous times when I questioned my old brain's ability to sort out all this information. Is this a problem a part of growing old?

In younger years, I seemed to be blissfully oblivious to this challenge. Now the first hours, days, or week spent in a new place is not just “getting over” jetlag or a general feeling of disorientation, but recognizing if and when my brain just doesn’t know how to process the information flow.

Why this is, is something I am going to meditate on these next few weeks. Thankfully, I can do this from the luxury and familiarity of my home.

27 May, 2016

Inspired by words

How I would love to be able to write words that have a rhythm both of bounding down of earth and escaping to the heavens.