30 July, 2006

Quiet Sundays Thing Of The Past

I’ve had a few conversations with friends in the last day about how overwhelmingly busy we are. It is reminiscent of those first years after we had babies. During those years we constantly were dealing with feeling of great domestic upheaval, unrealistic expectations of what had to be done on the job in order to stay employed, nagging worry over neglecting friendships, and overall just a sense of always swimming against the current.

That seemed to let up for a while, only to return in the last year or two. I think that this has to do with a) having teenagers at home, b) ailing or dying parent to worry about, c) unrealistic expectations of what has to be done on the job in order to stay employed, d) pre-, full-bloom, post-menopause, and e) experiencing serious, even terminal, illnesses.

Just as we thought we could have it all (profession, partnership, and children) when we were in our twenties and thirties, we are now struggling with all the above-mentioned situations simultaneously in our forties and fifties. Not wanting to simplify things, but it seems to me in my parents’ generation they did things serially: cope with distressingly uncommunicative teenagers in their forties, then menopause in their fifties, then ailing parents in their sixties.

It is not easy, of course no one said it would be easy, but it is reallyreally not easy to try and master these challenges all at once. This is not meant to sound like whining, but just stating how stupefied, petrified overwhelming inadequate we (I) feel at times.

It's Raining It's Pouring

A friend is visiting from southern Germany: so nice to see her. The gods willing, we will see each other next week down south, when Sara and I go on vacation there.

It rained today. Boy, did it rain! At one point, I swear someone could have ridden a kayak down the main road; there was so much water rushing by. The buses were creating great walls of spray as they drove down the street. Fortunately nearly all pedestrians ran for cover and most cars had pulled over for the downpour. I don’t think we have had a drop of ran in five weeks or more. Bet the earth didn’t know what to do with the deluge.

Bloglines has been down the whole day. Trying not to panic, what if I can’t get my links back? The list of blogs I read daily has grown slowly with time. Through one blog I find a reference to another, and so on. I don’t even know if I could remember the names of my favourite blogs. Maybe I should bookmark them as well.

27 July, 2006

Nomadic Son Off Scuba Diving

Nomadic son, who is spending five weeks in Japan visiting aunt and uncle in Okinawa, who are stationed at the American Army base there, just uploaded about a hundred photos onto his Yahoo Photos beta account. Lovely that he sent a link: such a wonderful way to share a bit of his journey with us folk back at home.

Unless we are talking about the series of photos he took of the jellyfish lacerations on his sister’s leg. Ouch! Massive stings. Poor dear.

And he announces that he and his brother have passed their scuba diving examinations and now they can finally go diving in the Japanese Sea. Oh, how wonderful, not only horrible stinging jelly fish as they dive below the surface of the water, but also untold other dangerous beasts waiting to attack him in the deep depths. Oh, I think I am going to hyperventilate. May the gods be merciful and guide them all into safety.

Raindrops Are Falling

Sara and I were out this evening at a café/bistro across the street, and lo and behold, raindrops fell! Not much, but enough that it made changing tables worth while, but not enough to need an umbrella on our way home.

What a long hot spell this has been. My office, need I mention again, is over 40 degrees C (105 F) by eleven in the morning. No air conditioning anywhere; for such temperatures were just not considered seven or eight hundred of years ago when this city started up, and not even in the nineteen sixties and seventies when the more modern buildings were built.

25 July, 2006

Virtual Friendliness

This month’s Media Safe 101 on the Red Tent Blog is about virtual friendliness. This whole business of participating in the virtual blogosphere* is rather confusing. What is so puzzling is how the behaviour and language codex of this community or society differs from the real world, or at least the world that I have lived in for the last forty-nine years.

How can I behave friendly towards someone who I have just met virtually without signalling that I consider that person a friend or that I am looking for a friend? That vast pool of knowledge we usually communicate through our senses (e.g. facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, and verbal inflection) now is communicated through written words or an occasional photo. And this form of communication seems wrought with inadequacies and misinterpretation... (more)

23 July, 2006

Bella Martha

Off to watch, again, one of my favourite films, Bella Martha. Sigh, such wonderful characters, storyline, and ... that Italian chef! Who could resist.

Giuseppe, my Italian husband, wonders at my choice of film. He says it doesn't have much of a suspense line. How wrong he is!

Quiet Summer Evening

It’s been a quiet weekend. I went off to a street party yesterday a few blocks away from our apartment. Excellent music: diverse groups playing throughout the day and well into the evening. The street is lined with stores on the ground floor and apartments up above (as it is on our street). Each shop or restaurant had some sort of booth or culinary delight to offer the passer-by. The street was full enough to make people watching a very entertaining pastime, without being too full, which has happened in past years, thus making the whole experience noisy and claustrophobic.

The bands were mainly playing cover songs, but some of them played better than even the original. One band in particular sang Sting songs beautifully, which some of you might be saying isn’t difficult thing to do, since Sting can’t sing. Still… such a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

How about making meandering an Olympic sport?

22 July, 2006

The Daughter Of My Heart

Last night I went into Julien’s room (he’s still away in Japan) and found Sara sitting in front of his computer watching my Bette Midler in Las Vegas DVD.

I bought it a few years ago in a wave of nostalgia; remembering the time longlong ago when I was a teenager and Ms. Midler was my hero for being gutsy, sentimental, vulgar, talented, and thoroughly entertaining.

So, discovering my daughter enjoying the Ernie and Clementine jokes and the mermaids in wheelchair bits warmed my heart. Please don’t be judgemental; I am talking DNA here and not parental guidance.

21 July, 2006

Frothy Foam or Foamy Froth

When I was in Dublin there was a distinct lack of Irish people in the public services, such as serving in stores, cafés, restaurants or hotels. This led to a few amusing situations. Everyone seems to be exerting themselves to make themselves understood, on both sides of the counter.

One incident in particular makes me chuckle even now days later. I ordered a latte without foam from the very chic Eastern European thin-as-a-model beautiful-as-a-Renaissance-painting woman, who was manning the espresso machine, and she turned around and confirmed in the most graceful of manner my order, “a latte without froth”.

I smiled and wondered what through her mind when I placed my order: a rabid dog foaming at the mouth, sea foam, Styrofoam, or liquid packaging foam.

20 July, 2006

Oven Baking Brilliance

This is what I felt like sitting in my office today in a windless, over 42 degree C oven. Hot! Hot! Hot!

Well, either the collage at the top or like a roasting chicken on a spit. I will have to see whether or not I can do a new collage with a chicken theme.

18 July, 2006

Nomadic Son

Nomadic son has arrived safely in Japan. Tired and going swimming is the communication received. Sigh, for full sentences and superfluous details... Not to be expected, I suppose. Must say I am just happy to know he is fine.

Non-nomadic daughter is slightly bored being abandoned at home. To be expected, since she is left to her wills this week.

I am so happy to be back home and in the midst of family, sans nomadic son, again. The days in Dublin were a delight though it was strenuous having to make my brain work the whole time.

16 July, 2006

Phew, It’s Over!

The mobile learning conference is over. There have been a lot of interesting, boring, mundane, and rather intriguing moments. The one thing that I can say, the academic community has a lot of bad haircuts. They (we) don’t also posses many social graces. Generally, the people attending the conference seemed to be nicer to each other than doctors are towards each other.

I attended a medical conference a few years back and was rather appalled at how easily doctors/researchers were willing to tell someone, a fellow researcher, that what they were doing was crap.

Met one or two interesting persons. Find it a bit of a foreign world and only hope I did not “behave” inappropriately. Something as simple as asking questions at the end of the presentations seems to have a social codex that I don't quite grasp. I tended to ask a question just because I couldn’t imagine someone coming all this way (e.g. Malaysia, Taiwan, India) to give a presentation and then nobody asks a question at the end or makes a comment. Isn’t that rude, or at least, inconsiderate? Shouldn’t that be part of the chairperson’s job to prepare a few intelligent questions in case someone doesn’t ask something? So, I felt drawn to ask something even though I kind of wondered whether it was considered poor behaviour.

Dublin was aglow in sunshine. It is so wonderful here, that I am sorely tempted to come back with Sara in a few weeks time just to show her some of the wonders. Talked to Margaret and she is fortunately here at the timeslot we can come, so I’ll give it a try.

15 July, 2006

Flush Of Novelty Has Faded

This is my third night away from home. The conference is interesting, though there have been one or two presentations that I've just turned off part way through.

Even though we have had fantastic weather and everything and everyone has been most friendly, the novelty of being away has worn off. I reallyreally just want to be home. How do people do it who are constantly travelling? Are they like so many doctors that become immune to others people’s pain? Do they emotionally detach themselves from the day-to-day going ons at home?

I received a short email from C. saying that her six year old son and husband were just playing a round of soccer out in their garden. The son was representing Germany, her husband holding up the honour of Trinidad and Tobago. Now, her son plays a fierce ball, so it is easy to imagine his as Germany. But, her husband as Trinidad… sent me into stiches of laughter and glee… and then such a sweet bitter homesickness.

The worse part, or maybe the only truly relevant part, is Julien is leaving for five weeks this evening. He is off to Japan. Five weeks. Japan. Gosh. Too long. Too far. He’s taking a get-used-to-it-mom-I-am-spreading-my-wings sort of attitude. Way too mature for me. Now I know why I never look back when walking down a gateway.

Slash/ slash/ bleeding tears from our endless farewell/ which started days before when the joyful anticipation did a belly flip into darker waters/ I thought of all there was left to do and all that will never get done/ or said/ and it will last forever/ or until the flight attendant (dare I say stewardess) asks me whether I would like something to drink for the first time/ on an endless journey forward/ but where from/ or/ where to

14 July, 2006

Various Random Impressions or Encounters with the Irish

Various Random Impressions or Encounters with the Irish

You know this is The Country of Rain (Reign) when along the rocky borders of the railway tracks ferns abound! They absolutely, unbelievably flourish! Can you believe this? In other more temperate, or even tropical countries the only plants that rear their poor pathetic heads between the rocks are various themes on thistle.

The sun, I am told, has come out today for the first time this summer. My hotel decided to celebrate the momentous occasion by pumping up their air conditioning to top load. It’s only 20 degree C outdoors, guys; there is no reason to install sub-artic conditions to the hotel lobby bar. Thank heavens the MacPro has a problem with over-heating. I am using it as a heat shield. Imagine a car seat heater upside-down.

Since the sun came out, there were all sorts of pasty bodies populating the beaches and waters. Now, I don’t know if you can grasp this concept: rocky beaches, North Sea (approximately glacier temperatures), brisk wind, (admittedly) sunny blue skies, and radioactive-waste-enriched (think Sheffield nuclear breakdown) waters. What are these people thinking? Are they absolutely mad?

The first person I heard speaking with an Irish accent was sitting on a train going out of Dublin down the south coast. And he was shouting into his cell phone to his ex-wife that he would get her the f*****g money, when he gets f******g paid and he f******g doesn’t know when that will be does he? It was out of a film.

Mind you, the next Irish person I met was friend, Margaret, and we had the most enlightening, entertaining, wonderful time together.

I have heard every European and East European (e.g. Bulgarian, Polish, and Romanian) accent in my first 24 hours in Dublin. Does any Irish live or work in Dublin in positions that have contact with the general public?

Tomorrow is the first day of the mobile learning conference. I went to Trinity College this evening, on my way back from Margaret’s, to search out the location. Met up with a fellow presenter, from Israel. He is giving a talk about ethical issues concerning e-commerce. Turns out that not only do young people these days not concern themselves overly with ethical issues on the Internet (to buy or not to buy (pirate)?), it is questionable whether the creators of the e-commerce sites are even interested in these issues. Or, this is what I thought he said as we meandered over the campus in search of our building.

I saw some university students playing lawn crochet this afternoon. But the mallets were over-dimensionally large. They even had a picnic and one or two bottles of opened (empty) champagne bottles lying on the side of the course. Another film moment.

Did you know that, even up to twenty years ago, you would be excommunicated from the Catholic Church if you studied at Trinity College (Protestant)? Oh, maybe you had to be an Irish Catholic to be excommunicated. Anyways, sounds so bizarre. I know from having lived in Quebec that the Church was mixed up in domestic and sexual and even political issues (the priests told their congregations who to vote for in government elections), but it hadn’t occurred to me (sillily) that the Church mixed themselves in education to the degree it did here.

Margaret and I came to the conclusion that the basis for most Christian faiths in the past was to conquer rather than spread peace. The question is whether this has changed at all.

Practiced my presentation today and, boy, am I farfar away from being reading to give it. Update tomorrow.

13 July, 2006

Type-Om or Type-A

Waiting at the airport on my way to Dublin…

One of the blogs, and bloggers, I have come to like * is Karen at Chookooloonk. She recently asked her readers to write a little about themselves, particularly, stating whether we, her readers, are calm, peaceful, Zen type of persons or type-A, chaotic, extroverts. She’s the later and tends to attract the former when it comes to her choice of friends.

What started out as a simple question, “Are you type-Om or type-A?” has lead me over the last days into many different roads of thought.

One being…

If I had to answer this question honestly, I’d say that I am inwardly a closet-extrovert and outwardly a skating-on-thin-ice-but-remaining-composed person. Most people who know me, and surprisingly many of my closest friends, perceive me as being very calm and wise. Which is amazing, since my friends and I have had all sorts of intense personal conversations over the years.

No matter how often situations arise that prove the outward persona to be a fake, or how many times I vehemently deny being so, they persist in thinking I am so. Which has lead me to two conclusions: either they need me to be so and therefore, what the heck, I’ll just have to let them continue to believe in this illusion; or, through some strange internal mechanism or genetic programming this is the sort of aura I radiate, and though it is useful thing to radiate in the society I am living in, it is rather pathetic on another level.

What I would really like to be able to answer Karen is that I am “furchterregend” (exciting fear). I’d love to be so quick of spirit, sharp of word, and so mercilessly honest that when people think of meeting me for a cup of tea, they would tingle with anticipation that is a blend of excitement and fear. Ok, guys, you can sot laughing. I am serious. Can you see my dilemna? Can you understand who wide the gap is between these two personas?

*I know I’ve come to like a blogger when I jump down my Bloglines list to view their blog before I do the others. Normally, I just work my way alphabetically down.

12 July, 2006

Off to The Fairy Isle

I am off for a few days to Dublin. This is the first time visiting the land of my forefathers. It will be interesting. Hopefully there will be an Internet cafe somewhere (probably on every corner) to write an entry or two.

10 July, 2006

Pelican Pie

Sorry, don’t know where this came from. If any of you have had the pleasure of seeing pelicans in flight, you will know what a funny sight this is. The rest is just a spontaneous flight of fancy.

I am in the midst preparing for the mobile learning conference later on this week. Talk about panicking. Fortunately, just had an appointment with my homeopath this morning and she promised to find something to help the present situation.

08 July, 2006

It’s Party Time!

Germany just won third place in the World Cup. Good game.

The man of the evening, Schweinsteiger

GER : POR, 8 July 2006, Stuttgart, Germany
Copyright: AFP / afp.com

Though a Portugal player shot a goal into the Portuguese side. I was sort of surprised that it wasn’t portrayed as the end of this guy’s career, though it was obviously a big booboo. It seems to me as though it is like friendly fire in the army, so why isn’t it considered a terrible deed?

I am just a soccer fan during a World Cup or European Championships, so the fact that I don’t understand this sort of thing, just goes to show how ignorant a person I am when it comes to this sport.

The fans are out in the streets (with the police alongside) creating a huge ruckus. Doubt there will be any sleep to be had tonight. It is not so much the honking cars but the blaring boat foghorns and electronic sirens that contribute most effectively to the cacophony.

I am happy the Germans won third place, and I am incredibly proud of every single person here who have made these games (so far) such a wonderful jubilant occasion of celebration. I hope that some of its joy has filtered over to you guys.

05 July, 2006

Somewhat Down In The Dumps

Talk about the tension gone… the disappointment of the German team’s loss at the semi-finals is palatable today, though not a wretched disappointment, just a slow and quiet absence of tension. There is also a complete lack of urgency and even lethargy in people’s movements and communications.

One of my work colleagues told me a story about how the Costa Rica vs. Ecquador game he and his family attended would remain top of the list of their family outings for the rest of their lives. He said it was not just the (excellent) game playing, but, more importantly, being together with over 50,000 jubilating (my dictionary says this is not a word, but, hey, you guys know what I mean), friendly, singing, dancing, fans from all over the world. He said that he is convinced that his younger son’s experience was cosmic, that when he (the son) is one hundred years old and experiencing dementia, he will still be talking about that soccer game.

04 July, 2006

What do a broken toe and a broken heart have in common?

So, the toe episode continues. Today was The Day, our big event, we presented the results of two years of work in the schools to the public. Teachers, students, administrators, press, politicians, were in attendance. The event went well with only the minimal of glitches.

I tried to pack my broken toe into a loose shoe this morning, but only lasted an hour and I had to change into sandals. The toe, a bit blue, a bit swollen, early this morning, blossomed into a dark purple/black plum by the time the day was over. Guess standing on my feet all day in this hot weather made the toe go into a sissy attack.

So, all I had to do was limp a little, which wasn’t hard to do because I can’t do otherwise, and occasionally take a peek down at the toe and, naturally, the person who I was talking to also would glance down, and voilá instant horror, sympathy, and adulation about what a brave soul I am to attend the event in such obvious pain.

What the people don’t know is that having spent my childhood and teens on point shoes and having broken my toes so many times while dancing, I just don’t feel so much in my toes any more. But, I wasn’t about to tell them.

Guess it is sort of like if you have had your heart broken a hundred times, somewhere along the line you lean to pick yourself up quickly, brush off the dust, and walk around with your head held high.

03 July, 2006

My Poor Toe

Just broke a baby toe doing a sweeping dance through the living room. Not a graceful minuet of an Edwardian court, but the farmyard sashaying of a bolting beast. Why do I always feel such a sense of urgency when the telephone rings?

Another collage. The first in quite a few days, weeks… a bit of the Edwardian to remind me of my recuperating toe.

02 July, 2006

Things Have Really Gone Too Far

Just looked at David Beckham’s video announcing his resignation as captain of the English team. And, I got tears in my eyes! This is absolutely ridiculous! I don’t even know how to write the man’s name. I don’t know anything about him except what is written in women’s gossip magazines.

I know he has a very neurotic wife. That he is rather neurotic himself. And that he and his family live an existence that I find hard to wrap my mind around. So, the question is, why the tears?

It just goes to show how veryvery all encompassing this World Cup can be. Such news can even effect my daily life and my inner emotional landscape…. can you believe this? Admit it, for those of you who know me, doesn’t that sound bizarre?

Still, a week to go till the finals, and there is no stopping the present enthusiasm or addiction to the most mundane details or big news (soccer) scoops of the series.

A friend and I went on a long bicycle tour today. Fantastic weather. We actually took a train about twenty kilometres east away from here and had hoped for a lovely meandering bicycle trail around the Ratzeburger Lake. In the end, we found only a one-lane-wide road trying badly to accommodate the busy two-lane Sunday traffic and what-the-heck-are-you-bicyclists-doing-here drivers. Not so relaxing.

And, can you believe it; my friend and I managed to talk soccer for a fair fifteen minutes or so? We’ve gone walking two nights a week for the last four or five years now and we haven’t ever talked soccer in all this time. Just wanted to give you an indication about how massively ubiquitous this event is in the lives of us folk living in Germany.

Just as a note: my legs are sore, my body tired, and I feel as if I’ve run a marathon instead of coasting gently the forty kilometres. I definitely need to get into better shape… but I’ll start on that after the World Cup is over.

01 July, 2006

OK, I Take It Back

OK, I take it back. I do want the Germans to win the World Cup.

Last night, in a hotel bar in Stockholm, I was sitting with a group of about twenty men from all sorts of countries, watching the Germans and Argentineans stand solemnly (in the case of the Argentineans) and sing (in the case of the Germans) their national anthems. And tears came to my eyes when I looked at the faces of the Germans and nothing happened when I looked at the faces of the Argentineans. In that moment, I realised I wanted the Germans to win the game.

Oddly enough, so did the Greeks, Swedes, Brits, Americans, and Italians that were watching the match with me. OK, maybe not at the beginning of the game, but certainly, by the time the Germans finally tied that game 1:1, everyone of the fellows in the hotel bar were saying the Germans had to win.

So, now I figure, if they are in the semi-finals, they might as well go to the finals, and, heck, sure, they should also win.