31 July, 2007



Spent the evening listening to various podcasts and dreaming about the luxury of bathing. No need to explain any of this, is there?

30 July, 2007

Icing on the Cake, or Cake Icing


Yesterday, my children and I are sitting quietly in the airport hotel restaurant reading the menu, when a German woman, her three young sons, and a Peruvian-looking woman are seated at the table next to us. Instantly, the atmosphere in the restaurant changes. Where previously there was a sedate, cool, even muffled end-of-the-day feeling, all of a sudden the stage lights are turned on, the temperature in the room rises, and everyone’s attention is drawn to this party’s table.

The attractive, in her early-thirties, expensively coiffed and dressed woman, is obviously accustomed to people hovering over her, staring at her while she does the most mundane of activities. Look, as I sit here with my three adorable boys, as I order some drinks for us all, spend a rather long period of time choosing the right wine for myself, and order a meal tailored to each of my children’s and my particular taste palettes. The Peruvian-looking woman accompanying them is the boys’ nanny. The mother is a flurry of noise, while the nanny quietly questions and commands the troops. She is the only one who actually orders something from the menu.

Admittedly, at the beginning, I do stare and listen with curiosity at this theatrical production. The mother speaks German to the waitress and boys, Spanish to the nanny, and throws in a smattering of English for anyone else who is listening. I find it all rather exotic: the mixture of languages, the play acting, the (very) loud conversation, and the chic attire. I imagine her to be the young wife of a rich middle-aged German business executive, living in Lima, visiting her family in July, going off to Paris with a friend in the fall, skiing at Whistler in winter…

Then the boys begin to fight over the content of the bread basket. The middle boy wants black bread. He shouts this request to the waitress. No please or thank you. The nanny tries to placate him with some white bread. The mother snaps at the nanny to just give the boys what they want. She manages speak harshly to the nanny through smiling lips.

I begin to tire of their obtrusive company, almost feel nauseous. It is as if I have over-indulged with a sweet dessert. No substance. Just elaborate icing.

I gaze over at my children and I am struck at how little limelight they need to order and eat a meal in a public place. They have excellent manners, kind dispositions, and appreciate good food, and so, even at such a young age, they are usually treated well. The rest is just icing, isn’t it?

28 July, 2007

Five Minutes Before Midnight

Not literally, but, as far as my children leaving tomorrow afternoon on their trip to Canada, yes, it is down to the last sprint. Does that mean we have started packing? No. Have we made up a to-do list? No. What we have done, is determined that Nomad Son can’t find his German passport. Thank heavens we found his Canadian passport. And my, surprise surprise, it’s still valid.

This means the two of them, on their own, will have to travel through the OTHER (i.e., non EU citizen) line-ups, which are often slow. May the gods and customs officers have mercy.

Since I am not traveling with them, possibly they can avoid the karma I have; where always, yes always, the third or fourth person’s papers in front of me are not in order, and the line up stops to a complete standstill, which drags onandonandon, so that I become worried of ever making our connecting flight.

Here are my prayers that they will arrive in Montreal safe and sound.

27 July, 2007

Migratory Creatures

Last fall, my two children (now 16 and 12 years old) flew for the first time alone to Montreal to visit family. They hadn’t seen my siblings and their cousins in many years. A lovely, enjoyable time was had by all.

The adults had the opportunity to get to know my children as individuals with intelligence (so like their mother), a flair for languages (their father), good manners (once again their father), beauty (who knows), and that particular sense of humour common to our family. For my children, the trip was an opportunity to meet their maternal side of the family for the first time; since they couldn’t remember meeting them when they were small children.

Strangely, even though I didn’t accompany them on that trip, the trip really taught me a lot. The whole experience was a liberating one. The positive experiences my children had, and those my extended family reported, made me realise that I’m no longer responsible to lead the migratory journey from one continent to the other.

My children are very much capable to journeying on their own; navigating international airport terminals changeovers, custom and security measures, and flight delays. They are capable of forming their own relationships with their relatives. They are intelligent enough to see through the confusing veils of complex family dynamics. They are gentle in spirit, and thus, kind in their opinions. As you can see, they are extra-ordinary children, or maybe they are just migratory creatures: comfortable in one culture as much as the other.

26 July, 2007

Ladybug, Ladybug


Ladybug, ladybug… In my childhood, they are magical creatures to make wishes by. My grandparents’ garden was part vegetable garden, tended by my grandfather, a small flower garden bordering the back porch, tended my grandmother, and a apple, plum, cherry orchard, tended by Mother Nature. Ladybugs abound in that old garden.

My sister and I would try to get the ladybugs to crawl up onto our fingers. We’d close our eyes. Make a wish. And gently blow on the ladybugs. When we opened our eyes, the ladybugs were gone, and their absence indicated our wishes had taken flight. It was only a matter of time before they would start coming true.

25 July, 2007



A dear friend is coming from Hamburg for a cup of tea, well, maybe a pot or two, this afternoon. I’m home early from work. The kids are off to the beach with his (Nomad Son) friends, or playing badminton with her (Nature Girl) friend on lawn in front of Luebeck Cathedral. I still have to shower and make myself look pretty. Instead of getting on with the task, I sit here at the computer looking through a my google reader blogs. Think I’ll make myself a bowl of soup first.

24 July, 2007

Entertainer And Performer

There is a weekly article in the British weekend glossy magazine section of The Independent, called How We Met. In this article, two long-time friends tell their story: each gives a microscopic view of their first encounter (e.g., what she wore, what I thought the moment I saw her) and a macroscopic outline of pivotal moments and philosophical significances of their friendship. If I was to write such an article, I would write one of Jules.

Yet, it can only be a one-sided story, for Jules and I are no longer in contact. There is no Dramatic Ending to our friendship. He just disappears into obscurity, into some trite cabaret company in Madrid, never to write or contact me again.

I meet Jules in a city in southern Germany at the end of season party of the state ballet company. He is an Adonis in a curly-dark-mane, gorgeous-long-legs, strong-well-defined-torso, young-buck way. He is gorgeous, gregarious and very gay.

He came to audition from South Africa, his homeland, in a whole series of companies; all in hope of getting a contract somewhere, anywhere, in Europe. More than anything, he wants out of South Africa. He wants to escape his past.

I sit next to Jules at the party. He takes over the party, which is a feat considering the room is filled with dancers, actors, and opera singers. He and I dance, talk, and never stop laughing until the wee hours of the morning. At noon he goes off to audition at another company.

I am visiting a good friend of mine, Nerida, who dances in the company in that southern city in Germany. I’ve gave up dance years ago and I am in the process of studying electrical engineering in Canada. Something I omit to tell Jules during the course of the previous evening. He decides to take the offer at that company. This is partly because the company’s choreographer is very radical and interesting. Partly because of me, he senses a like soul in me (he thinks I am a dancer in the company).

The next year, when I come to visit my friend again, Jules sees me in the theatre cafeteria and screams, “You bloody idiot, why didn’t you tell me you weren’t a dancer?” (Though bloody is not the right word.) He comes running over to my table, gives me a big hug and starts talking and doesn’t stop until I leave three weeks later. Nerida, the dear friend I come to visit, is ever so tolerant of Jules and my budding friendship. Something I love her for.

Jules recounts snippets of his life in bursts and starts: some snippets could be true and some could only be true in his imagination. The stories of his childhood in South Africa contain, a pet monkey, building fires on the beach with his friends, a mother he is devoted to, a mother who is an alcoholic and drug addict, an absent father, sexual abuse, a stint as a male prostitute, living with a wealthy patron, studying dance… I never can quite figure out the truth and the lies of his stories, for Jules is an entertainer through and through.

Our friendship takes us through a decade of annual visits. They started in the southern city in Germany, then move onto London, and then Amsterdam. These visits are filled with talk and laughter, long hours of my sitting in on endless rehearsals, watching numerous evening performances, and Jules showing me nightlife I only read about in decadent stories of strange underworlds.

Jules is a rather good ballet dancer, but he is a better entertainer. He performs his steps dutifully on stage in the evenings, but he truly lights up when he is in a gay bar surrounded by wild and weird people: an audience craving entertainment. Then he takes out his Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli imitations, or sings his extensive repertoire of musical numbers.

Occasionally, very occasionally, as we walk home to his apartment in the early hours before dawn, he recounts again snippets of his early life, which are nearly all sad and melancholic now. It is as though, in those moments, his past catches up on him. His childhood crosses the oceans and continents and the passage of time; making it very difficult for him put on the jolly face of the entertainer. This is probably the real Jules, but one who very rarely surfaces.

23 July, 2007

Definition of Casual

I was raised as an uptight Canadian gal. Maybe I lived under the illusion that I was an easy-going, laid-back, no frills, no problem type of person, but it took one trip to Amsterdam, twenty-five years ago, to prove me wrong. The Dutch epitomize the word casual, in all senses of the word: sexually, politically, religiously, and socially.

I remember looking out of my friend, Jules’ window, all those years ago onto a playground across the way. There were children playing in the sandbox, women sitting on park benches chatting the day away, and a businessman urinating on a tree… Double take… yes, a businessman, with attaché case peeing in public.

Now I have seen my fair share of drunks urinating in public in the wee hours of the morning, but never a well-suited fellow in broad daylight. According to Jules, public peeing was seen as a socially acceptable behavior; so much so, it was proving a health issue. So, instead of banning public peeing… voilà…


(Original source of the photo)

Note the fellow’s easy-going, laid-back, no frills, no problem stance. Note the lack of water and soap. The Dutch must be casual about personal hygiene as well.

Grey Plastic Sculpture or …?

Can you guess what this is?


22 July, 2007

Home Again

Let me count the ways... actually, far too tired, will have to leave this for another day.

17 July, 2007

Be Back Soon


Newsprint Poem

Long, lazy afternoon, to make up a newsprint poem. I love the whole idea of taking a text, in this case a NYT front page article, and highlight some text and cross out others.

15 July, 2007

Organic Electronic Symphony

My father retired at an early age. He and my mother went to live on a pearl of an island, Grenada, in the Caribbean.

When they moved to Grenada in the 70s, long distance telephone rates were exorbitant. The one thorn in my father’s existence was how little the telephone company, British Cable & Wireless, offered their customers and at what shamefully ridiculous prices. (You have to understand that my father had worked all his professional life in telecommunications. A field, he felt, that must always be innovative, forever changing, and even revolutionary.) So, he just couldn’t live quietly with Cable & Wireless being stuck somewhere in the 1960s, before Grenada got their independence, with their British executives and managers, colonial attitudes and customer policies.

Every opportunity he got, he used new technology to out-manoeuvrer the C&W stronghold. We communicated via email when email was a separate Internet service, via voice over with those first slow modems, and via satellite phone when the technology was clunky and expensive. He went to great lengths to introduce technology to their quiet island existence.

I really wish he was alive today and reaping the benefits of broadband and all the wonderful Web 2.0 applications. He could rejoice in free services. He would experience schadenfreude at C&W unsuccessful efforts to keep apace of all of these innovations. But mostly, he could create his individual organic electronic symphony which he always dreamed of.

14 July, 2007

Blissful Summer Day

We woke up this morning to a sunny, warm, no, hot day. Hallelujah. It was just a joy to walk around with not a care in the world.

The market ladies were all smiles and t-shirts. Others were dancing at the Huex street festival. There were people swimming in the city pond.
The children started their six-week summer holiday today. Each in their own way, just slowed down and choreographed their activities according to their natural inclining. It doesn’t really matter what you do to celebrate, does it?

Elizabeth of the Woolgathering blog has been doing some lovely sketches during her family’s vacation on the east coast (I’m just guessing about the east part) of the States. For those of you still working and ignoring the call of leisure summer days, take a look at her drawings and maybe you’ll want to put down your pen, or turn off your computer, and walk out the door and enjoy some the warm breeze on your skin.

13 July, 2007

First Draft

Child Craft Textures

Weeks ago, I started doing a layout for one of my children’s stories. Mixing up the text with some collages. I’ll be finished with the first draft tomorrow. If anyone would like to read and edit the story, I would be ever so thankful. Just send me off an email with your address and I will send you a printed copy.

P.S. Fee, you’ll be getting your copy next week.

11 July, 2007

Playing the Field

Tun3R is an excellent, excellent piece of software. Take a look/listen. I've been playing around with it all afternoon and have stumbled into some very fine music indeed.

This is for T. & co. and anyone else who loves tripping through the net.

What a lark

Take a look... the animal animation voiced by real people interviewees.

Ramshackled Afternoons


The hot summer days of my childhood were often spent wandering along the scruffy underbrush bordering the train tracks and abandoned railway station; situated across from the overly ambitious shopping mall floating in the middle of the empty acres of hot, bubbly, tarred parking lot. How we yearned for some sort of wondrous adventure to come our way. The heat, the boredom, the endless nothingness of long days of no school and no purpose… our minds were fried, our immobile bodies exuded a miasma of listless apathy.

Thankfully, mercifully, something eventually clicked and our imaginations took flight. Time stopped completely. The world suddenly opened. And our laughter became contagious, our ideas brilliant, and curiosity finally propelled us forward through the underbrush and beyond.

Here is a slide show of a 100 of the collages I’ve made in the last year or so. Amazing to think of all the quiet time, the BBC-NPR-OtherPeople podcasting time, this slide show represents.

09 July, 2007

End of a School Year

This Friday, Friday the 13th, is the end of the school year in northern Germany. The last weeks have been very hectic. This happens every year and yet, I don’t seem to cope any better with all the various obligations and events. An underlying tension is, of course, the up-and-coming report cards. Will the marks be fine? Who is going to have to repeat the year? Who is dropping out of school?

Sara, completing grade 6, will be graduating from the “orientation” years. High school starts with grade 5 and goes to grade 13 in the academic high schools (up to grade 10 for the trade high schools). They don’t fail any of the students during the orientation years, to give them time to adjust to the new system. A good idea, but it means that there is quite a fluctuation of students at the end of grade 6.

Julien is graduating from grade 10, which is also the end of an era, as it were. Students who don’t have the academic qualifications to complete their Baccalaureate leave the school to go into three-year trade apprenticeship programs, those whose marks are weak, repeat the year, others use the year for an exchange year.

The teachers I talk to worry about the students that are being left behind. The parents are worried their children are not succeeding academically. The students are frustrated with the whole antiquated system. What to do?

I read Leslie Madsen Brooks article in Blogher, Failure in the Classroom, this morning and I can’t stop thinking about why so many students fail to achieve academic success.

Have you all seen this video or presentation of Karl Fisch’s “Did you know” talk? There is so much here to reflect, discuss, and act upon.

08 July, 2007

Walking Along The Canal

Collage titled “Birdsong”

The sun was out early this morning. The birds were singing. Sara was upstairs at her friend’s place. The two sleeping wonders (my husband and son) were one with their mattresses. So, I decided to go out for a walk. Luebeck lies relatively far north and so the summer months are filled with blues of every shade and tone. Either early morning or late evening (until 11 o’clock) lighting is a treasure to behold.

07 July, 2007

Quiet Weekend


Ahhh! The rain has finally stopped, or should I say momentarily stopped. Still, the sun is out! The apartment is empty. Ok, shopping has to be done, but, I plan to read, collage, sip tea, and generally just do whatever my heart yearns for the rest of the day.

05 July, 2007

Sweet Dreams

I’m stressed. I’m straining.
I’m sick. My body is drained
Of energy, and élan, and allllll
Those wonderful things my yoga,
Zen, warrior self, has, but my
Wushy, woolly, woobly self,
The person that I am today,
Has only read about in various
Women’s magazines.
And I didn’t bother turning
To page 104 at the back, so
What would I possibly know.

To be continued…
Under construction.
Please leave a message.
Good night. Sweet dreams.

03 July, 2007

Buddy System

A while ago, I wrote a short article on the law of give and take. Since then everywhere I turn I’m discovering blog articles written by people who are in situations where they could use some help, but they are unwilling to ask others to assist or accompany them. And nowhere does this occur more than when it comes to health and age-related difficulties. What I wonder, especially when it comes to the American culture, is why anyone would wish to assert their independence and right to individual choice above all else, when it comes to handling difficult situations.

I am not saying we shouldn’t strive to live as independent people, but we should reflect upon our motivations for asserting this viewpoint like a wet washcloth over all messy surfaces. For, if we are honest, independence often translates into:

  • having to handle situations alone
  • denying the existence of disturbing symptoms
  • refusing advice or company of friends or family members
  • postpone making necessary decisions
  • ignoring the inevitable
  • being just plain ornery

When I looked up the meaning of independence (self-reliance, autonomy, freedom, liberty) and autonomy (freedom from external control or influence), I realise that independence is a philosophical stance and not a practical strategy for overcoming life’s difficulties. Why would anyone wish to face their problems alone when the benefits of buddy system are vast?

02 July, 2007

Evening Prayer

There is a gentleman living in our neighbourhood who has suffered a stroke. His right side, arm and leg, have difficulty moving. Every day he dresses in a gentlemanly manner, in suit and tie, just like my grandfather did even after he retired.

If I gaze out a window, as I did this evening, and I see him on his way to the bus stop across the street from us, I stand still and accompany his journey with a pray. It takes him ten minutes to cross the road at the pedestrian light and walk the fifteen meters to the bus stop.

When pedestrian light turns green, and the traffic light red, he ventures slowly, methodically out onto the street. He often just makes it off the sidewalk onto the street, before the pedestrian light turns red. And then, all the drivers in the buses or cars waiting at their green light sit and watch how he painstakingly makes his way across the rest of the street. Never once have I heard anyone honking their horn, nor placing their foot heavily on the gas, in the process of him crossing the street. It is as though the sight of this man’s silent and courageous efforts slows the blood in their veins and the urgency of their busyness.

01 July, 2007

Mush Brain

My brain is mush. A friend from the States came by for a pit stop visit. We hadn’t seen each other in four or five years. I lasted visited her in NYC. She arrived in Luebeck yesterday afternoon and we talked straight through until the early hours of the morning. The birds’ song was already announcing the new day. Now, after a few short hours of sleep, I am awake but not alert.

I was nervous about seeing her again, for not other reason than bruised vanity. The last five years have not been gentle ones with my outward appearances. I’ve become grey, I’ve gained weight, and I’ve lost form. In other words, I’ve gotten older. I worried that she would take one look at me and say, “OMG, what’s happened to you?” and instead, she took one look and said, “What’s happened in your life and in matters of the heart?”

A decade in an adult life is meaningful, but it doesn’t make you into a different person. I realised this when introducing my children to my friend last night. She hadn’t seen them in eleven or twelve years. Not only are my children physically unrecognisable, they have developed into different people. I laughed at the difference between their development and mine. The changes from a four-year-old to a sixteen-year-old are enormous, between forty and fifty just a shift in gravity.