28 November, 2008

DB Holiday Cheer

I go to the train station to buy some tickets for two up-and-coming trips to Berlin. Late Friday afternoon. Crowded. One DB employee is trying to issue an old woman her tickets for her grandson’s visit over Christmas. She insists on paying for him to come up to visit her, while his parents insist on paying for the return trip. The old woman knows her grandson had a DB card (discount card), but she doesn’t know if the discount is 25% or 50%.

The DB employee patiently suggests that the woman should find out whether it is 25% or 50% before purchasing the ticket. The woman is obviously distraught at the prospect of having to come back again.

The DB employee sees the old woman’s disappointment and offers to let her call her daughter. She asks the woman for the telephone number. She doesn’t remember. Then... how about the name and address? The old woman says “Meyer” (like Smith) and the city, but she doesn’t know the street name. The DB employee checks an online telephone book on her computer for the name. She blinks twice. Then puts on a brave face, “Oh, there are a lot of Meyers in Fulda. Why don’t we start at the top. Does xxxx Ave. sound familiar?”

They were still at it, after I purchased my ticket and I am leaving. I’m a real Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. I’m glad the DB employee is not.

27 November, 2008

Take a Close Look

I tripped over this video advertisement. Do take a look, it's very good.

25 November, 2008

Postcards from Past Lives: Grade 7


Dear Lilalia,

Ugh! Seventh grade! Can there be anything worse than being in Mr. Tournier’s 7th grade class? Mr. Beer Breath Tournier. The class where all the delinquents (children with behavioural problems) or “retards” (children with learning disabilities) are in.

The school thinks you cannot read or write, just because you cannot read out loud with fluidity or spell correctly. It is strange that they think this, since you spend all of your free time reading. You are a member three libraries, for Pete’s sake.

Don’t despair. You are not a “retard”. You just are dyslexic. They don’t know about dyslexia in your school yet.

It will take another ten years before another teacher tells you about your dyslexia. So, scrape through high school. Go off to dance. Wait a few years before you return to your studies.

Just so you know, better days are ahead.


the older lilalia

22 November, 2008

Postcard From Past Lives: Deutsch Post


Dear Deutsche Post,

Oh ye of little faith! Just because I lavish a bit of praise on the Deutsche Bahn (German train company), doesn’t mean that my affections and appreciation of your services have waned. In the 26 years since I moved to Germany, you still can deliver a letter anywhere in Germany in a-day’s-time or two at the latest. Not only do you do your normal duties thoroughly, but you also have little German elves working in the backrooms individually handling the following situations:

Wrong or Incomplete Addressed

Taking letters addressed to me with the wrong house number, or “near the electrician shop” written in place of the street name, or my name/ city/Germany written on the envelope, and asking your elves to write my proper address per hand for the postwoman to deliver with only one-day’s delay.

Broken Package Shelter

A package arrives per sea freight with the carton split at all seams and the package contents no longer contained. Your elves gather up the contents, send them to a broken package shelter in Frankfurt, where they are stored in the interim. They write to me with the news of this unfortunate manhandling (which obviously is not their own, but some bully Scotsman in the Orkney Islands post office who didn’t give a hoot) and then send me the remains in a new carton with apologies for any inconvenience. At. No. Extra. Cost.

Ramped Vandalism

A vacuum-packed plastic envelope arrives with the burnt remains of a letter I wrote to my mother and sent off to Grenada the week before. My return address, written at the top left-hand corner of the letter, is the only recognisable part of the charred remains. Someone had set off fireworks in the post box during New Year’s Eve celebration, and your elves wanted me to know that the letter wouldn’t arrive.

So, please stop sulking and feeling neglected. You are my stalwart friend and I love you to bits and always will.

Your faithful friend,

Ye who believes in elves

20 November, 2008

Postcards from Past Lives: Clean Slate


Dear Other Side of The Story,

Not wanting to spend one more day or hour feeling any regret for deeds ill done or words left unspoken, here is an official apology to,

Karen, for convincing you to eat the garden snail, Daniel, for making the suggestion that you sample the yellow-coloured snow, Laura Lee, for being a terrible roommate at boarding school, Mme. Gautier, for contributing to your nervous breakdown through participating in adolescent antics during French class, Mrs. K., for never telling you what a marvellous teacher you were and how you became one of my heroes, Steve, for not being able to fall in love with you, Neil, for not falling out of love with you sooner, Keri, for not loving you enough, Liz, for speaking truthfully and thus losing our friendship, Christiane, for not speaking the truth early enough and losing our friendship, and, Kim, for the loss of our daily contact.

love and affection,

wiping the slate clean

19 November, 2008

Postcards from Past Lives: Dean of Admissions


Dear Dean of Admissions,

I did wonder during those first few semesters why you, the dean of admissions, accepted me into your university electrical engineering program. What made you blindly overlooked my lack of academic qualifications? Perhaps you thought I was old enough to qualify for a mature student status. What made you believe me capable of learning theories of quantum physics and thermodynamics?

This remained a mystery until years later, when I met you at a party of a gay friend of mine. You introduced yourself and confessed the fact that you accepted me into the program solely because I had been the first ballet dancer who had ever applied to your program. The ballet buff and the closet queen in you, jetéd over the hurdle of professional propriety and let me into the program.

To this day, I don’t quite know whether that was such a wise decision you made. I never did fit in to the baseball cap-toting, beer-guzzling mob of that time, but I did, strangely enough, find my place.

I learnt a lot in those years and for this I am eternally grateful to you. Maybe you did propel me into strange world of engineering on a whim, but it also profoundly widened my horizon.

in deep gratitude,

the ex-ballet dancer

16 November, 2008

Yesterday's Postcard

Yesterday's postcard was addressed to my father. He was one of the best sailors I've known. He and his brother built their first boat (a Y-flyer) when they were teenagers. He died one evening nine years ago onboard his beloved boat in the company of my mother and friends after a good day's sail.

15 November, 2008

Postcard From Past Lives: Sailor Girl


Dear Dave,

The night shifts were the most nerve racking. We agreed on wearing lifelines while out on deck. Something you forgot to do over and over again.

During the day, when you would wander forward to fix a frozen cleat or adjust a line that was caught, I’d wait anxiously at the helm for you to trip and lose your balance. I lived under the illusion that I could somehow execute a man-over-board manoeuvre quickly enough to find you in that mass of ocean. Even though it was possible to count the seconds before some object drifted away out of sight amongst the waves.

Nights, when it was your watch, I slept softly. Waiting for the thunder of your feet on deck as you rushed off in some emergency. Thump. Thump. Thump. Then silence as you went about fixing the problem. Silence, during which I held my breath. Silence, during which I imagined an erratic wave throwing you overboard. Silence, praying down my panic.

And then, after an eternity… thump, thump, thump, your tuneless whistle underneath your breath, back on the helm again. I’d fall asleep until the next emergency.

I never feared going on a voyage, for you would be there. In all those years of sailing of along coastal lines, across oceans, and through endless storms, the only thing I feared was you not being there to guide me any more.

There have been times in the last nine years since your death, when I will myself to breath again, when I pray down my panic. I don’t want to live softly any more, waiting for the next emergency. I want to hear the thunder of your feet again on the deck.

Love and affection,

Your Sailor Girl

14 November, 2008

Postcards from Past Lives: Unclaimed Love


Dear Philippe

There were moments,
Our minds sparked,
Our hands touched,
Our limbs danced,
Our eyes lingered,
Oh, the lingering…

Yet, we did not listen.
Our shyness deterred us
From claiming what was
Ours. A kiss. It was there.
Hidden in our hesitation.

Years later, on this
Cold and rainy autumn day,
I long again for the lingering.

Love and affection,

From The One Who Was Too Shy

13 November, 2008

Postcards from Past Lives: Ballet Dancer

ballet postcard

Dear Ballet Dancer,

There really are just two states of existence, “in the ballet studio” and “outside the ballet studio”. There are those fleeting “moments on stage”, but they are almost not worth mentioning. Filling the dark spaces between in and out of the studio, are numbing doubts and insecurities. Not knowing whether you are good enough, even though you are one of the best. Not being able to surrender yourself in the movement for fear of losing you inhibitions, and thus, the required restraint.

I would wish you more joy and less loneliness. Take care. It takes a leap of faith to find your way to a more happy life. Start now. Don’t delay.

Love and affection,

From One Further Down The Way

Postcards from Past Lives

I’ve decided upon a new series of collages to create. They are titled, at the moment, “Postcards from Past Lives”. The themes of the collages depict past professions, interests, passions, and incidents in my life. I’m sending these postcards to the person I was at the time depicted by the collage or someone who knew me back then.

The reason I am interested in making this series is because there are times when I feel that I have lived numerous lives in just this one. These postcards are a way of connecting the dots between these past lives.

P.S. Thanks, Pam, for triggering the idea.

12 November, 2008

Good News

Our generous sponsor has agreed to extend funding of our university research project for another year. Halleluiah!

07 November, 2008

Another TED Talk

Yes, I know, another TED Talk. Your asking whether I haven’t linked often enough for all of you to get the hint about subscribing to the site. I probably have. Still, I’ll do it once more.

This time it is John Francis: I walk the Earth talk, whose argument thread is,

“If we are the environment, then all we need to do is look around us and see how we treat ourselves and how we treat each other (to know how we treat the environment).”

Quietly and with a endearing sense of self-deprecation, he tells a story that includes 17 years of living in silence and not riding in motorised vehicles on the way to become an environmental activist and UN Ambassador.

I tried to tell my walking friend about Mr. Francis last night. Unfortunately, I created the impression that he was a crazy person. We had a laugh over this. Yet, it is true that Mr. Francis’ tale is difficult to grasp. Listening to his story though, made me realise how wrong it is to think the solution to our over-spending of our precious ecological resources is a difficult matter. Mr. Francis tells us different. He says it is less rocket science and more equal doses of self-reflection, common sense and a willingness to step in changed direction.

06 November, 2008

Hanging onto his Words

She leans over the restaurant table to hang more closely onto his words. A young woman of undeniable beauty and credible intelligence. She is obviously accustomed to attention. Her dinner companion, with his indistinguishable looks, is not. He tries not to presume upon her continued interest. Disbelieving the overt signals emanating from her body gestures and the twinkle of her eyes, he continues to rapidly talk on. Never giving her a chance to interrupt the flow of his anxiety. In the confusion of the situation, he belly is telling him one thing (shut up) and his mind another (don’t stop). He drones on in the hope that he’ll either be put out of this persisting misery, or his deepest wish for love with a beauty queen will come true.

In mid-sentence, the woman reaches over and taps his hand gently. He ceases to talk for a split second. His body registers the gesture, informs the brain of its significance, which thankfully then closes down. At last, at the end of this pause, he asks her a question about herself. Happily, she leans back into her seat and begins a long tale. One, she has perhaps told many times to men such as her date this evening. He leans forward across the table, hanging closely upon her words.

03 November, 2008

Dear Mr. Obama

Dear Mr. Obama,

This is a thank you note to say how much I am grateful to you and all the people working for you for the hard work you have done in the last 21 months. It has been inspirational to witness how your actions and words have influenced people near and abroad in a positive and communal spirit.

I hope millions and millions of voters in your country come out tomorrow and vote for you. All the best.

yours sincerely,


02 November, 2008

Long Life Of Working Long As Well

I was supposed to be doing all sorts of work over the weekend: taxes, fill out application forms, paperwork in general, but I got sidelined into reading about the American election. I just can't seem to tear myself away from the darn event. Gosh, I hope it all works out well.

Our life savings, modest as they were, were invested in low-risk banking fonds, which were unfortunately tied in with the American banks. We've taken a beating for sure. The notion that we will not be able to retire takes concrete form.

01 November, 2008