17 July, 2017

Immigrants get the job done (remix)


To all those getting their jobs done:
Whether that is putting food on the table,
Trying to find a roof to put over their heads,
Sending their children off to schools,
Learning a new language though
No one wishes to speak to them,
Navigating their way through
Hostile hateful public encounters,
Feeling despair and worry they will
Never be allowed a safe harbour
Nor will they every be able to
See their family and friends again,
Waking with the night terrors
of all they experienced along the way
to this new place they wish to call home.

11 May, 2017

Early morning loveliness

Oh, how lovely it is to travel on a train through the springtime countryside.

22 April, 2017

How to make the perfect cup of tea


One of the most delightful aspects of living in Germany is their cafés. Every city and town has numerous cafés to while away in. They all serve a wide selection of beverages, though admittedly, most fuss is made around coffee. Unfortunately, the majority of people working in cafés are not tea drinkers and therefore they often make a miserable cup of tea. I’ve lamented this fact over and over again. This is what prompted me to make these three videos.


I’ve tried to keep the tone light and not be too disparaging about the current state of affairs. I might add a video in the future about “what not to do” when making a cup of tea, so I can out my bitchier self. Things like: don’t put the lemon slice into the boiling water before the teabag, or if the tea cup is so small that the tea bag takes up half of the space – the tea is going to be bitter…. The possibilities are endless.


I’m going to work on the German version soon. So, if you have the time and see any mistakes or needed changes, please write a comment. Thank you for your help.


Hope you enjoy watching the videos. 

10 April, 2017

The right attitude: school is good


Years ago, I was working in a university research institute developing projects that focused on how media can be used constructively and creatively in schools. We did a few cross-cultural projects with schools in Germany, Kenya, and Canada. Since the projects were research projects, we gave out questionnaires to the participants and their teachers before and after each project.

The questions of the pre-trail survey established current practices of media use and what did they like or dislike about going to school. The questions of the post-trail were focus on the children’s experiences, team communication, and learning motivation during the duration of their project. Even though this sounds very academic, it was really interesting to read the stories of the participants through the numbers.

Most notably, was the difference in children’s attitudes towards going to school. As in the case with Jonathan in the video above, his attitude of “school is good” was prevalent in all the responses of the school children in Kimilili, Kenya and the inner-city school children in Toronto. Whereas, the children in Germany often saw having to go to school as a chore and not a privilege.

What a disservice parents and society are doing towards our children, if we cannot communicate how marvellous education is. We need to tell them how proud we are that they are working hard and are doing well. Not the marks on the report card, but the day-to-day effort they extend towards learning all that they can.  

08 April, 2017

Mulling over this very real inconvenient truth


It is amazing that Al Gore is still so fired up about the topic of climate change. You would think that a normal person’s passion would tire in the face of such ignorance, apathy, and indifference. He is still up on stage, as well as down on the ground, imploring his fellow countrymen to a call to action. (Because let's admit it... if the US doesn't get on board we are all **ck*d.)

Here we thought the Paris Agreement was a done deal… not any more. Wow, how difficult it must be for him to intellectually run on high-octane and sit patiently while others are reluctantly cranking up their cylinders on crude oil.

Just as an experiment, I decided to test my husband and my carbon footprint and see how we fair. Surprisingly, for someone living in a city in a 3-story home with multiple parties, committed recycler, not possessing a car, an avid walker or public transport user, vegetarian of local foods, etc… we didn’t do as well as I thought we would. 

It is rather a slap in the face to be told we are in the 67%, when I thought we would be much higher. The main culprits are the size of our apartment (now the kids have moved out) and we do not have access to a source of renewable energy for heating. Well, we are going to mull over this inconvenient truth for a bit and make some changes. That's for sure!

06 April, 2017

Rare diagram and witness marks (S-Town)


Just spent the last hours listening to S-Town from Serial and This American Life. Sketching/tracing the drawing above and meandering through this mastery of storytelling.

If you haven't listened to the series yet, please do. Then you should go over to one of my favourite podcasts, Longform. For this week's podcast is an interview with the host of the series, Brian Reed

For anyone stating that good stories can't find a place any more in media... this is your chance to be proven wrong.

08 March, 2017

International Women's Day



There was once, and occasionally is,
This being inside of me wanting
To burst out of my shell and become
Tarzan, or Peter Pan, or Batman.
To exit alongside my heroes
Running wild, doing brave deeds.
So far away from where I live,
So close to where my heart beats.

Never acknowledging the world
Will never tire trying to stop
Me from moving forward.
The force of its hate, dismissal,
And rejection, so prevailing;
Making it mightily difficult
To keep my young legs pumping
Along the path I travel.

Why can I not recognize
The difference between me
And my heroes? It is not
In scope or strength that our
Ways depart, but in that
One word, that I am, but
Don’t own. That word that
Seeks, but is rarely spoken.

Girl.  


03 March, 2017

Everyday questions (2)



Why do so many old people live alone?*

I asked this question to four different German friends. Here are their answers:

Friend 1

People want to live independently of others. They regard self-sufficiency as being highly desirable. They do not like to be dependent on the help of others.

Friend 2

Many married couples, especially elderly married couples live very isolated lives. Their children live elsewhere and they only see them a few times a year. They do not have many friends and, with age, they also die. So, when one of the couple dies, the widower or widow finds it very hard to find new friends or make social contact.

Friend 3

Many years ago, it was more popular for multi-generational families to live under one roof. This sort of family life was very strenuous and there was a lot of strife. Now people do not see this type of lifestyle as being in the bit least desirable.

Friend 4

Most children move out of their parent’s home in their late teens or early twenties. They often go and live in other parts of Germany or even other countries. The parents know there is little likelihood they will live in the same place again. So, the parents build a separate life from their children. When they become too old to take care of themselves, they know they will not go to live with their children, but go into a senior citizen home.


* My friends from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan say in their culture, ideally, no elder person whould have to live alone.

25 February, 2017

Everyday questions (1)

A friend from Iran and I are starting up a new blog soon. We are going to answer everyday questions posed by new immigrants to Germany about what they see happening around them and can’t make sense of. Questions they do not understand because either the situation is different in the countries they come from, or they do not know any Germans to ask.

I thought I would post a few of the posts here, since they will be appearing in German in the other blog. 

Why don’t people talk to each other in doctor’s waiting rooms?


The opposite of talking isn't listening. The opposite of talking is waiting. Fran Lebowitz

Time spent in a doctor’s waiting room is usually spent quietly.  When entering the waiting room, you are expected to greet everyone with a brief “Guten Tag” and then quickly find a seat and sit there silently until your name is called. It is time to wait: reading magazines, looking at something on your mobile phone, or just sitting still.

Generally, Germans do not like to show they are suffering from an illness or that they are in pain. So, maybe everyone is silent in the waiting room out of respect to let others suffer in silence.

23 February, 2017

Waiting... the art of preparation or anticipation

My whole life is waiting for the questions to which I have prepared answers.
Tom Stoppard
Life is so busy, isn’t it? We rush from one activity to another. When do we take a quiet breath? The whole idea of waiting, the art of preparation or anticipation, has disappeared from our lives. When and why did this happen?

20 February, 2017

19 February, 2017

"What do I believe to be true?


Friends are writing from around the world: distressed, confused, and saying they are experiencing a continual sense of dread. A dear friend from the States wrote about what it is like to wake up every morning to the "the horror show of Reality TV invading the White House". We are all frantically trying to figure out what is real news and fake news and who offers an infallible source of the former.

It is not enough to consume facts through watching television reports or reading newspaper articles. Germans love to do this. They love the idea of being "informed". Which is not a bad thing to do, but it does not mean that we can base all our opinions and beliefs on things we read. It is not enough to watch on the side-lines. If there is something monumental happening in the world, it is not possible to wait and see. We all must take steps forward and enter into the confusion and chaos.


When the refugees started coming into Germany two years ago, it was quickly evident that we were living in historical times. I, like many million others, were aghast at the plight of the people and yet fearful about what it would mean to let them into our borders. During the first year, there were daily reports about the ongoing events and, overall, many of the reports were positive and hopeful in their tone. They applauded Merkel for her (unfortunately one of the few EU members) humanitarian act of letting the refugees into our borders.

Yet, as you can imagine, many Germans had serious trepidation about these developments. And since both my husband and I are immigrants, many of the conversations we had with friends and colleagues was about this new influx of immigrants. It was a draining time. Trying to convince others that millions of refugees should or could be allowed to come here. Eventually, I began to lose my patience during these conversations. Because they were only intellectual debates. None of the people I was talking to had any personal contact with refugees themselves. They arguments were based on facts from television reports or third-person anecdotal information.

So, I became rather radical in my strategy. If someone started talking along the lines, "we just can't let them all in", I would ask them bluntly how many refugees did they know personally and what were they doing to positively make the lives of these people safe. You can say, I just got fed up with talk. This meant many of my German friends and colleagues relationships became somewhat distant. I was so passionately moved by the plight of the refugees and didn't want to hear from others that it wasn't our problem.



This was not a good development. It created an Us and Others mentality in me. Us being immigrants, new and old. Them or others, Germans and German bureaucracy. Not good. It created a situation where I was living in a bubble. And look what happened during the last American presidential election...

Now, two years on, I have become convinced that the best ways way to partake in conversation in these times is to share our personal stories, as well as reliable as facts. I believe the media, as well as us consumers, should be providing the answers to these two questions:

"What do I believe to be true?" and "What have I experienced concretely that has led me to this belief?".  

Here is one such belief I have developed about the "refugee situation" in Germany.

I believe...

We can allow more refugees into our country and we will survive economically.

Why concretely...

I have lived in Germany for nearly 35 years and we have faced numerous momentous social-political changes during this time. Each and every one of the changes has created a more robust democracy and, overall, we have continued at have a strong economy.

I came to live in German in the baby years of the EU. A time when American and Russia were the only two major political powers contending for influence. The EU became another such power. A second change happened when the Berlin Wall collapsed. We managed to create a unification of state with millions of people whose only commonality was their language and history 50 years old. Another such example of massive change occurred when Germany signed the Kyoto Agreement. The daily practices of individuals and compliance of industries to environmental restrictions have shifted greatly over the years.

Nowadays, I am back to talking to Germans about the refugees living here. I can do it now with more patience and persuasiveness. It is a long-term process and it is good so. It shouldn’t be easy, otherwise it would not be real.

Most of the conversations I have about the "refugee situation" though are directly with those who have come here from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and some of the other seven countries the US President is so interested in banning from his borders. They are lively conversations filled with fascinating perspectives, laughter, heartfelt debate, and often as not, tears. My heart is filled with stories of their lives before war, their experiences coming over here, and their struggles to stay in this country and build of life which is safe.


A place safe from hunger and strife, it is the least we should give them for having lost so much.

17 February, 2017

Travelling the trains


It's been a long dark grey winter. Then a day of beautiful sunshine finds its way up north and follows my travels through the country. What a fantastic experience.

09 February, 2017

The Afterlife


Having been raised as a strict Catholic during the 60s and 70s, my notion of the Afterlife was heaven, hell, and purgatory.

Somewhere during my grade school catechism classes, I had an argument with the Irish priest giving us a lesson on baptism and how only those souls who had been baptized into our church were given the chance to enter heaven. When I asked him if babies who die are allowed into heaven, he said not if they haven’t been baptized. He explained that their (poor innocent (my words)) souls still possessed the stain of original sin. As you can imagine, it was at this point that my young mind began to dismiss belief in the Catholic church and the concept of heaven and hell in the Afterlife.

The one good Christian lesson I did learn was from my grandmother, a staunch Catholic. She told me that every night before she said her prayers, she would count her tender mercies. She would think of three good things she did for others, and three good things others did onto her during the day. This is one of the best exercises in gratitude I have had the joy of practicing. It influences the way I interact with those dear to my heart, as well as those strangers I encounter randomly.

Later, in my late teens, I dabbled in Zen Buddhism. For a decade or so, I attended regular retreats and meditated daily. Along the way, I learnt (a bit) about reincarnation. Not enough to say I understand or believe in it, but certainly enough to see parallels with the thermodynamic rules of entropy and enthalpy.

A friend of mine, who was raised as a Buddhist in Thailand, told me something about karma that I carry close to my heart. She said we are put into this world with three types of karma. The one is filled with challenges from past lives we are meant to overcome. The next is one is lessons we are meant to learn, now, in our current circumstances. And the last, is one we fill to carry us into our future lives. So, each kind deed or word spoken can fill any of the buckets…


Today is the anniversary of my father’s death. On such a day, I tend to think about his Afterlife. Where he is. What he is doing. It is a day, which begins with meditation. I will also go to my favourite cathedral and light a candle for him; in gratitude, for having had him in my life. Yet, I also know he still lives on close to my heart. I believe his spirit will guide me today, as it does every day. Wherever or whatever Afterlife is, I believe it to be interlocked with sorrow and joy I’m experiencing right now.

05 February, 2017

... it's what you see


The days are slowly growing longer
Still, I while away hours reading
Endless news feeds until an internal
Switch short-circuits. Time to turn off
The media hysteria and quietly close
The door behind me and venture out
Into this bright winter day.

29 January, 2017

Disconnect from reality

I've been talking to friends recently about the turbulent times we are experiencing. Universally, they mention how overwhelmed they are with all the developments of these last weeks. We sit there shaking our heads in disbelief.



As most of you probably know, the political landscape of Germany has changed considerably in the last two years with the arrival of over a million (officially) or two (unofficially) refugees and immigrants. Most of them coming from those nine countries on the President's travel ban list.

It is encouraging to know the US judicial system can react as quickly as the government is able to issue new orders.



And it is also equally encouraging that people are ready to show up in protest. These are all important forms of activism.

I believe the way we, as citizens and as political voices, treat the (still) millions of refugees seeking safe harbour is of critical importance to the survival of our cultures.

It is not enough to watch the news or call your congress spokesperson, or march the streets. No, each and everyone of us needs to experience a fundamental change of heart. The plight of these people is our plight. They should not remain faceless or nameless. A change of heart only can happen when you closely know someone or a few someones who are struggling for their lives.

The people I know here in Germany, can be divided up into two groups. Those who approach our "refugee situation" intellectually, and those of us who use our hearts, as well as our brains. Those of us who work and befriend and share the struggles of the refugees and immigrants, are changed people.

We no longer fear or question the validity of their rights to stay here. We are incensed when our politicians resolve to allow refugees into our borders wavers. But, most importantly, those in need have names and faces and they become our friends and family. It is the easiest, most effective, though admittedly modest, way of becoming part of the solution.

21 January, 2017

Let's talk about balance



Today (hopefully) many many people are going to be marching for women's rights in Washington DC and other cities worldwide. Some of my friends are going to be there braving the cold. I wish to send them off with my thoughts and gratitude for their bravery.

I am watching the news live. Something I didn't do yesterday during the inaugural ceremony. The only reporting I read was a post a dear friend wrote about the speech. 

The Upward blog is new, and this is their reason for starting their blog,


"With recent changes to the political landscape, I feel a need to speak up. Even if no one hears me, in the very least I said something. I feel a need to keep my eyes open, to watch what is happening and not turn away. I feel a need to write. Not necessarily about politics per se but about what my watching causes me to think and feel. I need a place to put my angst and anger."

So please give the blog a read.

Always something new to discover...


Even though I have been riding the train between Hamburg and Munich on-and-off for over 25 years, we passed a small lake 30 minutes out of Frankfurt, which I had never seen before. How are there always new places to discover along the way? 

20 January, 2017

Healing powers of music



I have known some wonderful people in my life who have been art therapists and never quite understood what it is they do. They say they use dance, painting, music to help heal their clients, but it seems obscure. This video, "Hitting the right note: the orchestra helping stroke survivors recover", illuminates how music can heal.

The project shown in this video tool place in 2015, but it was nice to read the work has continued.


15 January, 2017

Living out loud



I wrote recently about my wish to partake on a study of the word "wisdom" this year, but what I forgot to do is name this journey. I have gone on such a journey before, so I know it will not be a pleasant meander, but a messy battle.

Viola Davis talks about this messy battle of being an artist so beautifully. During her speech she quotes Emile Zola...

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud."

I realised that "living out loud" is exactly the road I wish to walk this year. So let it begin!

09 January, 2017

Behind your image...


The morning has risen / a lone bird sings outside my living room window / my work week begins / so grateful my calendar is full this month... self-employment is a constant flux between creative fire and sluggish despair / yet / so grateful / how precious / to explore all of the undulating nuanced landscape called life.

08 January, 2017

Promise to myself, my promise to you



The night after the US elections, I promised myself that I would not concern myself with American politics for the next four years. Nevertheless, I want to put this last video in my blog, and then I promise you, my dear and wonderful readers, no more commentary of any sorts about the going-ons in the White House ...

After this post, I will be able to refrain from following obsessively all the twittering and fluttering of the media. This does not mean I will not follow global news: just the other stuff that passes for news from across the ocean.

To this end, I tried to delete my FB account this morning. Only to find out that they only offer the option to "deactivate" my account. I am going to put my son who is a computer scientist and see whether he can't rectify the problem.

07 January, 2017

Wisdom

Years ago, at the beginning of a year I would take one word and plant it in my "heart's garden" to observe and explore the whole year through.


Eight years ago, the word was Trust. This year I decided on Wisdom.

My journey will be intellectual, philosophical, spiritual, and even scientific. It will span readings on the wisdom of crowds to the wise words of the desert mothers and fathers. I will research and study and contemplate and experiment Wisdom the year through.

If you have any suggestions for authors to read or directions my journey could take, please leave a comment.

01 January, 2017

Turning off my autopilot



This new year is going to be one of exploration and adventure... not one of trying to do things better, or becoming more healthy, or undoing past wrongs, or overcoming those constant fears and worries about the future (think Trump)... no, it is going to be about doing things differently... with love and tenderness, with tenacity and boldness.