Tuesday, 30 August 2011


Last year around this time I’d discovered my Dutch nationality was about to turn five years old. There was a party with a cake. This year I am reflecting on my being Dutch again.

Obviously, by acquiring Dutch nationality I didn’t lose all the other national and ethnic characteristics I’d had before. I am never only Dutch or only Russian or only anything else. I am everything I am. All at once. And I cherish this diversity. But becoming Dutch is something I did very consciously. It was something I’d had invested time and efforts in. And unfortunately my being Dutch is the least recognised by the outside world.

Ironically, the more compliments people give me about my being well integrated into the Dutch society, the more they stress I actually do not belong there. Think about it: you never compliment a Dutch person for speaking Dutch very well, do you?

A couple of months ago I have explained a friend of mine what I do as a social media consultant. He was very enthusiastic and sent me a couple of links to social media articles and TV reports he’d come across. My friend is German and the articles were in German. “Thank you for your trust in my ability to understand German” – I told him. “Of course! You are Dutch. All Dutch understand German” – he replied.

Needless to say – I loved the remark! At first it seemed a great compliment to my language skills. Later I realised this was much more than that. This was the first time I felt my Dutch side being truly accepted. Somehow this felt very liberating. Even though this acceptance came from a German. Now isn’t THAT ironic?

Remember this one? Alanis Morissette - Ironic

Sunday, 28 August 2011


“I despise my own past and that of others. I despise resignation, patience, professional heroism and all the obligatory sentiments. I also despise the decorative arts, folklore, advertising, the voice of the radio presenters, aerodynamics, scouting, the smell of gasoline, the actuality and drunken people. I like subversive humour, freckles, knees, long female hair, dreams of young children who are still free, and a young girl that runs over the street. I long for real love, for the impossible and the utopian. I am afraid to discover where exactly my limits are."

The Magritte Museum was on my Brussels programme today. I bought this postcard for my ‘kisses collection’.
RenĂ© Magritte – The Lovers

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Reverse engineering

The last couple of days I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of my ideal man. I can’t name the immediate cause for these thoughts. I’d just stumbled upon them, probably not by pure chance, but still quite unexpected.

I thought of putting all the characteristics of my ideal man on paper to get a portrait of that wonderful creature. I could frame it, put it on my wall and admire him.

But instead of writing down all the positive things I’d love to see in my man, I kept on thinking of everything I don’t want. My head was overflowing with negative features of all my ex partners, male friends and family members, acquaintances and men I’d heard or read about.

Maybe I should write down all the negative stuff and then try to (re)construct my ideal man by applying the opposite? Would ‘reverse engineering’ be a correct term for this?

De-Phazz - Heartfixer

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Spotify Premium anyone?

It dawned on me at a restaurant in Vaduz. Later I realised that the thought that came to me at that moment didn’t reveal anything new. It rather showed something that was already there. Like a rare word the meaning of which you all of sudden appear to know without being able remember how you got that knowledge. Like a dream you didn’t dare to admit you had, because you’d always thought it was silly. Like a desire you didn’t dare to think of because everyone around considers it inappropriate. It sits there until something happens and you are confronted with it with no escape possibilities.

How long did I know this without knowing? Must be quite some time now. The restaurant was just a last drop, the final link in a chain of events. The idea itself felt very natural and logical. I was rather surprised by the fact that it didn’t occur to me before.

It was a relief. I felt light, happy and ready for action. I will do it!!!

I promised to tell you about the revelation I’d had in Liechtenstein and I certainly will keep my promise. But first let’s get you that Spotify Premium subscription!

There’s a poll on the right. Vote in the poll and send me a message (e-mail, FB message, Twitter DM or through my About.me. Comments on FB and this blog will not count!) with the option that you’ve chosen in the poll. Please do it at the same time, so I can track you. Out of people who made the right choice I will randomly choose the winner.

The winner will get one month of Spotify Premium from me! If Spotify isn’t active in your country I can send you a CD of your choice provided it has the equivalent price.

Mind the deadline – September 4, 2011, 23:59 CET.

Good luck! (I’m thrilled!)

Friday, 19 August 2011

If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller or one more victory

“Reading is a discontinuous and fragmentary operation. Or, rather, the object of reading is a punctiform and pulviscular material. In the spreading expanse of the writing, the reader’s attention isolates some minimal segments, juxtapositions of words, metaphors, syntactic nexuses, logical passages, lexical peculiarities that prove to possess an extremely concentrated density of meaning.”

I am not easily scared of heavy reading. I’ve read The Foundation Pit, The Tin Drum and The Elementary Particles with great pleasure. But even I do have my limits.

I was struggling with Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller for two months! First I was hoping the book would get going and carry me away. Then I kept on reading because I promised the friend who recommended it to give it a chance. When that point passed I was persisting in the hope all the unfinished stories would miraculously come together at some point. At two thirds of the book it was clear that was not going to happen. I then started looking for a hidden meaning. At three quarters I understood that whatever meaning there is I will not be able to see or understand it. But then I was so far advanced I decided to finish and add the book to my list. Besides, I was on vacation and didn’t have any other book with me.

Even though I understand Calvino stands for high quality literature, I wouldn’t be able to recommend this book to anybody. And even though I’ve won the fight a couple of days ago, I still feel devastated and do not dare to start reading the next book. I am too afraid to feel simple and illiterate again.

I’m sure I’ll recover eventually. And if you decide to read If On a Winter’s Night a traveller – it’s at your own risk. I warned you!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Ontdekking van de Lidl

“Mam, mogen we dit? Dit is hetzelfde als bij Albert Heijn, maar dan twee keer goedkoper en in een plastic flesje.” Het meisje van een jaar of zestien laat het flesje vruchtensap aan haar moeder zien. Ze is simpel, maar stijlvol gekleed. Ze straalt zakelijkheid uit. De moeder niet.

De moeder is niet zakelijk. Ze is onopvallend, heeft een bezorgde blik en is vooral ergens mee bezig in haar hoofd. Misschien met rekenen of misschien met iets anders. Ze kijkt lang naar het flesje. Langer dan normaal gesproken nodig zou zijn om ‘ja’ of ‘nee’ te besluiten. Ze is niet gewend om haar kinderen een flesje vruchtensap te ontzeggen. “Hoeft niet per se, hoor.” – zegt het meisje bemoedigend, maar nog steeds heel zakelijk.

Haar een paar jaar jongere broertje staat verderop voor een schap met kant-en-klare salades. Hij was met zijn mobieltje iets aan het uitrekenen. Nu haast hij zich naar zijn zus en moeder. Hij is nog een paar meters van hen verwijderd, maar kan uit verbazing en enthousiasme zijn ontdekking niet meer voor zich houden. “Je betaalt hier voor…” – er volgt een uitgebreide prijzenanalyse, uitgerekend per gram. Hij heeft een houding van iemand die op vakantie is in een vreemd land. Je kan dan over de hele winkel heen schreeuwen, toch niemand die je verstaat.

Dat laatste is in deze Lidl naast de Haagse Markt deels ook wel waar. De helft van de bezoekers is de Nederlandse taal niet voldoende machtig om deze mensen te kunnen verstaan. Dus blijft hun niet al te verborgen familiedrama onopgemerkt. Wat doen ze hier? Waarom is de moeder zo bezorgd? Waarom zijn de kinderen zo goed op de hoogte van wat hoeveel in verschillende supermarkten kost? Ik hoop dat het goed komt met ze…

Zo, mijn koelkast is weer gevuld.

Monday, 15 August 2011


Last months have been full of travelling, packing and unpacking. I take care of clothes almost immediately once I’m home, but bags, travel guides and bills from vacations have been laying around unattended up till now. Bit by bit I am trying to clear the space.

Today I came across maps - Cyprus, France, Liechtenstein. I love city maps as much as I love cities. It’s a kind of ritual to ask for a map upon arrival to a new city, to determine the historical sites area, the shopping area, the restaurants area. Then find yourself within.

I unfold one of the maps and look at the web of streets. In my head lines on the map transform in buildings, shop windows and street signs. I even remember where and how I got that map. I remember walking into the tourist office in Victoria on Gozo asking for a city map. I couldn’t hide a smile when I heard the answer: “We do not have city maps. We only have maps of the whole island.” My vacation maps are heavily used, worn out in a couple of days or even hours. This time all of them are free maps that I picked up at hotels, airports or tourist offices. In my opinion, cities that do not have free maps are not civilised enough.

I should throw these maps away. Keeping them is no use. But I can’t let them go. Not yet. They remind me of travelling, of the places I’ve seen, of the times with no worries. I try to think of some creative possibilities to recycle them, to let them stick around for a little longer. Internet suggestions are no use and nothing original comes to mind.

I take the map of Calais and cut it into a large snowflake. Then throw it to the bin together with all the other maps. That was easier than I’d anticipated.

Thursday, 11 August 2011


At some point in my life I’ve started celebrating victories. Every once in a while I take a moment to reflect on things I’ve achieved so far be it my biking skills, my fairly large wardrobe or the amount of different places I visited. It probably has something to do with growing older and learning not to take things for granted be it speaking foreign languages, male attention or living in the Netherlands. You may find it silly, but this reflecting on my achievements works very well for me. It helps me to enjoy my life. To enjoy it more.

Of course not every achievement is a victory. Not every achievement however great feels like a victory. But some do. Like my first enjoyable ride in a rollercoaster or my first flight without an air sickness pill.

This year I’ve achieved one more victory on my birthday. A victory over my acrophobia! I know I’m not there yet and there’s a lot of work to be done. But last Saturday I went to the mountains and walked through the paths as wide as the width of my single foot risking falling off a steep slope. In some places the path consisted of little loose stones moving in every direction as soon as you set your foot on them. There was nothing to cling on to. My heart was beating like crazy and at some points cold sweat covered my whole body.

But I did it! I walked the whole way up and down. And I won!

I was even taking photos! -->

<-- On a not most challenging part of the path.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Things I don’t understand

I don’t understand how people can live in very small countries. The ones you can walk in three days. Or more days, but still. The ones you can walk in a single vacation. How can people live in the countries isolated from the rest of the world by sea or mountains? Physical borders make me nervous. Any border makes me nervous, but physical are the worst.

I don’t understand skiing. Why would you spend loads of money for a flight (or bus), hotel, equipment, ski lift, and whatnot to stay for a week in the middle of nowhere and roll down a steep slope with a danger for your health? Most people I know have broken a bone at least once during skiing, but they still like it. I don’t get it.

I don’t understand how people can do the same job for their entire life. People like farmers. Or owners of those hotels in the mountains. Waking up in the morning and knowing what you are going to do today, every day for the next week, month, year. It’s like being able to see your future which is not different from your present or past. Not for me.

I don’t understand people deliberately isolating themselves somewhere without telephone or internet. It’s not like I am addicted to information, but the thought of not being able to have free access to loads of information makes me nauseous.

I don’t understand people who are afraid to fly or people who do not travel abroad. I cannot comprehend how people can survive with less than three hours of music a day. Or not like peaches. Or dream of a Rolex watch. Or buy one!

I don’t understand so many things! I think I leave it that way.

Cayetano - The secret

Monday, 8 August 2011


Liechtenstein is a little exotic country occupying 160.475 km2 between Switzerland and Austria. Exotic because it’s so tiny. And because it’s an absolute monarchy. That’s basically it.

An average traveller won’t see much difference between Switzerland and Liechtenstein. If you xdoze away for a couple of minutes while on the bus from Sargans to Vaduz, you might miss the sign on the Gadoz bridge. No border controls. Same currency. Same sky rocketing prices. Same language, dialect even. Same mountains. Oh wait! The overwhelmingly ugly modern architecture isn’t quite Swiss.

This country is so tiny and so attached to Switzerland – it’s almost ephemeral. Iwent to the tourist office in Vaduz (the capital village), paid two euro and let them put a stamp in my passport. Now the country is real. And I’ve been there. I celebrated my birthday there. And on my birthday I achieved a new victory (will blog about it later). I also had a revelation (will write about that too in due time). At the same time in the same country I’ve completed one of my goals for this year (visit two new countries, after Cyprus Liechtenstein brought me there).

So for me this country is special. Is it worth visiting? Don’t ask me. Decide for yourself.

I loved this sound!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


Today my mother and I indulged in buying jewellery. I now have five new necklaces in addition to another three or four I bought in July. Because not buying and not wearing jewellery is not an option I have made the following conclusions:
  1. I need a special closet for my jewellery.
  2. I need more occasions to wear the most funky and fancy jewellery I have.
  3. I need more money to buy more jewellery.
  4. I have to admit to collecting jewellery and treat the most exclusive pieces as art rather than objects of daily use.
To implement the number four on the list I am going to frame some of the necklaces and hang them on my walls. The rest will take more time. Suggestions for the fancy jewellery occasions are highly appreciated!

To give you an idea - I bought this in green(ish) today -->

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