Saturday, 1 December 2012

Washing instructions

Washing instructions – who ever reads them? Yes, those outrageously large ugly tags attached to your clothes that make you itch and ruin the look. And when you remove them they still make you itch. Unless you cut them off with a piece of fabric. I never read what´s on there. Instead I cut them off and wash all my clothes at 30 degrees and hang to dry. If something looks too fragile and is too dear to my heart I wash it by hand.

Tonight while my baby was asleep I wasn´t. How ironic. I went upstairs to distract myself. The washing machine had just finished a 60 degrees programme with a load of baby stuff. That all went straight into the drying machine. After that I loaded the washing machine with more laundry, removed some dry laundry from the line, played with the cat, and did some more useful stuff. Then I sat at my desk and saw the washing instructions tag from my nursing bra. The bra had done the 60 degrees round together with the baby things and was now almost dry in the dryer.

´Hand wash only´ the tag said. You must be kidding.
´Do not dry clean´. LOL!
´Wash with similar colours.´ So with what colours do you wash a thing that´s light blue with white and pink?
‘Wash inside out.’ ‘Dry flat’. ‘Do not tumble dry’. Ow...

I think I’d better go to bed now. And see what comes out of the dryer in the morning.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Please do yourself a favour

It’s that time of the year (month) again: people post those long status updates about the ‘recent changes to privacy settings on Facebook’. Usually these updates are indeed about some recent changes and sometimes they do contain some useful information. This current flow however makes absolutely no sense to me. First of all, because the changes are at least one year old (they were the inspiration for this post). Second, because they have nothing to do with the reality. I don’t want to rant here, but rather share my knowledge of the subject as I do not find it difficult at all and thus maybe can help other people to find their way to a more ‘private’ Facebook existence.

"Because of some changes that Facebook made, everybody can see our activities on your and my wall." Wrong! You have the control of who can see what on your wall.

"It happens when a Facebook friend of you or me likes or comments on our posts. Automatically all his/her friends will see the post, likes and comments." Again, whether or not friends of friends can see that depends on your own settings.

"I can’t change this settings due to restrictions of Facebook." Honestly, I don’t know what restrictions people are talking about. But you CAN actually change the settings. For that go to your Privacy Settings and choose Custom. Then Edit settings for each option available. If you do not want friends of friends to see your posts, you simply do not choose that option. You can restrict your posts to your friends, a custom made subgroup (an extremely useful feature imho) or to yourself only. You can even exclude certain people from seeing what everyone else is allowed to see. Oh, and don’t forget to uncheck the box Allow subscribers under Account settings. How much further do you want to go?

"But you can do this for me.
- Put your mouse on my name in this post (don’t click when you do that).
- Then put your mouse on Friends (don’t click).
- Go to Settings and click.
- Go to Comments and Likes and click to unmark it."

That people certainly can and should do, but this won’t help you much. This way they only control what they see from you in their Ticker (which they can hide altogether) and their News Feed. It will not help you to become less visible to their friends if your posts are open to Friends of Friends (or the Public). Besides, most of your Facebook friends will probably either miss your status update with this request or be too busy or lazy to actually do all this. But don’t let this stop YOU from doing all of the above because you will have a cleaner and more relevant News Feed as a result.

“When you do this my posts and activities will stay among my Facebook friends and won’t be public to anyone else.” Well, wrong, see all of the above.

There are many ways to make your Facebook account fit your needs in terms of privacy and it’s impossible to describe them all in one post. But please feel free to ask, I’ll be happy to answer any specific questions.

Just one more remark: when we worry about our privacy let’s not forget that Facebook is made for sharing, not for hiding. Use other means for passing your very private messages. Snail mail still works too.

A recent find: Souad Massi - Raoui

Friday, 24 August 2012

New neighbourhood

Now that the boxes are unpacked, and most things have found their place in our new home I finally start paying attention to the neighbourhood. It’s different from where I lived before. It’s a small sleepy village (though in the middle of The Hague). There are signs ‘Attention! Neighbourhood Watch’, but I haven’t been lucky to see them yet. I also wonder what there is to watch. There’s hardly ever anyone on the street and you can leave your bike unlocked in front of your door for days.

The neighbours do not dry colourful saris and head scarves on their balconies. On warm sunny evenings the smells from outside are mainly those of barbeques rather than a mix of Turkish, Antillean and Surinamese spices. And instead of Turkish, Papiamento, Punjab and Hindi neighbours mainly use Dutch, English, German, Spanish or something Asian.

Even though we live very close to the sea, there are no seagulls. In case you didn’t know: seagulls are not interested in fish. They are interested in garbage packed in black plastic bags that they open in search of food spreading the rest of the trash all over the street. People here produce enough trash to fill large green garbage containers. Thus no plastic bags, no seagulls and no street litter.

Yesterday we found an envelope on our doormat. It was plain white with ‘Invitation’ handwritten on it. Wow an invitation! Curious we opened the envelope. It was an invitation from the local... Tree Committee. Yes, the Tree Committee. And we are invited to their second anniversary celebration that will be held at a little square next to our house. What a thrill!

After reading the programme I thought I was losing connection with the reality. During the celebration you can admire the world of wearables made of tree leaves (if I am to believe the picture); discover the secrets of a tree (any tree hugging and talking involved?) and get your... eh... tree climbing diploma from Steven Ibelings, the Dutch tree climbing champion! I read the programme three times to make sure it’s real and not made up by my hormones.

A very different neighbourhood, indeed. Shall I go for the tree climbing diploma?

Sunday, 29 July 2012


As you can see from the cold deadly silence on this blog there are forces that can keep me from blogging. Apparently apartments move during pregnancy is a very bad combination. Add some extra (administrative) procedures due to childbirth and the visit of my parents and voilà – no time or energy for a blog. Things that bother me most at the moment (in that particular order):
  1. Hormones. 
  2. Heartburn. 
  3. Regularly failing internet connection. 
  4. Hormones. 
  5. Never ending moving boxes. 
  6. Heartburn. 
  7. Lack of space. 
  8. Hormones. 
  9. Total lack of concentration. 
  10. Heartburn. 
  11. Too many stairs inside the house. 
  12. Hormones. 
  13. Stress from pressing administrative procedures. 
  14. Heartburn. 
  15. Hormones.
And the nesting instinct hasn’t even kicked in yet! On the bright side: I can still tie my laces and take care of my toe nails. 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Congratulations! You earned a new title.

Thanks to all who took part in the guessing circus. Starting from last Monday there’s no guessing anymore – it’ll be a girl. Definitely not a cat which is good because for now I think one cat is enough.

If you voted for a girl (11 votes) you can now officially put ‘psychic’ behind your name on your business cards.

If you voted for a boy (7 votes), a cat (4 votes) or The Tree of Life (3 votes) you can still pretend you voted for a girl. No one can check. And then you can put ‘psychic’ behind your name on your business cards.

If you didn’t vote at all you can still pretend you voted for a girl. See above.

Have fun designing your new business cards.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Wrong message

Ladies, keep your men at home! Instead of letting them go to Ukraine for the Euro 2012 and meet half-naked Ukrainian girls give them a draught beer dispenser. The one you can get for free if you let the Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij supply your home with electricity.

That was the message that the NLE was trying to send with their TV-commercials. And this message caused a slight diplomatic unrest between Ukraine and the Netherlands. According to the Ukrainian authorities this is offensive to Ukrainians and sends out the wrong message to people in the Netherlands.

I tried to Google images of ´Ukrainian women´. Julia Timoshenko appears on the top. Yes, that´s what NLE should have talked about. A political prisoner who allegedly was beaten up by the prison guards. That sends the right message.

Or the measles outbreak in Ukraine and the increased risk of contracting measles during the European Football Championships 2012. So do get a vaccine. And while you´re at it also do get vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio.

Maybe mentioning the outrageous hotel prices would be less offensive. And the lack of budget airlines. And the fact that you will be charged tree times the price for everything if you don´t speak spotless Ukrainian or Russian.

Oh wait, Ukrainian women are not an issue anymore and the diplomats have something else on their hands: explosions in Dnepropetrovsk. Officially nothing is known about the organisers of the explosions, but the rumours say these maybe protests against the Timoshenko case. The circle is round.

Ukraine is ready for the Euro 2012 and you are welcome. Or sign a contract with the NLEnergie and get your beer dispenser.

PS on a bright note: you didn't forget to guess, did you?

Monday, 23 April 2012


The great guessing circus has started now that everyone knows I am pregnant. Asking about the gender of the future baby is a winner, but trying to predict the gender is a good second.
“Are you nauseous? It’s a girl.”
“Do you crave savoury foods? It must be a boy.”
“Your belly is not pointy. It’s definitely a girl.”
“You look too beautiful to carry a girl. You’ll get a boy.”
“Do you think it’s a girl? Then probably it’s a girl.”
“Are you convinced it’s a girl? Then it should be a boy.”
“Low blood pressure? Girl.”
“Constipation? Boy.”

 Even though it all sounds like a load of, you know, nonsense people seem to enjoy guessing. Assuming you might like that too I set up a poll (on the right side of this blog) in which you can try your prediction skills. You can do so till May 7th. Then I expect to know the gender of the baby (if all goes well) and will publish the results. If you feel you need more information to make an educated guess, feel free to ask questions in the comments section, by e-mail, phone, in person, on Facebook or Twitter. Ready, steady, go!

 PS According to my analysis it’s a girl. The father refrains from commentary.

Melanie – Brand New Key

Monday, 16 April 2012

English accent

Somehow at some point in time I must have passed through a secret magic door. Or maybe I ate something magic. Maybe my aura has changed since I’m pregnant. But something definitely happened and now all new people I meet assume I don’t speak Dutch.

My phone rings.
“Met Alexandra Mirskikh.”
“Goedemiddag, U spreekt met M. van de Jansen Makelaars.”
“Oh, I am sorry, I will speak English!”
“Oh, u spreekt wel Nederlands?”
“Oh, Ik hoor ZO’N Engels accent! Vandaar.”
Moi? English accent?

People address me in English even if they met me before and had a whole conversation with me in Dutch. Apparently I don’t sound convincing. The biggest problem is not even that people speak English to me. The problem is that they are all Dutch and their English is, well... Dunglish. I constantly need to translate that back to Dutch to understand what they actually mean.

A couple of weeks ago we were visiting a house we’d like to rent. We had a very nice chat with the two young property agents, twenty minutes all in Dutch. After we expressed our interest, they told us we had to sign a document confirming our intention to rent. They’d send us the form that we could fill in and return. Fine. Two hours later I find the document in my e-mail. In English, of course.

“Hereinafter to be referred to as ‘lessee’, that he/she is in expectation of the written agreement based on the model ROZ incl. terms and conditions, by signing this acceptance form has accepted to, per 01/05/2012 renting the following residence...” Help! I need extra English classes. I let Google Translate turn it to Dutch and it made perfect sense. BTW, the one who was to be referred to as 'lessee' was called 'tenant' all through the rest of the document.

The form went on describing the conditions of the rent. I was almost ready to sign when I saw this: “Extra terms: crane in toilet will be installed.” Oh no! Please! I don’t want a crane in my toilet! A faucet will do just fine.

I had an appointment this morning and even before I could greet the person I was meeting she asked: “Do you speak Dutch?” Oh please, despite that detached expression on my face I am not that foreign. I’m just pregnant.

I was losing all trust in my Dutchiness when I walked into the local pharmacy this afternoon. It was very busy. There was one Turkish man, one Moroccan, a Turkish woman with a fat child, an Indian lady, a Polish guy, two Surinamese girls and some Asian boy (could not place him). I killed the waiting time by trying to guess where the woman behind the counter got her weird accent. There, in that pharmacy everyone assumes that everybody can speak Dutch. And it all works out just fine. Very reassuring.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


Last Monday I brought my cat to the vet clinic for castration. Yeah cruel, sad and stuff. But I think it would be best for all of us (my cat included) if he is castrated. The animal was meowing in his cage. He looked scared and stressed, but I held strong. I handed the cage over to the nice lady who told me I could pick him up after noon.

I left trying to mind my own business and not think of how unhappy my cat was over there. I felt sorry for him, but at the same time I felt I was doing a very good job caring for my animal. I also ordered them to take care of his ears and to cut his nails. I felt quite content. One hour later the clinic called.
“You brought your cat for castration this morning.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Well, we cannot castrate him, because he has no testicles.”

I guess I still need to learn some things about cats.

Devendra Banhart - Santa Maria de la Feira

Friday, 30 March 2012

What’s wrong with men

Today I put on a dress. I sometimes do that. It’s blue, almost knee long. The colour suits me well and it has a rather fancy cut, but nothing to get excited about. That’s what I thought. And I was right, nobody got excited about the dress. But as soon as I stepped on the bike and the dress revealed a bit more of my legs... I first got noticing glances from some neighbourhood boys who otherwise seem to be unaware of my existence. Then a mailman whistled as I passed by.
“Hot!” – a dude at the bus stop.
“Hey babe!” – a construction worker.
“Schatje!” – a regular Turk.
“Cutie!” – garbage collectors.
“Wow!” – a truck driver.

I was looking forward to finally reaching the station, getting off the bike and shaking off all this attention. Suddenly some blond, unshaven twenty-something youth on a bike started circling around me. He was looking at my legs, winking and saying something. Luckily the music coming out of my earphones prevented me from hearing any of that. I sighed. “What do you want me to do - breastfeed you?” – I thought.

What’s wrong with all those men?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


It must have been 1982. I was eight years old, in the second grade at school. We just got a new after school teacher, a young guy. He was relaxed, but perfectly capable of managing a group of busy kids as we were. And he had a bag. An Adidas bag. It was dark blue with a small flower in the upper right corner.

It’s difficult to imagine now, but there were very few Western brands in the Soviet Union back in 1982. I think I can name all Western brands I knew by the time I was 8 years all. Pepsi (available in Kiev and Moscow, but not in many places outside). Fanta (available only in Moscow. I was one of the very few kids in my school who’d ever tasted it then). Lancôme (my mother had some Lancôme cosmetics, no idea where she got them from). Marlboro (again, my mother had a pullover with Marlboro written on it. I had no idea it had anything to do with cigarettes). Wrangler (mother’s jeans). Opium (perfume by Yves Saint Laurent. I still get nauseous when I smell it. Luckily, my mother didn’t wear it). That’s it. Of course many more brands had found their way through the iron curtain through foreign visitors and occasional Soviet travellers abroad. But most of the brands I mentioned had gotten themselves a contract with Soviet authorities and were importing their products on a large scale.

So sometimes around 1982 someone at Adidas managed to do things ‘right’. And without advertising or even being widely available in the shops Adidas got their brand as far as into the minds of 8-year olds.
“Wow, that’s Adidas!” – one of the kids said when the new teacher put his bag on his desk. We were all proud to be aware of the latest trends and know brand names. Those who didn’t know, wisely kept silent. “Yes” – the teacher smiled obviously pleased by the instant raise of status his bag gave him.

Since last Saturday I have my very own pair of Adidas shoes. They are white-and-red and have the modern triangle logo. It’s my first pair ever and they brought upon a wave of memories and emotions. I do miss the flower, though.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Two birds with one stone

When I came to the Netherlands I learned, among many other things, two new concepts: recycling and charity. The first one was not completely new to me. In the Soviet Union we used to collect old paper for recycling to get book points. Those points allowed us to buy a collection of works by Jack London or Alexandre Dumas that were not available in the shops without the points. These books can still be found in nearly every home. I think recycling is a very good idea and I was determined to adopt that right from the start. However, incorporating recycling routine in my household still needs some fine-tuning. I collect paper in paper bags, but half of the time I forget to put it out on the street on the paper collecting day. Then I end up throwing the paper with the general garbage because there’s no space in my shed anymore. The same is about to happen with glass bottles and jars because the glass container has been replaced from around the corner to some other place. Well, I am working on it.

The other new concept was charity. I remember one time at school when we collected school notebooks and pencils for children in some African country. I was eight years old. And I can’t recall any other act of charity since then. Obviously, in post-Soviet Ukraine people were not very charitable. But in the Netherlands nearly everybody I know supports some charity. People donate blood, buy newspapers from the homeless or transfer money to help people in disaster areas. This concept took longer to understand. Finally I reached that level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when charity gets easier to grasp. And then I was determined to resist social pressure and give to charity only when I genuinely feel like helping. Which not surprisingly did not lead to generous contributions to charity from my side.

And suddenly this priceless opportunity presented itself. Mothers for Mothers collect hCG rich urine of pregnant women to turn that into medicines that help increase fertility. For more than a month I will be collecting my urine in blue containers thus killing two birds with one stone. I recycle my urine (isn’t that brilliant?!) and help other women to get pregnant – how much more charitable can one get?

I think I’ll dump all that paper in my regular garbage container and sleep with a clear conscience till the end of the year.

Can’t stop listening to this song: Sie7e - Te Regalo una Promesa

Sunday, 11 March 2012


My friends were running the City-Pier-City marathon today and I went to say ‘Hello’ and to support. It was the first time I actually came to mingle with participants and supporters instead of bumping into them downtown and think to myself how crazy those people were.

I don’t run. I don’t understand why people would want to run. There are so many other ways to keep up your condition. Whereas running just seems totally pointless. Much more pointless than football even. Just think of it: these people go outside in any kind of weather (some even try to do that at -9 degrees Celsius) and run rounds in a park or somewhere. It’s not a way to reach a destination where they have some business or other. They are not chasing and catching anyone or anything. They just watch the time and are happy to reach a result that doesn’t lead to anything really. Whatever.

But today I stood along the course, very near the finish, and watched the people coming in after a run of ten or twenty kilometres. The sole fact that those people actually ran the whole distance and made it to the finish was striking to me. They were covered in sweat, breathing heavily and some hardly able to move their feet anymore. And still, despite all that, despite their red faces and wild eyes they had the energy to toss their hair and lift their arms to look good on the finish photos.


I spotted The Spiderman at the finish of the 10km run.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Te huur/te koop voor een overdreven hoge prijs aangeboden een belachelijk krap appartement met twee hokken die slaapkamers moeten voorstellen.

Entree vanaf een stoffige drukke straat, smalle gang waar geen twee personen elkaar kunnen passeren, kast met wasmachine (tevens toilet), donkere naar sigarettenrook stinkende woon/eetkamer met openslaande deuren naar een van alle kanten dichtgemetseld binnenplaatje, zwaar gedateerde keuken met wat inbouwapparatuur die zeker aan vervanging toe is, eerste privacyloze slaapkamer doorlopend naar de tweede slaapkamer (even privacyloos en wegens afmetingen bijzonder onpraktisch), een afschuwelijk gedecoreerde badkamer met nutteloze dubbele wastafel, een krap bad en geen douche.

De makelaar die als eerste een soortgelijke tekst op Funda of Pararius plaatst, krijgt van mij een fles wijn. En ik kom zeker bezichtigen!

Julia Stone - This Love

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


The tree is gone! Yes, THE tree! My neighbours have finally gotten rid of the big evil oak that stole all the sun from my South facing garden.

For the past three summers I was fighting to get things growing in my garden. All I had was a little mint, loads of weeds and a little field of wild strawberries. The latter require no direct light. Few days ago some men came and took the oak down branch by branch. No shadow anymore. No falling leaves. No acorns. No doves. Welcome sunshine!

Oh yes I have plans for the garden. At last there will be a grass field. I will plant clematis, passionflowers, sweet peas and wisterias. There will be lilies of the valley, tulips, calendula, bluebells, asters, forget-me-nots, primrose, hyacinth, anemone, pansies, snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, gladioli, camomile, daisies, mallows, marigold, morning glory, sunflowers, violets, lilies and lavender. I will grow dill, radish, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, squash, basil, rosemary, oregano, tarragon, parsley, pumpkin, peppers, artichoke, leek, lettuce and physalis. And of course no garden without melons, blueberries, watermelons, strawberries, raspberries, red currant and seven sorts of mint.

Can we skip March this year? Please?

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Social pressure

It’s evil. It messes with your mind. It does with mine. And it makes me do things that I certainly don’t want to do. And I thought I was all so smart and independent!

You see, I wash my hands when they are dirty. When I say ‘dirty’ I mean I fell off my bike and landed on my hands in a puddle of muddy rainwater. My hands are dirty after I ate a large portion of French fries with mayonnaise and onions using my hands only. They can be dirty after I worked in the garden or cleaned up my cat’s vomit. You know – dirty.

It so happens that I live in a sterile country. Nothing is ever dirty here. So I don’t wash my fruits and vegetables. And I don’t wash my hands after each visit to the toilet. Washing hands when they are not dirty just doesn’t make sense to me. Please don’t try to convince me it does. Because that doesn’t make sense either. Besides, in the winter my hands become dry and painful if I wash them too often.

So far my opinion on hands washing. So far my independent behaviour following that opinion. Because as soon as I find myself in a public toilet and there are people who can actually see me not washing my hands... Guess what I do? Dirty or not, I wash my hands. Because everybody washes their hands. And I am afraid that they will condemn me for being filthy and unhealthy.

And now I wonder: how different would my life be if there was no social pressure at all? And how many people wash their hands because they think I will condemn them? 

Friday, 3 February 2012


At eight in the morning, before leaving to work, I look in the mirror. “Not bad! Not bad at all!” That’s what I think then. It doesn’t happen every day, but yesterday morning I thought just that: “Not bad!” My face has a healthy colour, no spots, the hair emphasizes the oval of my face, eyes bright. This makes for a good, relaxed start of the day.

I travel, work, live my day with this relaxed self-confidence. Of course I see myself in the mirror during the day, but just briefly, passing by. At four in the afternoon I take a longer look at myself. “OMG!” That’s what I think then. My skin looks pale, I have bags under my eyes, the hair hangs down helplessly and my eyes mumble something like ‘tired’. This makes for a long, exhausting way home and an uninspiring evening.

How can such a metamorphosis happen in just eight hours?

Agnes Obel - Falling, Catching

Sunday, 29 January 2012

What really happened

All right! I bet you are extremely curious about what happened to the dead naked man in the forest. ;)

That’s what you asked:
Did he die there? Yes.
Gibt es einen nahegelegenen Lagerfeuer? Nein.
Bären leben in den Wäldern? Nein.
Is it a new Wallander movie? No.
Does it involve an emergency situation? Yes.
Smoking is a health hazard? No.
Does it involve more matches? No.
Does it involve No.
Did he die of a heart failure? No.
Did he choke on a piece of meat that he tried to remove with a matchstick? No.
Did he try to involve a bunch of boy scouts into getting naked and making woodfires? No.
Does it involve drawing straws? Yes!
Did he lose his floss and used a matchstick instead? No.
Did he get naked before flossing his teeth? If we assume he ever flossed his teeth, then yes.

And here’s what happened:
Two men were flying in a hot air balloon. They were flying over a forest when the balloon started to descend. They got rid of the sand bags. The balloon went up for a while, but started to descend again. They got rid of their clothes. That helped a bit, but the balloon started to descend again still before they reached the edge of the forest. One of them had to jump to allow the other one to reach the edge of the forest and land safely. They broke a match to draw straws and to determine who had to jump. One of them ended up with the short piece of the match and jumped off the balloon. He brushed against some big tree branches and finally hit the ground and died. He still had the broken match in his hand.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

What happened?

We played this game in my German lesson tonight and I liked it a lot:

A dead man lies naked in the forest. In his hand he holds a broken match. What happened?

To find out you may ask me questions that I can answer with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Shoot!

Rodrigo y Gabriela - Tamacun

Monday, 23 January 2012


It’s that time of the year again: women are on the hunt. And it’s not men they’re after. It’s SALES. It’s almost over, so discounts can be up to 75%. The choice of good stuff is considerably down, but that’s exactly what creates perfect hunting conditions.

There are two types of hunting: hunting for that perfect whatever for whatever occasion (dress for a friend’s wedding, suit for a job interview, shoes to complete an outfit for Christmas, etc.) or hunting for whatever at a low price. The first one usually takes place outside of sales season to increase chances of finding that right thing. Besides, occasions usually do not coincide with sales. The second is all about sales. Typically, neither of them results in buying things that are objectively necessary.

Last Saturday, between a visit to an art fair and a theatre play in Amsterdam, I engaged in the second type of hunting. I browsed through clothes on racks, shelves and in baskets. I fought my way through the sea of other huntresses. I occupied fitting rooms. I skipped through the shops in a dress with my jeans halfway down my legs. I spent money. I found two dresses, a pair of trousers and a vest.

No more shopping till May! Watch me.

Saturday, 21 January 2012


Today I visited the Realisme Art Fair in Amsterdam. These meerkats (€60 a piece also available in red, white, orange, black and gold) were the most realistic piece of art.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


On my last day in Abu Dhabi I decided to do what all the other women in our group did during the week – get a beauty treatment. Everybody got at least two treatments and I felt left behind. This was my last chance to be a woman. I took it.

At first I made an appointment for a manicure and a pedicure. Nice. Safe. Boring. But hey, I was getting a treatment at a spa! A lady led me to a nail care room. I don’t know what’d gotten into me, but suddenly I heard myself ask “Is it possible to have a Brazilian wax too?” Well, I said it, she heard it, I couldn’t take it back. “Yes, we will do that after the pedicure.”

Well, the manicure and pedicure part was not anyhow remarkable. But it’s the Brazilian wax that ultimately confirmed my femininity. I was lying there, my pants off and two Philippine women – the hair busters – were closely studying my... well... you know, the thing that needs a Brazilian wax.

Hell it hurt! That apart from being a totally weird experience in the first place. At some point it was hurting so much, I said: “Please remove only the hair, not the whole thing!” “Yes, madam.” The women remained concentrated on the subject.  

“Next time it will not hurt so much” - they promised after they were done. I felt very clean and somehow even light, but I am not sure there will be a next time.

Here’s somebody else’s experiences on the same thing, but then better written. Men! I wish you knew the true price of pretty.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

What’s underneath?

Emirati women wear abaya and some of them also wear a niqab. That transforms them into totally mysterious creatures and makes tourists wonder: how do they move, how do they eat and, the most important question – what’s underneath.

How do they move? Slowly. Either their abaya prevents them from moving fast or they simply don’t ever have to rush. That I don’t know.

How do they eat if they wear a niqab? They either lift it up or take it off during the meal. Judging by the stains they do occasionally spill food.

What do they wear underneath? I was closely watching local women in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain for two weeks to figure that out. Here we go: sneakers and jeans, very tight jeans and very high heels, very high heels and skirts that are not very long, long sleeved tops, very long richly decorated dresses, most often without sleeves. They prefer carrying fancy handbags which is understandable since that’s one of the very few ways to distinguish themselves.

Obviously, I was not watching only women. The question ‘what’s underneath’ applies to men too because most of them wear a thawb (or kandura). It’s white and reveals a plain while t-shirt underneath. Sandals on their feet. But between the t-shirt and the sandals... That remains a mistery.

Elie Attieh - Khidni Habibi

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Just as Abu Dhabi, Dubai doesn’t have many historical sights to offer. Instead the Sheikh (was it Maktoum?) is trying to make history now. Tall hotels, office towers and the conductorless metro (sometimes more expensive than a taxi) – that is all stunning. But hey, how’s that different from other wealthy metropolis?

The competition is tough, but Dubai is still winning it by having the tallest building in the world – Burj Khalifa. You can live there, have your office there or simply go to (almost) the top for the sake of being able to say that you stood on top of the tallest building in the world. For financial reasons I chose for the latter. Burj Khalifa is breathtakingly beautiful. It makes you speechless. It makes your heart beat faster. It gives you a lump in your throat. Of course this all happens to you provided you’re passionate about modern cities and things big. If you are a nature lover and like silence you should avoid Dubai at all costs.

The other thing Dubai invented to keep people in the city for days are shopping malls. There are several huge shopping malls in Dubai, but two of them really stand out. Emirates Mall has a large ski slope. Inside. Tourists watch skiers from the mall windows and make pictures. Then they shop in the mall for hours. Dubai Mall has a waterfall fountain, large ice skating ring and a huge aquarium. Inside. Tourists watch sharks swim past. Then they shop for hours. If you are not a shopping freak, you might want to visit the Dubai Mall anyway. Its interior design and logistics are fascinating.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is a city with around one million inhabitants. Most of which are foreigners. Most. 80% or even more. Emirati nationals are a rare attraction in Abu Dhabi. To see them one must go to the Marina Mall (the most fancy shopping mall in Abu Dhabi with ski slope and all) or to the Al Ain Zoo. I am not kidding, zoo is the best venue to see locals.

Emirati nationals are fluent in English. That’s because they need it to communicate with shops personnel, taxi drivers and other service providers. Although an Emirati taking a taxi is quite rare. They all have cars, usually SUVs. Parking is free everywhere and a litre of gasoline costs €0,4 max.

Main sights in Abu Dhabi are skyscrapers, hotels and shopping malls. That’s because only fifty years ago Abu Dhabi looked like this:

And now it looks like this:

One of the music videos we were actually able to comprehend: Sandy - Ayza A'olak

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