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.

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