Into the tramway came a little singing girl on a stroller pushed by her mother who got a seat next to me.

Twinkle, twinkle little star echoed in the wagon full of sullen people on their way home from work.

The little girl, Mariam, looked up on an ad posted above her head; I can see a hand mom, she said, a thumbs up!

Her mother laughed. Isn’t it strange she asked, a hand hovering just like that in the air, does it exist? Mariam giggled.

We had to get off the tram and change to a bus. Again we stood next to each other, I and the mother, a young woman with a black braid tucked under a dark red cap.

She’s in a good mood, I commented. Oh yes, the mother answered, children are just amazing. We need that kind of energy I said, and the hope…With all the wars going on around us, replied the mother, we definitively do! We are lucky to live here and to be able to offer everything we can to our children, she added.

We got off at the same stop. We greeted each other and walked off to different directions.

People can be cruel and corrupt. But sometimes life beams at you with an unspoilt smile, like that of a little singing girl.

There is no space in this world for the tug of blown up egos; the world belongs to Mariam and it’s time she got it back.

I bought orange-yellow tulips in Amsterdam this weekend in the memory of a very dear person who left this world a year ago.

Tulips

Petals in the  colours of the last bouquet of flowers. A new tradition and a symbol of precocious spring.

 

 

Thanks to a friend, last weekend became a getaway to the nearby and vibrant Antwerp. I had visited this city on several occasions in the past, but without developing any particular affection for it. This time was different:  a mini exploratory  city-trip  with the mission of trying out suggested addresses and accidental discoveries. Results documented…

@The Coco-Mat Residence on De Keyserlei 11. A Coco-Mat store at the ground floor. An apartment hotel with eco-friendly furnishing in the same building. Two bedrooms equipped with sturdy Coco-Mat mattresses. Comfortable, spacious and just two minutes away from the Central Station on foot.

CocomatResidence

@ La Tartine on Minderbroedersrui 60 for late lunch; if you fancy bread, this is definitively an alright place with nice atmosphere; the soup of the day was not a bad choice either.

tartine

 

antwerp

schelde

The Schelde for semi-industrial views and romance in the air. The small streets of the historical centre for architectural eye-candy and calm charm.

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@ The beautiful Bourla Theater at the Komedieplaats for coffee, lounging and ceiling spotting.

komedieplein

@ Vitrin Cafe on the hot Marnixplatz in Het Zuid for an aperitif. Definitively not the only option though: once on the square you have a 360 degree angle of choice.

cafe vitrine

@Caramba on  Kaasrui 8 for Mexican food. Not overly impressed by the Tex-Mex as such, but definitively enjoyed the appealing interior, despite our drafty window seat. Caramba

Another big advantage was the cocktail bar Dogma on Wijngaardstraat 5, practically just across the street, despite the name-change. I had a great time not drinking but watching the barmen, in 30’s style clothing, making elegant cocktail after elegant cocktail. Meditative.

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@La Popote for late breakfast: heartfelt food, French chansons and a joyful mélange of vintage paraphernalia. We must have spent at least a couple of hours in this small bistrot  tucked away behind the Central Station on the Kievitplein and Van Immerseelstraat 7.

La Popote

 

 

 

I must admit that I have been at a lost for words lately; the manifestations of human stupidity do not cease to disappoint me.

Yet, I firmly believe that when you get together with the right people, miracles can happen. And there are a lot of really good people out there that never make it to the news. I am lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of them. The Spanish put it quite well: mejor solo que mal acompanado, being on your own is preferable to bad company.

Saturday evening I was in a constellation of friends; the first get-together of the new year was definitively time well spent. We talked and talked and munched and munched. We had glass after glass of tea, until it was past midnight and we had cookie crumbs in our eyes.

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Sunday was alone time, a day of recuperation and preparation for the week ahead. I ate leftovers for breakfast; put away washed dishes; read; worked on the sofa with hot tea on the table and dates at an arm’s length; took pictures of cute soap bars.img_6827

Nothing is more spectacular and exciting than everyday life.

Imagine.

You have spent months in silent contemplation in a warm and dark place. Suddenly an undefined force expels you out to somewhere you did not know existed.

You are blinded by the brightness around you. Slowly you start making out shadows. Some shadows stay still. Others move around. Some come very close to you.

These huge shadows have strange powers. They hold you, turn you around,  lift you and carry you as if you were light as a feather.  The first time a shadow engulfs you in their embrace, butterflies flutter wildly in your  stomach.

The huge shadows make sounds, not like the soft sounds you are used to, but new, loud ones. The shadows seem to be addressing these sounds to you, but alas, as much as you’d like to, you cannot understand a thing.

You feel endlessly tired and hungry – sleep and comfort food is all your little heart desires.

Every time you open your mouth to say that you are sleepy, hungry or tired of lying in the same position, out comes an acute complaining cry that makes you grasp for your breath. Sometimes the cry gets out of control and escalates into wailing. You want to stop it, but it lives a life of its own.

littlefeet

The huge, moving shadows are very attentive to you when your mouth makes noise. They get agitated and immediately try to accommodate you.

Often they resort in feeding you; food is always the same, but it tastes delicious. There is a special shadow responsible for food. A kind, soft, nicely smelling shadow.

Days and nights are a blur. Everything is so different, but slowly things start to make sense. You forget that warm and dark place that once was your universe. Out of nothing, a new and strange world is taking shape.

Imagine. Only a few breaths  make up your past. You are pristine and unspoiled like merchandise that has just come out of its wrapping. Untagged and Unlabeled.

A sweet child of mankind.

The floor is cold. My fingers and nose-tip too. There is steam coming out of my mouth as I breath out. This place is cold and I am sitting under a duvet on the couch, having just capitulated to the heater.

cocoaplunge

It’s crazy how fast two weeks have passed. Me don’t like.  I have tried the prep, as in grocery shopping and vegetable soup simmering on the stove, and the pep of a big hot chocolate, but both have failed to make me feel more  enthusiastic.

Tomorrow is still Monday. Knowing how resilient I am to the late Sunday blues, this is a statement.

 

2014. A year of studying, traveling, connecting with new people and reconnecting with  old friends. From Swedish winter to the ruthless summer of  India. From India to Belgium in full spring bloom.

wallpainting

canal

Then after a scorching hot Swedish summer, back to office life and Belgian autumn.

bikersperspective

vallvikblom

Some traveling in Germanic Europe….

reflectiononriver

…and ending the year where it started, in the North. Not as close to a Finnish sauna as I  would have liked, but next to people that warm my heart.

iltarauha

santaclaus soderala

I  lost a person whom I held very dear, but somehow I am happy he does not get to see the state the world is in at this moment.

I am thankful for so much, but I can’t help feeling a bit cynical at another level. All the new year celebrations and the bling-bling. The fireworks and the firecrackers. Versus the blatant manifestations of stupidity all around this beautiful blue planet. Humanity without humanism is like a bird that choses to crawl while it could fly.

I am writing these lines sitting on the couch; keeping it  low-key. I feel more sceptical than enthusiastic to be honest;  2015 will reveal itself in due time.

peaceonearth

In the meantime, Peace on earth may be a utopia, but why impose limits on wishes when you can go for extra large and all inclusive? Why not think big and out of the box?

Fellow human beings. Let peace be with us all and illuminate the three hundred and sixty-five days ahead. Meet you here at the same place and time in a year from now.

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