Archive

Monthly Archives: September 2012

These days are frantic.

Things tend to get complicated at the start of the academic year. New courses, delays and  technical mishaps… Unsollicited complications, but real all the same. I accept the flaws and brace myself with a kind of optimistic cynicism nurtured by experience.

Wake up, take breakfast, study, prepare lunch, eat lunch.

Continue working on the backlog. Dig a tunnel with a plastic teaspoon – you can do it.

Release some energy at the gym.

Launch the dish-washer. Stupid machine leaves detergent stains on the dishes. Wipe-wipe-wipe.

There is a cosy students’ dorm feel to the apartment. A bundle of clean clothes are waiting for me to tend to their crinkles, but they’ll have to wait – Ms Perfect is on holidays.

In this chaos of lost deadlines, I try to slowly get my microcosm under control. The big world is in a mess anyway. Too many things on my plate and I know I am being myself.

When the chance is given however, I pause to refuel.

My father serves me my five pm cocoa and the afternoon is saved. An ice-cold indulgence with floating ice-cubes and thick froth.

When I press on play again I think that having time is a disposition. Not having time is dispossession.

Advertisements

Amidst studying in panic mode, I felt like trying out tahdig, a Persian rice-dish that allows you to scrape the bottom of the pot to retrieve a deliciously golden crust. The inspiration came from a discussion while at a yoga seminar on Crete.

This is what it takes (2-4 servings depending on appetite and zeal):

1 cup of rice, preferably basmati, but I used the Greek parboiled rice we had in the cupboard. 5 cups of water. Salt, saffron and cumin seeds. Butter and olive oil.

Wash the rice and let it soak in two cups of salted water for a couple of hours. Bring two cups of water to boil on strong fire, then reduce to medium heat and add the rice. Let the rice boil with the lid on for 10 min.

In the meantime, add some red saffron to one cup of lukewarm water and set aside.

Rinse the boiled rice in a colander with cold water.

Add around two teaspoons of butter and one teaspoon of oil in a thick bottomed saucer or pot. Tilt and turn the pot so that the grease coats the bottom and part of the sides. Mix some cumin seeds into the rice and scoop it into the utensil. Press it with a spoon to make it compact and add the cup of saffron water.

Put the pot back on low heat (I used 3 on a scale of 10) and put a kitchen towel between the lid and the pot. Tie the loose ends over the lid.

 

Let the rice cook for 40-50 minutes. Serve it on a plate with pieces of the golden crust on top.

I combined this with oven-baked seasonal vegatables including aubergine, zucchini, carrots, beans, onion & garlic, and home-made tomato sauce.

 

The pleasure of getting to the bottom of things.

Thessaloniki greets me with an outburst of seasonal rain. Gray skies, nightly downpour and wet asphalt.

The first days back ‘home’ are like a tunnel of grayscale impressions, with frequent reminders of why I have chosen to live elsewhere.

I get irritated at the uneven, patched-up sidewalks, or the absense of them. All the potential for change that has never manifested.

I vegetate on the sofa until my usually active body starts protesting. But where are the parks, the woods, the proximity of mesmerisingly blue waters combined with the rattling sound of waves on a bed of beach pebbles?

I must invent a new set of routines, again….

So I call on my friend google and look up local gyms. I find one, and  subscribe: thirty euros a month for a steady stream of endorphines. The young owner’s name translates into Joy.

I break my initial isolation by going out for a coffee downtown with an artist friend who has just shaved off his beard. We observe the transformation and dive into matters of the heart.

The phone starts ringing as friends and family discover my homecoming.

I cannot wait to see my best friend who happens to be away at an international conference. We’ve not seen each-other in ages!

Colour slowly starts infiltrating the black and white mood  in a peaceful revolt against negativity.

I remind my self that I do not have time to waste on things I do not like. I am here and I am sticking around for joy.

[Stick Around for Joy, The Sugarcubes, 1992]

I am soon landing on the reality of continental Greece. These are the last moments of a vacation that has been wonderfully exhausting.

The benefits of the combination of wild nature, sea, sunshine, exercise and great company  are as impossible to count as the dots of my new bikini….

Why did man ever invent big cities?  I am bracing myself for the collision with urban spleen, the concreteness of cement  as opposed to the benign curves of the undulated Cretan landscape.

Together with Christina, we ritually dissecate a fresh and aromatic piece of galaktoboureko on the balcony of Aquarius apartments on the last afternoon on the island

At dinner-time, we  watch the bay of Heraklion alight upon the fall of darkness….

As this  beautiful experience is coming to a close, I am just hoping that the sweet aftertaste will stay on for at least a while.

Yoga on Crete.

Squeezing swimming and long coffees at our favourite hang out,  Despinas cafe, in between the morning and  afternoon sessions of reclining, standing and sitting asanas.

As the days of the week pass, a tangle of emotions, cigarette smoke, vegetarian meals, freddo cappuccino, supersized portions of Sfakian pastry and amazing moments under the sun, painted with strokes of electrifying blue unravel.

We work on finding  and expanding the spaces hidden within our bodies, lengthening and lifting our joints from the inside. We elastify our limbs and muscles  beyond the boundaries of centimetres.

Likewise, I am pulling at the hours, minutes and seconds, as if I could create new time ex nihilo.

Complicating simple things is an art.

Like landing in the portuary city of Chania, on the North of Crete and deciding to reach the southern coastal village of Sfakia, by hiking through the Samaria gorge.

I soon realised that I had to part from my belongings. This meant sending my luggage off by bus, and setting out in the early morning of the next day.

From the plateau of Omalos unfolds the steep and rocky descent into the guts of the earth.

On the slippery-rickety way down, through a magical landslide effect, I made friens with a Cretan couple, their sister in law and a second generation Greek-American man. A party of five was created.

Here and there we stopped to marvel at the landscape and take in its beauty: The majestic rock fissure, the gracious wild goats, the clear waters flowing through the canyon like a transparent serpantine.

The best moment was when I sank my feet into a cold water stream and then let them dry on the smooth curve of a small rock.

Then, after several hours of walking we could swim in the turquoise blue waters of Agia Roumeli and have a celebratory meal in a taverna overlooking the beach.

In the evening, alone in Sfakia, as I watched the sun setting over the Libyan sea, I thought how indeed it is the  journey that matters and not the destination.

Sharing my footsteps with other people, getting to know them as the kilometres faded, highlighted how the journey changes depending on the people that come your way.

The transit through gorgeous Samaria would have been a different  story if I had been on my own, or in another constellation.

Last lunch in Sweden. Cloudy skies call for candles and contemplation.

Two full months spent in the country of my childhood summers. The longest time I’ve ever stayed since I don’t remember when.

Overall, I did the most important things. I spent time with family and friends, enjoyed nature, did sports, tickled my tastebuds with fresh estival flavours…

Things do not always turn out as expected,  and when you look back at a certain period of your life you often recollect it with a certain filter of distortion.

However, I am leaving with the light feeling of contentment. A summer with real-life ups and downs, complete in its untouched imperfect beauty.

sofiawise

Clockwise, otherwise & likewise

The Chick on a Pea

Clockwise, otherwise & likewise

Buttercupgoeswest

Buttercup is a newborn and we are taking her on a 5000 KM journey from Ahmedabad to Kanyakumari

Sadness Theory

Music with passion for the environment

zee pause café

taking a moment, having a coffee, writing down some thoughts