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Monthly Archives: January 2013

I am realising that it  always takes  time to acclimatise to a new setting. Even to a very familiar one.

So, I have been spending the past week acclimatising, quite literally speaking.

After a month of Swedish winter  with comfortably cold weather and cosily heated interiors, I’m being reintroduced to the mysteries of Greek winter in times of crisis. It is flabbergasting to realise how much more I freeze here. Despite the admittedly milder climate.

Oh boy, is the cold humid here! And penetrating!  I should also add that Greek houses are certainly not perfectly insulated.  Nowadays, Greeks have to fight cold with imagination.

Necessity is the mother of invention…

Petrol prices are unaffordable. Inverters have become vastly popular. Unfortunately enough, they are powered by  electricity based on non renewable  and polluting energy sources (coal and lignite).

Many have reverted to burning wood in fire-places or stoves, which in turn produce smog…The use of  inappropriate wood and illegal logging are “new” problems reminiscent of the good old days. On a cold day, Athens and Thessaloniki tend to smell like Santa Claus’s  village.

Demand for natural gas is rising, but the network is not fully fledged. This entails additional incurred expenses for those who still want to connect, but  happen to be out  of the network’s reach. Even if you decide to go for it and pay the dough,  it can take up to a year until you’re actually connected.

I think that the average Greek could give a lecture on available options for household heating with all the pros and cons.

It goes without saying that only the most strategic parts of a home are heated.  Two  (small) rooms of our apartment are kept completely closed and unheated.

My friend and her family keep the children’s room closed all day and in the evenings, the couple and the two kids take turns sleeping in the master bedroom and the living room sofas.

I think that in the West we have been living in an energy la-la-land for quite a long time. Especially in countries using nuclear power, the relation to energy has become distorted. Because it is cheap and accessible, people tend not to think of it as a valuable resource.

When my father was growing up, their house was heated with a wood-stove. Bedrooms  would remain unheated. Sometimes, they would heat bricks on the stove, cover them in towels and put them at the foot of their bed to keep warm at night.

I don’t think hot bricks wrapped in towels sound like a bad idea.

After all, vintage problems require vintage solutions.

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The world is full of paradoxes…

The richest 1% of adults in the world own 40% of the planet’s wealth.

We produce mountains of waste drinking bottled water because we think it’s cleaner than what comes out of the tap.

One quarter of the world’s population lacks electricity. That means  almost 2 billion people.

Rocketing petrol prices push Greeks into using wood as a heating source.  Pollution by wood smog is just the cherry on the pie.

Indian farmers are paid 20 cent per kg of rice produced, while it sells for at least  2 euros.

French fries are the national dish of Belgium.

braless

Paradoxes are everywhere…

Just like a brassiere revealing the assets it was supposed to be protecting in the first place.

Minus degrees in Brussels. Icy patches on the cobbled streets and sidewalks. My big scarf is one of my best friends these days.  I lovingly tuck it tightly around my neck and it never fails to give me comfort in return.

Sometimes it strikes me how  impossible it is to recollect what summer  feels like  in the winter and vice versa. You can describe the feeling, but not feel it.

Just to tease my senses I dig into pictures where the sun is shining and colours are blinding.

I select the endless blue of Rameshwaram, the subcontinental stretch of sand where a god

asterworshipped another god and I marvelled at the beauty of the flamingo pink heavens at sunset.

rameswaramsunsetI dive into the reminiscence of the  Cycladic islands where I bowed to the miracle of blue and

deep blueazurelearned all its possible declinations by heart.

galaBefore my eyes I have the proof and the promise.

The sun will shine on me  and the magic of water will sweep me off my feet.

Again.

On the weekend, all excuses for keeping  Christmas related paraphernalia were over.

As tradition wants, on Saint Knut’s day, 13 January,  it is time to dance away Christmas. In the good old days, people would “loot” the Christmas tree and eat any remaining edible decorations  hanging on its branches.

They would also break the gingerbread house into pieces and wish it dasvidanya. A true feast for children and grown-ups with a sweet tooth, so to speak.

Before waving Santa Clause their definite goodbye and putting  their domesticated evergreen out the door, they would dance around it.  Hence the expression : to dance Christmas out. That’s how Dancing Queens have been  born in this country for generations.

so longI love traditions when they become an indisputably good excuse for a get-together. A pack of left-over gingerbread was my faithful  accessory.

gingerlyAfter the vegetarian chili and before the homemade ginger cookie lemon ice-cream we performed the obligatory ritual of dancing around our tree. The almost invisible miniature tree and the lack of appropriate music did not deter us, eager as we were for some folklore revival.

dance

gingercookie icecreamSo that’s it, Tomten, Santa, can take a break and go in the search of pastures new, before he is summoned again in a year’s time…

rastaclausI guess that it’s obvious that I adore turning a regular day into a small celebration. Any excuse will do.  I especially like sharing a meal and a good conversation in the relaxed atmosphere that normally comes with the occasion.

It is usually when our senses focus on something very earthly that we become present in the moment.

Those fragments of time when our mind is appeased and our heart is  at comfort, are like the Sunday of creation. A time to look back, see what you have done and tell yourself that it was good.

As the glossy red and golden hues of December fade away, January appears  like the black and white pages of a colouring book – thirsty for colour.

Days have been packed with obligations and pleasure alike. Somehow,  enjoyment overweighs the rest as the new year gently unravels.

Going out on, almost daily, walks with my sister to get that well-needed break, or sipping on a warm drink  leaning back on her living room sofa…

ljung

comfort

Looking up at blue velvet skies as the four o’clock darkness kicks in and then glancing out  of the window in the evening, to see the yin and yan fusion of heaven and earth…

neighbourhoodEavesdropping on the pink tulips that cheer for spring…

tulipUnfolding the shiny silver wrap around a  tea-time candy on  a full day…

teatimeWatching  my mother’s red-checkered embrace casually impart its comfort….

comfortInstills the peaceful feeling of being in the right place at the right time.

On New Year’s day I went to see the Life of Pi.

A friend of mine had lent me the book some years ago, after warmly recommending it. I started reading it, but for some reason I lost the flow and never finished the book.

So, the book was returned unread, and when the movie came out  I was really inspired to see it. It was definitively not a disappointment. I loved it. Beautiful photography paired with strong messages.

A truly beautiful story.

As I walked out I could not avoid thinking about the Indian girl who never returned home after watching the same movie at a Delhi theatre.

The appalling sexual assault of the young female student and her subsequent death has stirred up a huge debate about women’s rights and the role of legal frameworks and institutions in their protection.

Women are treated unfairly everywhere in the world. India might feel far away. But women are mistreated in the West as well – industrialisation and western clothing does not make us immune.

The short questionnaire below proves it:

  • Has anyone in the street ever called you names pertaining to your sexuality?
  • Has anyone ever  followed you?
  • Has anyone ever “accidentally” touched you in an unsollicited way  that has made you feel awkward?
  • Has anyone made insinuations or moves of a sexual nature that have embarrassed you?
  • Do you feel uneasy about returning home (late) in the evening?

If you are a woman reading these questions, I am sure you can answer yes to several of them. I can. And I have grown up in an environment that is fairly safe and where women at least seem to be enjoying respect and a good degree of equality.

Mindsets have to change. In India as well as here. Women have to stop seeing themselves as accessories. Women have to realise their value enough to pass this knowledge on to their children, whether male or female. Men have to take part in the process.

In India women are present everywhere. They overtake you on their scooters. They are the doctors examining you. The maids sweeping your floor, the architects taking on major urban planning projects. The builders on construction sites. The cobblers and the actresses.

Yet, when it comes to rights, men are over-represented.

The brutal murder of  the young woman in Delhi has opened many a person’s eyes. I hope not only in India.

The girl was nicknamed Damini after the heroine of a Hindi  film who fights for justice and the rights of women.

The real-life Damini never wanted to be a hero. She just wanted to return home and be safe.  I am sure she wanted to see a new day. But for Damini 2012 was the end of the world.

I am wondering if she had read the book and if yes, if she thought the film did it justice. I am thinking that maybe she was feeling proud about seeing elements of her culture presented on the big screen in an international production.

Did the film make Damini laugh? Did it make her shed some tears? Did her senses rejoice?

We cannot possible know her thoughts on the film, because Damini is no longer with us.

Pi survived the crossing of the Pacific on a life-boat in the company of a Bengal tiger.

Damini’s life was consumed somewhere on the journey from one part of N. Delhi to another.

The world is at loss.

(Avaaz petition: Ending India’s war on women)

The first day of the year was as it ought to be – spent with good people, doing nice things.

I like the shiny and polished feeling about the new year. We celebrated over a small family brunch, one of the nicest kinds of get-togethers I know.

garland

My brother-in-law got the lucky coin I had hidden in one of the scones to honour the custom of the St Basil’s pie. After all, I love syncretism. North and south mixed together in the same baking bowl, that’s swell. No other surprises were lurking in the food however,  which was a relief to everyone.

IMG_0148

To increase the festive feel, we indulged in  alcohol-free bubbles and full-fat saffron cream complementing the wine stewed figs, a south French revelation I will carry with me into this new year and many years ahead  I hope.

IMG_0168

 

We rounded up by going to an early movie show and then shifting  to our new little nest.  Not bad for a start.

filmstaden

Now, apart from all resolutions taken at an individual level,  I sincerely  hope that 2013 will be a healthy and robust year that will bring lots of inner peace, prosperity and positive change, and less troubles, tragedies and terror.

Hakuna Matata to the world. Amen.

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