Friday, December 31, 2010

taking some well earned time off

there are seven children and five adults living in my house at present. we are having a blast, although it is possible some of us might need therapy by the end of it. So you'll understand that I'm off for a little while.

all the best and see you in the new year

Saturday, December 18, 2010

keeping a sense of wonder ( at the car wash)~ Reverb 10

Dec. 4

"How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?" (Jeffrey Davies)

When I was a kid I used to love going to the car wash. I don’t know why, but I suspect it had something to do with my mom making it seem fun so we would not complain and put up with it.

Alas, I am nearing my fourth decade and I still love those damn machines. For years in developing countries I did not have access to them, so now that we are back in the West I love going to them, and try to bring the kids along to the “car wash monster” with me. The first time the 3 yr old was fairly freaked out.

Last week I went on my own. Here in Holland –for some reason- you are supposed to step out of the car for the experience, but I just could not resist, so I went up to a total stranger and asked him to type in my code so I could stay in the car and enjoy the ride… you can imagine his face. Never the less, it was better than the time before when I put in the code and then ran to make it into the car through the back window.

Here are some photos of my last ride in the “car wash monster”. Definitely keeping a sense on wonder on that one.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

reverb#10~ time to start taking stock on the old and planning for the new

#Reverb10 is an amazing idea I came across by reading my favourite blogger,Sweetsalty.

Every day during the month of December different authors, photographers, and inspiring entities will come up with one question, and we are invited to reflect and respond. I only found out about it yesterday so am half a month behind, but I think it's totally worth the effort. Since I am trying to catch up I'll be putting up a few at a time, I hope you find this exercise as fun as I do, and please, do share

Dec. 1. ONE WORD

Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Gwen Bell)

My word for 2010 would be “Busy”

I took on too much. Too many things and projects that I love, but I’ve come to realize that loving what you do is not enough. Apparently you can’t have everything, so next year I want my word to be “balance”. I hope next year I get it right.


What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? (LEO BABAUTA, zen_habits)

I see life as a source of inspiration for writing, so there are a lot of things that I do that are completely unrelated, but somehow feed it. Having said this, I could definitely cut down (significantly) on the amount of TV I watch when I should be writing.

Dec. 3. MOMENT

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (ALI EDWARDS)

This is going to be a whole post titled “moonwalk", or "walking on sand is like walking on snow”. Let me just share a picture in the meantime….


What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (ALICE BRADLEY)

I let go of some of my goals. I had too many. I let go of one job at the end of the year because I was too sick and stressed to keep working. I was meant to finish my book by December 2010, and it is not going to happen. It pains me, it worries me that once I miss this deadline I might not finish it at all. I might not find (make?) the time again, but I could not do it, so I surrendered to the fact that my body and my mind where saying “basta!”

I am trying to learn from this experience. I am trying to be more present, to ensure I don’t take on more than I can chew. But at heart I am still like a little puppy: head sticking out the window, tongue hanging to one side feeling the wind in my face.

Too many things get me excited. I can barely keep up with my current list and there are already things I want to add to it (like learning to play the guitar and to speak Arabic…..)

"Patience", says my inner voice, "patience, there is still time. There is tomorrow, and the day after. Life is long, and maybe there is another one after. Enjoy every day, every moment, every breath."

unfortunately, I don’t always listen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On friends and friendship

A good friend knows when to speak and when to listen.

A good friend knows when to challenge you and when to pamper you.

A good friend knows and understands most of you, but loves and accepts all of you.

A good friend feeds the mind and waters the soul.

A good friend makes you laugh, at yourself, at the world.

A good friend holds your history and your memories dear.

A good friend says please, thank you and I’m sorry.

A good friend is like air: always present, essential, but not always seen or felt.

A good friend is a like a kind mirror, if you care to look.

A good friend is a mother that scolds you.

A good friend looks after the child in you.

A good friend makes mistakes, and forgives yours.

A good friendship knows not of time nor distance.

A good friend is like a breath of fresh air, a gift worth more than gold.

PS post dedicated to my beautiful friends scattered around the world, which I sadly see a lot less than I'd like to

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On Chicken Soup for the soul

It was nice for a change. It was nice not to be the one at the VIP guest table. Not to be the one everyone’s eyes are on. Not to be the one making the questions and everyone nervous. For once, instead, I was the one serving.

After many years of wanting to do it, but not getting around to it for one reason or another, I finally dragged my but to a soup kitchen.

There were some other new volunteers. Some asked to be kept away from the front room and in the kitchen. They were worried they could not take it. They later confessed they thought it would get rowdy. We were serving dinner for sixty people. Sixty adults that live and sleep on the streets.

It’s funny. The thought never crossed my mind.

For me it was quite liberating. It was nice to think that for once I could actually stick around, come on a regular basis and maybe make a difference on a personal level. I know with my job there is an impact, but it’s at a ‘corporate’ level, all the beneficiaries see is this foreigner that waltzes through. Their instinct tells them to smile at me, to keep me happy, to tell me their sad stories about need and loss. But no doubt frustration lingers on after I leave and they see nothing happen…

It was a nice change that for once the tables had cloth covers and candles. The food was home made, and honestly smelled delicious. The dinner (which followed an obligatory mass service), included a starter salad, a main course stew, crumble pie for dessert, coffee, fruit, cheese and a chocolate. It was top standard food, in the best we could muster atmosphere. We were careful to place everything nicely.

In Cambodia I visited a school run by nuns which blew me away. It looked wonderful. It was nicely painted, with games in the yard. She said sometimes people gave them a hard time claiming that they were ‘rich’ and should not get any funding. Her argument was:

‘here, you can see where the money goes.”

And frankly, it was a hell of an argument as far as I am concerned. Why is it that usually there are hundreds if not thousands of dollars invested, and often at the end you only see half hearted, basic quality outcomes?We served to their requests promptly and diligently. For two nights a month they get served. And it was somewhat surprising for me to see how many of them fell right into the role, ordering us around, sending back parts of the meal barely looking over their shoulder.

You can tell in their eyes many are unimpressed. Grateful yet resentful. Their dignity is all they have left. So while sticking to the rules of the kitchen, some of them sought to bend them, as if to prove they could not be submitted. That was a surprise. That was different from what I am used to seeing. I am used to seeing mostly broken souls that will take whatever they are offered, even under the most undignified situations. As a by stander, on the ‘side’ of the aid workers, I am often embarrassed by how we treat people.

It was a nice change.