BloPoMo conclusion

I’ve run out of October days, which means Blogtober is over. And just like the time I tried to post a blog a day a couple of years ago, I found it really hard. I don’t understand how other people do it…

At this point I am satisfied I managed an average of a post “(almost) every other day”.

As far as work stress is concerned, I probably should have chosen a different month… I’ve been really tired after work, feeling like I never get enough sleep, even though I did usually manage my 7-8 hours of shut-eye.

C&H timeout.gifSo maybe I should give it a go again in the new year, when things have settled back down at work and my energy levels are restored.

To all of you that completed the Blogtober “blog a day” goal: you are awesome!!!

 

Oh hi there, November… You sure sneaked up on me. Make yourself comfortable, old friend. You are most welcome here!

 

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Help me understand Björk

My boyfriend and I often play songs for each other in the early morning. It has become an occasional part of our morning ritual, especially on those mornings when waking up is just that tad more difficult or when getting up just isn’t necessary just yet.

This morning, he grabbed my phone (he is one of those rare ones without a smartphone) and I watched as he typed “Venus as a boy” and I couldn’t help but blurt out “Oh god…”, which in turn made him raise his eyebrows at me.

I let the song play (almost) until the end, which I thought was quite an achievement… I just can’t handle Björk very well… 

I tried to explain why and I noticed how I started to raise my voice and was completely failing at giving him a good explanation. I think I just used a lot of words, starting with “What does Venus as a boy even mean?!” and ending with my piece de resistance: “she just weirds me out”.

So then he said: “you know what? maybe you should write a blog about it…”

Man, he knows me so well, doesn’t he?

So yah, I’m struggling here… Why does Björk annoy me so much and why is it so hard to put it into words?

What I’ve come up with so far:

  • her music is uncomfortable to listen to
  • it’s pretentious and unnecessarily complicated
  • I feel like it’s a “Emperor’s new clothes” situation, where nobody dares say they don’t like it, out of fear of being labeled musically dumb.
  • It just sounds like someone was doodling around with different electronic melodies and riffs and then accidentally added the audio of someone singing in the shower.
  • She always looks like she’s on the verge of a psychotic breakdown.

Luckily, there are more people around that “just don’t get it” and have turned to online discussion forums and blogs to vent and inquire. Some of the explanations people have given for appreciating Björk are:

  • Her (seemingly) very organic, unrestrained approach to singing, combined with the fact that her grasp on the English language is shaky at best, give her vocals a rough spontaneity that is refreshing in an art-pop artist.
  • You don’t have to be crazy to like Bjork but it helps. So do mind altering chemicals.
  • I loved the drama, the glitchiness, Bjork’s amazing vocal range. I find the combination of strings and the urgent, insistent song structure of Joga absolutely mesmerizing.
  • In a nutshell, “understanding” Björk is beyond my ability to explain. I’d just say that it starts with her voice. That’s the gorgeous lighthouse that you follow through the wonderful storm of her ever-evolving music.
  • [In a review on 2015 album Vulnicura] I’ll be the first to admit that, as a huge Björk fan since the late 1990s, I’ve often been at a loss with her music: I adore her experimental, deeply passionate approach to music, but my own appreciation of her music has become increasingly challenged.
  • [In a review on her 2017 video of the Gate] You know when you’ve been out all night, and you’re really fucked, and you finally decide you should try and sleep, so you curl up in bed, dry mouthed, and close your eyes for a second? And then suddenly all this weird shit starts spinning around your brain? Like geometric shapes and faces you don’t recognise and other, intangible stuff you couldn’t even explain to someone with words? Well, Björk’s new video for “The Gate” is kind of like that, but better, because it stars Björk.
  • Her eeeeks, and shrieks turn this little freak into a feisty contender for one of the most unbelievable performers of my generation. Bjork started off as somewhat of a meme in apartment 320, but I submit to you that I have rethought her status as just a meme. In fact she is, nay she will forever be one of the most interesting artists in this game of life we all play.

Hmm… none of this is really helping. Or maybe it is? It’s making me feel that I will never get it and that I just don’t belong in Björk club. But do try to convince me otherwise!

Buitenplaats de Plantage

As I mentioned in my first Blogtober post, my boyfriend took me out on a mystery dinner last week to a village carrying the poetic name “Vogelenzang”, which means “Bird’s song”.  A very fitting name for such a beautiful place!

The restaurant we went to was actually a former plant nursery, with a green house and outside gardens. Check out the pictures below, to see what they turned it into!

The weather was a bit on the chilly side, with rain constantly in the air but thanks to the good company and the beautiful location it ended up being a wonderful wonderful day!

So, if you are in the Netherlands and are looking for something different: visit Buitenplaats de Plantage in Vogelenzang (about half an hour’s drive from Amsterdam airport)!

 

 

 

 

 

Surprise! I don’t like surprises.

A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend, G, came home after work and told me he had found out about something really cool that I was going to love and that I needed to ask such-and-such Friday off from work.

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I asked him what this cool thing was, where it was, why I would love it, if I needed to take my bathing suit with me or hiking shoes, if we were going by train or bus or bike… and guess what; he just smiled and told me “wait and see”.

So I did… and then completely forgot to ask the Friday off. (In my defence; I did tell him he should remind me again; maybe text me or something…) When we woke up on Saturday morning and I told him I needed to work that day, he looked really disappointed.

I realized I had forgotten to not-work on Friday and even added an extra day to the workweek… Wupps…

And then, on Saturday evening his frown (luckily) turned upside down when he found out the super-special-special-mystery-thingamajig-I-shouldn’t-ask-about-but-would-totally-love would also be available for us on Sunday… which was today…

 

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I have to admit, I had the hardest time convincing myself to not tie him to a chair and force more information out of him somehow. Admission number two: I was kind of surprised (and taken aback) by my reaction to all of this… and I think G was too…

After a truly lovely day (that I will tell you more about in a blog later in the week) we got home and twisted comfortably back into our evening routines. I was exhausted though, which had very little to do with the actual physical strain of the day.

So yeah, what the hell, right?

G told me he thought this was an important lesson for me and that he would continue to organize little surprise outings for me every now and then until I learnt to deal with them properly…

My first thought:

Pfff… Thanks for making me feel like a five year old, dude….

And immediately after that:

OMFG, why can’t I just be grateful and trust that he knows and loves me enough to only take me to awesome places?!

He said I surprised him with little thoughtful gifts and gestures all the time and that he wanted to be able to return the favor, which… yah… is a sweet thought (all though I don’t recall being such a tease with anything I ever gave him, but hey…).

I told him I would prefer he would just tell me he was taking me somewhere on the day of the actual outing and not leave me in the dark for a whole week first.
He said that this method was necessary so that I could ask a day off from work.

I told him I didn’t get the point of being so secretive about it. If he would tell me he had found out about a super special place and would describe it then and there, I would be super excited to go with him. Why build the anticipation like that?
He said he wanted it to be special. He felt talking about it beforehand would ruin the magic and might even make it disappointing.

I told him keeping expectations low was actually one of my specialties; keeping my cool while handing over all control to someone else was not.
He said “trust me”.

 

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But I do trust him.

 

Just not as much as I trust myself.

 

 

I’m working on it.

 

Blogtober

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My mind is cluttered and slow but my motivation is back. The only way to get this blog train going again is by hopping on the Blogtober wagon. So that’s what I’m going to do.

The last time I challenged myself to do a blog a day was August 2015, aka Blogust. It was actually quite challenging and I definitely didn’t manage to write something every day, but it was good practice.

Wish me luck.

 

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Insane asylum seeking

Last week I went to a meeting about language coaches for refugees in Leiden, the town I live in. I heard that in the month of August between 70 and 80 refugees received their residence permit and were assigned a home here. This is the same amount that was granted a new home in the first 6 months of 2014.

inburgeringscursusThis rise in numbers is partially because there are more people arriving and partially because the asylum process has been streamlined so that more requests can be evaluated in a smaller amount of time. Each person that receives a residence permit must do a so called “inburgerings cursus” which boils down to a course that helps someone become a Dutch citizen. This involves a language course as well as lessons about our culture and customs. At the end of this course, every person must take (and pass) an exam.

Each new resident must attend language classes once a week and is assigned a language coach to practice with for about an hour a week on top of that. A language coach is always a volunteer that does this beside their regular job. It is therefore most common for a language coach to be assigned just one person. You can imagine that if in one month there are more than seventy new people starting their citizenship education, there is a great need for more language coaches.

During the meeting I went to last week there were about 15 new candidates. Their motives varied from wanting to do something practical to compensate for their very theoretical study at the university, to expanding their CV with something different. Some had already worked in schools and wished to find a new challenge in the education of foreigners. Others were just lonely and wished to get back in touch with society and remember what it felt like to be needed (this last part is my own interpretation).

I was quite surprised that besides me there was only one other person that said they were sick of watching the news and feeling helpless. I don’t say this to humblebrag, I promise. I have a genuine feeling of urgency to do something but with no clue about where to start. I for one am sick of feeling so powerless. Also it is just starting to feel wrong to voice my opinion about something that I only know about through the colored stories of the media. It’s time to see it for myself and to know that no matter what side I choose I will be able to look myself in the eye at the end of it.

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But I must admit I do feel torn. Just the other day I started deleting “friends” from Facebook that have voiced opinions that I find discriminatory or unbalanced, to say the least. I am sure there are still some rotten apples in my list as not everyone voices their opinions on the web. One of the people I deleted is a girl I used to babysit. She is in her twenties now and has recently gotten married. She posted a video of refugees showing someone around the camp they were staying in, pleading for better conditions. She commented something along the lines of: “What did you expect, a five star hotel? If you don’t like it, go back home, you ungrateful a**holes!”. The fact that these people’s home may very well be reduced to rubble, went unnoticed to her.

I deleted her immediately, especially after I noticed she had re-posted it from a page that sympathizes with our very own, well known and homegrown right hand populist; Geert Wilders. It did stick with me for a while though… Especially since I did kind of agree with her… These worked up men were pointing at everything that was supposedly wrong with their conditions and showing the camera how muddy it was and how few toilets there were but in reality, it wasn’t all that bad… Sure, the weather was shitty, but who can you blame for that? It was a temporary solution for an overwhelming situation that was absolutely better than nothing. Nobody was starving neither from hunger nor cold. I only dared admit this to myself after I had deleted her from my account.

[The video in question, which I had embedded in this post on right this spot is no longer online, but since I believe we’ve all seen and heard about these type of situations I decided not to replace it. | 29-08-2016]

These men… All men… So so agitated. And for what? I hate mobs like this. They scare me. Men stirring each other up in this aimless frenzy. Running around, pumping adrenaline through their veins and some crazy idea that they will get their way if they just push hard enough. They seek out confrontation hoping it will help their plight, if only they manage to show the world something shocking. It sickens me and I find it very difficult to find sympathy for these people. I know they do not represent the majority, but it is inevitable that some problems will arise with these new citizens. And what if they’re not satisfied with what we have to offer? How much are we willing to give in to accommodate them?

Anyhow, I am now on the list of volunteers of the local refugeework organisation. I will be attending some classes of my own before I get assigned a new resident of my town, most probably from Syria and help him or her in the next step of their long journey to become a European citizen. I can’t wait to find out more and report about my experiences both to myself as to you.

The R is back

August, where did you go?? I wrote you a promise and I must confess I did not fully deliver.

I promised you 31 blogs, 31 pieces of fruit, 5 jogs and one bucketlist item. I pretty much failed at ticking every single box. The final score is:

  • 26 blogs
  • no clue, didn’t keep track of the fruit but I’d say I did eat more than usual but definitely not every day.
  • I did go to the gym every week but did not go out for a run every week. I think it was three times this month and once went to work by bike.
  • I added three items to my bucketlist, CHECK!

Now, fun as it was, I will definitely not keep on trying to squeeze my brain like an orange for inspiration and forcing myself to look at my computer screen on days that I would much rather go to bed early. I did however very much enjoy pushing myself a bit and reading back the results at the end of the week. I saw the view count on my blog go up a bit and did definitely notice that the more you write, the easier it becomes.

Some of the things I posted were definitely easy cop-outs and may not stay online forever, but they still served their purpose.

Now that September has crept up on me with the first autumn rains, I have decided to make some new goals. Definitely not as ambitious as posting a blog a day, but inspiring stuff nonetheless. Between now and August 2016 I will

  • donate my hair to charity
  • learn bee-keeping
  • volunteer at refugee foundation
  • go back to donating blood regularly after my 6 month hiatus due to trip oversees.
  • blog about all the above and more
  • get back into photography and post the results
  • strike some (let’s say at least three?) of the items off my bucketlist

So, I am ready take on this final quarter of 2015 and get some things done. Onwards we go!