Jolly Bubbles (Colours & Light)

T'is the season to be jolly - with bubbles all over the city.
Busy shoppers and businessmen lift their heads to the sky and - they can't help themselves - smile and run to catch a bubble...priceless!
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Høw ridiculøus

Sønic Visions Festivål. Spot øn Denmårk. 2 days 25 bånds.

Could somebody please explain to me this ridiculous (mis)use of the Scandinavian letters ø and å?? Is it supposed to look cool? Well, in the eyes of somebody who knows exactly how these letters are supposed to be used (not at all in the English language for one thing), it just looks really silly and pointless.

Written like this, the above sentence would be pronounced something like: Sunic Visions Festivaul. Spot un Denmaurk. 2 days 25 baunds.

So I'm not going the this festivaul, neither to see Murder from Denmark, An Orange Car Crashed from Belgium (no wonder, Belgians are lousy drivers), Superfamily from Norway (my own is super enough) or Glitter and Trauma from Lux (what an odd combination - I prefer the first but suspect I might end up with the latter if I do go).


In a case of emergency

That's it. I've finally become the very image of an Expat Wife. Why else would I have a cocktail at 11.00 a.m.?? And not just any cocktail, but one for women (or rather girls) only. Sparkling pink
(both bottle and content), with a surprisingly refreshing taste of litchi and raspberry.*

No, no, let me reassure you (and myself...), I was not having this cocktail while taking a break from shopping at Kenzo with my expat girlfriends. This was a case of emergency! I found myself in a place I should never be on a Saturday - at the shopping centre Auchan. The crowds and the kilometres of foodstuff were just about to knock me out when I saw this alluringly pink bottle, and I steered right through the crowds and accepted the plastic cup the smiling sales lady handed me with tremendous relief.

It worked! I even got a bottle - as a present for my Bridget Jones friend of course (I wonder if she'll share it with me though). *

* This is not a commercial for the new Girls cocktail...or is it?


In the magic kingdom

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There'll be days like this

In all fairness...this is also Lux...on a day like this.

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"A mes yeux, le Luxembourg s'est toujours voilé derrière un masque, derrière un vernis difficile a percer. Le Luxembourgeois est si distant: les rares personnes ouvertes au dialogue ne se donnent pas facilement. Or celles qui se donnent à voir ne m'intéressent pas et celles que j'aimerais percer à jour ne se donnent pas. C'est un constat que j'ai pu vérifier en m'installant à Lyon. Alors, au contact des Lyonnais avec lesquels le rapport est aisé, sans détour et franc, je me suis rendue à l'évidence que ma perception des choses n'était pas erronnée."

- The way I see it, Luxemburg has always been hiding behind a mask, behind a varnish that's hard to break through. The Luxemburger is so distant: the rare person who is open to dialogue doesn't show himself easily. Those who do, do not interest me and those I would like to break through to don't show temselves. This is a fact I was able to verify when I installed myself in Lyon. There, in contact with the people of Lyon, so easy-going, straight forward and free, I realized that my perception of things was not wrong.

- Corina Ciocârlie, Rumanian writer living in Luxemburg *

Right she is. This is what I've come to. I see the mask and the varnish as a lack of identity, nationality and authenticity. And poor Luxemburg, how can she possibly find this when nearly half her population are foreigners and an additional 100 000 or so cross her borders every day to work. Through diversity? Perhaps, but the diversity of a rich mans world becomes uniform.

When I move on, to Lyon or elsewhere, I will search for authenticity. In man. In land.

*The appendix in the paper today, from where the above quote is taken, is strikingly called "Identity and Nationality".


Impressions de Cannes

Cannes. Flashy people (or les People as they say in France) + flashy shops + flashy boats = high score on the bling-bling scale. But that is not what makes an impression. What makes an impression, is the people who get lost in all this. What makes an impression, is the contrasts.

Like a baglady in a little black dress. Front covered with cheap bijouteries. An attempt at a hairdo. If you're a baglady in Cannes, you'd better try to have some class. So be it that the effect of the little and oh so short dress which covers oh so little is quite heartbreaking when your body is like that of a sumo wrestler and the bags you drag with you containing your life are revealingly worn and dirty. Her eyes are revealing too. And the way she walks. She's tired now.

A table next to mine seats some french-american mixture with fake smiles and fake teeth. As dicretely dressed as the baglady was indiscrete, but just as revealing. Bling-bling. A young, frail girl approaches the restaurant carefully, holding a paper cup. The couple at the first table she comes to turns her down, as she had expected. As she moves on towards my table, the bling-bling lady from the other table comes rushing towards her and snarls: - Dégage de là! Get lost! Like she was shouting at a dog with rabies. With such contempt in her look and in her voice that I lost my speech and my appetite. The girl vanished, tail between her legs, I didn't even see her. Had I seen her, or had I thought about it, I would have called her back and given her money. Or, I should have walked over to their table and sung - oh, think twice, it's just another day for you and me in paradise. As it was, and as it often is, all I did was stare at her, with all the contempt I could muster and I shook my head. Not that I think anything would work with the likes of her, but maybe the others at the table would think twice.

There were two children at that table. They learn that it is allowed to treat a fellow human being with such a complete lack of respect. If the lady had had a silky dog in a Gucci bag, she would have treated that animal far, far better. The very least the girl deserved was a polite no and perhaps even a smile. We don't know her story.

She calls out to the man on the street
sir, can you help me?
It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?

He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there

Oh think twice, it's another day for
You and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it's just another day for you,
You and me in paradise

She calls out to the man on the street
He can see she's been crying
She's got blisters on the soles of her feet
Can't walk but shes trying

Oh think twice...

Oh lord, is there nothing more anybody can do
Oh lord, there must be something you can say

You can tell from the lines on her face
You can see that she's been there
Probably been moved on from every place
cos she didn't fit in there

Oh, think twice...


Look up - look down

Normally, I would say we hurry along and look down far too much, instead of just taking one second to look up and around us. Colours, details on a building, a cloud the shape of a crocodile - even a smile...

But sometimes, looking down is a good thing.
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When I last was in Paris, what made me stop in front of l'Hôtel de Ville was not the magnificent building in itself, nor the happy skaters in front of it. What made me stop and what made me freeze was this reminder, counting the days that Ingrid Betancourt had been held hostage. 2154.

The counter stopped yesterday at 2321. Hers is a story of 2321 days of captivity and combat, of tremendous courage and enduring hope. Hers is a story of a mother losing more than 6 years of her children's lives. And finally, hers is a story of freedom. Her story makes an overwhelming impression.

She became a forceful symbol of every man and woman who had their freedom taken away by the FARC guerilla. The counter stopped for her and 14 other hostages yesterday, but it keeps counting the days for many others. I hope she remains a symbol for them, of hope and freedom.
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In memory of Clément

His name was Clément Levy. He was born on 1/11/1940. He was Jewish. Emprisoned in Blois in the Loire Valley shortly after his third birthday. Gassed to death in Auschwitz one month later.

Today, Clément watches over the children at a beautiful playground in Blois. Parents look at his picture, read the lines and between the lines and cry.
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Never forget

We just went to Berlin. This is on Berlins mind.
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The fountain keeper

Of all the professions in all the world...it had never occured to me that there is such a thing as a fountain keeper. But there is, and I do believe every fountain keeper (can't possibly be that many??) envy Gilles Butez, the fountain keeper at Versailles - talk about prestige! He and his 12 colleagues make sure the waters dance the way they did to divert and entertain le Roi Soleil on his many strolls in the park. Today they dance alone, to the same music that once filled the castle with dancing dignitaries, and today, their purpose is to divert and entertain the herds of visitors hoping to get a glimpse of past magic. And according to M Butez, there is magic - in the water.

The lady is capricious

Avril avril macht wass er will, they say around here. And today, she (and I assume April is a female month, being of such an erratic and capricious nature) is using her last opportunity this year to do exactly as she pleases to the fullest. Like a bull raging against the fluttery red or a troll against the sun, and with the threat of May dangerously close, she is blowing seven winters upon us and turning light to dark so confused street lights turn themselves on in the middle of the day.

No wonder a poor gal gets awfully weather sick...


Merci d'être sympa

I like it when the buses of the city happily roll around with rears covered with the following message, illustrated with peace flowers: Merci d'être sympa. Thanks for being nice.
An attitude campaign, not a commercial campaign. I think the intent is to introduce this as traffic rule no 1, but it can safely (and somewhat sadly - in an ideal world we shouldn't need reminders to be nice...) be applied to the entire public space. I'm sure you can remember a time when a complete stranger smiled at you or even said something funny to you just passing by and how that just might have made your day.

I can not help but wonder though whether the bus drivers actually get the message...

So tomorrow, please go out and be nice to a stranger (even if it's the bus driver).

Flowers for thought

I don't quite understand why this exquisite little flower is called Stepmother's flower in Norwegian. We would rarely compare a stepmother to such a flower, right, what with Cinderella and all? Now I'm sure a lot of stepmums out there deserve to have a flower named after them, but still...

The French language however, lives up to its reputation and has a lovely name for it - pensée - a thought. That way, you can actually plant thoughts in your garden, you can even plant yellow thoughts, blue thoughts, violet thoughts, white thoughts... And not only that, you can plant big thoughts and small thoughts as well. Quite a philosophical garden!

In English, I belive one name for it is Heart's Ease, which is kind of nice as well. I guess that's exactly what you'll find in a garden of thoughts.

So, I hereby rename this flower to Thought's Flower.


Wherever I lay my hat...

... or - there's no place like home when away is home and home is away

Thoughts from a three-legged Norwegian with one leg in Luxembourg, one in France and one in Norway.

Where is home when you get a new home country? Can several places be home? And where is home - really? Choose the alternative(s) that suit(s) you best:

- Where naked little feet tread the grass - small spouts allowed to grow?
- Where you have lived for the longest time?
- In a room in a house in a garden?
- In the city or in the countryside or in the country?
- In an environment or a culture?
- Wherever you lay your hat - or your toothbrush for that matter?
- Where your heart is - or your nearest and dearest?
- Or quite simply where you feel at home?

There will be no evaluation or analysis of the answers, it is up to each reader to do that on his own. But I dare to guess - and hope - that many will select the last alternative, often in combination with one or several of the others.

An optional follow-up question for reflection: What makes you feel at home - or alternatively not at home?

My answer would be about feeling good within the four walls of the house, in the city and in the culture and about having good friends. To have my little family there with me would be an unquestionable condition. Back to the roots? Not those of my childhood tree, but perhaps to the roots that the mother country embraces her children with, as most mothers do. Or perhaps where new roots are put down.

Because what happens when you get new walls in a new city in a new country and in a new culture? That's when you really feel the embrace of the mother country. Her linguistic embrace, not mainly the spoken language, but all the codes fed to us through the breast milk and that we don't reflect upon until we find ourselves in a new place with a whole new set of codes, in a culture and a society that these codes are a natural part of. Then there are all the other codes. How do we act here? How do we behave towards one another? How do things work, like health care, social care, kindergartens and schools? Simply put, how do we live here?

Learning a new way of living requires time and energy, and a lot of it is about the little things that you didn't even think about back home because they were automatic. To feel at home in a new country takes even longer, and this is were the roots come in. Some roots must be put down in foreign soil, and the most important helpers is the social network. Friends. Making new friends takes time. So, the nice baker on the corner or the neighbour can become important helpers to start with. Then you must work up an understanding for - and perhaps even more importantly - a feeling for the country, for cultural, social and geographical surroundings. That's when a feeling of home might come sneaking up on you and you realize that it is possible to feel at home in more places than one.

The paradox is that getting roots in a new place might cause a certain rootlessness, as if the new roots tore up the old. Not quite at home in the new country as a foreigner, not quite at home in the old country, influenced by a different culture and by being able to see your home country from the outside - for better and worse. This might all be a bit confusing. And to add to the confusion, you could also try to make a home in a third country - because it feels like home....

A toothbrush in each country? Perhaps, but you should carefully choose where you put them. I have a toothbrush in a house in a funny little country with a funny little language and many other languages on every street corner called Luxembourg, who calls itself the green heart of Europe and who's kind of sneaking it's way into my heart. I have a toothbrush in a wry little appartment in an old town in France, and if I ever forget where my heart is, I'll be sure to find it there. And I have a toothbrush in a sailboat in Norway, our summer place back home. And when the sea is
lustrous, the night is bright and I can see with outside eyes, in a flicker of dog rose nostalgia, I can feel my roots and I can picture myself having toothbrushes there on a more permanent basis.


Filming on a Saturday afternoon

Last Saturday afternoon, a man was arrested at a shopping mall, thanks to a security guard who observed a somewhat peculiar behaviour. It turned out that the man had a camera hidden in his shoe, and with it he filmed underneath the skirts and dresses of unknowing female shoppers. You could wonder how revealing the films could possibly be, he hardly had a spotlight in his shoe as well, and the weather here definitely calls for heavy underwear. Besides, it must have required some serious foot work. Searching his house, the polices found six pairs of similar shoes.

Oh well. One more reason to avoid shopping malls on a Saturday afternoon.

Street Crescendo

He stood in the middle of the street. The mask (type pollution protection) made me curious enough to stop. Something in the slow, breakdancelike movements made me think that this is some kind of performance artist. He pulled his sleeves up and carefully put on invisible cream. Then he turned his face towards the sky, pulled the mask away, took a deep breath and released it with a big sigh of wellness. The need for new shoes was stronger than my curiosity and I sped to "Underground Shoes".

Fifteen minutes later I was back in the same street, happily swinging brand new spring shoes in a paper bag. The new-shoes-feelgood-feeling was interrupted by a person who almost ran me down, head first, shoulders later, calling out very loud and very obscure words that could be profanity or prophecy. He zigzaged down between busy people and I could hear his tirade disappear down the street. A couple of minutes later I could hear him again, coming back. Not performance - just plain crazy.

People who stand out in either which way are a rare sight in Luxembourg. The reactions were mainly:
1) Eyes big and round with amusement, bewilderment, slight fright or a mixture.
2) Smiles, jokes and smart comments.
3) Quick-let's-walk-around-him-and-look-down (in the worst cases accompanied by a slight condescending shake of the head).

My eyes are big and round anyway (which can be the cause of some irritation / indignation when people think I'm scared to death when I'm actually in perfect harmony with myself and the world), so no escaping them. In them, you could probably see a certain degree of amusement and surprise, but also a curiosity or interest - call it whatever you like.

Who are you?
Why and how did you end up here, running and screaming in the street?
What did you put on your arms?
What felt so good when you pulled away your mask - and did it actually feel good?
Do you believe what you shout?
Would you hurt a fly?
What were you like as a kid and does your mother still see that kid when she looks at you?
What is your world like?
How are you - really?

Hey Mr Paella Man

Paella! the man shouted cheerfully, wearing a red apron and a ditto hat. I felt it was a bit too early in the morning for such a thing and politely declined his offer. But he wouldn't let me get away that easily! He was after all the Paella Man! He followed me to the cheeses, put his face an inch from mine and declared loudly and clearly that he loved to imitate dialects. Whereupon he switched to a catchy Alsacien.

I laughed, partly to be polite, partly because I was indeed somewhat amused and bewildered. I had never met such a Paella Man. He remembered that he had a job to do and returned to his pots and pans to attempt to tempt other shoppers with an appetite for paella. As I continued towards the fish, I heard him call after me:

"I like to laugh, Madame! So I make myself laugh. I must, or my job would have been too boring."
A blessed ability, my good Paella Man. Next time, I will have some paella.

The sun only shines on TV

Little sister (2) as she opens the door: "Look Mummy! Light! Light! Light on the trees!"
Mummy: "Yes, little friend, that's the sun".

Greetings from Luxembourg, the country where the sun hardly ever shines

La danse des canards

I had my lunch at a bench in the park today and a duck couple was thoughtful enough to keep me company, close enough to watch the sun play with the shades of petroleum green and purple and to be amused by their somewhat peculiar walk (bearing a certain resemblance to my own, or so I've been told). But it was far more amusing to watch the passers-by, who without exception stopped and watched my canard companions. Smiles appeared on strict faces, and some even talked to the birds in their own language.

I think it means that spring is here. And also - there is hope.