Category: world history


On November 9 to November 10, 1938, in an incident known as “Kristallnacht”, Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, also called the “Night of Broken Glass,” some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps. German Jews had been subjected to repressive policies since 1933, when Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) became chancellor of Germany. However, prior to Kristallnacht, these Nazi policies had been primarily nonviolent. After Kristallnacht, conditions for German Jews grew increasingly worse. During World War II (1939-45), Hitler and the Nazis implemented their “Final Solution” to the “Jewish problem,” and carried out the systematic murder of some 6 million European Jews in what came to be known as the Holocaust.

Let’s never forget that this was the beginning of the aggressive and violent atmosphere that tantamounted to Nazi Germany.

As a child and teenager, I always shuddered thinking of this night for being what it was. As an adult, I get goose pimples and I would wish that never ever we will be faced with such insane enforcement of an individual’s delusion that made a nation become murders of so many Jewish people, communist, homosexuals, introducing delusional terms for the definition of culture and censured all culture and all types of art.

What happens if we have censure in a country?
Basically, it stifles all fluid intelligence or makes people go somewhere else. This basically happened in Nazi Germany and very quickly for that matter, and in a historically enormous dimension. I don’t want to name all the artists who had to leave Germany for the sake of their families and of their own sake, but whoever is interested will find the right source who these people were and where they went.

The reason why I decided to make a commemorative blog entry today was basically because in Spain, where I’m currently living, we have a problem with censorship. And this is something that keeps giving me the creeps. I foolishly thought that this was a thing of the past.

Having said that, I would wish that more people became aware of the fact that Kristallnacht and the way people and society as a whole reacted, was one of the many mosaic pieces of tendencies and unfortunate constellations that made Nazi Germany possible. This does not in any way say that this could ever be explained on a rational basis. However, it is important not to forget about recent history. Neither about Franco, nor about Hitler, nor Stalin, nor any other person of that calibre.

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The less inclined we are to actually get up and do something about a situation which we know is wrong, the less chances we have to stop an unfortunate event in time for it to get worse and spread like a fungus. There always will be a moment where we become guilty in a historic dimension if we decide to look away. If you know about something which you know is wrong, and needs to be changed, it is your ethical and personal challenge to make it known. Don’t be afraid to let others be participant in what you see, and let others help you.

We are one people, whatever creed, whatever nation, whatever language.
And if mankind finally got around to understand that we are on a damn sick road here, there would be a way out of this huge mess we created.

However what we need are people who are attentive, and assertive enough to point out the flaws, and the errors of the system. If these whistleblowers are being put into prison and chased like criminals, while the real criminals get voted, and re-voted, while so many other things are turning our society upside down that it is hard to keep up and not end up confused.

Maybe, this is another foolish thought of mine but I do believe that at least we would have the means to get out of this one, using and implementing the basics that are innate to the human being: curiosity, creativity, and also a good portion of sane criticism.

Don’t believe everything at face value. If you switch on the tele tonight, please think about Spain, and the way that censorship got the better of them. This is 21st century. We cannot allow this.

We live in an age where information and the communication media play an immense role. What I find unfathomable is that nevertheless the way how to use all these wonderful ways to communicate has not really been internalized by a great number of people.

Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that we get served all information we would necessarily need. Make an effort to read, and browse all the information that is accessable for you. Inform yourself. Not just once. Each day and every day!

Oh yes, and if in doubt, if you are wondering if you are critical enough, you are not. That is for sure. Read, read, read, but most of all: Noam Chomsky and all the critical writers you can lay your hands on! Be a critical person. Ask rather than accept facts and statistics as being god given.

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Ok, let’s cut the chase. I get to the point right now. Medias in res.

In Spain, we have two major problems.

The two biggest internal affairs right now are as follows:

1.) There is the ongoing fight in the Spanish parliament about whether or not Catalonia should have a referendum for the possible Independence of Catalonia. This is one major concern right now. You cannot open the web, without being aware of tons of articles, or not, but as a foreigner you tend to get lost easily. So what’s up with that?

There are two sides, as always. The one side wants the referendum. The other one does not. The reason for why Catalonia should have their referendum is pretty clear. Two weeks after the 11th of September, which was the celebration for Independence Day, broadcasted around the globe a couple of hundreds of millions times with the historically long “Via Catalana” a human chain by hundreds of thousands of people, and above all, peaceful, without any type of violence. The other side, however, says no… Ok, so let’s ask why…

I could speculate and speculate but the main reason is and always has been the money… Barcelona and the Catalonian region have a functioning economy, much to the chagrin of the NO sayers in Madrid. USA Today even called Catalonia the milk cow that’s being milked every so often when the funds in Madrid are empty. The cow seems to be tired of being milked so often. Ok. This in itself may explain for the obvious NO from Madrid as they do need the money. But let’s go one step further, let’s ask an underlying question. Why is there so much hatred that goes with the whole question…? There is such an underlying hate element in the Spanish society that sometimes even frightens me.

Best example was this poor Valencian guy who was imprisoned for talking to the police (in a normal traffic control) in Catalan, one of two official languages of the Catalonian region. The thing is: He was neither drunk nor drugged. And yet, he was taken away, he was arrested and put before a judge: For speaking his mother tongue. No, we haven’t taken a time machine. This is not 1939. This is 2013. This has some strange taste to it. There are a lot of historic “ghosts”, evanescent moments of hatred and repression that still work the same way as 75 years ago. All this is embedded on a very emotional level. Luckily, the poor chap, got some media coverage and via change.org and with the help of the social networks, the man was freed and his prison sentence of six months for speaking to the police in Valencian was revoked. But does it need to get that far??? I mean, come on, really. The whole incident seemed so warped that I had to include it even though it seems like a slight affair.

We are faced with the dark side of history. Spain had a dictatorship up until 1975 and the violation of civil rights, the pain and suffering, the cruelties, the passion, the fear and the repression so many people had to deal with, it is still alive. It is still inside most families. Some of them remember who someone close to them was charged politically, was taken away, and imprisoned or even executed. Spain is a free country. It is democratic. Is it?

Yes. On the whole it is. Spain is even liberal when you think of places like Marbella or Ibiza… But then again, is this actually the real Spain, or is it just what people think Spain is??? So what do I know??? You might argue, but you are not even Spanish, or have a Catalonian husband or whatever, but I see what I see. And each day, I get a better impression about what happens. Ever since I started to learn Catalan and finally prick up my ears.

The thing is there will not be any kind of mutual understanding and a non-hatred fuelled relationship between Spain and Catalonia, unless Spain simply lets go and leaves Catalonians be who they are, and let them go their chosen way. It might not be what Madrid, what the Spanish royal family, or what Rajoy would want for Spain, but still, they have a right to decide. We live in a democratic state (at least that’s what they say), so let them have it their way. Let them please vote.

We in Europe have so many states with two, with three or even with four languages. Think Belgium, Switzerland, parts of Germany, think Sicily, think Crete, think Malta. The more attractive a region is, less chances you have of there being only spoken one language. Chances are that a couple of nations already tried to invade it, and chances are that this happened. I am sorry if this is a bit juvenile but I always think of Asterix and Obelix when I think about invasion.

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You might think that the people in Madrid may be the Romans trying to force the Catalans to give up their language and cultural identity. But Madrid and a couple of politic agitators just see it just the opposite way. They see the Catalans as the agitators, or the traitors of the Spanish crown. There are some ultra-right wing people who deliberately disturbed the celebration of the “Onze de setembre” (September 11th), the Catalonian Independence Day. Funnily enough, justice was very lenient here, and they got away with a ridiculously low amount of 300€ while they smashed up things, menaced people, were hooded, entered a government building and were clearly not there in a pacific mission.

 

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Justice is a funny thing. This is something that startles me. How on earth can they get away with that? And how can the politicians in Madrid believe that their behavior was tolerable when they behave like that, that one might call a screaming injustice. Justice must have had a pretty bad day to sentence one man to 6 months of prison for speaking his mother tongue, and for fining another for an act of sheer and utter violence & some slight terroristic tendencies with a slight slap on the wrist.

Ok, I now. I am guiri. I should shut up. What do I know anyway?

Being a foreigner in Spain, not knowing any Catalan, and just about able to speak a few sentences in Spanish, I came here to the island of Ibiza in 2007, in December. I was not aware of all these underlying conflicts when I first came here. I tried to find my way around this place. I was busy getting my kids into kindergarten and into school. I had to work. And I had to take care of the kids on my own, as my husband was still 1 and a half years in Germany while I already lived here. I was quite alone, kept to myself, but in a still quite male dominated society I was treated like a “soltera” and somehow, people suspected I was. I did not know what to think about it but I was too busy to care.

So many of my friends in Germany shook their heads in despair when they heard where I was going and they asked me “Why on earth are you going there?” (rough translation: this pool of sinners, of depravity, hedonism and sex, drugs and rock’n’roll). I just laughed it off. And hey, now, almost six years later, I still live here. I feel integrated. My husband came down to Spain one and half years later than us because it was more difficult than we thought. Exit personal history.

But one thing really still startles me, especially now that I understand Catalan and speak it fairly well. Why on earth, do my friends who dared me, who induced me, who told me to learn Catalan… Why do they now back down when we are talking about the Catalan Way, the question of Independence??? Why are they the ones I never see when there is some event for the Independence? Why don’t they react when I post something on facebook??? Even though in private, they are fervent defenders of their home, their island, the right to speak their language and their right to vote. What’s up with that?

On the 8th of September, Ibiza also had a small human chain. The press said that there were 300 people. I can safely say that there were little more than 160 people, maybe 200 in the end. So: What’s up with that?

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However, now we come to the second problem, or to the second internal affair, that Spain has to deal with.

2.) The plan and its implementation of the TIL – integrative trilingual language system. This is a brain child of Jose Ramon Bauzà who somehow now seems like a Little Napoleon as he tries to push forward with this seemingly progressive system. So what does the TIL include: Basically it means a reduction of the Catalan and a high increase of the English language, that instead of 50% Catalan and 50% Spanish, the children get their classes in 30% in Catalan, 30% in Spanish and 30% in English.

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Don’t get me wrong. I love English. And for me, it would probably be a piece of cake, but then again… Think about how well or in some cases how not so well the outcome might be. Do they have decent teachers, do they have decent funds to invest in this Project. No. E.g, the school of Sant Miquel (a small village in the north of Ibiza) had placed up a huge bed-throw at the Wall of their school advertising tyhat the Balearic government still owed them a sum of 19,000€. And that is only one school. How so? How are they going to pay for the extra teachers… ??? How are they going to pay for the extra tuition??? For the extra books??? Hahahaha… Ladies and gentlemen. This will be solved Ibiza style, or Mallorca style. That is so easy, if your name is Jose Ramon Bauzà. Basically the answer is you are not getting any of this. Yes, You heard me.

No extra teachers.

No tuition paid.

No funds for books.

No funds for even paying old debts that concerned parents, the school itself or the state.

How on earth can this be a good basis for such a Project that – if it were well planned and well put into practice – not such an idiot thing. However, we are faced with empty wallets, resigned teachers, teachers who fear being menaced by disciplinary punishments and so on. The spirit of the generalissimo is still very much present. That present that the press today showed that Madrid does not want to change the name of Franco because of linguistic reasons. It is scary to see the adoration of a dictator who would have thrived in the amount of fear and repression that is subconsciously planted in the souls of so many, many Spaniards, as well as Catalonians.

And even if the TIL had come out as a proper plan, it would still be an attack against the Catalan language.

Let’s talk about how well are the Balearic Government free to decide what they are doing. There are many, many jokes in the net and one can see on television who is in charge. It is clearly Bauzà himself. Getting rid of a third of his parliament and claiming it was to show respect and the need to cut costs, was a nice excuse to get rid of his opposing forces within his own party. Bauzà has a nice little streak of a mini dictator in him. He may look like an ageing model or a car salesperson but in fact he is very strategic in what he does. Plus he thrives in the power he was given.

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Back to topic. No… I don’t know either. It is scary and it is such a preposterous idea. I am a strong activist for any type of increment of language and literature in school. But the way this is done is just… so, so, excuse me, it is so wrong… We have heard about the proposed system change right before the summer break and even then teachers were saying no. Little did we know back then. Now it is the second week of school and the teachers are still on strike, twitter is full of hashtags that show the support they are getting from so many different places, from so many different people.

So, I hope you know now about what’s going on in Spain and more specifically on the Balearics.

Why did I mix these topics together and added some streaks of personal history to it, even though they only on the surface have something to do with each other?

I would think that there is a deep underlying structure. If Wert called for the fact “españolizar” hispanize the children of Catalonia, then this is actually quite fascistic if not downright fascist.

If speaking Valencian is a crime, and smashing up a government building and disturbing an official act (given you’re rightwing!!!) is a small thing easily forgiven and does fall under the jurisdiction.

If a TV show (on IB3, the local TV station of the Balearics, government funded… ) about the TIL only shows:

– a group of six, all men (not one woman!)

– the majority were lawyers and not education experts

– one teacher, whose forte certainly was not to speak in public

– and without a decent distribution of the time allowed for each side (the defenders of TIL had 7 minutes, the ones against it 2 minutes!!!)

There is slight feeling, that this whole program could have been government sponsored and PP-program aligned. It is just so wrong the way they do a supposedly political program on TV. It was just so previsible.

Personally, I could not believe that there was not one person who was rhetorically able to speak up and up for the challenge.

Conclusion:

In effect, I wrote this blog post here, mainly because I was getting tired of being asked all over the same questions.

What is the TIL?

Why are you so in favor of the Catalonian Independence?

Why are you so Pro-Catalan?

Why are you against the TIL?

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Mainly, I hope to have clarified this issue with the above text. I am a language lover, I do not think that TIL is actually oriented in real life and will promote “fracaso escolar” more than anything else.

My obvious tendency towards the Catalonian Independence derives from the fact that I among other subjects (I majored in languages), I studied history and I think that the free state of the Catalonian people is necessary. Historically it can easily be derived that Catalonia is a state. I could go deeper into history but this would go to far. Also from the point of view that being a repressed nation, the Catalonians deserve to decide for themselves. Psychologically it can be argued as well, when the amount of suffering has been big enough for them that their will for independence outweighs the fear of being defeated. The Catalonians need to try it, I feel also Catalonian, I am one of them, and I wish them, I wish us the best of luck, and I think that Spain would be wise to let them go. Unless they want to have a century long hate relationship with even worse cases of linguistic recriminations and also crimes in the name of the Spanish state which presides everything.

First of all, I know, Catalonia is different, but Ibiza is also different. We work so much with tourism on a daily basis that the idea of reinforcing English in the school system is not the worst idea, but again… The way this is done, is what makes it turn out to be a total disaster or a plan that should be planned and scheduled properly in order to be successful. Please do not implement TIL. It is not worth the trouble it will surely cause. And try to prevent it for the sake of your children!

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So, where do I tie the knot?

Language and culture is like two peas in a pod. They belong together. If you take away the language from a person, in the sense that you make it a crime to speak that language, you steal part of his culture and basically you victimize him.

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Invaders have often done this. The Romans did this. The Greeks did this. The Spaniards did this. No big deal. But this here is the 21st century. I wish for mankind to be as far evolved that they see that you cannot suppress culture and language for a long time. It will stir things up. It will make people rebel.

Those in charge in Madrid, and also our little Napoleon of the Balears, Ramon Bauzà, would be well advised if he saw that denying people to speak their own mother tongue is a crime. It is a direct reference to the military dictatorship of Franco. And to be honest, this in itself gives me the creeps.

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What gives me the creeps even more is that there was a report that they want to reprimand people who speak on facebook, twitter or any online media about things that could cause a public disorder. This is also a step away from a democratic system. Be warned. And be alert that Spain and also the Balearics do not move back in time. This would be fatal.

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I seriously apologize that I could not post the homage to T.S. Eliot whose birthday it is today. But I will take the opportunity to thank you.

They say if a door closes, another one opens. Right now I can see where the saying is going but to be quite honest, I don’t really believe it as yet.

Things right now could not be worse from my standpoint. Ok, but this post is not strictly about me but about people who find themselves in a similar situation. It is about the people who will suffer a lot because they frigging have jack shit in their pockets, jack shit to eat, jack shit to spend on their children, jack shit to clothe themselves, and jack shit in order to follow a cultural life.
Apart from the ones who have been made homeless since they could not pay up their rent, apart from the ones who took their own lives in desperation, it is now quite predictable that a huge tidal wave of families or couples is coming who will be stuck in the same situation as me, which eventually looks like this: A family of four. One partner’s got a steady job, earns some cash, not the world, but somehow they get by, the other partner has a more or less steady job but as a seasonal worker (fijo discontinuo, which is not an uncommon scenario at all). For those of you who don’t know what this means, it is a specialty of the Spanish labour law, meaning that you have a seasonal contract for a certain time of the year, while the rest of the year, you will be jobless, simply because there is no need or no necessity to have a worker in this job in the low season. The contract revives after the low season again so you are truly a steady worker.
So, beware. Singles and one parent families can now safely breathe deeply cos they won’t be affected. This time around the families that this law is after, it is actually rather disturbing when you think about it. So, if you are married, it will basically happen like this: The woman (or whoever is the one with the seasonal contract) has completed her six month of seasonal work and applies for the usual state benefits for the upcoming six months where she is on the dole.
Then, the shock arrives. Instead of receiving 426€ state benefit, she will know only receive 105€ no matter whether the couple have got kids to support, whether they dire need the money just to get by. It does not matter the least.
I informed myself and it seems that if you have a partner who (now listen up, this is really good!) earns more than the so-called “intersalario minimo” (the average minimum wage) of 640€ / month, the law applies leaving you with 75% less of your normal state benefit.
So, instead of receiving a total of 2.556€ in a six month period (which in my case is to be expected as the island of Ibiza does not tend to have so many jobs to offer in the Winter months) you will receive 630€. The almost 2.000€ gap is something that a family of four is left to draw conclusions themselves.
That’s pretty, no?

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I would say this is the most horribly unjust law of the 21st century I have ever read about. This is a crime, and I don’t say this not just because I am affected too (which truly fucks me up too, admitted) but the core of this post is that I really envision what is going to happen in terms of the affected families, how will they deal with it, what will happen in Spain, on the peninsula, and also on the Balearic islands, and the Canaries.
It is not too difficult to foresee what will happen. Basically this here.
By taking away the last bit of money, not mentioning the last shreds of their dignity, not mentioning stripping the last bits of social mobility from this group, it basically spells poverty, cruel and not to be hidden poverty, poverty that is no fun at all. Not being able to pay all the necessary monthly bills, having to juggle things where to make another cut, in order to somehow scrape things together and get to the end of the month. Simple as that.
Taking into account that at the same time there has been a growth in nouveau riche people coming to the lively Spanish cities and hip islands, so the nouveau riche is just a stone throw (quite literally, in this case) away. This again heats up the rivalry between rich and poor, between have and have not’s. If Karl Marx were still alive, he would get out his pamphlet about the class battle.

Today, people seem to have forgotten that today’s world shows even stronger and much more cruel signs that there are three if not four classes today.
1) The poor, the unwell, the lower class – the ones who are either out of a job, too wasted, too ill or too socially unfit to work. The ones who are denied access to the big ferris wheel.
2) The mixed working and middle class – which slowly but surely seems to disintegrate – they either fall back into the group of the poor and unwell or they somehow make it into the group of the well off people. They are also struggling, they can get by, depending how clever they are, trying to work the system here and there. But basically, they are the working force of the new millennium. They hate the class 1 people because they think they are really just scum and don’t want to work. And they envy the class 3 people for obvious reasons.
3) The upper middle class – the well off people – they are also working people, at least formerly, but mostly they don’t really need to work anymore. Somehow, they are able to enjoy life as it is. They are able to lean back and watch what happens around the world. They despise class 1 and they belittle class 2 people. They envy class 4 people for obvious reasons.
4) The stinking rich – self explanatory. Of course, they know nothing of the sorrows or the pains that class 1 and 2 or even class 3 people go through. They could essentially make a difference with their wealth, but they don’t. They are reluctant to activate themselves. They observe and journey from yacht to yacht. Their biggest worry might be the question what to bestow their sons and daughters. Basically, this class is the real trouble. They are the root of all evil. If they understood that the world has come into such a crass imbalance moneywise and also in terms of division of wealth, and therefore if they would let others participate in their immense wealth, the world might be a better place. But, let’s face it, hey, this isn’t a fairy tale and I know it won’t happen.
When it comes to categorizing people, I tend to be quite ruthless, sarcastic to some extent, but I can spot the people in their peer group and make out their characteristics. I used to be middle class, today I can safely say that even though I try to hold on to middle class for dear life, I drifted back into the arena of the poor and unwell and it is only a matter of time but I eventually will stop posting blogs since I might be more than busy with the fight for survival. This is pure social Darwinism.

I know that I will need to somehow generate an extra of 320€ out of thin air. My husband works, he cannot get more money. Sincé we have been trying to cut down costs, I don’t know where another cut could be made, I don’t see any job opportunities either, especially not ones which are viable when you have two kids. So, even though economy is down, and the season is ending, I know I need to have an extra job for the winter, which is not going to happen as there are no jobs. So there is no need to worry at all. The poor and unwell are all waiting for me.

Noam Chomsky called it the class warfare. Listen for yourself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=9o7yQIMx17s
Back to Spain: Which conclusion can be derived from this? The sacred cow named family has now officially been killed. Or to put it plainly, it has been slaughtered and its entrails hang out its guts.
Had I been divorced or would I be a single mother, this would not have happened to me. Brave new world that has such people in it!
But being a happy mother and not a divorcee or single mom made me conspicuous. I see. Duh! I could have understood it if we were talking Franz Kafka, otherwise this scenario is just too Kafkaesque for me.
Apart from these schizophrenic mind-warping thoughts of some politicians who came up with this ludicrous law, I have other, still darker visions to share.
What about the children? Will I tell them to eat 75% less, to consume 75% less of a needed education, to need 75% less clothes, to give me 75% wear and tear to compensate, to grow 75% less so they can still wear last year’s clothes, take part 75% less in children’s activities which are not for free as we all know??? I don’t think so.
Luckily, you might say, you live in the countryside. Here the differences are not as crass. Yes, that’s what you would think. But they exist nonetheless. And my children have spotted the differences a long time ago. What is going to happen now?
The thing is poverty, seen from the outside might seem like a romantic hideaway, like a safe haven from the crazy world, but the truth is that poverty basically means, that your life is not much fun, and basically it is also going to end sooner and in a fashion you won’t like as much.

Poverty basically means:
– Not having the means to pay for a doctor (and here is to people who plea the national health service in Spain was good: Please spare me the discussion. Don’t come up with national health service and how good it was, I would hate the discussion and you know, NH in Spain is ridiculously bad in some areas, and to some extent, so let’s cut the crap and face up to some realities. I’d rather ram a rusty needle into my arm and do nothing about it than ever let a Spanish NH gynecologist ever touch me again. That was the most traumatic and dehumanizing experience at a doctor’s!!!)
– Not having the money to buy the most sensible food and therefore consequently not able to follow the most equalized and sensible diet. (Even though we know which food is better, sometimes your wallet decides what you buy. Simple as that. Look at the prices in a supermarket, compare what you can buy with 30€, and then you will see what I mean. Sugary, fatty, basically all highly processed food is dirt-cheap whereas natural, authentic, sensible and good food is quite costly.)
– Not being able to buy the educational books, toys, you name it that you as a parent wanted to provide for your children (and yes, we are all avid users of a public library, but there are books that are not available, and nothing can substitute a book that belongs to you, etc.)
– Not be as relaxed, nor as well-informed as others as you keep struggling with the mere and naked existence as it is. (this may be a secondary effect, but nonetheless it happens like that)
– Not able to make the cheapest choice since in effect you are forced to buy at a time when others lean back and say, “No, I will wait until the prices fall, and stabilize at a lower level.” You, as an impoverished person, are often forced to buy at the highest rate. And yes, it is true. This makes you even poorer. It is a vicious circle.
– This situation leaves you wasted and wane
– Not happy
– Not healthy
Ok, I could continue this list for ages, but even if we suppose that you are still capable of providing yourself with the needed information, still able to cut corners here and there, there is a physical limit to all of this. And the majority of all people affected will – and here you can be pretty sure – not be as realistic, and not as rigid in what to buy and what not to buy, they will also fall into the typical poverty traps. Therefore, their poverty might even look worse than the one depicted.
But the bottom line is this: poverty cuts you off from the rest of others. Shuts you up.

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Why? They are tiny things really. You will say NO more often and at times where you want to say YES. You will say NO when invited as you don’t have the money to buy a present. And you will also say NO because even though it may just be 25 kilometers, the trip of 50 kilometers just for a party plus a present you need will leave you skinned. So you got to decide. You will say NO because the last time you were invited and this time it would be your turn to invite but you haven’t got the money to invite, so you don’t. Poverty makes you lonely.
It sounds like it was copied out of a Dickens novel, a tale of gruel, and the workhouse, but this is the bare and naked truth.
I wish for some Spanish politicians and businessmen that they may come to experience the full-blown and fucking awful situation like this.
I know there are families which are even worse off than us. There are families where both lost their jobs and so on. But I don’t understand how the state can agree to destroy familiar unity with a law like this. I nudged my husband and asked him if he wanted to divorce me so we would get the full state benefit. It is so ridiculous. The bitter truth is that nobody cares about families anymore, let alone children growing up safely. This is something that makes me angry and sad.
For me, as an adult, things are much easier. I can survive on six months on nothing but the cheapest spaghetti and the blandest yoghurt, and nothing else. I will not be able to pay all my bills, so I will have the odd problem here and there, even though I have a very good consumer’s morale. But what bugs me the most is the crime of stealing a piece of childhood, which they are taking away from our children. The innocence and the feeling of carelessness is somehow lost along the line.
Apart from needing vitamins, proteins, vegetables and fruit, children need the feeling of being protected and well looked after. They need stability. They need laughter and also the safe home which is theirs. They need clothes, new shoes every now and then. It seems so incredible that all of this seems impossible just because the state decided they would rather help out some criminal bankers and some thieving politicians. No wonder that there is no money left to help out families.
How foolish to think in the 21st century that a family is something the state wants to protect by law. How sad to be mistaken in this point.
Ever since I was 15 I have been working. There is a multitude of jobs behind me, not all of them were good ones, but each and every one of them taught me something. And I do remember and also cherish this. When you work, you should go home with a smile on your face. Today, this smile is wiped away. It has been replaced by constant worries of will I have enough to pay my bills. Will I be able to keep up this rat race? With people who are (for whatever reason) on the dole or only part-time workers, things are even worse. You are being looked upon as some kind of underdog. You are an outcast of the system. There is something you’ve done wrong. Something in your personality that did not quite fit in. Oh, you have children. See? Told you so. To have children and to be proud of them is something that our society does not want to hear, much less cares about.
So, basically, I won’t take this lying down and I hope I can keep my dark sense of humor and still make things funny and worthwhile for my children, my husband, and for me, but if truth be said: in spite of being a born optimist, I have most extreme doubts of how we might get through this long, dire drought period, how well we will be able to adapt this time, how to make our way through the winter period. How to spin gold out of thin air.
It is going to be a tough ride.
Not to mention all the burglaries and muggings, which will start happening for sure.
Ibiza is a place for seasonal workers. Most of them leave the island after the season, but some of them live here, so these families will be in deep problems. Just like us. And there is no cloud, and sorry also no silver lining.
On mainland Spain, similar problems will arise with focus on big cities like Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid. I am curious how the crime rates will develop. This should be a fun thing to watch.
Oh, and another thing. It is pretty clear that this law is another red herring, a decoy to take away the force of criticism off Mister Rajoy and his ridiculously incapable leadership. So sad if people cannot just say “I fucked up. I take my hat and leave.” He does not seem to get the message.

revolution_francais

It is time for a new beginning. And time to shake up the system.

I’ve been living in Spain for the past 5 years and a couple of months. It is strange how your perspective changes during a period of time, especially when you compare the before and after.

I remember back when I arrived here, Spain seemed to epitomize everything I was looking for: freedom, a friendly, lively and open society interspersed with strong family values. I won’t say that this was all gone now. I won’t say that. That would be as untrue as some pre-election preachings by some dopey politicians. But truth is the time here has made me re-evaluate what I was looking for and also if these values are actually here, to be found in this country.

With today’s approval of the new educational law (by Wert) for the upcoming school year 2013/2014, things again have gone step further. A bit further in a direction I personally do not approve of. Spain and its current educational system changes have become my personal nightmare.

Wert and his wish to "españolizar a los niños catalanes"

Wert and his wish to “españolizar a los niños catalanes”

Spain seems to have changed a lot on the whole. Apart from having undergone two (!) upgrades of the VAT: one from 16% to 18 % in 2008 (or 2009), and one in 2012 from 18% to 21%! The mínimum wage still is at 650€ while France and the Netherlands have mínimum wages of around 1300-1400€. Any questions??? In other terms, it’s ridiculous.

 

Spain changed a lot. Politically, but also when it comes to forming a society.

On the other hand, I doubt that there is something like a country that does not change. It is pretty much normal that changes occur. The point is always your point of view. To make it clear: it largely depends if you LIKE or DISLIKE the changes your country is experiencing and actively forging. For me, this kind of evaluation, always has proven difficult back when I was in the old country, Germany. Since I am half Greek, half German, I’ve always felt kind of torn in terms of chosing one philosophy, one way of life and one type of political or society system. I never felt at ease living in Germany. I felt like I was betraying the Greek side in me. Here in Spain, I’m just another foreigner which somehow is liberating. 😉 One who, if I criticize too loudly, will be told to “go home where you belong…” Whatever. I know this could very easily be the case. So I try things on a different level.

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Returning to my situation here in Spain. Of course, the first years in a new country are always the hardest. You fight for survival. You learn the language, try to get a job. You help your kids integrate. You try to integrate yourself as much as you can. You try to basically keep your head above the water. If you still have time to share a joke with friends, maybe have a beer, every once in a blue moon, then you’re good. Actually, holding my head above the water is what I still do now. Economy’s pretty much weakened in the past five years, the job prospects have never been as scarce and as insecure as they are now. To be honest, a whole month sometimes can be pretty long, but your money needs to go that long way and you especially as a family need to make ends meet, somehow. Sometimes, you buy the dirt cheap crap that you know is unhealthy as your kids need new shoes, or you need the money to buy books or you have to repair the car or whatever. Poverty is not a nice friend to have. If always sticks it ugly head in when you least expect it. But that’s what happens. But somehow, we always manage. Somehow, we really do. I cannot complain. But that’s a joint force. Because we are a family and we are tight knit and we kind of don’t want to surrender. Up until now, we have done well I would say. But I’ve seen people come and go. And I know what I see. I know that the coming years will be harder, and more of a financial tightrope. We need to be stricter about the things we never used to think about. The only luxury we ever indulged in every now and then was a journey once per year. And I am pretty happy we did that journey, because that is something no-one can take away from us now. But if truth be told, after what happened in the past couple of months, I very much doubt that next year we will be going on any holiday at all. Plus the income possibilities are getting weaker and weaker. Everyone is trying to get by. Somehow. Every tries to cut corners. And sometimes your job is their corner they need to cut. Understand? Things are gonna be tough. And this is not a fairy tale. This is true shit. It is happening. It is already here. And it is here to stay.

Actually, when I look around me I truly find that there more and more people like me, meaning: educated, well motivated and somehow empoverished. They put everything on one card, moved away from their home town, from their home country, in search of a better country. Often like myself, 2nd generation immigrants, who themselves decided to move away cos they were not happy in the country they were living in. Sometimes, university graduates, like me, going abroad as their homecountry does not really care about them, and their abilities.

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But when we get down to brass tacks: A true exodus of brains already happened ten or even twenty years ago, the retrograde development of educational systematics in terms of the double language system in Catalonia, the continuous cutbacks in important government subventions especially in the region of culture, education and infrastructure – this is all so wrong. It can only be called wrong, sinister and I do say it, it is criminal. It is a crime against the next generation.

When I think back on my days at school, I do need to say one thing. School was basically fun. We had books, we had teachers who worked on a nice payroll, they were happy, we had facilities, we had rooms, we had tables, benches and chairs, books, films, educational material, money for excursions, and there were always things to do and the equipmment was pretty new. I was lucky that my formative years fell into the Eighties when Europe was in an alltime high in terms of economy and also financial possibilities. I feel truly blessed. But that is not the point. I was basically just lucky.

I know that the reality today looks pretty much different. It looks much more like a country in Eastern Europe. Could be Bulgaria, could be Romania, but stop, hang on, it’s Spain.

What happened? There are still enough millionaires around. The money of millionaires is actually in this country. Trouble is they don’t need to pay taxes. We – the stupid ones, the workers – we do. We are the slaves of the 21st century. A lot of money is to be spent. They do it. Politicians do it. Millionaires do it. Black money. I would very much say so. Anyone who disagrees is entitled on a free course of how the Spanish state financially works. Anyone who disagrees lives in denial.

If someone dares me, I will start to burn a Spanish flag any day. Any day. And I would go to prison for it because I think there is seriously something really wrong going on here.

Especially on a cult and supposedly rich (hahaha) island like Ibiza you get to see crass discrepancies of the extremely rich and the extremely poor. Here you have the big spender in his Hummer sipping champagne on the beach, snorting cocaine and bribing pólice officers. On the other side of the road you will have some nearly hungry and practically homeless kids, living in some sheds, working for next to nothing, only to get some shelter and put some food on the table. Those kids get picked up by the pólice for doing a joint and they wander into prison for having a gram on them while others walk free. That’s Spain today. The social disparities are getting crasser each and every day.

From a personal standpoint, I think I have found my home. I do feel so much at home here in Spain, and more so in Ibiza, but the thing is the political and social decisions here are getting more and more on my nerves. I feel almost violated through the insanity of the decisions that we are served each and every day. I detest reading or listening to the news. It makes me manic. Each day there is something that really hits my nerve. The worst is I cannot do anything against it except for let others know what I hear, what I see and make them think for themselves. My hands are tied so I am damned to see and do nothing more which in itself is torture. But I have to inform myself. I cannot pretend I would not know anything or I would not care about what is happening around me.

The current happenings here in terms of school and language options, the so-called Balearic decisions, and the Wert law that passed government approval today, make me think that the decisions by the minister Jose Ignacio Wert are truly a joke. No, serious, they are a threat to a well founded education of my children. Thus, the only thing I can do now is hope that we and others too will take the Wert law and throw it back in his stupid idiot face. I cannot believe this is happening. How can someone be that blind and that ignorant? How much must he hate the catalán language and culture he really wants to eradicate it from the educational sector and from the minds and hearts of people. 30 years. All for nothing? I don’t think so.

Trouble is though I cannot vote against him since I don’t even have a right to vote in Spain.

Another thing that is worrying me is that there is no real figurehead, no personality in Spain who is counteracting what is happening here, and who has the power to change things. The Royal family are themselves a desaster and a laughing stock, Rajoy, well, I won’t start on him now, and Wert, well, I’ve covered that area with today’s post. Are there no people around who are activist enough to do something? I wish there were. If I would see a cause I would deem worthy enough, I would surely try to be part of it.

The times to be non-political are definitely over. Even if you think you are non-political, you are indeed political. Wanna know how? If you say you are non-political or unpolitical, you let everything pass by, not assuming responsibility, and thereby cementing the current players who are in control. By you being passive, they actually gain power and you are thus inadvertently helping the current government. Like it  or not. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

There-are-no-dangerous-thoughts, Thinking itself is dangerous.

Wanna think this over?

PS: Actually, the more I think about it, the more I come to think that the whole language discussion is a red herring maneouvre to distract from current inner politics that went wrong as well… By the whole language debate, the catalonians will get worked up, and thus their power will be diminished… Therefore, it is so important to keep an eye on moving forward in terms of Independence.

penjoll-estelada-blava

This is going to be a tough one.

I wanted to be blogging a couple of days ago while passing my days on the couch, getting better from the flu which I got immediately after coming back from my Scotland trip. But it did not happen like that. It is a universally accepted truth and acknowledged fact that life is difficult at times. I was stressing. I had all reasons to do so. Now, I am trying to make ends meet, trying to get things back on track. So, in order to keep my promises incurred by previous statements, this blog post will be different inasmuch I will have to subdivide it into four blog parts. It does not work for me otherwise and I need to get stuff done so basically, that’s why the title is a bit confusing. Since time is moving forward this would be a good idea to get a clear desk.

These topics are all different ones but that’s simply a makeshift solution.

slavery

1. Freedom and slavery – I know it is a big title. Triggered through some talks with friends and acquaintances I recently had, I wanted to shortly discuss this topic. Of course, the two items in questions are diametrically opposite and the existence of the one would be impossible without the other. So what is there that could be interesting enough as to put it into a blog thread?

It is a very known dichotomy that often gets in the way. Freedom is something we all aspire whereas slavery is something we mean to free ourselves from. Have we achieved this goal so far?

I don’t want to sound dogmatic but I think that nowadays people have made themselves slaves to so many things, concepts, fellowmen, without even noticing that it is precisely that what is happening, this subconscious thing that we (the species man) are undermined in our natural way of being a free spirit and therefore, we lose touch with our essential necessities. The subjugation of spirit and the abandonment of freedom narcotizes us and it soothes our desire for experience in many weird ways, that brings us far away from who we are …What is it that we gain from falling prey to these surrogate gods, come on, what is it exactly? What is it that we gain by being slave to wage, slave to love, slave to success, slave to image, slave to food, slave to drugs, slave to whatever it is that we subjugate our lives to…

I know this is kind of provocative and I can almost hear people say “no, way, I am super free”, and “what a lot of bollocks”… I decide what I do and not the company that has the biggest marketing budget or the brand that my neighbour buys and I feel envious because of it. Let me tell you this. It is all very human and it basically happens to everyone. I won’t except myself from being a slave from time to time, but what I do about this, is that I try to become aware into which traps I am falling and thus trying to avoid these traps for the future.

Let me give you a brief overview:

robinson-crusoe

This may sound like I am some kind of female Robinson Crusoe but I am really not. It just strikes me that in spite of having achieved so much technological pioneering as a species, most people today are not really free in what they achieve in their lifetime, feel extremely pressurized time wise and therefore unhappy and stressed. And why is that? Because we (as a species) are very prone to be sidetracked. That is the bottom line. It is true. And here we can easily see that we, Homo sapiens sapiens, are not so far away from the Australopithecus.

Wanna hear an example?

Let’s start with the slavery/freedom pitfall of KEEPING UP. I have two children, aged 11 and almost (a week) 8 now, both girls. I constantly hear them mention tech things their classmates have, the modern amenities let’s call it: Nintendo DS, mobile phones, tablets, laptops and what not. Of course, every parent knows exactly what I am talking about. I get sick and tired of this. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I think it is such a contagious and stupid thing to “keep up with the Jones” and so not needed, neither by me as a mother, nor by my kids. No-one is actually considering of whether kids are old enough to use, and to treasure these things, to maintain them properly and whether, let’s draw a line in the sand here, whether they in fact NEED all these tech-age gadgets.

I know, some of my readers will now smile because they know that I tend to be one of the first ones to KNOW about technological advance and will be the first one to READ UP ON STUFF like that, but the difference is. I am old enough to differentiate between a leap in technology and decide whether it is worth my while or just skip it. Kids often don’t have the means to differentiate between an important and not so important thing. That’s why we, the parents, need to be very good in our understanding and be wise. What do my children learn when I tell them, “No, honey, I won’t buy you a Nintendo DS. First of all, it is money we don’t have. But secondly, and this argument really cuts the cheese here, you don’t need it. It is techno trash. (which it is) Get out. Take the dog and have a walk out there in nature.” Ok. This probably will work another four years if I am lucky, maybe five, but some day in the not so far away future my kids will ask me to give them the money to buy this and that. What am I supposed to do?

I guess it is a good thing that parents don’t get 12 or 13 year-olds straight away, but that we start out with the beginner’s model, the baby. Only shits its pants, cries, feeds and sleeps, sometimes burps and vomits. After the first four weeks, a smile is the reward for having completed the first level safely. But that’s basically it. Right. Let’s not get sidetracked here. Back to topic.

My main point is that we need to start early with educating the right kind of choices in our children. We are the ones who they look up to, we are the ones who hopefully make them aware that they in fact will see with their very own class-mates that the Nintendo DS or whatever fad it might be is a thing for eight weeks or maybe twelve and afterwards, the novelty wears off, it will be another gadget sitting there, polluting the planet with no significant help in terms of education or well-being.

Another slavery pitfall? What about being permanent available in BEING ONLINE 24/7? I used to be in favor of this. I admit it. I thought I would miss so much if I hadn’t been online one day. I thought that internet and all the social networks I had, the newsletters, the new mail I minute by minute I received was really important. But slowly but surely, I noticed that this was not such a good, not such a healthy way, it just was not right for me because it basically used to eat up so many hours of my working day that I felt the need to find a better way of handling computer time. I needed to do computer time, but also decided that I would limit my online time, control this behaviour until it fitted in with my working, personal and also social life. I was rewarded. My life now feels more real. More like myself anyway. I won’t ban the social networks, I just want to avoid falling into the pitfall of being online each and every minute of my day. Let’s face it.

Social networks are the reality of present day, we need to accept it, whether we like it or not. It would be stupid to ignore it and there is still room for improvement, room and imaginative ways that we can form this amorphous mass. Learn to use it as a tool. Like a chimpanzee will use a wooden branch to get his bananas off the tree. Yes. That is what it is.

We come to the next topic where slavery/freedom can occur: SHOPPING/HAVING INSTEAD OF BEING

What about the constant need for new cars, new tv sets, the newest fad gadget that will clutter so many households all over the planet until one day we will even find this gadget watered down even in a favela of Rio de Janeiro… See what I mean? How can it be that today it is all so immensely concerned with owning things, it is also about the consumption of the right products, the right food, the right clothes, and not about key traits like beauty, truth, knowledge and wisdom anymore?

Ok, don’t get wrong. I am not some sort of TV preacher, I don’t sing gospels, I am not even religious although I try to believe in God (I am agnostic basically, but I would wish there was a god), and I have done a fair share of stupidities in my time, but it strikes me (especially now after having come back from a trip that lasted almost one whole month) that everyone is mostly around with one or two shopping bags, and neither one really goes to the city anymore to see friends, to meet up, to share a laugh, to see a theatre play, play some sports or do something just for fun’s sake, but mostly people go out to buy stuff these days. Or they are out on business. What a strange and sad life that our so-called reality imposes on us. The main motivation seems to be “keeping up with the Joneses”. And that is so sad. Sant Miquel (the tiny village where I live) is in a pretty rural area. But even so, kids start using nintendo DS, they run around with a tablet pc and I keep asking myself why on earth these kids would do with these gadgets. I am not starting on the merchandising that follows every tv series like Hannah Montana, Angry Birds or whatever. Maybe, my thinking is a wee bit too orthodox here, but I read a couple of years ago this book “Affluenza – the All-Consuming Epidemic” by John de Graaf and I must say, there is so much in this book that comes to haunt me when I open my eyes. I used to be one of them. The people who are deeply unhappy. Who have a job, a good and proper income, but when it came to feeling my life, I know I had to change. So I did. I threw all precautions overboard and started out the adventure Ibiza. Well, it was not an adventure as such, we knew the island fairly well but basically that was an objective we had for 13 years and see the way so many people are oriented to consume, to buy stuff they don’t need, to impress people they don’t even like… Come to think of it.

To me, I found that my life became less painful and less of a drag when I rearranged my priorities and became more aware of what it is I am effectively doing:

Consume less – less air condition, less aerosols, less food you will throw away anyway, less petrol. Avoid to always cool down a room full throttle, rather try to create a draft. Summer is summer. Why use an aerosol, try to get the product with a pump spray instead. Think what you need, eat it, consume it but not excessively so you need to throw away only a minimum. Don’t make too many unnecessary trips with the car. Walk instead. It is helpful in so many ways, it helps reduce stress, it brings you back in touch with nature and it helps your health in general because it is a free cardio.

Help reduce garbage – don’t have everything double packaged, wrapped and re-use stuff. I am quite sensitive with this issue cause I used to work for a company in recycling and I think people should think so much more about the necessity of packaging and use things that have less and re-usable packaging. We only have one world, one planet. Let’s try to keep it in habitable shape for our kids and grandchildren and generations to come.

garbage

Downshift your working hours – I have been trying to that lately. I have been glued to the screen so many months in the past 12 months that I seriously felt the need to really take a break. I have bought the book the “4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss and I haven’t got round to read it but I am so interested in the argument that goes with it. I will keep you posted on this one.

ferriss

Spend at least time each and every day and say something nice to a friend, partner or a child / children. – this is a karma option. Do what you want others to do to you. I wish I would remember that one every day. I am absorbed so many times that I really need to work on that one.

All in all, I would like to finish this mini article (hahaha, this much for avoiding clutter) with the idea that freedom and slavery is a pair. One of them is yin and the other is yang. Try to integrate both of them to get the best results. We are all slaves in one way or the other. Sometimes, we are free but we chose the way of making us unfree, because we e.g, fall for the wrong type of friend, get contracted by a company that might exploit us, or we submit ourselves to a treatment that we don’t really need. One thing I learnt in the past is that the best remedy for a growing sense of slavery is to step back and take a look at the greater picture. If you see that something is kind of lopsided, imbalanced, then get rid of it. I am not even speaking of good or bad here, I am merely speaking of balance. When something is making you feel uneasy, then it is sure as hell time for a change. Whether it is material or immaterial.

For some people, this might be a really difficult exercise. But you decide to whom and to what you bind yourself, each and every day. The most important thing is to evaluate options safely and make the right decisions, based on facts and on feeling

womens day

2. women’s day – Each and every year, this day reminds me that we ought to have overcome women’s day. My main message here is I really think that this day stinks. It really should not be there at all. But if truth be told: man is perfect in celebrating the oppressed gender. And yes, I believe that women are still oppressed in many ways.

What bugged me a little though was that my loving and wonderful husband actually told me that these days it should be the other way around and that women had the long end of the stick. I don’t quite agree here. But that’s stuff for another blog post I guess. 😉

scotland

3. Scotland – wonderful country. We started out our journey in Edinburgh. We were a little outside in Linlithgow and were in a sweet little cottage. Weather was ok, it snowed a little and my little daughter was amazed to see snow for the very first time in her life, she is almost 8 now! The amount of snow was quite scarce, yet they still tried to build a snowman, but that seems so implanted genetically. So which sites did we visit? We went to see Edinburgh castle, we also went to see the Writer’s Museum, National Gallery of Edinburgh and a couple of smaller museums. I must say that I very much liked the Writer’s Museum and also the National Gallery. Edinburgh Castle of course is a must and we were even lucky enough to be there on the day that was dedicated to Elisabeth II. (I cannot remember what was the occasion) but they had a super long parade, plus salute with many cannon-shot during the usual 12:00h hour. That day, we were really frozen to the marrow as it was extremely chilly and very windy. It felt like well below zero degrees. So used to Ibiza sun, that was quite some different climate to experience.

Writer’s museum is dedicated to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. It is quite small but very lively and shows many interesting exhibits.

Edinburgh National Museum of Scotland  is also very recommended, especially for families with kids. There are so many things that kids can do in this museum, it is a bit like the Deutsches Museum in Munich for anyone who knows this museum. It has historic traits but also is very much linked to the present day. It is an absolute treat and there is no way to get bored in this museum.

The National Gallery is also wonderful and shows the most beautiful pieces of art. An absolute must-see.

The other museums are nice like the People’s museum or the museum of childhood but they are maybe not as important if you are there with a limited schedule.

Check this site here for more information on Edinburgh museums: http://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/

After one week in and around Edinburgh, we travelled up north to Inverness. Here we were again a bit outside and on a farmhouse cottage. For the kids, this was fantastic cause they could see highland cattle grazing right at our doorstep, the thickly clad Scottish sheep, and other farm animals. Inverness was not as exciting, but it was still a very nice town to visit. Also here, we tried to make as much as we could of our time.

Stirling Castle, Urquhart Castle, Elgin Cathedral and Fort William were also visited by us.

If you are a family and plan to visit Scotland, try to get the Explorer Pass issued by Historic Scotland. You can get it for different either 3, 5 or 7 days depending on the length of your stay. You will receive many benefits and it is very much worth your while. Also visit at least one distillery. We did so at Glen Moray and had a wonderful time there. The guide was very competent and friendly.

The only downside of visiting Scotland in winter was of course the weather. It was pretty cold, but we were in fact quite lucky in terms of rain and snow.

The last week, we spent on the isle of Skye, after visiting Eilean Donan Castle (the castle featured in the “Highlander” movie). The weather on Skye was sensational. It actually reminded me a bit of Ibiza as the skies were wiped clean and the sun came out, and it felt like spring in fact. Even though it was cold, the air was beautiful and it was super sunny. Skye is surely one of the best kept secrets about Scotland. Portree is the biggest town on the island. We visited it twice as there is not so much to see in the winter. There is a big port, a couple of tourist shops and some restaurants and fish and chips shops.

The wonderful walks we did while on Skye are the thing I will cherish for a very long time after coming back. We really packed backpacks and took a flask of tea, some chocolate for strength and went up to the Old Man of Storr, the Kilt Rock and its waterfall (an absolute amazing view!!!)

kilt_rock_skye_scotland_0845

and the summit walk of Quiraing. There is still so much more we would have done but our Scotland journey basically ended here and, after driving from Skye again back to Edinburgh by car and taking the train to London, which was very beautiful because you have a nice impression of where you are going and the landscapes are also really breathtaking.

In London, we had another three days before boarding our flight back to Ibiza. All in all, we had 25 days on the road. This is apart from the Australia trip we did back in 1998 the longest journey that we as a couple / a family took.

Obviously, this being a holiday of one of a kind, I am very happy that we all came back safe and sane. It  always is a good sign when at the end of a holiday you start to wish for your own bed and for your usual surroundings. I really had the feeling that we had a very special time in Scotland and in London.

london

London has always been one of my favorite cities but I must admit I had not seen it in quite a while and so it felt a bit like “la-la-land” it just did not seem real enough. It is a bit like falling into Disney world commercial. Too many tv screens all around. There are things where you ask yourself, what for??? Like the Starbucks coffee shops at every damn corner, there are tv screens on every garbage bin in Westminster which I found pretty monstrous. Who on earth needs that? It is so silly.

Well, but on the upside, we managed to visit the Tower of London which to us historians is quite a milestone. I had been visiting the Tower in the early nineties already while in Dublin. The Tower I saw in 2013 had nothing to do with the Tower I saw in 1992. The way in which it is presented is totally amazing and really quite pedagogical. Absolute thumbs up, even though also here, the prices are pretty hefty. For a family ticket, you fork out 55 British pounds. Plus the little guide-book and that is 60 quid without the eating and the drinking which you will need since the Tower is a thing where you can virtually spend a whole day or the best part of a day. But it is definitely worth it.

London is still the most expensive city I know. It is too damn expensive.

Summarizing, this journey has been amazing and wonderful plus I think and I hope that my children will remember all the beautiful things for ever and ever.

PS: Why didn’t I post in between? Because I simply was not online. First of all, it was unintentional as wi-fi was so hard to come by and my provider is quite costly to roam in UK, so after fraying a couple of days, I decided against it. I wanted to focus on the journey and not on the fact that internet is basically everywhere nowadays. On one day, I think the 6th of February, I was shortly online, but other than that, I really and truly disconnected the whole month of February. I came down and learnt to unwind. I don’t need to be online each and every day anymore. Some days I feel more like going online than others. I know that the internet today is a necessity but again here, the question of finding the right kind of dosage, is crucial and also a question of awareness.

PPS: I won’t promise to upload pictures. If I get around to do it, I will do it. If not, don’t be sad. Scotland is worth the trouble, even in winter. And London, even though it is getting closer to become a local branch of Disneyworld is a unique capital with many facets and a very bubbly character.

There is a distance that seems endless, limitless and somehow almost unfathomable when we think back to our predecessors. And yet, we still have so much within us that goes back right to the times when we were barely clad with some animal skins and went out collecting berries, herbs and fruit while the strongest and most valiant of our tribe would go out hunting to put meat on the table. When I think about what is going on in our society I come to the conclusion that we are not that far away at all. Not only are our clothing customs somewhat strange when one thinks about it long enough, not only are the women still suffering from hitting the socalled glass ceiling that keeps them from rising fast enough and high enough according to their mental and social qualities. Not only are the most valiant ones in our tribes somewhat degenerated. They no longer go out hunting. They no longer come back with something which is good for everyone in the tribe. And what’s more: They no longer are the most valiant ones, the most clever ones we have.

To be honest with you… In one weird fleeting moment I really thought about what would happen if Rajoy, Sarkozy and Merkel and all the other statesmen were subjected to the piercing eyes of a neanderthal tribe… What would happen then? We can only guess. Sounds like the beginning of another far-out science fiction story? Maybe. But… Come to think of it. The Neanderthals were not foolish. They did not have the intellectual capacities. But they had another thing instead, and that was the will and the power to survive. They knew if they would stick together they would be able to feed each and everyone who was strong enough to make it. There was a selection, maybe a cruel one. But at the end of the day they would make sure that only the ones that understood better, worked harder, and fought better, hit harder and had stronger teeth or wider shoulders would make it. Don’t get me wrong I am not an advocate for a social Darwinism here, not at all.

All I am saying is that back in those days, they still had the right perspective. And that was a straight and narrow path they had. Make or break. Do or die. They knew it. If they made one fatal decision, well, it might cost them or the whole tribe their lives.

So, back to our situation in 2012, here we are. Mankind, highly eveloped species. Or at least that’s what we think we are. I think we are not that far away from Mr and Mrs Caveman around a few thousands years ago. Only, Mr and Mrs Caveman died probably at the age of 34 or 39 if they were lucky enough to see their grandchildren. Life was accelerated back then. Accelerated to survive.

Today we have a different kind of acceleration. An acceleration to consume, to use, to abuse and to throw away. We have children at the age that some of our predecessors had when they died after a long and fulfilled life. We, in turn, don’t know what to do with ourselves. We want to remain children all our adult lives, in an endless quest to pamper ourselves, we lose ourselves in the endless sea of open doors, of unfulfilled possibilities. And still, we are not one inch better than the caveman. Cos we also like to make a killing, we would like to see defeat, we would like to burn down the house of someone who did us wrong. So, any kind of upbeat message here?

To be honest, I guess there is none.

Mankind in itself is cruel, set out to kill, destroy and dominate their peers as much as their enemies. We live in a not so fairytale world. How did I come up with this topic? Well, that is a very good question indeed. I am not so philosophical myself but I do consider myself a good observer of people and also of situations. I can see a picture or a scene, and I can tell you straight up what is wrong here.

The problem however being that seeing the problem … well let’s be honest … it does not get us anywhere. In my book, we as a species, can only survive if we stop being so downright debased, mean, selfish, and depraved. That is what is killing us? It is our own innermost character. Nothing more, nothing less.

We all shout it from the rooftops, we all want to be the good ones in the script, but when someone knocks at our door, the scenery changes very fast and we become someone we would not like to be at all. We become the judge, we judge anyone else but ourselves. We are quite a selfish lot. A lot that really does not understand the truth that is staring us in the face.

Europe is a blatant failure when you take away the pink glasses that every Eurovision Song Contest still wants to convey – alas, in vain. Maastricht seems to have been nothing but a fairytale. And that was just a historic breath away, twenty years, no more.

The currency Euro has failed as well.

The commonground idea of the European union has been given up by some politicians who have their say. It is a sad circus of overpaid government officials.

The majority of people is not really interested in reading the sign of the times. The writing is on the wall.

The coming years, we are going to experience life not as fun, not as easygoing as it once was.That of course only goes if you belong to the 80% of the people who are not blessed with a big acquisitive power. Let’s put things even more plainly. We may have no hope to reach financial freedom in our lives. But let’s be clear. The stakes are high. The crisis has sharpened the gaping jaws of poverty that are opened wide and we can maybe just about make it. That is: if we are intelligent enough and if we are lucky.

The most essential items are back: We are lucky if we have a roof above our heads, if we are allowed to work, and if we can set food on the table each and every day. If we can afford medical attention. The crisis is the new plague. The incubation time is over. The illness is spreading, and the patient is frail, but it has not reached its peak yet, even though some of us might believe it is already full on there, but no… Lucky us, no?

But inspite of the turmoil, the confusion and the spreading loss of values in society, in society’s nuclei (the family) and in companies, people try out things. New things. Exciting things. They start to remember their creative power. They organise themselves. They form new entities. New stateforms. New political parties. Alternative paths are often chosen.

 

 

Like in Catalunya, as much as in Scotland. People are remembering that they might actually be able to move a thing or two if they start fighting. To be honest, living in Spain and in a region were Catalan is spoken, at this very moment, proves to be the most exciting experience I could wish for. Don’t get me wrong. I live here because I chose to be here. It was not a random decision. It was well anticipated.

For me, as a philologist and historian, this whole Independence issue in Catalunya and the fight for Catalan remaining a second language is a very exciting, thrilling, and intriguing thing to witness. Everything seems possible at the moment. If people are strong enough to fight.

But there are other things, that go right beyond Spain and the Catalan Independence Fighters. Europe itself is reshaping. I have the feeling that the next five years and our economic wells and woes are going to shape Europe, the old world and also shape us in many ways.

It is time to pass on to a new chapter. This is history that invites you not just to sit there and stare at your computer on end. Think of all the bad things going on in your own country. Think about what you as an individual could do to make a change. Think about where you seem to be the prisoner of old habits, of jaded traditions, a victim of politicians’ greed for more, just spending the money of others while doing nothing for the public benefit. Where are you in this picture? Who or what is holding you back? Or if you are free – Where could you help others or yourself to free yourself of the shackles of modern day life?

Sometimes, many isolated baby steps may lead to a giant leap. Even though, I must admit, I am not really a deeply political person, I am fed up with the situation in so many ways and for me it is true. The time has come. No-one with a decent enough brain and heart should be non-political. I would wish for many changes. As much for the system itself, as well as in terms of political transparence, in terms of penalization of defrauding of boni grabbing, greedy and simply lying politicians as well as bankers, in terms of a solidarity between the rich and the poor, in terms of respecting language, identity, education and culture.

Culture is not a luxury. It is a must.

You too can make a change!

There are several reasons for this blog entry today. One of course is the anniversary of T. S. Eliot’s birthday who would have been 124 exactly today. However, that by far is not the only one. To me, T.S. Eliot has always been a special writer why I also wrote my masters thesis about his poetry (more specifically about Death in the Poetry of T.S.Eliot). T.S. Eliot was, is and will always have a special place in my personal library.

Another reason is today’s celebration of the International or European Day of Language.

A third reason is the rising atmosphere of xenophobia here in Spain.

When you look at Eliot’s probably most famous work, The Waste Land, a long poem from 1921, one cannot deny that Eliot is “the” Modernist writer of the beginning of the last century. When you read it, you have an eery sense of what he must have felt like as an American in England. But I don’t want to speak about his biography today, nor will I go into an in-depth analysis of one of his poems or plays. But instead I wanted to talk about the use of foreign languages in his work. T.S. Eliot was an English native speaker of course. But in the course of his life and thanks to a rather high-brow education, he learned Latin, Greek, French and even German. So, he was educated and he was polyglot. Back in those days, that was unusual if not somewhat unique. Plus he was an immigrant in England. He had come from his birthplace St. Louis, Missouri, to England. That must have been a bit of a cultural shock for him, I reckon.

Why do I mention this? Because in the Waste Land we have a kaleidoscope of different voices, like a radio, many voices, all speaking in their mother tongues. Eliot was someone eager enough in terms of intelligence and also with his education, someone who would suck up foreign literature as well as culture like a sponge. He was interested and back in those days, foreigners were scarce enough, so they would be pampered and treated rather uniquely well.

Trying to suck up culture and also the language –  That is something I must say that I tried to copy from him. And having said that, I would wish for more people to be much more open minded about culture, language and also people who come to their country to live and of course to learn their language.

I do find that nowadays our cultural and also intercultural digest/menu is rather shallow and the number of educated and well read people is pretty scarce. When I want to talk books, especially ones that have something more to say than 50 shades of Grey or some other book rubbish, I don’t have much choice since given my natural habitat of now 5 years, I won’t do this with a lot of people who are around me. Most of the book friends, of people who actually go out and buy books (yes, people like that do exist!!!) will be my old friends, or some funny acquaintances I happen to virtually meet through the internet or through the traffic on my blogs or Facebook. I don’t like to say this but it is true: A lot of Spaniards do not read very much… Some of them hardly read anything at all which I found extremely amazing but in a way that also scared me a little. That is just books. Foreign languages is even worse.

So many people in Spain do not even care to consider to learn proper English, let alone German, Dutch or French or another foreign language that would be a benefit to them, especially when you think that at least 85% of all the people have in one way or another customer contact and their business will be tourism related. This may only hold true for the Balearics and some place on the Costa Brava, but still. A shame it is.

Ok, slowly but surely, things are changing. Language schools are popping into existence. There are some language schools around, but let’s be honest. The level of education is still far away from where it should be. Of course, in Germany, the things are nowadays also not as culturally focussed as they used to be. The general level of education has been dwindling for the past 15 years I would think. Some Germans don’t really further themselves either, but since I live in Spain, and I get live examples every day I speak about the experiences I make around here. Especially now, when mobility is one of the key assets that today’s laboral market is demanding from us each and every day, I can’t but ask myself: why does it become more and more difficult to integrate oneself in a society as a foreigner? Why – especially now – xenophobia has come back with a vengeance?

That is one of the key questions I have been asking myself the last couple of days. Triggered by the question, what is nationality and what kind of bearings does nationality bring with it, I went one step further and asked myself why I still cannot speak catalan as well as one might expect after two years of steady learning and trying to be around a lot of catalan speaking people?

The answer in my case is pretty easy. Once guiri, always guiri. When we are speaking of the hindrances to move up in society through the so-called glass ceiling, we should add the vertical glass ceiling as well. I, born 50% Greek and 50% German, been raised and schooled and started out going to uni in Germany and then in Ireland, must state: in Germany I felt very much integrated but that was because the 70’es as a whole was a very nice decade to be a foreign kid in Germany. We used to be the exotic children. With the funny names. Which apparently, the little Greeks or Turks no longer are. The climate has changed. Pretty obviously.

And so it has changed in Spain as well. Here, you are being asked your DNI and when you scramble out your huge green certificate to show your a foreigner, there is this movement in the face of many government workers where you note that to them, foreigners are basically a waste of space. We are being asked more and more certificates, it is so ridiculous. We are Europeans. For God’s sake.

Ok, I am a big girl. I can handle the treatment. But what I can’t handle is the slightly more subversive form of xenophobia which is still alive and kicking. Want to read an example? Sure.

When I think about my willingness to learn Catalan. This is really a thing which is optional. As a Greek/German with perfectly good English and a nice professional level of Spanish, I really would have had to bother to learn Catalan. But then, since I am a language person, I did it. It felt good. It felt like a challenge at the time.

Fast forward two years, and now I can only say: You are being left alone. You are a foreigner. And you remain a foreigner. And that is something that I never felt before in my life. It is a weird feeling.

Last winter, I started out with two courses in Catalan, a B2 level to kind of brush up the grammar bits, and then the C1 course to move forward languagewise. After a record breaking 160 hours of Catalan I cannot really say that I improved very much… And that is due to what? Due to my constant denial to learn things. No, that’s for sure not the case. I really made an effort here, and I very much doubt it that anyone might have gotten better results given the circumstances. First of all, the course was filled with people my age (end thirties / beginning fourties) since this is the age group of Spanish citizens who were left out of the Catalan revolution at schools. So, there you go. One should think that they would be happy to see some foreigners in their courses. Nooooo wayyyyyy. All the Spaniards are somehow sticking together no matter how hard you try to become acquainted even on a superficial level. Second, a teacher who takes care of what his pupils ought to be taught in terms of grammar…

Well, enter and abandon all hope. After the C1 course I did at the local cultural centre in Ibiza called Can Ventosa (carried out by Institut d’Estudis Eivissencs), I must really say: it was a complete waste of time and also of effort. The teacher always spoke about things, only a Spaniard would understand. His accent was so hard to understand that it took me weeks to adapt. When I finally understood him, I noticed it wasn’t much I was missing out. He was speaking about football stars, the latest funny things the king or Udangarin did and some other really strange conversation topics. Nevertheless, I went there. Week in, week out. I am a fighter and I won’t stop going there unless I have had my chance to really get some more education. Little did I know… I should have stayed at home and tried to listens to TV3 or have watched some Catalan movies instead.

Guess what… At the end of the term, when everyone was preparing for the exams, that was the very first time we started out on grammar. I had tried to talk him into using more grammar bits which he would not do, since that would be a thing for much lower level. Now, having tried and failed the C1 test, which – given a proper grammar exercises – I would have easily passed, I feel really bad having wasted so much time on going to courses, where I did not have proper learning, where I did not have at least some social interaction… To be quite honest, there is one woman which I sometimes see but that is about it. Which is very sad. I mean sometimes it does not happen. But since I am a socially interactive person I really start wondering about xenophobia…

In Germany I never experienced this. Now, after 5 years in Spain, in Ibiza, I noticed that we are looked upon as foreigners. Ok, we have a little circle of friends, but there is not one Spanish family we became acquainted with. All our friends are immigrants like us as well. People from all over the place. England, Denmark, Ecuador, Romania, Israel, France, Germany… but the Spanish people obviously like to keep to themselves. Which is a shame.

And the worst of all. The Catalan thing that really should unite people is in fact separating people.

When I apply this knowledge onto the latest events I saw on TV, I really start wondering, what good can it do to a state like Spain when in times of economic downfall, foreigners are being pushed aside… I very much start to wonder if the Catalans are any better… I tried for several weeks to get some involvement with people who would have been able to correct my long short story or short novel, however you wanna call it, and guess what… There is not one person who wants to do it.

They say, that times like these are hard. I would say that mankind slowly loses the capacity of viewing culture, language and music as a vital keystone that they could go out and share with one another. That is something that makes me funnily enough really sad. When I see all these notices about the day of languages… that is also celebrated today, I get sick in my stomach when I see that I – after three months of searching, putting up papers and don’t know what other stuff I did to get someone – cannot find a nice person to read and correct my story… And that is not about me. That is about society as a whole and the way people tick these days.

Everything is about money. And about “Are you useful to me?”. I feel sickened. Having said that, I really do hope that one day, someone will turn up and just show me that there are still some nice people around who tick differently. Right now, I cannot bring myself to either enroll in another Catalan class, nor to finish my novel without the proper help of someone who could fill in my obvious grammer gaps.

Funnily enough, I did a test today on the internet and found out, that my overall comprehension level is C2 and my level of oral as well as written expression is only B2… And that is kind of telling in my book I would say.

I don’t want to end on a downward note, but right now, I seem to have lost all motivation to really follow that road. Maybe, the idea of writing in catalan was too big a thing. Maybe, I am just an anachronism in terms what I expect from people. When I used to study in Ireland in 1991 / 1992 there was not any internet, but there were people from all over the world in Trinity Hall. And that is the kind of cosmopolitan atmosphere I do not find here. I find it stifling. I find I am surrounded by people who are xenophobic. Worse even: they claim not to be xenophobes, when in fact they are… And they are the worst kind of all… They smile into your face. They keep telling you, how nice of you to learn catalan. On the inside, they have these stupid thoughts, that you are just a guiri, and that you are not worth their while. Like I said: Hidden xenophobes. And that is not a good thing to feel like.

Please… Don’t forget. We are everywhere foreigners. Only in the country where we were born, we are not foreigners. Don’t be xenophobes. That is the most stupid attitude on earth, just like racism or other kinds of -isms.

Never forget… Illegal Immigration started in 1492…

When you look around in the world. Most of the people are concerned with the 9/11 celebration and remembrance services for the heroes in NYC. But, living in Spain, 9/11 gets outdone easily by this year’s “L’Onze de setembre” which is the National Day for all Catalans. I don’t want to go too deep into the history of the date but it goes back to the year 1714 when a lot of people died a heroic death, serving their country and dying for it.

The world of 2012 is undisputably quite different nowadays. First of all, today a lot of Catalans were in Barcelona celebrating the Catalonian National Day. This was a day of historical dimensions. There were 2 million people present in the Catalonian capitol Barcelona. A lot of them waving the red and yellow flag with the star. They showed their political opinion. And it was a demonstration that had no major hickups as far as I know.

Then, some of us need to follow a more mundane rhythm of life. Basically, you are far away. Back in the olden days, you would have yesterday’s paper to inform yourself. But hey, this is 21st century. You have all the comfort of sitting at home, watching television, using the social media such as facebook and twitter to receive the information of an event you would like to witness rather closely but cannot make it.

To be honest, I did feel quite close to the events. I read a lot of well written articles about how people right now. Of course, I am just someone who immigrated about five years ago, but I still feel I have a right to form a political opinion on what is evolving here before my very eyes. Even though it is quite clear that if I had had such a terrible urge to go, I would have gone there. I can safely say: Go on, Catalans. Try to push forward. It is worth a try. Go on, Catalans. Don’t submit yourself. And what I saw today was a sign that a lot of young and youngish Catalans are not prepared to tolerate too much shit we are being fed each and every day. They have been pushed that far that now the idea of separating from Spain altogether does not seem such a bad idea.

And you know what… After having done a fair bit of reading, I totally agree with them.

Visca Catalunya lliure.

I must admit I have been lagging behind with everything. I was tied up with things, organizing stuff, tearing myself up with wanting too much at one given time, I tried to do many things at a time and got caught up with the some areas that made me think things over and over since I kind of have the tendency to overload easily since I cannot say no. No seems to be the one word, I have not learnt in years, and not after learning so many foreign languages. No does not stick with me. Therefore, I had forced myself to go and override my own emergency signals, like not getting enough sleep, being erratic, being highly strung, being a bit like as if was on drugs, which I wasn’t but then again it does not matter. Basically, I had to summer-clean my mind (too late to call it spring-cleaning now), admit that I made a mistake in my conception of someone, still I don’t need to beat myself up about it but … relax, calm down, get some fresh air and sit back and enjoy the simple things again. Now, I reckon, the worst is over. Writing can begin again.

So, what about today. Jun 21st, summer solstice, does it mean anything to me? Um, yes and no. There you go. Opting for the ambiguous answer… almost always. 😉 I guess a lot of semi-sciences want this day to be special since it marks the longest period of sunlight in the northern hemisphere, and hence the shortest night as well, whereas in the southern hemisphere it is all reversed, it happens vice versa, shortest day and longest night.

For me it is somewhat special in the way that I think, woah, shit, and now the days are slowly getting shorter again even though we haven’t even reached the peak of the real summer heat. But then again, I guess we all know that summer is not an endless period of time. As a child, it feels like and it also seems like an unlimited, endless amount of afternoons: it is like a huge adventure coming your way. You could spend these afternoons in the park with your friends, sitting in the shade of a tree, or riding a bike, or playing football, going for a swim, playing hide and seek, or reading hundreds of books, or collecting things or whatever tickles your fancy… And then, after the first weeks, you get bored, you start to roam about, when you’ve met up with all of your friends, you suddenly feel weird, you look at the calendar, and think, my god, and it is still roughly one month or even one month and a half to go…

When you grow up, this feeling of unlimited time of having time on your hands often gets lost. But guess what? There is a chance to recuperate it. I am serious. You may just try to think again like when you were 10 or 11. You think of all the nice things you might want to do and just simply do them, not thinking about tomorrow. And then you may just spend one whole afternoon watching something, some silly little animal or merely hiding in a tree, sitting still, so no-one may find you. That people might think that you’ve gone lost and they start to run around, and you just sit there, maybe musing, maybe sniggering a little too… watching the bright blue sky above you, not a cloud to watch. Just bright blue skies. Sometimes you wonder where the hours go when you really enjoy something you are doing but it does not matter when time flies, being yourself and being with you, hoping to take that crazy pace away.

Take away the rushing to and fro, forget about the have to’s, need to, the should have been’s and start to linger… Really, I mean it. Start lingering and you will see that your own spirit will return quickly. If you feel overwhelmed, or haven’t been so sure about a certain thing, the part of your heart, of your brain, of you, whatever name you got for it, where you need to make decisions, it will feel ready to unfold, to relax, and decompress like a deep-sea diver who needs to adjust the oxygene level bit by bit. Yes, it does help you get back to being yourself again and cos it makes you see things differently, more clearly.

I wish you guys all to have more of that wonderful magic and beautiful summer time that streches out before all of us.

When I, some hours later, had climbed down that tree and would sneak back home, you could bet that my smile went from one ear to the other. And even if my parents would be mad at me I would not tell them where the heck I had been.

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The more scratched my knees and elbows were, the more proud I would be that I had been coming through the wilderness and made it back home, to a bathtub, a bar of soap and scratchy towels. It had a weird sense of victory.

Wishing you a hypnotic summer, and one to remember!

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