Friday, March 28, 2008

Spring break

Dear sisters,

My silence on the blog does not mean I am, in fact, enjoying silence on this side. My son is on spring break and to say he talks a lot is not overstating the situation. He talks and talks and talks and then he repeats what he just said. All day long. His chosen topic of conversation is Pokemon and all that involves. I understand this is a universal rite of passage every nearly (twenty seven days and counting) six year old boy must go through, and we are there with him. His 'Poke" cards are bound together by an elastic band and form a constant bulge in his pocket. He rings his father - who is combining business with pleasure in Amsterdam this week - just to tell him which cards he has traded with his friends Liam and John. He now has Pikachu, ladies and gentlemen!

It is Friday and the week has gone by quite fast, with playdates, sleepovers, and excursions. I took Jip and his two friends to the movies on Wednesday. "O, Gosh, O, Gosh, that rocks!", "Awesome", "I'm going to blast you" are just snippets from the backseat.

(covert pokemon card trading)

Jip told me he loved his sister as much as his Pokemon cards, which is a lot, obviously. To prove it he kissed her in front of his friend Liam, who asked "Isn't that really gross?" "No" Jip said, shrugging his shoulders.

Rosie has, meanwhile, seamlessly transitioned from the "mine" fase to the "why" fase. Or I should say "moin" and "whoiy".
"It's funny how she has picked up your accent", they say at school. Don't blame me for her funny accent!

My daughter is not in my good books. The word 'no' means nothing to her. Unless it's my answer to a request she has made. Then she stamps her little feet and wails. Of course, in between she is as charming as anything, but she has come very close to the tipping point this week. I have forgotten. How long does this last? A whole year?

On the breast cancer recovery front, I am happy to announce the end of radiation. In hindsight it went quickly and wasn't too bad at all. The end of the day fatigue and the hourly hot flushes are my main discomforts. Unfortunately, with my hormone treatment they will be continuing. I received a shot in the stomach, with a rather large needle, to suppress my ovaries this week and yes, I am continuing to flush. My exact treatment has not been determined, but most likely, I will receive one of these shots every month for the next five years.

I don't wear my fashionable chemo turbans anymore. People sometimes stare a little, but it could be because they are so impressed by my new hair color, or my sunglasses.

Anyway, we all slept through Scattered Sisters' 1st birthday on 15 March, didn't we?

Happy Birthday Blog, Hooray, let there be many more years.

S2, some pictures of your pictures on the blog please.
S3, what were you doing in Sweden?



Tuesday, March 25, 2008

red sari's, fish, swedish pakistany weddings and biologists

What dress will i wear ? Nothing red and nothing too revealing i was told by my Pakistany London based friend who had decided to get married in Sweden on easter saturday.
That was all i had as preperation for this first muslim wedding event of mine.
i was imagining having to cover my head from top to toe and i got some helpful advice from my school mates who suggested i go dressed in my sleeping bag. Dekuji mates ( thats thanks mates , in czech ) Yetti said i looked best in my most revealing and shortest dresses , really these mountain bears are so typical!
I decided to fill my suitcase with quite a few varied garments and creatively puzzle them together with the help from my girlfriends in Sweden. I must say i do like the viking countries, I felt immediatly at home with the high sky, wide sea air and melodic friendly swedish language. Arriving in Copenhagen and then getting the train across the longest bridge in Europe to Malmo in Sweden was already a dream. Not knowing where i would meet my friend due to failing internet connection and last minute travelling, i decided to just go to her hotel and find her there but no need ! I find that in some special rare cases telepathy is much more reliable ,as who was on the same train walking towards me ? Yes , my friend ! Amazing ! She had just arrived from London with all her family and suitcases and was off to go to her hotel. We got picked up by her tall, swedish blond groom who took all our bags and the mum in the car and then we walked with our umbrellas through the fresh sea rain to our hotel. I was immediatly consulted on what i should wear as i settled into my cosy little room and all was well.
That evening we went to an indian restaurant in Malmo where all the food was cooked infront of us with fresh spices and it was a feast for the senses , really delicious! Even the mum and aunty agreed , which is quite something as they are the best Pakistany cooks in the whole wide world ( i tasted one of their meals in London six years ago and its still making me drool ! )
We had a joyeous evening and they immediatly made me feel like one of the family. I was very honoured to be part of the henna evening where it is custum to paint floral decorations on the hands of the bride. All the girls had to henna some flower or other beautiful ornament on her hands and when her mother started drawing her bit we all thought it was some secret ancient pakistany symbol of love , but it turned out to be a small chicken ! A real easter chick ! haha we had a good laugh and made the chicken look quite good with some twirly flowers around it.
After midnight ironing of dresses and sari's we settled into our cosy hotel beds and got a good night's sleep before the big day. Well, i did anyway ! The next morning we awaited the bride to come downstairs in the hotel lobby and with a very pale groom who had had difficulty with his new belt and tie , we met the whole family and friends.
And then the bride descended with her mum, sister, cousin, aunty in her deep red sari and hundred year old goldpiece jewellery handed down from her grandmother on her forehead, she looked like a princess and i got tears in my eyes! But that's only because her sister started first! It was a bit embarrassing as not even the mums were crying yet and there i was trying to stop my mascara from running but luckily we got whisked into a big van with the bride and all the girls to be driven to a secret swedish dream small castle overlooking the sea in the countryside .
Nobody really knew what was going to happen but we all just went with the flow and after a lot of waiting and smiling and anticipation we all went upstairs to a beautiful red carpeted room with big windows and sat down on chairs until the ceromony started with a muslim priest speaking in english and my friend's future husband awaiting on a chair. Then my friend walked in with her brothers and mother and sat down next to him facing us all and he started the wedding with the presence of God , yes (s)he was also invited !
They pledged to take care of each other and spoke of the treasure being more important than the treasure box and other beautiful extracts from the Koran, they exchanged rings and were wife and husband !
It went really fast and smooth and then we all stood up and each went to congratulate the happy united couple. We then did a whole series of photographs with friends and family , it was really fun actually.
Then we glided downstairs as the sun started shining even more and moved into this glass house overlooking the sea where we all sat down and started eating delicious scrumpcious fish food. We drank only water so no alcohol to relax our senses and talk more freely but it wasnt that bad ! We actually remembered who we had spoken to the next day without any guilty looks of possible embarrassing moments.There was a nice variety of people, chinese linguistics, fish bioligists, firemen, doctors, puppeteers, printers, uncles who studied in Paris in the 1960's and kept quoting from french films in french , so luckily i could understand but im not so sure the danish guy who spoke chinese did ! haha
We then smoothly headed back to the hotel after an ellaborate but light meal and feast and had an hour power nap before changing outfits and going on to a swish tapa's restaurant in Malmo . Very nice place and lots of fun with all the new friends made in just a day. i lke the swedish , they are very funny and i felt i was bonding with our viking roots.
At about midnight it all smoothly ended and the rebels who could no longer take all this water drinking decided to go to a swedish pub and have a beer. We went with my friend's brothers , the fish bioligist who lives in Vienna, the danish chinese linguistic and a Fin and i myself. It was an irish pub and i think the whole of Malmo was escaping their family easter visits, it was completely full with a live concert playing. A bit loud and lots of clapping. I think this must be a typical Swedish habit of showing happiness as they did it quite a lot either that or the beer. Lots of vikings there and we had a good laugh!
And so my dream weekend ended the next day when i had to get up early to catch my train to Copenhagen with the sun shining so bright i couldnt believe it !
I was back in Prague at two in the afternoon and after treating myself to a big kaffe latte and cheese pitta i walked home in all nostalgia and then from the sky appeared big flakes of snow! MAGIC ! truely beautiful. Im still recovering from the amazing event and am very honoured to have been a part of it all ....
Now i am in Prague and very busy at school and going to free concerts and reading books . Have just found a really nice book called " Running in the family " by Michael Ondaatje , i love this writer!
Unfortunately i have no picture of the wedding on digital so that explains my verbal flow!
But no fear , here are some nice pictures from things seen and felt over the last few weeks , hope u like !
The musicians are from this concert i went to see in a parking and they are my new favourite band called Nana Zorin and all are from Prague and they play on this funny russian instrument that makes noise reacting on vibrations! Apparently it is better than marriwanna as the tones make you instantly high ! amazing! i want one for my birthday !
positive vibes from Prague
Love and PEACE

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Looking down at the pool below

How beautiful. The sun shows spring is on its way. Whenever it does this it casts soft and rippling shadows on my ceiling two floors above, and sometimes my shadow gets in the way, so it is like I am sitting by a sunny sea.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 Normandie!

In the meantime, as you were in Dallas Texas, S1, and S3 was at home in Praha, I made a quick getaway with the parents to La Belle Normandie. As ever, when I reach that place, my worries wash away with the water streaming under the house. The trees speak to me in soothing ways. It takes a couple of days though. The oxygen that hits you is quite amazing. I slept so deeply. I was about to walk out when it began to rain, so I waited, but then the sun came out so shiny, and it was bliss: there were glittery rivulets running down the hill and I followed them, watching the clouds they reflected. I am amazed to find that I can walk the same trajectory in the same landscape time and time again and always the experience is utterly different.

I also read a good book, one of our mother's, who was reading it for her bookclub: The Dig, by John Preston. Although Mama tried at several occasions to tell me the whole plot instantly, claiming it wouldn't in the least change my reading experience, I did manage to read it for myself and did manage to have some surprises.

‘The Dig’ is a lovely story about an archaeological dig of some mounds of earth that took place at the end of the 1930s in Suffolk. It is easy to read. The characters are all there, there is space between the words, that space filled with humanity, and reality and disappointments and clarity. It is a series of accounts of events, by the various protagonists, all from their respective vantage points. They relate their part in a historical find, against which their lives stand out in all their ‘normality’. At one point two of the characters explain their interest in both archaeology and photography as coming from a desire to catch glimpses of the fleeting lives that are passing by like the ghost-like figures on an old photograph of a Victorian street. In the book, the characters themselves become that material. Somehow this little gem of a book manages to touch you that way, and you are left with a tremendous sense of being just a fleck of dust on a windscreen about to be wiped away. It is uncomplicated and kind. I am grateful to the writer for this. You will enjoy reading this. It also has a sense of the earth imbued in it. The dig is as much about us, the reader, excavating and examining the air around the people doing the digging, as it is about the actual, literal dig, and then if you are not careful, by association, it comes full circle to be about the reader and the air around them. As such the book is very clever. Throughout the story you glean the backdrop of the immanence of war, and several other stories which are never fully expressed. Just like real life.

For the rest we had really good food as always and our father filled us in on some disturbing facts about post-war Europe that I didn't yet know. It makes you think, about the stories we are told and the stories we are not told. We also watched You Me and Everyone We Know and enjoyed it!

I also listened to The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle on my handy walking-and-listening device. I am not sure if it helps me get more in the present, but his voice is soothing just like the trees. It is telling that I sent the book to my friend M. in New York who simultaneously sent me another book by the same author. I think it's a sign. Of what I don't know yet! Our friendship, already, for sure. The funny thing, is that, after listening to about 18 hours of the book, mother listened for 5 minutes on the journey back. Then she handed it back to me. "I know all that already" she said. True to form.

Otherwise, I am currently back at home devising ways to sort through my paperwork, and am trudging through leftovers from the past. Each bit of paper I throw away I feel lighter, much lighter. It is a question of giving everything its rightful place. And some things just have their rightful place in the dustbin. It is a question of sorting...
In the mounds, however, there are also treasures: I found some nice photos of you both, which didn't end up in the dustbin. I did decide, however, that some of the unsent loveletters I found would not lose any of their precious intensity by being torn up and thrown away.
Love, and be well,

Sunday, March 9, 2008

You should go to sleep Sue Ellen, you know how haggard you look when you don't get your full eight hours.

Texas is not California.

Admittedly, I have limited evidence for this statement, having spent just a bit more than a day in 'the Lone Star State', but the massive expanses of empty concrete, with low rise blocks housing McDonald's, Taco Bells, Johnny's Italian Cucina, the Texan Steak House, the Boot Factory and so on, built around freeways, fly overs, and glass towers glinting in the sun, were all indicators.

The "Y'all have a good day, now" (insert drawl) when we left our diner, was another indicator.

I flew to Dallas on Friday afternoon to visit my friends D. the Pool Champion & D. the Invincible, who are in Texas for medical treatment for D. the Invincible. We stayed in Arlington, a picturesque place between Dallas and Fortsworth, overlooking the original Six Flag Theme park. Arlington is the largest city in the US with no public transport. It was a quick, sharp visit, but so much better to talk face to face over a 4x2 breakfast special.

On Saturday D. the Pool Champion and I went on a pilgrimage. For you sisters, born after 1970, you might not understand why we would bother to drive for an hour to get here, but others will understand.
We visited the South Fork Ranch, home of the Ewing family.

D. the Pool Champion, and I enthusiastically had our picture taken in the Ewing Museum - how long can this still be an attraction, you ask yourself? - and then hopped on the mini bus for the grand tour, the driver assuring us he would make an attempt at humor, tips appreciated. Not more than a 100 meters further, we stopped in front the Ewing mansion. Much smaller than we remembered; "Ah, the magic of television ". The magic had also been applied to the driveway which had been extended in the series by inserting double shots, making it longer. Another illusion was shattered when they told us that the house was not actually used for the inside shots. The rooms are now decorated 'as an homage to the characters'.

We came to understand why we had been so surprised by the cold weather in Texas. All the outside shots for the series Dallas were done in summer and used throughout the year. All these years, we have been led to believe that Texas was always sunny and warm. Not so in real life.

But hey, we ticked this box off.

We kissed the picture of JR, hanging in the museum, and now D the Invincible is going to get better.

Love S1

Update with permission, D, the Pool Champion, Texas style

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Dear sisters,

Our house in Amsterdam has been sold! After 8 years it is no longer ours.

I am not a sentimental type, but I would just like to throw in a few memories for you:

1. This is the house that we built. Well our friendly architect Penne remodelled it, after months of heated discussion over coffee and cigarettes, and maybe a beer or tequila shot here and there. Talking about light, form and function. What started out as a project to make a few well chosen adjustments ended up as a full blown renovation of 3/4 year, which cost Penne a few of his precious hairs, I am sure. It was during the first Internet bubble and the sky was the limit - on paper. We ended up with a walk through glass shower, a one of a kind aluminium kitchen, an open space with a 7 meter bookcase scaling the wall, an open bridge leading to a tiny -just what you need - "lounge room", furnished with sheepskins and big coloured cushions - no, we did not design with children in mind - a custom designed guest bed with matching cupboard and a yellow wall. We did not touch the grape vine growing across the front of the house, but that was about it.

2. This is the house where, in those still childless days, many after-parties were held, much to our neighbors delight. We have been known to host dinner parties, where, after drinking too many of our own welcome cocktails, we did not serve dinner until midnight.

3. This is the house where we had two children, crawling up the practically vertical stairs as I grew bigger and bigger, wallowing many hours on the blue sofa and using every nook in the house to get through those contractions, hour after hour, while A watched the Godfather downstairs and rang his friends to give them regular updates. So much for closing the curtains, lighting candles and retreating into your own space.

5. This is the house that gave use nightmares about dropping babies down stairs and other openings.

3. This is the house that cluttered up with stuff especially after the children came, losing the lines of the house, just slightly. The piles of paper, the toys, had no place to go.

4. This is the house with a large window from top to bottom, giving us the name 'the window people' in the neighborhood, causing passersby to peer in with their hands cupped against the window or people to ask if we were the Spanish restaurant they were looking for. We bought fresh flowers at the market around the corner every Saturday to put in front of the window, to give people something else to look at.

7. This is the house that stood in the neighborhood (see our house on the right), just a few steps away from the playground, a few more steps away from the Noordermarkt, a leap away from the "lekker lekker mannetje", very close to De Curtis, our favorite Italian, or Toscanini, not much further from the Finch for our weekly brunch, only a bike ride away from work; the neighborhood where the supermarket was our storage cupboard and parking was scarce; the neighborhood we could walk home to after a night on the town -I liked that, but A always preferred the cab -, and last but not least the neighborhood with neighbors you could have a glass of wine with on the steps out front - on rare sunny days.

We will be back.