Yes it did take two years. For me to pick up this blog business again, I mean.
We are now in Berlin. Germany.
The Transylvanian, the Husband and the Fabulous Baby (who, amazingly, is no longer a BABY…not even a Toddler, but a Fabulous Boy) have packed up and moved back to colder, greyer, altogether less green pastures.
It’s been cold over winter (although not really). We were reminded how Christmas should really look (and it DOES NOT involve inflatable giant Santas waving in the breeze amongst palm trees, no matter what Mauritians may believe!). Our son is now going to nursery (which he calls ‘schooei-schoow’ in an approximation of his dad’s ‘schoolie-school’-because yes, he now SPEAKS). And I am learning German, coming to terms with Berlin and struggling with a jobless life (long post probably NOT forthcoming as I am frankly seriously peeved by the situation and I don’t wish to spew forth too much poison just as I am finding my feet back into this blogging business.)
So, still married, still a mum, still an expat, still fabulous (rather not, but that’s something for another post)-what am I to do, other than write?
Glad I found my voice again.
Yes it did take two years. For me to pick up this blog business again, I mean.
Hello. I apologize. I’ve been otherwise engaged for the past…umm…nearly TWO years? Yeah. Blogger of the decade award goes to ME!
I do however have a few excuses (I know, I know, don’t we all!).
I’ve been doing a little bit of this www.luxresorts.com ; no not holidaying in paradise islands. I’ve been working my derriere off during the rebranding and re-conceptualization (yes that’s a word and I’m not really sure that’s how you spell it but there!) of these amazing resorts. And by that, I mean 20 hours a day, 7 days a week during months in a row.
Then, like any dutiful employee, I waited until the new brand was launched, and then I promptly got pregnant. PREGNANT!!! ME!!! Yes people, the Transylvanian and her gorgeous boyfriend have decided to reproduce. Because, obviously, the brilliantness and the smartness and the fabulousness need to be bestowed onto the future generations somehow.
And ummm…you know, speaking about boyfriends…I’m afraid he’s no longer my boyfriend.
No, no panic needed, the Transylvanian Baby of Gorgeousness is not being raised by a single parent (although there’s nothing wrong with single parents, you’re doing an awsome job, that’s not how I roll!). As we found out there’s a lentil/blueberry/avocado (yes my lovely baby, during your first nine months of your intrauterine existence, you were identified with all sorts of fruit, vegetables and legumes!) baking, the Boyfriend decided to become the Fiance.
(as this post is only a synopsis, I promise I’ll give you all the gory details of all of the above and below, in further, painful and detailed -and possibly misspelled-posts)
Then, we had THE BABY. His gorgeousness is only matched by his smartness, geniousness and fabulousness and I do not care if those are not words he’s my BABY (OH MY WORD I ACTUALLY GOT PREGNANT, THEN HAD A BABY, THEN I GOT MARRIED…)…ummm…yeah, that too. We got married. And we went on honeymoon.
Oh, and yes, I have a new job.
So there, what’s your excuse when you take a LONG MF break from blogging?
Been a bit grim these past few days. My father would have celebrated his 60th this week.
He was my inspiration, my hero and my strenght.
He passed away 5 years ago, still very young, killed by a cancer which did not give him one chance. Within 4 months, from bad news to not here anymore.
Although I never cried much, grief is still very much part of my secret heart, even now. I still grab my phone to call him and share a particular thought, a joke, a bit of happy news.
This week in particular, I kept thinking of all the good things in my life that he never got to witness, all the wonderful little things that we never got to share.
He never saw me graduate from Law school, my graduation thesis broke my heart because I had chosen the subject back when he wasn’t even sick, to do him proud…
He never knew about my great love story, the one that eventually took me away from home.
We didn’t sit down to talk about all the wonderful places and people that I’ve seen and met since.
He didn’t give away his youngest daughter when she got married earlier this month, and oh God that was an empty moment on such a happy day!
Most of all, he’s not there when I’m in doubt, or in pain, when I need counsel, or comfort, or a good old telling off.
He raised me strong, and independent, and resilient. But I’m still a girl, and every now and then, the world is a big, empty, scary place without dad to lean on, without someone you know would look after you no matter what.
This evening I’m having a birthday party, dad. None of the people there knew you, and they know nothing about you at all. I’m going to silently raise a glass to you, and hope against reason that you’re in a happy place.
I miss you dad, and I always will.
While going through the website I wrote about in my previous post, I remembered some pictures I took in the Maldives a few months back. I just realised I’ve never shared that trip. Here’s a bit of a taster.
In case the outstanding quality of my photography makes it difficult to tell, that’s a little bench roughly hewn out of a bit of driftwood, placed almost at random in sweet shade on the Maldivian scrap of sand I’ve visited.
It comfortably fit me and my book for a charmed hour one afternoon, an hour of not quite doing what people do when in the Maldives-which is bathing and beaching and generally showing off. It allowed for some interesting socializing with butterflies, fruit bats bigger than my cat, and various islanders and other guests on their random pursuits.
Beyond the commercial images that resorts sell to you on web-sites and brochures, these islands have a heart. On that particular bench, on that particular island, that particular afternoon, I touched its pulse.
Somehow stumbled over this web-site which seems an intriguing mongrel, half blog half magazine. It touches on many of the subjects that I’m interested in both professionaly and personally, and I particularly found the tone of voice enticing, albeit sometimes slightly too militant for my taste. New and definitely to keep an eye on, have a look for yourselves:
As I type this, my beloved is watching a football match with his brother.
Nothing new or unusual here, I’ll hear you say.
Let me add some perspective. I’m typing on my laptop from my study in Floreal, Mauritius. My beloved is in the next room, in front of the telly.
His brother, on the other hand, is comfortably sitting on his sofa. In Whitley Bay, UK. More than 10,000 km away.
Still not much unusual, is there? I would tend to agree, except there’s a small thing you did not factor in: they’re both watching the same match (Newcastle’s playing Bolton) on the same telly. Ours.
My boyfriend the technical genius video-called his brother on skype, placed his laptop in front of the telly, tuned into the football channel, got himself a beer, and now they’re both watching in quiet companionship, the kind only the males of the species seem to possess (silence peppered with the odd grunt, bodily noise and loud abuse directed towards the ref or any of the 22 players at random).
Why are they engaging in his peculiar activity?
Reason they give: because that particular match is not on the telly in the UK and his brother the die-hard supporter really wanted to watch it. Reason they don’t give but seems logical: because they can (and it’s free!). Reason that I put in front of you although they would both deny it until the day they die: they miss each other and this is as good as it gets when you’re as far away from one another as they currently are.
Just thought I’d share. Go skype. Go Magpies!
This post won’t make much sense but I have to write it.
I’m in Mauritius. This is where my love has brought me to live for the next 3 or 4 years.
I write this during my lunch break, sitting in my new office, listening to the haunting tune played by an ice-cream truck canvassing the narrow sloped roads of my neighbourhood.
It’s a red truck with bright yellow and blue decorations dangling everywhere. I keep thinking to myself, how bizarre, Christmas is coming and all I can think of is whether I can get out of the building fast enough to catch the ice cream truck, and whether I should get some vanilla ice cream, or a mango sorbet, or a passion fruit sorbet, or all three.
A tall, rather bizarre looking Christmas tree is pouting in my front room at home, still naked in its green, sort of feathery glory. I can’t bring myself to decorate it. It’s 30 degrees out there, bright sun, soft breeze, an obscene orgy of blues in the skies and waters all around us. As much as I try, Christmas as I know it has no place in this. The air doesn’t smell cold. There are no frozen red noses, and fingers, ears or toes. There is no need for spiced cookies and hot mulled wine and hearty dishes featuring root vegetables and cranberries and long-roast huge birds (not sure you can get cranberries here, anyway). I should be sad and home-sick, because I love my Romanian Christmas-and I had started to love a proper UK Christmas, too. I love the preparations, the cooking, the smell in the house, I loved getting home from the snow and the wind and the chill and curling up by the fire with a hot chocolate. As I’m not a religious person at all, Christmas was always more a time for retreat, for food and sharing with friends and family, and the most of it was heavily influenced by the timing of Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere winter. So…yes, I should feel sad, deprived and home sick.
But…on Wednesday I had a working lunch with my new colleagues and this lunch will blow you over. We were at Beau Rivage, on the east coast of the island. Can you picture a white beach, a lagoon that defies description, and a day too perfect for even a pro writer to describe in words? Can you picture a whole setting that would actually look unbelievably cheesy if in a poster somewhere on a wall? Good, now take a white marquee and pin it on the shallow bottom of the lagoon, about 30 metres off the beach. Done? Bring cast iron tables and matching chairs, and carefully arrange them under the marquee in the transparent, 29 degrees water-it’s only 20 cm deep there. Set them with impecable, crisp white linens, gleaming china and silverware, nice glasses and gorgeous flowers. Take 30-odd marketing people, heads buzzing with figures, pie charts, reports and such, and make them take their shoes off and roll up their trousers (they should keep their ties). No trousers rolling up required for the ladies. Now point the marquee to them and calmly inform them that’s where they’re having lunch. Watch their expression and secretly grin.
Convince them to wade into the lagoon towards the tables, plying them with fresh passion fruit juice in tall, frosted glasses. Sit them down and feed them perfect food. Listen to their hearts sing. After a while, gently coax them to get up (it will take a lot of work!!!), wade them back to shore. Have smiling people in colorful shirts help them rinse their feet, insist that they don’t have to put their socks back on. Dispatch scented moist towels, fresh taken out of a freezer to pass on hands and brows. Invite them back to their marketing stuff meeting.
Do you think they like their job and they’ll go back to doing it passionately for one more year? You think right.
Do you think I should not pine for Christmas As I Knew It and bask in the gorgeousness of my new home country? You bet! There will be time for white Christmas…Just not now. I’m busy trying to find out the name of the bright blue little fish which nibbled at my toes during lunch last Wednesday.
And oh, did I mention I love my new job?
This week I met a Princess. I kept waking up last night, and smiling in the dark as I was going over this sentence in my mind.
I’m a simple girl, a Transilvanian with no other claim to nobility than a constant strive to live in honesty, kindness and love and respect for the world around me. I was born in a normal family, struggling to grow up through the bleakest years of the comunist regime in Romania, then studying and working my heart out in a transitional economy. Although I do seem to have a knack for always getting what I want and thus feel content with my lot (placing one’s expectations at an achievable hight is, in my opinion, key to a happy life-and no, I don’t mean having low expectations, but managing your dreams and hopes so that there is at least a chance that they come true), I am also a hard worker, have few illusions, my feet are planted firmly in the ground, and I never feel entitled-possibly because nothing was ever handed to me on a silver tray.
I’ve also never allowed myself to feel inferior to anyone; I do often grant other people respect, but not because of social conventions, or money, or titles: always because they are intelligent, or brilliant in their profession, or talented, or beautiful, or graceful, or especially kind or brave, or simply because they are rounded, complete and happy human beings. Never did I place worth where it wasn’t earned-and I’m not about to start now.
However, like most little girls, I’ve sometimes, a long time ago, dreamed of becoming a princess. Because even the most grounded girls sometimes get to dream. As I grew up in the grim 80’s, it became very clear very quickly that I’d better focus on becoming a police officer, an archaeologist, a doctor or any other of the sensible things I thought I could be passionate about. Why? Because I figured out back then- princesses are born, not made. So I stopped dreaming of being a princess, and instead I started hoping that one day I’d meet one.
This dreaming about princesses thing, was ever a soft spot of mine. But I think I’m allowed one. For, you see, my vision of a princess was in fact a template of the woman that I would have loved to become.
It so happened that this week I got to meet a princess. And I’m sure I know very little about the person behind the title, but let me tell you what happened:
I met a person who is intelligent, and proud, and strong. A person who works hard. A person who can make a difference, and she does so in a quiet, understated but efficient way. A person who cares deeply for people and animals and things that are wrong and things that are right. A person who knows how to respect, and knows how to wear the respect she’s granted, gracefully. A person who walks tall and straight, and seems to have little time or patience for mistakes, weakness and frivolous things. A person who earned the peace she radiates, by working hard and standing firm. A person who knows what she wants, and is not afraid to reach for it and get it. A person who was born in the spotlight, but remains utterly private. A person who was often hurt by the world, but does not carry the scars of those hurts on the outside.
But also a mother, and a wife. A person of passions, and opinions, who is not shy or afraid about pursuing the passions and expressing the opinions. A person with curiosity and confidence. A person with a sense of humour which is a very refreshing suprise in someone who comes through as reserved as she does.
I met someone who is flawlessly, naturally and effortlessly elegant, and whoever thinks differently knows nothing about style and class – born and not bought. Someone who is beautiful- a polished, understated, the-more-you-look-at-her-the-more-you-see-it, but quite striking and undeniable beauty. Someone who carries herself with the flexible grace of the keen horserider that she is. Someone with a gorgeous, luminous smile and searching, thoughtful eyes.
I did not meet someone perfect, oh no! But I met someone whose imperfections make her more human and all the way more irresistible. Ladies and gentlemen, I met a WOMAN-and I feel incredibly lucky.
Your Royal Highness, Princess Anne, thank you for showing me that Princesses exist outside my little girl dreams-and they are exactly as I’ve dreamed them to be.
As we left Bulgaria for good a few of months ago, I thought it was in order to make a short guide based on my personal experience of the country, hopefully it will provide useful to fellow expats moving in, or tourists who don’t just come for 7 nights all inclusive in Sunny Beach or Borovets (nothing wrong with that type of holiday, if you’re into it-but as I haven’t done either, there’s nothing I have to say on the matter).
Caveat: although changes in Bulgaria are still slow, and not always for the better, things will have inevitably changed since we visited places, and probably even more by the time you read this, so don’t blame me if the restaurant I’m raving about has closed in the meantime-be a good boy (or girl) scout and double check my references.
Now for a brief introduction: Bulgaria is a naturally beautiful country. No, really! There is a little bit for everyone: high mountains, gentle rolling hills, rocky coastlines and beautiful (albeit horribly developped) beaches, great winter sports, quaint little towns and scattered, picturesque villages clinging to mountain sides. For those interested in history and archaeology, it’s a fascinating and painful place to visit-enormously interesting and rich in stories and remains, very poorly displayed and explained, and mercilessly looted and desacrated. As one would imagine, Bulgarians are proud of their heritage and the depth of their roots, and rightly so, but they seem to have given up to the ugly gods of money-ancient treasures have been looted and sold to private collectors all over the world, and immensly important sites have been for ever lost to horrendous hotels and office buildings, mostly on the coast of the Black Sea. Most of the remaining archaeology is poorly known, indicated and displayed, with some amazing sites even unknown to locals. There are however a few notable exceptions, that I will talk about a bit later on.
So here are my rather random bits about Bulgaria and Sofia:
Best times of the year: spring and autum. April-May and September-October have mild weather, and the nature is stunning. Beware the wild variations in temperature between day and night, however-it can be freezing (literally) at night, with brisk, sharp mornings at 5-10 degrees C, and merrily go up in the low 20’s by the end of the afternoon-plan your clothes accordingly-layers, layers, layers! Winters and summers can be quite extreme and therefore unpleasant, from weeks on end when the temperatures drop in the double digits below zero and snow piles high everywhere-including in towns where the cleaning and removal efforts can be a tad superficial; to sweltering summer days, temperatures roaring over 35 degrees celsius-they get particularly bad in the South and on the coast, but also along the Danube; even Sofia gets its fair share of baking hot sun. With all this in mind:
Best drive: in May or early June, drive from Sofia to Varna; it’s a 4-6 hour drive – depending on the day of the week, hour of the day, and other misterious factors that will either make the road deserted and wonderful, or congested with thousands of old, decrepit vehicles moving cautiously at maximum 40 kms an hour in long queues (it made us think that either Bulgarians are not taught in driving school the esoteric art of overtaking, or that most vehicles are physically incapable of accelerating. It’s however probably a combination of both). On the plus side of the longer drive time-you’ll have plenty of chances to enjoy the very pleasant scenery. Same drive is beautiful in a very different way at the time the folliage starts to turn-sometimes in mid-late September, sometimes in early October. The mountains are covered in a riot of golds, reds and dark greens, and there’s a special light, a bit colder than the summer one, almost as if a very thin bluish veil has been drawn over the world. If you get a sunny week-end for this drive, it will stay with you for a very long time, believe me.
Best towns and villages: in no particular order-Varna, in spring, summer and autumn (avoid summer if you don’t like crowds and heat); Stara Zagora, in early June when the linden (or lime) trees are in bloom, and the roses are flowering; Plovdiv-anytime but not in summer, the town sits in a bowl surrounded by hills, which made it an ideal, sheltered location for very early human settlement, but also turns it into a right furnace in July and August; Veliko Tarnovo-ditto; Nessebar-in spring and early autumn, in order to avoid the hordes of tourists invading the Sunny Beach area; Koprivshtitsa (try saying that three times fast!)-late August, when they have the local holiday and the place is alive with people and music; Kazanlak-in June, when the famous roses are in bloom-but avoid, if you can, the infamous Rose Festival. It can be fun, but the whole world will be there and it can get quite oppressive; Sandanski in early September, if you have a thing for spas; and from there, Melnik later in the month, preferably during the grape picking period.
Sofia-its saving graces are the mountains nearby; the ever improving airport (it was badly plagued by fog just a couple of years ago, and it was a grim, hopeless pursuit to find a conveniet flight to almost anywhere; they have since bought and installed the necessary equipment to operate almost decently in foggy conditions, and the number of flights is slowly but constantly creeping up, making Sofia better connected-and easier to escape whenever need be); the relatively small, compact centre whith plenty of restaurants, bars, shops, banks, parks and the like within easy walking distance; and the fact it’s conveniently placed in a corner of the country reasonably close to Serbia (and Hungary, Austria, Croatia and even Italy), Greece and Turkey-if you want a short getaway and you get infuriated with the lack of flights.
Sofia is an easy city to live in, for a capital city, but it is also a very frustrating place. You have pretty much everything you need if you look for it-but as everywhere in Bulgaria, things are not clean or tidy, or freshly painted (which makes the city looks much uglier and dirtier than it actually is); its new developments are badly planned; there are no good solid medium-level restaurants and hotels (the ones which are cheap, are mostly barely acceptable verging on very poor quality, service and hygiene, and the ones which are expensive, with very few exceptions, are pretty bad too, especially given the expectations); public transport exists and is very cheap and convenient as it’s frequent and covers the city reasonably well, but there are basically no maps or ways for a non-local to know which bus to take to where, the buses, trams and troleys are mostly old, smelly and decrepit, and the whole network is plagued by the inexplicably horrid traffic at peak times (basically from September till July it’s peak time-Sofia only gets a break when the schools are on summer leave, as parents time their holidays after this, and virtually no one uses public transportation for school runs). The metro is modern, cheap and fast-but it only covers a minute part of the centre (which is normally nice to walk), and one or two of the old commie dormitory neighbourhoods-if you don’t happen to live there and work or study in the centre, then you have absolutely no use for the Sofia metro.
It has a fair amount of shopping malls which, until the Carrefour mall was opened (which carries, for the moment, a more reasonable selection of shops), were pretty dismal, as they are home to tiny little shops where very rarely you’ll see someone actually buy something, and most people seem to be there just to take a stroll or have a seriously overpriced, albeit nice coffee and do some people-watching. What it doesn’t have (in spite of Vitosha Boulevard trying to pretend very hard) is a pleasant shopping street, you know, like most European cities have, like indeed Istanbul has-a walking street, nicely lined with little shops, and cafes, and restaurants. Vitosha is a rather sad contender-it’s wide enough, and in theory it’s closed to cars (unless you’re a big shot in a dark car with dark rear windows), but the trams rund smack in the middle of it, thus rendering the whole exercise a bit pointless. There are very few cafes and one or two restaurants but none are interesting enought to hold your attention, and the noise of the passing trams somehow distracts from the otherwise pleasant experience of sitting on a terrace with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and watching the world go by. The shops are not for shopping, as they’re a bizarre mix of overpriced high-fashion brand shops(I’m not very sure the stuff sold in there is authentic, either), and utterly rubish chinese made jumble shops. With a few exceptions, of course. My personal guess is that most shops are just fronts for money laundering-there is no way anyone could afford to keep such a shop open and running on the sales they’re making.
Now, for the purpose of keeping these posts manageable in length, we’re taking a publicity break. Stay tuned, more to come soon
I’ve taken a very long break from blogging. Reasons-galore. I did not stop eating, I did not stop cooking, I did not stop travelling. I most certainly was not lost for words (alas!).
What did happen was that I was angry. Like countless other people during these past two years, I had lost my job. Through no fault of my own-again like countless other people, but because the company I was working for was cutting costs. So I stopped writing, because I did not have the levity required for the kind of journal I kept, and I did not think that my anger and my inner trips of self-valuation would be of interest for anyone. It took me nearly two months to find another job-and as I was looking, I promised myself that I’d get back to writing as soon as I start working again-as a reward, if you will!
It turned out that my new job was brilliant, involving, challenging and absolutely all-absorbing-plus it was all happening in Bulgarian, a language that I was hardly mastering at the time (could definitely order in a restaurant or shop for herbs, but just as definitely could not have dreamed of reading a lengthy management report!)-so I was, yet again, going through some very steep learning curves. Result: very satisfied with work, zero time or energy for writing.
At the same time as I found my job, I found out that we were due to leave Bulgaria in the near future, and continue the saga of the Transilvanian abroad in some utterly different, unexpected pastures. The catch-we did not know when the move was going to be-within a week, a month or a year! So, for 4 more months, I was caught in a whirlwind of crazy, interesting and rewarding work, agonising about needing to move continents without knowing exactly when, having heated arguments with fate which decided to present me with the job that I adored, just to perversly snatch it for me by dangling in front of my nose the prospect of living for 4 years in paradise…
So there. We moved in paradise. I’ll play a game with you for a while, and only give you hints of where we are!
We’ve just barely arrived, a week ago, and I’m starting to make the house feel like home (although all our worldy possessions, bar a couple of suitcases’ worth, are still braving the high seas of the planet). I’m in a new, but just as frantic search for work, which is the most vital thing at the moment, and doubly as challenging as it was in Bulgaria-because here I need a work permit-and I’ll only get one after I find an employer-bureaucracy oblige!
However, I promised myself I would go back at writing again-mainly because I think it would help me, and also because as I was researching my soon-to-be home from afar, I was again completely irked by the almost complete lack of information from real people, not government bodies, about the place, available online. So there, I’ll send you news and facts from paradise.
As a first gesture of making amends, I offer this to the Gods of the Internets and particularly to the Goddess of blogging (yes, I’ve decided it must be a she!): portraits of my garden’s inhabitants after the rain:
There. I’ll talk to you later