Saturday, May 31, 2008

sunshine, glorious sunshine

it's a beautiful sunny day today and we're off to sweden for a joint 35th-40th birthday party, so no real posting from me today. it's too glorious outdoors to sit in at the computer anyway and you can't see a thing on the screen if you take it outside (i tried), so we'll talk to you in june (which is, after all, tomorrow). :-)

Friday, May 30, 2008

on the road again

some of my readers (it feels so good to say that phrase, i must admit) have been asking why i'm traveling all of the time. it's not just wanderlust.

part of my travels are because i live in denmark but work in norway. that means an almost weekly trip to oslo. this month, i didn't spend as much time in oslo because i attended a conference in singapore. i used the opportunity to go to manila at the same time and touch base with all of my business contacts from my previous job.

i work in the shipping industry. until the end of last year, i worked for the world's largest container shipping company, with responsiblity for ensuring that the officers and crew sailing all those giant ships had the right training according to international and company requirements. you should have seen my travel calendar then! last year i was in the philippines 5 times, singapore twice, cape town once, romania, london (frequently), newcastle, odessa, turku, i could go on...this in addition to holiday travels with my family, where we visited ten european countries by taking the train down through europe to the balkans, finally ending up in istanbul.

i'm still in the shipping industry, but instead of being responsible for training of seafarers in only one company, i am working on it from an industry perspective--being able to have a much wider effect. that, i love. but, it does mean that i'm traveling. because shipping is a global industry.

these days, i'm listening to the stories of those who chose a career at sea and i'm writing articles with the goal of raising the profile of the profession. there is a critical shortage of seafarers in the world and a whole lot of ships being built at yards around the world. people aren't choosing sailing as a career anymore, but yet 90% of all goods in circulation are at one point or another shipped via sea. so if there's no one to sail those ships, how are we going to get our stuff (including those precious petroleum products to which we are so addicted)? these are the dilemmas i'm working on. there isn't an easy answer, but i do really love asking the questions and exploring the topic through conversations and through writing. and i simply adore hearing the officers' stories. they simply have to be some of the best storytellers on the planet--their stories and timing honed to perfection from many retellings. it's work that makes me very happy.

so, that's in a nutshell, why i'm always writing blog postings from an airport lounge somewhere.

fisheye love

my very helpful friend lee taught me how to reverse those negative fisheye shots in photoshop (easy peasy--[ctrl I]), so here they are:

gumball machine

shoe shop

beautiful swan

and my fave mailbox shot

all were taken with expired fuji sensia 100
cross-processed in C41 chemicals

i just completely love the purpley pinks that came out on this set. it must be the magic of the expired film with the cross-processing. i love, love, love it!!! must go outside and take more.

lomovisions from dawn 'til dusk

for any of you who might have your interest piqued in lomography, i wanted to link to this article from last sunday's inquirer magazine in the philippines. it's a feature story on the lomography exhibit that i saw when i was in manila earlier this month (which i wrote about here).
my friend lee, who has been helping me out as i find my way with my fun lomo cameras, was one of the photographers whose pictures are part of the exhibit. it was such an expiring exhibition that it got me into a totally new hobby! i love when something like that happens! and i can't wait 'til i have enough pix for my own lomowall!

poetry on the streets

see, the streets of olso ARE paved with poetry. this says something like, "if time had been larger, you would have been smaller" and is by Ibsen.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

murakami moment

i'm closing in on the end of the wind-up bird chronicle and i was reading intensely on SK0467 OSL-CPH from 8:20 p.m. when i left the plane, my mind was definitely still on and even the book. i started down the B-concourse and looked up from my reverie to find myself surrounded by japanese people. there was a japanese girl right ahead of me, walking with some strange hitch in her gait. i had an odd pressure sensation in my left temple. a strong sense of disorientation of being propelled along the corridor in a mass of people. japanese people, speaking rapid japanese.

on my way to the baggage claim, i stopped off in the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face. i was waiting in line and a girl came out of a stall clearly marked "out of order," and i went in. it wasn't out of order. my sense of unreality increased.

then, the pressure still there in my left temple, i made my way to bag carousel 7, where it said 17 minutes 'til delivery on the sign for olso, but when i walked up, my bag was coming off the belt. i grabbed it and made my way to the metro, feeling like i was watching the entire scenario from down a long hallway.

i punched my ticket and got onto the train, which was leaving in 2 minutes. two stations later, i look out the window and there was another large group of japanese. i didn't see them get on the train, but then behind me, japanese was being spoken. this is not a normal occurrence in copenhagen, bear that in mind.

i had this really weird feeling that i couldn't shake off, that i had somehow entered the murakami book. that the words and the story were so powerful that i had somehow melded with them and was part of the story now, with all of its oddity unfolding around me, while i watched, with a strange pressure in my left temple...


i'm in oslo, where the sun is shining, the streets are quite literally paved with poetry and the entire city smells of lilacs.


i'll be back on friday...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

lovin' the lomo thang!!

i've been having a ball with my lomo cameras. not everything has turned out on the initial rolls, but it's SOOooo much fun. even the waiting for films to be developed is way fun!

here are some samples:

expired fuji sensia 100 slide film cross-processed in C41 chemicals.

that's what gives it that cool red tint.

ducks using the octomat

my very first shot with the octomat

expired fuji sensia 100 film, cross-processed

expired fuji sensia 100 cross-processed.
taken by sabin with her penguin-shaped toy camera that came with some candy.

bicycle store in frederikssund

ordinary 120 film, taken using the diana+

ordinary 35mm film in the fisheye 2

expired fuji sensia 100 cross-processed in C41
i think my camera store messed up this processing, but i love the effect

expired fuji sensia 100 cross-processed in C41
i think my camera store messed up this processing, but i love the effect

this lomography thing is way cool. i can highly recommend it. it's just so much fun to see what the simple mechanics of the camera can do. if you want to learn more, check out and you'll see pix way better than these first ones of mine. the blurry pic of the bookshelf that i posted a few days ago was a lomo photo as well, taken with my diana+ camera.

on language and translation

my ponderings on kitsch and reading murakami have me thinking about language. and its connection to culture. do specific languages express something about their culture? can things be more precisely expressed in certain cultures/languages than in others? what does it do to the meaning behind a word to translate it? can translation at all capture the essense that's there in the original.

a word like kitsch, english has taken wholesale from german, so although without the cultural context, you may not understand it in the same way, the essence must, for the most part, still be there in the word. that is, if meaning adheres itself to words at all, which is probably a debatable question as well.

i'm, of course, reading the murakami in english translation and have a number of times along the way wondered if i'm missing something, not being able to read it in the original japanese. however, even in translation, it seems to me to be full of fresh ways of expressing things, which i have felt must come from the japanese words themselves. the translator, jay rubin, must surely have made word choices based on what he knew of both languages, since that's what the job of translation is all about. this has, for me at least in my reading, resulted in new and interesting ways of looking at things, even in english.

some examples:

"There is a kind of gap between what I think is real and what's really real."

"The best way to think about reality, I had decided, was to get as far away from it as possible..."

"Here in this darkness, with its strange sense of significance, my memories began to take on a power they had never had before. The fragmentary images they called up inside me were mysteriously vivid in every detail, to the point where I felt I could grasp them in my hands."

"Memories and thoughts age, just as people do. But certain thoughts can never age, and certain memories can never fade."

looking at these passages i've selected, i get the feeling that these are ways of expressing thoughts i've often had on reality and memories, but couldn't actually GET to the right words to convey them. the words themselves seem simple and logical. the first one is arguably what Plato was getting at with the allegory of the cave, so it's not really a matter of the thought never having been expressed previously, it's more, for me a question of capturing it more powerfully through linguistic means. because thoughts are so fleeting and elusive, it's difficult to wrestle them into words and sentences.

in all of my travels, i am struck again and again that globalization isn't all it's cracked up to be. although we may all have access to blue jeans, we are not all the same, but i do wonder what it will do to the world that everyone increasingly speaks english? will there be a resulting poverty of meaning and expression as people muddle their own language with english? i definitely hope not.

i guess i shouldn't worry that much. most everyone in denmark speaks english and while there are many loan words--computer, business and the like, there are some things that are just expressed better in danish.
  • numse - the very best danish word. it's a cute word for bum.
  • skumfiduser - marshmallows.
  • -agtig - a great suffix. the closest english equivalent is -ish, but that doesn't do it like -agtig does.
  • offentlige - "public," as in public sector, but there's SO much more in the word than there is in the word public in english. it encompasses an entire way of dressing and decorating and behaving and even a certain kind of haircut as well. a very powerful word meaning-wise. and a word that could only have ended up so loaded with meaning in its cultural context.

oh well. who knows, perhaps my musings are all for nothing...maybe in ten years we'll all be speaking chinese or even hindi. imagine what we'll be expressing then!

Monday, May 26, 2008

kitsch on the brain

even before going to munich, i had kitsch on the brain. matei calinescu characterizes kitsch as one of the five faces of modernity. it is the very manifestation of the modern condition--endless replication. it's easy, not demanding anything from the consumer but consumption--no thinking, no processing, no intellectualizing, just enjoyment. and a consumer is indeed required. kitsch requires a receiver of the kitsch in order for it to function.

kitsch takes many forms--from the hundreds of lidded beer steins lining the tourist shops of munich to small plastic replicas of neuschwanstein to posters of the "arbeit macht frei" sign over the gates of dachau concentration camp. it's a way of trying to objectify memory. you don't have to remember the sight of neuschwanstein yourself if you have the little replica at home on the shelf. you preserve the memory of it there in the little hunk of kitsch plastic. a sort of false memory.

national costumes embody kitsch as well. rooted in some sense in some long-forgotten history, people wear them in ignorance of their original purpose. the stories behind the embroidered patterns and the reasons for certain details--like an apron made in some special way--are long since forgotten. they become a cultural artifact disconnected from culture, especially if they're taken home as a souvenir.

yugoslav writer dubravka ugrešič writes about the nationalist kitsch which destroyed her country a number of times in her book of essays--the culture of lies. she suggests that kitsch, whether it's nationalist or socialist, is deeply connected to the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. and as such, is an insidious and seductive strategy. kitsch attaches to national symbols--crosses, sculptures, landmarks. of course, this sort of kitsch is much more dangerous than a souvenir of a trip abroad. but, at its base, it's the same cheapening of the real.

kitsch takes something away from the real. a replica of neuschwanstein does not stand in for seeing the real thing. a young girl's room full of monet water lilies posters does not replace seeing a real monet in an art museum. the serbian brotherhood symbol has little or nothing to with actual serbians or brothers. the unending duplication inherent in kitsch cheapens and demeans the real object.

and yet, sometimes i DO embrace the kitsch. my starbucks mugs collected in starbucks around the world are surely a form of kitsch. i have a framed poster of a matisse paper cutout (i could, after all, never afford a real matisse). i love those little russian nesting dolls--matryoshka--and buy them whenever i'm in a country where they are made and sold (ukraine, lithuania--it doesn't have to be russia--proving my point about the diluting factor of kitsch). but shouldn't we be more careful about doing that? shouldn't we be more interested in preserving authenticity?

as i pondered the notion of kitsch while i was in munich, where it seems to be screaming at you from every corner, i at first thought that there wasn't much of it evident in denmark. but, it seems that every country has their own brand of kitsch. in denmark, where everything is sleekly designed, it's just more attractive--but the same duplication is going on...hans wegner chairs in every home (including my own) and for those who can't afford them, ikea has a version that's hard to tell it's not the real thing. which brings me back to my point. kitsch dilutes the real. but, how can we escape it?

pretty bleak musings for a rainy monday...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

that white asparagus

see, doesn't it just look wrong? and to further make it wrong, it seems that they boil it to death. i was not impressed. just let the poor asparagus grow normally and, as it was intended. THAT's delicious.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

travel impressions

foggy distance view of neuschwanstein castle in VERY southern bavaria

i'm in munich on a long weekend with sabin. we're having a lovely time, tho' it's raining. here is a quick list of experiences/impressions, since there are many and i love lists:
  1. the food is seriously white in this country. or perhaps only this region. white asparagus is clearly in season. and i don't get it. totally overrated as far as i'm concerned.
  2. people think you are a bit mental when you carry around 6 cameras.
  3. 6 cameras are HEAVY.
  4. have officially seen it all on SK1665 CPH-MUC on may 21, 2008: story about caffeinated soap in Scanorama.
  5. you can spot germans by their socks. it's clearly a totally different sock culture.
  6. you can spot north dakotans by their light-colored, high-waisted, mid-90s lee jeans.
  7. did i mention that the food is seriously all white or shades of white--sausages, sauerkraut, asparagus, potatoes...
  8. i now officially understand the word "kitsch."
  9. there are a lot of average american women who have clearly had too much access to inexpensive plastic surgery and/or botox.
  10. risotto made with ordinary rice rather than arborio. not good.
  11. white asparagus. totally overrated. (i'm aware i mentioned this before, felt it bore mentioning again.)
  12. italian waiter in germany, pretending to also speak english and spanish. not good.
  13. spotted on the train: two elderly women (approaching 80), clearly twins, dressed identically and visibly upset about having to sit across the aisle from one another. wonder if they've ever been apart in all their lives?
  14. brief moment where i considered putting on a danish accent to avoid being identified in any way, shape or form with shocking amount of arrogant american backpackers which seem to currently be unleashed on europe.
  15. it's only been 36 hours and already i'm dying for a green leaf of lettuce. i WANT to embrace the food culture where i am, but i'm not sure i can deal with all this white food! i need other colors!!
  16. while starving yesterday afternoon wandered into large apparent tourist trap german restaurant and found it full of...germans. not bad at all. and the beer is superb.

home on sunday...more then if not before.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

this is how i feel...

...reading haruki murakami's wind-up bird chronicles...

a bit blurry and possibly even double-exposed...

but the colors are brilliant...

it always comes back to me

yesterday it was a typical crowded monday at the grocery store. at one point, while i was examining the bright, cheerful kitchen towels in the "spotvarer" section, i squeezed close to the shelf to let an older woman by. she said, in english, "thank you." for a good five minutes, i thought, "how did she know i was english-speaking? do i have an especially english-speaking look about me today? what is it that made her know i was english-speaking? am i dressed differently? is it my hair? or my seven for all mankind jeans?"

then i got to the cash register and she was at one of the other registers and i heard her say, "thank you" again. then and only then, it hit me. SHE was english-speaking!

maybe life isn't always about me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

what is the world coming to?

my jetlagged brain awoke me at about 4 a.m. it was full of a jumble of thoughts. a strange mixture of images from murakami's wind-up bird chronicles, some gorilla show watched on animal planet before bedtime, work colleagues, returning a rental car (that's a weird one, i haven't rented a car in months) and the shipload of water that recently arrived in barcelona. needless to say, these thoughts were not immediately conducive to falling back asleep.

my sunday berlingske tidende had a 4-page in-depth reportage on rising food prices around the world. the article looked at ordinary items that go into people's grocery carts. here in denmark, a loaf of good rye bread has risen 20% in the past two years. milk has risen 28% and eggs 15%. however, it's worse other places--take china, for example. food prices across the board rose 22% in april alone and the price of meat has risen 46% in a year. the article indicated that this was not ordinary inflation, but the disturbing signs of a new era.

an era in which climate change has already had drastic effects on farming around the world. an era in which the use of corn for production of ethanol to feed thirsty american cars rules over using the same corn to feed people or to feed the animals that feed people.

either the world needs new priorities, or we, as individuals, need new habits. the far east had better get used to eating less rice--recently, the philippines imported $2billion in rice from thailand because they had only 2 months' worth of rice reserves. either the philippines has to make more efficient use of its' rice-growing fields (which won't happen overnight), or people have to get used to eating less of their staple food.

the article interviewed danes in a large grocery store and found that people had noticed the rising prices, but that most hadn't really changed their habits as of yet. but, that's because this is a wealthy society--people's salaries have risen in tempo with the rising prices, so it doesn't feel the same. we might consider the odd meatless meal, but overall, i personally continue to choose the more expensive organic foods whenever they are available. this is a luxury choice to have. and it may not be here for long.

what about poor people in developing countries who don't have that choice? the article showed a woman in haiti sitting on the ground making "clay cakes," a blend of clay, salt and vegetable fat dried in the sun and used to close the hunger gap caused by the fact that rice and bean prices in haiti have risen 100%.

articles like this always make me think about what sort of world we have left to sabin. what will be her reality as a grown-up? for one, i suspect the flying around the world she has become accustomed to as a child will be a thing of the past. it will simply be so environmentally indefensible to fly that people won't do it except when they absolutely must. i fear that will make her awfully sad. she expressed amazement just yesterday at the fact that a teenage friend of her big sister had never flown in his life. she's been flying since she was 3 months old and loves it and sees it as an integral part of her identity.

but, it's not all gloom and doom here on a monday morning--perhaps the food crisis will cause people to eat more locally-produced foods and to eat less processed foods, to eat less meat and more vegetables from their region. maybe we'll all waste less of what we buy--i know that i myself throw far too much away because i am a sucker for those 3 for the price of 2 kind of deals.

maybe the smaller farmer, who is using ecological, organic methods will have a better chance in a world where the big countries aren't exporting all of their grain at lower prices than it can be produced for locally and handing out indefensible farm subsidies. perhaps the market for a lamb fed locally on green grass in the pasture down the road will increase, so that the meat we do eat will be worth it--both taste-wise and environmentally-speaking.

and, humans have an amazing adaptability and spirit of invention which cannot be discounted. there will surely be more wind power. someone will come up with an effective method of desalinating water. hopefully, boeing and airbus are already working on planes that use alternative energy sources that leave a smaller carbon footprint, so sabin won't have to give up flying.

it's difficult from this vantage point to know what will happen. but, here and now, we need to change our habits--use more of what we buy, throw less away, choose what goes into our grocery basket in a more conscientious (and conscious) manner, don't let the water run forever until it's cold enough to drink, take a shorter shower. there are countless ways that we as individuals can collectively make an impact. so that the world is still here in a reasonable state for her to enjoy:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

(time) zoning out

whoa! it's been 3 days since i posted!! that's pretty strange for me! i made it home safely and immediately jumped into social and building activities, as well as jetlagging and taking massive amounts of pictures with my new camera(s). since my brain is still on manila time (which is 3 a.m. as of this moment...) a real posting will have to wait 'til tomorrow. in the meantime, some pictures....

Thursday, May 15, 2008

lounging around

i'm lounging in the KLM lounge in amsterdam, experiencing the jarring transition of air travel. i left my hotel in manila 18 hours ago and i'm not home yet. the flight time was extended due to the chinese air space of the regular route being closed due to the earthquake. air traffic control in that area is out of comission at the moment. so, the flight was 13+ hours. that's plenty.

i was, once again, seated next to a seafarer. interesting that chevron flies their chief engineers in business class. we didn't talk during the flight until the very end. that was a shame. i guess i didn't really learn from my good experience with the italian captain and already reverted to my danish mode of behavior. when will i ever learn?

i'm sitting here in the lounge in amsterdam in a grouping of four wanna-be egg chairs. the other three people are german, french and dutch respectively. this is something i love--being in a truly international milieu. the french woman is on the phone, speaking rapid french. the german and dutch guys are reading newspapers in their respective languages. i'm sitting here reading my lastest haruki murakami acquisition (the wind-up bird chronicle) in english translation, of course. or at least i was until i realized there was wi-fi and so i turned to my norwegian computer. :-) and my norwegian phone just rang at the same moment a text came in on my danish phone. i am a confusion of nationalities. but somehow, it suits me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

molecules humming in perfect alignment

this is quite possibly my favorite place on earth. the lobby of the manila pen.

i sat there this evening, eating this:

and pondering what makes it such a heavenly place. there are a number of factors--the lighting, the colors, the live music wafting down from above (you can see the guys on the right of the pic above), the height to the ceiling, the decor, the palm trees. it all combines to create the most relaxing atmosphere. literally when you step in from outside, you leave the world behind and enter the safe cocoon of the lobby. you wouldn't think that such a massive room could be so inviting, but it is.

i came to the conclusion, sitting there, trying to put my finger on exactly what it was, that it must be the very center of a vortex. like people search for near sedona, arizona. because i feel that when i enter, even if i step out of the elevator from my beloved club floor, it nearly instantly relaxes my body and pulls all of the atoms of my being into perfect alignment. my very molecular structure hums in perfect harmony. a friend of mine in denmark, who has her various dwellings tested for "jordstråling" would think that the jordstråling in the lobby of the pen was perfect. (sorry, i don't know what that is in english--the "earth beaming" if i translate literally).

but, whatever it is, i completely feel it. if i were to stage a coup, i too would stage it here. it has got to be one of the very best places on this planet.

Monday, May 12, 2008

a whole 'nother world

overheard in dashing divas...

conversation between two young filipino women of privilege, whom i learned in the course of the overheard conversation, were 32 and 33 respectively:

the conversation started because they were complimenting one another on their Chanel flats. one of them had them in black and the other in teal. they bragged on and on about what other colors they had at home and how much they loved them except for this one little pinchy place, but what a great everyday shoe they were.

from designer shoes, the conversation moved on to bags because one of the girls had a #30 Hermes bag in red. she had many Chanel bags at home, but was selling them, except for a few of her favorite everyday ones, because "once you go to Hermes...."(this is a direct quote which she said at least 5 times, warning the other girl to enjoy her Chanel while she could because it just wouldn't be the same after the Hermes, which the other girl was anticipating getting for her 35th birthday).

it seemed that both of these girls were actually making a business of acquiring, using for a while and then selling on their designer bags. they hadn't met one another before, but had mutual friends in the "bag trade."

it was clear from the conversation that bags were a subject they were very passionate about (and i can understand this, since i have a bit of a bag collection of my own--just no Chanel or Hermes). although it sounds like an incredibly pretentious conversation, believe it or not, they actually did not come across as pretentious. this world of traveling to hong kong or japan or hawaii and acquiring bags, using them for awhile, selling them (to others like themselves, i guess) and then buying new ones was simply the fact of their way of life.

what i sat there thinking about (aside from the fact that my brand new Coach bag, which i adore and which was on the seat beside me was probably not high enough end for them), were the poor sweet little nail girls. there were two of them working on each of these girls, plus the two working on me and the two working on the woman on the other side--so a total of 8 girls who are no doubt working VERY long hours and long weeks for astonishingly little money--all sitting there listening to this conversation. i tried to read their faces to see if the conversation hurt their feelings in any way. other than one small rolled-eye gesture which i silently coaxed out of one of them whose eyes caught my eye, there was no sign.

but what was amazing was that these two sets of young woman are living in the same country, but are, GALAXIES apart. it did strike me as more than slightly rude of the two young women to have that conversation there in front of those girls who could scarcely even dream of having a copy of a Chanel or Hermes bag. but, it was clear that that didn't cross their minds. it was almost as if those girls were invisible to them. and i really have to stress that it wasn't in a haughty or snobbish way. it was simply clear that they had been brought up with maids and nannies around the house and were completely accustomed to conducting their lives without noticing them.

i can't help but find that a little bit sad..for both sides, actually.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

doesn't it just figure?

so, as soon as i invest in a better digital camera, it seems that i learn that the latest, coolest trend in photography is something called lomography. which is, in effect, taking pictures with old crap cameras and expired film, although there are new cameras (the diana+, apparently the primary one is called) with fisheye lenses and such. however, ideally what one should have is an old soviet camera.

here is a photo (taken with my new nikon) of a lomography exhibit i just saw this evening out at serendra:

way cool stuff with fisheye lenses and strange colors and light effects. it's clear i must try this. why oh why didn't i buy one or more of those old soviet cameras back in '94 when i saw them in russia?

it's big here in the philippines, so i'm going on a mission tomorrow. luckily the stores are open late, since i'm working all day!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

italian for beginners

i've become positively danish in my behavior when i fly. i, practically as a rule, do not speak to the people sitting near me (if they are strangers, of course--if i fly with family or colleagues, of course i speak to them).

yesterday on my flight up to manila from singapore, i was one of the last to board the plane and found myself increasingly dismayed as i realized how far back in the plane i was seated (monkey class on the short-haul flights). plus i was schlepping the big coach shopping bag and my huge iYiYi box, which i had just acquired in the airport, in addition to my purse and computer bag. so, i was a bit flustered when i got to my seat. i finally stowed my stuff away in 3 different overhead bins and disturbed the other two people in my row to get to my window seat.

when my blood pressure had gone down a bit and i could breathe again, i noticed that the man next to me was reading a charter party agreement. the word "drydock" had caught my eye. so, i asked him if he was a ship broker, thinking that no one else in their right mind would be sitting on a plane reading a charter party agreement.

he replied that he was joining a ship in manila and since it was a new charter, he had to read through the agreement. i asked his position on board and he said he was the captain. i'm certain that my eyes lit up at this discovery and i began plying him with questions.

the first comment he made was that he and his kind (seafarers) were "dinosauri." he was italian, you see. a charming, erudite italian captain who had been sailing since 1973. and the stories he had to tell from that sailing time! i got out my little notebook and scribbled notes.

he was joining a bulk carrier that was discharging in manila. he would sail on sunday for borneo, where they'll load it with coal (who knew coal came from borneo?), which they will discharge in india, up near the border with pakistan.

he hadn't sailed a bulker before. of late, his assignments have been onboard livestock carrriers. i asked if they were converted car carriers--which i'd heard of as livestock carriers. but he said no, the Stella Deneb had been specially built for the purpose of carrying livestock. the link is to a story about how the vessel now has a young female captain as master. captain tosques told me about her--she had been his chief officer and he told me that she had just gotten a well-earned promotion to master. i love to see stories of women in seafaring!

i asked about what it was like to sail around with a farm onboard. how many people it took to care for the animals (there can be upwards of 60,000 sheep onboard at one time). there is a crew of about 30-some whose job it is to care for the livestock. feeding and watering them is an automated system, but mucking out the stalls is an important task. he referred to the animals as "passengers," and said it's not unlike a cruise ship--where the main task is keeping the passengers happy (and healthy).

we talked a lot about life onboard--and how the captain sets the tone for the social relations between those onboard. he said he always makes an effort to ensure that people speak together at mealtimes and that they do what they can to have a social life onboard. he said that onboard the livestock carrier, "we make party. we eat some of the passengers." he said that often on a voyage, he gives lessons in making lasagne to the chief stewards, who are usually filipino. he said they are usually very good cooks, but he, being italian, can't help himself and wants to impart the knowledge of authentic lasagne-making.

i found myself utterly charmed by this italian captain. he was so funny, so genuine and so down-to-earth. i wanted to call husband and ask if he minded me bringing home a small italian captain so that we could sit around and listen to his stories. i had one of those moments of pure, unadulterated happiness as i sat and listened to him. what a wonder people are! the stories that they have to share. their outlook on the world. how it can change your own if you are open to it.

i took his name and email so that i can write a story about him for one of the campaigns i'm working on at work. it makes me sad that the first thing he said is that he is of a dying breed. more than 90% off the goods in the world get to where they're going via ship. so, if there are no more seafarers (less and less people are choosing the career), we will all have trouble getting our stuff.

i am often struck when i've had a conversation with a seafarer at just how practical, down-to-earth and authentic they are. they are often completely comfortable in their own skin in a way that the insecure world of the office does not breed. i always feel enriched by the encounter, mostly because their stories are nearly always funny and a good laugh will always make you feel better. but it's also because they are just so real and they remind me to get off my high horse and live in the moment. talking to captain tosques definitely made me forget all about the petty concerns i'd had about being in a window seat in row 55. and that was a simply delightful first italian lesson.

how do i love thee, manila?

...let me count the ways:

  1. the smiling, friendly people

  2. people who hold doors for you

  3. watermelon shakes

  4. delicious vinegary sauces

  5. crunchy, savory fried garlic

  6. attentive waiters

  7. sweet, smiling sales girls

  8. that there are at least 3 girls at every checkout counter in landmark--one to key in the items, one to check her work with flourishes of red circles on the receipt and one to put it in the bag. sometimes there's even a fourth girl who is separating and opening bags. they are all beautiful, petite and perfectly made up. lovely.

  9. sweet sales girls in landmark who remember me even when it's been 5-6 months.

  10. musicians playing spanish guitars in the tapas restaurant in greenbelt.

  11. the tapas restaurant in greenbelt

  12. salty watermelon seeds

  13. when it rains, it doesn't mess around, it REALLY RAINS!

  14. the fact that chivalry is not dead and you never have to carry anything yourself for very far.

  15. stores that sell only havianas--and which are jam-packed with people

  16. fresh mango

  17. security guards flashing sweet smiles at every entrance

  18. that little ceramic dish of bath salts in the bathroom at the Pen.

  19. jeepneys packed with people

  20. manicure and pedicure at dashing divas.

Friday, May 09, 2008

heaven is in manila

groggily made my way to the airport this morning, the coffee i grabbed at the hotel before i left, doing its work to wake me up. checked in (being assigned a window seat (not my thing), but since the flight was full, not really arguing about it).

made way through passport control, located the tax free refund shop(s!) and got cash back on camera and gap purchases. then looked for the henry kloss. no luck in the shop where i thought it would be. :-(

made attempt to find highly desirable hendrick's gin (loved by a small handful of people, all over the world), but apparently not in singapore. :-(

bought highly cool blinged out heart-shaped hair clip at chomel.

checked price of nikon D60 in camera shop. was reassured that i got a good deal.

finally located shop with black iYiYi, but no iSongbook, cutting down on deliberation over which one to get. bought last iYiYi in the airport at discount price since it was display model. tried BOTH iPods that were in my possession in it to ensure that it worked before agreeing to purchase display model.

very nearly bought PSP in lavendar while waiting for the iYiYi to be packed up, but grabbed hold of the reins and resisted.

boarded plane. seated in row 55! wondered whether plane was large enough to accomodate so many rows.

forgot to mention totally fabulous new coach purse and wallet which accidentally fell into my possession (mental note: do not convert prices into danish kroner, it makes them seem extra cheap).

was seated next to coolest possible person on the plane--italian captain who was joining a bulk carrier in manila (more about that tomorrow since i'm currently hitting the wall (it's 2 a.m. and i've had two nights of 3 hours of sleep)).

arrived in manila, baggage came off belt in the first 5 bags, manila pen limo waiting for me right outside.

greeted by the lovely staff at the manila peninsula who said, "so nice to see you again, ms. broberg." and escorted me to the club floor to check in.

quick change of clothes (sending most of them to laundry and dry cleaning) and popped over to the giant mall across the street for manicure and pedicure (which looks lovely and cost a total of $8 USD including tip for BOTH!!).

located the gap and experienced nirvana in the jeans department.

bought new version of manila mug (featuring cool red jeepney) at starbucks (along with much-needed double latte).

back to hotel to bathe and then meet old friends for a WONDERFUL dinner at sala.

it's difficult to express (at this level of sleep deprivation) how great it is to be back at the Pen. but it's wonderful beyond belief. it's like my soul comes home when i enter the doors. and there's absolutely NO sign whatsoever of the tanks that burst through, guns blazing, last november, just a few days after we left. to be honest, it wouldn't affect my love for this place in the least if they burst through while i was standing right there. it's heaven. heaven is in manila.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

jetlagging and another list

it's late. again. and because i'm on a shopper's high (which you can read about here), i'm WIDE AWAKE. and that is once again SO STUPID because i have to get up for a morning flight. at least it's at 9, which means i have to head for the airport around 7 if i want to get in a little retail time at the airport. i know that sounds strange, but lemme tell ya, singapore's changi airport is shopping heaven. and i'm gonna get me some henry kloss tivoli audio action for my writing house.

around noon today, i thought i was going to drop dead, right there in the conference room, of sheer tiredness. i could actually hear that my heartbeat was sluggish. it was perhaps a reaction to an especially boring speaker or staring at the master of ceremonies of the conference who appeared to have last had his mullet cut in august 2007 and who may have actually slept in his suit on a regular basis. or maybe it was because i didn't go to sleep last night until well after 4 a.m. (i stopped looking at the actual time because of how disturbing it was counting how many minutes of sleep i'd have if i went to sleep NOW.) but anyway, two excedrin (thanks sis, for leaving those!) and a good lunch later, i was feeling quite ok again. and now, thanks to the retail adrenalin, i'm once again awake.

i have a lot of impressions and have filled 9 pages of notes in my little waves of inspiration notebook. i'll leave you with a few teasers, since i'm into lists this week:
  1. totally disturbing bar called "the clinic" at clark quay. chairs are hospital beds and wheelchairs and it appears you can order blue drinks that come in an IV bag. it was actually rather creepy or perhaps just deeply cynical, and i would definitely have to be in a very special mood to go there.
  2. i ordered a fried tofu dish that had some very thinly shaved japanese daikon on top which was moving in a very disturbing way which made you think it was alive or at best that they hadn't totally killed it back in the kitchen before they brought it out. it turned out to just be the breeze from the ceiling fan. and the german couple at the next table was also very transfixed by it. i thought they were a little creeped out, but they proceeded to order one too.
  3. power point should never have been made available to the masses. you should, at the very least, have to have a license in order to use it. and it should be VERY difficult to get one.
  4. there is a very odd food server culture. they are EXTREMELY attentive when you first arrive--eager to bring you drinks and take your order, but once your food comes, you are totally on your own. heaven forbid you would want to order an additional glass of white wine. often, the original waiter or waitress you had at the beginning just completely disappears and another one takes that person's place. the new person, however, does not do the attentive at the beginning thing, even tho' it's the beginning for them.
  5. i have started a collection of martini glass stamps. it is in order to, at long last, have the martini party that i've been talking about for years. it will be the kind of party where you send hand-written or, in this case, hand-stamped, invitations in the snail mail. you will be requested to bring your own martini glass to the party, with the idea that you then leave it behind as your hostess gift and in order for me to acquire enough martini glasses for future parties. pretty cool idea, eh?

with that, i will leave you and try to get some sleep. dreaming of cameras (sorry, jaime, i went for the nikon--it just felt right in my hand) and iYiYis.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

night owl

maybe i'm obsessed with all things owl-y of late because i am a night owl. i love staying up late. and i am currently staying up late. it's now past 1 a.m. of course to my brain, it's only 7, so i'm not sure it counts...but anyway, back to my point. i LIKE staying up late. but it naturally follows that i don't like waking up early. and i do have to wake up early tomorrow, so it's actually pretty dumb to be up late like this...

being up late can make you start to think about strange things, like:
  • why are there two belts on this hotel bathrobe?
  • why did they put that stupid (invisible) plastic cover over the glass so that i just poured water all over the hotel bathrobe with the two belts?
  • aren't i lucky there's an emergency backup (dry) robe in the closet?
  • why do i feel compelled to share this with the world?
  • why am i so silly when i haven't even been drinking?
  • perhaps i should have been drinking.
  • i must have the coolest sister in the world because she just sent me an iPod Touch (right when i was about to go back and buy one tomorrow after i looked up the exchange rate).
  • why did i bawl my eyes out on the plane while watching the bucket list when i am actually quite opposed to sentimentality?
  • why can't i ever remember morgan freeman's name? i always think it's graham-something.
  • why am i not sleeping?
  • should i get a nikon or a canon?
  • it's not environmentally correct to drink bottled water, but what if the tap water makes me sick?
  • that was a delicous lobster and mango salad i had for dinner.
  • i wonder if those fish in the tanks at the restaurant were decor or dinner?
  • i wonder how i'll get along without a kitchen sink when i get home, since husband has torn it out in my absence.
  • ditto the stove.
  • maybe now is the right time to start a raw diet.
  • can you appear to be normal in public and still eat a raw diet?
  • why do they make erasers shaped like sushi?

perhaps i should go to sleep now and spare us all this jetlagged chatter...


i swear singapore is one big disneyland. with embassies around the world. it's very clean, very pretty, very maintained and coiffed. just like disneyland. but, for some reason, i like it better this time than on previous visits. maybe that's because my hotel is right next to clark quay, which is a pretty happening spot.

observed in singapore:
  1. people walking around in stores eating really weird looking stuff (something that looked like it was covered in red bean paste on the outside and had some rice mixture on the inside).
  2. tips on the radio for being more organized and thereby living a happier life.
  3. young, prosperous-looking indians.
  4. young, prosperous-looking filipinos.
  5. erasers in the shape of sushi.
  6. a strange store called daiso where all of the craptacular things cost only $2 (sing dollars).
  7. models of pretty candy-colored sony cameras (built-in 4GB memory) which i feel a strange desire to own (now, now, now) mostly because i've never seen them anywhere else.
  8. shops which sell only bling--hair bling, phone bling, bindi bling, all bling, all the time.

that's all for now. will check in again later...

Monday, May 05, 2008

serenity now

i'm only on the first leg of my long journey to singapore. and so far, it's been a chain of frustrations:
  1. typical righteous danish woman woman from the much longer Economy class/Non-Gold /Platinum line in CPH tries to butt into the Business/Gold/Platinum line because her line was taking too long. consider going postal for brief moment. luckily, the guy behind the counter turns her away.
  2. pick security line inhabited by elderly people who are clearly traveling for the first time and have all of their gallon bottles of shampoo with and are bewildered as to why they're being taken away. again with the thoughts of going postal.
  3. CPH airport, to my great sorrow, no longer has Hendrick's (best gin ever, loved by a small handful of people, all over the world).
  4. queue at starbucks in kastrup airport far too long to obtain much needed grande chai latte before flight to amsterdam.
  5. nose and sinuses totally and completely stuffed up during entire flight, severely restricting ability to breathe! brain clearly in need of all the oxygen it can get.
  6. singularly unhelpful woman at the counter in KLM lounge near F gates causes me to want to scream, but instead i lower voice an octave and go into patronizing mode [strangely this does not help]- understand for a brief moment why people totally go postal.
  7. old woman offloaded from wheelchair and deposited in seat next to me is wearing what can only be an entire bottle of truly offensive perfume. stuffed up nose chooses THIS moment to clear.

on the bright side, things can only get better from here, right?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

the specific ocean

i'll be spending much of monday and a good part of tuesday flying, so i'll catch ya in a few days from somewhere near the specific ocean, as my nephew finn (in iowa, not the one in sweden) would say...actually, it's more like the south china sea. i just wanted to say specific ocean.

just desserts

just over a month ago, right here in the blogosphere, a very lovely blogger on the other side of the world stumbled across my blog. finding we had many thoughts in common, we began a conversation across the miles. it so happened that this person's spouse was going to be traveling to denmark in early may. so, plans were quickly made to get together with him to see the sights of copenhagen and have dinner together.

yesterday was a beautiful, sunny spring day where copenhagen showed herself at her very best. the streets were full of people in good humor thanks to the fine weather. the trees were decked out in the fresh green leaves. there were even music performances here and there on small squares around the city. nyhavn with its colorful facades was crowded with the happiest people on earth (the danes come out number 1 in this survey year after year) or at least with the happiest tourists. we took a canal tour to see the city from the water and all along the way people waved and raised their glasses in high spirits (and one group with especially high spirits even mooned us) as the boat passed by.

it was, in short, a completely and utterly lovely day. which ended with a dinner at peder oxe on gråbrødretorv, which was finished off fittingly by the lovely tray of dessert above, which was shared by the new friends over conversation in which they marveled at the chain of events which had to come together for the dinner to take place. the chances were, looking at the situation, slim to none that these people would ever meet and have such a wonderful day together, but yet it happened. the only way it would have been better would have been if the lovely blogger from the across the world had been there too.

it would seem to be the beginning of what promises to be a long friendship.

i do so love the blogosphere.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

when inspiration strikes

you just gotta run with it...

i think i just might have to become a seller on etsy.

Friday, May 02, 2008

if wishes were horses...

inspired by jaime's beautiful post on making a wish and a desire to think happier thoughts than yesterday's post...
i wish...

...the house was finished and i was writing this from my beautiful new "writing house" in the garden.

...there was no such thing as slugs.

...that there was really such a thing as a star trek-style transporter and i could just blink and find myself in singapore on monday, rather than flying 19 hours.
...that i could meet and hang out in botswana with mma ramotswe from the #1 ladies' detective agency.

...that i could really fly like i do in my dreams.
...that i could stop being such a horrible procrastinator.

...that i could go wild asparagus hunting with my mom...
...and hunting for morels with my dad. right now.

...that i could wander a ruin and feel the ancient winds of time blowing over me, washing me in the echoes of the memories of all of those who once walked there.
...that i was lying on the bridge in the pasture down by the lake, looking up at the stars, listening to the frog song from the creek below and feeling the warm breeze of a summer evening wash over me as i breathed in the smell of prairie grass.
...that every parent of every child in the world cherished that child and enabled them to grow into the person they were meant to be.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

horror stories

i can't stop thinking about the horrible story emerging from austria--where a 70-something father imprisoned is daughter in the basement for 24 years and fathered 7 children with her. is it a symptom of a sick society that such a thing could happen? have we really stopped taking note of the people around us to the extent that no one noticed that such a thing was happening, even the man's wife/woman's mother, who lived in the very apartment building?

when i used to take the train in to the city on a daily basis i saw the same people every morning, since people are creatures of habit and tend to sit in the same place, in the same train car, day after day. it used to drive me totally crazy that it never even occurred to these people who i saw on a daily basis to even give the slightest nod of good morning. i didn't necessarily want to sit and chat with people all the way into the city, but i would have liked the acknowledgement from another human being that they recognized me and that i was also there on a daily basis. the lack of any glimmer of recognition from my fellow passengers rendered me also unable to greet them myself. somehow, i folded under the cultural pressure.

i think that something like the austrian story could happen here where i live. although we know our neighbors on both immediate sides of us, we don't have more than a nodding acquaintance (they DO nod in recognition sometimes) of the other neighbors on our street, which is a cul de sac. some of the houses on our street are huge. these people could easily have the children locked up in the basement and no one would notice.

but, i don't mean to be humorous about this. this is serious. this is about how we are present in our own communities and in the life of that community. what do we do to contribute? i'll admit, i don't do that much. of course, i shop in the shops and grocery stores and frequent the few restaurants in town. there are even a couple of those restaurants where they know us and recognize us as "regulars." the same is not true of the other shops and grocery stores--there is a cultural barrier, preventing people from acknowledging that they recognize you, if they didn't meet you back in kindergarten.

we don't really participate in what little cultural life there is in the town--a small carnival came last weekend and we didn't go. there is a viking festival every summer and we've never made it over there. of course, with sabin being in school now, we attend events at school and have a chatting acquaintance with some of the other parents from her class. but, i can't say that we make any great contribution to the life of our community. if we want to see theatre or a concert, we go in to copenhagen. i can't actually say that we, from a cultural standpoint, live particularly locally.

even being here in the blogosophere is a way of NOT being present where you live. i'm getting the social interaction that i don't get from my community here online. and is that a good thing? i increasingly think that a film like the matrix is not so farfetched. i'm plugged into the online grid, so i don't need my local surroundings. i especially don't need to get my social life there. and i think i should be more troubled by that. and i am becoming more troubled by that.

how do we reconcile what is, to me, clearly a social evolution that we are participating in online with living and being present in our local communities? i'm sure that we will find way, but i think we need to push ourselves to think about it and participate in it and not just simply let it happen TO us.

what do you think?