Next Stop: Berlin, Germany

It’s been more than 7 years since I, for the first and the last time, visited the city of Berlin. After having made the decision to live in Berlin for a few months, I asked German visitors whenever I had the chance to. In case they were from some other place in Berlin, I asked, “which place do you think is the better, Freiburg or Berlin?” When they were from Berlin themselves, the question was, “what is it like to live in Berlin? Would it be benign enough for me to live in?” For the F or B question, the answer was always B(erlin). For the yes or no question, it was of course yes. And for the open-ended question, there were countless positive comments that I cannot even dare to summarise.

Berlin hat was.” Berlin has something.

I don’t know if people say the same thing about Seoul, too. But there are a few cities that are so well-known for their one-of-a-kind charms they throw on people. New York City, Paris, London, Barcelona, Hong Kong and Tokyo may be some grand examples. Just the idea of being there and breathing the air makes some people shiver from the excitement. Does Berlin make it to the list as well? Honestly, I have no idea yet. What I highly appreciate, though, is what the inhabitants of Berlin say about their city – that Berlin has this ‘something.’

What this ‘something’ refers to, I am quite clueless at the moment. I’m about to figure it out sooner or later. Berlin would be the city that I have inhabited for the fourth longest period of my lifetime. Actually I can barely wait to be there and look around, not as a traveller this time.

It’s also funny how your knowledge about the language makes you feel more closely related to the place itself. Here in Italy, I am constantly and unconsciously maintaining my alert mode. For instance, I tell myself that if something happens to me, I should do this and say that. But when I think about the time that I’ll spend in Germany, I let my guard off just a little bit and feel a bigger sense of comfort rather than alertness reigning over all the other possible senses.

See you in 16 days, Berlin.

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Lagging Behind on my Reading Plan

As a matter of fact, I think I have it written somewhere on my blog, but to read much was one of my new year’s resolutions. During the first four months of this year, I was quite devoted to that and went to the library whenever time allowed. And when you keep record of the books you read, you’d know what I mean – as the list gets longer, you feel something that could possibly be described as a feeling of achievement.

But that plan kind of fell apart when I started work.

I’m not even going to try and come up with an excuse – I know I had time, but I spent it otherwise. I cooked and ate and chatted and slept. Maybe a little bit more than was necessary. So I’m lagging behind on my reading plan, literally, and didn’t even finish the books I brought when I first came here, which was almost 5 months ago! I should read, think and write more. Maybe a public statement like this post would get me going.

So, during the last few months. I finished Andy Weir’s <The Martian>, of which a movie was made and will be running in the cinemas soon here in Italy. It was a relief that I bought the book before the film poster edition was all over the place, by the way. And then came Dan Brown’s <Da Vinci Code>. Dan Brown books were no exception in that they largely were based on a similar frame, and I guess I lost interest more quickly in this book about what’s going to happen compared to when I was reading a more recent book of Brown, <Inferno>. Most recently, I finally read Fannie Flagg’s <Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café>! It was on my wish list for such a long time, and it was worth the anticipation. I’m planning on writing more about this book soon.

And I’m slowly making progress with David Sedaris’s <Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls>. Up next, Ian McEwan’s <Solar> is waiting for its turn. Although I had to admit that I already want to get properly started with the latter, which is a fiction. But wait, if eBook samples also count, I may be reading <The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie> by Alan Bradley. I’ll keep updating – off to work again!

Food-consciousness and Cooking

 One of the dinners me and my colleagues prepared for ourselves last week. Deep-fried chicken breast with Korean sweet and spicy sauce & Pork fajita.

Living in a densely populated town means a lot of restaurants and diners around. And it consequently leads to eating out often – even more so when the work finishes late in the evening. I used to buy something to go on my way home or warm up ready-made meals from the freezer for dinner. Guess I was not willing to make a nuisance of cooking and having to clean up the mess.

In Lainate – a commune not far from the city of Milano – where I’m residing at the moment, there are not many places to go for a quick supper. Even the supermercato (yes I have to practice Italian!) closes at 21.00! It’s a disaster when you’re starved and out of stock on food and it’s already 10 o’clock in the night.

  This made me super food-conscious, which is quite appropriate when you think about the fact that the theme of the Expo Milano 2015 is “Feeding the World, Energy for Life.”
I plan ahead to go grocery shopping, and know what to have for dinner already by noon. Pretty big a change in feeding myself for me! A couple colleagues and I will have some ravioli and a bowl of healthy salad with olives and feta cheese soon. Greek style. Maybe.

  Cooking turned out to be more fun than I thought. The process made me savour the result of it more pleasantly. Looking up the internet for the recipes made me realize how many different ingredients went in, for instance, a bowl of steamed mixed vegetables. Sometimes I wince before scary kitchen knives thanks to an awful experience where I cut a part of my nail off my finger while trying to get an onion chopped, but other than that it’s all good and fun.

  Besides knowing how to cook, there’s something else. I imagine that a long long time ago, before our food came free of soil packed in plastic bags and cans, it must have taken a whole day to prepare two to three meals a day. Not only because of physically exhausting labour but also because people knew where the food came from, cooking and eating must have been an entirely different experience from what it is now!
  Of course, it’s not like I became a farmer myself and went to the marketplace to exchange my crop with some eggs or meat. But choosing, buying and cooking the food myself every single day made me become aware of how much food we consume without paying any deed to how it’s possible that we get food so easily from pretty much every corner of the world. And I’m thankful for that.

  Food-consciousness does not only have to do with what we are eating but also with how we are eating. Healthy, whole food in prepared in food consciousness consumed in balanced moderation is what I regard as a proper eating habit.

Arrived in Milan

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Malpensa Airport, Milan, Italy 22. 4. 2015

IMG_8500Malpensa Airport, Milan, Italy 22. 4. 2015

Sooo, I earned about 7 hours yesterday by jumping time zones. I’m in Milan, Italy! Well to be exact it’s a town near Milan, a very quiet place with nothing spectacular to speak of. I went for a quick run this morning and found out that I really should find a park nearby. It’s a pretty neighbourhood. My 184 days here won’t be too melancholy.

On the flight, I managed to do a couple things I’ve been meaning to do for some time. One is reading: with prepping and meeting up with people before leaving, I couldn’t quite have some time to read just to enjoy it. Andy Weir’s The Martian is so full of humour! I honestly cannot follow all the technological things that Mark does to survive on Mars, but I surely enjoy his narrative, chuckling from time to time.

The other was filling in my journal – I was a few days behind. Despite the fact that I have been quite active on WP, sharing and writing about my life and thoughts, it was still extremely difficult to remember, for example, what I had for lunch and what I felt like on a certain date. I’ll try and dedicate 10 minutes every single day before bed to think and remember what happened throughout the day – it’s such a shame that I don’t get to remember many of what happened. I wish I’ll be able to go, ‘oh yes now I remember, it definitely was pleasant to do this and that!

All in all, it was a pleasant and fruitful flight. The problem comes after the flight.

The connection to internet around here is way too bad. I get almost no signal inside my room. So I couldn’t possibly read my feed on WordPress even though I wanted to! I’m really curious about what the writers I follow managed to write about for the last couple days. Hopefully the landlord can do something about it so that I won’t have to ditch my laptop and my WordPress page.

The ‘Health’ App and the Art of Having a Reference Point

One of the first thing to notice upon upgrading the OS on my mobile phone was the new ‘Health’ application. It basically records the user’s physical activities such as steps, distance covered, sleeping hours and so on. It can be used in collaboration with outernal healthcare devices or other apps installed on the phone.

Since I’m not in possession of any device that connects to this service, I mainly use it as a footstep counter – it is more or less precise as long as I carry my mobile phone with me. Average number of steps I take every day is a bit lower than 10,000 – yesterday topping with some 16k steps, although it must be closer to 20k actually! (My legs are inexplicably sore!)

Recently I came to realise that from the point  I’ve discovered this app and started utilising it, I am walking more! Several time throughout the day, I open the app to check the numbers. If it’s lower than expected, then I try to walk more. In case it’s higher than my anticipation, I’m satisfied and encouraged at the same time so that I walk more to try and break the record.

This is the beauty of knowing! Ignorance is not necessarily bliss in all situations. Knowing where you stand helps you set goals and adjust your pace. This applies perfectly to managing your health and condition. Because managing means enhancement in a lot of cases – for enhancement you need a point you can refer to to evaluate the present.

Whether it’s about staying fit, maintaining good relationship with another person or even being successful at work, there ought to be a reference point. And having one may not be such a complicated thing to do!

I know I was preaching the words you tell yourself over and over again. I’ve been telling myself the same thing as well – but the visualised, physical form of reference point such as the Health app truly struck me hard with its practical help. The only obstacle that we’d face in trying to establish a reference point is that we’re not machines and henceforth need to consciously examine and evaluate the present. Friends, family and colleagues around you can be great sources of data and information.

As soon as I’m ready, I will happily share my other reference points and the advantages they brought along. I’m curious about yours, too!

I think we should write more.

Back in the day when many kept journals and diaries, lives had been turned into words on pages. The days were remembered and the thoughts were neatly woven into sentences. We still had time to write – to write is to think, think and think again.

What I find very sad is that we seem not to put much time into writing. When I come to think of it, the reason lies in the amount of stuff to read I receive every single day. It’s a gazillion times more than what I could even pretend to digest! Just think about how the bookmark bar, yours most probably too, is overflowing. And we spend time reading, filtering and absorbing – but not writing much.

Writing is, for me, something huge. It is a creative process which takes up a long time and energy as a matter of fact. The thoughts are sorted and become neat. Not only that, writing makes sharing of thoughts super easy! Plus the brain would often deny to recall the details from a train of thoughts, and writing provides tremendous help for that. But most important of all is, in my opinion, is that you think over the course of writing.

‘How should I begin? In which order should I put the subtopics? Does this really make sense? Which proof can I offer to make it stronger?’ – all these are questions everyone would often ask themselves during writing. It makes the human brain think hard. It trains you to communicate better in the form of written language.

When I first started to keep log on wordpress, I was startled with a pleasant surprise that a lot of writers are breathing life in their thoughts by turning them into words. Now that is another example of taking advantage od the advanced communication tech! How easy peasy.

I will never dare say that I am a good writer. Though, I believe that whether one is working on some kind of ‘logs’ or not does tell a little something about them – in most cases it means they think much. Lubricated brains. I think they are attractive.

Expo Milano 2015

What a pleasant surprise – I get to experience Expo Milano 2015 first-hand! For the entire duration of the event, I’ll be participating as a volunteer for a country pavilion.

This year’s theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” It will be a good chance to look into what other countries, CSOs and corporates are working on in order to solve the very question. I am even more happy to be a part of it, because it genuinely interests me and I also hope to find a job in the field.

Food and Energy may seem like two entirely different stories. But they, in fact, are not. First of all, both are crucial, indispensable factors of modern human life on earth. Not only that, they can clash each other – this makes it an exceptionally tricky question. Take ethanol for example. Experts are warning that it might turn into a battlefield around some crop varieties, because they are apparently valuable both as food and as source of energy. People with low income in less developed places will want to eat, while some other people who are better off will want to use them to make their lives more prosperous.

I believe that the answer will turn up sooner or later, and this Expo in Milan this year will provide an insight to the matter. All in all, I am tremendously happy!

Model European Council

I’m taking part in the Model European Council this year held by the EU Centres nationwide – the deadline for the position papers is 2. November, and I will most probably spend the entire Sunday on this.

I get to represent Cyprus with another participant, with whom I get along very well by the way.
We’re halfway through with the outline for the paper and drafting is more or less all that’s left for us to do. It is really tricky, though, to conclude (or imagine depending on how you view our approach) that Cyprus has any concrete position as to the Eastern Partnership Programme of the EU, given the domestic circumstances, and what its position would be. There are a number or relevant factors, yet it is not simple to professionally, diplomatically and mildly put it into words. (I’ll try to introduce our position paper in case it goes well!)

I’m more concerned than excited to be part of it and can’t seem to get the image of myself out of my head, dumbfounded and intimidated at the event which will happen in a week. Hopefully I can proudly say I enjoyed it and will be able to write a word or two about the session! Wish me luck – thanks in advance.

P. S. When anyone feels like filling me in with their information on Cyprus and Eastern Partnership(EaP), please feel free to do so. It will definitely help us to get a grip.

Dreams


deviant art @s-rae, Dreaming a Dream: Night

There is a place that repeatedly appears in my dreams. Like any other usual dream, I always forgot about that and recognise the place only when it, yet again, is the background of my dream afterwards.

This time, it was not the usual members – one of them were replaced by someone else and I knew that face, but I can’t recall who it was anymore. (This happens a lot with the dreams, too.) Judging by the scenery, we were most probably in Hong Kong as tourists.

Before we got to the place, we took a walk in the city. It was a bizarre walking, too, for most of the time we were talking the middle of the road and not the pavement. At one point, for some reason, we stumbled and were almost hit by a massive MAN truck. That’s when the background switched onto a footbridge. From the footbridge we entered this little street, hoping that it would lead us somewhere but it instead turned out to be a dead end. Naturally, we turned back and started to walk back to the other end of the street. We were probably too caught up by the stores on the right hand side to see all kinds of insects and worms on the street, which we managed to discover on our way back. They made me jump, put my hood on and run like a madman(I’m not sure whether it was all of us or just me.)

Trying to shake off the weird feelings, we walked on and got to this place in question. The building was in my dreams three or four times including today.

I think I never saw the building from outside, but it must be massive. It’s like a museum. All walls are painted white and the lights are dim – dim lit in the ill-maintained way. There are rooms with huge windows, displaying different stuff and the staff would occasionally appear out of nowhere and scare people. Halloween themed? I’m not sure. There also are drawers with watercolours, crayons, coloured pencils and so on in them. I’m not quite sure what I want, but I always end up opening all the drawers and inspecting what’s in them and not finding what I want. When I’m browsing through the things, I feel some kind of guilt – it feels like I’m doing something that I’m not allowed or supposed to do, even though I understand that they are for visitors to make use of.

So I gave up on it, and some staff who slightly resembled Ethan Hawke grabbed me by the side of my face and started to say something in French. I guess it was supposed to make me go all “awwww..” or something, but instead I answered in broken French that I don’t get it. The man went over to one of my friends, who in real life does not speak French either, and I thought to myself that I should learn the language. The white walls, wooden floor and a few stools in the hall was the last thing I remember seeing before I woke up.

Bookmark

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What a cute thing you are! This is a mug-shaped bookmark on page 247 of Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You. This book has been my current read for the last couple weeks, thanks to the intervention of midterm exams, for which I had hardly prepared and consequently left me with hardly any time for pastime reading.

My old man’s a collector of many different bookmarks. This fact explains why I always try to get pretty bookmarks from where I’ve travelled to.

I found a pretty amazing store that sells a variety of ornaments near Prague Castle, but the best items they had were the bookmarks. I remember spending almost half an hour inside that store, looking around the shop and thinking half a million times whether I should spend the rest of my travel budget on them. No, seriously. Prague was my last destination after all, and I found them THAT beautiful.

But this one in the picture above is one that I actually got from him. I was marking how far I’ve read with a piece of receipt and thought I could probably use one of his collected bookmarks. So I asked for one, and I found this little one from a package he got from Tokyo some time ago. (For a moment I thought I might have to refer to this as a book dart, but since I couldn’t mark the exact line I decided to call this a bookmark instead.) My principle is : when you travel to Japan, bring loads of money with you for you’re going to find so many things you’d like to buy and bring back home with. This is honestly not the sole reason for that!

I finished the book soon after taking this picture, and the bookmark is now with another book. And it looks as nice as with any other book.