Something´s happening in Luxembourg


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Yet another Nationalfeierdag has passed with fireworks and crowded places. The bridge is healed, the tram is getting ready, constructions still rise everywhere and the population of Luxembourg is growing. I saw yesterday a sea of people, much more colourful and diverse than 8 years ago when I arrived here. Luxembourg is changing, is growing. There are so many cultural activities, networking events that flourished in the last year that I heard many times people saying: “something´s happening”.

Though a part of me already lingers for a piece of lost paradise, the lost paradise of quietness and long walks on empty streets on a Sunday evening, some other part of me tells me that now is a good time: a time for renewal, for hope. Something´s happening, and I think that what we feel are the tectonic movements of our society moving towards a new decade. I heard this somewhere, that the cycles of the world last for about 10 years. And somehow it’s true: why else would we talk about the 90´s, the nostalgic 60´s, the lost 20´s? Though in the core of it, human nature doesn’t change, we indulge in the hope that society does.

I remember also a story of my own about cycles. It was probably 2006 and I was friends with a woman who used to work for the library of the university who had a passion for astrology. She wasn’t the naïve horoscope reader, and, in spite of what one may think, she had a lot of knowledge about stars because her father was an astronomy professor. She was just throwing a symbolism on the astronomical events. So, one day, at a coffee in this old room smelling like old books she read my natal chart and she told me that Jupiter (or Saturn) was about to move in my sign in the following year and this is a cycle that will last for about 12 years, that soon I will undergo a huge change in my system of beliefs. Right, I said… and I moved on. However, as Saturn (or Jupiter) started to move towards the constellation of Scorpio, I did start to change beliefs. I was in my 20s and, as I found out later, there is a psychological equivalent for what was happening to me, and it´s called the “social identity crisis”. Just to give you an example of beliefs that left my constellation that year: the belief that God only resides the Orthodox Church and that he counts the number of times you do the sign of the Cross, the believe that the entire world has something against my nation and the belief that we are all soo different, the idea that sex is shameful, that moving to another country will be a failure.
The fact is that I didn’t just changed. It was part of a process, part of a journey. All that helped back then though, was to take the changes from the environment and try to swim on the wave. That year Romania joined the EU, the economy was up and things were looking good. And then the financial crisis came and we were faced with new challenges. I remember the wave of concern. Where I was working it was like the end of the world was coming. And yet we survived.
And yet the prophecy turned true, not because of Jupiter or Saturn (or maybe, who knows) but because it was time to.

And this is how I felt on the evening before the National Day in Luxembourg.
I attended this play by Serger Tonnar with refugees about refugees: Letters from Luxembourg. This is an emotional journey through concepts like “freedom”, “God” or “home”. It shows the human face behind this term “refugee”, with satirical glimpses on the bureaucratic system. It shows people who miss their loved ones, who ask themselves questions of identity and escape a sea of water to drown in a sea of paper.

But the simple fact that this play was put in place is a step ahead. I watched the dedication and the emotions of those people through the glass of my own becoming and I feel grateful to be the receiver of this artistic act. I am grateful to see people putting a piece of their heart out in the world, expressing, creating in spite of tough things they went through. Having the chance to do so, is already a seed of freedom that we can grow.

Yes, something’s happening. We now have a comedy scene starting, a poetry scene coming behind a little bit more shy, we have festivals, art events and open air concerts. For me they all are linked by an invisible thread which is the need for expression and creativity. In this part of the world where our basic needs get met, the need for meaning starts to show its shy head. I know that still the majority lives in the hamster wheel of “eat-work-sleep”, but there are more and more people who reach out for more, for something to feed their soul with.

If I say that it’s already a very positive thing, because you don’t know it but I was born and raised a pessimist. Me acknowledging that there is hope for our generation is like an acrophobian saying that he might consider sky diving in the coming year. At least this is the effect that these tectonic movements had on me: they turned me into an unexpected optimist. Don’t worry, there is a downside to optimism: since I’ve become an optimist, I tend to go out without an umbrella. Which not always works.

Don’t get me wrong: there are still a lot of problems happening around. There is still hate, there are crimes, stress. There were 3 major accidents on construction sites and there are still refugees welcomed with suspicious looks. There are still poor people on the street and there are those who get fired without explanation. There are still burnouts, oh there are more burnouts than ever, in fact. But I also found more people rising from their own ashes than ever. As I noticed from my life experience, for someone or for a structure to grow, either one has to learn from the others (and how do I know, most people don’t have the capacity to do so as we are never encouraged to), or to get to a place which is so uncomfortable that one starts to feel the need to get out. Sometimes we need to go down to hell, like Dante, to walk our way up, through purgatory to paradise.

And the road from hell is a long road uphill. Like these valleys that surround Luxembourg and its plateaus. Sometimes you seem to have reached the peak but you didn’t and you get down again, deeper in a new valley, and then you go up again on the old fortification towers and so forth and so on.

But when something seems to be happening, we can still look with curiosity towards the future and maybe… maybe if we have the courage, to look for what we can contribute to this change.

I don’t want any more objects. I have enough


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design

When my parents visited me, I told the story of assembling my Ikea bed. It goes like this: a friend helps me bring the boxes in the bedroom. My sister and I go step by step through the assembly process and everything goes perfectly well! There is no missing piece, every bolt and screw is in the package. We managed to get the bed frame standing and stable.

At this point we take a break and there’s one more step to complete: fix the 4 flexible metal bars that hold the frame together. Easy peezy… We just had to put screw nr 117327 in 12 little holes . Or not.
I could only think that assembling an Ikea bed might discourage the myth of the 40(or 72 virgins). Who would ever like to deal with that after trying to make screw nr 117337 go in it’s hole?

I only had an electrical screw driver. It didn’t work. Apparently when it’s too small you don’t need force. You need precision and being gentle. And I tried from the top and from the bottom. I tried making the holes bigger, but metal on metal doesn’t go well. In the end I managed to screw around 6 of the 12 screws and I gave up. So, if my bed falls apart one day, you’ll know why.

I bought then a new manual screwdriver that turned out to be as useless as the previous.
At that moment in the story, my father did the following exclamation: “And do you have a hammer?”.
Now, being used to the logic of my family, I know exactly why my dad asked me this apparently unrelated question.

The reason has nothing to do with crafting, or DYI or nails for that matter. It has to do with tradition. No, we have no tradition of hitting each other in the head with a hammer. The man was simply looking ahead to the next occasion when he will have to, for the sake of tradition, buy me a present.

“No, dad, I don’t have a hammer since my ex boyfriend took it with him 3 years ago.”
“What??? You don’t have a hammer? I’ll buy you one tomorrow. As a present.”
“Thank you dad, but I don’t need a hammer.”
“Why? What will you do if you need to put a picture on the wall?”
“Like I always did: I’ll use the rolling pin. I never use it for backing but it’s perfect for hammering nails.”
“And what if you will absolutely need a hammer. What if you need to assemble something that needs nails?”
“I’ll borrow one.”
“But why? I’ll buy you a hammer tomorrow.”
“Dad, I have lived for 3 years without a hammer. I can still live for another 3.”
“Then what would you like for a present?”

That’s the thing. I don’t want anything. I have so many things, so much stuff that the idea of desire itself is gone. Instead I have less and less space and tend to spend more and more time outside.
Have you ever felt fed up with something? I did. With objects.
I appreciated all the presents that I received in the previous years. I still know who gave me the scarf I was wearing yesterday or each book, but I also know that the most valuable gifts received from them were non material. For instance I remember when a friend of mine gave me as a present The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This is a book that I devorished, and I watched the movie. But I have other memories with her that I value more, like the times when I was visiting her over the weekend. I was just beginning to live in Luxembourg and I was alone with all this time in my hands. She had a 28 square meters studio in Nancy, France and we were watching movies and talk and walk and when I was leaving was always a feeling of emptiness and loneliness again. All gifts from her were valuable, but those times are even more important to me.

And there are those few presents that I wanted to have and I couldn’t have. One time, someone promised me for my birthday the crystal unicorn figurine from his collection. But in between the promise and the time when he was suppose to bring me the unicorn, our friendship broke into pieces. Now you know what the unicorn on my bracelet represents.

I know I can’t help myself from buying presents and I do put a lot of heart and energy into finding the right one. But ultimately I would like to change that. And I’m working on it.

I would like to challenge this idea. Ok, birthdays are birthdays. We all benefit from time to time to have a special day. But Christmas… this should be about sharing and not presents.

My parents had a job in sales and the most busy time was December. Many years in a row I received from them a pyjama, bought from the store next to the place where they were working. Yes, it was sweet but the memories of all these pyjamas are in fact quite bitter. There was a lot of useless guilt on both sides of this gift: them for not being able to put a greater present under the tree and me for their effort that did not mean much to me. In fact, for a strange reason, I hate pyjamas, as I hate any set of closing. I don’t own any costume in my wardrobe. I only wore a skirt suit once for graduation and because my mother forced me to. And that was because the skirt was different from the jacket.
Anyways, coming back to the pyjamas. Strangely enough, I remember them all and in relation to my parents. The most vivid memories about those were about me being sick.

Back to presents. I really think that we could slow down on buying Christmas presents. Why can’t we just give up on one tradition and build other more meaningful? Why is it soo hard to give up on a thing that won’t matter anyway? Are we doomed to bury each other under objects? In stuff? Is happiness only about having things or cumulating mountains of plastic?

I remember the times when my grandmother was cleaning the storage house, an event that took place every two years in summer. In my family, you probably got it already, we love to entertain paradoxes. We had the house with the 5 rooms which was called “the house” and a small annexe – only one room where we were throwing all the useless shit, and that was called “the BIG house”. Once every two years the BIG house was put under reorganisation works. Did I mention that my grandparents lived most of their lives in the scarcity of communism so the number of objects they cumulated over the years is probably the tenth part of what a family would hold today in one year?

And then the show would start. Grandma was taking everything out from the big house into the sun and would make piles of what is to be given away, what is to be thrown and what is to be rearranged. And when she got the three equally big piles she would go for a nap and when she came back she would find my grandpa (also called “the collector”) who was shifting the last two piles back.
“Why are you throwing this dress away?”
“Because it’s eaten by moths.”
“It looks good to me”
“It doesn’t fit me since I had kids”
“Maybe the girls would wear it”

And when it wouldn’t work with the practical argument he would try an emotional one. Sometimes it worked if he would track back the touching memory of an object, but most of the time, the negotiations were tough and totally unpractical.
But grandpa didn’t like presents either. When he was asked what he would like for a present he would say: “Bring me that sweater that doesn’t fit you any more. I’ll wear it when I’ll feed the animals”. He never appreciated new things but each time he was receiving a good pair of worn shoes from my father his eyes sparkled.

For years I thought that he was just too attached to objects to let go, but towards the end of his life, when fear of death started to slip in, I understood that it had nothing to do with the stuff itself. It had to do with the memories of his life, pictures of his girls cheering up, joy and beauty that he once lived, and something else. Because here’s another element about this wise man: he was a craftsman. Nothing was ever lost, everything was transformed. Whatever was there in the piles, he saw a potential to use it. And it wasn’t the stuff itself he didn’t want to give up but the idea that one day in the future he will do something with it.

I wish I had the time and motivation to do like him, but the problem with the world today is that we have a lot more. We are in the middle of an excess crisis. We own too much and feel too little! We give with comfort and relief. We give to clean our conscience, we pay money for it. There is more love that goes into not giving than into this meaningless exchange of benefits: money against doing your duty in the tradition.

That being said, I would like to make a point for all those who feel guilty that they didn’t buy all their loved ones a gift for Christmas. Don’t feel! By all means, don’t feel guilty for not adding to the mountain of meaningless stuff under which we bury ourselves.
Do something else: write them a nice card, bring them to a show, a movie, cook something (only if you’re good at it) or simply spend time without fighting! Be kind! Think about not hurting someone! Give attention! Leave your phone aside for a day and go in the woods with them.
That’s what Christmas should be about: quality time, not stuff.

Merry Christmas!

A train story


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The below happened under my eyes in the train which was taking me and my sister to Bruxelles to spend holidays with our family. It’s not a tragic story, it’s just slightly bitter as a day of winter when the sky turns grey and you know that it was supposed to snow by now but you slip under the dim light of your desk lamp and dive your nose into the computer and you let news of climate change be covered by some video with a dog eating a Christmas tree.

It was the day of the attack in Germany and the news were grim, nerves were stretching, a few dark thoughts passed through my mind.

I fell asleep around Namur and woke up near Ottignes where the whole scene started. A man walked into the train, a young man of presumably Moroccan origins. He put his luggage and sat like any normal passenger, with his girlfriend, a redhead young woman. A few seats in front a Muslim woman with her hair covered sat alone.

Just a minute later, another man entered the train. He had washed out jeans and a brown leather jacket, he was bold and had unsteady eyes, surrounded by large black circles. His moves were swift and irregular. He was holding an unlit cigarette between his fingers, using it to point towards imaginary people. His eyes seem to be running in all the directions. His lips were moving as if he was talking to himself. My first thought was “drugs”. He entered our car and went straight to the first man, mumbling and baiting at him in a mix of French and Arab.

Soon the tone started to raise and everyone in the train was terrified. The woman with the headscarf was obviously scared. She had her fingers on the phone, as if she was ready to call someone. What I could understand from the mix was: “you’re not a good Moroccan. What? You’re only speaking French? French? The language of these …? Of these … You’re Moroccan, you should be ashamed to speak to me in French! You think you’re a Belgium? You are Moroccan. French is the language of scoundrels!”
The insults were pouring in this strange language mix, in spite of the young man answering in Arab with an impressive calm. My sister told me later on that she could see his hands shaking while the deranged was shouting at him. It lasted for too long. Other people in the car were looking down, on the window. We continued talking soddly as if nothing was happening. I could smell the fear in the air, this fear that oppresses us lately, the fear of an attack, the fear that raises the tensions, fear of other humans, fear that there was a bomb under that brown leather jacket.

I could smell it and I was myself drowning in it, with every new stronger wave of the verbal violence. I could understand a word in 10 but I could feel the hate through the language barrier. The woman with the headscarf looked more and more worried and the young man was managing to keep calm.

After a while he stopped answering in Arab and any language. The violent guy left the car but he was watching him though the door, still moving his cigarette. A controller came and asked his ticket. For just the 2 minutes they spoke, his face changed at 180 degrees. He was smiling, showing his ticket as if he has been smiling for the entire journey. I was surprised that the employee of the railroad didn’t ask anything about his cigarette, which he was still turning and pointing in his hand. Maybe he didn’t want to know more.

Meanwhile the young man was talking to his girlfriend: “I am so ashamed and I feel guilty for his attitude. You can’t imagine the words of hate he said to me in Arab, all the insults…”

When the train entered the first station in Brussels, it stopped for another extremely long minutes. The deranged open the door and from there he asked the young man why he doesn’t want to get out of train. The young man said that he goes to another station.
That created a new tsunami of affronts and insults. The door kept automatically closing and he was hitting the handle to push it back like crazy, while he was yelling: “your a fagget, a homosexual! You’re not a real Moroccan! Fucking fagget! You only speak French!! You wanna fight? Let’s fight! Let’s see who’s stronger! I know box! You wanna fight, you PD?”

At this point the young man who was saying nothing in this second round, could not take it anymore. He raised his tone and shouted out: “ok! Let’s fight!”

Silence in the train. Nothing was moving for a few seconds. He was still sitting in his seat when the mad shut his mouth for once. The door closed for good and the mad man stepped out of the train.
I let out a sigh. The woman with headscarf let her phone on the table and breathed.
The last thing I heard the young man telling his girlfriend was:
“I can’t feel my hands! I was so scared! My heart is pumping.”
“Would you have gotten into a fight with him?” she asked.
“I don’t know”

There are so many questions I think about while putting in writing this events at 1 a.m. I wonder about fear, about war. Are we about to lose the paradise, the safety and freedom we were used to?
From outside it may look like “Arabs fighting between themselves” but from where I was it looked exactly like a consequence of raising hostility between “us” and “them”. As if this “us” and “them” should even exist.

Someone in a post on Facebook, wrote, referring to the Berlin attach: “Muslim immigrants don’t understand the principle of our democracy.”
When I was telling the story into family, I started with introducing the young man, but I called him, for the sake of simplification, “a young Arab”. I could see that from my first words, they were expecting him to be the negative character of the story. As the story unfolded, he became the hero.
And I was wondering what is our so called democracy that allowed so much hate between us as we are no longer recognising the courage, the kindness in a man, just because of a word that I wrongly chose to describe someone?
And do we really know better with our democratic, European values that hang by a hair? What do we know about this large culture? What do we know about being an immigrant and being raised in a family that does not belong and having to fight your way and feel guilty for someone that doesn’t share anything with you, except your language and maybe some obsolete religious rituals? We, the so called “western world” know nothing. This is not a war between the “Arabs” and the “Western world”. It’s a clash of cultures and educations. None of the sides understands the other and those in between, the generation of hard working people who tries to live here like us, well, they are just “immigrants”.
It’s a war of fear. Of course, somewhere in this fucked up world there is blood flowing in rivers and suffering and abuse, but here, in the safety warm, western world we can close our eyes and hide under the blanket. We are no longer used to violence so every outburst is an event.

But then, there was something positive about this story. There was a young man who didn’t answer violence with violence, one of the most forgotten Christian lessons. There was hate giving up in front of courage. There was also mistrust and fear. No one thought about calling any authorities, which shows how much trust we all have in them.

I learned something from the attitude of everyone else in the train.
You can not suppress fear! In front of violence, fear is something real, touchable, it throws you out of control. But, even in those moments, one can chose his or her attitude.
I regret not going and saying an appreciative word to that young man when I was leaving, a simple word of recognition. I was still under this fear that something might have happened.
In the airport there were men patrolling with guns. They didn’t make me feel safer or better. Hate from inside kills as much as the hate from outside.

I don’t have any solutions for the current state of the world. I find that the most difficult to bear is feeling tied, hopeless,  feeling useless. My only way of dealing with these feelings has always been and will always be writing. So, I write. I tell the story as it is, as insignificant as it may look and somewhere in this process I found a glimpse of hope.

A tribute to the lake of Esch sur Sure


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Esch sur sure

I rarely write or read poems, usually over a glass of wine or a cigarette, and both happen quite rarely. That night they must have happened simultaneously, because I still wonder if it is me who wrote it.

It has to be mentioned that the lake of Esch sur Sure is our main source of drinking water in Luxembourg and a great source of natural beauty. The water is clear. It’s a delight to swim there on the rare days when it’s not too cold. Unfortunately there were a few contaminations in the last years.
One summer day, I saw a big greenish oily stain spreading on the lake and it remained in my memory as an uncomfortable feeling: a bad premonition, the image of destructive actions, and more often non-actions, we inflict on both nature, our source of life and personal relationships, our sources of happiness.
I wrote this poem during a cold night on my balcony as a souvenir of summer.
 The lake
Grey-blue reflections
were troubling the water surface.
The lake was just the excuse
for a lonely encounter with the past.
I wished I were in a cooler place
but I was where I was supposed to be,
in the heat of the last day
of the summer when I left you behind.
It was a prime day
as no other day of the year
was as hot as that one.
The sun was spreading over the rippled surface
and I, and you, and all the world
could only think about heat.
There was a forest behind,
dark and cool and it made us all afraid.
Laying on the shore of the lake,
I touched you and you looked away.
A young girl in a dotted red swimsuit
was floating on her back
making angel water wings with her arms
and from the river, a dark oily stain
spread on the water
until it reached her and the shore
and I knew that afternoon
that nothing would ever be the same.
The lake was just the excuse
The stain was the ache of the lake
And we were all just dots
On a young girl’s swimsuit

10 things I learned from dating in Luxembourg for two years


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Dating and trying to find love

All the places you have been trying to find a love supreme

Two years ago, I ended a long relationship and found myself on the dating market “scene” after almost a decade of being in a couple. I know that it’s actually a sort of “market” with buy and sells and value and all but let’s use the euphemism “scene”.

I was feeling like in one of those comedies where the character is thrown in the skin of someone else, or in an unknown place and has to learn quickly what takes years of practice.  And unfortunately, I’ve never been one of those connecting people who walk in a bar without knowing anyone and get out leading a group of strangers towards the next pub. At the beginning, I was also extremely shy and lacked any sort of confidence. So I did what most people do these days when they find themselves in a similar situation, I went first on meetic, then on badoo, then finally on Tinder.
I like to think that I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) some things. In fact I learned enough to write a few books on human relationships, but to resume here are just some of my conclusions about Luxembourg dating market scene.

1. Men, women, gay, bisexual, transgenres… We are all lost here, it’s not a competition!
This does not apply only to Luxembourg, but the fact that there are so many expats and foreigners makes things a little more complicated.
Each generation has their own struggle. Ours has new challenges like balance between security and freedom, or between exposure and privacy. In my opinion the current state of the world of relationships is ironically resumed in the lyrics of this old song from Robbie William Love supreme:
When there’s no love in town
This new century keeps bringing you down
All the places you have been
Trying to find a love supreme

Everybody is looking for love. But then, everybody is looking for other things as well: money, sex, security, comfort, excitement, something to show off with, etc. etc.
What I’ve learned while looking for love in Luxembourg is that most people don’t know what they are looking for. They all (ALL those whom I’ve met) have a great ideal of love and want to find LOVE, but most of them get lost in the way distracted by too much choice (of people, of option), and in the end many settle for less than they even worth.

2. Look and you shall find… something
Looking for love is like having a blind date. Don’t expect to be exactly like in the picture.
One time, when I was in a holly place where everyone was throwing coins I put a wish: Please God, or the Universe, help me find love! And my wish was granted. In the following years, I’ve found lots of love.
In the course of the process of “searching for love” I’ve become closer to some friends and I discovered the real meaning of the word “friendship”. It’s a form of love too!
I’ve also met people whom are not close close friends but who supported me, helped me or simply offered time and kind words of encouragement. That is also a form of love.
And I’ve also became closer to my family, which made me understand how you can love and hate someone at the same time.
Not to mention the people that I’ve met while attending speed networking or social events at which I went to the hidden agenda of finding a boyfriend.
Love is all around. I found many forms, except the one I was looking for. But again… we are all lost, and we don’t know what we’re looking for.

3. Never say “I don’t  want to see you again!”
Honestly. Not in Luxembourg! If you really don’t want not to see someone ever again, then move out or pray that they would move out.
This place is too small, there is a limited number of bars and restaurants where you can go. Once, for a concert, I bumped into 3 men I had dated in the course of half of hour.
Another time, I was trying to forget someone and just when I thought I had him out of the system, I opened City magazine exactly at the page with his smiling picture. And to add injury to insult, his new girlfriend popped out in Femmes magazine, while I was in my gynaecologist waiting room.
What I learned from this was to get over people and accept the fact that I’m not living in a big City like Berlin and I just have to deal with the fact that the only way of forgetting someone is to mentally letting go.
As my gynaecologist says: if you relax the experience can be close to enjoyable.

4. Did someone order a cocktail? A language cocktail?
French
If someone says in French “Je peux te baiser?” and you’re a beginner in French, don’t go for the dictionary. It says there “I want to kiss you”, but in French, the steps of flirting hug, kiss, fuck are just a little bit displaced. Or it’s just that French is a language that has a “formal” written version, and an informal “oral” version.

In the formal you have the below verbs:
embrasser = hug ; baiser = kiss ; faire du sex = fuck
That’s in theory. In practice is more like this:
embrasser = kiss; baiser = fuck. How about hug? you may ask. Simple: they don’t hug, they kiss directly. Two times at least. On both cheeks. Or on all four.

 Luxembourgish
Don’t bother waiting for your Luxembourgish boyfriend to say “I love you”. This ain’t going to happen. Be happy if you receive a bretzel on Bretzel Sondeg. That’s their way of saying it. Prepare to give chocolate back for Easter, or he’ll ask for the bretzel back.
And pay attention to the leap years (like 2016): that’s when giving the bretzel becomes the woman’s duty.

English
If he’s from the Great Britain remember that shag means fuck, a nob is a dick and you will be confronted with some very bizarre idioms and some sounds that will make wonder if is English you’re hearing.  Despite the Dutch, things that disturb them are rarely expressed in a direct way, My advice (of course if you’re not accustomed with) is to keep your Google translator close and to sharpen your brain to distinguish sarcasm.

German
If it’s not a main proposition, the verb always comes at the end, after all the meaningless details and words that are glued together to seem a longer unique word. If it starts with “I was thinking …” and that’s how it usually starts, be patient.
Example: “I was thinking … in a week, after work, hopefully on good weather, on August, 5…, 25th at 8. p. m., or at 7 p.m. around a roundmetaltable, on the woodenterraceofthatbar in the city centre, surrounded by people, but alone, maybe with you, maybe without you, depending on your will of joining me, a white unfiltered beer shall I have.”

Spanish
If you’re Spanish girlfriend says “Soy constipada”, try not to feel shocked by such a gross comment for a woman. Give her a second chance, though sex might still be out of question.  It means she has a cold.

These are just examples. As we all know that communication is the key in everything, the only advice I can give you is this:
BE PREPARED and DOCUMENT yourself before most dates.

5. Rejection hurts. Especially when you’re the one initiating it
Rejection is something that is very probable to happen when you’re on the dating scene. However I’ve learned that for the normal person (who has a minimum of common sense) it hurts more when you’re the one rejecting.
I know, being rejected is like getting a slap in your face. Ok, ok. First time is like being slapped with a big bible. In comparison, rejecting is like a paper cut: it doesn’t seem like a big deal but it provokes a very very uncomfortable feeling.
But the simple truth is that the more rejections you get, the less they hurt. Instead, the more you reject, the more you start fearing the paper cut.
So this make it that most people chose instead of rejecting to go on hiding or just disappear.
This is, in my humble opinion, the worse situation ever because of the arguments explained in point 3 and secondly, because when someone who used to be more or less present just disappears, it feels like getting a door in the face when you thought that you were almost in. It not only hurts, but it leaves marks.

What I learned from dating in Luxembourg is that you need to learn how to take rejections with grace, and you need to learn how to reject with grace. It’s not an easy way but it’s the only way.

6. The only person who annoyingly gets in the way of your dream relationship is you.
Our generation has a problem of self esteem, besides the issues enumerated at the beginning. Listen to me people, this is a big issue, and it will grow in importance in the years to come, you’ll see!!
A few decades ago, the family was important for survival and the entire society was pressuring for it. Now the roles have changed and everyone craves for freedom, but we still live with the false believe that a relationship is suppose to limit your freedom, and to make you behave as society does.
In this we are missing an important point: there can be a better way! We are not made to live alone. There are people who are made for this, but the majority still has an ideal of love (see point 1). We can have healthier relationships, but this requires to find a partner with the same values, independent enough to not rely on you, but willing to have a companion. And here’s where self esteem comes into place: because if you don’t have it, you’ll always fear any commitment. And if you’re too high, and you’ll always fear that someone better will come along.
And if you’re not, if you’re sure that you found your dream partner and you’re ready to jump in the pool of a happy intimate long-lasting, enriching love, then remember that for your dream partner the above is also true.

 7. Tinder and other dating websites are just tools

             1. Go on Tinder.
2. Find a fling.
3. Screw it up if he/she doesn’t screw you first.
4. Curse Tinder for being a superficial environment.
5. Go out of Tinder for a few month / weeks.
6. Find out that real life is as superficial as Tinder is.
7. Go back on Tinder and dislike all the people you met before.
8. Complain that there is not enough choice in Luxembourg.

 Dating applications and websites are just tools, and they can be used for multiple purposes according to the creativity or the ethical principles of the user. There are and will always be scams, people who will take advantage of vulnerability, or misunderstandings. Some will like you, some will hate you, some will pretend to like you. It’s your responsibility to protect yourself, to weight wisely what is dangerous or not.

 8. Share your worst experiences with your best friends
I found it very useful to share the knowledge. I remember once when I met a guy who seemed nice on Tinder and it turned out that a friend of mine had dated him before. She predicted with high precision how the interaction was going to end.
In the same way, one time, a man I’ had met on Tinder introduced me to who is now one of my best female friends.
Also be aware that women talk (I don’t know about men, but I think is similar) and here the market scene is not so big. Speaking of big… that’s the type of information that can be very helpful and time saving for your friends, but careful: it can also be very misleading.
However, if you screw it up completely, be aware that in Luxembourg your reputation might precede you.

9. You’ll never walk alone
Some time ago, when I was in long term relationship, living with someone, I was terrified by the idea of being alone. Probably, without this fear I would have stepped out of it sooner. However, as soon as I did make that step out, I discovered that it’s not so difficult to have a social life outside the couple, especially in Luxembourg.
In the last two years I don’t remember to manage to spend one day alone. I was lucky to have cultivated a handful of friendships that came in handy in times of trouble and I earned new ones on the way. Turns out, nothing brings two women closer together than talking about their exes.

Plus, there was always someone with me and I used to forget that she will always be there for me: myself. And that’s the one we should always, always love first…

10. Don’t take it too seriously

Really, don’t  ;-)!

The world isn’t working


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IMAG0063-1-1

As the day began, I thought it would be a beautiful day. I was feeling better after a long and harsh flu, I was waiting for my parents to come to spend the long weekend together, the sun was shining and I was heading to the post box to send my sickness papers. Everything seemed peaceful, that’s when I saw two missed calls from my father.

I called back and he told me that they were not coming today, because of what happened. I looked at the clear blue sky. What the hell was he talking about?

It turned out, that their flight was in the afternoon on the Brussels Airport. Just yesterday I had made them a table with the train connections to Luxembourg. When he told me that there has been an attack in the airport and in the metro, my first thought was “what day is today? We’re not the 1st of April yet.” Then the emotions started to flow. I didn’t know if I was feeling grateful that my loved ones are home and safe, or if I was feeling angry for this bloody world, for all this hate that exists between people.

In any case, this time I felt that the shadow of this mad war is spreading much faster than I thought, and is coming closer and closer. Who are we, the Western World? What is this Europe made of? Where are the human values everyone is talking about and why can’t we take over these ideologies? Are we really doomed to live in fear?

I don’t know what this war is made of. Its roots are multiple, complicated and deeper than my understanding. All I know is that these events put light on the state of the world today. I know that others before us lived greater and bloodier wars but we, our generations: the boomers, the millennials, the social network generations we lost things on the way, virtues we need to survive. We thought that we live in a safe place, that we have everything we need. We don’t. We have wealth, we have meanings, we have technology but we need more courage, more love, we need to change the perception and to give meaning to our lives.

Because the day has gone dark, I will just throw my thoughts in the air now, without any real purpose, just for myself, for my own mental health.

I will pray. We need to pray more. I heard many times “Don’t pray for Paris, we don’t need religion!”, but for me, a prayer is not a religious act, it’s just a simple conscious act of hoping. And we do need hope, because without it, nothing will ever change. We need to imagine a better world, for us, for the future. We need to put those hopeful thoughts in the world. I don’t know if there is any greater power, any God, but I know that we have a collective intelligence, a collective conscience that could be shaped through education and acceptance and through willingness to change things into better.

I pray to whatever power exists in the world, that we will find our way.

We need to give more chances to the youth, more means of expression, means for people to find what’s missing in their lives, a spiritual form of education. I had myself a youth crisis, a time when I was asking myself questions about my life, what is my purpose. I was lucky to be able to turn to people and to find my way out. We don’t need religion, but for God’s sake we need spirituality, philosophy, art, we need to feed the souls or other young people will turn extremes in their search for a meaning. And if they did turn towards these extremes we need the help of moderate religions to pass the message of peace. We need to be more united and understanding.

We need to let go of some social pressure: pressure to look good, to be popular, wealthy. We need to encourage creativity as a style of living and authenticity. We need to change our perception of ourselves, to let go of fear, so that the new generations and those coming from other wars to have a reason to integrate, more than winning their living.

We need to encourage tolerance and equal chances: between men and women, between races, cultures. We need LOVE, yes, pure human love and acceptance. We need to let go of competition and open the doors for cooperation. We don’t need superheros, idols, stars. We need to take each other by the hand, stand by ourselves, for all the ideas of kindness and to use what we have learned to transmit it to others. We need kinder words and quotes, and humour. We need to make use of any means we have to reach more and more people through kindness and courage.

We need many things. So today, I just hope and pray.

For a better world.

IMAG0062-1

* pictures from Alters of Madness – exhibition at
Casino Luxembourg 2013

I’m lucky to be a woman in Luxembourg


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Lucky to be a woman

Thanks to all my lucky stars for being a woman now and here.

Yesterday was the

international women’s day. For me it comes in a busy, confused and overwhelming period, and the sun shining over the city put some light on my thoughts.

Being a woman has not always been easy. I had a normal life from childhood to now, I’m not traumatized, but now and then I was put into situations in which being a woman was considered low or meaningless.
I remember just a few snapshots of life: being whistled on the streets, called names if I wasn’t accompanied by a boy in school, being told by a teacher that sometimes women and girls are responsible for being raped and not being able to stand against this statement, being ignored in a group of men, being annoyed at the sauna by an individual who had to receive three NOs before accepting that I wasn’t interested (luckily for him, because the 4th No would have been a punch in his exposed male parts), a day at the university in France when a teacher told one of my colleagues: “could you please explain to her, girls takes more time to understand”.
And my favourite example of karma: We were in the bus, coming back from a student’s fair with the colleagues at the Computer Science (3 girls for about 50 boys). It was the last year. One boy said out loud that before finding a job, he needs to do a trip in the East of Europe because there, he could have “two whores between three dicks at a blink of an eye”. When someone pointed out that the only girl in the bus was from the “East”, he said that he actually meant “two girls between three pens”, as a way of saying that women from Eastern Europe are very “studious”. At the end of the trip, as I seemed unimpressed by his comment, he did another gesture: he offered me a pen. I am glad that I just politely refused instead of doing what I wanted to do, which was to stick it up his… That was spring 2008 and because I was a woman from the East and I had to apply for a work permit, I started to search a job in summer when for IT in Luxembourg there were plenty of jobs. The others wanted to have fun, so they postponed the job searching for autumn. In autumn the big crisis hit hard the job market and I was one of the few to have a stable job. I hope he had his whores at least, because from what I heard he wasn’t able to find a job in the coming years.

That being said, still, being a woman is the best thing that happened to me, as a wonderful lady, Hedi Hoka wrote on the dedication of her book (Love to be a woman).

Let me say something first: I LOVE men. I have a group of honourable male friends and acquaintances that I really appreciate and value, who’s different style have brought me a lot of comfort and joy in times of troubles. But I still prefer to be a woman. I like the way the male mind is built to take an easier approach on life, but I still prefer the feminine complexity.
There comes a time when we all should acknowledge how lucky we are.

I am lucky to be multitasking… to have multiple orgasms… multiple thoughts of multiple kinds… multiple questions (comments from ex boyfriends to be done in private, please!).
I am lucky to have a more feminine type of creativity, to feel less pressured to compete and to perform and to see more details, that sparkle on things that men sometimes miss.
I am lucky to live in these times, in this place where I don’t have to keep my mouth shut, to be able to express my opinions as a woman. When I started dating I was once told that “I am one of those twisted women who like to steal men’s souls” which made me think that in other times I would have been a good candidate for “a witch”.
I am lucky to be able to show my face, my hair, and my legs and even to walk naked in a sauna, and say NO.
I am lucky not to be expected to be pregnant most of my life.
I am lucky to have my clit intact and functional and to have the possibility to embrace freely my sexuality.
I am lucky that I (and the other person) can decide who my long run partner will be… despite the difficulties of the process.
I am lucky to have a job where I can openly say to my boss what I think and I am lucky to be able to choose it, in the first place.
I am lucky to be able to express myself in writing, speaking and to say how many times I want “Fuck, it’s good to be a woman”.
I am lucky not to have the perfect body, because, let’s face it, how much perfection one could take? 🙂 Seriously speaking: I am lucky to be as I am, not to have to fit in any procrustian standards.

And Gentlemen, there is something for you as well. You, who live in this place in these times, are also lucky.
You’re lucky not to be expected to give your lives for causes which are not your own.
You’re lucky not to get circumcised at 12 or to have to provide for a bunch of women to show your status.
You’re lucky to be able to choose independent, smart, sexually free women or even a man, if that’s what you want.

We are all lucky to have a choice. We are all lucky to be able to live together, different and diverse and to put our forces together to create better, more constructive relations.

We are lucky to be able to be human! Let’s not forget that.

The day when I took a nap


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SOMEtimes all you need is agood sleep

Since we get close to the big event, I feel that I have to confess that I don’t really like December (this is what I’ll celebrate on the New Year’s Eve: its ending).  It’s a month with a lot of pressure: buying presents, social events, finding ideas for season’s greetings (at which I suck, by the way). There’s also this delusional deadline we put on all our small achievement, the father of all deadlines: before end of year. Buhuhuuu! (guess why I’m writing on the 30th!)

It’s also the month with the winter solstice, the darkest of the year. I noticed that the older I get, the more sensitive I am to the solstice. I might be in denial but my body knows it. So, as we approach the solstice this wonderful body of mine starts to send signals of exhaustion: muscle pain, bad sleep, dark shades under the eyes. From time to time, it just shouts: have a break!!!

This reminds me of a day when I took that break. It was a day (in December) when many urgent stuff started to cumulate at work in a short amount of time. Most of my colleagues were on holidays. I couldn’t sleep the night before.

At the coffee machine two people told me that I look “really sick”. I did my best to deny it and smile. As the morning progressed, I started to fall deeply into stress. With every new email that seemed to be urgent, my hands were shaking. With every new file I was trying to work on, I was doing more and more stupid mistakes. Then I would realise that I saved and closed and that, like Sisyphus, I needed to start over again to correct and I would do another mistake.

When I got to a 3rd trial of a task, I had an enlightening moment. I took two hours for lunch, went home and had a nap.
That was the first time in my life when I experienced a power nap. I barely had time to throw my shoes off, I dived in the sheets, closed my eyes and the next thing I knew was the alarm that 45 minutes have passed.
I dreamt during those 45 minutes. I dreamt the warmth that was surrounding me, the void in which there was no thought about work or deadlines or emergencies.
And when I woke up, I brushed my teeth, I threw cold water on my face, and looked in the mirror. Indeed, I was looking very bad, but better than before. And most importantly, I could keep going.

 

I was looking in the mirror and I started to recall the other big time when I took a break, despite all the emergency alarms which were shouting at me: You already had enough breaks! 
It was the day when I presented my final project and paper for my Bachelor degree. Stakes were high, and I had had many (unhealthy) breaks. So many that my project and my paper were still not entirely finished at 5 a..m.. in the morning. That’s the exact hour when I came home from the printer shop, which, thank’s God in some countries these shops. are open 24h/24. I was still determined to work until the last minute and started to do a last fine tuning of the software that I was supposed to present and… tadam! I broke it.

 

That’s when, I turned off my PC, confident that I have a backup of the previous version and I decided to take a break. I slept until 10 and I went to have my presentation at 11. It turned out that I had taken the wrong version of my project: unfinished and not working, but somehow, in the torment of my stressed mind, the sleep had made an effect and I pulled out of my ass a joke which saved my presentation. And the most important: I didn’t fall that day in my bathroom and didn’t hit my head on the bathtub.

 

No, that had happened the year before when I needed to submit another project and hadn’t been taking a break. It was the enlightening experience that makes me today listen to my body. I only had a bruise, but I was lucky.

Coming back on the day when I took two hours for lunch. I came back and my phone was flashing red. There were three call backs. I took me an hour to have the courage to return those calls. In the meantime, for all three of them, people had found solutions without me.

The moral of these stories is pretty simple. Sometimes is good to take a break. Sometimes is absolutely vital. Usually your body knows it and the world keeps turning even if you take a nap.

Unfortunately in Luxembourg, in the world of banks, audit, traffic jams,  under a constant threat of losing your job, we can see through the glass building, but not through ourselves.

After I finished my bachelor degree, I’ve never been close to a burnout. That was a question of choice. That morning at 5 a.m. after coming from the printer shop, I took a short video of birds singing and the sun rising over the city and I promised myself solemnly to never get there again. Ever. And I kept my promise.

 

I do know, however, (too many) people in Luxembourg who have been in the territory of burnout. The law does not fully recognise it as a medical condition nor are people very empathetic about it. Like many other things, it’s a big taboo.

For the coming year, that’s one of the things I hope for to change. Among others.

I’m wishing you a hopeful year 2016!

A new blog is born


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 image

I started to write a blog when I came to Luxembourg. I wrote in my native language. It was my personal space where I was sharing my experiences of living abroad for those whom I don’t get to see that often.

It was fun to write, it was something that I enjoyed. I wrote about trivial things: how I arrived here, what I found interesting, my trips, and short attempts of clumsy creative writing. Nothing extremely serious or important, but still a piece of me put out there in the public space. Well, nothing important in appearance. Some good things happened thanks to it. I own my blog at least one friend and a big bunch of courage.

I stopped a year ago because some events diminished my mood for sharing my thoughts.

Then, following a chain of not so pleasant events, my life took a twist and I experienced a series of changes. One was that my social life took a boost and I met many people from all over the world living in Luxembourg, so I decided to write in English and maybe to expand my audience to people outside my circle.

Off course, I procrastinated, because I couldn’t find the right name, the right rhythm, because I was afraid that no one will read it, because I didn’t have the banner that I imagined it would have, in short I postponed it for one year.

Until one day I decide to screw it all, and just put it out there: bad or good name, no banner, no imagine, just my thoughts.

Because it is mostly about me, about how I see life, how I live in this country with contradictory faces and how I perceive the light/dark side of Luxembourg, while exposing part of me.

So here’s how Luxposure is born.