Posts Tagged With: inspiration

Where do I even start? / Por onde eu começo?

(O texto em português está disponível abaixo)

It’s the end of the year… and once again it’s time to reflect on what happened and how life treated me (and I treated it). If I think of what my life surprised me with since I last wrote on here (May 2014), I don’t even know where to start describing how much my life has changed. So much has happened! I had a baby (10 weeks earlier than expected!), I had my mum visiting us in the UK for the first time (super special), I had my sister over too (she is still here), I started my maternity leave, my relationship with Lee (partner in crime) has become something else… something different, something even better. There is a gorgeous human being called Louisa in our lives now and I guess when you have a baby you see your partner in a different light. It’s almost like you get each other more, small stuff stops being an issue and you realise that together you are stronger than you ever thought you could be.

2014 has been by far the best year of my life, without a doubt. I thought I had done it already, but, really, it’s the year when I met the love of my life, which is the way my friend Estelle describes having a child. When I saw my baby for the first time, it changed my world…

So here are the main things that I realised/found out in life post-Louisa…

1. You have more strength than you think… lots more!

A premature birth requires strength. I know it happens all the time, but when you are in that situation, you have no choice but to stay strong and believe things are going to work out. Louisa was born very early and the first few hours were very difficult. However, Lee and I never for one second believed that things wouldn’t work out just fine. And although Louisa is still being monitored, we have so much faith in our little one… so I guess the more strength you show, the more you have.

2. Patience comes when you need it

The first days of Louisa’s life were touch and go. We were eager to know if everything would be ok but, somehow, I was just patient with everything. I just felt calm. I have no idea where this serenity came from, but I just had it. Those who know me will know that I’m far from what you’d describe as a patient person, but I surprised myself. I wasn’t asking questions I knew couldn’t be answered, I wasn’t feeling anxious, I wasn’t panicking. I was happy to take a day at a time, to go with the flow. I quickly learned that the whole thing wasn’t a race, but a marathon.

3. You are not just you anymore

Ohhh… this is a big one. There will be a time in the life of every person that has a child when you suddenly realise that you are not on your own anymore. No, it doesn’t matter how much you wanted that child, how much you planned and prepared for that moment. One day, when you least expect it, you will realise that you will share countless experiences with them, help them with their problems, be there for them and go through happiness and sorrow with them. And you will realise that your job is to make sure that they can be the best they can be to go through life, with and without you. It’s scary to realise you have that much responsibility, but also reassuring to find out that you are more than up for the job.

4. A half ‘reflex’ smile can change your mood

No sleep, no time to eat, have a shower, to exercise, to meet friends, all those things that were so common in pre-baby life and that you miss dearly… all to be completely forgotten when your little one gives you half a reflex smile, that is not even a ‘real’ one yet. I know this real one will happen, though… in her own time. And when it does, I might just melt. (Gosh, this is all so cheesy and yet I can’t help myself!)

5. It’s true what they say… there is no time for anything

I know this is a cliche, but what did I do with all the time I had before? Lie-ins, lazy nights, movies, pub sessions… ermmm… not anymore! You sort of learn very quickly (well, you are forced to) to compartmentalize your life in little chunks of a couple of hours (if you are lucky), because this is the time you have between one feed and the next. Everything you do becomes a bit of a mission and the alarm to stop all you are doing (aka hungry cry) may go off at any time. Going out of the house becomes another crazy happening and sort of military operation. It needs to be carefully timed so that baby doesn’t start screaming when you are queuing at the post office. Adventurous stuff.

6. Your family and your true friends will be there for you

This is by far my main realisation with all that has happened this year. I decided to post on Facebook what was happening with our little Louisa, since she stayed in hospital for two months and people wanted news. The response I got was completely overwhelming. I am convinced that the positive thoughts everyone sent our way had a massive effect on Louisa’s recovery and it’s partly why she is now home with us.

My mum and sister also came to visit us for the first time since I’ve been living in the UK (13 years), my dad Kao and mum Iris were always in touch, sending messages every day (thanks, Whattsapp!) and many of my friends were there for me, to help, to hug me, to offer advice, to listen, to ask how things were going or simply to talk about something else and take my mind off it all. Some new friendships started in the midst of all that was happening, some others strengthened, others dissipated somehow but, whoever stayed, confirmed they are by my side for the long haul. And I’m so glad that they are.

7. Perspective is everything

Louisa is absolutely fine now. She is at home with no medical apparatus or anything like that. She is putting on weight steadily and growing each day. But we do know that the brain bleed that she had will need monitoring in the coming years. And this is fine. It doesn’t scare me, or Lee. It doesn’t phase us, really. We are in love with our girl and believe in her, whatever the future brings.

8. Love is all around!

The amount of love you feel when you look at your baby is something out of this world. Ok, cliche again. But I just feel so blessed for having been able to experience this in my life. It’s crazy that all the love that I felt pre-Louisa cannot compare in any way to the love I feel for her. It’s just on a different league. I know that this love got me through the tough times and I know that this love is what will keep me positive for the future.

All in all, what a year!

So long, 2014. Bring us all a brand new year, full of joy, health, family gatherings, happy moments, sincere smiles. And even more love, because there is always more space for it in our hearts.


 2014-11-28 23.09.49

_____________________________________________________________________________

Texto em português

É o final do ano e, mais uma vez, é hora de refletir sobre o que aconteceu na vida da gente. Se eu começo a pensar em como a minha vida me surpreendeu desde a última vez que eu escrevi aqui (Maio de 2014), eu nem sei como começar a descrever o quanto a minha vida mudou. Tanta coisa aconteceu! Eu tive um bebê (10 semanas mais cedo do que o esperado), minha mãe veio nos visitar aqui na Inglaterra pela primeira vez (o que foi muito especial), minha irmã também veio (e ainda está aqui), eu comecei a minha licença-maternidade, meu relacionamento com o Lee (parceiro de vida) se transformou em algo diferente, algo ainda melhor. Um serzinho lindo chamado Louisa faz parte da nossa vida agora e eu acho que, quando se tem um filho, é inevitável ver o seu/sua parceiro/a com outros olhos. É como se a gente se entendesse ainda melhor. As pequenas coisas já não importam e a gente se dá conta de que juntos somos mais fortes do que jamais achamos que poderíamos ser.

2014 foi o melhor ano da minha vida, sem dúvida nenhuma. Eu achei que isso já tinha acontecido, mas foi o ano em que eu conheci o amor da minha vida, que é como a minha amiga Estelle descreve ter um filho. Quando eu vi a minha bebê pela primeira vez, o meu mundo mudou…

Então aqui vai uma listinha do que eu percebi nesta vida pós-Louisa…

1. Você tem mais força do que imagina… muito mais!

O nascimento de um bebê prematuro requer força dos pais. Eu sei que isso acontece a toda hora, mas quando você se encontra naquela situação, a única opção é ser forte e acreditar que tudo vai dar certo. A Louisa nasceu muito cedo e as primeiras horas da vida dela foram muito difíceis. Contudo, o Lee e eu nunca paramos de acreditar que tudo daria certo. E, embora a Louisa ainda precise ser monitorada nos próximos anos, nós temos muita fé na nossa pequena. Isso tudo me faz crer que quanto mais força mostramos, mais surge de algum lugar.

2. A paciência vem quando precisamos dela

Os primeiros dias da Louisa foram bastante críticos. Nós queríamos muito saber se ela ficaria bem mas, de alguma maneira, eu consegui ser paciente com tudo. Sei lá, eu simplesmente me sentia calma todo o tempo. Eu não tenho nem ideia de onde surgiu toda essa serenidade, ela simplesmente começou a fazer parte de mim. Aqueles que me conhecem sabem que eu não sou muito paciente, mas eu me surpreendi comigo mesma. Eu não fiz perguntas que não tinham respostas, eu não me senti ansiosa, eu não me desesperei. Eu estava feliz em simplesmente viver um dia de cada vez, cada um com seus desafios, e deixar o barco correr. Eu logo aprendi que a situação toda não era uma corrida, mas uma maratona.

3. Você não é mais apenas você

Ohhh… esse é um ponto importante. Vai chegar um dia na vida de cada novo papai ou mamãe em que você vai se dar conta de que não está mais sozinho neste mundo. Não, não importa o quanto você queria aquele filho, não importan o quando você planejou tudo e se preparou para aquele momento da vida. Um dia, quando você menos esperar, você vai se dar conta de que vai dividir inúmeras experiências com aquele serzinho novo na sua vida, ajudá-lo com seus problemas, comemorar seus feitos e estar na vida deles para sempre, na alegria e na tristeza. E você também vai perceber que o seu papel é ter certeza de que ele/a possa ser o melhor possível, com ou sem você ao seu lado. Dá medo perceber que se tem tanta responsabilidade, mas também uma certa segurança de notar que se está mais do que pronto para o trabalho em questão.

4. Um meio sorriso de reflexo pode mudar o seu humor

Sono, sem tempo para comer, tomar banho, se exercitar, ver filmes, ver os amigos, todas aquelas coisas que eram tão comuns antes do bebê chegar e das quais agora você tem saudades… tudo é esquecido quando o bebê te dá um meio sorriso, que não é nem um sorriso real ainda. Eu sei que o sorriso de verdade vai acontecer logo… quando a Louisa estiver pronta. E quando acontecer, acho que vou derreter como um sorvete no sol (nossa, isso tudo é muito cliche, mas mesmo assim não consigo me conter!)

5. É verdade o que eles dizem… não se tem mais tempo pra nada

Eu sei que todo mundo fala a mesma coisa, mas o que eu fazia com todo o tempo que eu tinha antes? Dormir até mais tarde, noites preguiçosas, idas ao pub… ermmm, não mais! Logo você aprende a dividir a vida em pedaços de 2 horas aqui e ali, pois este é o tempo que você tem entre uma mamada e outra. Tudo o que você faz se torna uma missão e o alarme que manda você parar o que está fazendo (também conhecido como ‘choro faminto’) pode começar a tocar a qualquer minuto. Sair de casa se torna um acontecimento e meio que uma operação militar. Tudo tem que ser cronometrado para que não se corra o risco de o bebê começar a berrar de fome quando você está na fila do correio. Uma aventura e tanto.

6. A sua família e os seus verdadeiros amigos vão estar presentes

Esta é, sem dúvida, a maior revelação depois de tudo o que aconteceu este ano. Eu decidi postar no Facebook o que estava acontecendo com a Louisa, já que ela ficou no hospital por dois meses e as pessoas queriam notícias. O envolvimento das pessoas foi imenso. E eu estou convencida de que todo o pensamento positivo teve um efeito enorme na recuperação da Louisa.

A minha mãe e irmã vieram me visitar pela primeira vez aqui na Inglaterra desde que eu moro aqui (13 anos), meu pai Kao e mãe Iris estavam sempre em contato, mandando mensagens todos os dias (obrigada, Whatsapp!) e muitos dos meus amigos estiveram presentes, ajudando, me abraçando, me dando conselhos, me escutando, perguntando como estavam as coisas ou simplesmente falando de coisas completamente diferentes para me distrair. Algumas amizades começaram no meio de tudo o que estava se passando, outras se fortaleceram e outras se dissiparam, mas quem ficou do meu lado confirmou que está do meu lado pro que der e vier. E eu fico muito feliz com isso.

7. Perspectiva é tudo

A Louisa está super bem agora. Ela está em casa com nenhum equipamento médico. Ela está engordando todas as semanas e crescendo a cada dia. Mas nós sabemos que o sangramento no cérebro dela vai ter que ser monitorado pelos próximos anos. E isso não amedronta a mim ou ao Lee. Nós estamos apaixonados pela nossa menininha e nós acreditamos nela. Estamos prontos para o que o futuro nos trouxer.

8. O amor está por tudo

O amor que se sente quando se olha para um filho/a é indescritível. Ok, mais um cliché. Mas eu me sinto tão abençoada por estar podendo vivenciar isso na minha vida. É muito louco pensar que todo o amor que eu sentia antes dela nascer nem se compara ao amor que eu agora tenho por ela. É um amor que está em outro plano. Eu sei que este amor me ajudou a enfrentar momentos difíceis e eu sei que é este mesmo amor que vai me manter positiva no futuro.

Resumindo… que ano!

Tchau tchau, 2014. E que venha um ano novinho em folha, cheio de alegria, saúde, encontros familiares, momentos felizes e sorrisos sinceros. E ainda mais amor, porque sempre tem mais espaço nos nossos corações.

Advertisements
Categories: Babies, Being a mummy, Energy, Friendship, Happiness, Living away from home, Love matters, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Table for one, please.

There is something quite liberating in approaching a restaurant and, with the confidence of an Olympic games medallist, say: – Table for one, please.

I recently travelled alone to Lisbon, in Portugal, and I really wanted to experience their culinary. I usually have no problems being on my own, but I have to say… it had been a while since I sat in a restaurant, ordered a dish, ate and paid the bill entirely on my own, having just myself as company during the meal. It was almost like a new experience for me. Something that represented freedom in many ways.

Eleven years ago I went travelling in Italy. For 10 days, I explored Italy completely on my own. My goal was to see as much as I could, so I started in the south and made my way up north. The great thing about this trip was that I didn’t have any hotels booked, no train timetables printed out, nothing. I didn’t even know all the places I could go to. I just went. I was literally arriving in each city and fighting for survival (ok, that sounds a bit too extreme, but if I chose not to do anything, I’d literally sleep on the streets and probably get arrested or something). Arriving in an unknown place, not knowing where I’d sleep that night was such an adventure. Yes, of course I know that many people have done that before a million times, but I recall that experience one of the best ones of my life. I felt so proud of myself every night when I laid my head on a pillow, knowing that I made my way there on my own. I guess it was the time I felt most responsible for myself. And that didn’t change since then, so I suppose it was a bit of a turning point.

caminhando sem rumo

There is a lot more to travelling alone than just finding a bed, though. You can decide everything… ON YOUR OWN. You are the queen of your own trip and no one will dare telling you what to do, because no one knows you! I find that visiting a place alone works as a great opportunity for a very close meeting with yourself. You can get your mind wandering about everything and not get these thoughts interrupted by people talking to you. It’s like meditating the whole time, with amazing discoveries along the way.

On this recent trip to Lisbon, I remember getting out of the hotel (yes, I had booked it in advance – I guess my gypsy ways are gone) and looking to the right and to the left. I then remember thinking: which way should I go? I answered my own question by giving myself a little spin and thinking: whichever side I face, that’s where I’m going! To the right it was, then. On this trip, I walked, walked and walked the entire time. I didn’t have a long time to explore the place and I wanted to make the most of it. However, although I did see amazing sights, what I felt most amazed about was the way I was feeling. Walking down the street, with a fresh breeze on my face and the impulse you get when you are walking downwards, combined with the very appealing idea that I had no clue where I was going gave me this fantastic feeling of freedom. It was almost like I was floating on the streets, just letting that breeze take me wherever. And my mind was wandering all the same, making up all these thoughts that would come in and go out in the speed of light.

I had two incredible days in Lisbon. I just couldn’t believe how insightful it was to just detach myself from my usual surroundings for a couple of days and what a difference it made to my outlook on life. That freedom, that adventurous spirit stayed with me, and reminded me of the girl I was 11 years ago. It reminded me of my courage, of my ‘happy-go-lucky’ ways, of my free spirit. The same one that I’m not letting feel trapped ever again, for whatever reason.

Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder of who we really are to go look for that person inside ourselves and bring them back.

Categories: Insights, Travel tips, Travelling alone | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Going the distance

I live in a building with only 8 flats. All the other residents are older than Lee and myself. And when I say older I mean at least 50 years older. They are all lovely people, with their own grumpy and quirky traits.

The couple that live above us is definitely in their 70s and, because this is a very old building, I can hear a little about their daily lives from our flat (I know, a bit annoying, but I try to make the best of it). For example, I already know that they go to bed no later than 12:30 am, I know how loud the man can yawn when he is on the balcony, I know a couple of programmes they like to watch on telly (although I can hardly hear it, really) but, most of all, I know the type of music they like. And this is because every Sunday, without fail, they will listen to music for a couple of hours in the afternoon. They listen to Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles,  Miles Davis, The Beatles, The Supremes, Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash … these are some of the ones I recognise (and I have to say I’m not exactly an expert). In my opinion, they have fabulous taste.

Every time they listen to music like that, I can’t help but imagine how stable and settled they are in life. Ok, they are old and they have known each other for a long time, but there is something very endearing about a long-term relationship. I imagine them listening to these songs and looking at each other with puppy-dog eyes, remembering old times, and maybe even dancing slowly in the living room. They certainly have the energy for that, as I see them out and about all the time.

Aged-couple-in-love-19

Long-term relationships are a blessing. It’s almost a miracle that 2 people can meet each other in this big wide world and manage to be there for each other throughout their lives. It’s a choice. It’s knowing that that person will be there for you no matter what and that you will be there for them too. I think that there are secrets to the long duration of relationships. These are things that we don’t do consciously, we just do them, as long as we feel that it’s still worthy for us to have that person by our side.  To me, these things are:

1. Accepting your partner for who they are.

My mum once told me that people don’t change (simple but very wise words). Yes, you may change your views on things, change dreams or change your hair style, etc. But your core, what you truly are, will never change. So, if your partner has traits that you can’t live with, don’t expect that these will change with time or that you can make them change these for you. They won’t. You either learn to live with these little things or you better let go. But remember: you also have little things that your partner may not love, so give and take is paramount.

2. Accompanying your partner through their many phases.

Your partner will go through different phases in life, and you will too. Being there for each other during these times is what makes a relationship strong. We change work, we change interests, we change rhythm, we change tastes. And these changes make us see the world in a different light each time. As a couple, being able to understand and accept these constant transformations in the other person will make you the one constant thing in their lives. And having that one trustworthy person to fall back on again and again is priceless. It makes us feel grounded, secure and loved, no matter what life throws at us.

3. Sometimes giving more, sometimes giving less.

You will sometimes feel that you love your partner so much you could burst. But, in equal strength, you may find that for periods of time, you are just coasting along and going through the motions. I see this as a normal thing. You can’t have that ‘can’t live without each other’ feeling all the time. It’s exhausting! But you should feel that often enough so you always value how important that person is in your life and how much sadness you’d feel if you lost them. To me, love comes in waves of intensity, sometimes they are very high up, sometimes quite low, but somehow always there in some shape or form.

4. Making time for me, me, me.

Have an interest in yourself. You can’t just live for the other person. Cultivate your own interests, give yourself time to appreciate the things you love, even if you don’t share them with your partner. You can’t lose your own identity, as this is what attracted your partner to you in the first place. Also, looking after yourself, having your hobbies and appreciating your own company will make you a better and more interesting person.

5. Understanding that love is subtle.

Grand gestures? Yes, they can be nice. But nothing, to me, is nicer than a cup of coffee made without request at the right time, a ‘how was your day?’ just when you are bursting to tell someone about the supplier that let you down, a ‘come on, let’s go out’ right when you were just starting to wonder what to do on this grey day… Love is in the little things. It’s in the intrinsic way your partner knows you so well and how they make your every day more special for doing so.

oldloveblackandwhitecompositionphotographycoupleholdinghands-49e5a1f6286aa70ec027f94976b64d5a_h_large

Long-term love is for the courageous. The longer you spend with someone, the more the barrier we usually have to protect ourselves from others comes down. So, the same way as with my neighbours, in many years’ time there will be no barrier at all, as you will know the other person almost as well as you know yourself. And this knowledge of the other, this willingness to share yourself with someone is true love. It’s love that gives you butterflies in your stomach, it’s love that goes through ups and downs, it’s love that goes the distance, with dancing in the living room and all.

Categories: Friendship, Happiness, Love matters, Personality traits, Relationships, The Good Life | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Colours in the sky

Every July now brings something very special to my neck of the woods. They are colourful, they are floaty, they are fun, they are beautiful! The kites of the St Annes Kite Festival make the sky a colourful place, full of bouncing and colourful fun.

Supported by the local council and local businesses, the event gathers hundreds of families from the area and a number of them that come to St Annes especially to see the array of colours in the sky. And the event doesn’t disappoint! In the shapes of dragons, octopuses (including a 30-metre long one!), teddy bears, planes and even hippos, the kites fly high and catch attention from far away.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

You can also bring your teddy bear to take part in the teddy parachure drop, which celebrates each brave teddy with a certificate of achievement. And with face painting, market stalls and even an army assault course, the day is not only for the kids. Best of all, the festival is free and the beach welcomes whole families that want to watch the kites and have a picnic.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

I am fortunate enough that my little flat is opposite the beach, so I can watch the whole thing from my balcony, and I can say that the only thing I witness is hapiness all round. I see families pointing to the kites, people smiling at their movements and kids dropping their jaws at the size of them all. It’s fantastic to be part of such a fantastic event that brings so much happiness, colour and a great family spirit to the whole town. Can’t wait for 2014!

Categories: Relaxation, St Annes living, The Good Life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Dubrovnik – a “Wow!” on each corner…

In our more than relaxed way of travelling, we found out in Split that the only way to go from Split to Dubrovnik was by bus, on a trip that takes 5 hours. Oh, dear… 5 hours on a bus? Mmmmm, I even quickly considered not going at all for a second, but our flight back was from there, so there really was no choice.

I couldn’t have been more mistaken by a bus trip, though, and I can safely say that this was probably the most beautiful bus journey I have ever been on. With an amazing skyline and blue waters everywhere you look, each corner is a new opportunity to let your jaw drop that little bit more whilst you slowly say ‘WOW!’.

The bus also goes through Bosnia, which I heard is an amazing place to visit (maybe next time, eh?). The trip is so amazing that you don’t even realise how long you have been on it.


On the way to Dubrovnik


Scenery seen from the bus

When we arrived in Dubrovnik, the first thing we did was to go to the hotel. This time, since it was the last leg of the holiday, we went for a nicer one, as one of the intentions was to just chill by the lovely torquise waters. Now when I say ‘nicer’ I never imagined it was going to be as nice as it was. From our room, we had a fantastic sea view and the hotel had its own access to the sea, with lots of sun loungers by the rocks. So I don’t even have to tell you that we quickly decided to give our feet a deserved rest from walking and just enjoy the day by the sun. And there were no regrets.

At night, all relaxed and sun-kissed, we went to the Old Town, which was about 15 minutes from the hotel by bus. When we arrived, another ‘WOW!’ Completely iluminated, the place is magnificent and almost hipnotizing. The Old Town is surrounded by the City Walls, which were extremely important during various wars. Today, the walls are part of the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The preservation of the site is impecable, even after the damage caused in 1991, when the city was bombarded by military forces, in the process of Yugoslavia’s fragmentation.


City Walls


View from the top of the City Walls

On our second day, we went all the way up the stairs and then allll the way around (no, it’s not free, it costs about £10, but I would highly reccommend it). It took us about 2 and a half hours to walk the whole thing. The highest point is almost 2 metres high (oh, yes, you go a bit dizzy if you look down!), and the views are magnificent! Me and my friend were even joking that it was so beautiful that we found ourselves taking it for granted, so we were not even noticing it that much anymore. That was until we realised it and then started stopping at every corner again.

The best bit for me, though, was to be able to observe the people within the city walls. A lot of people live in many buildings in that area and you can get a pretty good idea of what life is like over there. In fact, you can even get a bit too much information, judging by the pic I took, below. Hehe… You can witness the daily life, you can feel the place breathing and you can gauge people’s habits by just looking around. To me, this is the best bit of travelling:  to see how people go about their lives in a place that is unfamiliar to me.


Local life… literally

Dubrovnik is on the east coast of the Adriatic sea and one of Croatia’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s also a harbour and the most important city of the Dubrovnik-Neretva county. For its natural and urban beauty, Dubrovnik is called ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’.


Harbour


View from the top of the City Walls

It can’t be denied that Dubrovnik has already been ‘discovered’, though. And by that I mean discovered by the tourists. They are everywhere! And lots and lots of them! The place is nothing like peaceful Vis, with its calmness, silence and lots of space to walk around without bumping into anyone. No, no. Dubrovnik is busy, busy, busy.  You see people taking photographs from any angle you can imagine, you get grabbed by the waiter by the hand so he can show you the restaurant menu, you can hardly talk to your friend right next to you as the place is full of noise coming from everywhere. If I was to spend a full week’s holiday in Dubrovnik, I’d probably come home wanting another holiday after that, but I guess this is part of the places’ charm. The place is so nice it’s no wonder it’s full of people all the time.


View from the top of the City Walls


Old Town from the top of the City Walls

One of the advantadges of being in a busy place is to be able to people watch, one of my favourite past times. Just pick one of the many cafés and forget about the time. Look at everyone… the ones in a rush to go to the next site, the loved-up couples, the groups of teenagers, the older couples re-discovering the beauty of travelling on their own again… they all have a story to tell if you look close enough. And surrounded by the medieval, renascentist and baroque architecture, you have the perfect seeting for your story already!

The Irish author and journalist George Bernard Shaw once referred to Dubrovnik as the ‘paradise on Earth’. Mmmm… I’m still to decide if Dubrovnik is my favourite place in Croacia but, regardless of my opinion, you can’t deny that the place is magical and a feast for the eyes. The architecture is great, the city is fantastic at night, the beaches are beautiful and the sea… ah, the sea… I would definitely visit again, I’d just have to find out first which is the month that all the other tourists don’t have the same idea.

Categories: Croatia, Holiday, Travel tips | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vis – the island of tranquility

From the catamaran, you already get the feeling that there is no such thing as high speed in this island. People walk in no rush at all, car drivers don’t even think about going over the speed limits, the water is calm and serene. Even the birds translate the tranquility of the island into their long and lazy singing.

View of the island from the catamaran

The hugs of the people who are meeting after the journey are long and sincere, with no time limit, with no reservations. People seem to have time for one another. They seem to appreciate their time together. No running, no rushing.

Early morning in Vis

On our arrival, we meet our host. Yes, she went to pick us up to take us to the house we booked for two nights. My friend and I prefer to stay in actual local houses whenever possible instead of big hotels. Of course, this depends on each person’s travelling style, but come on… how many times have you been picked up by your host to be taken to the place you booked over the internet with no added charges and with a big smile on their face? Exactly.

Komiza’s local woman

Komiza’s streets

Vis island is about 100 Kilometres from the Italian coast and has an average of 3,000 inhabitants. They work in agriculture, they fish, they make wine or they work in tourism. The island has magnificent beaches, 3 restaurants, a couple of bars, many boats and not many people. Ideal to relax.

Scenery of wars and disputes along he years, Vis started being populated by the Croatians in the 7th century. The island belonged, over the years, to Italy, Austria, France, England and Yugoslavia. In the years of socialist Yugoslavia, Vis became its army base because of its strategic position and Tito, the Yugoslavian leader, hid in the island with all his army for a long time. Vis only started to be inhabited again in 1989.

This isolation, however difficult it was for the inhabitants of the island, placed Vis amongst some of the favourite destinations of the entire Mediterranean when Croatia  became independent. Vis’ beautiful beaches, preserved nature, ecological agriculture and preserved traditional architecture bring more and more visitors to the island each year. It’s still considered a ‘best kept secret’, though, as many people are just not ready to take things slow – and, believe me, this is a requirement when you visit Vis.

On my first day on the island, I witnessed a magnificent sunset. The skies went orange, then red, then pink, until purple slowly took over and covered the entire sky, like a blanket. In a sacred silence I took pictures, looked at the many boats and appreciated the singing of the birds. My friend and I didn’t even speak much, as if breaking the silence would be like committing a sin. A sin against nature.

The most amazing sunset

On our second day, we ‘hired’ a tour guide and his taxi to explore the island for a few hours. Ideally we would have done this by foot, since the entire island is marked for trekking, but our short time didn’t allow us to do so. Our tour guide was a sweet and talkative local and my friend and I came to the conclusion that people in the island must get lonely sometimes – he wouldn’t stop talking, even for one full minute.

Having said that, he gave us a pretty god picture of what life is like in the island. He told us about the relations between people and how sometimes people just need to get out of the island or they might go insane (his own words!). I can only imagine, though. Think about being in one place that is quite remote for a long period of time. I’d probably go crazy too. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate peace and quiet, but all the time? Nah, thanks.

One of Vis’ beaches

The tour took us to the highest point of the island, called Hum. There, you’ll find a tiny church where you would only fit about 10 people, if that many. We also went to Komiza, an island of fishermen with shiny sea and weird stuff up on the walls.

Komiza’s walls – what IS that?

Tiny church

Komiza

We visited the beaches (all with pebbles – no sand. Boo!)  and also stopped by a bar to appreciate the sea. Our guide, with his cheeks going slightly red and a big smile on his face, told us then that right there, at that bar, he met his wife, years ago. Sweet.

Where Harry met Sally (haha, where our guide met his wife)

Walking around Vis is the equivalent of stopping in time for a few hours or for a day or two. Everything slows down. The mind starts thinking slower, ideas find their slots within our usually hurried thinking, as if all that was necessary for this to happen was to get out of the rush of real life. Visiting Vis is like putting all the stress you may be going through inside a bottle and then letting the sea take it away, slowly. A luxury I certainly recommend.

* Pictures: Marilia Spindler

Categories: Croatia, Relaxation, Travel tips | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dutch

Since my first visit to Amsterdam, in 2000, I have developed some kind of fascination with the Dutch people. They seem to speak right to me and I seem to understand what they are all about – and deeply admire it.

Over the years, I visited Amsterdam four times and I plan to go there again and again and again. The place is magic – and, believe me, magic is a word I definitely use sparingly when describing a place that I like.

To start with, I like the place because it’s beautiful. And my apologies that I can’t speak for the whole of the Netherlands as I have only been to Amsterdam, but I’m sure I’d be just as fascinated had I travelled further within the country.

Amsterdam has a charm that is even hard to explain. The best thing about it is to get lost (and by that I don’t necessarily mean getting lost by a drug high you can achieve legally over there). I’m talking about walking and walking and walking so much that all of a sudden you start recognising that you have been going round in circles a little bit and took a long time to notice. It doesn’t matter one bit, though. The place is so beautiful and so majestic that you simply won’t mind seeing the same sights over and over again.

Lee and I went to spend Easter in Amsterdam a week ago and, once again, the place amazed me. So, with everything fresh in my mind, I compiled a bit of a list of my favourite things about Amsterdam and the Dutch people.

Please note: I’m not an expert and my travels consisted of 4 visits, so please forgive me for not being extremely thorough, I’m only mentioning the things that strike a chord with me.

So here goes…

1. The way of life

The Dutch seem to live a very balanced life style. They cycle everywhere, they all look healthy and fit and, most importantly, they seem to really enjoy life. A recent study said that 75% of  the Dutch women work part-time and are perfectly happy with their decision. In fact, the Dutch don’t work very much at all, when compared to their European fellow countries. They work an average of 30.6 hours a week, which is nearly one day less than in any other European country. Even so, they still manage to be at the top of the list for productivity, so we could say that working less hours seem to make people more productive. It makes sense: if you have a good work-life balance, you will be happier and, in turn, you will have more enthusiasm to do your work. Clever people .

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Life is good, eh?

2. The Food

The supermarkets contribute, in my opinion, to the Dutch being so healthy. Lee and I were amazed, in our last visit, at how beautifully the fruit and veg are displayed on the shelves. They get placed on shelves with these glass doors, making the whole fruit and veg section look like a shop window. It makes everything look so fresh and yummy. Having said that, nothing beats a good stroopwafel with a steamy cup of coffee. Or the marvellous cheese and brown bread they make. Or the most amazing apple pie I’ve ever had (to be found on Winkel 43 – Noordemarkt). Not so healthy, perhaps, but all true Dutch national treasures.

house 2SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Stroopwafel and apple pie. Yum!

3. The bikes

The thing you have to get used to quickly in Amsterdam is the bikes. They are everywhere. With over 880,000 bikes in a city where 790,000 people live, no wonder they are seen on every space available on the streets, on top of one another sometimes, and all around the city, with all the Ducth people riding them. And the reason you have to get used to it quick is because the cyclists may run over you if you’re not careful. They do tell you if you are in their way by ringing their bell a bit in advance, but sometimes just before they are about to hit you. Eeek!

The bikes add to the charm of the city and are certainly a major photo opportunity on every corner. And the most curious thing about this bike-obsessed life is that the Dutch really don’t seem to care for really fancy bikes. They prefer theirs to be gearless and rusted, with the odd exception when they paint them in cool colours (see photo). The Dutch don’t thrive on spending money where not necessary – and the bikes, although a main mean of transport, don’t make top of the list for them to spend their (not so hard-earned) money on.

The most amazing thing, though, is what you get to see the Dutch doing on their bikes. They carry their children on it, they carry heavy objects (such as the massive mirror Lee and I saw this guy carrying on our last visit), they eat, they talk on the phone, they have a full conversation with the fellow biker next to them. It looks extremely easy, but I bet it takes years and years of practice.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERASAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERASAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Family day out on the left, a very cool bike in the middle and a busy mum on the right

4. The bluntness

I like blunt people. I like when you know where you stand with others. I tend to be like this – which sometimes doesn’t go that well with my polite British fellow colleagues and friends. But hey. I admire it. And the Ducth are just the same.

If you ask them a stupid question, they will look at you like you are, ermm… stupid. And when they stop looking at you that way and decide to help you out by answering your question, expect the answer to be short and sweet. They are straight-forward people and hanging around doesn’t seem like a productive use of their time. However, I may be speaking from a ‘tourist’ point of view here, and they might show a lot more tact with people they actually know. Still, I admire this ‘black and white’ approach (it’s even on the street signs!).

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERASAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Lots of the famous Dutch orange on everything, of course – even when they’re being blunt!

5. The houses

Oh my God, they all look so amazing. Outside and inside. And I can say that about the inside because one of my favourite things to do in Amsterdam is to let my inner voyeur out and look inside every single house I have the opportunity to. I think they are amazing. The Dutch have this ability to group things together, but nothing ever looks too matchy-matchy. Everything they seem to own has a purpose to be where it is and the colours they put together sometimes don’t go (in theory), but in practice they just work. They certainly have a gift for making a place look effortlessly welcoming, cosy and modern at the same time. Hats off.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAhouse 4 2

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAhouse 4

6. The flowers

They are in almost every house, in restaurants, cafes, stations – pretty much everywhere. And boy do they make the place look colourful, inviting and fresh! I just love how they use flowers for decoration. You see all kinds and they are quite cheap. I wish they were that cheap here in the UK, so my home could have more of it. Flower power.

flowersflowers 3flowers 2

7. The 3 kisses

This is something we do in Brazil and, during my few visits to Amsterdam, I noticed a lot of people doing the same. The tradition works in the same way as it does in Brazil: 3 kisses on the cheek (more like ‘blown in the air’ kisses) that start on the right, then left, then right cheek again. The kisses are for family and friends only, though – like in Brazil. It’s just so refreshing to see that, when here in the UK people have this barrier and this personal space that the other person shouldn’t even dare trespass. Refreshing and closer to home.

dutchkiss

Ok, maybe not on the mouth!

 8. The airport

I just love Schiphol Airport – it’s definitely my favourite. Arriving there gives a pretty good picture of what is to come. It’s straight-forward to find where you have to go (very Dutch-like), modern and, to me, the most important thing: it’s colourful. It’s an airport I usually choose for flight connections to Brazil, if I can, and it’s definitely a bonus to be able to buy some stroopwafel on your stopover.

airport

Vibrant and colourful features make Schiphol special.

9. The passion for life

The Dutch seem to have a special passion for life. They seem to have this eagerness to enjoy every single second, even if it’s by doing nothing. I remember seeing many people just sat at their door step soaking in the sunshine and doing nothing else. They have this ability to enjoy the moment, to relax, to just ‘be’. They don’t seem to be a worried nation, they take life as it comes and cross bridges when they come to them. They don’t get stressed. These are characteristics I really admire, as I can be a stress-head sometimes. We have a lot to learn with the Dutch and their quirky approach to life, me thinks.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA… and relax!

Overall, the Dutch seem to be very happy people and I think this is what fascinates me. Nothing seems to phase them too much. They eat well, they exercise, they are friendly, they don’t mess about, they are proud of who they are. They just seem to go through life in a very well-established manner, like they have all read this secret amazing book of ‘how to live life in the best way’ (but shhh, please don’t tell anyone).

When Lee and I were at the airport, coming back to the UK after our last visit, we were having a chat about how great it would be to live in Amsterdam. We would work less, we would be more relaxed, we would be fitter. We then started talking about how and if this would even be an option for us. I was voting yes, and so was Lee, but then we thought again and found a major obstacle: we’re just not cool enough.

Categories: Amsterdam, Coolness, Dutch People, Living away from home, The Good Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Happy? So be it!

As with many of us, the approach of a new year makes us look at life and analyse where we are, what we are doing and how we want things to happen in the future. This thinking is what forms goals and plans for the times ahead. However, no matter how great it is to have a plan for the future, it is also an amazing thing to be in the present, feel it and discover happiness in it.

The happiest people aren’t the ones with the most money, things, friends, power, attention, health or even love. Neither are they always the ones with the least. The happiest people  are the ones who practice gratitude and focus on loving life consistently (and ok, having goals and trying your best to achieve them helps too!).

So in this post, I would like to take the opportunity to list a few reasons to be grateful and HAPPY about this crazy little maze that we call life.

1. Nature: who doesn’t love the sunset? It’s my favourite part of the day. I like all the colours turning into one, the sun going smaller, smaller and smaller until it disappears into the ocean or behind the hills. It makes me feel calm. And it’s free, with access to anyone who cares to open their eyes to appreciate it.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

2. Random kindness: a chat with the neighbour, some unexpected help when you need it, a smile when you don’t expect it. These little surprises make life what it is, a little magic trick waiting to happen.

random-acts-of-kindness

3. Art: it’s everywhere, even you make it, I bet! Again, it’s a case of opening your eyes to the new, to the crazy, to the inspiring and let your newly found perspective broaden your mind. Seeing it, reading it, listening to it, watching it will only enhance your life.

book shelf

4. Nice food, especially if cooked in good company. Chop, chop, chop, chat, chat, chat (drink, drink, drink). The greatest recipe I’ve ever known.

Plate of food on table with wine glass in background

5. Great people around you. Happy people are infectious, so the more ‘happies’ you have around you, the more are the chances of you being happy too. Surround yourself with positive people and your mood will reflect their joyful spirit.

happiness-is-contagious-pass-it-on

6. Great working environment. Working with people that inspire you, understand you and value your work makes the 9-5 part of your life a pleasure, not a chore. If you love what you do, even better! Just don’t forget to count your blessing here, as many people work for the weekend.

I-Work-Because-1280x1024

7. A great network. A big family that likes to interfere in everyone’s business (like mine), great close friends and a partner that ‘has got your back’ is all you need anytime: when you are down, to pick you up; when you are happy, to celebrate with you.

nos dois

8. Fun times. Appreciate having fun when you can. Our crazy daily lives don’t always allow specific times to have fun, but you can make the time for it. Have a laugh with your colleague at work, make a joke when you can, do an impromptu little dance, laugh with others. And always remember to find the funny side of things. There is always one.

a0071-000010

9. Good health. Be grateful for being healthy and enjoy looking after yourself.

fruit

10. Live in the present and savour every moment as if it was your last.

Music_present

So there you go: these are my reasons to be happy and grateful. Would you care to share yours?

Categories: Creativity, Dreams, Energy, Friendship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Olympic Fever

Some people are saying that they are sick and tired of watching all of the TV adverts with an Olympic twist, that all they see are babies in Olympic vests and red, white, blue, red, white blue everybloodywhere. Some people get sick and tired of too much of something.

Well, in this case, I LIKE IT! I like it how the community gets together and I like how we all celebrate the athletes’ achievements as if they were our own achievements. These committed, driven individuals share their glories with us, lazy asses that only care enough to watch it on the telly. I like how generous they are to do it for their country and for each one of us spectators. What a nice thing to have someone pushing themselves to the limit just to make us smile and cheer loudly.

Being a Brazilian but also a British citizen, I find myself in funny situations when talking to people about the Olympic competitions. I say a lot of “We” did this, “We” did that, not making it very clear if I mean “We” British or “We” Brazilians. My fellow work colleagues sometimes ask what I mean but, most of the time, I realise that I’m not making much sense and add the odd word in to make myself understood, so they then know exactly if I’m talking about Team GB or the Brazilian crowd.

My approach to the Olympics is the same as the one I have in the World Cup. I support Brazil if Brazil is playing, I support England if England is playing. But if Brazil is playing England, sorry, it’s Brazil all the way! I also like to see poor third world countries winning, as I imagine winning something at this scale is a big confidence boost for citizens of places that find themselves in difficult situations.

The most special thing about the Olympics, though, is the sense of community, the sense of “we are all in this together”, even though we are not the ones jumping high or running fast. I like how we all dress the part, talk the talk and cheer loud enough for the athletes to hear us, no matter the distance.

I’ve also realised that I’m starting to like sport more and more. And this is big, coming from someone that didn’t even like PE at school. I like the fact that it’s really black and white and not subjective at all. If you do your best time, if you score, if you do better than your opponent, then you win. There is no ‘opinion’ about how you perform. There are set parameters and all is very clear and simple. And I like simple things.

I’m having a blast watching all the Olympic stuff on the telly. No, I didn’t make my way down to London because I thought that the ticket prices were robbery in daylight, but I’m happy with seeing it all from the best angles from my own comfy sofa. And let the best ones win! (be them Brazilians, British, Canadians, Australians, Ethiopians…..)

Categories: Living away from home, Olympic Games | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Another time…

I always thought that I would be happier in a different era. I have this melancholic thing about me, like I’m always missing something or someone that has gone or even missing something that is right there next to me. It’s kind of weird. It’s a feeling of emptiness somehow, but no, don’t you worry, I’m not depressed. I even enjoy it. It makes me feel… well, it makes me feel me.

I love old movies and I love the way people behaved in the old times. People were so polite and respectful and I really admire that. Yes, there are many things that are much better now. Men and women are slowly becoming equals, people have choices and the chance to fight for their rights and being rich no longer necessarily means that you can rule the world. Or kind of (unfortunately).

So here we go… I invite you to travel back in time with me and decide which is the best era of all… is it the 50s, the 60s or the 70s?

The 50s…

The 50s began with rationing and austerity and ended with a big and loud music concert starring the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Elvis Presley, to name a few. The glamour of the American lifestyle heavily influenced the 50s, with cars reflecting American tastes and actresses such as Marilyn Monroe taking over the world (and any man in sight!). The fifties was a decade of conservative attitudes and values. By the end of the decade, the world had largely recovered from World War II and there were already stirrings of the freedom that would sweep in…

 

The 60s…

With the hippie movement on the background towards the end of the decade, the 60s are seen as a “breaking free” period, where rigid culture and social constraints were challenged in view of individual freedom. People wanted to deviate from the norm and this could be seen everywhere, in the men’s beehive hairdos and in the women’s short styles popularized by Twiggy, as well as with the rise of feminism and gay rights movements.

The 60s were about making sure people had choices, which is proven by the introduction of the birth control pill and the widespread, socially accepted drug use, with LSD and marijuana being the favourites at the time. This fight for freedom created a “counterculture” that sparked a social revolution throughout much of the western world. The underground press, a huge and eclectic collection of newspapers, served as a unifying medium for the counterculture.

The soundtrack of this revolution was crafted by no less than personalities such as Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel and, of course (my beloved) The Beatles, amongst many others that made the earth shake with good tunes and inspiration. The Woodstock Festival in upstate New York marked the era too, with its “3 days of peace and music”.

The 70s…

With major conflicts between capitalist and communist forces taking place in multiple countries, it’s no wonder that civil rights movements started to play a major role in the 70s. This era was also marked by a presence and rise of a significant number of women as heads of state and heads of government across the world, including the famous “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher in the UK.
Writers such as Virginia Woolf and Agatha Christie made their marks in the literary world and Andy Warhol presented us with his pop art. The fashion on the streets had ladies in platform shoes and men with sideburns and, of course, a home wasn’t a home if it didn’t feature large patterns of  something very bold somewhere to be seen.
Elton John, James Taylor, Bee Gees, ABBA, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and others provided the soundtrack that could be listened to with the help of the many high tech gadgets that were being invented and sold to the masses.
The 70s were an era of Star Wars, technology, increasing political awareness and landing on the moon (arguably). Ready for the 80s and onwards…
There are a million things that I haven’t mentioned here about each decade, it’s just impossible to cram all the good and bad of each era in one blog post. Given the choice, though, I think I’d have liked to live in the sixties, with all its twist and shouts, individual freedom,  bellbottom pants and a bit of revolution for good measure. I can see myself with flowers in my hair and a few words to say to whoever cares to hear…

This is the problem. We always want more. Either out of ourselves or out of life. Unfortunately, though, the time we live in can’t be changed. We can’t just go on a time machine and transport ourselves to a different time, where we think we would fit in better. Where we land to live our lives has been carefully crafted by the man upstairs. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s all one big lottery and, if we feel out of place, it’s just because we have been extremely unlucky.

Categories: Different eras, Personality traits, Time | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: