This spot is dedicated to the world and how I see it.

Friday, August 31, 2007

31 August 2007

I just came home from the famous, but inofficial, 'EU institution': Place Luxembourg. Place Luxembourg is a square right next to the European Parliament where all Eurocrats hang out for the after work drinks. It's been really calm during the last few months but now everyone is back and it seems like they have missed the Belgian beer over summer!
This is where you are supposed to network. THE place to make new contacts. But why? Networking in order to find jobs (most Brussels jobs are found this way), in order to find new clients (consultancies), in order to influence and lobby MEPs, in order to get inside info from Commission officials... At the same time there is a very special wibe: Friendly and everyone is very open to meet new people. People who work in Brussels generally have an interested mindset - otherwise they wouldn't have left their countries. It is an atmosphere in which almost everything seems possible.
Networking is the most important skill when you work in Brussels. If you are shy and don't like meeting people, Brussels is probably hell. Receptions, exhibitions, lectures and cocktail parties are as important as cumputer literacy, or even literacy. I know a guy who doesn't know how punctuation works and spells about every second word wrong - and he is still a senior EU policy advisor. And he is of course an amazing networker.
Place Lux is also a place where you bump into people from your 'previous lives'. Several times I have met people who I have known before in different cities. Of course this depends on the fact that most people I know are interested in EU/politics and that's why they ended up in Brussels as well. But when you think about it - it probably doesn't happen in many other cities that you - by accident - just bump into old friends of different nationalities during your after work drinks!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

30 August 2007

I will never stop being amazed about flying!
Flying is MAGIC.
This picture is taken on a short flight between Ibiza and Menorca and the island below is Mallorca. Most passengers probably just wanted to reach their destination Menorca without a 20-minute stopover at Ibiza-but that short 25 minute jump was such a treat... We flew just over the low clouds and the sun was just setting over the Mediterranean.
I believe flying is a fabulous cure if you feel you need to get an overview - the bigger picture - of your life. The sky is always blue over the clouds...

Monday, August 27, 2007

27 August 2007

Probably sounds like a an easy question for eurosceptics: Better! A Europe without the EU would, to them, mean less bureacracy, more efficiency and money to the people who need it rather than to rich eurocrats living jet-set lives in Brussels.

I love Europe! Europe's history and what we have learnt from it. Europe's diversity and what we can learn from eachother. Europe's cultural differences and languages through which we can understand and view life from different angles. Europe's strive forwards and to improve itself and to develop. Europe's passion for fairness and human rights.

Of course if we want to channel our objectives and dreams of a better future, someone needs to work on it, so a bureacracy is necessary. EU's civil service is actually smaller than the one of Whitehall, UK.

I just love walking to work in the morning here in Brussels. Well, we are all parts of a large wheel, the EU wheel - call us boring Eurocrats if you like! But you very rarely meet someone here who has a boring job. Almost everyone has exciting jobs, in areas which they enjoy and which are of importance to people all across the continent, and sometimes even in the wider world. Walking to work, seeing all these people and knowing that we all, overall, work for the same purpose - we are burning for a better future - is a strong and a very satisfying feeling. And most eurocrats do not at all live jet-set lives - Brussels is just a fascinating melting pot of people with a strong belief in a better Europe.

Call me idealistic, but a prosperous European continent without a European Union is not an alternative. It would mean national bureacracies overlapping eachother's work and wasting money on un-coordinated policies.

Friday, August 17, 2007

17 August 2007

What would life be without some everyday glam? I have a friend who even calls herself Glam-Maria, which really underlines the importance she puts on those little extra touches on a normal weekday. Be it slender champagne glases, a delicious tea or her handmade birthday cards, or even her carefully written e-mails...
I don't know which her favourite glossy magazine is, but mine is GLAMOUR. GLAMOUR is the best anti-depressant! When I buy it, my adrenaline starts kicking. And I know guys love it too, but they just read it 'when there is nothing else to read', like in the bathroom. Poor guys. But then they end up quoting articles in conversations, giving away that it's more that just 'have nothing else to read literature'...
Today I went to a great bookstore here in Brussels called Filigranes. My mission was to get the new edition of British GLAMOUR. And there it was. 4.90 Euro. It's one of the cheapest international magazines, but in my opinion, far much better that ELLE or VOGUE or RED. When I was to pay I couldn't find my money - coins that I carefully had counted beforehand in order to get rid of them. So it took me about a minute or more to get them out of my purse and to count them. But then when I had paid, the guy told me it was 4.90 and not 3.90, which was what I had paid. It felt like an eternity until I had got my coins together. And I just knew what he was thinking: Blonde girl buying this magazine on a Friday evening?! What else can you expect?! He even gave me that kind of smile.
Mr, you are SO wrong! Smart girls need a regular dosis of GLAM.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

15 August 2007

It seems like the Facebook phenomenon is exploding like crazy at the moment. You know when things have become significant when they turn into verbs - and Facebook fulfills this criteria: 'I'll facebook the photo' or 'You can facebook me'. I hear this almost every day now.
Facebook IS great. I love having photos of my friends and people I know on one page - it makes me happy and reminds me if I haven't been in touch with someone for a while. It's also useful for hooking up with old friends or for realising that you live in the same city!
But it does make me wonder: Does facebooking partly replace good oldfashioned physical socialising? Do people actually CALL eachother to TALK on landlines these days? Long phoneconversations seem to be gone.
How much are happy birthday wishes worth on Facebook? If you have a Facebook 'friend' who you wouldn't call up to say happy birthday - but you would send your wishes on Facebook - does the simplicity remove part of how special it feels when someone has made a real effort?
If you are on Facebook on a Saturday or Friday evening - what message does that send to other people? Where/when is the life you are talking about on Facebook? I don't care what people think, but I know other people do. I am actually fearing that some people do more socialising on Facebook that in 'reality' (ok, that depends on how you define 'reality').
But all in all I am positive. Of course all your Facebook friends don't need to be close friends. Acquaintances are in a different category. It's kind of like keeping a register of people you know well, acquaintances and people you have met who you don't know at alll actually. Until you have them on Facebook and get to know them virtually. Win-win situation?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

7 August 2007

The nagging weekend turned out to be nagging only in one sense of the word: the nagging heat! And since my flat is among the rooftops bruxellois, staying inside would be equal to the not so pleasant experience of getting fried, alive.
So how did the weekend turn out?

After work on Friday I went staright downtown to Palais du Thé and got a nice Japanese Popcorn tea. Walking in Brussels on hot summerdays is quite heavy so when I came home I fell asleep on my sofa next to the open window with a magic cool-ish breeze invigorating my lungs. Simple but heavenly good, like yoga.

Saturday was even hotter so I decided to escape to the beach in Knokke. ‘Only’ 90 minutes away by train, the blue water and sky were very soothing. However, I did not find Knokke as posh as it says on the front cover of this month’s edition of the Belgian ELLE. I was enjoying my own company and got a refreshing tan, but concluded that there are two real practical drawbacks of heading to the beach alone:
1) It is quite tricky to take a swim: No one there to keep an eye on by bag…
2) It is easy to bu your back: No one to help me putting on sun screen...
When I came home I got that characteristic lovely relaxed beach feeling and was very happy chatting to my family on Skype. Skype is great but sometimes the connection gets crappy and the distance, ironically, feels ever longer… My sister said it sounded as if I was in out in Space and that I should tell our Mr. Fuglesong (Sweden ’s first Astronaut) to turn off the space ship engines for a while.

On Sunday I woke up at 8am enjoying the blue sky through my roof-top window. No nagging feeling whatsoever at all! For several months I’ve been planning to go planespotting at the airport so this was my mission of the morning: Clear blue skies and a busy travel Sunday – an ideal day for indulging in the sight of some nice takeoffs. I know it's kind of a nerdy hobby, but I can't help loving planes... After walking around the airport looking for an outside veranda and finding none, I discovered some people with binoculars at the top floor of the parking garage, and I figured that must be the place to be. And I was right. I spent well over an hour there just watching jets taking off and I felt like an amazed child. I managed to see both a BMI flight taking off to Edinburgh and one TAP flight jetting off to Lisbon. My past came upon me this Sunday morning.

In the afternoon I went to the park with a thermos with sweet Moroccan mint tea and enjoyed my book ‘The Night train to Lisbon’ in the shade. My friend Francisco then texted my, just having landed, and we decided to cool off later and go downtown for icecream. He picked me up at seven and we spent 3 long hours walking, talking and philosophising in the most beautiful parts of the city. I had a beautiful evening, saw a beautiful sunset and we had beautiful conversations.
Francisco told me that ‘one should always leave difficult decisions to the last minute’ and perhaps he is right. This way you open up space for improvisation and the unexpected. Seja o que for...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

3 August 2007

A nagging feeling creeps upon me on Friday afternoons sometimes.

I have always loved the weekends but when you are single and living abroad, an upcoming weekend can also give me a weird feeling. Wondering what is wrong, it is a feeling that I am almost ashamed I get. For God’s sake it’s weekend and it’s August and I should be counting the minutes for that magic 5 o’clock bang when the doors open for freedom: Ready for BBQs, parties, lazy days on the beach, loads of friends and hanging out drinking frappés and eating massive amounts of ice cream…

But sometimes, life is just not like that. Especially not in August in Brussels when most friends are out of town. And especially not when those friends who are still in town are couples or parents and are planning either romantic get-aways or family wine and cheese get-togethers.

So this weekend I will spend with myself. And I have convinced myself that it’s OK. I don’t mind because I do like my own company. But such a weekend requires planning and nice weather.

They promise 28 degrees and sun this weekend and I am therefore planning to pack my bikini and jump on the train tomorrow and head for Knokke, which allegedly is THE very IN beach resort in Belgium. As for Sunday, I will head for medieval Leuven on a cultural tour. I have to learn more about the complex history of this country! And tonight I’ll go downtown to Palais du Thé and get some lovely Japaneese popcorn tea.

So, all in all, it’s looking good. I’ll report on Sunday eve if my plans went according to schedule. Unexpected things do happen and maybe I will conclude there is no need to get that nagging Friday afternoon feeling.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

2 August 2007

A colleague of mine was very happy when she arrived to work last Wednesday. I could tell she had been smiling all the way into work, she was glowing! She told me that she had been babysitting her sisters two children and had slept in their room. In the morning when the two girls just woke up they had said: "Oh you are still here, did you sleep over? That is so nice..."

And isn't it so nice what they said? So simple, but just so true! It is beautiful to wake up with someone you care about... Maybe for a moment wondering how you could be so lucky... and then have that precious moment within you the whole day. Carrying it with you.

It beautiful.

OK. But it's also great to wake up alone - but well rested and fit - after a long night's sleep! Noone who wanted to read with the lamp on, disturbing your beauty sleep. Noone who moved around or stole the duvet. And noone who had to wake up early with an annoying alarm going off hours before yours, and, finally, noone who turned on the lamp before you were awake.

Maybe not as beautiful as to wake up to the person you love - but it certainly has some advantages to wake up as the queen of your own bed.