January 31, 2017

Just keep going girl...

So it has become a little tradition... just to keep my motivation going. It might be an inverted New Years' resolution - since I don't believe in such intentions - but every year in January I take a picture to remind myself that I must keep on jogging no matter what. It's exercise, it good for me and I actually do enjoy it.

Many years ago in order to prove my Triathlon friend wrong, I defied Parisian weather and went out for a jog. A jog in wellies and holding an umbrella. No, I am not proud of that moment in my Parisian adventure but I was pretty desperate to shed off those excessive Christmas kilos and the weather just would not cooperate.

Therefore, here goes year number six and I am ready to keep going strong. My route has changed a third time as we have moved in the meantime but the Champs de Mars are a spectacular alternative to the Bois de Boulogne and Avenue Foch even when it snows.

My new route around the Tour Eiffel

She's come along way but the show must go on...

January 28, 2017

Each friend represents a world in us

Over the years of being an expat I have made many friends. Sometimes we hit it off right away, other times it took months even years before we got to know each other better. Some friendships were made over kids' playdates, others through the working world. I made new friends at a dinner party or thanks to a photography course. I have made friends through projects I believe and work for. Neighbours have also become friends as have some friends of friends who contacted me for advice upon arriving at their new destination.

Don't get me wrong, I do pick and choose my friends but from the little girl back in Zürich whom for most of her single life had just a handful (extremely loyal) friends - and who believed you could not possibly have any more that you could call real friends - I have gone to calling upon friends across all four corners of the globe.

Expatriate life has its pros and cons. We expats always worry about our kids not having any roots and this is true. However, the upside of this lifestyle is that you really do become very close with people whom would never have crossed your path had you not started to move around.

Every Expatriation comes with its adventures - positive and negative - which you get to share with a whole new set of people each time. You enjoy the good times and support each other through the bad ones. The latter usually allows you to get very close very fast and before you know it you have made a new best friend, one that you can count on through thick and thin. Your family is thousands of miles aways and this new friend just "gets you" because she is in the same boat at the same time. No explanation needed, looks can say a thousand words.

You live through experiences together that bind you for life. Of course, this sounds like a bunch of clichés but when you have to give birth for the first time in a country a million miles away from yours, listing to the nurses not understanding a word they are saying, wondering how on earth you managed to put yourself in this situation and all of a sudden you see a foreign looking girl with the same look on her face, you smile and you've bonded for life.

Decades later when your children are grown up and instead of exchanging baby stories you talk about your path of life, your achievements, your projects and your beliefs once in a while you will come across a like-minded woman, sometimes bold, sometimes introverted but you can sense that strong conviction of having achieved what is important to her and you know you have found another companion to share your path with.

And for a little while we ride the same boat in the same direction until destiny pulls us apart. But as Anais Nin so nicely put it: "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."

January 22, 2017

Maintenant, il ne faut plus se trumper!

Every once in a while I get carried away... the Sister March in Paris to the Women’s March on Washington D.C was definitely one of those moments. I am not a political person but this movement struck a cord in me, somewhere between the human rights and women's lib I found a cause I identified with. It was nothing to do with Donald Trump... this was bigger, it was about personal conviction and fundamental beliefs.

I invited Expat Girl to join me in the March which was to lead us from the Trocadero Esplanade of human rights to the Wall for Peace Monument on the Champ de Mars. Rather sheepishly she declined because she didn't feel safe to walk with such a big crowd of people. I respect that. The terrorist attacks had had an impact on her young life and there were things she was not prepared to do.

As I walk towards the terrace where the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948 I was surprised to hear only murmurs and relaxed conviviality. Usually during demonstrations you can hear shouts and chants a block away from the Trocadero.

Sure enough, as I came around the Musée de l'Homme - ten minutes before the March was suppose to begin - I saw a little crowd, women of all ages holding various signs and flags. Were the Parisiennes suitably late or was this just not on the city's agenda I thought a wee bit disappointed?

True to French style, however, people were late, and half an hour later thousands had turned up and it was impossible for the tourists to even attempt to get a picture of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero Esplanade.

With grace, dignity and conviviality women AND men from France, the USA, Mexico, Spain, New Zealand and many other places walked the walk side by side, each with their own belief and their own cause at heart. There was no aggressiveness, no arguments, no shouting or screaming. People were talking with their neighbours, smiling at one another, kids were asking each other where they were from in English, journalists were taking snapshots to capture the serene and peaceful mood of the colourful crowd blessed with sunshine and a wonderful and rare blue winter sky.

A unique and unforgettable afternoon in the French capital born of a solidarity movement with the Women’s March in the USA which will go down in history and in my memory as a very special moment of this complex, modern world.

As one of the signs said: "Maintenant, il ne faut plus se trumper!

Some say we were 7000 at Trocadero today!

A sign that sums it all up

Il faut du tout pour faire un monde

Best script board

The beauty of this march is that everybody can have their own agenda!

Recognise this Spanish sign?

Every person has their own personal reasons to participate

The French are part of the party as well!

An impressive view

Ready to march the March 

The beauty of this sign is that it was carried by a man!

Arriving at the Wall of Peace with police escort

Greeting our sisters in Washington DC

A peaceful Saturday afternoon march comes to an end

The Wall of Peace, a favourite site of rendezvous for militants of human rights

Picture of the day: "Je suis une femme"

January 19, 2017

Baby, it's cold out there!

Everybody is complaining about how cold the weather is this week. Admittedly it is hovering around freezing point but, hey, the sun is out and the sky is crystal clear and deep blue. So, I don't care if it is the coldest week since 2012! What if the winter five years ago was rather rough, the worst part was we had to sit below a grey cloak for about five months; we certainly did not remember what a clear blue sky looked like.

So, bring on the cold spell as long as radiant sunshine and azure skies are the collateral effects!

Spectacular view from Le Musée de l'Homme

On the way to school

Jogging along the Seine with some other die-hards

Inspiring and wonderful

On top of the Centre Pompidou

Walking out of the "Magritte" exhibit to find this view... only in Paris

A glorious sunrise at Trocadero

The weather forecast is looking good!!!

January 15, 2017

Jordanian hospitality at its best

A simple invitation via WhatsApp by a Jordanian friend inviting us for lunch and a little cooking class beforehand to teach us some Middle Eastern culinary specialities.

I turned up on a freezing morning to find not only our regular group of girlfriends but a lovely group of International ladies most of whom are long-term (and I mean VERY long term) residents. All of a sudden I felt a whole lot younger. In the kids' school community I am rather considered part of the furniture as I have been around so much longer than the average expat.

Full of smiles and curiosity I sat down to meet my fellow lunch ladies and give them the Expat interview. Turns out they are as professional at it as I am which made me smile even more.

It is rather refreshing not having to go through the same Spiel of explaining the good and the bad side of Paris to newcomers. These ladies are Parisian veterans and clearly ahead of the game.

But wait, weren't we here to cook?

Undeniably the food had all been prepared: chopped, cut, sautéed, soaked, and pre-cooked. All WE were asked to do is to fill some Mosoukan rolls, stir the parsley salad and spread the zaatar mixture over the little circles of dough. Even that was quite a task given that we were all trying to either catch up with our friends or get to know our new friends better... because wherever it is you may be, it is your friends who make your world... n'est-ce pas?

A big Shukraan goes out to the perfect hostess who received us into her welcoming home on a cold winter day. The food as well as the company was exquisite, unique, international and decidedly spicy!

The table place cards had our nationality rather than our name on them!
And just look at the colour of the table decoration... 

Manakish Zaatar in the making

The end result: thyme pastry

Mosoukan rolls: I made the one on the bottom right! ;)

I will be pinching this presentation idea for future reference: parsley salad 

Makloubeh with eggplant: let's just say we sprinkled the pine nuts on top!

Mouhalabieh and date cake... followed by dates and baklava!!!

January 13, 2017

The magical world of languages

Tucked away behind the Saint Sulpice church is a little magical world of linguistic treasures. If you love languages and are intrigued by their versatility like I am, it is a gem you must explore. This unconventional and educational exposé of languages is totally under the radar of Parisian map of museums. But boy, it is so worth spreading the word.

The interactive exhibit is the brainchild of a very passionate and studious New Zealander who many years ago wrote directly to Avram Noam Chomsky, the father of modern linguistics, asking him of the existence of a Language Museum. It seems there was one in the US but apparently not eager on collaboration. This was not to stop Mark Oremland, creator and designer of Mundolingua.

Mundolingua is home of well-thought themed spaces housing touch screens, maps, panels, scrolls, self-made quizzes and an extraordinary visual explanation of language grammar comparison. The Micro cinema allows you to view cult films and they even have their own tower of Babel.

You can give yourself up to the fascinating world of languages in this original - why yes, quirky -three floored museum covering 170m2 of modular spaces where multimedia technologies coexists with recycled natural materials and collectables from across the globe.

Mark even commissioned a life-size replica of the Rosetta Stone to the British Museum. This first recovered Ancient Egyptian bilingual text in modern time provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs... now if that does get your imagination going?!?

Without any state support or subsidy, Mark has embarked on this crazy adventure in the hope of making it an inescapable place for all language lovers, polyglots, adults and children alike. It has definitely made it into the top ten best places to visit in my Paris book.

Mundolingua, a little gem hidden between St. Sulpice and the Jardin de Luxembourg 

Welcome! Bienvenu! Willkommen! Benvenuto! etc, etc, etc ...

Sounds and phonetic alphabets 

One of the many modular spaces: this one is about WORDS

How to tell an American accent with 25 simple questions

Or how about a little French dictée?

Which language does your family belong to?

We can also do linguistic accents... a Swiss example

My personal favourite: a home-made visual grammar explanation comparing five different languages 

A little snapshot of the communication tower of Babel

You are always welcome at the Micro Cinema 

You can have fun with languages in the basement

Now the question is: in which language do I want to play?

Yes, this would be a lie detector!

Expat boy would probably even read THIS book!

Who remembers floppy disks?

An original Braille writer

 The Braille corner

Have you ever seen a real Enigma machine?
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