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A constantly curious and melancholic wanderer...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Paris in Black and White - Part 2

So here we go, as part of my finishing all unfinished projects in my life project... Paris in Black and White - Part 2. 

Previously on Ditjies en Datjies:

#It was a cold cold winters night, with temperatures falling to the minus degrees.  Jaco and Charlene had an old mattress to sleep on in what used to be a beautiful home, but was now a student flat with old food and dirt everywhere.  Problem number 1: they could not find the geyser to switch on the hot water.  Problem number 2:  they could not get the internal heating system to work.  With 2 dirty blankets and one plastic bottle filled with hot water from the kettle (no coffee or tea or milk) they go to bed for the last night of Charlene's 27 year old life...  

Like sand through the hourglass... Just kidding...

The story goes like this.  You know how some people tell you that you survive the cold European winters because of the excellent internal heat systems that are in place everywhere.  Some people even say that you get hot when you are inside buildings and restaurants and that you take your millions layers of clothes off.  This is all true... And we would have been completely fine in the not-so-glamorous-student-flat we were staying in, if only we could find the switch...  Disaster!!!!  First of all, there was no hot water and we felt cold and dirty and tired, but that we eventually discovered underneath the flat somewhere in a dodgy little room.  But we could not find the switch to the internal heating system.  We were already pretty late to start our sightseeing that first night, so we decided we will just  find the stupid switch when we came back.  We didn't...  

It was the coldest night of our lives.  I was a cuddler (not really a word I know) that night and I am never a cuddling person. We woke up, stiff from coldness and barely able to move after struggling to keep warm and fall asleep in the first place.  We then decided to scout out the students rooms and find some more blankets.  We eventually had a mountain on top of us.  Now, we were slowly starting to heat up our bodies.  I remember waking up a few times that night with my body sweating from the heat we created with all the blankets, but my face ice, ice cold.  So, it was not a surprise that Jaco woke up with a terrible cold... And I woke up feeling cold and very lonely without family and loved ones, but only a husband who had no sleep and a cold to try and sing to me on my 28th birthday... 

We took a quick (at least semi-hot) bath and got dressed and ready for the day.  When we walked out the front door, we realized that it was literally colder inside the house than it was outside the house. As we walked the few kilometers into town we started feeling a bit more normal again.  We went to the pharmacy to get Jaco some medicine for his cold.  The pharmacist looked at us trying to explain to her what was wrong in English and got an expression on her face I did not like and walked away without even a nod or a finger pointing us in the right direction.  A young little girl came from the back and was a bit more friendly and after many hand signals and some charades, she finally understood what kind of medicine we needed.  What kind of place is this where people don't understand English, or sometimes pretend to not understand English?  People warned us before and said we should first speak Afrikaans when we need something and then try it in English, but I thought they were just being silly... But no, I would really recommend any person going to Paris or around Paris to speak any language but English and hopefully receive a much warmer welcome than we did.  My birthday was not looking too bright.  We went to a little cafe and ordered something off the menu that we did not understand and the waiter could not help us (off course) and we had some sort of breakfast and at least a cup of strong coffee to start of the day... Jaco had his medicine and was starting to feel a little bit better.  And the cafe had wi-fi, so at least I got a few messages on Facebook from family and friends for my birthday that made me feel much better about everything.  Maybe my birthday would not be so bad after all :)  

Here we go:

This was taken just outside the little house we spent our first (dreadful) night.  I loved the look of the rain (or maybe just water from the cold) drops on the branches...

The day was starting to turn around:  Notre Dame Cathedral and the Seine river in the background.  I had my lucky beanie on, my new red jacket, a warm scarf and I was ready to have the best day ever in what people call "The most beautiful city in the world." 

One of my favourite photos I took in Paris, because there is a lamp, a beautiful cathedral and a bird :) 

A zoomed-in look at some of the sculptures on the cathedral.  I tried to find some information specifically about this one I took, but I did not find anything... But you can read some interesting information about the building and history of Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) at this link.  
Interesting fact of the day:  There is a little village called Notre Dame in Mauritius and they have a little chapel that I guess can count as a mini-cathedral around here.  I didn't see any gargoyles though..

Some ice-skating in front of the Hotel de Ville  (city hall).  I was amazed how much different I experienced Paris form the previous night.  I was definitely starting to get swept up in the wonder...

In front of the Louvre - the largest museum I have ever seen!  I love this photo, because it is so typical of tourist photos.  You cannot control the people in the back and you hardly ever get a photo without other tourists taking over :) 

 A photo of Jaco taking a photo.  My favourite kinds of photos... Look at that magnificent building - and that is just one wing of the Louvre.  

The famous glass pyramid in at the entrance of the Louvre.  Here is some extra information on it.  
In 1983, French President François Mitterrand proposed, as one of his Grands Projets, the Grand Louvre plan to renovate the building and relocate the Finance Ministry, allowing displays throughout the building. Architect I. M. Pei was awarded the project and proposed a glass pyramid to stand over a new entrance in the main court, the Cour Napoléon.[34] The pyramid and its underground lobby were inaugurated on 15 October 1988; the pyramid was completed in 1989. The second phase of the Grand Louvre plan, La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), was completed in 1993. As of 2002, attendance had doubled since completion.[35]

Spot the lovebirds under the some of the great French academics and scholars outside the Louvre...

We walked so much and we felt a little lost most of the time, but we saw some beautiful things along the way.

Chaos at the Mona Lisa.  I did make it to the front though.  I can be very sneaky if need to be :)  

Some of the more interesting pieces we observed along the way.

The Louvre was a great experience, but it is way too much too take in at one go.  There are so many different things to see and you cannot appreciate the beauty and wonder of some of the pieces if you are rushed off to all the other parts.  Some of my favourite things to see in the museum was some of Monet's work, some Johannes Vermeer and many beautiful sculptures.  The Mona Lisa was not my favourite part of the tour, probably because trying to appreciate a portrait while feeling like you are in a mosh pit does not...mesh?

When we finally escaped from this magnificent museum, the city had turned into a magical wonderland... If there was anything in me that still wondered why people fell in love with this city so much, it soon became very clear to me during the magic hour at dusk.


The Eiffel Tower slowly started lighting up in the mist....  

 Street lamps soon transformed the streets of Paris into a fairytale setting...

Jaco admiring the amazing view over the Seine river...

 I have to go back to colour for a few photos to share with you just how amazing this truly was....

The city of love - unfortunately we had no-one that could take photos of us walking around looking in love, but I did manage to take a photo of another loving couple :)

Magnificent view over the river.  The picture doesn't do it justice at all.  I remember thinking that it looked exactly as though we were part of a painting ourselves.  I was mesmerized by how unreal it felt...

City ligths in colour

City ligths in black and white

It was official:  I was in love with Paris.  I could see myself writing novels here, the most beautiful poems. Sonnets singing about the beauty of it all...  And this from a person, who really does not like cities.  

When we could finally tear ourselves away from it all, we rushed back to the train station, to Antony, to the little cold flat to get ready for our night on the town.  It was my birthday and our last night in Paris and we were going to go all out.  A trip up the Eiffel tower with a sip of champagne at the top was what we had in mind and to eat something nice (and not too expensive) in a restaurant afterwards...

Ready for action.  I got a birthday dress from Jaco that day (in between our busy schedule) and I was determined to wear it, no matter how cold it was.  Thanks to leg warmers, awesome boots and a thermal underneath it all and off course my red jacket over everything, I was ready for action.

I can probably do a blog post just on the amount of photos I took of the Eiffel tower.  This has to be one of the most amazing man-made structures ever.  Especially how it lights up at night.  But the architecture is just out of this world.  

Interesting fact:  The Eiffel tower is 6 inches bigger in summer than it is in winter. 

So here follows my Eiffel Tower Series:

 View from the bottom...

And the view from the top...


 Not sure if I will be able to beat this birthday view soon or ever in my life...  It was spectacular.  We didn't mind the cold this time and the shared (very small and not so cheap) glass of champagne helped. 

Last photo of the evening, just as proof that I really was at the Eiffel tower on this magical night.  

We struggled to find an open restaurant, but we did find one eventually.  We ordered something that we thought was steak and salad and that turned out to be stew and salad, but we were hungry and it tasted very good.  Then we were on our way back.  

Oh yes, very important event I forgot to mention.  We managed to contact the owner of the house's sister to come and show us how the internal heating system was working.  We slept much better that night...

Living Change...

I have always been a dreamer and a doer (yes, this is a recognized word).  I do go through some stages where I am a bit more of the one than the other, but I definitely do not fit in just the one category. 
Some people might think that this is a perfect combination, because not only can I can come up with the ideas, but I can also be the one to actually implement them.  The reality of this however is that I often dream big and end up doing little.  Or more accurately, I actually do too much of too many different things and end up starting a lot of things, but not finishing them.
There is obviously a lot of underlying things like time management and perseverance that I need to identify and work on.  I also need to find a way of loosing the art of procrastination. But let's make it sound more glamorous than that for a moment...
Maybe I am just too creative to focus and complete one thing at a time and I need to stimulate my mind with many different things all at once.  Sure I end up getting overwhelmed by everything in the end, but it does keep my life interesting at all times.  (This could be the reason why I am an occupational therapist/volunteer/drama teacher/horse rider  at the moment). 
Whatever the truth might be, I have decided that I want to break this habit of mine a little bit.  I am starting my own company and this is one of the biggest steps (consisting of many many small steps) that I have taken in my life.  I do not want this company to be one of the many side projects I always have going on, because I really believe in what it can do. The name of the company will be Living Change.  Even though the company is about Person Centred Care and not so much about making changes in your own personal life, I have decided to start making some small changes in the mean time. 
I have a box full of unfinished projects.  I have a list in that box with even more little/big things that I keep on postponing.  I am going to challenge myself to start ticking of some items of that list.  I am not going to give myself a time challenge as this will probably lead to this series of blog posts that I will write on my finished projects, to be just another item written on my list of unfinished projects. 
But I am starting today and not tomorrow like I usually tell myself.  I am going to live the change I want to see in my life and break some old habits as I go along.

Project 1:  Finishing my previous blog series. Paris in Black and White.

Note to self:  Do not check social media for the next two hours while working on the first project.

Note to everyone else.  Don't judge me too much if this project ends up on that list too.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

My plaas oupa

Met sy groot hande
En sy klein hart
Met sy grappies en  sy terg
En nou en dan sy vloek
Met sy kennis van die stof
En sy lus vir ietsie soets
Met stories oor sy perde
en liefde vir sy hoenders
Met `n plan in sy sak
En `n vonkel in sy oog

Onthou ek hom
My plaas oupa

Met sy bree skouers
En soms `n traan in sy oog

Die wereld voel deesdae anders
My hart is skielik leeg


The darkness comes from outside
And sifts through the windows
And I throw a few more coals on the fire

And the table and the closet
And all that once felt stable
Melts into shadows on the walls

Our dreams of yesterdays
Becomes melancholic and shady
As reality works by the hour

We plan our own structures
But the slayers are involved
And our dreams become shadows on the wall

On the rhythm of an organ,
Comes an off-beat separation
But everything is good
Because love is a just a fire

En then the fiery courtship
Take us all to court
Because love becomes a shadow on the wall

Dressed in black and white
In a procession to the unknown
We all wonder how much longer it will be

We live in reverse
With the coffin in the attic
And life becomes a shadow on the wall

The darkness comes from outside
And sifts through the windows
And I throw a few more coals on the fire

And my feet and my hands
Become old-known countries
And form shadow-maps on the wall

And then before we know it
The world becomes a shadow on the wall
An ever-fading shadow on the wall…

Interpreted from “`n Skadu teen die Muur – Koos du Plessis”

A little bit of fact, but mostly fiction :)

On the kitchen table…

Sunflowers… Bright, yellow, perfectly spaced, their pellets almost touching as if reaching out to each other.  Together they exist in quiet harmony, aware of their neighbours’ presence, but blooming boastfully on their own.  Knowing in the fact that they represent beauty in their togetherness, but also flaunting it in their singleness…

They rested on a magnificent blue background – the colour of royalty, proudly presenting the golden splashes of yellow all over.  Like stars in the evening sky, twinkling and transforming the dark.  Like yellow submarines, dancing on the waves of the deep, blue ocean. Fleeting moments reflecting life – vast and mysterious with specks of hope all over.  

It was a home-made table cloth, made from the cheapest material.  There was nothing glamorous about it. Like most of the possessions in the humble home on the farm where I grew up.  It was stitched together by my mother’s course fingers, a needle, some yarn and a lot of love as she always told us. 

To other people it would have looked like an ordinary tablecloth.  Perhaps something fitting for the kitchen table of a farm family barely getting by. The sunflowers were doubtless brighter than what is to be expected of good material cloth.  You only had to touch the fabric to discover the poor thread count.  And to really add to the rustic look was sheet of plain plastic, covering the whole table. “A big family is a messy family and a messy family is a happy family”.  We had lots of sayings like that - ones that didn’t come from the outside world, but rather showed our own family rules. Those rules were very different from what society and etiquette stipulated.  Don’t get me wrong, my mother worked very hard to keep our home spotless.  But she allowed and sometimes encouraged us to be messy and have fun – especially around the kitchen table.  Some messes are worth cleaning up she would say when I complained about it. 

My mother was particularly fond of her sunflower tablecloth; therefore she preferred to protect it with the plastic sheet.  This means we got to look at it every day as part of the permanent items in the kitchen, rather than it being a “special occasion” piece.

At first, I hated the table-cloth.  Its scorching colours reminded me of everything about my life that I also hated. The extra-long, faded school skirt I had to wear to school. The fact that my father was just a poor farmer; not a lawyer or a doctor or something glamorous. And the difficult reality that nothing in my life could ever measure up to what my classmates seemed to have. 

Sometimes when we sat around the table, I would look at my family silently wishing for another one, feeling that I belonged somewhere else, somewhere better. The yellow flowers would start melting together as tears forced their way out of my eyes. Suddenly it would become one big sun, burning in the sky, like a ball of fire.  I could see its wicked mouth turning into a grin and then laughing deep out of its throat at the absurdity of my thoughts.  Knowing just like me that I wasn’t worth anything more than the family I was born into. 

I don’t know why things changed.  It was an ordinary afternoon, at our ordinary kitchen table in my ordinary life.  My baby sister was making a big mess while eating. My mother and father were laughing at something my brother said.  I was feeling left out and alone.  A sunbeam started making its way across the table towards me.  In a single moment the ordinary became extraordinary.  The tablecloth transformed in front of my eyes.  What seemed excessive and tasteless turned into expressive, distinctive and rare wonder.  In those moments it was as if Van Gogh himself took a paintbrush and added the finishing touches to an unfinished portrait. 

When I looked up, I saw things differently.  My father was not a poor farmer, but a proud, hard-working, honourable man who gets up every morning at dawn, working hard to provide for his family.  My mother did not look old and run-down anymore, but beautiful and soft, her eyes shining with love when she looks at her family. My sister and my brother were laughing together, looking happier and more content than a lot of my friends who were in seemingly better situations. 

My heart swelled with feelings of gratitude and pride. I was part of a masterpiece after all.  It was captured in every moment we laughed together, in the pain which we endured together, in the love that is lacking in so many other homes.

It was painted on our kitchen table…