Boundaries

“Can we change the subject, please?”

“Why would we?”

“Because it makes me nervous. Can we please talk about something else?”

“Oh come on! Why do you insist, anyway?”

“Because I really do not want to talk about this topic.”

“Oh, you don’t have to – we’ll do all the talking.”

“I don’t want to listen to it either.”

“But we want to talk about it.”

“Okay, I’ll just go upstairs, then.”

“Oh come on! You know we don’t have any taboo topics here. And we’re just joking around anyway.”

“Well, if you find this funny, it’s up to you, but I don’t, and if you insist on continuing, I’ll just go.”

“You know we are like this, it’s not that you can change how we are, really.”

“Really. Anyway, I’ll go upstairs now.”

“See you later!”

“See you.”

 

 

 

But somehow I am the one labelled unreasonable.

Lessons in creativity

A friend of mine, who is also a great tango dancer, published a post (HU only) a while ago about the things he (or anyone) could do to become a better tanguero. He used a method he learnt from a colleague:

if you have a problem, list 20 potential ways of solving it. Finding the first 7-8 will be extraordinarily easy; with some difficulty you’ll get up to 15; finding the last five will be hell on earth.

Of course becoming better at anything lies not only in finding methods, but also, and especially, in applying them; and while I doubt any single one item on the list can in itself make wonders, no matter how diligently applied, it seems common sense that having several ideas and mixing them according to needs and possibilities it a good way to go forward.

So I challenged myself to a list of 30.

My list, of course, concerns Oriental dance and how I (or others) can become better at it. Here it is:

  1. practice as often as you can.
  2. learn with different teachers; take workshops.
  3. dance in a troupe.
  4. dance solo.
  5. work your own choreographies.
  6. work other dancers’s choreographies.
  7. learn about the use of space and directions.
  8. improvise.
  9. focus on technique.
  10. focus on expression.
  11. take every chance to perform. Perform to your best each time.
  12. go to haflas and concerts: dance for the fun of it.
  13. take part in at least a few contests.
  14. get feedback from professionals: your teachers, contest judges, etc.
  15. get feedback from fellow dancers.
  16. get feedback from non-dancers (or non-Oriental dancers).
  17. see the masters: if you can’t see them live, DVDs and Youtube are your friend.
  18. watch oriental dance in any and all of its forms, from the street to the grand theatre.
  19. listen to all kinds of Oriental music. Learn songs.
  20. work with musicians.
  21. learn how to work with a drummer.
  22. improve your communication with the audience.
  23. learn the gestures of wherever your dance style comes from.
  24. learn (at least some) Arabic (or Turkish, or…).
  25. go to Egypt / Turkey / Lebanon (and/or wherever your favourite style has its roots), if you have the chance.
  26. meet people from the Middle-East / North Africa. Talk to them. Listen to them.
  27. learn about Middle-Eastern history and culture: read books, articles, watch films (that’s where speaking the language comes in handy 🙂 )
  28. learn about the history of the dance.
  29. read poetry from the region, folkloric and otherwise.
  30. learn about the societal contexts of dancing.
  31. learn especially about concepts of femininity.
  32. learn folk dances of the region.
  33. try out other dance styles.
  34. start teaching. Make sure you’re prepared to do it.

+1: blog about it: the things you find best to share are the most useful for you as well.

Feel free to add some more in the comments.

a letter never sent

Dear …,

I am writing a story. I am writing the story you owe me, because I have given up on you ever paying your debt.

While there might have been times when a story could be bought or commanded, those times are past now; in any case, this particular one could only ever be given freely. When we last met, you named this debt as your own and gave me a promise – freely! – to tell it, but you never did. I have not even heard of you since, in fact.

So I decided to write it intstead of you. It will be different from all the other stories I have written, for it has to be more profane and prosaic than any of them to be credible. In all probability, it will not be beautiful, either.

Still, I will write it, and the writing will be the easier part. For after that, I will have to believe it. Just as the Son, who had, under expert instructions, dreamt his wings, and then had to forget the time he had lived without, I will have to believe this story to be true, as if you had truly told me.

I will probably lose whatever confidence I still have in you in the process, as well as any goodwill that’s left. I am well aware you could not care less about it. If I do my job properly, neither will I, by the end.

Nevertheless, I wish you all the best.

an e-mail from the past

On New Year’s Day*, I received an e-mail – from my past self**.

27-year-old Eszter (Maura) was convinced she could never write her “(future) self a letter and not remember every word of whenever it is actually delivered”. She could. I forgot every word of it.

I will not quote it, being, typically, a mix of English, Spanish and Italian.

My past self had pretty much the same goals as I do, including one regarding coming to Brussels, about which I could have some words with her. She asked me about work (best I’ve had and quite cool on a universal scale), about dance, mentioning pizzica and tammurriata (which I have since danced, though not nearly enough), as well as Oriental (I came a long way since that moment, and brewing new things these days***); about health (gosh, worst two years past, hopefully ever, getting better now); about autonomy (nailed it).

She asked me about my paperboat project (an imaginary travel agency, left in half – my fleet is supposed to be at a friend’s place, though she moved last year…), my writing (see elsewhere on this site), about travels (I’m quite content on this point). She asked me if she was still single (not still, but again).

She reminded me about a certain trip to Cádiz I was planning: postponed, it’s still on schedule.

Looking at this, I’m much more satisfied with my life.

 

 

* New Year’s Day, 2016. I was in a way too bad place last year to write about it.

** Write yourself one at www.futureme.org.

*** I cannot bring myself to write about future plans without a set time and a high probability, so I’ll write about them more in detail when that moment comes.

 

 

 

Arrival 2.0

Illusions are but a handy tool

I stepped off the plane, thanking the skies for the upteenth time that the sun would shine as I returned. My hand itched for my phone, but I steeled myself not to call – we said our goodbyes as best we could, there was no point in trying to change that. So I pocketed my phone, useless as it was: there wasn’t a single person in the city who knew when I arrived or when I should arrive, much less anyone who cared. (No, my boss does not count.)

I spent my way home trying hard not to cry.

Before I went home, I had convinced myself that no one, not even myseld needed to know I would only be gone for two weeks. Parting ways is much easier if it’s inevitable, even if you have to fool yourself into believing that.

This time, trying to keep myself afloat, I decided I would be as if newly arrived. I’m not at the point of denying my past two years here (I do deny from time to time that I speak English, though), but if anyone asks, I tell them I’m playing at being new in town.

And I play the part well.

It works.

 

Anaesthesia

I woke up crying
and I felt my dream shatter and fade away within the second.

‘Don’t cry’ they said, ‘you’ll only hurt yourself.’
Don’t I know that. Yet, I could not stop, not for a good time.

‘But why?’ they asked.
‘For I am sad’
‘Because of your surgery??’
‘No, for other reasons’, I answered, trying desperately – and in vain – to cling on to the fragments of my dream,

unsure whether it was the dream itself, or losing it, that made me cry.

Someone please tell me where forgotten dreams go.

Friendly competition

I was ten years old when I went to this poetry reciting contest at the encouragement of my schoolteacher, where I was awarded the fourth place.  I cried all the way home: no-one could convince me that it wasn’t a failure.

Ever since, I had a certain aversion to competitions. I did take part in a few, mostly in academic ones (the national contest for high school students and the like), was successful in some of them and less so in others. I avoided non-academc ones for fear of failing again.

I was 18 when I signed up to a dance contest as a soloist. I played finger cymbals (ever heard about the “Let’s Screw Ourselves” Movement?),  I had a costume malfunction, and a jury who was not inclined to appreciate my style, to put it nicely.

It took me more than ten years to go to a dance contest again. Since last summer, I went to five different contests, the last one being at the  Cairo by Night festival last weekend. And finally, I learnt how to compete. Of course, I’ve always known, in a rational way,  that a contest is a means to learn, an opportunity to meet fellow dancers, a chance to get feedback from the masters and from the members of the audience – dancers and non-dancers alike. That it is a way to expose myself and be seen, with all the advantages and challenges of being seen. But now, finally, I internalised it. Finally, I can truly enjoy watching fellow contestants. Finally, I can truly appreciate all the feedback I get, even if some of the critique I get still hurts. Finally, I can heartily congratulate the both winners and the ones I like the best (and I’ll admit sometimes they are not the same, though this last time they were).

Finally, I learnt the meaning of friendly competition.

Running in circles

Last year, on New Year’s morn, even while walking home from the party I knew I’d be ill. What I did not know was that I’d have practically constant sinusitis for 3 months straight and would have to be operated at the end. This year started in a similar manner, so at the second round I visited a specialist, who happens to be very thorough – aside from the one-week cure for my most evident symptoms and some rest at home he put me under medication for 3 months and regularly orders me back for controls. He even sent me to have a CT examintaion to see if I need yet another operation.

To say I dislike being under medication is quite the understatement. No-one likes is, I guess, but I know some who are indifferent if they need it to get better, people who, for instance, regularly take painkillers for headaches and so on. I’m not: I’m all for natural treatments and will not take a pill unless I don’t have another option. This time, having learnt from last year, I realise I don’t.

But there’s something else, and that’s what makes me write all this, even though sharing these details on the web does make me squirm a bit. I also realise that all the chronic and recurring issues I have are much more closely connected to my lifestyle choices, notably my eating and sleeping habits and stress levels. And there I’m puzzled.

It’s one thing I tend to do too much, which in turn leads me to sleep too little and not care about what I eat. Then, if I force myself to slow down, I become restless, and if I set myself rules about food and sleep and whatnot, I get stressed from it. When stressed, I tend to overeat, mostly sweets – with which I’m surely not alone, but which would be the single most important thing to stop –, as well as stay up late, even when I slow down my projects, just reading things I’ve read a hundred times already. Exhausted, I dope myself with coffee and stress out even more, and it all turns into a rather vicious circle I don’t know where to get hold of. At times it takes me several days, even weeks to get hold of myself, then I restart, shifting my focus one way or another in hopes of better results, which may come, but only in quantity (of time), never in quality. (This is why I compare everything to my life in Genova: that was the only exception, ever.)

I’m not asking for advice, however  much it may seem at first. So please don’t give any, I won’t keep them anyway. But I’d love to hear about your own struggles and solutions, if you’d share.

The Big Slowdown

another depressive post – you’ve been warned

Even aside of environmental concerns, I have to admit that as much as I used to love flying, I don’t enjoy it that much anymore. Takeoff and landing are especially harsh on me, as is the simple unnaturality of the speed. At times, I don’t even look out the window.
So I was none too happy to board not one, but two planes to go to Germany  (and then two again, to come back) for a weekend to visit with friends, however much I enjoyed my time with them. I also realised that one really has to have a certain rhythm to life to label a weekend spent in a household with a three-year-old “calm” – even if the kid is someone else’s child. It was a rhythm over even my usual pace
– and it came, of course, to a crashing halt just a couple of days later, when I fell ill with sinusitis (again). Considering that last year, when despite the illness I could not (would not?) slow down, I ended up having sinusitis for three months straight and then had to be operated, I don’t seem to have a choice. So in the ten days I spent home, I did some serious thinking, called off the dance competition I had signed up to and another show (here’s why I rarely if ever write about plans and future),  and decided to cancel any regular evening programs, this means mostly the French conversation table and Toastmasters, except for my weekly dance classes for an indeterminate time, as well as my early morning practice routine. (Yes, I also wonder: until when?)
Boring or not, I need balance.
Still working on it.

Colours of Andalucía – a maze of stories II.

it took me quite long (but I promised, so) here you go...

What I remembered of the colours of Andalucía was the white of the houses, the almost transcendent gold of the sunlight, and the deep purple of what turned out to be the flower of a banana tree.

In Sevilla, white goes accompanied by  warm, earthly ochres and sandstone, lined with  rich dark reds and the strong colours of azulejos. Of Sevilla itself I remembered litlle, to be honest, and as welcoming as the city – and its people – is, I had to realise how little I knew about the place.

In the San Salvador church, abour half-a-dozen middle-aged ladies were sitting on the front benches, praying: one of them would recite the first line and then the others joined in for the answer and finished te verse. They were already there when we entered; aprroximately an hour later, when we left, they still went on.

Meandering through the countless chambers, patios and gardens of the Real Alcázar, I suddenly understood having travelled there at the age of 9 made me ultimately pursue studies in architecture. It still urges me to immerse myself in the history, tales and art of those times.  of course, the same stands for the Moqsue of Córdoba,  which remains on of the most impressive buildings I've ever seen. Add to this the comments of my friend Raúl, who not only is an architect but also comes from the province of Málaga adn therefore knows much more of it than for example I do – you get the idea. It was so good to see him anyways: he was in budapest some 6 years ago, and we haven't met ever since. And though it may seem otherwise from this far, Andalucía is quite big, so simply arranging to meet somewhere was quite a feat. Yet we managed, and so talked through the day about past, present and future, as usual. He seems to have changed in a subtle, inexplicable way that is probably what growing up does to people. It struck me again how much of memory became intangible for the mere fact I had forgotten his accent, his ways of speaking (yes, I am a language freak).

Having seen the amount of wealth accumulated in Sevilla (and elsewhere), there's something I keep thinking about.  That is, if we (some people, including me) think that the extreme concentration of resources is harmful to the society as a whole, how can or how should we approach great artwork, knowing that the ones we consider the greatest are (with very few exceptions) results of an extreme concentration of resources in the hands of a select few? Not to deny or undervalue the talent that created them, of course, but almost none of these greatest works would exist without the exceptional richness of aperson or family that commissioned them (or, in certain cases, the artists themselves, who therefore didn't have to do any other work).

One of the great things about travelling as a grown-up (as opposed to travelling as a child) is that ou can stay up later. This of course is not something in and for itself, but becomes rather important when you can stay up & out threee nights in a row, going to 1) a concert of medieval music / music from Al-Andalus  in the Alcázar gardens, 2) a flamenco concert on the riverside, 3) another flamenco night, in this case with dance, to a place where there's a show every night but you can get very much surprised by the different artists each time. On our last night in Sevilla, we saw one of these surprising dancers.
She was sitting next to the musicians, dressed rather differently than the usual professional flamenco dancers you might see around town, with a make-up that only emphasised how very tired she looked. Next to the podium there were two little girls, probably her daughters and an elderly lady, I guess her mother, and she kept glancing, distracted, to the dirls, especially the smaller one, about maybe two years old. And still, it was completely evident that once she stood up to dance she would be muuch better than all the others we had seen. In fact, she was probably the best I have ever seen – so strong, so alive, so completely with the music, so without any of the dancing clichés some tend to use when dancing. Her name is Ana Japón, but I could not find anything about her on the net.

Having two more days off than my friend (with whom I travelled), once she took her flight I took a train to Cádiz, a town of dreams, unknown.

Cádiz is small, and these days insignificant, at least seemingly, with a history of millennia lost to the eyes, most of the ancient city having been destroyed. Cádiz proper, that is, the old town is a grid of narrow but straight streets lined with buildings of the 1700s, the golden era of Cádiz – and whichever street you take, in whichever direction, you will probably end up on the seaside. On the Caleta beach, a small urban beach in between two fortresses – one with the lighthouse – and lots of fishing boats, there is a much-recommended sight, a theatre show to see each and every day: the sunset. Cádiz is small, but of course in my two days I could not by far discover all the beauties of even Cdiz proper, much less the new part. I do not know the city, nor its sea. I do know maybe three of its songs, and I have met and had lengthy conversations with about a dozen of its people, once I got the hang of their dialect and started to understand more than half of what they were saying.

Cádiz is the Port.
Cádiz smells of the sea.

of all the small things

Time change means days that are (relatively) warm and sunny, but end somewhat before 6pm in evenings that’s both warm and crisp, and somehow exotic and in-between for me.

It’s been just slightly more than 5 months that I’m here. That’s more than what I spent in Genova alltogether – and I cannot but compare, amongst other things because that time (more precisely the second half of it) was so far the best. There I had a true Mediterranean summer, here spring turned almost immediately into autumn. Time flows differently: in 5 months in Genova so much more happened, as normal when staying for a determined time, and in summer. I remember lightness, warmth and a feeling of free fall – here I am grounded, colder, and things slow as growing plants.

Today I miss my friends. The ones at home, and the ones in Genova and Barcelona, friendships not as old and deep, but no less meaningful and much more intense. And while I know that finding friends like the ones I have at home takes a very long time if not forever, I wonder if not finding people like I found in my ports is due to the difference in place, to sheer luck, or if I have changed so much since then.

A maze of stories I.

Time accumulates behind me and untold stories, wishing to be written, follow me relentlessly, to the very shore of the sea. As does inquietude – and only the sound of waves and the smell of salt did alleviate me for those few years. And now that I sit down to grant these stories what they so incessantly demanded, words evaporate and phrases melt.

reunion

August came and flew away, with but a few days to see the open skies. I had my sister and her son visiting me for a full week, so long yet so short; we visited the local fun fair, ate an indecent amount of fries and waffles and went to sleep at some hours slightly too late for my four-year-old nephew. We visited Brugge and the seaside – the latter by bike – and managed to ride across the Zwin national reserve (with no public lighting, of course) at around 10pm, spending the first half of the trip fearing the things lurking in the dark and the second half fearing my nephew would fall asleep and off the bike as well as of losing our way. On the way back, next day, it was raining cats and dogs, so of the actual natural reserve – which would have been the goal of our trip – we didn’t see much. We did see Brugge the canals and the seaside though, and it’s quite very enjoyable to cycle on the lowlands in any case.

Brugge


in Brugge

 

seaside

 

I went home for a very brief but as dense weekend to see one of my oldest friends getting married, and meet everyone I could in about 60 hours I spent in the country.

Hardly back in Brussels, having slept  about 4 hours and taken the 6AM plane as well as being late, I ran into this strange guy in a fast food where I wanted to get something for lunch. He approached me saying he got his wallet stolen and asked me to offer him a meal. I did; but I also gave him my phone number, which turned out to be a mistake. He asked me whether he could crash at my place, which I didn’t really feel like, but I  promised I’d try to help (hence the number thing). Witout being to find anyone to host him and after some insistance, I told him to meet me at a certain place and hour and that I might host him for the night, though there was something amiss, so I didn’t go to the meeting point alone. As he arrived, I started to ask hime questions, so as to understand what had happened to him.
’You know, I’m just travelling low-cost, I’m liable to ask anyone to host me.’
’Didn’t you tell me you wallet was lost?’

’Well, yeah, that too.’
As if this wasn’t enough, when Luís spoke up, he his answer was something like ’I don’t know who the f*ck you are and what the f*ck you have to say.’ (Says the one who failed to greet him, though evidently he was with me, let alone introduce himself.) Then he attacked, in an absurd reversely-possessive way, telling Luís ’you don’t own her, you don’t know anyone in life’, and would have gone on if I hadn’t told him to stop, that he was there because I asked him to, and that I was making a decision whether to trust him and he wasn’t helping the case.  His answer was ’I understand your boyfriend is unhappy about  you having a stranger sleeping at your place.’ Honestly. As if that was the actual risk, really. I asked him if I could help in any other way, then gave him some money as he requested. He called me three times since, acting as if nothing had happened. I blocked his number after the last one.

Then, I went to Spain. To Andalucía, to be precise – and that will go to a separate post. As it goes, my notebook was full, so I did not bring it with me there; and I had so much to think and write about that one of the first things to do was to buy a notebook. Of course, as my friend Mari arrived and whe plunged into discovering the city of Sevilla, the most I got to jot down were ideas condensed into 4-5 words.

There was one, titled ’the Beginning – no2’. And that was because just before going there I felt something started here in Bruxelles, a movement, a true beginning (again, as so many times). But I cannot for anything recall the words I had for it, the words that would have described it properly. By the time I came back, the feeling faded, too, as it was only to be expected. But things have started: things like dance courses and suchlike that do make me feel more present here. Things like the fact that I had my office rearranged and brought about 10 plants from one that is currently unused – making it quite homely so.

I even had my father visit for a couple of days.

Life is cool.

balance is boring

This was my weekly challenge, the task I set myself last Sunday – under the after-effects of Gentse feesten as I was: to have a balanced week. This may sound either easy or not very clear, so here are the approximate rules:

  1. Eat well. That’s actually two rules: a) don’t eat crap, b) don’t eat anything in a way only crap is worth eating.
  2. Sleep decent hours (7 per day at least)
  3. Exercise.
  4. Limit screen time: don’t waste life on the web.
  5. Be productive: tick off one thing from the list per day.
  6. Do something important and/or interesting every day.

The results? well…. Sunday, though otherwise not overly enjoyable, was perfect in terms of the above; Monday was cool. The cracks started to appear on Tuesday in the form of some chocolate or so; on Wednesday I overslept and had to shorten my morning routine of yoga&dance, and after work did just about nothing but surf on the net. Thursday I overslept even more (will not mention what I ate), only did the yoga part, but also had to do some other things in the morning, so I was quite very late from work, but went to a French conversation event in the evening. On Friday I could hardly get up at all, but went out with my colleagues to see a film. And to eat fish&chips (it was good, so no comment).

All in all I couldn’t quite keep to my rules. I did sleep decent hours, but honestly, I feel that if I am more rested that’s more due to the weekend’s two-figure sleep than whatever I tried to do during the week. I ate a lot of things I should rather have avoided; it’s Sunday and I still have a good couple of items on my list. I went out 3 nights out of 5, and the remaining two I was restless as hell.

I felt distant, muted and not quite myself.

If my standard over-active and chaotic lifestyle regularly gets me sick, and this calmer and more balaced one feels forced and makes me restless, then what am I to do?

Any advice?*