Paris

I left to Paris. By train. I miss Parisian air, ravaged people, and hats … Trocadero.

With my purse on the shoulder, the scarf gently hanging on my back and wearing the biggest sun glasses, I went to the city if light. I think about all the movies, songs, images and books referring to Paris. There are thousands – pastel or black and white – this is how I imagined everything about this beautiful European city.

Today I just write, walk, think and drink good coffee. I unwind and relax. My short red coffee awaits me. I miss it, I miss its scent…I miss the newspapers lying around and Luis – Mr. waiter and owner – who is over 60 years old, who remembered my name since the first day I entered his coffee shop: « Ooo, Oana, ca fait longtemps que je vous ai plus vu. On vous attendait ».

I miss the hats store. Most of them are vintage: worn by all sorts of people, tens or thousands of years ago. Each hat has its own story. The place and time when it was exposed are unique. There are so many mysteries hidden in these small objects… Scarves are next … and gloves. From the most expensive lace to the most cheaper silk – vivid colors, portraits, cities or just nature.

Paris is just the capital of France. It is also the capital of fashion, gastronomy, arts and romanticism. Street musicians are great; they fit into the decor and adapt their style. Painters you see in the grand squares make you thing of the great Parisian artists. Small and crowded restaurants make you feel like you belong. Being in a little hurry, the waiters only talk French. There is no other language for them. They don’t care if you are a French speaker or not. They keep talking and look deep into your eyes, something like: « What do you do in Paris if you don’t speak French? ».

Museums are amazing. You have to get here at least once in a life time. To endure queues, the cold and the heat outside (according to the season), to laugh, to take a lot of photos and to shoot at least once near the Eiffel Tower. Almost every time I passed there I saw a proposal. A big white cloth saying « Do you want to marry me? », either with chalk on asphalt, or just the man deeply in love screaming as loud as possible: « I want you for the rest of my life ».

This is Paris. I missed this excitement, I missed their marvelous grapes and nuts cheese, I missed staring while holding a glass of white wine, I missed the charming streets of this city. I can hardly wait to see if my opinion will be the same once more: most of the French men wear brown shoes, with lace, a little worn – Parisian style! The scarf is customary. No matter the color, size or material – it has to be there – from suits to jeans to dresses. A T- shirt and a scarf and you fit perfectly. Red lipstick, discrete make-up, the hair gently put in a loop, a couple of bracelets and that’s it – you may go – on the streets, on the alleys, visiting stores, museums and restaurants. You become one with the city and you fall in love with all that surrounds you, all that you can see and smell.

It energizes me, I am willing and enthusiastic and I get off the train: Bienvenue a Paris!

London

I’m back.

I had one more week to stay in Brighton. Every weekend we used to make a trip. We’ve been in Paris, Amsterdam and Edinburgh. There were school trips; we were travelling in a rented bus, stayed for two nights, visiting what it was worth seeing. I had a few friends in London, so I decided to by a train ticket and go there by myself. I still remember the road as it was yesterday. I reached Victoria Station where a friend of mine was waiting for me. She would change my life and convince me to stay in London to study. Thank you, Z! Maybe it wasn’t much for her, but it was the big turning point of my life. We were chatting in her little flat, sitting on the window sill in her kitchen. She had already been there for a year. No matter what she told me, my answer was “I just can’t wait to get back home”. It was an extraordinary weekend, totally different from one in Bucharest. I accompanied her at the Regents College and it seemed fascinating, I felt like a shadow among the glamour surrounding me. With the backpack on my shoulder, I was surrounded by bags and shoes from the last collections of the great fashion houses. Honestly, I enjoyed it, everything was well organized and people were kind. My friend convinced me to go to the college registry and ask what I need to register myself here. I was pleased to find out there were no queues and that the secretaries were very nice and they lacked the bitterness of the ones back home who were waiting to be bribed before paying you attention. Sorry to say, but this is my point of view about the universities in Romania. I was listening to her and comparing the way she spoke English after just one year spent there with the way I did. Besides, it was just the registering period and I could start that September, which was in less than two weeks time. I didn’t feel prepared, but I decided to give it a try. They told me I have to pass an English language test and I started to get confident. I had one week to get ready. I left for Brighton and I was to get back to London few days later. I spent my time studying, but it wasn’t enough time to pass the test. I scored 5.5 and I was supposed to score at least 6.5 in order to pass. Don’t think about our grading system as here is completely different. Anyway, I didn’t pass than. I cried a lot then and now I can’t understand why as I really had no chance to start in September, first of all because I wasn’t feeling up to do something which for I had no logical explanation. I started the three months training programme to prepare for the next admission test. I had the same schedule as in Brighton. Until that point, it was quite simple: I had to go to school, to learn, pass the test and in February I was supposed to start College. I didn’t even realise I started to grow up. I was living with my friend and I had out to burst the bubble, to get out from my perfect little world from home and start depending on myself. I was 19 and I felt like I knew nothing. I was looking around me to see children who left home at 10 and who seemed to know everything, not needing their parents any longer, or maybe just needed their money to live in the expensive city of London. I first moved to a college dormitory, much fancier than the ones in Romania, but minuscule. Obsessed by clothes as I always was, it was just like living in a small warehouse with shoes and bags. It took a while until I learned that I needed to open a bank account, that I needed God knows how many letters of recommendation, that there was no room for hooey and that you have to take care of yourself. They were demanding and you just have to deliver without any delay: at the bank, at college, with the rent. I had no credit there as I was a student and especially new in this country, so the process took longer than usual, but I managed to do it. I have learned that bread gets mouldy and I am not ashamed to admit that back home I had no idea that bread should be bought daily. I have learned that little by little bills add up and if you don’t pay for the electricity you’ll end up sitting in the dark. I have learned to observe every rule, including where to take the garbage and which colour the garbage bags are supposed to have. The fine for not observing these rules was half my monthly allowance. I have always been on a tight budget, from the first day I arrived there, even if many thought that Oana was spending in London as much as some people doing a life time. There were moths when I ran out of money from the first week, but I never called home to ask for money, no matter how the situation was and my parents can confirm. Anyway, I owe them everything; they’ve supported me there and provided an allowance which is more than a student spends in Romania. It is true that costs are very different there as well. They always sent everything I needed, but I have never asked for more.

 

Besides all practical things mentioned above, I have learned to be a human being. I came here being nobody, just “Oana”, it didn’t matter who my parents were, what they were doing, how much money I had in my account or what car I was driving since everybody had maybe 100 times more than I did. I had to decide what kind of people I should join and I had some unpleasant experiences, I had to get into drugs to stay in one group, but I didn’t. I stood up and I left, I said “no” even though I knew I would never get out with these people again. I went out with kids born with the silver spoon in their mouth. And when saying this I have in mind a totally different level than the one in Romania. There are people who can afford to spend the price of one bedroom flat in Bucharest just in one night at the club. I didn’t feel comfortable either, one time was just enough. We are still in touch, but we rarely see each other for a coffee. They are just acquaintances and nothing more. I can declare myself lucky for meeting “normal” people there, dear friends which will always have a place in my heart, no matter where we are in the world. We are lucky enough to have access to advanced technology which helps us keep in touch as much as possible.

 

Anyway, I passed the exam with a score of 7.5 and I started to go to college in February, 2010. I spent my first two weeks weeping and literally banging my head against the walls. I wanted to get back home, I didn’t understand a word of what teachers were saying and I was ashamed to open my mouth when I listened how the other students were speaking. I was still making language mistakes, but I learned that practice makes perfection. During breaks, there was gossip about news, novelties, politics and stuff. If you were not into reading, you were considered stupid and with no opinion. Every evening I started reading the newspapers so I could say something about what was happening in the world. It wasn’t easy, I can assure you. I know it sounds nice: London, clubs, money, but there is much more than that. In the beginning, the things from home that I missed were more important. I guess I could read a book about my years in London and especially about the change I had to make during the last years. The things I’ve learned there could never be learned in Romania even if you are the richest man on the planet, you just can’t. I started there to be on my own, without my mother to fix me breakfast or my father to take care of all my problems. There were days when there was nobody to give me a hug and nights when I was suffering alone from a cold or maybe I just had my mom to talk with on the phone. There I was all alone and no matter how hard it was, I wouldn’t change a thing. Or maybe I would also leave home at 10, just that.

The Beginning in Brighton

I have been living in England for over 4 years. I remember when I landed here, knowing nothing, but full of thoughts, expectations and mostly questions. I left home with tears in my eyes only for a month to attend an English course in Brighton. I was supposed to live with a family, to go to school every day from 9 to 5, eat whatever they were willing to offer, sleep in a minuscule bed and on top of everything to share the bathroom with some completely strangers. I was not complaining, but it was completely different from the way I used to live at home. Arriving with two big suitcases, they offered me 3 little shelves to put my clothes on. I was sitting in my room, wandering what’s the worth of all these. The course started and after 12 years of studying English plus private weekly lessons, I was barely able to string 2 or 3 sentences. It was nobody’s fault, maybe just mine. I thought I could be admitted in the intermediate group, but I was almost a beginner. One can feel ashamed to acknowledge or to admit that you know nothing when you thought you know everything, but I eventually did. I was taking the bus to go to school every day, at 8,35 I was supposed to be at the bus station and if I were late even for one minute, I had to wait another 20 minutes for the next bus. It was 80% mandatory attendance, I was learning things I was already supposed to know: the price of the public transportation pass; you always need a brolly in the rain land, shoes always have to be comfortable and a thin leather jacket wasn’t enough anymore to prevent me from shivering or from getting a cold. I had to dress properly and everything was fine. I wasn’t going to attend a fashion show; I was going to study, to learn. It took me a while to accept all these and especially to understand their meaning. I was having lunch with my colleagues in the school cantina or in the nearby restaurants. It is funny when I try to remember the faces of my colleagues and teachers, people who stepped into my life, changed it somehow and thou, it seems they have never existed, I vaguely remember their names. I only remember the face of the secretary who brought us the finals’ results. She was a tall, strong woman with a long blond hair and had a wonderful English accent. I am sure she doesn’t remember me as there are hundreds, maybe thousands students who she had to do with. For her it was just another day at the office, while for me it was more than important. She handed me the certificate proving how well or how bad I passed the final exam. I had done well, very well actually.

 

Every evening at 6 I was getting back at the family I lived with. I am now sorry I didn’t keep in touch with them; I’d like to go and have a coffee with them. Even distant as English people are, they were very nice and willing to make me feel good. I used to have my side of the fridge and every time I looked, I saw the fruits on their shelf and I craved. I don’t usually have lots of fruits, but because their fruits were out of my reach, it seemed to be the tastiest ones. I took 2 or 3 grapes from a bunch and it tasted so good, like the best grapes I’ve ever had. They kept asking me what I’d like to have for dinner, I never requested something in particular, first of all because I was ashamed and secondly because I thought they were just being polite and nothing more. There were evenings when I almost licked my fingers, but sometimes I had to hide the food in a napkin instead of swallowing it. As I was coming from a different culture, with different habits and eating style, it was normal not to like everything. It was my first experience of this kind and I had to conform. I guess I mostly did it. About three weeks later, my mom and my grandmother came to visit me. I had tears in my eyes when I saw them. It was like I just saw someone familiar after 3 years in the army. What a spoiled child I was, wherever I may roam across the world, even for a few days, I just need my mom’s presence. I still remember the hotel on the beach where we had tea and some very tasty cookies.

 

Memories, memories… this was just the beginning of it. This is how I left home just for a month, thinking to get back as soon as possible. But my life changed in an instant, just by a simple trip to London… I’ll be back tomorrow.

 

Have a nice day!

 

Ten little aeroplanes

Again on my way to the airport, luggage, check-ins, waiting. Nothing seems interesting anymore, nothing new.

I always have lots of luggage, lucky to have frequent flyer mileage so I don’t have to pay extra, I never have security check problems, I already learned the drill and it never beeps: the laptop on the side, all bracelets off, no creams, no liquids… And so on. I have my own place, my own table at the coffee shop before I got on the plane, with my cell-phone, with my laptop or with a good book. This time I forgot to take my books so I’m left with the first two. Almost every time I meet someone I know in the airport and today also happened. I enjoy it as the time seems to pass easier, an opinion, some gossip… small talk. Eventually, I crawl towards the gate with my cell-phone stuck to my ear and holding my bag, I sit in my place and wonder how people are push and fuss to get on the plane. Middle aged women who would rather rest their little feet are burn the planks in the line way before the check-in being closed. Maybe they were told that the first 10 people who get on the plane will reach the destination sooner than the rest of the passengers. Usually I am the last one getting on the plane. I don’t like either being pushed, or rushing anybody, as about standing for too long… squeamish, yeap! There are some people with special privileges silently going in front of the row to take benefit of their advantages. It is pretty logical, isn’t it? Well, one madam with a bloke by her side starts yelling and pulling the poor guy who was only doing what he was in his right to do: “Why don’t you stay in line like the rest of us?” Some other voices from the background somehow support her demand. The gentleman in question does not gratify her with an answer. I already smile and wait to see what the angry lady will do next. Unfortunately, she does nothing, but the nice gentleman approaches her to explain and calm her down. What a pity, a little squabble would have been nice!

Finally, I get on the plane. I always pick certain seat numbers and a place at the window… another superstition. And not because I am afraid of flying, is just because I can. As I walk slowly towards my seat, what a surprise: the angry lady and her companion are sitting next to me… Pff… never make fun of someone’s ignorance, shame on me! I politely ask them to let me get to my seat. Luckily, I am the last one. Otherwise, the aisle would have been totally blocked: 3 handbags for each one, a sky jacket, scarf and cap, 2 bottles of water and I guess there is something to eat under the seat. Peacefully waiting, I say nothing and in the end I sit down. I am about to make one last call when I hear: “Miss, shut down the damn phone, can’t you hear the woman speaking on the microphone?” First time I smiled and continued to talk, but she doesn’t stop. She taps my shoulder and insists. I hang up and look at her and try to calm her down, telling her that the door is not even closed, there’s no point to worry since I’ll respect every rule and she can correct me if I’ll somehow be wrong. She kept growling a little, but I ignored her. After a while, the flight attendant started to explain the safety measures in case of emergency. The couple was analysing each and every one of them, even trying the suggested postures in case of plane crash. Honestly, I was amazed. You may probably be thinking I am exaggerating, but it goes on. When the presentation is over, she approaches me again: “I don’t understand, have you seen where are those yellow masks falling from?” As I was already feeling my blood boiling, I answered even more politely than before: “Please ask the crew members, I have never been flying before.”

 

Eventually, we took off. I can understand that people are amazed when they fly for the first time, but it was too much: “Marin, look, the plane is tilting on the left. If only we arrive in one piece, pray to get there in one piece, see if we have the life vest.” I am rude, I know, I put on my earphones and tried to sleep. I just dozed off for one moment when she tapped my shoulder: “Miss, wanna eat?” I opened my eyes, said “No, thank you” and closed my eyes. Not even two minutes later and again: “Don’t you wanna drink something either?” I actually felt like one of us is going crazy. I pulled off my earphones and started: “Madam, may I be left to sleep in peace, please? I am not hungry or thirsty and for later: I want no coffee either!” She glared at me and nudged Marin like “Do you hear that one?” and shuts up. Everything was in good order, I was killing the time with a movie when I see Marin’s wife (never heard her name), covered in sweat trying to pull something from beneath my seat. For a change, I tried to act nicely and offered to help. “Dear, give me my cap, I dropped it and it is draught in here. And there is an empty bottle too; I can fill it with water to keep it in my bag.” I leaned down, gave the woman the cap and the bottle and made her happy. Of course, she is that kind of woman who keeps talking endlessly: “In my youth I used to be just like that, so elastic!” I smiled and put back my earphones… Such a   flight to remember…

Istanbul

As of the plane begins to land, on the small window I can feel the heat of Istanbul. Buildings are not very tall, however their color and shape are absolutely fascinating for me. Anyhow, this is a very little detail, if we make a comparison with the atmosphere in the heart of the city and the way I feel anytime I put my foot in this crowded and at the same time exciting city. It’s as if the sea gets mixed with the land. Just like buildings are one next to the other, so are the ships, which are literally suffocating.

Regardless of the reasons for my visits in Turkey, I’ve always felt like this. Cities are different, however not completely. But today I shall report strictly on Istanbul. I’ve tried to remember the first time I got here, however I find it impossible to do this, anyway,  I was very young, somewhere around 3 years old. Everything that came from the “Turkish people” back then, was better, having more quality. Perhaps this idea still lingers on, since the trade between Romania and Turkey is so prosperous. Of course, bearing in mind the times that we are living in…

I can say every nation has its specific traits and after a while, and a few walks I got to get there, in my attempt to classify people. So, landing on the Ataturk airport, the madness begins. Crowds of people, some running, others walking like on a boulevard, ,… however none yelling. At least them, the main guests. They speak loudly, laugh a lot, but their kindness and help I have never met in such a big number in any other cities. While standing in line for our passports, which line seemed as if endless, 2 – 3 Turkish people of a small stature start mingling and get in front of us. Some women were jumping over the fences, which were there only formally, others were going straight in front, forgetting about the already existing line. No one said anything, this being something normal for them. but what about the rest of us? I’ve just sat silent, looking at them and analyzing them, the way they are and I love them for the way they are. It’s not long that one can hear a British accent, a lady, that type of a lady that I talked to you about a little while ago, who puts on her glasses and tries to explain to them her point of view, and I believe in an ironic way, the good manners too! I quickly turned my eyes looking at my Turkish person. His reaction was amazing from my point of view. I let him understand that that’s the way Turkish people are, smiling and inviting him to get in front of me if he’s in a hurry. I got this very well stuck in my head and I believe I shall always remember this when I get caught on a wrong foot.

I did not have much time at my disposal, however I enjoyed their gastronomic good stuff. I know, I should have eaten so much baklava, or drink so much ayran, but..I promise I’ll get normal as of tomorrow. No, maybe the day after tomorrow, since tomorrow I leave for London, starting on Monday. I’ve also neglected my workouts, so..shame on me. I’m trying to fin an explanation for my consciousness, for me to feel good, but I find it hard to do that. I know! I walked a lot, therefore I did do some sport, right? And I can feel the taste of baklava, what a good stuff..

Anyway, Turkish culture has gone through several stages: pre – Anatholic, Selgiucidi and Ottoman. It also had to deal with several civilizations, such as the Arabs, the Iranians and the former inhabitants of Small Asia. They have borrowed some traditions and customs, however they have kept on developing their tradition up to Central Asia. Watching Suleiman the Magnificent I understood very little in terms of their marriage – related traditions, clearly noticing the man’s power over a woman and most of all, a sultan’s right to have several wives. The rule referring to the number of spouses (maximum 4) has vanished in 1926, and thus many women have been happy,… I guess. Perhaps my way of thinking is telling this, particularly my education. For instance, my man shall never go in front of me in the street with me following him together with our children. I don’t judge them, not in the least.

Turkish people are the best friends anyone can get. As a proof to this fact, in the years I spent in London, I got very close to a Turkish woman and a Turkish man. They shall be my friends for ever, they have a wonderful soul, they have always been there for me, in good times and in bad times. We talk almost daily, even now when we live in different countries. Turkish people generally prefer groups, agitation, parties, therefore,… they are our type of people, the one that Romanians like! In terms of business, I can say they are innate traders. They give you the impression that they are trying to sell anything to you. They have this thing in their blood. And among friends, they even make jokes on this. It’s true that I used to get blocked for a couple of seconds a little while ago, when I used to ask my Turkish friend for something and she used to get back to me with the amount of money she wanted for that particular thing. Now I get amused and smile every single time….

Therefore, why do I love Istanbul? I just cannot sit and count the number of reasons I have to love it, I love unconditionally! I fell in love with it the very first moment I saw it, it makes me feel like missing it and it takes me by surprise every time I visit it. I don’t have to travel to the end of the world so as to feel great. Thus, the city on the two continents, the place where the West meets the East, has to be seen at least once… Fascinating and unique, Istanbul I hereby promise I shall return…. soon!

Home

Good morning Saturday. I’ve been up on my feet since 6 a.m., I just cannot sleep longer. I’m not myself yet, jet legging has its say on this. Yesterday morning, I started taking out my suitcases, so that I can do some packing. I don’t do things like a normal human being, who comes after a long flight, a night spent in – between airplanes and with the time wasted in airports, who should stay and sleep and get back on his feet. I laid my head on the pillow for around 3 – 4 hours, of which half I have actually slept. In my head I was trying to make a note on what I should take with me, so as not to waste too much time with the luggage. It’s been really nice to wake up and have all my family next to me. I finally did not sleep alone, and it seemed that having missed him so much, I stayed and looked at him amazed, in the dark, to notice every single detail that I had so long missed. I woke up with my hair rampled, on the table there was my breakfast. Everyone was there to welcome me in the morning. Love and happiness were the feelings floating around me at that time. I was feeling really well: my bed, my place at the table, the smell of my home and the people I mostly loved, everthing was there, I was finally home. I could see in their eyes the happiness of seeing me. I didn’t have too much time to be glad about all these things, because fuss began and I was running against the clock, we had to leave for Constanta. With my favourite playlist in the loudspeakers, my coffee, my sun glasses and of course with my car loaded with luggage, happy and with a big smile on my face I headed to the highway.

My summer ends at the seaside.

On my way home

And here I am, at the airport. Another closed chapter, I’m heading home once more. Anywhere I’d go and anything I’d do, I’ll always turn back home, because there it’s my life. I’m a Romanian, I’m proud of that, but I feel sick of having to get back into my own country. And I know I’m going to be judged for what I’m saying right now, however I cannot be at least bothered. It’s years that we’ve been struggling to build a highway, politicians keep on fighting on TV, VIPs are already pamphlets, you learn more grammer if you use the Facebook all day than if you watch our national television channels. It is true that there are some channels that are really worth our appreciations. There are whole weeks in a raw that I don’t turn my TV on because it seems to me it’s just a waste of time. All relevant news is online you have the possibility to choose what you wish to reach and what you don’t. 5 p.m. news is all about drama, rapes and accidents. But that’s what sells really well here in Romania, and everything is our fault, including mine. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and I’m going to admit it, a few years ago I was a fan of trendy stuff, as well as the tittle – tattle of the day, I found them really interesting and I was part of the group of those checking what’s new at midnight. I do thank God I woke up.

I shall miss China, even if I often felt like it was suffocating, crowded, a lot of dirt and rout. Although they are way behind us when we talk about education and good manners, they are way ahead of us in terms of the economic and administrative matters. Now, it depends on what I’m referring at when talking about education, because the educational system in Romania is awful. And it’s not only the teachers’ or the students’ fault, but everyone’s fault, from the very young to the oldest. From a very early age, we are being set some limits, I do remember how we used to learn like stupid people some very long essays and commentaries. And what for? Who is the one recalling all these? All I can vaguely remember at this moment are: Harap Alb, a fairy tale, in terms of comedy I remember Caragiale and that’s all about there is to it. Because I have learnt all the others mechannically, for that nasty term paper. We haven’t been given the opportunity to think freely, to improvise, to create, to develop. When I reached London and had to write my first essay, I was asking for sketches, definitions and structures. Everyone was staring at me, but I was feeling even more at a loss. Because my limits had their say, my mind was blocked and I could not see further beyond the limit that had been clearly traced in my head from the very nursery age. In my 4 academic years I believe I have learnt maximum 10 theories, and that’s because I wanted to learn, not because anyone would have asked me to do so in any examination or oral examination. I know I’m very revolted, but I strongly wish that at one given moment in time, something would change. Chine taught me that it is not the number that counts, but the efficiency.

Each country with its own snags, that’s normal. However, it just seems that our country has too many such snags. And we are still unable to learn, find or borrow the necessary ointment. We better sit and gossip and talk and analyze what one and another one does, then actually try and change something. We all talk about dirt, recycling, pollution, education, meanness and a number of other facts. But hardly do we shut our mouth that we start doing exactly what minutes before we used to say it was awful and that we could not find an explanation as to how, where and why.

I have a deep appreciation for the people who get involved in a number of projects, research work and who try to move forward, both for themselves, as well as for our country, for all of us. And do believe me, we haven’t the slightest idea of who those people are, because they do not show up on TV, they are not heard on the radio. They are anonimous and they got my admiration for that! And even if I haven’t done much so far, I set my mind as to this being like a new chapter for me. One way or another, together we can change something.

Off to Amsterdam!

Bye Bye Beijing

My last day in Beijing has been slightly different from the last ones. The first 3 days have been full, sightseeing, shopping and meetings. Big rush, cabs, addresses, shirts and costumes. Leaving all these aside, visiting was the most interesting thing for me. Making a comparison between Shanghai and Beijing, it’s just obvious that the latter has the big ticket items: The Chinese Wall has been impressive, a lot of history and so many data. I shall not lose myself in details that anyone can find on Google. Summer Palace has slightly touched my soul, considering that the whole royal family used to move there for 6 months every year in the past. Totally different from the Forbidden City, their permanent residence. The long corridor, where the empress used to take a walk after having dinner, includes 11.000 different paintings, each having its unique story.  In the very left side there is the huge lake, where we took a walk by a little boat and we felt the breeze in the suffocating heat from Beijing. I wish to give thanks to my guide who took great care of only the two of us and provided us with a bunch of cultural issues.

 

Today I woke up a little bit later, I opened my eyes and pressed a button so that the curtains should pull aside. I just love hotels that have large beds, white bedclothes and a large number of pillows. They give me a sense of comfort. Even if you try to create the same atmosphere at home, it’s just not the same thing. My mom was not in the room, the sun was forcing me to wake up. I went down to the restaurant, she was waiting for me with the coffee, just as I like it, as well as with a yoghurt and some fruit. I felt myself spoiled but most of all, I felt like a child again. It seemed as if we were in a hidden corner of the city, just the two of us at this small table, eating healthy food. We knew this was our last day and we felt this, since from time to time we used to look at our watches. Today we had nothing to do, no deadline, nothing scheduled. So, we took a walk around our hotel. We did not feel in the mood for shopping, our telephones did not ring because back home in the country it was still early. The heat was so heavy, that we couldn’t make it for more than 2 minutes in the street, we had to enter a shop to look at some stuff in there and most of all, to feel the air – conditioning. It was the type of: out of the oven and into the refrigerator and the other way round. Outside it was too hot, inside we got cold.

 

 

 

In the European side, the role played by an umbrella is that of protecting oneself of the water when it’s rainy. At least, most people would say so. However here, in Asia and particularly in China, an umbrella plays a double role. Chinese people do not wish to get sun – tanned; in their culture, only poor people have to stay in the sun and get a darker colour of their complexion. Even when they ride their bikes they use a kind of plastic gloves and a protective mask so as to avoid contact with the sun. Thus, an umbrella is of the essence as far as they are concerned, whether you are in a shadow or in the sun, both ladies and men open them happily as soon as they get in the streets. In order to fit the profile, we have also got into a shop that had only umbrellas to sell. Thousands of models, sizes and colours. With lace, flounces, silk, plastic, pearls, stones. They have any model you may wish for, as per anyone’s taste and budget. We’ve also bought our own umbrellas and opened them immediately on our way out of the shop. We smiled and took some pictures.

 

We walked and eventually found a mall full of toys. It was just perfect for the time and our state of mind. Not clothes, perfumes, creams or shoes. Only toys. There were so many, that we had no idea what stand we should stop at. Each window had something special, it was as if all characters were dancing and talking with one another. It probably sounds silly, however I felt so good because I felt like a child again, I acted foolishly, I laughed and took photos. To my surprise, there were a large number of characters I could not recognize. So I just figured that it has been a long time since I last watched any cartoons. But it just seems that old cartoons were still much better than the new ones, or maybe it’s just the knowledge feeling and the denial feeling as far as the new is concerned.

 

Time has passed unexpectedly fast. We ordered a coffee, a double expresso with milk for me and a cappucino with cream for my mom. The cookies in the shop window were pretty inviting, so we ordered a few, well, when do we come again in Beijing to eat something sweet..? We are allowed to do so, just once at least…

 

We put our tea spoons down, looked at our watches and got sad. We had to leave. Our free day had ended. Again with the luggage, cabs, trains and airports. Back in Shanghai!

To Beijing

It’s been some time since I last wrote something, but this is not because I did not wish to do so, but because I did not have the time. I wrote down some phrases on various notebooks, however I cannot develop them now, since I am no longer in that mood in which I was when writing the same.

 

I’m on the train. I left from Shanghai to Beijing. I started to like China, therefore I wish to see more, to find out more about them, about their culture. In my last days, my mom was here with me, therefore we walked the town and got deeper and deeper into its misteries. In the morning, at noon or in the evening, there was always something new, something interesting or a certain building which would come out from nowhere, although I had been there several times before. Heat has been and still si daunting, it even reaches 35-40 degrees, but with my bag on my shoulder, light shoes and light clothing I have walked from one place to another. Some places already bring back memories. We’ve been a wonderful group here, some of them I already knew, some of them I have got to know. I can consider myself lucky for having had this opportunity, and most of all for having adjusted and integrated quite easily.  Within the last few days they have started to leave one by one. It was as if someone broke the puzzle we used to form when we were all together here. By every piece that went away, its charm was not the same any longer. Now even the hotel buildings are empty, the streets are deserted and the only thing left for us who are still here are the memories. We’ve been like a family, every single one of us being away from his home and relatives. We didn’t even think that these days would come and, most of all, we have never thought that there was the possibility of not being together within the same group. Everyone got back to his own business, his own life and routine, in a different corner of the earth. Just like I’m telling my story here, I’m pretty sure they are telling theirs, to their families and friends.

 

Following any one given experience you draw a line and see what you have got left. I have learnt from them and they have learnt from me. And most of all, China has taught us all a series of things we did not know, things you cannot read about in books, feelings you feel inside you and which you might never explain to anyone else.

 

I’m the type of person who is pretty cold at the beginning, I do not start any conversation, I keep the distance and analyze a lot. That’s exactly what I have heard from everyone’s mouth as far as the people who knew me here are concerned. But once I have overcome this barrier, I can say loud and clear that we are friends for life.  I found out more on some people and less on others. So many different personalities, forced to live together. I do believe sometimes it can be a real disaster. Tradition, culture, family, religion, political affinity, all these can be different to people around you and your group. You get to adjust, listen and digest. That’s how you learn to be calmer, more diplomatic, more casual. I remember even now the first day we all got here and wanted to get back home, we could not find anything we liked, we were completely dissatisfied, disappointed by everything and anything, nothing mattered, the words on our lips were: I don’t like… And after only 1 month and a little bit everyone left feeling sorry to leave, with tears in his eyes and with a devastated heart. They were leaving behind something that they had struggled to build, namely the friendship with someone they did not know.

 

 

 

And just like every summer has a story, this summer story is China. Crowded, heated, agitated…it has been a wonderful experience and I still have a lot to discover. Beijing, here I come!

Marry Go Round

Yesterday  I did nothing interesting or productive. I believe it has been one usual Sunday. I’ve started to feel much better in this town, to find it more familiar. I woke up pretty late, around 11, I had a meeting at 2 p.m., which went pretty well. I haven’t learnt what I actually wanted, but all in all it was ok. After that, I started walking. I don’t know why, but it seemed as if I was floating. I had so many options, so many people to meet in order to have lunch, but most of all, to walk by myself. I went for a little while at the mall,  I haven’t bought anything much, I was not in my shopping mood. I sat down at a terrace, next to a merry go round. I was absolutely fascinated about it. I found it really inventive to build a merry – go – round at the entrance of a shopping mall. Everybody stopped to take pictures, to analyze and most of all, to recall one’s childhood. I had some flashes of the time I was a child and went with my parents and friends, being very happy at that time, to play in all these kinds of stuff and eat candy floss. God, how good it was, and how good it is every time I have the chance to eat one!

 

I believe the time I spent here really helped me to get to know me better, to remember the good stuff in my life and most of all, to learn how to appreciate simple things even more, as such simple things happen to each and every one of us. I believe we are always in a hurry, we run from one place to another, we forget what is of the essence. We don’t allot any time for the small happy moments of life, we tend to become more and more insensitive. We no longer know how to smile when we walk in the street, we no longer see the grass around us, we no longer smell the flowers. I’m also included in this particular description. And now I realize how many beautiful things I have missed due to my crazy wish to do as many things as possible, in the attempt not to waste a single minute of my life for any such stupid things. They are not stupid! These small things are the ones that make your life beautiful, relax you and enjoy your soul if you take them into account. We go round and round within a classical mechanism that is full of numbers. We forget about art, music, of reading a good book. So, I sit and wonder where will all this rush go to? Until when?

 

Just stop for a minute from anything you do every day and reflect. It’s not worthy to have your life go pass you by without your enjoying the small pleasures that everyone can afford. Go by yourself or take your boyfriend / girlfriend / husband / wife / friends, a bottle of wine, a good book, a blanket and lie on the grass, anywhere you may please. Just look at the sky and feel the oxygen, that’s all! /