One thing I really missed while being away from the Netherlands: riding the bicycle. The feeling of the refreshing morning wind in my face while cycling to work; cycling to the supermarket, to the shops and arriving anywhere within a few minutes. There is an amazing freedom in this means of transport. If you live in The Netherlands you know exactly what I mean. Cycling makes life more beautiful.

Except for when it rains.

I think it is around 2 times a month that I come home totally drowned. Today it was a special case, it was raining cats and dogs. However, before going home, I really wanted to pass by the supermarket. During the shopping, I saw several times that people stared at me. It was uncommon, it was longer than normal. Was there something wrong with me? Maybe they just like my smile.

I arrived at the checkout desk. The cashier looked at me and said; “Miss, your mascara is smeared all over your face”. She pointed at the sides of my face and even above her eyebrows to indicate where my black mascara was. “Thank you”, I said. “Great, I knew something was wrong, I just waited for someone to tell me”. I left, with a smile.

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The sickness of checking and re-checking my emailbox

Drawing thanks to www.viktorpersson.com

Am I the only one who does this? The insane, crazy and maybe even paranoid habit of checking and re-checking my email?

The last period I have been submitting some new papers, research proposals and applications. Months of hard work is invested in such things: writing, re-writing, creative thinking, discussing, asking questions and finding answers…. You would think I would be done once I have sent that particular document.

You are wrong.

Waiting is a quite hard task too.

Once I have sent that one paper, proposal or application, I feel as if I am suddenly replaced in the waiting room for a some very important appointment. As if I am going up in the elevator and pressing the button of the desired floor so hard several times, as if it would speed up the elevator. We all know that these actions do not speed up the process, they mostly just negatively affect the mood for the person waiting.

I found I am no better.

We have a word for such behavior, impatience:

Adjective (noun)
1. lack of patience.
2. eager desire for relief or change; restlessness.
3. intolerance of anything that thwarts, delays or hinders.

For some things I can be extremely patient. For example sitting for long train trips or other simple things for which you know the amount waiting time generally. However, other things cause me to have a crazy lack of patience. Maybe it is this eager desire for relief or change that is making me impatient. An eager desire to get into that great program, that job, finally have that publication and then… And then… And then…

And then what?

Will I suddenly be happier, more successful and more satisfied with life? Why is this eager desire for change? Is the current not good enough?

Maybe it is time to look back and be thankful and be present and satisfied, instead of crazily eager for the next step. The process is many times more important than the eventual outcome. Especially for my mood.

- Peace.

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Paris, the city of smiles…

This is currently the second year that I am living in Paris. And I always wanted to make a blog-post about this one thing: the Parisian smiles.


They are almost non-existent.

I have lived in Madrid and the Netherlands and traveled to numerous countries. But what strikes me really is how little people smile in Paris compared to anywhere else. Of course, the exceptions in Paris are the many tourists that smile for every picture they take. But I am not talking about the tourist-smiles, I am talking about the real Parisian smiles. If you want to stand out in Paris, you simply need to smile. 

I know it might sound a bit extreme and maybe overdone. Therefore I tried to find some reasons for this observation.

1. The Parisian Public transport 
The metro. The tram. In the longer distance trains (called RER). The public buses. They have all one thing in common : a bad smell,  dirty and during rush hours over-packed. I don’t mean just packed, I mean – “I should not breathe out too much because I might blow into the face of my neighbor” – type-of-packed. This is not fun. And when rush hour is over, still no happy face can be found; every single person looks down, reading large texts from their books and smart phones.

Due to the fact that most Parisians do not own a car but frequently use public transport, this could be a good reason for the absence of smiles. In the end, traveling should be fun, not dirty, smelly and packed.

2. The weather
A second reason for the lack of smiles could be the weather. Paris has only 1662 sunny hours per year.  Marid has 66% more sunny hours (2769 hours) . Recent months in Paris have been the worst ones. And sun normally makes people happy. And yes, the people in Madrid smiled, a lot more. Even during the big financial problems and unemployment.

3. Me
The problem could simply be me, the observer. Maybe I am a little too happy for an average person. And maybe Parisians are more normal then I am and therefore invalidates my opinion that Parisians are non-smilers. However, still I believe my statement holds: if you want to stand out in Paris, just smile. Randomly.

*An important disclaimer for all girls:
I hereby do not take any responsibility for the strange guys that you tend to attract in Paris when you smile. 

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What to do if your pens leave you?

Last weekend I was at a show. It was this wonderful Venezuelan stand-up comedian Evlin Pérez Yebaile. She talked about the 7 stages of handling the pain of being left by your boyfriend. The hilarious stages included her funny representations of yoga classes, connecting to inner chakras, anger management, workshops that lead to opening up for other guys and the list went on… It was extremely funny how she presented this in a recognizable matter.

I currently feel somewhat the same. However, now not with a guy, but with my pens. I love writing with pens. I write down every idea that pops in my mind. I draw. I conceptualize. I discuss (yes, even on paper…). I frequently buy a whole bunch of them, you know, those cheap big packages of pens. Just to be sure that whenever I would need one, I would have one right with me.

Well that was the idea.

What actually happens is that whenever I really need to write, the nice penholder remains filled with only stupid pens. The pens that do not work, the pens that are in my hated colors (like yellow and light green). In the end, the bitter truth is that truly good pens, simply leave me. Where? I have no clue. They leave me urged to store this marvelous idea, remembered and locked-up inside of my over-crowded head. Instead of having the idea happily and safe on a piece of paper.

I know you feel sorry for me. However, this story will not end sad. I think I finally found a solution to this penliness. A week ago I bought my first expensive pen. Well, for me expensive. A pen worth 200 of the cheap pens. This pen even came with its very own box. This pen I treat with care, after use, I put it back in its box… His cage… My dear pen. Please, would you stay?

Posted in Creativity, Research | 1 Comment

How to (not) explain the Rowing Machine in Spanish

Today I went to the gym in Madrid. It is this big, low cost gym where instructors are absent and people do not say “hi” to each other. I went to the rowing machines section and started my warming-up on one of them. A few minutes later an older lady walks up next to me and tries to start rowing, but clearly has no idea how to handle the machine. In Spanish, she asks me if I can explain how it works.  I, proud to be a fitness instructor, explain carefully in my best Spanish how she should first start with adjusting the foot pedal and I explain her how to enter the time limit within the screen. Finally, I move on to the most important part of course; the rowing movement itself. This movement is not as easy as it might seem and is done wrong by most clients in gyms. I explain that the power should be coming from her legs and than after, from the upper body. So in Spanish, I tell her that she should first stretch her legs (labios in Spanish) and than pull with her arms (brazos). After my perfect explanation accompanied with example I let her do the movement. The lady kept doing the movement incredibly wrong; moving only her upper body and not even stretching her legs…I repeated the explanation for 5 times, saying that she should FIRST stretch her legs (labios) and THEN her arms… It did not help… The lady continued rowing with bad technique!

I gave up, just smiled friendly and though, “I am not the instructor here anyways” andjust continued my own work out. However, I felt there could possibly be something wrong with my Spanish…What if I was the problem? I  excused her for my Spanish that might have not been entirely perfect. I asked here, just to be sure, how you say “legs” in Spanish. After asking her, “So what does labios mean?”, she pointed to her lips. “Labios is the Spanish word for lips!?!”, I asked her in shock. She responded: Si!!

I am somewhat thankful she did not follow my advise.

Posted in Sport | Tagged | 1 Comment

My biggest Spanish Struggle

I keep doing this. Every single time when my friends and I get into the “girl talk”, moving towards the topic of “who likes who”, I always get totally confused.  In Spanish, saying that “you like somebody” or “somebody likes you” is  quite illogical if compared to other languages like English and Dutch (see the picture here beside).

To be honest, really, in Spain I constantly am surprised by the amount of good looking people here… On the streets, at bars, in the metro etc. Wow. People also clearly make an effort to look good. Therefore, making this an important topic for girls-conversation.

However, yesterday, at a birthday, the same topic came up and I once and for all hoped that this confusion could end. Instead of making the mistake of saying “I like me” or “I like him” instead of saying “he likes me”, I drew the two scenarios as visible on the picture and asked someone to help me with the Spanish translation of the sayings. Oeff. What a clarification.

Hopefully this is finally the moment that I stop, well at least unintendedly, miscommunicating the truth….

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Craziest Flight

Today I had a remarkable fight from Dubai to New Delhi. Never before I felt that a plane was so close to crashing as today. For several times, the plane flew extremely low, close to the ground. It was in a way sensational, but I think a bit too much for just a domestic flight. The strange thing was that nobody seemed to care… Neither my neighbor, nor the stewards. I wanted to take a picture, just to have some proof for others when I would get off from that plane, hopefully alive. While I was in a rush to grab my camera, I pushed a bit too hard against the little table that was attached to the seat in front of me… It broke off!! O my goodness… Just because I wanted a simple picture. A stewardess came mad over to me and asked how and why the table was broken. I explained, that I never had seen a plane flying so extremely low to the ground ever, and really wanted to capture this moment. While explaining the situation, I suddenly woke up by a beautiful clear voice asking: “Would you like something to eat madam?

I opened my eyes, brushed of the entire story, my table was still there. Looked out of the airplane window, we were flying. High. Thankful and relieved, I answered “Yes please“.

As you can read, neither sleeping nor dreaming in airplanes is a problem for me.

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Only a Genius is allowed to be Strange

I just thought about something: what makes someone “acceptable” and what not? Many times, we unconsciously judge others by how they look, how they talk, what they do or aspire to do. This is totally normal. But what justifies whether we “accept” someone and what not?

I analysed my own thinking and saw that in my mind I actually, constantly am making up a balance. Balancing what I adore/like/look up to with against to what I dislike from someone. Making someone interesting if the “like” part is larger than the negative part. But the curious thing is constantly the case: we most of the times have no single clue about someone at the moment of our internal judgment. We do not know what somebody is like, we do not know somebody’s history and motives, what somebody really can or posesses. Our minds that are so quick to judge based on incomplete information and assumptions sadly enough.

Think of this. Today you are just about to complete your weekly jog in the park after a hard week of work. Once you arrive there you face very strange dressed man, totally in his own world. This person talks to himself, stops and walks on every few steps. Your mind says: “Crazy guy, certainly do NOT like him”.

However, after a few hours that same day, nicely dressed, you leave to a certain music show you wanted to go for a long time which is currently in town. To your surprise… The person that is called on stage, the one that has been the brain behind all the composed music is the same person you “did not like” a few hours ago in the park. Now your mind says; “error”. Did not like but…. I adore!!! Suddenly his crazy forest behaviour is seen in another perspective, it might have made him creative, or the other way around, creativity maybe makes you strange…?

You might already know the clue that judging based on single actions is not totally  “fair” when making a statement on someone entirely. But what I think is interesting, is that eventually our internal balance seems to switch when we get to know more “interesting” or “adorable” things about someone… What we thought was irritating or crazy, might now be seen as something special, compelling or even adorable. Something that must have leaded the park-man into his genius song writing.

Funny people we are, we constantly search reasons for actions. Whether it is “internal craziness” that makes people act crazy, or unconformity that resulted in people to dare to be crazy and throught that, brilliant…

Posted in Creativity, Reflections | 1 Comment

The Escape of the Inner Artist

What defines an artist? I had to think about it lately. My definition of an artist is definitely not related with social status, number of followers, a big contract leading to masses of income, publicity and other things related to fame.

My definition of an artist is someone who creates as an Independent, Enjoyable Expression of the self.

What does this mean? I think that art is creating something. Something that can be an expression of any personal feeling or idea. In a form that someone enjoys. Something that is independent and disconnected from the opinion of others. There is no wrong and right in art. For there is no wrong and right in expression; if you express your pain or happiness in a certain song, no ones opinion can validate that it is yours or not. Only you yourself know that. That itself is called authenticity. Authentic song writing, drawing, painting, writing, movie making, music making etc.

I am an artist. Are you?

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Don’t you worry ’bout a thihihiihiing

It seems like we are addicted to worrying. We seem to not deserve a worry free life.  Once upon a time, when we still had to hunt for our food and plant our own crops for dinner, we might had to worry about serving those basic needs: food, water and a place to poop. Now, we have those meets all met, actually more than met; however, the worry animal is still here hunting us. We worry about whether our dinner will taste good, whether we can finish the project today, whether our bodies are looking healthy enough and name many more you have been thinking of today. As soon as we “dealt” with the worry, a next challenge smiles in front of us and laughs for its ability to keep us busy and stressed until we decently dealt with that one also. Worries are filled with an constant fear of inadequacy, entirely based on assumptions of our own abilities.

Its enough now. Time to face it. Worries are all just the same bunch of things which are a result of faith in a lie. The lie that we are unable and inadequate. And so what, if we are inadequate and unable? No reason to worry. For the least things that are going to help us through anyway are worries.

Enjoy with Stevie Wonder:

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