When I think of Spain I never think of mountains. But they are right there, if I would wander deep enough inland. When the rest of the world thinks of beaches and sangria and sun-kissed villages, there is surprisingly much snow up North. Now I understand why the Great Pyrenees dog breed is so white and fluffy. (Above the Pyrenees, Spain; March 2017)
Today is a decently warm summer’s day. Just three months ago my home shore looked like this: broken ice crackling against the rocks. Impatient kayakers trying to navigate the slushy waters. A “lifestyle indian” (as we would say in Finnish) enjoying the first warming rays of the sun. We hardly had any snow that winter, but spring was cold. REALLY cold. Snow on the night before May Day. Unusually much snow in Lapland in June. 11 degrees Celsius and windy on the first day of June. Global warming is upon us, wise people say. But who knows if it means we will actually feel the warmth. Maybe temperatures just even out into in-between seasons all year round? How awful that would be.(Helsinki, Finland; March 2017)
Dinner and networking at the Helsinki City Council. One woman wore red, I wore blue, and the rest wore dark. Mostly men in suits. This is what it is like to be a “woman in business”.
I work mainly with men in suits older or far older than I. Yet most of the time I am the one in a power position, because of my job. It was odd at first, especially to challenge team leads in beards and gray hair when I was barely 30 years old. Today I barely think of it. And if I do, it is to use it to my advantage: a younger woman often obtains information and influence easier, because she is perceived to not be a threat. And I seldom pay for my drinks.
But I still feel uncomfortable. In particular, in the airline lounge on a Monday morning, when I am one of the handful of women in there, and usually the only one in jeans. I gave my sister a give-away elite tier card. After her first visit to the lounge alone, on a workday morning, she looked at me with huge eyes and proclaimed she had felt like she was being exhibited. This is also what it is like to be a “woman in business”. Even here in relatively gender-equal Finland.
It is not always about the pay. It mostly is about the mundane, minor things. Because these are the subconscious, left-unseen signals that give away the conditioning of our minds.
I do not aspire to become a man – quite the contrary. I was very happy I was not wearing a dark suit at that dinner party. I only hope I will never feel that I am expected to become a man in order to get along better.
(Helsinki, Finland; March 2017)
What we see on an opera stage truly is only what we are meant to see. The thing with stages is, what is in view is always just a tiny portion of the entirety. You see, there is a backstage. And a side-stage. And an above-stage. And a beneath-stage. Because a single show may require five different sets, and they all need to be wheeled in and out of sight in a matter of seconds. The backdrop is hardly rolled like window-blinds – it is simply winched up – still hanging.
It is the depth in every direction that deceives. And all the ropes and props and invisible men (and some women). All the world is a stage, Shakespeare said. But he never mentioned the backdrop, and everybody in it helping us play our part. (Vienna, Austria; February 2017)
Opera houses and theaters were like bars and nightclubs today: places to see and be seen. And because cities were much smaller still in the 19th century, and the ruling class even smaller still, everybody did know everybody. Thus, going to the opera was like going to one grand party where you know all guests.
And what better than to go to a party held in a house decorated in splendid gold, mirrors, and red carpets? So thought the Emperor of Austria-Hungary as well, and commissioned the work of a new opera house in Vienna. When the glorious building was finished, the architect and interior designer proudly showed it to the court. But their hearts were broken: the emperor thought it rather simple. He proclaimed it resembled a train station. The interior designer committed suicide before the opening night, and the architect died of a stroke not long after.
Life sucks sometimes. But the opera house is still standing. And, viewed through today’s minimalistic eyes that usually encounter bare surfaces, it is quite an extravaganza. Everything is relative.(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)
Austria’s take on champagne is called sekt. And the most commercialized (and celebrated?) sekt is less than 200 years old, but very successfully marketed in Austria today. Just like Vienna is like one big wedding cake, the Schlumberger bar and shop is like an adult’s candy shop dream: cute, filled with delicacies, and gold and pink sparkling wine.
Yes please. Make me a victim of this marketing strategy.
(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)