This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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In Antwerp

antwerpIt was October. And it was +25C in Antwerp. For those using the Fahrenheit scale, +25C means the treshold to proper summer heat. I walked across town, from the railway station to the hotel, at 10 pm at night. It was me and couples, walking arm in arm or hand in hand, taking a late-night shopping stroll or returning home from a weekday dinner in town. Antwerp is a cozy town for romance.

Unfortunately for me, Antwerp means work, every time. Even on balmy late-fall nights.

(Antwerp, Belgium; October 2018)

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Another christmas market in Brussels

brusselsdec-2Reflecting a few months backward, to last December: another year, another Christmas market in Brussels. And another ride in the ferris wheel. This time there were slightly less armed military police guards around the place. The area was again hedged by concrete blocks, in case anybody would feel like like driving a truck into the crowds. Indeed. This is Europe these days. Even with Christmas spirit in the air.brusselsdec-1(Brussels, Belgium; December 2017)

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At the EU HQ

eu-2At the EU Parliament in Brussels, one can spend an entire morning learning about the twists and turns of the history of the EU. Did you know for example that French war general and president Charles de Gaulle initially vetoed the UK’s entry in the 60’s – twice? And now some say he was right all along…

Finland joined in 1995, after a supporting referendum with 57% yes-votes. Geographically, the Northern two-thirds of Finland did vote against joining, but were outnumbered by the major cities in the South. Glad we did join. Otherwise I would need to get a new passport every year due to all the stamps required.
eu-1(Brussels, Belgium; May 2017)

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The future was great

atomium-1Once upon a time the future was all about space, both outside of planet Earth and in the minds of people. It was about scientific progress, with a joyful look at the future of humankind. This time was before anybody spoke of acid rains, holes in the ozone layer, the end of oil, and how tobacco kills. atomium-2Future would be great, and the progress of science was great. It was as if the human mind was too youthful to worry about the heavy responsibility we carry towards our planet and every living thing on it.

Sixty years later, in the world of uncertainties regarding nuclear threat, fossil fuel, and the use of the power of genetics, stepping into the Atomium in Brussels feels like a happy memory from a time I never experienced, left behind by people with an unwavering faith in the future, and total ignorance about the effects of their actions.atomium-3(Brussels, Belgium; May 2017)

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About freezing mist and change

bruges-3Freezing water needs a surface to form ice crystals. Trapped in the still, cold air, it remains liquid, supercooled, even if the temperature is below zero degrees Celsius. Contact with a surface helps the water droplet organize into a new shape, one that is right for the current weather.

Most often, we people also need contact to form our thoughts and feelings. When the environment changes, our minds are often trapped into bubbles, knowing we should take a different shape but not being able to change. Contact helps crystallize our minds just like it helps crystallize water.

It was a freezing night in Bruges, with supercooled mist hanging over the canals. The water droplets did not have contact to help them change and grow, but I did.

(Bruges, Belgium; December 2016)

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A chocolate story

chocolatemuseum-3The Aztecs would turn over in their graves if they knew that their precious, spiced, bitter, sacred “Drink of Gods” is today mixed with sugar, milk, and vanilla; and sold in any grocery store and gas station.
chocolatemuseum-4As I looked at various ancient tools for cleaning, fermenting, and preparing cocoa pods and beans, I could not help but wonder how the aztecs first got to performing the laborious process of picking, cleaning, fermenting two times, drying, and roasting the cocoa beans? Why did they not just satisfy themselves with the sweet pulp of the pod, spitting out the beans? Or perhaps somebody spit out the beans and left them to ferment and then dry and then his or her children ate them by mistake and found them delicious? Or perhaps their god appeared to a priest in a dream and told him how to make cacahuatl?chocolatemuseum-1And who first spilled sugar and milk into a drink that was served prepared in water; hot, spicy, and bitter? How did the drink of warriors, priests, and men requiring strength become the consoler of lonely women sitting by their televisions?

Perhaps the chocolate man in the Chocolate Story museum in Bruges knows the delicious history of this delicacy. Because why otherwise would he try to eat up himself?chocolatemuseum-2(Bruges, Belgium; December 2016)

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In Bruges

bruges-115 years ago I spent two feverish, hazy days in Bruges. Maybe we did a canal ride. Maybe we had some Flemish cakes. Possibly did we try ask around for a jazz bar but only ran into tourists, not locals, at night.
bruges-2My worst ever memory of sleeping in a mixed dorm was during those 2 dizzy days. It involved a dozen partygoers and a lot of booze (not for us), and a terribly smelly room in the morning.bruges-4But this time Bruges was crisp, cold, and sunny. Like a picture postcard of gingerbread houses in a row, with a few canals in between. And this time I do remember the (freaking cold) canal ride.bruges-5(Bruges, Belgium; December 2016)


Manneken Pis’s sister

brussels-3Turns out Manneken Pis has a wardrobe, and a sister. Jeanneke Pis, with her yogic flexibility, looks like she is pleasantly meditating on the way of the world. You can find her peeing away in the end of a little dead-end street, just off the Grand Place.

Her brother’s fancy dresses can be seen in the City Museum. All naturally supporting the physiological function he has to endure 24/7. brussels-1(Brussels, Belgium; December 2016)