This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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LCY

lcyI love little airports with ingenious designs. Such as Lukla airport in Nepal. Or here, where planes pocket-park by the gate, a runway shares a stretch with the taxiway in a hairpin loop, and where access to the city is fast and by tube. London City airport is the handiest little airport. Never mind that the terminal looks like a bees’ nest and there is no place to sit down. No lounges and no priority security either – because being near the financial district, of course everybody here is priority and elite flyer. It is the small things that count – and LCY will make my commute from my new hometown so much smoother.

But tonight I am en route from hot sunny London to rainy, chilly Stavanger, Norway.

(London City Airport, London, United Kingdom; May 2018)


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Dear Cambridge

cam-4Dear Cambridge,  you’re supposed to look the same every time I visit you. You are one of the oldest university cities in the world. Your colleges, chapels, greens, and squiggly side-streets are supposed to look just like they did 2 years ago – or 200 years ago, no difference.

And so, dear Cambridge, why is Fitzbillies closed, sold, reopened, and changed? Why are there new shopping malls? What’s with the modern architecture boom around the train station? And goodness me the rush hour traffic, how can it take 20 minutes to drive into town, as if one were walking?cam-2And why on earth is Ryder & Amies only selling official English university apparel with a huge American college style font, in worst case embossed in a fluffy fabric? It was bad enough that a fudge shop opened on King’s Parade when I lived in Cambridge (the shock was softened by the fact that it was fresh artisan fudge, after all).cam-3Thankfully, lining up for a taxi cab at the train station is still as difficult as ever (I try to ignore that there now is an official Uber pickup spot as well, next to a brand new hotel). I was also delighted to note that the train traffic was as non-functional as possible: instead of 5 services to Cambridge per hour there was 1 (and half an hour late), due to a train company timetable change that needed several months to optimize, causing trains to miss drivers and drivers miss trains. Good old England.
cam-1(Cambridge, United Kingdom; May 2018)


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Platform 9 3/4

kingsxOut of all these people crowding to take a photo of the luggage trolley crossing the wall into platform 9 3/4, only very very few actually try to run through the wall. I think the newspapers once wrote about one who tried and bashed his head quite badly. Probably a Cambridge student (nobody else has that kind of humor). Perhaps just as good, as ever since I lived in the UK, tourists have flocked around the entrance to Harry Potter’s school “bus”, Hogwarts Express.

Curiously, platform 9 3/4 is between platforms 8 and 9. Also, J.K. Rowling once confessed she thought of an entirely different station. Namely, Euston railway station. Although, little does it matter. Muggles are obviously not the sharpest of the lot.

(Kings Cross railway station, London, United Kingdom; June 2018)


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On the top of London

londoneye-4On my first ever visit to London, in 2000, the London Eye was brand spanking new. The lines for a spin were days if not weeks long, even if each pod takes 25 people, allowing for plenty of space to move around. Originally I remember it was called the Millennium Wheel, and the rumor was that it was going to be dismantled after a while. londoneye-3 I am glad that the London Eye is still up, 19 years later. I suppose Brits had to have an iconic, modern landmark, as the French have the Eiffel Tower.londoneye-1And 18 years after my first visit to London, I finally got to ride the thing. I excused myself from work early, took the tube down, navigated through the throngs of visitors and found myself in a nearly empty VIP lounge with a glass of champagne and the sun pouring in through the windows. Because if you wait for something for nearly two decades, you must go through it with style.

And rain or shine, London from the top is quite a sight.
londoneye-2(London, United Kingdom; March 2018)


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In questa tomba

operaI have a bucket list that contains 101 goals in 1001 days. A so-called Day Zero Project. While chasing items on this list I have dipped myself into various experiences. Seeing Verdi’s opera Aida live has been one of the most elusive ones; surprisingly, as it is a classic. But suddenly there were a few performances at the English National Opera in London.

I convinced a colleague to come along. He took me up on the challenge and flew over to London carrying a tuxedo, which he duly put on for the occasion. After Aida and her misfortunate lover Radamés had been buried alive in a tomb forever,  I reminded him that this was probably the most tragic opera every written, and that he should not make up his mind unless he saw another opera where people did not take quite as long a while to die as these two.

It turns out that the translation of this production was quite different: the famous line uttered by Aida’s lover upon his discover of her (“in this tomb!”) was missing. And instead of dying a slow long death in the tomb, Aida and her Radamés are apparently seeing the light, “a new day”.

Such an admirable attitude. The glass is half full even when one is buried alive forever in an Egyptian burial tomb.  Quite the benchmark.

(ENO, London, United Kingdom; November 2017) 


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Hasa diga eebowai

musicalThe Book of Mormon made me laugh so I shed tears. Yes, it is insulting, intelligent, and vulgar. My colleague in London told me she saw it when it was new, and one-quarter of the audience walked out during intermission and never returned to their seats. But what most people miss (perhaps?) is the sweetness in the second half: how people try so very much their best to live in a harsh world seemingly filled with limitations. The deep lessons in the ending: how another’s culture is always understood through the filter our own culture, programmed in our minds when we grew up. How, in the end, the characters on stage were all trying their very best to help each other live as good lives as possible, all in their own ways.

It seems that most viewers remember the phrase “hasa diga eebowai”. “F*ck you God”. This is also the reason many people leave the musical in the middle of the show. But what many do not seem to remember is that it was used as an expression of survival and strength in a world where individuals are targeted with numerous inexplicable sufferings: AIDS, poverty, natural disaster. “If you don’t like what we say, try living here a couple days. Watch all your friends and family die; hasa diga eebowai!”.

There is strength in words. And sometimes those words are terrible. Because the world is sometimes terrible.

(London, United Kingdom; September 2017)