Saturday, 8 July 2017

Things I have missed.






The overpowering scent of jasmine. The voices of the neighbours downstairs -two pensioners- bickering about nothing. The light on the balcony just after the sun has gone down behind the other building and everything is calm. Unloading the dishwasher. The house phone ringing. Eating off a properly set table. The dappled morning light outside my window. My mother's geraniums. Cherries, my grandma's jam tart, thickly sliced prosciutto. The moody atmosphere in my room. Watching the news during meals. My brother's continuous chatter. Having lunch on the living room sofa. When you move and you feel the warm air moving, too. Studying on the balcony. The mountains. The scent of summer tomatoes. My grandma's dogs - one of them has aged so much, and lost so much weight while I have been away. The sound of the sprinkler. The sound of the cicadas. Home.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Ready for Summer.


I feel like the transition from Spring to Summer here in the Netherlands was quite sudden; maybe because the shift from Winter to Spring felt so long in comparison. In fact, the whole of April and the first few weeks of May didn't feel like Spring at all, to me. I meant to post about that but then it just didn't happen. Enduring a frigid Winter and desperately waiting for warmer weather to come in April and being disappointed day after day was tough. I had to accept a different kind of Spring than I am used to and it was tough. It really threw me off balance. Seeing trees in bloom everywhere but having to wear woolen jumpers just messed with my brain and made me quite restless. I am all about trying to live each season fully and accepting it for what it is, but April just was really challenging. I almost feel like I skipped a season...? I don't know. Weird stuff. Weird Dutch stuff.


So, it's been Summer for a few weeks now. I started to notice when the days started to get considerably longer. It doesn't get dark until 10 PM! Every day feels interminable. I have been really enjoying going for walks around my neighbourhood after dinner, often with an ice-cream in my hand.


People here really celebrate every ray of sun they get. Whenever the weather is even slightly warm, they bring out chairs and tables (even their sofas) out on the street, get badly sunburnt, chat with their neighbours and eat al fresco.




(from last week's trip to Utrecht.) 




(this is Leiden.)

All of this to say that I feel ready to go home and I feel readier than ever for Summer, and for all it's going to bring. And that will be: leaving this place and to all the amazing people I met, in exactly a week's time; studying like a crazy person for an exam in the first week of July;  saying goodbye to my best friend who is moving to Australia for a year; and hopefully, once I am a bit more free, lots and lots of reading all the things and sewing all the things and making all the things. I have so many  ideas. I am looking forward to being reunited with the people I love and a country I love.

What are your plans for the next season?

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Feather-light.



I feel light as a feather - as if the faintest breeze could easily lift me up at any moment - 

when was the last time I was in such a mood that just the sound of a bird chirping would fill my chest with joy? Or that I found myself thinking while walking to the laundromat, 'today is a really lovely day'? Have I ever felt like this before? Have I ever been in such a ininterrupted state of joy (it's a different thing from happiness, mind you, though most of the time they go hand in hand) before? Will this joy last when I have to go back home, or is it only inherent to this place and this time? 

In part, I think, it's the fruit of the effort I have been making for these past few years to be content in the everyday. But this is not just contentedness, it is more. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Lunch break at the botanical gardens.








Wednesday was the busiest day I've had in ages. In my pre-study abroad life I used to hate days like that, where I left the house in the morning and came back 12 hours later; busy days left me drained and usually suffering from a bad headache. But Wednesday was just blissful (another blissful day - I almost feel like i'm collecting days like that on a string here, like pearls on a necklace, one after the other, white, gleaming, precious). 

It was the hottest day in the year -27°! in the Netherlands! Unheard of- and during my two-hour break between classes I met with a friend to go to the botanical gardens. Leiden's gardens are amongst the oldest in the world, and they are just a 5 minutes walk away from my faculty. It's incredible. I feel like this town was just made for me, or viceversa, rather. The sun was shining and there was a last-day-of-school feeling. We wandered around for a while, absorbing the sunshine and doing photosyntesis like the plants around us, then we decided to have lunch in the gardens' cafè. We were the only young people amongst tables of elderly women. One lady near us was celebrating her birthday with her friends: when I am old I want to celebrate my birthday in the cafè of a botanical garden, too. My friend and I talked about our favourite memories of our months here so far over a roasted vegetables broodje, constantly reminding to each other how unbelievable it was that it was warm enough to be outside in short sleeves. Not thinking about the exams in 10 days, or the fact that we're going back home in 20 -- just sharing a meal on a sunny day, breathing fully.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

About life choices, pleasure and work.



Ever since I have started my study abroad experience, I have been thinking more and more about my future and my job and what I want to do in life. Back in February I had this huge realization that I want to work in the women's rights field, especially women's right in the workplace. I am honestly surprised it took me so long to realize it, considering I am a law student and I am very passioned about women's rights; it's easy as making 2+2. But I've never been good at maths.

Last week I was in Paris and I guess the exposure to all the beauty and the art made me start questioning my life choices all over - why am I studying law, I should have studied history of art, I should just open an Etsy shop.

Right now I am working on a paper on paternity leave and why it's so important to strive towards equality in the home. And I this thought just popped into my mind - surely spending all my time studying beautiful paintings or sewing tiny stitches would be amazing, but how self-indulgent would it be? Would it concretely help someone else other than me? Bring anything else than fleeting pleasure, mostly to me? Would it help make a change in the world? I almost feel like indulging in art would be so typical of me. I will not deny that I am a selfish person. I always have been but I have been trying to correct myself. Sometimes I feel like selfishness is almost engrained in my DNA, and I will never get rid of it, but small steps - small steps.

Art, both the making of it and the studying of it, is one of the most important things in my life if not the most important. Art is like a blanket for me, I feel comfortable in it, it keeps me warm, it's a familiar place. Law is the opposite. Sometimes it feels big as the ocean, I can't see the land and I struggle to keep afloat. But from time to time, when I read a judgement that has nothing to envy to a poem, or stop to admire the perfect architecture of a code, I feel this burning feeling coming from within, somewhere between my stomach and my lungs. I think I should keep that fire going.

(This said - after working non-stop for two days on that paper, yesterday evening I hand-sewed about 30 quilt blocks in a hour and a half and it was amazing.)

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Today's golden hour.







One of Leiden's landmarks is a place called De Burcht, literally the castle. It's a fortification that was built around the year 1000 on top of a hill. The Netherlands are a very, very flat country; I come from a mountain region and probably I love going up there because the altitude -if you can even call it that- has a calming effect on me. The place feels like it doesn't even belong to the town. A hill is certainly a very extraneous thing in the Netherlands.

Since discovering the burcht it has become one of my favourite places to notice the changing of the seasons. First the hill was covered in snowdrops, then dandelions, now there are leaves on the trees, and cowparsley and tiny white flowers I don't know the names of. Unexpectedly I had an hour to kill today, and instead of going home I read an article in a cafè at the bottom of the hill -something I never do- and then went up to the burcht. No one was there, except a fluffy cat and me. I wandered around a bit. I recalled all the times I went there just to take a breather, and how I was a very different person every time. The seasons changed and I changed too.

The first time I went there was brought there by someone who I don't even speak to anymore.  One time it was sunny and I ate an ice-cream while looking at the church through the bare trees. Another time it was after lunch and I sat inside the castle looking up, and I remember seeing the trail of an airplane while the church bells rang. (The church bells here sound different than back at home, and I am almost sure that they play a slightly different melody every time.) 

I had lunch with a dear friend, we went to class and then to a café where we had cake and juice, and sent postcards to our mothers for Sunday. The sun had come out again and it was lovely and bright. When I woke up this morning I hadn't anticipated to have that free hour at the burcht; I hadn't anticipated to hang around with my friend after class; I was meant to be studying in fact. But I'm trying to make the most of the time that I have left to spend here, and trying to keep in mind that what I will miss the most when I have to go back home are these special, quiet moments. 

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

On authenticity online.

Yesterday morning I ate a cold, albeit very pretty looking breakfast after having spent about 15 minutes trying to snap the perfect picture of it, and I wasn't even satisfied with any of the ones I took yet I felt like I had to post one on Instagram because the colours fit my theme perfectly. So while I ate my cold and photogenic french toast I started thinking about the kind of photos I have been sharing lately. 

I have always envied the people who managed to have a very cohesive looking Instagram grid, and now that mine has lately started to look like that too  -all corals and pinks and light greens and beiges- I am starting to think if that is what I actually want. I know I am probably thinking too much about a silly social media - that's probably where the problem is. I think too much about it. I have always loved photography and I have always thought of my Instagram as a gallery of curated photos; I only post something if I'm completely in love with the picture. And I think that that sometimes leads to lack of authenticity.

I've been thinking about the bloggers and Instagrammers I truly enjoy following the most, and I realize that they all have a quality in common - authenticity. Amy, Amanda, Lulu just to name a few: I feel like their photos are glimpses into their actual lives, and that create a special connection between me and them. The photo of a french toast I posted yesterday doesn't say anything.

I have always felt like the only way I could 'succeed at Instagram' was by posting very polished, 'perfect'-looking photos and by having a curated grid. Now I realize I'm not enjoying it as much as I thought I would. I think my photos are all quite nice, but sometimes they have no meaning to them and I just took them because I thought they'd look nice on my feed. I don't think there's anything wrong with 'setting up' a photo and thinking about how you want your grid to look like, but I'm kind of tired of it now. Wow. Never thought I'd say that.

So I guess I will try and be a bit more spontaneous on my Instagram from now on, and see what happens. 

What about you? What kind of Instagrammer are you?

PS: I didn't have a photo for this post, so I grabbed my phone, stood up and photographed what I have in front of me right in this moment. Maybe a bit too spontaneous?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Earlier This Afternoon




I somehow managed to fit all my laundry in my bike bag, hopped on my old, rusty but trusted ride and headed to the laundromat. I'm becoming so Dutch. This schizophrenic Spring -it pours it down one minute, it's bright and sunny the next- seemed to have made up its mind and decided that it was time for a break from the rain. While I waited for my laundry to be done I cycled through a pretty residential area I'd never been in before, still wrapped up in my scarf and Autumn coat, but with the sun on my face. I parked my bike (I got it two weeks ago and I wonder when I will stop worrying I won't find it again whenever I leave it for five minutes) and walked alongside the houses that flank the park. It's one of my favourite neighbourhoods, and it's all flowers now. I went and said hi to the birds in the aviary. I spotted some impossibly tiny lily of the valleys, and bluebells too; I resisted the urge to pick them and decided I'll have to go back and take photos of them instead. When I went back to the laundromat there was a big scruffy dog waiting for his owner who was in turn waiting for his laundry, and I made friends with him (the dog, not the owner).
Oh, these sunny afternoons. They just fill my heart up.

PS: I'm not dead, just busy living, trying to absorb everything like a sponge. Planning a big post with photos from the past two months... they're a lot.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

News From The Dutch Front.


So, I moved to the Netherlands. 

I have been meaning to update this blog for, well, about two months, but at first exams got in the way, and then preparing for the move got in the way. I really wanted to write the standard end-of-the-year post because 2016 was a big year for me, but I guess it's a bit late now. Who knows, maybe I will write something anyway. I make my own rules here.

But let's go back to what I was saying at the beginning - as of ten days ago I have been living in Leiden, a small town near Amsterdam. I will be staying here until June, for the whole of the Spring semester. After spending the first week at a friend's place, a couple of days ago I moved into my permanent accomodation. The previous tenant had left the place in an absolutely disgusting state and I spent almost two days deep cleaning it! It's only starting to feel like home now. I still feel like I'm on holiday and I haven't quite realized that I'm going to spend the next five months here. That might not seem like a lot but... it actually is. Half a year of my life. 

Last week we had our orientation week and it probably was the most exhausting week I have had in quite a long time, both physically and emotionally. Moving to a different country alone and having to interact with strangers every day, for the entire day was a lot for an introvert like me... but I am so happy I did it. I did feel a bit uncomfortable at times, yes, and sometimes there were awkward silences and sometimes I couldn't remember how to say something in English, but I never felt anxious or in extreme discomfort... and that was surprising to me. One night my group organized a potluck dinner; everyone brought something to eat and stories to tell. There we were, a bunch of young people from all around the world, sharing a meal and getting to know each other. That was the moment I realized how lucky I was to be sitting at that table.

I can't wait to see how this story unfolds.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Notes from the Hornbeam: November.



Funny how November was probably the most uneventful, least interesting and month of 2016 in my personal life, but it was the most beautiful in the life of this tree. November is the time of the year when the hornbeam turns bright yellow for a few weeks before starting to shed its leaves. It's truly a wonderful sight, especially when it's lit by the rising sun or at dusk, when it seems even more yellow in the blue light. I love looking at it from the window above my desk and God knows I've had to spend quite a lot of time sitting in front of it this past month.

For the past three years November has meant really getting down to study for the upcoming Winter exam session. I had planned to stay in Rome until the end of the month, but I quickly realised I would be so much more productive at home, so I came back around the middle of the month. I just don't find myself at ease in Rome and when it's time to study I cannot afford to feel unhappy. Home is the best place to be this time of the year - the fire is always lit in the evenings, Mum is always cooking something tasty and I can always count on my partner in crime -my brother, that is- to watch a movie together, snuggled under a blanket. I never thought I would have said it a few years ago but I love the tranquil life we live here. Life in Rome is the opposite.

As a response to having to study all morning and all afternoon, I have been really into crafting this month. During exam season I find that I either get too tired and I can't bear to do anything but sleep in that single hour of free time before going to bed, or on the complete opposite I get super creative. This past month I have really been trying to fill every spare minute doing things I love - in addition to finishing a shawl, I have been stitching like crazy to finish a cross stitch project before Christmas; even when I'm really tired and I inevitably end up miscounting the stitches. It's like a coping mechanism, I think - I feel the need to do something with my hands after spending hour after hour and day after day learning hundreds of pages by heart.

I feel kind of ready for Winter now. Past me would have never even thought of saying this! I used to dread Winter but this year I want to make the most of it. The fact that I am going to spend part of it in a different country definitely makes it more exciting (I'm moving to the Netherlands for a few months in January, but more on that in a future post!).
What about you? How was your November?