MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the month “January, 2014”

Goosfraba

YogamanDo you ever feel the urge to take out your anger on something? And always have “buy a punch bag” at the top of your list but somehow never get around to doing so? Like you need to find a way to calm your nerves, defuse your irritation and overcome your frustration with all the annoying things around you? Because it just is so true, that common sense is simply not common at all. And that what you think is obvious, may not be so for so many others. Either way, everyone needs to find a way to channel this enclosed negative adrenaline into a healthy outlet.

Some choose yoga, Pilates or even kick-boxing.

But there is one thing similar in all these activities. They all prompt you to “just breathe”.

In fact, one of the principles of managing your frustration and remaining calm is to breathe and count to ten. It will help you relax and lower the adrenaline levels that are surmounting inside you.

In Anger Management Jack Nicholson used a single expression as a mantra to do just this. Sitting in lotus position with hands in meditative mudra, he intoned “Goos Frabaaaaa.”

Goosfraba is also a word that Eskimos use to calm down their children. So it is not surprising that this was chosen as the key to nerve-control. (It is also a word Eskimos use when they’re having sex – but that is a completely different story).

So next time someone parks in your spot, an employee is rude, or you simply cannot communicate with the people you work with, just breathe and exhale “Goosfrabaaaa”.

Also part of Daily Post: Unsafe Containers

Also part of Daily Prompt: Big Day Ahead

Wishing you were never gone

3257245001_dc974d126eI still miss you.
I still look for you in the corridors,
On the furniture,
In the corners of the house.

I still fight the urge to call your name
And look out for you running
From the most unlikely hiding place.

I still dream of you
As if you were never gone.
As if I’ll wake up to find you peacefully sleeping at my feet.

I wish you were still here.
To look into your hazel-golden eyes
And just know that everything will be fine.

I love you
And that will never ever change.

Everyone’s a postman

postman-segway-22647375They are only a handful of academics that truly inspire you. The others just put you to sleep. Why do academics always think that talking endlessly is a sign of knowledge? And this incessant numbering of everything they say? It’s like a journalist trying to write a news report and using bullet points. It’s simply…silly!

It would be so much more effective to say a few things to the point that could stay with you even after that speech or address or lecture. Talking for 30 minutes straight will drive people insane-out-of-their-minds, and no-one will ever pay attention after the first five minutes, or will they even remember what on earth it was you were talking about, five seconds after that speech. Heck, they won’t even remember the speaker’s name. And the cheering when s/he’s done is only because everyone’s glad they stepped off the podium.

It’s frightening actually how everyone thinks of themselves as a speaker, just as everyone considers themselves a writer this day and age. Yet, these are both things that take skill and a little bit of talent. If everyone could do it, then the good ones who excel at them would be no more special than the postman delivering your letters (no offense to the postman).

N.B. Written during a very boring 40-minute speech for the presentation of a book which I could have actually read in the meantime

Breaking out

GarfieldStressPMarisa looked out the window. There was a small white poodle gracefully trotting out into the middle of the street and lying down, rolling around in the sun. It was amazing how it figured out that that very spot was where all the sunlight was concentrated. It cared not of the cars honking their horns after abruptly braking before it. In fact, it even stood up and stared, joyfully wagging its tail as if it was play time.

I wish I was that carefree, she thought.

In her office all you could hear was the click-click of the keyboards, while everyone was sitting mesmerized in front of a computer screen. As if robots had taken over her colleagues who were now sitting there with their energy drained out, waiting for their next break.

Marisa was having a weird day.

It was one of those days when you feel you’re about to explode. All it takes is the slightest push, the cherry on top of the five-pound cake. The last straw. And it didn’t take too long to appear.

It all started with the bling of an email. One that was announcing that there would be no weekend as the whole team was required in to work on a report to be submitted on Monday morning.

That’s all it took.

Marisa broke out. Her stress ball was instantly shred apart as her nails tore into its smooth wore-down edges.

She replied to that email with three words “I hereby resign”.

When she got into the car she started to cry. The anxiety, the stress, the sleepless nights, the endless worrying about the inadequacy of the people she was forced to work with. It all took its toll on her. And now it all erupted. The waterworks had begun. And it was not easy to shut them off.

She rushed into Dom’s arms and let out a drawn-out wimper. Shocked, he did not know how to respond, other than comfort her and hear her out.

Don’t you even have anything to say? she uttered once her tears ran dry.

Geez, there is no winning this one, he thought, as he prompted her to tell him exactly what happened.

Marisa knew it wasn’t easy taking a risk to change her life so abruptly. It’s part of those days every month or so when you just sit and re-think your life and your dreams.

PMS is a (wo)man’s nightmare.

But every now and then, some tears, some yelling, and some comfort always does you good.

All muffled up

CacofonixCacofonix is that sweet village bard in the Asterix adventures. The one who considers himself a musical genius and a superb singer, but who often causes people to run away scared or even causes thunderstorms the moment he starts singing. Yet he is angrily offended when people criticize his singing, to the point of dismissing them as barbarians.

It is evident that his name has an association with the word “cacophony” (a harsh discordance of sound), something which is all the more timely now with the rise of social networks giving everyone a voice and an opinion on anything, anywhere at any time. It often resembles a group of dogs barking loudly for no apparent reason. Because sometimes, this is exactly what all this “noise” actually is. Barking.

And it is usually the people who have nothing to say that yell the loudest. The ones who have no right to object a certain way of handling affairs, because they simply don’t have the knowledge, experience or even capacity to do so. And the ones who have no alternatives to offer. It is usually these that shout the loudest and the longest. Wanting something different and fairer to all, which in their language would mean someone else to do their job while they enjoy the benefits.

But with so much “bad reporting” out there, how can you trust in what you read/hear/see? How can you believe the village bard promoting himself as the greatest singer of all times, and missing out that he is actually a tone-deaf peasant? At least with Cacofonix, he is usually tied up and gagged during the banquet at the end of most Asterix and co. episodes to allow the other villagers to have a good time without having his screeching disturb them.

If only things could be as easy in real life too as in a cartoon…

Wanted: unpaid worker for paid job

work-for-freeWould you work for free? Of course you wouldn’t. Who would? It is a commonly accepted trend (and very much preferred) that when you deliver a service, whatever that may be, you will receive something for it in return. In the olden days it was food, clothes, equipment. Today it is paper, that kind of paper that has value though. It’s called money. And often it is considered to be worth more than the things that matter.

I belong to the group of people who believe that when you take on a job to do, you should do it well. And sometimes it is difficult to understand whether it is I who am too demanding or if it is the people today becoming stupider and lacking in common sense.

Aristotle himself had said that “pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”. Hence, doing something you love and feel passionately about would make your job more like an activity. One that, however, renders you an income at the end of the service. No matter what that may be.

But what if you find your dream job, or at least a job as close as possible to this, that would enable you to do exactly what you want, with the freedom of movement you expect, and with control over your own work? There is one catch. You will not get paid for it.

Do you accept?

Oprah Winfrey once stated that “you know you are on the road to success if you would do your job, and not be paid for it.” But in this day and age, who works voluntarily? There needs to be some sort of return for the time, energy and dedication you put into delivering work. But what if there is not? No matter how hard you work to prove yourself? Even if you do hope that the exposure will someday idealistically lead to someone discovering how good you are and calling you in for a paid position. Do you take on a job that will allow you to do the thing you love, even if that will make it hard for you to bring food to the table? Or do you settle for something less, that will however put money in your pocket?

And what if you could do a bit of both? It would allow you to engage in your passion, while at the same time being able to buy the food. The downside though is that you may not even have the time (or energy) to devour the latter.

The world is a dangerous place they say. The choices it calls you to make determine your future. And maybe somewhere out there, there are three Moirai (Fates) spinning your life thread. But the most important choice you make comes from within. Working and making a living are sometimes two different things. Wouldn’t it be great though if the hours dedicated to your job helped you live a decent life, as well as put a smile on that pretty face of yours?

Becoming the Ulysses of Europe

languages_of_the_worldMulticulturalism makes us more human, and in turn more European. When we are receptive to external stimuli from different languages and cultures we ourselves become richer in every way. Coming from someone who speaks 32 languages, both active and ‘dead’, who has studied the history and origins of most known languages, and who has travelled the world in order to speak them, this statement carries considerable weight.

Ioannis Ikonomou is one of the hundreds of translators that work for the European Commission. What makes him stand out though is his thorough knowledge of dozens of languages and the enthusiasm with which he expresses his passion for learning languages.

‘I don’t learn languages to have them in dictionaries gathering dust’ he explains. Languages are learnt to be lived. And the best part of learning a language is that it enriches your life, it allows you to travel to different places and communicate with the locals in their own language, to delve into new cultures, new mentalities, and different ways of life.

Language learning should begin from a young age, from the moment the mind can start soaking up new words and new worlds and when the sound of different tongues serves as a stimulus for a life of globe-trotting. That is what happened with Ikonomou who says that it was the sounds made by foreign tourists on his home island of Crete that inspired him to start learning languages. Indeed, learning to communicate in the language of the ‘other’ opens up more doors than a ‘common’ language ever will. The late Nelson Mandela said, ‘if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’

Ikonomou tells me how his knowledge of languages has helped him read literature he would have never been able to discover had he not known the corresponding languages. He says that many Hungarian, Turkish, Polish, Romanian and other great writers have not even been translated into English. When you invest time to learn a language, you expect to reap the fruits of your labour – and just as money breeds greed, language learning breeds a burning desire for life experiences, memories, and friendships. This is what it really means to be European. Breaking monolingual language barriers and stepping into the realm of the ‘other’ – that’s what it’s all about. By learning languages you allow yourself to engage and interact with different cultures, values and traditions.

Every language is a different world, a different way of life, a unique mentality, and as such even the simplest of words (for example ‘bread’) will have different connotations in every language. Translators and interpreters have a difficult job. Ikonomou knows this well, having served as both. But at the same time he relishes the mental challenge offered by his job, because, as he says, leaping from language to language is a fantastic exercise. It is like balancing between worlds.

Having studied linguistics, Ikonomou knows that learning the history and origins of languages helps you to better understand your own. In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ‘those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.’

Multiculturalism and multilingualism imply openness. They suggest that you are able to escape the introvert phobias that are prevailing in Europe with the rise of the far-right, and that you are able to live with and learn from the ‘other’. Ulysses was enriched by the cities he encountered and the people he met, says Ikonomou as he recites a lyric from Homer in ancient Greek. Ulysses was much more prosperous than his son Telemachos who stayed in Ithaca all his life, and as such Ikonomou declares, ‘I want to be Ulysses,’ living in an open society. He dreams of an open society receptive to stimuli and different people from around the world, because it is only when we embrace each other’s cultures and languages that we will truly be able to live harmoniously with one other.

Ikonomou says that he doesn’t want to live his life stuck in a daily routine.  What better way to break free from schedules than delving into a different world, culture and way of life? By truly learning what ‘united in diversity’ means, and by being able to acquire an insight into the customs and life of our European neighbours.

This article was published on cafebabel.com on 18 December 2013, under the title “I speak 32 languages”. It has since been translated into Spanish, Italian, French and Polish.

Jugglers, acrobats and roaring lions

DSC07591Yana loved being at the circus. She had done so her whole life. Her father was ringmaster of one of the biggest circuses in the world and her mother was the horse and elephant trainer and performer.

IMG_0030Her mother, Sophie, was one of the youngest persons to join the circus. She loved animals and this helped her develop a special relationship with them. She could get them to do pretty much anything – horses pranced on two feet, while elephants sat down with their front feet in the air.

Her delicate nature and her elegant appearance made Hans the ringmaster fall in love with her almost instantly. It was only natural therefore that their daughter, Yana, would be born and raised in the travelling circus.

Yana could not imagine a different life. She met people from all over the world, so talented and so cheerful. As different as they were, they were united in one thing: their ability to entertain.

DSC07667The circus troupe was world-renowned. And for this almost every performance was sold out. People came from all over the world to watch a three hour spectacle filled with jugglers, clowns, flame-throwers, acrobats, goat-pig-and-dog shows, elephant parades, horse performances, and the lions.DSC07650

The latter was one of the highlights. Even the central ring had to be turned into a giant cage to protect the audience from the menacing roars and claws of the magnificent white lion and the six lionesses. Yet, this was what everyone looked forward to. That and the breathtaking salto mortale.

It was those moments that you couldDSC07676 feel the entire circus audience hold its breath and its pulse beating rapidly with adrenaline rush.

It was the moment when the audience was mesmerised and transfixed on that one performer occupying the central ring.

And it was that very moment that made Yana grateful for being part of the circus. Because for her it truly was the greatest show on earth.

Photos are mine taken at the Circus Krone in Munich on 01 January 2014.

Sweet but not salty

DSC07900Salt is considered perhaps the most important element on earth. Among its many uses, salt is essential for seasoning and savouring. Thus, a place that produces salt would be historically important with a huge heritage to deliver.

Such a place is Salzburg. Not just because of the salt, but because it truly is a city of music and arts. With its most famous resident being the musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus MozartDSC07842, Salzburg boasts a plethora of cultural, historical and artistic monuments and many, many, many churches! Here even the cemetery is a must-see place to visit. In fact the whole of the city’s historic centre was named UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

DSC07857Salzburg, one of Austria’s most beautiful cities, developed over the period from the Middle Ages to the 19th century when it was a city-state ruled by a prince-archbishop. Its Gothic art attracted many craftsmen and artists before the city became even better known through the work of the Italian architects Vincenzo Scamozzi and Santino Solari, to whom the centre of Salzburg owes much of its Baroque appearance.

DSC07702This meeting-point of central and southern Europe features breathtaking panoramic views, with the Hohensalzburg fortress situated high on the hills, as Salzburg’s famous landmark. People from all over the world flock to the city, not only due to Mozart or the famous chocolates that bear his name, but also to see the picturesque settings that formed the background of one of the most famous musicals of all time “The Sound of Music“. There are even specific tours just for this! (Just make sure you board a relatively new bus, otherwise you’ll feel as if you’re on an old carriage off to a Renaissance market place!).

DSC07887Salzburg is a city that is just as beautiful covered in snow as it is in spring with its blooming flowers and colourful gardens. Its palaces, squares, and pedestrian alleys are a pleasure to walk through and given the warm weather, a boat ride across the Salzach is ideal!

DSC07903

And since you’re in Austria, don’t forget to visit the famous historical Sacher Hotel with its renowned torte with a bit of sahne (fresh cream) and a capuccino! It is mouth-watering and an essential part of a day at one of Europe’s most scenic and idyllic cities!

All photos are mine taken in Salzburg on 02 January 2014.

Post Navigation