May 31, 2013 § 3 Comments
I never would have imagined that passion flowers (passiflora) would grow and bloom in these northern latitudes. Coming from an equatorial land wherein the scorching sun works up the ground for these exuberant creatures, I thought that this fierce warmth was a minimum requirement for their growth. I was wrong.
One day after a trip to the local plant nursery, I came back home with one plant partially convinced by the owner that they could thrive here as well, albeit in a more limited manner. I decided to give it a try knowing how much butterflies love their flowers. After three weeks of skeptical waiting and with day temperatures ranging between 16– 23C, show time finally arrives!!
Is this an amazing capacity for adaptation or gene manipulation? I don´t know and for the time been, I´ll just rejoice in its beauty.
May 29, 2013 § 1 Comment
The 60th anniversary of the first climbing of Mount Everest is being commemorated around the world these days. Yet, hardly anybody ever mentions the local porters who help make these feats possible. In a photographic series that I came across in the Al-Jazeera English news website, a quick view of these silent heroes is presented. Click on the link above and meet some of them.
May 28, 2013 § 1 Comment
When I was a child I often dreamed of being invisible. I fantasized with the thousand possibilities of this existential condition and finally decided that apart from spying on other people´s lives there was probably not much more to it. Yet, spying is an exciting activity for a curious child.
After moving to Norway I came across a short children´s story titled “The Invisible Child“ by Tove Jansson. In Scandinavia, as maybe in other parts of the world as well, Tove Jansson doesn´t need any introduction, however coming from Venezuela I had never heard of her books or the Moomin characters. This is regrettable because the Moomin series is just the kind of books that are truly fantastic for children and adults alike. I´m not going to enter here into the details of Tove Jansson´s literary cosmos (which you can find in the net everywhere like here or here), neither will I discuss the enormous merchandise machinery surrounding all of the Moomin characters (even though I love the mugs and have some at home), as I indicated at the beginning of this post this a story about an invisible child.
This child is called Ninni and contrary to my childhood fantasies does not become invisible of her own accord to have fun spying on others. Ninni becomes invisible as a reaction to her aunt … My book version is in Norwegian, yet below you´ll find my English version of the explanation that one of the characters of the story (Tootiki) provides as to why and how Ninni becomes invisible:
– People can easily become invisible if you scare them often enough (…) Ninni was deeply frightened by an aunt that had taken care of her even though she did not love her. I met this aunt and she was spooky. She was not an angry woman, you can understand anger, she was just ice cold and ironic.
– What does ironic mean? – asked Moomintroll
– Well, if you stumble into a slimy mushroom and end up falling in the middle of a mound of recently cleaned mushrooms- said Tootiki – the natural thing would be that you mother becomes angry, right? No, she does not. Instead she (the aunt) says coldly and shatteringly: “I know that this is your understanding of dancing, but I would appreciate if you refrain from doing this …”
The aunt´s coldness and ironic comments had completely destroyed the self-confidence of the child to the point that she had become invisible to the world. Ninni does not want to be seen because she does not want to be the target of sarcasm. It´s all too painful. When Ninni arrives to the Moomin family she´s not only invisible, but in addition she doesn´t know how to laugh or how to get angry. Through the patience and understanding of a more compassionate environment and by re-learning how to get back in touch with her emotions, which had been crushed, Ninni slowly starts to release them and thus becomes “visible” to the world again.
In a nutshell this is the story of the invisible child, yet you have to read it yourself to appreciate the full spectrum of the Moomin´s universe. These are deeply entertaining books, full of messages and hidden warnings for us to head and enjoy.
p.s. The image above is taken from the story “The Invisible Child” by Tove Jansson
May 22, 2013 § 1 Comment
We all know of dictators: who they are and what they do. We know how these tyrants impose their will on everybody and how the people must obey their orders or otherwise … well, you know.We all fear them. Diktatoren in the Norwegian language means “The Dictator”. This is also the title of a children´s book by renowned Swedish writer, Ulf Stark (more about him here and here). Although the book was published in Norwegian in 2012 (originally published in Swedish in 2010), it has just come to my attention now as I´m always in the lookout for interesting children´s books for my daughter. It is a really interesting book and not only for children.
It is a book about dictators, the small ones that can control a whole household with the threat of an imminent temper tantrum. It is also a book about adults and how we have surrendered our duties as parents in order to either please a three year old, to avoid yet another difficult meal or simply to collapse in front of a television (Ipad, computer, and so on) because we are plainly exhausted. Yet nobody is served by surrendering to the will of the dictators, least of all them, and this becomes painfully obvious in their encounters with the world outside their sphere of influence.
The book is still not translated into English, yet it has been translated into Russian, Turkish, Italian, Latvian, Finnish, Norwegian and Belarusian (in case you speak any of these languages). Here you can find an interview in English with the author. The book has beautiful illustrations and if you are like me and don´t care if I can´t read the language as long as the book feels like candy for my eyes, then I highly recommend it to give it a try. Below you find two pictures from the book I took with my phone, please meet The Dictator!
May 21, 2013 § 1 Comment
There is a debate going on in Norway, particularly in Oslo, about what to do or rather not to do with Romani people. The discourse raging in the media goes more or less along these lines: Romani people come to Norway as beggars organized or not by human trafficking gangs, eat, sleep and defecate in the streets, and lately demand, supported by local actors, that the state should provide a minimum of service to them (like public bathrooms or a roof to sleep). Their presence in the streets either increases criminality or is plainly annoying. People interviewed think that either they should get a job (and not just beg for money), or they think that giving a couple of coins “is not going to solve the problem”. In conclusion, politicians have felt some sort of pressure to do something and in the city of Oslo they have recently introduced a law that prohibits setting up a tent or sleeping in public zones like parks or other green areas. Although this prohibition is mainly targeted towards Romani people camping in public areas, it also affects other groups like drug addicts and homeless who also happen to sleep in the streets.
The introduction, or rather the expansion of this prohibition, has also stormed a lot of criticisms and last night a large group of priests and other people working in humanitarian organizations decided to camp in a public park as a way to show their protest. They demand that if the state is going to penalize outdoor sleeping, they should provide alternatives for those unable to afford a roof. Particularly, it has been argued that there is an ongoing trend to criminalize poverty. Surely there are other ways to deal with beggars or homeless rather than by prohibiting their daily presence in our lives?
May 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
As I wrote in an earlier post, in these northern latitudes spring comes late. It starts out very timidly with a few flowers here and there which suddenly start popping up all over when they realize that the warmth is here to stay. Usually there are just anemones, snowdrops and coltsfoot. They are the ones that are strong enough to make it through a slight layer of snow or a chilly night. I like to think of them as the trailblazers.
However, if you go out for a walk in the woods now, just a couple of weeks later, you can´t decide where to focus your view. There is such an explosion of flowers that is difficult to decide which one is prettier. Adorning the trees, on the ground, close to the streams, nature is hurrying to bloom. The anemones, snowdrops and coltsfoot have drown in an emerging sea of blades and grass, and many other flowers are taking their place. In the area where i live, the indisputable queen of the woods is the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis). Although it has not blossomed yet, leafy stems creating large colonies have conquered the underground forest and very soon we´ll have their precious bells enthralling us with their scent!
May 20, 2013 § Leave a comment
Three years ago my partner underwent proton radiation on his right eye to destroy a malignant tumor. He lost the vision of this eye and, over time, this dead eye is shrinking and is being sort of absorbed into the body. Yet he has no cancer. Although this story sounds a bit dramatic it is not, and the point is not to turn it into one. I´m telling it because the other day our daughter – 6 years old- was looking intently into this disappearing eye and made a comment: Does this mean (the shrinking eye) that from now on you are going to be able to see inside of your body? Sooo cool!!
Is it not this a fantastic conclusion?