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Sophia

Stories

What keeps us going

Dear Readers,

How are you?
Are you still working? From home now?

It has been a while, yes. Summer has passed easily, and this very special – I wanted to say “horrible,” but I believe we (my family and I) are still lucky – year is coming to an end. Usually I write about my volunteer projects or cultural excursions. But most of these came to an end.

Has your life changed a lot in this past year? Do you see positive things emerging from this lockdown and being limited in your social life?

I’ll just tell you about a few things that kept me going.

Wonderful Things

I was still able to see one exhibit! About a month ago we went to the exhibition of the photographer Tim Walker . He is so much more than a photographer. His photos emerge in his very creative mind, going back to childhood memories and fantasies. It takes a huge team of models, hairdressers, builders, screenwriters, make-up artists, etc to build up the scenery he has in mind. “To me, a photograph is far stronger when something is suggested rather than defined. If you define it there is nowhere for your imagination to go.”, Tim Walker said.

Walker used the garden of earthly delights by Bosch as an inspiration and made his own versions.
Bosch through the eyes of Tim Walker - Style has No size
Jeroen Bosch terug in Noordbrabants Museum: met dank aan fotograaf Tim Walker - Museumkijker.nl - Museumkijker.nl
Jeroen Bosch terug in Noordbrabants Museum: met dank aan fotograaf Tim Walker - Museumkijker.nl - Museumkijker.nl

The photos look like fairytales. What grabbed my attention also is that his models are very specific in their looks and facial features. The most intriguing part to me was the movie at the end. He remade a short film based on the fairytale of Hans Christian Andersen “The Steadfast Tin Soldier.”. Walker’s version centers around a tin soldier and a knight falling in love. You should go see for yourself, if the lockdown has passed 😉
MORE POST — TOM CHICK

Touching Stories

We can escape the daily life by wandering through the magical photos by this extraordinary photographer – and this feels good – yet, we cannot neglect the anxiety and absurdity of the times we are living in now.

The most difficult part is that we have all those rules to limit our freedom. Don’t get me wrong, I agree to them all, and they are necessary. But still, it is a challenge to not be able to hug, to see our family and friends. Certainly people that live on their own are susceptible to loneliness.

Yesterday on All Saints Day the sky was gray. I decided to walk to the bakery, to get some fresh air. When I was almost there, it started to drizzle. An old lady with a rollator passed the other direction. She looked at me and said:
– It is starting to rain!
– Well, I hope you are almost home
– Yes, I am, I live just around this corner.
– Luckily, you have had some exercise and fresh air then.
I continued walking, but she definitely wanted to continue talking.
– I make long walks, three times a day. I have to do this or I go crazy. I have a lot of sorrow inside of me, and I need to let it out somehow.
I stopped. Not asking now would be selfish and indifferent.
– What happened?
– My grandson died, last summer. He was twenty six. He was living together in Antwerp with his girlfriend. Yes, he had to take medication for this disease, and he forgot to take it. I am not sure how it exactly happened and if this is what caused it. My daughter cannot talk about it. I think she is hiding things from me. She lost a lot of weight, she’s only 45 kilos. You know I have this rattan little table that is normally in the yard. I put it inside now. On this table are all his photos. My daughter also printed out some pictures from Facebook. He was so popular. And active, never stayed silent. When he died he was wearing this sweater with “Stay Calm” on the front. My daughter couldn’t stand the fact that he was put into a coffin. So he was cremated, just on a wooden shelf. His scouting friends spread the ashes over in the river, combined with many rituals. They wrote a song for him. They put many things near this spot at the river. I would like to see it. But I can’t due to corona. Today is All Saints Day, I would like so much to go there, to see this, to be with him.
They only told me about it later, when he had died already. He was in a coma for four days. I couldn’t go see him anyway, I know, but still. Most of his organs were no good anymore, because of the coma. Except for his lungs. They were giving to a twenty three year old girl that had been on a breathing machine for a year. She made it now. We don’t know who she is. We cannot find out. At least, she has his lungs and is still alive.

By that time I was shivering from this story and the rain.
– It is so sad what you have been through, it is good you are able to talk about it. But I must go now, or the bakery will be closed.
– Oh dear, I am so sorry. You know what. I live at number twelve, if it is closed, you come to my house, I can still give you half of a bread.
– That is very kind. I will do that!

I rushed to the bakery and the woman that helped there was talking on the phone. I saw she was having difficulties to end the conversation.
– So sorry, that was my daughter, she cannot stop talking. Thanks for waiting.
– No problem at all. How old is she?
– Six and she cannot keep silent!
– That is a wonderful age. I hope she keeps on babbling and never stops.

Beyond Borders

Our project on the newcomers in this country has also been put on hold for a while. We still had plans to go to the schools so the newcomers could tell their own story, and so we would create more understanding. Because if one issue has left the news because of corona, it is the catastrophe of the refugees. Not totally, excuse me.  One story I still found in the newspapers: the one of the Iranian family with three young children that drowned on their way to England. The youngest was one.

Plus we have already begun interviewing people. We hope to make a small documentary. A little over a month ago, we drove to the other side of Belgium to meet Abraham and Merhawit, the beautiful couple from Eritrea. They met each other in horrific circumstances: in a Lebanese prison camp. They met there, were separated again and were reunited one year later in Europe. They married in Belgium. Now they are the happy parents of a beautiful boy. Marie made a birth card.

MUSA

This kept me really busy physically. I have been painting, sandblasting floors, decorating, choosing tiles, finding contractors… And still, we are not finished.


Musa will be a place to stay, for a few nights, in an old house in the museum-area of Antwerp. You can find us on Instagram  @ musa_antwerp. I’ll write more about the progress in a next post.

Please take care
of yourself,
and of others,

Sophie

Interior happiness

Terrazzo

Hello dear readers,

How are you? Back to work?
Slowly getting into another rhythm again, after the lock-down?

We were lucky. After two years of looking for a new coffee-table, ours was eventually delivered a few weeks ago. I loved the design of terrazzo, but it was so hard to choose: colors, patterns. Last year we bought two new chairs – pink! – they’re called Little Tulip and my friend from Homepage helped me choose.

As you know by now, I have a bad allergy for boring interiors – and since I am making confessions here anyway, I might as well tell you I’m allergic to boring people as well. Don’t feel offended, I do not mean you, you wouldn’t be reading my blog if you were boring 😉

Sorry! Still have a hard time to focus (yes, yes, if I was a child now, I would be labelled with ADD) So, back to interior choices. Colors make me happy, flowers too. I like the design of terrazzo a lot. First I wanted more pink in it, but that would have been too much with the chairs. So this type has so many different shades of green, terracotta-pinkish and the base is off-white. It matches perfectly with the rest of our interior. It was a good choice!  The foot is lacquered white. The table is designed by my niece.

We all are very happy with the result. The table matches perfectly with the rest of the interior, a mix of colors, materials and of course all the plants. The living room is finished, cosy and comfy. Decorating is what I love to do.

What do you think?

But! I am not finished with decorating, nono. One of the most fun things to do these past months in lockdown, was scrolling and searching online for ideas and putting them on the Pinterest board of our new project. What is it about? It is again in the tourism business, but here in Belgium. I will do the decorating part, with the help of the family. To be continued 😉

So long, Sophie

PS: a sneak preview


Stories

Locked in

Dear readers,

I really hope you are still in good health.

I first planned to say “I hope you are fine,” but who is fine these days? It is a struggle for all of us, and above all, for the most vulnerable among us–the ones on their own, the elderly, the ones losing their jobs, losing their income, and of course the sick.

I also think about the ones being totally neglected in the news now, as if they disappeared from the globe. The many people stuck in camps in Greece. And also here in the refugee center people are living very close to one another. Difficult to keep social distance.

The job fair I talked to you about last time had to be cancelled the day before the event, so frustrating.

What do you find the most difficult these days?
I think, apart from being sick or without a job, it is hard to not be able to be with your friends or family in a specific situation. One friend just had a baby, another one lost her dad. I cannot go to them and share this joy or grief.

So no projects at the moment for me. And still, the days seem to pass by quickly. I chat a lot, to check on people, and I notice a lot of people check on me. That is such a comforting thought. We send photos and funny videos to each other. Very important: I rediscovered the good old mail. I sent cards and reading stuff to my bunch of newcomers who aren’t allowed to visit us anymore. Thank you postman for the deliveries!

I know I am lucky, being with my family, at home. I have been working outside, planting flowers, making the yard ready for summer. Some photos to make you enjoy spring:

Since I still had different fabrics, in joyful colors, I decided to make some mouth masks. I used old handkerchiefs for the inside since it is material that is soft and can be washed easily. For the outside I used different patterns, but also good quality fabric that can be washed easily. I washed everything before I started – to check whether it could stand high temperatures. When I finished them, I noticed they were still a little too big, so I need to adapt them at the sides ;-).







So let me know how you are feeling, in general? How is the epidemic dealt with, in your country?

Take care!
So long,

Sophie

PS: I wanted to bring Spring inside, my bouquet turned out to be huge

 

Stories

Building bridges, not walls

Hi there,

How are you?

I am enjoying the silence of an empty house. Hubbie is skiing, not in Northern Italy.

Last week he asked me why I hadn’t written anymore on the blog. I can’t tell. Days, weeks, seem to go fast. I realized I truly miss writing, the real writing, not the daily mails and texts that are just information, sometimes not even necessary.

What have you been up to?  Chatting is sometimes just entertainment, but it can be consoling too. I realized it is important to just ask how people are sometimes, to make – even if it is small – a connection.

It was International Women’s Day and quotes have been coming in through different media. I prefer those that say that women should be kinder to themselves. Less critical. That’s what I find hard to do.

In the work I do at the refugee center here, I have met so many strong, unique and positive people. Helping out makes me happy, but there are many things I cannot help with, and that is frustrating.

I am proud though, to be part of a project, a job fair, that is bringing people together:  connecting the newcomers (almost one thousand people are living in the center nowadays) in our hometown to local companies and organizations. It is a first step in finding a job, and having a job is a first step to integration. There are so many talents here at the center, and there are still many vacancies at the local factories and companies. The newcomers do not speak Dutch well yet, some speak French or English. It will not be easy, but I see it as a networking event, even if they don’t immediately find a job.  They might learn how to apply for a job, the possibilities of training and other educational info.

The event is tomorrow. A few weeks ago I had to give a speech to local companies to promote this. I have to admit I was nervous. This is not something within my comfort zone.

Lately I have been reading “Daring Greatly, How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead” by Brené Brown. Vulnerability is defined as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” Brené says that “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.”
This book helped me focus on what’s important. That you don’t need to do things perfectly. Fear of not reaching your goal, can just paralyze you and prevent you from just trying and doing great things, even if they aren’t perfect. The past year I have been doing a lot of things I hadn’t done before. And it is a challenge, a chance to learn. Just jump and do it. It gave me a lot of energy and satisfaction. Being vulnerable also means opening up to others, showing them your own fears and doubts (a total emotional exposure is not meant here ;-)). It both helped me reach out to others and I had the impression it enabled other people to feel more comfortable telling me their stories.

I am very grateful with the connection I made with so many interesting people. In the first place the newcomers who were so strong to open up and tell me what they had been through, but also all the volunteers that worked with me in the center. People in this project want to give newcomers a chance, see through the label of refugee, and believe in the talents, spirit, and motivation. It gives me hope.

I came across this short poem, and it is sad, but I want to share it anyway, just to create a better understanding of what it must feel like, for so many newcomers.

you broke the ocean
in half to be here.
only to meet nothing that wants you.

– immigrant

So we’ll try to not give our fellow human beings this feeling, ok?

And what have you been up to?
Have a good day, and count your blessings!

The photo on top is the lake next to the refugee center here in our hometown

Interior happiness

Architecture in Paris

Hi there,

Best wishes for 2020!

Did you celebrate well?
What are your resolutions? If you have any, tell me!
Do you want to know mine?

Well, be happy of course. Be happy with small things and precious moments with friends & family. Meet other people, or maybe really see and get to know people and treasure them for who they are. Listen. Embrace the uniqueness and try to not to focus too much on the differences that are upsetting. Be good and be patient. But not too tolerant, no, not tolerant for injustice. See the humor of awkward situations. Laugh a lot, laugh out loud, with tears if necessary. Be grateful.

I started this blogpost at the beginning of December. And then time just faded away. We left for Mexico in the middle of December, to visit Oldest and his girlfriend. X-mas was wonderful, our family gathered on the beach.

In November we went to Paris, my two sisters and I. It was a late present for my sister, whose birthday party was half a year ago.

Image result for charlotte perriandSo I want to take you to Paris! I won’t go in to everything we did, but I’ll just focus on the most special visit, to the exhibition of Charlotte Perriand, at the foundation Louis Vuitton, located in an impressive silvery artwork. It lasts until February 24th.  Go if you are interested in interior design, or just art in general, a really must-see exhibition!

Walking up there, in the Bois the Bologne, and seeing this magnificent building was a treat for the eye. The architect is Frank Gehry, also the designer of the Guggenheim in Bilbao among many others. The interior is huge and unique.  Upstairs you can go outside and have splendid views from the different terraces.




So who’s Charlotte Perriand? One of the biggest and inventive architects from the past century. She worked with and for Le Corbusier and was a specialist in designing interiors for small apartments. She was so far ahead of her time in seeing the necessity of living in limited square meters. Also her engagement in society is shown in the expo.  It was her wish that all natural resources and cultural heritage be available to all people:

Laisserons nous perdre cet héritage!
Il faut continuer la tradition
en allant de l’avant
Libérer les richesses naturelles
et culturelles au profit de
tous les hommes

Chaise longue and Fauteuil grand confort

A scale model of an apartment

Small apartments and student dorms, meticulously designed to fit everything in 

A kind of cubicle, prefabricated

The exhibition is large and elaborate. Charlotte’s life was long and she kept on working in so many areas. She lived in Japan and Brazil for some time and mingled that inspiration in to her work.

Of Japanese influence

She loved to wander on the beach and collect stones and other natural material she found and use their shapes into her own creations.

Equally as important, other works of contemporary artists are shown in this exhibition.  To name a few: Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger, Le Corbusier (of course), Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró…

Fernand Léger

Alexander Calder

Le
Corbusier

taking a rest in le fauteuil grand confort 😉

And what else did we do? Just walk under the blue autumn sky.

In the Musée des Arts Décoratifs we found two other interesting exhibitions: Marche et démarche, about the history of the shoes and Affiches Cubaines, on graphic design in Cuba.

Did you know that foot binding – lotus feet –  in China had also a sexual purpose?

Cuban art

Remember poor Marie Antoinette? Picture by Erwin Olaf

She was an inspiration for art, fashion and of course the movie industry. We visited her last residence, before she was guided to the guillotine. The exhibition “Marie Antoinette, metamorphosis of an image” is held in the prison where she spent her last weeks. Vive la république!

Just one last minute tip, to satisfy our culinary aspirations. Two great restaurants (need to book upfront!): Fluctuat and Caïus.

It was just two days, in one of the loveliest cities of course, and being immersed in art, I can happily end by these words of Charlotte:

Synthèse des Arts:
Elle joue à travers le temps, les continents.
Harmonie de même origine, mettant l’homme en état d’euphorie.
Elle enrichit son regard sur les choses,
elle le rend libre.

A la prochaine! Sophie