Bloggers at Casa Vita

Hi there!

It has been a while… Still busy with many different things. Overall most of my time is being consumed by the refugee center in my hometown. But I love to work with people, and it is still exciting to see so many new faces and to get to know them.

But I am also totally ready for a Summer trip. And yes, we will go to Puglia again. It is the first time we will go with our whole family: Hubbie and I and the kids with their partners. Oldest and his girlfriend will leave for a trip around the world in August. So this is going to be quality time with our family.

Puglia is popular these days. And also Casa Vita has had some creative and well-known Belgian visitors in the past months.

First we had the pleasure to welcome Joke Peeters with her team. She is the woman behind Olá Lindeza: a Belgian label and globally inspired home decor and women’s clothing brand. Everything is handmade in limited edition by artisans from around the world. Each piece is authentic, natural and unique in its own design and color with little imperfections unlike mass produced alternatives.

In the picture above you see me in an Olá Lindeza dress, it is called the Pompei. It is a natural and very light fabric, perfect for those hot summer days.

At the end of May the famous Belgian bloggers, Bart Deroeck and Eva Goris, visited Casa Vita, with two of their three children. Amazing what they did in only four days time! You can check out all the photos on their blogpost: Roeckies World.

So in a week we are leaving for Puglia, and I will write my next post from there.

Stay tuned, ciao!







These weeks have been hectic. Not in an unpleasant way, but still, I had too little time to get everything done, to stand still, to write… And now I try to make time. If we only could – build more time – in our days, in our life? How much would you build? The bricks could be days, the windows would stand for rest, a stop in time. Would you build a big house, an open house with huge windows or a tower of mostly bricks?

Last week was my birthday, and I felt spoiled by so much attention, so many sweet words and original gifts. Hubbie surprised me with a positive vibes dinner. Daughter gave me a book : The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (She is an Indian-born Canadian poet, writer, illustrator, and performer, who immigrated to Canada as a child).

Let me share a poem – We are not enemies:

are man-made
they only divide us physically
don’t let them make us
turn on each other

In my volunteer work at the refugee center, I am facing borders the whole time. This morning, when I was teaching Dutch, I felt so limited in what I could do. The three students I had from Ghana, Rwanda and Tanzania all spoke English and were learning easily. Then a student from Palestine joined us.  He only spoke Arabic, and I felt frustrated not being able to communicate. The woman from Tanzania told me she was here with her son of four years old: “You know, it can get very lonely, being here without your family.” Oh yes, I can only imagine. She said it with a smile and promised me she would study well the coming week so she would improve fast.

It is not necessary, but people praise me sometimes for my volunteer work. I also receive good advice. “Well, it will never be enough.  You need to set your limits. It is better not become too close to them.” I thought by myself: they have crossed so many borders, do we actually need to set another one?

On Wednesday I went to the center for our 945-in-beeld-project. I saw two girls crossing the site with their bikes. Maryama was almost fifteen, her friend Nasim a little younger. They wanted to fill in the postcard. On the card is a list of questions: Your favorite book, your favorite artist, what is your motto in life etc… Very diverse answers have been written so far. So we sat at the plastic table outside of the little house where we teach and I helped the girls fill in the cards. Suddenly Maryama looked back at me and asked, “Can we please sit on the other side of the house?”  We were sitting close to the huge gate of the center, and on the other side of the gate is a walking path.  Usually not many people pass there, but now there was a running contest. A lot of people from our hometown were passing, looking at us and the other inhabitants of the center, behind the gate.  Maryama said: “I don’t want the kids from my school see me here.”

More kids came – I brought cake, and word spread around – they all wrote the cards and told me where they came from, how many languages they spoke, where their parents came from, what they wanted to achieve here. Some families are split up, just one parent coming with one child, or a kid coming with an adult sibling.


Today I joined Daughter and Oldest’s girlfriend at the center. Time for children’s entertainment. They were all very ready for some distraction. Yasmina brought her baby brother, Yussuf who just turned one today. He was brave, sitting in his stroller, looking at the kids running and dancing, moving his little legs to the rhythm of the music.

Snack time

While standing aside, two young Palestinians came to me to talk.  One was a fisherman in Gaza.  He first showed me a picture of the big fish he caught (the biggest weighed 70 kilos) then a picture of his boat that was damaged because of the war. The other one came from Lebanon.  He was a Palestinian but had lived in camps in Lebanon since he was born. They asked me whether I had heard what happened this weekend in their homeland.

In the meantime Daughter’s boyfriend and friends took a bunch of people with them, for a walk in the woods. People talked about the wars in their home countries, showed him pictures of damaged towns and about life in the center. A few teenagers were bored in the center; there are activities for small children and for adults, but not for teenagers. So here’s another mission 😉

Let me end with another poem – Immigrant

they have no idea what it is like
to lose home at the risk of
never finding home again
to have your entire life
split between two lands and
become the bridge between two countries

So long, Sophia






Interior happiness

Interior Decoration at Casa Vita

Hi there,

Are you enjoying some good weather?

I am back home, and over here it is a perfect Spring day. Although I was not happy to leave Puglia, I feel very blessed to be back home. Over the last few months I realize even more how lucky we are to have a home, or a home country to return to,  to feel safe and surrounded by family and friends.

Being at Casa Vita in April is always much fun. It is a beautiful time of year, everything is in bloom and the temperature is slowly rising. Just as the other years, we took our time to clean and freshen up the house and to add some interior objects. The last day before I left, I remembered I still had some velvet pinkish (more to the raspberry side) fabric I bought half a year ago. So I quickly made cushions and brought them over. How lucky! They were the same color as our two footstools.

Our sofa is dark brown leather. It can feel cold sometimes. So I put a cover on it, one I found on Zara Home on sale. Do you see the new cactus? We still had a pot left, and found a perfect one growing onto the stones in the brick wall. It wouldn’t have survived anyway, so we gave it a second chance. (To be honest, it was growing on Giovanni’s side of the wall, but I am sure he won’t mind).

For Christmas I got a few nice presents from the children, a chandelier and a decorative pineapple.

And I am still very happy with the antique closet we bought at an antique store in Ostuni last year. It fits nice in the kitchen.

Remember I asked for your advice last time I wrote about Casa Vita’s interior? I was looking for some rattan chairs back then. And look what we found.

This one is from Ikea

The cushion I had made and brought over last Summer. It matches well in the chair. What do you think?

In a local store we found a white rattan rocking chair. This one goes to the Claudia Cardinale room, where everything is white. A perfect spot to have a little nap when it is too cold or too hot outside.

While I love to restyle the interior, Hubbie is addicted to exploring the local plant stores.

We might buy and plant some palm trees one day. But this time we went for another cactus 😉

The cactuses outside are also doing so well. See their little sprouts?

This little one was growing in the yard – no, not Giovanni’s 😉 – and Hubbie put it in a pot.

Since we are in the yard already, one thing that I just need to show you. It is thé proof of Spring! Can you tell? Hubbie hung the swing on the big olive tree. Just in front of the house. I was so happy it could hang there again, because last year they this olive tree had been cut (olive trees have to be pruned once in a few years) and one of the big branches, where the swing usually hung, was accidentally cut too. But Hubbie found a solution.

All Fermob furniture is from Homepage Interior

So now the pool still needs to be refilled (after gluing some mosaic tiles that came off) and Casa Vita is ready to welcome our first guests of the season: Ola Lindeza and her team! Her interior objects would fit perfectly well at Casa Vita. And now she will start a clothing line. Guess where the first fashion shoot will be? Right!  I am so curious to see their photos. More on that next time!

Ideal to read or wander off in the last sun rays of the day

Have a great sunny day!







Blooming Business

Buongiorno Tutti,

Yes, I am in the South of Italy right now. And I am in my green velvet chair, with view on the pouring rain outside. It is the perfect time to write this post and brag about how beautiful the yard is when everything is in bloom.

It wàs really beautiful the past three days. My friend Leen came along, and started to make flower arrangements the first day already. Wonderful: all those colors you find in the yard of Casa Vita.

And yes, our cacti are sprouting too:

Thursday we paid a visit to Polignano a Mare and had lunch at Mint, an exquisite vegetarian restaurant.

Yesterday started out beautifully, we took our breakfast outside, on the front patio. Then we decided to drive around and do some sightseeing in the nearby area.

First we stopped at the coast town nearest to Ostuni, Villanova, which has a little port.

Then we drove to Torre Pozzella. It is a region near the coast with an old tower, sandy beaches and rocky bays. You can walk along the coast in between the flowers and typical plantation you see in the dunes.

Alla prossima!

Ciao, ciao, Sophia






At Play

Nederlandse versie onderaan.

Life can be tough, being a volunteer:-) It is not that this is the only thing I do, but, I have been neglecting all my other activities lately, because this volunteering part just seems to have overtaken all the rest.

Last Saturday afternoon, Daughter and friends started with children animation in the Asylum Center. It was a beautiful day. I joined her, to show them around and also to take some pictures and to help, of course.

The weather was beautiful and warm, and so was the atmosphere. There are over 800 people living in the center now, among them over 200 children. They go to local schools, but, in the weekend there is not a lot of distraction. They sometimes live with two families in a trailer, so you can imagine it is hard at times.

It felt good to see so many happy faces. Children have the right to play, and these children have been through a lot. Another volunteer told me one of the children had lived for three years in Sweden separated from her family.  She was now reunited with her mother, here in the center.

The students from my class helped out too. Elena from the last interview helped with translating, she is from Lebanon, and speaks English, Arabic and French fluently. Mohamed from the library invited me for tea, and the men from Palestine offered a cup of coffee.

Did I tell you about the library already? I heard from Elena that she was bored, she didn’t have enough to read. So my friend-volunteer started collecting books in all languages: Arabic, French, Spanish, Dutch, English… And she opened a library in the center. The residents from the center keep it open now. Books in Arabic, Spanish and Farsi are still welcome.

Even if I am spending a lot of time helping out at the refugee center, the politeness, gratefulness of the inhabitants give me so much energy. They have been through so much, and even then they are positive and open. A good lesson for all of us, having so much, living in peace, and still complaining over minor things.

I want to end with something positive. While I was texting Elena, I saw she had written a quote on her profile picture, in Arabic. I asked if she could translate this:

Don’t be afraid to lose people from your life. What is important that you win your own dignity even if you stay alone.

I thought it was beautiful, coming from her, knowing part of her story. How she had to fight and finally had to flee from her home country.

Het leven kan hectisch zijn, als vrijwilliger 😉 Dit is niet het enige wat ik doe, maar ik heb al mijn andere activiteiten serieus verwaarloosd de laatste tijd. Het vrijwilligerswerk heeft al de rest overgenomen.

Afgelopen zaterdag zijn Dochter en een team met vriendinnen gestart met kinderanimatie op het Parelstrand. Er was al iemand enkele weken bezig, maar die kon wel versterking gebruiken. Het was een prachtige dag. Ik ging mee, om hen wegwijs te maken, om wat foto’s te nemen en om te helpen natuurlijk.

Het was uitzonderlijk warm, en zo ook de sfeer. Er wonen meer dan acht honderd mensen in het centrum nu, waaronder zo’n twee honderd kinderen. Zij gaan naar lokale scholen, maar in het weekend valt er niet zoveel te beleven. Soms leven ze met twee gezinnen in één trailer, je kan je dus wel inbeelden dat het soms moeilijk is.

Het deed deugd om zoveel vrolijke gezichtjes te zien. Kinderen hebben recht om te spelen, en deze kinderen hebben zoveel meegemaakt. Een andere vrijwilliger vertelde me dat één van de kindjes gedurende drie jaar in Zweden gewoond had, gescheiden van haar familie. Nu is ze hier herenigd met haar moeder.

De studenten uit mijn klas deden ook mee met de activiteiten. Elena van het laatste interview hielp met vertalen, ze komt uit Libanon en spreekt vloeiend Engels, Frans en Arabisch. Mohamed van de bibliotheek nodigde ons uit voor de thee en de mannen uit Palestina boden een kop koffie aan.

Had ik jullie al verteld over de bibliotheek? Elena vertelde me dat ze zich verveelde, ze had niet genoeg boeken. Mijn collega-vrijwilliger begon boeken in te zamelen in verschillende talen: Arabisch, Frans, Spaans, Engels… en ze opende een bibliotheek in het centrum. De bewoners houden de Bib nu zelf open. Boeken in het Arabisch, Spaans en Farsi zijn nog welkom.

Ook al spendeer ik veel tijd aan de organisatie van de activiteiten en de lessen op het Parelstrand, de dankbaarheid en respect die ik krijg van de bewoners, geeft me veel energie. De nieuwkomers hebben zoveel meegemaakt en ze blijven positief en open. Een goede les voor ons allen. We hebben zoveel, we hebben geen oorlog en toch klagen we vaak over onbenulligheden.

Ik wil nog graag iets positiefs meegeven. Toen ik een berichtje kreeg van Elena, zag ik dat er een quote stond op haar profielfoto, in het Arabisch. I vroeg haar of ze het wilde vertalen:

Wees niet bang om mensen te verliezen in je leven. Het is belangrijker je zelfrespect te behouden, ook al blijf je alleen achter.

Ik vond het prachtig, vooral omdat ik haar verhaal beluisterd heb. Hoe ze heeft moeten vechten en uiteindelijk haar vaderland is moeten ontvluchten.

Geniet van de lente! Sophia