Back to reality

This post is about a recent phenomenon I’ve been observing without too  much understanding from my side. It’s about people going from A to B and their use of phones, laptops, tablets and maybe also mp3 players to a slight extend. In contemporary society it seems that no time has to be waste on opportunities to work or to be entertained. Mobility creates offices in busses, trains, restaurants and all other places devices can connect to the internet. Of course, this can be very pleasant for business meetings at a hotel’s conference room or students working on their projects at Starbucks (or in case of Lithuanian students Vero Café or Coffee Inn). 

The issue I want to stress is that nowadays just ‘doing nothing’ seems to be something scarce. Take a look around you, people on the street seem to be deformed with one of their hands glued their ears with a little cell phone in between. They’re desperately talking to the person they’ll anyways meet later that day. Why not wait to tell your personal miseries then instead of spreading it like an avalanche through the street? The same counts for endless phone calls during the use of public transport. I personally rather watch the landscape then being forced to listen to gossips about who kissed who during last party night and how drunk everybody was.
People travelling by train one by one stare at their little screens which indoctrinate them with yet another load of useless information instead of looking through the window, observe the weather, the landscape and the fact that even though spring is still far away, the first signs of blossoming trees can in fact be spotted already now. They probably don’t hear their brains screaming for a little break because of the volume coming out of their earplugs.

I remember a TV commercial from KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) in which was stated that the journey itself is just as important as the final destination. So true! Of course, when taking the same route to school every single day I can understand you are not that impressed anymore by the environment you already know so well. Still, people seem not to be able to just do nothing anymore, to enjoy, to relax, to just sit down and look around a bit. Take a random waiting room of a doctor or a hallway in a university two minutes before the class starts. Pretty much everybody stands around with their heads bended over, checking their Facebook wall for a fifth time in a row. 
If they will already realize at all, I’m afraid so many people will regret not having seen and felt life how it is now. They might have tons of movie clips and pictures, but did they actually see the world through their own eyes, or simply just trough the screens of their smart phones? Do people still perceive reality? Do people still smell the rain after a warm day, the freshness of ice cold weather and do they still hear the birds sing and enjoy spotting storks, cranes, swans,…? Sometimes it’s just better to put all that technological stuff away, activate your senses and just enjoy. Look around you and see that the world consist of things pixels can’t substitute.

Book review: Rusland voor gevorderden

A book review about a book which is, as far as I know, only available in Dutch. Therefore a post for the Dutchies this time. If you do manage to find this book being translated: read it! I absolutely loved it.
Dus, Rusland voor gevorderden. Dat leek me wel wat. Niet dat ik me na pas één keer in Rusland te zijn geweest ‘gevorderd’ mag noemen, maar toch. In Estland, Letland en Litouwen zijn nog veel sporen terug te vinden van de Russische overheersing. Het is dan ook niet verwonderlijk dat de bureaucratie nog veel gelijkenis vertoont met de Russische. Bijna dezelfde lui staan ten slotte nog steeds aan het roer. Gelukkig lijkt het er tegenwoordig in de Baltische Staten op het eerste gezicht wel wat minder corrupt aan toe te gaan, ook al zeg ik dat niet met volle overtuiging. Iedereen die iets met de Baltische landen heeft en Rusland toch ook wel mysterieus en spannend vindt zal veel plezier beleven aan ‘Rusland voor gevorderden’ van Jelle Brandt Corstius. Het boek is ontzettend vlot geschreven en leest dus lekker weg. Het is alsof een goede vriend doorratelt over ongeloofwaardige maar toch waargebeurde belevenissen in een land waarin iedereen de gehele dag teut is. Ik krijg er geen genoeg van. De verhalen zijn erg herkenbaar, ontzettend bizar, maar raken daarentegen ook af en toe de gevoelige snaar. Jelle is een meester in het overbrengen van droge humor met een flinke vleug Hollandse nuchterheid. Een aanrader dus!

Conversations with the receptionist guy

Filling in yet another registration form…

Nienke: ‘What’s the date?
Receptionist: ‘Today’.
Nienke: *raising both eyebrows*
Receptionist: *shaking his head as a confimative ‘yes, of course’*

And a bed linnen checklist…

Receptionist: ‘What’s your name?’
Nienke: ‘Nienke Bos’
Receptionist: *laughing out loud*
Nienke: *raising both eyebrows*
Receptionist: ‘Bos, haha! The boss! (etc., etc., etc.)

Bringing back the key of my old room…

Nienke: ‘I’m here to bring back the key of my old room’
Receptionist: ‘What’s your name?’
Nienke: ‘Nienke Bos’
Receptionist: ‘Haha, the boss!’
Nienke: *when he will finally stop making this joke*
Receptionist: ‘You are from Sweden?’ *making a gesture as if he has long blond hair*
Nienke: ‘No no..’
Receptionist: ‘Ohja, you, neSerlands!’ (funny how many people cannot pronounce ‘th’)

When I arrived in Kaunas after the winter holiday I was welcomed by the same receptionist by the way. This is how that went: ‘Welcome to Siberia! Yes, very cold. RASSIJA, you know, yes, big neighbor’.The result: a silently sighing Nienke saying ‘Yeah, I know all about it’, stepping into yet another phase of her Baltic adventure.

Korean giggling

Around a week ago I was asked by my South-Korean classmate Jun to accompany him to a lecture about Buddhism. It was held in a conference room in one of the hotels located on Laisves aleja, Freedom avenue, the main street of Kaunas. Two other South-Koreans joined as well. So there I went, the blonde giant with three adorable Asians by my side. The lecture was given by a charismatic Dane aged 62. He told us about what Buddhism is and about what it’s not. He for sure seemed to have found his inner peace. His whole body language and way of speaking confirmed that. After around two hours, now being philosophically active about ‘space nature’ and ‘nature awareness,’ we kind of thought it was enough. Beautiful, this Buddhism, but during this lecture I discovered I am already a very happy person and that I don’t really feel the need to stir up more awareness about all my feelings and the world in which I live. My friends felt the same and when a bunch of other students decided to leave we quickly used the opportunity to sneak out as well. 

 Jun and Nienke last semester
Our bellies were crying for food and therefore very pleased to find out we went to Charlie Pizza. There I ordered a pizza for the astronomical amount of LTL 3,33 (which is € 0.97). During a well deserved meal we brought back some memories from last semester. One night Marco, Jun and I had a tasty diner at the sixth floor of the dormitory. In the kitchen there was a list with the word ‘dick’ and ‘pussy’ in all kind of languages which students were asked to fill up with words from their own languages. I was kindly requested to do so in Dutch, since that language was still missing. Without too much thinking I managed to write down around five different words for dick, even though there are probably many more. Also the South-Korean part of the list was still missing. I had never seen Jun being so uncomfortable when he was asked to write down one tiny Korean word. In fact, he started to giggle like a small girl. It took at least one hour to convince him that this innocent list couldn’t do any harm and that it was just for fun. He just didn’t have the courage to write down dick in South Korean, not even to mention that he would dare to speak it out loud. Yet half an hour later he slowly started to write something down being close to invisible. There it was. The scientific word for dick in Korean. When talking about this occurrence during our diner at Charlie Pizza Jun started to laugh again, as well as the other two Koreans. I challenged them to just say the word out loud. There would anyways not be anyone around understanding it. The giggling didn’t stop and I felt like a primary school teacher slowly losing track of this showpiece. Then out of the blue one of the guys mumbled a indefinable word after which they all started laughing from scratch. Fascinating, these cultural differences!

An unexpected visitor…

Yesterday a random stranger dressed in a military outfit walked into our classroom. He had an unfashionable haircut and was wearing two suspiciously full bags. The fact that I just had read an article about the Beslan school hostage didn’t make me feel more comfortable. Obviously not being one of the journalism students, he just sat down, starting a relaxed conversation with our teacher who had no idea what to do with this guy. Furthermore he was fascinated there was a Frenchman in our class. Suddenly he started to play a few notes on the piano after which he left again, wishing us all a happy birthday and a merry Christmas. Lithuania, you keep on surprising me!

Geluid uit

A short Dutch post for now.

Dit is een aantekening die ik vorig weekend, nog in mijn oude kamer, op papier krabbelde. Gewoon, om je een beetje het idee te geven hoe het er hier soms aan toe gaat.

Een eindeloos autoalarm
Zo monotoon

Wegvallend in de ruis van het bestaan
Door de hal rennende met hormonen overspoelde studenten
Gillend, lallend en met aangeschoten grootspraak
Russisch gebrabbel vanuit de rokersruimte
Isolatie onbekend
Mijn bed bedekt met een sprei van onzichtbare dooddoeners
Dan gaat het brandalarm
Een doorsnee zaterdagavond in een studentenflat
Zuipen en feestvieren, de essentie mij nog immer onbekend
Soms zou ik willen de schakelaar des geluids om te kunnen zetten
Gelukkig was het loos alarm
De flat staat nog overeind
Daarnaast de nog immer om aandacht piepende auto
Tijd om de verhuisdozen overhoop te halen
Dag Russen, ik ga slapen

I can breathe again, hmm!

The second school week has started already again and since I’ve arrived here a lot has changed. I have to get used to the fact that all my best friends are gone and that there are so many new students walking around I don’t know yet. Most of them seem to be in a party wave, being overexcited about being an Erasmus student, able to party and drink distanced from parental supervision at least 1000 km. I have never really understood this party behavior and I guess it will also never happen. Another thing I’m not eager about is smoking, and oh how terrible, my bed was situated right next to the wall behind which the smoking room is located. Every evening, and especially during loud party nights (during which I’m one of the few students just going to bed on a decent time) the smoking room is filled with tipsy students and the toxic gasses their enormous amount of cigarettes produce. Isolation doesn’t really seem to exist in the dictionary of this dormitory. Therefore  I often felt like laying in the middle of the smoking room when trying to catch some sleep. Well, that problem is over now. My lungs are delighted with my persistence to get a new room. Now I’m in Jenny and Melissa’s old room where I can breathe in fresh air as much as I wish. What a delight! Yi from China is my new roommate and I’m very pleased to share my room with her. Furthermore I’m the proud owner of this inspiring view 😉