Last But Not Least: Day Fourteen

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The dragons are everywhere, scattered across town. They don’t look anything like the mythical creatures in the stories that I love so much, Eragon or Harry Potter. But I love them anyway. They just stand there, amidst tourists and busy shoppers, and the sun makes them glimmer and glitter in an almost unrealistic way.

It feels a bit like magic; everything is old and beautiful, and every other shop window seems to be full of books. We sit down on the foot of a dragon wearing a deerstalker, and we listen to the music of a violinist playing and swirling, and he reminds me a bit of a shooting star.

(Quote: Terry Pratchett)

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Last But Not Least: Day Eleven

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I never knew I liked cider. Until today.
It’s only cider, but it puts my life upside down. Well, maybe not exactly upside down. Maybe it just shook the ground I built my life on a little bit. Like a tiny, drunk earthquake. What if cider is not the only thing I thought tasted awful but actually turns out tob e rather delicious? Didn’t I have the same epiphany with ginger ale in Matamata two summers ago? What about all the books I promised myself never to read? It scares me that some day in boredom I might pick up a copy of Shades of Grey and like it!

It’s really weird to love something I swore to hate. It makes me want to raise my glass to changes of the heart, to second impressions and to my mind doing its best not to be set on one opinion. Cheers to the earthquakes that make me think.

Last But Not Least: Day Ten

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The best part about today, I think, was the sun. To be looking up and having to close my eyes because all the light is blinding me. To sit at Cardiff Harbour and eating pizza and seeing the sea glitter like a million little crystals stretchin out into the horizon. To catch a glimpse of the Tardis in the distance as if ready for take-off.

Cardfiff felt like going back in time just a bit. The castle and the streets and the language, and it all was bathed in golden sunlight and our giggles. And I wrapped the story up so that time could not hurt it and so that rain would never chase the sun from that day.

(Quote: Steven Moffat)

Last But Not Least: Day Nine

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There was this angel, trying to climb up a ladder all the way to the top of the cathedral. I watched it for a while and I started to wonder why it wouldn‘t use its wings. It had wings, but they hung uselessly from the angel‘s back. Were they broken? Or worse – were they fake?

It was an endearing sight, rather than a pitiful one. Climbing, climbing, one step at the time. Maybe wings work like a parachute. Maybe the angel has to make its way to the top on its own. Maybe it has to know exhaustion and pain before it can unfold the wings and soar. Maybe every good deed is hard work and then flying high on hope.

I wonder if that little angel is still there, still climbing. 

(Quote: Jane Austen)

Open Letter to My 15-Year Old Self

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Dear My 15-Year Old Self

I am writing to you tell you just how much I admire you. Going by the pictures, you are really serious about those pink-camouflage pants, and I think that deserves a salute.

I know that you are scared a lot because you feel different and most people don‘t seem to understand. All those nights lying awake and wondering, wondering how they can‘t see that you want to be just like them. Why don‘t they see how hard you are trying? How everytime you fall down you push yourself back up again? – But believe me, being different is not a bad thing. People will always laugh at you, they‘ll laugh at you for any reason. Whether you‘re too ordinary or you‘re too extravagant, they will always find something to mock you about. So be daring, and give them a jolly good reason to laugh. Be different, be ridiculous. Be everything that you are with a power that will knock them down.

So, I noticed you have bit of trouble finding your own style. To be honest, the pink-camouflage pants and the orange T-shirt with the stripes don‘t work very well together (but I‘m not going to mention it). The thing is that people outside of magazines rarely even have this thing called style. It‘s more like a disease, really. You don‘t have to become a demon-slaughtering shadowhunter to wear a leather jacket. You want that jacket, you go for it, girl! You want to wear smudgy black eyeliner and look mysterious? Just do it (although you will probably fail, but I‘m not going to mention it)! Everyday you can change who you are, don‘t you understand? You are not tied to one wardrobe or to one favourite boyband (and since we‘re on the topic, US5 are going to split up pretty darn soon anyway) or one version of yourself. You are never going to stop becoming yourself, because there will always be people leaving an imprint on your soul, places that change the way you look at the world and stories and that transform your thinking entirely. And girl, you are going places!

What is never going to falter is your love for books. Although I‘m glad to say that your taste in storytelling is. No, don‘t cry – Harry Potter and Jane Austen are always king and queen of your universe. But I wish you would stop believing you are Clary Fray. Honestly, that girl has a lot of issues. For a start, you do not need to have your first relationship when you are sixteen. You will, of course, but still; just take a moment here, all right? The guy you are going to meet is a real sweetheart, but he‘s not Jace. He‘s not the love of your life, no matter how hard you want him to be. Clary is a delusional idiot, made up by a desperate middle aged woman who probably has never had sex herself, so why do you think you need to live by the book? Write your own book, be your own superhero. There are more important things in life than having sex before you‘re seventeen and dating people that look like Richie Stringini (although he is pretty hot, I‘ll give you that!).

You are such a cool teenager, do you ever realise that? You read Charles Dickens for fun, your perfect night out is a Harry Potter midnight book launch, and you don‘t drink or do drugs. But I hate to break it to you, but soon that is not going to be you any more, so you might as well stop judging others for getting drunk on the weekends. You are going to love getting drunk! It‘ll take some time to gain control, but if you keep the people you love close to you, nothing bad will ever happen to you.

Growing up doesn‘t sound so bad now, does it? Responsibility is not such a sucky thing once you get the hang of it, you know? Sure, you have to make your own doctor‘s appointments and crying in public is frowned upon. But you still get to go to Disneyland and obsess over dinosaurs. Also, being grown-up means that you can spend all your money on chocolate AND THEN EAT IT ALL ON YOUR OWN! Being an adult, you don‘t stop loving certain things, you can just love them more openly, because you will stop caring what others think. And, OMG, guess what? Being a nerd is going to be totally cool! In fact, all those assholes that think calling you a geek is an insult, yeah, they are going to buy friggin‘ fake glasses to look smarter. And you, my sweet angel face, you are going to buy glasses to see better. Because you are already smart. Never think that being intelligent is a bad thing. Only stpuid people will let you believe that. Nope! Embrace your inner nerd with all your heart! 

You know what I love most about you, My 15-Year Old Self? You are on the verge of taking a massive leap into the unknown, and you are putting all of your heart and soul into it. I wish you would never stop doing that.
There are many moments of doubt still to come. You will find yourself crying on a bathroom floor more than once, and sometimes there will not be enough chocolate flavoured ice cream in the world to make you feel all right again. But I will tell you this: You are going to be happy, and you are going to be fine. You will always be surrounded by people who love you, and you will make many more people fall in love with you.

And finally: enjoy the Star Wars prequels while it lasts, because soon you will start to see Anakin for the whiny bastard he truly is and fall in love with Han. Also, don‘t cry because Tokio Hotel are not an item any more, you just haven‘t met One Direction yet. Also, the Sorting Hat puts you into Slytherin. Don‘t let it ruin your day, Draco is going to turn out so much hotter than Harry!

Unfortunately, 15-year old me, we have still not published our bestselling novel or saved the world from evil or married a prince. But we are in a good place. The kind of good place where on some days we go swimming in the Carribean, while on others the best thing that happens is somebody telling us that our dress is pretty. We are pretty amazing, you and I.

With love,
23-Year Old Me

Berta Cáceres

Berta Cáceres was murdered last week.
If we cared about every single person that dies and makes it into the news we would not be able to keep ourselves from devastation. But Berta Cáceres was a beautiful woman who cared quite a bit herself. About her people, about her country, about the land and the dirt and the water. She died because she wanted to live and she wanted her people to live.

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Berta Cáceres was an indigenous and environmental organizer who fought for indigenous land rights in Honduras. Land rights are a complicated thing in Honduras – essentially, what happens is this: Inigenous and Non-indigenous people have been living on those lands for centuries. They are farmers and as such their ethnic background is often of secondary importance. They never needed any titles to rightfully work the lands they were living on, they had formed communities and they had their own systems and treaties. I‘m not saying everything was always well, but all in all it worked. But Honduras is largely owned by oligarchs, meaning rich men who have the money to rightfully produce land titles that up until a few decades ago never existed. Probably the biggest jerk of them all is Miguel Facussé – he‘s rich as fuck (excuse the expression) and basically everything in Honduras belongs to him, at least in part. He and his rich friends now own lands that have been in the hands of peasants for ages, and they shoo the farmers away to build hotels or roads or oil palm plantations. This leads many families into poverty and is only one of the massive problems Honduras is facing.

Berta Cáceres founded the grassroot organisation COPINH (Civic Council of the Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras); since 2012 COPINH‘s biggest fight has been against the establishment of the construction of the hydroelectric project Agua Zarca by the internationally-financed Honduran company DESA. For the Lenca (an indigenous people of Honduras) communities, the approved constructions of over 40 hydroelectric dams presents a great threat; for the Lenca people, the free-flowing Gualcarque River has a special cultural and spiritual significance. Furthermore, the implementation of dams would choke the main source of irrigation and drinking water for the community.  For lack of respect for the rights of the Lenca people, the failure to comply with Convention 169 and the negative impacts of the project on their livelihoods, Berta Cáceres organised and led a peaceful opposition to the project as the coordinator of COPINH. In consequence of their actions, Berta Cáceres and other Lenca leaders have been the target of threats and intimidation. 

What‘s sad about Berta Cáceres‘ death is that it doesn‘t even come as a surprise. She was fighting for her people‘s rights, of course somebody murdered her! Because the rights she was fighting for aren‘t a given. Because rich jerks rule the country and they don‘t care about peasants or tradition or the ground they are standing on. All they care about is their little kingdom that will not fall, even if the world around them does. What‘s also sad is that the murderer is most probably still walking free. It‘s not unlikely that some rich person from DESA or the government or a sympathiser paid someone off to get the job done. Investigations? Better forget about that.

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They buried me, but what they don’t know is that I’m a seed.

But here‘s what leaves me hopeful; the rich jerks, DESA, politicians, they try and denunciate Berta Cáceres as a drama-queen, a liar whose opinion doesn‘t matter. Except that it did. Berta Cáceres did not have to lie to scratch the petty facade behind which all those denunciators are hiding. She merely told the truth, she pointed out the injustice and she had the courage to act and to speak. And it hurt them. It hurt them so much they had to kill her. And maybe, if we ask ourselves why things like this still happen in our 21st century world, the answer is because there are not enough people like Berta Cáceres.

We must not be defeated by her death; we do not live in a just world and if all we can do is stand up to a bully at school, then that makes the world an infinitely brighter place.

Be bold, and be courageous, and remember:

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I feel like I should mention that not every rich person in Honduras is a jerk. I know many wealthy Hondurans who are lovely, caring people and who are deeply shaken by Berta Cáceres’ death. Also, the conflicts in Honduras are not as straight forward as I put them. There’s a whole lot of aspects to be considered, which I simply ignored in order to make this blog post more readable!

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Wow. Just wow. In all honesty, I did not think I would like this book, but I am absolutely smitten.

«Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls „father“, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie, and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.»

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I read this book as part of Emma Watson‘s feminist book club Our Shared Shelf, and I have currently twelve tabs open, all of them full of discussion topics. It‘s way too much to discuss in a singe blog post, so I decided to instead focus on quotations. I promise I‘ll try not to spoil anything, in case The Colour Purple is still on your T-Read list. The language of the book is incredibly beautiful, and the author has the talent of bringing difficult topics to the point.

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With this simple line Alice Walker sums up the message that Celie has received her entire life. How can a woman, who keeps being told that she is nothing, keep her dignity and a sense of worth?

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This is the first time Celie sees another woman defending herself against a man. Up until that point, this has never been so much as an option to her. And Sofia, this woman, puts her own well-being before her husband, while Celie sees no other way than stay obedient and suffer through her abuse head down.

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Throughout the story Celie stays very suspicious of men. In her opinion they are all prone to violence and oppression, which is the only treatment she has ever received. Falling in love with a man, to Celie, is unconsiderable. But Alice Walker also makes it very clear that relationships based on mutual love and trust do exist, and that they have nothing to do with abuse. Also, she emphasises on the fact that a woman can indeed be in love with a man and still be empowered. Love is not a weakness, no matter who it is you love.

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One big topic The Color Purple discusses is religion. Can somebody who has been raped, had her children taken away from her and been pushed into an abusive marriage still trust in a God that‘s good and just and loving? Alice Walker presents the concept of a God that does not believe in sin but wants you to be happy and free. This is a thought that eventually pushes Celie towards emancipation and sets her free.

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Just for context, this girl has only just been raped by a stranger. And yet, she refuses to be defeated by rejecting the belittling nickname, Squeak, that her boyfriend has given her. By renaming herself, Mary Agney resists the patriarchal words he has imposed on her. By doing so, she refuses to let the man in her life gain interpretive control over her.

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People can change and, more importantly, people can be forgiven. When Celie finds the strength and the courage to leave her husband and finally be her own woman, the man who has been nothing but a possessive and lazy bastard finally gains control over his life and finds some sort of inner centre. It is made very clear throughout the story that violence creates more violence, and that no person is violent or oppressive by chance. Celie‘s husband had a father who decided over his head what his fate was to be, so he saw no other way than to control the life of his wive. It‘s only when she takes this piece of control away from him that he sees a way to change.

To me The Color Purple is about love and discovering your worth, and this is made to count for men and women alike. It‘s a complicated setting because women are twice the victim – once in their role as women, but also by being black.

While reading the book, all I could think of was how privileged I am! I could have been anybody, but instead I‘ve been born into a white upper middle class family in freakin‘ Switzerland. If I were even so much as involuntarily touched by anyone people would consider this a violation and support me. No one has ever told me that I‘m worth less because of my race or gender. And that makes me feel so, so lucky!

Definitely read The Color Purple, you‘ll cry and laugh and you‘ll want to spread love. Really, you‘ll just want to wave this book around because it feels as if everyone should read it and that would make the world a much brighter place. Yes, it‘s that good!

Meet: Aleks and Sophie

 

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Aleks and Sophie read: Hannah Maggs
Find Aleks and Sophie online: http://www.sisterhoodofthetravelingwags.com

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When Aleks and Sophie moved to Geneva because of their husbands’ jobs they had no idea that they would soon find a best friend in each other. Since then, two years have passed and they have launched their wonderful blog The Travelling Wags where they tell talk about their experiences, adventures and mishaps in Switzerland. I met them on a sunny autumn afternoon for a chocolate brioche in a lovely café called Mafalda Tivoli in Geneva and had them answer all my silly little questions.

Aleks and Sophie literally write each and every blog post together. They are such giggly ladies, it’s very easy to imagine how a post about hoo-has or drunk people in clubs came to be! They really do write about everything. «It’s a blog about day to day life,» they say. «We talk about marriage, friends, food – basically we wanted to create a blog people can turn to, especially those that find themselves in a similar situation as us. After all, living in strange city where they don’t speak your language can be really quite frustrating.» Having lived in New Zealand and Honduras myself, I know exactly what they are talking about. But every place has its plus side. Like the Wags’ favourite ice cream place, Manu Gelato, where they even sell Specculoos Gelato. «It’s life changing,» Sophie promises (Needless to say, I am extremely excited for my next visit to Geneva now!)

Sophie’s and Aleks’ most loyal readers are both of their mums who not only spot every little grammatical error but also gladly let their girls know when they look gorgeous in pictures! Family is very important to both of them. Even though – or rather, especially because! – they don’t live in close proximity with their families and loved ones, the Wags are really quite proud to have kept a good and loving relationship with the people closest to their hearts. Their husbands play a big part in their lives as well, and Aleks even goes so far as to calling meeting hers to be the best thing she has ever done! Sophie agrees, but then cheekily adds that if she could make any fictional character come to life, it would be Superman – then she’d date him!

There is a quote, that every two best friends can probably apply to themselves, that says: «You can always tell when two people are best friends because they are having more fun than it makes sense for them to be having.»
Sophie and Aleks can tell stories and giggle for hours on end. «One night out we put a really drunk friend into a taxi; as it was leaving we tried to get a picture of its number plate, but because our hands were shaky we ended up with a lousy picture – just the flash of the taxi taking the corner!» The memory actually brings laughing tears to their eyes. Then they remember that their special name for each other is Bertie. «That’s how we greet each other – by saying, Why, hello Bertie!»

An afternoon with these two is simply heart warming. Towards the end of our afternoon together, having finished up all the cake and extra pastry the chef had brought to our table, I ask them where they see themselves in twenty years’ time. «I just hope to be in a happy, balanced place,» Sophie says. Aleks nods and adds that maybe one day she’ll write a book. «Who knows. We hope we can keep inspiring people.» Is there anything they would like their readers to take with them? «Absolutely – Stop killing each other and be more tolerant – GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!» And on goes the giggling.

 

(Since writing the post, Aleks has sent me the following message: «Sophie has now also moved back to Singapore for her husband’s work! We will of course carry on the blog long distance and will now be including information about Singapore as well.» – Sounds like a fun reading experience, right?! :))

Last But Not Least: Day Eight

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I saw where Shakespeare was born today and I also saw his grave.
The sign in the Christmas Shop told me that it is only 137 more sleeps until Christmas. That makes 126 more sleeps until my birthday. I had a waffle the size of my head. I found Harry Potter in a secondhand bookstore. It was all wonderful.

So many things happen between morning and night, and we could never capture all the sensations and feelings and words and different tastes of chocolate. But there is a lifetime in a day; maybe Shakespeare, too, saw light in a stranger’s eyes and maybe he, too, counted the sleeps to Christmas Day.

Shit I Bought in London

Last week I was fortunate enough to visit London again. I went with my gorgeous friend Anna who you can find on her blog: www.tinytrinket.wordpress.com. It‘s a lovely little internet niche and you should totes have a look!

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Because we have both visited England‘s capital a bunch of times we did hardly any sightseeing. Instead we drank lots of tea, ate cupcakes, went for strolls and got stuck in the shops. I‘m not much of a shopper when it comes to clothes, shoes and handbags. So when Anna tried on coats and blouses I checked out Primark‘s sock section; we went inside Topshop three times, but to even things out I dragged Anna to the Disney Store. So, as you can guess, most of the stuff I bought is utterly useless and unnecessary – but I just felt the physical need to stuff my suitcase with all the overpriced rubbish I could possibly find. Not. Regretting. Anything.

Princess Leia Mug

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I can‘t even begin to tell you just how excited I am about this mug! I mean, just look at the buns! Aren‘t they fabulous?!

Giant Crumpets

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I also bought regular ones, of course, but I could not resist the temptation of one massive chunk of happiness!

The Iron Trial (by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black)

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It was raining and we found shelter inside a Waterstones store, and oops-a-daisy I ended up buying a shitty YA Harry Potter rip-off with a romance twist, and I‘m really looking forward to reading it!

Harry Potter Jandals

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Looking back, I seriously can‘t remember why I bought these. I suppose I saw them and just held on to them without even checking the size.

Postcards

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Did I mention my love for crumpets? And check out this hamster, he‘s a real hero!

William & Kate Mug

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Strictly speaking this is some Shit-I-bought-in-Brighton-last-summer item, but it‘s terrible enough to get a mention here. I pretty much just scanned all the souvenir shops for the most dreadful mug and then bought it for myself. I greatly enjoy drinking out of it, though. It gives me a sensation of roalty.

Socks

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I have this very weird obsession with socks. I buy socks whenever I‘m bored because I have to wait for a train or someone is late meeting me. At least they keep my feet warm, so they are not completely useless.

Rapunzel Plush Doll

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Another weird thing I do is collect plushy Disney Princess dolls. Basically, everytime someone I know goes somewhere they have a Disney Store they have to bring me back one of these dolls.

Aluminium Foil

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There are cats on this foil. Sandwiches will never taste the same again!

Hummingbird Bakery Cupcake

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I am a massive fan of the Hummingbird Bakery. I own two of their books, they make beautiful cupcakes and cakes and all other sorts of edible things. So naturally, when we passed one of their stores I had to go inside and treat myself. I bought their Blackbottom Cupcake which, technically, was absolutely delicious. But because we‘d just had a big lunch fifteen minutes before I was still stuffed. So for a day and a half I carried around a half eaten cupcake in the hope to eventually finishing it. Which I did, but by that time it was squashed.

I‘m going to end this list here, mainly because I do not want to appear like some weirdo who can‘t control herself. But also because I‘m stuck with the flu and looking at a screen for too long makes me all dizzy. I hope everyone‘s been having a lovely weekend!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Ps. I ALMOST FORGOT! Remember how I went to Hannover a little while ago? Well, Inga made a small video (because she is that awesome) and that‘s my sole reason for creating a Youtube channel, so if you have three minutes to spare have a look at it!