Monthly Archives: June 2010

What to write?

After the initial weeks, I find it harder and harder to keep writing on my blog. One of the reasons is that I am simply running out of topics to write about. I managed to get a ton of stuff off my chest already, and I guess that I can only write so much about myself before even I become bored about it. I also find that I’m becoming lazier and that I’m spending less time on the actual writing itself; the first couple of posts involved quite a lot of editing and rewriting during the process, but lately I’m just typing away and publishing it without taking the trouble to re-read it. Perhaps I should start writing about other topics just to mix it up, but it always felt a bit unnatural in the past when I tried that. Perhaps it’s because I treated those topics as nothing more than fillers, instead of topics I really want to write about, so I need to rethink my strategy on that. The World Cup would seem to be an ideal topic, and in the past I would watch as much as possible and spend much of my free time thinking about line-ups, strategies and replaying previous matches in my head, but my interest in football has dropped dramatically in the last couple of years, and I’m just not as knowledgeable about football anymore. I might end up writing something about it anyway, but it will be more about general impressions than about in-depth analyses.

Of course, I should spend some of this ‘downtime’ to work on my fiction anyway, which is what I always wanted to write in the first place. I have a couple of ideas for some short stories in my head, but I need to sit down and actually start working on them. And maybe it’s time to rekindle my old love for the fantasy genre (á la Lord of the Rings). When I was younger, I always dreamt about writing the next epic fantasy trilogy (or maybe a quadrilogy, or even longer… I’ve always been better at dreaming about things than doing them). I’ve started a lot of stories, but I never managed to write more than a few pages before pressing the Delete button. But I should take advantage of my new-found enthusiasm for writing before it dies down again. I just need to remember to put into practice what I’ve learnt: to keep writing without thinking too much about what’s on the paper. Logic and structure have very little practical use during the creative process, and are best left until the contours of the story become clearer.

And maybe I need to stop saying to myself that I’m too tired to write after work and become more disciplined about it (and maybe try to work less as well!)…

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Marrakech (2)

The first day on Thursday was almost entirely spent on travelling. The flight to Casablanca left at 2:30 pm and lasted about 3.5 hours, and from Casablanca it was another half hour to Marrakech. The passport check in Marrakech took a while, and the guy responsible for our line was pretty diligent, keeping every single person stalled for a couple of minutes before letting them through. He did loosen up after a while however, thanks to a Moroccan guy in our group, and things sped up afterwards. All in all, we arrived at 21:00 pm local time in the hotel, which was an hour earlier than in the Netherlands. A quick shower, dinner buffet at the hotel, and afterwards chilling in the lounge bar before calling it a day. There was a guy playing the keyboard in the bar, and frankly, he wasn’t very good, although the performance was certainly hilarious at some points (Sex bomb, sex bomb, you’re my sex booooomb.. and try to imagine it with a Moroccan accent).

The second day began with a 4×4 jeep ride to our destination. The weather was really bad as the rain kept pouring down, but luckily the weather became much better once we actually arrived, and the sun started shining again. Which was a good thing, because riding on the quads in the heavy rain is not really my idea of fun. The quad driving didn’t go well for me anyway, as I couldn’t steer left for some reason, the quad was kept veering off towards the right. Michiel was able to handle our quad better than me, but he also confirmed that steering left was very difficult. It wasn’t until we were well underway that we found out that we had two flat tires on the left side! Nice to know that they check these kinds of things beforehand… The tires were pumped (and re-pumped several times), but the terrain were quite challenging and I wasn’t too sure of myself that I would be able to handle the quad, so I declined to drive the quad.

After that, we had lunch near Lalla Takerkoust. The lake had an amazingly blue colour, and it was a stunning sight to behold. I don’t think the pictures I took were able to do it justice. I wished we had more time to relax at the lake itself. After that, we drove back to the hotel, and we had a couple of hours to relax at the swimming pool there before heading out for some dinner.

The third day was by far my favourite day, as we were able to explore Marrakech itself. The first half involved a guided tour. We first visited an old palace, and then we walked around the souks behind the guide, ending up at the famous Jamaa al-Fna square. After noon, however, we had some time for ourselves until 8:30pm, so we took the opportunity to walk around the souks more and buy some stuff. The bartering and negotiating was quite fun in the beginning, but it got tiresome after a while, and I became less effective in it. We also took the opportunity to go further into the medina to explore the ‘real’ Marrakech, and after a while we were the only tourists walking around. A ‘guide’ came up to us and offered to take us to a leather tannery. We obliged, and it was pretty cool to walk around the city. When he offered to take us inside the building however, we chose to be safe instead, and asked him to take us back. I don’t think anything bad would have happened anyway, but you never know. And if something does happen, the chances of somebody finding us are pretty slim. He wanted quite a lot of money, much more than we agreed on. In the end, we paid just a little bit more than we first agreed, just to get him off our backs. We did get a bit lost after that however, which wouldn’t be too bad if we weren’t bothered by everyone to offer to take us back to the square if we stood still for only 2 seconds. They can be quite persistent, so we didn’t have the opportunity to just look around at our leisure and figure our own way back. After a while, we just agreed to a little boy to take us back and we gave him some money afterwards. All in all, a nice experience, and walking around a city with no specific purpose is always my favourite part of a trip.

When we got back to the hotel, it was still only half past two, which felt strange, because it definitely seemed like we spent much more time in the medina. But that meant we still had 6 hours of free time, so more swimming and enjoying at the swimming pool, as well as some reading and writing at the balcony before catching a part of the England – Algeria match, before heading off to dinner at the Pacha. After that, everyone went to the Pacha nightclub except me. Going out to a club is definitely not something I enjoy.

And that was it for the trip. The last day on Sunday was again a day reserved for travelling. We left the hotel at 11am, and when I finally got back home in lovely IJburg, it was already past 9pm. It was a nice trip, and I really liked the city. I wouldn’t mind going back again someday for another short trip. If so, I would spend more time exploring the city itself, as well as the beautiful nature surrounding the city.

 

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Marrakech (1)

The frequency of updates on my blog has dropped dramatically after the first two weeks. It is hard to keep writing at that rate, on the one hand because I don’t have that much to write about really, on the other hand because it is a lot of work, especially if you’re on holiday. But even now I’m back, it’s difficult to fall back into the habit of regular writing, also because I always feel tired after work, even though I did take it slowly today. It also doesn’t help that I feel sick after my holiday, and it’s hard to concentrate if I have to blow my nose every 30 seconds. I always get sick during my holidays; I think it is a sign that I should take some time off more often. My body is able to handle a large amount of stress, but every time I relax a bit, my body just seems to shut down. But those are not good enough reasons if I’m even half-serious about writing, so I just need to bite the bullet.

(Ok, I admit I’m also watching the Italy – Paraguay match simultaneously, and as everyone knows, men are not good at multi-tasking.)

The main topic for this post is of course my trip to Marrakech. It was a great trip, and I really loved Marrakech, but I am also extremely relieved that my colleague Michiel was also there. I don’t think I would have survived by myself amidst 35-40 strangers for four days. I gained a well-earned reputation as the ‘quiet’ one, and a lot of them probably think I’m weird or something. Oh well, I learned long ago to ignore these thoughts or feelings. This is just the way I am, and it doesn’t help if I spend too much time thinking about it. The most important thing is that I was able to relax and enjoy myself, despite my outward appearance.

Even though we really only had two days (Thursday and Sunday were mainly for travelling), the trip did seem to last much longer than that. One of the main reasons I think is that we had to get up at 7:30. In a normal holiday, I would maybe get up at 10am, and it would probably take another hour or two before everyone is ready to go, and before you know it, half of the day has gone by already. Now we were able to get quite a lot done in a day.

Ok, I’m going to stop now. I don’t think I am able write something decent while I’m feeling like this. I will write about what we did more specifically on a different day…

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A Little Exaggeration goes a long way…

Sometimes a little exaggeration goes a long way in helping us put things into context and realize what a great life we have. Sometimes it’s easy to forget this little fact. My geeky colleague Michiel (and I mean it in the best way possible; calling someone geeky is a great compliment in my book!) said last week that he wanted to bring some sunshine into our dreary little lives with his jokes, or something in that vein, as I don’t remember the exact wording in Dutch. Even though it’s typical something he would say, my initial reaction inside was one of disbelief: “Dreary little lives?! I don’t have a dreary life! Don’t exaggerate!” So despite of all the complaining I tend to do about work or my private life, despite all the negativity I tend to exhibit, let me reiterate again that I do in fact have a great life.

I also did some reminiscing today with my cousin Gwen, as we were comparing our lives now to where we were ten years ago, and of other persons (is there anything more fun than reminiscing about the past?). It’s amazing when you realize how much we have all changed during that time, while essentially still staying the same. Almost everyone seems to have done well for themselves, despite any anxieties and insecurities we may have had ten years ago, or in fact still have. So despite of any problems, troubles, issues, or whatever human nature tends to focus on, life in fact is good.

Speaking of the good life, just two more days before I head off to Marrakech, courtesy of Vodafone and the Special Achiever Award. My first time ever staying in a 5-star hotel… I’m actually looking more forward to the hotel than the actual trip itself (not really, but exaggerating is fun, even if just slightly). 🙂

P.S. I checked the hotel prices a couple of days ago just out of curiosity and fun. The cheapest two-person room just costs about 70 euro per night! So definitely an option worth considering when planning for a short holiday.

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Relax

Just reading through the stuff I had written the last couple days. Yup, this is seriously what I think about when I’m lying in bed, sitting in the tram, standing under the shower or walking down the street. I seriously need to relax once in a while.

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Difficulties of Writing a Personal Blog

There are some difficulties when writing a personal blog such as this one, which came very much in play regarding my previous post. The most obvious one is how much of myself I am willing to divulge to the public. Most writers (and wannabe writers), I believe, have both an exhibitionistic as well as a secretive tendency within them, and they need to constantly balance them against one another. This is the paradox of the writer. 90% of the stuff I’m writing here are things I will never mention to another single human being otherwise, and yet, I am putting it online for everyone to see.

This struggle was evident last night, when I published my previous post, just to take it offline an hour later before I went to bed. This morning however, I put it back online again, and since then I’ve contemplated about taking it down yet again, although I’m going to stick with my decision this time. One of the reasons why I was never really satisfied with my previous blog was because I still held back a lot. The result was that it felt mundane and superficial at times, even though I was writing very much about me. And during those sparse moments when I did try to bare my soul, it just felt awkward and strangely detached from myself somehow. I’m convinced that I have become a better writer in the last couple of months. Sure, part of it comes through mere practice, as I am writing now much more than I used to, but part of it is also because I’m censoring myself much less than before.

Another difficulty I only fully realized recently was that it matters when I am doing my writing. To take my previous post as an example again; if I had written it during the weekend, it would have had a more fearful tone, about the hopelessness and panic I felt. Had I written it a few days earlier however, it would have been much more about how proud I am of the way I was dealing with the situation, while prattling on and on about how much self-improvement I managed to achieve during the last few years or even throughout my lifetime. And had I written it last Monday? It would have taken on a decidedly more frustrated tone, and I would rant about the injustice of it all, not understanding why all this was happening. As it stands now, I believe I was able to take a more nuanced and balanced stance of the situation, but who can say whether this last viewpoint is any truer than the others? For all we know, it may yet turn out to be the biggest illusion of them all.

I started thinking about this topic a few weeks ago, when someone mentioned to me why she should write at all, when she always disagreed with what she wrote if she read it later. It was a good question, but as I thought more about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is precisely the reason why we should write. Looking at the above examples, it is evident that none of those viewpoints represented the Truth, but someone who read it might interpret it as the Truth. But it is essential to acknowledge that it does represent a truth, a specific truth within a specific me which existed during a specific moment in time. As such, they are all equally important, because they all represent a window to a previous self. Just as a historian needs to consider all the sources to be able to form a complete picture of the past, so I need to consider all these specific truths to be able to form a complete picture of my past. Consider again my previous post. Imagine that I hadn’t written down my fears when they occurred more than a week ago. Then I wouldn’t have read them again yesterday. Then I would have formed a different picture of the situation, which most definitely would have been further away from the Truth than my current version.

It’s a pity I haven’t kept any of my writings from the past. I wonder what I had written then, and what they would have told me about myself. I am especially curious about what I wrote when I was a child. I remember writing a lot about superheroes and GI Joes and stuff like that, but I wonder about what plots I had invented, what evils my imaginary heroes had to battle against. And I suddenly remember: I always wanted to write an encyclopedia when I was a child; for some reason they were endlessly fascinating to me. It was as if they existed within their own universe, a place where knowledge and structure prevailed, a place where everything made sense. But I digress. What I wanted to mention is that I am now writing much more, and I am also keeping my writings. My notebooks are full of unedited writing that I will never allow others to read, but they provide a reference of myself, and in the end, I hope I will gain a better understanding of myself.

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