Category Archives: Storytelling

7 life lessons learned from my cat

She just entered the house as a stray cat and immediately became the queen of it.

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My stray cat who I named”Nasty”. It truly reflected her personality at the time.

I am often thinking about renaming her after all these years. But that might encourage her to become nasty again, which would require me to rename her for the second time. I deem it unnecessary exercise, not to mention the bureaucracy that might lead to.

Nasty is a very independent cat and a sort of a cat-philosopher. Merely by observing her I have learned many things about life. Seeing that she will not become literate enough to write a book any time soon, I have decided to voice her life views in this post.

Life lesson 1: Boredom does not exist.

Boredom is just the result of a tired mind, which is unwilling to explore, observe or learn. Look around! There is always some new sound, smell or movement to examine.

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Life lesson 2: Life is too short to be fake.

My cat often turns her back at me (and at other people phew!) when she does not feel like communicating. “Hey baby kitty Nasty, you are so cuuute! Such beautiful eyes!” (runs away or turns her back with 3-4 tail wags. To quote her more precisely: “Life is too short for small talk!”

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Life lesson 3: Listen to music & words of affection with your eyes closed.

This is to dive in the moment and for your heart to absorb as much warmth and light as possible. We need to keep both for a rainy day.

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Life lesson 4: Get to know new people entering your life.

Sniff them from top to bottom. Figuratively speaking! Do it patiently and consistently! Do not let anyone in your life unless they have passed the initial scan.

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Life lesson 5: Be inquisitive!

Curiousity killed the cat is a myth aimed at gullible cats (and people) who are looking for excuses to stay stale.

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Life lesson 6: Meow and you will be given.

Meow (or the equivalent) at the top of your voice! Inform the world about your needs. Be pushy! Be concentrated on your end goal! You have to express your desires for the universe to respond. Like it happens with food. No cat got food for being silent.

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Life lesson 7: Do not count to 10.

Counting to 10 might lead to cardiac arrest. Do not repress emotions. Let them flow! Cats might have 7 lives, people have “just” one. Do not count! Live, learn and grab anyone by the tail if they annoy you 🙂

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Signed: 🐾

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There is nothing positive about India

Glad the headline grabbed your attention.

India is a rich country.

People there have the single most powerful weapon that matters.

Not nuclear weapons.

Not money.

Not petrol.

Not even tea & spices.

The unbeatable, sincere, wide smile.

[…]

During my 3-week trip in India, my Indian friends were asking me whether I’m having a blast, where I’m going next and whether I need any help.

Meanwhile some of my dear European friends were asking me whether it is really THAT dirty, whether I have diarrhea and whether I have already had a mosquito bite, because malaria is a very dangerous disease…

To alleviate (to coin a phrase) the “ill-curious” and their suffering:

Yes, there is poverty around every corner, there is garbage and I saw children throwing bottles in the sea instead of pebbles.

Misery exists all around. Of course, if that is what you’re looking for.

As to the diarrhea, I’m happy to inform you I fully enjoyed the fantastic Indian cuisine.

My trip to India was a trip within myself. What would I really see?

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, as The Fox advised the Little Prince.

Indian heart

Indian heart

Ok, but are most buses really without windows?

Yes! What a major inconvenience! Once you are on an Indian bus, the lack of windows would be your smallest concern. In other words, evangelists should really think about preaching in the Indian buses. When you see the manner of driving, you immediately start praying. 🙂

And did you see people peeing on the streets?

Yes! And you know what… they actually seemed truly relieved after peeing 🙂

Unlike the “rich” Western travellers who were coo coo-ing about a ‘proper WC’, ‘Oh my Gosh, it’s disgusting!’ They seemed very tense.

So did Indians share any recipe for happiness?

Western folks just love mindless recipes and formulas 🙂

But I think I can shed some light on that matter.

The Indian people I met along the way have just surrounded themselves with amazing colours (I have hardly seen any black or grey colours: the corporations’ favourites).

Also super intense, joyful, emotional music with the weirdest lyrics possible (because they don’t care what others think. They want to have FUN!)

And let’s not forget about the chaotic dances (because it’s important to grab the moment with your friends – without airs and graces).

Finally: the bargaining! True pleasure and art! It’s just the daily hobby.

Trade is art

Trade is art

The secret sauce? I guess it is staying true to themselves that makes their faces radiant and their hearts glow.

Do you think I am exaggerating? Maybe you’ll label it as the ‘post-travel, romantic effect’. But I have evidence 🙂

Working in the creative industry, I’ve learned to research.

My personal brief for this trip was to smile at everyone. No matter how hot it is outside, no matter how unfriendly some people might seem, no matter how many mosquitos or rats are around me.

I got a 100% response rate. To spell it out: A hun-dred per-cent.

Not a single person did look me as if I am crazy for smiling ‘without a reason’, ‘without asking for anything in return’.

Not a single person did look worried, because don’t forget the beginning of this article: Indians are rich in smiles. It costs them nothing to smile back. They don’t think twice about it.

How about the driving? Is it as bad as Youtube videos show?

Haha, yes! Maybe “worse” when you (hopefully) live it!

What happens on the Indian roads is a mystery to the foreign traveller. It’s some kind of live magic performance under the music of hundreds of sound horns.

The cultural difference here is that Western people use the horn to curse somebody and to show general annoyance and impatience. While Indian people use the sound horn as a communication tool, just saying “Hey, I am here, I am passing.”

Long live road symbioses in India!

Ok! But are you SURE you didn’t get the Delhi belly?

Convinced. It must have been really amusing to the restaurant staff that I was sweating over a portion of butter chicken, which an Indian Friend of mine defined as “sweet”… Wherever I have had my meals, I’ve encountered acceptance of the fact that I am a foreigner. I had the freedom to clean my utensils before use, I have been asked for my spice tolerance, and I have been checked on during the meal and after it.

Indian food is a celebration to the palate.

India is a celebration to the soul. If one takes everything as it is.

India

The insights

A bus without windows is less scary than a face without a smile.

Eating without utensils is less worrying than a heart with no sympathy in it.

Malaria is less dangerous than indifference, negativity and envy.

I am happy I shared my Indian truth with you. Have you been in India? Please share your experiences below. I promise: No judgment, only acceptance!

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The invisible jury

It is sad how important the opinion of the others seems to be. Regardless of what we think about the way we look, talk or dance – the others have the final say. The others are the invisible jury at all times.

You disagree?

How many times have you made the same joke that had fallen flat 2 times before that? Have you worn the dress they think makes you ‘a little bit’ fat? Do you feel uneasy when you want to quote something wise but can foresee the stream of judgment swiping you away? The others always find a way to control our lives, because they are more than just I. Millions of jury members and only one I. We have become people made of other peoples’ eyes – the way they see us – defines us. But all of a sudden: a doubt, an insight springs to mind: What if they are all wrong? What if it does not matter what they think of me?

Inspired by a beautiful morning in Bologna, I took my writing pad and went out. I saw a sunny bench, sat down and started writing. Shortly after, a man approached me, stammering: ‘Mmmmay I draw you?’

‘Me?’, I responded glowingly.

‘Yes, you.’, he confirmed (thankfully)

He sat next to me and started preparing. I carried on writing but was not even 1% into it. I was intrigued, I thought “I am somebody’s muse. I wonder how he sees me.” The man fished in his scruffy bag for some time. He took out a regular, lined pad. Nothing like a professional drawing paper.

“Maybe he is a fan of cubism or something. Or maybe it is a new art movement. Ok, wonderful, no need to worry – I am still his muse.”

I write shit. All my attention is engrossed in the outcome of the man’s painting. How do I look according to him? I fought the temptation to peak. Only with one eye. Only half an eye. Just a blink?

After five minutes of inhumane effort to defeat curiousity – that’s it.

And this is how I look like according to one of them.

The others

In this very moment I did hope art is subjective.

After attending Vipassana, it became crystal clear that attention should not be sought from the others, from outside. It is something we are all so attached to and thus when it is not there, for one reason or another, its lack causes suffering and misery.

The others would always be there, sometimes commending us, sometimes scolding us. Ultimately, it is not their fault we cannot accept criticism, or cannot live happily without their praise.

“There is no good or bad, only thinking makes it so”.

fresh pair of eyes

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Decisive perception

At the beginning of the class we were asked what we expected to learn in those English lessons. We all wrote unnecessary long list of demands just to stand out – ‘grammar’, ‘improve our listening skills’ etc.

Then our teacher read us a story. Two people were going to Athens. On their way they met a man and asked him about his opinion of Athens. He told them it was unpleasant, noisy and rather dirty. Not a very encouraging description, the two people thought. Further down their way, they met another man and asked him the same. He elaborately depicted Athens as the best possible city one could visit – full of history, spirit and beauty. The Athens visitors-to-be were confused by those polarised opinions. Luckily, they encountered a third person on their way to this Athens mystery. The wise man told them: ‘Athens is what you expect it to be.’

Momentarily before my eyes emerges the concept of ‘The dip’ by Seth Goddin: Being in an abyss where there is the strong probability for your things to pan out if you play your cards right. The Dip concerns relationships, jobs and everything worth doing, of course at the expense of a little risk, a lot of patience and a bunch of very well-developed guts – for the sake of the gut feeling. The latter needed for the daily decision-making when you are in the Dip.

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Is the Dip like the Athens moral story – what we expect it to be? Sure, it does depend on outer factors as well but essentially, when we are in a sort of abyss, do our expectations influence the longevity of our Dip residence and its successful exit?

I think yes.

As discussed in the book, corporations aim premature quitting: not at the right time but in the middle of an either seemingly hopeless crisis or at too late a stage. We are encouraged to give in during the process. It is also a human reflex to let go of something/somebody when it hurts.

However, expectations could beat logical arguments and reflexes at their own game. When one expects the abyss is only a step, a cradle to success and an obligatory gap between start and mastery, the whole misery factor collapses. When one accepts reality and starts dealing with it, rather than chaotically fighting it back, depressing or panicking: The Abyss turns into a Dip – and suddenly there is a way out. One relocates their resources from investing them in various cul-de-sacs into the beneficial energy depot. The high water river of misdirected energy gradually becomes a channeled stream.

My insight from contemplating on the Dip, the Athens story and general decision-making is that the perception of right and wrong could sometimes catch us off guard. Exactly what happened with me and one of my English language students the other day.

We were discussing the difference between present simple and present continuous lying mainly in the progressive action, happening at the time of speaking. After a lot of theory and exercises, I gave my student the following sentence for her to determine whether it is right or wrong:

‘Look! This man over there tries to unlock your car.’

My student told me the sentence was wrong. Immense pride suffused me. ‘So I’ve managed to explain well, and she knows it should be ‘is trying’ – present continuous. Alas!’

‘And why do you think so?’ I asked to fully enjoy this moment of glory.

‘Because it’s wrong! Obviously it is wrong somebody else to try to unlock your car. This is a crime!’

The Dip is what you perceive it to be.

Hee-haw!

8 September 2013, Questura Trapani, Sicily

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Time has stopped in Trapani. It’s Sunday noon. 30 degrees and not many sunstroke volunteers.

Silence gets broken with a deep-throated scream. A fourth character has arrived to the piazza. He wears no T-shirt; he beats himself with fists in the stomach. Then pitifully cups his face in his hands. He mixes sounds of sheer desperation and revolutionary battle yells.

I don’t know Italian but I understand he suffers.

He stops and shouts his lungs out before the Questura.

He lies down. Then he crawls. Again he lies on his back and starts ‘making an angel’ without snow. Now rolling over and crying.

Time has started again. Tick-tock.

Piazza starts enlivening. Children are curious, parents – worried.

What is bothering this delicate Mediterranean soul?

Why is the pavement his church and the Questura his enemy?

Italian language knowledge – free, I guess:

One of his three twins hasn’t been admitted in a kindergarten. He must now work part-time and babysit.

He blames the Questura for not chasing him often enough to use condoms.

Or

Luigi has kicked him out of his bar at noon and interfered unlawfully with his human right to drink and be understood.

Or

His daughter has left with the neighbour’s son who had once stolen an apple from their apple tree. 20 years ago crime with an irretrievable loss.

Police car arrives. Now there are 7 anxious faces looking at the screaming man. Nobody takes action.

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One policeman says I guess: ‘I arrest you for your feelings’

Or

‘You have made time in Trapani start ticking again. You are arrested.’

Then the policeman offers him a hand to stand up.

Another outburst of fury overflows the piazza and its spectators.

A cigarette is suggested. This works. The stranger takes an orator posture.

He explains himself for 5 minutes. It all sounds like his heart has been broken. But Italian does sound like it all the time.

A policeman, who has stayed in the car, gets out and tells the stranger something with a mild tone of voice, smiled.

Maybe they have found the 20 years old apple so there is no reason to blame the Questura.

An ambulance parks in front the building. Excuse me, the institution.

Is the ambulance the problem solver for this miserable citizen?

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Because of us, the spectators with various motives, maybe, the Stranger is not picked up by force and thrust in the police car.

Italians watching the scene are clicking their tongues but are still present, although disapproving.

It has now been 40 minutes of psychological exercise for everyone.

The Stranger meets the doctors with a story. He starts crying and yelling and rolling again across the piazza.

Suddenly one doctor starts doing the same.

The infected doctor exclaims in a fit of rage. He starts pointing fingers chaotically at the Questura.

After the first infected doctor, the same happens with several policemen to our surprise…

The whole piazza is now full of half-naked, bellowing citizens, posing questions to the Questura.

That would have been a very wonderful ending, right?

The chain reaction of rage, honesty, expressed grief, sharing and maybe even decisions found.

But it ended in the expected way. The stranger was driven away from Questura, Trapani, we all have gotten back home.

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A similar memory was evoked. Pacing through fields at noon.

Time has stopped. A donkey brays from all his donkey heart and soul.

‘Hee-haw!’

And I was 4, I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Now I’m 24 and I still can’t.

Was it hungry?

Was it sad?

Or was it just a donkey thing?

Is it only human to collapse emotionally before the Questura?

Maybe ignorance is bliss.

Hee-haw!

What the UK service industry can learn from Slovenia?

Believe it or not – saying ‘thank you’ in every 2 seconds with the fakest possible smile and giving away plastic bags for free isn’t the best service industry policy.

The service industry in Slovenia is light years ahead of the UK’s.  Slovenia is independent only since 1991 but has developed an amazing ‘treating people’ know-how. They got it right – customers are human. Not cash machines out of flesh.

I tried to get a shot of the many waiters, bus drivers or shop assistants who were incredibly polite. But you know what happens when you shoot in direct sunlight…

Three short stories:

  1. Shuttle bus driver

He not only spoke fluent English and handled our luggage as if he was placing a newborn in the car but also introduced us sincerely to Ljubljana:

‘You might be bored from the press in Ljubljana. Here it’s really safe. It’s not like in London, where you open the newspaper and see who killed a number of people and then next page who else he killed and so on. Here we only have domestic murders… you know… something like husband kills wife, wife kills husband.’

We were lost so he called our hosts from his private mobile phone to double-check the location and walked us to there.

The shuttle bus driver model:

smile                              engage                            show extra care                  give business card

2. Apartment hosts

Day 1: Although not mentioned in the description, our hostess brought us breakfast coming from the other part of the town. Just for the sake of being nice. That simple.

Day 2: We got a call from her. She was super anxious about our stay because there was some repair work on floor 4. We were on floor 1. She offered us to move to their hotel in the very centre of Ljubljana to get a proper rest.

Day 3: The toilet got blocked for exactly 10 minutes. We thought we would let her know. She offered us to move to their place. They were ‘going to stay at friends’’for the next 2 nights.

I doubt Slovenians have as thick books on crisis management as Brits do. I’ve been living in the UK for 5 years: got mice in the house – nobody came for 10 days, got a leaking radiator – no attention for a week, got a crappy shower – nobody changed it. That simple. Why face a problem, when we can ignore it?

3. Waiter in Gostilna pri planincu

Scene: Customers waiting for their order to be taken. The waiter tries to take it in Slovenian, German, Spanish and English. Then he figures out they are French and apologetically says: ‘We don’t get many French people here. Refer 10 more customers to the restaurant and I will start learning it.’ Then it turned out they all spoke Italian and so did the Waiter.

All of these occupations are perceived as vocations.  ‘Hvala’ (thank you) was not a mechanical response.

Service industry in Slovenia is an art. An art which emptied my pockets and gave me plenty of food for thought.

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TV is the decisive medium

TV edit

With the emergence of digital and interactive advertising, discussions about TV advertising have become really heated.

Many claimed TV is an outworn advertising tool. It was no longer efficient, cost-effective and result-driven.

Then I read Andy Nairn’s blog and a sentence about TV stuck in my mind. “There is no such thing as a passive bazooka.”

I never had a one-sided opinion on the matter. I just like impressive advertising and big ideas.

I truly understood what I thought of TV as a medium thanks to a Pakistani woman.

I ended up living with a Pakistani family for 4 months.

As a Western person I had my preconceived views that it was going to be weird.

Their warm attitude, humour and originality wiped off all I had thought beforehand. Relaxed and explored.

Roshan (the woman) knew I had a boyfriend. So she would occasionally ask me whether I am getting married sometime soon.

One day he came to town and I wanted to meet them. Her husband (Imran) was busy doing something else.

The tradition wouldn’t let Roshan meet my boyfriend if she is not accompanied by her husband.

Imran let her come. A great act of trust in both her and me.

Roshan examined my potential husband. They talked about education and profession. I wasn’t quite listening. It was their moment.

Roshan’s face turned red with worry. She wanted to talk to me in private. Her lips twitched with care.

“He told me he doesn’t have a MA degree. But you DO! You should find somebody better!!!!”

“So what? We love each other. He does something he loves. What’s the issue with that?”

She carried on saying he didn’t deserve me because we were not equal in education. She said he was handsome but that wasn’t important. He didn’t have a MA degree and that was a crisis to her.

Affected by that speech, I told him he needs to get a MA degree. He gave me a very perplexed look and disagreed with me.

Going back home to Roshan I felt I told my potential husband off without a reason. To compensate for that injustice, I went straight to Roshan and told her:

“Look, you are my friend, you have to understand a degree isn’t everything. Probably his friends told him I am not good enough for him because … for example…. He was on TV giving interviews… and on the radio… And I never appeared on TV!!!”

“Wait… He was on TV? Really? Oh my God, he should find somebody better than you!!!”

Touché.    🙂