Sunday, 28 December 2014

It is THAT time of the year!

It's suddenly that time of the year again.

That time of festive decorations everywhere.

That time in which people complain about being overweight but still eating thrice the amount of suggested kilocalories per day.
That time in which people (with jobs) get some bonus or Christmas package and still manage to spend more than they have.
That time in which people start reflecting on the past year.
That time in which people start promising themselves that THIS time they will REALLY keep their resolutions.

For me, a combination of some of the above.

For me, 2014 has been... Unexpectedly good.
And it went by way too fast. Really, I'm not kidding.

I started out this year as a very anxious person, having no clue what to expect.

* I had a thesis to finish, and wasn't looking forward to it much. I finished it with time to spare.
* I had an internship to go, which was going to be challenging mentally and physically, and I had no idea what to expect. Suddenly it was August, and a lot of Flemish people had nourished my ego all summer.
* I had to defend my thesis in August. I had been fearing that day for over a year. It went by without the slightest hint of a hitch.
* I had no idea what I was going to do after graduating. I feared this great black hole and the lack of life. Yet I found plenty to do, amongst which remain trips to guide and children camps to lead, as I look for a grownup-adult-job.

Health has been surprisingly compliant.

And... this is going to sound..spoiled and lucky at least.... But..  Aside from November, there hasn't been a single month this year that I haven't travelled abroad. Not counting Belgium.

Off the top of my head, there were some rough 10 different countries (some of which were visited repetitively) not counting the ones which I just crossed through, of which 5 I'd never been to before, and countless cities I'd never been to before either, even in previously visited countries..

Not everything has been awesome. Unfortunately, with sky highs come deep lows. It's been a challenge letting nostalgic memories go instead of clamping to the past like a Clingon. Letting go is a main theme in my life, and always has been.. It belongs with saying goodbyes every time you move homes (and/or cities and/or countries).. But the emphasis on this theme has been heavy in the recent months. Letting go mainly of friends. Because as you grow up, priorities shift and everyone has to walk their own path. Sometimes, these paths still intersect. Most of the time, however, they are (too) far apart. Usually, you end up making new friends. But my life has been quiet in that area, for the majority of people I've interacted with this year have been Flemish, and more importantly, 65+ years old. I've had little to no time or opportunity to work on/expand my own social life. So that's on the to-do list of 2015!

In 2014, I've moved, and have been traveling a lot, which makes it even more special to see lots of friends in these festive weeks of the year.
Seriously. I broke my toe, and was burned at the stake as a witch. Yet I've just had the most social and brilliant weeks of the year. :) here's to keeping that going all through next year~

Wishing you all a splendid, magnificent, gezellig, healthy and happy 2015, with new adventures and surprises!

The Gypsy

Monday, 10 November 2014

A Little Honesty - Whatsapp

Out of nowhere, my timeline suddenly got bombed with memes and jokes about Whatsapp.
Ignoring it at first, it escalated quick enough to jar my interest (long enough to write this post).

Ever since Whatsapp sold itself to Facebook, the messenger has only received more attention - unlike promised. When the news got out, everybody and their mothers gave this big shout-out that they were going to stop using Whatsapp, and switching to other messengers which have similar software. Telegram was one of those, and they did get a relatively huge amount of new users since. Yet Whatsapp also grew in numbers, so in the end, nothing changed, really.
Or did it?

So... What is all the fuss about?
Blue ticks. (aka blue check marks).

There used to be only gray ticks.
There was one, which meant that the message was sent properly.
The second one meant the message was received properly.

Now, they turn blue.
Which means the message has been viewed by the receiver.
Oh. Em. Gee!!!1!

So ... what's the big deal?
And who is making the bigger fuss? Senders or receivers?
Here're some of the memes:

Pink ticks. To ensure the explanation has come across correctly.
Yes. These pink ticks means the same as the two ticks turning blue. 

See? You become paranoid after a while. 
That's what you get for using Facebook. 
That's what you get when Facebook buys Whatsapp. 

Because, really, that's what'll happen.
The world will burn, because honesty. 

Well. Yes, that's exactly what it means. 
Whatsapp needs to get cracking, making software to read girls' minds like that. 

Again: SO WHAT?! 
Facebook has been doing this for a good long while now. 
Every time you send a message over PM, it tells you "Sent at 14:35". 
Once it has been viewed, that changes to "Seen at 19:45". 
UH-OH. Now they know you've read it and were too lazy/occuppied to answer it immediately. 
You should be shot. Or they should be shot to get you out of trouble. 

Seriously. What happened to being honest? 
So, you've read the message. You're still thinking about an answer. You're waiting for someone else's opinion before you make up your own. You're waiting for the nausea or disease to pass, or not, to make up your mind about going out. Or maybe you just don't want to answer. For any reason. 

Are you afraid to hurt other people's feelings, because you haven't deemed something worth answering? It's human nature to be dishonest. (Apart from the Dutch. They miss out on this gene big time.) But it is better to be dishonest and not hurt someone's feelings?

Not to harp and be all one-sided here... What about the sender?
How big is your ego, really, to think that a person has nothing else to do than respond to your messages immediately all day long? Even if they decide to grab a quick peek at what they've recieved, doesn't necessarily mean they have time to respond. 
Why get any sort of emotion when someone else is occupied with something else?
What's next?

Wow. That's just unnecessary. 
And hurtful.

The only way around this is turning your WiFi / 3g or 4g off. And reading all the text messages you popular dawg got at leisure. And only when you see fit to answer, do you turn the internet back on. Whilst you're offline, it cannot update that you've seen it on the other end. It will though, as soon as you get back online.  

On both ends. 

The Gypsy.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Republika Hrvatska with a dash of Bosna i Hercegovina (2014)

On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being least, and 10 being the most, this trip to Croatia (Hrvatska) was certainly a 9 in the unexpected and surprising sense. Not in the least because, hey, I only knew I was guiding this specific trip exactly one week in advance. A week, moreover, that I'd sort of already filled with all kinds of social things I only get to do in between trips. Everybody agrees with me on the second part of the surprise, though I already knew that: Croatia is very not-Balkan, despite what most people might think being asked without looking it up.

Belgians (as I suppose most people from the West) are intrigued as well as embarrassed by the "Civil War" that happened in former Yugoslavia. Intrigued, because though it happened geographically close (relatively), and also within their lifetimes (and mine) seeing as the Republic of Croatia hasn't existed 20 years yet. Embarrassed by just that, too, seeing as they know very little about it, though it happened close by, in time and distance.

Serbs are the bad guys in this story, having killed like the IS is killing today, randomly and without mercy, women and children just as much as men, innocent civilians all around. Croatians claim that, though of course innocents have fallen through their own attacks as well, they have never intentionally launched an attack on anything but enermy-army-related locations.

Locals, however, and local guides specifically, don't want to tell you about the civil war. Croatians call it the "Independence War", mind you, and do not find it Civil at all. They want to tell you about their history. Something that goes far beyond 20 years ago. They want to tell you about their culture. How the Romans came and settled. How the Venetians when in power came and possessed several Croatian provinces on and off. How Italians live in Rovinj and the Istrian peninsula still. How Austro-Hungarian Empire also played a giant role in their making.
They want to emphasize how, even before Croatia became independent, when people used to go to Yugoslavia for their holiday, 90% of them really ended up visiting Croatia of the 6 Republics (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia).

One thing they want people to know, though, about the war: It was never about religion.
Even when Bosnians and Croatians (in other words, Muslims and Christians respectively) were fighting one another, it was not about religion. People of all religions still live side by side. And had lived for centuries, side by side, before the civil war.

That said, Croatia is much more than just another country with a chaotic (foreign) history.
Even if you don't give a dime for history or culture (though, really, what would you be doing on a round trip like this one), there are other dimensions to the country. Nature, for one. Wild, "untouched", and awesome nature. It makes one speechless. I had several hobby-photographers with me on this trip, and really, they probably had more than their fill with all the different sights.

We also crossed the borders several times, by sleeping in Neum. Dubrovnik (important Game of Thrones setting) is seperated from the rest of Croatia's mainland by a tiny piece of Bosnian coast. They just decided they wanted exactly that piece, Neum. And Croatia could have "the rest", really. Croatia is in progress of building a bridge to a peninsula (Ston) to completely avoid Bosnia.
And we also went to Pocitelje,  Mostar and Medjugorje for a day. Actual Bosnia.

We visited two National Parks: Plitvice and Krka.
We went to a wine tastery. (Is it even called that?)
We did a tour with a Glass Boat in Rovinj.
We laughed. A lot.
We saw and did a great many things.

Enjoy the pictures. The rest of the stories might follow.
Or ask me in person.

Yeah. First thing I saw in Croatia?
Asian people getting a marriage photoshoot with a drone.

Trakoscan Castle, 

A guy with a hammer.
And he wasn't afraid to use it.

Varaždin, the only place they use alleyways to hide sleeping angels. 

Mosaic like churches in Zagreb.

Really. Weirdest museum topic.
The Museum of Broken Relationships.

Zagreb's Cathedral. With Love locks.

Petrovič. The (only) Croatian Basketball Player. 

In Turanj, they have an open air war memorial.

Including home-made tanks 
(notice the wheels? It was a tractor before)

Then there also was a lot of this. 

Plitvice lakes had some gorgeous views. 

That was the highest waterfall there.

Veggies are so colourful. 

Neretva Valley. 
That's where all the fruits and veggies in Croatia come from. 

In Neum (Bosnia and Herzegovina, officially) this was my hotel view. 
I mean. Seriously. I never wanted to leave.

Dubrovnik was most beautiful from up top

Game of Thrones was filming whilst we were there. (!!!)
Security being all important, showing people where to go and specifically of what NOT to take pictures. 

Ston, on a Croatian peninsula, a heavily underestimated touristic place. 
With a defensive wall with a length of 5,5 km. 
Which makes that the second longest wall in the world, after the Chinese Wall. 


Bosnian art?

Not the first mosque (by far) I've been in.
First Bosnian one though.
And I was sort of taken aback by the lack of decoration inside. All was white. 

First Minaret I ever climbed, too. So yeah. 
Nice view over the city.
With it's especially ridiculously high church tower.

Stari Most (Literally: Old bridge) 

Međugorje, pronounced ME-joo-gor-ye
Biggest Place of Pilgrimage in Eastern Europe.
Apparitions of Saint Mary have increasinly occurred since the end of the last century. 
The Vatican does not recognize it as an official Pilgrimage destination, because of the ongoing sightings. 

A city that breathes history. 
It was beautiful. 

Extra (bonus) stop: Trogir.
I had dark-chocolate ice cream for the first time in my life.

Krka, the second National Park we visited. 
Crazy how many rainbows we saw that day. On eye level. Or lower. 

We ate at Etnoland.
Josko, I recognized, was applying the technique I specialized in during my tour guiding:
Story Telling. 
He was good. 

We went to see the Sun Greeting in Zadar. By night. 
Which is pretty special. Lauwers/ Drivers don't usually do cities by night. 
This particular piece of art, though, is best seen when the sun goes down.
It's built in the form of the Solar System, has tiny little solar panels, that soak up the light.
A battery saves this light, turns it to energy, and uses said energy for a light show after sundown. 
Pretty cool. 

By daylight, that's what the Sun Greeting looks like. 

Masleniča Most (bridge). 
An "old" (new, really) bridge, symbol of the war. 

Opatija: Girl with the Seagull

Poreč ( pronounced PO-retch)  has a beautiful mosaic Basilica

Lim valley.
Limes meaning border in Latin.
Between Dalmatia and Istria. 

Pula: 6th biggest amphitheater in the world. 


Mostly, I enjoyed the group itself. I used to think all Vacation-goers were the same. All groups, are, on average, the same. You have those positive people, you have whiners. You have those that prefer a coffee to a walk or history lesson, and you have the know-it-all geeks that've read a book and thus think they have all the inside information. You have the people who think they are funny. You have the gloomy pessimists.  In general, very stereotypically, yes. That's what your average group consists of.

With one group, though,  you get a wave of relief when the trip is nearing it's end.
With another, if you're told you have to take them on yet another week, you would not mind.
This group falls in the latter category. This group made me happy each morning with their atmosphere and cheerful greetings. This group was more personal and intimate than most groups I've been lucky to have with me. This group was awesome.


The Gypsy

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Graduated - Goodbye studying. Hello adult life!

Goodbye deadlines. Goodbye free OV (Public Transportation). Goodbye interesting classes. Goodbye warm and hilarious classmates. Goodbye internships. Goodbye exams. Goodbye student offers. Goodbye discounts on Zumba. Goodbye YES-it's-almost-Stufi-day. Goodbye homework. Goodbye thesis.
HELLO new challenge! Hello new life!

I started googling "Graduated, now what?" a few weeks ago.
I started worrying. About the black hole. The emptiness that comes after attaining a goal.
I started thinking for the first time: If I can't be a tour guide full time... what the hell do I want to be?
I started asking myself questions.
Do I want to tie myself down to a "real" job because I should?
Do I want to see more of the world and stay unsettled?
Do I want to continue studying?  Masters? Courses? Evening classes? Should I?
I started panicking because I had no clue. I started relaxing because I was almost done.

I did all that before I did not get the call that I had failed. (Ironic. Because they let people stress. And those that passed are in that stress/anxiety the longest. Because they think calling everybody is not sustainable?)
I did that before looking into my thesis.
I did that before preparing a presentation.
I did that before my Thesis presentation and Defense.

Wishful thinking?
Or was it self confidence?
Maybe that too. Which would be more surprising.

When I got called back into the room after they had discussed my passing and grade, the first thing they said was  " Of course this will come as no surprise to you, but you passed."
I wanted to say that I was surprised. I wanted to tell them what a relief it was.
I wanted to say that I'd hoped so, wished so, dreamed so, but dared not think so.
All I said was ".... it's good to hear it out loud from you!"
They laughed. And overwhelmed me with positive feedback.

I celebrated. Non stop. Mainly with food.
LOTS of food.
I started out with a high tea with Anouk, when the main stress had abated. 

High tea dessert. 

And then I got supplies and made everyone at home some ice café.
Which turned out to taste exactly like it should.

There was Marijn's birthday just before graduation with lots of good food too. 

And then there was Suzy's awesome birthday with a pancake party. 

This pancake was happy. 
(But.. nauseating) 

As were we. 

The next morning I ate her head!
When do you get to say you ate your friend's head? Forreal?
Also. Tompouce <3 nbsp="" p="">

And an exception to the food celebration:
((As a birthday present to me, from Jasper.
We'd already decided that it was going to be either a comfort outing (if I were in tears for not graduating) 
or a celebratory outing (WHICH IT WAS!) 

The intro was by Stream of Passion.
I'd not heard of them ever. But they were alright. 
Mix between Evanescence and Lacuna Coil. Ish. 

Kamelot was the main act. 

Yeah. A crowd selfie. 

And I bought myself a gift.
I'll upload a picture of it later and enthusiastically GUSH about it.
But I don't want to spoil it, because I'm also going to gift it to one of my best friends.
So HUSH for now :D

And what's next?
Quiet time. Maybe a digital sabbatical.
Reading what I want. Sleeping when I want.
A few days of having to do absolutely nothing.
Before having to figure out what is next~

The Gypsy