Blue and White

I had an aunt who wasn’t related to me at all. She lived a couple of floors below us when I was a baby. Her son slept over at ours sometimes, drew cartoons and built houses in the woods with my brother.

After they left town, this aunt never slipped out of touch for long. Not with my parents. And not with me, either.

Come to think of it, she was the only person outside my own family who knew me my whole life.

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I grew up, moved cities. Felt restless, toured the continent. She was interested in where I was and how I was. I calmed down, got married, babtised my kids; she booked plane tickets and brought presents.

This talented and spirited woman, this wonderful Finnish aunt as a young restless one herself had toured Cyprus, singing in tavernas. She was really pleased with my choice of a husband. So she painted us a picture of two Greek lovers and carefully wrote wedding verse in Greek. Blue and white. White and blue.

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In my childish entitlement, it never crossed my mind that she might one day die.

That day arrived last week.

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I now have a new brother. A brother from another mother! Not related but dear in any case.

I so wish his sadness lets light in one day.

White and blue.

Blue and light.

These are for him, from his childhood and ours:

 

 

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After Cyprus, Where Would You Go?

‘When the man loves the woman more, they have sons’, declared the Ukrainian grandma at the head of the table, nodding at our kids. ‘Da’ attested my gentlemanly husband, giving my thigh a gentle little pat.

We are not this slim, it’s my friend’s camera:)

We were seated around a solid wood table with flowers in the middle, this is Cyprus after all. Outside the air was restlessly shifting under November rain. It was just about to hit these cobbled alleys and mountain pines, and the village dog running up and down the main street barking at cars.

He wouldn’t mind. He had a job to do. So many funny looking Nicosiades to chase!

On the table there were glasses of red, white and water, hot plates of veg and lamb and a salad with fresh bread softening in sweet olive oil. I was tasting something with a difficult name, something quite heavenly when my friend asked of our plans after Cyprus.

‘Where would we go after Cyprus?’ I wondered, looking from plate to plate desperately trying to decide what to try next. ‘What would we eat?’

There was pleasant agreement over the impossibility of eating anything in other countries. We continued the meal surrounded by the old stone walls and happily lunching kids. My other half who has been so absent-minded lately seemed to be quite content too, amidst steaming little plates being entertained by our friend the walking library of… romantic jokes.

I can imagine someone leaving Cyprus for New York maybe. Lots of good stuff to eat there!

But right now I really can’t see where else anyone would like to go after Cyprus, nor indeed why!

And I think grandma might just agree with me! She is clearly a very wise lady.

Stray

I wasn’t able to snap anything resembling a cat portrait because our friend was on the move all the time. ‘Let me’ said my kid!

Officially one of a million and a half. But not to us!

Because he has an old injury in his front leg but

still comes running whenever we step out the front door.

The first time my son saw him

he couldn’t think of anything but the poor broken legged cat and what would become of him.

Then we made friends with him.

And found out it’s an old problem and that

he is actually the happiest and friendliest cat we’ve ever known!

He is not in pain now.

The entire neighbourhood feeds and spoils him.

He purrs like a lawnmower.

We wish we could adopt him. But since that would slowly suffocate me to death, I’m thinking we’ll hang out instead.

Is that okay, dear little friend?

I Love the Food!

Hi, I am an introvert.

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I don’t think out loud. (Except here!)

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At a Finnish family party, in the garden of a hundred-year-old fishing lodge

If you want to know how I am and I don’t know because I’m in the middle of something, like a move, I might tell you that. Or I might freeze, or I might wonder if you would perhaps like a very light and cheerful answer – and I can give that a little go.

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‘How do you feel about moving to Cyprus?’ everyone kindly enquires and I am grateful.

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But I don’t know.

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How could I when I don’t know what life there will be like this time? So many things I look forward to yet others are still so vague it’s hard to picture our everyday lives just yet.

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So it’s a fun raffle of ‘Great!’ and ‘I don’t know?’ and ‘It’s really hot there’, as answers to the question. They are all true, of course!

As is ‘I love the food.’

Because I really, really do love everything to do with Cyprus cuisine. Perhaps I should refrain from overthinking for once in my life, just announce ‘I love the food!!!’ and get on with my social life?

Worth ruminating for hours about, definitely!

Farewell

This is my farewell. Brought to you from my sweaty bed where I’m trying to shake off a little fever, so I could go see some motorised dinosaurs on my last day in Geneva. Fingers crossed!

On a more romantic note, I remember our first evening in Geneva like a lovely, fragrant painting. A peaceful family painting that I was in myself!

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(It could be of course, that the reality was more like Tom & Jerry’s  craziest than a Monet painting. After all, my kids were there! But this is my memory and I’d like to keep it please – thank you!)

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From our hotel we crossed the street into the park, with the little one in his stroller. I still remember the ghostly shape of the Jet d’Eau fountain towering on Lake Geneva. (It just doesn’t show in the darn pictures. So maybe it wasn’t there that night. But I reserve the right to my memory!)

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We were four years fresher than today.

The city was an exciting stranger. Someone to be curious about. To get to know slowly.

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That night we didn’t know a soul but each other.

Then one by one, day by day, month by month, people showed up.

And this post is about them. People from volunteer meetings, schools, stables, playgrounds and from right here in our own neighbourhood. Everywhere where we felt like outsiders to begin with.

Until someone reached out a hand and a couple of kind words.

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For those words, for those people, I will always remain grateful.

For what is life if it isn’t shared?

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As expats, we live removed from our home tribes and our home territories and our collective memories. At worst, it can be such a lonely experience.

So to recognise a thought in someone else’s words, and to receive a little smile as recognition of ours, there’s no gift like it!

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I think it’s human nature needing to share.

Parenting kids whose childhoods are so different from ours.

Struggling to learn something difficult. Like living in a foreign environment.

Things that we feel, love, fear or can’t get enough of – most of these fill with meaning when shared.

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Views, country roads, hot summers, little boats on the waves of the lake – and you. All the former strangers I was happy to call friends.

My favourite memories! (Maybe to be joined by some robot dinosaurs this Sunday?)

Thank you.

Renegades

We have a friend visiting this weekend. She came with her hubby to see us and to indulge in some nutty endurance sports.

In sixth grade this friend and I liked the same boy. We have recently gotten over that.

Our lovely couple are not pictured here. These are paragliders (is that the term?) up on Mont Salève where we went together today.

On eight grade, she refused to play the violin at our mega giga amazeballs spring concert. It would have been deadly embarrassing, end of quote.

(What a weirdo, right? Everyone knows that violins and class spring concerts are the coolest!)

At 21, we spent long evenings watching films and series in our shared apartment. We were in Helsinki, my boyfriend was in Cyprus and her boyfriend was a bit vague. But we had French fries and beer!

When she got ill, my boyfriend and I wanted to cheer her up. And wine was just so easy to smuggle into the hospital in a juice carton, duh! I mean if they didn’t want that sort of thing happening then they surely would have done something to prevent such initiatives, right? Like a big illustrated sign? Or a police dog specialising in Cyprus reds, maybe?

Before my hen party, she called me up to say she couldn’t come. The wonderful reason for her absence is now at sports camp, with her own lovely friends. Hopefully they’re not into the same boys, or girls, or whatever. That sorta thing is just so hard to get over, isn’t it. Can take decades..!

Oh and yes, those boyfriends from when we were 21 are both here. One’s about to run the Harmony Geneva Marathon for UNICEF and the other is about to have a nap in the afternoon. I mean, there’s no sign against that, is there? Definitely not.

(And if there was, we are renegades! Aren’t we?)

You thought I wasn’t going to post a picture of our friends, didn’t you? So did I, but here it is! Come to me any day if you, too, would like a sweet and intimate portrait taken together with your spouse! A lovely idea for a wedding anniversary t-shirt, for example, to remind you both of a tender little moment forever. And ever.

My Pineapple House

To counterbalance the rather shocking effect of a serious Sponge Bob Square Pants overdose, I went to a tulip festival. It was prettier. So much more elegant than Bob universe. Nice in other ways, too!

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I went there with a friend.

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This friend I didn’t know existed four years ago (she did).

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Now I don’t know what the heck I’m supposed to do without her.

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She is packing for the north and I for the south.

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I want to go into my pineapple house under the waves and never talk to anyone again!

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Like a furiously mute Sponge Bob.

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