It has been a long time since I have been here!

It really has been a long time since I have last blogged here. Of course, I was a bit sad to find out that BlogJob was no longer able to pay out its members, but that should not keep me from writer here. From what I can see, you still have a great community of writers here. That probably means that those that made the effort to stick around here, are the real writers.

I guess that is the reason why I decided to return here. Logging into my account, it was nice to see that most of my followers are still around. That is good to see. It makes me feel appreciated!

At the other hand, I also appreciate the writers blogging here, because they provide me with their view on the world and they do not cease to surprise me with awesome content from all over the world. English is a great lingua franca. I the mean time, I haven’t stopped writing either. Instead of blogging in English, I returned to my mother tongue, which is Dutch!

I know that there are some other writers with a Dutch background over here, so I would like to know whether you write in Dutch too. Please, tell me, because I would like to read your writing in your native tongue as well!

Currently I am blogging in Dutch at 🙂

Please take a look at my Dutch blogs!

Winter blues

Today, we are way past December 21, the shortest day of the year. In my country, that means that the day has 6 hours and the night has 18 hours. On December 21, 2015 the sun rose at 8.46 am and it set at 4.30 pm. That means was fully pitch dark at that time. Today, the days are already getting longer again, though the sun only rose at 8.43 am and it will set again at 6.10 pm. That means that the day is already somewhat longer, but it still feels rather dark to me.

Normally, we would have snow this time of the year, but due to the global warming and climate change we have less and less snow every year. Though snow can get slippery when it becomes icy, it makes the dark days of winter more bearable to me. When it is fresh, snow it white and it does reflect however little sunlight there is. That means that in fact, snow makes dark winter days a lot lighter than they really are. And when my surroundings feel brighter, my mood is a lot brighter too.

It feels like such a contradiction. The winter temperatures are rather high at 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit), and yet I have the feeling that it is really cold and dark both inside and outside the house, though it is 20 degrees Celsius in here (68 degrees Fahrenheit). I am well aware of the fact that this is only due to my subjective perception, but I am well aware that this winter, I really suffer from the winter blues.

That being said, I do everything I can to make sure that I have my daily intake of extra vitamins and nutrients in order to make it through winter. It is a good thing that I have fresh oranges in the house in order to press homemade natural orange juice!

When you start blogging and you find yourself blogging about something completely different

I guess that pretty much sums up what happened today when I was updating my Dutch language personal blog. What happened in Cologne made me think of the way women are sometimes treated in my country by white Belgians and how we do not pin that down to being culture related for some reason or other. While I was thinking this, my thoughts were carrying me back to the time that I was still in my teens, and how I sometimes had to walk home after a night out in the nearest town, because the trams did not ride to the stop nearest to my home once it was past midnight.

I must have been 16 or 17 at the time. When I did go into town, I did not have the habit of partying all night long. I mostly went into town to have a drink with friends at a youth club or a quiet pub with live music in order to have conversations about the meaning of life and related topics. When enjoying the conversations, I sometimes lost track of time and when that happened I realized this always a few minutes too late in order to catch the earlier tram that stopped closer to home. Well, no harm done really, because a 10 minute walk home is not too bad, particularly when you are familiar with the neighbourhood that you are walking through.

Besides, I always found that walking the almost quiet streets at night had something magical. In fact, there are some songs in Antwerp dialect about walking Antwerp streets at night. My walks home made me practically hum those songs in my head. However, just after midnight the first drunks of the night tend to come out. That was the case back then in the ‘80’s, and I guess that it is still the case now. However, I did have my personal guardian angels. The neighbourhood that I walked through back then, was and is still inhabited by a large number of Moroccan families. I particularly remember some summer nights during Ramadan. The family fathers were often sitting on their doorsteps back then. In fact, they guarded my Belgian ass (so to speak) more than once. What I mean to say is, that they did not look away when some of the drunk Belgians started to bother me. I fact they managed to send them away, so I was always able to pursue my way home. They really kept the streets safe in the neighbourhood back then. My thoughts are with them now. I wonder how they must be feeling now, with all that has been happening lately.

That was what I was thinking about before I wrote my Dutch blog. Well, I have written about them now, to do them the justice they deserve.

How what happened in Cologne has led to my unfriending of a blogger on Facebook

People who have known me since I first got on Facebook in 2007 know that I do not frequently unfriend someone. First and foremost this is largely due to the fact that when I friend someone on Facebook, this happens for a reason. Either I know or have known you in real life, either you are a longtime internet friend; you can be a writer or an author whose books and writings I love reading or you could be someone I met in a Facebook group or on a Facebook page consecrated to an opinion or an interest that we both share. So, it is safe to say that in my book there must be some common ground before I friend someone on Facebook.

However, today I managed to unfriend the Facebook friend who motivated me to blog again after I practically had abandoned it in 2008. I guess that sometimes it is better to say goodbye than to fight online. While I do like any form of constructive discussion, I will not condone my Facebook friends spreading hoax pictures and articles from dubious news sources. However, everybody is human and everybody makes mistakes. I suppose we have all inadvertently spread hoaxes at one time or other. That is why it is good to have sites like Snopes and other hoax buster sites around. So, when I notice a picture of a sign supposedly telling men in a further unnamed country that it is OK to rape in Finland and that you will not be punished, I do report such a picture to Snopes and other hoax buster sites. Yes, I trust Snopes and the hoax buster sites we have in European countries. And no, hoax buster sites such as Snopes are not left wing sites. We need those sites to keep our heads clear and centered during these dark times. If you cannot trust yourself to trust hoax busters, then you truly are in a dark place.

At this moment, there is a lot of conflicting information all over the internet. What happened in Germany is very bad indeed. In fact, ‘bad’ seems an understatement. What happened is beyond words. Serious crimes have been committed, culprits have to be caught and brought to justice. Therefore, I will repeat what I stated before: theft, groping, molestation and rape are crimes, and not to be associated with cultures or religions! Please, do not say that these acts of violence against young women are to be associated with any culture or religion.

Sadly enough, most women will encounter some form or other of unwanted sexual attention in their lifetimes. No woman wants to be groped, assaulted or worse, raped. However, when it does happen the perpetrator is most likely to be someone close to the woman, and in most cases, in Europe that means the perpetrators are likely to be white and either atheist, agnostic or Christian. Does that mean that rape is a part of the European or Christian culture? No, it is not, because we know that sexual assault and rape is not part of any culture. So, please, do not try and convince me otherwise.

Please do not fall for hoaxes in these troublesome times. It can be easy to do so. When somebody points out a hoax to you, do not persist in what you think or maybe even want to be true. Particularly when you are a blogger, you have a certain responsibility towards your audience. Particularly when that audience consists of all kinds of nationalities, religions and cultures.

How did you survive Christmas this year?

As much as I like my family Christmas dinners, I am always glad on the day after to say that I can leave the experience behind me, only to look forward to the festive season again the next year. Now, I do not come from a very close knit family to begin with, so it is safe to say that Christmas parties in our family are relatively small dos.

Nevertheless, I do look forward to them every year. In fact these parties remind me a bit of the time when I was a child. Every year, we have a party with my friend’s family and his in-laws. Their kids are a bit like little nephews and nieces to me. I do have one nephew and 3 nieces of my own, but they are adults themselves and celebrate Christmas with their peers. My friend’s nephew and 2 nieces are aged 8, 10 and almost 13. They remind me a bit of myself at that age. The 13-year old girl is at that age where she is no longer a small child and does not want to be treated as such, but then and again, she is not really an adult either. I guess that you know what I mean to say.

Sometimes, this causes some upheaval and hilarity. For instance, the 8-year old is a girl who loves to do girly board games, such as a board game designed for fans of an all-girl band that is pretty popular with that age group. She wanted to play the game at the Christmas party. She needed 3 people to join her, but her 13-year old sister would not. At one point, she exclaimed: ‘I will not lower myself to your level.’ Now, that sounds pretty mean, and it is, but at the same time, it sounded sort of funny too, particularly the way it came out. The 10-year old, who is the boy between the siblings, got caught in the middle and exclaimed while chuckling: ‘Mummy, daddy, Sarah is telling Kitty that she will not lower herself to Kitty’s level, LOL!’

Needless to say the kids were told off a little, but not too much. After all, it was Christmas.

I guess that we all have our Christmas stories and things that do not go as smoothly as we hoped for. In the end, I joined the little girl, her mother and her grandmother to play the game with her.

(Kitty and Sarah are not their real names, I altered the names in order not to disclose them)

Do not fall for conspiracy theories!

When I was a little girl, one of the things I learned in school was not to believe everything that is written in the papers. I guess that is mostly sound advice. Sometimes you do wonder while you are reading the papers. Readers have always to take into account that an article is written from the reporter’s perspective. For instance, when a writer is a republican, he or she will describe an issue from a different perspective than when it is written by a democrat. In many cases, the truth seems to be right in the middle. I guess that is a good way of making your mind up.

However, nowadays I often get the feeling that people have constantly trouble to make up their minds about what is true or not. For instance, I notice that a lot of people are no longer critical of what is being written in the paper. They seem to fall for a catchy title and sensational news and no longer bother whether they are being told the truth or not. In my view, there is a lot of danger in this way of thinking. The other day, I read an article in one of our newspapers that seemed familiar to me. The source for this article was a British newspaper. Suddenly I remembered. I had read the story before on According to Snopes, it was a hoax. In fact, Snopes had declared the story a hoax a long time before the article in our local newspaper was written! I think it is unacceptable that a hoax story still keeps being spread, even long after it was unmasked as a hoax.

On the other hand, there are these people who never believe what is written in the papers even the truth hits them in the face. Often, people try to find alternative news sites in order to find the truth, and that is a good thing. I also read a lot of alternative news sites. However, also on those sites there are a lot of articles who we should be wary of. Some alternative news sites tend to spread conspiracy theories. While some of those articles may have a little bit of truth in them, the vast majority has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Even though we cannot believe everything that is in the newspaper, we should not fall for conspiracy theories. The truth is always in the middle.

Talking is important in relationships

A few days ago, I mentioned here that my neighbour could hear me laughing, and that he was a little bit cross. This ‘minor incident’ did make me think. Some of you got thinking and suggested that my neighbours should get a life. Well, there might be some truth in that, but there might be another reason than the old walls of our houses why they can hear us laughing and talking.

Last night, it hit me. While the neighbours can hear me laughing and talking to my friend, I do not hear a sound coming out of the house next door. Yet the neighbours are at home. They are completely silent, or so it seems. I figured that if they can hear us talking, I should hear them talking too, since the walls are not insulated here. But, they do not make a sound. Not one single sound. This is so weird. While I am not that talkative myself, I do wonder.

How can you have a relationship when you are not talking? Ok, there are a lot of other things that you can do in a relationship, but there are not any signs of those kinds of activities either. To be frank, that bothers me a little bit. My neighbours are about my age, they are in a relationship and they have a grownup son living with them.

With three people living there, you would expect them to talk to one another once in a while, would not you? Talking is important in relationships. Communication is important in relationships. It is important to communicate in any kind of relationship, whether it is a romantic relationship, a friendship or a professional relationship. I can tell you, it feels very weird to me to realize that the people next door simply are not talking. They are not talking at all. I always thought that it was impossible not to communicate, but it seems that now, they have proven otherwise.

My neighbour heard me laughing …

This should not be a surprise really, because I love a good laugh, even if we are going through weird times at the moment. However, the fact that my neighbour heard me laughing may seem a bit strange, because during the last few years, I didn’t have any next door neighbours. I am living in a semi-detached house, and moved in here seven years ago. At that time, the house next door was still for sale, and we did not have to mind any people living next door. I could have music on when I wanted and as loud as I wanted, because there were no people next door. After a while, we did get neighbours, but they were not there a lot of the time, so nothing really changed for that matter. So live got on as usual. Then the couple moved out, and the house was empty again. It felt a bit strange not having any neighbours, but we did not miss them much, because they never were really there.

After the first neighbours had left, the house next door stayed empty for almost two years. The people who bought the house had a lot of work to do, because the previous neighbours never really got round to have the necessary work done. So, to be honest, I was glad that the new buyers did make the effort to renovate the house before they moved in. So as of December 1, I have neighbours again. It makes me happy that the house next door is finally inhabited again. In fact, it made me a bit cheerful too. However, now that the house next door is inhabited again, we have to mind a little bit what we are doing at times, or so it seems. Apparently, my laugh is a little loud! Tuesday I was watching my favourite quiz show. One of the candidates was a stand-up comedian. I just could not help myself and I admit to laughing very loud. Today I learned that the new neighbour was not feeling well and that he got upset, because I was laughing.

Living like a hermit

About seven years ago, I left the so called big city to live in a more rural part of Belgium. Though I like the city and most of its inhabitants, I then felt it was necessary to retreat in order to come to my senses. Sometimes we need that in life. At that particular moment there was so much going on in my life that I just needed some quality peace and quiet.

In hindsight, it is safe to say that at the time, I was purposely leaving town to take a clean break from my life. I felt I needed to be able to start over. I deliberately chose for the country and a village like community in order to come to my senses again. It was not so much the city or its diversity that bothered me. In fact, nowadays, I miss the diversity you can experience in a larger city. However, seven years ago, I just needed the time and space in order to contemplate on how I could make a much needed change in my life.

Now contemplating on your own is all very well. I did love the peace and quiet here, which I needed to get back on my feet. In a way, living a bit secluded and in a somewhat rural area has provided me with the chance to look at society from an entirely other viewpoint. For one, I started watching the news again more regularly than I did before and I started reading online papers again. Those are all things that I did not have time for when I was still working in the city. At that time I was all tangled up in the rat race to survive. Though I was working in social services, I did not have the time and opportunity to sit back and reflect on myself and society. In short, I had become alienated from what was really happening in society.

Ironically, now that I do have time to read up and reflect, I may have become more aware of what is really going on in society, but at the same time, I have created yet another distance between myself and society. I now cannot be realize that I have become somewhat of a hermit. I guess it is time to snap out of my cocoon!

Do you cry at times while watching television?

I am a sensitive person. I admit to crying while watching sad movies or hearing stories being told that touch the bottom of my heart. Yesterday, I was not watching a movie, but rather a news program/ talk show where the host was interviewing an anti-radicalization specialist. However, due to circumstances, the conversation was not about anti-radicalization, but rather what happened to the man just before he came to the television studios.

Those who are familiar with my blogs know that I have been writing about Belgium in my other blog, the Belgian Gazette. There I have mentioned the terrorist threat levels people have been living with since November 13. While those do not affect my live much in rural Belgium, they do have an unwanted effect on a lot of people in the city. So much so, that during the last few weeks people have been arrested that should not have been arrested in the first place. Such as, very young boys tampering with their own bicycles, because they couldn’t find the key to the bike’s lock when they had to; a student buying rice pudding for lunch, a young man returning a handbag to a female friend, a musician on his way to a rehearsal in Brussels and many more that have not made it to the national news.

The latest addition to this unfortunate list is an anti-radicalization specialist. The man was driving his car in Brussels after he had been a speaker in Parliament. He was stopped by the police. He did everything he was asked to do, yet the police found it necessary to harass him, to search him while he was being forced against the side of his car, to confiscate his cellphone, to open it, to open his car booth, to mock the title of the book he co-authored and of which a pile was found in his car booth. Some of the books even ended up on the streets.

From what I learned during my lifetime, this is not standard police practice. Yet more and more people experience this kind of police behavior. This should not be happening in Belgium and not in any country. In the end, the man was let go. He has not been charged with anything. He has lodged a complaint against these particular police officers though.

The man was visibly shaken while he was being interviewed on television. His voice sounded insecure and he looked as white as a sheet. Watching this interview, felt a bit as if the emotions were escaping from the television screen. I am an empathic person, I know that. I felt both angry and sad watching this interview. How would you have felt?

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