Привет Брюссель!

Привет!

Насчёт смертельного приговора я, конечно же пошутила в прошлом моем посту и никто меня из страны не выгонял. В 19 лет мне предложили учиться в Брюсселе на моем любимом Французском языке и любопытство было настолько сильным чувством в моей жизни, что я собрала свои вещи и поехала в августе 1995 года в Брюссель.

Что самое интересное, когда я приехала в Брюссель, то ещё в аэропорту поняла, что у меня проблема, причём не хилая! Меня остановили на паспортном контроле и по-фламандцки спросили:

‘Девушка, а что у вас в коробках?’

Коробки у меня были две, и очень большие! Туда я собрала все самое важное в моей жизни (как будто я сразу поняла, что уезжаю надолго, может даже навсегда (так и получилось: я катаюсь по Европе уже больше двадцати лет и живу в разных странах). В коробках была моя одежда, фотографии семьи и книги. Денег на чемоданы у меня не было, также как и чемоданов в магазинах. Я уезжала в сложное для России время.

‘Слушай,’ я отвечаю таможеннику, ‘ты на каком это языке со мной разговариваешь? Я к вам приехала учить французский’

Таможенник обиделся и давай мне объяснять, что в Бельгии аж три официальных языка, что фламандский язык- очень важный, и направил меня в отдельную комнату, проверять мои коробки.

Вообщем первое впечатление от страны у меня было ужасное.

Меня мой отчим, Голландец встречал, и бабах, на радостях, что я приехала, что я в Бельгии (он с мамой моей на тот момент жили в Голландии, и они вдвоём и предложили мне учиться на моем любимом Французском), повёз меня во фламандскую часть города, искать мне там комнату для проживания. Нашли какой-то дом со студентами, давай мне комнаты показывать. Все такие довольные при этом. Мой отчим, другие студенты, что уже жили в том доме. Стоят такие, ржут и общаются по-фламандски.

Я ничего не понимала из разговора. Стою, чуть не плачу. Уже началась тоска по России, по друзьям, по моей прошлой жизни. Стою, чуть не плачу и понимаю, что надо срочно включать мозги и самой все организовать.

‘Слушай!’ Я говорю своему отчиму, перебивая его в разгар ещё одной шутки со студентами. ‘Ты что забыл, зачем я сюда приехала????’

‘Вот’, говорю, ‘я короче сюда приехала учиться на французском языке! Все для этого бросила от такой любви к языку! А ты? Куда меня привёз? Что это за часть города? Я тут ничего не понимаю!’

Отчим, конечно погрустнел сразу же, но пожав плечами, согласился со мной. По мне было видно, что я страдаю. Слезы потекли, я дрожать начала, и вообще задумалась, может стоит обратно в Россию.

Студенты на меня тоже смотрят и один, умница, говорит моему отчиму.

‘Дочь твоя права! Тут у нас город поделён на две части! Здесь, мы говорим по-фламандски, а где, ваша дочь хочет учиться, там французский! Вези ее туда!’ И давай писать на бумажке нужные адреса.

Вообщем закончилось тем, что добрались мы наконец до французской части города, и нашли мне жильё. Все выглядело все равно плачевно! Нашли мне комнату на третьем этаже большого дома. Денег было мало и стоя посреди своей комнаты, с кухней на первом этаже и с душем, где-то в подвале, я разревелась (отчим уже поехал обратно в Голландию), и подумала. Вот блин, а консул в консульстве Бельгии обратно в России, может была и права. Мне с трудом дали визу, так как консул решила, что французский у меня плохой, что учиться, где я собиралась учиться (в школе переводчиков) я не смогу. И вообще ничего не потяну и я тупая.

Стою, реву, думаю, что консул права, и тут в первые в жизни у меня происходит внутренняя революция.

Остаюсь я тут! Говорю я себе! Заговорю по-французски, выучусь на переводчика и выдержу этот жуткий дом на какой-то период!

Так я и сделала. Закончила я свой универ как переводчик-синхронист с отличием, по-французски заговорила прекрасно и дом потом поменяла.

О своей жизни в Брюсселе я ещё расскажу подробнее. Сейчас хочу добавить, что фламандский с голландским я тоже в результате выучила, и плачу я за все свои усилия слегка поехавшей крышей.

Вот.

Image found on Brussels info

I Live

Hello friends and other interested parties. My name is Ekaterina. I was born in Russia during the year of dragon (according to the Chinese wisdom), month of cancer (according to astrology). Currently we are in the year of the rat, characterised by the global Corona pandemic, which gives a message: start taking care of the rats instead of chasing them, and I hope that the humanity will arrive to this conclusion, since all animals are sacred.

 I have the tendency to think in mystical terms, you see.

Officially it was still a year of stagnation of the old Soviet Union, but I can confirm from lived experience, that I was born in a beautiful land: RUSSIA.

I was a seeker from the moment I was born. I was lying in my cot and always observing, seeing magic everywhere that no one else could see. At the age of three, just to give you a good example, I saw the devil for the first time, staring at me from the window. I wasn’t really scared, just little bit surprised, and his view was magnificent: right how he is usually described in scary books and movies. A monster, but a gorgeous one. I remember my parents telling me that it was all my imagination, but when I saw the devil for the first time, I said to myself: he is real, and what you see, is real too.

My own story of beauty and the beast continued all my life: you can read about my encounters with the devil on my blog: http://www.russianpatient.com, as well as about my diagnosis of ‘bipolar’, inflicted on me when I was 27. But if ‘bipolar’ is what I am, then I was blessed with this condition since the moment I was born. I had a vivid imagination, always wanting to connect with the sky. I remember walking to school, and looking up. What is there, I kept on asking myself? Surely, there is more to our reality, than what is presented as the absolute objective truth?

Officially my diagnosis came after my second ‘psychosis’. Apparently the psychiatry has a script to follow: if you are ‘psychotic’ more than once, then a diagnosis of ‘bipolar’ or ‘schizophrenia’ is assigned to the already distressed patient. Personally, I prefer ‘schizophrenia’ as diagnosis as it’s the one that gives psychiatry any legitimacy: that’s the one they will never understand and they shouldn’t. My second psychiatrist gave me the diagnosis of ‘schizophrenia’ at first but later on it was changed to ‘bipolar’. I found the debate about my diagnoses both interesting and draining, Especially, that what they define as ‘psychosis’ is a beautiful experience on my part.

I see angels, I talk with God. I meet with the devil, each time he appears in a different form. I have strong, powerful visions, I am your modern shaman. I communicate with birds, and other animals, but I am, definitely a cat queen, and the master of seagulls. I lucid-dream very often, where I sometimes become a fairy and try to make this world a better place. That’s what bothers me the most each day: how to make out of this earth a paradise, instead of misery we see everywhere, such as wars, September Eleven, fight among the religions, poverty, hunger, distressed children. How? How, indeed, to make it all again beautiful, equal for everyone and unique? How to transform the planet earth into a place of beautiful magic, so that Jesus, when he returns, can walk here in peace and glory?

The above statements are defined by the psychiatry as ‘delusional thinking’, if you are interested to know.

After receiving my diagnosis, I noticed a peculiar thing. There is a terrible stigma attached to the condition. Depression appears to be accepted now, but don’t you dare to be little bit ‘schizo’, such as ‘bipolar’, ‘having schizophrenia’, or god bless, ‘personality disorder’. It seems to me (that’s paranoia speaking) that the psychiatry does it on purpose. They say they are trying to ‘help’ you, but if you read the definitions attached to the above psychiatric conditions, then you will notice, a contradiction. It can’t be helped. It’s written, that it’s chronic. It’s written that it is life threatening. It is written that people with such ‘conditions’ lead a miserable life and die earlier.

It is simply depressing, and awfully sad. Why is it such a ‘crime’ to dance naked under the stars, communicate with nature, and see angels? Why are we punished with diagnoses, and then punished even more when we refuse to accept the medical model of looking at humans experiences? You might risk being accused as a non-compliant, or as a scientologist, as I was at some point, which made me, obviously, curious about the scientology, not that I even know how to join it and become a member. A couple of scientologists I met, were very nice people, though.

Why is it such a ‘crime’ to explore alternative realities, and look for something beyond our totally medicalized society? In some cultures, one would be revered instead and, not locked away. To change our current status quo would entail fighting with big companies and psychiatry as an institution, and a few individuals who see beyond the rule of Big pharma and psychiatry as an institution to control human behaviour, have little chance to success. But I do hope, it will change one day, and or that at least, I, in my personal life, will be able to exit the narrative.

In my own personal life, I achieved lots of beautiful things, with the label of ‘bipolar’ hanging behind my back. I have one bachelor diploma, two master degrees, with one of them being executive (recognised as MBA), a PhD in philosophy, and fluent, excellent knowledge of four languages: Russian, French, English and Dutch. I lived in 4 countries, in two of them twice, worked in finances as an analyst and portfolio manager in Amsterdam, as an interpreter and headhunter in Brussels, as a university teacher in Belgium, The United Kingdom and The Netherlands. I am also a mother, where I try to be at my absolute best, since my son is my biggest achievement, my greatest joy.

Dealing with stigma around the diagnoses is a terrible thing. You are constantly moving with a scarlet letter attached to your back. In the Middle Ages we were burnt on the stake, in the current age, we suffer in silence in psychiatric institutions, which we can never really leave, even if ‘officially’ discharged, because of the diagnosis. It follows you everywhere, in our corrupted Western hemisphere, like a rat that never received any love. I, obviously, removed the label from my own head, but it is still somewhere, in the notes of the deluded psychiatrists. I used to collect their notes, reading what they wrote about me. I stopped at some point and started to write my own notes, my own story. I have a book I almost finished writing by now, and share my notes on my website. I experience my ‘psychosis’ with some pride, you see.

Still, even if the diagnosis is removed by oneself, and of course, you are allowed to do it (why not? Did they show you any physical test, showing that you are ill?), one needs to be extra careful. One is always vulnerable after ending up at some point in psychiatry. For myself, I do take some medication (I can’t afford to stop it, where I am now), I make sure I sleep, I try to follow some routine. Routine is important as it keeps one grounded, when the head has the tendency to fly in the oasis of magical thinking. I try to walk, and listen to birds, I eat well, I indulge in a nice cup of coffee, in a nice glass of red sweet wine on some evenings. Vaping instead of smoking also helps me. I listen to nice music, mostly to either Taylor Swift or Robbie Williams, I cook meals for my son, I love my work when I teach. I continue to write.

I live.

Originally published on Mad in America, here is the link to the original article:

The Brexit Affair. L’Affaire Brexit

Let me tell you a tale. Shakespeare himself would be bewildered by the next twist in this story, but allow me trying to sing it off. Well, kind of.

The story in itself (The Brexit affair) reminds me of one of the best psycho-dramas of all times. It has a beginning (well, kind of, and I will elaborate on it in the next paragraph), a disturbance of equilibrium (like the rulings of numerous courts, and lengthy negotiations), several mises en scenes, as well as dramatic changes of characters (from Cameron to May, from Hammond to Johnson, and from Farage being very British, to aiming at becoming American). We all know the narrative as well. The end, however, and not very subtly, is totally unclear (it’s a Disaster!), reminding me of that song ‘Are we Nearly there Yet’ that somehow all children end up singing at their Christmas play, in the UK. And this is why, in my humble opinion, it fits more the genre of psycho-drama, rather than tragedy-comedy, but Shakespeare might disagree.

The beginning can be traced right back to when the EU was created, but I will skip the history part and go to my personal ‘affair’ with Brexit. Unlike most of my friends who woke up on the 24th of June with the impression that they had a ‘bad trip’, I, in all honesty, was sitting with a smug face, while drinking my coffee and reading the Guardian, processing the news that the UK voted out. My inner satisfaction wasn’t due to the result (I had an emotional outbreak later that day and fell out with half of my Facebook friends) but because I won a family argument. In the month of May, we all travelled to Dover by car (I lived in the beautiful city of Sheffield then), which is something like five hours from Sheffield, and as any other family, we broke into an argument two hours into the drive.

The fallout was around Brexit. We are all Europeans in my family, and as it happens, all academics and so, my mum and my step-dad were telling me that ‘they will vote to remain, because they are not stupid! Just wait and see!’ I, however, was telling the opposite, ‘THEY WILL VOTE OUT’. You see, I did travel to work by train to Leeds, and it didn’t take me too long to conclude that people in the North would simply vote out as a vote against the establishment. It is not the same as ‘Winter is Coming’ from Games of Thrones, but it isn’t that far off. Just visit Doncaster.

So, on that historic morning of the 24th of June, I called my mum.

“Ha-ha-ha, so who is the smartest, the cleverest, the most insightful in the family, ah????”

I have to admit that my mum is better at maths.

In the next week or so though, I, obviously, started to become quite concerned. Would I, like, be deported from the country? Would they separate us from our cat, who is British and was born here, while I wasn’t? How to stay in the country which I deeply love but which suddenly became rather hostile? Not towards me, personally, but to foreigners in general?

I was upset until it struck me that people in the government don’t have a clue about what to do next themselves. Despite May’s reassurance to Beware the Ides of March 2017, no one had an idea (neither the UK or the EU) what to do next. The Brexit as such, is not a question of to be or not to be, it has already happened, but how it will end, this only God does know. The UK is Europe, and Europe can’t do without the UK. I order my best grape vape directly from Sheffield.

ПСИХОЗ.

Закончила я свой прошлый рассказ о побеге из психушки. Дело было в Голландии, в маленьком городке Пюрмеренде. Там жил мой начальник и я часто бывала в его доме, так как дружила с его женой, которая учила меня голландскому языку. Именно оттуда меня и вывезли в мой первый сумасшедший дом, так как не знали, что со мной делать. Со стороны, я так понимаю, зрелище было странное (я просто отказывалась вступать в любой разговор), а мне так в тот момент стало просто на все по барабану. Я перепила китайского чая, влюбилась во француза, и была повышена на своей работе с должности аналитика банков до менеджера портфелей акций . Мой начальник вручил мне пакет акций, и попросил исправить индексацию с минус семи процентов до какого-либо плюса. Стресс это вызвало у меня, атас, какой страшный, так как я ничего не понимала в финансах и уж тем более в портфелях акций. Несмотря на мой идиотизм в знаниях по финансам, продержалась я на той работе целых пять лет, и портфель акций (на крыльях влюблённости во француза) я исправила за два месяца до плюса на семь процентов. Как это случилось, что мой портфель акций так порхал, было большим вопросом (даже для меня), но я думаю, мне помогла моя интуиция. Я продала все скучные компании из портфеля акций, и приобрела взамен, все что нравится по жизни. Веселые компании с интересными слоганами (типа Водафона) , все, что связано с косметикой и кремами (L’Oreal), и компании, которые мне тоже просто нравились по каким-то эстетическим признакам. В общем-то аналитик и уж, тем более менеджер акций, получался из меня прекрасный, но сама работа мне не очень подходила, так как я не могу долго сидеть на одном месте, а ходить по офису туда сюда, согласитесь, не очень прилично.

Сошла я с ума в тот день, когда один немецкий банк опубликовал свои результаты по кварталу. Они были весьма плачевны, но самое сложное заключалось в том, как представить эти результаты в достойной форме для клиентов нашей компании. Клиенты у нас были весьма достойные и серьезные, и я была автором новой системы по писанию аналитических результатов. Нужно было написать предисловие, хороший и понятный главный текст, и адекватное заключение. В финансах важно, чтобы все было понятно, и именно я и внедрила такой подход к ним, когда работала в гениальной финансовой компании в городе Амстердаме.

Сумасшествие нагрянуло на меня, когда я дописывала заключение по результатам немецкого банка. Я посмотрела в окно, и вдруг поняла, что жизнь – она там, за окном, интересная и необычная, и что я просаживала свое счастье, становясь невероятным ботаником. У меня к тому времени уже было три диплома (из разных стран) и знание четырёх языков. Я очень много работала, и в один день пришла в офис в семь часов утра, так как я любила работать, и уж точно не искала себе легкую жизнь. Я очень много пахала.

В общем смотрю я в окно и на меня приливает жар и любовь к жизни. До того я не жила, а мучилась, так как в детстве на меня поставили порчу, и в этой порче дали мне смертельный договор. О порче я расскажу в другой раз, просто добавлю, что меня ненавидел один человек.

Решила я приблизиться на встречу с жизнью и вышла из офиса в никуда, но сначала доделала анализ банка, опубликовала его, поцеловала свой компьютер, и скрылась из офиса. На улице лил дождь, что подняло мне настроение, так как я люблю дожди. Они меня успокаивают.

Я направилась в бар и просидела в нем до его самого закрытия. Официантам пришлось попросить меня идти домой, так как дело было поздним вечером, и им тоже надо было домой, чтобы отдохнуть и развеяться, и на следующий день опять выйти на работу и ей наслаждаться.

Вышла из бара я немного пьяная, и поэтому решила для себя, что пир надо продолжать, купила бутылку вина по дороге домой. Еще я купила сыр в небольшом количестве. Это единственное, что я тогда ела, так как себя не любила, и в результате ела мало. Я больше пила красное вино, которое мне очень помогало и исцеляло.

Но придя домой я резко поняла, что это не мой дом (он был неуютный) и начала собирать свою сумочку, чтобы с ней отправиться в никуда.

Вот как я вышла и что произошло  потом я вам сообщу в следующий раз. Добавлю только, что все это закончилось сумасшедшем домом и диагнозом ПСИХОЗ.

The Dutch, Dutch coffee and Dutch borrel

Having looked at the marvels of Belgian food, let’s move to its neighbouring country and have a look at the Dutch.

The Dutch nation is situated in the Netherlands, which is a beautiful country, famous for its flatness, cosy farms, gorgeous mills, and obviously, the unprecedented amount of bikes. Bikes are everywhere, and it is a national transport. You are considered as really weird and not ‘gezellig’ if you don’t have one. It is almost a crime not to possess and ride a bike, as well as calling the Netherlands – Holland, a place, which doesn’t even exist. There is South Holland and North Holland, two provinces which are just a part of the Netherlands, but Dutch people are very tolerant, so they forgive you for this silly mistake of assuming they all come from ‘Holland’.

 Bikes are a true national trait, but so is coffee. The ritual around this divine drink isn’t replicated anywhere, not even close.

(Dutch bike)

Dutch people love coffee. Coffee is not just a drink, but an essential part of the day. Dutch people start their day with coffee, and drink it throughout the day. If you go to a canteen in the office, you won’t stumble upon tea (and if someone drinks tea, it means they come from England), you will be greeted with coffee. Coffee machine is always on, brewing.

Coffee is a Dutch institution. If you meet someone for a business meeting, or just among friends, it is usually around coffee. Even the famous Dutch expression ‘going Dutch’ was invented in relation to coffee. Dutch people don’t want to spoil their enjoyment of coffee, by sitting and thinking about who is going to pick up the bill. They know from the start that everyone pays for their own coffee, and just relax in the moment. Coffee should be enjoyed in peace, savoured in its taste, fully processed and not hurried up. They have a right to it though, as Dutch coffee is indeed a treat.

(enjoying the coffee)

Yes, Dutch people know how to make coffee. It is always made in a right way. It should never be a brown liquid, it should live up to its name. Coffee is strong, real coffee, never saved upon. While Dutch people don’t like discussing money and who earns how much, coffee is there no expense should be spared. It is probably the best-selling drink in the Netherlands. Everyone drinks it.

The first time I attended a family gathering in the Netherlands, at a birthday party of a relative of my family member, I was trying to process the awkward sequence of how food was served. It was so bizarre that back home, in Moscow, I couldn’t stop laughing about it with my friends. “Can you imagine,” I would say, “They start the party in a reverse order! They first serve coffee and cake, followed by normal food!” I was laughing about it for ages, until I moved to the Netherlands and learned the pleasure of coffee. Yes, everything starts with coffee, cake is just an accompaniment.

It is also only in the Netherlands that coffee is always served with something extra, such as a biscuit, a chocolate, or a waffle. If you know about it, you don’t even need to order a dessert. The dessert comes with coffee, included in the price. It is such a luxury, that no one can really accuse the Dutch of being not exuberant enough. Just look at how coffee is served, always and everywhere, and you will witness the ultimate exuberance. Here in the Netherlands I drink coffee, lots of it, strolling from one small cosy café to another (takeaways at this moment), ordering it after dinner, and during lunch. I savour it, I enjoy it, I study the different biscuits which come with it.

(coffee and a treat)

Coffee is not, of course, the only best thing about the Netherlands (though, extremely important!), it is also their bread and the national ‘gezelligheid’ called the ‘borrel’. Both words are difficult to translate, as is usually the case with true and unique cultural traditions, but I will try to explain.

Dutch people really love the word ‘gezellig’, and for a good reason, as it defines them as a nation. The term can be translated as ‘cosy’, but it implies so much more. ‘Gezellig’ is not just ‘cosy’, it is the whole essence of total relaxation, cosiness, and also of enjoying the moment. And ‘gezelligheid’ is the ultimate cosiness, achieved in the company of good friends, usually around coffee or a good Dutch ‘borrel’. ‘Borrel’ is an event. It is going out with friends and colleague to enjoy some nice drinks, and preferably around ‘borrel hapjes’. If you order a borrel on the Dutch menu, you will get the ultimate tapas. A selection of delicious snacks, that you can enjoy with a good glass of wine or beer, while having a good moment with your friends. It is a tradition, a perfect event to enjoy friendship, nice drinks, and great food, all in one go. It is indeed ‘gezellig’, it is indeed the absolute ‘gezelligheid’.

(Dutch borrel)

And so, to summarize, if you ever go to the Netherlands, and you want to enjoy it as a Dutch, you need to borrow a bike, drink lots of coffee, order a ‘borrel’, and try their bread. It is thin, melting in the mouth, coming in different colours. The brown bread is not just brown bread, it’s darker brown, or lighter brown, with seeds, or plain, perfect accompaniment for any dish!

The Netherlands is ‘gezellig’.

(cheers!)

On Forced Meditation

Where I am, in the European country in the north, we have a lockdown for months, and as a result, we are all forced to meditate. Shops are closed, which can be a good thing, but all other nice facilities, such as restaurants, cafes, and theatres, are closed as well, and in masses, we reached the point where there is literally nothing to do.

I call this state a forced meditation. I have thought and rethought about my life in the past couple of months to a grandiose scale. I told myself, in due fashion, that relatively speaking, I am doing fine. I repeated it like a mantra, watching the closed terraces and desolate streets, because without some positive thinking, one is doomed.

For some of us, this forced state of lockdown can be a good thing. I hate shopping, and always thought that it could be a good cause for celebration when shops are closed. I hate the crowds, and I thought that it would be nice to enjoy the city where I live in its beautiful quietness and tranquillity. And yes, I do enjoy the city, the Frisian capital in the north, but certain good things in their absence acquire a nagging ‘come back to me appeal’. There is nothing else more than I want at this moment but to go to a nice cloth shop and stroll, walk in the beauty store and stare at creams, try perfumes in Douglas, or a body oil in the Rituals. I will no longer say I hate shopping, because I hate meditating even more.

I can’t meditate and this is something I learned already long time ago when meditation was presented to us as a spiritual gift worthy of acquiring. I assumed due postures and tried to get rid of my thoughts. They still continued rushing through my head though, reminding me of some better things to do, such as simply having a nice cup of coffee, talk with a friend, or go on a nice walk in nature, in order to, well, meditate. The thoughts were like dark huge clouds around my head, and I realised that I could almost see them at some points, and reach for them with my hand, to never let go. I like thinking, I like thoughts. I like constantly dreaming and thinking, what is there to meditate about, I would ask myself?

And yet, it is the state in which we found ourselves due to lockdown and the crisis around the Covid. As a world population, we are forced to meditate and reflect more, because there is less of distraction. The online world is slowly losing its appeal as well, and we are driven to start appreciating what is around. But what is around, or used to be, is precisely what makes our lives so beautiful. A nice cup of coffee on a sunny terrace in a café, a meal in a restaurant, live music in a bar, a great ballet or opera in a theatre. Or a trip to buy that nice dress in a shop.

All these little things, that’s what makes meditation pleasurable on occasions, but when it is forced on us, it looses its appeal. Meditation can be good only in small doses, as well as closed shops, cafes and theatres.

When will it end?

But There’re Somewhere…: by Anna Akhmatova

But there’re, somewhere, the simple life and light,
Warm, gay and absolutely clear…
There, speaks a neighbor through the fences, light,
With a sweet girl, and only bees can hear –
The gentlest talking of this kind.

But here we live – the solemn ones and toilsome – 
And honor rites of our meetings, sad,
When our speech, just as a bud to blossom,
Is cut by wind, the cold and mad.

But we shall never seek a substitution
For this grand city – our woe and prize – 
The widest rivers’ ever glaring ice,
The gloomy gardens, hidden from beams sun’s
And the Muse voice’s slim illusion.

(translated by Yevgeny Bonver)