The Russian Patient

According to the Chinese, everything in this universe evolves within yin and yang energy. Yin represents the feminine, water and passive. Yang is the male, fire and active. Both have to be in harmony, which exists to maintain balance in our universe and within each of us.

            My body had to undergo a major shock at the age of twenty-seven to recognize that my yin and yang balance was severely distorted. True, at my birth I received the perfect fire and water combination. I was born in a female body on the tenth of July in Moscow in 1976. My zodiac sign is cancer and my year of birth is the dragon. The cancer is water and the dragon is fire. However, as one Russian politician once put it: ‘we tried our best, but you know the rest’. The hospital where I was born did not have any hot water on that lucky day, and my small body was washed with cold water. This first event in my life is reflected in the picture taken immediately after the cold water procedure. Everyone looks happy and cheerful, except me. The creature in the photo has a blue face and looks like it is going to die. Which almost happened, as according to my mum, I developed a terrible flu and was lucky to live. What’s lucky is a big question, since I am not that sure that my life has been particularly lucky.

            In any case, after the cold water and the flu, the yang element took over, and I developed the strange idea that life is about survival. One has to put in enormous efforts in order to be alive, feel happy, and receive love.

            By the age of twenty-seven I was convinced that I had everything one was supposed to achieve with this kind of thinking. I had a nice job by society’s standards, was exercising my body like mad in a very good gym and was dating all kinds of weirdoes, which as far as I could see, was the case of almost all of my friends. And I strongly believed that I had put in enormous efforts in order to have the life that I had.

            Then, what was wrong with me, you might ask?

            One sure thing was that I had terrible problems with my mind. It was unable to shut it up. Although I seriously doubt that my power animal was a little mouse, I have the impression that my mind was constantly busy with analysing and scrutinising. Once I tried a trick, I made an attempt to get rid of my thoughts. I was even able to watch them at some point, like dark heavy clouds around my head.

            ‘Ekaterina, you are not worthy!’

            ‘Ekaterina, you are stupid.’

            ‘Ekaterina, you are a failure.’

            ‘Ekaterina, you are a total failure.’

            ‘Ekaterina, you are bad.’

            ‘Please, god, take away my mind.’

            ‘There is no god!’

            ‘I need a cigarette.’

            ‘You are mad!’

            ‘Please, god, help me.’

            ‘According to Nietzsche, god is dead.’

            ‘Nietzsche was mad.’

            ‘So, are you.’

            ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.’

            You see, I did have a problem.

            Another black spot in my biography is my name. My name, Netchitailova, is the size of a skyscraper in New York city and caused me only trouble while subscribing to libraries or opening a bank account. Netchitailova is unpronounceable in other languages other than Russian and means unreadable. This in itself is quite a pity, since my biggest passion in life is reading. Though it is not as bad as some other names in the Russian language. Imagine if you have the name Netchactlivaya, which means unhappy, and try to convince strangers or your friends that you might be in a cheerful mood.

            The third thing, which is for sure, is that officially I am indeed mad. A certificate from psychiatrists that I’ve been psychotic (and more than once) is definite proof of my madness.

            What is psychosis, you might ask? The usual scientific definition explains this phenomenon as a state of mind which is characterised by a loss of contact with reality, accompanied by delusions and hallucinations (including hearing voices). Well, it probably does not say much to you as, according to this definition, the majority of the world population is in constant psychosis. Someone is suffering from a delusion of being on a mission from god to liberate the world from terrorists, another believes in extra-terrestrials and I know a woman who makes millions of dollars by claiming that she can communicate with dead people.

            A real psychosis is when your madness is confirmed by a certified psychiatrist.

            I have, for instance, a friend who believed all his life that in his previous incarnation he was Napoleon. Nothing is wrong with this belief (which might be true as a matter of fact), but be careful to whom you reveal your deepest secret. My friend started to talk about his Napoleonic ambitions at his work. Well, he ended up in the hospital. 

            As for me, I freaked out on a rather ordinary day in November while sitting behind my desk at my job in Amsterdam. It was pouring with rain – but that’s a usual thing in that city. Starting from October till April in general, almost everyone in the Netherlands is battling with the feelings of depression due to strong wind, constant rain, and grey sky.

            I wasn’t battling with depression though, but rather with euphoria. I had this feeling that something magical was awaiting me in the near future. That the life I knew now would be transformed into something much more interesting and fulfilling.      I suppose that practically everyone reaches this point in life nowadays, at least in Western society. The point when life appears to be worthless and one starts asking oneself serious questions about fate, the purpose of life, and one’s own role in society. I wouldn’t assume that so many people reach this moment in life, if the amount of self-help books in the stores didn’t testify otherwise. Nowadays it’s the biggest selling market in the book world.

            I reached this point rather early in life, at the age of twenty-seven. Maybe because I was Russian – and Russians are well known for exporting crazy and suicidal elements to the rest of the world, or maybe because I worked in finances. Bankers are the first to react despairingly in crises – as the amount of suicides demonstrates at each and every financial crisis.

            I wasn’t a banker, but I was a financial analyst of banks. In between lunches at banks, where I could at least indulge in my love of food (when I was allowing myself the pleasure of eating), I was battling with overwhelming boredom. Analysing figures and reading annual reports of banks for five days a week for two years straight can drive anyone mad.

            But since quite a lot of financial analysts of banks don’t go crazy, I guess that in my case there was something else besides simple boredom. Now, looking back with some perspective, I suppose that it wasn’t just the job – it was the whole routine of organizing your life when you have to sit the whole day in an office.

            Just think, for a second, about what exactly I mean. If you happen to work in an office as well – you might quite easily visualize the picture.

            Your day starts with the terrible beep of an alarm. Not only are they really unpleasant, they also intervene, in a nasty way, into the natural functioning of your body. You would love to continue seeing that last dream (something like enjoying a holiday in the Bahamas) for five minutes more, but eventually you end up dragging yourself out of your warm and cosy bed to attend to your responsibilities.

            Then you grab, from the fridge, whatever is available for your breakfast (assuming you are well organized and do have something in your fridge), take a quick shower and run towards the underground station as you realise that you might be late. As usual.

            In the underground station (or… on a bus), once having managed to battle through a crowd to get onto the train, you have to endure standing close to irritated and sleep-deprived fellow passengers, who are more than happy to invade your personal space as you do theirs. And in case you go by car to work, I bet you spend some quality time in a traffic jam.

            By the time you rush into the office, it’s rare that you are in a cheerful mood.

And it’s just the beginning of your day. You still have to face eight long hours (at least) in the office.

            From these eight hours, as a general rule, you need to pretend that you are working for a minimum four hours (to keep up appearances and stay in good graces with your boss). You do have to act as if you are doing something useful, in between coffee breaks, chatting with colleagues, checking private mails or your Facebook account (if it’s not yet banned at your workplace).

            You survive till lunch (the best part of the working day by all standards), but then the worst part of the day lasts for eternity. Our bodies are programmed in such a way that the most natural thing to do after your lunch is to have a good nap.

            But no, in your case you have to drag yourself back behind your desk and struggle with a terrible desire to sleep for the best part of the afternoon. You try to focus on your job (with difficulty), while at the same time constantly checking the clock to see how much time is left till you are free to go home.

            Still… at this point, you try to think of doing something positive about your life once out of the office. Instead of watching the next episode of Eastenders or sabotaging your brain with something like Big Brother, you envision yourself doing something more productive and useful, like joining a course in creative writing, starting to study a language or simply reading an intellectual book.

            Unfortunately, this positive thinking usually stays in the realm of a fantasy vision, since as soon as you are out of the office, you can’t wait to end up on your cosy sofa watching endless TV until it’s time for bed.

            And the next day it starts all over again, and the day after, and the day after, until it’s weekend – the only time we seem to really enjoy ourselves nowadays. 

            On that particular November morning, when I was trying to do some estimates for banks, I got, for the first time, a glimpse that life could be something else entirely.

            Doctors blame it on the chemical imbalance in the brain, David Icke says that we are invaded by reptiles, and some call it enlightenment.

            Whatever the name of the phenomenon, on that day I took my first ride into a magical world, which is hidden from us behind job responsibilities, money worries and the burden of everyday routine tasks.

            Who knew that this adventure would land me right in the nearest psychiatric hospital?

побег из больницы

Сбежала я из больницы через две недели, так как добровольно меня не отпускали. Типа, всё очень серьёзно, если загремел в психбольницу с психозом (как именно до больницы я доехала, я ещё расскажу – довезли меня туда мой босс с моей финансовой компании и моя коллега, и в том числе подруга, Лена).

Что в психушке всё очень строго мне сообщил мой врач. Я в палату свою, когда вернулась после посетителей, он сразу туда примчался, взглянул на мою запись на стене, что «Я – Будда», и сообщает:

«Девушка, у вас психоз, будем лечить.»

Ну а я ему отвечаю:

«Я выспалась (я там три дня проспала по приезду, после своей одиннадцатидневной бессонницы), и пора домой. Здесь с вашими цветочками я находиться не собираюсь!»

А он в ответ:

«Психоз – это очень серьёзно, сейчас выпишем лекарство, и вы находитесь в закрытом отделении. Выпишем, когда я разрешу.»

«А президента Буша тогда почему не лечите?» Я интересуюсь.

Ну врач как-то смутился и спрашивает:

«Причём тут Буш?»

«Ну а как же!» Я уточняю. «Вот ведь у кого настоящий психоз. Самая настоящая паранойя, я бы даже добавила! Везде мерещатся ему террористы!»

Ну врач смотрит на меня молча, не знает, что мне ответить.

«Ладно,» я говорю, «если я в вашей больнице, например соглашусь побыть, то сколько вы мне за это платить будете?»

А врач (назовём его доктор Тромп) почему-то бледнеет и переходит на голландский язык (до этого он говорил по-английски):

«Вы находитесь на территории Голландии! Мы за пребывание в больнице деньги не платим! Зато вы можете заказать себе любимое блюдо! Питание три раза в день, есть бассейн! Есть сад и занятия по йоге!» Разворачивается и уходит.

Мда, я задумалась. Похоже я попала! Кто бы мог подумать, что из больницы так легко не уйти? Посидела, посидела на кровати и пошла на разведку опять в зал. Решила проверить, чем в психушке можно заняться. Ну и решаю про себя, что есть неплохая возможность подучить голландский. В компании, где я работала в основном, говорили по-английски и друзья почти все иностранцы были в Амстердаме, а тут, я как бы попала в среду.

В зале, когда я пришла, сидела только женщина в тёмных очках. Та, что была в футболке с надписью «ПСИХИАТРИЯ – НА ХУЙ», куда-то ушла (там не особо-то можно было куда-то ходить, как я потом выяснила, так чисто из палаты в зал, и обратно, я там со скуки чуть не сдохла до своего побега).

Подхожу я к женщине, рядом сажусь и знакомлюсь:

«Я – Катя. Из России.»

Женщина голову только повернула (очки не сняла):

«Меня зовут Руф, я тут с депрессией.»

Ага, я думаю, тут так представляться надо! Но я решила не уточнять, зачем я в психушке, так как, и козлу было ясно, что попала я туда чисто случайно.

«Неужели бывает депрессия?» Спрашиваю я Руф. «У нас в России такой болезни не существует! Есть подруги, которым можно позвонить в два часа ночи, и водка!»

А Руф в слёзы! Очки сняла, глазки трёт, потом так зло на меня смотрит, встаёт и уходит из зала.

Побежала жаловаться, как вскоре выяснилось. Прибегает санитар, на вид, Индонезиец, высокий и даже красивый.

«Ты что в депрессию не веришь?» Смотрит на меня с укором.

«Верю, верю!» Отвечаю. «Откуда мне знать было, что есть такая болезнь? Я тут у вас новенькая, пообещали мне йогу и бассейн. Вот и покажи, где бассейн! Не телевизор же мне у вас тут смотреть!»

Ну а санитар садится рядом и давай мне правила объяснять. Что типа, у них в больнице порядок. Йога раз в неделю по средам. Бассейн – тоже по расписанию.

Санитар, кстати этот, меня потом после больницы нашёл и на свидание позвал. Влюбился по ходу дела в меня в больнице. Я на свидание пошла, он в больнице самый добрый был. Провёл меня один раз в бассейн не по расписанию, выводил на ночные прогулки в их сад, когда мне не спалось, дарил сигареты.

Но со свидания я через полчаса после его начала ушла. Повёл в индонезийский ресторан и как сразу выяснилось, с серьёзными намерениями. Начал говорить, что с мамой и папой познакомить хочет, про свои планы на жизнь, и что хочет больше двух детей. Ну а меня, если честно, то такие заявки всегда очень пугали. Сразу напрягала в башке картина, где я стою у плиты, груда посуды, и муж вдобавок, за которым надо носки подбирать. Мне такого счастья никогда не надо было, я всегда любила быть одна, встала я из-за стола после закуски, перед подачей главного блюда, сказала, что мне надо в туалет, а сама из ресторана убежала, и поехала, как помню к подруге вино пить (его в индонезийском ресторане не подавали).

Санитар мне потом ещё два года звонил, пока я телефон не поменяла, после того как меня сталкер там один достал. Но больше я с ним не виделась. С ним оказалось скучно.

В общем пока мне санитар рассказывал про правила, я для себя чётко решила.

Буду я отсюда бежать, если сами не выпустят через неделю.

Психушка в Голландии

Проснулась я когда в больнице после чая, то не сразу дошло до меня, где я. Глаза открываю и вижу: камера на стене! Прям на меня смотрит!

Ну я села на кровать и давай изучать в чём я одета. Про себя думаю: «похоже попала я в реалити тв!» Только вот как убей, не могу вспомнить, чтобы я туда когда-либо записывалась.

А одета я была в полосатую пижаму! Страшную и слишком на меня большую! Встала я с кровати злая, подошла к доске с мелом, отписалась, что «я- Будда», и выхожу из палаты вся на взводе. Ну думаю, пойду к продюсерам шоу буянить! Ишь как меня решили нарядить! Нет, не пойдет так дело! Уж если русскую женщину в «Старшего Брата» запустили, то будьте добры представить нас как есть! При каблучках и с помадой!

Выхожу в коридор, там тоже везде камеры и картины весёлые на стенах. Куда не посмотришь, везде цветочки. Напомнило мне это почему-то про детский сад в Москве. Тоже такого вод рода блеск в глаза. Вроде как должно стать весело, а мне всегда в саду хреново было. Хотелось быть при маме и папе, которые манную кашу на меня никогда не навязывали. А в саду навязывали! Приходилось мне эту кашу каждый раз под стол выкидывать. Воспитатели всё время орали и пытались найти виновника, но так никогда и не поняли, что виновником была я. Ну я девочка с виду была тихая и спокойная. Сидела всегда в первом ряду, типа воспитателя слушала, когда она книжки читала. Не ребёнок, а чудо. Про себя я сад ненавидела и воспитателей тоже. Книжки они интересно читать не умели.

В общем меня от картин с цветочками слегка затошнило, даже вкус манной каши во рту появился.

Буду обговаривать себе хороший контракт с продюсерами, решаю про себя. Если мне тут придется находиться с такими вот цветочками больше недели, то попрошу хорошие за это деньги! Плюс нормальный, адекватный гардероб.

Из коридора выхожу в зал. Комната такая большая, там телевизор, стол, диваны. И вижу, сидят там в уголке (и как-то странно на двух женщин, смотрящих телевизор, поглядывают) мой босс с моей финансовой компании, моя подруга Лена, и моя мама! Сидят все бледный и мрачные. Мама с платочком, типа плачет.

Неужели кто-то умер? Я испугалась!

Подбегаю к ним.

«Господи, что случилось?» спрашиваю.

А они все разом подскакивают и давай вокруг меня хороводы водить, громко при этом причитывая.

«Ой, ой, ой!»

«Мама-Миа!»

«Катюша, доченька моя, как ты?» Это уже мама спрашивает.

«Да нормально,» я говорю, а про себя начинаю соображать, что, что-то тут не то! С чего это вдруг, все переполошились? И вроде как, вспоминаю, что на реалити тв, посторонним нельзя.

«Катенька, доченька, мне позвонили, я сразу прилетела. Ну надо же, никогда, ни у кого в семье психоза не было! Что же случилось, деточка?» И смотрит на меня мама тоскливыми глазами. Босс мой на меня уставился тоже как-то грустно, а Лена (вместо того, чтобы поржать) всё на тех женщин, сидящих перед телевизором, косится. Ну я на них тоже решила обратить внимание и приглядываюсь. Ой, смотрю, одна сидит в футболке, на которой написано «ПСИХИАТРИЯ- НА ХУЙ», а другая сидит в тёмных очках, хотя вроде как телевизор смотрит.

Что-то тут явно не то, до меня наконец доходит. И почему я наряжена в полосатую пижаму?

«А где это я?» Спрашиваю я своих посетителей.

«Катюша, ты в больнице!» Мне отвечают.

Ну я себя осматриваю, и вроде как, помимо абсолютно жуткой пижамы, я окей. Руки и ноги похоже работают, и чувствую себя просто прекрасно (впервые в жизни так супер себя ощущала!).

«Что же это за больница такая?» Я интересуюсь, и ловлю себя на том, что тоже начинаю на женщин, сидящих перед телевизором, коситься всё больше и больше. Что-то тут СОВСЕМ не то! И правда, подозрительная такая картина!

«В психбольнице ты, Катя!» Мама говорит, и давай опять плакать. «Никто, никогда еще в роду, и на тебе, позорище!» И зарыдала в три ручья.

Ну я стояла до этого, а тут пришлось сесть, новость переварить. Они на меня втроём смотрят, ждут реакцию.

Ну а я про себя думаю, и правда, ведь позорище! Финансовый аналитик банков, портфельный менеджер акций в нехилой голландской компании, говорю на трёх языках (я голландский к тому времени ещё плохо знала), три диплома (плюс ещё квалификация профессионального инструктора по степ-аэробике), а сижу при этом в полосатой, неимоверно жуткой с виду пижаме! Такого позора действительно ещё у меня не было! Люблю я красивую одежду. Яркую и нарядную!

«Вы мне одежду принесли? НОРМАЛЬНУЮ?» спрашиваю я босса, Лену и маму.

А они пирожные шоколадные и бананы мне достают!

Одежду мне потом принесли, но не совсем, что надо было (притащили спортивные штаны и свитера!). Больница сама ничего так была. Если бы не мой психиатр, то настоящий курорт!

Бассейн, уроки рисования, кормили тоже неплохо. Котлеты, диетические супы, и неплохие десерты. Они меня даже спросили, что бы я хотела отдельно ещё получать (там можно было любимое блюдо заказать). Я попросила шампанское, но не дали, сказали нельзя. Пришлось тогда шампанское перезаказать на чёрную икру. Икры не оказалось, согласилась я на французский кофе. По утрам с чашечкой кофе сидела я у окна и наблюдала за птицами в саду.

Всё хорошо было, но психиатр оказался полный урод и через две недели мне там надоело.

Я решила сбежать.

On being Mental: NHS and Game of Thrones

Dear Camarades, colleagues, friends, and readers of this blog. This is a first part of a story of two to come on my Porcupine’s wisdom teachings.
Let’s start with part 1.
When I was telling you about the fact that you shouldn’t despair in case you end up in a mad house during the festive period, I didn’t realise that I was kind of fortune-telling and predicted my own landing in a mental institution for Christmas and New Year in one go. And therefore, when I was planning to write and give advice on how to spend quality time in its full glory if sectioned under mental health act  (part two will be about some practical ideas about how to survive the ordeal), I ended up following my own recommendations. 

But let me tell you more as to how I ‘volunteered’ myself into the section 3 of the mental health act (I did go to the hospital to seek help all by myself, driven by ambulance I summoned also all by myself).
I blame it on the weather. Winter has definitely come this year, and I couldn’t even leave my street for two days. It was literally frozen. If Sheffield is indeed in South Yorkshire, then York should be in Mexico.
 
 
And so, it was cold, very cold, especially that I couldn’t find time to fix my boiler, and was stressed to hell due to some other major worries.
I reckoned, on a subconscious level, that it would be just warmer in the hospital.
And I was right, not that it was done on purpose (me going to the mad house simply to warm up, well, actually, I did need a rehab in heating). Because I was freezing and shivering from cold so much at my own house, that I even started to come up with my own ideas for the Game of Thrones, season 8. You see, I am a Dragon myself (according to the Chinese wisdom), and I think that that Dragon who fell into the ice water, was resurrected by the army of dead people on purpose.
 
You see, while most spectators of the show (a guess), called ‘Game of Thrones’ are probably rather interested in royal intrigues and fights (and sex scenes of course, but unfortunately, they cut it down), my attention was glued to that mysterious leader of the army of the dead, with hypnotising blue eyes. He manages to lead his army of the dead with a remarkable zeal (Russian army?).
Who is this man, I was asking each time they would show the character, and he deserves more insight and attention in the show. I mean, the man with blue eyes is simply amazing.
 
And so, while I was thinking about the show, I kind of froze to death myself that winter (it was in 2017) and had an idea that the plan of the guy with the blue eyes, who leads the army of the dead, is to simply get himself and his army a warmer place to live. You see, a dragon can always survive, and if he hypnotised the dragon, there is a purpose in it, and a profound one. He wants his army to have food, shelter, medication and wellness retreat. For how long, are they supposed to live in the bloody Siberia?
 
But I will stop to elaborate on the possible story line for the Game of Thrones and will progress to some tips about survival in a mental institution:
1. Make friends with fellow patients, you will help each other, and stay friends after the hospital.
2. Pamper yourself.  Start exchanging clothes with patients, do each other nails and make-up, take baths and listen to the music. Do take part in their occupational therapy activities.
3. And final tip till my next post (part 2, apparently it didn’t happen, I forgot to write it). Try always to see the positive and as hard as it can be, persevere with some humour. I, for instance, was so tired of waiting for Jesus that decided to declare my own return (like finally) and feel fine. This time, I am female and I have brothers and sisters. And this was the real reason they decided to section me. My psychiatrist didn’t laugh when I said I am Jesus. 
I wasn’t.
 
 
 
 
 

When I was Jesus

 

 

I was Jesus once, when I was in a psychiatric hospital. I knew that psychosis was coming and called emergency services because there was no one else to call. Mental health services are struggling, there is no coordinated effort, there is no place to go, if you need a safe place.
So, the hospital it was. But in order to reach the hospital, I had to spend twenty-four hours in the emergency department. By the time the psychiatric services came to assess me, I was in full-blown revelation phase. I was in the middle of human misery. I was Jesus.
I didn’t have to do anything apart from saying that I was Jesus to the psychiatrist, I was immediately put under a section of Mental Health Act, deriving me effectively of my freedom. It was astonishing because I was the one asking for help. Instead of help, I was sent to ‘prison’.
Arguing with psychiatrists that I was Jesus once in the hospital wasn’t that good, they tried to change medication three times, by adjusting the dose of each new medication. It lasted two months. It stopped only when I finally realised that saying that I am Jesus to a psychiatrist was a suicide on my part. I shut up. I still thought I was Jesus.
But what is exactly happening when someone says that he or she is Jesus? I am not the first patient and definitely not the last to say so, and I read many articles which describe more or less the same experience. Someone believes he is a Messiah, another believes she is Buddha.
All these experiences are nothing else than a search for spiritual truth, it is a spiritual awakening, which is always accompanied by some sort of distress when one actually sees God or other manifestations of other reality. When someone says that she or he is Jesus, one has to sit down with this person and explain that he or she is going through a stage of discovering faith, that it is a natural process of coming in contact with the knowledge that God is there, that there is something out there, and that Jesus is in everyone. Thus, saying that ‘I am Jesus’, shouldn’t lead to labeling it as ‘delusion’ but to delegating it to spiritual and religious domain.
But the psychiatry actively negates any existence of God, because it labels psychosis as severe mental illness. Psychosis is an experience of meeting directly with the other reality, but the psychiatry doesn’t believe in the other reality. It diagnoses it, and denies that spiritual awakening is possible. All those who hear voices or ‘see’ things are reassured that these are hallucinations. But voices and seeing things are real for the patient. These are manifestations of deep religious truth. The patient is much more advanced than the psychiatrist on a spiritual level, but the psychiatrist has the power, and uses it to smash ‘out-of-there’ experiences. He also stops the individual spiritual journey of the person concerned, unless this individual is strong enough not to believe the psychiatrist and the whole power of the institution of the psychiatry behind. It becomes a fight for survival from that moment on.
 
 

 

What happened to my country? What happened to Russia? What happened to this beautiful world?

I was born in a beautiful world, in a beautiful country, in Russia. The country that saved the world at some point in human history. It is sad that it isn’t mentioned enough in history books, while it should be the case, of course, all the time. If you don’t know about it, I will tell you. It was during the Second World War, during the fight with the fascists.

My grand-parents fought in that war, and so many people suffered, too many. An incomprehensible number for a true human mind. 56 MILLION. The Jewish, the different, the Slavic race, and other beautiful souls. How could it have ever happened, is a question that I do ask myself each day, because history does matter, and it does matter to KNOW.

My family was absolutely amazing. I had a loving, very curious mum, a wonderful farther, and beautiful set of grand-parents on each side of my charming parents. I spent my summers in a Cossack village, because I have beautiful Cossack genes from my farther, and I travelled to St-Petersburg, called Leningrad at that time, with my mother, who came from aristocracy ancestors (a real catastrophe, that most of them they killed, but some of them survived, thanks GOD). She showed me beautiful museums and powerful paintings, and taught me history and maths. Maths wasn’t my favourite subject, but thanks to my mother I kind of survived the test nightmare of algebra and the like they impose on children in our modern schools.

The idyllic picture of my childhood was broken when something bad happened in my land. We can blame the capitalism (and easy prey), or we can skip all that critical thinking analysis and simply aim at the truth: bad people got greedy, and sold their souls to deprive my Russia from its true meaning: an amazing land, guided by goodness and God. Jesus watches this land, and so do I.

Gorbachev, the kind, beautiful man, tried to create something even more beautiful. He announced some important changes: freedom of speech (extremely important), Perestroika (I still struggle to translate this dilemma), etc, etc, etc. He wanted more good, he had a vision of communism, a term that we started to believe to fear, but in simple language, it just means: everyone is equal, everyone has the same rights, everyone should receive free medical care, have food on the table and receive education for free, and isn’t it wonderful?

Gorbachev wanted even more: he wanted to wake up people and show them that everyone can enjoy theirs jobs: be you a cleaner, a clerk, or a president. It doesn’t matter WHAT you do, what matters is that you enjoy what you are doing. With my extra superiors efforts in this life to survive, I think I deserve more money than a bad-mouthing former ‘neighbour’ who learned to envy success, but it means that I have even a better vision than Gorbachev,more in the lines of Tolstoy, our beautiful Russian writer. Leo Tolstoy, was a true aristocrat, a philanthropist, who wanted to see beautiful Russia, where kindness would rule, and everyone would have food on the table, and lead meaningful lives. If you haven’t yet read his books, I strongly advise you to correct this mistake rather urgently, and start with his diaries, and only after proceed to Anna Karenina (but not when you are pregnant), and leave ‘War and Peace’ till the end, once your master your French. It’s a read I successfully skipped at my literature lessons at school, because I didn’t speak French yet properly, and the rest what was left in Russian (‘War and Peace” is written in both Russian and French), told us about long war narratives, that I found boring. But the love story was amazing, and I read all parts related to that, and passed my literature exam with outmost distinction. At nights I was absorbing his diaries though,-  beautiful notes, that I discovered by accident as it seemed, but of course, it wasn’t an accident, because good books always find their reader.

The dilemma of Perestroika resulted in a brain-damage. That’s the only term in English I can find to describe what happened next to my beautiful, unique country. But I will try to explain it in more accessible words.

There were kiosks at first, ugly corner shops selling Coca-Cola (the only nice thing), snickers, and cigarettes. My best friend and I, bought our first cigarettes there when we were just thirteen. No one was checking for age, and no one cared, as long as you had money and you could pay.

Then,  even bigger things happened. Vouchers came out from the state companies for ordinary people to get their chance to own some assets in their own country. But the country was starving, because Boris Yeltsin was in power, having chased Gorbachev out of the regime, and out of Russia. I want to know how it could happen, and I tried, because I was watching what was happening to my country with a disbelief of a twelve, and then fourteen, and then fifteen, sixteen years-old mind, and I was watching how Kashpirovsky was allowed to go on the state TV and hypnotise the entire nation via a live transmission. I tried to warn my grand-mother, who, as many others, was watching that nonsense, an act of black magic, coming directly from those in power then. Kashpirovsky was telling: ‘everyone will be fine, and everyone won’t be fine’, confusing the entire beautiful land, and how this was allowed is beyond my beautiful mind, but I want to know how it was even possible. I want to KNOW the truth. Because history DOES matter, and we can never forget, in order not to repeat the mistakes of the humanity.

My grand-mother got gangrene after watching it, and died in pain and suffering some years later. That was the moment, outside the church when we said goodbye to her, that I run out and shouted to the sky, to God: ‘’what the fuck? How is it possible? Where are YOU?’’

But of course, God was watching, as he always does, because at the end of the day, goodness always prevails, otherwise, it isn’t possible to continue living, and the universe is doomed. And this simply can’t happen.

The vouchers were immediately bought back by what you know now as OLIGARCHS. Everyone was starving, no one had enough food. There was some promise of American food aid, that they send sometimes to deprived troops in the army, and we got it at school. I tried the sausages and dry milk, and it was disgusting. But it helped to live.  I brought all my ‘American’ packages to my grand-mum, because she was starving, and she had sold her voucher back to the oligarchs because she didn’t have any money, as the rest of the nice, not that ordinary Russian population, for a penny.

Oligarchs were made, together with parlours of bad witches. It was all around Moscow, you have to believe me. Everywhere you looked, there was some advertisement: ‘a curse to ban your enemies’’, ‘I will help you to make even more money’, ‘I will bring you your lover back’. That was the moment when I vomited from my first cigarette, because it was the only thing that could help me to cope, with what was happening to Russia. People were shouting and people were crying. And I was shouted at and I was crying. My beautiful mother was in Italy then, because of some strange set of circumstances. I rejoined her when I went to study in Brussels, in French, at the age of nineteen.

Christian churches were opened though, including my favourite church, and it should be amazing and it should be unique, but money was being made on them too, and I almost stopped to believe, but I am not allowed, because God doesn’t let me. And I want to believe, because the idea to the contrary can’t be processed by my inquisitive mind. People were dying then in Russia, and everyone was miserable and upset, and it seemed like a fog, had embraced my beautiful land. Everyone was after apartments, where to get what one wanted, they were ready to put their relatives inside the psychiatric hospital. It was a legal procedure: you pay the ‘doctor”, he signs the letter, and then the poor distressed individual (usually an older relative) is driven inside a psychiatric hospital to disappear. Other schemes were created, and it was all about money, it was all about how to get even more rich.

I want to know how did it happen, and I want to know who was behind all that, and what was said, and understand the incomprehensible dilemma of oligarchs now ruling the world, from their perspectives of offshore brands, stealing money from innocent people, stealing properties from other countries, stealing all the goodness what is still left in this world.

They call it Psychosis. That’s how my quest, my incomprehension about what happened to Russia, and as a result, to the rest of the world, is defined in medical, psychiatric terms. It struck me shortly after September 11, right when I landed working as a financial analyst of banks in a beautiful company in Amsterdam. I saw the image of crushing planes when I was at my gym. I even tried to go to my step class like some other members. But I couldn’t stay there. Instead I run outside and I vomited, and then I watched how stock markets made billions on the sake of the human distress, because I worked in finances, and it was in front of my eyes. And I remember thinking: ‘but that’s exactly what happened back in Russia’, and it was hard to process, and I couldn’t understand how people could laugh, and continue living, and not just cry, like I was doing after that day. I, obviously, couldn’t return to the gym after that day either. I hate all the gyms now.

You know what happened next: Saddam Hussein was publicly executed on a stage. Apparently you could even ‘enjoy’ a place on a stage to watch that awful act. Apparently, it was even filmed, like some sort of Big Brother, that is presented to us as something that we should enjoy and be entertained with, as if it is normal. Amelie Nothomb, my favourite Belgian writer wrote about a similar story in ‘Sulphuric Acid’. I read it in French, but you can get it in English. All her books are more than amazing, they are unique. If you haven’t read her yet, I urgently advise you to do so. Start with ‘Stupeur et Tremblements’ – a beautiful, enjoyable read, a comedy, and then move to her other books, in the order that she wrote them, like I do.

One day, when I came back to Brussels, after my spell in the Amsterdam city for good seven years, I woke up in one of my lucid dreaming, crying. I was standing in front of Saint Basil Cathedral in Moscow, one of the most beautiful churches, the real, and I was crying and I was in terrible pain.

And now I know, I was crying for Russia, and I was crying for my beautiful land, and I was crying for what happened to Jesus, and I was crying to what had happened on our planet earth.

But they call it psychosis, because some people tell you that you should just be happy and enjoy your life.

And of course, one should be happy and enjoy one’s life. But I don’t know how to be happy when such terrible things happen on this earth.

How is it even possible, can someone explain??? How can one dare to feel happy when so many other beautiful people are in so much pain?

Love Yourself

Any process to healing starts with loving oneself.

It is a process I am undergoing now, something I do to myself and I want to share it with you.

The most traumatic, bad experience in life usually leads to an illness, it can be expressed in different forms, such as getting ill physically, or developing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or even ‘psychosis’. The problem with the current medical system is that when you come inside feeling unwell, it makes you feel even worse, by proclaiming you as ill. Sometimes, the ‘doctors’ even tell that it is chronic.

This, of course, damages the person even more, and in fact, reinforces the trauma already inside one’s individual mind. When bad things happened to you in life, you need love and healing, and not the system of punishment hidden behind the psychiatric diagnoses, and the drugs they prescribe. There might be even benefit of some short-term medication, but only when it’s given from love, from the intention to make you feel better, not when it’s prescribed from the position that ‘something is wrong with you’.

I battled with this dilemma of diagnoses for ages, until I learned to stop believing in them all together. One can recover from ‘being bipolar’, and one can recover from the diagnosis of ‘schizophrenia’. And to achieve this, one needs to start healing oneself.

The love you didn’t get at some point in your childhood, is a love available freely from the universe. It is a matter of claiming it for you, because you deserve it. You are a loving, wonderful individual, who has all the rights to a happy and fulfilled life, where money is not a problem, where you are surrounded by good, real friends, where you radiate health and your inner beauty, and where you feel happy each day. It is available to you, and you need to learn how to channel it for yourself, inside yourself.

One day, quite recently, I decided I am going to love myself from this moment on. I have to admit that I did seek help in the matter. No ‘doctor’ ever looked at what had happened to me in the past and how it affected as a result my health, and therefore, I started to explore it by myself. I deserve to be happy, and I deserve to be healed. I deserve to overcome my past trauma, because it restricts me from achieving my full wonderful potential, where I am an amazing teacher, a wonderful mum, where I live in a wonderful town, in a beautiful country, and where I am always lucky to attract the most radiant individuals as my friends into my life. I know that I do something right in my life, but I also know that because of the traumatic experience in the past, which wasn’t my fault, I am not yet fully at my full potential, at my best version of myself. My best version of myself is when I am in charge of a spiritual healing centre, to help others to not just heal, but become happy, and I want to realise this dream one day.

I sought help in other dimensions. I started to notice beauty around me, I started to work on myself by meditating, and I also discovered beautiful platform that helped me on my journey. I listen to masterclasses of Mindvalley, I listen to extremely powerful podcats of Marisa Peer, and I also meditate with Soulvana app. And the most amazing thing, is that you can get this help for free. Mindvalley runs constant free masterclasses, Marisa Peer has her website with free audio transformational messages, and meditation on Soulvana is also free.

I also read numerous books, and studied many ancient wisdom, and also the wisdom of modern times. I learned to appreciate good things that come into my life. I am indeed very lucky. And I am lucky because despite having a terrible diagnosis one day from the psychiatry, and despite dealing with lots of loss and trauma, I not only survived, I decided to flourish.

And at the end of the day, I learned one powerful thing in my journey. It all comes to loving oneself.

I did it automatically, by stroking my own head, while all the terrible things told to me in my past by one very unkind person, such as that I am not worthy, I am bad, I am a terrible terrible girl, run through my head. All this was told to me when I was only twelve.

And one day I caught myself watching these thoughts. The conditioning and hatred towards me, was so strong, that it stayed around my mind, despite all the facts to the contrary. I am a good person, I am a wonderful beautiful woman. I am worthy. I achieved enormous things in my life. But the thoughts were there, because they were inflicted on me during several years of nightmare, and it became as a result, almost like a powerful black magic, a curse.

I took the decision to remove the curse. Now when I stroke my head, I tell myself that I am lovable, that I am worthy, that I am likeable, and that I am unique. I have phenomenal surviving skills, I am very smart, and I deserve happiness.

The journey towards self-love is never late. Give yourself the permission to love yourself. Join me on this wonderful journey towards recovery from trauma, towards self-healing and love. Join me on the quest towards removing the curse inflicted on you by someone unkind, someone bad. Claim your power back from that person.

And then remove any diagnosis from your head. Give yourself the permission to be healthy, happy and radiant. Your ‘illness’ was your phenomenal coping mechanism, your amazing desire to survive. And you can heal, and you can get better. Tell yourself each morning: ‘I am worthy, I am lovable, I am exceptional, I deserve wealth, love, happiness, and joy.’

 I am doing it, and so can you.  

Born in Russia: Somebody that I used to know

We never forget about our first love, do we? Some of us are lucky and their first love is the love of their lives (the story of my grand-parents), but most of us either search for the one (real love with sparkles), or settle for the mediocrity, such as ‘settling’ with someone for the sake of being settled, or looking for someone who can provide (women) or clean the house (men).


I will never forget my first love because he was a very interesting guy, and I can’t forget him because he gave me confidence. Confidence that I wasn’t that bad-looking, was ‘datable’, and could get the best guy on earth if only I wouldn’t ruin it, like I did with him, something which, unfortunately, stayed with me till the day. 
Present me with ‘the one’, and I will find a reason to ruin it.
Misha wasn’t the best guy on earth but he was definitely the most popular guy at our school. I was fourteen when I met him, he was sixteen, joining our school to finish final year after having lived on the other side of Moscow. His mother was our teacher in chemistry.
He soon became the talk of the whole school, among both girls and boys alike. Not only he was very good-looking, funny and smart, he was also different from everyone else. Like, for instance, he didn’t give a damn about any rules and would smoke a cigarette right at the entrance to the school, where his mother was giving classes and where he was supposed to study. I didn’t pay any attention to him (apart from making a mental note that I should dare an act of smoking right in front of the school when I reached my final year, instead of hiding behind the entrance at the back at that time), because there was no chance he would ever notice me. Why should he? I was two years younger, in a class that older boys usually ignored (too studious, etc…not me and my best friend, but he wouldn’t know), with pimples, having a weird hair-do, wearing terrible clothes, and not the prettiest girl in the school. Probably, the opposite.

(me at that time)
But it was me he addressed once we approached the entrance of the school with my best friend.“Got any lighter?” he asked me, and I was so shocked by the request (more like by the fact that he was talking to me) that I answered the first thing which came into my mind, which should be a lesson to hold my tongue in the future…to no avail.
“Not on me at this moment, unless I try to push it out of me”.
I, obviously, thought about my reply for the rest of the day, and days after, because I couldn’t believe that I could be so stupid. I also reckoned that I had turned totally red when I had spoken, which was another disaster. It wasn’t anymore about just paying attention to Misha, it was about thinking about him all the bloody time from that moment on. Soon it became the talk of the whole school, Misha and me. Girls from my class would run to me and whisper into my ear: “We heard Misha discussing with other boys whether Ekaterina should become his girlfriend!”Misha himself would come into our class, for some reason during maths, when the whole class was waiting in fear for the appearance of our scary teacher in maths, with on one occasion, his own mum, a teacher in chemistry, coming in, in order to drag him out back into the corridor.

I became the best pupil in chemistry. Well, I had to, since I fancied the son of the teacher. It took me a month of sleepless nights but I arrived. The teacher (the mum) was so impressed that she didn’t drag Misha from our class in maths next time, once she saw that Misha was chatting to me, with the whole class (mostly girls) watching the scene in total bewilderment.
All nice and rosy until Misha invited me on a date. The idea was to spend the Easter together. It was weird, but never mind. After that, I find it boring when someone offers a normal date. A dinner and a drink? Thank you very much but I rather spend a night marching five kilometres in Moscow. That’s what we did, with Misha. We met in the centre and just walked and walked until we reached my apartment, five kilometres further, where my step-mother was pouring my dad some vodka, keeping him away in the kitchen, so that he doesn’t kill Misha the moment he meets him. At two o’clock in the morning. We went to the living room. My step-mum brought us some cakes, tea and other treats, closing the door behind and managing to continue calming my dad. Misha was supposed to sleep where I was, in the same room, not that anyone would sleep with each other, which was the main concern of my dad, and he made sure to visit the toilette every five minutes for the rest of the night, making sure that no one would get any sleep in any case. In retrospect I realise now that it was a perfect moment for me to loose my virginity, with a guy with whom I was in love and who fancied me back. But no, I pretended to be an idiot. The moment when we finally ended up in the room together, I became so shy that for some reason I decided to ransack one of my cupboards and drag out my collection of barbies (two dolls) and show them to Misha. I still remember the reaction on his face. It was that unclear stare, a stage in between ‘shall I laugh, or run home?’ All transport was sleeping with the rest of Moscow’s population, making running impossible. But he should have laughed. He didn’t.

He then kissed me good-night, asking whether he could kiss me on the forehead. I said yes, without kissing him back on the lips. I was waiting for him to fall asleep for the rest of the night, but he never did, and we both lay there awake, regretting the lost opportunity. 
Misha dropped the talk about the possibility of me becoming his girlfriend after that night, and maybe for a good reason. Last time I checked he is now a spiritual yogi somewhere in India. Great, but I prefer more comfort in my daily life.

Still, while Misha looked exactly like that singer Gotye, he isn’t just ‘Somebody that I used to know’ (which is, ironically, a favourite song of my dad). I named my son after him. As they say it, first love never dies.

Born in Russia: my summers in a Cossack village

I had beautiful summers in Russia. Children are quite lucky in Russia as they get three months off during summer months! It is a nightmare for the parents, but total delight for the kids. Three full months of fun, three full months of the joy of childhood, freedom and exploration!
I was sent each summer to my grand-parents in the south of Russia, right at the border with Ukraine. It was a small Cossack village, quiet, remote, and oh my god, so peaceful! One could go out at night and hear only the sound of an owl, and see the stars far away in the sky.
My grand-parents had a farm, and it was the best farm in the village. Both of them survived the hardship of the area of Stalin, both of them returned to the house which had been confiscated by Bolsheviks at some point, and rebuilt everything from scratch. 
They built two houses instead of one, created a bathhouse, planted a vineyard, had three cows, several chickens, and lots of fruits and vegetables in a big garden. We even had watermelons.
My grand-parents would wake up at five in the morning and go around with their tasks. My grand-dad would milk the cows, while my grand-mum would make breakfast. It was a feast every day, especially when we, the children (numerous cousins) would come for the summer.
Pancakes, pastries, cakes, we would devour it in the morning before proceeding to help around the farm. It was organised to perfection. We had to do several tasks, each of us in the morning, before getting free time till the rest of the day.
My cousin Olga (same age as I) and I would usually take out the weed. We would work around the field of strawberries, sing songs, eat some strawberries, spot occasional snakes in the grass.
At twelve we would have lunch, usually some soup and a salad, sitting around a big cheerful table in the garden with apple trees. After lunch my grand-mum would take out some sweets and give one to each of us. We never had more than two sweets a day. It was hard to get them in the shops, and eating too many sweets wasn’t encouraged. Instead, we would get lots of fruits, and fresh milk from the cow.
In the afternoon, Olga and I would go down to the river. Calling it a river is perhaps a big word, it was a tiny, narrow, patch of water, surrounding the village on one side, with vipers liking it as much as us. But as children, we weren’t afraid of the snakes and would dare to go for a swim. We would build castles out of stones, run around the river, meet with other children of the village, play games. We would go back to the farm for the dinner (potatoes, eggs, vegetables, and chicken once a week), and then would go out again for the night. It was a party in the park every night.
Boys would bring their guitars, we would make a fire, and sing till late at night, usually with my grand-mum coming to fetch us, to send us to bed.We would return to the house, drink some milk and eat some fresh bread, and fall deeply asleep, to wake up the next morning to another beautiful day.
If I think of happiness, I always have the image of my summers in Russia. It was pure happiness, because it was so simple.

my younger cousin and me

Belgium and her delicious food

But let’s stay in Brussels for a while and explore little bit of Belgium.

How do we judge a country? How do we make of it a definite impression? What is it what comes on our mind when we think of our travels to a particular destination? Architecture? Museums? People?

And how do we remember a country when one happened to spend in it good 6 years in total? Not as a tourist, but as an integrated citizen, as a part of local culture, as a person who fell in love with the local culture totally, absolutely and with no remaining reservations?

What kind of special memories come into the mind?

I went to Brussels when I was 19. An option was presented for me to study in my favourite language, French, and I took it, even if I had everything going on for me in Moscow, my home town.

At that age I was open to different possibilities, for the adventure in life, and since the French language was the love of my life (together with George Michael and Wham), I thought: ‘why not?’ ‘Why not to go and explore?’

Having located Belgium on the map I was also apprehensive of my relocation there. After all I was used to Moscow and its vastness, to big large streets and the openness of the mind and the soul. I was used to long philosophical discussions about everything and nothing, to friends for life, and the stability of the security that only living in the ‘home’ country can bring, when you know the culture, the hidden rules, and how to navigate the local bureaucracy.

Would I ever feel at home, at ease in a different land?

I knew I ended up in a country with humour, as soon as I met my new landlord.

“You know, I had two Russian ladies staying in the room in which you are going to live, right before you,” the landlord was telling me, and I thought that he would comment on their Russianness, on something which would stand out as a cultural characteristic. Instead, he carried on:

“Both were as thin as you when they arrived, but were, how to put it, ladies with curves, when they left,” and he started to laugh, in that deep Belgian mode, when life is good, and is there to enjoy it to the fullest.

I think I also produced a chuckle, not to appear as rude in the camaraderie making, but inside of me, I obviously, dismissed the thought as ridiculous. No way was I putting on any weight, and why should I?

I had no idea at that point that landlord had presented me with the absolute truth of the Belgian nation, one of its basic cores: Belgians and their food, total love for it, unshameful consumption of it as one of the biggest pleasures in life, its presentation in the most tempting mode, the beauty of it as a given, as a must, as part of life if you are in Belgium.

We don’t know about this fact as tourists, do we really? French, the neighbours of Belgians, are, of course, known much more for their food, and are presented to us as connoisseurs, as the masters of that particular domain. Belgians are less known for their food, but I started to suspect while living there, that it isn’t just the humbleness of Belgian nation which is behind, it is also some sort of guarded secret, something about which they don’t shout out in order not to spoil it, to preserve it, to enjoy it among the loved ones, among friends.

The morning after I woke up in my student room I was confronted almost at once with the beauty of local food, with a temptation that I had never experienced before and haven’t seen anywhere else since. You stroll on the street and you see different bakeries, and bakeries are not like anywhere else. They have some mysterious beauty behind each window, the sweetness of presentation that asks you to come in, to buy a cake, return home, realise that it’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten in your entire life, run back, buy more, and then end up buying several cakes at once, as a reserve of a never ending pleasure.

And it isn’t, of course, just the cakes and the bakeries that make the enjoyment of food so amazing in Belgium. It is everywhere, the beauty of food experience, literally on every corner. Even such a simple fact as ordering a sandwich for lunch is never really simple in Belgium. It becomes an art, an art of ordering a sandwich.

I remember how, when I worked in one Belgian company as a recruiter, we would spend at least twenty minutes with colleagues of thinking what we should have for lunch. Sandwiches don’t come up as just sandwiches when your order them from a local deli. They have special fillings. Coronation chicken being the most boring choice. In Belgium they have crevettes, crevettes with tomatoes and special mayo sauce, or chicken in spices coming in home-made sauce, or sandwich filled with something called ‘chicken a la provincale’ and when it comes, and you taste it, it is absolutely delicious and melting in the mouth. And it is all wrapped, of course, in a delicious bread, usually la baguette, always fresh, made in the morning.

Even shopping for groceries becomes a pleasure in Belgium. Nowhere else had I seen such a choice of food. It is tempting, because each shelf has some delicacies on it. Famous Belgian chocolate, waffles in all kinds of shapes and with all kinds of fillings, different breads, the most exotic yogurts. If Danone produces a new coconut yogurt and pulls it out of some markets because of lack of adventure on the part of local population, you can be sure to find this yogurt in Belgian supermarkets. When I go to Brussels, even if I stay in a hotel, I make sure I buy this yogurt and I even took several packages of it back to the UK, where I used to live.

Restaurant experience is indeed an experience in Belgium. It isn’t just going out for a meal, it is a special trip, a well-planned and so much anticipated adventure. Most restaurants are closed on Monday evening, and even Sunday evening, they really need this time off for all the pleasure of gastronomy they offer on other days.

In Belgium they serve the quality of best French (actually better!) cuisine, with much bigger portions and much cheaper! Belgium has some traditional dishes, of course, which hint at the character of the nation. It is warm, with a twist, leaving room for imagination. There is waterzooi, which is either fish or chicken stew, so pleasant to eat on a cold day. There are ‘moules’ (mussels) which come from the North sea, larger and tastier than in any other country.

The Belgian fries are a delicious treat that can be found for a snack at the corner shops, but are also served as a tasty side dish in the poshest restaurants, even though it is hard to describe any restaurant in Brussels as posh! They are all cosy and friendly, where owners stop for a chat with customers, everyone laughs and shares stories among friends. Belgian people are very welcoming and friendly.

Then there is ‘stoemp’, mashed potatoes blended with all kinds of vegetables, it can either be served on its own, or as a side dish, a real treat with a twist when you want something different as accompaniment to the main dish.

Chocolate, the best of it, comes, of course, from Belgium. Leonidas, Godiva, Neuhaus, my first additional five kilos (which started to pile up on the next day of my arrival to the country) came just from chocolate, the delicious Belgian pralines.

Drinks are also made with a twist, it isn’t just cider or prosecco, it comes as ‘kir royale’, some sparkling wine served with a syrup, with a cherry or strawberry on top.

If you are invited to someone’s else house for dinner, you really need to make sure not to eat the whole day in advance, because it is physically hard to leave a table full of food, served with wine, laughter, and that Belgian ‘esprit de bonvivance’ (a spirit of fun, benevolence). Even foreign cuisine has something ‘extra’ in Belgium. The Greek food becomes the best Greek food, German dishes become best German dishes, and even Italians don’t complain about the quality of pizzas in Belgium.

While French keep quiet, and might have many jokes about Belgians, they don’t really comment about Belgian food. They do know that it is their biggest competitor in a battle that if presented to a real judge, might not even lead to a victory! And they can’t compete with the amount of beers which can be found in Belgium, and they can’t compete in the domain of ‘cosiness’. If I am really hungry, I would prefer to end up in a Belgian restaurant, as I am sure that I will get enough food!

After a year of my life in Brussels I was totally and absolutely in love with the city and Belgian way of life. I was also in love with the local food, something which was clearly showing in my extra ten kilos I had managed to gain. I ended up avoiding my landlord all together, to escape his jokes, and at some point I was obliged to go on a diet and learn to adapt. Yes, food is so good in Belgium that one has to learn how to control the craving!

I love Belgian food and I love Belgium.

(me in Brussels when I was 20 years old, with my additional ten kilos)