Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Thought of the day

So, today on my way home from work in the pissing pouring afternoon rain, I had a thought...

It was a sudden realisation of my fragile existence, one I probably could have thought of before turning into a lane with two large and lengthy Grayline coaches on each end.
After turning into a traffic lane on my way home, it just so happens that these two Graylines were on the same route in the direction of the Reykjavík city centre. 

As usual, I drove into my usual lane right behind the white Grayline, the other equally white Grayline caught up with me and sat at my rear. So positioned, we all waited for the red light to be replaced by the green light.

Right then and there, it occurred to me that say, if an orange city bus in a hurry to keep schedule ran into the coach parked behind me, would my Lady in Red (and the Lady driving her) be crushed between the two Graylines? Perhaps beyond a point of recognition? 

I gotta say, I felt a bit like the little yellow cutie between the two blue buses on the photo byArne Hückelheim on this wikipedia site.

It wasn't the most comfortable of thoughts, but I might try not to get stuck between two large vehicles...

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Viva les Femmes!

99 years ago, Icelandic women aged 40 and older were given the right to vote.

It was on this day almost a century ago, that women's rights movements around the world began to see the award to a very long battle for the basic right of casting a vote, a right we take for granted in most parts of the world in the 21st century.

We celebrate this day despite the conditions placed on this right when first given. It was the day when Icelandic women got a piece of the cake and it is worth celebrating regardless how small the piece may seem to the modern women.

On this day, I like to remember our foremothers, the women who paved the way for my generation to be free to make our own lifestyle choices and not be a property of men as if we were petulant children.

Our battle is not over. We have more obstacles to cross but we must take a moment to celebrate this great victory for womenkind. We continue to be more likely to be objected to sexual harassment and assault, and more likely to blamed for the incident because what we provoked with our choice of clothing or friendly-in-excess demeanor.  

The women's movement today must also be vigilant to fight the conservative forces that try to take away our right to abortion (and several states in the United States have succeeded to do so already), and our right to prevent pregnancy in with contraception in an affordable way.

Equally important is our solidarity, that we stand together and do not judge each other for the clothes we wear or do not wear, our choice of profession and most of all, look out for each other.

Men are not the enemy. They, as a gender, are not the foe. The foe is not gender-specific and tt comes in many shapes and forms; extreme forms of religion, whatever that religion may be, is a force to be reckoned with and we must not surrender to the demands of extremists; women who wrongfully abuse the system to remove fathers from their children; men who are petulant in their gender-stereotyping and objectification women; women that are petulant in gender-stereotyping men unfairly should they fail to meet the demands of masculinity; media that favours men's sports over women's; a society that does not give new fathers equal rights to parental leave, and businesses and organisations that expect fathers to put their work before their family.

As I've already mentioned, some states in the United States of America are placing legal and financial restrictions on women's accessibility to contraception and right to abortion should they choose to have one. In Ireland, abortion is still banned if memory serves me right.

In Iceland, most women are active in the work force, so much that it is a cultural norm for women to be employed. Women are guaranteed their professional position during the three months marked to their maternal leave (as are men), and parents can arrange the additional shared three months however they please.

However, due to the pay gap, an unexplained pay gap of approximately ten percent, many women opt to take their three months in addition to the three shared months and spread them over a longer period of time. Fathers, generally receiving higher remuneration for their professional contribution to society, are therefore less likely to take advantage of the three months let alone the additional shared time.

A professor at the university of Iceland, a professor of political science, claimed in a recent controversial lecture that women have won the fight for equal rights and more so.
He used old school arguments to explain issues such as the gender-based pay gap. Apparently, women are more likely to choose a profession that suits their role as mothers since nature did give them a gift greater than was given to men.

This gift is the ability to carry a life in their womb (which by the way is not given to all women) and that strong bond women share with their children because of that biological link.

Women, due to this physical capacity, have an incentive in life to take more time off from work to nurture their family, whereas men are less inclined to do so and I suppose, more likely to focus on their career.
Therefore the unexplained pay gap is explained by women's lack of enthusiasm to put in the professional efforts men are willing and able to do.

What load of nonsense, I say!

But alas, this is not a day to curse the anti-feminists. This is only one example of an attitude that seems immortal in the minds of its promoters.

Thus on this day, I celebrate the victory of my foremothers while contemplating the path uncrossed that lies ahead of the non gender-biased feminist movement in the 21st century.

We have our work cut out for us, people of all genders, nationalities, age, and race, and our compass is the knowledge that one day we will be liberated from the last mortal restraints of inequality. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Italian Spring Night

I had the great fortune of spending a couple of weeks by the enchanting Lake Como in the region of Lombardy, a region that I never expected to visit, yet upon my first visit landed itself on the top of my list of beautiful destinations in Europe.

On a warm night in the steep hills of Molina, a village that belongs to the community of Faggeto Lario, same as the nearby villages of Lemna and Palanzo, I learnt something new and unexpected. 

My sister's boyfriend, Andrea, told me to my great surprise that most of June belongs to spring, not summer, as I had previously thought, and my holiday to Italy was in fact a gentle spring break.   

The truth is that the Italian spring's rendezvous with the Italian summer is not until June 2, and
seeing that he is local to the area, I take his word for it. 

This cultural interpretation of the seasons speaks volume of the Italian way of life. In Italy, life runs on a pace of its own, not too slow and not too fast. Everything has its time and place and the moment is not only seized but lived and loved to the fullest.

In the bursting flavors of Italian cuisine, the consumer is simply invited to consume with care. I bathed in the succulent sweetness of the grilled bell pepper on my vegetarian pizza; I almost cried from joy as the juicy t-bone steak watered my veins with love and affection; the flawless rage of the angry pasta lingered in my memory long after consumption; the perfect mix of sweet and creamy homemade Amarena sorbet was the perfect finish to a lush lunch on a hot day.  

…and the coffee… the coffee is full-flavoured, rich and creamy. Coffee is forever ruined even to the most devoted addict after a visit to Italy.

The patience to enjoy and seize the pleasure in the moment it arrives is an art form perfected by the Italians. 

Everything about my time in Italy this June had an air of spring about it. I discovered Italy through the eyes of the traveler and understood why my sister radiates happiness in her new life.

For me, the simple visit to my sister was an awakening as powerful as the bursting spring itself.  
This spring became a time of discovery and an awakening of gentle beauty that all of a sudden bursts to life. 

An evening walk with my partner rendered me helpless to the magic of Italy's finest region.

The wild scent of ravishing plantation seemed to invade the dense night after a sizzling summer day, and the night sky was lit up by the glow of the waning moon and never-ending stars glittered in the sky from joy.

A quiet descent down a narrow and uneven pathway - as old as the departing ages of the past – was carefully treaded to seek a nocturnal view of a chapel hidden by tall trees, tall trees exquisitely green and tender in the late spring night.

Two gates separated the curious travelers from a world where the dead are honored by an array of candles from which a red glow lights up the night. A dim but magical world that is hidden behind the black gate that is neatly tucked away from sight in the darkness by an impressive doorway to the chapel’s mysterious interior decor.

On the journey down to the chapel, fire flies flew in the air, sometimes moving swiftly from one side to another. Every now and then, they stopped in the air to ever-so-gently explore the curious strangers coming down the dark pathway lit up with a bright, bright moonlight.

The pathway was rough and cobbled so long ago, the very hands who lay them in these steep hills, passed into the veiled world a long time ago.

Upon return to the concealed tulip villa, it the strong scent of an incense that is a  mosquito repellent, a scent that awakens the senses to memories of a distant home on the tip of the African continent and the thick and dry bushland of the infamous state of Goiás, that pulls me out of the deep spring night.

All that I needed on this perfect night, a night when the crickets sang to me as in previous destinations, was my Emma. How much her hound senses and vivacious spirit would have enjoyed the music of the night; how she would have tried to run down to the gate off our pathway just to run free alongside the shepherding donkey with his herd of sheep and goats, and play with the equally vivacious lambs and the young and curious goat kids.

She would have jumped up as she'd discover the bells around their neck in an attempt to understand from where rang the soothing sound of the Italian spring. 

The Italian spring night is truly bursting from life's elixir!       

The mysterious black gate. Photo by JB.

The old chapel and the cemetery during the day. Photo by JB.

The Tulip Villa. Photo by JB.

In the hills of Molina. Photo by JB.

Donkey on care duty. Photo by JB.

Casa of a donkey, goats and sheep. Photo by JB.