Bike love story

As my life has been a stand-up (fall down) tragicomedy lately, mainly because, well, I don’t know, the stars were standing in a middle finger position the night I was born or I’m simply the clumsiest person in the whole universe and someone (God/Buddha/Vladimir Putin) mixed up my soul placement and I should have actually be born as a sloth, the weirdest and most stupid situations always happen to me, so I have plenty of little incidents to write about.

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Some sad bike stories for now.

After the first time my bike got stolen FROM THE BASEMENT OF MY UNIVERSITY, WHERE IT WAS DOUBLE – LOCKED (sorry for the CAPS LOCK it still hurts) I told myself not to get so attached in the future and keep everything simple with my next boyfr, I mean, bicycle. So after the first break-up, I bought my next new, ok, old vintage – antique – extra vintage bike from a mysterious, homeless man on the street ( I still like to believe that it was actually Elvis Presley, who has been secretly hiding in The Hague, selling bikes for the last thirty years) for 30 euros. We got together well and spent many reckless nights riding around (with the bike not Elvis) until it got stolen again. On the New Years Eve. So I entered the 2014 with no wheels, but this time I was mentally prepared and after passing by the usual place, where the bike was locked and seeing it wasn’t there, I just smiled, nodded my head, applauded, hugged some random people around me and kept on walking (and preparing a plan of stealing my next bike).

You see, bikes are very, very special here. They are the “holy cows” of The Netherlands. Respected on the street traffic, but still being so many that they are treated as just some weird, invisible dirt on the streets, mixed with cigarettes, leaves and trash. Sometimes these never-ending lines of the bicycle parking spots remind me of mysterious, urban landscapes. Bikes are everywhere in The Netherlands. Left here, forgotten there, being stolen, exchanged, and borrowed. You can see locked bikes that have been standing at the same place for years. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that in some places the bikes have grown into the nature and become bushes or modern villas for homeless cats. They are forgotten after wild nights like wallets, keys and memories. Thrown on the streets more often than chewing gums. I am almost sure that the bikes live some kind of underground magic life during the night, when all the country is asleep. Becoming alive and doing the stuff that bikes would do if they could, like, I don’t know, smoking weed?

Oh, and not to even mention the bike riding culture.I was quite shocked to see these big wooden boxes in front or back of the bike wheels, where people put their groceries, bags and other everyday stuff, like, CHILDREN in, while riding around the streets. And tornados, rain storms, cunami – nothing can stop Dutch people from taking their everyday root on their beloved horses. I guess if the circus world will ever run out of these clowns riding around on unicycles, no worries, you can pick any of the Dutch people and they will be able to perform flawlessly.

Anyways, as now my need for a bike is not so urgent, I’ll just wait for my Bike Charming to come on a white horse and find me one day.

 

Fake it until you fake it

I should write more.

And not only because writers are allowed to drink Jack Daniels for breakfast. 

Because I love writing. And I miss writing. And I should practice writing. Not the academic English advertising bullshitting stuff I’m doing for the university, but just writing down everything that pops into my mind.  It’s kind of a mental workout for my brain, all the words I write down is like sweat/mud/trash that comes out of my mind and helps me to collect my thoughts, and make my dirty imagination laundry a bit cleaner. 

As my writing idol Neil Gaiman has said: 

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”

But, damn, it’s hard. I think I make up at least three poems and short stories in my head every day, about penis-shaped cherry tomatoes in the shop, garbage fairy adventures in the ghetto and hipster Christian guys attacking me on the street, but I never, never write them down. Because I’m horribly lazy. My brain is fat and chubby, and even writing this post is like doing mental splits for my obese mind.

BUT!

No more. There is the silly saying  “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away” and I shall improve it to “a blog post a day, makes your writing more great/gay/lame/yey!/fake/” whatever, at least this kind of determination  would force me to write, write, write something. Collect these letters into a chain of sentences that maybe will make point and sense one day. Probably after I die.

So from now on – I will post something every day or at least every week. Anything. S0 just one letter counts as much as a whole novel.

And this will definitely mean much more useless posts, but that’s why the Internet was invented, right? 

Be prepared for “today I slipped on blood, I looove waitressing in a steak restaurant” etc. posts.

See you tomorrow, my secret, anonymous, non-existing readers and Mom!

- I’m from Latvia. – Oh, cool, I’ve been to Vilnius, so you speak Russian? INTRO


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Since I’ve spent most of the last year abroad, first working in a bar in Brussels and now studying in The Hague, I’ve experienced the “Oh, Latvia, yes, I love it. What is that?” situation way too many times. And as now I’m reading and studying about different cultures and stereotypes that people have about various nationalities, I’ve understood that there’s actually no such concept as “a single story” that pops up, when people hear the word Latvia, while it’s quite easy and obvious with other countries.For example:

France – baguettes, Eiffel Tower, wine, Paris, art/US – burgers, baseball, TV shows, Obama, Hollywood / Iceland – Bjork, volcanoes and blond people/The Netherlands – weed, bikes, weed, tulips, weed, cheese, weed and weed/Russia – Putin, cold, vodka, bears/UK – Harry Potter, Landan, The Beatles, the Queen, red buses, tea/Belgium – chocolate, beer, waffles,statue of a little peeing boy etc.

And here’s what people know about Latvia: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110111084319AA9IgBo

And here’s what people know about potatoes in Latvia : http://poorlatvia.tumblr.com/

(And before you start thinking that things are that horrible, here’s an amazing example of what people SHOULD know about Latvia.I must admit that we have probably one of the best country image promoting Facebook pages ever- https://www.facebook.com/IfYouLikeLatviaLatviaLikesYou?fref=ts )

Turning back to stereotypes – well, actually it doesn’t matter what exactly each one of you imagine, when you hear about all the other places, but the point is that YOU DO have immediate associations about them, while Latvia is an absolute newborn and still don’t have an international image, that would be strong enough to stay in average world citizen’s mind. I’ve discussed this topic plenty of times with EU parliament people, who used to get drunk in my working place in Brussels and before falling asleep in their suits and revealing high class secrets to me (EU Gossip Girl  is still my secret identity) they’ve told me that – yes, they do know many Latvian people and they can show our location on a map, but they still don’t recognize anything specific or unique that would make our country special or memorable. That made me think – is there anything rare and individual that makes Latvia different from others or all we have is just a mix from other cultures and influence of our difficult history?

So, while I still can’t carry around a petite “What is Latvia?” guide book to give everyone, who has the lift – up eyebrow confused “TRY TO LOOK LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT IS SHE TALKING ABOUT” face, when they hear where I’m from, I decided to at least write about it here, step by step gathering everything that makes me feel proud about my country. So – here we go – few things and goods that make Latvia special. At least for us – Latvians.

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Let’s start with something short and basic for introduction – the NATURE. Latvia is as flat as a pancake. As a green, flat pancake to be accurate (why green? http://bnn-news.com/epi-latvia-greenest-country-world-47902 ) Some numbers – 45% of Latvia’s territory consists of forests, so if you wake up somewhere in Latvia and you don’t know, where you are, there is almost a 50:50 possibility that you’re in the forest. Yes, we don’t have mountains, we have lovely, little baby – hills, we don’t have tropic jungle, but we do have pine trees on the seaside and so many forests that we could celebrate Christmas by bringing a fresh Christmas tree home every day of the year.

But spending a lot of time in forest, if you don’t speak to animals, may not be that fun. We also have a beautiful sea that turns into a miniature Titanic ice – berg version in winter and gives a refreshing shelter in summer hotness. And a seashore, covered with white sand, romantic people, supersized sea gulls and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can also find some golden and differently sized ambers washed out on the shore, having a hangover from last night’s storm party with mermaids.

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And we actually DO have FOUR seasons – summers so hot, that you have to walk around naked and survive on ice-cream, winters so cold and full of snow that instead of snowmen we could build snowskyscrapers and leaving house would mean turning into a starfish shaped ice sculpture. And then the autumn, when all the trees turn into colors of traffic lights and spring that always comes too late to the party and brings flood as a present, so you can easily go to work by a boat or submarine, wearing a bikini.

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But nature is not just an environment for us, we see it as part of our culture and traditions. Nature is a part of who we are. In many Latvian folklore songs we sing about the Wind, Sun and Thunder, forests, rivers and fields. Men must be as strong as oaks and women as statuesque as lindens. Almost every one of us has a countryside place, where we can go and hide from the city, drink fresh milk, climb the trees, help our grandparents with gardening, pick – up blueberries in the forest, just breathe in the air and remember our childhood.

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Connection with nature is also physical – while celebrating Midsummer Feast (long story) all the girls wear flower crowns and look beautiful, and if you’re lucky enough to be called Jānis (the most popular male first name in Latvia), you must wear a crown made from oak leaves and look not so beautiful, but definitely interesting.

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We also drink and eat the nature.

Literally.

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I remember telling my American friends about the fact that we usually drink “birch sap” in springtime and they were shocked about that:

– Whaaat, you’re making holes into a tree and then drinking the liquid that comes out of it? That’s disgusting.

– What else are you doing, picking up forest mushrooms and then eating them for lunch, hahah?

YES, WE ARE.

It all ended with a situation of me asking for a shot and them giving me a chair and a screwdriver – if I’m so used to drinking liquid from wood, getting a shot out of a chair wouldn’t be a problem for me.

I think I’ve come to a point where there’s too much information for one post already, but I’ll keep on writing next time and turn to the musical part of Latvia – singing.

There’s a wonderful drinking quote by Charles Bukowski and if you replace all the “drink” parts with “sing” – you might understand what singing means to Latvians.

“If something bad happens you drink sing in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink sing in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink  sing to make something happen.”

Here’s a little teaser video:

 

And for conclusion, just some general interesting facts about Latvians:

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If you got this far – congratulations! I promise to buy you a beer on the 21st of October, year 2043, around 11pm.

See you then.

Paula Pētersone.

Any feedback, money  or love letters – ppetersone@gmail.com

My Twitter account (in Latvian) – https://twitter.com/paulaaars

Really boring complaint post nr.1

What’s happening lately?

Me being stupid.And young (ironic, cause I just turned 20,so I should be a year smarter,didn’t really work out).But more stupid.Though as young people usually are stupid,then I’m just being really,really young.(Everything I just wrote perfectly shows what’s happening in my head.Nothing that makes sense.)

Anyways, one thing that I wanted to write about was the big contrast between freedom and mysterious laws in The Netherlands.While it’s completely OK to smoke weed on every corner (there’s no such thing as “the air” here, only weed smoke) and to ride a bike while you’re drunk, suddenly you’re the world’s biggest criminal, if one of your friends doesn’t have an ID and you’re buying two beers.So, if you buy two beers and have 20 friends, five grandmas and two dogs with you, all of them must have an ID, otherwise you’ll have to give the beers back, when you’ve already bought them, make a big mess with shop’s security and managers, and block all the system for ten minutes or so, while all you really wanted was to buy the cheese croissant and you don’t really care about the beers.Good job, Netherlands!

And lately I’ve had a mess with the police as well, let’s not go into details, but the whole system is just weird.Maybe it’s because of the fact that Dutch policemen have to ride bikes and they don’t have these fancy police cars like in Hollywood movies or horses like in westerns, no shiny lights and WEUUUUOO WUUEEEO noises, all they have is a funny looking bike with a funny costume and they definitely seem like the most anti-dangerous and anti-serious policemen on this planet, so they may have a Napoleon’s syndrome, that’s why they are so annoying and desperate to seem like the “big boys” in front of everyone.Whatever, Karma is a lady dog, you know, I hope everything will come back to them.

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OK, returning to “me being stupid” part, now I must go and figure out, how to get my bike back if I’ve lost the key for a wheel blocking lock.Don’t have any saws or anything, only fingers and a puppy – eyed sad face.Let’s see.

Now, when I’ve written this far, the “WHOOO CARES ABOUT THIS OR YOUR PROBLEMS, WHOO CAAAARES, NOOBODYYY” voice in my head is starting to become too loud, so -

I’m off.

Going to write something when I’ll fix some of my 99 problems and a lady dog ain’t one.

 

Ik hou van katten

Dear creeps and midnight stalkers!

I’m here again, mainly because I can’t fall asleep, because of that shiny moony thingy outside that’s turning into a shape of a perfect vanilla ice cream ball (I probably should stop seeing food everywhere) and because of the fact that I have to study Dutch for tomorrow’s class and I’ve been succesfully procrastinating for almost five hours now – you know, watching the youtube videos with a cat in sharks costume cleaning up the kitchen on the weird robot cleaner, thinking bout what’s the purpose of life, googling “what to do if you can’t start studying” and stuff like that.And now I’m here.But that’s good, because I’ve always wanted to write more and become one of these “today there was sun outside, it was yellow, we went to the sea and the water was very wet and maths lesson wasn’t that bad, hehehe” bloggers, because now I wish I’d have written something more during the legendary Brussels era.

Pardon my French fries, but Dutch is one ugly language.If French is like chocolate, Dutch is as their own  traditional food – meatballs.Here’s one  illustration :

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For me the weird noises that the virtual people made on Sims computer games make more sense than all of the stuff they’re trying to teach us and my brain is resisting any kind of new words as the world’s most resistant trampoline.

BUT.

All the other classes are surprisingly interesting, so during past two weeks I’ve been sitting in lectures like a Sponge Bob in the sea, trying to absorb all the information I’m receiving and hoping that I’m gonna remember at least a tiny, little part from it.

OK, now I finally got tired, hopefully I’ll get struck by lightning during the night and I’ll wake up as a Dutch expert.

Probably not.

bb.

Under My Umbrellaaa – ellaa -e – e – NO

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One thing that I’ve understood is that writing in English for me is like drinking a flat Pepsi instead of a Coca Cola. My language just doesn’t have the same taste and bubbles anymore (also – no dancing polar bears and it doesn ‘t make such a huge damage to my internal organs), but that’s why we have the wonderful “fake it until you make it” saying, so I’m gonna try and stop complaining about this.

The weather here sucks. Living in Brussels, where every day seemed more depressing than the day before and you had a feeling that instead of buying these chocolate Christmas calendars, where you have to eat one candy everyday til’ Christmas eve, you actually need to buy one with happy pills  to count, how many dark, rainy days are left until you commit a suicide was bad, but :

The Netherlands sometimes is a bit worse. Here you have the same gray, rainy weather and some kind of a weird Harry – Potterish magical fog in the air, but instead of crying in your bed under fifty blankets, you need to experience the depressing feelings while riding on a bike. And believe me – life seems a lot different and worse  from a bike riding – view.

So it looks like my schedule for the next months will be like this:

Go to school by bike – Get wet – Get dry in the school – Go home by bike – Get wet – Get dry at home – Go to sleep – Dream about getting wet (I’m talking about RAIN here, ok?) – Wake up – Be surprised that you’re not wet – Consider is there any point of taking a shower if it’s still raining outside and maybe it’s more useful to just put shampoo in your hair and go out – Go to school by bike – Get wet – Get dry in the school – Lose all of the friend’s you’ve made at school, cause you keep smelling like a wet dog and there are puddles under your seat – Go home by bike crying, but no one can see your tears cause it’s raining – Arrive home wet – Get dry – Go to sleep – Wake up, cause you’re starting to feel weird that you’re not wet – Go to sleep on the balcony under the rain – Wake up – You’re dead. And still wet – Turn into a little, sad and wet ghost.

Guess I’ll just consider going out naked, cause that seems more appropriate.

bb.

Introduction (to) Wee(d)k

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Hello, people, plants and animals!

I’ve postponed my plans about blogging in English for almost two years now, mainly because my very special and unique sense of humor doesn’t really work out in any other language than Latvian. I could say that all my sarcastic jokes might be compared to the most famous Latvian alcoholic drink that’s even darker – Riga Black Balsam – which is strong, sticky and disgusting at the same time, and while Latvians can drink it as a water 24/7 without puking, many foreigners spit it out before even swallowing it. Same with my writing style. And other things.

Anyways, as I finally decided to study instead of wandering around the world as a lost kidney and make my fat brain lose some weight in the university, this could be the most appropriate time to switch from Latvian to English. Of course, this is a really hard decision, cause Latvian is one of the most popular languages around the world, so I may lose some of my biggest (two) Latvian fans (sorry, grandma!).

We had an opportunity to write a blog about our Introduction Week and send it to someone important, but I’d prefer to do it in a non-official style and send it to nobody.

So, despite the fact that I was constantly sick during the whole intro period and had a cough of a dying – Tom Waits – zombie in the Titanic’s sinking love scene (JAAAACK (cough) JAAACK (cough) STAAAY WITH ME (cough), I still managed to participate in (almost) all the events. And as I’m still sick, I have plenty of time to write this non-sense.

So, about The Hague University.

The first time you step into the university might be a bit scary and confusing, because it’s so big and reminds you of a weird space ship. Then, after a while, you might feel a little disappointed finding out that professors doesn’t look like Star Wars Yoda’s. I definitely was.

Actually, you don’t have a lot of time to stand there with all the other first year students who look like lost puppies, trying to remember did they have to go to class 34454.58568 or 34545.968590, because you get accompanied by wonderful mentors, who take you by the hand and tell you what to do. The one and only time in my life when I actually liked to be told what to do, because for the first few days university and all its system with chnipkhanpnak or whatever special cards to buy anything and passwords like in CIA can be really, really confusing. On the first day I spent a lot of time trying to buy a coffee from the vending machine with all the cards, papers, lipstick and other objects I have in my bag and just gave up. So, my first communication with a vending machine as a Communication student didn’t end up that well.

I guess the tricky thing about organizing introduction week is that in the end it all depends on how cooperative and active the new students will be. We could have had a huge intro -camp in a mansion in Miami, with free Iphone’s as welcoming gifts and Brad Pitt as a mentor, but if no one’s participating, there’s no point of it all. I’d say that for our year it went quite well. Though from around 80 students only around 10 participated in pub crawl,  we can still change that during this year. I’ll make it my duty to make it better.

For now I have a feeling that the university is the perfect place where to have your hangover. It has these huge pillow-ish looking things outside on which you can sleep on and they’re so comfortable that I’d steal one of them if it wouldn’t weigh as much as a baby whale. Next day after the intro party, I entered the university after sleeping less than 3 hours, and there were free ice-cream, cookies, muffins, cotton candy and other stuff. I keep falling in love with everyone who offers me free food – so university – well played, well played.

Almost all the professors I saw seemed nice as well, as different as M&M’s candies in the packet, but all intelligent, English –speaking and with different background stories. Our class coach has done bungy – jumping and tried magical brownies – what more can I wish for.

I always have big plans of writing about everything and I always end up getting too bored to write something else, so this is it.

See you next time, when I’ll be tired enough to write something, but as I already caught yesterday’s lil’ Dutch tornado while riding a bike, it seems to me, that I won’t have to wait for long to catch a cold again.

bb.