This is my stolen Turner. Not really. On Monday I left my desk to photograph the farmer’s demonstration just outside the building. On the way I found this rather nice frame along a pile of abandonned things. I picked it up and walked with it while demonstrators where manifesting and shouting slogans. A small group of demonstrators spotted me with the camera in one hand and the frame in the other. They laughed and I laughed back, through the frame. We forgot about the milk spilled on the street or subsidies. Back in the office I hanged the frame on the wall. The frame gets closer to the vertical line or furthers away, depending on the day.


ianuarie 23, 2015

Auzea ecoul tocurilor subțiri lovind sec gresia. Uşa se deschise cu-n scârțâit preludic descriind eternul arc de cerc către zgomotul de clanță trântită. Ridicatul furoului urmat de sunetul jetului cald lovind întârziat emailul toaletei îl stârniseră. Asculta nemişcat imaginându-şi celălalt capăt. Aştepta acum ruptura şervețelului de hârtie şi foşnetul lui în contact cu zona de interes. Atenția îi era îndreptată într-un singur punct. Recunoştea prezența ei. Îi despărțea doar un perete subțire de faianță pe care l-ar fi rupt ca pe un maieu de vară când cei zece litri de apă căzuseră peste urechile lui ca un duş rece.

Aceeaşi paşi eleganți şi se aşternu din nou liniştea.

Against monochrome

noiembrie 8, 2013

At noon today I walked out from the office into a November drizzle. At the top of the road I turn right and I saw this bike chained on a sign post. The two flowers applied to the basket stood out against a monochrome background. I kept walking but their image lingered so when I returned I took a picture.

Margarets on a bike basket

Friday noon in Etterbeek, Brussels

Changing the language

martie 17, 2013

My country is my language – Nicolae Labiş (romanian writer)

I am going to use some momentum following my previous post and tell you a bit about my experience of changing the language. In english!

Multilingualism in today’s Europe is placing us in front of a pool of opportunities. And, as the euro-gov is willing to keep everybody happy, the task is both interesting and frustrating. Developing software systems where each country can have their own version of any language they want, is the cause of my frustration. Usually  frustration arises when one does not understand the problem or he understands the problem but the answer fails logically or doesn’t seem to make much practical sense. A famous quote has it: “Confusion is an order which we haven’t yet understood”.

For instance, Belgium users of the software system I develop should be able to use the application in either french or flamish language. But business says that this is not enough. They should be able to access the system in four variants of these two languages: the Belgium french, the French french, the Belgium dutch and the Dutch dutch. What does this mean? It means that, if Greeks ever happen to provide a dutch translation, then the Belgians should be able to access it. Or, another example, a UK based organisation can, in theory, see a web page in either UK english or French english ( an english translation of the systems provided by any French organisation), Italian english (a english translation of the system provided by some Italian organisation) and the list goes on. The permutations of country – language availability is tantalising. I mean would English use a French translation of their own language?

It makes sense in certain scenarios. Take Romania as an example where we have the romanians living along side the hungarians and the germans as the largest minorities. There is a cross breed sitting in between these three people. The ceangăi comunity, living on the border between romanian Moldova and Transilvania, represents the mix between romanians and the hungarians. As the result of mixing romanians and germans, resulted the saşi [read the şi as the she] minority. I think they share more traits with the germans than romanians but that is another matter. You can find them around Sibiu area, in south Transilvania.

Now, if an organisation belonging to the ceangăi comunity uses my system, she should have the option to choose between a page in hungarian language provided by Hungary or Romania or have their own version because of the dialects they wish to keep. Same goes for the german minority (saşi). These can choose between the official german language provided  by Germans or Romanians or use their their own. Again becasue of the dialects they wish to keep. Interesting, huh? It makes sense but, would a romanian organisation choose her own version of english over the UK english? I don’t think so. Ok, enough of this.

Now, my problem.

Changing the language has an undesired effect on ones life unless the level reached is the one of a native. To quote a romanian essay writer and philosopher, Emil Cioran, who himself changed the language once, the consequences are unthinkable. “A schimba limba este o trădare cu urmări nebănuite.“ – from vol. Scrisori către cei de-acasă. (Letters for dear ones at home) (In my own translation: Renouncing one’s language is high treason carrying unthinkable burdens.)

We speak to convey information. What we say is more important than how we say it. So they say but I think how we do it is equally important. Those who told or read stories to a child know that.  The tempo, the inflexions, the tonality, the flow of the language are important. Otherwise we loose the child’s attention. I experienced this with my daughter many times and I think the same goes in life.

I live and work in a multicultural environment where english established itself as the default language. Romanian is my mother tongue but I was half-bred in England so to speak. I spent 15 years in England, from the age of 22 and that gave me enough ear to spot a ”foreigner”. I am far from speaking anywhere close to the way natives speak although if I want to find out where someone comes from, I ask her to speak english. French are the easiest to spot. Germans too. Brazilians and portguese produce the same accent but it’s difficult to distinguish who is what. If you listen a few times the Poles, you’ll recognize them. Romanians also but is a bit trickier as they may be mistaken for bulgarians though the later produce harder sounds I think. Perhpas greeks and italians speak a simillar english. I find it easier to pick the italian for their  “I thinkaa”.

My first years in England were best for learning world’s accents. Mainly due to the jobs I did. I will never forget Surgi the punjab carpenter or Sivon the jamaican driver, the czech waitress,  the french receptionist or the german housekeeper. All language switchers.

Later was english. Only english-english.

Today, in Brussels, the language circus came back into my life with an unforseen edge of gravity.

Brussels is the place where you can get away with a bad english. It’s weird to hear dressed up men, smart looking women speaking english in a poor accent or shooting words at you in no queue whatsoever. Grammar may be acceptable but like that, the person looses credibility. I repeat, I am far from speaking perfectly but I grew up “taking orders” in english-english not italian-english for instance. I wish to submit to this fact for a moment. It is hard to take these people seriously. I think the words are falling short in front of their target. It’s like wearing a red nose and asking for authority in the mean time.

The man switching the language is in danger of becoming a wrinkled child. The office becomes his kindergarden, the cafetaria his playground where groups of adults play the second language game. His entire appearance changes. When language fails him, in an effort to save meaning, the body language kick in. This can be easily observed. A walk to the cafetaria, taking lunch in the cantine or during a lift ride. Attending speeches can be at least… amusing. It is acceptable on the street, for tourists.

I have the advantage (or disadvantge) that in my job, I dont talk much. Years of programming and a personality leaning towards solitude isn’t always the happiest mix. Hence the need to write perhaps.

I dare comment on this as I am a language switcher myself and I do not mean english is a superior language but it has the advantage of being an easy one to learn, it is melodious, almost feminine. It is graciuous and it is fulfilling its destiny of becoming the language of the modern times. I switched to it by chance in ’94 and I did not realise those qualities until recently, a few years ago.  Cioran realised it for himself but it was already too late for him. He had already become a famous french writer of romanian origins. I pesonally see the quitting of  his own language as a slap to the romanian people. Perhaps not so undiservingly. Later, resigning  to his chosen language, french, whilst angered at the fate of his own people, he declares it a language embraced today only by romanians and africans.

As a man of words and soul, he did recognise the riches of his native language; also when trying to translate the national poet, Mihai Eminescu, into french. Even “marele Eminescu” as he puts it, looses meaning. Translated, he falls short, ridiculous sometimes, sliding into triviality or becoming childish. “Caraghios şi demodat” to use Cioran’s words. These attributes have been translated from french by some romanian translator.

It’s fun watching greeks discussing. It fals on ones years as a quarrel. Italians hit verbally at any ocassion. French talking everyone down, germans marching the corridors and the lesser poles, romanians, belgians responding to requirements. Other nations are under-represented in the ITC office. They exist as topping on the european pizza. Our analist is a nice lad from Spain. The only problem is that he answers your questions before you get to ask them. The previous one, a turk, highly flammable character. His biggest enemy: his mouth. He had to go. What else do we have here? The english chap who, instinctually, non-coercively, tries to get every available resource to work for him. Amusingly, there is always someone ready to serve. Nowadays out of respect, kindness or need. A second generation belgian-iranian, a french of russian roots I suspect, and myself a romanian of some hungarian blood, become british in the process,  married a polish woman and lives in Belgium. I mean, does it get more european than that? More Schuman than Schuman himself.

A wild, reoccurring thought, as I begun to question my own identity: if there was another war in Europe, what side would I fight on? Romanian? English? Polish? It depends who’s fighting who. Of course, the shirt is closer to the skin. Historically speaking, I shouldn’t have a problem making up my mind. These three dear countries fought on the same side of the barricade at one point or another. But isn’t peace this Union is all about? I shouldn’t worry then.

Office view

martie 14, 2013

City of Brussels from 22nd floor of Madou tower west wing

City of Brussels from 22nd floor of Madou tower west wing

What a twat! Posing with his office view… I agree but right now it’s among a very few things which keep me in this city. And as the view will soon be history, I thought I’d write a short note about it to remind me in the months to come about a peak in my career. The view is also for my 5yo daughter who visited my work place and was glued to window gazing at the city. (Luckily she is not yet able to read, otherwsie I’d have to explain what the beginning of the post means.)

A vague feeling of regret is creeping in as I contemplate the „downgrade” in office space after 3 years. The whole department is being subjected to it. In fact the whole DIGI. The Education and Culture Department is downshifting to a concrete building in the european quarters of Brussels. Departments from other institutions have, for the past two months, been filling vacated rooms of this very Madou tower building. People do not talk about it. It wouldn’t look professional. They go with the flow hopping for a quick adjustment and forget all about the view of higher city spaces.

To me it’s just a signal that I should set sail again. Look for even greener pastures. I am used to it. In fact, this harbour’s been keeping my sails down longer than expected. Surely not good for the spirit. Good for fortune though! Sticking long enough in one place can build ona a fortune if one is doing the right thing. It seems I’m not.

Not sure why I started, and still continuing, writing this post in english. The fact is I’ve missed writing in english but I dont feel so confident about it anymore. I am not talking about emails or short messages and bla blas but thoughts and ideas. When I started Jurnal de Cafenea back in August 2012 (although I am a bit ashamed of my first post), I wanted to concentrate my writing on the language I feel more at home with, romanian. I wanted to write for romanians. For romanians alone! I wonder why… An unexpected and pleasant surprise the other day rekindled my desire for expressing myself in english. And here, I’d like to thank Cody for taking an interest in my romanian posts!

While I sat on my programmer’s chair at work, I thought I’d write this on behalf of my colleagues here. They don’t know it but I think they share my feelings. Those, in a less fortunate spot of the room, may not. The reshuffle can bring a better office life for some.

I hope, in the new – half grounded – fluorescently lit office, these images will bring our spirits high again.

Some more shots taken with my phone camera taken at different times of the year:

Rainbow over the city of Brussels

Rainbow over the city of Brussels. My camera sais this shot was taken on 4 December 2012

mi-am dat demisia

octombrie 19, 2012

Nu sunt extraordinar la ceea ce fac dar se pare că iese treaba și oamenii mă vor. Astfel, după un timp, mă văd nevoit să plec singur în căutarea altor proiecte mai stimulative, ca nu cumva apatia și dezinteresul să-şi facă apariţia. Uneori aş fi preferat concedierea. E mai uşor când nu trebuie să trăieşti şi cu presiunea responsabilităţii unei decizii considerată cel puţin îndrăzneaţă dacă nu deplasată. Sunt acolo unde se cere, inima fiindu-mi cu totul aiurea. Astfel dezbinat nu rezişti o cursă prea lungă, eforturile luând aspectul unor convulsii – întruchipare a unui spirit înşelat.

Nici monotonia agonizantă a unei curse fără final nu e de preferat. Lipsa unei perspective autentice mi s-a oferit cu fiecare slujbă plătită. Naiv, influenţat, sedus, am subscris unui sistem (unicul!?) ale cărui valori au menirea de a submina pornirile sufleteşti, înclinaţia, chemarea, pasiunea. Circumstanţele trecutului mi-au dictat, din lipsa unor repere alternative, viitorul. O teamă perversă de alunecare spre excluziune și sărăcie dă naştere unui soi de aspiraţii josnice care ascund sub masca progresului și poftelor intelectuale, tânjirea după confort.

Îmi revizuiesc trecuturile şi dezgrop pasiuni abandonate prin gările destinului. Sau nu descopăr nimic şi caut mai departe. Cred că nu mă voi linişti decât atunci când voi face doar ce simt eu că e important, nu ce zic alţii că e, chiar şi cu riscul unui probabil faliment.

Cum am putea face o alegere mai potrivită de timpuriu, când nu ştim mai nimic despre acolo unde vrem să intrăm cu atâta îndărătnicie? Şcoala nu a reuşit să-mi lumineze calea profesiilor, fiecare cu avantajele şi dezavantajele ei. Nici părinţii. Cine-ar trebui s-o facă la acea vârstă fragedă? Poate intenţionat am fost lăsaţi în pace, pentru a ne urma înclinaţiile în mod natural. Dar fără o îndrumare cinstită însă, spre ce am înclina? Nu-mi rămâne decât să cred că tocmai în asta constă frumuseţea lumii în care trăim: în iniţiativa proprie, în curiozitatea şi libertatea de a descoperi singuri ce ni se potriveşte cel mai bine. În final ar trebui să existe măcar satisfactia afirmaţiei: „Cel puţin a fost alegerea mea! Intr-adevăr a mea!”

Nu mă mai abat prea mult de la subiect şi revin la demisia mea. Aşa cum o cereau împrejurările demisia a fost scrisă în engleză dar o redau aici în româneşte. Traducând varianta oficială în limba română  am alunecat  involuntar  şi către o versiune ne-oficială care, în momentele de faţă, îmi este mai de folos decât cliché-ul cerut de cea oficială.

Le redau pe ambele mai jos.

Varianta oficială:

Stimată D-nă,

Vă adresez această scrisoare pentru a vă comunica intenţia mea de a întrerupe contractul de muncă pe care l-am semnat în 2010. Doresc să subliniez că factorul care a determinat luarea acestei decizii ţine întru-totul de aspecte şi priorităţi familiale.

Vă pot informa că am avut ocazia să contribui la acest proiect prin cunoştinţele dobândite de-a lungul carierei mele iar prin complexitatea lui mi-a oferit condiţiile pentu a asimila în continuare cunoştinţe noi. Colectivul în care am lucrat s-a dovedit de un profesionalism exemplar şi în pofida diferenţelor culturale, obiectivul comun a fost îndeplinit cu success.

Îmi doresc ca această decizie, oarecum spontană în aparentă, dar care respectă pe deplin obligatiile contractuale, să nu afecteze în nici un fel activitatea dumneavoastră imediată sau o potenţială colaborare între firmele noastre în viitorul apropiat. Vă invit să îmi comunicaţi negreşit dacă această decizie afectează prin natura ei interesele organizaţiei dumneavoastră, pentru o eventuală reajustare avantajoasă ambelor părţi, ai termenilor contractuali.

Cu speranţa unei colaborări viitoare cel puţin la fel de productive, vă mulţumesc pentru această oportunitate şi vă doresc mult success în activitatea dumneavoastră.

Cu respect,


Varianta ne-oficială:

Dragă D-nă,

Vă adresez această scrisoare pentru a vă comunica intenţia mea de a întrerupe contractul de muncă pe care l-am semnat împreună în 2010. Doresc să subliniez că motivul acestei demisii îl constituie tocmai faptul că, după aproape trei ani de muncă mai asiduă la început şi mai lejera spre sfârsit, nu mai găsesc nici energia, nici motivatia şi nici satisfacţia necesara pentru a continua. Nu ştiu dacă o creştere a salariului mi-ar schimba decizia.  Există şi un anume disconfort în mediul de lucru, cauzat de porniri ranchiunoase caracterisitice lucrătorilor de birou afectaţi de intelectualism.

Gradul ridicat al incertitudinii, modificarea frecventă a cerinţelor şi ne-coordonarea activitătilor datorită lipsei unui manager de proiect, nu ar constitui o problemă majoră pentru că ştiu să mă adaptez (aşa cum am fost educat), însă faptul că pedalez de ani buni în direcţie opusă inimii, începe să mă îngrijoreze. Într-un access de onestitate brutală, vreau să vă spun că munca pe care o fac nu-mă-mai-pa-si-o-nea-ză! Îmi mănancă nervii şi îmi omoară ochii. Nu mai am răbdarea şi nici indiferența necesară faptului că iau forma scaunului timp de opt ore în fiecare zi şi că în fiecare an îmi schimb dioptriile ochelarilor. Aştept momentul când nu voi mai trebui s-o fac pentru a-mi câştiga existenţa, momentul când ea va fi devenit doar o activitate duminicală. Mă îngrijorează unidirecţionalitatea în care mă afund. A face aceeaşi muncă toată viaţa mi se pare la fel de insuportabilă ca şi ideea de condamnării la muncă silnică. Mai e şi munca în colectiv care pezintă o anumită vulgaritate. Acolo se poate vedea bruta.

Trebuie să recunosc că îmi vine greu când mă gândesc că va trebui să renunţ la salariul şi confortul pe care mi-l asigură acest servici dar nu sunt la prima faptă de acest gen şi stiu că soarta aşeaza lucrurile întotdeauna cu folos. Aş dori totuşi să îmi las o portiţă de colaborare cu dumneavoastră deschisă, în caz că planurile mele de viitor nu se vor materializa. Am multe temeri şi incertitudini pe care sper să le risipesc prin succesul acţiunilor mele viitoare.

De asemenea, nu aş dori să vă schimbaţi părerea despre mine în urma acestei decizii spontane de care încă mă îndoiesc şi sper ca atunci când vom mai avea nevoie unul de celălalt să colaborăm la fel de bine.

Aştept în următoarele zile, când efervescenţa faptei se va fi consumat, întâlnirea cu acea dulce nepăsare ce urmează resemnării în faţa ireversibilului.

Cu speranţa că nevoia unei colaborări viitoare nu-şi va mai afla rostul, vă urez mult success în activitatea dumneavoastră.