August 26, 2014

I have been challenged...

I have been challenged. Yes, the ice bucket one. How can I not be...?

Everyone under the sun has been posting videos on Facebook. The Ice Bucket Challenge has reached celebrities including Roger Federer, Justin Timberlake, J. Lo, Anna Wintour (yes, she did have half a bucket poured over her hairdo!), Oprah Winfrey and billionaire Bill Gates dousing themselves in ice water. The timing is perfect since it is summer in the Northern hemisphere therefore weather and holidays allow for most of us to accomplish the challenge within 24 hours.

I filmed my son's contribution about three weeks ago on a beach in Greece without thinking it could be my turn soon.

Although I am usually the first to adhere to wacky, fun ideas, this social media buzz has gone a wee bit over the top in my opinion.

The good news is that the ice bucket donations have reached over $80 million to date - the ALS Association had raised $64 million in all of 2013 - and has become a pop culture phenomenon, but how many really know any more about the Lou Gehrig disease than a few months ago?


Therefore I accept the nomination bestowed upon me by my friend Mamita Cubana and will donate towards the ALS foundation but beforehand - rather than getting wet - I prefer to share 10 facts about this disease that you should know and remember:

1.) ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
2.) It was first found in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot.
3.) It wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease. Ending the career of one of the most beloved baseball players of all time, the disease is still most closely associated with his name.
4.) Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
5.) Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death.
6.) When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
7.) Most commonly, ALS strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70.
8.) ALS has cut short the lives of such notable and courageous individuals such as actor David Niven.
9.) The Ice Bucket Challenge went viral thanks to former Boston College baseball star Pete Frates and his wife Julie.
10.) The co-founder of the hugely popular challenge, Corey Griffin, 27, has died after drowning in a diving accident in Massachusetts last week.

Following is a short graphic video about the effects of Lou Gehrig's disease:



In the spirit of the challenge, I'd like to nominate my daughter Expat girl, the Flaneuse Press Officer and my sister Pink! You have 24 hours. When doing the challenge, please use the hashtags #icebucketchallenge, #alsicebucketchallenge, and #strikeoutals. Donations can be made to: http://www.alsa.org/

August 25, 2014

A piece of Paradise

The time has come to say farewell. A most beautiful holiday has come to an end. For a while we felt like Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan lost in the Cyclades. With kids!

Driving across dirt roads with a hired beaten-up Fiat to reach pristine sandy beaches, sailing upon crystal clear waters, discovering abandoned bays where we avoided stepping on sea urchins, reaching little uninhabited islands covered with salt incrusted rocks, each and every day was a new adventure.

We spotted a pick-up truck loaded with goats trying their best not to fall out at every curve. We dined on long white wooden tables with checkered tableclothes and dug into the most delicious Mediterranean dishes. And lots of wine to go with it, of course!

The toughest decision of the day was which flavour ice-cream to choose!

We wondered through the Mykonos' villages of white-washed stone houses with bright blue shutters glaring over the sea like big blue eyes. We learned about the stories of the Gods such as Apollo's birthplace on the island of Delos and the history of Andros' mariners in eras long gone.

We lost ourselves watching the most spectacular of Greek sunsets time and time again.

We met many, many friendly Greeks, not that we understood a word they were saying but every single one greeted us with a smile and made the effort to somehow communicate with us.

We picked up a few words of Greek here and there and kept on using the same words over and over again, but it was more than enough to break the ice.

They say Greece is part of the European Union, personally I feel it as far removed from Europe as can be, starting with their alphabet which is in Cyrillic. To us, rather than a piece of Europe, it felt like a corner of Paradise.

Antío, efcharisto and Θα μου λείψεις!












August 19, 2014

One sleepless night is all it takes...

It all started with a sleepless night on Ferragosto. Most Southern European countries celebrate Assumption Day on August 15th, it is the most important summer holiday and the second most important holiday time after Christmas. 

In our loveley Mykonian hotel things got a bit out of hand when our entire floor ended up as the place hosting - what seemed to be - the hippest after-party from three in the morning until dawn.

Thanks to my lovely husband - who tends to snore - I have taken the habit of using earplugs, therefore sleeping like an angel all through the night. My hubby on the other hand was awake for most of it.

Rather grumpy, he complained the next morning stating that this was not the service he expected, adding a few other details that had been bugging him since our arrival.

He was promptly invited to join the director and owner for a drink to discuss matters.

Next thing we know, we are sitting around a candle lit table with a spectacular view over the Aegean sea and are enjoying the company of four Mykonians who are giving us all sorts of local tips. The director had invited us for dinner with some friends of his.

We spent hours talking about his family's project to renew the hotel for next year and he showed us mock-ups of the final result.

My contribution was the idea of adding a small Italian gelateria along the beach with proper home-made ice cream. I am convinced it would sell like hotcakes!

For the last two days we have been treated like royals and I am sad to leave this lovely island which has taken my heart by storm, mainly thanks to the extraordinary hospitality of its people.

But.... we'll be back... the hotel owner has very generously gifted us with a three complimentary-nights-stay voucher for next summer to experience the newly improved and modernized concept of Mykonian luxurious hospitality first hand.

ΕΥΧΑΡΙΣΤΩ and see you next year!

August 13, 2014

Pronto? Ciao!

After three days in Mykonos, I have decided I really like this island. Who wouldn't, you are wondering? 

Well, apart from the factor that it is famous for its nude beaches (which I have yet to discover!) and that it is a holiday haven for homosexuals, it is also extremly laid-back and open-minded. Nobody stresses to get the sunshade in the first row or fights for the table over-looking the seashore, everybody just seems happy to kick back and enjoy the atmosphere with a drink at hand.

As far as tourists, there is no nationality dominating which I find immensely refreshing and entertaining. Mykonos seems to be a true multi-cultural melting pot.

The guessing game begins every morning as soon as we reach the beach: you can tell the Germans because they are already drinking beer, the English have the whitest skin, the Americans are easy to spot thanks to their type of swimsuits and they are all equppied with kindles rather than paperbacks. The French are complaining as usual and the Spaniards have brought along their food. Needless to say the Swiss are the most discreet. The Aussies are a bit more difficult to categorize but the accent gives it all away. The Greeks share a sunshade with the entire family, granny included and are the only ones who speak a language I have yet to master!

Then there are the Italians..... ahhhhh, the Italians!! The best-looking, tannest and most fashionistas of the beach without a doubt! 

It is just a pity they don't understand that not the whole beach wants to share their conversations with them nor their blaring music. Pronto, pronto.... why do I need to hear a baby crying in Napoli down the loadspeaker or worse a dog barking on facetime when I am relaxing on my deckchair enjoying the view of the Aegean Sea?

Ooops, did I just hear Expat girl telling her Daddy to put that mobile phone away? That's my girl!!!! 

Tutto OK.


August 10, 2014

A smile is all it takes

It's a tough life.. here in Mykonos!

Of course, the sunshine is real treat, not to mention the spectacular Mediterranean sea, crystal clear water at just the perfect temperature even for an early morning swim. The comfortable wooden deck chairs with properly lined cushions allowing for an exquist afternoon nap under the palmtree-leaved sunshade in the light afternoon breeze.

But what really makes this place such a pleasure are the people. Used to being treated like an intruder when timidly trying to get a waiter's attention in Paris, here I have been welcomed at the airport customs, at the port ticket sales counter, at the port restaurant (always a difficult one), at the taxi stand, at the hotel, at the beach, at the supermarket, at the rental company, you name it; I have always been greeted with a hearty Kalimera and a smile!

And now you tell me: why can't Parisians do the same?

The tourist resort of Mykonos is just as overrun by tourists in August as is Paris on Valentine's Day but somehow les parisiens are not able to get it by themselves to smile.

By the second day we are greeted like long lost cousins rather than clients which of course makes me feel like a princess. I am sure the chiringuito owner greeted every single women like a queen but this doesn't matter. He made us all feel great today. Every single lady has a smile on her face. Oh, I don't need to mention that he is gay, which makes him even more popular because we all know there is no fear he'll make any sort of wrong move.

So, excuse me if I leave you now, for it is time to order that end-of-the-day-on-the-beach cocktail (with enough alcohol in it to knock you out afterwards, luckily I am still lying on my deckchair facing the sea) brought to me by a stunning-looking, muscle-tuned and oh-so-beautifully tanned waiter with a big grin on his face.


August 7, 2014

Moving tips from a 10-year old aficionado

For the first time ever I have invited a guest blogger to publish a post on Expat with Kids in Paris.

Her name is Arabella and she is a true Third Culture Kid. Last month she held a presentation about moving and had some very useful tips. I enjoyed her project so much, I asked her if she'd like to contribute towards my blog. Here is her perspective. Enjoy reading!

    -------------------------------------

I am ten years old and, in my short life, I have moved six times across three continents.  So, I consider myself a bit of a ‘moving expert’. Moving is exciting, but not always easy, so here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way:

Before your move:
-Make little good-bye presents for all of your friends, such as bracelets or a poem.
-Organise a leaving party.
-Go through your room and decide what you don't want or need anymore, then sell or give the things that you don't need to charity.
- Have a look around your future house if possible so that you know how much space you have and you can start planning your room.
-Get a guidebook about the new area you’re moving to, and look at different places to explore.

Moving Day:
-Pack snacks for the journey
-Make sure that you have things to do, because chances are, the trip will be quite long.
-Entertain your brothers and sisters while they are packing up.
-Wash anything that needs washing.
-Generally keep a sense of humour.
-Pitch in however you can.
-Stay out of your parents' ways.
-Say your last goodbyes to your friends and family.

Settling In:
-Explore the new neighbourhood.
-Get acquainted with your new room by organising it, and arranging your things.
-Look for evidence of whether there are other children living around you, such as bicycles, and go and introduce yourself.
-Sign up for a library card.
-Don't just think about yourself - consider your pets, as well!  Take them for a walk around the area so the can find other pets and make friends - just the same as you and me.

Starting School:
-If you have moved in the summer holidays, see if you can organise a meeting and tour of the school beforehand.
-Ask your parents about any important school information, such as dress code, bus stops (if applicable), hot lunch, etc.

... and Above All, Keep a Cool Head!


And never assume that movers do the same thing in every country.
Here our sofa is being hauled up 13 floors, over the balcony in Brazil!!

August 3, 2014

I missed the 1 st of August

August 1st is the equivalent of 4th of July for Switzerland. It is the Swiss National Day. Eversince I was a little girl, we celebrated in style with bomfires, lanterns, paper plates decorated with Swiss motives and Bratwurst with Bürli. Over the years the celebration evolved into fancy fireworks accompanied by classical music organized by the city of Zurich and later Geneva.

My favourite celebration, however, remains the festivities in the mountains where locals gather around a bomfire ontop of the hill from where you can spot many more bomfire streching across the valley as every village organises its own bomfire - each and every one overseen by two local firemen!

We spent a few days in Rougemont last week but due to bad planning on my behalf we returned to Madrid on July 28th, 2014.

Today, I really miss my Swiss alphorns and Bratwurst wit Bürli. I have hung out the Swiss lanterns in my garden but it just isn't the same....











July 27, 2014

Time to let go

"Bye, Mummy" and with a kiss he was off to see history in the making. Football history that is. After a stunning World Cup performance the Columbian player Hames, (sorry, that is suppose to be James) Rodriguez was bought up by the Real Madrid soccer club. Today he was officially being presented at the Beranbeu Stadium in front of all his fans. Little did the organizers anticipate that he would fill the stadium!

Of course, my football crazed son did not want to miss the event and I happily agreed to drive him into town. Real Madrid's stadium is known to be safe and family friendly.


However, the closer we got to the stadium, the bigger the crowd grew until we perceived a wave of yellow swamping the stadium premises. All of a sudden, my stomach felt tight and I was thinking to myself: "What the hell am I doing?" All I saw was yellow t-shirts and an endless flow of Colombian supporters heading towards the entrance.


Well, it was too late my baby had disappeard into the crowd and my heart sank as I realized: time had come to let go.

My boy is turning 15 soon, he is a head taller than I, with shoulders wider than his Dad's. Fortunately he has his head screwed on properly and is a mature and responsible boy. Nevertheless, the realization that he is now evolving into a completely independant young person worries me as I know: time has come to start letting go. It hurts deep down but there is nothing I can do about it.

As the saying goes: "Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay."

Three hours later I returned to pick up a radiant young man in a Real Madrid shirt who's face resembles his Mummy's more than he cares to admit!

July 26, 2014

Feeling loved

Wow! What a reaction! I promise I will never wonder again if anybody is reading my blog. 

Since my last post I have had telephone calls, e-mails, text messages and Whatapps from friends across the globe voicing their concern and wanting to know my state of health.

Well, a big thank you, grazie, merci, danke schön and gracias goes out to all of you who have worried about me. I can reassure you that I am feeling quite alright again.

The first 24 hours after the crash I felt a little shaky, then my body started aching and I am still feeling a little sore all over but some ibuprofen and a good night sleep has set me back on track. 

Today, it seems like a bad dream and I consider myself blessed it wasn't any worse.

The car was towed away at 8:00am sharp the next morning as promised by the Madrid branch of our French insurance company who have been extremly friendly as well as efficient! I do love the Spaniards!

Now I'm dealing with all the paperwork but hey, who's complaining?!?

I now have an excellent excuse to make another appointment with the charmingly efficient (or should I say efficiently charming?) physiotherapist my Spanish friend recommended to me!


July 24, 2014

Driving to my hot yoga class...

So here I am in the hospital. Luckily I have only ever needed to see the inside of this kind of institution twice: to give birth.

This evening, I experienced first hand what it feels like to be hit by an airbag, or should I say by an oncoming car and subsequently by the white pillow!

I now have an inkling of a Formula 1 crash. You can see it coming but it happens so fast your brain can't get the accelorator or the brakes to react fast enough. They say the situation passes before your eyes in slowmotion. I can confim that. As I am pulling out of our driveway - having looked left and right and then left again - I drive ahead only to confront a speeding car heading directly towards my door.

Bamm!

I am whirled through my car, it seems, eventhough I am wearing my seatbelt. I crouch, a protective instinct I guess, and next thing I know the car is still and I have an airbag in my face. Oh shit!

I believe I sat there for a few seconds to register what had happened but it might have been longer. I see people gathering around my car with worried looks and then smell something burnt. Having watched too many action movies I quickly jump out of the car ... just in case it blows up!?!

I hardly have time to think straight and the police have arrived already. Not too friendly I might add. More police arrive. Some angel above sent my Spanish friend who just happened to drive past and stopped to give me moral support and sort out the Macho police. Why is it, men are always taken more seriously when it comes to cars?!?

When asked for an ambulance I accept given that the back of my neck is hurting and I have a headache. Five minutes later I am in the emergency vehicle with a collar around my neck. I do feel a bit like living a TV series.

I cannot see a thing that's going on outside. Being a controlfreak, the fact that I am in complete limbo of what will happen next disturbs me to no end.

Think, girl, think! The car! Where will they tow the car to? Will I have to have it collected and re-towed to a repair garage? Oh gosh, what a hassle. So I call the insurance in FRANCE who promptly put me on hold!!!! I don't believe it!!!

Explaing that I am sitting in an ambulance and want them to react immediately, I am informed they need to find out the procedures for accidents in Spain and put me on hold again! Meanwhile I reach the hospital, have my pressure taken and am wheeled to the waiting room and I am STILL holding!!! Bloody French!!! Finally the confirmation that my car will be towed to the right concessionary tomorrow morning. Well, we'll see about that.

After two x-rays and lots of waiting and a short visit with a very young doctor - whose name not even I can pronounce - I am dismissed with a few contusions. Expecting to take a taxi back, I find my lovely friend waiting for me in the hall to take me home safely. Now I am starting to feel emotional! Mil gracias, mi amigo, de corazòn!

...when all I wanted to do - before the car hit me - was drive to my hot yoga class to relax!!!


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