Young Birds in Stormy Weather

Someone once told me:

“Only when we discover other life outside our planet, we will feel connected to the other inhabitants of our world. Only then we will identify with our fellow ‘earthlings’.”

Is that true?
Do we construct our identity solely in opposition to others?

There is a certain logic in this statement.

I only knew what it feels like to be Belgian when I met someone from another country for the very first time.  I could compare my identity as a Belgian with that of someone else. It became clear what it means to share a geographical region, a government (well, six governments in our case. But that’s a different story), certain habits and ideas, a common history. Therefore all of a sudden I saw the connection with other Belgians in a whole new light. I found out that people can have other ideas about the world than the ones I was used to, things that I had taken for granted were suddenly questioned.

The more people I met the more clearly my identity was shaped. I felt ‘Belgian’, but also ‘Hasselaar‘, ‘Vlaming‘, Western European citizen, European citizen, ‘Brusselaar‘, ‘Limburger‘…
And all these labels indeed referred to differences with other groups and a sense of community within a group. So in a certain sense, yes, my identity is shaped in opposition to others.

But hey, let’s put things in perspective.

Searching for identity also means to define and redefine these labels, because that is what they are after all.
Labels.
Names that we gave to concepts in order to understand them.

I never labelled myself as an ‘earthling’, because indeed, there is no need to in reference to other life.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t identify as one. Here on Erasmus I met people from all over the world -from Sri Lanka to Italy to Bolivia- and I learned that we resemble one another more than can be seen at the first glance. I never felt a stronger connection to people from other cultures than now.

We are all young people, open to other cultures, open to get to know the world. Let’s try not to forget this once we are out of this dream-like Erasmus bubble and re-enter the ‘real world’.

Let’s get a little sentimental (I am allowed to, it’s almost the end of my Erasmus!)
I love you, my fellow earthlings… 🙂

 

credits: cover photo Lotte Stockmans

Advertisements

Wanderlust – Interview with Oskar Schuster

There is no word that describes the urgent desire to explore, to travel, to see the world better than the German word ‘Wanderlust’.

IMG_1821My path has led me to Berlin, where I am meeting a very inspiring person for my first interview ever. His name is Oskar Schuster, a young German composer with a warm character and a soft voice.

It is cold when I arrive in Berlin, the snow gives every street a touch of magic. It makes me think of Oskar’s album Sneeuwland (snowland), which I discovered by chance when listening to piano music on youtube.
At first I thought the composer was a Belgian or a Dutchman, because of the Dutch title, but I was quite surprised to find out that I was mistaken. It made me IMG_1895curious to know more about the artist, so I sent him an e-mail and he invited me to come to Berlin.

I am excited and a little nervous the moment I press the doorbell with the name ‘Schuster’. An old wooden staircase leads the way up to the second floor, where Oskar welcomes me in his little appartment.
In the small hallway I am invited to take off my shoes. The wooden floor creaks at some places, the ceilings are very high. Two colourful paintings -art works from his mother, as he tells me later on- contribute to the cosiness of the place.
Apparently we are both a little shy.

‘Would you like a cup of tea?’

‘Yes, please.’

IMG_1882

I describe to him how I discovered his music and how I was intrigued by the fact that he had used a Dutch title for his album.

‘Why did you choose this title?’

‘A friend of mine from the Netherlands once told me that she has this imaginary place in her head where everything is quiet and pretty, where she can be at peace. She calls it sneeuwland. I really like this image and also the sound of the word.
Some people even think I am Icelandic, because I have quite some compositions with Icelandic titles. But I use a lot of other foreign languages too, such as French and Finnish.
The reason I do this is because most listeners are not familiar with these languages and I want my titles to leave space for imagination, I want them to pay attention to the sounds and the atmosphere it provokes rather than to search for meaning.’

‘Do you make the video clips that go with your music yourself?’

‘Not all pieces have a music video, but the once that do have, I edited myself. For Valtameri for example, I have used some stretches of little unlicensed IMG_1856films from the 60’s 70’s and 80’s that I put together in slow motion. For Damascus I worked together with a friend. It is a kind of stopmotion clip that I made with an analog camera.’

(scroll down for the links to these music videos! 😀 )

‘You are fairly fond of old things, aren’t you? Analog cameras, old pianos, a gramophone, we can even hear the sound of a typewriter in a couple of your songs. What is the charm of old stuff?’

He smiles when I ask him this question and takes a sip from his tea before answering.

‘I don’t know actually… My music is nostalgic. I want to provide a counterpart for the modern technology, for the modern things that always have to be perfect. I like to work with old things, because they have a soul, they allow you to make something imperfect, even magical in a certain way, because it doesn’t seem to belong in this world.’

A cat is mewing at the door to be let in. Kafka is the name. The silky grey cat walks into the room in a very elegant way and seats itself at our feet.
IMG_1885

‘Kafka is one of my great sources of inspiration. Many people only think about dark horror stories when they think about Kafka, but I often think his work is very humorous. His novels are so absurd, they provoke a dreamlike world and that’s what I use in my music.’

‘If you had to name one artist which influenced you the most, who would it be?’

‘That’s a difficult question to answer. I guess inspiration is the combination of many different experiences in life. I think I am influenced by a lot of artists, but probably the most direct influences in my music are Beirut and Yann Tiersen. But also Chopin, which I played a lot when I was 15, 16  years old and the Beatles have left a great impression on me.’

‘Would you like to play a little piece for me on one of your pianos please?’

‘Yes, of course. Which one would you like to hear?’

Matilda is one of my favourites.’

IMG_1880

 

‘In what way, according to you, can art “feed” us?’

‘There are many ways to approach the concept of art. I think that it is different for every one of us. For me personally, art is the way to express myself, to create something beautiful and meaningful. It represents a compensation for something that society couldn’t give: life can be very boring sometimes, that’s why you need music to add some magic. You could even call it a spiritual experience.’

‘Are you religious?’

‘Not in the traditional sense, but I believe in a kind of connecting energy. I think it is important to explain the world to yourself in some way, it doesn’t matter how, as long as you provide some explanation for yourself.’

‘How did you start your career?’

‘I studied musicology at the university of Munich and after that I applied at the university IMG_1869of arts in Berlin, but they did not accept me, because my music didn’t fit in. I don’t regret it, because I think it would have been too academic for me, my art is more a spontaneous expression.
In september 2011 I released my first album Dear Utopia, on which I had been working for two years. In 2014 my next album came out, called Sneeuwland. It is the album which I am most satisfied about. You can hear in my first album that I was still experimenting, searching for my style and I guess in Sneeuwland I have found my own sound. My last album Tristesse Téléscopique came out in september 2015.’

‘Can we expect some more art of you in the future?’

‘It is a dream of mine to once publish a novel actually! Next to music, I also love to write and draw, but for the moment I want to stay focussed on music. There is still inspiration left for a new album…’

‘I am very curious! I have got one last question for you: What is you favourite dish in the world? 😉 ‘

‘I am fond of the Vietnamese cuisine! Tofu, noodles, I love it.’

Adventure of a Lifetime

About letting people in or not at all

About being open

open hearted

minded

 

About trying

&

failing

About forgiving

About freedom

About tears and fears

About friendship

trusting

yourself

someone else

About being young

and how to cope

About stumbling

About understanding

-or at least trying to

 

About                                                                                     loneliness

 

About talent and failure

About thank-fulness

cheer- fulness

About dreaming

and realising

and endless pondering over life and all its questions

 

Eating Around the Globe: Germany

I know what you are thinking:

“Lien, you are on Erasmus in Germany! When are you finally going to write about the German cuisine?”
Well, your patience has been put to the test, but your waiting will be rewarded! Especially for you this article contains two recipes instead of one 😉 and I have some more good news for the sweet tooth amogst you:

Today I am baking German winter cookies with my wonderful buddy: Vanessa!

12405265_1086090121415195_1707645135_oI must say, the people who organize the Erasmus buddy pairs have done a great job in matching me to Vanessa. She is an amazingly caring person, who made me feel welcome in Essen even before I arrived. She’s funny, sweet, enthusiastic and a wonderfully talented painter.

Born in Germany to Chinese parents, she identifies strongly with both cultures.
Interesting to see how two cultures can be so divergent and yet they can learn so much from each other. For instance, one of the most important values in chinese culture is respect: respect to older people, respect to strangers… For exemple, when people don’t know each other very well or have just met, they IMG_1645tend to keep a certain distance in order to show each other respect. Keeping your distance has a fairly negative connotation in western culture, but in my opinion it is a use we have forgotten to appreciate. Keeping a certain distance gives the other person space. It allows us to get to know each other more slowly and not to judge too quickly.

IMG_1625.JPG

IMG_1596

On the picture above: Vanessa with her mothers’ cooking chopsticks, one of the two unmissable tools in the Asian kitchen! (The other being a quite impressive, large chopping knife)

By the way, how do you like my house slippers? 😉

Vanessa is currently studying French and arts at the university of Essen to become a teacher. She can speak German, Mandarin Chinese, French, English and is also recently starting to learn Spanish!

She likes to teach me German expressions. Some are particularly funny! Thanks to Vanessa I know now that I was ‘built close to water’…

Ehmm.. what?

Yes, indeed. I was built close to water. Ich bin nahe am Wasser gebaut. This means that I am a sensitive person, who cries quickly when something sad or moving happens.

Or do you ever hear people having a conversation and you ‘only understand trainstation‘?
No?
Well, Germans do. Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof is an expression used when you cannot understand anything of what is being said.

IMG_1648

Or – to stay in the food metaphor – did you know that in Germany something can be ‘stewing in the gossip kitchen’? I don’t think this expression needs an explanation, the image speaks for itself 😉 Da brodelt die Gerüchteküche…

But we are busy in a different kind of kitchen today: We are baking two kinds of Weihnachtsgebäck  (christmas pastries) plätzchen and Zimtsterne. 
IMG_1602

The two of us are not very experienced bakers and on top of that I cannot eat gluten or milk, so we have to change some of the basic ingredients…

Be prepared 😉

As soon as we start baking, Vanessa puts on some christmas music and we don’t stop listening till we are finsihed! It’s all about the atmosphere 🙂

What you need for the Plätzchen:

  • 100 gr. Buckwheatmeal and 50 gr. oatmeal (or you can use 150 gr. of plain white flour)
  • 1 egg
  • 100 gr. coconut oil (or butter)
  • 30 gr. sugar and 30 gr. agave nectar (or 60 gr. sugar)
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla sugar (about 10 gr.)
  • lemon zeste

Mix all the ingredients togehter in a large mixing bowl. Let the dough rest in the fridge for about an hour. When you take it aout of the fridge, spread out your dough and flatten until approximately 0,5 centimeter. Use your favourite cookie moulds to shape the Plätzchen!

Bake them in a preheated oven of 200°c for 10-12 minutes.

The cookies turned out to be a little bit dry, so I suggest you use a little more of the coconut oil.

IMG_1633

For the Zimtsterne:

  • 250 gr. ground almonds
  • 150 gr. powdered sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • cinnamon

for the frosting:

  • 70 gr. of powdered sugar
  • 1 egg white

Whip the egg whites with the powdered sugar, then carefully add the ground almonds and the cinnamon. Spread the dough on a flat surface and roll it until it’s about a cenitmeter thick. Use star moulds to shap the cookies. And then you get these beautiful little stars!!!

IMG_1637

oww…

Well, that didn’t go according to plan…

Be sure to add enough ground almonds!  Just add some more of it when you see the dough is too soft, otherwise you’ll end up with these little monsters… hihi 🙂

Guten Appetit!

IMG_1639

About Imagination

Ein kleines Mädchen, stolz auf ihre erworbenen Kentnisse, sprach zu ihrer jüngeren Schwester:

“Ein Kreis hat keine Ecken.”

Der Blick in den Augen von ihrer Schwester war voll Unglaube, Falten erschienen auf ihrer Stirn. Letztendlich antwortete sie:

“Doch, ein Kreis mit Ecken ist ‘ne Schneeflocke.”

Eating Around the Globe: Belgium (Limburg!)

“Waar in ‘t bronsgroen eikenhout, ‘t nachtegaaltje zingt,
over ‘t malse korenveld, ‘t lied des leeuweriks klinkt,
waar de hoorn des herders schalt, langs der beekjes boord:
Daaaaaar is mijn vaderland, Limburgs dierbaar ooooooooord!
Daaaaaar is mijn vaderland, Limburgs dierbaar oord!”

Forgive me this sudden outburst of patriotism 🙂
There’s namely a very good reason for it! This evening I am making a speciality of my hometown region ‘Limburg‘ together with Fatma.
Limburg is one of the ten provinces of Belgium, it is situated in the north-east, close to the German border.
The song I embedded above is the regional hymn of Limburg.
The inhabitants of my region are mostly very proud of their province and I figured that a little regional folklore won’t hurt 😉

Since Fatma was so generous to show me a piece of her culture, I promised her to do the same.

The first of November was all saint’s day, which made me think about a common traditional dish of my region in Belgium:
Boekweitpannenkoeken met spek!
Buckwheat pancakes with bacon!

All saints is a solemnity celebrated on the 1 of November by the Roman IMG_1513Catholic Church. The celebration has been adopted from the celtic traditional ‘Samhain’, a day on which the deceased were honoured. Catholic church made it into a day to commemorate the souls of the deceased who have attained heaven, who are ‘saint’ in other words.

The tradition to bake ‘buckwheat pancakes’ around all saint’s day comes from the ancient use to give bread to the poor people on these days to IMG_0869ask them to pray for the deceased. Later on, this evolved into the baking of pancakes instead of distributing bread. This tradition developed further into the present day celebration of all saints in Limburg: usually, the family gathers together to visit the graveyard and spend the afternoon or evening baking buckwheat pancakes.

Buckwheat pancakes are very specific for my region. The Buckwheat grain (if we want to be scientifically correct, we have to say it is a seed actually) is best grown on poor ground. The sandgrounds of my birth place are especially apt for cultivating this plant. That’s why this kind of pancake is not so much a national speciality, but a regional one: Lèmbörgsj!

This is the recipe :

IMG_0868

  • 150 gr. buckwheat flour
  • 50 gr. plain white flour (or I am using oatmeal)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 dl milk (I’m using soy milk, but you can perfectly use normal milk)
  • bacon (2 strips for each pancake)
  • 3 apples

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut the apples in IMG_0884thin slices and fry them in a pan. In another pan fry the bacon strips until they are crispy, then add some batter on top of the bacon, so it forms a nice pancake.

Carefully turn the pancakes around, they can break easily because of the bacon. Or you can try to flip them (which is way more fun 😉 )

IMG_0878

Serve with the fried apples and any topping you like! I would recommend some apple and pear syrup (another delicious regional product!). Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any here in Germany, so we topped our pancakes with honey, goji berries, raisins and the fried apples.

Smakelijk!

IMG_0887