Another new beginning

24 01 2015

I am sitting in my childhood bedroom, wrapping my head around what is coming next. The walls are no longer pink and the many faces of Leonardo Di Caprio no longer stare at me. I’ve been a huge fan of his since Baz Luhrmann’s Rome and Juliet, after which my bedroom had his face on every wall. My books are still here, but the old dark red couch was thrown away long ago, a new smaller version taking its place. It almost does not feel like my room anymore. But I digress!

I am super excited and of course also worried. I am leaving a job I truly love behind to move once again to India, this time in Mumbai, for ~11 months. Last time I was in India, while I was walking towards my plane, I made a big cross sign and told myself I will never come back again. I really did! Sometimes I am a believer.

India was hard on me the first time around, although it gave back a lot. What was really bad? Dengue fever. What was really good? A bunch of really wonderful people I am still in touch with and I can’t wait to see again, plus a series of professional skills I built my career on. You could say I could get those anywhere, but the truth of a matter is I feel I had my real start in India, learning from the best and understanding what I really like doing… and its more than communications 🙂 #clubempower

So here I am, waiting for my visa to be ready, looking for a place to stay in Mumbai, reading for the 5th time the website of the organization I will be working with, thinking about communications strategies, child protection policies and another new beginning. When I saw the JD, it was love at first sight. I applied right away and after I accepted their offer, I spent 3 months having doubts, wondering if I am doing the right thing. Those doubts were completely wiped out last week in Klosters, when me and my fellow fellows met for a 5 days preparation program.

Europe is safe, its cozy, I feel very appreciated in my current job, I am surrounded by friends. But asking myself every day if “is this it?” for me signaled a problem. Coming from AIESEC, I do ask myself constantly if I am leaving up to my full potential. Most of the time the answer is NO. While I don’t really care about job titles and money, I do care about being the best version of myself I can be. And lately I did not feel as if I was. First world problem indeed.

So here I am ready for a new journey, a new challenge. Ready to embrace the unknown, work hard, learn new things, give back, embrace chaos, live each day to the fullest. A new adventure.

And until I am leaving, had to move my date from the 31st of Jan to 11th because of visa issues, I am ready to learn a different kind of skills 🙂 My mum will teach me how to cook. Today she and my dad made bread. He prepared the dough, because he has stronger and bigger hands, and she added cheese and olives to the mix, and “popped” them in the oven. The result is below 🙂 Later today we will be making “sărăţele” and “cornuleţe”. I will get my hands “dirty” and feel worthy to eat the result at the end…

Cheers to new beginnings!

#Homemade #bread

Homemade bread with olives and cheese

Kuala Lumpur – Big City Lights

13 12 2014

The fact that we caught our flight to Kuala Lumpur was sort of a miracle. I never left a hotel room faster. It went something like this:

Me: “Alex, what day is today?”

Alex: “September 12”

Me: “I think we lost our flight!”

… and we were suddenly in a running mode. Threw everything we could see in our backpacks, did the fastest check out in history, thank god we had the airport ride included, the driver was kind enough to speed for us and we went speeding through check in and passport control, all the time laughing like two crazy girls on the backpacking trip of their lives.

We were super excited. I’ve heard a lot of good things about KL and I was curious and eager to explore it in the very limited time we had available. We landed at 11:45 am and soon we were in the city. We were staying in a guest house,  who lured us with good backpacking prices, a double room with a “shower” and AC. Now when I look back, I feel like laughing, but when we arrived, the only thing we could say to ourselves was “we won’t stay here long anyways so it does not matter how terrible this room is!” I mean, I lived in quite some places, washed myself out of a bucket in my first days in Ghana, I don’t even want to remember how the first flat I lived in India looked like… so its safe to say I am a seasoned traveler, but that “bathroom”!?!…

We were out of there as fast as possible :), ready to meet the city. Food was the first thing on our minds so we stopped in a street corner, with red plastic chairs, cold beer available and yummy smell all around. The food was great, we really enjoyed it. I like eating street food everywhere I travel. I feel intimidated in fancy restaurants and I don’t see the point eating in places full of expats. The more locals I see gathered in a place, eating, the more I want to eat there.

After our meal, I also found Bakkwa. Rach always brought some for me from Singapore, and when I found it in KL, I was very very excited. It was delicious, so I was all set for a day of walking around. We had the right shoes, right sunscreen and the right attitude 🙂 We started in China Town and we made our way walking to the crafts market, the Sultan Abdul Samad building and a few other touristy places. Both Alex and I love walking but I wouldn’t say  KL is the right place for it. It is crowded and I forgot how much I dislike crowded places. The city just didn’t resonate with me. We left the Petronas Twin Towers for the evening, and now I don’t even remember why we wanted to see them. They are an important part of the KL concrete jungle. Lots of lights, lots of people taking pictures and trying to fit the tours in. We left in a hurry, as we wanted to have dinner and we spotted some really nice street corners with satay, fresh fruits and more red plastic chairs.

Next day we went to see the Batu Caves and the Botanical Garden. So much for exploring non touristy paths!

At Batu Caves Alex had a funny encounter with a scheming little fellow. He went really fast for her biscuits but left her the water bottle. I was quite entertained and so was Alex 🙂 We watched him running afterwards from his mates, trying to be selfish. He wasn’t very successful I’m afraid.

My favorite place was the Botanical Garden. Just my kind of place, green, almost empty, the perfect place to take a walk and forget that there is dust and traffic a few meters away. It was a perfect ending to our trip to KL, even if the trip did not end there. But I prefer to remember it this way 🙂


The KL city sign – the touristy thing to photograph and then go home and edit 🙂

We had our first meal here... duck duck duck!

We had our first meal in this street corner… duck duck duck!


A spot of green in the concrete jungle 🙂

Dinner Time

Dinner Time


Our own Satay Corner




Big City Lights

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Candles at Batu Caves

Steps to redemption maybe?

Steps to redemption maybe?

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We did not climb…


Alex being robbed 🙂

I never did this in India... there's a first time for everything!

I never did this in India… there’s a first time for everything!

Women's wagon

Women’s wagon

Perdana Botanical Garden

Perdana Botanical Garden

And my favorite spot in the entire KL :)

And my favorite spot in the entire KL 🙂

One last tea before our departure

One last tea before our departure… in a bookstore of course 🙂

December Wonderland

7 12 2014

This land never ceases to surprise me. I love love love it. The colors are different every day and it’s magic!

I am speaking about the side of Lago Maggiore in Ticino, Switzerland. I am here for another 2 months, before the big move. I am normally in the house, with my computer, at my desk, working, doing research, learning, getting outraged… all the normal stuff somebody working from home is going through. But sometimes… sometimes I go for a run. I am not much of a runner I’m afraid but I am striving to change that, and the landscape in this amazing place is very very convincing.

So I went today for a run in the water meadow near by the house, Bolle di Magadino. The air was crisp and big big clouds were covering some parts of the mountain. I am so lucky to be able to go running here. Today it was me and the ducks. I only saw 3 people. I couple with their dog and another lady with her dog. The place is spotless, as everyone cleans after their pets, not like in Brussels where you always have to mind your steps. I do miss Brussels though 🙂

I left the house at 4:15. Normally I run for about 45 minutes to one hour, but today on my way back I kept stopping. I had my very bad phone with me, by no means the picture do justice to this place, but I had to share them. Maybe they will convince you to come visit…

The sky is the limit...

The sky is the limit…

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and more boats…

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Stop and stare…

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Green, beautiful forest green.

Somewhere out there ducks are having a blast!

Somewhere out there ducks are having a blast!

Love love love

Love love love

Not quite ready to go back :)

Not quite ready to go back 🙂

Night Lights... just enough to showcase the lake's mysterious beauty

Night Lights… just enough to showcase the lake mysterious beauty

Off to home... how lovely that the streets were empty! Everything felt very personal!

Off to home… how lovely that the streets were empty! For a moment it felt like I was alone in the world.

“A Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures”

2 12 2014

I’ve first heard of Brunei in my 10th grade.  Our Geography professor used to call us in front of the map, tell us names of capitals, ask us to point the country on the map and tell him the name. When he said “Bandar Seri Begawan” my mind went blank. You see, the previous year I had failed geography for one trimester and it was one situation I never wanted to find myself again. I redeemed myself by answering his next two questions and forgot about Brunei until a lovely day this year in June.

I was surfing the Facebook page and they shared a super offer for Australia with Royal Air Brunei. I emailed Alex and we decided that day to go to Australia, with a 5 days stop over in Brunei. And the planning began for what transformed in our own very #EpicTrip 🙂

Every time I told friends we are going to Brunei, I got the same chuckle and question: “Why would you go there? Go to Malaysia instead!” Hmmm… I am very glad we went. I am only sorry we didn’t stay the full 5 days and went to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend. We wanted a taste of KL city. Well, it was bitter! Next time I am going to Malaysia, I will skip KL entirely 🙂 I guess I’m not made for city life anymore… huge buildings, noise, dust, pollution, crowds and crowds of people and tourists.

But let me go back to Brunei.

It was lovely, everything was really lovely. I remember thinking that it must be the kindest place on earth. We checked the market, took a boat ride into the sunset, walked the city streets in the evening and for the second time in my life I was impressed by a hotel: The Empire Hotel and Country Club! I learned Sunday while I was doing a bit of research that “it was originally built as the residence of the Sultan’s younger brother, Jefri, who until 1997 was Brunei’s minister of finance.” We did not stay here, we are backpackers after all 🙂 But we spent a few hours walking on the beach and enjoying the sun and the silence. On the day we were supposed to go back, bask in the sun and get a tan it rained and we stayed in.

My favorite part about Bandar Seri Begawan was Kampong Ayer, the water village! 8 kilometers of wood houses built on large pillars along the Brunei river. I’ve read it has around 30 thousands inhabitants and it’s the largest of its kind in the world. Our guide was the boat rider, who showed us around and told us stories about people and his own family. They have two boats and this new house in the water village, where he lives with his wife, two children and his mother-in-law. He showed us the schools and the mosque from afar, the most interesting houses and the best stories about each.

I think these were some of the most peaceful moments I’ve ever had. On this boat, laughing with him and Alex, learning about the river, Brunei’s history, palaces, kingdoms, fishing, the simple life… How random of us to go to Brunei! How random of us to take this specific boat ride and experience this moment of pure perfection. How random and how lucky!

There’s much more to discover about Brunei. And I hope to do it one day 🙂


Paradise was behind these windows…

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Hello Paradise

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If I’d believe in marriage… this place screams HONEYMOON!


Alex and the sea


Have I mentioned how much I love trees?…

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The  Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

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Boats on the Brunei River

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Evening walk…


This place must have a history… maybe it was someone’s home long time ago, perhaps it will be again one day.


The mosque again… and malls on each side 🙂 Ahh, the modern world.


So we went back to the river to search for a boat


We took our time walking, mesmerized by the sunset


The scenery becoming more and more alluring


We watched fishermen, wondered about their stories…


And then, the next day, created a story of our own 🙂


Glimpsed pieces of paradise and wondered what’s inside…


Daydreamed about a river-home of our own, a place to write stories about lovers and fish 😛


Talked with the river and laughed at its spunk…

Said thank you at the end... it was time to go back :(

Said thank you at the end!… it was time to go back 😦

The City of Life (?)

30 11 2014

City of Life, City of Lights, just not my kind of city.

The first stop on our way to Australia was Dubai. We were planning to go around and see as much as possible in the limited  time we had available but then we discovered the pool in the apartment complex Darius, our host, was living in and nothing else mattered. The weather was perfect to laze around in the pool, but too hot to actually enjoy any sight seeing.

It’s good we booked the tickets to go to Burj Khalifa in advance otherwise  we would have never left that pool. As we didn’t see much of the city, it would be unfair to make any judgements.

I’ll leave it to that and a few pictures I took on the trip.


The pool and the city view, the choice was clear 🙂

Tourists in Burj Khalifa

Tourists in Burj Khalifa

Foggy view from the top

Foggy view from the top. Buildings and more buildings…

Not my best photo moments :)

Not my best photo moments 🙂


29 11 2014

We spent a few days in July in Pula and Rovinj, too little time to really appreciate the place, so I am hoping to go back soon. I can’t believe I haven’t been to Croatia until this year. What was I thinking? I don’t think it’s Europe’s “best kept secret”… or maybe it is.

The sun, the Adriatic sea, the food, people, colors, architecture, flowers everywhere, and I can go on! It was lovely walking around in Rovinj, without a definite purpose, just enjoying the city and all the artsy places that make it so charming. It’s the heaven of handmade objects, naive art and clothes simply hung to dry in the sun. Carefree!

If I would live here I would be perfectly content. Just going to the market for fresh fruits in the morning and lying on big rocks with a good book and the sun in my hair in the afternoon. Obviously, eating ice cream three times a day at Chocolat on Carera 65 street.

What a perfect fantasy!

The sun kissed Rovinj

The sun kissed Rovinj

No 46 Blue - could be "home"...

No 46 Blue – could you be “home”?…

Let's leave it all to dry in the "open"

Let’s leave it all to dry in the “open”

Go out for coffee,

Go out for coffee,



and art!

and art!

Discover new places in this old city...

Discover new places in this old city…

Not think about the future...

and make friends with dreamers, they are the best kind!

Le’s not look for pirates 🙂

Could this be the place?

This can’t be their place!

They ran in the sunset, the old man used to say!


Tangier: About Maggie

4 06 2012

I love short getaways… just enough days to recharge my batteries and grin happily thinking about how good it feels to be young and without major obligations.

We went to Tangier to finish celebrating Dipika’s B-day and while we had a great lazy time walking around the city, the markets and the Mediterranean Sea, the best part was meeting Maggie. For me it felt like she was the beating heart of the city, with her big smile and even bigger life experience. The fact that she owns Bilbo the Cat is a bonus. I am crazy about cats and the snobbish tomcat made me smile more times that I could count… By the end of our staying he was treating Rachel with love and me with that sort of “You are my servant so I will be nice with you” attitude that I find so endearing in cats 🙂

Maggie 🙂

Maggie lives in Tangier for about 18 year now and although 3 days and 3 nights weren’t enough to capture her beautiful life story, she sure provided me enough food for thought. On her map she can mark India, Spain, Lebanon, Hong Kong, US, Canada and 10s of other countries and I found myself for many moments envying her courage and life experience. I thought Barcelona would be the highlight of my spring but Maggie and Tangier were the cherry and the cake both.

Maggie has this bed and breakfast… The house is breathtaking when you look at the details and the breakfast is one fit for the kings. Simple, tasty, fresh, homemade with Moroccan and continental flavors so well combined that I could eat and eat and eat away… A group of foodies like us, we made sure to appreciate every taste and every bite.

Going back to the house, it has a roof terrace and sitting on a “sezlong” and watching the sea is sure one of the highlights of our trip. Our room was simple and inviting. It smelled of history and if you can’t appreciate that, then maybe Maggie’s place is not for you. The tiles on the floor are different colors and she has books and magazines from different years… Those articles you never have time to catch up with… Maggie’s house is a great place for it. I loved the books, the cat., the floor, the bathtub and the shower head looking like a telephone from another day and age. And the list can go on…

We loved the house so much that none of us felt very active… We lazed around, spending very little money but with the maximum of enjoyment. Rach received a marriage proposal from a very nice older man but she realized that being the “second wife” is not one of her dreams. 😛 I borrowed a funny looking white hat from Maggie and with my pink glasses I was soon mistaken for Lady Gaga… I am still not sure if it was meant as a compliment. 😀 I also seem to look British or Australian… or maybe I am just white 😛 Be prepared with sunscreen if you visit. The back of my neck still feels a bit tender after half a day without sunscreen.

While other people enjoy the music of the cities with busy streets, I sure appreciated the calmness of Tangier and the feeling of safety I had walking around. The food is amazing and Maggie knows all the best places. Of course, everybody knows Maggie and it made us smile when people were sending her their greetings. I guess it sometimes feels good to live in a small community. Of course, being different makes you easier to be recognized… But I guess Maggie’s charm is what makes her beloved and appreciated and not the fact that she is a Scottish lady in the country of spices, leather and mint tea.


Maggie’s appearance and style made me think about my grandmothers. While she has the looks of my father’s mother, more prominent was the fierceness reminding me of my mother’s mother. But just a little touch, enough to make me think of what I lost and what I’ve left at home… But while in India more that often I was thinking of home, Brussels agrees with me and we have a lovely relationship 😛

What I loved most about Maggie was her matter of fact attitude and the courage of living that so many of us sometimes lack. She is close to 68 and I don’t image that 40-50 years ago it was very easy to travel the world and make a living as an independent woman. I am constantly asking myself if I made the right decision, doubting some choices and mourning some loses. In Tangier I realized once again that it’s a stupid thing to do and I haven’t lost much in the process of growing up and discovering what I want. I also realized that while I love Brussels, I miss being challenged on a daily basis, I miss being the different one in a sea of smiling people. I am not one to settle as yet and I although admire and appreciate all my friends life choices I am not them and I will never be… I want to thank Maggie for that. Unknowingly she reminded me why I love life and travelling so much.

I guess this is becoming a bit long and as focused as it is on Maggie and Tangier, it is also a bit too self-reflective.

One last thing! Go to Tangier, stay at Maggie’s, and fall in love with her, her house and her cat. Eat sea food by the port, take a long walk through the city, encourage the local economy with a bit of very qualitative shopping and enjoy life… Don’t live it postponing the things that are important to you. The new furniture you wish to buy for your new house will be there also in 6 months. It is not worth it and it never will be. Invest in travelling… It’s the smartest thing a person can do, even if it is for 3 days somewhere close to home…

Loving life from Brussels,
Yours truly 😀

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