January 29, 2008

Repeating myself

One of the best things about the IFFR is the fact that directors and actors show up to introduce their own movies and do a Q&A afterwards.

And how can you not love a film which is introduced - by the director - as: "This is to celebrate really really bad music and really really bad fashion."? Hilariously kitsch and very emotional at the same time.

January 26, 2008

Two down, six to go

As mentioned before, Rotterdam is completely absorbed at the moment by the filmfestival. As am I, for a few days.

The change going from one movie to another always surprises me.

Yesterday I first saw The best of times, the latest movie from Russian directer Svetlana Proskurina. A thoughtful movie about two women and the love/hate relationship between them throughout their lives after loving the same man.
Then it was time for REC, a Spanish blockbuster and as far removed from the previous film as you could imagine. I had already read a friend's review which made me somewhat prepared. Hilarious horror - gross, but done very well.

Next up today are:
It's hard to be nice
De verloren kolonie

Later this week will be:
881 (my attempt at fitting something Japanese in there, but it turns out to be Singaporean. Oh well, close enough)
Black Snow

Yay, can't wait. So, for now, back to Rotterdam, where I'm being taken out to a mystery restaurant before hitting the cinema's again.

January 19, 2008


It always happens to a certain extent around the time when one year changes into another. And so it did also this 2007/2008 switch. In the midst of mass emails with holiday greetings there will always be one or two from long lost friends.

This year I seem to have found back a lot more people than usual though. I guess the internet is doing its job.... with finally being on Facebook, having a blog, posting my pics on Flickr, and being on LinkedIn (yes, I'm everywhere) and keeping my very first emailaddress from years ago still active, many of these long lost friends have been able to track me down again.

It's great to 'catch up' and see how they're doing and - in a lot of cases - where they currently are. The best thing about those locations: they're getting closer! An Australian friend is now in the UK and moving to the NL in the summer. Woohoo! A Brazilian friend is living in Stockholm, a Japanese friend is living in Duesseldorf. I guess I have my travelling sorted out for me this year.

Now for the hard part: staying in touch....

January regular

In a couple of days the Rotterdam Filmfestival starts again - a regular event in January and I've been studying the programme since it came out to find some good films.

Looks like I'll be there at least 3-4 nights, can't wait! Very curious what kind of stuff I'll end up seeing - because I never really know, and it's always a good surprise.

January 16, 2008

Evening entertainment

Picking out the perfect wig for my future cat.

I'm speechless for anything else to say....

January 12, 2008

I almost forgot: Madrid

Originally uploaded by macchi.

So, yes, we also went to Madrid. I forgot about posting about it - maybe because it didn't really leave an impression. Or maybe because I was so overwhelmed by Morocco.

Well, within the time that we had, we didn't do that much anyway. Walked around, stalked the staff at all the Camper-shops, had lunch, coffee, and headed back to the airport.

The area I liked most was Chueca (sp?) - great little shops and coffee places. Really cool.

Would like to go back once to spend a weekend there, do the museums, eat tapas and drink wine until late at night, discover the nightlife - but for now, it's not that high on my list anymore.

January 10, 2008

Newyear's resolutions

So, I have been thinking for ages that I want to do more with photography. Have looked at a couple of courses, but the timing isn't quite right. And even though I carry my camera with me almost every day, I still don't use it.

Instead, and inspired by Ianqui, on January 1 I finally decided I'd set up a 365-photoblog. 365 photographs for 365 days (or well, 366 in 2008 I think). I was very excited about the whole idea that first day - it would give me an opportunity to try new things with my camera, not just only take holiday shots as I do currently, and it would be a project - which sounds kinda cool.

Wisely enough, I didn't announce it right then and there on here. And, that turned out to be the right thing: I've failed the project already. And this isn't even the only resolution I've failed at and it's only the 10th! Gah. Cannot believe myself.

January 09, 2008

Ain't I fast? Piiiiictures!

Well, this was a productive day - Moroccan stories and pictures sorted out straight after returning. A quick preview here, have a look at flickr for everything else (there are a lot!).


After the chaos and frustration of the mountains we decide to do things differently.

Destination: the Atlantic coast. Essaouira to be exact; a previous '70s hippie-hideout and currently a surfers' paradise. Most of all, I need some r&r. Sun, good food, views across the ocean - it all sounds ideal right now. And we take control: we've had enough of depending on an unreliable public transport system and we leave Marrakesh's insane traffic behind in our very own car. Well, for the next 48 hours it is, anyway.

We have no idea what awaits us down the road so I'm pretty excited to be heading to a new place. The road there is straight, long and narrow and we're driving right into the setting sun. Unexpectedly, the landscape is one of an almost eerie desolation and emptiness. Rocks, an occasional tree and then nothing. Behind us there is only a far-off mountainridge. The drive back during the day promises to be pretty spectacular.

The town itself is a quaint Arabic version of Greek island towns. Strangely familiar - but not quite - to S., full of photo opportunities for me.

The food here stands out. The first night, after a late arrival, we stumble upon a true 'hole-in-the-wall': a restaurant called Chez les freres, which seats exactly six guests. A chubby, happy Moroccan entertains us while we enjoy the house specialties. The fish tajine that evening remains one of the best of the whole week.

The next day: lunch is a mix of grilled fish. Sitting on the water front, in the sun, and having plate after plate of the freshest fish, shrimps, calamari etc brought out. Bliss. Dinner is again at an accidental discovery. Harira, couscous and bread in a setting that would be a hit in any art-conscious European city. The walls are completely covered by posters of works by local painters, with laidback jazz playing in the background.

Essaouira itself is a maze of souvenir shops where we perfect our negotiating skills. To escape the crowded streets we drive south. Sidi Kaouki is supposedly an increasingly popular spot with waves for the adventurous and experienced surfer. It turns out to be an almost deserted beach with beautiful warm weather and all of three cafes, a guesthouse and a campsite. I can't think of a better place for a weekend hide-away.

The anticipated drive back to Marrakesh starts out with disappointment. The empty steppe we had expected to admire is blanketed is a thick layer of fog. The eerieness remains but not quite in the way we were expecting. When the blue sky returns I'm surprised to see that - although I can't imagine anything growing out there - there is an occasional house and regular herds of sheep and goats. And donkey traffic is thriving - but I wonder where on earth these men and their animals are coming from and where they are headed to.

Inshallah - or: how a trip to Morocco doesn't turn out quite the way you expect it to

(warning: it's long!)

We've been in the country for two days, taking in all the sights, smells, sounds, chaos and contradictions of Marrakesh, and we're now on a leaking, cold bus en route to Ouarzazate, a little town beyond the High Atlas mountains. After two hours of slow driving in heavy rain and fog (I know there is nothing next to the road except a deep abyss so maybe it's good not to be able to actually see that) we stop in a roadside village of a couple of shops and teahouses. In the distance we see the snow-covered mountains that we need to cross to get to Ouarzazate.

At first, it's a 'break'. Except that no one knows how long this break will last for. One hour, four hours, a day - the only real answer we get is inshallah. No one knows. There's also not really anyone who can tell us what's going on - snow, an avalanche of rocks, or just a general shut-down of the mountain pass. The weather isn't helping. It's raining sleet, hailing, very windy and freezing freezing cold.

We wander around, completely inappropriately dressed - I, at least, wasn't expecting to be caught in a snowstorm. We try to find a warm place, but none of the buildings have heating, nor reliable electricity (every time the radio is turned on, all lights shut down, but again and again they try to have everything on...). The souvenir and tea salesmen are doing good business, we warm up with some sweet mint tea and after a while we hear some good news. We're set to go, and we see the barrier gate open up and the first trucks pull up to head across the mountains.

Except that our bus isn't moving. Nor are the trucks in front of us. All passenger cars pass us by, but we sit and wait. And wait. And wait. Every now and then one of us goes outside to find a toilet, some tea and some news on what's going on. By now all electricity has disappeared and the toilets are lit by a few candles. Still no luck to find a warmer place. At the end of the afternoon I start wondering if we will start moving again that day at all. Turning the bus around is no option - the road is too narrow. Any cars going back to Marrakesh are gone by that time and I start thinking how we'll get through the night without extra heat, blankets, dry clothing.

The Moroccans on the bus are being more inventive and one of them brings in a pot of smouldering charcoal to try to get some heat in the bus. I've snuggled up in a blanket borrowed from one of the women to warm up a little bit when S. comes back on the bus looking for our driver. Apparently a car towards the back of the line is turning around and we can get a lift back to Marrakesh. But of course, our driver is nowhere to be found. By the time we do get our packs, the car has left. Returning to the bus seems pointless and we decided to see if anyone else can take us. A little boy comes up and starts talking to S. in French. I'm not paying attention until he turns to me and says the boy offered us a sleeping place in his family's house. Considering that it's getting colder by the minute - and it's all about the adventure, right? - we take him up on his offer and walk down the hill to his house.

The boy's dad, Aomar, welcomes us in and shows us to the guestroom in the Berber house. We talk a little, and arrange that we can use the local hammam so the boy takes us there.
Since 12am that day the one thing keeping me up was the thought of a hot shower in a riad in Ouarzazate. I'd lost hope, and walking in to the steaming rooms of the hammam and letting scorching hot water pour over me feels quite incredible. When we get back to the house, dinner is served. Lamb and vegetables straight from the tajine, of course with bread and sweetened tea. We (or well S., I'm not really acknowledged) talk to Aomar about his life in the village, Morocco, the relationship between Berbers and Arabs and a bit of international politics. The only heating available is a charcoal pot which doesn't have much effect so it's an early night for us and we get underneath a huge stack of blankets.

The next day feels like a new world. The view from the window looks across beautiful mountains, with cloudless bright blue sky! We go outside where Aomar's daughter has prepared breakfast: a thick yellow soup with bread, eggs and tea. Chickens and sheep wander around the patch of ground in front of the house, and the sky is the blueest I've ever seen it. The sun is out bright and, best of all, the queue of trucks on the road is gone. We are assured buses going back to Marrakesh will pass by and make a scheduled stop in the village so we walk up to the road, settle at a balcony in the sun and wait. And wait. And wait.

But, waiting in the sun isn't nearly as bad as waiting in sleet and wind. In front of us though, trucks start stopping and the road clogs up again. I look up ahead and see the barrier gate towards the mountains go down.... again. Deja-vu.

After a couple of buses drive past into the opposite direction, but without making that promised stop, we get restless. Aomar and his friends keep reassuring us that one of them eventually will stop. The mountain has held us up long enough by now, and we just want to get back to Marrakesh to make new plans. When getting up in the morning the mountains looked terribly tempting but seeing the pass close up again in good weather confirms our decision to turn back. If only someone would take us.

It's 3pm by the time we are back in Marrakesh, driven by a Moroccon guy who tells us a bit about his work, and after being amazed by the scenery. Truly stunning. After a quick lunch we get out of the city again, but heading into the opposite direction this time: the Pacific coast.


(written on Jan 7)

On the plane, heading to a next - or previous - destination: Spain.

Morocco has been intense, much too short, fascinating and challenging. In only five days we've seen old and new citylife; mountains, empty steppes and gorgeous coastline; poverty and sheer decadence; snowstorms and sunny beaches - and most of these opposites happened within the same day.

I'm amazed at the distances we've travelled and different places we've seen and cannot wait to see what is beyond those mountains that wouldn't let us through....

(stories to follow)

January 06, 2008


You would expect to pick up some Arabic while travelling in Morocco. Not true. But, my French is making remarkable progress though.

We're on our last day in Morocco, and things are uhm, going differently from expected. It's still all good though.

Proper updates later of course. For now this:

the good - wonderful food; amazing sights and smells and sounds in Marrakesh; stunning views across the High Atlas; driving through no-mans-land on our way to the ocean; a hot Moroccan hammam after spending a day in the freeeezing cold.

the bad - it's too bloody cold; being stuck on top of a freezing cold mountain for a day and night; the trip being too short.

More later, a bientot!

January 01, 2008


To celebrate the end of the past year and the beginning of the new year the Netherlands bursts with fireworks at midnight on 31 December/1 January. And it finally gave me a chance to try out my fireworks-setting on my camera. ;-)

Other stuff we did yesterday and today, besides eating lots of food, popping champagne bottles and lighting the above fireworks and sparklers:

* competitions on the Wii
* reading secrets
* trying to understand Banksy's art
* find out if our boyfriends are twats
* etc etc

Great fun. But I really really need to start packing. See you next week.