The title of a rather cheesy song by a Swedish girl called Emilia that was a big hit somewhere in the late nineties. More than ten years down the line it still pops up in my head every now and again. In spite of being a big girl these days, it still is a big, big world too. Which I find hugely fascinating yet intimidating at occassions...

Sunday, 2 October 2011

At Night, They Dance

At Night, They Dance from Les films du tricycle on Vimeo.

This documentary depicts the life of Reda and her family. She is a beautiful woman, with amazing, outstanding eyes, though it is quite clear life hasn’t been lenient with her.
For generations, belly dance has been the profession for the females in her family, from mother to daughter. Funnily enough, it is not quite clear what the men do: there is none, with the exception of a little naked toddler… Whoever cannot dance (anymore), makes costumes or acts as a mediator. Reda jokes how her daughter Amira, a sulky, capricious belly dancer whose drug problem is largely ignored in the documentary, came into this world dancing!

Reda’s life is not an easy one. Her flat looks barren and shabby. Nevertheless, it is always full of life, with women playing the leading part in whatever is taking place. If men visit Reda, it is as if they have a private audience with the queen. She’s a tough woman, tried and tested by life. Not easy on her loved ones, though she is there for them in times of trouble. When Amira finds herself in trouble for not showing up for a performance at a wedding, Reda knows how to save the day. Mainly by talking: she surely does have the gift of the gab.

The way in which people communicate with one another in this documentary is quite fierce to begin with. At the beginning of the movie, there’s a scene where the women argue. Their use of language is at least to say florid, though not of the kind suitable for sensitive ears! Reda and another woman, either her mother or an older sister, have an argument for an unknown reason. They don’t go easy on each other: “You shriek like a whore”. Ironically enough, they criticize one another for their religion: “You do the pilgrimage and you rent costumes”.

The lives of Reda’s offspring aren’t always a bed of roses either. Amira seems shallow and frivolous, fifteen years old Hind abandoned her mother to live with her father and is arrested by the end of the movie because she’s a dancer. She’s locked up at a police station for days in a row with nobody to pay her bail. Her mother is clearly desperate for not having any money to have her released in spite of their quarrel. The father can’t or won’t pay for unknown reason and at the end of the story it’s an admirer who pays. Somewhat disturbing is the scene in which a girl with a wig identical to Amara’s receives instruction from Reda to dance in a more seductive way… When she turns around, it appears to be one of the younger daughters; she can’t be older than ten..

The last scene of the movie is moving. Reda is standing on her balcony, and standing behind her it’s clear to see she’s crying. Not for the first time during the whole of the movie, but definitely the first time she comes across as sincere!

The documentary was inspired by Karin van de Nieuwkerk’s book “A trade like any other” on Cairo entertainment industry around Muhamed Ali Street. She already stated in her book, based on her thesis written in the mid-nineties, that whilst for men this business is simply a way to make a living, women are regarded as bad and dishonourable.
No wonder Reda’s crying, with her daughter being held…

Saturday, 16 April 2011

End Of An Era

How do you get to realize you're not as young as you used to be? Because you suddenly come to notice the world has somehow changed and you didn't even see it till it's a fact!

Yesterday I used up my last Strippenkaart. Admitted, we've been using chip cards in Dutch public transport for a while now. But I hadn't worn my black leather coat for some years and found one in its pocket. And since I'm Dutch after all, I wanted to use it up.
Rotterdam was first at abandoning the Strippenkaart. In 2008 it was impossible to use the subway without a chip card, the then new system. At the time, I still lived in Egypt and was flabbergasted. How am I to use the metro? Do I want to purchase a piece of plastic I am not going to use for another year? What, I HAVE to? I was literally a stranger in my "own" country!
That hurt more than the fact that those introductions of a new system also impose a price increase on the consumer. I did the math! The last Strippencards (the ones with 15 strips) are 7,70 euro, which brings me to a fee of a bit over a euro traveling within one zone. The price system for the tram is not as transparent, but the ride from my home to the train station usually costs me 1,20 euro. Provided I get in and do not change on my way. Whereas I could use my Strippenkaart for a ride within a zone for a specific amount of time(1 hour), with the chip card I have to check out before leaving the vehicle and checking in again after changing. All over, that means a considerable price difference.
Also, and that is what is the killer for most people, you have to REMEMBER to check out. A friendly mechanic voice will kindly remember you to do so but we all know what we're like after a long day of hard labour: absent minded. Unfortunately absent mindedness is expensive. If you forget to check out your card, the automatical fee for a trip is four euro. Ouch! Talk about hurt.

But let's go back a while. When I was a little toddler going shopping with my gran, she bought tickets from the bus driver. She payed him with cash and no one thought anything of it! She didn't even have to pay a special price (strippenkaarten bought from the driver are considerably more expensive). I was barely allowed to travel by myself, when my mom gave me my first strippenkaart. She always grumbled when I forgot to empty my pockets before chucking my trousers in the laundry. No more of that either. Plastic cards are kept in wallets these days. Bye bye strippenkaart!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Bibi Express

I've been thinking about blogging a lot lately. You see, I love doing it. When I first started, back in Bali, it was constantly on my mind. Wondering this, that or the other would be something to blog about. How I would put things. Blogging itself came out of a need to write in general, which has always been latent. So back in Bali I had something I had never had since I was a teenager: time!
So upon my return in the Netherlands I didn't have that much time anymore but I missed writing, I did and that is when I started this blog. I said to myself: Life may be less exciting but that doesn't mean it is boring!! I used my summer holiday to make a start and it made me happy..
Back to work and writing played less than a supporting role in my life. Too tired, every single day. What little did I know I actually had a health condition to blame for my fatigue!
But there we are: a weekend of peace and quite and I can feel the writing itches inside me.
As I am steadily working my way through Nigella's Lawsons Nigella Express, I remember Julie and Julia. Julie blogged about the way she cooked her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. French cooking and express cooking are not exactly the same, I know that. But seriously: aren't recipes that are easy as well as yummy the ones that everybody wants and needs after a day of hard labour?
So let's go! It's been cold, I've been tired so how about a little comfort food? Oeufs en Cocotte. The eggs are cooked au bain marie (oven at 190 degrees, dish filled with water till halfway up the ramequin) which makes it sound complicated but really it isn't. My only problem is you can't leave them there for longer than the required 12 minutes. And I reeeeeaaaaally like dishes you can cook for as long as it suits me. First time I made them, I left the eggs for 15 minutes which left them solid instead of slightly runny. This is how it goes:
butter a ramequin per egg. Fill them up with one egg, a bit of seasalt, a splash of cream and a dollop of truffle oil. For those among you who never used that before: smell it. If you use to much of it, that is what your egg is going to taste like... If used with care, you'll get a simple egg with different layers of flavour: the egginess, the creaminess, the saltiness and finally the earthiness of the truffle oil. Oh, and what I do is add freshly ground black pepper but that may just be my personal weekness. A simple green salad with balsamico vinegar, some olive oil and a grind of sea salt goes well with it. Careful when you take them out of the dish, I managed to burn myself...
Now the first attempt to make the Oeufs en Cocotte left them somewhat solid but the taste was SO GOOD I decided I had to make them again a.s.a.p. Greedily, I wolved them down before I could think of making a picture of them. Instead, I'll leave you with Nigella's story..