Dienstag, 1. Dezember 2009
Out of all the bands reuniting lately, Britain's KULA SHAKER were probably the most pleasant surprise. The 4-piece band, whose debut album "K" hit double platinum in 1995 and catapulted the band into the public eye, vanished just as quickly as they had appeared, and they have been sorely missed ever since. Surprisingly, 10 years later the band decided to give it another shot, and their 2007 album "STRANGEFOLK" was anything but a sell-out and showed the band stronger - and more relevant - than ever. In times of war, climate change, consumerism and economic crisis, the band does not only still sound great, but has something to SAY, and something to GIVE as well - if you take a look at their website www.kulashaker.org, where they hand out little virtual Christmas gifts for fans, and offer free downloads such as the hilarious and peculiar singles "Drink Tea (for the Love of God)" or "Baby Jesus", you can't help liking these guys. Their 4th album "PILGRIM'S PROGRESS" is due for early 2010, and I can't wait to listen to it... maybe I'll even go on a pilgrimage to Glastonbury to check them out live for the first time!
They've also inspired me to BUY LESS for Christmas this year, and get a little more creative instead: besides spreading a few glasses of self-made chutney among my family & close relatives, I've made a music CD compilation for several friends, including "artwork" & liner notes. The vintage record label DOC FRÄNK RECORDS decided to issue it as a limited edition with just 10 copies, and rumours have it that some of these rare copies have been shipped as far as South Australia! ;-)
For the cover, I've borrowed a KULA SHAKER Christmas gag, a picture of the Hindu God VISHNU, replacing Father Christmas and delivering several presents with his many arms... i imagine it must've been pretty tough for him to command his reindeers all the way to Australia, but on the other hand he's probably more accustomed to the hot climate than Santa Claus...
Anyway, I wish everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a very HAPPY NEW YEAR 2010! May it bring you JOY, HOPE, and PROSPERITY, but above all, may it bring you LOVE. The good shit, the real stuff, the gold dust that makes it all worthwhile...
Hope to stay in touch,
And here's the tracklist for my 2009 Christmas sampler:
1. BLUE KING BROWN - Come and check your head
2. CALEXICO - Victor Jara's hands
3. FIREWATER - Too much (is never enough)
4. PEARL JAM - The Fixer
5. KULA SHAKER - Die for Love
6. GOMEZ - In our gun
7. NEW ORDER - Someone like you
8. KINGS OF CONVENIENCE - I'd rather dance with you
9. HOWIE BECK - Flashover
10. NADA SURF - Do it again
11. JIMMY EAT WORLD - Lucky Denver Mint
12. POWDERFINGER - Roll right by you
13. MIDNIGHT OIL - Tone Poem
14. EE - Pilotfish
15. SARAH HARMER - Tether
16. ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN - Burn for me
17. KULA SHAKER - Baby Jesus (Bonus Track)
Montag, 30. November 2009
Thanks to a pen-friendship initiated by a tennis colleague, i have the honour of welcoming Yulia Kraeva, a young lady from Moscow/Russia, in Vienna from December 31 until January 7. I always loved showing visitors around, and i haven't hit the tourist trail for quite a while, so I gladly took up the "duty" of being her tour guide. Since she'll be here for more than a week, and her hosts Heinz & Anna are pretty busy fostering their 4-months-old baby at the moment, i guess we'll have plenty of time to enjoy Vienna in all its diversity instead of just ticking off the most important sights. In a way, visits like these give you the opportunity to rediscover your hometown and appreciate the fact that you live here and not elsewhere. So I already took some time off work, and look forward to be spending a full week holiday - without even leaving the city.
As so many Russians - and Vienna tourists in general - Yulia is very interested in the classical music department and wants to see "the city of so many great composers". This gave me a reason to finally try out things I've never really cared about (but many people actually come here for) and i bought tickets for a classical music performance by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Beethoven's 9th symphony at the Konzerthaus) on January 1 and for a typical Viennese Operetta (Johann Strauss' "Fledermaus") at the opera on January 6. I'm really curious whether I'm gonna like it. I always thought of operas as an aquired taste, but merely being in this building for the first time should be reason enough to do it.
Apart from these 2 classical venues and the obvious trips around Ringstrasse, Innere Stadt, Schönbrunn & Belvedere I have also planned to see Orson Welles' black & white Viennese classic "The Third Man" at the Burg Cinema (followed by a ride on the ferris wheel of course), visit the Naschmarkt together, and include some interesting museum trips such as the Edvard Munch exhibition at the Leopold Museum or the Impressionism exhibition at the Albertina. Last, but not least, I've also added some recreational activites to our schedule, such as ice skating at the Wiener Eislaufverein (WEV) and relaxing at the only Turkish bath in Vienna, the Hamam at "Aux Gazelles"! I think it's a pretty good plan for 1 week, and I hope we get most of it done, without being under stress or not getting along. Communication might be a problem - i speak "njet" Russian, and her English needs improvement - but I think that might make it all the more entertaining for both of us! :-)
Samstag, 21. November 2009
In Abwesenheit unseres Wahl-Australiers Stefan Podar durfte ich erstmals beim "The Group" Tennisdoppel teilnehmen, wodurch es zu einem Vergleichskampf Essling vs. Ottakring kam, welcher fairerweise auf neutralem Boden (in der MAXX23 Halle in Altmannsdorf) ausgetragen wurde.
Um ein möglichst ausgeglichenes Spiel zu gewährleisten, einigte man sich bereits im Vorfeld auf ein Duell Lackner/Petzelbauer gegen Pusam/Park. Dass es allerdings so spannend UND hochklassig werden würde, damit hatte wohl niemand gerechnet. Sämtliche Kontrahenten waren 100%ig fokussiert, was schon die Tatsache zeigte, dass Max Petzelbauer eine taktische Besprechung mit seinem Doppelpartner am Vorabend im Charlie P's ablehnte, um am Samstag körperlich voll fit zu sein...
Bereits der erste Satz war charakteristisch für das ganze Spiel: während die ehemaligen "Blondschöpfe" Lackner/Petzelbauer von Beginn an die Initiative übernahmen und konsequent den Weg ans Netz suchten, wurde man doch immer wieder vom Kampfgeist und quirligen Defensivspiel der koreanisch-wienerischen Paarung überrascht. Der Linkshänder Michi Pusam konnte einige spektakuläre Long-Line-Passierbälle anbringen, und schüchterte mit Schnurrbart, Fönwelle und geballter Faust seine Gegner auch optisch ein (siehe Foto). Sein Partner Stephan "The Chinese Cat" Park quittierte dies mit diabolischem Lacher und überzeugte mit katzenhafter Gewandtheit am Netz. Dank starker Aufschlagleistung (geschätzte Ass-Statistik 5:0) verwandelten die beiden ein 0:2 noch in ein 6:4.
Ein ähnliches Bild bot sich im bitter umkämpften 2. Satz: Lackner/Petzelbauer gingen zunächst rasch 2:0 in Führung, doch Park/Pusam drehten erneut den Spieß um und standen bei 5:3 (Aufschlag Park) bereits kurz vor dem Sieg! Dank punktgenauer Lob-Returns von Petzelbauer und Lackner'schen Vollstreckerqualitäten am Netz konnte jedoch dem Chinesen der Aufschlag abgenommen und auf 4:5 verkürzt werden. Alex Lackner, mit dem neuen BABOLAT PURE DRIVE angetreten, machte es im darauffolgenden Game allerdings selbst am spannendsten, als er bei 30:0 Vorsprung zwei Doppelfehler beging, und sein Team damit nur 2 Punkte von der Niederlage trennten. Trotz tückischer, tiefer Slice-Returns von Park zog er den Kopf aber noch aus der Schlinge, und mit frischem Selbstvertrauen konnte danach auch eines der zahlreichen Marathon-Aufschlagspiele von Michi Pusam gewonnen werden. Dieses Break liess man sich nicht mehr nehmen, Max Petzelbauer servierte anschliessend trocken zum 7:5 aus.
Damit schien das Blatt gewendet - Park/Pusam wirkten etwas entnervt und ermüdet, und auch der starke 1. Aufschlag liess die beiden zusehends im Stich. Mit dem Auftrieb des gewonnenen 2. Satzes im Rücken, und unter der Devise "kurz und schmerzlos" spielten sich Petzelbauer/Lackner im entscheidenden 3. Durchgang schnell ein vorentscheidendes 5:1 heraus. Doch auch in dieser aussichtslosen Situation zeigte sich nochmal die Moral der Gegner, die dank eines starken Aufschlagsspiels von Pusam und einem Break gegen Petzelbauer nochmal auf 5:3 herankamen, bevor ein Break gegen Stephan Park der Schlacht nach knapp 2 Stunden ein Ende bereitete!
Erschöpft, aber durchwegs begeistert von der Qualität der Begegnung, versprach man einander schon bald Revanche - möglicherweise wird diese auf Sand stattfinden, was die beiden Verlierer noch gefährlicher machen könnte...
Bonmot des Tages:
Lackner: "Es ist meistens so, dass ein technisch stärkerer Spieler das Niveau des gesamten Spiels hebt, und sich dadurch auch alle anderen Spieler steigern! Ich spiele gegen technisch bessere Leute meist auch eine Klasse besser als gegen schwächere..."
Park: "Also haben wir dich quasi mitgezogen heut..."
Petzelbauer: "Jetzt is ma klar wieso wir sonst immer so scheisse gspielt haben - der Stuffi zieht uns alle runter!"
Und ich denke ich weiss auch, wer in der glühenden Sonne Australiens bereits Trainingseinheiten auf dem Tenniscourt einschiebt...
Sonntag, 25. Oktober 2009
Sonntag, 18. Oktober 2009
Zum Abschied sagte er nicht bloss leise Servus, sondern lud zu einer grossen Abschiedsfete inkl. Live-Musik in Gestalt von Mike Regan, Exilaustralier und Musiker in Wien. Bis in die frühen Morgenstunden wurde im Schwarzen Schaf (Wien 8., Lederergasse) der Musik gelauscht, getratscht und getrunken.
Mittlerweile haben sich die beiden bereits in Adelaide einquartiert, und während Julia erstmal 3 Monate in einem Englisch-Kurs büffelt und hoffentlich genug Aussie-Slang für eine erfolgreiche Alltags- (um nicht zu sagen: Haushalts-)Bewältigung aufschnappt, darf Stefan die Gegend erkunden und im Gegenzug dem interessierten Australier näherbringen was eine "Beutelschleuder" oder ein "16er Blech" ist. Im Dezember bekommen sie dann Besuch von Stefan's Schwester Uli, um gemeinsam das Outback (inkl. dem heiligen Berg Uluru, auch bekannt als Ayers Rock) zu erkunden, bevor es im Jänner mit dem Studien-Alltag losgeht - wobei ich mir den "Alltag" in South Australia recht entspannt vorstelle...
Ein Auslandsstudium in Australien war immer auch ein kleiner Traum von mir, kommt jedoch aus finanziellen und persönlichen Gründen nicht (mehr) in Frage (soll heissen: i bin afoch scho zu oid fiar solche Spompanadln*). Aber da ich Stefan in der Zwischenzeit in seiner Praxis im VSMC ersetzen, und hautnah seinen Berichterstattungen folgen darf, hab ich fast das Gefühl selbst ein bissl dabei zu sein. Und nachdem ich bereits 2002 den roten Kontinent bereist habe, und mir damals geschworen habe irgendwann wiederzukommen, bietet sich so auch die perfekte Gelegenheit, den beiden frischgebackenen Masters of Sports Physiotherapy im Jänner 2011 einen Besuch abzustatten, und mich mit ihnen auf die Suche nach der perfekten Welle zu machen! Denn so wie ich Stefan einst in Podersdorf etwas Windsurf-Nachhilfe gegeben hab, darf ich mir dann wohl von ihm Lektionen in Sachen Wellenreiten erwarten :-)
Bis dahin wünsch ich Julia viel Spass im Englischkurs und den beiden ein erfolgreiches und interessantes Studienjahr, und liefere hiermit gleich ein kleines Einstiegs-Quiz, in dem die beiden interaktiv unter Beweis stellen können, ob ihre grauen Zellen schon von der südaustralischen Sonne versengt wurden, oder ob sie immer noch "fit for Australia" sind!? Also, los gehts:
1. Was ist das giftigste Tier Australiens?
a) Funnel Web Spider
b) Box Jellyfish
c) Cane Toad
d) King Brown Snake
e) Redback Spider
2. Welche ist die giftigste Schlange Australiens?
a) King Brown Snake
b) Taipan Snake
c) Death Adder
3. Wie wird in Australien typischerweise eine attraktive junge Frau bezeichnet?
a) hot chick
b) fine sheila
c) nice bird
4. Welche ist die grösste Sandinsel der Welt, und demnach auch Australiens?
a) Fraser Island
b) Kangaroo Island
c) Thursday Island
5. Welcher ist der höchste Berg Australiens?
a) Ayers Rock, NT
b) Mt. Cosciusko, NSW
c) Frog Buttress, QLD
d) Mount Tambourine, QLD
6. Welcher der folgenden australischen Tennisspieler stammt nicht aus Adelaide?
a) Patrick Rafter
b) Lleyton Hewitt
c) Mark Woodforde
7. Welche Biersorte ist in einer Brauerei in Adelaide beheimatet?
a) XXXX ("Four X")
8. Was meint der Australier, wenn er "my shout!" ruft?
a) "jetzand red' i!"
b) "Meine Güte!"
c) "die Runde geht auf mi!"
d) "Mei, schau!"
9. Welche ist die Stadt mit dem höchsten Pro-Kopf-Bierkonsum Australiens?
a) Perth, WA
b) Brisbane, QLD
c) Adelaide, SA
d) Sydney, NSW
e) Darwin, NT
10. Welche der folgenden bekannten Pop-Bands stammt nicht aus Australien?
b) Crowded House
c) Men at Work
d) Midnight Oil
11. Was ist ein/e "Billabong"?
a) ein Wurfgerät welches die Aborigines zur Jagd benutzt haben, ähnlich dem Boomerang
b) ein kleiner Teich oder Tümpel
c) eine eng anliegende, knapp bis über die Knie reichende (Surf-)Short, die der bekannten Marke zu ihrem Namen verhalf.
12. Ihr seid bei einem zünftigen australischen "Barbie" (Barbecue) im Nachbarsgarten eingeladen. Welches der folgenden - typisch australischen - Utensilien hat sich fälschlicherweise dorthin verirrt?
a) Stubbie Cooler
c) Mozzie repellant
Ich bitte Euch, Eure Antworten als Kommentar einzufügen, diese werden dann umgehend an Eure Studiengangsleiter weitergeleitet. "Googeln" ist klarerweise nicht erlaubt und wird von der University of South Australia mit einem sofortigen Verweis geahndet! Auch den Telefonjoker dürft ihr trotz Eures günstigen Provider-Deals mit "3" nicht in Anspruch nehmen! Zu gewinnen gibt es eine Flasche Cooper's Pale Ale! Alle sonstigen Leser dürfen natürlich auch gerne mitmachen (Mitarbeitern des Blogs ist jedoch die Teilnahme am Gewinnspiel untersagt).
Als weiterführende Australien-Lektüre empfehle ich abschliessend das Online-Magazin "DerPavel", welches ihr über meinen Link zum "The Group"-Blog in der Blogliste rechts oben direkt erreichen könnt. Also dann Pavel, keep us posted!
Dienstag, 1. September 2009
The modern world has given us a lot to cope with, but who really has the skills? The whirlwind of emotions caused by Scotland's release of the Lockerbie bomber has illuminated a common psychological problem. How de we move on from grief and rage? Loss is inevitable in life. But when the scale is huge - a terrorist attack like September 11, the breakdown of social justice as in Iraq or Rwanda - the rage and resentment left behind is often more cancerous than the event.
Is there a way to recover from extreme trauma that allows us to let go of the pain and reboot our lives? Many of the stories I collected for a book titled "Buddhist Acts of Compassion" point to a radical shift in perspective that could transform the way we deal with such issues, not to mention inspire profound social change. A slogan in Buddhism speaks to these moments: "Just like me." Just like me, others suffer. Just like me, others desire happiness.
Of course, it is excruciatingly difficult for a grieving mother to see any resemblance between herself and her child's murderer. But the exiled Dalai Lama, himself a victim of persecution, made no such distinctions when visiting Auschwitz for the first time. Speechless at the piles of tattered shoes left behind by the victims, he wrote: "I stopped and prayed - moved profoundly both for the victims and for the perpetrators of this calamity... And, in the knowledge that, just as we all have the capacity to act selflessly out of concern for others' well-being, so do we all have the potential to be murderers and torturers, I vowed to do all I could to ensure that nothing like this happened again."
Such saintlike sentiment may feel out of reach, but the teachings of Buddhism say it isn't. That's because when we drop our personal sense of self - the one that says "I'm right, you're wrong, go to hell" - what arises in its place is a wide open heart that excludes no one, not even one's persecutor. Buddhists say this heart is our true nature, not the one that is forever seeking "Kill Bill"-style revenge.
To discover that state of mind, start small. A beginner's prayer in Buddhism encourages you to wish happiness for all beings, not just the ones you approve of. If that feels impossible, start by extending good will to yourself. Eventually you extend it to those you care about, those you don't know, and finally those you can't stand. Imagine centuries-old bitter rivals doing this and breaking the cycle of revenge.
When suffering seems too deep to bear, Buddhism suggests dedicating your pain so all those hurting in the same way might be relieved. It's a form of meditation that has profoundly helped a friend of mine navigate through AIDS. And it's one that could help victims of terrorism discover a common bond that is healing.
If you think this approach is just mind games, think again. These are the very practices that have allowed Tibetan Buddhist nuns and monks to withstand years of torture. Especially for those in exile, these meditations have helped them forge new lives - with clarity, compassion and little or no rancor. Outer wars start from within, the Buddha taught. And as Lama Zopa Rinpoche, a Tibetan meditation master, once said: "As long as you do not change your mind, there will always be an enemy to harm you."
Pamela Bloom is the author of "The Power of Compassion: Stories that touch the heart, heal the soul and change the world", to be published in 2010. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Montag, 31. August 2009
Samstag, 22. August 2009
I left to Biskra on Thursday, August 16, 2009 with a certain feeling and intuition that the highlights of my trip were still ahead of me. However, not even in my wildest dreams could I have predicted what would happen to me over the next (and last) 4 days in Algeria. I felt quite sick, and I knew I was on a tight budget (I had about 75 EUR left) but as it turned out, that was only the beginning...
I had split up with Salah, the brother of my pen-friend Hassina (with whom I had done most of the travelling up to that point), the previous night and decided to do the trip to Biskra on my own. He had been watching a soccer game with friends the previous night (Algeria beat Uruguay 1:0 in a friendly match, in case anybody cares) and i felt that by going on my own I was actually doing both of us a favor. Since meeting Hassina and her family in Ziama, he had been serving as my personal tour guide and companion, and although we got along fairly well, this was 1) not really planned and 2) a little difficult due to my lack in French and his lack in English skills. The fact that Hassina actually didn't travel around with me at all, was kind of disappointing, but i figured that maybe social customs in Algeria prevented her from doing this, and decided not to let this spoil my holiday. So I was even more keen on getting to Biskra, and hopefully seeing Timgad & the highlights of the Aurès mountains on the way.
That's why, when approaching the taxi stand in Constantine, I decided to rent a solo cab including a driver for the entire day (as recommended in my Bradt travel guide) since a normal collective taxi doesn't allow you to stop wherever you want. I knew I would be paying a lot more than for a normal, shared taxi ride - but I didn't want to miss out on some of the most spectacular sights of my trip. The taxi driver's name was Mansour, he was 45 years old, and bore a slight resemblance to Saddam Hussein. While he strapped my backpack on top of his taxi cab, my gut feeling already told me that I was in for a special ride!
I named him the "hotspots" I wanted to see: Timgad, Balcons de Ghoufi, and - on the way back - the spectacular El Kantara Gorge. With an early start, this tour can be done within 1 day, but since we left Constantine only at around 11 a.m. in hot conditions, I knew this wasn't an option. And since I wanted to spend one night in Biskra, the "Gate" to the Sahara, anway (I wanted to feel what it's like to be in 52° Celsius, hoping for the perfect place for HotYoga outdoors) I was extremely happy when Mansour suggested that we could spend the night in his taxi, and drive back to Constantine the next morning. I couldn't really afford to pay 35 EUR for a night at Hotel Zibane in Biskra anway. Mansour's initial price was 8.400 DZA, which is about 84 EUR and I told him right away that we'd have to settle for less. I had one last 50-EUR-note in my wallet, plus another 23 in Dinars, which I wanted to keep for some food and my final train ride from Constantine to Algiers on Saturday. I knew that as soon as I'd be back in Algiers, I would be safe - with my guide (or should I say, guardian angel?) Said Chitour taking care of me. I had always been in contact with him via SMS thanks to an Algerian SIM card, that I had put into an old mobile phone.
After a quick lunch we continued through the Aurès Mountains, habitat to some local Berber people called Chaoui, who speak neither French, nor Arabic, but a Berber language instead. We stopped several times to take pictures, take rests, and buy some fresh fruits and water supplies from the local people. And we got along great! Mansour's French was not much better than mine, so we communicated on "eye level"; i told him why I had come to Algeria, and how the trip had been so far. We laughed a lot, and Mansour had a way of turning his ignition key and producing a big blast from his exhaust pipe, which, he claimed, was "keeping the terrorists away". This was good news, since we had to take a slightly less frequented and potentially unsafe road, because as it turned out, Mansour had never actually seen the Balcons de Ghoufi himself! It was already mentioned in my travel guide that many people in Algeria don't even know this place, which is sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon of Algeria - a massive gorge filled with hundreds of palmtrees and little houses clinging on to the steep ravine. Driving along the "circuit touristique" (a kind of lookout road on top of the gorge), the sight really does take your breath away, and Mansour stopped several times, clearly in awe of the place himself. And except for a handful of Algerians, we were the only tourists there!
From there, we had about 50 km left and after a little cool-down in the oasis of M'Chouneche, we arrived in Biskra in the early evening hours. And that was where my fortune turned... first, I discovered that I had apperently lost my portable phone in the oasis; then I dropped and broke my SLR camera; but the worst thing was the serious argument with Mansour that I suddenly found myself in! All the money I had didn't seem to be enough for him anymore, and he blamed me of fooling him in front of all the other taxi drivers at Biskra terminal, who were slowly gathering in a circle around us and listening to our discussion, as I helplessly tried to defend myself in ragged French. It was like going from heaven to hell in just 10 minutes, and when he finally took all my cash (except for maybe 15 EUR) and announced he would go back to Constantine alone, I was devastated. How should I spend 2 nights in Biskra and get back to Algiers with just 15 EUR?! I begged him to give me his address, so I could send him the remaining money, but he wanted none of it. He refused talking to me for the next hour, as we sat at a table, side by side, with him taking a nap after the long drive, and me counting my options. I already pictured myself spending the night on the dirt track of the taxi stand, on top of my backpack, half-sleeping and half-sick.
But when Mansour opened his eyes again, he patted me on the shoulder, told me that our argument "est déja oublié" ("already forgotten"), led me to a food stall on a street corner, and bought us chorba (spicy chickpea soup) for dinner. He even wandered the streets of Biskra with me afterwards, in search of a cheap hostel, which we indeed found - the "Auberge de Jeunesse 19 Mars Biskra". I had to spend 30 minutes at the local police station (again, Mansour drove me there) before it was confirmed that I could check in. The Biskra Youth Hostel charged only 1,50 EUR per night (!), was protected by a huge fence & a menacing guard-dog, and since the hostel is almost empty in summertime, I even had a room all by myself! I said goodbye to Mansour, checked in, had my first hot shower in 1 week (the temperatures in Biskra make it one of the more likely places for hot water in Algeria), and pulled a mattress and my cotton sleeping bag out on the marble terrace, to sleep under the stars. Finally (although not the way I expected) it was exactly the "cathartic experience" I had hoped for, although my body wasn't even up for HotYoga anymore. The sickness I had arrived with was now joined by diarrhea from the street meal (or tap water?), and I had to spend the better part of the next day in the hostel recovering. But despite the ugly cockroaches in the shabby restrooms I felt like in heaven, simply because i was safe.
The next day I returned to the oasis, to look for my mobile phone, which ended in an almost 4-hour-custody with the Algerian army because I hadn't taken my passport with me and couldn't prove my identity. I'll spare you the details, but in the end I was allowed to search for my mobile (which, of course, I didn't find) together with Youssouf (another funny taxi driver who spoke even less French, but wore fake Ray-Bans and tried to convince me to convert to Islam...), escorted by the Algerian Gendarmerie with their brand-new Nissan 4WD patrol cars, and guarded by their impressive rifles!
After spending another night on the marble terrace of the youth hostel I finally spent my last few Dinars on some fresh dates (Biskra produces the famous Deglet Nour, the finest dates in the country) and a bus ticket to Algiers on Saturday morning. Since I had absolutely no cash money left, I even got invited for a full lunch at some restaurant during a lunch stop somewhere on our way through the Hauts Plateaux (imagine someone giving you a free meal at Rosenberger because you ran out of money on the motorway)! And after the 9-hour bus ride, and earning a lot of curious looks from my fellow Algerian passengers, I finally arrived in Algiers Saturday afternoon, where Said picked me up and accomodated me in his house again. It felt great to be back there, and after a short rest, he took me to see the Monument in Algiers, buy a few postcards (that I hadn't even been able to afford in Biskra), and have a wonderful last dinner with his family, who listened with amusement to all my crazy stories. After spending a last night in the damp heat of Algiers, he took me to Boumediène Airport the next morning, where I boarded my plane at 10:30 a.m.
But there, fate had another incredible chapter to add to my "voyage fou"...
Mittwoch, 12. August 2009
Montag, 27. Juli 2009
For those of you who don't know where Algeria is, you can find out on the little map below. It is located in Central Northern Africa, sandwiched between Morocco and Tunisia, and although it is actually the 2nd biggest country in Africa (and N° 11 in the world!), not too many people know a lot about it.
This is, in part, due to political and social difficulties the country had to go through ever since it seperated from its former colonial emperor France in 1962, making it unattractive to the average tourist (for the adventurous, Algeria was always interesting). Although, on the surface, Republique Algérienne seemed to improve quickly after its independence, and (thanks to their wealth in petrol) develop into one of the most advanced nations on the African continent, things were boiling underneath the surface (high youth unemployment, cultural and ethnic diversity among the population, corruption & censorship employed by the government), and this boiling pot finally exploded with the unexpected win of the Islamists Party (FIS) during the first real elections in 1991. The reigning government could not accept that defeat and "cancelled" (!) the elections, which started a cruel decade of civil war between Islamic fundamentalists and the Algerian army, with more than 100.000 victims, often innocent women & children, across the country. The capital Algiers, formerly known as La Blanche ("the white city") turned into La Rouge, a city becoming known for its violence: slit throats, car bombs and other cruel assassinations became a daily routine, as Europe and even the neighbour countries were watching helplessly in shock. The Islamic Fundamentalists often picked the country's cultural & intellectual elite (writers, journalists, musicians etc.) as their prime victims, and the government responded with corporal punishment, deportation camps, and merciless special forces to pursue and punish the terrorists.
Sonntag, 5. Juli 2009
There were a few more reasons to celebrate this year. One of them is a new job contract which I signed the day after my birthday - I will start working as a freelance physiotherapist in a nice practice in the 9th disctrict, close to Votivkirche. A friend of mine, who embarks on his Master Studies to Adelaide/Australia very soon, suggested me as his replacement, and this came as the right opportunity at just the right time. I will start working there this fall, on October 1. For those of you who are interested to know more, or would like to recommend our practice, please have a look at our website: http://www.vsmc.at/.
Another thing to look forward to is my upcoming "voyage fou" to Algeria in August, which I am approaching with a mixed bag of emotions: 30% yearning, 30% curiosity, 30% excitement and 10% fear (sounds like the perfect recipe for a holiday to me...)! I will stay for 10 days, am blessed to have a local person for company and guide expertise, and expect to see a little bit of everything: the capital Algiers, the Mediterranean coastline with its beaches and ancient ruins, and even a little bit of the Sahara desert. What more can you ask for?
Finally, the last reason for celebrating came about during my party - at about 9:30 pm, just when my friend Mike Regan had started playing some live music in the garden, I slipped on the floor in my appartment, crushing onto the heating radiator with my right orbita. I ended up with 2 cuts below the eyebrow (and a big shiner for a couple of days) but I think I was lucky that I didn't crack my head open!
I had already been promised that I'd feel "somewhat reborn" after a 30-day Yoga Challenge, but this incident gave a whole new meaning to that promise...
Oh yeah, I promised to write a few words about the Challenge itself. Well, simply put, it was a great experience. It wasn't easy, and took dedication & time management, but in the end it was all the more rewarding. Besides whipping myself back into shape, losing 4 kilograms in just 4 weeks, i noticed the big effects the daily practice had on my eating & sleeping habits, mental attitude, and general well-being. After all, Yoga is a holistic practice that affects the entire body (including the brain!), starting on a cellular level, and changing it from inside out. And that's what happens (I guess Obama saw it coming): You change. I know it might sound weird, but as soon as you start practising Yoga, you're somehow not the same person anymore.
Of course there were highs and lows during the challenge, but I hardly ever had a day where I didn't feel like going, because I knew I would always feel better afterwards (which I did). I admit I broke the alcohol rule 3 times (to have a beer for dinner), but on the other hand I imposed a few more "rules" upon myself - no fastfood, no TV, 1 warm meal each day, and lots of fruits & vegetables (I never had so many in 1 month!). Through that, my whole digestion seemed to change as well, which was nothing less than miraculous - my stomach suddenly reacted very sensible to certain (unhealthy) things that I could have eaten without a problem before.
What this challenge also proved to me is that you really can (and should) do your Hatha Yoga on a daily basis, more or less. The challenge naturally makes you implement Yoga into your daily routine, just as brushing your teeth or taking your daily shower. And since your body tells you that it's good for you, you wanna keep on doing it. So I am hoping for my eye to heal quickly, because I can't wait to get back into the Hotroom again! Namaste.
Mittwoch, 3. Juni 2009
Da Angela sich für eine Hausgeburt entschieden hatte (2 Hebammen unterstützten sie dabei), konnte Töchterchen Lana (im August 3 Jahre alt) also gleich zuhause ihren kleinen Bruder in Empfang nehmen. Ich gratulieren Angela & Hudson ganz herzlich zur Geburt, jetzt ist die Kleinfamilie perfekt! (sofern das letzte Wort da schon gesprochen ist...)
Sonntag, 31. Mai 2009
This has changed since I discovered Bikram Yoga a few weeks ago, which - to me - offers everything that previous Yoga classes were lacking, and more. I had heard that "Hot Yoga" was very popular in the US, but - although the idea of practising Yoga in a heated room made sense to me - I thought of it as just another American marketing trick to make more money out of the health/fitness/spirituality boom. After all, this boom is still ongoing, and Yoga instructors worldwide have without a doubt benefited from it over the last few decades.
What I didn't know was that there's actually one guy standing behind the concept of "Hot Yoga". That guy is Bikram Choudhuri, who was born in Calcutta, won the prestigious National India Yoga Competition at the age of 13, and later emigrated to the USA to invent "his" kind of Yoga - Bikram Yoga - and sell it all over the country by franchise. Meanwhile, there are more than 1.700 Bikram Yoga studios worldwide, so this form of Yoga is probably one of the most - if not the most - commercially successful. However, I wasn't aware of all this, let alone the fact that the first Austrian Bikram Yoga Studio opened its doors in Vienna around 3 years ago.
Bikram Choudhuri may be a somewhat controversial figure in the US Yoga scene (he lives in Hollywood/L.A., owns several vintage cars, and is known for critisizing other Yoga methods, often in a rude way), but after reading his inspiring & entertaining book (it is called "Bikram Yoga", as you might have guessed) I am convinced that this guy is more than just a smart businessman. I think he is what Americans would call the real deal, and that he can allow himself to be controversial, because his method speaks for itself, and anyone who will try Bikram Yoga will find that out for him/herself, just as I did.
One of the things that surprised me in his book was his advice on how often you should practice Bikram Yoga. I thought he would recommend 2-3 times a week (which should bring him enough customers and keep his studios from becoming overcrowded at the same time), but he insists that "you must practise your Hatha Yoga every day!" (Hatha Yoga, by the way, is a general term for any kind of physical Yoga, such as Bikram Yoga.) This left me a bit puzzled, or rather, frustrated. After all, who can afford the time & money to go to a Yoga studio every day? But at the same time, I was also intrigued and - after taking a few "introductory" classes (which were nothing less than fantastic, by the way) - I decided to participate in a "Bikram Yoga Challenge", which is offered at our studio in June. That is 30 consecutive days of Yoga. You can choose any class you want, but you have to come each day.
So, from tomorrow on, I will be in a 38°C heated room for 90 minutes each day, practising the signature Bikram Yoga "sequence", which consists of 26 asanas (postures) and 2 pranayamas (breathing exercises). Thus, according to Adam Riese, the next 4 weeks will consist of 30 hours of working (in my regular job) and 10,5 hours of working out at the Bikram Yoga College in Vienna. However, Yoga is far more than a "workout", and I am very curious and eager to find out where this experience will take me.
One of Bikram's most beloved quotes is: "There's only one way - the right way. And the right way is the hard way". I like this quote, because it may well be applied to many other things than Yoga, and since I wanna do the challenge the right way, I will also avoid any alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or similar substances for the next 30 days. Since I'm neither a smoker, nor a regular drinker, nor a coffee addict, I think this will probably be the easiest part for me. A lot easier than the exercise itself, that's for sure.
After finishing the challenge, I will try to sum up my experience in words, and in the meantime I can only encourage you to buy a "Yoga Virgin Card" for approx. 10 EUR at your nearest Bikram Yoga Studio, and try it out for yourself.
Samstag, 23. Mai 2009
Now I am proud/embarrassed to say: I have one, too!
Welcome to my... blog!
I know that I'm far behind the trend, but I guess this is a good thing. As far as my title goes: I'll try to spare the world from unnessecary "litter" and keep my postings to a bare minimum.
(Un)fortunately that's all I can say about this blog at the moment, except that there might be postings in other languages as well, preferrably in German.
For anyone who is still interested to have an occasional look: thank you, and I hope you'll find it interesting!