Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Eifman ballet and other random s**t.

When I first sat down to write this particular blog post, it was about my long weekend in Oman. Then I also decided I absolutely had to tell you about that amazing ballet I went to. And by the time I actually sat down here, ready to publish it…I am having to completely re-write it, as what I realize I really want to tell you is…

Guys...You have to do some random shit. Do it! Do something outside your normal life.

We all know not to be lazy. We all read lots about not settling into routine, because routine kills absolutely everything, starting with our own souls. Like I saw somewhere online recently…Most people die when they are in their twenties, they just don’t know itBecause once you stop fighting, once you settle in your ways and afraid of doing anything different…you are dead inside. And I am not talking about some major important things in life right now-I realize most of you are pussies and that’s just a sad realityI am talking about small, everyday things that we don’t do because we are…well, just lazy.

So, in short.. I had a great couple of weeks. And I will tell you why. I made myself do things I wouldn’t normally do. It started with a seminar I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to attend in Oman. Visiting a completely new place, being surrounded by new people from all over the world was like a breath of fresh air I desperately needed. I didn’t really see much of Oman as we stayed in a resort about an hour away from Muscat; so I will summarize my experience in a few points and will throw in a few entertaining photos just to spice this post up a little, so you don’t all fall asleep.

So....this rock was called a Sitting Elephant. 



   This tour guide explained to us that Omani men don’t wear pants under the thobe, but another skirt. He also explained that the funny tassel hanging around their necks was for use of traditional oil perfumes, which otherwise would stain the thobes. 

    OK, this below is actually a man. I know. I wasn’t sure at first, either. And yes, that is his (rather impressive, don't you think?) breast. I have girlfriends who paid a lot of money to enhance theirs to that shape and size. 

Oman is cool in a very surreal way. Those rocks everywhere made me feel like I was on the moon, and the air felt fresher than in Doha. It was fantastic.

Back in Doha, I was still on a high from the travels and that’s probably why I went to that ballet by myself. I never done that before and you know what? I loved it. The original plan was to attend it with Russkiy friend of mine. (She is not really Russkiy and neither am I, but everyone sees us as such, so I give up and just say it for the sake of this post.) But in the end, the friend didn’t make it back from vacation, the tickets were free, by registration only, and I’d only registered for myself...So the choice was to go alone or miss it. And I don’t usually go to theatre or anything like that by myself. And it was late. And it was at the Convention Centre (I hate driving there). And it was mid-week. But guess what? I did it. I went and it turned out to be the most superb, amazing performance I have seen in years. 

It was Anna Karenina by Eifman ballet from St Petersburg; and the place was buzzing and packed with all sorts of people who also obviously do random shit, like I did that night. They dress up (or down in some cases) and come out to watch a free (Yesfree!!! These kind of random things are possible in Doha) ballet on a Wednesday night, when most of others are in their pyjamas doing their Netflix and chill, only without the chilling part. 

It was awesome, guys. Absolutely amazing. Bewitching. Beautiful. Passionate and strong. Like I remember Russian ballet to be, from my childhood. 

If you ever get a chance to see Eifman ballet? Go!!! Do not miss it.

Finally, last weekend, after a late night, I woke up tired and the last thing I fancied doing was attempting rock climbing. But my nice Polish colleague had organized it ages ago, for the whole department. Sitting in my kitchen with a cup of Nespresso, I thought no effin way. And then, I made myself go. 

I am glad I did. Not only because the poor colleague was excited like a child to see that at least six people out of 45 bothered to turn up; but also because I loved the experience. And I thought I looked so cool on that rock that I of course, shared it on every social media I had access to. And will share here, too.

See? See that sexy chick all the way up there? That could be you. 

I am telling you. Do random shit. It makes you feel alive, and it makes you happy. Even if it is a small thing, even if it is a struggle the next morning to wake up for work…do it. 

I know you didn't ask for it, but that’s my advice, and is a good one, so take it. Life is short and I know there is a lot of good stuff on Netflix at the moment, but tomorrow you will be too old, too boring and too fat to climb that rock. So do it now.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Previously on Housewives….

So I talked before about this old friend of mine who was choosing between two boyfriends. I was somewhat judgmental if you remember. I was saying to her that she probably didn’t feel anything properly about either of them; so she should not waste time. And I found her practical approach to choosing one of those guys too calculating. If you are not sure, neither is right for you.
And guess what. Recently, she had a completely different experience. She met another guy (those internet sites provide you with a lot of choice) and wrote to me that this time, it was real. The spark was definitely there. The dates went amazingly well from the first time. They had a lot in common, the conversations were fun, the kissing was just great and she was looking forward to more. You were right, she said. I really like this one.
Suddenly, the guy changed his mind. She was absolutely heartbroken. Look, she told me. Weren’t you the telling me off for being too bloody practical in my approach to dating?! So here we go! I fell for this man but he decided I was not right for him. He told her that he couldn’t continue seeing her, because she had a small child. That was not what he was looking for, he said.
Well, she said. Isn’t that ironic. He was not handsome or successful… and was, frankly, a little too old and too short for her. He was not what she was looking for, either. But she just…you know? Liked him.
We had a long discussion then, about men and women and our approach to love and relationships.
Isn’t it funny, I said, that in most of the stories you hear in life it is us, women who are known for doing things like marrying with some sort of financial or other agenda in mind, tricking poor innocent men into falling in love with us so we could, somehow, deviously, trap them and make a better living for ourselves? Of course, there are a lot of women who still do that, no doubt.
However, what I am thinking, looking at modern men is…
Congratulations to us, women! Mabrook. We finally got the equality we forever fought for. Men are just as, if not more, calculating these days when it comes to choosing their partners. Just like some of those stereotypical pretty girls who try to marry someone rich, men are looking for ways to sell themselves for a better, easier life. 
It really seems that most men have an approach to relationship that is first of all, practical. This friend of mine likes to compare the dating style to baking a cake. It is like they go through a list of ingredients, she says.  The cake that isn’t baked according to their strict recipe might taste shit, you know? So, they plan and they analyze and tick the boxes. Legs, boobs, age, profession, religious beliefs. Is her father rich? Does she have children? Will I have to help her raise them? (Run!) Does she own her own business? (How profitable?) Is she liberal or conservative? Did she vote for or against Brexit?
Most importantly…How much will it all cost me?
I was thinking about this and thought to myself that actually, I was lucky when I was getting married to Husband. was lucky that I was born in Azerbaijan- who would want to marry someone from there, right? Where the fuck is that place? And my parents were never rich- who would want that? 
I wasn’t particularly beautiful either, to say that he just fell for my stunning looks. So you might ask why. Why did he choose me? And there could only be one answer, right? The most obvious, simple answer, yet it seems that for many people it isn’t that easy. He wanted me. Not the package, not all of the ingredients, but wow, actually me. Isn’t that….shocking? Stupid, you could say. He went out with rich girls before. Imagine how stress-free his life would be now if he had married someone rich? Poor husband.
PS. He went out with a total nymphomaniac too, allegedly - now that’s not quite as practical as a rich father, but at least would have guaranteed a lot of fun, right?
So, I was just thinking that I should be grateful for not being born in a rich or famous, or in any other way suitable family. (One thing I never have been, for sure, is suitable.) 
Basically, when we met, I had absolutely nothing to offer to my future husband. Nothing. But myself.
Remember this guy we were friends at uni?, I asked this friend of mine. Remember when he really liked a girl in our class but would not ever go out with her? He would sigh and watch her walk past in the corridors and never asked her out. And when I asked him why one day, because I knew the girl liked him, too… he said ‘you don’t shit where you live’. He didn’t want to have any romantic relationship in the same class, just in case they then split up and things would get unpleasant. Wise, right? That’s the guy who hires Chinese prostitutes on his business trips these days, when he is bored of his wife he’d found and married according to his practical calculations.
I wrote before, looking back now, about new style ads in Azeri newspapers, which showed Azeri guys also started picking up on the new trend…despite traditional old-fashioned background.
As one of my favorite songs goes…’I never thought about love when I thought about home’. I heard from someone recently that it was a fact that marriage was created for practical and financial security, a long time ago. And it is only in the recent decades, as women became more financially independent, perhaps, our expectations changed and we decided we needed something more than a practical arrangement with someone you share a mortgage and co-exist with. We want romance, we want to be loved. 
But what if we, the tiny percentage of naïve romantics, are wrong? According to this Russian saying… love comes and goes, but our need for food remains forever. So perhaps modern men, with their transactional, businesslike approach to relationships are just clever. And we are stupid. Who knows, right? I am still happy that I had nothing when I was getting married. I wouldn’t want anyone to stay with me for any other reason than wanting to be with me. For some of us it is that simple. And so I just hope, for my single friend, for all women out there who are looking for relationship…I hope you find someone who won’t mentally break you down into ingredients to analyze if you are a profitable investment…but will just fall for you. Just like that. I am sure that still happens. And for all of us who are in a relationship…let’s hope they are with us because they want to, and not because of convenience.

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Tuesday, 4 December 2018

This too, shall pass.

I always loved that fable. One version claims it originated in Persia, and tells a story of a king who had asked wise men for a ring to make him happy whenever he was feeling sad. The ring they produced for him had simple words: This too, will pass. It however, became a curse too, whenever he was happy. Because it reminded him that all the good times end, too. I also heard before the ring belonged to King Solomon. Whoever it belonged to, it summarises life pretty perfectly, I think.

A good friend will probably have to leave Qatar soon. One of those heartbreaking expat moments.

'Well…that’s just the nature of the expat life, and your particular local circumstances?..' a friend back home pointed out. "You guys knew what it was going to be like when you signed up for it".

That helps. We are well aware of that, thank you. Like you are probably aware that you and everyone you ever loved will die. Doesn’t make it easier does it. Still hurts when it happens, however hard you try to mentally prepare for it.

We have a saying back home…time heals everything. I remember my mother saying that to me every time i was in love and things didn't work out. I thought i was going to kill her for repeating that useless phrase to me over and over again. 'You will recover from this', she would say. Of course the last thing i wanted at the time was to recover from loving someone. 

But is true, nevertheless. We humans, tend to move on. We have to, otherwise we wouldn’t survive as species, would simply die out from a heartbreak epidemic. Everything that once made you stressed or very upset will eventually lose the intensity, the sharpness of the pain will become duller and duller until, hopefully,  if not disappear entirely then at least will lie low and quietly somewhere at the very back of your memory bank. And that is good, of course.

But, just like the philosophical sentiment in Solomon’s ring implies…it is also terribly sad, isn’t it.

Because, it isn’t just the sad moments in life that we have to move on from. Everything good that happens to us also ends. And however hard you cling to the good memories, they will fade too. And you have to move on.

I know that even though right now it feels terrible to imagine that in a few months’ time I might  not have this friend in Doha, won’t be able to pop over for a chat, share a laugh and a glass of  wine,  I will eventually get used to just checking her status updates on Facebook. It happened so many times before, so I know the drill. So yes, of course I know I will be fine. And she will be fine. Everyone will be fine. But that doesn’t mean it is a good thing. It doesn’t mean I am happy to move on. Acceptance isn’t a choice. Acceptance isn’t happiness. I might accept that this friend will join a chain of virtual friends  on Facebook. And I am aware of the nature of expat life. I accept it. But I still hate it.

So what is the solution? you say. Well, there isn’t one. I saw a funny Russian postcard which must be based on Solomon’s ring, only it says "Fuck it! We shall survive this, too"  Perhaps, I should get that engraved on a ring and wear it all the time.

Another option is to be stupid. Stupidity, as I am beginning to realise, is a very easy way to be happy. Stupidity makes you hope for things you otherwise would know are impossible. It makes you naive and enthusiastic. It keeps you hopeful and contented. So yes, either be stupid , or get the ring. Or drink a lot more wine.

So I am going to try all of the above. I am going to tell myself this friend might not leave. It isn’t for sure yet, right? I am also going to tell myself even if she leaves, we might meet again- maybe by chance, who knows right? Maybe on holiday in Spain or something. I am also going to buy a ring and stick the Russian version on it. And I definitely need more wine.

This too, shall pass. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

A beautiful sh**hole.

Scary, isnt it, how fast time goes?

Only yesterday it was Sunday and already almost the weekend again. 

I meant to write about this particular experience I had in Azerbaijan in summer, and now, by the time I actually got round to doing it, it is almost winter. Next thing I know, it will be summer again, and time to maybe visit Azerbaijan... But let me assure you, I am never ever again going back to that resort in Lankaran.

I have always been curious about that region. For two reasons:

  • My first boyfriend was from Lankaran and always went on about how amazing that area was.I was very young, in love, and had fantasies about us lying in a beautiful meadow, like in Twilight.
  • Lankaran is in some funky geographical zone, so I was told, subtropics I think, or something like that. And they have both mountains and the sea. Amazing, basically. Plus, i heard their food was superb.
So, one day, when I saw one of my friend’s photos from a resort in Lerik, and the photos looked so good…I thought great! We will go explore this end of the country now!
The night on the train was as scary as my previous experience, going to Illisu, then, early in the morning, an old car picked us up for what seemed like an eternal journey on very bad roads. My mother felt sad for Lankaran. Why are your roads so bad? She kept questioning the poor driver. The driver had no answers.

On the way, we stopped at some old lady’s shed to pick up hot bread. That is an important detail, because, after the sleepless night on a dodgy train, and a long journey on very bad roads, (and, most importantly, before three days at the resort we expected to be nice…) that moment of eating a whole big flat chorek was arguably, the best thing that happened to us during the entire trip.

The nature around us was, indeed, spectacular. That part of my expectation came true- Lankaran is just stunningly beautiful. We kept going further and further up the mountains and I couldn’t wait to see the place we were booked to stay at. And the name of it…Relax was promising. That was exactly what I was looking for- to relax. 

The first impression as the Relax hotel appeared in between the trees, set in a beautiful valley below, was just great. Mummy, look at their swimming pools!!! My little girl exclaimed, jumping in her seat. 

Little did we know.

The receptionist in the resort sent the first signal of the things to come when he glanced at my children, and swiftly removed the bowl of cheap local candy off the counter. That alone should have been enough to predict the level of service we were to expect. But, I was beyond caring about that. Whatever, I thought, who wants those cheap sweets, let’s just get to our cottage. 

We checked in, paid in advance (I now realize that was a trick to make you stay and not run away), and got escorted to a little buggy to take us up to our house. 

Yet again, we were too tired to notice that the drive up to the cottage took forever. Being new customers, you almost guaranteed to be given the worst accommodation, the one nobody else would want- I know that from experience in Azerbaijan provinces before, I should have known better. 

The house looked nice. Everything around looked nice, too. That was the most peculiar and misleading thing about Relax. It all looked nice. But, once you tried to use anything, nothing worked.
You know, I said to my mother, what this place reminds me of? The old Russian Winnie the Pooh cartoon. When he described the honey as such an odd thing…it is sort of there, but then?.. it is not.

The Relax hotel managed, in just two days, to do the exact opposite of its’ name to all four of us. 

Everything seemed to be there, and looked great…but then, like in some zombie blockbuster, nothing was actually aliveIt was as if things were once working and looked after and then just died. A dead water slide, with green stagnant water at the bottom. A dead bowling alley, with nobody there. A dead games arcade. A dead bar with no customers, and no proper drinks available, despite a display of the pretty bottles on shelves. Occasionally, a member of staff would appear and look at us with doubt, and genuine surprise-Really? You want to play a game of bowling? You mean like...Here? Like,...right now?

The only reason I knew the ducks in the little pond outside the restaurant were real was because I realised that, were they mechanical, they would also be broken and dead.

I felt sad for this beautiful shithole. 

Local customers, oblivious to the level of service they should be expecting, aimlessly strolled around the premises, dressed in their best clothes. At breakfast, chewing on local bread, with over-boiled eggs, I admired the mountains around- so stunning! And felt sad. Poor Lankaran, I thought. Is it true, that because of the Talysh population and their alleged rebellious attitude, the government is not investing in your roads or tourism? Is it true that despite this stunning natural beauty, you are way behind every other region in the country- poor, abandoned, forgotten for political reasons?
Or is it simply that your people just don’t actually care? 

Because, people in Lankaran seemed that tiny bit different

I was trying to remember if my first boyfriend was such a smooth liar. Because one bizarre, yet common characteristics I noticed in the resort was that they all lied. Will you please send someone to fix this shower as it lets all the water out and the whole bathroom is flooded? Of course! This afternoon! 

Will you please move us to another cottage, as my mother can’t possibly walk so much every day that her new Fitbit keeps sending her fireworks for reaching the recommended daily steps every couple of hours? Sure, of course! We will move you tomorrow morning! 

Why do you lie? I asked the pool staff when they, for the second time, advised me that the aqua park was going to re-open soon. The young local guys laughed.

Maybe, it was not a lie. Maybe, just like I heard about Japanese people, the Lerik guys just don’t like to say no to your face. So they pretend they will do something, just to be polite. In the end, that resort somehow not only doesn’t relax you but makes you want to kill them all, slowly and painfully, and burn the place down. Instead, you pack your bags, pay for a private car even though you had train booked in two more days, and get the f**k out of there. Please mummy, my big daughter said, I just want to go back to Baku. 

So….Goodbye, Relax, you gorgeous shithole. I am sorry. It is not you, it is me. And, like every time someone says it, you know I lied. It is you.