Oscars, redheads and will power…

What can you do on a rainy or snowy afternoon that transports you to another world? I know, reading!…or in this case watching a movie. As the weather hasn’t been very friendly in the past weeks, I decided to dedicate my long afternoons to movies.

This year I managed to watch almost all of the pictures nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. I was very happy to see that both of my favorite actors got an Oscar. The first one is Julianne Moore for her role as Dr. Alice Howland in “Still Alice” and the second one is Eddie Redmayne depicting Dr. Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”. It is a funny coincidence that both are natural redheads!

Golden Statuette

The Oscar


Another performance that really impressed me was J.K. Simmons in the supporting role in “Whiplash”. In my opinion, this year presented many interesting candidates and I would not like to believe that the prizes were bought, as some people may think. Other years may have been different…

“Still Alice” left me quite shocked with the idea of suddenly starting to lose my memory. Alice starts noticing small changes in her daily life. She started forgetting unimportant things, like some items on her shopping list. Then she started forgetting the names of people she had been just introduced to, she started forgetting words and the contents of her lectures in the university. She started to lose her usual sharpness and clearness. It is very difficult for her to accept losing who she is and who she has become, her ideas, her thoughts and especially all of her memories. However, with the help of her husband and family the loss is a little bit less painful until she isn’t really herself anymore. We all know the feeling of trying to remember the name of a book, a place, an address. A German saying quotes: “What you don’t have in your head, you have it on your feet”. This means that we all have had to run twice to the supermarket or find a convenience store nearby because we forgot to buy milk… I know that our concentration and our brain should work hand in hand to avoid extra runs.  However, it is no the case of Alice, who suffers from a very aggressive form of Alzheimer. I spoiled a little bit of the story, but it is worth watching the film, especially if you like dramas.

If this is the case, you will also like “The Theory of Everything” that is the biographic movie of Stephen Hawking. It is based on the book written with the help of his wife, Jane Hawking, who believed in him and gave him all the support he needed. We all have heard about this famous professor, his theories about the Universe and his incredible will to survive and think. The relationship between him and his wife is the core of the story presenting many nuances and changes of their marriage. Eddie Redmayne is incredible from the very beginning of the film showing us a young and good natured Stephen who starts noticing small changes and difficulties in his movements till he is diagnosed with ALS, a motor neurone disease. Eddie’s performance gives us a perfect idea of the development of the illness. Prof. Hawking is now 73 years old and was only given two years to live. He is the best example of a positive attitude, an infinite will to live and good humor.

Here you can watch Eddie’s speech at the Academy.

As for the Oscar for best picture, I liked very much that “Whiplash” was nominated for this category. What is the movie “Whiplash” about? It has also a lot to do with a strong will, patience, talent and human relationships. J.K. Simmons is Fletcher, an instructor and director of a jazz band in a conservatory. He will not permit that talent gets wasted and pushes his students to the very last borders of sanity. His ways are not kind and he can be as mean as the meanest villain in a comic book. He is bad tempered and arrogant. Andrew, Miles Teller, a promising young guy enrolls the band and is challenged by his instructor until he almost reaches madness. Fletcher challenges one of the new students to achieve his best on the drums. He has to be the fastest and every beat has to be exact and on time. The characters are so well played that while watching I almost got up and threw the drums and everything at the instructor. You get so mad and outraged while watching. It is a story that goes to the very bones, very well performed. The film also got an Oscar for sound editing and it is really worth watching.

Whiplash in IMDB.

My favorite choice for the best picture was “Birdman” and it did win. Michael Keaton was great in his role as Riggan, a “worn out” actor who used to play the role of a superhero trying to achieve a hit again.


Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

It is a film that has to do with strong emotions and a newly found will power. Birdman was a forgotten superhero who could even fly and observe the world from the “heights”. Riggan, the actor who played him, is a man who has lost his self-confidence, lives a mediocre life and wants to be someone again. Birdman is now his alter-ego who encourages him to leave his comfort zone and tries to be successful again. Riggan also wants to patch the broken communication with his daughter and has to prove to himself and the public and critics that he can be better than the arrogant new theater talent, Mike, played by excellent Edward Norton.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, as writer and director, creates a film where Riggan changes in his inner and outer life. His dreams and wishes are images of the old superhero intermixed with scenes and struggles in real life. He learns to defeat himself and overcomes his fears and disappointments. The film combines in a very subtle manner reality, illusion and delusion. The dialogs are witty and sarcastic while the movie reminds you often of a theater play because it was mainly filmed in one take.

I didn’t watch American Sniper, but I don’t like war movies nor do I agree with the vision of many American films of their military and heroes. Clint Eastwood was the director and I imagine that it could be a good film for those who like the genre.

Another film nominated in many categories was The Grand Budapest Hotel. I liked the originality of the settings, the camera, especially the frontal takes usually in 4:3 resolution. The music and the atmosphere were very appealing. I found the story very original, but although I liked it, it is not one of my favorites. It was maybe too bizarre for me… who knows.

I also watched “Boyhood” where the same actors were filmed for a period of 12 years. It is about the coming of age of Mason and his family life. His parents are divorced and his mother, played by Patricia Arquette, becomes the most important person in his life. She plays her role in a very natural and convincing manner without glamour or stereotypes. For her performance she got the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. His father, Ethan Hawk, was not very present and was not very responsible when Mason was very young. Within the years he changes his ways and becomes a good companion to Mason and to his daughter Samantha.

The project and the filming idea were very ambitious and got to a successful end. This is a very innovative way of filming that started 12 years ago with a defined beginning and had a predefined ending, but was flexible enough to adapt to changes during all those years managing to show the development in all characters.

I wish you an interesting week watching some of the winning films.


Madame Mallory and bureaucracy

Imagine a nice village in the South of France. The smell of herbs, lavender, thyme, rosemary… The quietness of a house out of the village with a marvelous sight and a restaurant with the best French cuisine ever. Does this sound attractive enough? To vary your meals you may want to eat at the other restaurant in town, an Indian specialty restaurant. In the middle of nowhere?

Sometimes we have dreams that seem risky or impossible to achieve. Other times destiny or life, as you may want to call it, puts us on a difficult path and we have to throw away our initial plans or way of life. This happened to a numerous Indian family living in Mumbai who have to leave their country and get to Europe to try to rebuild their lives. However, their first choice turns out to be cold, wet and with vegetables and fruits that have no soul. Therefore, they move again searching for a nicer place. “Destiny’ takes them to France where after some initial difficulties they can finally open an Indian restaurant.

The film “The Hundred-Foot Journey” with Helen Mirren is being shown in German cinemas as “Madame Mallory and the smell of Curry’.

Mme Mallory and Hasan

Madame Mallory cooking

(Image from http://www.badische-zeitung.de/kino-11/36-komoedien-dramen-und-dokus-aus-aller-welt–87671108.html)

The difficulties in the film are sometimes funny and sometimes rough or cruel and they involve love, hate, jealousy, talent, friendship and family… Would it be so easy in real life to move to a foreign country, let’s say in Western Europe, and simply open a restaurant? I sincerely doubt it…

In the case of the film, this part was obviously skipped because if not it would have turned into a paper war against the ministries and the immigration offices 😉

At the beginning of the film while entering the Continent the family members are asked some questions about their profession, time they plan to stay in the country, etc. This shows a little bit of it…

Some countries are more willing to receive foreigners and to let them live in their territory, others not really. All around Europe radical groups have been spreading and attacking in word and some times even in actions ‘foreign’ looking people. Who is foreign in a country? Is a person who got there as a youngster, has lived there for years, worked and paid taxes still a foreigner? France adopts immigrants more easily than other countries and helps them to settle. Some nationals believe that immigrants get too much and that they are entitled to too many social benefits while French aren’t. This leads to outbreaks of radical groups and foreigner hate.

Germany would love to receive more and more immigrants… Really? Only those young, highly educated, with lots of experience in their professions and willing to work under conditions that not many Germans would accept. In this case even bureaucracy would work smoothly and they would get the necessary help for their paperwork.

Back to our example in the film, what kind of bureaucracy, that is government administration, would the family have to deal with? I imagine at the very first, they would have had to get the visas and then the residence permits. Afterwards, the working permits, then the license to open a business and especially a business in the food area would require lots and lots of permits and fees… I don’t know, if they could have open their place in the first year. It is of course not impossible…

Now, the children… I never saw them going to school, writing their homework and learning French! This last task would take longer. I don’t really know how it works in France with children and schooling. In Germany all children have to go to school and there are only the official schools in the neighborhood. So, imagine the children who have to go to Elementary school and who don’t speak German =:-o

Bureaucracy… What does it really mean? The word bureau or office is hidden in there and office has to do with paper… Paperwork! Some countries love paperwork more than others, I suppose. In Brazil, for example, everything has to be officially recognized or you cannot even buy a cell phone. You need to have a residence permit with the necessary ID card and number and you have to have a Tax number to show that you ARE paying taxes. I still remember the very crowded offices where you have to get your documents and where you have to get your signature registered and approved. Without these steps, as I told you before, you can’t live as a person… After accomplishing all this and while living there, if you pay in the supermarket with your bank card you always have to say your tax number and sometimes your ID number, too. To get into any building because for example you have an appointment at the doctor’s or are going to a business meeting you also have to register at the entrance and give all your numbers. By the way you should know them by heart. If you don’t do so, you become immediately a suspect… of what? Of anything.

Another item that points out to my mind when dealing with anything official and bureaucracy. I don’t know why, but you’re always looked as a suspect… You don’t really feel comfortable, as if we all had something wrong to hide. Is this part of the bureaucrats school? I imagine the teachers in the bureaucrats academy: “make them feel guilty, because for sure they are. Make them suffer and don’t let them leave here fast. They have to remember us and talk about us”

In Germany bureaucracy consists of many different special forms, strict and spare opening hours, lots of rules and dont’s, but at least it works. Once you’ve read all the papers and have understood the complicated bureaucrat’s German language, then it will work. Another good thing is that they usually give you an approximate time when you will be able to get your paperwork done, and things will be ready usually on time or even before the mentioned date. That I love!

I believe that the German government loves bureaucracy and I was amazed when I found out (well, taken from Wikipedia) that “The German sociologist Max Weber argued that bureaucracy constitutes the most efficient and rational way in which human activity can be organized, and that systematic processes and organized hierarchies were necessary to maintain order, maximize efficiency and eliminate favoritism. But even Weber saw unfettered bureaucracy as a threat to individual freedom, in which an increase in the bureaucratization of human life can trap individuals in an “iron cage” of rule-based, rational control.” I also now know why a place and an Underground Station in Munich is called Max Weber. And believe it or not I always lose my way or take the wrong train in precisely that station!


Max-Weber-Platz with Underground station in Munich

(Image from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/23093419)

In other countries it doesn’t work this way and I know that I am going to miss German bureaucracy (to a certain extent ;-))

And last but not least, after watching the nice movie we enjoyed an Indian dinner and I didn’t think, not even for a tiny moment, about paperwork. Enjoy the film and your food and till next time.


Nice to meet you

If you had the opportunity to meet someone meaningful to you, who would it be? Let’s say you get the one in a life time chance of meeting your idol, your guide, your inspiration, could you name this person? There may be interesting people you’d like to meet and you start looking for a way of meeting a special person… or maybe you just prefer to stay in your comfort zone and don’t want to risk a disappointment…

Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados

Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados

Let’s suppose you know of a guy who has a very old car, hasn’t got many days vacation, but has a great wish. He wants to meet the person who has inspired him to become a good teacher and to motivate the youth to follow their ideals.  This is the story of an English teacher in South Spain living in the sixties who desperately wanted to talk to the one and only John, John Lennon. On his way he offers a ride to two young people, who could even be his pupils, and starts his journey from Central Spain to the South. It’s a funny, warm, original story to be seen in the movie “Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados”, from David Trueba.


Javier Cámara plays the teacher, Natalia de Molina the young woman and Francesc Colomer, the boy. Thanks to a very good friend of mine, I could watch the German premiere of this film during the Munich Film Festival.

David Trueba

David Trueba, Film Festival Munich

Link to the Film

Who would I like to meet? And especially what for? To talk about what? Would I have the guts to talk and ask questions or would I just stare at my idol? Good questions and no easy answers. Would I like to meet a writer? Maybe, but if I think of many of them, I see them when they are famous and a little bit arrogant. I was thinking about Oscar Wilde, Ernst Hemingway, Johann Goethe, Miguel de Cervantes or William Shakespeare… Maybe a woman would be more interesting and less imposing to me… Mmmm, the feminist who didn’t consider herself one, Simone de Beauvoir? Or may be a contemporary writer of crime novels like Elizabeth George? Or maybe the Lady of Crime Agatha Christie?

Thinking of more altruistic topics, would I maybe like to have met Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi? Mmmm, I don’t know, and I couldn’t imagine what to say. Let’s try another field: politics. How about having met Indira Gandhi or Margaret Thatcher or even Hillary Clinton or the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel? Well, difficult to tell. Some male politicians, let’s see… Obama, Clinton (but not alone in his office ;-)) or some rather unpopular like Vladimir Putin? Mmmm, the name makes me think of fiction. How about meeting someone who only exists in fiction… Dracula or Mr. Darcy? Oh, and I forgot to mention the scientists par excellance, Albert Einstein, Madame Curie, or  Dr. Koch? Mmm, I still don’t know.

Do you really have one public person that has inspired you that much? Apple fans wouldn’t doubt and would arrange a meeting with Steve Jobs whereas the opposite party would immediately say, nonsense, let’s talk to Bill Gates. In the financial area, you would maybe think of an interview with Warren Buffet or in Germany, with the founders of the successful chain Aldi, North and South…

We all have our preferences and some artistic persons would maybe chose a painter or a musician or orchestra director. However, I still find it  very difficult to decide what I would like to ask to or talk about with that person.

Now let’s make it more difficult. Let’s suppose that you are given 10 minutes to talk to whomever you would like to, ignoring distances, time, countries and other physical impediments, who would you like to spend those 10 minutes with?… The chosen one would know the weight and importance they may have in your life. Would you decide based on love, your job, admiration, importance, curiosity?

What questions would you ask? I hope you’re not thinking of getting the autograph of a pop star… or the used socks of a guitar player… Yuk!

Sometimes we have exactly 10 minutes to say something nice, something meaningful to someone at our side, let it be a loved one, a colleague, a neighbor or someone we have just met. How often do we rather stay still and don’t say anything at all?

Thinking about this I remember another film I saw during the Film Festival in Munich, it is called ‘the Seagull’ and is inspired on the play by Anton Tchechov. The plot is transported to New England and it shows how a family interacts without really communicating. Many truths are kept hidden and things that had to be said are never mentioned. This leads to a knot in the relationships and a very conflicted familiar situation.

There was a first filmed version inspired on the play from 1968 directed by Sidney Lumet, but the critics weren’t that good. This new version was released in the US in Spring 2014 directed by Christian Camargo with an interesting cast. The film is also known as “Days and Nights” and was filmed in Connecticut showing New England of the 80’s.. The cast and crew lived all there and got to get the surrounding very well. Even the music producer, Claire van Kampen, lived there and managed to create an impressive musical setting for the picture integrating the physical atmosphere by the lake with the sounds of a warm cello.

Link to the Film The Sea Gull

Back to communication and talking in a family. There are families in which there is a continuous flow of words, meaningless, but continuous. How many long time couples have you observed that have long conversations about absurd themes like ‘the color of the stone that will be laying close to the entrance door’ Topics that may cause distress or pain are not addressed or only slightly touched, like a breeze…

Addressing and talking about distressing topics, mainly about feelings, is usually difficult and requires a lot of courage. Some people go through life dodging difficulties and running away from pain and trouble.

To be able to grow we need to bravely put on with difficulties and if they involve more the one, trying to talk and listening to all parties.

Does this sound very dogmatic? It may… But looking around, even at a level where world conflicts, like the Gaza Conflict and the problems between Ucrania and Russia, are threatening our peace, we should remember this…

Have a communicative time!

Sleeping, no beauty

Beautiful hours of relaxation and recharging energy. That would be an ideal definition of sleeping. Some people usually get a good rest and enjoy closing their eyes while losing their consciousness for some time. Others fear the time where they have to go to bed and sleep. There are others who have periods of good, relaxing sleep while some other times struggle to fall asleep or wake up in the early morning hours feeling as if they had just arrived from a transcontinental flight …

sleeping cat

Relaxed kitten

I’ve come across a lot of different sleepers. I was bewildered at the sleeping qualities of many Brazilians in São Paulo. While waiting to get their turn at the bank, they got there calmly, sat in an uncomfortable chair, closed their eyes and immediately fell asleep while listening to the TV with some sports event. You may be thinking that they were only resting their eyes, as my grandma used to say while she fell asleep every Sunday watching a soccer match or the ‘corrida de toros’, very popular at that time. I was telling you, how I knew that the men were sleeping, I just observed their relaxed position in the chair, sometimes really dangerous as if they were about to slide from their seats like melting ice. I also noticed their paused breathing and I could sometimes look at the REM movements of their closed eyes. Another type of relaxed sleepers, are the road workers I saw during their lunch break in the metropolis São Paulo. At 12 o’clock they interrupted their jobs, usually something very loud like hammering with a sledge hammer or using a paving machine, at twelve they sat at the curbside, had a small lunch and wherever they were, they laid down on the pavement and slept. I remember walking on the street from home to the next market having to pay attention not to step on someones hand or shoe and wake them. If you imagine the noise of a Mexican or Brazilian street, the hardness of concrete and the not always clean sidewalks, you may admire these sleepers. I think they are the champions! In Munich, I have only seen people in deep sleep traveling in the S-Bahn or sub-urban train. Some of them seem to have a lot of practice because they wake up at the right station and get off the train awake. I couldn’t do it, either I’d still be sleeping in some wagon on the road to nowhere or I could fall to the floor as soon as the doors opened. What a talent of those wonderful sleepers!

Other people have lots of trouble falling asleep and they have to take some kind of chemical help. Some drink a relaxing tea following one of the many different recipes all over the world, others like a friend of mine drink a glass of warm milk with honey, some others drink a beer to relax. Another friend of mine has to sleep with an eye mask and his earplugs with a boring story so that he can fall asleep. By the way, his mask is black and he looks like Zorro… and looking at him I couldn’t fall asleep because I was really amused remembering the old Zorro films with Tyrone Power or the Zorro TV-show when I was a child.

However, insomnia or having a very slight sleep is no joke and I really have consideration for those who suffer from it.

Another sleeping condition we have all experienced is the dreaded snoring. Yes, I can almost see your faces… Snoring is seen by some as a sickness, the phenomenon is called sleep apnea though I don’t know enough of the topic to really define it. on the practical side of life. I’ve heard many types of snores. Some quiet like a deep breathing with a low noise, others middle loud, like a small animal making noises, others like a coffee machine releasing damp, and lets get to the louder ones: a lion, a bear, a dragon, sawing trees, falling trees or even an earthquake!


Sleeping dragon, by blackseagull from Deviantart

The one who lies at the side of the snoring person (not always a man) is not really happy about that. If you have personally experienced this, you know what I’m talking about, especially if you are one of the difficult or light sleepers. The anger you start developing brings you to a state where you start hating the snorer, even if in normal circumstances you maybe love the person… Any remedies against snoring? Not that I know of… There are even extreme solutions like operating the vellum or whatever tissue that vibrates and causes the snores. I’m not sure if it works, but you know the ideas we can get while trying to sleep next to a snoring person, and without exaggerating, loud snorers don’t have to be sleeping in the same room… Just to close this idea, the Brazilian sleepers in banks, buses, sidewalks were usually men  and I don’t know if they were snoring … but women can also snore… thinking of some people I know 😉

This loud problem may have a radical solution for couples. No, it’s not what you may imagine… It’s simply separate sleeping rooms, if you have enough space at home. There are people who defend this idea, to avoid having hard feelings on their partners because of the deprivation of sleep. However, others tend to fix the idea of a common sleeping room as an indisputable sign of a well functioning ‘marriage’ or relationship. Well, in this case you can judge and decide by yourselves.

Why did I choose this topic? First of all because after an intercontinental trip I’m still having trouble sleeping well… I wake up listening how the birds out of my window also wake up and start to sing… I’m usually a good sleeper and I find this situation a little bit annoying >.<

Secondly, leaving the soccer World Cup aside, there was a recent premiere in the cinemas, Maleficent or the other side of the Sleeping Beauty story. Sleeping a hundred years doesn’t sound that bad, does it? I still don’t know how Maleficent got that idea of punishment for a girl that she didn’t even know. How if Aurora loved to sleep? How if she could’t sleep well in the past fifteen years while living with her three god mothers who may be loud snorers? I especially suspect the older one… Mmmm, the one in the red gown.

Maleficent Angie

I found the idea of presenting the story from another point of view very interesting. As in real life, we usually get to know the version of the story of the ones who won or the ones we know, who are almost always automatically “the good guys”. Watching this version, with Angelina Jolie playing the dark fairy, You get a simplistic psychological explanation of her doings. Nevertheless, if you like spectacular cinema with lots of special effects, fairies and other fantasy creatures you may then want to watch it.


Sticking to an older version of the story, it is said that Charles Perrault, a French writer retold the story taken from older narrations and called it “La Belle au Bois Dormant”. Later on the Grimm Brothers changed some parts of it and wrote their own version calling it “Dornröschen”. However, both of them excluded the dark second part of the story which is absolutely not for children or soft hearted people… An old version second part was told by Giambattista Basile, who lived in the 16th and 17th centuries, and talks about the prince finding the sleeping maiden, abusing her and she later on having two children because of this act… Well, what do you think about this surprise? Not that nice or innocent as the Disney versions. By the way, Maleficent may have a big impression on smaller children… of course depending on their experience in going to the cinema.


I hope you had a good night rest or will have one depending on the continent you live in.

Have a nice week!


Another country, another home?

Some of us like to travel more than others. New places, the sound of other languages, the smell of exotic food, the colors of other skies may have an intense attraction on our senses. But it is another thing to leave the country you were born or the place you grew up, pack your things and move to a foreign country.



Maybe many of you have had the opportunity of studying abroad and have experienced what it is to be confronted everyday with another culture, another way of life. The shock is even bigger, if you move to a country where you first have to learn to speak the language or where you know that you’ll never learn it.


What could be the reasons for such a big step?

The one I mentioned above is a very common one, though studying abroad is not really emigrating. Most of the students living somewhere else have the idea of going back to their countries when they finish their studies. I’m sure that we all know somebody who stayed abroad and without planning it from the beginning, they ended up moving to a third country.

The film “L’auberge espagnol”, a French comedy on the life of an Erasmus student living in Barcelona for a year is worth watching.


A very frequent and romantic reason to emigrate is: love. You move to another country because your sweetheart (… maybe not always that sweet ;-)) is a “foreigner”. Are you willing to become a “foreigner” because of love? In my case, you may know the answer: yes, I was. Although I was already very familiar with the German culture, I experienced some cultural shocks, some bigger some smaller, but read the word again: …shock…    I think one of the things I disliked the most were the opening hours. Everything, from a big supermarket to the small stationary store around the corner closed weekdays at six o’clock and on Saturdays at 12:00 o’clock! Coming from a big city such as Mexico City and being used to the USA, where you could find everything anytime, I was shocked and had to plan ahead what I could need past six o’clock or at the weekend. Staying with the topic of “opening hours” the funniest and weirdest thing I found was the newspaper stand at the U-Bahn station (underground train) that closed from 12 – 13:30 for lunch. The funny thing is that they also had sandwiches and beverages, but not at noon. We have now everything open till eight o’clock.

Another shocking, really shocking thing was the first time I went to a lake in Summer. In the smaller ones there were no changing cabins. Most of the people used to change into their bathing suits using a towel to cover their bodies. However, others were not that shy and changed their bathing trunks (mostly men) just in front of you, which left you just… speechless!  Even during a nice walk through the English Garden, the biggest park in the middle of Munich, you could find some sunbathers who weren’t shy… Some couples were like Adam and Eve without the leaf… or many of the female sunbathers were topless. If you come from a culture, where nakedness is not for all audiences, well, then you really have to get used to it. Nowadays, there aren’t as many “FKK” or “Freie Körper Kultur” = nudist fans as there were then, and “sadly” the ones left are not the youngest…

As you may imagine, I could go on and on telling you about my experiences here, but that is not my intention, don’t worry.

Let me get back on track…

Emigrating to another country looking for a better job and consequently a better life is a reason that has motivated millions of people to move or emigrate all along history. If we think of our ancestors, in the very early history, they firstly migrated from the African continent to spread almost all over the world. We also know that there were others later on in time with that special restless gene who crossed the icy and frozen Bering Sea to conquer an empty continent.

All along history there have been many many groups who have conquered their neighbors and have got very far away from their original homes. I can think of the Mongols, the Romans, the Arabic-speaking peoples, the Vikings…    And as one of my favorite teachers of Spanish Literature and Language used to say: “ where the sword goes, goes the tongue” (en español with a nice Castilian accent, because she was from Spain,“a donde va la espada, va la lengua”) .  This phenomenon is of interest because of the influence of one language to the other, for example in vocabulary and phonetics.

Mentioning all of the huge human movements in history would be an impossible task. If you’re interested in taking a look at the first raids of the vikings in Britain you can watch “Vikings” a very well documented and realistic TV show on the beginnings of their expansion.



Hägar the Horrible


Coming back to our era, some people decide to emigrate hoping for a better future.

Some may have to move because of their companies. Their positions have been moved to another subsidiary and, in this case either you move or you lose your job.

This makes me think of the film, “Outsourced” about an American salesman moving to India to train the customer service department. It’s a hilarious movie with a little bit of a love story.


Other employees move to work in another country for a limited period of time, let’s say for two or three years. They are considered expats. Some are expats their whole life not having really accepted the culture of the country they moved to.

I experienced what it is to live as an expat somewhere else. For me it was a different feeling, than when I moved to Germany, because I knew it was for a certain amount of time. It was a highly interesting experience and I learned not only about a different culture and another language. I had the opportunity to get to know very nice people in Sāo Paulo. I really like Brazil and love their people!

In our modern world, lots of people move some where else for economic or life threatening reasons. Most of them do not move with comfort and welfare. They leave their precarious lives with the little possessions they have and hope to get financial help in the countries they move to. Sometimes they are war refugees and sometimes they have to enter the target country illegally.

About this topics you may have watched a lot of films or read books that deal with this topic. I remember one that is in a sense cruel, but one that tells the story of a Mexican wetback couple with irony and humor. If you’re interested, it’s “The Tortilla Curtain” a novel by T.C. Boyle.

As I prefer to point out the humorous side of life I’ll finish this post with the film I watched last weekend. It’s called “Casse-Tête chinois” or Chinese puzzle and it’s about the the French student Xavier, the one in L’Auberge espagnol, who 20 years later decides to move to New York to follow his children.  The film shows in a very naive way this guy emigrating to the US and his French view of life in Manhattan. I didn’t find it as good as the first one, but I laughed a couple of times 🙂


Till next week from abroad!





Past, present and future

Although I’m a language teacher, the topic of my blog is not verbal tenses in any language. There are moments in life when you take a look at your past, consider the present and decide to maybe take a change of path or continue in the future with the route you’ve taken.  It sounds, easy, but it really isn’t.
Las week I watched the film “Le passé”.  The précis in IMDB: “An Iranian man deserts his French wife and two children to return to his homeland. Meanwhile, his wife starts up a new relationship, a reality her husband confronts upon his wife’s request for a divorce.”
This description only tells you about the very general plot and the facts that are obvious at first sight. You may think, do I have to go to the cinema to see another couple getting a divorce?   In our modern society this wouldn’t be attractive or special enough.  However, because of the title, I decided to go anyway.  I also wanted to see Bérénice Bejo, whom you know from “The Artist”, in a dramatic role.  The film has got a lot of publicity and good critiques. 
What is the film about?  — No spoilers… I hope…
Marie (Bejo) lives with her two daughters, her boyfriend’s son and her boyfriend in a patched type of family. She finally wants his ex to sign the divorce papers and asks him to come to France. Although he insisted on staying at a hotel, she asks him to stay at her place. This is where the plot really starts. Coming back from Iran, Ahmad, finds chaos. There are many unspoken conflicts in their daily life: the effervescent son, Fouad, eight years old or so, doesn’t want to live with Marie. Her teenage daughter hates her mother’s partner, and the youngest daughter is the only one who makes Fouad have some fun.  Her actual boyfriend, Samir, is not really free to marry her…  All these open unspoken conflicts are going to be dealt within two hours. There are a lot of disputes, shouts, struggle and psychological violence. However, watching the film is like sitting on your chair and watching these happenings through a window.  Samir thinks that the past should be left in the past. Marie changes her convictions while Ahmad has the difficult role of a mediator and tries to solve the problems talking. It is true that most of these conflicts could have been resolved, if all family members would have spoken clearly and honestly about their feelings in time. The present conflicts, started in the past, have been carried to the present and were they not discussed. If carried on to the future they would cause not only misunderstandings, but also a lot of remorse.
In my opinion, we all know how to speak, we do it every day, sometimes thinking more on what we say and the way we say, but usually just “chatting” around. We need to communicate because we don’t know what the others are thinking. Imagine, 
it would be awful, if we could read the minds of others and “see” what their thoughts really are.   However, I’m convinced that there are times and situations in life when it takes a lot of guts to address issues that may be uncomfortable or that may hurt a lot.  
I read this in Facebook on the wall of my cousin: “Want to know your past? Look into your present conditions. Want to know your future? Look into your present actions.”
It would be a good idea to start right now. 
I leave you now with your thoughts till next week.

Women and Work

I was watching a sitcom from the seventies that a good friend of mine gave me, when I started thinking about work and women in the 21st century. 
The show is “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and is about Mary, a single woman, working for the WJM-TV newsroom in a men’s world. She has to deal with the mentality of her boss, Lou Grant, her colleagues Murray, the news writer and the news speaker Ted, a chauvinistic, self-loving middle aged man.  Mary finally gets to be the producer of the show having to convince her colleagues to let her take the decisions and do her job.  The other woman with a good job is a very traditional, housewife type lady, Sue Ann, who is in charge of the cooking show. She works, but would love to have a husband and a house instead of going to work.  Besides the work matters it is appealing to see the way of life and the fashion of the 70’s. I’ve had good laughs watching the spontaneous and lively dialogs. 

Although I have been working for many years in many different positions in modern Germany, I sometimes wonder, if we’ve really come that long way. I used to have a boss who told us, three ladies, that we weren’t aloud to have more responsibility because we were women and young, and of course, responsibility was hand in hand with a better salary. That was in 1998!  


This past weekend I watched a movie called “Potiche” from François Ozon. 

Catherine Deneuve is Suzanne Pujol, the trophy wife. She has the looks, the class, the understanding for her stressed husband and she never asks questions. However, after having to jump into the role of the CEO in the umbrella factory that used to belong to her father, she realizes that she can be an independent and successful business woman.  She decides to start living her life and after many occurrences she finally has to give up her position as a business woman, but starts a new career as a charismatic politician. She even wins the election defeating her counselor and former lover.   Once again, the movie is playing in the 70’s. The roles of wife, mother, sister or girlfriend were very traditional and woman were told to stay at home. In Germany there is a saying, the three “K”s for women “Kirche, Kinder, Küche…” (church, kids, kitchen) I hope we don’t take it that serious anymore.


Of course, things have changed. However, in many areas, especially those that were traditionally dominated by men, like engineering and IT,  it is still very difficult to be taken seriously or as equal as a man being a woman. 
In 2014 discussions are being held about introducing a “gender equality rate” in  the top positions of many big companies. There are also gender campaigns in universities and international enterprises. In politics, they also want to introduce this rate to have more women acting actively. 
Is this still a problem of the society or maybe it is still this way because women have other priorities in life?  


Speaking of my personal experience, I would say that gender matters in trying to get a good job. And to my surprise as I’m not the youngest ;-), age matters almost even more.


Wallflowers and friends

Succumbing to my daughter’s insistence, I finally started reading “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” from Stephen Chbosky. I first asked her, if it was a teeny reading or a young adult novel and who the author was. She told me that it was a book about coming-of-age, but that it should be interesting for all ages. She assured me that it wasn’t only about high school and parties.
Chbosky is an american screenplay writer and this was his first novel.  He also wrote the screenplay and directed the film with the same name:
I must say that I really enjoyed the book and found some interesting thoughts in it. The main character calls himself Charlie and writes letters to an unknown friend telling him about his everyday experiences during his first high school year. He is a lonely boy who has a hard time making acquaintances  and prefers to observe and think rather than take part in life.    “He’s a wallflower… You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”

His favorite subject is English literature and his teacher is one of the adults he starts talking to. His teacher tells him that “Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.” and that he should think less and act more.  So Charlie decides to start living and he manages to make two very good friends and other acquaintances.  He shares one similar and dramatic experience that occurred during his childhood with his best girlfriend. This bad experience has a very big influence in the ways they interact with their peers and adults. The book shows the value of having good friends and the importance of knowing how to keep them. 

Besides friendship, love is one of the other major topics that goes hand in hand with sexuality in those years. One of the interesting quotes regarding love is “Why do I and everyone I love pick people who treat us like we’re nothing”; – “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

It also shows the problems not only young people have to deal with such as drugs, dysfunctional families, dishonesty and cheating among others.  Although the topics may sound hard and sometimes cruel, this is the way life is and Charlie has a very charismatic way of telling about the events that affect him.  As one of the quotes in the book: “This moment will just be another story someday.”  And also“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.” 

The book ends with Charlie finishing his first year of high school having made some good friends and with good intentions of participating in life.

After having spent an excellent Friday evening with my dearest friends and having gotten so many e-mails, SMS’ and posts on FB, I can only agree with the book and the importance of having good friends that may or may not be “forever”. 

El tiempo pasa

Esperando… esperando… esperando… ¿Qué es esperar?
Después de un fin de semana de cine y de haber visto dos películas que me hicieron pensar en el tiempo y en la espera me siento en calma a comentar lo siguiente.
En la primera película “Only Lovers Left Alive” de Jim Jarmusch, director y escritor, los amantes que han vivido por siglos siguen creyendo en la eternidad. Él ha perdido la esperanza en la humanidad y llama zombis a los humanos mientras que ella, más optimista, trata de reconfortarlo y ayudarlo a recordar lo que le gusta en la vida para que él acepte seguir viviendo. Ambos rememoran su amor y las cosas que disfrutan juntos con un dejo de melancolía y añoranza por la vida pasada. Al final, juntos de nuevo y después de vivir unos días que para ellos en su vida eterna son sólo instantes se resignan al fin a desaparecer no sin disfrutar una última vez del fruto prohibido.
La atmósfera, las tomas y la música del film lo hacen digno de verse, además de la actuación de Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston y Mia Wasikowska.   Después de una historia así, me pregunto, ¿existe al fin  el amor eterno, el alma gemela? Mmmmm,  sigamos esperando…

En la segunda película, “El Artista y la modelo” de Fernando Trueba, director y co-autor junto con Jean-Claude Carrière,  con Jean Rochefort, Claudia Cardinale y Aida Folch. El artista ha vivido una vida plena y creativa dejando su huella física en el planeta en sus obras. La modelo siendo tan joven no ha conocido mucho de lo que es vivir plenamente, su vida hasta ahora ha sido muy dura debido a la Segunda Guerra Mundial en curso y a la dictadura en su país de donde tiene que huir.  El film que se desarrolla en un cauce muy lento como la última etapa de la vida del artista incita a pensar en las etapas de la vida y en lo vivido en ellas. El artista ve su vida como un libro en el último capítulo y la vida de ella como un libro aún por escribirse. Hacia afuera pareciese como si la vida del artista transcurriese muy lentamente cuando que por dentro él tiene mucha prisa por concluir su última obra y vivir lo poco que le queda.  Por el contrario, ella se muestra intranquila e impaciente por vivir y desea mover algo en el mundo ayudando en donde pueda.  Sin embargo, el ritmo de la película es tan lento que uno está feliz cuando al final el artista termina su obra y no encarga otro bloque de mármol para comenzar otra.

Bien, esperemos el próximo finde a ver qué novedades nos trae.
Hasta la próxima.