Tying the knot

For many the wedding day is the most expected day in their lives, it’s the day a dream comes true. It is the day when you officially commit to your best half. Every culture has its own traditions and rites. Rites are more often observed on such a day than in normal life. We all want to show our best face and share joy and happiness with the guests.

I remember the weddings of my older cousins, lots of planning, deciding and excitement. Who will be invited to the religious ceremony and who will attend the party afterwards? Where is it going to take place? Coming from a country where the extended family plays a very important role, weddings are usually very big events. However, the longest weddings I have attended to have been German weddings. I know that Indian weddings may last for days and that brings to my mind the funny film ‘Monsoon Wedding‘ where bride and groom hadn’t met before. Their marriage had been arranged by their parents. Although this doesn’t sound very nice to our “Western” ears, I sometimes wonder if this method is not better that our ‘marrying the love of our lives’.

Monsoon Wedding

Film “Monsoon Wedding”

Thinking of the weddings I have attended in Mexico City, I remember every one of them as being quite formal, except mine. Everything designed and well combined. They usually started with a religious ceremony in church and then a big meal in a luxurious restaurant. After the meal, mostly a dinner, live music was played and everybody would dance. Sometime later, the just married couple would cut the Wedding cake and shorty afterwards the party was over. Weddings in small towns or villages in Mexico are very different, depending on the geographical location. In general, they last longer and may even include the whole village to celebrate the marriage.

In the city there is always a dress code that should be followed unless you would like to stand out… I remember that for the wedding of one of my brothers, one of the younger ones who had been working in Europe, came into the restaurant, that was a colonial hacienda with a big garden, in a kilt. It was quite a surprise! When the dancing started the nicest couple was my brother in his kilt dancing with my daughter, at that time 5 years old, in her Bavarian dress, a dirndl. They were very sweet!

In Sao Paulo, women like to dress feminine and elegant, I would say, very sexy, with deep décolletés and very high heels. However, many of them are catholics and want to get the blessings in church. Therefore, the witty Brazilians always have a box with all kind of shawls in different colors to lend to the ladies while attending the mass. Clever, isn’t is? Another great idea for ladies wearing really high heels is that the couple orders many pairs of flip-flops in all sizes to be given out when the dance is starting. The flip flops or thong sandals may be designed in the colors used for the flower bouquets and the table decoration and they can even have the name of both printed, for example Pedro e Leopoldina 😉

I have also attended a couple of traditional weddings in Bavaria. Lots of food and tons of cake! Weddings over here are either Bavarian or simply different. I like to see the families in their traditional costumes, called Trachten in German. For younger men shorter Lederhose and knee high Lederhose for older men. In these occasions women are the ones wearing the longer dresses! There are also long ‘Dirndl‘, that’s the name of the traditional dress for ladies, middle ones and the very short ones, very popular among young girls, and men… All men, at least all Bavarian men, will agree that a Dirndl is the best way to underline a woman’s treasures… for the dirndl women usually wear a special brassiere called “balconette” that offers a very good support and forms a perfect décolleté… a little bit like a balcony…  Traditional clothing has become so popular that during the world’s famous Oktoberfest it is now normal to see Asians, South European, African Americans wearing a dirndl, an imagine, even Mexicans!   I’m mentioning those origins, because it is difficult to distinguish a blond Swedish or Austrian from a blond German girl, that’s why, me, a small dark haired Mexican looks very different indeed…(Me 😉 )

That to the dress code. Other German weddings are not that strict regarding the dress code. You can wear what you want, a little bit more elegant than everyday… and I think that sometimes that is the problem… Some guests keep their blue jeans and if lucky, wear a shirt instead of a t-shirt keeping their comfortable walking shoes.

A Bavarian wedding is not only Bavarian fashion, there are also lots of food, music and anecdotes.  Some traditional weddings start early, at about 10 or 11 o’clock and while waiting for the guests and family to gather,  “ Weißwürstchen und Brezen” are served. For those who are very thirsty, they can start the day with a Weizen or Weißbier, a wheat based beer.  After this “light” second breakfast, there is usually a ceremony in church, catholic or protestant.

weißwurstfrühstück

Brezen, Weißwurst und Bier

(Image from: http://www.typisch-bayerisch.de/index.php/essen-trinken/weisswurstfruehstueck/248/)

After mass, guests and the just married couple go to the restaurant where the party takes place.  Drinks will be served, yes, you’ve guessed right, more beer: a Pils or a Helles or a Radler or… and of course, other beverages. If it’s noon or half past noon, lunch will be served. A typical starter is a broth with some “Spätzle” or thick noodles made of eggs and flour and others with liver. There is a special “Wedding soup” also made of broth, usually no chicken broth, served with two or three dumplings, one only made of eggs and flour, and the other one with liver, too.

Afterwards they serve a traditional salad, not very big, with raw red and white cabbage, rasped carrots, rasped turnips and maybe lettuce and tomatoes. Ah, and of course finely sliced paprika, red or yellow. The dressing is usually thin and a little milky and it shouldn’t be sour.  Sometimes in between the courses there are stories on the life of bride and groom, usually funny, sometimes indiscreet… depending on the person telling the story. The now married couple expects their friends and family to perform some sketches with funny and nice episodes in their lives for example, how the couple met, or the first visit to the in-laws, among others.There may be some games and word games, but not for everyone to take part in, but only as clapping and laughing spectators. That would be too spontaneous… Continuing with the menu, usually some dish with pork meat, may be some filet medallions with champignons or pepper sauce, and to be fair, there may also be a “meatless” option for the many vegetarians here.

Afterwards the dancing music starts and the couple and guests start to dance usually in pairs and strictly following the steps they have learned in dancing school. It is very common for teenagers in Germany to go to dancing school to officially learn the most popular dances, especially the Waltz. The ladies are the ones who enjoy this part of the party while many of the gentlemen discreetly engage in deep conversations about football or they simply “disappear” out of the room to stretch their legs 😉

Everybody brings the presents and congratulates the freshly baked couple. Hopefully, everything turns out fine and the couple may start their honeymoon…

I also hope not many of the delighted couples organize dress, wedding car and honey moon on a boat with these items I found close to my place.  They remind me of Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride”…

Bride's paradise

Brautparadies… (= Bride’s paradise…)

Have a nice week!

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Life and Fiction

Reading is a pleasure for many of us. What kind of readings do you enjoy the most? It may depend on the time of the day, the day of the week, the mood you’re in, the season of the year. Who knows what other things may help you in deciding what to read.

Some people like to read newspapers, specialized articles in magazines, with the intention of being informed. These writings present facts and events rather than the author’s imagination as in an imaginative narration. Reading those types of texts is still a pleasure, but it is a pleasure with the purpose of information. We could then classify those writings as non-fiction.

Other readers prefer to read fiction, that is, works of imaginative narration, especially in prose form.  Short stories are works in this area. They concentrate for example in a flash, a moment with significance.  How short should be a short story? They have no set length, it depends on the author and the content. They focus on an incident and do not include many characters. Their objective is to create an effect on the reader.

Only to mention some of the best: J.L. Borges, Machado de Assis, E. A. Poe, A. Chekhov… I surely could mention many:  by country, by era, by style, but mentioning all the famous writers who have been masters in this art would be almost impossible. Maybe you can mention your own favorites in a comment at the end of this post… It would be a great idea!

E.A. Poe

Portait of Edgar Allan Poe

But how about telling you about independent authors who have masterfully written a collection of short stories?

If you speak Spanish and like to read stories full of sensibility and and some of them with a delicate eroticism that evoke intense memories creating a special atmosphere, then you may want to read “Or Noir y otros cuentos” from Silvia Amador Pérez de Castro.

You can find it here:

Amazon.com: “Or noir y otros cuentos”

The author also included some short and witty writings where she displays her fine humor playing with language. My favorite stories are “El contrabajo”, “La lluvia” y “Or noir”. I can assure you that you will enjoy her short stories on human nature.

What is human nature, if we are not referring to the biological part in us? All those “states” difficult to describe in words, but that we all have experienced: love, distress, sadness, infatuation, mourning, enthusiasm…    All those strong feelings that give taste to life are depicted in “El Sabor de la Vida” from the writer and literature professor, Ernesto Cisneros Rivera. I highly recommend the compilation of short stories.

You can find it here: Lulu Publishing: Libros de Ernie

He writes in a sensible and elegant manner about men and women in a crucial point of their lives. He uses the perfect word in every context, the perfect language in every situation. With perfect I mean the most appropriate, the ideal choice, that not always has to be nice.  “Without putting a leaf in front of his mouth”, a picturesque German saying, he undresses the humans and leaves their raw feelings and souls.  His stories are like flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and even spicy. I leave to you to discover the taste. My favorites are all of them!

In fiction, one of the most popular sub-genres are novels. To continue with the idea of flavors and taste, there are novels for every taste. We can find adventure novels, the ones I loved to read when I was a kid. Those that made us combat our brothers or sisters with a wooden, (no, I’m not that old, we had plastic!) sword and made us dream of hidden treasures and dangerous places. Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas, Emilio Salgari… Nowadays we find a wide selection of children literature and young adult fiction, a genre that has been spreading like fire. Especially all those vampire love novels and teen novels have gained an enormous popularity, and sometimes not only with the young adults…    I have to confess that I read and enjoyed all of the Harry Potter books, yes! I love the language, the settings and school life in Hogwarts, with my favorite teacher, Professor Minerva McGonagall.

McGonagall

Professor McGonagall

You may like to read literary fiction, historical fiction, experimental fiction, comic novels, erotic novels, love stories or crime stories. In this last genre you may have enjoyed the British crime stories of the “Lady of Crime”, Agatha Christie, with her unforgettable characters Mr. Hercule Poirot and Ms. Marple. Some of you may prefer a more realistic approach to crime and may choose Scandinavian authors, like Henning Mankell or Jo Nesbø, among others. A very popular trilogy is the one from Stieg Larsson “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl who played with Fire” and “The Girl who kicked the Hornets’ Nest”. Very dark and often brutal in their descriptions, but if you like this type of literature, you will not be able to put the books away.

I think that you can find good criminal authors from different countries and in every language.

Erotic novels have become very popular though they are not new. All along the centuries there have been excellent writers. We can find some as ancient as the Greek and Romans, some in the Renaissance, like Bocaccio with his Decameron.  Shakespeare also wrote some erotic poems like Venus and Adonis. I could continue with the list, but I have to specify that erotic literature is not porn. There are good quality erotic writings as I mentioned before. Two years ago an erotic novel invaded the world market and not precisely because of its quality. I saw everywhere teenagers!, young, middle and elderly women with the famous “Grey” books in their hands. Some of us, starting writers, wish for the luck E.L. James had. This publicity had the bad side effect of creating a false impression on possible readers that independent, or amateur writers are not qualitative good… Bad for us!

Real lives and stories are the inspiration of biographical or autobiographical creations, while others only intend to make you believe that the main characters really exist by showing you the imaginary, but plausible life of a character.

I come now closer to novels that in a way portrait life, glamorous or simple, cruel or funny, where the characters maybe successful or have broken existences. However, they go through situations that force them to act in one or another way. They may dodge the problems they encounter or they may fight against them. There are tons and tons of novels describing, presenting, showing us other lives and as readers, we like to submerge for an instant into the lives of the characters in our book. We may judge them, find them abominable, adorable, or we may simply shrug at their acts, but we love to be a little voyeuristic.

Having been around for a while, having experienced deep emotions, having observed and having listened to others, I started shaping the characters and the plot of my novels. The first one published last August is “El Pacto”. It is like a picture of modern life: fast paced, at first glance maybe a little shallow, glamorous, exciting, with one or two humorous touches… It’s like a story in a film or a TV show, maybe a little bit like a “telenovela”. The novel starts in an idyllic location, an island in the Caribbean during the Summer holidays of two sisters and their two best friends. On the island they realize that life can change as fast a the weather and they get into a conflict that rises up like a tropical storm. Two of them have to find an adequate solution to the conflict and follow the advice of a woman who reads them their future using cards… Is it going to work? Are our experiences predefined by our destiny? Can we put our decisions in the hands of destiny? Sometimes we get to the point where important decisions have to be made. Are we sure that the decision we make will be the right one? Based on love, friendship, family values, opportunities, deceptions, illusions, we try guide our life in one or another way, like the characters in the book. Sometimes you act in a certain way, perfectly knowing that it will only cause trouble…    If you want to be a little voyeuristic and know what happens in the novel, you can read “El Pacto” and draw your own conclusions.

El Pacto

El Pacto – Tonantzin Martínez Alor

You can order it on Amazon.com or Lulu.com.

Afterwards you can comment either here or on Amazon.

Till next week with another interesting topic!

 

 

Online Dating

Hot topic! How true are the romantic ideas propagated by older films like “Sleepless in Seattle”?  Or how mean are some internet users to play jokes on each other, like in the film “Closer”?  How do teenagers interact with each other, is it like in the American version of “LOL”?  Who is responsible for spreading news like in “Gossip Girls” or “Pretty little liars”?
Nowadays a great deal of our lives occurs, either we want it or not, online:  you look for a job, you buy and sell stuff, you communicate with family, friends, acquaintances and merely strangers,  you join discussion groups or movements against and for something…  
And for many of us who are single, the internet and the online dating sites are almost the only possibility of getting to know an appropriate candidate. Of course, you can meet someone special at work… in school… at the university… in the club… But many of the encounters with a special person occur online.

 

Asking around among friends, men and women, we’ve come to the conclusion that it is indeed very hard to get to know someone spontaneously at a bar or cinema or restaurant.   It may be a national phenomenon, but people here don’t like to talk to strangers and men hardly address women freely or invite them for a cup of coffee or a drink.  If you’re very outgoing, you may end up talking about the weather with that handsome man standing in the supermarket at the cashier in front of you. But usually that will be it… Rain or no rain, but for sure, no coffee, no coke, no going out… I’ve asked some male friends around and most of them wouldn’t dare to “flirt” openly with you… Yes., you may be thinking, I’m not Brigitte Bardot, but B.B. would have even more trouble than a normal woman, believe me… 😉
So what has happened? Why is it so?  
Many have told me that as they don’t know, if the nice lady is taken, they better don’t ask. Wearing a ring or not isn’t always a hint. Others say that they would just get an estranged look and no answer or an impolite answer at all… So in conclusion, they don’t ask rather than risking to lose their face. You are maybe thinking, why do you, ladies, wait to be asked?  Well, the little experience we’ve had with trying to make conversation or contact in a restaurant or bar is that we get the very exact answer to the very exact question. E.g. She, nice looking and friendly: “ Sorry, have you got a match?”  He: “No, I don’t smoke.“ Or  “Yes, here you are. “   and they leave the scene…  There may be some exceptions, but we’ve encountered very few on our way.

 

The most hilarious thing I have found is on the home site of the Munich Public Transportation, MVV Munich. There is a special area called:  “Re-encountering people with MVV flirt” which would be more or less the translation of the name. The MVV is the Munich Transportation System. Here you find the original text:

“Menschen wiederfinden, mit MVV Flirt”
Angenommen, Sie sehen Ihre Traumfrau in der S-Bahn fahren. Lächeln kurz – und schwupps, steigt sie aus. Nein, dann ist noch nicht alles vorbei. Suchen Sie sie! Oder suchen Sie ihn, den Traummann. …”

and the translation:
“Re-encountering people with MVV flirt”
“Supposing that you see your dream woman traveling by train. You smile briefly at her and — ooops, she gets out of the train… No, not everything is lost. Look for her! Or look for him, your dream man. “  The description continues lightly for another paragraph.


And here you can read one of the contact texts:

U3 — Er sucht…
Du gefällst mir. Sehr. Schade, dass ich Dich am Holzapfelkreuth schon wieder verlassen musste. Hätte Dich gern zum Kennenlernen mit Cappucino eingeladen. Fahre jeden Mittag 11:50 und stehe im letzten Wagen. Wann kommst Du ?”
 
U3 ( Line 3 of the subway) He is loooking for…
“I like you. A lot. What a pity, that I had to leave you at “Holzapfelkreuth” (a subway station) again. I would have invited you for a capuccino. I travel every noon at 11:50 and I’m usually standing in the last wagon. When do you come?”
 
Well, what do you think? Is this a better way of flirting or dating? 😉  Do you think this guy, we don’t even know how he looks like, young, old, hair no hair, glasses, etc. … will find his beloved one? I really doubt it!
 
There is then one possibility left: real online dating.  And that is the problem, the word “real”…
 
This image is from a Spanish book, and if you look at the descriptions, you’ll soon find the “errors”. She’s supposed to be 25 years old, tall, thin, while he should be dark, very strong and 35…
 
We cannot generalize and think that everybody with an online dating profile fakes their appearance, but there are cases… The disappointment waiting for a tall, handsome, nice guy can be big, if you instead meet a short, ugly and unpleasant guy.  That would be only on the physical aspect, which is very subjective. A man that I find attractive may be considered “horrible” by another friend of mine.   But how about the personality? Everybody can write about themselves: nice, intelligent, educated, etc…. Everybody wants to make a good impression.  The first impression counts and listening to our inner voice during the first real encounter may be of some help in getting acquainted with someone we only know from a dating site.
 
There are then dating portals for every need and “almost” every age. There is even one specialized in “seniors” where the texts are written in extra big letters and you can find a step-by-step description for every action: subscribing, reading, writing,  uploading a picture. 
Other dating web sites are proud of their psychological tests and the exclusive selection of their well educated members, for example elitepartner.de or parship.de. However, they charge up from 60 EUR and on for a month implying that three months are not long enough to get to know the love of your life. You should subscribe for 3 months, a year or even longer!  
Is it worth it? I’ve heard of some people who have met their current partner on one of these sites, but other friends have said that it didn’t work out and they just had lost a bunch of money. There weren’t many candidates on that age range and the interesting ones were living very far away. There was no option to limit the search to Munich and surroundings.
 
There are not so exclusive sites, that cost nothing or very little, with a big risk of meeting fakes, swindlers or perverts.  There was a group of North African guys who subscribed to these pages trying to attract desperate middle aged women who were looking for a partner.  They presented themselves as nice British guys working in humanitarian projects out of Europe and later on started asking for financial aids for their projects or a contact address in Europe. Very dangerous and disappointing for the ladies involved! There were warnings about these cases in the local radio.
 
Many sites offer some special interest, especially sports, as Germans love sports… Dating in the Alps… I think of  “Lederhose” or leather breeches and fatiguing expeditions to the top of the mountain…  I personally don’t think those dating pages would be adequate to my needs 😉
 
And of course on the dark side… There are dating sites for every other interest, a special site for cheating… Believe it or not! and all kinds of dating platforms for s-e-x. Well, we’re living in Germany with quite an open minded society.
 
I don’t know, if online dating has the same weight in Mexico, Brazil, the USA or France, and would like to know your views about it.  Young people have other needs and I imagine that it’s easier for them to find dates. That’s maybe why online dating is so popular between people from 30 to 60 years of age. 
 

 I’m in a hurry!  I’ll leave you now and start writing my online profile  😉

 
 

What if…

We have asked ourselves, what if we hadn’t done something the way we did or what if we had just tried harder…  Especially, if we are in a situation that has turned out to be not exactly what we thought it should be. 
This is the main question answered in two different ways in the novel “The Post Birthday World” from Lionel Shriver. 
 
The main character is Irina McGovern, who is a children’s book illustrator and lives in London with her long time partner Lawrence. It all starts with a kiss on the birthday of Ramsey, a mutual friend.  What if she hadn’t kissed him? Or what if she had kissed him? 
When I started reading the novel I didn’t really know about this two different versions of one story triggered by a same event.  After the first chapter, there are two chapters two, three and so on. The story evolves differently as if there were parallel worlds. In one of the versions, Irina questions her relationship and takes action to change her life. She makes her own decisions and shows more strength of character. In this same version, Lawrence is weaker and Ramsey is the successful snooker player (a british sport similar to billiard) with money and fame.   On the one hand Irina feels comfortable with Lawrence because he offers her moral support, gives her advice on her job and is more like a good old friend to her. On the other, Ramsey attracts her sexually and has a very different personality, but his only interest is snooker.  In the second version, Irina is afraid of taking the step that may change her safe life. Although she keeps in touch with Ramsey in a different role as in the first version, she decides to continue with her quiet life. In this turn of the story, Lawrence is the one who surprises her negatively.  She cannot believe that he was capable of doing what he did. The relationship to her own family, mother and sister, is also viewed differently in both versions. At the end however, both versions come to a common end.
 
I have to confess that, although I usually read a little bit about the authors before starting reading a book, in this case I didn’t. I got it electronically and that’s maybe the reason why I didn’t look at the author’s picture or read the small biography in the book cover.  Therefore, while reading the first chapters, I was amazed at the insights of a woman’s mind and body that this “Lionel” was describing. I thought to myself, that this “male” author had to have a very good woman counselor 😉   I have to recognize that it was my fault. I corroborated my suspicion and corrected my mistake by reading the biography of Lionel Shriver, who in real life is Mary Ann Shriver! I also remembered that this was the same author of the famous novel “We have to talk about Kevin”, which by the way, I haven’t read. The latter was filmed in 2011 with Tilda Swinton as the mother and Ezra Miller as Kevin.  
Going back to the Post Birthday World, I don’t want, of course, to imply that only a woman can really write how a woman feels, or the other way around, that only a man can write what a man really feels or thinks. It is only that in this special case I was a little bit surprised with the intense descriptions. 
Returning to the main point in the novel, which is what would have happened, if. 
In real life, what would had happened, if I had done something differently? In my case,  would I be still living in Munich? Would I have stayed in Brazil? Would I still be married? Would I have a child, my daughter? Questions and more questions on transcendental topics… I imagine that all of us have thought one time or another that way, but as we’re not in a novel, we cannot create a second version of our lives. So let’s continue accepting positively the decisions we’ve made up to now. There is no way of really knowing which is the “perfect” decision, and I think that there are no perfect decisions, or are there?  Time will show us the way our decisions turned out, good or bad. 
 
Getting to the end, I‘ll finish here, if not it will be very philosophical… Till next week, that’s my decision!