Friday, July 09, 2010

Ashtanga Yoga

The first time I heard of Yoga was back in school when I was a 12 years old teenager, frustrated with not being able to perform a split in my Physical Education class. My Dad told me that Yoga practitioners are the most flexible people, so perhaps I can learn from them. Luckily, my uncle had a book on Yoga, so I dived in it , but all I found was photos of what seemed to be impossible postures, description of breathing techniques which I failed at, and cleansing exercises. It was not too exciting at first, but I tried some simpler postures and with time I discovered that I was gaining flexibility, to the point that I could do a right split after some serious warm up. Success!
Back then I didn’t care that Yoga means ‘to unite’ and that just the stretching is not the real thing. What’s more, I was probably not even doing the postures quite properly, but nevertheless I kept practicing through the years and I’ve noticed that after a Yoga practice I feel calmer.
Years later, having just moved to the States, stress level in my life was getting unbearable. I tried some meditation techniques I was taught , but it was hard to apply them – my brain was like a busy beehive. So I thought of trying yoga, but this time in a more consistent manner. Every Saturday morning, Sunday evening, and once during the week, I would go to various Yoga centrrs in Tucson, Arizona, and that is how I found Ashtanga Yoga.
It was just what I needed – series of strength and stamina demanding postures, a lot of flexing and balancing, synchronized breathing, and as a result - a light and strong body, and a calm mind. In only a couple of months I had (at last!) discovered the true meaning of Yoga – to unite the body and the mind, and to put them in harmonious peace. It felt so uplifting! Daily life became more positive and energetic, yet more relaxed.
Years came and went, yoga being part of them, sometimes more regularly practiced, sometimes not so. I lived in many cities, but I never found as good teachers as the ones I had in Arizona (with exception to one, but I had to relocate). Also I could not find the Ashtanga style I was looking for.
This Monday I went to my first yoga class in Utrecht – Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga!
Bingo! Perfect click with the place, with the teacher, with the style, with the class pace! My old Yoga skills kicked in after just a couple of Sun Salutations! I felt so hungry for more that I went again on Tuesday! I realized that while going through my daily ToDo lists, going to work, settling in my new place, paying the bills, etc. etc …some of the balance between mind and body was lost, there was a bit of a disconnect. And just a couple of classes brought back the feeling of being United. You go into a posture with an open mind and determination to do it at the best you can, you breath in, the whole world disappears, you are into the posture, you let go off everything on your mind, and you feel the balance, the posture become easier, you enjoy it, you exhale…sublime!

Ashtanga teacher Anne Nuotio says: “It is close to an experience of beauty. As you balance you are not thinking, the feeling is so totalizing. It’s like experiencing a beautiful sight in nature. Those are the rare moments in yoga when you are in ecstasy. I don’t know how it looks, but feels divine.”

Not all asanas come always easy to me – then the teacher would have to come and straighten me out. And often, only a slight alignment, just a millimeter in the right direction and ‘click’ , it gets much easier to hold the pose.
I wonder … is it the same in life … is it a minute alignment that could make everything easier and so much more enjoyable…with the right teacher…? And while I’m waiting for the answer of this and many other questions…I will diligently practice Ashtanga.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

the aftermath of a 4th of July

photo: Stephanie McCabe via Unsplash

I have not been American Citizen for long, yet the 4th of July is a very special day for me, captivating the spirit of independence, the uniting of a nation, and the warm friendliness the festivities come with. Friends and families gather to fire a BBQ and have some good time, crowds fill the stadiums for rock concerts including inevitably a 'The Star-Spangled Banner' performance, fireworks light the evening sky for a glorious ending of Independence Day. I had a very different 4th of July this year...partly because I chose so, and partly because it happened so...and like always, life's surprises push my mind to wander and discover... I live in the Netherlands now, 3 months already. I like it a lot! Well, I like it so far... ;) Moving to a new country engages all these forgotten survival skills, that go lethargic after you've lived long enough in the same place. It forces you to look at life from a new perspective, to open up for new experiences. That makes me feel young in spirit, alive! I was lucky to meet quite a lot of people in the very first weeks, and make a few good friends right away. So, when 4th of July approached it was a no-brainer that a party was in order! Let the fun begin! I've always been social and when flamboyant mood strikes me, a party for 20 or more is not unusual, I like to bring people together, I like to mix various personalities, with the one goal - let's have a good time and enjoy life! Space has never been a problem, spending money on drinks and food either, get the idea. Very surprisingly, this year I felt strongly that a big party is not going to work well... Something had changed. Somehow a shift has happened, and for the first time I didn't need to invite many, I didn't crave the crowd. There was the urge to change the scale of events. I wanted only the people I care about, only the people I have meaningful relationships with. I realized I was exhausted from spreading thin in terms of people. It's funny! As a child I always wanted to have many many friends...and now I do, but I don't have the time for them...Life always finds a way to frustrate us  The party was small - six people in total. But not short of anything - mai-tai drinks with real orchid flowers, chicken, steak and fish on the BBQ, corn and potatoes, fresh guacamole and chips, plenty of wine, music, dancing, singing ... we even had a Birthday Boy, what else could you ask for! I thought of Terry Pratchet's book 'The Carpet people' - 'All you need to be happy is soft toilet paper, warm soup, and a few kind words'. Well...I think we had it all. I loved the simplicity of the evening, the sincerity and the intimacy. It felt like never before, and it made me feel complete...

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Netherlands:Brazil 2:0

Being an expat during a World Cup Championship is tricky. Which country to cheer for, what if your favorite team is playing the team of your friends, but it is a fun time nevertheless. I can't tell you what moves me most - is it that something as simple as a game with a ball is uniting nations? is it to see the glowing happy faces of the winning team? is it the ocasional player breaking in tears after a loss? It is a strongly emotional time - determinatin to win, years of hard work on the line, pride, determination, loyalty...Football is like no other sport! Watching the World Cup in the Netherlands is an experience like never I seen before. Streets all in orange, and the national flag, everybody wearing orange on a game day...the atmosphere is fantastic! I watched Netherlands wining over Slovakia in a pub with a colleague. The place was packed, and with one common want in mind, it was great to be part of the crowd. Screams, shouts, cheers, the vibe was unbelievable! I thought I had seen it - the Dutch way of enjoing a game! But then a week later, another great game and the Netherlands won over Brazil! The the oranje madness hit the city! It was like Queen's day is happening orange sea was flooding the center of Utrecht and everyone was so excited, so deliriously happy, drunk from the pleasure of winning! And I was in the middle of it...unbelievably easy to forget about all else, and celebrate, and be happy to be in the right place at the right time! Go Holland!!!

Friday, July 02, 2010


In the Netherlands 'Cabaret' is something that we in the States would call a stand-up comedy show, plus some more music. But the devil is in the details, so let's move on past the definition... :)
After only three months of exposure to Dutch language and culture, I bravely went to my first cabaret show - we watched the Olaf and Jasper's Meuk . With the help of a couple of beers, and Bart translating a couple of words for me (oplossing
= solution, being the key one!), I managed to grasp about half of the jokes, and laughed out loud. Not bad! Despite the akwardness of being the only one at times that has no idea what has been said, and why the audience is explauding with laughter, I had a lot of fun!
It turned out that after 12 years, this was one of Olaf and Jasper's last shows. Jammer! By the time I speak Dutch they will be off the waggon...oh, well!
It was moving to see someone from the crowd offering presents to the cabaret-performers at the end of the show. They also received (from what I understood!) life-long pass to come and have a drink in this perticular Utrecht's venue - the Schiller Theater 'Place Royale'. Althought small in size, the Schiller Theater is a lovely place. Dating back to 1906, the building has always been a stage for performing arts.

Well, for those of you that speak Dutch, here is something from Olaf and Jasper!
And for those you don't - you would have to trust me - it WAS fun!
Laghing out loud is one of my most favorite things to do :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

summer bliss

Munching pretzels, sipping ice-cold coke and listening to music.
Wearing a simple dress, loose flip-flops...and letting the air tickle my skin.
Soon I'll hop on the bike and let the wind mess my hair.
All awhile the air smells so sweetly of linden tree blossoms.
Summer is here...and I love it :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


how do I remember pain? how do I foresee it's coming, so I avoid it... how do I remember lie? how do I detect the patterns, so that I break them... how do I remember loss? how do I predict the outcome, so I advance... how do I remember hope? how do I backtrack the path to it, so I don't lose it... how do I remember strenth? how do I prepare myself, so I move on... how do I remember smile? how do I engaged the muscles, so I can laugh again... how do I remember love? how do I foreknow it's happening, so I submit to it...

Monday, June 28, 2010

two random men in my life

Have you ever known someone who you would get into an argument with, and tension will escalate to the point of no return, and not only that, but you'd never want to speak to that person again, never ever, even years later....never...Have you?
I think I have.
We met on the internet, then in person, then we had it great for about 8 months, love was in the air, and then in just 2 days together it all collapsed in the ugliest way. According to him I was a very negative person, pretentious, self-centered, looking down on people, rude and emotionless. He wondered how I could possibly have friends.
Well, I know I am not perfect, and I probably did a few things wrong during these two days. Nevertheless, to hear such judgment is harsh. But they say everyone is entitled to their opinion, so I faced the fact that I have no place in this man's life and moved on.
After a while I overcame the pain, but I could not stop was it possible - we got along so well for eight months, and then in just two days something so radically off the charts took place?!
I let time do its healing magic for about two years, and then I decided to call this man again, for the good time's try to bridge the gap filled with questions, hoping I could learn something about people in general, or something about me, or just out of curiosity for human kind.
Well, within the first minute of our phone call I realized some gaps can't be bridged, some gaps will never be closed, and perhaps...they should stay that way. Let them be the lessons from which we learn and grow...and move on!
And so I did, deleting his name and number from my phone.

On the other hand, another man...a random man I see every Saturday on the flower market. He sells flowers. His flowers are just as good as everyone else's are, his prices are just as good as everyone else's are, but he always have less buyers around. And I don't feel the urge to buy from him either...not sure why.
Last Saturday I just stood at the market and watched...he would stand behind his flowers and shout 'Fresh flowers! 3 bunches for 5, 3 bunches for 5!' But as soon as a client gets closer, he would stop shouting, and just stand there still. Not saying a word, not encouraging the people to buy, not offering a suggestion, or just the casual small felt like he didn't have the communication bit going.
I decided to buy from him that day, I tried my handicapped-Dutch, I smiled a lot, I looked into his eyes, I tried to make a connection - a simple connection with another human being. And it worked! At least it seemed to me that his face got a bit brighter , even for that short time, he smiled and it felt good.
I don't think I will always buy my flowers from him, but on that day I decided to do it, for the sake of approching the ones that are probably most troubled and distant from the crowd. And as my Dutch gets better, I will try to chat him up and hear his story...

On that day I bought red peonies - I once read that according to Feng Shui, peony flowers bring love to one's life...and I hope they do, because once loved, we then easily spread love around...and everything falls into place.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sounds and scents in Utrecht

If memory still serves me right, I have moved 28 times in my almost 38 year long life. At times with more excitement, at times just because I had to. Moving a floor or two higher, or thousand of miles away, a move is a move.
As soon as all my boxes are in the new abode, I intuitively tune in to the sounds and the scents it comes with. For some reason (very probably a basic animalistic instinct!) getting familiar with them is my way to bond with the place and start feeling safe, at home. It doesn't matter if it is the humming noise of the fridge, or the smell of a new laminate floor...they simply add some coziness and give the place a unique character.
The sounds of Utrecht are magical!
I don't even know where to begin...
I wake up to the sound of bycicles rushing in the morning, high heels walking the pavement, kids chattering lively on the way to school...or if later in the morning on the weekend - church bells and chimes. I simply loooove the sounds of church bells! Occasionally, I'll hear a rooster...have no idea who has it and where they keep it, but there you go - there are roosters in Utrecht. Even the noisy garbage truck on Friday morning sounds friendly. And if you happen to be in the garden around 7pm, dinner time in the Netherlands, you will hear the familiar sound of silverware and plates through the open windows of the neighbor's apartment cozy!
I moved to Utrecht at the end of March, and they say it's best to move to a new place in Spring time, so you see it at its best. I think I did it right! Spring was in the air - fresh and crispy, filled with the gentle scent of green grass, blooming trees and first flowers, so full of optimism! Then for a week it was the season of white, blue and purple acacia flowers climbing up outside walls and fences. Their light sweet smell is the perfect companion for a late night walk. A week later - lilac bushes were in their prime! Intoxicating scent that makes me close my eye every time I smell a lilac bloom. Haven't you?
Another week of warm weather, and the Queen of all flowers took over the stage. Roses were everywhere and their scent filled the air, much lighter than the lilacs, but so much more refined, as if asking for special attention, as if holding back and playing a game...ok, a rose is a rose! :)
And this week...another magic happens - the Linden trees ("Tilia cordata", started blooming! They really fill the air with such calming sweet scent, so familiar from my childhood, that I can't help it but to smile every time I inhale it. One can also make a delicious tea from the linden tree flowers...but that goes beyond sounds and scents :)
At work, I enjoy listening to the wind going through the crowns of the birch, maple and oak trees under my window. And the occasional ambulance in the distance...:)
At home, I love the company of the birds' songs...not for nothing I live in the Vogelenbuurt ('The Birds' neighborhood')
1. And when for a walk in Griftpark, the most sublime pleasure is to hear the clock tower bells, inhale deeply the cool afternoon air filled with the wisdom of the day, and while looking at the grand Dom tower silhouette, to let the last Sun rays for the day kiss my face with warmth...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Simple pleasures

If wanting to have a British car on the Continent, one inevitably has to change the headlights - it's the law! After numerous phone calls to Toyota, three drives there and five times getting lost in the highway spider web in midst of which Utrecht is placed...I managed to leave my car in the shop, hoping that I did communicate clearly what needs to be done.
And then came the reward for all that hassle - one day rental Toyota Prius!

You know I love my "grand cherry" Toyota Aygo, but ... once you push the start button of the Prius, you know we are talking a whole different game!!!
I had almost forgotten how a real automatic gearbox feels, how fast the acceleration is, how smooth the ride...It's such a feeling!
Very, VERY tempting to take the day off and just drive around the NL highways, and indulge the speed! Who cares that I just attended an OMI Science Meeting talking about air pollution, climate change and such...
The masculine power, the full control, the pleasure of driving a good car...So simple, yet so fun! Even for a day!
And tomorrow ... I'll hop again on the bicycle and pretend to be Dutch :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

my relationship with music

Getty Images

Words are extremely powerful...
and a picture might be worth a thousand words...
but a melody...
it takes you places only you (secretly in your mind) know about...
it brings up feelings (you keep only to yourself) to the surface...
it heals your spirit (that no one knew was broken) like magic...
makes you dream again...
brings life in your veins...
it let you JUST BE...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

so what

..the coat hanger is still laying on top of the shoe cabinet, the lader is still serving as a coat hager - now in the common entry it could well annoy my neghbour...the clock, the 'short cirquit', my portrait are still waiting to be hung on the walls, patio chairs missing, wind constantly blowing away the cherry pattern table cloth, a pile of cables remain unmanaged in the corner...and a few other things not yet tended to ... so what, this chaos is only begging for time.
in my head though, things are amazingly calm - no big plans, no promisses, no stress...things are just going well and I love it...when a smile is the first thing I see when I wake up, and a kiss is next...I feel on top of the world...

Saturday, April 10, 2010


These last few days I let myself wake up whenever my body feels like it...the time or the day matter only so much...I'm in the middle of my month off between jobs, between countries, between lives...
My brain is awake, my body rested, eyes half open... blue sky...from the comfort zone of my Hastens bed I am so positive :)
It's Saturday - Flower Market Day. But before heading out and taking my Dunlop bike for a ride, I'll set the routine for Saturday mornings...
Opened the window for some fresh air, 'Sex and the City' DVD in the player,
coffee maker on, while I'm squeezing two oranges into a glass, cube of ice to cool it, and a glass of water - because it's good for me :)
Quick and simple breakfast - piece of baguette with a couple of slices young Gouda cheese.
The Sun is peeking in already, a few rays reflect in the glass of orange juice as if trying to steal it...I smile.
A second later, in an armchair, I am enjoying a perfect weekend morning in Utrecht ...Good morning, everyone! :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !!!

Another amazing and memorable year is close to its end. In a nutshell, 2009 was all about challenges, perseverance, travel and friends.

With most of my personal life happening over the phone, Skype, email, or overseas...I'd like to thank T-Mobile, British Telecom, FaceBook, and a number of airlines for being where I am - physically and mentally :) Of course, the humongous dose of thanks goes to my friends - the bestest in the world! And all over the world!

Now, if the weather could get just a bit better, so I can fly to Madrid tomorrow, and spend Christmas with family...that would be perfect :)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Love, iliana

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pictures, pictures, pictures...

Photo by George Hodan

Hello! I just posted photos from about all my travel adventures this far ;-)
There are may be a couple of more albums to come, hopefully next week.
Going through the albums I not only reminded myself of where I've been and what I've done, but more importantly ... I appreciated yet again having had unforgettable times with greatest friends! Life could be so wonderful!
I would like to add commentary to some albums, but let's see how much free time I'd find after Yoga, Dutch, Swimming...and good'o'DVD watching ;)
As for photos from year 2008 ... patience! :)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...Happy 4th of July!!!

 Anna Strock

It was the morning of Christmas day, December 25th 1999.
The first day I stepped on American land - Chicago, Illinois.
The fatigue from my first transatlantic flight, an almost sleepless Christmas night at Frankfurt's airport, all the worried thoughts about what I left behind and what was all vanished into the crispy air of a glorious sunny day - my first day in America!
'Like everyone who travels towards a new life in a land they've never seen, I wondered how much of me would survive the crossing, how translatable I would be.
Every migration is an opportunity and a kind of death. The new world may be rich and strange, but you're somehow weightless in it.
The freedom to be weightless here gave us all, I felt, en masse, a paradoxal solidity.' ... I can't agree more with Rob Nixon (Dreambirds).
Nine and a half years later...I am celebrating my first Independence Day as a citizen of the United States of America! And I feel very happy about it!
Happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Oranjegekte...or... Happy Koninginnedag!

Having learned Dutch for already about 5 months, in the eve of Koninginnedag, here are some of my favorite Dutch words. Bear in mind I don't know many yet ;)
Mijn naam is haas

Groetjes! :)

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Happy New Year!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Red Scream

Today I want to scream...
Loud scream, reaching the corners of the Universe...
High pitch scream, so you can't ingore it...
Sincere scream, venting the frustration of the caged soul I had become lately...
a soul that is nothing but a scream for freedom...
OK now, that feels better...I am calm and I can smile :)
The color of this year is RED .
Because red is the color of blood, fire and passion...
Because blood, fire and passion are proxies for life...
And because I am alive!
ps.Sincere thank you to all of you friends, aquantances or random people and events who helped me go through the motions and find my color again!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...Arg!

Photo: Charter
I had enough of it already!
After a month of snow, shoveling for an hour each day becomes "the usual", but when you have to shovel 9 inches of fresh wet snow twice a day, and your car get stuck again!'s a bit too much!
Luckily, with Nadia and Huyjin around, all could be turned into fun, so....
Here is me shoveling stoically -

And here is Nadia -

Huyjin said she would rather stay inside and see the videos on YouTube.
Smart girl!


Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!!!

I hope you had a nice Christmas... or a nice Holiday Season!
My apologies go to all who expected a Christmas card from me - I was away from home and not able to send cards this year, but in the Christmas eve, after the party lights went down, in the silence of a warm starry night I thought of all of you and wished you well!

I found this picture of Lake Oulujärvi (by Timo Rossi), to be an appropriate way to say good bye to 2007! The tiny silhouette on the horizon is the island of Uupunu. It means exhausted in English. Why this picture?
Between the beginning of the year in Paris and celebrating Christmas in Madrid, I had an interesting, but so intense year that on the 365th day of it I am a bit exhausted and ready to exhale. There were good times and bad times, a lot was learned through new, amazing and unexpected experiences, made some new friends, strengtened the bonds with some of you, some old ties broke for better or worse, spent some sleepless nights at work in hope for Eureka! , witnessed a lot of airplane exhaust over the on the go!
But as long as I am in peace with myself, capable of loving unconditionally, and have my friends...everything will be ok. So my New Year resolution is simple - I am asking for peace and...Love!

I didn't have the time to write a 2007 Roundup letter, but I may post soon details on some of my travel - the passion of my life! At least, you will get a chance to see another few hundreds of photos :)

Until then, have an enjoyable New Year's eve and a splendid
HAPPY NEW 2008!!!