It is difficult to be a parent In this era of social media, where everybody is striving to broadcast the best version of themselves. I know that what I’m about to write will expose me to a lot of judging, but I am going to confess anyway. So, here it is:

I don’t put enough effort into teaching my kids how to be tidy, so they often spend time looking for a pencil and eraser to be able to do their homework. In general their room is a mess 80% of the time.

Eating spagetti with hands, messy child

My son eating spagetti with his hands

I sometimes forget when my kids have extra activities at school, such as swimming pool visit, or need to bring extra materials.

I don’t always remind my kids to brush their teeth.

Around 40% of the time I don’t check what clothes my son has put on for school.

My kids’ clothes are often stained, and I have long-lost the war against the dirt on the shoes.

Between the four of us we have exactly 6 pairs of matching socks (I don’t count the black socks that my husband uses, they all seem to match, because they’re all the same).

Around 40% of the time my kids eat bread and butter and milk when they want a snack.

Half of the time my daughter’s beautiful hair is unbrushed.

We don’t play board games much, because most of the sets have either cards or playing tokens missing. The average duration of a complete set is 10 days maximum.

The list goes on, and I must say that I already feel so bad that I can’t continue. It’s not that I don’t want to do all these things. Well, sometimes I don’t, but most of the time it just happens.

What I never fail to do is to try to listen to what my children want to tell me. To hear their fears, joys, desires and dreams. And that is one of the things that is visible on them.

During the New Year’s party my son decided to perform a few “magic tricks”. Everybody enjoyed his spontaneity and openness. He was confident and had a great time, even though most people were strangers to him. My daughter and her friend also had an impromptu performance of rhythmic skills with mugs. After they were finished my husband and I got the best compliment we’ve ever received as parents: that our kids were friendly, open and confident. Nobody noticed the unbrushed hair and not matching socks. We must be doing something right, after all.

Hello from Saigon! It’s the first day and although I am in a bit of haze because of the long travel, time zone change and temperature”upgrade”, my mind has soaked in so many things that I can’t wait to write down.

Apart from the familiar warm and sticky smell of an Asian city, Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh city also has the bustling and yet relaxed feel, even though the crowded streets may give you a different impression. If you stop and look you will notice that the seemingly chaotic traffic is flowing without stopping and that people go about their business in a calm manner.

The second strong impression is the number of motorcycles on the streets that literally rule the place. Even in the narrow alleys, full of food stalls and people, they find their way.

The third “first impression” is the constant presence of food. People sell and eat food everywhere you look.

All this makes the place vastly different from where I came from. A true cultural shock that I hoped to experience. I’m looking for more of it tomorrow.

 

Novel, Finnish Tango

Book Cover

I am happy to share an excerpt from a novel set Finland that I translated into English. It is an absurdist comedy, and at the same time a gentle and touching story of love in contemporary times. You can purchase a digital and hard copies at Amazon here. I would love to hear your opinion!

“Non-existence

Tampere

The cyclicality of nature was bringing to Panu and Aleksi an uncertain past in the form of two funny immigrants. They did not even know one of them.
It was ten degrees below zero and snowing outside. Inside the dance hall, which was heated with big old radiators, the floor, the people, the walls and tables were covered with the yellow spots of light from the disco ball. The spots were moving fast, much faster than the rhythm of Finnish tango. Dressed like an elderly gentleman in an old suit and hat, although only in his thirties, Joni was leaning against the wall next to the entrance and said:
-There is only one Elvis, but there is also only one Olavi Virta.
The Serbian immigrant did not know what Elvis had to do with Finnish Tango, so he thought that Joni was comparing the greatness of the two singers. He had no idea who Olavi was, so he asked Joni, not knowing that his question would provoke an unexpected reaction:
-Who is Olavi?
Around them couples were waddling like gigantic birds, Joni was looking at them for some time only to reply with a conclusion full of disbelief:
-You don’t know who Olavi Virta is. You don’t know who Olavi is.
The Serbian immigrant knew Inka, he knew her personally and he saw her dance. To Joni’s disappointment, he didn’t know who Olavi was.
-Tango is the dance of complete surrender to feelings, a dance where concentration and complete relaxation are merged into one. Olavi is the Finnish king of sad thoughts. When he sings, his voice carries sadness mixed with happiness; sadness and happiness in one same song.
Maybe I am ignorant, thought the Serbian immigrant, but it seems that I am also very ugly. Women were approaching Joni, not the immigrant. A girl in a long red dress approached Joni and took him to dance. The immigrant was left alone in the sea of decorative spots from the disco ball that were running towards him and from him. He sat down and looked around at the crowd which was dancing in a circle. Joni is a funambulist, a tightrope walker, and you could tell that from the way he danced. The man who was standing above the abyss of destiny every day had a harmonious dancing trot, so harmonious that every woman who danced with him looked beautiful. The immigrant sat through the entire evening, enjoying the view of the ladies in other men’s embraces, only to hear from Joni at the end of the evening that Inka was the best.
Inka! Blonde, sweet, smiling, the best. When she danced the whole of Finland admired. Argentina, Serbia, France admired. When she danced she owned the festivals. She never provoked envy; she only showed how beautiful this world was.
And then suddenly, something happened; Inka isolated herself from everybody here, for months; she disappeared into nowhere.
The Serbian immigrant went towards home, peeking into the window of a record store under the cold light of the city lamps on the high street along the way. When he arrived, he closed the door and left it unlocked. He jumped into a hot shower and was at peace under the relaxing waterfall when he heard a bang and realised that it was the door.
He got out of the shower and saw a young, beautiful Asian woman in a wet red top and black panties.
-What are you doing here? – he asked her with fear.
She looked him in the eyes. It was obvious that she was agitated, that she had just run away and had found herself at his place. She did not reply.
She was almost naked; he took his bathrobe and wrapped it around her. She was petite and beautiful, like a little girl.
He was naked; he took a towel and wrapped it around his hips.
He thought of kicking her out, but she would die in the cold outside. He thought of many things, and one of the possibilities was to let her stay in the apartment. She did not say why she came into his world. The scared immigrant gave her his long t-shirt, which made for a night gown on her small body, and he converted the sofa into a bed. He asked her if she was hungry, but she wasn’t. The city lights were blinking under the window of his one-bedroom apartment. He did not roll down the blinds; he preferred looking at life coloured by neon. He looked at her large slanted eyes with fear; they were good and warm. The snowflakes were falling on the other side of the glass. He lay on the bed near the sofa. He thought of the high clouds that the snow was falling from. He thought of the fresh air and the power and gentleness of nature. He looked at the beautiful girl in front of him, and was full of fear. It seemed that she was crying silently. He did not know how to comfort her. He did not even know what to say to her. Suddenly she gave him a smile; he saw it thanks to the blue neon light. He replied with a scared look when she interrupted the snowflake-decorated silence with a voice:
-They are near! They are just next to us!”

From Finnish Tango by Bosko Velimirovic