Identity

I don’t watch that much German television but one thing I do like to catch when I have time is a talkshow called Kölner Treff. The host, Bettina Böttinger, invites several guests like actors, singers, writers, journalists, etc. and in the round has conversations with them. She interviews each guest separately but often others in the round will also chime in and interesting talks happen. I never think to watch the show when it first airs (I think on Friday nights) but when I can (and when I remember to) I catch it on repeat on Sunday mornings, over my bowl of Weetabix and a cup of tea.

I am not very in tune anymore with the current German cultural landscape, I haven’t been for many years, which means that I often won’t even know most of the guests on there, except for maybe some older German showbiz people I knew from the time I / my parents lived there in the 1980s and 1990s. Regardless, the conversations are often interesting, more or less, and every time I come away learning something about people.

Yesterday I watched one such Kölner Treff episode…

… and the guests were alright, didn’t really do that much for me even though I do always enjoy the conversation, until Bettina came around to interviewing the final two guests. One was a war journalist called Katrin Eigendorf who I would love to hear more from and the other was a young, red-haired actor called Daniel Donskoy.

Source and link to the video of the show

Katrin Eigendorf was very interesting and I liked what she had to say about her work, about neutrality in journalism not always being good and virtually impossible, and also about her private life, being mother to a handicapped son who died at 17. With Daniel Donskoy I immediately felt this sense of recognition and familiarity. I had never heard of him before, but apparently he also played a tiny role of Princess Diana’s lover James Hewitt on The Crown in season 4.

What drew me to him was his diverse identity, not necessarily professionally but personally. Born in the USSR, moved to Germany as a baby in 1990, later also lived in Israel and Berlin and London. He has Jewish parents but is also secular and feels like he belongs everywhere and nowhere. The 14 minute interview (in case you’re interested, link is here) made me curious about a show he makes called Freitagnacht Jews where he interviews people over dinner who talk about their (liberal) Jewish life and experience in Germany.

He has made eight 25 minute Freitagnacht Jews shows interviewing other German Jews (playlist is here). I have been watching these shows yesterday and today and I feel this connection with him in his struggles with identity and not being able to (or wanting to) label himself which made me think of how I see my identity as well. I also really connected with his normality of being (secular) Jewish, it felt like I could be sitting at the table with him and his guests and join in with the discussion of my Jewish life, even though I am not Jewish! I really had fun watching these and they really made me think. By the way, I also quite like the title song to his show and will tune in to his second series when I can as well…

So… the thoughts on my own identity have been swirling around my head these past two days. Like him, I too have lived in several countries. Like him, people make assumptions about who I am when hearing only a bit about me. Also, this concept of starting over again in different countries and cultures is very recognizable to me.

I was born in Jerusalem to Dutch parents and lived there until I was 10. Except for once, I can’t remember thinking anything about my identity back then but I am not sure whether it was due to me being a young child or whether everyone I knew in my international school or outside school were all ‘different’ with diverse and complicated backgrounds. My background didn’t seem that different. The one time I remember realizing I was different was when I used to admire the school uniforms these Palestinian girls wore in the Old City in Jerusalem. They wore these blue and white striped dresses, under which they also wore their long trousers. As I loved those outfits, my mother once bought me such a dress and I wore it to the Old City one day. I was very blonde with blue eyes and walking dressed as an Arab schoolgirl through the Old City drew so much attention (and pinching of my cheeks that I can still feel the soreness from to this day), I realized that I was something different than a regular Palestinian schoolgirl and I don’t think I ever wore that outfit again, at least not publicly. Children want to blend in, after all

I first started feeling really different and ‘the other’ when I lived in Germany in my early teens. Of course, it didn’t help that we moved from a world city such as Jerusalem (where identity is more connected to religion than to nationality) to a little village in Germany. I was the foreign outsider and many thought I was Jewish, due to my name and ‘coming from Israel’. I learned to speak German like a German and completely learned to blend in (again the need to not be so different from my peers), with the people later never questioning my ‘German-ness’ if I didn’t tell them anything about me. It helped that I ‘looked’ German too. However, I always felt separate inside and even somewhat guilty for wanting to blend in like that.

When I moved to The Netherlands at 16, I spoke Dutch as learned at home but I still needed to learn about Dutch life and culture. Many thought I was a ‘good’ German as they thought I was not only German but also Jewish (again due to my name and that faint connection to Israel everyone somehow seemed to know about). In those years, I learned to embrace my being different instead of trying to hide it away and I always amused myself by correcting people’s assumptions about me. It also helped that I was at an international school again, where lots of the kids had different diverse backgrounds, and I didn’t stand out as much. By the way, I haven’t been mistaken as German now for many years, as my German has deteriorated somewhat and I have lost any hint of a German accent in my English or Dutch speech than I may have had for a while there.

Nowadays I’m not ever considered anything else than Dutch, although some may comment on me maybe being English when I throw in an English comment or sentence. And they don’t understand how I can be so fluent in English when I have never lived in an English-speaking country (apart from a 5 month internship in England in the 1990s). And if I want to travel to countries in the Middle East other than Jordan or Egypt, I may encounter troubles getting in as my name sounds Jewish and my passport says “Jerusalem” as my birthplace, even though I am not Jewish and my stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very middle of the road, not particularly favouring any one side. Yes, this identity thing is complicated and not only when it comes to nationality.

People also think I am a religious Christian, especially when they hear that my father was a pastor and a theologian and I do feel at home in Christianity but I also feel at home in Judaism. If I had to choose a religion to follow, it probably would be Judaism, but right now if I had to categorize myself I would in essence call myself a non-religious humanist.

And then there’s also my family, which is also complicated! If I introduce my black brother or my Arab looking brother as ‘this is my brother’ you can just see the questions appear in people’s eyes. Explaining my family is a whole process of its own!

I have now lived in The Netherlands for many years and at first glance and when people first get to know me, I am a ‘standard’ Dutch person even though after all these years I still don’t feel that way. There always, always, in each new acquaintance I make, comes a time when I feel the need to define myself as not standard Dutch. When people ask me where I’m from, I always hesitate to answer because I never quite know how to answer that. There is never one quick simple answer. Yes, I have the Dutch nationality and while I like living here in The Netherlands and I do have this whole Dutch background, I don’t like to be pinned to just the Dutch nationality. So, when people ask me where I’m from or if I’m religious or they ask me about my family, I usually say ‘it’s complicated’ and if they have half an hour, I can make some time to explain. And I haven’t even gotten around to explaining anything about my professional identity and what it is I look for in work. I’m quite restless in that as well.

All my life I have tried to fit in while on the inside rebelling against the feeling that I need to fit in. I want be to seen as ‘normal’ on the one hand and my life has become quite ‘normal’ too because I do feel quite comfortable with that, yet on the other hand and at the same time I struggle against ‘normality’ and don’t want to be stuck in the same thing forever. When I try to explain my background to people, it can feel like I’m bragging and that they may think that I think I’m ‘better’ than them. If I don’t explain about my background, I feel like I’m holding back or even lying. And always I somehow feel restless, like I’m not living up to the potential of my diverse youth and yet at the same time also being happy with my family and work now. Identity and figuring life out is a tough thing… will the struggle ever end? Or is it the struggle that makes it interesting?

Daniel Donskoy is 20 years younger than me, but I have become a bit of a fan because he has made me actively think about these questions of identity again and it’s very interesting for me to see how he figures out similar life questions for himself. Should he ever write a book about all that, I’d be very interested to see how he tackles that. I sometimes consider writing something about identity myself but then always fail on figuring out precisely how to do that and from what angle to approach it. Maybe one day, when I am old and grey and very wise and have more time on my hands and more patience, I will be able to figure that out.

Pressure… don’t push me…

It’s been a busy week in Esther-world: celebrating my mother’s 83rd birthday last weekend (she’s still in good health and able to care for herself, thank goodness), dealing with family stuff at home (all is well, but still needing attention) and trying to get myself not too riled up about my micro-managing boss. I feel a conversation coming up in the near future where I make it clear to him that the pleasure I have felt working at this organisation the past year and a half has evaporated ever since he started micro-managing… During the first job interview he had with us (I was one of the people interviewing him!) he had said he was good at managing where needed and letting go where needed. I had faith in him when he said that, that faith has evaporated quickly. I guess he interprets the ‘where needed’ differently from me…

The news world has also been very busy. Trump has been a bumbling fool on the international stage again, the whole Brexit mess has kept me watching BBC news in fascination and even Richard Armitage has been tweeting nonsense (seriously, turn the other cheek to bullies? When has that ever helped? Peaceful resistance, I am all for that, but just turning the other cheek only helps bullies, not the victims). Thankfully, I did enjoy this picture of him that turned up last week or so from Audible…

Oh, and there was this picture as well from the upcoming season 3 of  Berlin Station

These are little highlights as I still wait for something great to come from the Armitage that even I can enjoy other than just nice images (nope, no audiobooks for me, Castlevania is still on hold and I’m not that keen on the upcoming Berlin Station either…). I wish I had the energy to blog about my stage in Armitage-fangirling right now, like Herba, Servetus and Nell have been doing so eloquently recently on their bogs. And I still might, when I feel more space in my brain, but suffice it to say that I too feel the drought and I too am still hoping for other great things to come from Richard.

This means that I am stuck to other fangirling right now. Lately that has been all about listening to Muse’s new album which came out last week. I like this album better than the last one, some really good songs on there! I’m really liking this one right now…

I guess the whole “Pressure … don’t push me” message feels relevant. 😉  Luckily, last Tuesday I was able to purchase tickets to their world tour that starts next year! They’ll be in The Netherlands in June. Some friends of mine are going too and I got tickets for myself and Suzy from the Silverbluelining blog as she too has become a Muse fan. This band is absolutely awesome live and I find myself already wishing for June!

Giddy!

Marta Dusseldorp, lead actress from A Place To Call Home who plays Sarah, actually saw the fan video I made recently for George and Sarah in season 5!

Marta Dusseldorp APTCH season 6

How do I know that she has seen it? She tweeted a reaction!

Last year she retweeted something I wrote and this time she actually commented and again I am stoked! I had to reply to her, of course…

I never fangirl to garner attention from the object of my affection, I never tweet to the objects of my affection (I only hashtag them) and I never ever expect a reaction. In fact, I am more than fine not being noticed, I’d be embarrassed… I just fangirl because I need to let my enthusiasm out. So, when one of your fangirl objects personally acknowledges you for something you have done because you admire the work they do, I admit, it makes me feel giddy! Thank you Marta for making my day! 🙂

I’m still here!

It’s been very quiet on the blogging front for me, I know. And I miss it! It’s just been sooooo busy in my real life, I either haven’t gotten around to blogging or I haven’t been in the mindset.

My son got his school diploma earlier this week! There was a central celebration for all those graduating and after that the 4 graduating classes split up and went upstairs to smaller rooms. That is where  personal speeches were given to each kid and where they actually received their diplomas.  My son’s class mentor awarded him a “Pun Master Award” in the personal speech she gave about him, referencing his humour. My in-laws were there as well, as was my mother and my aunt. I really missed my dad, though. He would have loved to have been there as well. Schools, learning and diplomas really were his ‘thing’…

Here are a few pictures of my son signing his diploma, the speech my son received, and the congrats afterwards (the girl with the long ponytail is my daughter).

We were very proud! Now it’s on to hotel management school for him… and this coming weekend his birthday with lots of celebrating. So much to do before then!

My daughter has been having some troubles that we’ve been dealing with and recently some things came to a head, so our energy has been focussed there (as it should be). Luckily things are a little better now. We have a plan of action and we’ve decided, together with her, to enrol our daughter at another school where we hope there will be a little more care for her than she received in her old school. We’ll see… we’re very hopeful, though!

All the ups and downs in my children’s lives that my husband and I have been dealing with, combined with work being very busy right now, means that, yes, blogging hasn’t been a priority recently. I’m really enjoying my new job, by the way, and they are happy with me too as I have just been given an extension on my contract till mid september next year and a pay rise! However, there is so much to do and I need to watch out that I don’t get sucked into unnecessary details. I need to keep on top of doing what I should be doing and not getting side-tracked by other things that people are starting to ask me about as well…

There has alas been little time for fangirling but I do try to keep up a little bit; I need to, for my own sanity. This means that I do have Pilgrimage ready to view but with all sorts of drama happening around me, I haven’t been able to stomach looking at violence like that yet. Maybe next week, when things look to be calming down a little. In the meantime, I did enjoy these Richard Armitage in Pilgrimage gifs from UltraVeloce on Twitter!

https://twitter.com/UltraVeloce/status/882530719221731329

https://twitter.com/UltraVeloce/status/882523731851001856

https://twitter.com/UltraVeloce/status/882801667430690816

I also really liked this picture of comedian/actress Miranda Hart with her dog Peggy over on Instagram from two days ago:

View this post on Instagram

Favourite photo. #dontsharefood #PeggyandMe

A post shared by Miranda Hart (@realmirandahart) on

From somewhere, and I can’t remember where, I was alerted to a Turkish cat-lover’s site a little while back. He plays keyboards and when he does, one of his many cats loves to keep him company. It is so darned cute and this week he posted another cute one, which gives me real joy! He has more videos like that on his Instagram, including one where another cat comes in as well and the video-cat gets a little jealous. Perfect little pick-me-up on a busy day.

These quick little glimpses of fun things help me relax a bit and make me smile!

Hopefully, starting next week, most of the busy stuff and private life stress will be over for a bit and I can get back to blogging more again. That is, until we leave for our summer holiday in England in two weeks time…

Anyway, this post was just a little sign of life… I’m still here! 🙂

Cats preparing for a ball

Now, I know there are enough people out there who aren’t necessarily fond of cats…

c7dd7-ra2bmeow

… but I have two and I adore them. It’s almost summer now and my two cats were enjoying our back garden this past weekend while the sun was shining. Our 12-year-old reddish-beige cat likes to sunbathe…

Cat in the sun

… and our 3-year-old black cat later joined us, sitting pretty in the shade (she is tanned enough, after all)…

Cat on a stone chair

… and then both cats progressed to some necessary grooming…

Cats a-grooming

Maybe they were preparing for a Jellicle cat ball?

As a Cats-alumnus, you should be able to appreciate that, Richard Armitage… 😉