People & stories

Great evening today at Tricky Women Festival 2013!

I saw the animated documentaries section and I have to say it was pretty hard to choose a favorite. Still, I had the luck to find my first choice online and, of course, now I’m happy to share it.

The movie called “Heirlooms” is an impressive bundle of stories beautifully animated about identity and becoming.

Enjoy!

Touristing

Curiosity, openness, joy of exploration.
Sometimes just a comfort zone.

It’s comfortable to be a tourist. Everybody knows how to be a tourist: you have a map and a camera. Sometimes a guide. All the mistakes are allowed. Detachment is allowed. Questions are highly recommended.

Some are professional tourists. Always in a rush to the next hot spot. Fully prepared for all kinds of weather. Carrying a ticket to a next destination.

Some are just occasional ones only when visitors are around. A breath of fresh air. A chance to reconnect with the city.

With the photo group we made a “Touristy photo walk” through the first district of Vienna. It was lovely to take photos of tourists and see their joy. And write about it. Full set here.

I am coming from a place called home

Today I received an awesome present: “I miss my friends from Bosnia… you remind me of them…”, a friend told me.

It made me remember of another two similar precious gifts received in the last years: “you are very much black even with your white skin” (a very dear friend) and “you are more Indian than Indians” (a very dear professor).
I couldn’t help wondering once again how come people find me similar to them in such different contexts.
I guess the cliché ‘we are all the same’ suits here, otherwise I’m not sure how to explain this.

Who am I?

One of the usual answers to this question is … I am a Romanian. It’s very easy for me to say this, because I was born in Bucharest, I spent 28 years of my life in the same city (most of it in the same house), my parents and grandparents were born in Romania as well.

I’m probably one of the “last Mohicans” who has the luxury to define herself in such terms. During my travels, I met people for whom this categorization isn’t enough: “I’m Indian, but I lived all my life in South Africa”; “I live in Berlin, but I’m half French”; “I’m Belgian, but I’m living now in the Netherlands”, “I was born in Japan, but grew up in New Zeeland” just to give few examples.

To define themselves entirely through one ‘place’ becomes an impossible task for many people. So then, what is the next best way to define oneself? Seems almost a reflex to think of identity in terms of space… but now when the borders are fading… who we actually are?

I remember my project created during my South African semester where following the same question, I asked local and foreign students about how self-image is modified (or not) when being “home” or “abroad”, having in mind the idea that home is the key concept for the question above.

What I didn’t realize back then was the fine distinction between home, and the act of defining yourself through a certain space. Sometimes these two spaces overlap, but not necessarily. We can still consider a space as being home because of the period of time spent there (we grew up, studied, worked or just had a great time there), but defining ourselves through that space is a bigger step. Because any space has certain attached attributes, the so-called “cultural features” which by the act of saying for example “I am a Romanian” (different than “I am from/I was born in/I grew up in/i live in Romania) we accept simultaneously to fit into the “Romanian” category and imbibe those cultural attributes that come with it.

We can have many homes, but we might not be “permanent residents” of all these homes. In which case for travelers like me and my friends* – the question “who am I?” is still open and needs other categories in the answer. Any suggestions…?

*a big Thank You! to each of my friends for letting me learn from them about myself!

In brands we trust…

For the last year and a half, I had been traveling a lot. Basically for my master’s program. During which time I spent 9 months in India -a great experience from so many points of view. For a European like me, living in India presents many challenges. My first was dealing with food. Cooking on campus wasn’t a possibility (no kitchen available for student use) and soon enough I started eating at Subway and McDonald’s on a weekly basis, even though back home I was just an occasional consumer.
Some time after this, I chanced upon an excessively lengthy discussion on a forum of expats in India about finding certain brands. I was quite annoyed. I was pondering over why they wouldn’t simply adapt to their new working/living place, when I realized that the discussion was about something else entirely: home! And like me … they were searching for something familiar… a burger, chocolate, toothpaste or even a coffee shop.
Why is ‘home’ so important is a rhetorical question … a more important question is how we define ‘home’ when ‘away from home’. Brands have the capacity to travel and due to their accessibility can shape home and reconstruct it everywhere we are. It’s true that every traveler hungers for the ‘new’, looking to learn and adapt. But at the same time we will always seek a certain comfort zone.
A brand can offer such comfort – functioning as a landmark in an ever-changing world – offering to the customer the same experience no matter where you buy the product, replicating our image of home – a never-changing image.