“The bookseller of Kabul” by Asne Seierstad

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I loved the narrator’s style – it teleported me to the houses and streets of Kabul, and mountain paths in Afganistan. It was not a surprise as the author is a journalist, it nevertheless enchanted.

The author spent time with the bookseller’s family the story is about. She lived with them under one roof, shared their food and was present at small and big family events. She did not judge, she kept an unveiled perspective even when wearing a burka to venture outside with the women of the household.

The girls and women who lived through a kingdom, and communist, mujahedeen, taliban regimes have the toughest share of suffering. I valued that the author also wrote about boys and poor men and their suffering. How hard it is for unpriviledged men is often skipped in our Western gender narrative.

The degree and scope of distruction Afganistan went through does not cease to amaze. And its source does not really matter. The pain the patriarchical ruling inflicts on own members of the family, the bombings by foreign armies, the burning of books by communists, mujahedeens, taliban are all the same – they all require healing and rebuilding. There is no truth in suffering. As long as we become aware about it, including thanks to journalists and authors like Asne Seierstad, we stand a chance to heal as a humanity.

Thank you Strasbourg

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for a sunny day and filterless pics

Cathedral
Place Gutenberg
Batorama
Place Kleber

for my comfy stay at Villa La Florangerie

Villa La Florangerie

days of productive meetings with my superb colleagues, new and renewed work connections;

for my superb reunions with my favourite patisserie and chocolaterie owner @patisserie_francois (their vienoiseries are the best, I dare keep saying it)

And the skillful hands of my wonderful reflexologist Joëlle Michelon at http://www.reflexologie-strasbourg.com/

Thanks to all gardeners who keep Orangerie impecable and lovely to enjoy.

Parc de l’Orangerie

Thank you to all who cooked our meals @acantinacompoircorse, @arnauld and @lafignette. And, naturally, for the best to my taste chocolate @maisoncaffet.

The ristretto @cdgairport was a good final note on this trip, served with the sound of a hearty laughter of the barrista.

Merci beaucoup et a la prochaine!

“I would rather eat a cactus…than run a project” by Lesley Elder-Aznar

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I found the title funny, even if I would rather not eat a cactus, in any event, unless it has been processed into agave syrup. Many of the aspects touched upon resonated with my project manager’s life in the corporate world: negotiations with other departments, the surprise of learning about costs recharging, change management…

The book covers the lifespan of a project from initiation to the business case, kicking of the project, executing, communication and training plans, to closing and monitoring of the project. Sections on project roles (who is who), agile project management and behaviour changes enrich the technicalities with insights.

As the author tells us herself: “The whole purpose of this book was to demystify project and project jargon, to make it less scary, to make it more accessible to everyone. Not just the people who are working in project world, but all of the people who are on the receiving end of change, or unwittingly seconded onto a project.” It is indeed a book largely for uninitiated. Yet, those who are more experienced can still find useful reminders. I also read it as an invitation for staying humble in interactions with more junior by experience colleagues. It also felt at times as reading through training materials or attending a training as on some pages the author “speaks” to you (“hold on..”, “humor me…”). There is nothing wrong with that and there are readers who prefer this way of presentation of information. It can also inspire you in you are preparing for a training delivery – forget not to give credit.

The lines that made me smile: “If you have a Finance team that can organise this without you promising to name your first-born child after the Finance Manager, then you are destined for success!”

“Your friendly Finance business partner will spend much time explaining to you about cost-centres and WBS (work breakdown structure) codes and how it’s all going to take place in the monthly cycle. Just nod along and ask them to email you when it’s done. Or you risk wasting years of your life trying to understand it.”

OtsY restaurant in Tbilisi

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OtsY was on my list of “to be discovered” in Tbilisi. What better occasion than Tbilisoba to do it!

I sat on the terrace and enjoyed the views to the oldest still-standing church in Tbilisi – Anchiskhati Basilica – to my right, and to Gabriadze marionette theatre to my left. Soft music in the background just enough to let you immerse in a calm atmosphere.

I let the choice of wine in the knowledge of locals. It enchanted. Vazisubani Estate collection Kisi white dry wine was a perfect choice for my choice of meal thanks to its aromas of peaches and quince. For a starter, I ordered the Georgian salad. It surprised my taste buds with freshness of herbs, balance of flavours and generosity of proportions. The heirloom pink tomato, cucumbers, red onion paired divinely with a sublime coriander sauce.

For the main course I went with an Eggplant achma. Those familiar with the Georgian cuisine know achma – the generous cheese buttery pie. The eggplant version will satisfied the buds of any seasoned vegetarian. Layered roasted eggplant, tomato jam and Sulguni cheese, topped up by finely minced herbs of the season.

For dessert I went for a ristretto and Chocolate Crémeux with Poached Cherries & Almond “Gozinaki” – perfect balance of textures and bitter-sweet flavours to finish my meal with a memorable delicate after taste. Compliments to the chef and the kitchen!

The service is impeccable: quiet, smiling, warm, no rush- no hustle, always in control, and spreading gratitude and generosity. I warmly recommend it and wish every success to the team of OtsY!

Tbilisi Gastroweek

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Tbilisi Gastroweek

I’ve been to gastronomic festivals in couple of countries. You usually get a programme, with a starting time, and with precise times to know when and where which chef will be cooking. @Tbilisigastroweek lured us with interesting announcements and we chose to go on 1 October, because of the promise of a seeing chefs cook and tasting meals from different countries, which set it apart from my previous “chefs of the country where the festival is” kind of thing.

So, when due to traffic we arrived 20 minutes into the event, people were gathering slowly in Ciskari by the Turtle Lake. Good, Georgians do not keep it according to schedule, I thought. We had no programme, and no one around seemed to have one. There was wine and cheese and churchkhela to welcome guests. Two hours or so into the event, some images appeared on the big screen and a chef took his place behind the table. Thanks, they obliged with an English power point and I could understand who that was. My initial bother about what seemed like a delay to me and unforeseeable sequence of the workshops retreated under the influence of a glass of Georgian wine and the majestic calm of walnut trees under which the tables were set. And I got to enjoy this “no rush no hustle “ type of organisation, because there was clearly an organisation to it. The scenery of the nearby Turtle Lake added to the rhythm of going with the flow.

I will not go into all presentations and demonstrations. Those curious can see it all on Tbilisigastroweek social media. The workshops started with Chef @Tekunia who introduced the Georgian chef Guram @Chvenirestaurant.

Chef Guram and his team made for us Street food Pork and red beans stew/ pickled Staphylea with homemade mayonnaise/Georgian “nadughi” mint cream cheese topping.

Chef @Maksutaskar from Turkey @Neolokal restaurant in Istanbul gave a lecture about Anatolian cuisine and the things we share. Very valuable in a world of division. I loved the concept he introduced – “Mothers’ nation “- a concept of transmission between mothers and daughters (and sons), beyond borders and nations. The image of him and his mother was heart-warming. He also shared another type of maps – a culinary map, to look differently perhaps at the world we see. He advocated for cooking as a tribute to tradition mindful of adding sustainability to it.

Congratulations to the team of @Tbilisigastroweek for their first such event. Keep organising them, in your own unique style. We will gladly oblige.

“Ali and Nino” by Kurban Said

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I rarely read Introductions, for they tend to give you certain perspectives right from the beginning. Yet, the Introduction to Ali and Nino is worth reading, while remembering that: “Ali and Nino would be well worth reading even if it were not the brilliantly achieved novel that it is. It takes us, as Western readers, into a world in which it is very good for us to be.” To me the novel gives voices to all engulfed in the turmoil of the first world war: Ali, a mohammedan in heart and deeds, Nino, a Georgian aristocrat staying true to herself even in a harem in Persia, an imam who can distinguish between love and senseless sacrifice, true friends who’ll put their friend’s best interest above their own… The novel takes the reader to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Dagestan, and Persia, and we learn about the morals reigning in all these places during those times, while Nino and Ali’s love between a christian and a mohammedan unfolds in spite of everything and everyone.

My favourite passages:

“The Orient’s dry intoxication comes from the desert, where hot wind and hot sand make men drunk, where the world is simple and without problems. The woods are full of questions. Only the desert does not ask, does not give, and does not promise anything. But the fire of the soul comes from the wood. The desert man—I can see him—has but one face, and knows but one truth, and that truth fulfils him. The woodman has many faces. The fanatic comes from the desert, the creator from the woods. Maybe that is the main difference between East and West.’”

“The wise man must not let himself be disturbed by either praise or blame.”

“The magic of this town lies in the mystical bond between its races and peoples”. – about Baku.

‘This wine is pure, for God is in it.” – Georgians about their wine.

Probably one of the most just description of Georgians: “Georgians seem to me like noble deer, strayed amongst the jungle mixtures of the Asiatics. No other Eastern race has this charm, these graceful movements, this fantastic lust for life and healthy enjoyment of leisure.”