Tag Archives: best blog

“Two sisters” by Asne Seierstad

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This is the second book by Asne Seierstad I read. “Two Sisters” is her sixth book. Released in Norway in November 2016, it became the bestselling book of the year, and won the prestigious Brageprisen.

The book is about the journey of two Somali sisters from Norway into the jihad in Syria. The author did a tremendous job to reconstruct the scenes as accurately as possible, which is not at all an easy task. In literary journalism the accuracy depends almost entirely on sources and in this case there were scattered, plentiful and fragmented. If you are interested in the methodology the author applied, read the post-face.

The “entire world is trying to understand the reasons for radicalization among Muslim youth” and this is the impetus of the book. As the author herself puts it: “There is no single explanation, but one can point to several factors, including the search for identity, meaning, and status; the desire to belong; the influence of others; excitement; the need to rebel; and romantic notions.”

Imagine waking up one morning and reading an email from your daughters saying “We have decided to travel to Syria to help out down there the best we can … . It was painful to read about the struggles of the father who travelled to Syria to bring back his daughters and who gave it up failure after failure of rescuing them. It was even more painful to read about how judgmental or indifferent humans can be in the face of a family’s tragedy. This book is a must-read for parents and guardians. As children grow and start interacting more with circles outside the family the vigilance must increase.

“The Knight in the Panther Skin” by Shota Rustaveli

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Thanks to the translation by Lin Coffin and verbatim translation and editing by Prof. Dodona Kiziria I was able to savour the classics of classics of the Georgian literature.

A masterpiece of its time, written in what is known as the Golden era of the Georgian history, “The Knight in the Panther Skin” by Shota Rustaveli is a must read for everyone willing to understand the soul of Georgians, the kindest people on Earth, by me. I was happy to learn from my Georgian friends that it is still part of the schools curricula. I find it telling when societies keep their creative roots and pay tribute to the founders of beautiful things on earth.

The plot is described in many open sources so I will not do it here. There is love and jelousy, betrayal and brotherhood, wealth and poverty, war and peace and all other wordly things in “The Knight in the panther skin”. This is the third/forth attempt to translate it in English. Big kudos to the translators, who did the magic of teleporting the readers to the times of beauty of human relationships fueled by love, friendship, loyalty, courage and faith in God.

My list of favourite verses is very long. Here are only a few:

“She said: ‘Wise people say those who are prudent should never make haste. They act calmly when pressed by Fate, not raging against where they’re placed.”

“If a lover says he listened to a prayer for patience – he lies!”

“Patience is the fountainhead of wisdom, I feel.”

“Lying, we know, is the source of all things ignoble.”

‘Love exalts us’ they tell us, as if heaven’s bells a song would raise. If you cannot conceive this, how can I hope ignorance to raze?”

“Something that God doesn’t will doesn’t happen, and what He wills, stays.”

“The eyes long for all things lovely and beautiful on which to gaze.”

“Wherever I may be, nothing matters if I have my free will!”

“The sweetly discoursing tongue can lure the serpent out of its lair.”

“In the end, I am sure, everything that’s hidden shall come to light.”

“They didn’t say “We don’t have this”; to envy their hearts didn’t yield.”

“Who grieves the future wastes time and strives without reward.”

“This hidden truth was revealed to us by Dionysus, the wise: God creates only good; He lets no evil in the world arise.”

“Butterfly people” by Elda Moreno

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When my colleague Elda Moreno announced on Linkedin that she self-published a book, I immediately got it on my Kindle. I found the book touching. It permeates with sensitivity and gives a voice to those of us who become invisible not by their choice – the elderly. I loved that the author gave the reader a multi-generational view on seniority and even the view of a pet, who remain perhaps the most loyal family members as we grow old.

The book is a wonderful reminder that we do meet in our lives “Butterfly people”. As the author explains us herself: “Butterfly people conquer the sky because they embrace and generate change. They know and are true to their essence. They see opportunities where others only see risks. If the wind knocks them down, they learn from it and pick themselves up.”

“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.

“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.”

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.