Saturday, 31 March 2007

Shabbat-o-rama: Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood - Some Velvet Morning

I've been listening to this all week. I love the way the two totally different styles blend into each other towards the end of the song. The video is pretty retro and very funny. It doesn't quite fit the images in my mind when I'm listening to this song, so I prefer to close my eyes and see myself in an old convertible car, driving on the highway in the American West... It's pretty cheesy too, but it's one of my old fantasies... I should really do this soon.... but not before I actually get my driver's licence. Unless I choose to ride a horse instead of an old convertible. Shabbat shalom!

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Jew Amongst the Nations

What happens when a paranoid pro-Israel, middle-east politics enthusiast becomes addicted to a tv show such as "Curb your Enthusiasm" ?

This: I just came up with the theory that "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is an allegory of Israel. Larry David represents the State of Israel while everyone else is the United Nations. Larry David is talented and successful but he can be moody and grumpy, and sometimes seems to get himself in trouble on purpose. Although he fucks up a lot of the time, he wants nothing but peace, and tries, somewhat unsuccesfully, to fix the situation. People around him seem to only see the fuck ups he's done, but never the part where he tried to help. On top of that, they only see HIS fuck ups, but nobody else's. He is often the victim of bad circumstances, and gets blamed for everything, without ever having the chance to explain. He ends up being ostracized by everyone, and only manages to keep a couple of faithful, but somewhat difficult, allies, and of course, his wife Cheryl, who represents the diaspora, and loves him unconditionally, no matter how much he fucks up.


What's good about London is that you can make friends from many different countries and get invited everywhere. So you can actually choose your friends according to what country you want to visit. The only thing is that if you don't hurry to visit them, you might miss out on an window of opportunity. By the time you finally decide to go, they might have moved elsewhere, or simply not be your friend anymore.

Places in which I had friends to visit but didn't visit, and can't visit anymore: Ireland, India, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Milan, Odessa, Kiev, Oslo, Devon, Taipei, Krakow, Barcelona, Malmo, Switzerland, Marseille.

Places I should go to soon before it's too late: Tokyo, Greece, Australia, Reykjavik, Nice.

What places did you not go to when you could?

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Pardon my French

Once more, last night, a French person asked me where I was from as I was speaking French to them.... French is my native language, the language I grew up with until I was 14 years old. Then we moved to Canada (the English side, thank God... or I would have ended up with the comical Quebecois accent... which I learned to imitate to impress people at parties.) Even though I went to a bilingual high school, and although I spoke French with my parents, my French quickly deteriorated: I acquired a French-as-a-second-language accent, and started making a lot of anglicisms. Seven years in London definitely did not help.

I'm slowly reaching the point where I will have spent more time in English-speaking countries than in France. When I arrived in London, people thought I was American, but when I go to North America, people think I'm English. But no one ever thinks I'm French.

When I speak French with French people, they are amazed at how well I speak French: "Wow! How come you speak French so well? It's amazing! Where did you learn it?"

I was talking about this with Olga, who has the exact same problem. We realized that from the several languages that we each speak, there isn't even one that we speak like a native, not even our own mothertongue! It did make us pretty sad. What does it mean, not to be able to speak your own language? Is it like being apatrid? Does it mean that you're not from anywhere? That you don't belong anywhere? That you're not part of anything? Is it a direct translation of the fact that we're not at home anywhere? This is part of a process: once you realize and accept that you are a Citizen of the World, things become easier. To quote my friend Margareth: "Let's just be international!".

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Urban Diplomat

In London since 1998, I have had 14 different addresses, and 39 different flatmates:

7 Spaniards
5 English
3 Germans
3 Swedes
3 Norwegians
2 Irishmen
2 Italians
2 Canadians
2 French
1 Serb
1 Greek
1 Colombian
1 New Zealander
1 Japanese
1 South African
1 Slovenian
1 Scottish
1 Cypriot
1 Brazilian

(I didn't count the many people I lived with for several months in a Bayswater hostel: this deserves a chapter of its own.)

You can see how this 9 year intensive training made me a very experienced diplomat: over the years, I worked very hard to appease many violent conflicts and cold wars; I negociated territories, imposed resolutions, signed peace treaties, and proceeded in several unilateral pullouts.

Sometimes it can be really hard. Especially past a certain age. I am this close to making another unilateral pullout now, not because of bad flatmates, but because I'm just tired of being a diplomat.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Definitely French

I was born in Paris from a Jewish Tunisian Father, born in Sfax, Tunisia, and from a Jewish Polish mother, born in Szczecin, Poland.

I grew up in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, a district populated mostly by Jewish and Muslim North-African, African, and Asian communities. In primary and junior-high school, most students were 2nd generation immigrants. Although I am of Tunisian and Polish descent, people usually think I'm French-French, because of my freckled light skin, light brown hair, and French sounding family name.

A teacher once had the idea of organising a special party where everyone in the class had to bring a specialty from their country of origin. There were Tunisian and Morrocan pastries, Yugoslavian sausages, Cambodgian sweets, Carribean exotic fruits, etc... My mom was working a lot at the time and didn't have time to prepare any Polish specialty for me... So I went to class with a bottle of "Banga" fruit juice from the corner shop, so I wouldn't arrive empty-handed.

My teacher, who was going from table to table to have a taste of each specialty stopped at my desk and said to me with a smile on her face: "A bottle of "Banga"! Well gee, you're definitely French!"

Saturday, 10 March 2007

London: Je t'aime moi non plus

London. Either live there forever, or miss it forever. When you're a foreigner in London, you always feel like you're there temporarily. Even though I've been here since 1998 (with a 2 year break in Paris), I always feel like it's temporary. Maybe it's the fact that even at 30 years old, unless I worked in finance, I still have no choice but to live like a student, with total strangers, having to deal with inconsiderate flatmates and having to argue about dishes, stolen food, and worry about money. Or maybe it's the fact that in London, one has to move flats regularly. It's usually because either the landlord wants to sell the flat, which happened to me a couple of months ago after only 6 months of moving in, or because the flatmates are complete psychos, which they often are in London.

Since 1998, I moved from Bayswater to Bayswater to Bayswater to Farnham to Kilburn to Highgate to Chalk Farm to West Hampstead to Camden to Paris (2 years without moving!) to Stoke Newington to Stoke Newington to Golders Green to Stoke Newington.
That's 14 flats in 9 years. Wow.

Two solutions: buy a flat (with a 150 year mortgage) or marry a guy who works in finance...

How many years can anyone live like that? And is it even worth it? How much can you love a city to be able to accept this way of life? I really really love London, but do I love it so much that I don't mind living like an eternal nomad?

London is a seductive trap. Once it seduces you, it won't let you go. And even though it doesn't treat you so well, you can't stop loving it.

It's a catch 22: I can either decide to settle here, but accept the consequences, or go away, and feel like I will always be missing out on something.

London. Either live there forever, or miss it forever.

Thursday, 8 March 2007


Owning stuff makes you heavy, when you're international. It seems like a dozen cardboard boxes full of stuff have been following me through all these years (another dozen boxes rotting at my Dad's in Paris). With time I learned to cut down and actually learned to take pleasure in throwing stuff away. The least I own the lighter I feel. I went from 30 boxes to 10 and I feel much better. Nevertheless, my life is still mostly in boxes and I have no idea when I will start unpacking.

Have you ever dreamed of a wall full of books, in your living room, next to the fireplace? Well, until I actually live in that living room (a real, permanent living room, not a London flatshare living room) and have that fireplace, those books will been sitting in those boxes like they have been for close to 12 years! And who's actually gonna read them again? They're just there to remind you that you've read them (or that you haven't yet) and to show off to visitors. And in the meantime, you can't even show off because they're in boxes! So I actually just got rid of 90% of my books. I only kept all my Israel politics stuff (quite good for showing off... and provoke arguments), a couple of classics, and most of my art & design books for inspiration. Well, I feel much lighter and my next move will be that little tiny bit easier.

As for bulkier stuff... I bought the same desk about 5 times at 5 different Ikeas in 3 different countries (it's always called the same weird Swedish name everywhere). It's actually cheaper than transporting one. This also works for kitchenware.
Many of my friends had to buy the same furniture and kitchenware over and over. I think it's a new sociological phenomenon and for all you entrepreneurs out there, I think there are some great business ideas to look into... But for the time being, Ikea stays the big winner.


I am not just a wandering (and wondering) Jew. I am part of a new international generation. Most people I know all have lived in at least 3 different countries and all speak at the very least 3 languages (many of them 4). Every year or so, there is the "Musical Chairs" phenomenon, as my friend Andy calls it:

- I moved from Paris to Vancouver to Paris to London to Paris to London.
- Sophie from Berlin to London to Beijing to London to Taipei to Paris to Frankfurt to Berlin.
- Andy from Bavaria to Tubingen to Costa Rica to Nanjing to Taipei to Berlin to London to Seoul.
- Ben from Paris to London to Paris to Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur to Paris.
- Vera from Stuttgart to London to Stuttgart to Barcelona to Stuttgart to London.
- Kasia from Szczecin to Ingatorp to Boras to Gothenburg to Paris to Ingatorp to Paris to Szczecin.
- Olga from Paris to Wales to Paris to Berlin to Switzerland to Berlin to Marseille.

These people all met at some point, mostly in London.
One always arrives when the next one leaves, hence the musical chairs. Will we ever live in the same city again?

Consequences (good and bad):
-We are chameleons who can blend in, adapt, and make ourselves at home anywhere we go. But the reality is that nowhere is our home. We have tasted the good bits of each place therefore cannot choose one because there is always something that's better in the other places. No matter where we are.

-We have an international accent. People always know we're foreign but never know where exactly we're from. Even when I speak French (my mothertongue), people tell me how well I speak French and ask me where I learned to speak it so well...

Next destinations: New York City and/or Tel Aviv.

Where will I settle down? Will I ever settle down? Do I want to settle down?