Oktoberfest during lemon festival in Menton, France

FOR ALL YOU VITAMIN C LOVERS

Oktoberfest in Menton

Wait! Before proceeding, take a minute to the kitchen, heat a nice glass of water and squeeze in a half of a lemon juice and while reading this story, kindly, enjoy your cup of warm lemon juice to set you in the right mood with awesome health benefits as well.

Ok, now that you are back, I want to ask you, if you were really crazy about a particular fruit, how cool would it be to attend a festival dedicated only to that fruit?

If you happen to be a lemon lover, I’ve got you some good news. In the French city of Menton, there is a whole festival dedicated to this fruit and more!

The trip before the Corona times

My last trip before the most discussed disease – “COVID -19” broke out in Europe, was to Nice, in France. It was kind of an “exotic” trip for me because it was with a tourist group – and this was something I hadn’t done since childhood. It had its benefits and downsides, but for the sake of experience, learning how to think of others and not just myself during the trip, made it all worthwhile and educative. This knowledge comes in handy at the present moment, where people are permanently isolated, and you practically continuously have to be conscious of those around you when you visit the shopping malls for groceries.

But, let’s get back to the sweet pre-corona times and France – our last stop before heading back home was the french city of Menton and its Lemon festival. I had no expectations of how it would be, but as l am one of them – the lemon lover, l had to see it. Unfortunately, we had only one hour to enjoy the whole experience – the downside of travelling with a group, I thought in the beginning. However, after that hour, I considered it an advantage because this short hour didn’t give me the time to spend the money on all the variety of products made of lemon, which was so tempting, but at least I managed to take some pictures.

So let me take you through an express trip and tempt you to get into the sour and yellow pleasures next time you happen to be in France between the end of February and the beginning of March when the virus hopefully will be won over.

Why lemons, and Why Menton?

According to the legend, while fleeing from Paradise, Adam and Eve took one of the paradise lemons with her, but Adam, on the other hand, feared the anger from God and asked Eve to let it go. Eve agreed, but only at a spot, she decides. After crossing many places, they arrived at the Bay of Garavan. The beauty of the bay, its mild climate, and exotic plants evoked memories of the garden of Eden, so Eve planted the lemon in the soil, and Menton was born.

But according to historians, the cultivation of lemons started in the 15th of the century, thanks to the climate, which is labelled a near-subtropical micro-climate with mild winters and hot summers due to the protection of the Alps. And that is precisely what is needed to grow delicious citrus fruits, which explains why in the 1800s, there were around eight thousand lemon trees in Menton, and until the 1930s, Menton was Europe’s biggest lemon producer.

However,  the citrus production declined at the end of the 19th century due to the fragmentation of farms, diseases, and bad weather, agricultural exodus, and the strong development of urban planning.  Only in the 1980s  replantation promotion operations were carried out by the local authorities, and in the 1990s, more than five thousand trees had been planted again.

Today, thanks to these efforts, there are about 15 citrus growers in the regions of Menton, Roquebrune, Sainte-Agnès, and Castellar, and the goal is to reach 15,000 trees recognized by a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). With an annual production of about 200 tons, the industry is regaining its former strength. I also heard, that young citrus farmers are more than welcome in the town’s unconstructed areas, and they even get support for cultivating lemons. Anyone with hidden lemon farming dream reading here?

Menton citrus and flower festival.

How did the lemon parade start Menton?

Menton festival is a great celebration for the locals and the guests as well, even though during the hour we spent there, we were one of the very few foreigners, but as I read the history, I realized that the festival was explicitly made for foreigners.
It all started in the period called the Belle Époque. In 1860, English doctor James Henry Bennett (if you haven’t heard of him before, his most notable patient was Queen Victoria) published a treatise, “Winter and Spring on the Shores of the Mediterranean,“ where he praised the mild climate of the town while mentioning those suffering from tuberculosis. The English doctor had been one of the infected himself,  but after spending time in Menton to actually die from the disease, he became completely healed. He believed his health had improved, thanks to the mild winter weather at the French Riviera. With his work, the doctor managed to popularise Menton and its surroundings as an upper-class winter holiday and healing destination. 

Soon after, English and Russian aristocrats started journeying to Menton to spend their winters. That left hoteliers with the question of how to entertain the numerous foreign guests. In 1928, a hotelier from Hôtel Riviera made a successful attempt and organized an exhibition of flowers and citrus fruits in the hotel’s gardens. It was so acknowledged that the following year, the event moved into the streets, with carts decorated with orange and lemon trees. 

As the city council of Menton could feel the end of the Belle Époque and the decreasing attendance of wealthy winter visitors, they saw great potential in creating a similar event for maintaining the present foreigners and attracting new ones. The result was the birth of the Citrus Festival, which was officially created, with the first parade taking place the following year.

What can you experience?

In numbers, you can experience 140 tons of citrus fruits, 8km long garlands, 750,000 rubber bands if you bound them together, and 20,000 hours of work to make the huge citrus sculptures that attract approximately 200,000 visitors each year. Sounds impressive! However, what’s more impressive is the strong aroma and taste of lemons that instantly wins you over. On all corners, you are offered a strong lemon juice that makes you jump up from its acidity and power, lemon liquor, lemon vinegar, different jams, and much more. Indeed the festival makes you experience lemons in all their glory. 

LImoncello-in-Menton
Lemon festival in Menton
Lemon festival in Menton

However, once you’re immersed and got yourself “drunk” of the strong taste, essences, and the dazzling yellow and orange colors, its time to party. I heard of several parades, the biggest of which is the Golden Fruit Parade, where the enormous sculptures strut down the street, accompanied by musicians, folk groups, and majorettes every Sunday at the Promenade du Soleil. There is also Night Parade followed by fireworks over the bay. All that gathering 25 and 30 thousand people to celebrate the glory of lemons. Well, in the hour I was there, the parades didn’t take place, but the temptation is big to come next year and let all senses submerge in the yellow acidy vertigo.

The Themes

Since 1955 the festival has had its yearly theme. This year – which was the 87th edition, was dedicated to the most beautiful festivities in the world. The 12 statues made up of citrus fruits represented festivals ― the Lantern Festival in China, the Venice Carnival, the carnival of Brazil, St. Patric’s day, Octoberfest, and so on.

Semisecret fact

Even if all the lemons produced in Menton were used to make the beautiful citrus sculptures, they wouldn’t be enough of them. Besides, the lemons of Menton are so valued and of high quality that high-end restaurants require them all over the world for substantial value. Thus, the truth is that the citruses for the festival decorations come from Spain. However, those used for different lemon products and lemon juice tasting are the local ones from Menton, so at least your stomach can experience the real, local thing.

What happens to lemons after? 

After the festival has finished, dismantling begins. And as conscientious people become aware of the challenges of the waste problems in the world, a question strikes, what happens to all the citrus fruits that made up the statues? Well, the rotten ones are thrown away or used for compost, what else to do. However, the good ones are sold to those who are willing to line up on the day of dismantling and buy them at €0.50 for oranges and €0.30 for lemons. I am almost sure that during this time, nobody in Menton is ill due to the high levels of vitamin C in their bodies.

The festival and Corona Virus

Now back in my home country, I just heard that the end of the festival was cancelled, but I hope that the citrus fruits of the sculptures were still sold to the people, thus invigorating their immune system. But for us, far away from the lemon town, we can make our own little C Vitamin festival at home to help strengthen our immune systems during this challenging time. And if you do what I said in the beginning and drank your lemon water while reading this, please, go and make another one ― one more cup won’t hurt! 

Lemon Festival in Menton, France
Chinese_Fire_Therapy

FIRING UP THE HEALTH IN CHINA

Chinese Fire Therapy

There are so many ancient methods on how to improve the health condition and I can confess I have tried many of them as destiny blessed me with rheumatoid arthritis. Blessed – I meant literally as it has pushed me to better understand my body and try out different methods that, unlike the conventional medicine, don’t have side effects and deal with the root of the problem.

It’s a constant journey which helps me to improve not only my condition but also my overall health and makes me better and fuller of energy with every year that passes. So treatment-wise, there is very little that can surprise me; however, last time I visited, China offered me an experience I had never imagined before – the Fire Therapy. Read on and I will tell you how it came about

It started with acupuncture

I had already lived in China during my first exchange period and while enjoying my time learning Chinese and discovering the variety of Chinese food, I also developed some pain and changes in my toes.  When I told about this discovery to my Chinese classmates, they advised me to try acupuncture.

Through some international friends who studied traditional Chinese medicine in Nanjing University, me and my roommates ended up in a small acupuncture clinic, where 4 patients were treated at the same time in approximately 15 square meters. However, the size of the clinic was not important, because the knowledge, dedication and the promising results were the things that mattered and, even though to a lesser degree, at approximately 5 dollars per treatment of 2 hours, you can hardly say no.

 The treatment consisted of electric vibration, acupuncture and massage – everything done with amazing precision. As a result after around 1 month of intensive treatments almost every day (you can afford it daily, when it costs just 5 dollars) and then other more substantive ones a few times a month, my feet problems were solved. Therefore, acupuncture will always be my preferred treatment.

Chinese acupuncture with electrical stimulation

 However, arthritis has to do with the immune system and gut health, not exterior factors. Probably the experienced Chinese acupuncture doctor of the small clinic already told me that back then while sticking needles into my feet. Perhaps he also recommended a special diet and some herbs to use internally to sustain my results with acupuncture, considering that he used to ramble a lot while treating me, but I didn’t understand that as my Chinese was at the 1,2,3 level. So, some years later I started to feel the same symptoms again, but as I was working diligently on my architect degree, there wasn’t time to travel to China for my fix.

Acupuncture and fire

Finally, after graduation, I had the possibility to return to China and this time it was Guangzhou. Guess what was the first thing I was looking for? You are correct – an acupuncture place, a preferably very tiny one for the locals, as that was my standard. And I found it through a pharmacy. Can you imagine, walking into one of those chain pharmacies in Europe asking for some ancient treatment place and getting a positive answer immediately? Then get grabbed by the hand out of the pharmacy and walked to a nearby traditional treatment place? I know, sounds impossible, but I experienced that in China and it made me very happy cause it meant that both modern and traditional medicine complemented each other as it should be.

In the clinic

Like the first time in Nanjing, nobody spoke English in this clinic in Guangzhou either, and my Chinese had improved just enough so that I could somewhat talk about myself and order food, not a medical treatment. But with decent drawing and acting skills, you can tell or order anything in China. So, soon I was on a massage table with a significant number of needles stuck in all over my body – the whole body is connected in Chinese medicine.

chinese-acupuncture-in-the-stomach

I wanted to sleep a bit, as the other patients who came and lied in the beds next to me were staring too much, but soon I was more than awake after what I saw being done on the back of a woman next to me – it was on fire. Big yellow flames had embraced her back, but she didn’t seem to notice anything, having her head under a towel. What was happening?

As I don’t like to stare at the people too much, I had turned my head to the other side when she laid down, so I didn’t see how the situation escalated to the fire, but I saw that even the doctor didn’t panic, just stood next to her bed. Then he asked her something and when she answered, he peacefully put a towel on her back extinguishing the fire instantaneously, but then again after a little moment he lighted up the towel on a woman’s back with a lighter and looked at it as if it was the most normal procedure in the world. Even more surprised I noticed that the towel never burnt, so the fire exalted from something else every time he placed the lighter on it. This fire game repeated several times. After that, the patient slept a bit, but soon she was on her feet happy and giggling. Apparently, the fire on her back didn’t hurt and made her happy.

After the patient had left, I asked the doctor in my childish Chinese what it was. I didn’t understand much of the answer, but he showed me bottle of a solution smelling like spirit that he supposedly had poured on her towel before the “fire-show”. Probably that was the magic ingredient to make the flame without burning the towel? My curiosity was stronger than the fear.  I told my acupuncture doctor that I wanted the same. “Mei wenti” (No problem), he said. And after the needles were taken out of my body, the fire-show could start on my own back.

Fire on the back, energy in the body

I was on the bed again with the heart beating like crazy. Fire is not my best friends, so I was ready for the worst, but the curiosity was still stronger. I lied there naked, just having my tongas on, so fire had the full access to my body.

Chinese Fire therapy

First the acupuncture doctor covered my back and the head with various warm and wet towels, then poured isopropyl alcohol diluted with water (as I found out later) spreading it over the back abundantly and then ignited it. Surprisingly in the beginning I didn’t feel any change, just slightly warmth, but then the warmth increased gradually still feeling manageable. After some minutes it started to feel extremely hot and then the doctor asked me: “Hěn rè” – very hot? I answered “no” until I felt it was about to get unbearable, which I expressed with “Xiànzài hěn hěn rè” – “Now very, very hot”! which led him throwing a big, thick and wet towel on me which extinguished the flames.

Chinese Fire Therapy

After short while the process was repeated few times more and with each time I felt as if I was drinking an energy drink through my back. When the procedure was over, I didn’t know what to do with all the energy I had received from the fire. I was lucky it was the beginning of the day – l could manage tasks that otherwise would take me few days. Conclusion – fire therapy is a perfect alternative for a strong coffee.

What is Chinese Fire therapy?

Being back in Europe I researched more about the fire therapy, huǒ liáo, in Chinese and learned that it’s ancient Chinese and Tibetan folk medicine practice that regulates the balance of cold-hot temperatures in the body, which is used to heat large areas of the body rather than individual points by utilizing the heat from burning alcohol. It relieves areas affected by joint and muscular pain, reduces stress and helps in weight loss. The Fire Therapy also serves to treat all kind of cold-related diseases such as rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, cervical spondylosis, frozen shoulder, lumbar disc hernia, joint sprains, tumors, digestive problems, gynaecology, andrology and more.

Conclusion

Well, one session of fire therapy didn’t cure me, but it did give me a big boost of wellbeing, energy and reduced the pain greatly, so I recommend you all to let your back enjoy the flames and receive all the burning energy to keep enjoying your trip in China to the maximum.

And remember, this year – 2019 is a year of pig by the Chinese calender and I heard it is going to be a year of personal growth and development. According to Confucious: “A scholar who loves comfort is not fit to be called a scholar!”. Therefore I want to wish you to become the most diligent scholar of life and get out of your comfort zone no matter where you are in the world right now. And if you happen to be in China – maybe Fire Therapy is your first step!

Pigs year in China
Bethesda language school -free Danish and English classes

“DANISH” YOUR WAY IN COPENHAGEN

Bethesda language school -free Danish and English classes

Have you ever thought of how cool it would be to know a few words in the language of each country you visit? I definitely resonate with that, and I always try to learn the minimum before each travel. Words like: thank you, please, hello, my name is…

It’s even more fun if I have someone from that country who can help with the pronunciation, even though it doesn’t happen very often. I have been thinking how nice it would be to be able to attend a language school for just a few hours in each country on arrival: to learn most important words and meet some locals. To make it even better, it would be best if it would be free of charge!

Well, I am glad to inform you that I have found one place in the world where this is possible, and works out fantastic. It’s Copenhagen, Denmark – a city where Danish is spoken. You know what they say about Danish, right? Take a hot potato in your mouth and you will speak Danish or even worse stuff… However, I like Danish, it is so weird and difficult that it comes out as cute and funny. If you know some words in this difficult Scandinavian language, you might even feel like a Viking. Let me reveal this secret: if you have learned a few words in Danish and have got some good portion of Danish beer according to Scandinavian measures, the miracle happens – effortlessly! This miracle doesn’t last overnight though. The next morning, you will only have a few words left! But enough for you to proudly go to the shop or cafe and still pretend you know Danish.

danish language

Where is this magic place for learning Danish? You’ll be shocked to find out that it is a church. But don’t get judgmental, I will explain everything.

When I first came to Denmark to study many years ago and wanted to find a side job, I realized that Danish is the key to succeed in that. In those times my country of origin was not a part of EU yet, so waiting for a visa and a personal number thereafter took about half a year. It meant also that I had to wait half a year to be be able to attend a real language school. That made the situation pretty hard but I was lucky – in one of my first nights out in Copenhagen I met some other foreigners, who told me about Bethesda church. This was apparently a place where Danish was taught with no strings attached, no subscription and free of charge! I was skeptical though about the fact that it took place in a church, cause often ,a church is not equivalent to a true belief in something higher above us, but a profitable way for some groups of people to make money.

However, my curiosity was bigger than my skepticism. I took my friend with me to attend the next class they had.

For sure we entered a church, which was full of people of different skin colors and spoke languages from all over the world. At the entrance, we were greeted by a very nice Danish lady who asked us to write down our names and asked if we know any Danish from before. As it turned out later, the questions would help her place us in an adequate group.

After the greetings, the first part of the class begun, where all the students, regardless of their level were together. We started with a song in Danish which lyrics were written on the blackboard. Next activity was the learning of Danish vowels which to me was the hardest nut of this language. It was incredible to see how many different ways the mouth could be moved and how many different sounds it could make depending on each movement (see the photo beneath of how to open the mouth to pronounce one of the Danish vowels). The Danish “mouth yoga” exercises were followed by new words and expression related to the topic of the day. Then dialogue practices came as the next and at the end, we played a game to strengthen our new glossary. All that took about one hour – an hour filled with fun, laughter and some pretty hardcore learning.

Taking A Break…

The intensive hour was rewarded with a break, coffee, tea and sweet buns – all free of charge. That was also a good chance to get to know each other better and exchange the tips of the foreigner life in Copenhagen. After a short break the person who registered all the students and wrote down our levels had “grouped” us according to our abilities and formed groups of around 8 people. Each group got assigned a personal teacher and the second part of the class could start. As I found out later all the group teachers were volunteers who did the teaching job with one single goal – to help the newcomers to integrate and feel better in Danish society.

bethesda language school at a break

The Second Part Of The Class

The second part of the class was very fruitful and intensive. As beginners, we learned all the necessary phrases to start our journey in Denmark as well as how to introduce ourselves and what was even more important – to pronounce them well. Since we were few, it was also easy to direct questions to the teacher and after the class. We were further encouraged to even ask the teacher for some specific help with a word or sentence that was giving us difficulty in communication, after the class.

When the class was over after 2 hours of intensive learning, I felt that Danish was not anymore the monster everyone had scared me with, but a normal language with easy grammar and a weird, yet funny pronunciation. The Danish had become my friends and I decided to contribute to this friendship and make it as strong as I could.

More About The Volunteers

I also realized that for the volunteer teachers at Bethesda church, there was only one God, regardless of how we serve him – be it Islamic, Buddhist, Christian or any other way. What’s important for them was to serve to humanity and help the ones in need, even if their own way of serving God was through Christianity. For sure, the students at Bethesda represented all religions and it was so beautiful to watch and feel how similar we all are despite of race and beliefs. Now that we all were new in Denmark, Copenhagen, we were a family where each member had their own story. Some were there to spend the whole life in this country, while others were there just for a trip, and for all of us, Danish was necessary to connect with this country and its people.

Practical Details On Your Way To Danish

Bethesda is a Christian church in Copenhagen, in Rømersgade 17, that is also a home for various volunteer organizations. International Christian Center is one of them and are responsible for teaching Danish to everybody free of charge. The goal of this language school is to offer language classes to those not in a position to learn Danish in a official language school or those who simply can’t afford it or can’t commit to attend the classes regulary. The name and level are written down at the beginning, just to be able to form the groups for the second part of the class for that same day.

Apart from Danish, it is also possible to receive classes in English that are structured the same way as the Danish classes. You can also be part of the Language Café, where you can get help with specific problems regarding Danish pronunciation, reading, writing and help with homework if you are already attending an official language school. Language Café is probably the only place in Copenhagen where you will get help with writing a letter in Danish, correcting your CV or dealing with any other Danish language related issue.

Free language classes in Copenhagen

This Will Surprise You!

After so many years that have passed and I am fluent in Danish, I still visit Bethesda when I happen to be in Copenhagen. In those times I am not a student anymore, but a volunteer teacher, who appreciates the help received at the beginning of my life in Denmark. The need of returning something to this wonderful place takes me back to the classroom in an attempt to help the others as often as I can. So maybe one day, when you happen to cross Copenhagen in order to start your life there or just for a short trip, I hope to meet you and help with Danish!

Latvian flags

CELEBRATING a CENTURY! LATVIA’S BIRTHDAY PARTY IN RIGA

Riga – the capital of Latvia, Art Nouveau, music and culture. The capital of a country that turns 100 on November 18, 2018!

However, during this time up to the big anniversary, Riga is also the capital of tears – tears of emotions, pride and the presence of miracles. This small country Latvia, always desired and conquered by others has survived, is stronger than ever before and has reached its first big milestone – 100 years since its proclamation. As the celebration of Latvia’s centenary is taking place for 5 years, starting from 2017, there have already been big events that have triggered all the spectrum of human emotions. Excitement tears, goosebumps, and shivers have been just small byproducts compared to those big spiritual experiences where feeling united with everyone else as one body and the connection with the universe embraced the heart deeply. Most of those emotionally touching events have taken place in Riga. They include the European Choir Games, all-Latvian Song Festival, 16th Dance Festival, and many others. Now is the time for culmination, and I can tell you that for this moment, Riga has prepared some unforgettable surprises to celebrate Latvia’s birthday. Read on and you will be amazed at what Riga has in store.

Staro Rīga Light festival

16.11.2018 – 19.11.2018 from 17:00 to 23:00.

Staro (Shine) Riga is not a coincidental title.  This lighting and multimedia event is taking place in one of the darkest months in Latvia – days have become so short, but the Christmas lights are not completely turned on yet. The festival started in 2008, organized by the municipality of Riga in collaboration with artists as an extra element to the celebration of Latvia’s birthday.

The venues of the festivals are the building facades, bridges, squares, monuments and other city places in Riga where light art can be displayed. Both international and local artists will show their creativity reflecting on the theme of the year – “Up rose the Castle of Light” This is a name of a popular Latvian song and also a folkloric metaphor. According to the legend, the Castle of light, the wisdom of the nation sank when Latvian people were oppressed during the long period of invasions. However, it will rise again after the intellectual darkness of war and occupation have been overcome in Latvia. Besides, the metaphor of Castle of light as the main source of inspiration can also be seen in one of the most significant 21st-century building projects in Latvia – the National Library of Latvia.

The Exhibition – Latvia’s Century

I am not a big fan of historical exhibitions, but when I attended Latvia’s Century at the National History Museum of Latvia, I felt as if I was participating in a documental movie and experiencing all the historical events on my own skin.

Deep and touching it was.

The exhibition is full of interactions. There are artifacts, historical people and me who can do something for Latvia even if its a just a little note with a suggestion. The feeling of being a part in building something big – the country is amazing.

My recommendation is to free the whole day for this exhibition and dive into the 10 sections of intense experiences of wars, songs, collective farm madness, deportations, soviet interiors, singing revolution and over that – strong love for own roots, culture, and heritage.

The Torchlight Procession

The torchlight procession through Riga on 18th of November is a tradition that started in 2003 in honor of the founders of the Republic of Latvia and the soldiers who gave their lives for the freedom of their country. From that time, each year it gathers more and more participants.  Last year, on the 18th of November 2017, there were around 18 000 people participating in the procession making it the most extensive event of its kind in Northern Europe. It is expected that this year more people will join and who knows, maybe its gonna become the biggest torchlight procession in Europe! I definitely recommend that you join.

The gathering will start at 16:00hrs at the square near the monument of Karlis Ulmanis where everybody can get their torch free of charge. At 17:00hrs,  the procession will start and will end an hour later by the National Theatre where 100 years ago the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed.

Musical Event “18.11” by the Freedom Monument

If you even have been in Riga, you have definitely noticed the beautiful cooper woman lifting 3 stars on the high travertine column – the symbol of the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of Latvia. It was built in 1935 to honor soldiers killed during the Latvian War of Independence (1918–1920). This monument has a very special place in the hearts of Latvians as it was one of the few visible independence symbols during the occupation of the Soviet Union that was not demolished.  The Soviet authorities knew that the destruction of the monument would cause deep indignation and tension in society. As the monument honors the forces that were one of the reasons Latvia could proclaim its independence in 1918, it is going to have its own event during the celebration of Latvia’s birthday. The musical event will be a multimedia story about freedom, in which the main storyteller will be the Freedom Monument. The focus will be on the main message that sculptor Karlis Zāle wanted to express with its creation – the fundamental values and ideals of the state to freedom and excellence. The event will start at 18:45 and if you stay until the end, your patience will be rewarded by a speech of the Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis at the Freedom Monument at 20:00hrs.

The Culmination – light performance “the light of the sun”

The term culmination can have a very different meaning from one person to the other.  Sometimes, the way up to culmination can be more pleasurable than the very climax.  In the case of Latvia’s birthday celebration in Riga, the culmination will be definitely worth experiencing together with thousands of other people. Especially because the next time a similar chance will be after 100 years, but even then, it will not be as special as the first centenary…

The culmination will take place in 11. Novembra Krastmala, the Daugava Water Basin between Vanšu Bridge and Akmens Bridge.  It will also be possible to see on the screens at the Freedom Square.

The light performance will tell Lativa’s story since its creation the present day. It will end with unseen, beautiful fireworks. This is why you might have seen several platforms and other technical equipment placed in the Daugava area. Just a little economical note: this show is going to cost 235 000 euros. Many people feel that the money should be spent in other ways, but I think that once such an amount is spent, the only thing we can do is to go and see. At least we’ll keep the warm-after feeling and be compelled to do good to others.  The money spent will definitely be worth it.

The Ribbons – a resemblance of the Latvian flag

If you have passed the streets of Riga lately, you probably noticed lots of people coming towards you with small ribbons on their warm autumn jackets resembling Latvia’s national flag. This has been a gesture of showing their love and patriotism towards Latvia. If you want to join this initiative, you can get these ribbons free of charge in The Visitors’ Reception Centre of the Rigas City Council at Kungu iela 7/9, Brīvības iela 49/53, Daugavpils iela 31. There is also another initiative organized by Rigas City Council – public transport on the day of the 18th November will be free of charge!

Latvian flag

As you can see, everything is done for you! You are a welcomed guest to Latvia’s birthday party in Riga. Come and create memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life!

See you there!

bellas artes

SANTIAGO DE CHILE – GO CREATIVE, LEAVE RICH!

bellas artes

Creativity can manifest itself in many different ways. In Santiago de Chile it is the creativity of survival that really stands out. This can be seen at most of the street intersections, corners, parks and squares, where you can watch street performers, vendors, food stand owners and other creative souls who have turned the urban environment into their workspace and enjoy the freedom of being their own boss. Performances can range from high-level, acrobatic tricks to push-ups in the middle of the street. The same goes for “food performers”, who are pretty creative whilst preparing the not-so-healthy sopaipillas, delicious sushi rolls, cakes and freshly pressed juices. However, there is something which each of these street activities has in common: they all make the city life more colorful, interesting and vibrant, and, in some cases, reduce criminal practices and poverty.

I have had the possibility to be one of those performers and I can tell you that making money in Santiago in this way isn’t as hard as people think. A creative idea and the courage to showcase it is all you need. The amount of money pocketed at the end of the day should be considered part of the feedback as to how successful your idea was. So, even if your dream office is not on the street, but you are thinking about starting a business, why not test it out on the streets of Santiago? This could save you a lot of time and investment should it not be as successful as you had thought it would be.

How I Made Enough Money to Spend My Holidays in Buenos Aires

So, here is my story; how I discovered it. When I was an exchange student in Santiago de Chile, I was on a tight budget. The holidays were fast approaching and I realized that I needed a job but studying from early morning to late evening leaves you with very few choices. A friend of mine joked, “Just do some begging; a beggar with blue eyes will be exotic, so you will make some money for sure by not doing anything!”

No way! I thought to myself. I have never had any respect for beggars: people who ask others to pay by making them feel sorry for their laziness!!! Nothing is free in this world. If you want to make money – do something! Make the exchange of energies happen; that’s my credo! It was at this point that a thought struck me; why don’t I do some energy exchange on the street myself? But what could I do?

I remembered that I had done Indian classical dance (Kathak) since I was a teenager and had participated in countless performances. So why not do it for the inhabitants of Santiago? I had noticed that next to the house in Bellavista neighborhood where I lived, there was a street called Purisima. Every time I crossed this road to take a bus to my university, there were some performers doing amazing things in the middle of the street for the bored drivers waiting at traffic lights. Most of the street performers there were juggling or doing acrobatics. How cool would it be if I did an Indian dance?

The next morning, on my way to the University, I stopped on the “performance street” to watch a girl doing incredible tricks with many small balls. She took a break as the lights turned green and cars began to cross her “stage”, and I had a chance to speak to her. I explained how I had been thinking of trying street performance and asked her opinion on performing an Indian dance at this intersection. She encouraged me to go ahead, stating that for her, this had proved to be the best and most flexible job ever. She said that the locals were very kind; her little bag containing her money and water had never been stolen from the pavement while she was performing. Our conversation was interrupted when she suddenly ran out to the middle of the street to do a little performance, as the light had turned green for pedestrians.

A few moments later, she came back with a bunch of coins in her hand and she said, “Promise me you will give it a try; you will not regret it!”

I promised.

The next day I began to choreograph a short routine. I decided to make it 40 seconds long as the lights usually were green for 1 minute. This would give me ample time to perform and collect the money as well. When I felt it was good enough, I put on a sari, which luckily always traveled with me, and went out to start my first working day. I wish I could say I felt confident… it took me a while to appear calm and collected.

I hadn’t even begun when I noticed people starting to watch me. I guess it wasn’t often that there was a blue-eyed girl in a sari standing by the road and looking confused…

Santiago de Chile street dancer

I kept encouraging myself: Just one time, Guna, and if you don’t like it, you will never have to do it again. So as the pedestrian light changed to green, I jumped out in the middle of the street and started my show, with pedestrians crossing the street behind me as my stage decorations. Those felt like the longest 40 seconds of my life. I didn’t dare look the car drivers in the eyes and my whole body, especially my hands, was trembling like crazy. I finished my performance and without looking up, went through the 3 lanes of cars back to the pavement. Nobody stuck out their hand with some money. Failure, complete failure, I thought, Never again. But as I reached to my bag and drink some water, I asked myself, Are you giving up that easy? One more time, and if this time there’s no response, then never again.

Green light. I went out in the middle of the street and started my performance again, but this time I lifted my head a little bit to look into the eyes of the drivers and even managed to give them a little, shy smile. My hands were still trembling, but I didn’t seem to notice. I kept the warm smile, and the drivers smiled back at me. When the performance was over, suddenly there were lots of hands sticking out of the car windows with shining coins. Very confused but happy, I tried to collect them all and say “Gracias,” to each spectator. Time was not my friend here and the 20-second limit didn’t let me get all the money, but it didn’t matter, because I felt appreciated. I put all the coins in my bag and in the following days and weeks, I continued to step out into the middle of the Purisima street countless times, with a big smile on my face. My audience loved what I did and their happiness meant a lot to me. Within just a few weeks, I had earned enough to spend my holidays in Buenos Aires!

Santiago de Chile street dancer

Performance can also be tasty!

The second time I enjoyed the possibilities of creative money-making in Santiago was just a few weeks ago. I only had my last days left in the city before heading back to Europe, and there was lots of food still in the fridge. Again, it started out as a joke; “Let’s make some food and sell it on the street,” but then it turned into a real business idea. Using the corn and chickpea flour left in my kitchen, as well as some vegetables, I prepared some vegan tortillas, then carefully wrapped up each piece using a transparent film and found a cardboard box, a piece of fabric that would function as a counter and set off to look for a location for my new “vegan restaurant”.

It only took me 5 minutes to reach the very center of Santiago, as I was still living in Barrio Bellavista, the same neighborhood I had lived during my studies. In the intersection between Pio Nono Street and Bellavista Street, I found a corner with good shade, put down the cardboard box, covered it with the fabric, then put out my tortillas and started to wonder if I should attempt to rap the famous street seller rhyme, “A luca a luca a luca, “(for a thousand, for a thousand, for a thousand). Side note: One thousand Chilean Pesos in slang is called Luca and corresponds to a proximately 1.6 dollars or 1.3 euros and is the average price for a street food item).

I was too shy to rap. Instead, I just smiled and said it with my eyes. It wasn’t long before the first buyers came to me and asked what I had and where I was from. They then enthusiastically bought two tortillas and left. A few minutes later, I saw them coming back as they ate my tortillas. I was afraid that perhaps they didn’t like them and had come for a refund but as they approached me, the compliments started flowing and they said it was so tasty that they wanted to buy some more. They even asked for the schedule of my food stand. That was it: I knew I was on the right path. A couple of hours later, all the tortillas were sold and I had earned 40 lucas. A few days after starting my ‘restaurant’, all the uneaten food from my kitchen had transformed into very heavy pockets.

As you can see, it took such a small amount of time to establish a profitable business and get regular clients. The good income felt great, but the most important gain for me was the chance to get to know people, make new friends and to realise that if I ever wanted to move to Chile again, I wouldn’t need to look for a job, go to interviews, and work at times that were not convenient for me. I would just have to find out where to buy chickpea and corn flour cheaply!

Vegan street food, Santiago de Chile

Why Not Give it a Try?!

There are many busy intersections in Santiago, not to mention the exits from Metro stations and other bustling places. It means there is enough place for everybody and that´s why I am not afraid to share with you a few steps which you can use to gain courage and make some money. It doesn’t matter if you don´t need the money or don’t have an excess of food in the fridge. If you wish to be closer to the locals, step out of your comfort zone and get to know people that otherwise you would never have had a chance to talk to, then here are some tips:

First off, decide whether you want to do a performance, make some food or whether you can offer anything else to impact the lives of people.

For street performance:

    • Let your creativity flow. To do a performance, you don´t necessarily have to be very good at something, just creative and funny. I once noticed a guy who was doing arm bendings, because he didn’t know how to do anything else. I saw lots of people giving him money because it was so simple that it ended up being funny.
    • Find a street with not too many car lanes; in my opinion, three is best. Time how long the green light lasts while pedestrians are crossing the street – that will be your performance time together with money collection time.
    • Performance time has to be longer than half of the total time, but you need around 20 seconds to collect the money. If the green light in your chosen street lasts for 1 minute, then 40 seconds would suffice for the performance time.
    • Prepare a little bag where you will put the money and have some drinking water close by. There is always the risk of it being stolen, although this has never happened to me or my friends. If you need your mobile phone or keys with you, make an agreement with a nearby shop, café, street vendor or another establishment so that they can keep your valuables while you are working. In 99% of cases, these people are honest and happy to help.
    • Start off your performance, even if you are not sure if it will work out. It is only by practicing that you will be able to figure it out and make changes as you progress.
  • Do everything with a smile, have a positive attitude and be grateful for each coin.

If you decide to sell food:

    • Identify a corner with many pedestrians. Exits and entrances of metro stations are also a good option – at certain times of the day they can be very profitable.
    • Figure out what kind of food you can make that doesn´t need plates, spoons or other extras, but can be wrapped in some film or put in a bag.
    • I recommend doing vegan, gluten-free and free of other allergens to ensure that as many people as possible can eat it. A non-vegan can eat vegan food but a vegan is not going to eat meat; it’s as simple as that. If, however, you choose to use one of those doubtful ingredients, be sure to inform your buyers of their presence. If you don´t want to explain to each customer, just write all the information that people need to know on a piece of paper and put it in a visible place.
    • Find the ingredients, prepare the food, wrap it nicely at home and then find a cardboard box and some fabric to make it look prettier once covered.
  • You are now ready to go! Pitch your stand in your chosen location and get started on your new business!

Santiago de Chile, Bellas Artes

Any Legal Aspects to be Addressed?

I couldn’t write this article without touching on legalities. So, what do the authorities have to say about these manifestations of creativity? In general, Chile is a liberal country; the state doesn’t interfere in the matters of their people. However, there are rules which govern street activities, particularly if you sell food. You are supposed to get permission for your business from the municipality. However, in reality, very few street food vendors and almost no performers have these permits, because the Chilean police force is focused on hardcore criminals, not creative survivors! There was one instance when I saw police approaching and all the sellers of industrial items like shoes and perfumes wrapped up their things and disappeared, but not the food sellers. I asked the police what the difference was. Their answer was, “People selling ready-made things might have stolen them and our task is to prevent criminality, but people who have made food with their own hands try to survive by working and we are here to help people, not bother them.” This encounter definitely built my respect for the Chilean police, although I had heard that sometimes they might not be so nice. So, I definitely recommend you to take the law into consideration. But in life, it is necessary to take a risk. Sometimes rules are not made with the most genuine intentions in mind, and the only way to express your personal opinion is through action; this is another lesson I learned in Chile.

In summary, I would say that Santiago indeed is a city of creative business ideas. The city gives you everything – free space, a stage and/or marketplace, a good, receptive audience or clients, and even understanding policemen. The rest depends on you! And no matter what kind of creative idea you carry out on the street, it will make you rich: first, in your heart, through all the unique experiences and the new people you meet, while secondly, the coins in your pocket will fill you with pride for your succeeded effort and affirmation that your creativity and courage was appreciated.

Let me know how did it go!

Santiago de Chile cueca dancers