Kythira: The Pristine

– Pigeon, where should we go this May? – I was jumping with excitement anticipating our annual trip with Sofia the way a small black car jumps on MyTaxi app when an order is confirmed. (I remember one friend asking us: “But why, why do you call each other pigeon?” The world might never understand best friends but together, best friends will understand the world.) – How about Malta? I have never been.

– I have been, I would go again… What about Spain? Check out the top beaches I sent you.

– Spain, mmm… – Somehow I have never connected with Spain. I love Barcelona – but then we already went there together, – had a good time at Tenerife (more than a decade ago, running away from November in Finland), and was absolutely not impressed by Madrid. And Madeira. – Or we can go to Montenegro. You know, because when else would we have an opportunity to travel there on an exploratory mission, and who else would sign up for it?

Or I can take you somewhere romantic, where the green dissolves in the blue, a place with gorgeous beaches, nature, waterfalls and serenity. And the Greek food, of course. Like Kythira.

A few weeks later we were boarding what turned out to be a very small plane (with barely any luggage head space, a note to a savvy traveler) to Kythira, a tiny island a short flight away from Athens.

465A9250 copy.jpg

Wandering in the forests of Kythira, Greece

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transient

This week’s theme is Transient. Now, “transient” is something I had to look up online even though I often think that I speak better English these days than I do Russian, my mother tongue (a few years back, I had to look up “nimble”, which then made part of our corporate strategy. Speaking of which, corporate strategies in tech are indeed transient but I don’t happen to have a photo of one of them on hands).

Now that I know what transient is (which is “not lasting, enduring, or permanent; transitory”), I have immediately thought of a picture to illustrate it. I took this photo of a girl jumping off the cliff in Kythira, a magical island in Greece, a few weeks ago. The girl was contemplating this jump for quite some time, stumbling, looking unsure into the dark blue water at her feet and her family at the shore. And then she jumped – into the dark blue water and into the freedom. I was as unsure that she would do it as she was herself and, for some reason, was moved by the outcome of this short story – and by the fact that I could capture it with my 50 1.2 lens, which is not exactly the number one choice for action photography. 

Sometimes the world offers us much better shots that we could be dreaming to orchestrate. We should just be there to capture them.

🙂

MBA: Is It Worth It?

Recently, a 6 year old post popped up on my Facebook page.

“…is homeless, looking for a job, is not tied to any country, and somehow it all feels positive and full of potential. And smells like an adventure, of course :))”.

Good thing these Facebook reminding posts: marking our lives with milestones, highlighting the way we have made so far, connecting our present with our past. So six years ago, I was, indeed, homeless in the traditional sense of the word, with my stuff parked across St Petersburg, Helsinki and Istanbul, looking for a job that would allow me to stay in Europe. I was at my parents’ home in South Korea. Vicky and I have just decided to close the company we were running for four years. I was thinking what’s next.

And then I went to INSEAD.

That year costed me a bit less than 100,000 EUR: in housing, some books, lots of coffee, tuition fees and (very moderate, for INSEAD standards) travels. Not to mention the infamous opportunity cost, that mythical unpaid annual salary, which you always include in your calculations after MBA studies. In more than a way, it has catapulted me into the life I am living now. So was it worth it?

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

This week’s photo challenge, Focus, is asking to share one’s favorite focus (or out of focus) photo. Now, there are two “aha” moments in every photographer’s life: the moment you try your first full frame camera and the moment you get that low aperture lens to play with focus. Focus (or, more precisely, its strategic lack) is what made me fall in love with photography. (Ok, there is a third “aha” moment and that is when you take and process – successfully – your first RAW photo.)

465A8605

A cup of Turkish coffee at the Café des Délices in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia

This photo of a Turkish coffee in a Tunisian cafe is my latest absolute favourite. I love it so much that I am using it as a background photo to my mobile chats, – this and what is means to me (not to mention my favorite color combo of white and blue). And it means… focus. On this cup of coffee, on the moment of pleasure it offers, on a creative break, on living and breathing, in the now. How often we let beauty, taste and creative pass unnoticed, busy with our daily concerns, daily thoughts, daily messages, news and chats.

I keep it precisely where most of this noise is coming from, on my phone, to remind myself. To focus.

🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Order

This week’s photo challenge is about Order. Now, order has never been an integral part of my life. It is not something I breathe or create by default. I try to find a system in anything I want to accomplish (because I noticed that things work better this way), and after many years of practicing it still does not come natural to me. Oh well, many people practice public speaking, decision taking and making friends. Order is my thing.

465A8630

The Souks of Tunis

This is why I admire order when I see it existing naturally (another reason would be aesthetics). And this is why I always lance a second glance at it: is it really natural? Is there anything that stands out from this even perfection? It warms my heart if I find it. To me, imperfection makes it human. Even more so, unique.

Just like these jewels at the Souks of Tunis: they all seemingly follow the same design, yet now and then there is a bead of unusual shape, a glimpse of color, a spark of creativity. An individuality.

🙂

Tunis: The (Hidden) Gems

A promised sequence of Tunis: The (Obvious) Great Things: The (Hidden) Gems. The hidden gems of Tunis are its restaurants (at least, three of its restaurants) and the biggest mosaics museum in the world, Le Bardo.

The surprising fact is that restaurants are not a big part of the Tunisian culture (coffee shops, on the contrary, are). Food is big in Tunis but people mostly eat at home, cook at home, buy already prepared delights for home and entertain at home. An exception to that are sandwich shops, which are many, (apparently) delicious and as diverse as a sandwich shop can be. That’s why I have marveled that much at Dar El Jed, Fondouk El Attarine and The Cliff.

465A8551 copy

Continue reading

Tunis: The (Obvious) Great Things

The first thing that the mind links with Tunisia is the sea. This post is not about it. Well, not exactly. The sea has been been such a great power in the country’s history, culture and soul that Tunisia is unthinkable without the sea. This post is about the the capital, Tunis. I have decided to split it into two parts: The (Obvious) Great Things and The (Hidden) Gems.

The things Tunis is best known for are Carthage, Sidi Bou Said and The Souks. Why talking about them if they are so well-known? They are still stunning.

465A8544 copy.jpg

One of the famous blue doors of Sidi Bou Said, Tunis

Continue reading