There’s a reason why it’s one of the most photographed places in Austria.
There’s a reason why it’s one of the most photographed places in Austria.
If you’re on Facebook you’ve probably seen it around. The feature where you can layer the colours of the french flag over your profile picture. It’s a nice gesture. You can now show solidarity and support through a single mouse click. This might read as sarcastic, but let me clarify, I have nothing against this. In fact, I think it’s a great idea.
I do, however, feel a bit awkward about it. And this is why:
Bombings, shootings and terrorist attacks of all kinds happen every day. They happen in parts of the world that we’re so used to hearing these kind of horrid news reports from. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Then they also happen in parts of the world we mostly hear nothing about. After all, when was the last time a news outlet properly reported about the Crisis in the Central African Republic? About South Sudan?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
And I get it. I get that this is a difference, because it happened in a country where terrorist attacks do not belong to day to day life. I get it because it’s Paris. It’s a city in a western country, peaceful, modern, beautiful. It is shocking to us because it happened in the midst of Europe, a continent that has been at peace for 70 years now. It is shocking because it could have happened to any of us. It could have been me and my family spending a nice evening in a café. It could have been my friends at a concert on a friday night.
We feel shocked because we’re so used to this security. We don’t know what it’s like to live in constant fear. We don’t know how to react when we’re confronted with so much hate, so much brutality.
We are so incredibly privileged. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you live in a European country and don’t have to fear for your life on a day to day basis, you are privileged. We should be more aware of this fact and never, ever, take this for granted.
I am utterly heartbroken about what happened in Paris. Of course it has affected me as well, how could it not?
However, Paris is not the only city where terrorist attacks happen.
I am not just Paris. I am Beirut. I am Baghdad. I am every city that was recently affected by senseless tragedy and bloodshed. I am every town where parents kiss their children goodnight and don’t have to be scared for them and I am every refugee camp where parents worry about what kind of future their children may have. I am everywhere safe and calm and peaceful. I am both, because I am humanity and I am the world.
If you haven’t heard about the refugee crisis in Europe you must have been living under a rock. Lately I’m struggling to even call it a crisis. How dare we? A crisis? This? Compared to what these people have been through this is nothing. However you may call it though, it’s a tough job to coordinate and find a solution for. Daily, thousands of people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries flee their homes because they fear for their lives. They pack whatever they can carry, and embark on a journey that is almost life-threatening in itself.
I’ve been very vocal in how I think about this for months. It’s a subject that’s very dear to my heart ever since I had the chance to closely work together with refugees during an internship a couple of years ago. It was eye-opening in so many ways. There are so many misconstructions and stereotypes that get perpetuated through the media and public. It’s heartbreaking to see these articles and vicious words when I’ve experienced nothing but kindness and thankfulness from the refugees and asylum-workers I’ve met back then.
Politicians play with the fear of people. And yes, change is coming. This will change our society. It might change the way we’re living but if we act now, if we are open-minded and kind, I am convinced that it will change us for the better. It is up to us to determine in which direction we will go in the future. Change is scary. Trust me, I know. It is terrifying. But do you know what else is terrifying? Having to leave your house, your family, your job. Having to leave your secure and stable life in your home country to endure inhumane and degrading conditions of refugee camps. Having to risk your life multiple times just to reach a continent where you don’t have to fear for your life day after day.
Fear is what makes it easy to portray refugees as something we should be scared of. That it’s okay to be hostile because they’re just here to steal our jobs and want to take over our culture and traditions. The key to combat these fears is, in my opinion, information and education. Don’t just blindly believe what people tell you. The fact that people still believe refugees and asylum seekers in Austria get a ton of money for being lazy is mind-blowing to me. They get 40€ pocket money per month and they are, in most cases, not allowed to work. They would love nothing more than to be a productive part of society, but our laws forbid this. Why can’t we see this as a chance? A chance to grow, a chance to learn more about other cultures. Why are we not thinking about all the things we could gain, instead of those we could lose?
And so we spent last Saturday marching the streets of Vienna to show our support and demand humane asylum policies. We danced and sang along to songs at the charity concert even though our legs hurt from standing for so long. We made new friends, met old ones and fell in love with Vienna all over again.
Vienna, you can be so heartbreakingly beautiful and kind. I want more of this. I need more of this. Please.
I went to the Vienna Pride Parade yesterday. And it was great.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I fully support gay rights. In my opinion, love is love and people should get the same rights for the same love. It’s as simple as that. And it should be.
Vienna is very good in marketing a picture of itself that presents the city as very open-minded, very progressive. We’ve got gay traffic light symbols, after all. How could we not be?
The truth is that we’re not as progressive as we’d like the world to believe we are. Gay marriage is not legal. Why? Who knows.
But yesterday? Yesterday it was great. The atmosphere was light and fun. Yes, it’s actually a demonstration but if all demonstrations could be this cheerful and colourful, the world would be a better place.
So we braved heavy rain and strong wind to show our support. And you should too. Do what you can, whenever you can. Speak up, let your voice be heard and maybe we’ll change the world this way.
We just might.
Living out of the city (but not quite in the countryside) has a lot of upsides. It naturally also has a lot of downsides but that’s not the point of my post today.
I’m lucky. I know I am. My parents have a garden and while it’s not huge, it’s plenty of space. It was big enough for water fights and tents for a camping sleepover when I was a child. It was secluded enough to have a fire pit to roast marshmallows. It’s great for lazy afternoons, lounging on the terrace or for our cats to act like fierce predators when they creep up on blackbirds.
Since this spring it’s also hosting two raised garden beds. It’s a dream come true for my mum, who has wanted one of them for years now and fills up the dead space in the back of our garden perfectly.
A couple of weeks ago we went to a small town in Lower Austria because an organisation there sold plants and vegetables that weren’t all that common. They specialised in rare plant species. Vegetables that are almost forgotten and things that you can’t get in just any garden centre.
So we went home with chard, spinach, three different kinds of salad, zucchini, corn, eggplant and cucumber plants. We got strawberries, rhubarb and four different kinds of tomatoes. Oh, and new herbs, of course (just those that didn’t survive the winter. Most of our herbs have been really good and are already flourishing. Mint and sage are growing like crazy again (even though we harvested all of it last autumn to dry it and make tea!).
But this is not enough. We also have an apple, cherry, plum and fig tree. Two blueberry bushes, a place where raspberries are growing and our grapes are looking good as well. It’s an urban farm jungle and we couldn’t be happier.
Some mornings the first thing we do is brave the chilly air, cup of tea in hand, and make our way to our veggies. Cold toes be damned, we want to know how our garden is doing. Soon enough this will be my first way for an entirely different reason because I cannot wait to be able and pick berries fresh from the garden for my breakfast.
This is happiness. This is the good life.