Saturday 5 January 2019


Here is my report on the FLINT* project in Graz. I know this post is kind of stiff and not as colourful as my other posts, but I wanted to write a report that accurately described my project and what activities were included in it. I hope you enjoy it.


We are proud to call attention to our sponsor STADT Graz, building and integration, who completely funded all costs for the workshops. Based also on the factor that FLINT* persons who perhaps would have less exposure to these kind of events would be given the chance to participate. 

To promote this we passed the event information to 
Although we did spread the word of the FLINT* project to many different channels, it was not completely clear where all attendees had seen the information and from which channel they had found the workshops, that is one of the things we learned for next time. 

The goal was to bring women from different backgrounds together in a learning platform to give them confidence not just in using skills, repairing and maintaining, but also in familiarising themselves with hands on concepts. Understanding the bicycle, getting comfortable with their own abilities and learning real skills that they can use every day. It was important for us was to break the barrier of fear that surrounds doing what are normally considered male dominated activities. Because we wanted everyone to be in the best learning environment possible, the workshops were FLINT* only. The workshops were also taught by an all FLINT* crew

Sibylle Hartung; bike mechanic at BICYCLE
Anna Kofler: Mechanic and Bike messenger at Pink Pedals
Ana Powdrill: Bike messenger at HERMES (Vienna), also project coordinator and admin. 

The attendees were from over 8 nationalities, and were many different age ranges and experience levels. The languages were English and German, though we did suggest that if anyone could not speak either of those we would find a translator, specifically we had an Arabic translator available, because we wanted to include these women too. In this case we didn’t have to use an Arabic translator, as all attendees spoke either English or German. For the next one we will be trying to promote this side of the workshops more. 

The system for registering for the event was via email, a short description was required and as we had minimal places we did offer a first come, first served method. The reason for this was because the space in our workshop was pretty small, only allowing a maximum of 20 people to work in there, and to be honest 15 would have been the comfortable limit. In the first hour after posting the event we had already about 15 registration requests. Sure enough each workshop was completely booked out. Proving the necessity of this kind of project and that there was a hunger for more feminist ideas and activities such as this. 

The classes were covering the following topics
Anatomy of the bicycle, understanding the function of the parts of the bike, what makes it go, what makes it stop. 
Wheels, tires, inner tubes, putting the rights amount of air in the tire. Perhaps one of the most fun and interactive phases of the class was when all participants self repaired a punctured tire. 
Brakes, different kinds, what they do, how to adjust and tighten, how to loosen, where to put oil and what kind, where not to. 
How to keep your bike in top condition in winter, we taught quick and easy methods to clean and maintain. Learning what to oil and how much and how often. 
The bicycle laws in Austria, where should be reflectors and lights. 

In the last part of the workshops we created a short test, with simple drawings and questions. It was fun to watch our participants trying to remember all they had learned over the last few weeks. We also had a sheet of paper for them to write comments and reviews, we asked them to tell us also what we could do better next time. Here are some of the comments. 

‘I learned to take care of my bike (keep it clean), I learned to look closely at it and to be careful’

’The mechanic confirmed many things that were right or wrong. It was great that I could discuss practises with a professional - a kind professional. I really appreciate that there was time taken to address all our questions. It was great, fun, inspiring’

‘I feel that I had a great time with fascinating individuals and I know that I have learned very much in detail and for putting into practise about the important features for safety (such as maintaining the brakes). How to correctly proceed (think before taking action) with working on the bike’

‘I learned how to do stuff on my own without being afraid’

Comments like these show us how worthwhile our project is. When asked what our participants felt they had learned, all of them told us that they had grown in knowledge of each topic we had covered. When asking what could be adjusted or improved, the answers were that more classes and more projects like this would help them to grow in confidence and gain more experience. Proving once again that the need and desire for feminist bicycle initiatives is there. 

Photography: Valerie Maltseva
Location: Culture Exchange Graz
Special thanks to Anna Kofler and Sibylle Hartung for making it all happen and being such an amazing crew to work with
to Thomas Seidl for helping me to write the application for funding and translating all my thoughts into German words on paper. To Kate Howlett-Jones for encouraging me to apply for funding for the project and supplying me with information about where to ask and how to ask. To DRC (daily rhythms collective) for getting behind the project and supplying us with the much needed Verein basis with which we had the possibility to receive the funding. 
Lastly special thanks to all who participated and wrote me to apply to come to the classes. It was made special by your efforts and courage to come forward and join in. I am so grateful that you were part of the project and look forward to seeing you again soon.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Grown up Trousers

Being between a big life changing move from Graz to Vienna, I took a job teaching English in a beautiful small town next to Salzburg. The job would last 4 days and I would be alone with a class of 11 kids, between 12-14 years old. As the time approached closer to the job, my confidence ebbed. I hadn’t originally wanted to be teaching alone, but as my 30th birthday had been on the horizon I told myself to grow some balls and start acting my age. In this case, I had thought being 30 meant not being afraid to do something alone and to not hide behind anyone. ‘Stand up and do something for yourself’  had told myself. I began my usual streak of worrying well ahead of the camp, and my worries were based mainly on my appearance.. I’ don’t think I look like a teacher’  I told Tom and my other friends… They told me one thing every time I voiced my thoughts, they told me to be myself and that was enough, it was enough for everything I had to do. Still I doubted, on the way to England to visit my family I told myself I would invest in some grown up clothes… all my trousers have holes, my t-shirts are mostly too big and are from bands, and my legs are covered in tattoos (one that is suspiciously shaped), yes I know I can’t invest in new legs… but maybe something to cover them.. or even just that one tattoo. 
My shopping trip to find grown up clothing was a disaster. Entering a crappy vintage store, that I was immediately drawn to… I found a pair of red Adidas shorts… the investment was instinctive.. I needed them. No other purchases were made that day.. enough said. 
The next try took me to the second hand market, where I found a pair of basic black trousers… they were kind of stylish, going to the ankles and could be rolled up. 2 pounds spent on my grown up self, hurray. Now I can go spend the rest of my money on the usual trash that I love so well, pictures from the thrift store, bags of candy, and most of all.. beer. 
Returning home, the day of the teaching program in Salzburg approached… When I presented my trousers to my new flatmate… ‘those look like teachers trousers’ she said. I patted myself on the back… the rough and wild girl would not be in the public eye this time. 

I arrived at the Salzburg camp, nervous as hell, but things flowed. They flowed from one class to the other, the teacher from Austria and the kids were so lovely and sweet, I realised I never needed to pretend to be anything un authentic to them. I found myself enjoying the classes and enjoying talking and spending time with these kids. At the end of the camp, Marion read me her report on me, she said she wanted there to be no secrets. She wrote so many wonderful things about me, how the kids liked me, how my classes were well prepared and well rounded. I got emotional, all this trying to be, when I already was. And you know what… the grown up trousers stayed hanging in my cupboard… I never even wore them 

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Graz to Vienna

August was our last month living In Graz before our big move to Vienna,…

This blog started when I was about to move to Graz, or at least when the idea of starting CE in Graz began, I have been writing my stories on here for the last 4 years. There have been lots of stories worth telling, and I am so glad that I did take the time to write some of them down. The main theme of my writing in the beginning was about business, opening one, how to do it, what to avoid… etc… slowly it became a more emotional dialog, as it took on a more personal form. Maybe I just realised that I am not that good at business, I am good at connecting to people and places and everything for me is an emotional journey and set of experiences. The continuation of this blog is going to be left open, maybe I will feel like writing it, maybe I won’t. I know the adventure is not stopping, because fuck it… im moving again to another city, starting again from wherever I am and I do not know what is going to happen. The differences between my move to Graz and this move to Vienna are many, for one im not homeless and in debt, but I think the main difference is that I am doing this move with someone who is important to me, I did all my other changes alone, and this is the first one that I have managed to persuade someone to come along with me (actually he persuaded me to come with him) 

Life is just passing by so fast, I am already 30 (I thought it would never happen). I want to give this move a try, even though it is hard to leave Graz and everything I have built here. For one I will be stepping away from Culture Exchange, which as many people know has been my obsession for the last 6 years, not only that but its been my thing.. it was what I did… now the question is what do I do? So many ideas and opportunities are awaiting, I guess I have to take it one step at a time, i will try to move forward in the right way, with patience and love. I know for sure I want to ride my bike for a job for as long as I can, and opening another place in Vienna… well lets just say I have Pizza on the brain, possible new business idea for Vienna.. Vegan pizza place… well you will be notified if this dream finds its feet. Although I certainly will not be looking forward to doing the paperwork for another business in Austria, the good news is that I have my gastro licence… so one thing is out of the way. 

Graz has been wonderful to me, I got so attached to the little routines here, the cycling at Pink Pedals, the shopping for our food at the market, the friends who were always just down the road, baking cakes at CE… and so many more things that I cannot even name. I think my time here, these 3 years have been a great success, because they have been super happy years. 

The last month here in Graz was very fast and packed. I was alone running CE (The other owners were on holiday for the month of August) I had many things to do all the time. I was cooking lots of delicious food, baking beautiful cakes, shopping for the business and I have to say I enjoyed it. Even though it was at some points kind of exhausting to get up so early and cook for everyone and make the place run, it made me feel satisfied. It was nice to have my last moments alone with it before leaving, and to feel again that it was really mine, I saw also how fucking capable I am to run a business. I think the last years I really lost my confidence that I can do a good job at this, but every time I am alone and see how I handle it, I have to admit that I am really proud of myself. I keep pushing and can handle the pressure. 

So moving to Vienna, already we are off to a great start. The great news is we already found a room in the coolest apartment in the city. The RADS nest (Radical, anarchist, dangerous, sisters) it was our first choice of where we wanted to move when we were thinking about Vienna, but all the rooms were taken. At the last moment, we got a chance to take a free room and are really looking forward to live in this awesome WG… 

Sunday 15 July 2018

Graz to Lisbon by bike


SO lets start this post talking about what we have achieved on this cycling journey. The rough outline looks like this…3000 k, 5 countries, 36 days, sooo much altitude (google maps say about 20,000m) but I really can’t calculate it, oh and we also saw flamingos once. 
  When I say we, I want to draw attention to the fact that I did not go alone on this great adventure but had at my side (actually mostly in front, so I could be in the wind shadow), the greatest partner and boyfriend person I could have asked for. As with most couples, holidays can be a challenging time, this can be even more so on a bike trip… its true that while cycling the setting for an argument is not always available… riding in a streamlined fashion as is the safest, you cannot really argue that easily.. but you sure can annoy each other. Not only are you alone with one person for huge potions of every day, but you are also both getting considerably worn down by the natural elements around you, the beautiful sun that shines down is exhausting, wind and rain and all the other weather conditions add to your mood levels. You are both tired, you are both hungry, you are both exhausted.. and sometimes you are both wondering why the hell you are doing this. Take all these conditions and then throw in the extra joker card… say getting lost… not being able to find somewhere to get food… or perhaps something breaking down on your bike… The perfect storm can be born within you on any bike adventure. The tsunami of emotional and physical exhaustion crashing down and causing rifts between you. We faced plenty of these moments, but we weathered the storm pretty good. Our support for each other was really secure and strong, everytime I was feeling down, Tom was there to support and comfort me, and when he was getting furious at something from the road, I tried to make him laugh. I think only one or two times were we both in utter despair.. and it turns out that these moments were kind of the funniest ones in retrospect (but not at the time). 
Keep Pedalling 

We crossed 5 countries in this time, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain and finally Portugal. We cycled pretty much every day of the trip, with a few break days here and there, sometimes it was difficult, sometimes so boring, sometimes it didn’t feel like a holiday at all, it was the same as most things in life, a lot of the reward is attained when you reach your goal and look back on it, seeing what you have accomplished and gone through. The strain and exhaustion are over but as you look back, it has a shine of glory, you did what you wanted, no matter that it was not easy. I remember a couple years ago, meeting a young guy who had cycled over the Himalayas, I was astonished, because he was small and didn’t look strong, his bike was not anything fancy. When I had asked him how he had done it he told me ‘just the way you cycle anywhere, one pedal after the other, you just keep pushing’, I always remembered him and the picture of simple dedication and patience that it gave me. When I was struggling with motivation on the trip, I thought about just putting one foot in front of the other, keep pedalling, there is always that moment afterwards where you have made it, you are there, you can stop, and the trip is over, the time for that is past. In the middle it seems it will never be over, but it will, just like life, its over at one point, it seems so long, but its really not, its just like the bike trip, keep pedalling, keep striving for whatever it is you want to do, even in small ways.

Our Bikes and equipment
Both me and Tom rode Kona bikes (thank you Mike so much for preparing those for us) (Kona means horse in Serbian, and apparently pussy in Portuguese), super reliable and tough bicycles, definitely the most fancy bike I have ever ridden on a long distance trip. Guess what?? Not even one flat tire, we rode through some really rough rocky areas, but we were so lucky to have very minimal repairs needed. The most damage I did to my bike was during desperate moments when I needed to pee. I am the kind of person where everything is absolutely urgent, when I need to eat, drink, sleep… by the time I realise a need for my body, it must be attended to almost immediately, this was one of the main irritating things that Tom had to endure. In the midst of my urgent dance to get off the bike to pee immediately, I dropped it twice… once scratching the frame.. which although it made me sad, had no serious consequences, the second time I messed up my front brake. Only realizing it on the next downhill. After some commotion and arguing between me and Tom upon discovering that I could no longer brake going downhill (the next day we would have a lot of downhill to ride) we discovered how to fix it, and it was not a problem. 
Most everything that you do to your bike can be fixed with a few simple things that you should for sure take with you,.
  1. Cable ties are an invaluable friend to you on the road, when something is coming off your bike rack or your water bottle holder is slipping, you can easily adjust and tighten it without a big bike repair. 
  2. The extra stretchy ties with hooks on the end. Toms rack from his bike came off during one part of the trip, the small metal piece holding it together broke, we were able to immediately repair this with one of these, pushing it back in place and attaching it with the stretchy material firmly to the bike again
  3. Imbiss tool, number 15 wrench for pedals and wheels (the most important and often used tools) take with you a multi imbiss, for the brakes etc. 
My bag also got a bit ripped at one point and came off partially from the rack, because there was a lot of weight in it, it was dangerous to ride without fixing it, all our cable ties were used for other stuff. Looking for a solution by the garbage cans (there is good stuff in there sometimes), I found a random piece of string from an old fruit or onion bag, I fixed my bags by tying it as tight as I could, until the next day it held and then we could properly fix it. So if all else fails and without much at your disposal, you can sometimes look around and use what you can find. 

Myself and the journey
Now that I have done quite a few bike trips, I could seem like a seasoned and prepared cyclist, my confidence for sure has grown, but I still have so much to learn. One thing that I have been learning through these different travels is to cycle for myself and for what I need. I often feel that I need to kind of give a good performance, I feel nervous if we are not covering enough kilometres etc… sometimes you have to ask yourself why you allow this stress and pressure through. For me, my whole life, its been hard to let go of the idea of letting what you are doing at that moment take over everything and the need to impress or give others a cool or great impression of your actions. At one of our warm shower hosts (the cycling network, something like couch surfing), the host told me that he met lots of cyclists who were on a mission to prove something and were pushing themselves to a point far far beyond enjoyment and fun. He told me ‘enjoy it, you don’t have anything to prove to anyone’, this is something that I think I really grasped by towards the end of the trip. I stopped trying to always be super fast (not entirely, but at least a bit), I let go a bit more then before and enjoyed it as much as I could. Stressing is something that sometimes can push you to be a bit stronger, faster, or more determined, but there are so many things that we allow to bother and stress us that are not important. Its only stealing the enjoyment and the fun out of what you are doing. 
Another thing, in the beginning Tom was the one losing his temper, I stared at him with the cold and patronising expression as he flew into a rage over some mishap ‘on bike trips these things happen, I have learned that you have to stay cool no matter what’ I had told him with full assurance. Only the next day, I totally lost my shit over some small and stupid issue (ahh it was because we could not find internet anywhere the Italian villages and needed it to find somewhere to stay). In the middle of my temper fuelled outburst… Tom calmly reminds me of my award winning speech the other day… I had to admit.. its damn tough to keep your shit together in some of those moments. I also realised that no matter how many times you experience it, frustration is a hard and irritating emotion, it can push you off just that last centimetre of sanity that you were clinging to through your rough day. The last straws happen to abound in the day of a cyclist… you just gotta try your best to breathe, count to 10, and remember that its all a good story and nothing is that bad. 

 5 and a half weeks is the longest cycling trip I have ever done, It was so long that the cycling got to be a daily routine. At the end of the 5 weeks I didn’t feel it was over, I could have continued. The moment of arriving in Lisbon was smooth and almost expected, on the other trips, I always felt a huge surge of emotions on the final sign showing you had made it to your destination, the truth is on all the other trips I had never been sure I would make it. This time it was a sweet satisfaction, but I had this feeling the whole time that of course we would eventually be in Lisbon, somehow, and we did. 

Thanks to everyone who hosted and helped us on our travel, and to all our friends who supported us. So many that I cannot name them all here (because I will leave someone out I am sure). You know who you are :) 

Wednesday 13 June 2018

  Our cycling trip from Graz began on the 18th of May, we are so far in Barcelona and heading towards Lisbon, 2000k is out of the way... :) 

 So what has happened in those 17 days?… actually it was only 15 of cycling… we decided to be kind of kind (actually it was really unkind) to our legs and take 2 rest days… ,more would have been better…. At some moments it did feel that  the whole thing was kind of exhausting. For me, in a way it has to be, to really appreciate the distance and the mountains, the weather, the roads, the bike… it has to be kind of difficult. Maybe I am at the core a workaholic in every sense, I enjoy to push and feel the burn of tiredness and exhaustion, although the paradox is that its ultimately untrue… I feel I do a good job when my legs are done. The truth is there is no job on a holiday.. its all for you… every day is yours and you can choose what you want, it seems I like to choose the hard way, it satisfies some part of me. Maybe one day I won’t need that anymore and just sitting on a beach, pure relaxation with no punishment to balance it, will satisfy me. For now, for the creature I am, I need to ride my bike hard and I need it to at some point feel like its too much, that it hurts and that I don’t want it anymore, except I know that I do, because no matter how much I hate the moment, I love the whole story of cycling a distance that could or should by some definitions be travelled in a different way. I love that we have travelled 2000k on a bicycle, the very machine that I partially earn my living with as a bike messenger, the very machine that puzzles me when I try to prove my mechanical skills, the very machine that I adore, love to look at, beautify, fashionize, idolise. I love my bikes… they get a rough ride sometimes with these kind of adventures, but they are there for me as a somewhat stable element in my life that is sometimes kind of turbulent. 
I remember about 5 years ago… a rough time, breaking up a love story, my emotions were everywhere, I felt no control, I was at one of my lowest points. My confidence was shaking so hard that I couldn’t pull it together, I was making mess after mess in every moment… what could I do? That was the question I asked a friend… she told me ‘you can ride your bike’ and so I did… to Milan… it was an emotional, lesson-filled journey. Then again scrolling back through time, 3 years ago… my whole world destabilised when I moved to Graz… I felt again thrown into confusion. I can’t write it all here, but when I say everything was going wrong… I really mean it, I was a mess, it was a mess, the only thing I wanted to do was ride my bike, but there was no time, 2 businesses needed attention. I decided to ride my bike from Serbia to Graz, I pretended it was simply a cheaper way to travel, in reality it was my life saver… please I just want to be alone on a bike for a bit. Now again as the years pass, at every opportunity I think about cycling somewhere. No matter how many times during the ride that I curse the road and hate myself for my impulsive ways, I know deep down that I love it and that its an important thing for me. 
So our journey so far was in some different parts
1. Graz to Trieste, which was in itself 346k, two days with three other friends joining us for the ride... up and down, up and down... a very hilly road. It was special to share these tough kilometres with these lovely people. I also learnt that carrying a lot of weight on your back wheel apparently does slow you down a lot... I always thought... its no biggie... ahh It was so hard to climb with all that... but I did it. I had my first burst of emotional splendour when I saw Trieste... after climbing you basically roll down the last 10k into the city (I had cycled into the city 5 years ago from another direction, but it had the same effect on me). After all the hard work, its so rewarding to glide into the beautiful city and see the sea.... and the beaches... mmmm.... its soul stirring. Experiencing it with people you love and care about, well its just double the sweetness. I already felt my first happiness tears starting, when I realised... yes I have another month ahead on the road... 

2. Italy.... there was about 800k left over to get across... and that is the biggest mistake you can make when cycling.. thinking that the road is just to get across.. Being myself... which is all I can be.. but yes can be a little scatterbrained, I hadn't thought the route out too much... one place to another.. a big map of Italy in my hands I chose what seemed be the shortest roads... do not do this! Research the roads and maybe use an offline map for cycling routes (we used MAPSme, more information on this coming up). When I chose the shortest roads there were so many trucks, I do not mind to ride in traffic, I guess I am used to it, but I hate
trucks... and these ones were the risky ones, one time it came so close to Tom, one foot or so away... It was scary and it makes you nervous. The whole first day from Trieste to Jeselo was pretty intense... so to avoid.. please check better ways.. we did this and its so much better. If you cannot find the bike routes (Italian signage is so confusing) use an offline map with the bike ways, it will pretty much always take you on smaller roads that are more comfortable for cycling. Lots of nice moments in Italy, one funny thing.. I've been staring at beaches and sand and water for the last two weeks.. or should I say passing them at different speeds.. I only managed to get in the water once... why?? every day when there is a day free its a thunder storm day.. a blessing and a curse it seems. My advice for my future self is that perhaps if you want to jump in the water.. the present moment is presenting itself to you and needs to be taken advantage of... I will try to jump into the water more... because its not always there back home and it seems to make me happy. The last kilometres in Italy, mean the last 150 or so... were the most impressive for me. The winding roads along the coastline... there were bike paths built through the mountains, plunging you into a darkness that was only sedated by blue and pink neon lights showing you the way. It was an amazing road. 
3. France... tough, tough roads... we were used to tackling 150k a day without too much complaint... but the roads along the coast to Marseille were so fucking hard... so much altitude and just confusing parts. Our offline maps did some real damage to my trust in it when it took us down a road that apparently we could cycle on, in reality it was only possible for dirt bikes... but we had started on it and had to continue. It was 13k of rough, muddy downhill... I felt so sorry for my poor bike as I heard it rattling and straining under the heavy bumps. I had my first emotional breakdown (first of many) told Tom I didn't want it anymore and squeezed out a few tears, my biggest complaint was that the fucking MAPS-ME had stolen my downhill... you see we had climbed about 1 hour uphill before and I looked forward to that beauty of a ride going down, instead it took one hour to cover 13k because we had to use the brakes 100 percent of the decent.. get it?... stolen downhill... I was so angry. The thought that came to my mind... and its there still so strong 'frustration comes, frustration goes.. the road is always there' no matter your feelings, the ever present road... it sits in front of you and invites you to try your luck.. you can curse it, you can praise it, you can hate or love it.. its always there, the same, unchanging, unmoving, uncaring... in all it states... you have to at some point get on with it and ride it. 
4. Spain, Barca... yes so we were happy to be clear out of France (sorry French friends, I know the country is beautiful), the Spanish border stood in front of me like a banner of achievement... we were almost in Barcelona so what could possibly go wrong? the first big half of our journey would be over. The problem with pushing yourself sometimes is that then your body starts to rebel and tell you its just not happy with this kind of treatment... it seemed it thought this would be a holiday, because that is what we were calling it back at home. The situation occurred that I had some sleepless nights on the last days of France, girl problems... so 48 hours of being awake pretty much, well I can handle it... but then we cycled the
next day 200k... I also felt fresh, because of enough coffee etc... but the next day from that I could not move my knee properly, it was suffering, 30k after the Spanish border... and 50k of hills into the day... a thunder storm started... 4pm... 70k left... I was feeling so weak... and you know what.. the train to Girona was only 5 euros and saved my knee from more pain. Sometimes you have to admit that its too much, I knew my limit and it was right there, we hopped on a train and got over to Girona in 40 minutes and arrived early enough to see the beautiful city. Something important, know when to be strong and know when to say its enough. Sometimes in life, you cannot say its enough, you do not have that luxury and you have to push through a lot of pain, but there are the other times. The times when you are pushing yourself and admitting that you need to stop is fine, its good and it shows that you are respecting your body and your state of being. lucky for me, I could ride the next day with no problem and my knee is now working perfectly good.. so I can still ride my bike. 

That seems to be all for now, the stories... pfff... there are so so so many more.. I cannot write it in one simple blog post.. but at least a few highlights for now are here. Thanks for listening. 

Sunday 1 April 2018

Power Poser

Power Posing and Wanting what you have.

I want to share with you all, and with myself (because I know this blog is somewhat of a diary and a letter to me) some moments that have moved me. I do not get time or the feeling to write this blog that much anymore, sometimes I wonder if it is because I have gotten boring or lost the deep passion for life that I had… but its not that. It’s simply not the time for it, other things come and rest in my mind, stir me and move me, but I do not feel like putting pen to paper, or should I say.. fingers to keyboard. But today… today, this beautiful day, I feel like it. 

As you know I work as a bike messenger, for the sweetest company in Graz, Pink Pedals. The cycling crew that I have met and become close to over the last two years has brought me so much joy and honestly… they made Graz feel like home, not only through knowing them personally but also through knowing the city, getting intimate with the streets, feeling the weather in all forms harassing and comforting me, seeing the daily life of the people around me anytime from 7am till 6pm… sharing moments with doctors, dentists, architects, and anyone that we pick up or deliver a package from. What do you share? Well a friendly smile, a knowing tired look, a curseful comment about the weather or the drivers, and the pure happiness of seeing the first signs of spring.
There is the heart warming thrill of taking off your thick winter gloves after months of freezing cold and feeling the grips on your handlebars fitting snuggly into your hands… all of this and more are part of the cycle courier daily routine and life and I love it. 

I have to think back to when I started my first shifts for Pink Pedals, It was extremely difficult for me. I was constantly lost and I was super nervous almost all the time, which most certainly didn’t help. Despite feeling  very untalented at the task, I persisted, never really knowing for sure if it would get better. Even when it did get better, my self doubt was very strong. Even after cycling for more then a year and with plenty of experience, my stomach would churn before my morning shift, I would panic and get worried. My self talk was very negative as I would always tell myself that I was slow and an idiot and how could I not know this or that or whatever.  At some point I recognised it, I saw that I was constantly giving myself a hard time, but I did not know how to stop it. I watched a Ted Talk about something called Power Posing.. it talked about how your body language could affect your confidence, it suggested you take a more positive powerful stance before doing something that you need courage for. Much like the Superman or woman pose with legs spread and one hand or both pointing up.  I decided to give it a try.. and so.. I power posed every morning or afternoon before my shift.. I created a mantra which went ‘I am fast, I am strong, I am safe’.  I really didn’t care what I looked like, as I stood in full cycling gear in front of the mirror in our hallway and put my hands on my hips, looked myself in the eyes and said those words out loud, if I forgot to do it before I left, I stopped to do it in the entrance of our building or anywhere else where I had a break.  Slowly and surly my feelings changed, I started to feel strong, fast and safe… my self doubt, although always a cloud looming high in the sky… got smaller and smaller… my assurity and belief that I could do this job grew. I found myself saying yes when I was asked if I could make it on time for something or if I thought I could manage it, instead of doubting and taking ages to decide, I would say ‘yes I can’. I really believe that my poser habits and my positive re-enforcements changed my mind-sets towards myself towards this job. As soon as I stopped with the self-critic, the joyful moments abounded so much more… the stress and worry disappeared, I was able to control my emotions more and be more reliable. All of this to say… guys and girls… try a power pose when you need to do something that is scaring you, build the hero confidence, even if you are only pretending or acting… I had to fake it till I made it… and it worked. 

Here is a link to the TED talk if you want to watch it

The days fly by over here, tumbling in with the mixed emotions, ups and downs are part of life and even though I try to embrace them all I struggle periodically with self doubt and it is still a crippling disability. Since I arrived in Graz I felt it stronger than ever, more then that I felt dry of ideas and draining of the energy that I used to know back when I was at the CE in Novi Sad. I wondered many times what had happened to all the old me, the girl with irrepressible energy and strength. I read back over a note I had written to a friend, I had told him ‘tell me if I am not one of the most brave girls you have ever met?’. For my time in Graz I didn’t feel brave anymore, I didn’t feel purposeful, I felt tired. When I tried to push energy into CE, I felt like I was drawing from an empty well, instead of life giving water, I pulled out mud and muck and it took so much strength to do even that. Sometimes like a flash of lighting across a dark night sky, my lively energy would return, the fountain of ideas and inspiration erupted and I thought… ahh now I have got it back… but then just as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone, and the dark sky was back and I was alone with myself and feeling somehow helpless to change things.  I looked around me at my brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues and saw from my perspective the progress they had made. I saw the careers and education that they had built up…. I compared myself to them and felt inadequate, small and like a little girl trying to run to keep up with the fast pace that the adults were walking. At one point a thought changed my perspective… ‘If I don’t have what I want at the moment, maybe I should try wanting what I have’. And what do I have?? So many good things and people surround me every day. I have my own business (which by the way is pretty successful), I work as a bike messenger with a super cool crew of people, I have a life partner who loves me, I have my body working better then ever… when I saw all of this I realise that I have so many of the things I have struggled to attain and was striving for. I think that I was so used to thinking negative about myself and doubting myself that I never stopped to realise that things had changed… all the areas I had fought to put my foot down in were starting to take root… they had changed but I had not. Now its time to appreciate the road behind, the road now and the road ahead….. Its been an amazing journey here in Graz. Yes I have what I want, because I want what I have, I want it so much and I am grateful.
Some amazing stuff that I have been doing these days includes teaching bike mechanics classes specifically for FLIT people (I even got paid for it). I also finished a study course to be an English teacher… I have a job in a week teaching English in Salzberg. I am organizing an Alleycat* bike race with the other female couriers from Pink Pedals… yes I have been busy. 

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Good morning 2018

Its nice to finally meet you, I am only saying this today because I only sobered up on the 2nd of January and then was sick until the 3rd… it only seems right that today is the first day of the year for me.

I just realised I only wrote 7 blog posts last year… It’s not that nothing happened, but that everything happened all at once. It passed in a blur of cycling, cooking, baking, laughing, crying and all the rest.

What has this year been like for everyone? I was sick yesterday so of course I scrolled through FB millions of times and it seems like most of my friends and happy and wowzerssss… super successful… haha.. of course this could just be our FB image… So when you have time write me something real about your year.. I am curious. I can’t pretend that this whole year was a piece of cake… though there were many pieces of cake in this year.. get it??? 

Just to be totally real with you, I am still a penniless fool struggling through life… I do not pretend to be anything else, because I don’t want anyone to look at me and in any way feel intimidated (I don’t think its possible.. but just in case) and say to themselves ‘wow look at that, some people are really doing well’.. in terms of plain old success and countability of gold and shit like that.. I am not doing too well.. Thankfully I am not measuring my life by those means.. at least I try not to. I seem to abound in hilarious moments, friendships, love, adventures, excitement and fun… I wouldn’t trade these for anything… this year has just been an absolute treasure in these ways and I am happy with it. 

Highlights from the year… oh well let’s take a looksee

Cake Baby… after investing in making cake baby a small company and taking off to a flying start, the second half of the year had only one cake order… boo hoo… never mind… I still know how to make good cake, and I loved working with Medea… Maybe one day someone will realise the true geniuses we are.. and it could be any day now. Something I have to say is that I did learn some new recipes and baking ideas that I really wanted to learn, such as cheesecakes. This year I mastered them, and furthermore I look forward to this year learning Vegan cheesecakes and other more complex baking feats.

My messengering was pretty good… I cycled more this year than any other year.. I also got 2 fines,  had 2 collisions with cars and crashed full force into a wall, bending the fork on my bike and bruising myself just about everywhere… oh well… never mind… I love that job, It makes me happy and confident. I love the crew at PP and this year felt closer with them.. so there ya go… I can now ride a bike around a city and earn something from it… I might have a hilarious amount of mishaps… but I am still a messenger.  I might not be the best one, but I improved. 

Culture Exchange… it seems to be slowly ticking along, making progress. Very, very slowly mind you… well it just wouldn’t be right to rush things would it? I mean who wants to be super successful immediately… well that would just ruin the fun… at least that seems to be the way the Gods of fate are playing it.. and what I am telling myself of course.  I did experience so so many conflicting emotional times with the CE here… Culture Exchange as a whole.. Well it’s just been an emotional rollercoaster from day 1, and it does not seem to want to give me a break. 
The Culture Exchange in Novi Sad also closed this year, a sad but remarkable moment and ended a chapter that was forever going on and on in my mind. It was a sentence that no matter how long and poetic, needed a full stop.  It felt like something on the edge of life and death for such a long time now. It’s last and memorable evening ended with a truly triumphant party, which gave me hope for the future. No matter what has happened, it was a beautiful thing, and it always gives me courage that everything can happen… anything can happen. 

This year I lived with 3 amazing people, I had such a good time with them, its hard to express in words just how happy they have made me.  Meeting them, getting to know them, having adventures, sharing lots of stories, fun, food, and laughter made me feel at home in Austria. I sort of had thought that Serbia would kind of be the place that I felt the most at home in, with the dearest friends etc… When travelling back there I would feel that familiar emotional attachment to the city, the feeling that you know it and it knows you, there are memories on every street and familiar faces at every turn.  It took me some time to get accustomed to life in Graz, it was a big change and I was immediately thrown into a hectic and busy lifestyle. It took me time to find this bubble of love, or should I say, create it, and it’s a wonderful thing to live here. I feel so good, sometimes I wonder how anyone can live without these guys, because they are all so great. I noticed recently that I was really laughing again, wholeheartedly and with real joy. After the stressful year in Serbia and coming to Austria, I had noticed that I was not really laughing fully anymore… that I was laughing and kind of happy, but I was so deeply stressed it was so hard for me to really feel fully joyful and like myself. I am so relieved to say, I am through that time.  This year has had so so many happy moments and that is due to the people around me, those 3 awesome guys, Tom, and also my other close friends in Graz. I am happy here. 

What beauties of life can I expect from this next 12 sections of weeks, days and hours that we can a year… moments of time.. it’s all a long string of moments.

My life this next year is going to change a lot, I can feel it. I can’t share it all with you in this post but let’s just say that my time in Graz, my time with Culture Exchange is coming to a big turning point and I am sure the chaotic, beautiful seas of change are going to once again push me to exploring new levels of myself and of this world around me. 

When I thought about cementing goals for the New Year, I felt a bit unmotivated. It’s not that I don’t have ideas and passion for the future… It’s just I am not sure that putting my goals from January forward and projecting them into the whole year is for me. I did most of my goals last year… I did a long bike trip, I improved in my messengering, I did sort of improve my German…, however some I did not complete. I did not really go forward in some of the hobbies that I had thought I would like to learn more about.  I think I will be making more concise goals weekly or monthly and thinking more clearly about what I would like to see happen or expect from myself.  

So guys, hear from you soon