Happy Dutch Pancake Goes Romanian!

Making new friends is always fun, and is nothing better than joining a group of people from all over the world, to exchange opinions, ideas and bring incredible experiences into the same room.

Only a few weeks ago I heard about the tradition of Dutch Pancake Party, which started in Hong Kong, a while back, as a thank you dinner, for the hosts of a group of Dutch students.

Starting with a nice gesture, the party became more of a tradition for Robin Vogelaar, who travels every week to a new city around the world, and organizes a new party. Meeting people through CouchSurfing and social networks, Robin finds a place to stay, someone willing to provide a location for the Pancake Night, invites as many people as possible, and gets busy cooking and making new friends.

Photo Credit – Aida Ivan

With over 90 such parties already taking place all over the world, from Europe to Asia, between 30 and 150 people present at every party, the Dutch Pancake Night became a phenomena.

When I met Robin, he told me about his idea to organize such a party in Bucharest, so I just had to join in. It was quite impressive to see so many people of all nationalities (Netherlands, Mauritius, Greece, Belgium, Albania, UK, Brazil, China, Romania), going into the kitchen, helping with the snacks, ingredients and cooking the pancakes.

Even if we had great plans in mind (making a lot of pancakes, for everyone present), with only a few pancakes going out of the kitchen door, we had to put an end to it sooner, as the neighbors got irritated with the noise. From what I understand, this happens all the time, in every location, so we really fast came up with a backup plan, and moved to a nearby pub, to continue the celebration. No one puts a stop to a determined group! 🙂

Photo Credit – Aida Ivan

The best part about such events is the cultural exchange. I always love to meet people with similar passions, skills and interests, and find out more about other cultures and traditions. Even better is to meet fascinating adventurous world travelers and start new friendships.

With the next location already in mind, so many amazing people and a few new wonderful friendships, I’m pretty sure the end of the party is only a see you later, not a goodbye. Looking forward to the next meeting!


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Special thanks to Aida Ivan for the event pictures

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Dingo Is Going Home

11239623Today was the big day. Dingo, my friend’s German Shepherd, who sadly passed away a few years ago, finally made it home, one last time. (See here the story of the painting)

Because I was asked a few times already about my friend’s reaction when he received my gift, with his approval, I’ve decided to share this special moment with you guys.

Liviu, my friend, got my painting today, and I was very moved to see him so touched by my gesture. When he said: “Can you paint something for me?” I’m sure he had no idea this is going to be the result.

dingogoinghomeI’m more than happy to see him so happy with having his pup back home, even if only in acrylics. Enjoy your painting! I hope it brought you some comfort!

The Challenge of a Bad Quality Picture

As a painter, I offered a few times already, some of my paintings, as a gift, to my loved ones. A few months ago, I painted for the first time one of my best friend’s dead pet, as a Christmas gift, and it was quite an experience. The pressure of getting it right, is always very high, when it comes to giving someone the chance of seeing their pet one last time, for the first time, through a picture.

Making a new friend who enjoys my work, I was asked recently to paint something for him. It was a hard decision to choose a theme for the painting, but knowing my friend’s German Shepherd died a few years ago, I’ve decided to take the challenge of painting his pet.

With only one very bad quality picture available, I struggled to make the dog look as close to reality as possible, and bring him back into my friend’s life. With the painting now completed, all I can hope for, is that I got it right 🙂

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We Don’t Control Technology. Technology Controls Us

At a first glance it might sounds silly, but every time I look around me, I can’t help but think it’s true, and it only gets worse by day. Think about it. You go to a restaurant and see a family or a group of friends, at the table, all on their tablets or smartphones, browsing the internet, not exchanging a single word during the entire meal. Later, they all pack their stuff, and leave. I always wonder why did they went out in first place and not stay locked in their rooms and chat via Facebook, while eating alone.

Visiting a new city / country often turns, for most people, into a quest to find a Wireless Network, just so they can talk to someone else, or update their Facebook status about the new ‘exciting’ location they are at. We are losing ourselves into the technology in our pockets and not living in the present day. The acute desire to always be connected and record every move we make, makes us forget to actually enjoy the moment, and be there, with the persons sitting next to us.

The social disease of recording our moves, checking-in from every location, posting pictures of the food we eat, and look in a certain way for the photos we ‘HAVE TO’ upload online, turns us into the slaves of the applications we’re using. Some people say: ‘I need to check-in now, because later it won’t be valid anymore.’ or my old time favorite: ‘I need to smile in a certain way, because otherwise I can’t post the pictures online.’. To whom are we trying to prove what, by acting in a way we are not, just for the sake of being connected, with some people we most of the time don’t even like? It seems like lately what’s more important than anything, is live to the expectations of a pretended life.

I don’t think, for most people, there’s anything more painful when going out into the real world, than the lack of internet connection or the ‘Low Battery’ warning. It makes me wonder, when and where do they actually live if they are so busy with technology all the time? They live on the social network or in the real life? Because most act like their life is over when the battery dies.

I believe we are missing on a lot, because of this kind of perspective on socializing… We have no idea how to enjoy a moment of silence in the nature, we can’t enjoy a peaceful meal with our loved ones, without obsessively check our phones every few minutes and posting a picture of the food on Instagram or Facebook, and we definitely don’t enjoy special moments in our lives, like birthdays, holidays, fireworks and so on, without letting go of reality, and moving ourselves into the piece of technology which has to record it all.

I find it particularly sad to know some people can’t spend a moment alone with their own thoughts, without playing loud music to push away loneliness, and without connecting to a social network, to scroll through other people’s lives. Is like we are trying to run away from … ourselves.

And what is so social about Facebook? What does it have so special that makes us give up the most beautiful application, REALITY, just to spend virtual time, with out eyes glued to a screen? Why are we so afraid of the Low Battery warning, when it actually means: ‘Why don’t you look around you and find someone real, to really talk to?‘. What makes us chose the pretended life of so many online ‘friends’ (who only wish you happy birthday because Facebook informs them to do so) over our real friends and family, sitting right next to us?

Such a beautiful world out there, and we push it away for a small box with a screen… Who controls who again?

How can I become YOU

You think I can’t, but I can, if I want to. Quite easily.

How?

Ask yourself the following question: How much information about yourself, your actions, passions, hobbies, location, preferences, friends, family and pets you put in the hands of strangers? None / Not much? Are you sure? … Very sure?

Think again!

Remember that night when you got drunk with your friends? Do you remember how many bottles of beer were on that table? Do you remember all the food you ate that night? What food was that? Remember that you talked with your best friend on the phone last month for quite a long time, on that specific day? Remember you went to that event a few years back? Remember the exact day when you ate that lunch with your colleague? What color was the paint of the restaurant wall? What was that document about, the one you emailed him/her?

You don’t remember all these details? Hmm…such a shame. I remember. I remember it all…

How?!

What happens on the internet, stays on the internet. You can delete it, sure, but I will still find it. Why? Because I want to be you.

Everything you type, send, receive, upload, download it’s stored on a server. Every move you make, is documented. EVERYTHING. Every email provider, browser, application, social network, bank and mobile internet provider have at least one. Every year the number of attacks the servers receive increases considerably. Very often we see articles on the internet about leaks from the database, of a specific company. This is why internet security is a very important part of every company/institution, and they all invest a lot of money into keeping their servers safe from such attacks.

But, what if someone finds a way around it? It happened before. What if someone gets their hands on every possible information available about you? What would they find out?

Through every information you type on a website, every action you take online, every file, photo, video you upload, you make identity theft easier, for someone who would want to do it. And this is not the only risk. The other risk is empowering someone who wants to hurt you, with all the information needed to do so. You give that person exact data about your location in real time, hobbies, likes, dislikes, friends, family, pets and so on. If they want to break into your apartment, they know when you are not there, or…are there. If they want to stalk you, you give them all they need.

Highly unlikely? They can’t know all this about you?

See if any of the below information rings a bell:

1. Email provider 

If you read this blog post, most likely you have at least one email address. You use it for work and to keep in touch with your friends and family. Just how much private information you include in the emails you send? Oh, you also keep a calendar on your email? What about contacts? Do you upload documents, or use Google docs to edit shared spreadsheets?

Normally, only you have access to the ones mentioned above. But, what if this changes? Who would benefit from the information you keep on your private account?

Could I use that information to get to your business partners, harm your friends, family or business? What about ruining your reputation or your relationships?

2. Google on your mobile phone?

Did you ever think it’s weird to be asked to sign in with your Google email account on your mobile phone? What can you do with an Android phone if you don’t sign in? You can pretty much only use it for calls. You can’t download applications and can’t use maps, navigators or others. Why? Who owns that phone you paid for, in the end? You can use the hardware only as long as you comply with the rules imposed by Google.

Every device you use, with a GPS incorporated, might be used both ways. You can find out your location, but so can others. People can track you down. This is the reason why some mobile applications were removed from Google Play store a while back ( best example is the app which allowed you to see where the ‘cute’ girls in your city are, in real time, directly from your mobile phone).

A new trend is to allow your phone in your life, even further. More and more phones help you keep track of your ‘health’. You basically let your phone count the number of steps you make everyday, write down every meal you eat, the sleeping schedule, the type of workout you prefer, the favorite jogging / cycling are in your city. Basically your phone knows all the time where you are in real time, when you are asleep or not, what you eat and when.

3. Facebook

The place where most of your friends are. Even if some of you are unhappy with this company, you don’t want to delete your account because it’s the easiest way to keep in touch with your friends. You want to show them pictures and videos from your trips, exchange pages, ideas, stories. But how private it’s what you say to them, even in private? What if that information leaks?

You liked that post? And that page? So you are from that city, went to school here, worked there and you are a person who likes dogs, a convinced vegetarian, you jog every morning, you cycle in that area, and you go out in this circle of friends.

What about those advertisements which pop random on the right side of the screen or in your news feed? How do they know you might click on that? Magic, huh? Not at all. Facebook uses your browsing history, your ‘Likes’ and location to show on the screen what you’d like to see. Even more, they use the pages you visited but never ‘Liked’

You get more spam in your email inbox lately? Selling your personal information(email), isn’t unusual. How do you think some online platforms survive? You configure your profile, and make it easier for them to send your email address to the right companies, which sends back to you what you might be interested in.

You feel the need to check-in, post pictures and other information about yourself? Who owns that information you post online? Anything you post can end up in the wrong hands. Picture this: someone wants to ‘become you‘. They will make an effort to look like you, steal your personal data ( hobbies, likes, dislikes), and pretend to be you. You give them all the tools needed in that sense. They will be able to answer any question about you, after going through your private messages, pages, groups, apps, interests, friends and pictures. Remember those security questions your answered a while back? (‘What’s your mothers maiden name?’). Easy information.

4. Phone Company

You text, you delete the text from your phone, and it’s gone? You call, hang up, and no recording of your conversation will be kept? Are you that sure? Didn’t it ever happen to hear a broken recording tape sound when talking on your phone? Neither hearing other voices during your phone call?

They phone companies can record and store all your conversations and texts. They do store all your voicemails and, by law, they have to store the ‘meta data’.

More than this, they know where you travel. How? When you move from one point to another in the country or abroad, your are switched from one cell to another. This is not only a way to find out where YOU are, but also to find out WHO ELSE you travel with.

5. Your Bank

Did you ever got a phone call from a guy talking very fast: “Hello, I am a broker and I want to talk to you about this investment … ” ? Where did he got your phone number from? How does he know you’ve received a transfer and you posses cash in your account? Only your bank has access to that information, right? Or, do they?

Have you ever watched missing persons documentaries? Someone interested in this, can find out exactly how much you’ve spent, where you’ve been and when, by looking at your bank statements, since the beginning of the bank account to the present day. If someone is really interested in ‘meeting’ you, they can notice a certain pattern in your spending ( e.g. shopping for food every Saturday morning, at X Supermarket) and also keep track of what you buy! At some point Target congratulated a teen-age lady on her pregnancy, before her parents knew about it. Impossible? It happens all the time.

Now, with the internet banking becoming more and more popular, the risk of your banking information ending in someone else’s hands, it’s even higher.

If I want to become you, I can read all your emails, know your history, your work, your thoughts and I can use all that information to harm you. I can persuade you or people, to give me access to your bank statements, phone records, texts, conversations, by creating and using an invented scenario that increases the chance to divulge information or perform actions that give me access to what I want to know.

If you don’t give me the information, I can simply take it away from you. I can just burn a CD, containing a malware, write on it “Executive Salary Summary – year X”, and leave it at your work place, somewhere where I know you find it. You wouldn’t resist the temptation to check it out, right? The malware would be unknowingly installed by you, likely giving me unfettered access to your PC and information.

With the right skills, your personal data might end up on the wrong hands. Even if every company mentioned above state they are careful with your data, most of them are, but in the same time, some might make you think they are careful, and sale your information to whom might benefit them.

I believe the scenarios mentioned above aren’t far away from reality, but they are the actual reality.

We trust our computers and phones with a lot of personal information, which can be used in our detriment in case they end up in the hands of other people. As long as the companies you trusted your personal data with are safe or ‘good guys’, you are safe. But what if they stop being good guys, who owns the information you post online? What if they get hacked? What if you give away the access by mistake? Ask yourself, what could they find out about you, if all of the above would be revealed? Would you still be safe?

You still believe I can’t become YOU?

Relationship Status: Who cares?!

If you use Facebook you probably have at least one friend like this. Which friend I’m talking about? That friend who’s always single during the week, in a relationship during the weekend, and has the acute need to advertise it, like every person they meet is THE ONE.

Then breaks up, deletes all the pictures, and posts a status in which drama is overflowing into every one of their friend’s News Feed. After a few such dramatic posts, someone tries to be ‘nice’ and asks: ‘What’s wrong?‘ or ‘What happened?‘. The answer comes shortly after: ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ or ‘Message me on private‘. I always have to wonder: Why on Earth do you whine about it in public then, if you don’t want to talk about it?!

This person is very heartbroken, posts quotes about how the nasty ex is guilty for everything bad happening in the world (Ebola and the Global Warming suddenly appear into the picture) and about how strong you have to be during such moments.

After this, the period when the friend tries to appear happy arrives. They post pictures with descriptions like: ‘With my friends xoxo‘ , ‘My dog who won’t break my heart like others do‘, ‘On this amazing trip, getting drunk and having fun‘ and so on. 52484175

And this goes on and on for months, until he/she is in a good mood after being in a few months of stable relationship (what an accomplishment! *rolling eyes*) during which you are bombarded with pictures of ‘the meal we ate together‘, ‘us holding hands at my fish’s funeral‘, and other such ‘important’ moments in the life of a couple.

If they don’t break up (which involves again deleting pictures, and posting nasty quotes) they get married after five months and divorced one year later, when the cycle restarts.

I’m talking about that friend which goes on the profile page and when Facebook asks ‘What’s on your mind?‘, takes it too seriously, and uses the wall as a tissue.

Why would some people who barely know you (coworkers, colleagues from school, people you added to play games with) be interested in what’s going on in your bedroom? Isn’t it a bit embarrassing to invite in your bed a bunch of strangers? Oh, you post it for your ex? Right … Please, tell me more about how those posts will fix things between your two, or make him/her feel worse about the way things didn’t work out.

Why does Facebook need to know what’s going on in your private life? If your future employer looks through your profile, would he feel impressed about your changing dates more often than your underwear?

What happens on the internet, stays on the internet. Do you want, in 30 years from now, to have an electronic list of all the people who ever checked-in in your bed?

Believe me, no one cares! You just amuse some of your ‘friends’ (usually the ones who ask for more details and act interested) and get others to pity you, and delete you from their list.

So, do yourself and us all a favor, stop being such drama queens and stop wiping your nose on a status message. Invest the time wasted for all this nonsense, into actually fixing and dealing with what needs to be solved.

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I apologize for the large amount of sarcasm, but it just had to be said 🙂

Saying goodbye to a wonderful team

Working for 2 years in the same office creates very strong friendships. With all the ups and downs, one thing is for sure, even if I won’t miss everything about my job, I will definitely miss my friends.

Never goodbye. It’s see you later!

1,000,000 reasons to miss you guys, in pictures

For all those beautiful memories filled with laughter and joy

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For all the pranks and ‘special’ farewells 

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For all those funny notes and special gifts

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Thank you for supporting me and making me smile everyday! You are absolutely amazing people and I’m very honored to call you my friends.

Lots of love,

Loredana

xo