Friday, March 3, 2017

De vaart richting winter

Geborgen in een zachte bries nestelen zich de zoete klanken van een lieflijke engelentaal tussen knisperend gras. De winter is in aantocht en zal de geelrode kleurenpracht geleidelijk bevriezen met een koude adem. De bladeren houden zich met alle macht nog even vast aan de gauw hibernerende vegetatie, zoals de vastbesloten Baltische zielen dat deden met hun menselijke ketting die Tallinn via Riga met Vilnius verbond.

Waar de bladeren spoedig de strijd tegen het verval en de zwaartekracht zullen opgeven, hield de door eenheid en vreedzaamheid gedreven hunkering naar Letse eigenheid stand. Zesentwintig jaar later vaar ik in een rode luchtballon over het eigenzinnige, creatieve, maar bovenal vrije Letland. Het land mag zichzelf zijn, en pubert er met gepaste trots en een herleving van de symboliek van weleer flink op los.

Het vuur en de wind brengen ons richting Valmiera. De rivier Gauja baant een pad door dichtbegroeide naaldbossen. Berkenbomen met signaalgele bladeren doemen op als poorten tussen het dieren- en mensenrijk. Er is ruimte. De werelden gaan samen. Herten met kwiek kwispelende staarten en witte achtersten dansen synchroon over een met precisie winterklaar gemaakte, aangenaam glooiende akker.  Een vos met majestueuze staart verspeelt zijn avondmaal. Ik deel een lach met een in minimalisme tevreden levende boerin die me toekijkt vanuit haar houten boshuis. Ze wordt omhelsd door een blauwe wollen trui. Wat zou ik graag een kopje zelfgemaakt kruidenthee met haar willen drinken, een kwarkbroodje met haar delen, en luisteren naar haar verhaal.

Een paarsblauwe gloed verzamelt zich tussen de boomtoppen en het plafond van het wolkendek. De zon is nog net krachtig genoeg zich een weg te banen door de zwakke plekken van de witte deken. De zomer is voorbij. De warmte van het Baltische licht doet echter vergeten dat de ooievaars reeds gevlogen zijn. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Friends and façade faces, colours, German haircuts and the longing for these places

The carpet in the Swiss train with its final destination being Zürich, creates a homey atmosphere. A young German hippie-like family discovers my origin through my accent, linking my orange jacket to the nationality as described in my passport. They offer me carrots to make the whole complete. I blush. Laughter is shared. 

A steady breeze blows a spirit of courtesy and intellectuality through the Heidelberger streets, marked with its houses adorned with hints of rusty brown. 

Spring is approaching. Catkins are already visible and the first hay fever sneezes are reluctantly accepted. The locals are colour boosting their environment with a larger percentage of yellow coats than seen elsewhere. 

The university library is the beating heart of this student city. Behind Jugendstil façade faces houses a labyrinth of bookshelves in between which the delightfulness of proper German masculine haircuts can't remain unnoticed. 

Memories of glory days in Lithuania that became part of personalities are revived. The warmth of a friendship and the proximity of recognizable belongings cover me in a blanket of trust. The longing for bonding with historically and cultural rich venues is instigated once again.

The train distancing me from Heidelberg leads me trough picturesque valleys. In the background I softly hear two young guys joking around in Hochdeutsch, in a respectful and conscious volume in order not to disturb other travelers. German manners and politeness. An example. 

Colorific splendor in Heidelberg

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Some thoughts on judging and self-centeredness

The last couple of years I've been surrounded by people from different cultures. One of the most important things I've learned through this is that you may not take for granted that everybody shares your particular habits and knowledge. We humans are like a piece of clay, shaped and adjusted to the accepted and expected norms and values of the place where we are born, made to somewhat fit within the through traditions shaped, oddly looking box called culture. One very simple example: Dutchmen likely know who Rembrandt van Rijn was, and will also be able to mention 'The Night Watch' as one of his masterpieces. I may not judge an Austrian for not knowing this. Austrians, on the other hand, will probably all know Gustav Klimt and his breathtaking 'The Kiss'. May a Dutchmen be blamed for not knowing this? No. I realize that this topic overlaps a discussion on common knowledge. Yet, one can't know all. 

I'll share a moment from which I've learned. When noticing that my friend from Denmark didn't know the name of the Dutch Queen (Beatrix at that time), I was slightly disappointed. At that very moment, I didn't know the name of the Danish Queen either. I had absolutely no right to judge my friend on not being able to mention Beatrix's name. 

The very same concept can be applied to Americans and their knowledge on European countries, and the knowledge of Europeans on American States, too. Recently, when an American asked me in which country I was born, I gave him several options to choose from, including the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Finland. He didn't have a clue. Interestingly enough, he initially thought I was from New Zealand. Nevertheless, I'd be somewhat puzzled too if he'd make me pick from for example California, Utah, Nevada or Arizona. 

Language-wise I came across some examples of this matter too. During a philosophy class I took at my home university in Kaunas, Lithuania, all students were asked to write a speech. Eventually, we were assigned to carefully read someone else's speech and to highlight what one personally considered stronger and weaker parts of the written piece and why. While I shared my opinion on the speech written by one of my Lithuanian classmates, two exchange students from Spain had to cast their voice on what they thought of my text, coincidentally handling Dutch monarchy and Queen Beatrix, now being Princess Beatrix. The two Spanish girls hardly ever showed up in class, and if they already did, they never contributed to the discussions, as their English language skills lacked sufficient vocabulary to convey their opinions in any kind of way. Still, I didn't want to have negative thoughts about them. Firstly, because I don't want unnecessary negativity in my life. Secondly, because I didn't even know these girls that well, through which I had no right to start off thinking bad about them. It's somewhat imaginable one might think the girls don't come across as highly intelligent when only knowing them in this particular setting. Every time the professor asked them something, the question marks in their eyes only got bigger, which didn't have to do anything with the actual content of the questions, as the messages didn't even reach their destination that far. This is exactly the point. Their intelligence cannot be judged upon their laborious, yet not very effective efforts in a language they've hardly ever used. Them being exchange students from a university already shows they're probably capable of among others a decent amount of reasoning.

One might be a genius, specialized in a certain topic one can normally passionately talk about like a never ending waterfall, however, in another language it might just not work out. If you'd ask me now to tell you something about hot air balloons in French or Spanish, it would most probably come across rather clumsy, whereas if I'd be telling the story to my colleagues in Dutch or English, it'd be a solid piece embodied in a firm frame. Having said that, I once spent half an hour (from Metz to Pont-a-Mousson) preaching passion on ballooning and the Baltics in French to a taxi driver. I made the most terrible mistakes, but with a bit of effort the driver understood me, responding with some intelligent questions. It felt like a victory. Learning by doing is key, and thus the perceived failing should be seen as progress, whether that might not always feel like it. 

In Thailand I've encountered an issue similar to the one with the Spanish students. When out flying your balloon with solely Thai ground crew, you better be lucky to be picked up in a deserted rice field in the end, as proper communication isn't going to be on your side. I hardly came across Thai people being capable of understanding more than five words of English. Then again, in comparison, my Thai (Mai Tai: "Our love is his-to-ry", do you know that song? It's from a Dutch eighties band actually!) is even worse. I then do start to wonder on what the time is spent which is saved by not offering English classes. What would the Thai miss out on in Europeans, which they'd take for granted?

Nowadays we live in a society in which it's so easy to get in touch with people from different countries than one's own. Different cultures have never been so approachable. This doesn't have to mean you have to renege your own descent. Remember the lessons learned, open up your mind and share what can be beneficial to others. When you're a baby, your mother is the centre of your world. When you grow up being a rather average human being, your country is the centre of your world. Sounding truly hippie-like, but meaning it: when you're a free spirit in a positive mind, borders dissolve and you become a world citizen on an endless globe of possibilities on which no centre can be determined. So wherever you come from, your country is never the imaginary centre of the world. The manners, knowledge and deeply grounded cultural roots valued by you, might not be evident for another. Let's be kind, and always sort of keep this in mind.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Life after graduating from VMU

A little while ago I was contacted by the International Office of Vytautas Magnus University with the request to answer some questions on my life after gaining my Master degree in Lithuania. My activities in the Baltics have had a massive impact on my life, in a positive way of course, and therefore I was more than pleased to review what I'd been going through there, and how the first steps of my career have evolved. The interview as published here (click to be redirected) is somewhat shortened. Below you'll be able to read the full version.

Always friendly, creative and open-minded. That‘s how many of us would describe Nienke Bos. She’s a student who has graduated a master degree program in Journalism and Media Analysis at VMU in 2014. During her two year study period she participated in many social and cultural activities and experienced Erasmus+ studies in Estonia. Also, she was one of the most active VMU Ambassadors who had the chance to represent international students and the whole university in various cases. Now she's back home in the Netherlands and as far as we know she's successfully working according to her specialty. Interested in how is she's doing right now? Let‘s find out!

1. Goedemorgen, Nienke! How are you? It‘s a pleasure to have an interview with you.

Laba diena Lietuva! I'm viskas gerai! Nice to virtually talk to you.

2. It has been a little bit more than one year after you graduated from VMU. What has changed?
Well, I've slowly but steadily moved towards the Netherlands again. Just before my graduation, I've arranged that I could volunteer in Denmark for a while. This turned out to be a very demanding, challenging, but fascinating time. I've worked with youngsters being a bit difficult to handle. By the start of 2015, I felt that my time in Denmark had reached its end. From January 2015 till mid-July I've been searching for a job. I've applied for many jobs in the Netherlands, but also in Germany, Sweden and even Romania. It was a tough time, as you don't know in advance how long the search for a job continues. I kept my head up high, which was at times difficult. I was on the edge of moving to Hamburg, and to Berlin too. Seems that wasn’t meant to be, and that’s alright. 

I noticed that it's important to take a break from the job hunt from time to time, and that this doesn't always have to cost much. I for instance flew to the beautiful Polish city Gdansk, stayed there for about five days and eventually flew back, for less than 100 euro's in total. The budget-proof travel ability mixed with my Dutch unwillingness to spend a lot of money played a role in that. It surely provided some energy to continue my disciplined job hunt.

Eventually, I was lucky to be based in the least populated area of the Netherlands, where basically the largest asylum center is of the Netherlands is located too. That's where I found a job. I’ll tell you more about it soon. 

3. Tell us about your studies in Lithuania. Was it useful and interesting for you?
I've started a master degree in Journalism and Media Analysis in 2012. There are about three factors that played an important role in my decision to study in Lithuania. I'd spent a lot of study and work time in Estonia and Latvia already, and I somehow wanted to complete the Baltic puzzle by adding Lithuania to that list too. During my bachelor in European Studies I developed a strong interest in (creative) writing, furthermore realizing that the maze of politics in Brussels isn't really my desired cup of tea, even though it's a fascinating world. Luck was on my side with Vytautas Magnus University offering an English master degree in Journalism and Media Analysis. The International Office of Vytautas Magnus University was responsible for the last step towards Lithuania. I actually hesitated between a journalism focused master degree in Estonia and Lithuania, however, because of the timely, friendly and helpful communication of the International Office in Kaunas, I felt that studying in Lithuania would fit me best. I do certainly not regret that choice. Interestingly enough, I spent half a year in Estonia anyways, because of a bilateral agreement between Vytautas Magnus University and Tallinn University. One can't always have all, but in this case, I definitely got the best out of both options.

4. Could you name one best and one worst moment of studying at VMU?
Studying at Vytautas Magnus University didn't only bring me knowledge, but it also provided an opportunity to share my knowledge with others. I guess the best example of that is the Erasmus in Schools project, even though I was not technically an Erasmus student while studying in Lithuania. I participated in this initiative in both Estonia and Lithuania. It's a delight to stand in front of classes filled with enthusiastic, curious, young people fanatically forming their own opinions. I truly enjoyed teaching them about my own country, but I also adored listening to other international students telling us about their home countries and the features of their cultures. It doesn’t happen every day that you see some guys from Azerbaijan performing their impressive national dance, or that you’re being taught the symbolic behind the South Korean flag by a lovely student in a traditional costume. The disadvantage of being Dutch and providing space for questions to with hormones filled teenagers, is that I often had to explain the drug stereotype. No, we’re not all stoned nutters out here. Honestly, it was fun to slightly provoke the students on matters like homosexuality, gay marriage and a matter like euthanasia. Discussing these topics brings an insight in idea's of an individual, and how opinions are shared within a group, or even secretly shared afterwards.

The first unpleasant matter that pops up is probably the thesis writing process. I'm not big on academic writing, as it differs quite a bit from my desired writing style. I'm rather disciplined and fine with individually spreading work load over a longer period of time and working independently. Yet, I did miss out on the brainstorm sessions en discussions with other students and professors. The lack of contact with others and the - for me - unattractiveness of the academic writing process, made my thesis writing process to be one of my least favourite moments in Lithuania. I made a schedule on the desired work load to finish every single day. Crossing off the tasks from the list made me enjoy my breaks from the overall thesis writing more. However, I then didn't party, but preferred taking long walks through Kaunas and Vilnius and Lithuania's surrounding countries, always trying to discover the essence of local life, slightly distanced from the tourist brochures.

5. Last time we had an interview, you mentioned that after your studies, you most probably will go  volunteer in Denmark, because it‘s hard to get a job in the Netherlands. So was it really that hard? Tell us more about your job. Is it the one you have been searching for?
It was in fact rather difficult to find a suitable job being journalism related. I found out that there are lots of interesting internships within this field. However, most of them are located near Amsterdam, being 2,5 hours away from where I live. These highly desired and difficult to get internships provide valuable experience in print media, but hardly any decent salary at all. Even if you're lucky, you'll receive only 250 euro's a month. In the Netherlands, you can't even rent a tiny room for that price, especially not near Amsterdam. One has to invest in the future, but I didn't consider ending up with a loan would be worth it, especially since I’d fulfilled so many internships already.

Currently I'm working for the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service, belonging to the Dutch Ministry of Safety and Justice. I interview people from Eritrea and Syria whom ask for asylum in the Netherlands. My interviews mainly focus on the reasons why these people have fled their countries, and if these stories are consistent. It's a demanding job, as I hear the most terrible stories on a daily basis. However, it feels good to play an important part in the futures of these people, diminishing their fears. I notice a lot of journalism related facets come across on a daily basis. Interviewing techniques play a large role in gaining a complete story based on the truth. My knowledge, curiosity and creativity, gained among others at Vytautas Magnus University, have certainly helped to improve the quality of my work here, in the Northern part of the Netherlands.

In my current job, I'm a representative for my country: a smiling face welcoming people in need of safety, providing space for people to tell their individual stories. It makes me think back about the Cultural Nights in Kaunas sometimes, during which I represented my country. I wasn't really 'Nienke', I was (the girl from) the Netherlands. Anyhow, it's a satisfying matter to make people feel at ease during an interview, whereas they could initially have been a bit nervous. Sometimes, you really connect with people, but still in a professional way of course. I'm highly interested in different cultures and the customs and habits belonging to these cultures. That's why I always enjoyed the Cultural Nights in Kaunas, and that's exactly why my job is so fulfilling too.

Luckily, I can sort of shut my emotions off during my interviews, otherwise this job would be terribly hard. As soon as I drive home at the end of a work day, I forget about the stories being told, even though I must admit they do sometimes vaguely appear within my unconsciousness while dreaming during the night.

6. You have spent five years, from 2009 to 2014 living, working and studying in the Baltic countries. So seeing you as an expert of Baltic region I have to ask – which country did you like most and why?
I already expected this question! People have been asking me this before, but Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are all unique in their own way. I have the feeling I blend in best in Estonia. For example, people there tend to wear more outdoor clothes, just like me. Dutch women are known for their love for functionality (which unfortunately also results in short, unattractive haircuts once the ladies reach their forties). Estonia’s nature is stunning. I even managed to observe the country from above by balloon (I could even see Finland!), paraglider and rusty old Antonov An-2.

I totally love the sound of the Latvian language and Latvia's capital Riga has conquered my heart since my very first minute there. I got introduced to the Baltics while fulfilling my Erasmus exchange in Riga in 2009. I spent hours strolling through the streets of Riga, and I always challenged myself to discover parts I hadn't seen before. I'm fascinated by Riga's Art Nouveau faces adorning the facades of the buildings.

The special thing about Lithuania is that it's a very 'overviewable' country. I consider Lithuanians to be rather approachable. They seem to be less shy to speak English and to talk to strangers than Estonians and Latvians. Furthermore, Lithuania has cepelinai (zeppelin-shaped dumplings, filled with pork) and saltibarsciai (cold beet soup): tasty!

7. Are you still passionate about travelling? Maybe you have a next destination to explore? Or maybe it‘s time to settle down?
The idea of settling down frightens me a bit. In the Baltics, I've always been so free. I lived in the moment, not knowing which place I'd call home half a year later. I still tend to get a bit melancholic when thinking back about it from time to time. I'm sometimes still facing difficulties in accepting that my study time in the Baltics has reached its end. Of course I also realize that change is a necessary factor to keep on living a happy life, and that nothing lasts forever. Living in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had thought me that change can be somewhat scary, but that it eventually brings joy, and moreover, a lot of valuable knowledge. Currently, I'm very satisfied with my job, but the lust for travel will always remain. It's good to observe one's life from a distance once in a while, while being indulged by another culture elsewhere.

8. Talking about passions, I know you have a huge interest in hot air ballooning and photography. Could you tell us what special is about these hobbies?
The sense of freedom in a hot air balloon is indescribable. Balloons are like steerless boats, floating on the clouds. You never know where the wind will eventually take you, which adds up to the adventurous and sensational feeling of ballooning. I'm fond of photo's telling a little story, framed in a well thought-out composition. It's a challenge to capture those moments from up in the air in this particular way, including the joy it brings to the ones both on the ground and in the air.

9. Do you think it‘s important for everyone to have a hobby, or it‘s enough to have a speciality?
That's an interesting question. We of course live in a society in which almost everybody tries to be unique, wanting to stand out from the crowd. Because of that, we all act rather alike again. Don't we all feel the desire to be a bit different? There are many ways to achieve this. As a young Dutch woman, I consider it to be quite special to be into ballooning, and to have worked and studied in the Baltics for a long period of time, starting before I even reached my twentieth birthday. I guess everybody cherishes an own passion in some sort of way. I wouldn't say you were doing something wrong if not, but a hobby or speciality is a true identity-shaper. It’s fulfilling to belong to a certain sub-group, and I guess we all naturally need that in order to keep our self acceptance on a healthy level.

10. How do you see yourself in the next five years?
Well, I actually didn't really think about that yet. I don't know where I'll live and what I'll do, which is a liberating idea. All options are still open. I hope I'll fill my days with a satisfying job in which I can combine my love for writing with interesting conversations with individuals from all over the world.

11. What could you tell to the possible readers who are thinking of studying in VMU? Any advices?
The personal approach of VMU attracted my attention. If you do not wish to be treated as a number, and if you prefer discussions and creativity way over learning things by heart, then the liberal arts atmosphere at VMU is totally something for you. Don’t be afraid. Chase your dreams. Do it for yourself, and don’t let the idea of missing someone for a longer period of time stop you from studying abroad.

12. Thank you very much for the interview. I wish you the best of luck and see you somewhere around Europe!
With pleasure! Have a fun day and see you around! I can’t wait to head to the Baltics again.

Monday, November 30, 2015

ABQ15 - The collection

Spending an afternoon behind your laptop because it's windy and rainy outside? Well, if you haven't checked them out before yet, you might be interested in scrolling through my Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta photo's now. Each day has its own album, and the road trips through New Mexico (to for example Madrid and Tent Rocks) can be found in a seperate folder too.  

Low-season: time to still your hunger for balloons here!

Click on the links below to be redirected to the pictures:

Saturday 03 October 2015 - Flight with Harold Cliver

Sunday 04 October 2015 - Flight with Peter George

Monday 05 October 2015

Tuesday 06 October 2015

Wednesday 07 October 2015 - Flight with Christopher Cliver

Thursday 08 October 2015

Friday 09 October 2015

Saturday 10 October 2015

Sunday 11 October 2015

On the road in New Mexico

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Oktoberfest Gladbeck

An adventurous weekend in Germany, marking my fifth gasballoon flight. Take a look at my pictures right here. Enjoy the manmade drawings within the German landscape from above!

A not particularly 'clean' picture.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

3rd FAI Women's European Hot Air Balloon Championship 2015

From 14-19 September 2015, the 3rd Women's European Hot Air Balloon Championship was held in a tiny little Dutch place called Witteveen. It was such a delight to see balloons and pilots from beautiful countries like Lithuania, Poland and Russia above the province where I grew up! They weren't too lucky with the weather, however, I was lucky enough to witness the showpiece Saturday morning.

Curious about the pictures? You can check them out right here.

Nienke Bos Ballooning Lithuania
Pleased with the Lithuanian presence!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

LMAB15 Vlogs

Below you'll find the complete collection of vlogs (video blogs) made throughout the fabulous Lorraine Mondial Air Ballons 2015. Enjoy!

Fr 24-07: Arrival in France. No evening flight.

Sa 25-07: No morning flight. Waves and the Abbey. No evening flight.

Su 26-07: Morning flight (line-up). No evening flight.

Mo 27-07: No morning flight. A day in Strasbourg. No evening flight.

Tu 28-07: No morning flight. A day in Metz. No evening flight.

We 29-07: No morning flight. The gardens of the Abbey and Waves. No evening flight.

Th 30-07: Morning flight with Peter (England). Tailgating. Evening flight with Per (Sweden).

Fr 31-07: Morning flight. Waves and birthday JT. No evening flight.

Sa 01-08: Morning flight with Arjan (Netherlands). Cruising around Toul. Evening flight.

Su 02-08: Morning flight with Hinnerk (Germany). Departure.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

LMAB15 video by Nienke Bos

Still can't get enough of it? I've collected the positive vibe of LMAB15 in a short video. Curious? It can be watched right here: Enjoy!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Su 02-08: One more time!

It was a really short night, but nevertheless, I didn’t want to stay in my bed. This morning flight would be the last possible one to see before heading home. Bennie and I were offered a flight with Hinnerk Röhrs from Northern Germany. His plan was to fly next to the Arky special shape, so we could take some nice pictures of this friendly looking balloon. It was a calm morning with variable winds and a lot of relaxed people in a ‘just one more time before we have to head home again’-mood. We landed at the very same field as I did the day before with the Dutchmen in their in Lithuania registered balloon. I could still spot the marks of our landing. Another enjoyable flight to add to the list!

Back at the hotel my dad and I managed to pack our belongings in just 15 minutes. Heading home, we talked about the nice times we had this week. Even though this is probably the LMAB edition with the least flights, it was certainly not the ‘worst’ (even though that’s of course hard to classify). The few flights that did happen were remarkably special. Quality above quantity in this case. I personally had such a wonderful time, enjoying a mixture of colorful balloons, some sightseeing and moreover lots of laughter with friends from all over the world. I’m having my difficulties to accept it’s all over again, but thankful I was part of it all for the eight time.

Sa 01-08: Balloons, paella and wind

What a lovely morning. For the first time during LMAB15 I actually had the time to just walk around on the runway, taking pictures from the ground. I spotted an odd registration number, starting with LY, meaning the balloon is registered in Lithuania. Nice! Having lived there for 1,5 years, I still cherish warm feelings for this beautiful Baltic country. I had a look if I could spot some of my Lithuanian balloon friends, but no, they didn’t look like Lithuanians at all. Nevertheless, just a moment later I heard “Nienke, want to join?” from that very basket, in Dutch. There were two Dutchman on board, and pilot Arjan Schuurmans offered me a flight with a smile. Off we went. The wind was so steerable, so our track on the map contained an almost perfectly round circle. We had lots of fun and flew for almost two hours. Interesting though how dialects can differ, even in such a tiny country like the Netherlands. I’m from the peaceful and not too crowded Northern part of the country myself, while this balloon team is based in the South, not too far away from Belgium. I considered them to speak funny, but they thought the same of me.

This afternoon Sarah, my father and I joined Daniel, our friend from Sweden. It was a delight to drive in his basically brand new electric Volvo, from which we could enjoy the French landscape at its second best (as it still can’t beat the view from the balloon). We came across Swedish pilot Pelle Lesser, his wife Ulla and their kind crew members as well, and ended up at a stained glass window atelier. Interesting to see how for example the typical art nouveau windows in Nancy are made, and which kind of coloring techniques exist within this artisanal world. We were very hungry and the artist was so kind to call some restaurants in the area of Toul in order to ask if they were still serving food. A lot of places close after 14.00 during the weekend. One little restaurant stayed open a little longer especially for us, and wow, the food we were served looked and tasted delicious. I enjoyed a big plate of paella and my dessert was apricot tiramisu. As Sarah would say: I was a happy bunny; you could stick a fork in me.

This evening it was rather windy. Peter decided not to take off, and that seemed like a wise decision. It was too much of a hassle for most of the teams to get their balloons up calmly. My dad joined Per in the special shape glove and their landing was proclaimed to be ‘spicy’. Per: “Is my foot on your leg Bennie?”. Bennie: “Yes, and your ass is in my face!”. While all that happened far away from the launch field, Sarah and I kept on watching the departing balloons. It’s always fun to have Sarah around. I just love her sense of humor. Luckily we could postpone the whole saying goodbye thing a bit by tailgating at the parking lot. Peter’s French crew Benoit and his wife Caroline brought some heavenly cloud/cheese cake, enjoyed by all. It was after 23.00 once we were finally back at the hotel; now time to say goodbye to my dear tea-loving friend. Luckily Sarah will be in Albuquerque again in two months, and so do I.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Fr 31-07: Fog and wind

A short sleep and off we went again. It was only four degrees outside, so I wonder how it must have been for the people sleeping in their tents at the camp side. It stayed rather foggy the entire morning, but that provided an interesting atmosphere for the pictures though. My dad flew with Hans Pravda and I joined Sarah retrieving Grand Britannia. As there was a traffic jam at the runway of balloon teams wanting to get off the field, we decided to take it slow and take some pictures from various corners. We also picked up Daniel, student pilot and part of the Swedish team I flew with yesterday. As Per isn't doing any morning flights, Daniel joined us. We soon discovered he's a great asset to the team, as he speaks the same language of humor. Nice! It didn't take long to find Peter, Isaac and Benoit, as they landed just a few roads away from the launch field. I can't get enough of the Little Britain imitations while cruising through small French villages. The afternoon existed out of a short nap and bringing  JT some presents for his fourth birthday. The evening flight was cancelled unfortunately, as it was too windy once again. Sarah and I ended up ghost hunting in the abbey of Pont-a-Mousson instead, and even though we didn't spot any strange creatures, we did enjoy the evening light shining on the old twisty staircases.

Th 30-07: Spiffing flights with Peter and Per

It happened, the wind dropped down! Finally, this was the first morning during which we didn't immediately looked like dogs sticking their head out of a driving vehicle once getting out of the car at the launch field. Peter George was so kind to offer me a flight with his everlasting beauty Grand Britannia, so while the sun burnt away the last nasty layer of clouds we got ready for some action. What a delight to be up in the air again. It was a smooth flight; not too slow, but not too fast either. We were nicely in the middle of a bunch of happy balloonists and from all angles interesting pictures could be taken: special shape Arky next to a typical French church, a rather interesting looking fish balloon next to a heart and a champagne bottle and some colorful fabric right above a massive train bridge. The landing went much better than the previous one last Sunday, so I'm still in one piece. Peter and I packed the balloon away and just at the moment the last cables ended up in the bag, the retrieve car with Sarah and Isaac in it showed up. We weren't the only one that fancied this landing spot, as all over the place balloons came back to mother earth again. We ended the morning flight with some quick gas refueling and a tailgate session with lots of food. I especially liked the biscuits, goat cheese and strawberries. JT was pleased to have found a large group of people wanting to play football with him. 

Even though it was still a bit windy this evening, around 100 balloons did manage to take off. I randomly came across Swedish pilot Per Lesser, his wife Ulla and their crew members. They had just arrived and asked me if I would be up for a fly-in with the glove special shape. Of course! It took a while before all the fingers were nicely inflated, and while the sun was slowly setting already, we headed towards the Chambley launch field. We stayed very low during the whole flight and it was truly fantastic to see the many smiles from the spectators. I enjoyed the view from the camp side from above, and all the people crawling out of their tents to watch the giant hand waving at them. Good times in France!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We 29-07: The weather says no

An early wake-up for a change, hoping for a miracle, even though the wind and rain on the way towards the launch field didn't promise much good. It was busy on the road animal-wise. Within a short time span a mouse, a hedgehog, a fox and yet another mouse crossed the road. All of them survived, even though the fox had to give up his road kill for our passage. So that's why the foxes in this area look rather skinny; too many humans in quick driving murdering machines disturbing the hunting process. American pilot Gary Moore joined us in the car this morning and told us about the many (mainly Asian) countries he had visited for balloon purposes this year already. Impressive; it's always nice to hear enthusiastic stories from the ones for which travelling equals living. Once at the briefing we were told blue skies, soft winds and sunshine were expected, but only at 09.30 o'clock, being too late for a decent morning flight. Team Grand Britannia's cheerful French crew member Benoit brought some fresh croissants, so after this second breakfast in the rain, shortly after 06.00 o'clock, all cold sleepy faces headed to their warm hotels (or damp tents) again.

Tailgating happiness!
This afternoon the Waves centre near Metz provided a fun place for some food. Sarah, my dad and I visited an American diner and I ate a chili style hotdog (in order to practice already a bit for the chili madness in New Mexico upcoming October). The idea to eat rather healthy while being here failed, especially when we shared a banana split afterwards. It's almost getting a bit monotonous, but there isn't much to say about the evening, as the flight was cancelled once again because of the wind. The forecast for the rest of the week looks a bit better though. We ended the day with some tailgating at the parking lot with people from all over the world. I'm glad we can all still make the best out of it despite the weather.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tu 28-07: Metz, angry farmers and two times nothing

Well guess what: no flight this morning! The wind was too strong once again. Will this be the LMAB edition with the least flights? It's starting to look like it, even though we're keeping our heads up high. In order to turn this day into a memorable one nevertheless, Sarah, my father and I decided to have a look in Metz. We took the scenic route, as some not amused farmers blocked the main road in the Metz-Nancy area. We had a touristy, relaxed walk around town and a slice of goat cheese covered pizza made my stomach very happy. 

Plenty of time to test this Cameron hopper seat (in tall Dutch people mode). Accompanied by Sarah and Simon.
This evening we headed to the launch field with the idea to socialize a bit. It was still way too windy, so like expected, no one took off. Around 50 optimistic teams did enter the field though, but it wasn't meant to be. Tomorrow's alarm clock will ring at 04.30 o'clock; hoping for a decent slot with blue skies, sunshine and calm winds.

Mo 27-07: Alsace adventures

No flight this morning, so Peter, Sarah, my father and I decided to head to Strasbourg around 08.00 o'clock. It was way over a two hour drive, mainly because we had some troubles finding a parking lot for cars higher than 1.90 meters. Nevertheless, it showed to be a very suitable destination for a day without much flying activities going on in Chambley. Strasbourg is located right next to the German borden and has been in French and German hands back and forth over the last 200 years. Therefore, it provides a very pleasant mix of German architecture (the typical black and white timber-framed buildings) and rather pompous buildings and cathedrals that resemble some of the buildings in Nancy and Metz. Most of the street signs are bilangual. We mainly strolled around Petite France, the most touristy area of Strasbourg. Perfect for people being fond of taking pictures. When watching carefully, some Gutenberg details could be spotted throughout the whole city. I can imagine the presence in the past of the one that introduced printing in Europe is something that makes the locals proud. A little while ago I saw a documentary about Mongolian singing, and I was pleased to hear it live now, as three guys were giving a little street performance. They sing two tones at once; fascinating. I actually expected to see a bit more of the EU presence in Strasbourg, but it seems we missed out on those buildings. All in all, I do really recommend visiting Strasbourg. Time to cross it off my 'to see'-list. 

Colorful Strasbourg

This evening we didn't manage to fly, as it was simply too windy once again. Together with team Grand Britannia we had diner and several desserts at Don Edwards' little French palace. It was a lovely evening. I learned that Americans visiting American graveyards in this region feel predominantly proud and a little emotional too. Furthermore, I managed to ask some of my questions about the Two Eagles project to Steve Shope, mission control leader of this giant adventure. I was mostly interested in the cultural aspect of Troy (America) and Leonid's (Russia) trip. It was fascinating to hear about their dynamic cooperation. Finally, Isaac shared some very valuable information on his job, which looks very much like the job I'll start upcoming monday. More about that another time. Despite the fact we didn't see any balloons today, we had a fantastic time with friends, food and good stories.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Su 26-07: World record!

And we have a go! And, a new world record too! This morning the first flight of LMAB15 finally took place, and we immediately started off with the line-up: 433 balloons were counted. My dad and I joined the Thai team we randomly met at the supermarket yesterday. We had been flying with them in Albuquerque too. Even though we couldn't fly over the Rio Grande now, we did manage to depart quick enough in order to shoot some aerial shots of the line-up within the typical landscape of Northern France being rather dry at the moment. Magnificent.

The landing was really rough. I bet I collected a nice series of bruises, and one of my teeth was eager to dig a hole through my lip. Oh well, everything turned out fine. In search for a way in for the retrieve car I ended up in a field with many very curious and too enthusiastic cows. I could keep them at a distance by talking to them with a calm voice, however, at the end they just couldn't control themselves anymore so a whole bunch of them sprinted my way. It was actually a bit scary. I quickly hid behind a rusty old trailer standing in the field, and was almost ready to crawl under it in case the cows would get closer. Luckily I didn't have to cross the same field again. In a nice Volvo packed with people we headed to a local pub in Chambley where a glass of beer was served for breakfast. The Thai people have been very kind to us and provided a lot of laughter; glad we spent this beautiful morning with them!

Line up Mondial Air Ballons 2015

Line up Mondial Air Ballons 2015

Line up Mondial Air Ballons 2015

Because of the unfortunate weather conditions later on this day we didn't manage to fly this evening. I ended up drinking tea and coffee with my dad and Sarah, and we made a nice walk through silent Pont-à-Mousson too. I must admit we eventually went to McDonalds, where we met Peter and Isaac. Did you already know they sell melon there? How healthy! It was a welcome boost of energy, taken down by the hamburger I ate as well though. I'm glad the morning flight was stunning, as it doesn't look too promising for tomorrow. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sa 25-07: Both flights cancelled - kick scooter fun and junkfood instead

The weather was definitely not suitable for a morning flight. We didn't even bother to head to the launch field this morning. After a really warm day yesterday it finally cooled off a little, so the word 'nippy' was often heard today.

Together with Sarah and my dad I had a look at some shops just outside Metz, like Chullanka and Decathlon. It was raining a bit anyways, so a city trip wouldn't have been that wonderful. Eventually we enjoyed a tasty breakfast at the Cora supermarket where we bumped in to a Thai balloon team. Ballooning really does connect people from all over the world instantly. The most active activity of today existed out of a round of kick-scooter driving through Decathlon, which brought a lot of joy and surprised French faces. When near Metz's hypermarché area, definitely don't miss out on the newly established shopping center Waves. The building looks rather futuristic and the architectural details in this area are worth watching. Furthermore, the many diverse shops out there provide shelter for the rain. I still remember my initially proclaimed intention to eat rather healthy these days. The fact that we've visited both KFC and McDonalds this afternoon determined that was a lie.

Waves Metz
There isn't much to say about the evening flight, as it simply didn't happen. It was way too windy. Nevertheless, the meteo man from Luxemburg did have some good news: the forecast looks fantastic for 'the big line-up' tomorrow morning. Yes!

A selfie with my friend JT to end off with!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fr 24-07: Off we go!

After crossing The Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg we arrived in good old Northern France again. It's becoming a true tradition, as it's already the eight time here. We didn't face any problems due to protesting farmers, so the whole trip lasted a little less than six hours. 

At Chambley Airbase the press badges were already waiting for us. Slowly but steady the briefing area was filled with pilots and crew members from all over the world. Tarp Head was just handing out business cards to some employees of a Japanese TV channel. When Tarp noticed us, our hugs were being filmed instantly. He had just told them that the magic of Lorraine Mondial Air Ballons is mostly about joyful reunions with friends. My dad and I agreed, and suddenly we were interviewed ourselves too. Main point: these days it's all about friendship, fun and flying. A little while later I was approached by a balloonist from Catalonia (which doesn't equal Spain, he mentioned clearly) about if he could have his picture taken with me, as he told me he had been following my work for a while already. Nice to hear that the ballooning stories and pictures are welcomed with a smile. All in all, it was a true delight to see so many friends again, even though I'm sometimes still mixing up how many 'hello again' kisses fit to which nationality and when a hug or handshake are more appropriate. Confusing matter!

Balloon Team Grand Britannia
Hello team Grand Britannia! (Picture by Bennie Bos)
The briefing didn't provide much good news. After a terribly hot day, some thunder, rain and wind was expected. When we headed home we passed the camping at the airbase and saw a lot of people fanatically holding on to their tents.

Not good
Back in Pont-à-Mousson a lovely elderly man was standing in front of two giant wooden doors. When we passed by he told us, with a comforting voice, "Look up there, the birds!". Two beautiful storks were sitting around on the Abbey. "Firstly I thought they were part of the building its decoration!". Sweet. Thunder and rain now, with a very small chance of flying tomorrow morning...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Remarkable Moments

During the four Thursdays before the kick-off of Mondial Air Balloons 2015, we'll go back in time through some good old 'Throwback Thursday' specials. Let's bring back some memories about the wonderful moments earlier trips to the Northern part of France brought us all. Today's focus will be on some remarkable moments, presented to you after a dive through the Bos family archive, containing pictures of all the editions of Mondial Air Balloons since 2001.

Airship Gondola Deutsche Post
2001: The gondola of the Deutsche Post airship (Picture: Bennie Bos)
Net Gasballoons
2001: Gasballoons with nets; not too common anymore nowadays (Picture: Bennie Bos)

Don Piccard
 2003: Don Piccard and his equipment (Picture:Bennie Bos)

Don Piccard
2003: Don Piccard, eventually taking off with this! (Picture: Bennie Bos)

Patrouille de France
2003: A fantastic show by the Patrouille de France (Picture: Bennie Bos)

2003: The Patrouille de France jets during a break, on the Chambley runway (Picture: Bennie Bos)

Lindstrand basket
2005: This basket isn't for the faint-hearted (Picture: Bennie Bos)

Balloons above the clouds
2007: A foggy morning flight (Picture: Bennie Bos)

Art on buildings in Metz
2009: Clever artwork in the city center of Metz (Picture: Nienke Bos)

Nienke with dog
2009: This lovely dog named Boy was able to understand Dutch and brought a lot of joy in between the flights (Picture: Bennie Bos)

2009: Gasballoons on safe distance from the departing hot air balloons (Picture: Bennie Bos)

UP balloon basket
2009: The UP! balloon basket (Picture: Bennie Bos)

French cheesecake
2011: Glorious French cheesecake being very welcome after a long day (Picture: Bennie Bos)

Hot air balloons
2011: A cluster of balloons, a memorable flight (Picture: Nienke Bos)

Rotisserie chicken
2011: Food and friends after the flight: time for rotisserie chicken (Picture: Nienke Bos)

France 3 Lorraine
2011: Interview with France 3 Lorraine (Picture: Bennie Bos)

Pilot briefing Chambley
2013: The new pilot briefing tower (Picture: Bennie Bos)

2013: A wide variety of aircrafts at Chambley's runway (Picture: Bennie Bos)

2013: The keys to Mondial Air Ballons' success? (Picture: Nienke Bos)

2013: A picture of people taking a picture of a remarkable moment: a properly made table filled with food, or a funny little kid? (Picture: Nienke Bos)

2014: What are the odds? In the middle of Vilnius (capital of Lithuania) my friend Sarah and I came across this Pont-à-Mousson manhole! (Picture: Nienke Bos)

Alright, till so far the Throwback Thursday Specials. Now it's time for the real deal! Tomorrow morning my dad Bennie and I will head to France for LMAB15. See you there!