Berlin, a season of sakura

I was lucky to have a sunny Sunday in Berlin to enjoy the beauty of cherry blossom. At first, I thought I have to travel all the way down to Bonn the see the legendary cherry blossom road, but then Berlin changed my mind. Just 1-hour travelling between S-Bahn Lichterfelde Sued and S-Bahn Bornholmer Strasse with S25 train, I got to see the two most popular places in Berlin to hanami (flower viewing). The trees were planted along Mauer Weg, where the infamous Berlin Wall used to stand before its collapse in 1989. The street where the trees are now is named after a Japanese TV, who made a campaign calling donation from Japanese to grow these trees in 1990. 

Sakura symbolizes peace, rebirth and mindfulness. Once the wall, now the trees, how beautiful the history is.

It was April and spring has come. Nothing beats an outing Sunday with the Sun, picnic and your beloved ones under sakura flowers.

Japanese cherry blossoms are a timeless metaphor for human existence. Blooming season is powerful, glorious and intoxicating, but tragically short-lived — a visual reminder that our lives, too, are fleeting.

Why don’t we marvel at our own passing time on earth with the same joy and passion?

(Helen from NotWithoutMyPassport)



It was a different New Year in Hungary

Chia sẻ bên bàn ăn

Someone used to tell me that in Western society, Christmastime is for family and New Year time is for friends. When Barni, my Hungarian friend, invited me to his home for this New Year, I got the chance to see a Western New Year with my own eyes.

What’s there at New Year in Hungary?

Đốt pháo hoa năm mới

Like other European cultures, New Year is the time for parties, mostly house parties. I followed Barni to a few house parties hosted by his friends. These parties often have around 10 people, only for close friends or those who are important to the host. Guests often come with small presents for the host along a bottle of wine or champagne. In these parties, people usually have dinner, drink wine and talk. The parties normally last till midnight, especially on New Year’s Eve there is also time for firecrackers and fireworks. In many European countries, people are allowed to buy firecrackers and fireworks during New Year time for celebration. Coming from a place where firecrackers were prohibited long time ago and fireworks are only available for the state, it was an exciting experience for me to light the fireworks and see them lighting up the sky. Unlike our 15-minute firework show back home, stepping into New Year in Europe is to watch the fireworks set by your neighbors, your friends or any people in town for over 1 hour from all around. Families went out, with children getting excited with those light and sound, greeting their neighbors in smiles while saying “Boldog új évet” (Happy New Year in Hungarian). Since it is so easy to travel throughout Europe, many people welcome their New Year in other countries with their friend, like Alicja, my Polish friend who traveled from her hometown near the border of Poland and Czech Republic to Frankfurt in Germany to enjoy her New Year joy with friends whom she met during her exchange in France.

Bóc quà năm mới

Another New Year’s Day

On the first day of New Year, Barni told me to get dressed and follow his family to a New Year party. We drove for around 1 hour to Tahitótfalu, a small town outside Budapest. At first, I thought it was just a family visit as usual, but then it turned out to be different when we arrived. It was an annual gathering of life-long friends. Barni’s parents had some close friends since when they lived together in a same dorm. After graduation, they gather every year on the first day of New Year. The reunion hence becomes a tradition for over 30 years. Every year, they drive to Tahitótfalu, where Mrs.Márti, a friend of Barni’s parents lives, enjoy lencsefozelék (or lentils stew, made from lentils, stewed pork, beef or rabbit with yoghurt and onion). Hungarians believe that eating lencsefozelék New Year’s Day will bring them happiness, luck, health, sucess and love for a whole year. Especially, this lencsefozelék was made with rabbit hunted by Mr.Kecsi, another friend among them. He went hunting a few days before the day then brought the meat to Mrs.Márti to cook. After meal, everybody gathered in the living room, enjoyed desserts made by Mrs.Mária, another member, with tea and coffee. For this reunion, stories are essential, and seem to be endless too. People shared everything with each other, about life, work or interesting journeys over the past year. Sometiems, Mrs.Márti made some games for everyone, like a game when each person had to pick 3 cards from her deck to describe their own year, including what they expected last year, how their last year turned out and what they look forward to in this year. During the day I am here, there was never such a lack of laughter.

Món lencsefozelék
The delicious lencsefozelék

When Barni and his brother were born, they were brought to the reunion along with their parents, and their friends did the same. Therefore, Barni and their children have been friends since their childhood. Another F2 generation have grown up together in the friendship of their parents, being good friends for over 20 years. They might not see each other often but they help each other al ot in life, for example Barni’s job was introduced by one of his parents’ friend in the group. Or the F2 are helping one member of them to move to Budapest without the help of their parents.

Trò chơi mô tả năm qua bằng 3 tấm hình của bác Márti
How I told about my 2017 and my expectation for 2018

“They are like my 2nd family, though we don’t have any blood relation. For some people here, this reunion is the only chance to see each other in a year so though they may live far away from here or they may be busy, people still make time for this day and try to spend a whole day here”, said Barni. This year, due to family issue, one member could not come, he called to every single person to send greetings.

Mọi người quây quần chia sẻ với nhau

When people left, Mrs.Márti invited her friends to join her idea that everyday, each person will write what they are grateful for in life and drop it into a jar till the next year’s reunion when they open the jar and read this to everyone.

Nhóm bạn cùng gia đình ngày họp mặt

Though only being here as a guest, I could feel the warmth and hospitality from everyone. That made a different beginning for my 2018. On the way home, I somehow thought of stereotypes about Western society, about relationships, about friendship, about family. I just realized it is only a few weeks to Tet, Vietnamese Lunar New Year, which is the time for reunion.

Hungary, 2018 Jan.

Tác giả chụp ảnh cùng với gia đình

Một trận bóng

Women's Euro Final - 2017 Aug 6-1

Chủ nhật rồi, 6/8/2017 là ngày diễn ra trận chung kết Giải vô địch bóng đá nữ châu Âu 2017 (Women’s Euro 2017). So với bóng đá nam, bóng đá nữ trên thế giới nhìn chung không nhận được sự quan tâm nhiều, ngay cả ở châu Âu vốn nổi tiếng nam nữ bình đẳng cũng không có nhiều thông tin về giải so với các giải của nam. Ở Việt Nam thì giải này lại càng xa lạ hơn và hầu như không được quan tâm.

Tuy nhiên, trận chung kết tuần rồi lại có sự góp mặt của đội tuyển nữ Đan Mạch, đá với Hà Lan, nước chủ nhà. Thế là tôi lại có dịp đi xem bóng đá ngoài trời ở Aarhus.

Với dân số chỉ hơn 5 triệu người lại chưa bao giờ là một thế lực của bóng đá châu Âu, Đan Mạch từng gây bất ngờ khi đội tuyển bóng đá nam của họ lên ngôi đầu châu Âu vào năm 1992 với tư cách đội thay thế cho Nam Tư do chiến tranh mà bỏ cuộc. Cũng phải lâu lắm rồi bóng đá Đan Mạch mới lọt vào một trận chung kết châu Âu nên lần này người dân Đan Mạch hi vọng đội tuyển bóng đá nữ của họ có thể lặp lại thành tích 25 năm trước của những người đồng nghiệp nam.

Women's Euro Final - 2017 Aug 6-2

Không khí của ngày diễn ra trận chung kết thật sôi động. Chính quyền thành phố cho lắp hẳn một màn hình lớn ở quảng trường. Dù chỉ bóng đá nữ thôi mà cả quảng trường chật cứng, trở thành một ngày hội cuối tuần. Khi trậu đấu diễn ra, không khí không thật sôi động như xem bóng đá ở Việt Nam lắm, lâu lâu mọi người lại ồ lên hoặc suýt xoa khi có một pha bóng bị bỏ lỡ chứ không nghe thấy trống kèn tưng bừng như ở nhà. Tất cả mọi người đều chăm chú cổ vũ cho đội tuyển quốc gia.

Nhưng thật đáng tiếc, kết thúc trận đấu Đan Mạch đã thua Hà Lan 2-4, thế là về nhì. Như vậy là không thể xem cách người dân Đan Mạch ăn mừng như thế nào. Sau trận đấu mọi người đều lặng lẽ về nhà, trả lại Aarhus sự yên tĩnh ngày chủ nhật.

Mình chưa xem chung kết bóng đá nữ có đội tuyển Việt Nam ở nơi công cộng bao giờ. Nhưng hi vọng sẽ có đông đảo người cổ vũ như thế này, không thì bất công với họ lắm.

Women's Euro Final - 2017 Aug 6-6

When stand-up comedians make their stand

2016 Nov - Stand-Up Comedy-11 (Conrad)
Every Sunday night in the heart of Aarhus, people hear laughs coming from a small cocktail bar named Alberts. That joyfulness is the result of English Stand-Up Comedy Aarhus, a community of stand-up comedians that started in March 2016, founded by Conrad Molden and Jacob Taarnhoj.

2016 Nov - Stand-Up Comedy-4

Belly laughs on a Sunday evening

A diverse audience 
A normal show at Alberts lasts from 20:00 to 22:00. It’s not an one-man show, but is rather an open-mic night when the audience get to meet several comedians making their stand in 5-10 minute slots. Though most of the comedians are Danish or British, there are also other nationalities: Irish, American, Finnish, Belgian and even Chinese, despite stand-up comedy not having an identity in China. Nationality varies in the audience too – only 20-25% are Danish, while others are from the international community in Aarhus, mostly from other European countries.

Speaking with Jutland Station, Molden recalled when the show began. As two young men who love telling jokes and making people laugh, he and Taarnhoj teamed up with a few others to make the event happen. At first, it was small. But then, by word of mouth, the show started becoming more popular as more people got to know about it. Now, it’s official, and people can attend for high jinks every Sunday night. Or, if they dare, try their hand at some stand-up comedy themselves.

“Everyone can do stand-up,” enthused Molden. So if you are up for it, you are just a phone call or message away from giving it a go on Sunday.2016 Nov - Stand-Up Comedy-6

One of the brave ones who took on the challenge of cracking us up 

Is it easy to do stand-up comedy?
When a stand-up comedian speaks on stage, everything he says seems to be spontaneous. But in reality, everything is prepared beforehand. Comedians always think about what they will say, and practice before the show. Once on stage, they create the illusion of spontaneity. However, they are also flexible, and new jokes may enter their routine at any time, maybe due to something they didn’t expect, like the reactions of the audience.

Molden says his formula for being a good stand-up comedian is talent + work attitude. This means that good comedians must be persistent and put a lot of work in. Before the show, he writes down every idea that he thinks can make people laugh. Then practice makes perfect. After the show, he generally asks the audience for feedback.

“There are things you can not realise when you are on stage,” says Molden. Besides, a good comedian needs to “have fun with himself”, added Taarnhoj. “If you don’t have fun with your jokes, your audience won’t. So you have to feel the moment,” expressed Taarnhoj when describing what he thinks makes a good stand-up comedian. Hence, you definitely don’t need any ‘stand-up comedy degree’ from school!

Taarnhoj and Molden

Laughing at the same thing, no matter where
It’s hard to be sure what people think of the show. Though the audience keeps quiet at some jokes, Molden thinks they receive good feedback more often than not. To Molden and Taarnhoj, Aarhus is a great place for stand-up comedy due to its energetic atmosphere and the open-minded international community they have as an audience.

Said to be the first international stand-up comedian in Aarhus, Molden believes that a great thing about stand-up comedy is that it gets a lot of people from different countries to laugh at the same thing. In return, stand-up comedy brings him a little recognition when encountering his audience on the street, as well as some paid gigs performing for international communities in other places, like Odense and Copenhagen.

Molden and Taarnhoj told Jutland Station about their hopes for future. Both wish to have more internationals on stage, more helping hands, and more fame in the community so that they don’t have the need to create events on Facebook. And of course, more good shows.

After some good talks and laughs with these guys, Molden’s last words were: “You can even perform if you want, just let me know and we’ll practice.” Maybe someday I will…

Alberts Bar is located in Store Torv 3, Aarhus C. Try their amazing cocktails while you enjoy the English Stand-Up Comedy Show, which is held every Sunday from 20:00-22:00. Entrance is free. Visit the Facebook page for more details on the event, and drop them a message if you are up for the challenge of getting on stage!

Chuyện đi WC công cộng ở Aarhus

Hôm nọ đi lên phố chơi, đến gần cuối chiều thì Tào Tháo bắt đầu đe dọa. Tôi hớt hải đi tìm mãi thì vào nhà ga trung tâm của thành phố, định bụng suy nghĩ chắc WC công cộng thì sẽ miễn phí hoặc cùng lắm là có người ngồi thu tiền như ở Việt Nam thì mới phát hiện ra…cánh cửa phòng vệ sinh bị khóa. Nhìn cái hộp gắn trên cửa đoán ngay rằng phải bỏ 2 kroner vào thì mới được sử dụng. Lục ví còn 2 đồng 1 kroner, tôi bỏ vào hộp khóa nhưng chờ mãi…cửa vẫn chẳng mở. Tôi đoán là phải bỏ đúng 1 đồng 2 kroner vào thì mới mở khóa được, thế là mất toi 2 kroner.


Trong cơn hốt hoảng, tôi đi vào trung tâm thương mại nối với nhà ga. Lại nghĩ là nó sẽ giống Việt Nam mình cho đi miễn phí, ngờ đâu khi đến nơi thì gặp…barie chắn. Thì ra ở đây phải dùng thẻ tín dụng hoặc đồng xu 5 kroner để mua…thẻ đi WC. Mặt méo xệch, tôi đứng giải thích với chị gái dọn WC trong ấy. Chắc nhìn cái mặt châu Á tội tội, người ta lấy thẻ nhân viên mở cho mình đi miễn phí. Lúc xong rồi ra cám ơn người ta còn chúc mình ngày tốt lành.

Sau này rút kinh nghiệm ra đường nếu không có thẻ tín dụng thì thủ sẵn vài đồng xu, phòng khi hữu sự.