Why am I watching figure skating?

Фигурное катание | Блог Listen to your broccoli

Have you ever practiced a sport where athletism, mathematics, and make-up matter? Is there such a sport? Yes, there is. This is, of course, figure skating. I am not so fond of watching sport on a couch. However, figure skating is an exception. You can watch it endlessly.

So if I am doing this I need some excuse, but before writing about reasons why I am watching figure skating, some basics:

I often hear that people do not know that there are four types of figure skating (not three), so just in case: men, women, pairs, and ice dancing (also synchronized skating).

The difference between pairs skating and ice dancing is in jumps, spirals, spins and special pairs elements (twist, throw, death spiral, balance). In ice dancing, there are dance balances, spins, dance steps on the ice, twizzles.

All competitions of figure skating consist of a short program and a free program. A short program is shorter (yes:) and consists of mandatory predefined elements. A free program is longer and gives more freedom in the choice of elements. The aim is of course to choose most ‘expensive’ elements.

Figure skating is story and beauty 

There are trends and fashion for music, costumes, styles in figure skating. 

There are popular music compositions that are used every figure skating season (Carmen for example) and then reviewers would spend ages discussing who is the best Carmen of all the times. There are trendy music themes like movie songs.  For example, Dirty Dancing, La la land, Moulin Rouge (this is a must watch). There are even programs inspired by sculptures like Kiss of Rodin (old video). There are programs inspired by ballet music: Swan Lake (and here the same partner with another lady), Don Quixote

Female figure skaters often have dresses inspired by haute couture.

Figure skating is mathematics and calculations

Elements and their sequence in the figure skating program are predefined and scripted by the figure skaters and their coaches. However while in the process of performing the athlete can still replace, skip or add an element (for example if they failed one of the jumps) and perform an element in a different moment of the program. And of course, they should make the right choice about the type of element, timing and the ‘price’. For example, Alina Zagitova made the right choice: she did not succeed to perform triple rittberger jump in the right place and she added it later and that allowed her to win the gold Olympic medal.

Figure skating is about life

I wanted to start the sentence with the statement that figure skating is a soap opera, probably it is more life than soap opera. How is it to spend the whole day on the skating rink and be partners in real life and spend the rest of the day together. And then stop being a couple in real life but still spend the whole day together. Or one of the partners starts a relationship with the coach and three of you still spend whole time together. How is it hate each other and still work for the same goal?

Both figure skaters and coaches know that the whole world is watching them and still the emotions that they show in the kiss and cry corner are amazing. Afterward, figure skating fans will spend hours trying to read lips in order to understand what a figure skater said to her coach after completing the program (this is a real story of figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva).

Broken figure skating couples, sportsmen leaving their coaches, public excuses and explanations. The figure skating news is constantly accompanied by all of this. I can follow this endlessly (because of anthropological interest of course:).

This cocktail of sport, beauty, music, relationship, gossips (let’s call a spade a spade) is fascinating.

Warm Apple Juice


I am sitting in the lobby of the cultural center of a small Dutch town. In the concert hall, a fest is being held by a Russian school in the Netherlands. A Dutch father is also playing with his daughter in the lobby. Apparently, an older child together with a Russian speaking mother are at the concert and the younger girl is just not interested.

At a certain moment, the father turns to the lady selling drinks in a cafeteria ‘Can we have apple juice? But only not from the fridge?

At that moment the ‘movie’ should stop and the voice-over should explain. A typical Dutch man is a tall healthy sportive guy two meters tall. He was probably brought up in a quite rigid and strict environment: a lot of time outside, little attention to physical comfort, walking without hats in winter, visiting a doctor only if you are sure you are dying, twenty kilometers cycling to school one way. And all of this is just normal.

And now a voice-over for those who are not familiar with a standard Soviet childhood: you really have to keep your ears, nose, and throat warm, otherwise you will get a cold. Immediately.

…The lady looks at the father surprised and with a ‘Are you crazy?’ impression on her face. But she replied calmly ‘No, everything is in the fridge’. The father does not give up (apparently this is not his first time). ‘Could you please warm it up in the microwave?’ I will not describe the lady’s shocked face. I want to share my thoughts – I was thinking, this is the real intercultural connection. Not sure what you should tell a Dutch man in order to convince him of the necessity of warm apple juice. I think this is just love in its essence.

P.S. One more post, if you want to know about Dutch childcare. 

Dutch Childcare. Eating bread with bread and sleeping outside


“We ordered outside beds for sleeping. Soon they will be delivered and then babies will be able to sleep outside during the day.” This was my first encounter with Dutch childcare. I had no idea how a childcare establishment for children from zero to four years old could possibly be organized. I was shocked by the pure idea of sending a six-month-old child there. And now already I have to deal with a notion of outside beds and children without hats in autumn when I am already hearing one.

I barely have time to form my attitude to the outside beds, I cannot even imagine how they look like, but I have to go on with the excursion around the childcare with one of the carers. While I am listening my eyes are on a ten-month-old child sitting in a high chair and being fed by a three-year-old which looks more like covering his face with pureed food.

Dutch Childcare Blog Listen to your broccoli

An outside bed at a Dutch childcare


I could not make up my mind – did I like it there and I would be happier if his childcare looked more like mine? I am trying to recall mine, but I only remember pastel colored little wardrobes and overall atmosphere of unhappiness.

However, all these questions about liking or not are irrelevant. In two weeks I am coming back to work and my son has to go to the childcare (not sure about using “go” in relation to a six-month-old child).

Our Dutch childcare that we have chosen consists of a couple of rooms on the ground floor of a block of apartments, of two tiny bedrooms where a temperature of 18 degrees is maintained (“This is healthier for sleeping” the carer tells us proudly), small hall, small outside backyard.

As our childcare was very small, just two groups, all children were of mixed ages from zero to four.

Such spread of ages is supposed to simulate an idea of a “family” when children of different ages are living together and older ones are helping younger ones.

I felt rather uncomfortable already when the carer shook me up by asking a new question: “What is his character?” I twisted in the chair. It seems very quickly we moved from pacifiers and bottles to habits and character. After a pause, she asked again “Is he a happy child?” “Probably,” I said. I was quite upset that I was not sure whether my child is happy.

So my son started at the childcare and I still could not decide – do I like or not?

From one side they were really flexible to adjust to the personal timetable of Konstantin. They were asking us how much he is sleeping, and what the latest time we wish he was fed. They would also always call us in case of doubt: whether he should get an additional sleep because he is too tired or he has a fever.

Open and trustful communication with parents. Each child had an individual copybook where they would write down something about a child (how much he ate, slept, what was his spirit, what did he do). After a couple of years, the copy-book was replaced by a phone app and we started to receive almost daily photos. The ‘transfer’ of the child to the parent is always accompanied by a short conversation with a parent. They are even taught to do this conversation in the most efficient and informative manner. I learned about that when a trainee asked the main carer whether she can do the ‘transfer’ of our son herself in order to practice it for her studies.

Freedom: children are allowed to do what they want (sing, scream, dance, make a mess all day long) if they stay within certain borders (do not pull hair out of each other).

From the other side when the time will come for the solid food, we will be asked: how many pieces of bread Konstantin is eating at home and what he puts on it. We were mumbling something, unsure whether we can say that we had no intention to give bread, we were so very busy with broccolis and marrows. And then he would be taught at the childcare to eat bread and bread. So that he will able to eat an essential Dutch dish for lunch called a sandwich. That was not so surprising as I already saw my Dutch colleagues, big big man eating two pieces of bread with something very thin between (foreigner call this eating ‘bread with bread”:).

Warm food, such an important part of life in our understanding is a rare thing in Dutch childcare.

Once I received the following information in the newsletter of the childcare of my daughter: “parents ask us more and more often about the possibility of warm food. We are investigating this question. We want to let you know that Dutch ‘some-institution-of-food’ concluded that eating warm food twice a day is not bad (they mean that children will anyhow eat warm dinner at home and if they also eat warm at the childcare it is not bad). Well, good they checked this.

And each time when I saw the dirty floor I was thinking: is it that hard to clean it? Children are crawling on it. Well, probably there is no point anyhow, everyone is wearing street shoes.

Finally, I made up my mind about Dutch childcare years later when came back to Minsk for a visit.

I had to pick up my nephews. I was impressed by cleanness, high ceilings, pot flowers, separate big bedroom with made up beds, white linen and pillows like beautiful boats on these beds. Everything looked so different, so ideal. Till a moment when the carer said to a girl who picked up a toy car in order to play with it: “Maria, what are you doing? You cannot play with it here, you should go on the carpet, otherwise, you will spoil the floor”.

And in a second dirty floor, bread with bread and freedom won over cleanness and impeccable floor.

Julia Cameron. Artist’s Way. Divine plan for you

Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli


“Don’t you feel strange as someone from Belarus when you sit in a church and eat pumpkin soup with a sandwich for lunch?” I was asked by a training participant from Moscow. I even choked as it was a bit strange that I did not feel strange at all. She did not know yet that evening drinks after Julia Cameron two days training will be taking place here, in Saint Stephan church in Nijmegen, a city in the Netherlands.

There are a lot of churches in the Netherlands and maintaining them is very expensive therefore they are often rent out for different events like discos even or rock concerts.


Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

Approximately hundred of females were sitting in the church and staring at the stage, waiting for the celebrity to arrive, waiting for Julia Cameron the author of “Artist’s Way”. I have read so many times about people whose life was changed completely because of the book and many times during the training I will hear this again from the participants: how they read the book and left their job, started to draw, started a new life, retired in order to start something.

One of the examples is the case of the lady who organised the training in the Netherlands. She read Julia’s book three years ago and she decided to organise a course based on the book. During the year participants of the course gather together once a month for a full Sunday to practice the exercises from book and add some more creative activities around it. Last year she had six participants and this year forty-six. She also travelled to the USA to take part in Julia’s training there and she convinced Julia to come to the Netherlands (as I understood Julia comes to Europe very rarely) and now three years after reading the book she is announcing Julia Cameron to the stage. It was a good book to read, right?


Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

Julia Cameron climbed to the stage very carefully, she is already 70 years old. She dressed in total black, with blond coloured hair. I really liked the fact that she started without any introduction (I love people getting straight to the point, god knows how much time is waisted in the world for unnecessary introductions). “During this training you will meet two characters: one is a tyrant and he will criticise you for not doing good, another is a rebel who will tell you – what kind of exercises are these? what this Julia wants? So your task is not to pay attention to them.”

Julia spent quite some time talking about Morning Pages. 

Morning Pages are three pages of text that you have to write by hand every morning, first thing after waking up. The idea is that this is kind of mental meditation, listening to yourself, clearing up your mind. Her main idea was that if you do Morning Pages you become led by them and they tell you what to do in your life. 

Also, you can ask a question and Morning Pages will give you the answer after some time. This way Morning Pages sent Julia to London to write music and songs and musicals. As a proof she started to sing her own song and then she told us to sing back and we did. And it was very matching the environment around us in the church. She specifically told us that writing should be done by hand and that people get a block from writing approximately at 1.5 pages and that we have to overcome it and still write.

“What to write?” – this is the most common and the most useless question. You have to write anything and if you do not know what, then just write this: “I do not know what to write”.

Afterwards the same schema followed throughout the two days: we were getting an exercise (finish the sentence for example: In my childhood creativity in my home was considered … or I love …. or I am proud … and complete the sentences ten times).

It is worth mentioning that Julia did not give us any time for thinking, she was reading the questions very quickly and then we had to sit in groups of three and read out load our answers.


Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

Two examples of popcorn which I have got. Looks like some people just carry across such nice paper in there pockets. It is good enough to put on the wall in a frame.

After we finished writing our answers for the exercise we would go and split into groups of three and read our answers, then we will get acquainted a bit and discuss the exercise. Every time you should be in a new group with new people. This way I got to know a big number of coaches, art therapists, five rhythm dance trainer, painters, carrier mentors, filmmakers, theatre directors, one real writer and a KLM stewardess.

During the exercise we were supposed to give each other popcorn – a small written note of appreciation, positive feedback, compliment or something that a person deserves. After two days we gathered a lot of popcorn and got used to this so much, that my hands were grabbing paper to write a compliment each time when someone finished talking.


The whole two days looked the same: Julia Cameron (hello, SEO:)) will say something inspiring and then will say with a strict voice ‘Blank sheet of paper please’ and will start to read the exercise, we will write it down, and then go with a small group to read it aloud and then we will give popcorn to each other.

Examples of exercises from Julia:

  • U turn – remember a situation when you were broke by someone’s comment. For example she told us a story how she wrote a short story that she was very proud of and her friend read it and said: Do not publish it, it will ruin your reputation. 
  • Write a list of things that would cheer you up: in your kitchen, living-room, bedroom, in you from head to neck, from neck to the waist, from waist to knees and so on.
  • Write a letter from eight year old you to yourself now
  • Write a letter from eighty year old you to yourself now
  • Finish the phrases: My father thought that creative people are …., In my childhood creativity was considered…’
  • Write a list of five lives that you would like to live (a life of a traveller, writer, dancer, waitress, actress)
  • Ask your wise you the following questions: What do I have to know? What do I have to do? What do I have to accept? What do I have to grieve? What do I have to celebrate?
  • Write three ways of being kind to yourself
  • “Cinema self you as done by Holywood”: how would Holywood version of you look like: your car, signature clothing, skill, pet, what would people say at your funeral, who would play you in a movie (for me young Nicole Kidman) 
  • Write what you are dreaming of secretly 
  • If my ego would allow, I would …. (five times) 
  • I love …. (ten versions) 
  • I am proud of (ten versions) 

During the lunch time we had to go for a lonely walk for twenty minutes and find our a-ha moments. I was walking around and thinking: all these shops, market, people, seen by me hundreds of time, there is nothing here for me to attract my interest. And after five minutes I face a small park with a half destroyed chapel and I think – this is me! this is for me! And so my a-ha moment was that there is always something for you, just keep walking.

Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli


In the evening of the first day we had to write two letters as homework: a letter to the god of creativity and his reply to us. I hate this type of tasks but if she says we have to do it, we have to do it. 

Dear god of creativity,

There are more stories in the world than listeners. There are more books than readers. I am looking around and I see so many interesting people who probably have much more to say than I am. And who needs my creativity? Whose life will become better? No one is knocking on my door and asking for my creations…

Dear Anna,

Your unique spot will never be taken. It’s yours forever and you have to make sure it’s taken by you. I will be waiting there for you. And you are not the one to judge your work. It’s definitely not where your energy should go. Your task is to create and I will judge by admiring and enjoying it.


During the second day we also had to write a short dictation and then choose a phrase that makes us feel good.

I chose this: There is a divine plan of goodness for us.

And indeed after this training which the organisers decided to finish with a show of falling flowers, I started to believe in this a bit.


Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

P.S. I did not ask my question to Julia. Apparently she already answered it in her book “Floor Sample: A Creative Memoir”.

What to ask Julia Cameron?

Страница Джулии Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

Whatever interesting community I join, be it on psychology, reading, self-development, time management there will be always someone there who is reading, doing the exercise according the book of Julia Cameron “Artist’s Way” or looking for other people to complete the program of the book together.

Book – About?

“Artist’s Way” is a book about how to find your creativity which is for sure sitting inside you. The writer published this book herself as an publishing agency refused to deal with the book. And afterwards the book ended up in all possible hit lists for non-fiction books.

Julia was an author of a course for people with creative professions and she wrote this book based on her experience and stories of people she trained. Morning Pages exercise is probably the most famous from her book, but it also has letters to yourself, working with recollections of your childhood and finding the right environment for yourself.


Julia Cameron, author of the book, will come to the Netherlands with her 2 days training.

When you read a self-help book, you kind of accept wisdom from another person and it probably should be important to know who is this person, what is the life experience of this person. But I rarely check biographies of authors. A book either works for me or not. And that’s it.

По тону и книге автор представлялась мне добродушной тетушкой. Оптимистичной. С правильной жизнью и верой в себя. Перед тем как идти на тренинг, я решила почитать о ней в википедии и оказалось, что она была женой Мартина Скорсезе, американского продюсера и режиссера. Правда, всего год. Вот непонятно, зачем женятся всего на год. В какой-то момент она погрязла в алкоголе и наркотиках, у нее были нервные приступы, паранойя и психоз и в возрасте 30 лет она смогла остановиться. Начала вести курсы по креативности и потом на основе этой работы написала книгу Путь художника. Сейчас Джулии 70 лет. Книге уже 20 лет, а описанный в ней курс до сих пор проходят, проводят марафоны, делают совместные группы.

Based on the book and the tone of the book I imagined the author very optimistic, homey, kind and warm person. With a proper life and self-esteem and confidence that was there from the birth. Before joining the training I decided to read her biography in wikipedia and it appeared that she was a wife of Martin Scorsese for a year. At some point she was overwhelmed by alcohol and drugs, she had nervous breakdowns, paranoia and other disturbances. However at the age of 30 she stopped all this and changed her life. She started the course on creativity and then wrote the book based on her experience. Now she is 70 years old and her book is about 20 years old and it is still very actively used for all types of trainings, group of people completing the course in the book in the entire world.


Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

Julia’s instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliacameronlive/


When I was signing up for the two days training with Julia, I saw a photo of a long table for about fifteen people and nice paper notebooks on the table and flowers. The picture appeared to be just an attention getter:) as in reality the training is for about 100 people and this will probably be more of lecture than a training and you have to bring your own nice notebook:).

Probably I will not be even able to ask anything, but during all that time that I was waiting for the training and thinking what do I want to know, what do I want to ask, I had only one question in my head – how is it possible to handle yourself and stop yourself from all these alcohol and drugs? What is the trigger and strong motivation? How is it possible to stop it and become so successful and worldwide famous? But, probably, I can’t really ask this, right?