Two years in Tunisia – follow-up

For some people the best time to look back and evaluate life experiences is somewhere around the end of the year. However, I have noticed that for me the time to reflect and review has always been the end of summer. Possibly, it is linked to the fact that I still think in terms of an academic year. Moreover, I have always felt like the new year for me starts around September, because even after finishing studies, the end of summer for me have always meant that a new year is about to start. There is excitement and willingness to make new plans, commitments, and resolutions.

Therefore, I have decided to write down and share some of my experiences during my two-year stay in Tunisia. I would like to share some thoughts and observations related to the political situation during the post jasmine-revolution, because I had the opportunity to live in Tunisia starting from February 2011 – right after jasmine revolution.

I experienced first hand how some of the most important changes of Tunisia’s political, economical, legal systems took place. The changes that affected the whole society and paved the way for continuous democracy development that is still taking place now.

In particular, I was privileged to be able to follow closely the reforms in the national research and higher education policy-making, as well as experience the evolution of a security related business activities in the private sector.

Unfortunately, at a time I only had limited possibilities to write and publish my observations. Now five years have passed, and it is time to look back and reflect and analyze my experiences with the view to publish several blog posts, providing a personal insight – a form of “field study” report. I will also try to share some stories about a daily life in Tunisia at a time.

You are welcome to check back here for continuation. The plan is to publish new posts every Friday, followed by summary post at the end of each month. Please, feel free to subscribe to get the new posts in your e-mail. Thank you!


Solutions 2015: #January and #February

In order to motivate myself to revive my blogging journey I decided that I would try to post a summary of each month focusing on what solutions were found.

For the last year I have been in between different projects and making a living with freelance translations. The translating thing started for me in 2001 after I moved back from my MA Diplomacy studies in Paris to Riga and was not able to afford the luxury to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia in a minimum wage job – that was not enough to cover regular living expenses.

I have been doing Latvian-English-French-Russian-Latvian translation jobs on and off since then with a longer break while I was working as the first and only Latvian Science Attaché to the European Union in Brussels (2004-2010). Even then, I did several translations for different science related events, as for example exhibition posters about Nanotechnologies back in 2008. Plus my daily job involved lots of translating too – just to remember French Presidency were documents were coming out mainly in French – and I was the only person that spoke fluent French in my ministry.

To come back to January and February 2015 – it was crazy busy with many challenging translation orders mainly for Latvian – French. I managed to successfully deliver my biggest ever job – 180 pages of an extremely technical and difficult text in the field of IT, telecommunications.

Riga Dome Cathedral - January 2015
Riga Dome Cathedral – managed to take a little Christmas walk break

Solution regarding planning and time management:

  • When you have a bigger project with a deadline that at first seems reasonably long enough in the future, make sure that the planning of your schedule is not only day-by-day, but hour by hour.
  • Figure out a way to make sure that you have results at the end of each day.

In this example – I agreed to deliver parts of translation being done every day by 5pm. Even if at first I did not like this being imposed by the client, it helped me to organize myself and actually be focused the whole month on a regular basis.

Up until now, I had the tendency to meet deadlines with crazy working hours shortly before the end date. We all know how it is – we all have done it.

self-made trouble
Translation of the text on the wall from Latvian: self-made trouble

The solution is to avoid creating self-made troubles.

Make the plan that is reasonable, and stick to it! If you do not have a client (or a boss) asking for a daily update of the project you are working on – make an agreement with yourself that each day you will deliver some parts of the job. Make a short follow-up each day. This will avoid stress and definitely improve the quality of your work, as you will have more time to review and improve your work.


Why I will vote this time? Because regardless the fact that for years now I have the feeling of disappointment and not belonging to my country. I still say “my country”. That means that I care. That I would like to see Latvia – independent, democratic, prosperous, a country that cares for its people and where there is a true rule of law and justice.

No, I have no hopes that this parliament (Saeima) and the new government will succeed or will be better than previous 11 ones since our independence in 1991, but I feel that this time more than before my vote will count because of geopolitical situation and possible threats to our independence. I still hope that my vote will provide opportunity for someone to decide, to take responsibility, to adopt policies that will change what is wrong and put in place laws that protect people. [Or not.]

But not going is not an option this time.

seeing red
seeing red

Happy Easter

My Grandfather is my biggest hero. He is WWII veteran and the most optimistic person I know – always a “joke or two in his pocket”. When I was a child he used to make me little drawings and most of the time it was a funny head of a pig (smiling). Up to this day I don’t know – why it was a pig? Not a cat, a dog or a bird, but I guess that was his way of making even little things funny.

Now – many years later my Grandpa has started drawing again and he enjoys it very much judging by the numbers of already finished drawings. He has never attended any art’s classes, but to me his little drawings are the most precious things and I enjoy spending time with him and checking out his latest creations every time I visit.

Let me share with you one of his Easter drawings and wish you all – Happy Easter!

Easter rabbit drawing
Easter rabbits and drawing by V.Z.

Easter card – my Grandfather’s creation – and two white rabbits that year after year show up in hour home to bring Easter eggs colored according to Latvian tradition by boiling them in water with onion skins (as seen in this photo below – this year our home rabbits where lazy so I am borrowing some of my best friend’s creations to illustrate how artistic and amazing non-artificial Easter egg coloring can be).

Easter eggs, onion skin colors
Easter eggs colored with onion skins


Sunny greetings from Limburg,


things to learn from CATS (part II)

My cats surprise me every day and here is the list of things that I suggest you learn from them (with a bit of smile):

1. Sleep deep.

2. Make every step in a new territory carefully.

3. Eyes wide open to learn new things.

4. Don’t get extremely wet if it rains or somebody turns on shower without you noticing.

5. Make them (humans) earn your trust and respect.

6. Drink milk (with moderation).

7. Go hunting with passion and excitement.

8. Play wholeheartedly and have fun for real.

9. Keep yourself clean at all times.

10. Don’t watch too much TV.

11. Get as much caressing and love as you need.

12. Play with your tail – don’t take yourself too seriously.

13. Talk only when you have something to say.

14. Move like a tiger.

And here they are inspiration to this list:



Tunisia – our home (part I)

It has been six months since we moved to live in Tunisia. And the time has been so busy and full of events, that only now I have some time to start a series of posts with my observations and impressions about our new home: Tunisia.

We arrived here shortly after “jasmin revolution” and had an excellent chance to witness all the good times and not so good ones that Tunisia and Tunisians had to go through to arrive to this week.

In just three days people will go to elect their representatives for “la Constituante” – democratic political institution (similar to parliament) that will be responsible for drafting and adoption of the new constitution. It is a very important task for those who will be trusted by their poeple. And all I can wish  to them and to the voters – make your decisions based on true analysis and with responsability, serve your country proudly!

This will be a very important Sunday and most likely the one that you will tell your children and grandchildren about. Comming from a “post revolution” (Latvia gained independence in 1991) myself I can observe many similarities with what Tunisia is facing this year, but one thing I can tell for sure – those who will go to vote on 23 of October will be making history and historical decision for themselves, their families and loved ones and for Tunisia.

Best of luck!


solution is needed asap

We, all of us we need a solution asap to avoid what just happened in Norway, so that it never ever repeats!

We are the world, and we should join our hands and hearts and minds and find out how to protect ourselves and our children, how to eliminate all the possibilities for someone to commit such a terror again. The anger and sadness and feeling helpless to know that this could take place now in modern times, in democratic world were freedom and human rights is what we stand for.

Nothing and nobody must stop us to find the way out of this and create a society where safety and freedom go hand in hand and where everybody’s life is the most valuable thing. To get rid of guns and explosives would be the first solution, that if we are realistic of course would never take place. Unfortunately.

All my love and thoughts and prayers for those we lost and their loved ones, families and friends,we are all Norvegians. Let’s be strong for the sake of those who lost their lifes…

Signe Martišūne

help each other to be strong
help each other to be strong

wordpress replaces e-mail

Couple of days ago I was asked to send someone special a handwritten note. Well, there is a longer story behind it but that is not so important right now.

The problem is that we don’t live in the same continent, so mail would take far to long and I decided to go with the e-mail option. First, we checked that our e-mail accounts “like each other” and it all went fine. But right now I was sending my handwritten notes as attached photo files (not extremely big ones) and to my big surprise “non-delivery” report without any explanation (on the other side it is a Latvian e-mail service provider) came back to my hotmail.

So, I decided that I will use WordPress and my blog and will just include those two handwritten notes here as photos!

Here you go, my dear Kni, I hope I get at least some prize for innovative way to send you handwritten notes! and yes, I do like tea (the best would be 7 agrumes)

with greetings from Tunis, smsb

Will go to see Kni for a tea :)
Will go to see Kni for a tea


after I relax - "will go to see..."

Research and Innovation Commissioner visits Latvia – 6th of July 2011

Finally – some good news for Latvian Research Community – Research and Innovation Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn visits Latvia on 6th of July 2011.

As the first and only Latvian Science Attache to the EU I am very happy about such a visit and I wish could be there and provide my input.

But as I am not able to attend this most important event, here are my comments/questions from a distance:

  • Latvia’s reprepresentation within ERA decisive bodies like for example Research Working Party of the Council, as well as SFIC and different CREST bodies is certainly weekend as of January 2010, when the Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia decided to delete the position of the Science Attache.
  • So, I would love to ask what would be Commissioner’s reaction and/or comment to the fact that Latvia (almost only of the EU Member States) has no diplomatic position of Science/research/innovation Attache in Brussels? Dear, Commissioner, do you think that a country is able to assume the Presidency in the field of Research and Innovation without a proper level representation in Brussels?
  • And on a more positive note – what are COM plans regarding the participation of “smaller” Members of ERA within new Research and Innovation programme after 2013? Are you considering some specific measures for those countries that right now are facing serious problems regarding the number of projects in all the EU Research programmes?

Hoping to read more follow-up information about Commissioner’s visit to Riga on EU RTD pages or somewhere else,


the one and only (ex) Science Attache of Latvia to the EU (Brussels) Mrs Signe Martišūne 4th of July 2011

on discussion culture in a post-soviet country

Dear readers,

Just wanted to shortly share with you my experiences on discussion culture in a post soviet country. Country I am talking about is my country of origin and the name is not so important right now.

The most important thing is to know – that discussion as such has never been a part of the soviet regime ideology or politics – so also was never part of the education system. Therefore even 20 years after independence you will always find people that have NO culture or understanding what a really democratic and free discussion is about.

The most pessimistic situation is once it comes to the social media and blogging and comments. Majority of people would leave anonimous comments and by using this “childish” shield then attack directly the person instead of discussing the problem.

Once faced with argumented and logical response that also shows how incorrect it is to attack the person instead of making comments about the topic they either don’t respond or get even angrier with fiew examples who actually start thinking and may be change (although I don’t really believe in this one).

I hope this might be useful for those of you who have to be faced with similar cases.

On my solutions how to overcome this issue – next time.

Greetings from Tunis,

excellent point of view
excellent point of view - kram tunisia by smsb