Off to Greece 7: Just say no

We dine for the last time together with the aikidokas in Pireus. We drink, we talk, we form ever stronger connections. Tomorrow will be the last classes of aikido before we head out of Pireus and into Arcadia, where new adventures await.

I don’t want to go. It’s not that I don’t look forward to taking new steps on the wild ride that is my trip to Greece.  It’s just that the mood and spirit of the trip so far has been so great, and I’ve just started to get to know some really fantastic people. I don’t want to leave it at that. Still, the evening is pleasant and I really enjoy myself.

Going back to the hotel, we get an offer to go out for more drinks with some of the Greeks. The ever unstoppable Marthe jumps in their car as a matter of course, although she ends up going with them on her own. Most of the gang is exhausted and head off to bed. Me and Jan feel like having one more beer and a quiet conversation just to handle the impressions so far. There’s just been so much going on that we both feel it’s a bad idea to go straight to bed while our hearts and minds are still spinning from trying to cope with it all. We don’t want to relay on transportation to get back as we fear we would have to stay out longer than we want. This leaves us with choosing from one of the bars within walking distance again.

Jan was at this place yesterday that he says wasn’t quite as bad as the others, so we head there. Stepping up to the bar, we try working together as a team to try to fend off the local sirens that, one by one, come up to us, tries to start a conversation and then asks for drinks.

“No, we don’t want company.”

“No, we aren’t buying you a drink.”

“Nice to meet you. You look like a nice girl. Now go away.”

In about fifteen minutes we have cleared an area around us and the bar has nearly run out of girls from various parts of the world to head in our direction. We go back to our own conversation as it turns out there is still one girl that has not tried her luck yet.

She starts out, just like the others, by asking us where we are from and how we like it in Greece. Our answers are polite, but guarded, as we block her path to the bar just in case she tries to order a drink on our behalf.

This girl just doesn’t let up. She constantly demands answers to why we don’t want to buy her a drink. She wants to know if we don’t think she is pretty. If we don’t think she is good company. If perhaps there is something wrong with us for not liking her. Me and Jan start getting a bit tired of this.

“Go away, I am trying to talk with my boyfriend.”

Jan tries feigning homosexuality to try to convince her that she just won’t get her way with us. She does not buy into it.

“Ah, but that just mean that you are friends. You still liking woman, sir. You still liking me. No?”

I try to follow up on Jan’s lead.

“No, seriously. Piss off. I want to have a private conversation with my lover.”

Her smile turns upside down in an instant.

“No! You is gay?! You do the sexing with men?! That wrong! You shouldn’t be doing gay like that! What wrong with you?!”

She then suddenly regains her composition and her smile. Still not giving up, she tries a new approach.

“Must be something wrong with your dick for not liking woman. That okay. Come with me. I can fix that.”

She then slaps my crotch. That’s it for me. I am not going to tolerate her continued presence any more. I straighten my back and stand up by the chair, looking her straight into her eyes and giving her my full and undivided attention.

“You know what we saying things like that back in my country?”

“No?”

“We call it bigotry.”

She probably does not know what the word even means, but that is besides the point. It is the intention and energy behind my verbal attack that counts. She draws her breath to reply. I wait until she has just filled her lungs and is going to say something. I deliver my next attack in that very moment, blocking whatever she was going to say before it comes out.

“And intolerance.”

I enter into the rhythm of her breathing. Timing my taunts so that her intakes of breath guides the energy in a way that creates openings for my verbal attacks and at the same time blocking her attempts to retort. It’s just like practicing swordplay. If my timing was this good every time I held a sword, though, I guess there would be no point in practicing any more.

“And uneducated.”

“…”

“And prejudiced.”

“…”

The girl is actually reeling a bit backwards now, as if I had slapped her face. I am guessing that this is the kind of person that will explode with rage if she sees any chance to do so. To avoid this, I do not let up until it looks like she has surrendered completely. Seeing her taking steps away from me and averting her eyes, looking for a way to escape, I stop. I avert my own gaze slightly so that I am now looking at her left chin i stead of her eyes, leaving her a small opening to face me without having to endure my glare.

“Okay, I leave now.”

She turns around. I can finally talk to Jan without new girls interrupting our conversation. Talking, we finish our drinks and head out into the pleasantly warm night to walk the 100 meters back to our hotel.

Just as we are about to cross the street to enter the hotel, a taxi screeches to a halt in front of us, blocking our path. The driver has the window on the passenger side rolled all the way down and is leaning over to shout to us, even though we are just a couple of steps away from him.

“This is no good area for girls! It’s no good here! I know this great place just a couple of streets away! Great girls! You can party all night! Get in the car and I’ll take you!”

“WE DON’T WANT ANY GIRLS!!!”

Me and Jan shout our reply in unison. The taxi driver looks a bit confused.

“You sure?”

We are damned sure and we let the taxi driver know this. He takes off. We finally go to bed at the hotel.

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Off to Greece 6: The isle of Aegina

Saturday morning we assemble at eight o’clock in the lobby to go and get tickets for the boat going out to the isle of Aegina. Taking heed of my experiences from yesterday, I decide to have breakfast even though it will be bad for my stomach. I make my best effort to avoid the bread, eating the eggs, ham and cheese in stead.

It is a beautiful morning as we start walking down towards the ticket office at the docks. There are two types of ferry going out to Aegina. One being a high speed ferry that utilizes the same principle of moving through the water as a hydrofoil. The other being a large boat that also takes cars and that takes about 90 minutes. We decide on taking the fastest boat out, as it was less than a forty minute trip, and then maybe take the slower boat back home.

Arriving at Aegina, we start walking along a harbor lined with a mix of small, local fishing boats interspersed by yachts and cruisers of many different sizes and nationalities. On land, this same shoreline is lined with little street restaurants, fruit vendors and an open fish market. This picturesque scenery frames a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere that completely removes any stress or tension remaining from the hardships of yesterday.

Adding to this, I also get to appreciate the amazing connection that has developed between the two Masters of the Art that are accompanying us. Bjørn Eirik and Georgios are constantly exchanging funny stories, trading interesting little gems of information and generally having the best of times. Their conversation is an ever-flowing stream of talking mixed with bouts of laughter, rubbing off on the rest of the group and possibly making Aegina the happiest place on earth for the short time that we stay.

We walk along the shore. We have frappucinos on the beach. We move through wonderful little side streets, and we dine at a fish restaurant. Georgious takes one look at the menu and then tells the proprietor to just get us a variety of good foods so we get to taste a little of everything. Not long after we are having one of the most heavenly lunches I’ve ever experienced. The food being further enhanced by the introduction of retsina and tsipouro.

Retsina is white wine laced with pine resin. Like the hops in beer it was originally introduced as a preservative, but has turned out to add something positive to the taste of the brew. Tsipouro, on the other hand, is a spirit burned from the brew of refuse from wine production. It is kind of the Greek version of the Italian grappa. Like grappa, it will work nicely as a digestive. The Greeks often pouring it over ice to make it more smooth.

The ride back on the slow boat is mostly spent sunbathing on the poop-deck and listening to Georgious make accounts of ancient sea-battles fought, and invariably won, by the Athenians. We arrive back in Pireus and again we go to the hotel to get ready for practice.

This time it is Bjørn Eirik that is instructing the classes. The qi-kung excercises that he takes us through at the start of each class are something I have learned to both love and fear. Bjørn Eirik has a way of going through the motions so that they really start doing their work on me. He does not rush, meaning that the core muscles all over my body is forced to work constantly at keeping my posture, while my mind is never released from being wrapped around the breathing. I guess it is possible to let the mind wander or to let up on your posture to secretly or unconsciously work less hard. To me, though, Bjørn Eirik’s presence makes me go at it constantly. I usually do not sweat that much at practice, but Bjørn Eirik’s simple warming up exercises is making my body produce enough moisture to make a large oval shape on the mat, marking the spot where I have been standing.

Breathing is the key word for Bjørn Eiriks classes these two days, and he shows us how our breath works to either relax or give strength to our movements so that we, by controlling and timing our breath, also guide and control the flow of power through our movements. Georgios has for the two last days made me cut away ever more of unnecessary and involuntary movements in my technique, helping me reach new levels of precision. Now, Bjørn Eirik is turning on the power that will through through my improved technique. The two senseis are the perfect match.

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Off to Greece 5 – Starving beneath the Akropolis

After my first night in Pireus i wake up in the hotelroom with Andreas V in a bed to my left and Maiken in another bed to my right. We assemble in the lobby a little before ten to get some food before Georgious is going to take us to the old-town in Athens. One look at the menu tells us that breakfast is better to be had someplace else. For my own sake, it is because there is no way to avoid bread, which my stomach does not handle very well. For the others, the menu just don’t look very appealing after a night on the town. After a cup of coffe we head out.

Georgious guides us to the train station, warning us to keep a close eye on our belongings and not to wear anything green, as it apparently might be interpreted as supporting the wrong football hooligans for that area.

After about twenty minutes on the train, we get off and start walking along some rather picturesque roads lined by old buildings and important historical sites. Most of us – and me, Andreas S and Marthe in particular – are getting ready for breakfast. We look longingly at the various street cafes in the area as Georgious takes us by them, his mouth delivering a constant stream of historical information that probably would have been very interesting if we hadn’t been so hungry.

We start out at a good pace and Georgious says we should hurry. After a little while he stops and tells us that if we take a small detour, we can get some good views of both the Akropolis, and other interesting places, and reach a good restaurant in about 30 minutes.  We take him up on the offer and start walking again. For some reason we aren’t hurrying any more.

Some place that apparently was very interesting. The Akropolis is behind me.

Our pace grows ever slower as we pass beneath the Akropolis and other places of interest. After a while we start walking through small walkways and streets covered by even more restaurants. We pass them by, Georgious sometimes stopping to change a few words with the ushers that are eagerly trying to convince us that this particular restaurant has the best food in Athens. My mind is sluggishly registering that we are moving back and forth through ever more sidestreets rather than in a straight line. Georgious’ pace becoming slower and slwer while his mouth is moving faster and faster.

I comment on my hunger. Georgious replies: «This is a kind of practice. We need to work in all kinds of situations. Also when starving. Show me what you’ve got when there’s nothing left to give. This is where you’ll develop. And remember: When the going gets togh, the tough gets going.» I accept, more through exhaustion than anything else. It’s been two hours since we were promised food. I am tagging along like a zombie, my feet pulling my body along after the others without intervention from my mind.

We stop at a shop selling t-shirts. Georgious and Dimitris discuss gifts to by to Bjørn Eirik when he arrives. Some of the others move on down the street in the hope that this will move things along. I just stand. Alone. Outside the shop. I have reached some kind of trance where Kristian no longer exist. Neither does Kristians hunger. Neither is space. Neither is time. There is just the standing.

Through this haze i register Marthe coming up the street. Her face a pale white intersperced with red blotches. Her eyes looking straight ahead and unwavering like she is looking straight through everything there is and into the eternity beyond. She moves in a straight line, making the crowds in front of her move out of the way and close behind her like Moses parting the ocean. “Where’s Dimitris?” she demands. I point lazily to the shop and she goes in.

A short while later she comes back out and starts walking down the streets again. A rather flustered looking Dimitris also is coming out with his present for Bjørn Eirik in his hand, followed by Georgious.

“Okay, aaaah… Maybe we go get some food now.”

I guess there’s no question this time who is the tough girl once the going gets tough.

We eat at Ice Grill, staying there for a couple of hours just enjoying the feeling of having food in our stomachs and being able to enjoy our trip again. Then we head back to the hotel and get ready for some more ours of practice at the dojo.

Practice is off course excellent. Dimitris is doing the first class just like the day before, but this time he is better prepared. He takes us through various breakfall excersizes that are completely new to me before showing us techniques that put ever more focus on our ability to quickly adapt and flow together to be able to avoid loosing contact or meeting the mat in painful ways. Being his uke, I am being led through some quite interesting breakfalls.

Georgious’ class reverts again to the fundamentals of body movement and positioning. Knowing that Georgious is working exactly the key principles and areas where I most desperately need to develop, I try to soak it all in, avoiding all potential distractions and above all trying to get away from this pretty Greek girl. She is looking straight at me, and every time I notice, she puts on a brilliant smile that keeps throwing me off balance. I try to navigate the crowd on the mat, working the edges so that I get to be on the opposite side as often as possible. This is how I discover that Bjørn Eirik Olsen Sensei has arrived and is watching the practice. Although I usually take pride in trying to be my own worst judge when scrutinizing my technique and looking for things to improve, the eyes of the Norwegian Shihan upon me throws my already failing concentration completely out the window. I have placed myself between the rock and the hard place, and it definitely does not help that the rock is exceptionally pretty. Battling my hunger earlier this day was nothing. This is the true challenge where I get to test and develop my inner strength.

We finish practice like the day before. We go out. We eat. Not being so hungry this time, and seeing again the faces from the mat and the night before, I finally start getting in touch with the Greek aikidokas on a more social level. Just as they are on the mat, they are also an outgoing, smiling and pleasant bunch to be with outside of the dojo.

Going back to the hotel, Marthe is again urging us to hit new clubs. I decide not to join this time as I am feeling overwhelmed by all the impressions and experiences of the day. I go to the hotelroom, falling asleep the instant my head hits the pillow.

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Off to Greece 4 – Pireus by night

After two hours of aikido we make a short trip back to the hotel to shower and get dressed before going out for dinner. I’m actually quite suprised i’m still standing, as i have spent the last night sleeping on a couch at Gardermoen airport, and have not consumed any nutrients the entire day except for two apples for breakfast and a weissbieer for lunch. Two of the local aikidokas show up in a car to show the way, and we head out to a grill restaurant.

To be honest, i cannot recall the actual quality of the food. As far as I recall, I gulped down the contents on my own plate only to immediately accept an offer to eat half of the plate belonging to Andreas who was sitting next to me.

Marthe, a northerner that has been following Dimitris to Greece before, and in recollection of previous good, times start ordering rounds of beer for everyone. -Most people of northern Norway has stomachs made out of teflon and livers made from titanium. They are also quite adept at making their own spirits, if skill is measured by the quantities they are able to make and distribute illegally and not the quality.

The Greeks leave after dinner, and we get in our van and head back to the hotel. It turns out that the hotel is in an area of Pireus with some really thrashy bars, obviously hitting a nerve with Marthe, who manage to convince most of us, including Georgious and Dimitris, that we should head to the nearest strip club for some more drinks.

The first place we hit has a rather promising sign outside depicting a larger-than-life woman with no clothes on. An usher is standing outside, screaming and waving at us even though we are heading straight for his door. Inside, though, the place turns out to be just a small, badly lit bar with some tables along the walls and the worst stereo i’ve heard since I burnt out the speakers of my first second-hand car, a ’93 Corolla.

Me and the other Norwegians have a rather uneventful trip the few meters from the entrance to the bar. Dimitris and Georgious, obviously hampered by their Greek appearance, are immidiately attacked by some strange female creatures that i did not think existed outside of Homers Illiad. Their shrill voices are the only thing that can be heard above the din of the soundsystem, and they seem to be slightly oversized, middle-aged women wearing corsetry that may have fit twenty years ago. Skin seems to crawl out everywhere, and the nights all-time low is reached when one of them pics up and ice cube and starts rubbing it against nipples that seem to be emerging from the top of her bodice like the heads of drowning men.

We finish out beers and leave, eager for more experiences and stories to tell. Except for Georgious and Dimitris, who obviously have experienced slightly more than they wanted and head to their hotelrooms to lick their wounds. The next place we are ushered into has not got an illustration of a naked woman outside, but it does have an elevated podium with a dancing pole inside. Things are looking to improve.

This seems to be some sort of nightclub divided into two areas with a bar each. We are vigorously pushed into the innermost of the two chambers while we are told that this area is a lot more special than the other, whatever this means. One similarity this place shares with the previous bar, is that most of the people here seems to be women. As we are pushed through the outermost area, we are watched by a room full of creatures perching on tall chairs like falcons watching their potential prey from their respective vantage points and getting ready to pounce. I barely manage to order myself a beer before I’m jumped by a comparatively sweet looking girl somewhere in her twenties. My suspicions are immediately roused as she starts firing off questions about myself, portraying an eager interest in both my life and well-being. Still, we manage to have something similar to a pleasant conversation. Even though her bad English and music which is probably turned up to avoid any conversation ever becoming deeper than mere courtesies, makes our attempts to converse in a meaningful way into a rather daunting task. The girl is continuously dodging her eyes to the other end of the bar where a man seems to be supervising our tete-a-tete, before she places her hand on my thigh and almost apologetically asks whether I would like to buy her a drink. My suspicions being rekindled, I ask whether such a drink might be somewhat more expensive than what I’m having. My inquiries seem to have an immediate adverse effect on my new friends ability to understand English. Suddenly I seem to have ordered a drink, probably through some ancient Greek sign language where scratching ones nose in a certain manner conveys the sentence «I would very much like to buy this stranger an over-prized drink». As my new friend notices that this i making me rather uneasy, we agree on a budget as to how many drinks she is allowed to have before I leave. This calms me down somewhat, even though I still have not the faintest idea as to how much I am spending. It also helps my mood a little that she starts talking about her little dog, showing me pictures of it on her cellphone. Something which makes her seem slightly more human. Besides, I really like dogs. They’re nice.

My new friend seems to be measuring out the time between her drinks in such a way that she can talk to me as long as possible before her four shots of liquor have been consumed. She is constantly dodging her eyes to the other end of the bar as if to check how far she can stretch it before her manager – or whatever the guy at the other end is – will intervene. After the last drink she goes back to her perch, spending the rest of the night looking rather sulky. I experience a pang of guilt as I feel like I have contributed to a system where mere company and conversation is being traded like a commodity, and forcing my new friend into a lonely corner by simply not wanting to afford the cost of allowing her to talk to me. Besides, the presence of a man supervising the girls makes me think that most of the profits are not going into the girls’ pockets.

When I later pay my bill, the whole thing turns out to have cost me less than an ordinary night out would cost me back home, making me relax a little. Jan is not as lucky, as his waving arms on the dancefloor seems to be continuously conveying messages in the previously mentioned sign-language, making drinks appear in front of everyone time and again. He seems to be enjoying himself a lot, though, and it gets even better as a laughing and protesting Marthe is being pulled towards the dancing pole by one of the girls. She puts on an improvised show, and her audience, consisting of me, Jan, Andreas and several working girls are loving it.

I follow suit, jumping up on the podium and attacking the pole as a kind of equipment for strength-building excercises, mixing in some hip-wrigling that I’ve seen in movies, getting even more applause and cat-calls from the audience. After the evening thus reaching its climax, we finally head off to the hotel to sleep. It has been an eventful and fun day, and we are all happy and looking forward to the next day.

Next episode: Starving beneath the Acropolis – and Marthe throws a fit.

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Off to Greece 3

I have been asked to write this part of my blog in English, so that my Greek friends also can read my musings on this trip. I will try to keep writing in English for the rest of my stay here in Greece. A big hello goes out to my new friends and audience.

After a couple of hours flight from Munich, we arrive in Athens. We recover our belongings and head straight for the exit where we are met by Sensei  Georgious Koliopoulos. We’ve rented a van, and Sensei is going to drive ahead of us to show the way to our hotel and later to take us to practice. Jan is designated as driver. Before we get into the van he notices that the red warning triangle is conspicously placed on the floor as if recently used. Jan is not happy about this, and his gut feeling is going to prove most accurate.

As soon as we get on the freeway I realize why Jan is behind the wheel. First off, Greek freeways are obviously some kind of competition that is all about changing lanes to get ahead of each other and cutting people off without warning. Second, Georgious is the prototypical Greek driver. The brakes on our van starting to chafe and tug at the wheels of their own does not make the situation better, and it does not take long before it smells like something is burning.

We stop on the hard shoulder while traffic is roaring past at 100 km per hour. Smoke is emerging from one of the wheels for a little while after stopping, but luckily this stops after a short while. Dimitris calls Avis, and after just a couple of minutes a service-car with big, flashing warning signs stops behind us to fend off the oncoming traffic. Not long thereafter a rescue truck pulls up in front of us. There’s a lot of talking in greek, and after some discussion both we and the van is taken off the freeway and put on a sidewalk where we wait for a new car.

At last we get on the road again, and Jan’s abilities as a driver is increasingly put to the test as Georgious’ driving gets even more erratic. It is apparent that he doesn’t quite know the way, and he dodges his Toyota in and out of the chaotic traffic of Pireus while changing lanes – or just staying between lanes – and taking exits seemingly on sudden whimsical impulses. Luckily Jan has some seemingly godgiven supernatural powers when it comes to navigating traffic, and, after a couple of stops where Georgious leaves his car in the middle of the road to ask pedestrians for directions we finally end up outside our hotel. Just in time to throw our bags and suitcases into our rooms and head straight for practice. -It is starting to be a while since my small breakfast at Gardermoen…

If you haven’t guessed already, is is why I am in Greece: Aikido. Every year, Dimitris travels to Greece to participate in Georgious’ spring seminar, taking some of his friends and students with him. For the last three years he has also been joined by Shihan Bjørn Eirik Olsen. I have been invited to join on several occations before, but never had the time or money to come. This year i’ve decided that i am not going to pass up the chance to join. Come hell or high water. Georgious’ no-bullshit style with his attention on keeping the footwork and positioning on the line makes attending his practices exactly what i need to vastly improve my own technique.

Ten minutes before practice, Georgious asks Dimitris to do the first of todays two classes, making his long time student tense up with anxiety. Georgious looks quite travel-weary, but Dimitris is convinced he is being tested, for, as he has relayed to me on several occations «nothing Georgious does is arbitrary or haphazardous; even when it is». Dimitris asks me to be his uke when he instructs, and starts preparing me for the techniques he wants me to receive during class.

Both Dimitris’ and Georgious’ classes are fantastic, and even though i am seeing everything through a haze of hunger, I discover a lot of little details which i have yet to implement naturally into my technique. Also, the spirit of the Pireus dojo is both warm and welcoming with a lot of smiles and friendliness both off and on the mat.

Next episode: Pireus by night.

If i get around to write it…

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Ut på tur 2

Fv: Dimitris, Marthe, Andreas, Jan og Andreas (Maiken traff jeg først på flyet)

Reisefølget er møtt på Gardermoen og turen har gått videre til München.

Her har vi en drøy time før neste fly. Akkurat passe tid til å smake på det lokale hvetebrygget, som forøvrig smaker markant annerledes her i forhold til hjemme i Norge. Det er tydelig at ganske mye går tapt under frakt til Norge, om ikke det er slik at de sender mye dårligere kvalitet over grensen. Her i München er det i det minste mye mer sitrus og krydder i både smak og finish, noe som absolutt ikke er ueffent.

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Ut på tur!

Når flyet fra Gardermoen til Munich International går 07:40 om morgenen, så er det ikke lurt å gamble på første fly fra Flesland samme morgen. Ikke frister det å betale 320 kroner for flytog til Oslo for å overnatte på en sofa eller tilsvarende venneløsning heller. Jeg kunne jo nesten tatt inn på det billigste flyplasshotellet for samme prisen.

Løsningen?

Oslo Lufthavn Gardermoen er faktisk et ganske populært overnattingssted, og ikke uten grunn. Jeg lette først etter sted å sove i andre etasjen, men jeg måtte ut og lete etter strøm til mobilen min. Etter å ha sett på denne anmeldelsen, endte jeg i denne deilige lærsofaen, komplett med nattbord og fire strømuttak bare til meg:

Nå håper jeg bare at fyren borte ved Peppe’s skal slutte å skjære opp gulvhellene med vinkelsliper, så er alt den rene lykke. Endestoppet i morgen er Athen. Kanskje jeg blogger om det også. Hvis jeg gidder.

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Øk antallet unge uføre!

“Jeg skulle ønske jeg fortsatt holdt på å dø av kreft. Det var så mye enklere å forholde seg til folk da. Alle skjønte hvorfor jeg ikke kunne jobbe eller studere. Jeg trengte bare å løfte på lua og peke på skallen min, så fikk jeg være i fred.”

Hjertesukket kom spontant fra en venn av meg i går etter å ha blitt sendt i retur fra en behandlingsintitusjon som, helt korrekt, har konkludert med at brukeren har blitt henvist på feil grunnlag og skulle vært satt på venteliste et halt annet sted for flere måneder siden. I mellomtiden har vedkommede gått tom for viktige medisiner, står uten behandlingstilbud, må sende meldekort hver 14 dag for å få penger, har ingen økonomisk trygghet ut over en “midlertidig” arbeidsavklaringordning fra NAV, og har vært sendt rundt som kasteball de siste 11 årene. Kun avbrudt av en “ferie” med cellegiftbehandling som behandlerne ikke forventet at brukeren kom til å overleve. I går ønsket brukeren seg kreft igjen. Ikke for å dø, men for å få tillatelse fra NAV til å jobbe med å bli frisk.

En annen venn av meg har gått på henholdsvis rehabilitering, attføring og arbeidsavklaring i 12 år. Siden inntektene fra NAV er “midlertidige,” har han aldri kunnet låne penger til bolig. Selv har han hørt fra sine saksbehandlere at de ikke egentlig forventer at han noen gang kommer til å bli frisk nok til å få jobb. Men tilstrekkelig ufør til at han kan slutte å måtte gå en evig runddans med møter og arbeidsavklaringstiltak som ikke fører frem, er han visst ikke.

En tredje venn har vært fullstendig ufør i noen år nå, og er så frisk at det er helt på kanten til at graden av uførhet kan reduseres. Tiden før hun fikk innvilget uførestønad var så kaotisk at hun ikke husker stort av det. Kampen med NAV og helsevesen gjorde henne for syk.

Paradoksalt nok har jeg flere venner som ønsker seg uføretrygd fordi de har ambisjoner om å komme seg ut i arbeidslivet. Det er bare det at så lenge de går på arbeidsavklaring i stedet for uføretrygd, så opplever de at NAV står i veien for det å bli frisk nok til å jobbe.

De to årsakene burde være åpenbare:

1. Attføringstiltakene har ikke til hensikt å få folk ut i arbeid

Attføringsbedrifter er private foretak som tar seg betalt for at NAV kan plassere sine brukere hos dem. I Hordaland har NAV en fullstendig likegyldig holdning til hvorvidt attføringsbedriftene har noen som helst suksess i forhold til det å øke mulighetene deres brukere har til å komme i ordinært arbeid.

Jeg har snakket med mange som har jobbet i Bergens største attføringsbedrift. Samtlige har følt at de har vært der mest for syns skyld. De har fått kontorplasser, krav til å møte opp, men ikke stort mer. Bortsett fra “veiledning” da. Premieeksempelet på veiledning i denne attføringsbedriften kom fra en nær venn av meg. Hun ble fortalt første dagen at attføringsbedriften ikke egentlig var der for å få henne ut i arbeid. Det var ikke slik systemet fungerte. Det var en oppbevaringsplass. I tillegg ble hun opplyst om at hun egentlig var for frisk. Hun var jo kompetent nok til å kunne få seg en jobb. Det var sløsing med offentlige midler at hun var plassert hos dem. Veilederen gikk til og med så langt som å beskylde henne for å ha lurt seg til en plass hos dem på samfunnets bekostning.

Det er denne tjenesten attføringsbedriften lever av å levere. Oppbevaring. Dermed er dette også hva som blir levert. På bekostning av brukernes muligheter til å komme seg ut i arbeid.

2: Selv om attføringsbedriftene var flinke til å gjøre sine brukere i stand til å jobbe, så er det ikke alle som ville hatt godt av det.

For mange som sliter psykisk, er det et par enkle ting som mangler for at de skal kunne starte på en tilfriskningsprosess: En forutsigbar og trygg økonomisk situasjon, samt at de slipper å måtte forholde seg til utfordringer som de selv opplever at de ikke har forutsetninger til å håndtere. Det betyr at løsningene de får ikke er ment å være midlertidige, og det betyr at brukeren må slippe å stadig måtte møte på ulike møter og delta i ulike tiltak.  Det utelukker alle ordningene NAV har å by på med unntak av èn: Uførepensjon.

For mange psykisk syke er ikke uførepensjon bare en stønad som gjør at de kan overleve. Det er en terapiform som virker. Det er ikke bare slik at psykisk syke risikerer å havne i en dårlig økonomisk situasjon. Dårlig økonomi er sykdomsfremkallende, og det er i stor grad et hinder på veien til tilfriskning.

Jeg tror det er mulig å gjøre gode grep som får fler på sosialstønad eller arbeidsavklaring ut i arbeid. I telemark har de allerede vist at det så stille klare krav til attføringsbedriftene om hva de får til virker. Samtidig er det ikke til å skyve under en stol at det er en god del mennesker som ikke bør utsettes for arbeidsavklaring i det hele tatt. De blir ikke bare hindret i å bli friske fordi de ikke får uførepensjon. Jeg tror de koster samfunnet betydelig mer penger så lenge de tvinges til å gå på arbeidsavklaring.

Det har seg nemlig slik at kostnadene rundt arbeidsavklaring i form av saksbehandling, tiltak, møter med brukeren, rapportering og så videre koster. Det koster i form av lønningene til relativt godt betalte offentlige funksjonærer, og deres aktivitetsnivå i forhold til hver enkelt bruker kan være ganske høyt når det er snakk om en bruker på arbeidsavklaring. Jeg kan ikke forestille meg annet enn at man kutter betydelig i kostnadene rundt brukeren når man går over til å bare utbetale brukerens uførepensjon. Selv om uførepensjonen er mye høyere enn hva brukeren vil få i arbeidsavklaringspenger. Samtidig kan brukeren få anledning til å begynne å bli friskere.

Det eneste problemet med uførepensjon til disse brukerne, er at det er for få uførhetsgrader. Eksempelvis er det ikke noe nivå mellom 100% ufør og 80% ufør. En bruker som begynner å bli så frisk at han kan jobbe litt innimellom uten å bli sykere av det, og som har en jobb hvor forholdene ligger til rette for det, risikerer i begynnelsen et betydelig inntektstap med mindre han jobber svart. Bare det å innføre en uføregrad på 90% ville avhjulpet dette, og fått flere ut i arbeid.

En skulle tro det var en selvfølge at dersom en bruker som ønsker å komme seg ut i arbeid vil ha størst mulighet til det hvis brukeren først kan motta uførepensjon i noen år og så gradvis komme tilbake, så er det nettopp uførepensjon brukeren burde få. For mange behandlere jeg har snakket med innenfor psykisk helsevern er dette en selvfølge. For mange saksbehandlere i NAV er det også en selvfølge. Problemet er at når saksbehandleren fatter vedtak om at et ungt menneske som sliter psykisk skal få uførepensjon, så kommer vedtaket svært ofte i retur fra forvaltningen.

NAV er i dag et system som bruker statistikk og tall på feil måte. Det er en “sannhet” hos NAVs forvaltningsorgan at det er for mange unge uføre, og det er følgelig jobben til NAVs forvaltningsorgan å etyterprøve vedtak om uførepensjon. Noe de bruker sine egne fagpersoner til. Disse fagpersonene møter aldri brukeren selv, men tar utgangspunkt i et ofte sviktende dokumentasjonsgrunnlag som angår brukeren. Ofte overprøver de ikke bare vedtaket, men kan finne på å hevde slike ting som at brukerens diagnose må være feil. Avgjørelsene som tas av dem som kjenner brukeren blir dermed satt til side. Du kan lese mer om denne problematikken her og her.

Som konklusjon vil jeg si at det er på tide vi slutter å mene at det er for mange unge uføre. Det er for få. Fler unge uføre vil etter min mening kunne medføre færre eldre uføre, fordi det vil gi en del unge muligheten til å bli friske nok til å komme i arbeid. I tillegg vil uførepensjonen være billigere for samfunnet enn arbeidsavklaring på grunn av reduserte omkostninger i forhold til saksbehandling og tiltak som bare gjøre brukeren sykere.

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Ikke ta livet av vennene mine

Dette er verken et angrep på eller kritikk av Mattias, som har reagert offentlig på at han ikke får en type kreftbehandling som kanskje vil forlenge livet hans. Jeg har dyp sympati med måten han reagerer på, og donerer gjerne penger dersom det er mulig å samle sammen tilstrekkelige private midler til at han får behandling raskt nok.

Dette er en reaksjon på oppropet for at Mattias og andre pasienter i hans situasjon skal få behandles med Ipilimumab på det offentliges regning for at livet deres kanskje kan forlenges med to til fire måneder. I Mattias’ tilfelle til en merkostnad på 850.000 norske kroner.

Jeg kjenner litt for mange mennesker som sliter med å fortsette livene sine. Jeg har stått stille i minnestunder på litt for mange ungdomsting og landsmøter til minne om dem vi har mistet siden sist. Jeg har blitt fortalt litt for mange historier fra pårørende og syke innenfor både somatisk og psykisk helsevern som kunne ha fått tidlig og god hjelp, men som på grunn av for dårlig utbygde tjenester har endt opp med å dø, eller måtte tåle grufulle påkjenninger.

Hvis dere som signerer oppropet får gjennomslag for saken deres, så vet jeg av erfaring hvor det blir mindre penger. Videre vil en slik helsepolitikk sannsynligvis også bidra til mindre kreftforskning.

Vær så snill å trekke dere.

Dere tar livet av vennene mine.

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Superaktiv tester ut nye måter å integrere sosiale medier på

Det innebærer at facebook-appen som er knyttet til superaktiv.net nå er knyttet videre til en fanside på facebook.

I skrivende stund prøver jeg å tweake noen innstillinger som er litt lite utfyllende beskrevet, slik at jeg ikke har helt kontroll over hva som skjer. I verste fall kan dette bety at kommentarer som skrives til innleggene av mine facebookvenner plutselig også blir synlige i bloggen. Det er i så fall ikke tilsiktet, siden jeg ikke har noe ønske om at noe en tror blir postet kun på fb plutselig også kommer til syne i bloggen.

Jeg håper jeg har innstillingene under kontroll om kort tid.

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