Category Archives: Uncategorized

I Don’t Know

Chinese breakfast place, Singapore

The Emirates plane is full. We are about to take off in Dubai heading for Schiphol. Dutch people repatriating. Relief, lots of Dutch chatter and in my case worry about going home. I’ll be in an Airbnb in Haarlem. I want to self isolate two weeks. I overhear the row behind me where a young woman talks about also staying in an Airbnb, the place of a friend of hers. It makes me think that maybe quite a few Dutch people in this plane don’t live in Holland. Being Dutch citizen certainly doesn’t mean you are a resident. Why wait till the last moment before returning to the Netherlands? Because under normal circumstances you are not meant to be in The Netherlands right here and now. For me the return to the Netherlands is more of a rupture then simply switching to working from home and having to be with your children 24/7. I am resident in three places. Yet I don’t have a home. It’s making me cry. At last am I proud to be Dutch at all? During my whole life that was staged in quite a few different countries as if I performed being an artist on her grand World Tour, The Netherlands has always been eventually my final destination, my last resort, the place I’d return to, oversaturated mostly, under nourished sometimes and financially broke each time. It was without question The Netherlands I’d run to for shelter. Until today. Today I don’t know. All I know today, is that I don’t know. I feel different. It started in Singapore. Where I spent a week with the love of my life. In Singapore they know. The spread of the Corona virus is under control. What am I doing? Returning to The Netherlands? My daughters are now both in the Netherlands. They stay with their father. Which is temporarily okay. But how long is now? One week or two, or maybe half a year? I’ve had paid my invoice for the last work I did in October 2019. The very seasonal based economy of the small mainly tourism related business at my little Maltese isle called Gozo, made me decide in October/November to give up on Malta. I did follow a few threads possibly leading to employment over the winter. But I knew it wasn’t going to turn the tables. A month in New Zealand with the love of my life, that was going to be the turning point in our recent Maltese history. Until quite unexpectedly the prospect of a very sheltered, secured and manageable assignment in the UK unfolded itself. Two weeks prior to leaving for New Zealand I landed a job in the UK. At least I thought so. Life is as weird as it can be boring or oppressive and New Zealand is simply great. It’s where the love of my life and me reconnect. It’s where kangoeroes jump about and my daughters can choose to live. This time Brian and I reconnect on a very deep level, yet happy. Finally and at last there’s a sense of future, for us together and I find myself starting to believe in living apart together. There’s many dates Brian books for us to see each other throughout 2020 in order to spend valuable time together. What else is a relationship if it ain’t about being together? I don’t know. Unfortunately the communications with the UK are not moving forward. It’s Christmas, it goes to New Year’s and slides slowly into January. When I return to Europe the 20ish of January, I still don’t know where I am at. I stay with my dad. Waiting for news. I realize I simply don’t know what’s going to happen. And when my brother out of the kindness of his heart tells me that I am ‘always’ welcome to come and stay at his place downtown Barcelona, I immediately book one way tickets for my youngest daughter and me. My brother is pretty surprised and sceptical about having us over. The European Union gives a nice sense of false Euro citizenship. In Malta who joined the EU in 2009 it takes over three months to get a fellow Euro citizen of ten years old to be granted permission to attend primary school. Fortunately in Spain it only takes three weeks. However a legal way to obtain a NIE (Spanish tax number required for anyone doing anything else in Spain then spending holiday money) simply doesn’t exist. The Dutch Embassy obviously is not aware of this and advises her fellow Dutch nationals to call the Spanish Ministerie of Internal Affairs. As if it’s the local patisserie dying to sell you a birthday cake. I’ve lived in Spain before. Both my brother and sister live in Spain. I speak Spanish and I’ve got a place to live. Does the possibility to make it in Spain become a reality? Barely. And then exactly after the first 13 days during which my daughter receives her math and English assignments in Catalan (not in Spanish), the lovely primary school in the Zoo of Parc de Cuitadella, downtown Barcelona closes it’s doors. Bye bye kangeroos, zebras and meerkats; welcome Corona. After a week we enter a new virtual reality. The school has now turned into a far away unknown realm where both she and I don’t know the language, the class mates nor the jokes. Saying hello to the kangeroos at 9 am in the morning quickly fades away into the shadows of completely empty European cities. I mean ghost towns. Where people are prey to mental health issues, lots of laughter and frantic hoarding.

self isolating, Haarlem

I am flying high. What I know is that I don’t know. I don’t know nothing. So I turn on the news. CNN, EuroNews and BBC broadcastings in the plane make me cry. The death toll in Italy today surpasses China’s. What about one of my best Dutch friends, an Italian resident since twenty years? She self isolates with her two daughters, her Dutch partner, five dogs and a parrot. The rolling Toscan hills around her make her condition almost desirable is what you’d think. Her father back in The Netherlands died two days ago. There hasn’t even been talks about her attending to her mother, let alone a funeral. All I know is that I don’t know. I am flying high and I don’t know if my other close friend’s parents and siblings in Italy where she is from, will survive. 60 million Italians versus 1.4 billion Chinese people. But more Italians then Chinese have died from Corona.

Dubai airport, Corona pandemic

In Spain the speed of spreading the virus now has overtaken the speed in China at it’s peak and also the speed in which the virus spreads in Italy. Both my sister and my brother live in Spain. All I know is that I don’t know. I am flying high. I am better informed then most. I haven’t been panicking, feeling safe in Singapore. It’s just now, upon returning to a place that I am supposed to call home, that I realize I don’t know. For a long time to come, I will not know. I prefer to stay high. My love is in Australia, my car and a bed are in Barcelona, my 85 old dad is in The Netherlands, where both my daughters are with their father, the deposit of my last rental house is still in Malta.

light in unknown places, The Netherlands

Let me know what you know. I am dying to hear things. Let knowledge spread. Let peace of mind prevail. Let’s all just begin to accumulate knowledge about what the fuck is going on.

When One and One is One

Sometimes life is more real then reality. At times life is deeply touching, highly sensitive, slow as the sun rises and the pointers of a clock turn. That’s when life overtakes reality. The last intense moments before the car you’re driving is losing grip on the road, the tires start spinning, the whole car starts spinning and then time stands still. It shifts into slow motion mode. Did you ever experience this? The momentum is a moment freezing in time. All senses are activated. Hormones are pumping into the blood stream. The car slides fast. Until it hits something. And now the movie fastforwards. Suddenly the car tumbles. It rolls over quickly. A sequence of moments accelerate in time. I see my daughters next to me at the passenger’s seat and behind me on the rear bench. No blood. No screaming. Everyone is in one piece, tightly secured in the seatbelts of the small, light weight rental car. It comes to a stand still. We sigh. The intensity fades away. We’re back in reality.
It isn’t only overwhelming danger that makes time and eternity freeze for a moment or cease to exist all together. When only the very moment counts. When only the very moment is what life is all about. Overwhelming.

I finally find myself in a space where no deep inner thoughts occur. The ones that are negatively driven by fear. Here now, where we are, at the edge of a small mountain lake called Tennyson in the North of New Zealand’s South Island. We are only a couple of hours drive on dirt roads away from civilization. Until this afternoon there were three or four other cars parked out here at the side of the lake. It’s passengers ventured out for a leisurous time. But the wind picked up and quite literally blows them away. The cars leave one after the other. Taking with them the last remnants of civilization.  It’s simply stunning out here. We stay. The wind is rocking our little camper van as hard as our little world is rocked by a vast emptiness. Which at the very same time is completely full of abundant life. Real life. We stay in the loft part of the slide on camper, above the cabin of our beloved 4 WD 1973 Landcruiser. The loft is where the mattress is and it feels like we are rocking in a boat on high seas. My feelings are as deep and instinctive as the sheer limitlessness and vast nature that surrounds us. Our skins touching feels as soft as the white cotton like clouds that surround the mountain tops. Silken sun rays reflect silver sparks on mountain creeks. Until raindrops start falling. At first lightly, increasingly relentless. This is the real world. Where men are male and women are female and one and one is one.

Virtual Reality

Regret mounts with each interaction between me and a ground staff member at Changi Airport, today in Singapore 19th March 2020. The world is caught in the iron grip of a new virtual reality called the Corona pandemic. I’ve seen a bit. Did my travels. Survived the usual. Detested some. Loved many. I am fifty one. My whole life I’ve been aware of how lucky I am to be born a Dutch citizen. Until today. I dread returning to what I call my home country. It’s where the prime minister believes the Corona virus will gladly comply with the arrogant Dutch attitude of self contentment. I don’t like panic. For sure it doesn’t suit my Dutch genes. But there’s something called doing the right thing. And The Netherlands ain’t doing it.

The Seven Seas

Do we look for stressfull environments out of conditioning and familiarity? Is it like looking for painful relationships because we are used at being abused or at abusing the other? It reminds me of the lyrics of The Eurythmic’s Seven Seas.

Sweet dreams are made of this

Who am I to disagree

I travel the world

and the seven seas

Everybody is looking for something

Some of them want to use you

Some of them want to get used by you

Some of them want to abuse you

Some of them want to be abused

Familar pain or stress outrule a new situation by numbers, if you leave it up to your mind to do the thinking. The mind much prefers to ‘know’ the situation. Knowing equals being prepared for what it takes to survive. The mind is a clever organ. Ultimately savy in how to survive. No new territories please. New territories take survival instinct to discover, explore and master. Better to gear on auto pilot. Even if that involves enduring pain or stress. Because auto pilot enables us to still pay attention to something else. Like looking after children or work or what our friends think of us. Which increases our chance of survival.

Why am I writing this? Because I am intrigued by the purpose of negative thoughts. Nature’s design is infinetely complex and we don’t know much about it’s inner dynamics. Maybe because we focus on outer appaerances, symptoms and results more then what drives the engine. Why and how our minds bring us down (negative thoughts) can be easily discarted as illnesses. But that doesn’t pay much hommage to our clever design. Do we simply judge negative thoughts as an annoyance to say the least? Or maybe even as outright ‘wrong’ and on call to be changed, altered and cured for the better at once. This remedy sounds like when someone is being thirsty, instead of giving that person something to drink, his or her craving for water is questioned. When I’ve got a negative thought I should be triggered to find out where it comes from and what it wants to tell me. Instead of being ashamed of it or embarrased to burden other people with it. When I am thirsty I fetch myself a drink. Don’t you?

In Gozo now the summer season is over. The locals resort to their silent and simple lives. The lack of stress slows me down. I have been looking for down time after one and a half years down under in Australia. Up here in Gozo, contrary to what happens in Australia, there is less incentive to work for material gain. The prospect of and familiarity with prosperity is much lower here in humble Gozo then it is in promising wealthy Australia. A week ago I visited the UK. My familiar incentive to achieve came back to me. It’s a bit stressful to be honest. I like my mode in Gozo, isolated from the result orientated busy-ness of Northern Europe. But we take ourselves with us wherever we go. Hence we do not rest until we have found our same old groove. This might be in a new direction and in different conditions. But still. It’s what we are familiar with, conditioned for survival, no escaping from it. Meanwhile it rains here, it rains constantly. I like the rain.

Emptiness versus Belief

Yoga is like a bottle of wine. Yoga is visualized as an oasis of tranquility. Promised through pictures of beautiful bodies in lotus positions. A deep red sun setting behind meditative timeless moments. Harmonious natural colors blending soundlessly with placid faces. The Martini Bianco commercials from the eighties fade in the shadow of yoga-imaging. The Martini Bianco ads used to be the epitome of a James Bond like decadent leisure’s life style, including beautiful women, sailing yachts and everlasting sunset drinks.

My very own Yoga on The Rocks alludes with a wink to these seductive artifacts of our society; yoga like an uplifting desirable sunset drink with a sparkle poured over the crystal luster of dancing ice cubes or, in other words and the American way to describe such thing straightforward: ‘On The Rocks’. Wearing a cool yoga designer outfit, doing our cool yoga thing. There were also those other fabulous impressive cinema commercials. Produced by Marlboro. Tough and tanned cowboys wearing leather hats and checkered ponchos, riding strong horses in vast North American landscapes, offering the audience to dream away. Away from retained little worlds where everything and everyone is the same, always and forever.

Demerit goods are taxed by a Western European government with a much higher levy percentage then essential basics like food and also higher then regular products like furniture or a taxi ride. I say a Western European government because a trip through several Central European countries recently unveiled high alcoholic drinks like vodka in the supermarket to be cheaper then orange juice and a pint or half a liter of beer to be cheaper then tea at a renowned old school terme near Lake Balaton in Slovenia; a place we’re conveniently used at calling a health spa.

Demerit goods offer a passive, non aggressive escape or temporary relief from reality. As opposed to their quick-fit-psychological-relief quality, they impact our general health negatively and produce negative external effects even for non-consumers. Since the individual consumer craves them and basically pays whatever it takes to obtain them, in the long run they cost national governments more if it comes to health care, justifying a higher levy.

So how do I dare compare yoga to a bottle of wine?

Yoga is addictive, like wine
Yoga offers a temporal escape from reality, like wine
Yoga eases stressed out brain cells, like wine 
Yoga offers a studio to go to, like wine offers a bar to visit
Yoga is surrounded by promises of peace of mind and happiness, like wine is surrounded by promises of a Burgundy life style, leisure and joy
Yoga is socially accepted as an escape, like wine is socially accepted as a sedative

So far for the comparisons. The above omits completely that yoga is good for your health and alcohol not so much. Having said that, the longer term cultural dynamic leading towards a socially acceptable life style including yoga and meditation versus the good old duo of a church with a bar outside, fascinates me. While biding my days in the most Catholic country of Europe and therefore presumably the most Christian country of the world since one year now. Yoga isn’t the new big thing here. In Gozo, part of the Maltese archipelago consisting of three small isles. Here locals visit the church and cafés. There’s as many churches as there’s days in a year. One different church to go to every single day of the year. I wonder how many yoga studios Amsterdam counts. I am sure it ain’t eight hundred thousands but translated into square meters of yoga studio space, eight hundred thousand might actually not even be too far off. At least so it seems. The concerns of the Gozitan life style are certainly different from the ones of countless yoga studio members in the bigger cities around the world. I am struck by the controversy between belief and sedating the mind versus emptiness and feeding the body. A new dogma is born. We are gladly seduced by the new enchanting escape. 

Island of Joy

The early morning light in October is beautiful. It glows softly at the limestone houses. The typical Maltese balconies strike me again with their classic elegance. I like the busi-ness of the people here. Old women walk the narrow streets, dressed in a classic way, almost French. They wear a pleaded skirt with a blouse or a checkered dress with a neat light jacket. And occasionally a shopping bag. They look timeless. As timeless as their age.

I park the car at Saint Francis square to have tea at the Beeheeve. It’s like a chapter from a book. I am the observer, the narrator. I am not part of the scene. The Beeheeve and Tapies bar next to it, have plastic tables and chairs outside. The weather is great. Mid October, Saturday morning 7.30 am. There’s only men sitting here. Timeless men. Countless men. I walk inside and order a tea. I am the outsider. This strange bewildered feeling is what I need right now, right here. Gozo is beautiful. If it’s not this island, what is it then?

I Like It When You Call Me Baby

Boarding is forty minutes delayed and we’ve not been allocated seats next to each other. However the good news is that a generous ‘real airline’ luggage allowance applies for our flight today with Iberia operated by the low cost airline Vueling. Our bag filled with a fair amount of port from Porto gets checked without any questions. Flying in Europe is a bit of Russian roulette. Sometimes you die. Sometimes you win. 

After waking up very early this morning Brian puts on ‘Sugar how you Get so fly’. It’s 5 am. We are flying from Lisbon to Barcelona today. But first we make love. Like a man and a woman. Sweet whispers in my ear: “Baby…”. I say:”I like it when you call me baby”.

One of our allocated seats is a middle seat. The other one, two rows further down, is a window seat with extra leg space. I ask the older woman with blonde dyed hair and dressed in a sporty fluoriscent yellow fitness jacket, seated at the aile next to our middle seat, if she minds swapping seats. So that Brian and I can sit together and she can enjoy extra leg space at a window seat two rows further down. With an American accent she replies “No”. Then I ask a young woman who’s comfortably seated at the other side, the window side, of our middle seat. Her head rests in a nowadays indispensable in flight accessoir wrapped around her neck. “Do you mind?…”.  Fortunately she replies “sure”, also with an American accent. I am grateful. Both for Brian choosing to sit next to me over a seat with additional leg space and for the empathy of the younger woman.  

A bit later the older American lady who now is our neighbor reads into her tourist guide about tapas bars. Sure thing with destination Barcelona. It brings me back to Guimet y Guimet six years ago. At the time advertised in a lists of ‘the ten best..’. A very traditional tapas bar in a back then by tourists lesser known neighborhood of Barcelona called Gracia. It’s here where I got to talk and listen to Brian. We didn’t fall in love because we didn’t know we could. We did what we could. Talking endlessly, laughing, talking more and more sincere. Until we left. With our friend. At the time we spent less then twenty four hours in each other’s presence. Which was initiated and facilitated by our best friend. Six years later we’re on a flight bringing him and me back to Barcelona. Where it all began baby. I like it when you call me baby.

I kind of regret the American blonde older woman will not know about this story. It could enrich her Barcelona experience in a lovely way. Me telling her about a special night at Guimet y Guimet. She hearing inside stories about how two people’s lives changed completely. Both of us impressed by the connective power of love. But I don’t think she’d understand.

The Art of Happiness

She takes a sip from her BPA free plastic water bottle, puts on some lip moisturizer, takes an Orbit chewing gum and opens an intensely used paperback somewhere in the middle. It reads The Art of Happiness. I momentarily envy her for having found that title and the state her paperback is in. I imagine picking up the story in that ragged paperback feels like lowering my buttocks down in the seat of an old but well kept leather Chesterfield chair, comfortably leaning back, sucking in peace of mind. I glance at her from my window seat 21D over to her window seat 21A which is across the aisle in the small Polish Airways aircraft that brings us from Lubljana in Slovenia via Warsaw in Poland to Amsterdam. I sit next to the love of my life after we drove around Central Europe during two weeks. The trip has been wonderful. We are very happy.

The woman’s gestures make me pick a Stimerol and put Labello on my lips before I realize it and become consciously aware of the fact that I do not really need to make these additions to my state of well being. I do not need to read about the Art of Happiness nor apply lip moisturizer. I do not care for to chew gum nor hydrate myself with purified water. I am so lucky to be happy. I am so lucky I feel blessed. And although I am curious to know what is said about The Art of Happiness, I don’t want to read about how to be happy. The woman knows about how to add fragments to her state of well being by hydrating her body with water, refreshing the taste in her mouth with chewing gum and moisturizing her lips. Don’t we all search for to feel good? Security covered, achievements fulfilled and individualism outspoken. Now what is left to be conquered is happiness.

Via Warsaw

Ljubljana Airport

The multiple lanes leading to and beyond Departures 1, 2, 3 and 4 at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport are clogged with cars driving very slowly searching for a spot to pull over in order to deposit passengers to the different departure halls. Quick or lengthy farewells are showcased by a hug, a kiss, a firm hand shake or a proud wave. It’s an early Saturday morning in August. Today holiday people rent their holiday house until the next Saturday. I had not thought of traffic this busy on a weekend day in summer. We should have left the house earlier, I tell myself and once more when we get to Polish Airlines check-in counters seeing a long line of people, waiting, not moving. At the economy counter there’s no staff. Only at the business class counter people are being attended to. We wait, try to get feed back as to why the economy class counter is uninhabited and wait some more. After quite a bit it’s our turn. We’d already checked in online and have been waiting only to drop off our suitcase. For which we are being asked if we paid the supplement. Apparently this is not noted. The ground stewardess of the now open economy class counter looks a bit confused but she kindly prints out our boarding passes upon asking her to do so. Fortunately we pass Schiphol security quickly. To discover some fifteen minutes after check-in that the departure gate mentioned at our boarding passes doesn’t  correspond with the information advertised on the digital departures boards. We find our way to the correct gate. Also here people are waiting. Boarding hasn’t begon. When we eventually get in the Polish aircraft we wait even longer, at least an hour. Finally permission to take off follows and one and a half hours after the scheduled departure time we are on our way to Warsaw. It means that upon our arrival we will not have a minute to loose for our transit at Warsaw Airport, going to Ljubljana, Slovenia. But the LOT stewardesses are pretty, fuzzy and informal and our two weeks trip through Central Europe has started. The trip I dreamingly label as a fairy tale come true. Recounting of love, transition and inner truth.

The Warsaw connection is successful and five hours afterwards we land at Ljubljana airport. Our suitcase takes a day longer to make it there. Leaving us to make our way into town feeling as light hearted as we like to travel light. That first evening we melt together in a soft Slovenian bed hidden behind an upmarket and neatly renovated historic centre street of a quaint little semi Alpine town.

Little Fish Spa

Five years ago, maybe six, my brother sent my daughters and me to one of the little fish spa’s that sprouted like mushrooms in the alleys and narrow streets around his neighborhood, location Bario Gotico, down town Barcelona, enclosed by the popular Picasso-Museum-neighborhood called Borne and the street-artist’s-Ramblas de Catalunia. Who hasn’t been there? In a single day there’s more tourists then cobble stones paving the medieval streets. After African people selling sunglasses to be chastisized by the guardia civil, wealthy European youngsters investing in real estate to open up Airbnb places and less wealthy Europeans opening up funny cafés, Asian people started spreading out from their whole sale-retail-everything-for-1-euro places into more popular signature Catalan streets opening up one massage salon after the other. At some point these massage salons competed in original ways to attract the millions of pedestrians strolling often aimlessly, the oh so trodden old streets where once a long time ago, time had stood still. Sit down in an electric massage chair and dip your toes, feet and lower legs into a water bassin in front of your chair. Black little fish study your legs for a little time before they attack your skin, nibbling on it, making you giggle, supposedly eating away the dead cells of the top layer of your skin. The experience is a happy one. After fifteen or twenty minutes you pay €25 and continue the aimless wandering most probably quickly interrupted by downing a few beers or a caraf of sangria.

My not yet teenage daughters and I liked the little fish spa’s very much. Surprised how it suits the appetite of different generations; not a common thing while walking through hot old streets with a million fellow holiday people. 

Today six years later, my daughters find themselves, spending the first few weeks of their summer holidays in The Netherlands before the two of them come hanging out with me for a couple of weeks. Location: a tranquile island in the midst of the Mediterranean where even in July it’s hard to loose oneself in some sort of dis- or at-traction. Nature talks, often very loud, and people disperse themselves in a quest for tranquility, purity and being away from it all.

Late last night I’ve arrived back at the island which I and my youngest daughter call home since half a year. The day after the night before I seek solid grounds and to recapture my little life here. I take to the rocks at one of my favorite parts along the shore, Dahlet Qorrot bay. I leave the few other people that come out here and my car behind to hike for twenty minutes, maybe half an hour. Until I arrive at what I call my private spa. Here the sea created craters like shallow pools, different ones, connected with the open sea but only by little water ways. The water in the shallow pools is almost stagnant but not completely. It’s as clear as glass. Little fish roam. Little crab crawl. The sun shines fiercely. The extremely salty water is hotter then the electrically heated water in the bath tub at home. I carefully get in the natural health spa, cautious not to slip and slide on the the film of soft sea moss and algea that covers parts of the natural pools, making the whole experience even more of an immersion in nature. The shallow pools are not much deeper then 50 or 70 cm. I stretch myself out in the water, arms wide, legs apart, floating as if I find myself on an airbed. The water is so salty. It prevents anything from sinking. I breath slowly, adjusting my ligaments, patiently relaxing more and more. The back of my head sinks further down. Only my neck is still tensed, trying to keep my head aligned with my torso. I gradually let go. Seawater encircles my closed eyes and blocks my ears. It’s eternally silent, soft and static. And then it starts. I feel the first nibbling at my right hand, it surprises me, I unconsciously pull my hand away from what it is touching. But I realize it’s just little fish and I relax again, stretching my arm comfortably, slowly, not to agitate the placid warm water. After a bit more the little fish seem to have regained trust and courage. They start to nibble at my feet, my legs and my ears. The most unique sensation is when they start nibbling at my eyelids and my cheeks. At some point it tickles too much, just next to the opening of my ears. I move to make them stop for a moment. But I relax again and they retake their meal of savoury human skin. I smile and enjoy intensely what’s happening to me. 

Thank you overcrowded Bario Gotico for having introduced me to this peculiar intimate experience. Reality beats any sought after dis- or at-traction by miles. One of the smallest islands in the Mediterranean, the tranquile isle of Gozo, which is part of the Maltese archipelago, this place completely beats it if it comes to the experience of reality.