What Really Matters

2006 drawing dive briefing

One of my favourite moments. All is quiet on the boat. The divers are basking in the sun whilst I am in my own creative space, visualizing the landscape underneath the waves… to bring it alive on a chalk board for the dive site briefing. I loved calling everyone closer around me, telling my boat-full of enthusiastic divers what wonders of nature I hoped to show them that day. I loved how at one I felt with myself and with the ocean all around me. Over the years, the daily hours in the sea shaped my body as well as my mind… I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. When I guided my divers, I loved to see everyones’ eyes sparkle with a vividness that only comes from pure bliss and fulfilment. Life is simpler down there. Politics, egotism, posturing, stereotypes, assumptions… they all disappear when we are far out of our element, yet surrounded by beauty.

Reflections

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2018 was a tough one. I even thought of giving up a few times. Life still isn’t easy… when is it ever… but, throughout the more recent challenges, I surprised myself with a whole new level of grit and appreciation for this wonder we call life. 

I’ve been forced to reevaluate many things this past year. What is right? What is wrong? To what extend are my thoughts and values my own, or rather societal conditioning? How open-minded am I? How far can I stretch my limits? Are they even limits or rather an imaginary boundary, an illusionary safety zone, behind which may lay pain but also a whole new level of understanding, love, and adventure? Most likely, definite answers will forever elude me, but I appreciate the challenge. For challenges trigger growth.

Thinking further, 2018 wasn’t all bad.

It began with an unforgettable, last (for now) spring in Zurich, surrounded by the best circle of friends and colleagues anyone could hope for.

During these last few months in Europe, I had the privilege to be invited to give presentations as an inspirational speaker in Paris, Zurich, and Berlin. My dad attended one of those presentations. In an impulsive moment of passion I’ll never regret, I thanked him for all he has done for me in front of the entire audience, and let him know how much I love and appreciate him.

In June 2018, I moved back to Macau, rediscovering this tiny Southeast Asian alcove with fresh, loving eyes.

Throughout the year, I experienced extraordinary kindnesses, thoughtfulness, and loving support from my precious circle of friends around the world.

I am hopeful concerning the days ahead. There are so many places still to be seen, adventures to be experienced, creative projects to be realized. So bring it on 2019. I’ll tackle you with as much lightness of being and positive energy as I can muster.

At Hong Kong University

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On 16th of November, I experienced a different kind of speaking engagement. A friend of mine invited me to be a guest lecturer during one of her classes at Hong Kong university. I was delighted to have the privilege to listen to her presentation on cross cultural communication in the event industry. Then even more delighted to be able to share some of my international experiences in a variety of different industries with her students. Everyone was highly engaged and curious. And, I was reminded of how much I love and miss teaching.
There is a special kind of satisfaction in sharing and helping others grow.

The Power of Music

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Ever since watching Bohemian Rhapsody the other week, I’ve been thinking about the power of music. Music has such a fundamental emotional impact on all of us. It brings people together. It touches us deeply, it reawakens memories, it energizes our very souls. In a stadium and concert hall, music briefly unites everyone present in a profound way no other art form can achieve. We experience together, letting go of all our differences, simply enjoying the beat pulsing through our bodies and minds. We live in the moment while all else fades into the background where it belongs.
Bohemian Rhapsody also reminded me of an old friend who many years ago introduced me to the music of Queen. My friend’s name was Peter. He and I met at the CD store where he worked. Peter was shy, awkward, and introverted. He looked a bit like a paler and ganglier version of Freddy Mercury, protruding teeth included. Peter was obsessed with Queen. He had all their albums and would make tapes with selected play lists for me every chance he got. He would come over to my place, bring his latest compilation, and we would spend whole afternoons listening to Peter’s favourites together. During these music-filled moments in time, his eyes would light up, his posture would straighten, and his shoulders would relax. His smile would cease being self-conscious but would rather become radiant and open. For Peter, his favourite songs were his salvation, his bridge to the world. He was a champion, indeed.

(Photo by Valentino Funghi on Unsplash)

What Would An Ocean Be…

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“What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.” ― Werner Herzog

I decided to use this beautiful metaphoric description of life as an epigraph for my book Paralian.
There is no light without darkness, no life without struggles, no path without challenges.
The monster lurking in the dark is as essential as the air we breathe. How else will we grow, and become more understanding and compassionate towards our own imperfections as well as towards the beautiful imperfections of the people around us? How else will we learn to understand that beauty and imperfection are the same thing?

The Silver Box

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Two weeks ago, Macau was hit by Typhoon Mangkhut. It was a turbulent day with wind speeds matching those of a decent, medium-sized car on a German highway. The village where we live was flooded and, consequently, things moved. Sofas, old chairs, trees, and various types of heavy debris meandered to and fro. The ocean took over the streets, creating surge and currents where usually tourists would amble along, brandishing selfie sticks and nibbling on Portugese egg tarts.

This year, the damage wasn’t as bad as had been expected. Soon all the debris and mud were cleaned away. Only a couple of broken trees remind of what happened.

And the big, shiny, silver box.

A recycling receptacle.

Standing askew in the middle of our romantic roundabout.

It was there before, but a few meters to the left, just in front of the bushes. I’ve been watching this box closely. Every other day, when I throw away the garbage, I wonder if I should just grab the thing and move it myself. Admittedly, I’ve even tried. But it’s too heavy to move for one person.

Sitting at my desk, writing, I catch myself staring out the window, eyeing the silver box.

Each time a city worker walks past I think, “Yes, yes, you must see this, right? This big silver recycling container, standing askew, crying out for you to move it?”

The workers are not even glancing at it as they walk past.

The front doors of the recycling box are busted now. Pet bottles, plastic, and glass have started to spill out. The silver garbage monster is regurgitating what it was forced to digest.

Each day, around 2pm, the garbage disposal truck arrives. A group of workers start picking up cardboard and garbage bags. There I am again, cheering them on in my mind, thinking, “Yes, yes, look right ahead of you. Yup, now a little bit to your right. The big silver thing you almost ran into.”

Nope… off they go, oblivious.

Two city workers came to clean up yesterday afternoon. They swiped a little around the Ying and Yang symbol on the floor, threw most of the garbage into the bushes, then sat down to rest. They leaned against the silver box, a couple of old pet bottles rolling around between their legs.

I looked out the window, more hopeful than ever, “Yes! you must notice those bottles between your legs. Maybe you’ll turn around and notice the doors to the box are busted. Then, maybe, it’ll click and you’ll realize the flood has pushed this ugly contraption away from its original position.”

But all my attempts at mind control failed yet again. The workers lit a cigarette, chatted for a while, then flicked their cigarette butts in a high arc over the silver box, got up, and walked away.

I still feel the urge to go down there and push with all my might.

Instead, I’ve now decided to exercise self-control and rather wager on how long it will take until someone moves or removes the silver box. Considering it’s been 14 days already… I’m thinking it’ll take at least 6 months. Great training for me to let things go. Ohhhhhmmmmmmmmm.

Behind These Walls

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For four years, I entered this concrete fortress almost every day. What looks like an oppressive Orwellian government building is in fact the Dragone theater in Macau. A visionary creative endeavor was realized here: The House of Dancing Water. It truly is a show like no other. A fairy tale that rises from below the surface. Magic for ninety minutes. Until the princess and her lover disappear into the stygian depths, leaving the audience with a whiff of chlorine and a brief hope for a better tomorrow.

I experienced the creation of this masterpiece in 2010 and left after three years of operation in 2013. The larger-than-life show is still running strong. For me, this building holds a myriad of memories… good and bad. I believe this is where I so far experienced the steepest learning curve. I loved diving through the aquatic depths, loved working with an amazing, international team backstage. Five million gallons of water are hidden behind these walls. Whilst the audience revels in the mysteriousness of the theatrical spectacle unfolding before them, this body of water also holds surprises, drama, friendship, heart, passion, dreams, disappointment, and corporate politics. Whenever a large group of individuals unites forces to work towards a common goal, there is plenty of ambivalence. Nothing is ever perfect. Yet, looking back, I don’t regret a single minute.