A new decade, a new year

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Here we are. A new decade, a new year… 

I am finding myself surrounded by the deep blue sea once more. Amazing how life keeps bringing me back to be either on, at, in, or under water. Ultimately, it is where my soul feels the most at home. 

2019 was the worst year of my life so far. I am eternally grateful to let it go and move on. But, as always in times of major trials, 2019 was also one of my best years to date. I learned, I grew, and I was reminded of the deep well of strength, positivity, and passion within me. I was reminded of my capacity to love. And, I was reminded of the massive importance of empathy and compassion. More than ever before, I learned to believe in myself and trust myself. I am happy to be alive. 

Speaking of trust: I received so much loving support from my dear friends around the globe. No matter how much we rest in ourselves, it’s the human connections and caring for each other that make life truly worth living. I am in awe of the wonderful people in my life. Thanks for being there.

2020 is off to a good start. I am managing the beautiful aqua amphitheater on the Oasis of the Seas. I am lucky to work with a great cast and crew and am enjoying every minute we create, and laugh together. Whilst this massive cruise ship brings us from one Caribbean destination to the next, we perform our beautiful show, called Aqua80. It’s a little masterpiece we can be proud of. Driven by 80ies music, it is brimming with great performances, good energy, and soul.

As I am navigating this new challenge, I am keeping an open mind. I don’t know how long I will be here. I don’t know yet if cruise ship life is really for me. What I do know is that I love my job as stage and production manager. And I love seeing the ocean just beyond our theater… a constant reminder of how far the horizons reach. I’ll keep an open mind… about everything… and I’ll see where the universe will take me.

Don’t Wear That Hat

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My latest article on TheatreArtLife. The wondrous world of theatre superstitions and how they came about. Read the article here.

My second book is still in the works as well, just in case you were wondering. I know I am painfully slow. Bear with me. It’ll be out there within the next couple years! A work of fiction this time (based on true events).

Nanala

2019 cargo container and blue sky

Last week, a friend of mine introduced me to a refugee from Pakistan (to protect her privacy, let’s call her Nanala). We had an unforgettable dinner together.
From the first moment onwards, Nanala struck me as a self-confident, warm-hearted woman. After a while she began sharing parts of her life journey.

Eleven years ago, soldiers had broken down the door of Nanala’s home in Pakistan. They had shot and killed her husband and two of her four children in front of her eyes.
Nanala had managed to escape with her remaining two children. She had gathered a small part of their belongings and managed to get passage on a ship bound for Europe.
Together with four other families, Nanala and her children spent almost two weeks locked inside a container. They had a small supply of dried food, fruits, and water, and some flashlights. Other than that, only a couple of small, round holes in the sides of the container brought a bit of illumination from the outside. Days began to blend into each other. The journey felt endless, the walls were closing in… but, finally, the container ship arrived in a harbor in Greece.

After months of surviving in a refugee camp on a small island, Nanala and her children were transferred to Zurich, Switzerland. There, they lived for many years in yet another refugee camp. Nanala took any job the Swiss authorities allowed her to have, to be able to provide for her family. Her children went to school and adapted well to their new Swiss home.
Nanala had never attended school. She had never learned how to study. When she asked her children to help and teach her, they said, “We are busy with our own lives, Mom. We don’t have time.”
Nanala was only ever hired on an hourly basis. Each time, she was promised that after a year she would be given a contract. She worked hard. Studied. Learned German. But each time, the promise would be broken and she would be let go.
Each time hope reared its head, it was smacked hard again with a whip. Yet, Nanala kept getting back up on her feet. She never gave up.

Nanala’s daughter graduated high school and found an apprenticeship as a dental nurse. During her studies, she began to distance herself more and more from her mother. She never helped financially. After three years, her apprenticeship was over and she found a good job. At the same time, she was given the Swiss passport. From this moment on, she became very hostile towards her mother and pushed her away ever harder. She was ashamed of her mother who had still not been given a resident permit. She didn’t want to be seen as the daughter of a refugee.
Nanala’s daughter even began influencing her younger brother against his mom. He will finish high school soon, and Nanala is afraid. What if he abandons her, too? If he does, she will lose the rest of her family. She will also lose the social housing they have been given by the government.

Nanala has been assigned a new job. She has started work for a company which makes house calls to elderly people who can’t take care of themselves anymore.
That morning, when Nanala cleaned one older lady’s apartment, a spider fell from the ceiling, landed on her face, and bit her in the cheek. A bright red bruise marked the spot.

What struck me more than anything about Nanala was her capacity to love, her emotional intelligence, her dignity, and her beautiful sense of humor. Even during our chat, she kept raising herself back up and vowed to claim her independence and freedom through further hard work and studies. For her own sake, as well as that of her children, she doesn’t want to depend on them. Or on anyone else for that matter.

Even after all that has happened to her, Nanala wasn’t self-absorbed during our dinner, but present, listening to our stories as well as telling us her own.
She cried when she remembered moments of pain and abandonment. At the same time, she was full of enthusiasm at the thought of being able to help other people in her new profession. Rarely have I seen a stronger, more compassionate human being.

Photo by Victoire Joncheray on Unsplash

Freedom and Independence

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Freedom and independence have always been important to me.

These past few years, I’ve been increasingly reminded of their importance because – additionally to my own constant quest – someone close to my heart has been struggling with claiming her independence after having been imprisoned by religious and societal standards for most of her life.
I remember many conversations we had during which she felt I can’t possibly understand her massive need to manage her life entirely on her own. Her need to be in control of her own destiny without having to answer to other people or institutions. To understand herself and the world around her and conquer it by her own standards.

The thing is… I understand perfectly, because even though our background is different it is also incredibly similar. Instead of being limited by an institution, I was limited by my own body. I too, had been born into an existence which wasn’t mine.

It was dictated by the shape of my biological body, dictated by my – in the truest sense of the word – surroundings. On top of my body not matching my soul, societal standards which didn’t match my soul either, ruled my life.

And even though those around me meant well, I was never free until I realized: I am who I am, not who they think I am.

It took me until I was thirty to have enough life experience and courage to claim my freedom fully, step by step. To say “no” more often to things I had not dared say “no” to before. And to say “yes” to other things I had never before imagined were possible in my life. This picture was taken then, as I was still growing into my own skin. Ever more comfortable with my own existence. But it took another ten years until the age of forty for me to really understand myself, love myself, and rest within myself. That last part is still a work in progress… but getting better all the time.

Personal freedom. Independence. Integrity.
All so very important.

All of us are growing up with a layer of rules, societal standards, opinions, assumptions, and automatisms. Some of those are great. Others are not. We need to carefully, critically examine all of them. Always.

While growing into the adults we now are, I picture us as living in a coat shop and being surrounded by enthusiastic salesmen and saleswomen. All of them want to sell us what they think is the best coat. After a while we end up wearing dozens or even hundreds of coats. We’re wearing them on top of each other and doing our best to fit into all of them. Then, at some point, we realize, “Damn, this is heavy. I can’t move and I can barely stand up straight.”
We realize somewhere along the way, underneath all those coats, we’ve forgotten who we are. We want to stop and breathe, to find the coats which make us feel at home with ourselves. Which are ours. So, inevitably, we’ll start sorting through the ones which have been given to us. And, if we find the courage, we’ll take off the ones which don’t fit. The ones which make us feel restricted and uncomfortable.

Only then can we get back to the core of who we are… re-build ourselves.
With love compassion, and kindness, for ourselves and others.
With ethical considerations as well as our own well-being and happiness in mind.

It’s all about healthy boundaries, and taking care of our own souls, our own lives.

I understand.

Marvelling At Moments

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Since 1991, I’ve lived all over the world. That’s 28 years of being a nomad, an immigrant, a world citizen, an expat.

Presently, I am back in my dad’s little village in Southern Germany. It’s just for 6 weeks, but my home simply doesn’t feel like home anymore. I suspect it never will again. Nothing ever changes here. No matter how many years I stay away, when I come back to visit, people still complain about the same things, cook the same meals, and have the same exact routines and opinions. I am trying to relax and enjoy the peaceful inertia for the little time I am here. Use the time to charge my batteries.

Instead, I feel like suffocating. I miss my international life, miss constant change, miss invigorating conversations with people from all kinds of backgrounds. I miss traveling, miss being close to the deep blue (or in case of Macau deep brown) sea, miss challenges and growth, and miss sharing new experiences with like-minded souls.

Furthermore, I miss the spontaneity of expat life. The random unexpected knock on the door, bumping into people everywhere, unplanned trips, casual dinners, or catching up over a couple glasses of wine. I miss my show family, miss living with my soul mate, miss being surrounded by curiosity, questions, passion, and creativity. I miss late nights on rooftops, gazing up at the stars, and marvelling at moments spent in corners of the world I never thought I’d ever find myself in. I have 4 more weeks here in this picturesque little village before I head out again, but I might have to split that in half by finding a spot close to the ocean somewhere to dive into the unknown…

A Brief History of Cirque du Soleil

If you are interested in stories about theatre shows and the arts, then this might be something for you: I regularly write articles about life in the entertainment arts here on TheatreArtLife.

My latest contribution is perfect for you if you feel like diving headlong into a bit of entertainment history… more specifically: A Brief History of Cirque du Soleil.

It by no means claims to be complete. Rather, I want to take a moment to give a rough overview, to celebrate an entertainment giant which has touched many of our lives throughout its brilliant existence. Simply put, it all began with two men – Guy Laliberte and Gilles Ste-Croix – and their vision.

Ste-Croix jokingly puts it this way: “I always say Guy Laliberte founded Cirque du Soleil, but I founded Guy Laliberte. He’s the father of Cirque. I’m the grandfather.”

Go here to read the full article. Enjoy!

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Picture source: @TheatreArtLife

I Know Nothing

For me, personally, the most amazing thing about my memoir Paralian is that through writing it, I have come to understand better than ever that I know nothing.
Writing Paralian helped me understand my past in ways I had never been capable of understanding it before. Seeing the bigger picture helped connect some of the dots.
However, the last ten years, which I had thought were crystal clear… were really not.
Many things I believed to be true at the time of finishing my book… were not.

Let me just give you a little list of three:

  • Moving back to Zurich after writing Paralian, I thought, “Yay, I’ll finally be home again.” I remembered so well, how much I had thrived and loved living there in the past. But, I soon discovered, I had been gone too long and now felt like a stranger in a place which had once been my sanctuary. No matter how hard I tried to fit back in, I couldn’t get comfortable. I missed the unpredictability and spontaneity of my expat existence.
  • I was sure Macau was a place I’d never return to. But, when my partner was offered a job there 4 years later, I couldn’t wait to get back. Once there again, I surprised myself by actually loving it. It became clear to me that I had been burned out towards the end of my first time there. I had been overwhelmed and not been able “to see the woods for the trees” anymore, or rather, in my case, “the pool for the tanks.” Returning with a tiny bit of added maturity and calmness made all the difference. The air was clear this time around (metaphorically speaking). I felt balanced within, loved working with the locals, and was grateful to get to know them better. I also reconnected on a whole new, healthier level with a place which I now know will always remain a home – the show I used to work for: The House of Dancing Water. I experienced this entertainment entity and show family with fresh new eyes, treasured all the personal growth working there had given me in the past, and appreciated it simply for all it is, and all it is growing into.
  • When leaving Hong Kong five years ago, I was sure I had found where I belong. Romantic to a fault, I felt secure in having found something for forever. Now, I understand that even though I might have found a precious, deep, and unique connection which might last a life-time, I need to be content with the moments I was given. Just that. Without any further expectations. Everything is only temporary. How else will we ever appreciate what we have, while we have it, and learn to understand the nature of happiness? Everything grows and changes. And we are never quite as much on top of it all as we like to think we are.

Life is teaching me. Actually, this year, it feels as if it is screaming at me. I am bumbling along as best I can, hoping not to go deaf with all the ruckus, and hoping not to mess things up too much along the way.

The simple conclusion of everything: to always keep an open and grateful mind.

The surprises will keep on coming. Hindsight (The more “hind” the better, will always bring these late “Aha, now I get it” moments. Thing is, I love the intricate web of human connections I am allowed to experience. I love the strong currents, the winding roads, the steep hills, the curve balls, just as much as I love those rare moments of pure peacefulness and bliss.

2019 i know nothing