Category Archives: Friendship

Stormy Skies

Yesterday evening the sky turned into this, my weather app giving us severe rain storm and lightning warnings. So we legged it to Balsthal in Canton Solothurn where we took shelter in a cozy old hotel. We are staying here today. The sky still looks pretty much the same with occassional showers. Good chance to rest our legs, treat our blisters, and I bought new boots (but that’s a story for another day)

Compeeds

Yesterday, we came through beautiful landscapes. However, we gave it a rest after half a day to sort through our baggage to see if we can leave a bit more behind. When that was done we went to a pharmacy and bought some more Compeeds. Good to make use of civilization while we’re still so close to it. Today we’re heading out on the trail again. Seems it’ll be the last sunny day before rain will hit this region…

Enveloped

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Dreaming of my days traveling and exploring the oceans. Like here in Palau, getting ready to submerge for a night dive with one of my best friends. Underwater, you are profoundly yourself. You rely on your skills, on the integrity of your mind. There are no doubts. There is only peace and focus. Your buddy and you are side by side, enveloped by the sea. Trusting each other. Living intensely in the moment. Together.

Couches

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I’m having a tough time today.

Last year in October, I lost my home. How I miss my beautiful, quiet little sanctuary with a view of the ocean, warmth, sun-flooded rooms, a gorgeous rooftop beneath the stars, and a charming neighborhood. I miss the sweet smell of egg tarts wafting through open windows in the early morning. I miss spending tropical nights with friends and a glass of wine on the rooftop. I miss buying fresh vegetables underneath old, sun-battered tarps. I miss the old lady who sold groceries from her living room around the corner… She was always deeply asleep on her couch making shopping a bit of a gamble. I miss the Chinese cafés with breakfasts of cup noodles and beaten coffee. And I miss heading out into the picturesque village and the hills beyond.

I had found a rare gem. It was exactly what I had searched for all my life and, each time I moved back into town for work, I was lucky to be able to rent it again (thanks to great friends and agents). Three times lucky as a matter of fact. I loved inhabiting this space on my own at first and, later on, adored sharing it with my partner and soulmate. It was a real home… filled with memories, color, music, creativity, happiness, laughter, sadness… and hope. Safe yet open to the world.

Ever since I had to leave, I’ve lived out of my suitcase and camped on borrowed couches. And no, these are not places to relax in and find some treasured alone time on.

Even the cabin I inhabited on the cruise ship I worked on these past few months was just a temporary space where I allowed my exhausted body to collapse at night. There was no peace or privacy.

I know, I am fortunate to have friends and my dad who let me live on their couches. The longer I stay, the more they sacrifice their own personal space as well. I am aware of that and I am grateful for their help. No matter how great their hospitality though, I long to get away. I long to be able to have a little harbor of my own again. A harbor, which I can sail into, feel relaxed in, and close the door to. I love being a nomad, but I’ve always found a place to retreat to wherever I was for however long; a place I loved coming home to, where I could breathe, ponder the day, and recharge my batteries…

Now, floating on couches, the only place I can rest in is myself. And, as important as this may be, I miss the physical presence of a harbor more than I dare admit to myself.

I am lonely, too.

But loneliness doesn’t bother me quite as much. I am comfortable in my own company just as much as I am with a person whom I love and enjoy spending time and sharing space with.

No, essentially, it’s the homelessness that gets to me most…

With freedom of movement in the world reduced to a fraction of what it was only a few weeks ago, there is no telling when I’ll be able to get back to my treasured expat life, no telling when I’ll be able to get back to working backstage, no telling when I’ll finally have my own bed again… (even if this will be in hotel rooms… any place really where I can be myself, openly and unguardedly).

I am doing my best not to dwell. I am doing my best to overcome, let go, and be grateful for what I have. I spend quality time with my dad, cook for us and, as we are getting into a temporary rhythm between two couches and a kitchen, share breakfasts and dinners with him in his one-bedroom apartment.
I fill my quasi-alone time cuddling with cats, learning, reading, writing, and binge-watching TV series on my dad’s exposed, cream-colored, white leather couch. Countering my lack of privacy with an invisible border I create with my earphones… There is a lot to enjoy and it’s a pretty couch.

Yet the homelessness remains…

Isolation with Dad, Cat, and the Fish

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It’s the end of March 2020.
A slightly ruffled, disoriented “hello” from myself and Bocelli, my dad’s ever-meowing cat who isn’t quite sure how he feels about me invading their space…

How are you all?

I haven’t written much in this blog since last December…
As stage and production manager on one of the largest cruise ships in the Caribbean, life as I knew it was put on hold. I worked non-stop, 7 days a week, 15 hours per day. I would get up early in the morning when, without fail, my phone would begin ringing… Then, after each relentless day, I would go to bed to the sound of said phone still ringing… Until I would pass out, exhausted, dreaming a fitful sleep, still working and solving backstage emergencies in my dreams. Relentless is the best word I can come up with to describe my experience managing a large, high-risk venue on an even larger ship. Other words that come to mind are growth and stamina.  And, thankfully, persevering, managing, learning, staying true to myself, and staying kind.

The absorption in our daily work onboard was complete. My colleagues and I heard about what went on in the world through word-of-mouth only. Or, sometimes, we managed to read about it when our anemic internet had one of its rare little bursts of energy and actually loaded an article or a post for us. Although we came back to sunny Florida once a week every Sunday since beginning of this year, Earth with all its viruses seemed a million miles away.

Mid-March, our ship headed for Miami, debarking the last of our passengers to cease operations in accordance with the entire fleet. Our stately vessel was then bound to sail into isolation on the open seas – with almost all crew remaining onboard.

I decided to leave. Maybe, I had seen too many disaster movies. But my instincts screamed at me to keep moving… that being locked down on a ship at close quarters with thousands of other people was far more dangerous than to grab my bag and make my way across borders and continents back to my father’s home.

I had to go. To be there for my dad, in case he needed me. And to ride this pandemic out somewhere… not alone… but together with someone for whom I profoundly matter – and who matters to me.

My trip home, from the Southern US to the South of Germany, began on 15th of March. It became a 3-day odyssey and quite the challenge…
Flights were cancelled left and right. Borders were closing all around me, faster than I could blink. My window of opportunity to make it back safely shrank before my eyes.

Most of my cruise ship colleagues decided to stay onboard. They sailed towards the Bahamas. To drop anchor close by. They sanitized, cleaned, and partied together. There was no physical distancing. They assumed to be safe. They waited for the world beyond the blue horizon to find its way back to some kind of new normalcy. Which is when they planned to dock in Miami yet again to reenter a land-based existence…

Meanwhile, I squeezed through all rapidly closing gates and borders. Yet on the way, I shared close quarters with thousands of people on airplanes and in the airports of New York, London, and Zurich. Now, with daily rising numbers of infected people worldwide, I would not dare to tackle this three-day journey anymore. Far too much risk of infection. At this point in time, it has simply become too great a hazard to travel so far.

It seems, I left just in time.

Even so, I was terrified upon my arrival in Germany. My dad’s loving hug, which usually feels so good, made me quiver inside. Had I endangered him by trying to do the right thing? After the initial closeness, I tried to distance myself physically from him as best as possible in his small apartment…
I have now been at his place for 15 days. I’ve counted the minutes, the hours. And, I was glad, yesterday, to finally get to that magical 14-day-incubation-time mark with both of us – as of yet – still healthy.

But there is the ship. My co-workers and friends. Who worked and partied with vigor during the past two weeks out at sea. And for whom safety was an illusion.

Three days ago, I heard 14 people onboard our floating palace were infected with Covid-19. Yesterday, the count had already risen to 51 people. I am terrified and worried for my colleagues and hope with all my heart that this is it… not, how I fear, just the tip of the iceberg. 1’600 crew are still onboard. I can’t stop thinking about them. Trapped on the ship. I hope they will beat the virus. I hope their immune systems haven’t been compromised too much by months of working hard with barely a pause.

Here I am now, being stared at by Bocelli, my dad’s tone-deaf-opera-singer cat. I am grateful for my little harbor of momentary safety, at the border between Germany and Switzerland, amidst green fields and forests. I am, however, well aware that, just as on the ship, safety in the face of an – as of yet – undefeated, invisible enemy is an illusion.

For now, in self-isolation like most other human beings on our planet, I have way too much time to think on my hands. I endeavor to use this gift of time wisely. I want to rest, but also be creative. I want to write. I will write. Our world has shrunk so much so fast. Yet, through our creativity, with the aid of the Internet, there still are no boundaries. We can still let our minds soar. Writers like me can send their words out to ride fiber currents…

I am thinking of my friends and family around the world. More than ever before, I know there is nothing more important than the human connections we build throughout our lifetimes. I can’t wait to be able to travel again to do what I love most: hug and squeeze the people I care about, touch base with them every so often, share experiences, ideas, and thoughts.

No matter what’s out there, and no matter what happens to each of us in the months to come… as always, friendship, love, kindness, creativity, and hope will help us overcome it all… even when we have an annoyed, territorial cat glaring at us.

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.

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.

Lost in Space

2018 lost in space (j-w-675142-unsplash)

I love good storytelling – be it poetry, fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, movies, TV series, visual arts, or any other type of creative expression. For the most part, stories engage me when they are about being human, about compassion and about overcoming our shortcomings and challenges.

The other month, I watched the (rather kitschy) new ‘Lost in Space’ series. All of a sudden, in the midst of space oddities and other adventures, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson found themselves alone in an emergency where it seemed only one of them could survive. They had quarrelled for years because she had been disappointed with him and he had made the mistake of not being there for his family as much as he should have. Now, they had to make a quick decision so at least one of them could get out of their current predicament. She was going to use the only space suit they had to get out of some toxic goo their vehicle had sunk into… and he would remain behind and either suffocate or get swallowed up by said nasty goo. Mr. Robinson helped Mrs. Robinson suit up, ready to sacrifice himself, when all of a sudden Mrs. Robinson held him close, looked him straight in the eye, and said, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time being angry at you.” It was just another, slightly over-dramatic TV moment. Yet, at the same time, it was so much more. It was a moment of profound wisdom.

We don’t always do the right thing when we are in a relationship. Especially in intimate relationships that last a long time… Without ever intending to, we make mistakes, we hurt each other, we are clumsy, we don’t listen well enough, we don’t spend enough time with each other, and we betray one another. So much can happen, because there is no recipe for life, we often find ourselves lost (in space), and emotions are not always predictable or controllable.

So, when the goo hits the proverbial fan, let’s think of the Robinson’s space slime and of what really matters. Family does. Friendship. Love. And forgiveness. No one will ever be perfect… And when two souls connect on a deeper level of understanding, it is something immensely precious, not to be taken lightly or given up easily.

(Photo by J W on Unsplash)

Thin Mattress With a View

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Time has been racing like a bullet train this month. Dissolving the rest of our household… cancelling all kinds of things like cable, phone, etc. etc. etc. … and multiple breakfasts, brunches, lunches, and dinners with friends and colleagues to catch up one more time before the big move.
Now, I am sitting in front of our large windows, enjoying the view over Zurich, the lake, and the Alps just one more time.
This also marks the end of three weeks sleeping on this rather thin and uncomfortable foam mattress. My bones and joints are looking forward to spending the next four nights on a friend’s couch. Just one more week of organization and goodbyes… then I’ll be off to join my family in Macao (and I’ll probably collapse on the bed and sleep for a month).

Blast from the Past

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Ahhh, this was 2007. I just received this picture a few days ago from my good friend Valerie, whose birthday we were celebrating that day. What a wonderful blast from the past. We all lived together on Kuredu Island in the Maldives, spending most of our time in the Indian Ocean either guiding or teaching scuba divers. I learned a lot then. About living closely together with a whole bunch of other people and accepting them just as they are… about life… about staying calm in emergencies… about enjoying the moment… about being there for each other no matter what… and about every little critter underneath those turquoise waves. These are friends and life lessons I will cherish forever.