“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?
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.
In April 2010, I put this Buddha on the rooftop overlooking the small communal terrace of our apartment building here in Macau. I remember sweating buckets, my arms feeling as if they were being ripped from my torso, and silently wondering what on Earth had possessed me to volunteer to help my landlord wrestle the almost 70 kg heavy statue to the very top of the building. In the end, I was a bit proud of myself. Now, 8 years later, he still looks so comfortable. Keeping watch over the village, he silently sits there, weathers scorching afternoons and powerful typhoons. Never wavering. Always greeting us with a smile when we come up for a bit of fresh air or a sip of wine.
Beginning of this week, I was supposed to start work for a new show. However, immigration allowed fewer foreigners to work for this spectacle than expected… so my search for a backstage job in Macau continues…
Being upstairs on this beautiful terrace at sunset, I am not too sad. I smile back at Buddha, feeling energetic and ready to get back to writing full time on my second book. There is so much to do. I’ll work hard on my own projects while keeping an eye out for any opportunities that might come along. It’s a bit scary sometimes, not exactly knowing what the next months will bring… but it’s also exhilarating to take life one step at a time and try to make the most of it.
This picture was taken in 2005, right after I arrived in the Maldives. I stayed and worked there for four years. When I was ready for new adventures, I left…
I am grateful for all experiences I’ve had since. However, to this day, I treasure every minute I spent in the Indian Ocean as a dive guide and instructor. I always will. I found myself back then, found a healthy sense of self and understood that it was ok to be exactly the flawed, slightly clumsy, and beautiful human being I am. A large part of my heart will forever remain linked with the ocean. I miss it on every single day I can’t immerse myself in the deep blue or the shimmering turquoise of a sandy, tropical lagoon. In the sea, especially underwater, is where I am complete and at peace.
After three months in Macau, we just moved and – it’s almost too good to comprehend – are right back in the apartment where I used to live. Amazingly, when we moved in, even my old desk was still here!!! This is the view from said desk… on which I already wrote so many papers, notes, and drafts. Well, here goes for round two!
Again, it’s been a busy month. In true Macau fashion, wonderful and exasperating things happened all at the same time. Through unbelievable luck and the kindness of my real estate agent, I was able to get the apartment back I had rented here until 2013. However, it took a few weeks and several hurdles to get back into paradise. The contractors messed up a floor they were supposed to renovate. At the same time, the apartment we were in the process of vacating had already been rented out. This left my wife, our three cats, our small pile of possessions, and me stranded without a home for a week. In the end, it all worked out somehow. And now we’re here, in Coloane village. The cozy apartment has lost nothing of its charm. It is still as tranquil as ever. Overlooking a small arm of the Pearl River Delta where, centuries ago, pirates used to anchor, it is the perfect hideaway for the five of us to recharge our batteries and be inspired.
The other week, I went back to our old house on Lamma Island in Hong Kong. Here is where it all began. This was our garden… and behind those windows on the ground floor was our orange-coloured living room… featuring a small table on which I wrote Paralian. One of the happiest years of my life!