I often fondly remember working as a diving instructor in the Maldives. Four years of living and working on a small island with individuals from all corners of the globe, in closest quarters, with hardly any privacy.
Teaching students who are sometimes terrified of the element they are about to enter.
Learning a whole new level of social competence, acceptance, and problem solving amongst my colleagues and friends.
Finding moments of peace within my daily responsibilities.
The odd cheese fondue in front of my room was a rare highlight of relaxation… enveloping my staff accommodation neighbours in wave after wave of strong Appenzeller and Gruyere scents.
Now, as a stage manager, I have exchanged the magical deep blue sea with the also magical deep black backstage.
In many ways, it’s just another island.
And, thankfully, learning and growth always continue…
In 2013, I was able to spend a couple months at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. I’ll never forget my time there. On my daily walk up the mountain from home to the theatre, the cold, fresh air did not only clear my lungs but also my mind. Each time I stepped outside through stage door, I would bump into deer, casually sifting through the underbrush surrounding the centre. Who knows, maybe this was just the deers’ way of sneaking in to graze on a bit of culture without paying for a ticket?
Stepping back into the building, I had the privilege to observe a myriad of cultural events backstage. Entertainment professionals generously shared their experiences with me. I learned heaps about theatre management and marvelled at the strong sense of collaboration I found at the Banff Centre. Some day, I need to return there. They offer residencies for writers and I imagine finishing one of my future creations surrounded by brisk mountain air, in one of my favourite places on Earth.
As I get older, I remind myself to not forget the simple pleasures which made my heart beat faster when I was a kid. Sweet, sticky ice cream dissolving on my tongue and brain freeze on a hot summer’s day… Sitting in the shade of a tree, day dreaming and escaping the sizzling afternoon heat… Balancing on that wall along the water’s edge, gazing out over the blue, sparkling water surface towards the horizon… Simple pleasures, but oh so satisfying!
It’s been just three days since I last went through stage door at the Studio City arena in Macau. And I miss being backstage already. Eleven months ago, our show moved into this performance space. Walking into the arena now, you’ll never even know we were there. Yet the time in between was filled with energy, dedication, passion, dreams, intense growth, good days, bad days, misunderstandings, conflicts, good humor, kindness, compassion, joy, and laughter. There’s nothing quite like working with a show family. I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by UBS Hong Kong to give a presentation about my life journey. It was my first ever speaking engagement in Hong Kong. The audience was wonderful. Curious, openminded, and not shy to bombard me with questions after the talk. Standing in the conference room on the 56th floor of the IFC tower, dramatic clouds piling up across the horizon, I was happy to be alive… and grateful to be given the chance to make a little difference.
Here is a little artwork from a few years back. I had lots of water on my mind back then. Based largely on many years spent in the ocean in the Maldives, as well as working underwater at ‘The House of Dancing Water’ show in Macau. I didn’t like Macau much. I loved my work, but I didn’t fully understand where I belonged. When I left after four years, I thought I’d never come back. Then, five years later, I did come back and surprised myself with how comfortable I felt in this quirky little casino town the second time around.
Looking back, I can only guess that, when I first arrived, there was too much turbulence around and inside of me. It was hard to see the ocean for the waves. With time and distance came perspective and, amazingly, maturity.
So, here I am again, immersing myself once more in the unique expat life of Macau… and treasuring every minute of it. Backstage, I have found where I belong. I understand myself as well as the nature of the waves around me so much better now. I am glad and grateful I came back. I feel home.
It’s always been my dream to live right next to the deep blue sea. There is something healing about gazing at the water’s surface, and something exciting about hearing the waves break when they arrive at the beach after their long journey across the sea… Currently at least part of my dream has come true. In this cozy little village, we’re indeed overlooking the ocean. Since it’s a river delta there is no surf and the water is muddy brown. But it’s a great start and I’m deeply grateful.