Category Archives: Memoirs

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

Marvelling At Moments

2018 human chandelier 5

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…

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

Review for Paralian

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Hello 😊 Shout-out to all of you, who have read my book ‘Paralian’. If you haven’t done so already, can you be so kind and write a little review for it? Even if it’s just one word? Like a thought shared with buddies around a camp fire, books live on and grow through word-of-mouth.
If you search for either ‘Liam Klenk’ or ‘Paralian’ on any Amazon page, you’ll find my book immediately. Scrolling down, you’ll find a link where you can add a review.
And/or you can write a review for it here on Goodreads.
The more the merrier. Cheers! Much appreciated!

Cultural Deer

2013 banff interview

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.

Simple Pleasures

village summer day liam

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!