Category Archives: Memoirs

Discovering the Ocean

2017 at devils tear lembongan

“During my early years, we would go to the North Sea every summer for a long family holiday. I was enchanted from the first moment I laid eyes on the dark blue endlessness. My senses were alert and I felt intensely alive. Nowhere else had I felt so invigorated. Every cell of my small body tried to absorb as much of the beauty around me as it possibly could. I breathed deeply, tasting and smelling the salty air. It seemed to be dense and alive with the power of the ocean.

The sand dunes rolled softly under my feet, making me feel rested and at home. Rabbits bounded around the tall dunes, sea gulls screamed and fiercely defended their territories. Sometimes, when we stumbled unawares into a nesting ground, we had to fend off the enraged birds by wildly swinging our umbrellas. Hildegard would be terrified, Konrad, amused, and I, delighted at the sight of these huge birds as well as the exhilarating sense of adventure. At low tide, we hiked far out into the mud flats, my young soul inquisitive about every tiny worm and crab we encountered. The mud flats felt like frozen velvet, for the North Sea water temperatures were cold even during the warmest months of the year.

Discovering the ocean changed my young life. I threw myself into the cold churning waves, balloon-like arm floats encircling my tiny arms. Goose bumps quickly covered my entire body as I savored the taste and the sensation of a living entity enveloping my body. My soul felt rested and at home while at the same time sensing danger and fragility. Whatever might happen to me in the years to come, I would always draw solace and strength from the ocean. I had discovered the love of my life.”

(Excerpt from Paralian, Chapter 3 “North Sea”)

http://www.liamklenk.com/books/

Hello Mr. Kleng

2017 in ubuds ricefields

Bali has always been one of my favorite destinations. Especially Lembongan took my heart by storm when I first visited in 2007 and it has enchanted me ever since.

Last month, I was on my way there again for my 5th visit. After landing in Denpasar, my wife and I, Mr. and Mrs. Klenk, together with two friends, drove straight to Sanur where we stayed the night. The next morning, a driver from the speedboat company picked us up.

He introduced himself with a beaming smile, “Good morning! My name is Gede. You’re going to Lembongan today? I’m here to bring you to the speedboat.”

He then addressed me directly, “Are you Mr. Kleng?”

It was a slightly different pronunciation. The softer “g” at the end felt exotic and gentle compared to the strict “k” people would apply in Europe. Otherwise, it definitely still sounded exactly like my name. I nodded and smiled, “Yes, that’s me.”

Something like a mad sparkle passed through Gede’s eyes for just an instant. The sides of his mouth twitched. Then he said, calmly, “Great, let’s go. The boat is waiting.”

The four of us hopped into the van. Only about a minute had passed when I could hear what sounded like barely repressed giggles or crying coming from the man in the driver’s seat. “You’re really Mr. Kleng?” he asked once more.

“Yes, I am.” I assured him patiently.

Whereupon he began chuckling and laughing uncontrollably. I was amused and getting curious as to what I might have done to set him off like this. After a while he calmed down enough to ask, “Has anyone ever told you what your name means in Balinese language?”

“No”, I said, “This is my 5th time in Bali but no one has ever said anything. What does it mean?”

“Are you sure you want to know? You won’t get angry, right?”

“No of course not. Tell me. I am really curious now.” I said with a smile.

“In Balinese, a Kleng is a bastard, a shit, a dog head. So in our language you are Mr. Bastard.” And off he went again, dissolving in laughter. “I guess nobody dared tell you so far. But I am sure they thought it was hilarious, too, hahahahahaha.”
“Mr. Kleng,” he added again for good measure.

We all looked at each other and burst out laughing. “Seems like I need to have a serious talk with my parents when I get home,” I said, “What were they thinking?”

We all roared with laughter. Then my wife said, “And I am Mrs. Kleng!” which got us all bent over double, gasping for breath, the entire van now surely vibrating from our chuckles and howling laughter.

After a few minutes we fell back exhausted. Then one of our friends became all thoughtful, “Hmmm… and when you have children… you’ll have little Klengs.”

This set us off even harder than before. Five people, barely able to catch their breaths anymore. Eyes sparkling. Our entire bodies aching from the prolonged laughter.

By the time we reached the speedboat office we could barely speak. We stumbled out of the van, weak in the knees, still giggling, gurgling, and chuckling like a chorus of Mad Hatters.

Gede led us into the office, took a deep breath and said to his colleagues, “This is Mr. Kleng and company.”

The lady behind the counter stayed remarkably neutral. “Yes Sir, over here, I’ll issue your speedboat tickets. Thank you.” Her colleagues fared less well and were desperately trying to hide their good-natured, spreading smiles behind the palms of their hands.

Half an hour later, Gede and I shook hands. “All the best my friend,” I said. “It was a fun ride. Take care.”

“Goodbye Mr. Kleng,” he answered, a big grin immediately spreading over his entire face again. “It was a pleasure driving you, your friends, and Mrs. Kleng this morning.”

He turned and walked away. As I looked after him I saw his shoulders were shaking, and even through the deafening noise of on- and off-boarding passengers I could still hear him giggling until he turned the corner of the speedboat office building.

Now that we knew, it was fun to watch people at diving center and guesthouse receptions when we signed in. We made a point of introducing ourselves by name. “Hello, we are Mr. and Mrs. Kleng. Can you help us please?” Each time, the clerk behind the counter managed to put a hand in front of his or her mouth just in time to hide the spreading grins they were barely able to contain.

Now we are back in Zurich. But watch out Bali. The Klengs will be back!

Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass

Here is one of the articles I wrote for TheatreArtLife so far.
It is about discovering the magic backstage and re-claiming my muchness.
If you like this one also check out the other four articles from my contributor page. I am looking forward to writing more for this exciting new platform over the next few months and years. At the same time, I am also using every morning commute and lunch break to continue bringing the 1st draft of my second book to life…

Shuffle Those Cards and Start a New Game

2008 liam and milo

The other week, when giving a presentation about my life journey, someone asked, “Why did you go and work in, for example, muslim countries, and travel worldwide to places where, as a transgender person, you were often potentially in danger of becoming the victim of a hate crime?”

The answer to this is really quite simple: “Why not?”

First and foremost, I am a human being who loves life and values his freedom. I greatly enjoy traveling all over the globe. I don’t think about being trans all the time. It doesn’t factor into what my next move will be. Rather, I look at a map and ponder which corners of our gorgeous planet I’d like to see next, where the best dive sites, the best wildlife encounters, the most beautiful landscapes are, and which points on my bucket list I want to tackle next.

I love connecting with people along the way, no matter what their background. The more diverse the better. There is so much we can learn from each other. And good people can be found anywhere. Going on an adventure together (like here in Palau with one of my best friends), or enjoying a cold beer with a couple of like-minded souls on a hot summer evening, chatting about our experiences, thoughts and dreams, is as close to heaven as I can imagine.

Nothing and nowhere is ever completely safe for anyone. No matter what we do or who we are. So why should any of us let ourselves be limited by the cards we’ve been given? Why not take charge, shuffle those cards, and start a new game? I’ve always looked ahead and tried to make the best of things. I’ll follow my heart and I’ll give it a go. Depending on where I am, I will exercise a healthy bit of caution as well, but I don’t see any reason why I should put limits to my existence. Author Helen Keller who overcame great adversity spoke straight from my heart: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

On The Road

chris gobine

Ever since Paralian was published, readers have sent me photos of themselves with the book. These pics have come in from all over the world and have always made my day (thanks everyone!). Here just one awesome example from Chris Gobine who is currently taking Paralian on a trip around the world and stopped for one of his reading breaks along the coast of New Zealand (wish I could join him in person instead of just in spirit and featured on the cover.)
What better place to read Paralian than on the road, along one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines?

Paralian has won a 2nd Literary Award

2016 New Apple Book Awards

Paralian just won its 2nd literary award: the New Apple Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing!
http://www.newappleliterary.com/2016Aw…/2016awardsCat38.html
I’m immensely grateful for this surprising honour. And, it lifts my spirits to see Paralian understood for the inspiring tour de force that it is. Thanks to the New Apple Awards team and thanks to all of you out there who are seeking for new, unique voices.

Writers Resist

Beginning of this year, ‘Writers Resist’ events were held all over the world. These readings were to remind ourselves of the importance of human rights, freedom of speech, and mutual respect.
Here in Zurich, on a mid-January evening, we spoke up as well, reading from many different works of literature (including our own) in front of a sincere, spell-bound audience. I’m glad I was able to do my part. Because, as I pointed out in this article by JJ Marsh in ‘The Woolf’: “Kindness, compassion, and freedom of mind are key to our existence.”

writersresist