Category Archives: Paralian

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!

Mola Mola

2007 mola and diver

Time to jump in and enjoy being in my element for a couple weeks……… hovering in the deep blue, riding the currents, and gliding soundlessly (except for Darth Vader like noises from my regulator) along coral reefs, in search of elusive creatures.

I came face to face with my first Mola Mola in Crystal Bay off of Nusa Lembongan in 2007. After this photo was taken, the large fish swam past us close enough to touch. I looked into its eye which was easily the size of a small plate. What I saw in there had me spellbound for a moment. An abundance of soul, curiosity, kindness, and wisdom, as old as the ages.

So now I’ll be offline for a bit, off to see if I can find this big guy again (or another one of its kind). All the best to all of you! I’ll be resurfacing beginning of May 🙂

Pinocchio

pinochio-and-me

The biggest treasure underwater lies in the shallow depths of the coral reefs. And in the simple joy of softly gliding along weightlessly, being just one more unassuming organism within the endless depths. I love the wild beauty underneath those waves. The myriad shades of turquoise and blue. The diversity of ocean life all around me. Everything, big and small. Most of all the small critters you only see if you dive in slow motion, all your senses tuned to pick up the tiniest movement or irregularity around you.

We called this little Frogfish Pinocchio. He sat in his sponge for several months. On this particular dive, I watched him for sixty minutes as he braved the currents that shook his chosen home. Spreading his foot-like pectoral fins. Balancing himself so delicately… with a split that would have made Jean-Claude van Damme proud. I returned several times. We kept blinking at each other until, one day, he was gone. Instead, other mysterious creatures took his place. The oceans. A neverending source of wonder and, for me, a lifelong love affair.

(Photograph by Aquaimaging, 2005)

An Intricate Microcosmos

2008-liam-on-reef-hook-in-palau

“I often hovered motionless and watched the coral reef for a while, contemplating reef fish behavior. Each organism was busy defending its way of life. Tiny fish would attack divers the moment we ventured too far into their territory. There were all kinds of characters: the camouflaged, the timid, the curious, the bullies, the cowards. Some were defensive, others aggressive. As I watched the busy shuffling and posturing on the reef, I saw an intricate microcosmos, a perfect metaphor of human social life and daily struggles.” (excerpt from Paralian, chapter 24 “Indian Ocean”)

Close Encounters of the Ocean Kind

2008 green turtle on surface

Another small excerpt from Paralian… a once-in-a-lifetime moment… experiencing my first close encounter with a sea turtle in the Maldives:

“The Green Sea Turtle rose slowly to the surface. I floated, staying completely still… Her head softly broke the surface only fifteen feet away from me. She took a deep breath, which sounded almost like a reverse sigh.

The gorgeous animal stayed floating comfortably on the calm water surface of the lagoon. Meanwhile, I let myself drift carefully closer. She was beautiful, a creature of the ages, perfect since the beginning of time. I closed my eyes to paint the image in my memory. When I opened them again the unearthly turtle lady was right next to me, still enjoying her rest on the gentle turquoise waves.

The long five minutes during which she stayed with me etched themselves forever into my heart. The turtle’s large eyes held a tranquility and innocence I had never before encountered. With an unwavering gaze, she seemed to see straight into my soul.

Her colors were myriads of green. Her scales reminded me of autumn leaves. Did I see a net of barely visible, fragile veins, or did my enraptured mind imagine them? What if they were nerve endings, letting her feel plankton and every droplet of the sea that touched her? Feeling everything, she would literally become one with the seas embracing her.
Small barnacles held on to her carapace. I envied them and wished I could trade places for a little while. Could there be a better place to be than perched on the strong back of a sea turtle?

She took one last, long breath and descended leisurely towards her underwater domicile. I swam back to shore in a dreamlike state, happy, and almost delirious….
The ocean was my true home. Now that I’d found it, I intended to consciously absorb every precious second I spent embraced by it.”

No one should have to fear…

… for being who they are.

gay pride

So much hate still out there. My heart is heavy thinking of the Orlando shooting victims. But you know what? Killing won’t help those who hate because they are too afraid to open their minds and understand.
Because human diversity is as old as the world. Being straight, gay, lesbian, trans, or any shade in between is as natural as the sun, the oceans, the wind, and the stars. These energizing, life-giving elements of our beautiful blue planet will all be around until the end of time. And so will we.

Presenting in San Francisco

golden gate and liam

Arriving in San Francisco today after 11 years of absence was surprisingly like stepping into a pair of well worn, comfortable shoes. All senses were flooded with familiar yet deliciously foreign sensations. I inhaled the city scents, basked in the Californian evening sun and headed straight into a strong Pacific evening breeze during a brief walk along shore.
Tomorrow I am invited to present Paralian at a Global LGBT conference. A quick hop across the globe just for that. Amazing and a bit out-of-this-world.