One of my favourite moments. All is quiet on the boat. The divers are basking in the sun whilst I am in my own creative space, visualizing the landscape underneath the waves… to bring it alive on a chalk board for the dive site briefing. I loved calling everyone closer around me, telling my boat-full of enthusiastic divers what wonders of nature I hoped to show them that day. I loved how at one I felt with myself and with the ocean all around me. Over the years, the daily hours in the sea shaped my body as well as my mind… I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. When I guided my divers, I loved to see everyones’ eyes sparkle with a vividness that only comes from pure bliss and fulfilment. Life is simpler down there. Politics, egotism, posturing, stereotypes, assumptions… they all disappear when we are far out of our element, yet surrounded by beauty.
On 16th of November, I experienced a different kind of speaking engagement. A friend of mine invited me to be a guest lecturer during one of her classes at Hong Kong university. I was delighted to have the privilege to listen to her presentation on cross cultural communication in the event industry. Then even more delighted to be able to share some of my international experiences in a variety of different industries with her students. Everyone was highly engaged and curious. And, I was reminded of how much I love and miss teaching.
There is a special kind of satisfaction in sharing and helping others grow.
“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.
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.
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!