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…
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.
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.
“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?
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.
It’s been 5 weeks since I moved from Zurich back to Macao…
My toes rejoice. Finally they are out in the open again as socks have become a distant memory. My senses pick up exotic scents finding their way into our living room from the Chinese and Korean restaurant kitchens downstairs. In our own kitchen, I’m becoming reacquainted with surprise visits from cockroaches, the size of small birds. Writing my second book on our couch, I listen to a soundtrack still oddly familiar. Loud Cantonese speaking voices shouting into cell phones, the sound of our next-door neighbour hawking and spitting in regular intervals, and the loud “Euuuuwwwwwww Euuuuwwwwww” of my favorite bird. I’ve never laid eyes on it, but it already Euuuuwwwwww’d to me when I lived on Kuredu Island in the Maldives. Now, here it is again, somewhere in the rustling, gnarly trees across the street, transporting me back home to another part of Asia and to memories of time well spent.
Then there is the ocean. Cafe-Latte-brown here in Macao. But only an hour away, in Hong Kong, it sparkles in myriad shades of blue. And then, there is the rain. The heavy, tropical kind, plummeting from the sky with such vigor, it makes it hard to distinguish individual droplets. When the clouds have exhausted themselves, the air is still thick with micro-droplets, the streets are steaming, and gutters are gurgling madly… whilst frogs and toads of all sizes hop along to after-rain parties somewhere in the bushes. I breathe deeply, smiling to myself. It’s good to be back.