Almost three months of working on the ship now, yet I have never felt further away from the ocean. Our ship is a floating entertainment park… with no access to the true authentic beauty all around us. I long to taste the salty freshness of the big blue on my lips and all over my body. Long to feel the sensation of peacefulness, invigorating energy, and freedom I’ve always associated with the wide open seas.
That being said, working on a cruise ship is a valuable life experience I am determined to treasure. As a stage manager, I am learning an abundance of useful skills managing the onboard Aqua theater. The pressure onboard is relentless. Work never stops… to such an extent that even brushing my teeth in one go without being interrupted by phone calls becomes a challenge. Additionally, working with people from over seventy different countries tops all international experiences I’ve been exposed to thus far. As difficult as it gets sometimes to juggle a myriad of mentalities, I treasure the slowly blooming friendships with people all over this gigantic ship, as we meet each other for a few seconds in between chores. Room attendants waving and fist bumping with me as I am running to my control booth before the show. Maintenance men smiling in the hallway, forgiving me for calling them at odd hours in the middle of the day and night for technical issues in our theater. On a daily basis, life lessons keep building up in tune with the raging waves of the seas all around me. I am trying to take them in stride. Failing on some days, succeeding on others.
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.