Current

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Life isn’t always artsy, smart and inventive, bubbling with stories and happiness. Sometimes it’s just not inspiring at all, and things feel rather pointless and sad. Especially when you start thinking about the things you miss rather than the things that make you happy. Like right now.

And I want to keep record of that, too.

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Beautifully filmed for The Dicionary of Obscure Sorrows.

sonder – n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

I started thinking about and contemplating the complexity of the mind and experiences of bypassers and strangers when I was very young. But instead of it being a reason for sorrow, it has been an inspiration to talk to strangers, to photograph, to learn. Every person has something significant to share and tell, and for me that is one of the main things that make this world so utterly and unpredictably beautiful.

Now, where’s my violin when I need it?

The NYC quickie: A selection of very random activities, hugs and lots of yum.

New York 2014

My flash New York trip started out with a crazy storm in Belize City that was so bad that my flight almost got cancelled. We did take off eventually, even if it was 1.5h late, and I had 20 minutes to run through the entire airport in San Salvador to catch my connecting flight. I took a 2:30am airplane lavatory selfie just before landing, and was welcomed in the US by the new ultra high-tech border control system at JFK. The airport was pretty quiet at that time, and while approaching the long empty row of green-glowing machines I was thinking about how strange it must feel for people who are used to very simple airports where they are greeted by humans, what a strange place this looks like! I was happy to scan my passport and give my fingerprints to a machine instead of feeling like a criminal and answering completely irrelevant and rude questions to some scary looking and tired officer, and most of all I was happy about not having to stand in a line – and being on the other side in less than 15 minutes. Thanks ESTA!

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On Friday we woke up after only three hours of sleep and I ran a million errands while Luc was at work. I was tired, but survived the day and managed to get home for a power nap before the evening. In the night we had a nice dinner and went clubbing in Brooklyn. Finally I was dancing in a real night club, where people dance and have fun and love the dj. We were at Output and Theo Parrish was spinning tracks in the main room, and we danced a lot to Frank & Tony’s deep house beats in the Panther Room – keeping it up until 5am! Still proud of us considering the amount of sleep we had gotten the night before.

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As expected, it took us forever to wake up, have breakfast and get out of the apartment on Saturday morning. I really loved the Airbnb place we stayed at in the Upper West Side, it had a great little terrace where we had breakfast in the sun, and beautiful furniture that I felt like I could have chosen myself, it really felt like a home. My favourite part about staying in Airbnb places is that it’s real apartments with their own personalities, so if you feel like they somehow resonate with your taste it really becomes a space you live in and enjoy as if it was your own. We did eventually get out – and went for smoothies, talks and some Halloween costume shopping.

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New York 2014

We went to New York Adorned, and I took a last picture of my ear before the super smooth J. Colby Smith pierced my helix. Even if it was a rather simple piercing, it felt very reassuring to have it done by a renowned and recommended artist, and I was treated with top class care. New York Adorned has a gorgeous selection of jewellery, and even if the prices are a bit steep, it’s totally worth it in the end. Especially since I will be wearing this for a long period ahead, I’m happy to have an earring that I know is made out of real gold and will help my piercing heal safely. Thanks Colby, I’m loving it!

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New York 2014

Sunday was, again, a day of culinary treats, shopping and walking. Then we went for a quite intense Bikram yoga session in the evening, and went straight to close the day with Indian yum at the Drunken Monkey. Still completely soaked after the yoga (and that, my dear friends, is how I you get a bad cold.)

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On Monday, Luc stayed in for the first half of the day and we both worked from home for a while which was absolutely wonderful, as we could have a long breakfast and eat blueberries with nutella while both minding our own business. There are very few things that beat being relaxed and doing your own stuff while being accompanied, closely after dancing and sharing minds, it’s my favourite way of spending time with people I like. Luc went to work and I went for errands and meetings, and got together with lovely Emine for an update and some giggles. “I just realized I have never seen you in a jacket!” she said, and we reminisced a bit about our life in Mozambique while Emine kept trying to convince me to move to New York. Concerts every week is indeed a good point, work being far less rewarding makes it all a bit complicated though. And I do live in the Caribbean now.

New York 2014

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After work and dinner, it was time for us to go to Escape the Room NYC! Do you remember those old escape room games online, where you wake up locked in a room and have to solve puzzles and look for tools and clues to get out? I had always wanted to try this in real life, and Luc somehow found that it actually exists in New York. (I love that city for literally having everything, and Luc is possibly the world’s best at finding fun activities.) The set up was that we were locked into an apartment (with a living room, kitchen, bathroom, everything) together with 8 other people we didn’t know, and had exactly one hour (with a big digital timer on the wall counting down) to get out of there. It was super exciting and so much fun! And we did it just 7 seconds before the time had run out!

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New York 2014

Tuesday came with its last run of errands and hugs, and then Luc treated us to a last dinner at the Japanese restaurant Soto, with a 15 course Omakase menu, where we course by course were presented with little explosions of taste on beautifully presented plates. A great experience to share with somebody who enjoys tastes and textures, and the place is very quiet and neutral (it doesn’t even have a sign on the entrance door), so you really get to focus on the food, your company, and on discussing the peculiar tastes. “What is this thing?”

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I took off on Wednesday morning, accompanied by the morning sun and a nice train ride, I got to JFK, had to bend my plastic Halloween ninja sword in half to fit it into my checked in luggage (“we can’t let you through security with that”) and had a nice little walk through the airport. All smooth and fine.

While being sad that I had to leave New York and wishing I could have stayed a little longer, I was touched by the very real feeling of going “home”. Belize feels like home now and the value of having that is really something! Again, thank you New York. Thank you Luc. Thank you life for all the beautiful and much needed little adventures and “why not’s” you keep throwing my way. I’m in deep appreciation of it all. And happy!

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I could have ended there.. but I also have to share the fact that I took a last airplane lavatory selfie, now accompanied by a cold from hell and completely blocked sinuses and ears (and, audiophiles take note, my new Klipsch R6m’s!) – keeping it classy in my hoodie.

New York 2014

Attention to Individual Potential

I read “feminism is so overrated” in a comment discussion on a friend’s facebook post today and I’m always equally surprised when adult people say that they are not feminists..

I mean, please explain, what’s there not to be? I understand you might not be a radical and violent man-hating anarchist with hairy armpits, but that’s really really not what feminism is about just because some choose to express it that way.. if that’s your image of a feminist you have been misinformed – here, try a new definition:

First of all, are you agreeing with the fact that men and women in the world aren’t being given the the same opportunities? That many girls and women don’t get to be confident/become scientists/get an education.. or that too many boys and men aren’t given the space to express their feelings/bond with their own children/love and feel loved? Don’t you agree that this has a negative effect on us as individuals and on our societies? Don’t we need to be aware of the stereotypes and break them down in order to give each individual the same opportunity to reach his or her full potential?

“Girls should be girls, there’s a designated place for all of us in society” you say.

But when you think about it, isn’t it crazy how we expect our children to prefer certain colours, games, cartoons.. and force them into a certain type of character and personality – just based on what’s hiding beneath their diapers?

Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that mothers show infants less warmth and love if they are told they are boys? Doesn’t that make you really sad for all boys? Isn’t it sad when girls say ‘I want to be a boy so I can go to space’? Or not allowed to laugh loudly or jump in water puddles because it’s not appropriate for them? Did you know that one of the main reasons boys become violent and emotionally unstable is because of a lack of love and attention?

Have you heard that studies have shown that when girls and women get access to an education their children are proven healthier, safer and much smarter? Don’t you think this is a great benefit for all children..? For entire societies and generations to come! And isn’t it completely insane that the only thing in the way of this great solution to so many of the world’s problems is.. gender?

So, gender stereotypes and discrimination are indeed a huge obstacle to development, and boys and girls should be treated with equal love, respect and attention to individual potential, agreed?

Oh, then I guess you’re a feminist after all.. wonderful! Welcome, we’ve been waiting for you.

Here’s Emma Watson’s powerful speech for the UN the other day, and the heforshe campaign.

The name and rhetorics of which still can be discussed if we are to really talk about the continued gender categorisation, separation and power structures.. but yes, at this point, when men insist on identifying so strongly with their penis and advertisement campaigns still keep on telling us what “a real man” should drink, say and look like, it’s a necessary approach. We need these men to free themselves from the stereotypes and join the cause. Our boys need more love.

And a little bonus:
A gender neutral ad from Toys’R Us, with a baby boy caring for a doll. :) I think we’re on the right track in some parts of the world, let’s continue that way.

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Monday adventures with Suz.

First there was a Monday flat.

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As I was leaving the office (that I went to despite the public holiday) the tire was suddenly completely flat. I was surprised, but got the jack out and started changing the tire when the security guard from the building came running and said he would help. Thank you, Richard. “A friend in need is a friend indeed! Any time, miss Caroline.”

I drove home. Got my camera, and went down south to take some photos of a kid (again, for work) as my car suddenly started acting funny with the rpm’s dropping rapidly as if it wasn’t getting enough gas and was choking. So Suz finally died on me and wouldn’t get enough power to kick off, in the middle of nowhere in South Side Belize City. I was happy it was still bright out. Cancelled with the boy, a bit sad as the light really was perfect for photos..

“My car stopped, I will need to be towed.. what the hell.” I wrote to Michelle. Just to share as I was checking online for towing trucks. “I’m coming” she wrote, and it took her literally 5 minutes to get there with her security guard who towed me home through the city.

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Michelle took me to Shell where Patricio and the other guys (who work there) kindly let me borrow a container and get some gasoline back to the car.

I filled Suz up and she magically started again. Michelle left, I went back to Shell and got Suz some injection cleaner, a full tank of V-Power fuel, checked all her fluids and hooked her up with some sweet air in the tires. (The other one was indeed completely punctured.)

Surprisingly, all the fluids were perfect. (They have all been leaking out and giving lots of trouble since day 1.) So the issue must have simply been that the gauge for gas got stuck and she was almost empty and taking in all the bottom trash from the tank.

Oh, dear Suz. I know they treated you badly before you met me, but I try my best.. did I mention you look great after that engine wash? And I promise to get you a nice set of tires this week. Can we become good friends and start trusting each other after that?

(Yes, I talk to my car. Haha)

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Lessons learnt today? People are absolutely, extraordinarily, amazingly friendly here. Security guards, gas station employees, all these people that I see all the time and wave hello to don’t hesitate for a second to help out and support with a friendly smile.

And Michelle, one of the warmest and kindest people I’ve met and officially my “5 month friend” (I always meet the most amazing people after spending 5 months in a place!) I’m so utterly grateful for her immediate way of showing me that I’m cared for. I’m really looking forward to continuing to build our friendship, and the next dinner is on me!

Monday adventures with Suz became a reminder to be thankful for the beautiful people I’m surrounded by here. In the midst of my loneliness, I’m in fact not alone at all. There is light all around me and I just need to start taking it in. A very good and important day and reminder indeed. It’s a bit silly, but I’m actually happy that Suz decided to set these surprises up. (And do hope they were the last ones.)

And the last lesson learnt? I know you love your job, Caroline, but DON’T WORK ON YOUR HOLIDAYS!

Gratitude, uncertainty and loving feedback

It gets lonely, it gets frustrating and overwhelming, it feels sad and pointless when uncertainty dominates the horizon. “What am I even here for?”

I’m far from loved ones, far from any form of reliable safety net, far from feeling protected and cared for and far from hugs, love and any realistic potential for growing roots and building a home. I miss birthdays, weddings and people to share my own celebrations with. It breaks my heart that I can’t always be there for my people and nourish the relationships that matter to me the most. The future always feels very uncertain and I can’t plan far ahead. I don’t know where I will be in a couple of months.

But I have something else that I can’t imagine living without yet. At some point in life I decided to live as curiously as possible and make the most out of my reality at all times. I wanted to explore, learn, enjoy and celebrate the little things. But first and foremost I knew that I have to work for a cause I believe in, feel passionate about, grow for and respect. I knew I have to be excited about things to feel fulfilled, and that I can never let fear or worries decide things for me. It’s on the other side of that threshold that things get truly enriching.

And it has been working out so far. I swim upstream, I struggle, I go alone, I take risks, I return to square one, I feel lost and hopeless at times – but on the way I have discovered the most beautiful of places, feelings, people and reasons to love the world. I have discovered that water always heals. And seriously now, I adore my job. I really love what I do and what I learn on the way.

Thank you dears for hanging in there even though I’m far away and busy with work so often. Thanks for your patience, for staying in touch, for keeping me up to date, for finding the time for calls and emails.

And when people I miss and love decide to actually hop on that long flight to come here and experience a piece of my world and reality, I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. Thank you!

Love!

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Friends from many of the places where I’ve left parts of myself came together and gave me truly beautiful feedback and shout-outs of support on my status update. Thank you all – it means the world to me!

One of the comments was a piece of advice from a wise friend who also lived abroad for a big part of her life:

“The things you think you are losing are right here waiting for you, I used to think the same when living far away from everything and everybody for a long time, but when I felt like starting to set my roots it was all still there, the relationships that matter get built up again, and new ones are formed. Just enjoy and forget about the pressure to “settle down”, it might be the best option for most people but not for everyone, and certainly not at the same time :)”