writing

I Want To Buy Everyone This Book

Dear Liz Gilbert,

My sister and I watched Eat Pray Love on opening night. We loved it (as in actually loved it – not just saying “loved it” for exaggeration) because we both adore travel and because we both enjoy food. Of course, we were very fond of its message too. Soon after, we read the book. Your book. Since then, the answer I have given (still give today) to anyone asking, “So. Who is your favourite author?” has been/still is, you.

It was midway through my last year of university, when assignments were becoming lethal that I listened to your famous Ted talk. You talked of creativity in a way I had never heard before. Suddenly, the pressures and anxieties around writing the perfect essay were out the door. Instead, I showed up to my study table, I made time and I worked and I worked and I worked until my muse/genius/inspiration was convinced I was serious and in Maya Angelo’s words, spoke, “Okay. Okay. I’ll come.” And it did. Just as you’d promised it would. And it got me through. I passed and I felt invincible. If only I had though of creativity in this limitless way before.

One week ago, I bought your latest work Big Magic at the Geneva airport bookstore. I am in love and I don’t know how to thank you. It is liberating, humorous, inspiring and above all, real. I aspire to write like you, in a manner that’s both intelligent and conversational, serious and loving, funny and true.

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Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.Processed with VSCO with c3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c3 preset
It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.Processed with VSCO with c3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c3 preset
But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.
(All quotes by Elizabeth Gilbert form Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear)

A Dream Come True

In Antibes, I am staying in the most charming apartment in the old town and I wish, I really really wish that it was mine. I seem to like almost every place I go, but here is very nice (excuse the pun). Right now, I am sitting at the table with the yellow table cloth with the remnants of my lunch: rye bread, fresh mozzarella, vegetables and nuts. I am writing to you and in between, listening to the occasional passersby. Sometimes they’re French, sometimes Italian and occasionally, American and loud (hehe). But always always, the chatter is alive. Welcome to the South.

I am so thankful. So so thankful. I left my comfort zone (living with my parents in NZ) to teach in Japan, a country so foreign to me in every way. I was placed in the country side were I felt much racism, heartache and isolation. But I persevered through! I didn’t give up. I did a year and a half! I did it for my students and I did it for myself. And now, I am in the south of France! Antibes. A dream come true. Many people are fortunate enough to travel but not many people truly appreciate that fortune. In short, the difficulties of my past are sweetening this time.Processed with VSCO with c3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c3 preset
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Can you imagine? Can you imagine if that were my balcony? I would sit there with my typewriter (ok macbook) and my oats. I would write the stories of the people, I would write of lust, love, heartache, betrayal and fresh fruit.
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Nobody was in Antibes that summer …except me, Zelda, the Valentinos, the Murphys, Mistinguet, Rex Ingram, Dos Passos, Alice Terry, the MacLeishes, Charlie Brackett, Mause Kahn, Lester Murphy, Marguerite Namara, E.Oppenheimer, Mannes the violinist, Floyd Dell, Max and Crystal Eastman … Just the right place to rough it, an escape from the world. (F. Scott Fitzgerald in a letter in 1926.) Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Spinning in A Whirlwind of Emotions

Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it. (Cesare Pavese)

The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home — and the slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries. (Rolf Potts)

We can’t jump off bridges anymore because our iPhones will get ruined. We can’t take skinny dips in the ocean because there’s no service on the beach and adventures aren’t real unless they’re on Instagram. Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check-in, and hashtag. (Jeremy Glass)

It’s funny. When you leave your home and wander really far, you always think, ‘I want to go home.’ But then you come home, and of course it’s not the same. You can’t live with it, you can’t live away from it. And it seems like from then on there’s always this yearning for some place that doesn’t exist. I felt that. Still do. I’m never completely at home anywhere. (Danzy Senna)

For the past few days, I have been spinning in a whirlwind of emotions. I have felt flabbergasted by new experiences, homesick from doing it by myself, frustrated by the foreign and completely amazed at this wonderfully big little world we live in. At times, I have been able to capture some of it through a camera lens and at others, not at all, not even a little bit. I like the quotes above for they’ve made me think long and hard about my travels and my consequent thoughts and actions. I wish that I could tell you that my over-thinking has cultivated an epiphany or some profound wisdom but frankly it hasn’t. Not yet. Right now, I am more muddled than ever. This restlessness I pin down to excess information. I keep telling my parents, it’s not easy to live in this day and age either! Do I settle down or travel awhile longer? Continue participating in social media for self-promotion or stay quiet writing in private? And as I do either, do I work or study further? Again, I hear my ears ringing “first world problem.” Though I really think it is, a problem that is, of our generation. Information overload and unlimited choice can prove impossible to navigate.

So. For now, all I want is balance. Balance between travel and home, reality, and the internet, blogging and writing a bigger project and between career and education.

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Graffiti street in Ghent.
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Vegan burger from Greenway.
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The most amazing vegan lunch at Moon Food in Brussels.
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Belgium Equals Bricks

Really, I have never seen so many bricks! And not your regular bricks but these tiny tiny teeny ones. So far, I have visited Brugge and Ghent. Today, we will sight-see Brussels and tomorrow, I will fly back to Switzerland.

Laura and her family have been so sweet to me. Speaking of sweet, my very first Belgian experience after arriving was being driven to one of the world’s largest chocolate factories. It was 9 or 10pm and all we did was park outside and sniff. I kid you not, that’s all that was required. We didn’t have to taste any. We didn’t have to go in. For I have never ever smelt anything so sweet and delicious. If only you were there. #chocolateminusthecalories

Last night, I found myself feeling homesick again. I messaged my mom and called my special friend and then I felt better. Though I couldn’t quite articulate my homesickness. I don’t know, something to do with continously being on the move. Though these days, every day is literally an exciting adventure, I still find myself longing for familiarity and routine. You know when you go on a holiday and nearing the end of it, you kinda can’t wait to go home and get back into the everyday? Well, it’s kinda sorta exactly like that except I’ve been travelling for 2 years (hehe). Yeah yeah I know, first world problems.

This morning, I came across a Simon de Beauvoir quote which perfectly describes it, this feeling of contradiction: “I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger”

Behold, the bricks:
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This Is What It Means To Be Happy

I know I say this of every place, but Anthy-sur-Leman is truly something else.
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You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
(Mary Oliver)
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The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles. (Anne Frank)
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…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough (Vincent Van Gogh)
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A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness. (Leo Tolstoy)
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I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” (Sylvia Plath)
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The Idea of Him

They say not to confuse love with the ‘idea of love’. But the same people also say that if you don’t imagine, nothing ever happens at all. So I sit here in 12D sandwiched between a snoring ogre and an overweight grandfather whose beer belly is so big that it makes me unbutton my own trousers. I sit here and I bathe in the idea of you. Tall, kind and handsome. I have never cared for colour. You can be blue black or orange but you must be a sweet talker. Comforting. Intelligent. Creative and patient, with me, with us but also with yourself.

They say not to fall in love with that which someone can offer. YOU must be whole first. Well ain’t that utter horse shit? Show me someone who isn’t broken. Who isn’t keeping a secret. Anxious. Vulnerable. Trying. Scared. I sit here and I bathe in the idea of you. The you who holds me while I cry over a broken dish. A rude waiter. Rain.

They say in love to stay independent. To not lose yourself. I say both Shakespeare and Mr. Fitzgerald would scoff at that. I sit here and I bathe in the idea of completely losing ourselves in each other. Abandoning the old and morphing into the new – a sort of superhuman, if you will. Where listening to you talk gadgets becomes my favourite habit and where my kale smoothie trespasses leaping to the very top of your morning checklist and you gladly welcome it. Where your warmth and hunger become my daily concerns. And my happiness your life’s mission.

The plane begins its ascend. The ogre roars from his nostrils and the grandfather shuffles his stomach like a pregnant woman finding a comfortable position, and I progress my float to a steady swim.

We are in Spain. In a narrow alleyway. Drinking juice and sharing tapas. “And,” you say in excitement, “the iPhone 7 plus is water resistant!”

So What Was Galicia Really Like?

During my short time In Galicia, I posted a lot of photos and vague descriptions but I didn’t really give you the low down. So. Here’s a list:

Loud 
Galician people speak very loudly. Or maybe, they are just loud in comparison to the Japanese. More often, I’d mistake a casual conversation for heated arguing. Actually, during my first three days, I developed a horrible migraine. At first, I put it down to jet lag or a change in environment but then I realised the real culprit. My ears were buzzing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Galician are hooligans. Rather, that they speak with much heart and emotion and sometimes our hearts are yellers.
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Meaty
Of course due to their location, the Galician people consume a lot of seafood. But they also consume A LOT of meat. Chorizo, cured ham, steak, you name it. Luckily for me, the exception were Jose’s family. Everyday we ate fresh and organic fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.
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Tortilla and empanada mad
I guess these are the two most popular dishes here. A Spanish tortilla (not to be confused with the Mexican wrap) is like a potato omelette. It’s oily, carby and delicious. Empanadas are a pie pastry like dish usually filled with tuna, red pepper and onion but there are many variations. Anyways, these dishes are honestly everywhere. And people are always eating them.
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Tomato overload
There’s a lot of tomatoes here. That’s basically it. And apparently, a lot gets wasted every year because if it was all put out into the market, the prices would drop to mere cents and the government wouldn’t be making any money off of them. So sad. What is this world we live in? (I know this is not confined to Spain and that food is a business everywhere).
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Long days
I think I already mentioned this. Apparently this is very Spanish. Breakfast around 9. Lunch around 3/4 and dinner around 10. Can you believe it? No wonder I’ve been having migraines. One day, Jose called to book a table at a local restaurant for 9pm and was warned to leave by 11pm as that’s when another couple had booked it! Is that insane or insane?
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Food rules all
Obvious by now. Before coming here, Jose had warned me that the Galicians live and breathe food. I hadn’t really understood this until now. You know the old adage; you eat to live not live to eat? Well here it’s the other way around. Perhaps the previous point on long days has something to do with this but also because the Spanish are such fantastic cooks! And, they have great produce: olive oil, seafood, tomatoes, legumes, to name a few. So food rules all.
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Unpredictable
Mainly in two ways. One, with weather. Much like NZ, weather here is always changing. Four seasons in one day type of thing. Two, with plans. Again, at the opposite end of the spectrum to the Japanese, the Galician people hardly ever plan anything. This is because plans are always changing. You may aim to do one thing and end up doing the complete opposite. For instance, one day we planned to sightsee a historical town nearby but ended up going to a friends’ place after lunch and spending the entire evening swimming in her pool, listening to Galician bagpipes and eating peaches.
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1 2 3 ziiiiip.
I played this “game” with the children. Unfortunately it didn’t work. Anyways, following up from the previous point, Galicians never give a direct answer.

How long does it take from here to…? Not far. 
Where does she live? Near.
Are we going to …. today? If you want?
Shall we go for a short walk while the empanada cooks? Shall we? 

These answers are often accompanied with a shrug. You don’t believe how much this annoyed me. In Japan, there is a direct answer for everything. When I mentioned my frustration to Jose, he burst out laughing. You know Anisa, he said: “in Galicia we have a saying that if you meet a Galician in the middle of a staircase and ask them if they’re going up or down they’ll say: do you want me to come up with you?”
image2Sugar overload
I don’t like writing this. I don’t want to be too judgemental. And maybe this is a problem everywhere but kids here consume A LOT of sugar and other junk foods. Actually, there are entire stores dedicated to Junk food. Seriously, all they sell are ice-cream, chocolate, candy, cookies and Cheetos. I am surprised the kids don’t have black teeth like my Japanese pre-school students. One day we went out for tapas and a huge bowl of candy was placed in the middle of the children’s table. Some of them ate more than 10! I couldn’t believe it. I hope I will be better able to control my future children’s sugar intake. Also Cheetos. Cheetos are everywhere! Even inside 1 year olds! :O
image[1]The good life.
Last but not least, Galician really know how to live. Everyone seems to be on holiday here. They are always eating tapas, relaxing on their boats, drinking at local cafes and talking with their family, neighbours, friends.
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Goodbye rivers, goodbye springs
Goodbye, rivers, goodbye, springs,
Goodbye, trickling streams;
Goodbye, all I see before me:
Who knows when we’ll meet again?

Oh my home, my homeland,
Soil where I was raised,
Little garden that I cherish,
Fig trees I grew from seed.

Meadows, rivers, woodlands,
Pine groves bent by wind,
All the chirping little songbirds,
Home I cherish without end.

Mill nestled between the chestnuts,
Nights lit brightly by the moon,
Tremor of the little bells,
My parish chapel’s tune.

Blackberries from the wild vines
I picked to give my love,
Narrow trails between the corn-rows,
Goodbye, forever goodbye!
Goodbye, glory! Goodbye, gladness!

I leave the house where I was born,
Leave my village so familiar
For a world I’ve never seen.
I’m leaving friends for strangers,
Leaving prairies for the sea,
Leaving all that I love dearly…

Oh, if I didn’t have to leave!…
(part of a poem by Rosalia de Castero)

A Disaster

Dear friends

I have a very big (big for me) first-world-problem. Don’t laugh but I dropped my phone in the toilet. No, I wasn’t taking a picture of the toilet seat (Danny’s comment). It was in my back pocket and when I pulled down my pants.. well, you get the picture. Trust me I was quick. I took it out within half a second but hair-dryer, rice, oven, it’s still completely dead. Communication isn’t the problem.. for that I can use my computer. The real problem is photography. I use, well, used (wahh) my phone to take and edit my blog and Savvy Tokyo pictures. What now?

I can’t curse the universe for this. I realise I am completely to blame. But instead of sitting here and feeling disappointed in my stupid self, I will use this opportunity (gah I hate me for even being this sickly positive) to better myself. I will open my eyes and be attentive. I will carry a diary and take note of the noteworthy things I encounter. Then, I will try as best as I can to write them in a picturesque manner.

Today is my last day in Galicia, Spain – though I have a post on Galicia scheduled for tomorrow (with pictures). Tomorrow morning I will fly to Geneva. I don’t know what to expect other than a certainty of love from my auntie, her husband and two gorgeous daughters.

PS feel free to make a phone/camera donation (half joking).

PPS this means no more Instagram.

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Edward Gorey (1961)

Do You Want To Hear Something Ridiculous?

Do you want to hear something ridiculous?

I am in love with a boy I have not even met.
I don’t know the feel of his touch
or the smell of his neck.
I don’t know the sound of his voice
or the swing of his walk.
I don’t know the heat of his skin
or the texture of his hair. 
And yet,
I have my heart set.

I arrange seashells in his name.
I pray for his wellbeing.
I sing him in the shower.
I whisper him in my sleep .
And on the days I pick wild berries,
we share them in my dreams.
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I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

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Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (Mary Oliver)
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Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. (Mary Oliver)
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Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life? (Mary Oliver)
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Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.(Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
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You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life. (Mary Oliver)
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You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. (Mae West)