Encouraging Words by Zen Master Guishan
“Someday you will die.
Lying on your sick bed about to breathe your last, you will be assailed by every kind of pain.
Your mind will be filled with fears and anxieties and you will not know where to go or what to do.
I suppose people change and relationships end, despite of what best-selling novels and Hollywood Christmas movies would like me to believe. I suppose life doesn’t always come with happy ends. Diseases aren’t cured, and distances aren’t overcome. Fathers die and don’t make peace with mothers. Promises and plans of a future life together disappear in nothingness. I suppose that’s a dismal, yet somewhat realistic view of the world. The thing here is this. I really don’t want to be realistic. Continue reading
Take a walk through Bali’s rice fields, and you’ll find yourself bathing in a sea of emerald green. Part of the paddies’ magic might be that they are located just a few hundred meters from the traffic jammed, hot, sticky roads. In the rice fields, you find yourself in another world, one that offers calm and a gentle breeze of fresh air. The endless rice paddies are speckled with scare crows improvised from bamboo sticks, as well as rusty huts that give barefoot farmers a place to doze off. And then, far away on the horizon, glistening in the sun, still partially under construction, you’ll see a three story hotel complex that could as well be on Ibiza for all you know.
What does it mean to live in a country like Indonesia? Continue reading
I’m on Bali. Bali is one of over 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia. Yes, that’s 17 thousand and not a typo. Did you know Indonesia is the 4th most populated country in the world with 245 million inhabitants? I did not. Bali is about one and a half times the size of Mallorca. Unlike most other places in Indonesia, it is predominately Hindu, rather than Muslim. What do I do here, you ask? I am staying in what one might call the cultural capital of Bali, Ubud. The city is nestled in the rice fields that line the beginning of the island’s central mountain terrain.
We got up at a time of the night that is neither late nor early. My cell phone alarm had gone off at 2 am, I wasn’t sure I had slept the hours before. Maybe I just dozed off. I slipped into my clothes, we got on the mini van. There were more people than seats. That seems to be the case often in Indonesia, but they make it work somehow. After a one hour drive through the night, we arrived at a parking lot, where thin tea was served with even thinner instructions on how to climb volcanos. The tour operator promised banana pancakes with chocolate sauce once we reached the top. And so the mount began. Continue reading
With Bali it is as with most things in life. Some smiles are genuine and sweet, some are a labor of duty. Some roads give views on rice fields lush and green, some irritate your sinuses with exhausts and pollution. Some meals are raw, fresh, and delicious, some send you on a 24 hour hospital stint with a bacterial infection. Just like most things in life, Bali is a little bitter sweet. Continue reading
The other night I was at a dinner party at my co-worker’s house, who happens to live on the same street as we do, but we still had to take a cab there, because it’s pretty far. Amidst dishes heaped with pasta and roasted cauliflower and salad with avocados and meatballs and most likely some other delicious California-chic culinary creations I cannot recall at this particular moment, someone at the table asked if we knew what a spirit animal is. We didn’t and so she explained it to us – a spirit animal is a type of animal that you have had a spiritual, magical, or mystical encounter with. She cited the example of a girl with dreadlocks that had an extraordinary experience with some animal I can’t recall in some field maybe and it all sounded too crazy and nonsensical for me to tell the story that was burning on my inside: Continue reading
The day Paul Walker died we were in New York City. We had dinner reservations at Acquavit that night, where we found ourselves indulging in everything tasty Scandinavia may have to offer amidst warm light and warmer service. There were plates that married tapioca pearls and quail egg, langoustine and sea urchin, sardines and elderberries, foie gras and radish, cod and sunchoke, squab and apple, white chocolate and a bird’s nest, smiles and hands holding each other across the table. Continue reading
Now it’s happening, and it is all official, and you heard it hear first. I am moving to the USA. I will work at the online fashion company Cuyana. Are you excited? Continue reading
I think we can agree on the fact that going to the gym is among the stranger activities humankind engages in. The whole concept of going to a closed room to move and sweat and be physically active, in order to make up for the rest of the day spent in other closed rooms where you don’t move and don’t sweat and aren’t physically active is somewhat bewildering. But then there are two places in the world where going to the gym arguably exceeds this level of general weirdness. Continue reading
When I get up in the morning at 6.30 am it is still dark outside. I jog downhill to the gym through San Francisco’s moist and cold, and it smells of fried bacon on some street corners, and burnt wood on others. I hold my maze spray in hand, because – you never know.
California is sunny and hot these days, San Francisco fog clouds nothing but my memories. It has almost been a month since we took off for Lihue International Airport. Can you believe this?
Well, my dear friends, upon our return from what might very well be called paradise on earth, aka the island of Kaua’i, it turned out that we had taken close to 500 photographs while on vacation. That’s as close to an excuse as you will hear from me for the August silence on Monday Notes. Sorting through all those pictures continues to take its time.
I am sitting at the Copenhagen airport, clinging on to what is probably my third cup of coffee this morning—who’s keeping count at this point—in the hope it might heal the current state of pain my brain is suffering after only 3 hours of sleep last night. Memories of the week at home sooth my state of mind. Besides running endless errands, going home in my case always means indulging in delicious meals, indulging in many pleasant conversations with my grandparents, about the past and the future, and about how to live in the present despite them both, and finally, indulging in cuddles with the world’s cutest puppy, Madame Flo.
I remember today five years ago pretty well. I sat in a dark hospital room somewhere in Germany, watching the first red lining in the sky herald the break of dawn outside of the window. It had been a long night with bursts of sudden sleep interrupting my attempts to stay awake at all cost. The chair I sat on must have been immensely uncomfortable, but the pain flooding my body had nothing to do with it.
Our upcoming Hawaii vacation fills me with a sense of indescribable excitement, joy, and anxiety. Bikini anxiety. Which I write jokingly, obviously, because all of the beaches on Hawaii are so secluded, no one will actually see my non existent abs in nothing but two small pieces of water-resistant clothing, right? Right. Jokes aside, there are more important things to focus on in summer than obtaining the perfect beach body and that’s finding the perfect frozen yogurt place. Because you only live once, and life is too short for icy frozen yogurt, and because of all the other inspirational sayings about froyo.
If you have previously heard about the concept of Third Culture Kids–people who have spent significant parts of their developmental years outside their parents’ culture, and as a result have developed their own ‘third culture’–then shame on you. How is it possible that no one has ever explained my struggles, relationship patterns, confusion, and general me-ness to me, by pointing out that I am, quite clearly, a Third Culture Kid?
Remember that friend whom you met in another life, when you lived in other corners of the world? Whom you shared so much laughter and Chips Ahoy! cookies with it gave you slight nausea, in an enjoyable way? A friend, who spends his days surfing and taking photographs on the Caribbean shores of Colombia. No? Well, I do have such a friend. And you should meet him. His name is Juan Kattan. Yes, his first and last names rhyme and this is neither fiction, nor a joke.
Juan Who? >>
Oh, it’s summer, and summer means it’s wedding time. Chances are all of your early thirty something friends are getting married right now. Ours are. We kicked off the wedding season this weekend, and joined Nora and Enrique as they partied away into holy matrimony. Don’t you just love this time of year? The endless flower arrangements, glasses of sparkling, drunken relatives, and decadently sweet wedding cakes? To my immeasurable disappointment, the latter two were mysteriously absent from Nora and Kike’s wedding.
Scandinavians are peculiar in many ways, and I say that with the utmost love and affection towards humankind of the Northern European variety. After having lived in Copenhagen for some years, as well as in the unofficial capital of Sweden that is Barcelona—I met so many Swedes there it made me wonder whether anyone was actually left in Sweden—part of me likes to secretly consider herself scandinavianized. Driving to IKEA in California makes me feel homey and whole and that’s a sensation brought forward not only by hotdogs you get to top yourself and $1 soft serve cones.
My mum is a firm believer in the idea that one can cure depression, blue thoughts, and bad weather by being grateful. If you stop thinking about things that make you feel scared, miserable, and meh–she insists–and start thinking about things in your life you feel grateful for, the world will feel like that much more of a happy place. Really, mum?