Category Archives: Life

Housekeeping

Stay up late watching music videos. Easy addiction. Devolve, years fall away. No problem. Everyone should be so lucky.

Close to sleep, songs nudge my third eye into consciousness. Bullshit settles at the bottom. Heart energy rises, resonating. Music makes sad and happy feel better together.

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Berlin love: bite-sized edition

25 bits & pieces I love about Berlin, in no particular order:

1. The prevalence of mineral water. Bubbly trumps still H₂0, every time!

2. Transportation is always on time. Planning is possible!

A bus stop in Lichtenberg, Berlin.

Accurate to the minute! A shock coming from Thailand where the answer to “what time is it?” is usually “mango sticky rice.”

3. … And astoundingly cohesive! The underground, trams, and buses all work together to get you basically anywhere.

People walk along Berlin's busy streets.

Places to go, people to see. You know the deal.

4. Kino culture. The cinemas are unique, historical, and oh-so-cool. Come warm weather, open-air cinemas spring up, screening classics like To Catch a Thief and Bonnie and Clyde.

5. Green spaces everywhere. Parks, rivers, places to jog, or chill with the family — natural spots scattered throughout the city dedicated to hanging out, drinking beer, and barbequing with friends.

The river by Maybachufer, Neukölln, Berlin

Sitting by the river drinking a beer or mineral water = lazy summer days in Neukölln.

6. The city is extremely bike-able (from spring to fall, at least). Cruising along bike paths from one end to other is delicious.

A woman in red bikes in Berlin.

Two wheels are better than none.

7. Drink to relax, not to get drunk. Having a few beers throughout the day is totally kosher. For the most part, people handle their alcohol maturely while out and about.

8. Konzerts. You wanna see [name your favorite band] play? Chances are they’ll be coming through at some point.

A band plays in the courtyard of an exhibition opening.

Some awesome British band rocking the gallery.

9. Startups. Have a business idea? Try it out here. Still cheaper than NYC, Silicon Valley, or Singapore, Berlin’s attracted a slew of successful startups in recent years (SoundCloud, etc.) with its try-anything-once vibe and creative energy.

10. Infamous clubs. For unparalleled atmosphere, nightclubs like Berghain reek of decades of debauchery.

A disco ball is lit from aside.

Dance, dance, dance to the radio…

11. Art galleries. Duh!  The old and new national galleries; museums ranging from cult to classic; clean, contemporary art spaces; avant-garde hole-in-the-walls; collectives and co-ops; and on and on. Take your pick; pick your take.

Two people look at art at an exhibition opening in Berlin.

“Is that art?” “I have no idea.”

12. Feeling kinky? Up for some sexual exploration? There’s probably a workshop, club, or meet-up for it, with a supportive, open-minded community waiting to welcome you.

13. Understated day-to-day life. Aside from a few obvious social scenes, people generally keep to themselves — they don’t scream and shout about what they’re doing. Life happens; let’s move on.

A street-side scene, downtown Berlin.

Keep moving; nothing to see here.

14. Accepting. No one’s going to give you shit for being yourself.

15. Summer snow! Seriously: pure magic.

A dusty dandelion in grass.

Soft dandelion dust ends up drifting everywhere in the air.

16. High quality food. Bread, cheese, meats, produce, etc., have to meet high standards to be sold. The difference is taste-able.

17. Endless days. Starting near end of May, the sun stays up forever. I’m writing this at 9:45 pm — and it’s still light out. (June 08)

Sunset and highrise, Berlin.

Sun-setting sky at almost 10pm, Mitte, May.

16. Female tech scene. With Berlin Geekettes headquartered, there’s an uber supportive environment for women wanting to delve deeper into coding and the like.

18. Culture. In addition to Berlin’s rich history, the distinctly international mish-mash of artists makes for a limitless global fusion of creative expression.

A butoh dancer performs.

An impromptu butoh performance with live DJ.

19. It’s okay to walk around with earbuds in. While this feels socially impolite in Asia (my personal feeling), everyone has their music on here.

20. Despite its size (over 3.5 million people), it’s a quiet city. Possible to hear yourself think on streets and even buses.

A woman goes down the U-bahn stairs in Berlin.

Wandering the city is peaceful, even when the mind is combating clutter.

21. German is a sexy language. Yum. Fantastisch.

22. Fashion inspiration. There’s a crazy high percentage of stylish people, often incredibly beautiful to boot! Soak it up.

Some fashionable folks at the K-W Berlin Biennale opening.

Pulling off a leopard-print hat is not the easiest thing to do. Berliners can.

23. “I’m sorry” is virtually non-existant in casual conversation. Being a Canadian woman, I’ve a habit of saying those two words approx. 100 times/day. So, sigh of relief: no saving face, no placating, no people-pleasing. One of the reasons shit gets done so efficiently here.

24. Environmentally friendly. Different bins for paper, plastic, organic, and other — recycling in Germany is not for the faint of heart, and a win for mother earth.

Sun shines in Berlin.

Clean city streets, waste bins on every corner, organized recycling… all that’s missing is a system for shoveling snow from walkways in winter.

25. The air is fresh. So fly high…

A projected image of a woman swinging with shadow overtop.

Swing ’til you fly off. Berlin will catch you.

Summer snow

The summer snow here kills me, in that yes-please-kill-me way. Sitting on the grass in my (my? Seem to have colonized that awfully quick) park, while dandelion dust drifts, suspended in air, as if inside a snow-globe shaken from all sides — air fresh like quiet freedom. Hands, fingers run along grass; soft dust nestled between blades for summer sleep, cat-napping ’till atmosphere stirs again. Stare up, up into leafy canopies overhead as sun darts in-and-out of shadowy-shapes. Heaven, truly.

Slice of, anyway.

Respond, don’t react

“Are you attaching? Of course you are! It’s human nature. You know the drill. Let it go. Loosen the grip — respond, don’t react.”

He doesn’t know how much he helped me with that brief rundown on life lessons 101. In 2 mins flat, over fresh fruit smoothies no less.

What if the apartment doesn’t work out? Let it go. There’ll be another one. Where am I gonna keep my stuff? Let it go. It’s just stuff. Will my body survive without the gentle touch of that special man? Let it go. Touch is everywhere.

Am I attaching?

Of course. Thoughts, actions, feelings, habits, fears, freedoms — everything holds me too close. Dancing amid pragmatism and adolescence; those awkward years between birth and death.

If you’re averse to awkwardness, chances are you’ll be averse to life.

I lay my head down on the start-stop of myself, repeating the uneasy silence within until I hear its pattern. Wound-up energy with no place to breathe.

If not this, then what? Gliding from here to there, unencumbered? Can’t do it; impossible.

No, these untimely-unseemly-downright-uncomfortable asymmetries demand to be embraced. Roughly, warmly, they beg to be sought after — not avoided.

I am not always my best self.

But I still buy my ticket: I still get on the plane.

A little girl connects with someone outside.

Can you handle it?

As I watched this video (below) with my jaw half-dropped, I wondered how many girls will look at this without blinking an eye?

When the main words in a song are “video phone,” and there’s a woman — actually, two — writhing around with virtually nothing on, stroking giant, plastic, phallic guns, purring “if you want me, you can tape me on your video phone,” I have to wonder how desensitized North American teens are to this BS — and how many will look up to this ‘superstar’ and want to emulate this crock of crap.

I’m a huge fan of catchy pop tunes, and I love a good dance number as much as anyone, but this is beyond. Utilizing video — perhaps our most powerful medium for conveying information and ideas to the masses — to create epic works of socially constructed, gendered lies is criminal — this is the Male Gaze, personified. (Literally: there are men with video cameras in place of heads.)

I realize that there are SO many videos like this, and ones that are much, much worse; I simply haven’t paid attention to any of them for such a long time, and watching this one today, after several years of cleansing my palate from mainstream junk, set me right off.

Well, onward. It only fuels my fire to move forward with my own aspirations of making video and films filled with conscientious, positive content that lifts women (and men) up, rather than dragging us down to this tickity-tack level of lo-fi kitsch so glaringly deprived of any wit, intelligence, or style — and, ultimately, respect.

The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.

Marshall McLuhan

We Women!

Over the weekend, I had the privilege of photographing the We Women charity walk. A group of our supporters fund-raised and walked in solidarity to help improve Burma’s education system.

We Women is: “a foundation that strives to achieve equality for various groups of people in the world. The foundation assists women, refugees, ethnic minorities, and disadvantaged groups with their questions, struggles and needs, as they are formulated within their own terms. Academic research is the first step in this process because it helps to gain insight into local beliefs, practices and ambitions. The key areas of We women’s engagement include personal growth, social inclusion, (mental) health, education, and the encouragement of creative initiatives, with the ultimate goal of achieving equality for all.

Hugo

Ursula Cats, super-woman and founder of We Women, is also a new mom. Taking care of Hugo, Skyping via phone with her We Women counterpart in Holland, and organizing the walk are just a few of the tasks she juggled on Saturday!

Walkin'

I feel pretty...
CM red and white curb actionWe left at around 4:30pm, so the sun was slowly setting as we veered around the South gate of the moat. I can never get enough of the red and white striped curbs here.

Signage

Two of my new favourite ladies! ❤

The rest of the pics are here. I love being inspired by people like these doing positive things. I feel really grateful for being around them. Food for the heart.

Smiles

When I showed this photo to Ursula, she mentioned that it was her favourite of the bunch. Meanwhile, I was cringing since the sweet girl is totally out of focus. From the photo course I recently took, I know that one of the areas I need to work on is getting lots of angles and taking lots of shots to get the most honest expression. When I look at this image, I think: Nooooo! The focus is all off, her right hand is cut off, I needed to move back more, get it from a lower angle, give more space around her. It could’ve been a great photo!

But it’s awesome when the person who sees it still likes it because they might not even notice these things; all they might see is the shining smile radiating through. It reminds me of something Scorsese said about film-making in an old interview he did with John Favreau. He was talking about Casino, how he had to choose between two takes of an important emotional scene featuring Sharon Stone. It one take, Stone gave an incredibly emotive performance, but the camera’s focus was a bit off and the camera work was unintentionally shaky. In the other take, the camera work is technically perfect, but Stone’s performance is less vulnerable and raw. Scorsese chose to put the former in the film, because –for him– emotion wins out every time over technical. I’ve always thought that was a really nice lesson.

I’m looking forward to improving my photo work, but in the end it always comes down to the experience I have with the people I’m working with.

It’s been some time…

I booked an onward out of Thailand, to Vietnam, as of course Ethiopian Airlines was gonna check. I knew it. After asking my Chiang Mai friends, “do you ever book on onward flight when you fly into TH?” and receiving a unanimous chorus of, “No!” I knew that, since I was flying from Africa, it would likely be different. And it was.

Ethiopian Airlines employee, Ugandan, female: “Where is your return ticket from Vietnam to Canada?”

Me: “I don’t have one. I don’t need one. I am required to have an onward/return out of Thailand. Once I’m in another country, my whereabouts is no longer the responsibility of your airline.”

“That’s not true.”

“I’m fairly confident that it is.”

“Let me check the rule book.”

Knowing full well I don’t have the money to afford a return flight from VN to CA, I somehow keep completely calm. It’s probably just that I lack the energy to feel stressed at this point. 4.5 months in Uganda has been enough, even though I’ll miss it fucking fiercely. Damn.

Airline Employee: “See! Look, it says right here. You need a return ticket from VN to your home country.”

I read the fine-print of her rule book that has every visa regulation for every country regarding entering/exiting procedures. The book clearly states exactly what I told her: that anyone flying into Thailand technically can be prevented from boarding a flight if they don’t show proof of an onward/return air ticket.

I realize that I’m dealing with what I suspect is a white person rule. Maybe I’m wrong. But judging by her incredibly rude and aggressive tone toward me, it seemed like she was exercising her all-mighty airline employee power wherever she could.

Thankful I’d randomly given away an expensive extension cord to another male (Ugandan) Ethiopian Airlines employee about 30 minutes prior (based on solely the whim of a voice inside me saying, “you don’t need this, give it away”), I now sought him out as a potential much-needed ally to get me aboard the plane.

Still carrying the extension cord, he said, “ahhhh” when I explained the situation. Apparently this is just how things go. I’m escorted to speak with the head of EA, where I’m grilled for 15 minutes about my plans. I pass all the tests, and he nods. My extension corded escort gives me the signal to stand.

“So….?”

“You’re fine, it’s not a problem.” Huh. I wander back downstairs, where I find out that of course news of this newly granted permission  has not been given to anyone who actually has the power to let me through to check-in.

Another hour goes by. I’m grateful that I always make a point of being at the airport early. Eventually the information is transmitted and the lady who was adamant that I produce a return ticket begrudgingly lets me through, with a glare. I smile politely, even with my eyes, trying to connect with her, trying to have empathy for the fact that I’m sure it’s a tough job, and I have no idea what her personal situation is. And maybe she really did think that the rule was what she said, and maybe she doesn’t read English very well, and maybe she had a bad day. And maybe.

The flight turns out to have open seating. This is a first for me: of all the times I’ve flown, never before have I witnessed a free-for-all in seating inside the airplane. The cause, as far as I can gather is that a group of smartly dressed men from Kigali made an unannounced late arrival at the airport, and no one was organized enough to properly process them all. I could be wrong.

This leads, unsurprisingly, to a miscount of persons on the plane — we supposedly have one extra body. Triggering concerns of security issues, the flight is delayed for over an hour while the airline stewardesses make numerous failed attempts to determine who the extra person is. We try helping them, making suggestions including actually checking everyone’s seat number, instead of asking people to raise their hands when we can’t even hear what the question is.

Many people seated (by choice!) near me grumble as they realize they’ll be missing their connecting flights due to this delay. I shake my head and make enjoyable conversation with my seatmate. I feel absolutely fantastic about the fact that I’m even on the plane. Whatever happens from here on out, no problem.

Eventually, it’s discovered that the miscount is because one lady took it upon herself to use the ‘free seating’ policy as her big chance to seat herself in first class. Somehow this led them to miscalculate, likely because they didn’t actually count those of us in economy.

And that was the end to my Ugandan adventure. Entirely appropriate. Grateful for the experience, the incredible friends I met, and utterly relieved to be back in Chiang Mai, where I can ride my bicycle everywhere, eat fruit smoothies from street stalls, and drink yummy hot lattes at any corner. Oh, and run into awesome people every few minutes when out and about. And…

So much to LOVE!