Wednesday, January 24, 2007

India Day 5

It is amazing how fast we as humans adapt to our surroundings and situations… 5 days in India and my sense of normalcy has taken a complete U-turn. Cows in the street are no longer a novelty. Electrical outages are no longer anything to even think about, you just continue on. Yesterday I was in a meeting with about 7 people and all the electricity went out. Everyone just used the lights from their mobile phone displays until the generator kicked in and the electricity came back on. My evenings at home are often spent with a minimal of electricity, meaning that one light in each room works as well as the television, but the electrical sockets, wireless modems, hot water heater, stove and refrigerator do not work. Funny how the TV is given higher status than hot water and cooking. Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I listen for is the sound of the generator. If it is going, then I know there will be no warm shower, which then means jumping under the cold water and getting it over as quickly as possible. Things like shaving are done whenever the opportunity arises (hot water availability), so the whole morning ritual that I used to have does not exist. My iPod keeps me entertained when the power goes out and it gives me the down-time I may not normally take to just relax and read. I have come to a point where I expect the minimum when I get home. The traffic is no longer a surprise for me, it is just what it is and it has quickly just become a fact of my everyday planning and routine, like switching on the water heater if I want a warm shower, knowing that 3 minutes is about as long as it is going to last.

I have gone through all the clothes I brought in just under a week. I had every intention of buying things once I arrived, but so far have been working 14-16 hour days, so no chance of stocking up. Just sent everything to the laundry today for the first time, so we will see what awaits me when I get back home.

The air is very heavy and gives everything a tint of brown or grey. It is like looking though dusty sunglasses all the time. The constant honking of the horns I almost don’t even hear anymore unless I am trying to find some quiet for a phone call. The drums and celebrations or whatever is going on outside my window at night don’t keep me awake and brushing my teeth with bottled water seems like the most normal thing in the world now.

So far I have not had any stomach issues, although I have been eating up a storm. Chau Mein (so spicy it melts your lips off), Alooka Paratha, Rosogulla (a sweet white ball that looks a bit like a ball of rice, but actually have no idea what it is) Jalebi (it is a sweet, fried, gummy worm looking thing that tastes a bit like a sugary donut), bread omelets (which is exactly that, an omelet between pieces of bread… yummy!)… saag (spinach dish) murg (chicken) curries, nan, roti and anything else I can get my hands on. I think I will leave several kilos lighter than I arrived.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Got The Power...

This morning I woke up to no electricity and no hot water… While I have heard that cold showers are great for the body, they are not really my idea of waking up in a nice and relaxed way. One of the things I learned from my last time in India is that electricity can be dicey and unpredictable, but until today I had no issues… Ok, so I know this is only day 4, but it was all going so well… I left work at 9:30 this evening bought a beer and ordered out for some Chicken Masala (the spiciest I have ever had) and tucked in on my sofa to watch some reruns of the 4400. TV here isn’t anything to write home about and all the channels I have seen are either not worth watching, or I don’t understand them. What I do find funny, is the universal corniness of daytime soap operas… It doesn’t matter if you are in the US, Mexico, Korea, China or India, they are all the same. The same stupid looks, the same bad lighting. You can almost sit and write your own script out and probably not be too far off… Either it’s a love triangle, blackmail, espionage or the star crossed lovers. But this evening, it was none of that as the power has decided to take the evening off and I am now relying on whatever battery I have leftover… There is a generator running that is keeping on one light in the living room/seating area, but that is also shaking the glass table causing a whole lot of noise that is quickly getting on my last nerve. So, here I sit in my flat that has been decorated with open yet pretty full bottles of Johnnie Walker and Chivas, neither of which I drink. I stand very firm in my belief that if it aint got the bubbles, it aint worth the troubles.

I had thought about tucking into bed early, but just as I was about to shut off the one working light and brush the teeth, a party has started up outside at the tent-like structure (which, it turns out is a taxi stand) and they have a band that is playing heavy on the drums and from the looks of it, it is going to be a New York house party, Delhi style!

The first pangs of being homesick are starting to kick in. I feel lonely here in India. Not lonely in the sense of not having anyone to do anything with, my colleagues are great, but lonely in the sense that I have nobody to talk to, and there are certain aspects of my life which just aren’t really shared in this country. So, conversation stays on a superficial level and I am always on guard to make sure I don’t tell the wrong joke or say anything that someone might find offensive. It is weird to be 39 and have to censure ones life, but then again I guess there are people that spend their whole lives that way…

Hey! The music outside just suddenly stopped and looking out the window I see the lights and fires are out and I don’t see a single person… Could this all have been in my imagination? HEY again... My lights just flipped on, the vibrating of the generator just stopped and suddenly the world is a normal place again! Yippee! And I have internet connections… Suddenly I feel a part of the world again…

Monday, January 22, 2007

First Day at Work

The first full day in the office, and it is indeed a first full day. My driver picked me up at 9 this morning and 10 minutes later I was at the office where now at 1am the following day, I am still here to ensure that we meet a deadline, will then go home, sleep and be picked up again at the same time. Working in India is different from anywhere I have worked before, the main difference being the "Office Boy" who fetches us anything at all that we want or need. We do not get our own water, tea, pens, paper or even run out to get our own lunch or Diet Coke. That is all done for us. The water machine is about 5 meters away and still it gets brought to me. It feels quite odd to me to have someone do those kinds of tasks, but that is the way it works here and it provides someone with a job they may not otherwise have…


Not much else to say right now as I haven't experienced anything outside the office today and I never write about my actual work. Hopefully a slightly different story tomorrow…

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Karma Points

I spent the afternoon shopping around Connaught Place, having a fabulous lunch of Murg Chaarnimar followed by drinks at a blues themed bar, where I had a Mexican beer while listening to John Denver… What a confusing world we live in sometimes. What a difference a decade makes. Last time I was at Connaught Place, I was hassled, harassed and bombarded…. This time, it was bliss… I was listening to my iPod via my B&O headphones, sporting my blacker than black sunglasses and I was in my own little world. Even at Palika Bazaar, I seemed to be in my own little bubble of existence and it was just great.

I did have a bit of a near afterlife experience on my way home. There I was in a rickshaw, when suddenly a cow pulled out in front of us - no signal, no nothing, just pulled right out as if she had a green light on her side of the sidewalk. My life flashed before my eyes in shades of grey and beige and I knew that if we hit the cow, all my karma points would be wasted. It would be like being sent to jail in the big Monopoly game of life... No get out free card, just there until I managed to roll doubles with the cosmic dice that rule my fate at the moment. Fortunately, the driver is a bigger believer in the holiness of cows and the damage they can do to one's karma should you strike them with your rickshaw than I am and he quickly got us out of harms way and into the way of a tree growing in the street. It was a close call, but here I am, two big swerves later, limbs intact and confident in the knowledge that an unharmed cow is still making his way casually down the street as cows here so often do.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Incredible !ndia

I have to say, I am totally feeling India right now. I mean where else can you be in a car, battling a horse as you both swerve through crowded traffic? I don’t even know why they bother having any lines on any of the roads. They don’t matter. Our 3 lane side of the road was handling 7 lanes of cars (well, assorted vehicles is more accurate) heading one direction. We were so close to the cars next to us that we actually bumped sideview mirrors another car and they had to be folded back to avoid any further undesired contact. And the dividers separating the traffic directions don’t mean anything either and I think they are there just for decoration. 1, 2 sometimes 3 lanes of traffic coming at us on our side of the divider. We were speeding along and suddenly headlights in our lane. And nobody finds this abnormal, everyone just swerves out of the way and keeps on moving.

I think I have the driving figured out… If there is a space, then use it. Makes no difference where it is, just get in as close and tight as you can or avoid any oncoming vehicles. Traffic lights? Who needs them? If you don't see any oncoming vehicles, or even if you do, just go when you feel like it. We got stuck in a pretty intense traffic jam, you know the kind where the cars are all in such a place that absolutely nobody can move. Now, imagine that to include the aforementioned horse as well as bicycles, motorcycles, rickshaws, vans, tractors, busses, a cow, trucks with no brake lights or turn signals, taxis, cars (the speedometer in ours doesn’t even work) and a whole lot of pedestrians that just decided to help out and start directing traffic, each with their own idea of what and who needs to go where. The fact that they are contributing to the problem goes completely unnoticed. At this point, it doesn’t matter which way a vehicle is supposed to be going, movement is the only goal and if it means going the wrong way, so be it and of course all this is done with a whole audience of spectators standing on each corner. Finally, through some miracle we manage to get out of the middle of the hoi polloi and were soon en route to our destination. I am stunned that I did not see an accident. And then, as you are speeding down the street, suddenly there is a steel barrier blocking one lane informing you that you are entering a different part of the city, or perhaps a tree that is just growing in the road itself… Not on the sidewalks, in the actual road, forcing the cars to swerve and then swerve back to avoid colliding with the cows that have decided that the best place to walk or have a bit of a rest is in the middle of heavy traffic.

Today I learned a new sport… The foosball of India and I intend to become a champ before I head back to Europe. Carram is my new sport du jour. I went into the office today to meet the team I will be working with and immediately got drafted to compete on one of the teams. I have no idea what I am supposed to do or how I am supposed to do it, but suddenly I feel a purpose in life. I have a goal. I have a dream!

One of the things I have been looking forward to is the food and tonight was no disappointment. We went to an Italian restaurant that had the look and feel of a ski lodge which made kept throwing me off balance when I would look the huge picture windows and see not snowy alps and women in tasteful fur frocks but rather rickshaws and cows. The view aside, it was a very good Italian meal, although I did have a Greek salad to start, but ended it with a traditional Tiramisu. After that, it was time to go shopping for some essentials for my new humble abode… Raspberry and Cookies and Creme Poptarts, Pringles Fiery Hot flavor and a box of bottled water. Joy!

Fed and supplied, I was ready to catch some zzzzz's. I got back to the building and my key was missing. I had not lost it, I had handed it in when I left and someone had misplaced it. The doorman has to wake someone else and the two of them begin a frantic search for my missing keys, without which I will be tucking into a plastic chair with my groceries for a cuddle.

Tomorrow I am venturing out on my own to take in some local color and just wander aimlessly around Old Delhi and Connaught Place. I don’t have a small digital camera yet, which is why no pics yet. Mine was stolen that awful evening on the train to Brussels. I am hoping to get one sometime this week and will be posting them here…

First Day

The apartment is in South Delhi in an area known as Defence Colony. I am sitting in the sun on my terrace, a rather grand word for the balcony that I have, that overlooks a sort of roundabout/intersection with a little hut in the middle and the intersection is a spaghetti of power and phone lines, and hawks are hanging in the air, making their lazy circles, looking for whatever it is hawks look for. I woke up to this morning to the sounds of honking, which pretty much every vehicle does as it goes around the little hut, I guess to warn driver they can’t see that they are coming. I wonder if with all that honking any of it actually makes sense anymore. I am on the 2nd floor (3rd by US standards) and have a bit of a view over the intersection and trees. Everything is in shades of beige and grey, including the air. Just across the street is a sort of compound with a grey tent-like structure that looks as if it will fall over if someone touches it. Not sure what it is yet, but will investigate later…

At this very moment the streets below are very busy with every type of vehicle you can imagine… In addition to the normal cars and busses, here are rickshaws (small 3 wheel taxis that are probably closer to mopeds wrapped in a shell with a little seat that fits 2 ok but I have seen 4 or more crammed inside – they are usually green or black with yellow tops, made mostly of tarps like you would find on a jeep), motorbikes, tractors, bicycles carrying anything you can imagine (I saw one this morning with 5 big propane tanks attached to it) and then there are the people who walk in the street due to a lack or at least apparent lack of a sidewalk and just beyond the tent like structure, there is a cow sunning him or herself on the side of the road. My first cow on this trip. I am officially in India now! While the traffic is supposed to go around the little hut, it quickly becomes clear that many people decide to take the short way and drive into oncoming traffic to speed things up a bit. The honking never ends, but thanks to my iPod, I have an escape, at last from the noise.

Everything seems to have a layer of dust on it and it is slowly sinking in that this is my new home. I was told last night that the other flat I will move into at the beginning of February will have me back in civilization. Until now, it will be taxis or our driver to get around.

I went to take a shower this morning and waited and waited for the water to start turning warm, which never happened. I am adventurous, but not really enough to prop myself up under an icy shower and after a bit of experimenting with the various switches, I found the one that turned on the hot water heater and managed to squeeze out a 3 minute shower where before the warm water was used up. I am hoping that the short time was due to the heater only having been on for 10 minutes or so… I will check into that later. I did remember to brush my teeth using the bottled water, but then force of habit took over and I rinsed out my toothbrush with tap water. I guess I will buy a new toothbrush later today or perhaps just boil the one I have… Part of me is just wondering if I should not just get the inevitable out of the way, but I am tired and want to hold off the whole bathroom experience for another week or so when I am feeling rested and a bit more comfortable.

One thing I find funny is that everyone is dressed for winter. There are fleece coats, gloves and heavy coats while I am sitting in a t-shirt, and sandals, sunglasses and feeling very warm and cozy. I think it has to be about 21 degrees Celsius (70-ish Fahrenheit, I think) In a month or two the temperature is going to go through the roof,

I will go into the office for a bit today, just to say hi to the team and then I am hoping to just head into the center and get lost in the crowds. Monday I start work, beginning with Hindi classes at 8 in the morning. 90 minutes each day, I will be studying Hindi which I am really excited about. I am looking forward to ordering my first meal or taxi in a local language.

I do wish I had someone here to share things with. I keep seeing things and wondering what would Ulco, Nik, Marco or someone else think of it. And speaking of Nik, I could definitely use a well shaken cocktail right about now… I know it is only noon, but it is happy hour somewhere in the world and well, is it ever too early for a drink topped off with bubbles? Guess I will have to make due without them and head to Connaught Place this evening to see how they shake things up in India.

Off To India

After an early morning of packing, unpacking, repacking and getting myself ready for the temporary move to Delhi, I was off to the airport to navigate the massive crowds created by the cancellations from the day before due to the major storm that hit northern Europe. Chaos doesn’t begin to describe the scene at the KLM check-in counter and just when I was about to lose my patience, I realized that as hectic as it may be, it was nothing compared to what was waiting for me at the other end of the flight. After checking in, I met Ulco and Mark who shoved me on the plane and tearfully waved goodbye… The flight was delayed by 90 minutes, and then after we boarded, we stayed at the gate for 40 more due to the air traffic computers being down. Once the computers were back up, we sat on the runway only to hear that our flight did not exist in their system, so back to towards the gate and then eventually, after a total of 3 hours delay, I was on my way.

I think tickets to my flight were sold with a family discount. I have never seen so many toddlers on one flight in my life. One would cry and that would set off the whole chain of reaction and soon the plane was a screaming mess. No sleep for me, so read in my new book “Fashion Babylon”. As you can imagine, screaming children and reading don’t really mix too well, so I decided to stick to the fashion theme and watch “The Devil Wears Prada” which is not so entertaining the second time around. That basically sums up my flight. Except to say that I think I had the most uncomfortable chair in the history of airline seats. I even switched seats and there was no difference.

On arrival, passport control and baggage claim were a breeze, unlike my last visit when the power went out 3 times while waiting for the luggage. Then it was out to the arrivals hall to look for the people sent to pick me up. Suddenly the calm of the baggage center was a distant memory as the tsunami of name boards came racing toward me. Hundreds and hundreds of them, no exaggeration. I quickly recognized one of the people that was there to meet me and before I knew it, we were in the car weaving in and out of traffic, dodging dogs and getting honked at all the way to the flat where I will spend the next few weeks before moving to a new location.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What Am I Doing?!!!????

Panic has set in. I have been up since 4 this morning, a flurry of packing activity. Not taking much, but keep changing my mind about everything. A few pairs of pants, some shirts, beach sandals, walking sandals, gym shoes, walking shoes, work shoes and of course the obligatory Prada sneakers which, truth be told, should have been thrown out with the baby and the bathwater many moons ago, but am planning on leaving those behind when I return. Not taking much as I am planning on just getting it once I am there, but still "not much" seems to fill a pretty big suitcase. Of course, I have enough underwear to survive a couple of wars, a famine and the occasional plague without having to recycle. I am all for going back to basics, but when it comes to underwear, there just is no compromise.

Now the big question has hit... "What the !@#$%" am I doing going to India?!" What was I thinking? No turning back now, I am just a shower and a train ride away from checking in. The refrigerator is empty and unplugged, the bottle of Absolute that has been residing in my freezer is now looking alone and abandoned on the counter, that thin coating of ice thawing out as we speak. He had a dream that one day he would be a tasty cocktail and now he is just a could have been that never was.

My adrenaline is racing. No heat on but, to use one of Garad's lines, I am sweating like a whore in church. What am I doing? What am I doing? This must be what it's like just before complete insanity hits. I am not even sure where I am going when I land... No confirmation about a pick-up, no address... I can just imagine me, standing outside Terminal 2 at Indira Ganhi Airport with only the cows for company.


As I approach the last 24 hours here in the Netherlands, I find myself getting quite stressed. Yesterday I finally managed to get my visa and then had to have 3 vaccinations (Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Tyhpoid) so that I can come back with all my limbs attached to my body… Wouldn’t want to leave any vital organs behind. Now it is down to packing, doing any last minute shopping for things I need to make sure I have with me… Sun block, mosquito repellent with Deet, vitamins, Gillette blades, that kind of thing.

Tonight is my last night here and not sure how I want to spend it. Part of me wants to see people and part of me wants to be alone. I have to be in the office for a last handover of projects and a going away drink and then the new adventure begins. I haven’t slept well in over a week. Even with a sleeping pill, I only managed 4 hours and last night was a complete waste of a pillow as my head was just swarming with thoughts about what I need to do, should do, what could go wrong, etc. You would think I was getting married, but even when I did that, I was totally calm. I think it is just that I have not had time to let the reality sink in and I know as soon as I step off that plane tomorrow night, it is going to be an assault on the senses. I am just hoping that a car is arranged to take me to my new flat.

Yes, I will be living in a flat there with a few other people… How many, I don’t know, but they will all be colleagues so that means being on my best behavior. Perhaps it will be a sort of advertising version of Big Brother and we will get into all sorts of fights where we will hurl insults at each other and pick sides to gang up on someone and make them miserable…
I have been studying the Lonely Planet for Delhi and Rajasthan so I can make sure I get to take in plenty of local culture and festivals. It looks like the first one on the agenda will be the Elephant Festival in Jaipur in March. I think for the first weeks, I will focus on getting settled in, familiar with the expat community there and hopefully start taking some yoga courses… Well, I’ll keep you all posted…

In the meantime, here are a few pics I took on my last trip to India that I really like…

Friday, January 12, 2007

New Beginnings

Sometimes I have the strange feeling that I am a character in a story and just when I think I have the plot all figured out, it changes without any warning. Once again my life is moving in a completely unexpected direction and I have the incredibly strong feeling that it will never be the same again. I feel like I standing at the intersection of my past and my future wanting to hold onto one yet driving quickly toward the other.

I have been asked to work abroad on a project for the next few months. The initial request came very unexpectedly last Monday evening while I was out having a few drinks in Paris. Less than 48 hours later, it was a done deal. I have been so busy coordinating and organising everything that it took another 48 hours for it to actually start sinking in that I am about to walk through the door of major change. At this time next week I will be on a flight heading for Delhi, India.

It is a great opportunity and one that I am incredibly excited about. As I was taking the train yesterday from Amsterdam to Brussels to spend the rest of my little break from work, I realized that I am in my last days of anonymity. I have been in India before, and when you are blonde and have fair skin, it makes you something of an attraction. Unless I was in my room or tucked away in a restaurant, the attention was non-stop. People want to touch my hair and feel my skin. No more sitting in the park, reading a book in peace. That means attracting an audience, people who will just sit around and watch to see what you do. Then there are the people trying to make a living. Offers to have the ears cleaned, have a shave, get a haircut, massage the feet, watch the cobra, pet the monkey, and of course the endless parade of people begging for money. A simple walk down the street means attracting a crowd and everyone you make eye contact with and even those you don't are all giving advice about where the tourist office is, where the taxi is, where the hotel is and it just goes on and on. I have been walking around Brussels last night and today just enjoying the solitude, the quiet of a normal city. Delhi is a flood of traffic, rickshaws, busses, taxis all combating each other for space on the road and there is the never-ending honking of horns.

Last time I was in India, it took me a couple of weeks to adjust, I simply had no idea what to expect. I left with a different attitude than when I arrived. The little things in life didn't matter anymore. A train or place with a little delay, no worries. A dirty tablecloth doesn't even warrant a comment. And after seeing all the poverty and extreme conditions in which some people live, I felt somewhat ashamed at the indulgence of my own life and the times when I get upset for something that really and truly doesn't matter. I have my friends. I have my heath. I have a great job. I have a nice life that has seen me around the world twice and travelling almost as long as I have been alive, and more extensively the past 12 years. This time in India will be different. For starters, I know exactly what to expect and I will be there longer than just a few short weeks. I am there until at least April 1 and I will be staying almost exclusively in Delhi, which will allow me to really get to know the city and hopefully make a few friends.

I do find myself also feeling sad. My friends are very important to me and while I know they will only be a phone call away, they won't be there. This will be the first time I am truly 100% on my own. I have 6 days left and not enough time to see everyone I want to see. I know I won't be gone long, but something tells me that this is just the beginning of something much bigger than I can imagine right now.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Hip Hip Hooray!

I never thought I would ever write or say the following sentence, but I simply have no choice…

Hurray for lesbians!

I am staying at Nik's flat in Brussels working my way through his cashmere sweaters, wasabi peas and non-porn video collection. A few years back I heard of a television show called "The L Word" and always being one to judge a book by it's cover, I decided I never needed to see it. I knew it was going to be a bunch of man-hating women with bad haircuts and badly applied eyeliner. Then a few months ago Garad and Adam start raving about it but I turned a deaf ear and ignored their praises. Then during Christmas weekend at Nik's, Garad, Nik and I were looking for videos to watch and Nik suggested "The L Word". I poo-pooed that idea immediately and instead we watched Reese Witherspoon go to Harvard. So I arrive back in Brussels on Friday and while scanning the titles, I decided to give the girls a go. I knew I would hate it, but didn't want to be the only one out of the lesbian loop. I was wrong. It was hot! Lesbians are hot. I can imagine that if I were a straight man, I would call in sick from work forever and just watch and watch. Who knew (other than straight guys) that girl + girl = steamy? And not only that, but the storylines are great. I laughed, I almost cried, I was shocked, I was appauled, I learned about bush confidence, I was entertained… It made me wonder if in fact a lack of bush confidence is what led to Charlotte's depressed vagina on Sex and the City. Perhaps instead of those anti-depressants, she should have gotten a good waxing.

I watched the entire first season in just over 24 hours. I couldn't stop. It was like eating a Pringles, one little bite and you know you have to finish it off. The only problem is that he only has season 1 and now I must know what happens in season 2. Will Bette and Tina work it out? What about Kit and Ivan? Dana and Alice and poor Shane? Will Jenny ever come to terms with who she is and does she really lose her hot hunk of a husband? I can't sleep. I can't eat. I can barely type. I tossed and turned last night with visions of lesbian sex. Does this make me like Lisa, the lesbian man? That made me wonder… Would a gay, lesbian identified man in all actuality be straight?

Anyway, all I can say is 3 cheers for the grrrrrls.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I have just finished reading through one of the most amazing, unique and moving books I think I have ever come across, thanks to Garad finding it in a store in Brussels. The book is titled "PostSecret" by Frank Warren. The idea is simple, original and the results amazing. The invitation is to anonymously write down one secret on a postcard and send it in. The secret can be anything, a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, etc., the only requirement is that it has to be something that has never been shared with anyone before. Some people used bought postcards, others made their own or used photographs. They are written in pen, ink, typed, cut out letters or words from magazines, crayon. Some are funny, some are sad, some inspire anger, some hope. It is nothing less than a snapshop of human emotions and dreams that have been achieved, missed, lost or forgotten.

I was surprised to see so much of myself in the pages. So many of my thoughts, fears, desires and feelings were right there on the page, in other peoples' handwriting and suddenly I feel a connection with the nameless and faceless people who so accurately described me, perhaps more honestly than I can myself.

There is a website at PostSecret Blog where you can see some of the postcards, some of the feedback from others and instructions on where and how to submit your own secret, which I just may do. And I highly recommend the book.

It's Raining Rocks

Aloha kakahiaka. Thanks Nik, for correcting me on that little Hawaiian weather blunder thing. As if it wasn’t bad enough that you and Marco leave me here in the cold and rain, shivering in the corner like the little matchgirl without her matches , you have to rub my nose into your island hopping glee. Mahalo nui loa! Well, not one to be outdone, I have decided to create my own little luau. Here I sit, grass skirt and coconut shells, hoping and waiting to get lei’d, but the reality is, I am in the early stages of hypothermia and try as I might, I have never been able to carry off blue lips. Let me just tell you, it’s gonna take a whole lot of cashmere to get over this one. This weekend sees me once again heading south to the tropics of Brussels. Perhaps I should take my hula themed attire with me, strap a portable karaoke system to my back and belt out numbers like “Tiny Bubbles”. Move over Don Ho! I could walk into Fontainas feeling and looking all tropical like I have just breezed in from my secret volcanic getaway and pass the microphone around for a good old fashioned Hawaiian sing-along, Belgian style. It would be almost as good as going to the KonTiki bar in Barcelona, my favorite Hawaiian haunt this side of the islands. Where else can one curl up next to dusty plastic totem poles and drink out of ceramic coconut mugs?

Speaking of tacky, I now take my little story to New Jersey (Sorry Joe, but I can’t let friendship get in the way of my journalistic integrity). Just when you thought it was safe to go outside... A golf ball sized object made of until now inidentifiable material fell out of the sky and inbedded itself into the wall of a house in eastern New Jersey. That in itself may not be news worthy, but then I read that 20 to 50 rock like objects fall from the sky everyday. Everyday. That comes out to between 7300 and 18250 rocks per year, meaning that I have already had over 711750 near death experiences. Is the universe out to get me? Could this be some form of alien dodgeball and suddenly I am the nerdy kid back in junior high school that always got slammed with the red ball, only to sit the rest of the game on the sidelines with the other wierdos? Or does this mean that perhaps the universe, like America just sends all their rubbish to New Jersey? Luckily for me, I have that hardhat I got from the tour of Boulder Dam a few years back and let’s just say, I won’t be leaving home without it. It does clash a bit with my island look, but we’ll see who has the last laugh when a toilet seat from a UFO comes flying down and conks someone on the head. Don’t come crying to me when that happens, you have been warned.

As they say in Hawaii, malama pono.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Dream

Last night I had the most crazy dream and still have no idea what the meaning of it was. It was one of those dreams you get when you are almost asleep, but not quite and it involves one of my favorite subjects, airport hygiene. In my dream, I was in a bubble bath. That in itself is not so odd, but what is odd is that I was in the baggage claim section of an airport and instead of the luggage carousel, it was a flowing bath like a water ride at an amusement park. And not only that, but I was waiting for Elizabeth Taylor, (not the old one that we know today, but the glamorous one that played Cleopatra). I have no idea why I was waiting as she never bothered showing up. Rude, I know, but she stood me up. Me, stood up by Miss T right there in the middle of my airport bubbles. Imagine the humiliation, the despair, and the travelers giving me their sad looks as they walked past. Is that simply a premonition of what 2007 holds in store? Whatever happened to the good old fashioned dreams of arriving naked at work only to be pointed at and laughed at by your colleagues?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I'm Only Happy When It Rains

Sometimes it amazes me that people (I really wish I could name some names here, but the list is long and could cost me my job, friends and perhaps even my very life) can be so stupid yet still remember to breathe in and out without having to follow a set of instructions…

Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Repeat as necessary.

And yet, there they are, barely able to remember their own names yet they still keep themselves alive so they can continue to annoy the rest of us. And they have this unique ability to be stupid in such a way that it is impossible to ignore them or pretend they simply don’t exist. And then I have to think “wha, whaddddddd I, wha, whadddddddddd I do” to deserve this? Perhaps it is the price one pays for living an otherwise fabulous and enviable life.

Speaking of the fabulous and enviable, Nik and Marco (see Marco, the adjectives that just seem to be coming your direction these days – It boggles the mind, it really does.) have left the rainy skies of Europe for the usually sunny and sandy shores of Hawaii, and now I feel I owe them an apology. See, all they wanted was a wicky, wacky, Waikiki holiday, but I was so jealous, as only a true friend can be, that I put my brand new Aussie Bum underwear on my head, grabbed a hairbrush to act as microfone and did an ancient Polynesian raindance around my small and scantily furnished living room. I just checked out the forecast on and it seems that I was a smashing success. The next 3 days are filled with rain. Sorry guys, I feel horrible, I really do, like this was somehow all my fault. I was just dancing, shaking my J-Lo like bon-bon like my love really doesn’t cost a thing and now, it seems that when you shake a bum in one place, it causes a rain storm in another. But don’t worry, Nik, when I am at your flat this weekend, I will borrow a cashmere sweater and feel all better.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Jan 2

Due to the few emails and phone call I got from friends about my last blog entry, I guess I should be clear that I am not depressed, downtrodden, broken hearted or down with love... I wrote that about the experiences of not only myself, but also friends of mine... So, no need to worry. Really! I'm still the guy who will throw caution to the wind and jump in the deep end of the ocean... I started writing that entry already in November, and just revamped and reworked it to post yesterday... Of course, I never mention friends in any way that would compromise anything they told me, so I wrote it all from a first person perpective... I am actually doing great... well, with the exception that I am due in the office in just a couple of hours and, of course they will expect me to work once I get there. But this is a short week and I am free next week, popping down for yet another week in Brussels to relax, watch videos, read and, if the weather is nice, revisit Bruges with a camera and loads of film. I know someone as technologically advanced as I should be working in digital, but there is something I love about 35mm.


A new year is here and as I always say, "New Years' resolutions are for losers"... well, maybe I don't always say that, but I am against the whole idea of deciding to go to the gym or quit smoking simply because we are another year further, making promises we intend to keep until the 10th or so of January, only to put them on the shelf and dust them off the next year, repeating the same cycle, dangling the goals we don't really want to accomplish like carrots in front of our friends and family, so everyone can think we are making steps in the right direction, tell us how brave we are or wish us success on our never to be started journey... I did decide, however, to look back over the last year and examine a few things...

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, let me just say that this entry is the result of numerous conversations I have had with friends both gay and straight over the past couple of years, and as I am making the transition from being decidedly single to being open to a relationship, I find these particular thoughts, fears and desires to be popping up with ever increasing frequency. I am writing from my own point of view, but this is a composite of many hours of conversations, tears and Janis Ian.

If I have discovered anything the past few months, it is that dating has become something of an Olympic sport and I am just completely unprepared to compete. I had been in relationships since I was 20, so the past 2 years is my first time ever being truly single. I had been single, but never for longer than a couple of months... This time it is 2 years and counting. And just for the record, I think it sucks. It was nice in the beginning, the excitement, the possiblity, the adventure of it all. Embracing my inner Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and of course, Samantha. Why choose one when you can be all four and all the more fantastic for it. It didn't take long for the glossy sheen to wear to a dingy grey and suddenly adventure became lonely nights, waking up wanting to feel someone's arms and settling for the pillow instead. The phone seems to forget how to ring and suddenly life is about reruns of Desperate Housewives, relating to the drama of Bree, Susan and Lynette, while secretly wishing some of Gabrielle Solis would start happening to us. Nothing a hunky gardner wouldn't cure.

It used to be you met someone, made a few phone calls, had a drink, had dinner and got to know each other... People flirted, people put effort into getting to know someone. Now, there is the whole online space to meet people. How wonderful it is to put up a few pictures and a blurb of text that may or may not even be true or reflect someone's actual personality or intentions, but then you have the added pleasure of having those very things judged by people who give you a 2 second scan (if you're lucky) and then decide whether you are or not worth contacting.

Occasionally, I do send a message to someone and 95% of people can't even be bothered to say thanks. I even had someone tell me that my pictures were "the most unappetizing" they had ever seen. Nice. Don't get me wrong, I have met some amazing people online, some of whom are now my closest friends, like Marco, but that is an exception, not the norm. This for me seems to be just one more way for people to feed their insecurities and I too have gotten to the point of deleting my online profile just because it only made me feel bad about myself and my life. And a lot of gay men seem to be wanting the steady relationship and companionship yet at the same time keeping that eye open for someone better to come along. Bigger pecs, flatter abs and whiter teeth are just around the corner, a click or a party away. Why is it that we let total strangers determine how we feel? When did we turn over that control?

Add to that the email, SMS, phones, and it quickly becomes so confusing and complicated it hardly seems worth all the effort. When do you call? When do you text? How much is enough? How much is too much? What is the right combination? The part that I find very hard in all of this is knowing when to do what. Am I supposed to send a message and then wait for a reply before sending one back? If I send more than 1 a day, am I being pushy or controlling? And what about feelings, how much should one reveal? It feels like there are rules out there, but I guess I was doing something else when the rulebook was handed out...

My problem is that when I like someone, I like them 100%. I let my feelings go. I throw myself into the moment, I get caught up, I throw all caution to the wind, once again blind to the dangers lurking just around the next corner, the next message, the next call that proves to be too much. When I have one of those moments when it feels like there is a real connection, I just want to take it in, as far as I can, like a deep breath and never let it out. I want to savor every moment and hold on to it for as long as I can. I want to take it into the depths of my soul. I want to be able to let myself go without worrying that the next step could be the one that breaks through the fragile ice, into the dark, murky waters below. Then combine that with the fact I love to write and everything I have inside of me just seems to always be pushing itself out... Seems to make for a bit of a dangerous combination for me... People say they want communication, they say they want romance, they say they want honesty and as soon as it is there, they either stop like a deer caught in the headlights or they run as fast as they can in the opposite direction.

I personally find it all frustrating and confusing and demotivating. I sometimes wonder if I still have it in me... well, I know I have it in me, but I often wish I didn't. I wish I could turn all of that off, know exactly what to do and play by the rules of the game. And then, of course, you hear the line Ït's not you, really, it's me" Like that is supposed to make everything all better. It doesn´t, it makes it more frustrating it makes it all more abstract. Tell me I am too communicative, pushy, demanding or that I don't phone enough or bring you flowers anymore. At least if it was me and I knew what the issue was, then I would know what to do different. A leopard may not be able to change it´s spots, but it can certainly tone them down.

Well, perhaps 2007 will be different, perhaps we will come across the one that sweeps us off our feet, throws our world into delicious chaos and teaches our hearts to fly again.