Sciences Po c’est fini

C’est le lendemain du gala de Sciences Po. Je me suis réveillée à 8h30 pour aller à un cours qui n’existait pas. Avec 4h de sommeil dans les pattes, je me suis rendu compte en arrivant de ce que j’avais sous les yeux et les doigts : Sciences Po, vide. Alors j’ai commencé à explorer. J’ai passé la tête en Boutmy, en plein exam à feuilles vertes, j’ai traversé le jardin, je me suis glissée dans les étages du 56, sombres et en silence. J’ai essayé toutes les portes et toutes les fenêtres. Beaucoup étaient fermées, mais j’ai trouvé quand même deux réfectoires et une aile où je n’avais jamais été.

J’ai appris qu’il y a un pôle web et banners, et j’ai regretté de ne m’être pas investie dans la vie associative. J’ai vu une affiche du pôle handicap, qui parlait de maladies mentales, et je me suis dit que j’aurais pu parler de maladies mentales au pôle handicap, en première et deuxième et quatrième année. Je suis passée devant le panneau “échange linguistique” où les étudiants en échange laissent leurs espoirs de rencontrer des locaux, et je me suis dit que j’aurais pu rencontrer plus d’étudiants en échange. J’ai regretté de ne pas avoir squatté le bureau des arts et de ne pas avoir profité du matos audiovisuel en location. J’ai pensé à tous les gens que j’ai trouvés follement sympathiques sans pourtant apprendre à les connaître, et j’ai regretté de n’avoir pas plus osé. J’ai regretté de n’avoir jamais grimpé sur les toits (j’ai cherché un accès pour grimper sur les toits) et de ne pas avoir créé un projet qui soit de moi, et qui laisse quelque chose de tangible à ceux d’après. J’ai regretté de ne pas avoir exploré un Sciences Po vide plus tôt, plus jeune, plus accompagnée.

J’ai regretté, en somme, de n’avoir pas eu en moi, à 18, 19, 21 ans toute la vie qui bout dans ma poitrine maintenant, maintenant que je pars, maintenant que j’ai envie de tout dévorer. Je fais la vieille conne avec moi-même : “Ma jeunesse est vraiment gâchée par ma jeune”

Je fais même la dictatrice temporelle : j’impose à mon enthousiasme d’avant le jugement de mon enthousiasme d’aujourd’hui. Parce que oui, si je rentrais à Sciences Po maintenant, avec la soif incroyable que j’ai bâtie en voyages, en amours, en yoga, en écrits, en lectures et en travail, qu’est-ce que je lui ferais pas, à cette école ! Je créerais une asso, deux, trois, je serais amoureuse tous les jours, j’y ferais des soirées clandestines, je ne laisserais pas le spleen et la glandouille m’enfermer dans mon lit, je serais artiste, conférencière, à tous les événements, à toutes les projections, je serais là, vraiment là, dans toutes les conversations et dans tous les moments seule, j’aurais une vie d’étudiante riche et épanouissante, j’apprendrais, j’approfondirais, je serais cum laude plus plus, je choisirais un master qui me convient réellement et je deviendrais experte, en quoi je ne sais pas, mais en quelque chose.

C’est bien beau, et c’est bien facile à dire.

Quand je suis rentrée à Sciences Po j’étais une petite chose terrifiée mais qui en avait marre, déjà, de s’enfermer dans sa cave intérieure et de se taire. Alors j’essayais très très fort. Et j’échouais très très fort. Mais pas que. J’oublie, à l’ombre de tout ce que j’aurais voulu être, tout ce que j’ai été et vécu, vraiment, tout ce dont j’arrive remplie aujourd’hui, et tout ce du haut de quoi je juge la jeune Hannah qui a fait la grimpette pour moi. Ou plutôt, je refuse d’oublier, alors j’écris.

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À Sciences Po, j’ai fait du Théâtre. Je suis tombée en amour-amitié* plus et avec plus de force que je n’aurais cru possible. Je me suis liée à des individus divers, complexes et merveilleux par qui j’ai eu et j’ai encore (et j’aurai, j’espère) la chance d’être façonnée à coups de discussions profondes et de blagues de merde, avec ou sans le champagne, à Paris ou à Rome, à Marseille, à Canberra, en Inde, à Istanbul, quand ça va très bien et que je le leur crie de joie et quand ça va pas fort ; parfois, quand je ne m’y attends pas. J’ai vu avec mes yeux neufs et surpris d’ex-extrème-solitaire, des relations se construire er changer et devenir des trucs sans noms, des trucs juste à nous.

À Sciences Po, et parce que Sciences Po m’a laissée partir en voyage, j’ai interrogé les cadres que je me trimballais. J’ai été inspirée par des profs brillants qui m’ont mis à l’esprit des graines qui germent depuis. J’ai appris des méthodes et des dogmes, et j’ai appris à les secouer – ou au moins, à avoir bien envie de les secouer. Je les ai mis dans ma besace, et je les ai frottés, cognés, tordus contre les Étranges que j’ai rencontrés en chemin, à commencer par le mien.

À Sciences Po, j’en ai eu ras le bol, je me suis sentie vide et insatisfaite, j’ai eu envie de savoir plus, d’aller plus loin, de me pousser à être meilleure. Et j’ai eu la flemme. Mais pas que. J’ai lu, j’ai écrit, beaucoup, j’ai travaillé dur et tard, j’ai créé, même, je me suis intéressée à des trucs qui seraient restés bien loin de mon cercle de connaissances autrement (DPE et FiPu, pour quoi faire ?). J’ai galéré, mais j’ai aussi appris à surmonter les galères, celles que je me monte toute seule et celles qui se sont invitées de l’extérieur. J’ai cherché, j’ai contacté, j’ai postulé, je suis sortie de ma zone de confort et d’appartenance, j’ai cumulé études, jobs, stages, vies intérieures, projets. J’ai testé les limites d’une journée de 24 heures.

J’en sors immensément grandie, nourrie de contacts, de points de vue et de nouveaux savoir-faire et savoir-être. Avec un bagage de connaissances assez flou, c’est vrai, mais qui a l’avantage de m’inviter à continuer l’apprentissage. Et ça, ça déchire. Et puis, quand même (c’est fait pour ça, non ?), j’en sors avec une compréhension du monde accrue, des clés pour ouvrir certains passages et naviguer plus habilement, un début de sentiment de légitimité à agir et un petit bout de réseau pour me soutenir. Ce n’est pas négligeable.

Ce dernier semestre a été à l’image de ma scolarité rêvée. Je suis arrivée avec une sérénité nouvelle, qui n’a pas aboli la procrastination, mais l’a rendu bien plus détendue. J’ai retrouvé des amis proches et fait de nouvelles rencontres. J’ai donné des cours de yoga pour l’asso Welcome Om, et suivi de près les événements de Changemaker NOISE. J’ai eu des cours (certains) intéressants et je suis plutôt satisfaite des recherches faites et des devoirs rendus. Je suis beaucoup sortie, j’ai commencé (doucement) à m’investir dans un projet d’éco-village, j’ai dansé le blues, écrit en groupe, lu mes textes en public, participé au concours de scénarios de la Semaine du Cinéma, été soir après soir à la Nuit Debout… Et à la soirée du Gala, j’ai pleuré en écoutant le discours de Frédéric Mion. Et en serrant mes amies du premier jour dans mes bras, et en faisant des photos, et en buvant du champagne, et, et, et

Je suis très émue quand je reviens sur le chemin parcouru. Très émue de voir que c’est déjà/enfin fini. Et très émue de la richesse du bagage avec lequel je sors de ces 6 ans, mon plus long et plus abouti projet à ce jour (après ma thérapie, bien entendu). Je ne me rends pas encore compte que “Sciences Po, c’est fini”, que bientôt, le jardin où j’écris ces mots ne sera plus chez moi, que les élèves de la cafèt ne seront plus mes pairs (je serai une ancienne !), que je ne donnerai plus de rendez-vous en Péniche, que je n’emprunterai plus 5 bouquins après avoir passé des heures en bibli, que je ne dirai plus de “salut” en croisant très vite, au 27, au 28, au 13U, sur le boulevard Saint-Germain, quelqu’un que j’aime très fort ou que je connais de quelque part, je crois. Je ne serai plus à Sciences Po. Bientôt, ça paraîtra bien loin.

C’est la première fois de ma vie que je ne suis plus sur des rails. “Je suis au collège, je suis au lycée, je suis à Sciences Po, je suis en échange à la Sapienza, je suis en AP Culture, je suis en stage de M2, je suis en suspension d’études du coup je me balade, je finis mon master, là.”

C’est terrifiant et exaltant à la fois de me dire que si dans deux semaines on me demande “tu fais quoi ?” ma seule réponse possible sera “je ne sais pas”.

 

*amourtié, amiour ou amitour

Sur le Hijab Day et les aisselles

Le voile est un outil d’oppression des femmes. On est d’accord.

Il y a plein d’autres outils d’oppression des femme. Comme le maquillage, l’épilation, les talons hauts, la minceur, les vêtements sexualisants, la honte des règles, la douceur timide.

Oui, parce que si une femme est forcée, pour être considérée “décente”, “acceptable”, “féminine”, “à sa place”

  • d’être maquillée, ce qui coûte un bras et abîme la peau,
  • épilée, ce qui est une perte de temps et une auto-violence incroyables
  • mince, ce qui n’est juste pas accessible à tout le monde, pour cause de morphologie ou de “I do whatever the fuck I want”,
  • de porter des talons, qui déforment les pieds et le dos,
  • d’être habillée d’une façon qui la réduit à son sexe,
  • de cacher qu’elle a ses règles, même si, on est grands, on est tous au courant de comment ça marche maintenant,
  • et d’apparaître comme une petite chose fragile et toute douce,

C’est de l’oppression. On est d’accord !

Par contre, si une femme est montrée du doigt comme anti-féministe, cautionnant l’oppression, en régression totale par rapport aux acquis des féministes avant nous, pute consumériste ou je ne sais pas quoi d’autre

  • parce qu’elle se préfère avec du rouge et des smokey eyes,
  • parce qu’elle kiffe les aisselles lisses,
  • parce qu’elle en a un peu marre de son gras du ventre,
  • parce qu’elle se sent badass en talons de 12cm et en mini robe moulante,
  • parce qu’elle pense que ses règles ça ne regarde qu’elle,
  • ou parce qu’elle a pleuré en réunion quand on lui a parlé du chaton du patron qui est mort en virant sa meilleure copine

Il y a un problème. On est d’accord ?

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À quand la Barbie poilue ?

Je ne me voile pas, je ne m’épile pas, je ne me maquille pas, je ne porte pas de talons, j’adore les vêtements larges et confortables, j’ai choisi, après un long chemin, de ne pas me flageller à chaque fois que je vois mes bourrelets, je vante les mérites de ma coupe menstruelle à tout va et je fais des grosses blagues, bien crades, bien fort. Je ne pense pas que mon féminisme soit plus justifié, pour ces raisons-là, que celui de ma pote qui n’irait jamais à la muscul sans son mascara. Et de l’autre côté, je ne pense pas que ma sensibilité (juste un peu) exacerbée, mes occasionnelles tenues courtes ou décolletées et mon goût irrévocable pour les comédies romantiques fassent de moi un horrible relai de l’oppression patriarcale – je suis juste moi.

Alors qu’on ne soit pas d’accord avec l’image de la femme que transporte le voile, qu’on ne comprenne pas pourquoi une femme ferait le choix de cautionner cette image, je veux bien. C’est mon cas, et j’avoue que j’aimerais essayer de comprendre, et que j’ai des conversations à avoir. Je ne suis pas d’accord non plus avec l’image de la femme que transporte Voici*.

Il faut se battre pour qu’aucune femme ne soit forcée d’être voilée, c’est sûr. Pour qu’il y ait une réelle possibilité pour chacun(e) de saisir que le corps n’est pas une source de honte et que le regard sexualisant doit être adressé par l’éducation de ceux qui portent le regard, au lieu d’être mis à la charge de celles sur qui le regard est porté. Mais il faut aussi qu’une femme dont c’est le choix de porter le voile ne soit pas réduite à cet aspect d’elle et taxée d’extrémisme-anti-féministe-blablabla. Qu’on lui foute la paix, tout simplement.

La lutte féministe n’a pas pour but qu’on colle toutes à une image pré-définie de la Femme Libérée, mais qu’on soit TOUS libres d’exprimer nos individualités, de femmes ou autres, comme il est juste pour nous. On ne peut pas être opprimé(e)s par l’oppression ET par la contre-oppression, ça fait beaucoup, au bout d’un moment !

Il me semble qu’un Hijab Day est une façon d’exprimer ça, de dire “vous vous épilez, on se voile”. On s’est chacune approprié un aspect de la culture patriarcale qui nous suinte de partout depuis toujours pour la faire nôtre et y mettre notre sens, et on s’aime comme ça, ça fait partie de nous. Now can we please move on?

Autant je rêve d’un monde où on pourra être poilues sans être jugées dégueulasses, autant si un jour la norme est d’être poilues et que les non-poilues-par-choix sont regardées de travers toute la journée, moins employables, etc., j’espère qu’il y aura un Neat Armpit Day à Sciences Po et que ça fera réfléchir certains. Je ne garantis pas que je m’épilerais par solidarité, mais j’écrirais sûrement un article, et puis peut-être, peut-être juste une aisselle.

 

 

*Je n’ai pas vérifié si Voici est un vrai nom de magazine people. Si ce n’est pas le cas, vous aurez la preuve de mon manque de culture éhonté dans ce genre de littérature.

Bien se nourrir (Merci Michel)

Cela fait presque 6 ans que Michel me nourrit entre une conf de droit et un atelier de fabrication numérique, avec ses sandwichs d’un autre monde et nos conversations chaleureuses. Il ferme boutique ce vendredi, et prépare de nouveaux voyages. J’ai donc squatté son local pendant deux heures avec du thé (c’est derrière le 28 rue des Saints-Pères, juste en face de Nooï), pour lui poser des questions et vous parler un peu de lui.

 

J’ai de la chance.

 

J’aurais pu être une adepte de la boîte Nooï, j’aurais pu être une fidèle de CAFéS (que j’aime d’amour), ou une courageuse de l’éternel tupperware (j’essaye, parfois). Mais en première année, j’ai découvert les sandwichs irano-libanais de Coriandre. “Tu manges ça, t’as pas le droit d’avoir faim de la journée, d’accord ?” Promis. Je déguste les feuilles de vignes, la fêta épicée qui arrache, le caviar d’aubergine, les tomates coupées sous mes yeux, le tout dans de la salade verte, du pain plat – un filet d’huile de colza, le sourire de Michel. La première fois que j’ai mangé chez lui, il y a presque 6 ans, il m’a fait un long discours sur pourquoi c’était n’importe quoi de demander à un petit commerçant de payer par carte pour 5€, et j’étais sous le charme, direct – un mec entier, qui sent le soleil, ça fait plaisir. Depuis, quand j’ai faim, c’est lui.

J’ai de la chance de ne pas être passée à côté.

 

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Crédits photo Pauline Elie

 

Michel tient son local depuis 2004. Avant, il faisait des tableaux de bord d’avions. “Ça m’a appris la précision, l’organisation. Dans un petit local comme celui-là, ça m’a servi !” Quand je lui demande pourquoi il a arrêté pour venir nous nourrir : “Par passion pour la cuisine. Et le contact aux gens. J’étais sûr de ce que je voulais faire, puis je suis tombé amoureux de la façade. Il me restait plus qu’à apprendre le commerce, ça se fait sur le tas.”

 

Les repas de Michel c’est un concept “simple, et qui me ressemble” : montrer ce qu’il y a dans ce qu’on mange. Dans sa vitrine pleine de couleurs, on le voit mélanger les lentilles et la menthe, couper le fromage, assembler les sandwichs. C’est marketing, mais c’est du marketing ancien, humain, celui de l’authenticité et de la convivialité, qui crée la relation. “J’ai la conscience tranquille, parce que j’ai nourri vos corps de choses saines. Tu vois ça ? (il me montre l’huile de colza) C’est des oméga 3, c’est bon pour le moral. Je m’intéresse à tout ça, je fais attention, j’apprends, je m’adapte aux aliments d’aujourd’hui, et j’invente. C’est mes recettes tout ça, ce caviar d’aubergines, là, tu ne trouveras pas le même ailleurs.” Il me révèle le secret de son caviar d’aubergine et se marre de mes yeux écarquillés.

 

Sa convivialité n’est pas que dans le nourrir, elle est dans tout l’être. Il assemble ses assiettes, et en même temps, il parle. Il agite des mains, il brille des yeux, il rêve de voyages. Parfois, il en oublie de prendre tes sous, il en oublie que t’as la dalle, parfois moi aussi j’oublie, jusqu’au “ah je parle, je parle, mais faut que tu manges ! Tiens, asseyez-vous, je vais faire un thé.”

“Égoïstement, j’ai créé l’environnement que je voulais. Ce thé par exemple, certains pourraient le faire payer 2, 3, 4 euros, je sais pas, moi je préfère choisir le plaisir de te l’offrir. Et ça me coûte quoi ?” Il me ressert du thé. “Du coup, les gens, ils comprennent qu’ils sont chez eux ici. Un jour, une dame âgée est venue en pyjama, de chez elle, pas tout près, hein, à plusieurs rues d’ici, parce qu’elle s’était enfermée dehors et elle voulait utiliser mon téléphone pour appeler sa fille. Et là, ça fait du bien, je vois quelqu’un qui a compris ce que je fais et qui je suis, qu’on peut me faire confiance.”

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Crédits photo Pauline Elie

Michel, pour moi, c’est un grand philosophe. Il fait ce qu’il aime, il le fait selon ses valeurs, et il sait quand l’aventure a porté tous ses fruits, qu’il est temps de bouger. Il est libre, vraiment libre. “Ça fait douze ans maintenant, et j’ai obtenu. Je suis pas devenu riche, mais je voulais pas devenir riche, seulement le plaisir de recevoir ce qui m’est dû. C’est une autre richesse, celle de me sentir fier, savoir que j’ai essayé. Chaque chose a un potentiel et une limite, et j’ai tiré tout le potentiel de ce lieu. Je me suis entouré, j’ai énormément appris de vous, quand vous partez en troisième année, vous m’emmenez avec vous, vous me racontez, vous me faites voyager, j’adore. Et maintenant je me venge ! Je pars avec mon sac à dos et un budget d’étudiant.” Sa bible, c’est “Le temps qui reste” de Serge Reggiani. “Je chercherai jamais le coffre fort derrière mon cercueil. Maintenant ce que je veux c’est profiter du temps qui reste, voyager dans tous les sens du terme : aller connaître l’autre. Goûter les saveurs du monde, tout ce qui dépasse de ta tête, comment l’autre s’est fait guérir à travers moi.”

 

Merci Michel, tu vas nous manquer.

 

(le secret, c’est la grenade)

You’re in the Maya, Neo: Philosphy of Yoga and Therapy

Sarva is sitting on the floor just under the long wall of windows – outside, the view is still of deep fog. She’s wearing all white, and her gold hair cascades on her shoulders.

I have troubles breathing when I sit down. I focus on not judging myself for it.

She greets us with a namaste, and recites a mantra in Hindi. For the second mantra, we repeat after her. Three Oms, three Shantis, 22 voices together. We have no idea what we’re saying.

During that first philosophy class, we discuss the goal of yoga: to find the true self. “Yoga” comes from “Yoke”, “unite” in sanskrit. Through Yoga, we thrive to unite with our cosmic self. For that, we must free ourselves of the chatter of the mind, of the diktat of the ego, and of the old beliefs (Sanskaras) that hold us back. We live in Maya, illusion, and we are kept there by the Sanskaras, may they be physical (addictions, bad breathing,…) or psychological. On the path to enlightenment, we clean all of that up with the postures (yoga asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation. After this class, I keep repeating to myself and everyone around: “You’re in the Maya, Neo! Take the yoga pill and break through the lies.”

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I realize that these are new words for what I’ve been doing in therapy for eight years. The quest for enlightenment, in its practical side (the other side is Kundalini energy and supernatural powers, that I don’t get on board with right away), is really what we’ve called the search for happiness and authenticity. “Old beliefs” is one of my therapist’s favorite expressions.

“So you think you’re not allowed to create… What is this called, Hannah?

– An old belief, I know, I know.”

Together, we got me out of the little whole in which I was hiding and eating at myself. Now that I’m not constantly on the edge of the abyss anymore, we explore who I am and how I can be better: when do you feel most centered? When do you feel closest to your truth? What feels right? What, of your old habits, old ways of thinking, vieilles croyances, can you part with next? What is it that doesn’t belong to you?

I’m happy to find a familiar search in a faraway setting, and I am confirmed in my resolve to make this month a time for an Extreme Inner Make-Over. It’s time to decant everything I’ve learnt in my year in Australia, in my relationship and in my travels. It’s time to become the oh so fucking brilliant butterfly.

“OK, so I’m done, do you have questions?” We have just a couple, and Sarva assures us that “Within a week, you’ll be so talkative we won’t fit in the hour. Now it’s time for your juice break.”

 

The first yoga class with Mahi

 

200 Hours Yoga Teacher Training, first two hours.

It’s 7 and white through the window. Mahi is watching us settle in in silence, on the floor with folded legs and a very straight back – his legs are not just crossed, they’re melted together. He sings a mantra, and we clumsily join him for the OMs. “Bow your head down in holy gratitude.” The class begins. Today we learn to stand.

“Press on the outside of your foot, the round of the big toe, press on the heels. Press the heels! Raise your knee-caps, rotate your inner thighs, stand straight up – more up, more up! Tilt your pelvic bone forward. It’s more like this way!”

Standing still in this Indian man’s class might be the hardest work-out of my life. We use the standing technique to deepen each posture. Focus on your alignment, as much weight on each foot, straight back, and the round of the big toe! Stay, stay more. Breathe deeply. My thighs are shaking, I am sweating like a pig. It turns out that even though my legs like to hike in the Malaysian Highlands, they do not like to stay in Warrior Postures – no, please, stop. Breathe. Unsure my muscles can handle much more of this, I can’t help but glance at the digital clock on the floor – it’s been twelve minutes. Only 48 minutes and 199 hours to go.

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The Mahi Magic show lays down its ground rules. He quickly decides that Arthur, “the only brave man in the course – because he’s the only man, hahaha!” will be his guinea pig, and that Sarah (a dancer) and Nathalie will be his flexibility demonstrators. He on the other hand will be the main attraction: “Look at me, I’m a seventy-two year-old man, and I can do it!” “No wrinkles on my stomach, because I stand like this!” There’s triumph in his smile every time he says “this!” with a high-pitched voice.

In two hours, he makes me realize how very little I know about alignment and feeling strong in your foundations. And that learning a lot hurts your butt.

 

The joyful routine

(En Français plus bas)

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I open my eyes at 6 to see a new friend in bed with me. I sit up, I stretch my arms and she stretches hers with me. We smile at each other: I know she’s here to stay, she knows she’s most welcome. I call her my joyful routine.

Gratitudes and morning prayer, smile to the sky, dance while the shower is warming up – she walks me up the quiet stairs, to the yoga hall.

The month in Baghsu is a story of the two of us, taming each other. With her, I learn to say thank you as soon as I wake up, even (especially) when the rain, pouring on the wall of deep green outside my window, makes me grumble before the day has come. Thank you. Thank you for the rain: it feeds the world. After a dream in which I found myself gross, she tells me “just look”, and I draw myself. I am smoking. Thank you for my body: it allows me to taste the world. Thank you! When I harm my shoulder, she tells me to be kind, patient. She says “pay attention, find what’s good and what you need – to eat, drink, say”. We learn moderation. When I feel hidden by a bushy wall of falseness, she says “check it out, you have the keys”, and I listen. She rocks.

And when I go out to the café in the clouds, when I stay up late to chat with those guys I’m loving more and more, when we watch LouieFriends, and Disney movies, when I converse in silence with Baba, and when, back to my room, I only have time for one sentence in the Body, Heart and Mind diary, when I skip, when I adapt, when my evening Gratitudes are just a quote from Asterix, she says “do what ever is best for you.” She’s foldable and flexible. We love each other.

With the strength she gives me, I express myself better, and I fall in love, every day a bit more, with myself and each of the 21 magnificent people who surround me and live all of this next to me.

When I leave, I take her along, tall and gorgeous, with my backpack and Magui. In the night trains of India and the streets of Istanbul, in the veranda of the family house, in Berlin, Hamburg and London, and now back home, I let her change me, she lets me forget her – and come back to her. On the Decathlon yoga mat that decorates my room and in the crystal-clear song of the tibetan bowl I brought back from the mountain, she whispers “I’m staying”.

 

*

La routine gaie

J’ouvre les yeux à 6 heures et je trouve une nouvelle amie dans mon lit. Je m’assois, je m’étire, elle s’étire avec moi. On se sourit : je vois qu’elle s’installe, elle se sait accueillie. Je l’appelle ma routine gaie.

Gratitudes, prières du matin, sourire aux cieux, danser en attendant que la douche se réchauffe – elle m’accompagne jusqu’au hall de yoga, en haut des escaliers calmes.

Le mois à Baghsu  c’est l’histoire de nous deux nous apprivoisant. Elle m’apprend à me réveiller reconnaissante même – surtout – quand la pluie sur le mur de verdure par la fenêtre me fait grisailler avant le jour. Merci. Merci pour la pluie qui nourrit le monde. Après un rêve dans lequel je me trouvais laide, elle me dis “regarde” et je me dessine. Je suis une bombe. Merci pour mon corps qui me laisse encore goûter le monde. Merci ! Quand je me blesse l’épaule, elle me dit d’être tendre, patiente. Elle me dit d’être attentive, de voir ce qui me fait du bien, ce que j’ai vraiment besoin de manger, de boire, de dire. On apprend la mesure. Quand je me sens tapie derrière un buisson humide de faux semblants, elle me dit “va voir, tu as les clés” et je l’écoute. Elle est sympa.

Et puis quand je sors au bar dans les nuages, quand je reste à discuter tard avec ces gens que j’aime de plus en plus, quand on regarde Louis, Friends ou des Disney, quand je parle en silence avec Baba, quand je n’ai le temps que pour une phrase dans le body, heart and mind diary, quand je saute, quand j’adapte, quand je me contente de “moi je chante la vie, je danse la vie, je ne suis qu’amour”, en guise de gratitudes du soir, elle dit “fais ce qui est bon pour toi”. Elle se plie, se fait flexible. On s’aime.

Forte d’elle, je me dis mieux, et je tombe amoureuse, chaque jour un peu plus, de moi-même, et des 21 personnes sublimes qui m’entourent et vivent tout ça juste à côté.

En partant je l’emmène, grande et belle, avec mon sac à dos et Magui. Dans les trains de nuit d’Inde et dans les rues d’Istanbul, dans la véranda de la maison familiale, à Berlin, à Hambourg, à Londres, et maintenant de retour chez moi, je la laisse changer, elle me laisse l’oublier et lui revenir. Sur le tapis de yoga décathlon qui décore ma chambre et dans le son cristallin du bol tibétain ramené de ma montagne, elle me murmure “je reste.”

 

Writing and the Truth

(En français plus bas)
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I’ve spent the past two weeks struggling to post something – anything – on the blog. I wrote and I dismissed, I tried and I threw away.
“Mom, I wrote something, it’s horribly boring… can you read it and tell me it’s not boring so I can post it?
– It’s very boring…
– Dad?
– Should I be honest?
– Yeah…
– It’s bad…”
I know, I know…
I’ve been running into the wall of reality. What I’m trying to write, the yoga training, is not only mine anymore: it belongs to a group of people that I love and who (for some of them, I hope) will read me. So I say everything. I ask for precisions, I panic, I’m bogged down. And I end up writing three pages about how I brushed my teeth with a smile.
Don’t you worry so much, Hannah: reality is overrated.
To free myself from the thorny claws of The Truth, I hereby announce a change in paradigm. From now on, reader, assume that everything here is fiction. This story is a mosaic of faces and ideas, that I want to tell by soft touches. There won’t be any constraint in the way the tales come out – of veracity, chronology, or other.
Like in The Great Dictator: “Any resemblance between Hynkel the Dictator and the Jewish barber is purely coincidental.”
What is reality other than fiction some people agree on?
*

L’auteur et le réel 

Depuis deux semaines, je galère à poster quelque chose sur ce blog. J’ai écrit et j’ai jeté, je n’ai rien fini.
“Maman, j’ai écrit un truc et c’est vraiment très chiant. Tu veux bien me relire pour me dire que c’est pas chiant, histoire que je puisse le poster ?
– C’est vraiment très chiant.
– Papa ?
– Faut que je sois honnête ?
– Ouais…
– Franchement, c’est un peu nul…
Je sais, je sais.
Je me heurte au réel. Je me sens porteuse d’une histoire qui n’est pas que mienne, qui est celle d’un groupe de gens que j’aime et qui (pour certains, j’espère) vont me lire. Alors je dis tout. Je demande des précisions, je m’affole, je m’embourbe. Et je finis par pondre trois pages sur comment je me suis brossé les dents avec un sourire.
Petite flamme, tu t’étioles ! Pas de souci, la vérité, c’est très surfait.
Pour me libérer des doigts épineux du Vrai, j’annonce un changement de paradigme : désormais, tout ce que vous lirez ici sera potentiellement fiction. Cette histoire n’est pas linéaire. C’est une mosaïque d’instants, de visages et d’idées, que je veux vous dire par petites touches. Il n’y aura plus de contraintes dans la façon dont les textes sortent – de chronologie, de véracité ou autre. Comme dans Le Dictateur : « Toute ressemblance entre Hynkel le dictateur et le barbier juif est une pure coïncidence. »
Et de toute façon, c’est quoi, le réel, outre une fiction sur laquelle certains sont d’accord ?

Transilien de minuit 35 : Poésie par inadvertance

I’m sorry for English-speakers, but this is a French only story. It’s about how language that seems normal to those who speak it and vulgar to some of those who hear it, can actually be utterly poetic, in a weird, comical and touching way. It’s about a guy trying to shake a friend up after a bad night, a bad few years even, but in a drunken, colorfully expressed, night train argument. And you don’t get to read it, because I like letting you believe that it’s amazing. 

“Frère, la vérité, t’as fait le pédé, t’aurais pu danser avec des noix de coco à la place du caleçon, ç’aurait été la même. Je te laisse, je vais en boîte sans toi, je fais le pédé, je te dis je suis plus marocain. Le Coran de la Mecque, moi je rentre pas en boîte sans toi, j’essaie même pas, la vie d’ma mère !

– Arrête de dire le Coran, arrête de dire la vie d’ma mère juste parce que t’es bourré.

– Ch’uis pas bourré, j’dis juste si je fais ça, ch’uis plus marocain…

– Frère, tu te comportes déjà pas comme un marocain, t’es pas respectueux des gens…

– Nan, mais moi je me démène pour te montrer que t’es une statue, t’es une gargouille, t’es un présentateur Canal +. Moi je suis pas hypocrite. Le jour où je reste avec toi jusqu’à 6 heures du mat’, tu te rappelles, tu me dis “t’es un pédé de pas être resté jusqu’à midi, t’es une gargouille”, mais moi j’ai des problèmes à 6 heures du mat’, déjà, et toi tu comprends pas. Je suis pas hypocrite, moi, j’ai un pote qui est en chien, j’ai pas de répit. Le Coran d’la Mecque, je brûle en cendres si j’ai pas raison.

– Alors brûle en cendres.

– Je peux pas, j’ai raison ! Ça se voit dans tes yeux, toi tu as trois alter-égos. J’ai essayé de t’épargner quand t’es rentré, mais t’as fait l’orgueil, alors je suis obligé de te montrer t’es qui ! Moi je préfère insulter un imam que de rentrer en boîte sans toi. On a une différence d’éducation, on a une différence de retenance. T’as pas retenu ce qu’on t’a appris, c’est pas une différence de darons. Toi tu peux pas dire c’que j’dis parce que tu fais pas c’que j’dis, moi je peux dire c’que j’dis.

– Moi je dis ce que je fais.

– Tu dis ce que tu fais, mais tu dis pas c’que j’dis. Quand tu bois tu as des alter-égos. Moi ch’uis pas comme ça, moi. Moi y’a d’l’alcool, y’a d’la beuh, y’a quelconque, je change pas, je reste calme. Y’a une meuf en boîte, elle me propose des trucs, je les prends pas. Au lieu de faire la fleur, là, on entame le débat. La vie d’ma mère, mon rôle c’est de te faire comprendre des trucs.

– Essaye d’être empathique, frère, essaye d’écouter. T’es qui pour me dire quoi faire ?

– Eh, ferme ta chatte, c’est pas l’expert, c’est pas YouTube. La vérité, depuis 2008 c’est le pire temps de ta vie. Il y a que toi quand t’as tord, tu parles. Même Ben, quand il a tord, il parle pas. Ben il dit rien, mais c’est pour toi, il veut pas prendre parti contre toi. Moi j’te comprends, Ben. (Ben regarde droit devant et n’a aucune intention de participer à la conversation.) Tu fais le Blanc, frère. Fais pas le Blanc. Fais le Congolais, mais fais pas l’Africain avec moi.

– Je suis Africain…

– Nan, mais c’est comme il y a les gens du Congo, et il y a les Congolais, il y a les Africains et ceux qui font les Africains, fais pas le mec, je dis juste, tu rentres sans moi en boîte, tu fais le Blanc. Le Coran d’la Mecque, fais pas ça.”

C’est le coeur lourd que je suis descendue du train, voulant en entendre plus et espérant ardemment qu’on m’explique en quoi ça consiste de “faire l’Africain”.

Let’s hope for death

August 2nd

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When I arrive at Esther and Vipul’s home, my laptop is dead. I have the following conversation with Vipul.

– I’m sorry for your laptop.

– Eh, it’s ok, it was old, it needed to die.

– That’s a very yogi thing to say.

– I laugh. I was going to add “like my relationship!”

– Oh, I hope it doesn’t have to be like that! For Esther and me…

– Let’s say, they all have to end, in separation or in death. Just hope for death.

– Yes! Lovely thing to say! I’ll hope for death!”

Even my post break-up gloominess can’t get to him, how wonderful!

The dream – first night of the Yoga Teacher Training

Night between August 4 and 5

It’s the first night in my new room. It’s cold, the bed is damp because the monsoon makes everything humid. I lie on my back and stare at the ceiling. It takes a while before, curled up in a ball, wrapped in my soft blanket and with my eye-mask that says « Keep your shit together » on, I can finally sleep.

But then, I start fighting. I have to wake up. If I don’t… I have to wake up, I need to lock the door. People are walking in. Men. They are threatening. A man. A young Indian boy is by the side of my bed. He is staring down at me. His face is marked, scarred. He is there to scare me. But I know I’m sleeping. I have to wake up, close the door, end this. Let me find the real. The cold, sharp, crazy singing voice of an invisible lady said « No, no, no, no, no! » I asked « Why? »

– Because there’s nothing else, because there’s nothing else! »

I fight enough to half wake up. I am standing at the foot of the bed, and the young child is still there – half there. I struggle to half open my eyes. My sight is blurred. My hand goes right through him. The men are still there. I’m not safe.

Somewhere around there, Johnny Depp is strolling through the morgue.

I finally find my way out and open my eyes, terrified, and I stare at the dark. The door doesn’t lock, I tell my subconscious « Please, believe the door is locked. » and, when I’m ready to go back to sleep, « Please, focus on Johnny Depp. »

My Yoga journey

I started yoga when I was 16. My dad is a practitionner, and one day, I tagged along to one of his classes. My first teacher had a soft voice that carried me far, far away during each end-of-class relaxation. She taught me breathing, posture and massages. Yoga was, for those first two years, a life jacket. I had always told myself that I sucked at sports. I felt I couldn’t do anything with this body, it was ugly, useless. I hated it, both its appearance and the overall experience of being in it. Yoga brought a tiny bit of tenderness into this mix. It taught me do something else with my flesh home than to despise it, it taught me to focus on my toes, on my nostrils, my perrineum and my stomach muscles, because they deserved the attention. It taught me to forget the fat, the pimples and the cellulite, at least for an hour a week.

I also started therapy when I was 16, with a wonderful woman who happened to be a yogi. She gave me breathing exercices, and helped me climb the hill of body acceptance. Seeing her meant that even when I wasn’t attending classes, yoga was with me, always, from the first time I caught the magic bug 7 years ago.

When I started uni, I took Pilates, because the yoga classes were full. I loved my teacher so much that I didn’t think of finding another yoga class for the next two years. He was a Columbian dancer who giggled for five minutes when we told him that « frog », in French, is « grenouille ». When he made us do wide circles in the air with our feet he would say, with a happy saddistic tone « Imagine that you’re mixing the dough for a delicious chocolate cake. You want it… All the chocolate. It hurts, doesn’t it? Ça fait mal, hein ? »

Between the first and second years of uni, I spent a month in Tel Aviv for an internship. I got myself a discounted unlimited pass for the gym, 5 minutes away from my the apartment, and took 8 hours a week of yoga and pilates. I’d go there early and read Romain Gary on the rooftop. That teacher was a tall woman with an impressive head of curly auburn hair. She hugged her students hello and goodbye, and she tried to say some of the instructions in English when she saw that my glimpses of notions of Hebrew had failed me and I hadn’t moved on from the downward facing dog with everyone else.

During my year in Italy, I attented a yoga class at the college gym, taught by one of the least enthusiastic beings I have ever encountered. She gave us instructions in a slow, monotone voice, and got frustrated at me when my Italian wasn’t good enough and I bended a leg instead of an arm. I gave the class up, and went to zumba and African dance instead. I spent my yoga energy on sitting in silence in my large room in the student area of Rome, and breathing.

When I came back, I found a gym and yet another teacher. From her, I remember the class opening in gomukasana (the cow face posture), and the closing with singing bowls and triangles. She made us sing Om, and she gave the best massages. I was sad to leave her classes when I headed to Australia.

There, I attended only a few classes over the year, because yoga is expensive, and the groupon coupons were rare. At the gym, the teacher used a mike and techno music – I ran away. Towards the end of the year, I found a studio of « Power Yoga ». When I attended the first class, I thought it was called that because yoga gives you power – it’s that simple, isn’t it? So I headed there without a change of clothes, ready to relax. I got out of it wearing a pool of my own sweat, and I kept at it for a fortnight. One of the teachers was a man in his mid-forties with a limp. He spent the whole class talking about himself and about us, about how hard we are on ourselves and how he finally allowed himself to buy that bike he’d wanted for so long. He sounded like the wisest of lunatics, cynical yet hopeful, funny yet serious. He said Utkatasana with a crazy tone in his voice – UUUUT-kataaasana. I still laugh to myself everytime I ask a student to get into that posture. UUUUT-kataaaaasana.

I had always enjoyed giving mini yoga classes to my friends, teaching them what I had learnt, taking them through a relaxation or a breathing exercice. I dreamed of becoming a yoga teacher, without entirely beliving that I could. At the end of my year in Australia, I decided to give it a shot. I researched for some time, checked and double-checked, took a deep breath, and booked. After that final click of the online pre-payment, I spent a few days jumping everywhere and high-fiving the universe in excitment. I am going to India to learn to be a yoga teacher!

When I started travelling, I took to the internet and found YouTube classes (Yoga with Adrienne is great). I did a few sessions of yoga with travel friends, on the beach, at sunset or at sunrise.

When I arrived at the training, I hadn’t practiced in almost two months. My back was exhausted from the backpack and the nights in horrible buses in Vietnam. I felt unprepared, I had made peace with the idea that I probably wouldn’t graduate as a yoga teacher. I was happy, nonetheless, to finally learn more about that thing that had been in my heart for years. I wanted to know what lays behind the poses and the breathing, to deepen my understanding and my practice, to learn to make it a bigger part of my life, and to be better at teaching my friends and family.

Tool-kit to heal and make the most out of my yoga teacher training

On the 4th of August, at 21:21, I start the first journal entry of my yoga training. I note that my body has been speaking to me since I arrived: it’s been hard to breathe and to sit still, there’s a lump in my throat and resentment in my back. I need to write these down. I need to remember how I feel, now, because it’s going to change drastically. Because I am seeing, living and feeling through a triple filter, brand new, unique, short-lived and only available in a limited edition of 1: that of the suffering from the break-up, the trip still boiling inside me and the yoga in intensive learning, in India, in a buddhist and hindu village in the Himalayas, with people from everywhere in the world!

I decide to give myself tools to help me heal and grow during this month.

  1. I will write a Heart, Body and Mind diary, to follow the evolution of my sadness, my physical aches and strength, and my spirituality;

  2. I will write a prayer every morning, to say thank you, send love all around and give an intention to my day; 

  3. I will end each prayer with a smile and a power pause (and I’ll make it a rule to dance in the shower);

  4. I will write gratitudes every evening;

  5. I will write down every positive feedback I get, to warm up my little ego, cracked by the guilt.

I want to learn to be kinder to myself and to have a healthier routine. I want to find my way back to a sense of perpetual wonder. To judge myself less and be in relation with others in a more meaningful, mindful and centered way.

I am grateful for my sadness that means I have loved. I am grateful for my sadness that means I can still feel – the depression isn’t back. For all my memories with Michael and all the ways he helped me grow. Because he’s still here, and we can still be honest with each other, even if it hurts. For all the people I met traveling and the friendship that, I am sure, will last. For my friends from home and my family. For this Indian month, opening. For not giving up on coming. For the lovely people and the tasty food. For my body, functioning, and my mind, alive. For this pen and this notebook.

21:42

India, day 3: the new Baghsu home and the opening ceremony

August 4

I wake up on a bus climbing a mountain road in the early morning light, in India. It’s raining. There are red, orange, yellow and green triangular flags in the trees.

A guy from the yoga training picks us up at the bus station, stacks my bag on top of the car, and we’re off. I ask Kate and Arthur where their bags are, and they casually point at the two black backpacks, smaller than my second backpack – the one I use for my book, my laptop and my water bottle. That’s what they’ve packed for a year away.

The car enters a thin street bordered with shops on each side. I register, slightly confused, that all the signs are in Hebrew. The car goes as far up as it can, and then we walk. We take some stairs, and a tiny tunnel with a muddy floor. I think « soon, I’ll be used to this weird-ass tunnel ». The soft rain makes the trees sing. On our right, the green and the little houses go down into the white mist.

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On our left, the mountain keeps going up, with buildings here and there. Here is the « Siddhi Yoga – Yoga Teacher Training » sign.

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Forrest Hill, that I would soon call home, is not the temple-like zen building I had expected. It’s recent, but slightly worn out, and it seems made of mismatched material. The hall has a big empty desk in it. On the right, a set of stairs go up, another goes down. It’s a bit dark. An Indian lady welcomes us and takes us to our rooms, down the corridor. Arthur and Kate are staying opposite from me.

When the door opens, I am close to asking how many people will be sharing this room. The bed is big enough for four at least. I have a bedside table, a coffee table, a wardrobe and a chair (a chair!). And my own bathroom! The tall windows look out on a wall of green, dropping with rain. I thank the lady with the fervor of someone only too used to bunkbeds and rows of shared showers.

When the door closes, I feel left in the darkness. The bed is slightly damp. I roll myself up in the soft blanket and I close my eyes. Hopefully I won’t feel that shitty the whole month. Hopefully I’ll manage to talk to people. Hopefully, I’ll get out of this bed at some point. But not just, now, not just yet. Misery and sleep come first.

Around 3pm, my body tentatively reminds me that I haven’t eaten anything since dinner, and that even if we’re grieving a beautiful relationship, it’s no reason to starve ourselves. Get up, Hannah. Get out. You’re in the Himalayas.

I crawl out of bed and back to the entrance, where I meet a few other girls. We decide to eat out. We find a hippie-looking café where we sit on the floor, on colorful pillows. Bob Marley is playing. Bob Marley is painted on the walls.

I start learning names and backstories.

Jane is British, and teaches children yoga already. She has a very contagious smile and a glorious laugh. She has been here the longest: she arrived four days early, and attended the final exams for the group that came before us. « They seemed so happy! We’re going to be like this soon. »

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Anne is from Melbourne, and her parents are from Vietnam. She works in a bank and is learning to become a personal trainer.

Sarah is a dance student in London, originally from Germany. Her hair is bleached very white, she sits very straight, she looks feirce.

With long blond hair and a sweet smile, Lena from Denmark looks like a fairy.

Sabine from Switzerland has been biking around the world for months.

Nathalie from South Africa is a vegan chef. She has a long, beautifully designed fork tattooed on one forearm, and a knife on the other.

I try to connect and to engage, to listen to the yoga backstories, but I feel far away, I feel like I’m at the edge of myself. It seems like all conversations have to lead to a question to which the answer is « I just broke up with my partner ». So I cry, of course, I cry so well, so why should I stop? I say sorry, I’m such a bummer, and they say « no, of course, not. If there’s a place where you won’t be judged for how you feel, I think it’s here! » I get my hand squeezed and my shoulder hugged. So I smile. I laugh. We chat. They’re beautiful.

On the way out, I run into a bare-chested, barefoot man, with long dreads decorated with pearls and shells, a walking stick and baba pants. He gives me a broad, startlingly direct smile. A big, open mouth, happy smile, with a deep stare into my eyes. I smile back, just as deep. The wrinkles on the sides of his eyes are laughing. He points at my shaved hair and gives me a thumb’s up. He gestures that it must take no time to wash it: « scrub head, smack hands, done! ». He’s nodding with big movements, I’m laughing, I point at his dreads, and gesture that they’re not bad either. He gestures to all of me, head to feet, and gives me another thumb’s up. « I love your style, dude. », said without words. I’m laughing, I thank him, he squeezes my hand, I leave him feeling like I made a new friend.

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A magic man

We walk up the hill to head back home. The opening ceremony starts in a few minutes. We climb the stairs, out of breath, saying « Maybe in a month we’ll be used to those stairs. » (we never got used to those stairs).

We have to wear white for the opening ceremony. Jane lends me her extra top and, when I tell her how much I love it, says « it’s yours! ».

I’m nervous. We’re sitting together at the table in the main room, upstairs, chatting away before it starts. I meet Ariane, the other French girl. She’s surprised to not be the only one: « My friends don’t understand why I went all the way to India for this. I thought it was a French thing to not be into these things. » I guess I’m not the typical French person either. The room has large windows leading onto another fog-eaten, breath-taking mountain view.

We are gathered, sitting in a circle around the indoors fire. The opening ceremony begins. It left in my memory an enchanting blur of colours, smells and incantations. Prayers to Ganesha. Two men and a woman sing in Hindi and throw spices and red and yellow powders into the fire. I’m hypnotised by the flames. I smile wide – I can feel this is important. A red thread is tied on our wrists, a red mark is applied to our foreheads. It’s a beginning. One of the men walks around the circle with fire in a bowl, and, one after the other, each member of the circle gestures from the fire up to their closed eyes. I am moved to watch each person invent their own version of this personal and meaningful act. Close your eyes and bring your hands up, from the fire to your face. Inhale. It looks vulnerable and true. We each throw two different handfuls of spices into the fire. Carried away by the songs and hypnotized by the flames, I watch each of these strangers’ face, and I smile. « We’re gonne love each other. » I feel warm, suprised at how sure I am. At the same time, my body is troubled: there is a distinct pain in my heart, I can’t sit comfortably, I’m struggling to find my breath. A very clear image of Michael at the airport pokes me, saying « Don’t ever stop talking to me » with my face in his hands. I tell myself it’s good that I am so emotional: it means I take everything in better. We’re fed a sweet, brown mash, that we eat with our fingers.

I’m dazzled and buzzing with a sudden happiness when we sit together in the yoga hall. I am here, and this has started. The chairs laid in rows in the large, brown carpeted room, are simple pillows on the floor, with backs in the colors of Siddhi Yoga. I sit in the first row, Ariane is next to me. The teachers introduce themselves: Doctor Amrita is the anatomy teacher, Mahi will teach Therapeutic yoga, Sarva and Anil teach Hatha Yoga, Niddhi is in charge of Art of Teaching, Jayo of meditation, Ufaz, from Israel, is an assistant teacher. Lenka, from Czek Republic, is the admin. They tell us about the classes we’re going to take – the schedule will be posted on the wall each week – and that it’s going to change us. That we should pay attention to what our bodies are telling us and to have an open mind to let as much in as possible. « Yoga is the discovery of the self through the self. So please, forget everything you know. » They tell us we are a family.

One after the other, we say our names, origin, and talk about our yoga history. It’s slightly nerve-wracking, but I try to believe that everyone is facing me with as much love as I’m sending them. 19 ladies and one guy from France, England, Romania, Germany, Switzerland, India, South Africa, the US, Iceland, Australia, Denmark: I meet my yoga family (two more girls would arrive in the next few days).

Dinner is served. It smells magnificent: I love cumin. On the wall behind the long table, an old sheet of paper says « Observe silence during the meals ». Thankfully, we start ignoring it from day one.

It’s barely 8 when everyone starts heading back to the rooms. I wrap myself in my soft blanket with a warm heart, and I open my Indian notebook.

About the attacks of Friday the 13th

Saturday, November 14th – the past few posts were planned several days in advance. This one is what I’ve been trying to say since yesterday morning.

I have been walking around life and trying to give meaning to myself for a few months now. Writing about it, talking about it, asking people for their stories, meeting and loving. Today it feels a bit futile.

***

Last night I saw a play with my friend Arthur: Mr Foote’s Other Leg. It told the story of how the Haymarket Theater obtained a Royal Licence thanks to Mr Foote, an 18th century actor and comedian, fabulously queer and movingly authentic. The action kept being interrupted by Benjamin Franklin and his assistant talking excitedly about electric fluids and how they run in our brains and feed the mind. In an eye-to-eye with the audience, they asked: what is this moment? What is theater? You, watching us now, isn’t that how life is, always? Isn’t that how the brain – the mind – projects itself onto the outside, always? What is a moment?

What is a moment, indeed? What is time? The broad, unanswerable questions. Yet I found an answer, and it wasn’t made of words. It was made of a feeling of infinity and connection. A silence of the mind that gave way to a glimpse of glowing peace – I am, now.

I had a moment last night, looking up at the actors’ faces and laughing softly at the hippiness of my own emotion.

I walked out of the theater sure that I would remember that night. I talked it over with my friend, hugged him goodbye, and hopped on a bus.

***

Facebook message: « I am alright. I am not hurt.

– What? What happened?

– There’s a shooting going on in the 11ème. »

I thank my friend for letting me know she’s safe, and start the hurried, terrified run of « are you ok? »s.

A message from my sister: « I keep hearing sirens. There were 20 dead, at least. It’s horrible.

– Is everyone safe? »

The tears have started. Of fear, horror, and a broad sense of disappointment.

Another friend: « Are you safe?

– I’m still in London, I’m OK. Are your loved-ones OK? »

My mom doesn’t answer the phone, but I assume she’s sleeping – it’s shabbat, they’re all at home. I contact everyone I can think of, anxious I might forget someone, and each answer allows me to let go of another segment of my long, halting sigh of relief.

A friend is in the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, stuck there, I ask her not to die. « Not in my plans. »

40 dead. The military is about to intervene. Obama says « Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité » in his speech.

Facebook enables us to check in as « Safe during the Paris Terror Attacks ». The notifications come in as my Facebook friends confirm that they are not hurt.

Paris Terror Attacks. It sounds oddly misphrased.

The intervention seems to be over.

More than 100 dead.

I quiet it down enough to fall asleep.

***

I wake up only to realize that it wasn’t a bad dream.

Up to 130 dead.

My friend found her way safely out of the Ministry. Hank Green posted a video of comfort, asking to not answer hate with hate. The internet is full of words of support… and words of anger.

« Close the borders, protect your people. » « Why are we not dealing with the muslims? » « Send the migrants home! » I look away.

I reassure friends from across the world who have just heard the news. I’m OK. Hurt, but not physically. I get a call from my mom. All my conversations contain « it’s horrible ». We talk of war.

I hesitate to bail on the NaNoWriMo meet up, but I need to get out from staring at the screen in grief. On the bus, I contemplate how far I am from the big mind and theater experience. If the world is a stage, last night was the breaking point of act II. I feel silly for my long ongoing search for meaning. I grieve for the victims and those who will miss them. I grieve for those who were there and will never forget. I grieve for an idea of my own safety, for the certainty that those things won’t happen to me. I read testimonies, and I cry. Why have I never felt so strongly the pain of other victims, further away? For them I am sad in a blurry, distant manner, hoping someone else will help.

I decide to try my best, from now on, to widen my world and the extent of my empathy.

Meaning seems simple now: being alive is meaning enough. Being alive is not a given. There’s only one way to react to events so dreadful: to live in the moment, and bring as much joy and light to each moment you’re lucky enough to inhabit. To love the ones around you and avoid negativity, even (especially) when everything seems sour. When you see the monsters.

In two days I’ll be back to a changed Paris, and I’m scared by all that means. I decide to focus on how strongly I loved when I was fearing for my loved-ones lives, on the words and deeds of support, solidarity and strength, pouring in for the victims.

« We are not afraid. »

I decide to value life for the fleeting thing that it is. To work as hard as I can to be part of what’s good in a world where nothing is certain. If life is only my mind projecting itself onto a play’s action, I shall jump on stage, and kiss Mr Foote’s Other Leg.

India, days 1 and 2: The inside of a flat in Delhi and going past the fear

August 2 to 3

I arrive in Delhi at the end of my light. I have cried too much and slept too little in the last 48 hours. Sat too long in planes, doubts and pain. I walk like an undead in the main hall, and head straight to the prepaid taxi stands. A man and a woman from two different stands fight over my clientèle, making discounts of one rupiah and promising the greatest service. They even manage to make me smile. « Can I pay by card? – No, but we accept all currencies. – All currency, really? I have this. » I hand him my Vietnamese Dongs. He doesn’t try to be polite. « What is that? Dongs » he laughs, he calls his collegue « Look, Dongs! He laughs louldly. Dongs… » Money should be called Dongs everywhere.

The taxi driver doesn’t seem to know where he’s going, but is not bothered by it the slightest: he opens his window and asks people in the street, other taxi drivers, rikshaw drivers, kids. I smile palely at the people and the images that fly by through the window. Cows in the street, children everywhere, street urinals, slums and their inhabitants casually inhabitating them. I’m struck by how beautiful people are. The women wear colourful fabrics, fitting on their bodies, often showing their bellies. They carry baskets over their heads. Or they don’t. What’s so gorgeous is the mix of the colorful people from the movies and absolutely « normal »-looking people, men in suits, women in pants, all going about their day. My gaze follows a tall, dark-skinned man, whose walk, straight spine and swift movements, looks like a dance. My smile has forgotten my fatigue now.

The two previous months have prepared me for the crazy trafic, the rikshaws, the mess, the garbage in the street. India only ups Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam by a few levels. The cows placidly walking around in the trafic jam, feasting upon the piles of trash, peacefully ignored by the pedestrians – the cows make the difference.

When I was in Cambodia and planning the trip from Delhi to Dharamsala, I contacted a uni friend, Olga, who had lived in India, to see if she could find me a couch to crash on for a night. She hooked me up with Esther and her boyfriend Vipul, who were more than welcoming.

The driver is adorable, and he takes me all the way to my hosts’ door. He insists on carrying my backpack up the stairs.

« Ah! Welcome, welcome! We were starting to get worried, we realized you had no way of contacting us. We’re happy to see you got here! You got here OK? » I thank them, they’re awesome. Their kindness makes me feel warm right away. I sit on the floor next to my massive backpack and let the sleepless tearful fatigue hit me in the face. We chat about who we are and what we’re doing. When they ask « So what did you do in Vietnam? », I start a sentence and break it up, in tears. « I’m a bit of a mess. » They cheer me up, and let me cry. We go out on their huge rooftop terrace, and I look at the sky.

« The weather is a bit grey.

– Oh, I’m afraid it’s not the weather. It’s always like that. That’s good old Delhi. »

Esther has a mix of French and Indian in her English accent. I tell her I’m thinking of not going to the training in Dharamsala: I’m afraid the crying might distract me from the yogaing. I could just go home, or visit India. I’m too wrecked right now, it’s not the right time for this, for this I want to feel strong, not tiny and broken. Plus, my body is painful all over. I barely practiced yoga over the past 4 months, my back hurts and my breath is short. We sit under the grey of the air, and she tells me Dharamsala is beautiful. The mountains, the view, the colours, the pancakes they make up there. She went with her mother once, and oh, my, they loved it. « Maybe it’s actually what you need to get better. »

She’s right, of course, she is, and those who know me or have read the last few articles know she convinced me. It wouldn’t be any better to mourn over my break-up while doing nothing in my parents’ house. And if I fail and don’t become a yoga teacher, so what? I will have spent a month in a mountain moving around and applying emotional balms on my little heart.

We talk about our school and the dreadful prospect of going back there after a long break. About her year in India, how Vipul and her met. They take me to a dinner at their friends’ place. I warn them I might fall asleep, and I do: I introduce them to my game of Dixit, and melt into the couch while watching them play. We eat Mexican food, and I remember the first meal of my trip, in the middle of the night in Bali, thinking « this is probably when I catch a stomach bug and have to go home right away. » That’s how my first meal in India should feel, right? Instead it feels like take away Mexican food, ordered on a smart phone. Traveling is breaking expectations.

Back at the flat, we chat a bit more. Vipul is a very quotable man. When we talk about how brushing your teeth means you’re done eating for the day, he says with his singing accent « Life doesn’t allow this kind of decisions! »

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When I wake up, Esther is gone to work. Vipul gives me free access to his laptop, the food (« Rape the fuck out of this fridge. The drinking water is in the wine bottles. »), and in exchange I promise to transfer some of the movies and TV shows I carry in my precious hard drive, El Diablo (because it’s red, and contains 2TB of entertainment, just like the Devil). He leaves for work as well, and I am left with my misery and five hours before I have to go to the bus station.

After letting the internet bathe me for several hours, I take a long-awaited shower, and I finally give myself the great post break up moment (the one you see in the movies): very partially dressed, in the home of people I’ve met yesterday, I listen to La Solitude by Barbara (sad romance song) while singing-sobbing really loud, dancing and drinking water from a bottle of white wine.

I write to the blog that I will be away for a bit, trying to mend my heart, I leave a note to thank my lovely hosts again, and I’m off. Green backpack on, I take a rikshaw to the subway, marvel at how clean and safe the subway looks, and take another rikshaw to the bus station. I haven’t eaten all day, and it turns out that there is no food stall at the station. I buy a bag of chips.

The yoga training organiser, who booked my bus ticket, told me there would be a couple going from the training on the same bus. I spot the white people, swallow up a bunch of tears and feelings of tininess, and say hi.

Kate and Arthur are British and they have been traveling around Asia together for a year. India was their first stop, they spent 6 months here, and the training will be their last stop. Kate wears a green-yellow-blue sweater that looks like it came from here and has traveled – and it has. They are both open and friendly, but I still feel disconnected, too wrapped up in my shit. I’m slightly intimidated too, as I often am when I meet what I consider « real travelers » (as opposed to myself, because I’m made of cardboard, of course). They ask where I flew to Delhi from, and then what I did in Vietnam and how I liked it. « I broke up, in Vietnam, and then we cried and ate and stayed inside a lot. I don’t feel like I saw much of the country. I am a bit of a mess still. » I say that smiling, and we talk about their travels some more. I am extremely proud of not breaking down on them. The driver points out that this is not my seat, and has me move behind my potential new friends, which cuts the conversation short. I read We need to talk about Kevin, write in my new notebook, and envy the guy who’s watching movies across the aisle – my laptop is dead again.

The seats are fully reclinable, huge and come with a complimentary blanket and a water bottle. I’m happy I set the fears aside and decided to jump head first into the unknown. I expect large white halls and people walking bare-feet, mind-blowing mountain views, revelations and a blurry, distant sense of peace. I feel unprepared and excited. I sleep extremely well.

Vietnam 2015: A 10 Day Journey Summarised – a text by Michael Philp

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The simple summation of Vietnam is that it taught me more in 10 days than any other major event in my life. I’ve had trials, before and since (as These Flights of Fantasy will attest), but they were ordeals where Vietnam was a genuine journey towards… I don’t want to say enlightenment – that invokes Buddhism, and that’s Hannah’s area – but there doesn’t seem to be a more appropriate word. I learnt things in that country that no other place on Earth would’ve brought up.

I saw for my own eyes the sheer scale of the world outside of Australia – how my brain simply couldn’t cope with trying to understand each individual and so simplified them down to matrix-like programs with no life outside of their market stall.

I learned that my softness, my drive to avoid conflict even if it costs me considerably, was a serious problem in a country like Vietnam. It ended up costing me somewhere between $50 and $100 in overpaid costs for everything from taxis to fruit.

I experienced sights that are now favourite memories, from sand dunes at dawn to a school of scooters swarming my taxi. A country alive with history in a way that Australian hasn’t even begun exploring.

I delved deeper into my unhappiness back home – the dissatisfaction that had left ash in my mouth. The realisation that I had eroded the things I was proud of came at the end, but it might just be the most important moment of the entire trip.

Laughs, tears, and long rides on motorbikes, these are the colours of Vietnam for me.

***

Ho Chi Minh City: In the windowless room the rift opens. Hannah sinks into her computer and I try to sleep, visibly frustrated at her uncharacteristic lack of affection. I am in pain and yet, like an emotionally stunted man-child, she doesn’t seem to notice. Through tears and apologies I pull the truth from her: She is not in love with me anymore. She tells me she tried to hold it in to see if she could move past it. She was never a good liar.

The stillborn fills the room with pain for several hours. The extraction felt inevitable but no less powerful because of it. At one point it feels as if my heart has literally broken in two, and all I can do is sit with the agony and let it pass.

***

The sunrise over the rice fields is beautiful, light flashing through the train’s barred windows, and in Hoi An I feel more comfortable. We are working through our shit. The initial awkwardness – Do I go home now? Do we put boundaries up? Who are we to each other? – has now transformed into what we will later term our reverse honeymoon. We are aware that this is the end, but that spurs us on to be more honest and passionate.

Hoi An reveals itself to be a town devoted to tourists, and it is here that I notice one of Asia’s oddities: there are a few different types of shop, but there is almost no variety within each type. Just about every restaurant sells Cao Lau, and every clothing store has the same layout and similar (if not exactly identical) shirts. It is as if The Matrix couldn’t be bothered and so copied and pasted most of the town.

***

In Mui Ne we get upgraded to a luxurious villa for no specific reason, something that probably saves this portion of the trip. On top of our grief, Mui Ne presents another problem: the resorts, sprawling monstrosities that create a mile long fence between the town and its beach, push Hannah’s social justice button. After a frustrating walk she screams at them, I don’t blame her. We debate leaving entirely and in the end we stay out of indecision and comfort. The villa is lovely and we share a pool with only a few other people.

We visit the sand dunes, Cham Tower, and the white Buddha, all Hannah’s ideas, as was Hoi An and Mui Ne in general. She might remember things differently, but for my recollection I will admit to being far too passive. Always have been, hopefully won’t always be. It is because of her that I left the comfort of my home for Vietnam, took my first ever motorbike ride, and am now in Perth, happier than I have been in a while. She is aware of how grateful I am.

***

Back in Ho Chi Minh City, in another windowless room, the final countdown begins. Her plane is an early one and we fight sleep until the 5am taxi. It is here that I realise that moving to Perth is now an urgent matter. To go back to Canberra without Hannah, and to sit passively waiting for a better life, is not something I am prepared to do. It is here that we truly realise how bad we are for each other in the long-term, how complacent we make each other, and it is here that a friendship emerges to replace the thing we are now both committed to killing. At the airport the knife buries itself deep and we take turns struggling to breathe. We swear with a legitimate spit handshake to lead better lives, and I go back to the windowless room. Out of my mind with exhaustion and grief, I find myself unable to buy fruit without breaking down again.

It hits me like a baseball bat that I am in an unfamiliar city processing a thousand emotions, and I slip back into my room unsure if I’ll emerge again before my flight. Within a day I have recovered enough to see Ho Chi Minh City on my own terms – the War Remnants Museum is heartbreaking, but the motorbike ride there is liberating. It is the first time on the entire trip that I have seen something because I wanted to, instead of because someone else suggested it. I buy gifts for my family and end up haggling a wooden snake down one hundred thousand dong. Unfortunately it comes after spending another hundred thousand on overpriced toys, but I’ll take my victories as they come.

***

In Perth, with a job interview in two and a half hours – my first since arriving 7 weeks ago – I am finding the life I never could in Canberra. For that I have to thank my father, Hannah, and Vietnam. The lessons each one has taught me in 2015 are ingrained in my mind, stone commandments that I am planning to frame for my new life.

I swear that I will take care of myself, be kind to myself, and find some love for myself. I will make the most of my life, and arrange everything for Perth as soon as I get home – and go to Perth as soon as possible. I will have a brilliant student life and find my happiness. And I will learn that it’s ok to rely on people and accept their help, and that won’t make me lesser in any way. Sometimes I will fail and that’s ok, I must not be too harsh on myself.

I, Michael Philp, attest that I spit-handshake swore the above oath to Hannah Bensoussan in Ho Chi Minh International Airport on Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 at around 7:45am.

These flights of fantasy – a poem by Michael Philp

“Sunrise by the Ocean”, Vladimir Kush

These flights of fantasy,

Rooms I existed in

Through tired eyes

And hands,

Clasped at the last

Fitful, gravel breaths

Growing quieter

René’s apple in a hospital waiting room

On a kitchen bench

As we talk around the elephant

Not a melting clock in sight come

Sunrise over Vietnam, they appear again

Pomegranates served with the inability

To buy fruit without bursting

The rooms now smaller,

Cramped with weight

Suffocating

The apple now ash

Unsatisfying

Maybe Ayden holds grander ideas

But there is a field of clocks to trudge through first

And it’s gone already

Leaving a cliff

An empty room

And no ground in sight.

There, coming fast,

A sunrise by the ocean

A Kushioned fall, if you will,

The world still out of sync,

Gathering its pieces

Taking its first steps.

Vietnam, last day: Ho Chi Minh, love and spit

Night between the 1st and 2nd of August

We returned to Ho Chi Minh different people than when we had left it. I remember the indecision of our long walk in the sun on the first day – the tension in my smiles –, and compare it to the night the assholes from Han Café dropped our bags out of the bus and left us there, me discharging my anger by mumbling loudly at an imaginary them (« It’s not that I wish them any harm, it’s just that I hope their offices burn – without any human damage – and they go bankrupt forever. »), and Michael politely nodding. We’re trying to look away from the deadline, but it’s staring right at us.

We find ourselves in yet another windowless hostel room. We lie on the bed and look at each other. « Are you ok? – No. Are you? – No. »

I book a taxi for 5am to go to the airport. There’s no point in sleeping. We can’t give up any of the moments we have left. Maybe if we’re tired enough time will stop running. The tension is different that night. Everything has been said. We’re scraping the inside walls for our last crumbs of explanation and love words.

We touch. We forget. We really, really don’t. We cry. We dine in a restaurant that has 45 pages of menu – Italian, Thai, Western, Chinese, Khmer and even Vietnamese. We walk in the city at 4 in the morning. The lights are red and dark. Buzzing people slow with alcohol. People eating noodles outside. People playing the guitar. And us. Us way too sober for that night. Us with puffed eyes and heavy conversations. Us holding hands one last time. Incongruous us.

People don’t meet like we did, people don’t break up like we did.

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We need to lie down, together, one last time. Those ten days, and that night, have exhausted us. What do you say when everything is gone? We can’t say it’s over yet.

The taxi driver sees us cry on the back seat.

We’re very early. I check in, and we sit. Cuddled up in the soft blanket he gave me for Christmas – the blanket that helped me survive many nights of air con in buses and hostels, the blanket I’ve carried around in four countries, even if as a backpacker I should have traveled light. I had a bit of his tenderness always with me. It got stinky and it cought bedbugs. Just like Magui, it’s my travel companion.

I cry. He cries. We blow our noses in whatever we find. We get into a very dramatic choregraphy. Sitting on the bench behind the queue to the customs. Standing next to the bench. Walking to the queue. Walking back to the bench. Holding each other close. I don’t want to. Kissing passionately. The tear-washed desperate kiss that you make fun of in romantic movies. We’re allowed, this one time, to be absolutely ridiculous, just this once, to pay our regards to all the times we were amazing before.

We say goodbye, that’s it, that’s when we say goodbye.

We swear we will never lose touch.

We’re in the queue, we’re making promises, I say “We should spit swear.

– Really?

– Well, I’ve never done it before”

So we exit the queue again, stand next to our bench, and make our parting vows, with sad little sobs in our voices.

« Michael, swear that you will take care of yourself ans be kind to yourself and find some love for yourself. That you’ll make the most of your life, and arrange everything for Perth as soon as you get home – and go to Perth as soon as possible. And have a brilliant student life and find your happiness. And you’ll learn that it’s ok to rely on people and accept their help and that won’t make you less in any way. And that sometimes you’ll fail and thats ok, you must not be too harsh on yoursel.

– I swear. »

« Hannah, swear that you will go back to France, complete your degree, and then study something you want to study. You will live your life for you. Travel, study psychology, whatever you wish, so long as it’s for you and not an obligation. You will also take care of yourself and love yourself, never settling for second best.

– I swear. »

We spit in our hands and shake on it. Some serious handshake game there.

He walks with me to the line again and leaves me there after one last kiss. I shouldn’t say that it feels like his presence is ripped out my chest because of course it was – but of course, it was. The queue is very slow and even if we arrived several hours early and felt safe enough to say goodbye for ages, I contemplate the possibility of missing my plane. I chat vaguely with two French girls who discuss a past trip to India and how odd the visa questions had been. We talk yoga and cows and I mumble and stutter at them, in English and in French, too befuddled to master my words. I get there 5 minutes before boarding, and I watch the Indian faces of the people waiting. It’s the first time it hits me: I’m going to India on my own, for a yoga retreat. I have cried so much is the last few days that I can’t breathe through my nose… I sleep my way to Bangkok. In Bangkok, I see my favourite notebooks, paperblanks, and buy one. I lie on an airport couch and talk with Michael. Maybe we will never talk without technology again.

I sit next to the window. On my right is an Indian couple. I’m crying silently for most of the flight, looking out to the clouds. The lady asks « Do you miss your family?

– No, well, I guess I do, but no, I cry because I just broke up… with my… partner. » I called him my partner, or my Michael, because « my boyfriend » sounded stupid to me. « My ex » sounds worse.

We eat Indian food on the plane. My sadness finds a neighbor: the slightly surprised excitment of « I can’t believe I’m going where I’m going to do what I’ll do there. »

Vietnam day 5 to 9: Mui Ne, or how monstrous resorts ate a pretty place

July 28 to August 1st

From Hoi An, we take a night bus to Da Nang. We wait for it at an unmarked bus stop, sitting next to other backpackers. Two of them ask « are you together? », and we stutter. We are…for now…I guess…It’s an on-hold break-up, with 10 days notice for the mandatory crying and sorting shit out period.

It’s the “luxury” bus, that we treated ourselves to because of break up and stuff. It sucks terribly. I regret the nice seats of the super cheap train to Hoi An: on the bus, we have to be lying down, with a one meter gap between us, because that is the smartest way to design a bus. Those weren’t the conditions to watch Eat, Pray, Love, but we did anyway, because I wanted him to get why I quoted Ketut so much.

You sit in silence, and smile. Not so easy, Liz. Smile with face, smile with mind, even smile in liver. See you later, alligator.

The bus company was called Hanh Café. Do not use it, ever. They were late, they were rude, they drove like maniacs (and I’m saying that after 2 months of motorbikes and night buses), they treated us like cattle, and the air con was too cold. When I googled them afterwards to leave the worst review I could wherever I could, I just found comments of people saying “Beware of Hanh Café“. After our last trip with them I was so mad that, to Michael’s annoyed dismay, I resorted to telling people queuing in the Hanh Café shop to not give them money.

The bus got us to Da Nang. The plan was to stay there from 8am to 4pm and then take another bus to Mui Ne, where we had booked a room. But the sleepless night had exhausted us so much so we decided to go to Mui Ne right away.

About three weeks earlier, I’d met a guy in Kuala Lumpur who had lived in Vietnam many years, and had worked there as a travel agent. I had told him I like beautiful, authentic places, and I wanted somewhere relaxing to go to with my partner – considering that we weren’t doing so well and we might have troubled minds when we get there. He said “Mui Ne is gonna be your jam”, and I believed him. I could have researched that better, but I wanted something easy, and google said the beaches were paradisiac.

Mui Ne does have beautiful beaches. But every single one of them belongs to a resort. Mui Ne is a long street with expensive resorts on one side and restaurants that all have the same menu on the other side. We walked there looking for a relaxing piece of beach and I actually made a scene to the speechless buildings because of capitalism and ruining the beauty of things and all that shit.

We had booked a hostel in Mui Ne for three nights, one of which would be my birthday night. And I know we should have changed those plans to find somewhere better to hang out, but we were tired, and fairly busy watching TV shows and crying. The good news was that our little hostel room had been upgraded for no apparent reason to a gorgeous suite with a room for the shower AND a room for the toilet, a living room area and a massive bed. It was even in a different area of the hostel called “The Villa”, where the pool was only shared between the wealthy people (we only saw one person near the pool, once, so we might as well call it our pool). They gave us fresh towels and complimentary soap. Luxury.

So we stayed in Mui Ne. After walking around and ranting for a bit, we decided to go on day trips. We spent a day on motorbikes to go see a giant reclining Buddha on top of a mountain, and a few temples.

On my birthday, we woke up at 4 to get on a jeep with a bunch of other sleepy tourists, and headed to see the sand dunes at sunrise. It took a bit of will power to ignore the tremendous noise of the rental quads that a hord of tourists spent  hundreds of Dongs on. But after walking in the sand to get away from them, we got an amazing view. It was easy enough to imagine the dunes were quiet and peaceful, while the sun took them out of their blue-grey mist and into a bright, beautiful yellow. I didn’t resist the impulse to roll down one of the sand hills, hence demonstrating my incredible ability to forget that sand is made of grains that can invade your mouth, nose and ears if you throw yourself at it. It was fun, though, and, according to Michael who stayed at the top of the hill with my stuff, entertainingly undignified. When we reached the second bunch of dunes, orange and even more packed with selfie sticks holding on to one or two humans each, we were exhausted. We watched the landscape and did some of our mandatory daily crying. The jeep then took us to a fishing village, our shortest but my favorite stop of the day: it was a good opportunity to buy delicious cheap food and exchange smiles with the old lady who sold it to me.

We crashed back on the massive hotel bed for a while, before heading out to grab my birthday lunch in an Italian restaurant. It was more food than we could handle, but oh the delicious wood fired pizza. I spoke Italian with the boss, who offered to give us a free dessert for my birthday. We couldn’t possibly eat anything more, but we promised to come back the next day.

Our last day in Mui Ne was spent eating by the pool, watching stuff, eating some more at the Italian restaurant. The waitress forgot to give us the free desert and we didn’t remind her – we were too happy to eat our chocolate mousse and tiramisu. When the boss realized, he actually offered to give us the money back, cash. We settled for a free lemonade to go, that I sipped while we walked to the resort-eaten beach one last time.

The Hanh Café bus was several hours late. The staff hurried us inside and told us to take any seat « quick, quick ». No hello, no sorry you waited in the sun for 3 hours. It turned out well for us, because we could grab the back seats, the only ones that aren’t a meter apart. We watched movies and performed the final act of the modern day break up: we shared files. I pillaged his music and movies, and we exchanged pictures. We read the text I had written about us, and cried. We talked a lot. It was salutary, but exhausting.

We stopped on the way to buy food and use the toilet, and the break was welcome. We had drained each other with words. I bought colorful fruit and sweet treats, stuff that had peanuts and/or durian in them and tasted horrible but delightfully special.

Vietnam days 3 and 4: Hoi An

July 26 to 27

Hoi An is a small town. It’s historic center is listed as world heritage by UNESCO, which means it’s beautiful, and packed with tourists. We spend two days and a half there, walking around and eating cao lau.

Our hotel room has windows this time, so we enjoy some time inside as well, watching the Wire and John Oliver.

The night market is full of lights and street food. We take strolls along the river and cry together on the bridge. A lady carrying a super heavy load of fruit invites us to take a picture with her to then overcharge us for a mango and some dragon fruit. It takes Michael’s Australian sense of diplomacy to prevent me from storming off.

Overall it’s a very quiet stay, a welcome rest after the buzzing of Ho Chi Minh

One of our last meals is a Vietnamese barbecue in the street. Magui thoroughly enjoys it.


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Vietnam – days 1 and 2: Ho Chi Minh, and what happened besides the break-up

July 23 to 25

I take a bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh. I share the tuk-tuk to the bus station with a Dutch and an Australian. When he reaches the bus, the Australian has a sad realization: “You need to get your visa BEFORE you go to Vietnam? Oh man…” So we leave him behind.

It’s the first time I cross a border by land. When the agent sees my passport, he looks at me for a bit, looks down, looks at me. My hair is freshly shaved, he’s looking at the picture of a girl with a happy shock of hair shooting in every direction. He raises the passport to compare us and says

“No same same”

It takes all my will power not to laugh. I say “Yes, same same, yes, look”, and take off my glasses, try to imitate the old me. He lets me go. While we wait for the bus to pick us up on the Vietnam side, I swap passports with the Dutch guy. He’s appalled when he sees my birth date: “You could be my daughter.” I win at the “who has more stamps” game.

We’re in Ho Chi Minh. It’s full of lights, everything is moving. Two guys on motorcycles offer to take us to our hostels (my Dutch friend lives near me). My driver has gathered an enthusiastic expertise on nationalities and characters: “British people, they’re difficult, they’ll bargain for price for hours before getting on the bike, French people, they’re chill, I like French people. My sister lives in France, now, she’s married to a French guy. And the Australians, they’re nice, very nice. I see many people, you know, I love talking to everyone. Your friend, he doesn’t look Dutch…

– He’s half Dutch half Indonesian.

– Ah, yes, I was sure. Nice people, the Dutch, a bit stuck-up, though.”

He takes me to My My Art House Hostel, I put my stuff in the room – dark and windowless -, and I proceed to being nervous. I’m in the lobby, waiting. My partner, who I haven’t seen for more than 2 months, is going to walk in any minute now. I left him in the Canberra winter, we talked, wrote emails, Skyped, fought and made up. He is out of Australia for the first time in his life, for me.

He appears. We hold each other tight, and talk about how odd this is, really, to be here together. Too odd. We walk around Ho Chi Minh during the day. In the evening, we break up. I wrote about this already, and even though our ten days in Vietnam were mostly about our break-up – about crying and talking and healing together -, I’m going to try and tell the other side of the story. We saw beautiful things, it’d be too bad to let them be washed away by the tears.

We live in the backpackers area, Pham Ngu Lao street. From there, we walk to the market and have food – lots of food. We then take a long walk to the Jade Pagoda. It takes us about two hours, and ends up being a good way to see a lot of the city. We arrive when the pagoda is about to close. We just have time to see some monkeys, and to feel the soft, quiet atmosphere of the place. It feels like you’re hushed by the blue of the walls, the hum of the fountain full of huge beautiful fish and the calm of the statues. My camera has decided to opt out of this one, so I only have memories of it. We walk out in the night, and stop at Haagen Dazs: it’s a ridiculous amount of money for one ice cream, but they don’t have it in Australia, and, even though I can’t believe it, Michael has never tasted it. On the way back, everything is lit up.

The next day, after eating and walking around some more, we take a train to Hoi An, in the North. Our plan is to go up there with the night train (it’s a 16 hours trip if I remember correctly) and then go down by bus over several days, with stops in Da Nang and Mui Ne. We took the cheap option so we’re sitting and not lying down. It’s still really comfortable. The food is super cheap (250 Dongs), copious and delicious. People run in at each stop to offer snacks. It takes me a while to be fast enough to catch one of them. In my hurry to get something to eat – anything – I end up with a kilo of lychees. Because why not. Spoiler alert, I didn’t finish the lychees before they went bad. I would recommend the long train trip: it’s a great way to see the countryside, to hear city names, get help from people who see you’re scared you missed your stop, and it’s not as hard to sleep in as you’d think.

On being Jewish – a conversation with Silvia (En français après Pikajew)

For context, this conversation started in July, just before I left Silvia in Cambodia. We continued it when I saw her again in September, during a trip to Hamburg. We are now in October, I’m writing from my home in France.

It’s our last night after ten days of traveling together, an eternity in backpacker time. We’ve had a great time. We have the same travel philosophy: walk, talk, eat, see, repeat. We’ve talked a lot. Between us, the words flow, and we laugh. She makes me think and I love it. When we argue, it’s in an enthusiastic way, because it’s food for thought. We barely ever argue, anyway. We haven’t had any real disagreement. Yet.

“I just don’t understand why a religious group needs to have a country.” I don’t remember how we got to talk about it. Silvia is German, but for a long time, she preferred to say that she’s from the world. She doesn’t believe in the groups that separate people into “us” and “them”. And I get that. But…

“That’s the thing, though. Being Jewish is not just about religion. It’s a people as well.”

And then we talk. Mostly, I talk. I move my hands a lot, and I get frustrated. I tear up a bit. I had no idea it mattered to me that much. Somehow, it feels important, it feels like I have to make her understand, tonight. I have to be heard. On what?

I’m Jewish, but I’m not “very Jewish”. I don’t practice Judaism as a religion, not really. I don’t eat kosher (I wasn’t a vegetarian at the time), I don’t pray with these words, I don’t like the idea that there is a chosen people, and, you know, I’ve heard religion being used against queer people, women and open love so many times that it makes me flinch a bit. I used to be a lot angrier about it. I used to dismiss it all as an archaic and patriarchal tool of oppression. Now I have tenderness and affection towards it. I am there at the family holidays, I sing along, I clap my hands, I love listening to my dad when he explains, I want to know more; the philosophy and symbolism truly move me. 

Still, why does it matter so much? I wonder; as I try to explain to her, I explain it to myself. I am Jewish. My religious beliefs don’t enter that statement. I am Jewish in my blood, it’s part of who I am, it’s the environment in which I was raised. Even if I lost every bit of faith and if I stopped every little practice, I’d still be Jewish. Because Judaism is more than a religion. I said it already, and I’ll say it again: it’s a people. To many readers, this will be completely obvious, but to me, the laic girl with olive skin and a self-important nose, it wasn’t always. And clearly, it wasn’t for my friend either. 

She points out that I don’t have to be Jewish, I have a choice. You can be born in a catholic family and not be catholic.

– You clearly don’t get my point. Would you say that if I was Armenian? I know it’s hard to understand, but it’s the same. I am Jewish like I would be Armenian. You can say that I choose who I am, but I don’t, not completely, the same way you don’t choose to be German. I’m sorry to jump to the Godwin Point, but I’m also Jewish because I can give up religion all I want, if someone wants to murder Jews, they’ll find me, and they won’t give a shit what my identity of choice is. I am Jewish sometimes more than I am French. Because no matter how French I am, I will always be asked “where are you really from?”. People say that, sometimes, when I answer “France” to their “where are you from?”, because it doesn’t explain my face, and it doesn’t explain my name. And if I say I’m Jewish, I hear “that’s not your nationality”. But the fact is I have nothing else. I have no other answer. I’m French, that explains my accent, and why I’m such a food snob. I’m Jewish, that explains pretty much everything else you see. I will always be a foreigner, everywhere that is not Israel, that’s what judaism is, and that’s why we need a country. Everybody needs a sense of belonging. It doesn’t mean I want to move to Israel. I quite enjoy being part of a minority, actually – but it’s important that there is a place where I’m not.”

She looks ahead, she doesn’t answer much. I know her. I know that the same way I’m hurt to see my friend as one of “those people” who don’t accept “us”, she’s sad to see me as one of “them”, the guys who build boxes to neatly separate humans, instead of embracing the unity in everybody’s uniqueness. We drop the topic because it’s painful and it seems fruitless. “I feel like you’re not hearing me, and it hurts my feelings. Let’s talk about something else.” She says she’s trying to understand, she is, but it’s not easy, it’s very new for her. And I believe her. We laugh a lot that night, and we say goodbye with love.

We keep in touch while I’m in India and when I go back home. So when I plan a trip to Berlin in September, I ask her if and where we can meet up. “Let’s see each other in Hamburg!” That’s not where she lives, it’s a halfway point. I love it. It’s grey when my bus drops me at the station, I’m wearing a lot more clothes. Still, when I see her, we run into each other’s arms, and we start where we left off: walking and talking, and stopping for warm drinks. We do that until it’s night. When we’re lost, she tells me she’d been thinking about the Phnom Penh conversation. It had started something for her. And she thinks she got it.

It feels like finding a lost part of my heart. I listen.

She’d thought about her own identity, and how being German matters to her. She’d talked it through with various people. And she’d realized that the first step to the situation getting better in the Middle-East, before anything else, is that the other countries recognize Israel. That it’s not Israel or Palestine, it has to be both.

– YES!

We keep talking about small and big things as we walk in the night. Somehow as I write this I think of the book Reunion by Fred Uhlman, in which a Jewish guy realizes after the war that his German friend who rejected him when they were kids died protecting Jews from the nazis. Our separation wasn’t nearly as dramatic, but still, I felt reunited with my friend.

Back home, when I tell my dad about all this – it made me so happy I had to share the story -, he says “Go figure that a Jewish Moroccan French would explain judaism to a German in Cambodia”. 

EN FRANÇAIS

Pour le contexte, cette conversation a commencé en juillet, juste avant que je quitte Silvia, au Cambodge. Elle a continué en septembre, quand je l’ai revue à Hambourg. Nous sommes maintenant en octobre, j’écris depuis chez moi, en France.

C’est notre dernière nuit ensemble, après 10 jours de vadrouille, une éternité en temps de backpacker. On s’est éclatées. On a la même vision du voyage : marcher, parler, manger, voir, recommencer. On a beaucoup parlé. Entre nous, les mots coulent, et on se marre. Elle me fait réfléchir, j’adore ça. Quand on n’est pas du même avis, c’est avec enthousiasme, parce que c’est bon pour les méninges. On n’a pas eu de vrai désaccord. Pas encore.

“Je ne comprends pas pourquoi un groupe religieux devrait avoir son propre pays.” Je ne me rappelle pas comment on en est arrivées là. Silvia est allemande, mais pendant longtemps elle a préféré dire qu’elle était citoyenne du monde. Elle ne croit pas en les groupes qui séparent entre “nous” et “eux”. Et je comprends. Mais…

“C’est ça le truc, en fait. Être juif ce n’est pas seulement une question de religion. C’est aussi un peuple.”

Alors on parle. Surtout, je parle. Je bouge les mains dans tous les sens, je me frustre. J’ai même les larmes qui montent. Je n’avais pas idée que j’y tenais tant que ça. Il semble soudain que c’est de la plus grande importance, qu’il faut que je lui fasse comprendre. Qu’il faut que je sois entendue. Sur quoi ?

Je suis juive, mais pas “très juive”. Je ne pratique pas le judaïsme comme religion, pas vraiment. Je ne mange pas casher (je n’étais pas encore végétarienne), je ne prie pas avec ces mots-là, je n’aime pas qu’il y ait un peuple élu, et j’ai vu la religion être employée contre les queers, les femmes et l’amour libre tellement de fois que ça me titille, juste un peu. Avant, c’était pire, j’étais vraiment énervée. Je rejetais la religion entièrement, avec les autres outils d’oppression archaïques et patriarcaux. Maintenant, j’ai de la tendresse et de l’affection pour elle. Je vais aux réunions de famille, je chante, je tape des mains, j’adore écouter mon père expliquer, je veux en savoir plus. La philosophie et les symboles juifs m’émeuvent.

Mais tout de même, pourquoi c’est si important ? Je me demande; et pendant que je lui explique à elle, je me l’explique à moi-même. Je suis juive. Mes croyances religieuses n’entrent pas dans cette affirmation.  Je suis juive dans mon sang, ça fait partie de qui je suis, c’est le cadre dans lequel j’ai été élevée. Même si je me détachais de toute foi et de toute pratique, je serais toujours juive. Parce que le judaïsme c’est plus qu’une religion. Je l’ai dit et je le dis encore : c’est un peuple. Pour ceux qui lisent, ça paraîtra peut-être complètement évident, mais pour moi, la fille laïque avec la peau olive et le nez qui se sent important, ça ne l’a pas toujours été. Et de toute évidence, ça ne l’est pas pour mon amie.

Elle remarque que je ne suis pas obligée d’être juive. Tu choisis ta religion. Tu peux naître dans une famille catholique et ne pas être catholique.

– Tu ne saisis pas. Est-ce que tu dirais ça si j’étais arménienne ? Je sais que c’est dur à comprendre, mais c’est la même chose. Je suis juive comme je serais arménienne. Tu peux dire que je choisis qui je suis, mais ce n’est pas vrai, pas tout à fait, comme tu n’as pas choisi d’être allemande. Désolée d’atteindre le Point Godwin si vite, mais je suis juive aussi parce que si un nouveau débile décide d’assassiner du juif, il saura me trouver et il n’en aura rien à foutre de mon identité préférentielle. Je suis juive parfois plus que je suis française. Parce qu’on me demandera toujours “mais pour de vrai, tu viens d’où ?”. On me dit ça, parfois, quand à “Tu viens d’où ?” je dis “France”, parce que ça n’explique ni ma tête ni mon nom. Et si je dis “je suis juive”, j’entends “c’est pas une nationalité, ça”. Mais le fait est que je n’ai rien d’autre, aucune autre réponse. Je suis française, ça explique mon accent en anglais et pourquoi je suis une snob de la bouffe; je suis juive, ça explique à peu près tout ce que tu vois d’autre. Je serai toujours une métèque, partout ailleurs qu’en Israël. C’est ça être juif. Et c’est pour ça qu’il nous faut un pays. Tout le monde a besoin d’un sentiment d’appartenance. Ça ne veut pas dire que je veux emménager en Israël. Ça me plaît bien, en fait, d’être d’une minorité – mais ça reste important qu’au moins à un endroit, je ne le sois pas.”

Elle regarde droit devant, elle ne répond pas vraiment. Je la connais, je sais qu’autant je suis blessée de voir que mon amie fait partie de “ceux-là”, ceux qui ne “nous” acceptent pas, autant ça l’attriste de me voir comme l’un d’entre “eux”, ceux qui construisent des boîtes pour ranger les humains bien proprement, sans que ça se mélange. On laisse tomber le sujet parce qu’il fait mal et qu’il semble sans fruit. “J’ai l’impression que tu ne m’entends pas, et ça me blesse. Parlons d’autre chose.” Elle dit qu’elle essaye de comprendre, vraiment, mais que ce n’est pas facile, c’est très nouveau pour elle, ces idées. Et je la crois. On rit beaucoup cette nuit-là, et au matin on dit au revoir avec amour.

On reste en contact pendant mon séjour en Inde, et quand je rentre à la maison. Du coup, quand j’organise un voyage à Berlin en septembre, je lui demande si et où on pourrait se voir. “Retrouvons-nous à Hambourg” Elle n’y habite pas : c’est un point de mi chemin. Ça me fait plaisir. Il fait gris quand mon bus me dépose à la station, je porte bien plus de vêtements. Mais quand je la vois, on se coure dans les bras l’une de l’autre, et on reprend comme si c’était hier : on marche, on parle, on s’arrête pour des boissons chaudes. Jusqu’à la nuit. Quand on est bien perdues, elle me dit qu’elle a pensé à notre conversation de Phnom Penh. Que ça avait initié quelque chose en elle. Et qu’elle pense avoir compris.

C’est comme retrouver une partie de mon coeur oubliée. J’écoute.

Elle a pensé à sa propre identité, à comment être allemande l’affecte. Elle en a parlé autour d’elle. Elle s’est rendu compte que la première étape pour une amélioration de la situation au Moyen-Orient, avant toute chose, c’est que les autres pays reconnaissent Israël. Que ce n’est pas Israël ou la Palestine, que ça doit être les deux.

– OUI !

On parle de grandes et de petites choses en marchant dans la nuit. En écrivant ces mots, je pense à L’ami retrouvé de Fred Uhlman, où un Juif se apprend après la guerre que son ami allemand qui l’avait rejeté dans son enfance s’est fait tuer par les nazis pour avoir protégé des Juifs. Notre séparation était loin d’être aussi dramatique, mais quand même, je me suis sentie réunie avec mon amie.

Quand j’en parle avec mon père à mon retour – ça m’avait tant réjouit qu’il fallait que je dise –, il sort « Va imaginer qu’une juive française marocaine expliquerait le judaïsme à une Allemande au Cambodge. »

Cambodia, days 11 to 13: Phnom Penh and the Killing Field

I think not knowing how to write about the killing field is one of the reasons I stopped posting stories for a while. But now that I’m sitting at home in France and a few months and several attempts at talking about it have passed, I think I can try to put it in words.

July 21 to 23, 2015

On the way to Phnom Penh, we wondered if we were being transported by the mafia. The mini bus was full of weird products that were crammed under our feet, and that we stopped to deliver several times. When the bus stopped on the side of the road for a good 30 minutes, we waited to be abducted.

Unfortunately for the interest of this story, nothing happened, and we got to Phnom Penh intact, in the evening. We found a cheap room and had dinner in a delicious shop not far.

In the morning, we went for a walk in the markets.

Silvia and I have the same terrible orientation skills, so chatting instead of looking at the map, we got lost a bit, which was a good way to see the city. I enjoyed the vibe of Phnom Penh, it felt like a place I could live in.

After some food, we got a tuk-tuk to take us to Choeung Ek killing field, a bit outside of the city. (Caution, extreme non-cheerfulness ahead)

When we arrived, we agreed to meet at the end, so we could go at our own pace. We each took an audio guide, and started the visit. This is hard to write in a non robotic manner. Choeung Ek is one of the many killing fields in Cambodia, where thousands of people were brought to be executed and thrown into mass graves by the Khmer Rouges from 1975 to 1979. It is now a place to remember the genocide, and the scar it left on the country. The audio guide starts with “thank you for being here, and hearing our story”. It takes us to the place where people were massed in the dark without food, the one where they were killed, and several pits where their bodies were thrown. There’s a pit for babies. On the tree near it, traces of blood, brains and bones were found. They slammed the babies against the tree. Speakers played patriotic music to cover the screams. The audio guide takes us on a walk around the lake and gives us testimonies of survivors and perpetrators. It says “if you look on the floor, you might find fractions of clothes and bones”. It tells us that Pol Pot got to die of old age. In the end, it takes us to the memorial building, that carries statues of two mythological birds that are enemies but that, when brought together, symbolize peace. The building is full of bones, neatly organized behind glass. The skulls are arranged according to how they had been cracked.

We went back to the city. It seemed like we were moving very slowly, and we both knew this had been an important experience. I was glad to be comfortable sitting in silence next to Silvia. And being sad. And moving on, as well.

We walked in the city and got lost. I had my sandals repaired by the shoe god for a few dollars, while we were reading the “Cambodian History” section of Silvia’s guide.

We walked until it was night, chatted, took pictures, and ate some of the best cakes of our existence. We thanked each other for the good time we had traveling together, and reflected on how we had learnt to know each other. We listed the reasons it worked out so well: “You enjoy food. It’s good to travel with someone who enjoys food.” We had a conversation about being Jewish, that I’ll write about in my next post. There were monkeys on the power lines.

Back at the hostel, Silvia told me a story that I’m not allowed to repeat here, but I can tell you it’s called “WHY?” and it made her look like this:

After she went to sleep, I stayed up to write and go for a walk. It was my last walk as an alone backpacker: in the morning, I was heading to Ho Chi Minh, to meet up with my partner. I enjoyed the happy melancholia, as I said goodbye to that wonderful part of my life. Some people were fighting outside a bar, the walls were covered in colorful paintings, I was lit by lanterns hanging from the buildings. It felt like home.

In the morning, we had breakfast/lunch together in the shop we’d dined the day before. When we arrived they asked us “Same same?”, and it felt good to be recognized. We parted with laughter and hugs. Before I boarded the tuk-tuk that was taking me to my bus, she said “You inspire me”. Of course, I teared up a bit.

Cambodia, days 7 to 11: Sihanoukville and Koh Rong (or “The grannies stuck on a party island”) and phosphorescent plankton

July 17 to 21, 2015

I met a guy in Indonesia who told me a beautiful story about sleeping in hammocks on the beach on an island in Cambodia, and a part of me hoped I’d live the same thing if I just went there.

So Silvia and I booked a bus all the way down to Sihanoukville, and spent the day sitting together watching movies. Finding movies for Silvia was a challenge that I believe I mastered pretty damn well. She told me she didn’t like romance, comedy, drama, horror, and was not sure about TV shows. I showed her Love and death by Woody Allen, Stardust just so she knew why I did “arr” in a pirate way from time to time, Paprika because it’s about dreams and she’s studying to become a psychologist, Hancock because it’s fun, Bring it on because I hadn’t seen it before, and Doctor Who because it’s Doctor Who. The only thing she didn’t like so much was the first episode of 30 Rock, but nobody is perfect.

Sihanoukville had a weird vibe: westerners and locals didn’t really mix, which I found was a pity. We saw mostly drunk people or people enthusiastic about their future drunkenness. We walked around a bit, spent the night in a 30-people dorm that had only us in it (I piled most of the mattresses up for myself, just because I could), and took the ferry in the morning.

Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville

We were lucky: we’d paid for the cheap slow boat, and it was cancelled, so we got the fast boat for the same price (“Don’t tell the other passengers how much you paid”). When we arrived, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t the Perhentian Islands. It was more crowded, more expensive, more dirty, and we took a bit of time to find a fairly priced room – which wasn’t a bungalow on the beach. I was sick, and maybe a tad grumpy. We walked on the beach, and it was pretty; we had food because that’s what we do best, and I crashed in a hammock because my sore throat had got me exhausted. I slept really well.

We spent three days on Koh Rong, and I’m not entirely sure why. It was raining most of the time, I was indoor most of the time to avoid getting sicker. Silvia went out to explore, and I wrote stories and read books and enjoyed the hammock lifestyle.

On the first night, I discovered just how similar Silvia and I were, and it made me very happy: there was a party in our hostel. I’m not sure if some qualified it as a good party, but I know it was a loud party. They played commercial music so loud that, upstairs in our rooms, we had to shout to hear each other. We could have joined the fun… but instead we lurked from up the stairs, watched the crowd of young people, and cursed them. “Oh my god, why are they having fun? What kind of music do young people listen to these days? I want to sleeeep! I want quiet! Please, quiet! Whyyy?” We cried for our lost sleep and laughed at our common granny attitude. We could have changed hostel… but complaining is more fun. Plus, I had already made friends with the bedbugs.

On Koh Rong, I enjoyed watching the people. After a bit, I concluded that that place might actually be the Purgatory. A weird black substance kept appearing everywhere, in drinks and on my clothes, and I think it was particles of lost souls. I started noticing more and more the slow walk and vacant eyes of my fellow island dwellers. Most of them had some kind of wound on their body – a broken arm, a huge scar on the leg, a bandaged torso… I once asked a guy with a wrapped up foot what was up. He said that he was drunk and hit his foot against a boat, and added that most of the others had got here just after Vietnam, where they got into motorcycle accidents. The zombi-like attitude can be explained by the fact that most of them were on drugs most of the time. A barman once gave us a tour of the tattoos he didn’t remember getting, and the “toe-to-boat-explosion” guy got out of a fuzzy conversation with Silvia with a beautiful “I’m sorry, I’m on Ketamine”. Silvia explained later that that was some stuff used to tranquilize bulls. On our last night, we let charming people convince us to go to a beach party.

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Florian (aka charming people) taught us the game Operation Peepdelapeep

We walked a while to the other side of the island, to end up in a bungalow near the beach (because why party on the warm beautiful sand under the stars when you could cram yourself into a tiny dark space instead), full of people moving around awkwardly and without smiling, to the same horrible music as before. We looked at each other after five minutes and decided to walk back to our now-quiet side of the island. That is how I’d paint the Purgatory.

We had one charming experience on Koh Rong: our last afternoon was sunny, and we ran into a guy advertising a boat trip to some waterfall, with a bit of snorkeling and a barbecue dinner. When we got onto the massive boat with 3 other guys, the organizer told us he wasn’t feeling great, so he’d let us go just with the two locals who were driving the boat. “It’s just you on the boat, do whatever you like” So we did.

The first stop was the waterfall, near the fishermen village.

We followed the guide into the mangrove, and wondered if the upcoming sight could possibly be worth it when our feet sunk deep into the warm slimy water. It was a fun walk, with us calling “mommy, come save me from the poop-filled mangrove” and listing the diseases that we were most probably collecting. It was worth it.

The walk ended at the foot of a waterfall. We undressed and started climbing it. And then, there was the rain. We were climbing on the wet stone, and water was pouring from everywhere, sky and earth alike, and it was beautiful. It was a moment made of silent smiles and the constant scream of the current.

After the walk back in the slimy water, we went snorkeling. It was Silvia’s first time, and I was happy to share her discovery of this world where you’re flying above a tiny (yet infinite) city bursting with a kind of life you don’t understand.

Back on the boat we waited. And waited. We waited for a long long while for the night to be dark enough. But, once again, it was well worth it. When we dived into the dark water, we screamed with joy and awe. With every movement, we made a thousand tiny stars appear in the water! The phosphorescent plankton was on my arms and legs and in Silvia’s hair. It stayed on our skin and moved with us. The more we beat the water, the more we could see them. We were laughing and giggling like idiots, lying in the water and diving into the sea stars. I’m not sure exactly when we started crying. Under the huge sky full of stars and inside the huge sea full of lights, we were giggling like excited children. We were excited children. The boat flashed that they were waiting. We swam back. After I got on board, I jumped one last time before climbing back up. We got on the high deck and lied down to watch the stars. We were wet and laughing at the beauty of everything. Then, we saw a shooting star. Because there’s no such thing as perfect enough. By then, we were both crying for sure, and holding hands. I love traveling with Silvia because we’re good at enjoying beauty together. Read the rest of the phosphorescent plankton story here.

On the boat, we met Paul, a French guy who was going back to the mainland in the morning, like us. Our boat was at 10, his at 11, but because breakfast happened, we missed it and went back with him. I had convinced Silvia to go to Phnom Penh with me. We ate with Paul in Sihanoukville and met the sweetest little girl.

She chatted with us in the universal language of willful children. A very white very drunk guy came along later and was an asshole to everyone while ordering his food. He gave the girl, who wanted to make another friend, a $10 bill saying “Take it, I know that’s what you want”, and she laughed and gave it back. Insisted on giving it back. Oh yeah.

We said goodbye to Paul and took the bus to Phnom Penh.

The Phosphorescent Plankton and the Shooting Star

July 20, 2015

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Picture by Silvia

On the boat, we waited. And waited. We waited for a long long while for the night to be dark enough. It was well worth the wait. When we dived into the dark sea, we screamed with joy and awe. With every movement, we made a thousand tiny stars appear in the water! The phosphorescent plankton was on my arms and legs and in Silvia’s hair. It stayed on our skin and moved with us. The more we beat the water, the more we could see them. We were laughing and jiggling like idiots, lying in the water and diving into the sea stars. I’m not sure exactly when we started crying. Under the huge sky full of stars and inside the huge sea full of lights, we were giggling like excited children. We were excited children. The boat flashed that they were waiting. We swam back. After I got on board, I jumped one last time before climbing back up, a bit of light still caught in my eyebrows.

We got on the high deck and lied down to watch the stars. We were wet and laughing at the beauty of everything. Then, we saw a shooting star. Because there’s no such thing as perfect enough. By then, we were both crying for sure. I love traveling with Silvia because we’re good at enjoying beauty together. She was crying, I touched her arm, she held my hand. We stayed there sobbing and laughing some more. It’s hard to describe it all. In this tiny moment, life had meaning. It was that good. It wasn’t just a vague meaning either: it had meaning for me. All of the moments in my life were built to make this one happen, and I was stardust in between stars below and stars above, joint by the hand to a dear friend. The universe was kind and full of wit and wonders. It gave us – just us, no one else on the boat saw it – the shooting star.

Her: Oh my god, oh my god! Me: Nooo! Them: What, what is it? Us: There was a shooting star.

This was a moment of heart bloom in which my mind was going in a thousand different places. I thought of the happy times in the past that filled me with joy, and of the worries that didn’t seem to matter anymore. I thought of the Big Bang and the expansion of the universe, and how Freaking Awesome things are. I thought of the friends I’d made in my travels, of the beautiful landscapes and all the places left to discover. I thought of the anatomy of hand holding. Of how beautiful it was that when I held tighter, she answered. I wondered how our hands would untie, if they ever did, if that moment ever ended. All my attention was in my fingers, when we let go at the same time, it seemed, organically, as if the hands had been having their moment as well. It occurred to me that we were lying down in our bikinis having a travel through space and time, while the 5 other passengers of the boat were standing there, not being fussed.

Somehow, we found ourselves sitting and eating a barbecue dinner, on our way back to the island.

On s’en fout, de combien c’est vrai

9 octobre 2015

Ma grand-mère est une personne fantastique.

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Elle a la peau douce – depuis que je suis enfant, c’est la première chose qui me vient en pensant à elle, sa peau douce. Elle est douce, en fait, tout elle est douceur. Elle sourit beaucoup et elle n’est jamais embêtée. Ma grand-mère surprend par sa bonté calme. Elle veut aider à faire la cuisine. Elle fait des gâteaux aux miels et nous les envoie par la poste depuis Marseille pour les fêtes. Elle raconte des histoires de temps passés, souvent on a déjà entendu ses histoires, mais ça ne fait rien, elle a une voix faite pour raconter. Elle a un rire sans malice, qui a toujours l’air un peu surpris. Elle a des plis plein la peau et ça lui va bien. Elle marche, elle ne ménage pas ses efforts. Elle a des grandes mains un peu plus tordues chaque année, mais qui font encore – et encore – et encore. Cette année, pour Soucot (la fête juive des cabanes), elle a laissé sur une façade de la cabane la marque de sa main en peinture bleue, et elle a écrit en dessous, en lettres capitales un peu tremblantes, “main protectrice”.

Ma grand-mère n’habite plus à Marseille. Et elle ne marche plus beaucoup. Elle est dans une maison de retraite à cinq minutes de chez nous, et mon père va la chercher de temps en temps dans la semaine, pour les fêtes et pour shabbat, et parfois, elle passe la nuit chez nous. Dans la tête de ma grand-mère, il y a un grand passé qui danse, et qui s’emmêle parfois, un peu. Il y a une grande vie qui se dit, se redit, se dédit et se réinvente.

Et ça ne fait rien. Ma grand-mère a toujours le même sourire et le même rire un peu surpris. Et chaque fois, ça met dans la pièce un peu de joie – une petite joie toute douce et presque dure à voir. Et ma grand-mère, elle raconte toujours. Elle raconte presque pareil.

Au début, ça me rendait triste, le presque dans “presque pareil”, mais maintenant, ça ne fait rien. Aujourd’hui, je me suis dit : on s’en fout, de combien c’est vrai. Qu’est-ce que ça fait, hein ?

Elle m’aidait à préparer le dîner de shabbat, et elle a commencé à dire. Elle avait des pauses, comme si elle cherchait, comme si elle vérifiait dans sa mémoire, pour être sûre. Et moi, avec mon nouveau petit bagage de cueilleuse de souvenirs, j’ai su voir, un peu, la danse des mondes qu’il y a sous ses cheveux-nuage.

“Ça existe encore, les auberges de jeunesse ? J’ai été dans beaucoup d’auberges de jeunesse, quand j’ai voyagé, en Inde et en Chine.

– Ah oui ? Et c’était comment ?

– On avait le téléphone, et on appelait pour réserver, et on avait une chambre. C’était bien, ces auberges de jeunesse.

– Oui, on rencontre des gens.

– Tout à fait.

– Tu dormais dans des dortoirs ? Moi le plus souvent, j’étais dans des dortoirs.

– Ah non. J’étais toujours seule. On ne sait pas avec qui on tombe. On peut se faire voler facilement. J’y étais avec mon sac à dos. C’était avant que je sois mariée, je devais avoir vingt ans. Quand j’arrivais dans un nouveau pays, je demandais “Où est-ce qu’on trouve le représentant de la France ?” – je parlais bien anglais à l’époque, et les Chinois, aussi, parlaient anglais – et on me donnait l’adresse, et j’allais signaler ma présence, et depuis le bureau du Consul, j’appelais mes parents… Je payais la communication, bien sûr. Il y a cette montagne… en Chine je crois… je suis montée jusqu’en haut. Comment elle s’appelait ? La plus grande montagne… J’ai voyagé bien… un an.

– Et quand tu es rentrée, tu as rencontré Grand-Père ?

– Ton père ?

– Non, Grand-Père.

– Ah, non, Moïse ne voyageait pas. J’ai revu mes parents… L’Himalaya. Elle s’appelle l’Himalaya, cette montagne. Je suis montée tout en haut.

– Toute seule ?

– Ah, oui. Je n’ai jamais voyagé avec personne. On ne sait pas sur qui on tombe… C’est la plus haute montagne du monde… Et quand on est en haut (ses yeux brillent), on n’a plus envie de redescendre. On a une vue… à des kilomètres.

– Tu es allée dans quels autres pays ?

– Je suis allée… au Canada. Tout enneigé, on aurait dit un conte de fées. Je suis allée voir un concert… comment il s’appelle, ce musicien, qui est né dans un pays lointain ? Je suis allée voir ce concert, et à côté de moi il y avait une femme d’une cinquantaine d’années, qui m’a dit (avant le début, parce que pendant le concert c’était silence complet), elle m’a dit qu’elle économisait depuis dix ans pour voir ce concert. Beethoven, c’était le nom du musicien. C’était un orchestre de Vienne. Ils aiment la musique, les Allemands. Et c’était Beethoven qui jouait.

– Il est mort il y a longtemps, Beethoven, Grand-Mère.

Elle a son rire du fond de la poitrine.

– Ah, oui, c’était il y a longtemps, oui. (Elle réfléchit) Non, ce n’était pas Beethoven qui jouait. C’était en haut d’une colline, la nuit. C’était féérique. Une fois, je suis arrivée dans une ville aux États-Unis, et je cherchais un endroit où dormir. Les gens qui avaient une chambre à louer postaient des annonces à l’extérieur, des annonces protégées. Et j’ai vu, sur une annonce, en anglais “nous n’acceptons ni les Juifs ni les chiens”. Oui, j’ai vu ça (elle rit). Une fois, j’ai vu un concert de Mozart. À côté de moi, il y avait une femme, qui m’a dit qu’elle avait économisé pendant dix ans pour aller à ce concert. Le jour d’après le concert, il y avait une visite de la maison de Mozart. C’était en haut d’une colline. Ah, c’est bien ces voyages organisés, c’est très bien.”

Et j’imagine ma grand-mère avec son sac à dos et un peu plus de cheveux, un peu moins de plis. J’imagine ma grand-mère à mon âge, avec des idées un peu comme les miennes et l’envie de voir le monde. Mon père me dit qu’elle n’a pas voyagé seule. Et qu’est-ce que ça fait ? Si elle a ses voyages dans les yeux et dans la tête, qu’est-ce que ça fait ? Moi j’aime qu’elle me raconte, ça me donne des mots et des images, et ça la fait sourire. Alors ?

Back already!

I’m back in France and cheese is plentiful again. I have lots of things to do, including, now that my laptop is alive again (thank you engineer dad), writing stories for this blog.

Coming soon: the end of the Cambodia trip, Vietnam, India, the month of yoga, Istanbul, tips and thoughts, people, and MANY Sexy Dance videos. I had one dream when I started posting the Sexy Dance videos: that at the end of my yoga training (it seemed so far away at the time), I’d film all the students doing it together. I need to find another dream now, because this one exists on film already. (I did lots of stuff during this trip, but this is my biggest achievement)

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Now that I’m in Paris and it seems like very little has changed, it’s good to remember that just 2 months ago there were monkeys on the power lines.

I am very excited for all the writing I have ahead, but I’m also fighting against the “oh my god so many things to do” spiral that kind of makes me focus on the “cheese is plentiful” side of the situation. So this post is merely an introduction to the ones to come, to give me a kick and hush the voice that says “I can’t write cause I don’t know how to start”.

I’ll post again soon, starting with Cambodia stories!

I hear, a love story – Finding love across the world

parental advising: read at your own risk if you are my parent

July 24, 2015

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I hear my tears drop slowly on the shitty hostel pillow as I look at your naked back. One, and another, and another. I hear them and our two breaths, slow and cut by sobs; and I go back to all the sounds that were us.

At first, almost three years ago, I hear the keyboard clicking, clicking away. It starts slow, incidental. And it gets more and more excited. I hear my happy chuckles as I read your emails. I hear the bands you recommend for me, the songs I like, the songs I don’t. I hear my YouTube music playlist filling up with you. And my TV shows list filling up with you. I hear the first Facebook notifications and the next ones. I hear the first Skype call and the next ones. I hear the first “I love you” and the next ones. I hear myself ask my parents for a smartphone for my birthday, just for you. I hear the phone vibrating the minute it’s waking up time on the other side of the world. I hear the letter slip into the iron mailbox. The one and only letter I sent you. I hear my heart leaping when we say we’re together – we say it without a sound, words on a screen.

I hear my banker happily agreeing to open my closed savings account so I can book my first ticket to Australia. “The passengers for Brisbane please present to gate 5”

I hear words of worries from friends – how do you know it’s gonna be OK? I know. I hear your voice on the phone – I’m coming. I hear the taxi stopping and the door and your foot out the door. I hear your smile – I can touch it now – I hear your voice in my ear without a speaker for the first time – “I love you”.

I hear the playlist you had prepared for me – “Kiss me” by Tom Waits, Charlie Winston and all the sounds I love. I hear our kisses and our moans under the songs – over the songs. I hear those first days together, the crazy birds of this crazy place across the world, and us.

I hear the tears dropping on the soft blanket you bought for me – I am fairly emotional.

I hear the first goodbyes. “The passengers for Paris Charles de Gaulle please present to gate 8”.

I hear six months of Skyping, and crying and laughing together.

And then I hear that lady in Canberra hiring me. I hear myself announce it to you: I’ll be with you for 6 whole months. I hear it, but I can’t believe it. I hear my dad saying I need the best backpack, because these last you a lifetime, and buying it for my birthday. I hear the plane again, and your breath as I hold you tight.

I hear our life together. I hear “are you coming over or am I?”, “what do you want for dinner?”, “do we have enough condoms left?”, “should we go on a trip to Melbourne?”, “what do you want to watch tonight?”, “will we get out of bed this weekend?” and “I love you”. I hear “I love you” in most of the things we say. I hear it growing stronger and sewing itself in the fabric of our daily routine. I hear us evolve and change and become peaceful in each other’s arms. I hear us experiment and laugh. I hear big and small trips, good and bad days, meals cooked together, naked times, sick times, crazy awesome times, times with friends (I hear it’s different to be with friends as a couple), a whole library of stories and inside jokes. I hear our comfort, our nest. I hear us grow like you hear the grass grow – imperceptibly, slowly, naturally – into a solid, healthy team. I hear me finally allowing someone to love me, without pain, without bullshit. I hear you getting out of your shell. I hear we can create our own type of love, without any need to comply to what the outside thinks a couple should be like – I hear we are that awesome, that free, that gloriously happy. We are good for each other.

I hear those 6 months turn into 9 when I find another job and officially take a year off from uni. I hear our trip to Perth, I hear your sobs and your sister’s screams when your dad dies and I can only cry with you.

I hear a slow recovery, watching movies and holding each other close. I hear you love the Sexy Dance I invented to cheer you up. I hear us laugh at silly things and whisper “I love you” some more.

I hear that I’m leaving. You hear that I’m leaving. But we’ll meet again, you’ll come and visit me in my travels. And then… and then we don’t know. Paris… in, what, a year, a year and a half? I hear us cry again. Cry harder this time, dryer. It’s a much tougher goodbye. I hear you on the phone as I go up the Australian coast. I hear you on the phone one last time before I board that plane to Bali. And then I don’t anymore.

Then it’s the keyboard again. Sometimes it’s Skype. I hear your voice breaking on Skype – I hear myself apologize for the shitty WiFi. I hear you’re sad I’m not there for you more. I hear you’re sad. I feel bad. I love you, I do. I hear my words shape you for the people I meet – shape us. I hear how great we are, how amazed people are at our level of communication and trust – an open relationship? I didn’t know it could work. It does.

But I also hear my doubts mumbling at the other side of the table. I hear the lump in my throat as I say things like “I love him so much, but…” and “He is amazing, but…” I hear my heart say “NO!” very loud, every time I get close to seeing it. I hear my heart beating slower when I think of you, like it’s trying to hide, like it doesn’t want to see. Maybe if I hush it long enough it’ll go back to how it felt before. And I hear it from myself and from those I talk about it with: I’ll see how I feel when I meet you again in Vietnam.

And here we are. I hear you say “hello” in my back as I’m waiting for you in the hostel lobby. And here you are. Real again, here again, the man I love. The man I’ve loved. I hear my slow heart smiling – it’s happy to see you of course – but still so slow, so terrified and slow. Hush, heart, hush. I hear your “are you OK?” “yes.” “you know I can tell you’re not OK, right?” and my tears. “You know me very well.” “I know. I know, you don’t even have to say it. I’m here now, OK?” You don’t know, not exactly. Or maybe in a way you do. I hear our day spent together in the streets of Ho Chi Minh. Cheerful day. It’s easy to be cheerful with you. And then the night in this tiny dark windowless room. How did it get so dark so quick? I hear you’re angry and sad – I am not really here, I am not really with you. I am not touching you. And I hear it break. The bubble with iron walls. Breaks. I hear the wave of tears hit and flood the tiny dark room. I cry for a long time, and you wait. “I can’t. You deserve better than that. I can’t.” until finally you ask “is this the worst case scenario?” I nod. “I don’t love you enough.” “Is there an ‘anymore’ at the end of this statement?” Yes, yes, of course there is. I loved you enough. I loved you more than I could imagine, but now I don’t. Now I just love you. I’ll love you forever, just not enough.

I hear us move and change during this night. I hear us talk – what are we going to do with this trip?

I hear the tears drop slowly on the shitty hostel pillow as I stare at your naked back. Like they’re counting the seconds left until “us” is over. One. Two. Three. I probably missed it. We’re over already. I get closer to you, I hold you and I hear my words: “I’m going to write our story, and it will be the best story ever” I hear you chuckle away some tears. I hear us agree to give it these few days in Vietnam. Love each other for the last time in these few days, celebrate each other and everything we were. Like a reverse honeymoon – a honeymoon for the past instead of the future. I hear us hold each other and whisper “I love you” again, again a different one, the last type of “I love you” we’ll get.

And as I listen to a whole love story ring into my ear and my heart, from the first keyboard clap to the last hostel embrace, I hear it, from both of us and maybe a little bit from the world around us: we were glorious. We were magnificent. We were beautiful. We’re different now. And that hurts. But it’s OK.

Finding love at home

August 17, 2015

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“I was depressed for a long time”, “I was depressed most of my life” “I was depressed from 8 to 16”. That’s how I’ve been starting a lot of my stories here at the Yoga Training. I was depressed for a long time… so I’ll never feel nostalgia for when I was a child, which is nice… so now I am learning to grow and I’m mindful of a lot more things… so I have lots of fun with my therapist… The list goes on. It’s true, it’s a big part of who I am and it is a necessary introduction to a lot of the things I’ll say about myself. But I noticed that I say it too much – I say it to people who know it now, we’re 22 students, I’ve talked to most of them, they know.

So I started to wonder. Why is it that I need to say it so much?

I had a first answer: I used to be ashamed of my sadness, and only recently – it was just a few weeks before I left Australia – I realized that I had to finally accept it as a part of me if I ever wanted to grow and know myself. So I say it a lot: it’s a part of my identity, I am proud.

But that’s not it.

I had a dream on my first night here. I was fighting to wake up, and a voice was saying “no, no, no, no, no” and when I asked why, she answered “Because there’s nothing else, because there’s nothing else”, with a cold, sharp, crazy singing voice. There was a little Indian boy watching me, and I could feel it was supposed to be scary. It stuck with me. I saw the child again another night, just as a before-sleep-“remember that time when you were terrified?” moment.

And a few days ago, during meditation (we get an hour of meditation every weekday), I got it. It was Vipassana silent meditation, I was sitting on a bolster, back against the wall, facing the window. My eyes were closed. I had been feeling an odd want to be sad, and only finding a big void where my sadness used to be. So I asked myself as it started: “what is my darkness? Why do I need to be sad so bad?” When my mind slowly settled, I started playing with images. I created the image of golden drops going down in a line inside of me. And then, I observed. The drops turned into a gold rope going into my deep shadows. And on the rope, climbing up from deep down, there was the Indian child, as terrifying as before. And I got it. The Indian child had turned into me. My childhood self.

Loving and accepting my child self in spite of the depression has been one of the main focuses of my therapy for the past 7 years. When I saw the little girl climbing up, I asked: what more can I do? How can I sort this out any more than I have?

And the voice answered, in white caps on the pitch black: stop calling her depression. Stop seeing her as that only. Stop seeing yourself as that only. Stop. Enough, now.

Because there’s nothing else, because there’s nothing else.

But at the end of the dream, I woke up.

There is a void where my depression used to be. I touched the void for the first time, here. I was trying to retrieve into the comfort of my sadness – where no one can touch me – and I found nothing. I wanted to get compassion for my sadness – that’s the attention I get –, but I stayed without words, because there was nothing to describe. I was looking for who I am, and was only met with a big question mark.

I worked so hard to be OK. I worked so so hard to find love within myself. And in many ways I did. But there was always an unspoken condition – don’t get better. Not fully, not just yet. Better is scary. Better is unknown.

I reached the point now where if I keep working like I have, I might just find a place where I’m OK with myself and don’t want to hurt myself anymore. And only now I realize: that was never part of the plan. “Fine, let her play with happiness. Let her experience confidence, let her love, be loved even, a bit. It’s not like she’ll ever find her way to the other side – we’re safe. We’ll get her back on the next relapse” Only I did. Only there might not be a relapse. Because of all the love I got and gave, I might just be happy soon. And all my being is taken aback. We don’t do that here.

I realize that the whole thing was only building the illusion of wanting to be happy. I stacked a cardboard suitcase with cardboard stuff for the trip to happyland. And I walked it like a cardboard pet, pretending to be going somewhere. But now I kind of actually got somewhere, and I kind of actually want to see what it’s like. And when I look for my traveler’s kit, I only find cardboard self love, cardboard confidence, and paper recovery. I tricked myself.

How can I say I love myself when I’ve been sabotaging myself all this time? How can I say I’m confident when I never thought I could make it – or deserved to, or would be able to do anything at all with it.

During this meditation, I heard “You have some serious work to do, ma jolie”, and I sobbed. I sobbed because I saw the light. I am so fucking close. I never thought I’d get that close.

For the first time in my life, after 7 years of therapy, I actually want to let go of my depression.

Now, I just have to fill that gap. Find what I actually like about myself and what gives me value and substance, outside of it. I just have to redefine myself, and find a new epicenter around which to revolve my being. Easy peasy. The hardest part was to learn to want it. Engage phase two.

A short update from India

August 14, 2014

I am missing writing for the blog terribly, and my laptop decided to choose life again (haleluia), so I’m taking the keyboard! Before I tell the rest of my travel stories in a chronological order, I’ll give a little update. The monsoon season here and the very full days my program gives me has made it difficult to take pictures, so this will be an exercise for the reader’s imagination – just words.

I have been in India for 12 days, 10 of which I spent at a Yoga Teacher Training in Bhagsu, a village in the Himalayas. It’s a beautiful place, full of colors, random goats, cows and dogs, and stairs (so many stairs). I live in the same building as I take my classes in, in a room that is extreme luxury compared to the hostels I got used to over the last 2 months – I have a huge bed without bedbugs just for me, a little table, a wardrobe, and my own bathroom and toilet!

The program is a 28 days 200 hour training that will (if I pass) allow me to teach beginners yoga. It is very intense. The physical part is hard, of course, and I wake up every morning curious of which muscle will be singing that day. But the emotional part is even more intense. I am lucky enough to be with a group of amazing people who are all here looking for something inside themselves – just that bit makes the whole experience emotional. We do an hour of meditation every day – each day a different technique, from the most “polite” type (sitting in silence) to the “madhouse” type (running and talking gibberish at each other). I am everytime surprised at how much comes out of it. The body practice releases emotions, and the mind and soul practices make me kind of a mess, but in a good way.

I’ll talk more about it all later.