It is not the end

Everything went a bit too well till now, so I guess it was about time for a minor incident. Long story short, I found myself at the Bangkok airport yesterday around noon, without my credit card. After a few minutes of panic – because of course my phone would not work – everything was solved.

In moments like these, I at first feel helpless and vulnerable; but soon I am overwhelmed by how much the people around me care and are reactive in helping me. Obviously not referring to the thai police or the airport agents who were perfectly useless; but to my Loves back home who did everything they could to make me feel better. I did not have time to feel lonely, and that made me even more emotional.

So my first Thai steps were a bit chaotic, big deal. I arrived in my hostel, welcomed by a solid and warm team; a cozy bed and a comforting cappuccino. I wasted quite some time and energy at the airport, so my discovery of Bangkok started later than expected. It was getting dark when I got my first bite of sticky rice. Walking up the main street, observing people’s flow, I realized I was standing in the middle of the night market in the building. Soon the doors that were closed opened  to classy dancing bars where inviting ladies were showing their dancing skills. You know what I mean. Interesting introduction to the Kingdom of Thailand.

I woke up early today, as I wanted to enjoy the city before it gets too hot. My camera has given up, I cannot make it work anymore. Striking against humidity, she allows me to take one picture a day. Today was a portrait of a lizard, chilling in the pond in Lumpini park. It is a blurry shot, and that is all I have. The camera of my Japanese phone will have to do until i can fix Moody (The camera has a name. I hope it will help in the reconciliation process)

Lumpini is a green oasis, breaking you free from a very busy and noisy city. I am somehow less confused than in Hanoi, for Bangkok seems to be better organized. Red traffic light is still not a sure value, but walking on streets is less of a sport in here than it was over there. It is much bigger tho, less cozy. Good news for me is I do not really have to get used to it, for I am already leaving tomorrow. Even if I grew up in a city environnement, I always have a hard time feeling at home in concrete jungles. I do not see the convenience it offers as comfort; I experience it as being a form of control.

From one of the many Lumpini benches, I enjoyed the sun rising to its zenith. Enjoying my vietnamese read, I did not mind the school kids taking a break from their gym class and playing around me. Strolling in the park, I exchanged looks and smiles with Tai Chi students, cyclists, joggers, workers… Balancing on the swing in the playground, I got lost in my thoughts.

Thailand marks the last stop of my solo trip, and I really did not see it coming. As much as I try to be mindful, I am sometimes caught up into reality. I havent managed yet to kill my guilt about this all trip, it keeps coming back each time I start up in a new land. It always vanishes when I feel at ease, but my first reaction to a new place is  »what the hell are you doing? What are you trying to prove to yourself? Just go home already ». And then I find my favorite coffee spot, my favorite local snack, I create new habits, and I remember how thrilling it is to be where I stand. In my skin. In my shoes. Wherever we are walking.

So i found the snack : it is a king of crispy crepe, and I added some peanut butter to it – just because I am that Dutch. I have been asked 4 times today only if I was German or Dutch. I guess the shorts/sandals/backpack look killed the French in me. That is oke, I still swear in French when I am upset. And I am craving camembert. I did not find the coffee place yet, but I had a perfect mango smoothie – fits better with the weather. As for the habits, I leave that for the place I am going to tomorrow. I hope to find a yoga studio, and I expect some great hiking trails.

I walked from Lumpini to Chinatown, and then to Banglamphu market – paradise for backpackers. The concentration of western faces speaks for itself. On my way back, I stopped by a kind of temple where a tuk tuk driver offered to take me on a tour for 20 bahts. Thats 50 cts. Thats nothing. He took me to Happy Buddha, Big Buddha and then back to the subway station.  He walked with me the all time, showing me they way and was very friendly. When I was about to pay him, he refused and simply wished me the best time in Thailand. This man reconciled me with the Kingdom. And all I have is a picture of his back.

 

P_20160629_151859_HDRP_20160629_151726_HDR

I do not carry a lot with me, so almost all I have in my backpack is precious to me. I do have that extra special item: a Minie Mouse plastic pouch where I keep a few letters – some I received during the trip, some I got as the best gift when I left from Schiphol. With every plane I take, I have sweet words from my best friends. With every take off, I am back in their loving arms with their letters full of support, love and laugh. In the envelop  »Hanoi to Bangkok » I found this saying : Everything will be ok in the end. If it is not ok, it is not the end.

I cannot get it out of my mind. This is just so accurate. A very simple quote, which dried my rage tears back at the airport, and which draws a smile on my face as I was swinging in Lumpini. I am never alone, and when I start feeling lonely I immediatly feel loved again. It does not always make up for everything, but 99% of the time it does. And nothing in life is meant to be perfect; it is in the progress that everything happens.

I am small, in this world I am visiting. I feel small and humble, but also strong and happy. It is all about balance. Being on the edge, without falling.

 

 

 

 

 

Publicités

Pays des merveilles

4 hours away from Hanoi, just before the border with Laos, is a place called Mai Chau. Nested between high peaks, where greens grow as a shelter to thousands of butterflies and, I assume, snakes. There, the cracking bamboo never stop telling stories; buffalos and cows swim in the river to cool off after a hard working day; chicken run free with their big families; houses are on stilts as most of the land is flooded and everyone rides a scooter.

The day starts at 4.30 am, when the roosters start ‘’singing fighting’’. Each property around the rice field has his own poultry, and when the first one calls his humans to work, the others chicks on duty will tireless try to outperform the first caller. Men and women are already at work for a long time when the proud chicks finally calm down; and it is then about 6 am.

In the field of irritating noise pollution, I finally understood today the meaning of all the honking on the roads. As traffic regulations do not have much value here, drivers made up their own language. 2 horns, I am passing you; 3 I am giving you the space to go, 1 might be a simple greeting (they sure are polite in Hanoi)…  Honking is good, honking save lives. I cannot pretend I like it but at least I know the motivations behind the frenetic honking attitude.

In my bungalow made of bamboo and holes, I made some interval sleeping. As beautiful and peaceful as the place can be, I could not stop thinking of ways the spiders would find to go under my insect nest to basically eat me alive. Spiders are big over there, as small puppies basically.

Eventually, I got some rest, much needed after a day cycling through villages and rice fields. That was Saturday, after we drove from Hanoi and had the tastiest Vietnamese meal. It was so hot my camera decided to go on strike – cannot blame her (yes, it’s a she). As we were cycling up and down the rice fields, on red dirt and grey stones, I just did not know where to look anymore. In the background, gigantic mountains made of dark rock, covered in glorious green trees. At their feet, bowing to their stunning beauty, kilometers of rice fields. In there, shadows with pointy hats keep themselves busy, continuously, in a burning sun. Ducks, geese (sorry M), buffalos and chicken share the muddy playground. When the sun is at its zenith, everything slows down. The movements are the same, only time stretches. So do we, around 4.00pm, when we make it back to the main village. Nothing like stretching your elbow with a nice fresh beer…

This is when we decide to change the program of day 2: we forget the idea of trekking in the bamboo forest, in the heat, in the mud; and decide to go look for the Go Lao waterfall instead.

The morning after it does not take long before the bumpy road fully awakes our sleepy heads. After about 25 minutes drive in the most beautiful scenery, we arrive at Go Lao. It is a popular place for the local teenagers: a dozen of them already play in the water. We join them, climbing on rocks, sitting in the waterfall, and swimming in the natural pool… all around us in pure, quiet, savage.

2 (4)

Vietnam abounds in wonders: I am astonished, not only by the beauty of its pure nature; but also by the spirit of its people. Acceptance and creativity: they do not complain, and they make miracles out of broken pieces. They do not waste anything either let anything die. Same goes for their food actually: when doing the market, you would buy your poultry and fish alive for most of the time. You kill what you really need to kill, at the exact moment you need it dead. Only the meat – including dog’s meat… – is sold in pieces.

Another great life lesson I owe to Vietnam occurred to me today. For my last day in Vietnam, I took a bus to what they call ‘’the Halong Bay on land’’. My guide, whose name means ‘’good scent’’ introduced in the most perfect way to Vietnamese culture. We visited 2 temples, in what used to be the capital of Vietnam. The place is a maze of low river, high rocks, caves and flooded fields. It was the perfect place to hide from the villains (the Chinese neighbor). Two temples have been erected by the people, in the middle of the jungle, to honor the Kings and their Queen. The Queen was once in love with a soldier, but before she could marry him she found herself chosen by the King. No question, they married.

As a matter of fact, in some Vietnamese cultures, men hid in the woods waiting for the women to pass by. Once their chosen one walks by, they spring out of the bushes, wearing a traditional mask. They are entitled to kidnap the woman (or girl) of their choice, keep her locked up for 7 days to finally decide if they want to marry her. Good to know before going on a trek. If the Little Red Riding Hood would have taken place in Vietnam, things could have turned very differently!

So our Queen marries the King, who eventually dies. His body was buried somewhere in the property, by his 7 disciples. All of them committed suicide right after the ceremony, keeping the grave location secret from everyone, forever. Up to today, the body of the King has not been found… Because the Queen needed to transfer the royalty to a man, she could re-marry. Happy ending. In order to honor those Kings and Queen, the people of Vietnam built a double temple: the first one dedicated to the prior King obviously has to be more majestic than the other one. All the dragons gather around the first temple; but the Queen is in the second temple. Twice a year, her statue is moved to the temple of the first king and left there for 1 day and 1 night before it is brought back to the second temple.

Temples are not a place of religion as per definition. They are a place where all Vietnamese meet and pray, to their heroes, for prosperity and success. Buddhist will pray religiously at the Pagoda, and Catholics would go to Church. But temples are a place where everyone is welcome, where all ethnic groups gather and celebrate their national treasure and heroes. How beautiful is this? Religion is never denied, but unity is just given the priority; above beliefs. This is how I read it at least, and it pleases me.

Falling every minute a little bit more for Vietnam, I pursued my adventure in the rowing boat. Cruising through rice fields, water lilies and caves; I was once again impressed by the good heart and the ingenuity of the ship’s captains. A ballet of small barks led and controlled by local men and women; too happy to show us around – and to practice the little French they have learn over the years. It looks like huge rocks are floating around in this flooded area, where rice and lotus flowers live together. It is stunning, from this point of view; and not less pretty from the bike pad we cycled on a bit later. Vietnam is one big messy playground, where everyone and everything runs free. I feel a bit dizzy, and I do not know any more if I should blame it on the heat, the busy-ness, the excitement… I decide to not blame it on anything and to live fully this state of daze. Vietnam is apart and I am amazed. Holding on that thought, I fell peacefully asleep in the bus back to Hanoi.

Waking up a few kilometers before the end destination, I have a last chat with my sweet guide. She is wearing a full outfit, hiding from the sun, and explains how hard she tries to avoid getting her skin darker. This is just funny how we always want the opposite of what we have. We, back in Europe, want a darker skin when people here try to bleach out their natural color. Talking about life, struggles and goals; she hands me over a book she just finished reading. She insists I take it as a gift. ‘’A frog in search of a New Pond’’. She concludes this perfect day sharing her story with me: ‘’I cannot be controlled, I need to do what I believe in and all I ask from the people around me is to support my choice whether or not they understand me. Sometimes, I just wish they would listen instead of talking me into their own molds. It is so important to have your own life.’’

Strongest women I have met so far are born in Vietnam. I bow down and I preciously carry with me life lessons on freedom, humility and community.

It is always when comes the time to leave that I appreciate all the value of the places I called home for a few nights. Luckily, I have another home to discover tomorrow – first in Bangkok, then in Kanchanaburi for a week. Bring in on!

 

 

Tic tac tic tac

Je n’ai pas compté les jours, mais on m’a dit que j’avais (déjà) fait la moitié de mon voyage.

Je n’ai pas vu le temps passer ; je n’ai fait qu’admirer les paysages, les pays et les visages. Je n’ai pas eu le temps de penser au temps, et c’est tant mieux. Je n’arrive pas tellement non plus à penser à ce qui m’attend, à ce qui se passera quand le temps sera venu, qu’il sera passé. Quand il sera temps de faire les comptes, par exemple.

Cela m’a pris du temps, de pouvoir m’accorder du temps ; de pouvoir m’en donner sans m’en vouloir. Et tout ce temps passé à essayer de ne penser qu’au présent me donne aujourd’hui une nouvelle dimension de liberté ; que je convoitais tant.

J’en ai vu passer des sommets, tant que je ne pourrai les nommer ; j’en admiré des soleils se couchant en me levant, des levants en me couchant, et vice et versa ; j’ai fixé plus d’horizons que d’objectifs ; j’ai marché, foulé, nagé, médité… ; j’ai inondé mon palais de saveurs, infusé mes sens de couleurs et d’odeurs, imbibé ma peau de soleil et ma mémoire de merveilles. Je n’ai pas vu le temps passer, mais depuis que je sais que le compte à rebours à débuter, il commence déjà à me manquer. Ce temps auquel hier encore je ne pensais pas…

Partout où j’ai posé pieds j’ai élu domicile. C’est aussi facile. C’est une question d’adaptation, et de lectures de codes. Nous avons tous des codes en commun, c’est d’ailleurs assez fascinant. J’ai visité quelques pays, j’y ai rencontré des voyageurs venant de multiples ailleurs. Nous avons tous cette manie de hocher la tête pour approuver la première bouchée d’un plat quand nous le trouvons à notre gout. Sourire assez longtemps à un visage fermé le transformera quasiment infailliblement en sourire, peu importe que l’on soit en Norvège ou au Vietnam. On se demande toujours d’où l’on vient quand on se rencontre, comme si notre origine faisait partie intégrante de notre identité au point de nous identifier complètement. J’entends souvent que mon anglais est très hollandais, voir allemand ; mais on ne me prête quasiment jamais la nationalité française de premier abord. Ça ne me dérange pas, je suis pas particulièrement attachée à une nationalité. Mes racines prennent tous leurs sens dans les branches que je porte et pousse ; bien plus que dans les nœuds enfouis sous terre. Tout en reconnaissant et chérissant la valeur des racines qui ont nourri mon ascension, je préfère me présenter et me projeter dans ce que je pousse plutôt que dans ce qu’il s’est passé. Mon actif se nourrit de ce passif, et mes actions de mes passions.

Le compte à rebours a commencé ; et j’essaye de ne pas m’en inquiéter. Tout comme je ne m’en veux pas de ne plus toujours savoir mettre de date, lieu ni nom sur des souvenirs olfactifs récoltés au fil de mes balades. Je suis heureuse d’avoir quelque chose à chérir, sans forcément savoir l’identifier. J’espère que j’aurai les mots pour les raconter, les partager, les revivre aussi. Je pense que jamais je n’ai possédé quelque chose comme je possède mes souvenirs. Sans étiquette ni squelette, ils ne vivent pourtant que dans ma tête. Mais jamais je n’ai eu la sensation de posséder quelque chose d’aussi précieux. Ces essences récoltées vont et viennent dans mon esprit, donnant ainsi une dynamique infini à ce voyage. Un souffle chaud marin, une jus de mangue, l’envolée d’un aigle dans une vallée immense, l’effluve de fruits au détour d’une rue vietnamienne, l’appel d’une maman mouton à ses petits, un éclat de cacao dans une bouchée d’acai, une tranche fondante de saumon, l’eau gelé d’un fjord glissant entre mes doigts, … Tout est fragile et pourtant si présent.

Je pensais que l’appartenance et la possession étaient des choses physiques, que l’on pouvait définir. Il me semble aujourd’hui que cela est faux. Ce que je suis ne cesse d’évoluer, et je ne pense pas pouvoir le réduire à ce que je porte dans mon sac à dos. Ni mon short préféré ni mon passeport ne me définissent. Si je savais vous expliquer ce que représente pour moi la saveur d’un thé au gingembre ou le parfum de la lavande, alors vous sauriez qui je suis. Un souvenir construit avec un inconnu qui se révèle âme sœur me définit davantage qu’une valeur inculquée dans ma petite enfance. Les choix que je fais, mes attitudes, mes actions et tout ce qui en découle me définissent davantage que mon identité sociale, si seulement j’arrive à me détacher de celle-ci pour aller à la rencontre de me sens et de mes intuitions. Nos valeurs et nos manières peuvent différer, et cette différence est souvent source d’incompréhension et de conflits insolvables. Mais quand je donne une chance à mes sens et intuitions de prendre le dessus, mon expérience  jusqu’ici me prouve que j’ai bien plus à partager que ce que je pensais. Je me redéfini et m’accompli davantage dans chaque rencontre que je fais, mon apprentissage est infini. Moi qui pensais savoir beaucoup, je n’ai jamais eu aussi soif d’apprendre.

 

Slides and smiles

I was looking forward to get away from the sauna that Hanoi is; but I surely was not excepting the shift, called Sa Pa.

I survived the night train. I probably owe my good night of sleep to the genuine night note left on the nightstand, signed ‘’merry Christmas and happy New Year’’. Before I knew it, the train arrived at the terminal and I found myself in the rain, on the platform, in my pajama’s, without my contact lenses.  Thanks to my Italians car-mates, I find my pick up guide and within one hour I will make it to Sa Pa.

It is raining cats and dogs. The stairs are flooded, my socks are already wet and the mountains are comfortably hidden behind thick grey clouds. Not made of sugar, I am not going to let a few drops get me down. I buy a perfectly fake jacket, which at least is waterproof; and hidden under my pink poncho I hit the road, together with 7 other companions. As we start walking down to the valley, the rain stops pouring, the sky turns blue, the sun rises and so does my optimism.

1

A group of local woman will follow us for the first half of the day. Their colorful outfits highlight their dark skin and bright smile: they look totally different from the women back in Hanoi. If language might be barrier, communication remains easy. They smile, grab your hand, and lead you through the – very – muddy path, sneaking around the terraced rice fields. We are now in the only place of Vietnam which has an actual winter: the locals keep up with mountain’s rhythm, they know their way and they seem very happy to welcome us on their playground.

2.1

We will cross a few villages: some organized as tiny cities with a few shops and bars; some just made of farms and fields. Walking on the edge of rice fields, we hump deeper in the valley, and the view keeps on becoming brighter and more spectacular. Keeping an eye on the slippery ground, we carefully proceed and keep on admiring the immense green field of terraces, flooded and flourishing. As globalization doesn’t spare anybody, we found around a corner a hut, selling ice cream and beers. The ice cream break gives us some time to get rid of all rain gears, and to share one tube of sunscreen. Looking down the valley, we can see the rest of our path and I warmly welcome the idea of crossing the bridge over the muddy river.

On the side of the roads we walk, under some fragile roofs built on the mountainside, or in the swamped rice fields; we meet multi-generational families. Half naked toddlers are building their confidence while walking in the mud, stunning young girls are begging you to buy a bracelet;  their parents are farmers, carpenters, cook or mechanic … or all of it at the same time; grandparents keep a wise and controlling eye on the all situation. It is summer holidays, so all village’s toes and hands are getting dirty on the golden and red path we walk. I would like the meet the English teacher who put into the most adorable little girl’s mouth those catchy sentences ‘’If you do not buy from me, I will follow you for ever’’, ‘’you are not human’’ or again ‘’thank you for nothing’’ when you try to politely turn down their insisting bracelets and handbags sales speech. As much as I try to keep my mind open and to not judge everything with my European eye; I cannot help myself but to pity those kids whose education seems to find it’s only purpose into getting money from hikers crossing their village. The girls are the sales force; they follow the path of their moms. The boys are in the field or at home fixing things with daddy.

11

I will never insist enough on how lucky I feel about being born in Europe, in a country and a family which encouraged me to get educated so I would always have options. My freedom and my safety are, at the end of the day, the only things that really matter to me. Free to think, talk and move; and safe enough to do it without thinking twice.

I remember a chat I had with three teenagers working in a specialty coffee shop in Hanoi. At first, they did not really dare talking to me, so they asked once too many if I liked the coffee. Quickly, we were sitting the four of us around the bar, talking about travels and cultures. A question one of them asked me was as direct as confronting ‘’How did you do it? To buy your tickets? I am working very hard here but I am quite sure I will never be able to go on a trip around the world and spend a few months in Europe’’. They travel in Vietnam, where they were born; and they love it. They know their country, they travel with their friends and family; but they also dream of crossing borders and trying out food and coffee from other places. How did I do it? I was born at the right place and I made the right choices. It is as easy and unfair as that. Even with the best will in the world, it will remain nearly impossible for those teenagers to achieve their travel dreams. For the simple reason that you can have 10 coffees here, for the same price as a single espresso on the Champs Elysees. Good news is, the coffee here tastes better.

Again, they do not look unhappy and I find myself envying their creativity more than pitying their condition. I am happy to have options, but the choices I have to make can be source of a struggle that those kids will never know. They accept their faith and make a life out of it, spending their energy into creativity; when I spend my time wondering what I could do better, stronger, faster, and in a more efficient way…

The first day of trekking ends in a big wooden house, build by the river side. Quick shower for everyone and a pile of local beers to go with the sweet and sour fries the host has prepared for us. We share a huge and delicious meal, in the heart of the very modest house. The living room, the kitchen and the bathroom are on the ground floor; and the mezzanine making the 1st floor will be the place where we will sleep tight after too many rice wine shots. I love how travelling brings people together, I just find it beautiful how easily we connect and open up. Our relations might be ephemeral, but it does not make them any less real. Just like the hundreds of butterflies and dragonflies we spotted today: if you stop running and look, they are everywhere. Memories to catch, learn from and live by; without ever possessing them.

32

It was not even 11 pm (felt like 2 am) when we trudged to the first floor.  Firm mats on the floor, mosquito nests tucked in to prevent the intrusion of cockroaches; and the 8 of us slept like we were dead.

As the morning rise, we enjoy breakfast with a view I could get used to. Freshly made pancakes, with honey, lime and bananas (yes, it happened. I survived, I actually enjoyed.). The second day of trekking starts, together with my sweat production.

As I swipe the sweat running from below my cap, I laugh thinking back to a brief talk I had with a guy before leaving Sa Pa yesterday. He was telling me how travelling was not to be considered as real life, because I was not producing anything for the society while I was on the road. Primo, I produce: sweat, and memories. Secondo, I have never felt more useful and rich than I am now. Terzo, how sad is it to reduce happiness and life to productivity?

After a few more challenging muddy steps through a bamboo forest, we found ourselves facing a majestic waterfall. Following Lucas, French master of risk management, we almost all ended up sitting in the fresh running water, washing away the dry dirt we could not get off in the shower yesterday. Refreshing our sour legs, facing the valley and its infinite green terraces, I could not contain my joy and satisfaction. I was on the top of my happiness production. I made it here, so again, tell me once more what it is that I could not achieve? All doubts and guilt that I may feel sometimes along the way were being washed away by the fresh, clear, running water. I deserve this, and I am making the best out of it, going my own way.

Back to the village of Sa Pa, we managed to find a place willing to give our 10 feet a synchronized massage. Tough negotiations, delightful moment. All relaxed, I headed back to the station where my night train was waiting. Bit freaked out when I realized there was no one but me taking this train, I ate a full bag of m&m’s. I finally found a few travelers to board with me, and I eventually fell asleep and woke up in Hanoi early morning.

Keeping up the trekking spirit, we met up today with 2 of the 7 companions I share my last two days with. Making the best out of the maze that Hanoi is, we shared food, got a manicure, had good discussions and sincere laughs… and before we said goodbye, we made plans to meet again. The world is a small place and I am happy for I realized how easy it is to build from nothing. Like those amazing robinwoods we met yesterday: they did not know what a picture was, but they could build their own archery. Your best weapons in life are already in your hands, all you need is the time and the space to shape them. Trying to fit or to have people adapting to your needs is a waste of time; for you already have enough soulmates around who will respect and encourage you. It is a matter of patience, with a pinch of courage.

10

Wake up call

Where did the time go? Time flew in Japan and before I knew it, it was time to go.

I tried to make the best out of it, to soak in all the inspirations the cities, temples and stunning gardens have been whispering to my ears. I am impressed by this organized chaos; in which people seem to function without ever questioning the rules and habits. As much as I appreciated and learned from the kindness, politeness and organization; I cannot help my desire to break some rules. I guess it is in my DNA, to try finding a way to sneak around established protocols, to not accept rules just because of their nature, but to be willing to understand before applying.

It is done because it is how it is done that it is how it should be done. Sometimes my tries to go around are fiasco and I gladly go back to the common root – the rule – but then my acceptance process is helped and healed by my own experience. I only want to be sure that whatever I do will work for me. I do not want to blindly accept my condition, in the name of a power or a system I either understand neither necessarily have respect for. I am not sure what it says about me, and I am not sure how I will manage to conciliate this ‘’ awakening’’ with my life once I come home; but I hope I will not give it up. I do not intend to create my own system, not even my system in the system; only to make sure that whatever system I live in, I am doing it for the right reasons. Adapting is not an issue; I actually see it as a form of flexibility and therefore a kind of intelligence; but accepting should not always be the first reaction. Analyzing should be the number one reflex, without lasting for too long. It is all a matter of balance.

I have not seen a sign of impatience, either felt any negative energy while taking the commute in Tokyo. I have been impressed by the smooth and disciplined flows of people cruising in the streets. I have been amused by the genuine excitement of people when you reply ‘’France’’ to their ‘’where are you from?’’; moved by the way kids would make contact with you. I admire the way Japanese live together, how they care for each other and how they make sure everyone as a place, a role, a mission. In shops and restaurants, you can often find an employee whose only job is to greet you welcome and goodbye.

I have loved walking in the empty streets of the business district early morning and late at night; and in the residential streets a few feet away from the busy and popular shopping streets. I spent hours in libraries and groceries stores, trying to get something out of the books covers or food packaging. I sat down in the park and observed the dynamics of people – families, friends, colleagues… I have walked until I could not feel my feet anymore, I have seen so many colors and shapes that my eyes were tired of being open, I have adapted my behavior to the surrounding energy… I have traveled and loved getting lost in those Japanese playgrounds, regardless if they were cities or parks; regardless of the weather and of the time of the day. I love Japan. I just love Japan. It has awakened things in me I was not aware of, it has taken me to a new dimension.

Satisfied, by everything I had seen and felt in Tokyo for the last two days; I slept like a baby last night. So tight I did not wake up on time for my flight to Hanoi. In a bit of a rush, I made it just on time to the airport – thanks for the precious help of my compatriot / roommate.

Hanoi is … alive. That is the least I can tell after a few hours spent in this humid, warm and interactive city. Life is everywhere, in movement, sounds and smells. Walking around the old quarter and the French quarter, I saw a mix of colors, shapes and lights so unlikely it works! After a few days spent in the kingdom of organization, the chaos of Hanoi is somehow comforting. There is no such thing as one good either right way of living; everything works as long as the participants fit in the system they are evolving in. Vietnamese children riding their bikes on busy streets, slaloming between scooters, cars and trash do not look any less happy than the Japanese kids with their perfect white socks waiting on line in front of the subway doors.

Whatever works for you.

I took a ride with a girl from the hotel: she rode; I sat at the back with her 5 years old daughter squeezed between us. The rules are simple; you shall not stop. As soon as you start the engine, you shall only pause or turn it off at destination. The traffic is busy but surprisingly fluent. Hard to figure out on which side of the road we are supposed to be. Go you own way!

Sidewalks are observing desks where people stop, eat, and talk. You do not walk there. Streets are shared between all wheeled objects and moving people; food and cheap t-shirt are to be found at every corner; all of it in an atmosphere cadenced by the continuously buzzing horns.

I sit down and observe the scooters carry too much and move quickly in all directions: Hanoi is a human sized anthill. Tomorrow I have the full day to explore the city, before heading to Sapa with a night train. I am curious to see the morning rhythm of this place which does not seem to get a lot of sleep.

This way, my way.

I sometimes wake up in the morning and wonder for a minute in which city I am. It is the weirdest feeling.

P1030002

I woke up in Kyoto this morning: the forecast predicted rain from 10 am, so I took my bike around 8 after a quick breakfast at the hostel and head up North to the Philosopher’s path. I have been way too absorbed yesterday by the temples visits, so I decided to save the path for my morning walk.

P1030091

Oh Kyoto … getting lost in your tiny paved streets, finding my way in the maze that your old wooden houses have drawn over the centuries, crossing your bridges over quiet streams or magnificient river, cycling up your curvy hills, being dazzled by the smell of your flowers, losing track of time in your temples, finding faith in humanity in the smile and kindness of your people… I am not sure what happened to me over the last 48 hours, but one thing I know is that I have reached a all new level of peace and quiet.

2 hours after I stepped in the train in Tokyo, my sleepy face marvels at the Kyoto tower. A few blocks from the station, I find the tiniest bike rental shop: for less than a cappuccino in Paris I get 24 hours to ride my yellow bycicle. I know nothing about Kyoto, so I just cycle around; driven by my senses. I visited 3 temples that day; all three very different and very inspiring.

 

One funny thing about Japan is the scale of their maps. At the entrance of each temple or garden, they hand you a map: it looks huge, with lakes and waterfalls. It is not. It is tiny and adorable. Do not get me wrong, I do not mean it in a negative way. Japan just is adorable. It is the cutest place I have ever seen; everything is so cute it is driving me crazy. As I cycle or walk down the streets, I am constantly talking to things, animals or even people. I give them nicknames and say out loud in French  »you are too small to be real ». This is what Japan does to me, I am losing it.

Of all places I have been so far – not only on this current trip I mean – Japan is the weirdest. Weird for it is so different from everything I have known or experienced. I have loved and appreciated every places, as holiday getaway or sweet escape. But Japan is different. It is appealing, it has gotten under my skin – I also got sunburned on my nose, should have listened to the app of my japanse phone warning me about strong UV …

So there I was, strolling from a temple to another; smelling the perfumes of the perfect gardens, listening to the mantras sung by the monks, walking bare feet and meditating facing the sun, bowing down to Buddha… The peace inspired by those places is bringing so much good energy in me, it is hard to put it into words.

P1020964

Before the sun went down, I made it to a very special place: the golden temple. Away from everything, in the middle of a wild garden, standing proud and magnificient : a temple covered with gold. Unspoiled, a perfect green setting keeps safe a treasure I was not expecting. I usually am more of a nature enthusiast, and I have a hard time being moved by buildings. But this was something different. Magnanimous, magnetic, magic. All I have to say is, thank you.

P1030041

I am getting a bit dizzy from the crazy rhythm of my japanese days. I have spent quite some time away from the city life over the last weeks, and I am getting easily tired of the city sounds and energy. I did not feel the rush till now, today or any other day since I landed in Tokyo; but I somehow feel tired. As soon as I was cycling back to the city center, I found myself in busy streets where traffic lights and tailpipe replaced the magic atmosphere of the temples garden. I have always lived in the city, so it should not be too much of a chock for me; yet I have a hard time dealing with all the surroundings  »demands ». I get tired and stupid when I cannot think clearly – this is what the city does to me. And I guess this is just what I needed to take a break from – the unrealistic demand of a city; which without regards of its location will always alienate the best in me and turn myself into an impatient and arrogant monster.

P_20160615_141119

Far away from the city lights and constant whispers, I enter a place which looks more like a living room than a restaurant. Following the recommendation of Thomas – who once was a god to me – I find myself in the most local and typical restaurant once could dream of. They serve ramen, made with soy milk. Creamy, dreamy, fresh and spicy ; the perfect balance has been created under this very roof. Bare feet, sitting on the floor, loudly drinking my soup; I am feeling at home. Naturally, I order the only desert on the menu, a soy based cheesecake. I could have had the all cake, it is ridicuously tasty and I want this feeling to last forever.

Eventually, I get my happy belly and feet to bed and we slept like we were dead.

The philosopher’s path was the best way to wake up and open my mind to this new day. I haven’t spend any minute of today in a dry state, and I did not really mind. I am a happy idiot.

I cycled up to the trail, walked around, enjoyed the quiet environnement in this new day … all of it in a light and refreshing rain. I got lost looking for the station, found the zoo and loved walking down the river; in an intensfying rain. Soaking wet, I took the train to Nara where a pouring rain welcomed me. When I got my umbrella for free, I should have guessed already that there was something unique about this place.

Nara is magic. If there is one place you want to visit in your life, it is Nara. The park is the house of magnificient temples, but more importantly it is populated by deer. Deer, walking freely, crossing zebras, getting around and biting your food away. Deer, fawns and birds: Nara is basically the place that inspired Bambi. Nested in a cosy temple, the biggest Buddha is to be found in this very park. I am not familiar enough with buddhism, I have to study more. I just find fascinating how respectful people are, of the place but also of each other. Crowded, the place is not chaotic. People kindly wait to take pictures, and apologize if they happen to come too close to your picture zone, or even comfort zone. Wishes and prayers, written on wood or fabrics, are held all around the temples. Time pauses, and something new is floating in the atmosphere. Something new to me. I cannot quite yet put a finger on it, and for now I just appreciate feeling this way.

Also, I might become famous in a few local schools in the coming days. I have been interviewed by 4 different group of students; about the purpose of my visit, my country of origin and my favorite sport. We took pictures together and I felt like Beyonce for a minute. I almost cried when I got a frog in origami as a thank you gift from the youngest of all students, who was too cute to be true.

I am now back in Tokyo and I do not know where the time went. As I was walking out of the station, I found myself next to a shy japanese teenager who was introducing the city to a girl just as old as him. He clearly was a bit embarassed and just said  »so, this is Tokyo ». The girl and I looked at each other and could not help ourselves but to laugh.

Yes… This is Tokyo. I have been talking about it for so long, and now here I am, almost leaving… till next time treasure, till next time …

Le monde appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt

In a pouring rain, I made it to the fish market of Tokyo. I follow the organized mass from the subway exit and find the maze that Tsukiji is. I missed the auction that takes place daily at 3 AM, but I am not too sorry about it. It is now 7 and the alleys already are crowded with fast short legged umbrellas. I feel tall in this place, which is to me a new dimension of cuteness. I am so happy here, I refrain myself from picking up people to make them circle in the wind. Around one of the many corners, I find the sushi place my host recommended. Around a big counter made of soft wood, a few chairs are arranged, facing the chefs. I just took a sit when a waiter hands me a glass of water and a hot towel. Each time one enters the restaurant, all crew members cheer him up. As it happens quite often, the repetitive salutations start to sound like a song.

In front of me, all the goodies for sushi eating. I feel 5 years old again, just like when we used to play our favorite game with my cousins : Le Petit Restaurant. We would have all kind of mini plates, glasses, bowls… as long as it was tiny, it would be part of the game. We would cut in – tiny – pieces all the food Grandma would provide: fresh and dry fruits, chocolate, biscuits, cheese… As one was playing the client, the others would cook and serve. And we would switch turns until we were not hungry anymore. That was long ago but the memory is still alive.

I filled up my tiny blue plate with soy sauce and I am drooling already looking at all the fresh fish in front of my eyes. Behind the counter, a team of cooks busy as bees. Cutting and cleaning fish – fresher than fresh –, smoothly preparing orders, smiling and singing their salutations each time the door opens. Within a few minutes after I placed my order, my dedicated chef places a wooden plate in front of me. Then come the ginger, the freshly prepared sushi’s, one by one, and finally the wasabi. Each bite takes me closer to heaven: the balance is perfect, the freshness unbeatable and the taste unreal. Contemplative and grateful, I stay for a little bit longer enjoying the unique vibes of this place.

Screenshot_2016-06-14-22-42-15_1

My legs carry my satisfied belly out of this place before my greed orders more unnecessary food, and I head up to Tokyo station. Another kind of maze. The central station is as big as a small village, and counts more souls than that same village. I do not have much time to stroll around, I have to make it on time to my train; but I promise myself to check out one of these shops on my way back this evening.

I shamelessly slept the all way to my first stop, and when I open my eyes I am surrounded with cloud-covered high mountains. I am in the heart of the Japanese Alps, and I am impressed. From a distance, those Japanese hills remind me of curvy Hawaiian scenery. Walking through them, I discover a total difference kind of nature where trees are reaching for the sky.  The forest is dense, mystical and yet inviting. A few steps, the way gets muddy, I am on my way to meet the Japanese baboons – those who soak in hot springs somewhere up this very hill. About 30 minutes walk before I can see the entrance; a very simple wooden house, and a board with a few golden rules. Dogs and cats are not allowed (I wonder for a minute who would think of bringing a cat here; but then I remember seeing a couple walking their rabbit yesterday in the park so…. Do not eat in the park, or the monkeys will steal your food – try me monkey.  Do not carry a plastic bag, or the monkey will steal it – I like to imagine them dressing up with suits they would make out of plastic bag. I once saw a movie in which a suit made of a plastic shower curtain saved a life; so you never know. Do not attract the attention either scare the monkeys – But what if I really really want to cuddle them? Keep your distance while taking pictures and do not use selfie sticks – I’d like to know the story behind, and to see the footage taken by the monkey/thief.

I get a free sticker at the entrance – win! and walk in. The cliff on my right has many bushes, where I can hear something going on. On the path between the cliff and the river, I see two monkeys – no wait! Three; there is a baby tucked in the belly of one of them. As I carefully walk down the path, I spot monkeys everywhere. Each time I turn my head, I see other ones.  So many of them, and so close! Most of them are scratching, their babies, friends or themselves.  On the wooden bridge a bit further, they chase each other, crawl under and jump from rocks to rocks. Down the river seems to be the nursery. Quiet and peaceful, except for three babies fooling around, the atmosphere is relaxed. Two of them fell asleep while hugging. Their head fell down on the other shoulders, as they kept their arms locked around each other back. Up the stairs is the hot spring, which the mainly use in the winter when the snow makes the river side a lot less cozy.

Still, there is that one monkey; the only one I haven’t see socializing with any other. He believes the pond is his and will not tolerate the presence of any other monkey in the water. Near the water is okay; but not in it and not on the rock in the middle of it. When no one tries to defy his pond authority, he eventually gets bored and goes around looking for trouble. He obviously is my favorite.

The others are as peaceful as one can be. Mothers carry their babies everywhere, nursing them to sleep. When they are awake, they climb all over them and ride them with confidence. I was not excepting to see so many of them, and to get so close to them. I am over the moon and I never want to leave this place. I changed my mind when it stars raining again.

 

Back at the train station, I have 40 minutes to kill… Inspired by the monkeys, I go to the onsen which is just a meters away. It obviously is my first time in a Japanese bath and I am a bit confused. I master at the ‘’no shoes’’ policy’’; but once I arrive in the changing room I feel a bit stupid asking for confirmation to a lady there ‘’we go in there naked, right?’’. She laughs and asks me where I am from before she wishes me a good time. I have the all place to myself; I sit in this natural hot tube and relax. Few minutes later, two young boys will come in together with their mom. The youngest one really tries to make conversation and I feel very bad not being able to react to his stories, which I suppose great.

 

P1020789All cleaned up and zen, I make it back to Tokyo. The head of the train is an actual car; the driver seats on top. First row is all mine, and I experience the way down the mountains as if I was driving. The scenery is consuming, stunning. Kilometers long smile on my face.

Once in the city, I decide to walk back to the guest house. Strolling in the city by night is quite a cool experience, not scary at all. I go through a few parks, walk along a water stream, surrounded by unlighted buildings. I imagine how busy these streets are on day time, and I enjoy having the all path for myself.

 

Dancing my way up to Akasaka, I find a place to eat a Yakisoba I have been dreaming of for ages. The taste takes me back to the Sundays with Mimi in Groningen. How much have we achieved since… I am so happy I made it here. Not only to Japan, but to this state of mind. I am just happy.

Good night of sleep in my cocoon: bunk beds at the guest house are very well arranged. It looks like mini wooden rooms on top of each other. I have a small space with not just a bed. There is enough room to keep and arrange all my stuff in there. And I can close my own curtain for privacy. It is brilliant.

I woke up before my alarm, maybe a tiny bit too excited to go to Mount Fuji… Quick shower, I check if I am not losing my pink color already. All set for another Japanese adventure! I am on the way before the coffee opens its door, so I’ll have cold green tea for breakfast. I am two trains away from the volcano, and the blue sky I see by the window keeps my hope high for a good view on the Fuji. About 2.30 hours of commute later, I step in the valley of the five lakes under a cloudy sky. Not losing faith, I start walking up to the Kawaguchi lake.

P1020800

The first part of the hike follows the main road, but the traffic is not too heavy. The second half goes follows the lake’s curve; and its around one of them that I finally spot the snowy nose of Fuji! All mountains around have lost their heads in the clouds; but Fuji flies above. The majestic view does not last, but my eyes are sparkling already.  I keep on walking, chasing another sneak peak of the volcano; but it will not happen. The scenery makes up for it! It does not get more peaceful than this… Green hills, protecting a valley where lakes and ponds host fish and water plants I had never seen before. I hear birds I have never heard before; I smell perfumes that are unknown to my memory.

The sensitive experience that is Japan has a huge effect on me. I am perfectly lost; I neither know nor understand anything around me. As challenging as it is, I appreciate the thrilling effect of the small victories that each further step make.

P1020820

Where the next curve ends I see purple shadows. Intrigued, I decide to make it till at least this point. Lavender fields. Right at the foot of Fuji. I would also have my head in the clouds if I had such a garden in front of me all day. I do not blame you Fuji. With lavender smell all over my hands, I sit in the sun showing up just as I eat a blueberry ice cream.

With the bus that showed up few minutes after this perfect moment, I go to Yamanaka lake. Fiasco.  The sky turns grey, heavy; and everything is closed. I stroll around. Up there I find a small garden, pretty enough to spend the hour before the next bus arrives. By the shore, real swan swims around the swan boats, desperately empty.

I haven’t had the chance to fully enjoy Fuji and its snow cap; but I saw the Oshino Hakkai, a park with 8 springs filled with Fuji melted snow. A crystal clear water, which blue is intensifying with the depth of the ponds. Daylight was not helping to take picture; and by daylight I also mean the hundreds of Chinese tourists pushing everyone around for a selfie. Funny enough, the cutest ponds were a few meters away from the tourist information desk; and no one but I was there.

I am exhausted, but happy to have seen many of the facets of Fuji. I am a bit disappointed to have missed a chance for a one to one moment. A sentence Erik told me in Hawaii takes its entire dimension now:  ‘’you are a traveler, not a tourist’’. I do not need to check Fuji on my list. I had a good day, I have made my own experience of this place and I will keep my very own memories. One proof – if needed: the garden I have preferred happens to have nothing to do with the must see’s  of the area. I just walked the wrong way – what a surprise really…

Get lost, there is so much to find!

 

How I never lived the 11th of June

I left Hawaii, heartbroken, on the 10th in the afternoon. Hugs and  »Alohas » where not enough to prove my gratitude; but I believe the common memories we cherish will help the healing process.

In some soft sun beams, I enjoy the last minutes on the island; leaning on the bridge going to my gate. Few minutes left before boarding. As if I needed to salt my skin once last time, tears keep on rolling. I have the same torning feeling each time I leave a place: why am I leaving again? Why did I leave in the first place? Eventhough I found myself being pretty good at leaving – so good it sometimes scares me. But the more I live, the harder it gets to leave.

Airports just hit me hard. It is like a space of nothing between two lives of mine. A big moment of solitude and emptiness; and I haven’t found a way yet to deal with it. A slice of  »reality » which slides in my happy chapters. A time to review the places where I did not only left a piece of me; but mostly where I built up the better version of myself. A time to experience how crucial it is to live now. A time to sit down, do nothing but wait and start freaking out about the future I always manage to leave in a corner as long as I am on the move. It happens. And it goes away each time the thrill of discovering a new place takes over.

Stepping in the plane was already tripping. Japanese hospitality cannot be beaten. And even the plane food is tasty…sorcery. It is only a few hours flight; but I land in Tokyo it is already the 11th of June, late evening. Here goes my Saturday, in the air… All the hours I won from the universe until now were taken back from me as I was drowling on my neck pillow. Fair enough. Just as the rest of this trip, I simply did not see it coming. I thought I was prepared, but I really did not expect to be so  »upside down ». All the tastes, smells, flavours, colours, laughs, sounds … all the impressions compiled in my head are changing my perspective. I cannot get lost anymore, anywhere. Because there is no such thing, if you set your mind on discovery instead of achievement; there is no such thing as getting lost.

Early morning, I was walking in the streets of Tokyo. I found an adorable coffee bar, which remind me of your soon to be favorite place to have a break **DENF coffee bar, De Witte Dame, Eindhoven**. Has a Kenya roast, tasting like heaven – I could taste the mango touch, and it took me back to sweet Kalani for a little while. And it hit me. I have many heavens on earth. Here I am, fully enjoying Tokyo, blending in the awakening city; drinking a cup of coffee which can send me back to places that are miles away from each other. A sip taken in Tokyo, my senses back in Hawaii and my heart in Eindhoven; where it belongs after all.

It is nothing to  »lose » a day while jumping over the pacific ocean, for time is just a measurement we made up to quantify and organize. I do not care not knowing which day is today, and I do not mind losing the 11th of June 2016; for I have found myself. In hopeless places, at a time of my life that I decided to dedicate to myself.

Light and enlighted, I strolled around the crazy city that Tokyo is. I had no idea which street I was walking, and asking for direction is not that easy. Eventually, I found myself in a park full of life and laughter. Kids blowing bubbles away; a clown making his own balloon-hat; lovers kissing in the sun; friends taking selfies on the bridge crossing over the pond; a group of young girls playing what looked like improv comedy; an inspired man bowing down to a tree … And I was smiling to all those events, singular and insignificants; but real and touching. Walking down Harajuku, I found myself in Cat Street. The cutest stairs happened to lead to a hairdresser salon. So yes, I painted half of my hair in bright pink. Because now is what matters, and the color reflects perfectly with my Hawaiian tan.

It has only been a few hours since I set foot in Japan, and I already have fallen for the place. The kindness of the people, the melody of the language, the peace of the gardens in the middle of business centers, the taste of the food … Such a different world, in which I already feel at ease. Everywhere is home, home is everywhere.

P_20160612_120329

 

Leaving the life

It was the most unexpected surprise of the trip so far: Hawaii.

I never thought it would have that effect on me, and I am very happy I let it happen. Claerly, the place is paradise. But the humans living here are making the all difference. If I have learn one thing over the last weeks – and it was confirmed many times during my stay here – it is that only your fears are stopping you.

Let yourself be inspired, do not listen to anything else than your burning desires and dreams. You are capable of everything you are dreaming of, and nothing but yourself will stop you from achieving your own life.

It does sound cheesy to those who did not jump yet. But once you do, once you have felt that heart of yours exploding the very moment you step out of the confort zone – which can come in every form; plane, rock, job, house, relationship … – you will feel the power. Your power.  There is no such thing as feeling your power. Nothing compares to that very second you realize: I did it. It is above the  »I can do this », because you are doing it already.

It is all about stepping. Forward, backward, does not really matter. All that matters is to keep moving, to keep looking for what works for you. Your goal should be to wake up every morning, being thankful and grateful; not sorry and miserable. Keep moving, keep looking, keep giving yourself all the chances you deserve.

I booked this trip because I was seeking for something more. Since I started packing – since I gave a voice to my dreams, I have found everything I was looking for; and more. Everything makes sense and I have never felt so alive. The trip does a lot to me, but what gives me all the power is knowing that back home I have the best nest to go back to.

I will not stop smiling, and I will not stop moving for there is always more to learn and discover. I am not looking anymore, I am building now. And I wish everyone can find this kind of peace.

There is no such thing as being stuck. Everything is possible, if you want it. Depends how bad you really want it. Change the perspective and see : the sky is the limit.

As I leave the happiest place I have ever visited, I feel like I am leaving a huge part of my heart here; in the hands, eyes and hearts of people I will never forget. Living also means leaving sometimes, and as much as it hurts it is oke… I am building.

Leïd back

I am dangerously getting used to this life style. It dangerously starts to feel a lot like home.

Leaving the North Shore for an adventure island day, we drove to the South of the island. Oahu was formed by 2 volcanoes irruptions: the East an the West sides are made of different mountains chains, and the valley flourishes right in the middle. As we were cruising south, the landscape continuously changed. Keeping an eye on the ocean, we went through jungle paths – we could almost grab the leaves through the window! – and concrete jungle roads. Driving around impressive cliffs falling down to a green and yellow valley, we spotted many blooming trees – they blossom twice a year on this island… The drive itself already was an adventure.

Once we passed Honolulu and its skyscrapers, we headed to Koko’s head. One of the many submits of the islands, which craters is a botanical garden. Out of time, peaceful and habited by strong spirits – called Mana in Hawaiian – the place took me further away from home. Walking on the red dirt paths, in a gentle breeze carrying all kind of perfumes, in a bright sun highlighting all the colors around… everything around was arousing my senses.

There is that one tree with half flowers. The legend says the lover of this tree only grows on the mountain, whereas this one can only grow down in the valley. Both are blossoming the half of each other flower. Talking about strong mana…

P1020495

Further, we see cactuses growing on trees, flowers so perfect they look fake, hibiscuses of all shape and colors, an grouses so big they would make a sufficient dinner.

P1020472

Looking up, we see the submit we will soon climb. From the outside of the Volcano, we found the path which used to be a tram track. Walking on what once was a railway, we climbed all the way up to the top. Shadow is rare, sweat is dripping, heartbeat is acclerating and giving the tempo to my feet, carefully reaching for the next step. The bridge part is definitelly the most challenging. Walking on my toes, from one wooden beam to another, I try not to focus on the open shaft below the track. Made it! Now up to the stiff part: it feels more like climbing than walking. Once on top, a refreshing breeze welcomes me. I am on top of the world; open arms, happy heart and content smile.

P1020518P1020532P1020535

The way down is just as challenging as the way up. I am coaching myself, keeping an eye on the bay we are heading to to snorkel. As I touch the ground, with a huge smile on the face, I think about my daddy. He always told me to never walk on tracks, I must say it never felt so good to desobey.

Hanauama bay, here we are. Preserved area, people gather here to enjoy the pure turquoise water and its amazing sea life. Snorkeling gears on, we follow our guide through the corals and once we pass over the reef we progress into crystal clear water. All around us, fish are swimming – I do not know where to look, where to go. Disoriented by excitement and happiness. In and out the reef we assist to a breathtaking under water show where characters of all colors and shapes, lightened by a generous sun, keep on dancing, not minding us for a minute.

Coming back to the surface, Koko’s head which we conquered earlier today is looking after us. What a place to be…

We travel back home in style: red pick up, with belts that save life. Open your beer, buckle up, enjoy the view. Driving back north, through the east side and its green cliffs; we see the sky turning pink as the sun falls down into the ocean. As much as this island is enpowering me, it makes me feel humble. Nature amazes me, and I am both proud and grateful to be able to enjoy it to this extend. Flying, swimming, climbing, exploring… My knees are blue, I have red dirt under my nails, sun and salt all over my skin, sand in my hair.. and I am the happiest I have ever been. We are one: I am here, now and being alive as never made so much sense. Sure feel good to live on the  »Leïd back » side. The only rule you have to know and respect is to harm no one. For the rest, whatever works for you…