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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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…

 

Mahalo, from stars to sand

Days always end beautifully; pink power. Around 7, the sun disappears in the sea.

After spending the all watching after us, swimming, jumping, floating, riding the waves; it is only fair for him to take a dip. As we watch him leaving, we match the serene pink sky with our (daily) Acai bowls. Diving into the divine meal; we fully enjoy the 3 delights: sea, smoothie and sun.

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Loyal and dedicated, the sun always comes back. Shinning through the  blinds of our cozy bedroom, he gently wakes us up. Today, we are flying up; to dive  »above the sea, under the sun ».

A rough start of the day will not lower my level of excitement. I cannot hold my happiness, I am all over the place. As we head west, the car broke down only a few feet away from the lodge. Keine paniek, we get out, push the car on the side of the road, write a note hoping not to get a fine for wild parking (yolo mahalo) and walk back to get another car.

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We make it to the skydiving place with a good 30 minutes delay, and no one seem to even care. One of the good thing about the Hawaiian notion of time, is that 30 to 45 minutes delay on an appointment is totally acceptable. Outside of the wooden cabin where we sign the paperwork, colorful parachutes are flying in circle and falling like petals drawn into a downward spiral. I smile back at the ecstatic looks on the flyer’s faces walking back from the landing area. We are about the get rigged up, excitement rises up together with our heart rates. It is happening.

I do not know what I feel anymore, I just cannot wait any longer. I meet Mark, my instructor who gives me my gears, and it is all getting very real. Butterflies! I have no idea really what to expect, and yet I do not fear any of it. Fear will not come to me, at any point. I feel safe, and impatient.

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As we board in the plane, sit down on the benches and see the land getting smaller and smaller; I am laying back, stretching my legs, laughing away the little stress caused by the situation. I better not think about it, because I am about to jump off this very plane. I just want to be sure to fix properly the goggles so I wont lose my contacts and will be able to enjoy the show. The rest is in the hands of Mark, and I do not doubt him for a minute. He picked a parachute matching my pink sneakers; that is to me the proof that he is a good man.Before I know it, we stand in front of the open door and 1,2,3 I am flying! I cannot believe how smoothly it went. A step away from a steady plane, here I am, floating in the air. I can dance, flip,  waddle… I can even do my little punches move! Whispering my gratitude to the wind, I give myself up to this powerful element gently carrying me. Floating in the air, admiring Earth and Sea, feeling this burning fire of happiness eating me up… I believe I have never felt so deeply in harmony with the elements, so happy, so light. The parachute is open, our fall becomes a cruise.   »So this is what birds do all day » I said. Waving, facing alternately the mountains and the turquoise horizon; we slowly approach the red dirt roads and green fields. Knees up, feet up… and the eagle has landed. Shaky, I stand right where I touched down. It happened. I am so high I cannot move fast… I just need a few minutes to realize what I just did.

After a few minutes, I already want to go back. I want to feel weightless again, to feel powerful and out of time, to run in the air… what a show! Nothing compares. The perspective you have from up there… it gave me the feeling that this was mine to take care of. Falling back to Earth, cuddling the wind and admiring the blue shades of the ocean; I realized how lucky I am to live on this planet. Flying above the treasure that is Hawaii gave me so much more to be thankful for. Wonders all around, gifts made of light, sand, seed and salt.

After the rush of an unforgettable morning, I spent the afternoon on Sunset Beach; finding the perfect balance between tanning and floating in the ocean. Before sunset, I bring my salty skin back home, shamelessly grab a smoothie bowl on the way, and bow down to another perfect day in paradise.

Mahalo, all the way.

 

Aloha!

How simple can life be? Aloha : it is a state of mind.

Starting up my days with sun salutations and planks, bowls of fresh fruits and Hawaiian tea. There is no schedule, really, so as long as the sun shines I head to the beach. Hawaiian time is different. Time is suspended, minutes last longer, there is not such thing as rushing.

Driving east, I stop by a tiny fruit stand to get some fresh pineapples. Floating in the ocean, I am refreshing from from the sun bath I just took on the white sand. In the shadow of a coconut tree, I finish up reading a tale, toes and elbows in the sand. Tiny white crabs are coming out of the sand, shy but too curious to stay buried. The creek I am at is very quiet: calm water, whispering wind, singing birds… all of it hidden behind a wooded sanctuary keeping this perfect place from the main road.

I stopped carrying cameras with me at the beach when my phone drowned 2 days ago. Napping on the beach, giving myself over to the sun, I was suddenly woken up by a salty wave. It did not take anything away from me, but a bit of pride when I had to squeeze the water out of my towel and bag . My phone did not appreciate the joke and, as moody as one can be, decided to not respond anymore. I got a ride in a red pick-up, so authentic my day could not be more american. Despite the deception of the lost phone, I was still having a good day. I am in Hawaii, what’s not to like? Once in the little town nearby, I could get a new phone and made myself available to the world outside of this paradise. Celebrating life as it should always be done, I ended up the day with the best Brooklyn girls on the one and only dance floor of the North Shore. Inspired by both Hawaiian and New Yorker vibes, I took my dancing game to a new level. Work in progress.

The beautiful thing about travelling alone mainly is in the opportunity of meeting people. I keep being amazed with the easiness of bonding. I found myself yesterday, sitting on one of the many pillboxes –  best lookout for sunset, and actually at any time of the day – in company of 2 of my roommates, 1 from Sydney and 1 from Seattle. We all grew up with a very different background, were shaped and sharpen with different tools and are evolving in different spheres. Not only geographically talking, but in all ways. Yet, we were sitting on this bunker, dominating the ocean and bowing down to the sunset, and we connected. As everything around was turning pink, we talked about how our respective governments are shutting down culture and raising repression; how media are controlling and dis-informing the mass population, how hard it still is for women to be respected in a workplace… but also how lucky we are to be the generation that raises those topics, the generation that is raising awareness and making the changes to create a more sustainable world; in which we want to raise sensible kids instead of robots, grow hope instead of fear, wave glasses of champagne instead of guns. If I sometimes felt diminished by the society I am evolving in, the fights I have to fight to remain myself are empowering me more than shutting me down. And I found – first sad and then beautiful – that from our respective sides of the world, we were fighting the same fight. Not trying to take anything over, not trying to win anything; only trying to be considered equally regardless of your origin, sexuality and beliefs. I do not really believe in a world where we can all love each other; but I do not understand why it has to be so complicated to respect differences and to let go of them. The need of control has killed humanity: we want to control how people we do not know anything about have to live, love, and die. Where does that come from? 

Sharing our experiences, ideas and feelings; we concluded there was more to be grateful for than afraid of. We are lucky for we know; and we can take actions. Results are slow to appear, and we may not measure what our actions will bring on a bigger scale; but I do believe we are in the right move. Awareness is raising; we are disturbing powers that were never questioned until now. We feel the pain but that is necessary for things to change for good. We might not profit from it, but then again; this is not about me, nor about us. It is about insuring a sustainable future to humanity. Starting with not being afraid of  and not competing against each other.

Today I came up to the same conclusion while talking with my new Peruvian roommate. Another culture, another background; but again the same spirit. It gave me so much hope, and joy. I could not be further away from home, and yet I never feel lost nor alone. It is consoling and exhilarating to figure out how many we are, in the same rocking boat. In the end, don’t we all want the same? Peacefully enjoy being ourselves, without fearing being judged.

Gratefully watching the sun going down on Sunset beach tonight, we concluded another quite perfect day. Flowing a few sun salutations in the morning, snorkeling in a water clearer than some public swimming pools I have been at, enjoying local Poke (Hawaiian version of salmon tartar) by the sea side and hiding from the rain in a local designer shop, ending up buying the most amazing outfit. I would not have expected to spot so many amazing sea creatures so close from the shore. Under the sea : another dimension of beauty. Some fish only move in a group, and in circles. Some hop from one rock to another, playing hide and seek with their own shadow. There is one, long and grey, wearing 2 turquoise pearls on each side of his back fin. The butterfly fish – the flat yellow one – is so graceful it freezes you when you spot one. The surgeon fish – flat, blue, with a stupid look in its eyes – seems clueless but happy anyways. All colors and shapes, dancing together in a graceful ballet, making out of the unwelcoming rocks a happy playground. Stunning.

I wonder if I will spot some tomorrow, while skydiving above the island … (yes, it is happening)

Leg day

There is not much to say, really. This is paradise and I haven’t felt so relaxed in a long long time.

Starting the day with a yoga session, followed by the Glory morning muffin from the organic coffee bar downtown, and a short hike up on the hill above home. Active morning, lazy afternoon. Picking the beach is actually the hardest decision of the day. Not that it really matters – they all are beautiful. We have done Three tables and Pipeline yesterday, so today I give a try to that one, after the little yellow bridge. I am alone, with 2 lifeguards for myself. Safe the take a dip and play in the crushing waves, to refresh from the *long*naps in the sun. I am baking like a little cookie. I wake up around 4, and ride to the town’s bakery, which I know from experience serve the best smoothie bowls of all time.

You can order a smoothie from the menu, but feel free to customize. Top it up with granola, honey, peanut butter, banana… whatever you like. I go for granola and peanut butter. It is to die for. Fresh, fruity, crunchy, salty: it has it all. I am addicted. And today, while cycling back from what I can fairly call the most beautiful hike I have ever done, I could not get my mind on anything else that smoothie bowls. Naturally, I got one as soon as I arrived at home, from the small shop next door. I am going back tomorrow morning. On top of my holidays budget I now have a smoothie bowl budget. I am actually planning activities around smoothie bowls. Have to think about the orders frequency, the timing, the toppings, the recipe of the smoothie itself. It is exhausting. There, I deserve another one for being a good girl.

It is so relaxing, to think that my only duty is to pick the juice which will be the base of my bowl. My expectation level has never been so low, and together with it my happiness one so high. There is no such thing as worrying about what tomorrow will be like, for I have no power on anything that is not happening  »in the now ». The best I can do is to be mindful of the present moment; not to make it count – that’s crap, not every moment has to count – but to remain in this state of awareness where I am able to see and pick the right option. Life is just as much about actual action than options. It is easy from here to give up to such a life: I have almost no responsibility, but to take care of myself – which I have not always excelled at. It is such a luxury to be able to experience this long break, to totally empty my mind. I believe this is something everyone should do; not necessarily the travel but at least the exercise to find and keep touch with yourself. Only not to let yourself drown in the unbearable rhythm of a city life.

The way I used to function was good to me, for as long as I could not really think about it. An overly-solicited brain cannot fully function, so it gives priority to what is reaching to him at first: disturbances. We almost never experience real darkness, peace and quiet. Lights are everywhere, from the streets to our screens, and the noise is being so constant that we do not even notice it anymore. Here, now, I have no such thing. For example, my phone does not work outside of the lodge. (I did not really tried to make it work) I am not reachable, and I have never felt so available to the world. I am in harmony with the elements I can feel, touch, smell; in other world with what is in my present. I lost focus – not interest –  on what is out of reach, and I am fully enjoying what’s in my hands.

What a feeling to be seating on enormous gnarled tree roots, toes in the sand, looking up the stars I had never seen before. Not a voice, not a buzzing phone, not a plane; nothing but my own breathing, flowing. Take root and rise. To be right in the middle, just in balance, aware and mindful. I hope I can make this last. I think it is possible, for it is more about my attitude and perception than about the time and place.

I am going places. And the one of today definitely is in the short list of the most beautiful places I visited. Everything about it was perfect. To get there I cycled east for about 20 miles, keeping the 50 shades of blue on my left, and admiring the emerging mountains walls on my right. The start of the Crouching Lion hike is hidden in the bushes. Intense start: grabbing branches and holding on rocks, I climb up the first peak. From this side, there are 3 submits I can access. The twisting path narrows, I feel like a tightrope walker – but I easily suffer from vertigo.

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The way up to the first peak is challenging: swinging from branches to vines, I am basically Jane. Leaning under trees and dense bushes, I appreciate the shadow and the contact with the large and fresh leaves caressing me as I pass through them. Climbing the last part, fully exposed, hands in the red dirt, I am rewarded with a stunning view. I stand between the immensity of the ocean and the majestic green walls of the valley.

The second peak calls my name. Slowly going up, one foot after the other, careful on the slippery path. Failing flag, I peed once on top. I could not go any further than half way to the third submit; my legs were not supportive of my conqueror mood. Sliding back down, I was happy to find strong branches to hold on to.

I soaked up sun all day, and sweated almost 3 liters of the water I carried. The very much needed smoothie I took to re hydrate was made of acai, apple, mango, strawberries, raspberries; topped with granola and honey. Yes. And no, there was no time for pictures.

Before the sun goes down, I head up to the beach. I only have to cross the street, with nothing but my bikini and a towel. The salty waves refresh my tired legs, wash off the dirt, clean up the scratches. Between two series of waves, I enjoy a moment or rest to lay down and float. The sun goes down, I go home. Content sigh.

 

 

 

Enjoy the ride

It is all a lot more intense. It’s like this side of the world constantly wears the best Instagram filter.

I rediscover my senses. The pineapples are juicy and sweet, the colors are simply brighter, the air is pure, the rolling waves rock me all day long.

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I have never seen such a clear water before: as the wave grows, on the edge of rolling into a perfect pipeline, the sun shines bright through the crystal clear water and just before it crashes onto the soft white sand; here I am, facing this impressive wall of see through water which soon will be reduced to a white foam running between my toes. All day long. I never get tired of the view, the feel, the smell. Salty hypnose.

It is gigantic and majestic. As I breath in, I take in me all the power of the see. I am filled with the infinity of possibilities that the horizon draws. As I breath out, I surrender and give a place to the waves inside of me. Taken into the flow, I am in perfect harmony. This is what the sea does to me: she calms me down. Day and night.

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I went cruising on my bike, along the one road which goes around the island: The kamehameha highway. Sitting on the cruiser feels like laying back; and holding the large handle, I eat the road with arms and heart wide open. Unreal scenery pass under my eyes. It feels like the main road was drawn between the two sides of the island.

One side belongs to the ocean and the sandy walking path, offering multitude of hidden ways to beaches – each more beautiful than the last. Delving into one of them, I find myself surrounded with mystical trees. Following what seems to be the spirits of the island, I end up on a small beach tucked in a peaceful creek.

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The other side is a lot more mysterious. Winding roads find their way up to the dark mountains, through fields of sugar cane, papayas, pineapples and other treasures. In the background stand massive mountains where jungle trees are taking over dark rocks. Further, the skyline mixes submits, mist and clouds taken prisoner. Breathtaking. I am planning hikes up there soon.

I haven’t been able yet to figure out the name of the black bird with the yellow beak. But they are everywhere! So are lizards, which apparently enjoy keeping me company while I shower. Frogs come hang out on the terrace when the sun is down. And chicken run free in the streets, parking lots and obviously on the beach. How could I not mention the tiny baby crab I had the pleasure to meet when I took a dip into the ocean?

This place has some magic power. Everything is tastier, brighter, clearer, purer. I am hooked on Acai bowls – a superfruit sorbet topped with granola and honey. Give me more, do not be shy. No picture, I ate it too quick.

I was not expected to be so crazy about Hawaii, I thought it was maybe overrated. It is not. This place has gotten into my heart in so many ways already… I cannot tell if it is the shells singing in the wind, the stars looking after me while I shower (less creepy than it sounds), the avocado sandwich I had for lunch (ok, second lunch. Judge me if you like, I could not resist), the genuine smile of people, … I do not know and I am oke not knowing, for I am feeling the best feeling in the world. I am happy, and at peace.

They know how to live in here.  »Island time » is not just a concept, it is a way of living. Laid back but no lacking interest either commitment, I really enjoy the balanced flow of the island. Like a smooth roller coaster you cannot get sick of.

 

A qui profite le crime?

Je vais essayer, très fort, de ne pas prendre parti ; car ce n’est pas le but ici.
Je suis à l’autre bout de la terre, aussi les informations que je reçois sont évidemment manipulées et orientées. Il m’est difficile de trouver la vérité; mais je pense qu’il en est de même pour tout le monde.
Mon pays souffre, il est en train de mourir. Toutes les valeurs et lois qui ont fait un jour de la France un pays fort et admirable sont aujourd’hui étouffées sous l’égoïsme, la soif de pouvoir et la violence débordante. Chacun se croit légitime en ne répondant qu’à ses propres lois, au nom de sa liberté chérie. Cette bataille entre individus clamant leur liberté et des organisations mettant tout en œuvre pour les contrôler et les organiser à déjà fait des morts, elle a détruit le respect et l’espoir et tout ce qu’elle créé est un univers dans lequel nous ne savons plus vivre ensemble.
A qui profite le crime? Cui bono?
Profiter de mon échappée belle et fouler des terres nouvelles ne m’autorise pas à fermer les yeux ni à renier les terres où j’ai appris à marcher. Je ne veux pas donner de leçon, mais ce je vois me dévore. Comment a-t-on pu passer de Fluctuat nec mergitur à… ça ? Comment les héros d’hier ont-ils pu devenir l’ennemi public numéro 1 ? A qui profite le crime ? Car ne l’oublions pas, il s’agit toujours de profit au final. Nous sommes aveuglés par des combats de rues qui éveillent des émotions fortes, mais n’oublions pas que tout se réduit à une histoire de profit, pouvoir et argent. Cette mascarade de lois passées en force, de gaz lacrymo et de liberté bafouée n’est au final que l’histoire d’un gouvernement apeuré, incapable et se cachant derrière ses pauvres armes lourdes. Le combat d’une minorité au pied du mur face à une majorité qui ne réclame que ce qui lui a été promis.
Pourtant ce que tu vois, c’est ton pote allongé sur le pavé, après qu’un policier excédé l’ai poussé et frappé. Alors tu n’écoutes que tes trippes et tu cours pour l’aider, au risque de te prendre un coup de matraque à ton tour. C’est sa tournée, au mec en armure qui se tient en face de toi, le regard vidé d’humanité. Tournée générale, car il ne sait rien faire d’autre. Que de répondre aux ordres de celui qui l’a briefé plus tôt ce matin.
Quand on lui a ordonné d’aller au Bataclan, derrière ces portes où se passait l’impensable ; il y est allée. Tête baissée. Et on l’a applaudit, sincèrement.
Quand on lui ordonne de descendre dans la rue et de déjouer toutes formes de rébellion, il le fait. Tête baissée. Et on l’applaudit, d’un air sarcastique et défiant. Parce qu’on ne comprend pas qu’il ait changé de camp et que d’un coup il nous afflige le même traitement qu’aux monstres qui se cachaient dans le Bataclan.
Mais il n’a pas changé de camp. Il n’a pas de camp. Il n’a qu’un uniforme, et il fait son boulot car il est aussi désespéré que toi et qu’il ne comprend rien non plus à ce qui est en train de se passer. Alors avant d’enlever sa carapace le soir rentré à la maison, il joue son rôle et fait ce qu’il sait faire de mieux sans se poser de questions. Par automatisme. Tu as en face toi des hommes aussi blessés qu’armés. C’est une marionnette, aussi désespéré que toi quand tu regardes ton pote allongé sur les pavés.
Ces pavés qu’on se jette à la gueule, mutuellement, ne sont plus arrachés à aucune plage. Ils nous viennent du cœur et sont lourds de nos espoirs déçus.
Mais on se bat contre la mauvaise personne. Cette armée d’armures vides n’est rien comparée à ceux qui tiennent les ficelles. Bien sûr que la violence est inexcusable, mais c’est intéressant d’essayer de la comprendre. De comprendre pourquoi aujourd’hui en France on dépense plus d’énergie et d’argent dans la répression de l’éducation que dans celle de la violence. On devrait apprendre à celui qui a peur à en parler, et lui offrir une forme de confort ; et non nourrir sa peur. Mais on ne nous apprend jamais cela, on ne nous apprend pas à vivre ensemble ; ni à l’école, ni dans notre pays et encore moins dans le monde.
On se bat contre les mauvaises personnes. Ceux qui sont supposés s’occuper de nous ne sont occupés qu’à produire et posséder. Ils ne nous comprennent pas, depuis trop longtemps déjà. Ils ne s’attendaient pas à cette réaction, car ça fait trop longtemps qu’ils ne comprennent plus rien aux problèmes qu’ils essayent de régler de façon maladroite – et autoritaire. Alors ils utilisent l’arme du pauvre, pour éteindre un feu qu’ils ne soupçonnaient pas si ravageur.
Nous sommes trop loin les uns des autres pour pouvoir nous comprendre, pour pouvoir communiquer. Et la frustration qui dévore chacun de nous anime la haine. Encore plus dévorante. Et l’espoir s’éteint.
Les armes prennent la place de la raison. On ne vit plus les uns avec les autres, mais contre les autres. Diviser pour mieux régner. Tellement simple, et tellement efficace.
Mais nous sommes l’âme, l’histoire et le futur de ce pays. S’entretuer c’est le tuer. Ma vie avant la tienne, coute que coute; quand la peur et l’égoïsme prennent le dessus. Ma vie avant la tienne, juste parce que nous ne portons pas le même uniforme.
Ces combats de rue sont des écrans de fumée. Alors oui, c’est tellement facile pour moi, depuis Hawaii, de vous dire : ouvrez les yeux. N’ayez pas peur, et prenez les armes pour résoudre les vrais problèmes. Un homme qui se bat pour conserver sa liberté ne peut jamais être un ennemi, tout comme un homme manipulé et apeuré ne peut être un ennemi. Ouvrez les yeux, ouvrez les grands et regardez plus haut. Au-delà des fils de marionnettes. Les matraques d’hier seront bientôt des bâtons de majorettes ; une fois que vous serez prêts à affronter ce qui est derrière tout cela. Mais d’abord, il faut arrêter de se battre entre pairs. Il y a trop à perdre. Et tellement plus de choses pour lesquelles il faut se battre, plutôt que de continuellement se battre contre.
Il pleut à Hawaii depuis ce matin. Je suis arrivée hier soir : le ciel était noir et mille étoiles y brillaient. Je me suis douchée entre quatre planches, au cœur d’un jardin tropical ; j’ai dormi profondément et des chants d’oiseaux que je ne connais pas m’ont réveillé. Depuis la terrasse au pied de ma chambre, j’admire les arbres hauts, la falaise de roche noire, les fleurs roses et rouges. Le hamac me fait de l’oeil. Les tables faites à la main me rappellent à quel point je suis une chèvre en travaux manuels. Mon hôte me demande ‘’quel est l’endroit sur terre que tu appelles maison ?’’. Bonne question. Pour deux semaines, ce sera ici.
Un vent chaud me caresse le visage et y dessine un sourire serein, qui ne m’a toujours pas quitté. Même en roulant sur mon mini vélo, au rythme de mes genoux cognant le guidon, dans une pluie tropicale qui ne se calme pas. A ma droite, l’océan. Les vagues s’enroulent les unes sur les autres, et les enfants courent avec leurs planches de surf pour les dompter.
Ah ! Le food truck vert. Incroyable petit déjeuner, vue imprenable et parfait mélange d’épices dans le riz frit. Après ma journée de voyage et de bouffe dégueu d’aéroport, je suis en joie.
Sur le chemin du retour, avec mes provisions pour la semaine fourrées dans mon sac Zeeman, je continue de pédaler sous la pluie. Trempée, et heureuse. C’est tout juste comme rentrer de Albert Heijn quand je vivais à Groningen, sauf que cette fois, la pluie est chaude. Le vent souffle entre les feuilles de palmiers, en harmonie parfaite avec le chant des petits oiseaux noirs à bec jaunes. Je contemple tout, et je ne vois pas l’énorme flaque d’eau sur mon chemin.
Pendant que mon short sèche, je profite du jardin couvert et je savoure une tranche de cake à la mangue – avec beurre de cacahuètes. Divin, même si ça colle aux dents.
La pluie continue de tomber mais cela ne m’empêchera pas d’aller fouler le sable. Je suis heureuse, et fière d’avoir réussi à m’offrir ce voyage de rêve. Mais je me sens un peu coupable aussi d’être si loin de ceux et ce qui comptent pour moi. Parfois j’aimerai rentrer juste pour pouvoir me rebeller un peu contre ce groupe d’incapables qui ne trouvent de réponse que dans la répression ; mais qui n‘ont même pas le courage de descendre eux-mêmes dans la rue. Une chose à la fois. Mais mon petit cœur français a un peu de peine aujourd’hui, qui vient ternir mon sincère sourire d’aventurière.
Prendre de la distance n’est pas toujours facile mais cela a au moins le mérite de m’offrir une nouvelle perspective. Mes petits patriotes chéris, nous ne sommes pas morts. Mais nous ne sommes pas non plus au-dessus des lois. Fight the right fight.
Fluctuat nec mergitur, remember?
Love, Zoe

Cui bono?

I am going to try, very hard, not to take a side here. And to not make this political, cause this is not the right place.

I am on the other side of the world, so obviously the information I get is manipulated and I can hardly get the truth out of it. But I wonder if anyone can, anyway.

My country is in pain, it is dying. All the values and rules that once made France a beautiful and strong country are today replaced by egoism, power and violence. Everyone believe he can make his own law, in the name of freedom. This game between people claiming their independence and personal freedom and bigger organization trying to control and organize these freedoms has already cost lives, has already destroyed respect and hope, and has created an environment in which we cannot bare to live together anymore.

A qui profite le crime? Cui bono?

As much as I enjoy my sweet escape, I cannot deny what is happening. It is not my purpose here to take a stand, but it eats me away. How could we go from Fluctuat nec mergitur to this? How come the heroes of yesterday become the number 1 enemy? Who benefits from this ? Because it is all about benefit, we all know it. We might be blinded by our emotions, but let us not forget that what rules the world (besides girls) is money, profit and power. So this masquerade is not about laws, pepper spray, and crushed freedom; it is about a scared government using last resort weapons to control a population claiming what was promised. What you see is your friend bleeding in the street, after an infuriated policeman pushed him back too hard. And you think you face your enemy, so you scream louder, losing your cool, and you get eventually hit as well. Because the  »enemy » in front of you does not know any better, because he is just as scared as you, because he is doing the job one has asked him to do.

When he was asked to enter the Bataclan, not knowing what he would find behind those doors, he did not think twice. He went and he saved lives. And we all applaud, sincerely. When he is asked to walk the street and put down any form of rebellion, he does not think twice. And we applaud, sarcastically, because we do not understand why they are now treating us like terrorists.

He did not change side. He cannot pick one. He is a marionette, who, once back home, shell-less but not shameless, is just as desperate as you, when you are caring for your bleeding friend, laying on the cobblestones.

Under the cobblestones thrown from both sides do not lay any beach anymore, any freedom at all. It is all dirt and dead hopes.

We’ve got the wrong guy. The empty shells walking down the streets are harmed more than armed. Fear does make you do the craziest of things. It is unforgivable, but it has a explanation. One who is scared should talk out his fear and try to find comfort, instead of locking himself and ending up violently reject any form of communication, as clumsy as she can be. We are not taught to communicate and open up, we are taught to be tough. It goes wrong from the very root of our education. We are not taught to live together, not in our school, not in our city, country, and not in our world.

We’ve got the wrong guys. They are supposed to  »take care » of us. They take care of business. They do not understand what is going on, for ages already. So they used poor men’s heavy weapon. They want to shut down a revolution they did not see coming, because they did not understand the problems they were trying to fix in the first place. The cleavage between our people and those who govern them has become so deep that nothing good can come out of it. The frustration has grown so much from both sides that no unity is possible anymore.

As hope is dying, rage is growing. Weapon replaces reason. We are not together anymore. We play against each other, in the hands of an elite blinded by power and money. Divide and conquer. So basic, and yet so effective. So sad and so destructive of the real asset of any community. We are the people, we are the heart and the soul of a dying country… and we are killing each other. This is when egoism and fear take over. My life before yours, especially if you are not wearing the same uniform as me. My life before yours, at any price.

The street fights are a smokescreen. I know it is easy for me, from here, to say but I am still going to say it : look further. Do not be afraid and be ready to fight the right fight. Your enemy is not in the street. A man fighting for his freedom can never be an enemy. A manipulated man is never an enemy. Look behind, look further, look higher. The battle is going to be much bigger than that. Truncheon of yesterday will soon be majorette’s baton. Once we can get organize together we will be able to face the real evil. But first we have to stop fighting our peers. Do not be fooled, there is way too much to lose. And so much to love.

It has been raining in Hawaii for a couple of hours. I arrived yesterday under a sky full of stars, took a shower built in a tropical garden, dreamed heavily and got woken up with birds’s songs I had never heard before. From the terrace outside my door I admire the place I am calling home for the coming days. Green grass, dark rocky cliff, big and tall trees, colorful flowers, hanging hamac, handmade chairs and tables. In the warm blowing wind, I take a deep breath and draw a serene smile that has not left my face since.

Cycling down the only street of the island, I slalom between flooded paths, roots and fallen palm branches. On my right, the great ocean. Waves are rolling, and walking surf boards are all over the cycling path. Here is the green food truck: I was told to stop by to start up my day properly. After the airport food I had yesterday, this is real comfort. A perfect spiced up savory breakfast : fried rice, scrambled eggs and veggies.

On the way back, carrying my groceries in my Zeeman bag (Dankje wel K, wat een heldin jij bent!), the rain keeps on falling all over me. Yep, still smiling. Soaking, in tropical rain and radical happiness. What makes the all difference with Home-Holland is that the rain here is warm, and so is the wind. It whistles through branches flowers, in perfect harmony with the many black and yellow beaked birds. I will soon have pictures to illustrate the paradise I am trying to describe here. Contemplative, I did not see the pond coming and rode right in the middle of it. While my shorts are drying, I am enjoying the garden with a slice of mango bread – yes, I put some peanut butter on top and it is delicious.

The rain will not stop – me from going to the beach. I could not be further away from home, and the feelings I get are bittersweet. I am happy and proud to have made this sweet escape possible for myself; and I feel guilty for not being home-home, rebelling against a toughening up group of cowards. One fight at a time. I know. But today, my bruised French heart took a bit over the genuine smile of my adventurer’s tanned face (had to mention the tan, just so Sanne would be a bit jealous. ykily). Taking distance with what really matters is not an easy move, but it is so rewarding for it allows me to see things for what they are. My beloved french patriots, we are not dead. But we are not above laws either, so please stay together. Fluctuat nec mergitur, remember?

Love, Z.