Uncertainty

In the past ten years or so my life evolved around managing uncertainty. No, I should rephrase that. Not managing but embracing uncertainty. The reason for this thought is that if I would think back ten years I would have to conclude that there is one thing absolutely clear. Nothing stayed the same, nothing went as planned and nothing proved to be certain. My life knows no solidity in relations, work, expression, health, family, economics and housing.

Most people would have crashed into a state of permanent depression or at least would have had this twentieth century fashion disease named burnout. Sure, I had, have and will probably always have my depressions. But even they are not permanent. In the past years I learned a couple of life’s lessons that are both hard and wonderful. And probably most of these lessons are things that a lot of people would agree with as being all to obvious. Except for the fact most people do not experience themselves. They have their wisdom from observation and not experience.

For a number of years, when times were hard, I made a habit of drawing a six months life balance for myself. Comparing a number of things in my life with the situation half a year before. Over the years that helped me coping with drawbacks and realizing that at the moment of balancing life wasn’t all that bad.

I don’t do that anymore because I don’t need to.

Ten years ago I lived in a big house with 4 bedrooms, a jacuzzi, marble floors and a kitchen with just about everything in it that one could imagine to cook with, a big garden with a shed at the back, an office attached to the house, drive way with a big lease car on it in a very ‘good’ (that is to say relatively wealthy) neighborhood. I was a director of two companies at the same time, and a church deacon. People looked up to me with respect and every year we went on nice family holidays.

And I tried to kill myself a couple of times.

Now I live in a one-and-a-half rented room on a shared floor in an old (but graceful and beautiful) city house. No partner, no family ties except with my kids, no car, no paid job, not enough money to enable me to buy proper food during the whole month or buying proper health care. No chance of a job, physically not perfectly well and with large (business) debts resulting from loosing my work while recovering from multiple surgeries. No proper pension for when I will grow old and no expectations of improvement in my economic position for the rest of my life. I am to all standards in this society economically poor living way below poverty level. Society disregards me as someone who’s sidelined.

And I only tried to kill myself once some three years ago when it became clear that surgery had (partly) failed.

But why is then that my life is so much better now than it was ten years ago or twenty or thirty for that matter?

The answer is that due to the circumstances I had to (sometimes forcefully) let go of every certainty in my life. Possessions proved to be of no real value. Just like money. Social status proved to be a hoax. Marriage proved to be a mistake, a roof above my head proved to be something that is not for certain but two things came out so much different compared to my whole life before (and that is no exaggeration): friendships and my artistic abilities.

My life circles around the friendships I have with a few amazing people who love me as I love them and who inspire me. I learned to expand my artistic abilities and have become some sort of bohemian, someone who is able to live anywhere, who prefers travel and temporary housing over the status quo of a permanent home, someone who knows how to write a book, a poem, a song and who knows how to use fixed and moving pictures to touch peoples hearts.

And I am sure that killing myself is out of my system except maybe for the situation that I would fall incurably ill.

I guess most people wouldn’t want to exchange life with me due to the situation I live in but I am sure some people would love to live my life with the absolute freedom that I allow myself. I do not feel guilty towards society for how I live and the issues that are still out there. It’s as much part of the deal for me as it is for society.

So nowadays I am more dedicated to my art and to the people and causes that I feel connected with than ever before. And I know that will not change as long as I am healthy enough to continue. I do not appreciate certainties anymore because I know they are virtual. I learned to embrace the fact that everything is out there to change and the best way for me to handle all that is to allow the changes in the world around me and in my own life to happen. No matter wether these changes are supposed to be negative (and many times turn out positive in another manner) or positive in the shape of new connections with new inspiring people or a new love of my life. I learned to understand karma and to challenge it at the same time.

It is who I am now. Ever changing, always moving with the flows inside me and around me. With my depressions and joys, my failures and achievements, my defects and my assets, my heart aches and loves, my convictions and spirituality. No matter where I am physically. I do not know anymore how to live a life with built in ‘certainties’ because I am change.

Alice © 2012

Advertenties

Skies over Chitwan.

Last year around this time (well almost) I was in Chitwan in Nepal. When I was there I did the usual and the unusual. The usual being the elephant ride, the unusual was falling in love with a wonderful Nepali women with whom I traveled. It didn’t last in spite of our mutual equal feelings, I suppose culture and personal change where in the way. Now, I am past the hurt and only cherish the memory.

The elephant ride however brought me some photos that are truly special. Because of the weather, the environment, the specific moment of the day and the company I was with. One photo in particular is cherished by me because of its composition and the amazing sky that brought a touch of mystery to the photo. As if the Chitwan Nature Reserve isn’t mystifying enough in itself. Here I share that photo with you showing the workers carrying their load past the impressive but unimpressed elephants close by under an exciting sky. Nothing was manipulated in this picture concerning composition and color. It is just like it was at that moment.

It was July 16, 2011 with my then love at my side on top of an elephant in the late afternoon.

photo: Alice Verheij © 2011  – ‘Chitwan Elephants’

Although there are a lot of wonderful things in my life right now, I do miss my days in Nepal and will keep my friends there in my heart. It has become my second home for as far as I am concerned and I will praise the day I can set foot on Nepal soil again. For sure I will return to Chitwan then.

Alice © 2012

The Color Red.

A couple of days ago I mentioned on my facebook timeline I would dress in red on Queensday. I meant that as a counterpoint to the royalist orange that many people wear that day. I am not a royalist and I love red. It is my favorite color ever since my travels to Nepal and India where the red is deeper and stronger than anywhere in the world. I have a red sari here that is flaming compared to the poor red of the west.

Anyway, someone responded with a humorous remark ‘slutty‘. Obviously made out of western thinking where as one might know red and black are associated with whores.

It was, seen from my perspective, a stupid and out of place remark. First of all, I’m not slutty and especially when I’m dressed in red I am far from that, but that wasn’t my objection. My objection to the one-word-statement was that is was typical western thinking showing off. So I countered and stated that the remark was ‘bollocks’. As it obviously was.

This resulted in a somewhat heated debate started of by the initial respondent about feminism, femininity, modern thinking, social and cultural color coding and a whole lot of other thoughts and ideas that she obviously wanted to vent. The reason why she decided to start of that debate is still beyond me as I only stated to dress in red in stead of orange… Things really are far less complicated than some people tend to think.

To cut it short, the discussion ended with one lady becoming moralistic towards me and the one who started it all off becoming like a preacher or tutor assuming all kinds of things about how I think and to what extend I conform to ‘traditional western’ ideas. Off course, in the end I deleted the discussion. It had gotten out of hand and to be quite frank I felt offended by it. Question is of course: why did I feel offended?

There are a few answers to that.

I guess I felt offended because someone stated that I would dress conformistic to western cultural ideas. Which is in it own right complete bollocks. Because I don’t. I tend to dress like I tend to dress and that involves frequently being dressed in Nepali clothes in stead of western clothes. They suit me and define me just as much as western clothes do. And the other obviously has no idea about my associations about this color. I wear for instance a small red bead around my left wrist (I write with my left hand). It is an old Hindu custom to have a bead tied around the wrist by a friend for protection and blessing. And only true friends are allowed to tie it around my wrist and it must be red. In the accompanying text later this is explained in more detail.

Secondly I felt offended because my interpretation and ideas concerning color (in this case red) where shoved aside without responding to my arguments. Red for me is a color of passion and that should be translated into values like courage, strength, determination and self confidence. Not into cheap western words like slutty, whorish or anything like that. I denounce that type of western over sexualized coding of common concepts like color (or art).

Thirdly, I felt offended because – and that is quite funny I think – I felt that barging in on a simple facebook statement felt like invading privacy. Which is of course total crap on my side because facebook and privacy of ones timeline are opposites.

I suppose it’s good I got rid of that crazy discussion on facebook. It was nothing more than an outlet of someone else trying to push ideas on my timeline that are beyond me. No offence Anne, I still think you’re responses are non sense. From my perspective.

Alice © 2012

For anyone interested, this is a good text about the color red in Hindu culture, it describes pretty much mu associations with red. It was written by Kate Smith who maintains the interesting website www.sensationalcolor.com which is quite edcuational concerning color an culture.

The color of love, seduction and power, red has been symbolic in many a culture. A dynamism innately aligned with the color has been interpreted and followed across the globe.
The devilish connotations of red in the west are amusingly juxtaposed by the traditional bearings of red in the east.
The color red has played an instrumental role in Hindu customs and beliefs, perhaps the most ceremonious one being in the life of a married woman. A girl’s arrival into her role as the married woman is symbolized by the almost red henna on her hands and is sealed with the pinch of red powder sindoor on her head. Matrimonial bliss and a promise of togetherness are all sealed by the warmth and binding power of the red drape and red accessories. The bride’s first step into her new home is characterized by the ritual of her having to dip her feet in red water and walk bare feet on the floor of the house to symbolize the beginning of her new role.

Cinema in India reflects this home grown custom of Indian brides bedecked in red bangles and saris, and the ceremonial kiosk showered with red roses. It’s almost the most powerful symbol of leaving behind one’s adolescence and stepping into womanhood and, eventually, motherhood.

The red vermillion is also used as a ritual mark while greeting guests or family members at a festival or simply into your home. The red tilak while sometimes used as a symbol of ‘blessing’ from an elderly to a youngster is also used in many customary functions. The customs include traditional Indian festivals such as Raksha Bandhan (the festival that celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters) and Durga Puja.

The tika, in theory, has to do with the third eye of Lord Shiva, the destroyer, one of the most revered Indian gods and part of the Trinity. The third eye is in tandem with Lord Shiva’s third eye opening to beckon the end of the world. However its customary significance is that of the all-seeing, all-pervading power that protects the inner wisdom of those that it’s applied on.
The red tika is replaced by a tiny red dot on the foreheads of married women who place this ‘bindi’ between the brows to symbolize spirituality. The bindi in particular is a symbol of feminine energy and supposed to protect both the wife and the husband. Although bindis have gone far from the traditional red circle, tradition and customs keep it alive at many places.

It is also a part of Indian custom to tie a long red string around the wrist of loved ones during prayer as a mark of protection and to safeguard against the evil eye. Individuals wear it for a month till the thread wears off.
Red in mythology denotes bravery, protection and strength. Red powder is often showered on deities at temples during prayer. The colored powder therefore has become a hugely intrinsic part of Indian culture.
Indian customs and culture are often described as riots of colors with almost every desirable color thrown in for good measure. But red truly remains the core symbol of power and spirituality, of protection and commitment. It is a color that has not faded the trials of time and stands alone as the most powerful.

The sexual denotations of the red in the West are replaced by the simplicity, purity and ritualistic candor of the color in the east. The dynamism of red has always led it to command power and awe. It’s interesting however to see how different cultures utilized the color in their daily lives. Red in India is considered holy and is symbolic of a certain time, place and action in one’s personal life. While castes, beliefs and rituals may differ across religious sects in India, the overall implications of the color are universal.

The benefits of being ill (for a while).

Sometimes life travels at lightspeed for some. The reasons why are usually a totally unpredictable combination of events, challenges, situations and probably more known factors like character, emotion, personality, ambition and health. For me it’s not difficult to attach something personal to all of these words but the last one has, for the time being, become like the sand in the machine. And that was about time.

There’s no need or ambition in me to go through that whole string of words but a few things are at this moment determining my life in the short term. That is until expectedly the end of this year.

So I fell ill. An intense flu crossed my path and although that is no drama at all for me it meant that I for the first time in many months was forced to take a break. If only for a week or two. And taking a brake from work, obligations, efforts and ambitions forces one to think. Usually.

In the coming months is a lot of work waiting for me and with a lot of luck I’ll be able to get it done before summer. The long awaited novel is getting printed and so are two photobooks. The latter two however still have to be produced from ground up and that is quite a job even for someone like me who is able to make beautifully layouted work in a relative short timespan. And then of course there’s the big one. The film. Still so much to do and so much of it only possible to be done by me. It was, is and will be the biggest time consumer for at least another couple of months. That isn’t everything on the agenda. Because I am turning this work of writing, filming, photographing and publishing my profession rapidly. I know exactly what I want to do in the next part of my life and in fact I have been doing that already since about two years. It feels good, it is me out there doing what I love.

But there’s also the demonic shadow of the past preventing me to build a business of it in my home country because of a business past gone bad (nothing special there either but the left overs are still quite unmanageable). So if I want to do what I do on a solid basis I will have to work internationally. The good news is, I love that. Still, being stranded by illness for a while does force me to revise plans. Not in the least because when out of the performance loop the mind starts asking questions. Making reality checks. And so plans change.

Sure, I still will start to work from abroad for a large portion of the year as soon as it can be arranged. Economics will decide when, I decide if. But the timelines and the way this will happen shift, turn and change. It is not realistic for me to work from Nepal as a home base. I will however keep visiting the country I love so dearly and keep following, filming and reporting the fate of my Bhutanese friends in and around the refugee camps. Not because I promised but because I see that as an obligation to do so. There are more angles to the Nepalese society and the developments of Nepal that I want to report about. But it will never be my only world.

I am still a novel writer and that will not change, just like my love for writing poetry and songs for entertainment. So there will always be times when I am not in Asia or anywhere else for local reporting or filming but in stead I’ll be somewhere, anywhere, writing a novel. And the topic will not necessarily be connected to previous work because my very being as a literary artist doesn’t allow fixation.

So what does all of this mean for the plans I had and for a part still have?

Well, I am the journalist writer, photographer and filmer interested and focussed on human and women rights in South Asia. No doubt about that. But maybe after finishing the film not for this year anymore. Probably if not almost certainly next year again. But I am also the heremit writer in a soft spot somewhere writing that next novel. The sort of novel is already decided and quietly I am starting up research for it already. It is going to be very different from previous work, a challenge to write (that’s never a surprise) and a very special book. And I will also every now and then take the stage with a song or a short story in whatever show with dear theatre friends.

It will mean that I will not leave my country permanently. It will mean that I will leave my country intermittently, sometimes for long periods. But I’ll always be back for long periods. Like this year. Because this year, after the dust has settled of the books and the film and the two years of work involving the Bhutanese exiles issue, I will take a break for something very different, to keep myself in shape and not loose myself in one topic to work on and to take care that my mind stayes free. (I will not drop the topic of the Bhutanese, I can’t but it will be not the main focus for some time.)

Sometime this summer the real work on my new novel will start in traditional writing style. Designing the essence of the story, the plot if there is one to be, the characters, events, images and emotions. It will be England from roughly the end of the 19th century until the 1930’s. It will be distiguished romantic painters and one specific exquisitly beautiful model. A girl who became a model by fate and lost that work also by fate, never known by the public by her real name because she was not so high class savvy as that other famous painters model in that time but by the names of Greec goddesses or biblical Heroïns and who faded away in history but by her image remained unforgettable. I long to write about the life and loves of that woman who was once ‘Flaming June’. And this novel is one that will take quite some time to write wether I am in the flow or not. But it is a certainty that this will be my next major work.

Alice © 2012

Did I get the flu or did the flu get me?

Right, so it’s viral. Nothing much to do than to live through it with inappropriate amounts of paracetamol and the likes and wait until body has been able to win it from whatever flu virus entered it without invitation. The battle is on now for a week and here are some battle statistics:

Enemy: 6 days fever with a two day record breaking 39.2 Celsius
Me: 38 500mg Paracetamol, 3 Ibuprofin, 5 large groc’s some of them with lemon and honey
Enemy: fooling around by leaving for a day an then come back stronger
Me: lovely weight loss of 5 kilograms uptill now (with a bit of luck I’ll drop below 80)
Enemy: killing off of all my daily activities and communications
Me: 6 days sleep with some awake moments and two days of deep sleep (was writing a delirious filmplot than)
Enemy: draining fluids and energy
Me: 25 tangerines, 2 kilo grapes, 5 oranges, 4 liter juice, tea, water

Of course I have no idea what type of flu virus is making fun with me because they haven’t tested it. Doctor’s answer: the best thing you do is take a rest, use some paracetamol and then you’ll be fine. No we don’t make house calls anymore for flu… Well anyway I’m having a ball here though I can’t stand on my feet properly. It’s also really good not to be thinking about my work and ‘the project’ for a while. That will all come back once that little bugger that’s fooling around in my system is driven out or put to sleep.

For now I’m off again into heavenly delirium. It may take a while before I’m back again.

Alice © 2012

Happy 2069!

Namaste mero sathis!

For all my friends and especially for Vidhyapati, Binod, Ram and also Arati and all the others from NepalBhutan and all over the globe who have been helping so much with the production of Headwind and from who some of them have grown beyond friendship into brother- and sisterhood, I wish you all a very happy, healthy, friendly and free 2069! Also in name of all the others in the Headwind production team.


I miss you all very much and hop to be able to see you all soon.

Alice Verheij
director Headwind

Loosing technology.

At my lost home in my lost paradise (photo: A. Dahal 2011)

I want to loose technology
and vanish some place far away
in a place where I can just be
and not think wether I should stay

to write a book
with a pen
on paper
to be printed
with ink
on paper
to be read
and held in many hands
by people with smiles
at armslength distance
at the most

I want to forget so I can see
again with newborn eyes
and be alone with myself and me
do away with all the lies

and listen
to a song
sung by a real human
without a microphone
or an amp
pure
clear
undistorted
singing
a love song

for

me

Alice © 2012

I don not want to live in the Netherlands.

My dearest friends in the Netherlands know it and a few even understand it. Most of my Bhutanese and Nepali friends do either not know it and when they do they certainly do not understand it. The fact that I do not want to live (or die) in the Netherlands, the land I was born and raised and have lived for almost all my life.

Jan Jacob Slauerhoff

Many years ago a great Dutch novelist and poet wrote a poem explaining his feelings. His name was Jan Jacob Slauerhoff (1898-1936). A writer who studied medicine, became doctor and started writing. He later enlisted as ships surgeon at a Dutch boat company and made many journeys to the far east. He’d seen China, Japan, Hong Kong and the Dutch Indies (now Indonesia) many times. His confrontation with Asia changed his life to the extend that he in the end detested the land he was born and raised in. Much the same like me at this point in my life. He returned to the Netherlands, went to South America, returned again. To Italy, to Tangier, to South Africa. He got malaria and tuberculosis and returned to the Netherlands in stead of Italy again and died in a nursing home in a small town in the middle of the country at the early age of 38 years. And although he had desired a seamans grave he was cremated at a cemetary where many literarians were either cremated or buried. Jan Jacob Slauerhoff was one of the last true Dutch literary bohemians and was for many years an inspiration for me in both work and life. He still is now I am slowly becoming yet another bohemienne who is detached from her motherland.

When people read and understand his poem ‘I don’t want to live in the Netherlands’ they might very well understand me. So here it is in English translation. Or at least my attempt to that which is by no means easy to do. Underneath the English version one can read the Dutch version which is extremely poetic and intense and shows the feelings of someone touched by travel to the far east and observing the ignorance and stupidity in the Netherlands. If I would have had the talent to write like him it could have been my poem. The rhyme didn’t survive translation, the intentions and intense feelings however did. After all I might be a novelist and a poet but I am from another time and another quality. I wish I would have been able to talk with him sometime.

In the Netherlands I do not want to live,
One has to constantly fulfill ones desires there,
Because of the neighbours,
Who eagerly peep through every hole.
I’d rather go living in the steppe,
Where one is not hindered by his next of kin:
For the crying of my lusts no heron will hasten itself,
No fox will accelerate its pace.

In the Netherlands I do not want to die,
and putrify in wet soil,
On which one never has lived.
I’d rather wander aching
And end up with the nomads.
My compatriots mock me: “He is a failure.”
Yes, that I could not damage them (any)more,
Has in liberty dejected me too often.

In the Netherlands I do not want to live
One always has to strive for something,
Think of the well being of ones fellow-creature,
Only in hiding one is allowed to affront.
But not thrash a face so it clatters,
Just because I don’t like that feature.
Abuse someone without a reason
Testifiess of loose morale.

I do not want to live in narrow houses.
That have thrown uglyness in towns and villages
by the thousands…
There they all walk with a stiff collar
– Not from style, but to show off
That one knows how it should be –
On Sundays to greet each other
Through streets in black parades.

In the Netherlands I do not want to stay,
I would grow fat and stiffen up.
It is too calm there for me, too dignified,
One speaks slowly there, never gets vehement,
And never dances on the feeble rope.
But the defenceless are tormented,
Never is such a lumpish farmers head decapitated,
And never, no never happens a great crime of passion.

J.J. Slauerhoff – translation Alice Verheij © 2012

In Nederland wil ik niet leven,
Men moet er steeds zijn lusten reven,
Ter wille van de goede buren,
Die gretig door elk gaatje gluren.
‘k Ga liever leven in de steppen,
Waar men geen last heeft van zijn naasten:
Om ‘t krijschen van mijn lust zal zich geen reiger reppen,
Geen vos zijn tred verhaasten.

In Nederland wil ik niet sterven,
En in de natte grond bederven
Waarop men nimmer heeft geleefd.
Dan blijf ik liever hunkrend zwerven
En kom terecht bij de nomaden.
Mijn landgenooten smaden mij: ,,Hij is mislukt.”
Ja, dat ik hen niet meer kon schaden,
Heeft mij in vrijheid nog te vaak bedrukt.

In Nederland wil ik niet leven,
Men moet er altijd naar iets streven,
Om ‘t welzijn van zijn medemenschen denken.
In het geniep slechts mag men krenken,
Maar niet een facie ranslen dat het knalt,
Alleen omdat die trek mij niet bevalt.
Iemand mishandlen zonder reden
Getuigt van tuchtelooze zeden.

Ik wil niet in die smalle huizen wonen.
Die leelijkheid in steden en in dorpen
Bij duizendtallen heeft geworpen…
Daar loopen allen met een stijve boord
– Uit stijlgevoel niet, om te toonen
Dat men wel weet hoe het behoort –
Des Zondags om elkaar te groeten
De straten door in zwarte stoeten.

In Nederland wil ik niet blijven,
Ik zou dichtgroeien en verstijven.
Het gaat mij daar te kalm, te deftig,
Men spreekt er langzaam, wordt nooit heftig,
En danst nooit op het slappe koord.
Wel worden weerloozen gekweld,
Nooit wordt zoo’n plompe boerenkop gesneld,
En nooit, neen nooit gebeurt een mooie passiemoord.

Approaching 50 and throwing a party.

In a couple of weeks I will be celebrating my fiftiest birthday. Damn. Never thought I would reach that. Sound old where I don’t feel old. The latter being a good thing I guess. And although I hate celebrating birthdays I will make an exception this year. For two reasons:

1. it’s fair to my kids and best friends.
2. it’s also fun having a birthday for once but on my conditiions.

So people are invited and any others are not welcome. Because this is a friends thing. Chairs are also not invited. We have carpets and pillows and such. And all kinds of musical stuff laying around. Simply stuff, don’t worry. And for the ones who do not feel the urge to make noise: you don’t have to. As long as you do sing along because we will sing. It’s gonna be an evening with special songs, Shaffy and others coming along. It’s gonna be a night with food, fun, songs and friends.

The food will be Nepalese. Traditional with a European touch. Dal baat (rice with lentils), tarkari (veggies), naan (bread) and some curries. And for the rest of it tea, water, juice, wine and most important of all: good moods! No fancy stuff and NO, repeat NO gifts!

So the past few weeks I’ve been practising Nepali cooking in semi-private. Meaning sometimes an occasional friend has had to endure. They’re still alive an kicking so I guess it’s ok. The more tricky bits are tried on myself. I still live so I guess that also was good. The biggest challenge is of course making a good, no great, curry. And I have some tricks up my sleave. Like using Turkish 10% fat yoghurt to smoothen things up and use my own mix of masala. Which I will not disclose what is included in it. And I also started fooling around with the rice. So now I can make a nice yellow rice but also a red / pink rice. Which is surprisingly nice.

The veggies are another story. Thank Shiva Nepal is growing similar vegetables that we have over here so I play a little with that. And with some fruits of course. The food is one of the main things to prepare. The rest will follow.

Anyway, I hope you’all come whose invited. Ma timilai mayo garchu. See you guys then and if anyone wants to give a hand cooking you are most welcome! You know when cause you’ve got the invite.

Love,

Alice

Confused? You shouldn’t be.

Many years ago there was a television series that started every episode with this great line:

“Confused? You won’t be after this weeks episode of… Soap.”

I love this line as it pretty much describes what I am about to tell and request you, dear readers, fans, lovers, friends and who-evers.

Most, if not all of you, know that I am an open and out transgender lesbian woman. Proud on all three labels and at the same time disgusted by the fact that labels exist because they discriminate, set people apart and make them vulnerable to ridicule. The thing is that I am very aware of the fact that I confuse people. Because I am who I am. Wether it is in a café or bar where sometimes a guy gets swept of his feet and starts asking indecent questions (yes, it happened again last week) or online where without asking people sometimes refer to me as a transsexual writer and film maker. As if my writing and film making has anything to do with my past and current gender.

The problem is that I am lesbian and transgender. This is socially a deadly combination in the lesbian community which is by it’s nature my natural hunting ground (pun intended). No really, I love and prefer women so it’s all perfectly natural being a woman myself and being single that I frequently move in the lesbian scene. Like hetero’s move around and meet people in their little part of this gendered world and gay men move around in their little dark rooms. I do not so much differentiate between transwomen and ciswomen, as long as they are gay and can connect with me I will find them interesting. And when attraction hits me the only thing that really counts is the fact that they’re women and not men.

Now why do I write all this and what has that to do with others being confused? It is all quite simple but for some people obviously too darn complex to grab. So let me explain.

I for one don’t give a damn that my past is influenced by transsexuality. And I also don’t give a damn that I happen to be lesbian (although I did hit up some guys in past years like most other lesbians do although some of them are to zealot to admit that). It’s always the others who seem to care. It’s the others who are ‘interested’ in my transsexual past and show that by indecent questions (and sometimes proposals) and a weird interest in how the plumming is inside my pants / skirt / dress / sarwal… I never ask them the same questions. It’s always the others who do.

So I often wonder why people can not just let things be as they are. Simply accept the fact that lesbians do exist and are as much female as any heterosexual woman and that transwomen (transgender or transsexual) are also just as much a woman as any cis gendered (genitalwise born) woman. And I also wonder why people seem to have the urge to think or advocate for me that transwomen should be treated just like anyone else. I don’t need others to speak for me. I don’t need others to advocate my rights to be who I am. And I certainly do not need any promotion for myself and my books and films with a fat line underneath the words trans and lesbian. If I want to use my sexuality and gender for promotion of myself and my work I can very well do that myself, thank you very much!

And as I don’t want to do that and am only interested to play the transgender and lesbian cards when that support emancipation of any of these groups I want to decide when those labels are used in connection with me. So please, please, please, just forget about all the crap concerning gender and sexuality when it comes to me and my work. If you haven’t noticed it by now let me tell you who I really am:

I am Alice Anna. I write. I make photos. I make films. I love women. I love South Asia. I love me.
(And maybe you if you’re lucky!)

That’s all there is to say about me. And if any of you ever want to refer to me as a transsexual or lesbian: ask me first! Because after all, that is none of your business until I allow you to make it such. Don’t abuse my identity, my gender or sexuality. Don’t abuse me. Because I have had it with that completely. And believe me that has everything to do with the general behaviour and transphobia in the lesbian and hetero scenes where a lot is said about acceptance and tolerance but much less is done to allow women like me to fully participate. My dear people, if not specifically requested by me in person, stay the fuck out of my knickers!

I rather see you buying my books, photos or come and watch my film when that’s coming out of the closet in a couple of months because you like them!

Alice © 2012

Looking at the gorillaglass.

When I look at my screen I see myself in a mirror. The gorillaglass is showing two sides of myself. My mirrored image with a deep longing in the eyes and that other image of me standing on top of a mandir. Strong, proud and self assured and above all happy. The longing in my eyes in the first image reflects the desire to be that other me in that other image. The first me is not really unhappy because she knows she’s just living in a temporary space, an interbellum. She knows she’ll be that other person again sometime and if she’s lucky she won’t have to wait too long for that. She knows she’s working hard to become that other image again. That image of the traveling writer and journalist. That woman who is not scared of the society she moves in and who is doing what she does best, connecting people and making photos and films. Writing books.

The first woman is struggling to survive her life and although she’s almost drowning frequently she stays strong, reinvents herself almost every day and with a smile as her best make up she challenges others. To understand, to support, to engage. And sometimes the others do. Most of the time they don’t. She’s fighting with the words in her book that although finished constantly asks for her attention because there’s always a line that is not perfect, always a little error to be discovered. She’s fighting with images and sounds to build a film in her own way. With feelings straight from the heart because she really does care about the people she filmed. And because both book and film bring her back to what that second woman has lost constantly on a daily if not hourly basis she has to struggle even more. She determined and she will, no matter what, finished it off.

The two images will merge one day soon. Working together on another book, on another film, in the world where she really feels she should be. Far away from the troubles of the crazy life women one is living. And when they close their eyes they smell the smell of the curry that is made on in the houses and the food that’s being fried on the little carts on the street corners. She smells the smell of a ripe mango even when it’s not there and behind her closed eye lids the fireflies fly in the early night. She walks in between the fields of rice and along the dusty roads where the school children in their uniforms come and go. Namaste mem, namaste! The sound of the riksha passing and ringing it’s bell frequently echoes in her ears just like the shouting of the farmer with his oxen in the watered fields. A bus passes and people look at her, she waves her hand. They wave back.

Her skin feels the sun warming her and drops of sweat travel along her backside. Her muscles become weary of the long walking in the heat of the midday oven that the landscape has become. At a stand she buys a can of badam. Cold and sweet, refreshing on this hot day.

Than, all of a sudden a tram passes by and I’m back. Wrong time, wrong place, again.

Alice © 2012

Somewhere on a graveyard.

Quite often I come to the conclusion that I do not understand others. Peoples words and acts have often become mysterious to me. And in some cases that makes me sad while in others I cherish my not understanding. In between getting up this morning and making early morning coffee it hit me again. Today is a day where someone who was once my sister by birth once will stand on a graveyard and mourn her husband who recently died of cardiac arrest. I have no idea where in town that will be because I, the family freak in her eyes, the black sheep, are not invited. My children by the way are, but they won’t go either. Of course I don’t understand my former sister’s thinking as we are no longer related mentally. It is sad though.

So for a while I remember the years when we were still together as a family and I remember the good times but unfortunately also the bad times. The times my life was a mess and they didn’t care, the times when I was in hospital and they never laid an eye on me. The time, not so long ago, when I was evicted from my house because I didn’t have the money to live off and they looked the other way. And the time when I told that woman, once my sister, that I was who I was and would have to go through some changes to stay alive. The ice cold blue eyes staring back at me in that conversations have left a scarr on my heart so bad that I know it will never heal. It was the day I lost my sister who was once so valuable to me.

Eight years have past since that conversation only a few kilometers from our respective homes. Eight years of disregard and being shoved aside as garbage. Eight years in which my now dead brother in law loathed me for who I am. Sure the words were different sometimes, but eyes don’t lie. Eight years in which we’ve grown so far apart that I have come to the conclusion that it’s hard to understand that we were once family.

Photo by Erwin Olaf: ‘Grief – Grace’

Of course I’m sorry for that lonely woman who is now even lonelier than ever, looking down at a coffin. Of course I wish she would not have to take this blow. She is old now and alone. But it’s what happens to people who discard others, they become lonely. And as things are, being the black sheep, the uninvited, I say goodbye to those who were once family but who, by their acts, do not deserve to be regarded as such by me.

My life goes on, and after this morning’s puja at which I dedicated some thoughts to the deseased, I closed the book. Without tears in my eyes. After the death of my parents I have concluded that the only blood related family I have left are my children. No other relatives are alive anymore. The ones who are related by blood do not really live because their eyes and hearts are cold, they live in another world and I feel blessed not to be part of that. They are not my family any more. My real family is living in another place. A few streets away is a dear sister that I learned to love dearly and my younger brother lives in Nepal, within weeks he’ll move to the States and my other brothers and sisters and inbetweens are always there in my life. They are my friends, they are my family. Because there’s a light in their eyes, a sparkle, whenever we see each other. They do not judge me for what I am but for who I am and what I do. They are human.

Time to go, catch some sun on a terrace somewhere and let more joyful thoughts come through and celebrate love, friendship and life.

Alice © 2012

Welcome visitor number 300.000!

Well well, today this site will see it’s 300.000 visit since I started it all. Thanks dear friends. And as I am at a Nepal conference today I have no time to post this at the exact right moment, but who cares. Anyway, this writer / director and professional human being is grateful for the support and continuous flow of readers over here. I love you guys and girls and please keep coming back.

Alice

For my fans, if any, just a little picture of me at my best and happiest in beautiful Sikkim not so long ago.

Te koop / for sale.

Wegens omstandigheden neem ik afscheid van mijn mooie Mamiya 645 6×4,5 cm grootbeeld spiegelreflex camera. Een juweel voor de professionele fotograaf die het echte analoge fotograferen met topkwaliteit nog weet te waarderen. Alles in uitstekende staat en recent nog gebruikt. Te mooi om weg te doen maar ik kan niet anders. Email me bij interesse. Ik verkoop natuurlijk alleen tegen een redelijke prijs en er is goed met me te onderhandelen.

Because of personal circumstances I am selling my beloved Mamiya 645 6×4,5 cm SLR camera. A jewel for the professional photographer who still values real analogue photography with the topquality. Everything is in mint condition and recently used. Too beautiful to sell but I have to. Email me when you’re interested. Of course I’ll only sell against a reasonable price.

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Alice

alice.filmt@xs4all.nl

I am me.

To start the day off in a positive way, I give you this.

I am what I am. I am me.

Like most people are ‘me’ for themselves. And though it might sound silly to say this, it is in fact one of the strongest statements one can make. Because it underlines personal pride and strength. I wish everyone could state these three little words in all confidence realizing that they really are who they are. With all defects but also with the beauty and strength they have. Unfortunately many people never get to that stage in their lifetime but I am hopeful that one they everyone will.

So, what and who is that ‘me’ that I am?

Well let’s say it like this to explain it a little…

I am proud of myself. When people ask me if I was a guy then nowadays I can safely say that I never was because I at least do understand that physical construction doesn’t define masculinity or femininity because it’s in the mind and the heart. And right after that I would probably pinch them in the butt. I am also a lesbian in love with geeky stuff and gadgets and fashion and I do wear lipstick. Every day. Wether you like it or not while kissing. Oh and when I have a girlfriend I really do love her until the other side of the world. And although I love the female attire I am pretty damned good with heavy camera’s and equipment, look stunning in trekking gear and I can most certainly read maps and find my way around. Anywhere. Anytime.

Ok, I am also transgender in the sense that I transitioned without dying first. Pretty smart thing to do as it saves me the long waiting for reincarnation without certainty of the outcome. And it was not a nice thing to do. It scared the shit out of me, was painful and it ruined most of my private and professional life. Friends proved not to be friends, work proved not to be something that I could take for granted so I lost my businesses and ended up in heavy debts. It ruined my marriage and my God(s and Goddesses) I have cried so many tears that it could fill a mid size mountain lake.

On the other hand, I just restarted life as if nothing had happened. I learned a new trade and some new tricks and even became frikkin happy at times. And that was a first. I’m struggling often, am depressed every now and then but also regularly in love and f*cking amazing in what I do and create. And I have lost the ability to be scared of most of the crap that other people fear as their worst enemies. I learned the relativity of money and the joy of true friendship, the beauty of a song and I even sing the damned song myself every now and than. Never thought I would do that. And on top of it all, I learned to write and visualize and although the fight is sometimes long and hard I am out there and you, yes you, are reading my scribblings. Which is quite nice actually and I thank you for taking the time to do so. Oh, and did I mention that I do have three great kids? No? Well then, here it is: I do have three great kids!

Thing is my dear friends, I can do so much and so much more than all these grey mice living their grey lives in a grey society. I live with color, sound and images, words and stories, friends and lovers and in spite of the occasional backdrop (ok, a few too many sometimes) I do all that with energy and strength. And I do that without having to thank a white bearded old sucker high in the sky sitting on an imaginary cloud of nonsense. (I feel more attached to the vivid, colorful Hindu Gods anyway.) And I do all that and I am who I am because I endured and I never really gave up. While struggle and depression have become an integral part of my life, shining and radiating and being awesome from time to time is the better part of my life now. And for all intents and purposes (I love that Shakespearean line) I am proud that I live my life to the max of my ability and I am proud that I have so much love in me that there is no way that in my lifetime I can get rid of it all. And if you didn’t join me in my current efforts to make a difference in a positive way I sure hope you will join me soon in one of my next endeavours. And if there is no new endeavour coming from me than I am either disappeared and vanished somewhere or I am to be cremated. And that is for as far as I am concerned still a long, long time from now.

I can only hope, dear friends, that you will see the real me in this picture. Because this one stands for who I am, who I want to be, what I want to do and how I am in the happiest moments of my life.

So, as I said, I am me. And I don’t have a clue why I write this today other than I just felt the urge to do so. Maybe it’s just because I love you and I think you are worth that love.

© 2012 Alice Verheij

Depression and comfort.

I guess most of my true friends know by now. My not-so-true friends are probably oblivious of the fact. Anyhow, I am depressed and that is an emotion that is difficult to handle. It is also an emotion, or state of mind, I happen to be very familiar with. The reasons for depression are not that interesting. Obviously it has to do with the challenges in life that, although I am living in the ‘rich’ west, are too big for me too handle. A bad economic position and the fact that in my life I am the only one and there is no other one are the foundation of my depressive state.

What a lot of people do not seem to understand is that people fighting a depression are not seeking pitty or anyhting like that. Just accepting the fact that some people are not ‘the lucky ones’ and not ‘the happy ones’ in life would be quite enough. But as I said, that is something a lot of people are not able to accept somehow. They are continuously trying to ‘support’ the one with a depression by saying that life is not that bad and things will really get better. Well, my friends, that simply won’t sink into the minds of the depressed. There is however a simple way to prevent that emotional blockade that pushes people down instead of lifting them up: simply acknowledge the hardship. I for one cannot remember that any person at any instant on his or hers own instance told me that it is true that my life is a shambles and it is understandable that I feel bad about that. And that is where the problem lies. The root cause of feeling un-understood.

It’s not man’s mind to tell someone who is feeling bad that it in fact really is bad. People want to help in words (but usually not in acts though) and that is nice but at the same time that help is in reality making things worse. Because words fade away quickly. And saying that things ain’t half that bad is at the same time saying that the true emotion of the other is not true but an exaggeration of their situation. Statements like that are just making clear that the depressed is not to be taken seriously.

Depression is a very personal pathological state of mind. Not to be taken lightly because it can be quite dangerous. Believe me, I know. Been there, done that, didn’t ‘succeed’. So it is not to be shoved aside easily. And to be perfectly honest, in my experience it’s only really understood by people who in their own life have experienced depression. They are the ones who do usually not try to lift the others mind with words without a body. Because one thing depressed people do is use their words to express the reality of their life carefully and mostly strongly. Words with bodies, no empty words. No empty lines. No walls in between feelings and expression. Like artists. Because emotions are in fact the only real things in life. The rest that you see, hear of say is artificial.

So please, dear friends, never ever try to comfort me when I feel bad. Just give me space. Allow me to feel how I feel, no matter what you might think of it. Some people are angels of darkness, accept them for what they are. Rest assured, I’ll fight my way out of it somehow. And the day I won’t be able to win is the day I will not survive. And that is not a loss but a victory. A victory I often long for. One day I will have vanished into the great nothing (Taoists or Pooh readers might understand this).

Alice © 2012

The Great Nothing according to Chuang-tse:

Consciousness wandered North to the land of Dark Waters and climbed the Unnoticeable Slope, where he met the Speechless Non-Doer.  “I have three questions for you,” Consciousness said.  “First, what thoughts and efforts will lead us to understanding the Tao?  Second, where must we go and what must we do to find peace in the Tao?  Third, from what point must we start and which road must we follow in order to reach the Tao?  Speechless Non-Doer gave him no answer.

Consciousness traveled South to the land of the Bright Ocean and climbed the mountain of Certainty, where he met the Impulsive Speech-Maker.  He asked him the same three questions.  “Here are the answers,” Impulsive Speech-Maker replied.  But as soon as he started to speak, he became confused and forgot what he was talking about.

Photo fun.

Today was probably the first good day in the year. For photography that is. So we (me and two of my kids) went to the Gemeentemuseum  in my hometown The Hague. Probably the best museum we have in the Netherlands and certainly the one with the most challenging architecture, designed by Berlage early in the past century. I love the place and it is both an architects as a photographers dream.

And as I have the privilege of being able to work with a magnificent camera and just as magnificent lens it was high time to give the pair a good test. The slideshow on this page is the result and contains some of the best pictures made today. I hope you’ll like them.

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Obviously I am not so much a portrait photographer but with this equipment and my daughter and youngest son I had a lot of fun making these. The exhibition was about miniatiruzation so there were doll’s houses, dolls, miniature furniture and even miniature real art in a miniature real art gallery. Totally amazing and some of the photos are made in a way that it’s almost impossible to understand that it’s miniatures you’re looking at. So, watch the slideshow and have a little fun.

All photos are of course copyrighted and not for redistribution in any form without my consent.

Alice © 2012

Being lesbian (1920’s – 2010’s).

I live a quite liberal life. In my own country and my own culture. Which means I do not hide my gender or my sexual prevalence. Of course I am open about both as my friends, family and readers know. After all, it’s 2012 and we live in a modern world, don’t we?

Image

1928 American Novel

But this is certainly not true everywhere. There are still many societies and cultures (and / or religions) that disapprove homosexuality and transgenderism. And being confronted with that after many years of being out of the closet is ehm, well ehm, confronting… Without giving away too much details I can safely say that it’s ok to be lesbian and travel and work in Nepal. As long as you stay beneith the radar. So for most of the time I did so. On the few occasions that I was open on myself I received mixed reactions. Some people, including my best friends there, didn’t make a fuss. Others however said they didn understand and as for most people the standard question for a western woman traveling alone is “do you have a husband?”. When answering no most people gave me some sort of pityful look and sometimes even said: “oh how sad.”. In most cases I didn continue conversation on the relationshsip line so that was it. And some specific situations turned awkward when people simply said “We don have that in our society.” Which is of course total crap.

I do honor other cultures and religions I am not familiair with so I just go things out of the way. Why would I make life more difficult than necessary?

But then love strikes and after an initially good time things turned for the worse. And I learned. The hard way. I learned that some things are simply not possible in traditional societies for all kinds of reasons. And I realized that although in many places on the globe people like me are gathered equal to anyone else there still are many, many places where that is certainly not true. That in itself makes me sad. Very sad. Because it takes away the opportunity for that one most beautiful thing on earth: love.

This world is not as modern is it looks like. Unfortunately.

Alice (c) 2012

Headwind and bad times.

Within a couple of weeks my world has turned for the worse. I experience a shitload of headwind.

For whatever reason my love left me, the exact reasons are still a bit unclear although some hints are there. No one to blame. After that came creative crisis. Poetry is far away, theatre performance went well but the videorecording failed tragically (can’t do camera and perform at the same time) and a few days ago my allowance was decreased with more than 30% leaving me with not enough money to live. Rent, health care and normal dayli things leave me without enough money for food. Hard times ahead. And to top it all the effort of finishing Headwind is for whatever reason anyone has until now still more than 90% depending on me. Too little support, to little progress, too little co-operation. It is so clear that if I would stop working on this film it will never hit the screens. That alone makes that this is essence a film made by with. With some support but not enough by any length. Financially this film project has made gone all the way into post production with a reasonable balance sheet but also with ruining my personal economic life. Productionwise it still is mainly me effort, no matter what has been tried so far to expand that effort and have others become co-creators. Currently I am doing camera, audio recording, soundtrack building, audio and video editing, directing and 90% of the producing, writing and financing myself. That is not a good feeling at all.

So I have to get back in fighting mode but somehow I really can’t. Too damned tired of it all. Because doing this all on my own is just too much. But ok, I’ll put up another fight, like I’ve always done but there is little pleasure left in my life especially as I feel so very much displaced with my heart and emotions left in Nepal and my body in this cold, grey and cynical country. From whatever perspective my personal life is a total shambles. Single, desolated, technically bankrupt and creatively worn out. This time the fight is extra tough and I have no idea how long it will take to get on my feet again.

A few things are clear however.

I will finish my film no matter what happens and my finished novel will be published. No idea where or how to get thefunds for it, but it will certainly be finalized in the coming two months. After that all I do will be connected with making my personal life manageable, because at this stage it certainly isn’t. And when that point is reached I will be gone. Leaving this country for as long as possible beause I do not want to spend the rest of my life in this land. I cannot survive here and I feel out of place an useless. I hope that some time soon I will be able to go and place my life in the hands of whatever God / Gods and dedicate what’s left of it to writing, filming and showing the western world the gravity of life in South Asia. Because it is high time that that region with all it’s challenges becomes more known to the west.

I feel I am finished here and as always before in my life I know that this means I have to go elsewhere. And no matter what, I will be able to finish what I started and what I love to do when I feel a bit better: finishing Headwind and bringing my work to the screen. And that is not easy, not easy at all. But it certainly is worth all the crap that is happening to me. Because there are people waiting for that film to come to their screens. Unfortunately in the west most people don’t give a damn about knowing the reality of forgotten exiles let alone support the making of a film. In the end it is like with most guerilla filmers: you make it because there is no way not to do that, wether anyone is interested or not.

Alice © 2012