Ying, yang and gender recognition in the Netherlands.

It’s another day like that… life swinging from sad to happy to sad to happy…

Today I learned that my income has decreased to an unmanageable level. Ruining many of the plans I have or at least making my life much more difficult. That, of course makes me sad. The good thing being that it also makes me angry about the dire situation I have been driven into. Well, I have a roof over my head and food to eat for most of the days. But that’s it. Still, it’s good enough for now.

The good news of today came from the government. The government? Yes! The government.

After many years of hardship the government decided to finalize the draft of the gender recognition act and have it send to the State Council for evaluation. When they agree, and let’s hope and pray they do so, a new law will finally replace the current law that is breaching a number of articles of the international Human Rights. The new law brings these changes once agreed by the parliament (let’s hope this time the government doesn’t fall before the law is brought to parliament):

  • a person can change legal gender without surgery (not applicable for me)
  • a person does not have to be sterilized as an effect of fore mentioned surgery (an old inhumane demand)
  • a person does not need to go to court to get that done. And experts statement suffices (I have that of course)
  • a person can just go to the municipality to have the changes made (which is a lot more affordable)

These four changes take away the barrier for me to get my legal status changed. I have been refusing that change because of the existence of that law and the effect of that on people like me. That law has ruined lives and part of my life. It is still an inhumane law that should never have existed and although it seems that it is being abolished at last it is a bloody disgrace that it has existed and politics has allowed it to exist for so long.

Anyway, in spite of the personal hardship I have to go through these days, this is great news. I have no idea how long the procedure at the State Council will take and how long it will take to push this law through parliament but I welcome the progress, I do not however expect that this will come in effect before 2013 due to normal legislative procedures in the Netherlands. Especially as the government seems to have listened to the arguments of organizations and people like me who responded to their call for feedback some time ago. The greatest disadvantages of the proposal that was at hand at that time have been jotted out. A good thing and worth a compliment.

So, and this is quite a unique thing for me to do, I call for a big hand of well meant applause for Minister Teeven and his people who are changing the world for transgenders in the Netherlands and for me personally for the better!

Alice © 2012

Here’s the Dutch language press statement from the government:

Kabinet wil meer erkenning voor transgenders

Persbericht | 02-03-2012

Mensen die transgender zijn, kunnen gemakkelijker de vermelding van het geslacht op hun geboorteakte laten wijzigen.

Zij hoeven niet langer eerst een operatie of een behandeling met hormonen te ondergaan om hun lichaam aan te passen aan het geslacht dat zij wensen. Ook vervalt de zogenoemde sterilisatie-eis. Die bepaalt dat transgenders onvruchtbaar moeten zijn, voordat de geboorteakte kan veranderen. Dit staat in een wetsvoorstel van staatssecretaris Teeven van Veiligheid en Justitie waarmee de ministerraad heeft ingestemd.

In de toekomst is het voldoende als een deskundige vaststelt dat de overtuiging van een transgender persoon blijvend van aard is. Met die verklaring kan de ambtenaar van de burgerlijke stand de vermelding van het geslacht in de akte van de geboorte wijzigen. Voor mensen die lichamelijk man of vrouw zijn, maar die er diep naar verlangen een persoon van het andere geslacht te zijn, betekent het schrappen van de vereisten van onvruchtbaarheid en van fysieke aanpassing aan het verlangde geslacht een ruimere erkenning van hun genderidentiteit. Verandering van het  geslacht in de geboorteakte werkt door in allerlei overheidsadministraties, zoals het GBA. Dat heeft gevolgen voor het paspoort,  andere reisdocumenten en school- en universiteitsdiploma’s.

Het kabinet verwacht dat transgender mensen beter in de samenleving zullen functioneren omdat belemmeringen worden weggenomen. Daarnaast hebben verschillende instanties als Human Rights Watch, het Comité van Ministers van de Raad van Europa en de Mensenrechtencommissaris van de Raad van Europa voor de aanpassing geijverd. Internationaal is steeds meer het inzicht gegroeid dat wettelijke erkenning van de genderidentiteit van een persoon niet afhankelijk moet zijn van eisen als geslachtsoperaties of hormonale behandeling. Nederland sluit zich daarbij aan.

De ministerraad heeft ermee ingestemd het wetsvoorstel voor advies aan de Raad van State te zenden. De tekst van het wetsvoorstel en van het advies van de Raad van State worden openbaar bij indiening bij de Tweede Kamer.

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Half of me in half a home.

The street where half of me lives – Photo © 2012 Alice Verheij

Half of me in half a home

 

I live in half a home, the other half not being there

with a mind that is gone and wonders for so long

if I walk I’m only half, the rest is on another path

feet trying to go and flee cause it’s there that I should be

the other world pulls strong it does that for so long

to drag me away from this to grounds I so much miss

to a home that’s not here, not there but anywhere

I have no mental home as I’m on a quest, alone

so when we accidentally meet on an occasional street

remember it’s only half of me, the better half hopefully

and when I leave you then, the other has never been

your companion alone, that one was in another home

Alice © 2012

Missing paradise.


The countryside around Damak, Jhapa, Nepal. Photo: © 2012 Alice Verheij

It’s now almost two months since I left what I consider paradise. With love in my heart. Not long ago that love left me for reasons I will not share. Too sensitive. In these two months the country I traveled, lived, cried, laughed and made great friends never ever left my thoughts for much longer than an hour or so. Actually, I even think that it isn’t even an hour.

I feel sad, depressed and out of place. Homeless. I am most certainly in the wrong place. The ricefields, the fields filled with mustarde plants, the warmth, sun and smiles. The ever blue skies and crystal white mountaintops, the deep green of the forests and the calming and comforting sound of mountain waters streaming onto the plains. The rivers and the monkeys, the chaos on the roads and in the towns, the smells, the food, the colours. It is all not here. I feel like my senses are dimmed constantly as if my body is in a constant sleep with feelings chilled and sensitivity lost.

I live in a nice house, with nice people and except for the problems in my life that are always at the background I live a happy life. When looked upon from the outside. But I live alone and in the wrong place. Every few days I wear my Nepali clothes, they make me feel better. They suit me better. Every day in the mornings and evenings I do Puja, greeting my personal Gods and asking them to take care of my soul. Every day my room is filled with the soft scent of incense and because of the work I do with the sounds of Nepal streets and voices.

Editing our film, my film, is complicated and challenging. It quite often kills me. Not because of technical issues or creative problems but because it fires the longing to unmanageable proportions. All I do is focussed on getting out of here and finding a way to live and work in the country that I have left in January against my will. Because that is what really happened. I have this constant feeling that leaving for ‘home’ was actually leaving my real home. Like abondoning my ship. That feeling has not left me since I set foot on the damned airplane that flew me to this cold country. My best friends here understand that there is nothing that can hold me back from returning to the land I love to that culture that has for a part become mine.

I am a woman with a history that she prefers not to have. With a present that is pushing her down and a future that is uncertain. someone who has lost her old home and not yet been able to move to her new one. Someone who has lost the attachment with the society and life she comes from and who feels the hurting ties with a society that’s at this moment out of reach.  So for my own good I just have to continue and fight, be strong, not cry and not feel down. But work hard to live my dream of leaving this life in the west. If not forever than at least for as long as possible. Because whatever anyone might say or think, I do no longer belong here anymore. I miss my Nepal, I miss Kathmandu, Patan, the Terai and Damak. I never thought that making a film would do this to me.

Alice © 2012

Disagreeing with Hamlet.

William Shakespeares Hamlet is a guy I kindly fight a battle with. Or at least twist his words to suit my feelings better. I would of course approach my Ophelia in a different way. It’s not arms or violence or quarrel or anger that shapes my way of dealing with bad tidings, it’s making front against the cynicism of people telling me not to love. So maybe my dear friend Hamlet, you should have said something like this…

To love or not to love – that is the question:
Wether it is nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous feelings
Or to form front to a wall of cynicism
And by opposing end them.

Because, countering the views of some people around me, love is not a feeling or mood or a fling or something I take lightly. It is not just a part of my life. It is part of me, inseperable from my being and if it would die I would as woman no longer breath. To imagine a life with love not being part of it is something I can’t comprehend. I would become cynical and that is exactly what I hate so much about the society I live in which has become in it’s core a cynical society.

I will hopefully never lose the ability to love and fall in love. Even if it means my heart will be broken many times.
So whoever this applies to: please never tell to bail out of love. Because a question like that I cannot answer.

Alice © 2012

In the dark of night the mind wanders.

For my 1250th post I wrote a poem.
It obviously is about the night, the most beautiful and the most horrendous hours.

In the dark of night the mind wanders.

The night called me but I could not reach her
As if a gulf separated my head from sleep.
Like a gaping depth of sunken thoughts
that grind like slowly turning millstones,
forcefully circulating crushing rest.
A concept that my mind seems no to understand
but what my heart foolishly longs for.

And even though the call gains force
the battle to resist her does not weaken.
No matter how tempting, I lack the strength
to surrender the fight and let myself go
without notice and being unnoticed.
Not strong enough to allow tears to flow
or simply just be unwillingly unhappy.

The night, I hate her for her beauty
and like with every lover I ever had
I cannot live with her taunting embrace.
I never answer her, she’s to dangerous,
because if I would, my head would leave me.
My mind would be dimmed and my voice silenced,
not strong enough to give in to eternal desire
to die in a slow and wordless embrace.

It’s a good thing that some wishes
remain as they are:
unchanged
remote
unreal
im – possible
hidden

Alice Anna Verheij © 2012

Here we go again…

I know it might sound cliché, but some clichés tell a true tale. Like this one. Norah Jones sings this Gram Parsons song the way I feel it. The longing and the loss, the hurt and the time it will take and the admiration for a lady living a hard life with an amazing voice who captured my breath and my heart. And broke it.

Things won’t change for the better. Some things will not repair, and sometimes it’s the memories that are left and to be cherished. Not in regret but with a pain that will become softer and lesser in time. And in the dark my tears will be there so that in the daylight they will not flow.

Ok, so it didn’t work out after all. And I am so sorry for that.

All things have a reason for happening someone told me a long time ago. So there is a reason for recent events. And without going into too much detail I think this one is pretty clear. The reason is probably ‘misjudgement’. Misjudgement of the ability to make that move in life. Misjudgement of intercultural language. Misjudgement of signals given and received. Misjudgement of what is really needed to build something special. Misjudgement of love. Misjudgement of feelings. The result is two broken hearts. And I do not regret the love I felt and still feel, I just regret that sometimes worlds collide and hearts can not synchronize.

And there the story ends. For her. And for me.

What’s left is two people, both hurt. Both lonely, both sad for what didn’t work out. For the one it’s not being able to grasp that opportunity to a better life at this moment in life. For the other it’s not being able to grasp that straw for a happier life. The emptyness that’s left is huge and unmanageable. What the future will bring is once again in the stars.

Today words are not enough. Maybe later. Music will do. Tomorrow I will perform. Sing on stage and be radiant because the show must go on and it will. I long for that performance and I am scared of it. Not for breaking apart because I wont, not for showing true emotions because I will. Not for having to last minute improvise because I can. But for the questioning eyes in the audience of the ones who know. And still I long to go on stage. The prove I am still there, hurt but never more myself than in this time. And to show my friends who I am and what I create. Because in the end that will be what’s left.

In the meanwhile I will just have to switch back to recovery mode. I will do that and I will survive. I always do so although there is a fresh wound that will change into another scarr on my heart. It’s not the first one but I will not allow myself to become sour and be scared for love, although I really am scared now. But that will go away slowly one day. I hope. Maybe someday there might be friendship left from all this, I don’t know because it’s not up to me. Today I had to step away gracefully. Gracefully, a strange word but in this case meaningful. I know I have friends for me to help me through this and I can only hope my love, that you will have friends and family to pull you through. I just was not meant to be I guess.

Alice

Ik mis mijn moeder.

Er is geen aanleding voor. Het is ook niet ‘die dag’. En ook niet haar verjaardag. Maar ik mis haar. Het is niet fijn om wees te zijn want hoe dan ook er mist een bodem onder mijn voeten. De foto is van 1 september 2009, twee en een half jaar terug en het lijkt alsof het slechts een paar maanden geleden was dat we voor het laatst appeltaart aten op de boulevard van Scheveningen.

Er is zoveel gebeurt in die twee en een half jaar. Zij is er niet meer, ik ben losgekomen van mijn oude bestaan in Nederland om me niet meer te kunnen hechten en ben gaan reizen en filmen. Mijn leven is enorm veranderd en het wegvallen van mijn lieve moeder was daar het startschot voor. Natuurlijk denk ik vaak over de vraag wat zij er van zou vinden hoe ik leef. Het antwoord komt nooit en dat hoeft ook niet. Ondanks alles wat er gebeurt is en ondanks alle veranderingen is ze nog vaak daar. Zoals vanmorgen ineens weer. Ik zou graag nog een keer een kopje koffie gaan drinken met haar.

Alice © 2012

 

On Valentines Day…

My love and my best friend in Nepal.

On this Valentines Day
my weary mind flows away
to a place so far from here
and to people oh so dear

To a ricefield and a farm
and a sun that is so warm
to friends for life out there
and someone for whom I care

And as my heart is over there
without any doubt I dare
to say and even write it too
my sweet heart, I love you

Alice © 2012

LDR

LDR. Not LBD as in little black dress, the must have wardrobe item for just about every western woman, but LDR as in Long distance Relationship. I never thought I would write this. But I do. Because this is how my life is now. Thing is, when someone falls in love with another person than that is almost always with a person close by. If not permanently then at least temporary as in a holiday love. But at my age, with my past life and my unclear future it certainly not expected to be in that unreasonable but ever so nice state of being in love. And certainly not with someone who now is over 10,000 kilometers away.

A LDR is something with it’s own dynamics. It involves a lot of trust and dedication and it involves special measures to be taken to give that relationship a fair chance. It also involves making an effort. Especially since quite often it’s not only physical distance but also cultural distance and sometimes even religious distance. Or, when things are really complicated all of them.

one side of 10,000 kilometers

the other side of 10,000 kilometers

So now I am learning Nepali on a daily basis, studying Hindu religion and learning much about Nepali culture. The only good thing being that all that started long time before love was in the picture. And to adjust to this new reality I researched a bit on experiences of others. And that certainly proved to be a world on its own. Biggest downside to that is that most info is about long distance hetero relationships and therefore only of very limited value.
Apart from too large phonebills that need to be resolved, finding ways to lessen that burden while not having to be completely dependent on internet because mains power is something not available continuously and internet access for my ‘better half’ is over half an hour walking away, there are issues like texting that won’t work most of the time and physical letters that might very well never ever arrive. It’s a hassle.

the very reason to overcome these 10,000 kilometers

But I live on the easy side because my love has a much more difficult situation to tackle. Culture that’s not always understanding this kind of relationship, practical issues as described earlier, hard work on her farm taking out most of the time of day and issues with the language. So many things against us, so many things to conquer. It often pushes my thoughts in the hopeless department and often I feel saddened by all those practical issues. But then, when that phone call comes through every other day it like my battery is recharged in the shortest possible time. Just chatting away, quickly discussing the important things and spending the rest of the time just talking and listening, strengthening the ties. Then as quickly as imaginable this whole LDR turns into what it really is: just two people loving each other. No matter what.

I guess we’ll be fine, if we’re careful. If we put in the effort to keep talking and listening. If we put in he effort in organizing our lives in a manner that in the end that dream becomes reality. The dream of overcoming these 10,000 kilometers. Permanently. Because I push myself to keep thinking and believing that love in the end wins.

Alice © 2012

Shall I?

I have no experience in this. Like most people this simply never happened to me and so I never had reason to think about what to do and what is needed to make it come true. My mother died almost two years ago and it changed my life. I had become an orphan since my father passed away ten years ago. When your father dies it leaves a gap but when your mother dies it leaves a vault. A gap that is so big that there is now way it can be filled. Since then there is no elder who can guide me, advice me on what to do or not to do. No one related to me that has enough authority to question my decisions or my feelings. No one to let me make that reality check that parents often force upon their childrens ideas.

So I changed my life once more. I started working on things that no one seemed to care about. A book and a film about a group of people in a far away land to whom I do not have any relationship or obligation. A group in danger of being forgotten in history, washed away in time and overlooked by politics and media. A group of people of no importance to the selfish western world. And  I went there. I’ve been to the camps, talked to them, interviewed them, filmed their life in those horrendous camps. Filmed their new life in my country, freshly started after resettlement. And while in the country where their camps are I lost my heart. Nepal grabbed it to keep it.

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I lost my heart first to the cause of unveiling the reality of the Bhutanese exiles to the world that’s so uninformed or misinformed about what has happened and how things are. And while working there I lost my heart to the land itself. To the amazing beauty of the Terai flatlands filled with rice fields and field of mustarde plants or sesame plants. With mountains in the distance hiding the dramatic landscape in the north while in the monsoon these mountains bring clouds filled with rain. The land of fireflies in summer dancing and hovering above the fields while the mango’s are ripe and pregnant of sweet and tasty juices. Coconut trees around the farms keeping the house cool and protected from wind and heat. With only a water well and a few hours of electricity available for the daily needs. And in the end I lost my heart for the third time to someone very special.

So here I am in the cold wet winter underneath grey skies and with a nightly frost on the streets. In the middel of a city with cars, trams, busses and bikes. With buildings higher than three storeys and offices everywhere where people go in in the morning and come out in the afternoon. A meaningless city. On my editing desk is a computer and a big screen. They show me images of rice fields and bamboo huts, the speakers let me hear the sounds of the camps, the towns and the landscape. I hear birds again, thousands. Sometimes so loud that they cover the sounds of the crickets and the people. Without knowing I can even smell the food being prepared and that so typical smell of a small farm. I smell the woodwork of the house and my feet feel the planks creaking and bending while my mind steps on them. Someone makes tea with too much sugar in it and when evening falls it only takes a few hours before the power goes and load shedding starts throwing darkness over the place. Candles and little oil lamps are suddenly there and the voices dim. The two of us leave for our room, the door closes and the conversation becomes more intimate. We talk and talk, knowing that in the end I will have to leave. Both of us not wanting to think of that moment that is inevitably there.

I wake up from my daydream and switch on my computer, checking a website. She’s there. We chat. And I know it’s a matter of time and effort and decisions to be made before we will be together again. I know, she knows, that we will. Some day soon. Will it be forgood? Shall I make the decision? Shall I go? Shall I? Can I accept that the decision is actually already made by me? It only takes one decision to go. Just one decision. I guess I made it when I left sometime ago. She knows, and I know, what will happen next.

Alice © 2012

A patch of blue sky.

A patch of blue sky

Though my mind is mostly grey today

there’s this patch of blue sky far away

And even when thoughts are hindering

there’s something distant flickering

When presence has become abstract

it’s a voice by which my heart reacts

Even distance cannot keep us apart

because we share each others heart

 

Alice © 2012

Winter morning.

The morning sun shines through my window. I can see how it lits the pearly white of the woodwork of the house opposite of the one I live in. It’s cold in my room. The heater was turned down last night and it usually only takes a few hours for my room to become freezing cold. My windows are single pane, the house is quite high and I live just under the the flat roof on the top floor. So the nightly cold easily takes hold of my little hideout. My hideout is made just right for me. It’s small and exists of a square room and a small annex, the latter being used for storage, drying laundry and the cat bin. The room itself is spacious enough to live in but to small to stack my things in a nice manner which results in a somewhat cluttered look. I somehow, being quite chaotic, haven’t found the way or the discipline to keep it tidy. So there’s things lying around everywhere. My equipment for filming, photographing and writing. My artwork and my books, a chaise longue in bright red, a bed that’s white and too empty with only me in it. The desk is small and occupied by a hundred years old typewriter and little bottles and boxes because I like little bottles and boxes.

There are musical instruments but I rarely play on them. I seem not to have the time to learn playing one properly. An electric bass and a collection of percussion instruments and drums. And on the wall opposite of my bed is a huge wall painting on cotton by Klimt: The kiss. In the not so far corner is a heater. It works on gas and above it is a tiny chimney with a big golden mirror and my temple. Not that I am overly religious but I do like to medidate and my temple has a role in that. Shiva is the God who’s most impressively positioned in the middle of the chimney, dancing as ever in a tempting pose. Next to Shiva are Parvaati on the one side and Aradanashvara on the other side. The three of them being my inspiration with a mix of feminine looks and male powers. Of course there’s incense. I like the smell of good incense. And some Bhuddist things like a prayer wheel and a shell. To remind me of the culure that impressed me and to remind me that there’s more in this world than this European non-religious and non-spiritual world.

I don’t like the cold. Especially not when I am alone. Today at least there’s a sun shining so I won’t get depressed but the days when even that light is gone push me down. I miss my love, her presence and smile. Her laughter and cheerfulness. I guess that’s what it means to live with a long distance love. I long for another chaotic phone conversation in which we seem unable to hang up on each other but I have to take care not to use the phone too much, it’s costly calling and crossing 10.000 km’s.

So, I get up and make breakfast. Fried rice with tea because I still have some rice left from a previous meal and I notice I’m out of milk. Today I will do some shopping and when I get dressed I realize my clothes are dark, mostly black. It looks good on me but somehow I long for the bright colors I wear when in Nepal. I’d rather wear orange or red but these colors are absent in my wardrobe while the kurta’s I have are to chilly to wear on a day like this. Somehow it took just a week to be dragged back into the greyness of life here. My mind still wonders to the rice fields around the little farm with the fields filled with yellow mustarde plants, the mountains in the distance in a light blue haze and the sounds of birds everywhere. There are no birds here and mustarde comes in small pots. My body is in Patan holding the one I love and my eyes scan the old carvings of the temples at Durbar square. My skin thinks it feels the sun touching it and keeping me warm and when I close my eyes I can still hear the sounds in the streets of the little town and smell the smell of freshly prepared food everywhere. I even hear the bells of the mandir, I think. But it’s becoming like a dream as if it is not real.

And I know I am lost. Unable to stay here, unable to go there. At least for now because I have to finish my film first. But then I will return and see her again. Will it be forever then?

Alice © 2012

2011, a review.

It’s two weeks after the demise of 2011. A good moment for a quick review of my life in that year.

First of all, I’m getting used to realizing that part of my life actually is not following the western calendar but the Nepali calendar which means that this review is some three months too early. Anyway 3.5/12(2067)+8.5/12(2068)=2011 in a somewhat nonmathematical way the reality of last year but for the sake of readability and because I just happened to live in Europe until last year let’s review the past twelve months as the 2011. Thing is, 2011 has become a very surprising year in almost all aspects of life. So much has happened and although some things were really bad most of the year has brought me happiness. Reviewing is not an easy thing in my life as it might very well become a rollercoaster reading experience so I will try to stay chronologically correct.

End of 2010 I had started working on the Headwind project (then Atma project) to bring myself to Nepal and become useful for society in a place that is not as selfish and egocentric as the west. At the same time I had to experience a conflict in the lesbian scene in the Netherlands that pretty much made me sick to my stomach and desiring even more to let it all go and go elsewhere. Little did I know of what would happen.

In january the Atma Project turned into a project for filming a documentary and the decision was made to make a research trip to Nepal and hopefully to ‘a refugee camp’ to find out if making a film would be feasible. We left in February with three team members and it became an amazing trip. We did see a camp, we talked to UNHCR and affiliate organizations and we decided to go on with the filming. That is to say we decided I would continue filming. One team member couldn’t cope working in Nepal. In March we returned to Holland.
Back in Holland that lesbian thing had become worse and so did my disgust with it. It’s not nice to see how a friends business is destroyed by cybercrime and idiots spreading false information on the internet and in the scene. It’s even worse to find out that most lesbians and even some lgbt organizations swiftly hopped on the crucifixion bandwagon pushing for the destruction of an honest business and not caring one bit for the person who runs it. It became the downfall of many lesbian ‘icons’ for as far as I am concerned. So I wrote about that shit.

Then on March 22 the Goldhap camp in Nepal burned down and I just had to leave for Nepal to go to the site as soon as possible. Which meant that I left for Kathmandu in April and stayed there until August. That whole summer including the monsoon I worked and filmed there. I wrote my novel in June (to be published within a couple of months) and I came back with almost all the footage I had set out to get. I visited three major camps including the unfortunate Goldhap camp and the huge Beldangi refugee camp. I gained friendships with amazing people and in the end I lost my heart in Nepal. In August I returned, in love with the country, the people and a woman that I’d met. I had not intended to fall in love, but I did. Still I didn’t know if the feeling was mutual in spite of the special friendship we already had developed. From September disaster (relative disaster that is) struck. The investments for the film had been high and financial support extremely low basically draining my last financial means to the extend that I had to leave my house. Eviction, a traumatic experience.

But I found out that friends do exist and to my great surprise within weeks I found a much cheaper and much nicer place to live. Within a group of people in a beatiful city house and for the first time in ten years I really felt at home. Home is not about the roof above the head but about the people one lives with. A great lesson to learn. And although the financial troubles were big, and still are unsolvable, I felt much happier. The filmwork was in good progress although the Dutch shooting took much longer than anticipated. And then after a couple of month filled with homesickness for the beautiful Nepal countryside and missing my dear friends there all of a sudden that phonecall was there. My co-producer / co-director suggesting me to travel to Nepal and India to escape the grey Dutch winter.

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I knew it was my chance to do extra fieldwork of the things I had missed and, more important, to find out wether my love was something that could be mutual. To find out if she loved me too. So we went on December 10. Back to Kathmandu, back to Jhapa, Damak, the camps, the little farm, to my love. The trip to Nepal and India was amazing. A true adventure shared with the best travel and working companion imaginable and resulting in more than 10.000 photo’s, 8 hours of great video and in the end with a new love in my life. December has been the best month in the year for me which is in itself miraculous as I tend to hate that month.

So it worked out pretty well. And here I am now, fresh in the new year, counting the days before I can travel back to Nepal and start a new life, living together with my love in Kathmandu for at least half of the year and maybe longer when we’re smart. Only months before the release of Headwind, the documentary and the publication of not one but three books. Only months before I will be able to hold her again with the solid intention to start sharing life again.

In the meanwhile that gruesome Dutch lesbian community affair had escalated into the courtroom and end of the coming week a verdict will be read by a judge against one of the people who’ve been rightfully accused of setting up a slanker campaign to kill some other woman’s business. I’m curious wether justice will be done.

As for me, this year will be different from other years, this year I will divide my life between time in my country of birth and time in my country of love. This year will be the year that I am finally done with the biggest perils in my life and restart into another stage of my life with better, more important and more creative work and for the most of it together with that one woman I love so much.

2011 has been a miracle, 2012 is going to be magic!

Alice © 2012

‘The Storm’ (2) or ‘Back Home?’

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Namaste my dear readers and friends. I wish you all a great New Year.

I Know, I know, I’m a bit late in doing that but as you know I’ve been away for a month to a region where modern technology is something that is not available constantly. And (I only dare to whisper that) I actually haven’t written much in that month. except for some love letters and the occasional FaceBook status update. But I’m back home. That is to say, my Dutch home for I have during my travel found a new home to live. A Nepalese heart where I feel loved and safe. I won’t reveal nor bother you with the details so let’s just say I’m hooked up with a wonderful nice woman who I love dearly. So I now have another ‘home away from home’ in the south of Nepal, the eastern Terai region to be exact.

The storm I wrote about last month has eased. The questions I had while leaving the Netherlands have been answered and many decision has been taken. The most important one being that I desire to lead a splint life. Half of it (or more) in Nepal, half (or less) of in in the Netherlands. The rest is just the execution of that desire. On the flight back the most vivid sign that such it a good decision is that we faced heave storms over de middle east making the flight slow and the flight time long. We faced ‘headwind’ while returning from the last shooting trip for my film ‘Headwind’. Actually, OUR film ‘Headwind’ as the positions in the production team have changed. Making ‘Headwind’ is no longer my personal task and responsibility, it has become a group thing now with a co0directing producer and a co-pruducing director.

Our trip to Sikkim to shoot mountain footage and travel through the earthquake struck area of the south central Himalayan state of Sikkim has been successful. We’ve also seen the teagardens of Darjeeling and the mists over Pokhara. We visited the now familiar places in Kathmandu, Patan, Pashupatinath and Boudha and travelled by bus, mini taxi, tourist taxi, airplanes, four wheel drives, local busses and riksha’s. We revisited the refugee camps near Damak, the now abaondoned and somewhat spooky Goldhap camp and we talked to and interviewed many. We visited the ex hunger strikers in Beldangi who have risked their lives for the unregistered people in the camps. We stayed at the farm of my love just outside Damak village in between the now still empty rice fields in between fields of amber colored mustard.

And we never had any disagreement or quarrel. Everything happened just like it should. We delivered financial aid to vulnerable non registered, brought media equipment to motivated and eager journalists in the exiled community and brought the photo’s from our exhibition (the one in the Netherlands) back to where they originated. And it all went well.

So here I am in my European home. Feeling happy with what we did living in anticipation of the next few months in which the film will finally become reality. Feeling sad about the love that I had to leave behind (but will see again soon). Making plans for the next journey, the publication of a number of books within three months and feeling dislocated as my heart is still out there.

In the coming months the following results will finally come from the project I started almost one and a half year ago:

  1. the English language novel ‘Headwind, Laxmi’s Story’
  2. a photobook about elderly people in the Himalaya‘s
  3. a photobook about the Bhutanese exiles living in diaspora
  4. the documentary ‘Headwind’
  5. a photo exhibition about resettling in the Dutch community
  6. a cd with music from the film
    and many, other things…

It’s going to be a busy time. After that time I will travel back to Nepal and God willing stay there for five months to live with my love and to promote and sell the results of our work. To show the film to the people who have become my inspiration and are part of it.

For now I’ll just focus on the work. Writing here will be less intense as it has been last month simply because of all the things I have to do for the project that not only produces these wonderful things and art but that has also changed my life and the life of some others working on it.

For the record: we’ve produced almost twelve thousand photos this journey, seven hours of footage and millions bits of memories. So much happens when filming and so memory memories build upon each other. In the end it feels like an epic journey and maybe that’s what it was.

So, namaste my dear western friends, I’m back. For a while. And for my eastern friends I can only say ‘pheri bethaula’.

Alice © 2012

Storm

When winter comes storm comes first. It’s an old meteorological law in the Netherlands. Always in November and December there are storms hitting the shores of my country.

When storms coming, animals get unrestly. That’s an old biological phenomenon. Always when there’s a storm coming the birds fall silent and animals get itchy. I just have to look at my cat to witness this.

And when a journey comes I get all stressed. That’s something I’ve become aware of over the last couple of years due all the traveling I’ve done. It’s the last days just before departure that are bugging me.

Painting ‘Ships in distress in raging storm’ by Ludolf Backhuysen, painted in 1690.
Collection Amsterdam Rijksmuseum.

So there’s a storm raging in my head. It immobilizes me and wares me out. It’s a bad storm because I get tense and scared. Scared things might go wrong. I start expecting trouble while traveling. Problems at the customs when leaving as my life is not without problems, trouble with the weight of my bags as I carry an excess of equipment. I worry about possible traveling damage to my cameras and computers. I worry about the money. But I’m also getting more and more anxious. Going on a long and complicated journey is like taking a drug. Adrenaline and endorfine start flying. The longing to see dear friends on the other side of this stupid globe gets stronger by the day. So I get jumpy.

This time is not much different from other journeys. This time I do not travel alone, which is a great thing. This time I also very different in another sense. Because this time I am not going away but I am coming back.

This is the deal. The last two weeks I have become emotional. Because I sense that this journey is decisive for the next coming years in my life. It might very well be a journey that changes me from a visitor to someone who has a foundation in a society that was alien to me but is slowly getting a society of which I am a part of. It will be a journey of choices to be made. Choices for a future working in an area under complicated circumstances for a group of people in distress or a future ‘at home’, meaning in Europe, filming and writing and building a third career. Choices will have to made by me in the early part of the coming year. The outcome depends on my ability to organize a local project, getting the funding to live there and getting certainty in my mind that it is the right thing to do. And I am not sure. I know my deep desire for not having to live in western society but I also am aware of the limitations and the possible bloccades that might prevent me to do what I think is the best thing to do.

So this journey is about finishing the filming of Headwind, finishing the editing of my novel and getting the darned thing printed, about making amazing photographs, about talking with my friend in Nepal to see wether the ideas that we have are feasible and spending time with a few people there that I’ve come to love. They are waiting for me to return, I know that.

And after all that, I will know what to do and not to do. I will make a choice and work on the outcome of that choice full force. I will continue to have a storm blowing my mind because that is how my mind works. And I am scared at the same time. Scared of losing it all, losing the connection, losing my energy and flexibility, losing the opportunity to create the things I want and losing the ability to make a change for the better in some peoples lives. I am really scared of all that. But aren’t we all scared a little bit just before the storm?

Alice © 2011

My inevitable destination

is it me who’s wandering
or is it just my mixed up mind
is it this world that’s bugging
me
with reasons hard to find

for I feel sad and lonely
while walking life’s winding roads
writing songs and stores only
just
to take away those useless loads

or
is it a prophet telling me
go travel from dharma to karma
to the inevitable destination

look
there’s a prophet telling me
to travel from dharma to karma
and my inevitable destination

is it me who’s still fighting
with my own complicated mind
and is it you who’s also struggling
to
give the reasons i can’t find

for I long to make that leap
and do away with all that
singing songs and feeling cheap
‘cause
it make me feel so bad

as
there’s a prophet telling me
go travel from dharma to karma
to the inevitable destination

look
there’s a prophet telling me
to travel from dharma to karma
and my inevitable destination

Alice (c)  2011