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

The Party for Happiness / Partij voor Geluk

UPDATE: The ‘Partij voor Geluk‘ has removed their link to Bhutan as a guiding country for Gross National Happiness in response to the comments made by me. Which is a good thing and I welcome that! I wish this new party all the best in their endeavors. Obviously it is important that the myth of Bhutan as a hallmark for happiness is dismantled and the human rights violations by Bhutan are recognized and acknowledged.

A new political party is coming to the Dutch politcal arena. As a counter movement to the current development of Dutch (or even western) society. The Party for Happiness, in Dutch ‘Partij voor Geluk’ (www.partijvoorgeluk.nl). How nice.

A Party for Happiness, what a great initiative don’t you think? Because, to be honest, everything in this world is judged in financial economical terms like Gross National Product (GNP) meaning money, the filth of the earth. And there is another option like the one that this PvG suggest. Just look at Bhutan they say. Bhutan the buddhist Himalayan kingdom where Gross National Happiness is the measure for government success, Bhutan where the people are happy and Bhutan where according to it’s prime minister Mr. Thinley ‘even the dogs smile’…

But is that true? How are things concerning Gross National Happiness in Bhutan really? Is Bhutan really that happy conutry and does the United Nations indeed push them forward as an example, as a guiding nation for the world?

The answer my friend, is blowing in the Himalayan wind. And it simply says: no. Not at all. Bhutan is not an overly happy country and although the dogs might smile, many of it’s people certainly don’t. Bhutan is the only 100% Bhuddist ruled country in the world. A country that in the years 1990 – 1992 exiled some 120,000 of it’s citizens to India and in the end to refugee camps in Nepal where they have lived ever since. Almost 20% of the Bhutanese population now live outside the country in global diaspora since the United Nations started mass third country resettlement in 2007 shifting almost all of these refugees to countries like the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the UK and the Netherlands. Bhutan as a nation is responsible for the percentagewise largest ethnic and cultural cleansing since world war two. Hardly a nation to set an example to the world.

Gross National Happiness in Bhutan is according to the latest results certainly not all over. Things like health care and education are experienced as factors making the mostly rural population less than happy. According to Bhutan’s own annual GNH report that was recently published. Bhutan does not have freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of travel, freedom to speak Nepali, freedom to dress to your own desire, freedom to smoke a cigarette… Bhutan does however have over 400 political prisoners (according to sources like Human Rights Watch), it throws monks in jail for carrying 30 grams of tobacco on them and has been denying international requests to repatriate it’s own people to the south and east of the country. Bhutan sabotaged 19 years of talks with the Nepalese government for repatriation, lies structurally to the refugees, the international community and the press about their willingness to take their people back and Bhutan remains a country as closed to the outside world as North Korea. If you live in Bhutan and oppose the government you can be thrown into jail, be tortured (Bhutan has the doubtful reputation of a great inventor of torture methods), thrown into exile or even get killed.

Over the past decades the Human Rights Evaluations by the United Nations on Bhutan have repeatedly shown many comments from countries like the US, Canada, UK, Netherlands and others on the situation concerning the exiled population now living in the refugee camps in Nepal with already half of them resettled in the largest third country resettlement project of the UNHCR ever. Continuous reporting by organizations like Human Rights Watch and Global Human Rights Defence have made clear that Bhutan is not a country of Gross National Happiness but a country of Gross Human Rights Violations.

It’s sad to see that western society has a very biased and uninformed view of the Bhutanese reality. Bhutan has been able (and has been given ample space to do so) to build an effective reality distortion field around it’s atrocities. That reality distortion field has a name: Gross National Happiness. As a concept welcomed by Buddhists and politicians globally. It is because of that western urge to be inspired by something nice as ‘happiness’ that helps Bhutan in covering up the reality and trying to change history. Using that concept is very much like taking king Herod’s approach to an unwelcome reality: washing hands in innocence while allowing human rights violations to continue.

Not quite a good start for a political party I suppose.

If you want to know more about the reality of Bhutan and the situation of the Bhutanese exiles surf to http://www.headwindfilm.com, watch the trailer of the upcoming documentary and read my essay about the topic.

© 2012 Alice Verheij
writer, film maker, journalist
director of Headwind
Friend of Bhutan Media Society

Writer’s Block went global.

Today was a fun day. Valentines day, a day with gifts. Self induced gifts. First there were the wonderful pictures of my love and my best friend in Nepal, a lovely surprise during a long and loving Yahoo chat. Then there was of course the release – finally – of the first official trailer of the film I am making. A milestone for the production team. And on top of that I can say that as of today Writer’s Block has gone global.

Image by Flag Counter based on 1 month of monitoring Writer’s Block.

After a few years of writing on this website and a recent change from Dutch to English as the first and main language on my website I got the visual acknowledgement that Writers Block is being read all over the globe, on all continents. From Europe, to America, to Asia, Australia and even Africa. Obviously the largest audience is in Europe but the US is following strong and there is a great spread happening in South Asia. Not really a surprise but certainly something that I like very much.

Thanks everyone for reading and responding. Thanks for supporting and please keep coming back!

Alice ©  2012

The Headwind Poject: an overview.

In the past year the Headwind Project has broadened from making a documentary to much, much more. At this stage the project is in fact a more than full time job for the Headwind Production team. The following graph shows what is done and what is coming in the (near) future:

Alice © 2012

2011 herzien


In 2011 I crossed the 100.000 visits in 12 months marker and the 1200 posts boundary. Another year is coming for my Writers Block, most certainly full of surprises.

For the ones interested, here’s WordPress annual report of my Writers Block.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 100.000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

‘The Storm’ (2) or ‘Back Home?’

Deze diashow vereist JavaScript.

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

Uitgave nieuwe roman.

In de zomer van dit jaar schreef ik mijn eerste Engelstalige roman in de bergen vijfentwintig kilometer noordelijk van Kathmandu. Daar, in het kleine plaatsje Kakani van waaruit je over als slagroom soesjes op een zee van laveldel blauwe lucht drijvende witte toppen van de Himalaya uitkijkt. Na enkele weken was het boek dat zich in mijn hoofd gevormd had als manuscript klaar.

Het is maanden verder. De laatste loodjes van mijn laatste eigen redactie op het manuscript zijn zwaar. Zoals loodjes horen te zijn. Over enkele dagen vlieg ik weer naar Nepal en zal ik vanuit het vliegtuig Kakani kunnen zien liggen. Ik ga er vrienden zien en in de verloren momenten zal ik er de laatste hand leggen aan mijn eigen redactie van dit boek. Ik weet nu al dat er een paar passages ernstig veranderen. Zo moet het ook zijn. Je maakt iets tot op het punt dat je aanvankelijk denkt dat het klaar is maar dan laat je het rusten en rijpen. Na een tijdje buiten zicht gerezen te zijn blijkt het laagje deeg een luchtige volle cake geworden. En dan gaat die uit de vorm, wordt aangekleed en opgesierd. Klaar voor consumptie.

Dat aankleden en opsieren gebeurt in december. De laatste correctie door een Engelstalige redacteur ook. En wanneer dat allemaal is gebeurt wordt mijn nieuweling opgediend. In Nederland en in Nepal. Een synopsis:

Headwind, Laxmi’s Story, want zo heet ze, is een verhaal over een jonge vrouw die in haar vroege adolescentie vanuit een vluchtelingenkamp met haar familie migreert naar Nederland. In het kader van een third country resettlement programma van de Verenigde Naties. Eenmaal in Nederland begint de integratie in de Nederlandse samenleving. Een samenleving die wonderlijk is maar die met de openheid van een kind benaderd wordt. Maar ook een samenleving waarbinnen haar familie als een soort cocon in stand probeert te blijven. Laxmi verwijderd door haar jeugd en de contacten met leeftijdsgenoten zich van haar familie. Meer dan haar jongere broer met wie ze optrekt. Haar oudere broers werken vooral hard, haar ouders worstelen met hun identiteit in dit land dat niet biedt wat zij zo nodig hebben.
Voor Laxmi het Beldangi kamp in het Jhapa district in Nepal verliet had ze een vriendje: Jigme. Een mooie jongen van haar eigen leeftijd maar uit een lage kaste waar haar eigen familie in een hoge kaste leeft. Jigme werd getolereerd door haar ouders en broers en zusje. Eenmaal in Nederland echter blijkt dat Jigme naar Amerika gaat. Hij en Laxmi proberen contact te houden want de liefde is niet verdwenen. Laxmi’s ouders, vooral haar vader, willen dat er een einde komt aan de vriendschap tussen Laxmi en Jigme en vind een ander voor haar. Maar een gearrangeerd huwelijk is voor Laxmi vooral een gedwongen huwelijk en na een ruzie verlaat ze het huis en haar familie.
Enkele jaren later, Laxmi heeft dan een bloemenstalletje samen met een vriendin die ze van de inburgeringscursus kent, staat ineens Laxmi’s oom Suraj voor haar. Suraj leeft in Amerika en vraagt Laxmi haar vakantie bij zijn gezin door te brengen.
En al die tijd dat Laxmi in Nederland is denkt ze terug aan haar oude leven. Aan wat er in het kamp gebeurde, aan de mooie dingen maar ook aan de moeilijke en soms gruwelijke ervaringen uit de tijd dat ze een vluchteling was. Tot ze beseft dat de vlucht nog niet voorbij is.

Headwind, Laxmi’s Story komt in januari 2012 uit. De Nederlandse druk zal uitgegeven worden door WoordenStorm in samenwerking met de Empowerment Foundation in een beperkte oplage. De Nepalese druk wordt in Kathmandu uitgegeven later in 2012 en zal niet beschikbaar komen voor de Nederlandse markt. Het boek zal uitsluitend via internet te bestellen zijn. De opbrengsten van de verkoop van de roman komt geheel ten goede aan het werk van de Empowerment Foundation en meer speciaal aan het Headwind project dat bestaat uit de uitgifte van de roman, de productie van de documentaire film Headwind en de fototentoonstellingen. Headwind is een Empowerment Foundation project met als doel het vergroten van de bekendheid van het vluchtelingenvraagstuk van de Bhutaanse bevolking die in het begin van de negentiger jaren uit het zuiden van Bhutan is verdreven door hun koning en zijn leger.


Uitgave: 310 pagina’s middenformaat paperback met full color cover
Prijs: €18,95 inclusief BTW maar exclusief verzending
Distributie: via de auteur en de Empowerment Foundation (www.empowermentfoundation.nl)
Voorintekening: kan vanaf heden plaatsvinden door een email te sturen naar alice@empowermentfoundation.nl 

Language & taal.

It’s probably because I write so much in English these days and maybe also because for about half of the year my prime language is English in stead of Dutch, I don’t know. But for some reason I feel more comfortable to write in English than in my native language Dutch. It just kind of happens like that and although I very much love my own language that I regard as one of the most beautiful languages in the world I don’t really mind writing in English.

For some readers it’s inconvenient I suppose, to have a mix of publications in English and Dutch. And for some other readers it might be a turn off. Others might just like it and for my international readers it will probably be a change to be welcomed as most of them are better in reading English than Dutch.

And since the last Dutch article is about a week old now and since then a whole list of English written articles have found their way here, I decided to make a couple of changes. The default language of this website is shifting from Dutch to English, this concerns the user interface but not only that. The other thing is that the Dutch byline of Writers Block is also changed into a fitting English one. It basically means the same as the previous one. And of course all pages not connected to a specific Dutch language topic are being translated in the coming weeks but the ones that are covering Dutch language work will remain in Dutch. For now that is.

I hope the Dutchies wont mind too much and I promise to keep writing in Dutch quite often. I also hope all the others will welcome a more English language reading experience here.

So there it is, I’m defaulting to English.