‘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

A room with a view.

The second Rabbit Hole – My room with a view.

Ray Montagne sings it in the background.

Don’t let your mind get weary and confused
Your will be still, don’t try
Don’t let your heart get heavy child
Inside you there’s a strength that liesDon’t let your soul get lonely child
It’s only time, it will go by
Don’t look for love in faces, places
It’s in you, that’s where you’ll find kindness

Don’t look for love in faces, places… I guess that’s the lesson I’ve learned. In this early morning, after a coffee and a cigarette with my roommate who lives her life as I live mine on the same floor of the old house, I watch the sun playing with shadows through the small leaves of the birch tree outside my window. And I reflect upon my life as I live in a room with a view.

Is this place a stop like just another bus stop on a long journey or is it a destination for a long time to come. I am not sure but for the first time in many years it really feels like the latter. Somehow making this room I have in this house where I live mine was the easiest thing to do. Mainly because of that sunlight and the notion that I had to move from a much larger place just a room and an annex would force me to go to my core. Leave troubles and non essential goods behind. And I did. This place has everything I value when it comes to matter in it. I don’t need anything else. When I go back to the old place and see all the things there I realize that I don’t really need anything of it. I still have a month to empty that left over of past times and the longer it takes the lesser I want to bring anything from there to here.

Opposite me on the chaise longue, my cat lies snoring quietly. Melancholic music fills the room matching the exact mood I am in. My thoughts go back through the past ten years that were for a large part dominated by loss. Loss of both my parents, loss of a marriage and family life, loss of a fully functional body, loss of money, wealth and so many things not important. Sure, there was gain too. Gain in becoming who I am today, gain in enjoying matching physical and mental identities and gain of creativity to an extend that I had never imagined. I’ve become the artist I wanted to be without knowing it. And in my mind I add it all up with an outcome that feels good. Later this morning, the first summer weekend in the fall, I will go wandering the streets of the city, visit a second hand shop and go to the palace garden with a book and some music as my company. I know already that it is going to be a beautiful day. Maybe one of the best in this city so far. So I wander to the kitchen, make some sandwiches, give the cat some food and go. At least now there’s a place to come back to that feels safe… my new rabbit hole, my room with a view.

Alice © 2011

The rabbit hole 2.0.

It’s been rocky since I came back from Nepal. Getting used to life in this neurotic Dutch society isn’t easy after one has lost her heart in the mysterious and enchanting Nepal. But I managed so far. Working on the photo exhibition, which by the way was rather successful, did help me acclimatize.

After only a few weeks back I was overtaken by the financial drain of making movies. I had to leave my house. To prevent forceful eviction I frantically searched for a safe house. With a little help from some friends. And it worked itself out. Some good tips and meeting great folks has turned things around. So last weekend I shifted my stuff from my shelter (because that’s what my ‘old house’ was) to an old city house and a small but decent studio somewhere on the second floor. The house is over a hundred years old and as I understood in the very same room I am living now a character from a novel lived for some years. I share the house you see. With some wonderful people and on my floor a nice girl, gay like me, who has this lovely little dog and a great smile. Life is getting relaxed now.

The rent of the place is less than half of the other house that has been so hostile to me over the years, making life a bit easier for me. It also gives me the opportunity to have my dear sister from Nepal coming over in due time. Anyway, the room is square and high. Exactly what I have wanted for so long. So I decorated it in a style that is so much more me and so different from my old place (and the ones before that). It’s got everything. Old and high windows, old fashioned heating, big white walls that are now covered in record sleeves, dozens of small picture frames and musical instruments. Even the lighting is so much easier here. I made my little temple there and everywhere you look there are traces of me. It’s by far the most individual room I ever had. It even has an annex which is big enough for a sleepover. Next week my bed will arrive. A single bed that can made into a double in a jiffy. Because one never knows.

This house and these rooms, these people and the atmosphere here is so welcoming and friendly that right now I feel totally at home. A sensation that is rather new to me. I had in Nepal, I didn’t have it in the Netherlands in the last ten years. It feels like I’ve arrived. Finally. And now all the other – complicated – affairs can be taken on. Fixing situations that should have been fixed a long time ago but were impossible to fix due to the monthly financial drain hat my old place was for me.

Last night there was the shock of the news of the earthquake in Sikkim and Nepal. So close to my dear friends. After a night and morning long series of attempts to contact them I finally reached my dearest friend there. She’s safe and although life is difficult there, she’s cheerful. And so, after days of work and lots of tension, this evening has become one of the most relaxed evenings since my return from Nepal. I feel safe here, overlooking the old cities rooftops from my window with a tram passing by just around the corner. City life, city sounds. As it should be. I’m there where I am supposed to be. A place where I can create, write, edit my film, design things and think. A place that feels like… the rabbit hole.

Alice © 2011


Thuis is een etage in Den Haag met buiten regen en grijze lucht. Thuis is een boerderij in het Jhapa district met een mangoboom, een waterput, een toilet buiten en zon en moesson.

Thuis is mijn kinderen vast kunnen houden in plaats van te zien via Skype vanuit een krakkemikkig cybercafé in de stoffige stad. Thuis is mijn vrienden bij me weten en samen dal bhat eten na een lange dag.

Thuis is een wc met een wc pot en warm stromend water en altijd stroom. Thuis is load shedding en een gat in de grond in het veld.

Thuis is een geveegde straat met nieuwe auto’s en af en toe een motorfiets. Thuis is stof op de weg maar geen plaveisel, kleine oude auto’s die rammelen en waaraan altijd iets mankeert en die omgeven worden door grote aantallen brommertjes en motorfietsen in een orgastische mobiele heksenketel.

Thuis is gesloten kerken en hier en daar een moskee die vooral niet teveel mag opvallen. Maar thuis is ook in elke straat tempeltjes en heiligdommen, allerlei goden, geluiden, bloemenkransen, tika’s en wierook. En altijd het geluid van iemand die ergens zijn religieuze plicht doet. Zonder dwang.

Thuis is een zacht maar leeg bed waar heel soms iemand anders me vergezeld en thuis is een hard bed met de zachte armen van een lieve vrouw die me warm houdt, en ik haar.

Thuis is mensen op straat die snel lopen en niet lachen, gekleed in sobere kleuren. De gezichten vertrokken in een grimas van economische moeite en de onbedwingbare behoefte aan meer van wat dan ook. En thuis is vrouwen in de kleurigste gewaden en overal de lach van armoede en de aanvaarding van het gebrek aan van alles.

Thuis is Nederland. Thuis is Nepal. Voortaan ben ik altijd thuis.

Alice © 2011