Laos

 

elephant bath

 

FROM DIEGO’S DIARY- One week in Laos. The airport is just as big as a warehouse, but the people are so increadibly friendly and happy. You walk half of the capital to find an internet cafe and call home… hard to imagine, but you can practise your french there in Vientiane! The coutry is very peaceful too due t the strong influence of buddhism, full of amazing little temples that touch your heart. Your accomodation is just like paradise. A long and difficult bus ride takes you to Ving Vang where you enjoy some river activity and meet up again with your vietnam mates! A little crack for the distance, 3 weeks have passed, but we cross over it: attraversiamo. Sitting on your bungalow terrace, with an amazing view on the river, you are probably reading these lines here… and it’s exactly today ONE YEAR ABOUT US, and we miss each other today, for real, like -it seems- there is no tomorrow, but then another day comes, even more beautiful than the one before. Tubing is one of the most amazing and exciting activity you probably ever did since crazy Australian adventures. You slide and jump into the river and the cost is full of bars and people partying insane. But is not enough, you go elephant riding and take your elephant to the river for a bath. Elephant was your favourite animal when you were a kid and now, there you are, on top of one and you rule the world, or at least Laos. You go around witha classic TUK TUK… But once again is time to fly over, direction HONG KONG!

Budapest

Budapest- 3 days. the alarm rings at 5AM, the lake is beautiful and shines in the rising sunlight. I go with my small trolley polly. I am an advanced traveller already: check in on line and miles on more in my wallet. I sit next to a rich Pakistan man who lives in Dubai (here i think is already the destiny who is calling me, this is a certain sign of my future plans coming to life) and a swiss-hungarian woman. As it happened regularly on the train, he starts spying in the papers I am reading: my negotiation notes. I feel good, a bit excited for my first business trip totally alone. in the end he obviously wants to talk: he tells me about his daughter who lives in switzerland, he asks me about my life and he invites me to Dubai. Can this be a coincidence? Well just two months later this episode I will go to Dubai for real… He also offers me ajob saying that with my master my first salary in Dubai will be around 5000 USD a month. Should I send him my resume?! I eat fornetti in the subway station, I discovered fornetti for the first time in Croatia, summer 2007. I ask always a mix of them and I love picking them up and discover what’s inside, one by one, sweet and salted. i get lost and I am late for my second meeting: I take a cab.


a view of the danube and the parliament

In these moments I always feel exactly like Carrie in sex and the city! The funny thing is that when I ask for directions in a bar where no one speaks english, i find my self in the street instead of in the square with the same name. Anyway this old man, could be my grandpa, says he wants to drive me there. For one second i start thinking that actually also

when i get on taxi there is no real way i can assume i am gonna be safer, and that the driver won’t take me soemwhere unknown… but anyway I decide to be careful even if my heart always shakes a bit whenever I see a grandpa. I miss mine too much. In fact I want to adopt one sooner or later. I visit 4 hotels in a row and I feel so good for my longest business performance ever! Then it rains, suddenly. I go to a laser show in the evening, sounds cool, but is actually pretty poor, I kind of fal asleep, but enjoy also the things that go wrong.

Part of the journey -I say. Finally at 22.00 I sit in a super nice restaurant outside on a small table. I am alone. and waiter gives me this short look of compassion. The food is gourgeous, there is a spiced indian carrot and corn soup just delicious, with some fried carrots in julienne on top. Tenderlion beef with vegetables as main course. Eastern EU is so cheap. I think about going to the hairdresser and maybe do some esthetic treatments.

Since I have to stay here all alone, at least i try to make the best out of it. This morning on my flight I thought that if I would be a hostess -which was one of my childhood dreams, besides becoming an english teacher-  I would give to my first passenger of the day a big responsability in influencing my working mood. So I decide to smile convincly to mine, since this is the first morning flight and i am her first passenger. She smiles back, just a second more than necessary: maybe we understand each other. On the second day I end up in a strange area of the city eating at the restaurant chain Thanks God it’s Friday: fried mac and cheese I could not believe something like that existed.

My alfredo noodles are just too much after my visit to the oldest thermal bath of town. My local agent takes me to the marvellous strudel factory, no need to tell you how gourgeous the strudel is. But what is curious is actually the sour cherry soup that I order as main dish!


the thermal baths

The Hungarian parliament is the third biggest parliament in the world, because of course it was meant to serve the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time. It was build super modern with a system of heating and air conditioning. There St. Stephen stands in the form of a statue in the central hall, embracing the krown, as the very first King of Hungary. Trattoria Venezia cuddles me a bit with some nice italian food before flying back home. It is the end of july 2010. And I do a little step forward in direction of me as a woman (business woman).

Attraversiamo – eat pray love

Maybe just because i am in this mood, and I just quit my job for real, and for real I am going travelling to Asia, I simply loved this movie. Maybe, yes, but also because besides the romance and the pictoresque images of this american movie, I recognized myself, and all the time that a story is able to open a door in my head I can’t avoid to love it.

“To find the balance you want, this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have 4 legs instead of 2. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead. That way, you will know God.”

At the beginnng of the movie Liz opens up her box with all her dreams and wishes about travelling and journeys and she takes the courage to go, leave, break everything she had known before. She wrote a piece about her past (unhappy) love experience called “permeable membrane” and i got immediately touched by it:
“If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will protect upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else.”

the movie

This is the journey we have in front, all of us, nowadays. When love is not imposed by our parents in our consumists societies (pretty different from the destiny of the indian friend of Liz, who has to get married at 17 with someone she does not know at all, and she just can figure out after how to live with it and find happiness)  and we pass from one boyfriend to another like changing pair of jeans. If it doesn’t work we just go for a new one, commitment lost his real sense, maybe is just too difficult, maybe is just not possible anymore with the lives we live now in the western world. We are surrounded and overwhealmed by opportunities and freedom, so we are paralized. And is not like we do not love, or we do not feel. We do throw ourselves into these stories, but we do it so much, so eager to believe that romance and happy ending still exist, that we just consume and burn them all, too fast. So we turn to the next one, and so we grow. We go underneath new layers of our personalities. And so the real journey begins.

“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.”

Eat is fot IT= ITALY. I see the movie and I am proud of my country, like I have never been anymore since quite some time… I like the way she -purely New Yorker woman-  digs into our typical italian stereoptypes: pasta e salsiccia, cute little streets, non verbal communication (the italians can tell stories just with gestures and no single words!) and big monuments, pieces of art and pieces of our imponent roman past. The Augustinean Mausoleo in Rome is the twist in the tale: Elizabeth understands that ruin is precious, because only after fall we can build up again, we can change ourselves and adapt; decadence is the basis for development, adaptation, discovery. I totally feel like this, I enjoy every single moment I suffered in my life, i put my both hands into the mud to shape a new me again, every time I needed to. And I am a warrior, because the key is: no matter how much you suffer, you have to keep going and you will born new, sooner or later. Nothing is everlasting in life. neither love, neither pain.

In India Elizabeth explores her spiritual dimension, when she does not know how to meditate, she starts dedicating her prayers to her friend, she starts to imagine her happy… and then she suddenly realizes that praying and meditating is exactly just about that, rather than a pure contemplative exercise. Each of us has to find his own temple in his own life, in his own simple house, among his simple everyday gestures, just within himself. “God dwells within you, as you.”

“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”

And finally she finds peace and balance: “not too much God – not too much selfishness”. But as the guru says: “To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.”.  I say: Oh MY God, seriously, am I just too much in this cheesy mood?! But i do seriously think that is exactly what i have been through in the last year and a half, since i moved to Switzerland. I came here to collect pieces of myself and forgive myself, forgive him- most of all- too, because he left me-us without giving me the chance to fix our love. And so I finally did: i recovered, but i was always so cinical towards men for long time. Then a new HE finally came into my life, and of course we were both freaking scared. He just took my hand and convinced me, that to be happy again there is no other way than trying again, no other possibility than trust again, in order to love. I opened up like a blossom in spring in his delicate embrace. And now I am finally so deeply happy. I discovered new things about myself just because I gave him the chance to look them up inside me. I lost bad habits and change some attitudes I did not like, because I observed my image reflected in the other person. I just accepted our love like something indeniably present and consistent between the two of us, day after day, and it happened than it grew, we fed it. Because i just did let things go, finally, and this made new things possible again, this made good things real. (Thanks Diego. I’ll be for ever grateful to you for teaching me again how to open my heart and let love flow through it.)

“This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something. “

the book

Of course this movie made me cry. I just could not help it anymore, when Elizabeth thinks about her past love and the pain she caused him, but also the happiness they shared. It has been real for a while. And they dance together: dance as a form of reconciliation before final separation…

Now I look back and I look forward. I can’t wait now to leave for my 52-days-journey by your side. I can’t wait to see you and wonder about things with you and be curious, and feel that we are making something good out of our small lives.

Besides all of this being emotional, I got seriously hungry now. I got nostalgic for my country when i saw her eating all those spaghetti, pizza margerita, gelato and antipasti pored with some good red wine. This movie is also a celebration of my culture and of my proud roots. She says she is having a relationship with her pizza, well if I could I would cheat on you with one of those real napolitan gorgeous pizzas right now… and I know you would do the same! What is also cool is that she talks about all this food and the acceptance of her body that comes with the pleasure of it. She just wants to enjoy it in a healthy way and forget about diets! Apparently americans can’t enjoy, even when they go on holidays they do not know how to relax. So Liz she defenetly learns the dolce far niente in my country.

When they are in Italy they all play a game, trying to find susbstutive words to describe and call things: like New York = ambitious, Stockholm = conformist, Rome= yeah well… sex! And so on. Liz she is still searching for her own word, she is a writer, just like the one i want to be! And at the end of the movie she finally finds it: the word is ATTRAVERSIAMO = let’s cross over. A word that -she says- embeds all the beautiful charachteristics of the italian language: the open sound A, the rolling R, the sweetening S. And well, I am exactly going to cross over soon, I will cross the ocean to meet you. Andiamo, together, attraversiamo.

good night

(original quotes from the book of Elizabeth Gilbert, 2006)

Vietnam

FROM DIEGO’S DIARY- An exhausting flight to land in Ho Chi Minh city, the second leg with a narrow asian airline, too small for your legs. Thanx got you could board on the plane after the police control analyzed your passport picture and your face in details… they just did not believe it is the same you. You look pretty different now from the kid who went to Australia some time ago. At the airport you bull around a bit with those swiss excited chicks going to Australia, just like you did… The taxi driver punked you a bit and you pay him his monthly salary just to get to the hotel, at least 2 nights you restore in a nice place before the tour starts.  Saigon is loud, busy, noisy…

traffic in saigon

you meet a german dude and you go for a beer with him. The next day you visit the vietcong tunnels and you meet the group of 8 cool guys who will travel next to you for the next 12 days. It’s bloody hot and humid, you crawl around, you eat asian food (pretty different from what we eat in Europe eh?!)  you risk your life trying to cross the streets which are just overpacked by motorbikes and all kind of traffic and vehicles. Kids freaking out in the street when they see you, a giant blond swiss. night train direction north for some jetski and beach. You already love it, and is just the beginning… You got to celebrate your NON-birthday today with a month in advanced, for a nice misunderstanding, so you can have it twice! You even got a 60 min wonderful massage that brought you back to life.

A crazy trainride from Nah trang to Hue and from there a bus to Hoi An. The bed was way smaller than last time, at least this hotel is very nice.  Hoi An in general is just wonderful, its strongly influenced by chinese architecture so for every house you can freak out! You decided to buy a suite for your new career in tourism -when you will be back- : a dark grey one with white stripes. 100 bucks, made it overnight, and all the Vietnamese girls in the shop measuring you giant blond exotic guy.

roam vietnam -gap adv

You buy art for your new house while I buy furniture here in switzerland… Finally you enjoyed some food, but also the drinks since rhum is pretty cheap down there… Someone came and told you that there is a beachparty: full of backpacker boys and girls, crazy music (Faithless, prodigy, pendulum) all night long and a wonderful beach just in front of you..  At 4 o clock a night swim is what you need. You already have all of them in your heart: Johnny Tom, Hannah, Laura, Nikki…
Monsoon time, but still 35 degrees outside. You start somehow to believe in the destiny whan you think about your wonderful life and the path in front of you, while one of your good friends becomes father… and you have the first (and hope last) bad adventure in Hue. Things that marks your body but most of all your soul, and make you grow. You find peace and recovery in the beauty of the Halong bay. Another crazy evening partying with the crazy city of Hanoi in black out. You party so good and dance so well that apparently someone falls in love with you, and he is a he… but is time to say goodbye -for now- and fly to Laos.

memento

Ho visto questo assurdo film di C. Nolan. Ho pensato in primo luogo alle preziosissime lezioni della mia carissima prof di storia dell’arte. Il memento mori nei dipinti e infatti un oggetto messo li a simbolo (di solito un teschio) della morte che attende tutti noi. Questo film e pieno di frasi che mi hanno scosso. il protagonista in seguito a un incidente non ha più la memoria a breve termine e ogni giorno si sveglia e non si ricorda da subito che la moglie è morta, in più non riesce a distinguere lo scorrere del tempo percio il tempo gli è totalmente inutile e non può curare il suo dolore.

lenny leonhard

In più mi ha fatto riflettere su una cosa a cui ho pensato spesso. Qunado chiudiamo gli occhi e proviamo a immaginare una persona che non vediamo da tempo non ci viene mai in mente una faccia completa, come una fotografia, ma piuttosto quello che la memoria fa è mettere insieme particolari e sensazioni, anche odori o luci, e mescolare il tutto in un cocktail emotivo che ci collega a quella persona. Infatti se cerco di zoomare nella mia testa e di vedere per esempio un dettaglio di questa immagine, il più delle volte non lo trovo, a mano che non sia qualcosa che il nostro cervello non abbia conosciuto e osservato a fondo. Mi fa capire ancora una volta quanto stupefacente sia il potere della nostra mente.

“Riesci quasi a sentire i dettagli, quelli che non hai mai pensato di esprimere con le parole. Frammenti che si fanno sentire anche se non vorresti. Li metti insieme e trovi il sapore di una persona, e capisci quanto ti mancano; e quanto odi che te li ha portati via.”

“Chissà quante volte l’ho fatto. Devo aver bruciato tonnellate di cose tue. Non riesco a ricordarmi di dimenticarti.”

“Devo credere in un mondo fuori dalla mia mente, devo convincermi che le mie azioni hanno ancora un senso, anche se non riesco a ricordarle. Devo convincermi che, anche se chiudo gli occhi, il mondo continua ad esserci…..allora sono convinto o no che il mondo continua ad esserci?….c’è ancora?…..sì. Tutti abbiamo bisogno di ricordi che ci rammentino chi siamo, io non sono diverso……….Allora, a che punto ero?”

“Come faccio a guarire se non posso sentire il tempo.”

2009/2010 con Erodoto

« Questa è l’esposizione della ricerca di Erodoto di Alicarnasso, perché gli eventi umani non svaniscano con il tempo e le imprese grandi e meravigliose, compiute sia dai Greci che dai barbari, non diventino prive di gloria; in particolare egli ricerca per quale ragione essi combatterono tra di loro. »

Molecole di formaggio si spargono nel vagone del treno, perchè i formaggi svizzeri sono buoni ma tutt’altro che discreti. Del resto la maggior parte di quelli che noi crediamo essere sapori, quando mangiamo, sono in realtà odori. Gli svizzeri sportivi e organizzati, quelli del weekend in montagna, in bici, al lago, tornano in treno con la sportina di pane formaggio e wurst… L’altra cosa buffa dei treni è quando il tuo vicino sta leggendo un giornale, è più forte di me, mi metto a leggere anche io pezzi di articoli che spuntano, al contrario e di fretta prima che la pagina venga girata. E si raccolgono mille diverse reazioni: da quelli stizziti che sbuffano e ti nascondono il foglio a quelli simpatici che te lo offrono o ti chiedono se hai finito prima di girare. Ma scusa, come se leggendolo pure io te lo rovinassi con lo sguardo. E poi il giornale è un mezzo di informazione pubblico, neanche ti stessi leggendo nel computer. Mi piacciono quelli che scrivono lettere in treno, perchè io lo faccio sempre! Alcuni veramente si mettono a guardare il film che guardi tu sul tuo schermo. E non fanno neanche finta. Ho allenato la mia capacità alla pazienza e alla tolleranza dei caratteri e delle personalità dissimili grazie al mio collega x. Andiamo in Germania insieme. E lui parla, parla, parla… A parte il vocione possente che mi stordiva ogni mattina, e l’odore dei piedi liberati dalle scarpe sotto la scrivania (ricorda il formaggio svizzero!) c’è poi quel modo di fare super macio… ma gli voglio bene. Il tutto accadde nel 2009/2010. L’anno in cu ho viaggiato di più nella mia vita.

i crossed this corridor for 20 months

Mi sentivo spesso come il primo giornalista della storia: l’Erodoto descritto da Kapuszynski alla scoperta delle popolazioni europee con le loro stranezze e abitudini. Erodoto classificava, raccoglieva, studiava, pensava, commentava, osservava. I tedeschi sono così, gli austriaci colà; i polacchi invece… Ma senza pregiudizi di sorta, solo come un libero esercizio di racconto della mia esperienza, mi sono messa anche io a fare spesso come Erodoto: dal confronto ho imparato tanto. Erodoto viaggiava e descriveva i barbari e le guerre. In tutto ciò la mia vita ha subito una brusca accelerata nell’ultimo anno e mi sono diventati insopportabili i ritmi pigri e statici. Qunado torno a casa a trovare i vecchi amici mi sembra di aprire un vecchio cassetto polveroso. Ah guarda! mi ero dimenticata, è tutto uguale. Ma non è che io vada in giro a dar sfoggio di chissà quali avventure, ma dopo un po’ non c’è più molto da dirsi, perche le nostre vite hanno preso strade opposte. Un po’ soffro sempre della sindrome dell’abbandono, ed è reciproco, perche qui tutti al contrario pensano che sia io che li ho abbandonati. Ma alla fine come si fa, perchè deve essere solo colpa e responsabilità unica di chi se ne va? Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Budapest, Krakow, Berlino, Londra, Parigi, Varsavia, Rothenburg, Koeln, New York e Boston… e poi da capo!!!

« Poiché, se si proponesse a tutti gli uomini di fare una scelta fra le varie tradizioni e li si invitasse a scegliersi le più belle, ciascuno, dopo opportuna riflessione, preferirebbe quelle del suo paese: tanto a ciascuno sembrano di gran lunga migliori le proprie costumanze. »

(Erodoto, Storie – libro III, 38)