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Monday, 13 April 2015

We are the change we wish to see in the world

Me and Chris in India

I went through a ‘phase’ in my life where I adolescently rejected any English in me and declared myself a citizen of Europe. I didn’t want to be associated with stiff upper lips, dysfunctional families nor bad food. I did not want to identify with people who sit outside pubs, next to strong heaters, trying desperately to feel like they are on holiday because they are eating humus with chorizo and olives. Trying so desperately to relax into relaxing. ‘Want another?’

Bolivian ladies, (the one of the left was our age 25 ish, the one of the right 35 ish...hard life)
So living abroad I once got a job on a yacht for two weeks going around Menorca, making sure rich summer school kids stayed talking in English. No one really cared, it was glorified babysitting: the school cared about the money, parents cared about time off for them and cool stuff for their kids; it seemed only I cared. I spent a long time on deck saying ‘In English!’ and was met with annoyed replies of 
‘Jessss’, ‘Jessss!’
‘Yes,’ I would say, trying to help their pronunciation, but by then they weren’t listening. It was a harrowing two weeks, cooped up with teenagers wanting crazy nights, too tired to barely function in the day, a claustrophobically small yacht; but it paid reasonably well, and to boot I came out with a really good suntan.

Back home in Barcelona, I strutted about the streets with my original boiled chicken skin now somewhat close to being nearly roasted: I felt great! Even beside olive skinned naturals. I felt so super great every time I looked in a mirror, and yet I also felt a growing uneasiness that I simply could not place. There was a tension somewhere in me that I didn’t know how to deal with, couldn’t grasp, couldn’t see far enough into my shadow to even make out its form.

A few days later, trying to relax in a queue, an English friend bumped into me! ‘Hulia!’ 

‘Hi! How are you?’
‘Fine. Look at you!!! You look so brown!’

in those few milliseconds the days of pent up tension flooded out through the pores of my being, evaporating into the cloudless sky. And there, in those milliseconds, did I realise, as much as I may say I am not English, I have inbuilt structures that are the fabrication of English society: 1) we go on holiday 2) we get brown 3) we expect to be rewarded for our hard work of trying in all that sun to relax through the sweat and come back needing various jealous compliments about our more browness than them.

Memories of delight of being seven, ten, twelve of returning after three weeks away, and being told I am brown, surged through me again: in the post office ‘You look good’; comparing my arm with my best friend to see who is browner; glee of peeling off skin; glee of sunburn (it’s true - really - we get excited by sunburn: it’s a step closer to the desired goal). We really are hijos de gamba (children of prawns), we really are rrrostbif (roast beef).

Stood there proudly in the queue, faced with my English friend’s jealousy of my tan, I realised that I cannot continue to ignore the fact: I am English.

19 years ago: In Siberut we lived for two (long) weeks like locals, foraging in the jungle, fishing...sweating. This man was the medicine man.

Ironically from that moment onwards I never really got down to the work of sunbathing again. I don’t need that confirmation of skin colour any longer (??!!!)...it’s as if that deep programming has left me and was able to surge out through my ever-renewing cells into the fresh air never to return.
But the idea that I am culturally programmed, however much I like or dislike, is still there. It only takes the discomfort of putting on a sari in India to know I am not Indian. So after fifteen years of living abroad I decided that I need to come back and live on the British Isles. I need to stop running. I need to let myself be English. Just to experience what it feels like to not be the eternal foreigner, ‘gringa’, ‘guiri’ ‘ξένος’, and not have to explain where I am from all of the time. Manchester United?
Ironically it took about five months for English people to stop asking if I were Dutch. I think I was speaking too clearly for an Englishwoman. One guy said ‘I thought you were a foreigner who spoke English really well.’

The Chicken Stall Adrian Crescini and I set up in the back yard. We sold 1500 chickens between Xmas and New Year 2001

But perhaps fifteen years is too long a time. How long did the prodigal son stay away? He worked with pigs. I worked with chickens. I came back here to rekindle ties with my family. I have always felt guilty that somehow because I didn’t live in England it created distance in our relating. Fifteen years is a long time, habits form, become incrusted. My mum can call me whenever she wants to, now for free, even to my mobile phone. She can. But habits are habits. I too forget. My brother, who used to constantly say that I wasn’t a good enough sibling to him, now apparently doesn’t want one. Do I? The only person who I feel closer to, is my father; we live on different planets, we always have done, and I give him respect that our relationship has not got worse the closer geographically that I am. It is a relief to realise he still expects nothing of me. It seems that I was running away, living abroad, trying to make the distance that came between what was my close-knit family, purely geographical.

After seven months here I have made a few friends. Acquaintances more than close friends. It is all one can really expect in a foreign culture. It feels that I am doing well. But I have not really made any close enough friends to stave off gripping feelings of loneliness, of incomprehension, of a desperate need to communicate deep down from within my soul, to open up down to the bones of my psyche. To put it bluntly: I have returned to adolescence, which is from where I left off. Fifteen years is a long time on the surface of the earth.

Meanwhile, underneath the surface, I am returning with a light of being that I have tended to all of these years. A light of who I am. I have often gone far within, and I have gone inside with others too. I have gone to dark places with people, and I have allowed myself to be elated. I have opened my heart. I have seen so much of the world, that I cannot actually, just come back and ‘fit in’. I cannot just settle down, into what I see as a lack of freedom for nothing other than fear of what the neighbours might think, for fear of the fuss that may happen if one declares freedom from the rule. In seven months here I have had five people explode their anger at me after having come close to them, four of which their main gripe is that I am ‘too free’.

What to do?

Rio Madre de Dios, we went down it for 8 days on those logs.

And so I begin to reclaim myself in solitude and allow myself to differentiate. Having tried so hard to connect to others in the only way I know...I have scared them. I express myself authentically (why would I do so in any other way? Why would I repress myself to fit in with the repressed?) and as I express feelings it seems that I open imaginary doors inside of them, doors they have had long held shut, hammered and jammed chairs against the handle. They suddenly feel naked, exposed, threatened. They think I want something from them. They think that I am a (psychic) thief (yes, I have actually been accused of this) and have been pushed away; that I am a bitch, a control freak, a narcissist and (yes this is true) someone said I make them want to vomit after dumping me for no apparent reason; that I am simply bad, bad, bad (without any objective reason) and thrown out of the house; that I am too open and dangerous so that I attract all sorts of bad types (though I haven’t as such but ‘believe you me if you continue like this and you WILL’) and have been asked to leave. Which lead me to believe it may be better after all to live alone. Ohh and there was one (an extra for free) this week in which a person declared that he had been to court for four years for similar situations (a hairdresser who cut my hair, we flirted together, and yes it was outrageous (ly good fun), but is that really material for a legal court case?) He has sadly said he cannot see me again. I thought he was my friend. But it seems English men can get very, very jealous. Good women act shut down.
What to do? I want to go home; but I have no home. Home is where the heart is. I have a heart. But do I really have to live in it on my own?

In Nepal with the children in the orphanage. 

So, before getting too down in the dumps I put out a facebook message to my friends out there, scattered around the globe, in which I expressed how down-to-my-bones alone I feel. How I really need (emotional) support. (Was that risky? Was that too open? Is it really so bad to express?) A friend of a friend responds - I don’t know her - ‘Come to my house, have coffee.’ Now an English person would find perfectly good excuses why it would not be possible. House? The brave ones may ask to go to a cafe, for safety. I run round.

Hitching in Valle de la Luna, South America, the first car picked us up, four hours later.

I have hitched all of my life. I have stayed in strangers homes often. I have slept top-and-tail with lorry drivers (with a girl friend in the bunk above). I have found that if you are aware of the dangers, hitching is a way of meeting the kindest of people, people who are willing to stop their momentum and give a stranger a helping hand. That’s nice. There are tricks to weed out the undesirables, ask them where they are going, check them out, tell them thanks but you’re not going that way, stand back, close the door. Easy. It is SAFE. I have also realised that if you expect people to be wonderful and kind then it often brings out their wonderful kindness naturally. They feel good about themselves. And why not? Why not goddamn enjoy being ourselves?

Clown workshop somewhere near New Mexico, US.

So I go around to my friend’s friend’s house, and meet a woman who is my mirror. Thank you Lord of the Universe and Stars and the Higher Consciousness from which all sources. Thank you. My body feels different vibrating in gratitude. I am open again. It turns out she is Swedish, lived in India for a while, has been married twenty years to an Tibetan, lived in Germany, and also lived on my beloved Paros (hence the link). She now lives in England. She obviously speaks a few languages. She feels the English society is very aggressive.

Thank you Shiva, Astarte and Jesus, Horus and Hare Krishna. Thank you. I am not going crazy.

Me and Kali.

I realise that actually, even though 13 years ago I had an English reaction to people not complimenting the colour of my roasted-chicken skin, I really am not culturally English any more. I don’t know when I split off. Maybe it was when I stopped making attacking comments that I called ‘jokes’ to my American boyfriend? ‘I say this to you to show you how close we are. Someone else would not accept it.’ 

‘It’s not funny.’ 
‘It’s just a joke!’ 
After a while I started to realise that he was right, it was not funny, it was me putting him down in a silly voice to make me feel superior and on top of it all saying ‘it’s a joke’ as if I were really smart and he was reacting like some jackass. Perhaps it was when I stopped sunbathing for more than an hour and a half on the Costa Brava, and only did if there is shade to avoid burning. Perhaps it was when I stopped drinking to get drunk, trying to ‘get away’ from all that had happened in the week. Perhaps it was in the beautiful nights listening to classical music and being loved and loving on our patio interior sipping red wine and chatting about philosophy into the warm night. Perhaps it was when, in Argentina, by osmosis I realised that the objective of life is not to get to the top of the ladder, especially if when you do there is a super-inflation and it gets crashed over night. Perhaps it was in art school in Greece feeling that it is ok to have a non-utilitarian life style? I don’t know, but it happened. I am not English, I was just born here.

On the Salt Planes of Uyuni...miles and miles of blinding white...

Thanks to my Swedish friend and her Tibetan husband, I have realised that I am an international. That I relate to people who have lived in lots of different countries, fleeing from the prison of origins, and have had to adapt to the external, not once, not twice, but nearly every day of their adult lives, having to realise that we cannot carry our own culture with us like shields against the ever-changing nature of reality. What is right for once place or time is not right for another. The people who are my clan are those who have had to learn a foreign language, who have gone through the ego bashing of sounding like a complete idiot, not when discussing philosophy, but when trying to buy a sausage in the ‘butchery’.

My clan are those who understand that πολλά (polla) is ‘many’ in Greek, but polla is not the same as pollo in Spanish and a wry smile comes to their lips, remembering their own similar fuck ups. My clan is formed by those who have experienced learning foreign languages and felt the opening of a mind-door to a tropical garden of a new culture. My clan is made up of people who have morphed themselves so differently through so many different cultures, and have become as comfortable living in nature and knowing how biogas is made while not freaking out about washing pots in the trickle of a stream right beside the cows, to surviving on mountain tops, to hitching in desserts, to getting through horrible amounts of hours of meditation, to living once in a while in the splendour of Jacuzzis and body work and absolute utter pampering.
Utter pampering! A ''sauna' with Doctor Gopal the Ayurvedic master.

So nice to chill out in the luxury of Ibiza

My clan are those who have wandered around the inner world and have realised that mono-theism 
has its reality but that it is a partial reality, that the mono god of the Christians is, deep down in the mystic realms the same as the Muslims and the Jews and the Hindus and even the Buddhists who have no god. My clan are those who feel the nature of reality and realise that there are millions of realities, one per person, and within that millions more, and that each reality has a mini god. My clan connect with earth’s bountiful nature and that they are open enough to experience life right now, as it is, as it unfolds.

Lyndsay and I on the top of the world. The Andes, two days train journey up from Salta, Argentina. 

My clan having morphed ourselves through so many different versions of ourselves, realise, in the same way that a knife is un cuchillo, una cullera, une cuillère and a μαχαίρι, that the essence of the metal utensil is the same wherever you go; and that all of the versions of ourselves are nothing but names on top of something that underneath is essentially the same wherever we go, whoever we are manifesting as. My clan are those who know that we are all one, even when separated by culture.
My clan are those who understand that there is a shift happening and it seems we have to each go through it alone, that the new critical mass hasn’t quite happened yet, that this new energy we are becoming has not connected between us yet, that we must stand firm in the lighthouse of our hearts as it feels the earth around us is going up in psychic quakes, in sun flare storms of the heart, as mass destruction of what was purifies into something we cannot yet imagine.

I feel we must believe in ourselves even as we all float, scared out of our wits, around and around in black holes of absolute unknowingness. While the only knowing that I feel I can know, a frayed insecure life-rope, is that we cannot identify and cling onto where we have come from, resort back to an upbringing of right and wrong, of countries being our identification, of single culture perspectives, one set of rules, one form of family with 2.4 children, of parents understanding more about the world than internetted children. It is now, simply old hat.

Children of today around the world quite commonly speak two or three languages by the time they are four, have brains that connect to technology, and understand that a person living in the same town may be as intimate or not as someone living on the other side of the world. War cannot happen as it did. We don’t fit into the slots anymore.
Biogas heaven. These kids speak three languages: Nepali, their own dialect and English.

We are the change we wish to see in the world. We are changing.

I am open. I am proud of it: it is my gift and my curse. I am grateful for it.

Namaste very mucho. 
Xristo Anesti. 
Orthodox Easter, Sunday 12 April 15.

Orthodox Church, Parokia Greece.