50 and 21 on the 31st.

I had this plan to throw a big party in New Zealand for my 50th birthday/New Years Eve 2006, but I had to cancel those plans, since I am not there. You can't miss your own party, can you now. Wherever I would celebrate this day, the reality is that there would always be people missing without whom, the party would not be complete. They happen to live on various continents because my life takes me around the world. As 'the flow' has washed it up, I happen to celebrate this day this year in a place without being surrounded by any familiar faces, dear ones or loved ones. I am not worried about being alone or feeling lonely funnily enough, unlike some weeks ago when I was still agonising where and with whom I ‘should’ spend New Years Eve. Not because I have offers of company, but because I am happy to keep myself company or rather be present with myself, and the relevance of this day. I don’t know how I reached that point, but I am glad I did.

Video still: fireworks, Lugo, Spain

The last time I celebrated my birthday in a foreign place without familiar faces was 21 years ago, also during a ‘gap year’. I had just arrived in Sydney, Australia from Indonesia. That night became a different re-birth of sorts, one that I will never forget. I ‘came out’ to myself. It just happened. I must have reached a point where being authentic (the acceptance of myself) was more important than the respect and acceptance of others. Time to surrender and express an authentic part of myself that was ignored for 29 years.

Video still: fireworks, Lugo, Spain

God knows how I managed to survive that long in 'the closet', but I did. Lack of courage I suppose, but more importantly lack of positive role modeling. I did not know gays who I admired. I could not relate to stereotypes such as Mr. Humpfries of British sit-com ‘Are You Being Served?’ or Dutch TV personality Albert Mol. If being gay meant being like them, then I was definitely not gay. Homophobic jokes and sentiments were not particularly encouraging either. The bottom line was that I did not feel safe to explore my sexuality, so I ignored that authentic part of myself until it became too painful and it could no longer be ignored.

Video still: fireworks, Lugo, Spain

From that birthday forward I knew that being gay or queer was the most natural thing for me; that it is part of my authentic self. For me being queer is a way of being that permeates all aspects of my being, including spirituality, just as being spiritual permeates being queer. This notion does not easily find a platform for expression or understanding in spiritual and queer circles.

Video still: fireworks, Lugo, Spain

Since that birthday in Sydney I celebrate both (re-) birthdays that conveniently fall on the same day. It is interesting that 50 and 21 are both regarded as milestone birthdays, which in my case fall on the same day, in the same year, while being on this quest to align myself more with my authentic (and inclusive) Self.

Angelic Slovakian Voice

What touched me most during my weekend visit to Vienna was the angelic voice of three blind Slovakian folk singers, busking in the main streets of downtown Vienna, filling the street with the vibrations from their hearts. Every few hundred meters there was life music to be heard from places like Serbia, Rumania, Slovakia, Hungary. My entire weekend was filled with music, in the metro, a concert hall, the churches, the streets, all free it happened to be.

I fell in love with Vienna, again! The last time I was in Vienna was 22 years ago, just graduated, I was taken there to be trained as a tourguide, everything was taken care off. I was totally broke, but I felt so rich, so fortunate. I hummed Strauss waltzes all the time I was there. It was magic. This time it was no different. Less broke, but definately not in a position to spend lots of money to attend cultural events. I did not need to. Again I felt priviledged, light, content, connected, at ease, at peace, filled with light. So happy to just wander and be.


My network is down this week and can't post till its fixed, best wishes for the festive season, Marcel

The Pink Bridge ( the long version)

Just as my lens saw it.

Forgot to tell you a funny sad story. I was invited to a birthday party recently for drinks (alcohol in all imaginable strengths and flavours). When I arrived only three people had arrived. No one made much effort to communicate with the foreigner. I could just hear their eyes talk: “what are you doing here”. When I was offered an alcoholic drink I informed the host that I don’t drink alcohol but l would love some of the mineral water on offer. Well their jaws just dropped to the floor with a bang bigger than the Big Bang that created the universe. They laughed, but I don't think they thought it was funny. It was more laughter from sheer shock and unease. I could see them trying to figure out how a human being could survive without alcohol. “It’s our folklore!!!” was uttered in disbelieve. Well, different people have different folklore.

Sometimes one does like the Romans do out of respect or for the sake of gaining acceptance, but since interacting with locals here is a struggle regardless, I no longer see a reason why I would want to consume alcohol when it makes me feel like shit. I am enjoying good health at the moment for which I worked hard and which I am not willing to sacrifice easily. So I decided to no longer drink a bit of alcohol with the locals for the sake of ‘fitting in’.

The party came alive when a few more people arrived. All with their jackets on ‘coz it was freezing in the room. Complaints about the cold were solved by offering more and stronger alcohol instead of turning up the central heating, 'coz alcohol warms you, yeah right! All the guests turned out to be border guards for crying out loud. If only you knew how much I rather not deal with them… How on earth did I end up in the same room with all these border guards? I just had to laugh. I made sure I did that quietly. I have had so many hassles in my life with border guards and immigration departments because for years I was in an international same-sex relationship.

Anyway, the party continues... more alcohol, me going hard out on the bubbly water. One of the guards spoke English well, but used it only to make fun at the expense of his very shy female colleague and me. It was not used to connect or communicate with the foreigner. He informed me loudly, for all to hear in perfect English, that she was still single and available hahaha. I choose to not react to his sexist sense of humor or shut him up by disclosing the fact that I am as queer as 'my grandma's underpants' (a quote I spotted recently that made me laugh). I wish I had because his embarrassing humour continued. I wondered if the man was gay, he sure could be according to my ‘gaydar’, a closeted one of course.

Till now it was a funny story, but here comes the sad part: I did not speak out because the next time I cross that bridge into Hungary I will be scrutinised by him or his colleagues and I know that I can be refused entry anytime if the border guard decides to do so. If there is an aspect of me that he dislikes or feels threatened by, such as my sexual orientation, he can find a way to stop me without ever having to justify why. I have no desire to provide anyone with such joys, which sadly means I have to go back into my dark closet, something I promised myself I would never do ever again when I came out. Sadly at the age of almost 50 I still feel pressured to do so at times. It feels very uncomfortable when you have to suppress an aspect of your being for the sake of acceptance and survival. I did not really care if that man accepted me, but his official position made all the difference.

I am not being discriminated against overtly as I don’t tell anyone that I am gay. Instinct tells me that being gay is not so cool in small town Slovakia. I only have to observe how keen they are on foreigners, let alone alcohol-free foreigners to figure out that GAY-alcohol-free foreigners will make them… well what? That is the question! Lack of respect for anything ‘different’ provides people with the excuse to harm those who seemingly deviated from their norm. Harm can come in many ways.

Thus far I have been very conscious of being an outsider and being here because I want to learn about the culture and life here. I am also here to build (virtual and cultural) bridges as the Bridge Guard Artist-in-Residence. So far the flimsy bridges that have sprouted are mostly one-way bridges, which makes me wonder at times why this town supports the residency. Locals love it when you create art or talk about the bridge in a way that acknowledges the cultural historical significance of the bridge, or that makes them feel proud of the bridge, but is that my role?

It makes me wonder how should I behave, what should I disclose; if I should challenge or confront? Am I here to be nice and polite so they may remember me as this nice artist from New Zealand, am I here to conform? Or am I here as an artist, a creator of something new, something different, the extra-ordinary. That would require me to be more radical and confront them with topics that are not necessarily comfortable, that challenge their belief system and their religious teachings. I know the answer, but how do I do it?

I don't have the energy yet to do so, as doing that requires strength, personal strength and also physical strength. Such processes can be very draining. I am definately not here to weaken myself, be it through symbolic consumption of alcohol or having to explain myself in the eye of heterosexual assumptions and sexism.

I am not aware of any gay members in the community here, no one here knows (as far as I know) that I am gay, nobody asks. I think people assume I am straight, judging by the enquiries from straight men about my opinion on Slovakian or Hungarian women, expecting me to have the same (predatory) eyes for women as they do.

People still wonder why there are gay ghettos around the world and big gay parties where, as they say, homosexuality is being ‘flaunted'. What is surpressed or oppressed seeks equalisation, ways to decompress. I am just realising now why all week I have been so fixated on getting away for the weekend, escape Sturovo for a breath of gay-friendly air in Vienna, silently hoping for some nurturing in the form of acceptance without the need to explain myself. I booked a gay B&B, crazy in this day and age, but I just wanted a break from possible heterosexual assumptions for one moment.

That the ‘party jokes’ affected me personally even though they were not intended to, signals to issues within me that still require processing. It reminds me of old hurts from years of discrimination encountered while being in an international same-sex relationship. It is time to let go of that, yet again; the next layer of the onion, till hopefully one-day, there will be no onion left. I choose for now to act on this awareness rather than re-act. All I need to conclude for now is that I have forgiveness to do (which does not equal condoning the injustice). I can act on that awareness on a private level rather than react by acting out on an interpersonal level with say the border guards, I must admit my ego was very tempted by the opportunity, but I did not have my camera with me to document the response. Anyway that would put me on the same footing as the border guard, so I rather stop the cycle. That is ultimately what I am responsible for and in control of.

Being authentic is still a dream for many. Why do humans want to squash other humans in their quest for authenticity? My hunch is that it is just too threatening: If they allow someone else to be authentic (let alone provide support), they will ultimately have to face their own authentic self.

(Homo)sexuality is not the only thing that is forced into the closet in people's lives. I have met a young lad in Sturovo who aspires to be an artist; not work 9 to 5, not start a family, not make babies and not get stuck in a rut like his parents. He is having a very difficult time surviving (emotionally and spiritually) in small town post-communist Slovakia. This young lad is ‘queer’ too in a way, queer as in ‘not fitting the norm’.

I hope that this young lad will read this story and see the pink bridge so that whenever he sees the boring green-grey bridge he will be able to imagine it to be pink or whatever colour(s) he needs it to be to inspire him to pursue the journey of his Soul and seek his authentic self.

Bridge Link

I just discovered that the link in the sidebar of this blog to the Bridgeguard blog did not work. So just letting you know that it is fixed. The last post there has some images of me acting as Saint Nicolas for my family in The Netherlands. They did not know I was in the country, let alone played Siant Nic. for the family. Was great fun. Ate all the goodies one is supposed to eat at that time of year and brought peanut butter back to Slovakia. Oh a little bit of comfort food cann be soooo good.

A beautiful day today, blue skies, crisp. Finally beautiful light after weeks of dull skies. I saw so much beauty today where before I only saw uglyness. The day ended with the dense fog you see above, rendering Hungary invisible. The warm weather (daily 10 degrees or more above average) of the last five weeks has cooled down.

Bridge to Amsterdam

While I was in The Netherlands I visited my cousin who is a very evolved healer. I told her that I felt a bit down in Slovakia but that my heart started to sing again (echoed by my voice) as soon as I walked through the streets of Amsterdam. She was not surprised and informed me that Amsterdam is a very spiritual place, which could explain the sudden lift in my mood. I had never looked at the city in that context. A miracle took place in Amsterdam in the medieval times, which is still remembered yearly with a silent pilgrimage walk through the city at night in March. Anything goes in Amsterdam, a well-known fact. The city can handle it all as it has such a high spiritual vibration.

When I got back in Slovakia and unpacked I discovered that I had accidently taken a photo of my aunty Rie who passed away last October. The photo was on a table with some of my belongings at my sister's place. Auntie Rie was from Amsterdam. My mother's family IS Amsterdam. With her photo now on my wall the essence of Amsterdam is back in this residence and in my life. If there are moment that I feel alone I only have to look at her photo to remind myself that I am not. I know I never am, but my ego enjoys a sulk now and then, otherwise I will never get throught those big jars of peanut butter that I brought back from Holland, eh!