You’re the puppet

So we saw a lot of Anti-Trump posters/protest signs at the Christopher Street Day/Cologne Pride weekend last week.

Given this state of the news this week, thought this is more relevant than ever!

Happy 5, Schatz!

When I think back on all my adventures in all the countries I’ve lived in and travelled to, the biggest, most challenging, most fulfilling adventure was meeting and falling in love with this remarkable example of a human exactly 5 years ago.

From having a whirlwind (and secret) romance in Blighty, to road tripping through India in the monsoon; from arguing over the statistics of long-distance working, to actually giving it a solid go; from watching our relationship grow over various black mirrors, to moving in, and then moving to 3 different countries together, we have managed to live through so much in such a short period of time.

Through all the arguments, the stresses, the ups and downs that come with daring to be with someone with a different passport (and all that that entails), through all the times we’ve had to start from scratch, trying to make it work in different countries with different languages and different sets of rules, we’ve made it!

He’s drawn closer to me when I’ve pushed him away. He’s encouraged me to communicate when I draw into myself. He’s always there to say “Let’s try just one more day!”, when I’ve nearly given up on us and our silly visa issues. He encourages us to have healthy debates about race, gender, politics, identity, and to evolve our points of view. He is my biggest cheerleader when I’m exploring something new or discovering something old and hidden re: my identity. He gives me the space I need to grow, watering me when I need it, and taking on the role of sunshine or silence or both, whichever I need at that moment.

No undertaking of mine is too silly for him. No personality quirk, too weird. If I want to pig out, he stocks up. If I want to watch trash, he preloads Nailed It! If I want to read, there’s a nook ready, complete with blanket and tea. He is considerate, loving, passionate and entirely without agenda. And with him, I am completely and utterly me!

I am proud to have him as my partner and my best friend. I am happy my family and friends get to know him and love him almost as deeply as I do.

Happy 5 mein Schatz! I love you.

(Artwork Commissioned from my good friend Wanwiss Paul. Contact her at wanwisspaul@gmail.com)

The Cologne House Hunt

If I have only one complaint two complaints about Cologne, it’s that people smoke way too much, and the housing market is a complete nightmare. In no other country I’ve moved to have I felt the possiblity of being homeless so keenly!

To spare you the drama, let me just say that I’ve already been lucky enough to find a lovely house right in the middle of old town. Cobblestone streets, old buildings, reading nooks, live sports showings, birds, the river … I can’t really complain!

But getting here has been one psychological nightmare ride full of sleepless nights and anxiety ridden tears. It’s not just the housing market here is so limited or that most houses have been repurposed for students who have no desire to host couples, it’s also that scammers thrive in this situation.

I was approached by many of these with lovely photos of stunningly furnished houses for such reasonable prices you can’t help but respond. If I wasn’t so good at rooting out catfishers (it was literally my job for a while), I’d be a few thousand Euros poorer.

The approach was quite creative. They’d say they were European and had only just bought and furnished the house, but that they’d gotten an unpassable opportunity abroad. So they thought of renting their house out through AirBnb. However, if someone is interested in it long term, they could also do it through the same way.

Now, if you’re deseperate for a house and hear the words AirBnb, you automatically trust that this is legit. But if you’re someone who actually uses airbnb, you suddenly start to smell something dodgy!

I also came across a second scam where they ask you to transfer money through western union. Apparently bank statements are not legit proof you have enough money to pay for a house.

When I asked why a money transfer, this is what they said.

While I hope that no innocent house seeker buys into these thinly veiled scams, it definitely made good conversation starters. And for that, I’m grateful.

Flipping The Narrative

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I know I have waxed ad nauseum about how much I despise corporate life, and how desperate I have been for a change of scene. To everyone who would hear me, I have ranted about my unfortunate passport and the lack of opportunities being awarded to me because of it. And then Spotify came to Bangkok. How is this relevant?

I have been listening to a LOT of music because of it. Music I wouldn’t have even bothered listening to during those Spotify-without-VPN days. And in listening to all sorts of music, I realised that we have become so conditioned to find the negative in everything. This is our first reaction.

“Have you heard the new Harry Styles album?”, “EWWWWWWWWW, no way!”

“Have you had the new 7/11 draught beer?”, “Erm, I’m not insane”

We dismiss new experiences because it says on the internet that it’s shit. Reviews on the internet are king! Doing what’s popular is the norm.

And I discovered all this while listening to a song I wouldn’t listen to. Crazy, right?

I had the revelation that rather than moping and whining about how everything is horrible, how the world is awful, how life has set you up for failure, etc, I would focus on trying, on being proactive, of taking crazy gambles that may not work out. After all, there might be something you’d fall in love with when you do. You might find home.

These startling motivational quotes provided to me by my brain in conjunction with a popular music streaming app has now helped me look at things differently.

  1. I work in a country many people are trying to get into desperately. I’m already here, and I’ve made it.
  2. My passport is not the best, but it opens way more doors than a lot of my friends who happen to be born in places Mr Trump wouldn’t be able to place on a map.
  3. I have a family who loves and supports me no matter what crazy decisions I make (and trust me, I make some insane ones)
  4. I have friends who root for me when I need a boost, who tell me how it is when I need a dose of truth, who send me music to soothe my soul, and funny videos of late night talk show hosts when I need to rage and laugh at the same time.
  5. As much as I hate the politics of my workplace, I get paid to do what I’m good at doing. My parents have had to struggle their whole lives, and they still don’t get as many work benefits as I have been getting.
  6. I live and work in a foreign country – it helps me stay out of my comfort zone and discover something new and exciting every day.
  7. I am able to go on long holidays, and thanks to technology, able to connect to my niece every single day if I need to.
  8. The world is f&^ed up, but I am surrounded by good people both in person and on the interwebs. Your heart, your drive, your energy, your passion, your goodness – it drives me.
  9. I live in a world where I can cuddle with all sorts of animals, and deal with my allergies thanks to the wonder of science.
  10. I am a woman who can vote, save, earn big bucks, spend them all on movie tickets and useless stuff I don’t need, I am able to wear what I want, I am able to have my voice heard.

Life is good. All you have to do is flip the narrative and focus on everything that you have going for you. Listen without bias, and you just may discover joy.

 

I’m a what?

Happy 20th Anniversary to the Harry Potter book series! I cannot believe it has been two decades of this magical madness, and yet if I think about it, of course, it’s been that long. So much has happened, so much has changed. One thing stays the same though – the feeling the books can kick up even if it’s the billionth time you’re reading it.

My brother had just been declared a genius and too smart for his class by his teachers and so we went book shopping. Not that we needed an excuse to do that, of course. Summer was enough of an excuse, but as a book-loving brother-sister duo, we double teamed our parents into taking us to the store.

While at the store, there was a lovely display of The Goblet Of Fire. It had just come out and they were trying to build the Harry Potter hype in Bangalore. My very religious aunt who was with us at the time said that she’d heard it was a good book. This was before she realised it was about wizards and witchcraft – everything she is against (and a few months before all convent schools banned the books from their libraries because of the same reason). We looked at the price of the book and baulked at the price.

We looked at the book, it looked promising. Then we looked at the back of the book and baulked at the price. You have to remember that I am raised by aid and development workers. This meant that anything that wasn’t a necessity was a luxury, including books that we had to buy, instead of borrow. Broseph and I tagged teamed it up again and convinced my parents, in the biggest miracle/con of our lives, to buy us all four books. We used the magic of “Be happy that we aren’t the kinds of kids who are asking for vintage air maxes and PS2’s”. To our surprise. it worked.

It was summer and we had a problem of logistics. Both of us wanted to read the book before the other. My brother won that argument because technically it was a present to him for being such a kid genius. So he got to read the books in the 1, 2, 3, 4 sequence, whereas I had to read it 4,3,2,1. Then my sister wanted it. It was the best summer I’ve had in a while. I remember road tripping to our grandparents’ house some 500

It was the best summer I’ve had in a while. I remember road tripping to our grandparents’ house some 500 kms away, lying in the back of the car, reading and taking a break by looking at the zooming sky and then crying at something that happened in the book. We finished 4 books in one week that summer.

But even to this day, the minute I read a familiar dialogue, my heart swells with joy. There is simple magic in words and stories, and they will always live on.

“Harry … yer a wizard”

“I’m a what?”

Bless!

P.S. Yes, I’m re-reading it! Of course, I am!