This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Hasa diga eebowai

musicalThe Book of Mormon made me laugh so I shed tears. Yes, it is insulting, intelligent, and vulgar. My colleague in London told me she saw it when it was new, and one-quarter of the audience walked out during intermission and never returned to their seats. But what most people miss (perhaps?) is the sweetness in the second half: how people try so very much their best to live in a harsh world seemingly filled with limitations. The deep lessons in the ending: how another’s culture is always understood through the filter our own culture, programmed in our minds when we grew up. How, in the end, the characters on stage were all trying their very best to help each other live as good lives as possible, all in their own ways.

It seems that most viewers remember the phrase “hasa diga eebowai”. “F*ck you God”. This is also the reason many people leave the musical in the middle of the show. But what many do not seem to remember is that it was used as an expression of survival and strength in a world where individuals are targeted with numerous inexplicable sufferings: AIDS, poverty, natural disaster. “If you don’t like what we say, try living here a couple days. Watch all your friends and family die; hasa diga eebowai!”.

There is strength in words. And sometimes those words are terrible. Because the world is sometimes terrible.

(London, United Kingdom; September 2017)


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Look up and tell me what you see

astro-2I may have studied a little bit of astrophysics and astrobiology, but when it comes to looking up and knowing what I am seeing – well, that is a completely different thing. The constellations I know are the ones I learned when I was a child: the Big Dipper/Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, and the Polar Star. That is it. Orion? Betelgeuse? Halcyon? The Zodiac? I had no clue. How does the night sky shift (or how does our planet actually move) through the seasons, and how do I orientate to find stars and constellations? No knowledge.

Fortunately, spending one day with the local university astronomy society helps, I find. The only thing is, stargazing with equipment is not so easy. The past 3 years I have tried to combine remembering my intention to stargaze with the weather report and have not been successful at all. Every time I remember it is overcast, and every time I do not remember, there are weeks of clear skies to use the astronomy society’s telescopes. astro-3One sunny day in August I discovered that the little, old observatory was open for sun viewings. The sun is a star, right? Mission accomplished. And I have been able to stare at the sun without being blinded. Seeing its protrusions, its sunspots, all the beauty flaws it tries to hide under its brilliant light. I have seen the true nature of the sun and it is absolutely fascinating.
astro-1(Helsinki, Finland; September 2017)


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In transit

pajeboatDear Africa, after two months it is time for me to go home. It would have been easy for me to spend another two months getting to know you better, but then I would have much explaining to do for those back home. I have barely seen anything geographically, but experienced vastly greater expanses.

A year ago I went through the apartment following the KonMari method, removing every object that does not spark joy and keeping those that do. Surprisingly many Ikea bags and garbage bags left that relatively minimalist home. For the past two months I have carried my entire home on my back: clothes for 4 seasons, including outdoors, yoga, and beach wear, a yoga mat, books, and much else. Twenty kilos plus a daypack. I really do not need much else either, and yet I have so much more stuff waiting for me at home.

Perhaps life in transit means life without a proper home. But life in transit also means only taking as much as one can carry, and being sure about the essentials and the superfluous things. Being sure about what, physically and emotionally, we want to carry on our backs from point A to point B.

Some years ago the blogosphere was raving about the Burning House challenge: what would you take with you from  your home if your house was burning? You would need to be able to carry it yourself, and take a picture of everything at once. I am going back home to a reverse Burning House challenge: from being able to carry my entire life for two months to further minimalizing my life so the “click-point” of Marie Kondo’s definition for “enough stuff” is much lower than what it used to be.

During this journey of two months I have carried more mental and emotional weight than physical weight. I have not shared much of it here and do not intend to now, either. It has been a difficult journey and in my private journal I have written pages and pages about pain. But in the spirit of a deeper insight, when I dump my backpacks on the floor at home I will let it all go and see what stays. And that which stays will need to be laundered, tended to, thanked, and made ready for the next adventure.

(Dar es Salaam airport, Tanzania; August 2017)