This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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The writing on the wall

Processed with Snapseed.“Finally, in this greenery, Ulla stood as bride for the last time”

In the oldest restaurant in Stockholm the writing on the bathroom wall is by an 18th century poet-songwriter called Bellman. They are the last lines from a song describing a marvelous summer lunch out in the lush forest, by a spring.

Food and love always went hand in hand.

(Den Gyldene Freden, Stockholm, Sweden; October 2016)

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Freezing night in Stockholm

Processed with Snapseed.I am quite certain this 400 year-old gasthaus was alive last night. Either that, or the cold made the house shrink very loudly. Perhaps it moved a little, too… crept closer to the waterfront, if only anybody bothered to find out.

Fall has come to Stockholm. The tired sun barely throws its blanket off to say good morning as we land. Soon it will not even have the energy to get out of bed until way past 9 am.Processed with Snapseed.(Stockholm, Sweden; September 2016)


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About trauma, in stillness

Processed with Snapseed.After the first 5 days of work I was glad to take refuge in Michael Stone’s workshop. Three days of reflecting on how yoga and meditation dance with consciousness was the perfect soft landing from a journey of discovery in Southeast Asia.

The sun shone on our lunch group as I sipped on my golden milk and thought about our discussion about trauma, damage of the mind. We were guided to understand that the definition of an experience is when an event makes our senses have contact with the self. Something happens and we feel it through a web of the story we create around it. It gains context. But trauma is the opposite of an experience: our senses store something that has never had contact with the self. A trauma is the big elephant that stands in the spare bedroom of our brain, the one we never made contact with. The one we never experienced. The one that was never processed so that it belonged to the furniture. The one that, instead, drove us rearrange the rest of the rooms, or even to move to another house.

Trauma happens when something too humongous happens for us to be able to be Here and Now. We go on autopilot to survive. Diving deep to make contact with the self is not an option. We sometimes hurt people in the process (or rather, lack-of-process). Trauma creates karma for ourselves, and it is usually not positive karma. Sometimes the people we hurt end up with bad karma, too. The elephant casts a surprisingly large shadow.

Is it possible to make contact with the self, to connect the dots, years later? I would like to hope so. Will it fix what happened, years ago? Probably not. But opening the door to greet the elephant is a good first step. mstone-2(Helsinki, Finland; September 2016)

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Interlude: true colors

Processed with Snapseed.Coloring is good for a jet-lagged brain. Especially with my favorite souvenir from last summer: a box of Faber-Castell Polychromos, purchased from a lovely lady in a huge mall in Kuala Lumpur.

They say coloring brings the brain into the same state as meditation. In addition, one creates something beautiful and tangible. No better excuse to invest in new pencils.Processed with Snapseed.(Helsinki, Finland; September 2016)

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From SIN to HEL(L)


One last steamy noodle soup on Changi airport, followed by a lovely sticky choccie brownie in the Qantas First lounge. Seated between a lady with a huge Vuitton bag and immaculate tresses, and a gentleman executive of some global company, I felt quite the tramp with my dirty daypack, pink hoodie, and harem pants.

And then we were off, flying from SIN to HEL. Curled into my chair, with home-made woolen socks and a glass of champagne I thought of the past few weeks. For several reasons I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much on a holiday, but in many ways I have also been braver than ever before. It was a tough journey, but on these kinds of travels one meets many others who are or who have been on tough journeys. And it is especially those, who shine in spite of all adversities, that inspire to keep pushing the boundary between “can” and “can not”.

Now, laundry. Yes, I can.

(Above Russia; September 2016)

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Urban gardens

kl-8When you run out of space, go vertical. IKEA knows it, too. But nothing compares to how Asian metropoles go vertical. It seems to be quite expected to discover a resort on the rooftop of one’s apartment building: a multilayered pool like a maze, disappearing under shading palm trees; sun loungers and waterfalls and garden of flowers and butterflies; a gym; and naturally also a restaurant and a shop. In one condominium complex.

Save for a few palm fronds sticking over the rooftop edge, the secrets are only revealed if one lives higher up than one’s neighbors, or if one flies over the city. I wish we had more rooftop gardens in Finland, too. Street level gardens of apartment buildings are always too noisy and shaded, and usually focused on functionality (playgrounds and bicycle storages). But a secret oasis on the roof would be such a joy for every inhabitant – and perhaps it would even bring the reticent Finns to know their neighbors a little better.

(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; September 2016)

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Petaling Street

kl-410 years later, I was back in Kuala Lumpur. I had vowed never to return. Everything had been arranged and I did not have much of a choice. And so we woke up in KL one morning and, since one of my friends was a 1st time visitor, ended up on Petaling Street. The famous once-flea-market, now tourist-trap street with the red lanterns. And apparently under a glass roof, these days.
Processed with Snapseed.The shops lining the street did still sell traditional Chinese goods and foods, but the illegal copy industry of branded goods had taken over the whole street (how sad), save for a few stalls selling Indian print harem pants or street food. Otherwise it was sunglasses (Ray-Ban), “Louis Vuitton” bags, watches, “Gucci” T-shirts, and most, if not all, fake – of course. Apparently, if one is lucky one can find the real thing, sold on the street as an overflow product from a local factory. Most likely not, though, as such things would be sold in proper factory outlets, not out on Petaling Street.
Processed with Snapseed.How surprising to an (apparently) naïve person that the market for fake goods is large enough to carry a size of business of Petaling Street. Who buys all the quite obviously low-quality “Louis Vuitton” bags and “Dior” sunglasses? Asians? European or Australian tourists? What kind of social classes?

Every front side has a back side. The back (South) side of Petaling street is a jumbled mess. With up-and-coming hipster cafés like the Old China Café. Hipster. In KL, indeed. Next to fake luxury sunglasses, the search for authenticity snuggles close to the search for status at any cost.
kl-3It will be interesting to come back in 5 years time (of course only on idea level – I’m done with KL), to see how the presence of hipsters changes the offerings on Jalan Petaling. The crowd found in the cafés around Petaling seems to be  of the somewhat well-off and well-educated lot, one that, when they choose to, would spend much money on things it cannot get from elsewhere. Perhaps there is yet hope for Petaling Street.
kl-5(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; September 2016)

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A cliché that wasn’t

Processed with Snapseed.Langkawi. What a touristy-sounding destination. Never was on my travel bucket list. But somehow I ended up there anyway – and instead of my cliché come true, I was whisked away into the middle of a 10 million-year-old rainforest and by a large reef, on a wonderful private beach. The Andaman Resort makes an effort to educate visitors about the jungle, the ocean, and the reef. It claims to run a sustainable, green policy, which seems reasonable giving-back, in return of being allowed to run a resort in the middle of a nature conservation area.

Unfortunately, the cliché did manifest itself one day with a long dry spell. We drove down to Pantai Chenang. What a mistake. As we sat enjoying teh tarik by a beachside café, conversation was difficult due to the distractions of banana boats ripping through waves, parasailers being dragged around by fast boats, and jeeps transporting people from pickup points to watersport stations, and back. The water was criss-cross -littered with floating dividers in different colors, making out swim lanes and divisions between swimmers and motor equipment. I am glad to report none of us seemed inclined to buy a fanny pack, a souvenir T-shirt, and a beer; and as the sun set we happily drove back to our little corner of the island. Not even a photo remains of this experience.

The night was long, just the way I prefer: with philosophical conversation, a few bottles of wine, sounds of the beach, frog song, and the darkness of the rainforest. The essence of Langkawi is its gorgeous (and brave) nature. Only one person was reported killed due to the 2004 christmas tsunami – the reef right outside our resort took the blow and saved the island. While others party away on Pantai Chenang, the people of the resort collaborate to reconstruct the reef, giving back thanks of survival. This is the Langkawi I like and will one day return to. Because, again, my snorkel gear remained useless in my backpack.

(Langkawi, Malaysia; September 2016)

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Processed with Snapseed.It is a simple fact that one cannot avoid becoming wet when swimming. Thus it should not matter if one swims in sunshine or rain.

After one day of brilliant sunshine, the monsoon rolled over to our little beach. Gone was the golden sand and turquoise sea. Instead we had rain, and more rain; for a month to come should we choose to stay for so long. With the heavy, gray waves rolling in, lifting up sand and silt so the water was muddled, beach life was quite different. For instance, the seawater was warmed than the rain water, which made it more pleasant to be in the water than out of it on the beach.

What a lovely surprise to discover that monsoon rains are also the best times to beach-comb. Strange flotsam and jetsam floated towards us in the water. Styrofoam in a plastic bag (who puts styrofoam in a plastic bag??), toothbrushes, whole logs, flipflops, and a coconut, oval-shaped like Wilson the American football’s little brother.

When the rains ceded at night, the frogs came out. Hundreds of them. We sat, surrounded by their love recitals, in the beach bar. When the waiter brought out our martinis (nice and dirty), the wind picked up. Five minutes later, the rain squalls were spraying water even into the back of the bar, where we had escaped. The wind tousled our hair and the rain wet our faces as we continued to enjoy our martinis, now more aptly renamed Mai-Thai-phoons.

As I enjoyed my refill of olive brine and rainwater, I could not help but laugh at the bartenders’ dream job: one moment to protect all equipment, paper, and furniture textiles from the rain; and next one knew, to already run out to dress up the chairs and sun loungers for the 15 minutes the rain withheld its wetness. To be repeated, ad nauseam.

The frogs had it much easier. When it rains, swim in the rainwater. When it doesn’t rain, serenade to your nearest lovely mate.Processed with Snapseed.(Langkawi, Malaysia; September 2016)