Daan van Golden’s meditation on canvas

During a stay in Tokyo (1964-1965), Daan van Golden produced several paintings based on designs found on Japanese wrapping paper and domestic textiles. These square, chequered pictures reproduce the woven pattern of handkerchiefs. The artist required extreme concentration to paint the fine structure of crossing lines. Thus painting also became a form of meditation for him.

I spotted this painting at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam last summer. The crappy, badly lit smartphone pictures I took don’t do this piece of art any justice. It’s so meticulously detailed, it’s almost scary.

One article I read about the artist suggested that he created this painting (and a few more like it) to relax and calm after long days in Tokyo.

Artistic expression as a form of meditation to unwind… There certainly are worse ways to keep your sanity.

Daan van Golden’s meditation on canvas

Something needed to happen

Alhoewel, alcohol was verboden deze week. In de folder stond dat het niet de bedoeling was om de issues waarvoor je kwam op een makkelijke manier moeilijker te maken.

Remember when I said I co-funded/founded a book publisher called Das Mag Uitgevers?

(Hint: it was in this post)

This weekend, I got their first release in the mail; a collection of short stories by Maartje Wortel. Right in time for Sinterklaas, too!

IMG_20151207_143402 (Large)

The quote at the top of this post is from the first story, Het Kamp (“The Camp”), and roughly translates to:

However, alcohol was forbidden this week. The brochure stated that you weren’t supposed to make your issues more difficult in [such] an easy way.

(Context: After months of unfruitful therapy, the female protagonist joins a men-only lumber therapy camp.)

This passage made me smile, as did the title of the book: “Something Needs To Happen”.

Yeah, alcohol was a really easy way to make my issues more difficult. In fact, alcohol was probably source to most of issues I encountered, both at home, at work, in my social life, in my head, as well as in Japan. Something needed to happen.

So I made it happen.

Something needed to happen

Am I A Loser?

“In the months after my return home, more and more friends told me that, while they thought I was a dunce for choosing Iran as destination for my solo travel, they understood how I felt. Some of them had also spent their world trips being lonely and confused in their hotel room. Others never admitted that they felt terribly unhappy while studying abroad. Even the people who studied in Flanders, Belgium told me that they had a lot of trouble adjusting to the locals. The most notable thing was how much these setbacks had surprised us. As if anyone ever promised us it would be different.”

Another excerpt from Een grootse mislukking by Rutger Lemm, the book I wrote about before in my post on cultural discomfort.

So, clearly the phenomenon is pretty common. Is it weird that we ended up like that, though? Are we just weak? Unsuitable for faraway, lonely travel? Actually, I don’t think so. One of my friends put it like this:

“For a lot of people, going to a party, meeting, or any other gathering of people on their own is nerve wracking. What you did was a bit more intense.”

Let’s see. I was traveling…

  • alone…
  • for the first time…
  • for ten days…
  • in a country where I’ve never been before…
  • with a culture that’s totally different from mine…
  • and where I can’t speak or understand the language.

No wonder I felt stressed! Sure, it’s always unsettling to get out of your comfort zone. But hell, my comfort zone was over twenty-thousand kilometers away from me at the time!

Be sure to pay attention to the last few sentences in the above excerpt:

“The most notable thing was how much these setbacks had surprised us. As if anyone ever promised us it would be different.”

Of course, everyone should know better than to think it’s easy. I noted that in my post about Traveling Alone (and don’t forget to read the second part, Traveling Alone (2) as well) before.

Of course, no one actually promised it would be a non-stop party, but I find that the stories you hear from friends, the pictures on your Facebook wall, and blogs about traveling often give a distorted view on the subject of solo travel. No one likes to admit that they were miserable for even a day or a few hours, save for some complaints about rain and crappy taxi drivers. Instead, all you ever hear about is how liberating solo travel is, how much fun it can be and that you’ll learn a lot about yourself.

And it’s true. My trip was liberating, it was a lot of fun, and I definitely learned a lot about myself. I think that is why, four months later, I am still writing about my trip; it is to remind myself that there were good things and bad things.

And perhaps more importantly, which things were good and which things weren’t.

Am I A Loser?

3 months

This week marks my 3rd full month of sobriety. Time to celebrate! But how do you top going skydiving?

You don’t, really. At least, I didn’t have any cool ideas this time around. So instead, I decided to donate and crowdfund the money I saved:

  • I contributed towards The TPH Donation Experiment 3. Already looking forward to some death metal goodness.
  • I became co-founder of Das Mag Uitgevers, a cool new book publisher.
  • I tipped detectivedeathmachine for his cool little game Vile Halicarnassus. You can download it for free, so give it a try if you’ve got 30 minutes to spare.
  • I donated money to Wakker Dier, a Dutch animal rights organisation.

Money well spent, I believe.

3 months

Finding warmth

Last week, the central heating in my apartment broke down. Due to circumstances, it took over a week to get it fixed. In those eight days I had no heating and no warm water (meaning I could only shower with cold water.) The outside temperature at the time was around 10 degrees Celsius, and it probably wasn’t much warmer in my apartment.

So I got out a few blankets. I put on extra clothes, and bought a new pair of extra heavy sweatpants. I got used to washing myself with cold water, and showered at my parents’ place one evening. At night, I would light candles for extra warmth, drink steaming hot herbal tea, and huddle up on the couch in my warmest and comfiest clothes to read a book, while sitting under a layer of blankets.

It was actually pretty cozy.

Luckily, the heating is fixed now. And even though I’m really glad I can take hot showers again, I keep the temperature in my apartment a full 3 degrees (Celsius) lower from now on. I actually got used to the lower temperatures, it’s more comfortable to me.

There’s an analogy to be found here. In uncomfortable situations, or when you’re stressed, there are always methods to make things even the tiniest bit easier to bear. Ways to soften the blow. Eventually you adapt, and maybe even prefer the new situation.

Drinking, on the other hand, would be equivalent to setting my apartment on fire. Sure, it would be warm for a while, but is it really worth the risk of burning (hurting) myself? Needless to say, the situation would definitely be worse after the fire went out.

On my next trip, I will keep some blankets ready.

Finding warmth