The 5th of May: endings and new beginnings.

May 5th, 2018: Dutch Liberation Day.

This day marked the end of the Second World War for The Netherlands in 1945. Although it is no longer a public holiday, the war casualties are still remembered on the eve of the 5th, with flags flown at half mast and two minutes of silence at 8 p.m. Flags are flown at full mast and cultural events celebrate the end of World War II and the Nazi occupation on the 5th.

5 May 2015: This was the date I chose to leave my home in New Zealand and become a digital nomad. The day I gave myself the freedom and time to prioritise recovery from severe mercury poisoning over staying stuck in a rut that was impeding that recovery, well-being and growth.

I lived in a mini van, travelled 70.000 km through Australia for about 28 months, and traveled for 8 months through Europe. The nomadic life enabled me to live simply, with little money, work less, and heal at a sustainable pace. Photography helped me to stay focused on the beauty of life rather that the symptoms of the mercury poisoning, kind people and nature helped me make my soul sing again.

Sitdance Downunder, Dance to Remember, the “Rhythm Beats (dementia) Blues workshop, a library with some 20.000 photos, an amazing life experience, and a much improved health are the result of making that bold move 3 years ago. I could not have done it alone. I am forever grateful to all those who supported me along the way.

5 May 2018: my 3 years of nomadic living have come to an end. I did not returned to New Zealand, but woke up in Holland instead. If somebody told 3 years ago that I would end up in my country of birth, 30 years after I emigrated, I would not have believed it.

A different kind of ‘journey’ awaits, I have where it will lead, but it is a new beginning and adventure for sure. For the next year I will be based in Holland. As before, you are invited to be a witness to the journey and I hope you will continue to enjoy my photography and stories.

Watch this space!

Perfect orange sunset skies are a fitting backdrop for a Dutch flag on May 5th, 2018.

A parting shot from Ireland.

After a hectic couple of weeks it is time to move from Ireland to England, Wales and Cornwall. I will be flying across today and continue camping in a van there. This has given me valuable freedom in Ireland. Most days I do not know where I will end up. At some stage during the day, the final destination always reveals itself, and generally for a good reason. I love this way of travel. It allows you to be in the ‘zone’ or 100% intuitive as to where one should travel.

So far most my destinations are related to Sitdance work, some for travel photography and stories that complement the Sitdance work. I collected lots of photos, videos and stories as I do everywhere, which, once winter comes, I hope to have time to edit and publish.

By late October I hope to have gathered all the materials I need for another 3 future Sitdance programmes and a training programme about my non-verbal, meaningful interaction methodology for use with those in advanced (often non-verbal) stages of dementia. Care staff may not have much time to do one-on-one work. However, family members may be pleased to learn how to non-verbally interact in a way that is enjoyable for all and offers a meaningful occupation of quality time together.

After the U.K. the following countries are still on the to do list: The Netherlands, France, Kosovo and Greece. After that it will be time to hibernate somewhere nice for a few months to turn everything into a cohesive whole.

Thanks again for being a witness to, and a part of my journey. I hope you will continue to do so as I enjoy your company very much. I am lucky that I get to meet people I know in most countries, but second best to that is your virtual company.

I leave you with a parting shot from Ireland: a spiritual, impressive landscape with one of the most friendliest, musical, and warmhearted peoples in the world, for sure.

Dingle Dazzle

‘Going with the flow’ is my favourite thing. Sometimes it is easy, other times life events can get in the way. However today was a great flow day. It did not start out that way though. I sprained by lower back a few days ago making moving about in a small campervan a bit of a challenge. Sitting, standing, lying down, there was not a single position that was comfortable, making it hard to tune in to a sense of adventure.

After visiting a nursing home I gave up work and choose to nurture my body instead. The nearest swimming pool was some 70km away. The pain was exhausting.  I needed a nana nap a few kilometres before I reached the pool. It rained heavily as I crawled under my blanket and before I knew it I fell into a deep sleep. The thunder of a passing truck woke me. Like an old man I crawled out of bed and back behind the steering wheel. The visit to the pool and the hot steam room relaxed my tense muscles and eased the pain a bit. I could start tuning in to the road ahead.

I looked at the map and the west coast of Ireland was calling with a promise of dramatic interactions between light, sky, sea and landscapes. As I got closer to town of Tralee, the skies cleared, the showers lessened. Dingle peninsula was not much further and with enough daylight left it became the destination for the day. Reaching the coast was immediately rewarded with a stunning view of Dingle peninsula across the bay. A conveniently placed parking lot made stopping possible. By this time I was very hungry, but that had to wait, a little snack had to do for the best light of the day would not wait.

The further I drove, the better the scenery got, but also the hungrier I got. I stopped near a beach to make a quick omelet. I managed to not feel guilty about eating. It proved to be the necessary delay that allowed inspiration for the last leg of the day to materialise.

I looked on the map and discovered a tiny road crossing the mountain ridge of the peninsula. I punched in a destination into my phone and turned on the navigation, allowing me to focus on the journey rather than the route. As I turned off the main road there was a sign warning drivers that there is a steep road ahead. The Irish sign shows a vehicle on an almost 45 degree slope. A bit exaggerated I thought, but the sign was not kidding.

The road narrowed to a single lane, bopped up and down and wobbled left to right as it climbed higher and higher. The van I am driving has a powerful engine and had no problem navigating the tricky terrain. Luckily I encountered no other traffic.

Choosing a road less travelled is always rewarding, and this one was no exception. The stunning views, the electrifying light, the dazzling colours, and the wild spiritual landscape made my soul sing.

But nothing is permanent and as the daylight faded, the spectacle was over. Time to head back to civilization, find a warm cozy pub, and edit the photos for an encore.

 

It is just a stunning day on the Isle of Man. I am here to film new Sitdance tutorials for the ‘Sitdance with the Celts’ programme. Any place looks good on a stunning day of course, but the the combination of unspoiled landscapes, both natural and man-made, buildings that seem to grow out of the landscape, or have been part of it for centuries, is just a fantastic recipe for soul nurturing beauty. It is wonderful to be in this part of there world. This almost abstract view is of the ruins ofPeel Castle, on the west side of the island. 

Visit to a day centre for the elderly in Tbilisi, Georgia

 

Today I had the opportunity to visit a place for elders in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Georgia is a very poor country and so I was expecting a very basic facility. I had no further information, but my landlord/host arranged the visit and came along to act as my translator. I had no idea what it would be like, but I grabbed my camera just in case. To my surprise it was located in one of the main streets of Tbilisi, a boulevard really with grand monumental buildings. It is quarter build by the Germans in the 1800’s. The building is as grand as all the others in this street that has been restored to its former glory.

This patron insisted that I photograph her. She got up and stood there proudly.

The interior matched the exterior with grand rooms and the most wonderful furniture. It is a day centre where elders can visit, socialise, and eat for free. There is a small area for permanent residents, but there is no medical or nursing care. It can accommodate 14 residents, but only eight are living there right now. During the day they can use the facilities of the day centre.

There is some serious macrame works decorating the building, all made by one man. It looks like an outsider art collection really. Some works are 3 meter tall.

I met some delightful characters today.

The day centre comes equipped with sitting areas, nooks for paying board games, a wonderful library, a room with an indoor aviary surrounded by chairs so patrons can sit and watch the birds, a beautifully decorated orthodox chapel and… a theatre. The funding comes from a few rich individuals or companies. The government owns the building. Paid staff, as well as volunteers, keep the place running.

Rehearsals in the little in-house theatre.

I was there just in time to witness a rehearsal in the theatre, and what a joy that was. The a cappella singing in typical Georgian fashion was incredible, raising hopes that I might be able to find a song or melody and some Georgian dance moves for a new Sitdance. Wouldn’t that be cool? Management is very keen on any form of collaboration, so watch this space.

 A patron and Tata, my guide at the day facility.

Getting from A to B, the Armenian way.

Getting from A to B, the Armenian way.

A farewell photo with my very helpful Armenian friend Tigran

.It is always much harder to get out of a big city than a small town. Yerevan, Armenian’s capital, must be one of the hardest cities to escape. I wanted to travel by bus, as I prefer to travel like a local. I said goodbye to my Armenian friend in Yerevan and took the ‘sardine express’, a neighbourhood microbus crammed with people to the rafters.

The ‘sardine express’.

Then switched to the stark but spacious metro to one of the many bus stations to find a bus that could take me to Goris, a small town in the south of Armenia, my destination for the day. But… there was no bus, nor at another station I tried, despite information provided by a guidebook and locals. I had the choice between a four-hour wait in the city with my bags or a shared, most likely unregistered taxi, which leaves once full. A shared taxi I choose. It is 11.38. So far there were two passengers and it seemed the driver is hunting for more.

Yerevan Metro.

The word ‘taxi’ does not equate luxury. It’s a station wagon with little leg space, a cracked windscreen, and a steering wheel on the wrong side. But is has Armenian carpets as seat covers and a crucifix dangling from the rear view mirror, so I hope we will fly like a magic carpet and be protected by divine forces. It will be interesting to see when I get to Goris.

Crusifix dangling from the rear-view mirror.

It is early May. Nature is awakening and the snows have almost gone, but so have many parts of the road surface. Once you leave Armenia’s capital Yerevan, the road turns to custard. Holes, bumps, and more bumps, sometimes so bad that drivers move to the other side of the road to avoid them. That is not the only thing they need to avoid. Herds of sheep use this highway too.

A herd of sheep on the highway.

12:23 Taxi is full and we are on our way. And when I say “full”, I mean full!. It was a wise decision to leave my suitcase in Yerevan and travel with one medium and one small daypack, which are easier to stow. This is not suitcase territory. My driver is the fastest on the road, overtaking every car in front of him at the most impossible locations or moments, like when he is on his mobile phone. I try not to look, as siting in the back there is nothing I can do but hope that he knows what he is doing. Sometimes he overtakes with only seconds to spare… The suspension is struggling and so is my body. Siting in the third row, right above the rear wheels I feel every bump reverberating through my spine, despite the Armenian carpets covering the seats.

Armenian carpets as seat covers.

The landscape is just stunning. Reminding me of Outback of Australia. It’s arid, rocky wild. Moody overcast weather adds to the feeling of otherworldlyness. The heavily tinted windows act as a gloomy brown filter. Oh I wished I could get out whenever I wanted to photograph this amazing landscape.

The tinted windows give the landscape a gloomy look.

After about two hours the car needed petrol and the passengers were allowed to get out. I climbed from my third row seat through the door of the second row. To my relief I discovered that my legs were still able to stretch and that the blood was still flowing.

 

Toilet sign in Armenian and Russian.

I recognised the Russian word for toilet and dashed. Not that I ever learned the word or the Russian alphabet but when the need is high, the brain learns fast. It was a squatting toilet. My knees were grateful that I did not need to squat. I was hungry too. I had barely grabbed a savoury pastry before we were rushed back into the taxi. Wrong petrol station, the right one was about a mile down the road. Yay, we get to get out again!

The petrol station.

Still hungry and little choice on offer, I bought an elongated donut filled with potato. It was so greasy and gross that I could not finish it. Why is roadside food the world over so poor in quality and disgusting? Armenian food can be so delicious! With the petrol tank filled, it is back inside for another two hours off the pothole slalom and overtaking derby.

A greasy potato-filled doughnut.

Chansons by Charles Aznavour, a famous French-Armenian singer tried to sooth the senses, as if a four-hour crammed and cramped taxi ride on a bumpy road with a mad driver is the most romantic thing one can do. The once popular Greek singer Demis Roussos has a go as well. I am pleasantly surprised that my grumpy driver is playing such an international repertoire of music. I am daydreaming of decompressing my body in a bath at my Goris hotel. Yeah right! Or as my Dutch grandmother would have said: “Oh Ja?” This is Armenia!

Charles Aznavour.

We just crossed a pass of 2320m with a sign saying “Silk Road”. THE Silk Road, the one I have been dreaming off travelling on my entire life, but whenever I had the opportunity there was a war somewhere making it impossible. Unfortunately I could not take a selfie with the sign to prove that I was there. We remain at high altitude for a while. It must be cold outside as snow is only a little higher up the slopes. People have set up tiny stalls along the way, trying to sell a few potatoes, or fruits. There is not a town insight, so I wonder where they have come from and why they have chosen such Godforsaken spots.

Goris, Armenia.

16:38 Goris, some five hours after I got in the taxi. I checked into my hotel for the night. It is poring with rain, but I don’t care, I am desperate for a good long walk and a wholesome meal.

Activity Resource for Aged Care Staff:

Questions to ask your residents and searches to undertake to foster further interest:

  1. Where is Armenia?
  2. Which countries share borders with Armenia?
  3. What does the Armenian and Russian alphabets look like?
  4. Who has heard of Charles Aznavour, a world famous French-Armenian singer?
  5. Can you name any of his songs? (find some on Youtube).
  6. Who has heard of the greek Demis Roussos (popular in 60’s-70’s?).
  7. Do you know any of his songs? (check out Youtube)
  8. Who had protective objects in their car like a crusifix or saint or similar.
  9. How much do you think a four-hour shared taxi ride would cost in Armenia? (6000 AMD)
  10. How much is 6000 Dram (AMD) in your currency?

 

 

Key to a meaningful existence till the very last day.

It is so wonderful to see a strong sense of community among Tibetan elders. Their sense of meaningful purpose till their last day stems from a believe that accumulating merit in this lifetime benefits the next.

Once I have some more time next week I will put a short doco together from inspirational footage shot over a few days I spent hanging out with them. Delightful days that made my soul sing.

Taking a first step, well flight really.

Photo:

A photo

through my airplane window

of a window

reflecting the window

I took the photo through.

 

The journey has begun!!!

It almost didn’t though, as I nearly missed my first flight. Due to changing timezones within Australia, my calendar did not adjust my departure time for the new timezone. A small panic  as I wandered into the airport terminal, when I realised I could be denied checking in. What a start that would have been. But the normally strict budget airline rules worked in my favour. I had 3 minutes to spare. The staff told me to relax, and processed my check-in with a smile. I am having a one-night stop-over in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Soon I will board the second flight that will get me to my first destination: Kathmandu, Nepal. I have been busy writing my first story on the plane that with accompanying questions that lifestyle/activities staff can use for a reminiscing activity with their residents.