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.

It all depends on the weather…

The weather has been just appalling since yesterday, but just as I was about to leave the location I had selected to shoot a video tutorial for the Welsh dance ‘Farewell Marian’, the very wet drizzle stopped (and started, then stopped, started and then stoped again), juuuuuust long enough to film the 2 tutorials, PHEW!

Luckily I was prepared with a sheet of plastic to protect my laptop that needs to play the music, and an umbrella to protect my camera. There was a walking track next to where I was doing the filming. I could hear passers crunching their brains trying to figure out what on earth this guy was doing when they saw an empty folding chair standing in the rain, and me huddled next to the tripod with camera shielding it from the drizzle with an umbrella. Gives them something to talk about tonight doesn’t it 🤣.

I was looking for a pond, as it features the story behind the dance. What I got was not just a pond but also a castle, and not just any castle, but the one where Henry the 8th was born (Pembroke, Wales).

This dance will feature in the ‘Sitdance with the Celts’ programme, a Sitdance journey through the six celtic nation on the edges of Europe. I Visited 5 nations thus far: Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Cornwall and Wales, the last one is Brittany, the far west corner of France.

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.

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.

Purpose and intent

Image: Tibetan woman feeding pigeons at the Great Stupa of Boudha, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Every morning the pigeons and street dogs around the stupa are being fed. Tibetans honour all sentient beings, from the smallest primitive creature to the highly revered Dalai Lama.

The feeding of the pigeons is a ritualised act, meaning it is done with purpose and intent. It gives it meaning beyond the mundane act of providing food. This sense of unconditional respect is tangible around the stupa. This is only one of the many rituals that are constantly performed here.

Rituals demand focus and awareness. They create a heightened state of being present, with the world around us, with others, and most importantly with the divine, ones heart, and soul.

That is why it feels so amazing to just hang out here, because it brushes off on you, without having to do anything, other than being open to it, and willing to let it in. Being here facilitates a ‘coming home to myself’. You do not need to ‘be a Buddhist’ to experience this.

I hope that somehow, my photos, videos, stories, will facilitate a ‘coming home’ for anyone who feels alienated or displaced. I hope that somehow, the resources I create will empower those who work with our elders, to do the same. Nontropolis intends to be a ‘home’ for anyone, a ‘home’ that is nowhere in particular and everywhere at the same time.