Archive for August, 2010

Sunday 15 August 19.30h, I’m sitting on my bed studying Arabic; I look up and see this big brown rat staring at me. It looks at me for a few moments and then turns around and leaves via the balcony.

Today, Monday 16 August, same time, presumably the same rat walks in via the balcony sees me but walks right passed me into my house and seems to be checking out the place. I follow it into my bedroom and see it jump on my bed. I love animals but this is a bit too much. The very least I should have control over in this house is what or whom I share my bed with and it will definitely not be a rat. I raise my voice and start chasing after the rat; finally it leaves my house the way it came in.

I won’t be here tomorrow evening but can only imagine a whole rat family marching in and taking over my house.

Definitely time to go home…


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I have 2.5 weeks left before I go back to the Netherlands for a break.  Those last remaining weeks always make me restless and I’m looking forward to go home. My body feels a bit worn out and I’m tired of the floodings in my house, the many sleepless nights and the heat and pollution which make my eyes sting and my hands painful with eczema. I live in a very lively slightly rough area in the centre of town and this means constant sensory overload; dust, noise, heat and sometimes heartbreaking sights of poverty and neglect which had me rush home and crying on two occasions. The state of my clothes seems to reflect the state of my body; everything looks worn out and the colours seem less bright and what once was white is now greyish. I have only one pair of trousers left. I gave away one pair of trousers to a homeless man on the street along with a T-shirt flashing the lyrics ‘someone call the girl police’ from a song by Ani DiFranco (if he only knew what this song is about…).  My other pair of jeans is torn and has holes right in the bum area. I don’t think it would be very much appreciated me showing off my underwear here especially now during the holy month of Ramadan. I’ve started to feel quite embarrassed getting into work wearing the same trousers everyday but then again I wonder if people even notice these things.

So but anyway it is time to go back to the place that I have been calling home lately. One of the things that makes me very excited about going is the fact that my twin brother is one of the nominated actors for an important award and I’m going to attend the award ceremony in Amsterdam in September. I can only imagine all the pretty famous people in their fancy dresses sipping champagne and then there will be me being part of it… It feels very surreal thinking about it being here now not feeling very glamorous with my red puffy eyes wearing my pyjama trousers (washing my one pair of jeans!) and my Snoopy ‘wild 70s’ T-shirt.

It is amazing how most humans are able to adapt so quickly to new surroundings and blend in. Even after so many years of travelling I still get nervous and scared moving to a new place but inevitably end up surprising myself with my own capacity to find my own little niche, make friends with the neighbours, do sports and go to work like any normal person. After almost 20 years I decided a year ago to return back to the place where my parents live, where I’ve stored my stuff and where I grew up. Here too I had to find new friends, build up a routine of studying and find new routes to go running. Travelling and moving around has given me many wonderful things: a sense of freedom, it has made me see life through different eyes, it has given me goose bumps witnessing so much beauty, I’ve picked up a few new languages (not fluent but enough for street survival), but above all I have these wonderful people all over the world whom I can call friends.

But moving around so much has also left me with this one quite persistent feeling that my life hasn’t really started yet.  Rationally I know that life is what is happening right now right here but in the back of my mind there is always this little voice telling me that once I’ve settled down somewhere (preferably with this kind, cute, big hearted, funny person whom I haven’t  met yet  to share my life with) then my life will finally really start. That will be the moment I will feel ‘at home’ is what this little voice keeps telling me. But I also know that I always get restless staying in one place for a longer period of time, I get the urge to leave, to travel, to get away. I always had this and I wonder whether I will ever settle down.

I’ve started meditation a few months ago and this has made me realize how restless I actually am (also explaining the insomnia). Every morning before breakfast I sit down for 10 minutes and simply try and concentrate on my breathing. Sounds easy? It’s not! This is what goes through my mind during the average meditation session: ‘Ok El there’s nothing you have to do now except to focus on your breathing for only 10 minutes. Here I go: I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out. I’d love a coffee now, I wonder what my boss thinks of the report I handed in Thursday, oh and where did I put my key. HELLO! Back to breathing please! Ok breathing in breathing out, breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, my nose is itching, my goodness it’s so hot in here, oh that’s my neighbour screaming again, I wonder what she is actually saying, I’m really looking forward to my coffee now…HEY wait a minute! Back to breathing Ellen! Breathing in, what will I do with myself after I finish my PhD? Who did I need to write again? HELLO! Get back to breathing!! Breathing in, breathing out, breathing in etc. Amazing how something that appears so simple can be so painstakingly difficult. My mind is all over the place most of the time controlling me instead of ‘me’ controlling my thoughts.  But I keep trying and I’m very slowly beginning to feel the benefits of it. I feel slightly calmer and more in control of my life. Also by focussing consciously on the here and now I’ve had moments where I felt perfectly at home and at ease and happy without the need to be anywhere else or doing anything else. This has started me thinking that home is really a state of mind and perhaps not so much a place to go to. This probably sounds quite cliché for many but for me it is a whole new experience and it makes me hopeful; I might learn how to feel at home while doing what I love most which is exploring this strange, sometimes cruel but also very beautiful world.

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