vrijdag 7 maart 2014

A soft armour #5

I bought a new three piece walking suit. April 6th I will start walking to the Nomadic Village 2014, a 99 day walk to the south of Austria. Time for a new blog. Time to make sense again. Read more here:

zaterdag 14 december 2013

Death tho Those Who do not Rock and the Secret of the Nomadic Village

Here’s a story for you. A true story. Maybe you know it already. But it is always nice to hear it again.

One day, in the summer of 2013, when we were still building our temporary homes in the Nomadic Village, the nomads went to the recycle center in Cuges les Pins, not far from Marseille, to collect materials they might need. I was looking for things I could use to build a Memory Shop. Wood for a house, fabric for a tent, plastic for a light weight room. Instead of materials for walls I found a table with four drawers. In one of the drawers there was a book about Bedouin. I found wood for signposts. I found big rolls of sticker material in all colours. I found cloth hangers. I realised I wouldn’t need more. But just to make sure, I went through the containers one last time.

That is when I found a small silver coloured metal box. It was round. The top was black. When I shook it I heard something move around inside. I didn’t open it.

In the Nomadic Village I built my shop. It was easy. I put the table under a tree. I hung the cloth hangers in the tree. I cut out letters and shapes from the sticky material and worked on the signage. I sat on my table and opened my Memory Shop. I sewed memories in pockets. I kept the small box in sight.

People were curious what was inside. They asked me if I had opened it. But I hadn’t. I was more curious what was inside the people. And the box helped me to get a small peep inside their heads. People guessed what was inside. They moved the box in different ways. They listened to the sound. They came up with reasons why somebody would throw out this kind of box. Some people thought it was a ring. A coin. A tooth. An unpolished diamond. The key to the nomadic heart. A seed. A baby elephant. Schrödingers cat. The key to another box.

I left the box on my table unguarded a few times. I don’t know if anybody opened it. Nobody told me he did. But somebody did sent me an e-mail after I left, telling me that he dreamt he had opened the box. The content had disappointed him but the dream had given him some answers on questions he was struggling with.

Other people found other things in the dumpsters in the recycle centre. The Error Collective found a box with funny figurines. They adopted them, gave them shelter in the Error Biblioteque, a house built out of books and cardboard. One of these Little Errorists travelled with me after I left the Nomadic Village. We went to Portugal, to Amsterdam, to Vienna and back to Amsterdam. He is called Death to Those Who do not Rock. There is a guitar on his back. He likes to see me dance. I only saw him dancing once. He gave himself the task to watch over the little box and the secret inside.

I never really wonder what is inside but I do wonder what is the right moment to open it. It was suggested to me when Esmilda, my small and wise shop assistent, told me that there might be a small baby elephant inside and her father concluded that the right moment to open it was when I would be in need of an elephant.

I thought about that. When does one need an elephant? When did people use elephants and why? And the first thing that jumped my mind was Hannibal. He crossed the Alps with the help of elephants in 218 BC, it was one of the most celebrated achievements of any military force in ancient warfare.

In 2014 the Nomadic Village will be hosted in Austria. 2/3 of the country is covered by the Alps.

Did I already mention I love mountains?

zondag 3 november 2013

A new suit

I never thought I would ever wear a jogging suit in public. Emilia's suit. Three pieces again, sweatshirt, trousers and a t-shirt in a matching colour.
I left Amsterdam in the middle of August in a three piece walking suit. I wore it every day while walking and afterwards while being in the Nomadic Village. In the Nomadic Village I opened a memory shop. I sewed memories into peoples' pockets. I left the Nomadic Vilage in my suit, flew to Portugal to do a project in the mountains. When I arrived in Portugal, in Covas do Monte, there was no time to think about changing cloths. I was late, everybody was ready to harvest the corn. I was dropped in the middle of nowhere, I roled up my sleeves, I worked. That day and other days. Sometimes on my art project, sometimes in the fields.
One day we were picking grapes, it started raining, we got soaked. The rest of the afternoon we spent in Emilia's kitchen. She searched for dry clothes. She told me I could keep them.
A new suit. As comfortable as the other one. Different though. But it makes sense. Thoreaux writes we shouldn't procure new cloths as long as we haven't become a new person. These people changed me. They taught me a lot. Just by doing what they do every day, by sharing their life with me, even if it was only for 2,5 weeks.
Emilia's suit. I wear it with pride. Today it will bring me back to Amsterdam. And it makes sense. To arrive in a mountain village in a three piece walking suit and to arrive in the big city in a jogging suit. Turning the world upside down. Or even better: let it happen by itself.

dinsdag 15 oktober 2013


I walked for 40 days and I arrived in the Nomadic Village. There I opened a Memory Shop. It was located in one of the best locations in town, the central square Uptown. It was close to where I lived. From my shop I could see the biggest part of the village, the Love Tower, the Captain's blue city hall buss, the Golf Nomads, Symbio Lab, the Errorist Bibliothèque, the mobile dark room where Richard and Lucy developed their film, hotel Polaris. I worked there every day, together with my 4 year old shop assistent who knew all about elephants and fixing broken memories. She brought me lots of memories too. Big ones and small ones. Even now she still does.

I once studied history, but I never really considered myself a proper historian until I arrived in the Nomadic Village, until I spent two weeks collecting stories and creating new ones. A lot of the time in my shop I spent talking with customers about their memories, about ways to remember and ways to forget. I served madeleines in memory of Proust's "A la recherche du temps perdu" and a 10 year old port. And the darkest chocolate I could get. Sweet and bitter.

Sometimes a customer would take a nap in the back of the shop to dream of old memories or we would work on forgetting instead of remembering. Sometimes we would just talk and memories would pop up. Sometimes I collected my own memories, created new ones with other nomads.

My shop consisted of a tree and a table. The tree I used to hang the clothes from, the cloths I received to embroider memories in. The table had a memory of its own. I had found it at the recycle center, some people were bringing it in to throw it away just as I was rummaging through the containers to find things I might need. It was square and had the perfect size, a low table with four drawers. Three drawers contained nothing but dust, the fourth one had a book inside. It was a story about Bedouin,
the nomads from the Middle Eastern desert. It was covered in candle wax.

I received a lot of orders. I embroidered peoples' memories into other peoples' pockets. But there was too much to do. I wasn't able to finish all the work. So the last night in the Nomadic Village I wrote a letter to my customers. Here it is:                                               

                                                                                                                  Nomadic Village, 6-10-2013

Dear customer.

Due to professional circumstances, I might not have been able to finish your order. You can either take your cloth item and return it to me at some other time or you can leave it here and I will send it back to you once I embroided the memory in the pocket or have arranged to visit you somewhere in Europe.

It is our last night in the Nomadic Village 2013. There is a full moon outside. It has been there for almost two weeks. I have been looking at it every day, sitting on top of my table, staring at a full moon in the middle of a field.

In the beginning I didn't know how it worked. I asked the mayor. "How do I turn on the moon?" Somebody laughed when I asked. But the mayor didn't. He just explained where the socket was and asked me to be careful after it had been raining.

I was planning to work all night tonight. The last night. There are still a lot of unfinished orders and I take my shop very seriously. I promised people a memory and promises are sacred. But around midnight I needed a small break. And in this town you go to the Sky Bar when you need a break. I knew it was open because there was music but when I arrived, the space had transformed into the Basement Lounge. It was busy. There was laughter. Laughter and love.

I sat inbetween the small crowd. We read the freshly printed newspaper "Looking for love". But only when Fee read one of the questions and all the answers relating to that question out loud while Thomas was recording her voice, I realised what was happening, what had happened. The question was: Is love something you use or waste or does it grow? She read the answers as if it was one answer and I realised the answer was in this situation itself, in these two weeks, in how it had brought us together, how it had transformed us. We had become one body. All our answers formed one communal answer. Together we knew what love was. We found it hard to find it on our own, but together we managed to find the answer. Maybe for the time being only, but that didn't matter. Time doesn't matter. Love does.

We drank more wine. We talked. We listened to the music. We squeezed the pigs. We wondered how Bolle had managed to get up in the Sky Bar through the small hatch. The usual subjects. But we were tired. And one after the other we left to go to sleep.

When I passed the map on the side of the sanitary building, for a moment I thought it was blank again. I thought somebody had erased all the routes we had travelled. And it made sense. Because we don't really care about where we come from. We care about where we are.

And when I walked back, Penka was walking just behind me. She gave me a good night hug. She said "If it is too cold in your place or if you feel uncomfortable, just come home, just knock on our door."

I was at home in her words. And I hope you will be in mine.

I know I promised you something. And I will keep my promise.
Next time when we meet, wear this cloth item or bring it with you. Or any other cloth item. I will embroider a memory inside. And for the time being I give you this memory. The memory of how I spent my last evening as a shop keeper in the Nomadic Village 2013.

Until we meet again and with all my love

Your memory caretaker

zaterdag 28 september 2013

Day 40. Walking with my mother & father

The end and the beginning. I had feared this day. But only in the last couple of days, because for a long time there had been no end and no beginning apart from the beginning and the ending of the day.
I had been enclosed in the day, lived the day like you live a life. Getting up in the morning, smiling, a full day ahead of me. Packing, moving my feet, a new road, new people, new stories. The smells, the sounds, the unexpected events. Things going wrong, things going right by going wrong, jumping, stumbling, embracing, standing still in the movement.

This last day was reserved by my parents. And it made sense. They gave me every day of my life, they gave me the end and the beginning. They taught me how to walk.

My mother had sent me an e-mail yesterday. Asking if my grandmother could come along too. Of course she could. In fact she was there already. And today they were all there. My mother, who at her heydays had 32 cats and a couple of dogs (amongst other animals), was there this morning when I woke up in the lonely forest, still wondering where on earth all those dogs I had heard were located and discovered that across the small path a cat and dog pension was located, hidden behind the trees. My grandmother, who loved flowers, when I started walking and entered the village of Auriol and saw the sign "ville fleurie", flower village. I petted all the cats I saw, drank my coffee the way my grandmother taught me to drink it. Bought a map. Remembered the man from Cuges-les-Pins whom I met last week just when I was looking at my route and who told me that I wouldn't be able to cross the mountains. They were too high. He said I should walk around them.

But I was walking with my father today. So there was no way around it.

I crossed the mountains. It took most of the day. My bag was heavy because I had collected some extra things in the last days. It was hot, I had to carry enough water. But I walked as if I had only just started walking, as if there was nothing on my back.

My mother stayed at the foot of the mountains. My father went all the way to the top when I decided to walk on after the Col de Bertagne. My grandmother accompanied me until the sun set and I saw Cuges-les-Pins in the far distance.

It still took me another 2 hours. And before I walked into the Nomadic Village I stopped and sat down at a bench in the middle of Cuges. I waited. But I wasn't sure what I was waiting for. For something to end or for something to begin.

zondag 22 september 2013

Day 39. Walking with Anton Tellegen

Last breakfast with a mountain

First stop in Châteauneuf-le-Rouge where there is a line in front of a shop on the village square. I approach and see a shop window with the most amazing cakes and pastries. Yesterday was my birthday. I didn't eat any birthday cake. And more important: today I am walking with Toon Tellegen's father, Anton Tellegen. It is his birthday, and I don't know anybody who is more keen on cakes than Toon is.
The moment I sit down, sip my coffee, take a bite, open my computer, an e-mail arrives. It is Toon. He must have smelled the chocolate cake.

I asked him if there was anything he wanted to tell me about his father. He writes that his father was a kind man.

I walk on. Walking with a dead man sometimes makes more sense than symbolically walking with somebody who is alive. You know that that person is somewhere else really. But the dead person isn't anywhere, so he can just as well be there with you.

I like spending time with kind people.

I thought the walking would be difficult today because the map showed big roads but the map is only a map and it didn't show how empty the roads are, how much space there is for the walker. It is an eerie landscape, now and then I look back and see the mountain range I walked through yesterday. Table mountains. I think of Cape Town, South Africa.

Sometimes you encounter strange things on the road. I bump into a black panter, lying on top of a pile of shoes. The panter is harmless, the shoes are old. There is a lot of rubbish aside the road anyway. It always makes me sad.

After les Michels it is forest again. Breathing space. I walk until I arrive at the Vallon de l'Homme Mort, the Valley of the Dead Man. I walk through it and at the other side I see the last mountain range I have to cross. It sounds cliché but I think about the promised land. It looks like it. Maybe it is the light, maybe it is the 40 days, maybe it is the name of this Valley. Anyway. Almost there. I feel happy. I feel sad. I try to stay in the almost.

The last night out on my own. I want to sleep in the wild. I find the perfect spot on a hill under an olive tree. The sun sets, I eat the leftovers from yesterdays birthday diner, pizza with eggplant, parmigiano and herbs, red wine, fresh figs from the trees around the corner.

At night I wake up because I hear something, someone, stumbling around in the bushes next to my tent. I know the smallest animals usually make the biggest sound but it does feel like a creature with a reasonable size. In the night I am not afraid of animals, only of human beings. A snoring sound. It is only a wild pig. I fall asleep again.

zaterdag 21 september 2013

Day 38. Walking with Monique Besten

I celebrate today in the company of a mountain. We changed colours this morning. I felt softer. He looked tougher than he did yesterday. He didn't move, so I stayed too. I came closer even. And thought about leaving by staying, moving by only closing your eyes. Whenever I look up from my ipad I see him. Her. It.
This morning I stared at the peaks while eating my breakfast. I sat in the grass. When I stood up two small snails had crawled onto my trousers.

Mont Sainte-Victoire. Cézanne's mountain.

Happy birthday to me. (And thank you Albert for giving me a day for myself.)