Is it just me, or does anybody else feel woefully unprepared for the world we’re now living in?

Man, there doesn’t seem too much left to say about it all, because we’re all heavily addicted to our media of choice, telling us the version of the world around us that corresponds most to the world view to which we’ve already subscribed. Orwell’s Newspeak seems to be the lingua franca of this brave new world, and history is indeed repeating, though the stakes are higher, seeing as how the powers that be now have godly powers, the ability to take decisions about the environment or international conflicts that render the future of humanity and the planet as we know it obsolete.

Suffice it to say, for whatever number of reasons, I never thought it could get this bad.

I’m writing from a hostel in Jerusalem; tomorrow I’ll make my way to Gaza. The last several months have been a whirlwind of wonderful and terrible, and this place seems so appropriate to the narrative of my life this year. I’m still hopelessly in love with the city I’ve called home in 2016, though it’s looking increasingly likely it won’t be home too far into the new year. Work is excellent on so many levels: I’m working with the most intelligent, dedicated team I’ve ever had the pleasure to collaborate with; it’s an honour to call the organisations we work with partners; I’m constantly challenged and learning and realising how very much more there is to learn, how very many more challenges lie ahead.

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Hallo. Een update.

Ok. so yeah, I guess one could say that “it has been awhile” since I last wrote on this blog (I see it was on 03/03/2016…). Thanks for pointing that out guys.

There has been a “slight change of plan” on my side and it’s probably a good time to write a well overdue little update about it.

It’s late afternoon on a sunday, and tomorrow instead of heading into work to write code for a mobile application all day, I’ll head to ‘Forum’, which is the main building of Wageningen University in the Netherlands where I’ll be starting my first class for a Masters in Agroecology and Organic Agriculture. Wait – what??!!

Yep. 37-years old and going back to school. Rewinding a few months, I found myself working a job that turned out to be somewhat disappointing and in which I didn’t see myself working in the foreseeable future. Things were not going well to say the least, and when it’s like this there aren’t many choices…I chose to move on. In general, if things don’t go well, it’s often better to try and change them rather than wait around for them to magically change by themselves (that might have to do with my chronic impatience). Anyway, long story short, I found out about this Masters programme (which is actually with a French school but has its first year abroad) and even though the deadline was past, applied thinking I had nothing to lose. And I got accepted! That was a bit unexpected, and I then found myself having to make a decision quickly. It came down to two things: First, it was a big chance to get onto that programme and I didn’t think I should pass it up, and second, I couldn’t picture myself 5 years down the line spending my days doing web development, so I decided to change direction as soon as possible.

For several years now, I’ve been involved in activities in the field of agriculture (urban agriculture in London, community gardens in the Philippines, some training here and there on composting and permaculture). But I couldn’t fully commit to it, mostly due to work constraints, and on several occasions those activities fell way, way into the background. This time, I thought, I should take the plunge and go into it fully. I quit my job, we moved our stuff out of the flat in Le Puy and rented it, I moved back with my parents for a month and prepared to move to a new country one more time and change career.

I didn’t take the decision lightly. Obviously Ann is still in Istanbul, and even though me being in the Netherlands doesn’t make us physically further away (it’s as easy to get to Istanbul as it was from Le Puy), it will extend the period during which we’ll have to live apart, which is a big downer. We both accept, or maybe tolerate, the situation because it’ll be worth it in the end but it sucks. There is also the financial strain and risks associated with this going back to university as I won’t have a regular income. Should be fine for the first year but I have yet no idea how to finance the second one… will need to get creative and perhaps up my juggling skills so I can perform at the market on Saturday mornings.

Of course, on the other hand, it is tremendously exciting to be here. I’m starting a programme in a field I’ve been interested in for years, I’m at one of the best universities in the world to study in this subject, and I’ll finally find myself with people who “speak the same language” so to speak, and that should be good because it is so important to be in contact and exchange with people who have the same interests or goals or motivation.
For now, I’m in my small student accommodation, on the 19th floor of a building full of students from all over the planet, overlooking the sports complex right next to the campus, I’ve got my newly-acquired bike downstairs (because when in Rome do like the Dutch) and my thoughts are going a bit in all directions. It’s a lot of changes in a small period of time and that’s what makes it exciting and scary at the same time. Roll on a new chapter.

PS: Nope, no typos in the title, it’s in dutch 😉

An update, and some thoughts on staying focused.

It’s hard to write these days. What to say? Nothing exciting keeping me from my words. It’s partly that those moments of clarity that used to come quite regularly to me seem few, far between and nowhere near developed enough to formulate into essay format. I’ve hit a plateau on my journey of self-realisation. These days I’m just trying to remember all the lessons that sounded good when I wrote them down at the time. Not that I read myself. So cringe-inducing…like listening to a recording of your own voice. Give me nails on a chalkboard any day over reading something I wrote more than half an hour ago.

And of course not writing means slowly forgetting how to formulate a coherent post worth reading, and then the whole process of keeping this blog up-to-date seems silly. On the other hand, I know it’s good for me. And this is a day off during which I’ve decided to hole up in my flat doing things I know to be good for me because I’ve been neglecting those things a bit of late.

So if you’ll note and forgive the selfish motivation of this post, I’ll endeavour to write something worth reading.

This is such a very strange time in the world, isn’t it? Surely it isn’t just me feeling it’s all going to pot rather quickly, that the reigns are slipping from our sweaty, anxious palms, that the horses are mad and the carriage is falling to pieces and we’ve left our glasses on the night table and our near-sightedness is proving just one more debilitating factor in this journey gone awry, now seemingly destined for catastrophe.

The news seems bad all the damn time. I have to keep reading it: it’s partly my nature and partly my professional responsibility to try to understand what the hell is happening in the world. As previously mentioned, I’m limited in what I can discuss regarding the goings-on within the geopolitical boundaries in which I currently reside. And no matter how much I read, listen to podcasts, and read some more, I just can’t wrap my head around what’s happening in places beyond those boundaries I thought I understood a little better…Duterte in the Philippines…Brexit…this “election” in the United States. Like one of my Sociology professors used to say, “You can’t make this shit up.” Indeed.

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Appropriate titles don’t come to mind…

It has been a trying week.

I flew back from France to Istanbul on Monday. It was difficult to leave this time; I’ve not been back since January. Then I wasn’t quite sure how long it would be before I got back to visit, but I figured it would only be a couple of months. This time, for a number of reasons, I left quite sure I wouldn’t be back until December.

But as I got off the bus from the airport and started making my way back to my flat, the streets of Istanbul – of Kadiköy more specifically – infected me as they always do with a sense of welcome and calm…this very big city that feels like so many small towns squeezed – sometimes uncomfortably – tightly together. It was late and I was tired. A 15 minute walk is nothing too terrible, but I was weighed down with the fatigue of a 14 hour journey and 50lb (23kg) of luggage on my back.

Still, there was a gentle breeze at my back coming in off the sea, the seagulls were painting their lovely white streaks across the night sky, and the streets bustled with folks going and coming or sitting on the terrace drinking tea and smoking shisha, and within minutes I found the familiar spring to my step. In spite of the distance between C and I, in spite of the distance separating me from the plateaus and volcanoes of the Haute Loire that make my spirit sing: enough was right with the world. Things would be okay.

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On what seems most pressing right now.

As the weeks have passed since my last post, I’ve pondered what to write about on so many occasions. Discussing the political situation here is off limits – that’s part of working in humanitarian aid. While it goes without saying that everybody’s got opinions about the political context unfolding around them, we’re expected to keep those feelings to ourselves in the interests of addressing the beneficiaries we’re serving, directly or indirectly (in my case at this moment in time, it’s very much the latter). In any case, it’s not the best time in history for amateur pundits to philosophize publicly about the powers that be in just any country. Particularly this one.

I could certainly talk about my work, but the truth is that while it feels very important and exciting to me, it’s not very sexy and wouldn’t really thrill my gentle readers. More often than not, it’s a bit of a pickle even to get the people I work with excited about it.

This country and this city are extraordinary, but I still don’t feel any air of authority to opine about it, and the wonderful and terrible little quirks we saw every day in the Philippines aren’t here so much – except politically, and for that I refer you back to my first paragraph.

The distance between C and I is necessary, but it’s suffocating…I know it’s temporary, but keeping this struggle to myself has become one way of coping with it…life sometimes simply is what it is, and when a difficult thing is sure to pass, my survival instincts at present are telling me just to get on with it (though a few more months into this might bring a different perspective).

However, living alone leaves me time I never had before to explore how I use my time, and one of the things I’ve found myself doing quite a lot is suffering the shock of what feels like a world gone absolutely fucking insane.

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Memnun oldum, Istanbul.

I can’t believe so much time has passed since last I wrote something here, and the truth is that I think I’ve forgotten how to do this thing properly. Squeezing the last few months into a single post that doesn’t bore my remaining gentle readers to tears is going to be a little tricky…

Last I wrote I hadn’t yet stepped foot in this extraordinary place…and now it’s been 3 months. Man, that went fast.

And of course there are lots of good reasons – I was finishing a translation and had started a very challenging and inspiring new job (more on that later), and was negotiating moving to a new country sans my best friend and partner in crime for the first time ever (more on that too…).

All excuses aside, let this serve as a humble collection of my first impressions of this newish chapter of my life.


wheres my cay

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