Archive for June, 2011

The Gist

Where to start.

So I went to Lapland with 4 friends. I’m going to wait with my report on that until I have access to my photos and the chance to edit them. Let’s hope I remember enough by the time I get home.

As said before, my friends then all went home. Me? I decided to stay.

The difference is that I just don’t necessarily have anything to go home for. They all have their office jobs and gorgeous girlfriends (Not jealous. No sir.) awaiting them at the airport and what do I have? I guess my dog would miss me- Oh wait I don’t have a dog.
So I’m taking some sweet advantage of all that and doing a little detour. I always wanted to see eastern Europe.

The first two days though, I stayed in Stockholm. I took the time to reorganize, since all that survival gear really doesn’t do you much good in the city. The cooking gear went home with my friends. Thermal underwear,  sleeping mat, photos thus far,… went. All might seem handy at some point or other but when you’re backpacking you have to prioritize. Instead, I am now carrying soap and deodorant (After 10 days without, mind), an extra pair of pants (nice and light in this weather) and tee shirt (spiderman!!) and shaving equipment. I learned something last night: No amount of baby butt-smoothness is worth the hassle of wet shaving. Unless you’re a lady.

I also decided to be a retard and lose my cell phone, Leatherman and souvenir shirt. I pondered ditching my travel pass as well to finish the job and fuck myself even deeper, but somehow it stuck on me and it seems I am still carrying it. I’m so proud.
So yeah; New cell phone. I literally walked into a shop asking for the cheapest piece of junk they had, lest I’d go and walk out again with the newest iWhatever. They asked me if I wanted an iContract with that but iRefused. So now I’m temporarily carrying a Swedish phone number.

Stockholm itself certainly isn’t bad, but terribly confusing. Everything looks the same and is positioned so that when you think you’re in a different part of town, it just turns out you walked into an exact copy of the last part and you can’t tell one from the other. The shopping streets are retarded as usual but when I followed my own advice and purposefully got lost, ended up finding a few cool shops that handle my kind of gear. I usually wouldn’t care still but it just so happened that I needed some.
The old town can fill a day if you’re skilled enough at the Tourist Saunter. The buildings are worth a visit but you won’t make it in anywhere (trust me I tried) without paying a hefty sum. Sweden is an expensive country and don’t we know it by now. I found a cheaper alternative though: Walk the fuck away.

This, sadly, was not possible when booking my boat out of there. Late as usual, I had to decide between booking a day later or paying for a first-class cabin at the price of 2.000 Krone and then some, no less than 200 euro. Since the former wouldn’t be possible organization-wise (I had 3 couchsurfing addresses booked) I had to bend over and pay up. Luckily the kind lady behind the counter was very understanding and instead booked me for the “romantic cruise” for 1.000 Krone less. Or she was extremely sadistic, it was hard to make out with that poker face of hers.

Barely tolerating the humping couples but still enjoying the Romantic Sunset™, I made it to Riga, Latvia and after finding the tourist information office to check for an internet café, getting lost, checking with the information office again, looking up the number and meeting my host, went to see the city. My host was so kind to show me around the city (literally- we walked about 15km I estimate) and I must say I rather liked what I saw. Whether that is because I have a fascination for all things industrial and post-Sovjet or this is just a nice town, I haven’t figured out yet. It certainly is cheaper than Sweden though, despite the Lats (local currency) being much higher value than the Euro. Note to self: Figure this shit out before withdrawing money like you’ll need millions of it for a candy bar.

 

All in all, I’m having a rather good time. It certainly is lonely but it seems like I can handle that a lot better than last time around- Probably because I’m not going through any mental breakdown right now. Might make the difference.
Tomorrow I’m booking the bus ride to Lithuania (I just had to look that up again, I suck at geography) but I don’t have anywhere to sleep there, yet. Fingers crossed.
I’m not hitch-hiking because frankly, I can afford not to. I hate hitch-hiking. You just stand there like a dimwit with your thumb skyward,  and if it’s not going too well there’s no way you could do it any better, no matter how hard you try. That’s not the way I work.

 

Another side note: яцšsiаи keyboards suck.


The King’s Trail

48 hours before we leave. In a more or less straight line to the arctic circle and beyond. I think I have most things collected, from food to an mp3 player (take away my music and I’ll just sit down and die there) except for socks. I desperately need winter socks and I couldn’t have picked a more retarded season to go look for them.

With the 24 hours of sunlight and snow, we’re going to see more light than the rest of the summer combined. So we’ll have to protect ourselves from it, even if it means looking like a complete idiot:

Anonymous

Admit it though, that is the coolest hat you have ever seen.

So now that I’m more or less physically prepared, I moved on to phase 2: Mental preparation. You see, our first time in Scotland I got me a girlfriend literally the night before leaving and the second time in Norway, I was in a relationship I felt was heading in the wrong direction. It wasn’t that big a deal, but it was still distracting when I had better things to do, like enjoy myself.

So now I easily disposed of any relationships that I conveniently didn’t have, and while I still have an unresolved issue or two, I figured I don’t have the balls to tackle them anyway so I might as well just move on. If I end up getting eaten by a wolverine (how awesome would that be) I’ll just have to die with regrets.

So what’s the planning, in case anyone was wondering:

17th of June, we take off. If I’m not mistaken we grab two airplanes and an overnight train before arriving at our destination in Lapland. I wish I paid closer attention but when 5 people are simultaneously planning something, I tend to take a step back and let them do the work like the asshole that I am. In other words, I can’t tell you where that is, exactly. I can tell you it’s near Abisko, Sweden- that’s about it. Can’t even say how long the hike will be in days nor distance.

How about this: We’ll be well above the arctic circle, climbing the highest mountain in Lapland, with glaciers ‘n shit. We’re bringing rope in case one of us decides to slip at a bad time. It’s still arguably the most accessible trail in the region (called Kungsleden or King’s Trail) but we, men wouldn’t be we, men if we didn’t crank up the difficulty just a little by going in without guide and about double the regular pace. Aaand that’s about all I know, honestly.

My excuse is that I’ve been preoccupied with my own trip. You see, while my friends will be going straight home to their wives and/or girlfriends, I’m taking the scenic route and leaving them in Stockholm. I’ll be staying there for two days with a rather rude couchsurfing couple, taking that time to get some rest and change gear. From there, I’ll have another 12 days to make it home in time for my final tests to prove my experience as a stage tech. I plan to go southeast, across the Baltic Sea, to Latvia, south to Lithuania, southwest to Poland, and then west to Germany and Belgium. I might have to cheat a little and grab a train or two to make it in time.

The map’s here, since you probably still don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. Neither would I to be honest, if I hadn’t looked it up just now. Some preparation eh? Let’s hope I won’t need a fucking Visa.

In the mean time, y’all be good and don’t wait up for me.
I’m going to turn on my cell phone between 9 and 11pm only (if I have reception to begin with) to save battery power and money. If it’s urgent, try then. If it’s not, suck it up.
If it’s a problem I cannot solve, don’t bother contact me just so I can worry about it. I’ve been waiting for a year to bugger off again and the last thing I need is “news from home.” No offense.
Taking my internet addiction into account, I’ll probably get in contact now and then- idiot that I am.


Seeing Ghosts

Fair Warning: not my best post ever.

When I was a kid, I woke up one night with a start. It wasn’t too long after my mother had passed, and there was someone new in the house. But that didn’t concern me at the moment- My eyes flew open and what I saw, was the most beautiful thing I had ever witnessed, and ever would.

Not that there was anything new: The wooden structure of the platform above my bed. The difference was that I saw it in a different light. The whole world, for that matter. All of a sudden, I could grasp it all, hold it all inside my head. It was the size of two hands balled together, vaguely purple, and impossibly beautiful.

The alarm clock told me it was 4am, no time at all to wake up, let alone get out of bed. And yet I did. It felt as if I floated down the stairs, like I was Buddha himself, how I felt at peace with everything. I had enough in me to love everything at once. I couldn’t shake the image of Robin Williams smiling before my eyes, and felt thankful to him as though his movies had taught me the ultimate wisdom in life: How to love.

I could see everything perfectly, and I remember what I did- I was not sleeping. I went down, and started making the breakfast table simply because I felt like doing something nice and couldn’t think of anything else. I couldn’t cook (surprise) so that was out of the question, but the care I put in setting everything ready, was meticulous.

I then went and sat down in the veranda… and watched the sun rise. I don’t know how long I sat there, but I was shaking from the cold when I heard my parents –my father and my stepmother- wake up. As usual, my father came down first, looking like he always did: Bathrobe, out-of-bed hair and eyes like he was squinting into the sun. I could hear him as he entered the living room and saw the table without uttering a word. He shuffled further and came into the veranda.

“Maarten?”

-“Yes?”

-“Up already?”

-“Yup.”

“Did you make the table?”

-“I did.”

-“Why…?”

-“I… I don’t really know.”

I suppose he must have forgotten about the event by now. I tried to explain but couldn’t, and so many unusual things happened in that period that it faded to the background. The feeling too faded, so gradually that I can’t remember when I lost it. But it was the same day.

Once in a while I think back on that morning, and ask myself what came over me. And wonder if I’ll ever experience it again.


“I met Amy while stocking up before "They" arrived. She can lift more than most construction workers so she came in very handy as we barricaded the door and awaited the night. I must say, I do like a chick who can handle a shotgun and simultaneously deliver a good oneliner. She outmatched my already impressive kill count easily, too.

Now that They have gone and nobody but us seems to remember, she left my fridge well stocked and the dishes done. A dream of a couchsurfer!”

I’ve been subscribed to CouchSurfing since January 2008, when it was still only a whisper among socialists. A friend of mine directed me towards a “cool project going on” and I filled in a profile right away. I expected it to go to hell within a couple months, but has turned out to be an important and very constructive part of my life.

It didn’t really pick up until exactly a year later, when I started travelling for two months. I raked in some positive feedback and because of that, was pushed up higher on the host list. Before I knew it, I was part of the community.

When I travel, I always try to avoid hosts with too many references. Anything more than 25 will make them stuck up and some pretty much treat you like a number. I like me a host who’s still naïve and idealistic like myself, who actually seems glad to have you around. Back when I first started travelling though, there weren’t many who surpassed 40-50 references of any kind.

The irony is that now, I’m at 47 references (all positive) and counting. I’ve been hosting ever since I got back and I’ve reached the point where I don’t remember them all, anymore. I think I did well enough but when people stay for a single night and leave early in the morning… I’m sorry, but you’re not that big an influence in my life, then.
I try to include my surfers in everything I do. Even when I go to work, I ask if they have a working permit and are interested to work as a roadie for a day, or try to get them in at the show. My friends and family must be smiling to themselves when they see me come to some party with yet another German or Australian. But I know travelling, especially by yourself, can be quite lonely and a good host makes all the difference. And if they don’t feel like socializing, they don’t. Ta daa.

CS is a very active community and the city ambassador regularly holds parties, meetings and whatnot. After attending one of those, I promised myself never to do that again. Basically, it’s my social nightmare. Everyone there is all handsome and great, patting themselves on the back going “aren’t we awesome” and talking to random strangers and don’t kid yourself, they only want to get laid as much as the next dimwit chatting you up.
The music’s loud, the conversations are awkward, and the invitations begin with Barbie Girl lyrics. Fuck That. I am proud to be part of the CS spirit but anyone who dares putting Aqua songs into my head (Burn it with fire!) shouldn’t be expecting me on their barbecue (see the connection?).

I have a red carpet hung up on the wall for my guests to sign. Every single one has their name on it except for two Singapore chicks who forgot.

I forgot where this is leading but I’m going to post it anyway.


 

Lovelife

 

Spring is here! And don’t we all know it. Jesus God Damn Christ I swear to Maynard, every summer they seem to devise some way to make life difficult for me, and this year it’s short skirts and ankle-high boots. Because apparently chicks like their calves warmer than their cooch.

Fucking hell, man. On top of that, I seem to have done my internship at the junction of culture and tits and the types I’ve been spotting lately seem to know exactly what the hell they’re doing. I’ve been flirting hard enough to arouse a tree- In my own special way of course, which is more like, (my friend was carrying a Polaroid)

Gurl
Close enough, right? Right.

I’m –of course- ever the gentlemen, to the point where I come over as fucking frigid, but lately when my friends or colleagues open their yap about women the way they tend to, I blurt out things I never imagined myself saying. I managed to scare myself once or twice.

Perhaps it’s best for me to go cool down, and where better than the north pole, right? At least I’ll get a break from all this distraction and spend some quality time with five guys in a freezing tent. Then again, this is Sweden we’re talking about.


My Father

My father was a good man. He loved us. Many people told us that because they seemed to think we were oblivious to it. But of course we knew, how couldn’t we- He loved everyone. Women, especially. He was one great ocean of love and anyone who could carry it, was welcome to walk down and fill their bucket.

My father was a bad father. His own passed very early after a turbulent relationship. He could relate to his father as poorly as his children many years later and in both cases, the generation gap was so obvious that no words carried across with their meanings intact. As a result, there was a lot of shouting. A lot of “why” and “how could you”.

None of us understood. He couldn’t understand why we lied and cheated like we did, and we couldn’t understand how he could, when faced with the choice between being a happy man and a good father, choose the former. We –my sister and I- spent much of our time fighting his reach for happiness, as it was paid for with our own. In retrospect, I suppose it is only natural that people would try and assure us of the fact that he did in fact, love us.

As little effort he put into shaping us in his image, as readily did we turn our back to it. Even if he would have searched with any determination, he wouldn’t have found anything in his children to be proud of- He wouldn’t see our accomplishments if we had any to begin with.
So as I grew up through my teenage years and similarities between him and I were found by others and myself, I readily denied them and insisted on proving otherwise. My interests, my love for women, the possibility of ever having children of my own: Not in this life. I wandered off on my own and did not look back.

Should it be so surprising then, now that I’m emerging from a darkness, to see my father in a different light and finding myself? At my young age it’s progressively less of a rarity to look back, inevitably in his direction, with a new understanding and without immediate anger. He on the other hand, is looking into the future when facing my way, and both are silenced as questions that ached for years, are answered with a slow whisper.

In my desperate struggle to be “different” from my example, I am happy to say I followed a path other than the ones laid out for me. I am very different from my father- People say he was different when my age too, but the contrast is still obvious. But now that I’m not so eagerly denying it, it is just as clear that after all, we are still two branches from the same tree.

He would have met my mother by now. They would be ready to start their family, ready for me. Things I regret having missed somehow. But I am free in thought and action, which he is equally jealous of. Now that I can talk to him as a man rather than a son, it’s becoming easier to talk about such things without having to raise a voice or deny the obvious. It’s taken me this long to see that there’s more to my father than a father.

My father is a good man. We speak rarely, but on good terms. He hopes I’ll have a good life despite my upbringing, and I hope the same for him now that my upbringing is no longer a concern. We can speak freely now, and now that I’ve walked away from him enough to tell the trees from the forest, we are closer than ever before. Bearing the loss of my mother fresh in mind, I am genuinely happy that at last now, I have a father to be proud of me. I’m happy I have someone to call to ask him to teach me how to drive a car.
And I am immensely relieved to have the privilege of knowing this before it is too late- Unlike he did.


Aurora in Flight

Imagine yourself trapped in the arctic wilderness for a week. What would you need? You’d need to keep warm- collect what you think is necessary. You’d need clean water and food: Find it or devise a way to obtain it there. You’ll need a tent, as well. A sleeping bag that can handle sub-zero temperatures.
Then, a different setting: A journey through Europe, north to south. Cell phone, charger. Papers. Music player. Clean clothes, soap, shampoo…
Photography equipment. Camera, extra battery,… The works.

Toss everything together and measure how much weight you’ve got. Then, slim it down to 10 kilo’s.

It’s the challenge I’m facing at the moment.

After Scotland and south Norway, four friends and myself are going to hike Lapland, or Laponia or whatever you anglophiles insist on calling it. We’re taking off in a good 10 days and just today I spent over €300 on ultralight equipment to get me through it. On top of that, I decided to take the scenic route home and didn’t book a return flight. Now I have 2 weeks to cross Europe and make it home in time for my final stage technician tests.

Enough talking:

DON’T FORGET:

  • tp
  • batteries and chargers
  • awesomegoggles
  • toothpicks
  • cooking set thing
  • CAMERA: Batteries recharged, charger, card, filters
  • tape
  • longsleeves instead of tee shirts
  • CS status
  • Boiler
  • Transfer key

SHIT TO BUY

  • MP3 player: Check which.
  • 20 bags of instant pasta
  • tea, chocolatestuff

 

This list will change over time.


So yeah, we’re going hiking. We’ll be around 68.2°N and as this website will tell you (once you’ve figured it out), we will have 24 hours of direct sunlight. In fact, we’ll be there on midsummer’s day so we’ll be dealing with the brightest possible time for this region. This greatly decreases the odds of seeing some decent Aurora Borealis but should be pretty spectacular in itself. that is, until we want to go to bed.

Previous years have shown that I lack the strength to do these hikes easily. Especially flat surfaces like asphalt, kill my knees. Luckily I have the best rucksack in the fucking world so that’s pretty much my only problem, but it’s a bad one. In Scotland, the first year, it damn near crippled me, and in Norway I had to take one descent on an overdose of painkillers. Let’s hope for the best.

I fucked myself (funny since some bitch recently told me to do exactly that) by planning two trips in one- One hike and then city-hopping all the way home. This means I need two sets of equipment and they can only weigh 10 kilo’s combined lest I snap like a twig after 50km. I done did it now, didn’t I. I’m gonna do it, though.

In the mean time a friend is staying over at my place. He doesn’t know it yet but he’s screwed because he’ll know when I’ll be coming home… When I’ll be home. And I expect to find my place clean as a hound’s tooth when I get back.

All in all, I’ll be away from home around 20 days. While the trip shows similarities with my 2-month journey through Europe two years ago, the circumstances are very different. I was running away back then- and I kept running until I crashed. It’s nothing like that this time, so I’m hoping the trip will be somewhat more enjoyable. Not a very big chance, though- I hate travelling alone. So if you want to join, by all means ask and ye shall receive.


The Pro

Tomorrow is the very last day at school. It’s actually where I’m supposed to be right now but my phone battery died overnight and I overslept. Since it was supposed to be a short day anyway, I didn’t bother hopping on a train for an hour just so I can be in time for lunch.

And thus, in a very anticlimactic fashion, it ended. Our last classes are about freelance work and how to use certain organizations to get the ball rolling. While paperwork couldn’t interest me if it were made from sex and pizza, I tried to pay close attention because apparently, there are some very interesting systems in place that could offer solutions for many of my employment problems, today. Their office is around the corner apparently, so I guess I’ll have to drop by some time.

Also a few points on the agenda as of late, were the feedback papers that needed filling in. The school is a very self-aware organization and makes communication its top priority through endless lists and scores- from every party, to every other party. So that means that not only I got to give our teachers a score (they all got a big fat zero for my wasted childhood) but I too received a pile of information on how good I am at sucking up. I’d like to quote the spokesperson here:

“I’ve been doing this job for a long time, perhaps even too long. And if there’s one thing I learned is that people like you… make it big. You completed the course flawlessly. We’ve had lots of students here, who weren’t as good as you, who now have very successful careers in showbiz and I’m convinced that you’ll only need to do as much as give your teachers a phone call, and they’ll gladly launch you into the business.”

No “buts” or “ifs”- This is to the letter what I was told, and it went on like that for a little while until it ended with congratulations and goodbye.
I felt a little conflicted as I walked home, for a few different reasons. First of all, it’s a little frustrating that I can pull off what will probably be the start of my career so easily, and still sort of limp behind on different things that matter just as much. Secondly, some people (though I think they’re dicks) have trouble dealing with my arrogance, and I don’t want this praise to go to my head.

If you’ll excuse me a minute, though:

[ego]

First and foremost, I would like to thank myself. Thanks, Maarten, you old turtle, you newborn rat, you’re the fucking best. You’re the one who put his foot down and said, “Enough is enough.” You’re the one who recognized the need for radical change and sent my juvenile ass to boot camp. You’re the one, when I quit the army, who forced me to pick up that phone and introduced me as a motivated employee. You’re the one who woke me up every morning and sent me to work. Who nodded my head when I was asked to come work for nothing.
You made the decision to send me back to school, against all possible odds, and pushed me so far that I ditched work to show up there, dirty and tired, to look motivated and prepared even though I wasn’t. You were there every time I faced failure, pushing me through even when things were looking bad. You did something for me and I know you’ll continue doing so. I am glad I met you somewhere along the way.

[/ego]

I do of course owe a big thanks to friends and family as well, simply because I wouldn’t be here without them. I know I’m difficult to follow around or get a hold of, but they provided me with the distraction and warmth that I needed to find the confidence to get this far.

Enough sappy shit.

Next on my “to do” list (besides your mom) is the test that will provide me with a “proof of experience” as assistant stage technician. This will give me a strong edge when applying for a job. It’s on the 11th of July, which sucks hairy balls because on June 27th, I will be in Stockholm with no direct way to get home. I’ll have to cross northern Europe in 14 days if I want to make it back in time.
Immediately after that is the Gent Festival, where I will be sound tech for the stage at Baudelo Park. Anyone who knows Gent knows how big a fucking deal this is and frankly I think I’m in way over my head, but fuck that anyway: I’m doing it. Fingers crossed!


So now that school and internships, both of which have set my life’s pace for a long time, have ended, I’ve got a shitload of nothing waiting for me. It hasn’t been a day and the employment office is already sending me openings for factory jobs, threatening with robbing me of any income if I don’t respond with a meek “Yes, sir.” And yet, I’m not impressed- In fact I don’t think I have ever felt this confident about the future.

I’ve got several freelance jobs laid out for me and while they aren’t all paid, some of them are and that’s a big fucking novelty in Maartenland. Even the ones that aren’t, are part of my elaborate scheme to rule the market in two months time and the month after that… The world! I’ll get the opportunity to invest time and effort into a starting company that is planning to build domes using bamboo, and I’m hoping to find some work there once it kicks off.

With this as a nice example, I currently have several options open and I’ll continue to explore them and see which ones pay off the most and more importantly, are fun to do. I now have enough baggage concerning bureaucracy to know that they can’t force me to do anything for a decent period of time, so the government agencies can kindly go fuck themselves while I take my time to figure this out. I can fill the gaps with stage building (though I will have to set priorities there) and if I ever get a part-time job, I can go “freelance as secondary employment” or whatever, and that’s where the gold is. I’ll be able to make a (very) good living, do whatever the fuck I want without risking financial armageddon, and find new challenges while I’m at it.

My name is Maarten, I’m 26, and I’ve got life all figured out. Aw yeah.