The Basin at Ku-Ring-Gai National Park, New South Wales. March 2017.
Last year, I started a personal project of sorts under the hashtag #the100dayproject, a challenge for creatives to make something over 100 days started by @elleluna and share it over on Instagram. I named it “The Illustrator Log of Books and Films”, intended to be a visual catalog of the films and books I have enjoyed, recent or otherwise. I made a set of 100 small 8x8cm cards to paint these on and managed to illustrate one consistently for about two weeks before life and stuff happened, and this project took a hiatus. This year I’m joining the challenge again to finish what I started. Here is the series so far (see my notes on each piece on my Instagram).
- The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
- Amelie (2001)
- Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
- Before Sunrise (1995)
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
- Good Will Hunting (1997)
- Brand Thinking by Debbie Millman
- In the Mood for Love (2000)
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- Léon the Professional (1994)
- Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame by Charles Bukowski
- Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
- Beauty and the Beast (1991)
- In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney
- Whip It (2009)
Daily Prompt: Transformation
I am a monkey with an olive lost in the
circus sand of your laughter
-note to a lady who expected rupert brooke, charles bukowski
Out of all the cities I visited, Berlin would have the most impact. It even led to applying for a job here (it didn’t work out in the end. At the time I was a little relieved given the circumstances, but a year on since it happened, I can honestly say I am truly fucking glad. It led me somewhere better, but more on that later).
Berlin swept me up, to say the least. I arrived in the city initially feeling a little deflated. It was the first instance I was alone on this trip, in a hostel room inside an Altbau, six beds in all. I wouldn’t be meeting anyone until the next evening. Hoping that my visit to Berlin this time won’t end up as uneventful as the first time I went in 2011, I chugged half a carton of Chocomel, took a short walk around the neighbourhood and went to bed.
Having only visited essentially the Brandenburger Tor and Hauptbahnhof before, I discovered this time around that the charm of Berlin is in its neighbourhoods. I would not claim I know a great deal about the history of Berlin or in fact, much about the city at all – nevermind the many times I have watched Das Leben der Anderen or how closely I read In the Garden of Beasts. I feel like there are so many facets of Berlin it would be near impossible to experience much more than a sampler platter of the city in the five or six days I was there.
Remembering I had forgotten my itinerary and I hadn’t bothered to get any Internet connectivity on my phone, I relied only on screenshots of Google maps I had taken the nights before and let myself just potter around beyond that. I poked around an alley with a big Anne Frank graffiti on one of the walls in Hackescher Markt, climbed some stairs and pored over design books in a bookshop tucked in the far end. Topographie des Terrors had me sticking around for a couple of hours studying both the outdoor and indoor exhibitions. I fueled most of my walks with gel-filled Haribo in my pockets, and there was no particular pressure to be anything or anywhere.
Until now, I remember the sticky heat of the dance floor at the Balkan music party, and the empty space at the back where Lilith and I returned to swing around with all of the zest we could muster to Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing, and the lethargic walk home (did we want doner kebabs? Maybe. No, actually, not really), the gentle conversation before nodding off at 6am. Some of my favourite moments in Berlin were those spent waiting for the yellow trains at 3am.
I would say Berlin was transformative in the sense that I got to have a taste of how I’d like to spend my days, not just as a trip, but everyday. And the kind of people I love to be around. Some sense of belonging, and something that genuinely made me feel alive, for want of a better phrase. It was just this particular state of mind I was in at that point. The next time I visit Berlin will be different again, I’m sure.
It’s taken me this long to document this trip because when I first came back I wanted to savour it, rather than patching together a quick post on Facebook. I wanted to make a nice record of it that does the trip justice and something I can look back on.
THREE PICKS: BERLIN
Topographie des Terrors
Previously used as the headquarters of the SS, this site on Niederkirchnerstrasse right next to the wall was a great free museum to visit. The outdoor and indoor exhibition detail the years leading up to and during the second World War, both from the events going on at the time as well as its impact on daily life. The Westberlin is a pretty neat cafe nearby with good coffee and cakes.
Stocking a selection of magazines and design books from all over, this well-curated bookstore will definitely be one of the first shops I visit the next time I’m in the city. I went to a couple of others (Oculus was one of them, and another nearby) in 2015 but didn’t hear about Do You Read Me until last year through their Instagram.
Good spot for bumbling around, particularly in the courtyard/lane I mentioned earlier (This page goes into a bit more detail on that).
Daily Prompt: Purpose
well, I suppose the days were made
to be wasted
the years and the loves were made
to be wasted
the way – charles bukowski
This lady I used to live with constantly encouraged me to put experience above everything. “Money you can always make, but time you cannot get back,” she would say. I was 23 when that, and a truckload of those inspirational quotes peppered around Instagram, came together and propelled me to commit to three weeks of galavanting about Western Europe.
As I put together a detailed plan (which I forgot to bring) I couldn’t stop asking myself why I was going ahead with this, and even until now I’m not sure I have a satisfactory, logical answer. I consulted friends. I consulted family. Was it a stupid idea? I had an inkling that the purpose of it all was more than meeting a couple of complete strangers in the flesh. More than anything, the motivation for this trip was the ever-so-cliche idea to add a few exciting chapters – a bit more colour, if you will – to my life. In fact, forgetting aforementioned itinerary probably set free a whole bunch of constraints I might have otherwise put on myself.
And exhilarating the trip proved to be.
I rushed past the sliding doors at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol just shy of 6 in the morning. The train ride out of the airport was the strangest I had ever taken. All plane ride-long I tried to register that I really was heading off to the other side of the world. I was vaguely aware that people around me were on their way to work, to school, perhaps to a cafe to read a book of poetry or whatever it is these background characters do. The city was nothing but a setting and the people supporting actors. This was the tone for much of the vacation.
Eight months later, details of the first few days have settled into a blur of Albert Heijn salads (I liked the Morrocan one a lot), long walks around neighbourhoods I can’t remember the names of, and drinking in the architecture of the city centre. I remember tearing down Amsterdam streets laughing on the shoulders of a 6′ 6″ human at 2 a.m on the way home from a drum and bass party. Traffic lights looked massive from that height!
My most favourite memory from this leg of the trip has to be from this night out to an alternative music festival. It was located in the industrial-y part of Amsterdam, and we had about 8 or 9 kilometers ahead of us to walk from the train station to the festival site when a couple cycled up to us and offered to go together. I was propped up on the front of the guy’s bicycle (where a basket would normally go) for the ride. Wind in my hair and all of that. You know that over-quoted line from The Perks of Being a Wallflower – “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite” – that was exactly how this bike ride felt, freeing and tranquil at the same time. It was one of those things I could never have planned prior to the trip, but those kind of moments became part of the purpose why I had to do this for myself.
FOUR PICKS: AMSTERDAM
Oh, this place. We accidentally stumbled on this place after riding the ferry across from Centraal station, and I was – still am – incredibly impressed by it. The geometric white building hosts screening theaters, exhibition space and an ace gift shop with an excellent selection of books about the industry. There is also a beautiful cafe with a view of the river. Perhaps it’s a special interest kind of place, but this didn’t appear on my radar at all when I was researching places to check out in Amsterdam! It’s the kind of place that makes you want to see a movie at random (we saw a 1960s Japanese film and Blade Runner for €10 each) and just sort of hang around soaking in the sun on the slants of its exterior. Grab a jam-filled oliebollen at the port when you get off the ferry for your walk up to the museum.
Walking along Westerdok
Apparently, peeking into people’s living rooms is a bit of a favourite pastime activity in Amsterdam (can someone confirm?). The residential harbor Westerdok, with dreamy houseboats all along the canal and a modern apartment building looking like a life-size architecture model just inviting you to stop and peer into the windows on the right, makes for a really pleasant stroll after sundown.
There is a nice rooftop cafe attached to this library. A wonderful space to spend a couple of hours just sitting around inside or outside on the canal. I didn’t actually take a close look at their collection when I visited, so I can’t really comment on that.
Song Kran Thai Restaurant
Why am I recommending a Thai restaurant in Amsterdam, you ask? Well. The very first time I visited Amsterdam back in 2011, I had the best Tom Kha ever in a Thai restaurant in (possibly) Prisengracht somewhere. It had a big decorative chilli on the wall, and I have never been able to find it since. Song Kran is close enough in terms of the food quality – they do a pretty darn good Phanaeng curry (€14).
éphémère – fleeting
The three weeks spent in Western Europe were close to living in the Wikipedia definition of a dream – “successions of images, ideas, emotions and sensations” and in the company of the strangely comfortable unfamiliar.
Stifled for the past few years in the hubbub of Jakarta, I was seeking space, and was in the right state of mind to venture off solo at the time. After mulling it over for months, it’s proven to be the one greatest thing I did for myself in the last three years. It was cinematic, riveting, and bittersweet all at once, and I’ll (finally) be sharing this trip in upcoming posts.
I’m not entirely sure why it’s become so hard to write. As much as it can be very therapeutic, liberating even, sometimes putting pen to paper feels like peeling and picking one’s self apart and laying the fragments out for scrutiny.
Then I think back to why I write. I write because that’s how I process and make sense of things. I write to document and put the spaghetti of thoughts and ideas in order. I write to enjoy language.
This blog, then, is an extremely overdue personal project to exercise courage rather than simmer in paralysing worry about whether I am writing about the right things and am I saying them in the right way. The Weather and the Sea (tw&ts) is an ode to conversations about anything and everything; conversations that high-kick a switch in your mind and elate you immensely, and conversations that matter. To me, conversations aren’t just about words and visuals but also their impact, and above all, about discovering. Conversations, in their own right, are experiences. I relish conversations for the same reasons as writing.
In short, tw&ts will be a medium through which I process and talk about things I love, and an outlet for the conversations I don’t usually get to have.