Life stories

Life stories

About the blog

Life tells a lot of stories. Some of them that I have lived in Italy, Tanzania, Berlin, Frankfurt, New Zealand or the rest of the world I would like to share here. Some might be sad, some philosophical, most will be funny. Most will be in English, but some may also be in German (and on rare occasions in Italian). Feel free to comment on any given story in either of these languages. I would love to hear what you think and feel when you read those stories.
Please also check out the main page of this blog: http://www.lifeisnow.de.

Ask the question

Life is interestingPosted by Jules Tue, April 03, 2018 08:53:23

I was waiting to board a domestic flight and surprised: both not to be handed a boarding pass, and to hear that „the ladies“ for the particular flight were called for boarding. When I walked towards the airplane, a female crew member greeted me by the plane and I feel uncomfortable admitting I thought she was the flight attendant.


Stepping into the small airplane, there were only two other women seated. The crew member entered as well and closed the door behind her. It turned out she was the pilot and I was about to have my first all female flight ever. I found that quite remarkable by itself. We were chatting a bit, joking about flying to any place we wanted to. The pilot climbed her seat and closed the conversation with the words “ah well, the possibilities are unlimited!”

That was my code word. “So can I sit in the co-pilot’s seat please”, I heard my mouth say. And before I knew it, I was sitting up front!

Needless to say I had a spectacular flight, listening to the radio and chatting away in the few breaks the pilot had on this short flight. I learned about cloud formations and the adventurous spirit of the pilot. Such an inspiration that was!


Lesson learned: Ask the question (don’t hold back)!



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Friends

Life is interestingPosted by Jules Mon, February 05, 2018 02:09:45

Friends are priceless, especially those that have seen you grow up since you were a child. They are rare, and if you have one or some in your life from back that age, that is a treasure.

I have one close friend whom I met at the age of 5 at Kindergarten, who went through puberty with me, sharing all our sorrows about boys, then men, about career choices and career changes. We’ve walked very different paths in some ways, and then very similar paths in other ways. I feel extremely fortunate to have her in my life.

Her, her husband and newborn were some of the first visitors I recently hosted here in New Zealand.
One of the conversations I had with her husband, who doesn’t know me that well, was remarkable because it reminded me of a time not too long ago, when I was still working in my job as a big law firm associate - and when I was in a very different place emotionally. The two of them had come to visit me in Berlin at the time, I believe it was the first time that I met her then new love. As much as I enjoyed having them there, I was also quite stressed. It was a weekend but I had some important tasks to finish, and I remember going to work at least one day of that particular weekend. What he recalled now of our first meeting was that he had heard so much about me from our common friend, but that the person he finally met - I - was someone totally different, with empty eyes. “What is it that you see in her?” he had asked his partner, my Kindergarten friend, after our meeting. Now, years later, he said, he can see the sparkle in my eyes, they are alive.

I also recall my friend reminding me already at the time of the changes she perceived in me while working these many hours: the harshness, the coldness, the emptiness. She was a constant reminder and mirror, and I am so grateful for that.

The time back then was part of my path and I am also very grateful for the experiences I made, for the challenges they posed, for the people I met and got to work with. Yet life is so much more colourful today, there’s so much more joy, and I do feel much more connected with myself. To get or stay on that track of happiness, true friends are a huge help.

Thank you, my friend.







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Auf Jagd

Life is interestingPosted by Jules Sun, January 14, 2018 06:57:45


Warst Du schonmal auf einer Jagd?

Für mich war es das erste Mal. Dann gleich so:

Mitten im neuseeländischen „Busch“, irgendwo auf der Nordinsel, kaum besiedelt und nur zu Wasser oder Luft erreichbar, liegt Dave‘s Hütte. Dave ist Bienenzüchter und stellt unter anderem den inzwischen so bekannten Manuka-Honig her.

Wir flogen dort per Flugzeug hin. Nach einer Stunde über grüne Landschaften, mit Blick auf Schafe, Rinder, wilde Bäche und Flüsse, Bienenstöcke - und auch hier und da Rotwild - drehen wir einige Runden über die Landebahn um die Schafe zu verscheuchen, die es sich auf dem langgezogenen Grünstreifen bequem gemacht haben. Aus der Luft und ausreichend Entfernung betrachtet sehen die Schafe aus wie kleine weiße Maden und die Rinder wie kleine Blattläuse. Wieder einmal fällt mir auf, dass die Perspektive so entscheidend ist.

Da frage ich mich, wie es aus der Perspektive der Blattläuse und Maden aussieht, wenn ich daher komme und sie zerdrücke weil sie mir in meinem Garten oder sonstwo nicht genehm sind...

Nun, wir sind ja extra zum Jagen unterwegs, da ist wenigstens die Perspektive auf Augenhöhe. Ich halte nichts davon, Tiere aus purem Spaß zu töten und esse wenig Fleisch, meine aber dass jede/r Fleischesser/in auch in der Lage sein sollte, ein entsprechendes Tier zu töten. Dennoch, abdrücken steht für mich gerade nicht auf dem Plan, ich will nur beobachten. Dabei kann ich mir noch nicht recht vorstellen, wie ich reagiere wenn der Schuss fällt.

Kaum angekommen und in Dave’s komfortabler Hütte eingerichtet machen wir uns auf zur ersten „Pirsch“. Alles darf geschossen werden außer Kühe, Schafe und Pferde. Schnell sichten wir das erste Dammwild, die Männer pirschen sich an, kommen jedoch erfolglos zurück.

Einige Stunden marschieren wir über Felder, durch Busch, an Wasserläufen entlang und über Hügel hinweg. Es wird noch einiges Wild gesichtet doch der „Erfolg“ bleibt aus. Bis wir auf dem Rückweg an der Stelle vom Hinweg noch einmal Dammwild sichten. Auf zwei verschiedenen Lichtungen weiden einige Tiere, doch sie hören unsere Schritte und sehen offenbar auch äußerst gut, so dass der nächste Versuch auf einer der Wiesen erneut scheitert. Ein Schuss verfehlt und die Tiere verschwinden im Wald.

Auf der anderen Lichtung wird fröhlich weiter gegrast. Dort geht es als nächstes hin und nachdem wir uns nah genug heran gepirscht haben zielt einer der Männer - und trifft. Ich sehe in einiger Entfernung einen rötlichen Fellkörper liegen. Nahezu automatisch gehen meine Hände an die Stirn und ich danke dem Tier.

Als wir näher kommen stellen wir fest, dass es noch lebt. Leicht blinzelnd, der Körper unnatürlich verdreht, schaut mir das Weibchen direkt ins Gesicht. Ich meine, Traurigkeit und Schicksalsergebenheit zu sehen. Ich merke, wie Traurigkeit in mir aufsteigt. Die Männer brauchen noch einen Schuss, um sie zu töten. Sie schaut mich die ganze Zeit an. Als sie zuckend stirbt laufen mir die Tränen, ich fühle eine tiefe Traurigkeit. Ich versuche, mich noch irgendwie mit dem Tier zu verbinden. Ihr zu danken für ihr Leben, ihr gute Reise zu wünschen ins Reich der Geister, zurück in den Kreislauf der Welt.

Dann beginnt das Zerlegen... meine Traurigkeit weicht dem Interesse. Ich beobachte, wie sie aufgeschlitzt wird, erkenne dass ihr Körper meinem so ähnlich aufgebaut ist - Hals, Bauch, Innereien...

Es ist OK. Und für mich steht jetzt erst recht außer Frage, dass ich nicht nachvollziehen kann, wie man ein Tier nur aus Spaß töten kann. Dieses Leben, dem wir so nah sind.

Ich freue mich auch darüber, dass ich meine Gefühle so wahrnehmen kann, dass sie mich mit meiner Umwelt verbinden. Und bleibe selbst lieber dabei, Tiere nur mit meiner Kamera zu schießen.

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On a deeper level

Life is interestingPosted by Jules Tue, May 09, 2017 12:29:04
I went through a bit of an experience lately and even though I am aware that the learning is constant and I have not "arrived" anywhere, never will, I am quite thrilled at the level of relaxedness that my latest learning experience provides me with. On a deeper level, without having to think. Here's a pretty simple example: I made a mistake while driving the other day and upset a fellow road user in his car. He honked at me and I drove off, not giving it too much thought. I stopped at a shop shortly after and heard someone yelling at me from a car. Sure enough it was that other car driver. He was slightly upset and asked me what I had been doing there earlier. I explained a bit and he told me that I was wrong. And then the amazing thing happened. Instead of arguing (what I am used to), the words came out of my mouth: "I am sorry and thank you for having taken care". I think I was about as perplex by my words as was the driver. Our conversation ended there. I will make sure I learned my driving lesson (still getting used to left-hand driving;)). And I hope I can keep this up, the automatic reaction with love instead of fighting.

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The power of the turtle

Life is interestingPosted by Jules Fri, January 13, 2017 09:11:41
While at the beach with my sister one day, I had a strong sense of female energy around. It figured that the turtle that lay there in the sand in front of us, relaxing in the sun under the rainbow, was a female. It also figured that the only other tourists passing by was a family with two little girls. Only now did I google the shamanic meaning of the turtle: it represents Mother Earth. Isn't that magical. (Photo to follow)

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24hrs of Hong Kong

Life is interestingPosted by Jules Sat, March 19, 2016 09:02:47
One of the first things I notice on the spectacular flight into the city are the skyscrapers.
Huge and neat like giant lego towers they sit everywhere between and on the mountains that form Hong Kong City. Around these obvious signs of mother nature's suppression, she shows her undiminished beauty: the concrete masses are surrounded by green hills and mountains.
The late afternoon light with a slightly foggy air sets the scenery for soft shadows of blue. I feel as if I am flying right into a painting.
I have 24hrs in the city and soak it in. Everything seems perfectly organised, and rather safe. Strolling around Kennedy Town on Hong Kong, the island, in the evening, I see lots of (younger/working age) people exercising in the park, and older people taking a stroll. Food is delicious.
I return to my airbnb apartment early and meet my landlord. I learn that he is from India, Delhi. He says everything is so different in Hong Kong. With 7.5 m inhabitants only one third of that of Delhi. People walk so slowly. And space is rare and costly. The apartment is located very centrally, but on standards I know from Germany, I would not call it spacious. From where he lived previously in Hong Kong, it seems to be though. I learn that because of the little space at home, people usually always eat out and never invite someone at home. But they are very friendly, my host says.
He works for an investment bank. He had been working at the same bank in Delhi for 4 years. Life was just work then, 12hrs at the office per day plus 1hr each way to get there and back. A little less hours in Hong Kong (although his investment banker flatmate returns after 11pm that night). He tells me that you can earn and save good money in Hong Kong. I should try as well. I could work for German companies with business in Hong Kong or for Asian companies with business in Germany. There was a lot of money in Hong Kong. Teachers speaking Cantonese and English as native speakers were earning 1500 HK Dollars per hour.
I should have said something about what money is to me: That it is nothing but a means for a "higher" goal. That it will never be worth putting my life on hold for the sake of figures flowing into my bank account. That money is a game world of its own and not something very real, and certainly not my religion. But somehow I kept it to myself.
I get up early next morning, put on my running shoes and join the crowd that is already populating the little park just outside the apartment. Besides the sound of exotic chirping through the city noises, I hear Chinese music everywhere. Older people have gathered for their morning Tai Chi and are scattered all over the parc. I would like to join them but instead I only watch them. It is quite heartwarming how the women have spread out a piece of newspaper to place their bags on. Noteworthy that the older generation seems to be in good shape, and I notice many old people throughout my stay!
I manage to visit Victoria Peak and take the Star Ferry later on. Beautiful weather. Indeed, people walk slowly and seem friendly. And as much as the city fascinates me, I have difficulties in believing that any human being could truly enjoy living in such an environment of stapled shoeboxes, running in the hamster wheel day in and day out. Even if it is a luxurious one for some.
I tried to imagine how people might have lived there in the stone age - and learned that the first settlement does actually reach back that far. That the wealth of the city came from opium trade, on which the UK had its grip, seemed apalling to me. Call me naive but in that moment I realized once more that our westerly richness is built on lack of integrity, and on the backs of others, to their detriment, squeezing them out. But that's a different story.
With all these impressions, and more, I leave the city. Off to yet another part of the world.



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20 years

Life is interestingPosted by Jules Wed, February 25, 2015 07:58:49

It was a cold winter day, and I was sick with a cold. Still, I had to take this flight to Vienna for a work meeting which I did not want to cancel. So there I sat on the airplane, window seat, eyes closed, trying to sleep and not feel the feaver. I did not feel like speaking to anyone, so it happened that I did not exchange a single word with my neighbour that had taken the seat on the aisle. It was a short flight and we deboarded the plane an hour later without having had a conversation.

We ran into each other again when we were looking for transport to downtown Vienna, however, and so it happened that we took the bus together. I was glad to be feeling better, and here a beautiful story unfolded before me, which I had almost missed. When spoke about why each of us was in Vienna, it turned out that he was there to attend to an appointment he had made 20 years earlier: After their graduation from high school, he had travelled to Vienna with some friends from school. They had agreed then and there, as you do at that age, to meet again 20 years after. Where?... Well it had to be a place that would most probably still be there 20 years from then. It was decided to meet at the café of hotel „Sacher“, famous for its cake and pastries.

And here he was, 20 years after the exact date, on his way to the café in order to see whether any of those friends from the past, of which he had lost sight in the meanwhile, had also remembered their appointment.

I was awed that this person took the chance, taking on himself to travel to Vienna 20 years later on the basis of such light-hearted agreement. Not a lot of people would do so, I thought to myself. We parted when we arrived in the city and wished each other a good time in Vienna.

When I arrived at the gate to fly back home the next day, I saw him sitting there already, waiting for me. We knew we would be travelling back on the same flight, so it did not come quite unexpected. Obviously, my first question was whether any of the others had shown up at hotel Sacher. He shook his head: No they had not.

Such a pity, but still he thought it was worth while the adventure. It paid off for me at least: I found a dear and special friend. This happened seven years ago. We should agree to meet again in Vienna, 13 years from now.

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On a cruiseship

Life is interestingPosted by Jules Tue, September 02, 2014 08:21:41
When I boarded the plane for my one-week vacation in Apulia, I did not know that it was the day for visiting the Bari cruiseship terminal. Life has its own ways sometimes.

I had just taken my window seat in the small airplane that would take me to Bari when my neighbour arrived: an elderly Bavarian lady smartly dressed that smiled at me friendly, but also a little timidly. Soon she started a conversation, asking whether I knew how to get to the port for the big cruiseships. It turned out that she had missed her cruiseship in Venice the day before, simply because she had mixed up the flight dates. In order to join her two older sisters of 80 and 75, she had decided to try to catch the boat in Bari. The whole incident stressed her quite a bit, as I could see. She had not slept at all the night before and had it not been for her daughter, she would probably have cancelled this adventure. But there she was now, on her way to Bari, unsure whether time would suffice to reach the ship, and not speaking a single word of Italian, English or French - let alone carrying a mobile phone with her.
Having messed up flight dates myself before, I could imagine what she was going through. So, instead of putting her into a cab I offered to take her to the port. She seemed somewhat relieved but also a little embarrassed at the thought of causing me trouble. But it went all very smoothly, she arrived at the cruiseship terminal on time, where she was already expected and found a German-speaking agent. When she realized it would all work out after all, she finally relaxed and in her Bavarian accent admitted that she could burst out into tears of happiness.

A few weeks later I received a postcard: She had had a wonderful and priceless time with her sisters. I guess it is worth while overcoming your fears and insecurities and boarding this cruiseship called life.

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The secret of the peg

Life is interestingPosted by Jules Fri, June 06, 2014 20:48:11
I got it. The connecting link, the constant in our lives, is a peg. It is what holds everything together, saves from being blown away by the wind, even a light storm. Attaches memories to ropes or fine threads. It is what our parents would use to dry our clothes when we were no more than helpless naked little worms. We might have moved to using drying tumblers while growing up, but a peg would still be a handy tool for all kinds of things. And then, before you know it, your life could be almost over. You hardly recognized the role pegs might have played in it. But it will be right there beside you, attached to your clothes, holding your napkin just in place so your tittering old hands can spill the food as they like. What a useful little object, what a steady companion.

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Allein - Alone

Life is interestingPosted by Jules Sat, January 04, 2014 19:41:03


When I find the free weekly local journal in my letterbox, I sometimes read through it all the way to the dating section. I find the latter particularly interesting because it tells so much about people, and I find it highly interesting to see what men and women of our times are looking for in love. For exactly these reasons, I had for a while meant to make a collage out of these short ads. When finally starting this task and taking a closer look at the dating advertisements of one* newspaper, the following non-artistic picture emerged (besides the collage, that is):

For instance, I noticed that only people of a certain age seem to make use of the print media when they search for a new partner (or something alike) in life. The large majority was older than 40, the bigger part still older than 50, and there were quite some in their 60s and 70s; one man was even 80 years old. I assume that younger people prefer the internet – or maybe they simply use different journals and newspapers. Moreover, there were considerably more ads by men than by women – a good “market” for the ladies, one should think.

As a common feature, nearly all of the advertisers seemed to have quite a clear vision of what they did and did not want. The own age, height and other specifications of the looks were mostly given. For men in particular, age and looks mattered, they were largely requesting a photograph and asked for a certain age in their perfect woman. Men were rather looking for a younger woman, whereas women were looking mostly for an older or same-aged man (with one exception). Most of the men and quite some of the women - irrespective of their age - found it very important to indicate their (former) profession. Only a few indicated their first name, however, and only once in a while some were referring to their astrological sign.

Interestingly enough, quite some of the men and women in their 60s and 70s highlighted that there was no need to give up old habits or apartments. A perfect match emerged in my mind when I noted that one man and one woman in their 70s were both highlighting they were not the grandpa respectively the grandma-type. Pity he was looking for a lady younger than 70.

Finally, it is noteworthy how much you can read into the language of such advertisements. Whereas some seem to try to save every single letter or punctuation mark (the economizing type - overall, women invested more money), others repeat words (the talkative, spontaneous ones), and others again quite obviously have had an agency draft their text (the busy and “successful” ones).

But at the end of the day, most of these advertisers seemed to be simply feeling alone, looking for someone “nice” or “sweet-hearted” – whatever that may mean. I can imagine that it is a very difficult task to describe anything that goes into the realm of chemistry in only a few words.

---
* I admit that this would not a sufficient basis for an empirical study. Yet looking at one newspaper sufficed for my purposes – and I dare raising the hypothesis that it is a quite representative picture I got.





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