All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible. T. E. Lawrence
OK, sorry for being gone for so long. Sometimes I’m bad at this blogging thing. I just haven’t had much I want to say lately. I haven’t been traveling, I’ve just been here in Los Angeles trying to get a little work and sell a lot of my things. It’s been slow, but I’ve made a couple hundred dollars from the things I’ve sold so far, and I’m really looking forward to just cutting down on things I can do without. I’ve been decluttering my life (that’s a link to Zenhabits.com’s blog post on decluttering, not my own post) for what seems like a long time now, but I haven’t made it easier on myself by being bi-continental. It’s amazing how even though I’ve slowed down with buying things I won’t use regularly, how much there is to go through. I mean, really, it seems like the bulk of it is paper. Books, notebooks, and crap the IRS makes you save. I really want to get rid of all that stuff. I’ve digitized the notes from some notebooks (except the super full ones) and then tossed them. I’ve shredded masses of credit card bills (I figure if I need them again I can get them online. Maybe not without some difficulty but ugggg I hate all these things in my filing cabinet). The key for me seems to be just to keep combing through, keep letting go, and try not to add more to it.
I’ve been trying to declutter my mind as well. After years of hearing about this book, I finally read The Power of Now, which I’ll probably have to re-read every so often to stay focused. It’s not as if the concept is completely new to me, but my thoughts and fears can easily overwhelm me and working on a practice of staying in “the now” seems pretty beneficial. I’ve been really monitoring my thoughts and feelings more, though I haven’t been under a huge stress test lately to see how I deal with it. Not that I want one… lol. I also read (or rather listened to the audio book on YouTube, but then I found the book at Goodwill) The Four Agreements, which really compliment The Power of Now. Highly recommended, both of them.
What else, what else… well, before I read The Power of Now, I was quite a mess in January. The renters in my mobile home had given their one month notice in the middle of December, leaving me to find someone new over Christmas. I found someone new, but couldn’t raise the rent enough to really truly cover all my expenses (there were some surprise raises in the rent this past year), but nobody was interested in it at a higher price. Then to top it off, I had to hire a cleaning lady to help ready the place ($), a handyman to fix some plumbing issues ($$) and then the electricity had problems ($$$) and the heat went out ($$$$). All in all, I could have flown to the Caribbean on what I spent. I found myself one afternoon dragging things out of the backyard and the shed, trying to get an old TV down to the dumpster, freaking out on someone via text because I couldn’t take the stress anymore, and watching teardrops splash on that stupid TV set after dropping it on my toes. I was already bruised and scratched and dirty and really fed up. Just when I thought I was starting to pull things together, I was left with barely anything in my bank account. All while hoping I’d just get enough background work to help put money back in savings, pay down my credit card, and get a plane ticket back to France. That hasn’t happened yet. And I haven’t worked in 2 weeks. Oh, I still work online, and it’s still squeaking by, but not enough to cover everything. I bet the IRS is going to want anything I’m able to set aside by April, too. I hate them. I’ve been looking into other online jobs, and got a very part time gig as a ticket scalper (which makes me feel a bit guilty, but I need some income, even if it’s deferred and morally questionable…). You know how your car likes to eat up savings every time you have some? So does a mobile home. Ah, my car also wants some now, but I just pay 50¢ every week to put it off….
I went in for the casting director meet-and-greet day at Central Casting this morning, since I wasn’t booked for work, which I’ll probably do more often while I’m here, since it does get your name circulated around the office, which may lead to more work. Cross your fingers. The room was crammed full today (nobody else getting work, either?) so there was really no meet-and-greet, just a Q&A. Now I know who casts the background for Mad Men.
And since I wasn’t working, and have gotten a bit tired of going through papers and preparing for tax time, I took the whole afternoon to work on songwriting. And I wrote a song and a half! I would really like to do this more often. Once I get into the groove I can just keep going for a while. I may be able to work on them again tomorrow after I scalp some tickets early in the day. I love being absorbed in creating…. I never want to stop. I don’t want to go to sleep right now. But I have to wake up at 5AM so I should go to bed or I may hit snooze too many times. I just enjoy writing songs, and then I get excited at the thought of performing them. I’m still a ways away from that though. I need to find the perfect match to play piano for me so I’m not alone on stage fudging things up on the guitar or something. But my songs are getting better, and I think if I really take all these days off I have (pfffffff) and focus on writing, I could have a nice handful to work with, and really do it this year. Maybe my musical couchsurfing tour could be a reality in 2014….
Oh yeah! I almost forgot. Duh. I started my indiegogo.com campaign for the short documentary film I’m making for the 168 Hour Film Festival this year. Please check it out, and donate or share the campaign.
The first book I read on prayer and healing was The Power of Divine: A Healer’s Guide – Tapping into the Miracle, back in 2006, but after the death of my almost-step-daughter, thinking about the ability to heal anyone was too painful to consider, since I was sure it wouldn’t bring her back. Oh, I believed in miracles, and believed right up until the funeral that it was still possible for her to experience a miracle. But that didn’t happen.
Years later, I slowly got curious again. Occasionally I would go to a meetup, or a class on energy healing, or something of the sort. Of course I’d read the stories in the Bible of Jesus and his disciples healing people, and knew that he told us we would do greater works than those… but I never saw any in my life. My prayers, my family’s prayers, friend’s prayers… seemed to go unanswered. I knew from a personal experience that energy healing worked, so I started learning about that. But this year I finally got drawn back to the healing power of Jesus. In the past few months I’ve discovered a ton of books on Amazon (I even made a list, here), some of which I either purchased or found as pdfs to read. I decided it was time to meet some people who were healing in Jesus’ name, in person, and learn how to do what they do. Reading is great, but just like learning French… you need practice with other people!
I located a small group of people meeting in L.A. on Thursday nights, through meetup.com, and attended a meeting. After attending one more meeting, I decided to go along with the pastor on a little healing outing, and talk to him about my idea for a short documentary film. We met up on Wednesday night at the Universal City metro station (free parking), along with another girl, and intended to drive into North Hollywood, where he thought perhaps there would be a busy area to set up in. We got a little delayed (like, an hour) because his car battery died and we had to wait for a jump. Once that got resolved, we were on our way.
Unfortunately, the streets of NoHo are not jumping after dark. We finally set up the sign and brought out flyers for the Thursday night meeting outside of the NoHo metro station. Not the greatest place because everyone going there is hoping not to miss their train. One man with crutches and a leg brace hurried past…. that would have been a great one to witness. But one young man with facial piercings and shorts (shorts?! it’s cold!!) stopped to read the sign and accept some healing prayer.
“Got any pain, anything we can pray for?”
“Yeah, my knees, they hurt.”
“Do they hurt right now?”
“Yeah, all the time, every day.”
So Pastor Troy held his hand over the man’s knee, and said a prayer for healing lasting not more than 10 seconds. Then he asked how he felt.
“Umm, the same.”
“Let me do it again.”
He prayed once more, and the man bent his knees to judge the pain.
“Yeah, it’s a little better.”
“Let’s do it again!”
Once more, the pastor prayed over his knees, and this time the man replied that they felt much better.
“Now do something you couldn’t do before.”
“Well,” he said as he bent one leg, then the other, “I couldn’t bend them like this, I could only bend them to here.” He demonstrated the difference.
Success! It may not have been healing broken bones, or blindness, but still, pain is pain. And his was gone.
Shortly after, we decided to call it a night and resolved to set up outside of a mall or a hospital while the sun was still out, next time. And maybe next time…. I’ll lend a hand.
Like it’s asking you, “OK, now how positive are you?” as it slaps another problem in your lap.
You have a bit of a freak out, and then tell yourself to breathe and think of the best case scenarios instead of the worst. But really, what’s running through your head is just “f#####¢k…. now?? I was just starting to get things together again.”
In my mind, this is what 2014 looks like:
I will produce another short film, this time take it to Cannes, and other film festivals. I will make a documentary for the 168 Film Festival this year, though probably not attend. I will make a little trip to Hawaii sometime between January-March, and return to Paris in May, for Cannes. I will continue working on my web series idea, but with everything else going on, it probably won’t happen this year. After a few months in Paris, I’ll hit the road/sky/sea and do a little traveling, returning to L.A. by the end of the year.
But this is how 2013 is ending:
Very slow with the background work, only 2-3 days a week and nothing so far this week. I think it’s hiatus already. I’m spending the rest of the year at home, which I figured would give me time to write scripts and music (oh yeah, forgot to put that in there. I want to get songs done this year, and perform while traveling!). My mom ended up in the hospital last week, and is in rehab maybe even through Christmas, which makes me kind of wish I could be around to keep her company or help out or something, but tickets right now (thank you, Christmas….) are at least $800. That and the fact that I can’t leave my pets alone means I’m sticking to my original plan. Then yesterday I get an email from the tenants of the mobile home I own, saying they’re giving their 30 days notice. After almost 2 years. Seriously?! Mid-month, right before Christmas?! You’re kidding…. So now everything else I thought I could focus on takes a backseat to not losing over $1000 next month if I don’t get someone in right away, and over $2000 for February if I still don’t have someone in there. I only make a little over $2000 a month and have nothing in savings except the $300 I just started a savings account with yesterday for the tenants’ deposit refund. I was just starting to relax about the money situation. And between you and me, I don’t even have the money to give them their deposit back, so I’m relying on the next tenant’s deposit for that. It’s been a horrible year, financially.
So. I’m a little overwhelmed and want to hide under something, but I know I can’t. I know every moment now needs to be spent trying to earn money and find new tenants. I don’t know if I’ll get this short film done. The person I was going to write with just bowed out because she has her own financial crisis right now, and even without these tenants leaving and potentially losing me money I don’t have, Cannes is not looking like it’ll happen this year. Maybe next year….
I’m a little tired of this one-thing-after-another pattern. I just wanted some time to settle in, earn a little money, and move forward again.
I know I shouldn’t freak out and sob over something that hasn’t even happened yet, but the stress of knowing what the worst case scenario is and how it affects the rest of my year is kind of a downer. After the last two tenants I had periods of 2 weeks to a month where the place was empty, and I lost a lot of money. This year… I don’t have that money to lose.
But I’m trying to manage my reaction. Instead of “whaaaaayyyyyy?!” I’m trying to breath and think, “OK, it’s just something that needs to be done.” And it means I just have to work extra hard if I want to survive, and also fulfill my creative goals. The more crises I have to deal with in life, the more prepared and calm I will be for future ones, right?
I’ve also been listing some of my things for sale on eBay, and etsy, and in addition to earning a little money (about $200 in the past month, yay!) I’m also clearing out my life a bit. With this extra pressure on for the holidays, it’s forcing me to look even harder at what I own and what I can part with. So that’s a good thing.
But perhaps it’s all a lesson on inner peace… something you keep no matter what’s going on in your life. Something I’m still working on finding…. I don’t believe that God sends hardships, or sickness, or sorrow… but I also haven’t quite found the secret to overflowing blessings and abundance. Perhaps Matthew 6:33 is the secret….
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
I joined a friend’s family dinner right before Thanksgiving and listened to them share some hilarious stories. One story told was about an actress (no name given) who wanted everyone to think she was younger than she really was so she organized a massive 30th birthday party. I don’t know how old she actually was, that wasn’t mentioned (or known?). But from that point on, when she would run into people and they would wonder how long it had been, they would instantly remember her “30th birthday” and do the math from there.
Now that I’m back in L.A. for a semi-long stretch of time, it almost feels like starting over. Except this time, I know something about Hollywood. And life. I don’t have the secrets to success (yet) but I think I’m getting the hang of surviving as an artist.
Although I signed right back up to do extra work again (which has been slow thanks to the holidays), rather than seeing it just as a way of earning money, I also see it as a way to network and make new friends in the business. Last week while working on set in a “strip club” I made a new friend who is now my new writing partner for my next short film (oh, you’ll hear more about this, trust me). I used to be the girl who sat in the corner with a book, and although I do bring books and magazines (and snacks), I have learned the power of networking. And I’m ready to use it.
Although I don’t have a lot of play money at the moment, I am making an effort to get out, so I can meet more people! And have fun, of course. Life is too short to not have fun. Or, as John the AD said last week, “we don’t get paid enough to sit around being miserable.” (and a few sentences later came the phrase, “let’s blow some shit up!”)
Moving back and forth has meant that in both countries, a lot of my things have gotten left in storage. On every visit back to the US I try to get rid of some things, but never really have enough time to deal with it all. I don’t just throw things away. For one, these things still have a monetary value, and I could use that money. Two, I hate knowing that my things will just get buried in a landfill, especially if they’re still useful. I don’t even like buying food in packages because it’s wasteful. But I’ve got clothing and jewelry supplies that other people can still use. So I have to find them new homes. Today I shipped off four items sold on ebay and etsy. Although I have way too many interests to ever really live out of a suitcase or even a car, simplifying life as much as I can does feel good. Having an uncluttered space to live in definitely makes a difference. Or I think it will. I’m not there yet.
If you want something done….
Not even done RIGHT, just done. Do it yourself. For several years I’ve known this was the case. It took me a long time to embrace being a producer. I don’t mind it so much now, although ideas are few and far between. But I have a few for this year! A short film for Cannes, a short documentary for 168, and I still want to do my web series. I’m also working on music. I spent too much time just submitting for other peoples’ projects, auditioning for other people, waiting on other people…. they don’t care about you. You’re the only one who cares about you. So take matters into your own hands! If you’re doing what you love, having fun, creating something awesome (which may not happen the first time, or even the second time, as you’re learning), it’s so much better than just waiting to be handed a role. You’re meeting people, working on your craft, learning new things, and getting out there.
Don’t panic about money. Panicking doesn’t make money come faster. Easier said than done. I have to keep reminding myself about this one. I’ve spent a lot of time on craigslist and listing things on ebay, looking at my bills and my bank account, and neglecting the creative things I should be doing that may not earn money right now. But because I enjoy creating, and these things feed into my actual career, they are investments I can’t afford to not make. Years from now when I wonder why I still suck on guitar and haven’t recorded anything, I can look back and blame all the time I spent worrying about making money, and selling things on ebay for $20. I’m pretty sure I’ll be OK, I’ve got some plans for financial stability, it’s just a very slow process. Besides, when you’re worried about money, it can put you in a foul mood and you’ll have a harder time networking. Just be open to opportunities, and do your best, but don’t just chase money. Chase the things that last, and they’ll lead you to the pot of gold.
I’m so excited about everything I have (tentatively) planned for this coming year. Another short film (oh, it’ll be good), a documentary, some music, some traveling, some surprises.
Do you remember what life was like before cell phones? I got my first cell phone before heading to California in 2000. I don’t remember how often I used it. I mean, it didn’t have internet or any apps. It was a Nokia. I remember buying a pretty pink flowery faceplate for it off of eBay. Oh yeah, that’s the one.
Well, a few days before liftoff, I couldn’t seem to find my T-mobile SIM card anywhere. I decided instead of risk leaving it behind and being phoneless, I would call them up and order a new one. A very long phone call and $10 later, they were sending out my new SIM card. Which arrived the day after I did, but nobody was at home to sign for it, so it went back to UPS. And when I tried to pick it up, it wasn’t available until Monday. I landed on Thursday (Halloween), and was phoneless until Monday. My iPhone was basically a glorified notepad. I had a few apps that would still work, like my French flashcards. And I could take pictures. And use it as a flashlight. So for these 4 days I communicated with my friends and family via email, letting them know that “I’m leaving the house in an hour, and then you won’t be able to get in touch with me! Say it now!” I had to take pictures of maps in case I got lost. When I went to get my cat on Saturday, I had both him and the dog in the car, with my gas light blinking because I forgot to get gas, and just prayed “oh PLEASE don’t let me run out of gas now, with animals in the car, in the dark, and no way to call home.” We made it.
It was really interesting being unplugged for the weekend. I’m wondering if it affected the number of times I check email on my phone now, or how often I’ll post photos on Facebook, or any of those things. I’m not sure. And now that I’m relying on my phone for messages about work, I don’t want to repeat the experiment any time soon.
Oh and guess what I found today? Yep. It was in my suitcase all along…. why didn’t I unpack sooner?!
Here is where I admit that I adjusted to Africa like my dog would adjust to swimming in the ocean. Which is to say, you toss her in and she gets out as fast as she can (or she’d probably drown). It appears with a quick Google images search that there are no other Yorkies that enjoy swimming in the ocean either.
And I feel terribly guilty about it. Not throwing my Yorkie in the ocean, but how I handled my time in Africa. The people were wonderful, and it was amazing to experience something so different from my own life, but it was way outside of my comfort zone. Yes, that’s partially what draws me to foreign lands… a chance to get out of my comfort zone, to stretch myself, to humble myself, to see things rather than to just hear about them… but it’s not easy. I’m like a new pair of toe shoes that needs to be worn in. I’m stiff and shiny and I need to be bent and softened, cut and beaten down a little bit before I am ready for use. Before God can dance in me.
I would love to react to life the way Audrey Hepburn did. She was always thinking of others first, it seemed, and wouldn’t mind her own discomfort. Of course, she grew up during World War II and had a mother drilling into her that “others matter more than you.” I’m sure she handled Africa much better than I did. Though, to be fair, she did request to have an air conditioner shipped to Africa during the filming of The Nun’s Story, and also that ”quarantine laws in the Belgian Congo would be waved for [her terrier] Famous […] and most important of all, that a bidet would be installed and waiting for her… It was probably the only bathroom fixture of its kind in Central Africa at that time.” (I read this ages ago and found this particular reference Here)
I, however, did not have a bidet or my Yorkie. So perhaps Miss Hepburn’s trips to Africa were slightly more comfortable than mine. I did my best, but I felt that two weeks was enough to experience major culture shock and not really get acclimated to a new country such as Ghana. I admit that my own discomfort really took over my thoughts at many times. Many, many times. But what drove me crazy about that was knowing that many, many people have traveled to Africa, have lived in Africa, spend their whole lives in Africa… and probably do it without complaint. I mean, I’m just assuming. Maybe I’m being hard on myself. I don’t know. I can adjust to things. It doesn’t mean I like them, but who says you have to like everything? Perhaps I was just not sufficiently mentally prepared for this.
I knew there would be no running water in the village. I knew the internet situation may be sketchy. I was prepared to bend the rules on being vegan or vegetarian. I was not exactly prepared for other things, however.
I haven’t known exactly how to approach all of this in a blog post. To me, it was another world far from my own. To those who live there, it’s life as usual and people seem generally content. I don’t want to gloss over my experience there and only share the positive, fun stories, but I also don’t want to focus only on the negative points. Because it’s a completely different culture that I’m not a part of and won’t completely understand or agree with. To me, it’s shocking to see the living conditions of some people, and I feel the urge to change things. But I don’t know what it’s really like to live there, or if they even want to change. I’m sure there are aspects of my own culture that Ghanaian people would witness and say “that’s terrible!” and they would be right. We all have things we can learn from each other, and ways we can help each other. This could be it’s own topic….
That said, let’s move on. I’m going to just start with some of the things I wasn’t prepared for.
Transportation. I actually did not get a photo of the exterior of the trotros, which are large white vans that can seat over 20 people inside. They go down the road in set routes, with the mate hanging out the front window making signs with his hands to tell people along the road where they’re headed. You hop in and pay about 25¢ for a ride.
From the junction near our town, we would get a taxi (see above). Several of them would line the street, waiting for either enough people to fill it up, or someone willing to pay for all 4 seats. Somehow, most of the time we got a taxi, it was the one above. The inside was terrifying. You could touch the rolled-down window through the inside of the door… because there was no inside of the door. I don’t recall if it was this particular taxi or another one, but I’m pretty sure there was a jug of gas with a hose stuck in it on the floor of the passenger side. Every time we’d pass a sign saying something to the effect of “slow down! 12 people died here” I was pretty sure they were talking about a trotro accident.
The issue here seems to be that cars are imported to Ghana, and a heavy tax is levied on them, making them unaffordable to most people. So they wring every last bit of life out of the cars they have. Even if in the US, they wouldn’t even be allowed on the street. Here, apparently, if it starts and you can still move it… continue on.
According to Road Safety Services, a few of the major causes of road accidents in Ghana are, in fact:
• Most accidents are caused by broken down vehicles on our roads.
• It appears in Ghana there is a leeway for drivers to drive on worn/second hand tyres.
• The unworthiness of some cars on our roads also invariably leads to road accidents.
• Over-loading of vehicles beyond their expected gross weights is a known cause of accidents.
Road accidents are among the top causes of death in Ghana, with malaria, diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases, according to deputy director of the Ghana Health Service, George Amofa. Road accidents kill more Ghanaians annually than typhoid fever, pregnancy-related complications, malaria in pregnancy, diabetes or rheumatism.
Sanitation. I don’t know why I thought nothing would be different. Sure, in the US and in France you run across the idiots who pee in the street or don’t wash their hands, but I was practically in shock here. Men, women and children used places other than covered toilets to relieve themselves, and don’t seem to see the importance of washing their hands after. I witnessed a small boy at the marketplace casually relieving himself on the ground not far from where food was being sold, and the toilet above was found on a visit to the Department of Social Welfare, with a little sink out in the hallway. Toilets in this part of Ghana seem to be treated the same way as kitchens in Paris – an afterthought.
I got a lot of use out of my organic, lavander-scented hand sanitizer spray on this trip, and cringed inside every time somebody wanted to shake my hand. I loved the children and let them touch me, but I also knew that they probably hadn’t been washing their hands either. I’m not a mysophobe, I swear, but I must have seemed like one. Even with all my precautions, by the end of the trip I suffered mild diarrhea and major stomach pain during my flight home. I’m better now. But so many people are not as lucky.
In Ghana, diarrhea accounts for 25 percent of all deaths in children under five and is among the top three reported causes of morbidity…. Nine million episodes of disease could be prevented each year by washing hands with soap.
“In Ghana it is even critical because most of us like eating with our hands, because of the type of dishes that we cook. So when it comes to handling food we use our hands a lot. Secondly, surfaces [transfer] to palms a lot of germs. It can be a door knob, even our computers, the ATM cards…people use their hands a lot so there is the need to create awareness. Look at the food that we eat – fufu, kenkey, banku and all those things – we don’t enjoy eating with fork and knife, so we have to eat with our hands – therefore we have to keep the hands very clean.
I’m really glad to see that there are efforts to promote hand-washing. Global Handwashing Day has even been established by GlobalHandwashing.org. It’s just one of those things I never even thought about… I naively assumed most people knew you get sick less often if you keep your hands clean. Even last year I learned my lesson once more. After months of winter illness, I started carrying hand sanitizer and not touching anything on the public transportation. Add to that a morning smoothie, and I have not been sick in over a year (though there was the one time I fell ill from lack of sleep). Sometimes I forget that we are not all aware of these things. Heck, there are still things I could learn.
See all that fruit up there? That was not to be found in Ghana. Apparently I’d missed mango season so really all I had were tiny bananas, avocados, apples…mmmm am I missing something? Oh, some papaya but I really don’t like papaya so I couldn’t finish it. My friend had told me diets were different here, but I thought really… so close to the equator… there wouldn’t be tropical fruit to eat? I’d find something. I was a little wrong. I am realizing my love of fruit is so strong that now I’m researching tropical paradises I can live happily ever after in. Kauai?
In Ghana, I’m rich. Fair enough, I understand. I do earn more than most of the people I met. But the cost of living is much higher in the US and EU. And right now I would not be considered rich in either of those places. lol But in Ghana it was assumed that I am rich, and that prices can be higher for me. I suppose it’s like that anywhere for a foreigner…. the other day I bought a little toy from a man outside of the Pompidou Centre and we got to chatting… he told me that he sells the toy to Arab tourists for 10€ because to them it’s nothing. It’s all relative. I don’t mind so much when I’m buying bananas or some fabric, but when they want to charge you oohhhh like, 500% more to enter a fort and then the equivalent of $100-$200 to take pictures…. I’m wondering exactly how rich they think we are.
I’m white. And that’s weird. lol. There is no walking around unnoticed. Even in my nice new dress.
I love that dress. The niece of a friend of my friend made it for me from fabric I’d bought at the market. Other than that dress I wore for Manon and couldn’t keep (it was a costume), and my “Belle” Halloween costume when I was about 12, I think this is the only time someone has ever made a dress specifically fit for me. I usually buy second-hand. But anyway, yeah, there’s just no blending in. You’re white, and you’re rich. Get used to it.
Now we’re moving into the cool unexpected things… I mean starting with that dress. I’ve even worn it out in Paris, and I’ll wear it out in L.A.
Water… baggies. What do you call this? This is pretty cool.
Trashybags.org is even doing what I had been thinking about as I stared at all the bags along the streets and outside of the villages – collecting the bags and upcycling them.
Sorry to go back to the negative zone, but this does bring up the issue of trash collection in Ghana. I found an article focusing on waste management in Accra here, if you care to read it. In the village I was at, there was no trash collection, and in my meanderings around the community center I stumbled upon a trash heap (on which someone was, er, squatting, to top it off….). Walking along the beach, I would see buried trash beginning to peak out after a high tide. I didn’t take a photo but I found one online to illustrate:
Anywaaaaay. Since I knew where all my bags would end up, I decided to take most of them home with me. I’m using one of the bags as a soap holder, and the rest are awaiting inspiration.
I’ve been learning about natural cures (specifically in the tropics but some apply anywhere, you can learn more at anamed.net) and one powerful plant seems to be Moringa. It grows in Ghana! In fact there was a tree right behind the community center. Sadly, the pods were very dried up and the seeds didn’t look so good, but we did find some in Cape Coast!
I was taught how to make a certain veggie and fish stew that I found tasty, and it’s been my easy go-to meal to make since I’ve gotten back to Paris. I’ve had to adjust because of differences in the availability of ingredients (those whole cooked fish, not sure where to find them here. Short grain rice? Seems different in France…) but I like to have this new African dish in my recipe book.
Seriously. I’m going to start hacking down palm trees when I get to L.A.
I don’t think I actually ate any, but I’m including it here because it’s funny.
I believe this was the first time I’d ever eaten a fish that still looked like a fish. And I’d do it again. So un-vegan of me….
Well, this blog post has taken hours, and I should start packing up my things for another move this evening.
In closing…. I’ll say of course there is more to say about Ghana… good and bad. It was my first time in Africa, my first time in a really, truly completely different culture…. I was almost going to say “I hope in some ways it’s changed me for the better,” but then thought how self-centered that seems to me… what I really wish is that somehow I could have gone and returned having made someone else’s life better. But perhaps it’s just given me things to think about, and a better idea of what I can be a part of in the future to make someone’s life better. Some sort of reconnaissance mission, in a way. There must be a better phrase for that. But I think with first-hand experience it helps one to understand the world better than you can simply by Googling things (duh). And some day the pieces of the puzzle that you’ve gathered simply by being open and curious will come together and help you fulfill your purpose.
I’d like to leave you with one of Audrey Hepburn’s favourite poems (and one of mine, too) by Sam Levenson…
For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.
Last year, somehow I stumbled upon a website called ScoopThePoop.net and contacted the owner about perhaps creating some French pooh flags. Which he did. But between my trip to L.A., making a short film, and moving around way too much, I forgot about printing them up and flagging pooh.
Knowing the end of my time in Paris is near (at least for now. I just don’t know what my plan is and will spend time sorting that out in L.A.) I had to do something. I couldn’t leave without taking action against a few of the things Parisians need to work on, because I want to make the world a better place. So I am letting certain irresponsible dog-owners know that we DO notice the crap they leave behind, and we are not OK with it.
And this is how.
Paris is well-known for the crap on the sidewalks and if I could just get the ball rolling on this public shaming, perhaps others will want to join me and continue the mission once I’m gone. But to do that, they will need the flags! So you will find the downloadable and printable PDFs in French and in English at the end of this post.
This new hobby has really changed my mood while out walking and stumbling upon (or narrowly avoiding) dog poop. As I walk my own dog, or as I’m walking to the store, or to class, or wherever I’m going…. instead of seeing a pile of stinking poop and silently going “AAAAAGGGGGH!” I reach into my pocket and pull out a flag, taking a bit of delight in the thought that this doggy’s owner most likely will pass by again and see what those of us who buy (biodegradable) doggy bags think. If you can’t read it, it says “Mon maître est un gros dégueulasse” which loosely translated means “My master is an inconsiderate jerk.” Or at least that’s what the English version says. I did ask one friend if it made sense to him, and he said yes, sooooo…. there you go.
I’ve already flagged almost a dozen poop piles, it’s about time to print out some more flags. I have only taken photos of two, because really, it just feels weird to photograph poop.
If you’re interested in shaming irresponsible dog owners in your English or French speaking city, please feel free to download these printable flags! Also feel free to print them on colourful paper.
And…. that’s not the only disgusting habit I’m going to try to get people to quit.
If you’ve spent any length of time in Paris, you’ve probably seen some grown man pissing in public, right? When there are cafés and bars and even free public toilets practically everywhere you look, there he stands in broad daylight, peeing on a wall.
Well. That drives me nuts, and I wish it hadn’t taken me until a trip to Barcelona to find a way to show them that it’s not appreciated.
Sold in packs of 6 for about 5€, I found pocket-sized water guns. Parfait. If you’re going to behave like a dog, I’ll treat you like a dog.
I haven’t had a chance to use it yet. The only two opportunities I’ve had recently were 1. when I forgot to pack my gun and 2. when there were three drunk teenagers in a park and I was walking to the metro in heels and a corset (what, I was at the Paris Burlesque Festival). Not the best time to exact punishment. I hope I get to do it at least once before I leave, but if not… I will definitely be packing them in my suitcase on my way back. And girls, I have 5 extra if you’d like to join my gang.
Sorry for the radio silence. That’s the term, right?
I’m alive. And I really do want to get back to talking about Ghana, but this month has also been quite an experience and I feel I should write about it as it’s happening…. There are a lot of things I can’t say, or rather just choose not to say… I made a decision to not be public about my relationships and I’m trying to stick to that. I think it’s a good decision, because sometimes we can get quite upset at someone and it’s probably not a good idea to vent it to the whole world.
So let’s seeeeee. Last week, I went to my friend’s place, and stayed there for several days. It was really enjoyable. We stayed up late and talked about everything and anything, from relationships to movies. We watched movies, too. He gave me his couch-bed and slept on a thin roll-out mattress on the floor for the whole week. Awwwww. I did offer to switch with him if he needed a break from it. Luckily, he got a break on Sunday, when I went to check out guests at the Vacant Apartment. This week I started painting the walls of the V.A. It always looks like an easy, quick job, but somehow it does take time. You plaster some holes, wait for that to dry, sand it, put tape around the things you don’t want to paint, then you paint with the brush, then with the roller…. then you let it dry while you watch an episode of Drop Dead Diva, or The Daily Show…. then you apply the second coat. Voilà! One wall down. How many to go? How about that one back in the corner near the washer, that one looks ugly. Yes, so I’ll just move these things off the – dammit, nooooo! Detergent on the floor. Must pull out cabinets and the washer, and try to mop it up…. washer is attached to wall by hose…. that’s not happening….
On to the next wall. Well, the next day. I’m doing a wall a day. Why, you ask? Because I have a life. A life that involves taking the metro to my storage place every morning to tote back more potential items to either come with me, get mailed to me, or stay behind. I’m sorting. And I have until the 24th to empty that thing. I figure I have 6 more trips to make if I’m doing it on my own. Potentially less if I can get a friend with a car. Which I may have for this weekend, or may have had….
This weekend is the Paris Burlesque Festival. A friend and I have volunteered, and I’m very excited about it. Nervous too, since I rarely volunteer for this sort of thing. I get nervous having such responsibility. Oh, and potentially having to converse in and understand French. But I want to meet people in the burlesque world, and see some shows (which otherwise are not free)! And have an excuse to wear a corset. I’m still unsure of my costume.
I almost had a plan to ease my storage woes this weekend, as well. Someone from out of town, with a car, would stay over on Saturday and help me with the trip on Sunday. All my things need to be out of storage by the 24th, and it’s been a pain going back and forth and figuring out what has to come with me and what has to stay. My new storage is another friend’s cave. That’s like an underground storage area.
And then things start to change. I’m told I may have to finish up the walls tomorrow and figure out how to shove everything I could possibly need access to before the 27th into a small closet in the hallway so that a guest can check in. Can I stop here and say, yes, I know this friend seems a little selfish right now, and if you knew the extent of the relationship, you would just say, “what an @sshole,” as others have. It has not been an easy year for me. Every year in France seems to get more difficult. Like running on a hamster wheel that won’t stop. And that’s why I’m getting off for a moment, and taking a breather in L.A. I need to examine this wheel and figure out a survival strategy now that I know what I’m in for. But at the moment, things have gone what I would call, “wrong,” and I’m temporarily without a home of my own. And does anyone see the irony of the homeless girl managing an apartment rental? Yeah…
It’s been an interesting time for me. I am observing which friends reach out and offer help, and which ones could, but don’t. Which friends are always there when I need help (even when I tell them “you’ve done so much for me already, I don’t want to ask you for help again!”) and which ones say (well not out loud) “OK, I’ve given enough, I don’t care if you have to sleep on the street with your dog.”
I’m not perfect. There have been times where I couldn’t respond to a request for help. But I’ve taken in cats, I’ve nursed a cat with cancer, I’ve picked up and dropped off friends at the airport (one time in the middle of the night, too), I’ve loaned money (and sometimes it doesn’t get paid back…. thanks, guys), I’ve loaned my car, I’ve taken in friends who had no place to go, I even shared a tiny studio with a friend for months and slept on a mattress on the floor. I want to help. I love it when I can be there for someone when they need it. I actually am enjoying painting the walls here, because it’s something that I can give.
But to know that the place was vacant for the entire 6 weeks I was gone, because I was the only person he thought he could trust in all of Paris to manage it…. and now that I’m back with this major issue of homelessness he desperately needs to rent it, and I have to be the one to do it…. Over the summer I dealt with a water heater that wouldn’t heat, a washer/dryer that wouldn’t dry (and I was up all night for an 8AM check-in trying to do laundry. Then vacuuming, which woke the downstairs neighbour. And she let me know of her displeasure.), a clogged kitchen sink, a wobbly faucet, hair in the shower drain, stained sheets, ripped sheets, putting up curtain rods for curtains I still can’t figure out…. need I continue? But when I am in serious need of help and a place to stay, and this place is not being lived in… I need to prepare it for someone else who’s got the money to go live wherever they want. I’m seriously reconsidering my relationship with this person.
So on Friday I may have to shove everything into a closet and pack my backpack… forget about more musical contests because my guitar will be locked inside an apartment… and now figure out what I’m going to do about my dog while me and my friend (who has been helping to watch her when I can’t) both are volunteering at the festival. Oh yeah, and I can no longer host the friend who was going to save the day with his car on Sunday. So there goes that, and I have no idea how I’m going to get these things over to the new storage place.
OK, on a more positive note… I listened to the audio book version of The Four Agreements, which I highly recommend. I will probably listen to it again soon. I need to drill it into my head.
“Be the source of God’s presence in the life of another.”
Other notes were:
Be grateful for every condition and circumstance in life.
Ask myself how I would be able to express who I am (in the form of being kind, caring, loving, forgiving…) without conditions in which to become that.
To say,”Thank you God, for this one more chance to announce and declare, to express and to fulfill, to become and to demonstrate, who I really am.”
Good stuff, especially when going through trials. But that first note makes me think, a lot. He said when we look at what it is we think we lack, and then instead of trying to find it, seek to give it to others…. it will find us. It’s a little tricky when what you lack is a place for you and your dog to sleep, but maybe I can come up with something else.
One time I stopped and gave money to an older woman who was in the metro station with her cart of belongings. She told me to wait a moment, and then pulled out a pack of gum, which she handed to me. I thought it was so sweet, so special that this woman who had almost nothing would find something to give to me. She didn’t have to. I wasn’t expecting anything in return. But she gave. I kept that pack of gum. In fact, maybe I’ll even bring it back to L.A. with me….
Oh yes, I mentioned musical contests…. so if you wouldn’t mind…
For the past two years in Paris, I’ve been trying to settle in, despite my decreasing income and frustrations learning French. My plan was to be creative, all the time… make that webseries! Learn French and act in French! Act in English! Do background work, like in L.A., when I needed extra cash! Have a cozy place to live! But it’s been a struggle. Looking back, of course I can say, “well maybe I should have looked for a job right away so I would learn French quicker, and have a little more income….” but I was really optimistic. And then after the optimism came the time in The Suburbs, when commuting for any reason was a pain, and culture shock and homesickness set in big time. I left that place and tossed everything in storage, all the furniture to be sold again over the summer for much less than I paid to furnish my cozy house…. I returned my cat to his natural habitat (California) and decided that I would join him again in 3 months time.
The financial situation continued to get worse, and when I returned from Los Angeles I could only manage to afford a tiny studio in Belleville, on the 7th floor, for about the same price you’d get a decent studio with a toilet, shower, maybe even a tub, and a kitchen in Los Angeles. I intended to buy my ticket home at the end of July so I could go back to doing background work, be with my cat, and just recover for a while in a real apartment. Or house. Well, the Prefecture messed up those plans with an appointment in September, so I had to stick around. Knowing how time-consuming the search for a place in Paris would be, and how expensive a decent place to live would be, I opted to go traveling. When I returned to Paris, I thought I had two options. The apartment I help to rent out on airbnb (in between guests) and someone who said they had a spare room I could stay in. Well, the second option fell through. Which left me a couple days here and there in option #1. One sweet friend came to my rescue, and hosted me for over a week, until another friend of his came to visit from out of town, and I had to find a place to rest my head in the next 24 hours. My dog would stay behind for the time being. The next day, another friend came to my rescue, for one night. I even got to sleep in a bed! But the next day I was back on the search for another bed. And now I find myself, for the first time ever, I believe, stuck with no place to go and no place to be. I’ve got a backpack and a bag of bananas and left over veggies. My first thought was to head to Eastside Burgers, where they have vegan (junk) food, free wifi, and a restroom. When I arrived, they were closed. Yay for Mondays. Do Parisiens fast on Mondays? I sat for a few minutes trying to figure out where I could go next. “Home” wasn’t an option. I turned the corner and found a public toilet. Yay! At least I could do that. So I wiped down the seat (come ON, people) and did so. Then I walked along the street, through a bit of a park. I sat and watched the water, and pigeons, and smelled the flowers. A homeless man slept on a bench across from me, on the other side of the fountains. I wished I could sleep.
I’d been texting and FBing for some help since yesterday, and by now at least knew where I would have a bed for the night, though I was told it would be 10pm before he arrived home from work.
I moved on after lightening my bag by two bananas. I thought perhaps I could get a haircut. It’s about time for that. My fringe is in my eyes. I knew my regular place was closed on Mondays (seriously!!!) and the one place nearby wanted over 40€…. no thanks. No haircut today. Now where? I looked up Subway. They’d be open, for sure. And have veggie options. So I walked to Subway. As luck would have it, I sat down next to an outlet. So I gained 20% on my phone while I slowly ate half of a sandwich, saving the other half for dinner, because who knows where I’d be. I felt like I should be on my way, but… to where? Then I remembered some letters I had to mail. La Poste! I mailed my letters. Now what? I walked around the block and thought of a park I’d been to. I looked on my map, and I found it. All four benches were claimed. I mean seriously claimed, by one or two people sitting smack in the middle of all of them. I sat on some stairs until one pair left. And this is where I find myself now.
My lovely host has informed me that it will now only be 7pm before I have a place to come “home” to for the night, which makes me very happy and relieved. I may eat the rest of my sandwich early, to celebrate.
Tomorrow I will go to French class, comme habitude, and then check those guests out of option #1. Although there’s an inquiry open for people to check in only hours later, it hasn’t been confirmed and I’m crossing my fingers, holding my breath and praying that they’ve found another place to stay, because my friends don’t seem to have any spare sleeping surfaces for me this week.
The rest of the month looks a bit scary to me. I have to save everything I can to afford to fly my dog, my luggage, and me (I borrowed money, for the first time ever, at least when we’re talking more than $20) back to L.A. and then have enough money to pay for November’s rent there. But when I start getting scared, I remind myself that as long as I have what I need for today, I am taken care of. We pray “give us this day our daily bread…” Not tomorrow’s, not next week’s… one day at a time. Each day has enough worry of it’s own, without adding to it the worry for tomorrow.
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
It’s something I should pay more attention to, instead of getting distracted in survival mode. It’s hard. I think we all like security, we want to know that we’ll have food and shelter when we need it. This month is becoming a real test of where my focus lays, and how much faith I have in God to provide what I need, when I need it…. no sooner, no later….
I am glad to know that there will be an end to it on October 31. That I will have a place to rest, and that this is only temporary. Because even though I’m learning how to trust God day to day, I also feel very frustrated with the time I waste just moving from one place to another, every few days, when I could be focusing on being productive or having fun. I will be learning how to be productive and have fun through it all, though. A good lesson, since when is there ever a “perfect” time to do anything? Though there’s really something to be said for having a home you love to come back to and know you can come back to for as long as you want, to lift that burden of concern from your shoulders and free you to truly focus on your creative pursuits.
I am grateful to every friend who has been able to take me in and save me from hostels, or whatever my alternatives are, and to any and all of my friends I say if you’re ever in this position, my bed, my couch, my floor, whatever I have that you’re willing to sleep on, is yours. And some of you know that already from experience.
OK! So here I go, I’m going to eat the rest of my sandwich, signifying my faith that God will provide.
Whenever I would think about going to Africa, I would think about seeing wildlife I would never see in America or Europe – lions, giraffes, monkeys. I imagined large, quiet plains of grass or desert with a sunset more magnificent than any one I’d ever seen over the Pacific Ocean.
True, Africa is large, it can’t all be filled with lions and giraffes and sunsets. What else came to mind when I’d think about Africa…
Well, I thought about what I’d be doing there. Perhaps helping to bring water to a village, or helping out in some other way. I like to go places with a mission, though many times that just doesn’t happen. I didn’t really have a mission for this trip, other than to visit my friend in Ghana and to take some nice pictures. I’m working on the photography thing. I tried to get in contact with film makers there, but being far from the main town made networking difficult in person. We had thought perhaps I could take some video of my friend’s computer class that she could use as promotional material, but it turned out my trip fell right before class started. Regular school started midway through my stay, so I got to see the kids in their school uniforms and take some class photos of them. I did take some photos and video in the computer lab, since the kids would go in there and play on the computers some afternoons. Silly me with my new microphone though, sometimes I forget that I have to turn it on in addition to the camera. I’m still learning.
And speaking of photography… Ghana not only knows you’re coming with your camera – they’re counting on it! Many of the touristic places in Ghana not only charged non-Ghanaians more than double the entry fee to places like parks and forts, but the equivalent of about $100 to take photos…. and more for video. Needless to say, most of my photos were taken at the beach, in the village, and in the city, but not in the parks and forts. That just gives me another reason to come back (and this time with some money. Apparently I’m the only person who goes to Africa on a budget).
I spent two weeks in Ghana, between a small village called Afrangua and a place called Kokobongo Beach. I don’t want to make this into a massive blog post that nobody will ever finish reading, so I won’t give you a day-to-day account of my time there. In Afrangua, my friend and I spent a lot of our time chilling out in the courtyard of the community center, hovering in the one area by the table where cell phone reception was the best, so we could check our Facebook walls and post photo updates. She let children into the computer room occasionally, where they would sit at the computers drawing pictures, putting together puzzles, and other activities for young kids.
The kids were very curious about me, the visitor, the “obroni.” They wanted to play, be chased, hug, touch, handle my hair… one tiny girl giggled hysterically until I got nearer to her, at which point her giggles turned to terrified shrieks. She would run and hide, and we would try to convince her to touch me, that it was OK. When she finally did, she found me endlessly entertaining. She reached out for my face with a look of utter amazement…. it’s the look I imagine I would have on my face if I were to reach out and pet a unicorn.
We spent some of our days near the beach, where there was running water and even a little restaurant. The bread that the sandwiches were made of was really unique. It was in slices perhaps three times as thick as American sandwich bread, and a bit more solid and sweet. Being on budget, the tuna cheese sandwich was the only thing I ordered at the beach. And the one I got that actually had cheese in it was quite tasty!
There are so many little moments to record, and many of them I documented with photos, so I’ll be spreading out the details and thoughts on my trip as I remember things to share with you. For some reason I’ve been putting off blogging about it. Maybe because it feels like such a big task. I don’t know. But I’m determined to get this posted tonight and get back on track!
I also need to get more focused here. I started this particular blog to document how I make things happen in my life, how I create, how I give back to the world, how I join with others to make films and make music… but I feel like I haven’t done much of that at all this year! I suppose we go through peaks and valleys, and every experience serves us in some way we may not be aware of yet. I have written several songs this year, so that’s some progress, though they all still need the finishing touch and a genius musical partner to help me bring them to life.
I feel like I’m still figuring out life. My snow globe world is still being shaken up, though I’d really like it all to settle into place soon. This is why I’m taking some time out to get myself back to Los Angeles, land of the familiar, to take a few deep breaths, write a few deep songs, and make a plan.