Sausalito – Biking the Golden Gate Bridge | Part (III)

Took a snapshot at this lovely residential estate cum diner by the bay! Loving how the baby blues of the house were in perfect pastel harmony with the cloud-streaked blues of the skies and crystal clear turquoise of the sea. We were finally in Sausalito, after biking from the pier, then across the Golden Gate Bridge!

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Insanely steep downhills, narrow roads and strange sudden curves were characteristic of bike paths on Sausalito. The whole wind-whipping-in-face and look-ma-no-hands! as we careened (at times uncontrollably) down the slopes into Sausalito’s town center, felt sooo good! I had my fingers curled around the brakes, all ready to slam it, but we never stopped at the downhills which were the best parts!

This statue of a Marines soldier stands at the gateway into Sausalito, just before the bike trail hits the endlessly steep highways downtown. If you see him, you’re on the right way!

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Sausalito took my breath away, not just from the sheer exertion of biking!! This San Francisco Bay Area city in California stands at an elevation of 13 feet. With a small population of slightly more than 7000, it was once was home to an indigenous settlement known as Liwanelowa before the site was invaded by the Europeans.

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Basking in the afternoon sunshine! That said, the temptation of taking a dip in (the shallow end of) the ocean had to be greatly resisted.

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The whole town was really quiet, except for us biking stragglers who, having reached our intended destination, had our vehicles docked in the bike-parking lots as we settled down for celebratory lunch. At Sausalito, there were a couple of novelty stores and vintage souvenir houses which looked pretty amazing.

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Early dinner at Le Garage Bistro Sausalito, overlooking the bay! We dined to the sounds of lapping waves and seagulls flapping above our heads.

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Some pasta and smoked salmon crepes, anybody? I guess cycling left me famished, I ate in record time.

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Though it’s a tiny town, Sausalito has a myriad of public attractions: the Cazneau Playground, Cloud View Park, Martin Luther King Park Langendorf Park and so many more, as well as  Schoonmaker Beach, Swede’s Beach and Tiffany Beach.

FYI Sausalito is currently home to Darren Hayes (singer-songwriter, and former lead of the awesome band Savage Garden), Amy Tan (novelist who brought us The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter’s Daughter), as well as Ken Pontac ( author of the sadistic internet series Happy Tree Friends).

After a really short, yet very refreshing and memorable afternoon at Sausalito, we booked a ferry ticket to take us, along with our bikes, across the bay to San Francisco. Was glad for the biking journey to be over, but sad, as that meant we were about to leave Sausalito and San Francisco behind.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Caffe Vergnano 1882

A while ago, I got to enjoy some much desired me-time in London! Originally from France, the British branch of Caffe Vergnano 1882 sits right across from Chancery Lane station, a short walk away from the likes of Prufrock and Department of Coffee and Social Affairs.

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Everybody else was shopping at SOHO or Oxford Circus whilst strangely I had nothing I needed to get. I guess it was too cold to be walking out there alone in the crazy winds, snapping random photographs of an ordinary day in London with my badly abused umbrella. Hence I took the time out and sat through the rain (no matter how bad the storm you just gotta tide it through)

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Nowadays I can’t stand being cooped up anywhere for long, but wherever I have piping hot latte and a book, I’m good to go. The ham & cheese croissant was amazingly toasty!

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What sets Vergnano apart from most commercial coffee-houses would be its classic sleek black chairs and walls, dimly-lit retro lights, and latte / espresso shots that come with a slice of cookie or chocolate. Not exactly setting itself up as that friendly neighbourhood café, but a place for business meetings, catch-ups between distant friends and formal gatherings. I’m told they also have franchises in Dubai & Mongolia!

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Despite all that positivity I’m not sure it serves the best espresso in London. I still love the latte from Department of Coffee and Social Affairs! Caffe Vergnano is a much quieter place probably ‘cos half its storefront is currently hidden behind construction works.

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Someday I would really love to visit its branch in Mongolia.


Caffe Vergnano 1882

337 High Holborn
London, United Kingdom
+44 20 7242 7119

The Living Room, Copenhagen

Cafè culture in Copenhagen is amaaaazing! Touched down in the morning at 6am, slept for 3hrs, until the silence of the hotel room made me so darn restless. So, I embarked on the list of coffee-places I wanted to visit! First stop: The Living Room @ Larsbjørnstræde. The street is lined with indie cafès, vintage designer stores, chill-out bars and late-night pubs – the kind of street culture I love the best.

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I took a while to make my choices because there were too many! Had a cuppa piping hot latte and a soft, slightly dry slice of tiramisu. Somehow I miss the tiramisu I had in Frankfurt – it’s more moist and tastes strongly of eggs and dark rum rather than flour and sugar.

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I love the interior of The Living Room – it’s spacious yet cosy and lives up to its name by being ideal for social gatherings! There’s even a dark underground ‘dungeon’ where friends or couples can sink into large sofas for more privacy.

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My view of the sidewalk from the bar-top is just right. Spent close to an hour hiding from the cold (-4°C!!) and reading my book whilst sipping on latte.

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If you’re out seeking for good coffee, I’m sure there are better caffeine joints with tastier brews. For cakes or food, definitely there would be better patisseries out there. I still loved this place nevertheless! It gave me very good vibes. The Living Room baristas were super friendly (one of them chatted with me in perfect English!) and the variety of tables and seats are made to suit any occasion. The Living Room is best enjoyed with good company for the ambience is fantastic. Even if you’re alone, the space is quiet without being stale, and is ideal for that me-time you’re seeking.

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The Living Room – Bars, Coffee & tea, Snacks
Larsbjørnstræde 17
Tel: +4533326610
Opening Hours:
Mon – Thu 10:00 – 23:00,
Fri 10:00 – 02:00,
Sat 11:00 – 02:00,
Sun 12:00 – 19:00

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[THAILAND] o10.Lamai Beach Samui

Samui Asian Girls Beach

Ever taken a day from work to stroll all morning along the calmest beach on Koh Samui? I love how my traveling job makes it all easy to find myself on an entirely different city from day to day. Yet it makes me appreciative of nature’s beauty on a minuscule scale. I’m all excitement and “let’s take more pictures!”, even when all that’s truly picture-worthy are a row of colourful beach houses, or teeny-tiny pretty sea shell on the beach. Hell, if you’re not noticing these little things, you’re missing out on a whole lot in life.

Lamai Beach Samui

Lamai Beach Samui

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Lamai Beach Samui

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[THAILAND] oo2.Island Lovin’

Headed for Thailand’s Koh Samui with my favourite travel pals in exactly 3 days’!! ❤
So stoked about scuba-diving, and living the island life in my friends’ resort. Also can’t wait to start partying at the local hotspots on Chaweng Beach.

Koh Samet Thailand

On our last trip to Koh Samet, another offshore party island in the Gulf of Thailand, we spent our afternoons snorkelling, swimming, speed-boating, tanning, scuba-diving, Thai-massaging, getting our asses bruised from bumpy rides on the island lorry and eating the freshest seafood the island has to offer.

Though we won’t be in time for Koh Samui’s famous full-moon parties, my local Thai friends insist that the island’s year round nightlife is insane. I’ll believe when I see it!

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Boat Girl: A Memoir of Youth, Love & Fiberglass

I received this book from Beating Windward Press in exchange for an honest review, and here it is!
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Published October 1st 2012 by Beating Windward Press LLC

MY REVIEW:
Melanie Neale’s memoir evokes a scenic memory of the Bahamas and Florida – an elusive beginning to a heartbreaking story of growing-up and falling apart in more ways than one.

Each memory from her growing up years are detailed with the dates and year, giving us a complete picture of family whose lives revolved around living in a confined 47-foot sailboat cruising between the US East Coast and the Bahamas. The rocky lifestyle shapes the person Melanie gradually became. Her way of thinking, behaving and even eating.

“Part of it was a feminist streak and the other part of it was the ultimate in antifeminism: a deeply rooted need in me to be accepted by my dad and by other men. If I could do the same things as them, I would be accepted into their world.”

The author is a tough cookie who believes that women can rise in a man’s world despite the obstacles in her path. Acceptance became a huge part of her psyche and drives her will to make it out there on her own – Melanie’s own boat and Melanie’s rules.

This is definitely an unusual contemporary memoir that shifts between telling the full story of what actually happened, to what the current Melanie Neale hopes could have happened – a brilliant psychological mapping of a girl who simply wants her own life…with or without the boat. Has the boat become part of her life or has she been simply dictated by it? Definitely insightful if you wish to understand a nomadic life on the rocky seas!

SYNOPSIS
“Boat Girl” is the heart-breaking memoir of growing up aboard a sailboat. Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, Melanie’s family lived aboard a 47-foot sailboat, spending their summers along the US East Coast and their winters in the Bahamas. But the cruising life was not all fun in the sun. The family had to work hard to pay for their way of life. They dodged hurricanes, overzealous federal agents and bullying land-kids. And they endured a boatload of family drama. As her father published articles about how living on a boat brings families together, Melanie secretly struggled with an eating disorder, the alienation of being a boat kid, and confusion over her developing sexuality. As an adult, she lived aboard her own 28-foot sailboat and had several relationships trying to find someone who wasn’t intimidated by her stubborn independence and free-spirited lifestyle. “Boat Girl” weaves all this together into a story about a girl who, once all is said and done, simply wants her own boat and her own life. Melanie paints a vivid picture of the trials and tribulations of family life aboard a sailboat without drowning the reader in the technical details of sailing. “Boat Girl” strikes a perfect balance between a coming of age story and a sea tale, enjoyable for boaters and land-lovers alike.

Confessions of a Hostie: True Stories of an International Flight Attendant

I received this book from Monsoon Books in exchange for a review, and here it is!
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Published July 1st 2012/October 28th 2013 by Monsoon Books

MY REVIEW:

“Caffeine is not a drug – it’s a vitamin. Comedian Steven Wright makes a joke about how he first makes an instant coffee just so he has the energy to go ahead and make a regular one.”

Confessions of a Hostie is truly laugh out loud funny! Life of a flight attendant is more than serving coffee/tea at 35,000 feet – Danielle Hugh exposes the behind-the-scenes scandals, real-life anecdotes, and unfortunate mishaps of a cabin crew.

The novel starts with Danielle Hugh waking up in a hotel room, not knowing where in the world she was, and what time of the day it is, and while she figures this out, the hostie reaches for a bar of chocolate – then falls asleep halfway while eating it. By this time, I was nodding my head in full agreement!

“Shopping can feel so damn good – a much-deserved relief from jetlag and sleep deprivation issues.”

Indeed there is only so much sightseeing you can do…

“…even if it’s Paris, if you’re visiting the city for the fifteenth time, even the Eiffel Tower starts looking like a rusty old piece of scrap metal. The shops, however, look shiny and new.”

The book offers eye-opening anecdotes of flight attendants’ revenge on incorrigible flyers, scary tales of unglamorous off-site happenings, coupled with jumbled sleep-cycles and moodswings … you’d feel like you’ve been there and done that by the time you’ve laughed through the entire 200+pages. Basically, this has the job stripped bare right down to its itty bitty details, if you manage to get past the airheaded-ness on the surface of it all.

“…makeup and five cups of coffee are no disguise for the weariness that seeps through every pore of my body””

The author makes her point across. The job is not for the weak! Maybe I’m just a little biased. Great romp of a read.
The sequel will be out this end, or is it the beginning of next? Definitely hanging on to the news for this!

SYNOPSIS:
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be a jet-setting hostie, or international flight attendant, then spending a little time in Danielle’s life is a captivating journey. You might be surprised and shocked to discover many of the truths behind the lifestyle as well as the incidences and behavior of passengers at 30,000 feet.
Danielle writes candidly, humorously and from the heart about life, love and her exploits around the world. From the slums of Mumbai to the glitz of New York there are as many highs and lows as take-offs and landings. Prepare for a turbulent ride of emotions and adventure, so place your seat upright, fasten your seatbelt and prepare for take-off. Danielle Hugh’s passion for flying dazzles in this frank and amusing account of jet-setting around the globe. With almost 20 years in a unique working world, her juicy tales are often as shocking as they are colourful.

5 Things I Learnt about Dubai

This weekend, I’m in Dubai, feeling so lost about the city’s roads, culture, everything.

With Harper’s Bazaar World of Fashion, Fashion Forward Season 2, Global Village 2013 – 2014 and all those exciting events going on, no doubt Dubai deserves being hailed as the regional fashion hub. There are just soooo many things I can’t get used to.

It’s a lovely lovely city, especially Downtown Dubai! People actually offer to hold your bags while you fish for your wallet at small local delis. The grocer at Robinsons hands you your change on a dish like in Japan and waves you goodbye. And everyone holds doors for everybody else.

Fascinated by this city, really. Here are 5 things that sprung to my mind.

1. There are no Cafès. Period.
Gosh. What’s their secret? How do people get their daily cuppa?

2. You get stared at, if you’re female and alone.
Then they start walking backwards with their eyes still trained on you.

3. You get stared at, if your skin colour is different.
Yes I know I’m pasty and practically translucent

4. Barricades in (some very rare) Starbucks are meant to separate  men and women
That being said, I’m darn impressed by Starbucks’ Dubai interior designers. Omg SO PRETTY
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5. Everyone walks > an arm’s distance apart.
I thought it was just me. Until I observed and realised they just don’t walk close to anyone else. Like a habit.

Also, girls can bear their skin. It’s not a sin.
Contrary to my misguided belief, it’s alright for tank tops in the sweltering heat! It is just very uncommon. The girls here are also very very pretty.
Well, seems like I’ve learnt something new!

we lived through a lifetime and the aftermath

For someone who’s a firm believer in New Year Resolutions,
I’m not entirely convinced of its life-changing capabilities.
Once in a while I look back upon my annual mandate,
written with fervent excitement over the promise of a brand new year…

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“2011….I will make more friends, smile too often, take too many bad polaroids, go selfishly individualistic and yet be open-minded and positive. I want to be able to wear ripped jeans, lace and leather, and printed leggings with calve-length boots, strutting down the streets with my fellow girlfriends, and be optimistic even when that’s not possible. Because what you think will affect who you are and the people around you.

And who cares about what insults others might throw at me. This year, I’ve had many. After the initial anger, hurt, and mulling over the words that were chanted, it doesn’t matter anymore. Who are you to make me care about your opinions? Won’t think of trading myself to avoid that split second of hurt or anger. So here goes. I DON’T CARE. If they have so much time to gossip about me, your life must suck balls. I have no time to process your silly gossips and it doesn’t interest me.

True friends will tell me when I suck, or that I have horrible hair, my shirt stinks etc, but I’ll listen and love them anyway.

Am also staying away from some people.The movie I watched today, Tron, is something about blind idealism when an isolated colony is led to think and behave in a certain, irrational way, by their leader, whether as enforced rules, simply an established social construct, or the people are slowly brainwashed to think alike. Oh well, no point. People in the Grid can’t see beyond their Grid World. Wanting to go over to earth is just a wishful thinking on their leader’s part. Quite a thought. Thus they should be left alone to manifest.

Well 2012 might spell the end (omg just saw this book in Times today about the apocalypse. very intriguing but also SCARY) of all of us. So quick do what we can! Live the moment and don’t die with regrets. We’re young and very much alive.”

xoxo
A younger version of me (2011)

Psychoanalysis of Strangers

We all derive false impressions upon first sight.

I see an old lady with a jewellery pushcart
and think how pitiable to be working at her age.
She must be terribly in need of money, or perhaps her children have left her.
My mind goes wild thinking of possibilities to define her situation.

Don’t we all have that disgusting habit of filling in the gaps
for our knowledge of somebody else’s life?

You can’t have imagined
this could have been all she dreamt of in her younger years.
A simple side-walk business, working in her most comfortable knitted dress.
Occasionally in her Sunday best,
selling beautiful handcrafted creations to a much younger version of herself –
a stressed-out young office lady in town on a precious weekend.
The old lady could love these welcome deviations
from high-powered business-suits,
high-rise offices and even higher heels
she had been so painfully accustomed to.
She’s finally able to live her dream at 85 years old.

Whoever stops to think about an old lady on a pushcart?
She’s nobody to you
except the intriguing know-it-all smile that comes with age.
As if there’s a certain familiarity,
a sense of knowing who I am and what I’m thinking as I look at her.
She’s somebody who’s seen a great deal of things,
enough to recognize a blank notebook waiting to be filled.

My idea of a great afternoon –
sitting in a cafe
with good coffee, too much chocolates
and a pile of books.

When I need excitement, I get it in extreme doses,
which is why I love roller coasters
too loud music,
and laughing insanely over the smallest things.

Will I be the same
Ten years
Twenty years
Fifty years down the road
Would I still recognize myself when I see my own reflection in the window glass?
I’d have outlived the old lady,
But will I have outlived myself,
dried out, wasted and still empty?
Or will I be filled with age and years,
smiling to girls who saunter pass on lazy Sunday afternoons,
having lived the life I dreamt,
while still thankful for sunrise
in handing out the opportunity to seize every minute by the ticking hand
till we pause to catch our breaths and enjoy the beauty of sunset.

The old lady doesn’t care about curious stares.
She goes on with her life.

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It’s a scientifically proven fact for passing automatic judgements…
our own little psychoanalysis of strangers.
Ultimately perceptions can only take us so close to,
but never right into,
the heart of what’s real.

Once in a while I think about the planet

The person I am in 2013 pretty much agrees with the person I was in 2011,
albeit less naive, less afraid to speak the hell up.

‘Tis been an eventful week, too much to express in a short post >< And not worth remembering. Impressions of person(s) utterly destroyed hence the reluctance to see it typed out in black and white. Writing/typing is a form of mental rehearsal in which one’s emotional memory consolidates…(Psychology PL3249 module). It’s so tiring to bear grudges. Except deep down, I’m sure things can never be the same no matter how the person tries to make up. Wonder if it’s a Scorpio thing to forgive but not forget.

Enjoying a very cathartic read of my past, which feels like a thousand centuries ago…
certain posts make my toes curl and brings back totally uncalled-for reminiscences.

This is why I love writing.
Even as you’re looking at yourself in words, you’re never the same person.

Maldives – Bandos Island Resort

Sun, sand, sky, sea – recipe for indulgences.
And thus the three of us decided to go chasing dolphins in the setting sun!
Maldives is indeed the perfect getaway. photo DSCN1458-1.jpg

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Self-shot with Jocelyn, Brenda and He-Cui.
My hair was especially yummy that day, with a tinge of sea-salt.
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The awesome crew! photo DSCN1499.jpg

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And thus our journey to the centre of the Maldivean Sea begins!
Because that’s where the dolphins roam. photo DSCN1504.jpg

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Can you spot their fins?! *hums the tune of Shark Attack* photo DSCN1524.jpg

Hello adorable little Dolphins!! They were soooo cute as they flipped and jumped up in the air.
The ferry captains were whistling and inviting the dolphins to show their little faces.
And each time one of the dolphins made a circus-worthy act, everyone on the speedboat cheered. photo DSCN1525.jpg

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My Malibu heaven. photo DSCN1549.jpg

Hello there, familiar face. photo DSCN1556.jpg

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Setting sun….
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The three of us were laughing so much, we almost got thrown off the tip of the speedboat when the captain swerved.
Huge rolling waves by the way…
So much fun! photo 312148_10151499582857795_214188067_n.jpg

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Loving Bandos Island on the Maldives. I can’t wait to be back! photo DSCN1603.jpg

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♛ Scarlet Carousel | oo2

{Installation} – [oo2]

Noemie Matsumoto is accustomed to getting what she wants. A girl with a purpose.

February 2017
South Korea

“Noemie is late! I tried dialling her cellphone but it’s been going straight to voicemail.”

“I wouldn’t be too worried. Knowing Noemie, she’s possibly hooked up with some fella on her way to Miller’s.”

Reina rolls her eyes, sighs. Eiji was right. Her other best friend undoubtedly had the knack for lapsing into temporary non-existence. Especially when a decent-looking man was within twenty-feet radius.

“Even if that’s so, Miller’s is just down the corner, she should have brought whomever down to meet us! We’ve agreed on a celebratory toast to the end of finals and summer term.” Reina grumbled.

“So much for bros before hoes,” Eiji gives an empathetic nod, but is unable to hide a grin, “well in any case that leaves you and me Reina. Let’s head in while we wait for her.”

Eiji drapes a casual arm around Reina’s slim shoulders and steers her away from the sidewalk, and into Miller’s Pub.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Noemie Matsumoto is accustomed to getting what she wants. A girl with a purpose, she picks her outfit with calculated deliberation. A semi-formal navy blue blazer over an off-the-cuff white sundress that skimmed her mid-thighs – she would bite her own tongue if this is not a sure-fire way to turn heads on a casual Friday pub-crawl with her best mates.

She had let slip, in a conversation earlier, to the attractive new Professor of European Literary Classics that she would be spending Friday evening at Miller’s Pub with Reina and Eiji. That she was somewhat uncomfortable playing gooseberry to her two closest classmates, watching the lovebirds bicker and persist in absolute denial of obvious mutual attraction. The Professor was new to the faculty — so naïve was he as he shook his head, insisting on having thesis papers to grade. A slight tilt of her chin to accentuate her slim jawline and a slow flutter of her long dark Asian lashes were all it takes. Noemie had noticed the immediate shift in Professor Rousset’s stance.

He agreed to vet through Noemie’s draft essay on Henry David Thoreau. Of course, not a word of which had even been written. Noemie told him she needed loads of help, as English was merely her second language. A corner of his lips had lifted and his eyes narrowed into crescent moons. If that wasn’t a loaded smile, Noemie didn’t know what else it was.

Well, a girl with her charismata have got nothing to lose.

Standing with her feet crossed at the ankles to accentuate her long ivory-white legs, she blows a fringe out of her face. Even the ordinary stance she took while waiting for her two best buddies resembled a model posing for a photoshoot. From where she was standing, men had been giving her appreciative looks and extensive once-overs all night. Well, almost every man. That one earlier had looked at her as if she was a pest, a nuisance. Or worst, a prostitute. Oh please, I’m not one of them.

Men never looked at her without a second glance. Men certainly did not display such obvious disinterest and disgust. Indignant, her ego was admittedly bruised, which fuelled her urge to pursue the strange man in a bid to expose his inner lust. After all, all men were the same.

Forget Professor Rousset. He would be putty in her hands.

Noemie totters gracefully in her stilettos, yet hurries to catch the fast receding shadow of the tall, dark stranger. The alley, lined with two rows of rear kitchens, is rancid with a stench of rotting meat, vomit and expired liquor. A trio of women stays squat by the curb, puffing on rolled cigarettes while a bald heavy-set man appears to be handing out a stack of cash.

“Make good with the crowd tonight. All businessmen with spending power.” The bald man chortles, stuffing the rest of the large wad of money into his back pocket.

Here lies the reality behind glamourous nightclubs and pubs: they ran on filthy money. Noemie totters close enough to glimpse the rolled cigarettes in their hands.  Upkeep of pretty, and desperate, hostesses involved feeding them with cocaine and amphetamine and weed. In return there was a business quota each night that they had to meet – a minimum number of men that they had to lure into their chambers of secrecy. Spiralling further into the depths of drug addiction, what other choices do they have but to return every night for doses of sustenance? It was their choice of livelihood.

Here, women used their charms in an entirely different manner from the way Noemie normally does. Noemie was clever enough never to throw herself at men’s feet. It was always quite the opposite.

Past the trio of women, she almost stumbles over a foot of a drunkard, sprawled like a starfish, facedown in a pile of trash. His friends, equally drunk but conscious, wolf-whistles in her direction. They smell sour, a mix of body odour and putrid vomit.

“Hey sexy lady!”

“You’re so fine, you blow my miiiinddd.”

Oh God, the things drunken people say.

One of them, who’s obviously been having one drink too many with his belly the size of a football, staggers to his feet, lunges at her.

Noemie steps aside, sticks out a foot, and rolls her eyes amusedly as the man stumbles. Not giving up, he swivels around and grabs her blazer by the edge, tugs her so close that she could smell the rancid liquor on his breath.

“Get the hell off me!” She screams and smashes a fist into his face. Blood pours from his nose. He growls like an animal and from behind her, his friends roar with laughter.

Another hairy arm wraps around her waist and turns her around. “Feisty, I like this one.”

Without thinking, she stamps her stiletto heels into his loafers, grinds down with satisfaction as she realizes she had hit a toe. The man howls with pain and falls to the ground, clutches his bloodied feet. She spins on her heels, makes a dash for it, leaving the intoxicated mob howling in pain and booming with drunken laughter.

Men, a bunch of idiots.

She clutches her cellphone, switched to silent, in her clammy palms. The atmosphere in the alley felt infinitely foreign, so much so that she breaks into a run further down the path where the man had supposedly gone. Noemie knows that it is far too late to turn back, but she could no longer see any sign of the tall, dark man.

The smell worsens as the streets became narrower and less familiar to Noemie. She hardly dares to breathe audibly for now, the only sounds that filled the passageway were distant soft footsteps, and that of her own heart beating. Before her, she notices a stranger slip to the left of a T-shaped junction and she quickly follows suit. But as she rounds the corner, the figure of the handsome man was there no longer. Not even a shadow of the man remains.

Then there was a gunshot. Unmistakably, someone had opened fire.

Noemie looks all around her in sheer panic. She doubles back a couple of steps, unsure of where to go from here. The odor of gunpowder residue wafts into her nose. Then she hears a scuffle. She knows she must leave the alley, but which way to go?

What was it? Who was hit? Where —

“Urmph!” Her breath catches in her throat as she is flung aside, and pinned against a wall by very strong arms. Her cellphone tumbles to the ground with a clang, the glossy red cover falls apart.

Thrashing her arms, she struggles to free herself. Single-handedly, her assailant grasps both her wrists in a vice-like grip behind her back, another hand clasps tight over her mouth. Hardly a sound could escape, much less her muffled sttempts at screaming.

“Who are you? Did you come alone?” He fires his questions emotionlessly.

Unable to move her upper half, Noemie knees him hard in the groin.

“What the f—

Doubling over slightly in pain, his right leg immediately hitches up, pinning the hem of her swishy dress to the wall, just enough to reveal a sharp glint of an object that resembles a gun, nestled in the side of a thin leather belt.

Blood drains from her head. He fired the gun. He had shot somebody. He had possibly killed somebody. Noemie shakes her head to show that she means no harm, but the man slams her against the moth-eaten timber wall. Pain shot through her spine. Noemie gives a soft whimper as tears runs down her cheeks, and onto the man’s fingers.

“Look, I’m not going to hurt you. But if you struggle, or make any noise, I’m throwing your dead body into the boot of my car, you hear me?”

Knowing she could very well be shot dead in an instant, she drops her tensed shoulders and bows her head slightly, surrendering to her assailant.

Sensing her relax, he loosens his grip, and slowly drops his hand from her mouth. Noemie looks up and recognizes the man she had followed into the alley. She searches the face of the tall dark stranger that was hidden by shadows cast in moonlight, and catches the dark trickle of blood running down his temples.

“Hey…you’re bleeding! Let me see to that, I’ve got a handkerchief somewhere in my purs–

He holds a finger to her lips, shushing her. Then takes astep back from her. Women, they talk too much. They annoy the shit out of him. He readjusts the clip on his belt that, by now she realised, strapped the gun to his waist.

“Why were you following me?”

His ice-cold mannerism seems more appealing by the second. At a loss of words, Noemie opens her mouth with uncertainty. “I…” What is she going to say? No explanation could express her whys. What could this man do to her? Kill her? Not with her charms. So she plays it such that the ball stays in her court.

She lets more tears run down her cheeks as she sinks slowly to the floor, and in doing so, her dress rips at the seams as the hem catches a splinter in the wall.

“I’m lost and I can’t find my way out. I thought if I followed you, I could find a way.…I…then heard a gunshot.”

He squats down, looks frostily at her tear-stained face with no sign of empathy, and says, “Don’t pretend to be a helpless female. All you whores use the same tactics.”

Coolly, he picks up his cellphone which had slipped from his coat-pocket, dusts them off with the back of his hand, and gets back on his feet. As he turns to walk away, he says over his shoulder, “If anyone asks, you heard nothing. You’ve never seen me.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Professor Rousset!”

Reina spots him, waves him over and gestures toward an empty bar stool right beside her. The lean French lecturer looks around, as if searching for somebody, before accepting the invitation.

“Looking for anyone?” Reina hands the Professor a pint of lager, and smiles at the attractive academic tutor. Rousset shakes his head, accepts the beer and pushes a couple of dollars toward the bartender, who pushes it back at him.

“Hey, on the house ma brudder,” the bartender strokes his handlebar moustache, “it’s Free-Flow Friday. To celebrate the last day of Ms. Yamaguchi’s exams.” He gives Reina a conspiratorial wink, and whizzes away with twenty champagne glasses in his hands.

“You’re a celebrity around here huh?” The professor chuckles deeply and leans close to Reina, clicking his jug of lager with hers. Eiji clears his throat from across the table, and leans over in a territorial stance as he grabs hold of Reina’s beer jug and pulls it toward himself.

“Her dad owns the place. Everyone at Miller’s knows her.” To Reina, he knits his brows together and warns, “ Don’t drink too much.”

“You’re sooooo naggy.” Reina snatches back her jug of lager and defiantly downs it all. As she clangs her now-empty jug onto the table, she gives Eiji a look that says so-there.

“Ah… Princess Yamaguchi,” Professor Rousset nods knowingly.

Reina shook her head. “That’s too much a title for me to bear. Besides, I’m just a geek who loves the literary arts.” She orders another jug of beer for herself, and Eiji who declines and looks on at his marginally drunk best friend with concern.

Barely a month into his teaching career at Seoul National University, he was well aware of the Yamaguchi’s contributions to the academic institution. From the Deans’ conference hall, to the performing arts theatre and the college central library, the family had a large share in infrastructure – so much so that the theatre and its surrounding hallways were named Yamaguchi Hall of Artistry. And as Reina was an undergraduate in the Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Mr Yamaguchi had built a separate building for research in the literary classics. Indisputably, Mr Yamaguchi was an associate on the Board of Faculty Directors.

“I don’t want to be a princess. I’m a Queen. Princesses are as weak as useless Barbies, always primping at mirrors…demanding this and that. Never working hard for anything they truly want. I’m no princess.” Reina shakes her head. “But since my dad owns Miller’s, feel free to drink up, Professor. On me!” Reina smiles, swaying as she stands, slightly tipsy from having knocked back two glasses of Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio, two tequila shots and 2 jugs of lager.

“Woah, steady there.” Professor Rousset holds Reina by her waist as she stumbles forward, giggling.

Eiji springs up, quickly shoves the professor’s hand aside, takes hold of Reina and allows her lean her entire weight against him.

Reina struggles out of his grasp. “Eiji!” She walks ahead a few steps, shaky but more steady. “I’m fine. Go back to your seat, I need the bathroom.”

“You sure?” Eiji looks ready to lunge forward to catch Reina if she should stumble and fall again.

“Naughty, naughty. Trying to get into the ladies’ bathroom on account of taking care of me? Tsk, Eiji Saito you pervert.” She slurs her last words and disappears round the bar corner into the washroom.

Reina grips the edge of the washbasin, and takes a good look at her face. She whips out her mauve lipstick and gives her lips a smacking fresh coat of colour, while remembering that her other best friend was still M.I.A.

“Let me give Noemie another call. She’s missing out on the hot Professor Rousset.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Pierre swipes the sticky blood from his face with the back of his hands. The wound had clotted, and he could feel a throbbing headache arising from within his skull. He had dodged, a swift decisive move that saved his brains from being blasted to bits. The bullet scraped the right side of his head and probably he would find a clump of dark brown hair missing from his scalp. But that was all the damage done.

Nagasaki’s message had been intercepted. The original messenger undoubtedly dead. The women who had attempted to kill him was now lying gagged, bound and unconscious in a pile of trash, accompanied by a band of noisy drunkards. He would never physically injure a woman, even if they had tried to blast a hole in his chest.

And who the hell was the girl who had followed him?

He had to make a quick call to Las Vegas.

As he held up his cellphone a connecting call flashed in the screen.

From << REINA YAMA ❤ >>

What. The. Hell?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Her cellphone rang.

Sitting upright from her slouched position by the dirty alley wall, Noemie flipped aside her long black hair to answer the call.

“Hello, Noemie speaking.”

“Noemie? Who the hell is Noemie?”

She quickly checks her cellphone screen. Caller Unknown.

“I am Noemie Matsumoto. And since you’re calling me, you should know who I am.”

There was silence on other end.

“Hello?” Noemie repeats.

“What did you say your name was?”

“Funny that you’re asking me. Noemie Matsumoto. Who are you?”

The man sniggers. “New, aren’t you? Noemie, Noemie, Noemie…” the man rolls her names several times around his tongue, “Noemie Matsumoto? I see they’re hiring young girls now.”

“Young girls…?” She lets her thoughts run for a moment, anger rising up from the pits of her stomach.

“Now Noemie, did you complete what you were supposed to do?”

“What job?”

The man remained silent.

“What job?” She repeats, anger boiling over the edge at having been provoked so many times on the same night.

“Hey listen up, I’m not a goddamn prostitute if that’s what you’re implying!” Noemie bursts, filled with annoyance accumulated from her earlier encounters. “You’re the second person today who thinks I’m a whore and it’s getting on my nerves! Go to hell, asshole!”

The man on the other end chuckles once before the line went dead.

Noemie feels the sudden urge to fling her phone across the alley. She shuts the call, clicks on ‘Contacts’ to search for Reina’s number, but to her surprise, all the names on her contact lists were so foreign they could be from another planet.

“Wha…oh shit.”

She remembers that moment when her phone had fallen from her grip, and that the man had picked up a cellphone of an identical model after labelling her a whore.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

5 in the morning. Reina staggers weakly up the stairs leading to the shared apartment. Noemie had rejected all her calls and she should probably be home asleep by now. She herself could hardly feel her brain functioning any longer. Sleep beckons.

Eiji had walked her home. To be more exact, he had lifted her onto his back, made her straddle him in a limp piggyback for most of the journey home. She had been too drunk to grip onto his neck. When they had passed by a convenience store, Eiji forced an entire bottle of mineral water into her. That had sobered her up a great deal.

She wrinkles her nose as she reaches her floor, as a peculiar stench pervades the hallway leading towards the apartment.

Strange, Noemie had forgotten to lock the front door.

As she steps in, Reina gasps, her back stiffens. Shards of broken glass from a fallen artpiece stuck out from their Persian rug. Noemie’s favourite orchid vase was now in smithereens. Their linen cosy pink couch had been overturned, with cushions slashed open and their feathers strewn all over the living room. She scans the damage, thoughts running wildly through her head.

Her drunken stupor clears the very instance she spots Noemie, her back against the kitchen table, slumped in a pool of what appears to be blood.

She falls backwards, and lets out a piercing scream.

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

Scarlet Carousel ©
Searching for the centre of the universe, the centrifugal force that holds everything together.
Each spinning out of control, yet inevitably riveted.
Is this a journey with an end, or does the weight of the world settle in places where the spinning never stops.
Where then will the spiral lead them?

To be continued…

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

xoxo
Viktoria Jean

SCARLET CAROUSEL

♛ Scarlet Carousel | oo1

{Installation} – [oo1]

…he rolls the strange word around his tongue, “Home.”
To a vagabond, the concept of belonging constantly emerges as an entirely new sensation.

January 2017
South Korea

Jae cruises down Myeongdong alley, slows down only to briefly admire a pair of attractive well-heeled legs that were thinly veiled by sheer hosiery, elegantly crossed at the ankles. She was nonetheless not enough of a looker for Jae to lower his sunglasses; fashion can only get a girl this far along the attraction spectrum. His engine revved with increased volume as he sped, this time undisturbed, toward his studio.

Nested in downtown Myeongdong, inconspicuously hidden by retail giants fifteen times the height of his apartment, Jae’s minimalist studio was home to unrestrained creativity, an outlet for the restlessness in his soul. Soft red velvet cushions and satin blinds in the same scarlet red stood out against the dark monochrome grey leather couch lined by black carpeted floor. Colour never did provided him any comfort, apart from his strange love for deep pulsating shades of scarlet. Perhaps to enhance a sense of privacy, he had chosen cautiously dimmed lighting with the exception of his sketching desk – so brightly lit one had to squint to avoid the sheer impact of such luminescence. Prince Jae generally liked his interiors dark.

His brisk walk to his apartment while rummaging through a black bag pack for his keys is interrupted by a slight scuffle of a shoe, detectable only amidst sheer silence. Raising an eyebrow, Jae slows to a cautious tiptoe. He briefly checks his cellphone but none of his clients had made appointments.

Nobody else ever made it up here to this apartment’s equivalent of an attic, albeit luxury-sized, as Jae had made the owner put a danger barricade beyond which all other occupants had zero access to.  Unless…

He makes no sudden movement, but a hand slips stealthily into his left breast pocket, feeling for the cool metal of his .38 Smith & Wesson. He continues to tread calmly across his studio hallway.

“Jae,” says a raspy tone, “still living large I see.”

The aforementioned releases a chuckle and lets down his guard. Jae’s deep voice suddenly voids itself of bass as he embraces his old friend. “You nearly startled me.”

“Here I thought nothing scared you.”

“Vigilance is my middle name.” And he unlocks his apartment to Pierre, a rare remnant from a lost childhood.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Reina ducks as a shower of hardcover textbooks whacks her out of her mid-afternoon reverie.

“Sorry! Bookshelf getting old,” Eiji, part-time book-store manager and full time jerk, calls out jokingly from the attic. Reina rolls her eyes at Eiji’s armful of textbooks – more ammo to be fired at his best friend trying to cram for a finals paper in 12 hours.

“Eiji! I’m trying to study.”

Eiji flashes a cheeky, charming grin. “You know, this could be a good way of getting knowledge into your brain, in case last-ditch cramming doesn’t work.”

“Damn you Eiji.” Pulling on a pair of old headphones, she tries to mask the hustle-bustle of Myeongdong in the late afternoon, as well as Eiji’s teasing and awful singing.

He swings from the high bookshelf ladder and lands perfectly beside Reina – a move perfected over their tumultuous years of best-friendship. “Come on Rei, lighten up! It’s your last paper. Let’s catch a midnight movie tomorrow alright?”

She slams her book shut in annoyance. “Can’t you let me have 2seconds of peace, Eiji?”

“Nope. Perks of being your bestie. First dips at driving you insane.” Leaning over, he tickles her relentlessly until the pair rolls from couch to floor in fits of laughter, with Eiji on top. Reina shrieks, twists away in attempt to escape but fails even after several tries, knocking over her pile of notes in the process. Her reading material scatters and carpets the cherry wood floor in a ink-scribbled white paper. Abruptly, as if remembering that there were people around, she stops squirming away.

A moment of awkward silence later, Reina untangles her hand from Eiji’s hair to sit up. Eiji watches her loosened hand intently, determined not to look anywhere else – especially not at her blouse which was now carelessly unbuttoned to reveal bright pink inners…and he shyly rubs the back of his neck.

“Sorry.”

“Me too,” Reina bites her top lip and looks at the opened books lying all around them, ” we made a mess! Gosh…let me arrange that.”

Eiji pulls Reina to her feet before she could argue, and pushes her back on the couch. “You sit, let me. The mess is all mine.” He opens her textbook to the exact page she was on earlier before the interruption.

“And please Rei, button that top. I can’t take it anymore.”

Reina slowly fumbles with her buttons, staring at Eiji’s back as he busies with the rosewood shelves. As she resumes focus on her study, Eiji’s steady hands were all she could think about.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“What brought you home, Crusoe?”

“Taking a breather. I have left the streets,” Pierre pauses to swirl the ice-cubes around his chilled Americano, watching the little squares clink on the sides of his glass, as though expecting something more extraordinary to happen.

“How long is it gonna be this time, Pierre?”

“Long enough, as long as I stay undiscovered.” He knocks back a long shot of coffee.

Jae resisted the urge to catechize: what was it this time? Had he killed a man, robbed a bank, or cleaned out an entire estate? As Jae observes, a thin veil of moist from the glass’s rim glistens at the scar that ran parallel to Pierre’s lips, morphing smiles into a semi grimace, Jae feels a familiar tug at his heart strings – a deep stab of pain he once knew like the back of his hand.

Knowingly, Pierre swipes the scar with the back of his hand, shrugs and smiles comfortingly. “Been too long and the scar has numbed itself, healed. Time to move on yourself, pal.”

But he can never move on without the knowledge of what had transpired. Pierre’s code of honor to Jae’s dead father is something above and beyond the courage that exists within the young lad holding on to a promise never to reveal the enemy, lest Jae should take the fatal path of hatred and revenge.

“I wake up every morning with the resolution of moving on, only to realize that at the end of the day, nothing has changed. Not me, not the world,” Jae shakes his head resolutely, continues, “The world is a cosmogony, and even so I’m on the outside looking in, plotting an entrance. My curiosity brands me just like your scar.” He grips his glass so tight, his knuckles turn white.

“That world you generalize is not everything. You don’t have to be in it. They are not to be messed with, Jae. You told me to stay out of the streets yourself! Its ridiculous if I’m out of it and you’re bidding your time to go in.”

“And when I do, it will be the first and the last time I’m associating myself with that world.”

“You’ve always associated yourself with that world. You’ve kept yourself so secluded, full of rage, just like your dad! One day you’ll set yourself ablaze. You don’t even know who and what you’re fighting against! There is no cause for your resistance. Why don’t you take it from me, and learn to live for something real. ” Pierre’s volume increases with his laden warning. In his own head, he sees faces of the dead – friends, passer-bys, allies, enemies, and people he had loved and lost.

Jae visibly stiffens. A moment of tension passes between the grown men, whose pride and stubborn hotheadness are very much the same as before.

“If you spent every bloody waking hour obsessing over righting a wrong, over seeking closure and vengeance if that’s what it takes, then like me, you would know.”

Jae’s deepset fury was masked, but Pierre has always known that for a fact. His ensuing silence posits empathy, and he forsakes the stab at discouraging Jae’s lifelong preoccupation with finding out who were his father’s traitors.

“Enough about me, Pierre,” a moment later Jae waves a hand dismissively,  “So tell me, why are you back?”

“Just making my rounds, routine home-coming.”

“Home-coming? Not like you, Pierre, not at all.“

Pierre traces a finger along the spines of a stack of books lining Jae’s bookshelf. “You’re right. I’m not sure I’m even me anymore,” he pauses to inspect a book, and then replaces it. He looks Jae in the eye. “That’s what life does to people.”

Both takes a moment to brood on this thought as they revive past habits of working their jaws on crushed ice.

“In any case…. I’m glad you’re home.” Jae breaks the moment with heart-felt sincerity.

“Me too.” Pierre smiles genuinely and rolls the strange word around his tongue, “Home.” To a vagabond like him, the concept of belonging constantly emerges as an entirely new sensation.

“Now, who wants more brandy?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Looking like the archetype of discretion – a low-slung haversack thrown over a casual black suit – Pierre walks inconspicuously downtown, keeping his senses on high alert for a messenger of sorts.

He had received an anonymous text from Nagasaki, instructing him to locate a messenger, newly deported from Las Vegas, who holds the crucial link to a large investment sum. In this case, money would save hundreds of lives.

Navy office suit, expensive earrings and a grey briefcase – that was his clue. Accustomed to ambiguity, Pierre’s vagrant instincts serve him well. Nevertheless to isolate one woman amongst the throngs of prostitues in this district was tougher than manually separating sugar from salt.

Once or twice he spots the cues, but those women lacked one thing or another. He walks with increasing speed, avoiding all female-like creatures in varying states of semi-nakedness flinging their desperate bodies into his zone.

He spots a young lady in a navy blue blazer at the entrance of Millers’ Pub, whose short skirt swishes to reveal a considerable length of porcelain white skin – an unintentional attraction that catches his eye. For a split second he wonders if she could be the messenger. Then his expert eye zooms in on her pale face, all wide-eyed suppleness, strikingly exposed like hooked liver on dangled bait. She wasn’t the messenger he’s looking for, but she’s definitely here for another reason.

Their eyes met. Pierre feels a tug in his chest. Eyes narrowed, he grimaced in her direction, walks past without a second glance, and then turns into the next alley.

Upon losing sight of the bustling main street, he exhales deeply and takes great comfort in the gloom of the avenue. The streetlamps were extinguished – some cracked and others smashed – thus his senses sharpens to hawklike vision, and his ears picks up timid footsteps from the rear, probably harmless. And there she is – flanked by scarlet red lips a cigar dangles from between her perfect teeth and as she steps closer she reveals a grey briefcase from beneath a suit of navy-blue, unclasps the lock and swings out a revolver, aims it straight into Pierre’s unguarded chest.

There are women who could physically subdue a man, who could make a man do her bidding. Then there are women who could unknowingly touch the careless depths within a man, and those were the most dangerous of all.

—–

Scarlet Carousel ©
Searching for the centre of the universe, the centrifugal force that holds everything together.
Each spinning out of control, yet inevitably riveted.
Is this a journey with an end, or does the weight of the world settle in places where the spinning never stops.
Where then will the spiral lead them?

To be continued…

✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫ ✫

xoxo
Viktoria Jean

SCARLET CAROUSEL

credo ut intelligam

credo ut intelligam
I believe so that I may understand

mag

 

“This is an important lesson to remember when you’re having a bad day, a bad month, or a shitty year.
Things will change: you won’t feel this way forever.
And anyway, sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the ones your soul needs most.

I believe you can’t feel real joy unless you’ve felt heartache.
You can’t have a sense of victory unless you know what it means to fail.
You can’t know what it’s like to feel holy until you know what it’s like to feel really fucking evil.
And you can’t be birthed again until you’ve died.”
― Kelly Cutrone,
If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You

[THAILAND] oo1. ISLAND AND THE CITY (Bangkok – Ko Samet)

The minute our home-bound aircraft took off, I missed Bangkok already.
Even with my infected tummy hurting so badly from seafood poisoning,
the land of a thousand smiles can’t shake me off.
Thailand, I will be back!!

DSCN1000

The amount of insane things we did on this trip was kept to a minimal
We capped it at scuba-diving, really.
Continue reading “[THAILAND] oo1. ISLAND AND THE CITY (Bangkok – Ko Samet)”

keeping passion at bay (or surrendering blindly to it)

runnn
“Passion makes a person stop eating, sleeping, working, feeling at peace.
A lot of people are frightened because, when it appears,
it demolishes all the old things it finds in its path.

No one wants their life thrown into chaos.
That is why a lot of people keep that threat under control,
and are somehow capable of sustaining a house or a structure that is already rotten.
They are the engineers of the superseded.

Other people think exactly the opposite:
they surrender themselves without a second thought,
hoping to find in passion the solutions to all their problems.
They make the other person responsible for their happiness
and blame them for their possible unhappiness.
They are either euphoric because something marvelous has happened
or depressed because something unexpected has just ruined everything.

Keeping passion at bay or surrendering blindly to it –
which of these two attitudes is the least destructive?

I don’t know.”
― Paulo Coelho,
Eleven Minutes