Birthday Words

I’ve always loved birthdays. And because my mind remembers little details such as birthday dates, I’m usually able to remember the most important ones – and I like to.

If you know me, you know how positive I am and it just makes sense for me to be excited about birthdays: how much more lively and happy than a birthday can you get? It seems like a little thing, it’s just one person’s special day, one might say, but let’s think about it for a second (okay, maybe a little more). Is it really that little?

A birthday means life. A birthday means that x years ago, you made someone’s day, maybe two people’s days, probably more people’s days, just because you took your birth breath, your first cry, and were on your way to doing your first everything. X years ago, on that very same day, you made people happy. You came into the world. Another human life came into this world, and it was a miracle.

Or maybe you didn’t make anyone happy, which is probably a lie, but let’s say you didn’t. You cannot just deny the fact that x years ago, you came into this world, and it was a miracle. The union of two people allowed for you to be created. Flesh and flesh made more flesh, mind and mind made more mind, and that’s you. A human life made out of other human lives.

You are life. And your birthday needs to be celebrated for this very reason.

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My sister and I for her 16th birthday. She’s about to blow candles on her “Merveilleux“, a delicious cake that we used to have at home every time one of us in the house would turn a year older until I moved out.

Another important reason why I love birthdays is because on these particular days, people always always always show how kind and thoughtful they can be. Birthdays are filled with love, laughter and positivity.

I’ve received messages and calls from 5 different continents, I received mate from Argentina, a card from France, jasmine tea from China, virtual and real hugs and kisses from all over Europe and each little gift I was given all contained at least one thing: love.

Love. On all five continents, in all hearts, there’s kindness and love. People willingly take a few minutes, maybe even just seconds (3″ to click on the link given by Facebook to post a 3-word message that will take 10″ to write, and 1″ to move the cursor and press enter) to wish someone else a happy birthday, or say congratulations, or maybe something else, depending on the language used by and the personality of the sender.

Maybe there’s Facebook, you’ll say. Maybe it’s just because it’s there and so people click the button. And maybe they don’t know you but write to you either way because it’s there. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about motivations. Whatever your reason for writing a birthday message, for writing anything positive, any good thought – what matters is the intention. People clicked on the link Facebook gave them. People can click. People can write good things. People can do acts of kindness.

It warms my heart – not because people thought of me specifically, but because people can think of others and take time for others. Kindness. Love.

Kindness. Love. If I have a drink tonight, I’ll raise my glass to humanity, and to kindness and to love.

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Ode à ma famille

Pour la première fois, je reçois un appel à mauvaise nouvelle inattendu; ici, à Copenhague, mon téléphone sonne rarement, et s’il sonne, c’est un numéro local qui a composé le mien. Hier, un numéro français s’affiche sur mon écran, je le reconnais, c’est Maman. Ma grand-mère est décédée hier matin, le 13 octobre 2014; selon les infirmières de sa maison de retraite, elle n’a pas souffert. Son visage était détendu lorsqu’elles l’ont retrouvée dans son lit, comme endormie. Elle souffrait de cette terrible condition qu’est la depression, et d’une maladie cousine de Parkinson, une maladie neurodégénérative, c’est-à-dire qui amène à la mort progressive de neurones responsables de notre motricité; et tandis qu’on peut vivre avec Parkinson pendant des années, on ne peut pas vivre comme elle l’a fait ces 18 derniers mois, dans la souffrance et faisant l’experience d’une dégradation physique si rapide. Peu importe où elle est maintenant, j’ose espérer qu’elle repose plus en paix qu’elle ne l’a été ces derniers mois.

Cela me parait fou à l’instant de penser que lorsque l’on meurt, on disparait complètement. On n’existe plus. Cela me parait complètement irréel, qui plus est douloureux, de penser qu’après tant d’aventures, du fétus jusqu’à la dernière bouffée d’air, jusqu’au dernier battement de coeur, on cesse d’être. Et peu importe la relation que l’on a eu la chance ou non de partager avec la personne désormais loin, la mort est un sujet qui touche n’importe quel être vivant; et dotés de la capacité à penser, nous, humains, ne pouvons nous empêcher de questioner cette étrange étape de la vie, aussi paradoxale et mystérieuse qu’elle puisse paraître.

Je me suis réveillée ce matin avec l’étrange sensation d’être perdue, désorientée. J’ai fait quelques cauchemars, dans lesquels l’un ou l’autre membre de ma famille se trouvait au bord de la mort aussi, et ma matinée a été faite de larmes et de pensées noires, tristes, et pour le moins intenses. Il y a quelques années, la mort me terrifiait. Mes cauchemars les plus noirs m’amenaient sur le pas de ma porte pour découvrir que ma maison avait été brûlée, et mes proches disparus. Aujourd’hui, avec les années, je suppose que cette idée disparaît naturellement, de pair avec une certaine naïveté, et pourtant. Et pourtant, la vie reste tout aussi fragile, et s’il n’est pas raisonnable de vivre avec la peur de mourir à l’esprit, il est tout à fait justifié de vivre en ayant conscience que chaque battement de coeur, chaque rire, chaque larme, chaque expérience, chaque aventure est précieuse.

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Et il y a quelque chose de plus fort lorsqu’il s’agit de famille. Je ne saurais vraiment l’expliquer, suis-je trop sensible ou perchée sur ma planète, je ne sais pas, mais j’ai l’impression que les gènes que je partage avec mes parents, mes soeurs, ma grand-mère, mes oncles, tantes, cousins, nous rapprochent. Ces liens sont précieux, et parce que les kilomètres nous séparent, parce que nos trains de vie en décident autrement, ces liens ne sont pas palpables au quotidien.

Puis-je dire que je trouve la situation dommage, je ne pense pas; chacun est libre de faire ses choix, chacun doit suivre ses envies, ses rêves, aller au bout de ses projets et plans d’avenir. Parfois, nos rêves nous séparent. Et malgré les dispositions du monde dans lequel on vit, c’est-à-dire, avec un accès à internet relativement facile, des aéroports et gares accessibles, nos liens ne sont pas plus palpables.

Alors aujourd’hui, en hommage à ma grand-mère, Mamouna pour ses petits enfants, je vous annonce que par la pensée, par les gènes peut-être aussi, vous êtes avec moi et il est impossible d’oublier que vous êtes là. Il est impossible d’oublier que vous êtes précieux et importants. Aujourd’hui les mots me manquent un peu, mais en l’honneur de ces gènes qui nous lient, où que vous soyez, recevez mon affection, mon amour, réellement, et mes pensées.

“Si la vida es genial, lo va a decir el libro”

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Here I am, once again, trying to reflect on what I am experiencing here in New-Zealand. And in fact, I must say that nothing special has been happening to me for the past few weeks, but I keep meeting new people on a regular basis. Since I am living in a hostel, it is buzzing with people from all around the world, and in this one, I am sharing the area with many South Americans – Argentinians mostly, Chileans and Uruguayans.

By sharing mate and talking about life – work, music, religion, politics, a lot can be covered in a day – I realised that what I love the most about travelling is people. Now, New-Zealand is very quiet in general; apart from Auckland and maybe Wellington (I haven’t been there yet), cities are small, and if there are any, you can see them written on a map without zooming in that much. There are about 17 inhabitants per square kilometre – according to Wikipedia -, which lets you enjoy the green and blue views as well as the silence about 98% of the time. However, the Flying Nun is not New-Zealand – this ‘backpackers’, as they call it, is an old and grey building with a surprising rainbow-coloured inner life.

Let me explain: there are many types of travellers – we all come from different countries, even continents; we have different backgrounds and have experienced different things along the way; we got here for different reasons and with different expectations. Not only does this make me see the place I am in right now as very colourful, but this is also what, in my opinion, is the most interesting part in travelling.

What are the chances for you to meet an Argentinian history teacher who left it all to see if he could regain faith in his job? What are the chances for you to meet a Japanese make-up artist who is now doing gardening in a remote surfing town in Kiwiland? What are the chances for you to meet a German girl who grew up in Africa, studied accounting and is, so you just discovered, passionate about nutrition and health? What are the chances for you to meet a 21-year-old English cook and surfer who has been on the road for the past three years of his life?

What are the chances for you to meet them all at the same place?

And when it all somehow settles down, when you think you’re starting to know people, when you think that tonight, you’re just going to enjoy a beer and laugh about the events of the day, you realise there is an amazingly talented photographer, a quiet bracelet-maker and a virtuoso pianist in the crowd. People are full of surprises, stories to tell, jokes to make, emotions to show, theories to elaborate, recipes to share – and the best part of it is they often don’t realise it.

Finally, I have come to realise – yesterday night at around 1 o’clock in the morning GMT+13, to be precise – when in a joke, someone told me that “si la vida es genial, lo va a decir el libro” (the book will tell if life is amazing), that one’s actions are not what makes them, but what one makes of their actions – this is what matters.

And when you’re travelling, it is when you can truly experience the freedom of being who you want – or rather, who you truly are. You can decide that your book, even if you’re not the only one to write it, is yours to be considered amazing or not. In fact, I truly believe that the feeling one gets after reading a book is what one should remember – just like words sink in to be reflected on, events happen for one to make something out of them.

Just by being themselves and making something out of their stories, travellers are precious sources of inspiration. They broaden up your vision and lead you to paths of opportunities you would never have thought of before. And actually, travellers are not – people are.