Girl from Shanghai

sunset

I wish I could refrain from speaking of the beauty of the sun setting in the Mekong. It is however impossible, because my daily recognition of how much it changes and how much it is the same sets the pace of my own moods.

Now I no longer travel places, I rather travel people, and that is why I am here. And many people travel to visit me here. Last time I was in Thailand I met dozens of unforgettable people; about some of them I have extensively talked, like Carley, who is also planning a visit soon, but today I want to talk about Ella, or Arunee, as she’s called in Thai.

Ella

I met Ella years ago, and we struck an immediate friendship beyond differences of culture, religion and age. She took a train from Bangkok and I waited for her arrival at 5:30am, even though she had expressed her wish that I should sleep. “I am 69 and I ll arrive early and I must rest”, she said.

I agreed, but knowing she could not check in so early I waited for her nonetheless. We’ve met several times here, and every time she would come with a different child or grandchild. Once she told me the story of her father, who asked her to build him a Mausoleum, and how she had travelled all the way to Greece to visit the Oracle of Delphos. She thought that it was absurd to spend so much money on a mausoleum, but came to understand in Greece that all that her father wanted was to be remembered. She also wrote a book about his life.

So, this time, I was here anxiously waiting for this wise lady who once noticed my fragility and told me to go home when my journey was evidently over. She arrived, we hugged, I let her rest and later on the same day I told her all that I had to tell…. and then we went out to see the sun set.

Monks

She told me she was writing another book, now it is the story of her mother. I asked her whether I could write about it, she said ok, and so it goes… the story of her mother, The Girl from Shanghai.

Her mother is now 95, and she spent her youth in a Shanghai that was modern, cosmopolitan, vibrating and full of intrigue. Her mother was known for her beauty; she used to to be invited to every wedding as a bridesmaid, and she was usually more beautiful than the bride herself. She had no formal education but soon got a job as a secretary, and she hoped to get married to a rich man and have a good life.

She did not want to marry a Chinese man, though, not even an European, she wanted to marry an American. In the view of the Chinese, Europeans – and not just the Brits – had destroyed China with their opium wars. She thought that the Americans were very different.

Japan had already started its wars of expansion, and Jayne (her English name) wanted to marry a Flying Tiger pilot. These adventurers were, however, not exactly the free agents people wanted to believe they were, they were actually American mercenaries that flew for China.

Shaghai was at that time a very vibrant city, parties took place everywhere. And one day Jayne heard about Tom. He was a pilot. He was charming. Everybody was his friend, and every woman adored him. Tom, just like Jayne, had a western name but was actually from Siam (Thailand). He was one of the locals who worked for the Flying Tigers. Jayne was naturally interested in Tom, though actually more intrigued than in love. Tom was dazzling but had no money, so he used to say “girl, i ll take you out, ok… if I have my salary we ll go dutch (meaning we share the bill), but if i have no money you’ll have to pay.” Couldn’t be any more rare in China of the 30s , could it?

Meanwhile, the situation in Asia was quicky deteriorating. War broke in Europe, Japan expanded more and more. And Jayne, thanks to her incredible beauty, had more and more proposals of marriage. Rich Chinese men could get her silk stockings even during worst of the war, but she had set her mind that she would marry Tom; she knew that, if he had the chance, he would provide her a good life.

With Chiang Kai Shek running to Formosa (the later Taiwan), Jayne made her mind and decided she would go to Siam. But by now she was a beautiful Chinese woman already used to the finest things and treats, in spite of her humble family origins (Jayne in fact had very little), but simply because of the bright world of the Middle Kingdom (which is what China means) she was able to enter because of her beauty. So going to backwards Siam was nothing short of a devastating blow for Jayne. But the world was changing and so she did.

When she arrived in Siam she found out that Tom’s family lived not just outside of Bangkok, but in a small province, in a country town. Jayne was miserable. Accustomed to be in the middle of the world, she was now living with a family of country joes who chewed betel nut. Real barbarians, she thought. Tom at least was quite sensitive to it, and soon moved to Bangkok.

Bangkok was just as horrible to her. Ella recites this to me like a poem, it comes out from her book. And now she stops, takes a long look at the river and says that she has to assure to me that her father was very competent. In his early 30s he was a manager in a bank. And though Jayne hated life in Siam she eventually had babies. At a certain point, however, it was just too much for her, and she left everyone and everything for Hong Kong. But she had no formal education, and Hong Kong was not Shanghai. Soon she was back.

“As I grew up I barely saw my father. At the time of his death he owned 50 companies. He had built a vast empire. As a child, I already knew that three out of every 10 articles produced in the whole country came from my father’s enterprises.” But this is the story of Jayne, not of Tom.

“Jayne travelled the world with my father, and she fell so much in love with the idea of supermarkets that when she came back she opened the first supermarket in Thailand. She made a life, she had friends, yet she was not happy. So she moved to the US. It didn’t make things better.”

When Ella decided to write her  life, and asked her mother if it was ok to do it, she didn’t like it and gave no permission. Ella didn’t give up, she believed that she owed it to herself and her offspring. One day she came back to her mother and tried once more.

“Mom, father has been dead for more than 20 years, you are the matriarch of an Empire, wouldn’t you like to visit Shanghai?”

She looked at me for a very long time in silence, and then she said:

“There is no safer place than Siam.”

Then she stayed silent again, and I waited. And then she said

“There is no better place to live than Bangkok”

I expected her to expand. She never did, and I understood that at 95 there is very few things you actually care to think.”

On my part, I was just thinking that whatever mysteries the world have reserved for Siam, and Brazil, Ella and I were both blessed for living in countries that have no recent memories of war. Looking at Laos, on the other side of the river, and thinking of old Indochine, China, Vietnam, Burma, I suddenly felt an everlasting peace here, sharing the same silence that Jayne kept when offered to go back to the past. I was present, and I felt home. Because home, dear Ella, is an encounter. A place you feel safe.

Love,

From the Mekong

Mosaic, The Path in Between

Posted on May 4, 2013

Image

Dear friends as I keep getting questions about people who cant get my book. And I def want that all of you who want to are able to read it.. Here it goes:

1. It is only available online now…
2. You can buy it in any amazon in any country you are!!!!.
The link i put was the one local to the UK but you can find it in any amazon inthe world 🙂
3. You do not need to have a kindle to read it.
You can download the application of kindle for ipads, smart phones, computers for free
Here for downloading kindke app
The book is called
Mosaic the Path in Between
You can get it in any amazon!
This is the link to the UK one,
 if uou are not in the UK go to the site of amazon in your country and search for the book with the title
Mosaic, the path in betweev
If you have any problem let me kbow!  🙂 and if you are reading .. Please let ne know about it!!
Love Jules in Rome in ny way back to Asia 🙂

“ It is not because I do not know my way. It is because I love you. And when we part we should know that. we should make it as a ritual. So that I know that  a piece of me is going. And i kneed to know that.”

 

Dear friends,

 

I know I owe an email to you. I started this email on the plane. And I will finish today as I am about to fly tomorrow to London.

Bear with me, I still make the same mistakes as usual.

 

So it starts…

Here I am again, on a plane. The first 4 hours I slept non stop. I was exhausted. For those of you who do not know I am flying to Switzerland to show my book in a sort of literary Salon.

 

Yes, that’s the news… I finally published a book!

Last year I started to write for a Magazine called Varal do Brasil, and while I was in Colombia they sent me an email inviting to join them in this literature salon in Geneva (May 1st-5th 2013)

 

I thought it was cool although I did not have any book to show. Once I came home I told my father and he said it was preposterous… especially because it was already the end of January, there was simply no time to write, edit and publish anything. “Think about next year”, he said.

 

My friend Claudia Alcantara, however, took the initiative and enrolled me in the Salon.

 

Claudia used to have a very normal job, and she disliked the curls in her hair, which is something very common in Brazil, some old traces of racism hard to die. She also disliked the way hairdressers worked the issue. So she decided to find out how the process was done. She ended up writing a manual to straighten hair and it started selling all over Brazil.

 

Hairdressers were impressed and started to ask her whether she also had some related products to sell? She didn’t. After a few emails with the same request, she decided to say yes.

 

She went around, studied some chemistry and invented a product based in the stuff that already existed, and she mixed chocolate into it.

 

Nowadays Claudia is the owner of a cosmetics brand called Cadiveu, and she sells her products for over 50 countries. Cadiveu has a brilliant website and you can read more about it here http://cadiveu.com/.

 

Claudia is someone who always believed in good ideas. She sold a product before it existed because she believed it could exist. She enrolled me in a literary salon to show a book in Geneva before I had a book.

 

And now I am in a plane with two suitcases filled with books.

 

It is called “Mosaic, the Path in Between”.

 

Mosaic, is the art of what is possible. Nowadays I even think of it as the art of the impossible.

 

This book is a call for a more human world. It contains many of the emails I wrote throughout these last years…. It contains 4 mains ideas… Al Naqbah ( the great disaster when Palestinians lost their homes, but here I expand it to the huge disaster that most of us do not know where wer come from), borders ( what are they for?), Inbetweeners ( the feeling of always being trapped between worlds), and a search for home.

 

It contains the voices that many that I encountered Thais, Moroccans,  Israelis, Palestinians, Tibetans, Colombians, Braizlians and soo many others… to eventually reach the voices of my own family.

 

It is a treaty of love,…. that could not have been made in 2 months if people all over the world had not helped it take shape/

 

I owe special thanks to Andrey my Russian friend in Sweden for reading it, commenting it, and even helping edit it when we were all running out of time. Haiko Ballieux, my ex husband, my great friend from Holland who edited from the UK and the US,  Eduardo Simantob who is Arabic and Jewish and Brazilian and who edited from Switzerland in all of his spare time, Andrew Tope, who is British who edited on a plane between the US and UK. Then I have to thank the people of the Design Gustavo Soares, who I know since my Uni time, who designed this book in Rio while we still edited. He did the design in his spare time, while worki full time  and taking care of his 1 year old daughter,  Thomaz Bondioli  who is Brazlian/Portuguese and lives in Holland for making all maps and Illustrations. And Victor Mendes  in Sao Paulo for making the files online so that we could be doing this all over the world.

 

The Maps are hand made. They represent my experience.  Middle East map was particularly difficult for us to make. But once I was approved by a Palestinian and an Israeli I cried.

 

Then I must say that, the time was running so short that we had to ask  other people from other fields to help us.  Sabrina Rabelllo, brilliant  composer, and  who did  Phd in physics  at Kings College and Post Doc in Harward!, Henrique Sa Earp who did PhD mathematics in Imperial College and now is teacher at the univrersity of Campinas in Brasil. Marcello Sorrentino who did his Phd  in anthropology at the LSE where I left mine :)   Marcelo Fortaleza Flores who is an anthropologist and filmaker who lived in the AMazon for 6 years and had studied with Krishna Murti, taught me in the US, then at the Sorboonne. And Elizabeth Ings who is British  and is a writer and whom I met meditating in Vipassana. Finally Marisa Silveira who is in the US, and is from RIo and did her Phd in Linguistics at UCL also edited parts of this book.

 

Then came the art…. Thomaz decided to make some amazing illustration to represent the tougher chapter. He asked me to tell him. I sent him a song I had composed  and he made the illustrations of the chapter called Amit.Image

Then came Sandra….

 

Ok, Sandra came before. Sandra makes amazing Mosaic. And I asked her why she made Mosaic. And she told me she did them because she like doing art but was clumsy. She broke things. So she made a Mosaic. I told her that day, in the beach… that is beautiful. Mosaic is the art of what is possible. A celebration of that has been shattered but we make something beautiful with. That is how may book went from being in Betweeners to Mosaic…… Because it was a celebration of these in between things… the art of what is possible.

 

And so  I asked Sandra whether she could send me a picture of a Mosaic. She did. We had one day. The resolution was wrong. And she told me she collected the pieces to that mosaic by the thames… pieces she imagined that had floated…. had a journey. We managed to get the resolution by Sunday ok. We had to delivered by Monday morning.

Image

 

Actually I managed to convince Jacqueline the lady responsible for Varal to Brazil and for me being there now to allow me to bring the books with me so that we could get 2 extra days. Now we needed till monday morning.

 

Then my childhood friend whom I had not seen in decades came to visit and now as the very famous fashion designer Valerie Ciriades came for a visit. I asked her. Can you do me one drawing. She told me she no longer drew. She only did clothes. For when Jules? Tomorrow… And so I told her. Seat when you have time and read the part of the book mosaic of voices…about my family… which she knows well…. and if it comes you send it to me. It came… and to me it is how she sees me. It makes me happy because it is how I like to see myself today.. feminine, delicate and like music.

Image

And  then Monday we were all ready to send… and Gustavo had a doctors appointment….. and  then Mounia wrote me to Congratulate me….Mounia Dadi in Morocco. The brilliant painter, and my dear friend

 

It was in her house that I first had my  first ever epileptic attack. It was after seeing her art. Her whole following collection she  later told me was inspired on what had happened to me. So as I was about to print the book on monday… It felt now.. it is ready it has  to have Mounia’s painting

 

I asked her and she immediately said yes. and sent what she felt it represented me searching others. I sent an sms to Gustavo… Gu Don’t kill me… we need to put one more image. Can we please….??

Image

Resolutions wrong, electricity down… all working magically for her painting finishing my book.

 

I knew it was then right!

 

It was over.

 

We sent at 4 monday to Fabio my Grpahic Producer, and also a great friend of my father…. and he told me He was uncertain we could have them before monday.. when I flew.

I suddenly wanted Sunday because I wanted to release my book, our book in Brasil… and it was all ready at 9 am saturday.

We released at the casa do Nucleo with Benjamim Taubking palying piano ( though he had to travel soon), and me telling the story ot the book.  I won’t tell the story now. I am tired, I think I have said it all now.

I am on plane. I fly to finally deliver the book to Geneva. Just like Claudia believed one day it would happen.

 

The release was beautiful we made a mosaic…. a mosaic that features pieces put by my 88 year old grandmother and my 5 year old cousins of second degree. My dear dear dear friends were there. And now I fly. They all hugged me very strongly telling me staying 6 months away was too much.

 

It is true…. as I fly here..  I agree… I ll miss them too much. That is thought when you have finally made home inside. Then you can realise all the homes you had all over. All the love you have to all and you feel this uncontrollable desire to go there… and give one more hug, an now, our book…. which all of them feature,

 

So that I wrote on the plane. Here I met Edu my main editor. Who told me, we need to edit proper now, and then we would release online on amazon. I cried. I felt my book was not good. I still went to the fair. edu explain to me over and over the book was good. But it had to be edited by one person thoroughly. He read my my whole book. And we are doing that.

He drove to fair. And I met amazing people. There was so much. So many people I felt so tired. ALl the tlack of sleep suddenly appeared. And I made a new friend. Nairubia and indigenous gril from a tribe called Iny in the island of Bananal. She put her hands in my lip. Closed them. She touched my face. She was there as the artist of the illustrations of the book. She was so special that I walk out.

 

She look into my eyes. Adns she said. He knew of your pain, dont ever let the light go away. Darkeness is just absence of light. She touched my face. Caressed my temples. She sang. And she said

 

“ I have nothing to teach you. You know. but one thing. dont get out of the litght anymore”

 

And then she gave me a profound gift. She told me people like me make her want to live. It imediatelly came to me the conversation I had with an anthropologist who told me the indigenous were different. I looked into her eyes. And I knew what I preached in my whole book was truly real. That day I felt… I don’t know indigenous people. As Nairubia touched my faced. Released the tension from my eyes. I knew compassion exactly the same anywhere is always [present. I cried.

 

I asked her whether she wanted me to take her back to the place where authors were and she said yes.

 

“ It is not because I do not know my way. It because I love you. And when we part we should know that. we should make it as a ritual. as if a piece of me is going. And i kneed to know that.”

Image

I knew fully what she meant. I walked with her. we toasted with juice. We hugged. and I felt in place.

 

Image

Then I cam home. The house of the travelling family you will read about. I met them on the road. Seing them again was like a part of me was being made put back. They cooked for me, they hugged me. We remembered all that once was. I am happy.Image

Image

Edu took care of me for all the time he could. They take care of me now, and tomorrow I fly to London.

Image

 

It is all good in this side of the world. And it will always be good wherever I am because I am in place.

Image

Love,

from Switzerland

Cartagena and the Bracelets

bracelet

Usually as I see things, I want to tell them to the world. Here is the same.. But
writing is a bit harder now because when I am not doing something I feel I
should rest… Yet I have 3 stories I want to tell and if I do not
write now tomorrow there will be 4 things that I will have to weave
together.

You all know I have a strong relationship with Palestinians, Israelis
and Italians. So I left Brazil having just spoken to an Israeli who
lives in Italy.  We spoke and I said farewell to Brazil and when I got
to Colombia I met Lorenzo, a friend from Italy whom I had met in Palestine.

He used to live there, now he lives here. He is a very special person. Who I have written about when I was taken by him ( against my will) to see the wall in Bethelehem with three of my friends from Nablus in Palestine. Those of you who have read me since then must remember it.

I was furious with him that day. Here it is a reencounter. A third
continent we see each other in.  He knows me so well. He makes me eat. He has
introduced me to a place he has been living in for a while. And most
importantly, he introduced me to his family who is here visiting him.

So my atypical trip started by me recovering, joining 2 italian families who know each
other for decades. Through these families I am being introduced to
Colombia. I who can barely eat am being made to eat slowly. Eat well.
And I who can barely speak Portuguese have to have complicated
conversations in Italian, swap to Spanish, English French several
times a day. To Lorenzo I speak Portuguese and now it feels like
resting.

I spent Christmas with them. Italians are hilarious. They are so
sacred about their food. And they remind me sometimes of my father with
how much it matters the food that it is put inside. Hunger can not be
wasted they say. I who can not waste hunger either (but for physical
reasons) am learning to really appreciate the food I eat.

So it was in one of these lunches that I met a Colombian woman who
knew some men Lorenzo ( my italian friend) knows. She looked at my
Chinese bracelet and commented on it. I told her it was from china and
she showed me hers.

It was made of the same material. Yet hers were three that had been
put together. She wore them and one day the love relationship she was
in broke and so did the bracelet. They separated and one of them broke
off. She took it away and locked it away. She eventually, fell in love
again, one day that relationship broke off  as well, and the second
bracelet also out of the blue broke out. She locked it away with the
first one.

I heard her and as a true south American I am discovering myself to be
I asked her whether she was starting a new relationship. She confirmed
it. It immediately came to me a story I had heard a week before. Someone
important to me had read it, It was a short story about some man who had
fished a beautiful bracelet out of the sea and had given it to his wife and fell in
love with her when she had it. He then died and some other married man fell in love
with the lady who had the bracelet.

In realizing it she gave the bracelet to the wife of that man. And so the man fell madly in love with his wife. Eventually as they decided moving houses and she used
the bracelet to tie the wires of a computer her husband fell in
love with the computer, and more precisely with writing. As this wife
also noticed this love the bracelet created she decided to break it
into pieces and asked her nephew to throw it in the sea. The nephew then fell
in love with the sea.

I heard the story and told my friend who  had read it that to me what
made me moved was to think of how love is not on things. It is in
relationships and yet sometimes we need something symbolic to see
it…. and yet this women, this archetypical women of the book don’t
want that power, they return the love that does not belong to them
either to the person who it belongs to ( first wife), or even to the
sea. And the sea for me is water, it is movement, emotion, they return
love to it all…

I tell the story to the lady. Not entirely sure why. She looks deep
into my eyes and tells me that that was the greatest gift she had
gotten for Christmas. She had locked away those broken bracelets but
had lately been thinking to throw it in the sea. Before thinking much
I said ” do it”.  Not sure why I told her then…

And after i understood why… We all have to close cycles to start new ones.

Today Lorenzo and his family invited me to go to an island. We took
the boat there… it reminded me as I entered the boat and felt the
sea in my foo that just before me waking up sick I had been the day
before in the sea. As I made my way to the island i thought of the
bracelets, and of my health.

Yet in the Island i started to do yoga for the first time as I sat in
the sand. It was also the last thing i did before being sick yoga in
the beach and the sea. And then as i deeply enjoyed discovering this
new body I live in.. A little Colombian boy sat watching me. Usually,
I would have just kept my practice. But yet there was a child and I
could not. I asked his name, and decided to teach movements to him. And
within seconds I had 4 young boys talking to me. I learned their
songs’. I learned their lyrics.. And when they were gone I entered the
sea. I sang. It was no perfect singing but I could sing to the sea. I
had nothing to return to it. Just maybe my difficulty of speaking.
Maybe i wanted to thank the sea, I am not sure… so I sang whatever came to mind.

Ironically or not, I can not know what I did to my Chinese bracelet. I
dont know where it is. I am still hoping to find where i misplaced it.
I never minded loosing things. Yet this bracelet was given to me by my
grandmother.

I know perfectly well what are the things that I am supposed to throw
to the sea. But maybe I am not yet ready. But at some point if  we
want to start something new we must return things to the sea. They
might be back. But we can t lock things up. Broken things. We must let
go what makes no sense. So that we can be in what makes sense.

And what makes most sense to me now. Is to go have dinner with Lorenzo
and his family. They are making me much healthier and happier.
Love from mysterious Colombia.

ju

Ps: I wrote this post last night, I sent it and my first reply came from the Palestinian who introduced me to Lorenzo 🙂 He wished to be here, and wished for me to find my bracelet. As I went to bed yesterday I found it… under me. Who knows how .. who cares..? I wished Ahmad could be here too…

20. Nong Khai, Waxing

20. Nong Khai, Waxing

.Is there anything more scarying than being waxed in a country where people usually dont?As I lay down in the table and watch the gorgeous mysterious thai girl slowly try to figure out what to do I feel a silent despair. why do I wax anyway? My mind is taken back to the English guy in Camden Town who took 5 minutes in a complicated choreography to open for me an overpriced coconut. That day I could see in my head the 10 year old northeastern Brazilian children taking 3 moves in 3 seconds to do what obviously had been embodied by them. Why was buying coconut water in England was what I wondered then. And just like waxing although it did not make any sense It made me happy.

As I think of this about 3 different girls come up. They speak Thai, they consult each other. And I try in broken language to explain what I want. That is obviously a terrible idea. Too late anyway.

I look at the beautiful girl and it is suddenly so obvious to me how much worlds I had changed. The chaos of Hindu India, to the silence of Buddhist Thailand. The male domianted public Indian world where all masseurs, and waiters, and cooks were male, to the female public dominated Thailand. In India I met women after women who dated Indians, and Tibetans. The. foreign guys were secluded from this intercultrual dating scenario there. In Thailand girls grab foreigners in the street. As I look the gentle gorgeous Thai girl it seems so obvious to me why. The are really like a fantasy. Smiling, kind, fragile, mysrerious. At least at first before these foreigners have to confront the difference of cultural reality, or till they might experience the anger of a Thai girl when she does not get what she wants.

Yes the burn me. Yes they have no clue what they are doing. They seem to be doing s Thai massage but with wax. They compress the wax on me on familiar thai massage moves. They pull slow and upwards rather than fast and close to the skin. Before they do that they look slightly terrified. They smile and say appologetic things in a language I dont grasp. I laugh too. It is a really funny situation.

Even as they not very profiiciently enough remove the cloths with wax causing even more pain than usually I feel happy. Everyday I now do yoga with Julian seing the Mekong and Laos on the other side. Everyday I now sleep under a blue mosquito net that makes me during the night look up and feel like I am in a fairy tale. Everyday I have a conversation with someone new. Everyday I meditate. Life is simple and it feels good.

The Thai girl asks me where I am from. “OH Brasil?” She is excited, she has never met someone from there before. She likes Kaka. I am surprised. How is it that I can thank these Brazilian football players for making people react to me with joy. They know where I come from not bc of wars or imperial power. I am always met by smiles bc of ronaldinho or carnaval. The worse it could ever be attributed to being Brazilian is the latent mystified jungle like sexuality foreigners think of. That way easier to deal with then deep rooted resentment because of the poliical history of ones country that as an indicidual one hss almost nothing to do with.

It is painful. It is terrifying. And it is at the same time great. That is really the greatest problem, I have to deal with here. The rest is simple and pure joy.