Mosaic, The Path in Between

Posted on May 4, 2013


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


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.



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.


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….??


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.”


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



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


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



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



from Switzerland


I write this from inside the plane. I am almost in Doha. Two of my 3 flights are almost done. I slept the entire time in both of them. They are usually narcotic to me. Buses, trains, planes any means of transport. This time it was not so much the effect of the plane but probably the accumulated emotion caused not only by my leg, the fever but especially by saying goodbye to my little place in front of the Mekong. I surely will miss the jack trees, the palm trees, the communal tables, the Mekong, the tropical Muesli, the Pad Thai and the sunsets. But what overwhelms me is not and probably will never be a place, for me it is always about the people.

As I hopped around in my crutches being followed by the whole of Mut Mee staff and some guests who became friends a cascade of tears streamed down my face. I feel so much love for this people. I have so much to be thankful for.

Ian who had spent 11 hours with me in Hospital and had come every day since to see me brought me a set of gifts. A package for the trip, three amulets and bracelets for me to give people.

” You are a giver my dear.”

What better gift could be given to me? They are beautiful simple bracelets I could put in the arms of those I love. The generosity of such a gift is indescribable. And so it was that a day before my departure I put a bracelet around the arm of every single friend I made. Every time I did I explained the origin of the gift and I “wayed” in the Buddhist Thai style.

Doing it to my friends from the Kitchen was the most moving as every single way was followed by a clumsy hug where I tried to not fall nor drop my crutches. every single one was followed by kisses and tears.

And then this morning the ladies who work in the Kitchen presented me with a T-shirt of Nong Khai. These wonderful women who work in the Kitchen Tia, Joy, Noy, Wii, Pook, kung, Man, Yong and Gaew do not make much money, they do not have spare money and yet they tipped in to get me a gift. The t-shirt was covered in messages in a foreign language to them so that I could understand. The amount of thought that went into this moved me beyond belief. While I was left in my room reading the shirt I sobbed. On the top it read “Memories are a treasure of the mind”. As I read this message I knew that that had been written by the always smiling Yong (who had once offered to rescue me from the rapist). I have never seen Yong not dressed in white, I had never seen her without a smile and not spreading joy around. Yong seems to be quite spiritual and very connected to Buddhism. Yong’s message was the most philosophical the others were pure emotion.

Then I got from Pook a handmade bag. A bag made of Mut Mee (which is a type of fabric). These bags are meticulously made selling one would be the equivalent of approximately one quarter of Pook’s monthly salary. She gave me one as a gift. A bag made by someone who worked with me at Mut Mee made of Mut Mee!!! More tears.

Wii as I was about to go showed up with a bag full of Guava which she knew was my favourite fruit.

My very dear friend Michal hearing about my accident hoped on a bus for 18 hours to come and meet me. I love Michal for her eternal willingness to question her own knowledge and assumptions. i love her for being the kind of person who pays attentions to the details. We had met in India in Mc Leod, we drove together in that bus that had an accident where a man died. We have had a million Palestinian Israeli talks. We travelled together after that accident until I left ( against her advice) India. She has taught me more Hebrew and about Israeli music then all of all my other friends together. We have laughed about every surreal situation to the point of exhaustion. Now on hearing about my accident she hoped on several buses for several hours to be able to see me… To be able to help me pack, shower, laugh and of course find whose fault it was that I broke my foot 🙂 I still think it is hers since if she had been more persuading I would just never have left India 🙂

As I was about to go I suddenly lost it. i started to sob uncontrollably. San, toothless homeless, also showed up to say goodbye. Julian filmed the whole parade. A handicapped hoping about being followed by all this loving people. i hugged and hugged and kissed people. As we made our way out and I saw all of my friends there, I saw Tia ( who is always so reserved) waiting in front of the Pavilion for me. Behind her was the Mekong. Next to me Nick carried my bags. As I enter the van I see my last last glimpse of the sunsets I have gotten used to admire everyday. It somehow seems so insignificant that my eyes go back to all these people who are there.

People who have not travelled for a while don’t imagine how profound can be the links you developed on the road. As I stood there I felt enormous love and gratitude. I felt part of it. Part of that little village where even the ex homeless guy bakes me a gift and shows up to say goodbye.

That place is mine not because I was born there, not because I married someone who had to be there. that place was mine because it is where people know me for what I am. They know me with all of my tears, insecurities, flaws. That place became mine because I connected to the people.

Nick takes me to the airport and flies with me to Bangkok. I don’t know how I would have done without him. Once I reach Qatar Airways, he waits for me to be checked in and for a wheel chair to take me to yet another flight. He hugs me and when I thank him he tells me to not be silly he would not have offered to come if he did not mean it. ” It was a nice road trip! if I had not come many other people would have. Tomorrow I ll be back to Mut Mee.”

In my last email I wrote I was certain I would meet other strangers who would help. I was right. As I am introduced to Udom, the man who is in charge of driving my Wheel chair he smiles and says:

” Do not worry Madam I will take care of you until you are inside of the airplane.”

I put my hands in a sincere “way” and say a fragile, exhausted ” Kopum ka” (Thank you).

He does as promised, he cruises the messiness and rush hour of the airport making sure nothing and no one inadvertently hits my foot. He wonders if I need to go to the bathroom, or drink, or have a coffee. And when he finally puts me on the plane he wishes me a good trip, a speedy recovery and a fast return to Thailand.

I have by now managed to get myself together. And I put my hands confidently in front of my chess and in that Kopum ka I thank the whole of Thailand. I thank every person I have met in Asia.

I have been living my life in the illusion of being open. I used to feel covered but always open to letting people go in. Yet I was always afraid of being hurt. Always afraid of being abandoned. So when they would penetrate me within I would freak out.

Leaving a PhD, a marriage, a life and crossing borders aimlessly crushed me so many times in so many ways. Weirdly enough when all broke down I found out that it is just better to be fragile all the time. In Portuguese we say ” a flor da pele” which literally means in the flower of skin. But I visualise it as being in a sense without skin, being raw without protections. It is a softer way of being. It is a scary way of being. You undress yourself of all the clothes, all the fears, and vulnerabilities you have accumulated through life. And then you stand there naked with all of the wounds, and marks, and broken parts. Then you just are. It is just so good to just be.

As I put my hands in way and thank Udom he is for me the embodiment of all of this transformation that has started to take place on me.

Udom is for me Asia and I thank it.

Kopum KA 🙂

Thank You

There were a few amazing things that have happened from me getting this accident. One I have talked about before. The enormous (and I cant actually put into words how enormous) help I have gotten here. I feel like the most spoiled of people. If I move people tell me not to. Whatever it is that it is their specialty I am offered.

The second thing is that I got emails from all over the world. My Brazilian friends and family welcoming home, my friends from abroad wishing me to go home enjoy my family and friends and hoping to meet somewhere in the future.

The third thing that happened which touched me deeply is that most of my friends wrote to tell me not to stop writing “Around the World”. Some told me they were addicted to reading the stories of the people I encountered. One of the things that made me really sad to stop traveling was not to be allowed to share stories. But I wont stop. I will keep writing wherever it is that I am.

I wish I could write about all replies that I received. You would not imagine how much they touch me.

When I read Carley’s words ( yes I could hear them), telling me she was going to be a granny to me because all the pain she had felt through her journey in Kashmir could not be wasted in vain. I felt blessed. When Mirte who was here for few days told me she never writes because she feels insecure about it but read all of my emails and was touched by it I was grateful beyond belief. When Sam who is in Palestine wrote me saying

“If I learned anything in my 40 years of life, I learned that no matter how hard life is, how painful it is, how unfair it is… It always comes with unplanned, unexpected joy… All our bad experiences, crappy feelings, we end up learning, feeling better and have the benefit of our worst experiences”

I felt the greatness of pain is that it allows for you to be compassionate even of some small problem. Sam lives under an occupation has been illegally held in prison for 11 months and yet he finds the time and compassion to sympathise with a “broken foot”.

When Carol who I have not seen in almost 7 years wrote to me to give me support and advice I felt thankful.

When Natasha who I met in India 4 years ago ( when I was then sick with my brain) wrote me inviting to come to her mothers temple in Brasil I was surprised she read my emails. Her reply was

“that she always prayed for me.”

I met Natasha in my first journey to Tibetan lands. When she was studying Tibetan Buddhism with high lamas. At the time she gave me an amulet that had been given to her by a lama. It was to protect her but she passed it on to me. I was speechless. I carried it with me for years till I felt my brain was healed and that I could pass it on to someone who needed. Just like it was once done to me.

Kica my friend in London wrote me several lovely emails to tell me things that come from within. Joana who I met here offered to come back from Laos to take me down to Bangkok and carry my bags. My dear dear dear friend Paula who I know since I am child wrote to say she was worried about me. A short message. To the point…enough for me to know she is there. My cousin Olivia wrote to wish me to be welcomed. Ricardo who I met when I was a child and have not seen in almost 20 years wrote me too. And so did many other people I cannot do justice here now.

This email is just to say thank you. To let you know I will keep writing. And that yesterday’s pain is already brighter.

I fly to Brasil on Sunday. My Israeli friend changed her plans to come and visit me here before I go. I will be taken to Bangkok by Nick ( an angel who is just going to take me and come back the day after here). I am a 100% sure that once he leaves me I will encounter other nice strangers who will help me along the way. At some point I will be able to help other strangers too. Some will pass through my life briefly. Some I will never see again. Some will stay forever even if we are not in the same place.

This e-mail is to say Thank You. It is to say that I am not a brave person as many people feel that I am. Once you put your bag on your back and cross borders you will realise it is way easier than it appears. It is to say that even though there are painful parts. That you do get hurt emotionally and physically. You do fall and break yourself sometimes. That you have to re-evaluate who you trust who you don’t. If you are open enough you will always encounter help along the way.

I am going home. I am now happy to go. But today I realise that I could just as well have stayed here. It is one more mark in my body, one more scar in my soul. I am learning to uncover it. I am learning to reveal it and attempt not to run away. It is difficult. It is painful. Some people look at you and they see it. When we encounter them we recognise our pain. We accept our fragility. When it happens you feel you will die but little by little that despair becomes familiar. And you know sometimes it takes simply time. And of course the support of those around you.

To those who wrote me telling me of their pain that they keep secret. It is true that it is us who must heal our own wounds. However, our fragility is what makes us human. Do not hide your pain. Open up in face of it all. Open it up. I guarantee that whatever reason it is you feel pain you will find out that we all feel it. And when you do you will like me find help all over. In spite of language, of culture, of social class. When you do others do it as well.

It is not a matter of being brave. It is just accepting our own fragility. Mine has taken me a long way. It has brought me to a world of gratitude.

This e-mail is just to say really thank you.

One More Trip to The Hospital

They say it comes in threes. I really hope that is it. I cannot take anything anymore. I wish I could write a positive e-mail but as I seat here to write my last e-mail of around the world I feel pain and sadness. There are of course, the positive things, the ladies in the kitchen who seeing my tears stream down my face tell me they are sorry. They want me to go home and come back in three months. There is of course the general help that I got since I stupidly fell on the floor for no particular reason leading me to be unable to walk properly. I first thought it was just not walk properly for a day, a week, never that I would have to actually cancel my stay here, and Burma and India. Never that I would hear from the doctor that I might just have problems walking in the future.

I entered the hospital in a good mood. I had been there 2 other times before. I had always been well treated. I only went because Mark, who I met at the LSE during my PhD, and who came here to visited me insisted I should. I only went because Ian, the Scottish 60 year old expat who I became close friends with during this 3 months stay in Thailand would not stop bugging me about it. I was certain it could not be anything too serious.

I felt a bit stupid to be dropped in emergency room and be put in a wheel chair. I could walk. Not perfectly but I could limp and hop about. And then I felt it was absurd that I should be given attention when around me laid lots of people with obviously more serious problems.

It went little by little. The first ride along the hospital in a wheel chair I was in happy mood. I observed the corridors. Particularly the one that had wood boards on the floor. It looked to me somehow like Latin America. I was in great mood and when Ian said that in worse case scenario I would have to put a cast and not go to Burma I was shocked.

Then I was brought back to the ward with all ladies and men lying around in beds. I like observing the nurses. They looked so friendly. I was certain I was there just wasting their time. But then I got to see a doctor and in broken Thai he told me I had fractured some bones. I had to be admitted to the Hospital.

I still did not know what on earth that meant so even though my eyes filled with tears I was still ok. Then came a lady to ask me to sign some paper in Thai.

“What is this for?”

I can’t understand anything. Not even what the letters look like let alone the meaning. Now I start to get nervous. I call Mut Mee and get someone who speaks Thai and English to talk to the Nurse.

“They want to do an X-Ray of your lungs?”


“Because you might have to have an operation.”

Ok now I am shocked. Terrified. I am absolutely terrified of doctors. Of operations in general and especially of operations in public hospitals of countries I do not speak the language of.

The following 10 hours in hospital were nothing short of nightmarish to me. Not that anyone mistreated me. But it was this continuous guessing of what the heck is going on. People would show up with IVs, and syringes, hospital clothes. I who at first was terrified of needing a cast now was praying for one.

I could not contact anyone. I had barely any credit on my phone. Enough to send a message to the people I trusted the most: my parents, my brother and Haiko. They needed to call me. If they thought I should operate it I would swallow my despair and do it. But none of them called. My parents were not in Sao Paulo, Haiko just never replied to any of my messages, and my brother could not figure out what my Thai number was.

Life got significantly better when Ohn Ian s girlfriend an angel fallen from heaven arrived to translate what was happening. This lady worked the whole day and spent about 6 hours with me after work there. Being me I wanted to go. I felt bad to hold them there so long. She silently held my hand and said she would stay with me till the end. And that the most important thing was to find out what was happening.

Life got significantly better when my brother called me and told me to come home. He told me calmly to just fly home as soon as I could. Having an operation in a public hospital in a country you do not speak the language of was for him completely out the question. That calmed me down. As elitist as it was I felt safe by the fact he also though it was legitimate to want to be somewhere you actually can read the consent for you are signing. Still took several hours till I was now driven around in a bed seeing the different colours of the ceiling. Seeing the families of patients camping under mosquitoes nets around corridors. Still took a while till I could understand from the doctor that I should operate, and that I would be in a cast for the following months and any plans to go to India and Burma should be canceled.

I asked him whether I should operate that night. He said it would be better but he would understand if I wanted to do somewhere else. They were not specialists and being home would be easier for me. I tried to gently say to Ians girlfriend and the doctor that it was not that I was not trusting of the Thai hospital. I was actually incredibly impressed by the conditions of a public hospital in Thailand. It was simply that I was terrified I needed to talk to my parents first. They understood. It took several other hours. I fell asleep while Ian, his girlfriend and Buck my friend stayed around. Mark had to go away he had a flight to catch. I was taken home put in bed given numbers.

I was and still am being helped by every single person here. As I sat to write this earlier on, Tia, the head chef, hugged me. She is usually very reserved. She just said “ I am really sorry Julieta. I like you very much. You go home and get better then come back to Mut Mee.” My eyes fill with tears. Tears that do not stop. Joy comes to hug me too. Then Wii blows magic spell. So does Yong. Then Kung and Pook. “Keep your window open and shout we do everything for you.” I cry some more. Then Om says she will pack all my things for me and take to the post office since I cannot carry anything in this flight. Then Nick offers to come with me to Bangkok to put me on the plane with my luggage. “It is too much Nick” “I would not offer if I did not want to do it.” So my eyes have more and more tears. Yesterday when I thought it was nothing and kept working I had already gotten help from the whole of guesthouse. Guests and staff.

So I have pain and sadness but everything might also be an opportunity to grow. When my parents finally manage to reach me my mom says “ I am sad you are hurt but I am very happy you are coming home.” Sam, my Palestinian friend has been telling me to go home for ages now. “I have a feeling you have to be home now.” He always says. Maybe he is right. Maybe it is time for me to be home. It has been almost 11 years I left. Although I am about to leave Thailand with a broken foot. Although I am sad I will have to postpone it all I feel enormous gratitude for those I encountered on the way. So many of you are on this list. I thank you all. Thanks for reading. Thanks for writing. Thanks for having made one way or another my life richer. Thanks for augmenting my eternal faith in humanity. In the kindness of strangers. In the ability we all have to change for better someone else’s day. In special today I must thank Ian for making me go to Hospital and staying more than 11 hours there cheering me up. Ohn for translating my fears and calming me down in hospital. And Mark for the silent words. Thank you

Kitchen Talk

I love the Thai ladies who work in kitchen. Thailand might be the land of smiles, but Isaan, the poorest province of Thailand, is the land of roaring laughter. Laughter of the kind that makes you feel first embarrassed, then upset, then it makes you simply abandon your ego and accept that yes all you do is plain stupid. You farang ( foreigner) coming from another world definitely have no clue what is going on so you might as well just embrace it. I love the ladies in the kitchen. They laugh without restrain. They never really care what someone else might be thinking of their laughter. They laugh at you, and at each other. They laugh at themselves. If you pay close attention you might realise that in their generosity they are in fact inviting you to laugh with them.

Joy is back. Whatever were the problems she had to set up home, they are now set. And so we are back to lots of hugs till you can no longer breathe. There is also a new lady in the kitchen. Kung who is 32 but like most Thai people in their 30s looks in her 20s. She is pure happiness. She always asks me if I am hungry or happy. How is it that we communicate, I wonder? Broken English, broken Thai, miming and laughter.

Today as I was walking around the garden I saw them all seating under the sun. They always do it when things calm down for some minutes. They sat under the shades of the jackfruit trees. Apart from all the women in the Kitchen there was also Non, the handyman who can do literally everything, and Oy, the massage lady. They were laughing at her. She looked sick and exhausted.

“Are you sick?” I ask.


Then they all start laughing again. I can’t really understand what the heck is going on.

“Massage Man.”

“What? tired of the massage?” I ask.

They signal using their hands to show me the man Oy massaged smelled. Oy is now smelling tiger balm to recover.

“Oh!” I say. “Farang. They don’t shower.”

We all crack up. I can’t believe Oy is smelling tiger balm to recover. It is just too funny.

I tell them in Brazil we shower twice a day. Morning and Evening.

“Same same Thailand. Brasil good. ” exclaims Joy

“I like Ronaldinho” laughs Wii.

I can’t really believe that even the ladies in the kitchen in Nong Khai know Ronaldinho.

Then they laugh about his front teeth. They tell me Thailand is bad in football and they, the ladies, like to play cards for money.

“For MONEY?”

“Little. 1 Baht”

We all laugh.

“JulieTAH ( as they call me) work here when”

I now am an expert in speaking and understanding broken English so I know it means that they are asking me till when I will be staying here. It means more in fact. It means they care.


They look shocked. 1 month ?

“Going to Burma.” I explain.

Lots of shocked faces looked back at me. “Maynamar ? Why?”

“Why not?”

“Not good. Not clean.”

I am curious to discover what are the prejudices these ladies who have never been there have against the Burmese. I, of course, cannot find that out in sign language. I just keep asking the same question.

Why? Why? Why?”

Eventually Pook tells me.

“Joke. Same Same Thailand”

As Roxanna appears later and attempts to speak her Thai, and I try to learn words we cannot stop laughing. People must think we are crazy.

Yes in exact one month I will be flying to finally see Burma. The country I did not see three years ago. When I bought the ticket months ago I imagined that by that time I would have had enough of being in one place. I am starting to think that I might have been wrong.

How could I possibly live without this roaring laughter? Without the Mekong? Without the sunsets? The simplicity of life. Helping people who show up. Hearing the amazing stories.

We, the Nong Khai victims, call jokingly Mut Mee a black whole. Only one month to go and I am already nostalgic. Well, I might do like everyone else. I might just have to come back once again. Well, I am sure I will.

Life Stories

I do not like writing one day after the other but last night I heard an epic story. So interesting it was that I who had accepted the invitation of a gorgeous English man to go check up Chinese New Year celebrations in town stayed behind to hear the story of a 76 year old lady. Wow, and how worth it was.

They say in Brazil that life begins when you are forty. The sentence could not have been truer than for Carley, the Australian lady I checked in about a week ago. Until last night all I knew from her was that she had spent lots of time in Kashmir, that she read voraciously the newspaper and that she was very friendly.

Where to even start?

“I arrived in Kashmir in the 80’s. After crossing India, I arrived at the lake. I arrived in the house boat, and as I got out of the shikara I looked up. There was Kadir. I took one look and thought ‘ There you are. I was looking for you for my whole life. And I did not even know it.”

Kadir, a Muslim Cashmere married man. Kadir who lived in a place that was about to be set in turmoil, war, killings in the eternal struggle of the Kashmere valley.

But that is not where the story starts. The story starts with a girl in Australia who got pregnant and married very early. A girl who spent a life in academia, in a loveless marriage and then became a political activist. A woman who is part of the group who set all legislation that till this day protects the forests of New South Wales and the rivers of Tasmania. By her forties her husband changed political activism for Rajneesh, also know as Osho. That was it for Carley.

Carley left the world of academia and learned to be a nurse, a practical work that could ensure her work anytime, anywhere. And so it was that she left at forty for the first time to see the world. She never stopped since then. She first went to China.

“I went in as a socialist, came back as an avid supporter of democracy.”

Back to Australia to work a bit more and off she went to India. Met by the unscrupulous heat of India she immediately realized she needed to go up to the mountains. How to do it? At the time traveling through these roads was not so easy as they were mainly for the military. She met an Indian devotee of Gandhi and followed him to Manali. From Manali she went to Kashmir on her own carrying with her a bottle of Cointreau .

For those of you who know the very famous book Shataram Carley spent the first three nights of her Kashmir stay drinking with Kadir and Gregory David Roberts. Wishing him to disappear and leave her to be alone with Kadir. And so it happened that they started an affair that would change both of their lives forever.

Kadir’s wife was sent away and Carley stayed. She became close to his kids. She did not fully understand at first the impact she had had in that poor woman’s life. When she met Kadir he was suicidal. Unhappily married in an arrange wedding. He was unhappy in Kashmir having lost his older son and having left two daughters. In some parts of the world that is a true disaster. Carley was herself recovering from her own traumas. They helped each other.

For the next years she went back to Kashmir. She brought tourists. She paid for schooling and doctors and everything that was needed for his family. Always going back to work as a nurse. She was then able to get him a visa to come to Australia and so he worked every Cashmere winter of the following 10 years in Australia.

Carley suddenly realized she wanted to see more of the world. She could not just keep going to Kashmir. In the middle of the 80 she traveled alone through all the Stan countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan etc ), Azerbaijan, Armenia in winter seeing first hand starvation and what the Soviet Union was doing to the place. As she arrived in Turkey and saw piles of Tomatoes and fruits all around she knew the Soviet Union would collapse very soon.

She loved Istanbul, but tired of the cold went south to Egypt. Loved Cairo hated how she was treated. After having seen the beauty of Islamic architecture all over she found Egypt was all about building big things. She missed Kadir and wanted to go back to India. In Egypt they would not give her a visa, she went to Jordan, they also refused it, she took a bus to Damascus only to arrive in the middle of Palestinian uprising because of the killing of someone I do not remember the name of.

She was eventually able to go back to Kashmir. By this time the violence had restarted. The army would round up man and make one Cashmere pick three militants or else that man would be killed. The women many times would come and surround men and army. Then violence escalated with children being shot in shikaras and even inside mosques.

She was furious. She was too outspoken.

“There was it. I had to either pick up weapons or leave. I was putting my family in danger for being so outspoken. The girls were growing up and I was a huge scandal there. His children needed their mother. I paid for her to have an operation to no longer have babies. I made a mess in that lady’s life. By then I started understanding the real dimensions of my arrival in their life. I had to go.”

“When was this Carley?”

“2003. I left.”

“Have you been back?”


“ Are you going to see him again ?”

“In another life I am sure. I am certain if there are other lives we have met many times before.”

“Do you feel guilt?”

“Yes. I feel some guilt for what I caused to that woman’s life.”

But her face lifts up.

“Do you want to know something incredible? My daughter was in India last year and she wrote me to ask whether she could go visit Kadir. She loved him. He was a charming man who enchanted my whole family. I agreed and was very clear that it was of outmost importance that she should be respectful to his wife. And so she went and I saw a million pictures of them together. His wife hugging my daughter! And then she told me that Kadir told her that neither him nor his wife will have anything to do with the decision of who his daughters will marry. It will be their own choice. I was shocked. I was shocked. I felt happy beyond belief. This is the most important thing now. They must have good weddings.”

As I hear the story in details. Ask every single question in the world. Go through the feelings myself. The complexity of humanity. The coexistence of a multiplicity of feelings. As I imagine in my mind the places I have visited being in war, being destroyed I feel an eerie feeling. I am so moved. I know these mosques, these boats, these shikaras she talks about. I even know Kadir. How many Kadirs have I met along the way in a mixture of gentleness with old traditions. People who we imagine so different but are always willing to go to different places than the ones they have been to.

“Carley, Thank You. This is an amazing story. I am so thankful to have heard.”

“Thank You. It is just a life!”

The Power of Stories

Two years ago I came to Mut Mee for the first time. At the time although I had studied a lot about Middle Eastern politics I had never been there, nor had I really had any personal encounters with middle easterners. It was at Mut Mee that I met the first Israeli that challenged my black and white thoughts about the Palestinian Israeli situation. From then on it has been as most of you who have been in this list long enough quite a deep dive in the political, academic, personal, emotional, rational, visceral, crazy world of that conflict.

It is somehow surreal how much in one way or another I always get caught up in it. It does not matter where I am Palestinians and Israelis always find me. And when they do I am now a bridge between these worlds to these individuals. Something incredibly surreal for a non Jewish, non Arab Brazilian citizen who has been crossing borders for as long as she remembers.

But back to two years ago, after I met the first Israeli who challenged me I met an older couple here. I wrote about them at the time. They had left Israel as a political statement. They were activist. She was a journalist. They moved to an island in the border of Thailand and Cambodia and here she changed topics of writing. Instead of writing about subversive topics she wrote the first ever written Thai food book in Hebrew.

I traveled Thailand at the time mainly with Israelis and once I went back my dissertation of my masters ended up being about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. From my masters I went into my PhD, I visited both Israel and Palestine, became friends with people in both sides of the wall. I cried in front of that wall and left feeling defeated.

I remember going to a human rights festival and watching the documentary Budrus which documents the struggle of Palestinians, Israelis and international activists to change the wall of separation that was at the time circumventing Budrus, a Palestinian village. I was deeply moved by the film. Not only because of the absurdity of a wall surrounding some villages and making it impossible for people to reach other parts of Palestine, but because of the power of people to unite in the face of absurdity to challenge injustice. The people gave me hope. Hope that humanity could go beyond ideologies.

I watched the film in London, found out it was made by a Brazilian friend of a friend of mine, and the people who gathered together came from everywhere in the world. The people protesting in the film came as well. As the filmmaker was present we were able to learn a lot about the 6 years of that protest. We learned about the Israelis who crossed illegally the wall to go to the protest to minimise the violence towards the Palestinians. We learned about the Israelis who slept in the house of Palestinians, about the soldiers who once released from the IDF changed sides and started to protest. We heard about the Palestinians who in turn protected the Israeli activists when the new order was to arrest Israeli activists for being illegally in Palestine. They did not care about the “imagined communities” they belonged to. They cared about what plain absurd. I cried the whole film. First out of anger then of emotion for human capacity to unite. As I watched the film I saw the man I had once met here. He was there, on a little clip of the news. I could not understand what he had said. It was not translated but I could see he was supporting the protest. I was so moved. I knew him. Even though I did not even know his Israeli name (but only his Thai one) I knew him and I knew what he stood for.

So it is that I am here not doing much when suddenly I see him and his wife in the garden. I am so excited. I run towards their table barely containing my emotion.

“Hi! You might not remember me. I know you so well. I heard you speak about your activism, and your book, and your experiences in the war, and I saw you in Budrus and and and and and” There was so much to tell. How could I explain to them how much they had changed me, affected me, how that one encounter had meant so much to me. How could I say it in one sentence all that happened since I had met them.

They looked at me surprised

“I remember you. You sing”

I sat and was able to vomit out some of what had happened to me in between now and then. They were of course very surprised. Now I could relate to almost all they talked about. I was astonished to find out they set up Uri Avenery, the Israeli 86 year old activist, website Gush Shalom. I really admire Uri Avnery’s writings. As I sat looking the Mekong I learned they too had moved here to Nong Khai. I learned their party had really grown. Their activism was still very active.

How strange is the world I thought. I am at Mut Mee. Julian, my friend and the owner, is half Palestinian. One of the new rooms and nicest rooms in the new building has a Star of David on the wall. It is a very syncretic star mixed in Buddhist and Hindu imagery. Julian had explained to me when I first arrived that the room was designed for his very good friend Carol who is Jewish Iraqi. “She is like me, cant go back to her family home, she is of the Diaspora”. Julian like, the Israeli couple does not think of nationalities, and groups he thinks of people. How many times have I heard him say “We are the same people.”

As I seat hearing the couple I feel an uncontained joy for being able to always encounter the nicest people. At night I don’t even want to waste time telling my Israeli friend about the terrible incident that happened two nights in a roll. I want to tell about this couple. I want to introduce them after all my friend is coming all the way here to visit me. I feel so happy.

As I seat looking at the Mekong I remember Uri’s words which are not new to me. As the couple tells me I have to share my experiences with the world I think I will post it. I will write once again about these people going around and changing the world. Changing perceptions in spite of ideologies. As we seat there I remember the words of Uri Avnery. They are not new but they are however important words:

“Nationalism is a relatively recent historical phenomenon. When a community decides to become a nation, it has to reinvent itself. That means inventing a national past, reshuffling historical facts (and non-facts) in order to create a coherent picture of a nation existing since antiquity. Hermann the Cherusker, member of a Germanic tribe who betrayed his Roman employers, became a “national” hero. Religious refugees who landed in America and destroyed the native population became a “nation”. Members of an ethnic-religious Diaspora formed themselves into a “Jewish nation”. Many others did more or less the same.

Indeed, Newt would profit from reading a book by a Tel Aviv University professor, Shlomo Sand, a kosher Jew, whose Hebrew title speaks for itself: “When and How the Jewish People was Invented?”

Who are these Palestinians? About a hundred years ago, two young students in Istanbul, David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the future Prime Minister and President (respectively) of Israel, wrote a treatise about the Palestinians. The population of this country, they said, has never changed. Only small elites were sometimes deported. The towns and villages never moved, as their names prove. Canaanites became Israelites, then Jews and Samaritans, then Christian Byzantines. With the Arab conquest, they slowly adopted the religion of Islam and the Arabic Culture. These are today’s Palestinians. I tend to agree with them.”

As I seat by the Mekong with my old new friends I realise how much what people say changes us. Their words some two years ago had changed me. They in certain way stirred me along the way. Their words led me to go see the Middle East. To find out who these people really are. Couple weeks ago I got an email from an Israeli I met last time I was in Israel. He wrote me to tell me he had for the first time been to Palestine without a weapon. “I went and I walked with no fear. I met the people you talked about. Not the ones I had heard about.” He was not the first friend who had crossed that wall after meeting me. I never tell them to. I just tell stories. The stories of the people I encounter. Encountering the Israeli couple here again made me realise how powerful stories are. They changed my path .