Posts Tagged ‘life’


Posted: February 26, 2014 by jennroig in Chronicles, English, Miscellaneous
Tags: , ,

Where would I be without friends? My friends who have been there for me, every step of the way.

More importantly: Who would I be without all the support, input, company, lessons and criticism received from my friends?

Very relevant: What is to be a friend?


-Friends will let you know very clearly when and where you screwed up.

-Friends will tell you that it’s ok to be you, no matter how much it seems you don’t fit quite right in this world. They will tell you to hold on to yourself, your dreams, your values and your beliefs even if they don’t share it, and especially when the entire rest of the world is pushing hard for you to change.

-Friends will introduce you to other friends because they think it’s a win-win situation. This means they will try to shelter you, no matter how far you are, even if you are actually doing well.

-Friends will be willing to cross the ocean to see you, if they think you need to be pampered or slapped.

-Friends will listen to your idea, your story, your memory, even if they are not really sure what to understand, or what it means at all. They will tell you later, but they will listen because they feel it’s something you need to get out of your system.

-Friends will show up from nowhere, due to no reason, just to tell you how fond they are about the way you write, paint, take photographs, dance, design, code… or how cool you look playing basketball or football, even though you know that’s far from true.

-Friends will plan with you the greatest holiday trips, and then you will both end up doing something totally different, something improvised that turns out to feel a 1000 times better.

-Friends sometimes stop showing up in your life. This is no reason to be mad at your friends, if it’s because they are doing well and are busy being happy. That happiness will support them later, when not so lucky moments arrive. But sometimes friends withdraw because they feel sad, hopeless and helpless, they don’t want to share it with you so you won’t get sad and worry about them. Sometimes these friends don’t come out to meet you again, ever again. Some friends will be gone for good, leaving a void impossible to fill.

-Friend can call you in the middle of the night, for no reason, just because they felt goosebumps while listening to a totally unrelated news and suddenly got worried about you.

-Friends will show up for you when your country has been massively damaged by some natural disaster.

-Whenever you hear some news about a war, or a bomb, or a terrorist attack, that just happened in a friend’s country, you want to hear from your friend ASAP, no matter if your friend lives in the other extreme of that country.

-Most true friends agree that Facebook sucks, because it misleads you to think you are actually keeping up with your friends’ lives and events.

I think now that I should have written this post more than a week before, it would have been definitely a more popular post if published by February 14th… But my friends are my friends for some reason, by this time they are fully aware of my type A personality, totally at odds with tradition. So they won’t be surprised!


This title is copied from a quote. Some Joseph Roux wrote this: “We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence.”

I don’t know Roux as an author. I found the quote on a friend’s FB wall, and I found it was expressing a feeling that was circuling my mind but didn’t manage to take shape, until I read this. I believe the reason why my friend posted this on FB, it’s the same reason I feel this way, it’s because we learned that we lost a common friend. We lost Diao Ying.

Yesterday on July 26th I learned that Ying died. But Ying died on June 4th, in Beijing, China, early in the morning, according some information that is to be found on the Web. Ying decided to commit suicide jumping from a building.

Almost a day has passed and I still don’t understand it. I don’t understand Ying. But I guess I can’t understand nor justify suicide. How do I name the way I’m feeling right now? I personally deal better with mind issues rather than heart issues. Feelings tend to confuse me. Probably that’s why I like to work long hours, because that keeps my brain busy.

Feelings belong to the kingdom of uncertainty, and everything uncertain just freaks me out. Yes, life’s uncertain, I know. But there are ways to cope with that uncertainty, and I think the way I do it is convincing myself that tomorrow will be a different day, that something can change the next minute, and that for sure nothing will last forever. Happiness certainly doesn’t last forever, but the bright side is sadness, or bad luck, or the consequences of any mistake I might make, wont last forever.

The way I feel about Ying confuses me. I didn’t get to know her so well, not as well as some of my friends knew her during the time we shared together. But we talked several times and I saw her smile and felt her warmth. We were together in Florence once we visited a friend there at the same time. She looked so happy.

Diao Ying, Florence, 2010

Diao Ying, Florence, 2010

I cried when I learned about her death. There’s a question hanging from her decision to end her life, and I’m afraid there won’t be an answer.

This terrifies me, because in spite of the distance, and so many differences among us, we had also many commonalities. It’s true she was Chinese and I am Cuban, but we were close in age, profession, we were very focused on our careers, we were single, we come from very difficult countries where it is so hard to grow as a person and there are so many barriers to develop as human being so you see so much decadence around you, and it’s so painful to be aware of it.

But nothing is just black. So you take with you whatever you can that has some worth and figure out what the next move is. You can fight, circumvent obstacles, or you can run away. If you are beaten, you crawl. Everything is legal as long as you keep living to see what’s next.

I don’t know what had gone so wrong in her life, why did she end up feeling so lost and hopeless that she couldn’t see any way out. I’m afraid I won’t figure out whether it was something going south with her job, with her family, if she felt in love and got her heart broken, if she was seriously ill, if she had been extremely embarrassed… What could it be so irreparable?

I want to feel sad, only sad, about Ying, I want to wish light and peace to her soul. But to be honest, I’m mad. I’m mad at Ying because even though I wasn’t the closest friend I would have open my doors to her, I would have listen and do my best to help. Then I’m positive she had many friends that would have done the same and even more! She could have started from the scratch anywhere in this freaking world, she could have even changed her name in the process if she wanted, because she had friends that could have walked with her whatever route she would have picked. Actually, she was young and bright, and resourceful, she could have even found a way to make it by herself. So, I guess that I want to believe the conspiracy theory that maybe Ying could have been secretly murdered by someone, no matter the evidence of whatever little information I have about her situation.

Now she leaves all of us the unanswered question, this unfair sense of guiltiness, which remains there, beneath the objective conclusion that there’s nothing we could have done. And she leaves me with a doubt. I never imagined her as the suicidal type. So now I don’t know. I have friends that I dearly love scattered around the world, will any of them ever think of suicide some day? How could I prevent it from happening?

But I have to deal with the fact that I can only hope this won’t happen to any of my friends ever again.


Andrew Pochter

I’ve just finished reading Andrew Pochter’s letter published today by the Washington Post. Andrew was 21, he was a college student visiting Alexandria in Egypt back in June. I use the past tense because Andrew died on June 28, stabbed to death during an anti-government protest in Alexandria. He sent a letter to someone called Justin, someone he might have held dear, where he wrote a few advices about how to live enjoying life.

It’s ironic. How come could a 21 year old manage to get so wise so soon about how to best live life? In the letter he says “go on hikes in forest, canyons and mountains, go fishing, research wildlife and get out of city life if you can. Surround yourself with good friends who care about your future. Fall in love with someone. Get your heard broken. And then move on and fall in love again. Breathe life everyday like it is your first. Find something that you love to do and never stop doing that unless you find something else you love more.”

“Don’t blame others for your mistakes. It makes you weak. (…) Speak with conviction and believe in yourself because your personal confidence is just as important as your education.”

I feel so sorry about Andrew’s death. I’m ten years older now than Andrew will ever be. I can see that at 21 he was able to see things that it took me more time to realize. Still, I resent his early death, because I know that some words in his letter could only belong to someone so young, who had still so much to learn. I regret that I will never have the chance to meet a 31 year-old Andrew.

There’s something that comes to mind while reading his advices. The way we visualize whatever we think can make us happy relates to the places we have been, and the experiences we have gone through. You can only know that hiking in mountains and canyons makes you happy if you have already done it.

I don’t believe in happiness as a “forever-happy” concept. I don’t think any list can actually become a formula of “how to live your life better”. But I do believe we all have some personal arsenal of places, activities and people with the potential of making us happy, at least for a while.

I think that’s why I want to suggest a few things, out of my personal list, that could help our quest for happy moments. I promise these are simple stuff, you won’t be able to try it all out at once, because I will do my best to include things that you can get no matter where you are, how much money do you have, or whether you are with someone or alone.

DrinkingNuts2_M1. Coconut water. Not from a can or a bottle, but from the actual coconut. If you haven’t tasted it, include it now on your bucket list. I can’t explain it, it just have powers. And you are thirsty and sweaty and in a sandy beach, it’s simply magic.

snowangels2. The angel in the snow. After a snowfall, go outside, lay down, move your arms and legs and then stand. You’ll see the angel that protects and it’s always with you. (People that have always live in cold countries and are familiar with the snow will find this corny, but believe me the feeling is amazing when you come from the tropics and live this for the first time).

Sea-Shell-Rounded3. Priceless Christmass (For students abroad): Convince some of your closest friends about celebrating christmass with gifts that can’t be bought on stores. No money spent. You must use your imagination, be creative, you have to get closer to your friends to learn what is it that could make them feel happy and can’t be get with money. You’ll be amazed. Sometimes people can be happy with so little, a shell that reminds her the sea, a cartoon looking like him, another foreign coin or stamp for a collection.

Swiss-Alps-Sunset-1280x7204. Sunsets: Sit for a while to see the sun going down. I think these kinds of moments have strong healing powers no matter where in the world you are. There are some special spots, of course. I can remember very vividly a sunset I saw from the top of a mountain in the Alps, the white glowing snow was suddenly taking a golden tone because of the fading sun light. There’s also another special place, the roof of the dinner at my filming school, in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba.

4. Teach something to someone younger. It can be a child, or a teenager, family or not, try to figure out something he doesn’t know and could be interested in learning about. It will be easier than you expect. It can be the location of a country they haven’t heard about, you can introduce the Seinfeld series or the first trilogy of Star Wars, or an old tune, or a YouTube video. It’s great to see the excitement in their faces and you feel awesome.

longevity-milk5. Condensed milk with chocolat. You can get condensed pretty much everyplace in the world (oddly enough I wasn’t able to find it in Germany, go figure), and chocolat is ubiquitous. The mixed is a guarateed boost, or a sure remedy to whatever sadness or depression you’d go through. (Red flag: it can be highly addictive)

photo-pyramid-of-the-sun-teotihuacan-34317-xl6. If you ever have the chance, don’t miss climbing the Teotihuacan’s pyramids in Mexico. I don’t know whether other pyramids in the world will have the same effect, but climbing the Pyramid of the Sun was a unique experience in the sense that you can’t actually explain yourself how did you manage to reach the top. I guess there’s some old Aztec mistique involved.

7. Yes, please, go hiking. I’m not kidding, there are some places better equipped than others to go hiking, in the sense you may find more beautiful landscapes or streets with no risks to pedestrians, but in general, there’s a spot in everyplace that makes it worthy. Find it and use it. Walking is great for your body, but it also help you mind to let lose for a while, to relax.

8. Sure, don’t blame others for your mistakes. But not because it makes you weak, that could be a reason, but I personally find it liberating when I take responsibility of my wrongdoing. I don’t need to lie to anyone, and mostly I don’t need to lie to myself. People who trully love you will take you the way you are, even if you screw it up every once in a while. Saying sorry also helps to move over. I’ve seen it.

9. Try not to put yourself in a position where you have to do something you definitely don’t want to do, for someone else’s satisfaction. It works also the other way around: try to put yourself in a position where you can do something you like to do, and you’re making someone else’s happy as a bonus.

10.  Sex. I tried to avoid it, because I don’t want to go “commonplace” with it, but denying it is insane. As Woody Allen admits, meaningless is not the best way to go, but still a great way. I’m paraphrasing. In general, I tend to think/feel sex is great. Good sex is awesome. And sex with love is absolutely mind blowing. For some of us it is though a rare commodity. Tt’s all worthwhile if you manage to conquer that holly grail, but don’t think less of you if you haven’t found yet that significant other but still know how to enjoy your body.

(cc jennroig)

The spring was breaking in 2010. I was living in Amstedam, sick of a rainy, dark and cold winter. The sanitation workers strike hadn’t yet begun, and the campaign for the PM was still a cool stage, that means Geert Wilders was still only known in The Netherlands and no foreigner had been annoyed by his rhetoric.

It was  an exceptional bright day.  A bunch of us were sitting by the canal, in front of  the university building on the sunny side of Kloveniersburgwal, when listened: “we should take the weekend to go to Luxembourg…” Really???… I yelled in my mind.

I don’t know who said it, it could have been Eeva or Ida, anyhow the copyright of the idea remains with both of them. I jumped in next:  “Please please please take me with you?!” And then we convinced, or confused, Carol and Namitha to join us so we could fill the rental car.

By then, I had poor knowledge about Luxembourg. I knew it was a tiny, landlocked European country, part of the Benelux arrangement, full of wealthy people who made money from the finance industry, and tax breaks, and something else I guess. I also know some trivia, like the Grand Duchess was born in Havana. But I hadn’t met any Luxembourger who could confirm it or not.

We left Amsterdam a Friday morning. Eeva was driving. I remember we collected the first cash after Carol’s idea of gathering equal amounts from each one of us, everytime we needed to do some collective puchases. We stopped for maps, I think, and for toilette time and some beverage. I clearly remember it was then that I learnt  about Eeva’s preference for white chocolate, or was it brown? Any case there’s something special in the way that woman likes her chocolate.

It was a cool journey. We yelled all at once when we saw the first Belgian hill, after all that time surrounded by the flat lands of Denmark and The Netherlands. We passed by farms and plowed fields. I remember when I saw a cow and looked at it as if it was some UFO and the girls looked at me back mocking me: “hello! Have you never seen a cow?” I had seen cows before, obviously!, “yes, of course, but this one is alive…”

Well, Namitha is Indian, so… “what, are you so used to see them dead and cooked on your dish!?” I laughed. We laughed hard.

Driving was crazy exhausting. Vianden was the first stop in our way, but the road seemed endless. We took a wrong turn some place and doubled the time that should has taken us the whole journey. We arrived to Vianden at night, on road built among mountains. Vianden is a tiny little town, with just a few thousand inhabitants that seems extracted from a fairy tale. It’s rather easy to find Frech and German speaker, but not so much English. Curiously, we were told that there has been a great Portuguese immigration, driven by better chances of jobs.

Castle in Vianden, set of Shadow of the Vampire

The first impression you get from Vianden is the sight of the castle. At night, it is a monumental structure full of golden lights that breaks the dark mountain forest landscape. It’s like you time travelled to the Middle Ages, in front of that huge bulk of brick shaped in a marvelous structure.

This castle, I learnt the next day, was the set of the film Shadow of the Vampire, by E. Elias Merhige, with John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe. It  is actually a Museum, where you can get the idea of how rich people used to live back then. But it is also a fun walk with great views.

We arrived in a youth hostal, left the luggage and took our way down the road to find some place where to eat. That night I took one of my best shots ever. Three differently beautiful women… Like a band pic, right?

The next day, we fell in love with the cute houses and the river that crosses the town.

Next stop was Echternach. We had planned to hike through the forest. These are nice trails to walk, where you can easily find your way among many routes that can take you more or less effort.

That same day we took the road to the capital, a half modern half ancient city where you can breath the French influence. There we got into a church, walked the streets, squares, and had a brunch in a cafeteria on the top of a building.

Luxembourg is clean, neat, bright. Easy to walk and drive. There are cozy cafes, charming and smart people. The Court of Justice of the European Union and The European Court of Auditors are based there.

This is the kind of cafe I refer to…

Squares like this one…

Streets like this one….

Indeed, it’s the great place to scape for a weekend with friends. Mostly because it’s the kind of destiny that’s not part of your dream travels, but still manage to happily surprise you.