Taking Chances



They told me they came from a distant land

Where nothing was the same and everything was different.

Beautiful. Spectacular.


I became entranced by their stories and wanted to go there.

But they warned me not to go on my own.

The people there spoke a strange language and lived a way of life as if they were on another planet or in another time of history.

The terrain was wild, with mountains and lakes.

There were all sorts of hidden dangers.

‘Whatever you do, don’t go on your own’ they warned me, ‘when you, go come with us’

But they never went home.

They loved their country but only at a distance.

It was a place in their minds.

Something created from reminiscences.  


I got impatient and decided to go on my own.

They stood there and watched me as I went.

I told them that I couldn’t live anymore in the country of my birth

I was suffocating I said. Bored. I needed to depart.


They looked at me in silence.  

‘You will regret this!’ they said.


Of living in a place I knew too well.

Regret ……

Taking chances?


The Windmill


It was after hearing the stories from my dying mother in law that I decided to visit the old windmill. It was one of those things I’d always meant to do but never got around to and I mean it’s not as if it was far away: 10 minutes or so on my bike.

Originally built in 1738 and restored 20 years ago, the windmill was situated in the somewhat appropriately named ‘Southern Corridor Park’ (zuidelijk randpark): a long strip of land, approximately 200 meters wide and two kilometres long sandwiched between apartment blocks on one side – and the main  highway from Rotterdam to Amsterdam on the other. The park had been turned into a recreational area, an oasis of green in the midst of a big city; there were open grassy areas, lines of trees, a number of small lakes, a bike trail ….and the old windmill.

For years I had regularly ridden passed it but never really gave it a second thought. Then one day, I stopped, got off my bike, and took a closer look.

It was 21 metres high – high alright – but windmills 40 high were not unusual. In 1738, there were an estimated 10,000 windmills in The Netherlands, most of them concentrated in the west of the country between Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Windmills were used to pump water out of the soggy farming land and over the dykes and into canals and rivers. But they were used for many other purposes such as milling grains, sawing planks (crucial for the shipbuilding industry) and grinding spices.

Inside the windmill, I was surprised at what I found: a complex system of shafts and cogs – like clockwork – most of them made from wood. In its time I realised this was an impressive piece of machinery: high tech.

No other visitors appeared.

I was alone inside this strange, centuries old machine. My thoughts drifted and another windmill appeared before my mind’s eye, along with the reminiscences shared by mother and daughter during their last days together …….

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There is something addictive about getting up in the morning and moving on, leaving everything behind you, the baggage of yesterday’s experiences and last night’s dreams, and starting out anew. 

It’s an irresponsible way of life, a free life.

In this mode of existence, a few days is a long time.

You arrive in a new place and confront the unknown.

The simple tasks of orientating oneself to the new surroundings, of seeing the sights, walking the streets, exploring the new and the unknown, experiencing a different culture, heighten the sense of being alive. The mundane tasks, finding the nearest shop or supermarket, when and where the next bus or train leaves, form a minor epic full of frustrations, unforgettable scenes and comic situations.

And then before you know it, comes the feeling of familiarity – that you know this place too well, that you have been here for a long time. The senses becomes dulled. You see less, notice less. You begin to regard your hotel room, your temporary lodging, as ‘home’.

Before long, the strangeness of arrival, exhilarating, mysterious, fades. In its place comes the comfort of living according to a set of small routines. Then comes the creeping ennui, the listlessness, the feeling that you have too much time on your hands –  and then it’s time to move on again. 

To once again be a stranger, a pair of eyes wandering a foreign landscape, someone who is always arriving but never stays…….


Dead Language

Every 14 days, a language dies.

Half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth will likely disappear, as communities abandon native tongues in favour of English, Mandarin, or Spanish….’




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The Slum Girl


I was on my way back to my hotel, when she ran up behind me, yelling.

It was a high pitched sound, bird like.

Before I knew it, she was standing in front of me and pointing at my camera.

It was a young girl wrapped in a blanket and all too obviously from a poor, lower caste family. She was sleeping on the streets, along with so many others……..

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