Friday, 14 November 2014

Livsgäld: The best LARP I ever went to

My goodness, things have been insanely busy of late. But I guess that's par for the course when it comes to my life. One of the things I've been stressing about is preparations for a LARP which took place last weekend. This sewing clothes-activity isn't something I much enjoy or have any skills whatsoever in. But it had to be done, and I had so been looking forward to this particular LARP that I endeavoured to fight down all the anxiety that the preparations generated.

I have been writing about my issues with gender and sexism in roleplaying before (in Swedish). Basically the thing is that I'm so utterly fed up with sexism and gender segregation in real life that I think it would be nice to explore worlds where things are different. Why not try, while we're at it using our imaginations? I mean, if we can pretend to be cyborg-elf-pirates from outer space, then how much harder can it be to imagine being of a different gender than the one you were born with (or are perceived as belonging to by others based on your physical sex)? Or a world where no sexism, gender-segregation, or even the concept of gender exists?

It has long been a dream of mine to get to play through an entire LARP without having to define the sex of my character. To get to simulate a world where physical sex is about as relevant as the blood-type of the character (i.e. irrelevant in all situations but very specific medical ones). Where your identity and how you're treated and seen by others is entirely unaffected by it. 

Oh, I've been to several games where the organisers have claimed the setting to be equal and free from sexism when I've raised the issue beforehand. But once the game has begun I have never before actually experienced that to be the case. I believe it is because it hasn't been actively problematised (or sometimes even mentioned) by neither the GM's nor the players. Then it's perfectly understandable that the players fall into the patterns of the real world. Most people don't even think about it in terms of sexism or segregation, because we're so used to that this is the way the world is supposed to be. But we do not live in an equal society, so it would take conscious effort to simulate equality.

This LARP that I went to last weekend made a huge effort to do just that. It's called Livsgäld (translates loosely to life-debt. if you're in close enough proximity of Sweden you should check it out, it will quite possibly be run again!). The society that the LARP focuses on is a small village of altogether around forty people. In this culture your social role isn't based upon your physical sex at all. Instead there is another arbitrary attribute which dictates how you're expected to be and behave, namely at what time of day you were born. Depending on your hour of birth you are then for the rest of your life considered to belong to one of four elements: water, earth, air and fire.

The ones born during the evening are waterborn. They are considered to be soft, emotional, collective-minded and practical. They always have the well of the people in mind and tend to focus on the present. Therefore they take on roles as psychologists and mediators. They have the attributes that the people have had most use of in their time of need, and therefore they have the highest status and are considered to be natural leaders.

The ones born during the day are earthborn. They are considered to be hard, intellectual, collective-minded and practical. Crafting and farming are considered to be natural talents of theirs, and they are therefore appointed roles as decision-makers concerning practical matters in the village. Because of this useful practicality and pragmatism they are held in almost as high esteem as the waterborn.

The ones born during the night are airborn. They are considered to be soft, intellectual, individualistic and theoretical. Their diplomatic ways, sense of order and logical thinking make them suitable priests, writers, cleaners and thinkers. They are held in reasonably high esteem within the village, but not as high as the water- and earthborn because of their potentially dangerous individual streak.

Finally, the ones born during the morning are fireborn. They are considered to be hard, emotional, individualistic and theoretical. Their intense, passionate and sometimes egotistical ways make them suitable for tasks such as hunting and manual labour which requires strength but not patience and precision. They harbour all the traits which are considered dangerous by a people whose survival has depended on carefulness and discretion, and are therefore ranking lowest in status and are often looked down upon.

Of course not everyone fits perfectly into these expectations, just like not everyone conforms in every way to the gender roles of our society. But they're still seen as fundamentally defining; physical realities that inescapably will influence you. And because everyone believes in the self-evidence of these stereotypes, they also become real.

I played an old fireborn person. A rather grumpy character with a sarcastic sense of humour. Generally unpopular and looked down upon by the other elders, but well-liked among the other fireborn. Rather proud and emotionally high-strung, self-centered but protective of the young. At first I was intimidated by playing a character so different from myself, but as it turned out it was closer to home than I could possibly have imagined.

The clothes of Naorch, my character.

It was a mighty experience, and I learned a lot from it, too. To belong to the element at the bottom of the hierarchy and experience that oppression in ways both similar to and different from the ones I'm used to as a perceived woman. To be reprimanded and guilt-tripped for taking up too much space or belittled for showing my emotions too strongly. The fear of being considered a bad role-model for the younger fireborns, and at the same time the fear of not being welcomed as one of them if I suppressed my fiery personality traits too much. 

As a rather young person I though I wouldn't be able to relate to this last thing, but it went straight to my heart in terms of familiarity. That's exactly what it's like to be perceived as a woman. It is often the case that to be accepted as belonging to a female-dominated group you have to be able to show that you can behave like a female; bringing forth those traits that are otherwise looked down upon or seen as destructive by the patriarchal society in general. And then when you find yourself in a male-dominated group you're expected to behave as manly as possible in order to gain any respect at all. And not only for yourself! If you're the only perceived female in a group of men you suddenly become a representative for your entire gender. Then you must do your best to suppress all those womanly traits or risk having the respect for all women ever lost on your account.

It is a heavy burden to bear! That became very clear for me during the LARP, where having my character constantly trying to balance these two ways of being in order to overall lose as little respect as possible induced quite a palpable anxiety. It wasn't until after the LARP during the debrief that I realised that this was what was actually going on, and that I am very often facing the same situations with the same kind of pressures in real life. No wonder identity crises are induced by constantly having to play this double-charade. No wonder I can hardly ever relax and just be myself when what I am is so heavily influenced by social pressures from all kinds of directions that I'm not sure what's really left underneath all the expectations.

Livsgäld was an emotional experience for me, to say the least. Apart from the angst generated by the above mentioned status- and elemental role-based play there were also things going on that provoked many thoughts and feelings within my character and ultimately also me. There were moments of friendship and love, of worry for the future of the village, of desperation and fear in the face of the prospect of death, of stories and rituals, of humour and mischief, of failure and shame, and also pride and success.

I cried and I laughed, and I thought. Most of the time I didn't even have to remind myself to stay in character. I really became Naorch, and it was also mightily interesting to see how people around me was seeing and treating me accordingly. So be it that I only saw the game from my character's point of view, but I'd hazard to say that we actually managed to realistically simulate a different society there for a weekend. The GM's had us do a lot of preparatory things to get into the swing of things. We spent an entire day just workshopping behaviours and theoreticising about the elemental roles and the general structure of the society, and the elements also had clothes of very distinct colour and shape in order to aid the mind in categorising according to an unfamiliar system. We even endeavoured to use gender-neutral language to as high a degree as we could muster (e.g. using they instead of he or she, or referring to the elements instead).

I was cautiously hopeful of how well we would manage in the end. Based on previous experiences I tried keeping my expectations down somewhat, but I couldn't help thinking that with all this effort put in by both the GM's and the players, it just might work this time. And in the end it actually astonished me how well it worked. Sure, it happened that people slipped up and said he or she when referring to others, but there was never made a big deal about it. And overall the elemental roles became so profound in our minds that the genders of the players or the characters didn't seem to matter up to the point that I stopped reflecting on it. I still don't know what the physical sex of my character is, and it feels like it actually doesn't matter in any way whatsoever. That's enough for me to be happy and to have had a LARPing dream come true.

But this game gave me so much more than that. It was mightily interesting to see how easily we could change our way of thinking. Not just individually, but on a collective, societal level (albeit a tiny society). The elemental roles really became fundamental and self-evident, up to the point that I found myself thinking in terms of them for days after the LARP had ended. That's a pretty staggering realisation, that my thoughts did this automatically even though I knew it was a make-believe construction. No wonder we're so firmly rooted in the gender roles of our society! We can't help believing in them even after we become aware that they are mostly just a social construction. This game gave me the insight that we might need to substitute something else for those roles. That if we are to succeed in creating an equal society we need to actively imagine that things can be different, and consciously focus on equality as a concept rather than just try to avoid the differences and injustices in the hope that this will make them go away.

Unfortunately this is the much more difficult way, because it requires constant mental dedication on an individual level before it can be accomplished by a whole society to collectively change its way of thinking. In real life I think we have to work by consciously spreading ideas from individuals to groups, because unlike at LARPs we have no way of taking everybody aside and agree beforehand on how we want the world order to be (if you know of a way to do this non-violently, though, please let me know!).

It was scary, in a way, to see how effectively we changed our way of thinking and behaving over a mere weekend. It showed me how easy it is to create oppression on completely arbitrary grounds, and how real those feelings provoked can be even though you know it's just play-pretend. But most of all it gave me hope. If we could change our way of thinking and behaving so easily over such a short period of time I have no doubts about that it can be done on a much larger scale. All it takes is that most of us play along.

So let's stop playing along with these make-believe sexist structures of today and together imagine a world of gender equality, eh?

Love and inspiration,
Winterdragon

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Voice of Treason


Inside the ghost of love is laughing
It mocks the footsteps where I go
It tells me nothing has been lost
It whispers, "You've seen darkness before."
In time the hurting will subside
And longing is overthrown
What's left is a void that grows inside
And the echo of a failure

Opeth live in concert soon yaaay,
Winterdragon

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Some awesome music

Yaay, music! I went to a concert yesterday. Tesseract and Animals As Leaders. Both bands I hadn't heard of a month ago, and now I can't stop listening to them. So much energy! Apparently there's this heavy metal subgenre called 'djent'. As in the sound guitars make when bending the notes. I think I'm in love. Anyway, if you're into polyrythms, syncopation and many-stringed guitars you should check them out!



Love and djent,
Winterdragon

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Recipe: Fake risotto

I signed up for VeganMoFo this year. Still I haven't written a single food-related post during September. I'm sorry! Time got tighter than I'd expected, and I chose to prioritise differently. As a tiny attempt to compensation, here's a super-simple recipe of my own making. I have even served it to several non-vegan friends, and they seemed to enjoy it!

Cheating risotto


Boil circa 3 dl rice (of any kind) together with a pinch of salt in a can of coconut milk. Stir occasionally so it doesn't burn, and add in some water as needed. In the meantime, drain and rinse a can of chickpeas, and chop up an avocado or two. When the rice is done boiling, add in chickpeas, avocado, cocktail tomatoes, basil (preferably fresh, but dried works) and salt and pepper to taste. Done!

Super-easy, and can be thrown together in under 15 minutes. Feel free to substitute any beans or peas for the chickpeas, and to exchange the avocado and tomatoes for something else if you're so inclined. The main point of the recipe is that rice boiled in coconut milk makes for a quick, cheapskate fake-risotto.

Love and food,
Winterdragon

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Isolated incidents

Everything that happens is devoid of context
Independent
Isolated incidents
But everything happens for a reason
And that reason is you
You, at the age of reason
Responsible
Not for thoughts and feelings
But for your actions
Everything is either wrong or right
True or false
The world is black and white
So simple to think about
Chaos is not warranted
And the signal is independent of the noise

Love and uncalled for poetry,
Winterdragon

Friday, 12 September 2014

My mind has no sex

I work at a planetarium. In my job I get a lot of questions, from children and adults, that I'm supposed to answer to the best of my ability. Questions about stars, planets, galaxies, and the Universe in general. But the hardest question, one which I get from time to time, has nothing to do with astronomy.

“Are you a boy or a girl?”

It's such a simple question. A bit personal, perhaps, but it should be straightforward to answer. I wish. Instead it's instant identity crisis every time someone asks. I don't even know where to begin, and usually end up unable to put together an intelligible answer. Or I panic and tell them what I think they want to hear and spend the rest of the day feeling utterly uncomfortable with myself and the world. Damn it, I think to myself. Why did you have to ask the hard question? “How big is the Universe?” or “What happened before the Big Bang?” are trifles in comparison.

With this blog post I intend to put some of my thoughts and feelings regarding the matter into words. This has been a very long time coming, yet it is only very recently I have begun to talk to others about my own gender identity. It's tricky, incredibly personal, and most of all I'm scared of not being taken seriously. But I'm so terribly sick of having expectations and assumptions forced upon me all the time which make me feel like an alien abomination. Therefore I want people to understand.

So am I a boy or a girl, then? Well, it turns out not to be as simple as that. My body is female and I'm generally comfortable with it. Yet I do not identify as a woman. I've tried, but most of the time it feels like pretending to be something I'm not. But I don't really want to be a man either. Sometimes I think it would have been easier if I would have been born with a male body, but I don't think it would have fundamentally changed things.

It comes down to these blasted things called gender roles. Views and expectations, often even rules and regulations. Told and untold they dictate how we're supposed to act, feel, and even think. All of it based on something as arbitrary as what sex our bodies happened to be born with. Most of the time they're invisible, too. It's called structures; ways of reasoning and perceiving we've collectively brainwashed ourselves into thinking of as fundamental and inescapable.

Does it have to be this way? I certainly don't think so. But these structures aren't going to go away by us simply ignoring them and pretending that we're all equal. No, we have to illuminate the unseen and speak the unspoken, really see and become aware of the injustices before we will be able to work against them. That's the way it is with subconscious patterns of thought, and here we're talking about it on a cultural level.

We have to start questioning. Is it true that women and men are wired fundamentally differently, and that there are no alternative ways of being? And do we really have to categorise, segregate, and treat people differently based on these supposed differences? I think we don't. I believe that a world where your sex is about as relevant as your blood group would be much more interesting to live in.

I want to be free. Free to act, speak and think whatever I like. But I'm not. I find myself avoiding doing certain things for fear of being viewed as a woman. Wearing dresses, for example, is problematic for me because I find myself being treated differently in an unwelcome way. I get loads of comments about my clothing, and conversation topics tend to drift towards appearance and general gossip, as opposed to the rather more interesting topics of e.g. science, culture or politics which tend to be brought up around me if I'm wearing traditionally male or gender-neutral clothes. So, while I'd like to wear traditionally female clothes once in a while, I prefer being judged based on my thoughts and intellectual qualities rather than my appearance, and so I don't.

The only way of gaining respect seems to be by appearing as manly as possible. But while I often avoid things conventionally regarded as expressions of femininity I wouldn't want to be a man either. There are huge problems with the masculine ideal as well. The whole never-ever-talk-about-your-feelings thing, for example, why would I want to assign to that? Why would anyone?

No. I'm done with it. Understand that I'm totally fine with you assigning to either gender, and feel free to challenge or conform to any gender roles and stereotypes from within that identity. Go for it! But I can't. Every time I am forced to label my identity either 'male' or 'female' I am overcome by such a profound feeling of disgust that I've simply given up on it. I consider myself to be without gender, agender, or simply undefined. It is a form of genderqueer.

Now, I understand that this is confusing. Why is it relevant to you? Why should you even care? Well, I'm not the only one who view myself as outside the gender-binary system. We're a fair number of people, and we deserve respect and recognition, just like everyone else. And yes, I do realise that it takes conscious effort to think of and treat people in a way you may not be accustomed to. Therefore I here present some tips on How To Be A Good Ally:

  • Ask what pronoun people would prefer you using when referring to them, instead of assuming something that might make them uncomfortable. For myself I'd prefer if you'd use they rather than he or she. I will not get angry with you if you slip up and use the wrong word, but if I have enough mental energy at the time I will politely correct you.
  • If somebody else uses the wrong pronoun about someone you know identifies differently, politely correct them. Especially if they're present, this shows that you take their gender identity seriously and that they have people on their side.
  • Try using gender-neutral words when talking about people in general when their gender is unknown or of no importance (which according to me would be most of the time). For example, use person instead of woman or man, sibling instead of brother or sister, parent instead of mother or father, child instead of boy or girl. This works towards an inclusive way of speaking (and ultimately also thinking).
  • Do not question somebody's gender identity, especially not in public. Trust me, there is often enough of an internal identity crisis going on without having it forced upon oneself by others.
  • Do not joke about someone's gender identity. There might be exceptions if you know the person really well, but be very careful. Even if it's in good fun with no malicious intent it trivialises the matter and might serve to undermine the person's self-confidence.
  • Accept the situation. Even if you don't understand. You don't have to understand. We're here, we're queer, deal with it. It doesn't hurt or threaten you in any way whatsoever, and you are still free to assign to any gender of your choice.

That's enough for now, I think. Someday I might run through the streets screaming 'THE MIND HAS NO SEX' at the top of my lungs, but I think blogging about the issue is a big enough step in my coming-out process for now. If you survived this far, thank you kindly for reading this wall of text. If you feel like it, I would greatly appreciate a comment with your thoughts on the matter. Coming out is a scary thing, and knowing that there is support helps enormously. Feel free to ask me a question if you're curious about something. But no hating, please. If that's your sentiment you can bloody well bugger off, and good riddance.

Hah. Now I know what to answer the next time somebody asks me that question. 

"Are you a boy or a girl?"

"NO."

Love and rainbows,
Winterdragon

Mitt sinne har inget kön

Jag jobbar på ett planetarium. I mitt jobb får jag massor av frågor, från barn och vuxna, som det är tänkt att jag skall svara på utefter bästa förmåga. Frågor om stjärnor, planeter, galaxer, och Universum i allmänhet. Men den svåraste frågan, en som jag får då och då, har ingenting att göra med astronomi.

“Är du en tjej eller en kille?”

Det är en så simpel fråga. Lite personlig, kanske, men den borde vara okomplicerad att svara på. Eller ja, jag önskar att den vore det. I stället är det omedelbar identitetskris som gäller så fort någon frågar. Jag vet inte ens var jag skall börja, och det slutar oftast med att jag är oförmögen att komma med ett begripligt svar. Eller så får jag panik och hasplar ur mig vad jag tror att de vill höra, och spenderar resten av dagen i ett tillstånd av total obekvämhet med mig själv och världen. Fan, tänker jag för mig själv. Varför var du tvungen att ställa den svåra frågan? “Hur stort är Universum?” eller “Vad hände innan Stora Smällen?” är trivialiteter i jämförelse.

Med det här blogginlägget ämnar jag sätta ord på några av mina tankar och känslor angående ämnet. Det är något som jag har tänkt på väldigt länge, ändå är det först nyligen som jag har börjat prata med andra om min egen könsidentitet. Det är knepigt, otroligt personligt, och mest av allt är jag rädd för att inte bli tagen på allvar. Men jag är så hemskt trött på att få förväntningar och antaganden tvingade på mig hela tiden som får mig att känna mig som en främmande styggelse. Därför vill jag att folk skall förstå.

Så är jag en tjej eller en kille, då? Tja, det visar sig inte vara riktigt så enkelt. Min kropp är av kvinnligt kön, och jag är i största allmänhet bekväm med den. Ändå identifierar jag mig inte som kvinna. Jag har försökt, men för det mesta känns det som att låtsas vara någonting jag inte är. Men jag vill inte riktigt vara en man heller. Ibland tror jag att det hade varit lättare om jag fötts med en manskropp, men jag tror egentligen inte att det skulle ha fundamentalt ändrat på saker.

Det handlar om dessa sabla grejer som kallas könsroller. Uppfattningar och förväntningar, ofta till och med regler och begränsningar. Uttalade och outtalade dikterar de hur vi borde agera, känna, och till och med tänka. Alltihop baserat på något så godtyckligt som vilket kön våra kroppar råkade födas med. Oftast är de osynliga, dessutom. Det kallas strukturer; sätt att resonera och uppfatta omvärlden som vi kollektivt har hjärntvättat oss själva till att se som fundamentala och ofrånkomliga.

Måste det vara såhär? Jag tror verkligen inte det. Men dessa strukturer kommer inte försvinna om vi bara ignorerar dem och låtsas att vi alla är jämställda. Nej, vi måste belysa det osedda och högt säga det outtalade, verkligen se och medvetandegöra orättvisorna innan vi har möjlighet att jobba emot dem. Det är så det funkar med undermedvetna tankemönster, och här talar vi om det på en kulturell nivå.

Vi måste börja ifrågasätta. Är det verkligen så att kvinnor och män är fundamentalt olika funtade, och att det inte finns några alternativa sätt att vara? Och måste vi verkligen kategorisera, segregera, och behandla folk annorlunda baserat på dessa påstådda skillnader? Jag tror inte det. Jag tror att en värld där ditt kön är ungefär lika relevant som din blodgrupp skulle vara mycket intressantare att leva i.

Jag vill vara fri. Fri att agera, säga och tänka precis vad jag vill. Men det är jag inte. Jag kommer på mig själv med att undvika att göra vissa saker av rädsla för att bli betraktad som kvinna. Att bära klänning, till exempel, är problematiskt för mig eftersom jag märker att jag blir behandlad annorlunda på ett ganska ovälkommet sätt. Jag får massor av kommentarer om min klädsel, och samtalsämnena har en tendens att kretsa kring utseende och allmänt skvaller, till skillnad mot mer intressanta ämnen som t.ex. vetenskap, kultur eller politik som har en tendens att tas upp omkring mig om jag har på mig traditionellt manliga eller könsneutrala kläder. Så fastän jag skulle vilja klä mig i traditionellt kvinnliga kläder emellanåt föredrar jag att bli bedömd baserad på mina tankar och intellektuella kvalitéer snarare än mitt utseende, så jag låter bli.

Det enda sättet att få respekt verkar vara genom att uppträda så manligt som möjligt. Fast medan jag ofta undviker saker som som konventionellt betraktas som uttryck för kvinnlighet så skulle jag inte vilja vara man heller. Det finns enorma problem med det maskulina idealet också. Hela den här tala-aldrig-någonsin-om-dina-känslor-grejen, till exempel, varför skulle jag vilja skriva under på det? Varför skulle någon vilja det?

Nej. Jag pallar inte mer. Du får förstå att jag är helt lugn med att du identifierar dig med vilket kön du vill, och känn dig fri att utmana eller konformera till vilka könsroller och stereotyper som helst inifrån den identiteten. Kör hårt! Men jag kan inte. Varje gång jag måste sätta en etikett på min identitet motsvarande antingen 'man' eller 'kvinna' överväldigas jag av en så djup känsla av äckel att jag helt enkelt har gett upp. Jag anser mig själv vara androgyn, agender, eller helt enkelt odefinierad. Det är en form av genderqueer.

Alltså, jag förstår att det här är förvirrande. Varför är det här relevant för dig? Varför skall du ens bry dig? Jo, jag är inte den enda som anser mig själv stå utanför könsbinariteten. Vi är ganska många, och vi förtjänar respekt och erkännande, precis som alla andra. Och ja, jag inser att det krävs en medveten ansträngning för att tänka på och behandla folk på ett sätt du kanske inte är van vid. Därför presenterar jag här några tips på hur du kan vara en Bra Allierad:

  • Fråga vilket pronomen folk föredrar, i stället för att anta någonting som skulle kunna göra dem obekväma. Själv föredrar jag hen snarare än han eller hon. (Böjningsformerna hens och henom motsvarar hans/hennes och honom/henne.) På engelska är det they som gäller, inte he eller she. Jag kommer inte bli arg om du råkar säga fel, men om jag har tillräckligt med mental energi just då så kommer jag att artigt rätta dig.
  • Om någon annan använder fel pronomen om någon du vet identifierar sig annorlunda, rätta dem artigt. Särskilt om personen är närvarande visar det att du tar deras könsidentitet på allvar och att de har folk på sin sida.
  • Försök använda könsneutrala ord när du pratar om folk i allmänhet när deras kön är okänt eller irrelevant (vilket det oftast är, i min mening). Till exempel, använd person istället för kvinna eller man, syskon istället för bror eller syster, förälder istället för mamma eller pappa, barn istället för pojke eller flicka. Det här strävar mot ett inklusivt sätt att tala (och i förlängningen också tänka).
  • Ifrågasätt inte någons könsidentitet, speciellt inte bland folk. Tro mig, det finns ofta tillräckligt mycket inre identitetskris utan att den behöver triggas utifrån av andra.
  • Skämta inte om någons könsidentitet. Det kan finnas undantag om du känner personen väldigt väl, men var väldigt försiktig. Även om det bara är på skoj med inga onda intentioner trivialiserar det saken och kan undergräva personens självförtroende.
  • Acceptera situationen. Även om du inte förstår. Du behöver inte förstå. We're here, we're queer, deal with it. Det varken skadar eller hotar dig på något sätt alls, och du är fortfarande fri att identifiera dig med vilket kön du vill.

Det får räcka för den här gången, tror jag. En dag kommer jag kanske springa gatorna fram och ropa "SINNET HAR INGET KÖN" så högt jag kan, men jag tror att blogga om det hela är ett stort nog steg i min komma ut-process just nu. Om du överlevde så här långt, tack så hjärtligt för att du läste hela den här väggen av text. Om du känner för det så skulle jag verkligen uppskatta en kommentar med dina tankar om saken. Att komma ut är läskigt, och att veta att det finns stöd hjälper något enormt. Varsågod att ställa en fråga om du är nyfiken på någonting. Men inget hat, tack. Om det är så du känner så kan du tamigfan sticka härifrån, och du kommer inte bli saknad.

Hah. Nu vet jag vad jag skall svara nästa gång någon ställer den där frågan.

“Är du en tjej eller en kille?”

“NEJ.”

Kärlek och regnbågar,
Winterdragon

Friday, 22 August 2014

Where the heart is

Back in Sweden. Everything is the same, but I'm different. A year of mostly travelling has changed me. Not to mention the way I see the world. It feels smaller and friendlier, now that I've circumnavigated it. This ground is familiar, but the sky feels strange now that I know that there is another side to it. That's when I miss it the most. Looking up at the stars, feeling the tug of longing for adventure. At least that's the way it's always been.

Here's familiarity. So much it almost chafes. People hadn't forgotten me, and there have been many happy reunions. That combined with lots of things happening keeps me distracted enough not to drown in my longing back to New Zealand. Instead that land is like a happy dream, only I know it's real. It makes other dreams seem less impossible, and that brings me even more happiness. And a sort of peace of mind.

Problems that once would have freaked me out don't bother me so much. My current living situation, for example. I didn't manage to find an apartment as was the plan, and so I'm currently homeless until further notice. Luckily I have several awesome friends who have offered me their homes to crash at. The very thought of such a temporary existence would have driven me crazy not very long ago, but with the better part of a year of living out of a backpack behind me it feels quite okay. 

I'll admit it makes me a bit nervous. It puts me in a very dependent position and forces me to trust others to a pretty high degree. And there is that little fear of being too much of a burden without giving enough back. An unthankful parasite. But then again, I know that I would do (and have done to a rather large extent) the same for my friends. Helping them out in their time of need without asking anything back, just hoping that they will pay it forward to whoever will need it some day.

So I'm being as calm and positive about it as can be. I will get to spend more time than usual with my friends. And there is a certain feeling of freedom to not having a fixed geographical location full of stuff to own me. Hopefully I'll learn something about the world, or about myself. Also: it is a temporary thing, just like life itself.

“I don't think home is a place anymore. I think it's a state of mind.”
— Neil Gaiman (A Game of You, vol. 5 of the Sandman series)

Love and home,
Winterdragon

Friday, 18 July 2014

Vacation

Still alive, still in New Zealand. Everything is well apart from an annoyingly lingering cold. Seriously, how much mucus is it possible for one body to produce? New Zealand in midwinter is cold, in an unexpected way. The temperature isn't all that low, usually lying somewhere between 5 and 15 degrees it's more like Nordic spring or autumn. And although I see signs of people falling into winter depression around me, the light levels are higher than what I'm used to, so the darkness doesn't faze me. 

What bothers me is that it's cold indoors. Even with multiple layers of clothing one is left shivering without people to snuggle up against. This is just wrong! I know it's kind of impolite to be all "this is how we civilised people do things better than you barbaric foreigners" when visiting another country, but seriously kiwis. Did you know that double-glass windows is a thing? That insulation is pretty useful, and that building houses with radiators placed under the windows is actually rather clever when it comes to heat-preservation? Have you noticed that while you may not get much snow, temperatures actually tend to get quite low in your country in wintertime? That building more expensive but warm houses could be very well-spent money?

Oh well, end of rant. In a couple of weeks I'll have more heat than I can handle, going back to pretty much the height of the Swedish summer. In the meantime I'm visiting Dunedin and Auckland again, to hang out with awesome people. Roleplaying, larping, playing boardgames, swordfighting, going to interesting shows and museums, snuggling. Going for some sightseeing walks as far as I have the energy for it. An excellent way of spending four weeks' vacation in this lovely country, I'd say. There are still places I'd like to visit and mountains I'd like to climb, but that will have to wait for the future, I think. The flu messed up my physical energy levels pretty badly, and moneywise I'm almost broke. But I'm not sad about that; I am enjoying myself immensely.

I'll be sad to leave, but that's the way it has to be for now. I'm happy and grateful for all the wonderful memories of places and people and moments and adventures I will take with me. 

The sun sets behind the hills of Dunedin.

Love and vacation,
Winterdragon

Friday, 4 July 2014

Bittersweet endings

University is out for the semester. Courses are over and done, whether I passed my finals or not. Results won't be brilliant, but hopefully good enough. I gave up the high-grade-chasing game a long time ago, since I really quite enjoy having spare time. There are so overwhelmingly many fun things to fill it with.

Moved out of my student room this week, and in a few days I will be leaving this place which has been my home for the past half year. The beautiful, shaken, construction site of a city called Christchurch. I love it to bits, along with all the lovely people I've made friends with here. 

The plague I've been down with for the past few weeks is giving way at last, and I feel my energy gradually returning. Joy and rejoicing! It makes such a difference that I realise I shouldn't be taking my health for granted. If you haven't got your health you haven't got anything, indeed.

I'm spending this last week here hanging out with awesome people. Roleplaying, boardgaming, swordfighting, movie-watching, snuggling, making out, partying, exploring. All those things I love so much and that make me feel like I belong. This is home now.

But I'll soon be pulling up the roots I've grown here and go back to where I came from. It hurts. It always hurts to leave someone or someplace you've gotten attached to. Because it's scary. I'm having nightmares about going back to Sweden only to find that the place has changed completely and that no-one remembers me anymore. The same fears are creeping up on me regarding New Zealand. That I will be forgotten as soon as I leave and that the friendships with people I've connected with will fade to nothing before long.

But that's the risk in any situation, not only for travel. Nothing lasts forever, and in many cases that is much more of a blessing than a curse. Life itself is fragile and will pass, so either nothing or everything will have been worthwhile. I'm going to go with the latter. I don't want fear of loss stopping me from enjoying life or connecting with people, because that's no way to live. Every moment is worth experiencing for its own sake, regardless of any possible prices of pain. I've found that the joy gained is so much greater.

Besides, since there are never any guarantees for anything, there is plenty of room for hope of future re-meetings. No expectations, for those quench the soul. Just hope.

Love and endings,
Winterdragon