Saturday, May 26, 2012

A stack of me

How journaling helps me make sense of my world
                                 12 journals in 17 years
For as long as I can remember I have been writing. First in what we call 'poesie albums' in Holland, which were friendship albums where you'd write a nice poem for a friend and paste a drawing of a cat next to it. When I was about 13 years old, I got my first journal for my birthday. It was pink and had one of those tiny locks on it - the ones that you can pick with a paperclip. I wrote about the things that kept me busy: boys, school, girlfriends, my family, my dreams for the future. Basically, in all the years since, not much has changed. I still write about the same things, albeit in a slightly different way. Or so, I tell myself.

These journals are harder to find these days - luckily I have a stash!
For the past ten years, I have always used notebooks which were sold at Chinese stores in Amsterdam. I have them in all different colors. Up until now, no other notebook is accepted - this is one of the few things I am extremely picky about. 

It's been said that people with journals tend to be more successfull (really, it's been said!). I'm not sure that is really the case, but I do believe that writing a journal helps personal development. After writing the same negative crap to yourself over and over again, there has to be a point were you realise (and I did, and do, all the time) that it's time to change course.

People always ask me if I write everyday, which I don't. I don't think it's necessary to keep a log of all the things that happened in my life. It's more important to take time to reflect on those things that are that important that I feel like writing about them. Having a rhythym for writing (at least every week, for instance) does help.

'This journal belongs to Amis Boersma, others are NOT allowed to read this'
I (and yes, it's very Oprah) often take time to be grateful for the things that happen in my life. I write down specific events or people I am happy with and I do find that overall I am happier now than before. I am more at easy with how my life is. In a way, my journal carries me through the good and the bad.

Would I want you to be able to read my journals after I am gone? I'm not sure. The crazy talk is better disregarded - and there's quite a lot of that. So, maybe if you only read the gratitude parts, yes. For now, I'll just stick to being grateful for yet another day on this planet.

Keeping a journal supports personal development

Friday, May 11, 2012

New goal: to always live near to a mango tree

This week I created a new goal for myself: from now on I want to spend most of my time living next to a mango tree. From my balcony of my apartment in a cosy neighborhood near to Cartagena's old center, I can almost reach for a big, soon-to-be ripe mango. Spending some time reading in the hammock last Saturday, I witnessed how about ten different groups of boys threw pieces of wood, stone or whatever else they could grab at the tree, hoping to hit a few mangos to the ground. The downstairs neighbor (officially named 'Cascarrabias' or grouch by his upstairs neighbors) seemed to be calling the police the other day to make an official complaint. Interestingly the mango tree is not even his. It's on the street and is public property. 

Blogging in the hammock while monitoring mango movement
Just now (as I am writing this) a boy asked me if he could have a go at the tree, to which I invitingly said yes. But Mr. Cascarrabias (obviously) did not agree and sent the boy scurrying off on his bike. When coming home today, there was a man in the three with a huge bag filling it up with mangos. The mango I have had my eye on is still there. But how do I get it? If it falls down, it will land on hostile territory - unless with some divine intervention it is blown a meter to the left towards the entrance of our humble abode. If only I'd have time to keep my eye on the mango all day, I may be able to get a hold of it... But well, I guess I just have to live with the fact that the mango I see so well and so desire, will never be mine. However, the guy in the tree offered to sell me some, so maybe I still stand a chance... 

There it is, the mango I desire...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What's in a name? There's a whole lot in mine!

Last week I went to the immigration office here in Cartagena to get my tourist visa extended with another 90 days (yes, no way I am leaving this place if I don't have to). I was asked to fill out a form which had several interesting boxes to fill out such as hair color and distinguishing physical features. My friend Marcela suggested 'freckles', but I decided to leave it blank - which in turn made the officer ask me if I had any tattoos (don't worry, mom, I still didn't get one). The best box however was  SUEDONIMO/NICKNAME. I also didn't fill this one out, but it did made me think of the different names and nicknames I have. It reminded me of the book 'The Namesake' in which the main character has different names adjusted to the different stages of his life. 

I love my name. Thanks, mom and dad, for giving it to me. I have loved it ever since I can remember. I have loved telling people how it means 'Sweet' in my mom's mother tongue, Sundanese, spoken on West Java, Indonesia. But how vividly do I remember the day that some annoying Indo (mixed Indonesian-Dutch), giving me ride home after a party, told me that no, it didn't mean 'sweet', it meant 'smelly of fish'. I decided to ignore his comment, but had to face the truth when I started studying Indonesian and was surrounded by non-Sundanese Indonesians all the time. Yes, in Indonesian it does really mean 'smelly of fish'.

This discovery led me to improvise with my name: In Indonesia (everywhere outside of West Java) I now go by the name Ami. It took me a while, but now I can switch gears between Amis and Ami with ease. I respond to anything that could possibly be my name, even 'Amice' (which is how frat boys address one another in Holland). Amish is a bridge too far, but a few people have made the mistake. Anne-mies or Anne-Marlies have been tried as well. Those I just pretend not to have heard.

Then there are the real nicknames. You'd think there's not a lot to do with a four-letter name like mine, but you'd be surprised! I guess I just have lots of creative people around me, because my nicknames are many. My mom, my sisters, my little brothers and my close friends call me Aam, or Aampje. My eldest sister sometimes calls me Mango after learning that Aam means mango in an Indian dialect that of high school friends speaks. My big brother calls me Plaam or something else which I will not mention here on this blog. A nephew used to always call me Misa. My first digital nickname was Amsi ( was my first email address), thanks to my geeky first boyfriend. In Indonesia some of my close friends got rid of the A and just call me Mi. No one calls me 'I' (as in Bee), thank god! Someone (let me add this was in the US) did think my name was 'Is' (an 'Ease'), thinking I had said "I am Is" as opposed to "I'm Amis". Yeah. A primary school teacher called me 'Bami' (when I was younger I looked more Asian, I guess). Is very that politically incorrect? Two of my friends call me 'Mies' (which is a very old fashioned Dutch name). One of my best friends calls me Mavis or Mave, but I am not actually sure how that started. I think it was supposed to be my stage name... Then there are a few people that call me by my second name 'Agung' and some other friends call me Boersma. I in turn call them by their last names too (De Vries!).
The latest nickname I obtained is 'Amistad' (Spanish for friendship). Marcela started this new trend and says it in the way that my grandmother calls my uncle by his full name 'Benno Peter Boersma' - usually when scolding him. I awarded myself the nickname Amisita while dreaming about going to South America and use it with pleasure here. 

In every nickname a different part of me is represented. Some go unused for years and pop up when I meet an old friend. Some change users, depending on the people I hang out with most. I'd say the possibilities to improvise more with my name are about to be depleted, but who knows what more is to come... For now, I'll explore being Amisita