A Travellerspoint blog

Berlin 1989 - 2009 - 2014

The Berlin Wall was torn down 25 years ago today. In 2009, I was living in Berlin and on this very same day, I got the chance to attend the 20 year celebrations at the Brandenburg Gate with my italian friend Andrea, whom I had met in Porto one year before and was also living in Berlin at the time. A funny coincidence: on this same day, a Monday back then, I started my internship at the Embassy of Portugal and I remember they were all very agitated as our prime minister at the time was going to be attending the cerimony.

Andrea and I managed to get a nice spot in Pariser Platz right in front of the Gate and from there we could see all the action.

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One of the first symbolic moments was when all the leaders crossed the Branderburg Gate all together. Most of european leaders were there and also Hillary Clinton and Dimitri Medvedev, president of Russia at the time. Charismatic leaders of the final days of the Cold War such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Lech Walesa were amongst the guests. Our very own José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission at the time was also there.

After all the speeches and some musical moments, the big highlight of the night would be a giant domino made with 1000 pieces standing along the former wall and that were going to be toppled down.

It was a rainy evening but I was very excited with the fact I was in such a special place on such a special occasion. Let me remind you that this was 2009. The economic crisis was still a few months away from exploding in Europe and we were still a big happy family, celebrating an event that represented much of that union. However (and maybe the rain is to blame), this celebration was not so enthusiastic or cheerful as one could imagine it would be. I don't know how it was in 1989, but I heard stories of people celebrating all night and there was so much hope in the air, so many dreams becoming possible. 20 years later all that seemed somehow too normal and granted, so people were not ecstatic and as soon as the fireworks ended the cerimony, people just left orderly and quietly. Even my german girlfriend at the time arrived later because she prefered to attend university classes. To me, it was still a very special and beautiful moment. Here's a video that Andrea shot from where we were standing.

Back to 2014, today. We live in a different world. There's tension between Europe and Russia again. Putin is not going to be present. I'm curious to hear the speeches to see if they will have some substance or if they will be empty and filled only with demagogy. The fall of the Berlin Wall represented a wave of optimisim and faith in a better world that started to fade shortly after and we're all still decaying towards the unknown.

This is me in 2009 posing next to the fallen domino pieces!

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What's in the future for all of us? :)

Posted by ZackFontang 01:29 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Surviving the daily grind

Lately I haven't had the chance to fill my life with extraordinary and life changing trips which would give a lot of material to fill this blog and also my daily life with incredible stories and memories. As a matter of fact, I have been recently in Ireland for some days and it was amazing, but I'll keep those memories just for me.

Like most of the people on this Earth, I am confronted with the inevitable daily grind. Those boring mundane parts of everyday life. My challenge has been to make the best out of that situation and I'm actually happy with the outcome. But of course, as I have a lot of time, my mind keeps spinning and spinning, thinking and rethinking, wondering and dreaming, over and over again!

I have been reading some interesting books which also help me escape metaphysically to the daily routine and give me powerful insights on that thematic. For example, I was fascinated to find out that in the 1920's, the United States were already living in the consumerist era that we live today. I never thought it started so early there, I actually thought it was a post Second World War thing. But more importantly, it was enlightening to realize that in those times there were already people looking at society, especially at the middle class and underlying some of the current issues that we face today. I know that Thoreau and the transcendentalists have addressed similar issues long time before, but what suprised me the most were the many similarities between the 1920's and today. Reading about the inner conflicts of the main character, a married middle aged businessman called Babbitt living a big city felt like the stories we hear today about people living phony lives and hiding behind masks of happiness and perfection in the eyes of society, while secretly crying in dark corners. I guess I can quote Thoreau here: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation".

All this was as enlightning as it was frustrating. I lived for some time with the illusion that these issues were a problem of the past few decades, therefore we were all still trying to find the solution for them. Realizing these issues have been adressed more than a century and that society kept going in the same direction creates a sense of hopelessness in me. That there's no point in trying to change anything around me. There's no point in showing different ways of leading our lives to those friends or acquaintances that often feel miserable about what they made of their existence. Most of people are so brainwashed that they'll never be able to see the way out.

I diverged at the age of 24. Before that cold Thursday night, I lived a life of quiet desperation for 6 months until I stop listening to the others and followed my conscience, quitting my "perfect" job and the prospect of a career for a handful of dreams. Little did I know about life when I was 24, little did I know about me, but today I know it was totally right to follow my instincts and believe in me.

From that day on, I started to build my own way, my own lifestyle. It has been a hell of a struggle and nothing is ever granted, but it has been an amazing ride and I'm proud to still stand, almost 7 years later. People often see my pictures from the beach during typical work hours or trips I do and say my life is easy or that I'm such a lucky person. Well yes, I'm only lucky because I chose to be lucky and my life looks easy because I make it simple. But make no mistake, I'm no parasite and all I have (I don't mean material things, as I only own an old car) came from my own efforts. I fight daily and work hard to be able to continue with my own lifestyle. I contribute actively to society, even though I don't agree with the way it's organized. Recently I had the chance to sell out and get a safer job in tennis, but I refused because I believe in my dream and in my lifestyle. And I'm proud of that, as scary as it is.

I know I keep revolving around this topic. Maybe I write these words to the future me, as some kind of guideline to not get lost.

I guess I'll leave it for another time, but originally I wanted to dissert about how Nature is becoming such a major element in my happiness and my thoughts on how we all are attracted to it, no matter what. Mankind is at its best when it's in touch with Nature. Facing a beautiful landscape we all get stripped from all material and evil thoughts and just contemplate the beauty in front of us. Nature has the power to dehumanize us, but in a good way. If we keep that in mind constantly, our lives become immediately better, trust me.

Posted by ZackFontang 02:49 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

The beginning of a spiritual uprise

Two years ago today I landed in Porto back from my 50 day trip across United States. It was also the first day of a new period in my life, the one I'm still living nowadays.

I guess that everyone's lives are made of landmarks and milestones. We all have different goals and we all follow some kind of path to accomplish them. My roadtrip in the USA is both a landmark and a milestone. These words have very similar meanings and might even be synonyms. I'm no linguist though, so I'm gonna use them at my complete discretion.

My trip was a landmark because out of all the events in my life, past, present or future, it will always stand graciously and resplendent, like a beautiful monument, an ode to my own existence. It's something that will remain, will always be there to be admired and looked at. But that trip became also a milestone in my life as it represents a shift in direction. I don't mean shifting in a physical or material way, I'm talking about something transcendent, spiritual.

According to this line of thought life has to be perceived as a journey, a road to enlightment and built on constant discovery. While driving across such a vast and beautiful country like the USA, I had the perfect opportunity to discover me in me. I didn't realize that up until recently. I guess you can imagine how overwhelmed I was in that time and how there was so much to process. But I can see now that all those thoughts and emotions that have been secretely maturing inside me in the previous years found the perfect meadow to flourish and become undestroyable pillars in my ethos.

Such trip allowed me to finally embrace and wear as mine the thoughts of authors like Kerouac, Thoreau or Camus. I had read them before but I wasn't ready to fully understand them. I was drawn to them, to their ideals and lifestyle, but there was some pieces of the puzzle missing. I found all those pieces there. There's no greater joy in life than to live your dreams and the life you've always imagined for yourself.

Although I think it's not visible on the surface, I returned from the USA inexorably transformed. I feel that no longer I will be able to conform to society or adhere to the ideas of others about my own life. I feel like nothing or no one will ever determine me besides my own conscience. I also realize that my physical existence means less and less when compared with the spiritual existence. But I also realized that it's a one way road and there's no turning back.

Once you go past some things, you have to be prepared to stand alone in many aspects of life. If you want to exist in the society, side by side with its ordinarity, you have to be prepared for feeling misunderstood and accept that as some immutable fact.

We live in a world where everything seems possible, everything is available to everyone, at least in theory. We live in a world of comfort and excess. The technology is abundant and it seems like there are no limits. On the other hand, everyone seems somehow forced to be happy or look happy. However this constitutes an ironic paradox: the same society that tells you that everything is possible is the same one that prevents you from being "all you can be". I guess we can describe the present times according to this: "be all you can be as long as you conform with the norm, otherwise we'll kick your butt out of our group".

I had the opportunity to read a book recently that caused another turmoil in my brain, because I felt I was reading my own ideas, although explained in a much more erudite and philosophical way. At some point the author says that "every life is the struggle, the effort to be itself". He adds that the all the obstacles that we face in life are what uncover and stimulate our capacities, as opposed to a world where everything is easy and possible which will cause serious deformations in the human existence. These kind of thoughts go hand in hand with Thoreau's quote: "Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind".

In a world where people are numb with all the comfort around them, they also feel lost and empty. They search for some meaning for their somehow standard existence. But there's no meaning for our own existence other than to live fully and make our life all that we want it to be. There should be no resignation, no acquiescence but an unbearable desire for more. We have to elevate our life, to pursue higher goals, to live for a greater cause. We have to make the best of it. We have to fill it with all forms of culture, not with food or clothes or empty days.

Going back to my trip and to the point of this post, I guess that I'm in the period of affirming the invidivual project for my own life. I'm aware that it won't be easy to do so while trying to cohabit with today's society and (lost) values. But my life belongs to me and I'm going all in, almost recklessly. And if I happen to fall or stumble, I will do so gracefully and filled with dignity, because more and more I'm becoming indifferent to fear.

There's no shame in trying to live the life we think it's best for us. As Thoreau recommends, I'm going to live in the present, launch myself on every wave (literally) and find my eternity in each moment.

And "just" that will be enough.

Posted by ZackFontang 03:02 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

A scenic daily commute

I commute everyday between Porto, where I live and Santa Maria da Feira, where I work. I have to use my car and I am fortunate enough to have a work schedule which allows me to avoid all traffic jams in and out of Porto. Therefore, my 30 minute commute is a peaceful and relaxing time of my day, especially while driving back home. For the most part of the year, I drive back home around the time the sun is setting down right at my left side, disappearing behind the endless Atlantic Ocean, a regular companion along the way.

Like countless other days in the past two years, yesterday the sky was amazing again. So I started taking pictures with my phone while driving (hope no cop is reading this) and am sharing it here to let the beauty of nature speak for itself. I like how the colour of the sky changes throughout the journey.

This is a very introspective time of the day for me. All the vastness around me drives my mind to distant places, to visions of adventure, travels and happiness. I feel blessed to have such moments in my life.

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Posted by ZackFontang 07:40 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

A little village called Cortegaça

It's been a bit over 7 months since my last post. There's not one single day where I don't think of writing here about tons of things, both personal and professional. But the immediate thought after is: "do I actually have something worth writing about and sharing with the world?". And the conclusion is always no.

But I decided that I want and should write more. Whether it's relevant to anyone else, that's irrelevant to me. So this is my attempt of getting back on track. A simple reminder that I want to keep track of my live throughout my own words on this blog.

Here's what I want to share today. A moment. As simple as it was it carried all the beauty in the world. I've been thinking a lot in the past few months about so many different things without reaching actual conclusions but there's one persistent thought in the back of my mind. That my own happiness emanates for an ability to seize the moment and feel it to the fullest above anything else.

Sometimes I feel like I'm living many of those fucking cliché sentences that everyone post on Facebook nowadays. But I wonder if people actually can follow those sentences and what they imagine they want or need to achieve happiness. It takes a lot of giving, a lot of struggle to live the life we want and feel happy with it. And most of people are not able to sacrifice their comfort zone for some wild yearning of happiness. And given the fact that our society doesn't really want us to be all we can be, the price to pay is to live a kind of loner lifestyle, where the only rules we follow are the ones dictated by our own head and feelings. That's the price for true freedom. And it's a bittersweet feeling sometimes.

So I leave you with this picture taken a few hours ago in Cortegaça, a small fishermen village that I love. Everything there creates a kind of mystic vibe in me. Peaceful and often free of people, it has a first row seat to the endless ocean ahead. That's what I like to contemplate. The vast horizon of possibilities that my life offers. And then I feel happy.

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Posted by ZackFontang 15:37 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

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