Keep Calm and Feed a Writer

16 Nov

Happy Belated Halloween!

After one month on the road, I am back in Ulm. I was teaching in Holland for two weeks, being private for one week, and the last week, I spent on a farm house near Schwäbisch Gmünd, taking circus lessons. Now I’m back, and I’m doing my best to finally catch up with friends – most of who haven’t seen me since I left for Peru in June. And after our catch-up, as they wave goodbye, they automatically say: “And let me know when you’re back!”

But I am back. I’m not leaving! I’m back, I’m back, I’m back.

Even my students at the Circus School Serrando have become accustomed to my comings and goings. One of them has been sweet enough to establish a Punishment System. For every lesson I miss, I have to pay him (but only him) 10 euros. I asked him if it goes both ways: if he misses a lesson, do I get 10 euros? He agreed, but thoughtfully added: “- but not if I’m sick, or it’s Christmas… Or if I’m about to be baptised. Or it’s a holiday. Or-”

Friends have been asking me what it’s like to be back. If my head is still in a million pieces? If I feel ready to be back?

While I was on the road, I had one moment when I was brushing my teeth and I looked inside my sponge bag. I had shampoo from Germany, toothpaste from Peru, body cream from Holland and a little shaver from Colombia. In German, the sponge bag is so adeptly called Kulturbeutel: “culture bag”. This gives the phrase a whole new meaning! After brushing my teeth and musing about the contents of my culture bag, I was putting on my pjamas when a sudden thought struck me: I love my life.

packing up Ochoa, after this room was my home for two weeks, and ready to take a train from Holland to southern Germany

 I love that all this travelling has to do with my work. I love that I have a blog where I can tell you this. If you didn’t want my work, then I could not be doing this.

Am I ready to be back? Yes. Is my head still in a million pieces? Yes!

After two weeks in Holland, I took a few trains to southern Germany, where, for the following week, this became my new home:

sweet isolation on the Rappenhof

one of the lodgings

the new circus training hall on the Rappenhof, Gschwend

In the beginning of this year, I began a circus apprenticeship with the Jojo Center for Circus Pedagogue. It all began when I became circus trainer for aerial arts at the Circus School Serrando in Ulm. I heard about the apprenticeship to get a degree as Circus and Theater Pedagogue from the other trainers in Serrando, and when my affair with the circus proved to be a lifelong romance, I signed up for the apprenticeship. Writing Qayqa certainly influenced this decision a lot.

Luckily, the apprenticeship is taught in one-week modules spread over a year and half, giving its students time inbetween to travel and work. That’s how I’ve been doing it.

The other circus people I have met at the apprenticeship modules are fascinating. Some arrive with three suitcases: one for their cloths and two for their circus artefacts (juggling balls, unicycles, juggling hats, pois, hoola hoops, drums, guitars, trapezes, aerial tissues,…). Some arrive in large camper vans or buses, in which they have been living for the last 14 months. Most are “passing through” and after the week of lessons, will travel on to some other part of Europe, where they’ll perform / teach at festivals / schools / on the street. Almost all live from the circus. All of them are kind, good-humoured and huggable. They love wine, card games, juggling and acrobatics. You can walk up to almost any one of them and climb onto their shoulders, and there will be no twitch of surprise. Easy body contact and no fear of being judged.

The week I spent in the circus school was both demanding and relaxing. We were taught by internationally acclaimed circus artists, who can tell you the most amazing stories from the circus world, in the most down-to-earth manner. They were funny, challenging and within a day, they were family. What I especially loved was that they repeatedly said this: “This is not about all reaching the same level. This is about getting to know your body, understanding it, and giving it a new sense of success each time you push it a little further.”

The week flew by in seconds. Before we knew it, we were hugging and kissing our group goodbye, as everyone drifted off to separate corners of Germany. I have no idea where most of my circus family lives or who they are in their daily lives. I take what they tell me, melt it, and mix it into Munay.

I am getting into the habit of photographing my short-term homes before I leave them

After a week of intense training, I returned to Ulm exhausted, relaxed and highly highlymotivated. I am apartment-hunting. It’s time to unpack the boxes I packed up in June. But my nest will never be a place to stay; it’s a place to return to. If 2012 taught me anything, it’s that you can always just pack up and go. I satisfied a hunger in my soul that was screaming for the road and I never want the road to go cold again.

As soon as I got back to Ulm (about 4 days ago), I sat at my temporary desk and faced a mountain of bills, confusion and paperwork. That’s the price of travelling so much. You come home to a stack of letters that all want immediate answering. My insurance is confused as to why I’m travelling so much and demands to know if I’m still making a living as an artist or not. The tax offices want my tax return. Customers wants Children of Roots dvds. Now now now.

That’s how The Famous German Stress gets you: with the little things. It’s never one mountain that you hack at and when it’s done, you sit, exhausted and sweaty, on the empty space where it once loomed. It’s always little bits and pieces that sneak in every day in the form of emails, letters, questions, … I spent my first day back in Ulm in the car, running errands all over town. Pleased with myself that I had done so much in one day, I was shattered when, on the following day, just as many little errands descended upon me again.

I remember this stress, and I want to be very careful with it. Resting is just as important as working. Seeing friends is just as important as working. Make time to slow down. Make time to curl up with a hot water bottle and read. Sing a slow song while you drive until it calms your heartbeat. This is what I’ve been singing in the car and shower:

I’m doing all I can to keep the calm Peruvian attitude I had the last four months. Tranquilo, tranquilo, everyone said. Latin Americans know that tranquilidad, peace, tranquilty, relaxation, is one of the most important aspects of life. Being rich isn’t having money. Being rich is living a quiet, calm life. My ayllu in Cusco taught me this. Whenever I asked him how he was, he always replied: “Estoy tranquilo. I am calm.” And he looked like the richest man on Earth.

this is he

The great challenge is in finding the balance between living the way I do, wanting to do all the things I want to do … and staying calm.

This is another moment when I’d like to know more about YOU who reads this. Is your life stressful? If so, what tricks do you use to stay calm?

One of the reasons why I love asking you these questions, why I love this communication, is because … well … you inspire me. There, I said it. What a line! So… your place or my place??? (Your place. I don’t have an apartment yet.)

In case you haven’t realised this: my work bounces off your feedback. I study you. Yes, I admit it! I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but the truth is I analyse which posts get the most reactions out of you. So far, the mundane posts are winning over the bizarre ones. And the minute something resembling a dialogue takes place, I bounce on it with the predatory howl of a wolf. I love our exchanges, our quirky dialogues, and yes yes, they inspire me. They give me ideas for my future work, and I absolutely love it.

Independent artists are publishing their work online, using twitter, blogs and tumblr as excellent platforms to reach their audience. Publishing houses are rapidly looking like a thing of the past. I’m considering taking this “cutting out the middleman” a step further. Why should artists only publish and the audience only witness? What would happen if we collaborated and published something together? Such were my midnight thoughts on Tumblr last night. I’m letting that idea grow and ripen, and if it looks tasty, I’ll blog about it in the future.

Most of you have noticed by now that I recently discovered Tumblr. I’m using it for nifty snapshots that won’t make it to the blog; for midnight thoughts; and generally: things will hit my tumblr quicker than my blog, because a blog post takes longer to compose, whereas on Tumblr, I’m done in two seconds flat. I’ll never kill the blog: this is my favourite place in the world. But if my Tumblr sounds like something you want, check me out and follow me at:

On Tumblr, I announced my next performance: I’ll be performing on the aerial tissue at the Scharfe Spitzen Lingerie Fashion Show. This is the official flyer for the event:

It’s tomorrow (Friday), entry is free and the show starts at 8pm. If you can join us, PLEASE COME! I performed there last year and loved it. Half naked men and women running around in sexy lingerie; everyone was so friendly and supportive, and the audience was great. This year, my good friend Valerie will be performing with her 6 hoola hoops, and she’s promising a show with a bang! My performance will be a bit more quiet but hopefully just as exciting.

I’ve been training all week for this performance, and on one of the evenings, my father accompanied me and filmed my work-in-progress. I thought I’d share it, not only for the effect of a work-in-progress minus the usual aerial tissue height … but also because this video has quickly become a personal favourite. I love the way it ends. It makes me smile a big big heart.


As always, I’d be thrilled to see you there. ♥ If you can come and you spot my father, please go up to him and greet him with these words: “Hello Herr Soncco.” He loves that.

Tomorrow is another anniversary, too. Last year, after I came home from the fashion show performance, my answering machine had terrible news. A friendhad overdosed. It was a powerful “coincidence”, because my performance was in Illertissen, his home town, and when I arrived at the train station, I was flooded with thoughts of him and wondered how he was doing. I had heard that he was in rehab and doing really well. Everyone spoke of a full recovery. He was 29 when he overdosed, and the funeral was in the next week. I couldn’t attend, and I haven’t been to his grave yet. I’m hoping to do so tomorrow.

I wrote a short story about his death entitled In the Milk, and filmed myself reading it while I was in Lima. You can find the video and transcript here. I received intense feedback from people who had lost friends to drug overdoses. Some said that In the Milk helped them cope; other said that it mirrored exactly what they had felt at the time of their loss. I want to thank you all for these words. It took me over 6 months to reach a place where I was ready to publish In the Milk, and I was certainly nervous to do so. Tomorrow is the anniversary. That’s all I wanted to say.

I’d like to end this post on a “happy” note: one of progression and a vision for the future. This morning, Mark Klawikowski and I had our first inofficial meeting about my upcoming publication of Qayqa. After extensive research, I’ve decided to primarily publish Qayqa on my own, and publize her with a book tour throughout Germany. Mark will be illustrating my first novel and advising me on the graphic layout.

Mark Klawikowski in the nonchalant pose of the illustrator

Over a delicious brunch (in which I displayed, once again, that I eat like a horse) we discussed his prelimiary sketches. He lived with Qayqa while I was writing it, and I feel that I barely need to explain anything to him. He understands exactly where I want to go with it. He helped me when I had writer’s block; he saw the emotional and spiritual lessons I had to learn in order to continue writing; and when I finished Qayqa at 7 in the morning and felt like my whole world was made of thin glass, he got out of bed and said: “And now, I think you should write a sequel.”

Hearing that, I thought I would die of exhaustion. And here we are, two years later, finally preparing Qayqa for publication. He knows Qayqa inside out. Going through his sketch book, I felt an exploding excitement grow inside my throat. This is going to be a lot of work, but this is going to be so much fun. In his sketches, Mark is playing around with the world and giving me all sorts of new ideas for the characters, for new plants, for new sideline adventures.

Mark testing out what one of the caravans could look like. I love it and think Ti lives there.

All in all, I am terribly excited about this upcoming collaboration. We haven’t worked together in this fashion since my first book Overripe Fruits four years ago. Now, with more caution and more experience, we are preparing ourselves for what looks to be a very very large project. We’ve scheduled for the illustrations & graphic collaboration to begin in two weeks…

So now you know what to expect from the blog in the upcoming weeks! I would like to take YOU behind the scenes. Let me take you into the process of illustrating my first novel. I’ll show you our endless hours of work, our frustrations. I’ll post sneakpeaks of illustrations that will make it into the book… and some of those that won’t. And hopefully, in the end, you’ll come to my reading, buy the book, and holding it in your hands, you’ll know exactly the journey it undertook until it could rest easy in your world.

All of this, just so that you can:


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