Archive for January 2024

El mejor año de mi vida – 2023 in a nutshell

There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.

Didn’t think that I would sum up this year with a Lenin quote (and to be honest, I’m more of a “Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in ancient Greek republics: Freedom for slave owners.”-kinda guy when it comes to Lenin quotes). But the last couple of years life has been stagnant water – dark, contaminated, lacking oxygen and movement, and so stinky that it would make Shrek retch and reach for something nicer to freshen up the air, like a used diaper. But then a wild stream of freshness and life came flooding and swept all the murkiness away. Sometimes life just… change.


The last couple of years have just been a very long series of unfortunate events. One worse than the other. At some point a living hell becomes the new normal, and living is being replaced by barely surviving. The thing with being in survival mode is that it is a non-existence. There’s no hope, no dreams, no life, no tomorrow. It’s like being dead, but still having to go to work.

But then it changed.

The constant flow of unfortunate events just… stopped. Peace, love, and opportunity took their place. And somehow this year became the best of my life.

I’m not sure where to start, because so much happened this year, but why not where I am right now, at the end of 2023. I’m in my very comfortable and beautiful bed, with the love of my life, my wife Natalia, by my side. Our wonderful cat Velvet is sleeping peacefully between us. If I turn my head, I can see the Pacific Ocean outside the window. It’s a lovely warm day outside, and the sun is glittering in the waves. A post card view that is somehow my daily reality.  I’m more peaceful and content. Suspiciously healthy. The happiest that I have ever been. Life is the best that it has ever been.

Before this, my best hope was perhaps horrible but in new and interesting ways. But a complete 180 to the best it has ever been?! That’s just crazy. Maybe I’ve been hallucinating the entire year, but hey, I’m not complaining. Who wants to live in the current reality anyway? It’s ridiculously expensive, and no one is having a good time.

Anyway. Two big things are the cornerstones of all this change. One is that I moved to the other side of the world. The other is that I married the love of my life.

Let’s begin with the move. The plans to relocate somewhere warmer and more relaxed have been around for quite some time. I’m a freelancer after all, and I can work from anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the circumstances haven’t let me. But as soon as they changed, I jumped on a plane (well, a bunch of planes), travelled to the other side of the world and put down my bags in ….. Valparaiso!

The funny thing is that many years ago, I heard a song by Anggun titled Valparaiso. The lyrics goes something like this:

Anywhere the wind blows
Is better than these blues
Find your way, you’re so close
Heaven can come true

Valparaiso by the sea
Bring me back into your dreams
Cause at my window there’s a moon

I honestly thought that this was a made-up place just for the song, but it turned out to be a very real and very beautiful city in Chile. This port city by the Pacific Ocean is sometimes called The San Francisco of Latin America due to its many hills and steep funiculars, colorful houses, vibrant art scene, bohemian vibes, so much great street art, cultural and architectural landmarks, and breathtaking views of the ocean. One thing is sure: it’s one hell of a city, and I absolutely love it!

There is a lot to say about moving to the other side of the world more or less overnight. Everything is different. I’m not just talking about language and culture. Chile is in the southern hemisphere, so the seasons are the opposite. I experienced winter in July, and now at the end of December it’s hot and sunny summer days. And the moon is upside down, the stars are different, and the sun and moon wander in the opposite direction. It’s like being on another planet. But it became home the moment I set my foot here. Everything is different, but it also feels just right and like home. There is so much to explore and find out and experience, but it is also like I have lived here all my life. I will explore this feeling and everything about Valparaiso in future posts because there is just too much to say about it. But it is my home now, and I love it.

Valparaiso became home because this is where my heart has its home. Me and Natalia, our story is both recent and centuries old. We are like two vampires that saw the birth of time, got lost for a while in the dark corners of the world, and then aligned together again. I traveled oceans of distance and time to be with her. And now we are home together. She’s the love of my life, my soulmate, my partner in crime, and my ride-or-die. Our stories, journeys, fates, wounds, superpowers, spells, bloodstreams, and visions come together into one unique wonderful whole. It’s the dream I never dared to dream. A love bigger than my imagination. It is home.

We started our life together in an AirBnB-loft in the city with an ocean view and lots of cats (we named them Tiger, Ginger, Dummy, and Taylor Swift). Our first month together was a wonderful honeymoon filled with walks, talks, good food, and not getting out of bed much. Exploring each other and our surroundings. Then we started looking for our own place. Found one quicker than expected. A lovely 2-bedroom apartment on the 17th floor on one of Valparaiso’s hills called Cerro Los Placeres. It’s a wonderful home with a stunning view of the ocean and everything you need just around the corner. We started filling it with bones, velvet, dead stuff, oddities, offerings, books, and dark things so it became our own little private universe. It’s a beautiful, magical place and I love it. By far the best place I have ever lived.

On a Thursday evening late in May we got married in the kitchen of our home. I wore a black velvet jacket with a red rose wrapped in black kraft paper. Natalia was wearing a black version of the dress from Ready Or Not and a vampire bride crown with gems red like fresh blood. We were surrounded by a handful of friends and family, said our vows to the officiant by the kitchen desk (I have never Spanished so hard in my life, and of course I said “Si, quiero” at the wrong moment), then feasted on champagne, laughs and red velvet cake. After partying half of the night, we danced our wedding dance to Type O Negative’s “Be My Druidess”, stumbled into bed, and woke up as husband and wife (and really hungover). It was the most beautiful moment of my life.

There’s a third family member as well. Velvet. She’s Natalia’s cat since ten years, but since she’s an outdoorsy cat we weren’t sure she would like it in an apartment. It was nervous at first, because Velvet has been so against life inside that she is known for breaking windows to get out. Not a good thing to do on the 17th floor. But after a day or two of skepticism, Velvet decided that this indoor life with lots of food and snacks, cozy furniture, warm blankets, and kind humans doing your every bidding was the best thing ever.

We have all changed a lot during this year. That’s what happens when bad situations are replaced with a peaceful and love-filled life. This change has happened for Velvet as well. I was told that she was a shy cat that wasn’t exactly cuddly or wanted to be in your lap. So I was a bit surprised when she climbed up in my lap for a nap. But at the same time not. It’s not the first time it has happened. I’m not a cat whisperer or anything, but I’m what cats really appreciate: warm and calm. I’m the perfect cat furniture. Anyway. This change in our dark little nugget has shown itself in many other ways. She shows more personality, has become very vocal, and has a lot of opinions on where we are and what we are doing. She’s basically a herding cat that decides which room we all should be in. But we love her to bits. She’s our gorgeous nugget, our adorable void, and the best little chicken butt in the world.

So yeah, life is pretty fucking good. I’m trying hard to think about anything bad that has happened this year, but I’m coming up empty. I don’t believe in karma, bad or good luck, or that the universe keep tabs of what’s going on. Life is chaos, and we surf those waves as best as we can, and when we’re too exhausted to surf we drown. But a delusional part of me is yelling “Finally! You OWED me, life!” anyway. But I am definitively counting my blessings, throwing them in the air and letting them rain down over me, snorting them, licking them, and sleeping with them clutched to my chest.

Speaking of snorting and licking. After years of doing absolutely nothing, I did stuff in 2023. I’m pretty sure I did more things this year than I did in the last decade. I can’t write about all of it, but here are some highlights, in no particular random disorder:

Went to concerts. After years of craving some kick-ass live music, I finally got some satisfaction. Started in the shallow end of the pool by checking out some domestic tribute bands doing pretty decent impressions of Ghost and Rammstein. Had a great time, but in a moment of euphoria when absolutely no brain cells were involved, we decided to drain the bar of all its vodka, so I came back home with more bruises than memories. Didn’t repeat that mistake when we went to see Mastodon and Gojira. They passed Santiago on their co-headlining Mega-Monsters Tour, so we went on a mini-vacation. Stayed at a nice hotel, ate some delicious food, and most of all: headbanged like maniacs at the gig. I like Mastodon, and they did a great gig, but I am a big fan of Gojira, and I transcend to a higher plane every time I see them live. No exception this time. Had an absolute blast!

Got new tattoos. I always have some ideas and half-finished designs laying around. When I found out that Natalia’s friend Yesenia was an accomplished tattoo artist, I finished my ideas and let her needle do its magic with skin, blood, and ink. For a long time now, I have wanted to do something bigger and connected, so I did a death moth for my back that connected with some art nouveau flower vines that flow over my shoulders and down my chest. Yesenia did an amazing job, and I’m ridiculously happy with the result. I’m already working on the next ideas…

Watched a lot of lucha libre. If you’re not familiar with lucha libre, it’s a fun form of entertainment masquerading as sport. It’s a kind of acrobatic and highly choreographed wrestling/martial arts performed by flamboyant characters in fantastic outfits. Think 80s metal bands mixed with 80s creature movies mixed with telenovela drama. Normally I am violently bored by any kind of sport, but since this is more like an action movie in the form of a cabaret, I’ve been wildly entertained by it. I mean, it has fire demons, gay wrestlers doing butt-punches, betrayal, spandex, colourful masks, lots of metal music, spectacular back flips, and the “fights” often end up among the seats closest to the ring (yes, I’ve had to jump out of the way of wrestlers being thrown at my seat). What’s not to like? Every form of entertainment where you risk end up with bruises as a member of the audience is great entertainment!

Ate a lot of delicious food. I’m still chewing my way through the Chilean kitchen, but so far I’m enamored with empanadas (like a mini calzone filled with yummy stuff), manjar (dulce de leche), Barros Luco (a hot sandwich with beef and melted cheese, and after I’m done improving it: lots of chili sauce), Sopapillas (fried pumpkin pastries), Chorillana (fries, onions, spicy sausage, finely cut beef, and fried eggs in a pile), and all the delicious fresh seafood that is just around the corner since we live by the ocean. Chile is also a great bread- and wine nation. And the cakes at the local pastelerias fill my veins with chocolate and vanilla just by smelling them. But the best food is of course the great meals Natalia cooks. It’s a strange feeling since I’m so used to being in the kitchen, but I’m outclassed here, and my tastebuds refuse to let the rest of me near the stove when there is such a better option than my own food.

Visited the ocean basically daily. It takes like ten minutes to walk down to the Pacific Ocean! There’s a beautiful beach, a fishing harbour, restaurants, and a long seaside walkway. It’s like living in a dream. The ocean is always a magical, beautiful, and peaceful place. It’s one of my happiest places. No matter if it’s a sunny, foggy or windy day. And did I mention that there are pelicans, sealions, and dolphins! There are even vultures flying around here (there shouldn’t be, but since we have destroyed basically all the nature on this planet, they have no choice but to fly around in the city. They seem to nest by the nearby university. I guess burnt-out students are pretty close to a nice rotten carcass…).

Experiencing earthquakes. Chile is a very seismic country. I had only been here a day when the first earthquake struck, and there’s been several more throughout the year. But this is also a country that is built to handle them (and the tsunamis they may cause), so there’s usually not that much damage. The building we live in now handles the tremors very well, and most of the time an earthquake happens, I think that I’m drunk without remembering how it happened, but then I realise that it is the building that is swaying, not me. I know it is morally wrong to appreciate natural disasters, but so far they have been more entertaining than anything.

Learning Spanish. Because that’s what they speak in Chile. It’s fun, but studying a new language has also been difficult for me. For two reasons. One is that my cognitive functions and learning abilities are barely a shadow of what they just to be because of burnout. I’m healing, but slowly. I still have problems with focusing, comprehending, and remembering. The other reason is that they are speaking their own version of Spanish here in Chile. The dialect has its own pronunciation, intonation, and vocabulary. In my ears, common, simple phrases such as “Como estas?” or “Donde esta el manicomio?” sounds like “weeeeooooiiiwaaa woooiiiweeeoooo wayooo”. I know that I will learn it eventually, but for now it’s reaaaallllyyy exhausting to learn both Spanish and Chileno at the same time with my broken mind.

Speaking Swedish. During the Pinochet-years, a lot of Chileans had to escape, and many of them ended up in Sweden. So I’ve probably encountered more people speaking Swedish than English here. Not that I mind. But it’s a weird feeling to travel to the other side of the world and constantly running into people speaking my mother tongue.

Getting better. It’s definitely not healthy to be in survival mode for years and years. The long-term stress in combination with bad coping mechanisms have done the same thing to my mental and physical health that the Israeli forces have done to Gaza. But I have started to heal. After my arrival here, I have slowly gained more strength and started to feel more alive. I sleep better, I’m losing excess weight, have less anxiety and less darkness inside, have better hair (my beard also got some of its colour back), I no longer need to take Omeprazole daily for my stomach problems, and so much more. Of course I made the mistake of thinking that I would get back to my old self overnight as soon as I got here. And while a lot of things improved very quickly, this healing will take time. It’s like having a broken leg, but mentally. Without getting a cast, and at the same time being forced to continue walking with fractured bones, it can’t heal. It just gets worse while everything is painful and slow. And just like a broken leg, the damage I’ve taken during the years in survival mode will take time to heal. Since I’m a complete idiot that can’t accept the laws of physics nor my own limitations, I’ve been very frustrated about it. But now I have accepted that this year (and probably some of the next) will be dominated by convalescence. I will be able to live somewhat normally again. Do things. Create. Have dreams and plans. Live, and not just survive. I’m not entirely sure that I remember how to do that after all these years of not-living. But I’m going to try. And I will enjoy every fucking moment of it.

Speaking of creating. One creative outlet that I really got back to was photography. I’ve had a difficult relationship with my camera for some years now. It has looked at me like an eager puppy, begging to be played with, but the exhaustion and the deep emptiness inside me has been too much. Like everything else, this has changed this this year. A new life and a new location really awakened my hunger for photography again. When I look at my folders, I can see that I took around 100 pics last year. This year’s photo folder contains around 2 500 photos. Here are some of them:

Another thing that changed this year is that I could read books again. For years now, my brain has been too fried by stress, exhaustion, and depression to be able to transform the words on the page into stories in my imagination. It’s like a cognitive impotence. But that has healed quickly, and I was able to read again already on the plane. My to read-list is +200 books by now, and I haven’t even been able to peek at the latest releases, but I did read the books I’ve wanted to read the most the last couple of years, and I can highly recommend them. The first one was Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. I got it recommended by a friend almost ten years ago, and I said that I will read it when I get to my new home. That took almost a decade, but now I could finally read it, and it was as good as everyone say it is. Masterpiece! Other great books that I’ve read during the year is:

Watched a bunch of great movies as well:

Another amazing tv/streaming year:

The best music came from:

There are weeks when decades happen…

Yeah, no shit!

This is the longest year in review-entry that I have ever written, and it’s still just a little snowflake on the top of the iceberg. It feels almost sacrilegious to condense life-changing events such as a wedding and a cross-planet relocation to a few short paragraphs, but that’s internet for ya. And I still feel that this is just the beginning. It’s been a magical, wonderful year filled with so many amazing things. But it still feels like this year was the crashlanding and the months of rehab in the hospital afterwards. I think that life will truly begin in 2024. When I can “walk” again without a mental limp. There are plans and ambitions and dreams and desires. So many that an end-of-the-year post won’t be enough. For too long this journal has been more of a duty than a playground. I need to write again. Just for the fun of it. And I have so much to tell. Check back on this page, because from now on there will be posts more often than just once a year. There will be life, adventures, thoughts, deliriums, laughs, stories, and strange things that don’t exist yet. Thank you for being patient with me. Life is back.

Live fully, love endlessly, dream dangerously, and have a great 2024!