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Do Not Think! Do Not Fear!

I painted my fingernails black as a kind of my own memento: "do not take anything seriously! Just open up and embrace everything that you are about to encounter." Very symbolic and pathetic to some degree but I guess I needed all confidence I could find in myself. Once more I checked my backpack and a small notebook with phone numbers of two IAM-ers I was supposed to meet in a few days. This is it; there is no way back now, I guess?

It was all delayed – all of this should have taken place last year when I was beside myself with joy and my artists dealt with it with patience and smile (for them I am "Ania BME", so it is obvious that they know BME means a lot to me.) I remember that I have just reviewed rebekah's BME Fest text and wrote her in comments that I was just about to meet BME people myself and how nervous about it I actually was. She wrote back that there was nothing to be afraid of and chances were that others would feel the same, so it was just about having fun. That was uplifting and for a brief moment breathing and thinking about people and things to come were easier. Eventually, however, all my fears, doubts and uneasy anticipations proved to be in vain – the event got canceled, I got pissed off big time and instead of meeting the modified people I ended up haunting museums. That time I met only one IAM-er but it gave me a good dose of beforetaste of things I could expect next time (if there was a next time that is – when I get mad at someone/something, chances are I will not bother with any other "next time").

It must have been somewhere in April when I checked the link "Events" and saw info on "Who Needs Toronto Anyway" posted there. It was supposed to be an alternative to BME Fest for people from my part of the world. I munched on it for a while – money issue is always a big one (I do not earn lots but I do have expensive hobbies – tattoos, languages, travels), so at first I dismissed the idea. I do admit that I was also afraid that it might happen this time as well – I would psyche up myself to the point of steaming from excitement, plan and organize everything and then the event would be canceled and I would end up in yet another museum, myself a weird evidence for the way things happen.

This is the eternal question – is it better to have or is it better to be? I like to have but I definitely prefer to be, so I decided to go for it. I contacted the organizer of the event and decided to sign up for it. I also realized that it would be pointless to go there just for two days, so decided to stay in Sweden for a few days after the event. Days went by, the date was getting closer and closer and at the end of May I contacted bena again to ask about more details, knowing that if I really wanted to go, I would need to start preparing for it in advance (booking tickets, places to stay etc.) I also asked him if he had any recommendations for places I could stay at while being in Malmö where the event was supposed to take place but bena dismissed it and said that I could stay at his or his friend's place. I confirmed my coming for 100%, bought tickets, organized my "after the event" plans (sort of) and ... painted my fingernails black.

A few days before the event I received a message from bena, containing plans for the event: hope you can read swedish...

BMEfest malmö

Nu på lördag kl1400 träffas utanför IKEA, stora ingången. Sen minigolf. Det betalar folk själv (tror det är 40kr) Sen socialt umgänge och eventuellt möjlighet till pulls (detta är dock inte klart i skrivandets stund pga sjukdom). Folk som är intresserade av pulls får gärna svara på detta meddelandet så att vi vet hur mycket vi ska ta med. Kommer att kosta 100kr. Ca 1730 börjar vi grilla (finns en stor grill, men inget galler. Så ta med engångsgrill och givetvis det ni vill äta och dricka). Har ni brännbollsracket eller något annat kul så ta med det. Frisbee kanske?

Sen på kvällen (okänd tid) så är folk välkomna hem till oss på städat öl/cider/vin/andra alkoholhaltiga drycker/mjölk/vatten drickande. Sonen kommer dock vara hemma och sova (FÖRHOPPNINGSVIS!!!) så därför är det en 'städad' fest.

En del av er som får detta mail har sagt att ni har förhinder, men jag skickar detta till er ändå

Evelina och bena

Now, you should all start learning Swedish because I am not going to translate it for you; let me just say that it certainly contained all important details (in case I got lost, I would certainly be able to get to the gathering point on my own;)) and, with a little help of my Swedish-English dictionary, I knew what to expect. Bena and I also agreed that either he or his friend Poul would pick me up from Central Station in Malmö on Friday's evening, June 30, 2006.

Looking back at things that happened, I do think that it was obvious right from the beginning that this visit in Sweden was going to be entirely different than my previous one. Last year, despite my disappointment with the canceled event, I enjoyed myself immensely but I spent most of the time on my own – visiting museums, wandering the streets, watching people and landscapes – sort of a remake of "An English in New York" thing with a big stress on a Pole in Stockholm, I guess. This time the stress was placed on people and it started right on the ferry boat – the whole ferry ride I spent with a dude from Wroclaw (one of Polish bigger cities) and had lots of fun. Now and then I wondered if I'd be able to get on time to Malmö or if any of the local folks would wait for me as we agreed. My fingernails were painted black, though, and I knew what it meant.

I have an awful visual memory – I do not remember people's faces too well and, to make it worse, my vision is kinda blurry when I do not have my eyeglasses on (and I usually do not), so – of course – I could worry if I would actually recognize bena at the train station. I have never seen or even heard about Poul, so that was problematic, too. I just figured that they would probably look this certain way and I would know right away that they are them!

I got to Malmö right on time and I immediately knew that bena was bena. Trust me that it would be hard to take him for someone else. Clad in black, with a t-shirt reading "Plea4Pain", dark forearm tattoos, facial piercings and forehead transdermals, it just must have been him! We introduced ourselves and everything started happening so fast. We jumped on a bus to his place, agreed where I would spend the next two nights and started talking about stuff.

You can tell right away that for bena BME is a huge part of his life. He is very enthusiastic about it and he seems to breathe and embrace the concept of body modification totally. This one we have in common, methinks – he is one of BME top contributors while I am one of 250 top editors, so it was a good thing to talk about it and let us get to know each other closer. Later on we pushed it farther sporting various items of our BME t-shirt collections (and his is quite impressive!).

Evelina, bena's wife, proved to be a very nice, cheerful, positive person. When I met her, she was right in the middle of washing and cleaning loads of potatoes for the next day's picnic. I took out a present I brought for both of them (I am a huge fan of my country's nature and culture, so it was "100 most beautiful places in Poland" book), handed it over and suddenly I found myself washing and cleaning the said potatoes as well (Evelina is not a slavedriver type, let's make it clear! I just decided that it was better to help than just sit and sip my coffee!). The atmosphere was cheerful – we joked a lot and overall had quite a good time. Once the potatoes were as clean as they could be, we sat down to drink some coffee and look through a vast collection of bena's pictures of various suspension events. To watch and listen to both Evelina and bena talking about things going on in the pictures as well as seeing there a few IAM-ers I either knew personally or from their frequent appearances on the site was a very nice experience. I could feel that my nervousness slowly disappeared. A few minutes later bena brought "10 years of pain" by Havve Fjell (iam: bleeding ) and I was almost ecstatic to finally be able to put my hands on it (I love the way iam: bleeding approaches the concept of pain and I love his performances (even though I have never seen him live yet!), so I wanted to read or at least leaf through his book for a very long time – sadly it is way out of an affordable to me price range). Bena was kind enough to offer me to take the book with me to Poland and, after having read it, ship it back to Sweden but I could not accept his offer. It was obvious that the book meant a lot to him and I really did not want to ruin it during my trip, so I decided to enjoy it as much as possible during my stay at bena's. When both Evelina and bena went to sleep, I spent an hour or two on skimming through the book and reading fragments that seemed to speak to me the most. Eventually I felt asleep pouring over it but it happened not because the book was boring (on the contrary, I would so love to own it and read it from cover to cover, line by line) but because I was really tired and sleepy. The second time ever I felt asleep while reading! I finished skimming though "10 years of pain" on the next day and I really enjoyed reading it.

It was very refreshing to wake up and knowing that I slept at least 5-6 hours (I could not sleep well at home lately due to temperature at night being about 25-30C and then I had a train to the Polish coast after 3am). Bena was already awake as well and made sure to ask me and then hand me a big cup of hot coffee. His son, Vilde, is an early riser, too, so all three of us spent some time on playing and I was nicely surprised that Vilde wanted to show me some of his toys and then do some drawing with me. Bena also became the first IAM-er ever who not only signed the petition on my page (about favorite books) but also gave me a copy of his favorite book – if I am not mistaken, the Swedish copy of "1984" I was presented with was published in no other year but 1984 itself. How cool is it??? After preparing/packing food for the BME meet and making sure everything was packed as it should we were ready to set out in the direction of IKEA (how Swedish is that, eh?)

We went there in five – bena, Evelina, Vilde, me and an IAM-er who came over to bena's place. I did not know or even hear about him before, so it was quite nice to meet an entirely new to me person. Matthias seemed to be a nicely quiet person and I loved the contrast between his looks (he is very tall and heavily built) and his forearm tattoos. The walk to IKEA was quite long but we took it slow (do I have to mention how hot it was? I made sure to cover my tattoos with a thick layer of sunblock, put a baseball cap and sunglasses on and still felt uncomfortable and almost boiling – I do hate heat, keep it in mind!). On the way there we crossed a huge cemetery and bena told me a few interesting things about it (I like graveyards, I always did!) and then pointed out several details about Malmö.

There was no one in front of the main IKEA entrance yet, so we waited a few minutes for the rest of IAM-ers who decided to take part in the meet. After a while we saw IAM: Raur with her friend (I am not sure if he is on IAM or not) and then IAM: Devil_Doll whom I kinda knew before as I remembered reviewing her suspension experience some time ago (it is on the verge of perversion, I think – you see authors and their experiences to review or these that have already been reviewed by you everywhere!) Soon we went in direction of a nearby mini-golf course where we were supposed to spend some time on having fun.

Frankly speaking, mini-golf does not sound like fun to me. I am not a team player that much as I prefer doing things entirely on my own but I think that this was a good idea. Since I was the only non-Swedish person present there, the game gave me an opportunity to get used to people I just met and relax a little. There was something else I liked much better about this idea, though. We were quite an exotic group – most of us wore black, we sported visible tattoos and piercings and overall seemingly did not fit the place. Surprisingly, though, I think all of us had a good time there and it was nice to observe that both us and other people, these "normal" looking ones, could kind of exist on the same level and enjoy the same things. I enjoyed watching not only IAM-ers playing but also other people there.

This encounter with golf clubs and balls was my second one ever. The first and only time I played this game was some time ago in upstate NY and I remember giving up quickly as I did not enjoy it at all. This time I could either sulk/feel sorry for myself that I was such a miserable player or approach it with some humor and pretend that I was a real master of the game and I only pretended to suck such a big time. I chose the latter option and was beside myself with joy when after a while I did not need a hundred attempts to make the ball hit a hole. The heat was terrible but I tried to not think about it that much. When the game was over and all points counted I was told that I did not lose that much. Who knows, maybe one of these days I will become a sort of modified Tiger Woods?

Two other people, Sebastian and his girlfriend, joined our group and all of us, in the scourging heat, started looking around for a best place for our picnic/BBQ. Bena was even brave enough to ride his bike around to pinpoint this one perfect spot in the park. The place was enormous – lots of lawn area and trees, geese, ducks and even a rabbit and a pheasant (I noticed them closer to the evening, though – looks like not only I did not like the weather). After several minutes the place was found and we set our "camp" there. It was a shaded place, so it could not have been better for me.

The only thing I would complain about this meet was that people tended to forget that I did not speak Swedish and did not care enough about using English at all times. This way I was excluded from most of conversations that took place there. I did not really feel that offended, though, as it was quite understandable of them to speak their native language and if this awful, lazy me put more efforts into Swedish in the past few months, I would have probably been able to understand more or less of things they were talking about. Since I chose to focus mainly on my reading comprehension, as far as speaking and listening comprehension went, I was on Vilde's speaking level (ja, nej, tack) and way behind him when it came to understand things people said. Well, I did not actually mind it that much as firstly, it gave me a cool and quite amusing opportunity to listen to Swedish (the language is written down and pronounced way differently, hence my problems) and secondly I could also peacefully and with no pricks of conscience just sit there and do nothing (did I mention the heat? wink). When Poul and Ana joined us, things got even funnier as Poul spoke in a very cool, emotional way and somehow seemed to stress words in a different manner than other people, so his Swedish sounded very melodic and nice to me.

When I vegetated peacefully and lazily there, people finished their food and bena and Poul could start preparing stuff for the pulls. Since it was said enough about it here I will not go into details of this experience (too bad, though; I could go on and on about it wink). After two pulls, some rest and cleaning the place from our stuff we were ready to get back to bena's apartment for a small party. Maybe my pulls did not give me any sense of enlightment but certainly they gave me a lot of new energy (and the temperature dropped down a bit!), so I felt really great. This time I decided to be assertive and strong enough to insist on people using English in their conversations, so I could be a part of them as well. We ate popcorn (I do love popcorn and sometimes it is a main part in my diet, so I welcomed Poul's revelations on how, allegedly, popcorn is quite nutritious and seemingly best of all junk food out there. Him being serious or not, I definitely liked this idea!), looked at yet more pics both of and by bena and others and overall it was a very nice evening.

On the next day, Sunday, I woke up stiff and sore but also very happy. It was time to leave Malmö and my kind hosts and go to Stockholm. Bena saw me off to a bus station and the next 8.5 hour I spent on the bus, watching Swedish towns and countryside passing by in front of my eyes.

One could think that this was the end of a BME-centered adventure for me but it is not truth. On Monday's evening, July 3, I met yet another IAM-er whom I knew online for over a year now and who was always very kind and patient when it came to my Swedish. We spent almost two hours on talking and I was glad to finally have had an opportunity to meet him in person (I am always very hesitant about meeting IRL people I know online as I am awfully afraid of getting disappointed in them!).

BME/IAM was still present and easy to feel, though. In my mp3 player I had music made by one of IAM-ers – whenever it was time to play his songs I enjoyed the energy present in the tracks and felt kinda invigorated (yep, despite the heat!) by them. They definitely kept giving me a good kick and that is what you expect from good music, is it not? There were also other songs sent to me over the course of time by my IAM-friends and they all made me feel good!

I kept updating my blog every few days to write down my impressions of the country but I could also see that bena kept close eye on my page which led me to believe that he still felt kind of responsible for me and wanted to make sure that everything was all right. Hmm... is it not one of the things you expect from an organizer of the event you are going to attend? Even though I traveled alone (just the way I like and enjoy the most) messages and posts from my IAM friends showed me clearly that some of them followed my trip quite closely and were really happy to see me happy. That was really touching and made me feel even more positive.

After almost 12 days (not enough!) I was finally about going back home. I enjoyed every single moment of this trip and was almost ecstatic that I was able to experience all of this. Like I wrote in one of my blog entries, I was an ordinary tourist with extraordinary looks, so I did sin with bringing back home some silly objects. There are, however, a few things that I will keep in my memory forever (or, at least, for some time in the future) – overcoming my apprehension about meeting entirely new to me people; doing my first (hopefully there will be many more of them) pulls ever in this particular place and this particular time; walking down the streets of foreign cities or towns and enjoying me being just me; being able to face other people who could not resist to exclaim "Wow! That's a lot of tattoos!"; finally, sitting quietly in Gamla Uppsala and treasuring these few moments spent among the dead from the times I wish so much I could experience. When I entered the ferry boat to my country I was not sad. How could I if I am the one who proudly wears "allting börjar. allting slutar" across her chest? Things begin and end and then begin again, so there was/is no reason to feel sad.

When I got back home – tired, hot, sleepy – I removed black nail polish from my fingernails and the very next day I put it anew. This time it did not mean "open up and embrace things to come!" but "do not think (of possible difficulties and problems)! do not fear (new experiences and new people)! just go for it and enjoy it as much as you can!" *all pictures were taken by bena and used here with his permission.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 19 July 2006
in Culture

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