I have heard many lies from many people and conclude that nothing anyone said is as painful as the silence of friends when needed. People lie because it is convenient. This unpractical solution seemingly does not work, as history tells us. We have a choice to be nice to others, and we often choose not to be; how odd? One’s self-worth ought to be low to hide when help is needed, promises are broken, or the truth denied to gain “before the other does…” From Minahasa in Indonesia through Burma, Singapore, Hongkong, Germany, New York (Wall Street), and a snooty gay Beverly Hills residence to the White House (via my addiction to CNN). A humbling year indeed, my home – all the places I have been this year. I have experienced shaming ideas of interaction. I’m earth-bound, not power-driven, and in no need of possessing anything beyond the basics, less is more powerful and helps me sleep peacefully. I see more than most because I look with my heart.

In January, I discovered a huge waste dump at my workplace, promoted as environmentally sane. It was the same month I committed to my resolution in 2008 to participate in preserving and managing my littering of this planet after becoming a scuba-dive Instructor and seeing the devastation below water level. The reaction I received was unexpected ignorant; I participated in carrying the stinky mess away, a week-long process that could only be solved with the help of many local Indonesians. I learned that nothing is a powerful as hands-on participation in correcting something that makes little sense to others. It was a humbling experience.

I helped, taught and fought to educate the people under my guidance; I gave my best to help others in need, even building a house for a stranger. I did risk my life when a boat burned on the river behind the newly constructed kitchen. I learned equally as much in return and embraced friendships I now have for the rest of my life. These hold me responsible for the commitment I started; it is humbling and soothing to be a part of the life of others. I’m grateful for my responsibilities.

My relationship with Q ended in a bizarre chain of events; I felt strong, I felt secure, and I felt loved, learning in the end that all had been a fabrication of my colorful mind. A lie or, as the Chief executive admitted, “good business practice.” One’s strength is fascinating: Wanting to believe in something can be powerful but blinding. I drew strength from these experiences, survived a difficult time at work, and gained the humbling knowledge that indeed – drugs create distortions even in the mind of a sober soul aside. I have lost the last grain of compassion for drug addicts, including that recovering friend sleeping on my couch.  I can’t fight my honest heart.

I returned to Los Angeles, finding the American life stunningly disconnected from the reality of a larger world out there. My struggles felt silly compared to crises beyond the horizon. Here we are daily reminded of the endless wars in foreign lands. Media lures us with blindfolded views of unrelated cruelty far away. All is dandy in some celebrity’s life, or all is cruel in some corner.  These problems are not mine. I miss the tightness of having people carrying for each other, as I learned in North Sulawesi. In Los Angeles, this is replaced with superficial artificialities, shocked to be back and happy to have come home. It could have all been a little too much at once, the unexpected breakup, the egocentric US traditions, old friends with their old problems, holding on to traditions; even when long proven wrong, it’s humbling to be back.

We’ve voted for a black president, and everyone believes now that we will be back on our feet next year. To be a part of voting for the first black US President is humbling. The latter is plain silly. Wait until April 2009, when even the most ignorant peeps around me will have discovered that something is shockingly wrong with our economy. Right now, it’s Christmas, and everyone is flocking to Walmart to purchase “made in China” presents for one and another… Oh, we are soooo stupid; it’s humbling (Latin word for hummus; you figure). I walk around in my neighborhood and see “for sale” signs more so than decorated facades. My slammlord landlord, hunted by her past years of greed, desperately tries renting out the vacant apartments for inflated prices. It’s greed that got us in this mess, and it’s greed that will keep us in here until we have learned to be humble. We have to be nice to find happiness, helping each other, and genuinely caring for another, even for strangers. Life is short; live it wisely!

I’m glad I have been through this humbling year. It makes witnessing others having to “touch the fire” more enjoyable. In the end, I only want to be close with others that care, feel and share in the same way I do. I have left a few souls from my past in the past. I have adopted four Godchildren and care dearly for them. I am working in a lovely place with lovely people, and I enjoy my moments at home. I smile when looking back at the last twelve months; it was incredible. Thank you all for participating. I’m eager to accept what 2009 is offering for the souls and me in my care.

Chef Raphael


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