I am grateful for Flanders Fields. Tonight I went for a walk with my best friend Jolien and what started off to be a little stroll in the park behind our backyard, turned out to be walk for about an hour through the beautiful Fields that surround our neighborhoods. We had great conversations about forgiveness, relationships – especially long distance ones – and our future. Just two best friends enjoying time together against a gorgeous setting. I was so glad I had brought my camera, because nature decided to give us one of their best shows, as if we were being treated as a thank you for us spending time just wandering through those glorious Fields. We decided we are both lucky to have grown up where we did and to have been surrounded by all the beauty and joy of our environment. And every time I get to be at home for a while, those Flanders Fields just feel like a gift. One I will treasure forever, deep in my young smiling heart. And even though me experiencing those wonderful Flanders Fields have no obvious connection with World War One, there is just no way to disconnect it from each other. So with this I would like to bring tribute, yet again, to this beautiful contribution of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae:
- In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
- We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
- Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
I am grateful for my little Mexican sister Alexia. She is such a joy to have around. She is always smiling, full of enthusiasm and could play a board game or watch a movie with me at any point in time. She is ready to ride a bike, play with the dog or play the piano whenever you feel like it. She is kind, caring and has a heart of gold. She is honest and says what she thinks, just like any child does. Even though she is only nine years old, she has the conscious and the knowledge which makes it seems like she is much older. I’m amazed when I hear her talk, how she thinks about life and how she is creating her own valuable opinions. Sometimes she jumps into conversations as any child would do, however sometimes she sits and listens attentively, only to blow us all away at the end when she shares her view on the conversation. I know that she will grow into a wonderful, lovely, intelligent young lady who knows where she wants to go and I know that she will get there. And I know that whenever she needs me, I will be there as her big Belgian brother to support her. I love you, Alexia.
I am grateful for my Mexican brother Aldo. He is an amazing young man. I am honestly proud to be his big brother. He is only eighteen years old and has so much potential. He is very mature for his age and extremely intelligent. I keep on being surprised that we only differ seven years, because when we spent time together, it feels as if he is one of my best friends of my own age. Even though I only met him three years ago – which is when I came to Mexico for the very first time – it feels as if we have known each other all of our lives. And even though we come from a different family, household, culture, continent… there is so much we have in common. We connect on so many different subjects and both have an open mind to learn about each others’ differences. I know that this relationship was not a coincidence and I am convinced that we will stay in contact for the rest of our lives. Wherever I might go on this planet and wherever he might end up, we will always be Aldo & Pedro Funes, brothers for life.
I am grateful for Momma. I am darn lucky to have more than one amazing mother in my life. Obviously, with all the traveling I do and all the host families I stay with, there are many mother figures in my life. However, there’s only one Momma. She is a unique human being that I love with all my heart and appreciate for so many different things. There is no one like her. I have wanted to share my gratitude with the world for a long time, but I kept on waiting for the perfect moment. Today is that day. Not only is it her birthday, a joyful day that brought this lovely loving creature into the world, but it is also Mother’s Day, the day on which all mother are celebrated. This day means a double celebration for her and still I don’t even think it’s enough. Momma is such an incredible lady with such exceptional personality. She is one of the most loving and caring people I know. If she could, she would help everyone at the same time and sometimes it feels like that seems to be her full time job. She wants to make people happy and make sure they know that they are loved. Thanks to her I know I am. And I love her for that and such much more. We have a beautiful relationship – one I am so thankful for to have in my life – that is build on a foundation of true honesty, openness, respect, trust and unconditional love. We have been through so much together already and we actually only met three years ago. It is a relationship that proves that friendship and love goes beyond borders and beyond generations. We are the best friends. We have shared so many great memories together and I have hundreds if not thousands of pictures of our adventures. It made it very hard to pick out a picture and I probably have more touching pictures of us together than the ones I chose. But I wanted to share these pictures because they all share the same feeling. These pictures are all taken on very different dates and in different places, but they all grab that moment when I am most happy. We have so much fun together. No matter what, no matter where, we enjoy spending time together. And one of my very favorite things to do is to make her laugh, because one of my very favorite things to see it to see Momma laugh. She knows that and I think she sometimes tries to not laugh, but alas, laughing we will. We spend hours talking and listening to each other. Or we just sit together and listen to the comfortable silence of certainty that this feels right. When we are together, it doesn’t really matter what we do. Watching a show, playing a board game, making music, walking or driving around, talking or just talking or sometimes even talking, but mostly talking. Sharing ideas, opinions, dreams, hopes, fears, passions… I am blessed to have Momma in my life. I know I’m who I am today because I know her. And I am so grateful for all we’ve had and all we’ll still have. This is only the beginning. Thank you, Momma. I love you. Always.
I am grateful for ‘Hartst’. It is the first short film I wrote and directed with my friend Winne Henckens. We created this movie as part of an art project, entitled ‘Versteende Verhalen’ (Roughly translated: ‘Stony Stories’). It is something I am very proud of. The result turned out great and I actually enjoy watching it again. In case you are wondering, there is not supposed to be any sound, because any song you play while watching it changes the feeling of it entirely. So we wanted to leave it up to the spectator to choose their own soundtrack and consequently their own meaning of the story. I am grateful I got to work on this project, because it taught me so much. I had performed in several short films before, but this was the first time I was on the other side. The writing process was so much fun and the recording process was outright exciting. I would love to create more art in the future and in the meantime I remain grateful for everything I have created so far. Thank you to all of those that helped me out along the way.
I am grateful for my host sister Andrea. She is an amazing young girl and it actually feels strange to even write “host sister”, because it just feels as if she is my actual sister. The same goes for my entire family here. I’ve mentioned this before, but from the moment I walked into their house, now almost three years ago, it just felt so right. Now I’m here for the third time, this time for six weeks and it feels like home. They are my family. I got my official name yesterday: Pedro José Funes Minutti. I think it sounds swell! I’m just so proud to be part of their family. Andrea started her own Grateful Blog, called Beaming Andrea, about a week ago and when she wrote about her family, she included me. It was an incredible feeling. I love spending time with them, all together or just one on one. Andrea and I clicked from the very start. I have two lovely sisters in Belgium, Lara who’s eight now and Lynn who’s fourteen, and it’s so cool to be the big brother and take care of them. However, I never got to know the feeling of having a sister of my age. Andrea and I share so many interests and hobbies. I really enjoy spending time with her, whether we are watching a movie, going to a party, doing yoga or just talking. She’s a sister and a friend at the same time. She is intelligent, caring, beautiful, funny, hardworking, passionate, honest and has a great laugh. I appreciate her for all of that and so much more. I am truly grateful to have another sister, who brings so much joy in my life.
I am grateful for Armando & Katrien. They are two wonderful and lovely friends of mine and I am very happy to have them in my life. Armando & Katrien are also known as the Viva la Gente Office Team. Viva la Gente is the Mexican variant of Up with People and obviously that’s where I met them. They traveled together in Up with People in 2007 and became best friends right away. That’s one of the amazing things that Up with People does. Armando is from Mexico, Katrien is from Belgium and all of a sudden those borders don’t exist anymore and they get to be best friends. It’s awesome! So now Katrien spends most of her time in Mexico City, working in the office with Armando or just having fun together. When I flew in here about two weeks ago to start working on my first Mexican city for this tour, I felt so lucky to be working with the two of them. Since I’m usually flying around and I don’t get to spend much time in one place, I am so grateful for every moment I get to spend in every place I end up. So here, in Mexico City I am so glad I get to spend time with Armando & Katrien. They are here for me to guide me in this wonderful city – which just happens to be the biggest city in the world – as well as in the work I am doing or just to hang out together and enjoy the beauty of Mexico and life in general. Thank you, my dear amazing friends. I am excited for the following weeks and all the precious time we still get to spend together.