Monthly Archives: November 2015

Adventures in Belgium and 1st Balloon Convention Part 7

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It is Thursday, November 12th 2015.

Last day of the convention. I am all about the workshops baby.

I go to this guy named Peter Kramer’s workshop and I was so blown away.  If you ever see his name anywhere at an event and he is teaching, trust me, you will want to get front row seats.

This guy is cool. He has great Jois De Vivre and has tips and tricks I have never seen before anywhere and he blows the mind. His tips and tricks are amazingly simple but highly stylish, exciting and entertaining. You could be a highly experienced twister and be like, “Oh my God, you just made twisting so much more fun and amazing, I have to do this now all the time!”

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When he shows us his twin-twist technique, I realize that that is what I had been doing all along to make my pixelated characters, albeit just a tad differently but same concept and overall mechanics. It was something I just figured out and I thought it was the pinch line technique I was doing but it wasn’t. I would learn the pinch line technique later that day from a workshop by Antonio Becares Rodriguez, the creator of the technique. I realized in Antonio’s class that I really did not know the pinch line technique after all, it was exciting!

So anyway, I will have to go back and edit my posts with this new information!

I just loved this workshop, his and Antonio’s were actually my top 2 favorite workshops.

I then go to another Russian workshop where they teach us how to make a rooster that opened my mind to even more possibilities that can be done with balloons and it was amazing. I loved it.

Then I learned how to make the prettiest balloon legs ever made via Ken Stillman’s workshop. These legs would give Betty Grable a run for her money and her legs were insured by Lloyd’s of London for 1 million dollars thanks to 20th Century Fox! I love old movies and realize that most people will not get my Grable reference, lol! Check out his site,

http://click.balloonmaster.com to learn all kinds of amazing things from him.

Then my last workshop was Antonio Becares Rodriguez’s. This guy is super entertaining and is a really cool guy. He wears a top hat and the most colorful wonderful pants that his mother makes him and they are just fabulous!

In his class, I must have shouted Oh My God! a dozen times. He would say,”Please, I am not God, I am just Antonio.” and he was hilarious and had a great sense of humor.

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This guy is amazing. I learned his pinch-line technique and I was just floored that all this time I thought I knew it but no, I did not man! It is awesome. He showed us all kinds of mind blowing, amazing, oh my god did that just happen! kinds of techniques that I am still not sure I really saw or are in fact real they are so amazing.  If you ever see this guy anywhere- just follow him, watch him, attend anything he is teaching, he is an amazing balloon whisperer.  Check out his site, https://globosaltea.wordpress.com/pinch-line-technique-dvd/

So I just had the best day of workshops ever which was wonderful for the last day.

I had dinner with Graham, Thelma and Rob. It was an amazing dinner and we played can you guess what song I am humming. I just loved their company and it was sad that I wouldn’t get to hang out with them anymore. The meal I had was lovely and delicious. I took pictures of all the food, lol. Rob is a dear, just a super sweet and meek guy and he is exactly how I would want my son to be if I ever had a son. He is a still waters run deep kind of a person and I just loved him.

I think Rob had to run when we got dessert. Me and Thelma got some waffles for dessert and they were horrible, I mean HORRIBLE! We couldn’t even eat them after one bite. We just ate the ice-cream that was on the top. Graham insisted that we were not going to pay for our waffles. He stood up for us and championed for us and we didn’t pay for the waffles and the server was very nice and we tipped him nicely.  I really admired how principled Graham is. He didn’t think it was right to pay for something that bad and if he doesn’t something think something is right he will stand up and say something.

Thelma is one of the most thoughtful people you could ever meet. She would tip people she didn’t have to tip because she just wanted to show  a person that their caring and being nice mattered. She dropped off little gifts for lots of different people throughout the convention and is just a person always thinking of other people and likes to do things for you to show you she cares.

They were both very welcoming, inclusive and both have great sense of humors and don’t take themselves too seriously. They treat people well and they notice the things that often get overlooked and appreciate things that often go unappreciated.

After dinner was over I sat with Colin Myles who is Scottish and the Russian instructors who just arrived at the restaurant for just a little bit and visited with them. The U.S.A. and places people liked and wanted to go came up in conversation. It was neat getting to talk to them all a little. I had had a whole beer again so I was quite affected and couldn’t walk very well, lol. I mostly listened and loved hearing everyone’s accents.

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Then it was time for the Gala. The final event of the whole thing. There were awesome performances and award ceremonies.

I was preoccupied with trying to track down Liz as I promised to buy her a drink and I couldn’t find her. When I saw her right hand gal Clare at the bar I bought she and Liz a drink which made me feel like I could relax finally and made me really happy. It meant a lot to me to be able to do that as they had been so generous and nurturing to me. They were sitting several tables behind me.

I sat with Tanya during the Gala and that was nice. Tanya to me is like Sam from Lord of the Rings. She is a very faithful kind of friend and she is all in and just a lovely hearted person. Tanya, Liz and Clare are some of the most beautiful hearted people you could ever hope to meet. They will take great care of you and make you feel loved and at home. I really loved how they treated people, it wasn’t just with me but with everyone. They are just natural nurturers.

I will just say that I had very conflicted feelings during the Gala. I felt very confused and didn’t know what to feel, I felt many different feelings. I had heart melting conversations and encouragements. I felt extremely alone and also extremely close to people. It was interesting.

I talked to a guy named Dan who is just a super guy and full of joy, and he teared up when talking about his wife and kids and I just think he is a beautiful soul. We were both home sick and missing our loved ones. He had like a glow about him. He just glowed, he could totally be cast as an angel in a play.

There are so many things I can’t talk about when it comes to this trip both negative and extremely positive which is killing the journalist in me but people come first. I feel like I would be show-boating and cheapening the tender and meaningful moments if I shared them here because I don’t know how it would make the other parties feel if I shared them. I don’t want them to feel like I am trying to capitalize on their emotional gifts to me. The emotional gifts I received were my reward and I still can’t believe they happened. I got the most beautiful compliments I have and ever will receive.

I learned from this that I don’t want to go around competing, I have no interest trying to make a name for myself that way and the pieces I want to focus on making will never meet the criteria for judging. I want to strive for excellence of connection, not perfection. I am an idealist of impractical proportions, lol. There is a bigger fish to fry  and a bigger picture that I want to venture towards.

I realized during this trip what I personally want out of balloon art and what my aspirations with it are. The purpose of art is to make the invisible visible and it became very clear to me what that means for me. I want to make purposeful art geared towards the world at large. I don’t want to make art for other artists. My focus will be on content, not on form or craft.

“XTC versus Adam Ant

Content versus form

Fighting for their place in rock and roll

There is no right or wrong”

XTC vs Adam Ant, They Might Be Giants

Both craft and content are important but there is definitely a tendency to focus on one or the other.

I hope to have my craft developed enough that I can manifest well what I have in my mind but I am going to manifest what I have in my mind no matter what. I have to share what I have inside me to say and I have something important to say. I have my own voice. This is what I want out of balloons and myself.

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I left the event at 2 a.m. to pack. My time ended with me sharing a taxi with 2 other people at 4:30 a.m.  You could still hear music blaring from the resort from the gala even from way outside.

I rode the train all the way to Brussells airport with a lady named Melissa. Again I didn’t have to travel alone and scared. Our flights were just 30 minutes apart. She is an amazing person. She was the same person who gave me crackers and water when I was starting to have a panic attack.

I cried a lot on the plane. I cried a lot in general. It was a very intense experience with amazing highs and lows. I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats. I had given up on ever hoping to go to a convention and can’t believe I got to go to one in Europe of all places!

While I was flying across the Atlantic ocean, there were horrific terrorist attacks happening in Paris. The perpetrators and planning took place in Brussels Belgium, the place that I just left! Wow. I feel so lucky and blessed to be home. I feel so sad for folks back in Paris and folks across Europe. Stay safe please.

My husband had a really hard time while I was away. Our dishwasher broke, computer monitor broke, puppy had diarrhea, daughter got sick,  the car needed repair, and the puppy chewed up the kitchen floor. He was happy for me that I got to have this experience.

He made a huge sacrifice for me to go to this event both mentally and emotionally and monetarily. He and my daughter mean the world to me and I am so happy to be back home. I will miss and treasure everyone I got to meet and can call friend. I conquered many fears on this trip and because of this adventure, I am not afraid to say yes to more.

Thank You All for the wonderful memories!

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(Photo above courtesy of Dan Catt. I am wearing the Panda hat, Graham made it.)

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Hat that I made below.

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Adventures in Belgium, 1st Balloon Convention TMJ Part 6

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It is Day 6, Wednesday Nov 11th.

I got 4 hrs. of sleep and head back to the Jam Room and get there at 9 a.m. I decide whatever happens, I am just going to work on my piece until 2 p.m. and call it done because I would like attend some workshops and I have already missed out on a full day of workshops the previous day.

I get to making the Little Girl in Mourning part and get she and the tombstone going. I am exhausted and extremely homesick at this point. People are really into what I am making and they start taking pictures with it and pictures of me with it and pictures of themselves with me with it.

(Photos below courtesy of Elizabeth Jacob)

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(Photo below Courtesy of Daniel Jefferson)

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I met some super fans too which was so cool, I have super fans?! They knew who I was and follow my blog and my work on FB. It was very touching, they were excited to see me and meet me and took pictures with me.

I had really powerful exchanges with people as they would tell me about losing their mother when they were a little kid and how my piece really resonated with them. I was amazed at how people got the story, I didn’t have to explain anything. I would hear people explaining the story to other people and it was amazing. “The little girl’s mother died and was buried and then the mother became a tree and is watching over her little girl.” I even saw a mother and father explaining what was happening to their small children!

Graham breaks up the seriousness by putting a couple Panda’s he made with the flowers on my Tree Lady piece, lol. He was very obsessed with making pandas. You know how some people are alcoholics? Well I think he may be a Pandaholic, lol.

Trivia time!  Panda’s poop 100 times a day. No seriously, I saw this posted on an information sign at the Atlanta Zoo in Georgia.

I have friends coming up to me and telling me things “big name people” are saying are about the piece and it was very complimentary and I was very touched. I was just like, wow, this isn’t even as good as the first one, I wish they could see me when I am truly inspired and in the zone.

I am hobbling around still as my feet are still full of blisters. I have big blisters on the bottom of both feet, about 6 in all and I am super sore and tired and in a ton of pain.

I barely get done and then rush to see what the Russian instructors are teaching. I watch them for a little while but I am so exhausted and the place is so packed and I have nowhere to sit. I can’t take it physically so I pop in to see what Ken Stillman is doing and catch the rest of his Balloon Beads class.

He is a neat guy, I really liked getting to meet Ken. I love how he teaches too, he is an excellent communicator and very fun loving and a guy who can laugh at himself and laugh at life. Good sense of humor and doesn’t take himself  and life too seriously. He seems like a guy just enjoying the ride of life and he just seemed very appreciative, he had a heart of gratitude that really stood out. I liked him a lot.

After that it was time to move the Tree Lady into the room where all the contests pieces were held. It was very much of a “drop your stuff off and please get out a.s.a.p. because we have a ton of crap to do” environment, lol. This Tree Lady piece was taller than me,  wider than the double doors and a monster to move. She was getting pretty banged up and I didn’t think she would make it.

I tried to get her adjusted but I didn’t mess with her face. I didn’t like how her face got jumbled during the move but I was so terrified to touch her that I didn’t even really look at her. It was a very strange moment. I didn’t want to look at her face. I felt uneasy about her even being there.  I liked her better in the Jam room before she got moved. I felt ashamed of her being in this new room.

Maybe subconsciously I felt like I was prostituting my piece. I just felt shame, shame for not being able to re-create the magic I had during the first time I made her and now shame that I moved her into this room that felt so cold and lonely to me.

I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of her or anything in the contest room and I never did get any pics of her. Thank goodness other people did!

(Photo below courtesy of Tanya Kemp)

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That evening I had dinner with Graham, Thelma and Brian Asman! We walked like 20 minutes off resort site to a local Chinese restaurant. More like they walked and I hobbled. I was like something from a Halloween movie, lol.  Brian is a neat guy, he is very smiley and has a joyful spirit and you could tell very much enjoyed his time there.

I ordered a water and they give me this super tiny and thin cup of water with no ice. I mean it was tiny! I am exhausted and thirsty as could be. I ask for another and another and another and after the 5th one, Graham chimes in and educates me that water is not free in restaurants in Belgium, nor are the refills. They pour out bottled water into your glass and charge you $2.40 Euros! You cannot even order tap water, it isn’t even an option. In the UK, you can opt to get tap water for free but you have to specify. And they serve water in bigger glasses and with ice.

I tell Graham, “Thanks! Now you tell me!?”, and teased him about his timing of information. The water was as much as the food, lol.

I am sure that to anyone who spent any time with me, I seemed like I had just crawled out of a cave from the Appalachian Mountains as so much was so new to me. The food was served on silver warming thingies that stayed on your table. I had never seen a restaurant give you warming thingies to keep your food warm and hot. They gave us hot towels at the end. I had never before been served a hot towel and I didn’t know what to do with it. Graham and Thelma made fun of me and showed me what to do. The Chinese food was super different than back home. The sauce was very weak, and you know how I feel about sauce! I liked it okay but prefer to what I am accustomed.

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I took pictures of everything and Graham made fun of me for it. “Here’s a Belgian fork Tricia, you want to take a picture of that?” Yes! Yes I do! And I did by Jove!

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Later I had some Bailey’s Irish cream and let me just tell you, I loved it. It is like drinking melted candy. Then I had some beer while watching the Stage Competition. No food or water in between, you can imagine what happens next.

The Stage Competition was amazing, I wish I could describe it to you but I just can’t. My mind was BLOWN! Afterwards, I was in agony. My stomach felt like it was going to explode or self implode. I felt horrible. I started feeling a panic attack coming on and then that really had me freaking out. I didn’t want to hyperventilate and faint. I fell down on the floor near the restrooms in the hallway.

I had 3 separate panic attacks on 3 different days in September. They have been attributed to severe sleep apnea that went undiagnosed for several years. Panic attacks feel just like heart attacks and I thought I was having heart attacks and was rushed to the emergency room. It is especially scary when you don’t understand why things like this keep happening. I kept having them and had no idea why. I went through all kinds of medical tests, & tests and tests and it turns out I have a really bad case of sleep apnea and that is believed to be the cause. After the panic attacks I  haven’t been the same.  Constant anxiety issues, discomfort when breathing as my body wants to hyperventilate all the time, easy to faint, extreme weakness and soreness and exhaustion. Treatment for apnea and everything I will not get until I get back home after the convention.

I haven’t had real rest in several years and the sleep deprivation reached critical mass and my body started losing it and freaking out on me. Sleep Apnea can cause strokes, heart attacks, or simply death from not breathing. If your body doesn’t wake itself up when you stop breathing, which I do constantly through the night, then you simply die in your sleep. It is serious stuff. Your body never really heals or restores itself either because you never really sleep and don’t get enough oxygen. I kept feeling more and more exhausted all the time but I just thought it was because of the business and being a mom.

I start balling and crying there in the hallway for all to see. This wonderful lady named Melissa gave me lots of crackers and water to drink and Tanya, Liz and Clare tended to me.  They informed me that you never mix drinks and that was why my stomach was in so much pain. I really would have had a panic attack if it weren’t for them. They kept me calm and took great care of me.

Phileas Flash even saw me and gave me a pep talk. He knelt down and gave a very passionate speech. I apologized for crying so much, I felt embarrassed, and he just empathized and let me know that he’s been there too. He knew I didn’t get much sleep and encouraged me to get sleep and take care of myself and he just let me know that it isn’t uncommon for people to emotionally and physically crash at conventions, especially if you have worked really hard on a piece for an event.

He is very intense and really whole hearted when he talks to me. I again loved how all feeling he is.

Everyone around me is just super supportive and encouraging and nurturing. I wouldn’t have made it through the night without these people and I would have had a full blown panic attack without them, I have no doubt.

Thank you guys. You saved me that day, you really did.

Adventures in Belgium, 1st Balloon Convention TMJ Part 5

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Adventures in Belgium, 1st Balloon Convention TMJ Part 5

 

It is Day 5 Tuesday November 10th.

I work on my Tree Lady piece for several hours. I get it forming into an actual tree. It was daunting because I had no idea really how I went about making the first Tree Lady. I went about making her in a totally different way when it comes to body.

I decide I will enter it into the multi-balloon contest because I don’t know what will happen to it really otherwise and I figure it will be seen by the most people if it is in the contest. It will be due tomorrow afternoon if it is going to be entered.

When I made the first piece, it was like I was possessed and I was just so full of emotion and inspiration. Everything just magically came together and I felt the most surprised at what manifested from my own hands and imagination.

It was strange trying to make her again in this Jam room. I was nervous and self-conscious. I just didn’t feel the same magic and couldn’t channel it like before and I felt very vulnerable about it. I am a very insecure artist.

I was surprised that people were really into what I was making. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first one but people thought it was great. Addi Somekh even came by and he had seen the picture of the first one and he was like, “It’s beautiful.” I was like, “It isn’t as good as the first one.” He said he thought it was. In my head, not out loud, I was saying, “No, you should be disappointed in me, really.” I realized then how powerful it is to see something in person VS a picture.

I have seen and experienced both in person and so I can say, this experience of it isn’t as good as the first. But other people who haven’t seen the first in person just know that they are enjoying what they are experiencing now, and their in person experience matters more than experience via picture.

I am being very hard on myself and feel tempted to just pop everything and I am just shocked at how people are reacting so positively to it. People seemed impressed and were giving me thumbs up and saying things in a surprised tone like, “You made this?

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I then go back and forth and am in massive inner conflict about going to Antwerp at this point.

This trip was about finding my courage.

I have been too afraid to fly for 19 years now and have missed weddings and funerals as a result. I have flown several times but just became terrified of it as well as many other things when I became an older teenager.

I had to get on a total of six planes this trip!

I was massively conflicted because I really wanted to go to Antwerp but was scared to go as I would be totally alone. A balloon friend had shared about being mugged on a train in Antwerp and that just made me more scared. What if I get mugged, raped and sold on Ebay? What if there is a black market Ebay? How much would someone like me go for, 20 bucks, I am afraid to find out how there might be insult to injury on pricing for me, lol.

I go back and forth on this for hours and decide to finally just do it, this trip is about finding courage after all.

I get on a bus to the Mol train station. At the train station, I was unsure if I was on the right platform. I ask this young man sitting on a bench if he spoke English and if I was on the right platform.
He says yes to both and does speak excellent English.

We get to talking. His name is Diego and he is in his twenties and is from Brazil, born and raised and moved to Mol because he has an aunt there and is learning Dutch. He is getting married next month.

I am Patricia, an American from TN who is a balloon artist going to a balloon convention in Mol. I have a daughter and husband and I am in my 30’s.

He tells me about how there is nothing to do in Mol and how people are not very friendly and don’t talk to each other. People are well to do and have money but don’t have friends. He tells me that the suicide rate is extremely high.

He is super sanguine as he is Brazilian and is used to people being poorer but happier and extremely social.

I tell him, “Well, I will be your friend, you want to come with me on an adventure to Antwerp.?”

He says, “Okay.” He was going to just do nothing anyway and why not? We both were in disbelief that this was happening, lol.

An American and a Brazilian meeting in the middle of nowhere in Belgium and going on an adventure in Antwerp, lol.

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(Diego)

We get on a train to Antwerp and talked the whole way. He tells me about Europe and I tell him about the States.

We get to Antwerp and OMG I would have gotten lost in five seconds. There are a million roads going in all directions, so many cobblestone paths going every which way, every way is an alley.

There is a McDonalds on every block interestingly enough.

My city has a Check Into Cash and a Church  every other building but this place has Diamond Shops and Frituur Eateries every other building, lol. 70 percent of all the world’s diamonds get traded there.

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The signs don’t make any sense, if you can even find them. Nothing in English, just French, Dutch and Flemish.

I tell Diego I want to see statues, eat a waffle, and go to a chocolate shop.

He takes me to all 3. It takes an hour to walk where we need to go.

I get to see amazing statues, buildings that I saw in travel videos, eat the most amazing waffle I ever had in my life with cream and powdered sugar, and get to go a lovely chocolate shop. I buy him a box of chocolates as a thank you gift.

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Diego made the trip so wonderful, I felt safe and didn’t have to see amazing things alone and had someone to make fun of things with and crack jokes. For example, we both couldn’t believe how many golden accents were on top of all the buildings. There was gold everywhere?! How these things weren’t stolen or things chipped away astounded us! You could took a piece of this wall to feed your family for a year, lol. He was a delight to talk to.

I liked to imagine that these giant golden decorative pieces were really golden wrappers covering chocolate filled figures.

There were so many times Diego would tell me, “Patricia, turn around, “as I would be completely oblivious to something amazing right behind me, lol. He laughed at me a lot about that which was so great, because that’s the kind of thing any of my close friends would do.

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We get lost but Diego has a GPS and we find our back to the train station.

Again, crazy gold everywhere at this station. This was Antwerp Central train station. We parted ways on the train as his stop was before mine and we are now friends on Facebook.

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I had an amazing time and got back to the resort just fine. I was on the bus with a musician who played music at the convention with Addi and is in the Unpopables band named Joey and so I didn’t have to walk from the bus stop to the resort in the dark alone, which it was like a 15 minute walk. Again I was not alone and had some company finding my way back. He was really warm and nice to me and it just kept the fire of friendliness going.

My feet were full of blisters that were totally worth getting. I hobbled everywhere I walked after this trip.

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That evening I saw an amazing Rakugo performance by Diane ‘Kimono’ Kichijitsu.

She is amazing, check out her website,  http://www.diane-o.com/

What is Rakugo?
Rakugo is a 400-year-old tradition of comic storytelling in Japan. A minimalistic performance art, Rakugo features a lone storyteller dressed in kimono, kneeling on a cushion, who, using only a fan and a hand towel for props, entertains the audience with a comic monologue followed by a traditional story. The storyteller differentiates characters in conversation by moving his head from left to right, as well as with subtle changes in tempo, posture, intonation, etc.

The evening ends with more balloon jamming and I stay until 4 am working on my piece. It was an interesting experience because there are a group of people laughing and talking about naughty balloons and a guy making very very adult balloons while I am working on a very somber piece dedicated to my dying mother. It was a hilarious juxtaposition. That’s what I love about life, the great comedic situations.

I had to cover my Care-Bear hat’s eyes and I am not old enough to have seen the balloons I saw in the distance, lol.

Liz gave me her cell phone earlier in the evening and told me to call Kevin when I was done working so that he could walk me home as it was too scary and dark for me to walk all the way to my bungalow alone. I promised I would and Kevin did walk me home to my cabin at like 4 a.m. That was so beautiful of him to do and he and Liz took such good care of me.

I was really really homesick at this point. I couldn’t talk to my husband or daughter save for FB messages here and there this whole trip. It was killing me. I had never been away from my daughter before and never been away from my husband for this long. They keep me going.

Adventures in Belgium, 1st Balloon Convention TMJ Part 4

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It is Monday November 9th and the balloon convention officially begins!

I got my Badge! I’m a real person now!

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After breakfast I decide to go to Phileas Flash’s workshop where he shows how to make faces. He is very animated and silly and is a lot like a cartoon character which is terrific. He is there to entertain and be a ham as well as instruct.

He does a really good job. It was a lot of fun.

I then go to the Solomatin and Shushkanov workshop, a couple of absolutely fabulous Russian balloon artists. They are so humble. These guys only bring enough balloons for 30 people and over 100 show up. They don’t realize what a big draw they are and how much everyone loves them. They are just hoping some people show up,lol.

They show us how to make their winning 12 minute competition pieces.

Not everyone has balloons and we really don’t care, we are just having a blast seeing how their genius minds work. We are just fine having a window into their brain. I loved it sooo much. I loved how adorable they were, they were so humble and nervous. I found them to be poetry in motion. It was like watching Jimi Hendrix play his guitar.

I have said before that Russian balloon art is my overall favorite and if I could go anywhere to study balloon art and be an apprentice, it would be Russia.

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(In Heaven!)

There was a break for lunch and I saw Phileas, Matt Falloon and I joined them for lunch. Miss Ballooniverse joined as well as a guy named Mike and I am sorry to say I forgot the other 2 or 3 people.

I ask Matt Falloon what part of the States he is from and he says, “The Australian part.” I for some reason thought he was from the states but he is Australian. I didn’t really know anything about him and I made a fop au, lol. He even has an Australian accent which he pointed out but hey, there are Australian Americans, lol. There wasn’t much of a spark for conversation, lol. Interesting guy but we just didn’t have conversation spark.

I kind of just sat there and listened to people. Phileas was really engaged with some other people that I didn’t know.

Eventually Graham and Thelma saw me and dropped in and sat next to me. Now warning, I do not know what a normal person conversation looks like. I am a bit odd. I don’t know how in the world this came up but I started informing Graham and Thelma about the mating rituals of bed bugs and dolphins, lol.

Bed bugs are horrible creatures for a number of reasons but they even mate in horrific ways. The dude will stab through the stomach of the female from the outside with his thing, he will literally stab the female and deposit his stuff into her. (Graham inserts bank joke here as he laughs at my term deposit.) Most females die after mating as a result from infection because omg they just got O.J. Simpsoned in the stomach!

This is called Traumatic Insemination boys and girls.

But wait, there’s more!

I then tell them that dolphin mating habits are listed under traumatic insemination as well. Bachelor male dolphins will stalk, surround and gang bang style rape a female dolphin and even physically and EMOTIONALLY abuse her. I repeat, emotionally abuse her! It is horribly traumatic for the poor female.

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Matt Falloon is listening to two conversations going on between Phileas’ group and us but he doesn’t seem too impressed with ours, lol.

Graham and Thelma are just puzzled and fascinated as to how does a dolphin emotionally abuse another dolphin? What kinds of things do they say to each other? We crack jokes about it and I seem to remember even Matt interjected a couple jokes at that time too.

I tell them that I want to make and wear a t-shirt that says Kill The Dolphins, They’re Rapists.

Graham tells me that whenever they hear the word Rape or Dolphins, they will think of Patricia Gordon, lol. Yep I am doing a great job representing us Americans of the USA, lol. Give me a cookie and call me special, lol.

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Needless to say we made tons of Dolphin jokes throughout the whole convention.

They thought I was weird for sure but their love was unconditional for me and they found me to be entertaining, lol. What I have found is that people either love me or hate me. You will either find me entertaining and laugh both with and at me or find me absolutely annoying and there were people who just instantly did not like me at all, lol.

Somewhere during this time Graham and Thelma went off and I got to really meet and talk to Sean Rogers who is an amazing balloon artist from California and is a really cool guy.

He and I believe Tanya got some food from the restaurant next door as the restaurant we were at was sooo slow that it was unbelievable and they brought that food to the restaurant I was at, lol. We talked and got to know each other more. Tanya and Sean are just all sorts of awesome and the more you talk to them the more you just love them.

The Jam Room was open and it was time for me to see what this was like.

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The Jam room was interesting. There were tons of balloons but not that much of every color. Not like I had in my imagination, lol.

I knew I was going to make my Tree Lady piece there but I had some obstacles to overcome.

I had no balloon pump, how could I forget to pack a balloon pump on a trip to a balloon convention?!

I needed a pole and baseplate, how in the world was I going to get that?

Insert Colin Myles.

I go up to Colin as I had seen him be a behind the scenes guy and he is just someone who oozes competence and is in the know. He is very much a solid rock kind of guy, the guy who keeps his cool when the ship catches fire and puts those fires out. Really down to earth guy and I just loved and appreciated him so much. I just really respect him a lot and I loved his accent.

He gets me a pump and he hunts down a pole and base for me.

I tell him that he is my Fairy God Scotsman and he laughs at me and says, “Well Patricia, I’ve never been called that before.”

I grab like all the lime green and dark green 260’s, sorry everyone- that was me- and start making leaves for the Tree Lady. I use every single one as she takes a crap ton of leaves man.

All I do in the Jam Room is make a crap ton of leaves, and I still needed to make more!

Graham drops in and gives me a Balloon Dolphin that he made. I was absolutely delighted and I named it Grahamalina.

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That evening I meet Rob Driscol! I just love him, he is so adorable and meek and so stylin. I am a huge fan of his work and he is the third balloon hero I interviewed for this blog over a year ago! He is of course British. More hanging out with Graham and Thelma and meeting more British folks.

Fast forward to the Iron Man Challenge. About 100 people get to participate and I am one of those people. Rob is next to me as well as another really lovable balloon British guy named Dave. I wish I got to talk to Dave more he was just a super sweet and fun guy.

The challenge, everyone is handed an envelope with the same assortment of balloons inside each one. When it is time to start everyone has like 45 minutes to make something, anything and people not participating will vote for the winner.

Let me just say again, I am not an on the spot person. I know I will go down in flames but I want to just be a part of the experience.

It starts and I have no idea what to make. People are cheering me on and rooting for me but I got nothing. I had never even seen a bear head balloon before and had no idea what to do with that, lol. I ended up making a very abstract hat that I dubbed, Alien Space Fetus. It was awful, just awful, lol.

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(Behold, Alien Space Fetus! I panicked and just through stuff in before time ran out. Photo Courtesy of Graham Lee)

Everyone else was able to actually make something. Rob and Dave especially had fantastic pieces. I had the worst one and I love that I sucked so bad at this, it was hilarious. Antonio Becares Rodriguez won for his awesome spaceship he made.

( Photo below courtesy of Paul Curwen. From Right to Left: Roger, Dave, Myself, Rob, and Dan.)

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Adventures in Belgium, 1st Balloon Convention TMJ Part 3

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Day 3

It is Sunday November 8th. The world’s largest balloon Maze I believe was finished by this time.

I went through it by myself and it was amazing. I did get lost but it was perfectly made so that you got lost but you never got so lost that it was frustrating and too time consuming. Very nicely balanced and very well designed.

There were 5 secret rooms with amazaballs sculptures inside to delight the eye.

My favorite was the Hippo.

 

After I finished the maze I met up with a girl named Christine and we went off to sight see in Mol.

My biggest objective, get fries with sauce. If there is one thing I do in Belgium, it is taste sauces!

She just wants to go to a grocery market.

We go to a bus stop and she teaches me how to understand the bus schedule, lol. I have never taken a city bus before ever anywhere.

The bus drops us off at the Mol train station which seems to be in downtown Mol.

We venture out and eventually find a restaurant open after walking and walking and walking.  Since it is Sunday almost all the businesses are closed.

There are tons of shops and the buildings are all touching each other and the place is pretty dreary to me. There isn’t much color and because the buildings are endlessly connected, it just makes it feel like you are in the David Bowie movie Labyrinth.  It feels like the world is walled off to you.

I am used to open spaces and buildings spaced out with a lot more greenery everywhere.

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We order fries or Frituurs as they are called there and I tell the guy behind the counter that I want all the sauces, lol. We get 8 sauces total. We both like the Look Samurai and the Andalouse the best hands down!

I am in Heaven! I tell Christine that this is one of the happiest days of my life, lol. She thinks that is a bit sad but is happy that I am so easily pleased, lol.

I tell her just how important sauce is to me. I tell her how once my husband and I went to a very expensive  steak restaurant where the steaks were 75 dollars each. I asked for some steak sauce and the waiter scoffed at me and told me that they don’t serve sauces with their steaks. I reach into my purse for my emergency ketchup packets and strategically hide one under my napkin. I then proceed to sneak sips of ketchup while holding my napkin up to my face at intervals while eating the steak. I had to always look around me to make sure I was in the clear of waiters eyes. It was super spy ketchup time, James Bond style!

She thought I was very weird, lol. She was lovely and I had a lovely time with her.

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After the adventure in Mol we get back and just in time for the beer tasting event.

There are 7 different beers we try with different foods paired with them. There are things like green apples, cheeses, bread, prawns, pickled herring and wonderful chocolate cake. I just ate the apple, the cheese, and the cake,  lol. I hated most of the beers. It ended up with us trying a chocolate beer and I really liked it. They saved the best for last. It had just won a beer contest in Brussels earlier that day. This beer tasting took forever but it was really neat and I am glad that I got to try all the different beers, nasty ones and all.

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I got to hang out some with Addi Somekh! OMG! I got to talk to and hang out with Addi here and there. My biggest balloon hero because of his BalloonHat project! He was very laid back, very chill and very down to earth. There were some characters at this convention very caught up in their celebrity and that whole deal, worrying about their status, talking about their status, but Addi was very humble and very secure. He didn’t care about status, he cared about art. His stock as a person just went up for me at this convention. He has managed to keep a great soul despite his success. I really respect that, that speaks volumes for his character. I just thought to myself, this is who I want to be like if I ever become successful.

He just talked to everyone and anyone like nothing important was happening, lol. He was very interested in accents and their origins and history. Addi is funny in that I don’t know how to read him at all. I can’t tell how or what he is feeling at all at any given time, lol. He and his band the Unpopables played for us and performed an amazing concert. Addi showed everyone how to make a balloon bass first and then blew us all away with his band and music. It was amazing and the real deal, it was rocking and funky music and they were very polished and really into it. It was their soul out on stage 100 percent for everyone to see.

The night ended with me getting to meet Phileas Flash, Peter Van Engen and Matt Falloon. Phileas bought me a beer and was very affirming of my art and complimentary. That was really cool. Phileas had a very interesting way about complimenting me, it was unlike anyone else ever has, it was like being attacked and yet lifted up at the same time and I will just leave it at that, lol. I mean this in a light-hearted way. It wasn’t a bad attacking feeling, it was the funniest way I have ever been complimented and I loved everything he said. He is a character and a strong feeler like me and I enjoyed talking to him very much. I was very fascinated by him and I  really liked his intensity and how he is a heart on his sleeve kind of guy. He was very much a guy pulled in every direction and everyone wanted to be around him and have some of his time. He gave of himself to everyone too, at the expense of rest. He’s a great guy.

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Adventures in Belgium and 1st Balloon Convention The Millennium Jam Part 2

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Day 2 of my adventure in Belgium for TMJ.

It is Saturday Nov 7th and I really want to go sight seeing but have no idea how to go about it.

I ask people at the front desk how to get to the train station and they say by bus.

Me,  “Well how do I get to a bus?”

Front Desk, “They don’t come on the weekends.” (Which was not true!)

It was very frustrating in how I couldn’t really get good information like where to go to get on the bus and I just got totally different answers depending on who I talked to and I was thoroughly confused.

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Luckily a lovely lady attending the convention found out real details and told me how she was going to Mol on Sunday if I wanted to join her. We made plans to meet early the next day and go sight seeing a little bit in Mol.

I just had 3 goals when it came to sight seeing in Belgium.

  1. Eat Fries with lots of sauces. I found out that Belgians are saucy people and that they have 11 different sauces to dip their fries in. I live for sauce, food is just the delivery mechanism for sauce! I must try some sauces!
  2. Eat a waffle.
  3. Buy some chocolates.

After making plans I then went to eat breakfast at the breakfast buffet restaurant there at the resort. I asked if I could join some British people who were very friendly and hospitable. I got to meet Graham, Thelma, Kevin and Andy.

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Left to Right: Thelma, Kevin, Graham, Andy

I told them I was from Chattanooga and Graham makes a reference to the Chattanooga Choo Choo, we have a song about after all.

 

I tell them that even though I come from Chattanooga, I had never been on a train before until I came to Europe. This just tickled Graham especially. He just thought that was hilarious. It would be like being born in France and never having wine before until going to America, lol.

I think it was right then and there that Graham decided he liked me, I felt like I won him over from that moment.

I loved how he and Thelma made fun of me. It was in love and it made me feel at home, (my friends and husband make fun of me all the time and I love it), and they were a laugh. They both really made me feel accepted and at home, I wouldn’t have had as much fun if it wasn’t for their constant laughing at me and hospitality.

Kevin is a very colorful character and you will want to just listen to everything he says. Very sweet guy and very entertaining.

Andy is super nice and I loved his accent and voice.

If you can ever get a chance and go to a balloon event, hang out with the British balloon bunch. They are very warm and hospitable and love to laugh.

The breakfast was awesome. The croissants were way better than anything I had in the states and there were lots of cheeses. They also had cool hazelnut spread in a packet. The grape or cherry tomatoes were a ton more flavorful. I had the same breakfast everyday.

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It was fascinating to watch what other people ate and how they made sandwiches, it was totally different than what I was used to.

After breakfast I go volunteer again to keep making decorations for the lobby. Back on quick-link lines duty. I meet Marioke from Holland in the room and we work on the links together as well as a South Korean fellow named Hyun-Gu.

I have lunch with Marioke, she is just a dear of a person,  and her husband and 2 kids and we have burgers and fries and sodas. The burgers at this place I like a lot because they have a really tasty sauce that is reminiscent of a Big Mac. Note, they charge 70 cents for a single ketchup packet!

Her kiddo’s tell me they want to see this Walmart that they hear so much about and see the people that go to Walmart, lol!

They told me about Holland and I told them about the U.S. They were just lovely and super nice people.

I found it interesting that everyone who talked of wanting to go to the states, New York and Miami were the two places everyone said they wanted to go visit.

That evening I hung out with the Brits again. Graham, Thelma and this time I met a Paul who is British with the best laugh you ever heard, Lulu also British & a wonderful face painter who painted my face and Liz my Irish Mum at the convention along with her right hand gal Clare, also Irish. I met Tanya from Scotland as well.

Graham made jokes as he introduced me to people and said that I was his Best Friend even though we had only just met. He has a great wit, I wish I wrote down all the witty things he said. A little girl said it was her birthday and he said, “It’s my birthday this year too!” Things like that.

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Liz bought me my first beer. I hate beer and could never get past the first sip. I heard that they had a sweet cherry beer and so I tried that. It was called Kriek. I actually liked it!

I drank the whole beer and because I rarely drink alcohol, it affected me quite quickly. Belgian beer is also a lot stronger than American beer, the alcohol content is higher. I was very laughy. Liz said after I finished the beer, “You’re Irish Now!”

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Graham and the others were of course surprised to hear that that was my first beer ever. There were a lot of firsts for me on this trip,  I really live in a different sheltered reality,  lol. I had also never been on a city bus and rode a city bus for the first time in Europe, lol.

Me, Liz, Clare and Tanya stayed at this restaurant in the resort for hours and listened to a band play and did lots of singing along and dancing in our chairs. They were such a joy to spend time with and I just had a lovely time.

My Adventures in Belgium and First Balloon Convention, Millenium Jam Part 1

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Well, where to begin.

I had no intentions of going to The Millennium Jam, http://www.millenniumjam.com/eng/index.php, it wasn’t anything even on my radar. It is an event all the way in Belgium in Europe and I am desperately afraid to fly.

All I can say is that I was encouraged to go by someone I really admire and that that encouragement and reaching out was everything.

I even tried to self-sabotage and that same very special person wouldn’t let me do that and was really there for me. I had actually a couple balloon angels is what I will call them and I wish I could go into more detail but I can’t but if it wasn’t for these angels, I would not have gone.

I do want it to be known though how powerful our encouragements are to one another and how powerful connecting over art can be that it can cause someone like me to face one of their biggest fears which is flying and change their life forever.

I have missed funerals and weddings because of my fear of flying and this was my first time on a plane since I was 16 years old, I am now 33. I am Meg Ryan in French Kiss when it comes to flying.

I flew on a total of 6 planes on this trip!

I decided to look at this trip as a Hero’s Journey and considered it a time to find my courage.

My husband made an amazing sacrifice for me to go. Not only was the plane ticket expensive, he had to take care of our autistic daughter all on his own and be Mr. Mom while still working outside the home and being Mr. Dad. He had a very challenging week. I was gone for 9 days total. I left the U.S.A on a Thursday Nov. 5th and arrived in Sunparks, in Mol Belgium Friday Nov. 6th at about noon.

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The Hero’s Journey

http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-each-stage-of-a-hero-s-journey.html#5zc8x18E4hXq89W9.99

Stages of the Hero’s Journey

“There are twelve steps to the hero’s journey. According to the Oracle Education Foundation Library, those steps are as follows.

  1. Ordinary World: This step refers to the hero’s normal life at the start of the story, before the adventure begins.
  2. Call to Adventure: The hero is faced with something that makes him begin his adventure. This might be a problem or a challenge he needs to overcome.
  3. Refusal of the Call: The hero attempts to refuse the adventure because he is afraid.
  4. Meeting with the Mentor: The hero encounters someone who can give him advice and ready him for the journey ahead.
  5. Crossing the First Threshold: The hero leaves his ordinary world for the first time and crosses the threshold into adventure.
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: The hero learns the rules of his new world. During this time, he endures tests of strength of will, meets friends, and comes face to face with foes.
  7. Approach: Setbacks occur, sometimes causing the hero to try a new approach or adopt new ideas.
  8. Ordeal: The hero experiences a major hurdle or obstacle, such as a life or death crisis.
  9. Reward: After surviving death, the hero earns his reward or accomplishes his goal.
  10. The Road Back: The hero begins his journey back to his ordinary life.
  11. Resurrection Hero – The hero faces a final test where everything is at stake and he must use everything he has learned.
  12. Return with Elixir:  The hero brings his knowledge or the “elixir” back to the ordinary world, where he applies it to help all who remain there.”

quoting from link to website above this outline

I was in my Ordinary World and then had a Call to Adventure, it took form in a few emails and a quite literal call, lol, out of nowhere. I attempted to Refuse the Call to adventure out of fear. I had a Meeting with a Mentor who was able to encourage me and embolden me to overcome my fear and I was given advice that I needed in order to get to where I was going and I was readied, I had no idea how to get around in a different country alone and I had someone to hold my hand quite literally through it. Any excuses I could throw were dashed with solutions. Getting on that first airplane was my Crossing the First Threshold.

I had to take 3 flights to get to Brussels Airport. From Brussels I rode my first train ever to Antwerp Berchem with a couple people going to the same destination. From the train station in Antwerp we were picked up by Hank who is just a lovely wonderful character and were shuttled to the Sunparks Resort which is where the Millennium Jam was being held. I have been dying to go to a balloon convention and cannot believe still that this happened that I got to go!

I stayed in a Bungalow with a wonderful French woman named Genevieve. Day 1 was just getting there and volunteering with making decorations for the lobby, which was my first time being in a room working with other balloon artists. I was so nervous and unsure of myself, lol. I met some cool characters and it was interesting to see what balloon people were like. I just made a bunch of lines of quick links. That was pretty much it for my first day.