What the DRAG?! Why can’t I be a queen? ūüĎĎ

“Ladies and genders,

rupaul seen it all

…But I can tell you, you have NOT. The purist drag queen community is shaking on its full coverage foundation since a girl from Belgium decided to turn her brain on and ask herself a fundamental question even Quora can’t answer:

Can anyone, and therefor also ME as a woman, be a drag queen?

Old-school drag purists: (Gag)

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Now this is how it all started…

Me: As you all know I, Evelien Delgouffe, am a woman of many faces and interests. I am interested in everything that lights a little spark in my eyes and makes me forget the mess that we as humans have to face on a daily basis. Yes, I like to live in a self (wo)manifested dream world.

Therefor I am a fan of movies, series, adventure, science fiction, comics, cosplay, fantasy creatures, make-up… etc!

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And since a while, my most favorite way to let off steam after a rough day is watching 1 or 10 episodes of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’. It’s a little hard to explain, but those men dressing up as¬† queens makes me feel good about myself.

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TV-show host and drag supermodel extraordinaire: RuPaul!

You: “Ahm… About yourself Evvy?”

Me: “Well yeah, whenever I watch an episode of RuPaul I feel a small change in my behavior. As if I’m suddenly sliding down a rainbow of Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent. Feeling good about myself and my womanhood.”

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I am also inspired by the different looks and how these queens carry themselves as almost alien like, supernatural creatures.

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… Vogue-ing, parading, skedaddling, lipsync-ing and even death dropping for their lives.

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… Topped with the occasional bitch fight of course.

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I decided to take my fascination to the next level and dive deeper into this magical world of drag.

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Since I am an investigative journalist (and not a ‘wannabe’ like my arch rival Lois Lane; she’s a drag but definitely not a queen…) I decided to do my research properly.

Now, asking the question ‘Can a women be a drag queen?’ turned out to be a stupid one since 1 search entry in Google taught me that women across the planet have been dressing up as drag queens (and I don’t mean drag kings, fyi)¬†for many years.

Why didn’t I know?!

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According to my good friend Google:Picture 2018-06-02 om 09.04.02

See? ‘Artists of all sexualities’.¬†So it’s totally fine for women to dress up as drag queens too!

Well… not really.

To begin with. Female drag queens are nicknamed ‘faux queens’, which is not really a name to take pride in.

Further research taught me there’s actually an ongoing vitriol surrounding female drag queens. Old-school drag purists don’t like women to act or perform as drag queens at all and even boycot them.

You: “If men dress up as women…Doesn’t it make more sense for women to dress up¬†as men… in order to bypass that nasty ‘faux queen’ nickname?”

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Me: “Well yeah, but for me, aesthetics-wise, it is much more interesting to dress up as a drag queen and explore new depths of my femininity.”

Old-school drag purists: “But why would a woman want to parody a woman? It’s a complete oxyoxymo…. a complete TRAVESTY!”

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¬†Me: “Look errr… girl… That’s just one transvestite calling another transvestite a transvestite… You know, you really shouldn’t put people into boxes like that.”

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Me:¬†While let’s face it: drag queens would be nowhere without women AMMARIGHT?”

Old-school drag purists:

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Doing this research I suddenly realized that the idea only man can be drag queens is unfortunately also promoted by my favorite TV show. In ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’¬†only male identified drags can compete. Faux queens are not welcome. Transsexuals neither. #Dafuq?

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I wondered what RuPaul’s opinion on the topic of faux queens was. Does he actually support ladies in drag? Or not? Big was my grief when I discovered an interview of RuPaul with The Guardian in 2017 where he made the following statement:

RuPaul: ‚ÄúDrag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it‚Äôs not men doing it, because at its core it‚Äôs a social statement and a big F-you to male-dominated culture. So for men to do it, it‚Äôs really punk rock, because it‚Äôs a real rejection of masculinity.‚ÄĚ

Old-school drag purists:

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In the meantime RuPaul has publicly changed his opinion on the topic but still, coming from an LGBTQ ambassador, it was quite a controversial thing to say. Why should drag queen-ing be a ‘men-only’ sport?

Old-school drag purists:

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“I’m sorry Miss Delgouffe but we have to stop you right there: why would you even bother to do drag up? Why would you emulate what you AL-READY are? What is the illusion???”

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Me: “I’m pretty sure when I cover my eyebrows with a glue stick and draw on new ones, that’s called an illusion…”

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Old-school drag purists: “Funny how women always depend on men to give the right example.”

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silence

RuPaul: “The time has come for you to form a conclusion, Evelien.”

Me: “Well hang on RuPaul, let me just call up a dear friend of mine to close this case on my behalf…”

how this turns out

*Drrrriiiiiiiing driiiiiingg*

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Me: “Miss G, I urgently need your help on something. Could you come to RuPaul’s ‘Werk Room’ real quick?”

(5 min later)

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Me: “Queens, I present to you the only woman who has ever been really accepted for performing as a drag queen. Bow down for the one and only…. LADY GAGA!!!”

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Me: “Now that I have all you queens’ attention. I would like to let this marvelous artist explain to you what drag, regardless of gender, is all about to her:

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(Thank you hellogiggles.com for the nice layout of this immortal Lady Gaga quote)

Me: “See? We are all looking to fill up voids in our lives. Whether it’s with money or with glitter. We are all eager to lift ourselves to the most fabulous echelons of whatever universe we want to belong to. Faux queens or real queens, in drag there is no room for misogyny, sexism nor racisme.”

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“It’s about expressing what femininity means to us and defying sex-role stereotypes. It’s about art and performance. Whether it’s political, aesthetical or just satirical or for entertainment purposes. It shouldn’t be a ‘boys only club’ since we have so much to learn form each other.”

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“Let us try to see drag as ‚Äėgenderless‚Äô until it becomes the new norm and (meno)pause this ongoing bitch fight right here.”

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“Or to say it with the words of a wise wo-man:”

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Me: “Heu…well thanks Momma Ru, but I actually meant that other thing you always say…”

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EEEEEEEEEEEEXACTLY

Now can I get an Amen up in here?

mother ru approves

Disclaimer:
This blog post was a sponsored feel good message brought to you by ‘I don’t give a Tuck’.¬†You can be a beautiful individual no matter what. Appearance and good looks are mostly a matter of behavior and perception. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then add on as many illusions as you want until YOU, the beholder in the mirror, finally feels comfortable with what you see…PS: The Kardashians do it every day.

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After publishing this blog only one drag queen has decided to take a step back (…)

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…But now that the rest of the purist drag community has opened the boundaries, all¬†‘femme bodied individuals who want to try on drag every once and a while, for real or just for fun’ are more than welcome to play along!¬†

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As for me, I thought about where drag will take me. Since ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ maybe isn’t that representative for my understanding of the drag art, I will take my interest just a tiiiiiiiiiny step further….

…By going to a show in my local area and hope someone mistakes me for a real guy!

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To be continued?

All in favor say AAAYE!

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XO

 

 

EXCLUSIVE! Star reporter Lois Lane sits down with the debased Evelien Delgouffe: “My book is good… to light my coffin”

Whatever happened to that talented girl that blew us all away in 2016 by traveling the world in search of that little thing called happiness. From Toronto to Tokio people could follow her every step on her widely acclaimed blog ‘Backpackersguidefortheblondeandtheclueless.com’ with weekly posts, updates and harvested wisdom. But after she moved to Berlin, things got quiet around Evelien Delgouffe. And now, my esteemed colleague seems to have completely disappeared from the radar.

Friday 25th of May, a true story written by Lois Lane.
Text by: Lois Lane
Written by: Lois Lane
In case you forgot who wrote this text: Lois Lane 

LOIS CLARK THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN

A tragic life story, is what people call it.¬†Evelien’s lasts words on her blog date from November 2017 with that subversive, 5000 words too long read about Star Wars. Already then people whispered that Evelien was spiraling down to ‘coo coo ville’, potentially even leaning over to the dark side.

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One of her lasts pictures in Berlin. Clearly spiraling out of control.

Her peers in Asse, where she was born, haven’t heard from her. And also her parents have no clue where their daughter is. “That’s Evelien, she always disappears when she’s fed up with things.”

Does she still live in Berlin? Is she currently battling a heroin addiction? Did she suffer a small heart attack on her bike in Ibiza like that other promising Berlinoise Nico?

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After months of research I -Lois Lane- suddenly found a trace that had lead me from Asse (Belgium) to Gatineau (Canada) over Tooperang (Australia) and eventually Germany. Evelien is still alive. And yes, she is still living in Berlin. But it’s not where she was last seen. The upscale neighborhood where she first moved to has been replaced by one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city… Evelien Delgouffe currently lives in a crack house in Neuk√∂lln which she shares with a handful of trippy drag queens, one one-legged pirate, the songwriter of ’99 Luftballons’ and other creatures from the underground. And I don’t mean the Velvet Underground. There’s something rotten in Berlin and it’s much worse than the pop art bananas of Andy Warhol…

(FYI: I, Lois Lane, am still top banana) 

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On a Tuesday afternoon I meet Evelien in her humble abode. It took me a while to convince her to do this interview, but then she said she would do anything for a quick look at her Instagram account, since that was her favorite pastime before she hit rock bottom.

“I’ve lost 12 followers”, she grunts.¬†“I thought I had become a legend by now… But I guess I am officially a hasbeen…”

Lois: “Could you tell us what has happened to you, Evelien?”

Evelien: “What difference does it make…”

Lois: “People want to know if you’re alright and if they can help.”

Evelien: “People huh? People can fuck right off. I’m done with people.”

She removes some pieces of cardboard from the floor to dig up a rusty tin box and opens it. As far as my knowledge goes, there seems to be something inside that looks like a crack pipe… Or possibly a shriveled baby carrot… She takes out a ready-rolled cigarette and a package of matches and places the cigarette in the left corner of her mouth. She grabs a piece of paper and lights it with a match. The paper bursts into flames, which she then uses to light her cigarette. After one second all that’s left of the piece of paper is chunks of dark grey ashes on the floor.

Later I, Lois Lane, would learn she used a page of her own book to light that cigarette.

Evelien: “I also re-use the pages sometimes to make LSD. Or whenever I’m out of toilet paper. Or when I want to cut (…)”

“You see that guy over there with the needle in his arm? That’s Yuri… He composed ’99 Luftballons’ in the late eighties on those little kids’ pianos. He was only 4 years old at that time.”

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“He thought it would become his golden ticket to showbusiness, but he never got any acclaim for it. He ended on the street. Broke and creatively sodomized. He can’t stand the song ever since and goes crazy every time he hears it.”

Lois: “Maybe we shouldn’t mention it too loud then…”

Evelien: “Don’t worry, he has ripped out his ear canal 20 years ago…”

Lois: (Gulp)

Evelien: “You’re wasting your time here Miss Lane. I’m sure there’s better stories to stick your perky nose into.”

Lois: “I am not the only one who wonders how a talented young woman like you has ended up in a crack house like this. You were a promising writer. Remember your birthday last year? You were so proud to have finished your very first book. Your debut as an author.”

Evelien: “My book… My book is good to light cigarettes… and one day my coffin.”

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Lois: “But why?”¬†

Evelien: “It’s not the city Lois, it’s life. Life swallows you up. You learn from your mistakes only to make them over and over again. I don’t have time to sit down with you and smell your expensive perfume. I was once like you. Always dressed to the nines, as if I came straight from the hairdresser every day. But I have quit that life a long time ago Lois. Never will I be remembered for my immaculate beauty. Forever will I be remembered for my failure and my rotting body and brain. Now get out of here and never come back.”

When I walked out of the room, Evelien called my name. I turned around and she said:

Evelien: “Lois, you have always been a better reporter than me. Please take my place. You have my blessing.”

And that’s the last I, and thus the rest of the world, heard of Evelien Delgouffe.

In case you forgot: My name is Lois Lane. The only real reporter out there. 

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Me: “That TRAMP!”

That Lois Lane is out to ruin me! Ever since I started out as a journalist in 2011 she has been trying to sabotage my career. First by sleeping with Superman and now by creating fake stories. This is nothing more than a disgusting smear campaign!

I call together a press conference!

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To my dear readers, followers, friends and family: I know I have been absent from this blog but that’s only because I have been very busy being REALLY REALLY HAPPY.

  • I am not living in a crack house with the author of ’99 Luftballons’,
  • I am not lighting cigarettes with pages of my book. (Although I did think about it once…),
  • I am still very much working as a freelance journalist/copywriter so if you want the best content, it is still ME you should contract and not that shade throwing palmtree of a Lois Lane. She’s just bitter because she got fired from ‘The Daily Planet’ after they found out she was earning money on the side as a stripper.

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This is why I declare ‘Backpackersguidefortheblondeandtheclueless’ officially as re-opened for business. I will not promise I will blog every week like I used to, but expect more frequent updates from my side with fresh memes, gifs, puns and adventures!

Auf wienerschnitzel boys and gurls!

Stay tuned for more jaw dropping, straw missing, air sipping content to come!

XO

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BLONDE & B R O K E in Berlin: how to tackle food cost?

How to survive on a budget in one of the coolest cities on the planet? 

Find out in the following bit!

So as you know I am now free living and freelancing in Berlin. I am not near the point where I make shit loads of money YET¬†(especially if you have read what happened to me in the previous post) so that’s why I have to tackle my money business in a clever way.

(…) Me going to Ibiza for 4 days probably wasn’t the cleverest of ideas but I considered it more to be an investment since I had the time of my life with people I love and care for. Bonus points for mental health yo!¬†

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The traveling threesome ‚̧

But this cannot mean I can go on a Spree. No matter how close I live to this river (…)

The truth is:¬†Good things in life don’t come for free so I have to really think about what I spend and if that correlates with what I get out of it.

For instance: I could stop eating. That way I don’t have to spend money.

True. But there is no point in not taking care of my body as I don’t want to get sick as I don’t want to spend money on doctors and medical bills. Hm, do I even have insurance, I wonder?

So I have made some calculations and I have estimated myself a 15 euro allowance per day to spend on ‘surviving’ (rent not included). With this I can anticipate in basic needs. Food and beverages come first. That should be more than enough right?

Rrrright… But when I need toiletries, laundry soap or tickets for public transportation this also has to come from the same allowance which means I have to do some creative shifting here and there.

Especially in case I would want to buy shoes or clothes. LUCKILY I stopped buying that shit ages ago!¬†I don’t feel like spending money (considering the previous mentioned correlation theory) on things I don’t really need. I’m usually ahead of fashion any ways (:-p) so I much rather put my money where my mouth is.

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Okay, so how to tackle food cost in Berlin? Actually it’s pretty darn easy…

  • EXPLORE DISCOUNT PARADISE
    Germany is ‘Die Heimat’ of Lidl and Aldi. So if you want to hit the jackpot involving discount shopping: you’re in the right place. Next to those you also have Penny, Netto, Kaiser’s and Kaufland. I suggest you visit them all and see where you can nibble some extra cents of certain products. Believe you me, it’s the ‘LIDL’ things that count!
  • RECYCLE YOUR BOTTLES¬†
    This one is a little trick to actually earn money. When you buy plastic bottles in the shop you can collect them in a machine and get 0,25 euro back per bottle. Glass bottles are worth 0,08 euro a pop. So be wise and recycle yo! It’s good for the environment and for your wallet. But for the sake of ‘N√§chstenliebe‘: when you find empty ¬†bottles or cans in the street or in the metro, leave them for the homeless so they can have a little pocket money too.
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  • MAKE FRIENDS WHO INVITE YOU FOR DINNER
    It’s always advised to make friends. Especially when they have a kitchen and a big fridge. Dinner parties are pleasant, cozy and budget friendly.

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    You can bring a cheap bottle of wine if you feel like returning a favor. These days even a nice bottle of biological Italian wine from the BIOMARKT costs only 2,90 euros.
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    It’s even nicer when you cook together with a bunch of people! This way you can have a gorgeous round of cooking and split the costs all together.

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    Cooking with honey, I mean, Hany

    Big meals are much cheaper than cooking for 1. Life for a single gal not only comes with a price, it’s also pricey!

  • GO TO THE MARKET
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    Why would you want to pay 3 euros for 1 avocado when you can pay 3 euros for a bunch of avocados? Der Genter Wochenmarkt (U-bahn Leopoldplatz) is an insider tip for your fruit and veggie fix. It has been a well kept secret for over 80 years now. Be prepared for some old fashioned market trader shouting as well as a big crowd of customers. You can find everything here from a new zipper to a vitamin boost. You can have a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice for 1 euro. Only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

 

 

 

  • FAST¬†
    Coming back to the ‘not eating part’ here. Actually that’s not a bad idea at all. I have done some research on the matter and there is compelling evidence that skipping one meal a day actually improves physical and mental health. There is a whole nutritional war going on right now aiming to bring down the breakfast lobby.¬†It’s all just a bunch of marketing from Captain Oats and Tony The Tiger. I feel most energetic and productive in the morning when my body solely runs on black coffee. I have a whole storage cabinet of fat cells for my body to tap into, so I’m sure I won’t starve from skipping one meal a day.
  • DOWNLOAD ‘TOO-GOOD-TO-GO’¬†unnamed
    This is absa-fucking-lutely brilliant. It’s an app – you can download it in the German iTunes Store for free – where restaurants offer leftovers at a ridiculously low price. It’s a great way to cut down food cost as well as food waste and to be more sustainable in regards to the planet. Basically this app is doing everyone involved a HUGE favor.
  • EAT OUT
    This may sound a little contradictory but in most cases going out for dinner can be cheaper than buying ingredients and cooking a meal for 1. Compared to Antwerp, Berlin is much cheaper to eat out. You can easily find a big healthy meal between 4 to 7 euros.¬†And there are so many healthy choices including a lot of vegan options. Vegan cuisine is big in Berlin. I get my vegan fix at VEGO in LychenerstraBe (Prenzlauer Berg). In this neighborhood there is a wide array of restaurants -especially Asian- who offer alternative vegan or vegetarian dishes. For vegan cocktails you must go to ‘Chaostheorie’ in SchliemannstraBe and on the corner with LettestraBe you have to swing by ‘Wohnzimmerbar’ for the vegan soup of the day or a nice soy latte. Creative, cute and cozy! My favorite work spot to date! Speaking of dates….

    (Left: vegan burgers at VEGO; Right: cozy outings at Wohnzimmerbar)

  • GO ON A DATE¬†!
    If chivalry isn’t dead, you will be golden with this one. Meet a guy for drinks, have a nice talk and maybe go for a little bite to eat, charm him with your magical charming wand and before you know it he picks up the tab and you don’t have to spend one nickel. It happened to me twice already, and I wasn’t even doing it on purpose. Every time I went out, the guy picked up the tab. It was twice at Kreuzburger though… which usually doesn’t cost more than 5 or 6 euros. Tofu burgers cost a little bit more than meat ones :-p
  • LAST BUT NOT LEAST: ALWAYS KEEP EYES AND EARS OPEN
    A good insider tip might just be one station away…bestplace-berlin-amen-01

If you stick to these basic ‘budget hacks’ you will hardly burn through your daily allowance. When this is the case I like to treat myself to a yummy coffee somewhere… Preferably with a little side order of brain food.

There is always money for a little comic relief. 
“Swallow me whole”, that’s exactly what that vegan bowl at ‘the Commonground’ said to me later that night!¬†

If you want to check all of this out for yourself: there is currently an amazing offer to come to Berlin practically for FREE!

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3 days in a 4 star hotel including breakfast (that damn breakfast lobby) for only ‚ā¨49,50! @vakantiepiraten.nl

Come and live FREE with ME next to the SPREE!

It is such a GREAT city!! ‚̧ ‚̧ ‚̧

XO

*BERLIN HIGHLIGHTS* part 3 : Mauerpark and Bearpit Karaoke

Previous posts I told you I would share with you the THREE highlights of my recent THREE day THREESOME trip to Berlin.

The traveling threesome being:

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(From L-R: my roommate @cedriclav, his boyfriend @michaelvdp80 and me @eveliendelgouffe)

Third and final highlight: Mauerpark! 

#genau!

So to wrap it up: after our night out in Berghain (2nd Berlin highlight) I went to a spinning class @ BECYCLE 4 hours later (1st Berlin highlight) and we had a big fr√ľhst√ľck¬†in Commonground. After that we went for a stroll along the Kastanienallee and found our way to : MAUERPARK

Actually meaning ‘wall park’, Mauerpark used to be the place where the Berlin Wall separated the neighborhoods Wedding (West Berlin) and Prenzlauer Berg (East Berlin) during the Cold War. Now, and especially on Sundays, this is the favorite recreational hangout for locals, tourists, basketball players, gypsies, wanderers AND TRAVELING THREESOMES… to enjoy the flea market, numerous food stands and barbecues and overall good vibes.

It was a particularly hot and sunny day and a lot of people were having a good time in the park. It was like the Glastonbury festival but without the commercial branding and mud and with much more hippies and gypsies floating around. Love and peace yo!

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I experienced a genuine Woodstock vibe, (…) or how I picture it¬†must have looked like.

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People were smiling, dancing, eating, drinking, … and SINGING.

On strategic points singer-songwriters had put down their guitar case, wired up a microphone and started to connect to people through their very own bedroom-made music. Some had a lot of onlookers and fans straight away. Others¬†had to put in a little extra effort… I¬†particularly liked this girl who was mixing ‘Cater to U’ from Destiny’s Child into some crazy alternative dance tune. Her name is FriDa MallOo. Check out her¬†soundcloud here.

But the musical highlight of our THREESOME SUNDAY STROLL was undoubtedly the BEARPIT KARAOKE.

We arrived at the park at around 3pm when we saw a flock¬†of people installing themselves at¬†the stone amphitheatre. We figured there would be some theater thing or a hocus pocus show¬†for kids so we didn’t really give it much attention at first but after half an hour it was pretty clear more people were checking it out and there was a very enthusiastic crowd.

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One guy holding a mic was cheering them up. We found out his name is Joe Hatchiban, a guy from Dublin. Back in 2009 he and some friends hit upon the idea of cycling around the city with his new cargo bike, equipped with a speaker, laptop and microphone, trying to film people doing karaoke. ¬†(=> Why does every genius idea involve a bicycle? ūüôā )

He and his portable, battery-powered boxes have been helping people to unleash their deepest feelings ever since.

Visitors¬†from all over the globe can seize their 3 minutes of fame and take part in this afternoon’s installment of a Berlin phenomenon.

Without fear of being laughed at or harshly criticized.¬†Bearpit singers nearly always get huge rounds of supportive applause, especially when they’re good, but also if they simply come across as nice people.

For the past 18 years millions of visitors and locals have been flocking to the open-air karaoke sessions on Sunday afternoons in the Mauerpark, which stretches along part of the former death strip between East and West Berlin.

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Here I am facing a 800 m strip of the Berlin Wall still standing in the park today as a monument, and a popular place for graffiti artists to paint and display their work.

We watched the show for hours and hours. There was such a good vibe and people were so supportive for one¬†another, it was beyond¬†anything I had ever experienced. It was a glimpse of a perfect world. With no rejection, superiority or judgement. This was a sweet sweet lovin sensation. A mexican¬†papi letting his true emotions out with ‘Purple Rain’, some chick from Kansas belting out ‘Rolling in the Deep’ by Adele, a girl in a wheelchair performing ‘Numb’ by Linkin Park. It was just so nice to see all this people connecting and supporting each other. Goosebumps and watery eyes¬†guaranteed with the 1500 onlookers. Including us.

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Crying away behind our sunglasses.

So much history took place on this stretch of land. So much separation, discrimination, hate and repression. Death too. It was good to see Berlin is building bridges instead of walls.

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Or walls of togetherness in this case.

It was a perfect ending to a perfect THREE DAY THREESOME TRIP. I couldn’t have wished for a better way for this trip to come about. I had my cycling fun, I had my breakfast fun, I danced in my bra in the most infamous club in the world and I enjoyed a world of fun at the park on Sunday.

I’m hooked!

Ich bin ein BerLIENer!

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Thanks for reading and supporting the ‚̧ here @ Backpackersguidefortheblondeandtheclueless.com

And especially for you, let’s give it up for yourself for a round of BEARPIT KARAOKE with an appropriate feel good song! :

TAKE IT AWAY GIRLS AND BOYS!

XO

 

My ride. My fight. My life

In my last blog post I dropped the bomb on you by coming out of the closet with my resignation.

(Flashback)

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I’ve been getting some mixed reactions on that decision, but that’s okay. I still stand behind my choice. I haven’t been happier really. I have found the perfect balance between Work, Well-being and Writing. Something a lot of my colleagues are struggling with nowadays. I recognize that struggle and am happy I found my own way of balancing¬†it out rationally.

Because, let’s be honest, I’m not going to make a decision like that and not have some kind of plan or idea of what’s next.

pla

But first things first.

At the end of 2016 I came up with a little challenge for myself.

I just got back from months of traveling and I wanted to sink my teeth in a new adventure. With the money I saved up from working at the bar I bought my first ever race bike and I decided to participate in amateur road races.

I have been hanging around in cycling environments since 2014. And riding a bike myself, has always triggered me since then.

With the help of Golazo, Energy lab and all the good advice I could collect from friend-cyclists, cycling journos and family members I kicked off.

Once I started training I realized there would be a long way ahead for me to actually participate in amateur competitions.

So I decided to participate¬†in bigger road races first. Since they’re more focused on the experience and endurance. And less on rankings.

My training started in November, a little later than planned since I was still struggling with moving out of my apartment and stabilizing here in Antwerp after being on the road for so long.

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My first indoor mileage.

Then in December, I got the chance to go to Canada for three weeks and my schedule got postponed again.

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Neglecting my diet.

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Smoking the Christmas tree…

I was back in the saddle by January 10th. Combining trainings with working at the car show in Brussels for 10 days straight. It was a grueling attack on my limbs,

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but I had to get started since I was supposed to ride a big cycling event and I had less than 3 months to get ready.

There were times I panicked. Hyperventilated. There were times I lost faith. But at least three times a week, I was on my bike. Before shifts I rode 1 – 2 hours. And on Sundays I did long runs from 3 – 5 hours.

The big problem was, since I had never rode a racing bike before, I was scared to go outside in winter. I was scared to fall and get injured. So most of the time I was training indoors. On rollers…

Even though you build up a decent condition and muscle strength, it doesn’t help you to get balance and core stability on the road.

I knew I had to go outside asap. But I was fucking terrified of my clip-less pedals.

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I use a three-bolt clip-in system aka “the deathheads”.

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These things could proper kill you.

Apparently everyone is a little scared of them at first. It involves a little bit of a learning curve.

Of course I realized that a little too late….

Without testing them thoroughly, I immediately went for a first ride on a sunny afternoon.

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Clipped-in selfie taking. This is living on the edge!

I was riding for about 20 minutes when I had to make a stop at a busy crossroad. With the traffic lights being on red, I had made an excellent stop. I had put my left foot down, with my right foot still clipped in. As I was standing there for five minutes, waiting to lift off again, I realized there would be no way of crossing this busy road without pressing the pedestrian button. This button, however, was on the other side of the pillar. So I slowly maneuvered my way to it. While I was doing this, I started to lose my balance, tried to counter this by using my right foot, forgetting I was still clipped in and BAM!

There I was horizontally at the side of the road with my bike still attached to my feet while cars were racing by. I got back up and got away with some light bruising. I figured it was best to have that inevitable fall out of the way in order to improve myself on the road.

I continued my ride and didn’t fall after.

I figured I was ready for the next step.

I still regret the¬†day I thought this….

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So blonde & clueless…

Next Sunday, I called up my parents to go explore some bits of the road race I was about to attend in a couple of weeks. I hand picked out some of the heaviest climbs. Since I figured I had to know them in order to ride them. We went to the ‘Muur’ or¬†‘Wall’ of Geraardsbergen. A steep street paved with cobblestones, climbed every year by cyclists during the Tour of Flanders.

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The Muur is about 1K long. I started off great. I was cycling up and up and up. With every turn the road got steeper and steeper. At one point it felt as if all the power was flowing out of my legs. And they just turned into stone. I panicked, because I realized I was stuck to my bike and getting out of clip-less pedals on a steep climb would be total suicide. At least for a beginner like me.

I got out with one shoe but my weight fell on the other side, wanting to find support on my right foot but that one was still clipped in.

I smacked onto the cobbles like a bag of Belgian potatoes. The horizontal cyclist, I am.

I got back up again and fell over again! Getting back in the saddle¬†on a steep climb with clip-less pedals is total suicide number 2. At least for a beginner like me…

I was starting to think this training ride was a bad idea.

A+ for guts. D- for cleverness.

But I didn’t come here to just quit. So I rode back. To the bottom of the Wall. And tried again. On my way down I fell again. Trust me, falling over and over again really weighs on your mental state of being. I was feeling pissed off and I was starting to feel really scared and insecure of my riding skills. Also: I was trashing my bike like crazy. My steering wheel was already crooked.

As I tried again I climbed and climbed and climbed and at the point where I fell over before, I anticipated and tried to get out of my pedals faster. I figured that would be a good exercise. But same thing happened. The fall was even more spectacular this time. I didn’t even feel like getting back¬†on my bike again. I was so displeased, I walked my way down on my stupid clown shoes and called it a day.

My parents were there waiting for me and were worried about me participating after what they had just witnessed. Since this day was a measure for nothing, we figured we might¬†get something out of it while enjoying¬†some traditional ‘mattentaarten‘.

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A sweet pastry, made with matten paste or cheese curd. Something Geraardsbergen is very famous for. Something that could compensate this total waste of energy.

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The disappointment is real.

On my way back home I felt like shit.

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What was I thinking? You can’t¬†tame a mustang just like that.

Did Jake just randomly jump on his Ikran and fly away? Don’t think so.

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I have to make the bond (starting 00:30sec) if I want to live and tell my grandkids.

First I need to gain confidence on my bike, being outdoors. Only then I can try on the climbs clipped-in. Starting with the little hills. Then the big monuments.

I need to fucking learn how to walk before I can run.

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Then it dawned on me. One year ago I was riding bikes in Australia and China. On the left side of the road with kangaroos crossing, through busy Chinese streets with no traffic rules whatsoever. Was I scared then? No way. Why? Because I was wearing sneakers.

If this is the only thing weighing me down for this challenge, then why should I risk hurting myself, my bike or other people participating? If I’m not confident on my bike, because of those clip-ins then this race would be total mayhem for me and everyone involved. I couldn’t take that chance. I much rather have my full confidence and lose all the¬†pulling advantage clip-less pedals offer. My strength is in my legs and mind anyway.

After feeling bad for a day or two, I regained confidence. I had no other choice. I had decided to ride an other road race the week before my big challenge. I figured it would be a good final rehearsal. The ride would be 90 K. But the furthest milage outside (the hundreds and hundreds of kilometers on my rollers not included) was 25 K!

So the day before the race I went to Linkeroever to warm up.

And did a 50 K ride in a little over 2 hours.

Turned out it was a good preparation because the next day I managed to complete the 90 K in Gent-Wevelgem. The final 40 K I had to face tough wind which really pulled down my average speed. But another participant warned me in advance and advised me to spread my strength.

Type Gerrit from Bavikhove .

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“Make sure to save your strength. The final 40 K there’s heavy wind.”

Roger that! My team mates from Cyclokorsakov were already putting the muscle in the mustard from minute one. But after 17 minutes I detached from my group and rode solo for the rest of the race. Also facing the wind solo. My neck and shoulders were cramping up so bad from battling Mother Nature. The final 10 K were killing me. I was hoping to find a fat arse to tug myself behind. But Gerrit was nowhere to be seen.

One minute out of wind can make a world of difference for your recovery.

That and many other things I learned from that first official ride.

  • Don’t grab your drinking bottle during descents, for example.
  • Nor on cobble stones.
  • Also don’t bite your tongue on cobbles or you’ll bite it right off.
  • Always warn if there’s a car coming. And make flight attendant gestures with your hands to make other points across.
  • Make sure you drink enough to avoid muscle cramps. I made sure I had a sip every 15 minutes. I had one water bottle with me and one bottle filled with some hydrate mix to provide¬†me with the necessary salts and minerals during my workout.

At provision there’s also a chance to refill your water bottle. And at Gent-Wevelgem there¬†were big tanks with green stuff to keep you energized too. It looked as if the Ghostbusters had put Slimer in different containers.¬†It smelled like the eighties too.

After 4 hours and 30 minutes in the saddle I reached the finish and it felt as if the weight of the world fell of my shoulders. I was extremely pleased with my result and felt ready for my big challenge the week after.

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I knew I would have to dose my efforts in the week to come, though. Especially since I had to work and stand on my legs all day.

On Wednesday I went for a nice and easy 30 K ride.

And on Friday I did a quick recovery ride of only 45 minutes.

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On my rollers. For old time’s sake…

I was almost ready for my big adventure. Almost. I just needed to loosen up the muscles and fill my energy tank with some healthy greens.

Luckily there was a fresh juice shop right at the end of the street where the massage place is.

=> Antwerp Thai Massage, Museumstraat 8, 2000 Antwerp
=> Fruxino, Museumstraat 1, 2000 Antwerp 

I had one more day¬†at the bar …

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And then it was off to bed! I had set my alarm clock at 5 am. I wanted to be at the start at 7 and it is advisory to eat at least 2 hours before commencing a training or a race. 5 minutes before the start I like to eat an energy bar to keep me energized until the first provision. Usually two hours in.

I had 1 cup of coffee an two shots of espresso to give me that extra energy boost. The good thing about coffee is that it makes you hyper. The bad thing is that it makes you have to pee faster. And with bib shorts, that’s not an easy thing to do. For evident reasons…

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APRIL 1st, D DAY 

I felt like a clueless soldier rowing a boat to Normandy, signing up for a suicide job.

Due to some delay on the way, some administration and a pee break at the start, I left at 8 instead of 7am. It was raining, a little bit cold, and the sky was 50 shades of grey.

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The first 30 K were psychological warfare. My goal was still a long way ahead of me and I wasn’t feeling confident I would make it.¬†I wasn’t impressed with my legs, I was losing precious time on the climbs and the cobbles, and I realized¬†I would be in the saddle for at least 6-8 hours. I was trying to pep talk myself into it but I missed the clue on why I was doing this.

#clueless.

At 30 K we had our first provision and there I made the click.

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At provision you can find¬†all kinds of food displayed for you. It’s easy to overindulge. I am still experiencing which foods benefit me and which don’t, but I find gingerbread to be easy digestible and quite enjoyable too. So at the first provision I had a slice of gingerbread and a cereal bar and a sip of orange energy drink.

At 77 K we had another provision right before the Koppenberg. There, I figured I would be in need of plenty of fast sugars so I ate a slice of gingerbread, a sugar waffle and a slice of banana. I also stretched for 2 minutes since I was experiencing some mild strain in my lower back.

The sugar sure did it’s job (not on the Koppenberg, since there were too many people and everybody had to walk up) but in my fifth hour I conquered 3 climbs in a row. I was impressed. It felt as if I had pressed a hidden power button.

During my final provision at 100 K I had a light meal consisting of 1 banana and 1 orange.

I was carrying a Powerbar which would come in handy in my final hour.

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I can’t stress¬†the¬†importance to stay hydrated enough. You lose a lot of water during an intense workout and your muscles need this to recover. I tried to drink¬†a sip of water with some added minerals each 15-20 minutes. As a result I stayed¬†surprisingly fresh. Even after six hours I still wasn’t tired of riding.

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Especially since I saw some riders at the side of the road bending over, rubbing their legs, pointing at their bikes, being too stiff to pick them up. I also saw a lot of riders being carried away by ambulances with broken bones. Also on the climbs riders fell over due to their clip-less pedals.

I knew the 141 K was in reach. The finish line was pulling me in like a lasso. The last 10 K, right after the impossible Paterberg, I was racing to the finish line at 30 K/hour. I felt so energized, I just had to give my all and ride myself empty until the very end.

I was living in my head the entire time. I was seeing flashbacks of my life. Of this past year. How, EXACTLY one year ago, I was riding a bike in Beijing.

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And how, today, I was riding my own race bike during Flanders’ most beautiful road race. Over paved cobble stones where Gilbert, Van Avermaet, Boonen and Sagan would suffer (and even¬†fall) the next day.

I was amazed about how my life keeps taking unexpected, but exciting turns. And how much it energizes me.

I couldn’t be happier with where I am today.

From the chain smoking journo I used to be. To the independent world explorer I became. And the Sporty Spice I am now. What a rollercoaster ride it has been.

And it felt great I was doing all this on my NIKES.

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These sneakers have led me over mountain tops in Australia, through rough roads in Tasmania and through intense Kung Fu training in China. The CHI is in these shoes. And that April 1st, the CHI was with me. Shifu Gao, my Kung Fu friends (Celine, Audrey and many more), Tasmanian Cannibal Helmut, Sammy and all my other Tooperang farm friends, Goedele and Nairn, my gorgeous girl Steph … all of them were there to encourage me and push me over that finish line.

I was pleased with the symbolism. It made the circle complete. It almost brought me to tears.

All because of a pair of iconic sneakers.

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First never follows. I like doing things my way. Make my own rules. Blonde/Clueless-style. I’m stubborn like cobbles.

Mac Miller

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I know there’s a lot of undiscovered potential inside of me. Inside all of us.

And I am going to explore this to the (Air) max.

On and off the bike. Who knows what other things¬†I am capable of. It feels rewarding to discover myself in new ways. And I couldn’t be more proud of where I am today.

Once I reached the finish I was so pleased with my rodeo, I just wanted to fall into my parents’ arms and hug them. Too bad they were nowhere to be seen. I found them 45 minutes later napping in the car 5 K from the finish…¬†emoji

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They made it up to me by taking me out for dinner immediately. I needed to refuel and it’s best to do this somewhere between 1 and 120 minutes¬†after¬†your workout.

refuel

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Taking this to bed.

The next day I enjoyed washing my bike and watching the Tour of Flanders for pros.

I was happy to see Gilbert win. And to have Greg as his runner-up. I also think Niki is kinda cool too. I love to hear him talk.

The Tour of Flanders had a fairy tale ending in many ways.

I’m going to enjoy the moment for the days to come, and keep on training and riding. Next goal is to get better, faster and stronger on the bike.

Time to master that clip-less pedal learning curve. Helmets and seatbelts on everybody.

Can I clip it?

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Yes I can!

Peace out

XO

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