Monday, March 30, 2009

two guys in a cage

Sébastien who made me meet the sharks (no, it's not me on the pic, blockhead! [to answer the e-mail of a reader, I will not publish any pic of my face... not for the moment]

For the French version, click here

So… Yes, I did see the Great White Sharks. And I’m telling you, it is an amazing experience. If you had told me, let’s say… a week ago, that I’d be out on the open sea, to do cage diving, I’d had thought you were losing your mind.
Gansbaai is a unique place – a 2 hours drive from Cape Town – a fishermen’s village that has become a worldwide attraction as far as sharks and whales are concerned; a quiet town where one can relax away from the sound and fury of the city.
Last Saturday, I got a warm welcome from Sarah and Jonathan at restaurant De la Mer. I am grateful to have met them, and other lovely people too. There was this French guy who had just arrived a few hours earlier from Cape Town. He didn’t speak a word of English and had dinner by himself. Sarah felt sorry for him and tried her best to make him feel comfortable. Jonathan and Sarah asked me to talk to him and invite him to our table to share a drink.
That’s how Sébastien and I met.
He came to Gansbaai to see the Great White Sharks. Taking pictures and videos almost every day. When he asked me: do you want to come? I hesitated. But not long.
At about 6 in the morning, I was at the shark company, feeling like a kid waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney. But instead of having Legos, I got an opportunity to meet sharks. (Thank you Jonathan for the wonderful, toothy present).
Once you’ve put on your life jacket, you embark on the boat and say your last prayers. The rising sun spreading its flames on a calm ocean was as unforgettable as was seeing the Great Whites. We were a dozen people who had come for the thrill of being face to face with wilderness for once in our lives.
As for Sébastien, it was not once but nine times. And each time was sheer excitement, so he told me. On a trip like this, one only needs a swimsuit and one’s eyes wide open. One does not have to go into the cage as one can see the sharks from the deck, but one can’t go back home with regrets, so you might as well get into the cage. After slipping into the wetsuit and diving gear they’re handing out, you get into the water, hold on to the red bars, look carefully at the yellow thingee at the end of the rope and wait. It’s like fishing. You must be patient.
So… what do two French guys talk about in a cage while waiting for the Great Whites to come and show their huge mouths? When I helped this woman who was freezing and had water in her mask, Sébastien had this “don’t take advantage of the situation” little laugh. I said: what do you want me to do with a woman? A seagull filled the silence with its cries. Oh, he answered, is that why you got away? Oh no, everyone knows. It’s just that I felt it wasn’t my life I was living. Then the man on the boat shouted: Down! Down! Down! Here comes a big one.
It was approximately 3 meters long. It swam so close to the cage that one could not miss it. I felt absolutely mesmerized. You’ve only seen them on television and now you are in the same waters, just inches away from this fearful predator. It came right at us, showing us its serrated bladelike teeth, took the bait it was not supposed to take, and left.
Yes, I think I’ll give it another go before I go back to Cape Town.

(the shark got stuck in the rope, but don’t worry, it managed to free itself, it deserved the lunch)
thank you Sébastien for the video

Saturday, March 28, 2009

dear mum, dad and sister

a flower in Gansbaai

Here's the letter I wrote a few days after I left

Dear Mum, Dad & Alice,

My disappearance happened without a warning. I left everything behind, with all the difficulties it implies (for me and for others); to be honest, I'd say that it had been there in my mind for quite some time and I didn't dare to acknowledge it. To go and leave everything behind is the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life. To think about the suffering I would inflict upon my relatives didn't prevent me from disappearing. As for Catherine, it feels like betraying her. I'm afraid to say it'll be very hard for her to cope with it. And I don't know if I will ever be able to forgive myself for what I've done to her. Behaving like a coward is not "me"... and yet, it is a part of me I discovered. Each and every day that passes I think about Dad, Mum, Alice, my two nieces, Catherine, Louise and my friends. But today, I cannot indulge in guilt or I will collapse. Be assured that I want to live. I have this vital need to breathe pure air. To take the time to think peacefully and start a new life. Don't worry, I am fine, well... as fine as one can be in such circumstances. From the bottom of my heart, I ask you, Dad, Mum, Alice, Catherine and Louise for forgiveness.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

what about your Bic?

Some say they’re signs, some say they’re just coincidences. Anyway, the first sign I saw was when I was writing in the plane, deciding what shapes my journey could take if I wanted to keep my sanity. So I looked at the pen I had bought at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, an ordinary Bic. You can’t read the inscription until you look at it very carefully. I couldn’t believe my eyes. On the side of the pen, next to the blue cap, is engraved South-Africa. I hadn’t chosen it, the seller picked it aimlessly. I was in a hurry. I didn’t have a pen. I needed one.
A few days after I arrived in Mother City, I went to a store to check if my pen was the only one to have that inscription. Imagine my surprise when I found out that all the Bic Cristal Clic were “South-African”.
What about your Bic?

Can't take my eyes off you

I was brooding over another beer when they came in. A black girl and a black boy. They sat at the counter and ordered white wine. We shared a polite smile. There was something I couldn’t quite grasp. I wanted to meet them. I had to meet her. Then the music helped us. I know it’ll sound very cliché but that’s the truth. They aired the song Can’t take my eyes off you. I couldn’t help but singing the song. So did the black girl. And she smiled her warmest smile, looked at me and sang “Can’t take my eyes off you”. That’s how we met. Her name is Afriqah. His is Ellton. She left New York City some time ago. Her friends there thought she’d come back but she didn’t.
- You know what I miss most? It’s acting. Noone here knows I’m craving for it. To be honest, I don’t know many people.
Then comes the who I am and what I'm here for part. I decided to tell them all, or almost all. They couldn’t believe their ears.
- I told you he’d be interesting, said Afriqah.
- I kept telling her “go on and talk to him”, added Ellton.
- So I guess Thomas isn’t your real name, right?
- …er … er… talking about theatre, in my previous life, I used to act and direct.
- You don’t say!
They looked at each other in amazement. Afriqah gave me an inquiring look and asked:
- Do you think you could direct me?
Silence. Smiles.
- I think I can, yes. Actually, if I ever direct you, I want to do it anonymously. You see, if my project allows me to become famous – being Thomas Mars, I mean – that famous anonymous French guy who disappeared would be your director.
- Wow! she exclaimed, eyes wide open.
Another silence.
- How do you perceive me, Thomas?
- Well… I think you’re a woman who tries hard not to show how fragile she is. You have a lot to tell and the part you’re eager to play is yourself.
- Ellton!!! Did you hear what he’s just said? Thomas, you are SO right!
Taking up my glass of wine, I offer her a toast:
- Let’s help each other. I direct you and you help me with my project.
- Okay.
Afriqah turns to the waiter and says:
- Simpiwo*, mon chéri, can we have three glasses of Chardonnay, s’il te plaît?


Monday, March 23, 2009

me and the police

That was the most insane thing I had ever done in my whole life. It is like kidnapping oneself. That’s how I felt when I called the police. Three days had passed since I disappeared and the police was looking for me. My best friend launched this avis de recherche, a search warrant. How did I know that? I called Victor because I needed help. Victor and his boyfriend Louis are the only persons to know that I’m in South-Africa. In a way, they aided me, providing me with accommodation for a week, feeding me, supporting me. Victor advised me to call the police and tell them I was all right. I had a long talk with Karine, sweet voice, a weird but comforting conversation. She thanked me for calling them. I told her that I was incapable of speaking to any of my relatives or I’d crash. That I had to get away. Try and have another life. It’s a good thing you called, she said, because you wouldn’t have been able to go very far. People were worried. We needed to interrogate you. You would have missed your plane. Oh, then you know I’ll be flying. Yes we do. We saw you. But now don’t worry, we won’t prevent you from travelling. Good luck, she said and she hung up.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


stop telling me it's dangerous to go here and there
day or night
or i'll carry a butcher knife
with me !
will i get arrested if they ever find this on me ?
i'd rather be safe than dead
and don't tell me i'm crazy, i already know that...

flickr? soon...

unforgettable, the view over the ocean (an everyday blessing)
and Tiaan (another blessing)

off to see the Great White Sharks

the route to Gansbaai (click on the pic to enlarge it)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

will you marry me?

photograph by Walter Bibikow/Taxi/Getty Images
(click on pic to enlarge - this is the scenery i admired yesterday while sipping my extra-large coffee : 16 rands = 1,21€)
Cape Town's waterfront occupies a scenic strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the sandstone heights of Table Mountain, known in Afrikaans as Tafelberg, so says the National Geographic.

Here are a few things i learned today :
Tiaan* told me about the beaches where i should go to, but not alone (alone, I’d take the risk of being robbed or even… killed**) ; i can open a bank account quite easily*** ; i can write a daily chronicle in a mainstream South-African newspaper (he'll ask his aunt - i'll keep you updated) ; i can write a review on the wine route, providing you accommodate me (i'm not very demanding; one night in your luxury lodge will do - thank you Mark) ; he wishes he could accommodate me but he's only managing the luxury lodge, he can't do anything as far as freebies ar concerned ... well, it's the thought that counts, isn't it?

P.S. Do you think I should ask the mayor's office for help? I found their e-mail address somewhere...
P.S.2 What happened to David anyway? No news is good news they say. Or am I being too naive? I think i'm a bit of a romantic. And don't say i'm trying to find a husband here! Oh, didn't you know that here, in South-Africa, they're a bit more progressive than the French? Gay people can get married. BUT I'm not marrying anyone (yet). I don't need a husband, i have my teddy bear for cuddling, thank you.

*Tiaan agreed on my using his real name (he didn't sign any contract, mind you)
**wow, i didn't disparear to get killed on a South-African beach, did i?
***where will my money go if i get killed?

in the meantime

click on the pic to enlarge
(city of Cape Town official website ... oh, i didn't know they were hosting the next soccer world cup ... that explains the cranes i saw ... and the new stadium too (of course! silly me!)

I'm off to the beach (not teasing you, i promise! it's my first time on the beach in a week! i think i deserved it) If you want to meet up, see you there. Rendez-vous Clifton Beach, Clifton 3, the guy with navy blue briefs, bald & a week-old beard.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Tonight, I went outside to watch the stars and ask them what fate had in store for me.
They kept silent.

real people

Appear or disappear? That is the question.
How can one want one thing and the other... well, I didn't tell I didn't have contradictions.
On the contrary.
Quite rapidly after I decided I'd vanish, I realized that I had to do something with it. Not only because I need to write and share my story, but because I need help, accomodation and all. I need this to become visible, not me but "this"... I quit my job, remember? When you happen to know me, you'll learn that I'm the ambitious type of guy. And maybe, maybe, writing this and becoming famous and earning a life with it, can help me redeem myself. Am I crazy? Well, in a way, yes... and this crazyness is keeping me alive.
So... a few days after I disappeared, I contacted an artist I knew in Paris. When I told him what I wanted to do, he was both speechless and inspired. And so we began working together. He took hundreds of pictures of me. He dreamt of my voyage and made a wonderful job, really! I didn't recognize myself... that is a good sign, I'm telling you. I invited him on my "missing voyage". I told him: we can't do an exhibition in Paris. Let's do it in Cape Town. Again, mouth open, he says, yes. It could be a whole project : my writing, my experiences, your photography, the people I met.
Why don't I give away the name of that artist?
Because I'm working on phase 1 now.
And with his photography, people will recognize me. I mean, people who know me.
I used to have a blog that was very well-read. The hundreds of people who will read this blog when I decide to publish some of this artist work will be surprised: god, is that him? what got into his mind?
My project is to write my trip, to translate it into French, to make it a book, to contact the press and all (I know how to do it, trust me... I did that in my former life... but, er... that's another story). Hence the sponsor part.
Why sponsors and/or donors?
Have a guess...
Remember the last posts?
I left France with not much money. And to be honest, I'm way into the red. My return ticket is in 3 months. How much is there in my wallet? Less than 1,000€ You can't live 3 months with this, I'm telling you.
What's sponsoring?
Accomodate me for 1 night or a week; invite me for lunch or dinner (I'll buy you a drink ^^); give me a small office for a reasonable amount of time, internet access; show me around...
What do you get? The visibility I get is your visibility. I can post a link, a logo, a review of your air company, your guest house, your restaurant. As for donating? Ask your dictionnary.
Next biggest trip: Australia. Don't look at me like that! I know I can make it! You know, in my former life, I have made some of my craziest dreams come true.
But that's another story...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

j'ai jeté mon coeur

Why did you do this? Well... er... I had the disturbing impression that it wasn't my life I was living. I had to leave and start it all over again. It happened on a Sunday afternoon. I'll always remember that awful afternoon. There were people I was supposed to meet. Friends. And it kinda struck me without a warning while I was walking down the rue des Archives. I told myself, I can't do it, but I did and I was doing it. Half an hour later, my friends would be waiting for me. They would start worrying. I must have repeated myself the "DON'T THINK" sentence more than a hundred times that day. And the day after that. So, the minute I decided that I would disappear, I started walking the longest walk I had ever walked in Paris. That night I got drunk too. No wonder. I was in a deconstructing process (even though I was telling myself I'd live another life), getting rid of my cell phone (after turning it off), throwing away my keys (in another basket), some of my papers - God! I can't believe I threw away my driving license. But again, I was in a disappearing process. I was saying goodbye to a former life and I was taking off its clothes. I didn't know I might need the car keys when I found myself sleeping on the pavement of a deserted district, in Opéra. I didn't know that I'd be in that parcel, freezing, and wishing I hadn't thrown away the car keys. I would have slept in the car. I could have saved the money I spent on cheap hotels. I could have... Well, maybe I wouldn't be here... So, that night, that awful night, I put myself into a dangerous position and I told myself I could die, I didn't care. Of course, today, I care. I want to make something good out of it. I drew cash at some ATM. Not much, cause they wouldn't give me the amount I wanted. I'd have to wait for a few days to get some more cash. So I waited. And I found a small hotel near Gare du Nord. I'll never forget how hard the base was. My back ached for a week or so. Well, I didn't have a choice. Why didn't I come back? Because there was no return possible. My mind was made up. And I wouldn't go back. Every night, nightmares prevent me from sleeping peacefully. Nightmares where my best friend would be crying, suffering, and shouting her resentment. What? No. I didn't tell anyone. I left just like that. No. Not even my closest friend. Oh yes, you can never ever know someone. Your closest friend could abandon you overnight. That's what I did. I know it is hard. For her. And for me too. Because we had plans. Wonderful plans for the future. Maybe I got scared, I don't know. A week later, I sent her a letter. Asking her to forgive me, to let me go. Telling her I didn't know if I would ever forgive myself for what I did, for the pain I put in her heart, in my friends' hearts, in my family's. I had to do it. No, they don't know I'm here. Why South Africa and not Malaysia? Well, I had to go somewhere. I drew the biggest amount of cash I could and I bought a ticket for Cape Town. I thought it'd be possible to start another life there. I could speak the langague. Even though the city is astonishingly different (you're in Africa, man! said a guy the other night), I could have a few landmarks there. Thanks to internet, I had already a few contacts. And most of all, I had never told anyone about my dream to visit South Africa. I'm telling you, you don't someone until he goes away without a warning.

Don't forget to ask me about the police who looked for me, about my last errands in Paris, about the people who offered me accomodation here in Little Karoo and got scared of hosting a stranger (I can't blame them, but they shouldn't have told I was welcome...) And now, whenever I get the chance to meet people, I ask them to read this first, I warn them: I might be a ladykiller or something, be careful of whom you meet...

Monday, March 16, 2009