Film: The last time I saw Macau

The last time I saw Macau ( A Última Vez Que Vi Macau ) is a “film essay”, following a man’s  return after thirty years of absence to the ex-Portuguese colony – this time to help a friend in need. Co-Directed by João Rui Guerra da Mata together with João Pedro Rodrigues of O Fantasma and To Die Like a Man fame.

A última vez que vi Macau / The last time I saw #Macau – #portuguesecinema … review coming soon

A photo posted by Urbangay (@urbangayblog) on

I always had a bit of a soft-spot for Macau, this little sibling of Hong Kong, that somehow combines the worst and best of (post-)colonial China, that packs together the lure of far East with the traditions of Europe. A place I experienced as strange yet familiar when visiting from Hong Kong. Needless to say, the title of the movie already intrigued me. Added to this that the movie was made by the Portuguese director who directed To Die Like A Man and O Fantasma (review coming soon), just fueled the anticipation (and expectation) I had to finally watch the movie.

Let’s be clear here: It is not a gay themed movie. The only “LGBT”-reference is a transvestite (Candy) who is the  reason for the protagonist (Guerra da Mata) to return to Macau. as far as the story goes, Candy, who left Europe seeking an easier life in Asia, is in trouble – and Guerra da Mata is the only friend she can can rely on to help her. Thus begins the journey of Guerra da Mata to find and help Candy, and his rediscovery of Macau, where he spent his youth.
It is also not a thriller. In fact, the story is mostly the canvas upon which the film builds a portrait of Macau: Away from the glitzy casinos and swish shopping malls – and dives into the underbelly of this “not quite Chinese”, and “never really quite Portugal” city state. A bit like Candy, Macau is something “in between”. What follows is very much a “city symphony”, images of Macau in bright neon light in the run down back streets of the city.

This “in between” is, what made the movie intriguing and fascinating for me: A bit like my experience of Hong Kong: a different place, where nothing is quite what it seems and a different story lurks behind every corner. Seedy, grotty, beautiful, poor and intriguing. That is the impression of Macau I’m left with after watching the movie (and very much like the real life Macau I experienced). Not the sort of glossy place the Chinese Tourist Board would like to portray, but a place with dark secrets, mystery, promises and bright lights in equal measures.

If you haven’t been to Macau, I can imagine the film being quite strange. For me, it resonates a lot with the city. And yes, the story line is holding the film together, but it isn’t the main actor here: the main act for me is played not by Candy or Guerra da Mata, it is the city itself, and the sights and feelings of Guerra da Mata as he tries to find Candy. Overall, the movie reminded me a lot of “London” and “Robinson in Space” by Patrick Keiller,  with a more “exotic” twist. Not just because of the near invisibility of the main character and narrative, but the way the film explores “the other”, unseen side of this Asian metropolis. Definitely a movie I highly enjoyed watching, and I would recommend it to anyone trying to get a glimpse of this fascinating “special administrative region”, stranded somewhere “in between” China, European theme park, glitzy Las Vegas of the East – and the dark sides of sex, crime and gambling.

Film: Aya Arcos

A middle aged writer falls for a young hustler… Both embark on a shaky, mismatched relationship… A highly sexually charged, Brazilian film, with lots of potential.

#AyaArcos #gaymovie #brazil … review coming soon

A photo posted by Urbangay (@urbangayblog) on

Yesterday I managed to watch Aya Arcos, a Brazilian film about a writer (Edu) who falls for a young hustler he meets on the streets of Rio (Fabio). Against the backdrop of the two very different characters, the relationship develops – unsurprisingly shaky. While Fabio couldn’t care less about what tomorrow may bring, Edu, deeply stuck in an emotional and creative crisis, constantly tries to get Fabio to grow up – and become a stable relationship partner. In addition, Edu is terrified about becoming infected with HIV, although he soon finds out he is positive – something that doesn’t seem to bother Fabio.

There is lots of passion in the relationship between the two, but also lots of things that remain unspoken or unclear. Sadly, the film doesn’t always help in this aspect, as it seems to jump sometimes from one topic to the next. The other issue that somehow distracted from the big story line of the relationship was the HIV issue, which somehow seemed to be different and unconnected, though maybe symbolic of what was going on (at least to a point). Overall, I feel more focus could have been given to the emotional turmoil of the relationship, and a clearer development of the characters would have helped the film tremendously.

That said, the film was enjoyable –  not only because it contains some handsome actors/scenes. In some ways the topic of the film is difficult, and given the limited budget and considering it is a first film for the director, I think it is definitely a worthwhile film to watch.

Hong Kong… one last time

I’m still a few months away from my leaving date, and therefore I’m still “wrapping up” a lot of things on the work front. Probably the one I was looking forward to with most trepidation was a final trip to Hong Kong…

Moody weather over #hongkong #harbour

A photo posted by Urbangay (@urbangayblog) on

So, last week it came: time to go to Hong Kong for one last time. Before, Hong Kong had been pretty much my second home: I went there four times a year, sometimes staying as much as a month. The constant distance from the now ex-BF1 was probably one of the reasons things never got resolved more quickly – as it was just to easy to “escape” to the other home, and ignore issues at home. And Hong Kong was also where the eventually increasingly toxic relationship with, also now ex-BF2 started. And while things with BF1 are amicable and we have settled into a being friendly,  good friends-like routine, things with BF2 have ended quite badly, and so the mere thought of being in the same city filled me with horror.

Of course, it was not just the though and memories related to BF2, but also just  the “one last visit” thought that made me feel quite uneasy to go onto this last trip. The trip was pretty short, just a few days, and the agenda was pretty packed – leaving very little room for personal things – or even time alone. Maybe that was the best thing that could happen.

On the day I arrived, I had a few hours to myself … and I struggled somewhat with all the memories connected to the place – including some of the still somewhat unresolved feelings towards BF2. The next day was a lot better… as I met a friend for dimsum in the morning, and then had meetings for the rest of the afternoon.

The day after I had the morning off, before heading out for lunch with my soon-to-be ex-“local” colleagues. Once I met them, things became amazing: They really made sure I had the best possible “good bye”: I really can’t express how sweet they were.

Just before catching the plane home came another surprise: A friend friend, who had been out of town, waited for me at the airport. It was quite unexpected to see him. We still had a few hours to spare before my flight – and although we are both not particularly spontaneous, we decided to head back to town and have dinner together. This also gave us some time to talk and was really something I was amazed about. I hadn’t really known him that well before, and we only  superficially kept in contact via WhatsApp. I guess we both liked each other … but on previous visits never really managed to get to know one and other. So spending more time talking was certainly a big treat. He is one of these people that came across to me as amazingly nice, and I wished I would know better. So maybe we created a bit of a foundation with our dinner together.

Of course, as I’m writing this, I’m back in London. And looking back, I think it was without doubt the best visit I ever had to Hong Kong. Yes, it was a bit rushed. But maybe because everyone tried to make it memorable, it certainly will remain a good memory to have of Hong Kong, and the time I used to go there regularly. Of course, how the personal contacts will develop (or not) over the next few years remains to be seen… Looking back, I seem to have always retained few friends from all the places I stayed in for a while, some of whom have become very close friends. Others have faded away – or even disappeared completely. So it is hard to tell how things will work out with all the people I know in Hong Kong. That said… I will certainly remember the last trip and the fun we had during those few days.

Lisbon Gay Agenda

More as a convenient list for me really… here are some of the LGBTI+ events taking place (as far as I can find them) in and around Lisbon in 2016:

25 – 30 May 2016 Lisbon Bear Pride

18 June: Pride March Lisbon – the actual march
25 June: Arraial Lisboa Pride – Pride festival on the Terreiro do Paço

7 – 10 July: Hot Season Festival – Trumps Club
14 – 16 July: Pitch Beach – Rugby, Volleyball, Swimming…
28-31 July: Summer Action

August ??

16 – 24 September: Queer Lisboa – Film festival

1 October: Lesboa Party – 10th Anniversary Edition

Others… which come and go:
Conga Club – irregular partiesLisbon Gay Circuit  – guide to places in Lisbon (the regular ones)

Road ahead: Olá Portugal

ptsignSo it is reset time … and while it sadly isn’t as quick and easy to “reset” a life as it is to wipe a blog out of the digital cosmos, the preparation for the final reset is something that is keeping me very busy indeed…

Over the last few years, I had toyed a lot with, one day, moving to Southern Europe. I used to live in Spain almost 20 years ago, which I fondly remember… and so I tried to figure out if it would be a good idea to return to Spain. In a way, returning to a country I know fairly well seemed like the easy option – and also the option that would have probably been easiest. And Spain certainly has a lot to offer in term of lifestyle, weather, food… and I speak the language reasonably ok. However, I fairly quickly realised that returning to Spain would be a little like chasing my time that I spent there as a student. In fact, I quickly became convinced that, for all the nice memories I have looking back, going back twenty years later would be setting me up to fail miserably. Not only  a lot of things would have changed, but also many of the people I was with there were either no longer there, are married etc etc… so in one way or another returning at least to the same city (in my case Barcelona) would be tricky for me.

As you may remember from previous Blog posts, I spent quite some time traveling around different places in Spain over the last few years. While the main purpose of the travels wasn’t to find a new “home”, the thought always played on my mind. To be honest, I couldn’t really say way, but there wasn’t another place that I felt good about in quite the same way as what I remember feeling the first time I was in Barcelona. Sure… I visited some amazing cities, and many are great, in fact, very pretty, have amazing food and lovely people… but there was always a little something that seemed to be missing for it to appeal as a more permanent home.

In an odd way, until a few years ago, I had never been to Portugal. Odd especially, as my mother, although not herself Portuguese, spent quite some time close to Lisbon when she was young. Thus, I always heard about this “magical” place from when I was a child… but somehow never managed to visit it.

This changed three years back, when I was in Portugal for work, or Lisbon to be precise. It was a rather short stay, just a week, so I didn’t really have much time to explore the city or country. But I remember thinking that I thought it was a pretty nice place. Smaller, compact and maybe a little more quiet than London, Madrid or even Barcelona… but it had a very pleasant vibe. And a good vibe that stayed with me, even when I arrived with pretty high expectations based on the tales of childhood.

Last year, again mainly because of coincidences, I ended up again going to Lisbon. This time I had more time and could explore some more. While, of course, those impressions must be pretty superficial, it confirmed to me that Lisbon is a pretty nice place. And that maybe it is exactly the place that offers all the positive things I imagine in terms of weather, food, culture etc – while at the same time being sufficiently different not to constantly invite me to draw conclusions to my memories of Barcelona (ok, I admit, there are a few parallels I can think of …).

So when I started to “reset” it all, I decided at least tentatively to focus on moving to Lisbon. So earlier this year, I made another trip, looked around and tried to discover more places and get a feel of how it would feel like living there… especially living there on my own, even without friends to begin with.

One of the things I immediately figured out was the need to learn the language, of course. After all, it is ok to stay in a place for a few days and not speak the language. But when making this place home, language is essential. I’m a little bit lucky in that I speak Spanish reasonably well – as luckily both languages share many similarities. On the other hand, I’m unlucky to speak Spanish reasonably well,… as both languages are also quite different. And so knowing the one can become quite confusing when trying to speak the other.

The first thing I did was to look for a course: At the moment, I’m enrolled on a language course in London (lots of fun!). It should provide me with some basics, and hopefully make me fluent enough to understand and talk a bit more than just pointing and using some simple words. During my last stay in Lisbon, I also enrolled in a language course there over the summer. I still have a lot of holiday days left while working out my notice period, so I figured I can put them to some good use and get to know a bit more about the place … and learn the language at the same time.

Roughly… this is where I’m at now: Working out my notice period, trying to fix the date I’ll be able to move, learn the language and find out more about this little country on Europe’s west coast… of which I thought I knew quite a bit, but every time I look, I seem to discover lots of new and exciting things. I hope I can share them with you over the next few months… and, if you have any comments or suggestions… please… get in touch!


resetSometimes in life we just need a reset… A real drastic change, where everything old is thrown out – and we make room for all the new, and hopefully better. I’m at such a point right now… and so I have decided to hit the reset button.

Things have been quite rocky on many fronts, especially over the past year or so. Eventually things needed more than just tinkering around the edges, trying to work things out (again) or attempting to fix something that may have been broken from the start. Either way… earlier this year I decided that what I really need is a complete reset. Literally a restart of my life.

Especially on the personal front a lot has happened (as those of you who regularly read the blog know). And a lot of time I spent in a bad limbo … something that rocks the strongest guy in a bad way. With hindsight, it was probably clear that things had to end and everyone had to move on somewhere … but hindsight is a nice thing. Either way, I’m a “happy single” again, and actually feel good about that part of my life.

A few other really important things had also taken the backseat… job, travel for work and problems with the two guys had simply taken over. So, earlier this year I sat down and started to redesign things from scratch. Yes, I literally decided to throw all up in the air and start afresh. Amongst those things that are now on the horizon are quitting my current job and moving to a different city (more about all this in due course).

Of course, putting it all on a piece of paper and calling it a “life from now on” plan is the easy part… now it is time to work on actually putting all of this into action and creating something that (hopefully) resembles the plan a bit in the end.  Sadly, while it is easy to hit the reset button on a website and start afresh, things in life are never quite that straight-forward. And while there is a great romantic notion of simply packing my bags and setting off in my head, I know that won’t quite work. But at least, I now have a direction. And I hope the upcoming journey is the fun part indeed!

To cut a long story short,… this is why this site is also blank (apart from this post). I decided it was time for a reset… a totally new start.