My heart is with yours.

There’s been so much coverage of the Paris Attacks everywhere, on social media, on local news television broadcasts. And with a worldwide tragedy and show of violence like this, there is also an abundance of opinions everywhere being displayed on twitter, on facebook, on editorials. People are instagramming their thoughts as captions, people are putting what they think in less than 140 characters, survivors are sharing their chilling stories on facebook. I have some thoughts of my own too where the urge to write them all down into coherent sentences is real, and I feel a blogpost does the trick.

I don’t need to recap the chilling and horrific events that took place, I’ll leave that to the likes of BBC, The Economist, CNN, Channel NewsAsia and all the other news companies.

I am equally horrified and appalled by the developments that took place, I am still trying to comprehend how one Friday night could transform a peaceful, somewhat mundane city into that under a siege, into a war-zone with soldiers wearing their full gear and forensic investigators everywhere, into a city which is being forced to close off all its borders. And most importantly, I am praying for all those who are affected by the violence and tragedy; no innocent human being deserves to be ruthlessly killed by an extremist in cold-blood.

However, this tragedy just reveals to me how hard it is to eradicate terrorism, and how hard it is to get rid of the stereotypes and prejudices of religions. Horrific acts such as these may never truly end as these acts of terrorism demonstrate how terrorists can easily adapt, can easily increase their intelligence, and extremist ideologies continue to attract lone wolves. The wars between states may have ended; but a new form of wars is emerging; a new type of war is forming. One that involves fundamentalism; radicalism; extremism. I still don’t understand how one can be so easily manipulated by the doctrines of extremism. They only preach violence and horror, masked behind twisted religious doctrines.

And the stereotypes of Islam will continue. Yes, I’ve read thousands of tweets imploring one to separate extremism and Islam, to not associate one with the another, and that if you think both are the same thing, you ought to think hard about yourself. It is true; Islam and extremism – they are not the same thing. Islam does not preach killings, does not preach the things terrorists do. They are only using the religion as a convenient tool to attract people of the faith to their cause. While most have successfully made that distinction, alas there are many others who have not. And these acts of terror will continue to fuel Islamophobia, they will continue to strengthen the anti-Muslim sentiments that are buried deep in the hearts of Europeans. And then, it’ll truly become a war between Islam and the West. The extremists’ rhetoric of uniting individuals of common faith to fight against the West – the “enemy” – will be strengthened.

Sooner or later, the Islamophobia in them will lead them to blame it all on the refugees who are flooding Europe. But the thing is, these refugees are trying to escape from the very same thing terrorizing them. They are innocent victims too, trapped in a world where extremists have taken over their hometown. I guess deep down, these Westerners know that refugees are not to be blamed, but for now it gives them an outlet to express their anger, their feeling of helplessness.

These are acts of terror and it is so heartbreaking to read about them. It is hard to totally get rid of them, they are making use of the phenomenons of the 21st century to their advantage, and they are making use of these acts of terror to polarize nations and to break, rather than unite city states. However, I feel that to truly combat terrorism, we should not let these tragedies divide us; polarize us; break us. This is exactly what they want, this will fuel them, embolden them. Instead of pointing fingers, figuring out who to blame, we need to all unite together, to look forward and present a strong front to break terrorism so that such mindless acts don’t happen to our future generations, so that our world becomes a safer place for us to live in.

It may be difficult, it is definitely easier to blame it all on Islam and the refugees and to maintain hostile relations with Muslims, but we must try. We need to unite together in these times of tragedy, for now the world is deeply polarized.

My heart goes out to all those affected in Paris, in Palestine, in Beirut, in Syria. I dunno, I might not be in the best position to offer any analysis or whatsoever, but I just feel like writing down my thoughts into concrete sentences to comprehend what’s going on in the world today. You may not agree with it, but that’s ok because this is totally my opinion, and opinions differ. But in this way, my mind becomes clearer.

I just find this quote simply beautiful

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

~Haruki Murakami, Kafka On The Shore

Words are powerful

I guess nobody really knows this about me, because I’ve never actually done it to anybody or told anyone about it. I understand the power of words, a lot. I have an acute knowledge of words that can hurt people, and words that can lift someone’s spirits up high. I might not be able to articulate them properly, but I sure as hell can write them down. I choose to use words for the latter’s purpose, because nobody wishes to hear words that can plunge them into a well of despair or sadness, especially if spoken by someone else. You see, because words are even more powerful than brute force. I try my best to not offend anybody with my words, (believe me, I do), with what I say or with what I write. I’ve been thrown words that have hurt my confidence and that has dragged me into a hole of depression and hurt. And precisely because of that, I do not want to do the same to others. Because of that, I get how powerful words are.

I know words can kill, and in a very scary way, in a way that even I get frightened by myself sometimes, I know how to use words to cut people down. This is what you get if you read books/newspaper articles/columns. Words by itself are harmless, they are just alphabets strung together to create a meaning, so to convey your feelings/actions/thoughts for other people to relate to you. Without words, we would be empty creatures, void of any communication and relation. But words, combined with the emotions that are behind them, can be strung together to create something, like a human hand, that is perfectly capable of striking you, leaving you tumbling, leaving you with an emotional scar that can never quite heal, leaving your heart shattered. Words can be strung together to create something, like an encouraging or motherly hand, that is perfectly capable of bringing a smile to your face, leaving you encouraged, grateful, impressed, rejuvenated, reassured and just happy.

Precisely because I understand this acutely, if anybody ever drives me up the wall or hurts me, I am capable of hurting you back, not with physical brute but with words spouting from my mouth. And by words, I do not mean vulgarities please. And trust me, those words will leave a much bigger, emotional scar than any physical punch would. And that is terrifying to me.

Of frostbites, late night walks, street shots and squad goals.

Greetings fellow earthlings!

A couple of days back, I returned to Singapore, from touring Europe. I went to Europe from the 1st of June all the way to the 11th of June, where I actually visited 6 countries (talk about travelling). I visited Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Paris and finally London. Those 11 days were so damn amazing, up till the point that even after 9 days upon my return, I’m still suffering from post-Europe blues.

I went on this vacation with my sister only, so nope my parents did not actually accompany me. It’s the first time travelling without my parents and only my sister, so in the beginning, though I felt excited at the prospect of travelling without parental guidance (come on, INDEPENDENCE YEAH), I felt slightly skeptical and unsure of myself because I’ll have to rely on myself 24/7 to take care of my valuables such as my passport and my money. I remembered being especially afraid of my money coz I was carrying tons of cash, and that too in 3 currencies – Swiss Franc, Euro and London Pound. And let’s be honest, Europe isn’t exactly the safest place to be carrying wads of cash in your wallet, especially at night because robberies and theft and pickpockets are hugely common there. But I was like, “all right nevermind, it’s going to be an adventure of your lifetime.”

Also, before I went for this trip, I was also worried about the financial matters cause this tour was actually expensive. My dad was the one who sponsored me for this trip, in that he paid for my airline tickets and the tour package, and I felt (well, I’m still feeling it) a slight pang of guilt because he was spending so much on me on this trip, yet he’s not coming along. Same goes for my mum. Knowing that going to Europe meant spending a lot on shopping and food as the exchange rate there is quite high, she gave me some more money for my shopping expenses as well, and I felt bad as well for taking so much of my parents money. Of coz, I got a temporary job to bear the bulk of my shopping expenses (and this too I was worried because my part time job didn’t yield thousands of dollars each month and I do want to save for rainy days. *hashtags responsibility*)

But in the end, though the filial guilt still resides in my heart for making my parents spend so much on me, for which I promised myself to repay them back in the future when I have the financial means to, I decided to not let all these get to me and just enjoy this virgin independent trip that I’m going to have. It’s going to be one heck of an adventure!

And an adventure it was. I went with an all Muslim tour group and though I wasn’t expecting to make any close friends and just stick to my sister 24/7, I met a bunch of lovely people who are around my age group (I call them the young bloods of our tour group) and who came with their families and we bonded really well in the course of 5 days. I still feel immensely lucky and blessed that I got to meet these youngsters and became close friends with them because they are such fun people to hang out with. I love how they are so game for anything. Let me elaborate.

On the first day after I arrived in Zurich, Switzerland, I went up to the Swiss Alps (Mount Titlis they call it) and I played with snow. It was my virgin experience with snow and I’ve got to say, that was one of my highlights of the trip. What made it even more memorable was that I didn’t actually had proper winter wear and it was freezing cold up there. I didn’t bring any gloves and my socks weren’t even the proper socks you would wear for winter so my hands and my feet were freezing to the point that they became painful. But idk, I guess the adrenaline from playing with the snow and being engulfed in the purest form of white just made me forget about my frostbite pains. I legit climbed up a snowy hill, only to roll/slide back down it again. I rode on a ski lift, I got snowballed by one of my friends, I made a snowball myself and held it with my bare hands. It was just a very memorable experience, one that I shared with my Europe friends. So it was even more special because I could share it with people who were genuinely excited, crazy and enthusiastic as I was.

Next, I went to Germany and visited the Cuckoo Clock factory and went to Heidelburg. Heidelburg was such a pretty place and the streets of Heidelburg were so beautiful I fell in love with them. Those cobblestoned pavements, the graffiti-clad walls, the vintage doors and gates and staircases, and the cars that lined the pavements on both sides. It’s so different from the streets in Singapore, and it was such a rejuvenating change. I was more obsessed with the streets of Europe than with the tourist attractions the tour leader brought all of us to visit LOL.

In Netherlands, we went to Amsterdam and in retrospect, Amsterdam wasn’t really as good as the previous two days. Granted, Amsterdam gave me one heck of an experience but it was really hot and sunny in the afternoon when we took the cruise, so all of us clearly did not enjoy the cruise at all. And then, we kinda wasted our time in some diamond factory coz where do I possibly get the money to buy authentic diamonds for myself you tell me?!?!?! I actually wanted to go to the Red Light District but ohkies nvm I had no guts to visit that place without male company so yeah LOL. The streets of Amsterdam were kind of messy because cars, cyclists, pedestrians and the rails all go through the same road so whilst walking on the streets, I was looking in all directions trying to not get myself run down by either one of these oncoming vehicles. Nevertheless, it was still very, very nice to explore Amsterdam and experience street life there.

I would definitely like to go back Brussels, Belgium again because we spent too little – and I really mean it when I say too little – time there. All we did was go to the shops selling the heavenly Belgium chocolates and ordered the famous Belgium waffles. I did not even have time to go to the Belgium lace shops and seeing all the pretty lace they had for sale. Time passed so quickly in Brussels and I didn’t get to see the whole of Belgium so pretty bummed up by that. So going to visit Brussels again. I WILL BE BACK.

Paris was another highlight of my trip. Remember the friends I told you about? Well, here’s the part where I reveal to you how they are so game for anything and everything. Initially, we only spend 20 minutes at the Eiffel Tower area and to be honest, I felt incredulous at how little time we were at the Eiffel Tower cause I did not just sit in the goddamn bus for 4 hours just to visit the famous attraction in Paris for 20 minutes?!!?!?! So I was complaining to my friend and I was like “I really want to climb up the Eiffel Tower?!? It’s in my bucket list!!!!” and he just listened and nodded. And then he added “you know if you want you can climb up you know, who’s stopping you? Just go.” So I urged my sis and the 2 guy friends I made to climb up the Eiffel with me after our group went shopping at Printemps. Instead of going back to the hotel to rest for the day, they were like “okay onz leggo climb up” Furthermore, it was just after spring so the days were long. The sun worked overtime everyday so it’s still pretty safe to be out and about after 7pm. WHY NOT CLIMB UP THE EIFFEL TOWER RIGHT NO HARM DONE??? And that was the best move I have ever done in my 19 years of existence. When we reached the top, the view was so breathtaking and I was filled with awe and wonder at the sight that greeted me downstairs. The architecture in Paris is too beautiful. Truly, each building is a work of art. From the top, you’ll see the bird’s eye view of Paris and it is such a wonderful sight. I was literally speechless from the beauty of it all. I just stood there and took it all in. When I was there, the sun was setting and in that moment, I simply felt alive. Something inside me just lit up. I felt like the luckiest girl alive, and all my problems just melted away, like they had never existed at all. It was a magical moment upstairs. And although I did not climb up with my husband or anything, I climbed up the Eiffel with a group of friends who were so fun to hang out with, and that to me is a perfect substitute for not being there with my partner. Truly speaking, no words can describe the kaleidoscope of colours that greeted my eyes when I reached the top and the feelings in me when I get to enjoy the view with the people who I actually liked hanging out with. When we finally willed ourselves to go back down, the lights of the Eiffel Tower lit up when we were below and that was another magical moment for me. Paris was such a dear. I literally did everything there is to be done at the Eiffel Tower. Climbed it up: CHECKED. Watch it light up: CHECKED.

The last stop was London. From Paris, we took the Eurostar to London and oh boy the whole process was really tedious and hectic coz we were carrying our luggage and walking to the train station and we had to go through the customs which meant heaving our luggage to the luggage belt and taking it down and pulling them to the train platform. Nevertheless, it was still nice HAHAHAHA. London is such a happening place to be because it’s so rich with culture. There are theatres everywhere and there are posters about musicals and music festivals everywhere, including in the tube stations. We spent 3 days in London, and out of the 3 days, we had one free day to ourselves so I spent it with my sister and 3 other friends. It was such fun to be acting as locals and taking the tube to go to different places. London even has halal subway?!?!?! (step up your game Singapore’s subway) But truly, what made it enjoyable and memorable was the fact that I got to spend it with friends.

The culture in Europe is just so different from that of Singapore’s. In Europe, arts is appreciated. I could feel the love for the arts and culture amongst the locals. In Switzerland, walking on the streets meant listening to street players playing such wonderful music for the ordinary folk who would walk pass. Be it guitars, cellos, saxophones or even accordions, they would be performing for people who would stop by and listen and give them money. In Paris, there would be a pianist playing passionately on his piano in front of the steps of a theatre and people would just stop by, sit on the steps and just watch him play. I was filled with so much awe and wonder at how much passion and love there is in one person for music. It’s like a bottomless pit. In London, you would hear the occassional musicians playing on their instruments. For a person who loves fine arts and culture but doesn’t get enough of it here in Singapore, can you imagine how marvelous it was? To be hearing music being played as you walk on the streets and admire the streets and buildings?

Even though I went with a tour group, it felt like I was touring Europe with a group of friends who I genuinely like. I genuinely love being in their company and spending one whole day with them just walking around and exploring and taking in the sights of Europe and being lost together. We had late night walks in Germany, Amsterdam and London as well and those were amazing because it was the late night walks that made us bond with each other, because I got to know them on a more personal level and listen to their life stories in those 11pm to 12 midnight walks. We didn’t know each other before we went on this trip, and as I look back, I am so glad I went on this trip because if i didn’t, I wouldn’t have met them, and they are amazing people to be with. It was such a wonderful, amazing, memorable, awesome (you name it la huh) trip. I’ve always wanted to go travel with my friends, and this trip in one way fulfilled that dream of mine. It’s kinda weird because I actually went in a tour but I found friends within that tour group,and we just separate ourselves from the rest of the tour group and explored on our own. I guess that’s how my dream got fulfilled.

So to my Europe squad, thank you, for the wonderful memories we shared together. The places I’ve visited were so beautiful, such that the memories made were sweet, but you guys made those memories I have even sweeter. Thank you for seeing my crazy and enthusiastic side yet not shy away from it but instead embraced and entertained it. I was really lucky 🙂

(P.S: I have got no pictures to show the readers out there coz the pictures are still in my phone and not yet uploaded to my computer. I’ll see if I want to have a separate post with the pictures, then you’ll be able to see my Europe squad)


ShabiraBasheer 🙂

The youthful years are fading.

So I’ll turn 19 in a couple of days (approximately 3 more days to be more exact and less vague) and I thought of sharing some things with whoever who happens to read this blog post of mine.

I’ve been changing my bios in various social media profiles of mine to We’re lost, but one day, we’d say it was all I could dream. It’s actually a song lyric from Khushi’s Phantoms. The video which I embed above is a live performance of him performing this song, which is by the way, so very amazing to the point that it pains me that I’m not physically there to witness it. God bless Lekhz for introducing Khushi to me, otherwise I might not have discovered him at all!!!

Ohkay so I just feel like that particular line from the song is so aptly relevant to my life right now, at this point in time. It’s like I’m moving into adulthood (I have to change my blog title to Musings of a NINETEEN year old now gosh) but I’m not entirely an adult because I feel so unprepared, and so lost when it comes to being an adult and having to handle adult responsibilities like independence, the ability to make your own decisions, be financially responsible etc etc… I’m in my transitional phase from a teenager, an individual who could still rely on her parents for help to a full-grown adult who needs to handle most of her responsibilities on her own right now. And I do not really know how to do it or go about fulfilling all those duties at the very moment, so I feel very uncertain and so lost.

But one thing’s for sure, these few years spent transitioning from a teenager to an adult would be the very moments I would treasure the most, and remember for the rest of my life. Because this is ultimately the prime of my life, where I get to try out new things, finally be free from the grasp of my parents, meet new people, experience adult things and just live my life to the fullest because if not now, then when? It’s going to be an exciting few years, so even though I don’t quite know what to do, one thing’s for sure; I would dream to relive them again and remember these few years when I’m old and reminiscing on my adulthood. 

Hence, I felt that that particular line is such an accurate reflection of my situation right now, and that’s why I’ve been changing my instagram/twitter/facebook bio to this quote HAHA. Although the real meaning of that line is most probably a relationship that was once so lovely and wonderful that one can’t help but feel a wistful taste of nostalgia when looking back, but hey, if there’s one thing literature has taught me, is that words can have numerous, multiple interpretations and meanings. And that makes it beautiful.

So here’s to my last year as a teenager, and the beginning of something new, something scary yet exciting.

Don’t be so hard on yourself

“Something I like to do is envision a vision of myself that I really admire, without the failings and insecurities that I normally have. He gets everything – confidence, self-assurance, a sense of humour, motivation, passion… Everything I wish I had, or do have but don’t give myself enough credit for. Then I name them, whether it’s Future you or a completely different name, or a version of your name, to solidify the picture.

Then simply, when you’re in a rough spot, imagine that person coming in, tapping the weaker version of you out, telling you to go take a break, and then just become that other person, like you’re playing a character, and build up those habits, think like that person would, behave like that person would, become them.”

I got this from twitter, not tumblr 🙂 And it made me smile today because it’s such an amazing advice/technique to try on yourself 🙂

The Book Thief

Finished yet another book! (I love 2015 so far) and this time, it’s Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief 😀 I watched the movie back when it was released, and although I had no overwhelmingly urgent feeling to get my hands on the book and embark on Liesel Meminger’s world, I somehow just bought that book for 13 bucks on Carousell, and I went on a journey with the book thief. What strikes out to me in this book is that the story is told by an omniscient narrator called Death. Yeah you heard that right. It is told by Death’s point of view, and frankly I think Marcus Zusak is a genius for coming up with this creative idea. In this book, death is humanized, he is not regarded as someone or something as evil and malicious and greedy for souls, but more so he becomes “haunted by humans” and there are some instances where he becomes weary at what he does. He does not take pride nor revel in his achievements at being in so many places at one time. He takes the opportunity to look at what us humans do, and from him, I learnt more about human nature more than I ever would if told by an actual human narrator. It’s nearing World War 2, Liesel Meminger’s brother is found dead, she is abandoned by her mother and given to the care of her foster parents. Her foster mum rules the household with an iron fist. Her foster dad plays the accordion and teaches her how to read. She befriends a local boy called Rudy Stein (who is absolutely adorable). When World War 2 approaches, she learns that her foster parents did an unthinkable yet humane act – hiding a Jew (his name is Max) in their basement.

This is one of Max’s story which he gave to Liesel, and I found it absolutely meaningful with its figurative language and use of metaphors. Even if you’ve never read the book before, just try to pick out the meaning/point of the story. Liesel is a German girl. Max is a German Jew – hated by his homeland by practically everybody. An unlikely bond – united by their love for words and their experience at being abandoned – develops between them both, a bond that can transcend politics, hatred and anti-Semitism because it’s innocent, immaculate and pure.

There was once a strange, small man. He decided three important details about his life:

  1. He would part his hair from the opposite side to everyone else.
  2. He would make himself a small, strange mustache.
  3. He would one day rule the world.

The young man wandered around for quite some time, thinking, planning and figuring out exactly how to make the world his. Then one day, out of nowhere, it struck him – the perfect plan. He’d seen a mother walking with her child. At one point, she admonished the small boy, until finally, he began to cry. Within a few minutes, she spoke very softly to him, after which he was soothed and even smiled. The young man rushed to the woman and embraced her. “Words!” He grinned. “What?” But there was no reply. He was already gone.

Yes, the Fuhrer decided that he would rule the world with words. “I will never fire a gun,” he devised. “I will not have to.” Still, he was not rash. Let’s allow him at least that much. He was not a stupid man at all.

His first plan of attack was to plant the words in as many areas of his homeland as possible. He planted them day and night, and cultivated them. He watched them grow, until eventually, great forests of words had risen throughout Germany…. It was a nation of farmed thoughts.

While the words were growing, our young Fuhrer also planted seeds to create symbols, and these, too, were well on their way to full bloom.

Now the time had come. The Fuhrer was ready. He invited his people toward his own glorious heart, beckoning them with his finest, ugliest, hand-picked from his forests. And the people came. They were all placed on a conveyor belt and run through a rampant machine that gave them a lifetime in ten minutes. Words were fed into them. Time disappeared and they now knew everything they needed to know. They were hypnotized. Next, they were fitted with their symbols, and everyone was happy.

Soon, the demand for the lovely ugly words and symbols increased to such a point that as the forests grew, many people were needed to maintain them. Some were employed to climb the trees and throw the words down to those below. They were then fed directly into the remainder of the Fuhrer’s people, not to mention those who came back for more.

The people who climbed the trees were called word shakers. The best word shakers were the ones who understood the true power of words. They were the ones who could climb the highest. One such word shaker was a small, skinny girl. She was renowned as the best word shaker of her region because she knew how powerless a person could be without words. That’s why she could climb higher than anyone else. She had desire. She was hungry for them.

One day, however, she met a man who was despised by her homeland, even though he was born in it. They became good friends, and when the man was sick, the word shaker allowed a single teardrop to fall on his face. The tear was made of friendship – a single world – and it dried and became a seed, and when next the girl was in the forest, she planted that seed among the other trees. She watered it every day. At first, there was nothing, but one afternoon, when she checked it after a day of word-shaking, a small sprout had shot up. She stared at it for a long time.

The tree grew every day, faster than everything else, till it was the tallest tree in the forest. Everyone came to look at it. They all whispered about it, and they waited… for the Fuhrer. Incensed, he immediately ordered the tree to be cut down. That was when the word shaker made her way through the crowd. She fell to her hands and knees. “Please,” she cried, “you can’t cut it down.”

The Fuhrer, however, was unmoved. He could not afford to make exceptions. As the word shaker was dragged away, he turned to his right-hand man and made a request. “Ax, please.” At that moment, the word shaker twisted free. She ran. She boarded the tree, and even as the Fuhrer hammered at the trunk with his ax, she climbed until she reached the highest of the branches. The voices and ax beats continued faintly on. Clouds walked by – like white monsters with gray hearts. Afraid but stubborn, the word shaker remained. She waited for the tree to fall. But the tree would not move. Many hours passed, and still, the Fuhrer’s ax could not take a single bite out of the trunk. In a state nearing collapse, he ordered another man to continue.

Days passed. Weeks took over. A hundred and ninety-six soldiers could not make any impact on the word shaker’s tree. “But how does she eat?” the people asked. “How does she sleep?” What they didn’t know was that other word shakers threw supplies across, and the girl climbed down to the lower branches to collect them.

It snowed. It rained. Season came and went. The word shaker remained. When the last axman gave up, he called up to her. “Word shaker! You can come down now! There is no one who can defeat this tree!” The word shaker, who could only just make out the man’s sentences, replied with a whisper. She handed it down through the branches. “No thank you,” she said, for she knew that it was only herself who was holding the tree upright.

No one knew how long it had taken, but one afternoon, a new axman walked into town. His bag looked too heavy for him. His eyes dragged. His feet dropped with exhaustion. “The tree,” he asked the people. “Where is the tree?” An audience followed him, and when he arrived, clouds had covered the highest regions of the branches. The word shaker could hear the people calling out that a new axman had come to put an end to her vigil. “She will not come down,” the people said, “for anyone.”

They did not know who the axman was, and they did not know that he was undeterred.

He opened his bag and pulled out something much smaller than an ax. The people laughed. They said, “You can’t chop a tree down with an old hammer!” The young man did not listen to them. He only looked through his bag for some nails. He placed three of them in his mouth and attempted to hammer a fourth one into the tree. The first branches were now extremely high and he estimated that he needed four nails to use as footholds to reach them. “Look at this idiot,” roared one of the watching men. “No one else could chop it down with an ax, and this fool thinks he can do it with –“. The man fell silent. The first nail entered the tree and was held steady after five blows. Then the second went in, and the young man started to climb. By the fourth nail, he was up in the arms and continued on his way. He was tempted to call out as he did so, but he decided against it. The climb seemed to last for miles. It took many hours for him to reach the final branches, and when he did, he found the word shaker asleep in her blankets and the clouds. He watched her for many minutes. The warmth of the sun heated the cloudy rooftop. He reached down, touching her arm, and the word shaker woke up.

She rubbed her eyes, and after a long study of his face, she spoke. “Is it really you?” Is it from your cheek, she thought, that I took the seed? The man nodded. His heart wobbled and he held tighter to the branches. “It is.” Together, they stayed in the summit of the tree. They waited for the clouds to disappear, and when they did, they could see the rest of the forest. “It wouldn’t stop growing,” she explained. “But neither would this.” The young man looked at the branch that held his hand. He had a point. When they had looked and talked enough, they made their way back down. They left the blankets and remaining food behind.

The people could not believe what they were seeing, and the moment the word shaker and the young man set foot in the world, the tree finally began to show the ax marks. Bruises appeared. Slits were made in the trunk and the earth began to shiver. “It’s going to fall!” a young woman screamed. “The tree is going to fall!” She was right. The word shaker’s tree, in all its miles and miles of height, slowly began to tip. It moaned as it was sucked to the ground. The world shook, and when everything finally settled, the tree was laid out among the rest of the forest. It could never destroy all of it, but if nothing else, a different-coloured path was carved through it.

The word shaker and the young man climbed up to the horizontal trunk. They navigated the branches and began to walk. When they looked back, they noticed that the majority of onlookers had started to return to their own places. In there. Out there. In the forest. But as they walked on, they stopped several times, to listen. They thought they could hear voices and words behind them, on the word shaker’s tree.

Overall, this book just tore me to pieces. It showed me not all Germans hate the Jews, but they were just helpless and frightened out of their wits in the Hitler era to rebel and go against the Fuhrer. It showed me the true meaning of kindness, sacrifice, friendship, bravery and what it means to love words. Such a wonderfully written book.