Posts Tagged ‘Leo Bormans’

From Nigeria we head off to the Philippines and one of my most recent friends, Lyssah! I met Lyssah in The Hague in May, during the Hope XXL conference, and she is simply amazing! For one, she shares my love for travel (more like she totally dwarfs me in that area, she’s been to SO MANY countries)!

Lyssah is also a very free spirit – always has a smile on, always wants to learn something new, and was one of my favorite people during our stay in the Netherlands! We also share a love and pride for our countries, and I still remember the talk she gave about tattoos being a long-time tradition in her place.

Here’s Lysssah, try to keep up with all the places she’s been to in this post!

My name is Lyssah and I just finished my scholarship grant in Spain and come back to the Philippines, my home country.

For the first half of 2014 I was trainspotting in the South of France, couchsurfing in Belgium, stargazing on the yellow stretch of the Sahara desert, getting lost in the medinas of Morocco, hitchhiking to a concentration camp in the Netherlands, getting my tummy happy in Italy, wine tasting in Bordeaux, falling in love with the words of Fernando Pessoa in Portugal, celebrating the ‘semana santa’ in the South of Spain and basically doing a lot of learning outside the classroom.

But all of these adventures really started with a dream, the literal one, the one when you’re adrift at night and suddenly fill your subconscious with countless moving images of undefined places, unnamed faces and simply unexplainable things. I kicked off the year following that dream. A year ago I dreamt that I was in a train in Europe and as I looked outside the window, I saw an image of a lady whom my subconscious made me believe that it was The Lady who made an apparition in Lourdes, France to a young girl named Bernadette in 1858 who would later be beatified as a saint. I made sure I was in Lourdes on the exact date of her apparition to Bernadette. That was the first time that I travelled alone in my 21 years of existence. It was a sort of pact that I made with myself that if I had the chance to be in Europe, I would do everything to visit the apparition site of The Lady to express my gratitude in fulfilling my dream. I rode a train from San Sebastian, Spain to Lourdes, France. During that time, I was still living in Oviedo, a subtle and tranquil little town in the north of Spain. After graduating from my first degree last April 28, 2013, I received an email stating that I was awarded with an Erasmus Mundus scholarship grant in English Studies for nine months in Spain.

I never saw that coming, Spain wasn’t even in my bucket list and studying English Studies in Spain is really an irony. I come from the Philippines, a former colony of Spain and there I was in our former colonizer’s land, seeking their tutelage.

When I was in a train in France, I realized I was like the irony of the trees outside my window. Their leaves were being stripped off from their bodies leaving them naked in the cold during winter and in the summer, their leaves clothe them under the scorching sun. But maybe it was really supposed to be that way, things are better the way they are; the same way as how I just suddenly found myself in Spain living with all the ironies that I could think of. I have come to realize that you have to accept things as they are without expectations and just cut all the baggage after all you can’t fill a cup that’s already full.

I remember having a hard time leaving Spain when my scholarship grant finished just a few weeks ago. The people who were once strangers but who have become friends and some even more as families, were the hardest to leave. More than the places that I have visited in Europe and in Africa, it’s the people that really mattered most and the bonds that I have formed with them that I will really treasure for the rest of my life. We can actually form a United Nations with the diversity of nationalities in our circle of friends. Leo Bormans, the author of the World Book of Happiness defined happiness in only two words: other people. And I agree with him.


Lyssah takes a photo with this pose for every new place she visits! She’s incredible!


So, in January, I was selected as one of 70 young people from America, Asia, and Africa to attend a 4-day conference organized by Hope XXL at The Hague, The Netherlands.

One word? Incredible! Meeting people from countries I’d only ever heard of, learning bits about diverse cultures, listening to our keynote speakers, deliberating on articles for the Liemer’s List (please allow Google the option of your friendship) was just incredible. I feel so blessed!

There are two keynote speeches I really enjoyed, and I made a few notes. Wanna see?

Leo Bormans wrote ‘The world’s book of happiness’ and he told us about the two kinds of people, ‘green buttons and red buttons’.

Green button Red button
Talk about ‘us’ Talk about ‘me’
Talk and seek ‘solutions’ Talk and see ‘problems’
Look to the ‘future’ Look to the ‘past’

Trust and equality are major determinants of how happy a country is. Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands lead on the happiness index, even though they are not the richest countries. Why?

Happiness can be summarized in two words – other people. (Here he asked us to think about the four happiest moments in our lives and then crossed off money, surprises, other people, and family as the thing behind our happiness).

Here are a few more thoughts on why happiness ranks higher than money and accomplishments

  • The best-selling meal on earth is McDonald’s Happy Meal
  • Nike, Danone, and Coca Cola’s  slogans play on a smile. Wristwatches  always appear in ads set to 10 past 2pm – that’s a smile. Would you buy a ‘frowning’ watch? (To be honest I’ve made it a point of duty to take a closer look at adverts from now on!)
  • Coca Cola has moved from ‘Enjoy’ to ‘Open happiness’, even Lipton Iced Tea has become ‘drink positive’. Like there’s any way to drink negative. 

He also talked about ‘realistic hope’ which is hinged on these three:

Survival – resilience

Attachment – trust

Mastery – goals

He also took time explain the meaning of ‘Namaste’ to us. It means three things: I see you, I recognize something positive in you, and I bow to it.

And then he wrapped with, “To a man with a hammer, everything is a nail. To a man with a telescope, everything presents an opportunity to be viewed from different angles. I wish you a telescopic life!”

For more from Leo Bormans, visit and/or

Another session that really spoke to me was the one on chemical weapons presented by Mr. Michael Luhan, head of communication at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. They received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 for their extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.

OPCW was founded in 1997 and so far, 109 countries have signed up to the OPCW, and there are 8 countries declared/gave up their stash of chemical weapons. And so, far, there haven’t been any ‘challenge inspections’ – where the OPCW doesn’t believe a country has surrendered all they’ve got, and decides to challenge their declaration.

Really interesting to hear of the devastation chemical weapons cause, and more importantly, to learn of the extent of brilliance and wickedness the human mind is capable of.

We spent the rest of the day identifying the countries we came from – check out the sexiest country of them at the top – Nigeria!!


Right at the top baby!!


I think this group was classed as the people from AAA but living in Europe…



Then we went to dinner, and then it was off to our accommodation, Hotel Studio, and bedtime! The evening and the morning, the first day!



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