Maybe three years ago I would have never thought of getting any tattoos at any stage of my life. I always felt that they looked pretty on other people, but that it just wasn’t my style. It’s funny how rapidly things change. Last month, I got my third tattoo, and I’m definitely not done yet.
It all started with a train ride with my best friend, really. She had been thinking about getting inked for a long time already and told me about her ideas, and I suddenly asked myself … why not? Why shouldn’t it be “my style”? In the end, aren’t tattoos about expressing yourself, telling your own, personal story?
We got our first tattoos half a year later – she, a sickle moon on her forearm, and I, a lotus flower on my upper back. We first wanted to get the same design, but then found out that our expectations were very different. Still, it was something we did together. Quite simply, I chose the flower because of my name, Flora. It is a rather unusual name, especially in Europe, and even though I wasn’t very fond of it as a child, I certainly am today. After all, I am bearing the name of a Roman goddess (and a Scottish heroine of the Jacobite Rising of 1745, let that sink in!). My flower tattoo reminds me that I am no subject to other people’s opinion or the society’s demands. I am who I am, and no matter how much I change and what roads I choose to walk, I am still me, I am still Flora.
My best friend and I still ended up getting matching tattoos though. Half a year after our first session we went to Krakow in Poland for a long weekend. We had talked about getting tattooed there for some time, mainly because it would work out much cheaper than getting it done in Switzerland. We pretty much just did some Google research on the best studios in town, dropped by and got tattooed on the spot.
The dragonfly has a special meaning in our friendship. Carnival is, believe it or not, a pretty big thing in Switzerland. It’s a rather colorful and noisy event, and there are dozens of Carnival marching bands called “Gugge” that play on stages and during the parades, night and day. My best friend’s mom was playing in one of those groups, and every year, my best friend was allowed to bring a friend along. The year she dragged me along (and from then on, I was part of the bustle every following year), her mother’s Gugge had costumes inspired by water lilies (sounds crazy, I know, but Swiss carnival is a bit mental anyways); us children, however, got dressed up as indigo colored dragonflies.
Carnival is still a big part in our friendship – today, we are actual members of the same marching band of which my friend’s mom and grandma had already been a part, and to me, these people have become like a second family. In conclusion, my dragonfly doesn’t simply remind me of a crazy weekend in Cracow or the even crazier stories I could tell you about Swiss carnival, it reminds me that I have a friend who has stuck by me for almost twelve years now (or I to her, it’s not like she could possibly ever get rid of me) and whom I love unconditionally – and it is a reminder that, no matter what, I am never alone.
After Cracow, I developed the idea of getting tattoos on my travels throughout the world. I used to buy souvenirs, but in the end, they just collect dust somewhere on a shelf and are eventually kicked out along with all the things you no longer need. A tattoo, however, is something you can’t lose. It’s like a souvenir on your skin, an engraved memory.
So that’s what I got here in the Dominican Republic: the palm tree on my leg stands for my time in the Caribbean; not just the beach and the sun and the mojitos, but the Dominican way of living, the insouciance of the people, the unconditional love of life. It reminds me of Merengue, Bachata and Salsa, motorcycle rides, ice cold Presidente and strolls along the Conde. But most importantly, it will always remind me of the friends I found here, on the other side of the world.”