Why I love… Sense8: Sense8con 2 #1: Fanmily

I’ve been to a lot of conventions in my (long 😉 ) life and have had a lot of awesome experiences and encounters, both with ’stars‘ and with fellow fans. But this weekend was special on so many levels. So I’d first like to share how it felt to connect with the fellow Sensies.

One major difference to other conventions was the fact that I had already connected with other fans via Twitter beforehand. As I wrote (in German) in my first blogpost about Sense8, this fandom is the first in which I really got actively involved. And so there were a number of people I was already looking forward to meeting in person for the first time.

 

In order to make it easier for them to recognize me, I had tweeted a picture of all the Sense8-merchandise I would have with me, notably my T-shirts and my pins. An Italien Sensie called Matteo reacted by posting his shirts, which was a wise decision, for I immediately recognized him when I was sitting in the lobby of the Marriott after registering for the con on Friday evening, waiting for Kaja from Norway to come down. I called out: „Matteo!“ and I introduced myself, pointing at my shirt and my backpack. First contact made. We immediately started talking – and then Kaja arrived: BIG HUG! We had already been a bit more in personal contact via DM and were both so happy to finally get to see each other. We were meeting for dinner and I couldn’t wait to talk to Kaja, but I also wanted to include Matteo, who had also come to the con on his own. So it felt quite natural to invite him to come along. And so he did, and we had a very long dinner and talked about so many things that I can’t even remember them all. This instant understanding among fans – it was even deeper with us sensies, as we didn’t only discuss Sense8-related topics. Well, in a way we did, because watching Sense8 opens you up to so many issues that virtually cover all aspects of society and politics. Matteo’s last train to where he stayed would have been at 10 pm, but he rather stayed with us and took a (very expensive!) taxi home. That was only the first evening – even before the con began. Kaja & Matteo kept being some of the closest people throughout, even though Kaja became ill Saturday evening and could only come down to say goodbye after the closing on Sunday evening, when I finally met her best friend Kristoffer, who had been ill since Friday. These two, unfortunately, have not been blessed by good health (not only referring to the weekend) – but the way they support each other through these trying times is absolutely beautiful. ❤ I hope I’ll get to spend more time with both of them another time. I do want to visit Norway again…

When I came into the lobby on Saturday, before the Welcoming Party (which turned out to just be a first group panel with some games – I had imagined something completely different), I saw Martin, the young man from Argentina who has already brought us fantastic videos and first glimpses into his documentary about the Sense8 phenomenon (@martoerhardt). (I had helped him from time to time by translating stuff into German.) Even though he couldn’t quite place me at our first meeting (being confused when I introduced myself with my real name), we later spent a lot of time talking – he was a constant throughout these days. His glowing enthusiasm and the way he makes you feel special and important is infectious. His dedication to Sense8 is almost unparalleled – he had been taking a trip across Europe visiting Sense8 film locations from Iceland to Positano, Italy in the weeks up to the convention. Inspiring commitment – and a beautiful human being. When later in the afternoon he was talking to another sensie, I said hello to her after he left – it was Susana Grilo (@su_me) from Portugal, whose last name I even knew from Twitter, which took me a little by surprise as I’m not very good at remembering names (any more). It turns out I might have read her name quite often in the promotion for the Sense8 mural, as she was also heavily invested and is now even trying to organize the creation of a Sense8 mural in Barcelona in a cooperative project between Portuguese and Spanish artists. Let me quote her:

The combination of the different styles, creating a cohesive final big picture will be itself a demonstration of how harmonious diversity can be when its effects are consolidated.

There was one German woman I knew would be there: Manu, who has lived in the Netherlands for quite a while, being a German teacher. She spotted me in the hall and introduced me to Crystal from Colorado (who I envy for having met and hugged Max Riemelt last year) and Ine from Belgium. We didn’t have much time to connect at that point, as the Welcoming Party was about to start. Manu, Crystal and I did spend more time together later on and were able to really connect – up to the point when Crystal and I became what I called „crying buddies“ after the closing. We were both a complete mess and hugged it out. ❤ I’m really glad I’ve met her and Manu – and I just have this feeling that this wasn’t the last time. Crystal, by the way, is a hell of a brave woman – she moved with three kids (and her mom) from Ohio to Colorado in the hope of providing their kids with a better future. Respect!

Short recap: So, before the con even started, I had already met fellow sensies in their early 20s up to my age from Italy, Norway, Argentina, Germany, Belgium and the US. But, of course, it didn’t end there. In the auditorium where the Welcoming Party (and later the panels) took place I sat down next to Derek, a Scotsman in his 50s I’d say, who I had some lovely chats with (I do love me a Scottish accent…). Later I would introduce myself to Serena and Seema, two energetic Indian ladies living in Dubai, who were also sitting in my row. There was one slightly older-looking man in the row in front of me who turned around from time to time – I would get to know him later…

OK, I will have to cut this a little shorter or this will go on forever – or maybe not, we’ll see…

There was still at least one person from my Twitter timeline that I knew would be there and wanted to see: Birgit from Denmark. When she posted a picture of her, Manu and Crys, I knew who to look for – and so, in one of the breaks between two panels I found her – talking to Jan, the man from the row in front of me, also Danish (both in their mid-60s I think). She immediately gave me a big hug and told me she was so happy to meet me. So was I! There was this instant connection again, just as if we had known each other for a long time. I think Matteo turned up at that point again, and so both mine and Matteo’s circle of sensate friends had expanded again. The way it turned out, Birgit, Manu, Crystal, Matteo, Jan and I ended up having Pizza together on Saturday evening – diverse yet united. This evening, combined with what had happened before in the panels (more about that soon), made my heart feel so full of love it was almost bursting. I went home with the renewed belief that Sense8 is, indeed, much more than „just another TV show“. Those of you who were there with me will know what I mean, to those who weren’t I will try to explain a bit more how the attendant Sense8 actors played into that in another post.

There would be more to tell about other encounters, such as with the 22-year-old woman with red-dyed hair from Spain, whose name I’ve forgotten 😳 , but who paid me the sweetest compliment, being quite shocked when I told her my age: „I thought you were MY age!“ 😉 Or when I was still looking very sad after leaving the closing ceremony and a woman I hadn’t even noticed before asked me whether I needed a hug, then gave me one and comforted me by saying that I should simply look forward to next year. I also got to say „hi“ to Nicole from London and her sister but, unfortunately, we didn’t really talk that much. But I’m pretty sure we will run into each other in London some day.

These were just some of the individual encounters, but what also moved me incredibly was how we were as a huge group – a cluster – when the actors were on stage and shared their experiences and most personal feelings with us. Not only was I crying my eyes out – but I heard sobbing and sniffing to the left and right, front and back of me, I saw people all around trying to dry their tears – women, men, young and old. The sheer power of empathy engulfed me. Before Sense8 I had never really thought about the power of empathy much. I knew that I had always had it, but I had never felt the experience of a room filled with hundreds of empathetic people, people who are not afraid to show their feelings, people who can feel what others are feeling – it was a true sensate feeling. So when after the closing panel I was sobbing myself and saw how Matteo next to me was crying too, I just had to give him a comforting hug (before I finally got on the shuttle to the airport I think we hugged at least another three to four times). Then Martin (one row in front of us) came towards me and we hugged really tight. When I turned to go and try to find my other new-found friends, as I had to leave for the airport soon, I saw Crystal – just as much in tears as I was. She cried out: „You too?!?!“ and we lay in each other’s arms. (I’m fighting back tears as I’m writing this, by the way.) I mean I’m always melancholic after a convention but this was something quite different. I felt touched by all these wonderful people from all over the world. My world had just expanded again – and it hadn’t even been that small before. Sense8 fans do not make up a fandom, we’re truly fanmily. And, of course, we sang „What’s Up?“! 🙂

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