Tuesday, April 3, 2012

No equilibrium for specialists

A successful state needs specialists. Even the ants and bees have maintained specialization as a successful model for millions of years. But the individuals in such a specialized state have to pay a high price, of which they are not even aware in general. This also applies to the human state.
Who for a long time always does the same subtask, necessarily undergoes withering of many other potential abilities. Free-living individuals, both animals and humans, have obviously a much larger space of experience, a lot more opportunities to realize themselves in life than those who do a good mission for their state. Actually those fulfilling their duties with optimum performance are well respected. But secretly many are toying with the all-around life of a non-specialized wanderer through all worlds thereby bringing with it, however, a significant financial loss to themselves. For this kind of life I decided myself, more and more.
Some conclusions came again and again back to the surface and it irritates me to repeat them much like a ruminant. But they seem to be really important and poorly anchored in the general thinking. Most of them I've tried to make clear on my website ars-una.net. But I am under no illusions that many people initially read and then also enter into a discussion about them.
Beyond the seemingly abstract ideas of those convictions, there are also conclusions that have a direct impact on one's own life and what I strive for. First and foremost it is the desire for equilibrium between the different spheres of life. Like an itinerant preacher I repeated that human beings consist of a head, a torso, abdomen and extremities. These four parts can be taken as perception and thinking, feelings and emotions, sex and power, and as activities and work. Each of these parts should have according to my opinion about the same significance and the same proportion in both the lifestyle and the communication with one another.
But what about it in practice? Essentially, only perceiving and thinking, often just memorizing predigested perceiving and thinking, comprise the school education. Emotions and feelings, however, dominate especially the daily life of so-called well-bred circles. The areas of sex and power are discussed only behind closed doors and acted out in restricted areas. Those who dedicate themselves to the working world or to any kind of intensive private activities, are usually doing this more or less as a full-time job. Of equilibrium in this sense there is generally no question.
What does this mean for the practical life? Lifestyle and communication have to do with each other and closely interact with each other. Both should therefore be considered correspondingly. Let us briefly consider the four parts separately.
Perceiving and thinking should play everywhere and throughout life up to senior age an important role. Throughout life, we must all and everywhere have the opportunity to learn. This is true not only for the head, but emotionally as well in the area of sex and power as well as at the workplace and during personal activities. Everyone should have the same opportunities in life and especially in new areas of life to look around and learn.
Purely emotional decisions and the world ruled mainly by sensations of everyday life in said well-bred circles require a good deal of skepticism and may not be taken for granted. Good observation and clear thinking must also be practiced daily by people tending to prefer feelings. Sex and power in them often take only a very small proportion in their life. To what extent work and activities in these circles have a priority, is often highly questionable. The free right to decide oneself, when and how much and what you want to work, is a desirable objective.
Sexual behavior and power relationships are taboo in a similar way very often, which is certainly an evil. On how problematic kind people deal with sexual problems such as, for example, fidelity, prostitution, homosexuality, and also with questionable power structures, such as the unequal treatment of minorities, mafia structures and rights of young and old people or even animals, is often unbelievable. This affects not only the lifestyle, but also their communication. Sexuality can be an integral part of human communication. That just today, when medical advances, helping that the transmission of diseases and unwanted pregnancies can largely be avoided, this possibility is even more preferable and rewarding, still meets with almost incredible opposition. And to what extent the discussion in the media about questionable power structures is prevented, shows up as another sad chapter.
In the working world, people are isolated from the other three areas, or they cut themselves off during their intensive activities from those, which often seems to be a real scandal. Anyone who does not dedicate himself or herself almost one hundred percent to the work is excluded and has greatly reduced opportunities. How their own activities as well can shoot out over the top, may be shown by computer enthusiasts and football fans, as examples. Independent thinking has usually a disadvantage compared to what the boss is saying. Careful observation of what happens in the executive suite is no less undesirable. Feelings should be retained. Anything sexual in the work area is frowned upon anyway.
Generally, the quest for a balanced lifestyle and in the mentioned sense as well of such a kind of communication is regarded with undisguised suspicion. To what extent the quality of life will suffer, often seems to be hardly aware.
The desire for equilibrium also concerns the search for an understanding of our entire world. A vastly exaggerated specialization seems to govern. On the website mentioned a balanced importance of art, religion and science is called desirable. This issue will not be discussed here again. What extent of resistance might be expected is shown by a lot of human experiences and examples, which are also not discussed here. Generally it can be said that many representatives of these areas are extremely reluctant to sincerely regard the other two areas as equivalent. Thereby the search for a comprising equilibrium in any attempt for a better understanding of our world is made much more difficult
If the term "equilibrium" is not liked by somebody as too much taken out of physics, it can be easily replaced by talking about the search for the middle path, which is used in the religious sphere, or by speaking about the search of balanced beauty, as it is known in arts. You ought to forgive the physicist for talking about equilibrium.
But the crucial point is the personal waiver of specialization. I am well aware that a modern state would collapse without specialists. But I think we can afford, if a certain proportion of the population can give up this kind of lifestyle more reminiscent of a type of slavery life.
Therefore in plain text: A quarter of my life I would like to devote to thinking and perceiving, and another quarter to the feelings and sensations, another quarter to the love life (don't get me into a discussion about the difference between love and sex!) and the power requirements, connected to it and not necessarily only the own ones, and ultimately a quarter of my time spent with activities such as traveling and always still working as I am now sitting at the computer and writing this text after some mental "work" into its memory and perhaps even a little transferring it to the memory of other people.
Exactly the same is valid for my desire wanting to keep trying to "understand" this incredible world. Anyone who has read my website (convictions), will know why I put the word "understand" in quotation marks. But the essence should be, by offering art, religion and sciences as three equal legs, to give to this project a firm footing. So I would like to dedicate myself to all three of them equally. A specialist will find very little of equilibrium if it is understood this way.

(Remark concerning the translation: Of course, in English many people would prefer to talk about balance instead of equilibrium. It is avoided thereby to give a higher ranking to economics.)

© Hans. J. Unsoeld, 2012

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Elderly man and young woman


A relationship between an elderly man and a young woman can be a very rewarding thing for both of them.  Yes, it may include a lot of sex, but should not exclusively rely on sex.  The intellectual experience of a man who has lived through many difficult situations in a long life and has thought much about whatsoever had importance during it, can be as good for her as the feeling of her healthy young body for him. A prerequisite might be that the man still has physical and mental  force which now happens more often than in former times.
The legal requirements must be observed, usually meaning the woman is not younger than 18 years. But most societies nevertheless condemn such a couple. Thereby the only real problems are created. The actual deep gap between the generations enforces this behavior. The prohibition originates from the times when there still existed a big hazard for the woman to get pregnant what nowadays can be avoided with­out difficulties. Thus the situation has changed profoundly. In our times it is more recom­men­dable for her to wait without getting children in order to have time for the much pro­longed period of studying and finding a decent professional position equivalent to men. This may very well be eased by the intellectual and intimate help of the man.
Of course, there are also quite a number of really dirty men who just by their financial power buy the sexual pleasures. It seems such behavior is more prevalent between businessmen than between persons mainly having cultural interests. Young woman should learn to screen men according to such criteria and to select those who will give them as much as they selves are giving them. But this also has not to be kind of a business. It means learning what love indeed may be, and an exper­ienced and, in addition, honest man is likely to know this better than she already does. The most difficult and important subject to learn is to find out who is cheating, and at the same time not to fall into the trap of cheating oneself.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Paradise


1. Freedom And Paradise



Building fences instead of enjoying freedom and paradise, - that is what people do and what makes us sad. But can there be a paradise without fences ? The rumor would spread that there is a paradise, and everybody would come and alone by coming in masses destroy the paradise. It would be necessary to limit the freedom of the people.
Is it at all possible to have a paradise ? Yes, we know there are happy moments in life when we feel like in a paradise. But that kind of paradise always appears as a secret, seems to be limited, - limited in space, in time, in all its dimensions which as well may be spiritual, go into the realms of arts or extend into the intellectual seemingly infinite spaces of sciences.
Thus limit the communication ? Not tell anybody that here is a paradise ? Oh yeah ! That is what mischievous people are doing. They put Michail Khodorkovsky and Julian Assange into jail. They go alone somewhere into the desert or the woods and give a shit on other people. Let the others care for themselves, and if they are in a bad situation, what does it matter to us ? It is the end of social life.
Or the same for everybody ? Communism in a general sense, not just concerning the economy and maybe still the ecology ? General boredom would spread out, laziness, and no desire to do something special would come up. Would they at least have full freedom ? Oh no ! All that alienates them too much from their neighbors would be considered suspicious, would not be allowed, and to detect, it must be spied out. Corruption and suppression must be the consequences.
Do we seem to have only the choice between limited communication or limited material realization in life ? That sounds familiar to modern ears. Is not communication something referring to energy ? Is the problem only expression of the old contrast between energy and materia which reigns everywhere in the universe ? But knowing this, we immediately keep in mind that the essential thing is transforma­tion between both of them, generating all and everything else what can be found in this world.
The final question just would be whether we can find full freedom and the desired paradise in trans­forming material things into energy or information, or to produce material goods by using energy and information. This may be nice at the beginning, but like everything this process tends to accelerate and almost for sure must end in an explosion. Call it war, call it supernova, call it annihilation, - it always must be destructive.
Constructivism and deconstructivism, - are they the labels of the world seen with such eyes ? It is all only oscillation and transformation, nobody has ever seen something to be generated out of nothing, and also all what apparently is destroyed, lives on in form of energy and information. Kneel down, here begins religion ! And immediately somebody will come and cry: It is all esoteric bullshit !
And other people will castigate you by saying you are destroying their paradise and freedom.




2. Meeting the Perfect Person


The perfect person – an impossibility ?
We know our own mistakes only too well. Thus look around ! Oh what marvelous nice young women may cross our way ! A beautiful body like in a dream, eyes of the color we like, also the hair, all looking healthy and with harmonious proportions , flawless breasts of ideal size, - oh what else should be mentioned ?
Of course ! The disarming natural appearance of this being crossing the way necessarily must be mentioned. Every moment the exactly right smiling in the face, charming as it could not be more, agile, tanned by the sun, - no mistake can be discovered !
What to do ? Immediately winning this person for oneself, putting with her ten thousand children into the world, and thus improving it ? Keep smiling ! Should be much easier just by cloning. But will all the ten thousand identical children also be so outrageously beautiful and attractive ?
Of course not ! They would lack the natural appearance of this fairy-like being which certainly is a product of her individual education, at least to a large extent. And when we talk about the natural, what is the nature of this flower ? Her surroundings, to which she seems fitted the best possible way.
But does this nature, meaning essentially her present surroundings, always remain the same ? It can change all of a sudden, quite different qualities may be required. Will this flower there develop in an equally beautiful way ?
And how will look this beauty in thirty or sixty years ? All beautiful flowers seem to have a relentless short life, and woe be to us, if they are cut off by sharp scissors or put into the wrong soil ! Will she become an upright house-wive or a shriveled old woman ? Oh life is cruel ! Can we enjoy it only for seconds ?
Nature adopted for choosing only the procedure of mutation and selection. Did also this procedure develop itself by the same way ? And is it the best possible way ? Pooh, - it seems so cruel and probably is it. Is nature cruel ?



Thursday, September 23, 2010

2. Exploring the jungle


Imagine you came down with a parachute in the desert. What to do ? You could at least look as far as you want and learn loving Fata Morganas. For a while, at first sight, it may let you forget your basic needs. But even worse if you landed in the jungles. Your silken umbrella hangs in the trees, and their is no way back ? Where can you put your feet, where are lurking the tigers ? And you cannot look very far. There is water in lots, but can you drink it ?
My silken umbrellas are one-way tickets. When I started for India, the first question of many of my friends was, when I 'll be back. I did not know it and could not tell it. Their quiet assumption, of course, was, I would explore the beauty of the country and then turn back. The beauty or the beau­ties ? The beauty of the country is mixed up with a lot of dirt. Even in Indian newspapers you can read the open confession that their country is one of the filthiest in the world. And the beauties of the country ? I soon gave up to struggle with a medieval mentality. My own fault ?
For me, the one-way ticket is the confirmation that the traveler is really open-minded. You did not decide in advance, without knowing what will happen. Instead you are decided to let you lead by what will happen. All of a sudden, it overcame me to fly to Bangkok. I bought the ticket on Decem­ber 26, in the morning about 9 or 10 o'clock, almost exactly five years after the moment when the awful tsunami buried by far more than hundred thousand people in South-East Asia.
Memory in our short-living world ? For my feeling, this was active memory. Active means to do a step forward. And I did it, leaving Christmas behind me.
Not only a new country, but a completely new way of life awaited me, infectious, at the first glance superficial, where adrenaline plays an important role. What a degree of diversity ! Knowing about the horizon crammed full with skyscrapers, I landed in the old khlong quarters left behind by the development of our times. All seems to be exaggerated by this monster of a city. The more it aston­ishes how its inhabitants remain friendly, caring, laughing in a way unknown in India. Dancing appears to be an element of life.
I discovered a little restaurant, the Green Bar, just two corners from where I was living. Two very nice sisters in their early twenties, Nana and Apro, own and manage it. It is painted in various sha­des of green tinges, decorated with green plants daily watered by large amounts of the necessary liquid, and attracts a lot of inter­esting looking people from various countries. The main character­is­tic, apart from the tasteful surrounding they had created was for me the kind they served their guests, - almost dancing. I rarely saw young women serving with such a grace and charm, moving around, yes, like dancing. Adding to the lightness of the atmosphere was the music they played on a good sound equipment, mainly of Southern European provenience. Although I would prefer to listen in Asia to Asian music, it perfectly fitted the frame they had set. A cat lying on a table was carefully covered with leaves of flowers just bought and did not move in the heat.
All this does not mean a backwarded style. The place is equipped with modern WLan installation, and those who like to use their notebook can do that. Sorry, it does not feature low prices. At the outskirts of the city you can eat for a third of the money you have to pay here. They have business in mind and show this overtly. All the European touch they adopted does not mean they accepted the European way of life. Our intention to look for new experiences in life remains evidently strange to them. They have business in mind, and experiences seem to be of secondary interest.
Breathtaking, - that is the first word when I intend to say something about the hot jungles of Bangkok. In Thai language the city is named Krung Thep what means “City of Angels”. Not only once, almost without interruption, this city is breathtaking, - and not only in the literal meaning of the word. We see and feel the smog and the heat, the calmness and the speed, the friendliness and the cool way of life, which at the first glance seems to be behind the keep smiling. We see the slowness of the life of those living in the old quarters and the wild velocity of the modern traffic in the modern parts of the city, the backwardness of the khlong quarters and the unrestrained height of the skyscrapers in the downtown areas, the three-wheeled tuk-tuks and the sky-train running swiftly on piers higher than many roofs. We see the completely Asiatic life of the Thais and the herein inserted American way of life, the old world of temples and a modern art and culture, which express themselves visibly in the architecture and invisibly in new forms of life.
The city not only is breathtaking, but also deprives us of our language. The Thai language confuses and enchants our ears. It, certainly, is difficult to be learned in the second half of life. At the same time, more languages than ever existed in Babel penetrate in our ears and cause to ask myself, how I should express myself, - in English, so that as many people as possible understand, or in my own language, which allows me the best to express myself, or in a polyglot mixture, which possibly reproduces best the multilayered structure of this city.
On the coast of Goa, there was enough occasion to find again the own forces and myself. Here, how­ever, the forces are needed at maximum. In India, the apparent calm has left me unfulfilled, here the hectic life seems, all of a sudden, to lead me back to myself. Again and again the own breath is almost halted, even at night in dreams which still then persecute me because so much is to be digested. Never words will be able describe this experience. At the end, we are left alone with rich new insights.
I was told to live in Banglamphu, - in a quarter being for me as unintelligible as the word. Only slowly I opened the eyes and realized: Ah, - that the quarter of the khlongs (until I later found khlongs in other quarters, too). What khlongs are, the gazing into the tube or bored by his flat-screen Middle-European consumer already knows. Aren't they romantic quiet channels like in the old Venice, as menaced by flooding, a consequence of the climate changes, as that beautiful city ?
I thought, I cozily can “skipper” on them, the same way as the German actor Hardy Krueger once had enchanted me on such a screen. Later, after having done it, I wanted to travel further on quickly, because Bangkok was listed as one of the most expensive cities of the world and said to be contaminated by prostitutes infected with AIDS. However, to what extent are all these reports distorted and even absolutely false ! One should whip all these journalists for evil onesidedness !
Beginning with the last argument, it most drastically underlines the uselessness of such reports. After living for one week in Bangkok and having traversed it as far as my certainly only limited forces allow, I did not see a single prostitute, and did not observe a single disagreable approach by a women of that kind. The same moment, I would like to say that in almost no other city I experien­ced such a frolicsome and joyous life in the streets like here.
Yes, - what about the keep smiling ? Is it only a mask behind which people hide themselves ? Again such an almost ugly prejudice ! While the Indians bear the adversities of life with stoical faces, here people smile. They do this even then, when their life is really difficult and the rising water is almost reaching their neck. They don't want to aggravate the life of others with their own problems. A friendly smiling eases the daily load, improves all a little bit. Here nobody would get the idea, this could be a dishonest behavior. Not as a mask, but as a shelter for not allowing to others a too exact view of the own situation, the smiling makes sense. They well know that a too exact knowledge of the own weak situation can be used by the “dear” people around them for their advantage and to the own disadvantage. To be brief: symbiosis yes, exploitation no !
After having found an unbelievable cheap accommodation not far from such a khlong, it was neces­sary to extend the antennas. At the beginning, good information plays an important role. Where to obtain it ? In India I had made the experience that German travel-guidebooks lead simply on the usual travel routes of tourists. They want to avoid mistakes, and contribute de facto to avoid essen­tial points of genuine life in the country. Already earlier I had heard, that the Americans are leading in this field with their “Lonely Planet”-guidebooks what could be attested here, too. They offer well founded information by persons who for a long time lived in the country and often penetrated deeply into the culture and the mentality. In addition, the English language challenges the reader to engage with this language which is so indispensable for a more than superficial contact with the culture. At that, it brings back to the surfaces forgotten own knowledge and forces us to really being able to use it. This is especially important because Thais (this is said without critics !) have a wide spectrum of knowledge of the English language, - from “nothing” till “brilliant”.
Amidst the jungles of Bangkok lie many very beautiful Buddhist temples. The first one I visited was the “Golden Mountain”. Its golden elegantly curved main cone towers the city with superb splendor and shine. On Sunday many Thais climb up the long spiral way around it to venerate above the impressing golden Buddha figure. The religious life seems to be much more integrated into the daily life than in Europe. The transition from one to the other appears to be much easier than we are used to. With joy they generate strong sounds on long rows of bells after having prayed, and then dedicate themselves with the same devotion to good food.
But the most impressing temple is the Wat Phra Kaew in the heart of the old part of the city. It con­sists of a large number of those typical cones called chedi, many of them really tall, and several big temples with their typical bell-like roofs. It is simply impossible to describe the beauty of this ensemble. Migrating through it, one falls into higher and higher states of admiration. Even photo­graphy seems almost unable to reproduce the extraordinary architecture.
But, nevertheless, I would like to mention the collection of photographs by the Italian Maria Grazia Casella “Bangkok” (White Star Publishers) which gives a good impression not only of this central masterpiece, but of many facets of this city, extending over a huge areal and including unbelievably different forms of life amidst the curvatures of the river Chao Phraya. Speedboats bring the passen­gers very fast and in exciting way from one part of the city to a completely different other one, where, for instance, life pulses between high skyscrapers and modern art expositions and all kinds of vital life take place like in most other modern capitals of the world.
Especially beautiful is the sight of the big temples along the river. Besides those already mentioned, the Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) is the most impressive one. It lies on the other side of the river in Thonburi. At this point a few words about the history of Thailand and the foundation of Bangkok have to be said. In 1767 Ayutthay√°, the old capital of Thailand about 80 km north from the actual Bangkok and at that time probably the biggest city of the world, got completely destroyed by a Khmer invasion. Thonburi became the new capital of Thailand for a short time, after which this title went over to Bangkok on the other side of the river.
The visit of the Wat Arun followed only after a while on the return from the floating market at Taling Chan, situated in the outskirts of Thonburi. In former times the extended khlong system played an important role for the transport within the vast area of the city and its neighborhoods and the delivery of the daily supplies of food and other things. Large parts of the offerings were sold from boats on these channels. The actual floating markets are certainly only a weak mirror image of what they were about hundred years ago. Most of them are even not the original ones, but nevertheless impressive places with a strong traditional identity.
On a Saturday morning, as was announced on the Internet, there were performances of traditional dances. It was possible to go there by taking a bus. But it was right to have catched a taxi and thus arriving on time to watch this beautiful event and to take a series of photographs of the almost magical dance competi­tion between different groups of local youngsters. The main part of them were carefully and color­fully dressed and painted girls in their teens, but also boy groups were present, more looking like young sportsmen. The dances they performed clearly had their origin in old temple dances, not hesitating, however, to integrate modern pop music elements into the sound which was played on old Thai instruments in front of the scene. All this took place under an open tent only a few steps away from the floating market. Not far from here trains were passing to Northern Thailand.
After the performance large parts of the groups came aboard the boats on the khlong, which here looked rather like a river. There they got the same delicious food as I did, salad with huge prawns or chicken meat, and all kinds of drinks ranging from self-made juice to Coke. The food was sold from smaller boats coming along the restaurant boats. The vendors continued their usual local chitchat with the farangs (this designation of the foreigners is derived from the German word “Franken”), seemingly not being aware of the non-understanding. The only but continuous message of this kind of communication was friendliness.
On the way back from here, I finally came to the Wat Arun, but from the backside. Monks were sitting around tables and having their food. Surprisingly they invited me to take part in it. I always had been told that monks get their food from other people. Here the opposite seemed to be true. Then they left and a carriage with a coffin on it appeared, followed by a crying about 45 years old woman and a few other persons, evidently being family member and friends and colleagues of the woman. While the carriage and the people slowly circled three times a small quadratic temple with a high platform in the middle and a chimney nearby, the monks came out again and did the same. Then the coffin was brought up to the platform and disappeared in its surface.
When the woman now appeared again, she surprisingly was laughing, and all grief seemed to have melted away. Was this also “keep smiling”, just kind of a show, or did the ceremony somehow bring about a very quick digestion of all the grief ? The only fact I could find out was that the dead man was a monk of the temple and her father. But Asia does not tells us all its secrets by just asking questions.





hans.j.unsoeld@ars-una.net

Thursday, February 18, 2010

1. Layers of Traveling

Leaving to unknown places we start by exploring. We are getting away for something new, as we say and even believe. Soon it becomes evident, how similar the situation is like at school. First the children start familiarizing with a new matter. Then they penetrate into the deeper layers of a field. Without being aware, they grow up at the same time. They not only get deeper into the intricacies of the field in scope, they get deeper into the layers of their own soul. But the soul ? What is that damned being ?
Some of us were continuously be educated by telling about “the” soul. The parents told about it every day. Thus the word became so familiar like words as love or freedom or justice. It belonged to the accepted family of big words which could or were not asked about. But there were other children, too, who rarely got to hear it. Scientists at the time, when I grew up, hesitated to use it, the families of scientists did the same. Strange thing was that those children most times also became scientists, - or should. I was such one.
Traveling to Asia, I first started to explore. I was sent to a school-class with a course for beginners about India. I got school-books about the matter in my native language which accidentally was German. The language had nothing to do with the matter. But, unconsciously, a language acts like rails, - it brings us to a destination already conceived by those who build up the whole system which actually is a system of life. Every country has its own language, has its own system of life. Only traveling we get a feeling for that. At the same time we accept kinds of international com­munication. Ah, yes, on a travel most people speak and understand English, - not always very well, but they do. And so did I.
Then you feel you should tell about your travel. That seems very simple. You just go, after finishing your travel, and talk about it. Ah, to whom, and when ? A lot of questions comes up. Why should I wait till finishing the travel ? The freshness of the experience, may-be, would get lost. And some­times the end of the travel is even not in sight. To buy a return-ticket at the beginning might already be too much intrusion into the pathways of destiny. And why only tell to those who remained a home ? Are they privileged ?
I always liked to get an immediate response on my tellings, kind of a commentary because only that way you allow yourself to be guided by others. Certainly, traveling without asking about the way does not make much sense. Those telling about the daily things may become my friends, those remaining silent are more likely to be forgotten. Not always, of course. It is a question of likelihood, depends on how deep the traces are they left.
Modern times make it possible to talk almost immediately to all of them about what we experien­ced, to those remaining at home as well as to those whom you meet during the travel. There is more or less immediate communication with everybody on the world, provided with an access to email or to the big spider net or just a phone. And those who don't have it can at least read it in the neighborhood where the writing occurs, just looking above the shoulders. But, - there is a “but”! It needs an internatio­nal language.
Typical in Asia is the use of just that language for everyday communication of the traveler. Trans­ferring it to another language always a little bit changes the meaning or the context or the sense hidden behind the words. Yes, that language is English, and therefore, I decided starting from today to write in English. Pooh, said Winnie the bear. It is a wonderful word I already often used in German. Now I can use it without hesitation and without explanation. Pooh will certainly be the answer of some of my readers. It means a little bit or even more of work, depending on how they grew up. I dare demanding the task.
Now about Asia. I was sent to the exploring class in India. The other pupils were also travelers, and often they were as lazy as at school. The tasks were about foreign culture, using the example of temples and elephants. My teacher in the ground school was very much touched by them, liked them very much. I obediently tried to approach them in a decent way, painting them with the camera and writing about them on the keyboard of the notebook, and about the impressions I got. There were a lot of deflections on the way which I tried at the same time to avoid and on the other side not to omit. Mainly these deflections came about, because as a traveler I arrived a the coast and did not immediately proceed the trip to the inner areas of the country where the most typical and undisturbed culture can be found.
The reason for this is not only technical. First of all, we are born. I was born at the seaside. Second, there at the coast other travelers already settled and formed a kind of mixed culture which means a melting pot. I already in my youth liked melting. I melted lead tubes found in the ruins of After-War-Germany. I loved the intermingling of eastern and western cultures with our own one after the bad times of monorail-Nazism. The melting can best be observed at the surface. In geography it is called coast. I observed the coast and got aware that also in Goa, cultures intermingled, and I was attracted by bubbles and the waves at the surface.
It came out that the bubbles were boring, but the waves formed a certain attraction. Swimming in them and being burned by the sunshine had certainly a strong fascination and proved to be healthy, but was difficult for me to communicate to others. The pleasure was always only for a short time of the day. Then, later, I again hit upon people who were not “on the way”, - travelers talking about life at home and business, and local people struggling at home about life and business.
I decided to jump to the second class earlier than the teacher had thought, moving from Goa to Thailand. To explain it I told the classmates I like the pupils in the other class, and openly looked at the girls. Slightly disappointed about this fact they agreed. I left behind me the messy school court­yard of the huge chaotic airport of Mumbay which in the tales of my grandmother was called Bombay, and I thus sat on an jumbo-airplane, similar to an elephant, which brought me to Thailand.
On the plane I felt quite alone, but happy. There were few other European travelers, almost no Germans, and I was surrounded by Indians and Thais. But it was late in the night, and nobody seemed very inclined to talk. Soon everybody started sleeping or at least drizzling away. The secret laws of such a flight, however, require a meal to be served to the passengers. This was done, kind of a surprise, in the middle of the night, far up above the Indian Ocean. Nobody grumbled at it, especially because the food tasted fine, was well made and spicy.
But what a surprise at arrival ! Diving deeper into Asia not meant diving deeper into chaos. Absolu­tely the opposite was true. A transgalactic airport waited for the passengers, accepting us not with staircases pushed to the aircraft far out on a remote place of the enormous airfield, as in Mumbai, but sucking us up through a harmonica directly into the aisles of one of the most fantastic passenger buildings of the world. Immense rolling, almost flying, carpets under extraterrestrial illumination brought us without motion to the highly electronical equipped counters of the immigration ser­vice, which is divided according to the degree of development of the country you are from. Such a privi­leged person as a European in the new community sense of the word can immediately proceed to the passport control, is automatically photographed and gets a stamp allowing access to the coun­try for 30 days. Almost no time is left for admiring the beautiful modern architecture, impossible to be banned into the digital memory of the sneaky camera if not from far away. That was impossible because of the four pieces of baggage delivered to me in dazzling speed from the aircraft as far away as I glided on the rolling carpet and then still crept further walking on my sleepy feet.
First fears whether Thailand with all this kind of progress will be far more expensive than India ? It soon comes out that the transport from about 35 km outside the city, a distance normal for nowa­days planned modern airports, to the downtown areas is cheaper than in India. It is still done by buses. But the rail track of an express train on high piers along the freeway being already finished, this remains a question of time.
Four bus lines lead downtown. A German IT-man in Goa had told me a few of his experiences in Thailand which I added to the information found on the Internet. He urged me to get soon a reser­vation for the New Siam Riverside Guesthouse close to the Khao San Road. That's were the back­packers go, and it has all kinds of commodities while all other guesthouses are more or less sham­bles and not safe ! Obediently, I did what he adviced, sat down at the Internet and was informed that the pleasure including swimming pool is available for 1700 baht ( 35,50 Euro) per night, and I should immediately book it using my credit card. I made a strange face. Neither I had a credit card, because a fraud in Spain had happened and my savings-bank had barred it from use, nor did I have more than an average of approximately 16 Euro per day for use.
Should I have given up my plan to visit Bangkok at this point ? I guess most people would have done it. But I also remembered people telling that Thailand is rather cheaper than more expensive compared to India. I had Mexico in mind where the situation was not that much different. Thus quick decision - yes, I 'll go, nevertheless, because there are always acceptable accommodations not announced to tourist information services or by the Internet.
As planned for the other guest house, I took at the airport the bus line No. 2 leading to that unknown Khao San. Most travelers with business shirts preferred another line leading to an area named Sukhumvit. No idea what that may be, and how far it is from Khao San ! The bus fare of 150 baht (3 Euro) did not empty my purse. The coach was used by quite a number of those backpackers. It glided smoothly towards the skyscrapers appearing at the horizon under a clearly visible layer of smog, but turned to the right side and never reached them. Instead it arrived in a bustling road aligned by pretty shabby buildings with one upper store and filled by taxis and tuk-tuks, those three-wielded noisy vehicles painted in never seen colors.
After receiving my baggage, as can be expected, cab drivers rushed upon me offering their bene­volent services. I asked one of them where I can find a cheap, quiet, beautiful ( ! ) guest house. “Nothing easier than that, I 'll bring you there for 10 baht”, said the guy, and brought me to a place looking like a pension. Their price mounted above 800 baht. All was booked out, and the high noise level did not please my nerves. I said I need a much cheaper one. He grunted, but arrived after a few minutes at another place. Two drowsy badly clad young women hardly came up from an old sofa, and finally showed me a room without windows in the interior of the building for 500 baht. Frightened I turned away.
When I left the house, another young backpacker came out of the establishment and grinned at me. It quickly came out that he had exactly the age of my son and was a bilingual German living perma­nently in Ibiza. He had last night still obtained an acceptable room there, and intended now to get to something better. Clever looking, he had during the day found out where to look, and had made a reser­vation. He told me to follow him because that area had seemed nice to him and there were a lot of cheap such places. He even helped me to carry my baggage. After a 10 minutes walk we had crossed the first khlong and arrived after several times asking for the way at his place. That building looked nice, offered rooms for 300 baht, was clean and evidently populated by such backpackers. But again the same problem resulted that all was booked out.
He left his stuff in his room and accompanied me through the little streets busy with local shops for all and everything. Usually the side to the street of these houses consisted only of doors widely open at this time of the day. Repair workshops, laundries offering their service for 30 baht per kilogram, carriages for selling warm food and juices, and a wide variety of other things, flanked the small road frequented by slow small cars or a little faster bikes. Looking inside those workrooms at the first glance only chaos seemed to exist. However, their orderly and assiduous activity clearly demonstrated a carefully organized environment.
Quite a number of such called guesthouses lined the roads or seemed even to be hidden in by-streets. We knocked at their doors and asked about the availability and the prices of rooms. It clearly came out that the last ones were mainly dependent on the walking distance from the center of the area which, evidently, is the already mentioned Khao San Road. But again and again the same problem came out that almost all rooms were occupied, due to the actual peak season in this country. Was that a reason for slight desperation coming up ? But, before I started thinking about that, we entered a small courtyard filled partially with rubbles and partially with flowers. In the semi-dark entrance room two modestly clad women sat in front of a blubbering TV set, seem­ingly mother and daughter. To our surprise, the question for a free room was not only answered positively, but an astonishing price was said, 120 baht or 2,50 Euro per day.
Preferring to look at the room, we climbed up a steep staircase and got to a room looking kind of a cube having little more than two meters sidelenght, and walls consisting of thin stained ply­wood. The essential property was cleanliness, - new sufficiently hard mattresses with covers for children beds showing teddy bears. The usual big fan at the ceiling and an electrical plug, - what else should I need ? Curtains made of the typical shiny Thai tissue of an undefinable yellow-brown-orange color hindered the outlook. Behind it, the noise of a continuously working kitchen could be heard.
In this room I am living since then, which is less than a week. My initial fears it could not be safe soon faded away. I decided to hide essential things in the far corner under the bed, got used to the tricks of the room lock and the lock of the courtyard which is closed after 10 p.m.
Of course, after getting settled in such a primitive way, I immediately looked out of my newly occu­pied snail-house, stretched out the objective of the camera like the feelers of a snail, and hit upon very lively scenes. But before telling about my first experiences in this evidently unbelievable huge city, I want to say a few words about switching the language.
During all the years passed in the tin can called taxi I got used to speaking five European languages sufficiently well to be able for the daily and nightly chitchat. I felt, how important it is to talk to the people in their own language and, first of all, to listen in original sound, how they are thinking. Traveling, however, is something else. THE big example of a traveler, especially to Asian countries, or better said, oceans, is and remains for me Joseph Conrad. He grew up in a Polish environment, and soon after deciding to write about his pretty wild life, he started doing this in English, just aiming to be understood by an as large audience as possible, which includes those about whom he wrote, the seamen.
Nowadays, we are flying easily from county to country, and even from continent to continent, with­out needing to undergo the troubles of the long and dangerous journeys on sailing ships. But the deep jungles of life in other countries and especially on other continents remain to a large extent the same. We immerse in deeper and deeper layers of traveling, once we expose ourselves to the life of the people we are visiting. This means not only to renounce to the polished-up architecture of uni­form international hotels, but also to be able to tell about it to, as much as possible, everybody, and to speak with, as much as possible, everybody whom we meet on such a journey. Traveling through Asia is for a European similar to traveling through Europe for an American. Every moment you get to another country you are confronted with another language.
For the Americans, there is an easy solution to this problem. They just stick to their own language and annoy thereby the other people they are meeting. For us, the solution seems more difficult. We have to switch the language and annoy, acting this way, our own people. The same is reported about Joseph Conrad whom they did not understand anymore in Poland. But this is the entrance-fee to be paid, like in every cinema of the world. If you don't like to pay it, please remain seated on the sofa in front of your TV set at home.



A gentle reminder to my beloved readers: your feedback and comments are always most appreciated. Without you and your valued opinions, I never could have fought the journey and the writing about it to the cutting edge.

hans.j.unsoeld@ars-una.net