Few things make me feel more nostalgic than being reminded of the most wonderful family holiday on the English canals back in the late 70s. And it’s not just the old pics – coming across canals and narrow boats anywhere will have the same effect!
Ripples of different kinds along the Essex coastline in the UK – out at sea, on the beach and at a souvenir stall.
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The walls demarcating cultures are not made of brick; rather they are like a slow-moving wall of water. Like the objects at the bottom of a river, a person on one side can hazily see people on the other side, they can even put part of their body through to experience it, but to completely move to the other side would require some kind of death and rebirth.
What a beautiful quote from an amazing blog I only recently discovered!
Isn’t it just so true? We encounter another culture, and we see it as if through the haze of a waterfall. We catch glimpses and try to guess what might be going on. It looks intriguing and draws us in. Or we see things we don’t like, things that offend or annoy us, and we want to walk away. Sometimes rainbows form – beautiful to look at but distracting us from seeing what is behind the waterfall.
We might be sure of our conclusions and yet we have only seen through the mist of a waterfall.
“a person on one side can hazily see people on the other side”
It happens all the time. Not just when we move overseas, but every day. We travel on the underground and observe an immigrant family. Our neighbours have moved here with their jobs and don’t know yet what’s expected. We travel abroad on a well-deserved break and struggle with things being different. Or we enjoy the strangeness of it all.
“they can even put part of their body through to experience it”
Sometimes we’re brave and “put part of [our] body through to experience it”. We enter into an experience, a relationship. We are invited into a home, a life. The mist might not immediately clear (it might even feel like it’s getting more dense), but we do see more clearly, understand more deeply. We see more of the real thing, not the hazy image.
“…to completely move to the other side would require some kind of death and rebirth.”
So true! It is a kind of death, a letting go of parts of who you were, of roots. At the same time a rebirth, discovering who you are in a new context.
Here’s to lots more waterfalls to take a peek behind!
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Less than 24 hours ago, we left from Istanbul's International Airport for a long flight back to Boston by way of Munich.
We had come empty and we left full. We had come discouraged, and we left encouraged. We had come tired, and we left energized.
A city of mosques, vibrant colors, masses of people, human need, and history filled our days.
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
(from: Sea Fever by John Masefield)
There is nothing quite like the sea. To blow away the cobwebs. To regain a sense of calm. To realise how big the world out there is and so to recapture a sense of perspective.
Oh how I would love to have a place like this to sit, to look out over the sea, to listen to the waves lapping (or crashing, depending on the weather) on the shore. This has got to be almost the perfect spot. I wonder how much reading, writing and thinking I would get done if I had a place like that. My place overlooks a courtyard. Quite a nice one but a courtyard nonetheless. Which is not the same. At all.
It’s been too long. I must down to the seas again…
What is your “perfect place” to think, to read, to write, to daydream?
Apparently there were only 19 hours of sunshine in Berlin between 1st January and 22nd March - a record low. Such absolute greyness is oppressive. But in recent weeks, there have also been huge snowfalls. The result is an eerily monochrome world. Not ideal for taking sightseers' photographs. But somehow appropriate for a visit to Berlin's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
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…a wonderful, terrible city that wears its scars on its sleeve…
…a city like a great organic stenograph, constantly writing the past into the present…
Looking at your city through someone else’s eyes. Seeing things from a completely different angle. A South African historian’s take on Berlin, interpreting her own country and its history in light of what she sees here. Fascinating!
History. There is so much ugliness, certainly here, and in South Africa as well. What do you do with that? This is what the author notices in Berlin:
The city carries its past crimes and defeats in plain sight. Walking from the Brandenburg Gate down the elegant stretch of the Strasse Des 17 Juni towards the Berlin Victory Column, you come upon the Soviet War Memorial in the Tiergarten. An imposing structure with Russian lettering on its facade, this memorial to the Red Army soldiers who fell in the final days of the battle for Berlin in 1945 is arresting. The apex is an enormous statue of a Red Army soldier, his hand raised in haughty domination above the city he has conquered. The monument, built in the months after the end of World War II, is kept up by the City of Berlin. So there it is: the defeated Germans tending the monument of their conquerors, out of respect for what was defeated by those conquerors, which was Nazism.
In Berlin, history is everywhere. There is no hiding it, ignoring it. The Holocaust memorial, the double row of cobbled stones marking the path of the wall through the city, war memorials, Stolpersteine – it’s all there, people pass it every day. It’s woven into the fabric of modern day Berlin. Apparently (and I can only rely on the article for this), that is not the case in South Africa. Her explanation:
In Germany, the perpetrators of Nazism were the German people, and they remained the majority who themselves had to carry forward the burden of accounting, acknowledging, healing and seeking redemption.
In South Africa, the white minority that perpetrated apartheid is now just a white minority, full stop. The mentality of the minority is often the laager, and old enmities can simmer and burn inside it. Now the national narrative is being retold from the perspective of the victims as victors. Is this why, I thought, standing before the Soviet monument in the Tiergarten, we care so little for this kind of tangible symbol of atonement in South Africa?
“…had to carry forward the burden…” That’s probably it – had to. There was no choice. The evil that had happened was so stark, so in your face. And everyone was a part of it. Ignoring it, simply leaving it behind, would have felt like a very attractive option, I’m sure. But it was not an option that was available. Moving forward, yes. But in that, weaving the past into the future. We had no choice. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise. Some of it is sincere, some more a facade. There are constant arguments and struggles over what it should look like. But it is there. However imperfectly.
How have you seen this played out in different places?
Do read Lauren van Vuuren’s full article here