Saturday, 29 January 2011

Come Closer

Just jump out of your comfort zone
And everything will fall in its place
You're the subject I want to study
From conceptual surfaces to one human face
I will envelop you with tender theory
Use you for purposes so sharp
You'll never suspect the bitter cold
Concealed in the soul of a nation so warm

Too many phonemes delivered with high intensity
Chorus-turned-verses invading my head
If I only had some piece of mind
I could sift through what was being said
But my NLP's stammering, stunned, uncomposed
I feel like turning away to repose
Within the more comforting structures
Of Postmodern Epiphanie prose

No more Tatu for today! ;o)

Dizzy Compliance

I've found my place in relation to you
You frighten me no less, and I continue
To analyse, but from afar
The door of opportunity is slightly ajar
I ache to follow my precognition
Which is already thriving on friction
Up ahead

Disparate senses of gloom overpower me
Almost as much as the lightning-quick self-therapy
To pretend to be any less than tossed and turned aside by me
Is to stagnate so impeccably

I catch myself, mid-fling
Rearrange the story till it's adequately transformed
But I don't know where I'm going or what it will bring
Hopefully I'll not end up alone

Reading without Retention

1:45am - I've been awake since shortly after sundown, when the warmth that had been built up on the concrete pavements started fading.

My dad has offered me the opportunity to live in Thailand, if I like. I can stay there with a tourist visa for up to 3 months, at which point I need to leave and re-enter with a new visa. The problem is I always gain weight in Thailand, and I think it would be a bad idea to gain even a kilo more, so unless I find a way to prevent this from happening, it would be risky for my health to spend large quantities of time there.

On the other hand, I have applied to a few universities in Sydney. My interest in studying Spanish would be well-served by a stint in a quality uni, and my ability to move to Spain or somewhere else in Europe would receive a boost. I suppose I should give it a try if I get in, and see how it goes, because I can always go back to Thailand anytime...

I also have this playful urge to take up Korean. I know nothing about this language, and the more I come across it, the more I'd like at least a basic understanding of how it functions. Happily, it's not a tonal language, which should do wonders for my learning prowess! ;o)

Friday, 28 January 2011

La La La

So while I was in Thailand I drank one too many chilled waters in rapid succession and wound up with a case of pharyngitis (a throat infection). 5 weeks later, my throat is starting to feel normal again, which means that I can finally resume connecting my brain to my mouth. There's nothing like a month of curbing the urge to express myself verbally to make me appreciate being able to sing a full song without breaking out into coughing fits.

 Astrocartography -

I recently invested in a bit of astrocartography advice... it turns out that Sydney is a horrible place for me to be at. But then I already knew that; I've been trying to flee for almost a decade! Of the places I enquired about, it seems London is the most auspicious for me, followed by Tokyo... hmm!

Friday, 21 January 2011

UK & Ireland as linguistically alluring?

At a certain point in time, I was dissatisfied with mainstream methods of thinking in (what I knew of) both Australia and the United States of America. Living in Australia, I was familiar with American discourse through the media, and especially the internet, as most people outside the US are. I had a way of thinking which borrowed from both the States and Oz's verbal traditions, but also had a certain formality and pride, cultivated by my Bulgarian background. It seemed that, even though I didn't have that much direct familiarity with the UK & Ireland, inserting some of the pronunciation I knew from these cultures would add highlights to my accent to made it stood out in a way no-one else around me was doing.

In doing so, I found that I had tapped into a deep-seated curiosity about the rhetorical and intellectual culture in this part of the world. The English-speaking part of Europe is, in a certain way, on the opposite side of Bulgaria. Not only are they geographically distant by the standards of the continent, but Bulgaria is part of the developing world, while Britain & Ireland have been prosperous for a very long time. The Balkan country has a few fine authors here and there, but nothing compared to the rainy islands' long history of literary excellence. It was the notion of this area of the globe as exotic, even as they themselves considered themselves to be the most normative of English speakers and theorists, that finally saw me open my mind to a region of the world I had previously tucked away under stereotypes and misconceptions.

In 2008 I had the opportunity to travel to London (and to take a side-trip to Stratford-upon-Avon), and I took it. What I discovered was a melting pot of different races, accents, outlooks on life, senses of decency. England became someplace which, far from being stuffy and unbearably pretentious, was bursting with life, innovation, contentment and curiosity. In the Tate Britain, beautiful paintings created by English subjects who had traveled to the 'Near East' (e.g. east of Bulgaria) were hanging beside detailed analyses from a post-colonial and feminist perspective. The intended readings of the time were placed under scrutiny and often turned on their heads by modern intellectuals. This was the perfect way to celebrate the achievements of the past, while recontextualising the prejudices that may have accompanied them through a postmodern lens. And so, my entire view of this part of the world was transformed.

Yesterday, I explained to someone over email that I had changed my name to Epiphanie because I like to keep my mind open to turns of thought - the more dramatic, the better.

I feel lucky to speak the language of a number of prosperous countries which I have the opportunity to spend some time in in the future, and I continue to be curious about the places I haven't travelled yet amongst them - Scotland, Wales and Ireland. I also know that I would love to keep exploring England, too - I've long known I would enjoy Brighton and Manchester, just to begin with.

There are so many questions I keep asking myself: Which mish-mash of accents and conceptual spaces produced by cultural specificity will serve me best in each new situation? Is it even possible for me to affect an accent which is regarded 'pure' by somebody, somewhere? I regard my love for innovating new accents daily as one of my strengths - now, how can I show my confidence to the outside world?

Recently I watched a talk on TED which showed that musicians who improvise as they create are not using the part of the brain which is linked to self-consciousness. (The video is here.) I aspire to tap into greater heights of creativity in the days, months and decades ahead. I hope you'll join me. ;o)

Waiting for a Revolution

"No revolution - sometimes it depresses me / The same old, same old - we keep repeating history," sings Shirley Manson, lead singer of Garbage. She was singing about one thing only - '"Sex is not the Enemy"' - and that's great, however those two lines apply to just about every area I can think of, because I believe the people of the world need to embrace change so much more intensely than they are. It's in this way that we can make 'revolution' a concept which informs our everyday lives, increasing our engagement with radical transformation in an exponentially increasing manner. The better we can be, the higher the standard we can adopt.

A world-wide revolution of physical prowess, emotional understanding, mental technology and spiritual success can only be achieved if every individual participates. We need illiterate people in Bangladesh to adopt a different approach to life, just as the CEOs of the USA reinvent what it means to be a human being as well.

Perhaps one way we could educate people is to send them across continents. It's difficult to avoid learning new things and opening up your heart and mind to the new and unfamiliar when traveling. Another is to pair people with different skills together and help them learn from each other. Have a carpenter meet a diplomat, or an insurance salesman meet a physicist.

How open to ambiguity are you? Is there an area of your life you started to learn more about, only to retreat to old habits? Would you like to diversify your emotional repertoire, but are afraid of not living up to people's expectations of you? You are in charge of creating and recreating your potential and limitations. Reclaim the liminality that made you feel like you were growing, if you dare. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Change is an inbuilt feature of our existence - we do not remain static at any time. Our cells are constantly rearranging themselves, our senses are constantly picking up new information, and our brain never processes the information the same way twice. Change is not something to aim for; it's something to become aware of, and to own. Something to, eventually, celebrate.

Most of the cultures I know have a preoccupation with fixity and certainty - we strive for these attributes in our speech, our spiritual orientation, our mental convictions, to guide our emotional strength, to power our bodies through exercise. Repetition is a recommended virtue on many a How To list. Yet knowing that you'll never do the same thing twice forces you to be creative, to challenge yourself as intensely as you can.

Imagine if, instead of going through January, February ...etc... December, each year, we gave each month a unique name. Never again will I 'go overseas every June' or 'celebrate Christmas every December'; eradicating the possibility of repetition from our units of time would necessitate more innovative thinking about how we spend our time. This is just one example of how we could play with and rearrange the information in our world to create and feed off our potential for revolutionising our systems.

Can you think of another example?

Monday, 17 January 2011

Fluffy Handcuffs

I can't think of any introduction to make to you now
You should know by now that I am always ending
By the time I'm in the middle of articulating my impressions
They've already changed, with an onslaught of others pending
And yet you continue to cling to me with the giddy intensity
Of someone unaware they're missing the mark
You obstruct my sense of equilibrium tonight,
And I recoil from this invasion of dullness

Every time I'm with you I lose some creativity
Forced to cater to your paradigm of objectivity
Even though it negates my productivity
I have no choice but to accept the transaction

I daydream of retaliation
But I'm too meek to articulate my resistance

I gloomily readjust my back
To its former and upright position
And as I fashion myself out of submission
My mind lingers on you til the memory fades
And I'm left once more to entertain myself
In these oppressively quiet days

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Face-first into the "Foreign"

Wish I could take you with me
Wish I could show you the world
That you could see for yourself
How your vision changes
As you counter another palette
Of verbal and non-verbal vignettes

A new emotional climate
A new dominant discourse
A new summit, and you dare to climb it
But what is conditional, and what is 'of course'?

Your mind is tickled from an unexpected angle
You reel back before you can charge forth
Which values to hold to,
And which to dangle
Out the window?
...In the perfect mood for growth

Find yourself depending
On the light in the eyes of the next
To catapult you into a new endeavour
See you realise your personal best

This is where you've been heading
This heightened sense of self-examination
And as you sink your head into the seating
Your smile is stuck, and angst receding

Friday, 14 January 2011

How can I decide? vs Raw Glamour Lady

This Southern hemispherical winter I will have the opportunity to make it a summer again. Despite still tossing up a remarkable number of options -

In the early days of 2011 I announced that there were 11 countries on my must-see travel list: Iceland, Norway, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Taiwan, Japan, Argentina, Mexico and Canada

- I have more or less narrowed my options to visiting Spain (including Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Bilbao) and Portugal (including Lisbon, Coimbra and Sintra) in a road-trip style, then flying elsewhere, with my number one destination being Iceland (Reykjavik, with a possible side of something tourist-friendly).

Earlier I was quite determined to fly via Taiwan and spend a month (at least) in the country, but after seeing the photos of Japan a friend of mine took, I feel the urge to fly JAL again, and see something beyond Tokyo and Kamakura (including Takayama, Kyoto and Nara). Even two weeks would be sufficient there. 

If I am to allow myself to sit with the 'slow approach to travel' as made popular by writers like Rolf Potts, Spain and Portugal are plenty to try to fit into about a month... perhaps, instead, I can enter Europe through Moscow or St Petersburg, then catch an onward flight to the Iberian peninsula.

That's one option. But do you know how many others I'm considering? ...


Raw Glamour

I think what Lady Gaga wore (or didn't wear) to accompany her strikingly attention-grabbing meat-dress at the 2010 MTV Awards is significant; - Gaga rarely wears "classic" make-up, hair and attire, yet the meat-dress itself is very feminine, slinky, emphasising her hourglass figure. This is offset by her appropriating the role of traditional red-carpet-friendly glamourous celebrity, with immaculately smooth blonde hair (okay, there's a tinge of blue creeping up from the ends, but it's subtle), "sexy" make-up of red lipstick and dark eye-shadow. It's almost conventional. Gaga wraps herself around a layer of red animal flesh in order to emphasise the stylised handsomeness she utilises as a way of keeping the eyes of the mainstream on her. Her pointed verbal accompaniment, "I am not a piece of meat," is revealing in that is shows her NLP - I am (not) a piece of meat. No matter the depth or complexity of what she does, in order to maintain her massive popularity, she needs to gage the gaze of those who decide what is socially acceptable for women to look like in the music industry. That she is yielding to/rebelling against her own objectification is a constant consideration. This is how she has chosen to make her message, and I... look on. I listen and consider my own methods of subversion - because I'm aware the subversion is there.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Breathing Fire Will Burn Your Mouth

Rushing, to find a spot where I can laze
Securing silence, by means of hyperactive conversation
As natural as possible after strategic manipulation
Thinking in boxes so I can savour my imagination

Appeasing errant logics, so that I may dream
It’s been a while since I’ve been free to roam
This mind-numbing mask of congeniality I don
You think that I stand erect as a source of strength
But I long to droop, so I can feel, and vent
Perpetually biting back the bitterness
Has made me into a ticking time bomb
Appearing carefree, roiling on the inside
But now I realise I didn’t need to hold back
Realise you’re somehow capable of understanding
A little more than previously suspected
And I no longer have to intoxicate myself
Til I’m profoundly distended

I would thank you, but I'm still confused
Still too many options from which to choose...

Monday, 10 January 2011

The 'Wrong' Side Of The Road

It was my first proper day in Chiang Mai. I crept down the creaky wooden stairs, past the computer area and open air lounge, to where the sofas and chairs overlooked the small but pretty swimming pool to find... that someone else had had the same idea. That someone else was female, had greying hair, and the unfortunate urge to chat with whoever came along.
As she proceeded to tell me all about her trip to the south, barely pausing to ask me my nationality (Oh, I've found Australians to be rather friendly), she had intruded into my vulnerable, still-sleepy world far more than I had imagined anyone could. I had no idea what to say to get myself out of the situation, because she just kept talking. Fortunately, her ignorance became to rear its ugly head in ways easy to satirise.
"So, you know here, they drive on the wrong side - do you drive on the wrong side of the road in Australia?"
I decided to be kind and not give a totally biting response. "Well, it's not the wrong side..."
Unwilling to admit to her culturally insensitive ways, the woman, enfeebled, nevertheless tried to recommence her reflections, but I told her that I wanted to write in my diary. I think she suspected that I was writing about what a moron she was for the rest of our uneasy silence.

But seriously, Pico Iyer has used this trope of 'the wrong side of the road' when it comes to vehicular activity as well; wake up, people: America isn't the centre of the universe! What may feel 'right' to you isn't the default option in the grand scheme of things! Imagine how absurd it is to think of a whole country of people going. "Well, I've had my breakfast, and now I'm going to drive to work - on the wrong side of the road!" Does the typical Australian do this with a traditional sense of pride, or a twisted one? "Little do poor, unsuspecting Americans know that by cultivating this culture of wrongness, I am subtly influencing events overseas, to the extent of making poor US travelers feel downright disoriented when visiting countries like Thailand! *cue evil chuckle*"


What Did 3 Months in Thailand Teach Me?

My readers will know that over the last 14 months I have made three separate trips to the Thai kingdom. (In Nov-Dec 2009 I visited Bangkok, Lopburi and Nong Khai, in March-April 2010 I visited Bangkok, Kamphaeng Phet, Suphanburi, Kanchanaburi and Phuket Town, and in Dec 2010 - Jan 2011 I visited Chiang Mai, Pai, Lampang and Bangkok.) So what have I learnt from my in-depth investigation into Thai culture?

a) Although it's a developing country, you can still live as if you were in a developed nation, if you have the means and imagination. While squat toilets are popular in Thailand, so are Western-style flush ones, and finding one of the latter is quite easy - if you are pursuing the typical tourist experience you will be plied by this upgrade from the traditional Thai norm anyway. Scrumptious Thai food, prepared under a level of hygiene that resembles that of the developed world, can be found in classy restaurants all over. Staying at the coastline will give you plenty of fresh, unpolluted air, and it's not hard to nab a lovely view while you're at it (not usually at budget level, of course). 

b) Thai people grow up with beautiful, flowing, Buddhist-themed art all around them. As I was waiting in Chiang Mai's Airport, I noticed that the self-check in machines placed nearby had these beautiful curves to their design - from tip to toe, the machines looked like they had been modeled on a piece of ribbon descending towards the ground at leisure. This level of artistry is not usually found in the West. While design culture varies, usually we are treated to rather straight-forward technological bodies. Meanwhile, Thailand embraces what I see as innovative art and design, managing to infuse any and every environment with a special ambiance.

c) Thai people are very good at business. They greet you with a casual openness and amiable manner, but are very firm in directing you towards the price they think you should be paying, even if that price is rather inflated due to your tourist status. Bargaining gives you the illusion of control, but the businessperson sets the pace, integrity and spectrum for the transaction every time. The best you can do is to go with the flow and be as firm as possible, by retaining your own sense of firmness, and keeping bamboo stick metaphors in mind (bamboo bends to the wind, but never breaks).

d) Wherever you go, life is best by the water. I love the temples of Chiang Mai and Lampang, and admire the laid-back hippie sensibility of Pai in the valley, but Thailand thrives economically and socially even more where the land kisses vast bodies of water i.e. the sea. Phuket, Hua Hin and Pattaya were some of my favourite places in Thailand.

e) The Thais who are trying to learn English are just as confused by its lack of tonal aspects as English-speakers are confused by the tonality of Thai. "How do I say it?" exclaimed a student of English to me as she looked at her English book in bewilderment. "There are no tones." I tried to read the text to her as naturally as possible, and, just as I eventually 'got' how to say 'thank you' and other little bits of Thai, she let herself be guided by a logic which must seem hard to place, especially at first.

f) All of East Asia seems to have some kind of Chinese influence. "We are all originally Chinese," mused my friend Giorgi, who has some Portuguese blood. You can see the influence of the giant nation in the religious architecture, the food, the abundance of Chinese traditional medicine, and random signs all over the place.

g) Thailand has a long history of monarchy and civilisation, but not of pretentiousness. In fact, Thais are disarmingly open and companionable. They offer themselves, open, and in doing so invite you to be similarly charitable with your spirit. It's a gorgeous gift which endears me to the people muchly.

There are many other lessons I learnt, of course, but I'll have to stop here for now. 

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Meet me in Sydney (The Eternal Traveler Touches Base)

Scoop me up and deposit me
Somewhere left of the Tasman Sea
Pry me from the terrain of other nations
Deliver me from my anxiety

Do I carry the soil of other nations on my shoes?
No, but I carry the soul of a incurable traveler
And the auras of other countries cling to me still
Try to wrest them from me, if you will
This most futile of endeavours
Trying to provide a home
To the eternal traveler

There's little for it but to feel the punch
Of the soul who wishes to reset my cultural compass
Please have mercy; I'm a little out of touch
Only so much hostility I can stomach

Yet I'm inclined to believe
I've been missing elements of your singular entity
Willing to find the good intent,
Push past the initial emnity

Possibly poised to exalt you

So cherish me, Australia
Welcome me in full regalia
Of love, acceptance, tolerance and trust
Be a community I can fleetingly commit to
Ever transient, at long last

Thank you, TripAdvisor

    Sunday, 2 January 2011

    Finding Myself in Bangkok

    So here I am again, in the land of a thousand candy-coloured cabs, where the megamall lives in its natural habitat, cuddled by massive roads and dirt-streaked elevated walkways where children wilt loudly on the steps, hoping you will be charitable. I'm minutes away from MBK, Siam Paragon and a few other shopping complexes, which will ensure that I am never short on fine food or Hollywood blockbusters. In fact, I hear The Tourist is out now...

    Seeing as I'm in the land of consumer paradise, I might as well get my hair dyed, my teeth whitened and buy new shoes (or thongs, as the case may be). And if I'm too lazy to do any of those things, well, so be it.

    One of my friends gave me a virtual kiss on the lips on New Year's Eve, which I celebrated at the Chiang Mai airport. The rest of the day was spent feeling exhausted, and I thought I saw an old friend in MBK (but I was probably wrong). I'm still actually quite exhausted. I would like to say that my last post of poetry could have been a lot better, so when I have time I'll work on it.

    I was creating a list of all the countries I either hope to visit this year, or would really like to visit even though it's unlikely:

    New Zealand,

    Ironically, I have visited one of the cities Lonely Planet recommended for 2011 already - I spent my first few hours of the year in Chiang Mai.

    Lots of love to you this decade,