Monday, 31 October 2011

The Dream Collector

In 2004, I met an Asian-American woman who told me about her dream of visiting Vietnam... up to that moment I had had no interest in visiting what I saw as a nation whose silences and chatter were informed by a police state, but something interesting happened in engaging with her: Her enthusiasm was contagious, and suddenly I was finding the mystery of Vietnam bewitching. The woman and I parted ways soon after meeting, but the desire to visit Vietnam remained, some kind of tribute to the part of her that was drawn to things so different to me. And so, I decided to weave the nation into my Southeast Asian tapestry in 2005. I was chasing after her dreams, in a way, long after she had ceased to matter.

In 2008 I met an Egyptian academic who mentioned he would love to see a piece of architecture in Prague called The Dancing House. While not entirely impressed with the photos of the building, I decided to spend some of my 3 days in Prague looking it up. When I arrived there I thought of him, how he would probably never see it, and how its simultaneous beauty and repugnance crafted a unique space. Whatever I could think to say about the Dancing House (too vulgar, yet oddly pretty; too obvious, yet curiously multifaceted), it was certainly unique, just like the man who had told me about it, whose insensitivity to my sexual orientation led me to abandon that communication. I was lucky: the site was surrounded by beautiful architecture - Prague's buildings were like a forest of jewels.

In 2003 I accompanied my then best friend to the place of her dreams, which was the city she had departed in order to live in Sydney: Shanghai. She was at home, and a new kind of sense of well-being seemed to animate her. One night we were walking near The Bund, admiring the view of postmodern skyscrapers competing for the Most Unusual Building award, when the conversation turned dark. I was super-enthused about the healing powers of the creative spectacle that was the cityscape, and she begged to differ: If you're a poor person who's starving, it doesn't matter what the buildings are like. I pretended to think a little: If I were about to die, I'd prefer to have these buildings as my view, rather than some shabby alley. She smiled a little at what she saw as my idealism. Some dreams also contain nightmares.

I hadn't encountered many people who had a dream to see Denmark or Sweden. These places don't tend to be high on people's Must-See lists. Nevertheless, a nascent outline of a dream had been impressed itself into my consciousness. Often the expectations I place upon a nation or city make the actual site pale in comparison, but here I found something rare and beautiful with which I wanted to remain. I felt a palpable loss upon going away.

My current dream is to find a way to permanently reside in one (or perhaps both) of those places, a dream based on the dreams of friends and strangers I met in Scandinavia who won me over in their own subtle, open-minded way.

But gravitating towards a place doesn't mean I'll stop traveling. Even the most appealing place in the world becomes a prison if it cannot be left. For me, freedom lies in being able to expand my sense of the world, always re-map the boundaries of my imagination, and find new possibilities where I hadn't expected them to reside.

I am still an appropriator of other people's dreams! But these days I'm more tuned in to my own desires. My notions of dreams have diversified, intensified. Almost every place is a dream in the making, or represents a compulsion I try to avoid. I could spend a lifetime getting to know Thailand, China, Italy, England and others inside out - but it's important to balance things out so that I'm not getting too much of any one thing. A Danish Swede might call it a hygge sense of lagom?

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Critical Activity

Sometimes I throw myself into very challenging states of mind. And sometimes I find I've created a comfort zone which is getting in the way of being as critical as possible.

How to balance enjoying your life (that much-lauded attainment of 'happiness') and cultivating a healthy amount of anger, despair and misery in your life?


This speech made me ask some interesting questions, too: For immigrants to the Western world who come from developing world backgrounds, there are a huge number of options to choose from... like:
a) What is the best way to create your own unique culture out of what has been given to you?
b) How can I make use of the most advanced rhetorical cultures of both nations?
c) If I can immigrate to another place, where should it be, and how will it challenge me in new ways?

As you might know, I would be living in Europe more regularly if I had the financial freedom to do so... but not in the place of my origin, Bulgaria. Bulgaria is located at the south-eastern extremity of Europe, far and away from the closest Western European nations of Germany, Austria and Italy. For me, I must head even further West to find the nations that most appeal: Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands, Spain, France & England. (Will Ireland and Iceland win my heart too? I can't wait to find out.)

In embracing a new place, I embrace the places already in my soul. To welcome the role Bulgaria and Australia, the US and Thailand have played in my life, I must learn to love every last morsel of their mouthwatering palate. I must accept both the strengths (an arts culture, the self-confidence that comes with an illustrious history, refinement and unique charms) and weaknesses (racism, Eurocentricism, xenophobia) of my new place.

I long to do this, but unfortunately I can't do very much of it. I am still trapped by financial dependence. The only way I can think of to get out is my writing... 

To Learn

There is a city in Mexico with my name written all over it. It's called Guanajuato, and it's almost too good to be true. I face the daunting challenge of finding a language school wherein I can learn Spanish within 3 months, and saving up the money for all aspects of my stay. One question on my mind is: Should I do a homestay or not?

A homestay would allow me to immerse myself in Mexican culture and give me as many opportunities to learn outside the classroom, in a domestic setting, as I like. It might also be an interference, sucking up my free time and privacy. As a highly empathic person, I need lots of time alone, to process the outside world and be able to take it in stride when I'm next asked to deal with it.

Perhaps a guesthouse would be a better option for me.

At any rate, learning intensively and repetitively is something that requires a resourcefulness which I sometimes stubbornly elude. If I sign up for such a course, I'd better be emotionally prepared.

I just had an idea to start a new blog, exclusively for learning Spanish. (Immediately, I had the thought to expand the language requirements so that other could fit. But this is to detract from taking things one goal at a time. I could star another blog for a different language once I've started to be fluent in this one.)

On this blog I could also write about news from the Spanish world, so as to understand more about Spanish & Latin American culture.

Alright, I'm off to think about this some more... enjoy your own learning process, amigos!

The Writer (The Artist, The Creative Person)

I enjoy being as creative as possible. It's the greatest reward I can give myself.

When I'm in a luxury hotel there are so many ways I can spend my time inside its compound that I get stressed. ("But if I have a massage that means I can't use the sauna!")
I prefer to be in a comfortable, clean and cheery place, where getting out and about is the main aim.

I don't need a title, an official credential, a consensus-generated testament to approval (like an university degree) to make art, reach out to people across cultures, resonate with my chosen audience. 

Right now I am considering what kind of travel options I will chase in the future, and also what kind of writing I will grow out of me if I direct it so.

Recently I have been wondering whether or not my decision to focus overwhelmingly on the arts sector of human output and consumption has been unduly influenced by my performance of 'femaleness'.

I decided long ago that I was drawn towards the arts due to it having the highest tolerance of ambiguity. I was (and am) greatly stimulated by the subjects of sociology and history, even psychology, but they don't offer the room I need to breathe. The concern in those disciplines with objectivity, with empirical data and other related memes insults my postmodernist values. I am interested in the world where subjective interpretation is the key rule to approaching a text. I'm interested in the empowerment that I am striving towards when I operate outside the mainstream scientific values of 'verifying' and 'proving'. I am not so much concerned with whether Sarah Palin and I subscribe to the same 'core truths' as much as I am concerned with how my love for Salvador Dali, Steve Jobs and Robyn motivates me to feel and think, to act and vibe, in a certain way. In a way no-one else but me can imagine.

Even my most attentive reader will never know which names I left out of this passage, and which aspects of Robyn, Dali and Jobs appeal to me for their ability to take my mind on divergent yet complementary journeys. You can 'read between the lines', but you can't 'read my mind'. You can respond full-heartedly to my flow of posts, but you can't feel my heart like you do your own. This is all obvious to me, yet in this time and age it's useful to articulate it, lest it eludes the reader and causes future misunderstandings for me.