Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Ognjen writes:

May 7, 2010

I

H1N1

 
I missed two days of my stay in Jerusalem, along with a visit to Ramallah and a barbeque with Palestinian artist colleagues. Volcanic ash from Iceland is to blame. I believe that volcanic ash from Iceland contain traces of swine flu as well as the hair from Yeti’s fur. Something called Eyjafjallajokull cannot simply pour out plain dull ash and particles of volcanic glass. As if it weren’t enough, Eyjafjallajokull is exactly 1.666 meters high. The Number of the Beast! Do not try to stop planes with something exactly 1.666 meters high and named Eyjafjallajokull ! All traffic on land should be stopped as well, visits to Jim Morrison’s grave should be prohibited and three or four nuclear bombs dropped on Eyjafjallajokull as a measure of precaution. Alternative solution: Chuck Norris should be invited to piss into the crater. I cannot be the only one to have a solid opinion on this matter. Is there a man on this planet who has suffered H1N1, whose flights have been delayed due to the eruption of an Eyjafjallajokull and who has seen the Yeti? If so, I would love to meet him.  (21st April 2010.)

II

O CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN!

The taxi driver who took me from the Ben Gurion airport to the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem knew everything about the world and the cosmos we belong to. He had the stance of a street erudite, and didn’t hesitate to talk every step of the way about genesis, molecular biology, climate change and the art of seduction. He talked incessantly and a lot, burying the small car under piles of words. “Where are you from, my friend?” he asked. “Montenegro” I answered. “Well, of course! Hasta siempre comandante! Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Montenegro!” he said . “I’ve been there!”, he said “You live in the most beautiful country in the world! And your women…! You are a lucky man!” he continued. “Thank you! You are right!” I said, deciding this time to not be proclaiming my Mediterranean pride. When I asked when he visited Montenegro he explained that he toured “the most beautiful country in the world” in 1979, while sailing on a British merchant ship named Aurora. I asked him what specifically he was he doing on the ship and he spoke proudly, self-confidently and quietly: “I was the captain”.  (21st April 2010)

III

LET’S FORGET

On my return from Casablanca I spent three hours at Istanbul’s airport, drinking the good and expensive Efes beer. A boy in the national costume was selling ice cream. A lady from England was explaining how she should have gotten more ice cream for her 4 Euros. Waving her hands, she kept pointing her finger at the white cream, folded in abundantly decorated circles. As she was passionately explaining how much she appreciates her money, the boy persisted in pointing at the notice board, repeating one sentence: ‘Your last call madam!” Four Euros and an ice cream were enough for the lady in Adidas sneakers to forget reality. I thought that I wouldn’t be sorry if she missed her flight, and moved on. A group of yellow hats overwhelmed the airport hall, holding British flags in their hands smiling dissent enough of any stupidity. The guide’s hat was the biggest and the yellowest. The ugliest. The writing on their hats said: Let’s forget. Oblivion as an assignment and a desirable state. I wondered what it was they wanted to forget, and I wondered where they are going to forget what it is they were wanting to forget. “Where are you traveling to, madame?” and beneath a brink of her yellow hat the mouth spoke: “Jerusalem, Palestine, Ramallah”. I imagined an ad in the Sunday Times: Come visit where blood shedding conflict happens! Forget the stress of your work place, the subway jams, your pet’s indigestion! I wished the ice cream would be 400 Euros.  (24 th April 2010)

IV

AZDI AND ICE

Azdi works for 250 Euros a month. Azdi is the guardian angel of my four room/five star/beautiful roof terrace hotel. Azdi’s three-year old daughter’s name is Mersiha, Azdie’s young wife is Farah. The hotel is located in the heart of the Fes medina, and is their only home as well as their job. Three hundred sixty five days, twenty four hours a day. While beautiful black-eyed Mersiha sits at the door step, Azdi and Farah manage the jobs necessary to make guests feel at home. Toilet cleaners, handymen, breakfast makers, polishers of beautiful ceramics, bag carriers, stealthy walkers-along of the half-business smile. They sleep in a small room in the attic. Azdi says that the French owner comes once in three months, looks around, yells a bit, signs some papers and disappears.

At the Istanbul airport I bought a bottle of my favorite whiskey Cutty Shark. Somebody had misinformed me that alcohol is unavailable in Morocco and I believed him. Some time later, the fine local reds convinced me I was wrong. As I sat on the roof terrace with my Slovenian friend and photographer Jaka, I decided to ask for some ice. Azdi was happy he could please me. He took a nicely decorated metal bowl and led me to a dark room at the first floor. A neon-lit bowl saw his pleased smile. He slipped on a rubber glove and slowly pushed his hand into bowels of a Sharp refrigerator. He acted like surgeon, carefully and with passion. I was expecting a handful of diamonds. However he pulled out ice and then, while it was smoking under the neon light, he said passionately, kissing the tips of his fingers: c’est bon! c’est du bon glace! He said it as it was the finest wine, the loveliest treat, some rare spice. Little Mersiha and Farah stood at the door. I asked them to come closer. Mersiha walked over, reached for the ice cube from her father’s hand and put it delightedly in her mouth. She mingled that coldness, smiling, with her parents. I thought: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father brought him along to discover ice.” I also couldn’t help but think how wrong our dear Tolstoy was. He should have said, „All unhappy families are alike; every happy family is happy in its own way”.  (25th April 2010)

V

APOLO 11

It always feels good to think that there is a person on the other side of planet reading, for example,  Hugo von Hofmannsthal, at the same time as I do.  On my way to Casablanca, after I mentioned that brilliant Austrian, my Malaysian friend Eddin placed Hugo’s photograph in the New York Times Book Review in front of my face. I believe we were the first people ever, on the planet Earth, to stare at Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s photo on the road between Fes and Casablanca.  (26th April 2010)

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THE SENSE OF THINGS (Part 2)

May 5, 2010

Nukila’s post:

The Man Behind The Spectacles

Third meeting with Ibrahim Tijani. We drove off to the sufi village. A simple lunch. My most memorable meal (which deserves another posting for the event itself). We were sitting down on the rugs spread under an olive tree, Ibrahim Tijani sat leaning upon the tree and took off his glasses. Some remarks followed this gesture. He was looking very relaxed and happy to be there. Then Jaka asked Ibrahim for a photograph, he said sure, and Jaka moved the glasses a little further in front of Ibrahim. I suppose he didn’t see this coming. He sat there rather awkwardly in this pose, his glasses on the foreground, as Jaka took the pictures.
This mini-event I found particularly interesting, highly relevant, yet would easily pass unnoticed except from its winning a few remarks that the guy is weird –Jaka, that is, not Ibrahim. I watched Jaka at work in those brief seconds: perhaps there was a parallel feeling towards things, another variation on the same theme, in his way of seeing the ‘thinginess’ of a thing. Glasses are not glasses are not glasses. The glasses just laid there upon the rug. No longer an attribute of the ultimate identity of its owner –the public personage, ultra-person, of this sufi leader. (It was the black robe and the glasses that I first noticed on my first encounter with him at the festival.) And now without the glasses, the man was just being himself, there and then. A regular man, a private self. Telling us personal stories, smelling the red and yellow flowers his daughter picked on the hill.

The man behind the spectacles. Literal and symbolic at the same time in Jaka’s eyes. But again, perhaps… Jaka may have an entirely different take on this. I don’t know.
And let us hope that he will post the photograph.

Unidentified Lying Object

A Berber Market at a village in Essaouira. One of the first stalls near the entrance. I looked at its front part; there was something lying at the counter. Something square-ish, dark red, bits of white, moist, helpless, alone. In a naturalness that was so unassuming. Nearby there were two old men exchanging kisses, and another man, half-hidden behind the counter. This configuration didn’t quite come to me as a common sight in relation to the x thing. That something is hmm something, is… ah, meat. It was only when I saw a huge chunk of leg/shank hanging down near the men’s heads, that the meat-concept came to mind and I finally made sense of the thing. Of course, it’s meat! Zooming out, there were other things: buyers, sellers, bills, transactions, things in their utilized-to-be destiny. Perhaps, in those few seconds there were momentary lapses in a neural circuit somewhere in my brain; some electrochemical signals crossed and got lost –and this created that particular appearance of the meat. Present in its strangeness, a thing-in-itself, bare, unsymbolized, an it. A jamais vu, perhaps. When awareness hangs suspended, untampered by knowledge. A rare moment for me. Too bad, I wouldn’t mind experiencing it on a daily basis.
Afterwards, there came other lying/hanging objects in strange forms. But they came easily identified: animal innards I can’t name, as if created from sweet memories of towels, cylinders, spiral shells etc. Did I feel a relief that my brain was again in its normal modes of operations? Concepts, interpretations, associations –all kinds of references, constructs of thinking, were again there. And with the screams of a goat being slaughtered filling the air, drops and little pools of blood on the ground, I could no longer look at things in their suchness. The rest was a faint familiar feeling of walking around the traditional market at home, yet unfamiliar at the same time.

I Wonder If

travel is one the paths that could provide us with a ‘suchness moment’, to see things as they are. A fresh gaze, like those of saints or children. Traveling would be a shortcut, perhaps, compared to years and years of unlearning and emptying process and disciplines that masters do. Is that why the Monk Kengei, Ibn Arabi, Basho, wandered endlessly from place to place? Perhaps they weren’t looking for answers but questions, and more questions, from within and without, being surrounded by wonders of an unfamiliar world. Perhaps, to wander is to wonder, really.
What Sense Could There Be in Things? …and still, maybe even they didn’t know the sense of things when they saw it.

Fragrant Moments in Fez by Gary Nabhan

April 27, 2010

Down the alleyways of the medina, past the souks, we wander, either beckoned by the hints or bludgeoned by the assaults of aromas far too potent to let pass without honorable mention:

The dank, musty rotten air of sheep, goat, cow and camel hides being dunked in enormous tubs full of natural dyes— indigo, henna, blood meal, saffron, sage—and as the meaty tissues absorb these colors, minor wonders are revealed.

The smoky, char-grilled fragrance of lamb kabobs which have been dusted with spices—cumin, cinnamon, onion, oregano, garlic and thyme—then put on skewers over a grill that sits on a meager wood fire; as the meat heats up, its juices drip into the red-hot coals, which sizzle and steam and exude more of their olfactory magic.

The barbershops wedged in between the other shops, with hardly enough room for a chair and man with clippers in his hand, but oh how they blast their presence to the world through the oud-like strumming of rosewater, the delicate kanun-dulcimer chiming of orange blossom water, the violin-like bowing of musk-infused aftershaves, and the clanging castanet’s of rubbing alcohol dowsing the razor cuts.

The butcher shops that feature on sturdy hooks the recently-severed legs, ribs, loins and heads of camel, bull, ram and kid, while blood still dries on the knives and cutting boards, and the already-warm meat gets even hotter in the eighty-degree sun, offering perilous clues to the fact that deadly microbes have already begun their perverse alchemy…

The incense burning in the charcoal braziers in front of the herboristes and pharmacies Berberes—frankincense, myrrh, candlewood—as well as the apple chips, cherry wood, bergamot and mint bubbling up through the hookahs sucked on by old men in the sidewalk cafes playing backgammon and shooting the breeze.

The slow baking of tajines in their pyramidal clay pots, where toasted almonds and sesame seeds, stewed prunes and boiled mutton combine with ginger, pepper, coriander and salt to waft us a little closer to heaven.

We don’t know how our noses can hold for much longer the promise of paradise rising from these myriad scents that are surging up our flared nostrils.