Long Tail Part 1

 

We met Ulrich Morgentaler on the island of Ko S. in October 2016.

Can’t forget the date in view of what happened. 

We went there for the same reason as him: because we were interested in finding an island which was undeveloped – a tall order in Thailand. We became interested in Ko S. when we found out that it wasn’t easy to reach in comparison with other Thai islands, most of which were linked by regular ferry services.

The only way to get to Ko S. was on a long tail departing from a small fishing village on the mainland and it wasn’t always an easy trip……. 

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The Trial

The official residence of Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus

As our plane from Amsterdam descended through a bank of heavy cloud into Minsk airport, we were greeted by the sight of forest and snow. Then the runway appeared and a small terminal, where Russian planes were parked.

It was a richly symbolic introduction. Belarus is in many ways a part of Russia.

When we flew in  – the spring of 2018 – Belarus was trying to open up to foreign tourists. But there were some obstacles: all the signs and information screens were in Cyrillic and few people spoke English. Then there was the bureaucracy and that, as we soon discovered, was a story in itself. 

The official situation was this: one could enter the country and stay for 5 nights without requiring a visa. If one wanted to stay for longer, a visa was required -28 days was the maximum time one could stay in the country – and it had to obtained in one’s country of origin.

We wanted to stay longer.

But what we didn’t realise until after we arrived in Belarus was that obtaining that visa in one’s country of origin – a tedious and long winded process – was just the start of a long journey into a bureaucratic maze reminiscent of Kafka’s novel ‘The Trial’…….

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The Tears of Tjilbruke Part 2

 

A half ibis, half man.

His tears falling on the ground and forming sources of water for the souls who inhabit his land.

From grief comes hope. From tears, life.

They sing songs about him. The songs are also poems.

Poems are remembered well. Long after the original indigenous inhabitants had vanished, the generations afterwards could still remember many of the poems of their people.

The poems give meaning to a vast land which to the eyes of the Europeans was – and still is – daunting, monotonous: a terrible emptiness. 

The song poems are maps of the mind….and together, they form another very different idea of Australia.

And so it happens that when Norman B. Tindale meets Ivaritji in the Adelaide Museum in 1927, he asks about the song poem of Tjilbruke. The son of a missionary, he is on a mission. Not a mission to convert others. The mission of a scientist. A mission to change the way Australians look at their country….

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The Tears of Tjilbruke Part 1

 

Her name was Ivaritji.

She was the last one left.

The last member of the Kaurna people who inhabited the area where today’s Adelaide and its sprawling suburbs are situated.

There is a photo of her in the Aboriginal Culture Gallery of the South Australia museum – one of the finest ethnographic displays in the world, thanks largely to the pioneering work of one of Australia’s greatest  anthropologists, Norman B. Tindale.

The photo of Ivaritji was taken by Tindale in 1928 shortly before she died…

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Mixed Blessings


 

This blog was written two years ago in the summer of 2018. Reading it today brings home to me just how quickly our world can change. I have to wonder if the international air travel industry will ever return to what it was. The incredible logistical and technological capabilities which I have depicted here have been brought down by invisible microbes. 

Who could have possibly ever imagined this scenario in 2018?

 

‘On a flight from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Dubai Airport – 8 hours – with a connecting flight to Kuala Lumpur, I thought about the logistics of modern air travel.

To get my flight out of Schiphol, I had to sit around for a few hours before my flight departed. It was June, tourist season, and Schiphol, even by its own standards, was busy. It took me quite a long time to check in and get through security. The length of the cues and the number of people crowded into a confined space was daunting. And it was the same on the other side of security. To buy a sandwich and coffee meant standing in another long cue. 

Schiphol was one the busiest airports in the world. On average, 150,000 people a week came and went. There were many busy airports in the world of course. Dubai was another one.

Once in the air and mercifully away from the thronging crowds in Schiphol, I reflected on what I’d experienced.

I was just one person in a vast global operation which involved millions….

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