Travelling With Spinoza

 

On the week in July the heat wave arrived in Europe, Anya and I had planned a journey by bike to Belgium. Suddenly that was off the agenda.

The heatwave – clearly the result of climate change – meant that everyone was advised to stay indoors.

Huh?

Stay indoors in this normally cold little country? Where few people, including us, had air conditioning because it wasn’t needed?

It was hard to imagine, but then again, the ‘getting hard to imagine’ was rapidly becoming a way of life for us here on planet earth.

There was no normal anymore, anywhere.

I wasn’t looking forward to being confined inside our tiny flat and not being able to at least go for long walks or bike rides.

Blinds down, curtains drawn. Venture outside to go to the supermarket and that was it.   

It was like being locked up in gaol cell. And for what crime?

How to pass the hours, the days?

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Dead Language

Every 14 days, a language dies.

Half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth will likely disappear, as communities abandon native tongues in favour of English, Mandarin, or Spanish….’

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/vanishing-languages/rymer-text

 

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Plan B

Early one morning, after a stay in the hills of the island of Negros in The Philippines, Anya and I took an auto rickshaw down to a city on the coast called Dumaguete.

From there we wanted to take a ferry to the small island of Siquijor.

It was two days before Christmas in 2017 and we were planning to spend the ‘festive season’ in what we thought was an out of the way place.

It was raining when we got in the rickshaw and the driver had trouble manoeuvring his vehicle over the muddy track to and from our small hotel. Once on the main road however, matters didn’t improve as the rain got heavier and we had to ford areas of the road which were flooded.

When we finally got out of the auto-rickshaw after navigating the sprawling Dumaguete and arriving near the ferry terminal, we were completely drenched.

This however proved to be the least of our problems in what was going to be a long day……….

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Elena Part 1

On the train trip there, it began to rain.  

 Anya and I were on our way to a town in the west of Romania where we had booked accommodation in a local house for a week and where we planned to do some walking.

 But the weather didn’t look promising.

 On the horizon, enshrouded in mist, were the silhouettes of mountains.

 In the past, on the plains between those mountains, the armies of Austria, Hungary, and Russia had invaded Romania and for centuries it had remained the property of others. In the bad weather, such thoughts loomed large.

As our train approached the station, we passed abandoned factories surrounded by weeds and dilapidated apartment blocks, chipped and cracked. At the station, we were met by dour faced people, resigned to living nowhere.

 For 45 years Romania had been a part of the Russian communist empire, like the other nations of Eastern Europe and this town, once thriving and a major source of employment, had been left behind by the relentless march of history, like a discarded wrapper thrown to the wayside. 

Long ago, in this end-of-the-world town, people had found hope in a  maelstrom of suffering and chaos.  And so it was with a woman named Elena (pronounced ‘A-lay-na’). It was 6 years ago that we heard about her and whilst I had filed the memory away in one of my diaries, it was only with recent events in The Ukraine that I was reminded of her………

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Schiphol Geese

 

At Schiphol Amsterdam Airport there was a problem with geese.

A decent sized flock of geese in the air can present a real danger to planes landing and taking of, but compounding Schiphol´s problem was this: The Netherlands is a paradise for geese. You’d almost think that centuries ago, when the Dutch began reclaiming their country from the waters, they did so in order to create Goose Paradise: a flat land with a surfeit of water and grass.  

Water where the geese can flock together and keep safe from enemies.

Watery grass they can eat: the richest, the greenest grass in the world which feeds the cows which provide the milk which produces some of the best cheese in the world.

And smack bang in the middle of this flat watery grassy land – Schiphol Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world.

The geese weren’t bothered about the constant roar of jets taking off and landing at one of the world’s busiest airports. What they saw was lots of flat grassy land lying vacant, not being farmed or cropped or used – empty.

As their numbers proliferated, they became a part of our modern globalised world in ways which were truly remarkable….

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