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Monday, 23 November 2015

Learning and exploring...

In my childhood, when I would read an adventure book or watch an adventure movie, I always dreamt for prolonged periods of time afterwards to go to places unexplored and acquaint myself with customs unknown and simply to reach out and touch the distant horizon.
But as I grew-up, to my dismay, I discovered that most of geographical exploration had already taken place way back in the 16th – 19th centuries and my dream of discovering new lands had very minute chances, or let’s say no chances, of fulfilment. 

More so I grew-up in the era of high speed technological advancement with the introduction and very fast growth of satellites and space travel, computers, internet, TV, jet planes and virtual reality. So before I could even think of explorations, TV and internet and multitude of publications, both printed and online, showed everything or nearly everything.
But dreams are hard to kill and they should not die due to some trivial reasons. So I started off rediscovering the world for myself.
As I grew-up I came across some of the harsh realities of my era, which made it even harder for a dreamer like me to turn dreams into reality. I soon discovered that in this age of technology and advent of civilization, with all its democracy and observance of basic freedoms including the freedom of expression and freedom of personal development, the world had become very un-free.
Unlike Ibne Batuta’s, Marco polo’s or Columbus’s times, I could not just pick-up my bag and wander off looking for novelties. There was and still is a very strict system of restriction imposed to discourage wanderers and would-be explorers. This system is a result of advent of statehood. In my era one needed and still needs to adhere to a lot of permissions, normally referred to as visas and immigration policies, to actually execute ones plans. 
Initially I was compelled to redraw my plans and to submit myself to the flow of events, which in best shape required a person to get conventional education, get a job, get married, have children and pass a “happy” stable life.
But what would that make me? A member of the herd; Just another “well groomed” citizen; or as Pink Floyd phrased it: “Another brick in the wall.”
But I didn’t want it. So after many nights (and days for that matter) of sleeplessness and nonstop mental exercise of thinking and evaluation, I understood that I was in no position to change anything, so for me to fulfil my dreams and at the same time to go with the flow, I had to abide by the “rules”.
So a good part of my energies was channelled towards observance of rules and finding ways of observing them. But believe me that proved to be worth it, once I first wandered out of routine.
The world that awaited me still had a lot to offer. It turned out that not everything was yet explored. What I watched on TV or accessed through books and magazines and other sources of information, encompassed just the tip of the iceberg.
There still were things like cultural particularities that had a different angle to them, from the one known already. There was a sea of languages that could be learnt. There were distortions of history that could be explored and corrected. Well excuse me but I think I got too deeply philosophical, when I mentioned history. It is just a personal thought, with no practical consequences for anyone.
So during my travels I focused on the people, since geographical exploration had lost charm, due to availability of satellite imagery of the round sphere called earth.
And it turned out that people had a lot to share. For example before starting to travel I always thought and knew that China is the land where Chinese lived, but to my astonishment I discovered that the term Chinese was a very broad term encompassing a collection of different smaller groups. So if the food in southern China (state of China) and the language or dialect differs from the similar objects of interest in Western China or in Tibet, how could we call them all using one name?
So in my initial stages of discovery I understood that there was a huge difference between one’s civil belonging (citizenship) and nationality. The terms Indians, Americans, Australians, French etc. seized to mean what they meant before. Now for me these terms only depicted the civil belonging of a certain group of people. So here comes the earlier mentioned pompous “historical distortions” part. I corrected, for myself, the meanings of abovementioned terms and the process of identification of people became easier or maybe harder?
Anyway continuing my explorations, I was afforded some rare opportunities by chance. For example when I became of age suitable for exploration, this world had even gone into restrictive mode regarding such natural processes and urges like sex. In the 80 the sex scene was shattered by a microscopic reason called HIV (and there is a long list of STDs to accompany HIV). So by the time I reached the age of enjoying sexual pleasures, the very act of sexual intercourse had also lost its natur driven and casual realm. 
But then the Soviet Union, one of the citizens, Liudmila Ivanova, of which once said: “There is no sex in USSR”, collapsed and sex had another go at natural happening, without the need of exhibiting medical test results and without scrupulous investigations into habits and means.
So what do you think, what should an explorer do in this case, when nature provides you with a chance to come closer to nature? Yes, I went there and being there I understood that it was not only a sexual renaissance, but a large chunk of land hidden behind mists of propaganda and disinformation had been made approachable. So here comes the realization of dream of geographic and cultural exploration.
After returning from the ex-Soviet states for the first time, I understood that a lot of people in this world didn’t know a lot about that land and its inhabitants. The ex-Soviet states (mainly Russia) showed me the other side of the coin. I learnt and for the first time experienced that life had to be lived and not to be passed running around after gains. That life needed patience and tolerance and that tolerance is not a synonym for politically correct expression. For the first time I realized that one could and should call things as they were instead of inventing artificial terms. For the first time I realized that calling a black man as Afro-American did not and could not essentially change that person’s racial origins and the colour of the skin did not change. So calling a black man black had no insult to it. On the contrary it is a demonstration of respect towards the given person’s racial origin. It is a sign of acceptance of reality and that the black man should be proud of who he is (or she is) and how he looks.
I witnessed the social and economic evolution of the Russian society, which mind you refers only to a state, because Russia is populated by or owned by 185 different ethnic groups. My travels to ex-Soviet states demonstrated in practice, for me, that problems have to be resolved instead of sugar coating them or instead of postponing real solutions, how hard and tough they might be.
Well moving along, another thing that I was deprived of, thanks to fast pace advancement of means and implementation of state run policies, was a chance of experiencing life in an Anglo-Saxon London, or French Paris, or Egyptian Cairo etc. 
By the time that I left home, London and Paris and all of the other urban centers had already been divided into ethnic quarters and one could only dream of seeing real local lifestyle. In my era of explorations people of all kinds of ethnic origins called themselves British or French etc. Moscow presented a collage of lifestyles, real Egyptians had reached a point of extinction, Seoul was crowded with “Americans” and a McDonald’s outlet in every city (along with Pizza Hut and KFC and other such culture shredders) had made it impossible to even find indigenous cuisine, at least easily finding it. 
But then nature came in again. I was again shown the road to what I had missed. I found, in the form of Finland, a land where a large majority of population (more than 96%) is still local or indigenous. Where the cities, even the capital, Helsinki, is still not divided into ethnic quarters and where Finnish lifestyle is still prevalent. 
Yes the culture shredders are already here, but Finland is still Finnish and I am into exploring a society, which had just started on the course of assimilating foreign cultures and adding some colour to the population spectrum.
Let’s see what I can learn, because exploration is nothing but learning!

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