Monday, June 30, 2008

rolling up the semester

today's date, june 30th, marks the end of this year's summer semester. with my last exam today [hindi] behind me, my view is resting on the three months of holidays ahead of me and all the things those encompass.

first things first: packing. i have rather strong dislike for packing; not that i'd hate it, or dread it, i quite simply don't like it. this time around, packing means planning ahead [packing ahead] for two months, as only in the beginning of september i'll get back for a couple of days to my flat in vienna. between now and then lie many journeys and quite a number of countries. still, i decided to stick with summer and hope for the best, packing lightly.
packing lightly is my current mantra, anyway, as i'm trying to end my habit of travelling with everything i can somehow carry along and will never need or use during my trips. instead, i want to live a simple life and enjoy the destination rather than all the convenience and clutter i used to bring along. so far, i cannot tell how effective my endeavours are, but here's for optimism.

soon soon soon, on wednesday the second of july, i'll be leaving vienna by train. until then, my flat has to be put to sleep and all loose ends tied up.
as usual, the joys of everyday life master the art of picking the exactly right moment of appearing, as did the leak in a pipe coming out of my bathroom ceiling, wetting my walls. luckily, only two days after contacting my landlady and the house's plumber, this problem has been fixed. anyhow, with this matter taken care of, i look back at the last 4 months and in retrospection, wonder how the semester could pass so quickly.
before even properly diving into the subjects, it seems it's already over again, with 3 months of holidays there to wipe any acquired knowledge from my mind again [with tibetan being especially easy to wipe out of my memory, it seems]. on the other hand, though, the feeling of finishing things is always one of the biggest rewards of the each semester. when in the last weeks i'm having exams and last lessons, it is a joy to write down one score after the other under my timetable and know that there is one thing less to worry about, one thing more that is already finished.
but what, actually, were those things?
quite simply, my timetable can been divided into two parts. the first being language courses and the second being language lecture classes [to clarify: reading of (old old) texts]. the obvious lack of content other than in relation to languages simply stems from me finishing all the classes left needed to finish the first phase of my studies; that means: i'm halfway through.
my language classes were modern tibetan and hindi, both since the winter semester of 07/08. two days a week of language training and after these less than 8 months i'm able to talk about my holiday plans, my daily routine, where i live, what i did in my childhood, how i celebrate christmas and so on. sometimes, i look back with wonder and feel the excitement and  joy of suddenly being able to converse, even on a basic level, in such different languages.

the the text lectures i did were in classical tibetan [whose language class i finished 2 semesters ago] and sanskrit [the language class of which i finished last semester]. in classical tibetan, we read excerpts of various texts about the history of western tibet, all basically describing the same events and thus being very repetitive. sanskritwise, i did one reading of texts on pramana [buddhist epistemology] endangering me of developing brain tumours and one on kavya [sanskrit poetry] which, at times, was uplifting, and further trained my rhythmical reading of this intrinsically rhythmical language.

also, as the only thing except languages, i visited a lecture of the social and cultural anthropology department [ethnology], together with a friend, bearing the charming title of funeral art. sitting there out of pure interest, i didn't aim at taking an exam and simply enjoyed hearing about funerary rites and culture in various regions all around the planet.

now, with today's hindi exam finished, i have nothing left to worry about from this semester. all the courses are finished, all exams taken on their first date; i'm free.

i'll enjoy that while it lasts.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

amanda; changing the world

after writing this, i'm unsure wether or not i should post it. not because i don't think the matter is less important than i thought, but rather for the fear of my own opinion and feelings about it might be misinterpreted. i'm not a child in the zoo, fascinated by the animals in the cage. i'm a living being, marvelling at the facets of the living world and also marvelling at the limitedness of our perception.

some of you might not know, but back in school i spent a great deal of time with pedagogy classes. personally, i strongly dislike using that name for them, for i think it conveys a false image of them, but i'll go with the name now.
for those who don't know, the german school system [back when i was schooled] allowed for an almost highschool-like specialisation in subjects during the last 3 years. that meant us choosing subjects, in a limited range of possibilities and dependencies [if you choose a and not b you have to also choose c]. out of all the subjects, everyone has two majors, with which you spend a larger amount of weekly hours and thus specialise into the subject, and those were for me english and pedagogy. from english class one couldn't really expect much more than literature education with some cultural studies. pedagogy on the other hand was blessed by a very dedicated teacher and i can say it is probably the subject in which i learned the most valuable things [to me] during my whole career in school.
much more than just pedagogy in a strict sense, the class' content was about a wide range of psychology and education. we learned about a variety of educational concepts, school systems and not only read but discussed a lot of research and view on both mental and physical disorders and disabilities. again, words that i don't really want to use in this context, but i guess they convey roughly what i mean.
thus, i am naturally very interested in what i stumbled across, a few days ago:

over another blog, i found an article that changed part of my view of the world. i don't intend to gloss or comment the article, so please take some of your time and read it [at least the first page] and be sure to watch the embedded video.
now that you've read it, i assume, you might understand or imagine what i am referring to. autism and asperger's have always been of great interest to me, or i should rather say: the people who are labeld as such. this sudden [for me, that is] and so very direct view through the eyes of an autistic person created an avalanche of thoughts, for which i am truly grateful.
to get a view on the nature of such a very different mind, not from a scientist or therapist but the person herself, usually seen as mute, unable to communicate or locked in their own world shatters what we [i] think of ourselves and anybody around us.

imagine you'd be someone else. but really, imagine! often in my life, i've tried, tried to picture what it would be like to see colours differently with the eyes and brain of someone else. to hear the same things differently, to think in different ways... i've always wanted to swap brains for a day. or at least the receptive parts of the brain and somehow keep enough of my brain to get experience out of the whole endeavour. anyhow, i'm getting carried away.
imagine, our spoken language [and i'm referring to all spoken languages as one here] is just one single method of communication. just one. and there are so many more! take children born deaf for example. they don't grow up mute. they might grow up audibly mute, but that doesn't mean they don't develop language just as we do in our early childhood. the brain simply uses other methods to form a mother tongue, in that case often sign language. but that image is still fairly easy to comprehend for us; since it only replaces spoken words with gestures. now imagine it'd be altogether different, not only the method of expressing your language, but also the mode, the recipients, the semantics [or being rather freed of what we call semantics].
imagine all the things we, the normal people, don't notice; aren't aware of; have no reception of; have no access to... imagine how rich the world is, beyond what we notice.

as in so many fields, human variety and difference is simply so much bigger than we usually think or perceive, in our societies protecting themselves by propagating ideals and model states. how could this work, if every single human would be given the same respect and importance, however different they might be from the norm? the systems in which we live now couldn't take such a divergence and variation in thought, skill, appearance and communication.
but that is exactly what we should strive for. that is exactly what we all should help people like amanda baggs in.  to try, with each one of our little hands [each having a different shape, different skills and different weaknesses], to make a little crack into the stiff fabric of our restrictive societies.

of course, one might rightfully say that there are as many inequities as there are human beings, and each of them, i am sure, is absolutely worth dedicating your energy for. however, each one of us has the choice for which ones he or she acts, and as i pointed out, there are things that have always been dear to my heart, as there are things dear to the heart for everyone.
just like with the tibet issue and many others, which occupy my thoughts, the best first step is telling people about it. because, really, there is such a lack of knowledge and information in this globalised world.

that is the simple reason for which i wrote all this. not to show what an amazing and caring and oh-so-concerned person i am, but just because i want to give you the chance to know.
and who knows, you might be interested, you might be caring. or you might be just interested but caring about something else. or you might not be interested in the whole subject, but interested in many other things. all is fine, but choice is silver and knowledge, however little, about these things is gold.

in case you do care and want to get active, i guess referring you to amanda's blog should be enough to get you started. from there, i'm sure you'll find your paths with ease.


a new image, how thrilling. head over to the gallery to check it out with description and large version, if you like.

also, i'm wading through the exam period and so far it is going rather well. three more exams to go, modern tibetan on thursday, classical tibetan lecture on friday and hindi on monday; with sanskrit lecture and another hindi exam already being behind me since yesterday. soon soon soon, i'll get out of here, leave the bad air and noise behind me and woosh through the european continent from here to there. more on that later.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

enemy in the own rows

  a deserter on the front of battle, i raced through the streets of little dutch town to escape the hordes of german soldiers and their rifles. it didn't matter anymore how i got there in the first place, all that counted was i now had made myself their enemy and with that a prized hunt.
still surprised by the number of personnel following me, joining the others from side streets and front doors, i spotted a little pub not yet closed down, filled to the brim with drunken khaki coloured men. somehow, i made it into the line pushing into the bar and took cover in the crowd. wrestling through these men, too drunk to notice me as a chased enemy, my way was out the back door and onto a train passing there.
headed to some eastern european country, it was my big chance for escape, or my big mistake into yet another captivity, provided i'd make it past the border.

how strange to suddenly have had a dream about world war II, to which i don't have much of a connection. i never even played one of the many WWII war games that could've inspired this; who knows where it comes from now.
after that dream there was something about a family that was preparing for group suicide, the parents being the first and me, as their son, desperately trying to stop them

Thursday, June 19, 2008

twenty two

  11pm is approaching and i feel like wrapping up the day, which started last night with its first minute, greetings from a good friend from germany, and me opening letters. then in the morning, calls from my family and a refined surprise at my door, text messages and comments on my student profile. wishes at the university, classes, tea with a friend and ice with another, later another phonecall and cake at home with two others.
my day turned out quite the right balance between no festivities and some celebration, just the way it is fitting for me these days. a good feeling to know not to be forgotten, to receive lots of mail [real mail] - wonderful things from wonderful people.
my eyes are tired and so is my head, the exams are approaching and i can list enough things i should prepare to not have enough time left. but for now, i shall not think of them and enjoy the closure of this day, go to bed and gently fade to the land of dreams.

have a hug everyone, if you'd like, and some birthdayloving.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


while i myself am gearing towards the end of the semestre and therefore this summer's exam period, the dear kaisercity is boiling with lovely: rkang-rtsed po-lo [for those sadly and ignorantly uneducated in the language of tibetan: football].
what could be a better background for studying than singing [roaring], crying [screaming] or rejoicing [wildly honking] devotees of the game of foot and ball? i can hardly imagine better things than gently being sung in and out of sleep by these charming folks 5 hours before the alarm clock will drill me out of coma once more. well, there might be some things; some few.

apart from all that jazz, among making and remaking plans for the future of my studies i make and remake plans for this summer. being somewhere between your loved one and your family, one on each side, can be rather tiring at times. where to go when and how, for how long and which first are questions that need answers which are rarely satisfying all interests.
furthermore, i hate packing. this time, i'll take two pairs of underpants and maybe shoes. so anybody interest might come looking and might hope being lucky before friends and family might cover my expressionism.

also, my dearest love gave me an utterly magnificent moroccan silvery teapot for my not-quite-yet-birthday, out of which i shall pour rivers of the world's finest teas down my willing throat. and maybe even allow guest one or two drops; we'll see.