This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Zurich, one restaurant at a time

zurich“You have such a fabulous job!” “You get to see the most cool innovations, and so many places!” “Sounds like so much fun!”

These are common comments when people hear what I do. Yes, it’s fun. But it is also very many f**k-o’-clock early mornings on the airport, many hotels that all feel the same, and many taxis. Sometimes I snap to consciousness in a taxi, unsure of what language I should use. Often I remember the previous hotel room number and try to break in to the wrong room.

I try my best to see the new cities I visit, but sometimes it is just not possible. As an example let’s take Zurich. I have visited the geographical location about 4-5 times. 2-3 times due to a layover at the airport, with no time to go see town. 2 times I got to go to town, where I saw the city center pass by the taxi window on the way to the hotel and the Six Swiss Exchange. I saw a river. Twice. Yay. I had some Tannenkäse. Absolutely amazing. But the most I have seen of Zurich is 2 local restaurants, one for each visit.

That’s it. Can I say I have been to Zurich? Probably not really. Perhaps next year I should try to squeeze in a weekend stay-over. And lots more Tannenkäse.

I posted a photo above. I suppose I should tell you which restaurant I went to this time. I forget. My apologies. Maybe next time.

(Zurich, Switzerland; February 2017)


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Perfect weather to fly (part II)

alpsair-2

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air… .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

(John Gillespie Magee, Jr)

alpsair-1(Above the Swiss Alps; February 2016)


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Grüezi from Zürich!

zurich-1There was wind. There was rain. Wet gusts pushing our airplane sideways. “Landing in 10 minutes”, the captain said over the intercom. “Really?” I said to myself. The ground plunged up through the dark and I saw the lights of the airport. And then full throttle forward and upward, back into the sky. Apparently we had blown off the runway. “Misapproach, landing in 6 minutes”, the captain again spoke, cool as ice. I saw dozens of blinking lights: airplanes circling the airport, trying to land.

We managed to hit the runway in a controlled fashion. Some flights were diverted to other airports. And all were late. Grüezi Zürich, thank goodness you offered me a big chunk of Tannenkäse and a glass of port to cool my nerves.zurich-2(Zurich, Switzerland; February 2016)


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This blue marble: is it all emptiness after all?

saleve-4

For years I pulled my own existence out of emptiness.
Then one swoop, one swing of the arm
that work is over.
Free of who I was, free of presence, free of
dangerous fear, hope,
free of mountainous wanting.

The here-and-now mountain is a tiny piece of a piece
of straw
blown off into emptiness.

These words I’m saying so much begin to lose meaning:
existence, emptiness, mountain, straw: words
and what they try to say swept
out the window, down the slant of the roof.

(Rumi)

We slipped quietly in, sat dow on the cushions, and listened to the chanting monk. And I found myself unable to close my eyes; the snow-capped mountains and fluttering prayer flags were too beautiful a sight. How can one sense emptiness with eyes open and filled with beauty?saleve-3   (Shedrub Choekhor Ling monastery, Saléve, France; January 2016)


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An ancient animal parade

lascaux-2The light flickers on. A golden glow washes the white walls, and I am standing in the middle of Noah’s Ark running by. Deer, bison, dozens of horses great and small, ibexes, and felines rush by and I am standing in the middle of this migration. The light flickers again and turns off. An eerie black light glow lights up a completely different set of animals, carved underneath the painted ones. Hordes of running horses swish past.lascaux-3But why did our early ancestors paint animals that were not hunted every day for survival? Why did they choose to focus on these magnificent creatures that they perhaps knew less well, and from a distance? What do the geometric signs painted on and around the animals mean? The stripes on the horses, the square pattern underneath the cow?

And what was the purpose of the art? Was there any purpose, or was it for everybody’s education and joy just like an art exhibition and a museum are today? Or was this place sacred? Were people singing when painting? Is it possible to recover the ancient words and tunes from the sound vibrations transmitted from the throat to the hand holding the brush and to the painting, just like a gramophone needle reads grooves in the clay disc?

The answer is probably locked away forever. And so are the Lascaux caves, too, in a time capsule intended to preserve the art from mold and moisture. Fortunately lovely paleo-lovers have created both a real-life replica of the Lascaux right next door, as well as the marvelous exhibition showcasing the work as if on a real cave wall. It has just left Geneva but do catch it if you can, where ever it goes next. Spending a moment in the world of our ancestors 20,000 years ago is an interesting experience. lascaux-1(Palexpo, Geneva, Switzerland; January 2016)


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From a bird’s nest to a war zone

genevaconventionI did not know the Geneva Convention actually exists on paper, with seals and signatures. Well, it does, and it is displayed at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva.

I did not really ever think of what happens to families after the war. What happened to the children who got involuntarily separated from their parents in Rwanda during the genocide, or what happens to families when new borders are drawn between homes of relatives. I did not know about all the people working resiliently to restore family links.redcross-2I did not really know how the Red Cross and UN operate when visiting prisons, prisoner camps, and other conflict areas where humanity is at risk. I had no idea what a prison visit report could look like – or the lengthy discussions that took place during World War II about whether or not to react. And I did not know the International Committee of the Red Cross recently considered its inability to act as a moral failure.

I come from a country which is neutral and safe – for now. It has not always been, and it has not yet reached 100 years of independence, but safety is all my generation knows. We call our cozy country the “bird’s nest.” Even if I travel much I have never ended up in serious conflict areas. Even if I have worked with charity I have never worked with people in conflict or post-conflict zones.

I do not know much of the protective and humanitarian actions that happen behind the curtains of the 10 o’clock news. But after visiting the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum I know a little bit more – and I am deeply touched. redcross-1(Geneva, Switzerland; January 2016)