I met with Asia in 1988. An ordinary stop over, during a « Round The World » trip, became the first step of a journey without return. Since 1993, a new professional challenge allowed me to live as an expatriate and to criss-cross the East from the Indian sub-continent to China and all over South-East Asia.
My traveling became permanent, my harbors being hotels and planes of “Thai Airways”. Then, I decided to drop an anchor in the most smiling country of the region, however without stopping completely. As a joke, I was saying “the day I am unable to travel, I will not return”. I am still in Thailand, without any intentions to “go back”.
I devote my professional life to education, not as teacher, but in the field of marketing. Presentations to students and their families, relations with local advisers, school counselors and teachers, with the media and alumni are inexhaustible source of awareness and cultural exchanges. Sometimes, however, it is also necessary to slow down, to spend time for observation, to look into a particular aspect of life, to understand customs, to visit important sites and to step out of the sterile business traveler’s routine.
« … this expedition to the East was not only mine and now; this processions of believers and disciples had always and incessantly been moving toward the East, towards the Home of Light. »
Hermann Hesse (1)
Arguments can be found to explain or, if ever needed, to justify the fascination with Asia. This is not the topic of this introduction, a simple presentation of facts. Beyond the peregrinations, the professional need for displacements, my journey is also a quest, a search to understand different cultures, languages and to acquire mystical and mythic knowledge. On all these themes, the East offers an exceptional diversity. In its crucible, the streams of influence from India and China are melting together, superimposed with the Arab and Moguls conquests and Western colonization.
All great religions are represented in this continent, thousands of languages are spoken and the diversity of ethnic groups, writings, political organizations, social practices and gastronomies is a treasure without limits, a permanent source of studies and amazement.
(see also: http://mybanyan.wordpress.com/2008/05/24/asia/)
Aim of the blog
«Writing is not a question of living. It might be a question of survival »
Travel guides, globetrotter’s accounts, books describing rites, habits, cultural and social differences, abound. However, no rock is too small to build a road, no contribution too modest, no experience insignificant,to construct the human bridge of understanding.
My “cultural mosaics”, stones picked on all rims of my voyage, testify about places, human characteristics, lifestyles, communication means, beliefs and traditions, with the aim to share them, to have them appreciated and, particularly, to highlight how relative their importance is.
The “cultural shock”, the reaction to expatriation, is a genuine phenomenon but its expression varies in function of individual attitudes and behaviors. It can be a source of anxiety, frustration and identity conflicts or generate amazement, interest, fascination and an irresistible attraction towards new emotional and intellectual experiments. On this personal path, the progression depends mostly on minds openness, tolerance to changes and the willingness to learn and to experiment.
In front of astonishing meals and unknown gastronomical practices, I always convince myself that a dish of choice, a local delicacy, can not heart me. For the rest, it is jut a question practice.
(see blog « Durian » http://mybanyan.wordpress.com/2008/05/10/smells-like-hell/)
“Despite the eclectic nature of life, essentially we are all the same, we are all one”
(Advertisement for Intercontinental Hotels on CNN and CNBC – 1998/99)
The Banyan tree
I chose the banyan (2) to symbolize my quest of Asia. He is the agora of the Indian merchants (3), the shade of the goat-herd and has the impressive majesty of the large sacred trees. It’s horizontal development, from trunk to trunk, from root to root enables him to cover vast pieces of land. This characteristic illustrates, for me, the development of friendship, with strong roots and a steady progression.
The banyan (also called nigrodha (4)) is an actor of Hindu and Buddhist mythology. His “high birth” is also fascinating. He is an epiphyte, deposed in a welcoming canopy from where he ensures its development, strangling its support to death, to take its place.
(1) Hermann Hesse. Journey to the East. Book Faith India, 1998
(2) Ficus benghalensis, banyan fig or indian banyan
(3) « banyan » comes from the hindi word banias, meaning merchant
(4) Nigrodha – see blog (in French) « La Destinée du Banyan »