Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stars and resort bliss

It may have taken a few years longer than originally planned, but at last I made it to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Phnom Penh. In my dreams it had been the kind of place where I could retreat with an old typewriter, put on a white undershirt and escape into my writing. Merely knowing that such a place existed, literally a last resort, was in itself a comfort as I struggled to finish manuscripts in a fractioned world of X2000-trains, early-morning commutes and Malmö sleeping bag nights.

With all of that gone and my life firmly relocated to Asia, I thought it was time to seek out the place in reality. And as often, reality can be kind of underwhelming. But the FCC was indeed bright yellow with white details, the balcony overlooking the Mekong River had its gin & tonic magic and there was the kind of silence necessary to write a book (at least in the afternoons before the rooftop party took off).

Days later I found real silence on a Balinese beach. For the first time in months there was not a thick layer of air pollution preventing me from seeing the stars. Hanging there high above the sea, they had both the familiarity of childhood nights on my grandfather’s farm in Skåne and the unfamiliarity of the southern hemisphere as I will always remember it from that last evening on Wilson’s Promontory before leaving Australia in 2008. Far away from the taxing academic life in Beijing, the stars brought well needed perspective, a simple reassurance about the vastness of the world but also a kind of psychological dilemma: how are people to ever appreciate the endless possibilities of space if they never can see its depth with their own eyes? It is as if we are living on the shores of a great ocean but fog prevents us from imagining what could be beyond the horizon.

With practically no summer vacation this year, I am already heading back to more work. As for the fall, there are still several options but right now it seems as if it most likely will be a teaching position at Hankuk University in Seoul, South Korea.

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