Breaking away from the European Union

--José Saramago

–José Saramago from The Stone Raft

Although the hallmark of the new calendar year so far was the debilitating flu, thankfully I recovered just in time for festivities in Taiwan.

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Moreover, my appetite is recuperated, which is of utmost importance when visiting Formosa island.

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Call me pessimistic or superstitious, but I am a bit cautious and suspicious as to what will happen in a year not only ending with a bad luck number, but also because it is the year of the black water snake.

di hua

As accounted in his book The Stone Raft by the brilliant writer José Saramago, I do not think something as far-fetched as the Iberian peninsula escaping the European continent and near-missing the Azores will happen (but it would be amusing to see how Cataluña proceeds with its independence endeavors under such circumstances).  Anyways, I highly suggest this book.  It reminds me of his other book, Blindness, in which Saramago placed characters in a very disastrous scenario to describe certain aspects of human connection.  What is more is Saramago’s ability to connect the characters with the reader so well that the absurd events seem like true historical events.

ICO

In The Stone Raft, there was a great migration of citizens within and out of the Iberian Peninsula.  Last week, I attended an exhibit in Museo Ico featuring the architecture of Ma Yansong and his group, MAD architects.  Entrance is free and located in a clandestine street with a vegetarian restaurant I like a few doors down.  Weaving through the miniature models of the colossal works — recent and future — I marveled how China’s urbanization is sucking people to its centers causing them to inhabit among the clouds (…of pollution) in skyscrapers.

The farther one dwells from the soil…does that mean the farther out of touch we are becoming from Mother Nature?

On the other hand, some are now being forced to migrate due to climate change.  For example, the population of Kiribati will have to uproot and purchase a part of Fijian land as their new home because their Pacific archipelago is threatened by rising sea levels.

While I do enjoy Chinese New Year celebrations in Taiwan, I mainly look forward to the Lantern Festival.  This year’s message is to have love for Mother Nature.  Timely because some experts argue that Anthropocene has begun “because human- kind has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluted the oceans and altered the atmosphere, among other lasting impacts.” (Smithsonian Magazine).

-- José Saramago

— José Saramago from The Stone Raft

In order not to end this post on a bleak note, I will finish with a funny story (well, it was not funny at the time) of bad luck that greeted me during the start of a new calendar year while in Paris several years ago.

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I believe it was bad karma getting revenge on me and my flatmates for not only cutting in line to leave a long trail of freezing tourists obediently waiting to enter Musee d’Orsay, but also sneaking into Orsay without paying admission.

Because the next day, we locked ourselves out of our flat.  Having stealthily entered Orsay, we concluded we were invincible, so we decided to ignore the problem and enjoy our day in the sun’s short guest appearance whose rays do not warm in the Winter, but illuminates for visual pleasure.  Or maybe we thought the door would miraculously unlock upon coming back because our brunch was this:

vino

Of course no New Year’s miracle happened, but quite the opposite.  When the locksmith came he hammered and he drilled for one hour — all to no avail.  Then he took out a simple plastic square and slid it along the door with a little shaking until the door opened in about 45 seconds!  But because he hammered and he drilled our door knob, it was in need of new locks which he quoted to be about 4000€ on top of the 1000€ fee for opening the door.  Conniving locksmith…..

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I hope your year is coming off to a fabulous start!  The beginning of this year starts with my own separation from the EU for a few months.

After Taiwan, I will be in Vietnam to visit some friends who have been doing social work there for some years now.  Cà phê sữa đá aka cafe su dua aka Vietnamese iced coffee and banh xeo aka Vietnamese crepe twice daily is something I am excited about.

Then I have to be back home in Hawaii for April in order to help my mother with her business (the epitome of capitalism, but oh well, it’s my duty as her daughter).  I guess I can’t complain…it is Hawaii after all.

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One last quote written in The Stone Raft that I re-read a few times and I am still pondering:

We must deplore this yielding to the temptations of anthropomorphism, which sees and judges everything in an essential rapport with human beings, as if nature had nothing better to do than to think about us.  It would all be much easier to understand if we were simply to confess our infinite fear, the fear that leads us to people in the world with images resembling what we are or believe ourselves to be, unless this obsessive effort is nothing other than feigned courage or sheer stubbornness on the part of someone who refuses to exist in a void, who decides not to find meaning where no meaning exists.  We are probably incapable of filling emptiness, and what we call meaning is no more than a fleeting collection of images that once seemed harmonious, images on which the intelligence tried in panic to introduce reason, order, coherence.

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